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

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Meet the Staff

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

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa