Mozert: Concerto for Three Hands and a Foot, "Hawaiian" (DDT review)

Also, Flat-Foot Floogie (with a Floy-Floy). D.G. Frump, lyre; Lft. Sir Cedric Noel Vivian Barnstable III (Bart., Smpsn., O.B.E., W.A.N.); Buford (Wyoming) Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Sunny Classical BFD-911.

Most classical listeners today will  recognize the name Severus Octavian Siriasis Mozert better than that of his son and subject of this review, Ludvocio Ochozath Ludicrus Mozert. Be that as it may, we press onward.

L.O.L. Mozert (1753-1762) was born in the small Bavarian town of Mary-Kay-Upon-Avon in 1743 to the tune of an itinerant flue-pipe salesman. LOL's first notable achievement occurred during the Battle of Handly Fern, where young Ludvocio tried his hand at managing a self-serve restaurant, the War 'N Buffet, but failed handily. Later, he played hunchback at Notre Dame U. under the legendary coach, Urban Legend. When that didn't work out, however, it led to his greatest (and only) musical achievement, the chorale-prelude Concerto for Three Hands and a Foot in A-class lower-berth, "Hawaiian," co-written with his longtime attendant and accomplice, Warren Peece. Although Mozert wrote the work originally for penny whistle, we have heard it adapted over the years for any number of solo instruments, including but not limited to the tin whistle, the English flageolet, the tin flageolet, the Scottish penny whistle, the Irish whistle, the Belfast Hornpipe, the fleadóg stáin, and the Clarke London Flageolet. On the present recording, we hear it played on the lyre.

Lft. Sir Cedric Etc. Etc.
German-American-Scottish-Jamaican entrepreneur, bankruptcy lawyer, quiz-show host, reform-school graduate, and lyre exponent extraordinaire Domhnall Giovanni Frump performs the concerto with a haughty accord (or a Honda Accord if you're in the mood for some light traveling music). Ably accompanying Mr. Frump are Maestro Lft. Sir Cedric Noel Vivian Barnstable III and the Buford (Wyoming) Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra (Don Sammons, strings; Don Sammons, winds; Don Sammons, brass; Don Sammons, percussion; Don Sammons, woodwinds and harp; Don Sammons, piano, celesta, and keyboards; Don Sammons, electronics; Don Sammons, wind machines; and Don Sammons, motor grinder). The orchestra also play with one accord, which may be the only car in town.

We interrupt the review in progress with an important word from our sponsor:

Friends, do you feel fatigued, irritable, stagnant, annoyed, endemic, requited, bicarbonated, carborundumed, or referendumed? You need the new, super-improved Johnson & Johnson PfizerRoche NovartisPlus Teleportonic Elixir: good for everything in the home including coreopsis, (the secret is in the scrubbing; it doesn't suds and doesn't foam), and now it cleans your breath as it cleans your sink.

Side effects may include mild skin irritation, dandruff, hives, allergies, dizziness, indigestion, constipation, nasal congestion, back pain, weight loss, depression, fainting, influenza, tonsillitis, pneumonia, botulism, strep throat, hyperthermia, asthma, arthritis, bursitis, diabetes, osteoporosis, anemia, strangulation, pancreatitis, hepatitis, leprosy, blindness, kidney failure, lung and prostate cancer, tuberculosis, heart disease, brain tumors, narcolepsy, necrophilia, dementia, insanity, mad cow disease, and suicidal tendencies with uncontrollable desires to leap from tall buildings in a single bound. Do not use NovartisPlus if you drive a car, stand up, sit down, sleep, or breathe, as it may cause serious reactions.

We now return you to your regular programming.

Sorry. Where was I? Oh, yes.

Executive producer Robert Langdon, digital editor Henry Higgins, and chief engineer Harold Hill, known professionally as "The Three Professors," recorded the music in the main gallery of the Buford Town Post Office on April 1, 2017 (well, actually, it's on Interstate 80, but close enough). The sound they obtained one might charitably call bearable. The highs spring forth with the stagnancy of a spring bouquet in fall, permeating the air with a quercetic vapor redolent of soggy underwear on a summer day. The midrange carries the sonic image further into the realms of the preternatural with a transparency borne of dedicated attention to enumeration and redundancy, the whole experience capped off with a basso-relievo that thunders through the floorboards, into the basement, and through some of the deepest fissures of the planet.

It sounds OK.

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

Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (CD review)

Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Telarc CD-80565. 

Austrian composer and conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) has been popular among audiophiles since the early days of stereo, and it was Mahler who first filled up the bins in the early days of compact discs. It's no wonder, then, that even his unfinished Tenth Symphony remains competitive today, with two releases of different reconstructions coming out at around the same time from Simon Rattle (EMI) and Jesus Lopez-Cobos in the early 2000's.

At his death Mahler left the Tenth Symphony in various stages of completion. A couple of the work's five movements were finished, and several others the composer left in detailed sketches only. For years, conductors only performed the two completed movements, and some purist conductors today apparently still insist on doing so, but the music as reconstructed by various people in various forms seems to be gaining a new audience. Maestro Jesus Lopez-Cobos uses one of the most-recent revisions, that of Remo Mazetti, Jr. (1997). Lopez-Cobos presents the piece in a fairly gusty and Romantic manner, mostly emphasizing the work's soaring lyricism, as in the first movement, and its bizarre eccentricities, as in the two Scherzos and the introduction to the Finale. Telarc's sound upholds its end, too, with its warm, natural presence.

Jesus Lopez-Cobos
All fine and good had I left well enough alone. But I couldn't resist listening the symphony again, this time comparing it side-by-side with Simon Rattle's account with the Berlin Philharmonic. Comparisons can be devastating. Perhaps it wasn't an entirely fair comparison, either, because Rattle uses the older Deryck Cooke edition and, as I said, Lopez-Cobos uses the newer Mazetti one; still, it was close enough. My conclusion? Next to Rattle, Lopez-Cobos seemed rather earthbound. His interpretation, so lovely on its own, appears straightforward and mundane by comparison to Rattle's. It's like plain vanilla vs. Swiss chocolate swirl. Rattle wrings every ounce of emotion from the score, making one pine and long for the participants, presumably Mahler and his lost love, Alma, whom Mahler had discovered having an affair in his last year.

The sound, too, favors Rattle. While Telarc's sonics are certainly worthwhile, they tend to sound muted, soft, and flat compared to EMI's live recording (which in itself is remarkable, considering that I don't usually care for live recordings). Rattle's orchestra does appear a bit harder and thinner than Lopez-Cobos's, to be sure, but the great Berlin strings more than make up for it. In the end, EMI's sound comes off as more transparent, more dynamic, and, ultimately, more realistic than Telarc's.  Both are good investments, but if one must make a choice, I would recommend one opts for the Rattle.

JJP

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


Intermezzi del Verismo (CD review)

Music of Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano, Cilea, Wolf-Ferrari. Lodovico Zocche, Philharmonisches Orchester Graz. CPO 777 953-2.

Classical music lovers, especially opera fans, already know what intermezzi (or intermezzos) are, but for those who might be a little unclear on the concept, my Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines an intermezzo as "a short dramatic, musical, or other entertainment of light character, introduced between the acts of a drama or opera. Or a short musical composition between main divisions of an extended musical work. Or simply a short, independent musical composition." In the case of this album, we're talking about the first definition.

Further, opera fans will surely already know the meaning of verismo, but, again, the dictionary defines it as "the use of everyday life and actions in artistic works: introduced into opera in the early 1900s in reaction to contemporary conventions, which were seen as artificial and untruthful." Purists may balk at some of the titles included on the program as not being entirely "intermezzi" or pure "verismo," but for most of us the dictionary definitions are broad enough to cover most of the ground here.

The present album provides a dozen intermezzi--some of them quite famous, others not so much--from as many operas, all performed by Lodovico Seiche and the Graz Philharmonic Orchestra. The following is a list of the disc's contents:

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924):
Symphonic Prelude in A
La Tregenda: Act II from Le Villi
Intermezzo: Act III from Manon Lescaut
Intermezzo from Suor Angelica

Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945):
Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana
Intermezzo from L'amico Fritz
Sinfonia from Le maschere

Ruggero Leoncavallo (1858-1919):
Intermezzo from Pagliacci

Umberto Giordano (1867-1948):
Intermezzo: Act II from Fedora

Francisco Cilea (1866-1950):
Intermezzo: Act II from Adriana Lecouvreur

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948):
Intermezzo from I gioielli della Madonna

Italo Montemezzi (1875-1952):
Prelude: Act III L'amore dei Tre Re

Ludovico Zocche
All of the music appears beautifully and sensitively played by Maestro Zocche. What's more, the Graz Philharmonic responds splendidly to his direction; just don't expect them to sound as rich and luxurious as their more illustrious neighbors in Vienna. However, my own reaction was that perhaps Maestro Zocche interpreted the tunes a little too beautifully and sensitively, leaving out some of the passion and fire of the pieces. It is all quite pleasant and relaxing, but it seems to me to omit the spark it needs, particularly if one is calling it "verismo," which ought to indicate a more practical and less Romantic approach.

Nevertheless, more than a few selections stood out as worthy of attention. The opening Preludio, for example, projects a sweet, graceful, lyrical charm. The following La Tregenda is appropriately robust. In neither case, however, did I feel the fire I sometimes find in other performances. But I quibble; Maestro Zocche does a splendid job for the most part.

The intermezzo from Suor Angelica displays a proper tenderness; the familiar music from Cavalleria rusticana is gorgeous if a bit sentimental; the Pagliacci intermezzo seems a tad overdramatic; and so it goes, with my nit-picking all along the way. Let it suffice that you probably won't find the music performed any better than here, not if you're looking for all of it in one place, at any rate.

Finally, I'm not sure for whom the producers of the album intended it. Surely, the dedicated opera fan will already have most if not all of this music already in his or her collection. Lovers classical orchestral music may even have similar discs. I suspect the producers aimed their program more toward casual music listeners looking for tranquil, soothing background music, and the generally placid performances would seem to back up this possibility. Whatever, it's fine music, well enough presented.

Producers Peter Ghiradini and Giovanni Prosdocimi and engineer Peter Ghiradini recorded the music at Oper Graz, Austria in February 2014. As with many other CPO recordings over the years, this one sounds quite nice. There is good clarity and definition, good orchestral depth, and fairly wide frequency and dynamic ranges. Imaging is neither too close nor too distant. In short, it's a first-class recording.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, March 25, 2017

Bach Week Festival Announces Lineup for 2017 Edition, April 28, May 5 & 7

Josefien Stoppelenburg
The Bach Week Festival has announced the lineup for its 44th annual edition, featuring concerts in Evanston and Chicago, Il.

Chicago-area concert artists of national and international stature will make their Bach Week debuts this season, including soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg of Wilmette, Il, who is making her festival debut April 28. She has sung at the Arizona Bach Festival, the Boulder Bach Festival and with the St. Louis Bach Society and Cincinnati Bach Ensemble.

Also making her Bach Week debut April 28 is mezzo-soprano Susan Platts of Evanston. The British-born Canadian singer is a favorite of revered German choral conductor Helmuth Rilling, a founder of the Oregon Bach Festival, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, and other Bach academies. She has performed with Rilling on numerous occasions.

Globe-trotting Chicago harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, who performs recitals across Europe and North America, will make his first Bach Week appearance May 7. Early Music America magazine recently hailed him as "the Renaissance man of Baroque music."

Acclaimed artists from out of town will include returning Bach Week favorite, pianist Sergei Babayan of the Cleveland Institute of Music, mentor to some of today's highest-profile young pianists (including Russian phenomenon Daniil Trifonov); and a Bach Week newcomer, pianist Grace Fong, a former Babayan student with her own successful concert and recording career. Both will perform at the May 5 Bach Week concert in Evanston, Il.

In a first for the festival, a highly select group of singers from Evanston Township High School will sing in the Bach Week Festival's finale concert May 7 at North Park University in Chicago, alongside the Bach Week Festival Chorus, the North Park University Chamber Singers, and members of the acclaimed professional chamber choir Bella Voce. According to Bach Week Festival's music director and conductor Richard Webster, this is the festival's first collaboration with a high school music department.

Single-admission concert tickets are $30 for adults, $20 seniors, $10 students. Subscriptions to all three festival concerts are $80 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $20 for students. Tickets can be purchased online at bachweek.org or by phone, (800) 838-3006. For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email info@bachweek.org.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Free Concert Friday, April 21 at High School Choir Festival
The combined vocal force of 1,000 high school students from 30 Southland schools can be heard in a free concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday, April 21 when the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents the 28th Annual High School Choir Festival. The 1,000-voice Festival choir will be led by Artistic Director Grant Gershon in a varied program that features works by this year's guest artist singer/composer Moira Smiley. Smiley will also teach the massive choir body percussion to accompany one of her songs.

The performance is open to the public and free to attend. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets can be reserved in advance now at lamasterchorale.org. A select number of tickets will also be available on the day of the concert.

In addition to the 1 PM Festival concert, the day will include a performance by the 16-member Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Ensemble in Walt Disney Concert Hall conducted by Assistant Conductor Jenny Wong at 11 AM. This performance is a professional showcase for the students and is also open to the public to attend. Tickets are required for this free event and can be reserved at lamasterchorale.org.

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

The Wallis Presents Celebration of Three Extraordinary Piano Concerts
The grand piano takes center stage this spring as the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts presents a piano celebration of extraordinary concerts that will feature both established and emerging artists including thirteen pianists across three evenings performing on the Bram Goldsmith Theater stage. Jean-Yves Thibaudet and fifteen young musicians from the Colburn School begin the first of the concerts on March 29, followed by Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin on April 26--prior to their New York concert at Carnegie Hall--and finally, the Los Angeles debut of the emerging British star Benjamin Grosvenor on April 30.

"We are thrilled to present these four top pianists in the Bram Goldsmith Theater, whose acoustics are beautifully designed for intimate performances of this caliber," said Paul Crewes, The Wallis' Artistic Director.

"The Wallis is fortunate to have an extraordinary Steinway & Sons grand piano gifted to us by Marilyn Ziering for these rare concerts," said Rachel Fine, The Wallis's Managing Director.  "Steinway & Sons Beverly Hills is a formidable partner and we're grateful for the additional beautiful piano they've provided to ensure these striking and memorable concerts."

Single tickets are now available for $25 – $99. Subscriptions are available for purchase starting at $79. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit TheWallis.org, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Ticket prices subject to change.

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Congratulations to Academy Alumnus Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen
American Bach Soloists are thrilled to let you know that countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen, a participant in the 2015 ABS Academy, has been named a Winner in the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Finals held today in New York City's Metropolitan Opera House. The Grand Finals Concert was hosted by Renée Fleming, a 1988 National Council Winner, and featured Nicola Luisotti conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as each finalist performed two arias.

Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as a "vocal powerhouse" and for the "expressive depth" of his singing, and acclaimed for his "soaring, otherworldly voice" by the Houston Chronicle, Aryeh Nussbaum-Cohen is quickly making his mark in the worlds of opera and early music. In his breakout 2016-2017 season, in addition to being named a Grand Finals Winner (as well as being named the Audience Choice Award Winner in the Eastern Region) in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he is the First Prize Winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of the Irvin Scherzer Award as a Finalist in the George London Foundation Competition. His season also includes concerts with the Newberry Consort in Chicago and Operamission in New York City. In the summer of 2016, Aryeh participated in the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, and in the summer of 2017, Aryeh will join Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist.

For more information, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

"Dudamel Conducts Tangos Under the Stars" with the LA Phil
Gustavo Dudamel accents the colors, rhythms, and passion of music by leading composers from Argentina in this invigorating evening under the stars on "Dudamel Conducts Tangos Under the Stars" with the LA Philharmonic -- recorded at the Hollywood Bowl in August - coming to Great Performances Friday, March 31 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

With guitarist Angel Romero, bandoneon player Seth Asarnow, and dancers from Tango Buenos Aires, maestro Dudamel leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in works by the Astor Piazzolla, once described by Stephen Holden in The New York Times as "the world's foremost composer of tango music," symphonic composer Alberto Ginastera (who was Piazzolla's teacher), and film score composer Lalo Schifrin ("Mission Impossible"), a friend of the late Piazzolla.

Newly filmed interviews with Dudamel, Schifrin and Romero are interspersed throughout the musical program, together with archival footage of Piazzolla.

For more information, visit http://pressroom.pbs.org/Programs/g/GREAT-PERFORMANCES/4202-Dudamel-Conducts-Tangos.aspx

--Harry Forbes, WNET

California Symphony Performs World Premiere May 7 of New Dan Visconti Cello Concerto
Music Director Donato Cabrera leads the California Symphony in the world premiere of the newly-commissioned cello concerto, Tangle Eye, by its current Young American Composer-in-Residence, Dan Visconti, with soloist Inbal Segev on Sunday, May 7 at 4 pm at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

The Israeli-American cellist, now based in New York, is a champion of contemporary music, and performs as a soloist with a Bay Area orchestra for the first time in the Orchestra's May 7 season finale. This is Visconti's final work as a Young American Composer-in-Residence with the Orchestra; his residency ends this year. The California Symphony also performs Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 for the first time in its 30-year history, and the program opens with Beethoven's Coriolan Overture.

Cabrera, Visconti and Segev are also offering a free public introduction to Tangle Eye on Wednesday, May 3 at 7 pm, in Live! from the Library – Fresh Ink: New Music at the Walnut Creek Public Library. The three will introduce and discuss the music and the collaborative process, and Segev will perform short excerpts to illustrate the musical concepts.

For more information, visit www.californiasymphony.org

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

Angela Hewitt: Bach Odyssey at 92Y
On April 4, Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt returns to 92Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC, with "Angela Hewitt: Bach Odyssey," a four-season-long exploration of Bach's keyboard works in their entirety. The award-winning musician performs every keyboard work of J.S. Bach in a series of 12 recitals across the world, making her New York appearances exclusively at 92Y. In her third and final concert of the season, which closes the first year of this ambitious concert series, Ms. Hewitt presents a selection of Bach's virtuosic sonatas and partitas.

Ms. Hewitt's career has been filled with accolades. She was named 'Artist of the Year' at the 2006 Gramophone Awards, and in 2015 she promoted to a Companion of the Order of Canada.

For more information, visit https://www.92y.org/event/angela-hewitt-bach-odyssey-3.aspx

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

On Site Opera Announces New Executive Director Piper Gunnarson
On Site Opera is excited to announce the appointment of its new Executive Director, Piper Gunnarson. A seasoned nonprofit arts administrator, Piper has extensive experience in theater administration for organizations spanning all manifestations of the art form, including classical plays, new work, musicals, and children's theater.

Says Piper of the appointment: "On Site Opera has earned such a sterling reputation for its visionary and invigorating approach to opera production. I am beyond excited and truly honored to get to work with Eric, Geoff, and the Board in charting the next course for this inspiring company."

For more information, visit www.osopera.org

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers with 2 Premieres at 92Y
"Fantasia: Evening of Fantasy"
Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7:30PM
 92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC

Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Akira Eguchi, piano

Beethoven: Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 12, No. 1
Arvo Part: Fratres  
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Fantasia (New York premiere of arrangement for violin & piano, written for Ms. Meyers)
Ravel: Tzigane   
Morten Lauridsen: O Magnum Mysterium (New York premiere of arrangement for violin & piano, written for Ms. Meyers)
Jakub Ciupinski: Wreck of the Umbria for electronics (written for Ms. Meyers)

For more information, visit http://www.92y.org/event/fantasia-evening-of-fantasy

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Music Schools Issue NEA Statement
The Chicago Consortium of Community Music Schools is an alliance of several music and educational institutions in the Chicago area. As leaders in the arts, we are compelled to comment on the recent federal budget proposal put forth by the Trump administration, which completely eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). We urge our elected officials to reject this proposal and fight to maintain, or even increase, funding for the NEA.

There is no doubt that federal support for the arts is a wise investment. Our country's artists and arts educators enable us to celebrate creativity. The more we access the arts, the more opportunities we have for intellectual and aesthetic growth. Children especially benefit through arts education, building their brains and developing a confidence that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

In addition, investment in the arts yields huge economic dividends. Funds from the NEA generate more than $600 million in additional matching funds. Arts and culture is a $730 billion industry that represents 4.2% of the nation's GDP and supports 4.8 million jobs. The arts are not elitist. Their economic and programmatic impact touches people in all 50 states, including U.S. military veterans benefitting from highly effective arts therapy.

We thank our elected officials for their past support for the arts and arts education. But we are also watching closely and counting on them to lead the effort to maintain and strengthen the NEA.

--Susanne Baker, Director
Community Music Division, DePaul University

Maazel Conducts Wagner, Volumes 1 & 2 (CD review)

Waltraud Meier, mezzo-soprano; Lorin Maazel, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. RCA 09026-63143-2 and RCA 74321-68717-2.

Yes, there was life after Karajan. Even without its former maestro fussing about, the Berlin Philharmonic still had a gorgeous, deep-throated sonority about it. Although at the time of these recordings, 1998-2000, Claudio Abbado was leading the Berlin orchestra, their playing under the late Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) nevertheless sounded effortless, creating a monumentally big, full, rich sound. In fact, the BPO sound appears so together, it is like listening to a single great instrument playing rather than a hundred instruments in unison. RCA have captured the orchestral sonics in warm, smooth, slightly soft dimensions, very easy on the ear and, if anything, adding to the grand scale of the proceedings. The acoustics are nothing like the bright glare presented on so many early digital releases in the same venue under Karajan.

Lorin Maazel
The performances, too, are on an appropriately lofty plane, coming close to but not quite realizing the grandeur or fervor of my favorite Wagner interpretations under Otto Klemperer (EMI), Bernard Haitink (Philips), Erich Leinsdorf (Sheffield), or Leopold Stokowski (HDTT or RCA), but they're close.

Maazel opens with a huge rendition of the Tannhauser Overture, leading into a revised edition of the "Venusberg-Bacchanale." There follows a quite exciting version of Der Fliegende Hollander Overture; then a sweet and noble Act I Prelude to Lohengrin; and a dynamic Gotterdammerung "Funeral March." The first disc concludes with the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde and finally "Isoldes Liebestod" sung by mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier.

OK, Maazel is quite a good Wagner conductor, but note that Klemperer and his Philharmonia players convey both size and greater urgency in these works, and they were recorded by EMI with better definition and available at mid price, albeit on several discs. For a single collection, though, this new Maazel album is a fine effort and an easy recommendation.

As I said about Maazel's first volume of Wagner music with the Berlin Philharmonic, there was definitely life after Karajan. In the second volume, sold separately, the BPO continued to sound more mellifluous, more imposing, more majestic than almost any orchestra in the world, made to appear all the more so given RCA's ultrasmooth, ultra-velvety sonics. With Maazel's unusually broad view of tempos and knack for grandly emphasizing a point, the result is Wagner on an even loftier level than usual.

Oddly, given their prominence, the two opening pieces I thought were the weakest interpretively. The Rienzi Overture is slow to the point of plodding, and the Lohengrin Act III Prelude never really catches fire. But then Maazel comes into his own with the Faust Overture, which combines cool deliberation with fiery execution. Next, his Die Meistersinger Prelude comes off with appropriate ebullience and aplomb, followed by the centerpiece of the album, the Siegfried Idyll, delicate and pensive, the famous birthday gift from Wagner to his wife, Cosima. The program concludes with Maazel's best performance of the lot, "Siegfried's Rhine Journey" from Gotterdammerung. It allows the conductor to exhibit freely his baronial, dramatic flair while maintaining a fair degree of control.

Maazel is a fine conductor who grew into the role of elder statesman gracefully, though losing some of the spark that once marked his conducting. I find Haitink, on a similarly comprised, mid-priced Philips recording with the Concertgebouw, more to my liking for his greater spontaneity. Otto Klemperer on a pair of mid-priced EMI issues is equally noble yet displays more individualism; and his EMI engineers provided a shade more sonic transparency. Still, these discs will not disappoint Maazel's fans, and it's hard to fault the Berlin players in anything they do.

JJP

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




Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Bartok: Violin Concerto No. 2. Augustin Hadelich, violin; Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Norwegian Radio Orchestra. Avie Records AV2323.

First, you might not know the disc's soloist. The talented young German-Italian violinist Augustin Hadelich very nearly had his career ended in a 1999 fire that damaged much of his hands and face. After recovering, he continued his musical education, going on to win numerous competitions and awards, including a Grammy, perform with many of the world's leading orchestras, and record over half a dozen albums.

Second, you might be wondering about the disc's coupling. Mr. Hadelich writes, "The combination of Mendelssohn and Bartok may seem strange at first, and it is certainly unusual. However, as often happens with contrasting pairings, there are more similarities between Mendelssohn and Bartok than one might expect, and the character and style of each work are made clearer and have more impact when one hears them side by side. According to the popular clichés, Mendelssohn was the happy romantic and Bartok the tortured soul. There is some truth to that: I would say that Mendelssohn was overall an optimist...and Bartok more of a pessimist. Indeed, when one examines the music more closely, things are much more complex!" Hadelich then goes on to explain each work's complexities, but, unfortunately, he never persuaded me to see the connections among them too well. Oh, well, it's in hearing Hadelich playing the two concertos that one will either agree or disagree with his choice of pairing.

Third, you might ask, Why do I need another recording of two such well-traveled classics? Here, things become a little trickier. If every performer interpreted a piece of music exactly the same way as every other performer, we would have no need for multiple recordings in our collections. It would be as though robots had played the music, note for note the same as everybody else. But, no, that's not the way it works. All performers put a little something of themselves in a piece of music. Too much and the performance may sound distorted and perhaps more than a bit egotistical. Too little and the performance may sound bland, undistinguished, even lifeless. With Hadelich, the Bartok sounds the more convincing, the Mendelssohn a bit too hurried in the important opening movement, thereby losing some of its charm.

Augustin Hadelich
Anyway, the German composer and musician Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) premiered his Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 in 1845; it would be his last big orchestral work. From the very outset we can hear Hadelich's virtuosic command of the violin; he sounds as though he could play anything, anywhere, anytime with consummate ease. However, he also appears to rush through parts, negating some of Mendelssohn's enchanting appeal. In the first movement, at any rate, Hadelich seems intent on display over emotion. This is not to say the music suffers badly, only that it doesn't appear as characteristically charismatic as it does under performers like Perlman, Szeryng, Chee-Yun, or Heifetz, the latter taking the tempos even faster than Hadelich but somehow making them seem more emotionally affecting.

Fortunately, Hadelich is in form in the slow central movement, which sounds quite lyrically balanced, and the finale, which catches more of Mendelssohn's sprightly heart than Hadelich's handling of the first movement did. In addition, the soloist provides an effectively smooth and graceful transition into the last movement with the composer's little intermezzo-like passage. So, all's well that ends well.

Hungarian composer and pianist Bela Bartok (1881-1945) wrote his Violin Concerto No. 2 in 1937-38, and during his lifetime people simply knew it as the "Violin Concerto" because his earlier violin concerto (now known as No. 1), written decades earlier and put aside, would not get published until 1956. As Hadelich reminds us in a booklet note, it was the Hungarian violinist Zoltan Szekely who asked Bartok to write a violin concerto, and Bartok replied, no, he'd rather write a theme and variations for violin and orchestra. As it turns out, the composer wound up doing both: the concerto is really a piece that while embracing the usual three-movement structure actually contains a set of variations in the second movement and then in the final movement a variation of the first.

Hadelich handles all of this with a refined grace, which is perhaps the interpretation's only point of contention, given that Bartok wrote it at a time of increasing fascist rule in Europe, generally reflected in some of the music's pessimism. So Hadelich's rendition of the score isn't quite as pointed as some others you may have on your shelf. Nevertheless, under the guidance of Hadelich and Maestro Harth-Bedoya, the music finds its rightful place, in part dark and melancholy, in part spontaneous and singing.

Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Thomas Wolden (LAWO Classics) recorded the concertos at the Concert Hall, NRK Radio, Oslo, Norway in June 2014. As with almost every Avie recording I've had the pleasure to listen to this one sounds terrific: Very lifelike, with a warm ambience enhancing the natural bloom of the instruments. The soloist remains in front of the orchestra but at a realistic distance, meaning he is not in our face. What's more, the solo violin sounds truthful in size, not spread across the speakers. The orchestral accompaniment is vivid enough without being forward or bright. It's a triumphant sonic achievement all the way around.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, March 18, 2017

The Attacca Quartet Spring Performances

Concluding their recently added series, the Attacca Quartet will perform the complete string quartets of John Adams at National Sawdust (April 2).

The Attacca will also tour Japan (April 22-25) with stops in Nagoya, Yokohama, and Osaka.

The Attacca Quartet continue their "Recently Added" series exploring the string quartet works of contemporary composers with performances of the complete string quartet music of Michael Ippolito February 19 (coinciding with the release of their new Azica recording of Ippolito) and John Adams on April 2.

The quartet was also featured in WQXR's Classical Beer Jam on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) along with MET Opera stars Stephen Costello & Pretty Yende.

"We're living in a golden age of string quartets...It's hard to disagree when you hear the vibrant young players in New York's Attacca Quartet." --NPR

For more informaiton and video, visit https://unison.prezly.com/the-attacca-quartet-spring-performances#video-24853

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale Perform Rameau's "Le Temple de la Gloire"
Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale's (PBO) Music Director, will lead PBO's first-ever fully staged opera in a world-premiere production of Jean-Philippe Rameau's original 1745 version of "Le Temple de la Gloire" (The Temple of Glory), with a libretto by Voltaire, April 28–30 at Cal Performances in Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

This modern-day premiere was created in partnership with Cal Performances and Le Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. An international cast of soloists and the New York Baroque Dance Company join PBO for this lavish period production. In keeping with its Berkeley RADICAL programming initiative, Cal Performances will offer a day of free public engagement activities supporting the performances entitled "Rendezvous with Rameau," including a round-table discussion with the co-producers of "Le Temple de la Gloire" (The Temple of Glory), a Rameau listening party, and a Baroque dance and music workshop on Saturday, April 29, from 11am–5pm. A discussion of the extraordinary original 1745 manuscript score and libretto with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale music director Nicholas McGegan, UC Berkeley music library head John Shepard, and emeritus library head John Roberts takes place on the UC Berkeley campus on Tuesday, April 18 from 6-7:30pm. A pre-performance talk free to all ticketholders is offered on Friday, April 28.

Prices range from $30 to $120. Tickets and further info at (510) 642-9988 or calperformances.org.

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Handel and Haydn Society Performs Monteverdi at Temple of Dendur
Boston's renowned Handel and Haydn Society (H+H), led by artistic director Harry Christophers, returns to New York for the first time in more than a quarter-century. The 202-year-old ensemble, widely hailed for its historically informed performance tradition, performs Monteverdi's complete Vespers of 1610 on Saturday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the Met Fifth Avenue's Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing, NYC.

Monteverdi's Vespers is a monumental work in 13 movements composed during the time of transition between the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Scored for forces that include orchestra with solo violins and cornets, solo singers, and a choir large enough to be divided into parts ranging from four to ten, this 90-minute tour de force contains both sacred and secular texts, including sonatas, psalms, hymns, Gregorian chant, and a full Magnificat; H + H brings 17 players, 22 choristers, and two soloists to New York to perform the towering work.

Tickets ($65) to The Met performance also include Museum entry; call 212.570.3749 or visit The Met online at metmuseum.org/Tickets.

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

ABS Presents Bach's Brilliant Motets for Double Chorus
The American Bach Soloists' 2017 season continues with Bach's Motets for Double Chorus, a program highlighting the superb artistry of the American Bach Choir. ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas conducts performances in the San Francisco Bay Area and Davis from March 31 through April 3, 2017.

Bach's surviving motets are mesmerizing in their complexity and virtuosity, and they rival the splendor of his greatest cantatas and liturgical works. The motets for double chorus, with their increased number of parts, allow Bach to showcase his unparalleled genius in counterpoint and beguiling polyphonic textures. Many of these works were written for special, non-liturgical occasions. "Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt," which draws its text from Psalm 100, is noteworthy in that it was a collaboration between Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. The Psalms are the source for "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" as well, a virtuosic work which juxtaposes an endless array of dazzling melismas with passages of serene beauty. Several other works round out the program, including the brief yet powerful "Komm, Jesu, komm," and the joyous and celebratory "Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf and Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir."

Friday March 31 2017 8:00 pm
St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA

Saturday April 1 2017 8:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday April 2 2017 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA

Monday April 3 2017 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, Davis, CA

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

--American Bach Soloists

"Ellis Island" to be Broadcast on PBS "Great Performances"
Pacific Symphony's critically acclaimed American Composers Festival (ACF), led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, enters its 17th year with "Ellis Island"—a meaningful nod to the past, with lessons for the present, fortified by hope for the future. Each year, ACF uncovers a different facet of American music, and in 2017, the symphony pays tribute to our nation's historic immigrant experience and the American dream by taking inspiration from the Grammy-nominated work composed by Peter Boyer, "Ellis Island: The Dream of America." This ambitious blending of narration, projected images and orchestral writing highlighting individual immigrants who came to America's shores between 1910 and 1940 offers a searing, emotionally charged concert experience.

With 40 percent of the U.S. population able to trace their roots through Ellis Island, and with immigration at the forefront of recent news, the symphony tackles one of today's most relevant topics. Exploring the impact of an era that defined our nation, ACF honors the hopes and fears of those immigrants in search of a better life.

Pacific Symphony's performance of Boyer's "Ellis Island" will be recorded for national broadcast by PBS' acclaimed "Great Performances"--the first-ever national broadcast from the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. This national platform on public television will ensure that people around the nation will be able to enjoy this profound musical experience during the 2017-18 season of "Great Performances."

The concert, "Ellis Island" takes place Thursday through Saturday, April 6-8, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. A preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Concert tickets are $25-$125 (Box Circle, $195). For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.

--Janelle Kruly, Pacific Symphony

Maya Beiser Plays Two Shows at Big Ears
"Cello goddess" (The New Yorker) Maya Beiser will perform two shows at this year's Big Ears Festival. On Friday, March 24, at 10:30am she opens the day with "Morning Trance," a solo show at The Mill & Mine, and on Saturday, March 25 at 6:30pm she takes the stage at the Bijou Theatre for "Uncovered," classic rock reimagined with Glenn Kotche, drums and Gyan Riley, bass.

Maya's "Morning Trance" concert on Friday at 10:30am at The Mill & Mine features inspiring music written for or arranged by Maya, chosen to help festival attendees greet the day with her. Maya's set features Michael Gordon's mesmerizing "All Vows" and David Lang's heart-wrenching "World To Come," both written for her, plus Maya's own arrangements of J.S. Bach's Air on G, which evokes the sound of an old LP spinning on a distant turntable, and John Tavener's trance-like Lament to Phaedra, for which she'll be joined by ACME cellist Clarice Jensen.

Maya's "Uncovered" on Saturday at 6:30pm at the Bijou Theatre is a show of startling classic rock tunes, re-imagined and re-contextualized, in stunning performances by Maya alongside "mind-blowing" (Acoustic Guitar) bassist Gyan Riley and legendary WILCO drummer Glenn Kotche. A cover tune can be an homage to the original, but these "uncovers," in new arrangements by composer Evan Ziporyn, do more--they evoke the unprecedented power of the music of Led Zeppelin ("Black Dog," "Kashmir"), Jimi Hendrix ("Little Wing"), Pink Floyd ("Wish You Were Here"), Nirvana ("Lithium"), Janis Joplin ("Summertime"), Howlin' Wolf ("Moanin' at Midnight"), King Crimson ("Epitaph"), and AC/DC ("Back in Black").

For more information, visit www.mayabeiser.com

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Emerson String Quartet Celebrates 40th Anniversary
The Emerson String Quartet celebrates its 40th season this year and presents a new recording, "Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell," which will be the first release on Universal Music Classics' new U.S. classical record label, Decca Gold, on April 21. Their U.S. tour takes them from California to New York to Virginia this spring and summer, and on April 26 they will perform works from the new album and their extensive repertoire in celebration of the 40th anniversary at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR.

Formed in 1976 and based in New York City, the Quartet took its name from the American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. In January 2015, the Quartet received the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award, Chamber Music America's highest honor, in recognition of its significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field.

For more information, visit http://www.thegreenespace.org/events/thegreenespace/2017/apr/26/coming-soon-wqxr-presents-emerson-quartets-40th-birthday-party/

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Alarm Will Sound and Meet the Composer Release Their First "Podcast Album"
Alarm Will Sound's latest project delivers the freewheeling sense of adventure and experimentation that is the guiding principle of new music. Conceived and realized in partnership with "Meet the Composer," Q2 Music's Peabody award-winning podcast, Splitting Adams is Alarm Will Sound's fiery tribute to American composer John Adams (celebrating his 70th birthday this year), and in particular to his works Chamber Symphony (1992) and Son of Chamber Symphony (2007). It's also the group's first "podcast album," and features commentary from MTC's host Nadia Sirota, Alarm Will Sound's artistic director Alan Pierson, Columbia University music historian Walter Frisch - and of course, John Adams himself.

In this format, the performance-plus-podcast conveys a rare sense of interaction for the listener; the music, rendered in all its lush detail by the ever-adept musicians in AWS, captures and connects the long trajectory between the two works, while the commentary shines a revealing light on the story behind two of Adams' most challenging symphonies.

"Meet the Composer's" John Adams episode is available March 20.

For more information, visit http://www.classicalmusiccommunications.com/artist.php?id=adams&aview=record&rid=3557

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin Comes to "Great Performances at the Met"
Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin ("Love From Afar"), one of the most highly praised operas of recent years, airs on "Great Performances at the Met" Sunday, April 2 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

The production, with a libretto by Amin Maalouf, had its Met premiere earlier this season in a production directed by Robert Lepage and conducted by Susanna Mälkki in her Met debut. Lepage's staging, which uses thousands of LED lights to create the sea that separates the opera's distant lovers, is a co-production with L'Opéra de Québec, where it premiered to accolades in the summer of 2015.

For additional information on this and other Great Performances programs, visit Great Performances online at www.pbs.org/gperf.

--Harry Forbes, WNET

Music Institute Appoints Choi to Piano Faculty
The Music Institute of Chicago announces the appointment of pianist Winston Choi to the faculty of its award-winning Academy program, an elite training center for gifted pre-college pianists and string players.? ?

Originally from Canada, Choi is the head of the piano program at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts. Known for his colorful approach to programming and insightful commentary from the stage, Choi recently appeared in recital at the National Arts Centre in Canada, the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, New York's Carnegie-Weill Recital Hall and Merkin Recital Hall, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. An accomplished chamber musician, he tours regularly with his wife, violinist Minghuan Xu, as Duo Diorama, as well as with the Civitas Ensemble and Ensemble Dal Niente. Choi obtained his bachelor and master of music degrees from Indiana University and a doctor of music degree from Northwestern University.

Choi commented, "It is a privilege to be joining an institution that has such esteemed faculty and illustrious alumni. I have long admired the Academy's goals of training well-rounded young artists and look forward to being a part of such a vital and important musical center."

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Tenor Michael Schade Joins Schwalbe and Partners
Tenor Michael Schade has joined Schwalbe and Partners for exclusive representation in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in South/Central America and Asia for non-exclusive representation.

Hailed as one of the world's leading tenors, German-Canadian tenor Michael Schade performs on every major opera stage and in the most prestigious concert halls of the world. His art form embraces a wide repertoire of performances in opera, recital, concert, and recording.

For more information, visit http://schwalbeandpartners.com/project/michael-schade-tenor/

--Schwalbe and Partners, Inc.

Celibidache (CD review)

Debussy: Nocturnes, La Mer, Iberia; Ravel: Alborada del gracioso, Rapsodie espagnole, Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2, Le Tombeau de Couperin, La Valse. Sergiu Celibidache, SWR Stuttgard Radio Symphony Orchestra. DG 543 194-2 (4-disc set).

Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) was the famous Romanian conductor, composer, and teacher who died without ever having released any of his recordings (or none that I know of) in his lifetime. In the words of his son, "My father always attempted through music to stimulate the individual's creativity (in the making of it but also in listening to it, both being ways of participating in the creative process), and he therefore, justifiably, feared the CD's inability to do more than repeat itself in a diminished, and thus false, reality, reducing the individual's reactions to a mechanical and paralyzed stillness instead of promoting creative spontaneity." To which I can only respectfully disagree.

The son goes on to say, "According to my father, the correct tempo cannot be determined by a metronome marking but, rather, depends on other criteria in the score and, of course, on the acoustics of a particular hall. This tempo fluctuates according to the complexity of the notes played (and heard) and their epiphenomena (the secondary sounds resulting from the division of the main note after being played on any instrument). In short, the more notes (and consequently more epiphenomena), the more time needed for them to develop and to be 'digested' acoustically. Thus, the richer the music, the slower the tempo." This is to say that Celibidache often played things very slowly. The son further states, somewhat defensively, that his father's slow tempos may not sound like much on a recording, other than just being slow, but in a live performance they were just right for the occasion. Fair enough.

Sergiu Celibidache
Anyway, while all that may be so, on these three discs of music by Debussy and Ravel, released posthumously, the music merely sounds slow. In fact, it sometimes sounds laboriously slow, lugubriously slow, eccentrically slow. The opening moments of Iberia, for instance, seem almost bizarre in their deliberate and sluggish pace. I don't mean to suggest, however, that I didn't enjoy at least a little of Celibidache's music; indeed, there is a tranquillity about some of it that I found quite satisfying. However, for the most part, I felt little life in much of the Debussy and only the occasional flicker of vitality in the Ravel.

In fairness, too, many of Celibidache's fans no doubt would pronounce these interpretations filled with tremendous heart and soul, even though I found them largely soulless. Yet such is the case for all art that one must interpret subjectively. One person's treasure may be another person's trash and vice versa.

What's more, the technical aspects of these 1973-1980 live recordings did little to help my appreciation for Celibidache's music making. The recordings sound more noisy in terms of audience reactions, coughs, wheezes, and rustling, than I can remember in most major releases, and they have a degree of background hiss that that people might have found unacceptable even before today's digital standards. Moreover, the sound appears constricted and one-dimensional much of the time.

Admittedly, Celibidache never meant to release these recordings at all, but here they are, and what can one do except comment on them? DG also include a bonus disc of excerpts from the conductor's rehearsals, spoken in German, which also did little to impress me as I do not understand German. Maybe the conductor was right after all: Listeners should probably have heard him in person to make an impartial evaluation of his talents.

JJP

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


Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade (CD review)

Sir Thomas Beecham, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

No, you're not experiencing deja vu. It's just that it wasn't too long ago that I reviewed EMI's own remastering of this classic 1957 recording in their "Great Recordings of the Century" series. I said of it at the time that it ranked high among all available versions of the score, and that with EMI's remastering it also ranked high for sonic quality. My only quibbles about EMI's sound were that I noticed some small background noise and a slightly less-robust bass than on a few of its competitors. Now, the folks at HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) have remastered the recording from a 2-track 15ips tape, and, if anything, it sounds better than I have ever heard it before.

Anyway, for over forty years I lived contentedly with Bernard Haitink's 1972 London Philharmonic rendering 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, I admit, both the interpretation and the recording may seem too straightforward for some listeners. Recorded a few years later in 1979 came Kiril 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: Emmanuel Krivine's on Denon and Charles Mackerras's on Telarc. And before Haitink, I had only three other old favorite recordings: Pierre Monteux's on Decca; Fritz Reiner's on RCA; and Sir Thomas Beecham's on EMI. Except for the Monteux, which I have not heard on CD, the older editions held their heads high.

Sir Thomas Beecham
Which brings me to the subject here today, the Beecham recording, which not only holds its own against any competition but is head and shoulders above most of the rest. Indeed, for many listeners, myself included, its new HDTT remastering may now rank the recording at or near the top of the pile.

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. This is music-making of the highest order.

Then there's the sound, engineered by Christopher Parker in March 1957 at Kingsway Hall, London. It is splendid, indeed, especially in its new HDTT remastering.

Of the half dozen comparisons I've mentioned, Beecham's recording is clearly among the best, the most transparent, the most natural, the most dynamic, and the most well-imaged you'll find. The sonics are, in fact, top drawer by the standards of any day. The high end in particular is realistically open, yet the overall audio balance is warmer and smoother than ever. Indeed, the comparison I made to the EMI disc reveals that the HDTT version sounds less bright and just as natural but maybe even more so. The bass is probably no deeper than on EMI's version, yet it seems to have more body and greater warmth. In essence, it sounds more real.

In my experience, it is only the equally old Reiner/RCA account that comes close sonically or interpretatively to the Beecham, the Reiner a recording also made better, incidentally, in its own remastering (JVC XRCD). So, yes, a couple of remasterings take high sonic honors in this work: HDTT (Beecham) and JVC (Reiner).

All told, Beecham's account on HDTT (or EMI, but I prefer the sound of the newer HDTT) is one of the best recordings of this music on the market. Could I recommend the recording any more strongly? Hardly.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 11, 2017

Utah Opera Announces 2017-18 Season

Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth today announced Utah Opera's 2017-18 season, which celebrates the company's 40th anniversary. From October 2017 to May 2018, Utah Opera will present four main-stage productions, a gala concert featuring soprano Renée Fleming, and numerous community collaborations that celebrate the company and founder Glade Peterson's role in building an audience for opera in Utah.

Utah Opera's 40th anniversary season opens in October 2017 with Puccini's La Bohème, the first opera produced by the company in its inaugural 1978 season. In January 2018, the company presents the Utah premiere of American composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer's Moby-Dick. Co-produced by Utah Opera and Pittsburgh Opera, this new production is designed to be economically viable and to offer traditional, theatrical staging for a wide range of companies, enabling the opera to reach a broader audience. The season continues in March 2018 with a double bill pairing tragedy and comedy in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, whose lead character was a signature role of company founder Glade Peterson, and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. A production of 'Waltz King' Johann Strauss, Jr.'s Die Fledermaus concludes the season in May 2018, capping off the 40th anniversary celebration with the opera's closing "Champagne Song." All four productions will be staged at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre with five performances each.

More information, subscription renewals, and ticket purchases are available online at www.utahopera.org

--Shuman Associates PR

New York Opera Alliance Presents the Second Annual New York Opera Fest, May & June
The New York Opera Alliance (NYOA), a consortium of New York opera companies and producers, proudly presents the second annual New York Opera Fest (http://nyoperafest.com), a two-month celebration of opera during May and June with over 20 New York City-based companies putting on 28 events in venues around the city.

The festival showcases New York's vibrant and varied opera scene, with repertoire ranging from the traditional operatic canon to innovative world premieres, taking place in diverse venues such as theaters, bars, gardens, garages, and playgrounds. With the New York Opera Fest, the Alliance shows how NYC's opera scene is truly a living, breathing community of people who are working together to produce new work, develop new artists and engage with communities of all ages and backgrounds.

For complete information, visit https://unison.prezly.com/new-york-opera-alliance-presents-the-second-annual-new-york-opera-fest-may--june-2017

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

PBO Announces Their 2017-18 Season
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale announce their 2017-2018 Season - A Matter of Character. Inspired by the unique character of their talented musicians, their rare instruments, their inimitable Music Director, Nicholas McGegan, and the uncommon 'mash-up' of Baroque, Classical, early Romantic and newly commissioned repertoire they perform, Philharmonia has assembled another season of passionate, brilliant and original concerts.

The season launches with the U.S. premiere of a major new work by British composer Sally Beamish, the first co-commission by PBO and London's Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment immediately following its world premiere at the acclaimed Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. Throughout the season, audiences will experience star talent including Richard Egarr, music director of the Academy of Ancient Music and renowned cellist Steven Isserlis as well as Julia Doyle, Brenden Gunnell, Roderick Williams, Diana Moore, Sherezade Panthaki, Philip Cutlip and Yulia Van Doren, among others. The season features Handel's "Joseph and His Brethren" as part of PBO's multi-year exploration of Handel's biblical heroes and its Jewish Music Initiative, Beethoven's Mass in C Major, as well as rarely performed works by Locatelli, Pisendel, Albiononi, Corelli, and more.

In addition to the 24 unique concerts in its annual season, Philharmonia will continue its popular alternative series - SESSIONS - with two events in 17/18, and will also present two performances of Handel's Messiah.  In October, PBO officially launches "New Music for Old Instruments" as part of its long-term commitment to new works and how these works were influenced by music of the past. Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw and Sally Beamish will join the Orchestra in a dynamic evening focused on female composers.

Subscriptions to the new 2017-18 season range in price from $177 to $650 and are on public sale. Call (415) 295-1900 to subscribe, or visit philharmonia.org/subscribe.

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Crepuscolo Götterdämmerung
Monday, March 13th 8:00 pm.
The Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium, 417 East 61st Street between First and York, NYC.

Jessica Gould, soprano; Eric Hoeprich, clarinet; Diego Cantalupi, classical guitar; Christoph Hammer, fortepiano.

One of the world's leading historical clarinetists, Eric Hoeprich, joins us from London for this program, originally premiered at the Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori of Florence, Italy,

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.

Giacomo Meyerbeer returns from the Opéra Comique, this time in German mode in a charming Hirtenlied, 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.

For information and tickets, visit https://www.showclix.com/event/crepuscolo

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

92Y April Concerts
Tuesday, April 4, 2017 at 7:30PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Angela Hewitt, piano

Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 7:30PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Nicola Benedetti, violin (92Y debut)
Leonard Elschenbroich, cello (92Y debut)
Alexei Grynyuk, piano (92Y debut)

Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7:30PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Akira Eguchi, piano

Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 7PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Alisa Weilerstein, cello

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at 8:30PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Ariel Quartet

Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 8PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Sergio & Odair Assad, guitar duo

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 8:30PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Michael Brown, piano (92Y debut)

For further information and tickets, call 212-415-5500 or visit www.92Y.org/Concerts.

--S. Randolph, Kirshbaum Associates

Steven Lehning to Give Free ABS Master Class
The second in the 2017 series of American Bach Soloists Free Master Classes will take place next Monday on March 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street at Van Ness, San Francisco, CA.

Works from Handel's Atalanta.

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

--American Bach Soloists

On Site Opera Presents Mozart's The Secret Gardener
OSO partners with The Atlanta Opera's Discoveries series to bring Mozart's The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) to life in a new site-specific co-production that will mark a bi-city first for both companies.

Known for staging "the ultimate in intimate productions" (The New York Times), On Site Opera (OSO) presents 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, NYC.

For complete informaiton, visit  https://unison.prezly.com/on-site-opera-presents-mozarts-ithe-secret-gardeneri-at-the-west-side-community-garden-may-11-13-2017

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

San Francisco Girls Chorus Appoints New Executive Director
The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) and Board President, Shelton Ensley, today announced the appointment of J. Andrew Bradford as Executive Director. Bradford, who joins SFGC on March 13, will serve as chief executive officer of the entire organization, operating the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Chorus School, and the Kanbar Performing Arts Center.

As Executive Director, Bradford will oversee all aspects of SFGC's operations; represent the Chorus in the Bay Area as well as nationally and internationally; and work collaboratively with Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and Music Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe to establish artistic direction for the organization. Bradford succeeds Melanie Smith who stepped down at the end of June 2016 and takes over from interim Executive Director Beth Schecter.

--Brenden Guy

American Bach Soloists Announce 2017-2018 Season
The American Bach Soloists engage and inspire audiences through historically informed performances, recordings, and educational programs that emphasize the music of the Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic eras. Founded in 1989, the ensemble has achieved its vision of assembling the world's finest vocalists and period-instrument performers to bring this brilliant music to life. For more than two decades, Jeffrey Thomas has brought thoughtful, meaningful, and informed perspectives to his performances as Artistic and Music Director of the American Bach Soloists. Fanfare Magazine proclaimed that "Thomas's direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music…there is no higher praise for Bach performance."

To read the complete listing of ABS performances and dates, visit http://americanbach.org/index.html

--American Bach Soloists

Brooklyn's AOP to Select Composers, Librettists
American Opera Projects (AOP) announces the return of its popular "Composers & the Voice" program for its 2017-19 seasons. Created and led by Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood, eight composers and librettists will be selected for two-year fellowships to learn the fundamentals of writing for the voice and opera stage. Workshop sessions with professional opera singers, mentors, and instructors are held at AOP's home base in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The "Composers & the Voice" fellowships include a year of working with the company's Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships. The workshop sessions between September 2017 and April 2018 include composition of solo works for six voice types (coloratura soprano, lyric soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass). In addition, over 45 hours of "Skill-Building Sessions" of acting courses with director Mary Birnbaum (Die Zauberflöte at Juilliard), theatrical improvisation led by Terry Greiss (Co-Founder, Ensemble Actor, Executive Director of Irondale Ensemble Project), and libretto development with Libretto Writing Instructor Mark Campbell (librettist, As One, Silent Night), will provide in-depth knowledge of how singers build characters, act in scenes, and sing text.

Applications and complete information will be available beginning March 15 at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice. The deadline for applications is April 28 with fellowships announced by July 1.

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

ACME Performs Three Shows at Big Ears
ACME, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, will perform three concerts at this year's Big Ears Festival, on March 23 and 24, 2017, celebrating their new album, Thrive on Routine, released in February on Sono Luminus, as well as collaborating with Icelandic composer and performer Jóhann Jóhannsson, Denmark's Theatre of Voices, and Blonde Redhead.

On Thursday, March 23 at 11:30pm, ACME joins the incomparable Blonde Redhead at The Mill & Mine, performing the band's hypnotic 2004 album Misery Is a Butterfly in its entirety, as well as select songs from the alt-rock trio's extensive catalogue. Blonde Redhead and ACME's sold-out performances of this new collaboration last October in New York, Washington D.C., Montreal and Durham, NC garnered rave reviews.

On Friday, March 24 at 4:30pm, ACME takes the stage at The Mill & Mine for a concert celebrating the group's new album, Thrive on Routine, released February 24 on Sono Luminus. The concert will feature Meredith Monk's first string quartet, Stringsongs, from 2005, which ACME has performed frequently. In addition, ACME will play Charlemagne Palestine's rarely performed landmark piece Strumming Music, with surprise guest musicians, in a version created for ACME's concerts at The Kitchen in New York last spring.

On Friday, March 24 at 7pm, also at The Mill & Mine, ACME performs Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson's immersive Drone Mass with Jóhannson, Copenhagen's unparalleled vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices, and conductor Donato Cabrera. Drone Mass is a 60-minute contemporary oratorio which fuses the sounds of string quartet, electronics and vocals, and is inspired by texts from the Nag Hammadi library, sometimes referred to as the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians.

For more information, visit www.acmemusic.org

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Antheil: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 (CD review)

Also, Decatur at Algiers. Hugh Wolff, Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt. CPO 999 706-2.

In 1947 a survey indicated that the four American composers whose works orchestras most often performed were George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and George Antheil. Remarkable, considering that the first three composers remain immensely popular, and people don't always give much attention to Antheil anymore. Remarkable, too, that Antheil ever became as popular as he did (at least for a short time) given the limited number of works he produced and the general ordinariness of most of his classical output.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Antheil (1900-1959) became a celebrity at an early age as a piano prodigy and later as a self-proclaimed "bad boy" of music with his wildly elaborate stage productions. By the late Thirties, however, he had apparently repelled enough of his classical musical followers that necessity forced him to work in Hollywood, successfully composing music for movies and later television, working as a writer of pulp fiction, and co-inventing a radar guidance system for the Navy.

By 1944, however, he was back in form as a classical composer with his Fourth Symphony, which no less a musical light than Leopold Stokowski and the NBC Symphony Orchestra premiered and championed. Critics hailed the symphony as something worthy of comparison to Shostakovich. If so, they may have been thinking of Shostakovich light. Certainly, there is a lot of "war music" in Antheil's work, a lot of hustle and bustle, as we might expect given the era in which he composed it and its subtitle "1942," but it lacks Shostakovich's keener, sharper insight. Still, it's mostly attractive in its own kind of rowdy, boisterous way, and it does keep one's attention.

Hugh Wolff
Anyway, as I was saying, critics still pretty much regard the Fourth as Antheil's best work, although it sounds to me like a mishmash of too many varying styles--a pastiche of sentimentality, grandiloquence, and blatant nationalism. What it doesn't contain for me is much memorable music, despite a lovely Allegro and despite Maestro Hugh Wolff and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra doing their utmost to show off the work to best advantage in a reasonably well unified interpretation.

Its companion piece, the Fifth Symphony, premiered in 1948, again with a luminary in control, Eugene Ormandy and his immaculate Philadelphia Orchestra. Subtitled "Joyous," the Fifth seems to me more original in form, more "American" in its idioms and subject matter than the Fourth; yet it has a degree of sameness about it that wears its welcome thin about halfway through, with Maestro Wolff and his players again giving it their topmost attention. Nevertheless, before it wears thin, it provides an entertaining show.

Finally, for what it's worth, the little companion piece, Decatur at Algiers, came off best for me, maybe because of its very briefness. It works as a sort of quiet place between the more tumultuous symphonies.

CPO released the album in 2000, with sound that is very wide across the stereo stage and very dynamic, especially so in the Fifth Symphony, which can go from the softest solo triangle tap to the loudest crescendos in a matter of seconds, practically startling one out of one's seat. While there is not the best depth of field perceptible nor the greatest midrange transparency, it is fairly natural in overall balance, with no undue prominence given to any one instrument or any one orchestral section.

For those listeners exploring twentieth-century music, particularly American music, Antheil makes a fascinating subject. He's an anomaly of sorts, a hero of yesteryear who today listeners seem to regard largely as a curiosity. One listen to his Fourth Symphony and one can readily understand why Gershwin, Copland, and Barber continue to command public attention--they wrote melodies that have never gone out of style, tunes that easily communicate to the heart and mind. By comparison, Antheil appears mainly to have written a series of sometimes odd, tense, but admittedly thrilling notes.

JJP

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


2017 New Year's Concert (CD review)

Gustavo Dudamel, Vienna Philharmonic. Sony Classical 88985376182 (2-disc set).

Usually, I dislike albums recorded live. Too much noise, too much applause and shuffling of feet and rustling of programs, too much coughing and wheezing, too much breathing. But with these yearly New Year's Concerts from the Vienna Philharmonic, the whole business of its being live is, in fact, the point. This year, at least we have Gustavo Dudamel to liven things up.

As you are aware, the Vienna Philharmonic began its custom of offering a New Year's Concert in 1941, and it hasn't changed much since. EMI, RCA, DG, Decca, and now Sony are among some of the companies that have recorded the VPO's concerts over the stereo years, and in keeping with the orchestra's tradition of having no permanent conductor, they invite a different conductor to perform the New Year's duties each year. These conductors in recent times have included some of the biggest names in the business, including Carlos Kleiber, Willi Boskovsky, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Riccardo Muti, Georges Pretre, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, Franz Welser-Most, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, and Mariss Jansons. So Maestro Dudamel is in good company.

Of course, Dudamel is not quite in the same category as a Boskovsky or Karajan when it comes to Strauss waltzes. Nevertheless, he appears to be a quick learner, and he fills this 2017 concert for the most part with his usual infectious enthusiasm, if not always with the same sense of joyous occasion evidenced by the aforementioned two conductors.

Then, too, the program appears nicely varied, with not only the Strauss family represented but a few newcomers as well. The lineup of tunes includes the following:

Disc one:
Lehar: Nechledil March
Waldteufel: Les Patineurs, Walzer, Op. 183
Strauss II: 's gibt nur a Kaiserstadt, 's gibt nur a Wien, Polka, Op. 291
Strauss, Josef: Winterlust, Polka schnell, Op. 121
Strauss II: Mephistos Höllenrufe, Walzer, Op. 101
Strauss II; So ängstlich sind wir nicht! Polka schnell, Op. 413
Suppe: Pique Dame: Overture
Ziehrer: Hereinspaziert! Walzer, Op. 518
Nicolai: Mondaufgang
Strauss II: Pepita-Polka, Op. 138

Disc two:
Strauss II: Rotunde-Quadrille, Op. 360
Strauss II: Die Extravaganten, Walzer, Op. 205
Strauss I: Indianer Galopp, Op. 111
Strauss, Josef: Die Nasswalderin, Polka Mazur, Op. 267
Strauss II: Auf zum Tanze! Polka schnell, Op. 436
Strauss II: Tausend und eine Nacht, Walzer, Op. 346
Strauss II: Tik-Tak Polka, Polka schnell, Op. 365
Strauss, Eduard: Mit Vergnügen, Polka schnell, Op. 228
Strauss II: An der schönen blauen Donau, Walzer, Op. 314
Strauss I: Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228

Gustavo Dudamel
Here are a few of the highlights for me: Things get off to a rousing if somewhat boisterous start with Franz Lehar's "Nechledil March," followed by a reasonably lilting if somewhat stiff Skaters Waltz by Emile Waldteufel. It's interesting that it isn't until the third selection that we find anything by the waltz king himself, Johann Strauss Jr.'s polka "There's Only One Imperial City, There's Only One Vienna." But rest assured that by the end of the concert, Dudamel will have covered the famous Strauss family: Johann Sr., Johann Jr., Josef, and Eduard.

Anyway, Maestro Dudamel adds a joyous bounce to most of the polkas, and he does an especially good job with the "Mephisto's Calls" waltz, providing it with a romantic yet somewhat sinister tone. Franz von Suppe's "Pique Dame" overture, though, was probably the most-enjoyable for me on disc one, as Dudamel maintains a healthy dose of operatic melodrama in it. Then, the Vienna Boys Choir add a touching element to Otto Nicolai's "Moon Chorus."

The two Strauss Jr. pieces that open disc two are delightful and the waltz "Die Extravaganten" in particular sounds quite appealing. But the real charmer on the second disc is the landler "The Girl from Nasswald," which is as lovely as one could ask. The two concluding works are the ones we all expect: "The Blue Danube" waltz and the "Radetzky March," both sounding adequate though a trifle perfunctory.

Producer Friedemann Engelbrecht and engineers Tobias Lehmann and Rene Moller recorded the music live for Teldex Studio Berlin at the Goldener Saal des Wiener Musikvereins on January 1, 2017. Although the engineers captured the music live, it isn't too close up nor too bright or forward. In fact, it has a nice, warm, ambient glow to it. It also displays a strong dynamic range and impact. If anything, it's a touch soft, so don't expect any ultimate transparency, just a smooth, comfortable response. Do expect, however, a good deal of applause after each number

JJP

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


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa