Classical Music News of the Week, February 6, 2016

Chicago Duo Piano Festival Presents Winter Mini-Fest March 4-6

The Music Institute of Chicago's popular Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) presents its annual Duo Piano Winter Mini-Fest March 4–6 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. The festival features two concerts:

On Friday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m., Music Institute faculty member Xiaomin Liang and Jue He perform the opening night concert, featuring Samuel Barber's Souvenirs; Sergei Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos, Op. 5; Astor Piazzolla's Libertango, Tangata, and Michelangelo; Witold Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme by Paganini; and Carmen Fantasy, with themes by Georges Bizet arranged for two pianos by Greg Anderson.

Liang and He, who perform as the Liang-He duo, won the CDPF's "Liszt 2000" International Competition for piano duos in 2011, then earned the gold medal at the Tokyo International Piano Duo Competition in 2014. They met while studying at Northwestern University, where both earned doctorate degrees. The duo has performed in festivals and concert series throughout Asia and North America and has frequently been featured on WFMT, Chicago's classical music radio station. They toured more than 40 cities in China from 2012 to 2014, performing in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, receiving rave reviews and further accolades.

The Faculty Extravaganza concert, the Mini-Fest's most popular event, takes place Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m., featuring Music Institute piano faculty members Elaine Felder and Milana Pavchinskaya, Mio Isoda and Matthew Hagle, Irene Faliks and Maya Brodotskaya, Inah Chiu and Sung Hoon Mo, Kathy Lee and Akiko Konishi, Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem, and Grace Juang and Mark George performing music by Ravel, Brahms, Corigliano, Liszt, Chabrier, and others.

Pianists are welcome to register for the March 4–6 Mini-Fest, featuring concerts, master classes, lectures, coachings, and student recitals. Tuition is $95 per student, which includes admission to all concerts and events, participation in student recitals, coachings, and a festival dinner. Registration deadline is February 22, 2016.

The Chicago Duo Piano Winter Mini-Fest concerts take place Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students, available at or 800-838-3006. For information, call the Nichols Concert Hall Box Office at 847.905.1500 or visit

For further information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

ABS Presents Handel's Alexander's Feast February 26-29
American Bach Soloists continue their 27th annual subscription season with four performances of Handel's powerful Alexander's Feast in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Davis from February 26-29.

Based on a poem by John Dryden subtitled "The Power of Music," Handel's musical ode for orchestra, chorus, and vocal soloists recounts a banquet held by Alexander the Great in the conquered city of Persepolis. Through his performance, the musician Timotheus moves the great military commander through a course of emotions until he is compelled to seek revenge for his perished Greek soldiers, killed by the Persian King Darius III. Handel's richly scored setting expresses the narrative in a direct manner that is, at times, surprising in its intensity.

ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas leads the period-instrument virtuosi of ABS, the American Bach Choir, and a trio of vocal soloists in this evening-length work of some of Handel's most ambitious and glorious music. The American Bach Choir, praised for "its round and transparent tone" by San Francisco Classical Voice, will perform the thrilling choruses that punctuate the work, such as "The many rend the skies" and "Let old Timotheus yield the prize." Along with the commentary provided by the choruses, the composer assigns Dryden's narrative to three soloists who relate the power of music to excite Alexander's passions in a series of expressive recitatives and arias that amplify the effect of the words. The vocal soloists for Alexander's Feast will be soprano Anna Gorbachyova (making her ABS debut) whose "captivating presentation with effortless coloratura" was praised by the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Grammy-winning tenor Aaron Sheehan who "set a standard for exposed, emotional singing" according to the Berkshire Review, and esteemed baritone William Sharp, "a sensitive and subtle singer" (The New York Times).

Friday, February 26 2016 8:00 pm
St. Stephen's Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, Belvedere, CA

Saturday, February 27 2016 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA

Sunday, February 28 2016 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA

Monday, February 29 2016 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, Davis, CA

Single Tickets: $30-$72; tickets for ABS subscribers $26-$61.

For more information, visit

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Vienna Mozart Orchestra Brings Vienna's Best Musicians to New York City
Bringing 28 of Vienna's top orchestral musicians and two stellar Viennese singers, the Vienna Mozart Orchestra embarks on a North American tour this spring showcasing masterworks of Vienna's musical heritage and most famous classical composer. True to its name, the Vienna Mozart Orchestra focuses exclusively on the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the program for this tour features a lineup of Mozart's best-loved works.

The Vienna Mozart Orchestra, under the direction of András Deák and with soloists Sera Gösch (soprano) and Sokolin Asllani (baritone), performs at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center in New York, NY on Wednesday, March 9 at 8pm. The tour continues in Montreal on March 11 and Toronto on March 13.

Tickets are $35-$115. Call 212-721-6500 or visit

--Caroline Heaney, BuckleSweet Media

PBO Announces 2016-17 Season
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra announces its 2016-2017 Season of Heroes. Inspired by music's towering heroes - Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Rameau - Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale will ignite the world of historically informed-performance with this series of six remarkable concerts. International guest conductors and artists such as Robert Levin, Rachel Podger, Isabelle Faust, Jonathan Cohen and Ietsyn Davies join the orchestra throughout the season leading up to an unparalleled finale. In April 2017, Philharmonia and Cal Performances co-present a full-scale operatic production of Rameau's "Le Temple de la Gloire" at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. With the original libretto by Voltaire, this version of Rameau's masterpiece has never been performed for modern audiences - until now.

In addition to the subscription set of six unique historically-informed concerts, Philharmonia will also release a new CD in spring 2017, perform at Tanglewood and continue its popular PBO SESSIONS series with performances in December and January.

Subscriptions to the new 2016-17 season range in price from $177 to $650 and are on public sale. Call (415) 295-1900 to subscribe, or visit

For a month-by-month account of programs and locations, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, Director of Marketing and PR

Pianist Bruce Levingston – Premieres in New York & Washington, D.C.
Pianist Bruce Levingston confronts art, race, and politics in three major premieres at Carnegie Hall and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

The acclaimed pianist celebrates the 15th Anniversary of Premiere Commission, the music organization he founded to promote and commission new music, with premieres of James Matheson's Windows and Nolan Gasser's An American Citizen and Repast: An Oratorio in Honor of Mr. Booker Wright at New York's Zankel Hall on Monday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Celebrated for his "mastery of color and nuance" (The New York Times) and his "inventive and glamorous programing" (The New Yorker), the intrepid pianist Bruce Levingston has now commissioned two powerful works that honor the lives of Civil Rights era figure Booker Wright in the moving oratorio Repast and John Wesley Washington, who was born into slavery and became the subject of the famous painting "An American Citizen." Levingston brings an eloquent voice to these figures who for so long had none. These poignant new works tackle the explosive politics of race and citizenship from the past as well as the present by addressing the still-burning question of who is an American citizen.

The premiere of Nolan Gasser's Repast, with Levingston at the piano, will feature guest artist bass-baritone Justin Hopkins portraying Booker Wright with a libretto by PEN/Faulkner Award winner Kevin Young. The concert will also include world premieres of Gasser's An American Citizen, as well as James Matheson's Windows. Gasser was inspired by Southern artist Marie Hull's important painting of the same name, which depicts former slave John Wesley Washington. Windows was inspired by the exquisite stained glass windows of Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, commissioned by the Rockefeller family for the Union Church of Pocantico Hills.

Levingston will also take An American Citizen to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 6 where he will appear at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall with university president John DeGioia. His performance of the work will be paired with a discussion about the painting and its subject that inspired the music, as well as the artist Marie Hull, subject of Levingston's new book, Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull.

Other appearances for Levingston this spring include his exciting creative partnership on Wednesday-Sunday, March 2-6 with globally-acclaimed ballerina Alessandra Ferri and star principal of American Ballet Theatre Herman Cornejo. Heralded as "one of the most cherished ballerinas of our time" and one of "the most miraculous artists" (The New York Times), Ferri and Cornejo join Levingston to create TRIO ConcertDance at The Joyce Theater, an intimate, haunting program of commissioned work by the inventive, esteemed choreographers Russell Maliphant, resident artist of Sadler's Wells; Stanton Welch of Houston Ballet; Demis Volpi, resident choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet; and Fang-Yi Sheu, from Taiwan. Choreography is set to the music of Bach, Chopin, Glass, Ligeti and Ravel, with Ferri and Cornejo incorporating the piano into their performance. The evening closes with renowned French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj's heartbreaking "Le Parc" with music by Mozart.

For ticket information, visit

--Mike Fila, BuckleSweet Media

Premiere of Verdi's Don Carlo at Duesseldorf Opera House February 13, 2016
On Saturday, February 13, another of Giuseppe Verdi's major operas will premiere at the opera house in Düsseldorf with a new production of Don Carlo. It is directed by the internationally renowned Flemish director Guy Joosten, who has already created two highly successful productions for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein with Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten and Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites.

The conductor is Andriy Yurkevych, who alongside his role as General Music Director at the Warsaw Opera, regularly conducts at the great opera houses in Vienna, Zurich and Madrid. Alfons Flores, who recently created considerable excitement at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein with his evocative canopy of glasses for Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, is the stage designer, and Eva Krämer is the costume designer. Manfred Voss is the lighting designer.

For more information, visit:

--Dusseldorf Marketing and Tourism

Fireworks Explode When Susan Graham Joins PBO on February 11th
What happens when you put "America's favorite mezzo" together with "America's leading period-instrument ensemble"? We like to call it "fireworks" -- "Baroque Fireworks."

The incomparable Susan Graham is joining Philharmonia to perform a selection of Handel's most beloved and celebratory music. These works will delight audiences on the grand occasion of Nicholas McGegan's 30th Anniversary as music director with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

Our special "Baroque Fireworks" concerts can be seen on February 11th at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco and on February 12th at Mondavi Center in Davis. Tickets are still available!

Arias from Ariodante and Alcina
Water Music in D major
Music for the Royal Fireworks
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano

Thursday February 11 @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Friday February 12 @ 8:00 PM
Mondavi Center, Davis CA

For more information, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, Director of Marketing and PR

California Symphony Performs Beethoven and Richard Strauss March 20
Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, and a performance by California Symphony Principal Clarinetist Jerome Simas and Principal Bassoonist Douglas Brown in R. Strauss's rarely-heard double concerto Duett-Concertino highlight the California Symphony's "Textbook Classics" program on Sunday, March 20. The Orchestra performs the overture from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro to open the concert, led by guest conductor Leif Bjaland. The concert is at 4 pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, CA, with a free pre-concert talk with Bjaland beginning at 3 pm.

Tickets for the California Symphony's March 20 concert are $42 to $72, and can be purchased by calling 925-943-7469 or through California Symphony's Web site at

--Jean Shirk Media

St. Charles Singers to Traverse Seven Centuries of Song April 16–17
The St. Charles Singers, conducted by founder Jeffrey Hunt, will perform choral works from every century from the 1400s to the 2000s in its "Choral Eclectic" concerts 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16, 2016, at Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 Division St., River Forest, Ill.; and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, Ill.

"Seven centuries of song in 90 minutes" is how choirmaster Hunt describes the program of secular and sacred gems, mostly a cappella, that will conclude the professional chamber choir's 32nd annual concert season.

A highlight will be Thomas Tallis's rarely heard English Renaissance motet "Spem in alium" (Hope in any other) with 40 individual vocal parts. The late-16th-century sacred work expresses hope and trust in God. London's The Guardian newspaper called it "one of English music's most extraordinary compositions" and "a surging tapestry of sound." This deeply devotional work recently found an unlikely mass audience through its appearance in the best-selling adult novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

The full ensemble, divided into mixed-voice "solo choirs," will encircle the audience for a surround-sound experience. Hunt says Tallis's score yields a lively musical give-and-take between the between the solo choirs. It also demands a high level of vocal artistry from all of the choristers because each has a solo role, he says.

Single tickets for St. Charles Singers "Choral Eclectic" concerts are $35 adult general admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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

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

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa