Classical Music News of the Week, February 9, 2014

Minnesota Orchestra Returns After a 16-Month Lockout

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski led the Minnesota Orchestra in its first concert after management’s 16-month lockout of players.

You knew that the Minnesota Orchestra wouldn’t let itself be embarrassed Friday evening in its first concert after management’s 16-month lockout of players, a concert made even more prominent for being the first in Orchestra Hall since its $52 million renovation, completed last fall. In the event, the orchestra did itself proud, against long odds.

It had, after all, lost its acclaimed music director, Osmo Vanska, to the lockout, when he resigned in October. Of the 83 players on stage, only 50 were full-time members of the orchestra (the other 27 members being widely dispersed, fulfilling engagements taken on during the lockout); 33 were substitutes, from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and elsewhere.

Clearly, a wizardly and respected veteran was needed to pull these motley troops together in a few days of rehearsal, and happily, one was at hand: the orchestra’s beloved 90-year-old laureate maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who was music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979 and who conducted the current players in the first of their self-produced concerts during the lockout.

Mr. Skrowaczewski led the orchestra in performing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to open Friday's performance. Understandably, the program stuck to basics: Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, Strauss’s “Don Juan” and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, in Mr. Skrowaczewski’s own arrangement, which he conducted in the first program in the newly built Orchestra Hall, in 1974. But first came his arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Along with the music came a couple of obvious symbols of unity. At the start, the players took the stage European-style, as a unit rather than individually, and were greeted with a full-minute standing ovation.

And after intermission, there were little speeches by a player – R. Douglas Wright, the principal trombonist – and the new board chairman, Gordon Sprenger. Mr. Wright spoke of the need for the musicians and the management to work more collaboratively and introduced Mr. Sprenger.

But before he could speak some cries rang out from the audience, “Bring back Osmo,” drawing loud applause. “We are addressing it,” Mr. Sprenger said, to more applause.

If it weren’t to be Mr. Vanska on the podium, there could not have been a more popular choice than Mr. Skrowaczewski, who, looking frail and gaunt, drew a half-minute standing ovation of his own.

For the complete article, read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/arts/music/minnesota-orchestra-returns-after-a-16-month-lockout.html

For more information on the Minnesota Orchestra, read here: http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/

--James R. Oestreichfeb, New York Times

Stewart Copeland Unleashes a Mighty Soundtrack for the Epic 1925 MGM Silent Film Ben Hur to be Performed Live at the Virginia Arts Festival on Easter Weekend 2014
One of the most impressive feats in Hollywood history, MGM’s Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ (edited for the concert stage) has inspired a new score from Stewart Copeland.

Copeland has been commissioned by The Virginia Arts Festival to create and perform the score for the Silent Era’s most expensive film production starring 1920’s matinee idol Ramon Novarro. It will be performed live on stage with the Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra with Richard Kaufman at the podium. This explosive musical experience will premiere at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday, April 19 at 8pm. Tickets $20–$60.

In addition to being one of the most renowned rock drummers of all-time, Stewart Copeland has also received accolades as a composer of film scores, concert works, ballets and operas, including commissions from Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Long Beach Opera.

Looking for a second life for orchestral music that he had created for the 2009 Ben Hur Live arena show that played across Europe, Copeland became entranced with the 1925 Fred Niblo film, still considered one of Hollywood’s crowning achievements. “It’s a silent movie, which is cat nip for a composer, and the wild action scenes are nitroglycerin for a drummer,” says Copeland. His musical approach revels in the excitement of the pirate ship battle and chariot race while never losing sight of the tale’s underlying themes of hope, love and redemption.

According to Copeland, who grew up for the first 14 years of his life in Lebanon, he summoned his earliest musical impressions to bring a strong ethnic element to the score using Middle Eastern rhythms, modes and instruments. 

At the April 19 premiere, Copeland will perform with the 90-member Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Kaufmann.


--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Music Institute Celebrates Music in Our Schools Month March 15
Families to enjoy Blair Thomas’s Puppet Theater, Instrument Petting Zoo, and more.

The Music Institute of Chicago joins the national celebration of Music In Our Schools Month with a morning of music for all ages Saturday, March 15 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL.

This morning of music for families begins at 11 a.m. with an open house in the Nichols Concert Hall lobby. Kids can enjoy playing a variety of instruments at the Music Institute Instrument Petting Zoo, parents can talk with faculty and staff, and everyone can take advantage of special discounts on lessons and classes.

At noon, Blair Thomas & Co. presents A Piano with 3 Tales, a puppet theatre production featuring the acclaimed A Kite’s Tale and two world premieres. This classical piano recital within a puppet show features Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Frederic Chopin’s Scherzo in B Minor and Stephen Montague’s Mirabella a Tarantella—for toy piano!—all performed by pianist Mary Rose Norell. Blair Thomas’ handmade puppets of all kinds, from bunraku dolls to larger-than-life human-sized costumes, perform stories that encourage families to exercise their imaginations and discover the magical power of wordless music.

Blair Thomas & Co. is a national and international touring puppet theatre company founded in 2002 by puppeteer and director/designer Blair Thomas. The company has made more than a dozen original puppet theatre pieces, including Cabaret of Desires, short works by Federico Garcia Lorca; The Ox-herder’s Tale, the Buddhist parable of 10 paintings of enlightenment; A Kite’s Tale, a collection of silent narratives set to piano pieces; and Pierrot Lunaire, Arnold Schoenberg’s song cycle with the chamber music ensemble eighth blackbird. Blair Thomas & Co. has received two international UNIMA awards for excellence in the art of puppetry. Thomas, who cofounded Redmoon Theater, teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Music Institute of Chicago’s family music morning takes place Saturday, March 15—11 a.m. for the Instrument Petting Zoo, noon for Blair Thomas & Co.’s A Piano with 3 Tales—at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $5 per person, available at brownpapertickets.com/event/558227 or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. For more information visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Casting Announced for Opera Paralelle’s Presentation of Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias and Weill’s Mahongonny Songspiel, April 26-28 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Opera Parallèle presents Francis Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias and Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel conducted by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. April 25, 26 and 2 p.m. April 27 in an innovative approach where both are presented in one singular production concept.

Weill’s evocative Mahagonny Songspiel opens and closes the evening, framing Poulenc’s surrealistic opera buffa, Les mamelles de Tirésias. Echoing the interwoven theme of Opera Parallèle’s concept, the major roles in each opera feature the same singer. Baritone Gabriel Preisser performs Bobby in Mahagonny Songspiel and Le mari in Les mamelles de Tirésias; soprano Rachel Schutz is Jessie and Tirésias/La cartomacienne; tenor Thomas Glenn is Charlie and Lacouf/Le journaliste/Le fils; Daniel Cilli is Billy and Le directeur/Presto; mezzo soprano Renée Rapier is Bessie and La marchande de journaux; Matthew Lovellis Jimmy and Le messieur barbu.

Rounding out the cast of Les mamelles de Tirésias is baritone Hadleigh Adams portraying Le gendarme; choral parts will be sung by members of the Resound Ensemble of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

Concept designer and stage director Brian Staufenbiel brings the Poulenc/Weill production to life with an innovative production twist interweaving the two operas into an Uberstory. The surreal overpopulated world in Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias, framed by Weill’s utopic yearnings for a better life, addresses the timely concerns of overpopulation and its effect on natural resources. The production is set in the future as a theater troupe sings songs from Mahagonny Songspiel. After wheeling along in a boat crossing the desert in search for that most precious commodity, water, the troupe comes upon an audience for whom they perform Les mamelles de Tirésias, a wildly surreal tale of a woman who becomes a man and changes the submissive role of women in her world, as her husband overpopulates the world by giving birth to thousands of babies. The traveling performers conclude their production and continue their desert journey, still searching for resources and happiness.

--Karen Ames Communications

Pianist Brian Ganz continues his “Extreme Chopin” Quest To Perform All of the Composer’s Works With February and March Concerts
Focus on Chopin “The Storyteller” as Ganz approaches the halfway point in this historic endeavor.

Pianist Brian Ganz is preparing for a fourth all-Chopin recital in partnership with the National Philharmonic at the Music Center at Strathmore, with a focus on Chopin as a storyteller. Ganz’s “Extreme Chopin” quest to perform all the approximately 250 works of Chopin in this decade is nearing the halfway point. The fourth concert in the series will take place at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852 on February 22, followed two weeks later with his first performances with the National Philharmonic as part of the series. On March 8 and 9 Ganz will collaborate with the orchestra in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, under the baton of renowned Polish conductor Michal Dworzyn'ski. 

The February recital features 10 of Chopin’s masterpieces of narrative and emotional power, including the superbly crafted Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52; the Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17, No. 4, one of Chopin's most soulful and mysterious works; the epic Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1; the tender and storied Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 69, No. 1 (“L’Adieu”); as well as the lighthearted and humorous Scherzo No. 4, Op. 54.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit nationalphilharmonic.org or call 301-581-5100.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Cal Performances Presents Fourth Annual Ojai North, Thursday-Saturday, June 19-21
Ojai North will feature the Bay Area premiere of The Classical Style, a new comic opera by Jeremy Denk and Steven Stucky based on Charles Rosen’s classic book. Plus Cal Performances debuts by Brooklyn Rider, Timo Andres, Storm Large, and The Knights joining Denk to perform music by Beethoven, Feldman, Haydn, Janácek, Ives, Ligeti, Mozart, Schubert, Weill, and more.

Cal Performances’ fourth annual Ojai North music festival opens Thursday, June 19 with the Bay Area premiere of the comic opera, The Classical Style, based on the eponymous award-winning book by the late pianist and scholar Charles Rosen, with a libretto by 2014 Ojai Music Director Jeremy Denk and music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky. Ojai North is Cal Performances presentation of the highlights of the Ojai Music Festival considered one of the finest celebrations of music and culture in the world; this is the fourth year of the partnership. The music continues in Berkeley at the end of every annual festival in Ojai Valley. 

Five distinct concerts are on the program for Ojai North. Making their debuts at Cal Performances are artistic collaborators who share Denk’s musical passions and love of fun, including jazz pianist and composer Uri Caine, the trailblazing string quartet Brooklyn Rider, pianist/composer Timo Andres, vocalist Storm Large, and contemporary ensemble The Knights.

While music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Joseph Haydn will set the framework for The Classical Style, Ojai North features works by Leoš Janácek, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, György Ligeti, Franz Schubert, and Kurt Weill  plus the work of the distinctive Palo Alto-born composer Timo Andres.

“It’s a thrill to welcome Jeremy Denk as Ojai’s Music Director. His multi-dimensional approach to a musical life—as a performer, teacher, writer, creator and thinker on music—makes him an ideal choice,” said Cal Performances’ Executive and Artistic Director Matías Tarnopolsky. “The programs he has crafted for Ojai and Berkeley bring together the perfect combination of the very old and the very new, of the ferocious and the contemplative, and of the expected and the surprising. That the center piece of Ojai North is two performances of Steven Stucky’s opera The Classical Style, based on a libretto that Jeremy wrote, is testament to his remarkable talents.”

Denk’s trademark vivacious intellect and love of the unexpected is also evident in Uri Caine’s ingenious rendering of Mahler; Timo Andres’s reimagining of Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto; the music of Charles Ives; and Denk’s eclectic views on musical canons.

Tickets for Ojai North Music Festival, Thursday-Saturday, June 19-21 in Hertz Hall range from $20.00-$68.00 and are subject to change. A festival pass with tickets to all the performances is available for $132.00. Single tickets will go on sale February 1, 2014. Tickets are available through the Cal Performances’ Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door.  Half-price tickets are available for purchase by UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded).

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) Leads Celebration of Marian Anderson on 75th Anniversary of Her Lincoln Memorial Concert
Soprano Jessye Norman, composer Ysaye Barnwell, opera singer Soloman Howard, vocalist Annisse Murillo (respectively an alumnus and current member of WPAS’s Children of the Gospel), and an extraordinary 300-voice choir led by WPAS Gospel choir Artistic Director Stanley Thurston are just some of the talented artists who will join together under the banner of the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) for Of Thee We Sing: The Marian Anderson 75th  Anniversary Celebration.

This concert event celebrates the life and legacy of one of America’s greatest voices, the iconic contralto and humanitarian Marian Anderson. With guest appearances from a number of artists by arrangement with Centric (a BET Network) and a narrative penned by Tony Award-winning playwright Murray Horwitz, Of Thee We Sing shines a light on an American hero.

The concert will take place at Washington, D.C.’s historic DAR Constitution Hall on April 12, 2014, 7pm-8:15pm. All public tickets are $5. Tickets can be purchased through WPAS box office 202-785-9727 or www.WPAS.org.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Music Institute of Chicago’s Duo Piano Winter Mini-Fest Martch 6-9 Features Guest Piano Duo The Stenzl Brothers and Distinguished Faculty
The Music Institute of Chicago’s popular Chicago Duo Piano Festival presents its annual Duo Piano Winter Mini-fest March 6–9 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Il. The festival features two concerts:

Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 pm:
Hans-Peter and Volker Stenzl Piano Duo, performing Schubert’s Fantasy in F Minor, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (arranged by Carl Czerny), the Bach-Busoni Chorale Prelude Wie Wohl ist Mir and Ravel’s La Valse (poeme choréographique).

The Stenzl brothers are among the world’s preeminent piano duos, playing together for more than 20 years. Critics marvel at the “magical amalgam of the two brothers’ hearts into one musical soul” and their “unique blend of innate musical instinct and knife-sharp intelligence.” They have appeared in major concert halls throughout the world, including Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall in London, Merkin Concert Hall in New York, Philharmonie in Berlin, Salle Gaveau in Paris, and many more. The duo won the second international Dranoff International Two Piano Competition. In 1996 Hans-Peter and Volker Stenzl were appointed Associates of the Royal Academy of Music London. They are professors at the Universities of Music in Stuttgart and Rostock, where many of their student teams themselves are international prize winners, and give master classes in many countries. In addition they serve on the juries of renowned national and international music competitions.

Saturday, March 8 at 7:30 pm:
Music Institute piano faculty members perform a mixed concert of music for piano duo. Performers include Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem, Xiaomin Liang and Jue He, Elaine Felder and Milana Pavchiskaya, Irene Faliks and Maya Brodotskaya, Fiona Queen, Sung Hoon Mo and more.

The Stenzl brothers, who have taught many of the world’s finest young piano duos, offer a master class Saturday, March 7 at noon. And students participating in the mini-festival give a recital Sunday, March 9 at 1 p.m., both at Nichols Concert Hall.

Pianists are welcome to register for the March 6–9 mini-festival, featuring concerts, master classes, lectures, coachings, and student recitals. All events take place at the Music Institute’s Evanston East Campus, 1490 Chicago Avenue. Tuition is $95 per student, which includes admission to all concerts and events, participation in student recitals, coachings, and a festival dinner. Registration deadline is February 18, 2014.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

92Y and SubCulture Present Pianist Jenny Lin, Who will Perform a Diverse Program of Stravinsky, Gershwin, Kreisler and More, Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 7:30 pm at SubCulture, NYC
Pianist Jenny Lin will perform a recital presented by 92Y and SubCulture featuring scintillating transcriptions and arrangements of music by Kreisler, Stravinsky, Rodgers, Loewe, Gershwin, Berlin and Arlen at the new NoHo hotspot Subculture on February 25. Doors open at 7pm with the concert at 7:30pm. Tickets are $30–$35. http://www.subculturenewyork.com.

“One of the most interesting pianists in America” according to The Washington Post, Jenny Lin delves into Stravinsky’s dense and delectable catalogue for solo piano on her third Steinway & Sons release, due out on February 25, 2014. Lin’s signature blend of technical mastery, grace and thoughtfulness is the perfect match for Stravinsky’s formidable stylistic range in which neoclassical sonatas and serial sketches rub elbows with elephant ballets and ragtime.

Jenny Lin is one of the most respected young pianists today, 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. She has been acclaimed for her "gift for melodic flow" by The New York Times. The Washington Post praises "Lin's confident fingers... spectacular technique... ", and Gramophone Magazine has hailed her as "an exceptionally sensitive pianist.”

Born in Taiwan and raised in Austria, Jenny studied with Noel Flores at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, with Julian Martin at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and with Dominique Weber in Geneva. She has also worked with Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, and Blanca Uribe, and with Dimitri Bashkirov and Andreas Staier at the Fondazione Internazionale per il pianoforte in Como, Italy. She holds a bachelor's degree in German Literature from The Johns Hopkins University and currently resides in New York City where she also serves on the faculty of the 92nd Street Y.

Jenny's extensive discography includes critically acclaimed recordings on Steinway & Sons, Hänssler Classic, eOne Records, BIS Records, and Sunrise Records. Since 2000, she has over twenty albums to her credit.

--Julia Casey, BuckleSweet Media

Conductor Michael Christie Leads the Minnesota Orchestra Opening the Orchestra’s Classical Subscription Series
Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 11 a.m.
Friday, February 21 & Saturday February 22 at 8 p.m.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Daniil Trifonov, Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird, and Ravel’s Boléro

Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN.
Tickets & Information: www.minnesotaorchestra.org

Conductor Michael Christie will lead the opening concerts of the Minnesota Orchestra’s classical season subscription series on Thursday, February 20 at 11am; Friday, February 21 at 8pm; and Saturday, February 22 at 8pm as the orchestra returns to the renovated Orchestra Hall (1111 Nicollet Mall) for its homecoming subscription series, which runs from February through July 2014. Christie, who is the Music Director of the Minnesota Opera, conducts the Minnesota Orchestra for the first time in 15 years, leading three of the most popular works of the 20th century’s early decades: Rachmaninoff’s virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 2, Stravinsky’s colorful Firebird Suite and Ravel’s mesmerizing Boléro.  Young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov, among the brightest stars in the next generation of pianists, performs the Rachmaninoff concerto.

“I am deeply honored to have been asked to lead these series opening performances,” Christie says. “As a resident and artistic leader in the Twin Cities, this is also a fabulous opportunity to build bridges between organizations like the Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Opera.”

Michael Christie continues as Music Director of Minnesota Opera, a post he began in fall 2012, leading three productions during the 2013-2014 season – Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in September 2013, Richard Strauss’ Arabella in November 2013, and Verdi’s Macbeth from January 25-February 1, 2014 at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (345 Washington Street).

Michael Christie is a thoughtfully innovative conductor, equally at home in the symphonic and opera worlds, who is focused on making the audience experience at his performances entertaining, enlightening, and enriching. The New York Times reports, “Michael Christie is a director open to adventure and challenge,” and the Cincinnati Enquirer declares, “If Michael Christie represents the future of music in this country, the future looks promising indeed.”

--Christina Jensen PR

Free Lunchtime Concert
The Music Institute of Chicago is offering free lunchtime concerts and conversation one Wednesday per month. Lunch is available for purchase from the Pret A Manger Kiosk, and free coffee will be served.

The January program features Music Institute faculty members Mary Drews on piano and Shigetoshi Yamada on violin playing a program of compositions and arrangements by Fritz Kreisler, including:
Schön Prelude (Bach)
Caprice No. 13 (Devil’s Laughter) (Paganini)
Libesfreud
Liebesleid
Caprice Viennois Op. 2
Tambourin Chinois Op. 3
Schön Rosmarin
Chanson Louis XIII and Pavane
Praeludium and Allegro in the Style of Pugnani
Andantino

Music Institute of Chicago
Mary Drews, piano, and Shigetoshi Yamada, violin
Wednesday, February 12, 12:15–1 p.m.
Music Institute of Chicago Black Box Theater
1702 Sherman Ave., Evanston, IL
Admission free

For further information: musicinst.org or 847.905.1500

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Google Hangout on Air with Simone Dinnerstein: Counterpoint in Music, Art, and Life
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 from 1-2pm EST
Hosted by WQXR from The Greene Space in New York
Moderated by WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon
Watch on YouTube: http://bit.ly/SimoneHangoutYouTube
Watch & Join the Q&A on Google+: http://bit.ly/SimoneHangout
Featuring performances of Bach’s Inventions by Simone Dinnerstein, plus special guests: Paul Elie, writer and author of Reinventing Bach; Thomas Moore, author of A Religion of One's Own and Care of the Soul; Nico Muhly, composer; and Dan Tepfer, pianist, composer and jazz musician.


On Wednesday, February 12, 2014 from 1-2pm EST, WQXR, the nation’s most listened-to classical radio station, will host a “Google Hangout on Air” with classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, moderated by WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon from the station’s event venue, The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in New York. The Hangout can be watched live from anywhere in the world on YouTube (http://bit.ly/SimoneHangoutYouTube) or on Simone Dinnerstein’s Google Plus page (http://bit.ly/SimoneHangout). The Google Plus page will also feature a Q&A app through which viewers can submit their questions and comments to Dinnerstein during the Hangout.

During the Hangout, Simone Dinnerstein will perform selected Inventions by J.S. Bach from her latest Sony Classical album, J.S. Bach: Inventions and Sinfonias, which recently debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Chart after release on January 21. She and special guests including Paul Elie, writer and author of Reinventing Bach; Thomas Moore, author of A Religion of One’s Own and Care of the Soul (www.careofthesoul.net); Nico Muhly, composer (www.nicomuhly.com); and Dan Tepfer, pianist, composer and jazz musician (www.dantepfer.com) will have a discussion centered around the music of Bach. They will explore the concept of counterpoint in music and in life, as well as the ways and reasons why Bach’s timeless music has influenced not only many musicians (classical and non-classical alike) but non-musicians too. Viewers watching from anywhere in the world will have the opportunity to submit their own questions and comments to Dinnerstein and the special guests, throughout the Hangout.

--Christina Jensen PR

American Bach Soloists Presents Bach’s Hercules, February 21-24
ABS’s 25th season celebration continues February 21-24 with “Bach’s Hercules,” an all-Bach program of favorite works chosen by ABS Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas. The program showcases the composer’s genius for creating masterpieces within different musical formats and settings—liturgical, intimate instrumental suite, and dramatic secular cantata.

“Bach’s Hercules” features three exquisite works by Bach: the Missa Brevis in G Major, the Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, and his cantata about the mythic Hercules, Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, which includes an opening chorus, arias, and duets that were later utilized in the “Christmas Oratorio.”

Elegantly streamlined, the Missa Brevis in G Major is one of Bach’s four “Little Masses” or settings of the Gloria and Kyrie portions of the Mass. Thomas will direct the esteemed American Bach Choir and four superb soloists: soprano Kathryn Mueller, countertenor Ian Howell, tenor Derek Chester, and baritone Jesse Blumberg. The Orchestral Suite (or Ouverture) in C Major is a tour de force for the ensemble’s two oboes and bassoon, which will be played by oboists Debra Nagy and Stephen Bard and bassoonist Dominic Teresi.

Fri, Feb 21, 2014: 8:00 p.m., St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA
Sat, Feb 22, 2014: 8:00 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sun, Feb 23, 2014: 4:00 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
Mon, Feb 24, 2014: 7:00 p.m., Davis Community Church, Davis, CA


--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa