Classical Music News of the Week, April 20, 2013

British Maestro Sir Colin Davis Dies at 85
Sir Colin Davis, the great British maestro and the London Symphony Orchestra's longest-serving conductor, died last Sunday at age 85 after a short illness. "He was internationally renowned for his interpretations of Mozart, Sibelius, and Berlioz, and music lovers across the world have been inspired by his performances and recordings," read a statement on the London Symphony's Web site. "He will be remembered with huge affection and admiration by the LSO, and our thoughts are with his family at this time."

Mr. Davis' career began as a clarinetist, then as a freelance conductor, before taking positions at the BBC Scottish Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He was the LSO's principal conductor from 1995 to 2006, when he became its president, and maintained close relationships with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Dresden Staatskapelle, and Royal Opera House.

His discography is extensive, but he is especially known for his Philips recordings of operas by Mozart, Britten, Verdi, and Puccini and complete symphonies of Brahms, Sibelius, and Schubert on the RCA label. He was knighted in 1980 and received awards from the governments of Italy, Germany, France, Finland, and Bavaria.

--Michael Huebner, the Birmingham News

Two Sensational Vocal Soloists Headline American Bach Soloist’s Apollo & Dafne, May 3-6
Jeffrey Thomas leads Handel’s Apollo & Dafne with soprano Mary Wilson and baritone Mischa Bouvier in the title roles. The program will also include Handel’s Silete venti and a collection of arias from Bach Cantatas.

American Bach Soloists’ 2013 subscription series closes May 3-6 with a thrilling vocal showcase featuring soprano Mary Wilson and baritone Mischa Bouvier singing works by Handel and Bach. Central to the program is Handel's dramatic cantata Apollo & Dafne. Written in Venice when the composer was 24 years old, the cantata tells the story of Apollo, who in his vanity suggests that even Cupid’s bow is no match for his own. Challenging Apollo’s boastfulness, Cupid shoots his arrows and Apollo falls prey to rapturous yearnings for the unsuspecting Dafne. To escape the amorous god’s advances, she transforms herself into a laurel tree and, to some of Handel’s most expressive and exquisite music, the chastened Apollo declares that his tears will water Dafne’s leaves and her branches will crown the heads of great heroes. Though Apollo & Dafne predates most of the composer’s operas and oratorios, the cantata’s central conflict is operatic in scope and it is a superb vehicle for two charismatic vocal soloists. ABS music director Jeffrey Thomas will conduct Wilson, Bouvier, and the American Bach Soloists—“the best American specialists in early music” (The Washington Post)—in this rarely performed, yet formidable Handelian masterwork.

Following her ABS December performances of Handel’s Messiah and Laudate pueri—which were nothing less than phenomenal—ABS is proud to present coloratura soprano Mary Wilson again in this program. Wilson, who has been hailed by the Arizona Daily Star as “simply amazing, with a voice that induces goose bumps and a stage presence that is mesmerizing,” will also sing Handel’s motet for soprano soloist and orchestra, Silete venti. The work calls for a vocalist of great virtuosity who is capable of both long, soaring lines and intricate passagework; Handel wrote for precisely the kind of extraordinary artist we find in Mary Wilson.

Baritone Mischa Bouvier, recently praised by San Francisco Classical Voice for his “immensely sympathetic, soulful voice” and “rare vocal and interpretive gifts,” was discovered by ABS during the 2010 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy. In addition to singing the title role in Apollo & Dafne, Bouvier will also perform a trio of bravura arias by J. S. Bach, including the buoyant and charming “Doch weichet, ihr tollen, vergeblichen Sorgen!” (“So yield now, ye foolish and purposeless sorrows!”) from Cantata 8. ABS flutist Sandra Miller, 'cellist William Skeen, violone player Steven Lehning, and organist Corey Jamason will also be featured in these arias.

 Handel: Apollo & Dafne, HWV 122
Handel: Silete venti, HWV 242
J.S. Bach: Arias for Bass
“Laß, o Welt, mich aus Verachtung” from Cantata 123
“Das Brausen von den rauhen Winden” from Cantata 92
“Doch weichet, ihr tollen, vergeblichen Sorgen!” from Cantata 8

Mary Wilson, soprano
Mischa Bouvier, baritone
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
American Bach Soloists

Friday, May 3, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue at Golden Gate, Belvedere, CA

Saturday, May 4, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley, CA

Sunday, May 5, 2013, 4:00 p.m.
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street at Franklin, San Francisco, CA

Monday, May 6, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street at Fourth, Davis, CA

--American Bach Soloists

Conrad Tao to Curate Three-Day Festival and Release Full-Length Debut Album in June
UNPLAY Festival planned for June 11-13, Voyages album to be released June 11.

On June 11th, 2013, Conrad Tao will celebrate his nineteenth birthday by kicking off the UNPLAY Festival, a three-day event conceived and curated by the pianist/composer. He will also release his debut full-length album on EMI Classics, entitled Voyages, featuring works by Ravel, Rachmaninov, and Meredith Monk, as well as Conrad’s own compositions vestiges, for solo piano, and iridescence, for piano and iPad.

The three intimate evenings of the UNPLAY Festival (June 11-13,, held in Brooklyn’s powerHouse arena, will broadly examine the musician’s changing role in contemporary culture. Themes will include the ephemeral nature of performance, the places where the past and the present collide and conflict, and the historical narratives surrounding classical music (including which works are considered “standard repertoire” and why). Performers will include Conrad himself, Face the Music, Iktus Percussion, Sideband, thingNY, Todd Reynolds, and more.

Voyages, Conrad’s full-length debut album on EMI Classics (following his 2012 Juilliard Sessions EP) continues to develop the festival’s themes of change and progression, examining the shifting and unpredictable nature of movement in our lives.  Says Conrad: “whether it be the surreal dream images of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit or my own vestiges, the restless motion of Meredith Monk’s Railroad (Travel Song), or the various moods of Rachmaninov’s preludes, the most interesting transformations of our lives come about not so much in getting from point A to point B, but rather in what happens between the two points.”

At eighteen years old, Conrad Tao has already accomplished more than most musicians do in a lifetime.  The Illinois native maintains a full international concert schedule, performing with the world’s great orchestras and in concert halls from New York to Moscow to Hong Kong to Sao Paolo. He has been named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and a Gilmore Young Artist,  was the only classical musician on Forbes' 2011 30 Under 30 list, and last year received an Avery Fisher Career Grant.  His compositions have won him eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, as well as a commission from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Conrad currently attends the Columbia University/Juilliard School joint degree program in New York.

For more information:

--Andrew Ousley, EMI Classics

The National Philharmonic Presents Wagner Celebration at Strathmore
The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, will present an all-Wagner concert to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the German composer on Saturday, June 1 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD. In addition, Maestro Gajewski will give a free talk as an introduction to the all-Wagner concert on Thursday, May 16 at 7:30 pm at the Goethe-Institute in Washington, DC.

Wagner novices and aficionados alike can enjoy the June 1 concert of selections from each of the composer’s 10 best-known operas. Highlights include the Prelude to The Flying Dutchman, an opera about redemption through love; “Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre, heard in many popular movies such as Apocalypse Now and commercials; the stirring curtain-raiser Prelude to Die Meistersinger; and the intense Prelude and Liebestod (“Love-Death”) from Wagner’s vaunted music-drama about the immortal lovers, Tristan and Isolde.

The program will also include the following excerpts: the Prelude to Act III from the romatic opera Lohengrin; the Prelude from Tannhäuser; “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” from Das Rheingold; “Forest Murmurs” from Siegfried; “Siegfried’s Funeral Music” from Götterdämmerung that is used as a musical theme in the movie Excalibur, a retelling of the legend of King Arthur; and “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal.

Maestro Gajewski’s talk on May 16 at the Goethe-Institut at 812 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC, will explain the role of the orchestra in Wagner’s operas and the musical themes that drive the drama. For more information on this lecture, presented by the Wagner Society of Washington, DC in partnership with the Goethe-Institute, please visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

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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 ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine 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