Elgar: Symphony No. 1 (CD review)

Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin. Decca 478 9353.

Although Argentine-Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim has been playing the piano professionally since the early 1950's, it was really not until the late 1960's that I became aware of his talents, particularly in his admirable recordings of late Mozart symphonies and piano concertos. Since then, the few things I've heard from him have ranged from scintillating to ho-hum. Nor have I ever thought of him as an interpreter or English music. So it was with an open and unsuspecting mind that I listened to this recording of the Elgar First Symphony.

Now, what you have to understand is that Elgar hardly fit the mold of the English pastoral composers of his day. Elgar was much more extrovert than that, wherein lies the dilemma for a conductor. Does one conduct Elgar all-out for glitzy excitement, or does one show more restraint and rein in some of the pageantry and thrills? Certainly, there is enough of everything in Elgar's music to satisfy any conductor's ambitions, yet even though Barenboim sometimes goes all out, I kept wondering if a bit more passionate reserve wasn't in order.

Who knows? Maybe I'm just too used to older, more conventional readings of the First Symphony by conductors like Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic (EMI) and Sir John Barbirolli and the Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI); or the more volatile rendering by Sir Georg Solti with the London Philharmonic (Decca). Then, too, there are later recordings to consider from Richard Hickox, Vernon Handley, Mark Elder, and Vasily Petrenko, among others. There is a lot of competition out there for Baremboim to deal with, and a variety of interpretive angles for the listener to explore.

Anyway, Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was one of England's most-important and most-famous composers. He wrote his Symphony No. 1 in A flat, Op. 55, in 1908, just a few years after he completed the first four of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches, apparently thinking he had plenty of pomp and circumstance left over for the symphony. In describing the music, Elgar said "There is no programme beyond a wide experience of human life with a great charity (love) and a massive hope in the future." So, yes, it is an optimistic work, full of noble ambition.

Daniel Barenboim
The symphony's first movement alternates from the noble and processional to the simple and straightforward. Barenboim takes the opening Andante at a leisurely gait, a bit like the Barbirolli cited above, and then moves into the Allegro section with a gently flowing transition, building nicely the melodic central themes. If there is a "however," it's the same one I felt throughout the performance, namely that the conductor never seems to project an emotional grasp of the music. That is, Barenboim appears to master the technicalities of the score (especially the peculiarities of the tonal keys) but not the heart or soul. He left me admiring the starts and stops, the contrasts, but not the feeling of Elgar's music. In other words, the conductor didn't exactly move me.

For a symphony that boasts a strong internal unity, under Barenboim it sounds slightly disjointed, a string of ups and downs without a center. Whatever, the second-movement Allegro, which acts as a scherzo, shows the conductor at his most energetic, which, if anything, may be a little too exuberant for the lovely tunes the faster parts encompass.

The third-movement Adagio is similar to the preceding music but at a slower pace, returning us to the unhurried mood of the beginning, with Barenboim producing some lovely moments of quiet, deeply felt solitude and serenity. For me, this was the conductor's strongest section.

Then, the closing Lento-Allegro returns to Elgar's alternating slow-fast-slow-fast design. It recaps the first movement, starting slowly and building to one of the grandest displays of orchestral exposition one could imagine. Unfortunately, Barenboim seems to think that sheer excitement can substitute for genuine human attachment. Again, I found myself admiring the conductor's strict interpretation of the score while never hearing much that grabbed my attention and held it.

Oddly, with only about fifty minutes of music on the disc, Decca offer no coupling, no fill-up. Not that it matters, as most people will probably only want the symphony, but there is a good half hour-plus left unused on the CD, and most rival discs provide one or two shorter Elgar works as pairings.

Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Sebastian Nattkemper recorded the album at the Philharmonie, Berlin in September 2015. The sound is clear and natural, smooth and well balanced. It places easily among the best work Decca engineers have done. Big crescendos come across with ease, with a wide dynamic range and plenty of impact. Ultimate transparency is bit lacking, but the realism is evident in every note. There is also a good stage width, at least a modicum of depth, and a solid, satisfying bass response.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Classical Music News of the Week, May 29, 2016

Summer 2016 On Sale: Weill Hall + Lawn at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

Chamberfest 2016:
Building on the success of the inaugural ChamberFest in June 2015, the Green Music Center presents GMC ChamberFest 2016: Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schubert from June 22–26. Curated by Artistic Director, conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane, ChamberFest 2016 features seven concerts in five days —six in Schroeder Hall— culminating with a finale all-Mozart concert with the Santa Rosa Symphony in Weill Hall.

4th of July Fireworks Spectacular with Steve Tyrell and the Santa Rosa Symphony
Michael Berkowitz, conductor
Mon, Jul 4 at 7:30pm

Boz Scaggs & The Robert Cray BandBoz Scaggs & The Robert Cray Band
Thu, Jul 14 at 7:30pm

Hollywood Vampires featuring Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry
Fri, Jul 22 at 7:30pm

"Weird Al" Yankovic"Weird Al" Yankovic - The Mandatory World Tour
Fri, Jul 30 at 7:30pm

Second Annual GMC Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Sam Bush, The Mando Kings, and Jeff Austin Band
Sun, Jul 10 at 3pm

Gabriel "Fluffy" IglesiasFuse Presents #FluffyBreaksEven
Sat, Jul 16 at 7:30pm

"Blues at the Green:" The Taj Mahal Trio, Hot Tuna Acoustic, and Marcia Ball
Sat, Jul 23 at 7:30pm

Los Tigres del NorteLos Tigres del Norte, with guest opening act Paul Rodriguez
Fri, Aug 5 at 7:30pm

The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
Fri, Aug 19 at 7:30pm

Star Wars Movie Marathon: May the Force Be With You
Fri, Aug 26 at 3pm
Sat, Aug 27 at 11am

Lindsey Stirling - Summer Tour 2016
Thu, Aug 11 at 7:30pm

Trevor Noah, Host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central
Sat, Aug 20 at 7:30pm

Hunter Hayes, Presented by OCP
Sun, Aug 28 at 7pm

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

--Green Music Center

Summer Music Camps and Classes from the Music Institute
The Music Institute of Chicago is offering a wide range of camps and festivals for a music-filled summer. Children and adults have the opportunity to work with the Music Institute's award-winning faculty and ensembles in residence at its campuses in Downtown Evanston (1702 Sherman Avenue), Evanston East (1490 Chicago Avenue), Lake Forest (40 East Old Mill Road), and Winnetka (300 Green Bay Road).

2016 Camps
Musikgarten programs offer joyful and stimulating musical play for children from birth to age seven. Summer session begins June 14, with classes including Family Music for Babies (birth–18 months), Family Music for Toddlers (16 months–three years), Cycle of Seasons (three to five years), Music Makers – At Home in the World (four to six years), and Music Makers – Around the World (five to seven years).

Jazz Studies provides students of all ages and levels opportunities to explore jazz through camps, private instruction, combos, and improvisation classes. The Art of the Jazz Band Camp has two sessions: grades seven to nine runs June 13–17, and high school age through adults runs June 20–24.

Piano camps feature members from the Music Institute's 45-member faculty, one of the largest community school piano departments in the nation. Piano boot camp for ages 10–17 runs June 13-17; adult piano camp runs June 16–19. In addition, the Chicago Duo Piano Festival, which includes coachings, master classes, lectures, student recitals, concerts, and more, runs July 8–17.

Organ (eight years old to adult) and harpsichord (16 years to adult) classes are taught by instructors at the only regional community music school, and one of few in the country, to offer them. The Music Institute has two historic pipe organs, a 1914 E.M. Skinner organ in Nichols Concert Hall and a 1936 Kimball pipe organ. There is also a two-week internship in pipe organ building, maintenance and restoration beginning June 14.

Guitar boot camps for ages nine to 11 take place June 20–24 in Lake Forest and July 18–22 in Winnetka.

Woodwind camps include a Chamber Camp for Winds with Quintet Attacca for ages 11 to adult June 13–17, an Oboe Boot Camp for ages 10 to adult June 20–24, and a Woodwind Samplers in Clarinet and Saxophone for ages nine through 12 beginning June 14.

Brass camps include Brass for Beginners® Boot Camp for ages nine to 11 June 20–24 and All Brass Boot Camp July 7–28.

Musical Theater summer programs include weekly SmashUp! Camps for grades K through three June 6–August 19 and the Broadway Bound Workshop for grades four through eight June 6–17 and June 20–July 1. In Broadway Bound, students learn the fundamentals of acting and musical theater, dance, and singing, including audition technique. Each day features acting, dance, music, and supplemental activities. Each two-week session culminates in a revue of scenes and songs from favorite Broadway and Disney musicals.

The Chicago Suzuki Institute July 2–10 at Trinity International University in Deerfield is a concentrated week of master classes, group instruction, short-term teacher training courses, concerts, and musical enrichment for Suzuki violin, viola, cello, and piano students, parents, and teachers. The  Music Institute also offers Introduction to Suzuki classes beginning June 14.

Adult ensembles offer opportunities for adults learning instruments for the first time, returning after a long hiatus, or just looking for a way to brush up on their musical skills. Ensembles include New Horizons Band, Golden Years Swing Band, Community Symphony, and Quartet Strings.

Music Institute Chorale hosts a summer sing-along of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah July 20 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, conducted by Frank Winkler.

For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Alfaia Wins Third Place in Senior Open at First-Ever "M-Prize Competition"
New England Conservatory announces today that one of its Honors Ensembles, Alfaia has placed third at the M-Prize Competition in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The group will take home a $3,000 prize for the Senior Open division. Founded in 2013 and selected as New England Conservatory's 2014-2015 "Wild Card" Honors Ensemble, the ensemble explores the meeting points between Middle Eastern, North and South American music. They arrive at their sound through traditional performance practices, original composition, and contemporary approaches to instrumental techniques and improvisation. Composed of pianist Henrique Eisenmann '12 M.M. (currently pursuing NEC's D.M.A.), oud player Kenan Adnawi (currently pursuing NEC's M.M.), saxophonist Gustavo D'Amico ('16 M.M.), and bassist Kirsten Lamb ('15 M.M.). World percussionist, Tareq Rantisi, has recently joined the group and participated in this competition with them. The group's NEC faculty coach is accordionist, keyboard player, and composer Ted Reichman.

Collectively, Alfaia represents Brazilian, Syrian, Palestinian, and American cultures. Drawing on their international musical influences, they work together to create musical diplomacy, engaging audiences with a fusion of Syrian melodies, Brazilian and Middle Eastern rhythms, and jazz harmony. They have performed extensively all over the globe as individuals and a group.

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

The Dessoff Choirs Appoints Malcolm J. Merriweather as Ninth Music Director
The Dessoff Choirs today announces its appointment of Malcolm J. Merriweather as its ninth music director.

"I'm delighted with The Dessoff Choirs' appointment of Malcolm Merriweather as their new Music Director. Malcolm is one of the bright rising stars of his generation of choral conductors," said Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music and Organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and former Music Director of The Dessoff Choirs. "Dessoff is close to my heart, and I will always be grateful to the choir for our eight wonderful years together. Knowing them as I do, it is my great expectation that their new synergy with Malcolm will lead to new heights of artistic achievement."

The Dessoff Choirs today also announces its 2016–17 season, which opens with a concert at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center—the first time the choir has performed there since 2010.

The five-concert series reflects Merriweather's approach to programming with a focus on connecting audiences to topical and meaningful themes. Under his leadership, Dessoff seeks to personalize the audience experience by extending engagement before, during and after each concert.

For more information about the Dessoff Choirs, visit http://www.dessoff.org/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Primephonic Offers Solution for Lossless Audio + Meticulous Metadata for Classical Music
Primephonic, a superior quality classical music platform, designed and developed in the Netherlands by a team of 10 classical music specialists, is now launching in North America. Founded in 2015, primephonic offers classical music downloads in formats ranging from WAV, to FLAC, to DSD – with no compressed files or degraded sound – and will follow later this year with an equally high-quality streaming service. Already offering music from a host of superb labels, primephonic expands to include the Sony Classical catalogue this month. With its unsurpassed detail and dynamic sound, sophisticated and thorough metadata, a vibrant online community, and a huge range of recordings, primephonic is unrivalled as the central platform for classical music online.

Dirk Jan Vink, Managing Director of primephonic, comments: "primephonic offers a vast treasure chest of sound that embodies the richness of artistry and audio throughout the ages. Our mission is to deliver digital music in the same audio format in which they came into being – an uncensored and uncondensed classical music experience." As the head of PENTATONE – renowned for its superb sound – Vink recognized that the download providers in the market were not sufficient for the classical label's needs. Thus, the idea was born to build a bridge between classical music and the digital world by establishing a better download platform that would be open and available for all classical music labels.

The UK-based audiophile magazine What High-Fi? praised primephonic earlier this year, saying: "With a great catalogue, superb website and useful extra content, not to mention a growing community, it is much more than just a download site … this is the place to be if you're a classical music fan."

For complete information, visit http://www.primephonic.com/magazine2016

--Shira Gilbert PR

Daniele Gatti New MCO Artistic Advisor
We are delighted to share with you today that Daniele Gatti has been appointed Artistic Advisor of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. As we wrap up our cycle of Beethoven symphonies with Maestro Gatti on this week's tour, we are already looking ahead to concrete projects ensuing from this enhanced artistic collaboration. In addition to continuing our Beethoven cycle leading up to the composer's 250th birthday in 2020, our plans include a Schubert cycle, pairing Schubert symphonies with works from the Second Viennese School, as well as opera productions.

With the summer almost upon us, we will be giving concerts in Italy, Germany and France before returning to our annual summer residence at the Lucerne Festival. We look forward to welcoming you on one of our upcoming tours – in person, virtually, or both!

For more information, visit www.mahlerchamber.com

--Elaine Yeung, Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony at Strathmore
The National Philharmonic, led by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, performs Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique") on Saturday, June 4 at 8pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. The concert will also feature the National Philharmonic's nearly 200 voice all-volunteer chorale performing Brahms's Gesang der Parzen (Song of the Fates) and Nänie.

A free pre-concert lecture with Associate Conductor Victoria Gau will be presented in the Concert Hall at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday. In addition, the National Philharmonic will offer its first free instrument petting zoo, where children and their families can explore and learn about orchestral instruments, from 7-7:30 pm in the Orchestra Lobby. Concert 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

Midsommarfest Returns to Andersonville
Returning to Andersonville for its 51st year, Midsommarfest continues to prove why it is Chicago's most intriguing and refreshing family festival. Complete with 5 performance stages, several blocks of delicious food and drink, and a plethora of family-friendly activities, Andersonville's annual street festival offers something for everyone.  Midsommarfest goes well beyond music and food; morning Yoga classes, costume contests, choir performances, comedy theater, and more distinguish Midsommarfest as one of Chicago's most captivating and unique summer experiences.

For 51 years Midsommarfest has brought Chicago communities together to share in the culture of the city and celebrate Andersonville's Swedish heritage. Midsommarfest strives to give back to Andersonville and Chicago at large, promoting local businesses and preserving the roots of Chicago communities.

Date: Friday June 10 @ 5PM - Sunday June 12 @ 10PM
Location: Clark Street between Balmoral and Catalpa
Entry Fee: A $10 donation is asked at the gate, donations go toward innovative programming and initiatives that keep the Andersonville community vibrant. Children and Seniors are free.

For more information, visit http://www.andersonville.org/2016-midsommarfest-music/

--Jonathan Blazejewski, Cramer PR

Copland: Orchestral Works I (SACD review)

Fanfare for the Common Man, El Salon Mexico, and Suites from Billy the Kid, Appalachian Spring, and Rodeo. John Wilson, BBC Philharmonic. Chandos CHSA 5164.

So many Copland albums seem to be coming my way, I had to stop and look at this latest disc to see if it was the composer’s birthday or anniversary or something. Nope, just coincidence, I guess. In any case, this one from conductor John Wilson and the BBC Philharmonic contains just about every familiar thing Copland wrote, if often in small chunks (suites). It’s all quite pleasant and nicely recorded, if perhaps a bit redundant.

The first item on the agenda is Fanfare for the Common Man, an appropriate place to start for a composer who wrote about common folks. Copland wrote it in 1942, inspired by a speech by then Vice President Henry Wallace and urged on by conductor Eugene Goosens. The music makes a good concert opener, a sort of overture for the rest of the program. Wilson takes the Fanfare at a rather slower gait than I’m used to hearing, having listened to Copland’s own recording with the LSO for many years. For me, therefore, Wilson’s take on the subject seemed a bit ponderous.

Next we get El Salon Mexico, which the composer wrote between 1933 and 1936 after visiting a spirited nightclub in Mexico called “El Salon Mexico.” Copland fills the work with an abundant variety of tunes derived from Mexican folk music. Here, Maestro Wilson lights things a bit brighter, starting slowly and building up a fine, colorful atmosphere by the music’s end.

John Wilson
After that is an eight-movement suite from the ballet Billy the Kid (1938), which Copland wrote for the American Ballet Caravan (the predecessor of the New York City Ballet). Even though the Brooklyn-born composer had little interest in what he thought of as “cowboy music,” he studied a book of cowboy songs and off he went. Most important for us today, the tunes gave Copland the inspiration to write the simple, straightforward music he had been previously seeking. Again, Wilson provides a nicely crafted, thoroughly persuasive account of the music, increasing incrementally in intensity and creating a believable sensation of time and place. While I suppose some listeners might find a slight dissatisfaction that Wilson doesn’t produce a livelier, more-exciting mood at times, I never found the music wanting for vividness or character. What’s more, throughout all of the music, the BBC Philharmonic play with a sonorous authority.

Then we find a seven-movement suite from Appalachian Spring (1943), the ballet Copland wrote for the choreographer and dancer Martha Graham. The plot, as it is, involves the celebration of American pioneers after building a new farmhouse in Pennsylvania. Some of the main characters include a bride and groom, a preacher and his flock, and a pioneer woman. Of all the music Wilson gives us on the program, he’s probably at his best in Appalachian Spring. He not only captures the joy of the festivities but the passion and tenderness of the participants. The familiar “Simple Gifts” melody never sounded lovelier.

The program concludes with four dance episodes from Rodeo, a kind of follow-up ballet to Billy the Kid. If anything, Rodeo became even better known and better loved than Billy, but I would guess most of us enjoy them equally. In any case, Rodeo makes an appropriate bookend to the opening Fanfare, offering picturesqueness, enthusiasm, and a good, old-fashioned Western country air. Wilson makes the most of it.

Producers Ralph Couzens, Mike George, and Brian Pidgeon and engineer Stephen Rinker recorded the album at MediaCityUK, Salford, in June and July 2015. They made the disc in hybrid SACD so it will play two-channel and multichannel from the SACD layer and regular two-channel stereo from the CD layer. I listened in two-channel SACD.

There is a pleasantly realistic ambient bloom to the sound, evident even in the two-channel mode. Combined with a good sense of depth as well as width, the effect is quite lifelike. Loudest notes appeared a mite congested to me, even a tad harsh, but it is of minor note. Dynamics and frequency range also appear extended, so there is really little to complain about in the area of sonics.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Classical Music News of the Week, May 21, 2016

Merola Opera Program's Schwabacher Summer Concerts July 7 and 9

The acclaimed Merola Opera Program, one of the most prestigious and selective opera training programs in the United States, opens its 2016 Summer Festival with the popular Schwabacher Summer Concerts Thursday, July 7 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, July 9 at 2 pm at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Conducted by Eric Weimer and directed by Omer Ben Seadia, the Schwabacher Summer Concert features this year's Merola Opera artists performing extended scenes from operas including Handel's Serse, Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, R. Strauss's Arabella, Wagner's Lohengrin, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, and Rossini's Le Comte Ory. Tickets for the concerts at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music range from $25 to $40, with a limited number of $15 student tickets.

Eric Weimer worked with Merola Opera artists as a resident coach for many summers (1991, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013), and returns to the Merola Opera Program this year in the capacity of conductor. He has established himself as one of the pre-eminent coaches and assistant conductors in the international opera world. Through his work at some of the world's leading companies, primarily Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera, he has prepared some 200 productions, collaborating with most of the world's greatest opera conductors and virtually all the major singers active on the international opera stage.

After participating as apprentice stage director in the 2014 Merola Opera Program, emerging Israeli director Omer Ben Seadia returns to direct the Schwabacher Summer Concerts. Ben Seadia is a graduate of the Opera Directing program at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she directed numerous productions including Don Pasquale (Donizetti), Le Docteur Miracle (Bizet), and Saint John's Passion (Bach). She has previously directed an array of repertoire, including The Golden Vanity (Britten), Der Kaiser von Atlantis (Ullmann), Brundibár (Krása), and most recently L'italiana in Algeri (Rossini) at Opera Santa Barbara. She has been on staff at Houston Grand Opera, The Israeli Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and The International Vocal Arts Institute.

Tickets for the July 7 and July 9 Schwabacher Summer Concerts are $25 and $40, in addition to a student price of $15*. Tickets for all performances may be purchased by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 between 10 am to 5 pm Monday and from 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Friday or online at www.sfopera.com. *Student tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office window, located inside the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Ave. Valid student ID is required.

For more information, visit http://www.merola.org/home

--Jean Shirk Media

Miami Music Festival Announces Season 3
Miami Music Festival (MMF) is proud to announce its third season, with the expansion to eight-week programming, the introduction of the unprecedented Miami Wagner Institute, an orchestral tribute to celebrated violinist Ida Haendel, an increase to six full-scale opera productions, and the welcome of several renowned guest artist and faculty members through the months of June and July, 2016.

The announcement of a professional division with the Miami Wagner Institute heralded news of an elite, one-of-a kind, tuition-free program for young professional dramatic singers led by program director and Metropolitan Opera soprano Christine Goerke. Launching July 5-16, 2016, the creation of the Miami Wagner Institute aims to provide much-needed training and professional-level performance opportunities for the unique demands of the dramatic Wagnerian singer.

The inaugural Wagner program culminates with a return to South Beach's premier venue, the New World Center, in an MMF gala concert featuring two of the world's most in-demand Wagnerians in excerpts from Die Walküre; Christine Goerke, "Brünnhilde" in productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand and Washington National Opera, and international bass-baritone Alan Held, "Wotan" in productions at the Canadian Opera Company and Washington National Opera. They will be joined by featured singers from the Wagner Institute, and the MMF Symphony Orchestra. MMF's gala concert will also feature Strauss's Suite from Der Rosenkavalier and excerpts from Wagner's Ring Cycle.

This season, the MMF Opera Institute increases to six mainstage productions presenting classic stagings of Puccini's La bohème and Gianni Schicchi, Britten's The Turn of the Screw, and Robert Ward's retelling of The Crucible in a provocative setting of social commentary. MMF also continues its popular Family Opera Series with family-friendly productions of Mozart's The Magic Flute in English, and Ravel's whimsical L'enfant et les sortilèges. The Studio Program will also undertake two lesser-known chamber operas, Giordano's Mese Mariano and Offenbach's La chanson de Fortunio, marking two South Florida premieres.

For a complete listing of artists, concerts and performance dates and locations visit the Festival's Web site at www.miamimusicfestival.com

--Sydnee Mir, Miami Music Festival

NEC Student Ji-Won Song Wins 2016 Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition
Highly acclaimed violinist and New England Conservatory student, Ji-Won Song, has won the 2016 Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Song will take home a €10,000 first place prize, a CD recording, concert opportunities, and also the €2,000 audience prize. Song is currently earning her M.M. degree ('17) at NEC where she studies with Donald Weilerstein and Soovin Kim. The Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition serves to carry on the vision of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart's father, Leopold, and also to support the next generation of violinists. Sitting on the 2016 jury were Paul Roczek, Achim Fiedler, Suzanne Gessner, Vladimir Ivanov, Min Kim, Senta Kraemer, Gyorgy Pauk, Baiba Skride, Wei-Dong Tong and Petru Munteanu.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Ji-Won Song has performed on stages worldwide. She performed at the Kennedy Center for the Conservatory Project in 2005 at age 12 and has been a featured soloist with many prestigious orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Her many awards include prizes in the Schadt Competition, the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, and the Stulberg International String Competition.

The competition is held in honor of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart's father, Leopold, in the elder's birthplace of Augsburg, Germany. Wolfgang's father was an excellent teacher to his famous son. The year Wolfgang was born, his father opened his important Violin School in Augsburg. In recent years, Leopold Mozart's Violin School has experienced a renaissance in the city and students from all over the world travel there to study.

