Classical Music News of the Week, December 16, 2012

San Francisco-based Opera Parallele’s Production of The Great Gatsby Wins First Prize in National Opera Association’s Professional Division of the 2012 Opera Production Competition

Opera Parallèle’s 2012 production of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby was awarded First Prize in the Professional Division of the Opera Production Competition by The National Opera Association.  The award will be presented at the Gala Banquet at National Opera Association's National Convention on January 5, 2013 in Portland, Oregon.

Opera Parallèle’s Artistic Director Nicole Paiement again collaborated with Stage Director and Concept Designer Brian Staufenbiel to create their most ambitious project to date, joining with the Aspen Music Festival to commission Jacques Desjardins’ new chamber orchestration of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby. A critical success, Patrick Vaz, writing for The Reverberate Hills, states… “Not surprisingly, given Opera Parallèle’s track record, it was a success both musically and dramatically, much more so in fact, than the Met production…This is, I should say, a very rich and fascinating score, that I think will only deepen the more one hears it, the orchestra under Opera Parallèle’s Artistic Director Nicole Paiement made the music sound as powerful as my memory of the Met’s performance.”

Based on the famed novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby was originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and premiered in 1999 with subsequent performances at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. Opera Parallèle’s world premiere presentation of the chamber orchestration of The Great Gatsby marked the first time in ten years that the literary masterpiece was given a musical life onstage.

Opera Parallèle continues to produce ambitious projects and has expanded its offering from one opera to a full season. The Bay Area premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar kicks off the season on February 15, 16 and 17, 2013 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. On April 26, 27 and 28, the company presents the San Francisco premiere of Garth Sunderland’s re-orchestration of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti in a double bill with Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge at ZSpace. And the season closes June 7 at San Francisco Conservatory of Music when Opera Parallèle presents a public workshop reading of the company’s first commission, Dante De Silva’s Gesualdo, Prince of Madness.

Opera Parallèle is a professional opera company-in-residence at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the only organization in the Bay Area that presents contemporary opera exclusively. In collaboration with SFMOMA, the company presented the critically acclaimed production of the rarely performed Four Saints in Three Acts by composer Virgil Thompson and librettist Gertrude Stein and the world premiere of Luciano Chessa’s A Heavenly Act. In spring 2011 the group produced the Bay Area premiere of Philip Glass’ Orphée and in 2010, the chamber version of Alban Berg’s 20th century masterpiece Wozzeck. In February 2007, Opera Parallèle presented the world premiere of Lou Harrison’s opera Young Caesar in conjunction with what would have been the late composer’s 90th birthday. In prior years, with its mission more broadly focused on contemporary music, Opera Parallèle presented 125 performances including 28 world premieres, released 12 recordings and commissioned 19 new works.

As a non-profit 501(c)(3) arts institution, Opera Parallèle must raise support and funds throughout the year to be able to present contemporary opera to a wide audience at affordable prices. This year, for the second time, Opera Parallèle is among the noteworthy arts organizations that receive funding from San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts. Other foundational support comes from the Phyllis C. Wattis, Columbia, Zellerbach and Fleishhacker Foundations. Additional information is available at

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Opera Parallèle’s next presentation, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar on February 15, 16 and 17, 2013 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Lam Research Theater. Tickets priced from $35 to $85 are available for purchase in person at the YBCA's box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third, over the phone at (415) 978-ARTS (2787) or online at

--Karen Ames Communications

Sitar Legend Ravi Shankar Dies at 92
His music transcended trends and cultural barriers. Pandit Ravi Shankar's life, which traversed nearly a century, ended December 11, 2012.

The legendary sitar player, who taught Beatle George Harrison how to play the stringed instrument and brought Indian music to the West, passed away at age 92 in the early evening in San Diego, near his home, according to his wife, Sukanya, and daughter Anoushka Shankar, who were by his side. Shankar was the father of jazz singer Norah Jones as well. He is also survived by three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to his record label, East Meets West Music.

His health had suffered over the past year, according to a statement from his record label, and he underwent heart valve replacement surgery last Thursday. "Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the surgeons and doctors taking care of him, his body was not able to withstand the strain of the surgery," his wife and daughter said.

In the 1960s, he took Eastern music mainstream in the West. He lent ethereal, spiritual sounds to the Fab Four through his friendship with Harrison, who recorded them on the "Sgt. Pepper's" album in the song "Within You Without You." Virtuoso performances at Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969 helped cement Shankar's place in Western musical history as an ambassador of Eastern wisdom to a generation looking for new values. "Ravi was a great loss musically, spiritually and physically. God bless to Ravi's family. Peace & Love," Beatle Ringo Starr said in a statement released through a representative. Singer Peter Gabriel hailed Shankar as an inspiration who "opened the door to non-western music for millions of people around the world."

Shankar's musical career had a long life before and after the '60s. He was born on April 7, 1920, and when he and Harrison met, he was already 46 and famous in India as a classical musician, according to his record label biography. His classical career outlived his counterculture fame, but he continued to meld East with West and composed concertos, which harmonized his sitar with orchestras. He played duos with American classical violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin and composed with American minimalist Philip Glass. He also wrote film music for the Hollywood movie "Gandhi."
Shankar kept homes in the United States and India.

Despite ill health, he shared a stage with his daughter Anoushka, also a sitar virtuoso, in early November. It was his last public performance.

--Ben Brumfield, CNN

Cause for Celebration!
The Foundation to Assist Young Musicians ("FAYM") celebrates its fifth anniversary this month! To date, $173,985.92 has been raised for scholarships and the "Violins for Kids" project which provides lessons and instruments to inner city youngsters at no charge. Additionally, through FAYM's efforts, over $350,000 in scholarship aid from music schools has been procured for talented students.

As we are proud to point out, all administrative functions are performed by volunteers and all essential services (legal, accounting, office space, etc.) are provided "pro bono." Funds received are carefully allocated and wisely managed to fulfill FAYM's mission.

Exciting plans are in store for increasing FAYM's activities and influence. We ask that you join in celebrating FAYM's 5-year milestone by making a year-end, tax-deductible contribution. Your support is gratefully appreciated.

For more information, visit
To donate, visit

--Hal Weller, Founder/Trustee

Music Institute Relocates Headquarters, Institute for Therapy Through the Arts, Musical Theater, World Music to Downtown Evanston
 The Music Institute of Chicago is moving several of its signature programs to downtown Evanston. The Music Institute’s administrative headquarters, the Institute for Therapy through the Arts, Musical Theater and World Music programs will relocate to the Evanston Galleria building at 1702 Sherman Avenue. The new space, expected to be ready for occupancy in July 2013, will replace facilities on Green Bay Road in Wilmette and Dempster Street in Evanston. With design services provided by the Evanston-based architectural firm Behles & Behles, the Sherman Avenue facility will include a black box theater with flexible seating for 150 as well as creative arts therapy studios and administrative offices.

Music Institute President and CEO Mark George stated, “The Music Institute is very pleased to expand its presence in Evanston, especially during the 150th anniversary celebration of the city’s founding. Our new space, near the corner of Sherman Avenue and Church Street, will render our programming more accessible to many more people.” Evanston is already home to Nichols Concert Hall, an award-winning Music Institute performance and education center at 1490 Chicago Avenue that reaches more than 15,000 people each year.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl commented, “The Music Institute of Chicago and its renowned music education programs are a tremendous asset to our citizens. We are pleased to welcome them to downtown Evanston.”

George added, “Evanston is an arts-friendly city. I am truly appreciative of the assistance we received from the City of Evanston’s Economic Development Division. The Music Institute of Chicago plans to be in Evanston for a very long time.”

Carolyn Dellutri, executive director of the marketing and services organization Downtown Evanston, echoed these positive sentiments: “The Music Institute is a terrific addition to the downtown Evanston community. I look forward to a long and prosperous partnership.”

Institute for Therapy through the Arts”
Founded in 1975, the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) is one of the few comprehensive community-based arts therapy programs in the United States to offer all four creative arts treatment modalities: Music Therapy, Drama Therapy, Art Therapy, and Dance/Movement Therapy. ITA is nationally recognized and has distinguished itself in the use of integrated arts approaches to help children, adults, and families to improve functioning related to psychological, developmental, physical and cognitive factors.

Musical Theater:
Led by veteran educators and working industry professionals, the Music Institute’s Musical Theater program serves students ages five through 18. The program focuses on developing young talent and creating original work that celebrates the strengths of each ensemble cast. Students are active participants in writing new shows, re-imagining classic favorites, and producing musicals that reflect their interests, talents, and unique personalities. The program includes fall and spring productions as well as summer camp opportunities.

World Music:
The Music Institute offers percussion and dance classes through Evanston Escola de Samba (EEDS), which reaches across ethnic, generational, and social lines to bring the joy and spirit of Brazilian music to more than 1,000 individuals of all ages each year. The group performs frequently at events like the Evanston 4th of July Parade, Skokie Festival of Cultures, and neighborhood and city festivals throughout Chicagoland.

Music Institute of Chicago:
The Music Institute of Chicago, founded in a Winnetka farmhouse in 1931, has grown to become one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation and is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. The school offers music instruction and classes to students of all ages and every level of experience and each year, the Music Institute’s world-class music teachers and arts therapists reach more than 10,000 students and clients at campuses in Evanston, Winnetka, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Lake Forest and Downers Grove, and through its longstanding partnership with the Chicago Public Schools.

For more information about new programs in downtown Evanston, contact the Music Institute of Chicago at 847.905.1500 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Pianist and Bach star Evan Shinners Performs at White House Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
The wildly talented and irreverent classical pianist Evan Shinners performed at the White House Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, on Thursday, December 6.

Shinners opened the proceedings at 4:30pm with his original Bach-ian medley of holiday tunes including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Carol of the Bells,” and “Silent Night.” He joined a starry line-up of artists for the ceremony, which was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, including James Taylor, American Idol Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, and other great performers. The ceremony was live-streamed and broadcast on public television and will be repeated throughout the month of December.

The 2010 Juilliard graduate made waves in the classical music world with his brilliant debut recording @bach, a compilation of two live, unedited performances recorded at Juilliard and Rockefeller University. Bursting with raw musicality and ebullient energy, Shinners connects with today’s audiences in a way that has seldom been seen for a classical artist. “This is one hell of a debut, not only for the quality, but the ambition and attitude,” said The Big City, with The Huffington Post calling the recording “Essential … one of the brattiest Bach recordings to come along since Glenn Gould himself.”

Shinners latest foray into the music of Bach is Evan Plays Seven, a fresh traversal of Bach’s seven early Toccatas. The new recording will be available on iTunes on December 12, 2012.

Originally from Denver, Colorado, Evan began playing piano at age 9 and gave his orchestral debut with the Utah Symphony at age twelve. He completed his undergrad and masters degrees at Juilliard in the studio of Jerome Lowenthal, also participating in Juilliard’s Scholastic Distinction program, where he wrote his thesis on James Joyce.  In the past few seasons, Evan has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Jordan Hall (Boston), and at the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), along with tours of Ireland, Germany, parts of Asia and Canada. When he is not playing Bach, Evan can be found writing poetry and a novel, or playing rock in Brooklyn warehouses with his Julliard colleagues.  Last year Shinners was seen and heard by over 10,000 Museum of Modern Art attendees during his residency in the Performance Exhibition Series at MoMA: Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano. The New York Times declared: "Evan Shinners attacked the score with a bravura that might have pleased Liszt."

For more news, upcoming dates, and information on his new album on iTunes, see:

--Shira Gilbert PR

Galina Vishnevskaya, Soprano and Dissident, Dies at 86
Galina Vishnevskaya, an electrifying soprano of the postwar Soviet Union and later one of its most prominent political dissidents, died on Monday in Moscow. She was 86.

Her death was confirmed by a spokesman for the Vishnevskaya Opera Center in Moscow.

Ms. Vishnevskaya, the wife of the celebrated cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, was renowned both as an emotional singer with a polished technique and as a charismatic actress. She had performed in operettas and music hall revues before joining the Bolshoi Theater of Russia, the country’s premier opera company.

In 2002 Ms. Vishnevskaya opened the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Center to promote young Russian singers. But she had become conservative in her opera tastes.

A half-century earlier she had fought the conservative Soviet cultural establishment in arguing for a fresh version of Eugene Onegin. But now a new production of the opera at the Bolshoi in 2006 angered her--so much so that she canceled her 80th-birthday celebration there and moved it to the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. “I’ll never enter this theater again,” she vowed.

The following year her husband, Mistislav Rostropovich, died in Moscow at 80.  Besides her daughters, Ms. Vishnevskaya’s survivors include six grandchildren.

--Jonathan Kandell, New York Times

1 comment:

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 Jon 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 simpleminded, 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 Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. 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 cell phone. 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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