Classical Music News of the Week, March 30, 2014

Music Institute Presents Organist Nathan J. Laube May 17, Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Its Skinner Organ

The Music Institute of Chicago celebrates the 100th anniversary of its E.M. Skinner organ by presenting acclaimed young organist Nathan J. Laube in concert Saturday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Il.

The program includes Bach's Cantata 29, "Wir danken dir," BWV 39; Mendelssohn's Variations Sérieuses, Op. 54; Schumann's Studien für den Pedalflügel, Op. 56; Widor's Symphonie pour Grand Orgue, Op. 42, No. 5; Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor, Op. 28, No. 5; Saint-Saëns' Fantaisie pour Orgue, Op. 101; Mozart's Adagio und Allegro in f-moll für ein Orgelwerk, KV 594; and Dupré's Prélude et Fugue en sol-mineur, Op. 7, No. 3.

A star among young classical musicians, Nathan J. Laube has quickly earned a place among the organ world's elite performers. His brilliant playing and gracious demeanor have thrilled audiences and presenters across the United States and in Europe, and his creative programming of repertoire spanning five centuries, including his own virtuoso transcriptions of orchestral works, have earned high praise from critics and peers alike. In addition to his busy performing schedule, Laube is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of young organists, and in the fall of 2013, he joined the faculty at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York as assistant professor of organ.

In a recent article in The Economist, Laube talks about the resurgence of the organ as a concert instrument. Following a recent live recording of an organ concerto with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, he said, "It was amazing to see a full house of symphony-goers jump up after what must have been for many a first exposure to the instrument in a concerto role."

The Music Institute's E.M. Skinner organ, Opus 208, was completed June 1, 1914 by the Ernest M. Skinner Company in Boston and underwent a complete historic restoration between 2005 and 2007.

Organist Nathan J. Laube performs Saturday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students, available at or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. For more information visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Take2 Publishling Launches New Spielberg Book
So why is this important, and why am I announcing the upcoming launch of The Take2 Guide: Steven Spielberg here among the classical music news items of the week? Well, any new book about Spielberg is important because he's one of America's, nay, one of the world's, great film directors. But I'm announcing its launch here because it includes several articles by yours truly on the man's work.

You'll get a better idea of the book here:

And here:


Twenty-nine Artists from Ten Countries to Participate in Twelve-Week Intensive Merola Opera Program
Conductors Mark Morash, Eric Melear, Martin Katz and Ari Pelto lead performances this summer, including André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, Schwabacher Summer Concert, Mozart's Don Giovanni, and Merola Grand Finale.

Twenty-three singers, five apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director, representing ten countries, will participate in the 57th season of the Merola Opera Program from June 2 to August 17. More than 900 artists vied for the 29 coveted spots in the 2014 summer program. Offered free of charge for all participants, the prestigious Merola Opera program is unique in the industry in many ways. Merola is the only young artist program to provide financial support to developing artists for five years following participation. In the past year alone, more than $150,000 was distributed to more than 100 artists supporting varied needs from coaching to language classes to audition travel. In addition, only Merola graduates are considered for participation in the San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellowship program. Selected through an extensive world-wide audition and application process, nearly one third of this season's artists come from countries outside the United States, including: Canada, China, Taiwan, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Iran, Poland and Israel. This year, the program will have three returning Merola artists, Casey Candebat (Merola 2012), Sahar Nouri and Rhys Lloyd Talbot (both Merola 2013).

The 2014 Merola artists will participate in an intensive 11-week training program—12 weeks for the apprentice coaches and the apprentice stage director—which will include master classes with opera luminaries Warren Jones, Jane Eaglen, Eric Owens, Steven Blier and Carol Vaness. Guest teachers Patrick Carfizzi, Eric Weimer, Alessandra Cattani, Deborah Birnbaum and Chuck Hudson provide training in voice, foreign languages, operatic repertory, diction, acting and stage movement. Merola members will enjoy the opportunity to sit in on select master classes for a behind-the-scenes look at the training process.

Performance is a key element of the program throughout the summer. Participants will appear in public performances during the Merola Opera Program summer festival, which includes two staged operas, a scenes program and a concert. The 2014 festival opens with André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, with a new reduction of the orchestral score by Peter Grunberg commissioned by Merola, directed by Jose Maria Condemi (Merola 1999, 2000) and conducted by Mark Morash (Merola 1987) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10, and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Everett Auditorium. The season continues with the Schwabacher Summer Concert, conducted by Eric Melear (Merola 2002) and directed by Roy Rallo at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 17 at Everett Auditorium and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 19 in a free outdoor concert at Yerba Buena Gardens. Mozart's Don Giovanni, led by director, production designer and visual artist James Darrah and conducted by world-renowned pianist and conductor Martin Katz, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 31 and 2 p.m. Saturday August 2 at Everett Auditorium. The festival concludes with the annual Merola Grand Finale with the orchestra led by internationally acclaimed conductor Ari Peltothe and directed by apprentice stage director Omer Ben Seadia at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 16 on the main stage of the magnificent War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA.

Tickets for all performances may be purchased starting May 5 by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330. The box office is open Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This season, Merola is proud to announce its new Student Membership Program, which will provide up to 40 full memberships to Bay Area high school upperclassmen and college students. Each membership includes tickets to Merola's productions, master classes and special events. Interested students can find the application on line by visiting Deadline to apply is April 18.

For more information about Merola, please visit or call (415) 551-6299.

--Karen Ames Communications

DCINY Presents "The Drop of Dawn"
The music of Grammy Award-winning composer Christopher Tin features the world premiere of "The Drop that Contained the Sea" and Tin's Grammy Winning "Calling All Dawns."

Sunday, April 13 at 8:30 PM | Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, NYC.

DCINY (Distinguished Concerts International New York) expands its collaboration with innovative young composer and two-time Grammy Award-winner Christopher Tin with an exhilarating night of Tin's music at Carnegie Hall. The Drop of Dawn on Sunday, April 13 at 8:30 pm, unites two large-scale, multi-lingual choral and orchestral works: the world premiere of "The Drop That Contained the Sea," and a performance of Tin's acclaimed "Calling All Dawns," whose opening movement, "Baba Yetu," made history as the first piece of music written for a video game to win a Grammy Award. Performing with the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Singers International, which features outstanding choruses chosen from across the US, Canada and England, and conducted by DCINY Artistic Director Jonathan Griffith, is an array of spectacular singers and world music artists including mezzo-sopranos Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek (of Anonymous 4) and Charity Dawson, tenor Saum Eskandani, Indian Classical vocalist Roopa Mahadevan, Mongolian pop star Nominjin, and Portuguese fado singer Nathalie Pires. "The Drop That Contained the Sea" will also be released on CD and iTunes on May 8, with pre-orders available starting April 13 on

"The Drop That Contained the Sea" is a fascinating collection of works composed between 2012 and 2014, commissioned by DCINY and other organizations. "The title comes from a Sufi concept," says Tin, explaining, "In the same way that every drop of water contains the essence of the sea, inside every human is the essence of all of humanity."  Different sections evoke water in different forms, such as clouds, rain, and snow, and are arranged in the order that water flows through the world, from snow to mountain streams, streams become rivers, and rivers pouring into the ocean. Each of the 10 pieces is sung in a different language, starting with Proto-Indo-European, the ancestral root of most modern languages, and spanning out to others including Bulgarian, Xhosa, Sanskrit, and Lango.

A 12-part song-cycle in three movements, "Calling All Dawns" journeys from joy to darkest sorrow and mystery, and back to triumph and exultation. Movements named day, night and dawn correspond with the phases of life, death, and rebirth. A total of twelve different languages are represented, including Swahili, Mandarin, Hebrew, Irish, and Farsi, with texts both sacred and secular. Calling All Dawns' first movement, "Baba Yetu," was originally composed for the video game Civilization IV but soon took on a life of its own, going on to winning a Grammy Award – a first for a piece of music written for a video game.  Time Magazine hailed the "rousing, anthemic theme song" with Higher Plain Music calling the album "a masterpiece … pure and absolute musical hedonism."

Tickets $20 - $100 at, 212-247-7800 or at the Carnegie Hall Box Office.

--Shira Gilbert PR

Celebrating 100: James Conlon Conducts His 100th Opera, Billy Budd, for Britten 100/LA
Music Director James Conlon reached two significant milestones with the LA Opera production of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd this spring. As the 100th opera that Mr. Conlon has conducted in his career, Billy Budd also marked the finale of Britten 100/LA: A Celebration, a year-long, city-wide festival spearheaded by Mr. Conlon that observed the 2013 centenary of the composer's birth with performances, conferences, and exhibitions.

"Conlon ends Britten's first centennial with a performance of his greatest opera that will be hard to surpass," reviewed Southern California Public Radio KPCC. The Los Angeles Daily News called his performance "exceedingly powerful, diverse in its orchestral coloration and dramatically evocative," while the Los Angeles Times said that Mr. Conlon "conducts with unerring conviction" as "the force behind LA's Britten celebrations."

Although the Britten 100/LA began in 2013, Mr. Conlon's dedication to Britten and his legacy reaches further back. For the past three years, he has led a performance cycle of many Britten works, including five other operas (Albert Herring, Noye's Fludde, Rape of Lucretia, and The Turn of the Screw in Los Angeles, and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Met Opera), three church parables (The Burning Fiery Furnace, Curlew River, and The Prodigal Son), and sundry orchestral and choral works (including Cantata misericordium, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, War Requiem, and the Violin Concerto) across the US and Europe.

--Shuman Associates PR

Jessye Norman, Dionne Warwick, 3WB, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Candice Glover, and Wolf Blitzer Join Washington Performing Arts Society's Musical Celebration of Marian Anderson
On April 12, 2014, one of the nation's leading independent arts producers and recent recipient of the National Medal of Arts, Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS), will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Marian Anderson's groundbreaking Easter Sunday performance at the Lincoln Memorial, a landmark moment in the Civil Rights movement, with an all-star concert, "Of Thee We Sing," hosted by Jessye Norman, the celebrated American soprano and longtime friend of WPAS and of Ms. Anderson.

Ms. Norman will be joined by, among others, Dionne Warwick, the vocal group 3WB (brothers Marvin, Carvin, and BeBe Winans), composer Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner, journalist Wolf Blitzer, opera singers Soloman Howard and Alyson Cambridge, American Idol winner Candice Glover, vocalist Annisse Murillo, and an extraordinary choir of nearly 300 voices led by WPAS Gospel Choir Artistic Director Stanley Thurston to tell Anderson's story through music, words and images, tied together with a narrative by Tony Award-winning playwright Murray Horwitz (Ain't Misbehavin').

Inspired by both her towering artistic achievements and deep humanitarianism, the program draws on music from the classical and African-American spiritual repertoire that defined Anderson's career.

"Of Thee We Sing" will take place at Washington, D.C.'s historic DAR Constitution Hall on April 12, 2014, 7pm-8:15pm. All tickets are $5. Limited tickets are available and can be purchased through WPAS box office 202-785-9727 or

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Orion Concludes Musical Travels with German, Czech, American Music
Dvorak, Amon, Gershwin, Beethoven in St. Charles (May 25), Chicago (May 28), Evanston (June 1)

Concluding its season of "Musical Travels," The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, showcases music from three countries. Performances take place at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles May 25, the PianoForte Studios in Chicago May 28 and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston June 1.

The Program:
Two classical works, by composers whose dates are similar, take listeners to Germany at the turn of the 19th century. Orion's string players—Florentina Ramniceanu on violin and Judy Stone on cello—welcome guest violinist and violist Stephen Boe on viola to complete Beethoven's virtuosic Opus 9 String Trio cycle with the Trio in C Minor, Opus 9, No. 3, having performed the first two Trios on earlier programs this season. These energetic and virtuosic Trios, written in 1797, are delightful examples of young Beethoven's skills in working motivically and stretching the forms of the day to accommodate his unique style and voice.

Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle joins the string players for the Clarinet Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 106, No. 2 by another German composer, Johann Andreas Amon (1763–1825). Amon was influenced by Mozart's Clarinet Quintet as well as by clarinet works he heard while studying and traveling in France and Austria. His lyrical quartet exploits the melodic and virtuosic possibilities of the clarinet, as well as its various relationships with the strings.

In a quick excursion to the early 20th century U.S., Kathryne Pirtle and pianist Diana Schmück perform Gershwin's Three Preludes. Originally written for piano alone, the effective arrangement by James Cohn for clarinet and piano keeps the jazzy energy of the original outer movements and the soulfulness of the middle prelude while adding the vast color palette of the clarinet.

Orion closes the concert with the Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87 by Dvorak, considered one of the greatest Czech composers. In his treatise "Our Debt to Antonin Dvorak," Czech conductor Vaclav Talach asserted that Dvorak could listen to nature and turn the reality of the Czech countryside and rural life into the spiritual qualities of music. This work, for strings and piano, is full of beautiful themes, rich and varied textures and the enchanting influence of folk music of his beloved homeland.

Performance and ticket information:
The Orion Ensemble's concluding concert program of its "Musical Travels" season takes place Sunday, May 25 at 7 p.m. at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Avenue in St. Charles; Wednesday, May 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, June 1 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 Communicatons

Sergio Tiempo Invites the Audience to Decide Which Chopin Etudes He Will Play at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall
Star Venezuelan pianist's return to the International Piano Series is programmed around his own family - as part of his wider musical family, he invites the audience to get involved.

On his last appearance at Southbank Centre's prestigious International Piano Series in 2011, Sergio Tiempo was one of the season's most popular recitalists, so his return has been eagerly awaited. And his appeal has not dimmed - in recent months he has toured China, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Latin America (where he is something of a superstar) - and audiences have, as in London, flocked to his concerts. Meanwhile some of his videos on YouTube have reached around the 750,000 page-view mark, especially his Chopin performances. And Chopin will be a centrepiece of a varied program he will bring to the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 29th April 2014 - it is a new concert program that means a lot to him, with each work chosen to represent a different member of his family.

"I have recently experienced the greatest change in my life: I have become a father!" explains Tiempo, "Among the many, many effects it has on my life, it makes me realise anew that my family relationships ARE me. I am these relationships. And as I see myself in the eyes of my baby, I can't help thinking about the way in which this strong of relationships gives meaning. Everything in music only exists in relation to something else, and it this very relation that yields meaning. So I allowed myself to dream up a slightly Freudian program in which I let the personalities of those closest to me evoke a certain piece of music. Brahms for my sister, Beethoven for my mother, Prokofiev for my niece, Villa Lobos for my baby girl, Ginastera for her mother, Piazzolla for my father, Debussy for me."

"But the audience is my other symbolic family member whom I have been in contact with since I was three years old. Therefore I have asked the audience to choose six Etudes for me by Chopin, one of the most influential composers in my formative life."

Tiempo has therefore posted online live performances of 12 of the Chopin Etudes, where listeners are invited to vote for their favourites. The six most-voted-for will be in the concert! Other works in the recital are Brahms's Intermezzo in B minor, Beethoven's Appassionata sonata, Debussy's Reflets dans l'eau from Images, four pieces from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, four Villa-Lobos works, Piazzolla's Fuga y Misterio, and Ginastera's Malambo, Op.7 for piano.

You can hear Tiempo play those 12 Chopin Etudes, and of course vote, at

And you can view the programme at Southbank Centre's Web
site at

--Inverne Price Music

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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