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

--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:

--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

--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.


--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:
Free download:

--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

--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

--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:

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.

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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