Dvorak: Cello Concerto (SACD review)

Also, Lalo: Cello Concerto. Johannes Moser, cello; Jukub Hrusa, PKF - Prague Philharmonia. Pentatone PTC 5186 488.

The relatively young German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser (b. 1979) had by the time of this album already recorded the cello concertos of Saint-Saens, Britten, Shostakovich, Martinu, Honegger, and Hindemith. Now, let's face it: for a cellist, the concerto repertoire is not all that large (in fact, for many years, composers sort of shunned the cello as a solo concerto instrument, with J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and the like pretty much ignoring it except in chamber works). So it's no wonder Moser turned next to what is probably the most-famous cello of them all, the Dvorak. With fine accompaniment from Maestro Jukub Hrusa and the PKF-Prague Philharmonia, an apt coupling of the Lalo cello concerto, and fine Pentatone SACD sonics, this package makes a welcome appearance.

Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) wrote his Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 rather late in his career (1895), the work since becoming one of the most-popular cello concertos of all time. So popular that you'll find some excellent recordings of it by any number of artists, like those of Mstislav Rostropovich (DG), Yo-Yo Ma (Sony), Pierre Fournier (DG), Jacqueline du Pre (EMI), Leonard Rose (Sony), Gregor Piatigorsky (RCA), Lynn Harrell (RCA), Pablo Casals (EMI and Dutton Labs), Paul Tortelier (EMI), Rafael Wallfisch (Chandos), Truls Mork (EMI), Maurice Gendron (Philips or HDTT), and my own favorite, Janos Starker (Mercury), among others.

Here, we add Moser. As the Cello Concerto contains an abundance of attractive melodies, it gives Moser and company ample opportunity for displaying nuance, sensitivity, and a little sentimentality. For instance, Dvorak wrote the slow, second-movement Adagio while his much-beloved sister-in-law lay dying, and he used one of her favorite pieces of music as a central theme. In it, he creates a lovely, explosively gentle, faintly melancholic mood, which Moser exploits with appropriate passion and tenderness.

Whatever, Moser's tempos seem well within the ballpark for most other interpretations I've heard, yet his playing seems more relaxed than many others. For some listeners, this will be a good sign. For other listeners, he may appear somewhat lax, maybe too slack. Certainly, it would play up the differences in emphases and contrasts in the work if Moser had put more energy into the more vigorous sections. This isn't much of a criticism, though, as the overall impression of the work under Moser is one of big, warm, sweet, solitary contemplation, even in the more-explosive bits.

Johannes Moser
In the Finale, we get more fire and heroics from both the soloist and the orchestra than we heard previously from them. Nevertheless, even here Moser and his team seem a little reticent to let completely loose. In other words, the performance seems maybe a touch too sedate for its own good.

So, the final question is whether this recording from Moser and company is any better than the several recordings I mentioned above. The answer is, probably not. There is an ardent, honeyed glow about Moser's rendition, to be sure, that will no doubt appeal to many listeners. However, for me there wasn't quite enough there to justify the price of yet another competitor in an already crowded field of contenders.

The accompanying Cello Concerto in D minor by French composer Edouard Lalo (1823-1892) may not be as well-known as the Dvorak, but it is close, and the French work is almost as ambitious and communicative. With the Lalo, Moser's easygoing style works better than it did in the Dvorak. It's a charming and engaging interpretation, even if the orchestra's contributions appeared to me a mite too staid to do justice to Moser's amiable, stress-free manner.

Producer Job Maarse and engineers Erdo Groot and Roger de Schot recorded the music for Polyhymnia International V.V. at the Forum Karlin, Prague, Czech Republic in January 2015. They made it for playback via hybrid SACD: multichannel or two-channel from the SACD layer and two-channel only from the regular CD layer. I listened in two-channel SACD.

The sound provides a glowing, natural, very slightly soft ambience that makes everything appear fairly lifelike. You won't perhaps get an ultimate transparency here, just realistic reproduction. There is a reasonably good stereo spread, with a fine sense of depth to the orchestra. There is also a very slight bit of background noise, barely audible but present. The dynamic range seems more than adequate, although I didn't hear as much impact as I expected. The cello is slightly bigger than life, maybe recorded a little too close. Still, it, too, sounds most truthful on its own. It's a handsome production, sounding much like the Philips recordings of old, which I count a good thing.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, July 30, 2016

Fort Worth Opera Turns Up The Heat For It's 57th Annual Opera Ball with "Una Noche de Estrellas" (Night Of Stars)

Fort Worth Opera invites art and culture enthusiasts to "Una Noche de Estrellas" (Night Of Stars) at the 57th annual Fort Worth Opera Ball, held at Ridglea Country Club on Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 6:30pm. This exclusive evening will kick off FWOpera's newest initiative, "Noches de Ópera," a four-year programmatic campaign with the goal of further strengthening Latino community ties. Destined to be the fall's most unforgettable event, "Una Noche de Estrellas" will celebrate the Latino culture and it's relationship with traditional opera. FWOpera's Annual Ball is the company's most financially impactful fundraiser with the proceeds directly benefitting the organization's statewide arts outreach programs and the Fort Worth Opera Festival.

The evening will feature live performances from mariachi's and ballet folklórico dancers, along with an upscale silent auction, that will include glamorous offerings from around the country and across our great city. "Una Noche de Estrellas" guests will enjoy specially crafted drinks during a spiced-up cocktail-hour before heading south-of-the-border for a themed, three-course dinner. At 9:00pm, the colorful after party begins where guests can taste-test an array of tequilas, and indulge in casino gaming, and enjoy an energetic dance party featuring Fort Worth's hottest entertainer's Trey and the Tritones.

"Una Noche de Estrellas" will welcome the city's most vibrant young professionals to the after party festivities. Tickets for the after party alone are just $75 a piece and include the open-bar, gaming, and dancing.

Event details:
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Ridglea Country Club
3700 Bernie Anderson Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76102

6:30pm Cocktail Reception, Champagne and Wine Pull, Silent Auction
8:00pm Mexican Themed Dinner
9:00pm Casino gaming and dancing, Young Professionals after Party

Individual tickets for this once-a-year experience are $375 per person. Tables and sponsorships are available upon request. For more information and to purchase tickets to "Una Noche de Estrellas," or just to attend the after party, visit www.fwopera.org/events/social-events, contact Emily at emily@fwopera.org, or call 817.288.1214.

--Ryan Lathan, Fort Worth Opera

unCLASSIFIED to Become a Curator on Apple Music
Apple Music has announced that classical genre playlisting brand unCLASSIFIED (http://unclassified.com) has been made a curator on their streaming platform. Starting today, Apple Music subscribers will be able to access unCLASSIFIED's expertly curated content on the service along with exclusive playlists that will only be available on Apple Music. unCLASSIFIED will also be working with Apple Music to make tracks available for certain recordings before release date.

Naxos of America CEO, Jeff Van Driel, commented, "We are excited to be the first classical music focused playlist brand to be invited to be an Apple Music curator.  Our focused content creation and knowledge of classical music recordings paired with the reach of the world's most pioneering and recognizable brands results in an unmatchable listening experience for classical music lovers."

Followers of the unCLASSIFIED profile on Apple Music will be able to find exclusive content and playlists based on mood or activity. unCLASSIFIED will also work with artists who will curate playlists of their favourite or most inspirational music as well as classical music aficionados and tastemakers to help bring deeper catalogue to a larger audience.

For more information about unCLASSIFIED, please contact Katie Ferguson, General Manager, at kferguson@naxosusa.com.

--Kelly Voigt, Naxos of America

Elisabeth Lohninger & Walter Fischbacher Duo Zinc Bar Monday, August 29
For more than 20 years Elisabeth Lohninger and Walter Fischbacher have been making music together. Living in New York. Touring in Europe, Japan, the Middle East. A plethora of projects and albums lie between their first duo album, "Austrian LiedGood", and their latest release, also a duo CD with the title "Ballads in Blue." In between the two of them explored diverse musical avenues, wrote music for other projects, came into their own as artists. Now they step out again as a duo, a suitcase filled with a wide variety of musical influences and revelations in tow. This is the backdrop for an atmospheric, intimate and colorful arc that tells the story of two people who went out into the world to find themselves and each other. Poetry, passion and groove.

Elisabeth Lohninger & Walter Fischbacher Duo
Monday, August 29th, 7pm (2 sets)
Zinc Bar
82 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012
(212) 477-9462
Cover: $10

--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

National Philharmonic Fosters Musicians Through 2016 Summer String Institutes
This summer, the National Philharmonic will teach and coach some of the area's most promising young musicians at its summer String Institutes. The institutes, for middle/high school string players, nurture young talent and teach musical skills and techniques while preparing the participants for a performance.

The Summer String Institutes (High School String Institute, August 1-5, 2015; Middle School String Institute, August 8-12, 2015, Trinity Lutheran Church, 11200 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, MD) immerse talented middle school and high school string musicians in an intensive week of mentoring, chamber music coaching, individual lessons and rehearsals by conductors and musicians of the Philharmonic and other well-known music pedagogues. The High School String Institute, which has been cited by The Washington Post as a "precise and elegant ensemble,"  will be led by National Philharmonic Music Director & Conductor Piotr Gajewski; the Middle School Institute by Philharmonic Associate Conductor Victoria Gau.

The High School String Institute will study and perform Mozart's Divertimento in Bb Major, K. 137; Telemann's Concerto for Viola in G Major; Elgar's Serenade for Strings and Arthur Foote's Suite in E Major. The Middle School Institute will study and perform Handel's Concerto Grosso,
Op. 6 No. 1; Percy Grainger's Molly on the Shore; Penderecki's Three Pieces in the Olden Style; and Michael McLean's Fandango.

This year marks the 18th anniversary of the High School String Institute and the 17th year of the Middle School String Institute. The High School String Institute will culminate in a free public performance at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 11200 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, MD, 20852 on Friday, August 5 at 7:30 pm and on Friday, August 12 at 7:30 pm for the middle school session.

For more information on the Summer String Institutes, please visit www.nationalphilharmonic.org.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Composer Nimrod Borenstein's Star on the Rise, with Seven Premieres
There are certain artists in our classical music world who may not be the most famous but, almost without anyone noticing, they become increasingly in demand until it feels that they have always been there, and their names are greeted with a friendly smile of recognition. The composer Nimrod Borenstein is surely on this road.

Following the breakthrough successes of his collaborations with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia, and more recently his ballet score Suspended, premiered at London's Royal Opera House last year, since booked for more than 100 performances worldwide and recorded by Das Freie Orchester Berlin for the Solaire label, there are no fewer than four world premieres and three local premieres lined up over these months. They encompass cities as far-flung as Montreal and Taipei, and leading artists such as Roberto Prosseda and Michel Supéra.

Between 1st July and the end of November 2016, world premieres of Nimrod's works include
Half Moon Étude, opus 66 No 2
Date: 9th August 2016

Concerto for trumpet, piano and string orchestra, opus 74
Date: 28th October 2016

Songs Without Words, opus 75 -  No. 1, 'The Dream'
Date: 14th November 2016

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and string orchestra, opus 70a (World premiere)
Date: 18th November 2016

Reminiscences of Childhood, opus 54 for piano solo (Brazil premiere)
Date: 13th July 2016

Suspended, opus 69 (Canada premiere)
Dates: 14th - 17th July 2016

Suspended, opus 69 (Taiwan premiere)
Date: 30th September 2016

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/jamesinvernemusic

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Coming Soon to Green Music Center: "Weird Al" Yankovic, Los Tigres del Norte, and More
"Weird Al" Yankovic: The Mandatory World Tour
Sat, Jul 30 at 7:30pm. Gates Open at 5:30pm

The biggest-selling comedy recording artist in  history – "Weird Al" Yankovic now in his fourth career decade, has received countless  accolades for classics like "Eat It" and "Fat." Al's  latest album Mandatory Fun became the first  comedy album to ever debut at #1 on the  Billboard Top 200.

Los Tigres Del Norte, with Special Guest Paul Rodriguez
Fri, Aug 5 at 7:30pm. Gates Open at 5:30pm

With over 37 million albums sold, 22 #1 albums  and over 50 #1 singles, Los Tigres Del Norte are  the undisputed masters of Regional Mexican Music. Come be part of the movement as the  frequently proclaimed "voice of the people" continue to blaze new trails in Latin music.

Lindsay Stirling: Summer Tour 2016

Thu, Aug 11 at 7:30pm, Weill Hall + Lawn. Gates Open 5:30pm

A revolution unto herself, this chart-topping violinist lives in a world of  electronic beats, dance music and classical violin. Follow this rave fairy into a  world of her own creation – and wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

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

--Green Music Center

American Bach Soloists Festival 2016
An Italian Journey
August 5-14 2016

Festival Concert Schedule:
Carmelite Vespers & Vivaldi's Gloria
Friday, August 5, 8PM
St. Mark's Lutheran Church 1111 O'Farrell at Franklin, San Francisco

Postcards from The Grand Tour
Saturday, August 6 8PM
St. Mark's Lutheran Church 1111 O'Farrell at Franklin

Bach's Mass in B Minor
Sunday, August 7, 7PM
St. Mark's Lutheran Church 1111 O'Farrell at Franklin
best seats
Sunday, August 14 2PM
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Handel's Parnasso in festa
American premiere performances
Thursday, August 11, 8PM
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 50 Oak Street
Friday, August 12, 8PM
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 50 Oak Street
Virtuosi of Venice & Rome
Saturday, August 13, 8PM
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

For complete information, visit http://americanbach.org/

--American Bach Soloists

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Suite from the Ballet (XRCD review)

Yehudi Menuhin, solo violin; Efrem Kurtz, Philharmonia Orchestra. Hi-Q Records HIQXRCD49.

Although Russian-born, naturalized-American conductor Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995) lived well into the stereo age, he never became as famous as some of his contemporaries like Fritz Reiner, Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski, or Otto Klemperer. Still, he made some excellent stereo recordings, such as this 1958 album of highlights from Swan Lake with the Philharmonia Orchestra, with no less a star than Yehudi Menuhin doing the violin solos. The new XRCD remastering does justice to its still-impressive sound.

The director of the Moscow Imperial Theatre commissioned Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-93) to write the score for the ballet we now know as Swan Lake. Premiered in 1877, it was the first of the composer's big-three ballets, with The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty to follow. Today, we take Swan Lake for granted as one of the greatest ballets of all time, but initially it failed. The dancers complained they couldn't dance to the music, the conductor couldn't properly handle the tunes, and critics generally panned it. It would not be until 1895, several years after the composer's death, that the ballet's popularity began to soar in revival.

The story is that Swan Lake started life as a little ballet called The Lake of the Swans, which Tchaikovsky wrote for his family in 1871. Then, when he received the commission, the composer added Russian and German folk tales as his sources, the general plot based on a story by the German author Johann Karl August Musäus. One of the salient points about Tchaikovsky's writing it is that critics now consider it the first ballet composed by a writer who had previously worked almost exclusively in the symphonic field. Thus, if Swan Lake sounds more "symphonic" in structure, composition, and themes than earlier ballets, there is a reason.

In four acts Swan Lake tell the story of a young man, Prince Siegfried, whose mother insists it's about time he found a bride and marry. No sooner said than he chances upon a beautiful young woman, Odette, with whom he falls in love. However, as fate would have it, an evil magician has put her and her attendants under a spell whereby they may be human at night but turn into swans by day. Naturally, it is only a true and unfailing love that can save her.

Efrem Kurtz
Kurtz easily negotiates the ups and downs of a suite of popular items from the ballet, and the Philharmonia, then in its prime, perform flawlessly. Indeed, the performance is sparkling in every way. Yet Kurtz never simply goes for show, glitz, or glitter. The music flows naturally, in a fine onward course. What's more, there is an elegance about the reading that one can hardly ignore. It's not just thrills Kurtz is striving for but a genuine sense of place and time, a handsome story told in frank, handsome terms, with little additional embellishment from the conductor. Still, even though Kurtz keeps things on an even keel, he still manages to inject plenty of excitement into the score.

Then there's the matter of Menuhin's solos. I guess I hadn't realized how many solo violin parts there were in the ballet until noticing them here. Certainly, Menuhin handles them deftly, his playing dexterous, gentle, lush, scintillating, as the case may be. The music's idyll sounds particularly touching, with the strings of the Philharmonia adding a poignant glow.

If I have any minor concerns about the disc, there are two: First, nowhere could I find a list of the disc's tracks or timings. The back of the package itemizes the musical content, but it doesn't do so with corresponding track numbers or track times. (For the record, so to speak, the disc contains nineteen tracks for a total of just over fifty-three minutes.) Second, I had a really hard time getting the disc out of its plastic center ring. I mean, you want it to be tight enough to hold the disc firmly in place, but this was ridiculous. I thought I was going to snap the disc in two trying to loosen it.

Otherwise, the packaging is commendable: a glossy, hard-bound Digipak design, with booklet notes bound inside and the disc itself attached to a plastic center ring in the back.

Producers R. Kinloch Anderson and Peter Andry and engineers Neville Boyling and Robert Gooch recorded the suite at Kingsway Hall, London in March and April of 1958. JVC (Victor Company of Japan) remastered and manufactured the present disc using XRCD24, 24-bit Super Analog K2 technology. Hi-Q Records distributes the product.

I did not have an LP or CD of the performance with which to make comparisons, but I believe I can safely say based on what I heard from this remaster and the comparisons I have made of Hi-Q products in the past that this recording is no doubt an improvement over the original mastering. The clarity is outstanding, with a huge dynamic range, strong impact, and good frequency extremes. The high end sounds especially impressive, with a shimmering treble response. However, I must warn that if one's system already favors the high end, the disc might sound a little bright, and even with noise reduction there is a faint sizzle at the very top. Anyway, the stereo spread is also commendable, as is the orchestral depth. So, what we get are excellent sonics to match an exuberant performance. Never mind the age; it's better than almost anything made today.

You can find Hi-Q products at any number of on-line marketplaces, but you'll find some of the best prices at Elusive Disc: http://www.elusivedisc.com/


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

Classical Music News of the Week, July 24, 2016

ABS Presents Handel's Parnasso in festa - First Ever Outside Europe

To celebrate the marriage of Princess Anne to Prince William of Orange, Handel composed a new 3-act serenata, Parnasso in festa, and utilized his greatest singers for the work, including the celebrated castrati Giovanni Carestini and Carlo Scalzi, and two of his most illustrious sopranos, Margherita Durastanti and Anna Strada del Pò.

The glorious music of Parnasso in festa was such a popular success at the 1734 Royal Wedding that it was profitably revived during several subsequent opera seasons at London's Covent Garden.

Presented only occasionally in England and Germany since Handel's day, this work of stunning melodies and irresistible charm will receive its long overdue American premiere during the 2016 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy under the direction of Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas. Be there for this exciting premiere event! Tickets start at only $30.

Thursday & Friday, August 11 & 12, 2016 at 8:00 pm
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

ABS Academy Festival Orchestra
American Bach Choir
Soloists from the ABS Academy
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

For tickets and further information, visit http://americanbach.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2641

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Subscribe to Win - Exclusive Wine Country Prize Pack
Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA 2016-17 Season Subscriber Sweepstakes:

Subscribe to a package of five or more performances in the 2016-17 MasterCard Performance Series
by August 2, 2016 and be entered to win one of eight fabulous Wine Country Prize Packs.

Each Winner receives:
Voucher for a dinner for two (2) at Prelude Restaurant
One night stay at the Gables Wine Country Inn
Complimentary wine tasting at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards
Exclusive Green Music Center merchandise

For more information, call  1.866.955.6040 or visit gmc.sonoma.edu

--Green Music Center

"Postcards from The Grand Tour" - Opening Weekend Concert at ABS Festival
The 2016 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy will feature music from Baroque Italy. The flourishing cities of Florence, Venice, and Rome—the primary destinations of the Grand Tour excursions taken by British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, and the meeting places for the most celebrated composers and performers of the era—offered some of the most glorious art, architecture, and music to be found anywhere during the Baroque era.

The second night of the Festival features a collection of captivating works by Italian composers including Albinoni, Caldara, Frescobaldi, Vivaldi, and others. Each piece, a souvenir from a stop along The Grand Tour of sun-drenched Baroque Italy, will be performed by the ABS Academy Faculty, an outstanding group of artists who are all world-wide leaders of the Early Music movement.

Saturday August 6 2016 at 8:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco

For more information, visit http://americanbach.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2641

--Jeff McMillan, ABS

Study of New World Symphony WALLCAST Concerts Reveals Younger, Ethnically Diverse Audience
The WALLCAST Concert Experience, a yearlong independent study about the New World Symphony's WALLCAST concerts, is now available to the public. The study reveals that audiences for the format are far more diverse than audiences for traditional classical music concerts. This diversity is reflected across multiple indicators—primarily the age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds of attendees.

WALLCAST concerts are free outdoor simulcasts of live concerts performed on stage inside the New World Center. Live video from the hall is projected onto the Center's 7,000-square-foot eastern façade and viewed from adjacent SoundScape Park, which was designed as an extension of the Center. Audio from the performance is transmitted through the Park's virtual-acoustic sound system by Meyer Sound of Berkeley, California. Noting that other orchestras and presenting organizations across the country are experimenting with similar formats, the study suggests that they may be interested in breaking down barriers related to "cost and negative perceptions of classical music as intimidating and inaccessible."

The study was commissioned by the Miami-based New World Symphony (NWS), America's Orchestral Academy, to assess the impact and role of its WALLCAST concerts in the community.  Funded in part by The Miami Foundation and led by consulting firm WolfBrown, the study investigates the WALLCAST format's effectiveness in attracting and engaging new audiences for classical music, reflecting not just NWS's commitment to audience development, but its mission to educate the next generation of musicians in these new approaches.

The findings of the report confirm the positive impact of the WALLCAST format in furthering NWS's broader effort to bring in new listeners, while also shedding light on the effectiveness of the simulcast format. "Digital programming has an important role to play in building demand, and WALLCAST raises the bar for digital concert experiences," says Alan Brown, who led the study. "For too many years, arts organizations have looked down upon digital programming because it's not live. The WALLCAST experience—which is live, but digital—is both impactful and deeply valued by audiences."

For more information, visit https://www.nws.edu/news/study-of-new-world-symphony-wallcast-concerts-reveals-younger-ethnically-diverse-audience/

--Schumann Associates News

Orion Opens Season in September with Wintle Commission, Mozart, Zemlinsky
To open its 24th season, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, presents "Collage of Colors," welcoming guest violist Stephen Boe. Performances take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva September 18; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston September 25; and the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago September 28.

The program:
James Wintle's Pontoon-Bridge Miracle for clarinet, violin and piano, commissioned by Orion in 1996, is a highly programmatic and expertly crafted piece based on a poem about Chicago by American poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931).

Mozart's Duo in B-flat Major for violin and viola, K. 424 was an act of friendship.

The Quartet in E-flat Major for violin, viola, cello and piano, K. 493 features some of Mozart's finest and most elegant writing for piano and strings.

Alexander von Zemlinsky's Trio in D Minor for clarinet, cello and piano, Op. 3 so impressed Brahms that he immediately brought it to the attention of his publisher.

Orion's 2016-17 season:
Orion's 2016-17 season, Miniatures and Masterworks, continues with "Serenade by Three: Orion Beginnings" in November, spotlighting Orion's original three members with works by Yadzinski, Granados, Khatchaturian, John Williams and Glick; "Connections" in March, welcoming back Stephen Boe for a program of Kritz, Mahler and Rebecca Clarke; and "Wit and Passion" in May, also featuring Boe for works by Jean Francaix and Brahms. Also during the season, Orion hosts a fall benefit November 19 at 12 noon at Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, Illinois and appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" October 3, 2016 and March 20, 2017 at 8 p.m.

 For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 (CD review)

Plus, a second disc with the conductor discussing the work. Benjamin Zander, Philharmonia Orchestra. Telarc 2CD-80569 (2-disc set).

No guts, no glory. Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra attack this most passionate of Mahler's big orchestral works with all the extremes of emotion it deserves. Indeed, Zander's performance may come as close to Mahler's intentions as any recording on the market.

Austrian composer and conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote his Symphony No. 5 in 1901-02, and it is among his most varied works, beginning in sorrow and solemnity and culminating in joy and happiness. The turning points are the third movement Scherzo, sounding much like Mahler's usual parodies of a traditional Viennese waltz, and the famous Adagietto, really a love letter to the composer's wife, Alma. These lead into the joyous Finale.

Zander takes each movement very slightly quicker than many of his rivals, but never does he lose the lilt or flavor of the more lustrous passages. Interestingly, too, Zander tells us in a booklet note that after he had recorded the piece, he compared his timings for each movement to those of Mahler himself as reported by a listener at a rehearsal of the work, and Zander's timings were no more than a minute different from Mahler's for the entire symphony. Of course, that doesn't prove anything, really, because we don't know for certain what Mahler's tempos were in an actual performance, nor do we know what Mahler's phrasing was like. Nor can we be sure that any composer is the ultimate authority on conducting his own works. Whatever, it makes a fascinating point.

Benjamin Zander
None of this is to suggest that Zander's reading is any better than rival versions, but it surely equals some of the best I've heard. However, I still have a preference for Sir John Barbirolli's rendition (EMI, now Warner Classics) in which Sir John wears his heart more openly on his sleeve, luxuriating ever the more slowly in each movement, especially the Adagietto, which, nonetheless, manages to sound a note of love and beauty rather than being entirely funereal. Getting back to Zander, let's give him an A for effort here and assume his performance is as close to Mahler's designs as any around, a small degree of sentimentality notwithstanding.

In addition to the symphony, the folks at Telarc also include for the cost of the one CD an extra disc, seventy-eight minutes long, of Zander discussing the symphony. He takes us movement by movement through the work, commenting and illustrating points by using not only his own recording but historical recordings as well. It's a welcome bonus disc, even if Zander emerges from it a bit too much the pontifical lecturer in his narration.

The disc's sound is big and bold in the Telarc tradition, a recording exuberant enough to match the interpretation. The dynamic range is wide, and the frequency response reaches the limits of both ends of the sonic spectrum. Yet here's the snag: It doesn't appear to have a lot of presence, and, in fact, when comparing it to Barbirolli's 1969 account, it has less depth and less inner detail. What's more, the Barbirolli disc comes in at mid price, remaining a glorious bargain.

Still and all, this Zander/Telarc disc is one to consider, and for people looking for the least degree of idiosyncrasy in their music, it may top the charts.


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

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Sir John Barbirolli, The Halle Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

Two of my favorite recordings of Sibelius's Second Symphony come from Sir John Barbirolli: His 1962 version with the Royal Philharmonic at Walthhamstow Town Hall, London (reissued on a Chesky Gold edition that is especially good), and this 1966 rendering with the Halle Orchestra at Kingsway Hall, London. Of the two, I really have a hard time deciding which I prefer; I know I enjoy the stately gravitas of the 1966 interpretation, and it's particularly nice to hear it remastered by HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers).

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) wrote his Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43 in 1902, and over the past hundred-plus years it has become one of his most-popular works. The listening public dubbed it his "Symphony of Independence," even though musical scholars are unsure whether Sibelius meant to attribute any symbolic significance to the piece. Whatever the case, the work ends in a splendidly victorious finale that certainly draws out a feeling of nationalistic pride and self-reliance.

The music begins in a generally sunny mood, building to a powerful a climax, with a flock of heroic fanfares thrown in for good measure. One of the first things to notice is Barbirolli's generally relaxed tempo at the beginning. It's a promise of good things to come. This is no rush job, no excuse to show the listener how much excitement the conductor can drum up. Nor is it a lax or lackadaisical performance. In fact, the more you hear it, the more "right" it sounds. Even those heroic fanfares sound flawlessly integrated into the first movement's structure rather than flamboyant add-ons.

Sibelius marked the second movement Andante (moderately slow) and ma rubato (with a flexible tempo) to allow a conductor some measure of personal expression. It begins with a distant drum roll, followed by a pizzicato section for cellos and basses. Barbirolli handles it wonderfully, never allowing it to descend into gloom or sentimentality at the extremes. Again, Barbirolli permits the music to unfold at its own pace, without ever forcing the issue. It's quite beautiful, actually, with a sweetly Mediterranean flavor throughout and the Halle Orchestra providing warmly polished playing.

Sir John Barbirolli
The third-movement scherzo displays a fair amount of orchestral pyrotechnics, interrupted from time to time by a slower, more melancholy theme before seamlessly making a transition into the Finale. Sibelius labeled it Vivacissimo, obviously a tempo taken in a lively and vivacious manner, which Barbirolli observes without undue attention to himself.

Then, the Finale bursts forth radiantly, in an explosive, thrilling, patriotic manner. In all, Barbirolli conducts a luminous interpretation of the symphony, full of vigor and sparkle and life, yet above all communicating an infectious air of joy.

Producer Ronald Kinloch Anderson and engineer Neville Boyling recorded the music for EMI at Kingsway Hall, London, in July 1966; and HDTT transferred it to CD in 2016 from a 15-ips 2-track tape in pure DSD with no PCM used.

The remastered sound appears perfectly balanced, with a fine sense of air, depth, transparency, and ambient bloom around the instruments. Strings sound particularly realistic, with a good shimmer and shine. Note, however, that I have always had a slight misgiving about the EMI sonics (now Warners) on their Halle discs; the orchestra seems a little too thin and the upper registers a bit too forward and almost edgy. But in this HDTT remaster, almost everything sounds right. (In a direct comparison of the EMI-Japan and HDTT products, the EMI disc sounded brighter, clearer, and rougher at the high end, the HDTT disc smoother, fuller, and as a result more lifelike.) A small degree of softness in the upper treble of the HDTT product is about the only other perceptible difference. Whatever, the HDTT remastering is one of the more natural recordings I've heard in a while, and it fully complements Barbirolli's affectionate reading.

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, July 16, 2016

American Bach Soloists Festival 2016

Schedule of Events
Friday, August 5, 8pm:
St. Mark's Lutheran Church 1111 O'Farrell at Franklin
Carmelite Vespers & Vivaldi's Gloria
Mary Wilson & Clara Rottsolk, sopranos ~ Judith Malafronte, alto
Kyle Stegall, tenor ~ William Sharp, baritone
American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Saturday, August 6, 8pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church 1111 O'Farrell at Franklin
"Postcards from The Grand Tour"
Works by Albinoni, Bassano, Caldera, Castello,
Frescobaldi, Geminiani, Marini, & Vivaldi
American Bach Soloists

Sunday, August 7, 7pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church 1111 O'Farrell at Franklin
and Sunday, August 14, 2pm
San Francisco Conservatory of Music:
Bach's Mass in B Minor
ABS Academy Festival Orchestra & American Bach Choir
Soloists from the ABS Academy, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Thursday, August 11, 8pm and Friday August 12, 8pm
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 50 Oak Street:
Handel's Parnasso in festa
American Premiere Performances
ABS Academy Festival Orchestra & American Bach Choir
Soloists from the ABS Academy, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Saturday, August 13, 8pm
San Francisco Conservatory of Music:
Virtuosi of Venice & Rome
Concertos by Vivaldi, Corelli, & Geminiani
American Bach Soloists & ABS Academy Festival Orchestra
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival/index.html

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

American Brass Quintet Returns to Aspen with Two World Premieres
Hailed by Newsweek as "the high priests of brass," the American Brass Quintet is internationally recognized as one of the premier chamber music ensembles of our time, celebrated for peerless leadership in the brass world. This summer, the Quintet returns as Ensemble-in-Residence of the Aspen Music Festival and School for their 46th consecutive year, and performs a recital at Harris Concert Hall on Wednesday, July 27 at 8:30PM. Their program spans several centuries and features two World Premieres written specifically for them: Kenneth Fuchs's Brass Quintet No. 2, "American" and Eric Nathan's Missing Words II.

"Missing Words II" (2016) is the second in an ongoing series of compositions written in homage to Ben Schott's book Schottenfreude (Blue Rider Press/Penguin Group), a collection of newly-created German words for contemporary life. Commissioned by the Aspen festival, "Missing Words II" playfully explores three new words: Leertretung (defined as "stepping down heavily on a stair that isn't there"), Kraftfahrzeugsinnenausstattungsneugeruchsgenuss ("New Car Smell") and Brillenbrillanz ("the sudden, innervating clarity afforded by new glasses").

According to Kenneth Fuchs, his ABQ-commissioned Brass Quintet No. 2, "American" is "cast in a single continuous movement of several variations on a theme." Fuchs was a student at The Juilliard School during the beginning of the American Brass Quintet's tenure as Ensemble-in-Residence, and is a faculty colleague of the Quintet's trumpetist Louis Hanzlik at the University of Connecticut. Clint Needham's Brass Quintet No. 1, "Circus," has made numerous appearances on the ABQ's concert programs, in addition to the ensemble's 2007 album Jewels. In Needham's words: "I drew inspiration for my brass quintet from not-so-fond memories of a circus I was forced to attend when I was younger."

The July 27th recital closes with a set of Venetian canzoni, during which the Quintet's students will join the ensemble onstage.

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

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

This Week at the Green Music Center: Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias, Boz Scaggs, & The Robert Cray Band
Electrifying comedian Gabriel Iglesias aka  "Fluffy" brings his personal experiences to life  with unique mix of storytelling, parodies and  characters to create a high-octane show for all  ages. Iglesias's hit DVD's Hot & Fluffy and I'm Not Fat…I'm Fluffy have sold over 1 million  copies, and has helped make him one of today's  most in-demand comedians.

The Green Music Center
Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, CA 94928

For more information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/event/3154146

--Green Music Center

Merola Opera Artists in Grand Finale, Aug 20 at War Memorial Opera House, SF
The Merola Opera Program's Summer Festival concludes with its 2016 artists performing in the Merola Grand Finale Saturday, August 20 at 7:30 pm at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Conductor Rory Macdonald will lead the orchestra and 2016 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Aria Umezawa will stage the program, featuring works by Bizet, Bernstein, Donizetti, Offenbach, Mozart, J. Strauss, Puccini, Berlioz, Britten, Humperdinck, Flotow, Glück, and Rossini. The performance is a culmination of the 12-week Merola Opera training program, and all 23 of the 2016 Merola singers will perform, under the coaching and direction of their fellow artists. A special artists' reception follows the Grand Finale (tickets sold separately).

Tickets are $45 for Orchestra Premium and Grand Tier Premium, $35 for Orchestra and Grand Tier, and $25 for Dress Circle. Tickets can be purchased by calling the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 or by visiting sfopera.com.

--Jean Shirk Media

YPC's First Summer Tour Show
Young People's Chorus of New York City Summer Tour 2016:

Harlem, New York:
Marcus Garvey Park Concert

Festival Napa Valley, California:
Mont La Salle Chapel Concert - July 21
Lincoln Theater Concert - July 23

Austin, Texas:
KUTX Radio Show - July 25
Austin Independent Schools District Workshop - July 25
Paramount Theatre Concert - July 26

Young People's Chorus of New York City
37 West 65th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10023
T: 212-289-7779

--Katharine Gibson, YPC

West Edge Opera adds a Fourth Performance of Powder Her Face
Due to overwhelming demand, West Edge Opera has added a fourth performance of Thomas Adés's Powder Her Face on Thursday, August 11 at 7:30 pm. The originally announced performances are Sunday, July 31 at 3 pm, Saturday, August 6 at 1 pm and Saturday, August 13 at 8 pm.

With a plot drawn from real life – the 1963 divorce proceedings of the "Dirty Duchess," Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, this modern masterpiece provokes and challenges. Laura Bohn sings the role of the Duchess and Emma McNairy returns after her stunning performance as last season's Lulu, to sing the Maid. Tenor Jonathan Blalock and baritone Hadleigh Adams round out the cast. Elkhanah Pulitzer, who stunned audiences with last summer's Lulu, is the stage director. A collaboration with the San Francisco contemporary music ensemble EarPlay, Powder Her Face will be conducted by Mary Chun.

The other productions in West Edge Opera's 2016 Festival are Leoš Janácek's The Cunning Little Vixen, conducted by Jonathan Khuner and directed by Patrick Diamond (Saturday, July 30 at 8 pm, Sunday, August 7 at 3 pm and Saturday, August 13 at 1 pm) and Handel's Agrippina, conducted by Jory Vinikour and directed by Mark Streshinsky (Saturday, August 6 at 8 pm.,  Friday, August 12 at 8 pm and Sunday, August 14 at 3 pm).

All Festival performances take place at Oakland, California's abandoned 16th Street Train Station.
For tickets, call (510) 841-1903 or go to www.westedgeopera.org.

--Marian Kohlstedt, West Edge Opera

Warner Classics Announces Deal with Munich Philharmonic
On September 30th, 2016, the Munich Philharmonic and Music Director, Valery Gergiev, will release the first two albums on its own label: Mahler's Symphony No. 2 and Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 – heartland repertoire for the Orchestra and its conductor.

The releases come one year after the launch of the Munich Philharmonic's ground-breaking digital media production and distribution program. This media strategy has already produced films of numerous live performances in partnership with international broadcasters and online channels, significantly expanding global audiences for its concerts.

The Orchestra will release up to six new recordings per year, with a special focus on the rich German repertoire and composers with which it has been so closely associated since its foundation almost 125 years ago.

Global distribution of the MPHIL recordings will be managed by Warner Classics Label Services, across physical, download and streaming platforms.

--Gloria Rodriguez, Warner Classics

Richard Strauss: Don Quixote (CD review)

Also, Romance for cello and orchestra. Alexander Rudin, cello; Gerhard Markson, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. Naxos 8.554175.

I'm sure I don't have to remind any fan of German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) that the tone poem Don Quixote is about Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's famous old-timer who fancies himself a knight of high ideals, with a cello performing the knight's part and a viola his sidekick, Sancho Panza. Nor that the work contains ten variations, mostly representing Quixote's adventures, plus an introduction and an epilogue finale. Strauss composed Don Quixote in 1896, just a couple of years after Also Sprach Zarathustra, and both tone poems have enjoyed enormous popularity ever since.

Under the guidance of Maestro Gerhard Markson, with Alexander Rudin the cellist, the piece comes up pretty well, if perhaps with a bit of its color glazed over in a kind of homogenized way compared to other famous recordings. The two discs I had on hand for comparison were Mstislav Rostropovich, cello, with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI) and Paul Tortelier, cello, with Rudolf Kempe and the Staatskapelle Dresden (EMI). Both competing performances appear a little more animated to me, more heartfelt, and, ultimately, more entertaining.

Alexander Rudin
This is not to suggest, however, that we should not welcome another interpretation like Rudin and Markson's, especially when the end result is nonetheless valid. The Rudin/Markson combo provides us with a suitably comfortable old Don, one who is at his feeble leisure, one who appears weaker and slower, maybe more apt to fall asleep under one of his windmills, than some of the rival versions offer.

I found the Naxos sound, issued in 2000, also commendable for its smooth reliability. It is fairly natural, and I thought it even well imaged until the bass drum reached out and bit me on the toe. Still, most of it makes for comfortable listening.

The disc's fill-up is the short Romance for cello and orchestra, which Strauss wrote about fourteen years earlier than Quixote. Although it, too, sounds adequately performed, one must remember that for about the same mid price, one can buy the aforementioned Rostropovich rendering on a remastered EMI disc, which not only has more sonic detail but the advantage of a master cellist, the sonority and range of one of the world's great orchestras, and Schumann's Cello Concerto as a companion. Now that I think about it further, that is definitely quite a bargain, as is the Tortelier/Kempe album with Don Juan and The Dance of the Seven Veils thrown in for good measure. But you probably already knew that.


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

Gal: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (CD review)

Also, Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22. Sarah Beth Briggs, piano; Kenneth Woods, Royal Northern Sinfonia. Avie AV2358.

The Austrian-British composer, teacher, and author Hans Gal (1890-1987) might have fallen into obscurity by now if it hadn't been for companies like Avie Records and conductors like Kenneth Woods and Thomas Zehetmair, who have relatively recently begun to champion the neglected composer with a series of new recordings. In the present album, Maestro Woods, pianist Sarah Beth Briggs, and the Royal Northern Sinfonia perform the world premiere recording of Gal's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 57, coupled with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K.482. The results are not only splendid, they fill a much-needed gap in the Gal discography.

Gal wrote his piano concerto in 1948, well into the modern era of classical music. Yet with its lush melodies the score has its feet set firmly in the Romantic period, leading many critics of the time to view Gal as rather old-fashioned. Today's audience may be ready for a return to the more tuneful music of yesteryear, and, thus, we may be hearing more from composers who value entertaining but creative harmonies over experimental dissonance. Who knows? I generalize. What we have in Gal's work is highly accessible and easy to like. That's my main point, no matter what one's opinion of Romantic vs. modern classical music.

Sarah Beth Briggs
Of less question are the talent, discipline, energy, and enthusiasm of the music makers. Ms. Briggs's pianism is both dexterous and impish, capturing the airy, evocative atmosphere of Gal's music as well as its often humorous interludes. The central Adagio is especially wistful and sweet. Moreover, Maestro Woods appears every bit the old hand at Gal's scores, offering a solid, sympathetic accompaniment that complements but never overshadows Ms. Briggs's playing. Together, they make a good case for modern listeners appreciating Gal's ideas more than ever.

Attending the Gal piece we get Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22, which may seem an odd coupling until you realize that several previous Gal albums also combined his music with that of past masters. Here, the booklet note tries to explain the relationship between Gal's music and Mozart's, but I didn't find the argument entirely convincing. I would have liked hearing Gal's piano concertina, instead.

In any case, Ms. Briggs directs the Mozart from the keyboard, and the performance sounds happy, sprightly, and dignified at the same time. When after a lengthy introduction the piano enters, it comes as no surprise that it matches the orchestra's ardor, although to a somewhat more-subdued degree. Nevertheless, it's one of the better readings of this work you'll find, filled with subtlety, grace, wit, elegance, and grandeur. Even if I would have preferred a bit more spirited abandon in the delicious closing Allegro, performed a bit low-key, it still sounds radiant.

Simon Fox-Gal, the grandson of Hans Gal, recorded, produced, engineered, and edited the present album, making it in Hall One, Sage Gateshead, England in January 2016. The piano is a little close for my liking, stretching too far from left to right across the stage. Otherwise, the sonics sound balanced, clear, well focused, and mildly resonant. There is also a fine sense of front-to-back depth to the orchestra, which together with a wide dynamic range and strong impact provides a realistic presentation.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, July 9, 2016

Pianist Xiayin Wang to give NYC recital on July 29th at the International Keyboard Institute & Festival

Pianist Xiayin Wang, hailed by The New York Times for her "estimable grasp of pianistic color" as well as her "go-for-broke bravado," will give a recital on July 29th with the International Keyboard Institute & Festival, at Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse in New York City. The performance will feature the World Premiere of Richard Danielpour's Bagatelles, the latest in a series of collaborations between the two, as well as Beethoven's Sonata in E Flat Major, Op. 31 No. 3 "Hunt," Schumann's Fantasiestücke, Op.12 and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

A passionate proponent of contemporary composers, Xiayin's World Premiere of Bagatelles will continue a longstanding musical relationship with award winning composer Richard Danielpour, beginning with a 2009 recording of his Preludes, Books 1 2 "The Enchanted Garden," followed by a 2014 World Premiere performance of his five-part suite The Celestial Circus. The Bagatelles draw their inspiration from memories of Danielpour's childhood and early memories, an especially poignant theme for Xiayin as she recently had her first child.

Xiayin has also released numerous acclaimed, bestselling recordings on the Chandos label, and this fall will bring an album of Ginastera piano concertos in celebration of the composer's centennial year.

Tickets are $20, and can be purchased through The Kaye Playhouse Box Office in person, by phone at 212-772-4448, or online www.hunter.cuny.edu/kayeplayhouse

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

ABS Festival Concert: Virtuosi of Venice & Rome
Friday, August 13, 2016: 8:00 pm at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Virtuosi of Venice & Rome: With the American Bach Soloists joined by the ABS Academy Festival Orchestra, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor.

The expert period-instrumentalists of American Bach Soloists take center stage for a thrilling exploration of Italian concertos for a variety of instrumental combinations that were composed for especially virtuoso players and orchestras. As an added attraction, the string players of the ABS Academy will join the ABS orchestra on stage to perform Concerti Grossi by Corelli and Geminiani with the enormous—and rarely heard—forces used by those composers in their day.

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival

--Jeff McMillan, American Bach Soloists

Record Your Music in Cuba
In April 2016, Cuban musicians will record music by PARMA artists during a week of recording sessions, performances, and cultural activities.

The musicians, venues, and studios are among some of Cuba's very best, and we are now  accepting score submissions for the following instrumentation:

Chamber Ensembles
SATB and SSAA Choir

Please submit your scores in PDF format and include information about duration, past performance history, and any other applicable notes to projects@parmarecordings.com.

Take the next step. Request a quote or learn more about our recording services:

Not yet ready to record but interested in more information?
Call us at 603.758.1718 or visit http://parmarecordings.com/

--Rory Cooper, PARMA Recordings

2015 Honens Laureate Luca Buratto on WQXR's Young Artists Showcase
Who: Luca Buratto, Prize Laureate of the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition

What: WQXR's Young Artists Showcase hosted by Robert Sherman
When: Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 9 p.m. (Eastern)
Where: Stream the program live at www.wqxr.org

About Luca Buratto:
Luca Buratto, 2015 Honens Prize Laureate, is a pianist of "fiery imagination and finesse" (Musical America).

In addition to his success at Canada's Honens Piano Competition, Buratto was awarded third prize at the International Robert Schumann Competition (Zwickau) and the special "Acerbi" prize, awarded to a distinguished Finalist at Milan's Shura Cherkassky Competition, both in 2012. Buratto first caught the public's attention at the Conservatory of Milan's Sala Verdi where, for a Holocaust Remembrance Day event in 2003, he performed music of Renzo Massarani, his great-grandfather. Massarani (1898–1975), a student of Ottorino Respighi, was a promising young composer whose career was interrupted by the imposition of racial laws in 1938.

Buratto earned his piano Diploma from Milan Conservatory and his master's from Bolzano Conservatory. He was a Theo Lieven Scholar at the Conservatory of Lugano, from which he received his Master of Advanced Studies. His teachers have included Davide Cabassi, William Grant Naboré and Edda Ponti.

A live recording of his performances from the 2015 Honens Piano Competition is available now on the Honens label, and his debut studio recording of works by Schumann will be released on the Hyperion label in 2017.

--Daniel Guss, Nancy Shear Arts Services

Spend your summer with AOP
It's summer and our sex comedy Three Way is heating up to be the talk of the upcoming season. Want to be part of the story? Join us in a three-way summer fling - American Opera Projects, a mysterious donor, and you - to support AOP's good work.

Choices, choices! A mojito, cold beer, gin and tonic? A swim in the ocean or a hike in the mountains? Barbecue or lobster rolls?

Summer offers tantalizing options. And so does AOP!  We are in Berlin about to open the European premiere of As One, then jump to Lincoln Center Festival for Paradise Interrupted, before a stop at Chautauqua to hear their first AOP-sponsored Composer-in-Residence.

In the coming season AOP is as busy as ever! Last season's success, Hagoromo, is being reworked for a tour. The Summer King premieres in Pittsburgh, The Blind goes to UrbanArias, As One lands in Seattle, Colorado, Long Beach, and Pittsburgh, Three Way debuts at Nashville Opera before we bring it to BAM, and AOP's signature program Composers & The Voice continues to train the stars of tomorrow. You can choose ALL of this if you have a fling with AOP!

Your pleasure is doubled now, as gifts are matched by a generous donor throughout the summer -- up to $15,000! Make your gift before Labor Day and help AOP sail into the new season.

Please join us in making contemporary American opera as vibrant and diverse as possible. It's our story! Your gift to AOP, at the start of our 2016-2017 season, will reap many rewards in the year to come.

Visit http://aopopera.org/

--Charles Jarden, General Director, AOP

Submission Deadline for FWOpera's 2017 Frontiers Showcase Extended
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) announced today that the submission deadline has been extended for its fifth annual Frontiers showcase. Applications will now be accepted through midnight, July 19, 2016. The company's innovative program will be held during the final week of the 2017 Fort Worth Opera Festival – April 15, 2017 – May 7, 2017 and coincides with the 2017 Opera America Conference 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.

Applications must be submitted by midnight, July 19, 2016.

Please contact Nathan DePoint, Curator, at frontiers@fwopera.org for submission address and information. All application materials must be submitted electronically through the Frontiers web portal. Only 15-20 minutes of a composition will be considered. Submissions must include: Synopsis of the entire composition; Libretto and Piano/Vocal score of the excerpts (in order within the piece); English translation if the work is in another language. All materials submitted must have the composer and librettist names removed to ensure anonymity during the panel review. A non-refundable entry fee of $20 US is due upon submission. Payments will be made with the application submission online. Fort Worth Opera retains the right to select fewer than six works for the showcase. More details are available at www.fwopera.org/operas/frontiers.

--Ryan Lathan, FWOpera

Big Year for the Arts in California
The California Arts Council has awarded the largest number of state arts grants in 14 years. There were 225 more awards made this year than in 2014-15, with an investment of more than $8.5 million supporting arts and cultural programs reaching students, veterans, artists, and underserved communities across California.

And on top of this, we have the great news about the significant state arts funding increase for 2016-17 in this 40th anniversary year for the California Arts Council, the state's arts agency. This is a truly momentous time for the arts in California.

View the complete announcement here: http://arts.ca.gov/news/prdetail.php?id=235

--Caitlin Fitzwater, California Arts Council

PBO Goes to Tanglewood and Norfolk Music Festivals in August
Nic McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale are headed to the east coast this August for performances at the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox Massachusetts and Yale Music School's Norfolk Music Festival in Norfolk Connecticut.

The Orchestra will revive Scarlatti's La Gloria di Primavera with the original cast of vocalists at Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood on August 25. PBO last performed at the Tanglewood Festival in 2014 with a program featuring Handel's Teseo.

PBO then returns to Yale's Norfolk Chamber Festival with mezzo-soprano Diana Moore singing arias from Handel, Vivialdi, Rameau, and Scarlatti's La Gloria. Diana will also sing Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw's Red, Red Rose, based on a beautiful poem by Robert Burns. PBO commissioned the piece this year and the world premiere took place at Disney Hall in Los Angeles in May.

As a major champion of new music on old instruments, Nic is very excited to present Caroline's work at the wonderful Music Shed dating back to the 1890s. The Norfolk Chamber Festival was introduced to PBO by board member David Low and his wife Dominique Lahaussois, residents of San Francisco and Norfolk. The Orchestra's appearances at Norfolk are made possible in part by David and Dominique and they always throw a great post-concert bash at their "barn!"

Concert information and tickets:
August 25, 8 pm
Ozawa Hall
Tanglewood Music Festival
Lenox, Massachusetts
For more information, visit https://www.bso.org/Performance/Detail/77768

August 27, 8 pm
The Music Shed
Norfolk Chamber Music Festival
Norfolk, Connecticut
For more information, visit http://music-tickets.yale.edu/single/SelectSeating.aspx?p=15471

--Noelle R. Moss, PBO

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (CD review)

Also, Concertos 5 and 6, op. 8.  Massimo Quarta, violin; Constantine Orbelian, Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Delos DE 3280.

Now, you really didn't think you were going to get through another month without at least one more review of a Vivaldi Four Seasons, did you? I believe it must be the most-recorded piece of music in the classical arena. Fortunately, this particular entry from violinist Massimo Quarta, with Maestro Constantine Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in close attendance, makes a pretty good impression, and one should consider it at least a contender in an overcrowded field.

Still, it doesn't make much of an impression until you get a bit into it. Indeed, at first I thought it was going to be another also-ran, it seemed so ordinary. Part of this issue was the volume, I must admit. Delos recorded it at a slightly lower level than most other discs, so a little tweaking of the gain control was in order. Then things started to come into focus. By that time, too, I was well into the second movement of "Spring" and beginning to get a feel for Orbelian and Quarta's timing. They never take anything at breakneck speed, but they do approach the score at a rather quick gait, to say the least. What seemed routine soon became impressively thought out as I began to realize just how subtle and well-formed the performance was shaping up.

What I liked best was Massimo Quarta's violin playing, perhaps the most refined and most virtuosic I have heard in these works in ages. His violin technique seems effortless, yet he manages maneuvers that might make even the best practitioners of the art shudder. And he accomplishes this with such smoothness and grace, you might not notice it at first listen. As far as the interpretation itself is concerned, it is basically an up-tempo but still middle-of-the-road approach.

Constantine Orbelian
The only thing I didn't much like about Quarta's reading, though, is what he does with the Largo of "Winter," sucking much of the charm out of it with his brisk playing. I know the poem describes somebody running in out of the cold, but this a bit too fast. Nevertheless, it was only a minor discomfort in an otherwise brilliant display of showmanship and color.

For more imaginative renditions, however, I suggest Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO, period instruments), Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (Decca, modern instruments), or Nils-Erik Sparf and the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble (BIS, period instruments). For more traditional realizations there are Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert (DG Archiv, period instruments), Jeanne Lamon and Tafelmusik (Sony, period instruments), I Solisti Italiani (Denon, modern instruments), Itzhak Perlman and the London Philharmonic (Hi-Q or EMI, modern instruments), Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (FIM or Telarc, modern instruments), or the budget-priced I Musici (Decca Eloquence, modern instruments).

The two fill-ups are the next two concertos in the same Il Cimento dell' Armonia e dell' Inventione series, Nos. 5 and 6, "The Storm at Sea" and "The Pleasure" (or "The Rapture," depending on who's doing the translation). The players do an equally good job bringing out all their charms.

The sound, as I said, is somewhat low in output, but turned up a mite it reveals excellent inner detail and a remarkable natural fluidity. Maybe the strings come off too brightly at times, and maybe there could be a touch more bass resonance or warmth. Otherwise, it's a terrific showpiece, done up in lightly reflective Dolby Surround, which in my main listening room (for music, as opposed to my surround-sound room for movie watching) sounded fine even without the extra speakers. It's a good all-around effort.


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

Victor Herbert: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (CD review)

Also, Irish Rhapsody. Mark Kosower, cello; JoAnn Falletta, Ulster Orchestra. Naxos 8.573517.

If you're like me (heaven forbid), you probably think of Victor Herbert as a composer of light music and operettas (Naughty Marietta, Babes in Toyland, The Red Mill, and many more). But in addition to forty-three operettas, he also produced two operas, a cantata, incidental music to ten plays, thirty-one compositions for orchestra, nine band compositions, nine cello compositions, five violin compositions with piano or orchestra, twenty-two piano compositions, and numerous songs, choral compositions, and orchestrations of works by other composers. What we have on the present album are his two cello concertos and a shorter orchestral work, the Irish Rhapsody, authoritatively performed by cellist Mark Kosower, conductor JoAnn Falletta, and the Ulster Orchestra.

Not that the Irish-born, German-raised American composer, conductor, and cellist Victor Herbert (1859-1924) abandoned elements of light music in his Cello Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 8 (1884), which leads off the program. Indeed, the piece is still pretty light, with an abundance of delightful melodies. The First Concerto seems much in the Romantic tradition, with an assortment of lush melodies and a sweetly gentle flow to the score. The dreamy slow movement seems right off the light-opera stage. Although there isn't a lot of substance to the concerto, its lyrical feeling is hard not to like. Mr. Kosower plays the solo part with grace and sensitivity, and Ms. Falletta and the orchestra support him admirably.

JoAnn Falletta
The Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 30, written a decade later, is a different matter. It is more substantial in terms of serious material than his earlier cello concerto and displays more maturity in its writing. Here, the composer appears more interested in providing a tightly knit, coordinated piece of thoughtful music rather than just a bit of light entertainment. The work apparently inspired Herbert's boss, Antonin Dvorak, to write his own cello concerto, and we all know where that went. So, praise be to Herbert. Again, Kosower performs the piece with appropriate eloquence and enthusiasm. The central slow movement provides a tranquil if somewhat solemn interlude, with Kosower and Falletta doing justice to the work's varying moods and tone.

The program concludes with the Irish Rhapsody for Grand Orchestra (1892), which may be the most famous of Herbert's non-operetta compositions. It comprises a string of popular Irish melodies into a piece that is, frankly, rather sentimental but altogether charming. Ms. Falletta and the Ulster players seem to relish the many familiar tunes in the piece, performing with an obvious joy and enjoyment. The music may be little more than a medley of familiar tunes, but they are well-loved tunes and very well played.

Producer Tim Handley and engineer Phil Rowlands recorded the album at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland in April 2015. The sound displays plenty of hall resonance, enough to give it a feeling of reality. This, along with a moderately distanced miking, a wide frequency range, and a good sense of orchestral depth, provide a lifelike setting for the music. The cello sounds particularly well integrated with the rest of the ensemble, so nothing stands out too much as spotlighted or compartmentalized. Ultimate transparency takes a second place behind the warmth of the sound, so don't expect too crisp a response, just a fairly natural one.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, July 2, 2016

Orion Announces 24th Season of Miniatures and Masterworks

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for
Adventurous Programming, announces its 24th season, Miniatures and Masterworks, featuring a variety of familiar and rarely heard compositions.

Orion performs each of its four concert programs at venues spanning the Chicagoland area, including the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago, the First Baptist Church of Geneva and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

The season opens with "Collage of Colors," with guest violist Stephen Boe, considered one of the finest chamber musicians in Chicago. The program includes a work written for Orion in 1996. Performances take place September 18 (Geneva), September 25 (Evanston) and September 28 (Chicago).

"Serenade by Three: Orion Beginnings" spotlights Orion's three original members: clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu and pianist Diana Schmück. Performances are November 6 (Geneva), November 13 (Evanston) and November 16 (Chicago).

Orion welcomes back guest violist Stephen Boe for its third concert program of the season, "Connections," which takes its name from a work written for Orion, Robert Kritz's Connections for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano (2001). Performances are March 12 (Geneva), March 15 (Chicago) and March 19 (Evanston).

The season concludes with "Wit and Passion," with violist Stephen Boe joining Orion for a program featuring two works by Jean Francaix. Performances are May 21 (Geneva), May 24 (Chicago) and May 28 (Evanston).

The Orion Ensemble performs its 2016-17 concert programs at three Chicago-area venues: the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, September 28, November 16, March 15 and May 24 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, September 25, November 13, March 19 and May 28 at 7:30 p.m.; and First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva on Sundays, September 18, November 6, March 12 and May 21 at 7 p.m. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Music Institute to Honor Memory of Gilda Barston
The Music Institute of Chicago is sad to report that longtime and much-loved cello faculty member Gilda Barston died June 25 after a long illness. She was 71 years old and lived in Evanston, Illinois.

Barston, Dean Emeritus of the Music Institute of Chicago and cello faculty for both its Community Music School and Academy program for gifted pre-college musicians, began her tenure at the Music Institute in 1973. A student of Leonard Rose, she received her bachelor's and master's degrees from The Juilliard School of Music in New York before coming to Illinois. Barston was principal cellist of the Chicago String Ensemble from its founding until 1983 as well as a member of the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, the Mu Phi Epsilon Trio, and the Lyric Trio. During her long career, she performed as a soloist and chamber musician in the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Japan.

Reflecting Barston's position as a master teacher, the Music Institute's Barston Suzuki Center, one of the largest and most highly regarded Suzuki Education centers in the country, bears her name. In 1998, Barston received a Distinguished Service Award from the Suzuki Association of the Americas (SAA) for her work with the SAA Cello Committee. A Registered Teacher Trainer of Suzuki Cello Pedagogy, she had served on the faculty of the American Suzuki Institute (ASI) since 1976 and was the recipient of the ASI's 2005 Suzuki Chair Award. She was artistic director of the Chicago Suzuki Institute, was CEO of the International Suzuki Association, and taught at many other Institutes and workshops throughout the United States and Canada, most recently as faculty of the National Cello Institute Advanced Cello Residency Program in Orange County, California. She was a faculty member and soloist at the International Suzuki Teachers' Conference in Matsumoto, Japan and taught at the World Conference in Edmonton, Canada; the Pan-Pacific Suzuki Conference in Adelaide, Australia; the Melbourne Autumn Festival; and Korean Suzuki Association Winter Camps. In 2006, she was an honored guest and faculty member at the 14th Suzuki Method World Convention in Turin, Italy. In May 2010, she and her daughter, Amy, were guest master class clinicians at the Suzuki Association of the Americas Conference in Minneapolis. They presented at the same conference in 2016, when the SAA announced the establishment of the Gilda Barston Legacy Scholarship Fund.

For more information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

July 4 Fireworks Spectacular, Plus the Second-Annual GMC Bluegrass Festival
July 4 Fireworks Spectacular:
The Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, with Steve Tyrell and the Santa Rosa Symphony, conducted by Michael Berkowitz. Monday, July 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/event/3122011-4th-of-july-fireworks-spectacular

Second Annual GMC Bluegrass Fesival:
The Mando Kings, featuring the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Sam Bush, and Jeff Austin Band. Sunday, July 10 at 3pm. Gates open at 1pm.

A star-studded event featuring a whose-who in bluegrass music, the GMC's 2nd Annual Bluegrass Festival is quickly becoming an annual favorite in Sonoma County. These multifaceted giants of bluegrass will move you and shake you with their fiery performances.

For more information, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/event/3139373-second-annual-gmc-bluegrass-festival

--Green Music Center, Sonoma State University

Emmy Award-Winning Composer and New England Conservatory Alum, Sean Callery
Emmy Award-winning composer and New England Conservatory alum, Sean Callery ("Homeland," "24" and "Bones"), and composer for Marvel's "Jessica Jones," talks about working on the series, his background in music, and much more on "This Week in Marvel," the Marvel Podcast.

Callery was born in Hartford, Connecticut and raised in Bristol, Rhode Island. He studied at New England Conservatory earning a degree in piano performance in 1987. In 1987, Callery moved to Los Angeles to work for New England Digital, the creators of the Synclavier synthesizer.

About "This Week in Marvel":
"This Week in Marvel" focuses on delivering all the Marvel info on news and new releases--from comics to video games to toys to TV to film and beyond. New episodes are released every Tuesday and Thursday and TWiM is co-hosted by Marvel VP & Executive Editor of Digital Media Ryan "Agent M" Penagos and Editorial Director of Marvel Digital Media Ben Morse with Manager, Video & Content Production Blake Garris, Editor Marc Strom, and Assistant Editor Patrick Cavanaugh.

Download episode #243.5 of "This Week in Marvel" from Marvel.com, which features Sean Callery:

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations, New England Conservatory

It's Not Too Late to Help Philharmonia Meet Our Challenge Grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies
I wanted to remind everyone that Bloomberg Philanthropies has awarded Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra an unprecedented $150,000 challenge grant in recognition of our artistic excellence and organizational strength. We are in the final hours of our challenge -- please donate by midnight tonight to help support the music you love.

Any donation you make today will be critical in helping us secure these funds next year. Plus, if you contribute $100 or more, you will receive a limited edition 30th anniversary tote bag! If you've already given recently, thank you! Your generosity allows us to bring you incredible music and take important artistic risks -- we could not do it without your support.

For more information on how to donate, visit https://philharmoniabaroqueorchestra.secure.force.com/donate/?dfId=a0ni0000000nXXSAA2

Noelle R. Moss, Director of Development, PBO

Juan Diego Flórez Signs to Sony Classical
Sony Classical is proud to announce a long-term exclusive contract with Juan Diego Flórez, one of today's most prominent stars of the opera and concert stage. The tenor of choice for the world's leading theatres in the bel canto repertoire and beyond, Juan Diego Flórez's fluid, expressive singing and dazzling virtuosity have thrilled audiences and critics alike and earned him global acclaim. The Financial Times recently noted: "For a voice of high class and high C's by the armful, Flórez is your man."

Born in 1973 into a musical family in Lima, Peru, the young singer studied at the National Conservatory of Music and with Peru's Coro Nacional before winning a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his deep love of opera was founded. Standing in for an indisposed colleague as Corradino in Rossini's Matilde di Shabran in 1996 proved to be a turning point in what was to become a stellar career. After this triumph, Mr. Flórez was promptly offered his début at La Scala, Milan, under Riccardo Muti, and since then he has conquered all the world's leading stages, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House in London, the Vienna Staatsoper, the Salzburg Festival, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and the Zurich Opernhaus, to name but a few. He has worked with the best-known conductors of the day, including Riccardo Chailly, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniele Gatti, James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Antonio Pappano and many more.

In 2007 Juan Diego Flórez made history at La Scala when he broke a 70-year-old taboo and gave the first encore in the theatre since 1933. The aria in question was "Ah! mes amis" from Donizetti's La Fille du régiment, renowned for its nine high Cs. He repeated the feat a few months later, in 2008, at the Met, again after a number of years in which no encores had been heard, and in 2012 at the Opéra de Paris, where no encore had been heard since the theatre's inauguration in 1989.

Juan Diego Flórez has an extensive discography for which he has been honored with countless international awards. He is passionate about music education and through his foundations Sinfonía por el Perú and Friends of Juan Diego Flórez works to bring about social change through music both in his native country and beyond. Mr. Flórez is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Classical

See What YPC Is Up To This Summer
In advance of this year's summer tour, Young People's Chorus of New York City Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez will conduct the YPC Chorale in a one-hour preview of its new tour program at Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park (entrance at 124th St. & 5th Ave.), in a pre-curtain performance to the Classical Theater of Harlem's 2016 Uptown Shakespeare in the Park production of Macbeth. Admission to both the YPC pre-curtain performance and Macbeth is free.

YPC's tour program provides an international musical kaleidoscope, ranging from contemporary treasures and soul- stirring gospel favorites, to music from the Broadway stage and around the world, complete with show-stopping choreography.

Members of YPC's Chorale are currently preparing for their upcoming summer tour. The first leg of their trip begins with a return engagement to Festival Napa Valley in Napa, California, where last year audiences cited the chorus's concerts as among the most memorable of the entire festival and the Napa Valley Register raved of their "remarkable performance(s)" and "outstanding singing." This summer's concerts take place on  Thursday, July 21, at 6 p.m. (PT) at the historic Mont La Salle Chapel and on Saturday, July 23, at 2 p.m. (PT) in a free community concert at the Lincoln Theater.

From Napa Valley, Francisco and the chorus travel to Austin, Texas, known as "the live music capital of the world," where YPC has been invited to perform at the iconic, 100-year-old Paramount Theater, a classical revival style structure that has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The concert takes place on Tuesday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m.

For complete details, visit http://www.ypc.org/

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

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