Mozert: The Last Lost Manuscripts (LED review)

Marion Morrison, mezzo-soprano; Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite, Nor'western Clyde Symphonic Symphony. Deutsche Grammerphone Gesundheit 928-435-7728.

People today probably recognize Epicurean composer, electrician, and skateboard enthusiast Lonnigan O. Lochinvar Mozert (1548-1697) best for his musical drama about overweight Italian opera singers, I Eata; or perhaps for his oratorio about automobile mechanics, Car Men. But all of that may be acqua sotto i ponti ("the Pontiff is green"), as they say, given several startling new finds. Dr. Karlheinz Klopweisser of the Arkham Institute for Arcane Musicology (Miskatonic University) recently unearthed two new lost Mozert manuscripts, although having found them, the manuscripts are obviously no longer lost and are certainly not new. Moreover, these newly discovered no-longer-lost lost old manuscripts may only be the beginning of a veritable treasure trove of Mozert music soon to be revealed. Thus, the scores we have here might not be the last of the manuscripts Professor Klopweisser uncovers; they might just be the last ones he found. Or they might simply be the first of the last lost but no-longer-lost lost scores. Such is the fascination of modern musical scholarship.

Anyway, as you know, young Mozert rose to prominence in the early 1640's through a whirlwind courtship with German national archery champion Kathoid Everlast, but the romance broke up. This was understandable, of course, as it was the Baroque age. Following the breakup, Mozert fell back into obscurity, fracturing several ribs and a pinky finger in the process. Still, it didn't stop him, and he continued pursuing his life's dream of working in his stepfather's knight, rook, and pawn shop, a dream, alas, like his love, unrequited. Still later, he took over editorship of the local newspaper in Wiley, North Dakota, The Wiley Post. And from somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the new flame-throwers.

Controversy surrounds the manuscripts, found by Professor Klopweisser tucked beneath an Egyptian mummy mask at the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Were the manuscripts really lost, or were they temporarily misplaced for several centuries? Were they Mozert's magnum opus, or were they a shopping list for his daily groceries? Were they the great man's final words on the subject of musical composition, or is it possible, as many ancient astronaut theorists believe, that they are fragments of the Gospel of St. Mark? The mystery has only increased over the past four hundred years since no one actually knew that the manuscripts existed.

Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite
Whatever the case, Professor Klopweisser and Maestro Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite have collaborated on a complete reconstruction of The Shroud, resulting in a stunning new winding-sheet, the context of which can only be realized through a complete reappraisal of the musical and archaeological worlds' accepted, predisposed, and wholly anthropomorphous perspective. Given that the lost manuscripts contained but a few miscellaneous shards, the twelve-hour epic created by Klopweisser and Twitt-Thornwaite is all the more astonishing. Indeed, it is a shame the present recording provides only about a minute and half of the completed score, the rest of the transcript having been lost in a presumptive gaming transaction at the Luxor.

But wait: If you order today, we'll double the offer. You'll receive not only The Shroud of Turing but The Shroud of Schenectady as well, absolutely free (just pay $39.95 shipping and handling). Remember, Carpe Diem ("Seize the carp").

As for the album's miserable sound, we must blame the producer and recording engineer, Jonathan O'Konnell Edwards, who is obviously an idiot. Anybody who would make an album as offensive as this one must also beat his wife, drown small puppies, and murder neighborhood children. He is clearly a wretched pile of.... (Ed.: John, you can't say these things about people. Mr. Edwards could sue you for slander. Interpol could come to your door and drag you away. John? John? John?)

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

Sibelius: Symphony No. 4 (HDCD review)

Also, The Swan of Tuonela. Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. HDTT HDCD362.

Even though Herbert von Karajan was enormously popular, not everyone loved him. For me, he always sounded as though he wanted to glamorize the music he conducted more than necessary with long, flowing tempos and a luxuriant orchestral sound. While Karajan's approach pleases me in grand opera, I never entirely cared for it in orchestral music. That's probably why I never bothered to listen to his 1965 DG recording of the Sibelius Fourth Symphony. I figured that if any piece of music cried out for a simpler and more-rugged style than Karajan's, it was the Fourth, even though I rather liked conductor's later, 1976 EMI recording. Now, with this HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfer) remastering of the DG recording, I can see what Karajan might have been on to all along.

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) wrote his Symphony No. 4 in 1911, and it has always reminded me of a vast, flat, icy plain, maybe in Lapland, brooding in silence. It's certainly one of the Sibelius's bleaker yet more-characterful works. Karajan's somewhat measured interpretation and the magnificent playing of the Berlin Philharmonic make the music sound as bleak and melancholy as ever, the desolation of the landscape all the more complete with the conductor's slow pace. Yes, Karajan still tends to make the music sound a little too outright pretty for my taste, but it's a legitimate reading, and one can hardly deny the virtuosity and sheer beauty of his Berlin ensemble.

Sibelius felt he was near death when he wrote the piece; however, he would live for another forty-six years, so I suppose you could say it was a false alarm. Later, Sibelius said of the symphony, quoting the Swedish author Strindberg, "Being human is misery." Therefore, don't expect much joy here. Nevertheless, Karajan's extraordinarily broad tempos keep one involved, making the work seem more lofty and more emotional than some competing versions. I would place this Karajan performance along with his later EMI recording and those of Ashkenazy (Decca), Barbirolli (EMI), Berglund (EMI), and Vanska (BIS) at the head of my list of recommendations.

Herbert von Karajan
The symphony opens with a theme "as harsh as Fate," as the composer described it, and that's the way Karajan sees it: desolate, cold, and powerful. The succeeding Allegro molto vivace brings a note of serenity to the otherwise dark proceedings, but it also turns slightly sinister (though never threatening).

Originally Sibelius labeled the slow Largo section "The Thoughts of a Wayfarer." It continues the sullen atmosphere of the piece, with Karajan emphasizing its mysterious mood shifts and establishing a truly lonely place. Then, while the final Allegro opens brightly, even cheerfully, promising a sudden change of temperament, it soon reverts to the desolation of the opening movement. Here, too, Karajan skillfully outlines the bleak, expansive landscapes.

Although the performance may be a tad too cushy and comfortable for this music, Karajan nevertheless leads us through a powerful reading of the score, thanks, too, no doubt, to the excellence of the orchestra and to the impressive remastering HDTT provide us.

Karajan succeeds in the coupling, too. The Swan of Tuonela moves as gracefully as any you'll hear. With Karajan's fondness for poetic renditions and the orchestra's rich, luxurious effect, the piece sounds quite lovely.

Deutsche Grammophon originally recorded the music at Christ Church, West Berlin, Germany in 1965, and HDTT transferred it from a DGG 4-track tape in 2015. I never much cared for the sound DG afforded Karajan and his Berlin players. Early on, in the analogue age, it seemed a bit too vague to me, with little or no deep bass. Later, with the introduction of digital, the Berlin Philharmonic sounded too glassy, edgy, and still bass-shy to me, despite an enormous dynamic range. But maybe it was all in DG's masterings of Karajan's recordings for vinyl and CD because here the HDTT remastering is excellent.

The HDTT remastered sound has great power, as much to match the performance. Moreover, there is good clarity in the midrange, although not so much as to sound artificial. The plush sound of the Berlin Philharmonic comes through splendidly, without any unnatural wispiness or, conversely, glassiness. The miking is just distant enough to provide a decent perspective, the orchestra nicely centered between the speakers and not extending too far beyond them. Additionally, we hear a modicum of depth in the ensemble as well, so we get some dimensionality in the sonics. Most important, though, is the disc's dynamic range, which impresses one with its strength and impact (especially in the mid and upper bass). Here is a recording to match the lofty darkness of the music.

For further information on HDTT's various configurations, formats (CD, HQCD, FLAC, DSD, DVD-24, DVD-24, etc.), and prices, you can visit their Web site at


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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 29, 2015

National Philharmonic to Perform Bach's St. John Passion at Strathmore

The National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale, led by National Philharmonic Associate Conductor Victoria Gau, will perform Bach's masterpiece St. John Passion on Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. A free pre-concert lecture will be offered in the Concert Hall at 6:45 p.m. Tickets start at $28 and are free for children age 7-17 through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette). ALL KIDS tickets must be reserved by calling (301-581-5100) or visiting the Strathmore Box Office. Parking is complimentary. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to or call 301-581-5100.

Bach's St. John Passion remains one of the most deeply affecting and riveting masterworks in this genre. It is a rich, highly dramatic portrayal of the Biblical passion story using soloists, chorus and a colorful baroque orchestra, featuring rarely heard archaic instruments including the lute and viola da gamba. The radiant purity of sound in this emotionally expressive work shines in poignant arias, powerful choruses and gentle, reflective chorales.

The work has been a constant in the United States since June 5, 1888, when Dr. J. Fred Wolle led the Choral Union of the Moravian town of Bethlehem, PA (now the famed Bethlehem Bach Choir) in the first of many such performances. St. John, the earlier of Bach's two surviving Passions (musical settings of biblical accounts of the sufferings and death of Jesus), is still heard less often  than its ostensibly more refined counterpart, the St. Matthew Passion, but its clarity and fervency give it undeniable emotional appeal.

