Classical Music News of the Week, August 24, 2014

American Opera Projects Presents "Six Scenes" of New Operas by Emerging Composer and Librettists

Music from the 2013-14 Season of Composers & the Voice.
Friday, September 12 and Sunday, September 14, 7:30 p.m.
South Oxford Space, 138 S. Oxford St., Brooklyn, NY 11217

A Stonewall-era drag queen and the cop entranced by her. A princess manipulates her captor during the Crusades. A man's literal vacation from Hell. On Friday, September 12 and Sunday, September 14 at 7:30 PM, AOP (American Opera Projects) will present these and other excerpts of new operas at Composer & the Voice: Six Scenes 2014, the culmination of this season's Composers & the Voice (C&V) opera training program. Audiences will see scenes by five emerging composers - Guy Barash, Avner Finberg, Jeremy Gill, Andreia Pinto-Correia, Gity Razaz - and one composer/librettist team, Joseph Rubinstein and Jason Kim, who were chosen by AOP to spend a year creating new works focusing on the operatic voice. The performances will be held at South Oxford Space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home of AOP. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 for students/seniors and are available at www.operaprojects.org.

AOP Resident Ensemble of Singers performing: sopranos Deborah Lifton (Center for Contemporary Opera, Encompass New Opera Theatre) and Kristin Sampson (Dicapo Opera Theatre, Santa Fe Opera), mezzo Blythe Gaissert (Los Angeles Opera, Aspen Music Festival), tenor Dominic Armstrong (New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago), baritone Jorell Williams (Caramoor International Music Festival, Opera Theatre of St. Louis), and bass-baritone Matthew Burns (Boston Lyric Opera, New York City Opera).  Supporting on piano will be Composers & the Voice Music Directors Mila Henry, Kelly Horsted, and Charity Wicks.

The performances will be hosted by C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood (conductor, Chautauqua Opera, New York City Opera) and feature discussions with the artists about the creative process.

This year's C&V fellows have benefitted from one-on-one mentoring from esteemed composers Daron Hagen, Jake Heggie, Libby Larsen, John Musto, Tobias Picker, and Stephen Schwartz, as well as librettist Mark Campbell. Each of these distinguished artists reviews their fellows' work, offers feedback, and participates in C&V discussions.

Tickets: $15 General Admission, $10 Students/Seniors

Tickets available at www.operaprojects.org
 Complete information about Composers & the Voice and this year's artists can be found at
www.operaprojects.org/composers_voice.htm

--Matthew Gray, American Opera Projects

Mahler Chamber Orchestra Newsletter
Behind the scenes in Lucerne:
On 16th August, we offered a chance to get to know the Mahler Chamber Orchestra behind the scenes of Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. The programme included attendance at the dress rehearsal for the Late Night Concert with Barbara Hannigan and a lunch together with musicians from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.  

With Daniele Gatti in Toblach:
"Symphonic power constructed from the finest chamber music."
On September 1, Daniele Gatti conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for the third time during this summer of festivals. In Toblach (South Tyrol, Italy), the Gustav Mahler Music Weeks and the Alto Adige Festival jointly present a gala concert featuring Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 and Webern's Slow Movement.

Videos:
"Feel the Music" in nine minutes.
Hard-of-hearing children discover, along with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, how music can be perceived with all one's senses.

Reunion in Bonn:
At the Beethovenfest Bonn, "Feel the Music" moves to the next level: four school classes which have participated in past "Feel the Music" projects will meet one another for the first time. A total of 50 hearing-impaired children from Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Ireland travel to Bonn for the project. The highlight of their four-day visit: a "Feel the Music" family concert, during which the children appear onstage with the MCO and Leif Ove Andsnes.

For more information, visit www.mahler-chamber.eu

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Music of Opera Composer Conrad Cummings Presented in One-Night Concert
The evening will feature two premiere works.

American Opera Projects and LivelyWorks present "Two Premieres and a Reunion," a special evening of music by composer Conrad Cummings on Wednesday September 10th, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at The National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan.Tickets are $15 available online at https://twopremieres.eventbrite.com or $20 at the door. A reception with the artists will follow the concert.

 The performance features premieres of two commissioned works: the theatrical song cycle Thoroughfare, written for Metropolitan Opera tenor Keith Jameson with lyrics by Mark Campbell; and the virtuoso concert piece Golden Gate Fantasy, written for award-winning violinist Gregory Fulkerson.

Also featured are two concert duets reuniting frequent Cummings collaborators Jesse Blumberg and Hai-Ting Chinn: Before The Golden Gate, with lyrics by Vikram Seth; and From Positions 1956, with lyrics by Michael Korie. Long-time Cummings collaborator, Charity Wicks, is the pianist for all four works.

 Cummings composed Before The Golden Gate as a preparation - a "writing into" - the full-length opera based on Vikram Seth's novel in verse. Hai-Ting Chinn and Jesse Blumberg have both been frequent collaborators of Cummings's, and each has sung a role in The Golden Gate, but never at the same time. Here they interweave the voices of multiple characters in an abstract evocation of the novel's dark lyricism. From Positions 1956 takes moments from Cummings's and Michael Korie's opera drawn from instructional manuals of the 1950's, particularly marriage manuals, and casts them into a concert piece customized for these two interpreters.

Golden Gate Fantasy is a 21st century take on a 19th century form: the virtuoso concert piece drawn from themes of a popular opera, in this case Cummings's. Gregory Fulkerson notes, "Like Sarasate's fantasy to Carmen, I asked Cummings for dare-devil virtuosity, playfulness, and a distillation of the opera's intense lyric spirit. He's more than succeeded."

Renowned tenor Keith Jameson, recently appearing in Falstaff at the Metropolitan Opera, will premiere the theatrical song cycle Thoroughfare, a work written expressly for him by Cummings and noted librettist Mark Campbell. Subtitled "A song cycle between places," the five-part story follows the protagonist from Columbus Circle where his boyfriend has suddenly broken up with him, down Broadway, to Madison Square Park where his heart begins to mend. Jameson explains, "I wanted to be as vulnerable as the lover in Schubert's Winterreise. But I wanted it to feel fresh, modern, and like it could be a chapter out of my own life."

"Two Premieres and a Reunion: An Evening of Music by Conrad Cummings"
Wednesday September 10th, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets $15, available online at https://twopremieres.eventbrite.com or $20 at the door

National Opera Center
330 Seventh Avenue at 29th Street, Manhattan
Concert duration: 55 minutes

--Matthew Gray, American Opera Projects

The American Boychoir Featured in Upcoming Dustin Hoffman Drama; Boychoir Premiering at Toronto International Film Festival
World-renowned vocal ensemble, the American Boychoir, will see their visibility even further elevated with the September 5 premiere of director François Girard's Boychoir, one of only seven Gala presentations at the Toronto International Film Festival (September 4 – 14). Boychoir tells the story of an orphaned 12-year-old boy sent to a prestigious music school where he struggles to join an elite group of world-class singers. No one expects this rebellious loner to succeed, least of all the school's relentlessly tough conductor who wages a battle of wills to bring out the boy's extraordinary musical gift. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Josh Lucas, Kevin McHale, Eddie Izzard, Debra Winger, and Garrett Wareing.

The American Boychoir School students feature prominently, serving as the film's choir and providing all of the singing heard throughout.  In addition to showing the choir's rigorous rehearsal and performance process, the daily lives of students are depicted in many scenes. Several American Boychoir School students auditioned for speaking roles in the film and one, Dante Soriano, was cast as one of the five major boy characters. In addition to students, Litton-Lodal Music Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz appears as an orchestra conductor and Dr. James Litton, Music Director Emeritus, provides a touching cameo.

Over its 75-year history, the American Boychoir has performed in many of the world's grandest venues and with legends from across the musical spectrum. However, Boychoir marks the choir's first major film appearance. "When we were approached by François Girard to participate in Boychoir we could not have been more honored. Obviously, we are immensely proud of the American Boychoir School and our record of educational excellence. Our choir is known throughout the world and has established a loyal global audience. We are excited that a film such as Boychoir not only showcases our talented students, but opens up a larger audience to our music and the powerful work we do to nurture and mentor our students," says newly installed American Boychoir School President, Dr. Kerry Heimann.

For more information about the American Boychoir, visit www.americanboychoir.org

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Not Just for Kids: Music Institute Offers Addults Music Education
Fall registration is open for instruction, ensembles and enrichment programs.

Recognizing the powerful role music can play in a person's life at any age, the Music Institute of Chicago is offering a wide range of opportunities for adults to enhance their lives through musical instruction and performance in a fun, relaxed setting. Registration for Adult Studies and Adult Enrichment Programs is open, with classes beginning September 10 in Evanston, Winnetka and Lake Forest. Private instruction is available at any of the Music Institute's six campuses: Chicago, Downers Grove, Evanston, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, and Winnetka, Il.

New Adult Enrichment Program:
Beginning in fall 2014, the Music Institute is offering an informal yet engaging exploration of a variety of musical styles in a new series of enrichment courses for adults. Each option is available at multiple campuses, and sessions are not sequential, so participants have flexibility in registering according to their schedules.

Courses include:
Understanding Music: Like a monthly book club for music, this exploration of classical and jazz music provides a framework for the music lover who does not have a music degree.

The History of American Big Band Jazz: Students journey through 20th century America to explore the origins of big band jazz and discover successful, influential band leaders including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and more.

The History of the American Musical: These sessions provide a closer look at the origin and evolution of this uniquely American art form.

Adult Acting Classes: These classes are available individually or as a package for the beginner or those who want to brush up on their skills.

Introduction to Hand Drumming: Hand drumming is known for its power to energize, relieve stress and promote feelings of community and well-being.

Adult music instruction:
The Music Institute offers private instruction for adults who are learning to play an instrument for the first time as well as those returning to music after a long hiatus. "We help students discover a real and deep understanding of music through a comprehensive curriculum and strong and nurturing relationships with our professional faculty," said President and CEO Mark George. In addition to lessons, students have access to free musicianship classes, performance opportunities throughout the Chicago area, free master classes with renowned visiting artists and four free hours of consultation with the Music Institute's Institute for Therapy through the Arts.

Adults interested in group musical opportunities may join an adult ensemble, including the Community Symphony (Winnetka), the New Horizons Band for adults age 50 and older (Winnetka) and the Music Institute of Chicago Chorale (Evanston). Chamber music opportunities also are available for intermediate and advanced students.

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Tod Machover Named Lucerne Festival's 2015 Composer in Residence
Tod Machover, composer, inventor and MIT Media Lab Professor, has been named Lucerne Festival's 2015 Composer in Residence. As he has done for the cities of Perth, Edinburgh and Toronto, Machover will compose a collaborative symphony for the city of Lucerne to capture its life, spirit and culture in music. Beginning August 20, 2014 Machover will be in Lucerne for ten days exploring the energy of the city and gathering sounds and musical ideas submitted by the residents of Lucerne that define the city's unique qualities and traditions. Recordings of conversation in a bustling café, the sound of water from Lake Lucerne or the many rivers that run through town, a factory or boat whistle, glasses clinking in a pub and children playing in a park, are some of the sounds that might be woven into a musical tapestry to create "A Symphony for Lucerne." This musical portrait of Lucerne receives its world premiere September 5, 2015, conducted by Matthias Pintscher.

Although the process of creating this collaborative symphony for Lucerne is in its earliest stage, Machover is capturing some of Lucerne's most unique characteristics through sound. He explains Lucerne as "a kind of oasis, a quiet, almost-perfect city where the most delicate sounds – water lapping on the lakeshore, footsteps reverberating in covered wooden bridges, birds whispering rather than shouting, music from orchestras, traveling choirs, buskers and boom boxes all intertwining – are unburdened by traffic or crowd noise, creating a kind of idealized chamber music. In addition, Lucerne has a unique position at the center of Switzerland, and has always been a place of refuge, tolerance, and reflection. Hopefully these qualities will be reflected in our finished symphony." Tod Machover explains the project further in this video made by Lucerne Festival.

As part of this prestigious residency, Machover has been commissioned by Lucerne Festival for a host of additional projects and compositions to be announced at a later date. The making of a "Symphony for Lucerne" will be filmed as a behind-the-scenes documentary by Lucerne Festival and shown in connection with the world premiere.

Special technologies developed by Machover and his Opera of the Future team at the MIT Media Lab will allow people of all ages to contribute to and help shape "A Symphony for Lucerne." The Constellation app is web-based and allows anyone to hear the latest sounds collected and to combine them into personalized mixes.

Still in the development phase, a mobile app designed especially for the "Symphony for Lucerne" project will allow any sound to be recorded and then geographically "tagged" via mobile device, creating an evolving "sound map" of Lucerne and surroundings. This mobile app will be available through the Apple App Store and Google Play in the fall of 2014.

A separate computer software program, Hyperscore, allows young people to compose their own musical portraits of Lucerne by drawing and painting with lines and colors which Machover can then translate into orchestral impressions. Hyperscore is available for download via www.hyperscore.com.

--Ashlyn Damm, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa