Krenek: Complete Piano Concertos, Volume Two (CD review)

Double Concerto; Little Concerto; Concerto for Two Pianos; Piano Concerto No. 4. Mikhail Korzhev, piano; Eric Huebner, piano; Nurit Pacht, violin; Adrian Partington, organ. Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra. Toccata Classics TOCC 0392.

In a booklet note accompanying this disc, author/teacher/conductor Peter Tregear writes, "Ernst Krenek's reputation as a 'one-man history of twentieth century music' is nothing if not well deserved." I think he probably means that the Austrian-born American composer Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) produced over 240 works in his lifetime, adopting a variety of compositional forms along the way, from late-Romantic to atonality, from neoclassicism to experimental jazz, and from modal counterpoint to twelve-tone writing, serial techniques, and electronic music. He mainly earned a living, though, by teaching, lecturing, and completing the unfinished material of other composers, and today he may be more famous for his short-lived marriage to the daughter of Gustav Mahler than for anything he composed.

Anyway, in 2016 Toccata Classics released the first volume of Krenek's complete piano concertos with Mikhail Korzhev, piano, and Kenneth Woods leading the English Symphony Orchestra. It contained the first three of Krenek's four solo piano concertos, and this second volume with the same forces contains the fourth one, along with several other, shorter concerto works that make Volume Two even more varied and interesting than the first disc.

The program begins with Krenek's Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 123, which he wrote in 1950. What I said about the performance team last year still applies: Korzhev's piano playing is scintillating, Woods's direction is warmly encouraging, and the orchestra is uniformly precise. For me, the Fourth Concerto is also the most fascinating and perhaps the most consciously modern, meaning it's nothing that you're going to go away humming, but it's something that may rivet your attention from beginning to end. Also, interestingly, Korshev, Woods, and the English Symphony give it its premiere recording. You'd think somebody in the past sixty-odd years would have found the music attractive enough to record, but I guess some things just get lost in the shuffle. Thank goodness for people like Woods championing a good cause.

Kenneth Woods
So, the first movement starts us off in a somewhat tumultuous state (marked "agitato" or agitated and "pesante" or heavy), its cadences unremitting. The second, slow movement is both lyrical and slightly atonal, which also seems a contradiction, yet works. The third and final movement is the most stylistically varied, a kind of march, and the most insistently rhythmic. Pianist Korzhev gets us through it with verve aplenty, and Maestro Woods and his players accompany him with an equal zest.

Next is the Concerto for Two Pianos, Op. 127, written in 1951, in which pianist Eric Huebner joins Mr. Korzhev. It's in four short movements and alternates between the sublime and the frenetic. The fact that I did not particularly enjoy it seems irrelevant; it's vibrant, pulsating, and dynamic in the capable hands of the soloists and orchestra.

After that is the Double Concerto for Violin and Piano, Op. 124 from 1950, with violinist Nurit Pacht joining Mr. Korzhev. This work is in six or seven movements, depending on how you break up the final one. Despite the number of movements, the whole piece is quite brief, the movements only two or three minutes each. The dialogue between the violin and piano (the violin usually dominant) is casual and intimate, the music dance-like. The performers do up the work in an elegant manner, giving it a modern yet quaintly old-fashioned feeling.

The program ends with the Little Concerto for Piano and Organ, Op. 88 from 1940, with organist Adrian Partington joining in the fun. The orchestral accompaniment is the most diminutive in this selection, the score almost salon-like in its chamber setting. The music is also at its most poetic here, the organ gently filling in a quiet background. There is nothing ostentatious about the piece, just a sweet, generally tenderhearted little ditty performed with warmth and affection.

Producer Michael Haas and engineer Ben Connellan recorded the concertos at Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales in September 2016. The sound is a little close and sometimes highlights instruments unnecessarily, but it nevertheless provides good orchestral depth and excellent clarity. There is nothing harsh, bright, or edgy about the sonics; indeed, it is quite the contrary, with smooth, detailed sound all the way around, especially the highs, which truly shimmer and glisten.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Classical Music News of the Week, December 9, 2017

ICE Winter and Spring Concerts in NYC

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces their spring 2018 season in the New York area, all following the theme of celebrating composer relationships, both past and future.

On Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 8pm, ICE continues its residency at Brooklyn's National Sawdust, performing a concert of world premieres by Okkyung Lee, Nicole Mitchell, and Lu Wang. Featured ICE musicians include bassoonist Rebekah Heller, guitarist Daniel Lippel, saxophonist Ryan Muncy, clarinetist Joshua Rubin, pianist Cory Smythe, flutist Alice Teyssier, and harpist Nuiko Wadden. The program will feature Okkyung Lee's ha-yeom, Nicole Mitchell's Inescapable Spiral, and Lu Wang's Ryan and Dan.

On January 10,12, 13, 18, 19, and 20, 2018 at 7:30pm at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, the Prototype Festival will present ICE in the world premiere performances of Mikael Karlsson's opera The Echo Drift, with libretto by Elle Kunnos de Voss & Kathryn Walat. Commissioned, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and American Opera Projects, The Echo Drift was originally developed by Karlsson and Kunnos de Voss in a full-length workshop presented by the Embassy of Sweden in Washington DC in 2014, and follows convicted murderer Walker Loats, who is trapped in a tiny, timeless prison cell. Using the visual world of animation, The Echo Drift unravels a cycle of deceit, temptation, seduction, and fantastical perception featuring a live chamber ensemble, electronics, and a six-channel surround sound system.

From January 24 to February 3, ICE reprises Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang's the whisper opera in 13 performances at NYU Skirball. With direction and design by Jim Findlay, the whisper opera features sopranos Tony Arnold and Alice Teyssier and ICE musicians Kivie Cahn-Lipman (cello), Claire Chase (flute), Ross Karre (percussion), Joshua Rubin (clarinet). The small audience and musicians are enclosed in an intimate onstage set, as the opera, performed almost entirely in whispers, explores the question: "What if a piece were so quiet and so personal to the performers that you needed to be right next them or you would hear almost nothing?" the whisper opera was premiered at Lincoln Center's 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival, and since toured across the US and Europe.

On Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 8pm, ICE returns to the Miller Theatre for a Composer Portrait celebrating young Irish composer Ann Cleare. ICE musicians perform some of Cleare's most striking works in an ensemble led by Steven Schick, including the square of yellow light that is your window, inspired by fellow Irish artist Oscar Wilde; Dorchadas; eyam iv for contrabass flute and ensemble; and a world premiere of a new work for voice, bassoon, viola, cello, bass.

Continuing their season theme of composer relationships, on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 7pm, ICE publicly addresses the famous Harvard Norton Lectures by Leonard Bernstein, given in 1973, in Bernstein's "Unanswered Questions" at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at the New York Public Library. Originally titled "The Unanswered Question," in reference to Charles Ives's immortal orchestral work, the extremely opinionated and charismatic lectures became a flashpoint for music historians, composers, performers, and audiences. Forty-five years later, and on the occasion of the Bernstein centennial, ICE attempts to bring the perspective of hindsight to Bernstein's achievement. Structured as a dialogue with musical performances, this event allows ICE to use its new-music expertise to gain a modern point of view on the questions that Bernstein so eloquently raised.

For more information, visit iceorg.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral
American Bach Soloists present their annual performances of Handel's masterpiece, Messiah, in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, December 13-15.

Suzanne Karpov, soprano (debut)
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor (debut)
Zachary Wilder, tenor
Hadleigh Adams, baritone (debut)
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Wednesday December 13 2017 7:30 pm
Thursday December 14 2017 7:30 pm
Friday December 15 2017 7:30 pm

Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street at Taylor, San Francisco, CA.

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

--American Bach Soloists

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale: Handel's Messiah
Join us Sunday for a timeless holiday tradition: experience Handel's Messiah – a season favorite – in all its historical glory with Nicholas McGegan and America's leading period instrument ensemble Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale performs with an international cast of stars.

Sunday, December 10, 3:00 pm
Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
1801 East Cotati Avnue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Yulia Van Doren, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
James Reese, tenor
Philip Cutlip, baritone

For more information, visit https://gmc.sonoma.edu/event/3532154-philharmonia-baroque-orchestra-chorale-handel-s

--Green Music Center

New Distribution Deal for LSO Live in North America
[PIAS] America Announces Distribution Deal with LSO Live, Mariinsky and King's College labels.

[PIAS] America is pleased to announce that starting January 22, 2018 it will begin distribution of the LSO family of classical labels including LSO Live, King's College and Mariinsky. Also, in March 2018, the LSO will launch a new label, Colin Currie Records, which will also be distributed by [PIAS] America.

LSO Live is the London Symphony Orchestra's own record label. Launched in 1999 with the aim of reaching new audiences for classical music as well as dedicated listeners, it was the first of the new breed of artist-owned labels which have helped revitalise? the market for classical music.

LSO Live recordings are owned by the Orchestra itself. The players, conductors and soloists are stakeholders in the recordings on which they appear and LSO Live works with some of the world's leading producers and sound engineers. The musicians not only choose what should be recorded, but are also involved throughout the production process, ensuring only recordings they are happy with get released.

The recording label of King's College, Cambridge was created in 2012 to capture the heritage of the Choir and organ of King's College and the unique acoustic of King's College Chapel. The Mariinsky label, launched in May 2009, draws on the theatre's rich legacy and historical ties to the great Russian composers.

For more information, visit https://pias-america.com/

--Sarah Folger, Publicity Manager, [PIAS] America

Piano Trio Presents Two Premieres in Chicago
Piano Trio presents two premieres by Grammy-nominated composer and Chicago native in four upcoming Chicago concerts.

Sheridan Solisti Trio, comprised of internationally- acclaimed musicians pianist Susan Merdinger, violinist Michaela Paetsch, and cellist Steven Sigurdson, are joining forces for four upcoming Chicago concerts featuring two premiere performances. The concerts include the the world premiere of the trio arrangement of "Ghost Tango" (originally written for piano and cello, in 2012) by Grammy-nominated composer, Ilya Levinson, as well as a USA premiere of "Solar Rays" by Chicago native, Aaron Alter.

Pianist Susan Merdinger, who Fanfare Magazine has hailed for her "magic touch" and for keeping audiences "spellbound from first note to last," recently performed at the Logan Center for the Arts on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series in her sixth engagement on the CSO series. Merdinger has graced the New York stages of Carnegie and Merkin, as well as many of the finest venues of Europe, Canada and Mexico.

Among many other accolades, violinist Michaela Paetsch has distinguished herself as the first female violinist to record the 24 Caprices of Niccolo Paganini (Teldec). In addition, Paetsch has won prizes in the Queen Elisabeth, Tchaikovsky and Dealey International Competitions, which resulted in her solo engagements with major orchestras and conductors in Europe and Asia.

For over 20 years Steven Sigurdson, cellist, has enjoyed a successful orchestral career, including being among the first cellists hired for Michael Tilson Thomas's celebrated New World Symphony in Miami, as well as a 13-year tenure as Associate Principal Cellist of the Florida Philharmonic.

Concert event details are available at Concordia University Chicago: 708-209-3062; The Family Piano Company: 847-775-1988; Merit School of Music: 312-676-3686; and Northbrook Public Library: 847-272-6224. Or at https://www.susanmerdingerpianist.com/events

--Susan Merdinger, Sheridan Solisti Trio

Explore Mahler Chamber Orchestra Learning
A few weeks ago, during our annual MCO Academy orchestra project, we did much more than merely share the stage with this year's 45 Academy students – from our five partner institutions spanning three continents – in three concerts.

During our project week at Orchesterzentrum|NRW, in any given practice room, MCO musicians could be found coaching Academy students in individual lessons or in chamber music rehearsals. Questions and ideas were exchanged not only at a mentoring session, but also in the hallways of Orchesterzentrum|NRW before, during and after rehearsals every day. And deaf students from our partner school in Dortmund, whom we met through a "Feel the Music" session last year at Konzerthaus Dortmund, joined us for rehearsal one morning.

Musicians of the MCO care deeply about creating transformative experiences in music together – and just as much about sharing these inspiring moments with the world around them. Not only do we work intensively with the next generation of orchestra musicians; we also actively bring music to the next generation of audiences through a variety of projects. We hope that you can get to know more about the different facets of MCO Learning: http://www.mahlerchamber.com/

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Dance of the Hours (CD review)

Ballet Favourites from Opera. Decca 289 458 229-2.

I've come to love compilations of older recordings. You never know what you're going to find, especially on this disc of ballet music from operas featuring some of Decca's biggest-name orchestras and conductors. The audio, recorded between 1962 and 1988 varies, of course, but most of it is good and some of it is terrific, making the whole enterprise all the more enticing.

The highlight of the disc is the title tune, "The Dance of the Hours" from Ponchielli's La Gioconda. Made digitally in 1980, it's taken at a healthy clip by Bruno Bartoletti and the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Indeed, the gait is so quick the hours seem literally to fly by. But the best part is the sound. It's superbly translucent and open. This is due in part to a general absence of bass resonance, but, in fact, there's a general absence of bass, too, a common affliction of all of the pieces on the program. Nonetheless, it's clear, clean, beautiful sound and a joy to listen to.

Bruno Bartoletti
The next two pieces are Saint-Saens's "Air et danse--Bacchanale" from Samson and Delila and the ballet music from Gounod's Faust, both played by Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. As always from this source, the performances are urbane and velvety smooth, and the sound, from 1987 and 1983 respectively, is warm and ambient. The thing is, although I recognize the Dutoit sound as the more natural, I still preferred the clearer sound from Bartoletti on the previous track.

Next up are the only two works I didn't care for much, Smetana's "Polka" and "Furiant" from The Bartered Bride, done by Istvan Kertesz and the Israel Philharmonic in 1962. Perhaps it's my age catching up with me, but I'm less tolerant of loud, boisterous music anymore. Mussorgsky's "Dance of the Persian slaves" from Khovanshchina, with Ernest Ansermet and the L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1964, was more up my alley, lighter and more exotic. There is some small background noise here and a bit more high-end edginess, but otherwise it is a fine old recording.

Richard Bonynge and the London Symphony Orchestra do up the ballet music from Rossini's William Tell nicely, and the 1962 sound hardly shows its age. Yet I couldn't help feeling that the music itself was not quite worth the bother. Riccardo Chailly and the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna do an acceptable job with the "Grand March" and ballet music from Verdi's Aida. Still, there isn't a lot of bass to reinforce the spectacle, and there should be. There follows another Saint-Saens, the "Danse de la gitane" from Henry VIII follows, again with Richard Bonynge and the LSO, this time from 1971. It holds some small interest. As does the program's concluding number, Gounod's waltz from the opera La Reine de Saba, from the same source. This is a most charming piece and bears a striking family resemblance to Gounod's second-act waltz in Faust.

At mid price, the whole affair seems a worthy purchase for listeners who don't already have favorites in some this material or just want a lot of it in one place.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 6, 7 & 8 (SACD review)

Rafael Kubelik, Orchestre de Paris, Wiener Philharmoniker, Cleveland Orchestra. Pentatone PTC 5186 250 (2-disc set).

At about the time I began collecting records as a kid in 1954, the recording industry coincidentally introduced stereo to the world. So you could say stereo and I grew up together. And during those early years, it seemed like Czech conductor Rafael Kubelik (1914-1996) was everywhere. Month after month he appeared to be recording with a different orchestra somewhere in the world, leading the likes of the Chicago Symphony, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and, of course, the Czech Philharmonic, among others.

On the present reissue album, Maestro Kubelik conducts three different orchestras (Orchestre de Paris, Wiener Philharmoniker, and Cleveland Orchestra) in repertoire he must have recorded a dozen times each. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point. Practice makes perfect, I suppose, and these remastered DG recordings come to us from a high point in his career--1973-75--just a few years before ill health began curtailing his work.

The program begins with one of Beethoven's most-cherished compositions, the Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale" from 1808. It is among the composer's few programmatic pieces, describing as it does a kind of idealized bucolic scene. Beethoven starts it with an "Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside"; continues with a "Scene by the brook"; follows with a "Merry gathering of country folk"; interrupts the proceedings with some brief "Thunder and Storm"; and then concludes tranquilly with a "Shepherd's song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm."

Kubelik leads the Orchestra de Paris in a straightforward, fairly routine interpretation of these events.  In fact, the Sixth seems more casual than I'm used to hearing, not just more leisurely but more sluggish. One could argue that such a relaxed approach is just what the music needs to portray the Arcadian serenity of the countryside, but Kubelik seems to go it one further, making the music appear almost sleep-inducing. For my tastes, I prefer the old standbys from Fritz Reiner (RCA, JVC, or HDTT), Karl Bohm (DG), Bruno Walter (Sony), Otto Klemperer (EMI), and Eugen Jochum (EMI).

Disc two opens with Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 (1812), which Kubelik performs with the Vienna Philharmonic. The composer considered it one of his best works, and during the premiere the audience demanded an encore of the second movement. In fact, conductors sometimes play the second movement by itself, separate from the rest of the symphony. One admirer, composer Richard Wagner, referred to the work's lively rhythms as the "apotheosis of the dance."

Rafael Kubelik
Here, Kubelik seems a bit more animated than he was in the "Pastorale." The Vienna Phil seems a bit more poised and precise than the Paris Orchestra, with a touch greater richness. By the time the conductor reaches the finale, he's caught fire, and the symphony ends in an appropriate blaze. As nice as Kubelik's recording is, however, I continue to favor the performances of Fritz Reiner (RCA or JVC), Colin Davis (EMI), Nicholas McGegan (PBP), Carlos Kleiber (DG), David Zinman (Arte Nova), Leonard Bernstein (Sony), and Roger Norrington (EMI).

The second disc ends with the Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93 (1812), a piece Beethoven called his "little Symphony in F" because his Symphony No. 6 in F is almost twice as long. The Eighth is cheerful in mood, sometimes loud, but mainly light. It is also the symphony the general public often overlooks, squeezed as it is among the longer, more prominent, and more acclaimed Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth.

Kubelik's handling of the score seems a tad too serious to me, although the second movement has a charming playfulness to it. Overall, though, it never appeared to soar or seem much more than a commonplace reading. Again I preferred several other recordings to Kubelik's, favorite recordings from Roger Norrington (Virgin), David Zinman (Arte Nova), and Eugen Jochum (Philips) in particular.

Deutsche Grammophon recorded the music in Quadraphonic at the Salle Wagram, Paris in 1973; the Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna in 1974; and Severance Hall, Cleveland in 1975. Pentatone remastered it on SACD for multichannel and two-channel stereo playback. I listened in the SACD two-channel mode.

Although the recordings span three different orchestras and halls over a period of three years, the sound is remarkably alike. In the Sixth, it's smooth and fairly clean, with a touch of soft warmth, a clear if sometimes slightly harsh high end, and little deep bass. So it's a bit thin, although it displays a moderately good depth of field and more than adequate room ambience. Perhaps the multichannel would open it up better. In the Seventh the sound appears miked a tad closer, yielding better detail but at the expense of some losing some hall ambience. Then in the Eighth, we get the best of both worlds, with good definition at a reasonable distance from the orchestra, and even a little better dynamic impact and bass response.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Classical Music News of the Week, December 2, 2017

Joseph Rubinstein and Jason Kim Receive Latest Opera Genesis Fellowships

The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, FL and New York City's American Opera Projects (AOP) announce the second Opera Genesis Fellowships to composer Joseph N. Rubinstein and librettist Jason Kim.

The award includes a six-week Hermitage residency, in which these two artists will work on their new opera Legendary, about the drag balls of the 1980s in New York City. The Opera Genesis Fellowship awards are presented annually to artists who have completed training in AOP's Composer & the Voice (C&V) training program which helps to develop contemporary American opera.

Joseph N. Rubinstein grew up in Newport News, VA and currently lives in New York City. Joseph's music is often concerned with dramatic narrative and character, and has been presented by Fort Worth Opera Festival, The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater, Triad: The Boston Choral Collective, American Opera Projects, The Holy Cross Chamber Singers, The Secret Opera, bass-baritone Matthew Burns at the Spoleto Festival USA, Boston Metro Opera, C4, the Society for New Music, and the Young New Yorker's Chorus, among others.

Jason Kim is a Korean-born dramatist based in New York City. His immersive musical KPOP recently completed a critically acclaimed sold-out run at Ars Nova Theater.

American Opera Projects' Composers & the Voice is a two-year fellowship for composers and librettists which provides experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and opera stage. This free training includes a year of working with the company's resident ensemble of singers and artistic team, followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships. Launched in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of sixty-three composers & librettists. Alumni works that went through AOP's opera development program and continued to a world premiere include Love/Hate (ODC/San Francisco Opera 2012, Jack Perla), Paul's Case (UrbanArias 2013, Gregory Spears), and The Scarlet Ibis (Prototype 2015, Stefan Weisman). AOP's C&V program is generously supported by a multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

For complete information, visit www.aopopera.org

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

The Bronx Opera Announces Its 51st Season
The Bronx Opera will perform a pair of operas in 2018 for its 51st season. They open their season with Mozart's beloved comic gem, The Abduction from the Seraglio (January 12, 13, 14, 15); and Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz, the opera that most successfully established the German romantic opera style (May 5, 6, 12, 13). This will be BxO's fifth presentation of The Abduction from the Seraglio and their fourth of Der Freischütz. Each production will be performed in the Bronx, at Lehman College's Lovinger Theatre, and both operas will be performed in English.

The second-oldest continually presenting opera company in New York, the Bronx Opera has become a cultural staple of the city and the borough, supplementing its full productions with concerts and community outreach initiatives to many of the underserved communities in the Bronx. In addition to their two productions, they will also present condensed versions of each opera for children, through their Opera-in-the-Schools program. Furthermore, the season marks an exciting update with regards to Bronx Opera's administration: the Board of Directors has appointed Benjamin Spierman as General Director, leading the company alongside his father, co-founder and Artistic Director Michael Spierman.

For more information, visit www.bronxopera.org

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

42nd Street Moon's The Secret Garden
San Francisco's acclaimed 42nd Street Moon has announced the full cast and creative team for the 2017-2018 season's Holiday production, the Tony Award-winning family favorite The Secret Garden. Based on the beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden has a book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman ('night, Mother) and music by Grammy Award-winner Lucy Simon. The Original Broadway Production won two Tony Awards in 1991: Best Book of a Musical (Marsha Norman) and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (11-year-old Daisy Eagan, making Eagan the youngest female Tony Award-winner to date).

The Secret Garden runs from December 6 - 24, 2017 and will perform at the Gateway Theatre (formerly the Eureka Theatre), San Francisco, CA. The press opening will take place on Saturday, December 9 at 6:00 p.m. Tickets range from $25 - $76 and can be purchased through the Box Office at (415) 255-8207 or online at www.42ndstmoon.org.

--Jonathan White PR

Giving Tuesday @ American Opera Projects
American Opera Projects: Giving you more new operas.

Last year alone, AOP had 96 performances of new operas
to 45,000 audience members, and will hold
five premiere productions in 2018.

12/2/17: Outdoor Pop Up Opera  @ Brooklyn Cultural District Walking Tour
1/10 thru 1/20/18: The Echo Drift World Premiere @ PROTOTYPE Festival
1/11 thru 1/16/18: As One @ Hawaii Opera Theatre, full production
1/27 & 1/28/18: As One @ Lyric Opera Kansas City, full production
2/9 thru 2/11/18: As One @ Anchorage Opera, full production
2/9 thru 2/11/18: Six. Twenty. Outrageous @ Symphony Space, NYC, World Premiere
2/17 thru 2/25/18: Ashes & Snow @ Pittsburgh Opera, World Premiere

Donate here: http://www.aopopera.org/donate.html

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Philip Glass Headlines 2018 Winnipeg New Music Festival
Each year, at the peak of its frigid winter, Winnipeg transforms into an oasis of the most inspiring, adventurous, and riveting music of our time. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival presents its 27th season from January 27 through February 2, 2018, reveling in the music of today, inspiring artists and igniting abundant audiences of all ages. The week-long internationally-acclaimed celebration of creativity is known for bringing together the biggest luminaries in the music and art world – such as Steve Reich, Jim Jarmusch, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and John Corigliano, to name just a few – to explore, debate, and discover. And concert attendance of over 7,000 makes it one of the best attended new music festivals in the world. WSO Artistic Director Alexander Mickelthwate anticipates, "This year will be nothing short of extraordinary, as we bring you the most famous minimalist composer worldwide, the most beautiful Icelandic soundscapes, the most iconic Canadian visual artist, and the most energetic new talent you can imagine."

The Winnipeg New Music Festival is thrilled to have iconic American composer Philip Glass in residence as composer and performer. The Festival presents the world premiere of Glass's String Quartet No. 8 with the JACK Quartet – deemed "superheroes of the new music world" by The Boston Globe – as well as the Canadian premiere of the composer's Symphony No. 11 (2017). Glass will also be among the stellar pianists in an evening of his complete Piano Etudes. "Seeing the work of two decades compressed into an evening [of Piano Etudes] was immensely satisfying, as America's greatest living composer stakes his claim for immortality," said The Guardian. Another evening, devoted to choral works, presents excerpts from several of Glass's operas. Coming off his 80th birthday season, celebrated worldwide with tributes, premieres, and performances at Carnegie Hall, in San Francisco, in London (UK), and elsewhere, as well as several new recordings, Philip Glass continues to expand his extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.

For complete information, visit wnmf.ca/in-the-community

--Shira Gilbert PR

See Messiah in San Francisco for 30% Off
Experience this holiday favorite in all its historically-informed glory as Handel master Nicholas McGegan and America's leading period instrument Orchestra and Chorale perform with an international cast of stars. Don't miss PBO's Messiah in Berkeley, CA, Rohnert Park, CA, and for the first time in seven years, in San Francisco, too.

Celebrate the San Francisco performance with us and save 30% off single ticket prices from now through December 3rd at midnight.

Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Yulia Van Doren, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
James Reese, tenor
Philip Cutlip, baritone
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director

San Francisco performance on on sale now for 30%. Use Discount Code: MESSIAHSF

For tickets and information, call (415) 392-4400 or visit https://philharmonia.org/2017-2018-season/handels-messiah/

--Marketing, Philharmonia Baroque

SF Girls Chorus Presents "Greetings from All Seasons"
San Francisco Girls Chorus presents "Greetings from All Seasons!" December 18, 7:30pm at Davies Symphony Hall.

A celebrated annual tradition, this year's concert will celebrate holiday traditions of multiple faiths with a selection of festive music from across the world. Music Director and Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe will lead the combined forces of nearly 300 choristers and various featured guest artists including soprano and SFGC alumnae Michele Kennedy ('95). The program is highlighted by two world premiere works by Richard Danielpour and Eric Banks.

Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Music Director & Conductor
Michele Kennedy, Soprano
Shira Kammen, Violin/Harp/Oud/Psaltery
Peter Maund, Percussion
Robert Huw Morgan, Organ   

Selected music celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Chuseok, Chinese New Year, Maslenitsa and Dio de los Muertos as well as Christmas, Hannukah and New Year's audience sing-alongs:
Gustav Holst: "Ave Maria"
William Byrd: "Rejoice, rejoice"
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Chorus from The Snow Maiden
Richard Danielpour: Parable (World Premiere Commission)
Eric Banks: "I Wrote Your Name" from Syrian Seasons (World Premiere)
George Gemora Hernandez: Arrangement of "Pasko Na Naman!"
David Conte: Arrangement of "La Llorona"
Bernice Johnson Reagon: Seven Principles

For more information, visit https://www.sfgirlschorus.org/performances/12/18/annual-holiday-concert

--Brenden Guy

Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (CD review)

Also, Five Lieder. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf; Christa Ludwig; Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra. EMI Classics 7243 5 67035 2 0.

Only a couple of conductors who had actually worked with Gustav Mahler made it into the stereo era. Otto Klemperer was one; Bruno Walter another. When Klemperer performed his first public concert in 1912, it included the Mahler Fourth Symphony. Do these associations make Klemperer's Mahler interpretations definitive? No. Klemperer, as always, was too idiosyncratic for one to call any of his performances the last word on the subject. But this 1961 recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra can surely be considered authoritative, and there is no reason for not auditioning it. It has certainly grown on me over the years.

Klemperer was a conductor known for the massive ruggedness of his realizations, yet it is for his gentler, more subtle readings that I have come to appreciate him: His Beethoven Pastorale, his Mendelssohn Fourth, his Haydn "Clock" Symphony. The Mahler Fourth falls into this balmier category.

He takes the first movement at such a winsomely unhurried gait that one can hardly fail to fall under its spell. Klemperer's pace is slower here than most other conductors, to be sure, and totally unforced, establishing an exemplary tone for the opening's childlike description of the peacefulness of Heaven. Taking the Scherzo so leisurely may be another matter, but it does no harm and actually makes the second movement seem less bizarre than usual. It is in the third movement, however, the Adagio, that greater controversy arises. Contrary to expectation, Klemperer takes it at a faster tempo than anticipated, faster than probably anyone on record. It may not convey the eternal repose of those heading toward the gates of Heaven, but it voices fully the opening of those gates and leads perfectly into the expressive innocence of the finale's poem. Well, expressive innocence for the orchestral parts of the finale, perhaps; however, Ms. Schwarzkopf's rendition of the vocal part does seem a bit too mature and sophisticated for the role. It's a minor drawback, like the unusual Adagio, and should not hamper one's enjoyment of the symphony overall.

Otto Klemperer
I have lived with this recording for close to fifty years, coming to it on LP in the late Sixties just after reading a scalding review that I remember called it something like "menacing" rather than sweet, and framed in "cavernous" sound. The first criticism I could never understand. There is nothing even remotely "menacing" about it. As I said, it is a most attractive, engaging, light, and gentle interpretation, if a trifly eccentric, with the Philharmonia at the height of their performance standards.

The second criticism I read about, however, the "cavernous" business, possibly derives from the reviewer having heard the piece only on an old Angel LP. In those days, there were often considerable sonic differences between American Angel and English EMI releases. Today, we have several CD incarnations of the performance, and the sound is quite good.

As a part of EMI's "Klemperer Legacy" series, the edition I own has a warmer, smoother response than before, yet it retains its clarity. Indeed, of the seven or eight Mahler Fourths I had on hand for comparison at the time of this review, it was the Klemperer disc that sounded clearest to me (although at higher volume it could also be a little noisier and the treble more prominent than the others). At least some of the recording's lucidity no doubt stems from EMI's recording techniques, original engineers Douglas Larter and Neville Boyling's audio competence, and producer Walter Legge's finicky production values. But I suspect it is also due to Klemperer's ability to retain clean lines throughout the biggest orchestral passages. What's more, the recording projects a proper stereo spread, depth, and ambiance to communicate the experience of a live event (although EMI recorded it without an audience in Kingsway Hall, London, 1961).

The Mahler Fourth is worthy of multiple interpretations, to be sure, and one should investigate as many of them as possible. Welser-Most (EMI Eminence or Warner Classics) appears even broader than Klemperer; Karajan (DG) sounds grander; Maazel (Sony) more sugary and Romantic; Previn (EMI) more playful; Solti (London) and Abbado (DG) more intense; Gatti (RCA) more rambunctious; Colin Davis (RCA) more refined; Szell (Sony) and Haitink (in the second of his three Philips releases) perhaps most unaffected of all and safest choices of mine in this work.

Yet it remains Klemperer to whom I find myself returning most often for pure listening pleasure. I can't explain it really; I can only enjoy it.

JJP 

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Saint-Saens: Organ Symphony (CD review)

Also, Carnival of the Animals. Daniele Rossi, organ; Martha Argerich, Antonio Pappano, pianos; Antonio Pappano, Orchestra dell-Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Warner Classics 0190295755553.

There's always room, I suppose, for another recording of an old warhorse, in this case the Saint-Saens Third Symphony, know popularly as the "Organ Symphony." Whether the newcomers measure up to old favorites, it's always good to hear what different conductors can do with a work, and, to be sure, Maestro Antonio Pappano, organist Daniele Rossi, and the Orchestra dell-Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia give it a good shot.

As you may know, French composer Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) wrote the Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 "Organ" in 1886. Because it is a colorful, sometimes bombastic, and thoroughly pleasing piece of music, it has enjoyed enormous popularity over the years. Although audiences recognize the piece by its nickname, the "Organ Symphony," the organ really only has a part in the second-movement Adagio and the later half of the Finale. Saint-Saëns called the work "a symphony with organ," and said of it, "I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again." Apparently, he knew whereof he spoke (or he was too contrary to go back on his words) because even though he lived another thirty-five years, he never wrote another symphony, organ or otherwise.

The first movement of the symphony has always seemed to me the least distinguished, the least characterful, and I can't say that Pappano makes it any the more distinctive. Still, he injects as much life as possible into the affair, so there is no want of thrills.

The second movement Adagio always reminds of great, soft warm waves flowing over and around one's body on a sunny, tropical beach. The organ comes in with these huge, gentle washes of sound. Here, Pappano makes it warm and gentle enough but the organ doesn't carry the weight it should to make much of an impression.

The two movements that comprise the finale should be fiery and exhilarating, and it's here that Pappano carries the day. The Presto abounds with energy, and when the organ enters at the last, it may not be as deep or rich as it could be, but it is loud and it does generate a good deal of excitement.

Coupled with the symphony is Saint-Saens's humorous Carnival of the Animals suite, which he wrote the same year, 1886, as the Third Symphony. He scored it for two pianos, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute and piccolo, clarinet, glass harmonica, and xylophone, and here's where this recording shines. Both Pappano himself and Martha Argerich take the piano parts. While Pappano is a fine pianist, no doubt, Argerich is universally acclaimed as a great pianist, one of the finest pianists in the world. So it's a treat having her in on the festivities.

Antonio Pappano
Saint-Saens considered the work too light for him to publish, that if he did it would distract from his more serious compositions. He did, however, leave instructions that it might be published after his death, so the first public performance didn't occur until 1922. Today, of course, audiences have come to love the piece, and there are numerous recordings of it by just about everyone. Still, this one's got Argerich, and that counts for something.

Saint-Saens subtitled the work "A Zoological fantasy for 2 pianos & ensemble," and the soloists are splendid. Each of the fourteen little segments comes off beautifully, with plenty of life and sparkle. While they all shine, the "Aquarium" is particularly atmospheric, the "Fossils" are fun, and, of course, the famous "Swan" (cello solo by Gabriele Geminiani) is as lovely as ever.

The thing about this album is, though, no matter how many new recordings we keep getting of the Organ Symphony, so far none of them have challenged my own personal favorites: Louis Fremaux with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Warner Classics or Klavier), Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony (RCA or JVC), and Jean Martinon with the Orchestre National de l'ORTF (Brilliant Classics). And, I might add, the folks at Warner Classics already offer the same coupling as here--Third Symphony and Carnival of the Animals--with Fremaux at a bargain price. With the Fremaux disc having wonderful performances and excellent sound, it makes it hard for any newcomer to compete; indeed, if this new entry didn't involve Martha Argerich, it probably wouldn't be a contender at all.

Producers Giacomo De Caterini and Michael Seberich recorded the music live in April and November 2016 in the Sala Santa Cecilia (Organ Symphony) and Sala Petrassi, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome. Warner Classics mark the issue as "Santa Cecilia Live," so one must assume they recorded both works live; however, for reasons unknown, a loud outburst of applause accompanies the close of the Organ Symphony, while the Carnival of the Animals ends in dead silence. Maybe they didn't do the Carnival live? I don't know. But I preferred the silence.

Anyway, the sound in the Organ Symphony is a little close, as we might expect from a live recording, providing a reasonably quiet response, with a huge dynamic range and good impact. It also produces a touch of brightness, edge, and glare, however, and a small degree of fuzz. There seems little depth to the orchestra as well, which is unfortunate, so things are rather one-dimensional. Timpani are prominent in the symphony, which is good, but as I mentioned earlier the organ is not especially deep, just loud. In the Carnival, which the composer scored for around a dozen instruments, the sound is better--cleaner, warmer, smoother, more transparent, and, while still fairly close-up, not so obviously flat.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Classical Music News of the Week, November 25, 2017

Philharmonia Baroque O. Does Back-to-Back Handel Oratorios in December

From standard repertoire to rare gems, no one interprets George Frideric Handel like conductor Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, who will perform back-to-back Handel programs in December. First will be PBO's critically-acclaimed, historically-informed performances of Handel's Messiah in concerts December 8-10 followed by the rarely performed Joseph and his Brethren with concerts December 14-17.

McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale will inspire audiences with Handel's holiday treasure Messiah at Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA on Friday, December 8 at 7 pm; on Saturday, December 9 at 7 pm at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, CA; and Sunday, December 10 at 3 pm at Weill Hall, Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, CA. The Orchestra and Chorale will be joined by soprano Yulia Van Doren, mezzo-soprano Diana Moore, tenor James Reese and baritone Philip Cutlip. There will be a pre-concert talk given by Philharmonia Chorale Director Bruce Lamott forty-five minutes prior to each performance that will be open to all ticket-holders. 

McGegan is also excited to present Handel's Joseph and his Brethren, never performed before by PBO. The program features mezzo-soprano Diana Moore in a trouser role as the title character with soprano Sherezade Panthaki, tenor Nicholas Phan and baritone Philip Cutlip. Soprano Gabrielle Haigh and mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis will also be featured, as will the Philharmonia Chorale who will perform the roles of Joseph's Brethren, Egyptians and Hebrews.

McGegan leads PBO in Joseph and his Brethren on Thursday, December 14 at 7 pm at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco; on Friday, December 15 at 7:30 pm at First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, CA; and on Saturday, December 16 at 7 pm and Sunday, December 17 at 4 pm at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, CA. There will be a pre-concert talk given by Philharmonia Chorale Director Bruce Lamott forty-five minutes prior to each performance that will be open to all ticket-holders.

Tickets range from $28 to $125. For more information about these and other Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale concerts, visit philharmonia.org. For tickets, visit cityboxoffice.com or call 415-392-4400. Tickets to the Green Music Center available at gmc.sonoma.edu.

(Save 20% on tickets now and catch all the drama and intrigue as this story unfolds December 14-17 in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Berkeley. Special e-mail offer: 20% off tickets!
Use Discount Code: HANDELx2 at https://www.cityboxoffice.com/?category=33

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonica Barooque Orchestra

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts - Early Music of the Maghreb and Carthage Conquer'd
Early Music of the Maghreb:
The region of Northern Africa to the west of Egypt, once known as the Barbary Coast and later, the Maghreb, nurtured a volatile mix of Phoenician, Carthaginian, and later Berber, Jewish, and Arabic cultures. Its most legendary city a sacrifice to Rome's founding, its more recent turmoil the troubled heir of European colonialization.

An ethnic cauldron and brutal colonialism forged a vibrant and kaleidoscopic musical tradition that lives on to this day. Please join us for our second collaboration with Afro Roots Tuesdays, as we welcome an ensemble of gifted musicians of Algerian, Tunisian, and Morrocan origin, for an early music concert surely unlike any other.

Tuesday, December 12 at 7:30 PM
The Bernie Wohl Center
647 Columbus Avenue, NYC

Carthage Conquer'd:
The capital of Tunisia was once the legendary city of Carthage. Its Queen Dido, loved and abandoned by Aeneas on his mission to found Rome, inspired countless musical masterworks from the baroque era to Berlioz. This concert alternates cantatas dedicated to the Carthaginian Queen with the Arabic form of improvisation known as Taksim, as two historically informed ensembles – one western and the other Tunisian, share a stage, offering a new perspective on Dido the misused monarch and the site of Northern Africa as both exploited resource and object of fantasy in the Western European mythscape.

Saturday, December 16 at 8:00 PM
The Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium
417 East 61st Street, NYC

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

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

"A Pure Classical Thrill Ride"
The value of a classical concert is not a function of length.

Take the Cleveland Orchestra this last week. Friday night at Severance Hall, the group delivered a near-perfect 18th-century package, all in a little over an hour.

It didn't used to be this way. In an amusing pre-concert address from the stage, two orchestra members and conductor Nicholas McGegan, a specialist in early music, reminded the first 'Fridays@7' audience of the year that concerts in Mozart's day were often elaborate, evening-length affairs featuring any number of performances.

Happily, on Friday, the orchestra cut right to the chase. Between Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 and 'Linz' Symphony No. 36, the group had just enough to delight and engage but not enough to overstay any welcome."

After such joys, one truly couldn't have asked for more."

--Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer

San Francisco Girls Chorus Presents Annual Holiday Concert
San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) presents its annual holiday concert, "Greetings From All Seasons!" on Monday, December 18, 7:30 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall.

This year's concert will celebrate holiday traditions of multiple faiths with a selection of festive music from across the world. Music Director and Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe will lead the combined forces of nearly 300 choristers and various featured guest artists including soprano and SFGC alumnae Michele Kennedy (1995); multi-instrumentalist and traditional music specialist Shira Kammen; Stanford University Organist Robert Huw Morgan; and Ensemble Alcatraz percussionist Peter Maund. Continuing its commitment to new music, SFGC will also present two World Premieres including Parable by Richard Danielpour, a commission inspired by the Iranian New Year Festival of Nowruz, and "I Wrote Your Name" from "Syrian Seasons" by Seattle-based composer Eric Banks.

Tickets range in price from $30 to $60, and can be purchased by calling (415) 392-4400 or through City Box Office online at cityboxoffice.com.

--Brenden Guy, Marketing and PR

Free Cultural Walking Tours of Brooklyn's Downtown Art Scene
On Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 11:00am, Fulton Area Business Alliance (FAB) and contemporary opera producer American Opera Projects (AOP) will offer The Brooklyn Cultural District Walking Tour, a free, two-hour guided walking tour through Fort Greene, Brooklyn that shows how the neighborhood has become one of the most vibrant hubs for the arts in America today. Live performances by opera singers of specially selected songs accompany the tour.

The tours are free, but space is limited and advance registration is required. For registration and more information about the tours, visit http://bit.ly/FABTour or contact: tours@faballiance.org or 718-398-4024.

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Preview the New Opera from Greg Spears and Christopher Williams
Philadelphia Dance Projects in partnership with AOP present Wolf-in-Skins
First Chance Informance of Act II. Run time: 60 minutes.

Philadelphia Dance Projects in partnership with American Opera Projects will present an "Informance" with choreographer Christopher Williams and composer Gregory Spears as the culmination of a creative artist residency to further develop their original dance opera, Wolf-in-Skins. An "Informance" is a work-in-progress showing, where the artists are in conversation with the audience about the content of the work, their ideas and inspiration. Dancers, singers and musicians will perform sections from the work.

November 29 & 30 | 7 :30 PM
SEI Innovation Studio at The Kimmel Center
300 South Broad Street
Philadelphia PA 19102

Tickets: $10
www.kimmelcenter.org

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

#GivingTuesday Is Less Than a Week Away, and SOLI Is Among the Organizations You Can Support
Join the movement & give back, November 28th, 2017.

We have two days for getting deals - Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On #GivingTuesday, we have a day for giving back! Together, people are creating a new ritual for our annual calendar. #GivingTuesday is the opening day of the giving season: a reminder of the "reason for the season." Every act of generosity counts, and each means even more when we give together.

Everyday, SOLI Chamber Ensemble fulfill's an important role in our community:
Bringing the newest and the best contemporary music to the people of San Antonio, therefore establishing our city as one of the most eclectic cultural centers in the United States, and educating the future generation of music lovers and professionals, who will continue to spread the joy, fulfillment, and the compassion that music promotes.

Please help us continue to change lives through music. Make a contribution today: http://www.solichamberensemble.com/#!giving-tuesday/

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

First-Ever Nutcracker Dance Party
As you prepare for Thanksgiving, Experiential Orchestra is busily preparing for our first-ever Nutcracker Dance Party next week! In true EXO fashion, we have assembled an outrageously brilliant orchestra to perform the complete ballet in its full orchestration, so you will hear all of Tchaikovsk's gorgeous orchestral colors in all of their glory and mystery and magic. If you don't have tickets yet, now is the time! A perfect early Christmas gift, or a great way to start this holiday season with pure joy.

No ballet experience is necessary for this dance party, and if you would rather not dance, there are seats available either inside the orchestra, where the sound will surround you and embrace you, or off to the sides (if you'd prefer to be like Marie in the second act).

Nutcracker Dance Party
Thursday, November 30 at 8pm
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music (450 West 37th Street, NYC)
$40 for dancing or standing room; $75 for a seat inside the orchestra; $100 VIP ticket with champagne reception.

Nutcracker Dance Party for Kids (5+ with their adult dancing companions)
Saturday, December 2 at 2:30pm
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music (450 West 37th Street, NYC)
Adult tickets: $40 for dancing-room or seats farther away, and $75 for prime seating.
Kid tickets: $25 for one, $45 for two, and $60 for three. (All children must be accompanied by an adult dancing companion.)

For tickets and information, visit https://www.experientialorchestra.com/concerts/

--Experiential Orhestra

Mozart et al: The Philosopher's Stone (CD review)

Kurt Streit, Alan Ewing, Chris Pedro Trakas, Paul Austin Kelly, Judith Lovat, Jane Giering-De Haan, Sharon Baker; Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque Orchestra. Telarc CD-80508 (3-disc set).

The longer we live, the less we know. You'd think that after two hundred years, about everything that we could possibly learn about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have surfaced. But not so. The "et al" in the heading means that only recently did Professor David Buch discover conclusive evidence that near the end of his life Mozart collaborated with four other composers to produce The Philosopher's Stone, a singspiel or comic opera with dialogue. In 1996, Dr. Buch found a previously unknown copy of the work with the names of its contributors clearly marked on the top of each page. For a long time music scholars had thought that Mozart might have had something to do with the opera, but when Mozart's name appeared above three of the numbers, the professor had his proof.

The four other composers are Johann Baptist Henneberg, Benedikt Schack, Franz Xavier Gerl, and Emanuel Schikaneder. The year was 1790, a year before Mozart would publish his Magic Flute. The question is, why would Mozart have contributed his talents to a production with other composers and take so little or no credit for himself? There are several possible answers. The foremost is that he needed the money. More important, though, he probably just enjoyed working with the others. The same team that produced The Philosopher's Stone would shortly thereafter produce Mozart's own Magic Flute, so these men were clearly friends and business associates. In any event, it is important to find Mozart's name attached to anything not previously attributed to him, and Telarc do a splendid job giving us a world premiere recording of the work.

Martin Pearlman
The Philosopher's Stone, subtitled The Enchanted Isle, was apparently a popular piece of entertainment for its time, remaining in the repertory of the Theater auf der Wieden for about twenty-four years and receiving many more performances throughout Germany and Europe during that time. The work sounds unceasingly cheerful, based on much the same fairy-tale material as The Magic Flute. It's all about sylvan landscapes, shepherds and shepherdesses, love and lovers, demons and evil spirits, jealousy, dwarfs, and a trial by bird song. It's a plot that one must revisit frequently for any comprehension, but the arias, duets, ensembles, and musical interludes are fun, if frivolous, while they last.

Telarc's producer James Mallinson does things up right by employing Martin Pearlman and his period instruments band Boston Baroque and a worthy cast of singers to head up the entertainment. The playing and singing are splendid.

Then to top things off, engineer Jack Renner ensures that the sound is ultra smooth. However, I also found the sound a bit dry and sterile. There is not a lot of sheen at the top end; and, disconcertingly, as people walk about the stage their voices change in dimensionality but we never hear their footsteps. In the old Culshaw days at Decca, the listener was aware of almost all stage movements, lending the proceedings a greater air of realism. Oh, well. Mercifully, the Telarc recording remains free of its patented big bass drum, and for the most part the sound is clean and clear.

The Telarc engineers accommodate the opera itself on two CDs, with a third, bonus disc devoted to a short discussion by the conductor on the importance of Mozart's contributions to the work.

Overall, it's a release worthy of investigation by anyone interested in classical music, Mozart, light opera, or musicology.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Toscanini 150th Anniversary (CD review)

Steven Richman, Harmonie Ensemble/New York. Bridge 9493.

The last time I wrote about Steven Richman and the Harmonie Ensemble/New York, it was an album of Gershwin music that became one of my favorite recordings of 2016. This time out, Maestro Richman chose to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a fellow conductor, the legendary Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957).

I say "legendary" because in my mind Toscanini really was a legend. Growing up in the 1940's and 50's as I did, to me Toscanini was one of those gods of the classical world with strange and exotic names like Stokowski, Rubinstein, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky. But Toscanini was, again for me, the master of them all, and later when I got into collecting classical recordings, I always regretted that Toscanini had not lived much into the stereo era. So, here we have Steven Richman taking up some of the slack by providing us with a little of the old Maestro's favorite lighter fare, many in Toscanini's own arrangements and with Richman using one of Toscanini's own batons to direct the proceedings.

Audiences loved what Sir Thomas Beecham used to call "lollipops," fun pieces with which he often closed shows, and Leopold Stokowski might be best known today for his work in the Disney film Fantasia. But we don't often think of the great Toscanini as having a lighter side at all. He did. And here is some of that.

The disc includes Verdi's Aida Overture, Bizet's Carmen Suite (arranged by Toscanini), Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, Waldteufel's Skaters Waltz (again arranged by Toscanini), and Rossini's William Tell Overture.

Richman begins things, then, with the Aida Overture, which one doesn't often hear by itself, understandably because the composer never actually published it. Verdi wrote it for the opera's premiere but set it aside in favor of the more-familiar prelude. Toscanini performed it only once, in 1940, and essentially from memory. So, the opening number is a rarity, and Richman appears to do it full justice, with zest and enthusiasm.

Steven Richman
The Carmen Suite that follows is one Toscanini put together himself when in his seventies. The differences between Toscanini's suite and others are so slight I couldn't detect them, but I could easily see how Richman tries to emulate Toscanini's celebrated no-nonsense approach to the score. Tempos and modulations are on the quick, succinct side, with no hint of dallying or sentimentality. Likewise, Richman handles the Nutcracker Suite in a completely unfussy manner.

For some listeners, Toscanini's style was too cold and calculating; to others, it perfectly reflected a composer's intentions. Richman attempts to convey that same spirit of contention. You either love the conductor's methods or you don't. I found it all quite persuasive.

Emile Waldteufel meant his Skaters Waltz for a smallish chamber orchestra, and that's how we usually hear it. But Toscanini wanted to do it up for a bigger group, so he reorchestrated the piece in the 1940's for his NBC Symphony Orchestra. As expected, it's a full, lush, vigorous rendition, although in Richman's case I don't know that the size of the ensemble seems to matter.

The program ends with Rossini's William Tell Overture, which Toscanini conducted for the first time when he was nineteen and for the last time when he was eighty-five. Richman captures the work's excitement as Toscanini doubtless did but imposing on it few idiosyncrasies of his own. He uses the composer's manuscript but also follows Toscanini's practice of doubling the five solo cellos at the beginning for a fuller, mellower sound.

Most classical fans will probably already have in their collections multiple versions of these chestnuts (with the exception, perhaps, of the Aida Overture), so why would they want yet more? In this case, the performances are so direct and so straightforward that the music actually appears fresh and new. And the sound is so good and so natural, it puts most other recordings to shame.

Producer Steven Richman and producer and engineer Adam Abeshouse recorded the album at the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York in March 2015. There's a fine sense of place and space about the recording, imaging depth and spread providing a realistic ambience without sounding exaggerated. Detailing is good, too, without being bright or edgy. The dynamics help as well, with huge increases and decreases in volume as the occasions arise. A commendable disc all the way around.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Classical Music News of the Week, November 18, 2017

American Classical Orchestra Performs CPE Bach and Handel's Messiah with ACO Chorus

On Monday, December 4, 2017 at 8:00 p.m., the American Classical Orchestra, "the nation's premier orchestra dedicated to period instrument performance (Vulture)," presents a holiday program featuring the acclaimed ACO Chorus in the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah, performed in the sacred setting of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, NYC. Soloists will include sopranos Katherine Wessinger and Nola Richardson; altos Kate Maroney and Clifton Massey; tenors Andrew Fuchs, Nils Neubert, and Gene Stenger; and basses Timothy McDevitt and Edmund Milly. For the first time ever, ACO also performs Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach's Magnificat.

This season, the American Classical Orchestra is launching an innovative Concert Preview program that will bring listeners closer to the music. Before conducting the program, Maestro Crawford will deliver an introduction, with the full orchestra and chorus onstage to perform excerpts from the evening's program. Crawford's engaging narratives, along with the live music, will give the audience greater insights into what they're about to hear, resulting in a more enriched musical experience.

Additional concerts in the ACO's 2017-18 season include five Baroque concertos with violinist Stephanie Chase at Alice Tully Hall on February 8; and a program of works by Brahms, Schubert, and Ries with contralto Avery Amereau and the ACO Men's Chorus on March 24.

CPE Bach: Magnificat
Handel: Messiah Christmas Portion, with ACO Chorus and Soloists
Monday, December 4, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
St. Ignatius of Antioch Church: 87th St. and West End Ave., New York City

Ticket Information:
Tickets for the December 4 concert can be purchased at http://aconyc.org/concert-event/cpe-bach-handel/ or by calling ACO at 212.362.2727. Please visit www.aconyc.org for more information.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Salisbury Symphony's Messiah
The Salisbury Symphony and the Salisbury Symphony Chorale present their first holiday concert of Christmas excerpts from Handel's ever-popular Messiah. The concert will take place on Tuesday December 19 at 6.30pm at First Presbyterian Church, 308 W Fisher Street, Salisbury, NC.

This concert is part of the inaugural season for the newly-formed 40 member-strong Salisbury Symphony Chorale, which has already earned a reputation as a leading choral society in the region following their highly acclaimed concert with St. John's Lutheran Church as part of the celebration of the Reformation's 500th anniversary.   

Soloists for the Messiah are University of North Carolina School of the Arts-trained soprano Anyée Farrar, alto Alden Pridgen, tenor Logan Weber, and bass Eric Powell. Music Director David Hagy will conduct this concert, which also features an 18-piece orchestra.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for ages 18 and below. Children under 10 years old get free admission. Seating is general admission. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 704 216 1513 or online at www.salisburysymphony.org.

For complete information, visit www.salisburysymphony.org

--James Harvey, Salisbury Symphony

Magdalena Kozena Signs to Pentatone
Pentatone announce that Magdalena Kožená, one of the most celebrated vocalists of our time, has formed a long-term partnership with the label. This new partnership will showcase the breadth of her repertoire over several albums, from Baroque opera to contemporary art song, from Rameau to Berio.

The Czech mezzo-soprano spent time in the recording studio this past summer and documented a selection of heart-wrenchingly beautiful songs from her homeland by Dvorák and Janácek, coupled with some of the repertoire's most famous melodies, including Strauss's eternal "Morgen!," Chausson's poetic "Chanson perpétuelle" and Brahms's "Two Songs," Op. 91 – some of them in new arrangements. Joining her were her husband, Sir Simon Rattle, in his first-ever appearance as a pianist on record, and six of their closest colleagues: Wolfram Brandl and Rahel Rilling on violin, Yulia Deyneka on viola, Dávid Adorján on cello, Andrew Marriner on clarinet and Kaspar Zehnder on flute.

"So, all friends together. You could imagine them playing hausmusik in someone's living room, in proper German fashion, and this concert felt as if they'd been performing these pieces for ages and were now graciously allowing us to eavesdrop. Rattle was all smiles, with none of the nervousness you'd expect from someone venturing into the unfamiliar role of pianist."  --The Telegraph

--Silvia Pietrosanti, Pentatone Music

Gulbenkian Orchestra Appoints Giancarlo Guerrero as Principal Guest Conductor
Giancarlo Guerrero, who has led the Nashville Symphony as its Music Director for nearly a decade, has in the last six months picked up two additional posts in Europe. Today, the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon announced that it has appointed Guerrero Principal Guest Conductor. He will conduct up to four weeks with that orchestra, beginning in August 2018. Just six months ago, in June 2017, it was announced that Guerrero will be the new Music Director of the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic in Poland, where he will conduct four weeks in 2017/18 - increasing to eight weeks in the 2018/19 season - and take part in touring and recording projects.

Guerrero was appointed Music Director of the Nashville Symphony in 2009 and has committed to serve in this role through the 2024/25 season. During his tenure, Guerrero and the orchestra have made more than a dozen award-winning recordings for Naxos, and have won eight of the ensemble's eleven Grammy Awards.

For more information, visit www.giancarlo-guerrero.com.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Young People's Chorus of NYC and Ailyn Pérez Celebrate the Holidays
The Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) celebrates the holidays at Carnegie Hall with its Winter Wonder program featuring soprano and Metropolitan Opera star Ailyn Pérez as guest artist on Thursday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. Under the direction of YPC Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, the program highlights the different ways New York City families commemorate the festivities, with repertoire including holiday classics and international songs sung by over 400 YPC choristers ages 8 to 18.

Tickets priced $25-100 are available via the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street; by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800; or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.

--Shuman Associates

PostClassical Emsemble, National Cathedral Embark on New Concert Series
Washington, DC's intrepid PostClassical Ensemble (PCE) and Music Director Angel Gil-Ordoñez perform "Music in Wartime: A Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration" at the Washington National Cathedral on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 7:30pm. Produced by PCE's Executive Director Joseph Horowitz, the performance is comprised of musical responses to war from Hanns Eisler, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Arnold Schoenberg. The concert marks the start of PCE's inaugural season as the Cathedral's ensemble in residence and underscores PCE's drive to use this season to contextualize music throughout history.

The concert begins with Eisler's The Hollywood Songbook, a collaboration with playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, a wartime workers' song performed as a processional. The set of 46 short songs details the affliction of war and the helplessness these German emigres felt as they watched from California as their homeland slipped into dissolution and destruction. 

Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 is a cry of pain provoked by the barbaric Nazi Siege of Leningrad, in which half a million perished. 

Concluding the performance, Schoenberg's seething and exalted Ode to Napoleon, composed in Los Angeles in response to Pearl Harbor, uses Lord Byron's "Ode to Napoleon" to excoriate Hitler and exalt Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Byron's poem rages against the autocrat Napoleon in favor of the democrat George Washington; Schoenberg uses this inspiration to draw comparisons between Hitler and FDR.

Tickets and information are available at http://postclassical.com/

--Mike Fila, BuckleSweet Media

SF Symphony's Fire Relief Benefit, Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen
SF Symphony's fire relief benefit: Sunday, November 19, Davies Symphony Hall, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA.

In the wake of the devastating wildfires that brought extensive damage throughout the North Bay last month, many artistic organizations have looked for ways to contribute to the relief efforts. The healing power of music--not to mention the opportunity to garner financial support for those affected--makes a benefit concert the natural path.

For more information, visit http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Michael-Tilson-Thomas-SF-Symphony-host-benefit-12354865.php

--SF Gate

Emerson String Quartet Returns to Alice Tully Hall
The renowned Emerson String Quartet has returned from a European tour to perform at the Alice Tully Hall, NYC on November 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM.

The program features Beethoven's B-flat-major quartet, which shattered tradition with six movements, including the profoundly beautiful "Cavatina"; the original ending, the Grosse Fuge, was deemed too momentous for an already overpowering work and now stands alone in the repertoire. The "indispensable" Emerson String Quartet (Newsday) will perform both pieces along with Shostakovich's Thirteenth Quartet, a surreal piece in which simplicity becomes sonically extraordinary.

November 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Alice Tully Hall, NYC

For more information and tickets, visit http://www.lincolncenter.org/great-performers/show/emerson-string-quartet-5

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

The Chelsea Symphony Performs Ravel, Smetena, Reinecke, Mozart, and Dai
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show "Mozart in the Jungle," announces the continuation of its 2017/18 season, entitled "Sea Change," with a holiday concert on December 1 featuring special guest, comedian Judy Gold, narrating "The Night Before Christmas" by composer Aaron Dai.

The concert also includes Bedrich Smetana's The Moldau, Carl Reinecke's Flute Concerto, featuring flutist Dirk Wels, Maurice Ravel's Tzigane, featuring violinist Megan Hilands, Leopold Mozart's Sinfonia pastorale, "Alphorn" and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concert Rondo featuring trumpetist Warren Wernick, and seminal holiday classic, Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" with guest conductor Pam Aubin.

A silent auction in support of the orchestra will take place before the downbeat and during intermission, concluding during a festive complimentary wine reception following the concert. Start your holiday season with The Chelsea Symphony!

December 1, 2017 Concert at 8:00 PM
Conducted by Reuben Blundell, Nell Flanders, and special guest Pam Aubin
St. Paul's Church (315 West 22nd Street), NYC

For more information, visit www.chelseasymphony.org

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Hartmann: Overtures (CD review)

Thomas Dausgaard, Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Dacapo 8.224097.
And, Hartmann-Bournonville: The Valkyrie. Michail Jorowski, Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt. CPO 999 620-2 (2-disc set).

Danish composer Johan Peder Emilius Hartmann (1805-1900) lived nearly the whole of the nineteenth century. Think of that: Haydn was still alive when Hartmann was born, and Mahler was just finishing his Fourth Symphony when Hartmann died. Although not so popular anymore, during most of this time Hartmann was at the center of Danish musical life as an organist, composer, and co-director the Copenhagen Conservatory. His works include operas; ballets; vocal, orchestral, organ, and piano pieces; popular songs; and chamber music. 

The five overtures featured on this 1999 release from Maestro Thomas Dausgaard and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra reveal a distinctly Romantic leaning, as we might expect, yet a modern, adventurous spirit as well. There is nothing particularly remarkable about any of the overtures, but they are clearly a step toward tone painting and even impressionism, and the conductor and orchestra give them full measure.

The five overtures are Yrsa, Axel og Valborg, Hakon Jarl, Correggio, and Guldhornene. He based most of them on Danish folk lore, poetry, and legend. Of the five, two stand out for me: First, there is Guldhormene, or The Golden Horns, because it is background music for the recitation of a poem by Adam Oehlenschlager, one of Denmark's "Golden Age" dramatists. It is not the longest work on the disc, but it covers the most sweeping ground. To be honest, though, I could have done without the recitation by Bodil Udsen and just enjoyed the music by itself. The second standout is Hakon Jarl, a descriptive work that tackles no less than "the struggle of Heathendom in Norway against Christianity, and the victory of the latter under Olaf Trygvason." Like the other overtures, it begins with a slow, moody introduction soon developing into a series of contrasting sections that become quite exciting and contain some of Hartmann's most imaginative tunes.

Thomas Dausgaard
For those listeners seeking a more sustained and substantial output from Hartmann, the CPO label simultaneously issued a two-disc set of his ballet The Valkyrie, with Michail Jorowski and the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt. In four acts and based on a story by August Bournonville, the work is somewhat bombastic but highly descriptive. As the title suggests, it is all about gods and warriors and Valkyrie of ancient Norse mythology. Music scholars consider it one of the great ballets of Danish theater. Although it did not particularly impress me on my one and only listening, ballet fans should find much to enjoy in its 103 minutes. Whether Maestro Jorowski helped or hindered my appreciation of the music, I could not say. 

Both Dacapo's and CPO's sound is remarkable in its unremarkableness. This is not meant as a criticism, just an observation. The sonics appear moderately distanced and slightly veiled, with passably good depth of field, little deep bass, and rather mundane dynamic impact. Like Hartmann's music, nothing really stands out, but that is the way it probably should be. Unless the listener is an audiophile more interested in how the discs sound than in the music itself, the albums should satisfy because nothing calls attention to itself. These are unassuming releases of unassuming music.

JJP     

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa