Harty: An Irish Symphony (CD review)

Also, With the Wild Geese; In Ireland. Proinnsias O'Duinn, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. Naxos 8.554732.

How could this 2001 album of Irish orchestral music miss when it features three of the most-popular works of one of Ireland's most-celebrated composers, Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941), done up by one of Ireland's most-accomplished orchestras, the National Symphony of Ireland, and lead by an Irish conductor with the name of Proinnsias O'Duinn? Add in good Naxos sound and a reasonable price and you have the well-known definition of a bargain on your hands.

All the works on the disc are pretty much tone poems, evocations of Irish life in both war and play. The leadoff selection is the eighteen-minute piece "With the Wild Geese" (1910), a varied and moody work depicting an Irish regiment of soldiers fighting with the French in 1745. The second, shorter, piece, "In Ireland" (1918, orchestrated in 1935), describes city life in Dublin. Finally, An Irish Symphony (1904) arrives in four movements, with the suggestive names "On the Shores of Lough Neagh," "The Fair-Day," "In the Antrim Hills," and "The Twelfth Night." It's the quick, second-movement scherzo that is probably most familiar, quoting as it does several popular Irish melodies.

Proinnsias O'Duinn
In fact, all the music is reminiscent of a hundred Irish folk tunes you've probably heard over the years, none of them particularly memorable but all of them contributing to the music's overall entertainment value. This is not classical music of the highest or most-noble bent, just pleasant, sometimes nostalgic, often relaxing, occasionally cheering, and ultimately rewarding music.

O'Duinn directs the music at a comfortable pace, never forcing its nostalgic or sentimental characteristics on the listener and nicely clarifying the big tunes. The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland plays with an equally easy grace, although they don't sound quite as lush or luxuriant as the best London orchestras. Still, everyone is more than up to the job.

The Naxos sound is up to the task, too, with good dynamics, a reasonably wide frequency response except perhaps in the very lowest registers, and a fine degree of sparkle. This means it is sound that fits the music, and it's hard not to like it.


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

Doug Wendt: Classical Guitar (CD review)

Doug Wendt, guitar. Wendt Recordings.

Classical guitarist, jazz guitarist, pop guitarist, bluegrass guitarist, folk guitarist, blues guitarist, teacher, and experienced chef to boot, Doug Wendt is pretty much an all-around performer. According to his bio, he earned a B.A. in Guitar Performance from California State University of the East Bay (CSUEB). Also an experienced chef, including over ten years as sous-chef at a top-class Italian Restaurant, Doug decided to make his part-time music activities into a full-time career about fifteen years ago.

As a classical guitarist, Doug has worked and performed extensively with Gordon Rowland of www.guitarwork.com. What's more, Doug has maintained a longtime collaboration with vocalist Tré Taylor including their current jazz quintet "Dangerous Martini." Earlier bands with Tré included "Soul Attraction," a 10-piece R&B soul band, and "Earl Slide Ride," featuring Motown and Blues.

Doug's wife, Deborah Kuhl, (singer, songwriter, and pianist), who regularly performs a repertoire of French music, borrows Doug on occasion and featured both Doug and Gordon Rowland on her CD "Carte Postale."

On the present disc, Wendt plays classical guitar, the program running high to his favorite composer, J.S. Bach. The selections include Bach's "Prelude" from the Cello Suite No. 1, "Gavotte," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," "Little Prelude," "Double," and "Bouree." In addition, we get Alessandro Scarlatti's "Gavotte"; Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata in A" and "Sonata in Em"; Antonio Lauro's "Preludio Venesolano," "Andreina," and "Natalia"; and two anonymous tunes, "Romance" and "Greensleeves."

Doug Wendt
Doug brings to all of this material the same warmth and affection I've heard from him live: low-key presentations that never call attention to the performer but always showcase the music. In other words, you'll find more flamboyant guitarists around, ones who revel in the dexterity of their finger work and virtuosity of their playing; but one can hardly find anyone more committed to bringing to life the spirit of the composers and their music than Doug Wendt.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting Wendt is another Angel or Pepe Romero, John Williams, Andres Segovia, Julian Bream, David Russell, Narciso Yepes, or the like. But he is good, and he projects an agreeable sweetness in his music. So, onward....

Among my favorites on the disc is Wendt's playing of Domenico Scarlatti's "Sonata in A," an item I've heard any number of times performed on solo harpsichord, piano, and guitar. Some musicians seem intent on attacking it full throttle, while others appear content with providing cozy, almost sentimental interpretations. Doug does neither; he comes at the score gently but firmly, caressing each note without unduly emphasizing each one. The result is a performance that sounds neither sensational nor lackluster but just right.

Wendt chooses fairly modest tempos throughout the program, so, again, he's not trying to impress the listener with wild flights of fancy or gushy, maudlin outbursts. The familiar "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Greensleeves," for example, come across charmingly and effortlessly, with the guitar producing a warm, rich sound that well complements the compositions. As my wife remarked, the chords are so simple, but they're soft and beautiful. Indeed, they are. It's a lovely album.

Thomas Martin and Jamie Bridges recorded the music in 2010. The sound appears fairly close but very well detailed and realistic. There's a modest amount of resonance involved, too, which helps to gives the guitar a lifelike sense of presence. Fortunately, the close miking is not so severe as to spread the instrument across the entire soundstage but keeps the guitar nicely focused between the speakers.

To learn more about Doug Wendt and his work, visit http://www.dougwendtguitar.com/.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, June 25, 2016

Sacred Music in a Sacred Space Announces 2016-2017 Season

The renowned Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola's Sacred Music in a Sacred Space (SMSS) concert series, held within the majestic grandeur of the Upper East Side's Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, is known for presenting the finest sacred choral and organ repertoire, spanning over 1,000 years of music history. For 27 seasons, SMSS has presented large-scale choral masterpieces, as well as more intimate and reflective settings by lesser-known composers. The series has emerged as the preeminent showcase for many of the world's premier choirs and organists.

SMSS's 28th season (2016-17) includes several highlights pivotal to the series and the life of the church. "The church's 150th anniversary as a Jesuit parish provides a unique opportunity to introduce new audiences to our stellar performances, and to showcase some stunning sacred works and amazing guest performers," says SMSS Artistic Director K. Scott Warren. "One of my passions is to delve into timeworn pieces and find the treasures that speak to me directly.  I enjoy discovering ways to share my excitement for these works with our choir and our patrons. Our 2016-17 season is replete with some of these gems that may be less familiar to our audiences, but I know they will come to adore them as I do."

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola as a Jesuit parish. To celebrate this milestone, SMSS presents a special concert, Jesuits in the Americas: Zipoli and his World, on October 28, centering on the music of 18th-century Jesuit composer Domenico Zipoli and his contemporaries in the missions of Bolivia and Paraguay.

This season, SMSS's Choral Series centers on the season-long theme of Sacred Ground. The resident Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola present a 3-concert series of diverse repertoire as a consideration of the question: What is our spiritual, ethical and artistic relationship with the earth? The choral series opens on September 28 with Choral Elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, featuring lush pieces for choir, harp and string quartet by composers W.A. Mozart, Gustav Holst, Frank Ferko, Frank Ticheli, and John Kennedy. On February 24, in honor of the publication of "Laudato Si," Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the environment, SMSS and The New York Opera Society (NYOS) present the world premiere of Upon this handful of earth, a newly commissioned chamber opera by renowned Norwegian composer Gisle Kverndokk and librettist Aksel-Otto Bull based on the writings of Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Choral Series concludes on May 24 with Haydn's beloved masterpiece, The Creation, presented in English.

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

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Victory Hall Opera Uncovers Historical Connection Between Der Rosenkavalier & Charlottesville, VA
Victory Hall Opera presents a chamber version of Der Rosenkavalier on August 14 (matinee), 17 & 20, 2016 at The V. Earl Dickinson Theater. The theater is located at Piedmont Virginia Community College, (501 College Dr., Charlottesville, VA). For more information, please visit www.victoryhallopera.org. The opera features singers Brenda Patterson, Matt Boehler, Miriam Gordon-Stewart, Janinah Burnett and Kenneth Overton, Director Lee Biolos, Conductor Conrad Chu and Set Design by Robin Dripps and Lucia Phinney.

For full information, visit http://www.victoryhallopera.org/

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

NEC Alum Luke Hsu Wins 41st Annual Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition
Violinist, Boston resident, and New England Conservatory alum, Luke Hsu ('14 M.M. and '16 GD - a student of Donald Weilerstein), took first place at the 41st annual Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition and received many other awards at Rice University's Student Concert Hall.

Hsu earned a gold medal, a $25,000 prize and a solo performance at Jones Hall with the Houston Symphony at the final concert of Day of Music at 7:30 p.m. on July 9, 2016. He also won the Hermann Shoss Audience Choice Award and a vote of confidence from Houston Symphony musicians, who awarded him with The Robert and Nancy Peiser Award for Artistic Encouragement. Additionally, Hsu won The Grace Woodson Memorial Award, made possible thanks to the generosity of Symphony patrons John and Tracy Dennis in honor of their grandmother. Hsu's win marks the second year in a row that a Houstonian has won the Ima Hogg Competition; it holds considerable significance as this achievement grants Hsu a second performance with the Houston Symphony.

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

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

Merola Opera Program Presents Mozart's Così Fan Tutte August 4 and 6
The Merola Opera Program presents Mozart's Così fan tutte, led by conductor Mark Morash and director Ted Huffman, in two performances Thursday, August 4 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, August 6 at 2 pm at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music at 50 Oak Street in San Francisco.

The cast of Così fan tutte features Merola 2016 artists tenor Amitai Pati as Ferrando, bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum as Guglielmo, bass-baritone Josh Quinn as Don Alfonso, soprano Yelena Dyachek as Fiordiligi, mezzo-soprano Alexandra Schenck as Dorabella, and soprano Adelaide Boedecker, who returns for her second year in the Merola program, as Despina. Two distinguished Merola alumni lead the production: conductor Mark Morash (Merola 1987) and director Ted Huffman (Merola 2010).

Conductor Mark Morash is Director of Musical Studies for San Francisco Opera Center. He has led many productions and concerts with the Merola Opera Program and Western Opera Theater. His work with the San Francisco Opera Center has included such varied repertoire as Die Fledermaus, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Barber of Seville, Donizetti's Rita, Pasatieri's The Seagull, Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, and Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire. He has appeared in recital with such renowned artists as Michael Schade, Leah Crocetto, Elza van den Heever and Quinn Kelsey.

Director Ted Huffman studied at Yale University and apprenticed at the Merola Opera Program. He has created original productions for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Dutch National Opera, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Glyndebourne, Theater an der Wien in der Kammeroper, Opéra national de Lorraine, and Aldeburgh Festival, among others. In the next year, he will make directing debuts at Opéra de Lille, Opernhaus Zürich, Les Théâtres de la ville de Luxembourg, and Oper Frankfurt. Huffman has worked as an acting teacher with young artists from the Royal Opera House's Jette Parker Young Artist Programme, San Francisco Opera's Adler Fellows, LA Opera's Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, Santa Fe Apprentice Program, and Canadian Opera Company Studio.

Tickets for Merola Opera Program's production of Così fan tutte are $65, $45, and $15 for students with ID, and may be purchased by calling the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 or by visiting sfopera.com. The box office is open Monday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm.

--Jean Shirk Media

Music Institute Appoints Cooke VP Institutional Advancement
The Music Institute of Chicago announces that Alexis F. Cooke will join the institution as Vice President for Institutional Advancement, effective July 6, 2016. Cooke will serve as a member of the organization's senior management team and be responsible for a broad range of fundraising and donor relations initiatives.

President and CEO Dr. Mark George stated, "The Music Institute is thrilled to welcome Alexis. She brings a unique set of skills that will enable her to build strong relationships with friends and supporters and develop a dynamic platform to advance the mission of our school in the Chicago area."

Cooke has worked exclusively with nonprofit organizations for more than 12 years. Most recently as director of development at the Adler Planetarium, she successfully led the museum's fundraising efforts for major and individual giving, membership, corporate and foundation giving, events, endowment, and planned gifts. Prior to the Adler, she served as the senior officer, major gifts at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs where she was responsible for board relations, securing major funding for special initiatives, and sustaining annual individual donor support. She also worked for the development office at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Tate Museums in London managing membership, ticketing, and annual giving programs. She holds a Master of Research degree in humanities and cultural studies from the London Consortium, UK, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Beloit College in Wisconsin. Cooke lives in Evanston with her husband and two children, and they enjoy exploring the world around them through travel, food, music, and art.

For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

ChamberFest Tickets Still Available, Plus July 4 Fireworks Spectacular
ChamberFest 2016 Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn
Purchase single tickets or save $50 by purchasing the entire series.

Weill Hall and Lawn at the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Ronhert Park, CA.

And July 4 Fireworks Spectacular, with Steve Tyrell and the Santa Rosa Symphony, conducted by Michael Berkowitz. Monday, Jul 4 at 7:30pm. Gates & Kids Zone Open at 4:30pm. Fireworks light up the sky for Rohnert Park's premier 4th of July Festivity! Masterful vocalist Steve Tyrell, along with the Santa Rosa Symphony take  the stage to perform classics from the American Songbook.

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

--Green Music Center

Seattle Symphony Announces "Simple Gifts"
The Seattle Symphony today launched "Simple Gifts," a multi-year initiative that will share the inspiration of music to spark joy, alleviate trauma and connect individuals with their creativity through artistic projects, residencies and access to performances. The program is an expansion of the Symphony's current partnerships serving those experiencing homelessness.

The initiative was announced at Benaroya Hall in an event that included performances by Seattle Symphony musicians and community participants as well as remarks by Seattle Symphony President & CEO Simon Woods, Mary's Place Executive Director Marty Hartman, Path with Art Executive Director Holly Jacobson, and City of Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim. Today's announcement is a response to City of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine's declaration of a State of Emergency for Seattle and King County's homelessness crisis last November. The Seattle Symphony began working with those experiencing homelessness in 2013.

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

--You You Xia, Seattle Symphony

2016 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy August 5-14
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 during the two-week event will explore the music and culture of Baroque Italy, a primary destination for eighteenth-century Europeans on "The Grand Tour." Along with surveys of sacred and secular works from many of the finest composers who worked in Florence, Venice, and Rome during the era, the ABS Festival & Academy will present the North American premiere performances of Handel's 1734 Serenata, Parnasso in festa, and also Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor.

For more information, call 415-621-790 or visit sfbachfestival.org or americanbach.org

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Saluting the Young People's Chorus of NYC Graduating Class
Please join us in saluting our newest graduating class, the young musicians who have been performing with us since childhood. These talented students will now be entering college, as all YPC graduates do every year. For them and for all of us, it's been a banner year - from performing for Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, to making history as the first American chorus to win the European Broadcasting Union's international Let the Peoples Sing competition. As this incredible season draws to a close, please consider making a donation to YPC.

Every child who wants to sing deserves access to a high quality music education. YPC's programs ensure that over 1,500 children participate each year. Your gift will change children's lives through the power of music and the pursuit of artistic excellence.

For more information, visit http://www.ypc.org/

--Francisco J. Núñez, YPC

Through the Years (CD review)

Dmitry Paperno, piano. Cedille Records CDR 90000 074.

Soviet-born (Ukraine), American émigré concert pianist Dmitry Paperno (b. 1929) turned seventy-five in the year of this recording's release, 2004, and he showed he still knew his stuff. Through the Years remains one of the most-satisfying piano recitals you can find.

Although Dmitry Paperno is probably still not a household name in America, his talent is evident in every note of this confident, relaxing, inspired album. The material he chose for inclusion on the disc is thankfully not quite of the tried-and-true warhorse variety but a mixture of popular with lesser-known, slightly melancholy pieces that fit the mood set by the small, lonely figure in the golden autumn pictured on the CD booklet cover.

Dmitry Paperno
Among the eighteen works in the collection include Bach's Sinfonia No 2, Scarlatti's Sonata in C minor, Schumann's Intermezzo in D minor, Liszt's Sonetto del Petrarca, Debussy's "Hommage a Rameau," Borodin's "In a Monastery," and so on. But my two favorites are Beethoven's lovely "Andante favori" and Albeniz's heartbreaking "Tango." Each of the works on the disc is a tiny gem, played and polished by an artist with a feeling for the music. Paperno provides all the nuance and sensitivity the pieces demand.

Cedille's recording characteristics always sound first rate, and this effort is no different. The piano tone is quite natural, Mr. Paperno's Steinway appearing well defined without being bright, forward, hard, or edgy. There is a nice bloom to the musical ambience as well, lending a most realistic if not always transparent quality to the sonics. In other words, the sound matches the mood of the music: easy, casual, cultivated, and perfectly charming.


To hear an excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie (CD review)

Zubin Mehta, Los Angeles Philharmonic. HDTT.

While there is an abundance of good recordings available of Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony (my own favorites remaining the ones with Kempe on EMI and Previn on Telarc), there is no question this 1975 version from Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic is at least among the elite, interpretatively and sonically. More important, now that the good folks at HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) have remastered it, it sounds as good as ever.

German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) started writing An Alpine Symphony in 1911 and finished it several years later in 1915. It was the last of his big-scale, symphonic tone poems, and he spent the next thirty-odd years of his life composing other kinds of music: songs, mainly, and, of course, opera. Supposedly, the composer came to write his Alpine Symphony after viewing the Bavarian mountains behind his home, the mountains he used to climb and enjoy as a boy.

However, An Alpine Symphony is among the composer's more-controversial works; you either love it or you hate it. Critics for years have written it off as nothing more than picture-postcard music, lightweight fluff, hammy and melodramatic and unworthy to set alongside Strauss's greater work. Still, I wonder if these critics aren't letting their estimate of the subject matter cloud their judgment. I mean, for some people the mere description of mountains, peaks, and pastures can't measure up against things with such imposing titles as Death and Transfiguration and Also Sprach Zarathustra. Be that as it may, I find An Alpine Symphony immensely entertaining, and I believe the glories of Nature are every bit as sublime and profound as anything Nietzsche wrote (although one should not entirely overlook the role the German philosopher played in the development of Strauss's symphony).

Here's the thing: If you like the music, the question is which recording you want to hear in your living room, and, as I said above, there's a surplus of great ones already out there. With Mehta, we get a majestic view of the mountaintops from the very beginning of the work. The sun rises rather abruptly from the night, and the ascent, forest, stroll, waterfall, meadows, and pastures all tend to get a more-or-less straightforward, though fairly opulent treatment. In fact, Mehta seems as impetuous as a youth on the mountainside, impatient to get to the top. Which is as valid a reading of the music as any.

Zubin Mehta
When Part II arrives and the climber has reached the summit, Mehta lets out all the stops, offering up as grand a vision of Nature in all her glory as any on record. It's every bit the mystical experience I'm sure Strauss intended. He whips up a good frenzy in the storm, too, and delivers a sweet respite in the sunset and return to night. It's both a thoughtful and exciting interpretation.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has never been one of my favorite orchestras, appears as they often do on record: a little thin. Maybe it's just the way Decca recorded them; I don't know. Whatever, they still sound splendid, so it's little to worry about.

Two minor quibbles: The symphony isn't really very long, and since it is generally HDTT's practice to remaster just what was on a tape or LP, it is only the symphony we get. Moreover, they provide only two tracks on the disc, corresponding to Parts I and II of the work. Personally, I enjoy reading along with the script, the twenty-odd descriptive passages, while listening to the musical representation of them. But that's just me, and, again, having only two tracks was probably a result of the tape. Oh, well, not important.

Producer Ray Minshull and engineer James Lock recorded the symphony in 1975 at Royce Hall, Los Angeles, and HDTT remastered it from a London 4-track Dolby-encoded tape. The sound displays excellent clarity, something for which listeners have long noted Decca recordings. Accompanying the clarity, however, is a very slight edge, also a quality of most Decca recordings of the era. In any case, a small amount of warmth in the lower midrange and upper bass help mitigate this condition. Dynamics, frequency range, especially mid treble and mid bass, sound particularly good, if just a tad fuzzy in the extreme highs. And some moderate degree of hall bloom and ambience give the listener the impression of live, natural music.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, June 18, 2016

2016-17 Season Announcement - 5th Anniversary of Weill Hall

The Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, announces 2016-17 season and the 5th anniversary of Weill Hall.

5th Season Opening Night Gala feat:
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, with Wynton Marsalis
Sat, Oct 1 at 7pm

From the Buena Vista Social Club Omara Portuondo 85 Tour with special guests Roberto Fonseca, Anat Cohen & Regina Carter
Sun, Oct 2 at 7pm

Denis Matsuev, piano
Sat, Oct 22 at 7:30pm

Zakir Hussain, tabla, with Niladri Kumar, sitar
Sun, Oct 30 at 3pm

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Nicholas McGegan, conductor Robert Levin, fortepiano
Sat, Oct 15 at 7:30pm

Tomatito, Flamenco Guitar
Sun, Oct 23 at 7pm

Michael Feinstein: Great American Songbook
Sat, Nov 12 at 7:30pm

And much more through June 2017.

Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928. For more information, call 1.866.955.6040 or visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/

--Green Music Center

FWOpera Announces Call for Submission for Frontiers 2017
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) announced today a call for submissions for its fifth annual Frontiers showcase, to be held during the 2017 Fort Worth Opera Festival – April 15, 2017 – May 7, 2017 and during the 2017 Opera America Conference being held in Dallas/Fort Worth. Launched during the company's 2012-2013 season, Frontiers remains one of the only programs world-wide that seeks out unproduced works by the finest up-and-coming composers and librettists from North, South, and Central America, and has been acclaimed for the opportunities it provides its winners. Composers and librettists whose works are selected as part of the Frontiers showcase gain valuable exposure for their works in a live performance environment while also taking part in unparalleled networking opportunities with industry professionals including artistic directors of other established opera companies, artist managers, classical music publishers, funding organizations, and conductors.

Composer and librettist teams whose works are selected for the 2017 Frontiers showcase will be in residence during the 2017 Festival where they will attend the showcase, participate in the final rehearsals of their work, and engage in post-performance discussions with panelists and audience members. Selected composers and librettists will also receive feedback on their piece through private meetings with the Frontiers jury panel and will have a recording of their work provided to assist them further in their compositional process.

Building on the model established by the program's first four installments, the 2017 Frontiers showcase will continue in its goal of specifically seeking out works for future production in FWOpera's popular alternative venue series Opera Unbound, which presents new or rarely-performed works by contemporary composers. To that end, the program's selection panel will include collaborative partners who will play a critical role in the long-term development of the Frontiers works and ensuring their future development.

For full information, visit http://www.fwopera.org/operas/frontiers

--Ryan Lathan, Fort Worth Opera

U.S. Duo Wins 2016 International Duo Piano Competition
The Music Institute of Chicago announces that Duo Amadeae from the United States has won the $10,000 grand prize in the 2016 Chicago International Duo Piano Competition. Duo Amadeae also won the Director's Award, which honors them with an appearance during the 2017 Chicago Duo Piano Festival. Yordana and Kyurkchiev (Bulgaria) won the $5,000 second prize, and Klimova and Maholetti (Slovenia and Russia) won the $2,500 third prize. South Korea's Kim and Lee and Hong Kong's Ping and Ting each received $500 Honorable Mentions.

An initial 32 piano duos, 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. The 19 duos in the quarterfinals, narrowed to 10 for the semifinals and five for the finals, competed before a panel of distinguished judges, including Jeffrey Swann (chair), Alvin Chow, Sandra Shapiro, and the duo Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro. All rounds took place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.

Chicago Duo Piano Festival:
Called a "duo piano mecca" by Pioneer Press, Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) was founded in 1988 by Music Institute faculty members and resident piano duo Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem. Its mission is to foster a deeper interest in the repertoire, performance, and teaching of music for piano, four hands and two pianos. The Festival includes an annual summer festival, a winter mini-fest, and periodic national and international duo piano competitions for youth and adults. The 28th annual Chicago Duo Piano Festival takes place July 8–17.

For more information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/cdpf-summer-festival

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Neil Edwards Appointed President of Honens
After an extensive international search, Honens has announced the appointment of Neil Edwards as President.

Neil Edwards joins Honens from the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra where, as CEO for the past five years, he has been instrumental in shaping the organization into a prominent musical force in Atlantic Canada. He has more than 15 years of experience in arts leadership as Executive Director of both the Nova Scotia Kiwanis Music Festival Association and of Debut Atlantic, Atlantic Canada's premiere arts touring organization which offers first touring opportunities and career support to Canada's outstanding emerging artists.

Honens discovers, nurtures and presents Complete Artists—21st century pianists for 21st century audiences. The Honens Piano Competition takes place every three years and is considered one of the world's most prestigious events of its kind. Honens prepares its Laureates for the rigors and realities of professional careers in music and creates opportunities for growth and exposure. The annual Honens Festival is one of Canada's premier piano events. Earlier this year, the 2015 Honens Festival & Piano Competition was named 'Festival of the Year' at Tourism Calgary's White Hat Awards. The 2016 Honens Festival takes place in Calgary, September 8 to 11. The next Honens Piano Competition will be held in 2018.

For more information, visit http://www.honens.com/

--Nancy Shear Arts Services

ChamberFest 2016, Green Music Center
ChamberFest 2016: Program VII - Finale
 Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 3pm
 Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622
 Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola in E-Flat Major, K.  364
 Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 1 in D Major
 Mozart: Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos in E-Flat Major, K. 365

 Jeffrey Kahane, conductor and piano | David Shifrin, clarinet
 Benjamin Beilman, violin | Paul Neubauer, viola
 Benjamin Jaber, horn | Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA

For more information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/event/3129362-chamberfest-2016-program-vii-finale

--Green Music Center

Berkshire Opera Festival Announces Its Inaugural Season This August
Berkshire Opera Festival is proud to launch its inaugural season this summer with a production of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (August 27, 30, and September 2 at 7:30pm). BOF will offer a welcome return of locally-produced opera to the longtime classical music hub.

General Director and Co-Founder Jonathon Loy, a frequent guest director at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, and who has deep family roots in the Berkshires, commented: "We're very excited for the first season of Berkshire Opera Festival, and to be presenting the first fully-produced opera in the Berkshires in years." BOF's other Co-Founder, Artistic Director and conductor Brian Garman, added: "To perform this perennial favorite with a world-class cast – I can't think of a better way to launch Berkshire Opera Festival and help revive opera in the Berkshires." ?

The Festival will also include two recitals. The first, "Breaking Down Barriers" (August 10 at 7:30pm at Ventfort Hall in Lenox), will feature songs by female composers of Puccini's day, whose music was largely overlooked during their lifetimes. The second program, "The 'Unknown' Puccini" (August 16 at 7:30pm at Saint James Place in Great Barrington), will present rarely-heard songs Puccini wrote for voice and piano.

Madama Butterfly, which will be set in the 1960s against the backdrop of Japan's economic boom, features an international cast of singers, including Moldovan soprano Inna Los in the title role. From the Metropolitan Opera to Deutsche Oper Berlin to the Wiener Staatsoper, she has sung around the globe to great acclaim, and her performances of Puccini's doomed geisha have enjoyed success worldwide. Tenor Jason Slayden, recognized for his stirring portrayals of many Verdi and Puccini roles, sings Pinkerton. Reprising a favorite role that has earned him raves, the American baritone Weston Hurt stars as Sharpless, the U.S. consul. Fast-rising mezzo-soprano Sarah Larsen takes on the role of Suzuki, while Metropolitan Opera tenor Eduardo Valdes sings Goro. Legendary bass and Berkshire resident John Cheek fills out the cast in the role of Butterfly's uncle, the Bonze. The performances feature the Berkshire Opera Festival Orchestra and Chorus.

Tickets are priced from $20 to $98, and are available by calling the box office at 413-997-4444 or at www.berkshireoperafestival.org.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

American Pianists Association Announces Partnership with U. of Indianapolis
The American Pianists Association and the University of Indianapolis announced today a partnership to launch an artist-in-residence program and create opportunities for college students and the broader community to experience world-class musical talent.

Under the agreement, the winner of the 2017 American Pianists Awards in classical music – one of the world's most prestigious music competitions – will serve as artist-in-residence at UIndy during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years. Residencies each semester will include guest lectures, master classes, public performances, private lessons for students and other activities. The artist also will rehearse and perform a concert with the UIndy Chamber Orchestra.

"Our collaboration with the University of Indianapolis is one of the most exciting developments to have come forth at American Pianists Association in recent years," said APA President/CEO and Artistic Director Joel Harrison. "I have worked with UIndy in numerous ways since my earliest years at APA, and I am especially delighted to have this entrepreneurial program come to life in such a creative way, thanks to the support and vision of the UIndy administration and faculty at all levels." He noted that the partnership complements APA's ongoing Concerto Curriculum program, through which its competition winners and finalists work with high school students.

For more information, visit www.americanpianists.org

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Naxos of America Launches New Labels
Ansonica Records:
Real music by real people. Boutique record label presenting finely crafted contemporary music from across the globe.

Digressione was launched in 2008 as an association by Girolamo Samarelli with the intention of creating an original cultural project of record label and publisher operating in South of Italy. After some years of experience and significant attention received by critics, in 2012 was born the record company Digressione Music S.r.l., that continues the work already done by the association, expanding the range of activities with more professionalism and expertise.

Paraclete Recordings:
Paraclete Recordings is a classical and sacred music label committed to uncompromising quality and faithful interpretation in recorded sound. A conduit for artists passionate about pursuing beauty and truth through performance authenticity and compelling spirituality in the musical arts, Paraclete Recordings promotes and preserves the best of inspired works from Gregorian Chant into the 21st century.

Recursive Classics:
Recursive Classics brings a diverse catalog of recordings featuring exciting classical works.

Sorel Classics:
Sorel Classics expands the mission of the Sorel Charitable Organization as a non profit recording label. The label is designed to gain visibility by worldwide promotion and distribution of the records, while directing the profits to the artists. By placing the musicians at the heart of our mission we empower them to build tangible legacies.

Troubadisc was founded in 1991. The direction of this committed label was evident from the very first release - a disc of chamber works by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. The classical music here offers a welcome addition to the more traditional repertory and provides listeners with a totally new experience in the world of sound: lively, appealing and topical.

--Kelly Voigt, Naxos of America

Liszt: A Faust Symphony (CD review)

Also, Dante Symphony; Les Preludes; Prometheus. Sir Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic; Jesus Lopez-Cobos, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.  Decca Double 289 466 751-1 (2-disc set).

This mid-priced Decca Double rereleased in 2001 could well be a bonanza for Liszt lovers who have been unaware of it before now. The set combines two of the composer's largest and most ambitious orchestral works with a pair of his most-popular tone poems and offers them in thrilling performances, especially the ones from Sir Georg Solti.

Some music historians credit Liszt with inventing the tone poem (which I doubt because Vivaldi and even Beethoven were doing them long before him), but no matter what Liszt himself called his music, it almost always came out a tone poem. The two "symphonies" represented here, Faust and Dante, are, in fact, each a series of tone poems. The Faust, conducted by Solti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Siegfried Jerulsalem, tenor, is big and bold. It is not so subtly impressionistic as Beecham's account (EMI), but it catches the multilayered drama of the protagonist, Dr. Faustus, who sells his soul to the devil; the passion and purity of his love interest, Gretchen; and the turbulence of the devil, Mephistopheles. The digital sound from 1986 is among the best on the disc for the work, full and robust, not entirely well imaged in terms of depth but convincingly dynamic.

Sir Georg Solti
The Dante Symphony is more problematic. In it, Liszt tries to create a musical picture of Dante's Divine Comedy, representing the "Inferno" and "Purgatory" sections but without "Paradise." Liszt was talked out of trying to do "Paradise" by no less an authority than Richard Wagner. Too bad. It might have been fun to hear what the master tone painter could have done with it. Instead, Liszt ends "Purgatorio" with just a hint of things to come, a brief vision of heaven. Then, the Decca engineers provide us a loud, boisterous alternative ending that folks persuaded Liszt to add later on. If it had been left to me, I would not have included it. In any case, Jesus Lopez-Cobos leads a fairly routine performance of the work, which is not helped by the sometimes fierce 1981 early digital sound.

Then, Decca filled out the two-disc set with two more tone poems, the popular Les Preludes and the Prometheus. I suspect Les Preludes is Liszt's best-known orchestral work, thanks largely to the old "Flash Gordon" serials of the Thirties and Forties, which borrowed extensively from the score. Solti's interpretation of it is among the finest on the market in terms of sheer excitement, so it's good to have that alone. The sound of these two final tone poems comes in analogue from 1977 and holds up well, although here the imaging tends to be compartmentalized to a greater degree than the others. Whatever, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the set.


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

Brahms: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 1. Janine Jansen, violin; Antonio Pappano, Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and London Symphony Orchestra. Decca 478 8412. 

The good news: the Brahms and Bartok violin concertos always make good listening, Janine Jansen is a top-notch violinist, Sir Antonio Pappano is a distinguished conductor, and both the Orchestra of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia and the London Symphony Orchestra are world-class ensembles.

The bad news: Decca recorded the Brahms live.

Ms. Jansen explains in the disc's accompanying booklet why she chose to pair the Brahms concerto with the Bartok, but I'm afraid I didn't find her reasoning entirely convincing. She says the two works "share a Hungarian connection, but also a profound combination of symphonic power and chamber-scale intimacy." Certainly, that's true. However, the Brahms seems to me still rooted firmly in the Romantic era, while the Bartok has a foot in the Modern age. Thus, while they may both show Hungarian traits (Bartok, especially, who was himself Hungarian), the musical language of each piece seems entirely different. Nevertheless, they are both enjoyable and justly popular works, so who really cares if there is any direct connection between them.

The program opens with the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 by German composer and pianist Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). He wrote it about the time he wrote his Second Symphony (1877), and the two works display a kind of pastoral, bucolic atmosphere. However, the slightly later Violin Concerto sounds a little more rugged and robust, yet more lofty and aristocratic, almost as rustic as it is rhapsodic, making it something of an opposition in charms. What's more, because Brahms grew up in a period where classicism was giving way to full-blown Romanticism, the composer sometimes found himself caught between the two competing styles, as we hear in the piece.

Janine Jansen
Maestro Pappano and soloist Jansen produce a good, if slightly ambivalent, performance of the Brahms. Pappano appears to favor a big, strong, expressive approach, whereas Ms. Jansen seems to want a more sensitive, lyrical interpretation. The results are never distracting, but they are sometimes a bit different from what we might normally hear.

Ms. Jansen plays beautifully, as we would expect. There is always a lovely lilt to the music, the melodies floating effortlessly throughout. She is particularly careful not to overdo the main theme in the first movement but keeps it in accordance with the light, flowing mood of the rest of her playing. The Adagio, with its beautiful oboe introduction, is the highlight of the show, with Jansen's entrance most magical. Then, Pappano and company end the work in a properly enthusiastic style, the Hungarian influence obviously in evidence in Jansen's lively playing.

The second item on the agenda is the Violin Concerto No. 1, BB 48A by composer and pianist Bela Bartok (1881-1945). The Bartok concerto is much briefer than the Brahms, about half its length and in only two movements, with variations on Hungarian folk tunes the major concern. Here, the LSO sounds fuller and lusher than their Italian counterparts, yet they still provide Ms. Jansen a relatively intimate accompaniment. Perhaps to better establish the relationship between the Bartok and Brahms pieces, Ms. Jansen injects them both with an affectionate, evocative flavor, the melodies dancing with a passionate, songlike character.

Executive producer Alexander Van Ingen, recording producers Andrew Walton (Brahms) and Andrew Keener (Bartok), and engineers Jonathan Allen (Brahms) and Simon Eadon (Bartok) recorded the music at Santa Cecilia Hall, Rome (Brahms, live) in February 2015 and Walthamstow Assembly Hall (Bartok) in August 2014.

The live sound of the Brahms is a little bright and edgy in the upper midrange, emphasizing a small degree of background noise. The rest of the midrange and upper bass are on the soft, warm side, and the deeper notes are somewhat woolly, so don't expect ultimate transparency. Because of the closeness of the miking, we don't get as muchorchestral depth as one might like. The violin sounds nicely integrated with the rest of the ensemble, though, and the violin tone adequately rendered. The sound of the Bartok was more to my liking, a little clearer, better defined, and better balanced.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, June 11, 2016

The Winner of the $50,000 Azrieli Music Prize Is Wlad Marhulets

The Azrieli Music Project (AMP) is proud to announce that composer Wlad Marhulets is the winner of the inaugural Azrieli Prize in Jewish Music for his Klezmer Clarinet Concerto. Marhulets, who submitted a completed orchestral work on a Jewish theme or subject – along with applicants from around the world – has been granted the second of two $50,000 prizes, which were offered for the first time by the Azrieli Foundation. Dr. Sharon Azrieli Perez, noted operatic soprano and scholar in Jewish and cantorial music, created the new prize in 2015 to bring new Jewish music into the world. In September 2015, the Azrieli Music Project announced that Brian Current was the winner of the inaugural Azrieli Commissioning Competition for Canadian composers. Marhulets's 2009 concerto and Current's newly created work, The Seven Heavenly Halls, will both be performed at the Azrieli Music Project Inaugural Concert by Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Maestro Kent Nagano on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at Maison symphonique de Montréal.

Wlad Marhulets (b. 1986) describes his Klezmer Clarinet Concerto as the most important work of his career. Born in Minsk, Marhulets moved with his family to Gdansk, Poland, as a child. It was there, at the age of 16, that he first heard a recording by the acclaimed klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer. "Listening to this modern reinvention of klezmer music changed my life," says Marhulets, who immediately picked up the clarinet and formed his own klezmer band. Before travelling to New York City, with the goal of meeting Krakauer, the twenty-year-old composer – who barely spoke a word of English – also sent his compositions to John Corigliano. The Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer immediately took Marhulets under his wing at the Juilliard School. Marhulets's Klezmer Clarinet Concerto was premiered by David Krakauer and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2009, under the baton of Maestro Andrew Litton. The concerto has since been performed by the National Orchestra of Lyon and the Bialystok Symphony in Poland.

The Azrieli Music Project Inaugural Concert featuring Wlad Marhulets's Klezmer Clarinet Concerto and Brian Current's The Seven Heavenly Halls will take place on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at Maison symphonique de Montréal with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the OSM Chorus and Maestro Kent Nagano. Complete programming and soloists will be announced soon. Tickets ($40-$100) are on sale now at OSM.ca.

The Azrieli Foundation is a Canadian philanthropic organization that supports a wide range of initiatives and programs in the fields of education, architecture and design, Jewish community, Holocaust commemoration and education, scientific and medical research, and the arts.

For more information, visit www.azrielifoundation.org/music

--Shira Gilbert PR

Chicago Duo Piano Festival Announces 28th Season July 8–17
Following the debut of its Chicago International Duo Piano Competition June 8–11, the Music Institute of Chicago presents its 28th annual Chicago Duo Piano Festival July 8–17. In addition to offering students coaching, lectures, master classes, and recitals, the Festival includes five public events at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, in Evanston, featuring guest duo Anne Louise-Turgeon and Edward Turgeon, Festival Founders/Directors Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem, and Music Institute piano faculty, all performing duo piano repertoire.

Called a "duo piano mecca" by Pioneer Press, Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) was founded in 1988 by Music Institute faculty members and resident piano duo Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem. Its mission is to foster a deeper interest in the repertoire, performance, and teaching of music for piano, four hands and two pianos. The Festival includes an annual summer festival, a winter mini-fest, and periodic national and international duo piano competitions for youth and adults.

All concerts take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Except where noted, tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students and are available by calling 800.838.3006 or at musicinst.org/cdpf-concert-schedule.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival - June 21-30
The Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, an intense summer institute devoted to performance excellence and career development, will pair 19 leaders in the world of chamber music with 56 promising, deftly talented participants ages 18-63 from across the country and as far as Brazil and Spain to strengthen the future of chamber woodwind music. Faculty for the 2016 Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival includes the members of Imani Winds, composer-in-residence Tania León, composers James Primosch, Victoria Bond, and Greg Sandow, clarinetist David Krakauer, and MET Opera Orchestra musicians, oboist Pedro R. Díaz and bassoonist Daniel Shelly.

Created by Imani Winds (Valerie Coleman, Mark Dover, Monica Ellis, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, and Jeffrey Scott) in 2010, the festival is one of only a few in the United States to focus exclusively on woodwind quintet and sextet repertoire. Imani Winds is known for its adventurous programming and dedication to education, exemplified through extensive outreach, cultivation of young musicians, and its Legacy Commissioning Project. The Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival was founded in this spirit, to engage new music and new voices in the modern classical idiom.

All concerts take place in the Concert Hall at the Mannes School of Music at The New School, located at 55 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011.

For more information, visit http://www.imaniwindsfestival.com/

--Mike Fila, BuckleSweet Media

National Philharmonic Names Leanne Ferfolia President
The National Philharmonic at Strathmore is pleased to announce the appointment of Leanne Ferfolia as its new President, effective June 1, 2016.  Ms. Ferfolia has been Vice President of the Philharmonic and before that, Director of Development.  Ms. Ferfolia succeeds Ken Oldham Jr., who after 14 years of service to the National Philharmonic, including 11 years as President, has decided to pursue other interests.

"I am thrilled to be named President at this important juncture of the National Philharmonic's history," Ms. Ferfolia said. "I look forward to leading this community treasure and expanding its role as a presenter of orchestral and chorale concerts as well as strengthening our value in the community through music education and outreach programs. I would like to thank the Board of the National Philharmonic and the Montgomery County Council for their faith in this organization and in me."  The National Philharmonic was recently included as a direct grant recipient in Montgomery County's FY2017 budget.

For more information, visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Cal Performances Presents The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
Cal Performances at UC Berkeley presents the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma at the Greek Theatre on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 8pm. The Silk Road Ensemble, founded by Yo-Yo Ma more than 15 years ago, is an international collective of accomplished performers and composers renowned for its innovative ability to draw connections between diverse cultures and musical traditions through artistic collaboration. With this concert Cal Performances welcomes Ma back for his third summer appearance at the popular venue. The peerless cellist, arts advocate, and musical ambassador appeared at the Greek Theatre twice before without The Ensemble, first with the Goat Rodeo Project in August 2013, and most recently, for a concert of the Bach cello suites in August 2014.

The Silk Road Ensemble performs arrangements of traditional music from Asia, Europe, and the Americas, as well as contemporary works and commissioned repertoire by composers from around the world. The group's distinctive sound is created through a blending of Western string instruments with classical and folk percussion, strings, and winds. For this performance, in addition to Yo-Yo Ma performing on cello, the 16-member ensemble will include string players Jeffrey Beecher, bass; Nicholas Cords, viola; Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violin; and Mike Block, cello; percussionists Haruka Fujii, Joseph Gramley, Mark Suter, and Shane Shanahan; as well as instrumentalists Sandeep Das, tabla (Indian hand drums); Kayhan Kalhor, kamancheh (Persian bowed lute); Wu Man, pipa (Chinese plucked lute); Cristina Pato, gaita (Galician bagpipes) and piano; Kojiro Umezaki, shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), and Wu Tong, sheng (Chinese mouth organ).

Members of The Ensemble, without Ma, return to Cal Performances this fall, to open the 2016–17 season with the world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group's Layla and Majnun, September 30–October 2, 2016.

Tickets for The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma on Thursday, August 18 at 8pm in the Hearst Greek Theatre go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, June 14 at noon. They range from $50–$225 (prices subject to change). Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at 510-642-9988, at calperformances.org, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to calperformances.org/discounts.

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

NEC Student Yoojin Jang Wins 2016 Sendai International Violin Competition
New England Conservatory announced that one of its doctoral students, Yoojin Jang, is the winner of the 2016 Sendai International Violin Competition in Japan. Jang also holds a Master of Music ('12), a Graduate Diploma ('13) and an Artist Diploma ('15) from NEC. She continues to study at the Conservatory with Miriam Fried. The 25-year-old violinist is originally from Korea.

The Sendai International Music Competition was established by the City of Sendai in 2001. Now in its sixth year, it is held every three years for violin and piano and aims to boost the careers of talented young musicians, by contributing to the promotion of music and international cultural exchange. The Competition has the unique aspect of focusing on concertos in the selection of its repertoire and has been a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions since 2005.

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

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Celesta PR

American Bach Soloists News
Getting Ready for the 2016 Festival & Academy:
Do you have your 2016 ABS Festival & Academy tickets yet? This summer's Festival (August 5-14) promises thrilling musical performances, an assortment of free public events, and the chance for immersion in the music and culture of the Italian Baroque–a modern day Grand Tour right here in San Francisco. With a few months to get into the spirit, we compiled a short list of resources for those who are inclined to read, listen, and watch a little before embarking on "An Italian Journey" with ABS in August.

Subscribe to the New ABS Season:
Subscriptions to ABS's exciting new 2016-17 season are now available! With works by Bach, Handel, and a handful of masters of the French Baroque, the new season offers a showcase of peerless musical inspiration from the Baroque era. Don't miss these unforgettable performances; subscribe today! Remember, subscribers get the best seats at the best prices.

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.

Introducing a Fabulous New Way to Support ABS:
Lucy Connolly is a choral singer and longtime fan of American Bach Soloists. She is also the leader of FABS, or Friends of ABS, a new initiative that brings passionate fans of Baroque music together to volunteer their time and talents in support of ABS. You might have seen the notice about FABS in the program for "Bach Oratorios" in April or received an email about the program, as the group already has many enthusiastic members signed up. But there is always room for more! I asked Lucy about FABS and her vision for this new way of getting involved with ABS.

For more information and tickets, visit http://americanbach.org/Tickets.htm

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Britt Orchestra Performs Michael Gordon World Premiere at Crater Lake July 29 and 30
On July 29-30, members of the Britt Orchestra and Music Director Teddy Abrams will celebrate the unique majesty of Oregon's Crater Lake with six performances at the national park of a world premiere by New York-based composer Michael Gordon, commissioned by Britt Music & Arts Festival and inspired by Crater Lake. Abrams will lead approximately 40 Britt Orchestra musicians in the performances, with the dramatic panorama of the lake as the setting. Joining the Britt Orchestra musicians are 15 members of Steiger Butte Drum, a drum troupe composed of members of the local Klamath Tribes; 30 brass and percussion musicians from Southern Oregon University; and a 50-member chorus. The performances are free, and are being presented as part of the centennial celebration of the U.S. National Park Service.

Gordon has spent time during the last year at Crater Lake, to draw on the living landscape and the ancient lake for inspiration for his composition. "Natural History is designed to be an experiential, spatial work," Gordon said. "The idea is to draw out the natural sounds in and around Crater Lake and connect the natural sonic environment to the orchestra." Experiencing the park with Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman, Park Historian Stephen Mark, and spending a week in a ranger's house in winter have all informed Gordon's work. He also spent an afternoon working with Steiger Butte Drum, an extended family from the Klamath Tribes that sings and collectively plays a large drum, which they encircle. The drum group members are the soloists of Natural History.

The world premiere performance takes place Friday, July 29 at 10 am at Watchman Overlook Corral, overlooking the lake. This performance is by invitation only and to those walking and bicycling to the site. The other two July 29 performances are at 2 pm and 5 pm at Picnic Hill, near the Rim Village. Three additional performances take place at Picnic Hill on Saturday, July 30 at 11 am, 2 pm and 5 pm. There will also be several small ensembles scattered around the park performing throughout the day on July 29 and 30, in locations to be determined. Natural History will also be performed Saturday, August 20 at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville, Oregon, in the closing concert of the 2016 Britt Orchestra season. More information is available at www.brittfest.org/craterlake.

--Jean Shirk Media

Merola Opera Program 2016 Summer Festival Presents Transformations
The Merola Opera Program presents Conrad Susa's Transformations, led by conductor Neal Goren and director Roy Rallo, in two performances Thursday, July 21 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, July 23 at 2 pm at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in San Francisco.

The cast of Transformations features Merola 2016 artists soprano Teresa Castillo as Princess/Gretel, soprano Shannon Jennings as Anne Sexton/Witch, mezzo-soprano Chelsey Geeting as Good Fairy/Witch, tenor Boris Van Druff as Rumpelstiltskin/Truman Capote, tenor Brian Michael Moore as Caged Man/Dog, tenor Isaac Frishman as Prince/Fox/Hansel, baritone Andrew G. Manea as Irons Hans/Wolf, and bass Matthew Anchel as King/Hare.

Transformations (1973), based on the late Anne Sexton's Pulitzer Prize winning book, is a highly personal telling of some of Grimms' fairy tales. More nearly short stories, the texts were arranged with Anne Sexton's approval to emphasize the subplot, which concerns a "middle-aged witch" who gradually becomes a vulnerable beauty slipping into a nightmare.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 or by visiting www.sfopera.com. (The box office is open Monday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm.)

--Jean Shirk Media

Tango Sensations (CD review)

Alban Berg Quartett. Warner Classics 5577782.

First, one has to understand, as the booklet points out, that there is the "old tango" and there is the "tango nuevo," the "new tango." This is important because it is the old tango music popularized in early twentieth-century Argentina that most people are probably most familiar with. The newer form is less like the dance music heard so commonly in old movies and more like modern concert music, made for performance in refined symphony halls rather than smoky bars and bordellos. Naturally, the Alban Berg Quartett, as refined and modern as they come, opt for the new tango for most of the present recording.

Leading the move in new tango was Argentine tango composer, arranger, and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), whom some in his country vilified for daring to modify their traditional music. Under Piazzolla, the tango became more stylized, more rhythmically variable, and certainly less danceable. Frankly, one can understand people's feelings; much of Piazzolla's work is hardly recognizable as tango in the traditional sense.

Alban Berg Quartett
Anyway, he's represented on the album by two longer works, the four-movement Tango Sensations, representing "Asleep," "Anxiety," "Awake," and "Fear," about twenty minutes long, and the sweetly melancholic Tristezas para un AA, about thirteen minutes long. Also in the modern mode is Kurt Schwertsik's Adieu Satie, a five-movement, new-tango reworking of melodies evoked by the spirit of French composer and pianist Erik Satie. Representing the old tango we find Eduardo Arolas, Juan Carlos Cobian, and Julio de Caro, each of whom gets a short work played on solo bandoneon.

The Alban Berg Quartet is augmented by Per Arne Glorvigen on bandoneon (an eighteenth-century German variation of the accordion that has become inextricably identified with the Argentine tango) and Alois Posch on double bass. Of course, the Quartet play these things with authority, elegance, and polish, but personally I still prefer the earthier qualities of the old tangos to the ultra sophistication of the more newfangled Piazzolla-type concoctions. Understanding what you're listening for, this is nevertheless a great disc of its kind.

EMI recorded the music in the early 2000's, and Warner Classics more recently rereleased it. The sonics communicate nicely through their clarity and tone, and the disc sounds especially realistic in the layout of the instruments.


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

Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble: Sing Me Home (CD review)

Yo-Yo Ma, cello; The Silk Road Ensemble. Sony 88875 18101 2.

Silkroad, as you probably know by now, is the nonprofit organization cellist Yo-Yo Ma founded back in 1998 to encourage a multicultural artistic exchange of study and ideas. World Music Central and The Irish Independent described Silkroad as an "arts and educational organization that connects musicians, composers, artists and audiences around the world" and "an initiative to promote multicultural artistic collaboration." Yo-Yo Ma took his inspiration "from the historical Silk Road trading routes and using the Silk Road as a modern metaphor for sharing and learning across cultures, art forms and disciplines."

Sing Me Home is the seventh album The Silk Road Ensemble have released since 2001, and if you like the kind of ethnic music they perform, you'll no doubt like this latest issue. Its producers describe it as "the companion album to the Morgan Neville documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble, and they call it "the artists' most-personal album to date." Ma says the album is "a tribute to how culture helps us all to meet, connect, and create something new."

The program presents a varied assortment of world music, some of it new, most of it traditional, representing a wide variety of cultures. Here's the playlist:

  1. "Green" ("Vincent's Tune"), featuring Roomful of Teeth
  2. "O'Neill's Cavalry March," featuring Martin Hayes
  3. "Little Birdie," featuring Sarah Jarosz
  4. "Ichichila," featuring Toumani Diabaté and Balla Kouyaté
  5. "Sadila Jana," featuring Black Sea Hotel
  6. "Shingashi Song," featuring Kaoru Watanabe
  7. "Madhoushi," featuring Shujaat Khan
  8. "Wedding," featuring Dima Orsho
  9. "Going Home," featuring Abigail Washburn
10. "Cabaliño," featuring Roberto Comesaña, Anxo Pintos, and Davide Salvado
11. "St. James Infirmary Blues," featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Michael Ward-Bergeman, and Reylon Yount
12. "If You Shall Return...," featuring Bill Frisell
13. "Heart and Soul," featuring Lisa Fischer and Gregory Porter

Yo-Yo Ma
The Silkroad Ensemble varies in size and personnel depending on the nature of the material and the availability of the artists involved. In addition to the featured performers above, the players this time around include Silk Road Ensemble members Kinan Azmeh, Jeffrey Beecher, Mike Block, Shawn Conley, Nicholas Cords, Sandeep Das, Haruka Fujii, Johnny Gandelsman, Joseph Gramley, Colin Jacobsen, Eric Jacobsen, Kayhan Kalhor, Yo-Yo Ma, Jessie Montgomery, Cristina Pato, Shane Shanahan, Mark Suter, Kojiro Umezaki, Wu Man, and Wu Tong, with help from Lisa Fischer, Bill Frisell, Black Sea Hotel, Rhiannon Giddens, Sarah Jarosz, Shujaat Khan, Martin Hayes, Gregory Porter, Roomful of Teeth, Rustica, and Abigail Washington. It's a formidable group.

Because the performers are tops in their field, the music sounds immaculate. More important, they play with an infectious enthusiasm, which combined with the precision of their talents creates an atmosphere of joy throughout the proceedings.

The opening track, "Green: Vincent's Tune," arranged by Wu Man, becomes a little raucous but it's undeniably infectious, too. The following item, "O'Neill's Cavalry March," couldn't be more different, an Irish number, and just as infectious.

And so it goes.

As I say, we get a varied selection of tunes, mostly characterized by string and percussion instruments, with occasional solo and choral vocals. The ensemble's Colin Jacobsen came across "Little Birdie" while listening to a collection by Pete Seeger and loved it. "Ichichila" is another highlight of the program, a song of the Tuareg people; it's delightful.

The flawless precision of the Silk Road Ensemble ensures that every item on hand sounds better than the last. You think, my, wasn't that fun, when along comes another just as good or better. Interestingly, the songs slow down considerably as the program goes on, reaching a dirgelike state by "St. James Infirmary," and end with a sweetly flowing rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "Heart and Soul" with Lisa Fischer and Gregory Porter. The album offers one newly discovered charm after another.

Producers Johnny Gandelsman, Kevin Killen, and Cristin Canterbury Bagnall and engineers Jody Elff, Kevin Killen, and Xabier Olite recorded the album at MSR Studios and Avatar Studios in New York City, with additional recording at Zone Dolce, NYC, Africa Studio, Bamako, Mali, and Son Natural, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. Sony Music released the disc in 2016.

As with most popular albums, the engineers give us a fairly close perspective, yet it's one that displays a good deal of separation among the instruments and a reasonable amount of depth to the ensemble. Wide dynamics, strong bass, and a warm, smooth frequency balance help to produce a good, natural sound. There is nothing hard, bright, or edgy here, so expect a relaxed listening experience.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, June 4, 2016

Newfoundland's Opera on the Avalon Presents the World Premiere of Ours

Newfoundland and Labrador's Opera on the Avalon proudly presents the world premiere of Ours, a new opera by Juno-nominated Canadian composer John Estacio with a libretto by Governor General Award-winning playwright Robert Chafe. Opera on the Avalon, led by Artistic Director Cheryl Hickman and based in St. John's, is Atlantic Canada's only professional opera company. Opera on the Avalon commissioned Ours to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, a WWI battle which devastated the ranks of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on July 1, 1916. Internationally-acclaimed baritone Brett Polegato leads an all-Canadian cast of twelve, with full chorus, in the role of Thomas Nangle, chaplain to the Regiment. The singers and orchestra are conducted by Judith Yan with stage direction by Glynis Leyshon and design by Patrick Clark.

Ours will be presented in two performances, on July 1 and 2 at 8pm, at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's.

For Hickman, who was born and raised in St. John's, Ours resonates far beyond the province's borders, "Our vision is to create a work that will be a legacy for all Canadians, to help us honour the memories of the past and to serve as an inspiration for our future. Newfoundland and Labrador is steeped in history and Opera on the Avalon is dedicated to transforming that history into art."

Ours was one of only four new Canadian operas invited to present a showcase at this year's Opera America conference. To hear an excerpt from the beautiful, moving score please click here (begin 35:40).

"Ours" is how the people of the province referred to the Newfoundland Regiment. During the Battle of the Somme, the Regiment's tragic advance near the French town of Beaumont Hamel on the morning of July 1, 1916 became an enduring symbol of valour and wartime sacrifice – and a cultural memory seared into the hearts of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In a single morning, the Regiment was almost wiped out. When roll call was taken, only 68 men answered – 324 were killed, or missing and presumed dead, and 386 were wounded.  "I am honoured to have the opportunity to tell a story that is of great significance to Newfoundland's rich history," comments composer John Estacio, "Ours will be an intimate and personal opera about individuals whose lives were indelibly affected by this battle. Through music and storytelling, I hope to honour the sacrifices made by thousands and celebrate the land they loved and called home."

For more information, visit operaontheavalon.com

--Shira Gilbert PR

Early Music Fans: Save up to 15% on Berkeley Festival & Exhibition Tickets
Berkeley Festival & Exhibition special discount: Nic McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Players are performing at the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition June 11 and 12 and Philharmonia fans are entitled to savings!

June 11: Music of Shakespeare with Juilliard415
June 12 : Festival Finale - Works by Handel and Purcell with Vox Luminis and Concerto Palatino

Get a 10% discount off all ticket sales or 15% off a Festival mini-series of 4 or more tickets.
Order online and use promo code: BFXPBO2016

Learn more and get tickets here: http://www.berkeleyfestival.org/

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque

NEC-Educated Pianists Take Prizes at 2016 Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium
Three New England Conservatory-educated pianists-Lukas Vondracek, Henry Kramer, and Alex Beyer-have placed first, second, and third at the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium. Lukas Vondracek, who completed the NEC Artist Diploma in 2012, won the 25,000 Euro 1st place prize, as well as the VRT-Prize (Canvas-Klaraprize) and Alberto Ferro the Musiq'3 - RTBF Prize. Henry Kramer-who traveled weekly as a teenager to NEC Preparatory School from his home in Maine to participate in A. Ramón Rivera's Advanced Piano Seminar-won the 20,000 Euro, Belgian Federal Government Second Prize. And Alex Beyer, who is entering his fourth year in the five-year Harvard/NEC Dual Degree program, won the 17,000 Euro, Count de Launoit Third Prize. Beyer's NEC studio teacher is Wha Kyung Byun and Vondrácek's NEC studio teacher was Hung-Kuan Chen.

From May 2 - 28, 2016, young pianists competed in Brussels in front of a prestigious international jury. This competition was open to classically trained pianists of all nationalities, aged 18 to 29 years who are ready to embark upon an international career. Previous NEC prize winners in piano include Theodore Lettvin (faculty, 1952), and alumni Hung-Kuan Chen (1987), Haesun Paik (1991), Ning An, Esther Budiardjo (1999), Minsoo Sohn (2003), and Sangyoung Kim (2013).

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

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound + Derrick Carter to Play Chicago Nightlife Awards
The 3rd Annual Chicago Nightlife Awards announce special guest performances by Chicago legends JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound and Derrick Carter. JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound etched their name in the stratosphere with devastatingly soulful sonic composition and unmistakable Chicago swagger. The group starred in the musical, Keeping Strange, tours internationally, and recently played Lollapalooza. Widely hailed as a forefather of electronic music, Derrick Carter's inimitable sound and Chicago soul set the stage for the current house-music wave sweeping the globe. One of the world's most influential producers, Derrick Carter's decades-long career has involved his own record label, 11 albums, and tours around Europe and the United States.  Guests can look forward to performances from some of Chicago's hottest emerging and established acts, including ProbCause, My Gold Mask, Sleep On It, and The Walters.

The Chicago Nightlife Awards take place at Concord Music Hall, Chicago, Illinois, Tuesday, June 7th. The evening begins with the red carpet media gala at 7:30, and the awards ceremony begins at 9PM. Guests can RSVP for free entry at Do312. RSVP capacity is limited, and guests can still purchase a ticket to guarantee entry. All proceeds go to our charitable partners Howard Brown Health and The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Tickets: http://www.clubtix.com/concordmusichall/the-3rd-annual-chicago-nightlife-awards-tickets-449139?p=15880

--Jonathan Blazejewski, Cramer PR

Jason Kao Hwang/VOICE - News!
VOICE: Below is a free stream and a free download of Mert Ussakli's recent WKCR Radio(Columbia University) interview of Jason Kao Hwang, Thomas Buckner, Deanna Relyea, Piotr Michalowski, Yuko Otomo, and Steve Dalachinsky about VOICE. This was a lively discussion about the creative process and the relationship between music and poetry.

VOICE is a release of Innova Records. In 2012 innova was awarded the prestigious Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance "for its excellent support of the full range of contemporary American music."

Free stream: https://bandzoogle.com/albums/174934/3216831037/377624.html
Free download: http://jasonkaohwang.com/music--2

--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

FAYM Finale!
You are most cordially invited to attend a free concert presented by the "Violins for Kids" program Saturday, June 4th at 3 p.m. at the East Las Vegas Community Center, 260 N. Eastern Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89101.

We thank you for your support of Foundation to Assist Young Musicians and its "Violins for Kids" program.

For more information about F.A.Y.M., visit http://thefaym.org/

--Hal Weller, FAYM

Oscar-Winning Composer Ennio Morricone Signs to Decca Records
World-renowned Italian composer Ennio Morricone has signed a major new record deal with Decca Records, celebrating his professional 60-year career and 600 compositions. His new album Morricone 60 will be released on October 7 just ahead of his 88th birthday, and marks the start of a unique partnership between Decca and the Morricone family.

Morricone 60 is the first album of Ennio Morricone's greatest hits conducted, recorded and curated by Morricone himself – and aims to create a legacy for his fans to enjoy. It sees the celebrated Maestro performing some of his greatest film music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to his recent Academy Award-winning score for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (released earlier this year on Decca internationally and Verve in the U.S.). The album marks Ennio Morricone's 60th anniversary as a composer and conductor and features brand new recordings with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, with whom he has collaborated on major international movie scores.

Upon signing the recording contract with Decca, Ennio Morricone commented: "After the success of The Hateful Eight score, I'm delighted to be returning to Decca with my own record deal – an extraordinary moment in my 60th professional anniversary year. It's been a wonderful experience to be able to conduct my scores and to record these with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. The quality of their performance of my work is truly outstanding."

For more information, visit www.enniomorricone.org

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music

Pianist Barry Douglas on NPR's Tiny Desk Saturday - Brahms Series Final Release in July
Renowned Irish pianist Barry Douglas, whose artistry is in demand as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, conductor and artistic director, will be featured on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert on June 3. To watch the podcast click: http://www.npr.org/2016/06/01/480328251/barry-douglas-tiny-desk-concert.

Reflecting on the enormous breadth of his musical interests, Douglas will perform selections from his first and upcoming second volume of Celtic Reflections, an exploration of Irish folk music through Barry's own arrangements - from ancient melodies to pieces by contemporary songwriters. Celtic Reflections Vol. 2 will be released next season, along with his second volume of works for solo piano of Schubert.

Next month will see the release of the final volume in his highly acclaimed monumental recording project devoted to Brahms' solo piano music, Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897) Works for Solo Piano, Vol. 6. An exclusive Chandos recording artist, Douglas records the volumes as stand-alone recitals, an approach that BBC Music says make the series "one of the most engaging complete piano works discs you could hope to own."

Following tours of Italy and Finland this month, Barry will return to the US to conduct the Fort Worth Symphony, perform in recital, and teach master classes from June 18 - 25 at the PianoTexas International Academy & Festival.

--Genevieve Spielberg Inc.

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