Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 57, 67 & 68 (CD review)

Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Philharmonia Baroque Productions PBP-08.

Let me begin by saying that nobody does Haydn better than Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Well, OK, nobody does music of the Baroque or Classical eras better than McGegan and the period-instrument band Philharmonia Baroque. I say this partly because I've been listening to the PBO in concert since their founding in the early 1980's. As a follower of this ensemble native to my San Francisco Bay Area, I've had the pleasure of hearing them in a number of different venues, including First Congregational Church in Berkeley where they made the present album. I know, therefore, that it's dreadfully partisan of me to say so, but I've never heard anybody do Baroque or Classical music better.

What's more, I can't think of any other period-instrument band that does Haydn better than Philharmonia Baroque. The thing is, though, that on this album they're doing some mid-symphony Haydn, Nos. 57, 67, and 68. They are symphonies even dedicated Haydn enthusiasts may have trouble identifying. Of course, McGegan and his players have already done a number of the later and better-known Haydn symphonies, so I guess it's good to hear them in the less-well-known stuff, too. (I say "I guess" because I still wish I could hear the ensemble playing the more-popular and, frankly, better Haydn repertoire.)

The thing about Haydn is that he produced a great deal of music, much of it during short periods of time. During the 1770's, when he wrote the three symphonies on this disc while working in the court of his patron, Prince Nikolaus Eszterhdzy, he averaged some three or four symphonies a year. If some of them began sounding a little alike, well, it's understandable. Nevertheless, the amazing thing about Haydn is not that some of his works sounded like some of his other works but that so much of it sounded fresh and original. Genius will out.

Anyway, McGegan and his players begin with Symphony No. 57 in D major, written in 1774 and scored for two horns, two oboes, and strings. The nice thing about McGegan's direction is that he never goes all crazy on us as some conductors of period-instrument groups do. McGegan's tempos always sound well judged, always resilient and flowing, energetic without being rushed or wearying. In No. 57 he presents some thoughtfully measured contrasts that keep the music vital and alive, the outer movements cheerful and the seemingly simple slow-movement variations delightful.

Nicholas McGegan
Next is Symphony No. 67 in F major, written in 1779 and a little more ambitiously scored for two bassoons, two oboes, two horns, and strings. It begins, perhaps surprisingly, with a charming little Presto that McGegan keeps bouncing along with an effervescent spring. I kept picturing McGegan himself on the podium bouncing along to the score, one of the most striking things about Maestro McGegan being the enjoyment he appears to be having directing music of any kind. This symphony gives him ample opportunity to have fun. Then, the lyric slow movement gives everybody a chance to rest after the liveliness of the opening.

Finally, in this well-filled-out album (over seventy-eight minutes) we get the Symphony No. 68 in B-flat major, again written in 1779 and again scored for two bassoons, two oboes, two horns, and strings. It opens vigorously with a movement marked Vivace. However, McGegan doesn't treat it with any undue briskness. Instead, the music moves almost gently in a fluid yet outgoing pace, always alert, always stimulating. As he does with the other slow movements on the program, McGegan handles this one with grace and refinement, all the while maintaining a sweet lilt and buoyant cadence. The music goes out with a most-pleasing forcefulness that shows us Haydn had a wealth of ideas to supply, and Maestro McGegan is fully up to enriching them.

These are among the finest Haydn performances you'll find, and even if you are unfamiliar with the material, you'll probably enjoy them under McGegan's always charismatic guidance. And, also as always, the Philharmonia Baroque play with an exacting refinement beyond reproach.

David v.R. Bowles of Swineshead Productions produced, recorded, edited, and mastered the recording, so you know exactly who to blame if you don't like the sound. He recorded the album live at First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA in February and October 2014. It's that "live" part that gets to me. I know some people love live recordings, but I'm not one of them. Except for maybe 2% of all the live recordings I've heard over these many years, I've seldom heard one that I didn't think would have sounded better recorded in a studio or without an audience. Fortunately, this is one of the better live recordings I've heard, almost making that 2% you could say. And, most fortunately, one of its merits is a lack of applause, which Mr. Bowles has thankfully edited out.

It's miked fairly close, as we might expect of a live recording, yet it still shows a good deal of air and space around the ensemble, as well as displaying a fine sense of depth and dimensionality. So expect maybe a fourth or fifth-row seat, with the orchestra well spread out ahead of us. Yet the sound remains fairly smooth, with no excessive brightness or forwardness in the midrange or treble, just a pleasant, natural clarity. Bass seems a tad light, though, and might have benefited from a modicum more warmth. The audience is remarkably silent, and there is little sense of their presence even during the quietest moments.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Kashif: The Queen Symphony (CD review)

Tolga Kashif, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 7243 5 57395 2.

I admit it: I have always liked the music of British rock band Queen. For instance, I still think their 1975 album A Night at the Opera (a gratifying reference to one of my favorite Marx brothers films) is brilliant. Nor have I any objection to people reorchestrating pop tunes and playing them via full-scale symphony orchestras. So back in 2002 when conductor and composer Tolga Kashif orchestrated an EMI disc of tunes by Queen and played by the Royal Philharmonic, I merely shrugged and thought, "Why not?" Then I listened to the album, in which Kashif arranged some of Queen's songs into what he called a symphony, and it all seemed more than a bit exaggerated to me. Still, what do I know: The disc garnered "Album of the Year" honors in some circles, attracted a host of devoted followers, and became a best-seller.

Kashif's symphonic creation, which is close to an hour long, contains bits and pieces of songwriter and lead singer Freddie Mercury's work for Queen divided into six movements. The trouble is, I found little continuity among the movements, little cohesion, just fragments of this and that held together through the brute force of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Kashif's fancy orchestration. Because I found much of the production a little tedious, about the only thing it made me want to do more than anything else was to listen to an actual Queen album and hear what the music originally sounded like.

You'll find a Queen song such as "Love of My Life" coming up best due to its inherent lyricism, and the whole symphony certainly starts out well, everything lushly orchestrated. But then you'll also find Kashif providing tempo markings within the movements like Allegro Scherzando and Moderato Cantabile, which seem overly pretentious to me. This self-reverential tone appears especially evident when Kashif, who not only arranged the music but conducts it as well, insists that this is a genuine symphony and not just a new arrangement of older music. I dunno; maybe Kashif meant the whole thing humorously, like some of Queen's own music. Despite Kashif's claim that it's a serious symphony, however, the music just sounds to my ears like an inflated collection of disparate pop harmonies, with little musical focus other than what Kashif's score attempts to segue into next.

Anyway, you'll hear snatches of "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Will Rock You," "We Are the Champions," and "Who Wants to Live Forever" tenuously woven into a single movement with little rhyme or reason. I admit it's pleasant enough from time to time, especially if you're already a Queen fan, but as a whole it fails to hang together any more than a multitude of ordinary theme albums do.

Moreover, the sound doesn't help much, either. To my ears EMI recorded the orchestra too close up and in too many multi-miked segments, with a constricted frequency response, a slightly muted high end, a soft midrange, a weak deep bass, and a nonexistent depth of image. In other words, it sounds exactly like a lot of pop recordings, which, given that EMI made it at least partly in Abbey Road's famous Studio 1, means it bears little resemblance to the kind of classical recording it would seem striving to emulate. So, in short, it sounds like a good pop album, which essentially it is. There's nothing wrong with that as long as we're not pretending it's something more.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Mozart: Complete Violin Concertos (CD review)

Also, Sinfonia Concertante. Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Matthew Lipman, viola; Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Avie AV2317 (2-disc set).

What do you get when you combine all five of Mozart's violin concertos along with the Sinfonia Concertante in a single set? And then you have them performed by one of the world's leading violinists, Rachel Barton Pine? And you find her accompanied not only by the great Academy of St. Martin in the Fields but by its founding director, Sir Neville Marriner? And Avie does all of it up in good, natural sound? You get a darned fine recording all the way around, that's what you get.

Mozart wrote his violin concertos in Salzburg around 1775 or a little before when he still in his late teens. Audiences for the past two hundred-odd years have appreciated their appealing melodies and expressive style. Interestingly, Mozart never returned to the violin concerto as such for the rest of his life, probably because as a piano virtuoso he liked composing for that instrument, writing over twenty-seven piano concertos. (Although, to be fair, Mozart was also a violin prodigy, but later apparently preferring the piano.) In any case, one usually has to buy two or three albums to own all five violin concertos by a single performer, so already it's a good deal to find Ms. Barton Pine doing all of them in one set. Also interestingly, Ms. Barton Pine has recently been playing all five concertos in single concerts. Those must be some programs.

As welcome as Ms. Barton Pine is in this music, we must also welcome Sir Neville back conducting the group he co-founded in 1958. You would think that at nearly ninety years of age (at the time of this recording) he might be slowing down, but apparently not. His accompaniment is as alert as ever, and it goes without saying that the Academy play as smoothly and precisely as ever.

Now, as to the performances: Don't expect anything quite like the quick, fleet-footed readings of Anne-Sophie Mutter and the London Philharmonic (DG) or Lara St. John and The Knights (Ancalagon), to name a couple of my favorites in this repertoire. No, Barton Pine and company adopt tempos closer to Ms. Mutter's early recordings with Karajan (DG) and Muti (EMI), moderate tempos that nevertheless bring out all the beauty and expressiveness these concertos have to offer. As we might expect from Marriner and the Academy, especially, these are elegant, stylish performances, filled with delicate nuances and ravishing lines.

The powers that be at Avie Records arranged the concertos with Nos. 4, 1, and 3 on disc one and Nos. 5, 2, and the Concertante on disc two. Well, I don't suppose the order makes any difference; Mozart wrote all of them at about the same time. Except when it comes to trying to find something in the set; then you have to check the packaging to see where to find a specific concerto. Did Avie just want to start with a popular concerto by beginning with No. 4? Or was it a matter of what they fit on each disc? I dunno. But how hard would it have been to put the longest work, the Concertante, first, followed by Nos. 1 and 2 on disc one? They would easily have fit, as would Nos. 3-5 on disc two. A trivial criticism, in any event.

So, things begin with the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K218, certainly one of the most well-known and possibly most-beloved of the concertos. OK, one can understand why Avie started with No. 4. In Ms. Barton Pine's capable hands and with Marriner and company providing such expert support, the whole thing is a delight. Oh, and Mozart left no cadenzas for any of the five concertos, so Ms. Barton Pine has written her own. She says she feels more comfortable playing her own personal cadenzas, and certainly they seem to fit Mozart's style and moods.

Rachel Barton Pine
And so it goes. The Concerto No. 1 has a zippy poise about it, energetic yet never rushed, with a charming Adagio, the dialogue between soloist and orchestra always an attractive two-way affair. No. 3 Barton Pine says is her favorite, and it shows in her enthusiasm and loving attention. She claims it's Mozart's "friendliest" key, G major, and the first movement most resembles an aria. She performs in a most songlike manner, the second-movement Adagio soaring plaintively.

No. 5, which leads off the second disc, is the longest of the violin concertos and among the most creative. Barton Pine and her fellow players handle it in stride, highlighting its playful yet contrasting tones start to finish. The first movement alone plays like a miniature concerto in three parts: fast, slow, fast. The second and third movements, an Adagio and Minuet, are graceful and smiling, with Ms. Barton Pine again bringing these qualities to the fore. The final violin concerto in the set, No. 2, seems a little simple, almost old-fashioned, by comparison to the previous piece, yet the performers again bring out the best in it, with a pleasingly infectious cadence throughout.

The album concludes with the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat for violin and viola, K364, from 1779, and here violist Matthew Lippman appears with Barton Pine. Mozart's mother had died the year before he wrote it, and most critics agree that the music reflects this loss. It shows a greater seriousness and maturity than the violin concertos and more-ambitious orchestration. Ms. Barton Pine and her companions play it in a wholly appropriate fashion, emphasizing its solemn nature without making it sorrowful or overly sentimental. It's maybe the most-brilliant and impressive work on the program, and Barton Pine and company execute it with both passion and compassion.

Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Simon Eadon recorded the album at Air Lyndhurst Studios, London in August and September 2013. There's a sweet warmth around the sound, with a flattering hall resonance providing a realistic ambience. Yet the bloom is not so great that takes anything away from the recording's clarity, which remains good. The soloist appears well integrated into the ensemble, just out ahead of the orchestra and to the left. The orchestral detail is fine, as is the depth and dimensionality of the group; and Ms. Barton Pine's violin sounds wonderfully transparent, almost glowing in its excellence.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Jongen: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Fantasia; Adagio symphonique. Lazzari: Rapsodie. Philippe Graffin, violin; Martyn Brabbins, Royal Flemish Philharmonic. Hyperion CDA68005.

This album is the eighteenth installment in the Hyperion Records "Romantic Violin Concerto" series and headlines the Violin Concerto in B minor by Belgian organist, composer, and music teacher Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). If you're not too familiar with Jongen or his violin concerto, you may understand why it took eighteen volumes in Hyperion's violin series to get to him.

Modern audiences probably know Jongen best for his organ works, his Symphonie Concertante for organ and orchestra among the most-popular things he did. On the other hand, his Violin Concerto in B minor, which he wrote in 1899, didn't see publication or a public performance until 1914, where after it fell into neglect. Its next performance wasn't until 1930, but it didn't attract any serious attention until 1938, nearly four decades after its composition. Then, people started taking notice of it, and critics of the time recognized that it might be pretty good after all. Is it possible that at the time of its first performance, audiences were already beginning to shy away from Romantic concertos and leaning more to the emerging Modernism? Was Jongen's timing just off? More in a moment. The main thing is that the piece is finally getting a little more recognition with this Hyperion recording from violinist Philippe Graffin, conductor Martyn Brabbins, and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic.

Incidentally, for those of you unfamiliar with the soloist or conductor, Mr. Graffin is a French violinist (b. 1964) with a reputation for championing forgotten or original settings of concertos by Faure, Chausson, Ravel, Coleridge-Taylor, and others. His speciality is Romantic French repertoire, playing on a Domenico Busano violin made in Venice in 1730. Maestro Brabbins is the Chief Conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic and the Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. Both men have been active in Hyperion's "Romantic Violin Concerto" series since the outset of the project in 1999.

Anyway, about the Jongen Violin Concerto and the present performance of it: The opening movement, the longest of the three at about eleven minutes, is somewhat severe in its straightlaced seriousness, and if one had to judge the entire concerto simply from this start, one could understand the reticence of early audiences to embrace it. It also suffers from a certain lack of direction and no really big tune to latch onto. Nevertheless, there is a pleasant lyricism that emerges from time to time that anticipates the more sweetly flowing second-movement Adagio. Meanwhile, Graffin and company appear to do their utmost to give the music its due, even if a good part of it is a tad too melodramatic for its own good.

It is, in fact, in the Adagio that Jongen scores his best points, although it still tends to wander aimlessly too often. Graffin's solo playing throughout seems effortless, and he brings a gentle persuasion to the second movement that I found charming.

Philippe Graffin
Jongen marks the finale Animé, and certainly Graffin and his supporting players handle it in an appropriately animated style. The music here is big and lush and rhythmic, although it also seems more disjointed than it does melodic or coherent, running as it does from one subject to another. Still, Brabbins and the orchestra seem able to hold it all together and perhaps make more of it than is actually there, while Graffin takes the solo passages and helps make them soar.

So, I asked earlier if audiences in 1914 hadn't given the concerto short shrift, and I'm still not sure. Maybe they were looking for something less overtly Romantic, yet they embraced Rachmaninov's music at the time, as Romantic as any. Maybe they just wanted something more individualistic and memorable.

Coupled with the concerto we find Jongen's Fantasia in E major and his Adagio symphonique in B major, along with Sylvio Lazzari's Rhapsodie in E minor. Of these three, I enjoyed the Fantasia, one of Jongen's earliest pieces, most of all for the soaring beauty of its line. Graffin manages it with an expressive purity that does justice to the music's songlike simplicity. Jongen's Adagio symphonique was a touch too sentimental for my taste without being really as touching as might have been. That's no reflection on Graffin's performance, by the way, which is as sympathetic as possible.

Finally, there's the Lazzari piece, the Rhapsodie, from 1922. Like Jongen's work, it harks back to a more old-fashioned manner of music making, with plush melodies and dramatic mood swings. One hears in it flashes of Chausson, Saint-Saens, and Gounod, even Rimsky-Korsakov and Wagner. Graffin and his fellow performers carry it out with a suitable dignity and a good deal of sensitive refinement.

Producers Rachel Smith and Simon Perry and recording engineer Ben Connellan made the album at the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips, Eindhoven, Netherlands in July 2013. As usual with Hyperion, we get a warm, natural, nicely detailed sound. It may be a little close for the smooth, warm tone we hear from the orchestra, which might suggest a bit more distance, yet it's a sound that radiates a pleasant acoustic bloom and enough clarity to satisfy most listeners. While I wouldn't call it exactly audiophile, it is rather lifelike, as one might hear an orchestra live from a midway point in the hall.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Classical Music News of the Week, January 25, 2015

Orion String Quartet Returns to Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Following its U.S. premiere of Brett Dean's String Quartet No. 2 "And Once I Played Ophelia" at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival this past summer, the Orion String Quartet (Daniel Phillips, violin; Todd Phillips, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; and Timothy Eddy, cello) performs two concerts with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

February 6 features violinist Ida Kavafian and flutist Tara Helen O'Connor with a program of works by Mozart, Boccherini, Beethoven and Haydn. The Quartet's sold out, all-Haydn concert on February 26, which is part of Lincoln Center's winter festival "Intimate Expressions," will be streamed live on the CMS website. Noted for their European interpretations of Haydn's works, according to The New York Times the quartet "played [String Quartet in C] with energetic brio and graceful poise."

Over the past 27 seasons the Orion String Quartet has been consistently praised for the fresh perspective and individuality it brings to performances. One of the most sought-after ensembles in the United States, the members of the Orion String Quartet—violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips (brothers who share the first violin chair equally), violist Steven Tenenbom and cellist Timothy Eddy—have worked closely with such legendary figures as Pablo Casals, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Peter Serkin, members of TASHI and the Beaux Arts Trio, as well as the Budapest, Végh, Galimir and Guarneri String Quartets.

The Quartet remains on the cutting edge of programming with wide-ranging commissions from composers Chick Corea, Brett Dean, David Del Tredici, Alexander Goehr, Thierry Lancino, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Marc Neikrug, Lowell Liebermann, Peter Lieberson and Wynton Marsalis, and has enjoyed a celebrated creative partnership with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

Friday, February 6, 2015, 7:30 PM
Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC
with Ida Kavafian, violin and Tara Helen O'Connor, flute

Haydn: Quartet in G minor 
Beethoven: Serenade in D major, Op. 25
Boccherini: Quintet in G major, G. 431, Op. 55, No. 1
Mozart: Quintet in D, K. 593

Thursday, February 26, 2015, 7:30 PM
Rose Studio, Lincoln Center, NYC

Haydn: Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5
Haydn: Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, No. 2, "The Joke"
Haydn: Quartet in C major, Op. 50, No. 2
Haydn: Quartet in F major, Op. 77, No. 2

For more information, visit http://www.chambermusicsociety.org/seasontickets/event/1520

--Katharine Boone and Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

John Nelson to Conduct St. John Passion March 20 for Chicago Bach Project
John Nelson will conduct Bach's St. John Passion March 20 for Soli Deo Gloria's Chicago Bach Project. Soloists will include Nicholas Phan, Lisette Oropesa, Stephen Morscheck, Lawrence Zazzo,
John Tessier, and Matthew Brook. A choral work by James MacMillan will precede the performance of Bach's masterwork.

Classical sacred music foundation Soli Deo Gloria, Inc.'s 2015 Chicago Bach Project will feature J. S. Bach's dramatic St. John Passion, BWV 245, with Grammy Award-winner John Nelson conducting an international cast of soloists and the Chicago Bach Choir and Orchestra.

The one-night-only performance will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2015, at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.

St. John Passion soloists will include tenor Nicholas Phan as the Evangelist; bass-baritone Stephen Morscheck in the role of Jesus; soprano Lisette Oropesa; countertenor Lawrence Zazzo; Canadian tenor John Tessier, who will be making his Chicago Bach Project debut; and bass-baritone Matthew Brook.

"Listeners will experience a highly dramatic St. John Passion, one that's even more gripping than the one we presented in Chicago in 2012," Nelson said in an interview with SoliDeo Gloria.

Prior to the St. John Passion performance, the choir under chorus master Donald Nally will sing Scottish composer James MacMillan's unaccompanied Alpha and Omega, which was commissioned by Soli Deo Gloria and premiered in 2011.

This will be the first time that a Chicago Bach Project presentation includes an SDG-commissioned work in addition to the featured Bach masterpiece.

Tickets and information:
Single ticket prices for the St. John Passion are $25 to $55. Tickets are available online at HarrisTheaterChicago.org, by phone at (312) 334-7777, or in person at the Harris Theater Box Office, 205 E. Randolph Drive. Group discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Students may purchase up to two discounted tickets with valid student I.D. at the Harris Theater Box Office. Group discounts for students are available through Soli Deo Gloria, 630-984-4300. Web site: www.ChicagoBachProject.org.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

92Y February Newsletter
Sunday, February 1, 3:00 PM
Shai Wosner, piano; The Parker Quartet; Timothy Cobb, double bass
The Schubert Effect 2
92Y Kaufmann Concert Hall

Sunday, February 1, 7:30 PM
Ian Bostridge, speaker; Jeremy Denk, interviewer
Winterreise: Anatomy of an Obsession
92Y Buttenwieser Hall

Monday, February 2, 7:30 PM
Miriam Fried, violin; Kobi Malkin, violin; Hsin-Yun Huang, viola
From Folklore to Modernity
92Y Concerts at SubCulture

Sunday, February 8, 11:00 AM
Leon Fleisher with Julian Fleisher
Living Through Music - On Seeing Through Schubert
92Y Weill Art Gallery

Monday, February 9, 7:30 PM
Musicians from the New York Philharmonic
CONTACT! New Music from Israel
SubCulture, 45 Bleecker Street

Friday, February 13, 8:00 PM
Sir Andras Schiff Selects: Kuok-Wai Lio, piano
92Y Concerts at SubCulture

Saturday, February 21, 8:00 PM
Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano
Exclusive New York Solo Recital
92Y Kaufmann Concert Hall

Thursday, February 26, 8:00 PM
Deborah Voigt, soprano and speaker
Voigt Lessons (NYC Premiere)
92Y Kaufmann Concert Hall

Saturday, February 28, 8:00 PM
Jason Vieaux, guitar
Yolanda Kondonassis, harp
92Y Kaufmann Concert Hall

Tickets available at www.92Y.org/concerts or 212-415-5500

--Katharine Boone, Kirschbaum Demler & Associates

Piano Duo Anderson & Roe Revels in "The Art of Bach" and More at SubCulture, February 10
"The most dynamic duo of this generation" (San Francisco Classical Review) offers a unique optic into the infinite genius of Bach on their newest album from the Steinway & Sons label aptly titled "The Art of Bach." The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo will perform from this new album, along with works from their 2014 Steinway & Sons album "An Amadeus Affair" at SubCulture (45 Bleecker Street, NYC) on February 10 at 8pm (doors open at 7pm).

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of show. To purchase tickets call 212-533-5470 for the box office or click here: http://subculturenewyork.com/event/anderson-roe-duo/

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

American Bach Soloists News
Meet the cast of Handel's Acis and Galatea:
ABS's 26th subscription season opens this month with a mixed bill of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 and Handel's Acis and Galatea performed January 23-26 in three San Francisco Bay Area venues and in Davis, CA. Taking on the title role of Galatea in Handel's gorgeous pastoral is soprano Nola Richardson.

After catching up with our Galatea, we also had the opportunity to speak with tenor Kyle Stegall, who will perform the role of the shepherd Acis, the other half of Handel's "Happy We" couple. Kyle recently made his debut (last month) in ABS's performances of Handel's Messiah.

As we continue getting to know the Acis and Galatea cast a little better, we now introduce tenor Zachary Wilder. Mr. Wilder makes his ABS debut as Damon in Handel's pastoral, January 23-26.

Baritone Mischa Bouvier is no stranger to fans of ABS. A participant in the 2010 inaugural class of the American Bach Soloists Academy, the charismatic soloist has performed with ABS on many memorable occasions since. He returned January 23-26 to sing the role of the murderous giant Polyphemus in Handel's Acis and Galatea.

For more information about American Bach Soloists, click here: http://americanbach.org/

--Jeff McMillan, ABS

Jennifer Koh, Violin, Concludes "Bach & Beyond" Series
Jennifer Koh finishes her multi-year exploration of the great Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on Saturday, January 31, 8:00 PM at 92Y, New York City. Her series has created a relationship with brand new contemporary music that responds to Bach's legacy.

In this final installment Bach's rich contrapuntal sonatas are paired with Berio's dramatic Sequenza VIII and the world premiere of For Violin Alone by the American composer John Harbison (The Great Gatsby). As Ms. Koh explains, "This final concert explores the idea of development by highlighting of the fugal form in both Bach's works and in our contemporaries."

"Bach & Beyond, Part III":
Bach: Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003
Bereo: Sequenza VIII
Harbison: For Violin Alone (World premiere, 92Y co-commission)
Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005

For more information, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/Jennifer-Koh.aspx

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

"The Schubert Effect" with Shai Wosner and the Parker Quartet
The two-part series at 92Y, NYC, consists of five extraordinarily gifted artists, Shai Wosner and the Parker Quartet, who take us on a journey exploring Schubert's unique compositional world and his influence on contemporary composers.

Schubert's effect reaches across the centuries to touch the great composers of our time. Fragments of the Sonata in A resonate within Missy Mazzoli's Isabelle Eberhardt, and Kurtag's Aus der Ferne V echoes the second movement of Schubert's "Death and the Maiden." Shai Wosner and the Parker Quartet have worked in the past with Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag personally and have purposefully paired him with Schubert to portray astonishing relationships within both men's artistic spirit.

Shai Wosner and the Parker Quartet: "The Schubert Effect 1"
Wed, Jan 28, 2015, 7:30 pm
Shai Wosner and the Parker Quartet: "The Schubert Effect 2"
Sun, Feb 1, 2015, 3 pm

For more information, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/Shai-Wosner-Parker-Quartet-1.aspx and http://www.92y.org/Event/Shai-Wosner-Parker-Quartet-2.aspx

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Mahler Chamber Orchestra Newsletter
Claudio Abbado (1933 – 2014)
Memorial concert in Ferrara on 26th January
The Mahler Chamber Orchestra commemorates at this time its founding mentor and longtime musical friend Claudio Abbado, the first anniversary of whose death is marked on 20th January. On 26th January, the MCO performs a memorial concert conducted by Daniele Gatti at the Teatro Comunale di Ferrara "Claudio Abbado."

Beethoven Cycle with Daniele Gatti
From January 2015 to May 2016, Daniele Gatti and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra work though a complete cycle of Beethoven's nine symphonies across four concert tours. The first of these takes place in January 2015 with Symphonies Nos.1, 2 and 5; the concerts bring the orchestra to Ferrara (26th January), Turin (27th January), Pavia (28th January) and Cremona (29th January).

February Preview
MCO Academy with Heinz Holliger and Anna Larsson
Once a year, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra is joined by students from the MCO Academy to create one big symphony orchestra. This year's concerts, led by composer-conductor Heinz Holliger, take place in Dortmund (6th February), Essen (7th February) and Cologne (8th February). The program includes Claude Debussy's "La Mer", "Tonscherben," and "Ardeur Noire" by Heinz Holliger, as well as Gustav Mahler's "Rückert-Lieder" with soloist Anna Larsson.

For more information, visit http://www.mahler-chamber.de/en/about-the-mco.html

--Sonja Koller, Mahler Chamber Orchestra

The Azrieli Music Project: Two $50,000 Prizes for New Orchestral Jewish Music
The Azrieli Foundation is delighted to launch The Azrieli Music Project, with two $50,000 prizes for new orchestral Jewish music. Winners' Gala Concert on October 19, 2016, at Maison symphonique in Montreal, with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Kent Nagano.

The Azrieli Music Project (AMP), established to celebrate, foster and create opportunities for the performance of high quality new orchestral music on a Jewish theme or subject, is delighted to launch two important new prizes: The Azrieli Prize in Jewish Music, an international prize for a recently composed or performed work by a living composer; and The Azrieli Commissioning Competition, for a Canadian composer of any age. Each prize — open to composers of all faiths, backgrounds and affiliations — is for a new work of Jewish orchestral music of minimum 15 minutes duration, and carries a value of 50,000 Canadian dollars. The AMP is delighted to confirm its partnership with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Maestro Kent Nagano, who will perform the winning works at The Azrieli Music Project Gala Concert at Maison symphonique in Montreal on October 19, 2016.

Further details, score guidelines, deadlines, and the online and application form, may be found at: www.azrielifoundation.org/music

--Shira Gilbert PR

Upcoming Events at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
San Francisco Symphony: Peter Serkin Plays Mozart
San Francisco Symphony
Thurs,  Feb 12 at 8:00pm | Weill Hall

The Nile Project
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Feb 13 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Orchestre de la Suise Romande
MasterCard Performance Series
Valentine's Day
Sat, Feb 14 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Sundays at Schroeder
Sun, Feb 15 at 3pm | Schroeder Hall

Jordi Savall
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Feb 21 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Igudesman and Joo
MasterCard Performance Series

Murray Perahia
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Mar 7 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Music, food and wine – the perfect pairing! Consider dining in Prelude, the Green Music Center's on-site restaurant featuring a prix fixe menu, refreshed monthly. Reservations available online or call 1.866.955.6040 x2.

Use your MasterCard at Green Music Center concessions venues and save 10% off your purchase courtesy of MasterCard! Learn more.

Plan Your Visit: When should I arrive? Where do I park? What should I wear? Find answers to all of your questions online by visiting http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

Violin Master Class with Noah Bendix-Balgley
Music Institute of Chicago's continues its "Secrets of the Virtuoso" master class series.

Performance: Violin Master Class with Noah Bendix-Balgley
Day/Date/Time: Monday, February 2, 6:30–9 p.m.
Location: Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois
Admission: $10 general admission at the door
(proceeds benefit the Music Institute of Chicago Student Scholarship Fund)
Information: musicinst.org or 847.905.1500 ext. 108

The general public is welcome to observe Noah Bendix-Balgley work with Music Institute students in this master class.

Recently appointed 1st Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, Bendix-Balgley has thrilled audiences around the world. A Laureate of the 2009 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, he won third prize and a special prize for creativity at the 2008 Long-Thibaud International Competition in Paris. Bendix-Balgley was the first prize winner at the 2011 Vibrarte International Music Competition in Paris and was awarded first prize and a special prize for best Bach interpretation at the 14th International Violin Competition "Andrea Postacchini" in Fermo, Italy. He has appeared as a soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Orchestre National de Belgique, I Pomeriggi Musicali of Milan, Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana (Italy), Orchestre Royal Chambre de Wallonie (Belgium), the Binghamton Philharmonic, and the Erie Philharmonic. Since 2011, Bendix-Balgley has been Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His Pittsburgh debut recital in January 2012 was named the "Best Classical Concert of 2012" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

BSO Celebrates Ten Years at Second Home at Strathmore
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) celebrates its 10th anniversary as a founding partner and resident orchestra at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Md. with a concert and pre-concert gala event on Thursday, February 5, 2015, 10 years to the day after the venue's opening concert that featured legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma, then-Music Director Yuri Temirkanov and the BSO. The Music Center at Strathmore serves as the BSO's second home, where it hosts 46 concerts annually for more than 60,000 patrons, making the BSO the only orchestra in the nation that performs year-round in two major metropolitan markets. The inaugural gala at Strathmore will benefit the BSO's growing education and community outreach efforts in Montgomery County Public Schools.

For the concert, Music Director Marin Alsop will lead world-renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson and the BSO in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. Also on the program are Respighi's Church Windows and Pines of Rome. (The concert program will be repeated on Friday, February 6 and Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 8 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.) The evening at Strathmore will culminate with a special presentation of the inaugural BSO at Strathmore Arts Leadership Award. This award will be presented annually to leaders who are extraordinary supporters of the arts in Montgomery County.

Concert tickets begin at $37 and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 1.877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org. For more information on how to purchase gala tickets or packages, please visit BSOmusic.org/Strathmore10 or contact Jack Fishman, vice president of external relations, BSO at Strathmore, at 301.581.5210 or jfishman@bsomusic.org.

--Teresa Eaton, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos (SACD review)

Florilegium. Channel Classics CCS SA 35914 (2-disc set).

The nice thing about the years passing is that music lovers have more to choose from than ever before. Not only do we have recent recordings of old favorites such as this release of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos from the period-instrument ensemble Florilegium, but we have everything available that people recorded before it; and what we can't buy new, we can easily find used via the Internet. So, today we can choose from among any number of great period-instrument recordings like those from Trevor Pinnock and his handpicked Baroque Ensemble (Avie), Pinnock's earlier recording with the English Concert (DG), Jeanne Lamon's with Tafelmusik (Tafelmusik or Sony), Jeannette Sorrell's with Apollo's Fire (Avie), Jordi Savall's (Astree), Gustav Leonhardt's (Sony), the Freiburger Barockorchester's (Harmonia Mundi), and many others. Choices, choices.

In the event you're unfamiliar with Florilegium, according to their Web site, they are "one of Britain's most outstanding period instrument ensembles. Since their formation in 1991 they have established a reputation for stylish and exciting interpretations, from intimate chamber works to large-scale orchestral and choral repertoire. Florilegium regularly collaborate with some of the world's finest musicians including Dame Emma Kirkby, Robin Blaze and Elin Manahan Thomas." What more, "Florilegium's recordings for Channel Classics have been awarded many prizes including a Gramophone Award nomination, Editor's Choice from Gramophone, Diapasons d'Or and Chocs de la Musique." Let it suffice that they are quite good at what they do.

Anyhow, as you know, Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos sound different from one another because the composer never meant them as a single, unified group. In 1719 Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg commissioned Bach to write several musical works for him, and what he got a couple of years later was a collection of concertos for various-sized ensembles and various solo instruments that Bach had probably written earlier for various other occasions.

The Concerto No. 1 is among the longest of the concertos, and Bach arranged it for the biggest number of players. It's not a personal favorite, but that's of no concern. The main thing here is that nothing about Florilegium's performance of it changes my basic impression that it's the least successful of Bach's Brandenburgs. Florilegium's rather cautious, stately approach to it only confirms my opinion.

Concerto No. 2 is among the most popular of the concertos and highlights the oboe, recorder, violin, and trumpet, the latter getting in the lion's share of attention. Florilegium give the outer movements a good, zippy treatment, the trumpet player standing out for his lively style, the whole thing nicely presented, with the soloists well integrated into the whole. The middle, slow movement, sans trumpet, has a sweetly lyrical character well captured by the group.

Bach listeners probably know the Concerto No. 3 as well as they know No. 2, maybe even more so; therefore, it's equally probable that listeners have certain expectations. For better or for worse, Florilegium take the fast movement a touch slower than most other historically informed ensembles in my experience and the slow movement a tad faster. Then they speed up at the end to a tempo that seems maybe a little out of place, given the context. No matter; they play gracefully, and the period instruments are not nearly so abrasive as they can be in some other recordings.

For me, Concerto No. 4 is Bach's most playful piece, with the soloists darting in and out of the work's structure. For some reason, it always reminds me of children's music, like Leopold Mozart's Toy Symphony or something like that. Whatever, the recorders are the stars of the show, and they make this piece the highlight of the set. It's really quite delightful all the way through, the Florilegium ensemble playing effortlessly and beguilingly.

Concerto No. 5 is another of my favorites, highlighting as it does solos from the violin, flute, and harpsichord. Also, because it involves a relatively small ensemble, it ensures a greater clarity of sound than the other concertos. Here, maybe for the first time ever, the harpsichord gets its day in the sun, not merely accompanying the other instruments but playing an equal part in the proceedings. Florilegium's harpsichordist, Terrence Charlston, does an excellent job in the part, and the final movement displays an especially rhythmic bounce.

Finally, Concerto No. 6 uses the smallest ensemble but never seems to feel small. Its only real drawbacks for me are its melodic similarity to Concerto No. 3 and its consequent lack of real distinctiveness. Nevertheless, it's hard for one seriously to dislike it. With Florilegium, No. 6 exhibits an appropriately rich, mellow tone thanks to its two violas and cello (and a slightly slower tempo throughout than many other renditions I've heard). It holds up as well as one can expect, despite its familiarity, Florilegium providing it with a somewhat solemn (or sedate) interpretation.

In all, these are refined, well-considered performances, perhaps lacking only in the last degree of excitement and exhilaration offered by some of the bands I mentioned at the outset of this review.

A couple of things concerned me about the set, though: First, the producers put concertos 6, 5, and 4 on disc one and numbers 3, 2, and 1 on disc two, in that order. Since no one is entirely sure of the composition dates or in what lineup Bach intended their performance, producers can, of course, put them in whatever order they choose. But, really, why not just present them as numbers 1-3 and 4-6 for the ease of one's finding them on the two discs? Worse, the producers have stacked the two SACD's in one of those heavy-duty single-disc SACD cases, the two discs one atop the other. For a product otherwise so quality oriented, I can't imagine why they stacked the discs as they did rather than use a two-disc case. (Or was the case I received an aberration? I don't know.)

Producer and engineer Jared Sacks and producer Ashley Solomon recorded the concertos at St. John the Evangelist Church, Upper Norwood, London in November 2013. They made the album for SACD playback using Bruel & Kjaer and Schoeps microphones, a DSD Super Audio digital converter, Audiolab and B&W speakers, a Van Medevoort amplifier, Van den Hul cables, a Rens Heijnis custom design mixing board, and so forth. Obviously, it's a product from people who care about sound. As with most SACD's, you can play this one in SACD two-channel stereo or SACD 5-channel if you have an SACD player and two or five speakers; or you can play the regular CD layer if you have an ordinary CD player. I listened to the SACD two-channel layer.

Although the sound differs a bit from concerto to concerto as the number of players varies, it's mostly always warm, smooth, and natural. The ensemble extends from just within the two speakers, providing a good stereo spread without seeming overly wide or overly constricted. Dimensionality, depth, air, and dynamics are also consistent with lifelike reproduction, and a small amount of hall resonance further enhances this effect.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Grofe: Death Valley Suite (CD review)

Also, Hudson River Suite; Hollywood Suite. William Stromberg, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.559017.

While the reputation of American composer, arranger, and pianist Ferde Grofe (1892-1972) lies squarely with the Grand Canyon Suite from 1931, he composed any number of other such pictorial pieces of music, most of them coming after the success of the Grand Canyon Suite and most of them either less inspired or more imitative. The three works on this disc, the Hollywood Suite, the Death Valley Suite, and the Hudson River Suite, dating from around 1939, 1949, and 1955 respectively, are typical examples.

The Hollywood Suite is, in my opinion, the least winning of the three. Like Hollywood itself, the music is flashy and flamboyant, starting out with a rather silly movement called "On the Set--Sweepers," complete with the sounds of sweeping brooms, and ending with "Director-Star-Ensemble," a big, largely forgettable production number. Nevertheless, Maestro William Stromberg and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra give it their all, and while the music may be rather lightweight, it is undeniably fun.

The Death Valley Suite is supposed to be the disc's big attraction, but it, too, is rather overambitious. It attempts to be another Grand Canyon affair, adding local color with the sounds of wagon trains, whinnying horses, dust storms, and the like. Sorry, I wasn't buying it. Again Maestro Stromberg injects as much vigor into the proceedings as one might expect, even if it's all a bit over-the-top.

For me, the Hudson River Suite was the prize of the lot, especially the "Rip Van Winkle" movement. In this suite, the composer adds color to support the tone pictures he's drawing and not color for the sake of color alone. The Hudson River music includes a lovely introduction called "The River," swings into "Henry Hudson" and "Rip" (Van Winkle), takes us on an "Albany Night Boat," and ends boisterously in "New York!" The music still may not possess any great substance, but it's probably the closest to Grofe's Grand Canyon work represented on the album, with Stromberg providing all the show, nuance, and imagination it needs.

The music-making under Stromberg's direction is, as I say, excellent as usual, the conductor having done this sort of thing for Naxos for years. Equally impressive, in this 2002 release Naxos provided Stromberg with one of their showcase audio editions, the sound clean and clear, with good detail, impressive percussion, and very wide dynamics. Indeed, the wide dynamic range may annoy some listeners because the difference in softest and loudest passages can make it difficult to find a compromise volume setting that won't blow you out of your seat. Still, the wide dynamics are what every audiophile looks for in a good recording.

Anyway, the Hudson River Suite may last only a little more than eighteen minutes, but with sound as good as this, it makes the disc worth its relatively inexpensive price.


To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click here:

Beethoven: The Middle String Quartets (CD review)

Cypress String Quartet. Avie Records AV2318 (3-disc set).

The last time I listened to the Cypress String Quartet, it was an Avie recording of Schubert's String Quintet with the addition of Gary Hoffman, cello, and I liked very much what I heard. This time out the Cypress Quartet play the middle Beethoven quartets: the String Quartet in F, Op. 59, No. 1 "Razumovsky"; the String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 "Razumovsky"; the String Quartet in C, Op. 59, No. 3 "Razumovsky"; the String Quartet in E flat, Op. 74 "Harp"; and the String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95 "Serioso." I still like what I hear.

The Cypress String Quartet comprises Cecily Ward, violin; Tom Stone, violin; Ethan Filner, viola; and Jennifer Kloetzel, cello. They formed in San Francisco in 1996 and haven't slowed down in the past decade and a half. They are building a healthy discography, they perform on major stages all over the world, they receive commissions and play premieres extensively, and their members have received degrees from prominent universities, including The Juilliard School, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the Royal College of Music (London), Indiana University, The Cleveland Institute of Music, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. They have impressive credentials.

I said of the Cypress players the last time out that they provided rich, active, enthusiastic, and highly polished presentations, just as they do here. Having already successfully covered the late Beethoven string quartets in a 3-disc set on their own label, they now tackle the middle quartets in like style for Avie Records. As before, the Cypress Quartet is a remarkable music-making ensemble. Their playing is the utmost in clarity and refinement, yet they always maintain a vigorous and dynamic attack, rendering everything they play both authoritative and pleasurable. They are simply fun to listen to.

It's hard for me to point out any one or two of the performances as the absolute best of the set, but I can tell you a little about each one and single out a few things I enjoyed. Certainly, the first three quartets on the programs are interesting, the "Razumovsky" quartets that Beethoven wrote in 1806 on commission from Count Andreas Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador in Vienna at the time. The first two of them have distinctly Russian folk inflections in them, probably to honor their patron.

The ensemble maintains a moderate pace in the faster movements, not so fast as I've heard but faster than, say, the older Quartetto Italiano, which seems perhaps a tad more relaxed. Interestingly, the Cypress players tend to slow down more so in the Adagios and such than I expected. It serves them well, as it complements the diverse but always welcome phrasing they employ throughout the set. Most important, though, is the heroic sweep they provide in this music, matching the broad, grand manner of Beethoven's ideas.

The Cypress performers are ideal in creating and releasing tensions, building incrementally and transitioning from one dynamic to another. And the fact that they keep such a full, rich, yet lucid and flowing line just adds to our enjoyment. This is a group of four musicians who sound like a small chamber orchestra yet reveal a wealth of detail in their interactions. You could hardly ask for more.

Cypress String Quartet
The so-called "Harp" quartet of 1809 is enjoyable, too, although it doesn't actually use a harp in it. It got its name from pizzicato arpeggios that may remind listeners of a plucked harp. Apparently, the publisher gave it the name "Harp" because musical compositions with nicknames are easier for people to remember, and, thus, there's the possibility of their becoming more popular. There's a lovely "Romantic" spirit to the Cypress's playing of the "Harp" quartet, their development of the work's inherent lyricism most touching.

The "Serioso" quartet premiered in 1814 but Beethoven probably wrote it several years earlier. The composer said he had never intended it for public performance but only for a small circle of friends; indeed, it is somewhat different from his other pieces, perhaps experimental in nature and looking forward to his later work. The "Serioso" business is Beethoven's own title for the piece and from a tempo marking for the third movement.

The "Serioso" quartet makes a good contrast with the preceding "Harp," in that the "Serioso" is far more dramatic and, well, serious. The Cypress players emphasize its decidedly bare, angular nature, yet they never make it feel uncomfortable or self-consciously gloomy or artsy. They are a most-expressive group, insistent in their aim to be both thoughtful and entertaining.

So, are these the recordings of the middle quartets to own? It's pretty hard not like competing performances from the Quartetto Italiano (Philips), which have stood the test of time, or the ones from the Kodaly Quartet (Naxos), which sound equally well played and as well recorded. Nevertheless, the Cypress interpretations are sensitive and well controlled, and the Avie sound is beyond reproach.

Producer Cecily Ward and engineer Mark Willsher recorded the quartets at the Skywalker Sound scoring stage in December 2012 through July 2014. There, they used a matched pair of Sanken CO-100K microphones and recorded in 96k Hz 24-bit sound, resulting in some pretty impressive sonics. The engineers miked the performers at a modest distance, allowing plenty of warm, natural studio ambience to flatter the music. The instruments appear clearly delineated and realistically grouped, not too wide apart yet not all squeezed together. It's a fine, lifelike presentation, with a smooth response. Love that cello, too.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

The Knights: The Ground Beneath Our Feet (CD review)

The Knights. Warner Classics 0825646170982.

As you probably know if you've been following the classical music scene this past decade, The Knights are a New York-based chamber orchestra, formed in the late Nineties by brothers Eric and Colin Jacobsen. They began by holding informal chamber-music sessions in their home, inviting friends to share performances with them of new and historical music. Even as their public performances increased and the group grew in size to almost three dozen members (flexible according to need from about a dozen to the full complement), they have retained their original collaborative spirit. According to their Web site, the ensemble's name symbolizes their unceasing quest for searching out things bold and true in the music they play.

The group's Artistic Director, Colin Jacobsen, describes the present album, The Ground Beneath Our Feet, as "a celebration of the concerto grosso, a musical conversation in which two or more instruments are invited to lead a dialogue with the larger whole.... By revisiting the concerto grosso today, we explore the amalgamation of personalities and perspectives that is The Knights, with individual voices coming to the fore throughout the album." Accordingly, the album offers something old (Stravinsky), something very old (Bach), something new (Reich), and something very new (Jacobsen, Aghaei, and The Knights), all of them concertos in their own way.

The more I hear from The Knights, the more I like them. In fact, along with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, The Knights have become one of my favorite American chamber orchestras. They play with a lively precision that always invigorates any music they're performing, and they never seem to stray from the central intent of the score. The selections on this disc are good examples of what I mean.

First up on the program is something new, the Duet for Two Violins and Strings by Steve Reich (b. 1936), with Ariana Kim and Guillaume Pirard, violins. Reich wrote the piece in 1993 and dedicated it to Yuhudi Menuhin. The Knights handle Reich's gently soaring lyricism gently and, well, soaringly. The music and the interpretation enjoy a simplicity and grace that make it a pleasure to return to time and again.

The Knights
Next is something very old, the Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV 1060R, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The Bach performance is both lively and graceful, something we don't always find in renderings of Baroque music. In my experience you get either one or the other. Yet The Knights have their cake and eat it, too. It's quite a lovely rendering of the piece, with Adam Hollander's oboe blending nicely into the framework of the ensemble, always highlighting the music yet never dominating it. The Adagio displays a special lilt that is quite charming.

After that is something less old, the Concerto in E-flat "Dumbarton Oaks" by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). Stravinsky named his concerto after the historic estate on which The Knights made this recording. The composer was in one of his newer-older moods when he wrote it in 1937, and most of it, inspired by Bach, is rather playful. The Knights seem intent on pointing up this playfulness throughout, and their performance is appropriately joyous. What's more, it's remarkable how effortlessly they can transition from one era in music to another.

Then, we get two pieces that are fairly new. The first of these is the Concerto for Santur, Violin and Orchestra by Colin Jacobsen and Siamak Aghaei. The santur is an ancient instrument, a stringed, hammered dulcimer of Babylonian origin, and here it makes a fine counterpoint to the previous violin concertos. Nevertheless, like them, it produces a sweet, flowing sound, and the rhythms of the music, premiered in 2013, agree with it nicely. When the violin and accompanying strings join in, they produce a most agreeable arrangement.

The final piece is The Ground Beneath Our Feet, written collectively by The Knights. As we might expect from such a collaborative work, the music appears more improvisational than the rest. Jacobsen says that it should sound different each time people play it, so it has a flexible, malleable nature to its moods, tempos, dynamics, stresses, patterns, and tones. There are some interesting Irish, Scottish, and Gypsy inflections in the piece that are fun, as are some closing vocals by Christina Courtin. The Knights are a talented group all the way around.

Like a lot of albums these days, too many for me, this one is a live recording. I suppose it's the most economical way to make records anymore, but it does no favors to the sound. Anyway, producer Jesse Lewis and engineers Jesse Brayman and Jesse Lewis recorded the music live at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC in October 2013.

The miking is a little closer than I would have liked, but I suppose that's the consequence of having to record live and minimize audience noise. The violins seem a tad bright and the whole image a bit too forward for my taste. Still, taste differs, and other listeners may find the sound exactly to their liking. It's certainly clear and detailed, with a realistic dimensionality and a modest touch of acoustic resonance to add to the warmth and flavor of the presentation.

However, I really, really could have done without the applause, which follows each item.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Classical Music News of the Week, January 18, 2015

UCLA Arts Announces Public Events Calendar for Winter 2015

Musical performances by UCLA's world-class student ensembles and guests:

Feb. 13, Feb. 15, Feb. 20, Feb. 22: Opera UCLA, together with the UCLA Department of Theater and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, presents the West Coast premiere of Saverio Mercadante's "The Two Figaros," directed by Peter Kazaras, director of UCLA Opera Studies.

Feb. 27: Performance featuring the work of three choreographers in their second year of graduate studies in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance: Dorothy Dubrule, Julio Medina and Luis Tentindo.

Mar. 2: UCLA Jazz Combos – directed by George Bohanon, Kenny Burrell, Clayton Cameron, Charley Harrison, Charles Owens and Michele Weir, with special guests from the Thelonious Monk Institute Ensemble.

Mar. 3: UCLA Big Bands – performances by the UCLA Jazz Orchestra, directed by Charley Harrison; UCLA LatinJazz Big Band, directed by Bobby Rodriguez; and the Ellingtonia Orchestra, directed by Kenny Burrell.

Mar. 6–7: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company & SITI Company – This dance-theater collaboration joins minds, bodies and voices for a riveting reflection on Stravinsky's groundbreaking "Rite of Spring."

Mar. 14: UCLA Choral Union and UCLA Philharmonia will perform Verdi's Requiem conducted by Neal Stulberg.

For ticketed events, contact the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101 or www.tickets.ucla.edu. Campus parking is available for $12 (all-day); short-term parking is also available (payable at pay stations).

For more information, visit http://www.music.ucla.edu/events

--Anne Marie Burke, UCLA Arts Communications

Bluegrass Pioneer Jake Schepps and Stringband Play Subculture 2/4
Jake Schepps, inimitable banjoist and trailblazer in the contemporary bluegrass scene, brings an inspired project live for his North American tour of Entwined—his latest album set for Jan. 27 release. Entwined features bold new work by ingenious classical composers written for the quintessential bluegrass combo of banjo, mandolin, guitar, violin, and bass. The Jake Schepps Quintet continues its tour with an intimate evening show at Subculture (45 Bleecker Street, New York City), 8 PM Wednesday, February 4.

Tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. Subculture is located at 45 Bleecker Street, New York, 10012. For tickets, please call (212) 533-5470, email info@subculturenewyork.com, or visit subculturenewyork.com.

--Susannah Luthi, BuckleSweet Media

American Bach Soloists Present Bach and Handel
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major
Handel: Acis and Galatea

Nola Richardson Galatea, soprano (debut) ~ Kyle Stegall Acis, tenor (debut)
Mischa Bouvier Polyphemus, bass ~ Zachary Wilder Damon, tenor (debut)
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Friday January 23 2015 8:00 p.m. - St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA
Saturday January 24 2015 8:00 p.m. - First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday January 25 2015 4:00 p.m. - St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
Monday January 26 2015 7:00 p.m. - Davis Community Church, Davis, CA

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/seasons/14-15/2015-01.html

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Upcoming Events at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
David McCarroll and Roy Bogas
Sundays at Schroeder
Sun, Jan 18 at 3pm | Schroeder Hall

Tanggo Buenos Aires
MasterCard Performance Series
Thurs, Jan 22 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Yo-Yo Ma: Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Jan 24 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Emerson String Quartet
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Feb 6 at 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Stewart Copeland and Jon Kimura Parker
MasterCard Performance Series
Sun, Mar 8 at 7pm | Weill Hall

Curtis Chamber Orchestra
MasterCard Performance Series
Sun, Mar 15 at 3pm | Weill Hall

For more information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

A Majestic Choral Concert - Two Bachs and "Trauermusik"
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra greets 2015 with a concert featuring inspiring choral music by two accomplished cousins of Johann Sebastian Bach. Music Director Nicholas McGegan leads the Orchestra and Chorale in a performance of Johann Ludwig Bach's rarely-heard Trauermusik, complementing this monumental piece with a cantata by Johann Christoph Bach and the Sinfonia from Telemann's Schwanengesang.

Four performances take place around the Bay Area at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, CA (Wed, Feb 4), Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, CA (Fri, Feb 6), and First Congregational Church in Berkeley, CA (Sat and Sun, Feb 7-8).

Tickets are priced $25 to $100 and may be purchased through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com or call (415) 392-4400.

For further information, visit http://www.philharmonia.org/

--Ben Casement Stoll, PBO

Choral Superstar to Guest Conduct St. Charles Singers March 7-8
Choral superstar Craig Hella Johnson to guest conduct St. Charles Singers March 7-8 in Wheaton and St. Charles, Illinois.

Acclaimed choral director Craig Hella Johnson, a multiple Grammy award nominee, will guest conduct the St. Charles Singers in a concert program titled "Inspired" at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton, Il; and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, Il.

Johnson, who will make his St. Charles Singers conducting debut, is founder and artistic director of Conspirare, the Austin, Texas, based professional choral ensemble that's earned six Grammy nominations over the years.

Jeffrey Hunt, founder and artistic director of the St. Charles Singers, says Johnson selected works for the program that he finds personally inspiring and which he's eager to share with the choir and its fans. Some songs are infused with American roots music. All of them are new to the St. Charles Singers, as are most of the composers, Hunt says.

Anchoring the "Inspired" program is Dominick Argento's Walden Pond (1996), a virtuosic and evocative five-movement work for mixed choir, three cellos, and harp. The text is from Henry David Thoreau's Walden, a meditation on nature and self-reliance.

The mixed-voice professional chamber choir, now in its 31st concert season, will also perform the following works:
"Lobe den Herrn" (Praise the Lord), by J. S. Bach
"Beautiful River," arranged by William Hawley
"At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners," by Williametta Spencer
"All My Trials," arranged by Norman Luboff
"Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Jake Runestad
"Hard Times," by Stephen Foster, arranged by Craig Hella Johnson
"I Dream a World," by Dan Welcher
"Bright Morning Stars" and "Unclouded Day," arranged by Shawn Kirchner

Single tickets for the March "Inspired" concerts are $35 adult general admission, $30 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.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Jennifer Koh, Violin, Concludes Bach & Beyond Series
Jennifer Koh finishes her multi-year exploration of the great Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on Saturday, January 31, 8:00 PM at 92Y, NYC. Her series has created a relationship with brand new contemporary music that responds to Bach's legacy. Any consideration for a preview or listing would be most appreciated. I would be happy to arrange an interview with Jennifer Koh at your convenience.

In this final installment Bach's rich contrapuntal sonatas are paired with Berio's dramatic Sequenza VIII and the world premiere of For Violin Alone by the American composer John Harbison (The Great Gatsby). As Ms. Koh explains, "This final concert explores the idea of development by highlighting of the fugal form in both Bach's works and in our contemporaries."

Bach & Beyond, Part III:
Bach: Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003
Berio: Sequenza VIII
Harbison: For Violin Alone (World premiere, 92Y co-commission)
Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Concerto Competition at 92nd Street Y
This new competition will focus on a different instrument family each year. For the first year, all string instrumentalists (violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar) are invited to apply.

First Prize: Performance with the 92Y School of Music Orchestra, $500 cash prize
Second Prize: $250 cash prize and solo recital with piano
Third Prize: $150 cash prize and solo recital with piano

Preliminary Round: Video submission due by Jan 30, 2015
Semifinal Round: Feb 21, 2015
Final Round: Feb 22, 2015
First-Prize Winner Concert: Apr 19, 2015
Second and Third-Prize Winners Recital: Jun 14, 2015

For specific details, visit http://www.92y.org/Concerto-Competition.aspx

--Andrew Sherman, 92nd Street Y

Isabelle Faust Tour
Isabelle Faust Returns to Avery Fisher Hall January 18th Performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with Ivan Fisher and The Budapest Festival Orchestra.

A featured artist on Alexander Melnikov's new recording of Hindemith sonatas out January 13th, Faust tours with Melnikov in February starting with their Chicago recital debut at Mandel Hall on February 6.

A supreme musical partnership that has forged celebrated solo careers, violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov share a unique musical kinship that shines through in their playing. They have most notably brought their authoritative interpretations to the complete violin and piano works of Beethoven. "It's quite rare to find anybody else who's as inspiring over such a long period of time," Faust says of their longevity. "This regular duo work has been a very important part of our musical development over quite some years--we are both constantly being enriched by each other's ideas, questions and researches, criticism or experiences, while always deeply admiring the other's musicianship and mastery." Says Melnikov, "The first time I heard Isabelle's Bach I fell in love with her playing. It was exactly what I wanted to hear in this music and it's still the case." The duo kick off a run of dates in the U.S. with their Chicago recital debut on February 6, 2015.

Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov in concert February 2015:
Feb. 5 - Princeton, NJ - Richardson Auditorium Alexander Hall - Princeton University Concerts
Feb. 6 - Chicago, IL - Mandel Hall - Chicago Presents *Chicago Recital Debut*
Feb. 8 - Washington, DC - Music Room - Phillips Collection

--Sarah Folger, Harmonia Mundi USA

Games of Thrones, World Premiere
One World Symphony
Sung Jin Hong, Artistic Director and Conductor
One World Symphony Vocal Artists

Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 4:00 p.m.
Monday, February 2, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.
Holy Apostles Church
296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street

Richard Wagner: from Die Walküre
Sergei Prokofiev: from Alexander Nevsky
Richard Strauss: from Salomé 
Giuseppe Verdi: from Rigoletto 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: from Idomeneo 
Anne Boleyn: "O death, rock me asleep" (NY Premiere)
Justin Lee: Hodor Suite (2015 World Premiere)

$30 Students/Seniors (available at door)
$40 General
Open seating. Handicap accessible

Siblings who are a little too close — okay, a lot too close. A bastard son who gets dragged into his family's mess. Hot sorceresses and ruthless politicians with appetites for power, seduction, deception, and ice battles. Sounds operatic to us!

--One World Symphony

Charles Dutoit and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande Embark on Seven-City U.S. Tour
From February 12 to 21, 2015, the Geneva-based Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (OSR), one of Switzerland's leading orchestras, tours to California, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC to perform its signature interpretations of early 20th-century French and Russian repertoire. Conductor Charles Dutoit, born in Lausanne in the Suisse romande, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, leads the OSR in Debussy's "Ibéria", Ravel's La valse and Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2 in separate programs, and Stravinsky's The Song of the Nightingale. Russian pianist Nikolaï Lugansky joins the OSR in performances of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. With these programs, Mr. Dutoit pays tribute to the flagship repertoire and spirit of his mentor Ernest Ansermet, the founder and longstanding music director of the OSR.

Performances take place on Thursday, February 12 at 8 p.m. at Soka University's Soka Performing Arts Center in Alisa Viejo, CA, Friday, February 13 at 8 p.m. at UC Davis's Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Saturday, February 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center, Monday, February 16 at 7 p.m. at The Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, CA, Thursday, February 19 at 8:30 p.m. at Cornell University's Bailey Hall, Friday, February 20 at 8 p.m. at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)'s Prudential Hall in Newark, and Saturday, February 21 at 3 p.m. at The Kennedy Center's Concert Hall in Washington, DC.

For more information, visit http://www.shumanassociates.net/agency.php?view=news&nid=6225

--Hanna Choi, Shuman Associates

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space Features Mezzo-Soprano Sara Murphy
Sacred Music in a Sacred Space's Caritas Concert Series will feature Mezzo-Soprano Sara Murphy and Pianist Michael Sheetz at NYC's Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on February 12 at 6:30pm. They will be performing an evening of song featuring Mahler's Rückert Lieder, as well as works by Brahms, Elgar, and Lili Boulanger. All proceeds benefit LifeWay Network.

Described by The New York Times as "a gorgeous, deep, dark mezzo-soprano" and by the Huffington Post as "... another force to be reckoned with ... Her grand, expansive voice, was like a rich Columbian coffee blend…" mezzo-soprano Sara Murphy is no stranger to New York audiences where she frequently appears as a soloist on the Sacred Music in a Sacred Space [SMSS] concert series. Murphy and acclaimed pianist Michael Sheetz perform as part of SMSS's Caritas Concert Series in Wallace Hall at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, on February 12, 2015, at 6:30pm. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased here or by calling 212.288.2520.

For more information on Sacred Music in a Sacred Space visit: www.smssconcerts.org

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Dance Star Wendy Whelan Featured in Evening of Duets
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presents dancer Wendy Whelan in Restless Creature on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the Virginia G. Piper Theater, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Called "America's greatest contemporary ballerina" by The New York Times, Wendy Whelan captivated audiences as a principal dancer of the New York City Ballet with her elegant yet thrilling movement and her exacting, intelligent approach to performing. In her new project, Restless Creature, she collaborates with four of today's cutting-edge dancer-choreographers: Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo.

A suite of four duets, each performed by Whelan and the work's choreographer, Restless Creature premiered at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 2013 and has been presented in London and Vail, Colo.

Tickets start at $39 and are available through www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org or 480-499-TKTS (8587).

For more information, visit www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

Mozart: Horn Concertos (CD review)

Also, Horn Quintet. Pip Eastop, natural horn; Anthony Halstead, The Hanover Band; Eroica Quartet. Hyperion CDA68097.

Who can resist the verve of Mozart's four horn concertos? And how many old English teachers can overlook the name Pip? Thus, it was with great expectations that I approached this Mozart recording with Pip Eastop on natural horn and Anthony Halstead leading the period-instrument Hanover Band.

A little background: Pip Eastop studied at the Royal Academy of Music from 1974 to 1976, subsequently becoming Principal Horn with the Antwerp Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Wallace Collection, and the Gabrieli Consort; since 2005 he has been the Principal Horn with the London Chamber Orchestra. In addition, he has served as a professor of horn at the Royal Academy of Music since 1993 and at the Royal College of Music since 1995. He is no stranger to the instrument.

Anthony Halstead was first horn with the English Chamber Orchestra from 1972 to 1986 as well as with other noted orchestras such as the London Symphony and served as a professor at the Guildhall School of Music. During the 1980s and 90s, Halstead was a member of the horn section and a horn soloist with several period-instrument groups, including the English Concert, notably recording the Mozart horn concertos for Nimbus Records with Roy Goodman and the Hanover Band. For the past two decades or so he has lead the English Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Hanover Band, and other esteemed ensembles. He is no stranger to period and modern orchestras.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) composed his four horn concertos between 1783 and 1791, never finishing the final one (numbered first), the second movement reconstructed here by Stephen Roberts. Mozart wrote the concertos for his lifelong friend, the horn player Joseph Leutgeb, as virtuoso showpieces for soloists to display their skills on the valveless horns of the day.

Pip Eastop
On the present recording we find Mr. Eastop playing a valveless natural horn, accompanied by The Hanover Band playing on period instruments. Heretofore, my favorite such period recordings have been with Lowell Greer, horn, Nicholas McGegan, and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on Harmonia Mundi; and with Ab Koster, horn, Bruno Weil, and Tafelmusik on Sony or Newton Classics. In my book, Eastop and company now join this select group.

The Hyperion producers have organized the concertos on this disc according to their order of composition, starting with No. 2, which Mozart wrote first (1783). This opening concerto well exemplifies the work of the soloist and orchestra. The performers follow modestly vigorous tempos throughout, with little undue rushing about. The phrasing is likewise excellent, almost always at the service of the music. Maestro Halstead and Mr. Eastop partially reconstructed the opening Allegro, which sounds to me a little too weighty in tone but I suppose works to the advantage of the score in any case.

Next we hear Concerto No. 4 from 1786, always a delightful piece, which Eastop and company carry off successfully, especially in the flow of the Romance. The closing Allegro is lively, but some listeners might find it a tad too quick for their liking. To me, it sounded just right and invigorated the proceedings.

And so it goes through Nos. 3 and the unfinished No. 1, with playing of utmost refinement and spontaneity from Eastop and the Hanover Band. The opening of No. 1 appears particularly smooth and lyrical.

The program ends with Mozart's Horn Quintet in E flat major, K407, from 1782, Mr. Eastop accompanied by the estimable Eroica Quartet. It was the first work the composer wrote for his friend Leutgeb. In the arrangement, Mozart used two violas, which lends the piece a deeper, more mellow sound to complement the horn. Interestingly, the music seems to put more of a virtuosic demand on the horn player than the concertos, and Eastop comes through splendidly, every note the epitome of grace, color, and beauty.

Producer and engineer Adrian Hunter recorded the concertos at All Saint's Church, East Finchley, London in October 2013 and the quintet at the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, Loughton, Essex in February 2011. The sound in the concertos appears quite realistic, the orchestra miked at a moderate distance, just enough to provide some breadth and depth to the ensemble and plenty of air and space around it. The horn sounds rich and mellifluous and well integrated into the orchestral setting, up front but not in your face. Detailing on the instruments is good in a lifelike sense, meaning it's warm and smooth, with no edge, no forwardness, no brightness. What's more, there is a strong dynamic impact and a wide frequency range to enhance the naturalness of the presentation. In short, this album is sonically among the best recordings of Mozart's horn concertos available. The quintet isn't bad, either, if a little more closely miked.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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.

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.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings 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 they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, 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.
The reader will find Classical Candor's Mission Statement, Staff Profiles, and contact information (classicalcandor@gmail.com) toward the bottom of each page.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Writer

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. 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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet DAC/preamp/crossover, Tandberg 2016A and Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa