Classical Music News of the Week, July 19, 2015

Orion Ensemble's 23rd Season Offers Fantasies and Enchantments

The 2015-16 season opens with a world premiere, and includes four programs in downtown Chicago, Evanston, and Geneva, Illinois.

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, announces its 23rd season, Fantasies and Enchantments, welcoming guest artists and featuring a range of compositions from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Orion performs each of its four concert programs at venues spanning the Chicagoland area, including the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago, the First Baptist Church of Geneva and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Il.

The season opens with "French and German Tapestries," with guest violist Stephen Boe, considered one of the finest chamber musicians in Chicago. The program includes a world premiere by prolific composer and longtime Mannheim Steamroller keyboardist Jackson Berkey, Homage to Percy Bysshe Shelley for Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano. The program also includes three works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Divertimento in E-flat Major for String Trio, K. 563; Fantasy in C Minor for Piano, K. 396; and Trio (Kegelstatt) in E-flat Major for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, K. 498-and Gabriel Fauré's Quartet in C Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 15. Performances take place September 20 (Geneva), October 4 (Evanston) and October 7 (Chicago).

In a program of 20th century music, "Harp Fantasy" features the Orion debut of guest harp virtuoso Ben Melsky, a member of the highly acclaimed Ensemble Dal Niente and principal harpist for the Joffrey Ballet and Ann Arbor Symphony. The program includes Jacques Ibert's Trio for Violin, Cello and Harp (1944); Camille Saint-Saëns's Fantaisie in A Major for Violin and Harp, Op. 124 (1907); Ralph Vaughan Williams's Six Studies in English Folksong for Clarinet and Harp (1923); John Ireland's Fantasy Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1945); and Frank Bridge's Phantasie Trio in C Minor for Violin, Cello and Piano (1908). Performances are November 22 (Geneva), November 29 (Evanston) and December 2 (Chicago).

The Ensemble's third concert program of the season, "American Landscape," showcases the Orion musicians. Repertoire includes Jackson Berkey's Earth Voices for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (1994); Rick Sowash's Anecdotes and Reflections for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (1988); and Antonín Dvorák's Trio (Dumky) in E Minor for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 90. Performances are March 13 (Geneva), March 20 (Evanston) and March 23 (Chicago).

The season concludes with "Musical Enchantments," welcoming back guest violinist Mathias Tacke, former second violinist of the Vermeer Quartet, and violist Stephen Boe. They join Orion for Antonín Dvorák's Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola, Op. 75a; Amy Beach's Quintet in F-sharp Minor for String Quartet and Piano, Op. 67 (1908); and Johannes Brahms's Quintet in B Minor for Clarinet and Strings, Op. 115. Performances are May 29 (Geneva), June 1 (Chicago) and June 5 (Evanston).

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

FWOpera Returns to the "Camelot Era" with the 2015 Presidential Gala
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) invites area arts lovers to return to the "Camelot Era" during its 55th annual Fort Worth Opera Ball, taking place Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 6:30pm at The Worthington Renaissance Hotel in downtown Fort Worth, TX. Recalling the glamor and elegance of the Kennedy White House of the early 1960s, FWOpera's Presidential Gala will inaugurate the company's 70th anniversary year and 10th Festival season, while celebrating the long-awaited and highly-anticipated world premiere commissioned opera JFK, by renowned creative duo David T. Little and Royce Vavrek. FWOpera's annual ball is the company's most financially impactful fundraiser of the year, with all proceeds going directly toward funding the company's state-wide arts outreach program, as well as, the annual Fort Worth Opera Festival.

This memorable, themed black-tie soiree will certainly be a night to remember as guests enjoy specially-crafted cocktails inspired by the early 60s while mingling with cigarette girls and secret servicemen. Following the cocktail hour, attendees will partake in a chef-created three course dinner with wine pairings, reminiscent of a Kennedy-era State dinner. After dinner, guests can enjoy a high-energy dance party featuring the music of IN10CITY, casino gaming, and a spirited raffle featuring several high-dollar prizes. The evening will also honor special guest Cornelia "Corky" Friedman – wife of the late former Mayor Bayard Friedman – and will also feature FWOpera's own "Jack and Jackie," baritone Matthew Worth and soprano Daniella Mack, who will perform a selection from the upcoming world premiere opera.

At 9:00pm, the Presidential Gala will welcome the city's most in-the-know young professionals as part of an exclusive after party called "The Cellar" – a nod to Fort Worth's wildest nightclub of the era. Tickets for "The Cellar" after party are just $75 a piece and include cocktails, gaming, and dancing.

Individual tickets for this once-a-year experience are $375 a piece. Tables and sponsorships are available upon request. For more information and to purchase tickets to the Presidential Gala or "The Cellar" after party, visit or contact Emily Weir at or by phone at 817-288-1214.

For more information about the Gala or the opera, visit

--Christina Allen, FWOpera

Wizard of Oz Film with Live Music from California Symphony Aug. 21 at Concord Pavilion
The California Symphony presents the beloved classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, and performs the complete, live orchestral accompaniment as the movie is shown on a giant screen at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, Friday, August 21 at 8:30 pm.

Conductor Sarah Hicks leads the orchestra in some of the best-loved movie songs and music of all time, including Harold Arlen and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg's "Over the Rainbow," "We're Off to See the Wizard," "If I Only Had a Brain," "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead," "The Merry Old Land of Oz," and many more, as well as the underscore by composer Herbert Stothart. Judy Garland and the other actors' original vocal performances are preserved and enhanced, so they can be fully heard and enjoyed as the orchestra plays. The film's restored images are accompanied by the orchestra playing entirely new transcriptions of Harold Arlen's brilliant lost scores. The production is by Emmy Award-winning producer John Goberman (Live from Lincoln Center). Tickets for The Wizard of Oz are $25 to $75 for adults and $10 for students 18 years old and younger, and are on sale now at

--Jean Shirk Media

2015 PARMA Music Festival
Friday, August 14 – Sunday, August 16, 2015
Portsmouth, NH & Kittery, ME

Classical music.
Contemporary music.
Local and international acts.
8 concerts. 7 venues. 3 days.
Breaking barriers. Bridging genres.

For complete information, visit

--Janet Giovanniello, PARMA Music Festival

Ettore Stratta, Conductor, Producer, Pianist, Composer: 1933-2015
Ettore Stratta, Renaissance music man, "Pioneer of Crossover," passed away July 9 at 82.

As "The Pioneer of Crossover", he created "Switched on Bach" (for CBS) and then went out on his own and produced historic crossover recordings which he also conducted:  "Symphonic Tango," "Symphonic Bossa Nova," "Symphonic Boleros" (Teldec) with The Royal Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, arrangements by Jorge Callandrelli, who he discovered. Top artists such as Al Jarreau, Dori Caymmi, Hubert Laws, Paquito  D'Rivera, were included in these recordings , part of his signature of 'crossover'. He was a master when it came to repertoire for such recordings. Maestro Stratta also conducted for the London Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, St Lukes Symphony Orchestra, L' Orchestra de Lille in France, and many more.

Other masterpieces were with Placido Domingo, Jose Cura (Bway with orchestra), Sumi Jo (Bway with orchestra) which sold over a millions copies, Eddie Daniels's "Breakthrough" (GRP), Emmanuel Ax  with Pablo Ziegler (Sony), Yo-Yo Ma and Stephane Grappelli (Yo-Yo's first outside venture… Classical to Jazz - Sony). Other greats were Chanticleer with orchestra, Justino Diaz singing Mozart Arias with English Chamber Orchestra, The Four Seasons Vivaldi, and so many more. He also fought for the Classical Crossover category for the Grammy's of which he was a Trustee and Governor for many years and succeeded.

Ettore Stratta was a class act all the way, a beloved  man by his peers for his integrity, charm, warm personality, humor, was humble  and talented.  In his loving family,  he leaves behind his wife Pat Philips Stratta, his sons Paul and Luca, stepsons Brad and Evan, three daughter-in-laws Carla, Radia, and Ashley, and five grandchildren: Manuka, Isabella, Sophie, Rianne, and Luke.

--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

Noteworthy Musicians Join Music Institute Faculty
The Music Institute of Chicago reaffirms its role as one of the most respected community music schools in the country with the addition of key faculty in its Voice, String, and Piano Departments.

Voice: Philip Kraus
Philip Kraus has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago since 1990, including creating the role of the southern Senator John Calhoun in the world premiere of Anthony Davies' Amistad. He also has performed with the Minnesota Opera, Cleveland Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and more. He holds a doctor of music degree from Northwestern University, has taught at DePaul University, and headed the Opera Department at Roosevelt University. He also founded Light Opera Works in 1980 and served as its artistic director for 19 seasons.

String/Violin: Jasmine Lin
Jasmine Lin is a founding member of the Formosa Quartet, which won first prize in the 10th London International String Quartet Competition. A Chicago native, she has performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and symphony orchestras in Singapore, Taiwan, Uruguay, Brazil, and more. A graduate of Curtis Institute of Music, she also is a member of Trio Voce and Chicago Chamber Musicians.

Piano: Keiko Alexander
Keiko Alexander recently served on the piano faculty of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. A graduate of the Juilliard School, she toured with members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and served as chair of the Piano Department at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in the United States, Canada, and Japan.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Enter to Win a $300 Gift Card!
Green Music Center, Sonoma State University.

No purchase necessary to enter or win. "Enter to Win" is open to U.S. legal residents only.

Participation constitutes entrant's full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules. The "Enter to Win" sweepstakes began at 10:00 A.M. PST on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 and ends at 11:59 P.M. PST on Friday, July 31, 2015. "Enter to Win" is sponsored by Sonoma State University's Green Music Center, 1801 E. Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA, 94928.

For complete information and rules, visit or

--Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

Three U.S. Singers Through to Finals of Plácido Domingo's 2015 Operalia
For the first time in its 22 year history, Operalia, Plácido Domingo's international singing competition, is being held in London, hosted by the Royal Opera House.  Earlier this week, the 40 contestants drawn from 21 countries took part in three days of preliminary rounds performing in front of the competition's international jury.

The Gala Concert, which sees the 11 remaining finalists compete, will be held on Covent Garden's main stage at 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, accompanied by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Plácido Domingo. Live streamed by Medici TV, the Gala Concert will be followed by an awards ceremony during which Plácido Domingo presents prizes from the competition's seven award categories: First, Second, Third, Birgit Nilsson, Zarzuela, Audience and Culturarte.

Founded in 1993 with the aim of discovering and helping launch the careers of today's most promising young opera singers, Operalia is open to singers of all voice types between the ages of 18 and 32.  Amongst the winners from the last 22 years are artists of the calibre of Angel Blue, Joseph Calleja, José Cura, Joyce DiDonato, Carmen Giannattasio, Ana María Martínez, Ailyn Pérez, Erwin Schrott, Nina Stemme, Rolando Villazón and Sonya Yoncheva.

Kiandra Howarth, soprano, 25*

Julien Behr, tenor, 32

New Zealand
Darren Pene Pati, tenor, 27*

Lise Davidsen, soprano, 28

Ioan Hotea, tenor, 25

South Africa
Bongani Justice Kubheka, bass-baritone, 24
Noluvuyiso Mpofu, soprano, 26

South Korea
Hye Sang Park, soprano, 26

Andrea Carroll, soprano, 25
Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone, 26
Edward Parks, baritone, 31

--Macbeth Media Relations

Live Broadcast: McGegan at Caramoor, July 19
Join us on Sunday, July 19 at 4:30 pm for a live broadcast from the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, New York. Nicholas McGegan conducts the Orchestra of St Luke's in a program of pieces by Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. American violinist Jennifer Koh is the soloist.

All three works on this program have Austrian roots, starting with Mozart's "Little G minor" symphony, his first symphony in a minor key and written when he was still a teenager. Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, despite having just two movements completed, remains his most popular orchestral work; while Beethoven's Violin Concerto stands out as a lyrical and expressive middle-period masterpiece.

The Orchestra of St. of Luke's began as a chamber ensemble in a Greenwich Village church and returns to its summer Caramoor residency as it celebrates its 40th season.

Jennifer Koh is a high-octave violinist noted for her performance of repertoire ranging from traditional to contemporary. Koh's special interest in Bach is shown in her three part Bach and Beyond series that explores solo violin repertoire from Bach's Sonatas and Partitas as well modern day composers.

British conductor Nicholas McGegan, music director of the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, is best-known as a Baroque music authority, though he has also branched out into Classical, Romantic, 20th and 21st century repertoire. Among his many notable releases is the world premiere recording of Handel's Susanna, earning him both a Gramophone Award and a Grammy nomination.

For more information, visit!/story/jennifer-koh-orchestra-st-lukes-caramoor-festival/

--Schwalbe and Partners

American Bach Soloists News
Alliance Francais ABS Collaboration
ABS collaboration with Alliance Française begins July 21

ABS will collaborate with Alliance Française de San Francisco in three exciting French-themed programs this month, leading up to this summer's ABS Festival & Academy, "Versailles & The Parisian Baroque" (August 7-16). We hope to see you at the Alliance Française (1345 Bush Street, San Francisco) for this pre-Festival celebration of French culture, cinema, and music. Save the dates and arrive early to get a good seat!

"Baroque Marathon" opens second week of ABS Festival & Academy
This year, the Academy-In-Action Series, which traditionally opens the second week of Festival activities, will undergo an exciting metamorphosis into a "Baroque Marathon." Featuring instrumental and vocal soloists from the ABS Academy, the Marathon will include three sessions: two on August 10 (3:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.) and a concluding one on August 11 (8:00 p.m.). The August 11 session will include a complete performance of Bach's Cantata 131 conducted by ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas.

Festival Primer: Versailles, The Parisian Baroque, and Bach!
The upcoming ABS Festival & Academy, "Versailles & The Parisian Baroque," will take place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from August 7-16. While the concerts, lectures, and public colloquium will emphasize the French composers who established a style and tradition all their own, the great J.S. Bach will also get his due during the two-week festival. We provide some listening, viewing, and reading recommendations to get you in the spirit before this two-week immersion in the Parisian Baroque begins.

For more information, visit

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa