Hans Zimmer: The Classics (CD review)

Various artists; Gavin Greenaway, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Sony Classical 88985322812.

     "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
     "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
     "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all."

I couldn't help thinking of that exchange in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass when I saw the title of this 2017 Sony release. Was composer and record producer Hans Zimmer (b. 1957) conducting classical music or classic film scores? Did the title refer to the music of Hans Zimmer as "classic," or did it refer to the movies for which Zimmer composed the music as classics? Well, maybe a little of the latter, although to call either the movies or the Zimmer soundtrack music for them "classics" may be a little hyperbolic. I suggest we give the movies and the music another fifty years before calling them "classics."

Anyway, what we have here is almost an hour of bits and pieces of music Zimmer composed for nine popular motion pictures. Which is part of the problem: Nothing lasts for more than a few minutes. So it's not as if we're getting major chunks of each movie's score. It's more like a quick hit parade of some of Zimmer's bestsellers. The fact is, Zimmer has composed music for over 150 films, so nine isn't really a big number,

Whatever, Gavin Greenaway, John Ashton Thomas, Stjepan Hauser, and Luka Sulic arranged each brief selection for the present album, and composer Wibi Soerjadi transcribed yet another of the tracks. Then Sony got some of their top recording artists (Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys, Lang Lang, Till Bronner, Tina Guo, Amy Dickson, Leona Lewis, Maxim Vengerov, Khatia Buniatishvili, 2Cellos, and Robert Saver) to help perform them, accompanied by Mr. Greenaway and the Czech Philharmonic.

Here's a rundown of the complete listing:

Main Theme from The Dark Knight Rises
(with Lindsey Stirling)
Themes from Pirates of the Caribbean
(with The Piano Guys)
"Gladiator Rhapsody" from Gladiator
(with Lang Lang)
Main Theme from Crimson Tide
(with Till Brönner)
"Time" from Inception
(with Tina Guo)
"This Land" from The Lion King
(with Amy Dickson)
"Now We Are Free" from Gladiator
(with Leona Lewis)
"Flight" from Man of Steel
(with Lang Lang and Maxim Vengerov)
"Light" from The Thin Red Line
(with Maxim Vengerov)
The Battle Scene from Gladiator
(with Khatia Buniatishvili)
"Mombasa" from Inception
(with 2Cellos)
The Docking Scene from Interstellar
(with Roger Sayer)

Hans Zimmer
How much you like any of this material and whether there is enough of it to satisfy you may, of course, depend largely on your own taste. For me, it was too little of any one thing, and it caught my attention only in short spurts. There's no denying, however, that the performers are up to their tasks, everything sounding just fine.

My own favorites among the tracks include the various themes from Pirates of the Caribbean for their undeniable panache; the main theme from Crimson Tide for its rising dramatic effect; "Time" from Inception for its atmospheric attributes; "Now We Are Free" from Gladiator mainly for Leona Lewis's contribution; "Light" from The Thin Red Line for its lyrical intensity; "Mombasa" from Inception for its rhythmic pitch. And the winner is: Inception. I think I might have preferred Greenaway and the Czech players doing an entire album of music from just this one film.

Producer Chris Craker and engineers Nick Wollage, John Chapman, Shane Edwards, Dave Rowell, Chris Connor, Robert Sattler, Benoit Bel and Philipp Nedel recorded the music, and Sony Music Entertainment released the album in 2017. The sound is OK, if in its own pop-music fashion. It's close and appears compartmentalized, with selected instruments well out in front, spotlighted. Definition is good, frequency balance favors the upper midrange, dynamics are strong, and orchestral depth is moderate. There's also a slightly abrasive quality about some of it, too, a bit of raspiness at the higher end and an overall hard metallic quality. I doubt anyone will care.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 25, 2017

California Symphony 30th Anniversary Benefit Stars Anne Akiko Meyers

California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera celebrate the Orchestra's 30th anniversary with "Symphony Surround," a special event and fundraiser Saturday, June 17, 2017 at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, California, with guest violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who returns to perform with California Symphony for the first time since 2007. Meyers and the Orchestra will perform arrayed in a special configuration for this event, surrounding the guests seated on stage. The proceeds from Symphony Surround benefit the Orchestra's nationally-recognized education programs, including Sound Minds, Music in the Schools, and its Young American Composer-in-Residence program.

The Blackhawk Auto Museum will provide the unique environment for Symphony Surround, with pre-performance cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a three-course dinner catered by Scott's Restaurant (purchased separately), with an opportunity before the performance to admire privately-owned, one-of-a-kind classic cars and to bid on items in a silent auction to benefit the Orchestra's education programs. Dinner guests enjoy preferred seating on stage among the orchestra musicians for the three-course meal and performance with Meyers, valet parking, a welcome cocktail at 5 pm with Music Director Donato Cabrera, unlimited wine during dinner and a hosted bar all evening, special photo opportunities with musicians and the classic cars following the show, and early access to bid on auction items. Doors will open at 5:30 pm to all cocktail/performance ticket holders, who will have traditional theater-style seating. A live auction will also take place during the event.

The full Orchestra program opens with Attack Sustain Decay Release, written by Mason Bates, who was a Young American Composer-in-Residence with the California Symphony from 2007-2010. Anne Akiko Meyers joins the Orchestra for performances of Morricone's "Love Theme" from Cinema Paradiso; Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me"; Piazzolla's "Oblivion," Gade's "Jealousie"; and Chaplin's "Smile." Meyers made her debut as soloist with the California Symphony in 1994. The principal musicians of the California Symphony, many of whom have been with the Orchestra since its inception thirty years ago, will perform in small chamber ensembles throughout the evening.

Tickets are $135 for cocktail/performance tickets, $500 for dinner/performance tickets, and from $5,000 to $30,000 to sponsor tables. Table tickets are available now by contacting California Symphony Executive Director Aubrey Bergauer at aubrey@californiasymphony.org.

Dinner/performance tickets and performance-only tickets are on sale at 925-280-2490 or www.californiasymphony.org/surround.

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

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

The Crypt Sessions Presents David Greilsammer's "Labyrinth"
The Crypt Sessions Season 2 continues on April 5, 2017 with Israeli pianist and conductor David Greilsammer giving the only North American performance of his acclaimed "Labyrinth" program. The performance centers around Leoš Janácek's haunting cycle "On An Overgrown Path," interspersed with works by C.P.E Bach, Mozart, and Jean-Féry Rebel, as well as the North American premiere of "Lost in the Labyrinth," by Israeli composer Ofer Pelz.

Says Greilsammer of the program: "Each one of us has been, at some point in life, lost, disoriented, or in search for a safe and luminous path. This feeling of disorientation, leading at times to inner chaos, can also serve as the force that will push us to begin the pursuit of new routes, new ideas, and new emotions. Walking through the daunting sounds of Janácek's music, and exploring the mysterious alleys of various enigmatic pieces from early baroque to our present days, I have decided to embark on a musical journey to the heart of a beautiful, abstract, and dazzling labyrinth."

For tickets and information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-crypt-sessions-david-greilsammer-tickets-31541607798

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Bang on a Can Marathon Celebrates 30 Years
Bang on a Can announces its 30th Anniversary Bang on a Can Marathon, presented for the first time at Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 2-10pm.

This incomparable super-mix of boundary-busting music from around the corner and around the world features eight hours of rare performances by some of the most innovative musicians of our time side-by-side with some of today's most pioneering young artists. The Marathon is part of "A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism" at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong project that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art through ten diverse exhibitions and an extensive calendar of related public programs. Bang on a Can Marathon artists include Meredith Monk, Julia Wolfe, Joan La Barbara, and many more.

Bang on a Can started as a one day Marathon concert thirty years ago on Mother's Day 1987 in a SoHo art gallery and has grown into a multi-faceted performing arts organization with a broad range of year-round international activities. The New York Times reports, "A quarter-century later their impact has been profound and pervasive. The current universe of do-it-yourself concert series, genre-flouting festivals, composer-owned record labels and amplified, electric-guitar-driven compositional idioms would probably not exist without their pioneering example. The Bang on a Can Marathon, the organization's sprawling, exuberant annual mixtape love letter to its many admirers, has been widely emulated…." The Village Voice recounted, "[one could] enjoy a world made a bit more habitable – something like an authentically felt home-- thanks to all manner of cultural practices that get dissed out in the mainstream."

For more information, call 718.852.7755 or visit www.bangonacan.org

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

West Edge Opera Announces Cast for 2017 Festival
February 7, 2017 – Under the artistic leadership of General Director Mark Streshinksy and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, West Edge Opera announces casting for its 2017 Festival, which takes place August 5 though August 20 at the abandoned train station in West Oakland at 16th and Wood.

Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas opens the Festival on Saturday, August 5 at 8 pm with repeat performances Sunday, August 13 at 3 pm and Saturday, August 19 at 1 pm.

Vicente Martín y Soler's The Chastity Tree, or L'arbore di Diana, opens Sunday, August 6 at 3 pm with repeat performances Saturday, August 12 at 1 pm and Saturday, August 19 at 8 pm.

 Libby Larsen's Frankenstein opens Saturday, August 12 at 8 pm with additional performances Thursday, August 17 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, August 20 at 3 pm.

The audience is invited to hear Mark Streshinsky lead pre-curtain talks approximately 45 minutes before each performance. Patrons will also be able to enjoy box meals from Berkeley's Poulet prior to each show, and food orders may be made either online at westedgeopera.org or by calling (510) 841-1903.

Complimentary beer and wine will also be available in the shaded Festival Pavilion, which will open to the public two hours before each performance. Guests are invited to attend a reception after each performance where they'll be able to meet the performers and artistic staff.

The abandoned train station in West Oakland has served as West Edge's Festival home for the past two years. Architect Jarvis Hunt designed the station, formally known as the 16th Street Station, in 1912. The Beaux-Arts building served as Oakland's primary train station until the 1989 earthquake, after which the tracks were moved to the other side of I-880 and the building was left to decay. The station remains one of Oakland's most significant historic landmarks.

Festival Subscriptions go on sale March 15, priced from $146 to $260. Single tickets go on sale June 1. Non-series limited view seats will be available one week prior to each performance at a price of $19. All tickets may be purchased online at westedgeopera.org or by calling (510) 841-1903.

For more information, visit westedgeopera.org

--Kate McKinney, West Edge Opera

California Symphony Announces Katherine Balch as New Young American Composer-in-Residence
California Symphony and Music Director Donato Cabrera announced today that Katherine Balch has been selected as the orchestra's new Young American Composer-in-Residence, for the three-year period from August 1, 2017 through July 31, 2020. The respected, intensely competitive Young American Composer-In-Residence program, launched in 1991, gives outstanding, emerging American composers a unique opportunity to write orchestral music while working with a professional orchestra and conductor.

Katherine Balch, 26, writes music that seeks to capture the intimate details of existence through sound. Often influenced by the extra-musical arts, literature, and philosophy, she pursues a heterogeneous yet formally cohesive aesthetic characterized by gestural lyricism. Her music has been commissioned and performed by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Alea III, Antico Moderno, FLUX Quartet, New York Virtuoso Singers, Yale Philharmonia, American Modern Ensemble, wildUp and others in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall and Wiener Konzerthaus. Performances in the 2016-17 season include those by Contemporaneous, Minnesota Orchestra (Minnesota Orchestra Institute), Albany Symphony Orchestra (American Music Festival), Tokyo Symphony Orchestra (Suntory Hall Summer Arts Festival), and violist Christophe Desjardins as a composer-in-residence with the MANCA festival in Nice, France.

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

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

Golden Gate Symphony Presents "Concert for Kids, Ages Eight to Eight Hundred"
The Golden Gate Symphony & Chorus presents a special performance for children and their families on Saturday, March 11 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, "Concert for Kids, Ages Eight to Eight Hundred."

The program will feature a selection of chamber and orchestral works from the classical repertoire, Broadway and Hollywood, including the San Francisco premiere of Rain by 11-year-old Russian composer and cellist Illarion Gershkovich. Gershkovich features as soloist for his own work in addition to Saint-Saëns's Allegro Appasionato for cello and piano. The Golden Gate Symphony also welcomes a first-time collaboration with "The Spring Choir," a Chinese children's chorus from Pleasanton led by conductor Wenbo Deng, who will present a selection of folks songs from around the world. Rounding out the program is a performance of Chopin's Grand Polonaise Brilliante by Bay Area pianist Allison Lovejoy. Tickets begin at $15 with free admission for children under the age of 12.

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

--Brenden Guy

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Presents "Crepuscolo Götterdämmerung"
Monday, March 13, 8:00 PM

The Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium
417 East 61st, NYC

Tickets are priced at $20/$30/$50/$100.
To reserve call 1 888 718 4253 or go to http://www.salonsanctuary.org

In 1797 the walls of the Venetian Ghetto came tumbling down on orders of Napoleon. Bonaparte's favorite composer, Domenico Maria Puccini, the grandfather of Giacomo and Mozart's contemporary, receives an American premiere of his precociously bel canto Sei Canzonette. His Czech coeval, Jan Ladislav Dussek, looks back rather than forward, penning a pianistic ode to a decapitated French Queen in The Sufferings of the Queen of France.

The Meyerbeer Hirtenlied and Weber Opus 33 Silvana Variations for clarinet and fortepiano paint a bucolic idyll, while a proto-Wagnerian song cycle by Louis Spohr caps off a program that stands on the ruins of the ghetto, looking forward into a Brave New World of dubious liberation.

This program was premiered in 2016 at the Accademia Cristofori in Florence, Italy.

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

American Bach Soloists 2017 Festival
Tickets for the 8th annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival—are now on sale. Titled "English Majesty," the 2017 Festival will feature concerts, lectures, and colloquia that extol the masterful achievements of London's most celebrated Baroque composers.

Along with a commemoration of the famous performance of Handel's Water Music on the Thames 300 years ago in 1717, Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead the ABS Festival Orchestra in two delightful performances of Purcell's King Arthur and two performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor. Additionally, the "period style all-stars" (San Francisco Examiner) of ABS will offer "Bach & Sons," a program that honors J.S. Bach and his most illustrious composer offspring, and the Academy Faculty, a distinguished roster of performers, will offer "Orpheus in Britannia" featuring works by some of the greatest composers of the English Baroque.

Single tickets $30–$95
Purchasers of all 5 Festival productions receive a 15% subscribers discount.
For more information, call 415-621-7900 or visit sfbachfestival.org or americanbach.org.

--American Bach Soloists

Nashville Symphony Call for Submissions for Composer Lab and Workshop
Now through April 13, the Nashville Symphony is accepting submissions for the second round of its Composer Lab & Workshop, an initiative created to discover and nurture the next generation of outstanding American composers.

The Composer Lab & Workshop was developed and guided by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, who serves as Workshop Director and Chairman of the Selection Panel. The program aims to provide young composers with the opportunity to develop their talents, gain hands-on experience working with a major American orchestra, and showcase their work for local audiences. The Workshop & Lab is an outgrowth of the Nashville Symphony's longstanding commitment to promoting and cultivating American music.

Selected participants will have the opportunity to hear their music performed by the Nashville Symphony, receive mentoring and feedback from orchestra professionals, and potentially earn a performance of their work on the Nashville Symphony's 2018/19 Classical Series.

More information on the Nashville Symphony's Composer Lab & Workshop, including a full listing of submission guidelines and eligibility requirements, is available at NashvilleSymphony.org/ComposerLab.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Gramophone Award-Winning Duo Iestyn Davies and Jonathan Cohen
The conductor and countertenor join Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra March 1-5.

The countertenor voice allows modern audiences to experience the tone and agility of Baroque's leading opera roles originally written for castrati. Countertenor Iestyn Davies and conductor Jonathan Cohen are masters of this thrilling repertoire. Hear them perform stunning works from their 2012 Gramophone award-winning recording Arias for Guadagni accompanied by America's leading period instrument orchestra when they join PBO in March.

Wednesday March 1 @ 7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, CA

Friday March 3 @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Saturday March 4 @ 8:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday March 5 @ 4:00 PM
Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Lafayette, CA

For more information and tickets, visit https://philharmonia.org/1617-season/operatic-heroes/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Janoska Ensemble Embarks on First US Tour and Debut CD
The Janoska Ensemble has created an unmistakably unique style. Performing together since childhood, the four musicians are sixth generation classically trained family members with a sound that Andreas Großbauer, chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, describes as "made up of great virtuosity, a literally inexhaustible wealth of musical ideas and bewitchingly mellow sonorities…. A true feast for the ears!"

Founded in 2013, the ensemble has quickly become a force in the music world with its profoundly personal vision that explores a vast range of works, from the classical repertoire to original compositions and completely idiosyncratic arrangements informed by jazz, pop and world music.

In March, the acclaimed ensemble embarks on its first U.S. multi-city tour with stops in New York, Miami and San Antonio, among other locales. They will perform a program based on their debut album "Janoska Style," being released in the U.S. on March 10 by Deutsche Grammophon.

As soloists and performers with numerous orchestras and ensembles, they have amassed impressive resumes, appearing with the likes of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna Art Orchestra, Anna Netrebko, the Roby Lakatos Ensemble, Michel Camilo, Julian Rachlin, and B.B. King, to name but a few.

Sample performance:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkv_P0YH9R8

Website: http://janoskaensemble.com/?lang=en

--Diane Blackman, BR Public Relations

Respighi: Feste romane and Pini di Roma (CD review)

Also, Rimsky-Korsakov: Le Coq d'or, suite. Lorin Maazel, the Cleveland Orchestra. Decca Legends 289 466 993-2.

Let's ignore for the time being the Roman Festivals, which are mostly noisy and bombastic, and concentrate on the late Maestro Lorin Maazel's interpretation of the Pines of Rome. It is among the best available.

Recorded in 1976, Maazel's performance is colorful, sometimes splashy, sometimes subtle, always vivid, and picturesque, everything you'd want from these miniature tone paintings. Maazel's rendering of them doesn't, perhaps, convey quite the individual expression of Fritz Reiner's classic set (RCA "Living Stereo" or the JVC XRCD remastering), but they come close. More important, they culminate in one of the best, most exciting versions of "The Pines of the Appian Way" you'll find. We hear the Roman legions first, of course, from a distance, their march coming closer and closer, sounding all the more ominous as they approach. When they reach our vantage point, the effect is staggering, especially if you have a good subwoofer.

Lorin Maazel
Paired with the two Respighi works we find an agreeably colorful reading of Rimsky-Korsakov's suite from Le Coq d'r, (The Golden Cockerel). It may not be the most exciting rendition around, but it does provide an all-around pleasant listening experience. The Cleveland Orchestra play terrifically well for Maazel, with plenty of professional enthusiasm evident.

Decca's 1976 sound for the Cleveland Orchestra didn't always impress me as much as Columbia's (Sony's) did in the old Szell days, but this transitional recording, remastered in Decca's "Legends" series in 2000 radiates much the same energy and presence. There is a decent orchestral perspective, decent front-to-back dimension, some small smothering of the mid frequencies, and tremendous bass.

Yes, tremendous bass, important in numbers like the aforementioned "Appian Way," as well as in the "Catacombs" and the "Epiphany" from Feste romane. Remastered in 96kHz, 24-bit digital sound in Decca's "Legends" series, the audio is perhaps a hair smoother and more transparent than it was in their older Ovation line, to which I compared it. And I much prefer the new coupling to that of the previous coupling, too.


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

Saint-Saens, Ravel, Gershwin: Piano Concertos (CD review)

Andrew von Oeyen, piano; Emmanuel Villaume, PKF-Prague Philharmonia. Warner Classics 01 90295 90848 5.

The first question you might ask about this album is why it contains such seemingly disparate composers as Saint-Saens, Ravel, and Gershwin on the same program. The answer, of course, is that the agenda is not so unusual as you might think. Not only did all three men write piano concertos, but they all in some way or another influenced each another. In particular, Saint-Saens influenced Ravel, and Ravel and Gershwin influenced the other. Besides, the soloist for the album, Andrew von Oeyen, is an American now living in Paris, who says he has fallen in love with French music. Fair enough.

The second question you might ask is, Who is Andrew von Oeyen? He's an American concert pianist, born in 1979, who here makes his piano-and-orchestra debut recording after releasing several solo discs. He began playing the piano at age five and made his first stage appearance at age ten. By age sixteen he was playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and after further studies at Juilliard and Columbia University and wins in several important piano competitions, his career was well on its way. The present disc marks his first release for Warner Classics, with accompaniment by Emmanuel Villaume and the PKF-Prague Philharmonia.

The opening piece on the program is the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22, by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). He wrote it in 1868, and it remains among the most-popular of his five piano concertos. Oddly for a modern concerto, Saint-Saens begins his work with a relatively slow movement, followed by a faster second movement that resembles a scherzo, and finishes with a very quick Presto. These mercurial tempo changes prompted the Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski to joke that the piece "begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach."

There is no doubting von Oeyen's intensity from the start as he gives every indication that he wants to get our attention. He varies the contrasts about as much as I've ever heard, making the opening movement more balky than ever. Which is neither here nor there; just more emphatic. The second movement is cheerful and bouncy enough, and if anything the orchestra carries it though as much as Mr. von Oeyen. Then in the finale, von Oeyen goes full bore with an all-out assault on the score, sounding exciting enough if a bit too studied for my taste.

Andrew von Oeyen
Next, we hear the Piano Concerto in G Major by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). He wrote it between 1929 and 1931 after a concert tour of the United States. Its most notable feature is the use of American jazz idioms, which Ravel probably picked up from Gershwin, whose Rhapsody in Blue appeared several years earlier.

I rather enjoyed von Oeyen's Ravel more than his Saint-Saens, which tended toward a want of charm. Maybe it's the combination of American and French expressive styles that suits the pianist. Still, when one has spent years as I have listening to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (EMI/Warner) play the piece, it's hard to find comfort in anyone else's interpretation. By comparison, von Oeyen never quite displays the imagination or creates the atmosphere that Michelangeli does. Nevertheless, my own quibbles should not distract the listener from enjoying von Oeyen's approach, which is more straightforward yet still jazzy enough to satisfy almost anyone. Additionally, von Oeyen offers us a particularly sensitive slow movement that in itself may be enough to sell the disc.

After that we find the Second Rhapsody by American composer George Gershwin (1898-1937). Here, some folks might quibble about whether the piece is a real piano concerto at all, but I would remind them that by definition a modern concerto is "a composition for orchestra and a solo instrument" (Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music). Gershwin's Second Rhapsody fits the bill. He wrote it for the 1931 Hollywood movie Delicious, on which both he and his brother Ira worked. Initially, Gershwin (and/or the studio) called this particular musical sequence Manhattan Rhapsody, New York Rhapsody, and Rhapsody in Rivets. Shortly afterwards, Gershwin more fully orchestrated it for concert use, titling it the Second Rhapsody. Although other people later reorchestrated the music (most notably Robert McBride some fourteen years after the composer's death), Mr. von Oeyen here plays the original 1931 version.

Following the pattern of getting better as we go along on the disc, Von Oeyen does a splendid job conveying the hustle and bustle of Gershwin's big city. His virtuosity seems always at the service of the music rather than simply drawing attention to itself. What's more, Maestro's Villaume's orchestral accompaniment keeps the rhythms on track and the musical impulses moving forward in suitable agreement. There are no awkward convolutions here, just a polished and stimulating tone picture.

The program concludes with a "bonus track": the Meditation from Jules Massenet's Thais, transcribed for solo piano by Mr. von Oeyen and bringing the total recorded music on the disc to over sixty-six minutes. For me, this was the highlight of the album, a hushed and heartfelt rendition that never lapses into teary-eyed mawkishness.

Producer and editor Christopher Alder and engineer Jakub Hadraba recorded the album at Studio 1, Czech Radio, Prague, Czech Republic in August 2015. The piano sounds solid and well placed from the start, if a mite wide, and the tone rings true. When the orchestra enters in the first movement of the Saint-Saens, it appears dynamic, full, and resonant, if not particularly deep or transparent. While strings sound a touch shrill and fuzzy at times, the overall effect is one of soft warmth rather than forward  brightness (or ultimate clarity).


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 18, 2017

On Site Opera 2017 Performances: From a Community Garden to the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs

Known for staging "the ultimate in intimate productions" (The New York Times), On Site Opera (OSO) will present a trio of exciting new site-specific opera productions in 2017, beginning May 11-13 with Mozart's rarely-performed early opera The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) at the West Side Community Garden. The immersive production will see performers on all sides of the audience, accompanied by wind octet and double bass--a traditional ensemble for 18th-century outdoor performances.

In June, OSO partners with the Darius Milhaud Society and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) to celebrate the 125th birthday of Darius Milhaud with the US premiere of Milhaud's La mère coupable (The Guilty Mother) at The Garage, an industrial-styled Hell's Kitchen space owned by fashion designer Kenneth Cole.

This fall, OSO will present the world premiere of Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt in a month-long residency (Sept-Oct) in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The family-oriented opera takes audiences on a hunt for missing fossils around the hall, while learning about the interconnectedness of creativity and science.

Mozart's The Secret Gardener
May 11-13, 2017 at Westside Community Garden (May 14, 2017 - rain date)
123 West 89th Street, New York, NY 10025
May 19 & 20, 2017 at The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Tickets: Free with reservation; registration begins March 7, 2017 at osopera.org/secretgardener/

Darius Milhaud's La mère coupable
June 20 & 22-24, 2017 at The Garage
611 West 50th Street (Between 11th & 12th Avenues)
Tickets: $60; on sale April 4, 2017 at osopera.org/guiltymother/

John Musto's Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt
Sept. & Oct. 2017 at AMNH
Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Ticketing information to be announced at a later date.

For more information, visit www.osopera.org

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Cal Performances Announces New Venues for Five Performances
Cal Performances announces new venues for five performances originally scheduled to take place at First Congregational Church throughout the spring; in addition to venue, the date of one performance, Tallis Scholars, has been changed from Friday, April 7 to Thursday, April 6. Berkeley's First Congregational Church sustained damage during a four-alarm fire on Friday, September 30. All updated venue and date information appears in red in the below listings.

The Cal Performances Ticket Office will send ticket holders new tickets for comparable seats in the updated venues; First Congregational Church tickets will no longer be valid for these events. For questions regarding tickets or seating, contact the Ticket Office at (510) 642-9988 or tickets@calperformances.org.

--Jeanette Peach, Cal Performances

Merola Opera Announces Jake Heggie-Gene Scheer Commission
The Merola Opera Program is proud to announce its first-ever commission of a new operatic work, which will be written by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer. The world premiere of If I Were You will be performed by Merola Opera Program artists in San Francisco in 2019, featuring artists selected for the 2019 summer season. Heggie, who is based in San Francisco, has a long and successful history with both San Francisco Opera and the Merola Opera Program, and many of the Merola Program's graduates have starred in his operas on stages around the world.

"Throughout my career as a composer and pianist, I've had the great opportunity to collaborate with an array of dazzling singers. Time and again, I'm delighted to discover how many of them have a connection with the great Merola Opera Program," said Heggie. "What an indelible difference Merola has made as the standard bearer for young artist programs! Just consider its history and the number of careers that have begun with Merola. Over the years, I've had the privilege of composing dozens of roles and songs for Merolini, and the great pleasure of seeing them inhabit and create characters in my operas Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick, Great Scott, It's A Wonderful Life, Three Decembers, Out of Darkness, and The End of the Affair.

"It has long been a dream of mine to write a full-length stage work especially for the Merola Opera Program to celebrate its legacy and spotlight its important place in the world of opera. I'm absolutely over the moon that the time has come with If I Were You. Gene Scheer and I look forward to creating a challenging and beautiful opera with the fabulous Merola team."

For more information, call (415) 936-2324 or visit www.merola.org.

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

92Y Announces 2017/18 Classical Concerts
92nd Street Y (92Y) and Tisch Center for the Arts Director Hanna Arie-Gaifman today announced concert programming for the 2017/18 season, which brings both the world's rising talent and most renowned artists to 92Y's intimate and acoustically rich Kaufmann Concert Hall. 92Y is proud to present unique musical initiatives and collaborations, in which artists can explore repertoire and embrace the creative connections that resonate strongly with them. As a result, audiences can engage more fully with the performers during a concert in a vibrant and intimate setting. The high level of excellence and an atmosphere in which musicians are nurtured are hallmarks of 92Y programming.  In its commitment to reaching and developing new classical music audiences, 92Y has championed educational initiatives that engage a diverse group of New York City public school students, who are given the opportunity to see concerts free of charge and interact with the artists as part of a larger curriculum.

"Soundspace," expands to a five-concert series with a unifying theme exploring Schubert's piano and vocal works.

Pianist Angela Hewitt returns for the second year of her "Bach Odyssey"—a four-year survey of the complete keyboard works by J.S. Bach.

The coming season also features the New York premiere of a 92Y co-commission by Bryce Dessner, and debuts by five distinguished artists who are new to 92Y's stages.

In addition, 92Y continues to present the broad array of subscription series that have become its signature, such as "Distinguished Artists," "Masters of the Keyboard," "Chamber Ensembles" and "Art of the Guitar." These series continually reinforce 92Y's position as a presenter that collaborates closely with its performing artists to bring audiences engaging and passionately performed programs featuring a rich variety of repertoire from the past and the present.

For more information, visit www.92Y.org

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

California Symphony Performs All-French Program March 19
Music Director Donato Cabrera leads the California Symphony in a program of French and French-inspired music on Sunday, March 19 at 4 pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, CA.

Violinist and California Symphony's Acting Concertmaster Jennifer Cho, a graduate of The Juilliard School and a member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, makes her debut as a soloist with the Orchestra in Ravel's Tzigane. The Orchestra also performs Young American Composer-in-Residence alumnus Pierre Jalbert's Les espaces infinis, written in 2001 while in residence with the California Symphony, and music from Delibes, Saint-Saëns and Bizet. Just prior to the concert, the California Symphony is offering a special French wine tasting experience with artisan cheese in the Lesher Center lobby (separate tickets required).

For more information, please visit www.californiasymphony.org

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents East of the River on 3/16
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents the adventurous world-music ensemble East of the River in their new program, SULTANA: Music of the Sephardic Diaspora, on Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.

The program celebrates the ancient musical world of the Sephardic Jewish diaspora in North Africa and throughout the Ottoman Empire, taking the audience on a journey through bazaars, kitchens, dance circles, prayer houses, and public spaces. Founded by woodwind virtuosos Daphna Mor and Nina Stern, East of the River explores haunting and captivating melodies from the traditional repertoires of the Balkans, Armenia, and the Middle East, as well as from the Medieval European classical repertory. SULTANA is inspired by the experiences of Mor's own Sephardic great-grandmother, Sultana Magrisso, who emigrated with her family from Bulgaria to British Palestine in 1944, traveling through Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.

Five Boroughs Music Festival's 2016-17 season concludes with a performance entitled OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: Chamber Works from Moravia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and beyond by early music group Quicksilver on Friday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens, and on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Tickets for the East of the River concert--priced at $25 for general admission, $15 for Congregation Beth Elohim members, seniors and students--are available by visiting www.5bmf.org. Tickets for all other 5BMF concerts are also available by visiting www.5bmf.org.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Rufus Wainwright Performs March 30 at Berkeley Symphony's annual Benefit Gala
Rufus Wainwright will give an intimate solo performance at Berkeley Symphony's 13th annual Benefit Gala on Thursday, March 30 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond.

Berkeley Symphony's largest annual fundraiser, co-chaired by D.J. and Audrey Grubb, also features a cocktail reception, dinner and desserts, live and silent auctions, and music by the Carla Kaufman Trio.

Tickets for the entire event, which begins at 6:30 pm, including the reception, dinner, silent and live auctions, and the performances by Rufus Wainwright and the Carla Kaufman Trio, begin at $375. Dinner will be served at 8 pm, followed by the Rufus Wainwright solo performance. Tickets are available by phone at (510) 841-2800, ext. 1 or at www.berkeleysymphony.org/gala.

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

New Century Present Chanticleer, March 16-19
New Century Chamber Orchestra continues its 25th Anniversary Season celebrations with the return of Chanticleer, "the world's reigning men's chorus" (The New Yorker).

Following a highly successful, first-time collaboration in 2014, New Century and Chanticleer will present "Americans in Paris" in four San Francisco Bay Area locations March 16-19 with a program of works that includes a suite from Gershwin's An American in Paris, selections from Stravinsky's Apollon Musagète and a variety of works by French composers including Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Fauré and Satie.

Thursday, March 16, 2017, 8:00 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA
Friday, March 17, 2017, 8:00 p.m., Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, March 18, 2017, 8:00 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, March 19, 2017, 5 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, Marin, CA

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and can be purchased through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35.

Open Rehearsal tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased through City Box Office: www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400.

For further information on New Century, please visit www.ncco.org

--Brenden Guy

PBO: Subscribe by March 1st and Get 2 Free Concerts
The country's best period instrument musicians and vocalists and one of the world's most visionary conductors are back for another Passionate, Brilliant, Original season with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

And there's no better time to subscribe to Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale's 2017/18 season than now. Sign up for the full 2017/18 season before March 1st and you can
enjoy the last two concerts of the 2016/17 season for free.

For more information on scheduling and tickets, visit https://philharmonia.org/subscribe/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

American Opera Projects: As One, Free Libretto Reading, Vera & Legendary
As One at Pittsburgh Opera
February 18, 21, 24 & 26, 2017
Pittsburgh Opera
2425 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

AOP First Chance: We've Got Our Eye on You
Sunday, February 29 | 4:00 PM
South Oxford Space - Studio G
138 South Oxford Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217

AOP First Chance: Vera
Sunday, March 12 | 2:30 PM
Thursday, March 16 | 7:30 PM
Manhattan School of Music - Greenfield Hall
120 Claremont Avenue (between 122nd and La Salle St.)
New York, NY 10027

AOP First Chance: Vera and Legenary
Sunday, March 19 | 8:00 PM
South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217

For complete information, visit http://www.aopopera.org/events.html

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade (CD review)

Also Borodin: Polovtsian Dances. Sir Thomas Beecham, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 7243 5 66998 2.

For over forty years I lived contentedly with Bernard Haitink's 1972 London Philharmonic recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade on Philips. Haitink's unfussy account always seemed to me to present the work with the proper proportions of poetry and grand passion. But both the interpretation and the recording may seem too straightforward for some listeners. Recorded a few years later, 1979, came Kondrashin's Concertgebouw reading, also on Philips, with an altogether more dynamic impact. It, too, became, a prime choice in this material. In the digital age only two recordings impressed me as strongly: Krivine on Denon and Mackerras on Telarc. And before Haitink, I had only three other old favorites: Monteux on Decca; Reiner on RCA; and Beecham on EMI. Except for the Monteux, which I have not heard on CD, the older editions hold their heads high.

Which, finally, brings me to Sir Thomas Beecham, whose recording not only holds his own against any competition, his 1958 EMI recording, remastered in EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" series, is head and shoulders above most of the competition. Indeed, for many listeners, myself included, it may now rank at or near the top of the pile.

Sir Thomas Beecham
There is no doubt in my mind Beecham's interpretation is the most poetically inspiring vision of all. Steven Staryk's violin solos, the voice of the lady Scheherazade, are magnificently soaring in their lyricism. Nor does the excitement go wanting, especially in the big closing numbers, "The Festival of Baghdad" and "The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock." Beecham's magic touch, the constant twinkle in his eye, and his effervescent joy in conducting are forever in evidence. Combined with a rousing coupling of the Borodin "Polovtsian Dances," this is music-making of the highest order.

Then, there's the sound, produced by Victor Olof and Lawrence Collingwood and engineered by Christopher Parker at Kingsway Hall, London, March 1957 (Scheherazade) and Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, November 1956 ("Polovtsian Dances"), which EMI remastered as part of their "Great Recordings of the Century" line.

Ah, yes, the sound. It had been many years since I last heard Beecham's Scheherazade (on vinyl, in fact), and I was honestly not prepared to appreciate the remastered sonics as much as I did. Of the half dozen comparisons I've mentioned, Beecham's EMI recording was clearly among the best, the most transparent, the most natural, the most well-imaged. With the possible exception of some small background noise, hardly noticeable in most instances, and a slightly less robust bass than a few competitors, the EMI sonics are top drawer by the standards of any day. The high end in particular is more open than most of its rivals, yet the overall audio balance is warm and smooth. Indeed, it is only the equally old Reiner/RCA account that comes close sonically or interpretatively the Beecham, the Reiner a recording made even better, incidentally, in its JVC XRCD remastering.

Yes, all told, Beecham's account is one of the best you'll find. Can I recommend this disc any more strongly? Not without holding a gun to your head.


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

The Music of the Royal Swedish Navy (CD review)

Andreas Hanson, the Royal Swedish Navy Band. Mike Purton Recording Services MPR001.

Everybody likes a good march. The trouble is that most march albums contain the same popular tunes, and unless one knows a lot about the subject, it's hard to find something new and worthwhile. That's where discs like this one come in. It contains mostly marches, reveilles, signals, and other ceremonial and practical military music composed by Swedish composers, many of whom were members of the Swedish navy.

To do them justice, the Royal Swedish Navy Band plays with great precision and spontaneity under the direction of former Navy Band conductor and now symphonic conductor Andreas Hanson. What's more, the album's producer, Mike Purton, obtained the services of noted audio engineer Tony Faulkner to record the disc. The result is a program of stirring music and outstanding sonic quality, well worth one's time.

I doubt that it would be advantageous to list every selection on the agenda, so let me just tell you that the program involves thirty-four tracks and over seventy-six minutes of music, which means the producers filled it out quite well. Let me also tell you a few of the selections I liked best.

The first two marches--"Reveille" and the "Regina March"--pretty much set the tone. They are brief, compact, rousing, and extremely well played. Although maestro Hanson certainly emphasizes the martial aspects of the tunes, he never goes overboard, always remembering that this is music, after all. And very enjoyable music it is, too.

Andreas Hanson
The "Svensksund March" has a buoyant military air, and the "Intermezzo" that follows is appropriately somber, making a nice contrast of moods. Then it's back to a march, "With the Naval Men," which has a decidedly Sousa-like quality to it. The "Festspel" is aptly titled, a festive, celebratory piece, enthusiastically presented by Hanson and his team.

And so it goes, high-stepping all the way, with occasional somber interludes like the "Elegy for Gustav II Adolf." Likely my favorite selection on the whole program, though, is "Viva Esperanto!," which may also be one of the best-known marches on the program. In fact, the whole album is terrifically entertaining, with a little something for everyone, even non march fans. And perhaps most important, as I said before, it contains mainly music probably unfamiliar to most listeners.

Producer and editor Mike Purton and recording engineer Tony Faulkner recorded the album in 24-bit sound at The Admiralty Church, Karlskrona, Sweden in October and November 2007 (released 2016). The good news here is that Tony Faulkner is one of the best and most respected recording engineers in the business, and his recording philosophy works, as evidenced on this album. In an interview recently with Hi-Fi World, Mr. Faulkner explained his feelings about audio recording: "My philosophy is to try and keep things simple. Typically for a Mahler or Beethoven symphony, I'd use two mics if possible, which is a horrible shock! If I pull up the faders and two mics on their own do not work, I would do whatever is necessary but I don't see the recording process as demanding over-complication, digesting and excreting, but rather a transparent channel."

On the present disc, the sound is transparent, indeed. I loved the musical ambience, the bloom on the instruments, which enhances the reality of the occasion without masking the sound. The stereo spread is not enormously wide but realistically broad, enough to fill in the entire space between the speakers. Otherwise, dynamics are good, impact sometimes extremely impressive (drums), frequency response well balanced, and highs sparkling. It's the kind of recording you can play quite loudly (as you might actually hear a military band) without distortion, without getting a headache, and without ruining your ears.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 11, 2017

DCINY Presents Christina Kobb in Her Carnegie Hall Debut on Feb. 24

On February 24 at 8PM, DCINY (Distinguished Concerts International New York) presents 19th-century piano technique expert Christina Kobb in a performance of her program titled "Keys to Romance." The Norwegian pianist and scholar makes her Carnegie Hall debut performing an evening of selected Romantic piano pieces including works by Schubert, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Grieg, and Liszt.

Christina Kobb, Head of Theory at Barratt Due Institute of Music (BDM) in Oslo, was featured last summer in The New York Times regarding her soon-to-be finished doctoral work on early piano technique at the Norwegian Academy of Music. For fifteen years, Kobb has been specializing in historical pianos and has developed a theory on how to reconstruct 19th-century piano technique, teaching herself from old manuals. Her research has shown a considerable change in piano technique over the past decade, and she is now showcasing the long lost piano technique as a performer and lecturer.

Kobb is the recipient of the Nils Larsen bequest 2016 (Nils Larsen's legat) and has also been sponsored by All Classical Portland for this upcoming performance. Ms. Kobb holds degrees (Cand. Mag. in piano teaching, BA fortepiano performance) and MA from the Norwegian Academy of Music (NAM), Royal Conservatoire of The Hague (BA, MA (cum laude) of fortepiano performance, with teachers Bart van Oort and Stanley Hoogland, and was honoured to receive a one-year studentship to the renowned Cornell University to study with prof. Malcolm Bilson (2009/10). Christina has appeared at various occasions in Norway, England, The Netherlands and the U.S. with solo recitals and chamber music concerts. She is the proud recipient of Pianist Nils Larsen's bequest of 2016. Earlier in her career, she won the accompanist prize of 'The John Kerr Award for English song' (2006) at Finchcocks Musical Museum in Kent, England, and she received the 'Muzio Clementi Award' (2008). In 2007, she was awarded the coveted TICON scholarship.

Friday, February 24, 2017, 8:00 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, NYC

For more information, visit https://unison.prezly.com/dciny-presents-i-keys-to-romance-i-the-carnegie-hall-debut-of-pianist-christina-kobb-on-february-24-2017

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

PBO Welcomes Conductor Jonathan Cohen for Operatic Heroes Program
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale welcomes guest conductor Jonathan Cohen who will lead PBO in a program featuring arias and works from Baroque operas and oratorios. The program, called "Operatic Heroes," features acclaimed British countertenor Iestyn Davies who will perform excerpts from Handel's "Theodora," Hasse's "Didone Abbandonata," Thomas Arne's "Alfred," and Gluck's "Telemaco," and "Orfeo ed Euridice."

Davies is one of the world's finest countertenors and is known for his technical dexterity, intelligent musicianship and beautiful tone. He's won two Gramophone Awards, a GRAMMY Award, a Critic's Choice Award and was recently nominated for an Oliver Award honoring the best of British theatre.

Jonathan Cohen has forged a remarkable career as a conductor, cellist and keyboardist. Cohen is known for his passion for chamber music and is as equally at ease with Baroque opera as he is with classical symphonic repertoire. He has recently been named the Music Director of Montreal's highly esteemed Les Violons du Roy, effective in the 2018-19 season. Cohen founded his ensemble Arcangelo in 2010 and has produced four award-winning recordings including a 2012 Gramophone Award winning disc with Iestyn Davies called "Arias for Guadagni." Six pieces from that recording will be performed at this PBO concert.

Jonathan Cohen and Iestyn Davies have a unique chemistry when they work together, with each bringing out the best in the other. Many of the pieces in the program were originally written for castrati. Davies approaches these works with incredible skill. And when combined with the the nuanced direction of Jonathan Cohen and the historically-informed musicianship of the Orchestra, the audience can expect beautifully rendered performances of these lovely vocal works.

Tickets range from $27 to $108. For more information about this and other Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale concerts, visit philharmonia.org. For San Francisco, Berkeley and Lafayette tickets, visit cityboxoffice.com or call 415-392-4400. For tickets to the Stanford performance, visit live.stanford.edu or call  650.724.BING (2464).

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

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Orion "Connections" in March Features Kritz, Clarke, Mahler
On a program of "Connections," The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, presents its third concert program of the season, which takes its name from a Robert Kritz work composed for Orion. Performances, which welcome back guest violist Stephen Boe, take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva March 12; the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago March 15; and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois, March 19.

The Orion Ensemble's concert program "Connections" takes place Sunday, March 12 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Wednesday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

New Symphonic and Operatic Projects for Tod Machover
Symphony in D, the fifth installment of Tod Machover's groundbreaking City Symphonies series and the first in the United States, is the subject of a new documentary bearing the same title; it is directed and produced by Marlon Johnson and Dennis Scholl. The world premiere of the 53-minute documentary takes place on March 5 at the Miami International Film Festival, followed by showings at the Cinequest festival in San Jose, and at later film festivals around the United States.

Following its festival appearances, the film will be aired on Detroit Public Television (DPTV) and other public broadcasting channels throughout North America. Made possible through substantial support by the Knight Foundation, Symphony in D, which utilizes the myriad sound samples and compositions submitted via special mobile technologies created and developed by Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab, premiered at Orchestra Hall in Detroit in November 2015. The yearlong musical collaboration between Machover, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, their music director Leonard Slatkin, and residents of the city of Detroit culminated in two performances have received high critical acclaim.

To watch the documentary trailer, click here: http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article118973103.html/video-embed

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

PBO's Sixth Annual LGBT Reception
Sixth Annual LGBT Reception
Friday, March 3, 2017
Thomas E. Horn Bar & Lounge, Veterans Building post-concert

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale invites you to our 6th annual post-concert LGBT reception in San Francisco. Enjoy a glass of wine and dessert while mingling with guest conductor Jonathan Cohen, countertenor Iestyn Davies, and members of the Orchestra and Chorale.

The reception will take place in the Thomas E. Horn Bar & Lounge beneath Herbst Theatre following the concert. Everyone is welcome! Please rsvp to Andrea Saenz at asaenz@philharmonia.org to let us know that you are coming.

Then, on Friday, March 10, PBO will host its annual gala. The evening will take place at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel with a world-premiere commission by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw written for and performed by Dominique Labelle that evening. The celebratory Gala will celebrate PBO's latest initiative, "New Music for Old Instruments," while recognizing Ms. Labelle's extraordinary artistic contributions to the world of historically-informed vocal performance in the Bay Area and beyond.

For more information or tickets for Philharmonia Barqoue Orchestra & Chorale's Annual Winter Gala, please visit: https://philharmonia.org/support-us/annual-gala/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Music Institute Appoints Contreras to Cello Faculty
The Music Institute of Chicago announces the appointment of cellist Horacio Contreras to its esteemed faculty, effective immediately at its Community Music School and Academy program for gifted pre-college students.

A product of the Venezuelan El Sistema, Contreras has built an impressive career as a teacher during the past 20-plus years. He has presented cello classes at the University of Michigan, The Juilliard School, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, and Il Sistema's Latin-American Cello Academy. He has appeared as a concerto soloist with orchestras including the Municipal Orchestra of Caracas, the EAFIT University Orchestra in Medellín, the Virtuosi of Caracas, the Camerata de France, and the Simón Bolivar Symphony. He holds a doctorate degree from the University of Michigan.

Music Institute President and CEO Mark George said, "Horacio is a master teacher with the skills to teach a wide range of students, from intermediate to advanced. I have seen students progress very quickly under his tutelage. He truly has emerged as one of the best teachers of his generation." Dean of Academic Affairs Emily Abraham added, "We expect Horacio to be an anchor of our string department for many years to come."

"It is an honor to join the faculty of such a wonderful institution," said Contreras. "Teaching is my passion, and I do it to give back all of the wonderful things I have received from life and music."

In the coming months, Contreras is offering a series of free master classes and workshops at schools and other venues in the Chicago area. Anyone interested in hosting a master class should contact the Music Institute at 847-448-8311.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Musica Viva NY Presents "Voices in Motion"
Musica Viva NY, led by Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, presents "Voices in Motion"--a program celebrating vibrant and inspirational choral works, including Tomás Luis de Victoria's timeless late-renaissance motet "O Vos Omnes" from Tenebrae Responsories, and Dvorák's "Goin' Home," arranged by William Arms Fisher, part of the New York Philharmonic's 175th anniversary New World Initiative--on Sunday, March 5 at 5:00 p.m. at All Souls Church.

Additional choral works by Arvo Pärt, Morten Lauridsen, Henrik Górecki, Eriks Ešenvalds, John Tavener, and Imant Raminsh are paired with solo organ works by composers including Dan Locklair and Jehan Alain that showcase the many sonic colors of the Holtkamp pipe organ. All Souls' historic sanctuary is used in dynamic ways as the choir moves throughout the space during the program in varying configurations.

Founded in 1977, Musica Viva NY—a chamber choir of thirty professionals and highly skilled volunteers—is driven by a desire to share the transcendent power of choral and instrumental music with audiences in New York City and beyond. With a broad repertoire that includes new compositions and classic masterworks, Musica Viva NY emphasizes artistic excellence and transformative interpretations to ennoble the human spirit.  Its imaginative programming  offers joy, solace and renewal in a complex world.

Additional concerts in Musica Viva NY's 2016-17 season include "An Elegy for all Humanity: Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem" and Seymour Bernstein's "Song of Nature" (Sunday, May 7 at 5:00 p.m.) at All Souls Church, and "Forever Young: Great American Songs" on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at NY 229, a townhouse in midtown Manhattan.

Tickets for "Voices in Motion," priced at $30, are available by visiting http://musicaviva.org/tickets/ or at the door on the evening of the concert.

--Katln Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Librettist Mark Campbell Premieres Five New Operas in 2017
Librettist Mark Campbell premieres five new operas in 2017: The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Dinner at Eight, Elizabeth Cree, Some Light Emerges, and The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable
Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare.

New works in collaboration with composers Mason Bates, William Bolcom, Kevin Puts, Laura Kaminsky, and Julian Grant presented by Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Houston Grand Opera, and Boston Lyric Opera.

Librettist Mark Campbell, who is much admired for his libretto of the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night, will be premiering an unprecedented number of new operas in 2017. Mark will launch five new works this year with five major U.S. opera houses—nearly one every two months. This unique accomplishment arrives on the heels of last year's tremendous success with his and composer Paul Moravec's opera, The Shining, which broke all box office records at Minnesota Opera. These new operas each demonstrate Campbell's versatility and range as an artist and prove why his work remains at the forefront of the contemporary opera scene in this country.

For more information about Mark Campbell, visit www.markcampbellwords.com

--Liza Prijatel Thors, Rebecca Davis PR

Lang Lang News
Universal Music Group (UMG), the world leader in music-based entertainment, today announced a new long-term recording agreement with the world's most impactful pianist Lang Lang. The agreement, effective immediately, marks Lang Lang's return to UMG's artist roster, with future classical albums to be released through Deutsche Grammophon, where he was signed until 2010.

A globally celebrated piano virtuoso, Lang Lang has sold millions of albums around the world, topping classical charts and achieving simultaneous mainstream success. He was nominated in 2007 for a Grammy Award, becoming the first Chinese artist nominated for Best Instrumental Soloist. During the past decade Lang Lang has performed for classical music fans, world leaders, monarchs and dignitaries including President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth II. He has reached televised audiences of billions, performing at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

Find out more at http://langlang.com

--Olga Makrias, Universal Music Group

ABS Education & Outreach 2017 Lectures
Prior to each of American Bach Soloists' subscription concerts, they offer a free and informative pre-concert lecture. This year, ABS welcomes the engaging musicologist, Victor Gavenda, as the 2016-2017 Season guest lecturer.

The next ABS concerts include
"A Weekend in Paris"
February 10-13, 2017

Bach's Motets
March 31-April 3, 2017

La Resurrezione
May 5-8, 2017

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

--American Bach Soloists

Anne-Sophie Mutter Tours US with Lambert Orkis
Globally-renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and her longtime musical partner pianist Lambert Orkis give 11 performances across the United States in Spring 2017. The duo have spent nearly 30 years making music together, resulting in numerous successful Deutsche Grammophon recordings, earning Grammy Awards, an ECHO Award, as well as a Choc de l'Année Award.

The recital program will be played in seven cities including San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall, New York's Carnegie Hall and Washington DC's Kennedy Center, with a program including works by Sebastian Currier – who previously wrote a number of other works for Mrs. Mutter such as Aftersong (1994) and Ringtone Variations (2013) - Mozart, Respighi, and Saint-Saëns. Mrs. Mutter concludes the tour with a four-date engagement with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andris Nelsons, where the concert program features selections by Tchaikovsky and Nostalghia by Toru Takemitsu, which Mrs. Mutter played at her 35th Anniversary concert of her Japanese debut.

For complete information, visit http://www.anne-sophie-mutter.de/home.html?L=1

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Puccini: La Boheme (CD review)

Andrea Bocelli, Barbara Frittoli; Zubin Mehta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Decca 269 464 060-2 (2-disc set).

Passion. It's what I think of first when I think of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. Without passion, the opera is just beautiful music. Not that there's anything wrong with beautiful music, mind you, and with this set you'll get that aplenty. But something magical happens when the performers invest the music with an ardent Italianate fervor. This is evident in the great La Boheme recordings of the past like those from De los Angeles, Bjorling, and Beecham (EMI); Freni, Pavarotti, and Karajan (Decca); or Tebaldi, Bergonzi, and Serafin (Decca). By contrast, especially to the first two, which I had on hand for comparison, the team of Barbara Frittoli, Andrea Bocelli, and Zubin Mehta in the 2000 Decca set under review doesn't quite scale the same heights of excitement.

Where the older stars were sweet and lyrical where needed and expressive and thrilling likewise, the newcomers seem more interested merely in reproducing lovely tunes. In the big numbers like "Che gelida manina" and "Si, Mi chiamano Mimi" and "O soave fanciulla," Frittoli and Bocelli fail to set the soul on fire or to make the hair on the back of the neck stand up the way the others do. Frittoli and Bocelli failed to convince me of their love, their ardor--in essence, their passion. Nor do they evoke the kind of sympathy they should for Mimi and Rodolfo in the final death scene, in "Oh Dio! Mimi!" and "Che ha detto il medico?"

Andrea Bocelli
The singers' voices are pure, their enunciation is letter perfect, and undoubtedly their hearts are in the right place. They sing as sweetly as one could hope for and make this La Boheme a warm event; nothing can diminish Puccini's capacity for refined sentimentality and beauty of tone. Nevertheless, do they have that extra dimension that sets them apart and makes us want to weep along with them? Not really, except, I suppose, to Bocelli fans who love everything the man sings, no matter what.

Where the new Decca recording does shine, however, is in its aural clarity. It is in most ways the best recorded of the ones I've mentioned, and it sounds decidedly better than the Tebaldi-Bergonzi set, which is much older than any of them. The newer Decca displays voices that sound practically in the room with the listener. Still, the older Freni-Pavarotti Decca has a sonic quality all its own that's hard to beat, too; namely, the reverberant ambiance of a live performance that may bring the listener closer to the actual event.

It's hard to say just who the audience might be for any Puccini recording. Certainly, opera collectors and Puccini fans will want everything that comes along. Andrea Bocelli is a hot star at any time, and many of his fans will want to hear him singing anything. Those listeners interested primarily in sonic value will no doubt find the Bocelli venture to their liking (although, to be honest, it sounded a little lacking in stage depth to me). For first-time buyers I'd still recommend Freni-Pavarotti as the best all-around bet, grand opera at its most sweeping, feverish best. Moreover, if you haven't heard the sets from Vaduva, Alagna, and Pappano (EMI) or Gheorghiu, Alagna, and Chailly (Decca) or Moffo, Tucker, and Leinsdorf (RCA), you might like them, as well.


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

Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie (CD review)

Also, Horn Concerto No. 1. Alan Civil, horn; Rudolf Kempe, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Testament SBT 1428 (remastered).

For the past forty-five years or so I have been living happily with Rudolf Kempe's 1971 EMI recording of An Alpine Symphony with the Dresden Staatskapelle, even though I knew that Kempe had also recorded it just a few years earlier with the Royal Philharmonic on a disc that RCA made for Reader's Digest. I also knew that the earlier performance was just as good as the later one but that RCA had done it no favors with the sound. Frankly, the LP sounded pretty bad to me, and I never bothered with the recording again, until recently. That's when I got hold of Testament's CD remaster. Now, I think I have two favorites.

The German composer and conductor Richard Strauss (1864-1949) began writing An Alpine Symphony in 1911 and completed it several years later. It was the last of his big-scale symphonic tone poems, the composer spending his final thirty-odd years writing other kinds of music, songs, and, of course, opera. I have read that Strauss came to write his Alpine Symphony after viewing the Bavarian mountains behind his home, the mountains he used to climb and enjoy in his youth.

Whatever, An Alpine Symphony proved one of the composer's most controversial works, with critics and general listeners either loving it or hating it. Commentators for years have written it off as nothing more than picture-postcard music, lightweight fluff, hammy and melodramatic and unworthy to set alongside the master's greater works. However, I wonder if these critics aren't letting their estimate of the subject matter cloud their judgment. I mean, for some people the mere description of mountains, peaks, and pastures can't seem to measure up against things with such imposing titles as Death and Transfiguration and Also Sprach Zarathustra. Be that as it may, I personally find An Alpine Symphony immensely entertaining, and I believe the glories of Nature are every bit as sublime and profound as anything written by Nietzsche.

Originally, Strauss intended to compose a traditional four-movement symphony whose theme as he put it, "...represents moral purification through one's own strength, liberation through work, worship of eternal, magnificent nature." What he came up with was an attractive tone poem, the musical depiction of a day's ascent of an alpine mountain, a storm at the top, the climber's contemplation of Nature, and the descent. Philosophy aside, that's more than enough.

The work comprises twenty-two movements, with titles telling the tale, things like "Night," "Sunrise," "The Ascent," "Entry into the Forest," "Wandering by the Brook," "By the Waterfall," "On Flowering Meadows," "An Alpine Pasture," "On the Glacier," "Dangerous Moments," "On the Summit," "Calm Before the Storm," "Thunderstorm," "Sunset," and a return to "Night." Strauss describes each of these events in music, and although there may be a few too many climaxes along the way, it is all quite vivid and imposing. After all, Strauss calls for a huge orchestra, over 120 players, and the piece is vast in scope, grandiose, often majestic, and not a little, in part, bombastic.

Rudolf Kempe
So, what does Kempe bring to the table that surpasses such notable conductors of the work as Karajan, Solti, Haitink, Mehta, Previn, Blomstedt, and others who have scaled these peaks? Kempe's performance is just as nuanced, just as refined, just as atmospheric, and just as glorious with the Royal Philharmonic as it would later be with the Dresden Staatskapelle; but, if anything, it's just a touch more spontaneous. It's as though the hiker on the mountainside is a little younger and a little more impetuous than the later climber. Still, the differences in interpretation are hardly worth mentioning and both performances are unmatched. With the new Testament, it's the remastered sound that impresses one.

The accompanying Horn Concerto with Kempe, the RPO, and the great Alan Civil makes a fine pairing. The playing is just as good as in the symphony, and the sound is just as good as well. One could hardly ask for more, big and Romantic and warmly performed.

Is there anything I truly disliked about the album? Well, yes, but it's almost too trivial to mention. I don't like the sepia-tinged portrait of the conductor on the Testament cover. I wish they had used the original RCA cover picture of a snow-covered mountain. But that's just me. I like gazing at album covers that put me in a mood for the music. Cover pictures of conductors (or composers) don't exactly do it for me. Also, Testament includes an excellent set of booklet notes, mostly about the conductor, but they use such tiny print, they're a genuine chore to read.

The respected conductor, arranger, and producer Charles Gerhardt along with the equally respected ex-Decca engineer Kenneth Wilkinson recorded the music for Reader's Digest/RCA at Kingsway Hall, London in April 1966. It was the first stereo recording of the symphony, and everyone involved was worthy of the project. In 2008 Paul Baily of Re:Sound remastered the recording for Testament, and I finally came upon it in 2016. Better late than never, I suppose.

As I mentioned above, I was never a fan of the original LP sonics, and I never actually heard its first CD release except to read the generally bad reviews about its sound. Which is why I can tell you how excited I am about how good the Testament remaster sounds. Yes, it's a trifle bright and, yes, the bass could be a tad stronger. That said, we have a sound field that is wide and deep, clean and open, and ever so transparent. Highs, if a bit forward, sparkle; midrange is as clear as anyone could desire; and bass is still more than adequate. If you wanted to spend about five extra seconds, you could turn the treble down a notch and the bass up a tick, and you'd have as good an audiophile disc as you could find. (OK, I know that real audiophiles would never consider tweaking the sound of a recording; if one doesn't play the disc exactly as it comes, it's cheating or something. But, trust me, just do it, in the privacy of your own living room, and no one will ever know.)


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 4, 2017

Spoleto Festival USA Announces 2017 Program

Festival General Director Nigel Redden announced today the program for the 41st annual Spoleto Festival USA, taking place May 26 through June 11, 2017, in Charleston, South Carolina. "On the heels of a hugely exciting 40th season, this year's Festival promises to build on that momentum," says Redden. "Charleston's rich history in the arts comes alive during each Festival, and we will explore that history and add to it again in 2017."

The 2017 Festival features more than 160 ticketed events, held in 12 venues around Charleston that reflect the city's past and present—including the intimate Woolfe Street Playhouse, the historic Dock Street Theatre, and the recently renovated Charleston Gaillard Center. Again in 2017, the Gaillard will host the Festival's opera, this year a new production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. The Dock Street Theatre will be the venue for the US premiere of Vivaldi's opera Farnace, as well as renowned Irish theater company Druid's production of Waiting for Godot. Award-winning Garry Hynes, Druid's artistic director, will direct both Dock Street performances. A few blocks uptown, three other internationally acclaimed theater productions will be held in College of Charleston's Emmett Robinson Theatre: Blind Summit Theatre's The Table, Aurélia Thierrée's Murmurs, and Rezo Gabriadze's Ramona.

The complete 2017 program and an event calendar can be found at https://spoletousa.org/current-season/schedule/

Tickets went on sale to the general public January 18: By phone at 843.579.3100 and online at spoletousa.org. Also, tickets can be purchased in person through the Spoleto Festival USA Box Office at the Charleston Gaillard Center (95 Calhoun Street) beginning Monday, May 1.

--Shuman Associates PR

The Sheen Center Announces Its Spring 2017 Classical Music Series
The NoHo/East Village based Sheen Center for Thought and Culture is proud to announce its 2017 spring classical series made up of three unique concerts curated by Marc Kaplan of SubCulture, exploring the gamut of chamber music from the classical to the contemporary eras.

The series begins on April 24 with violinist Anthony Marwood and the acclaimed chamber orchestra Les Violins du Roy performing works by Strauss, Mozart, and Enescu. The second concert, May 6, features cellist, composer, and curator Joshua Roman and several guest musicians in a far-ranging recital program. A final June 5 concert rounds out the season with the world premiere performance of Gregg Kallor's piano quintet, performed by Kallor and The Attacca Quartet.

For more information about the Spring season, please visit:

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

FAYM January Newsletter
The Foundation to Assist Young Musicians is dedicated to "Building Better Futures Through Music."

Meet Michelle! Michelle is a 3rd grade student who takes violin classes with us at the Pearson Community Center. Although she has only had a violin in her hands since October 2016, she performed with her class in our Christmas Concert and is learning songs to perform in the Spring Concert this March.

Meet Joshua! Joshua está en segundo grado y está tomando clases en el East Las Vegas Community Center. Nomas tiene como 3 meses con el violín en sus manos.

A Message from the FAYM President:
"Our Founder and Board President, Hal Weller, has decided to step down and retire from his many years of service and dedication to FAYM. The children of our inner city communities are very fortunate that Hal took an interest in them and did something! What began in 2009 with just 12 students has grown to include over a hundred current students...."

For more information, visit thefaym.org.

--The Foundation to Assist Young Musicians

Acclaimed Organist Chelsea Chen to Play Free Recital Feb. 10 in Des Plaines
Award-winning young international concert organist and composer Chelsea Chen will perform a diverse, centuries-spanning program that includes her signature composition, "Taiwanese Suite," and the Chicago debut of her "Chorale-Prelude on 'Bethold'" at a free concert presented by the Chicago chapter of the American Guild of Organists at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 10, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 675 East Algonquin Road, Des Plaines, Ill. The event is open to the public, and reservations are not required. More information at www.chicagoago.com, (773) 865-5470.

For more information, visit http://www.chelseachen.com and www.chicagoago.com

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Baroque Violinist Tekla Cunningham To Give Free ABS Master Class on Monday February 6th
The first in the 2017 series of American Bach Soloists Free Master Classes will take place next Monday on February 6th at 7:30 p.m. in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street at Van Ness.

Works by Bach performed by Sarah Bleile, violin; Elizabeth Boardman, viola; Emily Nardo, violin; and Eugenio Solinas, cello.

Additional free 2017 Master Classes include Steven Lehning, violone, on Monday, March 13, 2017 at 7:30 pm; and Jeffrey Thomas, conductor, on Monday, April 10, 2017 at 7:30 pm.

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

--American Bach Soloists

Music for Life International - Feb. 13
Music For Life International continues its decade-long tradition of global humanitarian concerts at Carnegie Hall by presenting Mahler For Vision, a benefit concert of Gustav Mahler's monumental Second Symphony "Resurrection"(the only performance of Mahler's Second Symphony at Carnegie Hall during the 2016-17 season) on Monday, February 13, 2017 at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, NYC.

The concert, which is the culmination of the Music For Vision series of concerts in the Netherlands and Mumbai and Delhi, India, aims to promote the restoration of vision to millions affected by treatable cataract blindness on the most prestigious concert stage in the world. The net proceeds of Mahler For Vision will benefit HelpMeSee's unique efforts to end preventable cataract blindness and to preserve and enrich the dignity and livelihoods of those affected through the innovative use of cutting-edge technology and transformative socio-economic models for distributing these critical public health services.

The performance will be conducted by Singapore-born, Indian conductor and Music For Life Artistic Director, George Mathew, and will feature renowned American violinist, Elmira Darvarova (the first woman ever to serve as Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York); distinguished soprano Indra Thomas; and mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, a familiar voice to New York audiences from more than thirty years of iconic performances at the Metropolitan Opera and the concert stage. Mahler For Vision will bring together many of the world's finest orchestral musicians. Principal artists will gather from many of today's most distinguished, ensembles, music academies and conservatories.

For more information, visit http://www.music4lifeinternational.org/Music_for_Life_International/Home.html

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

2017 ABS Academy Applications Due February 15th
The American Bach Soloists ACADEMY is an advanced training program for emerging professionals and accomplished students of Historically Informed Performance Practice. The ABS Academy is held in the spectacular facilities of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, in the heart of San Francisco's Arts district.

During the course of the program, students and faculty present public concerts as part of the American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy including programs of chamber music, "Academy-in-Action" performances, a concert-version Baroque opera or oratorio and annual performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor, which include the participation of the American Bach Choir. Additional Academy events provide opportunities for collaboration with other arts organizations through colloquia and special performances.

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

--American Bach Soloists

Orchestre National de Lyon - First US Visit Since 2003
Beginning February 18, the Orchestre National de Lyon, "probably the most refined ensemble of the world" (The Guardian), tours the United States for the first time since 2003, playing concerts with music director Leonard Slatkin on a six-city tour. The Orchestra performs in renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and at the University of Georgia, Wake Forest University, and others. Special guest artists at Carnegie Hall include two of classical music's most treasured American voices, soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Thomas Hampson. The New York program will feature debut performances of Guillaume Connesson's Celephaïs and a new Ravel arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's Antar with text by Amin Maalouf.

The programs predominantly feature music of French composers, namely Berlioz and Ravel, whom the Orchestra performs and records extensively. At Carnegie Hall, the program opens with a reconstructed version of Ravel's incidental music to Antar, after works by Rimsky-Korsakov. The ONL has pioneered what is essentially a new work, after commissioning French-Lebanese writer, Amin Maalouf, to compose a contemporary text to add new dimension to the music. Mr. Maalouf, whose work has included the libretti for four of Kaija Saariaho's operas, collaborated closely with Maestro Leonard Slatkin to create a libretto with narrator (Thomas Hampson). The text is declaimed during and in between the musical movements.  This inventive version of music and text premiered in France in 2014; an English translation by Matthew Hurt and Sarah Vermande makes its debut at Carnegie Hall on February 20.

For more information, visit http://www.auditorium-lyon.com/Programmation-16-17/Symphonique/Orchestre-national-de-Lyon

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Music Institute Premieres Duo Piano Dialogues March 26
To spotlight the unique repertoire for two pianists at one and two pianos, the Music Institute of Chicago presents Duo Piano Dialogues, a series of performances with commentary featuring the Music Institute's piano duo in residence Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem as performers and speakers. The first program, "Schubert and the Princess," takes place Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.

"Schubert and the Princess," an exploration of Schubert's relationship with Princess Caroline Esterhazy and the four-hand music their friendship inspired, includes Rondo in D (Notre amitié est invariable), Variations on a French Song, Grande Marche No. 6 in E Major, Divertissement a la Hongroise, and Fantasie in F minor. Following the performance and commentary, there will be a gathering for refreshments and conversation.

The Duo Piano Dialogue program "Schubert and the Princess" takes place Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students, available at musicinst.org/duo-piano-dialogues. For information, call the Nichols Concert Hall Box Office at 847.905.1500 or visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

92Y March Concerts - a Month of Debuts
Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 8:30PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Sir András Schiff Selects: Young Pianists
Dinara Klinton, piano (92Y debut)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 8:30PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Thibault Garcia, guitar (New York debut)
European Guitar Quartet (New York debut)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at 8:30PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord (92Y debut)

Saturday, March 25, 2017  at 8:00PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Pablo Sáinz Villegas, guitar (92Y debut)

Sunday, March 26, 2017 at 3:00PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Rafal Blechacz, piano (92Y debut)

For more information, visit www.92Y.org

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

PBO Presents 2017 Winter Gala Honoring Dominque Labelle
Join us on Friday, March 10, 2017 for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale's annual Winter Gala at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown San Francisco, CA.

This year's gala will feature the world premiere of a newly commissioned piece by Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Caroline Shaw, written for and performed by acclaimed soprano Dominique Labelle. Ms. Labelle will also be honored at the event for her extraordinary artistic contributions.

The evening includes a silent auction showcasing one-of-a-kind items and cocktail reception; an exquisite three-course dinner and student musician performance; and a festive afterparty featuring a premium Scotch tasting.

We hope you'll join us for a magical evening and support the future of America's leading period ensemble.

For more information, visit https://philharmoniabaroqueorchestra.secure.force.com/donate/?dfId=a0ni000000K1Mf2AAF

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, Goldpoint SA4 “passive preamp,” Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura’s hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa