Classical Music News of the Week, October 27, 2013

Oberlin Music Artists Perform Works by Ravel in Exclusive NYC Engagement at SubCulture

The November 3 concert celebrates the release of Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, a new album created by Oberlin Conservatory faculty harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, featuring acclaimed performers with strong ties to Oberlin. The November 3rd concert is at 7 p.m. and the purchase of a ticket includes a Ravel CD.

The evocative music of Maurice Ravel and the diverse talents of the Oberlin Conservatory’s celebrated alumni, faculty, and friends will take center stage for a performance of chamber works on November 3 at SubCulture, NYC.

The concert is a celebration of Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, a new release by Oberlin Music, the commercial label of the Oberlin Conservatory. Available now through download on iTunes, the album will be available on CD October 29.

Intimate Masterpieces offers a remarkable portrait of Ravel. Through four chamber  works, Introduction et Allegro (1905), String Quartet in F Major (1903), Chansons madécasses (1926), and Cinq mélodies populaires grecques (1906), Ravel is depicted as an irrepressible independent musical voice trying to navigate the deeply polarized decades of the early 20th century.

The performance at SubCulture will showcase the musicians who took part in the album’s creation: Oberlin faculty members Yolanda Kondonassis (harp), Alexa Still (flute), and Richard Hawkins (clarinet); alumni soprano Ellie Dehn and pianist Spencer Myer; and the Jupiter Quartet, Oberlin’s artists in residence, featuring alumni violist Liz Freivogel.

Tickets for Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces in concert are $30, available by calling 212-533-5470 or by visiting www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/388133. Each ticket includes a copy of the CD. Showtime is 7 p.m. Sunday, November 3, at SubCulture (45 Bleecker Street, downstairs) in New York City.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Universal Music Classics Launches “Yellow Lounge” in America This Fall
The classics-meet-club environment showcases vibrant live performances.  “Yellow Lounge” will be at Sonos Studio, Los Angeles, November 5; at Le Poisson Rouge, New York City, November 10; at City Winery, Chicago, November 11; and at YoungArts, Miami, November 22.

Originally born out of the Berlin/European club scene, “Yellow Lounge” is a classics-meets-club environment; its mission to present a new generation of vibrant artists tied to the classical tradition who break musical and cultural boundaries, in visually innovative and alternative spaces. With sold-out events already under its belt all over the world including London, Amsterdam, Vienna and Seoul, Yellow Lounge is now poised for its American launch. Yellow Lounge kicks off in major cities across America in November at eclectic venues including The Sonos Studio in Los Angeles (11/5), Le Poisson Rouge in New York City (11/10), City Winery in Chicago (11/11) and at the National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) in Miami (11/22). Yellow Lounge at YoungArts will inaugurate a new lounge/space designed by Frank Gehry as part of YoungArts’ new multidisciplinary arts campus.

Universal Music Classics has partnered with various like-minded presenters who share the common goal of bringing "classics" to a younger, wider and energized audience. Presenting partners of Yellow Lounge include The Sonos Studio in Los Angeles, WFMT Radio and City Winery in Chicago, Le Poisson Rouge in New York City, and the National YoungArts Foundation with Classical South Florida Radio 89.7 in Miami. All shows are open to the public with ticket prices of $20 or less, and will feature a guest DJ.

New York City’s Yellow Lounge will host banjoist Béla Fleck – winner of 15 Grammy Awards and nominated in more categories than any other artist in Grammy history. His most recent recording - his debut as composer-performer and first for Deutsche Grammophon/Mercury Classics --The Impostor, was released in August. The album showcases Fleck’s title concerto for banjo and symphony orchestra, as well as “Night Flight Over Water” for banjo and string quartet. For The Impostor concerto, the banjoist teamed with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony (who commissioned the work); for Night Flight Over Water, a work commissioned by Butler University, Fleck partnered with genre-bending quartet Brooklyn Rider. Brooklyn Rider will join Fleck on stage at Yellow Lounge in New York City as well.

Brooklyn Rider has been credited for “re-creating the 300-year-old form of the string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble” by NPR.  Their most current album – A Walking Fire - was released in April on DG/Mercury Classics, and co-branded with In a Circle, the imprint started by Brooklyn Rider violinist Johnny Galdnelsman in 2008. The New York Times said, “Brooklyn Rider stands out for its consistent refinement, globe-spanning stylistic range, do-it-yourself gumption and integration of standard repertory works into the mix.” A Walking Fire features a seminal string quartet by Béla Bartók, alongside new works by contemporary Russian-American composer Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin and Brooklyn Rider’s Colin Jacobsen.

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music Classics

Jazz and Classical Nutcrackers “Duke It Out” December 7
Music Institute of Chicago welcomes families for Music/Dance Concert and Instrument Petting Zoo.

The Music Institute of Chicago welcomes families for “Duke It Out,” a concert showcasing both traditional and jazz-inflected versions of The Nutcracker Suite, Saturday, December 7 at 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., preceded by an open house at 9 a.m., at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

Duke it Out pairs the classical (Tchaikovsky) and jazz (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, transcription by James Stephenson) versions of the holiday favorite, performed by Music Institute Ensembles-in-Residence Axiom Brass and Quintet Attacca. Providing a visual illustration of the two musical versions are dance students, ages eight to 18, from Foster Dance Company, the performance ensemble of Foster Dance Studios, and Chicago-area professional dancers, totaling approximately 60 dancers. Choreography is by Ronn Stewart, Sarah Goldstone and Phil Brooks.

This morning of music for families, which is sponsored by First Bank & Trust, begins at 9 a.m. with an open house in the Nichols Concert Hall lobby. Kids can enjoy playing a variety of instruments at the Music Institute Instrument Petting Zoo, parents can talk with faculty and staff, and everyone can take advantage of special discounts on lessons and classes.

The Music Institute of Chicago’s family open house (9 a.m.) and Duke It Out (two performances: 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) take place Saturday, December 7 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $5 per person, available at brownpapertickets.com/event/492630 or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. For more information visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

American Bach Soloists to Release New CD of Handel’s Laudate pueri Dominum Featuring Mary Wilson on December 3, 2013
Beloved ABS collaborator sings a dazzling program that includes Handel’s Silete venti and Gloria.

The American Bach Soloists are pleased to announce the imminent release of "Handel: Laudate pueri Dominum” featuring Mary Wilson. ABS music director Jeffrey Thomas directs the orchestra of ABS—“some of the greatest period-instrument players in the world” (San Francisco Classical Voice) and one of their most cherished collaborators, the sensational American coloratura soprano Mary Wilson, in a program of bravura works by George Frideric Handel.

"Handel: Laudate pueri Dominum" features three challenging works for soprano and chamber ensemble that place extraordinary demands of virtuosity and expressiveness on soloist and orchestra alike. Written in 1707 when the composer was living in Italy, “Laudate pueri Dominum” is a startling example of Handel’s ability to absorb and make use of foreign traditions to fuel his unique vision and compositional voice. The psalm setting is a veritable catalogue of Italian musical forms, all masterfully employed by Handel. The Gloria for coloratura voice, two violins, and basso continuo is also from Handel’s early period. Discovered in 2001, this exquisite liturgical work is at times expansive and elegant, but its vigorous sections for the soprano soloist are what often amaze hearers. The composer’s thrilling virtuoso motet Silete venti (“Silence, ye winds”) comes from later in Handel’s career when he was living in London and writing operas for the lyric stage. Opening with what appears to be a typical French ouverture, the soprano makes her entrance in the work by bidding the winds—elemental and instrumental—to be silent so her Christian soul can peacefully enjoy its repose. In May 2013, Wilson’s performances of Silete venti with ABS astonished audiences with the breathtaking ease and precision of her singing. Maestro Thomas was commended for programming the overlooked gem with an ideal interpreter like Wilson: “Silete venti is a wonderful work, and the fact that it is a misfit for modern-day concert programs makes its absence from the repertoire a shame. Thank goodness for ABS!” (SFCV)

"Handel: Laudate pueri Dominum" featuring Mary Wilson is the latest recording to join ABS’s critically lauded discography of nineteen titles, including a six-volume series of cantatas by J.S. Bach, full recordings of the St. Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor, and recordings concentrating on the music of Corelli, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schütz. Handel: Laudate pueri Dominum featuring Mary Wilson will be released nationally December 3 and available for pre-sale on iTunes on November 15.

You can find more information on American Bach Soloists at http://americanbach.org/.

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello Announce First Major Recording Together: Romantic Love Duets on Warner Classics
“Pérez and Costello possess full-bodied voices and enjoy letting them bloom with Italianate leisure.”
--Los Angeles Times

Richard Tucker Award-winners Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez – dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press) – look forward to collaborating on their first album together: a recording of romantic love duets by Verdi, Puccini, Bernstein, and others, to be recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Patrick Summers’s leadership in December. The album is slated for release in spring 2014, and it will be the couple’s first release as exclusive recording artists for Warner Classics.

Pérez explains: “Given our great love for our art and each other, I’m really looking forward to joining our voices in some of my favorite roles and operatic duets.”

Costello adds: “To be on a label for which so many incredible artists have recorded is a huge honor. I am also honored to share this album with two great artists – my wife, Ailyn Pérez, and Maestro Patrick Summers. I am truly humbled!”

Described by Vanity Fair as “a match made in verismo heaven,” theirs is a love story that is the stuff of opera itself. The young American soprano and tenor met at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, where an onstage romance in Puccini’s most beloved opera kindled the flames of a real-life passion. This season, Pérez and Costello appear in performance together across the globe, headlining in La traviata in London, Berlin, Hamburg, and San Francisco, and giving concerts in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

They are the only married couple to boast having two prestigious Richard Tucker Awards on the mantelpiece: Costello took home the “Heisman Trophy of opera” in 2009 and Pérez won in 2012, becoming the first Hispanic singer to do so in the award’s history. When they performed together at the 2012 Richard Tucker Gala, which was broadcast nationally in the U.S. and is still available for on-demand streaming, the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini admired their “palpable chemistry.”

--Andrew Ousley, Warner Classics

Acclaimed Early Music Ensemble Apollo’s Fire Returns to Cal Performances on Saturday, November 9 at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
A pre-performance talk with music director Jeannette Sorrell will be held Saturday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church.

Baroque ensemble Apollo’s Fire returns to Cal Performances with its “vibrant, life—affirming approach to early music” (BBC Music Magazine) for an evening of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3, 4, and 5, as well as Johann David Heinichen’s Dresden Concerti on Saturday, November 9 at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church. Led and founded by dynamic conductor, music director, and harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell, Cleveland-based Apollo’s Fire is “a superb ensemble that pairs vigor with finesse, enlisting period instruments to play baroque fare in a rigorously informed style” (The Washington Post).

Apollo’s Fire was founded in 1992 by Jeannette Sorrell. She studied conducting under Robert Spano, Roger Norrington, and Leonard Bernstein, and harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam.  Sorrell sought to bring together a group of artists who enjoyed drama and rhetoric. She was also inspired by the baroque ideal that music should evoke passion from its listeners.  Since its founding, Apollo’s Fire has become a worldwide phenomenon and has performed at such illustrious venues as London’s Wigmore Hall, Madrid’s Royal Theatre, and Bordeaux’s Grand Théàtre de l’Opéra. The ensemble has received many awards, including the 1995 Noah Greenberg Award from the American Musicological Society and the 1998 Northern Ohio Live Achievement Award for Classical Music. Apollo’s Fire has released 20 CDs with the British label AVIE. The most recent of their recordings, Sacrum Mysterius: A Celtic Christmas Vespers, debuted at No. 11 on the classical Billboard Chart in December 2012.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Apollo’s Fire on Saturday, November 9, at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church are $42.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. 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 discounts, go to www.calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php.

--Christina Kellogg, Cal Performances

Meyer Sound Announces High-Definition Recording Showcasing the Company’s Groundbreaking “Constellation Acoustic Technology”
Meyer Sound, world leaders in acoustic research and audio engineering, announces a new recording venture with the debut release of “as long as there are songs,” a collection of American popular music performed by legendary American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and pianist Craig Terry.

Stephanie Blythe, Craig Terry and audio pioneer John Meyer set out to create a dramatically different listening experience in which audiences have an exceptionally accurate sense of being “in the room” at a live performance. This recording is as authentic to the original performance as is possible with today’s recording technology – a natural, unprocessed sound which stands in stark contrast to the high compression and limited bandwidth techniques used on nearly all standard commercial recording releases. Listeners will hear the full extent of the artists’ performance as this recording incorporates the full breadth of dynamic range, articulation, ensemble, sound tone and expression.

Since the mid 70s with the recording of “Gould conducts Gould,” John Meyer has been devoted to building audio technology that faithfully reproduces and delivers sound of the highest quality to audiences worldwide. His 2007 recording of Zakir Hussain’s “Golden Strings of the Sarode” was nominated for a Grammy. Meyer Sound’s patented cutting-edge Constellation acoustic system enabled the creation of a custom acoustic space for the recording, ironically, one in which Blythe and Terry could record “old school” in the same room without close-field microphones or headphones.

Full takes were recorded natively at 24/96 resolution capturing the energy and passion of the artists performing as if for a live audience. In yet another departure from conventional contemporary vocal recording, engineer John Pellowe used no post-process filtering or compression during either the capture nor mastering process. Blythe and Terry’s musical artistry allowed producer Evans Mirageas to incorporate a third of the songs as entire, unedited takes and make only minimal edits to the remainder of the material.

Recorded on site at Meyer Sound’s Pearson Theatre in Berkeley, CA in December 2012, the recording is now available on innova Recordings.

--Karen Ames Communications

Cantus: Song of a Czech: Dvorák and Janácek for Men’s Voices
On October 29th, the acclaimed nine-member men's vocal ensemble Cantus will release their 16th studio recording, Song of a Czech: Dvorák and Janácek for Men’s Voices. Produced by the Grammy-winning team of Blanton Alspaugh and John Newton from Soundmirror, Song of a Czech focuses on the works of Antonín Dvorák and Leoš Janácek, two of the giants of Czech musical history who were also great personal friends.

Both composers wrote music for male chorus, taking similar inspiration from folksongs of their native lands of Bohemia and Moravia, and from all over Eastern Europe. Janácek dedicated his “Four Male Partsongs” to Dvorák, who dubbed them "a gift with great promise, and in these times a truly special one.” These lifelong musical conversations between two of the most beloved Czech composers undoubtedly played an integral role in shaping the national choral sound, and even the development of European choral music in the 20th century.

With this new recording of repertoire by these “Bohemian brothers,” Cantus explores literature rarely heard outside of Eastern Europe, lending their trademark warmth, blend and exemplary musicianship to these fascinating and rarely recorded treasures of the choral canon.

About Cantus
Acclaimed as “the premier men’s vocal ensemble in the United States” (Fanfare), Cantus is known world-wide for its engaging performances of music ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century. The Washington Post has hailed the ensemble’s sound as having both “exalting finesse” and “expressive power” and refers to the “spontaneous grace” of its music making. As one of the country’s only two full-time vocal ensembles, Cantus has grown to prominence with its distinctive approach to creating music. Working without a conductor, the members of Cantus rehearse and perform as chamber musicians, each contributing to the entirety of the artistic process. To learn more about Cantus and see complete touring information, please visit: http://www.cantussings.org/.

--Rebecca Davis PR

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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