Classical Music News of the Week, July 13, 2014

Orion Ensemble Celebrates Chicago Composers for 22nd Season

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, announces its 22nd season: "A Taste of Chicago, A World of Romance," spotlighting Chicago composers Jim Gailloreto, Sebastian Huydts, Stacy Garrop and Marc Mellits.

The 2014-15 season includes four concert programs in downtown Chicago, Evanston, and Geneva. Orion will perform each of its four concert programs at venues spanning the Chicagoland area, including two in downtown Chicago--the PianoForte Studios and Sherwood, the Community Music School at Columbia College Chicago--as well as the First Baptist Church of Geneva and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, IL.

The season opens with "Stepping Out," welcoming three guest musicians: bassist Robert Kassinger, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and an avid chamber and jazz musician; pianist Sebastian Huydts, director of keyboard studies at the Music Center of Columbia College Chicago, concert pianist and chamber musician; and violinist/violist  Stephen Boe, a sought-after chamber musician who teaches at the Music Institute of Chicago. The program includes Jim Gailloreto's Jazz Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Cello (2014); John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" arranged for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello by Gailloreto (2014); Morton Gould's "Benny's Gig" for Clarinet and String Bass (1962); Dvorak's Selected Slavonic Dances for Piano, Four Hands, Op. 72; and Franz Schubert's "Trout" Quintet in A Major, Op. 114, D. 667. Performances take place September 28 (Geneva), October 1 (Sherwood/Chicago) and October 5 (Evanston).

Orion's second concert program, "Rhapsody," also welcomes guest violinist and violist Stephen Boe. The program features the world premiere of Sebastian Huydts's Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano; Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 56; Sergei Rachmaninov's Vocalise for Cello and Piano, Op. 34, No. 14; Iwan Müller's Quartet No. 1 in B-flat Major for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello; and George Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody Op. 11, No. 1, arranged for Orion by Ilya Levinson and Peter Labella. Performances are November 23 (Evanston), November 30 (Geneva) and December 3 (Sherwood/Chicago).

As the title work for its third concert program, Orion performs Stacy Garrop's "Jubilation" for Violin, Cello and Piano (2011); Emil Hartmann's Serenade for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op. 24; and Ludwig van Beethoven's "Archduke" Trio in B-flat Major for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 97. Performances are March 8 (Geneva), March 15 (Evanston) and March 18 (PianoForte/Chicago).

The season concludes with "Celebration," with violist Stephen Boe joining Orion for Marc Mellits's "Tapas" for Violin, Viola and Cello (2007); Rezsö Kókai's Quartettino for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello (1952); and Johannes Brahms's Quartet in A Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 26. Also on the program is Paquito D'Rivera's "Vals Venezolano" (1990) and "Contradanza" (1991) for Clarinet and Piano, arranged by Marco Rizo. Performances are May 24 (Geneva), May 27 (PianoForte/Chicago) and May 31 (Evanston).

 Also during the season, Orion appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" March 23 and June 1, 2015. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

Ticket information:
The Orion Ensemble performs its 2014-15 concert programs at four Chicago-area venues: the Recital Hall at Sherwood, The Community Music School of Columbia College Chicago, 1312 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, October 1 and December 3 at 7:30 p.m.; the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, March 18 and May 27 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, October 5, November 23, March 15 and May 31 at 7:30 p.m.; and First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva on Sundays, September 28, November 30, March 8 and May 24 at 7 p.m. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Pacific Boychoir Touring Southeast Asia July 8-21
The Grammy Award-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA) is traveling to Vietnam and Singapore to perform at notable venues and institutions such as the HCMC Conservatory Concert Hall, the Worker Theater in Hanoi, and the Singapore Botanical Gardens. In addition, PBA will participate in an outreach performance, organized by the United States Embassy, at a local orphanage, the Vinh Phuc Social Services Center outside Hanoi. Vietnam Television (VTV4 International), will also follow PBA in Hanoi and feature them on Talk Vietnam.

Known for its rich sound, the boychoir is preparing a diverse and exciting repertoire that ranges from Mendelssohn's Laudate Pueri and Handel's Hallelujah Chorus to the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Also known for their approach to African-American spirituals and American classics, the choir will be singing George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" and the favorites "Ol' Time Religion" and "When the Saints Go Marching In." The choir will also sing two traditional Vietnamese songs, which will both be featured with the locally renowned Sol Art Choir of Hanoi.

Founded in 1998, the Grammy-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy of California has over 175 boys in seven choirs. In its short history, Pacific Boychoir Academy has become known as one of the top boys choirs in the world, known for its rich sound, musicianship, phrasing, and talented soloists. The boys sing everything from Mozart to Cole Porter, from Bach Cantatas to American spirituals. Graduates of the treble program join the sopranos and altos to sing SATB repertoire.

With the addition of a day school, PBA has become home to the only choir school in the Western USA. The choir school integrates a full academic program with daily music instruction for boys in grades 4-8 who love to sing. Boys in the school get 15 hours of music training every week. PBA's music staff is composed of experienced professionals committed to diverse repertoire and the pursuit of excellence.

PBA appears frequently with the San Francisco Symphony, having performed under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, Kurt Masur, Robert Spano, Charles Dutoit, Herbert Blomstedt, James Conlon, Semyon Bychkov, David Robertson, Don Davis, Donato Cabrera, and Vance George. The PBA recorded Mahler's Third Symphony with the SFS, which was awarded the Grammy for Best Classical Album in February 2004. PBA has appeared with SFS to perform works by Mahler, Orff, Berlioz, Liszt, Britten, Wagner, and Mendelssohn. In August 2009, the San Francisco Symphony released a new SACD recording of Mahler's Eighth Symphony that includes the Pacific Boychoir. In January 2010, this recording won three Grammy awards: Best Classical Performance, Best Choral Performance, and Best Classical Engineering. PBA has also performed under the direction of maestros Gustavo Dudamel, Jeffrey Thomas, Richard Cock, Roberto Tibiriça, and Vytautas Miskinis.

Some highlights of recent PBA performances include America's Got Talent, Kronos Quartet's 40th birthday party, Nelson Mandela's memorial service in Washington DC, Russian music with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the first performances of Rachmaninoff's Vespers by an American boys choir, music of Duke Ellington with the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, and a cappella pop singles from PBA's "Continuum" group. On tour, Pacific Boychoir Academy has been heard across North America, South America, the South Pacific, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

For more information on Pacific Boychoir Academy, visit

--Kevin Fox, Pacific Boychoir Academy

West Edge Opera Opens Its Summer Festival with an "Immersive" Production of Puccini's La Boheme
West Edge Opera's new Summer Festival opens the company's 35th season on Saturday, July 26 at 8 p.m. with an "immersive" production of Puccini's La bohème. Repeat performances are on Friday, August 1 at 8 pm and Sunday, August 10 at 3 pm. All performances take place in the atrium of the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA at the Ashby BART Station. All performances are preceded by a lecture beginning 45 minutes prior to curtain.

West Edge Opera General Director Mark Streshinsky directs La bohème and Music Director Jonathan Khuner conducts. The cast features Alexandra Sessler as Mimi, Christine Capsuto as Musetta, James Callon as Rodolfo, and V. Savoy McIlwain as Marcello. Jordan Eldredge is Schaunard and Brandon Keith Biggs is Colline. Jason Sarten sings the dual roles of Benoit & Alcindoro. The West Edge Opera Chorus is directed by Daniel Alley and the children's chorus is made up of members of the Piedmont Choirs, led by Naomi Braun.

Both subscriptions and single tickets are now on sale at or by calling (510) 841-1903. Seating is general admission.

--Marian Kohlstedt, West End Opera

Festival del Sole - Tuesday, July 15, 6:30 P.M.
All tickets now just $35.

Napa Valley's Festival del Sole returns to Weill Hall with an all-star classical lineup, including the Sonoma County debut of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Alondra de la Parra.

Also featuring acclaimed violinist Pinchas Zukerman performing the Bruch Violin Concerto, and celebrated tenor James Valenti in a program of Italian and French opera arias.

Bizet: Carmen Overture; "La Fleur" from Carmen
Puccini: "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca
Mascagni: Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
Cardillo: Core 'ngrato
Tosti: Ideale
Lehar: "Dein ist mein ganzes herz"
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26
Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

For further information, visit

--Weill Hall

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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 John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine 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 simple-minded, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

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