Classical Music News of the Week, September 23, 2012

Orchestra of Exiles to Have U.S. Theatrical Premiere October 26

The film opens timed to gala at Carnegie Hall on October 25 featuring Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
“Huberman was a visionary and a dreamer, and in my mind, a hero.” – Itzhak Perlman
“The seeds of culture that Huberman planted, that he brought from Central Europe, we are reaping its awards today.”  --Zubin Mehta

First Run Features presents the U.S. theatrical premiere of Orchestra of Exiles, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Josh Aronson’s meticulously crafted and researched tale of the man who saved Europe’s premiere Jewish musicians from obliteration by the Nazis during WWII. Overcoming extraordinary obstacles, violinist Bronislaw Huberman moved these musicians to Palestine and formed the Palestine Symphony, that would eventually become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. With courage, resourcefulness and an entourage of celebrity allies including Arturo Toscanini and Albert Einstein, Huberman forever changed and preserved the landscape of musical history.

Orchestra of Exiles will open in New York on October 26 at the Quad Cinema, followed by a nationwide release to select cities.

About the Film
In the early 1930s Hitler began forcing Jewish musicians out of orchestras across central Europe.  But the Nazis unwittingly created a unique opportunity, as never before had so many top orchestra players been simultaneously jobless. After three years of extraordinary dedication to the project, Bronislaw Huberman fulfilled his dream of creating the Palestine Symphony Orchestra with Arturo Toscanini as it’s first conductor.

Orchestra of Exiles, featuring commentary by musical greats including Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman and Joshua Bell, documents Huberman’s struggle to create the Palestine Symphony.  Director Josh Aronson’s research for the film required the translation of thousands of letters, interviews and articles in libraries from Berlin to Tel Aviv, a process that would take years, and which revealed a complex story touching on themes of music, genocide, courage and intolerance.  The result is a thrilling story with a diverse array of characters including Joseph Goebbels, renowned conductors Furtwangler and Toscanini, future head of state Chaim Weizmann and the families of victimized Jewish musicians who made up the ranks of orchestras across central Europe. Even Albert Einstein played a role, a man who, among other pursuits, was an amateur violinist who liked to read music with Huberman.

Huberman and Toscanini knew that a world-class ensemble of Jewish exiles would be a powerful tool to fight the savage anti-Semitism spreading out from Germany, and would build the international prestige of the Jewish people. Huberman used all of his political capital and every contact at his disposal to arrange for musicians and their families to escape persecution and emigrate to Palestine. In all, he saved close to a thousand Jews--along with the musical heritage of Europe.

Orchestra of Exiles explores profound psychological questions: How did living through WWI and the Depression change Huberman from a self-absorbed eccentric genius into an altruistic statesman dedicated to egalitarian politics and humanism? How did Nazism and its cultural policies ignite Huberman and inspire him to bring music to Palestine, to save Jews and to fight anti-Semitism?

Orchestra of Exiles is a timeless tale of a brilliant young man coming of age, and the suspenseful chronicle of how his efforts impacted cultural history.

The release of Orchestra of Exiles could not come at a better time, as in October 2012, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra travels to the United States to perform in New York, Palm Desert, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Presented by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, benefits at Carnegie Hall in New York City (October 25) and at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (October 30) highlight the Israel Philharmonic's 28th tour of the United States. (Click here for more information.)

Orchestra of Exiles, 2012, USA, 85 min. Written and Directed by Josh Aronson. Produced by Josh Aronson.  German Line Producer: Sven Woldt.  Israel Production:  United Channel Movies.  Associate Producer:  Nina Krstic.  Editor:  Nancy Kennedy. With Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman.  A First Run Features Release.

--JMP Verdant Communications

Nicola Luisotti Leads a New Production of Nabucco Shared by La Scala and Royal Opera, Verdi’s Requiem wtih Teatro di San Carlo, and Rigoletto, Tosca, Cosi Fan Tutte, and His First Lohengrin with San Francisco Opera
2012-2013 season highlights include orchestral engagements in Paris, Milan, Rome, and San Francisco

The 2012-13 Season finds Tuscan conductor Nicola Luisotti entering his fourth season as Music Director of San Francisco and beginning his tenure as Music Director of Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.

As Music Director of San Francisco Opera, Luisotti begins his 2012-2013 performance season conducting great works of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Wagner: Rigoletto, Tosca, Così fan tutte and his very first Lohengrin. The Maestro returns to Milan and London for Verdi’s Nabucco in a production shared by La Scala and Royal Opera. Appointed Music Director of Teatro di San Carlo in February of 2012, Luisotti will follow his highly acclaimed February 2012 performances of Verdi’s rarely performed opera I Masnadieri with performances of the composer’s monumental Requiem scheduled for early 2013.

“Conducting with such passion, tension, such perfect timing and emphasis” (Seen and Heard International), Luisotti garners high acclaim for his orchestral conducting as well as his work in the opera house. This season he makes appearances with four great orchestras, including Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestra di Santa Cecilia in Rome and his own San Francisco Opera Orchestra presented by Cal Performances in programs anchored by great works such as Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, Beethoven’s Symphony No.2, and Brahms’ Symphony No.3.

Maestro Luisotti made his La Scala debut in May 2011, conducting Verdi’s Attila with “expressive finesse and dramatic lacerations” ( in a new co-production by Gabriele Lavia which was then performed by San Francisco Opera this past June. Recent triumphs also included Puccini’s rarely performed La fanciulla del West which Luisotti led at both the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera. Praised by the New York Times for his “stylish, nuanced and sensitive conducting” at the Metropolitan Opera, Luisotti was honored to lead performances commemorating the birth of this important Puccini work, the Met Opera’s first world premiere commission in 1910. Following the official 100th Anniversary performance, Luisotti was awarded the Premio Puccini Prize by the Fondazione Festival Pucciniano. The recording of the centennial production was recently released on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon.

 Luisotti made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2005 conducting La forza del destino and has since led performances of La bohème, Il trovatore, Salome, Otello, La fanciulla del West, Aida, Le nozze di Figaro, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Don Giovanni, Carmen, and Attila with the company. Called “both an original thinker and a great respecter of tradition” by Opera News, which featured him on the cover of the July 2011 special issue on conductors, his critically acclaimed international debut leading a new production at the Stuttgart State Opera led to performances with nearly every major opera company across the globe, including the Bavarian State Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Dresden Staatskapelle, Frankfurt Opera, La Scala, Los Angeles Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Royal Opera House, Seattle Opera, Teatro Carlo Felice, Comunale di Bologna, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro Real, Teatro di San Carlo, and Vienna State Opera. He made his debut in Japan, where he served as Principal Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony from April 2009 to 2012, with a semi-staged production of Tosca at Suntory Hall and has since returned for Turandot, La bohème, and the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy of Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte.

Equally acclaimed as an orchestral leader for his “blazing and idiomatic conducting” (Chicago Classical Review), the Italian conductor has worked with Frankfurt’s Alte Oper, Atlanta Symphony, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Budapest Radio Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Hamburger Philharmonic, Hessischer Rundfunk Orchestra, London Philharmonia, NHK Symphony, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Orquesta Nacional de España, Philadelphia Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, San Francisco Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and Zagreb Philharmonic. Luisotti led special concerts in Beijing in conjunction with the 2008 Olympic Games.

Nicola Luisotti – 2012-2013 Season Performance Calendar:
Verdi, Rigoletto
San Francisco Opera
September 7, 8, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21 and 23, 2012
San Francisco, CA
For official information:

Wagner, Lohengrin
San Francisco Opera
October 20, 24, 28, 31, November 3, 6 and 9, 2012
San Francisco, CA
For official information:

Puccini, Tosca
San Francisco Opera
November 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28 and 29, 2012
San Francisco, CA
For official information:

Orchestre de Paris
January 9 and 10, 2013
Verdi, La forza del destino overture
Stravinsky, Concerto for violin; Gil Shaham, violin
Tchaikovsky, Capriccio italiano
Prokofiev, Symphony No. 3
Paris, France
For official information:

Teatro alla Scala
January 14, 2013
Verdi, Nabucco overture
Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto in D major Op. 35; Ray Chen, Violin
Beethoven, Symphony No. 7
Milan, Italy
For official information:

Teatro alla Scala
Filarmonica della Scala
January 21, 22 and 24, 2013
Rimsky-Korsakov, Shéhérazade
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4
Milan, Italy
For official information:

Verdi, Nabucco – New Production
Teatro alla Scala
February 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 13, 15, 17 and 20, 2013
Milan, Italy
For official information:

Verdi, Requiem
Teatro di San Carlo
February 24, 26, 28, March 1 and 3, 2013
Naples, Italy
For official information:

Verdi, Nabucco – New Production
Co Production with La Scala (premiered February 2013)
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
March 30, April 1,4, 6, 8, 15, 20, 23 and 26, 2013
London, UK
For official information:

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
May 11, 12 and 13, 2013
Cherubini, Requiem
Beethoven, Symphony No. 2
Rome, Italy
For official information:

Concert - Cal Performances
San Francisco Opera Orchestra
May 17, 2013
Puccini, Capriccio Sinfonico
Rota, Piano Concerto
Brahms, Symphony No. 3
Berkeley, CA
For official information:

Mozart, Così fan tutte
San Francisco Opera
June 9, 12, 18, 21, 26, 29 and July 1, 2013
San Francisco, CA
For official information:

--Karen Ames Communications

Music Institute Holds Billy Strayhorn Songwriting Contest: Submission Deadline October 15
In conjunction with its October 26–28 Billy Strayhorn Festival, the Music Institute of Chicago Jazz Studies Program is holding a Billy Strayhorn Songwriting Contest for high school students in Cook, Lake and DuPage Counties. The submission deadline is Monday, October 15 at 11:59 p.m.

Judging the submissions are Music Institute of Chicago President and CEO Mark George, Jazz Studies Director Audrey Morrison and Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. President Alyce Claerbaut. The panel will award nearly $1,000 in Music Institute scholarships to first, second and third place winners, each of whom also will receive two free passes to all events during the Billy Strayhorn Festival.

The Billy Strayhorn Festival, which honors the work and legacy of one of the great jazz composers and collaborators, is presented in partnership with Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc., a family corporation of the Strayhorn heirs. The Festival includes two star-studded concerts featuring trumpet great Terell Stafford and a screening of the award-winning film Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life followed by a panel discussion. All events take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

Billy Strayhorn (1915–67) is acknowledged as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. As Duke Ellington’s primary collaborative partner for 28 years, Strayhorn created a compelling musical language that transcended Ellington. His innumerable contributions to the jazz canon built a formidable legacy for musicians from all genres. Strayhorn’s deep knowledge of both classical and popular music manifested itself in a unique approach to songwriting. Elements of his harmonic sophistication and voicing techniques have become emblematic of excellence in the jazz repertoire. In addition to his musical achievements, Strayhorn has become identified with the struggle for civil rights. Throughout his career, he overcame several stigmas, not the least of which was being an African-American artist in a society dominated by whites and a gay man in a culture that considered homosexuality a crime. In 1963, Strayhorn came to Chicago to serve as music director of  Ellington’s My People, a work composed on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and performed as part of “A Century of Negro Progress Exposition” at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place. In tribute to Strayhorn and the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Music Institute is proud to present the Billy Strayhorn Songwriting Contest.

The submission deadline for the Billy Strayhorn Songwriting Contest is Monday, October 15 at 11:59 p.m. For more information, contact Audrey Morrison, 847-905-1500 ext. 576 or; for information about or tickets for the Billy Strayhorn Festival, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Elza van den Heever’s 2012-2013 Season Highlighted by Metropolitan Opera Debut as Elisabetta in a New David McVicar Production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda
Ms. van den Heever makes her company debut with Canadian Opera Company and completes her tenure as Resident Artist in Frankfurt with role debuts in Les vêpres siciliennes and Maria Stuarda.

“Blessed with a plush, dramatic voice capable of formidable power and dazzling high notes” (Associated Press), Ms. van den Heever begins the 2012-13 season as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Canadian Opera Company and goes on to make her Metropolitan Opera debut as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda in a new David McVicar production opening December 31. During the 2012-13 Season, as she concludes her five-year residency in Frankfurt, Ms. van den Heever will perform role debuts as La Duchesse Hélène in the Company’s new production of Verdi’s Les vêpres siciliennes and as Elisabetta in concert performances of Maria Stuarda, in addition to revisiting the role of Elettra in a new production of Mozart’s Idomeneo.

Ms. van den Heever’s most recent triumphs include outstanding role debuts as two formidable Handel characters: Armida in Rinaldo with Lyric Opera of Chicago where The New York Times proclaimed her a” bright-voiced, fearless soprano [who] stole every scene she was in,” and the title role of Alcina with Opéra National de Bordeaux where she was applauded as “an important soprano of our times” by Seen and Heard International. Her critically acclaimed 2011 debut as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello with Oper Frankfurt brought praise for her “huge voice, full of tenderness and precision” (Frankfurter Rundschau).

Following her professional debut as Donna Anna in San Francisco Opera’s 2007 production of Don Giovanni and an internationally acclaimed European debut in 2008 as Giorgetta in Oper Frankfurt’s production of Il trittico, the South African soprano’s performances have taken her to major stages worldwide, including Opéra National de Paris, Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, Opéra National de Bordeaux and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

During her tenure with Oper Frankfurt, Ms. van den Heever has had numerous acclaimed performances including Elisabetta di Valois in Don Carlo, Elsa in Lohengrin, the title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (concert version), Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito, Antonia in Les contes d’Hoffmann and Desdemona in Otello, in addition to concert performances of Verdi’s monumental Requiem. Other roles in Europe have included Elsa in Lohengrin for Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper; Agathe in Der Freischütz at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien; Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte for Opéra National de Paris; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Hamburgische Staatsoper; and Elettra in Idomeneo, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Leonora in Il Trovatore and, most recently, the title role in Alcina at Opéra National de Bordeaux. Critically acclaimed performances in the United States include Fiordiligi with Dallas Opera and Armida for Lyric Opera of Chicago. In San Francisco, where she participated in both the Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship, she portrayed Mary Custis Lee in the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Appomattox and Donna Anna in the Company’s 2007 Don Giovanni, performances which were seen nationwide through the Company’s Grand Opera Cinema Series and broadcast on Northern California’s KQED Public Television. She enjoys a successful performance partnership with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony with performances of Strauss’s Four Last Songs and Grammy Award winning performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in San Francisco, on tour in Europe and on disc for SFS Media.

--Karen Ames Communications

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa