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

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa