Classical Music News of the Week, August 23, 2015

New 2015-16 Season Guide Showcases Scottsdale's World-Class Arts Offerings

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts has released its new 45-page 2015–16 season guide, showcasing a star-studded lineup of music, dance, theater, comedy, film and more.

"This season we celebrate a number of milestones: the 40th anniversary of Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the 30th anniversary of Scottsdale Public Art, SMoCA's "Sweet 16" and the 15th Scottsdale International Film Festival," remarked Neale Perl, president and CEO of the nonprofit Scottsdale Cultural Council. "It's going to be an extraordinary year for the arts in Scottsdale, and we invite everyone to be part of it."

Sponsored by InEight, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts' 40th-anniversary season will kick off in October with performances by Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook on Oct. 8, comedian Margaret Cho on Oct. 17 and Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdes on Oct. 23. Valdes' concert marks the official anniversary of the Center, which opened to the public exactly forty years ago to the day. Guests will be treated to a special red-carpet experience when they arrive for the performance.

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts' 2015–16 Discovery Series exploring the arts of the United Kingdom and Ireland will showcase acclaimed London-based dance troupes Akram Khan Company on Nov. 3 and BalletBoyz on Feb. 19, Scottish actor Alan Cumming on Nov. 7, London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Jan. 16 and the National Theatre of Scotland's hit play The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart on April 19–24. All are appearing for the first time on the Center's stage.

Other performers making their Scottsdale debuts are Australia's The TEN Tenors on Dec. 10–11, actress Jane Lynch on Jan. 23, jazz sensation The Hot Sardines on Feb. 10, the legendary Joan Collins on Feb. 13, R&B icon Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds on March 18 and actress Ana Gasteyer on March 26.

Returning favorites include singer-songwriters Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt on Nov. 6; virtuoso pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Nov. 15, Emanuel Ax on Jan. 24 and Angela Hewitt on March 20; actor Martin Short on Dec. 5 as part of the annual ARTrageous Benefit Gala; dance troupes Hubbard Street Dance Chicago on Feb. 5–6 and Pilobolus on March 4–5; entertainer Michael Feinstein on Feb. 27; Latin jazz stars Arturo Sandoval and Poncho Sanchez on April 2; Broadway's Tommy Tune on April 2; and best-selling author David Sedaris on April 30.

Tickets for the Center's 2015–16 season are on sale through www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org or 480-499-TKTS (8587). Member, group and package discounts are available.

The 2015–16 season guide also features highlights from the entire Scottsdale Cultural Council, including exhibitions, special events and programs of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) and Scottsdale Public Art, as well as the Scottsdale International Film Festival on Nov. 5-9.

Scottsdale Cultural Council members and past ticket buyers will be mailed the season guide, which also may be viewed or downloaded through the Center's Web site at http://www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org/ or picked up at the box office. To request a free mailed copy, email boxoffice@sccarts.org.

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

Announcing Orion Ensemble's Enchanting 2015/16 Season
The Orion Ensemble's 23rd season of concerts offers a melange of musical gems--featuring the rarely heard pairing of harp with strings, as well as a mix of chamber favorites. Joining us will be renowned guest artists Benjamin Melsky and Mathias Tacke, along with frequent viola guest artist, Stephen Boe.

With venues in Chicago, Geneva, and Evanston, IL, and flexible tickets, you can enjoy these musical offerings as your schedule allows.

Concert One: French and German Tapestries
Guest violist, Stephen Boe, joins the ensemble for a Mozart immersion and a stirring quartet by Gabriel Fauré. The program also celebrates a world premiere by Manheim Steamroller's Jackson Berkey, a long-time collaborator of Orion.

Concert Two: Harp Fantasy
Intoxicating pieces by Ibert, Saint-Saëns and more feature the Orion debut of guest harpist virtuoso Benjamin Melsky. A rare treat!

Concert Three: American Landscape
Orion revisits a beloved Jackson Berkey piece inspired by and written for the ensemble, and brings its vibrant, soulful touch to quintessentially American works by Rich Sowash and Antonin Dvorák.

Concert Four: Musical Enchantment
Miniatures and quintets from Dvorák, Beach and Brahms will come alive with guest violinist Mathias Tacke and guest violist Stephen Boe.

See the full schedule and get your tickets at http://www.orionensemble.org/

--Orion Ensemble

Britt Festival Commissions Michael Gordon in Crater Lake Project
The Britt Orchestra will perform world premiere commission by Michael Gordon, inspired by and performed at Crater Lake, to celebrate centennial of Crater Lake National Park in July 2016.

Members of the Britt Orchestra and Music Director Teddy Abrams will celebrate the unique majesty of Oregon's Crater Lake with performances at the national park of a world premiere commission by New York-based composer Michael Gordon, commissioned by Britt and inspired by Crater Lake. Abrams will lead approximately forty Britt Orchestra musicians in the performances, with the dramatic panorama of the entire lake as the setting. The performances will take place over two days in the last weekend of July 2016, and will be free and open to all park-goers.

The genesis for this project comes from a funding opportunity from the National Endowment for the Arts project Imagine Your Parks, which celebrates the centennial of the National Parks. The National Park Service was founded in August 1916 to protect America's most iconic lands and wildlife. Britt has submitted a $100,000 request to the NEA, which will require matching funds, dollar for dollar. The Neuman Hotel Group has generously stepped forward with a $20,000 pledge as Britt's first major sponsor for this project.

"The Britt Festival is thrilled to be a part of the National Parks Centennial celebration of the achievements over the past 100 years, but it is actually about the future," says Britt CEO and President Donna Briggs. "Our collaboration with Crater Lake National Park is really about embracing a second century of stewardship for Crater Lake, and for communities across southern Oregon, through the magnificence of nature and art."

"For this collaboration, we want to create a work of musical art that truly binds the natural environment and topography of Crater Lake with a musical landscape and experience," said Britt Classical Festival Music Director Teddy Abrams. "It's important to us that this work feel deeply connected to the environment, instead of simply presenting music in a beautiful place."

For more information on specific dates, times and details as this project develops, visit brittfest.org/craterlake

--Jean Shirk Media

Concert Debut of Pianissimo!- Chicago's Premiere Piano Ensemble
Saturday, September 12, 2015, 8pm
Merit School of Music, Anne and Howard Gottlieb Hall, 38 South Peoria Street, Chicago, Illinois 60607.

Chicago's Premiere Virtuoso Piano Ensemble, Pianissimo!, comprised of four distinguished Chicago-based pianists--Susan Merdinger, Svetlana Belsky, Irina Feoktistova, and Elena Doubovitskaya--will perform their Chicago debut, An International Feast of Music at the Anne and Howard Gottlieb Hall of the Merit School of Music on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 8pm.

This is an event you won't want to miss! Pianissimo!'s debut concert will feature an unforgettable program, including five world premiere performances and much more: fascinating and knuckle-breaking paraphrases of Vivaldi's The Seasons and Rimsky-Korsakoff's Scheherazade by New-York based composer Margarita Zelenaia; original works for four pianos by Ilya Levinson and James Stone: an uproarious Broadway Medley for Classical Pianists,dedicated to Pianissimo!, which includes Broadway favorites from Kiss Me Kate, My Fair Lady, Rent, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and A Chorus Line; plus forty-fingered versions of orchestral favorites by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, Lutoslawski, Gershwin, and Chabrier.

Pianissimo! was first formed in December 2014, and recently appeared in several venues for Make Music Chicago. As soloists and duo-pianists, the four women have appeared in major concert halls and on TV and radio around the world, recorded numerous CD's, and won numerous awards and honors, as well as accolades and rave reviews from major publications for their outstanding performances and programming. Susan Merdinger is a Steinway Artist and Visiting Artist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Svetlana Belsky is the Piano Coordinator for the University of Chicago and a published author and expert on Busoni; Elena Doubovitskaya is the Chair of the Piano Department at the Merit School of Music and is member of the contemporary ensemble Lakeshore Rush; Irina Feoktistova is on faculty at Northwestern University and is an associate of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Pianissimo! ensemble's mission as a four piano ensemble is to present entertaining and educational programs of classical music on two and four pianos. Offering both traditional symphonic and piano repertoire, contemporary music for multiple pianos/pianists, as well as cross-over repertoire from jazz and Broadway genres, the ensemble hopes to appeal to audiences of all ages who enjoy good music accompanied by charming, witty and informative commentary on the music.

For more information on this concert and to purchase your tickets in advance, please visit the ensemble's Web site: www.pianissimoensemble.com

--Susan Merdinger

Single Ticket Pre-Sale Begins for the Green Music Center
Exclusive pre-sale for subscribers and Mastercard cardholders begins Monday, August 24 at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available to the general public beginning Monday, August 31 at 10am.

For complete information about events at Weill Hall at Sonoma State University's Green Music Center 2015/16 season, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

Honens Set to Welcome Ten of the World's Top Emerging Pianists to Calgary
In two weeks, ten pianists from seven countries arrive in Calgary to compete for the world's largest piano prize. The 2015 Honens Festival & Piano Competition takes place September 3 to 12. The ten Semifinalists are: Luca Buratto (Italy), Scott Cuellar (United States), Dasol Kim (South Korea), Yoon-Jee Kim (South Korea), Henry Kramer (United States), Sejoon Park (United States), Karim Said (Jordan-United Kingdom), Samson Tsoy (Russia), Alexander Ullman (United Kingdom) and Artem Yasynskyy (Ukraine). One will be named the Honens Prize Laureate and win $100,000 (CAN) and an artistic and career development program valued at a half million dollars.

Each Semifinalist performs two recitals (September 3 to 7): a 65-minute solo recital and a 65-minute collaborative recital with soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, clarinetist James Campbell and violist Hsin-Yun Huang. Three pianists will advance to the Finals (September 10 and 11) for performances with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier. The Honens Prize Laureate will be announced at an awards show following the Finals on September 11.

All competition performances are streamed live at honens.com/livestream and cbcmusic.ca. The Competition Finals are also streamed by cbcmusic.ca, as well as French on-line broadcaster medici.tv.

Tickets range in price from $10 to $95 (CAN) and are available online at honens.com or by calling the Honens Box Office at (403) 299-0140.  Discounts are available for youth under age 18, 'A440' members aged 18 to 39, and seniors aged 65 or older.  Passes, offering tickets at 25% off regular price, are available.

--Shear Arts Services

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa