Good things continue to come around.
When the CD age dawned in the early Eighties, I had a long list of recordings I wanted to get on compact disc. Over the years the list shortened, and by just a few years ago it was down to only two items. Then, with my finding Michael Rabin's Paganini Violin Concerto on CD, I had completed the project.
Rabin recorded his remarkable performance of Paganini's First Violin Concerto for EMI way back in 1960 with Sir Eugene Goossens and the Philharmonia Orchestra. I didn't come to it until the late Sixties, however, by which time it had gone on to the budget label, Seraphim. The sound wasn't so hot, edgy and thin, and the vinyl was noisy. Later I managed to find it on an EMI Electrola German LP, which at least had quieter surfaces. But the recording's interpretation was the best I had ever heard, and the best I have yet to hear. In its opening movements Rabin's violin sings lyrically and melancholically and plaintively, and in the final movement it struts and dances, the cock o' the walk. Never have I heard such verve, such exceptional vibrancy and wit and energy as in Rabin's reading. Indeed, the only minor drawback for some listeners these days may be the recording's age, yet one listen and you forget it wasn't recorded yesterday.
But that's not all. I had never expected the sound to be much more than passable; it was the performance I cherished. Besides, the later recording by Itzhak Perlman, also on EMI, was sonically splendid enough if it were just sound I was after, and Hilary Hahn's newer realization on DG provides even smoother response. Imagine my surprise and delight, then, to discover that when EMI finally did transfer Rabin's performance to CD in a big, expensive multi-disc set, it sounded magnificent. In fact, in many ways it surpasses Perlman's and Hahn's renditions for sound quality.
Rabin's violin appears perhaps a touch close and its tone just a tad forward, but it is marvelously clean, transparent, and alive; and the orchestral accompaniment, while a smidgeon recessed overall is, nevertheless, nicely spacious and transparent. Moreover, there is hardly a trace of background noise unless you turn up the volume to the threshold of pain. There is also a welcome depth of image, strong dynamics, fine midrange clarity, quick transient response, good treble extension, more than adequate bass, and a mild room resonance. It's also the tiniest bit bright, but everything else is working so well, you probably won't notice.
Here's the thing, though: Because of the expense and the difficulty in locating the big six-disc EMI set of Rabin's work, I found it hard to recommend it to people. But then I discovered that EMI France had issued the piece in a two-disc set, along with Paganini's 24 Caprices and Yuhudi Menuhin doing the Second Violin Concerto. That was a better deal, but it still wasn't what I remembered from my younger, LP days, the Paganini First coupled with Wieniawski's Second Violin Concerto. Until now, when I finally realized that EMI Japan had released this single CD of the original pairing from the 1960 LP.
The coupling on the disc is almost equally distinguished as the Paganini. Polish composer and violinist Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) premiered his Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 in 1862, and it's been something of a staple of the violin repertoire ever since. It's never attained anything like the popularity of the Paganini, understand, but people like it pretty well in any case. It begins somewhat gloomily, turns rhapsodic and Romantic, and ends in a lively, Gypsy-like finale. Rabin applies the same exuberant spirit and clarity of line to the Wieniawski as he does in the Paganini and produces memorable results. The playing is active and lively, with wonderful control, the violin singing and weeping in remarkable accord.
Then, for extra measure the Japanese give us Wieniawski's First Violin Concerto with Rabin, but this one from 1957, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult and released by EMI in monaural. If not quite so accomplished as the preceding stereo works, the First Concerto is worth hearing, and Rabin and Boult do it justice.
Finally, how does the sound of the EMI Japan disc compare to EMI's multi-disc CD transfer and EMI France's transfer of the Paganini First? About the same, actually. In side-by-side comparisons, the Japanese disc seems a bit more open, the high end more extended, and the impact more solid. Still, it was so close I might have been momentarily delusional. Let's just say the sound in all three versions is excellent, so choice among them might go to whichever coupling one prefers and how much one wants to spend on the product, this single Japanese disc of the original pairing being my personal favorite and the least expensive of the lot. It's a terrific deal.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
Sir Colin Davis (1827-2013) had already made several fine recordings of Beethoven symphonies before recording the complete cycle with the Staatskapelle Dresden for Philips in 1995. Of the set, this recording of the Third Symphony got some of the best notices, yet it didn't appear to remain in the catalogue for long. I can only surmise that this situation might have come about in part because Philips was at the time thinking about throwing in the towel and in another part because Davis's reading sounds somewhat deliberate, and perhaps some listeners even considered it old-fashioned. Nevertheless, it's quite a good interpretation in its own right and worth a listen, so it's no surprise that United Classics would want to reissue it.
Anyway, the Symphony No. 3 "Eroica," Op. 55 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) premiered in 1805, ushering in something of a new beginning in the development of symphonic structure. It was so new, in fact, that Beethoven's orchestration and arrangement still prompt discussion among critics today about what it all means. My personal favorite recordings of the symphony include those by Otto Klemperer (EMI), Sir John Barbirolli (Dutton Lab), Karl Bohm (DG), Leonard Bernstein (Sony), Philippe Herreweghe (PentaTone), David Zinman (Arte Nova), Paavo Jarvi (Sony), Klaus Tennstedt (EMI), and even a cheerfully eccentric one from Hermann Scherchen (HDTT). While Davis's treatment doesn't strike me as being as colorful or as distinctively characterized as these, it is remarkably elegant and graceful, and it certainly should be an interpretation the dedicated Beethoven fan might investigate.
Don't expect a hypertense or superfast interpretation from Davis along the lines of a Norrington, Zinman, or Scherchen. Davis is closer to the readings of older maestros like Bohm, Klemperer, and Jochum. Yet Davis's rendering comes with its own charms, not the least of which is the way he so affectionately brings out the rhythms and harmonies of the first movement Allegro con brio. There is a genuine vigor and vivacity here, without his getting all hectic and crazy on us. Moreover, there is plenty of heroism and nobility involved, a sense that one is listening to pure, refined elegance rather than just hurried notes or manufactured excitement. I still wouldn't say Davis's rendition of things is among my absolute favorites (it hasn't the granite grandeur of a Klemperer, for instance), but it does come off pretty well.
It is in the second-movement funeral march, however, that conductors have to prove their worth in the Third. Here, Davis is very solemn, indeed, and trying to keep our attention for over a quarter of an hour proves a strain even on his skills. Still, he maintains a goodly and varied pace, creates a calm and quiet intensity, and manages at least not to put one to sleep.
While Davis's way with the Scherzo is not quite as lively as some I've heard, he does pull it into the sphere of the earlier movements, so it doesn't come as a complete shock to the system. Under Davis, the movement has a kind of regal vitality that is quite in line with the symphony as a whole.
Then, we get a concluding movement of expansive weight, bringing this first of Beethoven's truly great symphonies to an impressive close. Again, expect no delirious exercise in thrills and excitement, but a regal and triumphant summing up of the piece, with the finishing Presto working up a notable head of steam.
As a coupling, Davis offers the overture to Egmont. Although I never felt the same enthusiasm listening to Davis's interpretation that I feel with Szell and the Vienna Philharmonic, Davis nevertheless provides a telling compromise of tragedy and heroics, with perhaps the balance favoring the former.
Throughout the music, the Dresden State Orchestra plays wonderfully, reminding me once again why I consider it one of the finest orchestras in the world. The deep, rich, flawless sonority of the ensemble finds a match among few others in my book, maybe the Concertgebouw, Gewandhaus, and Berlin orchestras. They are always a pleasure to hear.
Philips originally recorded the disc in 1995, releasing it as a single disc and in a complete set of Beethoven symphonies. United Classics re-released the album in 2014 (and Newton Classics re-released the entire cycle several years earlier). What you'll get sonically is one of the finest-sounding Beethoven Thirds around. The midrange is remarkably clean, with a mildly pleasant ambient bloom. Dynamics are on a par with the best--very strong, very quick. Depth of field is not exceptional but still realistic. Stereo spread is wide. Bass and treble extend out well in both directions. In sum, the whole affair is remarkably natural and lifelike, and most enjoyable.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
The issue includes Avi Avital, 130+ Summer Festivals, Singing Nuns, Menahem Pressler Goes Solo, Librettists Unleashed and a Tsar's Bride.
The summer issue of Listen: Life with Classical Music urges you to get outside with its annual round up of great summer festivals. But if travel isn't in the cards for you this summer, you can still travel beyond classical music's borders to discover a wide world where virtuoso mandolinist Avi Avital flips between Bach and Bulgarian klezmer, where talented, good-looking accordionists are on the rise, where video game music is elevated to orchestral art, where a jazz band is riffing on tone rows, where singing nuns are topping the charts, and where clapping between movements doesn't equal a facepalm.
On the cover is intrepid Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital, who shares his delight in blending the border between folk and classical with Editor-in-Chief Ben Finane, talking about the pitfalls of performing Bach harpsichord pieces with just four fingers, traveling back in time to 1914 to catch the premiere of Bartók's Six Romanian Dances, and composers hell-bent on making him do the impossible.
Our annual state-by-state listing of summer festivals includes 133 amazing events across the continent with tantalizing photos of some of the stunning venues that will give even the most devoted homebody a case of wanderlust.
Speaking of playing outside, if the music of Anton Webern can sometimes seem like "watching Telemundo without knowing Spanish," meet jazzer John O'Gallagher of The Webern Project who, according to our reporter Bradley Bambarger, will happily be your translator.
Or perhaps you're more interested in finding out which classic Nintendo character's journey String Arcade creator Dren McDonald deems "existential," revealed by writer Brian Wise as he traces the logical evolution of video game music into highbrow fare.
The thorough and insightful poet Ernest Hilbert posits that a new crop of librettists, with a knack for historical speculation and imaginative storytelling, are major drivers of a new era of American opera while Maya Pritsker remembers another operatic renaissance through one of its bejeweled relics: Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride.
Plus: Stuart Isaacoff catches up with nonagenarian pianist Menahem Pressler, who is tickled to find himself as an in-demand soloist for the first time in his life.
The magazine is available at Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores throughout the US and Canada or by subscription: http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/listPage.jsp?list_id=2445&source=LISTEN
--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media
Mohammed Fairouz: Zabur
Indianapolis Symphonic Choir commissions Oratorio on the Psalms of David for mixed choir, children's choir, soloists and orchestra. Eric Stark will conduct the world premiere on April 24th, 2015 at Indianapolis's Hilbert Circle Theatre.
In April 2015, composer Mohammed Fairouz's first oratorio, Zabur, will receive its world premiere by the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Commissioned by a consortium led by the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and comprised of Jewish, Christian and Islamic congregational partners, public and private schools, as well as other arts institutions, the large-scale oratorio takes its name from the Arabic title for the Psalms of David. The work is scored for chorus, children's choir, soloists and orchestra and sets several of the Arabic psalms within the context of an original libretto by acclaimed writer and actor Najla Said. Said re-imagines King David as a poet living and writing in the upheaval of the contemporary Middle East, composing the Psalms as a way to contend with his day-to-day reality.
Described by Gramophone as "a post-millennial Schubert," Fairouz is an adept and accomplished writer for the voice with an opera (a second in progress), thirteen song cycles, and hundreds of art songs to his credit. For Zabur, Fairouz looked to Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (in Latin) and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms (in Hebrew) as models. "I was eager to bring my own cultural dimension to the Psalms," he writes. "By bringing back the essential Arabic aspect of the Psalms as well as by setting the ancient texts in a contemporary environment, Zabur attempts to take the Psalms 'off the shelf' and restore their original form as raw human poetic documents."
Eric Stark, Artistic Director, Indianapolis Symphonic Choir writes, "Performing and commissioning new, bold works is at the heart of our mission, and the Symphonic Choir sees a call to engage others in our community in that experience of creating new works of music." The commissioning partners have been involved in the entire process, from establishing parameters of the work – broad themes, identification of potential composers, musical traits – to a three-week, city-wide unveiling surrounding the premiere in April 2015. Stark says, "This consortium model is transformative for the Indianapolis arts and faith communities."
--Rebecca Davis PR
American Bach Soloists Present Bach's Mass in B Minor
One of the musical highlights of a summer in San Francisco is the opportunity to hear Jeffrey Thomas conduct the ABS Festival Orchestra and the American Bach Choir in Bach's magnificent Mass in B Minor. In fact, as part of its annual San Francisco Summer Bach Festival, ABS offers two chances to hear the timeless work each summer and both performances sell out year after year. The Mass's richness, expressivity, complexity, and the awe-inspiring genius of its composer are all attributes that pay dividends of insight and satisfaction when revisited regularly. At present, tickets are still available for the two performances on July 13 at 7:00 pm and July 20 at 2:00 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA.
The Bach Festival tradition, which began in this country 114 years ago in Pennsylvania, has proliferated in musical communities around Europe, the United States, and the entire world. Here in San Francisco, we have one of the younger Bach Festivals–2014 will be ABS's 5th annual event–but it is a great one that, like that 1900 festival in Bethlehem, has been making waves and drawing music lovers from all around. Tickets are available for the Festival performances from July 11-20, but they won't last long. Get your tickets to the Mass in B Minor now, while they are still available.
For more information on this and other ABS concerts, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival/schedule.html
--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists
Merola Opera Program Summer Festival Presents Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire July 10 and 12
The Merola Opera Program presents André Previn's opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 10, and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Everett Auditorium, 450 Church Street in San Francisco.
The cast features soprano Julie Adams as Blanche DuBois; tenor Casey Candebat as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell; soprano Adelaide Boedecker as Stella Kowalski; baritone Thomas Gunther as Stanley Kowalski; mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonet as Eunice Bubbell; tenor Benjamin Werley as Steve Hubbell; mezzo-soprano Shirin Eskandani as the Mexican Woman; and tenor Mingie Lei as a Young Collector. Celebrated stage director Jose Maria Condemi (a Merola alumnus from 1999 and 2000) and acclaimed conductor Mark Morash (a Merola alumnus from 1986) will lead the production.
André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire, with a libretto by Philip Littell based on the play by Tennessee Williams, premiered at San Francisco Opera in 1998. The story follows Blanche DuBois, a fading Southern belle with a frail veneer, who retreats to her sister's home only to find herself unwanted and abused. Sexual tension simmers in this claustrophobic atmosphere. Harold "Mitch" Mitchell, Blanche's would-be suitor, and Stanley Kowalski, Blanche's brother-in-law, shatter Blanche's romanticized view of her life through a series of acts, driving her to madness. Previn's jazz-influenced score provides a fresh take on this classic story of a retreat into the past darkened with sexual abuse and family disloyalty.
A festival package discount of 20 percent applies through June 28, 2014 if tickets for all festival performances of A Streetcar Named Desire, Schwabacher Summer Concert, Don Giovanni, and the Merola Grand Finale are purchased together.
Tickets for all performances may be purchased by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
For more information, visit www.merola.org
--Karen Ames Communications
András Schiff Knighted
Pianist Sir András Schiff has been awarded Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the 2014 Birthday Honours. With regard to the recent announcement, BBC News commented, "Schiff has been hailed as the greatest musician Hungary has produced since the composers Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly. Alongside his brilliance as a pianist, he has a reputation as one of the great musical thinkers. His lectures on Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas remain a central tenet of music broadcasting."
A British citizen since 2001, Sir András Schiff, was recently awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal in December 2013 and the International Classical Music Award 2012, in the category "Solo Instrumental Recording of the Year" for his recording of "Geistervariationen" with works by Robert Schumann (ECM). Recitals and special cycles, such as the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Bartók, form an important part of his activities. Since 2004 he has performed complete cycles of the 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas in 20 cities, and the cycle in the Zurich Tonhalle was recorded live.
Beginning in February 2015, his next project in the United States will be the final sonatas of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert presented in the cities of New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Ann Arbor.
Learn more about András Schiff here: http://www.kirshdem.com/artist.php?id=andrasschiff
--Kirshbaum Demler & Associates
David Aaron Carpenter to Launch Central Synagogue's International Concerts Series, July 8th
London debut for 'the hottest violist of the 21st century' and his Salomé Chamber Orchestra soloists, with Music Of The Jewish Diaspora.
"Music of the Jewish Diaspora," featuring David Aaron Carpenter (viola) and soloists of the Salomé Chamber Orchestra. Works include Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words in G Minor; Hatikvah (traditional); Kreisler's Liebeslied, Caprice Viennois and Hora Staccato; Gershwin's "Summertime"; Oran Eldor's Sephardic Prayer; Alexey Shor's "740 Samba," "Chicken Tarantella," "Semi Canonical Great Feud," and "Murka Variations" (by Shor and Eldor); Monti's Czardas; "Ljova" and Lev Zhurbin's Budget Bulgar.
Where: Central Synagogue, 36 Hallam Street entrance (behind Great Portland Street), London W1W 6NW.
When: Tuesday 8th July, 7pm.
Booking: Tel 020 75801355 / email firstname.lastname@example.org. All tickets £20.
--Inverne Price Music
Wilmette Summerfest Concert & Garden Party Featuring Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues
The Music Institute of Chicago, which received the Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Community Service Award, is playing a significant role in this event: the Music Institute will offer an Instrument Petting Zoo for children to experiment with a variety of string instruments, and our chamber music students perform prior to and during the Corky Siegel concert, as well as after the concert at the VIP party.
Friday, July 11, 2014
St. Augustine's Episcopal Church
1140 Wilmette Avenue, Wilmette IL 60091
--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications
American Bach Soloists News
Soprano Mary Wilson Returns:
Soprano Mary Wilson is no stranger to American Bach Soloists audiences. Since her 2003 debut with ABS in Handel's Messiah at Grace Cathedral, she has thrilled concertgoers with her dazzling performances of some of the most challenging and exciting vocal works of the Baroque era. Ms Wilson will return this summer as the Distinguished Artist for the 2014 ABS Festival & Academy and will appear, along with countertenor Eric Jurenas, as a soloist in Bach's transcription of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater at the opening night concert, "Bach's Inspiration – Part I" on July 11.
ABS Festival Opens July 11:
Do you have your tickets for the 5th annual ABS Festival & Academy yet? This summer's event, which will take place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from July 11-20, promises to be the best Festival ABS has offered to date. Titled "Bach's Inspiration," the 9 performances, 5 lectures, 5 master classes, and a public colloquium titled "Baroque Instruments and Performers, Then and Now: Creating a New Fusion of Styles and Tastes" comprise a 10-day immersion in the music and culture of the Baroque, specifically the works that inspired ABS's namesake, J.S. Bach. Musical delights and discoveries await Baroque music connoisseurs and newcomers alike.
1900: The First American Performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor:
One of the musical highlights of a summer in San Francisco is the opportunity to hear Jeffrey Thomas conduct the ABS Festival Orchestra and the American Bach Choir in Bach's magnificent Mass in B Minor. The idea of performing Bach's Mass in B Minor annually has been a mainstay in European musical communities since the mid-nineteenth century. In the United States, the tradition of yearly performances began with the very first American performance of the entire work on March 27, 1900, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Before the tradition could take root, however, the difficulty of mounting the work and introducing it to domestic audiences proved a significant challenge.
ABS Festival Attractions: Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato:
Opera / Oratorio night at the ABS Festival & Academy is always a musical highlight. This summer's program on Friday July 18 will be no different as ABS and the Festival Orchestra under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas will present Handel's 1740 pastoral ode, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. The work is neither opera nor oratorio, but rather a meditation on the quixotic nature of humanity. It synthesizes two poems by John Milton (pictured at left) - L'Allegro ("the joyous one") and Il Penseroso ("the pensive one") - into a single work along with a third voice, Il Moderato ("the moderate one"), contributed by Charles Jennens. A few years after creating L'Allegro together, Jennens and Handel would collaborate again on Messiah.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA
Have a look at the ABS YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/AmericanBachSoloists
For more information and tickets click http://americanbach.org
--Jeff McMillan, ABS
62nd Annual DownBeat Critics Poll
DownBeat, the venerable American magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond," recently announced the winners of its 62nd Annual Critics Poll. For the complete list of winners, visit http://www.downbeat.com/digitaledition/2014/DB1408/single_page_view/58.html
--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services
YPC Steals the Hearts of Basel
May 28 - June 1 - Basel, Switzerland
YPC with 19 other festival choirs
After the last note was sung at the Ninth European Festival Youth Choirs in Basel, Switzerland, and just before Francisco Núñez and 41 YPC choristers prepared to return home to the U.S., Festival Director Kathrin Renggli hugged Francisco and said: "You stole the hearts of Basel. You brought joy to the city."
The Young People's Chorus of New York City was invited by Ms. Renggli to participate as the artists-in-residence at the festival, and those words summed up the reception YPC received from the hundreds of thousands of exuberant international audience and chorus members who were charmed by YPC's performances. And for YPC, it was a fantastic experience to mix, mingle, and make new friends with 19 of the best of the best youth choirs from Armenia, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Russia, Spain, and Switzerland. The choristers also had the incredible opportunity to see what it is like to live in Switzerland, personally experiencing the Swiss culture, customs, and foods through home stays with warm and welcoming local families in Basel.
By the time they left Switzerland, YPC had received invitations from several more European festivals in Israel, Armenia, Estonia, and Ireland.
Throughout the week, YPC gathered experiences and memories they will never forget.
Take a look at the YPC blog for some of the choristers' amazing experiences in their own words at http://ypcofnyc.blogspot.com/ and on this news feature on Swiss TV: http://www.srf.ch/player/tv/tagesschau/video/die-gesangswelthauptstadt-basel?id=b78b3049-714b-45e7-a93e-830b43fa5791
--Katharine Gibson, Young People's Chorus of New York City
Summer Events Around Maestro Long Yu's 50th Birthday
High-profile concerts a chance for China's preeminent conductor to salute those who have joined his remarkable journey; for many, they will be a realisation of how much he has influenced culture in China and beyond.
Maestro Long Yu is the Artistic Director, Chief Conductor and co-founder of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and Music Director of the Shanghai and Guanzhou Symphony Orchestras. He is also Founding Artistic Director of the Beijing Music Festival.
Music has an almost unmatched potential to inspire, to move, on occasion to lift an entire society in a cultural exploration, in the pursuit of cultural ideals. And there are great figures, teachers, performers - artists – who show us the way. Sometimes their impact is so great that their work reaches people who have never even heard of them, nor dream that they have somehow impacted their life. One such figure is Long Yu, the preeminent Chinese conductor, who led the drive to establish a hunger for classical music in his country – coming out of a time when it was forbidden to so much as hum anything other than a prescribed list of patriotic songs – and building its great institutions, among them the China Philharmonic (which he founded in 2000), the Shanghai Symphony, the Guangzhou Symphony and the Beijing Music Festival (of all of which he is music director). Fittingly, Long Yu will mark his 50th birthday next month with a concert to mark the opening of the MISA Festival – a new event that Long Yu co-directs with Charles Dutoit geared towards bringing young people towards classical music.
The concert, entitled "Long Yu and Friends," will take place on July 4, 2014 and begins a year of benchmark activities for Long Yu and some of his favourite colleagues. The Shanghai event will feature the world premieres of three works – Tan Dun's Long-li-ge-Long (guest-conducted by Tan Dun himself), Chen Qigang's Joie Eternelle, with British trumpeter Alison Balsom as featured soloist, and John Williams's Scherzo for Piano and Orchestra, with the admired Chinese pianist Li Jian. Violinist Maxim Vengerov joins the proceedings with Saint-Saens's Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois. And the cellist Wang Jian plays Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme. The orchestra for that occasion will be the Shanghai Symphony, and Long Yu will also lead the entire program in Beijing with the China Philharmonic – with one change of soloist. On that occasion Lang Lang will play the John Williams piece as well as Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue.
Long Yu will then bring aspects of the program to the BBC Proms at London's Royal Albert Hall on 19th July, with the China Philharmonic as the first Chinese orchestra ever invited to play that fabled series. The concert will be televised and broadcast over radio and the internet internationally.
There will be other events during the year, not least the now-institutional Chinese New Year's concerts in the USA, a tradition that Long Yu has been proud to lead. And - back to Shanghai – the opening of what promises to be an incredible new home for the Shanghai Symphony, covering some 20,000 square metres, with two state-of-the-art auditoria and mostly built underground! With an acoustic design by Yasuhisa Toyota – the famous acoustician behind Walt Disney Hall and many others - that will constitute Shanghai's first purpose-built venue dedicated to orchestral music.
--James Inverne, Inverne Price Music
This is the second album in a series of Reference Recordings Fresh! albums devoted to music dedicated to or commissioned by the virtuoso Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia, this time the program presenting the music of mostly French composers performed by guitarist Roberto Moronn Perez. The disc contains selections from seven French composers and one Belgian, each having written music in a Spanish style. Edizione Musicale Bèrben originally published the music as the Segovia Archive Series, and Reference Recordings offer them on disc as a part of their subsidiary Fresh! label.
According to RR's notes, the "genesis for this unique project is a collection of pieces recovered in May 2001 at Segovia's home. Spanish-born Perez researched these newly recovered works and found some pieces that had never been recorded, and those that had were handicapped by poor visibility in the marketplace and limited distribution. This realization sparked the thought that here was an opportunity: a series of recordings organized around the nationalities of the composers in the Segovia Archive."
Anyway, just as other French composers have evoked the spirit of Spain--Ravel, for instance, Chabrier, Massenet--so do the composers represented here. More important, Perez does each man and his work fair justice. He plays with flair but also with nuance and subtlety. His guitar opens up each work and expands it seemingly beyond the limits of a single instrument. Although you won't find any (or if you are a dedicated classical guitar fan, many) familiar pieces here, if you are like me you will find each work entertaining, touching, or enlivening as the case may be.
Composer Raymond Petit (1893-1976) and his little Sicilienne opens the program. Its original title was Andantino, but a reviewer at the time of its première described it as a gentle, melancholic Sicilienne. So, of course, that's the way Perez plays it, hardly the usual blockbuster that often opens a show but certainly affecting. This one is slow, sensuous, and sweet.
Then, there is Henri Martelli (1895-1980) and his Quatre Pieces. These four selections appear more rhythmically varied than the first item, with rich harmonies nicely exploited by Perez. The second of the four movements takes extreme dexterity to pull off, and Perez is up to the job, giving us a fine display of his guitar mastery.
Pierre de Breville (1861-1949) and his Fantaisie is next. It derives its title from its changeable character, which surprises one at every turn. It's odd that this piece gets so little play; it's quite appealing, especially in Perez's capable hands.
Henri Collet ((1885-1951) and Briviesca follows. This is, for me, the first selection on the disc that sounds distinctly Spanish, with echoes of a Castilian landscape. Perez serves up the melodies with a warm, sensitive passion, making it one of the loveliest pieces on the disc.
After that is a three-movement Suite by Raymond Moulaert ((1875-1962). Moulaert is the only non French-born composer on the disc, Moulaert born, raised, and educated in Belgium. Close enough, I guess. His Suite is altogether the longest work on the program, yet thanks to Perez's insightful performance it seems rather short. Maybe it just went by quickly because I was enjoying it so much. This is also, interestingly enough, the most intense piece on the program.
Another three-movement work comes next, this one called Cuadros (Scenes d'Espagne) by Raoul Laparra ((1876-1943). The second and third of these "pictures" are the most colorful and enjoyable, with tunes directly aimed at pleasing a mass audience. Perez seems to be having fun with them, even if the music appears more derivative than that of Laparra's fellows on album.
The program closes with two brief selections: Spiritual by Pierre-Octave Ferroud (1900-1936) and Segovia by Ida Presti (1924-1967). The Ferroud number seemed more overtly "modern" to me than the rest of the music on the disc, which seemed more traditional and Romantic by comparison. In a booklet note, Perez says he isn't sure Ferroud's piece measured up to Segovia's taste, and that might explain why guitarists today don't play it much. Ms. Presti, on the other hand, was a guitarist herself and a favorite of Segovia. Perez imbues her musical portrait of the master guitarist with much intricate personality. Overall, it's another gentle, nuanced piece of music played with rich, strong feeling and sensitive shading, making a lovely ending to the album.
Audio engineer John Taylor produced, recorded, and edited the music at Holy Trinity Church, Weston, Hertfordshire, UK in 2013, with Grammy award-winning engineer Keith O. Johnson doing the final mastering. The guitar is fairly close yet never in-the-face close; just close enough to provide ample detail and focus. The sound comes across as well defined, with a moderately quick transient response on the plucked strings, yet warm and natural, with a realistic decay time thanks to the ambient bloom of the venue.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
This disc was something of a puzzlement to me when I first received it some ten years ago. Why in the world, I thought when I first saw it, would Naxos believe anyone needed another 1812 Overture? Likewise with the attendant material on the program. I mean, even at a low Naxos price I can't imagine too many people willing to invest in something of which they probably already have multiple copies. Of course, there may be young people who have just bought their first audio system, who don't own Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and who want something to show off their new gear. But in that case, why chose this particular 1812 or this particular disc?
The album begins inauspiciously with Maestro Theodore Kuchar's somewhat prosaic, almost lackadaisical rendition of the Capriccio Italien. Part of the fault here may lay in the Naxos sound, which for the first three-quarters of the piece sounds as though someone had turned off the bass. Then the highs start to come forward and recede as though the engineer were fiddling needlessly with his mixing board. Only by the last notes does the piece come to life and does the bass finally make an appearance. Odd. In any case, to my ears Kuchar's interpretation seems far too underpowered to be of much value to the seasoned listener.
Finally, the 1812 closes the show, and, lo and behold, it's passably good. Maybe the audio engineers were saving the best for last. The sound here appears closer and more robust than on the preceding pieces; the bass, while still not very deep, at least makes a small impression; the dynamics increase slightly; the pacing picks up, also slightly; and the music ends decently enough with real cannon shots. Unfortunately, the cannons are not particularly forceful, and the accompanying bells are so muffled they sound more like crowd noise than musical instruments, but that's neither here nor there.
Overall, one can do better than this Naxos release, even at budget price.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
Some things new; some things old. The new would be violinist Jennifer Koh and double violin concertos by Anna Clyne and David Ludwig. The old (or, at least, older) would be violinist Jaime Laredo and double concertos by J.S. Bach and Philip Glass. The combination works wonderfully together.
The folks at classical WCLV Cleveland write of the disc: "Three great conservatories (two in Northeast Ohio) are represented on this new disc: Jennifer Koh is an Oberlin alum, Jaime Laredo teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music and at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute. This project has been in the works since 2010, when Jennifer Koh approached composers Anna Clyne and David Ludwig about creating new concertante works for 2 violins, inspired by one of Ms. Koh's favorite works, the Bach Double Concerto which leads off the program. Anna Clyne responded with Prince of Clouds, written specifically for Jennifer Koh and her mentor at Curtis, Jaime Laredo. David Ludwig's Seasons Lost is an artist's response to the reality of global climate change. The fourth composer in "Two x Four" is Philip Glass whose Echorus was written in 1995 for Yehudi Menuhin."
The solo performers are two consummate artists, so you would expect nothing from them but the very best. So they start out with the best, the inspiration for the other works, the Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The violinists shine in their individual right, of course, but their sympathetic communication in Bach (and, indeed, in all the pieces presented here) is evident in every passage. Their partnership is energetic, felicitous, and expressive, admirably and pleasurably so. I especially enjoyed their nuanced playing of the central Largo, which is most impressive in its emotional concentration and its lyric, dance-like qualities.
Next up is Prince of Clouds for two violins and string orchestra by British-born composer Anna Clyne (b. 1980). It's a relatively short piece here recorded for the first time. As in the Bach, the two violinists share complementary roles, intertwining their contributions with grace and finesse. Ms. Clyne says that she imagined the piece as a "dialogue between soloists and ensemble." Certainly, Ms. Koh and Mr. Laredo maintain that musical dialogue in eloquent fashion and through several highly variable mood changes.
After that is Echorus by American composer Philip Glass (b. 1937). Although Glass would rather that people not call him a minimalist, he remains one of the first composers listeners think of when they hear the word "minimalist." Glass currently prefers that people think of him as a classicist in the mold of Bach, Mozart, and Schubert. Fair enough. Furthermore, Glass says his music often features a "repetitive structure," and we hear that in Echorus, the echoes of each refrain. Koh and Laredo shape and caress the music carefully, sweetly, gingerly, creating a performance that encapsulates all that is good about Cage's work. The gently pulsating rhythms of the variations are hauntingly beautiful and produce a lasting impression for the listener.
The final work on the program is Seasons Lost for two violins and string orchestra by American classical composer David Ludwig (1974). Ludwig descends from a roster of famous musicians, including his uncle, pianist Peter Serkin, his grandfather, pianist Rudolf Serkin, and his great-grandfather, violinist Adolf Busch. Yes, he also knows his business; he was born to it. Ludwig notes that the music represents a time before global warming caused the seasons to run together, a time when Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, the four movements in his tone poem, had distinct divisional (and tonal) qualities. The piece works as a modern take on Vivaldi's famous music, but does so more sweetly and with a more-subtle shading of colorations. Koh and Laredo do a splendid job pointing up the differing harmonic changes in the piece and emphasizing the composer's poetic musical vision.
Throughout the program the Curtis 20/20 Ensemble play as though a third member of a trio, contributing equally to the proceedings. They are not just a background accompaniment but an integral part of the music, sharing substantially in a most-pleasing outcome.
Producer Judith Sherman, engineer George Blood, and editor Bill Maylone recorded the album for Cedille Records in March 2013 at the Miriam and Robert Gould Rehearsal Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA. The violins sound well integrated into the complete aural structure rather than being far out in front of the orchestra. Thus, the sonic landscape is quite realistic, just as one might hear from these players live. The solo instruments appear clearly detailed, with a natural sheen on the strings yet without sounding edgy or hard. The orchestral support enjoys a similarly lifelike recording, nicely transparent but never bright or forward. In short, it's excellent sound.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
Founded in 1992, the New Century Chamber Orchestra is a small chamber ensemble dedicated to presenting classical music in a fresh and unique manner. Besides performing classic works from the chamber orchestra repertoire, New Century commissions new pieces, such as those we hear on the disc under review, concertos written expressly for the group's current Music Director and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra makes its home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it has been my privilege to hear the group play on a number of occasions. They have never failed to impress me with their musicianship, their impeccable taste, and their immense talent. Each of the twenty-odd members of the ensemble is a virtuoso player in his or her own right, and together they perform as one precision instrument. The accuracy, exactness, meticulousness, and rigor of their playing are remarkable, as exemplified by the four new works on the present album.
First up is a single-movement concerto, Dreamscapes, by Brazilian-born classical and jazz composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist Clarice Assad (b. 1978). Dreamscapes is well named: It's a series of images from one of the composer's dreams, presented in the style of a dream with numerous shifting and conflicting moods. The NCCO offers up a vivid picture of the dream process, the composer further noting that much of it may be negative. Whatever, it provides some excellent opportunities for the various members of the orchestra, especially Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg, to shine--to show off their skills, so to speak. It's not necessarily comfortable listening--dreams often aren't--but it is always fascinating and worth the experience.
Next is a three-movement concerto, Romanza, by award-winning American composer and pianist William Bolcom (b. 1938). Bolcom's music sounds a bit more traditional than Assad's, "shamelessly Romantic" as Bolcom puts it. Just don't expect Schubert, Schumann, or Mendelssohn as you know them because Bolcom filters Romantic ideas through a twenty-first century sensibility. The lyricism and passion are there, just not the melodies we might expect of a true Romantic composer. Nevertheless, the piece follows a conventional concerto form of fast-slow-fast movements and leads us through a series of sometimes dance-like, sometimes mysterious passages, concluding with a playful ragtime tune. As always, the NCCO handles it with finesse, refinement, and utter perfection of ensemble playing.
After that we find a four-movement concerto, Fallingwater, by American composer, pianist, and teacher Michael Daugherty (b. 1954). The composer calls Fallingwater a "musical tribute to the visionary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright." The music is more descriptive than the previous selections on the disc and offers up a diverse variety of moods and visual impressions. The NCCO seems entirely attuned to its nuances and supply the rich tapestry of colors the score demands.
The program concludes with the four-movement concerto Commedia Dell-Arte by American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939), the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Here, the music portrays three different characters from Renaissance theater. It's the liveliest and most seemingly spontaneous music on the album and, for me at least, the most entertaining, particularly in its use of percussion. So, the New Century Chamber Orchestra goes out on a bang, so to speak. It's fun stuff from a really skilled group of musicians.
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg executive produced and David v.R. Bowles produced, engineered, edited, and mastered the recording for Swineshead Productions and NSS Music, the orchestra recording it live in 2012. The sound is very dynamic, with a huge range from softest whispers to extra-large outbursts. The midrange is clear, if a tad hard; the bass is adequate; and the treble well extended. The string tone can be a mite edgy at times but often adds to the atmosphere of the music. Because they recorded live, one is always aware of the audience's presence throughout the program, and the engineers (or the producer or the orchestra) chose to retain the audience applause at the end of each piece. I found that the only unfortunate element of the proceedings, but that's a personal quirk on my part.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
Mozart, Rossini, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi and more at two Venues: Woodstock Opera House and Sanfilippo Foundation's Place de la Musique.
The Woodstock Mozart Festival expands to two venues for its 28th season July 24–August 10, 2014: the Woodstock Opera House and the Sanfilippo Foundation's Place de la Musique concert hall in Barrington Hills. Single tickets are on sale now.
Woodstock Opera House:
July 26 and 27: Conductor Istvan Jaray and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein: Rossini, Mozart, and Haydn.
August 2 and 3: Conductor Istvan Jaray and pianist Igor Lipinski: Mendelssohn and Mozart.
August 9: Violinist and conductor Igor Gruppman and violinist/violist Vesna Gruppman: Mozart, Vivaldi, Warlock, and Piazzolla.
Place de la Musique:
July 24: Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein and pianist Igor Lipinski: Mozart.
August 10: Violinist and conductor Igor Gruppman and violinist/violist Vesna Gruppman: Mozart.
The Festival's events at the Sanfilippo Foundation's Place de la Musique, 789 Plum Tree Road, Barrington Hills include the chamber music concert and master class Thursday, July 24 at 3 p.m. and the final concert program Sunday, August 10 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $48 for the July 24 program, $33 for students, and $68 for all tickets to the August 10 program, each including the 90-minute pre-concert tour. General admission tickets are on sale at sanfilippofoundation.org/woodstock-mozart-festival.html
The 2014 Woodstock Mozart Festival’s performances at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock, take place Saturday, July 26, August 2 and August 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 27 and August 3 at 3 p.m. Pre-concert introductions take place one hour before each performance. Single tickets are $33–58, $28 for students, and are available through the Woodstock Opera House Box Office at 815-338-5300 or at woodstockoperahouse.com
--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications
Holiday Favorites with the New Century Chamber Orchestra and the San Francisco Girls Chorus, December 18-21, 2014
Open Rehearsal: Wednesday, December 17, 10 a.m., Kanbar Performing Arts Center, San Francisco
Thursday, December 18, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Friday, December 19, 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday, December 20, 8 p.m., Nourse Auditorium, San Francisco
Sunday, December 21, 5 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael
*And a Special Performance: Friday, December 12, 2014, 7:30 p.m. in Joan and Stanford I. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
Handel: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon
Corelli: Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8, "Christmas Concerto"
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Winter. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto Number 3
Rutter: Nativity Carol
Mozart: Engel Gottes Künden
Handel: Messiah: "Unto us a child is born, Hallelujah" (arr. Assad)
Vaughan Williams: Folksongs of the Four Seasons: Winter
Cesar Antonovich Cui: Radiant Stars
--Karen Ames Communications
PianoSummer at New Paltz Celebrates 20th Anniversary Season: July 12 - August 1, 2014
From July 12 - August 1, 2014, PianoSummer celebrates 20 years as an international summer institute and festival dedicated solely to piano music. Hosted by the School of Fine & Performing Arts at the State University of New York at New Paltz, this program features an integrated approach to learning and performance. Under the artistic direction of renowned pianist and pedagogue Vladimir Feltsman, gifted students from around the world join with devoted musicians and teachers to learn more about the art of the piano and, ultimately, more about themselves and their place in the world of music.
Members of the Institute's faculty bring many special qualities to the program in addition to their artistic excellence, including diverse cultural backgrounds, pedagogical traditions and varied ideologies. Daily instruction from this distinguished group of artists and teachers provide students with multiple perspectives, allows them to explore the piano repertoire and encourages deeper understanding and insight. Each student receives daily coachings from every professor on each work selected for study over the course of the festival. This unique teaching model encourages individual interpretation as well as artistic mastery. The faculty consists of (pictured here, standing left to right): Paul Ostrovsky (SUNY Purchase), Phillip Kawin (Manhattan School of Music), Vladimir Feltsman, Susan Starr, Robert Hamilton (University of Arizona), Alexander Korsantia (New England Conservatory) and Robert Roux (Rice University). Artistic Director Vladimir Feltsman remarked: "Teaching is one of my greatest passions, and it is a privilege to celebrate 20 years at an institute unlike any other."
For the full 2014 Schedule of Events, please click here: http://www.newpaltz.edu/piano/schedule.html
--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates
Soprano Jennifer Rowley Joins Prestigious Roster of IMG Artists
In March, Rowley joined Intermusica for European management.
Shortly after her sensational Metropolitan Opera debut as Musetta in Franco Zefirelli's production of La bohème, soprano Jennifer Rowley joins the roster of talented musicians represented by IMG Artists. The New York Times proclaimed last month that "the rich-voiced soprano made a splash in her [Metropolitan Opera] debut as Musetta … singing with a vibrant, agile voice," and Opera magazine said that she "sang with a creamy soprano that embraced the music firmly and comported herself with a large-scale flirtatiousness that accorded with her Zeffirelli-conceived surroundings."
Of her new management, Ms. Rowley said, "I am thrilled and honored to be in the company of the legendary artists represented by IMG."
Ms. Rowley's star will continue to rise under the guidance of her management team at IMG. In the 2014-2015 season, she will reprise the role of Musetta in her much-anticipated debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Further highlights include debuts in the title role of Madame Butterfly at the Teatro Petruzzelli; the title role in Tosca at the Semperoper Dresden; and as Leonora in Il Trovatore with West Australian Opera. The 2015-2016 season will include debuts at Opera de Lille, Opera de Luxembourg, and Théâtre de Caen.
For more information, visit Jennifer Rowley's pages on IMG Artists: http://imgartists.com/artist/jennifer_rowley/
--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media
American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy's "Bach's Inspiration" at San Francisco Conservatory of Music July 11-20, 2014
The American Bach Soloists return to San Francisco's Conservatory of Music July 11-20 for the 5th annual ABS Festival & Academy. Titled "Bach's Inspiration," the 2014 Festival—San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival—will trace the influences of Italian, French, and North German composers on J.S. Bach's life and music. From large-scaled masterworks for full orchestra, choir, and vocal soloists to intimate chamber works, musical delights and discoveries will fill the days and nights of the 2014 Festival.
Acclaimed for their "fine choral and instrumental ensembles and its magnificent vocal soloists" by San Francisco Classical Voice, ABS and Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas are pleased to present an extraordinary Festival line-up of concerts, recitals, and free educational events for 10 days this summer. Works by Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Kuhnau, Frederick the Great, Alessandro Marcello, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Johann Adam Reincken, Nicolaus Bruhns, Georg Melchior Hoffmann, and Bach's uncle, Johann Christoph Bach will be performed alongside masterworks by ABS's namesake, Johann Sebastian Bach.
The 2014 Festival begins on July 11 with an opening night dinner at Dobbs Ferry Restaurant in San Francisco's arts district and "Part I" of a two-part program titled after the Festival itself, "Bach's Inspiration." Exploring works the young Bach would have known or which contributed to his developing musical identity, Thomas and ABS will perform "Es Erhub sich ein Streit" by Johann Christoph Bach, Buxtehude's cantata "Jesu, meines Lebens Leben," and "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" by Bach's immediate predecessor as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau. Flutist Sandra Miller will be the soloist on Frederick the Great's Concerto for Flute in C Major, a work by the King of Prussia who provided Bach with the subject on which his "Musical Offering" is based. Oboist Debra Nagy will be the soloist on Alessandro Marcello's Concerto for Oboe in D Minor, a piece that Bach later transcribed for harpsichord (BWV 974). "Part I" will close with Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, Bach's transcription and arrangement of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.
Festival-players"Bach's Inspiration" continues with "Part II" on Saturday, July 12. Showcasing further influences upon Bach, the concert will open with Reincken's Partita No. 1 in A Minor, "Mein Herz ist bereit" by Nicolaus Bruhns, "Mit Fried und Freud ich far dahin" and Klaglied by Buxtehude, and Georg Melchior Hoffmann's thrilling and emotionally charged solo cantata "Meine Seele rühmt und preist" with tenor Derek Chester as soloist. After intermission, ABS will perform three mature works Bach, composed after he had absorbed all he could from his forebears, peers, and colleagues. Baroque trumpet virtuoso John Thiessen will be the soloist on Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto, the heart-rending secular cantata "Amore traditore" will feature baritone William Sharp and harpsichord Corey Jamason as dual-soloists, and the fiendishly difficult trio sonata from the "Musical Offering" will be performed by the outstanding instrumentalists of ABS.
On Sunday, July 13, Thomas will direct the ABS Festival Orchestra and the American Bach Choir in the first of two performances of Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor. Considered by many to be the greatest composition in Western music, ABS's Festival performances of the Mass are a cherished feature each summer as they allow the musicians and audiences to encounter or, as for many Festivalgoers, revisit this incredible work each summer.
Another beloved tradition of the ABS Festival & Academy is the performance of a Baroque opera or oratorio to open the second weekend of performances. On Friday July 18, Thomas will direct the ABS Festival orchestra in a concert performance of Handel's "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato." Verses by John Milton and Charles Jennens provide a libretto which inspired Handel to new heights of humanist expression in this utterly sublime work composed between the two sacred choral masterworks, Israel in Egypt and Messiah. Featuring instrumentalists and singers from the 2014 Academy playing alongside their mentors from the ABS Faculty, this lavish panoply of more than 30 arias and choruses will surely be a night to remember.
The 2014 Festival's Distinguished Artist concert on July 19 features the sensational coloratura soprano Mary Wilson. Echoing the theme of Bach's Inspiration, Ms. Wilson will perform a work that celebrates the "Italian side" of Bach, his charming secular cantata "Non sa che sia dolore." Vivaldi's music was a great source of inspiration for Bach's own compositions and Ms. Wilson will perform the Italian composer's virtuoso motet "In Furore iustissimae irae." Vivaldi's Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins and Bach's rearrangement of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in D Major as bravura work for harpsichord will also be performed. Ms. Wilson has won the admiration of ABS audiences performing the music of one of Bach's peers, George Frideric Handel. On this program she will perform Handel's breathtaking thriller from his Italian sojourn, "Tra le fiamme."
Festival Passes (8 concerts): $127-$252.
Single tickets: $10-$64, discounts available for students (with current student ID).
For tickets or information, please visit sfbachfestival.org or call 415-621-7900
All events at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco.
--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Festival
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival 2014 Season July 20 – August 25
Artistic Director Marc Neikrug and Executive Director Steven Ovitsky eagerly anticipate the 42nd Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival running July 20 through August 25 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This summer's six-week event features the Festival's hallmark blend of contemporary music alongside masterworks of the chamber music repertoire performed by many of the world's top musicians. Executive Director Steven Ovitsky comments, "Each season we are excited to welcome new artists and composers to the Festival as part of the family we have created in Santa Fe. The setting provides a rare opportunity for artists to build relationships in a fast-paced and vibrant setting. Solo artists collaborate in ensembles while established ensembles have the opportunity to perform with other distinguished musicians."
This year's Festival highlights include a solo recital by 2014 Artist-in-Residence, pianist Yefim Bronfman, performing Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 6 and Marc Neikrug's Passions, Reflected. Mr. Bronfman will be seen in performances including Beethoven's last piano trio, "Archduke", and Brahms's Piano Quintet in F Minor this season.
Also prominently featured this season are Festival-commissioned works by Julian Anderson, Wigmore Hall's Composer in Residence; a U.S. premiere by Brett Dean performed by soprano Tony Arnold and the Orion String Quartet; and Lowell Liebermann accompanies mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke in the New Mexico premiere of his song cycle, Four Seasons.
The Festival continues its Young Composers String Quartet Project for the second season, welcoming participants Ryan Chase and Tonia Ko for world premieres performed by the FLUX Quartet. The popular "Bach Plus" series includes all six Brandenburg concerti performed over two concerts and a solo recital by pianist Benjamin Hochman. Two all-Beethoven programs with Joseph Kalichstein, Yefim Bronfman, Benjamin Beilman and the Dover Quartet, featuring the composer's final chamber works, round out the season's major highlights.
Subscriptions & single tickets on sale now: www.SantaFeChamberMusic.com or by phone (505) 982-1890.
--Katherine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates
The National Philharmonic at Strathmore Announces Colin Sorgi as New Concert Master
The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, is proud to announce that Colin Sorgi has joined the orchestra as concert master. As the orchestra's lead violinist, the concert master often performs violin solos found in many orchestral works. "We are thrilled that Colin Sorgi is joining the National Philharmonic as concert master. He is a wonderful violinist who will bring tremendous energy and insight into the orchestral repertoire," said Maestro Gajewski.
"I'm really excited to be joining the National Philharmonic," said Mr. Sorgi. "It is a fantastic group of musicians and the level of music making is so high because everybody is happy and deeply committed to making music!"
Hailed by the Baltimore Sun as "an extraordinary musical talent," violinist Colin Sorgi is embarking on an international career. Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Colin holds degrees from both the Peabody Conservatory and Indiana University studying with renowned musicians Herbert Greenberg and Jaime Laredo. Colin made his professional solo debut in 2012 at the Aspen Music Festival and has since been heard as soloist and in recital on the stages of Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Chicago Cultural Center, Canada's National Arts Centre, among others.
A strong advocate of community engagement and arts education, Colin spends much of his time working with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's OrchKids program - a music outreach program in West Baltimore and the country's largest El Sistema program. Colin has had the privilege of collaborating with some of the world's most influential musicians in both chamber music and orchestral settings including Leon Fleisher, Pinchas Zuckerman, Steven Dann and Joshua Bell.
Colin is deeply devoted to the performance of contemporary music and is the founder, Artistic Director and violinist of Baltimore's SONAR new music ensemble which, now in its fourth year, has presented some of the most important music of our time as well as over 40 premieres of composers throughout the world. Colin was the violinist for the prestigious Aspen Contemporary Ensemble at the Aspen Music Festival and was also a participant at the Lucerne Festival Academy under Pierre Boulez. Colin's first commercial recording was released in October 2012 on the IUmusic label for the Latin American Music Center and featured premiere recordings of works by living Latin American composers. For more information, visit http://www.colinsorgi.com.
--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic
Bang on a Can Marathon Opening Weekend of the River to River Festival 2014
For the first time ever, the Bang on a Can Marathon will be webcast live in its entirety. The webcast will begin at 2pm ET on June 22 at www.littledoglive.com. A video player that can be shared and embedded will be available at the webcast link.
The even is co-presented by River To River Festival, Arts Brookfield, and Bang on a Can, with lead support provided by ASCAP in celebration of its 100 years of protecting, supporting, and fostering the work of composers worldwide.
Sunday, June 22, 2014 from 2pm-10pm
8 hours of free live music!
Brookfield Place, Winter Garden | 220 Vesey Street, NYC
Bang on a Can Marathon information: 718.852.7755 or www.bangonacan.org
Full Festival Line-Up: www.RiverToRiverNYC.com
--Christina Jensen PR
Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular at Weill Hall at Sonoma State University
On Friday, July 4 Weill Hall resonates with the pride of independence with Judy Collins and the Santa Rosa Symphony, led by guest conductor Matthew Garbutt.
Come early for live music, food, and a kids play zone (rock wall, bounce houses, carnival games, balloon artists, face painting, and more!) and stay late for a beautiful fireworks display over the Sonoma Mountains.
Friday, July 4 at 7:30 p.m. (Gates open at 4:30 p.m.)
Half price lawn tickets for kids 12 and under!
Click Here for tickets and information: http://gmc.sonoma.edu/event/2170780-4th-of-july-fireworks-spectacular-with
--Weill Hall at Sonoma State University
Here is the next installment in a series of recordings by the Italian operatic tenor I've only recently heard of. That's still not saying much, however, because I know very little about the current state of things operatic. Whatever, The Romantic Hero is Vittorio Grigolo's fifth solo album, most of them devoted to short operatic selections rather than full-length operas. It doesn't seem to matter because audiences appear to love him, and maybe the brevity of the tunes appeals more to a mass audience.
Grigolo grew up in Rome and was singing by the time he was four. He was nine when he started doing his own version of "Ave Maria," at which point his father had him audition for the Sistine Chapel Choir. There, Gigolo become a soloist with the choir, also studying for several years at the Chapel's Schola Puerorum. By his early teens he was singing at Rome's opera house; and at eighteen he joined the Vienna Opera Company, by age twenty-three becoming the youngest man to perform in Milan's La Scala.
Today, Grigolo is in his mid thirties and apparently a heartthrob the world over. Or so people tell me. On the present album he sings heroic roles from French opera. Why French opera? As Grigolo explains, "The Italian way of singing is native to me. But sometimes in life we change course to follow a sign that is not the one of our birth; instead we go forward in the ascendant. The French hero is my ascendant. It's the hero that makes me feel alive when I am on stage." Fair enough.
The tenor sings twelve selections on the disc, accompanied by Evelino Pido and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, plus on several tracks by soprano Sonya Yoncheva and speaker Alessandra Martines. The numbers include "Toute mon ame...Pourquoi m reveiller" from Jules Massenet's Werther; "L'amour! L'amour!...Ah! leve-toi, soleil!" from Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliette; "La fleur que tu m'avais jetee" from Georges Bizet's Carmen; "Quel trouble inconnu...Salut, demeure chaste et pure" from Gounod's Faust; "Instant charmant...En fermant les yeux" from Massenet's Manon; "Pays merveilleux...O paradis" from Giacomo Meyerbeer's L'Africaine; "Rachel, quand du Seigneur" from Jacques Fromental Halevy's La Juive; "Et moi? Moi, la fidele amie...O Dieus! de quelle ivresse" from Jacques Offenbach's Le Contes d'Hoffmann; "Va! Je t'ai pardonne...Nuit d'hymenee," again from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette; "Ah! tout est bien fini...O souverain, o juge, o pere" from Massenet's Le Cid; and "C'est la! Salut tombeau sombre et silencieux," yet again from Gounod's Romeo et Juliet.
Grigolo gets plenty of chances on the program to show off not only his power, tone, and control but his lyricism. That latter quality is probably the keynote of the present album, the selections carefully chosen to highlight the tenor's sweet intonation and well-judged inflections. In this regard, French opera seems perfectly suited to his voice, Italian or not.
For me, being but a fledgling in the field of opera, Grigolo's voice seems fine, although I thought at times there was a little more vibrato in it than I'm used to. Still, it adds to the lyric characteristics of most of the music. Otherwise, he floats the notes in fairly pure fashion, and when he needs to pour on the strength, there is plenty in reserve. The Faust selection demonstrates this ability to good effect, the hushed, quiet moments most telling. He hasn't perhaps the ability (yet) completely to thrill a listener and make one's hair stand on end the way a Domingo or Pavarotti have, but he does provide compensating dramatic skills that make his performances pleasurable.
The orchestra under the directorship of Maestro Pido does its best merely to stay out of Grigolo's way, and rightly so as this is his show from beginning to end. Soprano Sonya Yoncheva accompanies Grigolo on the "Instant charmant" and "Va! Je t'ai pardonne" tracks but, again, one hardly notices (although, to be fair, Ms. Yoncheva fares better in the second number).
Favorites? Everyone who listens to the disc will have favorites, and they will invariably be different. I enjoyed the Meyerbeer and Offenbach selections the most, but I am perhaps overly sentimental. They come through with a poignant spirit and moving grace.
One thing's for sure: Grigolo will not leave his fans disappointed with this album. There's enough romance to go around and enough force and conviction to reach almost any heart or mind.
Producer Chris Alder and engineer Douglas Ward recorded the songs at the Auditorium RAI "A. Toscanini," Torino, Italy in June and July, 2013. The voice is full and round, smoothly realistic, with very little shrillness or edginess except a trace in loudest passages. However, it is very close, up front, with the orchestra well behind. The orchestral sound is warm, slightly soft, and comfortable, often not even noticeable. The accompaniment, in fact, seems mostly perfunctory, the voice being the main thing here.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
I was talking to a friend recently who reminded me that as time goes on things may evolve and grow different, but they don't necessarily get better. Conductors fit into this category, too. Not all of the great conductors of the past necessarily got any better with age than they had been; indeed, some of them simply grow old and stodgy. But thank goodness we have recordings to preserve the great ones in their prime, such being the case with Sir Neville Marriner and his wonderful 1970 recording of the Beethoven First and Second Symphonies.
We take for granted today a small chamber orchestra playing early Beethoven, often on the same period instruments Beethoven had in mind. But do we recognize that Sir Neville was among the first persons actually to effect something like this with his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields? By paring down what had become traditionally big-scale orchestral music, with often inflated interpretations for full orchestras, Marriner was able to show us the grace and inner beauty of the composer's first two symphonic efforts, if on modern instruments.
I had not heard Marriner's recordings of these works in years before listening to them again on this 2003 PentaTone remastering, and I was amazed at how well they held up, comparing to any recordings of these pieces by any conductor at any price. Not only do the two symphonies come off as elegant and refined, as we would expect of Sir Neville, but they are wholly charming, flexible, supple, enchanting, exciting, and exhilarating as well. These early symphonies may not match what the great composer had in store for us next with his monumental Third Symphony, but Marriner renders these first two of Beethoven's symphonic works as both felicitous extensions of the Classical age and clear precursors of the Romantic era.
The sound holds up equally well, too. Recorded initially by Philips in quadraphonic, the company only released them on LP in two-channel stereo. Yet here they are available, as usual with PentaTone, on a hybrid SACD stereo/multichannel disc in both two and four-channel sound. What's more, the PentaTone engineers remastered them from the original tapes, and they sound at once smooth, spacious, transparent, warm, and natural. I liked almost everything about this disc and its performances, and even after more than four decades they can stand alongside the best available in this repertoire.
To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click here:
There isn't exactly a shortage of Rossini overture recordings on the market, but there are surprisingly few of them done on period instruments in historically informed performances. For the past couple of decades the two leading contenders in this specialized field have been Roy Goodman's recording with the Hanover Band, reissued here by Newton Classics, and Roger Norrington's renditions with the London Classical Players on EMI (now Warner Classics). Of the two, Norrington is probably the more refined, more cultured, but I've never been entirely sure that was what every prospective buyer of a period-instruments recording wanted. Goodman's accounts appear just as well played but a bit more rustic and bucolic. It's good to have them back in this mid-priced release.
Goodman provides seven of Rossini's most-famous overtures including La scala di seta ("The Silken Ladder"), L'Italiana in Algeri ("The Italian Girl in Algiers"), Il barbiere di Siviglia ("The Barber of Seville"), La gazza ladra ("The Thieving Magpie"), Semiramide, Le siege de Corinthe ("The Siege of Corinth"), and Guillaume Tell ("William Tell"). It's interesting to note that most of Rossini's overtures have become more popular and receive more performances than the operas from which they come.
Anyway, the program begins with La scala di seta, which pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the selections. Not only do we hear the characteristic sound of a period ensemble, especially from the strings and percussion, but we get tempos that seem neither exaggerated nor tedious. In fact, they always sound just right, with any variations needed to provide contrast. What's more, the orchestra play with admirable virtuosity and zeal, and the audio engineers capturing them in a well-balanced manner. This is a far cry from some shrill, raggedy-Annie period performances with claims to historical accuracy at the expense of listenability.
And so it goes throughout the program. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic impact in L'Italiana in Algeri, the spirited enthusiasm in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and those blazing timpani in La gazza ladra. Goodman's performances are bold yet pleasingly stylish, providing thrills and thought in equal measure.
Which brings us to the William Tell overture, whose celebrated closing galop ("March of the Swiss Soldiers") stirred every kid's imagination in The Lone Ranger. The piece begins with three sections describing the prelude to a storm, the storm itself, and the calm following the storm. Goodman handles these segments in appropriately colorful interpretations, the storm getting a remarkably blustery treatment. And that final heroic galop? While it may not convey all the visceral excitement of some other renditions, it should prove gracefully enduring.
Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Tony Faulkner recorded the music originally for RCA (BMG Classics) at Abbey Road Studios, London, in 1994, and Newton Classics reissued it in 2014. In terms of sonic quality, naturalness and clarity are the orders of the day. Definition sounds commendable and dynamics are wide and strong, while an overall smoothness ensures that the proceedings go as realistically as possible. A modest hall resonance helps, along with a moderately distanced miking arrangement. Additionally, there is a fair amount of orchestral depth and spaciousness to add to the illusion. It makes for an appealing audio experience, maybe not quite as transparent as the sound for Norrington on EMI but not quite as bright or aggressive, either.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
It seems that every few years we go through a C.P.E. Bach renaissance. C.P.E comes and goes in the public's consciousness, and these days he appears to be in again. With that in mind, I thought it of interest to review this 2014 Brilliant Classics reissue of a spirited 1985 Capriccio album of C.P.E. Bach's Berlin Symphonies from Maestro Hartmut Haenchen and the C.P.E. Chamber Orchestra.
Carl Philip Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) was the eldest of Johann Sebastian's several musically inclined children (actually the fifth child and the second son), and, more important, he's the one who gets most of the attention today. C.P.E. falls into the transition period between the Baroque and Classical eras, and thus we find elements of both styles in his music. His own approach to music combined the best of both worlds, although he leaned toward what critics of the time called the "sensitive style"; that is, one that expressed "true and natural" feelings with sudden contrasts in mood as opposed to the more-popular "rococo style" that emphasized simplicity and immediacy of appeal.
In any case, the present disc contains five of the nine symphonies C.P.E wrote while living in Berlin (1738-1768). A booklet note tells us that audiences of the day tended to judge the worth of a composition on its degree of novelty, and "the widespread acclaim that C.P.E. Bach won all over Europe was due in large measure to his originality and wealth of invention." In the words of musicologist Jan LaRue, "Once a Bach symphony has got under way in the usual fashion, some intriguing detail may 'crop up' any moment: a forbidden dissonance, a mighty thunderclap, a headlong rush downwards, an abrupt change of tempo or a surprising modulation." And so it goes with the five symphonies on Maestro Haenchen's disc.
The works included are the Symphony in E flat, Wq179 (H654); Symphony in F, Wq181 (H656); Symphony in C, Wq174 (H649); Symphony in F, Wq175 (H650); and Symphony in E minor, Wq178 (H653). Haenchen and his chamber orchestra play the works on modern instruments, but they provide sparkling performances--buoyant, breezy, and well judged.
I suppose I would have liked hearing these works played on period instruments; I've gotten used to such things over time. Still, given the modern instruments employed, it's quite pleasurable, and, of course, listeners who don't like period instruments will find it exactly right. The sound of the ensemble is smooth, elegant, and refined, whereas period instruments would have given the sound a slightly rougher, more-rustic quality.
That said, Maestro Haenchen's performances of these little three-movement symphonies are lively and invigorating, providing much charm in the process. They bustle with good cheer, vitality, and brilliant playing. There is nothing lax about the slow movements, either; indeed, if anything, Haenchen takes them a tad too quickly for my taste. But he is imaginative, keeping Bach's invention foremost in mind, and sometimes that requires a fairly vigorous and flexible tempo.
In the Symphony in F (H656), for instance, the last of the Berlin symphonies Bach wrote, Haenchen pounces on every contrast and every turbulent characteristic he can find, emphasizing them with zest. In the Andante, he maintains a strong forward momentum, and in the concluding Allegro assai he provides a welcome sense of fun.
And so it goes. I can't say I really loved any of these symphonies, despite Bach's attempts at doing daring things for his day and the critical acclaim he received. The music continues to sound rather too much the same to me, a bit too formulaic. (H650 sounds the most modern, "modern" for the times in any case.) Nevertheless, I can't imagine this music being any better played than it is here, unless maybe, as I've said, the orchestra had played it on period instruments.
The C.P.E. Bach Chamber Orchestra made the recording for the Capriccio label at Christuskirche Berlin in March 1985, with producer Heinz Wegner and recording engineer Hartmut Kolbach taking care of the technical details. Brilliant Classics reissued the disc in 2014. The orchestral sound seems a tad bright, but there's no questioning its clarity, openness, and air. I liked how well the detail and definition come through, and I enjoyed hearing the ensemble's scope and depth and dimensionality, even if it comes at the expense of some small degree of natural warmth.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:
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.