Classical Music News of the Week, November 2, 2014

St. Charles Singers to Bring 'Candlelight Carols' December 5-7

The St. Charles Singers will present the 31st annual edition of its "Candlelight Carols" Christmas program December 5–7 in Chicago and St. Charles, Illinois.

The highly regarded professional chamber choir will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 5, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, North Michigan Avenue at East Delaware Place, Chicago; 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 6, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles; and 3 p.m., Sunday, December 7, at Baker church in St. Charles.

The concerts in St. Charles typically sell out weeks in advance.

The mixed-voice choir's founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt will conduct a program of 18 songs spanning from the Renaissance to the present day, many of which the choir has never performed before and some offering unusual soundscapes.

One of those is Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds' "Stars" for mixed choir and water-tuned glasses. The carol, composed in 2011, calls for some singers to play stemmed drinking glasses, also known as glass harps.

Guest artist Matthew Agnew, cellist with the Chicago Philharmonic and Elgin Symphony Orchestra, will accompany the choir in Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo's recent "Serenity (O Magnum Mysterium)" for chorus with violin or cello, an evocative, cinematic-sounding work.

Hunt promises some familiar Christmas music in unfamiliar arrangements. "These won't be your garden variety, four-part carols," Hunt says. A version of "Deck the Halls," arranged by the famed Chicago-born choral leader Gregg Smith, is a vibrant vocal trapeze act requiring agility and precise coordination, Hunt says.

Single tickets for "Candlelight Carols" are $30 general adult admission, $25 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Cal Performances and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players Present Project TenFourteen
Cal Performances and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) present Project TenFourteen, a new music series with a simple name. "It comes from exactly what we are trying to do," says SFCMP Artistic Director and conductor Steven Schick in an exclusive video interview with Cal Performances. "Ten new pieces to be premiered in the season that starts in 2014, so Project TenFourteen." The ten composers­–Chou Wen-chung, George Crumb, Lei Liang, Koji Nakano, Gabriela Ortiz, Elena Ruehr, Laurie San Martin, Ken Ueno, Du Yun, and Agata Zubel­–hail from China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Poland, and the United States, and represent a kaleidoscope of cultural and musical approaches. Schick asked each composer to "reflect upon and address the human condition, common to us all."  The new works—now numbering twelve since Crumb made a gift of two additional new compositions—will be performed across four concerts and are interspersed with modern masterpieces by Varèse, Berio, Birtwistle, Crumb, and Aperghis on November 16, January 25, February 22, and March 29. All programs begin at 7:00 p.m. and are located in Hertz Hall. Soprano Tony Arnold and pianist Nicolas Hodges will perform on the November 16 and January 25 concerts, respectively.

Pre-performance talks are planned for each Project TenFourteen concert, beginning one hour before each performance at 6:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall. Talks are free to event ticketholders.

The opening concert on Sunday, November 16 at 7:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, showcases the world premieres of four newly-commissioned works, including two by iconoclast American composer George Crumb, Yesteryear and The Yellow Moon of Andalusia, both featuring guest soprano Tony Arnold; Corpórea by Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz; and Elena Ruehr's It's About Time. The program also includes Crumb's influential Five Pieces for Piano (1962), and Georges Aperghis's Récitations 9 and 10 for solo voice, also sung by Arnold.

The Sunday, January 25 concert at 7:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall features pianist Nicolas Hodges and includes two world premieres: Polish composer Agata Zubel's where to, and Slow Portraits 3 by Chinese composer Du Yun. Also on the program are two works by British composer Harrison Birtwistle: The Axe Manual and Gigue Machine (co-commissioned by Cal Performances).

The series continues on Sunday, February 22 at 7:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, with the world premiere of we turn in the night in a circle of fire by Laurie San Martin, and a new work by UC Berkeley Associate Professor of Music, Ken Ueno, called Zetsu, alongside two iconic 20th century masterworks, Luciano Berio's Linea and Luigi Nono's Hay Que Caminar Soñando.

The Project TenFourteen series concludes on Sunday, March 29 at 7:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, with four more world premieres, including Japanese composer Koji Nakano's Time Song V: Mandala; Chinese composer Lei Liang's Luminous, featuring guest contrabassist Mark Dresser; a new work by famed Chinese composer Chou Wen-chung; and George Crumb's third composition for Project TenFourteen, called Xylophony. The series concludes with a special performance of Edgard Varèse's seminal Ionisation, by an all-star percussion ensemble compiled by Steven Schick.

Tickets for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players: Project TenFourteen on Sunday, November 16, January 25, February 22, and March 29 at 7:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall, are priced at $32.00 and subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at www.calperformances.org, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php.

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

American Bach Soloists Present Messiah in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Handel: Messiah
Mary Wilson soprano ~ Eric Jurenas countertenor
Wesley Rogers tenor ~ Jesse Blumberg baritone
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Premium seating nearly sold out.

Tuesday December 16 2014 7:30 p.m. - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Thursday December 18 2014 7:30 p.m. - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Friday December 19 2014 7:30 p.m. - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/seasons/14-15/Messiah.html

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Orion Ensemble Expands Janet's Stage at Fox Valley Schools
Following a successful debut year, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, is expanding its commitment to making chamber music more accessible through "Janet's Stage," adding Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn to its existing partnerships with high schools in Batavia and Geneva, Illinois.

Orion's first session at Glenbard West, involving a masterclass/performance for two classes, is Monday, October 27. Sessions at Batavia and Geneva High Schools follow on November 10.

"Janet's Stage" is a one-of-a-kind collaboration with the orchestra departments at each partner school, with the Orion musicians-clarinetist and executive director Kathy Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, pianist Diana Schmück and cellist Judy Stone-providing multifaceted, year-long student support. The program offers practical, individualized learning through master classes and chamber music coaching, performances for students and parents at each school, invitations to attend Orion concerts and the opportunity for student ensembles to perform on the Orion concert stage.

For more information about the Orion Ensemble, visit orionensemble.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Robert Spano Conducts The Classical Style at Carnegie Hall
Robert Spano returns to Carnegie Hall December 4 to conduct the New York Premiere of The Classical Style, an opera with music written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky and words by pianist and librettist Jeremy Denk, based upon the book of the same name by the late legendary pianist and scholar Charles Rosen. The opera's immediate success at the Ojai Music Festival last June with its world premiere has only provided more anticipation for its New York premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall. The program begins with Denk at the piano performing Mozart's Fantasia and Sonta in C minor as a prelude to the one-act opera.

The Classical Style is an opera buffa/comic libretto where chords are characters sharing the stage with Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and, as Denk describes, "several unnecessary characters." The opera, at face value, is simply about death, yet fashioned with absurd humor and great music. The three composers are distraught by newspaper reports of the death of classical music and their own apparent irrelevance. They get wind of Rosen's book and go looking for him for advice. Stucky's music seamlessly stitches together recognizable bits of the composers' works, along with other allusions that zip in and out almost too quickly to be heard.

"Underlying the jokes (good ones and the groaners) and tomfoolery, Stucky's resourceful score and Denk's droll text produce an ingeniously eloquent musing on the meaning of life." (Mark Swed, LA Times)

When the score arrived in the mail, Spano immediately sat down at the piano to play through the opera while singing along. Working his way through the score proved nearly impossible, as he noted he had to stop at regular intervals simply because he was laughing so hard. The cast is made up of eight singers and the music is performed by The Knights chamber orchestra, an orchestral collective based in New York.

Watch the original World Premiere in its entirety here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1I0fbs554A

In addition, the program includes Mozart's Fantasia and Sonata in C Minor, K. 475/457.

For more information, visit http://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2014/12/4/0730/PM/The-Classical-Style/

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum, Demler & Associates

Orion Weiss on tour with Salzburg Marionette Theater
Pianist Orion Weiss and Salzburg Marionette Theater Embark on 11-City North American Tour October and November 2014.

Performances of Debussy's charming La Boîte aux Jouxjoux (The Toy Box) and Schumann's Papillons at the Met Museum, Kennedy Center and in Portland, Calgary, Ottawa and Castleton celebrate The Salzburg Marionette Theater's centenary.

"When you're named after one of the biggest constellations in the night sky, the pressure is on to display a little star power — and the young pianist Orion Weiss did exactly that." --The Washington Post.

Last week, pianist Orion Weiss together with the Salzburg Marionette Theater kicked off an 11-city recital tour throughout North America to perform a story-driven recital program including Debussy's theatrical and musical work La Boîte à Joujoux (The Toy Box) and Robert Schumann's Papillons. Also this month, Naxos released Domenico Scarlatti: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 15, featuring 18 of the composer's 555 sonatas selected and performed by Orion Weiss.

From Friday, October 24th, to November 16th, 2014, Orion Weiss performs in recital on an 11-city tour of the US and Canada, including stops at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Washington DC's Kennedy Center and in Portland and Ottawa.

"One of my favorite parts of being a pianist is the joy of telling stories through music," writes Orion Weiss. "As the music describes events and emotions that can't be expressed in words, it is my chance to be storyteller, actor, and listener all at once.  I'll have some help on this program to tell these stories.  The master storytellers from the Salzburg Marionette Theatre will guide us through the pieces that open and close the program, performing on instruments that are, as mine, made of wood, cloth, metal and strings."

To learn more about Orion Weiss, please visit: http://www.orionweiss.com/. For more on the Salzburg Marionette Theater, visit: http://www.marionetten.at/index.php

--Rebecca Davis, Universal Music

American Bach Soloists Presents Handel's Messiah in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral December 16, 18 & 19
Additional performances at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. This perennially sold-out tradition enters its sixteenth year.

The American Bach Soloists (ABS) return to San Francisco's majestic Grace Cathedral to perform Handel's Messiah on December 16, 18, & 19. Additional performances will be held at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis on December 14 and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park on December 21. Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas directs all five performances, leading the virtuoso ABS period instrument orchestra, acclaimed American Bach Choir, and an outstanding quartet of vocal soloists.

American Bach Soloists present Handel's Messiah
December 16, 18, & 19, 2014, 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco
Tickets: $27 - $97

Additional performances:
Sunday, December 14, 2014, 4:00 pm
Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Mrak Hall Drive, Davis, CA
Sunday, December 21, 2014, 3:00 pm
Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA

For further information, visit americanbach.org or call (415) 621-7900

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

National Philharmonic Announces Concerto Competition Winners 
The soloists will perform at student concerts at the Music Center at Strathmore.

Each fall, as part of its education program, the National Philharmonic sponsors a concerto competition for high school musicians. The Philharmonic is pleased to announce the winners of this year's competition: cellist Allison Park; and violinists Sarah Kim and Megan Rabe. Each of the winners will appear at the Music Center at Strathmore with the National Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, in two of the seven performances (at 10:35 am and 12:15 pm) for nearly 15,000 2nd grade students from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) on November 18-21.

Cellist Allison Park, a sophomore at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia, will perform the first movement of the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 3 at the concerts on November 20 and 21. She is currently principal cellist of the American Youth Philharmonic and a member of the AYPO Chamber Ensemble program. She has won many awards, including the Grand Prize Winner of the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Regional Solo Competition and first place of the 2014 American Protégé International Concerto Competition. She currently studies with James Lee of the National Symphony Orchestra.

Violinist Sarah Kim, who was also a winner of the Philharmonic's Concerto Competition last year, will perform the first movement of Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3 on Tuesday, November 18. Sarah, a sophomore at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, MD, has been studying the violin since the age of five with Dr. Christian Tremblay at the Peabody Institute. She has won many competitions, including the International Concerto Competition at the American Fine Arts Festival in New York, the American Protégé International Concerto Competition, the Potter's Maryland Violin String Competition and the Columbia Young Artist Competition.

Violinist Megan Rabe, a freshman at River Hill High School in Clarksville, MD, will perform the third movement of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 on Wednesday, November 19.  She started taking violin lessons at the age of six and currently studies with Rebecca Henry at the Peabody Preparatory in Baltimore as part of the Pre-Conservatory Violin Program.

Megan is a member of her high school's orchestra and the Peabody Youth Orchestra. She has won many competitions, including first place in the 2012 Asian American Society International Competition, Junior Strings Division, and the 2013 American Protégé Piano and Strings International Competition. She also won the 2014 H. Stevens Brewster Jr. String Competition, Junior Division last April. She has performed at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall for winners' concerts.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

The Mahler Chamber Orchestra Receives the European Cultural Brand Award "European Education Programme of the Year 2004" for "Feel the Music"
"Feel the Music" was chosen by a 31-member jury of experts as "European education programme of the year 2014". The Mahler Chamber Orchestra accepted the prize yesterday evening at the 9th "Night of Cultural Brands" at the Staatsoper im Schillertheater in Berlin in the presence of 1.000 guests from the fields of culture, business, politics and media.

The project "Feel the Music" opens the world of music to deaf and hard-of-hearing children all over Europe. In workshops at their schools and in the concert hall, children learn how music can be experienced through all of the senses. More than 150 children from 7 countries have taken part in the project thus far.

Ole Bækhøj, Chief Executive of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra: "We are very happy that the jury chose 'Feel the Music' as European education programme of the year 2014, and we very much hope that this distinction inspires other ensembles and concert promoters to enrich our musical environment through programmes for the hearing-impaired."

"Feel the Music" accompanies the four-year cycle "The Beethoven Journey" of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and its Artistic Partner Leif Ove Andsnes. The Norwegian pianist and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra have been touring across the world with Beethoven's Piano Concertos since 2012. "Feel the Music" addresses the topic of music and deafness, which increasingly affected Beethoven over the course of his life. On each tour of the Beethoven Journey (2012-2015) the MCO and Leif Ove Andsnes work with one or two schools for deaf children in Europe.

The next "Feel the Music" project will take place in November at Lucerne Festival at the Piano.

--Sonja Koller, Mahler Chamber Orchestra

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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