Classical Music News of the Week, March 1, 2015

Violinist Rachel Podger Returns to Philharmonia Baroque for an All-Vivaldi Program

This March, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra - hailed by the New York Times as the nation's leading period-instrument ensemble - welcomes violin virtuoso Rachel Podger for a program of nine popular Vivaldi violin concertos featuring soloists from the Orchestra alongside the acclaimed British violinist. Four performances take place around the San Francisco Bay Area at Stanford's Bing Concert Hall, (Wednesday, March 11), the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco (Friday, March 13), and First Congregational Church in Berkeley, CA (Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15). Tickets are available through City Box Office and start at $25.

This concert includes some of Vivaldi's most popular concertos from La cetra, La stravaganza, and L'estro armonico. Among the best-known is the Concerto for Two Violins, No. 8 in A minor, RV 522, in which Podger is joined by Philharmonia co-concertmaster, Elizabeth Blumenstock. Other concertos on the program showcase sparkling soloists from the Orchestra including violinists Carla Moore, Katherine Kyme, Lisa Weiss, Jolianne von Einem, and cellist Phoebe Carrai. At Podger's debut with Philharmonia in 2013, one critic described the evening's program - which featured Vivaldi as well as Corelli, Pergolesi, Mossi, and Locatelli - as "a friendly gathering of colleagues all assembled for the joy of music-making."

The program includes
Violin concerti from L'estro armonico, Op. 3 and La cetra, Op. 9
L'estro: Concerto for 4 Violins No. 4 in E minor, RV 550
L'estro: Concerto for 2 Violins No. 8 in A minor, RV 522
La stravaganza: Concerto for Violin Op. 4, No. 8 in D minor, RV 249
L'estro: Concerto for 2 Violins and Cello No. 11 in D minor, RV 565
La cetra: Concerto for Violin No. 12 in B minor, RV 391
L'estro: Concerto for 2 Violins No. 2 in G minor, RV 578
La cetra: Concerto for 2 Violins No. 9 in B-flat major, RV 530
L'estro: Concerto for 4 Violins No. 10 in B minor, RV 580

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

For more information, visit

--Ben Casement-Stoll, PBO

Concert Honoring Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis
"A Celebration of Peace Through Music" is a special televised concert created by American conductor Sir Gilbert Levine that took place on May 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C. The concert features the Krakow Philharmonic Choir, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and the Washington Choral Arts Society. Through music, a language that supersedes all cultural boundaries, Levine leads these world-class vocal and orchestral ensembles in a moving tribute to Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, three spiritual leaders recognized for their devotion to promoting understanding and peace around the world. "A Celebration of Peace Through Music" is a two-hour show that will be broadcast on public media stations nationwide in Spring 2015, particularly around Easter 2015, Sunday, April 5.

A world-renowned conductor, Levine has been a major presence on Public Television, leading the U.S. television debuts of some of the most important orchestras world-wide. Known as the Pope's Maestro for his decades long friendship with Pope John Paul II, Sir Gilbert is uniquely qualified to lead this musical tribute.

"A Celebration of Peace Through Music" is a celebration of music and spirit, open to people of all faiths. Conducted by Levine, the concert honors the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, in the spirit of Pope Francis. Each musical work performed was selected to reflect the spirit of these three great leaders and their commitment to peace and understanding among people of all faiths. This concert special also follows Sir Gilbert as he travels to Buenos Aires, Venice, Krakow, Rome, Vienna, and Washington, D.C., to show us all how music and spirit can unite our world.

The concert, performed in Washington, D.C., in May 2014, following Pope Francis's ceremony to make Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II saints, was a joint effort by WETA Washington D.C., Georgetown University, the Archdiocese of Washington and the embassies of Poland, Italy, Argentina and the Holy See. The embassies represent the native countries of Pope John XXIII (Italy), Pope John Paul II (Poland) and Pope Francis (Argentina). The music program for "A Celebration of Peace Through Music" was specially selected to commemorate and celebrate historical moments of peace and understanding demonstrated by each pope.

--Chloe Kougias, Publicity Coordinator, WETA

AOP Receives Opera America Grant to Commission New Opera, "To Kill That Bird"
American Opera Projects (AOP) is proud to announce it is the recipient of an OPERA America Female Commissioning Grant in support of a new double bill chamber opera by composer Wang Jie currently titled To Kill That Bird. The two one-act operas of To Kill That Bird are united by the theme of strong female artists contending against the oppressive bureaucracy of the Zodiac Animal overlords.

AOP will begin workshops of the opera in 2015 through its First Chance program, which allows composers and librettists to hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience, with live singers and accompaniment. The production is slated to debut in 2017 at Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, CA, to be conducted by Festival Opera's longtime artistic director, Michael Morgan.

First premiered in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2010 where it was called "by turns whimsical, campy, tragic, haunting" by The New Criterion, the first half of To Kill That Bird, the 30-minute "From the Other Sky," portrays the fable of how the thirteen animals of the Chinese Zodiac downsized to twelve. Experiencing human compassion for the first time, this thirteenth Zodiac Goddess loses her place in the heavens to share her musical powers with mankind. "From the Other Sky" was commissioned by American Composers Orchestra/Mr. Paul Underwood.

The 70-minute second bill "From the Land Fallen" tantalizes the audience with a tragic and haunting transgender love story. New York City in a parallel universe, the Zodiac Animals rule the human world headed by the Rat. As human rebellion erupts, a war widow finds her late husband's spirit embodied in a deranged woman and falls in love with her.

For more information, visit

--Matthew Gray, Amercican Opera Projects

St. Patrick's Day Concert With Grammy-Winning Irish Band The Chieftains
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will present a St. Patrick's Day concert with The Chieftains on Tuesday, March 17, in the Virginia G. Piper Theater. The concert showcases the acclaimed Irish band's founder Paddy Moloney and special guests, including the Advanced Vocal Ensemble from Scottsdale's Saguaro High School.

After more than 50 years of innovative music-making, The Chieftains are one of Ireland's most renowned and revered bands. The six-time Grammy Award-winning group has uncovered the wealth of traditional Irish music that has accumulated across the centuries, making the music their own with a style that is as exhilarating as it is definitive.

The Chieftains were formed in Ireland in 1962 by Paddy Moloney, one of the country's top folk musicians. Although their early following was purely a folk audience, the range and variation of their music and accompanying musicians quickly captured a much broader following. The Chieftains are never afraid to shock purists and push musical boundaries, and the trappings of fame have not altered the band's devotion to their roots. They are as comfortable playing spontaneous Irish sessions as they are headlining a concert at Carnegie Hall.

The Chieftains, with Paddy Moloney and Special Guests
Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets start at $49 and are available through or 480-499-TKTS (8587).

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

Young People's Chorus of New York City Makes Its Festival of the Arts Boca Debut Saturday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m.
The award-winning Young People's Chorus of New York City makes its Festival of the Arts BOCA debut in Boca Raton, Florida, on Saturday March 14, with an exciting two-part program at the Mizner Park Amphitheater, which displays the range, vocal excellence, and showmanship of the award-winning chorus. The 7:30 p.m. concert opens with YPC Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez conducting YPC in thrilling selections from the chorus's tour program. Following intermission, YPC joins the Festival Orchestra Boca and the Master Chorale of South Florida in what is considered Beethoven's greatest composition, Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 "Choral," conducted by Constantine Kitsopoulos.

The first half of the program displays the ability of the YPC choristers to move from pure classical to folk and contemporary music, employing a variety of vocal techniques in quick succession, while at the same time executing complex choreographic moves.The set ranges from works by Robert Schumann and Leonard Bernstein, to a dramatic performance of a native song from Brazil, and Americana from Stephen Foster and Paul Simon.

The Festival of the Arts Boca runs from March 6 to 15. Tickets for the Saturday, March 14, performance are $25 to $125. More information about the Festival of the Arts BOCA is available here:

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

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians
Est. in 2007, FAYM is 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to providing instruction, scholarships & career assistance for musicians to age 26. FAYM's "Violins for Kids" project (est. in 2009) provides two to three lessons a week, instruments, materials, field trips, and a 2-week summer camp for youngsters from low income families at no charge. Enrollment has grown from 15 to 120 with plans to add 40 more students in March 2015.

All administrative functions are performed by highly qualified volunteers. Only FAYM's teachers are paid. All legal, accounting, and other services are generously donated 'pro bono' by experts in their fields.

Your contribution will go entirely for programs and scholarship assistance for deserving and underserved young musicians. Please help further the cause by joining the Family of FAYM today!

For further information, visit

Hal Weller, FAYM

YPC Shines a Spotlight on Gala Guest Artist Allison Blackwell
At the March 2 Young People's Chorus of New York City gala guest artist Allison Blackwell will sing "Life is a Bowl of Cherries" with the young singers of YPC and The New York Pops. "I picked 'Life is a Bowl of Cherries,'" she said, "because it is a song that celebrates, love, joy, perseverance, and faith. These are all things that music has given my life."

"My support for the Young People's Chorus of New York City tells the world that choral music is a life-changing art form that is worthy of being celebrated." Allison likes to quote the words of composer, author, and educator Cheryl Lavender who wrote: "The fact that children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children."

Read more about Allison Blackwell here:

Read more about the YPC gala here:

--Katharine Gibson, Young People's Chorus of NYC

AOP's Latest Opera at MSM Is a Drag
AOP First Chance returns to the Manhattan School of Music for their annual Opera Index series New American Opera Previews, From Page to Stage with excerpts from Legendary, an opera-in-development by Joseph Rubinstein and Jason Kim. The afternoon will feature a panel discussion with the artists hosted by Midge Woolsey and performances from Encompass New Opera Theatre.

1985. New York City. Famed drag performer Dee Legendary embarks on a passionate love affair with Officer John, whose fascination with Dee takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Inspired by a true story, Legendary is an opera about double lives and destructive desires set in the glory days of New York City's underground drag culture. The opera began development in AOP's Composers & the Voice program in 2013-2014.

Sunday, March 15 | 2:30 PM
Manhattan School of Music - Greenfield Hall
122nd Street and Broadway, New York, NY 10027

General Admission: $20 | Advance: $15 | Students/Seniors: $10
212-706-9550 to order tickets

--Matthew Gray, American Opera Projects

Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" Brings U.S. Tour to 7 Major Cities Beginning March 31
The esteemed Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" will embark on a seven-city U.S. tour beginning in Milwaukee on Tuesday, March 31. Ten performances will showcase the classic fantasy ballet "Swan Lake," featuring the renowned music by Tchaikovsky and an impressive cast of some of the world's best dancers. The Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" continues to captivate audiences worldwide, adhering to the signature aspects of Russian ballet as a whole: true expressivity, dramatic presentation and impeccable technical presentation.

"We are thrilled to bring the Saint Petersburg 'Russian Ballet' to the U.S. and believe the audience will enjoy themselves," said Ernesto Texo with Texoart Cultural Productions.

Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" performers are graduates of Saint Petersburg's prestigious Vaganova Ballet Academy, founded in 1738, and continue to perform on the oldest stages in Saint Petersburg. Consistently delighting sold-out audiences worldwide with world-class dancers and dazzling costumes, the Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" continues to make international touring a large part of its contribution to furthering Russian dance and culture.

Created in 1990 by the family of professional ballet dancers, The Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" dynasty is more than 100 years old. Artistic Director Alexander Bruskin is a former soloist of the famed Kirov Ballet, a former classmate of the renowned Mikhail Baryshnikov, and a former student of legendary ballet instructor Alexander Pushkin.

The Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" has successfully conducted more than 50 tours worldwide in countries including Japan, England, Ireland, Spain, the U.S., France and Germany among many others, and has participated in 10 international ballet festivals. Today, the repertoire includes such masterpieces as "Swan Lake," "Sleeping Beauty," "The Nutcracker" and "Don Quixote." Each ballet is performed in its original choreography, and the Saint Petersburg State "Russian Ballet" perceives its main mission to be the preservation of such choreographic authenticity.

For more information, visit

--Andy Wilson, Bohlsen Group PR

An Entire Canon of New Music - Long Yu Announces "Compose 20:20"
Maestro Long Yu has never been one to shy away from big ideas. Emerging from the barren years of China's Cultural Revolution, he set about founding a major orchestra, the China Philharmonic, which he still leads, alongside the Guanzhou Symphony, the Shanghai Symphony and two major music festivals - the Beijing Music Festival (which he also founded) and, his newest addition, the Shanghai MISA Festival (co-founded with Charles Dutoit). He also helped spearhead the establishment of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy, a partnership between the New York Philharmonic and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, with collaboration from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. And now comes an initiative which he calls, "one of the most important projects in my life." Nothing less than a grand attempt to present to China and to the West an entire canon of the other region's music. He has called it Compose 20:20.

Buoyed by the great success of new commissions such as Qigang Chen's Joie Eternelle for trumpet and orchestra at last year's London Proms, and Ye Xiaogang's "Imitation of an Old Poem: Long Autumn Night" from The Song of the Earth with the New York Philharmonic - as well as the new works he has brought to his Chinese orchestras in the past - Long Yu realized that there was a hunger on both sides for new music from across what he calls "the cultural bridge" between East and West. "More than a hunger," says Long Yu, "It is an absolute need, if we are to keep the cultural fires alive. We have seen so far a wonderful fascination in China for Western classical music, and the same coming the other way from the West. But this frenzy of energy has too often been somewhat diffuse and without shape. Now is the time that we can start using it to harness important thoughts, to explore and to experience in a curated way. New music especially needs this as it is hard for the individual work by itself to find an audience beyond its premiere these days."

And so was born the idea of Compose 20:20. Between now and the year 2020, Long Yu will present at his concerts in the West 20 new works by Chinese composers, and during that same period he will program 20 contemporary Western works in China. All the pieces selected will be by composers about whose music Long Yu is passionate.

Launching the project last night was a performance with Yo Yo Ma, Wu Tong and the New York Philharmonic of Zhao Lin's Duo. The concerto, for cello and a Chinese woodwind instrument made from bamboo pipes called a sheng (to be played by Wu Tong), took place at the Philharmonic's annual Chinese New Year's Concert and Gala, at Avery Fisher Hall, which Long Yu conducted for the fourth consecutive season.

Over the five years of Compose 20:20, works by other featured composers such as Qigang Chen, Huang Ruo and Zhao Lin will be conducted by Long Yu, with additional Western Orchestras including the Dallas Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and more. And the China Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony and Guanzhou Symphony among others will play Long Yu's choice of new Western works.

For more information, visit

--James Inverne, Inverne Price Music

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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