Classical Music News of the Week, June 30, 2013

PARMA Music Festival, August 15-17

The 2013 PARMA Music Festival, the cross-genre/multiple venue festival announced earlier this year to take place Thursday-Saturday August 15-17, 2013 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is already generating buzz. The Festival will feature Grammy Award-winning clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, Portsmouth indie rock icons Tan Vampires, the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra, soul music from Qwill and the Dejas, cellist Ovidiu Marinescu, and much more, including multiple world premieres, a composers’ conference, and more than one genre-bending experiment.

Here’s Sonic Scoop (“Creative, Technical & Business Connections For NYC's Music & Sound Community”) weighing in:

“An energetic wave of classical – from new to historic to experimental — is beaming out of the Northeast. It’s not south nor southwest — but there’s a similar sense of musical adventure afoot. With a whole new generation of dressed-down classical music fans emerging, PARMA has wisely decided to give them a forward-thinking festival of live performances, all their own. The result is a curator that’s extremely in synch with its audience, sensing the readiness for a progressive presentation of classical and all its rich guises. PARMA’s work encompasses an extraordinarily wide cross-section of styles and presentations, and you’ll hear and see this diversity and eclecticism throughout the Festival.”

The city-wide musical showcase is the brainchild of PARMA Recordings, a New England-based music company specializing in orchestral, chamber, choral, and commercial recordings as well as distribution, product design, strategic marketing, and licensing and publishing. Other Festival highlights include: 10 diverse daytime and evening concerts; listening parties; and panels held at multiple venues in Portsmouth over the three days; 17 year old harp virtuoso Anna DeLoi (winner of the PSO’s recent Student Concerto Competition); live electronica pioneers fiveighthirteen, the New England String Quartet; the newly-formed all-star PARMA Orchestra (including players from the New York Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, and the Boston Philharmonic), a world premiere by legendary American composer Lukas Foss; troubadour Sarah Blacker; Seacoast musical ambassador Dan Blakeslee; and much more! And, it all takes place in what the Miami Herald calls, “New England’s most appealing city.”

The festival is being produced by PARMA Recordings in collaboration with Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC), Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra (PSO), the Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI), Boston New Music Initiative (BNMI), The Music Hall, Great Bay Academy of Dance (GBAD), Classical NH, and New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR).

The Festival at a Glance:
There will be 10 concerts (four presented by the Society of Composers (SCI), one featuring top PARMA artists, one combining local and international artists, a family-oriented orchestral concert, a piano bar cabaret night, a Licensing showcase, and the main event at The Music Hall) featuring contemporary music at seven venues over three days.

The Festival will also serve as the official host for the 2013 Region 1 Conference of the Society of Composers Incorporated (SCI), one of the largest composer-service organizations in the country. Contemporary classical composers from all over the world will be converging on Portsmouth – their works will be performed by a wide array of modern music ensembles.

All but the main event are free – the closing concert at The Music Hall’s landmark Historic Theater has a modest $10 ticket. For more information:

--PARMA Recordings

Young People’s Chorus of New York City Joined by Young Voices of Melbourne for Transmusic Concert at 92nd Street Y, Sunday, June 30, at 4 P.M.
Concert highlights music of Australia, America, and other world cultures.

Continuing its Transmusica series of concerts of cross-cultural and transformative music designed to build bridges to other world cultures and communities, the Young People's Chorus of New York City and its artistic director/founder Francisco J. Núñez will be joined by the Young Voices of Melbourne (Australia) at the 92nd Street Y Sunday afternoon, June 30, at 4 p.m., the first stop on the Australian choir's six-city tour of America. The joint performance will blend and highlight the music of Australia, America, and other countries in an exciting intermingling of voices and world cultures.

Fifty-two members of the Young Voices of Melbourne under their director Mark O'Leary will sing a program that includes stories of early Australian settlers, folk heroes, and its indigenous people written by some of the country's leading choral composers. Among them are Stephen Leek's arrangement of Botany Bay about a convict about to be sent to an Australian penal colony, Joseph Twist's Rain Dream about a child who has never experienced rain; and of course, “Waltzing Matilda,” Australia's most familiar song, in an arrangement that incorporates the native language of the Nyungar people of western Australia.

