African Heritage Symphonic Series, Volume 1 (CD review)

Music of  William Grant Still, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Fela Sowande. Paul Freeman, Chicago Sinfonietta. Cedille Records CDR 90000 055.

Look. I'm only going to say this one more time (or until I hear another disc from this source), so listen up. The folks at Cedille produce some of the best-sounding records in the industry. And as usual I'd like to commend engineer Bill Maylone for his contributions to the audiophile cause.

This 2003 release with the Chicago Sinfonietta under the directorship of its founder, Paul Freeman, is outstanding in every way. The sound is spectacularly wide, robust, dynamic, detailed, and wholly natural. Highs are sparkling, bass is deep and strong (with a drum rivaling the old Telarcs), depth perception is excellent, and imaging is superb. If the sonics have any weakness at all it's in the slightly soft midrange, yet even here it matches what I normally hear live in a concert hall.

But don't just buy the disc for its sound. The music is more than worthwhile, too. Volume One in Cedille's "African Heritage Symphonic Series," the album includes works by three prominent African American composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The program begins with two pieces by British-born Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), "Danse Negre" from his African Suite and Petite Suite de Concert. They are lightweight and highly accessible orchestral works from the man most famous for his big choral extravaganza, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast. Following them, we find an even more sprightly set of selections from Nigerian-born Fela Sowande (1905-1987), three movements from his African Suite.

Paul Freeman
Nevertheless, the Coleridge-Taylor and Sowande works are mere introduction to the disc's big number, William Grant Still's wonderful Symphony No. 1. Composer Still (1895-1978) came from a mixed background--African American, Native American, Anglo, and Hispanic--but never rejected his birth certificate identification as "Negro." His First Symphony from 1930, for those who've never heard it, will be a godsend for music lovers who enjoy Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, written half dozen years earlier. Still's symphony displays elements of blues, minstrel, ragtime, and Southern folk tunes, all fundamentally American idioms. The composer structured it in a traditional four-movement layout, with a big opening reminiscent of Rhapsody in Blue or Porgy and Bess, followed by a lovely Adagio, a brief but rousing Scherzo, and a surprisingly subdued but noble finale, all of which Maestro Freeman and ensemble play to perfection.

There is also a fine booklet essay on the three composers by music professor Dominque-Rene de Lerma included that does much to clarify the position of each man in the scheme of American musical life. All around, this disc was a sure crowd-pleaser to open Cedille's "African Heritage" series of recordings, and if you can find any of the series, I continue to highly recommend them.


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

Tharaud Plays Rachmaninov (CD review)

Piano Concerto No. 2; Cinq Morceaux de fantaisie for solo piano; Vocalise for piano and voice; Pieces for six hands. Alexandre Tharaud, piano; Alexander Vedernikov, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Erato 019029595469.

French concert pianist Alexandre Tharaud (b. 1968) is one of a growing number of fine, younger pianists who have developed almost fanatical followings in the past decade or two. The several dozen albums Tharaud has produced bear testament to his popularity, and the present one in which he plays the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto should do nothing to dispel his acclaim.

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, premiered by Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) in 1901, is one of the last of the great Romantic concertos. Well, OK, not really the last; that would probably be the composer's Third Piano Concerto. But the Second, with its grand, rhapsodic gestures epitomizes the Romantic tradition, so, close enough.

The history of the concerto is well known. Rachmaninov wrote it after recovering from a fit of depression brought on by the relative failure of his First Symphony and some severe complications in his personal life. As the story goes, it was only through hypnotherapy that he reestablished and revived his career. The Concerto would appear the perfect vehicle for the creative and energetic Tharaud.

Can one play the Second Concerto too Romantically? Tharaud seems to try, although I don't mean this as a bad thing. He plays with an assured calm and a sweet lyrical flourish. There is little overstatement in the performance, except perhaps to keep the music as smoothly polished as possible. Furthermore, Tharaud plays with a confident dexterity, and the Liverpool players give him a solid backup, without overwhelming him in the bigger sections of the score.

Tharaud's interpretation of the central Adagio glides along as tranquilly as we might expect from hearing a similar treatment of the first movement, with no inordinate surprises. It's quite lovely, in fact, even if it seems a little too leisurely and measured at times. Then, in the final movement we get a healthy but again not overheated influx of adrenaline. Indeed, the listener may find this either refreshing or too tame, take your choice.

Alexandre Tharaud
The question remains, though, how Tharaud's performance stacks up against great recordings of the past, ones from Ashkenazy, Janis, Horowitz, Richter, Wild, even Rachmaninov himself. Here, the case for Tharaud is not quite so compelling. In fact, a quick comparison to the composer's own version finds Tharaud lacking a good deal of potency, passion, and drama. Still, those things may not be what every listener wants, and Tharaud's gentler approach may be a good antidote to the more-melodramatic renderings we often hear.

The remainder of the program consists of a series of shorter Rachmaninov pieces: Cinq Morceaux de fantaisie for solo piano; Vocalise for piano and voice (with soprano Sabine Devieilhe); and Pieces for six hands (with pianists Alexander Melnikov and Aleksandar Madzar). Given that all three of the album's pianists plus the conductor are Alexanders (of various spellings), one wonders if Tharaud or his producer chose them to perform as some kind of in-joke. Or was it really coincidence? In any case, I enjoyed these smaller pieces, Tharaud displaying all the sensitivity he showed in the concerto but on a more-intimate and, perhaps, more-appropriate scale. (Well, OK, maybe he needs to be more theatrically menacing in the Prelude in C sharp minor if he's going to hope to compete with the best.)

Producer, editor, and mixer Cecile Lenoir and engineer Philip Siney recorded the concerto at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, UK in 2016 and the chamber music at Salle Colonne, Paris, in the same year.

In the concerto, the piano is well out in front of orchestra. Fortunately, it sounds smoothly recorded, if a trifle soft, and the orchestra likewise, making the entire enterprise quite easy on the ears. So, while the piano appears most natural, the orchestral transparency could have been a bit more pronounced. In the smaller pieces at the end, the piano seems even more lifelike, with a tad more definition. And without a full orchestra behind it, the piano seems more realistically alive.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 26, 2016

Opera Colorado's 2017-18 Season Premieres New American Opera and Presents Beloved Classics

Opera Colorado has announced their 2017-2018 season, which continues to enrich and diversify the scope of its programming with their second world premiere in two years, while also staging enduring works from the classic repertoire.

The three-production season will feature the world premiere of Steal a Pencil for Me, a WWII romance based on a true story, with music by Gerald Cohen and libretto by Deborah Brevoort; Giacomo Puccini's beloved classic La Bohème; and Giuseppe Verdi's masterful comic opera Falstaff. In 2017 – 2018 Opera Colorado will also continue to explore performing in diverse venues throughout the community, staging Steal a Pencil for Me at the Elaine Wolf Theatre at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, MACC at the JCC.

"We're thrilled to be continuing our mission to support new American work by staging the world premiere of Steal a Pencil for Me—right on the heels of our world premiere of The Scarlet Letter in May 2016—and sharing with audiences a richly complex and moving depiction of this true story," said Greg Carpenter, General Director. "We're equally excited about the classic works we will be presenting next season. La Bohème holds a special place in our company's history because we first staged it during our inaugural season featuring the legendary Placido Domingo. This will also mark the first time we present Falstaff in over 25 years, so we look forward to introducing younger audiences to Verdi's incomparable satirical opera."

For complete information, visit

--Clarissa Marzan, Resnicow and Associates

Golden Gate Symphony Presents "Sing It Yourself Messiah"
The Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra & Chorus celebrates the holiday season with its annual "Sing It Yourself Messiah" on Monday, December 12, 7:30 p.m. at Mission Dolores Basilica and Sunday, December 18, 6:00 p.m. at Southern Pacific Brewery. Music Director Urs Leonhardt Steiner will also lead the chorus and audience members with piano accompaniment at the final performance on Monday, December 19, 8:00 p.m. at The Homestead.

These performances mark the Golden Gate Symphony's 10th annual "Sing It Yourself Messiah," offering audiences the opportunity to raise their voices in one of Handel's most beloved choral works and continuing the organization's mission of making classical music accessible and adventurous for all.

The "Sing It Yourself Messiah" is a longstanding tradition in the Bay Area. Created in 1979 by Milton Salkind (1916-1998), former President of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, these performances were a holiday favorite at Davies Symphony Hall for over 25 years. As a student at the Conservatory during this time, Urs Leonhardt Steiner served as President of the Student Body and worked closely with President Salkind on a number of Conservatory programs designed to take classical music to the San Francisco community at large. After the Conservatory announced that they were discontinuing this popular tradition, Maestro Leonhardt Steiner reimagined and revived the "Sing It Yourself Messiah" in a fitting tribute to his mentor. Ten years later, the tradition now includes everything from a full orchestral and choral performance at the Mission Dolores Basilica, to a raucous singalong at two popular Mission bars, the Southern Pacific Brewery and the Homestead.

Golden Gate Symphony & Chorus: "Sing It Yourself Messiah"
Monday, December 12, 7:30 p.m., Mission Dolores Basilica, San Francisco
Sunday, December 18, 6:00 p.m., Southern Pacific Brewery, San Francisco
Monday, December 19, 8:00 p.m., The Homestead, San Francisco *chorus and piano reduction

Mission Dolores tickets available at Bar performances are open to the public, with limited seating and suggested donation of $20.

--Brenden Guy, Press and Media Relations

New CEO at American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
David Hirsch, President of the Board of the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO), announced today that the Board, following a unanimous recommendation of a search committee, has appointed Naomi Grabel as the AFIPO's first Chief Executive Officer effective December 12, 2016.

Mr. Hirsch states: "Ms. Grabel's extensive background made her a great candidate, but it was her vision that ultimately led to her selection as our very first CEO.  The board of the AFIPO has found in Naomi a leader who will focus not only on development but on increasing our footprint through social media to a much larger, more diverse, and younger audience. We recognize that young people are looking to connect with Israel in many ways, and as Israel's greatest non-political ambassador, we fill a very clear and important space."

For more information, visit

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

ACO and WWFM Announce The ACO Experience
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) and WWFM The Classical Network announce The ACO Experience, a new radio program hosted by Diane Guvenis that features live recordings of music by today's most talented and exciting composers. All works are performed by the American Composers Orchestra or by guest artists and ensembles participating in ACO concerts and ACO's 2011 and 2015 SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, nine-day citywide festivals in New York, each featuring music by more than 100 composers age 40 and under. The broadcast will air once a month on Mondays at 9pm. More information about recent and upcoming broadcasts is available online at:

David Osenberg, WWFM Music Director, says, "In addition to the great European masters and masterpieces of the past The Classical Network is committed to music of our country and our time. For over four decades ACO has been a beacon for American music past and present. This broadcast partnership will allow ACO's invaluable mission and outstanding performances to reach a new and expanded audience."

ACO President Michael Geller says, "We are thrilled to have an ongoing radio presence with The ACO Experience. So much of the music that ACO performs includes world premieres that are unavailable anywhere else, so it makes sense to make this exciting and eclectic new music available beyond the walls of the concert hall. It helps leverage our mission on behalf of the talented composers writing today. And we are tremendously excited about the partnership with WWFM, an award-winning station that has such a strong commitment to new music."

--Katy Salomon, Jensen Artists

Music Institute Welcomes Holidays and New Year
Academy Chamber Music Concert
Saturday, December 3, 7:30 p.m.: performances by students in the Music Institute's Academy for gifted pre-college musicians

Family Program: "Duke It Out!"
Saturday, December 10, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.: adaptation of The Nutcracker, curated by Dance Chicago, that pairs the classical (Tchaikovsky) and jazz (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn) versions of the holiday favorite, performed by Axiom Brass and Music Institute Ensemble-in-Residence Quintet Attacca and several Chicago-area dance companies. $7 general admission

Master Class: Euclid Quartet
Saturday, December 10, 6:15 p.m. (public may observe)
Thoresen Performance Center, Winnetka Campus, 300 Green Bay Road

Music Institute of Chicago Chorale: "Curtains Up!"
Sunday, December 11, 7:30 p.m.: The Chorale's 30th anniversary seasons opens with a program of music for the stage, opera, and musical theatre, in collaboration with the Chicago Children's Choir ensembles from Rogers Park and Humboldt Park. $15 adults, $10 seniors, $7 students,

New Around Town Series
Music of Harold Arlen: Heidi Kettenring, vocals; Jeremy Kahn, piano
Monday, December 12, 7:30 p.m.
Double Monk: Jeremy Kahn and Steve Millon, pianos
Monday, January 30, 7:30 p.m.

Community Music School recitals, concerts, and special events

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

DCINY Presents the North American Premiere of Sir Karl Jenkins's Cantata Memoria
On January 15 at 2 p.m., Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) will present the North American Premiere of Sir Karl Jenkins's Cantata Memoria For the Children (In Memory of Aberfan 1966) at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, NYC. Jonathan Griffith, DCINY Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, guides the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International in this new work, a heartfelt memorial to the 116 children and 28 adults who died in the coal mining town of Aberfan, Wales in 1966 when a catastrophic collapse of a slag pile was caused by a buildup of water in the accumulated rock and shale.

Sir Karl said: "Apart from depicting the disaster itself, Cantata Memoria is also a celebration of childhood, gradually moving from darkness to light. I felt privileged and humbled to have been invited to compose this piece, whilst also being mindful of the responsibility the commission carried to create something with integrity and accessibility that would connect and move everyone."

For more information, visit

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Holiday Sale. Select Single Tickets 50% off Through Monday
Get 50% off select single tickets in San Francisco and Palo Alto, CA.
Offer good now through Monday 11/28 at midnight.

For a limited time, you can stock up on Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra concert tickets for the rest of the season and save big time! Get PBO concert tickets for yourself or give them as gifts this holiday season.

Choose any price section at select concerts taking place in San Francisco or Palo Alto. There is no limit on the number of tickets or concerts you buy with this fantastic offer. Just order online before Monday 11/28 at midnight.

Use promo code HOLIDAY2016 to get your 50% discount on select PBO concerts now!
Hurry, this offer expires Monday 11/28 at midnight.

Handel's Joshua
Thursday, December 1 @ 7 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Friday, December 2 @ 7 pm | First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto

PBO Sessions: Handel's Joshua
Tuesday, December 6 @ 8 pm | Jewish Community Center SF

Hayden & Mozart
Friday, January 27 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Operatic Heroes
Friday, March 3 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Don't Forget!
Use Promo Code HOLIDAY2016 to get your 50% discount today.

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Paul Kletzki: Great Conductors of the 20th Century (CD review)

Paul Kletzki, various orchestras. EMI 7243 5 75468 2 9 (2-CD set).

The bigger studios continue to mine their vaults for old material in new packaging, sometimes becoming redundant, sometimes finding gold. In the case of EMI's latest issue of remasterings, titled "Great Conductors of the 20th Century," they have provided a service in offering us much material never before available on CD.

Each release is a mid-priced two-disc set, and there are thirteen releases in EMI's first batch. They cover Sir Adrian Boult, Albert Coates, Carlo Maria Giulini, Erich Kleiber, Paul Kletzki, Otto Klemperer, Pierre Monteux, Charles Munch, Leopold Stokowski, Vaclav Talich, Eugene Ormandy, Carl Schuricht, and Bruno Walter. I chose to review Paul Kletzki because I think he's one of the great overlooked conductors of the last century, comparatively few of his recordings presently available on CD.

Each of these sets includes recordings the conductors made throughout their lives, irrespective of whether they are in mono or stereo. Thus, each set usually contains a mixture of both. In the case of the Kletzki discs, three of the items are in mono and five are in stereo. Actually, none of the items are marked mono or stereo, but the recording dates are given and one's ears can do the rest. One live recording from 1965 turned out to be in monaural.

Paul Kletzki
Of the Kletzki selections, I enjoyed the Tchaikovsky most of all, the Fifth Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1967 and the Capriccio italien with the Philharmonia Orchestra from 1958. EMI released both of them in stereo and both are decently recorded, although perhaps a bit thin and scrawny by today's standards. In some parts, the Capriccio can be downright spectacular in vividness and impact, while slightly scratchy in others; the interpretations are heartfelt in the case of the Symphony and robust and thrusting in the case of the Capriccio.

The thing with Kletzki, as with all of the great conductors listed above, is that he wasn't afraid to be himself and impose at least some of his own will on the music, as opposed to so many of today's conductors who all tend to sound alike. Kletzki had a great ear for the rhythms of a piece, a musician's ear, and you can feel the lyrical and dance-like qualities he brings out in many of the works, as well as the driving vigor of others.

Among the further delights in the set are Berlioz's Bevenuto Cellini overture; Schubert's Rosamunde Entr'acte No. 5; Dvorak's Slavonic Dances in D major, C minor, and C major; Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage overture; Brahms's Symphony No. 4; and Wagner's Traume No. 5. In addition to the orchestras mentioned, the groups employed include the Royal Philharmonic, the French Radio National Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Czech Philharmonic.

So, there's quite a variety of music here, and all of it worthwhile.


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

For the Love of Brahms (CD review)

Double Concerto; Piano Trio; Schumann: Violin Concerto. Joshua Bell, Music Director and violin; Steven Isserlis, cello; Jeremy Denk, piano; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Sony Classical 88985 32179 2. 

So, if Music Director Joshua Bell and producer Adam Abeshouse decided to title the album "For the Love of Brahms," why did they include Schumann's Violin Concerto as the second item on the program? The answer, of course, lies in the friendship and inspiration resulting from an early meeting of the young Brahms with the older Schumann (and his wife Clara). Let it suffice that Brahms found much encouragement from the older composer and his spouse.

Anyway, the first item on the program is the Double Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op. 102 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Brahms wrote it in 1887 as a kind of peace offering for his friend, violinist Joseph Joachim, with whom he had just had a dispute. The work would be Brahms's final composition for orchestra.

The Double Concerto is an odd work, with critics of the day variously describing it as "inapproachable and joyless" on the one hand and as having "vast and sweeping humour" on the other. Certainly, Brahms intended it in good faith and said of it, "I had the jolly idea of writing a concerto for violin and cello. If it succeeds at all, we may well have some fun with it." One thing all critics agreed upon, though, was that it required a pair of distinguished performers on violin and cello, which is what we get in Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis.

One can see from the outset what may have initially divided critics and listeners. The opening movement starts out in a fairly dark mood, the cello contributing heavily. The soloists both contribute to the music equally, the cello sounding appropriately sonorous and the violin aptly sweet. Then, as the work opens up, it gets lighter and brighter, with the Andante appearing warmer and more harmonious than ever and the finale as lively as expected. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, always a welcome treat for me, accompanies the soloists with their usual polish and élan, Bell leading the ensemble with grace and passion. Moreover, because the flexible but essentially chamber-sized ASMF isn't as massive as some larger orchestras, they never overwhelm the soloists but complement them as equivalent partners.

Next we get the second, slow movement of the Violin Concerto in D minor by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), a work with an even more erratic history than the Brahms. Schumann wrote the piece in 1853, but because of a series of bizarre events (including spirit voices and Adolph Hitler), it didn't see a premiere until 1937. Here, we find the Langsam (slow, in the sense of slow physical movement and limited forward momentum), one of the loveliest of Schumann's creations. The performance is beautiful, heavenly even.

Joshua Bell
The program ends with Jeremy Denk, piano, Joshua Bell, violin, and Steven Isserlis, cello, playing Brahms's Piano Trio in B major (1854 version), the composer's very first published piece of chamber music. Again, it was Robert and Clara Schumann who inspired the young Brahms to write it. Under the careful guidance of the three soloists, the piece is glowing with good cheer, youthful buoyancy, captivating lyricism, and moody reflection.

Producer, recording engineer, mixer, and editor Adam Abeshouse made the album at Cadogan Hall, London, and DiMenna Center, New York City, in January and May 2016. The sound Abeshouse obtains is quite good, but don't expect it to be too much like that of Philips, Argo, and EMI in their earlier recordings of the Academy. Those recordings were slightly rounder (especially the Philips) and more reverberant than this Sony recording. This time out, the Academy is a slight bit closer yet a slight bit warmer. That doesn't make the newer recording better or worse, only a bit different, and listeners will decide for themselves whether it meets their taste.

For myself, I don't care for live recordings, but I do like recordings that strive to emulate the sound of a real orchestra in a real concert hall, which this one doesn't entirely achieve but comes close enough. The sound has a healthy, natural appeal to it, with a wide stereo stage, a wide frequency response, and a wide dynamic range. While there isn't an overabundance of resonant bloom, there is enough to recreate a pleasantly ambient environment, one that again seems to represent a lifelike venue pretty well. Detailing hasn't the reach-out-and-touch-it clarity of some hi-fi recordings, yet it scores with a remarkably truthful definition, about what one would find of a real-life event. Yes, the recording might have used a tad more sparkle, but maybe that's just me. The piano in the final number seems a touch too big for the other instruments, too, but, again, it's of minor matter. In all, it sounds quite nice, which is the main thing.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 19, 2016

Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral

Jeffrey Thomas conducts the period-instrument specialists of American Bach Soloists, the renowned American Bach Choir, and a quartet of brilliant vocal soloists in Handel's beloved masterpiece in one of San Francisco's most awe-inspiring, sacred spaces. ABS, Handel, and Grace Cathedral are perennially a winning combination and a highlight of the holiday season. A beloved San Francisco Bay Area tradition now in its 18th consecutive year, ABS's performances of Handel's timeless work attract music lovers from around the world.

Wednesday December 14, 2016, 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Thursday December 15, 2016, 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Friday December 16, 2016, 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Additional performances:
Saturday December 10, 2016, 7:00 pm at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Davis, CA
Sunday December 18, 2016, 3:00 pm at the Green Music Center, Rohnert Park, CA

For more information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

Canada's Honens Piano Competition Announces Details of its 2018 Edition
Calgary-based Honens today announced details of its 2018 Piano Competition. Pianists of all nationalities, aged 20 to 30 on August 30, 2018, with the exception of past Honens Laureates and professionally managed artists, may apply starting February 1, 2017. The application deadline is October 31, 2017. The Competition's Quarterfinals take place in Berlin and New York in March 2018.  Semifinals and Finals take place in Calgary from August 30 to September 8, 2018.

"Once again, we're looking forward to welcoming the world to Calgary in 2018 as we discover the next Complete Artist," said Neil Edwards, Honens' President. "This is an exciting time to be leading one the world's foremost music competitions."

Today's announcement includes details on the Competition juries, collaborating musicians and mentor.  "Honens' reputation for discovering and nurturing today's most engaging concert pianists is due in large part to the quality of the Competition's jurors, collaborators and mentors.  Once again, for 2018, we have invited some of the world's top music professionals and musicians active on the concert stage," commented Stephen McHolm, Honens' Artistic Director.

The Honens juries include concert pianists and other individuals from the music world who play a meaningful role in a concert artist's career. They include artist managers, collaborative musicians, conductors and concert and festival presenters. All jurors have extensive knowledge of the piano literature and represent and/or are aware of the qualities an artist must possess in order to build and sustain a career today.

For complete information, visit

--Nancy Shear, Shear Arts Service

Tickets to Handel's Joshua with PBO on Sale Now
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra SESSIONS: Handel's Joshua
Tuesday December 6, 2016: 8 PM
San Francisco Jewish Community Center
3200 California St, San Francisco, CA

A superhero, special effects, romance, and cataclysm - all in one English Baroque music drama. G.F. Handel takes the Biblical story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho and brings it to life in his oratorio Joshua. PBO SESSIONS will break down this masterwork with context, history, music, multimedia enhancements, and a lively discussion.

Led by Bruce Lamott, Philharmonia's Chorale Director and Professor of Music History at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, in conversation with KDFC's Hoyt Smith, PBO SESSIONS will include performances by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale as well as special guest vocalists.

Following the concert, stick around to meet Bruce, Hoyt, the Orchestra, and Chorale, and enjoy a glass of complimentary wine provided by WineWise.

General Admission Tickets just $25. For more information, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

National Philharmonic Singers Present Holiday Concert
The National Philharmonic Singers, under the direction of conductors Stan Engebretson and Victoria Gau, will present a holiday concert on Saturday, December 3 at 8pm at Christ Episcopal Church, Rockville, MD.

A candlelight processional leads the program that will feature such well-known works as Stanford's Magnificat in G Major; Renaissance motets In Dulci Jubilo and Resonent in Laudibus; popular carols; and a sing-along of Christmas tunes.

The National Philharmonic Singers is a chamber choir and one of several performing groups from the National Philharmonic in residence at the Music Center at Strathmore. As such, it promotes works suited for smaller ensembles, whether with accompaniment or a cappella.  Its repertoire ranges from 15th to 21st centuries, and it often premieres new compositions by local composers.  In summer of 2013, the group was invited to participate in the international choral competition in Llangollen, Wales. This is the 12th year of performances at Christ Church with free-will offering benefiting the Community Ministries of Rockville.

The December 3 concert at the Christ Episcopal Church is free, but donations in support of the Community Ministries of Rockville will be gratefully accepted. The church is located at 107 South Washington Street in Rockville, MD.

For directions, please visit For more information about the concert, call the church at 301-493-9283, ext.116.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Program Change - 92Y December Concert: Peter Serkin
December 10: Peter Serkin steps in with solo recital.

Peter Serkin offers an exciting mix of composers in works that together provide a rich tapestry of works centuries apart. Though their names may be unfamiliar or new to some, Josquin, Sweelinck, Bull, Dowland and Byrd are all eminent and significant 16th-century composers. As Anthony Tommasini recently mentioned in the New York Times, Mr. Serkin has been in the vanguard of "inquisitive artists with a knack for juxtaposing old and new works on imaginative programs." We are privileged that this brilliant pianist brings his passionate love for all music to 92Y. Pianist Julia Hsu, originally scheduled to appear in a duo recital with Mr. Serkin, is regretfully unable to perform.

Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 8 PM
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall
Masters of the Keyboard
Peter Serkin, piano

Tickets are available at or 212-415-5500

For more information, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

Robert Trevino Appointed Basque National Orchestra's New Music Director
Most young conductors, flushed with excitement over their first music directorship, don't set their jaw and speak with determination of the "intense work" ahead. But then Texas-born Robert Trevino, who has just been named the incoming Music Director of the Basque National Orchestra, is not most young conductors.

The 32-year-old, most recently Associate Conductor at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra - and previously Conducting Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival (where he won the James Conlon Prize), at the Tanglewood Festival and Associate Conductor at New York City Opera - dropped out of school in his teenage years to home-study and concentrate on music. The result was an early degree, long, long days of poring over scores, the mentorship of David Ziman and eventually his star-making substitution (for Vasily Sinaisky) to conduct Don Carlo at the Bolshoi.

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians November Newsletter
Designed to serve youngsters in low income communities, the FAYM "Violins for Kids" project, established in 2009, provides instruments, materials, two class lessons each week, concert experiences, and a 2-week summer camp at nominal cost. Enrollment has grown from 11 to 150 youngsters from 51 schools in greater Las Vegas. Parents play an integral part by paying an affordable tuition fee, attending lessons, and participating in fundraising activities.

FAYM keeps administrative overhead low. Administrative functions are performed by highly qualified volunteers. There is no paid CEO or office staff, and no office or classroom rental fees or utility costs. Legal, accounting, website and other services are generously donated 'pro bono' by experts in their fields. Contributions, therefore, go directly for scholarship assistance, program support, and teacher salaries.

Your generosity is needed to grow this program to serve more "at possibility" youngsters. No gift is too small and ALL are most appreciated!

FAYM's programs have won recognition from the Clark County School District's Board of Trustees & Partnership Program, the Clark County Board of Supervisors, and such celebrities as singer, Josh Groban, world famous solo bassist Gary Karr, Teller (of Penn & Teller), and Jamie Bernstein, daughter of renowned conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein.

Upcoming Events:
Piano Master Class with Igor Lipinski
Friday, November 18, 2016, 3:30-5pm
Doc Rando Hall @ UNLV

Invitation-Only Event
Piano Recital with Igor Lipinski
Sunday, November 20, 2016, 3pm
 Las Ventanas Retirement Community

FAYM Winter Recital
Saturday, December 10, 2016, 3pm
East LV Community Center

Donate by mailing your check to FAYM, 9513 Coral Way, Las Vegas, NV 89117 or by visiting

--Hal Weller, FAYM

Sono Luminus Announces New Partnership with Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Sono Luminus announces a new recording partnership with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. The first recording will be conducted by composer/conductor Daníel Bjarnason, and will feature music by Icelandic composers Daníel Bjarnason, Thurídur Jónsdóttir, María Huld Markan, Hlynur A. Vilmarsson, and Anna Thorvaldsdóttir. The sessions will take place from December 5-9, 2016 at Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland, and an April 2017 release date is planned.

"I'm thrilled about our new relationship with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra," Sono Luminus CEO Collin Rae says. "It is not only a spectacular step for all involved but also seemingly a very natural one! We look forward to bringing recordings of the ISO's impressive performances, showcasing some of today's most exciting Icelandic composers, to listeners."

Arna Kristin Einarsdottir, Managing Director of ISO says, "To record new Icelandic music is one of the most important role of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Through our collaboration with Sono Luminus we are able to reach further and let Icelandic music be heard."

For more information, visit and

--Katy Salomon, Jensen Artists

Mahler Chamber Orchestra Newsletter
Last week, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra returned to Europe after our almost three-week-long tour in Japan with Artistic Partner Mitsuko Uchida. From Sapporo in the north, we made our way south to Osaka, Toyota and Tokyo, for our residency at Suntory Hall. In 1986, Mitsuko performed the complete Mozart piano concertos during its inaugural season; on this occasion, it was an honour for us to celebrate Suntory Hall's 30th anniversary, with Mitsuko leading us in programmes centered around Mozart's piano concertos.

Next week, we embark on the European part of our tour with Mitsuko Uchida. We are already looking forward to bringing the results of our work together over the past few weeks to our friends in Europe. For us, being able to devote an extended period time working on and performing this repertoire is truly a gift.

We hope that you will join us for one of our concerts on this upcoming tour – so that you, too, can experience the magic of Uchida and Mozart.

Suntory Hall's 30th Anniversary Celebrations:
The MCO and Artistic Partner Mitsuko Uchida celebrated the 30th anniversary of Tokyo's Suntory Hall not only with a residency at Suntory Hall, but also with an extensive Japanese tour featuring additional concerts in Sapporo, Osaka, and Toyota.

German Design Award
The MCO's brand identity, which was developed in close cooperation with Molina Visuals, has received a Special Mention Prize of the German Design Award 2017.

For more information, visit

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Utah Symphony and Music Director Thierry Fischer's Emmy Award-Winning National Park Symphony - The Mighty Five
The five-time Emmy Award-winning National Park Symphony–The Mighty Five, featuring spectacular time-lapse footage of Utah's iconic national parks—collectively known as the Mighty 5--set to music selected and recorded by the Utah Symphony and Music Director Thierry Fischer, airs on PBS stations nationwide this holiday season, including on KQED initially on November 27 at 8:30 AM PST. (Check local listings for exact days and times.)

The documentary was inspired by the Utah Symphony's August 2014 Mighty 5 tour during which the orchestra performed free open-air classical music concerts against the natural backdrop of the red rock arches, spires, and canyons for which southern Utah is known.

For more information visit

--Lisa Jaehnig, Schuman Associates

Rossini: Six Sonatas for Strings (CD review)

Antonio Janigro, I Solisti di Zagreb. Vanguard Classics SVC-144.

Here is one of my favorite old groups, I Solisti di Zagreb, led by their founder, conductor and cellist Antonio Janigro (1918-1989) performing the ever-delightful Sonatas for Strings by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868). I could hardly recommend a set of performances more highly.

Rossini claimed much later in life that he wrote the six little sonatas for string orchestra when he was twelve years old and knew next to nothing about musical composition. Some people take him at his word; others think the old man was embroidering his youth or just plain kidding around. In any case, in the mid-twentieth century the original scores, dating from 1804, showed up in the Library of Congress, so I guess the composer wasn't kidding. Rossini rearranged the works for string quartet some time after their composition, but the chamber orchestra versions we get here are the ones we often hear these days.

Antonio Janigro
The sonatas are charming in every way, displaying the vigor and zest of youth with lovely, tranquil interludes. Of the various recordings of the chamber-ensemble scores available, only Marriner with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on Decca and I Solisti Veneti on Erato equal Janigro and his group for bringing out the most felicitous moods of the music.

Vanguard's sound derives from 1956 and 1957 recording sessions, and it is really quite excellent, very clear, very nicely delineated, thanks to the Super Bit Map remastering the company did for the 2001 rerelease. What's more, there is very little background noise, just clean, transparent sound throughout.

But here's the kicker: The first four sonatas are in monaural. I swear, I didn't even realize it until I was about twenty minutes into the disc and began wondering why the sound field seemed a tad too narrow for stereo. You see, at first I was so bowled over by the clarity of the sonics, I didn't even notice the lack of stereo spread. Then, I thought, this is so clear and so narrow, I wonder if it isn't the quartet edition after all. Finally, I read a small notation on the back of the jewel box that notified me of the truth. The mono should not deter anyone. The fact is, the monaural tracks are just as transparent than the stereo ones and one hardly notices their narrow spread. The whole package really is a lovely listening experience.


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

Vangelis: Rosetta (CD review)

Vangelis. Electronic music commemorating the Rosetta space mission. Decca 5700631.

Vangelis. Yes, that Vangelis is back. Not that he's ever left. The fellow who gave us the soundtracks for Cosmos, Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire, The Bounty, Alexander, El Greco, and many more has returned with another album of electronic music, this time honoring the European Space Agency's Rosetta space mission. If you think Vangelis's music is beginning to sound a lot the same to you, though, don't feel bad; there are at least two of us who feel that way.

Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (b. 1943), better known by his professional name, Vangelis, is a Greek composer of, according to Wikipedia, "electronic, progressive, ambient, jazz, and orchestral music." Mostly, I suppose, we know him for his electronic, synthesizer work, much of which is fascinating, especially when accompanying motion pictures. Taken alone, however, it may sound a bit too spacey and New Age for some listeners, although Vangelis himself denies such a categorization, saying New Age material "gave the opportunity for untalented people to make very boring music." Whatever the case, for me a single listening session with Rosetta was enough, and I'm not sure I'll be going back to it again too often. But, obviously, all music is a very personal preference, and, as Vangelis points out, music can be "one of the greatest forces in the universe." Very true. And whether Rosetta turns out to be such force, you'll have to decide for yourself.

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched their Rosetta Mission in 2004, naming it after the Rosetta Stone, inscriptions on an ancient stone that led to the modern translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The goal of the mission was to do a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and the spacecraft ended its calling by actually landing on the comet.

Here are the track titles to give you some idea of the album's content:
  1. "Origins (Arrival)"
  2. "Starstuff"
  3. "Infinitude"
  4. "Exo Genesis"
  5. "Celestial Whispers"
  6. "Albedo 0.06"
  7. "Sunlight"
  8. "Rosetta"
  9. "Philae's Descent"
10. "Mission Accomplie (Rosetta's Waltz)"
11. "Perihelion"
12. "Elegy"
13. "Return to the Void"

Vangelis understands that music about an unmanned space probe needs to convey a number of things, including the human emotions of the people who sent it up there in the first place. So, his music conveys plenty of atmosphere, majesty, suspense, and thrills. Most of all, though, it conveys a feeling for the vastness of space, the isolation, the desolation, and the loneliness, even though no one is aboard the spacecraft. The only problem with this is, as I suggested earlier, that a little can go a long way, and after the first few of the album's tracks I had the feeling I had heard it all before.

Anyway, my own favorite tracks included the first one, "Origins," for its depiction of the grandeur of space and the splendor of the mission; the fourth track, "Exo Genesis," for its quiet restraint; the fifth, "Celestial Whispers," for its placid calm; the eighth track, "Rosetta," for its lovely melody, which sounds familiar but is hard to place; then "Perihelion" for its insistent rhythms; and the final track, "Return to the Void," for its otherworldly moods.

One minor qualm: Decca chose to package the disc in a rather cheap folded cardboard layout, with a small booklet in the front sleeve and the CD in the rear. Either you have to shake the disc out of the sleeve, or you have to use your fingers to pry it loose. Either way, you risk scratching the disc surface or getting your fingerprints on it. Neither is a good idea.

Vangelis composed, arranged, produced, and performed the music; Philippe Colonna engineered the album; and Decca released it in 2016 to coincide with the completion of the Rosetta Mission. In order for music like Vangelis's to work properly, it needs a full-scale, big-time sonic production, and that's what it gets here. The sound is wide ranging, with plenty of deep bass and shimmering highs; it's clear and vibrant; and it's quite dynamic, providing all the ambiance and impact it needs. The sound itself is fun to listen to.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 12, 2016

PBO Performs Handel's Joshua December 1-4

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale will present George Frideric Handel's rarely performed oratorio Joshua throughout the San Francisco Bay Area this December 1-4.

PBO sees it as essential to regularly include rarely performed Handel oratorios in its programming. Nicholas McGegan, a Baroque music scholar, is an adept interpreter of Handel oratorios and the Orchestra has performed eighteen of them to date including other rarities such as Semele, Jephtha, Belshazzar, and Athalia.

Chorale Director and PBO Scholar-in-Residence Bruce Lamott says, "Though rarely performed today, Joshua was popular with audiences long after Handel's death. Its chorus "See, the conquering hero" became one of his most memorable tunes. The orchestration is one of Handel's most colorful, as well, with both trumpets and horns, flutes and oboes. Joshua features powerful and expressive choruses voicing the triumphs and emotions of the post-exodus Israelites."

Guest artists for this program include tenor Thomas Cooley as Joshua, countertenor Daniel Taylor as Othiniel, baritone William Berger as Caleb, soprano Yulia Van Doren as Achsah, and soprano Gabrielle Haigh with 24 voices from the Philharmonia Chorale, directed by Bruce Lamott, performing the chorus roles.

See Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale perform Handel's Joshua throughout the San Francisco Bay Area December 1-4. Programs take place Thursday, December 1 at 7 pm at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco; Friday, December 2 at 7:30 pm at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto; Saturday, December 3 at 7:00 pm at First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley; and Sunday, December 4 at 4:00 pm at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church in Lafayette.

Tickets for the Berkeley and Lafayette concerts will only be available at the door on the day of the performances. Tickets for the San Francisco and Palo Alto concerts are available at or call 415-392-4400. Prices range from $27 to $108.

For more information about this and other Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale concerts, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Hungarian Pianist and Conductor Zoltan Kocsis Dies at Age 64
Zoltan Kocsis, a famed pianist and conductor and musical director of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, has died at age 64. The Philharmonic said Kocsis died Sunday afternoon. No specific cause of death was given, but Kocsis underwent major heart surgery in 2012.

Last month, the orchestra announced that he was suffering from poor health and, following doctors' orders, cancelling most of his concerts to rest and recuperate. "We announce with deep mourning that Zoltan Kocsis died this afternoon after a long illness borne with dignity," the Philharmonic said in a statement. "The vacuum he leaves is immeasurable."

Hungary's Ministry of Human Resources, which oversees cultural affairs, said Kocsis, who also was a composer and arranger, had been "a giant already in life" and his death was an "irreplaceable loss for Hungarian culture and contemporary music history." Kocsis founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983 with Ivan Fischer and became musical director of the Philharmonic in 1997.

"Zoltan Kocsis was a musical giant, one of the rare geniuses," Fischer said on his Facebook page. "His impact on his whole generation is immeasurable."

For more information, visit

--Pablo Gorondi, AP

National Philharmonic Presents Handel's Messiah at Strathmore
Hear the genius of Handel as the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale perform his most beloved oratorio, the Messiah, on Saturday, December 17 at 8pm and Sunday, December 18 at 3pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. Led by Artistic Director Stan Engebretson, the concert will feature the National Philharmonic's nearly 200 voice all-volunteer Chorale, as well as soloists Danielle Talamantes (soprano); Magdalena Wór (mezzo-soprano); Matthew Smith (tenor); and Christòpheren Nomura (baritone).

Handel's Messiah, among the most popular works in Western choral literature, was first performed in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The composer's most famous work is divided into three parts that address specific events in the life of Christ. Part one is primarily concerned with the Advent and Christmas stories; part two chronicles Christ's passion, resurrection, ascension and commitment to spreading the Christian message; and part three is based primarily upon the events chronicled in the Revelation of St. John. The National Philharmonic and Chorale, in addition to a stellar cast of soloists, will perform the complete work, which includes such favorites as "The Trumpet Shall Sound," "And the Glory of the Lord," and, of course, the famous "Hallelujah Chorus."

A free pre-concert lecture will be offered at 6:45 pm on December 17 and at 1:45 pm on December 18 in the concert hall at the Music Center at Strathmore. To purchase tickets to National Philharmonic's Messiah concerts on December 17 and 18, please visit or call the box office at (301) 581-5100. Tickets start from $28. Kids 7-17 are FREE through the ALL KIDS, ALL FREE, ALL THE TIME program (sponsored by The Gazette). ALL KIDS tickets must be purchased in person or by phone.

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

December Concerts at 92nd Street Y
Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 8 PM
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Art of the Guitar
Ana Vidovic, guitar

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 8:30 PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Sir András Schiff Selects: Young Pianists
Mishka Rushdie Momen, piano (92Y debut)

Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 8 PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Masters of the Keyboard
Julia Hsu (92Y debut) & Peter Serkin, piano four-hands

For further information or tickets, call 212-415-5500 or visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

Four Premieres by Award-winning Composer Debra Kaye
Award winning composer Debra Kaye is celebrating the season with the premieres of four new works, Mouth of the Sky and The Dance the Turtle Dreamed from Kaye's String Quartet No. 1, presented by the New York Composers Circle, Encountering Lorca for string orchestra presented by Composers Concordance, and Ikarus Among the Stars for orchestra commissioned by the Portland Youth Philharmonic. In addition to her compositions, Kaye's busy schedule this season will include creating a series of pieces for the New Music Box blog.

Hailed as "a unique voice in American music, transcendent...witty... colorful...profound," Debra Kaye is a star whose brilliance continues to grow. Her body of work blends her deep classical roots with a wide range of influences including jazz, world music, folk, experimental improvisation, world events and sounds of daily life. Kaye's catalogue of works includes close to 40 chamber music, art songs, choral and theatrical compositions, and continues to expand through her steady stream of commissions.

--Genevieve Spielberg Inc.

Berkeley Symphony and Guest Conductor Elim Chan Perform U.S. Premiere of MacMillan's Symphony No. 4 Dec. 8
Guest conductor Elim Chan makes her Bay Area debut leading Berkeley Symphony in the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan's Symphony No. 4, a Berkeley Symphony co-commission, and Shai Wosner is soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 on Thursday, December 8 at 8 pm at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA. Berkeley Symphony Music Director Joana Carneiro has announced that she is withdrawing from the concert. The MacMillan work is a co-commission by Berkeley Symphony, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for the Berkeley Symphony concert December 8 are priced at $15 to $74 and are available at or by phone at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1.

--Jean Shirk Media

One Found Sound Presents Copland's Quiet City
One Found Sound, a chamber orchestra that performs without a conductor, continues its 2016-2017 season on Friday, December 9 with a program highlighted by Copland's rarely-performed Quiet City for English horn, trumpet and orchestra.

Shining a light on the individual talents from within the ensemble, One Found Sound will feature orchestra members Jesse Barrett (English horn) and Brad Hogarth (trumpet) as soloists for this work. The program also showcases the combined wind and brass sections of the orchestra in George Enescu's Decet for Winds, Op. 14 with Kodály's Dances of Galánta rounding out the evening. Hosted at Heron Arts, the concert will be performed in conjunction with a sneak preview of the Beehive Society's latest art installation scheduled for launch on December 10, 2016.

Friday, December 9, 8:00 p.m., Heron Arts (7 Heron Street, San Francisco, CA)
Single tickets are $20 or $45 and can be purchased through

--Brenden Guy PR

Cal Performances Presents Kronos Quartet, December 3
Cal Performances welcomes back the Kronos Quartet for a concert featuring three works by composers from Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, on Saturday, December 3, at 8pm in Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA.

Through its "Fifty for the Future" initiative, Kronos is commissioning a collection of 50 new works—10 per year for five years—from an eclectic group of 50 composers (25 men and 25 women); the new works explore contemporary approaches to the string quartet, designed for student players and emerging professional ensembles. Cal Performances is a major project partner for "Fifty for the Future," which aligns closely with its Berkeley RADICAL initiative to cultivate artistic literacy in future generations.

Tickets for Kronos Quartet, "Fifty for the Future" on Saturday, December 3 at 8pm in Zellerbach Hall range from $36–$68 and are subject to change. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall,at(510) 642-9988, at, and at the door.

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky (CD review)

Also, Khachaturian: Violin Concerto. Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Leonid Kogan, violin; Pierre Monteux, Boston Symphony Orchestra. RCA 09026-63708-2.

Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote his cantata Alexander Nevsky for the soundtrack of Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 motion picture of the same name. The film epic and the music commemorate the Russian repelling of a German invasion in the thirteenth century. In the tale, Prince Alexander Nevsky gathered an enormous army and met the enemy on the frozen ice of Lake Chud, where he dealt the Knights of the Teutonic Order a huge defeat. Today, people admire the film quite a lot, but I daresay even more folks know film's score better.

Eisenstein said of Prokofiev that he "...makes it possible for the screen to reveal not only the appearance and subjects of objects, but also, and particularly, their special inner structure...and forces the whole inflexible structure to blossom into the emotional fullness of orchestration." The movement titles say it all the better: "Russia Under the Mongolian Yoke," "Song About Alexander Nevsky," "The Crusaders in Pskov," "Arise, Ye Russian People," "The Battle on the Ice," "Field of the Dead," and "Alexander's Entry Into Pskov."

Fritz Reiner
The 1959 recording of the score by Fritz Reiner and his Chicago Symphony does full justice to the music, bringing out the anxiety of anticipation, the brutality of fighting, the heartache of loss, and the exhilaration of victory. Equally important, RCA's "Living Stereo" sound is entirely up to the task of conveying the nuances and explosiveness of the music. The hitch is that Andre Previn recorded an equally good account for EMI with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1972, and Warner still have the EMI disc in their catalogue, offering it at a very low price.

Here are some of the differences between the Reiner and Previn recordings: Reiner's interpretation is a tad more heartfelt, and RCA's sound is wider and clearer. Previn's performance is a shade quicker and more energetic, and EMI's sound is a bit warmer. On the loudest choral climaxes, the EMI tends to break up slightly more than the RCA. Additionally, Previn's chorus sings in the original Russian, while Reiner's forces sing in English.

Choice between the two may rest with their couplings. The EMI/Previn disc gives us a superb realization of Rachmaninov's The Bells, based on the Edgar Allan Poe poem; the RCA disc offers Khachaturian's Violin Concerto with Leonid Kogan on violin and the Boston Symphony conducted by Pierre Monteux, recorded in 1958. Sonically, the Khachaturian is not as smooth or comfortable as the Prokofiev, and while Monteux, Kogan, and company play exceedingly well, personally I have never cared overmuch for the Violin Concerto. So it's an easy choice for me to pick the EMI disc. , For you, however, it may be quite different, and Reiner's performance is very persuasive.


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

Messiaen: L'Ascension (CD review)

Also, Ives: Orchestral Set Number 2. Leopold Stokowski, London Symphony Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

This 1970 Decca release, remastered by HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), combines a very popular but somewhat controversial conductor with an equally popular but almost equally controversial recording format. I suspect that despite the high quality of the performance and sound, the listening public may still find the disc at least slightly suspect. Let me explain.

First, the conductor. English-born U.S. orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski (1882–1977) established an enormous following with his often highly idiosyncratic interpretations of the basic classical repertoire. His long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and his starring role in Disney's Fantasia didn't hurt his reputation, either. People then and now found his music making enormous entertaining. But it was sometimes this same eccentricity so many folks thought charming that at the same time annoyed other people. His unusual tempo changes, his stops and starts and pauses and elongations, could at times twist familiar music into something unbearable to dedicated classical music lovers. Add to that his own orchestral arrangements and transcriptions of well-known music, and it could be too much for some listeners.

Second, there was Decca's Phase 4 sound. Stokowski lived into his mid nineties, long enough to have made a number of stereo recordings for companies like RCA, EMI, and Decca. By the time of this Messiaen disc, Decca was well into their Phase 4 era. According to Decca, "Phase 4 was a special series of recordings from the '60s and '70s which presented music in spectacularly vivid sound." And according to Wikipedia, this sound "was characterised by an aggressive use of the highest and lowest frequencies and a daring use of tape saturation and out-of-phase sound to convey a lively and impactful hall ambiance, plus considerable bar-to-bar rebalancing by the recording staff of orchestral voices, known as 'spotlighting.' In the 1960s and 1970s, the company developed its 'Phase 4' process, which produced even greater sonic impact through even more interventionist engineering techniques." The fact is, Phase 4 sound used multi-miking to the extreme, often producing a close-up, compartmentalized sound field that dazzled some listeners with its clarity and detail yet exasperated others, especially audiophiles with its frequently unnatural perspective.

Leopold Stokowski
Fortunately, neither the performances on the program nor the sound on this HDTT remastering should concern Stokowski or Phase 4 critics. Both hold up pretty well.

First up on the agenda is L'Ascension ("The Ascension" of Christ into Heaven after the Resurrection) by the French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). He wrote the orchestral suite between 1932-33, the composer describing its four brief movements as "meditations for orchestra." He labeled the sections "Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père" ("The majesty of Christ demanding its glory of the Father"), "Alleluias sereins d'une âme qui désire le ciel" ("Serene alleluias of a soul that longs for heaven"), "Alleluia sur la trompette, alleluia sur la cymbale" ("Alleluia on the trumpet, alleluia on the cymbal"), and "Prière du Christ montant vers son Père" ("Prayer of Christ ascending towards his Father").

Stokowski handles the score with a characteristic élan, most often elevating it to graceful heights. It's fairly quiet music, yet it has a distinctive rhythmic drive, which the conductor invariably observes. The orchestra, always on its toes at a moment's notice, plays compellingly for the old man and, if anything, sounds almost too lush and luxuriant for the relative modesty of the music. Or perhaps it's just the richness of the Phase 4 sound that sometimes overwhelms the score. In any case, it's a lovely interpretation, with just the right mixture of wonder and inspiration to keep a listener transfixed.

The other item on the program is also a modern piece but quite different from the Messiaen. It's the Orchestral Set No. 2 by American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954). He wrote it between 1915 and 1919, a three-movement suite based on musical reminiscences: "An Elegy to Our Forefathers," a kind of memory of Stephen Foster music; "The Rockstrewn Hills Join in the People's Outdoor Meeting," memories of camp-revival meetings; and "From Hanover Square North at the End of a Tragic Day, The Voice of the People Again Arose," a recollection of the day news broke of the sinking of the Lusitania, a catalyst for the U.S. entering World War I.

Here, Stokowski seems to relish in indulging the composer's eccentricities. The reading is crammed full of grand sweeps and dramatic gestures, the conductor capturing the atmospheric theatrics of Ives's vision of Americana. If the Messiaen work is spiritually uplifting, the Ives is just plain fun.

The only catch to the album: its length. The two pieces combined total just a little over thirty-five minutes. If that doesn't bother you, and it's quality of performance and sound over quantity of material, the length shouldn't be a problem.

Producer Tony d'Amato and engineer Arthur Lilley recorded the music for Decca Records at Kingsway Hall, London, in June 1970. HDTT remastered it in 2016 from a London 4-track tape, and they make it available in a wide number of formats, from CD and DVD to various HD digital downloads.

The remastered sound conveys all of the characteristics of Phase 4 described earlier, yet it exhibits a good deal of orchestral depth and warmth as well. The result is that the sonics may be a tad too close for comfort and too spotlighted, yet they also sound fairly natural, with the ambience of Kingsway Hall in ample evidence. While the strings tend to appear too hard and steely at times, it's only in isolated instances that it happens, the rest of time sounding just fine.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 5, 2016

Rita Moreno Joins California Symphony for Peter & the Wolf in Two Holiday Concerts

The California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera ring in the holiday season with two special concerts starring beloved actress Rita Moreno, who narrates Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf in performances with the Orchestra December 20 at 7:30 pm and December 21 at 4 pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. The Orchestra also plays selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite, Johann Strauss Sr.'s Radetzsky March, Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, and leads the audience in a sing-along of selected favorite Christmas and holiday songs designed for the entire family to enjoy. The December concerts open with Kevin Beavers's Bright Sky.

Rita Moreno, best known to many for her portrayal of Anita in the classic musical film West Side Story, is one of only 12 entertainers in history to win all four major annual U.S. entertainment awards: the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. Her career has spanned nearly seven decades. She had a major role in the film The King and I and performed for six years on the children's show The Electric Company. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in West Side Story. She has also won numerous lifetime achievement awards, including the Kennedy Center Honor, the SAG Life Achievement Award, and the National Medal of Arts. She recently completed production for the Latino remake for Netflix of Norman Lear's classic sitcom, One Day at a Time, which will premiere in January 2017.

Prior to both concerts, kids and adults will be able to make Peter and the Wolf puppets in the Lesher Center lobby. Tickets for the concerts are priced at $42-$72, and $20 for students, subject to change. Tickets are available by calling 925-943-7469 or at

For more information, visit

--Jean Shirk Media

LA Master Chorale Announces "Christmas in Los Angeles" Events
The Los Angeles Master Chorale brings the gift of music to Walt Disney Concert Hall in December with a series of festive "Christmas in Los Angeles" concerts. The varied programs blend traditional carols, Baroque-era madrigals, and new works alongside the popular annual opportunity for the audience to sing-along to Handel's majestic oratorio, Messiah.

"For lovers of choral music, Christmas truly is a wonderful time of the year," says Los Angeles Master Chorale Artistic Director, Grant Gershon. "We are proud to continue our tradition of bringing the many voices of Los Angeles together for two Festival of Carols concerts, to further introduce our audiences to the wonderful talents of Eric Whitacre, and to give people the chance to sing Messiah in Walt Disney Concert Hall. These are always festive and joyous concerts that we love to perform."

Gershon will conduct two Festival of Carols concerts and the 36th Annual Messiah Sing-Along. Newly appointed Assistant Conductor, Jenny Wong, will make her Master Chorale debut on the "Festival of Carols" program, conducting two pieces. The "Christmas with Eric Whitacre" concert will be conducted by the Master Chorale's Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Whitacre himself and also features several pieces he has composed. All concerts are held in Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA.

Festival of Carols:
Saturday, December 3, 2 pm
Saturday, December 10, 8 pm

Christmas with Eric Whitacre:
Sunday, December 4, 7 pm

36th Annual Messiah Sing-Along:
Sunday, December 18, 7:30 pm

Tickets to all concerts are available now, starting from $29 at 213-972-7282 or

For more information, visit

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Mirror Visions Ensemble Presents "When Icicles Hang by the Wall"
On Tuesday, December 6 at 8:00 p.m., Mirror Visions Ensemble (MVE) presents its winter-inspired program "When Icicles Hang by the Wall" at the Loreto Theater at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, NYC, as part of the ensemble's 25th anniversary season. The concert features soprano Vira Slywotzky, tenor Scott Murphree, and baritone Mischa Bouvier, together with pianist Grant Wenaus.

The program begins with a triple "mirror vision"—three different musical settings of the same text—of Shakespeare's "When Icicles Hang by the Wall" from Love's Labour's Lost, by three different composers: Roger Quilter, E.J. Moeran, and Richard Lalli (MVE commission). Also on the program are beloved seasonal favorites including Carol of the Bells sung in the original Ukrainian, Irving Berlin's Snow!, popularized by the classic holiday movie White Christmas, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock's Twelve Days to Christmas from the musical She Loves Me, and Britten's Procession: Hodie Christus natus est, and Balulalow from his Ceremony of Carols, as well as traditional holiday songs from Germany, Sweden, France, England and Australia.

Loreto Theater
18 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
Tickets: $20 ($15 for students); visit or call 212-925-2812

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts & Media

DCINY Presents the New York Premiere of Go Sing It on the Mountain: A Christmas Cantata
On November 28 at 7PM, Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY)  will present the New York Premiere of Go Sing It on the Mountain: A Christmas Cantata at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. North Carolina based composer/conductor Pepper Choplin guides the Distinguished Concerts Singers International in his newest work, a Christmas-themed cantata for orchestra and voice entitled Go Sing It on the Mountain.

The second half of the concert will feature Pennsbury High School's own James Moyer conducting Faure's Requiem.

Pepper Choplin, full time composer, conductor and humorist, has gained a reputation as one of the most creative voices in church music today. With a diverse musical background, Choplin incorporates varied styles such as folk, Gospel, classical, and jazz into his compositions, and his published work includes over 250 anthems for church and school choir, 16 church cantatas and a book of piano arrangements. Since 1991, his choral music has sold several million copies around the world, and each week, thousands of singers present his music in churches and schools in the United States and around the world.

For more information, visit

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

Lara Downes at Le Poisson Rouge; NPR Music Features "America Again"
Pianist Lara Downes releases her new album, "America Again," on Sono Luminus tomorrow, October 28, 2016. Downes will perform selections from the album at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street), NYC, on Monday, November 21 at 7pm, including the New York premiere performances of Angélica Negrón's Sueño Recurrente, Dan Visconti's Nocturne from Lonesome Roads for piano, and David Sanford's Promise. The evening will be hosted by Skip Dillard from 107.5 WBLS-FM, New York's Urban Adult Contemporary station.

America Again was featured this week by NPR Music's First Listen series, and described by NPR's Tom Huizenga as "a smartly programmed, wide-ranging anthology of solo piano works by American composers past and present; male and female; straight and gay; rich and poor; white, black and Latino."

The album's title is taken from Langston Hughes's 1938 poem, "Let America Be America Again," and features nineteen pieces selected by Downes that explore the elusive but essential American dream, written by composers including Duke Ellington, Lou Harrison, Morton Gould, Amy Beach, George Gershwin, Angélica Negrón, Dan Visconti, Leonard Bernstein, Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, Florence Price, Aaron Copland, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and more.

For more information, visit

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Richard Sussman: "The Evolution Suite"
Richard Sussman: "The Evolution Suite" for Jazz Quintet, String Quartet, and Electronics
A compelling integration of jazz, contemporary classical music, and electronics

Richard Sussman's ground-breaking "Evolution Suite" for Jazz Quintet, String Quartet, and Electronics is a five-movement, hour-long composition and the culmination of almost a decade of development.

CD Release Concert:
Sunday Night, November, 6, 8:00pm
The Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street, New York, NY
For tickets & information, visit

--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

OpenICE Feature Weekend at Abrons Arts Center
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) continues its OpenICE program with three consecutive days of open-access programming at the Abrons Arts Center from November 10 to 12. In addition to several educational and outreach events which will serve children and adult clients of the Henry Street Settlement and Abrons Arts Center during the November weekend, OpenICE will present three concerts and two workshop events that are free and open to the public.

OpenICE is an international initiative to develop, engage, and sustain diverse 21st-­century listeners through an outpouring of artist-­driven programming that is free and open to the public. The program aims to serve constituencies with limited access to the art form, working with students of all ages and backgrounds, forming new partnerships with community leaders and cultural organizations in nontraditional venues, and making ICE's work available through DigitICE, the ensemble's online library of contemporary music performances. Launched in 2015, OpenICE will yield more than 160 new, free concerts featuring more than 60 newly commissioned works in its first three seasons.

This season, OpenICE is a regular platform for the performance of works discovered through ICEcommons, ICE's crowd-sourced reference library of new music. The November 12 evening concert will include two new ICEcommons selections by Camilla Agosto and Monte Weber; at 6pm, preceding the show, ICE will host an informal submission session, inviting composers of all ages and backgrounds to learn more about the archive and how to contribute to it.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

National Philharmonic Announces 2016 Concerto Competition Winners
Soloists to perform at student concerts at the Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD.

Each fall, as part of its education program, the National Philharmonic sponsors a concerto competition for high school musicians. The Philharmonic is pleased to announce the winners of this year's competition: saxophonist Jacob Tycko; clarinetist Jason Hong; cellist Mairead Flory; and violinist Julia Angelov. Each of the winners will appear at the Music Center at Strathmore with the National Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, in two of the eight performances (at 10:45 am and 12:25 pm) for nearly 15,000 2nd grade students from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) on November 15-18.

The November 15-18 student concerts are co-presented by MCPS, the National Philharmonic and the Music Center at Strathmore.  MCPS second-grade students experience classical music, many for the first time, when they attend these annual Strathmore Student Concerts in November.

Students learn about the four families of instruments that make up the orchestra through these multimedia concerts. The concerts include video and images of instruments projected onto a large screen as the music is per­formed. Students also sing along with the orchestra to the Little Train of Caipira and experience Leonard Bernstein's Overture to Candide and Russell Peck's The Thrill of the Orchestra, narrated by teacher and percussionist Greg Jukes, himself a past concerto winner.

For more information, visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Eastman Philharmonia and Renée Fleming Premiere Kevin Puts's Letters from Georgia
Letters from Georgia, a new song cycle by Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts commissioned by the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music for Eastman Philharmonia Orchestra and soprano Renée Fleming, will receive its world premiere performances on Saturday, November 12, in Rochester, NY, and Monday, November 14, at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, NYC.

Puts, an alumnus of Eastman (BM '94, DMA '99), wrote the piece specifically for his alma mater's Philharmonia and Fleming, a fellow Eastman alum  (MM '83 HNR '11). Inspired by letters written by artist Georgia O'Keeffe, the song cycle marks the first collaboration between Puts and Fleming. Letters from Georgia headlines the program, conducted by Neil Varon, which also includes Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole and Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5. The November 14th performance marks the Philharmonia's welcome return to New York City after more than 25 years.

Tickets, ranging from $31-121, are available by calling (585) 274-3000 or at and

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Brooklyn Rider at Flushing Town Hall
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents a concert by genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider on Friday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, NY. The concert is the second performance in 5BMF's tenth anniversary season of bringing world-class, affordable chamber music to every borough in New York City.

The program features Philip Glass's String Quartet No. 3, "Mishima," Janácek's String Quartet No. 1, "The Kreutzer Sonata," and Brooklyn Rider member Colin Jacobsen's BTT, which is a tribute to the New York downtown music scene of an earlier era that included Glenn Branca, John Lurie, Meredith Monk, the Velvet Underground, the Ramones, and many more. Also on the program is Beethoven's String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, Op. 95.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

National Philharmonic's Conductor Piotr Gajewski Honored with Kosciuszko's Pioneer Award National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski has been honored with the Kosciuszko Foundation's 2016 Pioneer Award. Maestro Gajewski will receive the award at the foundation's annual gala on November 12th at the Mayflower Hotel. "I am thrilled to be honored by the Kosciuszko Foundation with its Pioneer Award," said Maestro Gajewski. "It is a privilege to continue to remind American and other audiences around the world about the rich Polish music tradition."

In addition to his role as conductor of the National Philharmonic, Gajewski is Principal Guest Conductor of the Silesian Philharmonic (Katowice, Poland) and a frequent guest conductor at other Polish orchestras, including the Warsaw and Krakow Philharmonics. Since 2007, he has also served as the only American on the jury of Poland's prestigious Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Conductors.

Gajewski began studying piano at age four. After immigrating to the United States, he continued his studies at the Preparatory Division of the New England Conservatory, at Carleton College in Minnesota and at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned B.M. and M.M. degrees in orchestral conducting. His conducting mentors include Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Gunther Schuller, Maurice Abravanel and Leonard Bernstein, with whom he studied at the Tanglewood Music Center on a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship.

Maestro Gajewski's many prior honors include Poland's Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit bestowed on him by the President of Poland, and a prize at New York's Leopold Stokowski Conducting Competition.

For more information, visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

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

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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