Classical Music News of the Week, September 29, 2013

Conductor, Pedagogue, Pianist and Composer Robert Spano Makes Three Separate Appearances in New York’s Carnegie Hall for Third Consecutive Season

American Composers Orchestra with two world premieres, October 25, 2013; in recital as pianist with Jessica Rivera and Kelley O’Connor, October 29, 2013; Britten’s War Requiem with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, April 30, 2014.

Robert Spano, Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Aspen Music Festival and School, will appear at Carnegie Hall on three occasions during the 2013-2014 season. This is the third consecutive season in which Maestro Spano has been presented by the prestigious venue in more than one medium and marks the eighth time Maestro Spano leads his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium.

On Friday, October 25, Maestro Spano performs for the first time with the American Composers Orchestra in celebration of the 10th anniversary season of its Orchestra Underground series. Known for his commitment to emerging composers, and most specifically emerging American composers, Spano conducts the world premiere of the first orchestral work written by rock-guitarist Ian Williams of the band Battles alongside the world premiere of a piece that fuses orchestra and electronics by Irish composer Peter Fahey. Composer Julia Wolfe's Fuel, a multimedia work composed in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison, as well as Christopher Theofanidis's virtuosic Bassoon Concerto are also featured on the October 25th program.

In addition to his work on the podium this season, Robert Spano joins soprano Jessica Rivera and mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor as pianist for a recital in Zankel Hall on Tuesday, October 29 with New York premieres by David Bruce, Jonathan Leshnoff and Gabriela Lena Frank among works by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Saint-Saëns and others. In his fourth Carnegie Hall commission, acclaimed composer David Bruce's work "That Time With You," explores a mysterious sense of love and loss while Jonathan Leshnoff's Monica Songs exhibit a lush and richly tonal style. Composer Gabriela Lena Frank draws from her multicultural heritage most ardently in Kitchen Songs.

Displaying his gifts as a composer, ASO Media will release a digital recording on iTunes of Mr. Spano’s solo piano work, under water, and a cycle of five songs written for soprano Jessica Rivera in November 2013. In addition to the recording, Mr. Spano and Ms. Rivera perform the first three songs of the cycle in recital at Pepperdine University October 20.

Robert Spano brings the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to Carnegie Hall's Isaac Stern Auditorium Wednesday, April 30, 2014 for their eighth performance in the hall over the last eleven seasons to perform Britten's towering masterpiece: War Requiem. Joined by soprano Evelina Dobracheva, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, baritone Stephen Powell and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, this performance is a centerpiece of Carnegie Hall's "Britten 100"- a season-long celebration of the centenary of the prolific English composer's birth.

For more information please see Robert Spano's website: www.robertspanomusic.com

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Joshua Bell Forges New Partnership Between the Miss America Organization and Education Through Music
The Miss America Organization is proud to announce its new partnership with Education Through Music (ETM) to support music education in schools. Joshua Bell, world-renowned violinist and ETM Board Member, forged the partnership when invited to become a judge at the Miss America Pageant this year.

Education Through Music provides inner-city schools with comprehensive music instruction for all students (regardless of their musical ability) to improve students’ academic achievement, motivation for school and self-confidence. ETM partners directly with schools that lack sufficient resources to provide school-wide music instruction by offering music as a core subject. The focus is to provide students valuable musical knowledge and skills, and to support learning in other academic areas like reading and math. ETM hires, trains and provides ongoing professional development to its music teachers to ensure every child receives high-quality music instruction. ETM also engages parents and the at-large school community through concerts and workshops to build support for music education.

As part of the partnership, Education Through Music will involve Miss America in helping to raise awareness for music education as part of a core curriculum which enhances students’ reading, writing, researching, art, speaking and other skills.  Miss America will visit the new ETM technology lab which enables students to create music, and will participate with ETM students in their new campaign film “Music Taught Me…”

“The Miss America Organization is the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. We empower young women to achieve their personal and professional goals, while providing a forum in which to express their opinions, talent and intelligence. Miss America has been working with educational foundations for decades and is pleased to partner with Education Through Music.  We will continue our support of music education in a number of ways, including creating a fundraiser in conjunction with the new Miss America's homecoming, one of our most important annual events with 33% of the proceeds benefiting the new Miss America home state scholarship organization, 33% to the Education Through Music foundation and 33% to the Miss America Foundation,” noted Sam Haskell, chairman and CEO of Miss America Organization.

“ETM is thrilled to partner with The Miss America Organization, which like ETM, recognizes the importance of a well-rounded education. Miss America Organization clearly understands the value of music in our schools and understands that it provides children with the life skills needed to be successful in school and beyond,” says Katherine Damkohler, Executive Director of Education Through Music.

“Music enhances the lives of children in so many ways, which is why it is so important that music education be valued in our society.  My own commitment to music education has brought me to many public schools, as well as established music academies, and I have seen first-hand the positive effects of music education on these children. Music teaches about beauty, logic, mathematics, language, teamwork, and individual expression.  Having seen many ETM students with their own instruments in hand, beaming with a sense of accomplishment after having worked together to create something beautiful is nothing short of thrilling.  I don't think there is a human alive who could witness this and then argue against the importance of music education.  Having learned of Miss America's mission for educating young people, I was pleased to introduce Miss America to Education Through Music, and even more thrilled at the excited responses received from both organizations to the idea of joining forces to improve music education,” says Bell.

--Jane Covner, Jag PR

St. Charles Singers to Commence 30th Season of Choral Artistry in October
Ensemble will display “Luminescence” Oct. 5 in St. Charles and Oct. 6 in Wheaton.

“Candlelight Carols” coming to Chicago Dec. 6 and St. Charles Dec. 7-8 with Guitarist Goran Ivanovic.

“Mozart for the Masses” makes its way to Chicago Jan. 25 and St. Charles Jan. 26, animated by Anima Youth Choir.

English choral legend John Rutter returns to conduct “Bouquet of Voices” in Chicago May 29
and Wheaton May 30.

The St. Charles Singers, the internationally recognized professional chamber choir founded and conducted by Jeffrey Hunt, will launch its celebratory 30th season of choral artistry with a concert titled “Luminescence,” to be presented in St. Charles on October  5 and Wheaton October 6.

The St. Charles Singers debuted in 1984 as the 14-member Mostly Madrigal Singers, made up of Hunt’s musically talented friends and family members from the far western suburbs and elsewhere in the Chicago area.  Its first public performance, on December 19 of that year in the Rainbow Room of the Hotel Baker in downtown St. Charles, was held as a benefit for the local Salvation Army. The concert of Christmas music raised $400 for the charity, Hunt recently recalled in telephone interview.

Today, the St. Charles Singers is an acclaimed choir of some 34 voices, all of whom audition for their positions and are compensated for rehearsals and concerts. Over the decades, the choir has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, with whom it recorded a CD for the Naxos label.  It has embarked on three European tours. The choir has sung live on Chicago’s WFMT-FM and was the subject of a profile on WTTW-TV.

Notably, it has earned the respect of British composer and chorus master John Rutter, a choral music superstar of the English-speaking world, who has flown to the U.S. on several occasions to guest-conduct the St. Charles Singers in the western suburbs and Chicago — and will do so again in May for the St. Charles Singers’ season-finale concerts.

Hunt says that if someone had predicted in 1984 that the ensemble would be concertizing with Rutter in the far western suburbs and also on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue, “I probably wouldn’t have believed them. At the time, my only goal was to keep it going for as long as everyone was enjoying themselves.”

The St. Charles Singers is also in the midst of its Mozart Journey, a multi-year initiative launched in 2010 that’s providing audiences with the rare opportunity to hear all of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sacred choral music.

The 2013-14 season concerts will reflect the ensemble’s enthusiasm for Mozart, while celebrating its history and displaying its special strengths and signature sound, Hunt says.

Since its inception, the choir has sung more than 700 different works, Hunt says.

Despite that vast repertoire, its 30th anniversary concerts will include many pieces the choir has never sung before rather than relying on a “greatest hits” approach. “We’ll be looking ahead more than we’ll be looking back,” Hunt says. “I expect we’ll be making music for at least another 30 years.”

For more information, click here: http://www.stcharlessingers.com/

--Nat Silverman Co. PR

Julian Bream Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone Magazine
Julian Bream, the pre-eminent guitarist of our times, has received Gramophone's Lifetime Achievement Award, it was announced today at the magazine's award ceremony at LSO St Luke's in London.

Julian Bream, who has received an OBE and a CBE, delighted audiences in the concert hall and with dozens of award-winning recordings for over half a century. His remarkable career is documented in the DVD My Life in Music (Avie AV 2109-PAL version, AV 2110-NTSC version) in which Julian reflects on his life and rise to fame, talks about his love for the lute, the music that touches him the most, the many composers with whom he has worked, and - doing what he does best - plays the guitar. Released in 2007, the DVD, which also includes some invaluable archival footage, contains "two (three if you include the generous extras) of the most enjoyable hours you'll spend in front of a television set," according to William Yeoman in his Gramophone review.

My Life in Music was recognised with an Editor's Choice from Gramophone, and won the Gramophone Award in the DVD category. This year, Julian Bream was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame. In recognition, guitarist John Williams said, "Julian is the most important and enjoyable musician I've ever had the honour of working with ... [My Life in Music] makes clear to succeeding generations just how grateful to Julian Bream they can, and should, be.”

--Melanne Mueller, Avie Records

Cellist Zuill Bailey Performs Complete Schumann Cello Works at the Music Center at Strathmore
Cellist Zuill Bailey will perform the complete cello works by Schumann in concerts on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 3:30 and 8 pm and on Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 3 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The concerts on October 26 at 8 pm and on October 27 at 3 pm, with The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, will showcase Mr. Bailey performing Schumann’s Romantic Cello Concerto. The concerts will also feature other monumental Romantic works --- Brahms’s Tragic Overture and Symphony No. 1. A solo “Mostly Schumann” recital earlier in the day on October 26 at 3:30 pm at Strathmore will feature Mr. Bailey and pianist Navah Perlman performing cello works by Schumann and piano pieces by Brahms.

In just one day, Mr. Bailey, widely considered one of the premiere cellists in the world, will accomplish the major feat of playing the complete works of Schumann for cello. “Zuill is very unique in that he has the stamina to do this kind of all-day performance,” said Maestro Gajewski. “There are very few artists who really can put themselves out and give one program in the afternoon, another program in the evening and be totally on top of their game from beginning to end.”

The Oct. 26, 3:30 pm Mostly Schumann recital will feature Mr. Bailey and Ms. Perlman performing such works by Schumann as Five Pieces in Folk Style;  the Adagio and Allegro in A-flat Major; Fantasy Pieces; Arabesque in C Major and the Carnival Scenes from Vienna.

After intermission, Ms. Perlman will play Brahms’ Intermezzo in A minor and the Ballade in G minor.

After the October 26 3:30 pm concert, Mr. Bailey will return to the stage at 8 pm to perform Schumann’s romantic and lyrical Cello Concerto with the National Philharmonic, conducted by Maestro Gajewski. Despite the speed with which he wrote the Cello Concerto, it ranks today among the half-dozen finest works of its kind.  It was published in 1854, the tragic year when Schumann attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Rhine. As far as is known, the concerto was never performed during the composer's lifetime and did not receive its initial hearing until June 9, 1860, when it was played at the Leipzig Conservatory in a concert marking the fiftieth anniversary of Schumann's birth.

The beautifully lyrical, flowing first movement, marked Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast), begins with the theme that serves as the basic motto for the whole concerto. Near the end, a cadenza for solo cello comments and elaborates on material from the entire concerto. When the orchestra re-enters, its pace is more animated, and the work concludes brilliantly.

The October 26 (3 pm) and October 27 (8 pm) concerts will also feature Brahms’s Tragic Overture. Brahms insisted that he did not contemplate a “particular drama as a subject,” therefore, it is not an overture to anything, but simply a one-movement composition in classical form for which the word “overture” was a title of convenience.

Closing the concert will be Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, a work the composer struggled to write, as he felt under the shadow of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. Yet Brahms’s masterpiece features distinctive, rich music of extraordinary intensity.

At early performances, listeners were puzzled by the work’s combination of restrictive formality and expansive expression, but it eventually became one of the most popular symphonies in the repertory. Like Beethoven in his Symphony No. 5, Brahms waits until the final movement to unleash the trombones, monumental here in the heroic trombone chorale of the introduction.  Toward the end of the section, the tempo changes, and a horn calls for attention to the movement’s principal section, Allegro non troppo, ma con brio, with its broad hymn-like main theme. This theme unquestionably owes a large debt to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. At early performances, comparisons of the thematic melody with the theme of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony made Brahms’s partisans accept the idea of calling it “Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony”; however, in truth, the resemblance is slight, except that the listener is aware of a struggle and then a resolution.

A free pre-concert lecture will be offered at 6:45 pm on Saturday, October 26 and at 1:45 pm on Sunday, October 27 in the Concert Hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to the Romantic Sentiments and Mostly Schumann concerts, please visit nationalphilharmonic.org or call the Strathmore box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $28-$84; kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette).  ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. Parking is complimentary.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Leonida Kavakos To Perform with and Conduct Boston Symphony
In November of this year, violinist Leonidas Kavakos will perform with the Boston Symphony in which he will be both conductor and soloist on Mozart’s Concerto No. 4 (November 14-19). In February 2014 he will collaborate with Enrico Pace, his partner on the Beethoven Sonatas Decca recording debut, in performances of those Sonatas in Boston (2/23), Philadelphia (2/25), Princeton (2/27) and three evenings at Carnegie Hall (March 2-4). In May, Kavakos performs with the New York Philharmonic and the Atlanta Symphony.

In addition, on October 8 Decca releases his interpretation of the richly romantic Brahms Violin Concerto, one of the great cornerstones of the violin repertoire, in his first concerto disc for the label. He is joined by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under legendary Brahms specialist Riccardo Chailly.

--Rebecca Davis PR

Cal Performances Presents Les Violons du Roy with Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Blythe, Sunday, October 20, at 3 P.M. in Hertz Hall, Berkeley, CA
A pre-performance talk will be given by Bernard Labadie on Sunday, October 20 at 2:00 p.m.                                
Named after the string ensembles kept close at hand by the kings of France, Canadian ensemble Les Violons du Roy combines historical accuracy with passionate musical expression. The 15-member string ensemble of “almost superhuman perfection” (Opera News) will be joined by the incomparable mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe on Sunday, October 20, at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall. The program consists of two orchestral works, Georg Philipp Telemann’s Suite in C major, TWV 55: C6, and J. S. Bach’s Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069 (original version); plus arias from Joseph Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos, Hob. XXXVIb: 2 and George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare, HWV 17. The ensemble was founded in 1984 by its music director Bernard Labadie, who will conduct the concert.

Bernard Labadie will give a pre-performance talk beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 20, in Hertz Hall. This event is free to event ticket holders; talks are designed to enrich the experience of concertgoers.

Québec City–based Les Violons du Roy was founded by artistic director Bernard Labadie almost 30 years ago and specializes in the vast repertoire of music for chamber orchestra, performed in the stylistic manner most appropriate to each era. Although the ensemble plays on modern instruments, its approach to the works of the Baroque and Classical periods has been strongly influenced by current understanding of performance practice in the 17th and early 18th centuries; in this repertoire Les Violons du Roy uses Baroque bows and bowing technique.

Stephanie Blythe, considered one of the finest mezzo-sopranos of the day, has sung in many of the renowned opera houses in the United States and Europe and with many of the world’s finest orchestras. This season, she appeared as Fricka in the Metropolitan Opera’s new productions of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and made her debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Un Ballo in Maschera and The Mikado.  She also appeared in concert at the Concertgebouw and with the Collegiate Chorale in Carnegie Hall. This summer she appeared in concerts at the Cincinnati May Festival and the Tanglewood Festival. Blythe has received many awards, including the 2009 Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year, 2007 Opera News Award, and the 1999 Richard Tucker Award.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Les Violons du Roy with Stephanie Blythe on Sunday, October 20, at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall range from $30.00 to $68.00 and are subject to change. UC Berkeley students are half price. 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

The Bach Sinfonia Presents 100 Feet of Brass
Seven baroque trumpeters from across the country will play music from ten different 17th and 18th century composers.

Date and time:
Saturday, October 5, 2013 AT 8PM
Free Pre-Concert Discussion at 7:20 PM

Venue information:
Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
7995 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910

Tickets:
$30 adult
$27 seniors (60 and up)
$15 (ages 15 – University)
FREE (ages 14 and under)
Order Online at www.bachsinfonia.org or call (301) 362-6525

Sinfonia creates a rare event - with no all-professional baroque trumpet ensemble in the United States, we decided to gather some of the country’s top early-music professionals for a program that explores the full array of ensemble music for trumpets, timpani and continuo. The program includes rarities from 17th and 18th centuries including Johann Ernst Altenburg’s brilliant concerto for seven trumpets and timpani, solo sonatas, and works for four, five and seven trumpets by Biber, Zelenka and others. Saturday, October 5 at 8PM at the Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring.  Full information and tickets at www.bachsinfonia.org.

--Jennifer Buzzell, Bach Sinfonia

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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