Classical Music News of the Week, September 15, 2013

Ray Dolby, American Audio Pioneer, Dies at 80

Ray Dolby, an American inventor and audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories, has died at the age of 80. The company said Thursday that Dolby died in his home at San Francisco. He had been living with Alzheimer's disease for several years and was diagnosed with acute leukemia this summer.

Dolby founded his namesake company in 1965 and grew it into an industry leader in audio technology. His work in noise reduction and surround sound led to the creation of a number of technologies that are still used in music, movies and entertainment today.

"Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary," Kevin Yeaman, President and CEO of Dolby Laboratories, said in a statement.

Yeaman said that Dolby invented an entire industry around being able to deliver a sound experience. His work spanned helping to reduce the hiss in cassette recordings to bringing "Star Wars" to life on the big screen in Dolby Stereo. Dolby held 50 U.S. patents and won a number of notable awards for his life's work, including several Emmys, two Oscars and a Grammy.

He was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the UK, among many more honors. In 2012, the theater that serves as home to the Academy Awards was renamed the Dolby TheatreSM and the Ray Dolby Ballroom was named in his honor.

His family described Dolby as generous, patient, curious and fair. "Though he was an engineer at heart, my father's achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts," said Tom Dolby, son, filmmaker and novelist. "He brought his appreciation of the artistic process to all of his work in film and audio recording."

--Associated Press

Listen: Life With Classical Music Releases Fall 2013 Issue
Mariinsky II, Chorister Confessional, Composer vs. Performer, Poulenc + Piaf and Yuja Wang
From Rondo 101 to a Gogolesque account of the new St. Petersburg opera stage to a profile of perhaps the nicest piano competition on the planet, plus plenty of recordings to pack your listening queue, the fall issue of Listen: Life with Classical Music provides everything you need to psych yourself up for the new arts season.

On the cover is the fiery 26-year-old pianist Yuja Wang, who talks with Editor-in-Chief Ben Finane about her pre-concert Rihanna ritual, her ability to shapeshift into Petrouchka (thanks in part to her dancer mom), her youthful and passionate affair with the Russian Romantics, Chopin’s Chinese soul, and her conscientious objection to playing Mozart and Beethoven at this point in her career.

Finane also heads to St. Petersburg to check out the new Mariinsky Opera Theater (Mariinsky II). After a fair amount of vodka, he undergoes a strange transformation into a Russian realist writer and furiously pens “The Opera House: A Russian Short Story.”

We head back to (boarding) school with Jens F. Laurson, who reminisces about his years as a boy chorister with the 1000-year-old Regensburg Cathedral Choir. This memoir was prompted by Gu?nter Atteln and Paul Smaczny’s new documentary Die Thomaner: A Year in the Life of the St. Thomas Boys Choir Leipzig that Laurson calls “a masterpiece about young life in symbiosis with old music.”

What happens when you go retroactively post-classical and combine Francis Poulenc and Edith Piaf? Pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi demonstrates on his latest Steinway & Sons disc, The Rascal and the Sparrow, a high-brow/low-brow fantasia.

French conductor and choral crusader Laurence Equilbey talks with Lydia Petrovic about her Eureka moment singing Schoenberg’s De profundis and how it has informed her painterly approach to conducting. Petrovic sets us up with a list of essential discs from Equilbey’s unparalleled vocal ensemble accentus.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tze shows up to inspire a beautiful metaphor for the composer-performer relationship elaborated by long-time Guarneri 1st violinist Arnold Steinhardt, who writes that a performer occupies “the space within” a structure created by the composer. So go ahead and add your name to the score after Mozart’s! Timo Andres did. The bespectacled Brooklyn pianist-composer has completely rewritten the left-hand part and cadenzas of Mozart’s Coronation Concerto for his new Nonesuch release Homestretch, all while declaring that he has “very little patience with the doctrine of originality.”

Do you agree with writer Lisa Yui that Haydn is “the master of musical comedy?” Yui argues that there is more to musical humor than viola jokes and points to Kant, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Freud and Koestler’s ruminations on humor as proof of the old adage that if you have to explain a joke, then it’s not funny.

Revisiting the American Pianists Association’s competition in Indianapolis 10 years after she was a competitor herself, Lara Downes finds the Midwestern event (complete with teenage cheerleaders) to be more like a community-fueled barn-raising than a typical cutthroat battle.

Colin Eatock explores Koussevitsky’s legacy; Jens F. Laurson takes on Brahms-bashers; Menon Dwarka schools us in the Rondo form (although perhaps not as well as Lennon/McCartney); and Bradley Bamberger adds Robert Craft’s superlative, anecdote-filled new book Stravinsky: Discoveries and Memories to the Stravinsky centenary syllabus.

Our critics review 25 new albums including the bar-setting new Wagner disc from Jonas Kaufmann and the first-ever recording of Pergolesi’s long-lost The Seven Last Words of Christ from the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin.

Plus, much, much more in the fall 2013 issue of Listen: Life with Classical Music.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Danish String Quartet Named One of BBC Radio 3’s 2013 New Generation Artists
The Danish String Quartet has been named one of BBC Radio 3’s 2013 New Generation Artists – six young artists Radio 3 believes will be the classical music stars of the future.  In 2009, the Danish String Quartet not only won First Prize in the Eleventh London International String Quartet Competition, but their performance was so convincing that it was awarded four additional prizes: the 20th-Century Prize, the Beethoven Prize, the Sidney Griller Award and the Menton Festival Prize.

Embodying the quintessential elements of a chamber music ensemble, the Danish String Quartet has established a reputation for its integrated sound, impeccable intonation and judicious balance.  With its technical and interpretive talents matched by an infectious joy for music-making, the Quartet is in demand worldwide by concert and festival presenters alike. The New York Times selected the group’s 2012 Scandinavian House concert as a highlight of the year: “One of the most powerful renditions of Beethoven’s Opus 132 I’ve heard live or on disc.” This scope of talent has secured a three-year appointment in the coveted Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two Program beginning in the 2013-14 season.

Following a successful series of concerts for Music@Menlo, the Quartet performs at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC followed by a contemporary program in Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse and a concert of Beethoven and Mendelssohn in New York City’s Alice Tully Hall presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Boston's Celebrity Series sponsors the group’s Boston debut with additional concerts slated for Cal Performances in Berkeley and chamber music societies in Detroit, San Diego, Dallas, Princeton, Sedona and St. Cloud.  The Danish String Quartet recently recorded works by Brahms and Fuchs with award-winning clarinettist Sebastian Manz at the Bayerische Rundfunk in Munich for AVI-music. An album of beloved Scandinavian folk songs programmed and arranged by the Quartet will be released on an independent label. Both recordings will be released in early 2014.

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

American Bach Soloists Celebrate 25th Season in 2013-14
Subscription concerts focus on an outstanding all-Bach series. An ABS Christmas and Handel’s Messiah at Grace Cathedral and the UC Davis Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in December
2014. ABS Bach Festival titled “Bach’s Inspiration.”

The 2013-14 season marks the 25th annual series of concerts by the American Bach Soloists (ABS). To honor their illustrious accomplishments, and looking forward to the next twenty-five years, artistic and music director Jeffrey Thomas and ABS--“some of the greatest period-instrument players in the world” (San Francisco Classical Voice)--present a season celebrating the mastery of Johann Sebastian Bach. All of the 25th Season concerts will feature the celebrated American Bach Choir, which “sets the standard in choral singing” (SFCV). Rarely heard compositions of beauty and depth will be heard alongside more familiar masterworks, all performed to the highest standards by the best early music specialists, the credo of ABS since its founding in 1989. The celebratory season will also feature the continuation of several ABS traditions that audiences have come to love.

Music Director Jeffrey Thomas is particularly thrilled by the repertoire selected for the American Bach Soloists’ landmark 25th Season. “We have chosen works that show Bach at his most opulent and celebratory best. Some splendid secular orchestral works and the truly charming ‘Hercules’ cantata are matched up with cantatas, masses, and motets that are grand and glorious. Our audiences will enjoy superb soloists, the finest period-instrument specialists, and our superlative American Bach Choir. And the whole year of festivities will be crowned by our 2014 Festival that will feature some of my own personal favorites composed by Bach and his contemporaries. It’s going to be a sensational season!”

2013-14 opens in style with the annual ABS Gala at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere on September 21. This season’s Silver Soirée will be a festive kick-off event with an extraordinary concert program, fine wine and dining, and fundraising auction.

Following the greatest attendance marks in the history of this beloved tradition, ABS’s annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s awe-inspiring Grace Cathedral return on December 11 & 12. A third performance of the enduring masterpiece will be performed in the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis on December 15. An outstanding quartet of soloists—Shawnette Sulker, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; Aaron Sheehan, tenor; and Mischa Bouvier, baritone—ensure that this year’s performances will again be the Bay Area’s top musical attraction in December.

ABS’s instantly sold-out 2012 Christmas concert at St. Stephen’s Church was such a tremendous success that another special program has been added to the schedule in the new season. On December 14, An ABS Christmas will feature holiday-themed works in the beautiful, candlelit space where ABS was born in 1989. Soprano Shawnette Sulker and virtuoso Baroque trumpeter John Thiessen will be the soloists on Bach’s thrilling cantatas Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (Cantata 51) and Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen (Cantata 248). A selection of Holiday Carols and works by Britten, Conte, Howells, Rutter, Vaughan Williams, & Whitacre sung by the American Bach Choir complete the program.

Three extraordinary concert programs featuring masterworks by ABS's namesake, Johann Sebastian Bach, form the heart and soul of the 2014 subscription season. In January, Maestro Thomas and ABS will present an all-Bach program including Tönet, ihr Pauken, (Cantata 214, featuring music that eventually became part of the “Christmas Oratorio”); Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067; the famous and always popular Magnificat, BWV 243; and Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir (Cantata 130), a fantastically extroverted cantata composed for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. Three of the works call upon especially heraldic trumpet ensembles, and the Orchestral Suite will feature baroque flutist Sandra Miller, whose playing is noted for its “mellow, quietly penetrating tone” and whose performances are described as “models of confidence and unbroken steadiness” (The New York Times). For this program, the audience will be invited to sing along on the final chorale of Cantata 130, bringing back a hallmark of ABS’s cantata performances over the years.

In February, the Bach celebration continues with the composer’s Missa Brevis in G Major, BWV 236; Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066; and Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213 (“Hercules at the Crossroads,” a cantata comprised of arias and duets that were later utilized in Parts II, III, & IV of the “Christmas Oratorio”).

The April concerts, titled Bach’s Legacy, will feature motets and choral works by J. S. Bach, along with choral masterpieces by Mendelssohn and Brahms, two composers who were profoundly influenced by the Cantor of Leipzig and sought to emulate his style.

The American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—known as San Francisco’s Summer Bach Festival—will bring the 25th Season celebrations to an exciting close as ABS musicians and members of the 5th annual Academy present the 2014 Festival, titled “Bach’s Inspiration.”

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Cal Performances Presents the World Premiere of Angel Heart, a Family-Friendly Musical Storybook on Sunday, October 6 at 5:00 P.M. in Hertz Hall, Berkeley, CA
The new multimedia children’s work features music by Luna Pearl Woolf and an original story by Cornelia Funke with vocalists Frederica von Stade and Lisa Delan and cellist Matt Haimovitz.

The world premiere of Angel Heart, a haunting and heady multimedia amalgam of storytelling, music, and design created for children and families, will be presented by Cal Performances on Sunday, October 6, at 5:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall. Angel Heart blends original music by award-winning composer Luna Pearl Woolf with familiar tunes to set an original text by bestselling children’s fantasy writer Cornelia Funke. The production brings together celebrated artists from multiple disciplines, including cellist Matt Haimovitz (Woolf’s husband) and his all-cello ensemble Uccello, soprano Lisa Delan, and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, along with the Oakland-based Children’'s Choir of St. Martin de Porres School, a vocal ensemble founded by von Stade. Two staged performances, one at Berkeley and one at Carnegie Hall, are scheduled in conjunction with the release of an Angel Heart book, CD, and iPad app.

The production was conceived by Delan and Woolf, who discovered they shared a “dream of lullabies.” As Woolf explains, “Each of us, unbeknown to the other, imagined creating the kind of recording we wanted to hear as we tucked our children in at night.” Both artists had also independently envisioned Haimovitz and Uccello as musical collaborators. Delan and Woolf compiled traditional folk songs and lullabies, added works by composers Lewis Spratlan, Jake Heggie, Gordon Getty, and David Sanford, and used popular songs by Engelbert Humperdinck and John Lennon and Paul McCartney to tell their tale. Woolf composed a score linking these disparate works, and she and Delan collaborated with German-born children’s author Funke to write a narrative.

The Angel Heart book and CD package will be released on September 24. Renowned actor Jeremy Irons recorded the narration for the CD and iPad app. The same artists on the CD will perform in Berkeley, with the exception of the narrator (to be announced) and the Bay Area’s beloved mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao, who died in February 2013; the production is dedicated to Cao.

More about Angel Heart, including audio clips and information about the artists, can be found at angelheartmusicstorybook.com.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Angel Heart on Sunday, October 6, at 5:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall are $36.00 and are subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door. For more information about tickets and discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.

--Christina Kellogg, Cal Performances

Chart-Topping Pianist HJ Lim to Make Her Philadelphia Debut September 15-16
Lim will open the season of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia with two performances of the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1.

Pianist HJ Lim, whose debut recording of the Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas entered the Billboard Classical Charts at #1 last May, will open the new season of the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra on September 15th and 16th, performing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The concert will be HJ’s performance debut in Philadelphia, and will also feature Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream overture and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, all under the direction of maestro Dirk Brossé.

Hailed by The New York Times as “an an idiosyncratic player with plenty of original ideas and the technique to carry them out," HJ has risen to stardom while walking a fine line between tradition and modernity. She initially came to prominence via a series of YouTube videos which have amassed well over a million hits (including her extraordinary new “Yamaha Silent Sessions” video – HJ is an exclusive Yamaha artist), and, when first released, her Complete Beethoven Sonatas were available exclusively on iTunes. Yet Lim maintains a strict sense of integrity towards the composers she performs and what she perceives as their vision, always performing in a flowing black robe in order to remove the focus from her and, in her words, “put the light on the composer.” She also omitted two small sonatas, Op. 49, from her Complete Beethoven Sonatas recording because she found during her extensive research that the composer had not wanted them to be published.

HJ’s second recording for Warner Classics will revolve around the works of Ravel and Scriabin, and will be released early 2014.

--Andrew Ousley, Warner Music Group

American Opera Project First Chance and UrbanArias present a Free Concert Reading of Alice in the Time of the Jabberwock
Music by Daniel Felsenfeld; libretto by Robert Coover; starring Emily Pulley, soprano, and Mila Henry, piano.

Composer Daniel Felsenfeld (Nora, In the Great Outdoors) teams with author Robert Coover (The Public Burning) to continue the story of Lewis Carroll's literary icon. 

In Alice in the Time of the Jabberwock, Alice has never been able to escape Wonderland. Once a child sensation and a crowned queen, she is now going through menopause while becoming increasingly disenchanted with her crazy companions. The one-act monodrama will be performed by soprano Emily Pulley (Metropolitan Opera) with Mila Henry on piano and features a post-show discussion with the creators. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 8 PM
The Great Room, South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford St.
Brooklyn, NY  11217
Running time: 1 hour

Tickets: Free with reservation

--AOP News

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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.

Contact Information

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

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa