Classical Music News of the Week, May 26, 2013

The National Philharmonic Presents Carmina Burana at Strathmore

The National Philharmonic Chorale, led by Artistic Director Stan Engebretson, will present Carl Orff’s most famous work, Carmina Burana, on Saturday, June 8 at 8 pm and on Sunday, June 9 at 3 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD  20852. The program also includes Three Poems by Henri Michaux by Witold Lutos?awski. In addition to the nearly 200 voice all-volunteer chorale, the concert will feature soloists Audrey Luna (soprano); Robert Baker (tenor); Leon Williams (baritone) and the Choralis Youth Chorus (Cantus Primo).

Orff’s rousing Carmina Burana blends secular medieval texts with seductive melodies and spellbinding rhythms. The composer’s popular 1936 oratorio, a setting of medieval poems about life, love and morals, features the powerful and pulsing sound of chorus and orchestra that you now hear in many movies, videogames and on TV. In fact, the famous opening and closing movement, O Fortuna, has been used in such popular movies as Glory, The Hunt for Red October, and Cheaper by the Dozen.

Lutosawski, Poland’s most celebrated composer of the last century, traced his musical roots to Debussy and Stravinsky. These influences are heard in his evocative 1963 work, Three Poems by Henri Michaux, for chorus, strings and percussion, in a stirring Washington-area premiere.

About the Soloists:
Soprano Audrey Luna’s 2012-13 season engagements include Ariel in The Tempest with the Metropolitan Opera, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos with Fort Worth Opera, and Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte with Utah Opera. Recent season highlights include Queen of the Night with Lyric Opera of Chicago; Madame Mao in Nixon in China with Lyric Opera of Kansas City; Ariel with Festival Opéra de Québec, also with Orchestra Dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, directed by the composer; and Najade in Ariadne auf Naxos with the Metropolitan Opera.

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Tenor Robert Baker is a central figure in the Washington area classical music scene. He has been featured by the Washington Concert Opera in numerous roles totaling more than 250 performances. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Prokfiev’s War and Peace, which he also recorded during the Spoleto Festival’s production in 1999.

Baritone Leon Williams performances have included Mendelssohn’s Elijah (Honolulu Symphony and Florida Orchestra), Orff’s Carmina Burana (Florida Orchestra, Baltimore, Reading, Alabama, Westchester, Grand Rapids, Jacksonville, Hartford and Colorado Symphonies, National Philharmonic, and at the Berkshire Choral Festival); Britten’s War Requiem, the Mozart and Fauré Requiems, and Haydn’s Creation with the Colorado Symphony.

The Choralis Foundation, founded by Artistic Director Gretchen Kuhrmann in 2000, is dedicated to nurturing a passion for choral music in the greater Washington metropolitan area. Its choruses--the Choralis Youth Choirs (Cantus Choirs)—Cantus Liberi (grades 3 5), Cantus Medius (grades 6-8), and the select choir heard this evening, Cantus Primo (grades 5-9)—are the most recent fulfillment of Choralis’ mission to instill a love of choral music through excellence in choral performance and educational outreach to youth.  Details about Choralis programs and concert season may be found at

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Bang on a Can Announces Clarinetist Ken Thomson Is a New Member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars
Bang on a Can, New York’s innovative and energetic champion of new music, officially announces the new clarinetist for its “All-Star” lineup today. The Bang on a Can All-Stars have become a singular vehicle for visionary composition over the course of the last 20 years, and with the addition of Ken Thomson will continue to set the standard for exciting and virtuosic performances.

Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe welcomed Ken Thomson with this statement: “We are thrilled to welcome high voltage clarinetist Ken Thomson to the Bang on a Can All-Stars! This past year, during our national search, we played with stunning clarinetists from all over the country. We were honored to share the stage with so many great performers. After a search far and wide, in the end we came back home to one of our own. Ken has been a part of the Bang on a Can family for many years. As a founding member of Asphalt Orchestra (our rad street band) and as faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA, Ken has graced us with his dynamic and physical performances.

He has already jumped right in with a European tour taking place right now through Belgium, Sweden, the UK, and Iceland, to be followed by his first hometown performance as an official All-Stars at the Bang on a Can Marathon on Sunday June 16.”

Ken Thomson is a Brooklyn-based clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer. In demand as a composer and freelancer in many settings, he moves quickly between genres and scenes, bringing a fiery intensity and emotional commitment to every musical situation; Time Out New York called him “the hardest-working saxophonist in new-music show business.”

For more information about Bang on a Can, click here:

--Christina Jensen PR

Music Institute Takes Fischoff Gold for Fifth Time in Six Years
Consistent leadership in the prestigious competition showcases a strong chamber music program.

The Music Institute of Chicago has reaffirmed its status as one of the best schools in the nation for chamber music study: Quartet Lumiére, a Music Institute Academy string quartet, has won the coveted First Place Gold Medal and a $2,300 scholarship in the Junior Division of the 2013 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, which took place May 10–12 in South Bend, Indiana.

Quartet Lumiére musicians include 2012–13 Sage Foundation Academy Fellow Rebecca Benjamin (18, Warsaw/Indiana, violin student of Roland and Almita Vamos); 2012–13 Susan and Richard Kiphart Academy Fellow Gallia Kastner (16, Arlington Heights/Illinois, violin student of Roland and Almita Vamos); William Warfield Scholarship recipient and Academy student Mira Williams (15, Chicago/Illinois, viola student of Marko Dreher); and Venzon Memorial Scholarship recipient and Academy student Josiah Yoo (15, Northbrook/Illinois, cello student of Gilda Barston and Hans Jorgen Jensen).

Coached by Academy faculty member Marko Dreher, Quartet Lumiére was Overall Winner in the open division of the 2013 Discover National Chamber Music Competition, 1st Prize Winner of the Society of American Musicians 2013 Jules M. Laser Chamber Music Competition, and Grand Award Winner and first place in the Strings and Piano Division of the first annual A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition held in April 14 at Merit School of Music. Most recently, the Quartet performed a pre-concert for the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra and for internationally acclaimed musician Lang Lang at the Music Institute’s 83rd Anniversary Gala.

2013 Fischoff Competition
Founded in 1973 in South Bend, Indiana, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition began with Joseph E. Fischoff and fellow members of the South Bend Chamber Music Society seeking to find an innovative way of encouraging young people to pursue chamber music study and performance. Since then, the competition, presented by the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association, has grown to become the largest chamber music competition in the world and one of the most illustrious classical music prizes attainable today. During the past 40 years, more than 5,700 musicians have participated in the competition, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers in music performance and education. In addition, Fischoff is the only national chamber music competition with both Senior (ages 18–35) and Junior Divisions (age 18 and younger).

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Listen: Life With Classical Music Releases Its Summer 2013 Issue Features Béla Fleck, Summer Festivals, Artists Inspired by Art, Viola Jokes, and Van Cliburn, and more
While you’re (hopefully) lying by the pool this summer, Listen: Life with Classical Music is the ultimate guide to summer music festivals and endless entertainment. From mixology at the Metropolitan Opera to Jesus Christ’s operatic debut to the effect of the ubiquitous viola joke, this issue will get you through the hot summer months.

This year, classical music lost a lion-hearted hero: Van Cliburn, the Texan who conquered Russia, who graces the magazine’s cover. Editor-in-Chief Ben Finane ruminates on Van Cliburn’s rise as an unforeseen ambassador with a win at Moscow’s inaugural Tchaikovsky competition.

A print quarterly hailed by Library Journal as one of the best new magazines of 2009, Listen Magazine is the American voice of classical music. Now entering its fifth year of publication, Listen delivers exclusive interviews with the world’s top musicians, feature articles, think pieces, festival coverage, insight into the masterworks and the unsung works of the classical canon, as well as recommendations on record, on screen, in print and online. No one covers the breadth and depth of classical music with greater elegance and zeal than Listen.

The magazine is available at Barnes & Noble or by subscription:
Between issues of Listen, the world of classical music continues to spin. Get your fix between print issues with the editor’s weblog, The Listener; Facebook:; and Twitter:

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

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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