Classical Music News of the Week, December 31, 2016

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents World Premiere of Five Borough Songbook, Vol. II, February 11 and 12

Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents the world premiere of the Five Borough Songbook, Volume II on Saturday, February 11 at 8:00 p.m. at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, featuring twenty brand new works from twenty different composers, commissioned by 5BMF in honor of its tenth anniversary season. The Songbook, inspired by New York City places, poetry, and themes, is performed by soprano Marnie Breckenridge, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenor William Ferguson, baritone Sidney Outlaw, pianists Jocelyn Dueck and Erika Switzer, and cellist Kivie Cahn-Lipman. An additional performance is held on Sunday, February 12 at 3:00 p.m. at Flushing Town Hall in Queens.

The Songbook features new solo works, duets and ensemble pieces by some of today's leading composers of new classical music including Matthew Aucoin, Lembit Beecher, Conrad Cummings, Jonathan Dawe, Evan Fein, Daniel Felsenfeld, Herschel Garfein, Whitney George, Marie Incontrera, Laura Kaminsky, Libby Larsen, Hannah Lash, Missy Mazzoli, Jessie Montgomery, Robert Paterson, Paola Prestini, Kevin Puts, Kamala Sankaram, Gregory Spears, and Bora Yoon.

The second volume builds on the success of the initial Five Borough Songbook, which was developed during 5BMF's fifth anniversary season, and also featured twenty commissions from twenty different composers that were presented in concerts in all five boroughs, and preserved as a two-disc recording that topped the Billboard classical charts.

Both concerts on February 11th and 12th are preceded by a one-hour "Composer Chat" featuring Songbook creators. Future performances of the Five Borough Songbook, Volume II will be held in The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island throughout 2017, with concert dates and locations to be announced.

Tickets: $40 for VIP, $30 for general admission, $20 for students and seniors, available at

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

West Edge Opera Announces Snapshot Cast and Orchestra
West Edge Opera is proud to announce the artists involved in Snapshot. Over the course of two programs presented in both Berkeley and San Francisco, Snapshot presents excerpts from eight previously unproduced operas by Northern California composers and librettists. Snapshot's chamber orchestra is comprised of members of San Francisco contemporary music ensemble Earplay and will be led by Earplay's Mary Chun and West Edge Opera Music Director Jonathan Khuner.

The first Snapshot program takes place at 8 p.m. on January 21st at Berkeley's David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way) and at 3 p.m. on January 22nd at San Francisco's Bayview Opera House (4705 3rd Street). The cast of the first Snapshot program includes mezzo-soprano Buffy Baggott, soprano Chelsea Hollow, soprano Ann Moss, soprano Kristen Princiotta, baritone Jason Sarten, mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich, soprano Shawnette Sulker, and tenor Jacob Thompson. Comprised of members of San Francisco-based new music ensemble Earplay, the orchestra for Snapshot's first program includes pianist Karen Rosenak, violinist Terrie Baune, cellist Dan Reiter, bassist Michel Taddei, percussionist Kevin Neuhoff, and flutist Stacey Pelinka. The first Snapshot program features excerpts from David Conte and John Stirling Walker's Famous, Stephen Eddins and Michael O'Brien's Why I Live at the P.O., William David Cooper and Will Dunlap's Hagar and Ishmael, and Alden Jenks's Afterworld.

The second Snapshot program will be presented at Berkeley's David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way) at 8 p.m. on February 25th, and at San Francisco's Bayview Opera House (4705 3rd Street) at 3 p.m. on February 26th. The cast of the second Snapshot program includes baritone Daniel Cilli, tenor Darron Flagg, soprano Amy Foote, soprano Julia Hathaway, mezzo-soprano Molly Mahoney, and tenor Joe Meyers. Members of Earplay form the chamber orchestra for the second Snapshot program, including pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi, clarinetist Nick di Scala, flutist Stacey Pelinka, bassoonist Erin Levine, percussionist Kevin Neuhoff, violinist Kate Stenberg, violist Ellen Ruth Rose, cellist Leighton Fong, and bassist Kristin Zoernig. The second Snapshot program will include excerpts from Carla Lucero's Touch, Allen Shearer and Claudia Stevens's Howards End, America, Linda Bouchard's The House of Words, and Liam Wade and Vynnie Meli's The Stranger the Better.

General admission tickets, at $30, are on sale now and available for purchase by calling (510) 841-1903 or at

--Kate McKinney, West Edge Opera

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts: "Of Meistersingers and Mizmorim"
The art world has always been a bastion of globalism, with artists constantly borrowing from one another to create new, previously inconceivable works. In our increasingly anti-globalist, anti-immigrant time, it is important to remember that many of the artistic works that we hold dear would not have been possible without centuries of cultural exchange.

Few people know about the art world's multicultural debt more than Jessica Gould, the Artistic Director and Founder of Salon/Sanctuary Concerts. Salon/Sanctuary is a concert series that presents "early music in intimate venues which complement both the acoustic and the historical context of the repertoire" in order to "encourage understanding among people of different faiths." I recently spoke with Ms. Gould over the phone about Salon/Sanctuary Concerts' 2016-2017 season, "On the Margins," which explores the musical and historical world of exile. Our discussion focused primarily on the next installment in the series, "Of Meistersingers and Mizmorim: The Wandering Troubador, The Origins of Klezmer, and the Medieval Roots of Wagnerian Fantasy."

It's not a connection that most people would make, certainly, which is one of the reasons why I did this. Most of my motivation when programming is to draw attention to less explored avenues of music history--to use music as a window on history. This program doesn't say that there is a parallel between Wagner and the origins of Klezmer (which are in the Middle Ages). Rather, it points out the flaw in the Wagnerian mythology, that there was somehow a racial purity in the Middle Ages, an idea cherished by the Nazi party in the 30s. In reality, it was anything but "pure." It was a mishmash throughout Europe--there were wandering troubadours from France, Yiddish civilization was spread far and wide, and Poland became a refuge for many victims of expulsions throughout Europe.

Music and Texts by Moniot de Paris, Mahieu le Juif, Guiraut Riquier, Obadiah the Proselyte, and anonymous songs and dances.

Corina Marti: recorders & clavisymbalum
Ivo Haun: tenor
Ayelet Karni: recorders, pipe and tabor
Christa Patton: harp

For tickets and information, visit and

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day Concert to Air on Great Performances January 1
The Vienna Philharmonic's annual New Year's Day concert, "From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2017," conducted for the first time by Gustavo Dudamel, will air on Great Performances on PBS stations across the country on Sunday, January 1.

For more than 75 years, the Vienna Philharmonic has ushered in the New Year with the light and lively, quintessentially Austrian music of Johann Strauss, his family, and their contemporaries, performed at Vienna's Musikverein. Since 1987, the concert has featured a different conductor each year, and this year Mr. Dudamel, 35, will be the youngest-ever to lead the popular and festive New Year's concert. The Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Day concert is broadcast in over 90 countries and will have an estimated 50 million television viewers, making it the largest worldwide event in classical music.

Among traditional waltzes, polkas and other works, Mr. Dudamel will conduct Strauss's famous "Blue Danube" Waltz on the occasion of the work's 150th anniversary, and pieces by Otto Nicolai, founder of the Vienna Philharmonic. Host Julie Andrews will also take the viewer to picturesque Viennese landmarks, including Otto Nicolai's study in the Haus der Musik, and will join Mr. Dudamel in visiting the student musicians of Superar, the Sistema organization for Central Europe. Mr. Dudamel was famously a product of the Sistema program in his native Venezuela, and this broadcast will offer a special look at these talented musicians of tomorrow.

--Schuman Associates

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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 John 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 simple-minded, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

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