Classical Music News of the Week, January 20, 2013

Orion Welcomes Soprano Patrice Michaels for “A Voice from Heaven”

The Orion Ensemble, Chicago’s nationally recognized and critically acclaimed chamber music ensemble, celebrates Women’s History Month by welcoming guest soprano Patrice Michaels for “A Voice from Heaven,” the third concert series of its 20th Anniversary Season. Performances take place March 10 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, Il; March 13 at the PianoForte Salon at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago, Il; and March 17 at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Il.

The Program:
Highly acclaimed concert and recording artist Patrice Michaels, a guest with Orion in its opening season, performs a selection of three arias from her CD Divas of Mozart’s Time: one by W.A. Mozart, one by Vincenzo Righini, and one by Vincente Martin y Soler. These infrequently heard works showcase Michaels’ singing through special arrangements for her and Orion by Peter LaBella.

Michaels joins forces with Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle for the Schubert favorite Der Hirt auf Dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock), full of virtuosity and lyricism for both voice and clarinet, as well as three short colorful Vocalises by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Orion violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone and pianist Diana Schmück join Michaels to perform “Music,” the last of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seven Romances of Verses by Alexander Blok, Op. 17, No. 7, written in 1967. Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, requested a “vocalise” for the two of them. After writing that piece, Shostakovich continued with Blok’s verses, adding a violin. Each of the seven pieces showcases a different combination of the four instruments, all with ominous overtones. Only the seventh, an introverted hymn to the art, uses all four instruments.

Shostakovich wrote his Piano Trio in E Minor, Op. 67 as part of his artistic reaction to World War II. The first movement uses a haunting theme, developed in the introduction by means of timbre and register. In the second movement, which is full of energy and vitality, Shostakovich juxtaposes unexpected harmonies and melodic fragments, creating a tinge of sarcasm that overlays the movement’s “joie de vivre.” The profound third movement, a passacaglia (where an eight-measure chord pattern is repeated six times in the piano), leads directly into the final movement, which incorporates material from preceding movements, along with music in the style of Jewish dances. The material builds alternating themes of hope and despair, with a persistent rhythm, into an almost mocking tragic climax before the tension is released dynamically.

Patrice Michaels:
Patrice Michaels receives raves for her “poise, musicianship and impressive fioratura” (Los Angeles Times), “a voice that is light, rich and flexible” (Opera News) and “pinpoint-accurate...bravura” (Boston Globe). Recent seasons have included engagements with the Shanghai, Czech National, St. Louis, Omaha, Atlanta, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Minnesota Orchestras; the Maryland Handel Festival, Dallas Bach Society and Charlotte, Kansas City and Virginia Symphonies; as well as New York’s Concert Royal and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque. Among her operatic credits is the Hal Prince production of Candide at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has sung with the Cleveland Opera, Central City Opera, Tacoma Opera, The Banff Centre and Chicago Opera Theater.

Orion’s 20th Anniversary Season:
Orion’s 2012–13 season concludes in May with “Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair,” featuring special guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna contributing his second work commissioned for Orion on a program also including Márquez, Ponce and Brahms and welcoming back Stephen Boe on viola. Orion also will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” May 6, 2013.

The Orion Ensemble:
Founded in 1992, the Orion Ensemble boasts a roster of five superb musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano), Judy Stone (cello) and Jennifer Marlas (viola)— who have performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque orchestra, and at music festivals including Ravinia, Aspen, Mostly Mozart, Hollywood Bowl, Taos Chamber Music, Salzburg and Banff. The Chicago Tribune called Orion “one of Chicago’s most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles,” and the Chicago Sun-Times said Orion is “what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality.” The Orion Ensemble received a Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration “An Inside Look at Contemporary Music.” Orion’s most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics. The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the MacArthur Fund for the Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

Performance and ticket information:
The Orion Ensemble’s “A Voice from Heaven” concert program featuring soprano Patrice Michaels takes place Sunday, March 10 at 7 p.m. at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, 227 East Side Drive in Geneva, Il; Wednesday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Salon in the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Il; and Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Il. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Cal Performances Presents the Bay Area Recital Debut of Eric Ownes on Sunday, February 10, at 3:00 P.M. in Hertz Hall, Berkeley, CA
“Eric Owens speaks to you even in his silences… and shakes you when he sings” (Chicago-Sun Times). Cal Performances presents the highly-regarded American bass-baritone, Eric Owens, in his Bay Area recital debut Sunday, February 10, at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, Berkeley campus. Owens will perform a program of songs from the repertoire of Hugo Wolf, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Richard Wagner. In the last few years Owens has established an enviable opera, stage, recital and concert career, performing at the San Francisco Opera, the Met and Carnegie Hall, among many other prestigious stages.  He was thrust into the spotlight for his powerful portrayal as Alberich in Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen at the Metropolitan Opera. His recital program in Berkeley will highlight his expansive yet focused tone and his innate acting technique, conveying the audience through more than one hundred years of music. Owens will perform with seasoned vocal accompanist pianist Warren Jones.

A native of Philadelphia, Eric Owens began his music training as a pianist at six, followed by formal oboe study at eleven. He later studied voice while an undergraduate at Temple University, then as a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music, and currently studies with Armen Boyajian. He has performed with New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, among others, and worked with today’s leading conductors, including Wolfgang Sawallisch, Lorin Maazel, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Franz Welser-Möst, John Nelson and Robert Spano.  Among the many honors he has received are the 2003 Marian Anderson Award, first prize in the Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition.

“The single finest accompanist now working,” (San Francisco Chronicle) pianist Warren Jones was named “Collaborative Pianist of the Year” for 2010 by Musical America and has performed with many of today’s best-known artists including Stephanie Blythe, Denyce Graves, James Morris, John Relyea, and Richard “Yongjai” O’Neill, among others. Jones has often been a guest artist at Carnegie Hall and in Lincoln Center’s “Great Performer Series,” as well as festivals in Tanglewood, Ravinia and Caramoor. He has also been invited three times to the White House by American presidents to perform at concerts honoring the President of Russia and Prime Ministers of Italy and Canada.

Ticket Information:
Tickets for Eric Owens, tenor, with Warren Jones, piano, on Sunday, February 10 at 3:00 p.m., in Hertz Hall are priced at $46.00, subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at; and at the door.  Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets.  For more information about discounts, go to or call (510) 642-9988.

--Joe Yang, Cal Performances

Soprano Danielle Talamantes Joins National Philharmonic Chorale in Poulenc’s Gloria
Soprano Danielle Talamantes joins the National Philharmonic Chorale and Orchestra in Poulenc’s Gloria on Saturday, February 9, at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The program, led by National Philharmonic Music Director and conductor Piotr Gajewski, will also include Ravel’s Bolero and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Ravel’s most famous work, the hypnotic one-movement orchestral piece Bolero, begins this special concert. Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is based on Spanish dance called the bolero. Gloria, scored for soprano, large orchestra and chorus, is one of Poulenc’s most celebrated works. A setting of the Roman Catholic Gloria in excelsis Deo text, it was premiered on January 21, 1961 in Boston, Mass. by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Chorus Pro Musica under conductor Charles Münch.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s most famous work Scheherazade, based on the tales of The Arabian Nights, is a symphonic suite full of dazzling orchestration and splendid violin solos. Composed in 1888, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov in particular: colorful orchestration and an interest in the East, which figured greatly in the history of Imperial Russia.

About the Soloist:
Soprano Danielle Talamantes is one of the DC region’s most sought after soloists. Appearing before sold out houses Ms. Talamantes continues to garner the attention of a number of classical music organizations, symphonies, and opera companies. She played Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata with the Fremont Opera to the tune of rave reviews. She also played the role of Najade in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos in the spring of 2011 at the Metropolitan Opera. Recent concert performances featured Ms. Talamantes as soprano soloist with the Nashville Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Choralis, and the Oratorio Society of VA. She performed with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in May, 2012 in Mendelssohn’s Elijah and with the New Dominion Chorale in an October 2012 production of Orff’s Carmina Burana as well as the National Philharmonic Chorale & Orchestra in a December 2012 performance of Handel’s Messiah. Last summer, Ms. Talamantes, was a soprano in residence at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont.

About the Conductor:
Piotr Gajewski is widely credited with building The National Philharmonic to its present status as one of the most respected ensembles of its kind in the region. The Washington Post recognizes him as an "immensely talented and insightful conductor,” whose "standards, taste and sensitivity are impeccable." In addition to his appearances with the National Philharmonic, Maestro Gajewski is much in demand as a guest conductor. In recent years, he has appeared with most of the major orchestras in his native Poland, as well as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in England, the Karlovy Vary Symphony in the Czech Republic, the Okanagan Symphony in Canada and numerous orchestras in the United States.

Gajewski attended Carleton College and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned a B.M. and M.M. in Orchestral Conducting. Upon completing his formal education, he continued refining his conducting skills at the

1983 Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, where he was awarded a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship. His teachers there included Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Gustav Meier and Maurice Abravanel. Gajewski is also a winner of many prizes and awards, among them a prize at New York's prestigious Leopold Stokowski Conducting Competition and, in 2006, Montgomery County's Comcast Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Achievement Award.

About the National Philharmonic:
Led by dynamic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, the National Philharmonic is known for performances that are “powerful,” impeccable” and “thrilling” (The Washington Post). The National Philharmonic boasts a long-standing tradition of reasonably priced tickets and free admission to all young people age 7-17, assuring its place as an accessible and enriching component in Montgomery County and the greater Washington, DC area.

As the Music Center at Strathmore’s ensemble-in-residence, the National Philharmonic showcases world-renowned guest artists in time-honored symphonic masterpieces conducted by Maestro Gajewski and monumental choral masterworks under National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director Stan Engebretson.

The National Philharmonic also offers exceptional and unique education programs, such as the Summer Strings and Choral Institutes. Students accepted into the Summer String Institutes study privately with National Philharmonic musicians, participate in coached chamber music and play in an orchestra conducted by Maestro Gajewski and Philharmonic Associate Conductor Victoria Gau. For more information, visit

A free lecture will be offered at 6:45 pm on Saturday, February 9 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the Philharmonic of Many Colors concert on February 9 at Strathmore, please visit or call the Strathmore ticket office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $28-$81; kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette). ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. Parking is complimentary.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute Hosts Free Community Event for Youth in Music Festival
Student musicians perform and discuss music with El Sistema’s Mark Churchill February 2 in Highland Park, Illinois.

As a leadership organization in the 2013 Chicago Youth in Music Festival, the Music Institute of Chicago will host a community event featuring music and discussion, free and open to the public, Saturday, February 2, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at its Highland Park campus, the Highland Park Community House Ballroom, 1991 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, Il.

For this event, the Music Institute welcomes Mark Churchill, dean emeritus of the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory Division and current head of El Sistema USA, the international music education organization. Churchill will moderate a panel discussion on the ways young people can serve as advocates for music and its place in society and the paths young musicians can follow to be Citizen Musicians and cultural entrepreneurs in their communities.

Music Institute musicians serving on the panel include Rebecca Benjamin (18, Warsaw/Indiana, Sage Foundation Fellow and Academy violin student of Almita Vamos), Giancarlo Latta (17, Ann Arbor/Michigan, Geraldi-Norton Foundation Scholar and Academy violin student of Almita Vamos) and Emelia Suljic (15, Winnetka, violin student of Hye-Sun Lee).

Prior to the discussion strings students in the Music Institute’s prestigious Academy for extraordinarily gifted pre-college musicians and Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA) musicians will perform side by side in a chamber orchestra reading session conducted by Academy Director James Setapen. The program includes Barber’s Adagio for Strings; Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile from the String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11; and Carlos Gardel’s “Por Una Cabeza” with special guest tango dancers Katia Alferova and Filand Cortez from ARTango. Music Institute student March Saper (17, Chicago, flute student of Meret Bitticks) will assist with production of this event in her role as one of four Student Ambassadors for the Festival.

The Music Institute is proud to have seven of its students participating in the Chicago Youth in Music Festival, a biennial celebration of the achievements of young classical musicians from across Chicago and the world for an incredible journey of music-making and learning. The 2013 Festival takes place January 14–February 4. The Chicago Youth in Music Festival is a collaboration between the Institute for Learning, Access and Training at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago’s leading organizations in music education, including the Music Institute of Chicago.

Music Institute of Chicago:
The Music Institute of Chicago believes that music has the power to sustain and nourish the human spirit; therefore, our mission is to provide the foundation for lifelong engagement with music. Founded in 1931, the Music Institute has grown to become one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation. Offering musical excellence built on the strength of its distinguished faculty, commitment to quality, and breadth of programs and services, the Music Institute is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Each year, the Music Institute’s teachers and arts therapists reach more than 10,000 students and clients of all ages and experience levels at campuses in Evanston, Winnetka, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Lake Forest and Downers Grove, as well as through its longstanding partnership with the Chicago Public Schools. The Music Institute offers lessons, classes, and programs in four distinct areas: the Community School, Academy, Institute for Therapy through the Arts, and Nichols Concert Hall.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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 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