Under Francisco J. Núñez, the program of the Young People's Chorus of New York City includes music that shaped the American songbook, from “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal” from the time of the colonists, through spirituals like “Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel,” to music from the Broadway stage and jazz clubs of modern times. YPC's June 30 program offers a thrilling showcase of the choreographed American songs the chorus will perform for Chinese and Japanese audiences in a month-long tour of China and Japan this summer, its fifth Asian tour.

Afterwards, both youth choirs will join together for an international blending of voices in several songs, including Sesere Eeye, a folk song from Queensland's Torres Straight Islands, and the YPC anthem “Give Us Hope.”

Previous YPC Transmusica concerts have highlighted music from Indonesia and Hispanic countries in Latin America, Europe and South America.

Tickets, at $15 for adults and $5 for those under 18, are available now at the 92nd Street Y box office or by calling 212-415-5500.

--Angela Duryea, Young People’s Chorus of New York

American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy at San Francisco Conservatory of Music July 12-21, 2013
The Festival features two performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor led by ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas; Biber’s rarely performed Missa Salisburgensis receives its North American premiere; Baroque cellist Tanya Tomkins in Distinguished Artist Recital; and Handel’s dramatic oratorio Esther in concert with ABS Academy soloists.

The American Bach Soloists return to San Francisco’s Conservatory of Music for the 4th annual ABS Festival & Academy—San Francisco’s Summer Bach Festival—from July 12-21. With their most ambitious Festival to date, music director Jeffrey Thomas and ABS are pleased to offer an extraordinary line-up of concerts, recitals, and free educational events that will engage and thrill audiences. In the tradition of the great summer music festivals around the world, the ABS Festival & Academy has quickly developed into an attraction, offering “moments of sheer magic” (Orlando Sentinel) every summer in San Francisco.

The Festival kicks off on July 12 with an opening night dinner at Dobbs Ferry Restaurant in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood followed by the inaugural Chamber Series concert featuring the members of ABS performing works by J.S. Bach, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Heinrich Schütz, and Antonio Vivaldi. This program of intimate delights from the Baroque chamber repertoire will demonstrate why San Francisco Classical Voice observed, “ABS boasts some of the greatest period-instrument players in world.”

Among the many highlights of this year’s Festival, The Glories of Salzburg on July 13 will present a rare opportunity to experience Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s colossal Missa Salisburgensis. This magnificent 53-part polychoral extravagance for 9 different groups of instruments is one of the largest-scaled surviving works from the Baroque period. First performed in Salzburg's stunning cathedral by "choirs" of trumpets, timpani, trombones, strings, cornettos, viols, recorders, oboes, continuo instruments, and two eight-part vocal ensembles, this performance—the North American premiere with the instrumentation Biber composed for—will feature the combined forces of the American Bach Soloists and Academy members. Other works by Biber, one of the most celebrated and demanding composers of the 17th Century, will be also performed [This event is sold out].

The two Festival Sundays (July 14 and 21) are reserved for a beloved Festival tradition: Maestro Thomas leading the ABS Academy Orchestra, the American Bach Choir, and instrumental and vocal soloists from the Academy in performances of Bach’s monumental masterpiece, the Mass in B Minor. observed, “every time Thomas brings it [Bach’s Mass] before an audience he always seems to have new things to bring out through performance,” and Fanfare Magazine wrote “Thomas’ direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music… there is no higher praise for Bach performance.” Demand for these performances is always extremely high, so advanced ticket purchase is strongly encouraged.

Handel's rarely performed dramatic oratorio Esther, a work that represents the birth of the English oratorio tradition, will be performed on July 19. Originally composed for the Duke of Chandos in 1718, Handel returned to his score in the 1730s as the enthusiasm of his London audiences for Italian opera began to wane. This moving work is a marvelous combination of thrilling choruses and arias, accompanied by a beautiful mélange of instruments including a triple harp. Culminating in a glorious musical paean of rejoicing—the most grandly scaled final chorus in all of Handel's oratorios and operas—Esther became one of the composer’s most popular works and was performed throughout the rest of his career. ABS Academy vocalists will be featured in roles including Mordecai, Haman, King Ahasuerus, and his Queen Esther. The ABS Festival Orchestra and the American Bach Choir will be conducted by Jeffrey Thomas.

--American Bach Soloists

Nuns Continue #1 Reign Six Weeks Straight On Billboard Classical Traditional Chart with Their Captivating Music And Story
The Benedictines of Mary’s Angels and Saints at Ephesus is featured in The Wall Street Journal and Good Morning America.

The Benedictines of Mary continue their steady hold at #1 on Billboard’s Classical Traditional Chart for six straight weeks with their new recording, Angels and Saints at Ephesus. With their gimmick-free, radiant singing, “these isolated singers don’t know they created a niche hit with their recordings of ancient chants and hymns, or that it’s their second release to reach No.1 on the Billboard chart,” reported The Wall Street Journal in an extensive feature on June 14th. Their unusual and inspiring story was also picked up Good Morning America, and continues to garner the attention of the public at large.

With Angels and Saints, the Sisters once again share their genuine love of music-making with the world, while maintaining their monastic life – something uncharacteristic for a singing group topping the Billboard charts. Founded in 1995, The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, are a young, monastic order of Sisters; they sing together eight times a day as they chant the Divine Office in Latin. The order’s Prioress, Mother Cecilia, vacated her seat in the horn section with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Ohio to enter religious life, despite her conservatory background where music was emphasized over religion. A graduate of The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, in Houston, Texas, she has arranged the songs on Angels and Saints at Ephesus. Sr. Scholastica, the Order’s sub prioress also designed the album’s artwork.

Released on May 7th from Decca/De Montfort Music, Angels And Saints At Ephesus nabbed significant debut slots on an impressive four Billboard Charts total, including Heatseekers, Christian and Classical Traditional and Classical Overall – the latter chart showing a significant jump last week to #6.

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music

Donato Cabrera Appointed Music Director of California Symphony
Donato Cabrera, a rising young conductor well known to Bay Area audiences through his stellar work with both San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera, has been appointed Music Director of California Symphony. The announcement was made on Sunday, June 23 by President of the Board of Directors Tom Overhoff at the 14th annual Virtuoso al Fresco Food and Wine Classic, which benefits the California Symphony’s education programs. Founded in 1986, California Symphony enters its 27th season and is recognized for its wide range of orchestral repertoire, with an emphasis of works by American composers, and for its passionate cultivation of talented young composers through its Young American Composer-in-Residence Program. Maestro Cabrera signs an initial three year contract and leads the orchestra in six of the eight concerts during the 2013-2014 season opening September 29.

In remarks made at the announcement, President of the Board of Directors Tom Overhoff and Dick Jarrett, Board member and Chair of the Search Committee stated, “The appointment of Donato Cabrera as Music Director of the California Symphony truly represents a new era in our history. A committee made up of board members, musician representatives and patrons conducted an extensive nationwide search, narrowing the field from nearly 100 to 7 finalists, all of whom were superb conductors. The committee unanimously selected Donato. We are confident that Maestro Cabrera will lead us to our goal of becoming one of the nation’s very finest regional orchestras.”

Talking of Maestro Cabrera’s March 2013 guest appearance with the California Symphony, Georgia Rowe of the San Jose Mercury News said that they were a “perfect match” adding that Cabrera conducted with “impressive energy and meticulous focus” drawing “vibrant, dynamic playing from the ensemble.” Maestro Cabrera will continue to serve as Resident Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, Wattis Foundation Music Director of the SFS Youth Orchestra, as well as Music Director of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and the New Hampshire Music Festival.

--Brenden Guy, Karen Ames Communications

Merola Opera Program Summer Festival Present Schwabacher Summer Concert
It wil be presented at Everett Auditorium, San Francisco, CA, on July 18, with a free community performance on July 20 at Yerba Buena Gardens.

The Merola Opera Program’s Summer Festival continues with the popular Schwabacher Summer Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 18 at the Everett Auditorium and offered to the community for free at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 as part of the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. Conducted by Kevin Murphy and directed by Roy Rallo, the Schwabacher Summer Concert features extended scenes from six operas: Mozart’s Don Giovanni; Verdi’s Don Carlo; Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri; Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor; Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz; and Verdi’s Otello. Tickets for the concert at the Everett Auditorium are affordably priced and range from $25 to $40 with a special student price available.

A native of Syracuse, New York, Kevin Murphy has been director of music administration at the New York City Opera since September 2008. He is also an acclaimed coach and accompanist. In addition to his collaboration with his wife, Heidi Grant Murphy, he has worked with an array of today’s leading opera artists, including Michelle DeYoung, Bejun Mehta, Gary Lakes, Nathan Gunn, Olaf Bär, Bryn Terfel, Marcelo Alvarez, Placido Domingo, Frederica von Stade, Renée Fleming, Paul Groves and Cecilia Bartoli.

Internationally acclaimed stage director, Roy Rallo, has staged numerous productions for Merola, including Il barbiere di Siviglia in 2011 and the Schwabacher Summer Concert in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Rallo’s past work includes a new production of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos for the Opéra National de Bordeaux and a new music-theater piece, the Methusalem Projekt, for the Nationaltheater und Staatskapelle Weimar.

Tickets for the July 18 Schwabacher Summer Concert are $25 and $40, in addition to a student price of $15.* Tickets for all performances may be purchased by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or online at

*Student tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office window, located inside the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Ave. Valid student ID is required.

For more information about Merola, please visit or phone (415) 551-6299

--Karen Ames Communications

Composer A. J. McCaffrey Wins  $15,000 Underwood Emerging Composer Commission from American Composers Orchestra. Composer Nina Young Wins Annual Audience Choice Award
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is pleased to announce that composer A.J. McCaffrey has been named the winner of ACO’s 2013 Underwood Commission, bringing him a $15,000 purse for a work to be premiered by ACO in the 2014-2015 season. Chosen from six finalists during ACO’s 22nd Underwood New Music Readings on April 8 and 9, 2013, in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States, A.J. won the top prize with his work Thank You for Waiting.

In addition, for the fourth year, audience members at the Underwood New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through the Audience Choice Award. The winner this year was composer Nina Young, for her piece Remnants. As the winner, Nina was commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which is available to everyone who voted, free of charge.

“A.J.’s orchestral writing impresses at every level – the clarity of his sonic concept, the deft handling of often viscerally dense counterpoint, and above all, the energy that he gets from the ensemble through his orchestrational approach,” said Underwood New Music Readings mentor composer Christopher Theofanidis. Joan Tower, also a mentor composer this year, added, “A.J. McCaffrey is a composer with extraordinary chops. I am hoping his newly commissioned work will push the envelope further by taking musical risks that could create a formidable piece for orchestra.” Mentor composer and ACO Artistic Advisor Laureate Robert Beaser praised A.J. as well, saying, “A.J. is a composer who combines prodigious craft with a quirky sensibility. He produces works in a variety of styles – always surprising and arresting.”

Upon winning the Underwood commission, A.J. McCaffrey said, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with ACO. I witnessed first-hand how well they tackle new music during the Readings this past spring, and I cannot wait to begin composing for them. It is overwhelming to be chosen – ACO had a fabulous group of pieces and composers to choose from and I am humbled to have been selected.”

A.J. McCaffrey is a songwriter and composer of instrumental, vocal and electronic music. With backgrounds and interests in theater, fine arts and literature, and an upbringing that fostered a love for a wide variety of musical styles, A.J. writes music that strives to tell a story. His works are theatrical in nature, employing harmonically rich and lyrically striking sound worlds to create moving, dramatic narratives. A.J.’s music has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Tanglewood Music Center, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. In addition to ACO, his works have been performed by the New Fromm Players, Radius Ensemble, Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, and members of the Chiara Quartet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Alarm Will Sound, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. A fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festival and School, A.J. has been a featured composer on BMOP's The Next Next series, Tanglewood's Festival of Contemporary Music, and the New Gallery Concert Series.

A.J. McCaffrey holds degrees in music composition from Rice University, The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the University of Southern California, and has studied with Richard Lavenda, James MacMillan, Donald Crockett, and Stephen Hartke. A passionate educator, he is an instructor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Composer Fellowship Program and the Longy School of Music at Bard College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching Music.

--Christina Jensen PR

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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 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