Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe, complete ballet (SACD review)

Also, Pavane pour une infante defunte. Netherlands Radio Choir; Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. BIS BIS-1850 SACD.

French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel began writing his one-act, three-scene ballet Daphnis et Chloe in 1909, premiering it in 1912 under the baton of Pierre Monteux. Ravel described the work as a "symphonie choréographique," a choreographed symphony. I mention this because there are times, such as listening to the suites alone, when one gets the sense that the conductors were simply stringing together a random selection of tone paintings. The work should feel of a piece, something the aforementioned Monteux and other conductors like Charles Munch and Charles Dutoit succeed at doing admirably. Which brings us to the present recording with Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

It may be a measure of Nezet-Seguin's energy and enthusiasm that he manages to be the principal conductor of two major orchestras, both the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He usually communicates that energy in his recordings, sometimes to the detriment of the performance, but most of the time not. Here, he is in flying colors, pouring a good deal of vitality into a vivid score that undoubtedly benefits from his passion.

The story of the ballet deals with the love between a goatherd, Daphnis, and a shepherdess, Chloe. Choreographer Michel Fokine adapted the tale from the Greek writer Longus, dating back to somewhere around the second century A.D. It's colorful, poignant, and exciting, the music communicating a variety of moods.

Even though Nezet-Seguin puts a good deal of zeal into his interpretation, as I say, particularly in the middle of the second part and the final movement of the third part, he is not without a delicate touch in the more-peaceful, atmospheric sections. There were a few times when I thought his musical descriptions appeared a bit too plodding, as in the "Danse grotesque," but at least he has good reason for approaching the characterization this way. When the conductor appears fully engaged, which is most of the time, the music sounds graceful and fluid, generally flowing through the transitions elegantly.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin
Most important, Nezet-Seguin does a good job conveying the more-atmospheric features of the music, never letting it sink into mere picturesqueness, sentimentality, or bombast. Let's say, it never gets boring and mostly remains quite beautiful. He seems to get the most out of the orchestra, too, as they sound lustrous and luxuriant from softest pianissimo to loudest crescendo. The wordless chorus also do a fine job, never overpowering the orchestral contribution but becoming an integral part of it.

Accompanying the ballet we get the Pavane pour une infante defunte ("a slow dance for a dead princess"), which Ravel originally wrote for piano in 1899 and didn't get the orchestral version heard here until 1910. Nezet-Seguin takes it rather differently than other conductors, starting more slowly and gradually but modestly quickening the gait toward the middle, easing down again at the end. It keeps the piece from dragging, to be sure, but it perhaps robs it of some of its melancholy bearing.

Producer Robert Suff and engineer Thore Brinkmann of Take5 Music Production recorded the album at DeDoelen Hall, Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2012 and 2014. They made and mixed it for hybrid CD/SACD playback, meaning, of course, that you can play the regular two-channel layer on any standard CD player, but you'll need an SACD player to play the two-channel and multichannel SACD layers. I listened to the two-channel SACD playback using a Sony SACD player.

The first thing one cannot help noticing about the sound is the huge dynamic range involved. It begins so softly, it may tempt you into turning up the volume. I advise against doing so because it isn't long before the louder sections kick in, and you may be sorry. Anyway, there is a commendable range and impact to the dynamics, with a reasonably good deep bass. The next things one notices about the sound are its sense of airiness, openness, depth, and space.

The "however" in all of this is that while the dynamics, air, and depth sound excellent, the midrange clarity is only average, there's a somewhat forward quality to the upper mids, and there isn't much sparkle in the highs. There is also a very slight coarseness about the sound, noticeable especially in the chorus.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


Bach: Orchestral Suites (CD review)

Ludwig Guttler, Virtuosi Saxoniae. Brilliant Classics 95018.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) produced some of his best orchestral music (Brandenburg Concertos, Orchestral Suites, Violin Concertos) during the years 1718 to 1723 while working in the court of Prince Leopold of Cothen. The Prince enjoyed and played music, and as he did not require that his musicians produce too much elaborately religious material, he left Bach to compose largely instrumental music. Although there is no record of Bach's actual obligations to the Prince, scholars agree that he probably served in attendance at all courtly occasions, supplying background music for meals, balls, weddings, funerals, processions, and the like. Unfortunately, scholars are not in agreement on exactly what the occasion was for the four Orchestral Suites, but with their enjoyable, largely dance-like character, one can safely guess that Bach composed them for the enjoyment of the Prince's guests, possibly at dinnertime. Later, Bach would perform them regularly in concerts in Leipzig.

Although Bach wrote the four suites in the French-influenced Baroque style much favored in his day, he also included extensive parts for solo instruments with ensemble backup. Bach didn't even want to call them "suites," although they are sets of five to seven movements each; he called them "overtures," a custom of the day in referring to a complete set by just its first movement. Anyway, why he wrote them and what he called them are beside the point; the main thing is that they continue to entertain us with their wit and charm.

There are any number of fine recordings of Bach's four orchestral suites, and this one reissued by Brilliant Classics is a safe rendering of the music. The virtuoso trumpeter and conductor Ludwig Guttler formed the chamber orchestra Virtuosi Saxoniae in 1978, drawing members from the Dresden Staatskapelle. They are very good, and under Guttler's careful and somewhat conservative guidance, they sound remarkably fluent and articulate.

Guttler adopts generally moderate tempos throughout the four suites, so you'll find no surprises here. Played on modern instruments, it isn't the hell-bent-for-leather approach taken by some bands, especially those striving for an authentic, period interpretation; nor is it a slow, leaden rendition. In fact, Guttler and his musicians play it pretty middle-of-the-road. While I wouldn't call these readings old-fashioned, they are not exactly innovative or daring, either.

In fact, Guttler takes everything at such a steady pace, it seems as though his main intent is not to offend anybody. He won't; but he may win over a few listeners who find most other performances of Bach a little too shrill or "tinkly-tinkly" for them, as an old friend used to characterize Baroque music. The Virtuosi Saxoniae are a smooth, elegant group of players who produce a smooth and elegant set of suites. They may miss out on some of the outright fun of this music, but they make up for it the sophistication of their playing.

Ludwig Guttler
The highlight of the set for me was the Suite in D BWV1068, with its regal Ouverture, its lovely Air, its lively Gavottes and Bourrée, and its stately Gigue. What's more, it seems almost as though Guttler directed most of these suites in just such a manner as Bach intended them: as background music for dinner gatherings. And I don't mean that characterization as negatively as it may sound because there are no doubt any number of listeners who are looking for exactly that kind direction.

The problem may be that there are so many fine recordings of this music available, listeners may find Guttler's disc noncompetitive. After all, we already have excellent renditions on period and modern instruments from Marriner, Savall, Pinnock, Hogwood, Linde, Gardiner, Koopman, Pearlman, Kuijken, Leppard, Clark, Suzuki, Goodman, Egarr, and others I've no doubt forgotten just now. Guttler's more sedate readings may not stand close comparison.

So, what are the advantages of Guttler's disc? For one, it is just a single disc. Many competing versions take two discs to accommodate the four suites. For another, Guttler's disc is relatively inexpensive. Then there are the polished, ultrasmooth performances and equally smooth sound. These may count for something. Finally, there is plain old curiosity; for the Bach lover who wants to hear or own everything Bach, the price point makes an easy purchase.

Producer Bernd Runge, balance engineer Eberhard Richter, and recording engineer Horst-Dieter Kappler made the album at Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany in 1991-92. Like the performances, the sound is quite smooth and refined, and since the Virtuosi Saxoniae are a fairly small group, the sound is also reasonably clear, if a tad soft. A mild room resonance provides a warm, golden glow to the proceedings. Although there isn't a lot of sparkle or dynamic punch to the sound, the whole thing is attractive in its own unassuming way.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


Classical Music News of the Week, June 28, 2015

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space Announces 2015-2016 Season

Twenty-seven years; fourteen concerts; forty-odd professional voices; thirty-plus member orchestra; twenty-one composers; seven guest artists; one NYC Premiere; one colossal pipe organ; and one singularly spectacular setting.

For the twenty-seventh year, the majestic setting of New York's Upper East Side Church of St. Ignatius Loyola presents the Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola's Sacred Music in a Sacred Space (SMSS) concert series, deemed by The New York Times to be one of the city's "finest professional church choirs" and, "a finely polished, stylistically nimble ensemble."

The theme for the 2015-2016 season – Choral America – represents an offering of works as diverse as the nation itself.  Encompassing many musical forms and styles (from the European classical tradition to Appalachian folk songs, spirituals, jazz and blues), the Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola over three Choral Concerts pay homage to some of America's most revered composers – including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber, to name a few – while showcasing vibrant living composers like Frank Ferko, Bill Culverhouse, Jennifer Higdon, Abbie Betinis, and Adolphus Hailstork, among others.

For complete information on concerts and times, visit http://smssconcerts.org/site/

The season runs from September 2015 to May 2016.
Choral Subscriptions: $55–$220
Single Tickets $25 - $80
Organ Concerts: $20
Caritas Concerts: $50
Chanticleer Tickets: $35–$85
Christmas Concert Tickets: $35–$85
Trinity Choir Tickets: $35-$85
Season tickets are now on sale. Public single ticket sales begin July 1, 2015.

Order online: www.smssconcerts.org
Phone: 212.288.2520: 24/7 ordering and customer service

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

In Memoriam: New England Conservatory Remembers Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller's family, friends, contemporaries, faculty, and students are in mourning over the news of his death on June 21, but the trailblazing energy surrounding this man is so great, even his in memoriam feels like a chance for new understandings and transformation. As New England Conservatory President, Gunther Schuller steered NEC through one of the most turbulent and formative decades of American and Conservatory history, beginning with NEC's centennial year. During his tenure as President from 1967-1977, as the Western world rocked to the rhythms of social upheaval and burgeoning youth culture, Schuller formalized NEC's commitment to jazz by establishing the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. Schuller hired Carl Atkins as founding chair of the department, and worked with Atkins to develop the first curriculum and secure such legendary faculty as Jaki Byard and George Russell. Shortly thereafter, he instituted the Third Stream department (which lives on today as Contemporary Improvisation) to explore the regions where the two musical "streams" of classical and jazz meet and mingle, and hired the iconic Ran Blake to be its chair.

Among recognition of Schuller's work in broad areas of music are the Pulitzer Prize in composition, Ditson Conductor's Award, MacArthur Fellowship, and NEA Jazz Masters Award. NEC bestowed an honorary Doctor of Music degree on Gunther Schuller at commencement ceremonies in 1978.

For more on the life and impact of Gunther Schuller, visit http://necmusic.edu/nec-remembers-gunther-schuller

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi

SSC Presents Duxbury Music Festival's Bernstein Sondheim Revue
South Shore Conservatory's Duxbury Music Festival (DMF) and Festival Director Stephen Deitz present Bernstein Sondheim Revue, featuring several members of the DMF faculty and Performers in Residence, on Friday, July 17, with seatings at both 6 pm and 8:30 pm, at the Conservatory's Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 St. George Street, Duxbury.

This inaugurate concert of DMF's tenth summer season features a revue of musicals, including Peter Pan, West Side Story, On the Town, Evening Primrose, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Company, and Gypsy, composed by the prodigiously talented, Massachusetts native Leonard Bernstein, and by inimitable American master Stephen Sondheim.

Summer 2015 is momentous because it both marks the Festival's first decade as one of New England's premier chamber music programs, and celebrates the return of the Festival's founding faculty, Oxana Yablonskaya and her son, Dmitry Yablonsky, after an eight-year absence. They share a back story with the two composers whose acclaimed musicals attest to their unique gifts as American melodists and lyricists, and whose brilliance will be celebrated on July 17.  When, after applying for a visa to emigrate to the United States, Ms. Yablonskaya and her son Dmitry found themselves for more than two years in limbo awaiting a decision regarding their request to leave Russia, Bernstein and Sondheim, among other musicians, actors, writers and politicians, successfully petitioned the Soviet government for their release. In addition to its nod to these two geniuses of the American musical, this summer's Festival will honor its Russian-American ties with concerts featuring works by Adams, Arensky, Rachmaninoff, Reich, Shchedrin, and Shostakovich, among others.

The Bernstein Sondheim Revue is generously sponsored by Frank Wisneski and Lynn Dale, with nibbles donated by Foodies Market and wine from Snug Harbor Wines.

There will be two seatings of the Bernstein Sondheim Revue at 6 pm and 8:30 pm.  Tickets are $50.  Individual tickets as well as a variety of series subscriptions are available.  For complete program, ticket and event information, visit www.duxburymusicfestival.org, call 781-934-2731, ext. 23, or follow Duxbury Music Festival on Facebook.

--Michelle McGrath PR

Gordon Getty's Opera Usher House To Receive Its U.S. Premiere at San Francisco Opera House December 8-13, 2015
Composer Gordon Getty's opera Usher House will receive its United States premiere as part of San Francisco Opera's double bill titled "The Fall of the House of Usher" with four performances from December 8 to 13, 2015. The Getty opera, a co-production with Welsh National Opera, will be paired with Robert Orledge's reconstruction of Debussy's uncompleted score, La Chute de la Maison Usher.

The macabre Edgar Allan Poe tale follows the reclusive Roderick Usher, who lives in his vast ancestral home with his ailing twin sister, Madeline. Soon after the arrival of Roderick's friend, Madeline dies and is buried in a vault beneath the house. The climax of the story occurs when Madeline's figure appears at the bedroom door during a storm – she had been buried alive and has clawed her way out of the vault to find her brother. As the friend flees the scene, he turns back to see the House of Usher splitting in two, collapsing around the siblings.

Poe's quintessential Gothic tale serves as the basis for Gordon Getty's opera. The great challenge it presents to an opera composer, however, is that it contains almost no dialogue. As a result, the composer explains, "I found myself taking lib­erties. To start, I have made Poe himself the narrator who lives to tell the tale. More radi­cally, I have conceived him and the doomed siblings as types of an antebellum warmth and gallantry which hardly exist anywhere in the prose of the real Poe, and must be counter to his purposes here. I have added other gothic staples – forbidden knowledge, a Faustian pact, ghostly ancestors – and have shifted all into a tale of good and evil and redemption. Good means Poe and the siblings, evil means Primus and the ances­tors, and Madeline becomes the agent of redemption."

San Francisco Opera
December 8, 10, 11 and 13, 2015
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

For more information, visit www.sfopera.com

--Nancy Shear Arts Services

Community Sing and Play-In for Orphaned Children in Afghanistan
For over a decade, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO) has helped orphaned children in war-torn Afghanistan, where it is estimated there are over 2 million orphaned children. On July 17, 2015 in Boston and then on July 19, 2015 in Hartford, CT people of all musical and dancing ability and age are invited to become a member of a large community music ensemble; the event is a benefit for AFCECO. The event's co-creators are: Dr. Eden MacAdam-Somer of the New England Conservatory, Kevin and Holly Bishop of Cuatro Puntos, and the Hartt School, who all teach annually at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, Afghanistan.

How a Community Concert Works:
Concert attendees first come to an earlier rehearsal where they are taught traditional Afghani songs. There are various levels of musical parts for people to play, depending on their experience. The presenting group will have an orchestra and a choir. A wide range of students, amateur musicians, and professionals will be present. After rehearsal, the entire group will play a concert together.

Attendees will have the chance to work with two internationally renowned NEC faculty and students, Persian artist Nima Janmohammadi, and Turkish singer/composer Burcu Gulec. In addition, they will hear a rare performance by Noir pianist and NEC Contemporary Improvisation Department Chair Emeritus Ran Blake as well as a speech by Andeisha Farid founder and director of AFCECO.

Concert Information:
July 17 - Boston, MA
6pm rehearsal; 8pm concert
Church of the Covenant 67 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116

July 19 - Hartford, CT
4pm rehearsal; 6:30pm concert
Trinity Episcopal Church 120 Sigourney St., Hartford, CT 06105

For more information, visit http://www.cuatropuntos.org/community-playsing-ins.html

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

NEC's Professional String Quartet Program Admits the Omer Quartet
New England Conservatory announces the Omer Quartet as the 2015 selection for its Professional String Quartet Training program. The Omer Quartet is comprised of Mason Yu, first violin (NEC MM); Erica Tursi, second violin (Juilliard MM); Jinsun Hong, viola (NEC MM and GD); Alex Cox, cello (Juilliard MM). The Conservatory offers the two-year residency to exceptional ensembles that show the talent and commitment necessary to pursue a concert career. The program consists of regular coaching sessions and meetings with Paul Katz, the program's director, additional study with NEC's renowned string faculty, weekly individual studio instruction, and an annual recital in Jordan Hall.

Erica Tursi, second violinist of the Omer Quartet, expressed the group's sentiments about the upcoming residency.

"We are thrilled to embark on this new chapter in New England Conservatory's Professional String Quartet Training Program," said Tursi.  "The character and warmth of the school coupled with the outstanding faculty make it a perfect fit for us. We look forward to two years of growth and exciting opportunities and we are certain that under Paul Katz's mentorship, we will reach new heights!" she stated.

NEC's Professional String Quartet Training program has helped shape the artistic development of distinguished quartets such as the Jupiter, Parker, Ariel and Harlem Quartets. During the two-year residency, a full tuition scholarship and a $10,000 stipend is provided for each student per year.

"We are very excited to welcome the Omer Quartet to NEC this fall," said Tom Novak, Interim President. "They join a very impressive list of quartets which have participated in this program and won several major international competitions, plus they serve on the faculty of major music schools and conservatories.  NEC's Professional String Quartet Training program provides the highest level of education in all aspects of artistry and career development, and we look forward to seeing the Omer Quartet thrive in this environment," he said.

For more information, visit http://necmusic.edu/

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations Consultant

Long Beach Gospel Fest Announces Star-Studded Lineup
The Fifth Annual Long Beach Gospel Fest, founded by Pastor Wayne Chaney, Jr. and wife Myesha of the Antioch Church of Long Beach, today announced this year's star-studded lineup for the highly anticipated citywide worship event. Showcasing some of the best gospel artists in music today, this year's lineup will include multi-award winning performers: Tasha Cobbs, Deitrick Haddon, Kierra Sheard, Jonathan Nelson, Myron Butler, Jessica Reedy, Brian Courtney Wilson and more.  The free, open-to-the-public event takes place on Sunday, July 19, 2015 at Marina Green Park.

The Fifth Annual Gospel Fest will take place on Sunday, July 19, 2015 at Marina Green Park, 386 E. Shoreline Drive, Long Beach, CA 90802. The worship service will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by the concert at 12:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.longbeachgospelfest.com

--Tosha Whitten Griggs, The FrontPage Firm

The Matter of Sight-Reading

A short while ago a good friend, Sonja Fischer, brought to my attention a subject I hadn't thought about much: the matter of sight-reading for singers.

In the following article, Christopher Gillett--the tenor, blogger, and author of Who's My Bottom and Scraping the Bottom--reflects on the idea of whether being able to sight-read is really all that important to opera singers:

"A few years ago, I was queueing for a flight home from Israel's Ben Gurion airport when I was pulled to one side for a security check. Rummaging through my bag, a security officer found my score of Bach's St Matthew Passion, which I was about to perform back home in England.

"'How can you read this?' he asked aggressively, flicking through the pages. 'Sorry?' I whimpered, while it dawned on me that St Matthew didn't exactly do the Jews many favours in his telling of the Easter story.

"'This... THIS! What is it? How do you read it?'

"Ah. I realised that to him, presumably a non-reader of music, my score looked like a load of gibberish, as legible as the Rosetta Stone. Worryingly, to him it probably looked like dodgy code.

"'Um, well, this thing here is called a stave and this is a treble clef...' I was just beginning to picture myself spending a week or so in a sweaty, darkened room when a superior chimed in and I was allowed to board my flight.

"Now,  this is a problem that probably would never have faced Pavarotti, for three reasons:

a) He was Pavarotti and universally recognisable, not some poxy tenor from England.

b) The St Matthew Passion was hardly his bag.

c) A score was probably as intelligible to him as it was to the security guard because, by most accounts, he was very poor at reading music.

"Years ago, this bothered me. Well, to be honest, it didn't bother me so much as make me feel unbearably smug. How could you possibly call yourself a musician and not be able to read music? And indeed a certain odour of prejudice still hangs around when it comes to the definition of Musician, especially against singers.

"I don't know if this is true – it certainly has the ring of truth – but I was told that the Musicians Union once debated whether it would be acceptable to let singers join the union (singers tend to be represented by Equity) but the prevailing opinion was that in order to qualify, singers would first have to undergo a sight-reading test to prove their musicianship. (Meanwhile, a trumpeter friend of mine managed to enroll his cat in the MU, just because he could.)

"I was well-schooled in sight-reading. When I was at Cambridge in the King's College Choir, an inability to learn a lot of music very rapidly would have seriously hindered the whole ensemble. Later, as a young soloist with a lot of new repertoire to perform, good sight-reading was very useful; the downside being that I could turn up and perform a piece without spending as much time practising it as I probably should.

"But that was in the realm of concert work, where you use a score. Opera is a very different beast and singing from memory is an altogether different skill. And the very suggestion that Pavarotti was not a musical singer is patently absurd. I also think he was a rather lovely actor, certainly with his voice  – you just wouldn't want him in your choir when something tricky like Herbert Howell's 'Take Him, Earth, For Cherishing' is on the service sheet, with only ten minutes in which to rehearse it.

"It's all too easy for well-trained musicians to forget that musical notation is not the be-all and end-all; that music is an aural art rather than a visual one. I find myself wondering whether criticising an opera singer because he's not good at reading music might make as much sense as belittling an actor who's dyslexic. As long as he's getting it right, what does it matter?

"Besides, there's surely a definite upside to not being able to read music. Many opera vocal scores are very heavy. Der Rosenkavalier weighs in at over 1.5 kilos – a few of those in your suitcase can make a serious dent in your luggage allowance. Imagine not having to carry that lot around.

Getting through Ben Gurion airport would be an absolute doddle."

--Christopher Gillett

To read the article in its entirety, visit http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/blogs/christopher-gillett/should-opera-and-classical-singers-like-pavarotti-be-able-to-sight-read-music

To read more about classical music from Sinfini Music, visit http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk#

To read more from Christopher Gillett, visit http://christophergillett.co.uk/

--JJP

Dvorak: Rhapsodies (CD review)

Rhapsody in A minor; Slavonic Rhapsodies. Tomas Brauner, Pilsen Philharmonic. ArcoDiva UP 0171-2 031.

Pilsen is one of the biggest cities in the Czech Republic. The Pilsen Philharmonic, which traces its origins to the nineteenth century, is one of the oldest orchestras in the Czech Republic. Maestro Tomas Brauner, one of the world's foremost young conductors, was born in Prague, Czech Republic. I mention all of this because the subjects of the present album are the orchestral rhapsodies of Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), probably the most famous Czech composer of all time. What could be more appropriate than a Czech orchestra and a Czech conductor recording Czech music in a Czech studio?

Dvorak was proudly nationalistic, often using Czech folk influences in his music, particularly in matters of rhythm. Certainly, the composer's style appears no more explicitly than in his rhapsodies, for which Maestro Brauner seems to have a strong affinity. And, I might add, the Pilsen Philharmonic follow his lead commendably. It appears that not only does the city of Pilsen make a celebrated Pilsner beer, they have a fine orchestra, too.

Now, to the music at hand: The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, and Wikipedia all agree that a rhapsody is a single-movement, instrumental composition irregular in form, episodic yet integrated and suggestive of improvisation or spontaneity. A rhapsody generally appears as a free-flowing work that uses a range of moods, colors, and tones to evoke a feeling of epic, heroic, or national character. Dvorak wrote four of them.

Brauner presents the rhapsodies in their order of composition, starting with the Rhapsody in A minor, Op. 14, B44, written in 1874. According to a booklet note, it was the tone poem meditations of Franz Liszt that most influenced Dvorak to write the piece, combining the dramatic, melodic ideas of his homeland with the tone painting of Liszt. He even called it a "Symphonic Poem in A minor." However, the composer did not feel the work worthy of performance, so it was not until he died that the public finally heard it.

The Rhapsody itself sounds a bit disconnected at times, which may be part of the reason Dvorak refused to allow performances of it. Despite this tendency, however, the work also displays an abundance of attractive melodies, maybe too many, all of them affectionately presented by Maestro Brauner, who does his best to make the contrasting elements come together.

Tomas Brauner
It would be another four years before Dvorak returned to the idea of composing an orchestral rhapsody with his three Slavonic Rhapsodies, Op. 45, and with these he seemed a little happier. I enjoyed the first of these three rhapsodies best of all for its peaceful, idealized, and clearly Romantic attributes. Not that Maestro Brauner doesn't play up the dramatic effects when they arise, but it's clearly the pastoral element of the music that I found most appealing. Or maybe it's because the music reminded me a lot of Smetana's "Moldau," I'm not sure. In any case, Brauner applies a sweet, light touch to the score, and the result is quite charming.

Rhapsodies 2 and 3 are more theatrical, more striking musically, especially No. 2, than No. 1, with No. 3 being a sort of cross between the first two and sounding more than ever like Smetana. Whatever, I appreciated Brauner's rhythmic yet highly lyrical approach to the music. It may be relatively lightweight material, but Brauner makes it a worthwhile listen.

Recording director Sylva Stejskalova and engineers Vaclav Roubal and Karel Soukenik made the album at the studio of the Czech Radio Pilsen in 2013. There is a moderate degree of room ambience present, a resonance that enhances the believability of the sound. There is also a fair degree of transparency, air, space, depth, and solid deep bass involved. However, a frequency response that tends slightly to favor the upper midrange somewhat offsets these otherwise excellent qualities, making the sonics a tad top-heavy. Nevertheless, it's good sound overall, clean, clear, and reasonably natural.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Totally Telemann (CD review)

Music for Orchestra. Barokkanerne, Kati Debretzeni, Ingeborg Christophersen, Alfredo Bernardini, Torun Kirby Torbo. LAWQ Classics LWC1074.

Being unfamiliar with the group Barokkanerne, I looked them up at our friends from Wikipedia, who inform us that "Barokkanerne is a Norwegian baroque ensemble based in Oslo, Norway. The ensemble was founded in 1989, playing on period instruments and gives concerts both as a chamber music group and orchestra. The ensemble has toured in Israel and Lithuania, participated in the Oslo Chamber Music Festival, the Oslo International Church Music Festival and has done productions for NRK TV and radio. Barokkanerne has its own concert series, called Cafebarokk, at Cafe Teatret in Oslo.

"The ensemble consists of professional musicians, permanent employees in the Oslo Philharmonic and the Radio Orchestra, as well as freelance musicians." Thank you, Wiki folk. Barokkanerne have made a small number of recordings over the past quarter century, so it seems odd that I've never run into them before. Nevertheless, better late than never, and I'm glad I found them.

Here, Barokkanerne are playing Telemann. That would be German Baroque composer and instrumentalist Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), one of the most-prolific composers of all time and considered by his contemporaries the leading German composer of his day. On the present album, Barokkanerne accompany soloists Kati Debretzeni, violin, Ingeborg Christophersen, recorder, Alfredo Bernardini, oboe, and Torun Kirby Torbo, flute on four brief concertos by Telemann, along with the orchestral suite La Bourse.

The concertos, which dominate the program, are the Concerto in E minor for Flute, Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV52:33; the Concerto in C Minor for Oboe, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 51:c1; the Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 51:B1, and the Concerto in E Minor for Flute, Recorder, Strings and Basso Continuo, TWV 52:e1. In addition, there is La Bourse, Suite in B-flat Major, TWV 55:B11.

As far as period-instrument bands go, Barokkanerne are quite good. They never sound rough or raggedy as can sometimes be the case with such ensembles. Indeed, if anything, they sound too polished, too precise. They apparently play without a conductor, but it doesn't seem to have any effect on the sophistication of their performances. I have to admit, however, that I've gotten rather used to the lighter, more buoyant style of a period-instrument group like Philharmonia Baroque than the more sedate, more straightlaced approach usually taken by Barokkanerne. Still, there is much one can praise about Barokkanerne's interpretations of Baroque music. After all, people nowadays call the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries "The Age of Reason," so there is good cause for Barokkanerne to perform Telemann in a somewhat analytical fashion.

Barokkanerne
In any case, Barokkanerne and the various soloists do a splendid job playing as one, supporting each other, and creating a rich tapestry of musical colors. Among my favorite items were the opening piece for flute and violin solos and the later orchestral suite, both of them vibrant and fun, even if they don't exactly bubble over with mirth. Barokkanerne, as I say, go after elegance and refinement above all; and here they succeed. The Adagio of the B-flat Concerto for Violin and Strings is also quite lovely and alone should win the album a flock of fans, as should the final movement of the E minor Concerto for Flute and Recorder for its virtuoso playing.

Producer Jorn Pedersen and engineer Thomas Wolden recorded the album at Jar Church, Baerum, Norway in March 2014. They made it for playback via hybrid SACD, two-channel stereo (CD and SACD) and, I assume, multichannel (SACD). I say that "I assume" there's a multichannel SACD layer because nowhere on the packaging or within the booklet insert could I find any word about the disc's playback capabilities, and since I only have my SACD player hooked up in two-channel, I was unable to determine for myself the disc's multichannel functions.

Anyway, I listened in two-channel SACD and thought the sound was fine. Barokkanerne is a pretty small group, so you would expect the sound to appear fairly transparent, which is the case. Although they seem a little too up-close for my taste, the sound is both warm and natural, with a pleasantly mild room resonance to add further to the lifelike effect. Instruments show up clearly separated and cleanly delineated, with a wide stereo spread. It's a good listen.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


Classical Music News of the Week, June 21, 2015

Tickets Now on Sale for SSC's Duxbury Music Festival

Tickets for all concerts and events of the 10th season of South Shore Conservatory's (SSC) Duxbury Music Festival (DMF) in Duxbury, MA are now on sale. The performance schedule includes faculty and guest artist concerts, and free festival recitals throughout the Duxbury community. Festival Director Stephen Deitz has recruited impressive faculty and students from around the world to delight audiences with their talents in competition and performance during the two and a half week festival from July 19 to July 31.

The Festival's Opening Concert, at a seaside home on Sunday, July 19, 6:30 pm, features DMF faculty and students and SSC faculty. Festival faculty members perform in three chamber concerts, including two in private homes on July 21 and July 29. On Friday, July 17 the DMF faculty present a Bernstein/Sondheim Revue, at the Ellison Center, with seating at café tables, snacks and a wine cash bar. There will be two seatings for the concert; one at 6 pm and another at 8:30 pm.

2015 DMF Tent Events offer something for everyone on the Duxbury Town Green from July 24 – July 26. Disco Fever on the Green, on Friday, July 24 at 7 pm is fun for the whole family! Rhythm & Blues on the Green on Saturday, July 25, 6:30 pm, returns with a dinner dance fundraiser benefiting scholarships at South Shore Conservatory. Sunday, July 26, 10:30 am, DMF's FamilyFest features Parents' Choice winner Little Groove presenting a program of interactive family music. Following the performance, guests young and old are invited to experience SSC's movement, music and arts activities. In the afternoon of July 26, from 5-7 pm Sunday in the Park returns with a free program of performances by DMF students. From Broadway to Bebop faculty concert is Monday, July 27 at 7:30 pm at the Ellison Center for the Arts (ECA) at 64 St. George Street. The final DMF performance, Winners Concert, at the ECA on Friday, July 31, features the winners of this year's DMF Solo and Chamber Competitions, followed by a farewell champagne reception.

Duxbury Music Festival, a program of South Shore Conservatory, unique to all of New England, is nestled in the South Shore seaside town of Duxbury, MA. DMF draws international undergraduate and post-graduate students who wish to participate in an intensive program for the study and performance of solo and chamber repertoires. The Festival invites the public to faculty concerts, guest performances, student recitals and special events celebrating the talents of its faculty and student musicians.

Individual tickets and a variety of series subscriptions are available for purchase. For complete program, ticket, and event information, visit www.duxburymusicfestival.org, call 781-934-2731, ext. 23, or follow Duxbury Music Festival on Facebook.

--Michelle McGrath PR

Woodstock Mozart Festival Presents 29th Season July 25-August 9
Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Holst, Piazzolla and Kern on Programs at Two Venues: Woodstock Opera House and Sanfilippo Foundation's Place de la Musique.

The Woodstock Mozart Festival presents its 29th season July 25–August 9, with opening and closing weekends at the Woodstock Opera House and a middle weekend at the Sanfilippo Foundation's Place de la Musique concert hall in Barrington Hills. Single tickets are on sale now.

The 2015 Woodstock Mozart Festival's performances at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock, take place Saturdays, July 25 and August 8 at 8 p.m. and Sundays, July 26 and August 9 at 3 p.m. Pre-concert introductions take place one hour before each performance. Single tickets are $33–58, $28 for students, and are currently on sale, along with group rate tickets, through the Woodstock Opera House Box Office at 815-338-5300 or at mozartfest.org/buy-tickets.php.

Performances at the Sanfilippo Foundation's Place de la Musique in Barrington Hills take place Saturday, August 1 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $65 per concert, each including the pre-concert tour beginning one and one half hours before each performance. General admission single tickets, which will not be available at the door, are on sale now, along with group rate tickets, at sanfilippofoundation.org/woodstock-mozart-festival-2015.html.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Moving Classics: A New Internet Platform for the Classical Music Community
A group of classical musicians from Munich founded the Moving Classics TV Channel in October 2014, with the idea of promoting new ideas in classical music. Our goal is to bring audiences and musicians together as well as to explore new trends in classical music.For instance, we see big opportunities to promote classical music by presenting special video clips, even as a new art form that can open doors to new audiences.In these classic music videos, music goes back to the origins from which it sprang: fantasy and imagination. Real music that inspires and has mysterious origins is presented imaginatively. In this way fantasy and imagination come back to the listeners. The videos are the attempt of the video artist and musician to achieve individual interpretations:

http://movingclassics.tv/videos/clara-schumann-notturno/

Our channel shows some of the world's most impressive music halls and even some very unusual locations where classical music could be performed – some of which you wouldn't think of:

http://movingclassics.tv/classiclocation/national-sawdust/

We also offer an international platform for classical musicians and composers, some of them real "hidden champions." Here, they can present their profiles and talk about their ideas, their personal approaches, and their musical interpretations.The profiles will be shared in social media.

In the TV-Blog section, we discuss innovative classical music themes with editors and bloggers from all over the world, discussing interesting approaches and initiatives. Among our video blog topics so far salon culture, image of classical music, future of big concert halls, how to make a location from a traditional classical concert, and flow and intuition in music:

http://movingclassics.tv/tv/flow-and-intuition-in-classical-music/

We are also launching a series of interviews about new ideas in classical music, fantasy, the Internet, and YouTube using visualizations in how to reach a young audience. Our first guest is Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, who kindly agreed to have a cup of coffee and talk to us about the image of classical music:

http://movingclassics.tv/tv/jan-lisiecki-moving-classics-interview/

Our next project will be a young musicians' channel.

Munich is famous for its high density of professional musicians. Our group is a part of that community. And the Internet offers us a unique possibility to invite new members and create a community of classical music lovers interested in new, current ways of performing classical music.

For more information, visit http://movingclassics.tv/

--Anna Sutyagina, Moving Classics

Chicago Duo Piano Festival Announces 27th Season
The Music Institute of Chicago presents its 27th annual Chicago Duo Piano Festival July 10–19. In addition to offering students coaching, lectures, master classes, and recitals, the Festival includes five public events at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, in Evanston, featuring guest duo Chie Tsuyuki and Michael Rosenboom, Festival Founders/Directors Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem, and Music Institute piano faculty, all performing duo piano repertoire.

Public performances
Gala Opening Concert—Friday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Duo Piano Festival Founders/Directors and Music Institute piano duo in residence Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem perform a program including Debussy's own transcription of his work La Mer for piano, four hands.

Free Faculty Recital—Sunday, July 12 at 2 p.m.
Music Institute piano faculty members perform music from Disney's animated classic Fantasia, including duo piano arrangements of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Beethoven's Pastorale Symphony, Dukas's Sorcerer's Apprentice, Saint-Saens's Carnival of the Animals, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2, and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

Faculty Extravaganza Concert—Tuesday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m.
In this popular event, members of the Music Institute and Chicago Duo Piano Festival performance faculty perform a mixed program of duo piano favorites, including Mozart, Schubert, Bizet, Messiaen, and more.

Performers in the July 12 and 14 faculty concerts include Elaine Felder and Milana Pavchinskaya, Irene Faliks and Maya Brodotskaya, Mio Isoda and Matthew Hagle, Grace Juang, Katherine Lee and Gregory Shifrin, Alexander Djordjevic and Brenda Huang, Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem, Sung Hoon Mo and Inah Chiu, and others.

Guest Recital: Chie Tsuyuki and Michael Rosenboom—Friday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m.
This award-winning Japanese-German piano duo perform standard repertoire for four hands and two pianos, with a special focus on creating their own arrangements, transcribing works from different eras and genres. For the Chicago Duo Piano Festival, they perform their own arrangement of Franz Liszt's Totentanz for piano, four hands.

Free Master Class—Saturday, July 18 at 10 a.m.
Guest duo Chie Tsuyuki and Michael Rosenboom lead a master class.

All concerts take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Except where noted, tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students and are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/1476326 or 800.838.3006.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

American Bach Soloists News
ABS Festival Performance Added: Marais's Sémélé on August 13

Due to the early and exceptionally high demand for tickets to the Friday, August 14 performance of Marin Marais's opera Sémélé, a second performance of the work has been added to the ABS Festival & Academy schedule on Thursday, August 13. Among the most highly anticipated events of the 2015 festival, these performances of Sémélé will be the first complete performances of the opera outside of Europe. Do you have your tickets to Sémélé?

Not only does the ABS Academy attract some of the best and brightest musicians to San Francisco every summer, but we all get to watch and listen to them both during the Festival and in the years to come as their activities take them all around the world and, occasionally, back to the Bay Area. With recent awards and honors being given to some of the Academy's incoming participants and our distinguished alumni, ABS is extremely proud to play an important part in the musical journeys of these talented artists.

The operas of Marin Marais are rarely performed today in contemporary opera houses, though not for lack of musical and dramatic value. His final opera, Sémélé, had not been heard in nearly 300 years when the French ensemble Le Concert Spiritual presented the work at the Festival International d'Opéra Baroque in Beaune, France in 2006—the 350th anniversary year of the composer's birth. The following year, Sémélé was staged in Montpellier. Despite this rediscovery, Marais's final work for the lyric stage has only been performed in Europe—until now! Jeffrey Thomas and the ABS Festival Orchestra, American Bach Choir, and Academy singers will present the U.S. Premiere of Sémélé during the ABS Festival & Academy on Thursday & Friday, August 13 & 14.

For more information, visit americanbach.org

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Announces New Summer Concerts
Jay Leno
Friday, July 31 at 7:30pm
Weill Hall

Natalie Cole
Saturday, August 1 at 7:30pm
Weill Hall + Lawn

Pianosonoma
Sunday, August 2  at 3:00pm
Weill Hall

Chris Isaak
Tuesday, August 18 at 7:30pm
Weill Hall + Lawn

For more information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

The University of Miami Frost School of Music and the University of Miami Health System Announce Festival Miami
Florida's premier live music festival will run 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.

All 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 online at www.festivalmiami.com or by calling 305-284-4940.

--Megan Ondrizek, University of Miami

Lawrence Brownlee Triumphs in Yardbird at Opera Philadelphia
Last Friday, Lawrence Brownlee premiered the role of Charlie Parker in Yardbird, a new opera composed by Daniel Schnyder with a libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly, co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Gotham Chamber Opera. The opera was greeted with a standing ovation and rave reviews for Brownlee's singing.

Brownlee also gave a concert this past Monday of his acclaimed Spiritual Sketches album, with pianist Damien Sneed and fellow Yardbird singers Angela Brown and Will Liverman. The Philadelphia Iniquirer reported: "the man of the hour was Brownlee…telling the spiritual story through his art-song vibrato and easy diction."

After Yardbird, Brownlee will sing Carmina Burana at the Hollywood Bowl July 21 & 23 before heading to Glimmerglass for a concert with Eric Owens on August 2, followed by La Cenerentola at the Lyric Opera of Chicago October 4-30.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

CNN en Español Presents Its New Series Docufilms
CNN en Español, the leading Spanish-language news channel, will start an interesting and reveling documentary series next Sunday, June 21 at 7 PM (EST) with argentine singer, songwriter, composer, actor, and the most prominent figure in the history of tango; "Carlos Gardel."

Docufilms will include distinguished and inspiring stories that will capture the audience's interest through a variety of profiles, biographies, art and uplifting historical documentaries. The first one, "Carlos Gardel" will reveal the life of the legendary Carlos Gardel.

The second, entitled "A Journey with Fidel," this is an original documentary which include the story narrated and released by a young journalist from New York, Jon Alpert, who had the exclusivity to accompany Fidel Castro on his plane to the United Nations Conference in 1979 having an unique and privileged access to Fidel never seen before.

Other documentaries that will be part of the series include; "The 33", about the rescue of the Chilean miners occurred in October 2010; "Neruda Passionate" with the biography of a man who fought against all odds to become a poet and overcame obstacles until been recognized with The Nobel Prize in Literature 1971; and "Oscar de la Renta," whose name is synonymous of elegance, glamour and sophistication. This will show how his name is translated into a successful brand, associated with fragrances, leather and household items.

The new series of CNN in Spanish, Docufilms will premiere on Sunday June 21 at 7:00 pm (Atlanta) with "Carlos Gardel."

--Gilda Torres, Public Relations Coordinator

Interview with Baritone Thomas Hampson
Acclaimed baritone Thomas Hampson gave an interview recently with the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, in which among other topics he discusses his working relationship with Leonard Bernstein. This coincides with Hampson's first performance with the IPO this season in Tel Aviv, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.

To read the complete text of the interview, visit http://afipo.org/thomas-hampson/

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

Jazz Journalists Association Honors Chicago Writer-Broadcaster Neil Tesser
Neil Tesser, a Chicago-based jazz journalist, broadcaster, author, educator, former chair of the board of trustees of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and current board member of the Jazz Journalists Association, was honored with the JJA's 2015 Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism Award on Tuesday, June 16 at a cocktail reception at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Tesser's Award topped 2015 JJA Jazz Awards for excellence in media, winners of which were announced at the party.

Tesser may be best known as program host and producer of Miles Ahead and Listen Here!, independently syndicated daily radio programs; as a contributor to publications including the Chicago Reader, USA Today and the Examiner.com, and as author of The Playboy Guide to Jazz. He joins a distinguished roll call of Lifetime in Jazz Journalism honorees: Stanley Dance, Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern, Ira Gitler, Gary Giddins, Gene Lees, Bob Blumenthal, Howard Mandel, Francis Davis, Doug Ramsey, Mike Zwerin, Don Heckman, Bill Milkowski, Amiri Baraka, Willard Jenkins and W. Royal Stokes.

Other recipients of 2015 JJA Jazz Awards in media categories included Wall Street Journal contributor Marc Myers for his blog Jazz Wax; Herbie Hancock and Lisa Dickey for their book Herbie Hancock: Possibilities; Ashley Kahn for his liner notes to John Coltrane's Offering: Live at Temple University (Resonance); Nate Chinen, columnist for JazzTimes and contributor to the New York Times for excellence in writing; Brandon Bain for the video "#WeCan'tBreathe: A Peaceful Protest"; Andrea Palmucci for his photograph of pianist Kenny Barron with bassist Dave Holland and Christian McBride, program host of "Jazz Night In America," a collaboration of WBGO, Jazz at Lincoln Center and National Public Radio.

The Jazz Awards recognized excellence in journalistic platforms, as well -- AllAboutJazz.com won Website of the Year, and JazzTimes for Jazz Publication (as several speakers noted, the distinction is wearing thin). Winners of all 2015 Jazz Awards, including those for musicians in instrumental categories, are posted at www.JJAJazzAwards.org.

--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

Young People's Chorus of NYC Musical Event: Tuesday, June 23, at Symphony Space
Unique Transmusica Concert "Resounding Hope Through Music"
Tuesday, June 23, 7:00 p.m. at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, New York, NY 10025.

Don't miss the only opportunity to experience this extraordinary musical gathering of three youth choirs from east and west Jerusalem, Chicago, and New York in YPC's newest Transmusica concert, a concert series that YPC created to build bridges to other world cultures. Now on June 23 the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus on its U.S. debut tour will join with the Chicago Children's Choir and YPC to meet each other, learn about each other's lives, and have the joy of sharing their music with each other and all who come to see them sing.

All proceeds go to scholarships for YPC children.

For tickets and more information, call 212 865-5400 or visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/home

--Young People's Chorus of New York

Elgar: Enigma Variations (CD review)

Also, In the South; Introduction and Allegro for Strings; Sospiri. John Eliot Gardiner, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. DG 463 265-2.

I don't know why it so pleasantly surprised me that John Eliot Gardiner handled these perennial English favorites so affectionately, but surprise me it did, and delighted me as well. I suppose I expected the conductor to be more matter-of-fact or more Germanic in his approach, because so many of his previous recordings have been in the German baroque repertoire. Anyway, Gardiner does a splendid job illuminating four of Elgar's early twentieth-century tone poems.

That anyone might call these pieces "tone poems" at all may itself be a misnomer. I doubt that English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) would have described them as such. But certainly they conjure up pictures and feelings beyond their abstract musical values, and especially as the first work on the disc, In the South, sounds so very much like Richard Strauss, the term "tone poem" comes readily to mind and seems appropriate. Whatever, Maestro Gardiner conveys the sweep and grandeur of each piece quite well, perhaps missing out on some of the commanding scope expressed in the performances of Sir Adrian Boult or the ethereal beauty of readings by Sir John Barbirolli, but worth a listen in their own, darker, more introspective way. Needless to say, too, the Vienna Philharmonic sound wonderful, whether or not they're fully experienced in playing English music.

John Eliot Gardiner
Yes, Gardiner displays his own merits, particularly in the lovely Sospiri, where the strings, harp, and organ so delicately intertwine. As for the centerpiece of the collection, the Enigma Variations, well, Gardiner does try to differentiate each of the themes well enough that whatever puzzles may be there a person might find clearly delineated. You'll recall that Elgar premiered the work in 1899, and it was his first big success. He began his fourteen variations by writing an improvisation and then continued to toy with each one, bringing into the work all kinds of clever, hidden, and not-so-hidden meanings. Gardiner adds his own personal insights into these variations, successfully integrating them into some kind of whole rather than sounding like a collection of disparate items.

My only concern with the disc is that the engineers appear to have miked the Vienna Philharmonic rather close and flat. My comparisons to the aforementioned Boult and Barbirolli discs (both on EMI) found the older recordings more transparent and more three dimensional. This is isn't a big fault, as the DG disc, recorded in 1998, at least appears nicely balanced in its frequency response, extremely smooth in its tonal response, and fairly wide ranging throughout. But it is a little disappointing to hear any newer recording sounding less natural than ones made decades earlier.

Of course, who am I kidding? Audiophiles will swear that good analogue recordings from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies beat anything being made today. Maybe so. Maybe so.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Bach to Moog (CD review)

Jennifer Pike, violin; Craig Leon, Moog synthesizers and conductor; Sinfonietta Cracovia. Sony 88875052612.

Turn back the clock; we're all young again.

In the mid Sixties Dr. Robert Moog invented the Moog music synthesizer. A couple of years later, American composer and electronic musician Wendy Carlos put the instrument on the map with the best-selling album Switched-On Bach. Now, we go back to the future with Bach to Moog, an updated realization of that landmark release, this time performed by Craig Leon, complete with a newly reconstructed Moog synthesizer and accompanied by violinist Jennifer Pike and a small ensemble of players, the Sinfonietta Cracovia.

As producer, performer, and conductor Leon explains, "I had a discussion with the folks at Moog Music about creating a recording that would coincide with two significant events that they were going to be celebrating. The first was the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Moog Modular synthesizer, which was occurring in 2014-15. The second was the upcoming 10th anniversary of the death of Robert A. 'Bob' Moog, their founder, who was the pioneer who brought the synthesizer to the world's musical stage.

"For the anniversary events, Moog Music manufactured a carefully reconstructed version of the Moog modular 55, which, though not the actual instrument that was used on Switched-On Bach, was very close to the original instrument on the recording. This was the instrument that was to feature on my project and indeed I would be the first person to record with it.

"I was faced with the daunting task of ensuring that the piece was not simply another retro version of the original Switched-On Bach. That was an album that has stood the test of time and remains a classic to this day. Instead I wanted to find a place for the synthesizer as an equal to acoustic instruments in the modern recording environment, both as a solo instrument and as a member of an ensemble. Doing research with theremins and a DI'd string bass as an audio source for processing via the Moog, I felt that string instruments would be the most useful for my purpose.

"The arrangements were written for small string ensemble, solo violin and solo Moog, using Moog as a processor for the acoustic instruments."

Craig Leon
So, is Leon's new release an improvement on its famous precursor? That's hard to answer because it may depend on one's attitude toward the original. Most of the classical-music listeners I knew in the late Sixties viewed Switched-On Bach as a sort of novelty; I mean, if you wanted to hear Bach played by an organ or a harpsichord or an orchestra, that's the way you bought it. But a synthesizer? While it was fun and began to tap the potential of electronic instruments, I'm not too sure a lot of Bach fans took it seriously. After all, not every Bach fan appreciated Stokowski's orchestral arrangements of Bach, either. Bach to Moog may find itself in the same company today. It's fun but obviously far from authentic and probably another novelty.

Here's a lineup of what's on the program:
Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, Preludio
Violin Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, Siciliano
"Herz Und Mund Und Tat Und Leben"
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
"Ich Steh Mit Einem Fuß Im Grabe"
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4
Orchestral Suite No. 3: Air
Goldberg Variations: Aria
Fourteen Canons on the Goldberg ground

It's all pretty familiar territory, but only a couple of items duplicate material from Carlos's album. The opening number, the Violin Partita No. 3, sets the tone for the rest of the program. The arrangement is tasteful, and Leon's playing and conducting are basically pretty conventional, with no helter-skelter tempos or exaggerated pauses, lengthening or shortening of notes, or tonal contrasts. Indeed, Leon could just as well be leading a traditional chamber version of Bach, except that we get a healthier amount of electronic music-making along with it.

The famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor sounds for all the world as though Leon is playing it on a typical church organ, so I'm not entirely sure what the point is. Fans of the Moog, of course, will point out that I'm simply untutored in the art of the instrument, and surely they would be correct. The Moog is capable of producing a remarkable variety of tones, so it can duplicate the sound of almost anything you program and play on it. The entire presentation from everyone involved seems energetic and enjoyable, with only the slight buzzing and burbling of the Moog a minor distraction for non-Moog enthusiasts.

Probably my favorite selection on the program, though, was the complete Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. But my reason for liking it may not be a compliment to the Moog because it is the very fact that the electronic sound is less obvious in these tracks than in any of the others. Whatever, I liked it.

Anyway, I found Leon's way with Bach more to more liking than Carlos's, more cultured and refined. And, of course, the addition of the violin solos and chamber accompaniment provides for a fuller, more-complete sound. The main thing is that it's all quite pleasurable, and none of it does any harm to Bach.

Producer and engineer Craig Leon and engineer Piotr Witkowski recorded the music at Bottomwood Recording, Buckinghamshire, UK, and Alvernia Studios, Alvernia, Poland and released the disc in May 2015. It's hard to judge the electronic part of this music as there is no absolute counterpart in the real world with which to compare it. The "sound" of electronically generated music in concert is often a matter of the kind of loudspeakers employed and their placement. Nevertheless, the sound on this disc will not disappoint fans of the Moog instrument or chamber orchestras, as it all sounds very close, very dynamic, and very clear. Yet the sound is not at all bright, steely, metallic, or edgy. In fact, everything appears exceptionally smooth, smoother than the old Carlos album. It's also a very big sound, the ensemble stretching very wide left to right. Expect room-filling sound with strong impact in a fairly warm acoustic setting.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


Haydn: Sinfonia concertante (CD review)

Also, Mozart: Oboe Concerto in C major; Bassoon Concerto in B flat major. Jonathan Cohen, Arcangelo. Hyperion CDA68090.

What is Arcangelo? According to their Web site, "Arcangelo is one of the world's leading ensembles bringing together exceptional musicians who excel on both historical and modern instruments, under the direction of founder and artistic director & conductor Jonathan Cohen.

"Its players believe that the collaboration required in chamber music, whether working in duos or as a chamber orchestra, is the highest expression of what it means to make music. Setting it apart from other ensembles, all performers are committed to this chamber ideal and as such Arcangelo attracts an outstanding calibre of performers who already have flourishing solo and chamber music careers. These are performers of dazzling technical ability, but they also have a passion for faithful interpretation that goes far beyond historical understanding.

"Formed in 2010, Arcangelo has exploded onto the musical scene with verve and energy and has since enjoyed numerous invitations to appear at major festivals and concert halls in Europe and America."

The first and only other time I encountered Maestro Cohen and Arcangelo, they were providing the accompaniment for violinist Vilda Frang on an excellent album of Mozart violin concertos. It was a pleasure at the time hearing them play, and it's an equal pleasure listening to them here.

On the present album, Arcangelo play three selections, one from Haydn and two from Mozart, all from approximately the same period, the late eighteenth century. The first item is the Sinfonia concertante in B flat major by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), a piece he wrote in 1792. A sinfonia concertante is kind of a mix of symphony and concerto, this one featuring a violin (Ilya Gringolts), cello (Nicolas Altstaedt), oboe (Alfredo Bernardini), and bassoon (Peter Whelan).

Jonathan Cohen
The playing of Arcangelo appears silky smooth, every phrase, every note, every nuance gliding effortlessly from one to another. And since this is Haydn, we can expect a plenitude of charming tunes strung together in a seemingly unending display of delightful music making. Arcangelo do Haydn justice with a reasonably lively, always graceful and elegant performance. I should also single out the soloists for their commendably gentle yet virtuosic work. Everything about the production displays a glistening polish that is most enjoyable. They go on to create a lovely Andante and a most-spirited conclusion.

Next, we get the Oboe Concerto in C major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), a piece he wrote in 1777. The featured player is Alfredo Bernardini, oboe. The two Mozart works are both equally felicitous, and Arcangelo perform them with refinement and finesse, Mr. Bernardini playing a mean oboe.

The program concludes with Mozart's Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, written in 1774. It features Peter Whelan, bassoon. Again the ease of Arcangelo's playing perfectly enhances the mellow nature of the oboe, as the ensemble also seem well attuned to the concerto's sense of fun in the opening movement. In the middle Andante, Mr. Whelan's oboe plangently voices an operatic voice, a touch of melancholy present but not overpowering. The finale seems a tad too formal to me, but I suppose it's in keeping with the cultured nature of the rest of Arcangelo's approach.

Producer Adrian Peacock and engineer David Hinitt recorded the music at St. Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London in February 2012, November 2013, and April 2014. Ultrasmooth sound marks the key feature of this release, complementing the ultrasmooth performances. Not that there isn't a good deal of detail, too, but the smoothness seems paramount. There is also a wide stereo spread, a fairly good dynamic response, and a pleasantly enveloping ambient bloom. It makes for a big, satisfying sound.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


Classical Music News of the Week, June 14, 2015

New Century Chamber Orchestra Announces 2015-2016 Season

New Century Chamber Orchestra and Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg announced recently the 2015-2016 season, including four subscription weeks in venues across the Bay Area. The ensemble's 24th season, Nadja's eighth as music director, includes a World Premiere commission by Pulitzer prize-winning Featured Composer Jennifer Higdon, British violinist Daniel Hope as Guest Concertmaster leading a program of works in tribute to his mentor Yehudi Menuhin, debut solo appearances by internationally acclaimed artists soprano Susanna Phillips and klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer and a repeat collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. The season repertoire encompasses a broad range of masterworks from the string ensemble repertoire including a program of works by Russian masters Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich, an entire program of dance works by Strauss, Stravinsky and Khachaturian, contemporary works by Pärt, Takemitsu, Glass, and Bechara El-Koury in addition to Christmas and Hanukah holiday favorites.

"This is our most ambitious season yet," said Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. "New Century has never shied away from pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the box, and this season enhances our commitment to bringing the hottest talents, collaborations and performances to the San Francisco Bay Area. We continue to thrive on the passion that our audiences share with us as we look ahead to the exciting new challenges on our horizons."

The new season extends from September 2015 to May 2016.

Subscriptions to the New Century Chamber Orchestra are on sale now. 3-Concert Subscriptions range from $78 to $165; 4-Concert Subscriptions range from $104 - $220. Call (415) 357-1111 ext. 305 or visit www.ncco.org to purchase a subscription.

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and will go on sale August 1, 2015 through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for students with a valid ID.

Open Rehearsal tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased through City Box Office beginning August 1, 2015: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400.

For further information on New Century, please visit www.ncco.org

--Brenden Guy, New Century Chamber Orchestra

Tuba and Euphonium Artist Aaron Tindall Joins University of Miami Frost School of Music Faculty
The Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music at the University of Miami announces Dr. Aaron Tindall as its new professor of tuba and euphonium beginning August 15, 2015. He was selected from an outstanding pool of candidates after a yearlong international search.

Tindall previously served on the faculties of Ithaca College School of Music and Eastern Michigan University, and was also a visiting professor at Penn State University and a visiting tutor for tuba and euphonium at the Conservatoire National de Region in Perpignan, France.

Tindall collaborates regularly with prestigious orchestras worldwide and appears as a solo artist throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. His two solo albums were released to critical acclaim: Songs of Ascent and This is My House. He can be heard on other recordings including Simply Velvet and the Eufonix quartet albums End Game, Brink, and Nuclear Breakfast.

His solo playing is described as "remarkable for both its solid power and its delicacy," his orchestral playing praised as "a rock-solid foundation." With his soothing tone and excellent control of flexibility and articulation, he is a prizewinner of many international solo and chamber music competitions and was a two-time finalist in the prestigious Concert Artist Guild Competition.

Tindal studied under Velvet Brown, Mel Culbertson, Warren Deck, Mike Dunn, Steven Mead, and Daniel Perantoni. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Tuba Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Master's of Music degree in Euphonium Performance with Distinction from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (England), and a Bachelor of Music Performance degree on both the Euphonium and Tuba from Pennsylvania State University.

He is a Denis Wick-London artist and design specialist, and a Buffet Group tuba/euphonium artist and clinician.

Tindall replaces tuba master artist Sam Pilafian, who remains on the faculty as a lecturer and coordinator of several academic-business partnerships on behalf of the Frost School of Music.

For more information, visit www.miami.edu/frost

--Megan Ondrizek, University of Miami

American Bach Soloists' Festival: Bach's Mass in B Minor, August 9 & 11
Bach's Mass in B Minor is the pinnacle of the Baroque repertory and ABS's annual performances draw Bach pilgrims to San Francisco from around the world. Jeffrey Thomas and the ABS Festival Orchestra, with vocal and instrumental soloists from the ABS Academy, perform this masterwork on each Festival Sunday.

Subscriptions and single tickets on sale.
Don't miss out on any event during Versailles & The Parisian Baroque.

For festival tickets, visit http://americanbach.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2641

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Fourth of July Fireworks, Food and Fun at the Green Music Center
4th of July Fireworks Spectacular, Sat, July 4 at 7:30pm.

Family, fun, food, and patriotic music, featuring Megan Hilty and the Santa Rosa Symphony.
Tickets Start at $20.

Children's Play Zone opens at 4:30pm, featuring bounce houses, face painting, rock climbing wall, magician, balloon artists, carnival games, arts & crafts, and more!

Gates to Weill Lawn open at 4:30pm.
Come early and pack a picnic, or enjoy our wide array of food, local wines, and craft beer.

Concert starts at 7:30pm
Broadway and television star Megan Hilty joins the Santa Rosa Symphony for a program of All-American favorites, and hits from some of her most iconic roles: Glinda in Wicked, Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Ivy Lynn in TV musical-drama Smash!

Fireworks post-concert
Don't miss the eye-popping fireworks finale lighting up the Sonoma County skies!

Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

For more information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

YPC Announces Program for June 23, Transmusica Concert with YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus and Chicago Children's Chorus at Symphony Space
A program representing cultures from around the world will be performed at Symphony Space Tuesday, June 23, at 7 p.m., in "Resounding Hope Through Music," a concert featuring three extraordinary youth choirs: the YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus from Israel in its New York debut and from the U.S., the Chicago Children's Chorus and the Young People's Chorus of New York City, which is presenting this concert as part of its "Transmusica" concert series. The series was created in 2012 to build bridges to other world cultures through the magic of music.

The program opens with the Young People's Chorus of New York City conducted by Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez singing two a cappella pieces - Mendelssohn's Jagdlied from Germany and Tres Cantos Nativos dos Indios Kraó from Brazil - as well as a medley from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

The Chicago Children's Chorus conducted by CCC President and Artistic Director Josephine Lee will sing "We Are" by CCC alumnus and composer-in-residence W. Mitchell Owens III; Eric Whitacre's "Fly to Paradise"; "Azienzenina" by Bongani Magatyana; "Arirang," a Korean folk song; "Brave" by Sara Bareilles and Jack Antonoff; and "Let's Dance" by Lonnie Hunter.

For more information, visit http://www.ypc.org/

--Angela Duryea, Young People's Chorus of New York City

Previewing the 2016 Philharmonia Baroque Season
An All-Mozart Concert with Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano.

Hear an all-Mozart program in February 2016, led by Music Director Nicholas McGegan with the widely hailed young fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout performing Mozart's Concerto for Fortepiano No. 23.

Also on the program are two popular Mozart symphonies, the delightful No. 27 and the epic No. 39 from the composer's late years in Vienna.

Called "one of the foremost, and arguably the most brilliant, of today's fortepiano players" by the London Times, Bezuidenhout returns for his second-ever performance with Philharmonia Baroque (the first having taken place last summer) and his regular concert season debut.

Come face to face with the genius of Mozart and hear these masterworks as he himself heard them.

The best seats are already selling out!
Subscribe today to reserve your seats.
Call (415) 295-1900 to learn more about subscribing.

For more information, visit http://philharmonia.org/

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (CD review)

Also, Night on the Bare Mountain (arr. Rimsky-Korsakov); Khovanshchina Prelude (orch. Shostakovich), Gopak from Sorochintsy (orch. Liadov). Valery Gergiev, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Philips 289 468 526-2.

Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) has been an excellent work for the recording medium because it easily demonstrates what most music lovers and hi-fi buffs alike appreciate most. It has all the tonal color, orchestral virtuosity, and aural dynamics to keep everybody happy. Conductor Valery Gergiev must realize this because he has recorded it at least four times, and this 2003 release with the Vienna Philharmonic manages to satisfy most of the criteria for good music listening. Whether Gergiev will satisfy everyone is another question.

You know, I'm sure, that the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) wrote Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874 originally as a piano suite. He called his little collection of tone poems "sound pictures," but they didn't catch on too well with the public until years later when several different people orchestrated the suite, the most famous and most often recorded arrangement being the 1922 version by French composer Maurice Ravel, which we have here. Mussorgsky based the movements of the suite on his musical impressions of paintings by his friend, the artist and architect Viktor Hartmann. The idea is that someone (the composer? the conductor? the listener?) is wandering through a picture gallery viewing the paintings, which the composer recreates in music, going so far as to give us a musical number, a "Promenade," to accompany our stroll from time to time.

Every conductor interprets Mussorgsky's work differently, giving us his or her own personal take on the paintings, adding nuances of phrasing, rubato, contrast, dynamics, etc., to recreate as vivid a picture as possible of each painting. How well you like Gergiev's approach may depend upon how you view the pictures yourself from past experience. Among my own favorite recordings of the music are those by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony (RCA and JVC) and Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra (EMI), but everybody surely has a preferred account with which to compare any other. For me, Gergiev's various pictures hold up well enough interpretively, if not quite so vividly as my own favorites.

The single most important quality for any recording of Pictures is that the conductor makes sure every movement, every "portrait," sounds expressively developed and subtly shaded enough to bring to life the subject of the painting. In this regard, Gergiev is reasonably successful. Just don't expect the usual pyrotechnics from the piece; Gergiev prefers in this reading to evoke a big, earthy, yet still refined set of tonal images.

Valery Gergiev
Like his other recordings of the piece, Gergiev takes the "Promenades" at a fairly leisurely pace as the viewer (or whoever) strolls about the exhibition gallery; and most of the individual sections are picturesque enough if not always particularly creative. In other words, everything is neat and tidy, but there is not always that extra spark in every piece. Fortunately, Gergiev has the wonderful Vienna Philharmonic to bring the music to life, and they come through splendidly.

I liked the eeriness of "Il vecchio castello" and the fun in the "Ballet of the Chicks, although I still missed the sense of character contributed by a conductor like Fritz Reiner (RCA). Likewise, Gergiev's "Baba Yaga" and "Great Gate of Kiev," while still meaningful, seem to lack much of the kick that a conductor like Riccardo Muti (EMI) put into them. Well, you see what I mean; Gergiev's recording is fine but not among my favorites.

Philips recorded the music live in the Musikverein, Vienna, April, 2000, and released it on both a regular stereo CD and a hybrid multichannel SACD; I listened to the regular stereo CD. As far as the sound goes, it's good without being absolutely topflight, perhaps the live recording being a part of the problem. Things appear dynamic enough, to be sure, well balanced, very slightly veiled, and, thankfully, quiet. Yet there is a lack of truly deep bass that tends to rob a few movements in Pictures of their power and eloquence. The "Catacombs" segment, for example, really needs that low bass underpinning, as do the final two movements, "Baba Yaga" and "Great Gate of Kiev"; and it is here that both the Reiner and Muti discs again sweep the field.

So, the recording remains a slightly mixed bag for me. I expected Gergiev to be outgoing, red-blooded, but I found him a bit more conservative than I would have liked. Still, these are minor quibbles, I suppose, for folks looking for a serviceable digital recording of the Pictures, with three good, spirited couplings in A Night on the Bare Mountain, the Prelude to Khovanshchina, and the Gopak from Sorochintsy Fair to boot. Come to think of it, the couplings may be better interpreteted than the star attraction.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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