Classical Music News of the Week, August 2, 2015

Dover Quartet's 15-16 Season Announced; Summer Dates Underway

The Dover Quartet has quickly become one of the most sought-after string quartets in North America, electrifying audiences and critics alike on their meteoric rise following an unprecedented sweep at 2013's Banff Competition. On this season's summer festival circuit, the Dover Quartet will make their debut with Music at Menlo, and will be welcomed back to Bravo! Vail, Chamber Music Northwest and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. After their highly-lauded debut in Santa Fe last summer, the Santa Fe New Mexican proclaimed: "For me, this was string quartet nirvana…I hope they will never alter the inherent sonic beauty of their approach, which already assures them a spot among the finest of currently active quartets."

The Dover Quartet's 2015 fall touring schedule takes them through twenty-five cities just as they kick off a buzzed-about three-year residency at Northwestern University's Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, with an inagural public performance as the school's Quartet-in-Residence on October 7th. On October 31st, the Quartet will perform with cellist Paul Watkins of the Emerson String Quartet for the first of six performances in a three year residency with People's Symphony Concerts, as the New York City institution's first ever Ensemble-in-Residence.

2016 brings major debuts for the Dover, including a concert at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA on March 17th, and the Quartet's long awaited Carnegie Hall debut on April 8th where they will play a program of Dvorák, Berg and Beethoven. Also on the agenda are fresh repertoire additions to be included throughout the season's programming, most notably Schumann's first string quartet and Shostakovich's second. "Both are early works of the respective composers, and both are in A minor" remarks violinist Camden Shaw. "The Shostakovich second is rarely performed, often being overshadowed by the third quartet, but the piece is immense and has one of the most thrilling last movements in the canon." Both pieces will be paired together only once this season as a complete program for a special concert with Lincoln Center's Great Performances on February 11th.

For more information, visit

--Liza Prijatel, Rebecca Davis PR

American Bach Soloists Presents "Baroque Marathon"
August 10 & 11, 2015, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Three Sessions Showcasing Emerging Talent Open Second Week of ABS Festival & Academy

Music of J.S. Bach, Buxtehude, Clérambault, Marais, Mouliné, Schmieier,
Telemann, Zelenka, and many others.

2015 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Baroque Marathon, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Session I: Monday, August 10 3:00 p.m.
Session II: Monday, August 10 8:00 p.m.
Session III: Tuesday, August 11 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: Free / / (415) 621-7900

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Merola Opera Artists Perform 2015 Grand Finale Aug. 22 at War Memorial Opera House in SF
The Merola Opera Program's Summer Festival concludes with its 2015 artists performing in the Merola Grand Finale Saturday, August 22 at 7:30 pm at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Conductor Antony Walker will lead the orchestra, and 2015 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Mo Zhou will stage the program, featuring works by Gounod, Bellini, Tchaikovsky, Jake Heggie, Nikolai, Verdi, Rossini, Humperdinck, Mascagni, and Offenbach

 The performance is a culmination of the 12-week Merola Opera training program, and all 23 of the 2015 Merola singers will perform, under the coaching and direction of their fellow artists. A special artists' reception follows the Grand Finale (tickets sold separately).

For more information, visit

--Jean Shirk Media

The Seattle Symphony Launches Piano Competition
Nine pianists from an international pool of contestants have been selected to participate in the final three rounds of the first-ever Seattle Symphony Piano Competition on September 15-18. Through this French-American-themed competition, the Seattle Symphony seeks to promote and recognize distinctive up-and-coming pianists eager to embrace its vision for innovation, contemporary music and creative programming. Presented in partnership with Young Concert Artists (YCA) and Washington Performing Arts, the competition offers winners a comprehensive career overview and guidance on navigating the changing landscape of an international performance career. The winning pianist will receive a $10,000 cash prize; perform during the Seattle Symphony's 2015-2016 Opening Night concert on September 19; an opportunity to perform with the Symphony during the 2016-2017 season; admission to the semi-final round of the 2015 or 2016 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, as well as airfare and housing in New York for the semi-finals and finals, if chosen; a future performance opportunity with Washington Performing Arts and consultation with YCA and First Chair Promotion on career development.

All three rounds are open and accessible to the public, who are invited to cast their votes for the Audience Favorite Award.  Pianist and YCA alumnus Jean-Yves Thibaudet will serve as Chair of the jury, which also includes Music Director Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony Principal Cello and YCA alumnus Efe Baltacigil, Young Concert Artists Director of Artist Management Monica J. Felkel, Washington Performing Arts Director of Programming Samantha Pollack, First Chair Promotion Project Manager James Egelhofer, and Seattle Symphony President & CEO Simon Woods.

Applicants worldwide submitted audio recordings of their performances to the Symphony earlier in the spring. A panel of reviewers chose nine pianists to compete in Seattle for the final three rounds of the competition, starting with a recital round on September 15, when each contestant will perform a piece by Ravel from the piano solo repertoire; Premonitions, a Seattle Symphony commission of a jazz-inspired piece by Portland-based composer and YCA alumnus Kenji Bunch composed specifically for the Competition; and one additional work of the contestant's choosing. Six contestants will move forward to the semi-final round on September 16, playing one American and one French piano concerto from a list of competition concerto repertoire (see below) with piano accompaniment.  Three finalists will be chosen to compete in the final round of the competition on September 18, when each contestant will perform either an American or French concerto with the orchestra, conducted by Ludovic Morlot. The public is invited to all three rounds. Complimentary tickets are available via RSVP for the recital and semi-final rounds and tickets to the finals are available for purchase. Patrons should visit to RSVP and/or purchase tickets.

For complete information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

Two New Shows Added to "Festival Miami," South Florida's Annual Multi-Genre Music Festival
The University of Miami Frost School of Music, with presenting sponsor UHealth—University of Miami Health System, announces two additions to the lineup for its annual multi-genre music festival, "Festival Miami," Florida's premier live music festival. From October 16 to November 7, 2015, the Festival will offer vibrant performances by the biggest names on the music scene from around the globe who will showcase their talents alongside the outstanding students and faculty artists from the Frost School of Music. More than 20 performances, organized into four themes: Great Performances, Jazz and Beyond, Music of the Americas, and Creative American Music, will be held in the intimate setting of the 600-seat UM Maurice Gusman Concert Hall, 1314 Miller Drive, on the Coral Gables campus.

Just added to the previously announced Festival Miami 2015 schedule is the great promise of Latin pop, singer Raquel Sofia, whom Grammy-winning producer George Noriega says is "one of those rare artists that come along only once in a generation." International megastar Juanes hired the talented singer for his multiple Grammy winning "Juanes MTV Unplugged" tour, and she's also performed with Shakira. The UM Frost School of Music graduate will make her Festival Miami debut on October 17 with a high energy concert that will showcase her appealing jazz-infused vocals and sonic style that ranges from rockabilly to ska to '80s pop-rock and will include selections from her debut album, Te Quiero Los Domingos, which was released for digital download by Sony Music Latin in June 2015.

On October 23, Festival Miami will now present three-time Latin Grammy Award winner and double Grammy nominee Natalia LaForcade, replacing the concert by Spanish fusion star Macaco who was originally scheduled to perform on this date. Described by The New York Times as a "soaring and resilient free spirit," Lafourcade is widely considered one of the most important singer-songwriters of her generation. The Mexican-born artist's latest album, Hasta la Raíz, debuted at No. 1 on the Mexican sales charts and remains a top seller.

Festival Miami tickets and season packages will be available to the general public beginning August 1, 2015, and single tickets start at $15. They may be purchased at or by calling 305-284-4940.

--Megan Ondrizek, University of Miami

New England Conservatory Remembers Vic Firth
In 1952, esteemed New England Conservatory graduate and faculty member, Everett "Vic" Firth was a 21-year-old student when he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  A decade later, Firth was inspired to design a higher-quality drumstick than the "warped utensils and implements not specifically designed for percussionists."

Firth began making drumsticks and mallets for himself and later for his students at NEC, his first drumstick prototypes SD1 and SD2 were initially hand-whittled from thicker sticks. He then sent them to a wood tuner in Montreal. Firth's company grew quickly; he began manufacturing in a 65,000-square-foot plant in Newport, Maine, where his products are still made. The rest is music history.

Firth, who died Sunday of pancreatic cancer at his home in Boston, stayed firmly rooted in his Northeast roots throughout his life. A native of Winchester, Massachusetts, he grew up in Sanford, Maine, where he played many instruments before settling on percussion and forming an 18-piece, the "Vic Firth Big Band" in high school.

For five decades, Firth served as timpanist at the BSO, where he performed for legendary conductors including Leonard Bernstein. He also led the percussion program at New England Conservatory from 1952-1995 and was a long-standing financial supporter of NEC, specifically for its 40th Anniversary Jazz celebration and the development of the new Student Life and Performing Center, which will open in 2017. In 1992 NEC recognized Firth's contributions to the world of music with an honorary Doctor of Music degree.

The Vic Firth Company became the world's leading, drumstick manufacturing business. Later on, Firth diversified his drumstick and percussion accessory enterprises into a gourmet cookware operation with a Vic Firth line of rolling pins and pepper mills. World-renowned chef and television personality, Emeril Lagasse was very close to Vic and hosted him on his cooking show. In 2010, Firth's company merged with the Boston-based cymbal maker Avedis Zildjian Company.

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

Fall Events at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
August 2015:
Live & Local Fridays
Blues Review Band
Friday, August 7, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10

Live & Local Fridays
Tommy Ash Band
Friday, August 14, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10

Live & Local Fridays
Teneia Sanders
Friday, August 21, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10

Live & Local Fridays
Inspiracion Flamenca
Friday, August 28, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10

September 2015:
6th Annual Brazilian Day Arizona Festival
Saturday, September 19, 2015, Noon – 5 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: $12 ($5 kids 10 and under)

October 2015:
An Evening with Jesse Cook
Thursday, October 8, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

Margaret Cho: The psyCHO Tour
There's No "I" in "Team," But There's a "CHO" in "Psycho"
Saturday, October 17, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

Chucho Valdes: Irakere 40
Friday, October 23, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

ASU Concerts at the Center
Monday, October 26, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

November 2015:
Akram Khan Company
Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

15th Scottsdale International Film Festival
Opening Night
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Reception: 6 p.m.
Film Screening: 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39 (On sale Oct. 5)

15th Scottsdale International Film Festival
Friday – Monday, November 6–9, 2015
Harkins Shea 14 Theatre, Scottsdale
Tickets: On sale Oct. 5

An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
Friday, November 6, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $49, $69, $79

Alan Cumming Uncut: An Evening of Song and Stories From Scotland's Beloved Man-Child
Saturday, November 7, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $49, $59, $79

ASU Concerts at the Center
Violin Extraordinaire
Monday, November 9, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

Broadway: The Big Band Years
Saturday, November 14, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $29, $39, $59

Virginia G. Piper Concert Series
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
Sunday, November 15, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $29, $49, $69

ASU Concerts at the Center
Woodwind Spectacular
Monday, November 16, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

ASU Concerts at the Center
ASU Big Band Night
Monday, November 23, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

The Capitol Steps: Mock the Vote
Friday, November 27, 2015, 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 28, 2015, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $49, $59, $69

For more information, visit

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

American Bach Soloists Festival - North American Premiere of Marais's Semele
Drawn from the same mythological source that would inspire Handel over three decades later, Marin Marais's 1709 version of the amorous tale of Sémélé abounds in soaring melodies, exquisite dance music, and some of the composer's most impressive writing in an exciting earthquake scene. Experience this sublime jewel from the golden era of musical Paris.

ABS Academy Festival Orchestra & American Bach Choir, with soloists from the ABS Academy, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor.

Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 8:00 p.m. Best availability
Friday, August 14, 2015 - 8:00 p.m.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA

For more information, visit

--Jeff McMillan, ABS

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa