Classical Music News of the Week, March 5, 2016

Cirque du Symphonie & California Symphony, June 18 at Scottish Rite Center, Oakland, CA

The aerialists, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, strongmen, and acrobats of Cirque de la Symphonie join the California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera in the Orchestra's annual fundraising special event, Cirque du Symphonie, presented by, Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 pm at the historic and beautiful Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, California. For this performance, the Cirque production team and California Symphony have developed a unique program specifically for the Orchestra and the special characteristics of the Scottish Rite Center.

The artists of Cirque de la Symphonie will execute their spectacular feats to music ranging from Bizet's Carmen to John Williams (music from Indiana Jones and Superman), Leonard Bernstein's Candide Overture, Arturo Marquez's Danzon No. 2, Debussy's Clair du lune, Offenbach's "Can-Can No. 4," and Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 6; and the orchestra plays music from Aaron Copland ("Hoe-Down" from Rodeo), Richard Rodgers ("Carousel Waltz"), and Strauss ("Emperor Waltz"). All proceeds from the event, presented by, support the California Symphony and its music education programs, including Sound Minds, Music in the Schools, and the organization's respected Young American Composer-in-Residence Program.

Tickets for the California Symphony's special event fundraiser Cirque du Symphonie Presented by at Oakland's Scottish Rite Center are $149 and $500 and can be purchased through the California Symphony's website at and at 925-280-2490.  The $149 tickets include the performance, pre-show hors d'oeuvres, two drink tickets, pre-concert entertainment with carnival games, roaming performers, and photo booth, silent auction, and dessert after the show. Cocktail ticket prices are subject to change after April 1. The $500 tickets include prime table seating front and center at the performance, valet parking, pre-concert hors d'oeuvres, hosted bar throughout the evening, pre-concert entertainment with carnival games, roaming performers, and photo booth, silent auction, and a three-course meal during the performance with wine included, as well as a private meet-and-greet with circus performers after the show. Tickets are on pre-sale to California Symphony subscribers and donors on Thursday, February 11, and go on sale Thursday, February 18 at 10 am to the general public.

Tickets for the California Symphony's special event fundraiser Cirque du Symphonie Presented by at Oakland's Scottish Rite Center are $149 and $500 and can be purchased by calling 925-280-2490 or visiting the California Symphony's Web site at

The $149 tickets include the performance, pre-show hors d'oeuvres, two drink tickets, preconcert entertainment with carnival games, roaming performers, and photo booth, silent auction, and dessert after the show. Cocktail ticket prices are subject to change after April 1. The $500 tickets include prime table seating front and center at the performance, valet parking, pre-concert hors d'oeuvres, hosted bar throughout the evening, pre-concert entertainment with carnival games, roaming performers, and photo booth, silent auction, and a three-course meal during the performance with wine included, as well as a private meet-and-greet with circus performers after the show. Tickets are on pre-sale to California Symphony subscribers and donors on Thursday, February 11, and go on sale Thursday, February 18 at 10 am to the general public.

For more information, visit

--Jean Shirk Media

43nd Annual Bach Week Festival Slated for Evanston April 22 & 24, Chicago May 6
The 43nd annual edition of the Chicago area's Bach Week Festival will welcome first-time guest choir Bella Voce, an acclaimed Chicago vocal ensemble, when the spring festival celebrating the rich variety of J.S. Bach's music opens April 22 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Il.

Festival concerts will also take place on April 24 at Nichols Hall and May 6 at Anderson Chapel at North Park University on Chicago's North Side. The festival is a collaboration between Bach Week and North Park's School of Music.

An intimate, late-evening Candlelight Concert in Evanston on April 22 will offer music for recorder and viola da gamba. Bach Week music director and conductor Richard Webster says concertgoers can expect some festival firsts, including Bach's Cantata BWV 66 and a piano performance of selections from Bach's "The Well-Tempered Clavier," a work heard only once before at the festival, in the 1990s, on harpsichord. In fact, this will be just the second solo piano performance in Bach Week history.

"This year's typically varied program will have variations in abundance," Webster adds, pointing to a pair of well-known Bach works, "The Musical Offering" and the "Art of Fugue," each comprising multiple compositions based on a single melodic idea. Webster, who performed in and helped organize Evanston's inaugural Bach Week Festival in 1974, has been music director since 1975.

