Classical Music News of the Week, December 12, 2015

West Edge Opera Announces 2016 Festival Repertoire

Three Operas in Festival Format July 30 - August 14 take place at Oakland, California's Abandoned Train Station.

West Edge Opera will present its complete 2016 Festival at Oakland's abandoned Train Station, July 30 through August 14. Under the combined artistic leadership of General/Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, the Festival's three operas will be Janáèek's The Cunning Little Vixen, Thomas Adés's Powder Her Face, and Handel's Agrippina. Exact dates, casting and ticket information will be announced at a later date.

Meanwhile, the Company's Opera Medium Rare 2016 series features two well-known opera titles by less well-known composers, performed in concert format. Paisello's Barber of Seville will be at the Lisser Theater at Mills College, Oakland, on Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 3 pm and Berkeley's Freight and Salvage on Tuesday, February 9, 8 pm. Leoncavallo's La bohème is Sunday, March 20, 1 pm at Mills College and Tuesday, March 22, 8pm at Freight and Salvage. Each performance is accompanied by West Edge Opera Music Director Jonathan Khuner at the piano. English supertitles also include stage directions to set the scenes.

A not-for-profit performing arts organization, West Edge Opera (formerly Berkeley Opera) was founded in 1979 by Richard Goodman. Music Director Jonathan Khuner led the company from 1994-2009, when he was joined by Mark Streshinsky as Artistic Director, now General Director. West Edge Opera believes that everyone, regardless of age, circumstance or background, can discover the excitement and relevance of opera in their lives. The company looks at the art form through a new lens, re-imagining tradition to connect with a modern audience and create innovative experiences of the highest quality that respect the original spirit of the work.

For more information, call (510) 841-1903  or visit

--Marian Kohlstedt, West Edge Opera

92Y "Seeing Music": Inagurural Music & Visual Arts Festival
Beginning this January, 92nd Street Y presents "Seeing Music," an innovative music and visual arts festival that provides audiences with a new way to experience and interpret the music they hear on stage, while allowing the various art forms to complement and inform each other. At the intersection of sound and sight, "Seeing Music" presents visionary interpretations of beloved masterworks by virtuosi from the worlds of music and art.

The festival features two 92Y visual art commissions: a moving installation created by architect Gabriel Calatrava that illuminates and interprets the Brentano String Quartet's live performance of J.S. Bach's The Art of Fugue, as well as a video and stage installation by visual artist Clifford Ross that creates a dialogue with Julian Rachlin's performance of selected violin sonatas by Beethoven. Also included in the festival is Buster Keaton's silent film "The General" with improvised piano accompaniment by Matan Porat, and an afternoon of music with pianist Garrick Ohlsson of compositions inspired by works of art; preceding Ohlsson's concert is a discussion by art historian Tim Barringer about the paintings that inspired the composers' works. "Seeing Music" concludes with the Australian Chamber Orchestra's "The Reef" – a critically-acclaimed performance piece melding original film, surfing and a unique mix of musical repertoire, which will receive its New York premiere in a revised version.

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

A Message from AOP Board Chair Dr. Coco Lazaroff
In my first year as Board Chair of AOP, I have been delighted to meet so many individuals like you who stand behind this innovative and industrious organization as it creates the future of opera.

As you know, we recently premiered Hagoromo, a multi-genre dance-opera featuring prima ballerina Wendy Whelan and original music by Nathan Davis, at BAM's Next Wave Festival. As an AOP family member you received advance notice of this sold-out event, and the opportunity to purchase tickets before the general public.

Hagoromo is just one of the recent successes that AOP has brought to life. Last season, AOP commissioned As One by composer-in-residence Laura Kaminsky and her collaborators Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, with new productions in Utah, California and Washington DC following its sold-out BAM premiere; it is slated for Colorado in 2017. Huang Ruo, Qian Yi, and Jennifer Wen Ma's Paradise Interrupted debuted at Spoleto Festival USA in 2015 and goes to the Lincoln Center Festival in 2016, and Tarik O'Regan and Anna Rabinowitz's The Wanton Sublime, a 2012 commission, recently was a smash success in London.

AOP is developing several exciting new works and we will keep you up to date on these with informative notes and invitations to special events. You will be the first to discover fascinating operatic adaptations of prize-winning books: Michael Dellaira and J. D. McClatchy's The Leopard and Sheila Silver and Stephen Kitsakos's A Thousand Splendid Suns. We also boast original work, including Robert Paterson and David Cote's racy Three Way, slated for a Nashville Opera partnership; Hannah Lash and Royce Vavrek's irreverent Stoned Prince in collaboration with The John Duffy Composers Institute, and a new work by the As One team inspired by the life of Georgia O'Keeffe, with San Francisco's Opera Parallèle.

Your support enables us to meet the public's demand for new and innovative work. Our organization has almost doubled in size -- both in terms of the projects it develops and presents and in budget -- in just over a year, and continued growth can only be sustained with your help. In a time when arts organizations are shrinking, folding, and are no longer able to serve the field, AOP is busting with vigor and activity. Please continue to be a part of this artistic family and make your tax-deductible contribution before the end of the year.

For more information about American Opera Projects, visit

--Matthew Gray, AOP

Philharmonia Baroque E-News
Juilliard415 with PBO coaches Lisa Weiss and Kati Kyme:
As PBO aims to cultivate the next generation of musicians, we launched our partnership with the Juilliard School's Historical Performance graduate program in November. The collaboration included a full weekend of coaching sessions with Nic, PBO orchestra members and students from Juilliard415 - the school's premiere period instrument ensemble. Vocalists from the Juilliard School also participated. The weekend culminated in a beautiful side-by-side concert, featuring the music of Leclair, Telemann and Haydn. The concert program had been heard by audiences in New York and Vancouver before the final concert in Berkeley.

Administrative Director Ben Sosland said, "Juilliard415's collaboration with Philharmonia in Berkeley was both a culmination and a beginning - a culmination because there was a real sense of achievement in bridging the geographical gap to join forces. And a beginning because this was the first step in the development of an annual exchange between PBO mentors and Juilliard students."

Nic has been an essential presence at Juilliard since the Historical Performance program began in 2009. Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, cellist Phoebe Carrai, horn player R.J. Kelley, oboist Gonzalo Ruiz and trumpet player John Thiessen are also on the faculty at Juilliard. These collaborations allow Philharmonia to help develop the next generation of artists.

Student Concerts with Richard Egarr:
In a display of breathtaking virtuosity enhanced by a generous supply of mischief, PBO guest leader and harpsichordist Richard Egarr treated over 1000 students and teachers to free concerts on November 12 and 13 in San Francisco and Palo Alto.

This "Brainiacs and Brandenburgs" program sampled from braniac J.S. Bach's beloved Brandenburg Concertos. A brainiac in his own right, Egarr dazzled the audience with his brilliant playing, and playfully illuminated for students the numerical and religious symbolism in J.S. Bach's compositions. The program also featured onstage interviews with orchestra musicians, instrument demonstrations, and multimedia presentations highlighting the history behind the music. PBO is thrilled that this year's Student Concerts set a record in attendance!

Next up for the Education Team: January 2016 In-School Program - "Jammin' Baroque Style: Melody and the Continuo Team." Read more here.

Now Available: Tickets to Philharmonia's Gala Afterparty at City Hall
Immediately following the "Baroque Fireworks" Concert with Susan Graham on February 11th, you're invited to join us for a Gala Afterparty as we celebrate Nicholas McGegan's 30th Anniversary with Philharmonia. The Gala Afterparty is available now as an Add-On option to your concert tickets.

Join us for an exuberant party in the incomparable San Francisco City Hall complete with a premium Scotch tasting, a lavish dessert reception including a port and cheese station, crepe station and gelato cart, and musical entertainment.

For more information, visit

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

National Philharmonic Concertmaster Colin Sorgi Performs Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2 at Strathmore
The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, will feature concertmaster Colin Sorgi in a performance of Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major on Saturday, January 16 at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. A free pre-concert lecture will be offered in the Concert Hall at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets start at $29 and are free for children ages 7-17 FREE 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, go to or call 301-581-5100.

Mozart's inventive and virtuosic Divertimento in D Major opens this concert. The Divertimento is one of three written in Salzburg during the winter of 1772, after Mozart had returned from a trip to Italy. The Italian influence is certainly present in this work, as it uses the three-movement structure then popular in Italian symphonies.

Next, National Philharmonic concertmaster Colin Sorgi takes the stage as the featured soloist in Bach's brilliant Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra No. 2 in E Major. The Bach is followed by the Holberg Suite by Norway's greatest composer, Edvard Grieg, which is based on 18th-century dances for string orchestra. The concert ends with the Simple Symphony for Strings, Op. 4, the work of 20th-century British composer Benjamin Britten, who uses material he wrote as a young teenager and displays the influence of neo-classical music on the precocious composer.

To purchase tickets to the Bach concert on January 16, please visit or call the Strathmore box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets are $29-$89; kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program. ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone. Parking is complimentary.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

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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 Jon 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