Classical Music News of the Week, April 6, 2014

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, America's Leading Period-Instrument Orchestra, Announces 34th Season

Highlights of the 34th season:
The Adler Fellows from San Francisco Opera Center join Philharmonia for Rossini's comic opera, The Marriage Contract; Steven Isserlis returns with cello concertos by Boccherini and C.P.E.
Bach; countertenor Andreas Scholl sings J.S. Bach and Handel; English violinist Rachel Podger leads concertos from Vivaldi's L'estro armonico and La cetra; A joyous Christmas concert features music by Vivaldi and Zelenka with the glorious Philharmonia Chorale.

In October 2014, Steven Isserlis and Nicholas McGegan join forces for a concert celebrating the charm and wit of the Classical era. Renowned for his authenticity and dynamism, Steven Isserlis plays C.P.E. Bach's inventive Concerto for Violoncello in A major and Boccherini's elegant Concerto for Violoncello No. 7. McGegan leads two playful symphonies by Joseph Haydn, Nos. 57 and 67. Philharmonia's recording of three Haydn symphonies was Grammy-nominated in 2011.

Andreas Scholl, the world-renowned countertenor with a "darkly entrancing" voice (The New Yorker), sings music by two Baroque masters in November 2014. The program includes J.S. Bach's moving Cantata No. 170 and Handel arias including "Va tacito" from Giulio Cesare. Conductor Julian Wachner of Trinity Wall Street leads Philharmonia in J.S. Bach's beloved Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 and Telemann's melodic Concerto in F major with its wistful oboe and horns.

In December, Philharmonia celebrates the holiday season with joyous sacred music by Antonio Vivaldi, Jan Dismas Zelenka, and others. Vivaldi's recently discovered Dixit Dominus ("The Lord Said") combines pealing trumpets, exultant strings, and soaring choral harmonies, rivaling his Gloria in beauty and magnificence. Nicholas McGegan leads Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorale along with soloists including Dominique Labelle, Christopher Ainslie, and Dashon Burton. Zelenka, the most important Bohemian composer of the Baroque period, composed his Missa Nativitatis Domini ("Christmas Mass") with ornate arias and richly expressive harmonies. Rounding out this program are the Sonata natalis of Zelenka's fellow Bohemian, Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky, and Joseph Haydn's Ave Regina Coelorum, a tender hymn to a young girl Haydn loved but lost to the convent.

In February 2015, Nicholas McGegan leads a concert dedicated to music by two members of the extended Bach family: Johann Ludwig and Johann Bernhard, both cousins to Johann Sebastian. J.L. Bach's Trauermusik ("Mourning Music"), a setting of text from the Book of Psalms, is full of brisk cadences, soaring recitative, and tender vocal melodies sung by soloists including Sherezade Panthaki, Clifton Massey, and Brian Thorsett, alongside the Philharmonia Chorale. J.B. Bach's Suite in G minor is full of rich counterpoint and fugues unfurling between strings, harpsichord, and woodwinds. This concert introduces Bay Area audiences to glorious music by two Baroque masters.

English violinist Rachel Podger returns to lead some of Vivaldi's most virtuosic violin music from his collections L'estro armonico, La cetra and La stravaganza. This concert in March 2015 reunites Philharmonia with a leader who blew audiences away with her warmth and humor - as well as the dazzling technique which makes her a sought-after soloist the world over. This program highlights the shimmering textures and high-speed passages which make Vivaldi among the most beloved of Baroque composers.

In April 2015, Nicholas McGegan leads Rossini's Il cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), a comic masterpiece featuring vocal soloists from San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellowship Program. Set in London, the opera tells the story of a crass Canadian businessman and his machinations to marry Fanny, the daughter of a wealthy merchant - over the opposition of Eduardo, Fanny's lover. Full of boisterous melodies from the Orchestra and vocal fireworks from the Adler Fellows, this production marks an exciting collaboration between America's leading period-instrument orchestra and the next generation of opera stars.

For the 2014-15 season, Philharmonia performs in five concert halls around the Bay Area, each selected for its outstanding acoustics, intimacy, and suitability to the Orchestra's style of performance.

In San Francisco, the Orchestra performs at the SFJAZZ Center in Hayes Valley - a sleek and modern hall which has been a hit equally with critics and audiences - and Calvary Presbyterian Church in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood, the perfect setting for sacred music.

The Orchestra's Peninsula series will include performances at Stanford University's new Bing Concert Hall, a beautiful and resonant venue, and the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto.

In Berkeley, the Orchestra will continue to perform at First Congregational Church.

Subscriptions go on sale to the public on April 21, 2014, and range in price from $72 to $575. Call (415) 295-1900 to subscribe or visit

Single tickets range in price from $25 to $100 and go on sale in August 2014 through City Box Office.

--Ben Casement-Stoll, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Music Institute of Chicago Honors Music Icon Andre Previn at 84th Anniversary Gala May 12
The Music Institute of Chicago, now in its 84th year, hosts its annual gala Monday, May 12 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 East Delaware Place. The oldest community music school in Illinois and one of the three largest community music schools in the nation, the Music Institute is planning a celebratory evening highlighted by the presentation of the Dushkin Award to conductor, composer, and pianist André Previn.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, followed by an elegant dinner and awards presentation. Musical performances throughout the evening include some of the Music Institute's talented Community School students and award-winning students from the Music Institute's Academy for gifted pre-college musicians.

The prestigious Dushkin Award, established 28 years ago and named for the Music Institute's visionary founders Dorothy and David Dushkin, recognizes international luminaries in the world of music for their contributions to the art form, as well as to the education of youth. Past recipients include Lang Lang, Stephen Sondheim, Riccardo Muti, Yo-Yo Ma, Leon Fleisher, Renée Fleming, Placido Domingo, William Warfield, Isaac Stern, Sir Georg Solti, Pierre Boulez, Samuel Ramey, and Bruno Bartoletti, among others.

This year's recipient, André Previn, has received a number of awards and honors for his outstanding musical accomplishments, including the Austrian and German Cross of Merit and the Glenn Gould Prize. He is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center, the London Symphony Orchestra, Gramophone Classic FM, and this year a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. Recent highlights include the premiere of his Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Roman Patkoló, premiered by the Boston Symphony in 2007.

The Music Institute of Chicago is pleased to present its fifth annual Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago, which recognizes individuals who have provided visionary philanthropic and civic leadership for the broad spectrum of arts in Chicago and Illinois, to Alexandra and John Nichols.  Few couples have worked in partnership, as well as independently, to advance the missions of so many of Chicago's arts and cultural organizations, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and Writers Theatre.

Individual tickets to the Music Institute of Chicago's 84th Anniversary Gala are $550; table sponsorships are available for $5,500–50,000. For information, please call 847.448.8327.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Cal Performances Presents the World Premiere of Mark Morris's Acis and Galatea with the Mark Morris Dance Group and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale
Friday–Sunday, April 25–27 in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA. Residency activities include a community dance class on Saturday, April 26, and a talk with Mark Morris and Ara Guzelimian, Dean and Provost of The Juilliard School, on Sunday, April 27.

Mark Morris Dance Group's 200th appearance at Cal Performances will be celebrated with the world premiere of Mark Morris's full-length, fully-staged Acis and Galatea. The highlight of the 2013-2014 dance season and the final dance residency, Morris's new production employs Mozart's arrangement of Handel's Acis and Galatea, choreographed for his company. Nicholas McGegan leads the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale for three Berkeley performances on Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 27 at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. Singing the work in English, guest soloists include tenor Thomas Cooley (Acis), soprano Sherezade Panthaki (Galatea), and baritone Douglas Williams (Polyphemus).

Tickets for Mark Morris's Acis and Galatea on Friday-Sunday, April 27-29 in Zellerbach Hall range from $30.00 to $110.00 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

Opera Parallele Pressents Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tiresias and Weill's Mahogonny Songspiel, April 25, 26, and 27 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
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, Les mamelles de Tirésias.

The public is invited to peek behind the scenes in advance of the production as the company offers three free preview events. Sneak previews are presented at 6 p.m. April 9 in the Sol Joseph Recital Hall of San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at 6:30 p.m. April 16 at Goethe Institut. An open rehearsal at 4 p.m. on April 19 will also provide an insider's glimpse at the process of theatrical staging much like the world envisioned by Concept and Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel – in one of the large industrial spaces that formerly housed the Exploratorium.

Under the leadership of conductor and Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and Concept and Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel, Opera Parallèle presents this unforgettable, theatrical journey where two landmark works are united into one production through the creation of a new original storyline. Opera Parallèle's überstory begins with the jazz-infused Mahagonny Songspiel by Kurt Weill as a theatrical troupe pulls a futuristic boat on wheels searching for paradise – and that now-rarest of commodities, water –  in the shattered world of a harsh desert environment. Encountering a group of desert nomads, the troupe sets up its travelling theater and offers a performance of Poulenc's outrageously surreal satire Les mamelles de Tirésias. The evening concludes with a return to excerpts from Weill's Songspiel, this time presented in retrograde with the original gunshot of the opening bar echoing through the theater to close the evening.

Don't miss this opportunity to experience Opera Parallèle's production of Poulenc's Les mamelles de Tirésias and Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel on April 25, 26 and 27, 2014 at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Lam Research Theater. Tickets priced from $35 to $90 are on sale January 24, 2014. They can be purchased in person at the YBCA's box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third, over the phone at (415) 978-ARTS (2787) or online at

--Karen Ames PR

75,000+ Views in One Month for "Imagination," Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins' Music Video Album
The album features the Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin in E major, No. 6 by Eugène Ysaÿe and "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

In just one month after its online release, violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins' new music video album "Imagination" has caught fire with online viewers, receiving over 70,000 views on YouTube. This unique music video project pairs two diverse works directed by William D. Caballero: 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.

Over 150 friends and fans came together at Pranna on Madison Avenue in New York City last week to celebrate the video album release, hear Kelly perform with guitarist Oren Fader, and feast upon a candy buffet, in keeping with the "Pure Imagination" theme. NPR's Bill McLaughlin interviewed the artists following the performance and took questions from the appreciative audience.

Kelly Hall-Tompkins' most recent recording, "In My Own Voice," was called "impressive" by The Strad and praised by Fanfare for its "opulent intensity" with the "strength of personality that justify the CD's title." Winner of a Naumburg International Violin Competition Honorarium Prize, Kelly has appeared as soloist with orchestras such as the Dallas Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Chamber 3 - Kelly and Bill Orchestra of New York, and Philharmonic of Uruguay, in addition to numerous concerts and recitals in cities including Paris, New York, Toronto, Washington, Chicago, Baltimore, and Greenville, South Carolina, as well as at festivals in France, Germany and Italy. A frequent collaborating partner of violinist/composer Mark O'Connor, Ms. Hall-Tompkins is first violinist of the new O'Connor String Quartet and has performed O'Connor's Double Violin Concerto in concerts and festivals across the United States.  A passionate chamber musician and humanitarian, Ms. Hall-Tompkins founded and directs Music Kitchen-Food for the Soul, which has, to date, brought over 60 chamber music performances to New York City homeless shelters.

Visit Kelly's Youtube Channel to view the two videos, as well as a video interview about the project:

The DVD Collector's Edition can be purchased at Kelly's Web site:

--Shira Gilbert PR

Pianist Lara Downes and Cellist Zuill Bailey Perform from Their New Album Some Other Time at Bargemusic in Brooklyn, NY
The dynamic duo performs the music of Bernstein, Copland, Barber and other pioneering American composers on April 25, 2014 at 7pm

Join Steinway & Sons pianist Lara Downes and celebrated cellist Zuill Bailey for an evening of works by some of the most lauded American composers of our time. They will play from their new album Some Other Time at Bargemusic, New York City's floating music venue docked beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, on April 25, 2014 at 7pm. Tickets ($15-$35) can be purchased by calling 718-624-4924 or by clicking here:

Pianist Lara Downes and cellist Zuill Bailey have each, in their own way and quite often together, been credited with seeking out new ways of presenting classical music, of reinventing the art of the recital for our time. But for both of them, the tireless quest to touch audiences through reawakening their musical curiosity owes everything to the pioneering spirit of earlier American composers. This program will include works by Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss and others that represent the simultaneous nostalgia and progress of American music.

--Julia Casey, 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