Evanston, Illinois concerts: April 22 & 24
Chicago, Illinois concert: May 6

Single tickets for each of the festival's three main concerts are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students with ID.  All tickets for the April 22 Candlelight Concert are $20. Festival subscriptions for the three main concerts are $80 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $20 for students. Tickets are available by calling 800-838-3006 or by visiting

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Kent Nagano, Montreal Symphony Orchestra & Daniil Trifonov March 26 in Zellerbach Hall
Cal Performances presents the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, directed by Kent Nagano, for one performance only of a program of early 20th-century works, including Debussy's Jeux and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, on Saturday, March 26 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA.

Star pianist Daniil Trifonov returns after his highly successful Cal Performances debut with Gidon Kremer in the 2014–2015 season, this time joining the Montreal Symphony for Prokofiev's viscerally powerful Piano Concerto No. 3. As London's The Guardian recently remarked, "from agile thoroughbred to bucking bronco, gawky puppet to noble athlete, careworn sage to innocent child, Daniil Trifonov's playing has it all…he is, no other word, a phenomenon."

A pre-performance talk will be held with Nagano, Trifonov, and members of the orchestra on the enduring attraction of Prokofiev's music for artists and audiences today. The program is part of Cal Performances' season-long exploration of the music of Sergei Prokofiev through performances, public programs, and an academic symposium.

Conductor Kent Nagano, beloved former director of the Berkeley Symphony from 1978 to 2009, returns to Berkeley with two works composed within a year of each other for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Jeux (1912–1913) is Debussy's final work for orchestra, a vibrant, restless work with nearly 60 tempo changes over the course of its 17 minutes. It was originally composed to accompany a ballet for the Ballets Russes to choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, but was soon eclipsed by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1910–1913), which the company premiered less than two weeks later. Complementing these kinetic works for dance is Prokofiev's emotionally expansive Piano Concerto No. 3 (1921), which calls on the full expressive power of the orchestra to match that of the soloist, in passages that range from exuberant and extroverted to poetic and introspective. The New York Times has praised Trifonov's interpretation of this work: "he offered far more than mere virtuosity…Trifonov demonstrated an elegant touch and witty grace in more lighthearted moments and poetic insight in more introspective passages."

Tickets for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, March 26 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall range from $42.00 to $150.00 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

CYSO Joins Orion for "American Landscape" Concert March 23
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, is pleased to welcome the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras'
Belimane Quartet for the final performance of "American Landscape," its third concert program of the 2015-16 season. The high school-age performers join Orion as its Janet's Stage Artist Partners Wednesday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Il.

The Belimane Quartet musicians are violinist Ben Ellenbogen, who lives in Oak Park and is a senior at Oak Park River Forest High School; violinist Ellen Maloney, who lives in Wheaton and is a junior at Glenbard West High School; violist Jane Larson, who lives in Oak Park and is home-schooled; and cellist Tim Edwards, who lives in Downers Grove and is a senior at Downers Grove North High School. They will perform Poco Adagio-Allegro from Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 74 "Harp".

"American Landscape," Orion's third concert program of its 23rd season, showcases Orion's core musicians: clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone and pianist Diana Schmück. The program includes Jackson Berkey's "Earth Voices" for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1994); Rick Sowash's "Anecdotes and Reflections: A Portrait of America" for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1988-89); and Antonin Dvorák's Trio in E Minor, Op. 90 for violin, cello and piano (Dumky).

Prior to the March 23 performance with the Belimane Quartet, Orion performs this program at the First Baptist Church of Geneva March 13 and at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Il March 20.

Performance and ticket information:
The Orion Ensemble's concert program "American Landscape" takes place Sunday, March 13 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Sunday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston; and Wednesday, March 23--with the CYSO's Belimane Quartet--at 7:30 p.m. at the Pianoforte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or  visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

American Bach Soloists Receive First $1 Million Gift
American Bach Soloists (ABS) have received a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to support ABS's artistic and educational mission.

This visionary gift, the greatest single contribution in the organization's 27-year history, enables ABS to solidify its standing as a first-rate Early Music ensemble and provides the opportunity for long-term growth and expansion.

Jeffrey Thomas, Artistic and Music Director, and co-founder of American Bach Soloists, said, "A gift of this magnitude is a testament to the value of ABS within our community, to the quality of ABS performances, and to the sustainability of our organization. We, the musicians of ABS, are deeply grateful for this profound vote of confidence in our mission and goals. And I am personally gratified to know that this important, example-setting gift will lead to the continued development of our lively performance and educational programs, and will inspire increased commitment from all of our supporters."

This gift also represents the launch of new development initiatives designed to support ABS as it rises into the next tier of revered arts organizations.

James R. Meehan, President of the ABS Board of Directors, said, "This gift is an inspiration to the musicians of American Bach Soloists, to the organization that supports them, and to our loyal audiences. It is an investment in the future of the high-quality performances that ABS brings to the Bay Area in its subscription concerts and in the education of young professional musicians who attend the Bach Festival and Academy each summer. On behalf of the Board, I am honored that this generous donor will enable us to share these rich musical experiences with so many people."

These funds come at a time when ABS is performing to its largest audiences to date in venues around the Bay Area and in nearby Davis, and provides robust support for the ensemble's live and recorded performances and outstanding educational initiatives. "We are all extremely happy to receive the largest gift in ABS's history," said ABS Executive Director Don Scott Carpenter. "The donor's dedication to ABS and Maestro Jeffrey Thomas, and confidence in the Board of Directors and management, goes a long way in ensuring our future. We are just so grateful."

--Jeff McMillan, ABS

Collage New Music's 2015-2016 Season Finale
Grammy nominated, Boston-based ensemble, College New Music will play the last concert of its 2015-2016 season on March 13. Titled, "Elliott's Ears and Eras," the program focuses on the extraordinary range of expression of Elliott Carter, who composed music from age 15 to 103. This all-Carter program presents a large sample of that breadth and variety, from an early, thrilling piano sonata, through a mid-century masterpiece-an astonishingly unbuttoned "baroque" quartet-to five late, exquisite miniatures for solo instruments, and, finally, to his serenely graceful setting of three Italian poems for soprano and four instruments. Soprano Tony Arnold, pianist Christopher Oldfather, violinist Catherine French, cellist Joel Moerschel, flutist Christopher Krueger, oboist Peggy Pearson, clarinetist Robert Annis, and conductor David Hoose will perform.

Concert Details: March 13, 2016.
Pre-Concert Talk with poet Lloyd Schwartz, composer John Heiss, and Collage Music Director David Hoose begins at 7pm. Performance at 8pm.
Longy School of Music, 27 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138

Individual tickets can be purchased through the group's web site. Student and senior discounts are available:

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Celesta Marketing & PR

University of Washington Receives $750,000 Mellon Grant for Creative Research
A three and a half year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been awarded to the University of Washington to pilot a new Creative Fellowships Initiative that will explore the nature of creative research at a top public research university. The interdisciplinary Initiative will advance the field of performing arts by supporting artists in the development of new work and by integrating the performing arts disciplines into the broader curriculum. This is the first time the University's performing arts units, the Schools of Music and Drama, DXArts, UW World Series and the Dance Program have joined together for an experiment of this scale.

 "The Creative Fellowships Initiative builds on the University of Washington's belief in innovation and the power of the arts to make positive change in the world," said Gerald J. Baldasty, UW interim provost and executive vice president. "The program so clearly supports UW President Ana Mari Cauce's mission to prepare the next generation of leaders through interdisciplinary learning that generates new knowledge and ideas."

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

SM Students Give Sneak Peek of New Opera The Leopard
Brooklyn's American Opera Projects (AOP) and the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) will present scenes from a new opera The Leopard by composer Michael Dellaira (The Secret Agent) and librettist J. D. McClatchy (Emmeline), an adaptation of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's internationally acclaimed 1958 novel.

The staged scenes will be performed on Sunday, March 13 at 2:30 PM and Thursday, March 17 at 7:30 PM at the Manhattan School of Music's Greenfield Hall (122nd Street and Broadway, New York, NY 10027). An additional performance will be held Friday, March 18 at 8:00 PM at South Oxford Space (138 South Oxford St., Brooklyn, NY 11217) in Fort Greene and will be presented alongside music from Rated R for Rat, a new opera about the Chinese zodiac by composer Wang Jie that is also in development at AOP. Each performance will feature a Q&A with the operas' creators.

Tickets are $10-$20 for the March 13 performance and free with reservation for the March 17 and 18 performances at

--Matthew Gray, American Opera Projects

Seattle Symphony Extend Contract with Thomas Dausgaard Through 2019-2020
The Seattle Symphony is pleased to announce the extension of Thomas Dausgaard's appointment as its Principal Guest Conductor for an additional three years. Dausgaard is currently in the second year of his three-year contract, which concludes at the end of the 2016–2017 season. The new contract will be effective starting from the 2017–2018 season through the end of the 2019–2020 season.

"This is wonderful news that we can continue our collaboration with our great friend and colleague Thomas Dausgaard," said Music Director Ludovic Morlot. "Thomas is an outstanding musician who brings such a beautiful range of music, great performances and inspiring ideas that are being embraced by our orchestra with extraordinary enthusiasm."

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

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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