Classical Music News of the Week, July 14, 2013

Benjamin Sheen Wins Inaugural Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition

The Juilliard School masters graduate Benjamin Sheen wins the Pierre S. Du Pont First Prize of $40,000 and a contract with Phillip Truckenbrod Concerts Artists.

The inaugural Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition has come to a close and is proud to announce the first ever winner of the Pierre S. Du Pont prize. The Juilliard School master’s graduate Benjamin Sheen (age 23) impressed the judges with his repertoire and virtuosic playing.  “It’s been 10 days of hard work and I couldn’t believe it was my name called. To have won it is a dream,” said Sheen. “I would recommend this competition to anyone . . .  It was a wonderful experience.” In addition to the grand prize of $40,000, Sheen also takes home a contract with Phillip Truckenbrod Concerts Artists and a guaranteed 2013-2014 Performance at Longwood Gardens.

Benjamin Sheen, 23, from London, UK, recently received his Master’s from the Juilliard School in New York and received a First Class Honors degree (BA) in Music from Oxford University. Sheen is increasingly gaining recognition as an international concert organist, having given recitals throughout the UK, including the Royal Albert Hall and Westminster Abbey, as well as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, and a recipient of the prestigious Worshipful Company of Musicians' Silver Medal for 2011. Sheen was recently appointed Assistant Organist-Designate, at St. Thomas Church in New York City. He will assume his duties in September.

The Firmin Swinnen Second Prize of $15,000 was awarded to Monroeville, PA native  Adam Pajan (age 26), and the Clarence Snyder Third Prize of $5,000 was presented to French organist Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvard (age 31). Adam is a DMA degree student in organ with a church music emphasis at the University of Oklahoma’s American Organ Institute where he studies with John Schwandt  and is both a Graduate College Research Fellow and Graduate Assistant. Baptiste-Florian is the organist at Église Saint Vincent-de-Paul in Clichy-la-Garenne (Paris). He pursues an international concert career in Europe, Russia, Canada and United States and teaches improvisation at the Conservatoire in the city of Viry-Châtillon in France.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Orion Ensemble Announces its 21st Season: “Musical Travels”
The 2013–14 season features special guests, plus new Chicago and suburban concert venues.
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, devotes its 21st season to “Musical Travels,” featuring Beethoven’s String Trios, which are rarely performed as a cycle, and works by Brahms, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Gershwin and more.

Orion will perform each concert program at venues spanning the Chicagoland area, including new venues in downtown Chicago—the PianoForte Studios and Sherwood, the Community Music School at Columbia College Chicago—and the northwest suburbs—First Baptist Church of Geneva and Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles—as well as returning to the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

The season opens with “Celebrating Brahms,” featuring the composer’s Trio in A Minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op. 114 and his Trio in E-flat Major for Horn, Violin and Piano, Op. 40, along with Schoenfield’s Café Music for Violin, Cello and Piano (1986). Joining Orion is guest horn Gregory Flint, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and member of the award-winning Asbury Brass Quintet, Tower Brass of Chicago and Fulcrum Point Brass Quintet. Performances take place September 8 (Geneva), September 11 (PianoForte/Chicago) and September 22 (Evanston).

Orion’s second concert program, “Danube Destinations,” welcomes guest violist Stephen Boe, a member of The Chicago Ensemble who teaches at the Music Institute of Chicago. The program includes Beethoven’s Trio in G Major for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 9 No. 1; two works by Hindemith: Duett for Viola and Cello (1934) and Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (1938); and Mozart’s Quartet in G Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, K. 478. Performances are October 27 (Evanston), November 3 (Geneva) and November 6 (Sherwood/Chicago).

For “Sounds of Russia,” Orion performs with guest pianist Sebastian Huydts, an associate professor at the Music Center of Columbia College Chicago who regularly performs with CUBE Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, as well as guest violist Stephen Boe and a guest narrator from the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts). The program includes Beethoven’s Trio in D Major for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 9 No. 2; Stravinsky’s Suite from L’Histoire du Soldat for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1918); and Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos, Op. 17. Performances are March 9 (St. Charles), March 12 (Sherwood/Chicago) and March 16 (Evanston).

The season concludes with “Czech and American Romance,” with violist Stephen Boe joining Orion for Beethoven’s Trio in C Minor for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 9 No. 3; Amon’s Quartet in E-flat Major for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 106, No. 2; Gershwin’s Three Preludes, arranged for Clarinet and Piano; and Dvorak’s Quartet in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 87. Performances are May 25 (St. Charles), May 28 (PianoForte/Chicago) and June 1 (Evanston).

Also during the season, Orion will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” in November 2013 (date TBD) and on March 24, 2014. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

Founded in 1992, the Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration “An Inside Look at Contemporary Music,” features a roster of four superb musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano) and Judy Stone (cello)—who have performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia, as an ensemble and individually in solo, orchestral and other chamber music roles. 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 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.

The Orion Ensemble performs its concert programs during the 2013–14 season at five Chicago-area venues: the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, September 11 and May 28 at 7:30 p.m.; the Recital Hall at Sherwood, The Community Music School of Columbia College Chicago, 1312 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, November 6 and March 12 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, September 22, October 27, March 16 and June 1 at 7:30 p.m.; First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva on Sundays, September 8 and November 3 at 7 p.m.; and Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Avenue in St. Charles on Sundays, March 9 and May 25 at 7 p.m. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. 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

Merola Opera Program Summer Festival Presents Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro August 1 and 3
The Merola Opera Program presents Mozart’s beloved comic opera, Le nozze di Figaro, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 1 and 2 p.m. Saturday, August 3 at the Everett Auditorium at 450 Church Street in San Francisco.

The cast features baritone John Arnold as Figaro; soprano Maria Valdes as Susanna; bass-baritone Thomas Richards as Dr. Bartolo; mezzo-soprano Daryl Freedman as Marcellina; mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb as Cherubino; baritone Joseph Lattanzi, who participated in Merola in 2012, as Count Almaviva; tenor Casey Finnigan as Don Basilio; soprano Jacqueline Piccolino, who participated in Merola in 2012 and is a current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow as Countess Almaviva; bass-baritone Rhys Lloyd Talbot as Antonio; tenor Matthew Newlin as Don Curzio; and soprano Alisa Jordheim as Barbarina. Acclaimed conductor Xian Zhang will conduct the production and celebrated stage director Robin Guarino will direct.

Mozart’s comic opera, Le nozze di Figaro, follows the story of Figaro, Count Almaviva’s sidekick, and his plans to marry his love, Susanna. The plot twists humorously as Count Almaviva meddles with Figaro’s plans, spurring the Countess to plan revenge against her philandering husband. A series of comedic mix ups and mistaken identities ensue before all lessons are learned and happiness is restored.

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.

--Karen Ames Communications

Young People's Chorus of New York City Embarks on Month-Long Tour of Asia July 12 to August 7, 2013
The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award-winning Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC), led by its Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez and accompanied by pianist Jon Holden, will leave for a month-long summer tour of Asia on July 12, its fifth trip to the Asian continent. They will give costumed and choreographed performances in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and five Japanese cities, including Tokyo, where YPC makes its Tokyo Philharmonic debut. In several Japanese cities YPC will sing the first performances in Japan of Samuragochi Mamoru's Hiroshima Requiem since the work's premiere in Hiroshima in 2007.

The tour begins in Hong Kong, where YPC has been invited to be the artist-in-residence at the Hong Kong International Youth and Children's Choir Festival. As the artist-in-residence, they will give two evening-long "Global Voices in America" performances at the Hong Kong Cultural Center on July 16 and 17 of a program that includes an international array of songs from China, Latin America, and the American songbook, ranging from traditional American folk hymns and Southern spirituals to inspirational music of our times and a medley from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. While in Hong Kong YPC will also give several workshops and will participate in the opening night ceremony on July 14, which will be televised throughout the country by Phoenix TV.

--Angela Duryea, Young People's Chorus of NYC

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s 41st Season
The first week of concerts includes Festival debuts by pianist Soyeon Kate Lee and violinist Benjamin Beilman.

The 41st season of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival begins July 15 as Artistic Director Marc Neikrug brings some of the world’s finest classical performing artists to the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico for  over 40 concerts spanning 6 weeks. “We are especially excited for this summer’s Festival because it is structured in such a way that clearly highlights the masters of the past, today’s consummate artists, and emerging talent that will keep the chamber music art form alive for generations to come,” observes Mr. Neikrug, who celebrates his 16th season in his position with the Festival. The first concert of the season is a distinctive pairing of lush, romantic works that exemplify virtuosic playing. Avery Fisher Career Grant Winner, violinist Benjamin Beilman, makes his Festival debut.

For information on Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival's concerts and to order tickets, please call 505-982-1890 or visit The box office is located in the lobby of the New Mexico Museum of Art at 107 West Palace Avenue and is open daily from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

National Philharmonic Fosters Musicians Through Summer Programs
This summer, the National Philharmonic will teach and coach some of the area’s most promising young musicians at its String and Choral Institutes. The institutes, for middle/high school string players and high school/college vocalists, nurture young talent and teach musical skills and techniques while preparing the participants for a performance. In addition, the Philharmonic offers the Adult Summer Chorale Institute, whose participants work with Stan Engebretson, National Philharmonic Chorale Artistic Director. “Nurturing the next generation of audiences and performers is at the heart of our mission in the community,” said National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski.

The High School/College Summer Choral Institute (July 15-19, 2013, Monday-Friday from 2:30-8:30 pm, Montgomery College, Rockville Campus) offers young singers entering grade 9 through graduating grade 12 an intensive, weeklong immersion in voice building, musical interpretation and performance techniques. The institute, produced through a partnership between the National Philharmonic and Montgomery College, is led by Dr. Engebretson; Dr. Molly Donnelly, a Professor of Music at Montgomery College; Victoria Gau, Associate Conductor of the National Philharmonic; Ronald Frezzo, Vocal and International Baccalaureate Music Instructor at Richard Montgomery High School; and Theodore Guerrant, Accompanying Program Specialist at the University of Maryland School of Music. The High School and College Choral Institute Chorus will sing works including Morten Lauridsen’s Dirait-on  and Sure on this Shining Night (with adult choir); selections by Eric Whitacre; A. R. Rahman’s Balleilakka;  Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem and Bach’s Dona nobis pacem (with adult choir) in addition to various spirituals. The week culminates in a free public concert at Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm.

The Adult Summer Choral Institute (July 9-18 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9:30 pm, Music Building of Montgomery College’s Rockville Campus) offers adult singers (college age and over) from around the area an opportunity to sing with members of the National Philharmonic Chorale under Dr. Engebretson in four intensive rehearsals over two weeks. The Adult Choral Institute will study such works as Bach’s Gloria from Cantata 191 and Dona nobis pacem (with High School choir); Morten Lauridsen’s Sure on this Shining Night (with High School choir) in addition to various spirituals. The week culminates in a free public concert with the High School/College Choral Institute at Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm.

The Summer String Institutes (High School String Institute August 5-9, 2013; Middle School String Institute August 12-16, 2013, Trinity Lutheran Church, 11200 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, MD) immerse talented middle school and high school string musicians in an intensive week of mentoring, chamber music coaching, individual lessons and rehearsals led by National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, Philharmonic Associate Conductor and String Institutes Director Victoria Gau, musicians of the Philharmonic, and other well-known music pedagogues. The High School String Institute will study and perform Holst’s St. Paul's Suite; Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor; and Dvorák’s Serenade for Strings. The Middle School Institute will study and perform Holst’s A Moorside Suite; Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 8; Sibelius’ Andante Festivo; and McLean’s Csardas.

For more information, contact National Philharmonic, The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852 or visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Music Institute of Chicago Chorale Holds 10th Summer Sing-Along July 24 with Orchestra, Soloists Kathleen and Peter Van de Graaff; 2013-14 Season Auditions Scheduled August 20 and 27
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale, conducted by Daniel Wallenberg, welcomes those who love choral singing at the 10th anniversary Summer Sing-Along Wednesday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

For the first time, an orchestra joins the Sing-Along to perform Haydn’s “The Creation,” welcoming guest conductor Frank Winkler and soprano Kathleen Van de Graaff, bass Peter Van de Graaff, and tenor Alejandro Abraham. An optional free rehearsal takes place Tuesday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall.

Admission to the Sing-Along is $10. For information, contact 847-905-1500, ext. 100.

2013–14 Season Auditions and Programs
The Chorale announces auditions for its 2013–14 season Tuesdays, August 20 and 27, 7–9 p.m. at the Music Institute’s Evanston East Campus, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Il.

The season’s three programs include “Songs of the Season,” in collaboration with the Rogers Park and Humboldt Park Neighborhood Choirs of the Chicago Children’s Choir, Sunday, December 15; “The French Connection,” including the Duruflé Requiem, Sunday, March 23; and “Choir Plus,” featuring choir and solo instruments, Sunday, June 8. All performances take place at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall.

Music Institute of Chicago Chorale
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale is a community chorus that provides an opportunity for adult singers with prior experience to study and perform the best in sacred and secular choral music. Performing for more than 25 years, the Chorale has one continuing goal: to perform the finest sacred and secular choral music with the highest of standards in a community setting. Under the leadership of Conductor Daniel Wallenberg, the Chorale has developed a wide range of repertoire, including motets, madrigals, part-songs, folk songs, and larger choral-orchestral works by Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Duruflé, and many others. Throughout the years, the Chorale has collaborated with local choirs and symphony orchestras and has produced two fully costumed Elizabethan madrigal dinners. In addition, the Chorale has collaborated several times with the Music Institute’s voice faculty for concerts of opera and Broadway music.

Chorale conductor Daniel Wallenberg is also on the staff of the Chicago Children’s Choir, working with the In-School Chorus and After-School Programs for the Rogers Park and Humboldt Park Neighborhood Choirs, as well as its world-renowned Concert Choir with whom he toured Ukraine and the United States. He is the director of the junior and adult choirs at the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation and the founder and artistic director of “Zemer Am,” the Chicago Jewish Choral Festival. A native of Bogota, Colombia, Wallenberg founded several adult and children’s choirs while living in Israel.

For more information about auditions or the season, please call 847-905-1500, ext. 100.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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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