"Bach's St. John Passion is full of remarkable and powerful contrasts," says Ms. Gau, who is conducting the April performance. "His Lutheran conviction that we all are simul justus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinful) plays out throughout this taut, dramatic work as Bach asks the same singers to perform the roles of the Roman soldiers, the angry crowd, and the penitent congregation. By driving home these deeply contrasting states of being, he makes the drama that much more raw and personal, creating an incredibly moving work of operatic proportions."

For more information, visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

2015 PARMA Music Festival, August 14-16, Portsmouth, NH
The third annual PARMA Music Festival is coming this summer! Just named one of the top 30 music festivals in the country by Rukkus, the Festival is heralded as a "one-of-a-kind…for all genres and skill levels," and as "an environment for musicians to grow, learn, and be part of something big."

The multiple venue/multi-genre, three-day Festival will feature acts varying from classical and jazz to electronic and rock to indie and folk. With a wide and diverse range of events from live music, to visual arts, to a children's event, this year's Festival will bring together a wonderfully diverse crowd to perform, collaborate, and listen.

Headlining the Main Event is Boston and Washington, DC-based band Kingsley Flood. The six-piece group released their first full-length Dust Windows in 2010, generating both critical acclaim and a passionate fan base.

The Festival will also feature The Shakespeare Concerts, a Boston-based organization that presents recitals by world-class musicians of music inspired by the immortal bard. These works include settings of the original English text to settings in translation by composers from the 17th through 21st centuries. The mainstay of the concerts series is the music of Joseph Summer, Executive Director and Founder of The Shakespeare Concerts. Since its inception, The Shakespeare Concerts have premiered over two dozen of Summer's eighty-plus Oxford Songs.

Festival concerts and events will be presented in diverse settings--from daytime events at local churches and Prescott Park, to evening events at 3S Artspace, and The Dance Hall and Buoy Gallery in Kittery, ME. The Festival closes with a concert at The Music Hall's Historic Theater.

For more information about the PARMA Music Festival, including pictures and press from prior years, please visit:

--Janet, Giovanniello PARMA Festival

World-Class Quartets Open and Close Community Music Festival
The Music Institute of Chicago, transforming lives through music education for 85 years, presents two esteemed string quartets at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois: Cavani String Quartet performs Sunday, April 19 at 3 p.m., and Ying Quartet, comprising Music Institute alumni, performs Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. The concerts are sponsored by Gael and Robert Strong and the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

Called "warmly lyrical" by the New York Times, the highly regarded Cavani String Quartet, ensemble in residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, celebrates its 30th anniversary at Nichols Concert Hall. The program includes Antonin Dvorak's String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96; Charles Washington's Midnight Child; Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 117; and Felix Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (Presto), also featuring students from the Music Institute's Academy for gifted pre-college musicians.

The Cavani String Quartet will give a master class Saturday, April 18, at 4:30 p.m. at the Music Institute's Winnetka Campus, Thoresen Performance Center, 300 Green Bay Road. Admission is $5 per person general admission at the door to watch the class.

The Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest musical order. Quartet in residence at the Eastman School of Music, this distinguished Music Institute alumni group performs Joseph Haydn's String Quartet in D Major No. 4, Op. 20; Igor Stravinsky's Three Pieces for String Quartet; and Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131. Special media sponsor for this performance is Mandarin Quarterly.

Presenting 100 concerts in 16 days, the Music Institute's Community Music Festival showcases some of the more than 1,600 students from 86 communities in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, all volunteering their time.

Tickets for each concert—Cavani String Quartet on April 19 at 3 p.m. and Ying Quartet on May 2 at 7:30 p.m.—are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students, available at or 800-838-3006

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Storm Large Joins the New York Pops for "Let's Be Frank" Sinatra Tribute, April 10
The "brilliant and beautiful" vocalist joins Music Director Steven Reineke and The New York Pops for a tribute to America's original idol, April 10 at 8pm at Carnegie Hall, NYC.

When consummate entertainer Storm Large made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2013 as part of the Spring for Music Festival, The New York Times lauded her as "sensational." Now, Storm makes her triumphant return to the venue as one of four special guest soloists for The New York Pops' "Let's Be Frank" celebration of the Frank Sinatra centennial. The performance takes place at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage on Friday, April 10 at 8pm. Ticket prices range from $34-$120.

Storm will be joined by three more of today's finest entertainers – Tony DeSare, Frankie Moreno, and Ryan Silverman in a musical extravaganza that will transport audiences back to a golden age of music. There could be no better way to celebrate Frank Sinatra's influence on American culture than with four of today's brightest stars on stage with one of the country's premiere pops orchestras.

For ticket prices and further information, click

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Nicholas McGegan Leads Rossini Opera with Adler Fellows
April 15-19, 2015, music director Nicholas McGegan leads a program with Gioachino Rossini's first great opera, The Marriage Contract (La cambiale di matrimonio), and arias by W.A. Mozart featuring seven soloists from San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellowship Program. The final concert in Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2014-15 season, this concert marks a special partnership between the nation's leading period-instrument orchestra and San Francisco Opera Center. Four performances take place around the Bay Area at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto (April 15), San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center (April 17), and Berkeley's First Congregational Church (April 18 with a matinee following on the afternoon of April 19). Tickets start at $25.

Wednesday, April 15 @ 7:30 PM
First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Friday, April 17 @ 8 PM
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco, CA

Saturday, April 18 @ 8 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday, April 19 @ 4 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

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

Daniel Cohen Named Kapellmeister at Deutsche Oper, Berlin
Fast-rising young conductor Daniel Cohen named Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin.

Daniel Cohen is one of that select band of young conductors generally denoted as 'most likely to succeed'. The Israeli maestro's talents were spotted early on by Daniel Barenboim, who appointed him assistant conductor at the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, and more recently by Gustavo Dudamel, who named him a Dudamel Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Now Cohen has landed his first major European position, as the new Kapellmeister at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin.

In addition to his Berlin post, Daniel Cohen remains Music Director of both the Jersey Chamber Orchestra and the Israel-based Gropius Ensemble.

--Inverne Price Music

Seattle Symphony Performs Unique World Premiere by Trimpin - May 1
Music Director Ludovic Morlot will conduct the world premiere of Above, Below, and In Between, a Seattle Symphony commission and site-specific composition by kinetic sculptor, sound artist and Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Trimpin, on May 1. Above, Below, and In Between is a composition for small orchestra, soprano voice, prepared piano, kinetic instruments and gesture-controlled conducting. It will be performed in the Grand Lobby and Promenade of Benaroya Hall. Also on the concert program will be works by the late American composer George Perle, with whom Ludovic Morlot had a deep connection and friendship since their first meeting at Tanglewood in 2001. This concert program commemorates the occasion of Perle's 100th anniversary year. Pianist Michael Brown, who was just awarded a 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, will perform on the program.

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

92Y 2015-16 Season Announcement
92nd Street Y and Tisch Center for the Arts Director Hanna Arie-Gaifman today announced the 2015/16 concert season, which features some of the world's preeminent musicians in 92Y's historic and intimate Kaufmann Concert Hall. 92Y is proud to present performances in which artists are able to connect with audiences through multidisciplinary presentations and programs that showcase their own musical tastes.

"Seeing Music," a new music and visual arts festival, January 26-February 6, explores the ways in which music and the visual arts complement and inform each other. Also new this season is a residency with violinist Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner "Bridge to Beethoven," that highlights the composer's enduring influence by pairing his violin sonatas with new works by contemporary composers. "András Schiff Selects: Young Pianists" continues for a second season, presenting the U.S. debut of three young artists chosen by Sir András Schiff. The 2015/16 season is also highlighted by 92Y commissions in both music and visual art; premieres of works by Stephen Hough, Andrew Norman, Jonathan Berger, Vijay Iyer, Anthony Cheung; and twelve solo recital debuts on the 92Y stage.

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Three World-Renowned Musicians Share the Stage
The Mutter Bronfman Harrell Trio: Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Yefim Bronfman, piano; Lynn Harrell, cello. Saturday, April 18, 2015, 8 p.m. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The concert showcases the talents of three world-renowned, Grammy Award-winning musicians – violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianist Yefim Bronfman and cellist Lynn Harrell – who share the stage in a special performance of two treasured works of chamber music: Beethoven's "Archduke" Piano Trio and Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio.

"It is an honor to welcome three of the greatest classical musicians of our time to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts," remarked Neale Perl, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council. "This is a rare opportunity to hear these internationally acclaimed artists, who normally perform in large venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, onstage in our intimate, 853-seat Virginia G. Piper Theater. With masterpieces by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, it promises to be the musical experience of a lifetime!"

Tickets start at $69 and are available through or 480-499-TKTS (8587).

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

Horowitz Steinway Showcased in April 22 Concert
The Music Institute of Chicago, transforming lives through music education for 85 years, hosts a free, one-night-only concert showcasing the exclusive tour piano the legendary Vladimir Horowitz used during the last four years of his life. The concert, presented by Steinway & Sons in conjunction with the Music Institute, takes place Wednesday, April 22, at 7 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinios.

Early in 1934, as a wedding present, Steinway presented Vladimir and Wanda Horowitz with a Steinway Model D, Serial #279,503. In the early 1940s, this piano was replaced with #314,503—CD 503, for short. This is the piano Horowitz kept in his New York townhouse and used in many recitals and recordings in the 1970s and '80s. Because Horowitz loved the sound and touch of this piano so much, it became his exclusive tour piano for the last four years of his life, including his triumphant return to Russia in 1986 after a more than 60-year absence.

Respected and acclaimed Music Institute piano faculty and Andrew Guo, a student in the Music Institute's prestigious Academy for gifted pre-college musicians, will recreate the 1986 Moscow recital.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Announcing FAYM's First High School String Orchestra Camp
FAYM (Foundation to Assist Young Musicians) is proud to announce its first high school string orchestra day camp, June 8-20 at Valley High School, Las Vegas, Nevada. The Camp will admit music students who attend Valley, Basic, Las Vegas, and Rancho High Schools and their feeder middle schools.

Please note that the deadline to apply is April 23. For application and audition material, visit

Auditions will be held by appointment on Saturday, May 9th and Saturday, May 16th at East Las Vegas Community Center (Stewart & Eastern Avenues).

--Hal Weller, FAYM

American Bach Soloists Celebrate Bach, Vivaldi, & Leo
American Bach Soloists celebrate three Baroque masters May 1-4 with "Bach, Vivaldi, & Leo"

Jeffrey Thomas leads a trio of works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus, and a Cello Concerto by Leonardo Leo. Countertenor Ian Howell Ssings Bach and Vivaldi. 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award recipient Gretchen Claassen performs Leo's Concerto for Violoncello in A Major.

Friday, May 1, 2015 8:00 pm – St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA
Saturday, May 2, 2015 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, May 3, 2015 4:00 pm – St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
Monday, May 4, 2015 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, Davis, CA
Tickets: $27-$66 / / (415) 621-7900

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Exodus: Dreams of the Promised Land in Antebellum America
Salon/Sanctuary Concerts presents a moving and joyous celebration of the struggle for freedom and triumph over adversity through theatre and music.

The enduring power of liberation imagery in the early American consciousness comes to life through works by William Billings (1746 – 1800), Stephen Jenks (1772 – 1856), early spirituals and Shaker hymns performed with historical texts selected from abolitionist writings and slave and suffragette narratives, including selections from Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave.

Saturday, April 18th, 4:00 pm
The Flag Gallery of the Fraunces Tavern Museum
54 Pearl Street
NYC, NY 10004

$25 seniors / students, $35 general
$50 prime, $100 series supporter front row
For Tickets
Call 1 888 718 4253 or visit

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

The Bach Sinfonia Presents "Bach's Early Voice: The Weimar Cantatas"
On Saturday, April 18, 2015, the Bach Sinfonia will continue its 20th anniversary season with an exploration of Bach's earliest cantatas for voices, performing Christlag in Todesbanden, BWV 4, Klagen, sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61, and Aus der Teifen rufe ich, BWV 131. These cantatas represent Bach's time at M'hlhausen and Weimar, as court organist, chamber musician at the ducal court and as Konzertmeister in the castle church. The performance will illustrate the most current understanding of Bach's likely mode of performance with four singers as a solo group and four additional voices to reinforce the large choral movements, cantus firmus melodies, and four-part chorales. In addition, the period instruments played by Sinfonia's early-music professionals will create a performance as Bach intended the works to be heard. Sinfonia will be joined by vocalists Jennifer Ellis Kampani, soprano; Charles Humphries, countertenor; Kyle Stegall, tenor; and David Newman, bass.

Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 8 p.m.
Free pre-concert discussion at 7:20 p.m.

Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
7995 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910

$35 adult
$30 seniors (60 and up)
$15 (ages 15 - University)
Free (ages 14 and under)
Order Online at  or call (301) 362-6525

--Christie McKinney, Bach Sinfonia

Williams: The Very Best Movie Soundtracks (CD review)

Evan Christ, Philharmonisches Orchester des Staatstheaters Cottbus. Telos Music CD TLS 210.

Founded in 1908, the Philharmonic Orchestra of the State Theater Cottbus in Brandenburg, Germany dates back more than a hundred years. Today, under its energetic and relatively youthful Music Director, American Evan Christ, the ensemble plays a wide variety of music, from Bach to Mahler and beyond. In 2010 they performed their first concert of tunes by John Williams to sold-out audiences. The present album gives you some idea why.

Spanning a career that so far covers over sixty years and includes over forty Oscar nominations, American composer, conductor, and pianist John Williams (b. 1932) has become probably the most-popular writer of orchestral music in the world. I would be willing to bet that more people worldwide recognize and admire his scores for such films as Jaws, Star Wars, E.T., Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter than they do most anything by Mozart or Beethoven. Understand, I'm not suggesting that Williams is a better composer than Mozart or Beethoven, only that possibly more people have heard Williams's orchestral music than any other. My guess is that, at the least, in a hundred years people may still listen to Williams's orchestral output more than they do any other twentieth-century composer. But that's speculation on my part, and probably not relevant to anything in particular.

Anyway, Christ and his Cottbus orchestra play segments from all the soundtracks named above, with the Olympic and Liberty Fanfares thrown in for good measure. So what sets these interpretations apart from the 800 other recordings of John Williams's music? I'd say it's mainly the enthusiasm of Maestro Christ, which one can feel throughout the program. Also, it's the obvious sensitivity of the conductor, his feeling for nuance, tension and release, as, for example, expressed in his readings of the scores for Jaws and Superman, which come off sounding more serious, more important, than they often do. Sometimes this sensitivity comes at the expense of the utmost degree of excitement and thrills, but that's the price you pay. It's what sets Christ's renditions of this familiar music apart from the rest. You take what you get.

Evan Christ
I'm not sure why Christ felt the need to include the two fanfares in an album titled "The Very Best Movie Soundtracks by John Williams" since to my knowledge neither fanfare featured in a motion picture. Still, it's nice to have them, and I suppose they give the program a touch more gravitas. A listener just might not find them as well known as the other material.

Saving the best for last, Christ gives us a rousing version of the Star Wars title music, among the best you'll find by anyone anywhere.

Overall, though, this is probably not music you need to hear again, as most folks have at least a few albums with the most popular John Williams scores on it. But if you want a good all-around selection of Williams's most-celebrated tunes, certainly Christ's album fills the bill.

Balance engineer Hans-Ulrich Holst and recording director Joachim Krist made the album in 2014 at what I assume to be the orchestra's home hall. Although the sound is a bit more resonant and distanced than you usually hear, it provides for a lifelike seating position and fairly well emulates a real-life concert-hall listening experience. Highs glisten; mids are a bit soft; deepest bass is rather shy; orchestral depth is good; and dynamics seem about average. Overall, the sound slightly favors the high end, yet it isn't especially bright or edgy; it could just use a little more bass substance and warmth.


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

Russo: Street Music (CD review)

Also, Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra; Gershwin: An American in Paris. Corky Siegel, Siegel-Schwall Band; Seiji Ozawa, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. DG Originals 463 665-2.

Things are seldom so easy as they appear. Despite the cover picture on the front of this CD, these Russo and Gershwin recordings derive from two separate DG releases made in 1972 and 1977 respectively. The first LP coupled Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story with William Russo's Three Pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra. The second LP coupled George Gershwin's An American in Paris with Russo's Street Music. The idea behind both LPs was to demonstrate the successful fusion of classical music and jazz, something only the Gershwin work succeeded in doing completely.

In any case, when the CD era dawned, DG put together a different package from the two LPs. It had the Bernstein and Gershwin pieces coupled with Russo's Street Music. Since these were the most popular of the works on both previous records, it seemed like a good idea. Moreover, as the sound was among DG's finest, it made for an easy recommendation.

Seiji Ozawa
Then in 2002, DG remastered and repackaged the works in their "Originals" line of classics, reviewed here. This time they again used three of the four works, but they chose to use Russo's Street Music and Three Pieces and Gershwin's American in Paris and omit Bernstein's Symphonic Dances. This was a shame because the Bernstein stuff was the best recording of it that music had ever seen, and the second Russo piece is much like the first one, anyway. So, what gives? I wondered if DG were going to give us the Bernstein piece remastered at a later date, or if it would slip through the cracks, never to be heard from again? As it turns out, there is a CD available of the Gershwin/Bernstein/Russo music now available from DG, although I see it marked as an import and a rather expensive one at that. Who knows their thinking.

Oh, well, what we have here is quite good, if a bit repetitious in the relatively lightweight Russo material. The Gershwin sounds quite lively and strongly flavorful, though, and the remastered sound is ever so slightly better than what DG provided on their first CD release. The bass seems especially better focused and carries more impact, and the midrange likewise sounds better defined. It's a good but disappointing re-issue at the same time because I'd really liked to have heard what DG's "Original Image Bit Processing" could have done with the Bernstein piece. Maybe we'll just have to continue to wait and see.


