Paraiso (UltraHD CD review)

Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, with Jane Duboc, vocals; Jazz Brazil. FIM Lim UHD 074 LE.

Before actually sitting down to listen to this album critically, I probably heard it all the way through about half dozen times as background music. You see, around Christmas time the Wife-O-Meter discovered it sitting on the audio cabinet among a dozen other things waiting for review, and she thought it might be perfect dinner music for guests we had coming over. She fell in love with the Brazilian jazz album Paraiso and played it again and again whenever we had company. So, by the time I did got to listen to it attentively, it already felt like an old friend.

Legendary jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996) seemed like an old friend, too. He was playing “cool” jazz when I was a kid growing up in the Fifties. He made Paraiso in 1993, near the end of his career, for Telarc Records, and it became one of his most-popular albums (although I admit  I had never heard it until the present remaster). According to jazz critic and broadcaster Neil Tesser in a booklet note, “Gerry Mulligan discovers Brazil? That might seem an appropriate title for this, his first recording devoted to the richly flavored, intoxicating music that came stateside three decades ago and decided to stay. In the spirit of that most famous Brazilian-U.S. collaboration--between Jobim and Stan Getz--this one finds at its heart a surprising singer and a saxophonist of uncommon invention. Yet on Paraiso (Portuguese for Paradise), the partnership extends even to the compositions themselves: true American hybrids of North and South, for which the legendary jazz man himself wrote the melodies and Brazilian vocalist Jane Duboc concocted the lyrics.”

In addition to Ms. Duboc, a number of others join Mulligan to make the album come to life: Emanuel Moreira, guitar; Waltinho Anastaeio, percussion; Charlie Ernst, piano; Leo Traversa, bass; Peter Grant, drums; Norberta Goldberg, percussion; Cliff Korman, piano; Rogerio Maio, bass; and Duduka DaFonseea, drums. Together, they make beautiful music.

The songs all have a fine Brazilian atmosphere to them, with persuasive elements of bossa nova, samba, and chorinho (“little lament”), and while I couldn't understand the Portuguese lyrics, it didn't matter; the music's the thing. (The booklet notes do provide translations, but then they qualify the translations by saying they didn’t intend them as English lyrics. I guess the words don't translate well or go with the music or something.)

Anyway, the merging of Mulligan's soft, mellow sax, Ms. Duboc's fluid, honeyed voice, and the music's sweet, lyrical rhythms is hard to resist. Interestingly, even when the music is upbeat and swinging, there's a touch of melancholy one cannot miss (perhaps that “little lament” influence). It gives the tunes a slightly nostalgic, though never sentimental air, tinged with a warm, golden, nuanced glow. It's no wonder the Wife-O-Meter fell in love with the disc.

Incidentally, I had meant to point out a few numbers I liked best, but ultimately I couldn't make up my mind; they were all impressive. There are eleven tracks on the album, each selection lasting from about four minutes to a little over eight, some sixty minutes’ worth in all. It makes for a great hour.

As always, FIM do up the package in a hard-cardboard foldout container, with bound notes and an inner bound sleeve for the disc, which gets further protection via a static-proof, dust-proof liner.

Producers John Snyder and Gerry Mulligan, recording engineer Jack Renner, mix engineer Michael Bishop, and executive producer Robert Woods originally made the recording for Telarc Records in July 1993 at Clinton Recording Studios, Studio A, New York, NY.  Producer Winston Ma, mastering engineer Michael Bishop, and Five/Four Productions combined to remaster the recording in 2013 using 32-bit UltraHD technology and FIM’s PureFlection replication process.

The relatively small size of the various instrumental groupings participating in the music making lends itself to a fairly transparent sound, yet one with plenty of ambient bloom to provide a realistic feeling of being there with the musicians. What's more, there is a genuine sense of dimensionality involved, with air and space around the instruments. The sax sounds always mellifluous and sometimes mournful; the vocals are perfectly natural at all times; and the percussion, especially, appear vivid and taut. Factor in a smooth overall response, wide frequency extremes, and a strong dynamic impact, and you get a vivid, lifelike sonic experience.

More good news, especially for audiophiles who enjoy the sound of vinyl: Producer Winston Ma and First Impression Music have made Paraiso available on LP, mastered by the same award-winning engineer, Michael Bishop, who did the original recording. Knowing FIM, the sound cannot be anything but terrific.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Bax: Symphony No. 7 (CD review)

Also, Tintagel. David Lloyd-Jones, Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Naxos 8.557145.

English composer Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) wrote tone poems in the first half of the twentieth century. Whether he called them “symphonies” or not, they were either genuine tone poems or collections of tone poems strung together into longer symphonic works. The two compositions represented on this disc illustrate the point: his final symphony, the Seventh Symphony (1939), and his most-famous short piece, Tintagel (1919).

Tintagel, of course, is Bax’s depiction of the rocky precipice on the west coast of Cornwall that mythologists and researchers think may have been the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. Whether it really was Arthur’s birthplace or whether there really was a King Arthur is beside the point; Tintagel, the place, really exists. Like the actual location, the short, symphonic tone picture is all about rugged seascapes, craggy cliffs, and splashes of ocean spray. It’s a wonderfully evocative bit of music, which Maestro Lloyd-Jones exploits nicely. However, Tingagel tends to upstage the disc’s main attraction, the Symphony No. 7, which sounds a mite lightweight by comparison in its gentle Romanticism, as well as sounding somewhat imitative of Bax’s earlier work.

Anyhow, as I say, David Lloyd-Jones, who finished up his complete Bax cycle for Naxos, again served the music well with this recording, although I thought his interpretation this time out was a tad on the soft, leisurely side. Tintagel, especially, has more bite, more luster, and a more rough-and-tumble vigor in the hands of conductors Bryden Thomson (Chandos) and Sir Adrian Boult (Lyrita). What’s more, those recordings sound better, have greater range, and more transparency than the slightly bland-sounding Naxos disc.

Needless to say, however, the Naxos disc has the advantage of price, which may be its strongest attraction. After all, if you’ve never heard Tintagel before, you might not want to spend the money on a full-price disc just to hear it. In any case, you can’t go far wrong with this Naxos disc, and if you do like it, you can check out the even better Thomson and Boult recordings (the Boult-Lyrita disc being among my favorite recordings of anything).


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Ravel & Scriabin: Piano Music (CD review)

HJ Lim, piano. Warner Classics 50999 9 14509 2 0.

The young Korean pianist HJ Lim charged onto the musical scene with a popular YouTube video of Rachmaninov and Chopin, followed by an appearance in Paris where she performed the complete Beethoven sonatas, followed still by an EMI Classics recording of the complete sonatas. When I reviewed the EMI set, I found Ms. Lim’s playing wonderfully virtuosic, her performances remarkably intelligent, if highly idiosyncratic, and her personal appearance strikingly photogenic. It was certainly a winning combination for any performer, and it’s no wonder Warner Classics (the new owners of EMI Classics) wanted to follow up the Beethoven with this album of music by Ravel and Scriabin.

The thing is, I thought Ms. Lim’s playing of the Beethoven sonatas a tad too eccentrically clinical for my taste and not quite introspective enough (at least compared to the many older pianists who have essayed the field). It was as though she were using the music to show off her virtuosic talents rather than use her talents to show off the music. Anyway, I found her performances of these Ravel and Scriabin pieces a bit more to my taste. 

Ms. Lim begins the program with the little Valses nobles et sentementales by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) where she demonstrates that she is still a belter, a tad heavy-handed in the bigger moments yet able to communicate the French composer’s soft, dreamy atmosphere when necessary. Nonetheless, under Lim these semi-waltzes never fall into sentimentality but maintain a steadfast twentieth-century mood of defiance. There is much variety in Ravel's colorful, evocative tone pictures, and Ms. Lim exploits the best of it with delicacy and precision. She isn't quite as dreamy as some pianists in Ravel's music, yet she communicates a quiet grace.

Next up we find several brief piano sonatas (Nos. 4 and 5), a couple of poems (Nos. 1 and 2), and a waltz (Op. 38), all by Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915). Under Lim, No. 4 comes off with a gentle touch, No. 5 with a more fiery yet vaguely erotic tone, the poems properly contrasting, and the waltz "smooth and easy" as Scriabin himself described it. Each of them comes wrapped in Scriabin's usual Romantic mysticism, although Ms. Lim is careful to include his more fiery side as well.

The program concludes with one of Ravel's most-famous pieces on the disc, La Valse. Ravel had intended it in its orchestral form as the basis for a ballet, which the impresario Sergei Diaghilev rejected, calling it "a portrait of a ballet...a picture of a ballet," but not a ballet. In any case, audiences have loved immensely both the orchestral version of La Valse and the piano version we get here. More important to this review, Ms. Lim addresses the piece with intensity, power, and sensitivity. Ravel's ironic representation of the traditional waltz appears not lost on Lim, who well captures the work's intricacies.

Some listeners may continue to find Ms. Lim's playing a bit too analytical for them. Still, one can hardly doubt her personal commitment in these performances and the care with which handles every note and phrase.

Producer Andrew Cornall and engineer Philip Siney recorded the music for Warner Classics at The Friary, Liverpool, England in 2012. The recording does a good job capturing the sound of Ms. Lim’s Yamaha SFX 6295700 piano; I’m just not sure it’s the best-sounding piano in the world. While very clear, the Yamaha doesn’t seem to have the rich, mellifluous tones of a Steinway, instead producing what seems to me a slightly more strident sound. In any case, the sound of the recording is very clean, with excellent transparency and a quick transient response, matching the type of performances Ms. Lim provides. The Liverpool location displays a moderate miking distance and a modest degree of resonance, helping the piano to come through with excellent transparency most of the time, with only a few mild instances of cool or severe sound. The piano also appears well positioned between the speakers, never stretching the full length between them. Because the overall lucidity of the recording agrees with Ms. Lim’s reasoned approach to the scores, as I say, it’s no doubt a good fit.


To listen to brief excerpts from this album, click here:

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (CD review)

Also, Songs and Dances of Death; The Nursery. Orchestrated and conducted by Peter Breiner, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.573016.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) originally wrote Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874 as a piano suite. He called his little tone poems “sound pictures,” but they didn’t catch on too well with the public. Years afterward, several people orchestrated the suite, the most famous and most often recorded versions being the one by French composer Maurice Ravel in 1922 and to a lesser extent the one by Leopold Stokowski in 1939. From Ravel’s orchestration on, the music took off and became the basic-repertoire piece we know today. And that brings us to the current recording, a new orchestration of the work by the noted Slovak pianist, composer, and conductor Peter Breiner, which Breiner conducts with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

In a booklet note, Maestro Breiner tells us, “In this recording I was trying not to re-create Mussorgsky’s orchestral sound, but a contemporary sound instead. I wanted to achieve this without using any unusual instruments and to stay within the limits of the traditional symphony orchestra, but with a substantial expansion in woodwind and percussion as well as unusual combinations and settings.... At the end a body of 104 musicians produces quite a spectacular sound in The Great Gate of Kiev.” How well you may like this new version and how you take to Breiner’s playing of it are, of course, matters of taste. From my own perspective, I found it a bit more difficult to get over Maestro’s Breiner’s rather overly relaxed conducting than his own orchestration of the music.

For example, I can't help thinking that some listeners might be a little disappointed with the opening Promenade, which Breiner takes at an almost-funereal pace, at least compared to more-common interpretations from the likes of Reiner, Ansermet, Slatkin, Maazel, and such. Not that Breiner's approach isn't justified, however; many people enjoy taking their time wandering through art museums, studying and enjoying each picture in their own leisurely fashion. It’s just that in terms of a musical performance, it doesn't always make for the most exciting or dramatic reading.

And so it goes, with Breiner providing slower than usual tempos throughout but compensating with huge dynamic contrasts as well. The results are certainly different, making some things like The Gnome more characterful (or grotesque, depending) than usual. Moreover, The Old Castle is appropriately gloomy; the peasant oxcart is properly lumbering, even more so than is customary, its pace punctuated by loud thumps from the percussion section; The Ballet of the Chicks is sweet and dancing; the marketplace bustles with energy and activity; and the Catacombs are suitably dark and eerie.

Which brings us to the two closing items, The Hut on Fowl's Legs, the hut of Baba Yaga the witch, and then the imposing Great Gate of Kiev, both of which come off well enough in Breiner's new version and under his easygoing direction. The Hut is especially impressive with its new percussive elements, and even though The Great Gate is slower than we normally hear it, it conveys a significant power and grandeur.

As I mentioned, Breiner says he wanted to create a more contemporary sound with his new orchestration, which he probably does. With all the added woodwinds, it's a smoother, warmer, more sophisticated sound, yet it's one that can also appear leaner than we get from Ravel, despite the expanded number of players. Then, too, while Breiner was going for a more contemporary sound, the added bells and percussion tend to make the whole affair seem more reminiscent of nineteenth-century Russia than modern Russia. In any case, it's a calm, plush, well-upholstered sound that is easy on the ears, helped further by the Naxos engineers.

Coupled to the Pictures we get two lesser-known Mussorgsky works: Songs and Dances of Death and The Nursery, both made up of songs arranged for orchestra by Maestro Breiner. They fluctuate from light and lovely to heavy and grim, always a touch melancholy, and continually fascinating.

Producer Wayne Laird and engineer Paul McGlashan recorded the music for Naxos at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand in February 2012. The sonic experience they obtained is typical of Naxos: big and bold, with a wide stereo spread, a mild reverberation, and, in this case, a good depth of field. Although the midrange is a tad soft, the bass and treble sound well extended. Good, strong dynamics complement the presentation and provide for a reasonably realistic hall sound.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Classical Music News of the Week, January 26, 2014

Orion Ensemble Continues Musical Travels with “Sounds of Russia”

Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven in St. Charles (Mar. 9), Chicago (Mar. 12), and Evanston (Mar. 16).

Continuing its season of “Musical Travels,” The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, showcases “Sounds of Russia,” featuring works by Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff and welcoming three special guests. Performances include Orion’s debut at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles March 9, as well as performances at Sherwood, The Community Music School of Columbia College Chicago March 12 and the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, IL, March 16.

The program
“Sounds of Russia” includes Suite from L’Histoire du Soldat for Clarinet, Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky, considered by many to be among the most influential composers of the 20th century. The Suite is part of a larger work for improvised theatre created by Stravinsky and his author friend Ramuz in 1918. The tale is an adaptation of the Faust story, about a soldier who trades his violin for great wealth, only to realize the folly of his decision later. Stravinsky was fascinated by rhythms throughout the many stages of his long and varied compositional life. L’Histoire, full of rhythmic energy and stylistic diversity and influenced in part by American jazz, illustrates this fascination.

Rachmaninoff’s compositional approach was influenced early by Tchaikovsky, as well as Rimsky-Korsokov and other Russian composers. Pianistically he was influenced by Anton Rubenstein and favored the playing of his friend, pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The four movements of the Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos, Op. 17, which he wrote at age 28 and performed with Horowitz, are exemplary of his virtuosic writing, his rhythmic layering and flexibility, his ability to spin long musical lines while devising varied and fascinating textures and his comfort with creating musical structure and shape.

This concert program also features Beethoven’s Trio in D Major for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 9, No. 2, the second of three Beethoven String Trios Orion is performing during its 2013–14 season. By 1797, the year he wrote the String Trios, Beethoven was composing prolifically and his style was jelling—in particular, his penchant for working more at the motivic level than with bulky themes. This Trio amply demonstrates the progress Beethoven was making in both the formal and stylistic arenas.

Performance and ticket information:
The Orion Ensemble’s “Sounds of Russia” concert program takes place Sunday, March 9 at 7 p.m. at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Avenue in St. Charles; Wednesday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Sherwood, The Community Music School at Columbia College Chicago, 1312 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Vivian Fung’s Harp Concerto to be premiered by Bridget Kibbey in Alabama
Canadian-born composer Vivian Fung, whose music has made her one of today’s most sought after composers, announces her collaboration with harp marvel Bridget Kibbey for a new Harp Concerto. The adventurous Alabama Symphony Orchestra will give the world premiere in Birmingham on February 13, 2014. Kibbey will then take the piece on the road for concerts in Karlsruhe, Germany (March 30 & 31), New York City (April 6 & 7), Washington, D.C. (May 25) and San Jose, California (October 5).

Singled out as “one of today’s most eclectic composers” (NPR) and a writer of music of “dramatic urgency and depth” (The San Francisco Chronicle), recent Juno winner Vivian Fung enters the rarefied universe of harp composition with her latest concerto for Bridget Kibbey, a harp virtuoso passionate about new music who has been praised for her “blazing power and finesse” (The New York Times) and as a “beacon of comprehension" (Philadelphia Inquirer). Kibbey will perform the Harp Concerto in its February 13 world premiere with the Alabama Symphony led by intrepid conductor Justin Brown, as well as in six other concerts around the globe over the course of 2014.

The Harp Concerto was commissioned by an international consortium of ensembles led by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and including Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe in Germany, Metropolis Ensemble in NYC, the Phillips Collection in DC, and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. It is the fourth in a series of concertos—following her “Dreamscapes” Piano Concerto (2009), Violin Concerto (2010-11), and “Indigenous Rites” Saxophone Concerto (2013)—that were written as collaborations with exceptional soloists (pianist Jenny Lin, violinist Kristin Lee, and saxophonist Wallace Halladay). “Working so closely with soloists who are passionate about delving into my sound world is a very powerful experience that feeds me with inspiration,” says Fung. “Bridget has a wonderful rhythmic and virtuosic way of playing, and I really wanted to highlight that.”

Fung, who often wraps Asian styles of music such as Balinese gamelan in with her own compositional voice, found the seeds of inspiration for the first movement of the Harp Concerto in traditional music for jakhe, a crocodile-shaped zither from Thailand. The rhythmic melody in the first movement is bent and twisted over mixed meters, coaxing unexpected colors and groove from an instrument that has for too long been relegated to glissandi and arpeggios. The piece, consisting of an introduction and three continuous movements and scored for harp, strings, and percussion, goes on to upend other preconceived notions of the harp with a dizzying, unpredictable cadenza that showcases Kibbey’s technique; macabre and disjointed dances; and a preparation of the instrument using card stock that underscores its bass register.

The Alabama world premiere will be part of a program curated by Fung that highlights her varied inspirations for the concerto, including Charles Ives’ Ragtime Dances Nos. 1 and 4; Fung’s Aqua, an architecturally inspired orchestral fantasia commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Sinfonietta in 2013; Georg Friedrich Haas’ “in finici gia…,” (US premiere); and Claude Debussy’s Sacred and Profane Dances.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Music Institute of Chicago Presents Mark George, Axiom Brass, Quintet Attacca for March 1 Concert
The Music Institute of Chicago presents three of its own in concert: President and CEO Mark George on piano with Ensembles in Residence Axiom Brass and Quintet Attacca for a concert program Saturday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinios.

The program includes Beethoven’s Quintet in E Flat, Op. 16 and jazz composer/musician Billy Childs’ Two Elements for Brass Quintet and Piano.

Mark George
Dr. Mark George joined the Music Institute of Chicago in January 2010 as President and CEO. He is the immediate past board chair of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune named him Chicagoan of the Year in classical music. An accomplished pianist, he has performed and recorded extensively throughout the United States. His chamber ensemble North Coast Trio was the grand prize winner at the 1992 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and first prize co-winner of the 1993 Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition. He has appeared frequently as a recitalist and soloist with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Trinity Chamber Orchestra, Epicycle: An Ensemble for New Music, the University Circle Wind Ensemble, and many others. He served as director of the Hartt School Community Division and as manager of community music education, and subsequently director of distance learning, for the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has held faculty positions at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Case Western Reserve University, Mount Union College, and the Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music.

Axiom Brass
Praised for its “high level of musicality and technical ability” and “clean, clear and precise sound,” the award-winning Axiom Brass Quintet has quickly established itself as “one of the major art music groups in brass chamber music.” As the only brass quintet in 27 years to win the prestigious Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition (2012), and the only American ensemble to win the Preis der Europa-Stadt Passau in Germany (2012), Axiom was also named winner of the 2008 International Chamber Brass Competition and prize winner of the 2010 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and the Jeju City International Brass Quintet Competition in South Korea. Axiom Brass is dedicated to enhancing the musical life of communities across the globe and educating the next generation of musicians.

Quintet Attacca
Founded in 1999, Quintet Attacca is one of Chicago's most dynamic chamber music ensembles, dedicated to bringing the unique sound of the wind quintet to all types of audiences. As Grand Prize Winner and Wind Division Gold Medal Winner of the 2002 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Quintet Attacca is one of only two wind quintets in the 40-year history of the Fischoff to win the Grand Prize. In addition to being in residence at the Music Institute of Chicago, offering performances, family programming, chamber music coaching, and individual lessons, the quintet spent 2006–09 as the Chicago Chamber Musicians' Professional Development Program Ensemble and continues as CCM’s Outreach and Education Ensemble.

Mark George, Axiom Brass and Quintet Attacca perform Saturday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Il. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students and available at or by calling 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

The American Classical Orchestra Celebrates Handelfest, March 1–19
For its first-ever festival event, the American Classical Orchestra collaborates with some of the world’s leading artists and experts for an exceptional month of music celebrating George Frederic Handel. ACO Music Director Thomas Crawford is joined by conductor Nicholas McGegan, musicologist Neal Zaslaw, stage director Cynthia Edwards, choreographer John Heginbotham and tenor Thomas Cooley for premiere productions of both Handel classics and rarities.

New York-based period-instrument ensemble, the American Classical Orchestra and its chorus, under the direction of maestro Thomas Crawford, revel in the joyous strains of Handel at a family concert (3/1/14), an historically informed performance of Samson (3/4/14) and a rare staging of his late-period masterpiece, Alceste (3/19/14).

Family Concert – March 1, 2014 at 1:30pm Megan Chartrand & John Taylor Ward
Saturday, March 1, 2014, 1:30pm
Church of the Blessed Sacrament (152 West 71ST St., New York City)
Tickets: $10

The festivities get under way with a family-friendly concert at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament featuring some of Handel’s most uplifting works.

A full 35-piece period orchestra opens the festival with a performance of the grandiose Music for Royal Fireworks. Soloists from Samson (Megan Chartrand and John Taylor Ward) perform some of Handel’s most famous arias and the 70-member New York Children’s Chorus joins for excerpts from Messiah (including a participatory “Hallelujah!” chorus). Handel himself is slated for a guest appearance as well. The public concert is part of the ACO’s Classical Music for Kids outreach program in which ACO members perform for nearly 5,000 students at 20 New York City public schools.

Samson – March 4, 2014 at 8pm
Thomas Cooley, Virginia Warnken, & Andrew Padgett
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 8pm
Pre-concert lecture at 7pm by Neal Zaslaw
Alice Tully Hall (at Lincoln Center, NYC)
Tickets: $35–$90, students $15

The celebrated Handelian Nicholas McGegan makes his first appearance with the ACO, conducting what is widely considered one of the crowning achievements of Handel’s oeuvre, Samson.

McGegan leads the ACO, its outstanding chorus and a line-up of soloists that include the lyric tenor Thomas Cooley in the title role as well as soprano Megan Chartrand as Dalila, mezzo Virgina Warnken as Micah, bass-baritone John Taylor Ward as Manoa, and Andrew Padgett as Harapha.

Alceste, Concerti a due cori, and Utrecht Jubilate – March 19 at 8pm
Wednesday, March 19, 8pm
Pre-concert lecture by Thomas Crawford and Neal Zaslaw at 7pm
Tickets: $35–$90, students $15 Alice Tully Hall (at Lincoln Center)

Never performed during Handel’s lifetime, the composer’s late-period masterpiece Alceste is rarely heard in its entirety today. As the culminating event of Handelfest, the ACO has enlisted the talents of choreographer John Heginbotham, a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group for 15 years and founder of Dance Heginbotham, and veteran stage director Cynthia Edwards to bring the masque to life with a semi-staged production that blends historically-informed musical performance with modern dance.

ACO Music Director Thomas Crawford leads the orchestra and chorus, with soloists Marguerite Krull (soprano), Randall Bills (tenor), and Robert Balonek (baritone). The program also features Handel’s double wind band work Concerti a due cori and the choral showcase Utrecht Jubilate. Be sure to arrive early for a pre-concert lecture by one of the world’s most venerated musicologists, Neal Zaslaw.

The American Classical Orchestra celebrates classical music performance on authentic instruments, specializing in repertoire from the 17th to 19th centuries. Founded by music director Thomas Crawford in 1985 as the Orchestra of the Old Fairfield Academy, the Orchestra works to render more faithfully music of the Baroque, Classical, and early Romantic eras.

For more information, click

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony Present a World Premiere by Andreia Pinto-Correia with Lynn Harrell Featured Soloist in the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto, February 7 at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA
Music Director Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony continue their 2012-2013 Season on Thursday, February 7 at 8 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall with the world premiere of Alfama by Portuguese composer Andreia Pinto-Correia. Internationally renowned cellist Lynn Harrell joins the orchestra as soloist for the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto. Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 completes the program.

Alfama was co-commisioned by Berkeley Symphony and the Gulbenkian Foundation and will receive its European Premiere later this year led by Maestra Carneiro at the Gulbenkian Foundation Grande Auditório in Portugal. Distinguished by influences of Iberian folk and literary traditions, Ms. Pinto-Correia’s music has been described by The New York Times as an “aural fabric” and by New Music Box as “mysterious, elegant, magical.” She has received numerous prestigious commissions from such notable institutions as the European Union Presidency, Tanglewood Music Center, Boston Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet, American Composers Orchestra and the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra. She is also the recipient of multiple awards and honors including the Toru Takemitsu Award by the Japan Society; fellowships from the Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center and Gulbenkian Foundation; and residencies with the MacDowell Colony, OrchestrUtopica (Portugal) and Valparaiso Foundation, (Spain).

Lynn Harrell is known throughout the world as a soloist, chamber musician, recitalist, conductor and teacher. Labeled by The Boston Globe as “the dean of American cellists” and praised for his “sensitive musical imagination and commanding technique,” Mr. Harrell is a champion of the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto. This work was commissioned in 1970 for Mstislav Rostropovich, the force behind many significant 20th Century concertos for the instrument. Rostropovich inspired Lutoslawski to adopt the old-fashioned, “anti-modernist” format of the concerto in a way that gave the composer’s imagination complete free reign. John Cage-inspired passages include chance methods to be played in an improvisational, ad lib fashion, though within a specified time frame. In addition to the Western avant-garde style, Lutoslawski’s music incorporates aspects of folk music as well as unique orchestral color and sonic texture.

--Karen Ames Communications

18th-Century Operatic Rivalry Explored as Venice Baroque Orchestra and Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky Perform Works of Porpora and Handel, Februray 7 at First Congressional Church, Berkeley, CA
Works for castrati take the spotlight when Venice Baroque Orchestra and French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky stage “A Legendary Battle: Farinelli & Porpora vs. Carestini & Handel” at Cal Performances on Friday, February 7, at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA. The concert will explore the period from 1733 to 1736, when Porpora and Handel each led opera companies in London and created new works featuring the castrato voice. Porpora composed works for his student Farinelli, while Handel wrote for Giovanni Carestini. The Venice Baroque Orchestra is acclaimed for its “percolating energy and lithe, silvery tone” (The Washington Post) and Jaroussky is admired for his “pure, boyishly radiant voice and admirable coloratura technique” (The New York Times). This is the orchestra’s first appearance at Cal Performances, and Jaroussky’s first appearance since his 2011 Berkeley debut. Many of the works on this concert appear on “Jaroussky/Farinelli: Porpora Arias,” Jaroussky’s new album featuring the Venice Baroque Orchestra and famed mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, to be released in the United States on January 28, 2014.

In a related Education & Community Event, professors James Davies and Mary Ann Smart of the UC Berkeley Department of Music will lead a discussion about countertenor repertoire, castrati and travesti roles, and the high male voice in pop music today. The discussion will be held on Friday, December 7 at 4:30 p.m. in Room 125 of Morrison Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

The Berkeley program performed by Venice Baroque Orchestra and Philippe Jaroussky will mix purely instrumental works by Porpora and Handel with arias written for castrati from several of the composers’ operas. The concert opens with the overture from Porpora’s 1732 opera Il Germanico, followed by Porpora arias from Arianna e Teseo (1727) and Semiramide riconosciuta (1739). A Handel Concerto Grosso will be followed by two arias from the composer’s 1735 opera Alcina. After an intermission, two Handel arias—from Oreste (1734) and Ariodante (1735)—will be followed by a different Handel Concerto Grosso. The concert will conclude with two arias from Porpora’s 1735 opera Polifemo.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra, founded in 1997 by scholar and harpsichordist Andrea Marcon, is widely praised as one of the world’s top period instrument ensembles. The orchestra has presented modern-day premieres of rediscovered works by Cavalli, Vivaldi, Marcello, and Boccherini, made several award-winning recordings, and appeared in concert halls, on radio and television broadcasts, and in films worldwide.

Philippe Jaroussky began his musical training as a violinist and holds a diploma in violin performance from the Paris Conservatory. He began vocal studies in 1996 and was soon one of the most prominent countertenors on the world stage. In addition to singing with orchestras, ensembles, and opera companies worldwide, Jaroussky has made several award-winning recordings and founded L’ensemble Artaserse, a small period-instrument group that plays and has recorded widely.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Venice Baroque Orchestra and Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor on Friday, February 7 at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church are $68.00 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, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

Young People’s Chorus of New York City to Premiere Two Original Jazz Works February 8
On Saturday, February 8, as part of the American Museum of Natural History's annual Black History Month celebrations, the Young People's Chorus of New York City and world famous NEA Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalis and his sextet will premiere two new jazz works and three special choral settings of three other jazz works by Mr. Marsalis at 4 p.m. in the museum's LeFrak Theater.  This concert is just one part of an afternoon of activities from 12 noon to 5 p.m. at the museum entitled "Give Your Voice:  Honor Black History," honoring the bountiful legacy of black history.

This is YPC's first collaboration with Mr. Marsalis, and these are Mr. Marsalis's very first compositions for a youth chorus.  At a recent rehearsal with the jazz master, Mr. Núñez said, "For YPC, this is such an incredible opportunity to hone our jazz skills under such a giant as Delfeayo Marsalis.  The choristers were excited to vocally replicate the sounds of a jazz band and quickly master the intricate rhythms and accents so unique to jazz music."

The two original works are Dream On Robben and Melting PotDream On Robben was composed a week after the passing of Nelson Mandela, which, Mr. Marsalis says, musically "captures the soul and passion of Africa and Mr. Mandela from a Western perspective."  For Melting Pot, "America sweet land of liberty, of thee we sing," YPC and the Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet will be joined by special guest Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of the multi-platinum hip-hop group Run-DMC in the very special call-and-response rap work including audience participation.

The other pieces on the program are special arrangements for chorus of Welcome, a tribute to Motherland Africa; East to West, which depicts the travel many settlers made from Africa to America and across the country; and Sun Come Sunday, the story of the creation of the world, as inspired by Native American poetry and imagery.

According to Mr. Marsalis, "The journey to America for all of us began many years ago. The musical journey that I share with YPC and Francisco Núñez began a short while ago, but has covered great distances, much like our ancestors."

Tickets to the "Give Your Voice:  Honor Black History" activities are free with admission to the museum and to all AMNH members.  Please enter the museum at 77th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West.

--Angela Duryea, Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot Announce 2014-2015 Seaston
Music Director Ludovic Morlot today announced a vibrant and prestigious 2014–2015 Seattle Symphony season. Continuing and extending his previous seasons’ themes of eclectic and diverse repertoire, accessibility and exploration, interactions with contemporary culture, and creative innovation, the 2014–2015 season also brings the most important list of guest artists that Seattle has seen in many years.

“I’m thrilled that next season will be my fourth with this wonderful orchestra,” Morlot said. “We have planned a musical and emotional journey through an incredibly exciting repertoire, and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences. So many of the works on our season have great meaning and explore feelings and ideas that we can all relate to, from the romantic love in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette to Charles Ives’ search for the meaning of life in his Fourth Symphony. I’m also very happy to introduce our new Principal Guest Conductor, Thomas Dausgaard, next season. He will lead our Sibelius Festival, which features all seven of the composer’s symphonies. It will be a season to remember!”

Seattle Symphony Executive Director Simon Woods added, “We pride ourselves on presenting seasons that are the equal of any orchestra in America — and this one is no exception. Our hallmark is to create seasons that run as deep as Sibelius, as broad as Nirvana, as uplifting as Mahler, as inviting as Untuxed, as edgy as the as-yet-untitled series, and as fun as John Williams. We’re about programming for the deep connections that great music can make with audiences — and about celebrating the inspiration of true artistry on the stage of one of the world’s finest concert halls.” 

A hallmark of the 2014–2015 season is the Sibelius Festival in March, led by Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard. The Sibelius Festival commemorates the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth includes the complete cycle of all seven Sibelius symphonies, and encompasses programs on the Masterworks, Symphony Untuxed and Chamber series, as well as a stand-alone Beyond the Score® performance. The Seattle Symphony has formed a partnership with Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum, with additional festival activities to be announced at a later date.

In 2014–2015 the Symphony will present several non-subscription Special Performances. The fourth annual Sonic Evolution concert led by Ludovic Morlot fuses three newly commissioned works with Seattle’s past and present music scene. In 2015 Sonic Evolution includes world premieres inspired by Pearl Jam and Nirvana performed by the Orchestra with a yet-to-be-revealed band from Seattle’s hip music scene.

Special Performances next season will also include a performance with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma; two performances with violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman; the Seattle Symphony signature event Celebrate Asia, led by former Associate Conductor Carolyn Kuan; and two visiting orchestras: the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient Michael Tilson Thomas and featuring talented young pianist Yuja Wang, and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Myung-Whun Chung and featuring pianist Sunwook Kim. The Opening Night Concert & Gala, conducted by Ludovic Morlot, is planned for Saturday, September 13, and will feature a Paris-inspired program and celebrated guest violinist Gil Shaham.

The Seattle Symphony has co-commissioned six new works for the 2014–2015 season. Two commissions by American composers, including a new Cello Concerto from Mason Bates written for former Seattle Symphony Principal Cello Joshua Roman, and a new work by Sebastian Currier receive their world premieres in Seattle. A Violin Concerto by Julian Anderson, performed by guest violinist Carolin Widmann, and an all-new, large-scale children’s work by Colin Matthews, The Pied Piper, receive their U.S. premieres in Seattle.

A special focus for the 2014–2015 season is a project involving local “sound-sculptor” Trimpin, who is internationally known for his work in creating inventive musical sculptures. Trimpin will create a site-specific sound installation in Benaroya Hall’s Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby. He has been commissioned by the Seattle Symphony to compose a new work to be premiered by the orchestra and audience during the Symphony’s late-night contemporary music series. In addition, Trimpin will be involved in mentoring pre-college-age composers in the Seattle Symphony’s annual Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop and a number of other activities for the community.

For more information, click here:

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Sharon Kam: Opera! (CD review)

Sharon Kam, clarinet; Ruben Gazarian, Wurttembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn. Berlin Classics 0300547BC.

The last time I reviewed a recording from clarinetist Sharon Kam, it was of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto on Berlin Classics, and I loved every minute of it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I listed it among my favorite albums of 2011. This time she is working with the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn under conductor Ruben Gazarian, and the subject matter is quite different--opera transcriptions for clarinet and orchestra. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it almost as much as the Mozart, and the Berlin Classics sound is as good as ever. It is an engaging disc all the way around.

Ms. Kam’s idea for the program was with the help of arranger Andreas N. Tarkmann to “trawl the rich stocks of Italian vocal music for suitable works and compile them into an interesting, diversified programme and then to write arrangements for clarinet and orchestra.” Ms. Kam explains to us that her husband is an opera conductor who one day told her, “If you love opera so much, why not go operatic yourself!” Which is what she has done on this album of music by Verdi, Puccini, Ponchielli, Wolf-Ferrari, and a strong helping of Rossini.

First up is a good example of the rest of the program, Rossini's "Del periglio al fero aspetto" from Maometti II, in which Ms. Kam's clarinet sings as sweetly as any vocalist could. The interesting thing throughout the album is that Ms. Kam never tries merely to offer up a collection of greatest hits. Indeed, unless you are a devoted opera fan, you may not recognize a lot of these tunes. Instead, Ms. Kam has found operatic music that particularly complements the soaring lyricism of her instrument. The combination is felicitous, to say the least.

Next, we find a collection of things from Giuseppe Verdi, normally piano-accompanied vocals that work exceptionally well for clarinet and orchestra. Incidentally, I should add that the chamber orchestra accompanying Ms. Kam plays smoothly and sympathetically under the sensitive direction of Maestro Gazarian. Anyway, these Verdi pieces are lush and lovely, and, in the case of the last item, bouncy, the playing from everyone, especially Ms. Kam, exquisite.

Following the Verdi is Rossini's little “Bolero,” a song he composed for fortepiano and voice. It is filled with charming melodies, which Ms. Kam exploits nicely, her clarinet floating gently in and out harmoniously in folklike sequences of romance and sentiment.

After that we get three tunes by Giacomo Puccini, operatic-influenced songs he wrote for piano accompaniment. Ms. Kam well captures the flavor of their bel canto nature. Then it's on to Amilcare Ponchielli and the chamber piece Paolo e Virginia, the only work on the program originally written with a clarinet in mind. Andreas N. Tarkmann says in a booklet note it's like “a little instrumental opera scene,” quite dramatic in its robust phrasing.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari gets a series of four tracks next, each of them originally intended as purely instrumental music--intermezzos and ballet interludes. This suite comes off as a kind of clarinet concerto, filled with happy, energetic, enthusiastic playing throughout. 

The disc ends with Rossini's "Nacqui all'affano" from La Cenerentola. It's typical Rossini and probably the song on the program most familiar to listeners, music overflowing with good cheer and performed in virtuosic style.

I don't usually like albums that contain bits and pieces of things, but with Ms. Kam's offering I have to make an exception. Her playing is so uniquely affecting and the arrangements so refreshing, the disc may go down as an early favorite of the year.

Producer, engineer, and editor Eberhard Hinz recorded the music for Berlin Classics at Harmonie/Theodor-Heuss-Saal, Heilbronn in 2013. Although the supporting ensemble and the venue are different from Ms. Kam’s previous album, the sound engineer remains the same, so it’s no wonder we get a similarly good recording. The clarinet sounds beautifully integrated into the acoustic field, just ahead of the orchestra but not so close as be unnatural. The midrange appears as clear and lifelike as you could ask for, and the frequency extremes, which are hardly a concern in any case, are more than adequate. There is also a warm, ambient glow to the music that is most attractive, the clarinet offering up fresh, pure, mellifluous tones.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Rameau: Dardanus, orchestral suite (CD review)

Also, Le Temple de la Glorire, instrumental music. Jeanne Lamon, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Tafelmusik Media TMK1012CD.

Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) is the eighteenth-century French composer and musical theorist who took up music late in life and turned the operatic world upside down with his then-revolutionary ideas. Some critics greeted his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, with scepticism, but they came eventually to accept it. By the time the two operas represented on this disc--Dardanus and Le Temple de la Glorire--rolled around, the composer had well established his reputation.

What we have on the present album are not the complete operas, of course, but a selection of instrumental music from the operas, suites if you will, compiled by conductor Jeanne Lamon for her Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. It represented the first time Ms. Lamon and Tafelmusik had recorded music of the French baroque period.

The individual pieces on the program comprise overtures, airs, minuets, gigues, gavottes, and the like, and they represent a fair sampling of Rameau’s many varied moods and styles. Needless to say, Tafelmusik, playing on period instruments and in historical style, perform them with the ensemble’s usual efficiency, refinement, and precision. More important, Tafelmusik play with verve; that is, their enthusiasm always shows, making these works more than a collection of museum pieces but brilliant, vibrant music that comes alive for the listener.

I have no idea if Ms. Lamon’s switch some years ago from Sony Classical to CBC Records (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and then more recently to their own label benefited Tafelmusik in terms of distribution and monetary reward; I know the big record labels had to drop a lot of their artists for financial reasons. I also know the switch benefitted the listener because Ms. Lamon and Tafelmusik’s recordings for CBC and now Tafelmusik Media have been consistently good.

The music, originally recorded by CBC in 2001 and re-released here on Tafelmusik Media, sounds as good as ever. The sonics remain crisp, open, clean, and entirely natural, set against the backdrop of an entirely lifelike acoustic. Indeed, the quality of the recording rivals my longtime favorite Rameau recording, Hippolyte et Aricie with La Petite Bande on EMI Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.  It’s that good.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Schumann: Carnival (CD review)

Also, Faschingsschwank aus Wein. Susan Merdinger, piano. Sheridan Music Studio 8-84501-93323-0.

What is a Steinway Artist? As the folks at Steinway put it, “Without them, a Steinway piano is silent. But together, the artist and piano create music--such beautiful music that most professional pianists choose to perform only on Steinway pianos. For decades Steinway & Sons has cultivated special relationships with pianists from every genre. From classical pianists like Lang Lang, to jazz stars like Diana Krall, to pop icons like Billy Joel, to ‘immortals’ like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Arthur Rubinstein--more than 1,600 artists make the Steinway their own.” Pianist Susan Merdinger is a Steinway Artist.

Ms. Merdinger received her formal education at Yale University, the Yale School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Westchester Conservatory of Music, and the Ecole Normale de Musique, Fontainebleau, France, and is a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards. Among other things, Ms. Merdinger has won the 1986 Artists International Young Musicians Competition, the 1990 Artists International Alumni Winners Prize, the 1990 Dewar’s Young Artists Award in Music, the 2011 IBLA Grand Prize Competition “Special Liszt Award,” the 2009 Masterplayers International Music Competition, the 2012 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, and the 2013 International Music Competition of France.

What’s more, she is a laureate of the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition, Montreal International Concours de Musique, and William Kappell International Piano Competition. Additionally, as one part of the Merdinger-Greene Duo Piano Team with her husband Steven Greene, she won First Prize in the 2013 International Music Competition of France and First Prize in the Westchester Conservatory Chamber Music Competition and was a Semi-Finalist in the Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition.

Although Ms. Merdinger’s name may not be as familiar to most listeners as some other concert pianists in the field, she has been performing internationally to great acclaim for several decades. On the present album she tackles Robert Schumann’s Carnival and does so with the expected ease of a Steinway Artist, as a thorough and gifted professional.

In Carnaval (“Carnival”), subtitled Little Scenes on Four Notes, Op. 9 (1834-35) German composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) wrote a series of brief piano pieces portraying various revelers at a masked ball during Carnaval, a festival held immediately before Lent in largely Catholic countries. In these short musical tone poems the composer represented himself, his friends, and his associates, as well as a few offhand characters from Italian comedy. A returning theme unites the twenty-one piano pieces, which contain, according to Schumann, coded puzzles of four notes each. He further suggested that "deciphering my masked ball will be a real game for you."

We’ll let the puzzles be and concentrate on the music, which Ms. Merdinger plays with consummate skill, despite the great technical difficulty in performing it. (In Schumann’s own day, few pianists attempted the piece, and Chopin, who took a dim view of Schumann’s work in general, apparently didn’t even consider it music.) Anyway, I would now have to count Ms. Merdinger’s account of Carnaval among the outstanding recordings of the score, recordings that include in my experience those of Alicia De Larrocha, Cecile Licad, Mitsuko Uchida, Nelson Freire, Claudio Arrau, and a few others I’ve probably forgot. Unlike some of these pianists, though, what characterizes Ms. Merdinger’s interpretations is her razor-sharp delineations of each piece. Yes, of course, she is sweet and mellifluous and flowing and vibrant and all the rest when necessary, and, no, she’s not quite as patrician as Arrau or as penetrating as De Larrocha, yet she is able to depict each of the people in Schumann’s collection with a clarity and precision that is almost surgical. Not that she is distant or overly analytical, however; her readings are warm and colorful, drawing fully on Schumann’s imaginative writing.

Ms. Merdinger's playing is from the outset radiant, energetic, and aesthetically poised. When she needs to apply bravura showmanship, she's ready; when she needs a delicate touch, she's there; when she needs charisma or charm or poignancy, she's on top of the game. These portrayals of Schumann's characters and events sound beautiful, precise, and exciting. The big moments come through with enthusiasm and the soft moments are heartfelt. I loved every minute of her presentation.

Accompanying Carnaval is Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wein ("Carnival Scenes from Vienna"), Op. 26 (1839), subtitled Phantasiebilder ("Fantasy Images"). Like its more-popular sibling, it, too, paints a series of pianistic images, although fewer of them. As in Carnaval, Ms. Merdinger delivers them in a concise, creative, expressive, utterly pleasing manner.

Engineer Mary Mazurek and editor Mark Travis recorded Carnival in 2011 at WFMT Studio, Chicago, Illinois and Faschingsschwank aus Wien in 2012 at Nicholas Hall, Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, Illinois. The piano sound in both works is dynamic and fairly close, with excellent body, clarity, and definition, perhaps a tad softer in the Music Institute location. There is enough natural resonance in each room to provide a realistic presence yet not so much as to veil detail. It's among the more-appealing piano sounds I've heard; very lifelike.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


The Spirit of Turtle (SACD/Blu-ray review)

A Collection of the Most Innovative High-End Audio Recordings by Northstar Recording. Various artists. Turtle Records TRSA75538.

It’s a standard Redbook CD. It’s an SACD. It’s a Blu-ray disc. It’s FLAC file in PCM surround and stereo. It’s in two-channel stereo. It’s in 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s in 2.0-channel LPCM. Yes, it’s an audiophile release. Or, more precisely, it’s a two-disc box set from Northstar Recording Services and Turtle Records, a sampler of some of their best work, jazz and classical, from over a dozen of their previously released albums.

As the folks at Northstar explain it, “This High Definition Surround Recording was produced, engineered and edited by Bert van der Wolf of Northstar Recording Services, using the ‘High quality Musical Surround Mastering’ principle. The basis of this recording principle is a realistic and holographic 3 dimensional representation of the musical instruments, voices and recording venue.” You’ll find the music in multiple formats, including regular two-channel stereo playable on any CD player; two-channel and 5.1 SACD playable on a Super Audio Compact Disc player; and LPCM stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio multichannel from a Blu-ray player. There’s a little something here for everyone, but even though I have a Blu-ray player in my home-theater room, I listened mainly in two-channel SACD in my living system (going to the 5.1 DTS-HD MA format later for comparison purposes).

The idea behind these recordings is to capture, as the company says, “only the music.” Turtle Records, dCS, Northstar Recordings Services, and Kompas CD Multimedia have been doing this sort of thing for years, and the current discs include material from two decades of recording, all of them remastered and updated for a variety of today’s audio formats. I won’t try to cover everything, but I will mention a few of the tracks that stand out.

First up is what producer and engineer Bert van der Wolf says is the very first Turtle Records production, "Teardrops for Jimmy" with Tony Overwater and Maarten Ornstein. The pair play soft, quiet jazz, very pleasant, and the sound is most lifelike in its clarity and definition, yet warm and natural, too.

Next, we hear the Marc van Roon Trio doing "Noodling Effect," three guys just noodling around, improvising, on their instruments: piano, percussion, and bass. The music didn't particularly interest me, but the dimensionality of the sound is impressive, the clearly perceived distances between each player and their location within the recording environment.

The third selection is with a big ensemble, the Netherlands Philharmonic under Mario Venzago playing an excerpt from Gershwin's An American in Paris. The performance provides vigor and excitement, while the sound is remarkably transparent for a big group of players, the clarity and dynamics making one wish we had the whole thing to hear. Which, I suppose, is the point of any sampler--to persuade the listener to buy the complete album from which the music comes.

And so it goes, each track a delight to the ears. Among the things I liked best I would include Michael Gees improvising on a piano piece by Erik Satie; lovely and beautifully recorded. Then there's the opening movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony exhibiting enormous impact, probably as much power as I've ever heard in a recording of this work. Christoph Pregardien singing Schumann's "Mein Wagen rollet langsam" sounds sweet and nuanced, both artistically and sonically. I also couldn't help liking the concluding track, "Mars," performed by Dean Peer and Ty Burhoe; it's audiophile the whole way with its precisely defined percussion, quick transient response, and wide-ranging dynamics. All of it fun stuff.

Two concerns, though: First, Turtle Records have packaged the two discs in a 5” x 10” longbox, as pictured above, rather than in a regular double jewel case. The two discs fasten to the top of an inside cardboard platform, and a twelve-page booklet stretches the length of the box. When I used to review movies, some of the studios would send out special box sets, too, and the problem was that I never knew where to put them. The longbox doesn’t fit on an ordinary record shelf, so you can’t really put it in among your other discs. You have to find a special place for the box or maybe keep it in a closet. Of course, you could always jerry-rig a jewel case or Blu-ray case for the two discs, but that doesn’t solve the issue of the booklet notes being the length of the original box. I dunno. Maybe you like special gift boxes and stack them in a corner or proudly display them somewhere. I dunno. A minor concern. Second, Turtle Records have priced the set rather high. For some people, maybe not a minor concern.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Classical Music News of the Week, January 19, 2014

92Y February Concerts

Olga Kern in Recital: “Masters of the Keyboard”
Saturday, February 1, 8:00 PM
92Y- Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC

Olga Kern, the striking young Russian Gold Medal winner of the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition – whose performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 made her the first woman to achieve this distinction in over thirty years – returns to 92nd Street Y in her only New York engagement of the season.

Rachmaninoff: Selections from Preludes, Op. 32
Alkan: Selections from Twelve Études in the Major Keys, Op. 35
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Tickets $25 (age 35 & under), $35, $52, $57
Artist Website: Olga Kern

Brentano String Quartet and Soprano Christine Brandes
Saturday, February 8, 8:00 PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC

Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim and in 2012 provided the key music for the film A Late Quartet, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken. This season, the ensemble presents a three-concert series at 92Y, pairing works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn with New York quintet premieres by Eric Moe, Vijay Iyer and Felipe Lara. The ensemble opens its series on February 8 with soprano Christine Brandes’s 92Y debut and the New York premiere of Eric Moe’s Of Color Braided All Desire. Noted for her radiant, crystalline voice and superb musicianship, Brandes brings her committed artistry to repertoire ranging from the 17th century to newly composed works. She enjoys an active career in North America and abroad, performing at many of the world’s most distinguished festivals and concert series in programs spanning recitals, chamber music, oratorio and opera.

Haydn: Arianna a Naxos (“Teseo mio ben”), Cantata for Soprano
Moe: Of Color Braided All Desire for Soprano and String Quartet (New York premiere)
Mendelssohn: String Quartet in D major, Op. 44, No. 1

Tickets $25 (age 35 & under), $35, $52, $62
Artist Website: Brentano String Quartet, Christine Brandes

Jenny Lin, Piano
Tuesday, February 25, 7:30 PM
SubCulture - 45 Bleecker Street (downstairs), NYC

Acclaimed by The New York Times for her "remarkable technical command" and "gift for melodic flow", pianist Jenny Lin is admired for her adventurous programming and charismatic stage presence. Her ability to combine classical and contemporary literature has brought her to the attention of international critics and audiences. Ms. Lin’s extensive discography includes more than 20 critically acclaimed recordings on Hänssler Classic, Steinway & Sons, eOne Records, BIS Records, and Sunrise Records with a new CD of piano solo works by Stravinsky scheduled for release. She has performed with the American Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, La Orquesta Sinfónica de Gijón in Spain; SWR Rundfunkorchester in Germany; Orchestra Sinfonica Nationale della RAI in Italy, and National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan. Her 92Y recital at SubCulture features music from her recent disc, Get Happy, on the Steinway & Sons Label.

Bach/Busoni: Chaconne in D minor, BWV 1004
Liszt: Rigoletto: Paraphrase de concert (after Verdi)
Kreisler/Rachmaninoff: Liebesleid
Stravinsky/Agosti: L’Oiseau de feu
Rodgers/Previn: “Blue Moon”
Rodgers/Hough: “Hello, Young Lovers,” “My Favorite Things”
Loewe/Mazew: Eliza in Ascot
Gershwin/Wild: “Embraceable You,” “I Got Rhythm”
Berlin/Hyman: “Blue Skies”
Arlen/Prutsman: “Get Happy”

Tickets $30, $35
Artist Website: Jenny Lin

Tickets are available at or 212-415-5500.

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony Present a World-Premiere Violin Concerto by Samuel Carl Adams, Featuring Anthony Marwood as Soloist, February 6
Music Director Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony continue their 2013-2014 season on Thursday, February 6 at 8 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, California with a world premiere Violin Concerto by Berkeley-native Samuel Carl Adams. British violinist Anthony Marwood, described by BBC Music Magazine as a “consummate artist…blessed with boundless energy, intellectual curiosity and creative wizadry,” performs as soloist for this work. The program also features Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite for strings and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor, op. 56, also known as the Scottish.

Praised as “wondrously alluring” by Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Berkeley-native Samuel Carl Adams has received numerous prestigious commissions including Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony and Emanuel Ax. A composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, Adams draws from his knowledge and experiences in a variety of fields such as noise, electronic music, jazz and field recording. His acclaimed orchestral work Drift and Providence, co-commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony, was premiered in April 2012 by the New World Symphony and given its Bay Area premiere by the San Francisco Symphony in September 2012, both under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas. Adams has served as composer in residence at the Spoleto Festival USA, where his String Quartet in Five Movements was premiered by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and will participate as guest composer with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America in the summer of 2014 as part of its coast-to-coast national tour. Samuel Carl Adams, son of composer John Adams, is a graduate of Berkeley’s Crowden School.

Known for his formidable technique and exceptional artistry, Anthony Marwood is a frequent collaborator with contemporary composers, having performed a number of violin concertos that were written expressly for him. In September 2005, he premiered Thomas Ades’ Violin Concerto as part of the Berlin Festspiele wth the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with a subsequent recording of the work released on the EMI label in 2010. Marwood leads a versatile career as a soloist, recording artist and director, performing with such orchestras as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin in the Field, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Les Violins du Roy. He has also served as artistic director of the Irish Chamber Orchestra and has directed projects at the Australian National Academy of Music for the past four years.

Single tickets for the concert are $15-$74. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (510) 841-2800 x1 or visit

--Brenden Guy and Karen Ames, Karen Ames Communications

Legendary Violinist Itzhak Perlman Hosts a Unique Retreat for Musicians & Music Lovers
Dreamcatcher Events presents an exceptional opportunity to connect with one of the greatest artists and musical ambassadors of our time. For four incredible days this August, legendary violin master, conductor, and teacher Itzhak Perlman will welcome fans, classical music lovers, and musicians of all levels for a unique immersive retreat in Saratoga Springs, New York. “Bows & Batons: 4 Days of Music and Music Appreciation with Itzhak Perlman & Friends” is an exceptional opportunity to share great music and conversation with Mr. Perlman, along with his wife Toby Perlman and Merry Peckham of the Perlman Music Program, and some of the program’s gifted alumni.

Bows & Batons is presented by Dreamcatcher Events, the leading independent producer of musical and other event-related immersive retreats for adults. Dreamcatcher retreats provide intimate, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for fans to spend several days with a legendary artist. Bows & Batons takes place from August 18-22, 2014 at the beautiful Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The retreat will offer a series of exclusive concerts, discussions, conversations, and workshops led by Mr. Perlman and Perlman Music Program instructors and musicians. Highlights include a series of Informances — performances featuring classical masterpieces along with commentary from the performers, in an informal concert setting — and the exclusive chance to attend Mr. Perlman’s rehearsal at Saratoga Performing Arts Center with the Philadelphia Orchestra on August 20th, as well as the performance that evening.

The reigning virtuoso of the violin, Itzhak Perlman enjoys superstar status rarely afforded a classical musician. Having performed with every major orchestra and at venerable concert halls around the globe, Itzhak Perlman is beloved for his charm and humanity as well as for his talent, along with the irrepressible joy of music-making he communicates to audiences and individuals throughout the world.

“This will be the first time I have done an event of this kind,” says Mr. Perlman, “and I am very much looking forward to it. I hope to share with the participants a little bit of an inner knowledge of what goes into my violin playing, conducting, and concerts — a glimpse into a ‘day in the life’ of a musician and teacher. We can be spontaneous and cover a whole range of topics — let us see where our conversations lead us.”

For more details as well as schedule and registration information, please see:

--Shira Gilbert PR

Midwest Young Artists 18th Walgreens National Concerto Competition
Midwest Young Artists hosted the 18th annual Walgreens National Concerto Competition, held at the MYA Center at Fort Sheridan and Bennett-Gordon Hall at Ravinia on December 28 & 29, 2013. Prizes for this solo competition included an opportunity to perform with the MYA Symphony Orchestra and on the prestigious From the Top radio program. Walgreens Corporation’s annual sponsorship enabled MYA to provide students with distinguished judges, a digital recording of their performance, written performance evaluations, and an inviting and nurturing environment in which to participate.

Results are below. Congratulations to all performers.

MYA Senior Division Results:
Overall Division Winner and String Category Winner (will perform in February at Symphony Center):
Chris Gao, cello: Prokofiev - Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 125, Mvt 2
Honorable Mentions (String Category):
David Berghoff, viola: Hindemith - Der Schwanendreher, Mvt 1
Anastasia Dalianis, cello: Kabalevsky - Cello Concerto in G Minor, Mvt 3
Daniel Kaler, cello: Dvorak - Cello Concerto in B Minor
Grace Pechianu, violin: Glazunov - Violin Concerto in A Minor, Mvt 1
Rachel Stenzel, violin: Dvorak - Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53, Mvt 3
Honorable Mention (Piano Category):
Allen Wang: Tchaikovsky - Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Mvt 1
Early Music Category Winner:
Marissa Takaki, bassoon: Mozart - Concerto for Bassoon, Mvt 1
Other Instruments Category Winner:
Torin Bakke, clarinet: Mozart - Concerto for Clarinet, Mvt 1
Honorable Mentions (Other Instruments Category):
Scott Greene, clarinet: Debussy - Premiere Rhapsody
Nina Laube, bassoon: Weber - Concerto for Bassoon in F Major, Mvt 1

MYA Junior Division Results:
Overall Division Winner and String Category Winner:
Masha Lakisova, violin: Saint-Saens - Introduction and Rondo Capricciosso
Honorable Mentions (String Category):
Haddon Kay, cello: Elgar - Concerto in E minor Op 85, Mvts 1 & 2
Masha Lakisova/Rebecca Moy, violins: Reicha - Concerto Concertante for 2 Violins
Rebecca Moy, violin: Sarasate - Carmen Fantasy
Piano Category Winner:
Kimberly Han: Saint-Saens - Piano Concerto No. 2, Mvt 1
Honorable Mention (Piano Category):
Alice Zhang: Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, Mvt 1
Early Music Category Winners:
Natalie Clarke and Colin Priller, violas: J.S. Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, BWV 1051, Mvt 1
Honorable Mention (Other Instruments Category):
Ariel Kaler, clarinet: Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 1, Mvt 1

Open Senior Division Results:
Overall Open Division Winner and String Category Winner (will perform in February at Symphony Center):
Hansuh Rhee, violin: Sibelius - Concerto in D Minor, Mvt 1
Honorable Mentions (String Category):
Paolo Dara, violin: Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto, Mvt 1
Serena Harnack, violin: Sarasate - Carmen Fantasy
Alexandra Kim, cello: Saint-Saens - Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33
Nathan Mo, cello: Shostakovich - Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major, Mvt 1
Steven Song, violin: Prokofiev - Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Mvt 1
Lucie Ticho, cello: Shostakovich - Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major, Mvts 3 & 4
Piano Category Winner:
Cindy Yang: Saint-Saens - Concerto No. 5, Mvt 3
Honorable Mentions (Piano Category):
Justin Ma: Grieg - Concerto in A Minor, Mvt 1
Jonah White: Tchaikovsky - Concerto No. 1, Op. 23, Mvt 1
Isabella Wu: Rachmaninoff - Concerto No. 1 in F Sharp Minor, Mvt 1
Honorable Mention (Other Instruments Category):
Elizabeth Chang, flute: Nielsen - Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Mvt 1
Honorable Mention (Voice Category):
Loucine Topouzian, soprano: Puccini/Rodgers - O Mio Babbino Caro, If I Loved You

Open Junior Division Results:
Overall Junior Division Winner and String Category Co-Winner:
Julian Rhee, violin: Dvorak - Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
String Category Co-Winner:
Maya Anjali Buchanan, violin: Paganini - Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6, Mvt 1
Honorable Mentions (String Category):
Kitsho Hosotani, violin: Wieniawski- Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22, Mvt 1
Christian D. Kim, violin: Kreisler - Praeludium and Allegro
Charlotte Loukola, violin: Wieniawski - Polonaise Brilliante in A Major
Calvin Yoon, violin: Shostakovitch - Concerto No. 1, Mvt 4
Piano Category Winner:
Colin Choi: Grieg - Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, Mvt 1
Honorable Mentions (Piano Category):
Derek Chung: Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1, S. 124
Lia Kim: Saint-Saens - Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
Early Music Category Winner:
Tyeese Braslavsky, piano: Mozart - Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K446, Mvt 1
Honorable Mention (Early Music Category):
Lilian Xu, piano: Mozart - Concerto in A Major, K488, Mvt 1
Honorable Mentions (Other Instruments Category):
Noah Jung, clarinet: Mozart - Concerto, Mvt 1
Lindsey Wong, flute: Mozart - Concerto No. 2 in D, K314, Mvt 1
Honorable Mention (Voice Category):
Laura Bretan, soprano: Adolphe/Puccini - O Holy Night, O Mio Babbino Caro

--Midwest Young Artists

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Present Donizetti’s Rita Featuring San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows February 12-16
Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra begin the New Year with first-ever collaboration with San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows in a performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s rarely-performed one-act comic opera Rita.

New Century begins its evening-long operatic adventure with orchestral works from famous operas arranged for the ensemble by former New Century Featured Composer Clarice Assad, including Johann Strauss’ Overture to Die Fledermaus, Massenet’s Meditation from Thais with Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist and Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. Also featured on the program is the Prestissimo from Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor, the only surviving chamber work in the composer’s catalogue.

After intermission, soprano Maria Valdes, baritone Efraín Solís and tenor Thomas Glenn join the orchestra for Donizetti’s hilarious tale of domestic strife. Ms. Valdes and Mr. Solís are current San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellows and Mr. Glenn is a graduate of the program. Originally titled Deux hommes et une femme (Two Men and a Woman), Donizetti’s Rita was completed in 1841 but never performed during the composer’s lifetime, receiving its premiere posthumously in 1860 at the Opera-Comique in Paris. Work on this opera began as a project by the composer to keep himself busy while he was in Paris waiting for the libretto to be finished for a commission by La Scala. The opera is a domestic comedy set in 18th century Italy and tells the tale of Rita, an inn-keeper and tyrannical wife, and her timid husband Beppe whose lives become difficult with the unexpected arrival of Rita’s first husband Gasparo, thought to have drowned. The libretto is written by Gustave Vaez who had previously co-written Donzietti’s Lucia de Lammermoor.

Two years in the planning, the collaboration brings the San Francisco-based New Century Chamber Orchestra and San Francisco Opera Center together for the very first time. “Opera has been in my blood since I was a kid,” said Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. “I remember so well listening to those Saturday radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera with my grandfather. Being able to stage an opera with New Century is a dream come true for me.”

“We at the Opera Center are thrilled to be working with the fabulous New Century Chamber Orchestra, especially to have the chance to collaborate with the amazing violinist/musician, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg,” said Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald. “The Maestra loves opera and Rita is a wonderful comedic romp that will hopefully tickle her, and everyone’s, fancy! It’s the story of a wild and wacky love triangle of sorts and Donizetti’s music sparkles.”

Both collaborators see Rita as a means to attract new audiences and to challenge performers artistically. Casting was done by Ms. Greenawald, stage direction will be provided by Eugene Brancoveanu and the music was rescored and edited for the New Century Chamber Orchestra by Peter Grunberg.

Donizetti’s Rita will be given on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area. Wednesday, February 12 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA Friday, February 14 at 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, Saturday, February 15 at 8 p.m., SF Jewish Community Center, San Francisco and Sunday, February 16 at 5 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael. New Century also offers an Open Rehearsal, Tuesday, February 11 at 10 a.m. at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center in San Francisco for a price of $8.
Single tickets range in price from $29 to $59 and can be purchased through City Box Office: and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35.

Open Rehearsal tickets are $8 general admission and can be purchased through City Box Office: and (415) 392-4400.

For further information on New Century, please visit

--Karen Ames Communications

One World Symphony Presents Addiction 
Sung Jin Hong, Artistic Director and Conductor
One World Symphony Vocal Artists

Richard Wagner: from The Flying Dutchman
Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky: from Eugene Onegin
Hector Berlioz: La mort d'Ophélie
Sung Jin Hong: Breaking Bad - Ozymandias (2014 World Premiere, inspired by the award-winning drama and Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet)

Two Performances:
Sunday, January 26, 2014 - Sold Out!
Monday, January 27, 2014 
8:00 p.m.
Holy Apostles Church
296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, Manhattan

$30 Students/Seniors with ID
$40 General

Spiral into an endless cascade of musical bliss as you surrender to the siren song of Addiction. Experience the fervent pulsations of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman as Senta vows her love to a ghost and lifts the curse on him with her eventual suicide. Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin tells the tale of ardent infatuation, and Berlioz's obsession with the object of his desire is manifested in La mort d'Ophélie. Inspired by the award-winning drama and Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet, Sung Jin Hong's Breaking Bad - Ozymandias explores the question that the drama obsessively and hauntingly asked: "are we all breaking bad?"

--One World Symphony

American Bach Soloists Present Bach’s Magnificat January 24-27
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor
“Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!”
“Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir”

Clara Rottsolk soprano - Danielle Reutter-Harrah mezzo-soprano
Eric Jurenas countertenor - Guy Cutting tenor (debut)
William Sharp baritone - Sandra Miller flute
Performed on period instruments with the American Bach Choir, Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Belvedere, CA: St. Stephen’s Church Friday January 24 2014 8:00 pm
Berkeley, CA: First Congregational Church Saturday January 25 2014 8:00 pm
San Francisco, CA: St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Sunday January 26 2014 4:00 pm
Davis, CA: Davis Community Church Monday January 27 2014 7:00 pm

For more information:

--American Bach Soloists

Baritone Gerald Finley and Pianist Julius Drake Perform Schubert’s Epic Song Cycle Winterreise on Sunday, February 2, at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, Berkeley, CA
Canadian baritone Gerald Finley and his longtime musical collaborator, pianist Julius Drake, come to Cal Performances on Sunday, February 2, at 3:00 p.m. to perform Franz Schubert’s intensely emotional 24-song cycle, Winterreise, in Hertz Hall, Berkeley, CA. Though Finley is perhaps best known to Bay Area audiences for the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the 2005 world premiere of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic with San Francisco Opera, “he has proved that he is also a master of the more intimate art of song” (The New York Times) while Drake “is no shrinking violet of an accompanist: without being aggressive or domineering, his style is robust and forthright” (The Telegraph).

In Winterreise, Schubert sets music to poetry by Wilhelm Müller (1794–1827). Müller’s two dozen texts present episodes and vignettes describing the wintertime wanderings of a rejected lover. Schubert’s music for Winterreise—widely considered the apotheosis of his work composing art songs—exhibits startling beauty in spite of the brooding subject matter. The piano and voice are partners in the storytelling, complementing, exposing, and answering one another as the performers take the audience on a psychological journey through the dark metaphorical depths of a tortured soul.

Baritone Gerald Finley has performed on the most prestigious opera stages, concert halls, and recital venues worldwide, with top-flight orchestras and renowned conductors. Finley has won widespread acclaim for his expressive, nuanced singing and broad musical range, and earned multiple awards, including the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for Doctor Atomic with the Metropolitan Opera. In addition to a busy performance and recording career, Finley is Visiting Professor and Fellow of the Royal College of Music in London.

British pianist Julius Drake has performed and recorded with many of the world’s finest vocal artists over his 30-year career. He is also Professor at Graz University for Music and the Performing Arts in Austria, presents master classes worldwide, has devised and performed song series and recitals for audiences in the UK and the Netherlands, and has directed music festivals in Australia and Wales. Drake’s discography includes more than a dozen recordings of chamber music, song, and solo piano works. Finley and Drake’s tour of Winterreise will begin on January 15 in London and will visit eight other cities in Europe and North America.

Ticket information:
Tickets for Gerald Finley, baritone, and Julius Drake, piano on Sunday, February 2, at 3:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall are $32.00 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, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

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 both its equipment and recordings 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 simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, 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

Contact Information

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa