Classical Music News of the Week, November 10, 2013

Great Works by Handel’s English Contemporaries

Philharmonia Baroque presents Solomon, the English Baroque masterpiece, among other works, featuring Yulia Van Doren, Thomas Cooley, and the Philharmonia Chorale, December 6-10, 2013, at San Francisco, Berkeley, and Stanford.

Music Director Nicholas McGegan leads Philhamonia Baroque Orchestra in William Boyce's Solomon, a serenata, and other works by Handel's English contemporaries, with soprano Yulia Van Doren and tenor Thomas Cooley as soloists. They are joined by the full Philharmonia Chorale - called "glorious" by the San Francisco Chronicle's Joshua Kosman - under the leadership of Chorale Director Bruce Lamott. Four concerts take place at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center (December 6), First Congregational Church in Berkeley (December 7 & 8) and Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University (December 10). Tickets are priced from $25 to $97.

Yulia Van Doren, who was a smash hit when she toured with Philharmonia in Handel's Orlando to Lincoln Center, Tanglewood and Ravinia, makes her official debut in Philharmonia's subscription season. Boyce's Solomon is a lyrical gem for modern audiences to discover and the ideal showcase for Van Doren, whose vocal agility and "silvery, bell-like tones" (Opera Today) have won the hearts of audiences and critics alike. Based on the Biblical Song of Solomon and originally billed as an "oratorio erotico," Solomon received more performances in England than any other work of its kind through the end of the 18th century (except, of course, those by Handel). Thomas Cooley, who last appeared with Philharmonia in Bach's B Minor Mass, is an audience favorite known for his sweet voice and range of expression.

The Philharmonia Chorale performs William Croft's Burial Service, marking the Chorale's first-ever performance of a full-length a cappella work. Croft was organist at Westminster Abbey and may have composed the Burial Service for the funeral of Queen Anne in 1714. It has since been used at every state funeral at Westminster and St. Paul's, including those for Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, and most recently Margaret Thatcher. After hearing this work, there can be little doubt that elements of Handel's famous Messiah are decidedly Croftian.

Rounding out the program is John Stanley's Concerto Grosso in B minor, a boisterous example of late-Baroque English style featuring contrapuntal rhythms and extended solos for the violin and violoncello. Stanley, blind since childhood, was a church organist whose "voluntaries" Handel often went to hear in London.

When and where:
Friday, December 6 at 8:00 PM
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco

Saturday, December 7 at 8:00 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Sunday, December 8 at 7:30 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Tuesday, December 10 at 7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University

Tickets are priced $25 to $97, available through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com or call (415) 392-4400.

Tickets for the performance at Bing Concert Hall may be purchased through Stanford Live: live.stanford.edu.

--Ben Casement Stoll, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

UC Chamber Chorus Presents Handel’s Messiah, Part 1, and a Festive Carol Sing-Along
The UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus performs Handel’s Messiah, Part I, after which the audience will be invited to sing along in the "Hallelujah Chorus" and seasonal carols. Proceeds from the concert will support the Chamber Chorus' Carnegie Hall Tour this Spring.

Sunday, December 8, 3:00pm, Orinda Community Church
10 Irwin Way, Orinda, California

UC Chamber Chorus, Marika Kuzma, director
Handel: Messiah, Part I
"Hallelujah Chorus" and seasonal carols sing-along

Tickets available at the door on day of concert: $20/$12.

For more information, e-mail univchorus@gmail.com

--Masis Parunyan, UC Chamber Chorus

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Present a World Premiere by Featured Composer Michael Daugherty November 20-24
Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra continue their 2013-2014 season November 20-24 with the world premiere of Fallingwater for solo violin and strings by Featured Composer Michael Daugherty. A musical tribute to the visionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater is inspired by four of his most admired buildings - Taliesin, Fallingwater, Unity Temple and the Guggenheim Museum – and explores the various dimensions of the string orchestra within four separate movements. Dreamscapes, a work written by 2008-2009 Featured Composer Clarice Assad, is reprised, with both works featuring Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist. The program also includes Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile alongside Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky and Elegy by Samuel Jones.

Dreamscapes by Clarice Assad was commissioned and premiered in May 2009 and marks the first of six new works composed as part of New Century’s Featured Composer program. Jeff Kaliss of San Francisco Classical Voice stated that Dreamscapes is “an exciting and worthy addition to the repertoire... showcasing the NCCO’s individual and collective skills.” Both Dreamscapes and Fallingwater will be featured on New Century’s upcoming May 2014 recording A to Z: 21st Century Concertos that will include commissioned violin concertos by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and William Bolcom.

“Classical music has a rich tradition of mentor and student, which the New Century Chamber Orchestra will explore in these concerts” said Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. “This is represented not only by Tchaikovsky and Arensky on the first half of the program, but also by two commissioned violin concertos by 2013-2014 Featured Composer Michael Daugherty and our first Featured Composer Clarice Assad, who studied with Michael at the University of Michigan. Performing such remarkable new works for New Century is always a thrill for us and we look forward to fostering this collaborative and enriching tradition.”

Based on a Russian folksong, Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile was originally the second movement of his String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11 and is one of the earliest significant quartets ever written by a Russian composer. In similar fashion, Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky was also taken from the second movement of his String Quartet No. 2 and later scored for string orchestra to great acclaim. Tchaikovsky was a lifelong mentor and friend to Arenksy and became a major influence on the young composer’s music.

Conductor-composer Samuel Jones, founder and longtime director of the renowned music school at Rice University, wrote Elegy in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. Discussing this work, Jones said that “it is a brief musical statement of the feelings of grief and shock which swept the country and, indeed, the world, after the President's death. During the years since the Kennedy tragedy, the piece has been performed on five continents as conductors have turned to this work on numerous occasions both for concert performances as well as to mark the passing of notables. The music is simply and deeply expressive of the anguish one feels at the loss of a loved one.” These performances mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.

“Legacies and Concertos” will be given on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area: Wednesday November 20 at 8 p.m., Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Mountain View, Friday, November 22 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, Saturday, November 23 at 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco and Sunday, November 24 at 5 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal Tuesday, November 19 at 10 a.m., Kanbar Performing Arts Center, San Francisco for a price of only $8. The Open Rehearsal will offer a sneak preview of the concert repertoire while allowing audiences to experience the musical democracy of a rehearsal without a conductor.

For further information on New Century, please visit www.ncco.org.

--Karen Ames Communications

National Philharmonic Announces Concerto Competition Winners
Soloists to perform at Student Concerts at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Each fall, as part of its education program, the National Philharmonic sponsors a concerto competition for high school musicians. The Philharmonic is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s competition: cellist Raymond Lin; violinist Sarah Kim; and violinist Celine Nakpil. The winners will appear at the Music Center at Strathmore with the National Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, in one of the seven performances (at 10:35 am and 12:15 pm) for nearly 15,000 2nd grade students from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) on November 19-22st.

Cellist Raymond Lin of Gaithersburg, MD will perform the first movement of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 on November 19th. A sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School, Raymond remembers attending one of the inaugural Philharmonic student concerts as a 2nd grader! Raymond has placed in many string competitions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, including the 2013 MSMTA Weaver High School String and Chamber Festival Competitions.

Violinist Sarah Kim will perform the third movement of Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2 on November 20th. Sarah, a freshman at Centennial High School, has been studying the violin since the age of five with Dr. Christian Tremblay at the Peabody Institute. She has won many competitions, including the International Concerto Competition at the American Fine Arts Festival in New York and the American Protégé International Concerto Competition.

Violinist Celine Nakpil, a junior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD, will perform the fifth movement of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol on November 21st and at the final show on November 22.  Celine, who was a winner of the Philharmonic’s Concerto Competition last year, also remembers attending one of the inaugural Philharmonic student concerts as a 2nd grader. Celine was been a winner of the Music Teacher National Association Competition and has received awards in the US Army Young Artist Competition, the WPAS Federal Memorial Competition and the Asian American Music Society Competition.

The November 19-22st student concerts are co-presented by MCPS, the National Philharmonic and the Music Center at Strathmore. MCPS second-grade students will experience classical music, many for the first time, when they attend these annual Strathmore Student Concerts in November.

Students learn about the four families of instruments that make up the orchestra through these multimedia concerts. The concerts include video and images of instruments projected onto a large screen as the music is per­formed. Students also sing along with the orchestra to the Little Train of Caipira and experience Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and Russell Peck’s The Thrill of the Orchestra, narrated by teacher and percussionist Greg Jukes, himself a past concerto winner. For more information, visit nationalphilharmonic.org.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Universal Music Classics Revitalized with New Label Name, Strategic A&R Focus, Partnerships and Initiatives with Leading Arts Institutions & Key New Appointments
Elizabeth Sobol, newly appointed President & CEO of Universal Music Classics, is spearheading the division's revitalized commitment to the best that "classics" stands for - music rooted in the classical tradition, while also encompassing a variety of genres including contemporary, jazz, and world music.  Formerly known as Decca Label Group, the new Universal Music Classics (UMC) aims to "re-imagine classics," with a new focus on U.S. based A&R signings, while remaining the American home of the prestigious Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Mercury Classics and Panorama imprints, and continuing its long-standing relationship with the esteemed ECM label.

The division's new strategies are highlighted by recent key staff appointments by Sobol, who was named President & CEO of the division earlier this year by Max Hole, Chairman & CEO of Universal Music Group International. Elizabeth Sobol brings her wide-ranging and deep expertise to the role including serving as Managing Director of IMG Artists, and many years as personal manager to internationally renowned artists including Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Emerson String Quartet, Evgeny Kissin and James Galway.

Sobol’s first two notable executive appointments since taking up the role are Leslie Collman-Smith, who recently joined UMC as Senior Vice President of Marketing, and Collin Rae who has joined as Vice President of Digital Sales and Marketing. 

Formerly of Sony’s Masterworks label, Collman-Smith was instrumental in campaigns for key artists including Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, The Piano Guys and Tedeschi Trucks Band, among many others.  She began her career at Sony Music Distribution in 1994, and joined Sony Classical in 2004 as Director of Marketing, later becoming VP of Marketing and Media for the label. At UMC, Collman-Smith’s primary area of focus will be leading marketing efforts on non-core classical releases, as well as working on new initiatives, business development and revenue diversification.

In his new role, Rae joins UMC with a strong background in marketing and the digital space, having spent six years at Naxos of America overseeing both digital marketing and special projects.  In his new role he will be the main liaison with iTunes for the division and will lead the creation and implementation of strategic marketing plans for both frontline and catalogue UMC titles.  Collman-Smith and Rae both report to Sobol, with immediate effect.

With an emphasis on cultivating new artists for UMC, Sobol’s first signing is the Curtis Institute-trained Time For Three, who will be recording their UMC debut later this year with special guest Joshua Radin, with their release and a subsequent tour also featuring Radin planned for 2014.  Sobol has also joined forces with the Metropolitan Opera's Peter Gelb to release the historic and triumphant return to the podium of James Levine, in concert with Evgeny Kissin and the MET Opera Orchestra recorded earlier this year at Carnegie Hall. The recording was released September 30th on Deutsche Grammophon.

As part of UMC's new strategy, the division is announcing partnerships with like-minded organizations who share UMC’s goal of engaging with a younger and wider audience for “classics.”  Epitomizing this approach, in November UMG’s international “Yellow Lounge,” a classics-meets-club initiative will launch in the U.S. “Yellow Lounge” presents a new generation of vibrant classical artists who break musical and cultural boundaries, in visually innovative and alternative spaces. Yellow Lounge’s U.S. partners include The Sonos Studio in Los Angeles (11/5), Le Poisson Rouge in New York City (11/10), City Winery with WFMT radio in Chicago (11/11) and YoungArts new multidisciplinary arts campus in Miami at the new lounge/space designed by Frank Gehry, in partnership with Classical South Florida Radio 89.7 (11/22).

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music Classics

National Philharmonic Singers Present Free Holiday Concert
The National Philharmonic Singers, under the direction of conductors Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, will present a free holiday concert on Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8 pm at Christ Episcopal Church, 107 South Washington Street, Rockville, Maryland.

The concert will feature a candlelight choral procession and the music of Praetorius, Lauridsen, Rutter, Gardiner, Skriven, Tchesnokov and others. The program will also include a special audience sing along.

The National Philharmonic Singers, led by Mr. Engebretson and Ms. Gau, is a chamber choir and one of several performing ensembles of the National Philharmonic. The group promotes works suited for smaller ensembles, whether with accompaniment or a cappella. Its repertoire ranges from 15th to 21st centuries, and it often premieres new compositions by local composers. This past summer, the group was invited to participate in the international choral competition in Llangollen, Wales.

The December 7 holiday concert at the Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville is free but donations in support of the Community Ministries of Rockville will be gratefully accepted. Christ Episcopal Church is located at 107 South Washington Street in Rockville, MD.  Directions to the church may be found at christchurchrockville.org/directions.htm#Platinum or by calling the church at 301-762-2191, ext. 3. For more information, please visit nationalphilharmonic.org  for call 301-493-9283, ext. 116.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space’s inspiring Advent Lessons & Carols returns on December 1, 2013 at 4pm
The acclaimed music series from the Upper East Side’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola wastes no time getting into the Christmas spirit this year, reprising its immensely popular Advent Lessons & Carols on Sunday, December 1st at 4pm (980 Park Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets, NYC). The concert examines Mary’s complex role in the Nativity story through music and readings. It is open to the public by free will offering. No tickets are required.

Join the Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola for its first musical event of the holiday season—a meditative Advent Lessons & Carols service that celebrates the complex role of the Blessed Mother through music and readings. Artistic Director K. Scott Warren has hand-selected inspiring motets to complement a series of Biblical readings and poems and favorite sing-a-long carols in this modern interpretation of the traditional service that peaked in popularity during the 1920s. The musical selections, which will be performed by the Church’s superlative professional choir conducted by Warren, include a 20th-century Ave Maria—Franz Biebl’s achingly beautiful setting—and Robert Parsons’ equally stunning Renaissance rendition, plus Herbert Howell’s ethereal Salve Regina, Williametta Spencer’s spritely Nova, Nova Ave Fit ex Eva and Joel Martinson’s lovely There is No Rose.

Designed to celebrate Mary’s humility and courage from the moment of the Annunciation through the rest of her life, the service announces the beginning of the holiday season not with trumpets (those come later in the month!) but with a quiet space for reflection on the most sacred aspects of Christmas.

Ticket information:
Advent Lessons & Carols: Free will offering (no ticket necessary)
Also: Chanticleer Tickets: $75 preferred / $60 general
A Child is Born Christmas Concert Tickets: $75 preferred / $60 general / $50 reduced

Order online: www.smssconcerts.org
Phone:  212.288.2520  24/7 ordering and customer service

--Julia Casey, BuckleSweet Media

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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