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

Elgar: Symphony No. 1 (CD review)

Also, Cockaigne Overture. Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Onyx 4145.

Yes, Elgar wrote more than the Violin and Cello Concertos, the Enigma Variations, and a series of marches. But, of course, you knew that. Especially if you are a classical music fan, or if you are English. Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was one of England's greatest and most-famous composers. On the current disc, Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic present the first of Elgar's two symphonies, along with the Cockaigne Overture. The symphony can be pretty heady stuff, unless you already enjoy the pomp and circumstance of Elgar's marches, in which case you'll find yourself right at home with it. It's all very grand, very imposing, very Elgarian.

Anyway, Elgar wrote his Symphony No. 1 in A flat, Op. 55, in 1908, just a few years after he completed the first four of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches, and he apparently had plenty of pomp and circumstance left over for the symphony. In describing the music, Elgar said "There is no programme beyond a wide experience of human life with a great charity (love) and a massive hope in the future." So, yes, it is an optimistic work, full of noble ambition.

Maestro Petrenko's handling of the symphony is very optimistic and ambitious, indeed, although I confess while listening to it that I couldn't completely erase my own fondness for the recordings of my earlier days: Sir Adrian Boult's account with the London Philharmonic (EMI); Sir John Barbirolli's recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI); Sir Georg Solti's rendering with the London Philharmonic (Decca); and later recordings from Richard Hickox, Vernon Handley, and Mark Elder among others. By comparison, this new reading by Maestro Petrenko seems just a tad staid, reticent, less grand. But comparisons are sometimes deceiving, and certainly there is much to commend about Petrenko's performance.

The first movement alternates from the noble and processional to the simple and straightforward, and Petrenko does his best to make the transitions as seamless as possible. Still, he seems a bit reluctant to let loose, perhaps fearing that the music can too easily become bombastic if he does so. Nevertheless, he keeps tempos on the moderately brisk side, so the music flows effortlessly and eloquently along, ending in a proper tranquility.

The second-movement Allegro acts as a scherzo, which Petrenko plays with a vigorous, masculine security. Under this conductor, the music marches relentlessly forward, interrupted only briefly here and there by several kind of pastoral interludes, then back to its relentless martial attitude. Again, it's not easy to hold all this together without the pieces seeming disparate and even unhinged, but Petrenko again does his best, and his Liverpool players do an admirable job smoothly following his lead.

Vasily Petrenko
The Adagio that follows is a sort of replica of the preceding music but at a much slower pace. Here, Petrenko does, indeed, slow down, even to the point I thought a tad too much. Still, it makes for a pleasant, tranquil pause in the action.

Then we get the finale, which returns us to Elgar's alternating slow-fast-slow-fast design, with Petrenko handling the march segments with a fine gusto. At the conclusion, the conductor makes sure we understand Elgar's themes, as he re-emphasizes the pomp-and-circumstance elements of the music.

The coupling actually comes first on the disc, the Cockaigne Overture, so named because, as Elgar explained, "Cockaigne is the old, humorous (classical) name for London and from it we get the Cockney." However, the work doesn't really describe the London of Elgar's day (he premiered it in 1901) with any precision, nor did he intend it to be an accurate tone poem; in fact, Elgar had hardly spent much time in London at all. Instead, the score is more of a merry, energetic, effervescent romp through the city's streets as Elgar's rather optimistic mind envisioned the place. I rather enjoyed Petrenko's handling of the overture because he adds a light, fleet touch to the music that brings out its playful, even celebratory qualities.

Producers John Fraser (Symphony) and Andrew Cornall (Cockaigne) and engineer David Pigott recorded the music at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in July and September 2009. I'm not sure why it's taken so long for Onyx to release the disc. Whatever, the sound is warm and natural and moderately distanced rather than being anything close-up, bright, or edgy. It's also nicely centered left-to-right, with at least a modicum of orchestral depth and a decently robust dynamic range. A little hall resonance adds a bloom to the sound, too, making it fairly lifelike, though somewhat soft and not particularly transparent or impactful in any audiophile sense (except in parts of the overture, which sound more dynamic to me than the symphony).


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

Easter at Ephesus (CD review)

Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Decca B0022686-02.

Easter at Ephesus is the fourth album by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, and if it sells as many copies as their previous discs, the sisters will be close to challenging the Beatles for most albums sold. Maybe we'll hear them singing The Beatles Songbook next. I tease, of course. The sisters sing like angels, and they deserve every bit of respect, praise, and admiration they receive.

As the accompanying booklet describes them, "The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles is a monastic institute of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph under the authority of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Consecrated to the Queen of Apostles, their lives are dedicated to contemplative prayer especially for priests. They support themselves primarily by making priestly vestments and tending a small farm. Professing obedience to the Church's teaching, the community
upholds a loving commitment to preserving the liturgical heritage of the Church in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and traditional monastic Office." Furthermore, "All proceeds designated by the contract either by flat fee, advance or royalties will be directed to the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, which is a registered charity. The funds will be used to assist the nuns in all aspects of their community."

Their aim this time out is the observance of Easter, the Resurrection of Christ, in twenty-seven musical selections. They describe the program in this way: "The holy season of Easter spans fifty days from Easter (tracks 1-18) through Ascension and the Feast of Mary, Queen of Apostles (tracks 19-23) and finally crowned by Pentecost (tracks 24-27). We pray that all who hear these hymns will be strengthened in their faith in the Risen Lord."

Here's the track list:

  1. Anonymous: "This Is the Day"
  2. Aichinger: "Regina Caeli"
  3. Köln Jesuit: "The Clouds of Night"
  4. Wipo: "Victimae Paschali"
  5. Traditional: "Alle Psallite Cum Luya"
  6. Anonymous: "Christ the Lord Hath Risen"
  7. Ravanello: "Haec Dies" (4 Part)
  8. Ravanello: "Pascha Nostrum"
  9. Anonymous: "Jesus Christ Is Ris'n Today"
10. Kichengesäng: "Regina Caeli Jubila"
11. Palestrina: "Alleluia Ye Sons"
12. Palestrina: "Sicut Cervus"
13. Tisserand: "O Sons and Daughters"
14. Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles: "Regina Caeli"
15. Saint Venance de Fortunat: "Salve Festa Dies"
16. Gallus: "Haec Dies" (8 Part)
17. Anonymous: "Exultemus Et Laetemur"
18. Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles: "Her Triumph"
19. Carturan: "Ascendit Deus"
20. Anonymous: "Sing We Triumphant Hymns of Praise"
21. Lassus: "Oculus Non Vidit"
22. De Corbeil: "Concordi Laetitia"
23. Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles: "Queen of Priests"
24. Herman: "Veni Sancte Spiritus"
25. Ravanello: "Confirma Hoc Deus"
26. Ravanello: "Veni Creator"
27. Lambilotte: "Come Holy Ghost"

The sisters sing some of the pieces in Latin, some in English. The composers noted above wrote most of the selections, although some are traditional, some anonymous, and some original to the choir. And, yes, they all my favorites, but if you're going to press me, here are a few I liked best: "Regina Caeli" and "The Clouds of Night" reflect the simplicity and grace of the choir. The Medieval flavor of "Victimae Paschali" takes us back to another age, as does "Alle Psallite Cum Luya," and they remind us just how long folks have been singing and enjoying these tunes. I loved the individual voices and harmonies in "Haec Dies," both 4 part and 8 part. "Confirma Hoc Deus" and "Veni Creator" also have a wonderfully grand, triumphant, yet gentle spirit about them.

As always, the sisters sing in sweet, heavenly harmony, their voices fluid and precise. You almost expect Julie Andrews to step out for a solo. And I suppose the two most striking aspects about the singers beyond their unquestioned musicality are their gentleness and simplicity. Their wholly unaffected vocals bring an added conviction and beauty to each piece they sing. They are quite remarkable.

Producer Christopher Alder and engineer Philip Siney recorded the songs for Decca Records and de Montfort Music at the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus, December 2014. The first thing one would probably notice about the sound is the realistically reverberant acoustic of its setting. The sisters really do sound as though they're singing in a natural acoustic. No close-up studio miking here, just a lifelike a flow of voices with a pleasant ambient bloom around them. Beyond that, the voices are clear and vibrantly captured, from the softest whisper to the loudest climax. The sound is wide, full, rich, and entirely satisfying.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 22, 2015

American Bach Soloists Announce 2015 Festival & Academy

Tickets for the 6th annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival—are now on sale. Titled "Versailles & The Parisian Baroque," the 2015 Festival will feature concerts, lectures, and colloquia that celebrate Bach's French contemporaries and the splendid music of the extravagant court at Versailles. Along with a survey of French masterworks by Couperin, Rameau, and others performed by ABS, Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead the ABS Festival Orchestra in the United States premiere of an opera by Marais and two performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor. All events will be held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, August 7-16.

The Festival opens with a two-part program celebrating Versailles & The Parisian Baroque, August 7-8. For Part I, Director Jeffrey Thomas leads ABS--"the best American specialists in early music"--in a trio of stunning orchestral works by three French Masters. The high-minded musical ideals and splendor of the era are fully evident in Jean-Philippe Rameau's Ouverture & Suite of dances from his opera Naïs.

From the grand to the intimate, ABS continues its exploration of the Parisian Baroque on August 8 with a look into the era's drawing rooms, private halls, and the Royal residence at Versailles, for a sampling of exquisite works by Marin Marais, François Couperin, André Campra, and Quirinus van Blankenburg, a Dutchman who felt it necessary to compose an answer to Campra's Les Femmes.

Bach's Mass in B Minor is the pinnacle of the Baroque repertory and ABS's annual Festival performances--"one of the best" according to the Wall Street Journal--draw Bach pilgrims to San Francisco from around the world. Jeffrey Thomas and the ABS Festival Orchestra, with vocal and instrumental soloists from the ABS Academy, perform the masterwork on each Sunday during the Festival, August 9 & 16.

On Friday, August 14, Marin Marais's 1709 opera Sémélé will be presented in its first complete performance outside of Europe. Utilizing a cast of musicians from the ABS Academy and Festival Orchestra, Jeffrey Thomas leads a concert version of this gem from the golden era of musical Paris.

Ticket information:
Festival Passes (8 concerts) $115–$296
Single tickets range from $10–$75
For more information, visit or call 415-621-790

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

92Y Art of the Guitar - American Guitarist Composers
"The Art of the Guitar" series continues this season at 92Y on March 28 at 8:00 PM with four established American composer-guitarists who bring their unique voices and share their dual roles. With Emmy and Grammy Awards, best-selling CDs, and top prizes in international guitar competitions, each of these artists truly represent what it means to be the total musician.

Frederic Hand and David Leisner, guitar
Tara Helen O'Connor, flute
Gyan Riley, guitar
Andrew York, guitar

Hand: For Julian, Sephardic Songs, Prayer, Samba
Leisner: Labyrinths for solo guitar, Acrobats for flute and guitar
Riley: Sombra, Six Etudes for the Right Hand, Irican
York: Glimmerings, Yamour, Centerpeace, Mechanism

For more information, visit

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

Attacca Quartet Performs "Seven Words" at the Met Museum, April 2
The Met Museum's 2014-2015 Quartet in Residence, the Attacca Quartet, brings "Seven Words" back to the museum during Holy Week, with a newly-edited video production from Ofri Cnaani, Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 7pm.

Returning to the Met Museum after its premiere in 2013 by the Salzburg Chamber Soloists, "Seven Words" provides a uniquely spiritual aural and visual experience that transcends the boundaries of any one religion. The renowned Attacca Quartet takes on this formidable project, described by The New York Times as "ambitious and thoughtful," for the first time together with video artist Ofri Cnaani at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on Thursday, April 2 at 7pm. Tickets are $45; visit for tickets or call 212-570-3949 for more information.

Performed in near-darkness, Seven Words juxtaposes Haydn's transformative Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross with a compelling and immersive live video installation, newly edited by Ofri Cnaani. For this performance, Attacca will perform the string quartet arrangement of the piece and collaborate with Cnaani on staging and direction. The power of Haydn's music, Cnaani's visuals, and the darkness of the room lend themselves to a meditative environment ideally suited for the solemnity of Holy Week. The power of "Seven Words," however, can be universally felt by members of all faiths.

For more information, visit

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Modigliani Quartet Embarks on Seven-City North American Tour April 9-20
The quartet's concert programs span centuries, ranging from Mozart and Beethoven to Shostakovich and Dohnányi. Appearances include Houston, Tulsa, Montreal, Sleepy Hollow, Dallas and both Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in New York.

The Modigliani Quartet, now in their twelfth year of playing together, will embark on a seven-city tour April 9th-20th, performing in Houston, Tulsa, Montreal, Dallas, Westchester and at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall and Town Hall in New York.. Their programs, which vary from city to city, include works by Beethoven, Debussy, Dohnányi, Mozart, Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Shostakovich.

Apr 9, 7:30 p.m. -  Houston, TX
Apr 11, 7:30 p.m. - Tulsa, OK
Apr 12, 3:00 p.m. - Tulsa, OK
Apr 14, 7:30 p.m. - New York, NY
Apr 15, 7:30 p.m. - Montreal, QC
Apr 18, 8:00 p.m. - Sleepy Hollow, NY
Apr 19, 2:00 p.m. - New York, NY
Apr 20, 8:00 p.m. - Dallas, TX

For more information, visit

--Rebecca Davis, Universal Music

Chicago Duo Piano Festival Presents Competition for Young Duos May 30
The Music Institute of Chicago's popular Chicago Duo Piano Festival, as part of its mission to foster the performance and teaching of music for piano duo for young performers, presents its 2015 Competition for Young Piano Duos May 30 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL.

The competition is open to students between the ages of eight and 18 in two divisions, Elementary and High School. Competitors may perform two or three works for piano duo—either four hands, one piano, or four hands, two pianos, or a combination. The winners concert takes place Saturday, May 30  at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. Chicago's classical music radio network WFMT will record the High School Division winners for later broadcast. Elementary Division prizes are $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $200 for third place. High School Division prizes are $800 for first place, $600 for second place, and $400 for third place. The judges will be experts in piano duo and ensemble performance who are not affiliated with the Music Institute.

The registration deadline is April 15, 2015. Information and an application are available at

The Competition for Young Piano Duos concert, which takes place Saturday, May 30 at 7 p.m. is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Decca Classics and Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal Announce Five-Year Partnership
The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is pleased to announce a five-year partnership agreement with Decca Classics, a prestigious label on which the Orchestra recorded about 80 albums from the beginning of the 1980s to the early 2000s. The OSM wished to share this happy development on the occasion its 2015-2016 season launch.

"We at the OSM are delighted to reunite with our historic partner and look forward to the special artistic projects which will result of this collaboration," stated Kent Nagano, music director.

"We're very happy to be re-signing with the prestigious international record label Decca, with whom we were highly active in the recording market for over 20 years. Even though the industry has undergone upheavals and the OSM itself has diversified the ways in which it supplies its music to audiences, our desire is to continue to make recordings that enable the Orchestra to maintain its international celebrity has never faded," stated Madeleine Careau, chief executive officer.

"It gives me great pleasure to see the return of the OSM to Decca, its recording home for so many years. Now in its magnificent new hall it is sounding back to its very best under the enterprising musical direction of Kent Nagano. The projects we have agreed, starting with L'Aiglon, add several world-premiere recordings to the catalogue, while maintaining the tradition of Francophone music that was so important during the Dutoit years. So all in all, this is a logical way to continue a much-cherished partnership," commented Paul Moseley, Managing Director of Decca.

The relationship with Decca started in 1980 when the OSM signed an exclusive contract with the label. The OSM recordings, under the Decca label, won about 40 national and international prizes, including two Grammys. The OSM is therefore particularly proud of returning to the label.

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Flash Sale - $5 Off Tickets to SESSIONS
Order your tickets to Philharmonia Baroque's SESSIONS this weekend and save $5 on every ticket with promo code ROSSI5.

Normally $25, your tickets will be just $20. Order your seats today. This offer expires on Monday, March 23.

A new concert experience!

Join conductor Nic McGegan and members of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale for a guided tour of music by Salamone Rossi, key Jewish composer of the Baroque era, as well as Rossi contemporaries including Claudio Monteverdi.

This special concert at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco includes a post-concert reception where you'll mingle with Nic and the musicians and enjoy complimentary wine from Boisset Family Estates.

SESSIONS: Italian Baroque Music from the Jewish Ghetto presented in association with Arts & Ideas at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Friday, March 27 @ 8 PM, Kanbar Hall - Jewish Community Center, 3200 California Street, San Francisco, CA.

For more information, visit

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Spring at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
Gil Shaham Plays Bach's Six Solos for Violin, with Original Films by David Michalek
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Mar 27 | 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Audra McDonald
*Limited Tickets Remain!*
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Mar 28 | 8pm | Weill Hall

Bobby McFerrin
*Additional Tickets Just Released!*
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Apr 10 | 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Concerto Koln
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Apr 11 | 7:30pm | Weill Hall

SFJazz Collective
MasterCard Performance Series
Fri, Apr 17 | 7:30pm | Weill Hall

Lila Downs
MasterCard Performance Series
Sat, Apr 18 | 7:30pm | Weill Hall

For more information, visit

--Green Music Center

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (SACD review)

Also, Songs and Dances of Death; Night on Bare Mountain. Ferruccio Furlanetto, bass; Valery Gergiev, Mariinsky Orchestra. Mariinsky MAR0553.

It seems like I've reviewed an uncommon number Mussorgsky recordings lately, most of them of Pictures at an Exhibition. Understandably, it's a popular piece of music, here rendered by Maestro Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra (now known more simply as the Mariinsky Orchestra) in the popular orchestral version by Ravel. How popular is the piece? Mr. Gergiev himself has practically made a career of it, recording the work previously on various labels with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Kirov Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and the Leningrad Philharmonic. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

Anyway, you already know that the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) wrote Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874 originally as a piano suite. He called his little collection of tone poems "sound pictures," but they didn't catch on too well with the public until years later when several different people orchestrated the suite, the most famous and most often recorded arrangement being the 1922 version we have here by French composer Maurice Ravel. Mussorgsky based the movements of the suite on his musical impressions of paintings by his friend, the artist and architect Viktor Hartmann. The idea is that someone (the composer? the conductor? the listener?) is wandering through a picture gallery viewing the paintings, which the composer recreates in music, going so far as to give us a musical number, a "Promenade," to accompany our stroll from time to time.

Each conductor who approaches the music gives us his or her take on the paintings, adding nuances of phrasing, rubato, contrast, dynamics, pauses, etc., to recreate as vivid a picture in our mind of each painting. How well you like Gergiev's approach may depend upon how you view the pictures yourself from past experience. Among my own favorite recordings of the music are those by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony (RCA and JVC) and Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra (EMI), but everybody surely has a preferred account with which to compare any newcomer. For me, Gergiev's account holds up well enough interpretively, if not quite so vividly as my own favorites.

After many years of refining his reading of Mussorgsky, you'd think he'd have it down pat by now. And maybe that's the problem. The reading sounds a little too pat to me. Tempos are never too fast nor too slow. Shadings of character and description are never too extreme nor too restrained. Things are essentially just right. Too right. While there is hardly a thing to fault, the whole rendition does not seem to me as colorful, as exciting, as impressive, as graphically pictorial as it might be, could be, or should be. But I'm probably overreacting. Most listeners will find the performance flawless, which it no doubt is.

Gergiev's best characterized sections I thought were "Children quarreling after play," if more like a somewhat subdued bickering; "The ballet of unhatched chicks," always pleasant fun; "The Market at Limoges," full of energetic bustle; "Catacombs" and "With the dead" enveloped in dark mystery; and "The hut on fowl's legs," which takes off splendidly.

Valery Gergiev
The other segments, though, left me a tad unmoved, and the concluding "Great Gate of Kiev" seemed more than a touch underwhelming.

More to my liking were the accompanying pieces, the four-movement Songs and Dances of Death (orchestrated by Dimitri Shostakovich) and Night on Bare Mountain (in the composer's own final version). In the former, bass Ferruccio Furlanetto handles the pathos, tragedy, and drama of the music with deep sympathy. In the latter, Gergiev conjures up a genuinely frightening sense of menace and dread.

Producers James Mallinson (Songs and Dances) and Vladimir Ryabenko (Pictures, Bare Mountain), and engineers Jonathan Stokes and Neil Hutchinson (Songs and Dances) and Vladimir Ryanbenko (Pictures, Bare Mountain) recorded the music in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia between 2010 and 2014. They made it in DSD (Direct Stream Digital) for SACD (Super Audio CD) playback. But since this is a hybrid disc, the listener can play it back using either an SACD player for multichannel or two-channel stereo or a common CD player for regular two-channel. I listened in two-channel SACD from a Sony SACD player.

There is good clarity involved, the midrange free of edge, brightness, or dullness. Left-to-right stereo spread is also fine, with a realistic frequency balance and a moderate degree of depth perception and hall resonance. My only two areas of concern, at least initially, were with the dynamic range and the deep-bass response, both of which sounded a bit limited to me until the very end. Fortunately, they come to life when the music needs them most, in "The Hut" and "Great Gate." Overall, the sonics are fairly natural, and they probably reflect the sound of the Marinsky players pretty accurately in their own hall.


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

Toch: Cello Concerto (CD review)

Also, Tanz-Suite. Susanne Muller-Hornbach, cello; Gerhard Muller-Hornbach, Mutare Ensemble. CPO 999 688-2.

Ernst Toch (1887-1964) was a Vienna-born Jewish composer much more well known in the 1920's than he is today. His career fell into decline when the Nazis forced him out of Germany in the 1930's, and he came to America to teach and write film scores. Still, his music has much to commend it. The two pieces represented on this 2002 CPO release, the Dance Suite and the Cello Concerto, derive from 1922 and 1925 respectively.

In the opening work, the Dance Suite, Toch has one foot set firmly in the nineteenth century and the other in the twentieth. Like his early twentieth-century contemporaries, Toch provides the Dance Suite with an abundance of pleasant, Romantic tunes, concluding with a traditional Viennese waltz. However, along the way he borrows heavily from people like Stravinsky, experimenting with sudden interruptions and occasional dissonant lines. He scored the piece for a small chamber ensemble of half a dozen players, and CPO's sound picks them up cleanly and accurately, if not with the greatest transparency I've heard from this label. Gerhard Muller-Hornbach and the Mutare Ensemble, a group I had never heard (or heard of) before play this and the accompanying concerto in efficient fashion. For the record, so to speak, the Mutare Ensemble has been around since its founding in 1982 in Frankfurt, Germany and has been going strong ever since.

The major piece on the disc is the Cello Concerto, and here I found things a bit less accessible. Toch wrote it for a competition and won fifth prize, the work becoming quite popular in Europe for several years thereafter. It's a concerto with much like the structure of a classical symphony (a medium Toch rejected in his early career but found quite agreeable in later life), although it emphasizes the accompanying instruments, about a dozen of them, almost as much as the featured cello. While there's some degree of imaginative writing in the Concerto and cellist Susanne Muller-Hornbch does what she can with it, it ultimately seems to me a somewhat barren affair.

Although CPO's sound is a bit overly warm and soft for my taste, at least for the nature of the music, it's a minor distraction. As usual with this label, the overall orchestral dimensions are solid; the dynamics are strong; and the frequency response, aside from being, as I say, a tad soft in the upper mids and lower treble, appears fairly well balanced.


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

Waxman: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman (HDCD review)

Charles Gerhardt, National Philharmonic Orchestra. HDTT HDCD423.

Franz Waxman (1906-1967) was one of a handful of great film composers born and educated in Europe--in his case Germany--who came to Hollywood just after the introduction of sound to motion pictures. Waxman took his place alongside such other notables as Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

In 1972 RCA asked American conductor Charles Gerhardt (1927-1999) and the National Philharmonic Orchestra to make a series of classic film score albums, which they did, completing fourteen of them between 1972 and 1978. They were highly successful largely because of Gerhardt's personal pride in the music and careful preparation of the texts and because of the excellence of the sound RCA afforded him. On the present disc, we have Gerhardt's renditions of eight Franz Waxman film scores in abbreviated form (obviously, Gerhardt didn't have room for the complete soundtrack scores of all eight movies). More important, we have the music remastered by HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), who always do such a fine job ensuring that we hear the best sound possible.

The selections included on the program are "Music from Prince Valiant," "A Place in the Sun Suite," "The Bride of Frankenstein," "Music from Sunset Boulevard," "Old Acquaintance Elegy for Strings," "Music from Rebecca," "Music from The Philadelphia Story," and "Tara Bulba: The Ride to Dubno."

Gerhardt, as I say, had a flair for this kind of thing. Take the opening track, for instance, the "Prince Valiant" music. It begins with the kind of swashbuckling fanfare pioneered by Franz Liszt in Les Preludes, Richard Strauss in Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben, and Erich Korngold in "The Sea Hawk," a tradition that John Williams would continue in "Star Wars." Here, Gerhardt has fun with it, emphasizing the connections to its antecedents and making a grand, sweeping statement. Yet when the suite comes to its gentler passages, Gerhardt is up the task with a sweet, smooth touch.

And so it goes throughout the program. I liked the lush, bluesy feeling of "A Place in the Sun"; the busy-then-languid L.A.-Hollywood atmosphere of "Sunset Boulevard"; the mysterious yet romantic moods of Hitchcock's "Rebecca"; the excitement of "Taras Bulba"; heck, I even liked the MGM lion's roar in "The Philadelphia Story."

Probably my absolute favorite music among the bunch, though, is the selection from "The Bride of Frankenstein." The movie itself is, for me, a milestone in filmmaking, from its impressionistic set design, contrasting shadow effects, free-flowing camera work, and innovative direction to Waxman's eerie, grotesque, expressionistic musical score, with its haunting central subject. Gerhardt plays it wonderfully, exposing every dark corner of the story.

Producer George Korngold and engineer Kenneth Wilkinson recorded the scores at Kingsway Hall, London in July 1974, and HDTT transferred the recording from an RCA 4-track Dolby-encoded Quadraphonic tape in 2015. HDTT make the disc available in 4.0 multichannel-surround 24-bit/192 kHz downloads on FLAC or Blu-ray and in two-channel stereo on CD, DVD, HQCD, and various downloads including PCM FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz and 24-bit 192 kHz.

There's a very wide dynamic range involved, so be prepared for some realistic sonics, with excellent impact. It also sounds well balanced, a tad dark in tone but with none of the frequencies appearing to upstage the others. The bass is strong and firm; the midrange is clear, well focused; and the highs sparkle. Moreover, there is a good deal of dimensionality to the sound, left-right, front-back, and enough hall resonance to remind one of a real concert. This is very impressive, very lifelike sound, the kind we don't find in much of today's close-up and made-live recordings.

For further information on HDTT's various configurations, formats (CD, HQCD, FLAC, DSD, DVD-24, DVD-24, etc.), and prices, you can visit their Web site at


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

Russian Recital (CD review)

Jorge Federico Osorio, piano. Cedille CDR 90000 153.

Jorge Federico Osorio is a virtuoso pianist of international repute, with any number of fine recordings to his credit. Although he has released discs for Vox, ASV, Regis, O.M., Artek, EMI, and others, lately he's been recording for Cedille. In my experience listening to the man's performances, he has never demonstrated anything but sensitive, committed playing. He continues that tradition here, performing four Russian pieces by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Mussorgsky.

The first item on Osorio's program is the Piano Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 82, by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). One of the composer's "war sonatas" because he wrote it near the beginning of the Second World War, the piece displays an uncommon belligerence, at one point Prokofiev instructing the pianist to strike the keyboard with his fist. The work's four movements have an inevitability about their forward momentum, and Osorio nicely conveys that sense of continual motion and power. He punctuates everything with a kind of nervous energy that heightens the violence of the mood. Still, when it comes to the third-movement waltz, Osorio takes it softly and slowly, emphasizing the melancholy of the music, the degree of human suffering that war produces. Then it's back to that nervous energy again in the finale, where Osorio accents every note with an urgency of feeling and imagination.

Next is "Romeo and Juliet Before Parting" from Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Op. 75. The ballet music couldn't be more different from the sonata in mood, so it makes a fine contrast. More important, Osorio plays it with a comfortable longing. It's beautiful, moving music, played beautifully and movingly.

After that is the Prelude and Fugue No. 24 in D minor by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1957). These tunes were the composer's homage to Bach, with nods to Chopin and Debussy. They are a brief collection of descriptive musical episodes based in part on Russian folk tunes. Osorio's wide-ranging performance easily encompasses the varied passions of the numbers, connecting the dots efficiently as he goes along and unifying what can sometimes sound like a merely eclectic and disconnected set of parts.

Jorge Federico Osorio
Concluding the program, we find the real highlight: the original piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition, subtitled "A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann," by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). It is, of course, a suite of "pictures," tone poems, based on drawings and watercolors by the artist and architect Viktor Hartmann. Although the world probably knows the several orchestral versions of the work better than the piano version, the piano version holds its own pretty well, especially when played as expressively as Osorio plays it.

One needs to understand going in, however, that Osorio's walk through the gallery is not so much a leisurely stroll as it is almost a sprint. In other words, he takes the "promenades" at a fairly brisk pace. But, fortunately, when it comes to the actual "pictures," he slows down to contemplate each piece and does a pretty good job with their characterizations. While perhaps the clarity of Osorio's vision (and playing) is a trifle too astringent at times for a full appreciation of every nuance Mussorgsky intends, it does add to the vividness of each scene. "The Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells" is especially persuasive, as are "Bydlo" and "The Catacombs." I found "The Marketplace," though, a little too busy. As for the big finish, "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" and "The Great Gate of Kiev," Osorio does them up pretty well, even though I longed for a bit more excitement and grandness in these closing pages, which Osorio unexpectedly takes at a slightly less lively gait than he provided at the start. Nevertheless, he captures much of their color, and that's what matters most.

What else do we need to know about the sound except that Bill Maylone engineered it? OK, it's a Cedille release, produced by James Ginsburg, and Maylone did the sound. That combination automatically makes it a good recording. The sound comes through with the kind of crystalline clarity that only a good piano in an acoustically desirable room can provide. While there is a mild ambient bloom present, the overall impression one gets is of utmost transparency, with quick transients and strong impact on the keys. Maylone has miked the instrument at a modest distance, so the piano is neither too large nor too distant. The listener is close enough to enjoy the full force of the piano yet far enough way for the instrument to take on a sweet, resonant bloom.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 15, 2015

Virginia Arts Festival Presents Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle April 18-19

The Virginia Arts Festival presents a spectacular staging of the Bartók Opera Bluebeard's Castle on April 18 and 19 at Norfolk's Chrysler Hall. The production features conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, soprano Rebecca Nash, baritone Charles Robert Austin, and a set comprised of stunning glass sculptures by world renowned artist Dale Chihuly.

Chihuly's glass sculptures are miracles of light and form: glass blown and blasted, teased and twisted into fantastical shapes, brilliantly colored, reflecting and absorbing light, casting their own shadow-play and inviting endless contemplation.

Having first appeared as a 17th-century French folk tale, Bluebeard's Castle portrays the legend of the cruel and murderous Bluebeard. It is the haunting story of an aristocrat feared by all and fatal to his many wives, each of whom arrived at his castle after matrimony—and were never seen again. Bartók's richly dark, ominous and brooding music is punctuated by phrases of almost unbearable tension, casting a spell that magnificently embraces the lurid story.

Blackbeard's Castle will be performed at Norfolk's Chrysler Hall on Saturday, April 18th at 8pm, and Sunday, April 19th at 3pm. Tickets range from $20-$125 and may be purchased beginning February 17, online at, by phone at 757-282-2822, or in person at the Festival Box Office (440 Bank St., Norfolk).

To complement this magnificent production of Bluebeard's Castle, the Chrysler Museum of Art (One Memorial Place, Norfolk) will host a related event, Chihuly in the Garden, from April 11 – June 7. For more information call (757) 664-6200.

For further information, visit

--Susannah Luthi, Bucklesweet Media

Cleveland International Piano Competition Presents First International Young Artists Competition, May 12-21
Presented by the prestigious Cleveland International Piano Competition, CIPC Young Artists Competition and Institute seeks to develop the performance capabilities of young piano students, renew their commitment to piano studies, and provide a valuable learning experience. Launched in 2003 as a one-day competition and institute for Ohio piano students ages 12 to 18, CIPC Young Artists has been reorganized this year as a 10-day international competition. In addition to cash prizes the First Prize winner in the Senior Division will receive a debut recital at The Frick Collection in New York on August 13.

This year, CIPC Young Artists has received an overwhelming response from an exceptional field of candidates for the first international expansion of the competition. Six continents are represented, with applicants from countries as wide ranging as South Africa, China, Mexico, and Australia. The 2015 competition will be held from May 12-21, with events at Baldwin Wallace University and the Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium. CIPC Young Artists will partner with the Canton Symphony Orchestra for the final round, which will be held Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Gartner Auditorium. Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann will conduct. The semi-final and final rounds will also stream live on CIPC's homepage:

A jury of distinguished artists and teachers from many different international backgrounds, including South Korea, Serbia/Croatia and China, has been selected to judge the 25 contestants. CIPC Young Artists is also pleased to welcome to the jury 2011 Cleveland International Piano Competition Mixon First Prize winner Alexander Schimpf.

For detailed information about the competition, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

100 Concerts in 16 Days: MIC's Community Music Festival
The Music Institute of Chicago, transforming lives through music education for 85 years, is giving back to its communities with a Community Music Festival of unprecedented scope: 100 concerts across the Chicago area at community centers, libraries, seniors centers, and other grassroots venues from April 17 to May 3, 2015.

The Festival showcases some of the more than 1,600 students from 86 communities in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, all volunteering their time. Locations of some public performances include the McGaw YMCA in Evanston April 25 at noon; Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview April 28 at 4 p.m., the Crystal Ballroom and Lounge in Evanston May 1 at 10:30 a.m. (featuring the Music Institute's adult Community Symphony and the New Horizons Band); the Fine Arts Building in Chicago May 2 at 4 p.m.; and Skokie Public Library May 16 at 4 p.m.

"The Music Institute exists to lead everyone in our community toward a lifelong engagement with music," said Music Institute President and CEO Mark George. "To truly fulfill this vision, we must share what we do with our neighbors, especially those who normally do not have access to live music. We consider this Festival a true community service, a way of giving back to our communities by sharing our students' talents and spreading the joy music so often brings. We also want to remind people that the Music Institute is an important resource for Chicagoland families, engaging thousands of students of all ages and levels of experience in music-making, as well as presenting music concerts and cultural events to nearly 15,000 audience members each year."

Media sponsorship for the Community Music Festival is provided by Make It Better. For information, visit or follow the Music Institute on Twitter @MICcommunity.

Book-ending the community events are two world-class chamber music concerts, sponsored by Gael and Robert Strong and the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, at the Music Institute's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston:

Cavani Quartet – Sunday, April 19, 3 p.m.
Called "warmly lyrical" by the New York Times, the highly regarded Cavani Quartet, ensemble in residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, celebrates its 30th anniversary at Nichols Concert Hall. The program includes the Mendelssohn Octet, also featuring students from the Music Institute's Academy for gifted pre-college musicians.

Ying Quartet – Saturday, May 2, 7:30 p.m.
The Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest musical order. Quartet-in-residence at the Eastman School of Music, this distinguished Music Institute alumni group performs classic repertoire along with works the quartet has commissioned. Special media sponsor for this performance is Mandarin Quarterly.

Tickets for each concert—Cavani Quartet on April 19 at 3 p.m. and Ying Quartet on May 2 at 7:30 p.m.—are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students, available at or 800-838-3006.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Internationally Acclaimed Russian Pianist - Nikolai Lugansky 92Y Debut
March 24, 2015 at 92Y. Nikolai Lugansky, one of the leading Russian pianists today, makes his 92Y debut with overlooked rarities by Tchaikovsky, and more popular works of Schubert.

Schubert: Two Scherzos, D. 593
Schubert: Sonata in C minor, D. 958
Tchaikovsky: Selections from The Seasons, Op. 37b
Tchaikovsky: Sonata in G major, Op. 37

For more information, visit

--Ely Moskowitz, Kirshbaum Demler & Associates

West Edge Opera Announces Second of Opera Medium Rare's 2015 Productions
West Edge Opera's second in the 2015 series of Opera Medium Rare, lesser-known operas by well-known composers performed in concert format, is Donizetti's Poliuto on Saturday, March 28, 1 pm at the Rossmoor Event Center and Wednesday, April 1, 8pm at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage. Each performance is accompanied by piano and a small chamber ensemble. English supertitles also include stage directions to set the scenes.

Conducted by Jonathan Khuner from the piano, the performance features Elizabeth Zharoff as Paolina, Michael Desnoyers as Poliuto, Anders Froehlich as Severo, John Bischoff as Callistene, Michael Jankosky as Nearco and Sigmund Seigel as Felice.

With a unique blend of vocal expressiveness, outstanding musicianship, and commanding stage presence, soprano Elizabeth Zharoff is emerging as one of opera's most compelling new young artists. She comes to West Edge Opera fresh from performances as Violetta in La Traviata at the English National Opera. She has sung with Opéra National de Bordeaux (Giunia in Mozart's Lucio Silla), Semperoper Dresden and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (Pamina in Die Zauberflöte), Opera Philadelphia (Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte). This June she will create the role of Esther in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera, and in October sings Leila in The Pearl Fishers with Seattle Opera. In the summer of 2011, Ms. Zharoff won great acclaim as a finalist for the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and was recognized as "the most distinctive voice of the evening" for her performance at the Merola Opera Program's summer concert.

In Poliuto, Donizetti turned one of the most famous classical 17th century French dramas (Polyeucte, by Pierre Corneille) into a modern 19th century lyric opera. At the height of his powers, he added Italian melodrama to a firmly constructed plot of religious and moral conflict. The story's historical roots are of the 3rd century Polyeuctus of Armenia, who, having forsaken his wealthy establishment paganism, marched defiantly to martyrdom under the Roman yoke, becoming a revered saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The result is a delightful combination of charming tunes and serious stagecraft.

The Rossmoor Event Center is at 1010 Stanley Dollar Drive, Rossmoor, Walnut Creek, CA and Freight and Salvage is at 2020 Addison Street in downtown Berkeley's arts district. Tickets are $20 for general seating at both venues, with a $40.00 VIP ticket at Rossmoor that includes a wine reception with the artists following the concert. Advance sales at Freight and Salvage are $16.

Tickets for all performances are available online at Rossmoor Tickets can also be purchased by phone on the West Edge Ticketline, 510-841-1903, and Freight and Salvage tickets by phone are purchased by calling: 510-644-2020 extension120. For more information, go to West Edge Opera's website at

--Marian Kohlstedt, West Edge Opera

Bach's Birthday Celebrations with American Bach Soloists
Bach's Birthday Celebration will feature Anthony Newman, harpsichord & organ, with
Joshua Romatowski, flute.

The program will include Bach's Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, Toccata, Adagio, & Fugue in C Major, Flute Sonata in E-flat Major, and other works by Bach, Couperin, and Newman.

Friday March 20 2015 8:00 p.m. - St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Special Event Ticket Prices $15 ~ $50

For more information, visit

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

A Big Thank You from FAYM
Individuals like you who make donations help FAYM (the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians) inspire over 130 young students every week at the East Las Vegas Community Center to DREAM BIG as they develop their minds and positive outlook through their tuition-free violin lessons and participation in FAYM's Youth Orchestra.

More BIG NEWS! FAYM expanded the "Violin for Kids Program" to West Las Vegas  and is enrolling 40 third graders from KR Booker Elementary, 100 Academy and West Prep to start classes at the Pearson Community Center this month.

To see your gifts at work and play, click here

This June FAYM will offer a 2-week day camp for 65 high school string players. Students from four Title I high schools will audition to participate in this tuition-free opportunity.

Your continued support will expand these valuable programs to serve more young people in our community.

For more information, visit

--Hal Weller, FAYM

Music Institute Chorale Presents "A Day at the Zoo" March 29
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale, conducted by Daniel Wallenberg, offers families a musical menagerie of animal songs with its concert program "A Day at the Zoo" Sunday, March 29 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

The program offers animal-themed songs from different musical periods, featuring the world premiere of "Two by Two" by Bob Applebaum. Other songs on the program include "The Cuckoo" by Benjamin Britten, the South African folk song "Unonkal"  (The Crab), "Warnung!" (Warning! The Scorpion) by Joseph Haydn, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by Solomon Linda, "The Woodpecker" by Stephen Chatman, "Counterpoint of the Animals" by Adriano Banchieri, and more.

The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale presents "A Day at the Zoo" Sunday, March 29 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for students, available at For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Augustin Hadelich Makes San Francisco Recital Debut
Augustin Hadelich will make his San Francisco recital debut on March 22 at the Marines' Memorial Theater as part of the Chamber Music San Francisco series. Together with pianist Joyce Yang, Hadelich will perform a diverse program of works by Janácek, Previn, Schumann, Stravinsky and Ysaÿe.

An enthusiastic recitalist and chamber musician, Augustin has won widespread acclaim for his solo performances, collaborative prowess, and inventive programming. On the occasion of his debut at New York City's Frick Collection in December 2009, The New Yorker's Alex Ross called it a "riveting recital," continuing, "The crucial thing was the command of color: luminous sweetness in Beethoven and Prokofiev, a wide, ruddy tone in Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy," and savage sounds for Schnittke, including something like electric-guitar fuzz ... Here is a young artist with no evident limitations." He has performed recitals in venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Kioi Hall in Tokyo, the Louvre in Paris, the Wigmore Hall in London, and on chamber music series in Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle and Vancouver. When he appeared in recital at the Kennedy Center in December 2011, The Washington Post enthused, "the essence of Hadelich's playing is beauty: reveling in the myriad ways of making a phrase come alive on the violin, delivering the musical message with no technical impediments whatsoever, and thereby revealing something from a plane beyond ours."

For more information, visit

--Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space Presents "Passion: Sacrifice and Surrender," April 25
Renowned conductor K. Scott Warren leads the Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola in this breathtaking program for Lent featuring Gregorian chant and a cappella motets by Tallis, Lassus, Gesualdo, Purcell and others. The concert—part of the venerable Sacred Music in a Sacred Space series—will take place amidst the Venetian mosaics depicting the way of the cross at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola (980 Park Avenue at 84th St., NYC) on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $25-$80.

Conductor K. Scott Warren and the impeccable Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola invite you to join them on a powerful journey through Jesus's final moments at "Passion: Sacrifice and Surrender," a program of music for unaccompanied choir featuring Gregorian chant and 16th- and 17th-century motets.

From the Last Supper to Jesus' final utterances on the cross, Sacred Music in a Sacred Space offers a potent personal meditation on sacrifice, surrender and transcendence for Lent, just days before Palm Sunday.

Anchored by Thomas Tallis's motet setting of The Lamentations of Jeremiah and Orlande de Lassus's haunting Stabat Mater, this purposefully unadorned program creates a hushed space for reflection, illuminating the most profound aspects of Holy Week and how they relate to the trials of our own spiritual journeys. Lose yourself in the plaintive polyphony of Purcell, Lotti, Byrd, Gesualdo and more, suspended in the vibrant acoustics of St. Ignatius Loyola. Atmospheric lighting underscores the striking beauty of the Upper East Side church's sanctuary and its stunning Venetian marble mosaics depicting the Stations of the Cross.

For more information, visit

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Cecilia Bartoli Cancels California Tour
Cal Performances has been informed by Universal Music Arts & Entertainment (U-Live) "that regrettably …, due to unforeseen circumstances, Cecilia Bartoli must cancel her scheduled appearances in California this month and next." Ms. Bartoli was scheduled to perform on Saturday and Thursday, March 21 and 26, at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center; on Monday, March 23, at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County; and on Tuesday and Thursday, March 31 and April 2, in Zellerbach Hall, presented by Cal Performances.

Patrons may apply the value of the tickets toward another Cal Performances event in the 2014—2015 season, donate their tickets, or request a refund. If you would like to apply the value of your tickets toward another Cal Performances event in the current season, please call the Ticket Office at 510-642-9988 by March 27, 2015 to make the necessary arrangements. If we do not hear from you by that date, we will presume that you would like a refund and will issue you one shortly thereafter. Refunds will be issued to the credit card with which tickets were charged or by check for other payment methods. If you had a paid parking reservation, it will also be refunded.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and we thank you for supporting Cal Performances.

--Rusty Barnes, Cal Performances

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to 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, Goldpoint SA4 “passive preamp,” Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura’s hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to

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