Classical Music News of the Week, August 16, 2015

Ailyn Peréz Replaces Susanna Phillips in New Century Chamber Orchestra's Opening Performances

Soprano Ailyn Peréz will step in for Susanna Phillips who has had to withdraw from New Century Chamber Orchestra's 2015-2016 season opening performances September 17-20. Ms. Peréz graciously agreed to travel to San Francisco between her performances in the role of Mimi in La Bohème at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and the world premiere of Jake Heggie and Terrance McNally's Great Scott at the Dallas Opera. The program showcases masterworks by Russian composers and will feature Ms. Peréz as soloist for Tchaikovsky's "Letter Scene" from Eugene Onegin and Rachmaninoff's Vocalise.

Highly sought after by the world's leading opera houses, Ailyn Peréz has been hailed as a "major soprano" (The New York Times) and an artist "who truly seems to have it all" (Opera News). As the first Hispanic winner in the 35-year history of the prestigious Richard Tucker Award, Ms. Perez went on to win the 15th annual Placido Domingo Award in the same year. A firm favorite in the Bay Area, Ms. Perez is a graduate of both the San Francisco Opera's Merola program (2005) and Adler Fellowship. In her 2014 role as Violetta in the San Francisco Opera production of La Traviata, Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle said "Her singing was full-bodied and rich in color, with long-breathed phrases sumptuously sustained and an emotional depth to everything she undertook" and praised her as "the evening's brightest luminary." Ms. Perez recently made her Metropolitan Opera debut in February 2015 in a highly successful performance as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen and looks forward to upcoming appearances with Teatro alla Scala, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera before returning again to the Metropolitan Opera.

New Century Chamber Orchestra and Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg recently announced the 2015-2016 season including four subscription weeks in venues across the Bay Area. The ensemble's 24th season, Nadja's eighth as music director, includes a World Premiere commission by Pulitzer prize-winning Featured Composer Jennifer Higdon, British violinist Daniel Hope as Guest Concertmaster leading a program of works in tribute to his mentor Yehudi Menuhin, a debut solo appearance by internationally acclaimed klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer and a repeat collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. The season repertoire encompasses a broad range of masterworks from the string ensemble repertoire including a program of works by Russian masters Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich, an entire program of dance works by Strauss, Stravinsky and Khachaturian, contemporary works by Pärt, Takemitsu, Glass and Bechara El-Koury in addition to Christmas and Hanukah holiday favorites.

For complete information, visit

--Brenden Guy, New Century Century Orchestra

California Symphony and Donato Cabrera Open 2015-16 Season Sept. 20 in Walnut Creek, CA
The California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera open their 2015-16 season Sunday, September 20 at 4 pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California with "Passport to the World," a musical tour of work by composers including Dvorák, Rimsky-Korsakov, Grieg, Debussy, Elgar, Falla, Vaughan Williams, Glière, and Sibelius's Karelia Suite and Finlandia, on the anniversary of the great Finnish composer's death. Following the concert, the orchestra and Cabrera welcome the audience to mingle with the artists at a special Opening Night Party, a benefit reception (Opening Night Party tickets sold separately).

"The idea is that it will be like watching a movie – you buy a ticket, the lights dim, and you're transported to another place," said Cabrera, who will introduce the music and its global origins between compositions. In addition to the Sibelius works, the program includes well-known orchestral music by Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on "Greensleeves"), Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, and Debussy's Clair de Lune, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov's Procession of the Nobles, Glière's Dance of Russian Sailors, Dvorák's Slavonic Dances, Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, Debussy's Girl with the Flaxen Hair and Grieg's The Last Spring.

The orchestra is entering its third season with Cabrera, and is expanding its regional base in Northern California, performing concerts in three new venues. The orchestra, based in Walnut Creek, CA, will perform at its home at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center's Lincoln Theater in Yountville, CA, and at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, CA, as well as a recent performance with Postmodern Jukebox at the Kaiser Center Roof Garden in Oakland, CA. The orchestra is focused on American repertoire, nurturing new American composers as part of its Young American Composer in Residence program, and bringing music to people in new and unconventional settings as well as performing the most revered core classical repertoire.

In May 2016, the orchestra and guitarist Jason Vieaux perform the world premiere of the orchestra's new concerto commission by Dan Visconti, current Young American Composer in Residence, in concert in Walnut Creek and Yountville. Other season highlights include an American Roots program with pianist Charlie Albright performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a showcase of two California Symphony principal musicians in a little-heard R. Strauss double concerto, performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, and Brahms's Symphony No. 2, and holiday music with Pacific Boychoir, in Walnut Creek and Yountville, CA.

Individual tickets to "Passport to the World" on September 20 are $42-$72, and go on sale Friday, August 21 at All other individual 2015-16 California Symphony concerts are also on sale August 21. Tickets for the Opening Night Party following the September 20 concert are $75 (all proceeds benefit the California Symphony; $50 of ticket price is tax-deductible). Subscription ticket package prices range from $168 to $288 for the California Symphony's 2015-16 season and are on sale now to renewing subscribers and the general public. Tickets can be purchased through the California Symphony's Web site at and at 925-280-2490.

For more information, visit

--Jean Shirk, Jean Shirk Media

Cal Performances Presents the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra
Cal Performances' diverse 2015–2016 dance season begins with five performances by the renowned Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra, performing the West Coast premiere of a signature work in its repertoire, Alexei Ratmansky's Cinderella. Commissioned by the Mariinsky in 2002, this Cinderella helped launch Ratmansky's career as one of the world's most in-demand ballet makers, earning him a reputation for revitalizing classic works with wit and sophistication. Gavriel Heine conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra in Prokofiev's inventive, expansive score. Performances take place Thursday–Saturday, October 1­­–3 at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, October 3, at 2:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 4, at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. Opening night will feature the "heart-stoppingly beautiful" (The Guardian, London) Diana Vishneva as Cinderella dancing with Konstantin Zverev as the Prince.

As part of Cal Performances' Berkeley RADICAL programming, pre-performance talks are planned on Thursday, October 1, and Saturday, October 3, from 7:00–7:30 p.m., in Zellerbach Hall. The talks launch a series of season-long "Thematic Explorations" focusing on the enduring musical legacy of Sergei Prokofiev, and related programming continues later in the season with pianist Yefim Bronfman's performances of Prokofiev's complete sonata cycle (January 24, March 4, and March 6), and pianist Daniil Trifonov's performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (March 26).

Tickets for the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra's Cinderella, Thursday–Saturday, October 1­­–3, at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, October 3, at 2:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 4, at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall range from $45.00 to $175.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--Christina Kellogg, Cal Performances

St. Charles Singers Announces 2015-2016 Concert Season
The St. Charles Singers, a professional chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms, has announced details of its 2015-2016 concert season. For its 32nd season, the mixed-voice choir, conducted by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will present three different concert programs.

The season will open on September 11 in Elgin and September 13 St. Charles, Ill., with the tenth installment of the St. Charles Singers' ambitious Mozart Journey, a multi-year initiative to perform the complete sacred choral music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

This will be the St. Charles Singers' first-ever concert in Elgin, IL. The choir, accompanied by the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra, will offer Elgin choral music lovers a Mozart Journey concert in 2015, 2016, and 2017, thanks to a three-year, $5,000 annual grant from the Florence B. and Cornelia A. Palmer Foundation. The foundation supports the visual and performing arts in Elgin.

The choir's traditional "Candlelight Carols" Christmas program in December, an audience favorite, will offer some traditional carols along with an intriguing array of off-the-beaten path songs of the season.

"Choral Eclectic," the St. Charles Singers' season-finale program in April, will present a panorama of choral music spanning the 15th to the 21st centuries, including an unusual English Renaissance work that's rarely performed because of its difficulty, Hunt says.

Single tickets for St. Charles Singers concerts are $35 adult general admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.

For more information, visit or call (630) 513-5272

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

"Name That Tune" Faculty Concert Opens Music Institute 15-16 Season
The Music Institute of Chicago opens its 2015–16 season showcasing its stellar faculty in an engaging concert program, "Name That Tune: Classical Gems with Memorable Monikers," Saturday, September 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL.

Members of the Music Institute's impressive faculty, now numbering more than 150, perform classical favorites that have become known by their musical nicknames.

"Name That Tune: Classical Gems with Memorable Monikers" takes place Saturday, September 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change. For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communicatons

One Week, Five Concerts!
Green Music Center - Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928. 1.866.955.6040.

Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club: Adiós Tour
Sunday, August 16 at 4pm

Chris Isaak
Tuesday, August 18 at 7:30pm

Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers
Thursday, August 20 at 7:30pm

Dwight Yoakam
Friday, August 21 at 7:30pm

Colbie Caillat & Christina Perri, with Special Guest Rachel Platten
The Girls Night Out, Boys Can Come Too Tour
Sunday, August 23 at 5pm

For more information, visit

--Green Music Center

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

For more than 20 years I was the editor 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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa