Classical Music News of the Week, March 2, 2014

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Danielle de Niese to Star in Two Metropolitan Opera Productions This Spring
The acclaimed soprano returns to the Met stage to perform starring roles in The Enchanted Island and Così fan tutte. Live in HD broadcast of Così fan tutte to be shown in 2000 movie theaters worldwide on April 26.

Hailed as “opera’s coolest soprano” by New York Times Magazine, Danielle de Niese returns to the Metropolitan Opera in two productions this spring: The Enchanted Island (Feb 26 – Mar 20), and Così fan tutte (Apr 23 – May 8). These appearances follow her fall 2013 engagement in Così fan tutte and brilliant last-minute performance as Cleopatra in the Met’s 2013 production of Giulio Cesare, in which she stepped in unexpectedly for Natalie Dessay.

Conceived by Jeremy Sams and premiered in on New Year's Eve 2012, The Enchanted Island is a new opera based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ms. de Niese reprises her "brilliant" performance as Ariel, performing opposite Susan Graham (Sycorax), David Daniels (Prospero), and Plácido Domingo (Neptune) in a production conducted by Patrick Summers.

In April, Ms. de Niese plays Despina in the Lesley Koenig production of Così fan tutte, conducted by the beloved James Levine. Opening last September, Ms. de Niese’s performance was praised by the New York Times: “the exquisite, vivacious soprano Danielle de Niese nearly stole the show.” Susanna Phillips (Fiordiligi), Isabel Leonard (Dorabella), Matthew Polenzani (Ferrando), Rodion Pogossov (Gugliemo), and Maurizio Muraro (Don Alfonso) co-star. On April 26th, Cosi fan tutte will be broadcast worldwide for the first time during the Met's award-winning Live in HD series, transmitted to nearly 2000 movie theaters in 64 countries.

The complete list of Danielle de Niese's Metropolitan Opera engagements is at www.metoperafamily.org

--Rebecca Davis PR

Paco de Lucía, Master Flamenco Guitarist, Dies at 66
Paco de Lucía, who was born into a musical family and grew up to become one of the world’s greatest guitarists, mastering flamenco music and finding new audiences by blending it with jazz and other genres, died on Wednesday in Mexico. He was 66. His death was confirmed by a municipal official in Mr. de Lucía’s native city, Algeciras, on the coast of southern Spain.

Gaspar Armando García Torres, the Quintana Roo state attorney general, told Mexico’s Enfoque Radio that Mr. de Lucía had had a heart attack while on vacation at the Caribbean resort town of Playa del Carmen and died in a hospital, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. de Lucía established himself as a leading flamenco artist in the 1960s and ’70s, notably after forming a partnership with Camarón de la Isla, a singer who is widely considered to have revived and revolutionized flamenco in Spain. The duo released more than 10 records, both of classical flamenco and a fusion of rock and pop. Camarón de la Isla died in 1992.

With the backing of bongo players and an electric bass, Mr. de Lucía produced one of Spain’s most familiar tunes, a rumba called “Entre Dos Aguas” (Between Two Waters), which was part of an album released in 1973, in the final years of the Franco dictatorship.

Mr. de Lucía was renowned for “the intensity of his concentration” and for the way he had “pushed flamenco’s traditional roots both backward and forward,” Ben Ratliff wrote in The New York Times in 2004 in a review of a de Lucía performance, with singers and a rhythm section, at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan.

Mr. de Lucía’s virtuosity was grounded in age-old flamenco techniques: hard-edge strumming, breakneck runs with every note sharply articulated, a touch that could be feathery or imperious, suspenseful phrasing and, most of all, a volatile sense of dynamics and drama. 

He opened flamenco’s traditional boundaries to rhythms, harmonies and instruments from the wider world. Even when he was playing a tango, using jazz chords or backed by an electric bass, his music remained unmistakably and authoritatively flamenco.

--Raphael Minderfeb, NewYork Times

Orion Ensemble Continues Musical Travels with “Sounds of Russia”
Continuing its season of “Musical Travels,” 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, IL, March 9, as well as performances at Sherwood, The Community Music School of Columbia College Chicago, IL, March 12, and the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, IL, March 16.

“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.

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.

Joining Orion for these performances is a special guest on each piece: Two seniors from the Chicago High School for the Arts serve as narrators accompanying the musicians for the Stravinsky Suite: Samuela Nematchoua, acting major, and Chandler Browne, musical theatre major. Pianist, composer and Columbia College Chicago Director of Keyboard Studies, Sebastian Huydts, who has written works for Orion and provided commentary at the ensemble’s concerts in October and November 2013, joins Orion pianist Diana Schmück for the Rachmaninoff Suite. And violinist and violist Stephen Boe, a highly sought-after chamber musician who has performed with the Chicago Ensemble and is on faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago, joins the Orion musicians for the Beethoven String Trio.

In addition, a quintet of high school student musicians, under the auspices of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, performs one movement of Giulio Briccialdi’s Wind Quintet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 124 at the March 12 performance in downtown Chicago. The musicians are Brianna Bradley, oboe; Aydan Hensley, flute; Peter Kotecki, clarinet; Nivanthi Karunaratne, horn; and Rebecca Shepro, bassoon.

Orion’s “Musical Travels” season concludes with “Czech and American Romance” in May and June, featuring violist Stephen Boe performing on the third Beethoven Opus 9 Trio and works by Amon, Gershwin and Dvorak.

In addition to its annual four-concert series in three Chicagoland areas, Orion appears on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” on March 24, 2014. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

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 orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Lust & La Femme Mystique: Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra & Distinguished Concerts Singers International present Vance George conducting the epic masterwork Carmina Burana and Hilary Apfelstadt conducts music for women’s voices in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Monday, March 10 at 7:00 PM, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC.

Distinguished Concerts International New York presents an evening of musically epic proportions, featuring Carl Orff’s 1936 masterwork Carmina Burana, as conducted by revered conductor Vance George, with a beautiful selection of music for women’s chorus in celebration of International Women’s Day, conducted by Hilary Apfelstadt and performed by 16 outstanding choruses hailing from across North America; Vienna; Hong Kong; Munich; Curitiba, Brazil; and Brunswick, Australia. Lust & La Femme Mystique takes place on Monday, March 10 at 7:00 PM at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center.

The earth-shattering tones of Orff's Carmina Burana, composed in 1936, can be heard on stages, televisions, and silver screens across the globe. Encompassing themes from love, fate, and fortune to sex, drinking, gambling, the work is based on a 12th century collection of monastic poetry, with texts in vernacular Latin, medieval French, and German. Conductor Vance George was granted a Grammy award for his recording of the work with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, which he conducted for 23 years. Carmina Burana features soloists Penelope Shumate, soprano; tenor Dillon McCartney; and baritone Keith Harris.

Women take center stage in the second half of the program, conducted by Hilary Apfelstadt, with compositions that give contemporary expression to women’s perspectives, including music by composers Eleanor Daley, Joan Szymko and Jocelyn Hagen, as well as contemporary settings of poetry by Barbara Powis, Christina Rossetti, and Sara Teasdale. Nancy Telfer (The blue eye of God) and Stephen Chatman (The half moon) chose poetry about nature, while Muehleisen’s Joy is based on poems that reflect the joy of human love.  The program concludes with lively South American songs reminiscent of children’s play (Travessura), and indigenous celebrations of a community in Ecuador (Cancion de Los Tsáchilas).

Founded by Iris Derke (General Director) and Jonathan Griffith (Artistic Director and Principal Conductor), DCINY is driven by passion and unwavering commitment to create unforgettable audience and performer experiences. DCINY’s 2014 season features Eric Whitacre, Steven Schwartz, Christopher Tin, and much more.

For more information, click www.DCINY.org

--Shira Gilbert PR

The American Classical Orchestra Presents Alceste at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC
March 19, 2014 at 8pm, Pre-concert lecture by Thomas Crawford and Neil Zaslaw at 7pm.

Join the American Classical Orchestra for the final performance of Handelfest on March 19, 2014 at 8pm at Alice Tully Hall. ACO Music director Thomas Crawford and musicologist Neal Zaslaw will give a pre-concert lecture at 7pm.

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.

For more information, click http://americanclassicalorchestra.org/

--Julia Casey, BuckleSweet Media

Listen: Life With Classical Music Releases Its Spring 2014 Issue
Zuill Bailey, Paul Lansky, The Mass and its past, a formidable trio of thinking pianists, Mozart in Siberia, and China in NYC.

As buds and birdsong usher in a long-awaited rebirth of outdoor life, the spring issue of Listen: Life with Classical Music celebrates the constant renewal of endlessly inspiring music, whether it’s the Dvorak Cello Concerto, the Goldberg Variations, or The Marriage of Figaro. It also traces the peculiar bloom of myriad characters in our world: a soprano, a composer, a trio of pianists, a conductor, a violin, a fan.

On the cover is cello champion and small-town hero Zuill Bailey who chats at length with Editor in Chief Ben Finane about building an audience and a better world through classical music, avoiding the grapevine effect and keeping it together during the Elgar.

Listen resident scholar Jens F. Laurson tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the Mass (but were afraid to ask) accompanied by a chronological playlist that invites your ears to discover how the form went from Gebrauchsmusik to absolute music, from medieval polyphony to salsa, and why it endures today.

Plus, much, much more in the spring 2014 issue of Listen: Life with Classical Music.

For more information, click ListenMusicMag.com

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Universal Music Classics Partners with Frost School of Music on Universal Music U @ Frost
New initiatives to grow “Next Generation” of artists and audiences for classics.

Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of Universal Music Classics, and Shelly Berg, Dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, announce a strategic business-academic partnership to launch Universal Music U @ Frost, a focused research initiative to identify and innovate new ways for aspiring young professional musicians to build and meaningfully engage with broad-based audiences for “classic” music genres.

The initiative, Universal Music U @ Frost, will center around four areas of innovation –the concert experience, the training of performers, the role of the record label, and the building of a worldwide network of young composers, practitioners and consumers who represent the future of classics.

Frost School of Music students and faculty will work with executives and artists from Universal Music Classics, who will be onsite for hands-on “externships,” to develop and test new live concert and recording models, create new marketing approaches, and innovate new audience and social media strategies in keeping with ever-changing technologies and societal developments.

Collaborative plans for Universal Music U @ Frost also include co-developing a new type of master’s degree in performance at the Frost School of Music with courses relevant to today’s professional world, such as concert programming, new recording paradigms, audience development, entrepreneurship, touring, stage presence, long-term career development, and business management. Some of these courses will be made available online, including an online certificate program.

For more information, click www.music.miami.edu

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Present “Atlantic Crossing”
In collaboration with Chanticleer March 20-25
New Century debut at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, an evening Serenade Gala honors executive director Parker Monroe March 16

Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra conclude their 2013-14 season with a first-ever collaboration with Chanticleer, “the world’s reigning male chorus” (The New Yorker). “Atlantic Crossing” will be presented in five Bay Area locations March 20-25 opening with a debut appearance for New Century at the Bing Concert Hall in Stanford. These performances mark the last under the 18-year leadership of Executive Director Parker Monroe who will be honored at New Century’s “An Evening Serenade Gala” March 16.

New Century and Chanticleer will embark on a musical journey across the Atlantic from Europe to New York spanning the era between two World Wars with European classics, works from the Great American Songbook and arrangements by the internationally renowned, 1930s all-male German chorus, the Comedian Harmonists. The program showcases a variety of works by composers who fled a war-torn Europe for safe haven in the United States, including Béla Bartók, Paul Hindemith, Fritz Kreisler, Miklós Rózsa and Kurt Weill, and those who were musical leaders in America such as Duke Ellington and George Gershwin.

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $59 and can be purchased through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35.

The Bing Concert Hall performance is presented by Stanford Live, and tickets are only available online at live.stanford.edu or by phone at (650) 725-ARTS. If you are unable to purchase tickets, you may add yourself to the Notification List to receive information about newly available tickets at live.standford.edu/go/notifylist.

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

Gala tickets are $350 each and can be purchased online at www.ncco.org/gala or by phone at (415) 357-1111 x 306. Tables for ten are also available, and start at $3,500.

For further information on New Century, please visit www.ncco.org.

--Karen Ames PR

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space Presents Organ Plus! with Nancianne Parrella and Friends
Sunday, March 16 at 3pm at NYC’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Hear the spectacular N.P. Mander Organ played by celebrated organist Nancianne Parrella on March 16, 2014 at 3pm. Parrella will be joined by violinist Jorge Ávila, harpist Victoria Drake, and cellist Arthur Fiacco at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City. Tickets are $20; call 212-288-2520 or click here to purchase: http://smssconcerts.org/concerts/upcoming-concerts/icalrepeat.detail/2014/03/16/78/23%7C26%7C25/MTBkNDZjZjRmZGY5Y2U1YTI1ZWU1N2ZlMmIxNWNlODU=/organ-recital-organ-plus

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Parrella’s popular Organ Plus! series at St. Ignatius. Parrella and friends all work together to choose repertoire for the series, drawing from works originally written for violin, cello, and harp with organ (or anything that can be adapted for organ). On the March 16 program, the group will premiere a brand-new arrangement of Hymne by Belgian composer Joseph Jongen, originally written for organ and string orchestra. Parrella and Drake will perform Fantasy for Organ and Harp by Canadian composer and organist Rachel Laurin, which Parrella describes as “challenging, demanding, and very beautiful.” The program also includes works by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Saint-Saens, and others.

It’s easy to see why Organ Plus! has become a crowd favorite, both at St. Ignatius and on the road. Don’t miss these masterpieces of chamber music, performed in one of New York City’s most beautiful spaces.

--Julia Casey, BuckleSweet Media

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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