Classical Music News of the Week, February 22, 2015

Merola Opera Program Announces 2015 Artists. Summer Performances Begin July 9

Twenty-three singers, five apprentice coaches, and one apprentice stage director, representing seven countries, will participate in the 58th season of the Merola Opera Program from June 8 to August 22, San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald announced today. More than 800 artists vied this year for the 29 coveted spots in the highly selective summer opera training program. Nearly one third of this season's artists come from countries outside the United States, including artists from Australia, China, Italy, New Zealand, Russia and South Korea, and the US artists hail from 15 states, including California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Idaho.

Opera luminaries Jane Eaglen, Martin Katz, Malcolm Martineau, James Morris, and Antony Walker will offer public master classes for the 2015 Merola artists as part of their intensive 11-week training program beginning June 8. Guest teachers Richard Battle, Steven Blier, Deborah Birnbaum, Alan Darling, Peter Grunberg, Robin Guarino, Bruce Lamott, Kevin Murphy, Ann Murray, John Parr, and Cesar Ulloa provide training in voice, foreign languages, operatic repertory, diction, acting and stage movement. Apprentice coaches and the apprentice stage director have a 12-week program.

The 2015 training program culminates in the Merola Opera Program Summer Festival, beginning Thursday, July 9 with the artists performing in the Schwabacher Summer Concert, directed by Roy Rallo and conducted by Valéry Ryvkin, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a free outdoor afternoon concert at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco on Saturday, July 11. The program will feature extended, semi-staged scenes from the operatic repertoire. The Merola artists perform two one-hour operas on a double bill, Menotti's The Medium, about a séance gone awry, and Puccini's comic opera Gianni Schicchi, on Thursday, July 23 and Saturday, July 25 in the newly-renovated and intimate Cowell Theater at Fort Mason. Mark Morash conducts and Peter Kazaras directs.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale, led by director Nic Muni and conducted by world-renowned pianist and conductor Warren Jones, will be presented on Thursday, August 6 and Saturday, August 8 at the Cowell Theater. The festival concludes with the participants singing in the annual Merola Grand Finale, an operatic showcase with full orchestra, led by conductor Antony Walker and directed by Merola Opera Program apprentice stage director Mo Zhou on Saturday, August 22 at the War Memorial Opera House.

This season marks the Merola Opera Program's return to the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason. The 450-seat theater reopened in fall 2014 after a $20 million upgrade. The Merola artists give the program's first concert in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's 450-seat concert hall, opened in 2006, and praised by The New York Times for its "vibrant acoustics" and as "close to being ideal."

Tickets for all performances may be purchased starting May 4 by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330. The box office is open Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For full information, visit

--Jean Shirk Media

New Date Announced for SMSS Caritas Concert with Sara Murphy, 3/18
Sacred Music in a Sacred Space's Caritas Concert Series to feature Mezzo-Soprano Sara Murphy and Pianist Michael Sheetz at NYC's Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on March 18 at 6:30pm

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 March 18, 2015, at 6:30pm. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased or by calling 212.288.2520.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Cal Performances Presents Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard
In celebration of the esteemed composer Pierre Boulez's 90th birthday, pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich perform a program of Boulez's most challenging works for piano on Thursday, March 12 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall.

This performance marks the Cal Performances debut of Aimard and Stefanovich, in which they perform a strictly Boulez program, including Sonatas No. 1, 2, and 3; Incises; Une page d'Éphéméride; and Structures, Book 2 (1961). Renowned for his nuanced interpretations of Boulez's work, Aimard has performed them since the age of 19, when the French composer invited Aimard to become a founding member of Ensemble Intercontemporain. A master of post-World War II serialism, Boulez expanded the definition of the movement with the serialization of dynamics, rhythms, and other musical elements throughout his works. Structures, Book 2, for which Stefanovich will join Aimard, was written for two pianos and four hands and is a reconstruction of Structures, Book 1 (1952). Cal Performances continues the celebration of Boulez's milestone birthday in June at Ojai at Berkeley with an opening night performance of A Pierre Dream: A Portrait of Pierre Boulez, an acoustic and theatrical work featuring an elaborate design by renowned architect Frank Gehry.

Cal Performances Executive and Artistic Director Matias Tarnopolsky talks with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard in a colloquium entitled "The Piano Music of Pierre Boulez" on Friday, March 13, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. in 125 Morrison Hall.

Tickets for Pierre Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich on Thursday, March 12 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall range from $32.00 to $76.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--Rusty Barners, Cal Performances

Seattle Symphony Performs All Sibelius Symphonies
A major highlight of the Seattle Symphony's 2014–2015 season is Luminous Landscapes: The Sibelius Symphonies, a three-week festival from March 12–28, led by Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard in his first year as Principal Guest Conductor. The festival, which commemorates the 150th Anniversary of Jean Sibelius' birth with performances including all seven of the composer's symphonies, the Violin Concerto and Finlandia, is the most extensive festival of Sibelius' music this year in the U.S., and one of a very small number of orchestras worldwide presenting the complete Sibelius symphonic cycle this season.

Executive Director Simon Woods said, "We are thrilled to be holding one of the major celebrations in the world of the extraordinary symphonic legacy of Sibelius. These works are among the profoundest in the symphonic repertoire, and the chance to experience this extraordinary journey from the stirring First Symphony through to the exalted and enigmatic Seventh, will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. And we will be in the best possible hands with Thomas Dausgaard — a musician who has a tremendous affinity for Sibelius' music — as our guide."

Thomas Dausgaard, who takes up his post as Principal Guest Conductor with these concerts shared, "For many years it has been a special joy to make music with the wonderful Seattle Symphony. It is a great honor for me that our first project together in my new role will be a fusion of the two great S's: Seattle and Sibelius! A cycle of Sibelius' symphonies is always a big event. His music shows us what a transcendental instrument an orchestra can be — stimulating our imagination, sensitivity and intellect, as well as our love for music! I look forward to sharing these qualities with musicians and music lovers over the coming seasons."

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Cal Performances At UC Berkeley to Launch Berkeley RADICAL, a Cultural Initiative in Pursuit of Public Artistic Literacy
Cal Performances Board Chair Gail Rubinfeld and Executive and Artistic Director Matías Tarnopolsky today announced Berkeley RADICAL, a framework to cultivate public artistic literacy and create cultural access for diverse future audiences in the context of the digital age and transitional generations. Berkeley RADICAL is a platform on which Cal Performances artists will operate within and beyond the University and instigate substantive interactivity between Cal Performances' commissioning, creation, and presentation, UC Berkeley learning and scholarship, and Bay Area public learning across a wide age range. Berkeley RADICAL at Cal Performances will contribute to determining a future for the performing arts—broad dissemination of the process and results in contemporary digital forms will be key to this goal. To serve the goal of dissemination, Cal Performances will be available on iTunes with a dedicated destination ( featuring exclusive Berkeley RADICAL podcasts, as well as a selection of music from artists performing in concert at Cal Performances.

"Through Berkeley RADICAL we assert that the arts are necessary, that they enhance our ability to handle change and challenges, and that they are essential to sustain and advance our society," said Matías Tarnopolsky, Executive and Artistic Director of Cal Performances. "If we define the arts as necessary, then artistic literacy is as essential as any other literacy, including reading, writing, and arithmetic. Because we see artistic literacy as equally the responsibility of artists, educators, arts organizations, and digital partners, Berkeley RADICAL will have components that serve each of these primary stakeholders."

Beginning in September 2015, several distinctive projects in each season will contribute to the Berkeley RADICAL process and will include explorations of known works or creation of major new works with public performances; residency of commissioned artists; a significant partnership with the University across academic disciplines; on- and off-campus learning programs; post-performance dissemination of such things as creative process, education, research, and scholarship endeavors delivered via various media platforms. Berkeley RADICAL is intended to work in tandem with, and harness, the unique intellectual capital and capabilities of the world-class research university that is home to Cal Performances.

The first to be named Berkeley RADICAL artists are conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. It is fitting that they launch this program since it was musical training as a youth that put the conductor on his life path. Gustavo Dudamel brings to music and the larger cultural landscape, a deep understanding of the necessity of the arts. Residency activities, featuring Gustavo Dudamel and musicians of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, will include symposiums, master teaching, lecture/demonstrations, a film screening, rehearsals open to Bay Area music students, multiple concerts, and the recording, framing and disseminating of these events on iTunes and other digital platforms.

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

Mirror Visions Ensemble Embarks on Tour of New Program: Journeys
The Mirror Visions Ensemble, a vocal trio featuring soprano Vira Slywotzky, tenor Scott Murphree and baritone Jesse Blumberg, presents Journeys accompanied by pianist Grant Wenaus in February and March with dates in San Francisco, Newton (MA), Hillsdale (NY) and in New York City at Lincoln Center's Library for the Performing Arts and SubCulture.

Journeys is a new program in which the singers explore land, sea and air travel to far-flung destinations -- both real and imaginary -- in lighthearted and humorous ways. The ensemble sings about modes of transportation, travel experiences and hotel accommodation with style and flair. They also eloquently tour coral reefs in The Mermaid's Song by Haydn, search for the isle of true love in Berlioz's L'Ile inconnue, and have a momentary rest in Barber's Solitary Hotel. This program features five MVE commissions in addition to familiar works by such composers as Haydn, Porter, Duparc, Wolf, Berlioz, Poulenc and Barber set to the poetry of James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Pietro Metastasio and others.

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Tallis Scholars New Release & Tour
Peter Phillips and the legendary voices of The Tallis Scholars celebrate Arvo Pärt's 80th birthday with the release of Tintinnabuli - a new album of Pärt's finest a cappella choral works. Tintinnabuli will be released March 10, 2015 launching the U.S. portion of the Tintinnabuli world tour. U.S. concerts run from April 10-26th and include dates in Berkeley (CA), New York (NY), Atlanta (GA), Dallas and Houston (TX).

"It is with great pleasure that we present our tribute to Arvo Pärt in his 80th year. Tintinnabuli (from the Latin for 'bell') is the compositional style created by Arvo Pärt which informs every work on this recording. In all my searchings for inspiring contemporary music I have not come across anyone to rival him." --Peter Phillips

Apr 10 -11 Berkeley, CA - First Congregational Church
Apr 12 - Arcata, CA - Van Duzer Theatre
Apr 17 - New York, NY - Church of St. Ignatius Loyola
Apr 18 - New York, NY - Weill Recital Hall
Apr 19 - Atlanta, GA - Emerson Concert Hall
Apr 21 - Birmingham, AL - Cathedral Church of the Advent
Apr 23 - Little Rock, AR - Christ Episcopal Church
Apr 24 - Dallas, TX - Highland Park Presbyterian Church
Apr 25 - Houston, TX - Christ Church Cathedral
Apr 26 - Lubbock, TX - First United Methodist Church

For more information, visit

--Sarah Folger, Harmonia Mundi USA

The Orion String Quartet at Lincoln Center
The Orion String Quartet will be performing with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on February 26th. Over the past 27 seasons the Orion String Quartet has been consistently praised for the fresh perspective and individuality it brings to performances.

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." The Orion Quartet's recordings reflect its musical diversity. The ensemble has achieved an enviable reputation for its interpretations of Beethoven's string quartets, and has recorded the complete cycle for KOCH International Classics.

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

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

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Free Concert with Conversation with the Beijing Guitar Duo at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 27
Meng Su and Yameng Wang, the Beijing Guitar Duo first met at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, where they both studied with acclaimed professor, Chen Zhi.

The Duo was formally established at the encouragement of Manuel Barrueco, their teacher and mentor, while pursuing advanced studies at the Peabody Conservatory. The impressive individual talents of Ms. Su and Ms. Wang come together to create what is sure to be one of the most exciting guitar duos on the scene today. As recipients of the Solomon H. Snyder Award, the Beijing Guitar Duo made its New York debut at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall with critical acclaim.

When: Fri., Feb. 27 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Community Music Center Concert Hall (544 Capp Street, San Francisco)
Admission: Free
RSVP: For reserved press seating, please contact Kristin Cockerham or email by Feb. 25.
The event is sponsored by San Francisco Performances.
Learn more at

--Kristin Cockerham, Landis PR

Broadway's Norm Lewis, Allison Blackwell, and Douglas Hodge Join Young People's Chorus of New York City
The Young People's Chorus of New York City will hold its annual fund-raising gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday, March 2, at 7 p.m. YPC Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez and the chorus are excited to welcome The New York Pops and three award-winning stars of the Broadway stage - Norm Lewis, Allison Blackwell, and Douglas Hodge - in an unforgettable showcase of magic, swing, and the kinds of spectacular, fully choreographed production numbers YPC galas are known for.

Remaining tickets are available at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office or by calling CenterCharge 212-721-6500.

The concert will be followed by dinner in the five-star Mandarin Oriental ballroom overlooking Central Park featuring an exciting live auction with many one-of-a-kind items. The evening's auctioneer is Sara Friedlander from Christies.

Being honored by YPC at the dinner are Thomas Wagner, the co-founder and managing member of Knighthead Capital Management, LLC with YPC's Corporate Award, and pianist, composer, and educator Seymour Bernstein with YPC's Artistic Award.

More information about the March 2 gala evening is available at or at

--Angela Duryea, Young People's Chorus of NYC

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa