Classical Music News of the Week, May 18, 2014

American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy: "Bach's Inspiration"
July 11 through 20, 2014 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco, CA

Tracing the influences of Italian, French, and North German composers on Johann Sebastian Bach's music, the 2014 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy will feature works by Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Buxtehude, and Bach's forebears.

Musical delights and discoveries will fill the days and nights of the 2014 Festival. From large-scaled masterworks for full orchestra, choir, and vocal soloists to intimate instrumental works, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

Masterworks Series
Annual performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor, large-scale instrumental and vocal works, and concert performances of Baroque oratorio and opera. Jeffrey Thomas directs performances by the American Bach Soloists, the Academy Orchestra and soloists, and the American Bach Choir.

Distinguished Artist Series
These concerts feature performances by acclaimed early music specialists. Within the framework of an intimate recital, instrumentalists and singers will present solo works with accompaniment, in programs built around programmatic themes of cultures, places, or events in history.

Academy Events
The American Bach Soloists Academy—the educational component of the ABS Summer Bach Festival—offers advanced conservatory-level students and emerging professionals unique opportunities to study and perform Baroque music in a multi-disciplinary learning environment.

Academy participants are featured exclusively in three evenings of Academy-in-Action Concerts offering chamber vocal and instrumental works by Baroque masters.

Public Colloquia
Annual engaging forums for performers and audience members alike explore a variety of topics centered on historical, artistic, and practical considerations of performing Baroque music today. (Free)

Lecture Series
Join the members of the American Bach Soloists Academy for a series of enlightening and informative public lectures presented by the Academy faculty on a wide range of subjects centered on Festival themes. (Free)

Master Class Series
The ABS Academy opens its doors to the public to witness the artistic transformations that make Master Classes so tremendously exciting, as performers and their master teachers share their knowledge and insights. (Free)

To view all Academy events and purchase tickets, click here:

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

ABS Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas Will Be Resident Scholar At Grace Cathedral During May and June 2014 
American Bach Soloists Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas will be Resident Scholar at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral beginning May 13 and extending through the end of June. During this residency, Thomas will continue work on his forthcoming book on Handel's Messiah.

Grace Cathedral and Handel's Messiah are a familiar combination for Thomas, who has led the American Bach Soloists (ABS) in performances of the 1741 masterwork every December for the last 15 years. These annual performances have become a cherished Northern California tradition and play to sold-out audiences year after year. The 2014 performances will be recorded by Emmy Award winning Zamacona Productions, who will utilize seven High-Definition cameras to capture the event for release on local and national television stations, as well as DVD and BluRay.

About Jeffrey Thomas
Jeffrey Thomas is Artistic and Music Director of the American Bach Soloists, with whom he has directed and conducted recordings of more than 25 cantatas, the Mass in B Minor, St. Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concertos, and works by Schütz, Pergolesi, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Beethoven. He has appeared with the Baltimore, Berkeley, Boston, Detroit, Houston, National, Rochester, Minnesota, and San Francisco symphony orchestras; with the Vienna Symphony and the New Japan Philharmonic; with virtually every American baroque orchestra; and in Austria, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. He has performed at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Spoleto USA Festival, Ravinia Festival, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, Boston Early Music Festival, Bethlehem Bach Festival, Göttingen Festival, Tage Alte Musik Festival in Regensburg, E. Nakamichi Baroque Festival in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian Institution, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's "Next Wave Festival," and he has collaborated on several occasions as conductor with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Before devoting all of his time to conducting, he was one of the first recipients of the San Francisco Opera Company's prestigious Adler Fellowships. Cited by The Wall Street Journal as "a superstar among oratorio tenors," Mr. Thomas' extensive discography of vocal music includes dozens of recordings of major works for Decca, EMI, Erato, Koch International Classics, Denon, Harmonia Mundi, Smithsonian, Newport Classics, and Arabesque. Mr. Thomas is an avid exponent of contemporary music, and has conducted the premieres of new operas, including David Conte's Gift of the Magi and Firebird Motel, and premiered song cycles of several composers, including two cycles written especially for him. He has performed lieder recitals at the Smithsonian, song recitals at various universities, and appeared with his own vocal chamber music ensemble, L'Aria Viva.

Mr. Thomas currently hosts two shows on one of the nation's premiere classical music radio stations, KDFC. Through world-wide streaming audio, he brings his experience and love for Baroque and choral music to a global audience.

For more information on American Bach Soloists, click

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

News from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra
"The Beethoven Journey" with Piano Concerto No. 5 and Choral Fantasy: For the third spring in a row, the MCO joins its Artistic Partner Leif Ove Andsnes for performances in Reggio Emilia, Turin, Lugano, Prague and Bergen. This time, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 and the rarely heard Choral Fantasy are the focus of the programme. Both works are being recorded by Sony Classical at the Prague Spring Festival and together complete a three-part CD cycle. The orchestra opens the concerts with Igor Stravinsky's Concerto in E-flat "Dumbarton Oaks".

MCO Landings:
"Feel the Music" in Leif Ove Andsnes' home city, Bergen:
The MCO's education project series for hearing-impaired children "Feel the Music" accompanies every tour of the "Beethoven Journey". This May, the project takes place in Norway for the first time, in Leif Ove Andsnes' home city of Bergen. Together with the orchestra, hearing-impaired children aged 8-13 years old explore how music can be experienced with all of the senses.

Farewell to Claudio Abbado:
Memorial concert in Dresden
On 9th June at Dresden's Frauenkirche, the MCO performs a memorial concert for its late founding mentor Claudio Abbado, who passed away in January. The concert, featuring works by Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Robert Schumann, will be conducted by Daniele Gatti, with Waltraud Meier and René Pape as soloists.

Tour diary:
MCO Landings in Colombia
As part of its education programme MCO Landings, nine musicians from the MCO worked with the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia in April, coaching rehearsal sessions, leading sectionals and teaching chamber music to the 16-24 year old musicians. In his tour diary, MCO violinist Christian Heubes reports on his experiences with the young people during his week there, which included salsa, table tennis and the unique countryside of Colombia, in addition to the musical work.

For more information, click

--MCO Newsletter

Distinguished Concerts International New York Presents Bluegrass & Gray: Sounds of Americana
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) brings the stirring sounds of bluegrass and Americana back to Carnegie Hall with an encore performance of Carol Barnett's "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass" featuring superstar duo Dailey & Vincent, and the New York premiere of John Purifoy's "The Chronicles of Blue & Gray," a work which weaves American folk songs, spirituals and battle cries with tunes and lyrics from the post-Civil War era. Excellent choruses from six states form the Distinguished Concerts Singers International for the thrilling afternoon concert on Sunday, June 8 at 2:00pm at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, New York City.

While bluegrass music and a church mass might seem like an unlikely pairing, it was the country music infused with a church flavor that inspired composer Carol Barnett to write "The World Beloved": "My highest hope," says Barnett, "is that listeners coming from one tradition—classical or bluegrass—and perhaps dubious about the other might discover something new and wonderful in the combination." Award-winning composer Barnett teamed with poet, playwright and novelist Marisha Chamberlain for the work which blends modern choral sophistication, poetry and traditional bluegrass instrumentation into an exhilarating musical experience. DCINY Debut Conductor Jefferson Johnson leads the Distinguished Concerts Singers International and special guests, bluegrass superstars Dailey & Vincent. Dubbed the "rock stars of bluegrass" by CMT, the group is a perennial favorite on the touring and festival circuit, playing over 115 shows each year. Their many honors include two Grammy nominations and three consecutive International Bluegrass Music Association Awards for Entertainer of the Year. Dailey & Vincent will also perform a set of their own material from across their vast repertoire.

A perfect pairing for this concert on the Americana theme is the New York premiere of Chronicles of Blue & Gray by John Purifoy, Composer-in-Residence. Purifoy gathered a variety of material representing struggles and triumphs from the century and a half that has passed since the American Civil War, including texts from Lincoln's two Inaugurals, the Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation Proclamation. New York judge and poet, Francis Miles Finch, who, two years after the war, penned the healing words, "The Blue and the Gray." Acclaimed conductor, composer, writer and educator Michael Adelson, formerly on the conducting staff of the New York Philharmonic, conducts the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Singers International. DCINY Artistic Director & Principal Conductor Jonathan Griffith serves as Chorus Master.

Founded by Iris Derke (General Director) and Jonathan Griffith (Artistic Director and Principal Conductor) Distinguished Concerts International is driven by passion, innovative vision, a total belief in its artists, and unwavering commitment to bringing forth unforgettable audience experiences.

Tickets: $20 – $100 or 212-247-7800 or in person at the Carnegie Hall Box Office

For even more information, visit

--Shira Gilbert PR

HEAR into the Future!
Since 2002, Composers & the Voice has been the crucible for many of AOP's recent shows as well as numerous opera premieres around the country. Today and Monday you can hear into the future of contemporary opera.

Sunday, May 18 | 7:30 PM
Monday, May 19 | 7:30 PM

Composers & the Voice: First Glimpse 2014
South Oxford Space | 138 S. Oxford St. | Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY

A concert of world premiere songs by Guy Barash, Avner Finberg, Jeremy Gill, Andreia Pinto-Correia, Gity Razaz, Joseph Rubinstein and librettist Jason Kim. Hosted by Daron Hagen (5/18) and Conrad Cummings (5/19).

Performances by Deborah Lifton, Kristin Sampson, Rachel Calloway, Dominic Armstrong, Jorell Williams, and Matthew Burns.

Music Directors: Mila Henry, Kelly Horsted and Charity Wicks.

Tickets: $15 general admission, $10 for students/seniors;

--Matthew Gray, AOP

Coming Soon to Weill Hall, Sonoma State's Green Music Center
Sun, May 18: Richard Goode in an all Beethoven program
Thu, May 22: Kahane and Ferrandis: One Night Only
Thu, Jun 5: Dutoit Conducts Beethoven and Shostakovich
Thu, Jun 12: National Brass Ensemble In Concert
Thu, Jul 31: Santa Rosa Symphony - A Free Concert for the Community
Sat, Sep 13: An Acoustic Evening with Ben Harper

For complete information, click

--Weill Hall at Sonoma State

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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