Classical Music News of the Week, January 16, 2016

PBO SESSIONS Returns with Nic McGegan and Kristian Bezuidenhout

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) and KDFC are pleased to announce the next installment of PBO SESSIONS featuring "Mozart's Piano" on Thursday, February 4 at the ODC Theater in San Francisco's Mission District with international keyboard star Kristian Bezuidenhout and Music Director Nicholas McGegan. The two will present one of Mozart's most popular concertos in an entirely new and exciting way.

PBO SESSIONS made its debut in February 2014 to consistently sold-out houses. These 90-minute interactive performances are designed to take audiences on a guided tour of classical music in informal settings, with multimedia presentations and dynamic dialogue from the stage. PBO SESSIONS concerts are led by Music Director Nicholas McGegan or guest conductors sharing historical anecdotes about the composers, the pieces, the period in which the music was created, and how the music is still relevant today. The audience is treated to musical demonstrations in historical context that deepens understanding of classical music in a relaxed atmosphere. Following the concerts, audiences always enjoy free wine and mingling with musicians.

PBO SESSIONS: Mozart's Piano will feature the young and internationally renowned keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout who will join PBO music director Nicholas McGegan in an exploration of Mozart's Concerto for Fortepiano No. 23 in A major. Bezuidenhout will demonstrate what Mozart intended you to hear when composing this work utilizing a replica of Mozart's piano. Following discussion about this beloved concerto hosted by KDFC's Hoyt Smith, McGegan and the full orchestra will accompany Bezuidenhout in a performance of the entire work.

For more information, visit https://philharmoniabaroqueorchestra.secure.force.com/ticket/#sections_a0Fi000000KSfXZEA1

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

New Century Presents "Hope for Menuhin" February 4-7
Century continues its 2015-2016 season February 4-7 with debut performances by British violinist Daniel Hope. Making his first appearance in the Bay Area since 2011, Hope leads New Century as guest concertmaster and soloist in an eclectic program of works dedicated to his mentor and friend, Yehudi Menuhin. These performances also mark the official release of Hope's new Deutsche Grammophon album My Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin.

Daniel Hope grew up within the Menuhin household and went on to partner with Yehudi in more than sixty performances. New Century's concerts coincide with the master violinist's centennial year and are hosted in the place where Menuhin made his first public appearance at aged seven with the San Francisco Symphony. Highlighting a number of works from his new album and celebrating the diversity of Menuhin's musical tastes, Hope appears as soloist in three violin concertos: J.S Bach's Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1043, Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor for two violins, RV 522 and Mendelssohn's Concerto in D minor. Juxtaposing this are a selection of contemporary works including Arvo Pärt's "Darf Ich…," Philip Glass's Echorus, Bechara El-Khoury's Unfinished Journey, Toru Takemitsu's Nostalgia, and Béla Bartók's Six Romanian Folk Dances.

"Hope for Menuhin" will be given on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area: Thursday, February 4 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, Friday, February 5 at 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, Saturday, February 6 at 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco and Sunday, February 6 at 5 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal Wednesday, February 3 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 ncco.org

--Brenden Guy, New Century Chamber Orchestra

Third Coast Percussion Launches Multi-City National and International Tour
Third Coast Percussion kicks off 2016 with several exciting efforts, including the release of their eagerly-awaited new album, Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich, on February 12, 2016 (Cedille Records). The album features works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steve Reich, whom The Village Voice deemed, "America's greatest living composer." 2016 marks Reich's 80th birthday and this new album pays tribute to the profound impact the composer had on contemporary music and on the ensemble's members.

"When we formed Third Coast Percussion ten years ago, it was inevitable that Reich's work would be part of our repertoire. Each of us could recall formative artistic experiences with this music that had helped lead us toward lives of championing the modern," says Robert Dillon of Third Coast. "Before we had come to fully appreciate Pierre Boulez or George Crumb, we discovered through Reich that music built on an utterly different paradigm could prove deeply rewarding for performers and audiences alike. Reich's music has similarly inspired our field as a whole. While most composers now welcome our instruments on the concert stage, only a few have shown audiences how percussion can be absolutely essential. The rhythmic drive, articulated melody, and perpetual cycle of Reich's music seems to have marimbas and vibraphones in its very DNA."

In conjunction with the album's release, Third Coast Percussion will embark on a multi-city U.S. tour in winter and early spring 2016.

For more information on Third Coast Percussion visit www.thirdcoastpercussion.com

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Lluís Claret Appointed to New England Conservatory's String Faculty
New England Conservatory announced this week that world-renowned cellist and educator, Lluís Claret has been appointed to its faculty. Born in 1951 in Andorra la Vella to exiled Andorran parents, Lluís Claret began his musical studies at the age of nine. In 1964 he moved to Barcelona, Spain, where he won major distinctions at the Conservatory of the Liceu and began working with Enric Casals. He continued his studies in France, Italy and in the USA with masters such as Maurice Gendron and Radu Aldulescu. Claret has said that his personal meetings with György Sebök, Eva Janzer and Bernard Greenhouse were also implemental in the development of his artistic personality. Claret's professional career was launched into the international spotlight after he took first prizes at the Pablo Casals International Cello Competition in 1976 and the Rostropovich Cello Competition in 1977.

Chamber music, pedagogy and a great interest in contemporary music are all essential elements of Claret's musical focus. His previous teaching posts include the "Victoria dels Angels" Music School at Sant Cugat in Barcelona, Spain and the Toulouse Conservatory in Toulouse, France. He currently teaches at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona, Spain and has presented master classes in France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, the U.S., Japan and Korea. Claret also conducted seminars at the Abbey of Fontfroide in Narbonne, France with Bernard Greenhouse.

New England Conservatory's Interim President, Tom Novak discussed Claret's new appointment.

"We are very pleased to have Lluís Claret join the faculty at NEC," said Novak.  "His distinguished teaching and performing career is a wonderful complement to the existing cellists on the faculty, and we look forward to his presence at the Conservatory next year," he said.

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

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

"American Landscape" Features Berkey, Sowash, Dvorak
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, continues its 2015-16 season with a program highlighting American composers, "American Landscape," showcasing its esteemed ensemble musicians: clarinetist Kathy Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone and pianist Diana Schmück. Performances take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva March 13; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston March 20; and the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago March 23.

After premiering Jackson Berkey's "Homage to Percy Bysshe Shelley'' for the season's opening concert program in the fall, Orion performs his "Earth Voices" for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1994), a work of haunting beauty and swaying rhythms, tantalizing the listener with mystical utterances. Berkey originally composed the piece as a song cycle for soprano, clarinet, cello and piano, then reworked it as an instrumental chamber piece, which he dedicated to The Orion Ensemble. "Earth Voices" strives to express in sound the beauties of nature and Mother Earth using the nuanced tones of each instrument.

Rick Sowash's "Anecdotes and Reflections: A Portrait of America" for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1988-89) is a work of pointed rhythms and fanciful melodies, with a masterful blending of the four instruments. Orion performs two movements from this work that run the gamut of musical influences, from spirituals to Sousa-style marches, from Dixieland to Eastern European/Klezmer music.

One of Dvorák's finest chamber works, his Trio in E Minor, Op. 90 for violin, cello and piano (Dumky) was written in 1891 and featured in his 40-concert farewell tour before he took over leadership of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. In classical works, the term "Dumky" means music that traverses many emotional expressions; from triumphant to melancholy, the music can change in an instant. In the opening of this work, cello and piano play a mystical duet, giving way to a yearning violin solo that in turn begins a round between the players as we are then swept away to the equally enchanting main theme.

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

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

PBO Announces McGegan Anniversary Gala, Concert & Tour
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) is pleased to announce Nicholas McGegan's 30th Anniversary Gala and Concert on Thursday, February 11, 2016. The evening will take place at San Francisco's City Hall with a special Gala concert at Herbst Theatre featuring star mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. The celebratory Gala will recognize Nicholas McGegan's extraordinary artistic contributions to the Bay Area and beyond.

The evening will unfold with an elegant cocktail party and silent auction in San Francisco City Hall's dramatic Rotunda, followed by a formal sit-down dinner by McCall's and live auction in the Northlight Court. Immediately after dinner, guests will be ushered to the Herbst Theatre across the street for "Baroque Fireworks," a special performance by Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra featuring critically-acclaimed mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in a program of Handel arias. Following the concert, guests will return to City Hall for the Afterparty, which will include an elaborate dessert reception, scotch tasting, and jazz.

The 30th Anniversary Gala Committee is chaired by Paul Sugarman. Generous sponsors include Official Gala Sponsor Ross E. Armstrong, Corporate Sponsor Bailard/Eric Leve, and Dinner Sponsors Mark Perry and Melanie Pena. PBO's Official Wine Sponsor is WineWise/Hiram Simon & Brian Greenwood.

For more information or tickets for the Nicholas McGegan 30th Anniversary Gala, please visit: https://philharmonia.org/support-us/annual-gala/

For more information about Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, visit www.philharmonia.org

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

American Bach Soloists Presents "Bach Favorites," January 22-25
Happy New Year! For many, the beginning of a new year presents the opportunity for a fresh start and perhaps a new set of goals. One common resolution is, of course, to focus on fitness. Joining a gym or exercise class is certainly worthwhile, but how about giving Bach a spin? Adding more J.S. Bach to your life during 2016 just might be the recipe for a "new you" in the year ahead. ABS is here to help! We have a wonderful season of works by J.S. Bach ahead, beginning January 22-25 with "Bach Favorites," a balanced program of two extraordinary cantatas from the composer's first year in Leipzig and two virtuosic works for violin featuring the 2016 Jeffrey Thomas Award recipient, Tatiana Chulochnikova.

American Bach Soloists created the Jeffrey Thomas Award in 2013 to honor, recognize, and encourage exceptionally gifted emerging professionals in the field of early music. In tandem with a cash prize, recipients are invited to perform with American Bach Soloists, and ABS audiences have enjoyed the opportunity to hear tenor Guy Cutting in Bach's Magnificat and violoncellist Gretchen Claassen in a concerto by Leonardo Leo. This month the 2016 recipient of the award, violinist Tatiana Chulochnikova, will hold the spotlight in two thrilling showcases for her dazzling technique and bravura style: Bach's Violin Concerto in E Major and her own violin transcription of the famous Toccata & Fugue in D Minor. We asked Chulochnikova about her violin, her love of playing the music of Bach, and the upcoming program, Bach Favorites.

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/blog/?p=1889

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa