Classical Music News of the Week, July 27, 2014

Mahler Chamber Orchestra Newletter

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra at Lucerne Festival
In August, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra features in a total of eight concerts at Lucerne Festival, whose theme this year is "Psyche." As the core of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, the MCO performs under Andris Nelsons on 15th, 16th, 22th and 24th August. The MCO itself can be heard with Daniel Harding on 19th August and with Daniele Gatti on 25th August. In addition, there is a Late Night concert with soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan on 16th August. The Mahler Chamber Soloists give a chamber music concert on 23rd August.

Farewell to Claudio Abbado
A memorial concert from the Dresden Frauenkirche will show on The French online classical music station recorded the memorial concert for the Mahler Chamber Orchestra's founding mentor Claudio Abbado at the Dresden Music Festival on 9th June. The concert, conducted by Daniele Gatti with Waltraud Meier and René Pape as soloists, can be streamed at no cost until 5th September (works by Mahler, Wagner and Schumann).

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

The Final Opera in West Edge Opera's Summer Festival is Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair, Opening August 3
The third and final production of West Edge Opera's new Summer Festival, Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair opens on Sunday, August 3 at 3 pm with repeat performances on Thursday, August 7 and Saturday, August 9, both at 8 pm.

Mark Streshinsky directs and Jonathan Khuner conducts. Soprano Carrie Hennessey is featured as Sarah Miles, with baritone Keith Phares, replacing the originally-announced Philip Cutlip, as Maurice Bendrix. Others in the cast are mezzo-soprano Donna Olson, baritone Philip Skinner, tenor Mark Hernandez, Michael Jankovsky and Ben Miller. All performances take place in the atrium of the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St, Berkeley, an internationally recognized facility dedicated to services for persons with disabilities. The building is a model of the new movement of universal architecture and is just an elevator ride from the Ashby BART Station beneath. All performances are preceded by a lecture beginning 45 minutes prior to curtain.

Singers from this production and from the production of La bohème will appear in a free noon hour program at the Berkeley Main Library this coming Thursday, July 17.

Jake Heggie's opera, The End of the Affair, is based on Graham Greene's 1951 novel of the same name. The story is set in London in 1944 and 1946 and focuses on Maurice and Sarah, who are having an affair, which she vows to end if his life is spared in a bombing. His survival leads to Sarah's religious conversion and Maurice's railing against God for it. Time and space overlap as the story is told in flashbacks. The libretto is by Heather McDonald and was revised by her, Leonard Foglia, and Jake Heggie after the Houston Grand Opera premiered in 2004. It has since been produced by Madison Opera, Seattle Opera and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

The Festival opened on Saturday, July 26 at 8 pm with an "immersive" production of Puccini's of La bohème, followed by Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg's Hydrogen Jukebox, opening on Sunday, July 27 at 5 pm. Repeat performances of La bohème are on August 1st at 8 pm and August 10th at 3 pm. and repeat performances of Hydrogen Jukebox are Saturday, August 2 and Friday, August 8, both at 8 pm.

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

--Marian Kohlstedt, West Edge Opera

Nicholas McGegan Will Continue Artistic Leadership of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra 
Through 2020
Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's popular and much-lauded music director of the past 29 years, has renewed his contract through 2020, the Orchestra is pleased to announce. McGegan has been widely hailed by critics for his mastery of Baroque and Classical style. As one of the foremost figures in early music, he and Philharmonia have brought this extraordinary repertoire to life for audiences in the Bay Area and beyond.

"Working with the musicians of Philharmonia has been a central part of my career," said Nicholas McGegan, "and I'm delighted to continue my collaboration with this exceptional ensemble.  I look forward to many more seasons of splendid music-making together."

As Music Director, McGegan will continue to play a central role in planning the Orchestra's future, from its season in the Bay Area to recordings, collaboration, tours, and all areas related to the Orchestra's artistic vision. Several long-term projects are set to be announced in the coming months.

"Since its origins in 1981, Philharmonia has grown from a passionate group of early music pioneers into one of the most accomplished period-instrument orchestras in the world," added Ross Armstrong, president of the Orchestra's board. "Nic's leadership, erudition and thrilling energy have all been key in propelling Philharmonia to the first rank of period-instrument performance movement."

"We are fortunate to have Nic at the helm of Philharmonia's artistic direction," said executive director Michael Costa. "His compelling artistic vision keeps Philharmonia at the forefront of period instrument performance in North America and around the world."

This summer, Philharmonia embarks on a tour of East Coast music festivals. From August 7-9, the Orchestra will perform Handel's Acis and Galatea with the Mark Morris Dance Group at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival. On August 14, it revives its acclaimed production of Handel's Teseo at Tanglewood, and on August 15 it performs at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. On August 17, it returns to Lincoln Center for a final Teseo performance.

The 34th season opens on October 8th, 2014 with a concert featuring violoncellist Steven Isserlis performing concertos by C.P.E. Bach and Boccherini alongside two Haydn symphonies.

For more information about Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, visit

--Ben Casement-Stoll, Philharmonia Baroque

Merola Opera Program Summer Festival Presents The Merola Grand Finale
Presented at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA on August 16.

The Merola Opera Program's Summer Festival concludes with the popular Merola Grand Finale at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 16, at the War Memorial Opera House. Conductor Ari Pelto will lead the orchestra and 2014 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Omer Ben-Seadia will stage this varied musical program featuring works by Boito, Donizetti, Handel, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Mozart, Offenbach, Poulenc, Rossini, Strauss, Stravinsky and Verdi.

"It is an honor for me to be working with this year's extraordinary group of singers and pianists on the Merola Grand Finale. Together we'll be presenting a vital evening of opera and relishing in a tremendous program that features various styles and forms for us and the audience to enjoy." said 2014 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Omer Ben-Seadia. "We can't wait to share with the audience the culmination of an extraordinary journey we have taken together this summer, refining our crafts and leading the path into thrilling new worlds."

Conductor Ari Pelto is Artistic Advisor of Opera Colorado and Principal Guest Conductor of Opera Memphis. With performances that have been called poetic, earthy, vigorous and highly individual, he is in demand at elite opera houses, ballets, symphonies and conservatories throughout the United States. Recent highlights and upcoming opera house engagements include La bohème with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the St. Louis Symphony, The Cunning Little Vixen at Chautauqua, Rusalka and La bohème at Boston Lyric Opera, Romeo et Juliet at Minnesota Opera, and The Magic Flute, Figaro, and Hansel and Gretel at Portland Opera. He has also been a regular guest conductor of the Atlanta Ballet. Commenting on a performance of Prokofiev's Cinderella, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote, "Under Ari Pelto's baton, the orchestra has never sounded better, nor the chemistry between pit and stage been quite so palpable." In 2012, he collaborated with Twyla Tharp on the premiere of her new ballet, The Princess and the Goblin.

Merola Opera Program Presents Merola Grand Finale and Reception, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 16.
Tickets: $45 Grand Tier & Orchestra Prime/$35 Orchestra/$25 Dress Circle. Reception begins at 10 p.m. in the Opera House Café.
*Reception tickets are an additional $50 each

Tickets for the August 17 Merola Grand Finale are $25, $35 and $45. Reception tickets are $50. Tickets for the performance 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 or online at

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

--Karen Ames Communications

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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 of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit 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