Classical Music News of the Week, April 16, 2016

Rachel Barton Pine, Lipman Perform for Music Institute Academy's 10th Anniversary

The Music Institute of Chicago continues the 10th anniversary celebration of its Academy program, which has educated and prepared gifted pre-college musicians for professional training and music careers, with a festive concert program featuring acclaimed Music Institute alumni violinist Rachel Barton Pine and violist Matthew Lipman Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

Pine and Lipman, joined by the Academy Orchestra, perform Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat for Violin and Viola, K. 364, led by Academy conductor Roland Vamos. The Orchestra also performs Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 and Arvo Pärt's short work Fratres, both conducted by Academy Director James Setapen.

During the past 10 years, more than 200 Academy students have matriculated to the finest conservatories and colleges in the country. Many have successful solo and chamber music careers or hold seats in major orchestras across the country. The Music Institute has invited Academy alumni to return for this special 10th Anniversary concert to acknowledge their place in the Academy's success.

The Music Institute of Chicago's Academy 10th Anniversary concert featuring Rachel Barton Pine and Matthew Lipman takes place Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at or 847.905.1500. All programming is subject to change.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Summer Festivals Abound in California - 13 Tantalizing Festivals
Mainly Mozart, San Diego (June 2-18):; 619-239-0100
Ojai Music Festival, Ojai CA, (June 9-12):;  805 646 2053
Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, (June 13-August 6):; 805-969-4726
Music in the Mountains, Grass Valley (June 22-July 3):; 530-265-6124
Ventura Music Festival (July 15-17 and July 22-24):;   805-648-3146
The Mendocino Music Festival, Mendocino (July 9– 23):; 707-937-2044
Festival Mozaic, San Luis Obispo, (July 13-24):;  805-781-3009
Festival Napa Valley (July 15-24):;888-337-6272
Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival & Institute, Menlo Park, (July 15 – August 6):; 650-331-0202
Carmel Bach Festival, Carmel-by-the Sea (July 16-30):; 831-624-1521
Valley of the Moon Music Festival, Sonoma (July 16-31):; 707-509-3713
Music in the Vineyards, Napa Valley (July 29 - Aug 21):; 707-258-5559
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Santa Cruz (August 5-13):; 831.426.6966

--Bettina Swigger, Festival Mosaic

International Duo Piano Competition Debuts June 8–11
The Music Institute of Chicago announces 20 quarterfinalists for the inaugural Chicago International Duo Piano Competition taking place June 8–11, 2016. An unprecedented 32 piano duo teams, ranging in age from 25 to 38 and representing 18 countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, competed for a spot in the quarterfinals. Judges for the video round included renowned pianists Edward and Anne Turgeon and Du Huang.

Competition Directors Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem remarked, "We are thrilled with the number and stellar quality of all those who applied to the competition. It will be exciting to watch the competition unfold in June. All rounds of the competition will be open to the public, and we hope to create the atmosphere of a four-day festival for piano duos."

Dr. Mark George, president and CEO of the Music Institute, added, "This is the beginning of a new era for Chicago, which is now becoming a destination for the best young musicians in the world."

The Russian duo Vis a Vis (Rolina Grigoreva and Yulia Yurchenko) took the grand prize of $8,000 in the Music Institute's previous Duo Piano Competition in 2011, held in honor of Liszt's 200th birthday. This year's expanded competition will award a $10,000 grand prize, $5,000 for second prize, and $2,500 for third prize. In addition, one of the winners will receive a professional engagement at the 2017 Chicago Duo Piano Festival, now in its 27th year.

The 2016 Chicago International Duo Piano Competition will take place through three rounds of competition June 8–11, 2016 at historic Nichols Concert Hall. 1490 Chicago Ave. in downtown Evanston, Il. Dates, times, and day price passes for each round, open to the public, are as follows: quarterfinals June 8, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $15; quarterfinals June 9, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $15; semifinals June 10, 10 a.m.–9 p.m., $20; and finals June 11, 11 a.m.–8 p.m., $25. A pass to see all rounds of the competition is $50 general admission. All passes are available at Student tickets for $10 will be available at the door one hour before each event, subject to availability.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Cal Performances Presents Ojai at Berkeley June 16-18
Cal Performances executive and artistic director Matías Tarnopolsky announced today the sixth season of Ojai at Berkeley, curated by music director Peter Sellars, to take place at Cal Performances, June 16–18, following the 70th Ojai Music Festival in Ojai, California.  As two entities with similar artistic values, Ojai and Berkeley are known for intrepid artistic discovery, spirited intellect, and enduring engagement in the arts--Ojai at Berkeley celebrates the dynamic nature of the Ojai Music Festival and of Cal Performances.

Music director Peter Sellars' vision for Ojai at Berkeley 2016 is to present voices of powerful women, each unique from various perspectives, "generations of women who created and are creating voices for the future."

Ojai at Berkeley 2016 will open Thursday, June 16, at Zellerbach Playhouse with composer Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone, about the life of the 20th-century French radical philosopher Simone Weil. Sellars calls the work, "a memorial to one of the most courageous and progressive philosophers in history, a difficult and determined freedom fighter."  Written originally for chorus and orchestra, this new chamber version--which will receive its American premiere in Ojai, and Bay Area premiere in Berkeley--will be performed by soprano Julia Bullock, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), and the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, and conducted by Berkeley Symphony music director Joana Carneiro.

On Friday, June 17, Dina El Wedidi and her band will perform The Sounds of Tahrir Square, Cairo in Zellerbach Hall.  Sellars calls El Wedidi's work, "the sound of the Arab Spring, and its echo. Her irresistible voice is an important part of the future of Egypt." El Wedidi first appeared at Cal Performances to acclaim in February 2015 as part of The Nile Project.

On Saturday, June 18 at Zellerbach Playhouse, Julia Bullock will portray one of the greatest vocal and dance artists of the 20th century, Josephine Baker, whom Sellars sees as "a pathbreaking avatar of social, sexual, and racial liberation." The work, with music by Tyshawn Sorey, was commissioned by ICE and will feature members of the ensemble. Josephine Baker: A Portrait receives its world premiere at the Ojai Music Festival this year, and its Bay Area premiere in Berkeley.

Tickets for Ojai at Berkeley, June 16–18, are $20. A Festival Pass good for all three Ojai at Berkeley performances is $45. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets go on sale to the public Saturday, April 9 at 1pm and will be available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. For more information about discounts, visit

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

National Philharmonic Singers Present Free Spring Concert
The National Philharmonic Singers, conducted by Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, will present a free spring concert on Saturday, May 7 at 8 pm at Christ Episcopal Church, 107 South Washington St., Rockville, MD.

The concert will feature music from well-known composers such as J.S. Bach, William Byrd and Claude Debussy in addition to stunning new compositions by living composers Eriks Esenvalds, Daniel Elder and Jake Runestadt.  Uplifting choral spirituals will conclude this exciting concert.

The National Philharmonic Singers is a chamber choir and one of several performing groups from the National Philharmonic in residence at the Music Center at Strathmore. As such, it promotes works suited for smaller ensembles, whether with accompaniment or a cappella.  Its repertoire ranges from 15th to 21st centuries, and it often premieres new compositions by local composers.

The April 5 concert is free, but donations in support of the Community Ministries of Rockville will be gratefully accepted. For directions to the Christ Episcopal Church, please visit or 301-762-2191, ext. 3. For more information, please visit for call 301-493-9283, ext. 116.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

NYOA to honor Fred Plotkin at April 27 NY Opera Fest Kickoff Event
The New York Opera Alliance (NYOA) will officially launch their first annual New York Opera Festival with a kickoff event on Wednesday April 27th, from 6-8pm, at Marc A. Scorca Hall in OPERA America's National Opera Center (330 Seventh Ave at 29th St., NYC). The event will honor Fred Plotkin of WQXR's Operavore (!/people/fred-plotkin/) for his exceptional service to the NYC opera community, and will also feature performances from the following NY Opera Fest participants:

Bronx Opera, Rossini's Cinderella (La cenerentola)
On Site Opera, Marcos Portugal's The Marriage of Figaro
Opera Upper West, Menotti's The Telephone
Regina Opera, Puccini's Manon Lescaut

The event is free and open to the public, though attendees must RSVP by April 20 at the following link:

The inaugural New York Opera Fest will take place May-June, 2016, with over 20 New York City-based companies putting on events in venues ranging from bars to playgrounds to traditional theaters. In addition to performances, the festival will showcase behind-the-scenes events where the public can attend open rehearsals, forums, showcases, and masterclasses featuring some of opera's brightest emerging talents.

For more info, full schedule, and tickets, visit:

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

American Bach Soloists News
The ABS Raffle:
Bach had Leipzig. You can have Costa Rica:
Enter the ABS Raffle for your chance to win a trip to Costa Rica! Purchase tickets at the next ABS concert, Easter & Ascension Oratorios (April 22-25), or by calling the ABS office at (415) 621-7900, Monday through Friday, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The drawing will be held on Friday, April 29th. Thank you for supporting ABS, and good luck!
Easter & Ascension Oratorios:
ABS completes a Bach Trifecta
Unlike the agony and ecstasy in his famous Passion settings, Bach composed joyous music for Easter and the Feast of the Ascension. Boasting a full compliment of wind instruments, percussion, vocal soloists, and chorus, all uniting in exaltation, these oratorios have their fair share of excitement and jubilation. Along with the Christmas Oratorio, the Easter & Ascension Oratorios are the only other compositions that Bach called oratorios. If you heard ABS perform the Christmas Oratorio in December, then you do not want to miss ABS complete the trifecta of Bach Oratorios, April 22-25.

2016 Festival Tickets Now on Sale:
Tickets for the 7th annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy are now on sale. The 2016 Festival will include performances at St. Mark's Lutheran Church and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from August 5-14, 2016. Titled "An Italian Journey," many of the concerts and lectures will explore sacred and secular works from the finest composers who worked in Florence, Venice, and Rome during the era. Additionally, the ABS Festival & Academy will present the North American premiere performances of Handel's 1734 Serenata, Parnasso in festa, and Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor.

Flying Gambas Return:
Help ABS Academy musicians get their cellos, gambas, & contrabasses to San Francisco by supporting their instruments' travel! Rewards begin for pledges of $10 - your name in the ABS Festival & Academy program. Remember, the Academy does not receive any funds unless the goal of $4,000 is reached by May 1. Pledge today!

Countertenor Eric Jurenas is 2017 Jeffrey Thomas Award Recipient
ABS is pleased to announce that countertenor Eric Jurenas is the 2017 recipient of The Jeffrey Thomas Award. Within only a few short years, Jurenas has emerged from auspicious talent at the 2011 ABS Academy to one of the leading young countertenors of his generation. Don't miss your chance to hear Jurenas this season in Easter & Ascension Oratorios, April 22-25.
Free Public Master Class with Flutist Sandra Miller, April 18:
Each season, ABS presents free public master classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where students work with an ABS musician on matters of technique, interpretation, and applying a historically informed approach to Baroque repertory. On Monday April 18 at 7:30 pm, ABS flutist Sandra Miller will coach Conservatory students on Baroque repertory. Admission to the master class is free and open to the public; no tickets or registration is required.

For more information, visit

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Francisco J. Núñez to Receive Honorary Doctorate
Ithaca College announced that it is awarding Francisco J. Núñez an honorary Doctor of Music degree at its Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 22 for his record of outstanding achievement, community service, philanthropic endeavors, interest in education and humanitarian programs; as well as for his scholarly contributions that benefit humanity and society in ways that harmonize with the heritage, character and mission of Ithaca College.

Janet Galván, Ithaca College Professor of Music Performance, noted, Francisco Núñez "uses music to instill self-discipline and to motivate young people to reach their full potential. He has brought unique ideas to working with young people, using music as an instrument of social change. He has brought honor to the entire profession of music teaching."

For more information, visit

--Kartharine Gibson, Young People's Chorus of NYC

NEC Alums Robyn Bollinger and Nico Olarte-Hayes Awarded Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowships
New England Conservatory announces today that two of its alums, violinist Robyn Bollinger ('13 B.M., '15 M.M.) and cellist and conductor Nico Olarte-Hays ('12 Harvard/NEC) have been awarded Leonore Annenberg Fellowships. The highly regarded performance and artistic career-development grant provides $50,000 a year for up to two years to help promising individuals make a breakthrough in their artistry, broaden their skills, and achieve professional success. Bollinger was nominated by New England Conservatory which will advise her during the fellowship. Olarte-Hays was nominated by the Perlman Music Program, where he studied for eight years.

For more information, visit

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

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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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa