Atterberg: Piano Concerto (CD review)

Rhapsody; Ballade & Passacaglia. Love Derwinger, piano; Ari Rasilainen, Radio-Philharmonie Hanover des NDR. CPO  999 732-2.

If the first few moments of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg's Piano Concerto sound a lot like the Grieg Concerto, it probably isn't coincidence. Atterberg freely admitted an admiration for his fellow Scandinavian. Atterberg (1887-1974) is another of those artists whose works are important but seldom recorded. Perhaps they were only important in their time, and their time has come and gone. Nonetheless, it's lucky for us that companies like CPO (and Naxos and so many other labels) are keeping lesser-known composers in the public eye.

The Piano Concerto is the focus of this disc, although it's preceded by a delightful little Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra that's full of exotic charm, and it's followed by the Ballad and Passacaglia, equally brief (about ten minutes) but equally fetching.

Ari Rasilainen
Then, in between, comes the Piano Concerto of 1936, which is foremost on the program, as well it should be. Besides beginning with a homage to Grieg, it settles into a series of powerful and rhapsodic statements of quite sophisticated, albeit slightly melancholy, orchestral proportions. After that is one of the loveliest (and again slightly melancholic) slow movements I've heard in some time. The finale, marked "Furioso," seems to me a little out of keeping with its somewhat subdued antecedents, but it does ease up at the end.

I admit that a previous disc of this composer's Third and Sixth Symphonies (CPO 999 640-2) did not impress as much as this one did, perhaps because of the Piano Concerto's further infusion of folk and blues elements. Whatever, I found it a minor treasure that I'm glad I got to hear. What's more, pianist Love Derwinger plays enchantingly, Maestro Ari Rasilainen keeps the pace moving sweetly, and the orchestra play it with a marked degree of enthusiasm.

As with CPO's earlier disc of Atterberg material, however, the sound is not overly impressive. There's nothing really wrong with it per se, mind you, but it doesn't impress one with any degree of transparency, impact, or stage depth. Rather, it just sort of hangs out there doing its own thing unobtrusively, if a bit softly and flatly.

JJP

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


Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra. HDTT remaster.

Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985) was the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra for about as long as any conductor has ever been the conductor of any one orchestra: He was at the helm for forty-four years. He took over the orchestra from Leopold Stokowski in the mid 1930's and recorded for several labels thereafter: primarily Columbia/CBS, RCA, and EMI until the late 70's. It was 1972 that Ormandy made the RCA recording under review, using the short-lived technology known at the time as Quadraphonic. HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) translated the Quadraphonic tape to various newer formats in 2015.

When I started acquiring recordings at the beginning of the stereo age (mid 1950's), Ormandy had already well established himself as one of the world's leading conductors. But I didn't really take much notice of him and bought very little of his work because he always seemed a rather foursquare conductor to me. That is, while I never found anything wrong or deficient about his conducting, I usually never found much spark to it, either. He appeared to give the public exactly what they wanted, which wasn't bad: that is, reliable, straightforward interpretations of popular classical music from a world-class orchestra. Unfortunately, too, in the vinyl days his record companies weren't always good to him, producing LP's that sounded thin, noisy, compressed, sometimes harsh, and bass-shy. By the time EMI started recording him, things got a little better; and then when the CD era arrived in the early 1980's, it surprised me to hear how good some of his early stereo work sounded when properly transferred to the new medium. Apparently, Columbia and RCA had not always been kind to the sound when translating the original master tapes to LP. While Ormandy's performances still didn't impress me too much, at least I could hear them in improved sonics. This HDTT transfer gives us some idea of what Ormandy and his Philadelphians really sounded like back then.

Anyway, the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) wrote his Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43 in 1902, and over the past hundred-odd years it has become probably his most-popular work. The listening public dubbed it his "Symphony of Independence," although musical scholars are as yet unsure whether Sibelius meant to attribute any symbolic significance to the piece. Whatever, it ends in a splendidly victorious finale that certainly draws out a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.

The work begins in a generally sunny mood, building to a powerful a climax, with a flock of heroic fanfares thrown in for good measure. Ormandy had recorded the symphony once before in stereo (for Columbia in the late 1950's, if memory serves), and this '72 performance is much as I remember the first one. Ormandy takes a fairly relaxed view of the opening movement, building the excitement in smoothly articulated stages with no jarring transitions. It's popular music made even more palatable in Ormandy's essentially idiocyncratic-free approach.

Eugene Ormandy
Sibelius marked the second movement an Andante (moderately slow) and ma rubato (with a flexible tempo) to allow a conductor more personal expression. This second movement begins with a distant drumroll, followed by a pizzicato section for cellos and basses. Again Ormandy handles the music with his customary, gentle evenhandedness, with the insistent staccato rhythms made more comfortable in the process.

The third-movement scherzo displays a fair degree of orchestral pyrotechnics, interrupted from time to time by a slower, more melancholy theme before seamlessly making its transition into the Finale. Sibelius labeled the movement "Vivacissimo," meaning a tempo taken in a lively and vivacious manner. Under Ormandy, the music moves along at a reasonably quick gait without seeming in any way hurried, rushed, or hectic. He judges his rubato well, too, so again we get no incongruous shocks to the senses as the music moves from one contrasting element to the next.

Then, the Finale should burst forth in an explosive radiance--thrilling and patriotic. Ormandy maneuvers his way into this big fourth-movement victory celebration with a kind of polished cushiness that doesn't quite inspire a listener the way, say, Karajan does. Yet it suffices, and one could hardly call it dull. And he does build up to the score's several rousing climaxes with an appropriate amount of success. So, if Ormandy's interpretation is hardly pulse-pounding, it's also hard to fault.

As I say, Ormandy is good at what he does, and there is nothing about the recording that anyone can point to as inadequate or lacking, especially with an orchestra that plays so wonderfully and with such precision at the Philadelphia. It's just that there are already any number of fine recordings I find more rewarding from people like John Barbirolli and the Royal Philharmonic (Chesky Gold), Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra (EMI), Pierre Monteux and the London Symphony (HDTT),
George Szell and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Philips), Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI), Colin Davis and the Boston or London Symphony Orchestras (Philips or RCA),
Thomas Sondergard and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Linn), Osmo Vanska and the Lahti Symphony (BIS), among others. Nevertheless, I doubt that Ormandy would disappoint too many people.

Producer Max Wilcox and engineer Paul Goodman recorded the music for RCA in 1972. In 2015 HDTT transferred it to various formats including two-channel CD, DVD and DVD-A Audio physical disc, DSD or PCM FLAC download, or four-channel surround Blu-ray from an RCA discrete Quadraphonic tape. I listened to the two-channel CD.

The sound is a little closer than I like and a trifle too rounded and soft for me. Still, it beats by a long shot the old sound I remember from Philadelphia, which was often hard, bright, and brittle. Here, we get a most-listenable sound, with strong, wide dynamics and a decent if not wholly satisfying sense of orchestral depth. It seems a good sound for most of the music here--sunny, open, big, and bold, with a warm hall bloom to the instrumental setting. Although midrange transparency suffers a bit, it's a good trade-off for the added ambient glow.

