Classical Music News of the Week, November 24, 2013

Merola Opera Program 2014 Summer Festival Features Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Addition to Schwabacher Summer Concerts and Merola Grand Finale

Merola extends beyond summer activities to offer events throughout the year.

André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Mozart’s Don Giovanni highlight the Merola Opera Program’s 2014 summer season. The summer festival also includes the annual Schwabacher Summer Concerts – one of which is offered free to the public at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – and the festive, season-ending Merola Grand Finale. Throughout the summer, the Merola artists will participate in master classes and behind-the-scenes events which are open to Merola members.

Merola has commissioned an orchestral reduction of Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire from Peter Grunberg, based on the play by Tennessee Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire opens the festival July 10 and 12, 2014 and features director José Maria Condemi and conductor Mark Morash. The annual Schwabacher Summer Concert, conducted by Eric Melear and directed by Roy Rallo, will be presented July 17 and 19, 2014. The season continues with Mozart’s Don Giovanni, directed by James Darrah and conducted by Martin Katz, on July 31 and August 2, 2014. Maestro Ari Pelto leads the annual Merola Grand Finale August 16, 2014.

Merola’s Spring Benefit Gala anchors the company’s off-season activities. This year’s event, “A Night in New Orleans,” will be held April 12, 2014 at the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco. December 7 Merola presents Opera and Ornaments: A Merola Opera Program Holiday Concert featuring Kristin Clayton and Bojan Knezevic at the Lafayette Library Community Hall. In the spring of 2014, Merola will co-present four Schwabacher Debut Recitals with San Francisco Opera. Details will be released at a later date.

New community offerings include a family-friendly event at The Walt Disney Family Museum February 8, 2014 as Merola takes a look at the use of classical music in Disney’s films. Disney music expert Ross Care will discuss several of Disney’s “classical” works and Merola 2012 tenor Casey Candebat will sing several arias following the presentation of the popular 1946 cartoon, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met.” At the start of the fall opera season, the company launched Merola Goes to the Movies, a free program to screen operas and opera-related films at the Koret Auditorium in the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch. Upcoming events include Verdi’s Otello featuring Plácido Domingo November 3, the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera January 11, 2014, and Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Flute March 29, 2014.

For information about Merola Opera Program’s events, please visit

--Karen Ames Communications

Washington Symphonic Brass Presents Holiday Concert at the Music Center at Strathmore
National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski will lead the Washington Symphonic Brass (WSB) in a holiday concert at the Music Center at Strathmore on Sunday, December 22 at 4 pm.

The critically acclaimed 17-member brass and percussion ensemble will ring in the holidays with arrangements of season favorites, including A Christmas Fanfare arranged  by WSB Director Phil Snedecor and French, Finnish, Polish and English carols.

About the Washington Symphonic Brass
The Washington Symphonic Brass is composed of professional musicians in the Washington/Baltimore area who have assembled to play some of the great literature
written for large brass ensemble and percussion.  Members of the WSB have performed
with many of the nation's best orchestras, such as the National Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, among others.  The group performs throughout the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan area and its repertoire covers five centuries.

To purchase tickets to the Washington Symphonic Brass concert on December 22, 2013 at 4 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore, please visit or call the Strathmore box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $28-$50; 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.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Cal Performances celebrates the Kronos Quartet’s 40th Birthday December 7 in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA
The ensemble is in residence on UC Berkeley campus, offering a symposium, master classes, and talks with students and the community.

Cal Performances presents a celebration of The Kronos Quartet’s 40th birthday on Saturday, December 7, at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA. For the concert, the Kronos Quartet will offer Berkeley audiences a program spanning more than four decades, including two Bay Area premieres: Another Secret eQuation, by California composer and frequent Kronos collaborator Terry Riley, and Philip Glass’s Orion: China, arranged for Kronos by Michael Riesman and featuring pipa player Wu Man. Indie rock guitarist Bryce Dessner joins Kronos to perform his 2009 commission, Aheym, just released to critical acclaim. The birthday concert brings audiences full circle, ending at the starting point, with the work that inspired David Harrington to found Kronos in 1973 in the Bay Area: George Crumb’s composition for electric string quartet, Black Angels (1970) composed in response to the Vietnam War. In addition to strings, the 13 movements of Black Angels draw upon an arsenal of sounds, including shouting, chanting, whistling, whispering, gongs, maracas, and crystal glasses. The performance will include an appearance by San Francisco writer Daniel Handler.

This concert is the first of two Kronos programs in Cal Performances’ 2013-2014 season. The group returns on April 6 in a program marking the outbreak of World War I. World War I Chronicles (working title), a new work for quartet and film by composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and filmmaker Bill Morrison, will have its world premiere.  The Quartet and Cal Performances have enjoyed a long and rich relationship. The ensemble first performed in Zellerbach Hall in 1990 with 17 concerts following, the most recent being a pair of concerts in fall 2012. Over the years, programs have included Bay Area, West Coast and world premieres, including works by Terry Riley, Osvaldo Golijov and Steve Reich, among many others. In addition, this season the ensemble is Cal Performances’ Artists in Residence. The residency will include interacting with UC Berkeley students and the larger community through a symposium, musical events, and talks. The musicians will engage with UC Berkeley’s Department of Music, Berkeley High School, The Crowden School, Oakland School for the Arts, and other youth orchestras.

Terry Riley’s Another Secret eQuation written for Kronos in 2009, features special guests Pacific Boychoir Academy directed by Kevin Fox and the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco directed by Susan McMane.  Another Secret eQuation is dedicated to the memory of physicist Hans Siegmann of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the husband of Katrina Krimsky, who played with Riley in his seminal work In C.

Ticket information:
Tickets for the Kronos Quartet 40th birthday concert on Saturday, December 7, at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall range from $30.00-$90.00, 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; and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski Awarded Knight’s Cross by the Republic of Poland
National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of  Poland by Polish Ambassdor Ryszard Schnepf on Friday, November 15 at the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC.

The Order of Merit is granted by the President of Poland to foreigners or Polish citizens living abroad for distinguished contribution to cooperation between Poland and other countries. Maestro Gajewski has appeared as a guest conductor for major orchestras in his native Poland, including the Warsaw, Wroclaw, Lodz, and Silesian Philharmonic.

Maestro Gajewski was among three prominent guests who were granted Orders of Merit, including Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress, and multicultural media executive Mr. Walter Kotaba.

The ceremony took place at the celebration of the anniversary of Polish independence at the Polish Embassy. The week of November 11 marked the independence of Poland from 123 years of partition by Russia, Germany and the Austrian Empire.

Piotr Gajewski is widely credited with building the National Philharmonic to its present status as one of the most respected ensembles of its kind in the region. In addition to his appearances with the National Philharmonic, Maestro Gajewski is much in demand as a guest conductor. In recent years, he has appeared with most of the major orchestras in his native Poland, as well as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in England, the Karlovy Vary Symphony in the Czech Republic, the Okanagan Symphony in Canada and numerous orchestras in the United States.

Gajewski attended Carleton College and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned a B.M. and M.M. in Orchestral Conducting. Upon completing his formal education, he continued refining his conducting skills at the 1983 Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, where he was awarded a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship. His teachers there included Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, Gunther Schuller, Gustav Meier and Maurice Abravanel.

Gajewski is also a winner of many prizes and awards, among them a prize at New York's prestigious Leopold Stokowski Conducting Competition and, in 2006, Montgomery County's Comcast Excellence in the Arts and Humanities Achievement Award.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

First Flute with Sir James Galway, an Online Learning Method for Beginners & Beyond
International launch Monday, December 2, 4-6 pm, Merkin Concert Hall, Kaufman Music Center, New York City, 129 W. 67th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam. With Sir James Galway, Lady Jeanne Galway, Christopher O’Riley, and students from Special Music School and Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center.

Free and open to the public:

Legendary flute master Sir James Galway makes his expertise widely available with First Flute, for beginners and beyond, an online interactive series of lessons geared for flute students and music lovers of all ages. One of the most beloved and recognizable classical musicians performing today, Sir James shares his invaluable technical advice, practice methods, and secrets for success with flutists seeking to perfect their skills — all delivered with his signature warmth and panache.

Conceived and developed by Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway, First Flute demonstrates the couple’s passion for music education, and their dedication to access to music education for all. While maintaining a busy International touring and recording career, Sir James now devotes as much time as possible to mentoring and teaching, his technique and style considered invaluable to flute players worldwide. In addition to offering frequent masterclasses and residencies around the world, Sir James and Lady Galway host the Galway Flute Festival & Academy annually near their home in Switzerland, attracting over 100 flute players from across the globe.

For Sir James, First Flute is the realization of a long-held desire to make his method and expertise available to a larger public: “So many flute players, of all levels, have reached out to me over the years for advice,” comments Sir James, continuing, “Many gifted players are missing some basic fundamental elements that could improve their playing for a lifetime. I am thrilled that I can share this advice, in a systematic way, with a much wider audience through First Flute.”

These fifteen online lessons, called Foundations, include proper posture and fingering, tips and cautions, your “Practice Room” — with downloadable sheet music — and repertoire, in addition to an extensive glossary of musical terms, biographical information on composers, and exclusive concert footage.

The International launch on Monday, December 2, from 4-6pm, which is co-presented Kaufman Music Center and takes place at Merkin Hall in New York City, will include performances by Sir James, Lady Galway, and concert pianist and NPR “From the Top” host Christopher O’Riley, who will also interview Sir James about First Flute. The event will feature a video presentation, a performance by young flutists from Special Music School and Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center, and exhibitions from several flute companies – Haynes Flutes, Nagahara Flutes and the New York Flute Center – to be followed by a reception.

The launch event is free and open to the public. Attendees must RSVP to

--Shira Gilbert PR

Young People’s Chorus of New York City Celebrates the Holidays
“Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows Unveiling”
Monday, November 25, at 6:30 p.m.
611 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street, NYC

Come and sing along this Monday when the Young People's Chorus of New York City joins violinist Joshua Bell and singer/songwriter Frankie Moreno in a festive outdoor performance of holiday music, celebrating the unveiling of this year's holiday windows at Saks Fifth Avenue. The program also includes the debut of Saks's Snowflake Spectacular, a dramatic light show projected onto the façade of the building.

"Songs of the Season"
Saturday, December 7, at 3:30 and 7:00 p.m.
92nd Street Y at Lexington Avenue, NYC

The Young People's Chorus of New York City will give two performances of one of its most popular concerts of the year - "Songs of the Season" - featuring many holiday favorites and some exciting new music, including two world premieres. The first is a piece commissioned from composer Jim Papoulis for chorus and boomwhackers entitled Gnothi Safton (Know thyself), and the second is a new tutti piece commissioned from Matt Podd, Adam Podd, Jerry Colker, and Sarah Kervin to close the program, called Looking for the Light, which will be sung by all 360 choristers.

Tickets:  3:30 Matinee - $15, $25, and $50
Tickets:  7:00 Evening - $20, $30, and $60
At the 92nd Street Y box office or by calling 212-415-5500

“WQXR Presents Musical Gifts:  Joshua Bell and Friends”
Tuesday, December 10, at 6:00 p.m.
WQXR's The Greene Space
160 Varick Street (entrance on Charlton St.), NYC

The Young People's Chorus of New York City will join violinist Joshua Bell in a new arrangement of Silent Night by Francisco J. Núñez in a holiday concert at the WQXR/WNYC Greene Space hosted by WQXR's popular Elliot Forrest.  This "radiant" arrangement of Silent Night is included on the new holiday CD "Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends," which is available here. Others to appear on the program are singer/songwriter Frankie Moreno and pianist Frederick Chiu.

Remaining tickets are $40 (includes a treat and a drink) and can be purchased on the WQXR Web site.

“Winter Holiday Concert”
Friday, December 13, at 6:00 p.m.
Young People's Chorus of New York City at Washington Heights (YPCWH)
P.S. 366, Washington Heights Academy
202 Sherman Ave, New York, NY 10034

The young singers of YPCWH, the year-old community program of the Young People's Chorus of New York City at Washington Heights, will give a free winter holiday concert for the community on December 13. Conducted by Maria Peña, their program of holiday favorites will include Dormi, Dormi and Donde esta Santa Claus.

"A City Singing at Christmas"
Thursday, December 19, at 7:00 p.m.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, NYC

A program of traditional and contemporary Christmas hymns and carols by the Young People's Chorus of New York City, St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, the St. Agnes Cathedral Choirs of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and the New York Symphonic Brass in the majesty of the Cathedral of St. Patrick.

Admission is free. Come early for best seats.

For more information, click

--Katharine Gibson, oung People’s Chorus of New York City

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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 Jon 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa