Classical Music News of the Week, February 23, 2014

Pianist Benjamin Hochman Performs a Program of Contemporary Variations as Part of
92Y Concerts at SubCulture, Monday, March 10th, 7:30 PM

As part of 92Y Concerts at SubCulture, pianist Benjamin Hochman performs a program of variations at the newly opened Bleecker Street venue Monday March 10 at 7:30 pm. The recital includes the world premiere of Frederic Variations by Tamar Muskal and additional works selected demonstrate Mr. Hochman’s passion for the compositional technique and championship of contemporary composers. With its fine acoustics and intimate setting, SubCulture produces a unique concert experience that will allow Mr. Hochman to make a personal connection with the audience through commentary from the stage.

Mr. Hochman’s commitment to performing works by contemporary composers extends to his recordings. In November 2013 he released Homage to Schubert for the Avie record label pairing two late Schubert piano sonatas alongside musical tributes by György Kurtág and Jörg Widmann. In 2010 he performed on a recording of chamber music by Lawrence Dillon with the Daedalus Quartet. His debut solo recording for the Artek record label released in 2009 featured works by Bach, Berg and Webern’s Variations, Op. 27, a work he says fascinated him by wielding great power of expression from a minimum of material, and which he says planted the seed for this all-variations program.

Monday, March 10th, 7:30 p.m. (doors open 7:00 p.m.)
SubCulture, 45 Bleecker Street (downstairs), New York, NY 10012
92Y Concerts at SubCulture presents

Knussen: Variations, Op. 24
Berio: Cinque variazioni
Muskal: Frederic Variations (world premiere)
Rzewski: 36 Variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”

Tickets: General Admission $30; Premium Access $35 (priority entry to the venue) available from

For more information:

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Soprano Kristine Opolais Returns to the Met in April for Madama Butterfly, Then Jets to London for Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden
A dramatic singer of the highest caliber, Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais brings one of her signature roles—the vulnerable, passionate Cio-Cio-San—to Anthony Minghella’s exquisite cinematic production of Madama Butterfly at the Met in April. Then it’s back to Covent Garden in June for a highly-anticipated new production of Manon Lescaut, where she’ll take on the challenging title role opposite Jonas Kaufmann.

When Kristine Opolais stepped into the role of Cio-Cio-San at the last minute, making an unexpected Covent Garden debut in the London opera house’s 2011 production of Madama Butterfly, critics and audiences alike were mesmerized by the performance, calling it “a finely calibrated mix of formality and vulnerability” (The Guardian) that “deserved all of the thunderous applause and foot-stamping it received at the end” (Daily Express).

Since this dazzling debut, Ms. Opolais has built a reputation as an exceptional dramatic soprano, bringing natural vitality to the deep pathos of opera’s great heroines. Ms. Opolais began a busy 2013-14 season with one of Verdi’s most challenging roles, Desdemona in Otello at Hamburgische Staatsoper. She also reprised some of the formidable parts that have earned her a devoted international following including Rusalka and Eugene Onegin’s Tatiana at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. Also in Munich, she will be anchoring an exciting new production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito in February.

New York audiences are anxious to see her again, following her 2013 Met debut in La Rondine, where critics praised her as “an affectingly natural actress” possessing a “plush voice with a throbbing richness that lends a touch of poignancy to every phrase she sings” (The New York Times) and “an aura that defines a star” (The New York Observer). Her reputation as a superlative Puccini soprano in combination with one of the most stunning stage productions in the Met’s repertoire makes her April run a must-see event.

She continues her Puccini affair across the pond at Covent Garden in June/July 2014, starring in the title role of Jonathan Kent’s exciting new staging of Manon Lescaut, where she heads up an all-star cast that includes Christopher Maltman and Jonas Kaufmann.

For more information about Kristine Opolais, click

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Pianist Brian Ganz, Guest Conductor Micha Dworzyn'ski and the National Philharmonic Pay Tribute to Poland at March Concerts
Pianist Brian Ganz and the National Philharmonic under the direction of Guest Conductor Micha Dworzn'yski will honor Polish WW II war hero Jan Karski, who revealed the Holocaust to the Allies, on the hundredth anniversary of his birth at the Music Center at Strathmore. The recognition of Karski will be led by Polish Ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schnepf. The concert will feature the first Washington performance of the Bajka (Fairytale) Overture by Stanisaw Moniuszko, generally considered the father of the Polish national opera, as well as Ganz’s “Extreme Chopin” interpretation of the Polish composer’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The concert will take place at Strathmore on Saturday, March 8 at 8 pm and on Sunday, March 9 at 3 pm. Children between the age of 7 and 17 are free.

Guest Conductor Maestro Dworzyn'ski is the recently appointed music director of the Krakow (Poland) Philharmonic. Dworzyn'ski has received numerous accolades for his commitment to the
international promotion of composers from his native Poland. He studied in Warsaw with Antoni Wit and in Berlin with Christian Ehwald and, at 21, was appointed Assistant Conductor of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Under Dworzyn'ski’s direction, the concert will begin with a dynamic musical narrative of the Bajka (Fairytale) Overture by Moniuszko, first performed in 1848. Moniuszko’s music is filled with patriotic folk themes of the people from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Ganz as soloist will follow the Bajka. Ganz, a familiar face at the Strathmore, is nearing the halfway point in his decade-long “Extreme Chopin” quest to perform all of Chopin’s approximately 250 works. “The Concerto No. 1 was the first work of Chopin for piano and orchestra I ever performed,” Ganz notes, adding that the concerto is his favorite among the works for piano and orchestra of the composer, who was a major contributor to Poland’s culture.

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

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Virtuosic Accordionist Martynas Returns for Additional U.S. Tour Dates with David Garrett in March
A recent graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music, 23-year-old Martynas revitalizes the accordion with his self-titled debut album, out now on Decca/Universal Music Classics.  Already a #1 chart-topping release in the UK and a Top 5 Billboard Crossover record in the U.S., Martynas’ album runs the gamut of genres, from pop covers to tango, classics and beyond.  The record highlights Martynas’ dynamic range while reflecting the breadth of his own broad musical taste for an exploration of all the accordion has to offer.

“Yes, I want to change the image of the accordion,” Martynas explains, “but I’m also trying to show all the different possibilities I have as a performer. All the arrangements are brand new and the pieces have never been played this way before. It’s exciting for me to be breaking some rules.”

The Atlantic recently proclaimed, “Accordions: So Hot Right Now – once considered glamorous and sexy, then forgotten, the instrument is making a comeback.”  On the classical side, Martynas tackles such iconic selections as Habanera from Carmen, Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Gardel’s Por una cabeza, featuring violinist David Garrett. Martynas kicked off an extensive U.S. tour with Garrett in January, and will return to play more major cities in March. On the pop side, Martynas tackles new arrangements of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” and Katy Perry’s “Hot N’ Cold”; “Ai Se Eu Te Pego (Nossa Nossa),” a rousing Brazilian party anthem, featuring Martynas on vocals, and “Temptation,” a seductive, jazzy cover featuring Bria Skonberg on trumpet and vocals, along with additional vocals by Martynas (Skonberg recently landed on Downbeat Magazine’s Rising Stars Critic’s Poll for 2013).

For more information, click

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music

Lorin Maazel Steps in for Daniele Gatti Conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in a Program of Schubert and Mahler Friday, March 7 in Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall
Cal Performances announced today that conductor Lorin Maazel has graciously agreed to step in for maestro Daniele Gatti in a performance by the Vienna Philharmonic of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759, “Unfinished” and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G major on Friday, March 7 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA. Due to a tendinopathy (acute tendon inflammation) of both shoulders—on advice of his medical staff and with deep regret—Maestro Gatti has canceled all his professional engagements for the next two months.

Lorin Maazel is well known to Cal Performances audiences. He was last on campus when he brought his Castleton Festival Opera company to Zellerbach Hall for its West Coast premiere in March of 2011. The company brought two Benjamin Britten chamber operas The Rape of Lucretia and the comic Albert Herring.

The concert conducted by Lorin Maazel opens the Vienna Philharmonic’s residency, Friday-Sunday, March 7-9, at Cal Performances which also includes two additional concerts. On Saturday, March 8, Andris Nelsons, music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducts Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 in C major and Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn and Symphony No. 3 in F major. A matinee concert on Sunday, March 9 will feature Franz Welser-Möst, music director of The Cleveland Orchestra and Vienna State Opera, at the podium, in a program of Mozart’s Symphony No. 28 in C major, Staud’s On Comparative Meteorology, and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 in A major.

In this, the Vienna Philharmonic’s second residency since its Berkeley debut in 2011, musicians from the Orchestra will participate in events that are free and open to the public, including talks, master classes, open rehearsals, and a chamber music concert. The two-day symposium provides a platform for an exploration of music and culture designed to connect Bay Area audiences with an international group of leading scholars, writers, and thinkers. UC Berkeley is represented by distinguished professors Thomas Laqueur (Department of History); Adam Hochschild (Graduate School of Journalism and author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion); Nicholas Mathew (Music); Niklaus Largier (German); and Martin E. Jay (History), among others. Visiting scholars include Michael P. Steinberg (Brown University, History, Music, and Director, Cogut Humanities Center), Christian Glanz (University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna); Alfred Poser (Deputy Director, Vienna Library in City Hall, Vienna); Hans Petschar (Head of the Visual Archives, Austrian National Library); Clemens Hellsberg (Chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra); Oliver Rathkolb (Department of Contemporary History, University of Vienna, and author of The Paradoxical Republic); and Christian Meyer (Director of the Arnold Schoenberg Center in Vienna).

Clemens Hellsberg, also the Vienna Philharmonic’s longtime historian, will give a 30-minute talk before each of the three concerts. The talks are free to event ticket holders and are created to deepen concert-goers’ experience.

For further information regarding the three concerts or the schedule of the symposium, master classes, open rehearsals, and other residency events, please go to

Ticket information:
Tickets for the Vienna Philharmonic concerts on Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 9, at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall range from $35.00 to $200.00 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

American Bach Soloists Announce 2014-15 Season
Five performances of Handel’s Messiah; Messiah Video Project; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion;
Handel’s Acis and Galatea; 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award Winner.

Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas and American Bach Soloists (ABS) announce the 2014-15 season, which will include five performances of Handel's Messiah and three subscription concert weekends featuring Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, and the solo cantata Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, along with Handel's Acis and Galatea, works by Vivaldi, and Leonardo Leo’s Concerto for Violoncello in A Major featuring the 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award winner, Gretchen Claassen. Packed with Baroque masterpieces and rarities, the new season promises musical delight and discovery. Thomas is especially pleased to present a roster of frequent ABS performers and new artists during ABS’s 26th season.

Subscription renewals for the 2014-15 season go on sale March 1 with new subscriptions available on April 21. The three-concert subscriptions range from $69 - $168. Messiah tickets may be purchased along with a subscription and range from $92 - $251. To purchase a subscription, call (415) 621-7900 or visit

Single tickets:
Single tickets for subscription series concerts range in price from $27 - $66 or for Messiah from $27 - $97 and go on sale July 1. For tickets or more information about the new season, please visit

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Enter the Imagination of Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins with Two Powerful Music Video Performances Directed by Filmmaker William D. Caballero
Kelly Hall-Tompkins dazzles in Imagination, a unique music video project pairing two diverse works in beautifully shot performances by up-and-coming director and cinematographer William D. Caballero. The combination of Eugène Ysaÿe’s fiery and angular Violin Sonata in E major, No. 6 and the lush and whimsical “Pure Imagination,” from the beloved childhood classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in a new jazz arrangement by Hall-Tompkins, showcases the multitude of facets of this stunning artist’s vibrant vision.

Following her most recent recording, In My Own Voice, Hall-Tompkins takes her “voice” a step further, exploring the music video genre which is still underutilized in classical music or jazz.  “I’m from the MTV generation,” says Hall-Tompkins, “I believe this is a way to use a familiar medium to attract new audiences,” noting also that the popular music industry is moving away from CDs toward digital media and YouTube. A third video being released features Hall-Tompkins speaking about the project.

Click here to view the videos:

Violin Sonata in E major, No. 6, Op.27, by Eugène Ysaÿe:

“Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

--Shira Gilbert PR

Irondale Ensemble Project & American Opera Projects Present Lines of Freedom
Color Between the Lines & Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom
In repertory: works of musical theater that pay tribute to the heroes who fought for the end of slavery.  8 performances only!

February 20-March 1
Irondale Center, 85 South Oxford St., Brooklyn, NY 11217
Tickets $25 | Senior/Students $15 | Matinees $15
Buy Tickets:
Freedom Package - See both shows for $40
Freedom Matinee Package - See both matinees for $25

With two original shows, Irondale Ensemble Project and American Opera Projects partner for the Lines of Freedom Festival to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the African American community.

--Matt Gray, AOP News

Mezzo-Soprano Carla Dirlikov Becomes the First Singer to Win the Sphinx Medal of Excellence
The Medal of Excellence will be presented in Washington, D.C. by Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor at a black-tie gala on March 19th.

Mezzo-soprano and rising opera star Carla Dirlikov is one of three musicians chosen this year to be honored by the Sphinx Organization, a national training program that endeavors to involve Black and Hispanic young people in classical music performance. Sphinx annually identifies emerging Black and Latino classical musicians who “demonstrate artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and leadership potential.”

Ms. Dirlikov, whom Opera magazine described as having “the most compelling voice of the evening, one that grabbed the heartstrings with its dramatic force and musicality,” has been a tireless national and international advocate for the arts. The U.S. State Department recently conferred upon her the title of Cultural Envoy, the duties of which include promoting American culture overseas, giving master classes and teaching music to orphans and poverty-stricken youth.

Sphinx Founder and President, Aaron P. Dworkin, said of Ms. Dirlikov, "The Sphinx Medal of Excellence represents the highest award bestowed upon emerging artists of color. The honor represents extraordinary achievement during early stages of one's career, and we could not be more proud of this year's honorees. This year also marks the first instance when a singer was selected as a result of the process, which is very exciting. We congratulate Carla Dirlikov on this well-deserved honor and celebrate her talent and incredible accomplishments through this award.” The other award winners are pianist, organist, vocal coach, and conductor Damien Sneed of Augusta, GA and Cuban born percussionist Pablo “Pedrito” Martinez.

Ms. Dirlikov says, “To be chosen by their panel from among the thousands of deserving and dedicated musicians throughout the country is a milestone in my personal journey; but even more, it is a great responsibility to live up to the faith they have placed in me to further music and the arts in this country.”

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa