Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 (SACD review)

Andrew Manze, NDR Radiophilharmonie. Pentatone PTC 5186 595.

Mendelssohn's Third "Scottish" and Fourth "Italian" Symphonies get most of the love, with No. 4 probably just edging out No. 3 in the number of recordings made over the years. More recently, No. 5 "Reformation" has gotten some attention, but Nos. 1 and 2 "Hymn of Praise" get hardly a nod from the record companies, with No. 1 getting the least notice of all. So, while it's always nice to hear another recording of the "Scottish" Symphony, it's even nicer that conductor Andrew Manze chose to couple it with the little First Symphony.

So, the program begins with the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11, by German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Now, what's the story with this largely forgotten little piece? Well, for starters, Mendelssohn wrote it in 1824 when he was only fifteen years old. He premiered it at a private concert the same year to honor his sister Fanny's nineteenth birthday, but he didn't publish the work until 1831. Although it is brief at just over half an hour, it contains the usual zest we often associate with the composer, with an added dose of Mozart along with it.

Under Maestro Manze, the opening Allegro Molto is just that, very quick, and filled with a heady degree of energy. If anything, Manze sounds a tad too serious, yet it does set the tone for a vigorous performance. The slow movement is sweet respite, and Manze takes it at an appropriately leisurely pace, although it still seems rather staid to me. The third movement Minuetto proceeds like the rest of the performance at a steady if too solemn gait. Manze takes the finale as speedily as he does the whole work, but the approach works best here and ends the music on a driving note.

Then it's on to more-familiar territory with the Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56. Mendelssohn completed it in 1842, the last of five symphonies he wrote, despite the numbering. He called it his "Scottish" symphony because he started writing it over a dozen years earlier after a visit to Scotland. It doesn't actually sound all that Scottish, though; it's more like a brief, musical impression the composer got of the country, an impression he expanded over the years.

Here, Manze is not as genial as a few other conductors have been with this music, and I wouldn't say he handles it better than some of my favorite conductors in this piece. In particular, I've always enjoyed Peter Maag and the LSO (Decca), Bernard Haitink and the London Philharmonic (Philips), Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony (on either his earlier Decca or later DG recording), Joseph Swensen and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Linn), Herbert Blomstedt and San Francisco Symphony (Decca), and Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (Sony), among others.

Andrew Manze
Manze provides a nice lilt to the opening Andante, even if it appears again a bit too solemn to my ears, opening it up into a full head of steam as it progresses. The second movement zips along with a cheerful good grace. The lovely Adagio flows lyrically along, making a smooth transition into its dirgelike second subject and back again. Although it's a mite brisker than usual, it is in keeping with the rest of Manze's interpretation, which tends to the spry side. Manze ends the symphony with another fairly vigorous reading that we ought to be used to by this point. In all, the conductor injects the music with a hearty spirit while maybe losing a little something of the work's warmth and charm along the way.

Producer Matthias Ilkenhans, supervisor and digital editor Rita Hermeyer, and engineer Martin Lohmann recorded the album at Grosser Sendesaal des NDR Landesfunkaus Hannover, Germany in January 2016. They made the hybrid recording for SACD multichannel and two-channel stereo playback via an SACD player as well as two-channel stereo via a regular CD player. I listened in two-channel SACD.

There is a considerable amount of ambiant reflections around the sound of the orchestra, almost too much. It may sound realistic in multichannel, but in two-channel stereo it somewhat obscures the audio. Still, it's not distracting, and the overall sonic image is impressively dynamic. Upper mids tend to be a trifle hard and edgy at times, with a slightly elevated upper bass. It's also a bit closer than I prefer. Otherwise, there's fair amount of naturalness in the recording and a decent amount of orchestral depth.

Pentatone do up the disc with a standard SACD case, further enclosed in a light-cardboard slipcover. I'm still not sure what purpose a slipcover actually serves, but it does provide a handsome packaging feature.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 29, 2017

Salt Bay Chamberfest 2017 Season

Damariscotta, Maine is home to the Damariscotta River oyster and great heaps of sweet local mussels, a twice-weekly local farmers market, fine examples of Greek revival and Italianate architecture, vestiges of a once-thriving shipbuilding life; and the widely-acclaimed, annual Salt Bay Chamberfest. Now in its 23rd season, the Chamberfest takes place from August 8 - 19, 2017 and is set picturesquely in the Darrows Barn, an historic 19th-century dairy barn turned concert hall, overlooking the scenic Great Salt Bay.

Artistic and Executive Director Wilhelmina Smith commented on the exciting plans for this summer's Chamberfest: "The theme Move Me! allows performers and audience to explore all the ways music moves us," she explained. "It does so in the deepest and most profound ways - emotionally, physically, and metaphorically. Our programs will feature the World Premiere of a Chamberfest co-commissioned work by the much-admired young composer Angel Lam, a trailblazing composition by famed Greek master Iannis Xenakis for six percussionists surrounding the audience, music by composers from J.S. Bach to the present day, and our very first collaboration with a dancer."

Four festival concerts begin at 7:30pm at Darrows Barn, Round Top Farm, Business Route 1, Damariscotta, Maine. Other educational activities include a master class with festival musicians for violin, cello, and piano students on Friday, August 11; pre-concert talks by Mark Mandarano at 6:30pm, one hour prior to each festival concert; post-concert gatherings; and informal meetings with musicians at the OffTopic! lecture series on Mondays, August 7 and 14. All dress rehearsals on the morning of each concert are open to the public as well. And for one other delectable morsel, join the Chamberfest and SaltBay performers for a musical lobster bake on Thursday, August 17 at Darrows Barn to support the festival.

For tickets and more information: call (207) 522-3749, e-mail, or visit

--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company

Rubinstein Competition Premieres Avner Dorman's Fifth Piano Sonata
To have one's new piano work given its world premiere at a prestigious international event is in any circumstances highly desirable. For Avner Dorman, the news that his Piano Sonata No. 5 was to be a set competition piece at the Arthur Rubinstein International Master Piano Competition, and therefore would be played by some 17 competitors, was truly exciting.

Says Dorman, "When I was younger, growing up in Israel, I visited the Arthur Rubinstein Competition quite a few times and found it always inspiring, to see all of those fantastic pianists come from all over the world and regardless of their own backgrounds and cultures, connect and bring things to the same music. So having a piece now commissioned by the competition has been a great honour. And of course, having it played so many times is wonderful for me as the composer!"

Dorman's piece will be played by competitors from countries as disparate as Taiwan, the USA, Italy, China, Israel, France and Poland. Of the (two-movement) sonata itself, Dorman writes, "It celebrates the high level of performance that competitors explores the hues of the modern piano which don't always feature in conventional repertoire...many rhythms are inspired by West African music, and the colors of harmony and melody draw on other cultures. While written in traditional sonata form, this short virtuoso piece also allows pianists to express their own modern, global insights."

The premiere of the sonata comes hard on the heels of the great success of Avner Dorman's opera Wahnfried, still playing in repertoire at the Karlsruhe Staatsoper, Germany. The Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition runs at the Tel Aviv Museum Of Art until May 4th.

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts - New Concert May 17
Due to popular demand, Aspect Foundation for Music & Arts's founder Irina Knaster announced today that a fifth concert has been added to close the foundation's inaugural season in North America. Described by Epoch Times as "a very welcome addition to the chamber music landscape of New York," the season opened with a brilliantly curated series of four concerts, bringing world-class artists and acclaimed musical commentators together to enrich the performance experience for New York audiences, as it had done previously in London for five successful seasons. The Foundation has made its home the elegant Italian Academy at Columbia University, creating an ambiance of warmth, intimacy, and hospitality for the concerts, which are programmed thematically.

On Wednesday, May 17, Aspect Foundation presents "Winds of Change: Vienna, St. Petersburg, Paris." The program features three of the most revered works in the wind repertoire.  Mozart, who once called his Quintet for Piano and Winds "the best thing I have written in my life" in a letter to his father, utilizes elements of quintessential Viennese Classicism with his signature operatic lyricism and phrasing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM
The Italian Academy - Columbia University
1161 Amsterdam Ave., NYC

For more information, visit

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Washington Performing Arts (DC) 2017/18 Season
Building upon the momentum of the still-ongoing 50th anniversary celebration, Washington Performing Arts unveils its 2017/18 season of more than 50 events, taking place in ten venues throughout the D.C. region. The organization's passion for collaboration comes to the fore through numerous premieres, both world and regional, co-commissioned with national and international partners—such as The Blue Hour, collectively composed by five women (including Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw) with text by renowned D.C.-based poet Carolyn Forché, and Steve Reich's Runner—along with co-productions with other local performing arts presenters, notably with the Kennedy Center in the return of the critically acclaimed SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras.

The thought-provoking season brings into focus the connections among artists, cultures, traditions, and innovation. In an exceptionally strong orchestra season, D.C. audiences can look forward to return engagements from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, partnering with a choir comprising singers from several local choral institutions for Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and the Mariinsky Orchestra with Daniil Trifonov performing his own Piano Concerto in E-flat minor. In 2018, Washington Performing Arts joins artists and presenters across the country in honoring Leonard Bernstein in his centennial year, offering a free performance featuring his daughter Jamie Bernstein with the United States Air Force Band, and a new all-Bernstein program from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Subscriptions at, by phone at (202) 785-9727, or in person at the Washington Performing Arts Ticket Office, 1400 K Street NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC. A complete listing of 2017/18 season artists and events will be available online as of April 26 at

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet Media

April 25th Proclaimed "Ella Fitzgerald Day" in NYC
On the 65th floor at the iconic Rainbow Room, with an expansive view of the city where Ella Fitzgerald got her first big break and performed her last public concert, the singer's 100th Birthday was celebrated. Verve Label Group, in partnership with the Mayor's office, hosted a proclamation ceremony this morning to honor this beloved musical icon on her 100th birthday by naming it "Ella Fitzgerald Day," in New York City. 19-time Grammy winner Tony Bennett joined to acknowledge his dear friend and colleague and closed the ceremony with a rendition of "Our Love Is Here To Stay."  Vocal students from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, which Tony Bennett founded in his hometown of Astoria, Queens, opened the Rainbow Room event appropriately with "Blue Skies," a favorite Ella recording.

Danny Bennett, CEO and President of Verve Label Group acknowledged Ella Fitzgerald's unique relationship with New York City where she first received public acclaim by winning Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre in 1934 and performing her last public concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991. Danny Bennett commented, "A year ago, I was asked to take over at the helm of Verve which was founded by Ella's longtime manager Norman Granz, who created Verve Records in 1955 to provide a nurturing and supportive home for Ella's recording career but also to foster jazz artists and this great American-born musical genre. I am truly humbled to now be the keeper of the flame and contributing to shine a well-deserved light on artists of the magnitude of Ella Fitzgerald."

Starbucks will celebrate Ella Fitzgerald's 100th birthday and musical legacy on April 25th by declaring it "Ella Day," playing her recorded songs in all locations nationwide.

Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917 and was known as the "First Lady of Song." She received 13 Grammy Awards, was a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of the Arts.

--Tim Plumley, Universal Music Enterprises

Golden Gate Symphony Presents Mahler Symphony No. 2
The Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra & Chorus concludes its 2016-2017 season with two San Francisco performances of Gustav Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection" on May 14 at the Southern Pacific Brewing Company and May 21 at Herbst Theatre.

Joining the combined, largescale forces of orchestra and chorus are two featured soloists: Chinese soprano Yi Triplett returns for her second appearance this season, and Bay Area mezzo-soprano Crystal Philippi makes her debut appearance.

Admission for the May 14 performance at the Southern Pacific Brewery is free, with a suggested donation of $20. Single tickets for May 21 performance at the Herbst Theatre range in price from $25 to $45 (20% discount for Seniors / Youth Under 18) and are available for purchase at 415.392.4400 or through City Box Office at

--Brenden Guy

Copland House Announces CULTIVATE 2017 Fellows
Copland House announces the six Fellows chosen to participate this June in CULTIVATE, its acclaimed, annual emerging composers institute. The composers selected are Oren Boneh  (25, Oakland, CA), Matthew Browne (28, New York, NY), Pierce Gradone (30, Chicago, IL), Tonia Ko (28, Lawrence, KS, and a 2013 Copland House Resident), Patrick O'Malley (27, Los Angeles, CA), and Anthony Vine (28, San Diego, CA). The six Fellows were chosen out of nearly 50 applicants from 20 states and one Canadian province by an eminent jury comprised of three acclaimed former Copland House Residents - CULTIVATE Director Derek Bermel, Professor Kathryn Alexander of Yale, and composer-trumpeter Dave Douglas.

CULTIVATE 2017, an all-scholarship intensive creative workshop and mentoring program, will take place between June 5 and 11 in northern Westchester County, NY, at Aaron Copland's National Historic Landmark home in Cortlandt Manor and at the Merestead estate in nearby Mount Kisco. Launched in 2012, it has quickly become a coveted destination for highly-gifted composers on the threshold of their professional careers.

"This year's CULTIVATE applicants were a terrific group of composers, with widely-varied aesthetic interests and musical styles," said Professor Alexander. "The 2017 Composer Fellows will make for a wonderfully vibrant and inventive community."

Tickets for the June 11 CULTIVATE concert are $25 for the general public, $20 for Friends of Copland House, and $10 for students (with ID). Ticket or reservation information is available at (914) 788-4659,, or

--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company

Brahms: The Four Symphonies (CD review)

Also, Academic Festival Overture; Haydn Variations. Sir Charles Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Telarc CD-80450 (4-disc set).

When I read on the label of this 1997 Telarc release that these were chamber-orchestra performances in their original performing styles, it concerned me a little. Was the late Sir Charles Mackerras trying to do something different for the sake of being different? Certainly, we have an abundance of good traditional recordings of these symphonies around, and were these new ones merely to sound eccentric?

The first thing I did was consult the accompanying booklet notes to find out what to listen for and why. Here Sir Charles tells us that a major difference between orchestras in Brahms's day and our own is that their size increased dramatically during Brahms's lifetime, from an average of forty or so members at the time of his birth in 1833 to over one hundred by the time of his death in 1897. In fact, the term "chamber orchestra" largely did not exist in the nineteenth century; an orchestra was an orchestra. That Mackerras uses the Scottish Chamber Orchestra of about fifty players is in keeping with the numbers utilized for the premieres of both the First and Fourth Symphonies. (By the Fourth Symphony, orchestras had, indeed, become much larger, but Brahms declined an offer to augment the strings.)

Another difference comes in the apparent irregularities among the various performing editions of the scores of these works, with Mackerras going back to the most-authentic possible original sources, enlarged upon by comments from contemporary pupils of Brahms. Apparently, scholars and the conductor corrected any major discrepancies. Next, we have the Brahmsian trait of dividing the first and second violins to the left and right of the conductor, a practice that much later conductors like Otto Klemperer and Leopold Stokowski employed in their stereo recordings. Other differences you might notice in Mackerras's performances include less vibrato, more lingering on the upbeat preceding big motive themes, and considerably more flexibility in tempo than conductors usually use today. A thirty-six minute interview with Sir Charles illustrates many of these issues, and the Telarc folks include it on a bonus CD.

Sir Charles Mackerras
Finally, after reading the booklet and listening to the interview, it was time to settle down to the symphonies themselves, and I must admit I had by now expected all the dissimilarities I had just read and heard about to overwhelm me. Not so. I noticed some differences, to be sure, especially as I had prepared myself for them, but overall I found these performances more greatly marked by their conventionality than by any manifest quaintness.

The smaller orchestral forces naturally provide a more vivid exposition of the scores, with the separation of the violins increasing the tonal and stereophonic effects. Yet with Telarc's big, warm, rich sound and the use of modern instruments, the overall impression is not so evident as that of, say, a period-instrument group versus a modern orchestra. I noticed some rubato and general tempo variations, too, but I did not find them intrusive. While Mackerras speeds up a little here and slows down a little there, he does it with discretion. His intent is to liven up the proceedings rather than to be quirky. And, needless to say, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra play flawlessly for the conductor.

Taken on their own, these are very personal, strongly felt symphonic interpretations that at the same time do not overwhelm the listener with idiosyncrasy. They are much like Sir Charles's earlier readings of the Mozart symphonies for Telarc, and the record company do them up in similar sonics--big and warm in the bass and midrange, as I say, and a little pinched and nasal in the treble. I'd venture that if you liked the sound of Mackerras's Mozart releases, you would probably like these as well.

Although I would not recommend the Mackerras set as a person's only recording of the Brahms symphonies (I still prefer the big orchestral treatments from Klemperer, Boult, Kertesz, Walter, and others), they make excellent, alternative additions to one's primary sets. Oh, and if the idea of buying all four symphonies in a box set seems too daunting for you, Telarc also make the symphonies available separately on single discs.


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

The Italian Job (CD review)

Music of the Italian baroque. Gail Hennessy and Rachel Chaplin, solo oboes; Peter Whelan, solo bassoon; Adrian Chandler, La Serenissima. Avie AV2371.

If the idea of listening to well-recorded Italian music of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Baroque period played on period instruments in historically informed performances appeals to you, you might enjoy this album, The Italian Job. Conductor Adrian Chandler and his British early-music ensemble La Serenissima (the "serene city" of Venice) play a variety of tunes from some of Italy's top composers of the day: the somewhat forgotten Caldara and more-famous Corelli, Tartini, Vivaldi, Albinoni, and Torelli.

What's more, if you're worried that all Baroque music sounds pretty much alike, you're in for a treat. Chandler has chosen a program that varies the selections considerably, and the music represents four Italian cities known for their distinctive musical styles: Venice, Bologna, Padua, and Rome. The disc provides over seventy-six minutes of well-played music. You can hardly go wrong.

First up is the Sinfonia in C by Antonio Caldara (c. 1671-1736). It is rather extravagant in its use of trumpets, bassoons, oboes, solo violin, and strings, with La Serenissima and company giving it a rousingly good turn. The ensemble plays comfortably, and Chandler never leads them on any helter-skelter barnstorming. That is, the tempos are lively but never rushed. There is also a prominent role for timpani that is most entertaining.

Next is the Sinfonia to S. Beatrice d'Este in D minor by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). This is largely a string work placed at the end of a much-longer oratorio (1689) by Giovanni Lulier. Supposedly, performances of the Corelli piece alone came later. Written in five movements, it begins very seriously and hardly lets up. There is a central Adagio, too, that while also solemn sounds quite lovely. I like the way Chandler keeps everything in an appropriately somber vein yet with enough energy and enthusiasm as to never let the music sound depressing.

Adrian Chandler
After that comes the Concerto in E by Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770). Apparently, Tartini much admired Corelli and wrote several works that use variations of the older man's music. Tartini's violin compositions, however, seem more complex than Corelli's, this one featuring some charming solo violin work, Chandler and company playing it with a consummate grace.

Then, there's the tiny Concerto Alla rustica in G and the longer Concerto in C by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), proving he was good for a lot more than The Four Seasons. However, fans of Vivaldi will probably agree there is no mistaking Vivaldi's work for anybody else's. La Serenissima perform both works with an animated vigor, and the music highlights some delightful bassoon playing.

Following the Vivaldi concerto comes the Concerto in F by Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751). Despite his writing some fifty operas, listeners today probably think of Albinoni mainly for his instrumental music. He wrote this one for two oboes, strings, and continuo, and it includes a particularly affecting Adagio.

The program ends with the Sinfonia in C by Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709). Like the opening Caldara piece, Torelli's work contains a multitude of instruments, scored elaborately for four trumpets, trombone, timpani, two oboes, two bassoons, two violins, two cellos, strings, and continuo. The timpani again make a statement. La Serenissima perform the piece in a grand and stately manner, bringing the album to a splendid conclusion.

Simon Fox-Gal produced, engineered, and edited the album, recorded at St. John's Smith Square, London, England in August 2016. The sound has a nice, ambient bloom to it, making the relatively small number of players appear bigger and the whole sonic range realistic. There is also a lifelike depth of field to the music, and good clarity and detail without any accompanying brightness or forwardness. It makes for a pleasant listening experience.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 22, 2017

Music Institute Presents Yana Reznik, Academy Orchestra May 20

The Music Institute of Chicago showcases its award-winning Academy Orchestra in a concert featuring pianist Yana Reznik Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois. The Music Institute recently hired Reznik to join its piano faculty at the Academy, a prestigious training center for gifted pre-college pianists and string players.

The program includes Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, with Reznik as soloist and Academy Director James Setapen as conductor. Also on the program is Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, conducted by Roland Vamos.

The Music Institute of Chicago presents Yana Reznik and the Academy Orchestra Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, IL. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at or 847.905.1500. All programming is subject to change. For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Merola Opera Program 60th Anniversary Season: June 11 Gala and Concert
The Merola Opera Program launches its 60th Anniversary season on Sunday, June 11 with a Benefit Gala at City Hall and a concert immediately following at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, featuring some of the acclaimed Merola program's most illustrious participants.

The 60th Anniversary concert will feature performances by Merola alumni from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and current and recent participants, including: soprano Deborah Voigt (1985); mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick (1983); Mark Morash, pianist and Merola Opera Program Music Director (1987); and soprano Tracy Dahl (1985); soprano Kristin Clayton (1993), mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook (1990), Bojan Knezevic, bass-baritone (1992, 1993, 1994), and John Churchwell, pianist (1996); baritone Quinn Kelsey (2002); 2013 Merola graduates mezzo-soprano Zanda Švede and tenors Pene Pati and Issachah Savage; soprano Julie Adams, and bass Anthony Reed,  all from 2014; Amina Edris and Toni Marie Palmertree, sopranos; and Brad Walker, bass-baritone, both from 2015; and 2016 artists Sarah Cambidge, soprano; Amitai Pati and Kyle van Schoonhoven, tenors; Andrew G. Manea, baritone; John Elam and Jennifer Szeto, pianists; and director Aria Umezawa.

The evening will begin with an elegant cocktail reception in the historic Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall. A special collection of Signature Events will be the focus of the silent auction, where guests can bid on an exciting array of once-in-a-lifetime, intimate recitals and receptions featuring Merola alumni in private homes and other exclusive settings. Dinner will be held in the North Light Court, where guests will be seated with the new 2017 Merola artists, who will be training and performing beginning in June and throughout the summer. The evening's celebrations will continue in the beautiful Herbst Theatre with the concert, featuring aforementioned Merola alumni from the past four decades. Following the concert, there will be a festive dessert after-party with dancing in the Veterans Building Green Room, where guests can mingle with the concert artists and the 2017 Merolini.

The concert begins at 8 pm with performances from two of Merola's most well-known successes, Deborah Voigt and Dolora Zajick, joined by the 2017 Merolini for "Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour," from Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. Soprano Julie Adams, who sings Mimi this summer in San Francisco Opera's La Boheme, and tenor Pene Pati will sing the duet "Suzel, buon dì" from Mascagni's L'amico Fritz.

For more information, visit

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

Tucson Desert Song Festival Announces its Sixth Season
The Tucson Desert Song Festival (TDSF) will celebrate the life and music of Leonard Bernstein, the iconic conductor, composer, pianist and educator, from January 16 through February 4th, 2018, in Tucson, Arizona. Over a period of eighteen days, TDSF, in partnership with Tucson's leading arts organizations, will present 30 events honoring Bernstein at 100. The festival will provide a rich and unusual context in which to experience Bernstein's work.

Leonard Bernstein's compositions span classical, Broadway, jazz and pop music idioms with a singularly American voice. TDSF Director George Hanson has curated a festival that draws from every aspect of Bernstein's compositional range, from large to intimate works, featuring, films, lectures, symposiums and master classes. Highlights include a fully-staged production of Bernstein's comic operetta Candide (in partnership with Arizona Opera); Trouble in Tahiti (in partnership with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra) featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Kelly Markgraf; Mass, in a new reduced version (in partnership with True Concord Voices & Orchestra) featuring Jubilant Sykes; the "Kaddish" symphony, narrated by Jamie Bernstein, and an evening with Broadway star Chita Rivera.

George Hanson, a former assistant to Bernstein states, "Leonard Bernstein is one of America's most important and influential musicians. His impact is felt by all who were alive during his glorious career; and is still felt today even by those too young to recall his time on earth. Nowhere else in the world, as far as we know, can a listener experience the full spectrum of Bernstein's genius in such a short period of time, and in such a beautiful place as Tucson."

Jamie Bernstein, narrator, writer and broadcaster, will be TDSF's Artist-in-Residence, sharing insights and memories of her father and his work. Dr. Matthew Mugmon, the New York Philharmonic's Leonard Bernstein Scholar, will also be in residence. Ms. Bernstein and Dr.. Mugmon will provide context to help understand the complex life and career of Leonard Bernstein and will participate in symposia, Leonard Bernstein's Impact on American Music, among them.

For complete information, visit

--Nancy Shear Arts Services

Moab Music Festival Announces 25th Anniversary Season
Concerts celebrate past composers-in-residence, works written by composers in their 25th year, Bernstein's centenary, and signature concerts in the breathtaking Grotto.

This season, the Moab Music Festival (MMF) celebrates 25 years of music in concert with the landscape with "sandstone walls for acoustics, willows for privacy and river sand for a stage" (Sunset Magazine), and more than two decades of what makes this Festival "stand out from many of its competitors." (Chamber Music Magazine)  As Denver Magazine 5280 wrote, "Although I don't know Tchaikovsky from Brahms, the beauty of this festival is that I don't have to. It's about what you feel when the music starts, not about what you know. The combination of music - whether it's chamber music or jazz ensemble - set against the canyon lands background is, in a word, stirring."

For complete information, visit

--Dworkin & Company

In the Salon of Mademoiselle Lévi
Performed by Hesperus: Tina Chancey, John Mark Rozendaal, and Webb Wiggins

May 11, 2017 - 8:00pm
The Santucary of Brotherhood Synagogue
28 Gramercy Park South
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $25/$35/$50/$100
For more information, visit

--Salon/Sanctuary Concets

Pianist Michael Brown Debuts at 92Y - May 3
Winner of 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, pianist Michael Brown makes his 92Y debut at the Buttenwieser Hall on Wednesday, May 3 at 8:30 pm. Selected by Sir András Schiff, Mr. Brown performs at the final concert of 92Y's Sir András Schiff Selects series of the season, featuring works by Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Bernstein and one of the pianist's own composition, Constellations and Toccata.  Praised by The New York Times as a "young piano visionary," Mr. Brown is a Steinway Artist and a member of  CMS Two at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Equally committed as a pianist and composer, Mr. Brown's recent commissions include a piano concerto for the Maryland Symphony and works for the Look & Listen Festival, Bargemusic, Concert Artists Guild, The Stecher and Horowitz Foundation, and Shriver Hall. His two-part composition, Constellations and Toccata, was written for and premiered by the acclaimed American pianist Orion Weiss. It draws inspiration from two different modes of perceiving the universe.

For more information, visit

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Francisco J. Núñez to Present Educator Patricia Redd Johnson with Academy for Teachers Award
The Academy for Teachers will present its first-ever fund-raising gala celebrating New York City teachers on Tuesday, May 2, during which Francisco J. Núñez, founder and artistic director of the Young People's Chorus of New York City and an educator himself, will present Patricia Redd Johnson, his former teacher at I.S. 44, with The Academy's Woodridge Award for Great Teachers.

The benefit takes place at the New-York Historical Society and begins with cocktails at 6 p.m. followed by a performance featuring stars of stage and screen Matthew Broderick and Vanessa Williams, jazz great Ron Blake, hip-hop sensation Sean Cross, composer Phil Galdston, poet Taylor Mali, puppet genius Basil Twist, as well as a quartet of gifted students from the Special Music School.  The benefit's honorary co-chairs are Caroline Hirsch, Stephen Sondheim, and Gloria Steinem.

"Show Teachers the Love!"
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
New York Historical Society
170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), NYC

6 p.m.   Cocktails
7 p.m.   Show
Tapas and dessert to follow                    

For tickets, contact

--Shuman Associates PR

Summer 2017: Weill Hall, the Green Music Center, Sonoma State University
July 4 Fireworks Spectacular
3rd Annual Bluegrass Festival
Gloria Estefan – The Standards and More
Community Concert

Diana Krall
Jake Owen
Blues at the Green feat. Dr. John & The Nite Trippers
Chick Corea Elektric Band | Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
St. Paul and the Broken Bones | Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave.
Pink Martini featuring China Forbes

Taste of Sonoma
George Benson & Kenny G
Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra
Los Tigres del Norte
National Acrobat and Martial Arts of the People's Republic of China

For complete information, visit

--Green Music Center

String Quartet Brooklyn Rider Makes Wallis Debut on May 13
Hailed as "the future of chamber music" (Strings) that perform with "the energy of young rock stars" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), the game-changing string quartet Brooklyn Rider comes to The Wallis for one night only on Saturday, May 13 at 8pm. NPR best described the ensemble when it said: "Take two violins, a viola, a cello. Add the world. Persian, Silk Road, Bartók, Beethoven, Roma, klezmer, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Philip Glass--and you've got Brooklyn Rider. The spell-casting, trail-blazing string quartet straight out of Brooklyn and all over."

Brooklyn Rider will present an eclectic program at The Wallis that includes work by Philip Glass, Leoš Janácek, Beethoven and the ensemble's own violinist, Colin Jacobsen. A pre-concert conversation moderated by Classical KUSC's Brian Lauritzen with members of Brooklyn Rider will take place at 7:00 pm with complimentary wine sponsored by The Henry Wine Group.

Single tickets are now available for $29 - $59. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, 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.

For more information, please visit:

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Gould: American Ballads (CD review)

Also, Foster Gallery; American Salute. Theodore Kuchar, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Naxos 8.559005.

The surprise here, and a delightful one, is not that American composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist Morton Gould (1913-1996) successfully orchestrated so many fine, old American folk tunes; most people who are familiar with twentieth-century American music already know and appreciate the man and his work. No, the surprise is that a Ukrainian orchestra and a Ukrainian-American conductor could bring them off so idiomatically and with such enthusiasm and charm.

The program begins with a series of short tunes (1976) called American Ballads: the "Star-Spangled Overture" an appropriate starting point, through "Amber Waves," "Jubilio," "Memorials," "Saratoga Quickstep," and "Hymnals."

The core of the disc, however, is a collection called Foster Gallery (1939), in which Gould connects some of Stephen Foster's most memorable songs with a few of his lesser-known things in a kind of Pictures From an Exhibition layout, with variations on "Camptown Races" being the thread holding the pieces together. Some of it is achingly beautiful, like "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair"; much of it familiar, like "Swanee River," "Old Black Joe," "My Old Kentucky Home"; and some of it not so familiar, like "Canebreak Jig," "Comrades, Fill No Glass for Me," "Kitty Bell"; with a rousing finale of "Oh, Susanna." The disc concludes with the composer's arrangement of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," which Gould titled American Salute.

Theodore Kuchar
The idea of taking old tunes and renewing them symphonically is not new. People like Dvorak, Ives, Grainger, Vaughan Williams, and dozens of others did it, too. Gould uses banjos along with piccolos, harps, oboes, clarinets, trombones, tubas, percussion, and strings--lots and lots of strings--to accomplish the deed.

What's more, Theodore Kuchar and his Ukrainian players (he was still the orchestra's Principal Conductor at the time of the recording) perform all of this as though it were their own native music. Now, you might say the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine seems an unlikely ensemble to be playing American nationalistic music; but in this case they play with as much passion and spirit as any native orchestra might. Let's say, they adjust well, and there is probably a good reason why the Ukraine ensemble has recorded more music than any other orchestra of the former Soviet Union.

Then, there's the sound from this 2000 Naxos release. It projects a big, bold image to match Gould's big, bold music and Kuchar's big, jazzy music-making. Although one could hardly describe any of it as subtle, it sounds wholly appropriate.

And all for less money than you'd pay for a hamburger at McDonald's. There are few other labels that let one experiment as much as Naxos.


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

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (SACD review)

Also, Dvorak: Rusalka Fantasy. Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Reference Recordings Fresh! FR-720SACD.

It seems that the Pittsburgh Symphony's Music Director, Manfred Honeck, wants us to be as fascinated by the mysteries of Tchaikovsky's final symphony as he is. Honeck spends eleven-and-a-half pages of the booklet notes explaining all the various rumors, insinuations, descriptions, and elucidations surrounding the work. You know, did Tchaikovsky write it to foretell his own death, and so on. I'm not sure he needed to go into such detail on the subject, since no one really knows for sure why the composer wrote his last big-scale piece the way he did, but it makes for an interesting and enlightening read.

Anyway, the real question is why we might need yet another recording of a work that conductors have already recorded to death. To answer that, we have to look at several factors, including whether the music is worth performing so often; whether the new interpretation is good enough to warrant buying it; whether the orchestra responds well to it; whether there is value in the coupling; and whether the recorded sound holds up to the listener's standards. Let's take them one at a time.

Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) wrote his Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathetique" in the last year of his life, and it would be his final work before he died. The ensuing century brought it mounting fame, and today one can hardly doubt its value as one of the late-Romantic period's most-popular works. The title "Pathetique" in Russian means "passionate" or "emotional," which is how most conductors play it--big, bold, and red-blooded. Maestro Honeck, though, generally brings to it a more restrained approach.

The work begins with a fairly lengthy introduction, which Honeck takes in leisurely fashion before moving into the main subject. Then, things build in an agitated fashion, culminating in the music's famous central theme. The first time it appears, Honeck appears to do little with it, and one wonders if the music is ever going to catch fire. But not to worry; about halfway through, Honeck lets the big guns loose, and we know this is Tchaikovsky after all. A very dynamic live recording helps here as well. Honeck ends the movement with an appropriately sedate repose.

Manfred Honeck
The second-movement Allegro con grazia is a waltz, and the third-movement is a zippy scherzo before ending a mournful Finale. Here, Honeck does keep things quite as usual, either. The waltz seems a bit too fast, as though Honeck wanted to get it over with. The scherzo is also quick, which we would expect, although I'm not sure Honeck catches all the fire and passion by taking it quite as speedily as he does. Nevertheless, it's fun. Lastly, Honeck ends the affair with a finale in the same unhurried vein as his first movement.

The Pittsburgh Symphony proves once again that it is among America's top orchestras, ranking right up there near the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chicago, New York, and San Francisco Symphonies, among others. Its presence may not be as dominant as some of the illustrious European ensembles from Berlin, Amsterdam, Dresden, Leipzig, and London, but the Pittsburgh ensemble play with precision, and they sound as rich and lush as any you'll find.

In terms of the symphony's coupling, be aware that many discs don't even include additional selections. In Honeck's case, he has chosen to provide a suite, the Rusalka Fantasy, from Antonin Dvorak's opera Rusalka (arranged by Tomas Ille and Honeck himself). Maybe because I've heard the Tchaikovsky done so often by so many conductors, I couldn't appreciate Honeck's performance of it as much as I enjoyed his Dvorak; and I didn't have as much with which to compare the Dvorak. Whatever, Dvorak's music comes off with a delightful charm and joyful grace.

Producer Dirk Sobotka and engineers Mark Donahue and John Newton (all of Soundmirror, Boston) recorded the music live at Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA in April 2015. They made it in hybrid SACD to play back in multichannel or two-channel from an SACD player and two-channel from a regular CD player. I listened in two-channel SACD.

The sound they obtained is about what we might expect from a live recording. It's close-up, of course, although not to the extent of some live recordings, and the engineers probably did it to minimize audience noise, making everything sound just a little bigger than life. Dynamics are huge, clarity is excellent, the response appears smooth and well balanced, and the frequencies seem well extended. It's just sort of an irony of live recordings that to me they most often don't sound as "live" as a studio recording (or one without an audience). Compared to the studio productions Reference Recordings have made over the years, this "Fresh!" live one doesn't quite project the dimensions of the concert hall, the ambience, the warmth, or the presence of RR's best non-live discs.

However, that's just me. Other listeners will, I'm sure, disagree and find the sound of this recording a delight--vigorous and detailed. It is certainly more than adequate, and RR have gratefully spared us any applause.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 15, 2017

Classical Music Meets Classic California at 47th Annual Festival Mozaic in San Luis Obispo

Each summer since its beginnings in 1971, FESTIVAL MOZAIC Music Director Scott Yoo transforms the Central Coast of California into a hotbed of classical music culture. July 19-30, 2017, will lead a group of more than 50 visiting artists gathered from top orchestras and chamber ensembles from around the world in performances in scenic venues all over picturesque San Luis Obispo County (or SLO, as the locals call it), combining music with classic California architecture, food and wine.

Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on historic Highway 1, SLO was named "Happiest City in North America" by National Geographic and Oprah Winfrey and Wine Enthusiast Magazine named neighboring Paso Robles "2013 Wine Region of the Year." Award-winning wine and farm-to-fork cuisine are both fueled by SLO's close proximity to California's agricultural epicenter, and play a big part in the Festival's events.

From Bach and beyond to Mozart and more, Festival Mozaic presents nationally and internationally renowned musicians in beautiful venues all over San Luis Obispo County. Founded in 1971 as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, Festival Mozaic is one of the oldest and most respected classical music festivals in the West. Taking place in July, with additional concerts throughout the year, the Festival offers more than 30 events in San Luis Obispo County's most charismatic spaces.

The Festival presents four different types of events – Orchestra (conducted by music director Scott Yoo), Chamber Music (featuring performers like Steven Copes, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; cellist Brian Thornton, Cleveland Orchestra; bassoonist Fei Xie, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and others), a Notable Encounter series which is equal parts interactive performance and education, and our Fringe series, featuring classically-trained musicians playing in innovative crossover ensembles (like string trio Simply Three, Celtic violin/guitar duo Fire and Grace, and pianist/composer Stephen Prutsman).

Like any good festival, we also present an array of master classes, midday mini-concerts and open rehearsals. Unlike many festivals, we present in 16 venues over an entire county (100 square miles), including a 1772 California Mission, state-of-the-art performance halls, fruit ranches, wineries, historic adobes, farms and private homes. Located in the heart of the up-and-coming Central Coast wine region, an area that has been called the "Rivieria of the U.S.," our festival has been growing steadily in stature and renown over the past few years. Our 2017 season will take place July 19-30.

Here's a video of Festival Mozaic from last summer:

For complete information, visit

--Liz Dodder & Bettina Swigger, Festival Mozaic

Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette on "Great Performances"
Hailed by The New York Times for singing "with white-hot sensuality and impassioned lyricism," Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo star as the tragic lovers in Shakespeare's classic story. Gounod's Roméo et Juliette airs on "Great Performances at the Met" Friday, April 14 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

The Met's new production by director Bartlett Sher also features Virginie Verrez as Stéphano, Elliot Madore as Mercutio, and Mikhail Petrenko as Frère Laurent. Gianandrea Noseda conducts the sumptuous score.

For more information and preview, visit

--Harry Forbes, WNET

Ravinia Creates Role of Conductor Laureate for James Levine
Longtime Music Director James Levine will renew his summer residency, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and leading master classes at Ravinia's Steans Music Institute.

Ravinia has created the role of Conductor Laureate--a title reserved for an exalted musician whose eminent leadership has formed and shaped an institution's artistic quality over time--for James Levine, recognizing him as one of the most significant conductors in history, announced Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman today. Levine served as Music Director of Ravinia for 21 years (1973–93), almost as long as the combined tenures of the festival's three other music directors (Seiji Ozawa, Christoph Eschenbach, and James Conlon). The five-year appointment has an evergreen renewal.

"Every presenter strives to share the world's greatest artists with their audiences, and this historic appointment is prime proof of Ravinia's devotion to the music, the listeners, and to the man himself," Kauffman said. "Ravinia's love of Levine has shone brightly for decades, and we're thrilled that this exciting new Levine Residency demonstrates that the feeling is mutual."

In this new role, Levine will conduct multiple programs in his two-week annual residency, as part of the CSO's six-week summer residency, beginning in 2018.

"Ravinia commands the ideal resources, a superb orchestra and chorus in a welcoming environment, for live audiences to experience music's rich and varied masterworks," Levine said. "I look forward to sharing this music and my lifelong love for it with Ravinia audiences over the next several summers."

Levine returns to Ravinia on Aug. 8 this season to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Haydn's The Creation.

Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL 60035 Tel: (847) 266-5100.

--Allie Brightwell, Press Ravinia

SIGN & SING, New York Opera Fest
SIGN & SING, a nonprofit performance program that reimagines classical music with American Sign Language (ASL), is proud to invite you to our upcoming event on Sunday, May 21st at 3pm at Symphony Space, NYC.

Can a statue of Venus come alive? Can a vagabond find a travel companion? SIGN & SING's "Explorations" examines three stories of love and travel, reimagining great works of classical music in sung English and American Sign Language (ASL). These works - Heggie and McNally's "At the Statue of Venus," Vaughan Williams and Stevenson's "Songs of Travel," and Elgar's "Sea Pictures" - will be performed on Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 3pm at Symphony Space. A post-show meet-and-greet will occur at Bar Thalia.

Open captions and Jacoti-Lola assisted listening devices will be provided. Symphony Space is ADA compliant and wheelchair accessible.

To buy tickets, click here:

Vagabonds: Treshelle Edmond, James W. Guido, Suchan Kim
Seafarers: Tal Heller, Ren
Rose: Alexa Jarvis
Rose's Date: Christopher Tester
Venus: Beth Applebaum
Pianists: Alla Milchtein, Artyom Pak, Thomas Weaver

For more information, visit:

--Katharine Dubbs, Sign & Sing

American Bach Soloists Present Handel's La Resurrezione
The American Bach Soloists' 2017 subscription season concludes with Handel's La Resurrezione, a monumental sacred oratorio based on the events from the Saturday after the crucifixion to Easter Sunday. ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas conducts performances in the Bay Area and Davis from May 5-8, 2017.

As a young composer in his early twenties, George Frideric Handel traveled to Rome and Venice to learn from the Italian masters of his day, and within only a few months he surpassed their abilities. In Rome, he composed and produced La Resurrezione, a truly "operatic" oratorio, that scandalized the Vatican (opera was prohibited in Rome by Papal edict at the time) yet assured his place as the new master of Italian operatic style. Heaven and Hell—embodied in an Angel and Lucifer—battle for supremacy on earth through this dramatic telling of the emotions and convictions of Mary Magdalene, Mary Cleophas, and John the Evangelist.

Friday, May 5, 2017, 8:00 pm – St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA
Saturday, May 6, 2017, 8:00 pm – First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, May 7, 2017, 4:00 pm – St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA
Monday, May 8, 2017, 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, Davis, CA
Tickets: $33-$85 / / (415) 621-7900

--American Bach Soloists

Plácido Domingo Stars in a New Met Role, the Title King in Verdi's Nabucco
The legendary Plácido Domingo brings another new baritone role to the Met as the title king in Nabucco, under the baton of his longtime collaborator James Levine on "Great Performances at the Met" Sunday, May 7 on PBS.

Nabucco was originally seen live in movie theaters on January 7 as part of the groundbreaking "The Met: Live in HD" series, which transmits live performances to more than 2,000 movie theaters and performing arts centers in over 70 countries around the world. The "Live in HD" series has reached a record-breaking 22 million viewers since its inception in 2006.

For complete information on this and other "Great Performances" programs visit "Great Performances" online at

--Harry Forbes, WNET

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein Performs Bach Marathon at 92Y
On Saturday, April 22, American cellist Alisa Weilerstein returns to 92Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall and gives a marathon performance of Bach's complete Suites for Solo Cello. Recipient of a MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship, Ms. Weilerstein has long proven herself to be in possession of a distinctive musical voice with intensity, sensitivity, and a wholehearted immersion in each of the works she interprets. An exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics since 2010, she is the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in more than 30 years.

Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 7 p.m.
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC

For more information, visit

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

NYOA Announces April 27 Kickoff Event for the Second Annual New York Opera Fest
The New York Opera Alliance (NYOA) will officially launch their second annual New York Opera Fest with a kickoff event on Thursday April 27th, from 6-8PM, at Marc A. Scorca Hall in the National Opera Center (330 Seventh Ave at 29th St). The event will honor opera star Lauren Flanigan for her exceptional service to the opera community of NYC (the inaugural award last year went to Fred Plotkin), and will also feature performances from the following New York Opera Fest participants:

Regina Opera, Donizetti's L'Elisir d' amour
Opera Mission, William Bolcom's Behind the Mind
American Opera Projects, Robert Paterson's Three Way
Sign & Sing, Jake Heggie's At the Statue of Venus
Rhymes With Opera Bonnie Lander's Coping Mechanisms
Opera Upper West Side, Tome Cipullo's Glory Denied
Opera on Tap, Parksville Murders Behind the Scenes Look
Opera Rox, New Works
Bronx Opera, Verdi's Falstaff

The event is free and open to the public, though attendees must RSVP by April 20 at:

The second inaugural New York Opera Fest ( a two-month celebration of New York's vibrant and varied opera community throughout May and June, 2017, with over 20 companies putting on more than 30 events in venues around the city. In addition to performances, the fest will showcase behind-the-scenes events where the public can attend open rehearsals, forums, showcases, and masterclasses featuring some of opera's brightest emerging talents.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Haydn & Hummel: Trumpet Concertos (CD review)

Also, Albinoni: Concerto "Saint Marc"; Torelli: Sonata a Cinque. Martin Berinbaum, trumpet; Johannes Somary, English Chamber Orchestra. Vanguard SVC-136.

I've never met a recording of Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E flat major I didn't like. Since first hearing the work as a teenager over fifty years ago, I've probably heard dozens of recordings of Joseph Haydn's Concerto, and I admit I've liked them all. Oh, there have been extreme variations in matters of sound and tempo and such, to be sure, as with the comparisons I'll make in a minute, but the performances have always seemed to come up right. Can't say why. Maybe I find the piece so charming I just can't not like it, no matter what. In any case, this 2000 reissue from Vanguard featuring a young Martin Berinbaum on trumpet appears as beautifully played as any and has the advantage of good, lucid sound and sensible accompaniment.

OK, so Mr. Berinbaum isn't quite so young anymore, but he was when he recorded this program in 1972. The booklet note tells us that the recording "was selected to be one of 500 albums in the 'President's Collection' at the White House." It certainly rates such a distinction; Berinbaum plays with grace and refinement, plus an infectiously joyous spirit.

Martin Berinbaum
Like many other discs, this one couples the Haydn with Johann Hummel's Trumpet Concerto, a piece equally appealing in its own way and equally well played by Berinbaum and company. In addition, the issue includes two short baroque works for trumpet, the Concerto "Saint Marc" by Tommaso Albinoni and the Sonata a Cinque, No. 7 by Giuseppe Torelli, the latter a solo number for trumpet, four strings, and continuo. The timings for all four works on the disc still don't add up to much, a little less than fifty minutes, but the interpretations are well worth one's while.

The 1972 analogue recording dates from a period when the English Chamber Orchestra were in extraordinarily good form. It's the era when Daniel Barenboim recorded so much good Mozart with the group. Here, the late Johannes Somary leads them in exemplary, highly satisfying performances. Moreover, the orchestra's playing is alert to Somary's elegant yet lively direction.

Vanguard's 24-bit remastered sound makes the orchestra seem very slightly top heavy but overall quite clear, with the sound of the trumpet near perfect. There is only the faintest trace of roughness in the highest frequencies to betray the disc's age. I'd say if you have a stereo system inclined toward brightness, you might find the recording a bit edgy, but if your system projects a fairly smooth, well-balanced sonic image, you should find the recording sounding quite natural and transparent throughout its range.

Two other CDs I had on hand at the time of this review, Schwarz on Delos and Marsalis on Sony, sounded a bit soft and veiled by comparison. All of which is to suggest that this Vanguard reissue is a treasure.


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

Ginastera: One Hundred (CD review)

Yolanda Kondonassis, harp; Gil Shaham, violin; Ori Shaham, piano; Jason Vieaus, guitar; Raphael Jimenez, Oberlin Orchestra. Oberlin Music OC 16-04.

"Beauty is the emergence of a spiritual climate in which each artist is transfigured through the impulse of creation. In this climate, the work that springs forth from the depths of his soul, combining personal and shared elements of humanity, is purified and becomes translucent and clear. It becomes universal." --Alberto Ginastera

A few years ago I reviewed a Naxos recording of Ginastera's cello concertos, and I remember the back of the jewel box saying, "Alberto Ginastera was one of the most admired and respected musical voices of the twentieth century, who successfully fused the strong traditional influences of his national heritage with experimental, contemporary, and classical techniques." That made me feel rather uninformed at the time because I could only remember hearing a single piece of music by the man before that, an old recording of the Harp Concerto with Zabaleta. Maybe the composer is finally getting his due.

Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) was an Argentinean composer who studied with Aaron Copland and among whose students was tango composer Astor Piazzolla. What surprised me in reading about Ginastera is that an old rock track familiar to me, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Toccata," the group adapted from Ginastera's First Piano Concerto. It's remarkable how things in this world are so intertwined, yet we may not even know about them.

Anyway, what we have in the present disc is a 2016 celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of Ginastera's birth. There are four pieces represented on the disc, starting with the biggest (orchestra and soloist), longest (about twenty-five minutes), and arguably most popular of his works, the aforementioned Harp Concerto, Op. 25, this time performed by Yolanda Kondonassis, harp, accompanied by Raphael Jimenez and the Oberlin Orchestra. Ginastera wrote it in 1956 and revised it in 1968.

Yolanda Kondonassis
Ms. Kondonassis plays it with sensitivity and feeling, bringing out its more Romantic qualities of lyricism and melody. Yet she never shies from adding sparks to the livelier interludes. The orchestra play with enthusiasm, Jimenez providing a good rhythmic punch throughout the work's more-energetic segments.

The next three selections are brief duets or solos, starting with Pampeana No. 1, Op. 16 (1946), played by Gil Shaham, violin, and Orli Shaham, piano. They play it as a sort of slow, intricate lament, the two performers engaging in a conversation neither old-fashioned nor completely modern yet always compelling. This is modern music that doesn't sound at all modern nor dated and gets especially heated about halfway through. Beautifully executed.

Then there's the Sonata for Guitar, Op. 47 (1976), with Jason Vieaux, guitar, and Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2 (1937), with Orli Shaham, piano. They, too, appear well rendered, the soloists providing virtuosity, color, passion, and sentiment to the music in equal measure.

Incidentally, the booklet notes contains several insightful, well-written essays on Ginastera and his style. They are worth a read.

Producers Yolanda Kondonassis and Erica Brenner and engineers Paul Eachus and Lawrence Rock recorded the music at the Warner Concert Hall, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio in November 2015 and February 2016 and at the Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY in February 2016. The sound obtained in the concerto is nicely focused and wide spread, with a moderate orchestral depth, good dynamics, and a fairly decent balance among the instruments. Nice bass and percussion, too. Fun stuff. There is a light ambient glow that slightly softens the sonic definition, but it's only a minor veiling and actually enhances most of the music. The duet and solos also sound realistic enough, the violin and piano combination never seeming too close or too distant. The solos, though, I found a bit too near, even if their closeness increases the clarity of the instruments.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 8, 2017

Musica Viva NY Presents An Elegy for All Humanity

Musica Viva NY, led by Artistic Director Dr. Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, closes its 2016-2017 season on Sunday, May 7 at 5:00 p.m. at All Souls Church, 1157 Lexington Avenue, NYC, with An Elegy for All Humanity, featuring a performance of Brahms' German-language masterpiece, Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) in a rarely heard chamber ensemble arrangement by Joachim Linckelmann with the Musica Viva NY choir and soloists soprano Devony Smith and bass-baritone Joseph Beutel.

Also on the program is prolific pianist and composer Seymour Bernstein's cantata Song of Nature--inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Nature"--in a new arrangement by Dr. Hernandez-Valdez, narrated by David Rockefeller, Jr.

Preceding the concert is a screening of Ethan Hawke's acclaimed documentary Seymour: An Introduction, a warm and witty tribute to Seymour Bernstein, as he shares stories from his life, together with insightful reflections on art, creativity, and the search for fulfillment. The screening takes place at 2:30 p.m. in Reidy Friendship Hall at All Souls Church, NYC, followed by a Q&A session with Bernstein.

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.

Tickets, priced at $30, which include admission to the documentary screening, are available by visiting or can be purchased at the door.

For complete information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Artis-Naples Announces 2017-18 Subscription Season
Artis-Naples, Naples, Florida, will continue to explore the intersections and divergences of the arts in an ambitious subscription season, which CEO and President Kathleen van Bergen announced today. A unique organization, Artis-Naples encompasses both performing and visual arts,including the Naples Philharmonic, The Baker Museum, the Naples International Film Festival and robust educational and community initiatives.

The newly announced subscription series include 10 Masterworks programs, 10 chamber music programs, eight jazz programs, five dance programs including three repertory programs with Miami City Ballet and an increase to five Pops programs. The four-performance Visiting Orchestra series was previously announced.

"I am delighted to celebrate the breadth and depth of artistic expression through concerts, lectures and exhibitions," van Bergen said. "Our season provides a multitude of opportunities across the creative spectrum for cultural enrichment through exceptional artistic offerings."

The season revolves around two themes: "Languages of Art" and "Evolution/Revolution," which will be explored across series and artistic disciplines.

"This season, through performances, visual arts and lectures, we are excited to explore the vocabulary artists use to express their ideas as well as the subtle or dramatic ways art forms change over time," says Sharon and Timothy Ubben Music Director Andrey Boreyko.

Home of the Baker Museum and the Naples Philharmonic, Artis-Naples is unique among cultural institutions nationwide, equally dedicated to both the performing and visual arts featuring artists of global distinction.

For complete information, visit

--Jonathan Foerster, Artis-Naples

See Nic's 25-Year Dream Come to Life
After three years of planning, Rameau's Le Temple de la Gloire is almost here. While PBO has performed in many fully staged opera productions in the past, we have never initiated one of our own. Until now.

This project has been a dream of Nicholas McGegan's since he first learned of the existence of the original manuscript score and libretto (by Voltaire) for Le Temple de la Gloire at UC Berkeley's Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library. It is the only existing copy of the 1745 version of this Rameau opera.

"Being able, finally, to be part of a fully staged production of Le Temple de la Gloire is the fulfilment of a dream for me. Nearly 25 years ago, Philharmonia recorded some of the dance music from this magnificent score and now we are at last able to mount this major production," says McGegan.

If you don't have tickets to see Rameau's Le Temple de la Gloire this April 28-30 at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA, learn more and get tickets here:

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

The Crypt Sessions Presents Cellist Joshua Roman, May 3
The Crypt Sessions Season 2 continues on May 3, 2017 with American cellist Joshua Roman performing a solo recital which begins in darkness with Bach's spare, haunting Suite No. 2 in D Minor, before moving through sonatas by György Ligeti and George Crumb - both written during the period of lovestruck adolescence, with music that alternates between shaded meditation and stormy intensity - and finishing with a composition of his of his own, the transcendently radiant "Riding Light."

Roman performed in the Crypt with Gregg Kallor in last season's finale concert of "The Tell-Tale Heart," and his playing was praised by Berkshire Fine Arts, saying: "Roman is a musician who can afford to expose his talent in long drawn out single tones..often miraculously drawn from his instrument."

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Emerson String Quartet Celebrates 40th Anniversary at Carnegie Hall
The world-renowned Emerson String Quartet returns to Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium on May 7 at 3 PM for a performance of Ravel and Berg Quartets and the Brahms Quintet with internationally acclaimed pianist Yefim Bronfman.  Presented by Carnegie Hall, this marks the final celebration of Emerson String Quartet's 40th Anniversary -- a major milestone for this ground-breaking ensemble, named "America's greatest quartet" by TIME Magazine. The Emerson Quartet continues to perform with the same benchmark integrity, energy and commitment that it has demonstrated since it was formed in 1976, and its 40th-Anniversary season reflects all aspects of the Quartet's venerable artistry with high-profile projects and collaborations, commissions and recordings.

On April 21 the Quartet releases its latest album, Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell , the first release on Universal Music Classics' new US classical record label, Decca Gold. Eugene Drucker says of this album "it's hard to believe that the music on this CD spans almost three centuries, ranging from Purcell's surprisingly pungent harmonies to Britten's distinctive voice: pitched outside the mainstream of European modernism, experimental yet deeply rooted in his extensive knowledge of older music, drawing inspiration from and breathing new life into old forms."

On June 17 at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, the Emerson Quartet joins hands and minds with acclaimed theatrical writer-director James Glossman to present the world premiere of the opera "Shostakovich and the Black Monk: A Russian Fantasy." Accompanied by an ensemble of seven actors, this ambitious production combines Anton Chekhov's mystical story "The Black Monk" and Dmitri Shostakovich's 14th and 15th String Quartets to weave a tale of art, love, madness and freedom. Subsequent performances take place at Tanglewood and Princeton University.

Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 3:00 PM
Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

For more information, visit

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Orion Concludes Season with "Wit and Passion" in May
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, welcomes back guest violist Stephen Boe for a program of "Wit and Passion" to conclude its 24th season. Performances take place May 21 at First Baptist Church of Geneva; May 24 at the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago--joined by a quintet from the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras; and May 28 at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois.

The Orion Ensemble's concert program "Wit and Passion" takes place Sunday, May 21 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Wednesday, May 24, with CYSO quintet Zephyrus, at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, May 28 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. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, The Orion Ensemble

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Quicksilver on May 12 and 13
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) concludes its tenth anniversary season with two performances by virtuosic chamber ensemble Quicksilver on Friday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens, NY and on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY.

The program, entitled "Off the Beaten Track": Chamber Works from Moravia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and beyond, explores the music of the seventeenth century at the nexus of folk music and early modern chamber music from countries beyond central Europe, including rarely heard works by van Wichel, Mielczewski, Schmelzer, Kempis, and Fux.

Last seen at 5BMF in the 2010-11 season, Quicksilver--led by Julie Andrijeski (violin) and  Robert Mealy (violin) and featuring Dominic Teresi (dulcian), Avi Stein (harpsichord), and Charles Weaver (theorbo and guitar)--continues to dedicate themselves to discovering and performing music from the early modern period to the High Baroque era.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

New Century Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Inaugural Festival
New Century Chamber Orchestra concludes its 25th anniversary season with an inaugural, week-long festival at Herbst Theatre, San Francisco that celebrates the orchestra's illustrious history in three separate, one-night-only programs. These performances also mark Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg's final appearances as music director following nine seasons of leadership and artistic innovation.

The festival opens on May 16 with an homage to the orchestra's Featured Composer Program and highlights a selection of works by William Bolcom, Clarice Assad, Mark O'Connor, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Lera Auerbach, Michael Daugherty, Derek Bermel and Jennifer Higdon. Salerno-Sonnenberg appears as soloist in a farewell tribute on May 18 performing the entirety of Vivaldi's Four Seasons alongside Piazzolla's Seasons of Buenes Aires. The festival closes on May 20 with an all-Gershwin program that features the rarely-performed, 1926 theater orchestra version of Rhapsody in Blue with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott as soloist. New Century also welcome the return of special guest artists soprano Melody Moore and baritone Efraín Solís for a selection of Gershwin favorites from the Great American Songbook.

Discounted festival passes range from $52 to $155. Call (415) 357-1111, ext. 305, or visit to purchase. Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and are available for purchase through City Box Office: and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for students with a valid ID.

For further information on New Century, please visit

--Brenden Guy, NCCO

Upcoming Events for International Contemporary Ensemble
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) continues to transform the way music is created and experienced through several upcoming events throughout New York City in April. On Tuesday, April 25 at 8:00 p.m., ICE collaborates with French new-music group Ensemble Itinéraire, exploring the Spectralism movement and its impact on today's composers. The program reflects the musical traditions of both ensembles with works by both French and American composers including the world premiere of Christopher Trapani's PolychROME, commissioned by ICE, Philippe Leroux's De l'Épaisseur, Gerard Grisey's Périodes and Anubis et Nout, and Ashley Fure's Something to Hunt.

Following the concert at Roulette, from Wednesday, April 26 to Sunday, April 30, ICE returns to the Abrons Arts Center for three workshops and four concerts, as part of its free OpenICE initiative. Composer Wojtek Blecharz discusses and demonstrates selections from his new commission for ICE musicians through workshops on Wednesday, April 26 at 10:00 a.m., Thursday, April 27 at 10:00 a.m., and Friday, April 28 at 11:00 a.m.

ICE bassoonist Rebekah Heller is featured in a solo concert with a world premiere by Edgar Guzman on Wednesday, April 26 at 8:00 p.m. The performance also includes a guest appearance by ICE saxophonist Ryan Muncy. ICE reunites with Ensemble Itinéraire on Friday, April 28 at 8:00 p.m. in a "side-by-side" concert of electroacoustic music featuring works by Pauline Oliveros, Francesca Verunelli, Chiyoko Szlavnics, and White/Waves by Sky Macklay, an selection.

The following evening, Saturday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m., members of ICE are featured in previous ICELab commissioning program participant He Cuts Snow by Sabrina Shcroeder, a previous ICELab commissioning program participant. Also on the program is Wojtek Blecharz's music for invisible places, and Simon Steen-Andersen's On and Off and To and Fro. April's OpenICE events conclude with a concert featuring soprano Tony Arnold, and ICE pianist Jacob Greenberg on Sunday, April 30 at 3:00 p.m. performing Olivier Messiaen's Poémes Pour Mi, a new work by Amy Williams for soprano and Indian harmonium, and Helmut Lachenmann's Got Lost.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Jeffrey Thomas To Give Free ABS Master Class on Monday April 10th
The third in the 2017 series of American Bach Soloists Free Master Classes will take place next Monday evening on April 10th at 7:30 p.m. in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street at Van Ness, San Francisco, CA.

Three of the San Francisco Conservatory's finest students in their Early Music program will perform for the audience and Maestro Thomas.

Free Admission. Works by Handel, Haydn, & Purcell.

For more information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (CD review)

Also, Till Eulenspiegel; Salome's Dance; Don Juan. Herbert von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Decca Legends 289 466 388-2.

It would be perverse of me to criticize what has become an audio classic over the years, especially Herbert von Karajan's 1959 recording of German composer Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra. A snippet of the music, the Introduction, probably reached more listeners via Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey than anything else by Strauss in history, and this is the very recording Kubrick used.

The tone poem became so famous thanks to Kubrick's use of Karajan's recording that a joke arose about how you can always tell an audiophile because he only plays the Zarathustra Introduction. Anyway, I'll confine most of my few remarks to Decca's remastered sound of the performance.

Herbert von Karajan
I should mention, however, that all of the performances on the disc are pure Karajan: grand, imposing, sensual, romantic, and luxuriant, with the playing of Vienna Philharmonic always full and rich. Of the four works on the disc, I happen to prefer his Don Juan best for its exciting forward drive and reflective vision. Of the man's three stereo versions of Zarathustra, the second (DG) seems to me more luminous than this earlier one, as well as better detailed (if not, as I say, better known).

Famed Decca producer John Culshaw framed the sound for Decca's Zarathustra as carefully as always, making the Karajan disc just after he had done the same for Georg Solti's Wagner Ring cycle. Culshaw brought the same meticulous expertise to the production as always, creating an expansive sonic picture that for quite a while remained an audiophile demo piece. While I had always found it a bit hard in its vinyl and early CD forms, with this 2000 release Decca remastered it as a part of their mid-priced "Legends" series, and it comes off more comfortably than before. What we get is a smoother, slightly warmer, slightly softer image, yet one that contrasts more than ever with its discernibly rough, noisy background. It's still not entirely satisfactory to me in another way, too, because it seems to lack the life and dynamism I remember from the earlier vinyl and CD editions. I suppose one cannot have everything.

Decca recorded the couplings--Till Eulenspiegel, Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils, and Don Juan--a year later, 1960, and here they appear a bit brighter and better defined than ever. Decca's packaging includes the record's original cover art, which is nice, and they have made the CD itself look like a reel of recording tape. These are clever touches for Karajan's very fine performances, notwithstanding the somewhat indifferent sound.


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

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

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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