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

Livestreams Announced for 21C Music Fesitival
Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music, today announced that all 21C Music Festival concerts that take place in Koerner Hall will be livestreamed for free at https://www.rcmusic.ca/livestream, in order to share these unique and special evenings with an audience throughout the world.

This is the third edition of 21C Music Festival, which runs from May 25 to May 29, 2016 and includes seven concerts featuring music composed mostly during the 21st century, which crosses boundaries and genres: classical, Inuit throat singing, jazz, contemporary Japanese sounds, progressive rock, atmospheric orchestral, and electro-acoustic music.

The concerts being livestreamed include:
Kronos Quartet with special guest Tanya Tagaq on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Brad Mehldau – Three Pieces After Bach on Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Jherek Bischoff, Dawn of Midi, and The Visit on Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm
James Ehnes & Andrew Armstrong on Sunday, May 29, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Free Livestream link: https://www.rcmusic.ca/livestream

Tickets and subscriptions to Royal Conservatory of Music concerts are available online at www.performance.rcmusic.ca, by calling 416.408.0208, or in person at the Weston Family Box Office.

A limited number of $10 BMO Rush Tickets are available starting 90 minutes before all performances presented by The Royal Conservatory.

All concerts take place at The Royal Conservatory of Music, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Ojai in Berkeley Pays Tribute to Heroines: June 16-18
From the inspiration, to the composers to the performers, Music Director Peter Sellars has planned performances that pay tribute to heroines. Two of the concerts feature dazzling soprano Julia Bullock. In the first, on Thursday, June 16, she portrays 20th-century French radical philosopher Simone Weil in composer Kaija Saariaho's "La Passion de Simone" with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) and Roomful of Teeth, all conducted by Joana Carneiro. In the second, on Saturday, June 18, Bullock sings the role of the legendary Josephine Baker in jazz drummer Tyshawn Sorey's "Josephine Baker: A Portrait," also with ICE. The Friday, June 17 concert in Zellerbach Hall stars Egyptian singer, composer and guitarist Dina Al Wedidi and her band who appeared at Cal Performances previously as part of The Nile Project.

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 are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at calperformances.org, and at the door. For more information about discounts, visit calperformances.org/buy/discounts.

For a complete listing of events and performances, visit OjaiFestival.org

--Jeanette Peach, Cal Performances

92Y Box Office Now Open for June 11 YPC Spring Celebration Concerts
Young People's Chorus of New York City Spring Celebration Concert

Saturday, June 11, 2016
92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC

Two Performances: 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.
(Tickets are available for both concerts)

Tickets start at $20
Purchase early for best seats at 92nd Street Y Box Office (at Lexington Avenue), or call 212-415-5500, or on-line at http://www.92y.org/Event/YPC-Spring-Celebration

--Katharine Gibson, YPC

Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (CD review)

Also, Lieder from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." Jessye Norman, John Shirley-Quirk; Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra. Philips 289 464 714-2 (2-disc set).

Some years ago, around 1999, I wrote about Philips's repackaging of Bernard Haitink's Mahler Ninth with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in a Philips Duo set, coupled with Das Lied von der Erde. I said at the time that Haitink's 1969 recording of the Symphony No. 9 never sounded better. Then, a couple of years later, Philips remastered it yet again, this time using 96kHz, 24-bit technology and with a different coupling, the Wunderhorn lieder. The results were better than ever, and even though Philips is gone, the set is still available (see below).

On the plus side, the new issue really does sound slightly smoother to me than the older Philips CD, with a smidgen more depth to the orchestral field. On the minus side (or plus depending on your point of view), Philips spread the symphony over two discs, the fourth movement occupying the first track of the second disc. Maybe in spreading it out, Philips felt they were better able to accommodate the work's length without sacrificing any degradation of sound, but I'm not sure that's the main reason for the new issue sounding better. The other minus is that I miss Haitink's Das Lied von der Erde, even if it did sound a mite fierce sonically. Anyway, Jessye Norman and John Shirley-Quirk's singing on the Wunderhorn lieder, recorded in 1976, sounds beautiful, and Philips warmly recorded it. I'd say if one does not already have the superb Schwarzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau, Szell set on EMI, which seems to me performed with an even more pungent bite, this Philips version is a good alternative.

Bernard Haitink
Let me repeat one other thing: Mahler's final completed symphony was the crowning jewel in his symphonic cycle, gorgeous and sublime. But its meaning has always been a bit ambiguous. Some listeners have interpreted its somewhat expressionistic content as an optimistic journey into the light, ending in sweet and everlasting repose, which is the way Haitink presents it; yet others see the symphony as a pessimistic look into the world's future where degeneration and decay may be our lot. There is something, I suppose, one can say for this latter view. At the time he was writing the piece, Mahler was aware of his own illness and his possibly imminent demise, and he might have foreseen in 1909 the coming of the First World War and the end of civilization as his generation had known it. Nevertheless, under Haitink's direction there is little sign of this latter view.

Haitink's handling of the opening movement sounds relaxed, building to a grand, lyrical climax; the second movement appears evenly paced; the third movement is surprisingly outgoing for a conductor of Haitink's refined and contained temperament; and the finale comes across as beautifully controlled, the music diminishing gradually and evenly into eternal silence. It is a performance that deserves a ranking among the very best on record, maybe the very best on record, especially after Philips remastered it.

The catch: as I alluded earlier, Philips has long been out of business and finding copies of this particular set could be tricky (and expensive if you're not careful). Still, there are new copies available at low prices and even more economical used ones if you look carefully enough. The Amazon link below should make a good starting point.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Rachmaninov: Variations (CD review)

Daniil Trifonov, piano; Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Philadelphia Orchestra. DG 00289 479 4970.

While I have no idea if young Russian pianist and composer Daniil Trifonov (b. 1991) will eventually become one of the world's greatest living musicians, I do know that as of today he is surely among the best we have. Since 2010 he has won numerous awards and recorded over half a dozen albums, all to a well-deserved acclaim. In this current recording, he offers a tribute to his "musical idol," Sergei Rachmaninov, with the piano-and-orchestra Paganini Variations, the solo piano Chopin and Corelli Variations, and the pianist's own solo-piano composition, Rachmaniana. They give us a pretty good idea of the man's skills at the keyboard.

Trifonov begins the program with the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 43, the concertante Rachmaninov wrote in 1934. It seems only appropriate that the Philadelphia Orchestra (under the direction of its current musical director Yannick Nezet-Seguin) accompany the pianist, as the Philadelphia had premiered the work and made the first recording of it (both with the composer himself at the keyboard and under the direction of Leopold Stokowski). Rachmaninov based the score of his Variations on the twenty-fourth of Niccolò Paganini's solo violin Caprices.

Trifonov shows a good deal of flexibility in the variations, handling the faster sections with a dazzling virtuosity. If I have any reservation at all, it's that he doesn't always give the slower sections their due; this is one of the quickest set of variations I've yet to hear. Not that Trifonov doesn't usually infuse the music with a wonderful spark and sparkle; it's just that I wished he were as lyrical throughout the set as he is in, say, Variations 11, 12, and the famous No. 18, where he glides through the notes as gracefully as anyone.

Daniil Trifonov
Whatever, my concerns are short lived when Trifonov produces such fine results in most of the music, effects ranging from heroic to rhapsodic to exciting to downright thrilling. Needless to say, too, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Maestro Nezet-Seguin provide Trifonov with excellent support. The Philadelphia has not always sounded as good as it can sound in too many recordings, but here it is lush and full and wonderfully rich. The ensemble create a near-perfect setting for Rachmaninov's lush, full, rich music.

Next, we find three works for solo piano. The first of these is Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Chopin, Op. 22, written in 1902-03. After that is Trifonov's own short, five-movement suite, Rachmaniana, which the composer-pianist wrote when he was eighteen. Finally, we get Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42, written in 1932. The latter score comprises twenty-variations, the theme, an intermezzo, and a coda-finale. Interestingly, it appears that Corelli didn't actually write the theme on which Rachmaninov based his work but borrowed it himself for a set of his own variations. Although Trifonov has, for me, a rather heavy hand in the Chopin, he seems to know his own work very well, indeed, and it flows freely and easily. In terms of playing and interpretation, the Corelli appears somewhere in between the other solo pieces. It's quite satisfying.

Producers Misha Aster and Sid McLauchlan and engineers Tim Martyn and Charles Gagnon recorded the music at the Academy of Arts & Letters, New York City, and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Verizon Hall, Philadelphia, in March 2015. The resultant sound is quite good, with a warm, realistic presence, a wide dynamic range, and very strong bass impact. In the piano-and-orchestra selections, the piano appears well balanced with the other instruments, not too far out in front and not lost among the other players. As usual with DG recordings, the piano sounds very natural while retaining a good deal of clarity and bloom. The whole affair is still a bit closely miked, though, and a little thick, with a somewhat restricted depth of image. Still, there is a pleasant, lifelike quality to most of the sound.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Classical Music News of the Week, May 14, 2016

New Century Announces 25th Anniversary Season

New Century Chamber Orchestra announces its 2016–2017 25th anniversary season, including three subscription weeks in venues across the San Francisco Bay Area and an inaugural three-concert San Francisco festival, the first of its kind in the organization's history.

A celebration of the achievements of both the ensemble and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who enters her final season as music director, the season features a debut appearance by internationally acclaimed Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan; award-winning Australian/Taiwanese violinist Ray Chen as guest concertmaster, leading a program of works by Mozart, Britten and Elgar; a repeat collaboration with Grammy Award–winning Chanticleer following their sold-out performances in 2014; and the return of pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, performing as soloist in the seldom-heard jazz band version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Highlighting the orchestra's history of adventurous and varied programming, New Century will perform masterworks from the classical repertoire by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Elgar and Britten, contemporary works by Webern and Glass, and a program of works that combines French classics by Fauré and Satie with songs by George Gershwin and Edith Piaf.

The 25th-anniversary celebrations kick off September 15–18, 2016 and continues through the end of May 2016. Subscriptions to the New Century Chamber Orchestra are on sale now. Three-concert subscriptions range from $78 to $165; festival passes range from $52 to $155. Call (415) 357-1111, ext. 305, or visit www.ncco.org to purchase.

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and will go on sale August 1, 2016 through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for students with a valid ID.

Open Rehearsal tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased through City Box Office beginning August 1, 2016: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400.

For further information on New Century, please visit www.ncco.org.

--Brenden Guy, NCCO

Summer 2016 Season: Weill Hall + Lawn at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
4th of July Fireworks Spectacular with Steve Tyrell and the Santa Rosa Symphony
Michael Berkowitz, conductor
Mon, Jul 4 at 7:30pm

Boz Scaggs & The Robert Cray Band
Thu, Jul 14 at 7:30pm

Hollywood Vampires
featuring Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry
Fri, Jul 22 at 7:30pm

"Weird Al" Yankovic: The Mandatory World Tour
Fri, Jul 30 at 7:30pm

The David Grisman Blue Grass Experience
Second Annual GMC Bluegrass Festival, with The Mando Kings featuring The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Sam Bush, & Jeff Austin Band
Sun, Jul 10 at 3pm

Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias
Sat, Jul 16 at 7:30pm

The Taj Mahal Trio: "Blues at the Green"
The Taj Mahal Trio, Hot Tuna Acoustic, and Marcia Ball
Sat, Jul 23 at 7:30pm

Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles¡Viva Mariachi!
A Free Concert for the Community presented by the Green Music Center and the Santa Rosa Symphony featuring Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles and the Santa Rosa Symphony conducted by Michael Berkowitz
Sun, Jul 31 at 7pm

Los Tigres del NorteLos Tigres del Norte
with guest opening act Paul Rodriguez
Fri, Aug 5 at 7:30pm

The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
Fri, Aug 19 at 7:30pm

Star Wars Movie Marathon: May the Force Be With You
Fri, Aug 26 at 3pm  Info
Sat, Aug 27 at 11am Info

Lindsey Stirling - Summer Tour 2016
Thu, Aug 11 at 7:30pm

Trevor Noah
Host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central
Sat, Aug 20 at 7:30pm

Hunter Hayes
Sun, Aug 28 at 7pm

M.E. Live - Melissa Etheridge
Sat, Sep 3 at 7:30pm

An Evening with Pat Metheny
w/ Antonio Sanchez, Linda Oh, and Gwilym Simcock
Tue, Sep 13 at 7:30pm

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - 50 Years of Dirt
Fri, Sep 16 at 7:30pm

Chris Young
Sat, Sep 24 at 7:30pm

The Folger Shakespeare Library & Napashakes Present: Folger Consort and Derek Jacobi
Sun, Sep 25 at 7pm

Gavin DeGraw
Sun, Sep 11 at 7pm

The Avett Brothers
Thu, Sep 15 at 7:30pm

Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally - Summer of 69: No Apostrophe
Sun, Sep 18 at 7:30pm

Shanghai Acrobats of the Peoples Republic of China: Shanghai Nights!
Sun, Sep 25 at 2pm

For complete information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

NEC Announces 2016 Honorary Degree Recipients and Commencement Speaker
New England Conservatory will bestow honorary Doctor of Music (hon. D.M.) degrees on five distinguished musicians at its 145th annual Commencement Exercises, Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 3 p.m. in NEC's Jordan Hall. The recipients are Parliament/Funkadelic co-founder Bernie Worrell, conductor Leonard Slatkin, composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, soprano Martina Arroyo, and composer Malcolm Peyton.

In addition, approximately 275 graduating students in the class of 2016 will be awarded degrees and diplomas including the Bachelor of Music, Graduate Diploma, Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, and Artist Diploma. Leonard Slatkin will give the commencement address; additional speakers will include NEC leaders and a student speaker. The public is welcomed to this event, based on available seats.

For more information, visit http://necmusic.edu/event/14327

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

American Pianists Association Receives $10K Grant from National Endowment for the Arts
The American Pianists Association (APA) announced today that it is the recipient of a $10,000 Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to further outreach concerts and workshops by finalists of the American Pianists Awards. National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved $80,889,500 to fund 1,142 local arts projects and partnerships in the NEA's second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2016. The Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields.

"The arts are all around us, enhancing our lives in ways both subtle and obvious, expected and unexpected," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "Supporting projects like the one from American Pianists Association offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day."

The NEA grant will be used to support APA's Concerto Curriculum, a partnership with five Indianapolis-area schools. Concerto Curriculum brings the beauty of world-class music to new audiences and non-traditional venues, provides pedagogical growth for developing artists, and inspires new generations of young musicians. As part of each American Pianists Awards competition, every finalist completes a residency with an Indianapolis-area high school orchestra or jazz band. Residencies typically span the course of three days and culminate in a joint public performance with the school musicians. The first residency for this year's competition will begin in September 2016.

For more information on the American Pianists Association visit www.americanpianists.org/

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Join us for "Under the Ligurian Sun," May 16 & 17
Don't miss SOLI's final program of the 2015-16 Season, "Under the Ligurian Sun, Part I,"
a program fit for the international stage.

Drawing on a variety of works from the great tradition of American contemporary chamber music, we will present a rich program of selections under consideration for our first international tour in Northern Italy and Southern France in the summer of 2017.

Monday, May 16, 2016 @ 7:30PM
Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater, The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, San Antonio, TX 78205

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 @ 7:30PM
Ruth Taylor Recital Hall, on the campus of Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78205

Pre-Concert Talks with members of SOLI starting @ 7:00 PM

For more information, visit https://www.tobincenter.org/box-office/2016-05/under-ligurian-sun

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

PBO News: Get Six Concerts for the Price of Five
Now is your chance to sign-up for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2016/17 "Season of Heroes." With great offers and good seats still available, you can secure your spot for a year of adventurous music from the San Francisco Bay Area's most exciting, historically-informed Orchestra and Chorale.
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale bring a fresh perspective to music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras. And for the first time in it's 36 year history, Nic McGegan and the Orchestra will present their first fully-staged opera during the 2016/17 season.

Don't miss miss a single note of PBO's authentic performances in intimate settings with musicians who love what they do. Subscribe today.

For complete information, visit https://philharmonia.org/subscribe/

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmia Baroque Orchestra

The Wallis Announces 2016/17 Season
Over 300 performances of more than 50 different programs of theater, dance and music featuring local and world-renowned talent are on tap for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts' 2016/17 season. The Wallis' new Artistic Director Paul Crewes, joined by Managing Director Rachel Fine and Board Chairman David C. Bohnett, announced details of the company's robust fourth season at a press conference today held at The Wallis.

Highlights include:
Theater: Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along," a new collaboration with Deaf West Theatre, LA's "For the Record," Peter Brook's "Battlefield, Complicite/Simon McBurney's "The Encounter," Kneehigh's "946," RSC/Filter Theatre's "Twelfth Night," Hershey Felder's newest work, and Alexi Kaye Campbell's "The Pride."

Dance: Matthew Bourne, Daniel Ezralow, Paul Taylor, Jose Limón, Jacob Jonas, and a Carmen de Lavallade 85th birthday celebration.

Jazz: Diane Schuur, Eddie Palmieri, and The Brubeck Brothers

Chamber Music: Zukerman Trio, Kirshbaum & Wosner, JACK Quartet,  Brooklyn Rider, Joyce Yang, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Marc-André Hamelin.

Concerts: Kyle Riabko's Bacharach Reimagined, Dan Zanes & Friends,  and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra Trio.

Introducing "The Sorting Room," an intimate, custom-built club delivering the hottest names in cabaret, comedy, contemporary music and more.

Tony award-nominated director Michael Arden, named First Artist-in-Residence @ The Wallis.

WelcomeFest Opens the Season with Weekend of Free Events, Sept 10-11.

For more information, visit TheWallis.org

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Susan L Graham and Helen Meyer Named Co-Chairs of Cal Performances at UC Berkeley
Cal Performances at UC Berkeley today announced the appointment of Susan L. Graham and Helen Meyer as co-chairs of its board of trustees. Their two-year term begins July 1. Together, Graham and Meyer represent highly recognized achievement in the fields of technology, sound, and cultural philanthropy—a collective range of knowledge and expertise suited to the future direction of Cal Performances, cultivated by its executive and artistic director, Matías Tarnopolsky. Susan Graham is the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Emerita at UC Berkeley, and serves as a member of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Helen Meyer is the co-founder and executive vice president of the innovative audio engineering company Meyer Sound, and is a dedicated San Francisco Bay Area arts philanthropist.

The appointments follow the four-year/two-term tenure of Gail Rubinfeld as board chair, a period of institutional evolution for Cal Performances that included the launch of its Berkeley RADICAL programming initiative, focused on cultivating cultural literacy for the next generation of performing arts audiences. Susan Graham has served as vice chair of Cal Performances' board of trustees since 2008 and been a member of the board of trustees since 2005. Helen Meyer has been a trustee since 2015 and a generous contributor to Cal Performances for many years. Rubinfeld became a Cal Performances trustee in 2006, and will continue her service following her tenure as chair.

For more information, visit http://calperformances.org/learn/press-room/press-releases/pdfs/2015-16/Board-of-Trustees-Chair-Transition-PR-May-13-2016-FINAL.pdf?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pr.1617.board.co-chairs.announce&utm_content=version_A

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

Piano Espanol (CD review)

Jorge Federico Osorio, piano. Cedille Records CDR 90000 075.

As many of you are aware, for over twenty-five years the once-small, Chicago-based company Cedille Records has been quietly producing some of the best-sounding discs around, mostly of solo and small-ensemble artists. Add this 2004 release to their large and ever-growing collection of recordings you may want to pursue. It's a collection of Spanish piano music played by Mexican pianist Jorge Federico Osorio, and like most of Cedille's productions, ace engineer Bill Maylone recorded it.

Jorge Federico Osorio
Osorio is a most-refined pianist whose best work comes in the more expressively lyrical passages of these numbers. The highlight of the set is Spanish pianist and composer Isaac Albeniz's Suite Espanola, which has some absolutely gorgeous stretches of music in it, beginning with the "Granada" segment that starts things off.

Of course, there is always the definitive interpretation of Albeniz's score by Alicia de Larrocha (Decca) to consider, but not even she is any more passionately graceful than Osorio in this piece. Natually, this is not to suggest that Osorio isn't up to the big, explosive passages, too. He displays fine, gymnastic drive in the famous "Asturias" movement, for instance. It's just that his forte appears to be the articulation of the composition's inner beauty.

The other music on the disc is almost equally distinguished, Manuel de Falla's Piezas Espanolas, Enrique Granados's Danzas Espanolas, and four piano sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler. But for me it was the Albeniz that stood out; that and Cedille's sound for the piano. It's sweet, lush, and well defined, with a rich, golden glow around each note. It's really quite lovely and well complements Osorio's musical style.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (SACD review)

Also, The Firebird Suite. Andres Orozco-Estrada, Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Pentatone PTC 5186 556.

It seems as though every other disc I receive anymore contains music of Stravinsky or Copland. Well, it couldn't happen to better composers. It's gratifying to see they are at least as popular today as they were in their own time.

Whatever, the present disc offers not only Stravinsky's complete Rite of Spring but his 1919 Firebird Suite as well, both works performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony lead by its principal conductor since 2014, Andres Orazco-Estrada. What's more, Pentatone Music recorded the disc for hybrid SACD/CD for multichannel and two-channel stereo playback, so the package provides the listener quite a lot of entertainment value for the money, even though it finds itself in a very competitive field.

First on the program is The Rite of Spring, which Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) wrote in 1913 for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The music proved so different and so revolutionary that at its Paris premiere, it (and, to be fair, the choreography) so shocked audiences that many of them booed and headed for the doors. It's no less revolutionary today, yet unlike some even more-modern classical music, the Rite is melodic enough and rhythmic enough to appeal to almost everybody.

The first half of the ballet, "The Adoration of the Earth," establishes the scene of some past primeval era. Stravinsky intended it to be evocative and atmospheric, and it is in these areas that Orozco-Estrada does his best work. He maintains a strong, always forward, yet generally unhurried pace, the action graduated in fairly well-judged increments, culminating in a well-calculated Part I finale.

Andres Orozco-Estrada
It's in the second part that the conductor tends to let down a bit. Not that the thrills aren't in place; they just don't come in quite the same degree of intensity as in some other recordings. For instance, the present interpretation hasn't quite the electricity of Leonard Bernstein's performance (Sony), the savage brutality of Riccardo Muti's (EMI/Warner) or Georg Solti's (Decca/JVC) versions, or the analytic precision of Pierre Boulez's (Sony) rendition. Still, Orozco-Estrada has a good sense for Stravinsky's rhythms, and it's hard to argue that anything in the performance is actually amiss.

Because The Rite of Spring is relatively brief, there is plenty of room on the disc for the accompanying Firebird Suite, one of three suites (1911, 1919, 1945) the composer arranged from the complete 1910 ballet. The 1919 suite we get here is probably the most familiar to audiences from so many recordings of it over the years.

In the Firebird, the conductor seems a bit more into the music, providing it with all the mood, color, and intensity one could ask for. It is a very impressive, very entertaining rendering of what is perhaps an overly familiar score.

Producers Michael Traub and Philipp Knop and engineers Andreas Heynold and Robin Bos recorded the music at the Alte Oper Frankfurt and the Hessischer Rundfunk, hr-Sendesaal in June and August 2015. They recorded the disc in hybrid SACD/CD, as I said earlier, meaning that if you have an SACD player, you can play the disc in multichannel or two-channel, and if you have only a regular CD player, you can play it back in two-channel stereo. I listened to the disc's two-channel SACD layer.

In The Rite of Spring there is a pleasant warmth to the sound that helps establish the ambience of the presentation, with a reasonably wide stereo spread. The depth of image is a tad flat, though, slightly spoiling the illusion. Frequency response and dynamics are up to the task as well, with a solid deep bass, conveying most of the theatrics and excitement of the music. I enjoyed the sound marginally better in the Firebird Suite, the environmental concerns of the venue a little better addressed. Still, both recordings seemed a trifle too closely miked for me.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Classical Music News of the Week, May 7, 2016

Michael Christie Leads World Premiere of Moravec's The Shining May 7-15

Michael Christie, Music Director of the Minnesota Opera will lead the world premiere performances of The Shining, an opera composed by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec with libretto by Mark Campbell, based on the 1977 novel by Stephen King.

The cast of The Shining will include Brian Mulligan as Jack Torrance, Kelly Kaduce as Wendy Torrance, Alejandro Vega as Danny Torrance, Arthur Woodley as Dick Hallorann, Mark Walters as Mark Torrance, David Walton as Delbert Grady, Alex Ritchie as Horace Derwent, John Robert Lindsey as Lloyd the Bartender, Robb Asklof as Stuart Ullman, Rick Penning as Bill Watson, Shannon Prickett as Mrs. Massey, and Jeni Houser as Mrs. Grady.

The world premiere of The Shining kicks off the second phase of the Minnesota Opera's New Works Initiative, which will include the world premiere of Dinner at Eight by William Bolcom, a performance of Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon, plus remaining commissions yet to be announced. For each commission, Christie is actively involved with the opera's creative team from beginning to end, including extensive workshopping supported by the New Works Initiative.

All 7,056 seats across The Shining's four performances are sold out and only standing room tickets remain for the production

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/MNOperaShining and www.michaelchristieonline.com

--Katy Solomon, Jensen Artists

Berkeley Symphony and Joana Carneiro Announce 2016-17 Season
Music Director Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony today announced the concerts and programs for the 2016-17 season, including the world premiere of a new Berkeley Symphony commission by Paul Dresher; the West Coast premiere of James MacMillan's new Symphony No. 4, a co-commission; and the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates's Cello Concerto, with Joshua Roman as soloist. The Orchestra will also perform Shostakovich's epic Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar", with bass Denis Sedov and alumni of choruses including the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and members of the St. John of San Francisco Russian Orthodox Chorale, led by Marika Kuzma. Shai Wosner is soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, and Philippe Quint performs Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto with the Orchestra. The Orchestra performs Stravinsky's Petrushka and Beethoven's Symphony No. 4.

Well established as a presenter of major contemporary orchestral works, Berkeley Symphony continues its steadfast commitment to presenting original and unique programs with new music commissioned by living composers, many of whom Berkeley Symphony has developed an ongoing creative and collaborative relationship. Berkeley Symphony's 2016-17 season includes a new commissioned world premiere, a new co-commissioned West Coast premiere, and a new Bay Area premiere, alongside classic masterworks. Since its 1979-80 season, Berkeley Symphony has performed 64 world premieres, 28 U.S. premieres, and 21 West Coast premieres. In recognition of its leadership in commissioning and creating new music, the Orchestra has received the prestigious ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award in 10 of the past 13 seasons.

In developing programming for Berkeley Symphony's 2016-17 season, Music Director Joana Carneiro said: "We start with new music – relationships that we want to renew or that we want to start. It starts from the music of our time. Paul Dresher is certainly the first one who comes to mind – he is from Berkeley, and he is an iconic figure in our time. Mason Bates is another composer with local ties, and needs no introduction. I've looked forward to collaborating with him for a long time. And working with James MacMillan is something I've worked toward for a long time. Commissioning him has been a dream of mine, and I'm so pleased to be working on this co-commissioning project with two top institutions: the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony."

Ticket information:
2016-17 season subscription packages for the four Berkeley Symphony concerts at Zellerbach Hall concerts are on sale Thursday, April 14 by phone at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1; by fax to (510) 841-5422; or in person or by mail at 1942 University Avenue, Suite 207, Berkeley, CA 94704. Season subscription packages will be available through www.berkeleysymphony.org on June 1, 2016. Prices for the four-concert series range from $39 to $266. Subscribers enjoy a 10% discount on additional single ticket purchases throughout the season.

Tickets to the four-concert chamber music series Berkeley Symphony & Friends at the Piedmont Center for the Arts are $100 for four concerts, and are on sale Thursday, April 14 by phone at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1; by fax to (510) 841-5422; or in person or by mail at 1942 University Avenue, Suite 207, Berkeley, CA 94704.  The series of chamber music concert tickets can be purchased in advance at www.berkeleysymphony.org beginning June 1, 2016.

Single tickets for the Zellerbach Hall concerts and the Berkeley Symphony & Friends chamber music concerts go on sale July 1, 2016.  For more information or to request a brochure, call Berkeley Symphony at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1, email tickets@berkeleysymphony.org or visit www.berkeleysymphony.org after June 1, 2016.

For complete information, visit www.berkeleysymphony.org

--Jean Shirk Media

Curious Flights Presents West Coast Premiere of The Airborne Symphony
Curious Flights concludes its 2015-2016 season on Saturday, May 28 with the West Coast Premiere of Marc Blitzstein's World War II epic The Airborne Symphony for orchestra, men's chorus, solo voices and narrator. Marin Symphony Music Director Alasdair Neale will lead the combined forces of the Curious Flights Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Merola Opera graduates Brian Thorsett (tenor) and Efrain Solís (baritone) and narrator David Latulippe in a rare performance that marks the 70th anniversary of its world premiere. In support of this project, Curious Flights was recently awarded a $10,000 grant by the Kurt Weill Foundation and is one of only sixteen performing arts institutions nationally to receive awards in 2016 related to the music of Kurt Weill and Marc Blitzstein.

Curious Flights: The Age of Flight
Saturday, May 28, 2016, 8 p.m.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Single tickets are priced at $25 for general admission and $50 for reserved seating which also includes a post-concert reception with wine and beer. Tickets can be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.

For further information on Curious Flights, please visit www.curiousflights.com or email info@curiousflights.com.

--Brenden Guy, Media Relations

Kenneth Woods Takes Reins of Colorado MahlerFest
Kenneth Woods will oversee his first season as Artistic Director of the Boulder-based Colorado MahlerFest, which takes place from May 16 - 22, curating a schedule of varied events with "night" as its theme. At the core of the week-long festival is Mahler's Symphony No. 7, sometimes referred to as "Song of the Night." Other highlights include the US premiere of Viennese composer Kurt Schwertsik's Nachtmusiken ("Night Music") and Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night").

With its combination of conducting, symposia, pre-concert lectures, films, community engagement and blog posts, MahlerFest's format plays perfectly into Woods' multifarious hands. "For me," he says, "Mahler has a singular creative voice. His music should be experienced as an immersive, transformative experience."

For more information about the Colorado MahlerFest, visit http://www.mahlerfest.org

--Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International

Live Streamed Concerts and Living Composers at PICF
The University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with their partner, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and sponsors The Strad and KUSC-FM, present the second Piatigorsky International Cello Festival in Los Angeles May 13-22.  The 26 visiting international cellists, ten pianists, three conductors, nine chamber ensembles-in-residence and 37 fellows, together with classical music lovers from all over the world, converge on Los Angeles for this unprecedented 10-day, 38-event Festival of concerts, workshops, masterclasses, lectures, panel discussions, and exhibitions.

In addition, select evening concerts will be streamed live and available through the Piatigorsky Festival Web site. About the Festival, Deborah Borda, CEO and President of the LA Phil, states: "The Los Angeles Philharmonic is pleased to continue its long and fruitful relationship with the USC Thornton School of Music - our orchestra would not be the same without our USC Thornton graduates, and our partnership in presenting the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival is an occasion for celebration of our shared ongoing local, regional, national, and international musical contributions."

For complete information, visit http://piatigorskyfestival.usc.edu/

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

NEC Student Wins Third Prize at the 2016 Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition
Following an intense week of rounds in which 24 young violinists competed in a wide range of repertoire, the 2016 Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition announced that New England Conservatory student, Luke Hsu, ('14 M.M. '16 G.D.) has been awarded third place and will receive an 8,000 Euro prize. Hsu currently studies at NEC with Donald Weilerstein and will graduate this May.

The Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition creates understanding and strengthens the appreciation for classical music; its one-week long competition schedule involves competition rounds, concerts and other events. Held in Odense, Denmark, the birthplace of conductor and violinist, Carl Nielsen, the competition also serves to present Nielsen's work in timely and relevant ways to a modern audience. This happens in a strong collaboration between Carl Nielsen International Music Competitions, Odense Symphony Orchestra, SMKS (The Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts), Odense Municipality and music schools and institutions from all corners of Denmark.

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

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Celesta PR

Music Institute's Abraham Stokman Performs May 21
The Music Institute of Chicago celebrates the 80th birthday of piano/improvisation faculty member Abraham Stokman with a solo concert, "Abe Stokman Is Still Alive and Doing Very Well" Saturday, May 21, 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.
The concert program will include:
Bach/Busoni: Choral Preludes (2 selections)
Mozart: Rondo alla Turka
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90
Chopin: Mazurka in C Sharp Minor, Op. 50, No. 3
Chopin: Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66
Debussy: L'isle Joyeuse
Wagner/Liszt: Liebestod
Schoenberg: 3 Pieces, Op. 11

For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

PBO News
Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale did not miss a beat after the regular season ended on May 1 with  critical praise for "Hymns of Praise." Within a few days they had packed their instruments and headed to New York City for the East Coast premiere of Scarlatti's La Gloria di Primavera at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on May 6.

The reprise of Scarlatti's La Gloria di Primavera continues with performances on May 10 at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California and at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts on August 25.

Immediately following the Scarlatti performances, Philharmonia will present a program of works by Handel, Purcell, and Arvo Pärt featuring soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and countertenor Andreas Scholl. Audiences will also hear the world premiere of "Red, Red Rose" by Caroline Shaw, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner in composition. The work was commissioned by Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale and inspired by the Robert Burns 1794 poem "O my Luve's like a red, red rose" because of von Otter's fondness for Burns' writing. Shaw is known for her unique compositional style with a particular passion for the Baroque structure.

For more news on Philharmonia Baroque, visit philharmonia.org

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Best-selling Author Lauren Belfer Returns with a New Novel
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Belfer of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light returns with a new novel—inspired by historical events—about a mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes the lives of all who touch it

The unexpected discovery of a Meisterwerk is the inspiration behind New York Times-bestselling author Lauren Belfer's newest novel, And After the Fire (Harper, May 3, 2016). This powerful and passionate novel asks the question: What if you stumbled upon a long-lost masterpiece – not a painting – but a mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that could potentially change the course of history? Studded with vibrant, real-life musical figures of 18th and 19th century Europe, from Wilhelm Friedemann Bach to Beethoven to the Mendelssohn family, the result is Belfer's best novel yet, a transporting, un-putdownable, multi-generational saga, spanning centuries and continents, that interweaves two Jewish women's lives, one European living in 18th century Berlin and one in present day America, and the mysterious choral masterpiece that changes both their lives.

Lauren Belfer is the author of And After the Fire (Harper, May 2016). Her novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel, an NPR Best Mystery, and a New York Times Editors' Choice. Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, a number one Book Sense pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and was translated into six languages. She lives in New York City.

For more information, visit www.laurenbelfer.com

--Heather Drucker, HarperCollins

Bridge: The Music of Frank Bridge (CD review)

Carol Rosenberger, piano; Constantine Orbelian, Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Delos DE 3263.

For the last quarter century, one of my favorite albums for pure relaxation has been EMI's recording of English composer, conductor, and violinist Frank Bridge's The Sea, among other short works with Sir Charles Groves and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. I mention this at the start because it may represent a lot people's introduction to Bridge's pastoral music. For more of the same, this 2001 Delos album with Constantine Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra offers three lesser-known pieces by the composer. Although they are not in the same league as the works on the EMI disc, they do demonstrate the innate sweetness of Bridge's touch.

The highlight of this Delos disc is a suite of four short pieces arranged for string orchestra called, appropriately, Four Pieces for String Orchestra. Bridge originally wrote the pieces as separate items, and Paul Hindmarsh assembled them for the suite we have here. The music makes for a wonderfully entertaining and soothing combination of sounds. The central Waltz is slightly macabre in tone but has a lovely lilt, and the closing Scherzo is vibrant and amusing.

Constantine Orbelian
On either side of the Four Pieces we find the lovely Chamber Concerto for piano and orchestra (arranged by Orbelian) and Three Idylls. Bridge reworked the concerto from several of his other chamber compositions and published it in various forms from 1904 to 1912, presumably the final version as performed here. It hasn't quite the energy or the originality of the Four Pieces but still makes for easy, casual listening. The Three Idylls are altogether more somber but eventually blossom into a stirring climax.

Maestro Orbelian leads with a light, fluid touch; the Moscow players give him a comfortable, almost cushy response; and Ms. Rosenberger plays with an accomplished grace. The whole affair sounds very much in the English pastoral style despite the ensemble itself not being English.

Delos engineer John Eargle did up the audio in a process the company called VR, Virtual Reality, meaning the listener can play it back in the surround mode with subtle rear-channel effects added. However, in ordinary two-channel stereo it sounds just fine, if a bit thick around the middle. Interestingly, I found the larger orchestra on the aforementioned EMI disc more transparent than this smaller chamber group. But I suppose the added warmth afforded by the VR environment does contribute to the amiable mood of the music.

I wish someone would have told Delos to do something about their clunky art design, though. Their front cover and rear print layout here are unappealing, and for those of us who like to linger over the artwork, they do little to complement the comfortable atmosphere created by the music.


Krenek: Piano Concertos Nos. 1-3 (CD review)

Mikhail Korzhev, piano; Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra. Toccata Classics TOCC 0323.

Here's another composer you may not know. Or maybe you do because the Austrian-born American composer and writer Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) does have several dozen albums to his credit. However, even more than his music, he may have been famous for his short-lived marriage to Anna Mahler, the daughter of Gustav Mahler; who knows. He earned a living largely by teaching, lecturing, and completing the unfinished material of other composers, despite his writing over 240 of his own works. Whatever, the conductor and cellist Kenneth Woods has taken up Krenek's cause, and perhaps he will help revitalize the composer's name as he did with his recordings of Austrian-British composer Hans Gal several years earlier. This time, Maestro Woods is working with pianist Mikhail Korzhev and the English Symphony Orchestra, of which Woods has been Principal Conductor since 2013.

Throughout his career, Ernst Krenek adopted a variety of compositional forms, from late-Romantic to modern atonality, from neoclassicism to experimental jazz, and from modal counterpoint to twelve-tone writing, serial techniques, and electronic music, making him truly a man for all seasons. I wonder, however, if he had settled down to one particular style, if people would have better appreciated his music today? Again, who knows. As an example of how little audiences know Krenek's concertos, the first two of the concertos on the present disc receive their premiere recordings.

Anyway, the album offers what the folks at Toccata Classics say are the "complete piano concertos," Nos. 1-3, written between 1923 and 1946, even though most of the on-line references I consulted list a fourth concerto as well. Apparently, the fourth of the concertos will appear on a second volume. Whatever, the program presents the first three concertos in chronological order, starting with the Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp major, Op. 18 (1923). It's the most conventional in style, a sort of quasi-Romantic piece.

The opening movement is securely in the late-Romantic tradition, with traces of a Debussy-like dreaminess about it. The second movement is more rhythmic, more pulsating, more radiant. By the third movement, the piece is back to a sweet, comforting mode, and then the finale provides a fairly rollicking, easily communicative close.

Mikhail Korzhev
I'm not sure how one should perform the music, my never having heard it before, but I can't imagine anyone doing it any better than this. Korzhev's piano playing is scintillating, Woods's direction is warmly encouraging, and the orchestra is uniformly precise, together giving the score all the interpretive support it could ask for. It's hard to imagine any other pianist, conductor, or orchestra doing anything more for Krenek's work.

Next is the Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 81 (1937), in which Krenek employed a twelve-tone technique. The result is a darker, more dissonant piece, one that pianist Korzhev says contains both "nostalgic longing for the 'old world'" (Krenek wrote it just before he fled Austria for America) and "dreadful premonitions" (presumably of World War II and its catastrophic effects on the world). After that, we get the little Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 107 (1946), which sounds the most rambunctious, the most overtly flamboyant of the lot, with the piano waging more obvious contests with the various sections of the orchestra.

The Second and Third Concertos are distinctly different from the First, yet Korzhev, Woods, and company present them in an easily accessible manner. This is modern music for people who don't usually like the dissonances and peculiarities of much modern music. The extravagance of the Third Concerto sounds particularly appealing in contrast to the relative serenity of the First. The diversity of the three works goes a long way toward illustrating the composer's musical evolution.

Producer Michael Haas and engineer Ben Connellan recorded the music at Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales in September 2015. From the quiet opening notes to the loudest crescendos, the sound appears smooth, well focused, dynamic, broad, and well extended. The sense of the hall around the orchestra and piano is especially welcome, as the hall's warm, mildly reverberant acoustic contributes strongly to the disc's overall realistic effect. The engineer always keeps the piano well integrated with the orchestra, too: just slightly forward of the other players but not in your face. What's more, there is a genuine sense of depth to the ensemble, giving the whole affair a most-natural perspective.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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 both its equipment and recordings 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 simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, 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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa