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

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

--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

--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

--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

--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, and at the door. For more information about discounts, go to

--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

--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

--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

--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 (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

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa