Classical Music News of the Week, July 21, 2013

Harry Bicket and the English Concert Celebrate 40th Anniversary

The 2013-14 season highlights include Founder Trevor Pinnock’s return to the podium, expanded Wigmore Hall Series, Messiah at Spitalfields, and Handel’s Theodora in Europe and the United States.

Odds that Harry Bicket and The English Concert could trump their successes of 2012-13 might seem long, but the orchestra's 40th anniversary season is set to do just that. With highlights including founder Trevor Pinnock returning to conduct the orchestra in concert for the first time in over a decade, five appearances at the Wigmore Hall, and an international tour of Handel's oratorio Theodora - following last season's triumphant presentation of Radamisto - 2013-14 promises to deliver a defining celebration of TEC's first four decades.

The English Concert's first London performance of the 40th anniversary season, on 15 October, sees the return of Trevor Pinnock who founded the orchestra in 1973. In the first of five TEC concerts this season at the Wigmore Hall, the programme is typically Trevor, displaying his virtuosity at the keyboard and directing the orchestra in works by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. The programme will be repeated on 18 October at the Courtyard Theatre in Hereford, and on 9 November at St. Alfege Church in Greenwich.

Though these mark the first live performances with Trevor and TEC since he retired as Artistic Director in 2001, last year he and the orchestra collaborated in the recording studio with esteemed trumpeter Alison Balsom for the acclaimed and chart-topping release on EMI Classics, Sound the Trumpet. That collaboration has extended to Gabriel, a unique theatrical and musical production at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre which will run for 16 performances between 13 July and 18 August. Further performances of the musical programme will take place on 21 July at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk, 26 July at the Ryedale Festival in North Yorkshire, 20 August at the Snape Proms, 24 October at the Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton, and 25 October at St. George's Bristol.

Continuing the trumpet theme, Harry Bicket directs TEC in a programme of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi that features the orchestra's own virtuoso Mark Bennett as well as soprano Katherine Watson. Two performances, in Warwick's St. Mary's Church on 1 October, and Liverpool's St. George's Hall on 4 October, are an important part of the orchestra's regional touring scheme supported by the Arts Council's National portfolio funding.

Back in London, TEC's 40th anniversary season enjoys an expanded season at the Wigmore Hall with four concerts that feature a dazzling display of vocal fireworks. On 20 November, Bicket welcomes soprano Sally Matthews who makes her TEC debut in an all-Mozart programme that also spotlights TEC's principal bassoonist Alberto Grazzi. On 25 March, frequent collaborator Laurence Cummings guest-directs a programme of J. S. Bach, C. P. E. Bach and Telemann, which will be preceded by a performance in Birmingham's Barber Institute on 24 March. On 17 April, guest director Bernard Labadie returns to the orchestra for a programme of two Italian Stabat Maters by Vivaldi and Pergolesi, featuring soprano Roberta Invernizzi and mezzo soprano Sonia Prina, which will also be presented at the Sage Gateshead on 15 April, and St. George's Bristol on 16 April. On 21 May, Bicket ends TEC's celebratory Wigmore season with Il caro Sassone, a programme highlighting Handel's successful early years in Italy and welcoming soprano Lucy Crowe whose harmonia mundi recording of the same name with Bicket and the orchestra was praised by Gramophone magazine for Crowe's "panache" and the "virtuoso playing from The English Concert."

For more information on The English Concert, click here: http://englishconcert.co.uk/

--Melanne Mueller, Music Cointernational

Online Voting Continues for Pianist Valentina Lisitsa’s Opening Night Program at 92nd Stree Y
New York, NY: Acclaimed pianist Valentina Lisitsa makes her New York City solo recital debut October 19 as 92Y’s season-opening artist.  The Ukraine-born pianist has discovered an impressive audience through social media and is the first classical artist to have converted her internet success into a global concert career. Since launching her YouTube channel in 2007, Ms. Lisitsa has garnered over 60 million views and over 93,000 followers. As part of a continued effort to include her online community in her live performances, audiences from around the world have the unique opportunity to select the pianist’s 92Y recital program through online voting. Ms. Lisitsa is asking audiences to vote on one of three proposed programs via www.92y.org/Valentina between July 9 and September 9. In a video posted today, Ms. Lisitsa presents the three programs and details of the voting process. The winning program will be announced on September 9, at which time Ms. Lisitsa will ask her audience to vote for the recital encores to be performed October 19. Encore voting continues throughout the night of the concert and will not close until the final work on the winning program has been performed.

An exclusive Decca Classics recording artist since 2012, Ms. Lisitsa will release her third album on the label, Liszt, October 8. The album features the composer's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, Ballade No. 2, Schubert song transcriptions and more. An unedited LP edition of Liszt recorded in full-analog sound will also be released. Ms. Lisitsa’s first Decca release, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, was released in June 2012 and followed by Rachmaninov, the composer's complete concertos and Paganini Rhapsody with the London Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Michael Francis.

To vote or learn more about the concert, visit http://www.92y.org/valentina

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Music Institute of Chicago Announces 2013-14 Nichols Concert Hall Season
Highlights Include Benny Goodman Festival with guest artists Victor Goines and Larry Combs
From celebrated solo artists to a classic jazz festival, the Music Institute of Chicago presents its 2013–14 Faculty and Guest Artist Series at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL.

Music Institute Faculty Concert
Saturday, September 21, 7:30 p.m.
To open the season, more than 30 members of the renowned Music Institute faculty perform music composed for and of the night. The program includes several Chopin Nocturnes, Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos “La nuit... L'amour...” (The night...the love...), and Schoenberg’s stunning work for strings Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night).

Benny Goodman Festival
Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2, 7:30 p.m.
The Music Institute of Chicago’s fourth annual jazz festival celebrates the enduring legacy of Chicago’s own Benny Goodman. On Friday, November 1, guest clarinetist Victor Goines joins an all-star jazz faculty quintet for an evening of high-stepping swing. The festival continues on Saturday with an afternoon documentary film screening and panel discussion (details to follow) and concludes with a concert of music that Goodman performed, commissioned, or premiered. The program includes works by Poulenc and Mozart, including the Clarinet Quintet KV 581 with Quintet Attacca and Music Institute faculty clarinetist Barbara Drapcho. Soloist Larry Combs closes the concert with Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs and a performance of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto with conductor James Setapen leading an orchestra of Music institute faculty, Academy students, and special guests.

Peter Seidenberg
Saturday, November 16, 7:30 p.m.
Music Institute alumnus and cellist Peter Seidenberg has performed throughout Europe, the U.S., and Asia, making his concerto debut in 1983 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was a founding member of the Elements String Quartet and has played with members of the Cleveland, Tokyo, Juilliard, and Emerson Quartets. Seidenberg’s program features a work written for this performance by composer and Music Institute alumnus David MacDonald.

Quintet Attacca, Axiom Brass, Mark George
Saturday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.
Music Institute of Chicago President and CEO and pianist Mark George collaborates with the Music Institute’s Ensembles in Residence Quintet Attacca and Axiom Brass for an exciting program that includes Beethoven’s Quintet in E-flat, Op. 16 and the music of Alec Wilder.

Notes from Hollywood
Co-sponsored by Dempster St. Pro Musica
Sunday, April 20, 7 p.m.
Leonard Slatkin serves as narrator, conductor, and pianist in a tribute to Hollywood movie music of the 1940s and ’50s as well as to his parents, violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller, leading film and recording musicians of the era and founders of the Hollywood String Quartet. Slatkin leads an ensemble comprising members of Dempster St. Pro Musica (most also members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and the Chamber Music Society of St. Louis, who perform chamber music by Miklos Rozsa, Erich Korngold, Nino Rota, Enrico Morricone, Franz Waxman, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. To acknowledge the close friendship between the Slatkins and Frank Sinatra, vocalist Tom Heitman performs selections from Sinatra’s groundbreaking album Close to You, accompanied by string players using the original Hollywood Quartet orchestrations.

Inna Faliks
Saturday, May 3, 7:30 p.m.
The fourth annual Distinguished Alumni Concert features pianist Inna Faliks, one of the most inspiring artists on today’s concert scene. Her imaginative concert program includes live readings by contemporary poets to explore the connection between words and music.

Nathan Laube
Saturday, May 17, 3 p.m.
Brilliant young concert organist and faculty member at the Eastman School of Music, Nathan J. Laube delivers a spectacular program in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Music Institute of Chicago’s E.M Skinner organ.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Renee Fleming Recipient of Prestigious 2012 National Medal of Arts Presented by President Obama on July 10, 2013
On September 17, 2013, four-time Grammy winner Renée Fleming releases Guilty Pleasures - the eagerly-awaited sequel to her 1999 best-selling, landmark recording, The Beautiful Voice, both on Decca. Guilty Pleasures is a musical feast poised to delight old and new admirers, featuring some of Renée’s personal favorite selections she has long wanted to record.  The album includes arias from operas by Dvorak, Smetana and Tchaikovsky, coupled with indulgences such as “Danny Boy,” John Corigliano's “The Ghosts of Versailles” and the 'Flower Duet' from Delibes Lakmé, for which she is joined by the incomparable Susan Graham.

News of the release of Guilty Pleasures follows on the heels of President Barack Obama presenting Fleming with the 2012 National Medal of Arts on July 10th “for her contributions to American music.” Among those who also received honors in the East Room of the White House, in the presence of the First Lady, were filmmaker George Lucas, comedy actress Elaine May and jazz legend Allen Toussaint.  The Medal is the highest honor for achievement in the arts conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the American people.

The White House citation said: “Known to many as ‘the people's diva,’ Ms Fleming has captivated audiences around the world with an adventurous repertoire spanning opera and the classical tradition to jazz and contemporary pop.”

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music

The Second Week of Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s 41st Season Introduces a New String Quartet Workshop for Young Composers and Jeremy Denk in Recital 
Brahms: Piano Quartet
Sunday, July 21 at 6pm & Monday, July 22 at 6pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

Week Two of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival kicks off with pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, alongside clarinetist Todd Levy for Berg’s Four Pieces for Clarinet & Piano – the first work the composer dedicated to his mentor, Arnold Schoenberg. Violinist Benny Kim, violist Scott Lee and cellist Keith Robinson perform Brahms’ muscular and exuberant Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major. Returning artist Daniel Hope joins Keith Robinson for Erwin Schulhoff’s Czech folksong-influenced Duo for Violin & Cello.

Tickets: Sunday or Monday Series subscription: $390.
Single tickets: $53-73; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

Jeremy Denk Solo Piano Recital--Bach’s Goldberg Variatiions: Music at Noon Series
Tuesday, July 23 at 12pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

Jeremy Denk has steadily built a reputation as one of today’s most compelling and persuasive concert pianists with an unusually broad repertoire. The pianist returns to the Festival for a highly anticipated Music at Noon recital performing J.S. Bach’s iconic Goldberg Variations.

Tickets: Music at Noon subscription: $198.
Single tickets: $20-25; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

Mendelssohn & More
Wednesday, July 24 at 7:30pm
Simms Auditorium, Albuquerque Academy
Thursday, July 25 at 6pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

For over twenty years, their diversity in programming, poise in performance, and impeccable musicality has made the Miami String Quartet one of the most sought-after quartets in chamber music today. The group returns to Santa Fe to play Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor -- an emotional piece written after the sudden death of the composer’s beloved sister. Festival debut artist, pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, joins the Quartet for Hungarian composer Ernö Dohnányi’s intense Piano Quintet No. 2 in E-flat minor. Schulhoff’s serious and virtuosic Sextet for Strings is performed by violinists Jennifer Gilbert and Harvey de Souza, violists Scott Lee and Max Mandel, and cellists Keith Robinson and Felix Fan.

Tickets: Albuquerque Series subscription (Simms Auditorium): $140. Single tickets: $30-40; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

Thursday Series subscription (St. Francis Auditorium): $305.
Single tickets: $31-69; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

Beethoven & Shostakovich: Music at Noon Series
Thursday, July 25 at 12pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

This Music at Noon concert features the Miami String Quartet performing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 9 in E-flat major, a work that exhibits the composer’s signature combination of pain and suffering as well as cynicism and humor. Violinists Jennifer Gilbert and Harvey de Souza pair for Jean-Marie Leclair’s Sonata for Two Violins -- a prime example of French Baroque writing, especially in its florid ornamentation, this composition provides both violinists equal opportunities to display their talents. Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano & Winds in E-flat major closes the program with Robert Ingliss, oboe; Todd Levy, clarinet; Gabrielle Finck, horn; Theodore Soluri, bassoon; and Jeremy Denk, piano.

Tickets: Music at Noon subscription: $198. Single tickets: $20-25; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

Modern Masters: Young Composer’s String Quartet Workshop
Friday, July 26 at 6pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

In keeping with its commitment to perpetuate the future of chamber music, the Festival launches a week-long young composers’ string quartet workshop that culminates in three world premieres presented alongside Marc Neikrug’s String Quartet No. 4 and Conlon Nancarrow’s String Quartet No. 3. Composers Reena Esmail, David Hertzberg, and Elizabeth Ogonek will be mentored by Festival Artistic Director and world-renowned composer, Marc Neikrug, who will oversee daily rehearsals with the FLUX Quartet and provide feedback and guidance.  Executives from G. Schirmer and Boosey & Hawkes will meet regularly with the composers to offer development strategies and professional advice.

Tickets: Single tickets: $21 general admission; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

Music from the Time of Goya: Bach Plus Series
Saturday, July 27 at 5pm
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art

Figuring prominently in the Festival’s Bach Plus series is “Reflection and Revolution: Music in the Time of Goya,” a multimedia presentation showcasing the romantic Spanish painter’s art alongside his musical contemporaries. Creator and host, GRAMMY Award-nominated guitarist Richard Savino, joins renowned soprano Christine Brandes, violinists L.P. How and Kathleen Brauer, violist Kimberly Fredenburgh, and cellist Joseph Johnson for a program that draws parallels between Goya’s masterpieces and the music composed across Europe during the same time.

Tickets: Bach Plus subscription: $190. Single tickets: $32-40; Ages 35 & Under $15; Ages 6-10 $10

For more information on Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival's concerts and to order tickets, please call 505-982-1890 or visit www.SantaFeChamberMusic.com. 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

Sarah Fox, from the Berlin Philharmonic to Rufus Wainwright
Preparing for The Last Night of the Halle Proms, the leading English soprano comments on loving her new voice and her spot of genre-jumping.

Sarah Fox, increasingly acknowledged as one of the most talented English sopranos of her generation, has been going through changes in recent years. Richard Hickox, a mentor and great supporter, sadly passed away just as other conductors have forged newer close professional relationships – Ian Page and his much-respected Classical Opera Company; darling of the BBC Proms John Wilson; and most recently Sir Simon Rattle with his renewed association with her for Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic in Vienna.  Ms. Fox’s voice itself has changed – the Baroque lightness of old has now blossomed into a refulgent, gorgeously secure Mozart/Strauss-style soprano.

And she herself is perfectly comfortable swapping the solemn grandeur of Mahler with a Rattle or a Maazel for the high-kicking romanticism of Rodgers and Hart – as with her hit concerts with “Wilson at the Proms” – or touring European venues alongside Rufus Wainwright. And, of course, back again – this year brings four Wigmore Hall dates including their New Year’s Eve concert. IPMC’s James Inverne asked her about coping with change and, indeed, thriving on it.

JI: You’ve cultivated almost two different sides of your musical personality, even though they’re clearly linked – over the last few weeks, for instance, you’ve sung Mahler’s Second Symphony for Simon Rattle and the BPO in Vienna, given concerts alongside Rufus Wainwright in Europe and starred in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial By Jury for John Wilson and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. You also sing a great deal with John Wilson’s own orchestra, MGM musicals and the like. Is the experience of singing all of these the same?

SF: I get completely the same satisfaction. Even though the Berlin Phil and John Wilson Orchestra are chalk and cheese repertoire-wise, the standard has to still be the same. In the case of the lighter repertoire, people often make the mistake of thinking it’s easier to sing, but it needs just as much work as Mahler or Strauss or anything else. In some ways it makes no difference to me because music is music, and if your voice feels like it fits the music then you treat it with the same seriousness you treat any other job.

JI: Perhaps the (very sad) closing of so many record shops actually open up an opportunity of sorts – that people don’t in their minds categorise music into so many micro-genres the way they used to when they were billed that way on the shelves. So they’re more open.

SF: Good point, especially as regards classical, as I suspect a lot of people never used to go into the classical section of Tower Records. So maybe there are advantages.

JI: Is your preparation essentially different for the heavier than the lighter stuff?

SF: All I ever do is prepare from the vocal viewpoint, and then I might do a bit of listening to recordings, though not too much so I’m not over-influenced. Once I’ve decided I want to do something one way I find it hard to change my mind, so I try not to have made those decisions before turning up for rehearsal.

Simon Rattle, for instance, wanted me to sing the first phrase in Mahler’s Second Symphony with almost no vibrato at all. I would never decide to do that, so you have to just prepare and be flexible to the conductor, they will tell you how they want it. With Rufus as the composer of his music he would even change things while working with me, even modelling certain things on my voice, which I’d never had before. And John Wilson knows his craft so well and gives very good instructions in rehearsals. So I like to be a canvas for the conductor.

JI: Your voice has changed significantly in the last few years, really gaining in body and warmth and that has changed the kinds of roles you can sing. You’re now much more a Figaro Countess than a Susanna, so to speak. How has that quite fundamental change affected you?

SF: The year I did Mimi in La boheme was the turning-point, 2009-10. I had two contracts in a row – one in Norway and one at Opera North and they were both Mimi. So I did 17 performances of the role, and it really felt like it trained my muscles up. But it’s only when you emerge from doing repertoire like that, that you notice changes. The September after that Mimi, I recorded French songs with Malcolm Martineau and suddenly I could diminuendo properly on sustained notes, and that had come from singing Mimi over eight months!

But, yes, the voice itself has changed a lot. It’s now ready for the Countess in Figaro, Pamina, some of the Britten roles, Strauss - definitely the Marschallin and also Capriccio. I’m singing Micaela at Covent Garden later this year and that’s perfect timing for me. You need a certain size of voice because of the duet with Don Jose, the meatiest part of the whole role art, more than the aria.

The great thing about my voice changing is that at last it’s ready to do things I’ve hungered for, for the best part of 20 years. Mind you, most of the opera roles I’ve done are the kinds of people in daily life who I’d want to slap, so it can be quite a test of acting! The parts I can sing now are finally the ones that are also more suited to my own personality.

--Inverne Price Music

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

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Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa