Classical Music News of the Week, November 14, 2015

American Bach Soloists Presents Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" December 12 2015

The American Bach Soloists (ABS) officially launch their 2015-16 season with Johann Sebastian Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" (Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248) on December 12 at San Francisco's St. Ignatius Church. ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas—"unsurpassable as a Bach interpreter" (San Francisco Classical Voice)—conducts the period instrument specialists of ABS, the acclaimed American Bach Choir, and a quartet of soloists in this expansive work, which will be performed in its entirety. The work will be repeated at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, CA, on December 13.

One of the most celebratory works in Bach's entire output, the six parts of the "Christmas Oratorio" relate the story of Christ's birth with a diverse array of musical forms and instrumental textures that make full use of a large group of wind instruments, including four oboes, three trumpets, two horns, two flutes, and a bassoon. As with Bach's two great settings of the Passion story, "Christmas Oratorio" features an Evangelist who narrates the story along with vocal soloists and a choir who comment on the story, sing arias, and assume the parts of shepherds, wise men, and roles such as the Angel and King Herod.

Bach composed only three works that he considered oratorios, all of which mark important celebrations in the liturgical calendar: Christmas (Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248), Easter (Oster-Oratorium, BWV 249), and the Feast of Ascension (Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11, also known as "The Ascension Oratorio"). ABS will perform all three of Bach's oratorios during the 2015-16 season beginning with "Christmas Oratorio" on December 12-13, 2015, and the Easter and Ascension Oratorios April 22-25, 2016, as part of the subscription season.

Single Tickets: $20-$105
Tickets for ABS subscribers $20-$89
Discounted tickets available for students (21 and under with Valid ID)

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/seasons/15-16/ChristmasOratorio.html

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Award-Winning Chee-Yun Plays Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 at Strathmore
The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, will perform Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings on Saturday, November 28 at 8 pm and on Sunday, November 29 at 3 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The concert will also feature Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4, performed by the award-winning instrumentalist Chee-Yun, and Sibelius' Rakastava.

A free pre-concert lecture will be offered in the Concert Hall at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday and at 1:45 pm on Sunday. Tickets start at $29 and are free for children ages 7-17  through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program. 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, call 301-581-5100 or visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

A Chanticleer Christmas Presented by SMSS at St. Ignatuis Loyola, 12/4 and 12/6
New York City's holiday season reaches a magnificent crescendo when two of its mainstays-- Chanticleer and the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola--team up to double your Christmas joy. Widely considered the gold standard of male choruses, the ensemble brings "A Chanticleer Christmas" to the church (980 Park Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets, NYC) for two dates: Friday, December 4 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, December 6 at 4:00 pm.

Grammy-award winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer has become as synonymous with Christmas as it is with impeccable musicality and delightful, innovative performances. Their annual A Chanticleer Christmas is a highly sought-after ticket each year and is performed in venues coast-to-coast celebrating the wonder of the holiday with a charming blend of traditional carols, medieval and Renaissance sacred works, and new seasonal gems.

Tickets for the December 4 & 6 performances are $35 - $85 and may be purchased by calling 212.288.2520 or by visiting www.smssconcerts.org.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

St. Charles Singers to Perform Twenty Contrasting Carols Dec. 4–6
The St. Charles Singers' 32nd annual "Candlelight Carols" Christmas concerts, a perennial audience favorite, will blend an intriguing new array of off-the-beaten path songs of the season with traditional offerings.

Conducted by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, the professional chamber choir's 2015 "Candlelight Carols" program will offer 20 contrasting carols by almost as many composers, including a "Magnificat" by Johann Pachelbel, best known for his popular Canon in D major; "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Gustav Holst, best known for "The Planets"; and a carol by contemporary Englishman Jonathan Dove with a part written for the audience.

The Holst piece will be one of eight works the St. Charles Singers will perform for the first time.

Hunt says the variety of composers and carols distinguish the St. Charles Singers' annual Christmas programs. "There won't be a lot of musical chestnuts roasting on the fire," Hunt says.

The program will be heard at 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 4, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, IL; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 5, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, IL; and 3 p.m. Sunday, December 6, at Baker Church in St. Charles.

Single tickets for St. Charles Singers Candlelight Carols 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 www.stcharlessingers.com 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.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Philharmonia Baroque Performs the "Foundling Hospital" Version of Messiah
At a time when just about every orchestra in the bay area performs Handel's "Messiah" for the holidays, Nicholas McGegan shows us that he and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra like to do things just a little bit differently. On December 19 Philharmonia will be performing Handel's final "Foundling Hospital" version of "Messiah."

As an early music scholar, McGegan has studied the various versions of Handel's "Messiah." While most orchestras play an amalgam or one of several pre-1750 versions of the work, McGegan has selected the one that Handel himself performed in the final years of his life.

"George Frideric Handel was a strong supporter of the Foundling Hospital in London during the 1750s. In the later years of his life, Handel performed "Messiah" in the hospital chapel annually as a fundraiser for the organization. Minor edits continued throughout these performances and are considered the composer's last thoughts on "Messiah." He left this final manuscript to the hospital, which still owns it today," says McGegan.

"If you are most familiar with the standard edition of Messiah we hope you will be delighted to note the slight variations in the vocal performance. The Foundling Hospital version more heavily features the soprano."

Guest soloist and soprano Amanda Forsythe joins PBO along with Meg Bragle, Isaiah Bell, Philip Cutlip and Philharmonia Chorale to perform this rare "Foundling Hospital" version.

Combined with historically-informed performances on period instruments and the effervescent direction of Nic McGegan, "Messiah with McGegan" will offer a fresh and joyful expression of this traditional masterpiece the way Handel would have played it to benefit the foundlings at the end of his life.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra will perform Handel's "Messiah" - The Foundling Hospital version - on December 19 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Tickets start at $25. For more information about this and other 2015-16 Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra concerts, visit philharmonia.org. For tickets, call 415-392-4400 or visit cityboxoffice.com.

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Young People's Chorus of NYC Announces 2015-16 Radio Radiance Collaborations
Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC), known for commissioning and premiering more than 80 pieces of music through its Transient Glory and Radio Radiance  new music series, had its five newest Radio Radiance commissions – Fable of Fables by Samuel Adler, We Will Find Each Other by Ryan Lott (aka Son Lux), Search by Caroline Mallonée, Love Games by Frank J. Oteri, and The Mysteries of Nothing by Aaron Siegel – broadcast and streamed internationally for the first time by The Classical Network, WWFM in September 2015. The hour-long broadcast can be heard here: http://www.wwfm.org/webcasts.shtml.

Radio Radiance is a biennial series that begins with the chorus recording new compositions for premiere on a future broadcast. YPC then invites choruses from across the U.S. to select one of these, new Radio Radiance compositions to prepare and premiere locally in each of their own states. During the process of creating their performances, participating choruses are encouraged to consult with the composers themselves.

This season, eight high-level regional choruses from Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia, and Washington have been selected to take part in the Radio Radiance program.

For complete information, visit http://www.ypc.org/radioradiance/rrComposers.html

--Schuman Associates News

National Philharmonic Singers and Takoma Ensemble Present Holiday Concerts
The National Philharmonic Singers and Takoma Ensemble, under the direction of conductors Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, will present holiday concerts on Friday, December 4 at 8 pm at the Church of the Ascension, 633 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland and on Saturday, December 5 at 8 pm at the Christ Episcopal Church, 107 South Washington Street, Rockville, Maryland.

Included in the program will be three premieres: "The King Shall Come" in its choral/orchestral version, which is the first by Alistair Coleman. Alistair is a multi-talented young musician currently attending Walt Whitman High School who has received many awards for his work, including winning the National Association of Music Educators (NAfME) National Young Composers Competition in 2013. Second is the choral-orchestral version of "Veni Sancte Spiritus" by Virginia composer Peter Gjon Kadeli, who has a double degree in Composition and Music Education from George Mason University. Also, National Philharmonic Singer Ed Rejuney will debut his new work, The Scottish Elder's Carol. The concert concludes with favorite carols by the choir, including "Stille Nacht" and our ever-popular Carol Sing with the "Twelve Days of Christmas."  

Other works for combined forces include Francesco Durante's "Magnificat"; Giuseppe Torelli's "Christmas Concerto" for string orchestra; and Cecilia McDowall's "A Winter's Night,"  a collection of famous Christmas carols including "In Dulci Jubilo," "Sussex Carol," and  "Noël Nouvelet."

The December 4 concert at the Church of Ascension is $25. The Church of Ascension is located at 633 Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland. Directions and advance tickets are available at takomaensemble.org. Discounts are available and children 16 and under are admitted free of charge.  The December 5 concert is free, but donations in support of the Community Ministries of Rockville will be gratefully accepted. Christ Episcopal Church is located at 107 South Washington Street in Rockville, MD. For directions, please visit christchurchrockville.org/directions.htm#Platinum or by call the church at 301-762-2191, ext. 3. For more information, please call 301-493-9283, ext. 116, or
visit nationalphilharmonic.org.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

New England Conservatory Presents: "Gunther Schuller: A Musical Celebration"
New England Conservatory pays tribute to the brilliant composer Gunther Schuller who passed away on June 21, 2015, in a concert titled "Gunther Schuller: A Musical Celebration" at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 19. The event takes place at NEC's Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston and is free and open to the public. For more information, call  617-585-1122 or visit necmusic.edu.

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi

SMSS Annual Christmas Concert "Sing We Noel" at St. Ignatuis Loyola
Sacred Music in a Sacred Space's annual Christmas concert "Sing We Noel" comes alive at the stunning Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on December 13 and 20.

Performances will take place at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola (980 Park Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets, NYC) on Sunday, December 13 at 3:00 pm and Sunday, December 20 at 3:00 pm.

Audiences will revel in the Christmas spirit with a program that includes well-known seasonal favorites rendered by the Choirs and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola and the unparalleled N.P. Mander Organ.

Tickets for each performance are $35 - $85 and may be purchased online at www.smssconcerts.org or by calling 212.288.2520.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Australia's TEN Tenors Headline Scotsdale Center's December Holiday Lineup
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts will present Australia's premier classical-crossover group, The TEN Tenors, on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 10 and 11.

Celebrated for their colorful repertoire, breathtaking arrangements and powerful live performances, The TEN Tenors respectfully tip their hats not only to the great classical composers, but to contemporary music's most popular artists. Making their Scottsdale debut, The TEN Tenors will perform Home for the Holidays, a unique selection of traditional and new seasonal favorites, including soaring versions of "Joy to the World," "White Christmas," "Amazing Grace" and "Winter Wonderland," among many others.

The TEN Tenors: "Home for the Holidays"
Thursday, December 10, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 11, 2015, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale, AZ

For further informaition and tickets, call 480-499-TKTS (8587 or visit www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

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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