Classical Music News of the Week, November 28, 2015

Opera Colorado Announces New and Expanded Season

On November 7, Opera Colorado announced the highly anticipated return to a three-production season that will broaden the scope of its programming and further extend the Company's reach into the community. Beginning in November 2016, the expanded new season launches Opera Colorado into an exciting new era in the Company's history, as it commences a five-year strategic plan to increase artistic and educational offerings throughout Denver and Colorado, generate new audience development initiatives, and establish a new artistic vision.  

"Opera Colorado has been building towards this announcement over the past two years—our higher-than-anticipated ticket sales and sold-out performances confirm that there is a strong and growing audience for opera in Denver," said Greg Carpenter, General Director. "At the same time, we have been putting the building blocks in place to ensure a strong financial foundation for the company's future and an inspired artistic vision working with Ari Pelto, our first Music Director. The upcoming season is the beginning of a very new and progressive future for our Company, in which we give our audiences beloved classic productions while continuing to support new and rarely performed works, extending Opera's reach beyond the walls of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House."

The 2016-17 season embraces a new artistic vision that continues Opera Colorado's commitment to presenting contemporary and classic opera repertoire while expanding the Company's repertoire to include one production per year of a new or rarely performed work in a more intimate setting, where the audience can experience opera on a more personal level.

An innovative new Opera Colorado production of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West—a work depicting a mining community during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s that is widely regarded for its impressive orchestration and intensely dramatic vocal writing—will set the work in Colorado. Opera Colorado will partner with History Colorado, and the Denver Public Library to develop a video backdrop for the story that includes historical photos reflecting the state's rich mining history (November 2016, Ellie Caulkins Opera House).

The Colorado premiere of Laura Kaminsky's unique production As One will bring a fully staged opera outside of the Company's walls for the first time with a presentation in the L2 Church in Denver's Congress Park neighborhood. This new, 75-minute chamber opera depicts the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world. Two singers, a baritone and a mezzo-soprano, together portray the character Hannah. The work is inspired in part by the life experiences of acclaimed filmmaker Kimberly Reed. (January 2017, L2 Church).

The season will close with a traditional Grand Opera production of Gaetano Donizetti's dark and tragic Lucia di Lammermoor—following a young woman's decline into madness as a result of a feud between her family and the man she loves (May 2017, Ellie Caulkins Opera House).

For complete information, visit

--Emily Viemeister, Opera Colorado

Newly Formed Manhattan Chamber Players makes New York City Debut, 12/7
With a roster comprising some of today's most respected chamber music performers and composers, MCP makes its official New York debut on December 7th at 7pm at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleeker St.) closely followed by a December 15th concert at 7:30pm at Baruch College (55 Lexington Ave., NYC)

Professional chamber groups, like many performing groups, can often become victims of their own form and success. They can fall into a routine with a set group of players, performing a set, consistent repertoire. This creates challenges for presenters looking to diversify their offerings and to provide programming that is intriguing, fresh, and targeted towards specific audiences. Enter the newest player on the chamber music stage, the Manhattan Chamber Players (MCP). Founded by violist Luke Fleming, MCP looks to break the chamber music mold with innovative programming and a flexible stable of musicians drawn from among the best players working professionally today.

Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleeker Street, NYC

Mon, December 7, 2015 at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:00 PM)

Early chamber works by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schubert, Fauré, Chausson, Shostakovich, and Piazzolla. World premieres by Vivian Fung and Chris Rogerson.

$20 Seated (pre-sale), $15 Standing (pre-sale); $25 Seated (Day of), $20 Standing (Day of).
Available by calling 212.505.FISH or visiting

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

California Symphony and Its Young American Composer in Residence, Dan Visconti, Awarded Koussevitzky Grant by Library of Congress
Dan Visconti, the California Symphony's Young American Composer in Residence through 2017, has been awarded the prestigious Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation commission by the Library of Congress. Visconti was recognized and commissioned for his concerto for guitar and orchestra, Living Language. Living Language will be given its world premiere by the California Symphony, which co-commissioned the work, and Music Director Donato Cabrera with Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux, on May 6 at the Lincoln Theater at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center in Yountville and May 8 at its home in the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

Visconti and the orchestra are among the five awardees this year. Lei Liang and Art of Élan for the Formosa Quartet, Colin Matthews and the London Sinfonietta, Bent Sørensen and Quattro Mani, and Nina C. Young and The Nouveau Classical Project were also recognized. The commissions are granted jointly by the foundation and the performing organizations that will present performances of the newly composed works.

"It is an incredible honor for Dan Visconti and the California Symphony to receive the highly coveted Koussevitzky Foundation Commission through the Library of Congress," said Cabrera. "It is not only a recognition of Mr. Visconti's talent and unique and engaging compositional voice, but it also recognizes and celebrates California Symphony's continued and ardent support for newly composed works. I look forward to premiering the work this commission will help create, Mr. Visconti's Living Language, a concerto for guitar and orchestra, with Jason Vieaux."

Dan Visconti, 33, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music. Visconti serves as composer and Director of Artistic Programming at Chicago's Fifth House Ensemble. He received the Rome Prize and Berlin Prize, among others. Active as a writer, Visconti contributes to the Huffington Post and since 2008 has written a weekly column for NewMusicBox, the web magazine of the American Music Center. He was awarded a 2014 TED Fellowship and delivered a TED talk in Vancouver.

For more information, visit

--Jean Shirk Media

PBO News: Celebrate Nic's 30th Anniversary at Our Gala and Concert!
Join us for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's special gala celebration of Nic McGegan's 30th anniversary on Thursday, February 11, 2016. The evening's festivities include:

Cocktail party and delectable, seated dinner at City Hall, San Francisco, CA.
Silent & live auction showcasing one-of-a-kind items.
Full concert at Herbst Theatre featuring internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Susan Graham with premium seating for Gala attendees.
A special Afterparty and dessert reception at City Hall.

For more information and to register, visit

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

AME Presents Copeland's "The Cask of Amontillado" and Paterson's "The Whole Truth"
Known for its presentation of cutting-edge American music and innovative thematic programming, American Modern Ensemble (AME) presents the world premieres of new orchestrations of Stewart Copeland's (from The Police) The Cask of Amontillado based on the story by Edgar Allen Poe, libretto by David Bamberger, and Robert Paterson's The Whole Truth, libretto by Mark Campbell, based on the short story of the same name by Stephen McCauley. Both works will premiere in an opera double feature at New York City's Dixon Place on Saturday, January 16, 2016 – Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 8pm.

Tickets may be purchased here or by calling 866-811-4111. The program will include a post-intermission onstage chat with Stewart Copeland, Mark Campbell, Stephen McCauley, David Bamberger, and Robert Paterson.

For more information, visit

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Orion Welcomes Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras Quartet Dec. 2
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, is pleased to welcome the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras' Quartet Bolero for the final performance of "Harp Fantasy," its second concert program of the 2015-16 season. The high school-age performers join Orion as its Janet's Stage Artist Partners Wednesday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.

The Quartet Bolero musicians are violinist Lauren Conroy, a senior at Barringon High School; violinist Vincent Wong, a junior at Maine Township High School West from Des Plaines; violist Kayla Cabrera, a home-schooled junior from Crete; and cellist Amelia Smerz, a senior from Downers Grove North High School. They will perform the first movement (Allegro) of Haydn's String Quartet, Op. 76, No. 3.

"Harp Fantasy," Orion's second concert program of its 23rd season, welcomes 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, for his Orion debut. 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). Prior to the December 2 performance with the Quartet Bolero, Orion performs this program at the First Baptist Church of Geneva, IL, November 22 and at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, IL, November 29.

Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Celebrate the Start of the Holidays at the Green Music Center
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with Augustin Hadelich, violin
Sun, Nov 29 at 3 p.m. | Weill Hall
MasterCard Performance Series

Pacifica Quartet
Orion Weiss, piano
Sun, Dec 13 at 3 p.m. | Weill Hall
MasterCard Performance Series

Soweto Gospel Choir
Almost Sold Out - Get Tickets Now!
Fri, Dec 18 at 7:30 p.m. | Weill Hall
MasterCard Performance Series

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Sun, Dec 20 at 3 p.m. | Weill Hall
MasterCard Performance Series

Green Music Center
Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA

For more information, visit

--Green Music Center

The Crypt Sessions - Lawrence Brownlee's December 9 Performance
On December 9th at 8PM, Tenor Lawrence Brownlee will give an intimate performance of spirituals in the extraordinary underground crypt beneath The Church of the Intercession, Harlem, NY. Brownlee will be accompanied by pianist and frequent collaborator Damien Sneed, and the concert will feature songs from their acclaimed Spiritual Sketches album, among others.

The concert is a part of Unison Media's Crypt Sessions, a new concert series in partnership with Intercession, which was inaugurated on November 4th by pianist/composer Conrad Tao. The series features some of classical music and opera's most exciting stars, in intimate performances tailored to the uniqueness of the space.

Tickets are $25, with all proceeds going to the church.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Q2's Meet the Composer Ep. 9 - Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Composing Is Second Nature
Acclaimed Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is the featured composer of Q2 Music's latest Meet the Composer, Episode #9 Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Composing Is Second Nature. The episode, hosted by Nadia Sirota, takes the listener on a journey through Anna's childhood in a remote village in Iceland, through her emigration to California, and into her compositional process. Today, Q2 Music releases Anna's Meet the Composer bonus track, the world premiere recording of SCAPE for solo piano performed by Cory Smythe.

Meet the Composer host Nadia Sirota says, "Anna Thorvaldsdottir is an Icelandic composer whose work conjures entire environments of sound, surrounding the listener in a dark and forbidding landscape. Anna thinks sonically; her music comes from a deeply non-verbal place, and she has developed a brilliant workflow which allows these ideas to remain mostly whole and unmolested through her creative process. Anna often favors massive ensembles, writing delicate and detailed parts for every player, but even when she is writing for smaller forces, she somehow summons these massive sonorities – detailed, elegant tapestries with a seductive gravity, which pull the listener in with their gradually revolving color and texture."

Listen to the Episode:

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Jensen Artists

American Pianists Association Receives $5.275M Lilly Endowment Grant
The American Pianists Association (APA) announced today that it is the recipient of a $5.275M award from Lilly Endowment, Inc. Lilly Endowment has a longstanding commitment to supporting organizations that improve the quality of life in Indianapolis and in Indiana, including The American Pianists Association.

"We are honored to be the recipient of such a generous award from Lilly Endowment. Its support for American Pianists Association historically has had a tremendous impact on our work," says Joel Harrison, APA's Artistic Director & President/CEO. "With this transformative award, we will continue to chart a sustainable, long-term path that allows us to deliver on our commitment to discover, promote and advance the careers of American jazz and classical pianists through innovative and unique competitions."

Lilly Endowment's grant, coupled with a current pledge of $2 million from the DeHaan Family Foundation, brings the total of APA's ongoing Comprehensive Campaign: A Grand Vision to nearly $12 million in cash, pledges, and estate gifts, in support of its artistic programs, operations and endowment.

For more information on the American Pianists Association visit

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

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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 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