Moreover, for those of you interested in what the original four-channel Quadraphonic sounds like, HDTT also make the recording available in Blu-ray 4.0 surround.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, December 27, 2015

Cameron Carpenter Launches 34-City North American Tour in January 2016

Organist Cameron Carpenter embarks on massive 34-city North American tour in January 2016, with nearly every engagement featuring a debut for the International Touring Organ. With 27 stops in new cities and/or venues, this marks the biggest tour ever from any organist, let alone one who travels with his own organ.

Since the debut of his brainchild, the revolutionary International Touring Organ, at Lincoln Center in March 2014, which was described by The New York Times as "quite terrific," Cameron Carpenter has continued to break the barriers of traditional organ and classical music with a style, sound and energy that is uniquely his own. The custom-built International Touring Organ dispenses with traditional pipes and instead uses digitalized sounds culled from instruments from across the globe, thus allowing Carpenter's artistry to expand in even more compelling directions. Above and beyond the impressive technical wonders and effects that have become his trademark, Carpenter's music is imbued with deep sensitivity and emotional power, the manifestation of Carpenter's joy at being able to connect with his very own instrument.

For 2016, Carpenter embarks on his most ambitious tour to date. In fact, with 34 cities across 12 states and two countries, it is the largest tour ever by an organist.  The vast majority of cities comprising the tour will be debuts for both Carpenter and the International Touring Organ. In addition to solo engagements, Carpenter also embarks on a "tour within a tour" of leading Canadian venues in cities including Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, and Ottawa, and plays a series of concerts in March 2016 with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, featuring Saint-Saëns's Symphony No. 3 "Organ" and Poulenc's Concerto for Organ.

For more information on Cameron Carpenter, the North American tour, or the International Touring Organ, visit www.cameroncarpenter.com.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Academy Celebrates 10 Years With Concert, Zukerman Master Class
The Music Institute of Chicago celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Academy program, which has educated and prepared gifted pre-college musicians for professional training and music careers, with several public events in 2016. On Saturday, February 6, renowned violinist/violist/conductor Pinchas Zukerman gives a master class for Academy students, free and open to the public, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Principal Clarinetist Stephen Williamson performs chamber music with Academy students. Both events take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.

The Music Institute of Chicago's Academy 10th Anniversary Celebration Concert featuring Stephen Williamson takes place Saturday, February 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at brownpapertickets.com/event/1996616 or 847.905.1500. All programming is subject to change. For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

California Symphony Performs Gershwin, Weill, Bernstein
The California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera perform a program of music inspired by American jazz of the 1920s on Sunday, January 24, with pianist Charlie Albright joining the Orchestra for the original jazz band version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. A suite of songs from Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, Bernstein's little-heard Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, Stravinsky's Scherzo à la russe, and Milhaud's Le création du monde complete the "American Roots" program. The concert is at 4 pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, with a free pre-concert talk with Cabrera beginning at 3 pm.

The music on the program shares a common inspiration: American jazz. Stravinsky's Scherzo à la russe was originally written as part of a film score for a jazz orchestra, then rewritten and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, with Stravinsky himself conducting. Milhaud's Le création du monde (The creation of the world) was inspired by the French composer's first exposure to jazz in the early 20s. Kurt Weill's music for The Threepenny Opera was born of a more formal compositional technique, but influenced by the newly popular jazz that was sweeping through Europe. And the now-familiar, fully orchestrated version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue first was written as an arrangement for jazz band. "It was originally written for (1920s and 30s American bandleader) Paul Whiteman," Cabrera explains, "with parts for four violins, four saxophones, banjo – it was conceived for a 1920s-style jazz band."

Tickets for the California Symphony's "American Roots" concert at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek are $42 to $72, and can be purchased through the California Symphony's Web site at www.californiasymphony.org and at 925-943-7469.

--Jean Shirk Media

Music Institute's Free Petting Zoo, Jan. 10
The Music Institute of Chicago invites families to learn about music and options for music lessons and classes by attending a Musical Petting Zoo and Registration Day Sunday, January 10 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at its Winnetka Campus, 300 Green Bay Road. This event is free and open to the public.

Children can try a wide range of instruments at a musical petting zoo as well as enjoy music games and refreshments while parents learn about the Music Institute from faculty and staff. In addition to a raffle drawing for $200 off lessons or classes, all first-time day-of registrants receive a $100 discount.

The Musical Petting Zoo and Registration Day is free and open to the public. For more information, call 847-905-1500, ext. 127. To learn more about lessons and classes at the Music Institute of Chicago, visit musicinst.org/prospective-students.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

PARMA Recordings Announces Completion of First Round of Cuba Recordings
Bob Lord, CEO of PARMA Recordings LLC, has announced the completion of the company's first recording sessions in Cuba. The music will be released in 2016, with PARMA returning to Cuba in the Spring for the next round of sessions.

Lord, who was named in 2015 as one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year: Key Influencers, first visited Cuba in May following President Obama's loosening of restrictions imposed by the 55-year old embargo. Lord returned in November to record works by living composers, all of whom were in attendance, with Cuban musicians.

Lord recently wrote about his experiences on the PARMA BLOG.  About the Cuba sessions, Lord says, "It was a profoundly exciting and energizing experience to work with the Cuban musicians. What I heard during my week in the studios and concert halls was a true collaboration, the real ideal of musical and artistic interaction, in which composition and composer and performer and team come together to create something fresh and beautiful."

More information about the release of music and the Spring sessions in Cuba will be announced after the New Year.

Bob Lord is a producer, composer, bassist and CEO of PARMA Recordings, the New Hampshire-based audio production house and parent company of the Navona, Ravello, and Big Round label imprints.  As of 2015, he has more than 400 recording and production credits on his resume.

--Bob Lord, PARMA Recordings

Collage New Music Winter Performance: Voices of Now and Tomorrow, January 10
Collage New Music announces the next concert in its 2015-2016 season titled, Voices of Now and Tomorrow. The performance features the talent of world-renowned vocalist soprano, Dominique LaBelle. In the weeks leading up to the performance, highly acclaimed, award-winning composers David Rakowski, Chaya Czernowin, and Yehudi Wyner, as well as, composer and CNM '15-16 Fellow, Talia Amar have each been rehearsing their compositions with Collage New Music. All four composers will be in attendance at the concert. David Hoose will conduct.

Featuring Dominique LaBelle, Talia Amar, David Rakowski, Chaya Czernowin, and Yehudi Wyner.

The concert will be held on January 10, 2016 in Edward Pickman Hall at the Longy School of Music at Bard College, 27 Garden St. in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Pre-talk with composers and musicians at 7pm; performance starts at 8pm.

For additional performance information, please visit:
http://www.collagenewmusic.org

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Celesta Marketing and PR

Chopin: Nocturnes (CD review)

Also, Barcarolle; Fantaisie. Claudio Arrau, piano. Philips 289 464 694-2 (2-disc set).

Chopin didn't invent the nocturne; Wikipedia defines it as "a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. Historically, 'nocturne' is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins." Credit goes to Irish composer John Field for writing the first nocturnes under the specific title 'nocturne,' but Chopin did quite a lot to perfect and popularize the genre in the early decades of the nineteenth century. We think of nocturnes today as romantic mood pieces with expressive melodies and broad, buoyant, sustained accompaniment, and no one before or since has done them quite as eloquently as Chopin.

Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) must have loved the form because he continued writing nocturnes all his short life, the first ones penned in his teens and early twenties, the final ones written just a couple of years before his death. They're all here in the present collection, exquisitely beautiful, done up in raptly concentrated and deeply committed performances by Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau. In addition to the Nocturnes, including the posthumous C sharp minor, Arrau adds the Barcarolle in F sharp and the popular Fantaisie in F minor.

Arrau's way with these nocturnes is strong and emotional rather than purely poetic. Not that they aren't also warm and loving, especially as taken at the moderately slow speeds Arrau adopts, but they have a firm cohesiveness about them, along with some deliberate, solidly molded phrasing. Arrau's playing may not be as lyrical as Arthur Rubinstein's (RCA), who for me still holds pride of place, but Arrau's approach is still among the better, more-decisive interpretations of these works you'll find on disc.

Claudio Arrau
Philips recorded the music in 1978 analogue and remastered them in 2001 using 96 kHz, 24-bit Super Digital technology for smooth all-around sound and reasonably low noise. The resultant sound isn't as quiet or as dynamic as some of today's all-digital recordings, to be sure, but after the first few seconds of listening you hardly notice the small amount of background noise present, and the dynamic range seems as wide as necessary. Otherwise, the sonics are rich and smooth.

This Chopin set was among the first of Philips's line of remastered classics, among which I can also recommend Bernard Haitink's Mahler Ninth Symphony (289 464 714-2), Stephen Kovacevich's Grieg Piano Concerto (289 464 702-2), Kiril Kondrashin's Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade (289 464 735-2), and John Eliot Gardiner's Handel Water Music (289 464 706-2). Philips used these and other recordings to celebrate their first fifty years of music making and, thus, they called the series "Philips 50: Great Recordings." Unfortunately, Philips went out of business shortly thereafter. Such is fate, I suppose. In any case, in my comparisons of a few of the remasters to their previous CD counterparts, the remasterings bring a touch more refinement and polish to the sound, without losing much vitality in the process. And the good thing is that you can still find most of these discs new or used.

JJP

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


Garrop: Mythology Symphony (CD review)

Also, Thunderwalker; Shadow. Alondra de la Parra, Markland Thakar, CCPA Symphony and the CCPA Chamber Orchestra. Cedille CDR 90000 160.

First off, you're maybe wondering who Stacy Garrop is. For those of you who don't know her, Ms. Garrop is an award-winning composer, an Associate Professor of Composition at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, and a Cedille Records artist with compositions on nine CD's. Here, we find three of her works spanning the years 1999-2013, presented by two different conductors, Alondra de la Parra and Markland Thakar, leading the Chicago College of Performing Arts Symphony and the CCPA Chamber Orchestra.

At Ms. Garrop's Web site, we read that her music centers "on direct and dramatic narrative. The sharing of stories is a defining element of our humanity; we strive to share the experiences and concepts that we find compelling with others. In her works, this manifests in programmatic pieces without text (sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly) and more directly in pieces that draw upon poets and writers for source material." So, unlike so much modern music that often sounds like experimental exercises in pure soundscapes, Ms. Garrop's music most often has a narrative attached, little tone poems that unfold clearly enough without too much guidance from program summaries.

The first of these pieces on the program is the Mythology Symphony, which premiered in 2015. (These are world-premiere recordings for all three works on the disc.) Ms. Garrop has divided the symphony into five parts with almost self-explanatory titles: "Becoming Medusa," "Penelope Waits," "The Lovely Sirens," "The Fates of Man," and "Pandora Undone."

As you would expect from a score about mythologic characters, there is plenty of excitement, creativity, and impact from the music, without its ever appearing bombastic or overwrought. Not that I found it particularly groundbreaking in any way, but it is highly accessible and reasonably entertaining. Parts of it bear an unmistakable resemblance to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, so be prepared for that kind of vigorous action.

The quieter sections of the symphony, like "Penelope Waits" and "The Fates of Man," sound appropriately atmospheric, although I could have used a tad more melody to get me through them (the whole work is some forty minutes long). I probably enjoyed the segment on "The Sirens" best of all because of its impressionistic picture painting. Unfortunately (for me), it is also the briefest movement in the piece. I was hoping it would go on a bit longer.

The symphony ends in a finale both carefree and profound. Its rhythms alternate between contrasting moods, accompanied by the tolling of a bell and an ominous drumroll. Yet, all is well, and even though Pandora unleashes great evil into the world, she also manages to undo some of the mischief she's created. So the music ends on a calming note.

Alondra de la Parra
Most important, Maestro de la Parra handles all of the symphony's differing emotions with both energy and resolve. Likewise, the orchestra plays with enthusiasm and refinement, producing a lustrous, polished sound.

Next is Thunderwalker, a three-movement work from 1999, written as Ms. Garrop's doctoral thesis. It, too, has descriptive titles for the movements: "Ritual," "Invoking the Gods," and "Summoned." This piece is shorter than the symphony, and because a chamber ensemble play it, it displays a greater transparency and, in a few places, a greater intimacy. While I found it a little too rambunctious for my taste, I'm sure a lot of listeners will appreciate its imposing gestures.

The final piece is the briefest: Shadow, a chronicle of Ms. Garrop's stay at the Yaddo artist colony in New York in the summer of 2001. The work is a combination of light music with threatening overtones, rather like dark shadows on a sunny, otherwise peaceful day. Maestro Thakar's delivery emphasizes the overall tragic qualities of the music. It's a strikingly evocative piece, well executed by the director and orchestra.

Producer James Ginsburg and Cedille chief engineer Bill Maylone recorded the music in March 2014 and January 2015 at Benito Juarez Community Academy Performing Arts Center, Chicago, Illinois. As always, Maylone does a terrific job with the sound, this time in fact outdoing himself. It's one of the most dynamic, realistic, reach-out-and-touch-it affairs I've heard in a long while. It is, in fact, one of the better-recorded new recordings I've heard all year.

The sound has an enormous dynamic range, with a realistic wallop to the timpani. It's also smoothly articulated, with a lifelike depth of field, a flat frequency response, strong bass, clean highs, and an overall natural ambient glow. The sound pretty much replicates real players and instruments in a real acoustic setting, so you get a fine sense of being there live without its being a live recording.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, December 19, 2015

Luna Pearl Woolf's Better Gods Debuts at Washington National Opera January 8 & 9

Better Gods, a new opera by composer Luna Pearl Woolf, will have its world premiere at the Kennedy Center on January 8 and 9 presented by Washington National Opera, Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director. The story of the last queen of Hawaii and the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy, with a libretto by Caitlin Vincent, the one-hour opera is part of WSO's ambitious American Opera Initiative.  The music of Luna Pearl Woolf, praised for its "psychological nuances and emotional depth," by The New York Times, is also featured on several new recordings and is the focus of major composer portraits in Washington, DC and in Montreal in 2016.

Better Gods chronicles a pivotal moment in U.S. history, centered upon the woman who becomes the last in a line of beloved Hawaiian monarchs: "Queen Lili'uokalani's best elements of herself – the worldly, educated, deeply Christian woman and the rightful chief of a self-sufficient nation – came to war within herself when that sovereignty was threatened," comments Woolf, "To me, such insuperable tension within one woman makes her a heartbreaking, fascinating and truly operatic heroine."

Woolf's score for Better Gods references some of Lili'uokalani's own musical compositions, exploring the cultural crosscurrents they embrace. The 13-player orchestra combines Western and traditional Hawaiian instruments, including Ka 'eke'eke (bamboo pipe-drums), Pu'ili and 'Ulili (rattles), and nose flutes, which will be seen on stage. Better Gods is directed by Ethan McSweeney with musical direction by Timothy Myers.

January 8 and 9 at 7:00 pm at the Kennedy Center, Washington, DC. Commissioned by the Washington National Opera, Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director.

For more information, visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/OQOMA

--Shira Gilbert PR

200 Senior Singers Storm the Herbst, Jan. 27
Senior Singers Storm San Francisco's Herbst Theater for the Summit of Older Adult Choirs Concert on Wed., Jan. 27, 2016.

How many senior singers can the Herbst Theater stage hold? San Francisco's Community Music Center (CMC) intends to find out when it hosts a free Summit of Older Adult Choirs on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. Following a successful debut in May 2014, the Summit features a performance from seven choirs composed of nearly 200 singers. The 2016 summit, conducted in partnership with senior centers from around San Francisco, serves as the kickoff event to celebrate CMC's 95th anniversary.

The Summit represents a culmination of efforts which are made possible through CMC's Older Adult Choir Program, conceived in 2011. Free to participate and open to anyone 55 years and older, the Program provides many personal, social, artistic and quality-of-life benefits that musical activity brings. The program has grown as choirs have cycled out of the Community of Voices research study, a partnership between UCSF, CMC and the Department of Aging and Adult Services, supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

"I feel happy and honored to be part of a choir and I look forward each week's rehearsal so I can spend time with my friends," said Estela A. Moreno, who sings with the 30th Street Senior Center Choir and the Solera Singers at the Mission Neighborhood Center. "The Summit is extremely exciting and to be part of a greater community and having your performance recorded is the ultimate experience for me."

"CMC's free Older Adult Choir Program, one of our most popular offerings since its start four years ago, is a wonderful example of the ways we make music accessible to people of all backgrounds," said Chris Borg, executive director at CMC. "This Summit represents a key highlight for many enthusiastic musicians who love performing. It's also a great way to kick off CMC's 95th anniversary year."

For more information, visit summit2016.eventbrite.com

--Jimin Lee, Landis PR

February Events at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Close Encounters With Music
Grand Piano Trios: Schubert, Mendelssohn and Arensky
Roman Rabinovich, Piano; Sarah McElravy, Violin; Yehuda Hanani, Cello
Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $19, $29, $39

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Friday, February 5, 2016, 8 p.m.
Saturday, February 6, 2016, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

Late Nite Catechism
Starring Patti Hannon
Written by Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan
January 8 – March 25, 2016
Performed Weekly, Fridays, 8 p.m.
January 8, 15, 22, 29
February 5, 12, 19, 26
March 4, 11, 18, 25
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Stage 2
Tickets: $39

Late Nite Catechism III: 'Til Death Do Us Part
Starring Patti Hannon
Written by Maripat Donovan With Marc Silvia
January 9 – March 26, 2016
Performed Weekly, Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Stage 2
Tickets: $39

ASU Concerts at the Center
Joie de Vivre! French Duos for Winds and Piano
Monday, February 8, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

Talk Cinema
Tuesday, October 13, 2015, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 7 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Stage 2
General Admission: $17

The Hot Sardines
Wednesday, February 10, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $29, $39, $49

Native Trails
Selected Thursdays and Saturdays, January 9 – March 31, 2016, Noon – 1 p.m.
January 9, 14, 16, 21, 23, 28, 30
February 11, 18, 20, 25, 27
March 3, 24, 26, 31
Outdoors at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Free Admission

Peter Nero
Friday, February 12, 2016, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

One Night With Joan Collins
Saturday, February 13, 2016, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

Sunday A'Fair
Selected Sundays, January 10 – April 3, 2016, Noon – 4 p.m.
January 10, 17, 24, 31
February 14, 21, 28
March 6, 20
April 3
Outdoors at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Free Admission

Virginia G. Piper Concert Series
Orion Weiss
Sunday, February 14, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $29, $39, $59

San Francisco Opera: Grand Opera Cinema Series
I Capuleti e I Montecchi
Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 7 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Stage 2
General Admission: $12

BalletBoyz
Friday, February 19, 2016, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

Broadway Back Together: Avenue Q
Featuring John Tartaglia, Ann Harada, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Alex Gemignani and Music Director Gary Adler
Saturday, February 20, 2016, 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $39, $49, $69

ASU Concerts at the Center
Caio Pagano/Avanti Chamber Music Festival
Monday, February 22, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

Keyboard Conversations With Jeffrey Siegel
The Golden Age of the Piano
Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $29, $39, $49

Michael Feinstein: Sinatra Centennial Celebration
Saturday, February 27, 2016, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
Tickets: $79, $89, $109

ASU Concerts at the Center
Saxophone Chamber Ensembles of ASU
Monday, February 29, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia G. Piper Theater
General Admission: $10 (Free for Students, Teachers and Veterans)

For more information, visit www.ScottsdalePerformingArts.org

--Bill Thompson, SCCARTS

Second Show Added for P.D.Q. Bach Golden Anniversary
Due to overwhelming demand, a second show has been added for Peter Schickele and friends' P.D.Q. Bach: The Golden Anniversary Concert at New York City's Town Hall on December 29 at 8pm. Ticket prices will be $77, $62 and $42 and will be available through the Town Hall box office and via Ticketmaster. The concerts at Town Hall will be Schickele's first NYC holiday concerts in over 10 years; the concerts were funded through a Kickstarter campaign which reached its goal in just two weeks.

Inspired by the musical comedy of Spike Jones and a British humorist named Gerald Hoffnung, Peter Schickele (under the alias "Professor Schickele") began presenting satirical concerts in the 1950's at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.  This eventually led to the first public P.D.Q. Bach concert at New York's Town Hall in 1965. These concerts became an annual event at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York City continuing uninterrupted for 40 years.

For the Town Hall performance, Professor Schickele will be joined by fellow Julliard graduate and teacher, conductor Jorge Mester; Baroque and contemporary music standout, soprano Michèle Eaton; soloist, chorister and recording artist, tenor Brian Dougherty; the New York Pick-Up Ensemble; with color commentary by Peabody Award winning broadcaster and producer Elliott Forrest.

For more information, visit http://www.schickele.com/index.htm

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

"Winter @ The Wallis" Features Nine Special Evenings of Soul-Stirring Classical Music
The New Year will ring in the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts as the place to be for classical music on LA's Westside when it presents "Winter @ The Wallis," a special series of nine
curated classical music performances, January - March 2016. These intimate recitals, chamber ensembles, and orchestral events present an outstanding group of musicians who have created a cross-cultural approach to classical music while performing works by the most beloved composers.

In addition, The Wallis' newly appointed Managing Director Rachel Fine and on-air personalities
from Classical KUSC will host Q&As with artists from this special series prior to their performances. Patrons are invited to attend these free pre-concert talks, enjoy special offerings of wine tastings and pairings specifically chosen for each program by The Henry Wine Group, and listen to lively discussions with such featured artists as pianist Wu Han, violinist Bing Wang and cellist Ben Hong, pianist Jeffrey Siegel, and Santa Cecilia Orchestra's Yalil Guerra, among other special guests.

"Winter @ The Wallis" tickets are available for purchase as singles starting at $39 or as a
package series beginning at $156. For complete information, call 310.746.4000 or visit http://www.thewallis.org/.

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

92Y January - February Concerts
Monday, January 25, 2016 at 8:30pm
Matan Porat, piano:
Variations on a Theme by Scarlatti (92Y debut)
Buttenwieser Hall

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 7:30pm
Buster Keaton's "The General" with pianist Matan Porat
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 8pm
Brentano String Quartet & Gabriel Calatrava:
Bach's "The Art of Fugue"
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 3pm
Composers Inspired by Art with pianist Garrick Ohlsson
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 7:30pm
Zukerman Trio
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 8pm
Julian Rachlin, violin
Magda Amara, piano
Clifford Ross, video & stage installation
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 7:30pm
Australian Chamber Orchestra:"The Reef"
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 8pm
Inon Barnatan, piano
Kaufmann Concert Hall

Monday, February 22, 2016 at 8:30pm
Sir András Schiff Selects:
Schaghajegh Nosrati, piano
Buttenwieser Hall

For more information, visit www.92Y.org

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Make Twice the Difference for the Music You Love
What an extraordinary and momentous year here at Philharmonia. On top of the triple anniversaries we're celebrating - Nic's 30th, the Chorale's 20th and the Orchestra's 35th - I am delighted to let you know that we welcomed almost 550 new subscribers this year, bringing our total number of subscribers to a level not seen since 2005!

It's a vote of confidence for the incredible music that happens throughout the Bay Area and in concert halls across the country. This season has already showcased some breathtaking performances and there are more thrilling concerts in the new year. These concerts - and our robust educational program, touring and recording opportunities - are made possible by supporters like you.

Subscriptions only cover 33% of our operating costs and we must rely on contributions from the PBO family to sustain our mission and bring you the music you love and the artistry you expect year after year.

I am excited to announce that Bloomberg Philanthropies has awarded PBO an unprecedented $150,000 challenge grant in recognition of our artistic excellence and organizational strength. We need to raise $30,000 in additional funds in order to be eligible for a second grant next year.

Please make your gift before December 31st and help us meet their challenge. We can't do it without your support today.

For information on how to donate, visit https://philharmoniabaroqueorchestra.secure.force.com/donate/?dfId=a0ni0000000nXXSAA2

--Noelle R. Moss, Director of Development, PBO

Concerto Veneziano (SACD review)

Giuliano Carmignola, violin; Andrea Marcon, Venice Baroque Orchestra. Archiv SACD 00289 474 8952.

Absolutely splendid sound and performances drive this collection of Baroque works straight to the top not only of the recording pile, but to the top of the Baroque pile, the top of the classical-music pile, and the top of the music-in-general pile. Even though it's been around for a while, you may have missed it; thus, the reminder.

We've got a combination of assets working here. First, there is the selection of violin concertos from stalwart Baroque composers Antonio Vivaldi, Pietro Locatelli, and Giuseppi Tartini. The various works included (Vivaldi's RV 583 and RV 278; Locatelli's Concerto for Violin in G major; and Tartini's Concerto for Violin, Strings and Continuo in A major) are not as familiar as some others by these men and, therefore, come off sounding somewhat new.

Andrea Marcon
Second, violinist Giuliano Carmignola and the Venice Baroque Orchestra play the pieces with a fresh vigor and spontaneity that communicate smoothly and easily to the senses. Their interpretations sound relaxed without being lax, vigorous without being overbearing. They simply appear graceful, spontaneous, well judged, and well executed, which is as much as I, at least, could reasonably expect from this music without the scores sounding distorted for the sake of eccentricity.

And, third, the sonics are about as good as it comes. DG released it on their Archiv label in April 2005, and it remains one of the best of its kind. There is a breadth and depth to the ensemble more than amply reproduced by Archiv's fully compatible (hybrid CD/SACD) SACD recording. Although the number of players is relatively small and, therefore, one would expect a good degree of transparency to the sound, we also get here a good deal of warmth, resonance, and natural hall ambiance. The result puts the listener closer to the actual orchestral experience than we would normally get in a period-instrument performance, where sometimes a hard, dry, brittle sound seems the norm.

It's hard to argue with the music, the performances, or the sound of this impressive entry from Carmignola, Marcon, and company.

JJP

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


Fucik: A Festival of Fucik (SACD review)

Neeme Jarvi, Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Chandos CHSA 5158.

If you're not quite sure about the name Julius Ernst Wilhelm Fucik (1872-1916), it would probably take you no more than a couple of seconds into the "Entry of the Gladiators" to recognize the music. Oh, yes, Barnum & Bailey, to be sure.

Fucik was a Czech composer as well as conductor of military bands, with marches, polkas, and waltzes his specialties. Bands still play his music, although symphony orchestras seem to overlook him, probably because much of his work is, frankly, less than subtle and not particularly innovative. Maestro Neeme Jarvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, however, attempt to rectify the situation somewhat with this collection of fourteen of Fucik's most-popular pieces, including the aforementioned "Gladiators" as well as the "Florentine" march and "The Old Grumbler."

The subject matter may be lightweight, but Jarvi and company embrace it with good-hearted enthusiasm and make the most of what they have. I must admit, though, that Jarvi's view of Fucik may be a tad too enthusiastic for some listeners. The Fucik disc of tunes I've had on the shelf for years is one by Vaclav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic on Teldec, which sounds a fair bit more refined than Jarvi's, if not quite so exciting. They make a nice contrasting pair, the Neumann disc taming Fuck's typical bombast more than Jarvi's recording, while Jarvi goes more hell-bent-for-leather in sound as well as performance.

If you think any of this might interest you, the track list goes as follows:

  1. Marinarella, Op. 215
  2. Onkel Teddy (Uncle Teddy), Op. 239 (version for orchestra)
  3. Donausagen, Op. 233: Andantino
  4. Donausagen, Op. 233: I. Tempo di valse
  5. Donausagen, Op. 233: II. Con dolcezza
  6. Donausagen, Op. 233: III
  7. Donausagen, Op. 233: Coda
  8. Die lustigen Dorfschmiede (The Merry Blacksmiths), Op. 218
  9. Der alte Brummbar (The Old Grumbler), Op. 210
10. Einzug der Gladiatoren (The Entry of the Gladiators), Op. 68, "Triumph March"
11. Miramare, Op. 247
12. Florentiner Marsch (Florentine March), Op. 214, "Grande marcia Italiana"
13. Wintersturme (Winter Storms), Op. 184 (arr. P. Stanek for orchestra)
14. Hercegovac, Op. 235
15. Regimentskinder (Children of the Regiment), Op. 169
16. Ballettratten, Op. 226: Allegretto
17. Ballettratten, Op. 226: I. Tempo di valse
18. Ballettratten, Op. 226: II. Meno con delicatezza
19. Ballettratten, Op. 226: III. Meno mosso
20. Ballettratten, Op. 226: Coda
21. The Mississippi River, Op. 160
22. Unter der Admiralsflagge (Under the Admiral's Flag), Op. 82

Neeme Jarvi
All of the selections are brief, three-to-five minutes apiece, with the exceptions of "Danube Legends" and "Little Ballerina," which have five sections each.

The Scottish orchestra plays them with finesse, despite the sometimes rowdy nature of the music, and the musicians are especially felicitous during the softer, gentler interludes (and almost every selection has such quieter moments, believe it or not).

My own favorites include the "Marinarella" overture that opens the program for the grace intermixed with its thrills; the march "Uncle Teddy" for its Sousa-like swagger; "Danube Legends" for its lilting (and for me familiar) waltz tunes; "The Old Grumbler" for its humorous bassoon solo; of course, "The Entry of the Gladiators," also known as "Thunder and Blazes," here given an invigorating workout; and the "Florentine March," also enthusiastically handled.

Although there is not a lot of substance to these pieces, Jarvi finds the sparkle and merriment in each selection and capitalizes on it. For march and waltz fans, it's not a bad collection, particularly when Chandos recorded it so well.

Producer Brian Pidgeon and sound engineer Ralph Couzens made the recording at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland in February 2015. They made it for hybrid SACD and CD playback in multichannel and two-channel stereo. I listened to the SACD two-channel layer.

As we might expect from Chandos and Couzens, the sound is quite natural, quite robust, and quite dynamic. The lower midrange and bass have a real heft, the transient impact is palpable, and the ambient bloom of the hall is always in evidence. The engineers appear to have set up the microphones at a moderate distance, so we get a fairly lifelike response from a listening distance not too close up, with a good depth of field, as well. The engineers give up a little in the way of ultimate transparency for a feeling of being in the auditorium with the musicians.

JJP

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


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 westedgeopera.org

--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 http://www.92y.org/SeeingMusic

--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 http://aopopera.org/

--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 https://philharmonia.org/

--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 www.nationalphilharmonic.org 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 nationalphilharmonic.org 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

Vivaldi: Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (CD review)

Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante. Virgin Veritas 7243 5 45465 2 (2-CD set).

Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, "The contest between harmony and invention," put Vivaldi on the map insofar as concerns modern audiences because it begins with history's most famous collection of early tone poems, The Four Seasons. Vivaldi's publisher put them out in 1725, a time when the musical world seemed little used to music representing the sights and sounds of the environment around them. The works obviously continue to excite the imagination today, which is probably why there are so many recordings of them in the catalogue.

"The tempos are spectacularly exhilarating from the very opening pages, yet Biondi maintains a remarkably smooth pace throughout.... It is exciting, creative, and rewarding for anyone looking for something new in an old warhorse." That's what I wrote back in 1992 about the first recording Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante ensemble made for the Opus 111 label of the concertos comprising The Four Seasons. Having switched record companies some time ago, Biondi and his group of period-instrument players finally decided in 2001 to get around to the whole set of twelve concertos, which meant, of course, re-recording the famous first four. His performances remain very much the same as I remember them from the Opus 111 recording, the interpretations based on original manuscripts rather than the more familiar published ones. Whether the small variations in the present recording are worth the bother will probably only concern the Vivaldi connoisseur. What's more important is that Biondi and his players will take you on a whirlwind ride through the music. It makes me wonder, however, if there were really so many virtuoso orchestras around in the early eighteenth century that could play these pieces with the kind of ruthless yet lyrical abandon and exacting precision that Biondi and his people display.

Fabio Biondi
Anyway, I found the familiar four concertos at this pace stirring enough, but by the time I finished all twelve I was a little fatigued. So, I would advise taking them a few at a time, unless you're just playing them as background music.

The sound is exceptionally clean and somewhat close-up. At first blush I thought it a tad bright, but I became used to it. The clarity comes at the expense of some mid bass warmth, however, so the overall impression is not necessarily one of a live, concert-hall experience. I doubt that any reader of this site doesn't already have three or four favored Four Seasons, and maybe a favored recording or more of the whole set of twelve concertos in the set, so I won't bother with a recommendation. My own favorites in The Four Seasons alone remain: McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO), Sparf and the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble (BIS), Pinnock and the English Concert (DG Argo), Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (Decca), I Musici (Eloquence), and Jeanne Lamon and Tafelmusik (Sony or Tafelmusik); with the stylish and refined I Solisti Italiani (Denon) doing the whole set of Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione as well as anybody.

There are, incidentally, good booklet notes on these works in the Virgin set--two essays, in fact: one on the history of the music and a second by Biondi on why he chose to go back to the original manuscripts for his inspiration. As he says, "I believe it is absolutely legitimate to consider research into manuscript sources of these concertos as a contribution towards a more thorough knowledge of the multiplicity of instrumental techniques appropriate to the performing practice of Vivaldi and his school." As I say, though, whether original sources make the music sound any better is a matter of taste.

JJP

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


Schubert: Rosamunde, complete incidental music (CD review)

Ileana Cotrubas, soprano; Rundfunkchor Leipzig; Willi Boskovsky, Staatskapelle Dresden. Brilliant Classics 95122.

As you know, only a relative handful of people heard any of Schubert's prolific musical output during his lifetime, the lucky few being mainly family and friends. However, one work that did get a fairly large audience, at least initially, was Schubert's incidental music to the play Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus by Helmina von Chezy. The premiere took place at the Theater an der Wien in 1825, but it failed and had only two performances. Fortunately for fans of Schubert, his music gained popularity after his death, the Rosamunde score remaining a treasure for us today.

Oddly, though, there aren't a lot of recordings of the complete incidental music, the one I've been living with quite happily until now being from Kurt Masur and the Gewandhaus Orchestra on Philips from 1983. However, the Brilliant Classics reissue here under review from Willi Boskovsky and the Staatskapelle Dresden provides a good alternative. Recorded a few years earlier, 1977, than Masur's, it sounds marginally clearer (if not so rich), with Boskovsky putting in a slightly more energetic performance than Masur.

So, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote the Rosamunde music in 1823 on a commission from the Theater an der Wien, and he completed it in barely two weeks (in some accounts less than five days). Although the play closed, as I say, quickly, critics and audiences rather enjoyed the music, and it has delighted listeners ever since (or, at least, ever since people like Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Brahms got behind it after the composer's death). The play itself doesn't matter anymore, lost to history--the plot and characters apparently being quite melodramatic, even corny by today's standards of entertainment--but Schubert's music remains forever charming.

Maestro Boskovsky, perhaps better remembered as a conductor of German waltz music, especially the Strauss family, does a good job with this light music from Schubert. Things begin with an overture, which Schubert didn't have time to write, so concert performances usually use either the one we have here, written a year earlier for Alfonso and Estrella, or the one from 1820 for the fairy-tale play Die Zauberharfe ("The Magic Harp").

Boskovsky takes a characteristically chipper view of the music, even if the story was evidently rather depressing (some referred to it as "a grand romantic play"). Not that Boskovsky doesn't sufficiently address the more-dramatic elements; he does. It's just that his interpretation dwells more on the purely sweet, lilting aspects of the score, allowing a free flow of rhythms throughout.

Willi Boskovsky
In addition, there's the matter of tempos. In comparison to the aforementioned Masur performance, Boskovsky is consistently faster. He's faster, in fact, in every single movement (except in the overture because the conductors use two different ones). Yet Boskovsky never hurries the music. It's really lovely, dancing along as it does on its sprightly airs.

My own favorite parts of the score are the gentler sections--the ballets, andantes, and, of course, the Entr'acte No. 3. Then, too, the Staatskapelle Dresden play beautifully, and Ms. Cotrubas and the Leipzig Radio Choir add brief but effectively touching contributions to the affair.

As a bonus coupling, the program provides the overture to Die Zauberharfe, the music Schubert eventually decided would be best for the score rather than the more-hastily chosen Alfonso und Estrella, which he used for the first public performances. So, with this recording, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Producer John Mordler and engineers Horst Kunze and Gerald Junge made the recording at Lukaskirch, Dresden, Germany in March 1977. Compared to the Philips/Masur disc I had on hand, which sounds warm, spacious, dark-hued, and mellow, the Brilliant Classics/Boskovsky reissue sounds more close-up and more sharply focused. The Masur disc seems like a sixteenth-century tapestry compared to Boskovsky's twentieth-century photograph. I enjoyed the sound of both, but they are different.

Anyway, the Boskovsky recording displays a fair amount of transparency without sacrificing much in the way of natural ambience or dimensionality. Dynamics are good, too, as are stereo spread and transient response. Highs are adequate, although bass could be deeper and some midrange frequencies betray a slight degree of fuzz around the notes.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, December 5, 2015

International Bronze Medalist Kate Liu Performs Jan. 16 at Nichols Concert Hall

After capturing the Bronze Medal at the prestigious Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, Kate Liu, an alumna of the Music Institute of Chicago, makes her first Chicago concert appearance on Saturday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston, Illinois. The concert, which the Music Institute is presenting in partnership with the Steinway Piano Galleries of Chicago, benefits the Emilio del Rosario Scholarship Fund for Young Pianists.

Liu will perform works by Chopin, including the Sonata No. 3 in B Minor and Mazurkas, Op. 56. In addition to the Bronze Medal, she also received the Mazurka Prize at the Competition. Later in 2016, Liu will embark upon an international concert tour, including Japan, Korea, Poland, Singapore, and Shanghai.

The 21-year-old Liu is from Winnetka, Illinois and attended New Trier High School. She studied at the Music Institute beginning in 2004 with the late Emilio del Rosario, then with Micah Yui and Alan Chow. She now studies with Robert McDonald at the Curtis Institute of Music. Kate Liu was a member of the inaugural class of the Academy, a special program at the Music Institute for gifted pre-college musicians. The Academy, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has consistently produced world-class classical musicians with significant performing careers, including violist Matthew Lipman and cellist Gabriel Cabezas.

The Music Institute of Chicago's presentation of Kate Liu in concert takes place Saturday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at musicinst.org or 847.905.1500. All programming is subject to change. For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents "Holiday Lights" December 17-20
New Century Chamber Orchestra celebrates the holidays December 17-20 with a program of festive classics that shines a light on the Christmas and Hanukkah season. Building upon the orchestra's creative collaborations with distinguished guest artists and ensembles, New Century welcomes the return of the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Girls Chorus and introduces audiences to the genre-bending, international klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer.

Last season's holiday collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus was billed as "irresistible" by George Rowe of the Contra Costa Times who went on to say "With Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and her players establishing gently rhythmic, lilting waves of sound, the Girls Chorus sang with firm tone and graceful phrasing. The effect was gorgeous…" This year, they team up with New Century for "O Divine Redeemer" by Charles Gounod and "Dixit Dominus" by Baldassare Galuppi as well as performing alone for "I Wonder as I Wander" by John Jacob Niles and a medley of Christmas Carols. New Century opens the program with two of Johann Sebastian Bach's most beloved chorales, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Sheep May Safely Graze."

"Holiday Lights" will be given on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area: Thursday, December 17 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, Friday, December 18 at 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, Saturday, December 19 at 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco and Sunday, December 20 at 5 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal Wednesday, December 16 at 10 a.m., Kanbar Performing Arts Center, San Francisco for a price of only $15. The Open Rehearsal will offer a sneak preview of the concert repertoire while allowing audiences to experience the musical democracy of a rehearsal without a conductor.

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

--Brenden Guy

Young People's Chorus of New York City Celebrates the Holidays
Sunday, December 13, 2015, 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
92nd Street Y at 1395 Lexington Avenue
"A New York City Holiday"
Young People's Chorus of New York City – all divisions
Francisco J.  Núñez, Artistic Director/Founder

Tickets: 2:00 p.m. Matinee – Starting at $20
Tickets: 5:30 p.m. Evening – Starting at $25
Tickets are available at the 92nd Street Y box office, by calling 212-415-5500, or online at www.92y.org

Thursday, December 17, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Fifth Avenue and 51st Street)
36th Annual "A City Singing at Christmas"

Admission is free. Come early for best seats.  More information is available from St. Patrick's Cathedral or from www.ypc.org

Friday, December 18, 2015, 11:35 p.m.
"The Tonight Show" starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC
Choristers from the YPC are scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Program details and guests are to be announced at a later date.

Sunday, December 20, 2015, 3:00 p.m.
The Church of The Intercession
Broadway at West 155th Street
New York's Oldest Christmas Tradition

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

--Schuman Associates News

Pianists Jenny Lin and Uri Caine Offer Fresh Interpretations of Scarlatti, Mozart
Pianists are often presented with a quandary – to improvise or not to improvise. For acclaimed pianists Jenny Lin and Uri Caine, the response to this dilemma is: why not both? Lin and Caine's recent recording collaboration for Steinway & Sons, The Spirio Sessions, combines standard compositions from Domenico Scarlatti, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and others with improvisations by Caine, offering a new take on the classics. Selections from The Spirio Sessions will be performed live at Le Poisson Rouge on January 4, 2016 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15-$25; purchase by calling 212-505-3474 or for the box office lpr.com.

--Caroline Heaney, BuckleSweet Media, Steinway

Joyce DiDonato and Rufus Wainwright "In Conversation" at SubCulture
On Wednesday, December 16, at 8PM, opera star Joyce DiDonato and world-renowned singer, songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright will come together for an intimate evening "In Conversation" at New York City's SubCulture. The two will engage in a lively discussion around a variety of topics, including the differences and similarities between opera and popular music, the current place of opera in modern culture, why music matters both to them personally and in general, and more.

They will also discuss recent performances and releases – Joyce's world premiere performance of the new opera Great Scott in Dallas as well as her new Warner Classics recital album Joyce & Tony, and the recent Deutsche Grammophon release of Rufus' acclaimed opera Prima Donna.

Tickets will be $20 in advance, with a portion of the proceeds going to The Kate McGarrigle Foundation, raising money to combat sarcoma.

For more information, visit http://subculturenewyork.com/event/joyce-didonato-rufus-wainwright/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Pianist Brian Ganz Continues Quest to Perform All of Chopin's Works at Strathmore
The National Philharmonic will present pianist Brian Ganz for his sixth all-Chopin recital (Chopin: Bel Canto of the Piano) at The Music Center at Strathmore on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 8 pm. Ganz, who is beyond the mid-point of performing approximately 250 works of Chopin, will accompany Polish soprano Iwona Sobotka [Evona Sobotka] in 10 of the composer's seldom heard songs written in the lyrical bel canto style as well as perform solo works, including the Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Ganz will perform on Van Cliburn's Steinway as he also plays a little-known Cantabile, Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major and two nocturnes.

"Chopin loved the human voice, and he made the piano sing as no other composer has before or since," said Ganz. "I'll begin the program with a few solo works that highlight that ability, like the rarely heard 'Cantabile,' which means 'in a singing tone.' It's a tiny gem, even shorter than most of the composer's preludes."

Ganz will highlight both the Steinway and Chopin in the first half of his concert by continuing with the Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 29, and a selection of nocturnes. The highlight of the first half, according to Ganz, will be "the incredible voice of Iwona Sobotka, who will bring 10 of Chopin's songs to life."

The second half of the concert will feature Ganz's performance of Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op 58. One of only four sonatas composed by Chopin, Sonata No. 3 was written when he was at his peak of creativity. Musicologist Tadeusz Zielinski calls it Chopin's "deepest" work.

Tickets start at $29 and are free for children ages 7-17 through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program. ALL KIDS tickets must be reserved by calling (301-581-5100) or visiting the Strathmore Box Office. Parking is complimentary. Strathmore is located at 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD 20852. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 301-581-5100 or visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Cyber Monday Sale - Only 2 Days Left!
Weill Hall - Schroeder Hall
Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

20% Off all remaining 2015/16 season concerts in Weill Hall.

No promo code needed - All tickets are discounted on-line.
Discounted tickets are limited and can run out.

Sale began at Midnight Monday, November 30 and runs through Sunday, December 6.

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

--Green Music Center

American Bach Soloists Name Garrett Shatzer Development Director
The American Bach Soloists (ABS) announce the appointment of Garrett Shatzer as the organization's Development Director effective January 1, 2016. Mr. Shatzer joins the San Francisco­–based staff after engagements as the Annual Fund & Institutional Giving Manager at the Oakland Symphony and the Annual Fund Manager at Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

"I am deeply honored to be joining the staff of the American Bach Soloists. I've greatly admired the group since I first heard of them when I moved to Davis in 2008. Their musicianship is extraordinary, and I've had the pleasure of attending many of their concerts over the years. ABS has made great strides recently, and I very much look forward to contributing my efforts to ensure its continued success" stated Shatzer.

Executive Director Don Scott Carpenter added, "I am very pleased that Garrett is joining us and I look forward to working with him as we enhance a development plan that continues to support the artistic excellence created by artistic director Jeffrey Thomas; this is an important step for the future of ABS."

Mr. Shatzer will work closely with Mr. Carpenter, as well as the development committee and the board in cultivating and soliciting individual donations, as well as corporate, foundation, and government gifts.

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

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Taylor Swift Donates $50,000 to Seattle Symphony
The Seattle Symphony has received a major donation in the amount of $50,000 from recording artist Taylor Swift, in support of the future of the orchestra's musicians and musicians of the future. Swift's donation to the Seattle Symphony will support two signature programs, Link Up: Seattle Symphony, which will reach over 12,000 third through fifth graders this year, and the musicians' pension fund.

Inspired by listening to the orchestra's 2014 recording of John Luther Adams's Become Ocean, Swift wrote to Music Director Ludovic Morlot to express her appreciation to the musicians who recorded the music. "I was thrilled to hear that Taylor was moved by Become Ocean, like all of us at the Seattle Symphony," Morlot said. "This is a powerful piece with a unique soundscape. We're especially thankful that she wishes to support our musicians, and that she shares our belief that all people should be able to experience symphonic music." In her letter to Morlot, Swift also praised the beauty of the composition, the musicianship of the orchestra and reminisced about going to hear her local symphony with her grandmother and how important the experience was to her.

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

Concerti Virtuosi (CD review)

Music of Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Locatelli, Fasch, and Leo. Jeanne Lamon, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Analekta AN 2 9815.

The Canadian period-instrument ensemble Tafelmusik is one of today's leading early music orchestras, the group as refined yet as exciting playing historical instruments as, say, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is playing modern instruments. The only trouble is finding enough good Baroque music to make the ensemble worth hearing, which is perhaps why they have reached out as far as the early Romantic period in their performances.

In any case, I know it sounds a bit harsh of me to criticize Baroque music, and it probably says more about me and my attitudes toward music than anything else. The fact is, I'm in a minority. The music of the Baroque and Classical periods make up the biggest part of the air time on most classical radio stations; it's that popular. Apparently, radio listeners love it as a sort of background music to whatever else they're doing during the day or night: driving or working or reading the newspaper. Perhaps I'm being unfair suggesting that Baroque music takes less concentration to enjoy than other types of music, but there is a fairly static quality about most of it that makes it akin to radio's "easy listening."

In any case, the Baroque music on this 2005 release from Tafelmusik comprises various concerti, a term that the booklet note explains got its meaning in part from the Latin word concertare, meaning "to contend, dispute, debate," and from the Italian, meaning "to agree, arrange, get together." The definitions would seem to be contradictory, and in a way so is the music, with the trio sections contending against yet blending with the rest of the orchestra.

All of the works on the disc come from the early seventeenth century, the composers being the ever-popular Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, and George Friedrich Handel, of course; the lesser-known Pietro Locatelli and Johann Friedrich Fasch; and the least-known Leonardo Leo. What they all have in common is that their concerti sound pretty much alike to the uninformed ear. Count me among those; I doubt that I could identify any single snippet of music from any of these works two minutes after listening to them. While I know that makes me sound like Barbarian, I nevertheless enjoyed every minute of every note.

Jeanne Lamon
What's on the disc? Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor for Two Oboes and Strings and his Concerto in E Minor for Four Violins; Leo's Concerto in D Minor for Violoncello; Bach's Concerto for Oboe D'amore in G Major; Locatelli's Concerto Grosso in D Major; Fasch's Concerto in C Minor for Bassoon, Two Oboes, and Strings; and Handel's Concerto Grosso in A Minor.

Jeanne Lamon and her Tafelmusik ensemble make the music come alive, all the while sounding as graceful and elegant as any orchestra you'll find. It's no wonder Tafelmusik has become one of the leading period-instrument bands in the world. Along with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, among others, they perform with a lively yet moderate style, never overemphasizing the period qualities of their playing and always allowing the tempos, phrasing, bowing, and various nuances to serve the music and not spotlight the players.

The sonics are typical of what the Tafelmusik players have been doing since switching to their own Analekta label some years ago. The recording sounds smooth, rich, wide ranging, vivid, and alive, without appearing in any way spectacular. The sonics are not bright, hard, or edgy as so many period-instrument recordings can sound; nor are the sonics as clear, open, and transparent as a few audiophile discs can be. The sound is simply natural and pleasant, never drawing attention to itself. The recording places the music above all else, which is as it should be.

With over seventy records to their credit, if any group can help a listener appreciate Baroque music, it's Tafelmusik.

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