Classical Music News of the Week, December 7, 2014

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Announces Sixth Annual BSO Academy Week in June 2015

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is pleased to announce the launch of its sixth annual BSO Academy Week. From Saturday, June 20 through Saturday, June 27, 2015, instrumentalists from across the country are invited to rehearse and perform side-by-side with BSO musicians and under the direction of Music Director Marin Alsop in an intensive music "fantasy camp." The BSO's Academy Week was notably featured in The New York Times and has become a popular destination for amateur musicians from across the country. The Academy provides an immersive experience for participants who desire a comprehensive learning experience through four distinct tracks for performers, educators and administrators: Orchestral Track, Chamber Music Track, Music Educator Track and the Arts Administrator Track.

The flagship of the BSO's lifelong learning curriculum, the Academy Week provides a variety of performing and learning experiences for adult musicians. Participants in Group One of the Orchestral Track (June 21-27) will rehearse and perform Wagner's Overture to Rienzi, the third movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 1, "Titan" and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite (1919), while Group Two will work on Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture, the first movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and the fourth movement from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2. Participants in both groups will have the opportunity to work with both BSO Music Director Marin Alsop as well as BSO Assistant Conductor Nicholas Hersh.

The new and improved Chamber Music Track (June 20-26), developed with the avid chamber musician in mind, features chamber music and chamber orchestra sessions, sectionals, BSO-led workshops focusing on chamber music techniques and two performance opportunities.

Following the success of the inaugural Music Educators Academy in 2014, the BSO launches the second Academy specifically created for Music Educators in collaboration with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), June 20-27. Designed to inspire and invigorate music educators, the Academy aims to improve musicianship, performance techniques, conducting skills, improvisation, arranging, practice techniques and ensemble skills. Three graduate credits for the Music Educators Academy are also available through UMBC.

The BSO continues to foster the professional development of arts administrators through the Arts Administrator Track (June 20-27). This program examines the Academy Week as an example for how an orchestra can engage its community in new and innovative ways. Participants attend a series of seminars, workshops and lectures by BSO staff and musicians on the various aspects of creating and managing a successful Academy program. The participants observe and, as space allows, have the option to play in select Academy activities throughout the week.

For more information, visit

--Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

The Foundation to Assist Young Musicians
The Violins for Kids Holiday Recital is coming!

Saturday, December 20th @ 3pm

East Las Vegas Community Center
250 N Eastern Ave, Las Vegas, 89101

Does it Cost Anything?
Free Admission

If you have a playable instrument that has been collecting dust, please bring it with you and donate it to FAYM. We will be happy to place it in the hands of a deserving young musician -- and give you a tax deductible receipt in exchange.

FAYM's  "Violins for Kids" project has over 100 young students currently enrolled, and we have formed our first Youth String Orchestra. And with your help we will be able to add 40 more students in January! Your support is inspiring them to see a world of possibilities they could not have imagined before. Such music instruction promotes a significant increase in the intellectual capacity of children, improving their ability to read, to learn and to engage the world around them with optimism and confidence.
You can make a monetary Online Donation using Network For Good:

--Hal Weller, FAYM

American Bach Soloists present Messiah in Grace Cathedral
Mary Wilson soprano ~ Eric Jurenas countertenor
Kyle Stegall tenor ~ Jesse Blumberg baritone
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

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

Premium seating sold out -- Other sections selling quickly.

For more information, visit

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Celebrating the Holidays at the Green Music Center
New Century Chamber Orchestra
With Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Dec 12 at 7:30p | Weill Hall
This 19-member string ensemble is joined by renowned violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the San Francisco Girls Chorus in a seasonal program featuring the "Winter" sections of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Corelli's Christmas Concerto.

Na Leo
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Dec 13 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall
Na Leo is one of the most popular —and most award-winning— female Hawaiian groups in the world. For their Weill Hall debut, the trio presents an island-inspired evening of contemporary hits and holiday classics.

Mary Stallings
Sundays at Schroeder
Sun, Dec 14 at 3pm | Schroeder Hall
From gigs with Ella Fitzgerald to tours with Dizzy Gillespie, jazz vocalist Mary Stallings has done it all – now, experience this local legend up close and personal as she performs a soulful afternoon of ballads and blues.

A Johnny Mathis Christmas
"Greatest Hits and Holiday Classics"
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Dec 19 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall
Generously Sponsored by Hansel Auto
Since 1957, Johnny Mathis has been a household-name with his range of romantic ballads, standards, and Broadway hits, this timeless Hall of Famer will perform holiday classics. Tickets are extremely limited.

Handel's Messiah
American Bach Soloists
MasterCard Performance Series
Sun, Dec 21 at 3:00pm | Weill Hall
Under the leadership of Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, this breathtaking ensemble brings to life the most brilliant music of the Baroque era. Celebrate the holidays with one of classical music's most beloved traditions.

Dave Koz & Friends
Christmas Tour 2014
MasterCard Performance Series
Mon, Dec 22 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall
Generously Sponsored by The Press Democrat
Saxophonist extraordinaire Dave Koz leads this high-energy holiday show, filled with lively arrangements of seasonal favorites. Joined by special guests Jonathan Butler, Christopher Cross and Maysa!

Weill Hall, Sonoma State's Green Music Center
Tickets and information:

--Green Music Center

Listen: Life With Music & Culture Releases Winter 2014 Issue
The winter 2014 issue of Listen: Life with Music & Culture offers a cold-weather cocktail equal parts down-home comfort and exotic escapism with a twist of history.

On the cover is rising Metropolitan Opera star Isabel Leonard who talks with Listen Editor-in-Chief Ben Finane about raising the bar on acting in the opera world, finding a way in to contemporary music, Frozen vs. La bohème, and her love of Mozart recitative.

In a candid conversation with Robert Levine, her fellow singer Kristine Opolais disagrees on that final point, admitting that she has "no passion" for Mozart (although she does love Tina Turner). This unpretentious egalitarianism and discerning musicality is also a major component of her husband Andris Nelsons' new role as music director of the Boston Symphony, according to Rebecca Schmid's profile of the maestro. Nelsons and Opolais are the international ambassadors of their home country of Latvia, a country that, according to Marcia Adair's report from the 2014 World Choir Games in Riga, is in the midst of a musical and cultural renaissance.

Across the world, Western classical music is taking China by storm. Ken Smith stops short of calling the influx of Western operas a "boom" but there's no denying that the 50 new opera houses and performing arts centers across the country demand programming that goes beyond Turandot. Shanghai's new hall has been cheerfully nicknamed "the wonton wrapper," and Ben Finane reports on a recent visit by New York Philharmonic principal players to the city to share secrets of good ensemble playing with young Chinese. Meanwhile at Vienna's Shaolin Kung Fu Center, Jens F. Laurson survived to tell about a mind-opening practice session with pianist Andreas Haefliger.

Back stateside, Thomas May reports on a new opera company that has miraculously sprouted in San Antonio and that has, of all things, a composer as its artistic director, and Amanda MacBlane talks to 32-year-old conductor Ward Stare about becoming music director of his hometown orchestra in Rochester, New York. Mark Mobley asks why the return of the cult American television series Twin Peaks should "matter to any non-nerd" and looks for an answer in the show's intrinsically musical DNA.

Plus: A survey of high design in music hall construction covering England, Spain, South Korea, Azerbaijan, China and Norway delivers enticing eye candy à la Dwell; Ben Finane visits with Kent Nagano in Montréal; Violinist Arnold Steinhardt wrestles with his conscience over taking his therapeutic annual break from practicing; Atlanta-native Mark Mobley reminisces of Robert Shaw's legendary tenure at the helm of the now dishearteningly beleaguered Atlanta Symphony; Brian Wise traces violinist Stefan Jackiw's atypical trajectory from Korean classical boy band to sought-after recitalist via Harvard; Jed Distler and Damian Fowler dig into monstrous new biographies of critic and composer Virgil Thomson and playwright Tennessee Williams, respectively; Up-and-coming pianist Christian Sands talks jazz with Ben Finane; and Jens F. Laurson pays tribute to Loren Maazel.

The magazine is available at Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores throughout the US and Canada or by subscription to anywhere in the world:

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

The First HD Performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg Broadcast to Cinemas
Met Music Director James Levine leads the first HD Performance of Wagner's grand comedy Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
Broadcast live in HD to your local movie theater
Saturday, December 13
Met Music Director James Levine conducts Wagner's epic human comedy Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in its first-ever Live in HD performance on Saturday, December 13 live at 12:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. CT / 10:00 a.m. MT / 9:00 a.m. PT. German baritone Michael Volle stars as Hans Sachs, with South African tenor Johan Botha as Walther, German soprano Annette Dasch as Eva, German baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle in his Met debut as Beckmesser, German bass Hans-Peter König as Pogner, American tenor Paul Appleby as David, and Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill as Magdalene. This Live in HD transmission, which will be seen in more than 2,000 movie theaters in 69 countries around the world, is part of the final revival of Otto Schenk's acclaimed 1993 Met production. (Approximate running time: 6 hours)

An encore presentation of this performance will be exhibited in select movie theaters on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. in all time zones. 

Click here for a list of participating U.S. cinemas and ticketing links:

Ticket prices vary. More information is available at or

--Fathom Events

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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 Jon 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 simpleminded, 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 Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. 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 cell phone. 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.

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.

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