Beethoven: Panorama (CD review)

Leonore Overture; Piano Concerto No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Piano Sonatas 17 & 21; String Quartet "Razumovsky." Carlos Kleiber, Claudio Abbado, Karl Bohm, Maurizio Pollini. DG Panorama 289 469 112-2 (2-disc set).

This two-disc set began DG's second series of "Panorama" double albums, featuring some of the company's best older recordings of Beethoven. Like many others in the series, these discs offer some magical and highly persuasive moments at a relatively low price. It remains a bargain and a must-have if you don't already have these performances in your library.

The program begins with the Leonore Overture, performed by Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in 1991. The performance displays commendable energy and drive, but finds flaw in its mediocre, curiously lifeless sound.

Following the overture on disc one is the Fourth Piano Concerto with pianist Maurizio Pollini and conductor Karl Bohm with the Vienna Philharmonic. Pollini's playing appears a bit distant but as always his craftsmanship and precision are without peer. The recording, made in 1976, is fuller, warmer, and more ambient than the later Abbado productions and provides a more comfortable listening experience.

Carlos Kleiber
Disc one concludes with what is perhaps the most famous and most critically acclaimed recording of the last forty or fifty years, Carlos Kleiber's 1975 rendition of the Fifth Symphony, also with the Vienna Philharmonic. The set would be worth its price for this electrifying and emotionally charged performance alone. On a side note, DG also offer this Fifth Symphony in their "Originals" series of single discs, coupled with Kleiber's excellent interpretation of the Seventh Symphony.

Disc two begins with a pair of piano sonatas, No. 21 "Waldstein," and No. 17 "The Tempest." Both find pianistic perfection in a 1989 recording by Maurizio Pollini. The lineup concludes with the String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 "Razumovsky." Recorded in 1997 by the Emerson String Quartet, it is immediate in sound and evocative in spirit.

Given that so many record companies are repackaging older material these days, it's good to see DG doing so with such good taste, creativity, and generosity. What's more, given that DG first issued this set some years ago, one can find it at a ridiculously low price new or almost nothing used. You won't find better value anywhere in the world of recorded music.

JJP

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


McEncroe: Symphonic Suites 1 & 2: A Medieval Saga (CD review)

Mark J. Saliba, orchestration; Anthony Armore, Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra. Navona Records NV6116 (2-disc set).

Australian composer and pianist Mark John McEncroe (b. 1947) began his career in music working in his early twenties and thirties as a label manager for EMI Records in Australia and Sweden. It was during this time that he also took up piano, trumpet, flute, and clarinet, mainly as a hobby but later in depth. It wasn't until 2003 that he began studying music theory and composition, and since that time he has composed a number of works and recorded an equal number of albums. While his usual approach (including the current album) has been to write the scores for piano and then collaborate with Mark J. Saliba, who would orchestrate the pieces, he is currently studying orchestration, perhaps to do more of the work himself.

McEncroe began writing the Symphonic Suites 1 & 2: A Medieval Saga in 2007, originally entitling them "A Modern Medieval Tale" (now "Just Another Medieval Tale") and the second "And The Medieval Tale Continues," perhaps hinting that there are more "medieval tales" to come. Even though McEncroe regards the two works as "symphonies with a story to tell," he was probably right in labeling them suites because that's pretty much what they are: two series of program music describing life in medieval times. In this regard they reminded me of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (if you substitute Renaissance for medieval), and, indeed, the composer is currently developing his suites into a ballet. Of course, the suites may also remind some listeners of film music (here, for example, Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky comes to mind), and perhaps even a score for an Arthurian epic. Understand, I only mean this observation as a compliment as the music is quite graphic.

The titles of the various movements may give you a better idea of their content.

Suite No. 1:
1. Entrance of the King
2. Strutting Peacocks - Hangers on at Court
3. Rising Discontent
4. Peasants Uprising
5. An Uneasy Truce
6. A New Way Forward
7. The Quest - A Search for Truth

Suite No. 2:
1. The Gathering of Forces - A Call to Arms
2. The Night Before the Battle
3. The Siege
4. A Call for Peace
5. Hail to the New King
6. A Brave New World

Each suite is a little over forty minutes, so together they are a bit too long to accommodate on a single CD. But not to worry: Navona Records offers the two-disc set for the price of one, so everyone is happy.

Mark John McEncroe
Anyway, the section titles tell it all. The music describes a series of dramatic scenes from medieval life, mainly conflicts and turbulences among the ruling classes. There's a lovely lyricism to the slower segments that one can see would lend themselves nicely to ballet. The battle sequences also work well, developing an appropriate intensity.

And so it goes. The orchestration is often lush and romantic. The Janácek Philharmonic do a splendid job articulating the various degrees of ardour and periodically feverish passion the score requires. And Maestro Anthony Armore manages to keep it all of one piece, as the score does tend to go off in different directions on occasion.

I can't say the music impressed me overmuch with its originality, however, because by the time I finished the first suite, I wasn't quite ready for a sequel. Fortunately, the second suite actually comes across as more innovative, more creative, more tuneful, and more atmospheric than the first. I can't help wondering, then, if it wouldn't have been better for McEncroe to have synthesized a single suite of numbers from the two suites. At about an hour, he might have something important here. In the meantime, we look forward to the upcoming ballet he has planned for the music.

The album's producer and engineer, Jaroslav Zouhar, recorded the two suites at The Hall of Culture, Ostrava, Czech Republic in June 2015 and January 2016. There is sometimes a rather bright, edgy upper midrange response in the first of the suites that tends to dominate the music, but if you can get past that, things are fairly neutral. Clarity is OK if a bit steely, as I say. Good depth of field helps with realism, as do strong dynamics. Hall resonance sometimes appears just right and at other times appears a tad too reverberant and tubby. Mid bass is full and round, providing a comforting warmth to the proceedings. Most of the time the sound is natural and lifelike, especially in the second suite, which I not only liked more for its musical content but sounds better recorded to me.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, October 14, 2017

The Crypt Sessions Presents Alyson Cambridge, Singing From the Diary of Sally Hemings

Alyson Cambridge
The Crypt Sessions Season 2 concludes on November 15, 2017 with American Soprano Alyson Cambridge singing William Bolcom's song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemings. The eighteen imagined diary entries tell the life story of Thomas Jefferson's slave-turned-mistress, grappling with issues of race, regret, respect and love that are as relevant today as they were back then.

Cambridge has been hailed by critics as "radiant, vocally assured, dramatically subtle and compelling, and artistically imaginative" (Washington Post), noted for her "powerful, clear voice" (New York Times) and "revelatory, sensual, smoky readings" (Opera News).

The performance will feature a pre-concert reception included in the ticket price, where Magnvm Opvs hosts a tasting of wines specially chosen to suit the music of that evening's concert, and Ward 8 Events provides hors d'oeuvres similarly tailored to the wine and the performance.

November 11, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7 pm | Show 8 pm
Tickets: $75, including Wine & Food Tasting
Crypt Chapel underneath the Church of the Intercession, Harlem, NY.

Due to rapid sell-outs and waiting lists, each new concert will be announced immediately after the one preceding it, first to the mailing list, then via The Crypt Sessions Web site (http://deathofclassical.com/) and Facebook page.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

One Found Sound's Season Opening Performance
A democratically run chamber orchestra that performs without a conductor, One Found Sound opens its fifth anniversary season with a program that highlights varying styles of dance music spanning three centuries. Works include Webern's arrangement of Ricercar a 6 from J.S. Bach's The Musical Offering, Serenade for Winds, Op. 44 by Dvorák and Danses Concertantes by Stravinsky. Audiences members are invited to attend in Halloween-inspired costume and stay for the after-show dance party.

Friday, October 27, 8:00 p.m.
Monument SF (140 9th Street, San Francisco)

--Brenden Guy

Historic Nichols Concert Hall Undergoing Renovation
The Music Institute of Chicago is preparing to undertake significant capital restoration of Nichols Concert Hall, a cultural anchor on Chicago's North Shore located at 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. The project will enhance and improve the experience for audiences of chamber music, jazz, orchestral concerts, dance, and much more, while preserving the characteristics that qualified the facility for landmark designation by the Evanston Historical Landmark Commission.

Renovation work began in 2015 and included a full replacement of the HVAC system, repairs to 12 original entrance doors, and restoration of window lintels. In this second phase of capital improvements, the Music Institute will rebuild the Hall's front steps with a full masonry restoration of the Indiana Limestone Treads matching original materials and aesthetics, replace hand railings, add lighting, and refresh landscaping. Immediate repair of the entry is imperative due to safety concerns, and the aging decline and settlement of the staircase led to deterioration of the original foundation. Approved by the Evanston Historical Landmark Commission, the work is scheduled for completion in late April 2018.

Nichols Concert Hall, a Classical Revival-style structure, was designed in 1912 by renowned Chicago architect Solon S. Beman as First Church of Christ, Scientist. The Music Institute acquired the building and transformed the upper level into an acoustically perfect, 550-seat performance space that is home to a fully restored 1914 E.M. Skinner pipe organ. The Music Institute converted the lower level into Evanston's Community Music School campus. Nichols Concert Hall opened in 2003 and received the Richard H. Driehaus Award for best adaptive use by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Conductor Nell Flanders To Join The Chelsea Symphony
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle, announces the appointment of conductor Nell Flanders to their conducting staff. Ms. Flanders takes the podium on October 27 and 28 in her first official concert as TCS conductor, joining the ranks with Matthew Aubin, Reuben Blundell, and Mark Seto in leading concerts throughout the 2017/18 season. Ms. Flanders was chosen from a field of four finalists after a year-long selection process with dozens of candidates.

Every concert by The Chelsea Symphony features soloists, composers, and conductors taken from the ensemble. This is a collective of New York City professional freelancers coming together to create meaningful, self-governed concerts--a unique model in the classical world.

Nell Flanders' conducting credits include performances with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Chelsea Symphony, Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, and the Riverside Orchestra. She served as a cover conductor for JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic during the 2014-15 season and was the assistant conductor at Peabody Opera Theater during 2016-17. An enthusiastic proponent of contemporary music, Ms. Flanders has conducted many orchestral premieres with groups such as Mannes American Composers Ensemble, The Secret Opera Company, Peabody's Now Hear This, and The Chelsea Symphony. In May 2016 she conducted the premiere of Jochem Le Cointre's opera Steppenwolf.

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

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Lucy Moses School joins Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra for "Instrument Zoo"
The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony partners with the Lucy Moses School to bring an "Instrument Zoo" to its special family InsideOut Halloween offering, October 28th.

The afternoon family event that precedes each Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (PACS) evening concert is always a special event. This fall, with the addition of an "Instrument Zoo" led by New York's largest community music school, the InsideOut family Halloween event on October 28th at 2pm will offer an unforgettable afternoon for children.

The "Instrument Zoo" will feature members of the Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center, who will join the PACS musicians and Music Director David Bernard at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, to offer a menagerie of string and wind instruments for children to touch and get to know (but probably best not to attempt to feed them). It will round off a thrilling afternoon.

The afternoon event will begin with a performance at 2pm featuring Saint-Saens's hugely entertaining Danse Macabre, alongside excerpts from Berlioz's ghoulsome Symphonie Fantastique. The audience will experience the musical ghouls up close, as they will be seated amongst the musicians throughout the orchestra, in Bernard's popular and vivid InsideOut concert format. Bernard will explain and talk about each musical piece.

All events will take place at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 W 37th St, New York City, NY.

For more information, visit http://chambersymphony.com/upcoming-season/

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

To Our Community in This Difficult Time
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you as our Green Music Center community experiences immense loss from the fires in the North Bay, Sonoma County, CA. Our thoughts are with the many people who are impacted and those who are serving the community at this time.
 
Sonoma State University has canceled all classes and university business until Monday, October 16, and the Green Music Center has followed suit by canceling the performances scheduled this weekend. We aim to resume normal business hours on Monday. At that point, please reach out with any questions or concerns and our team will do our best to meet each request in a timely and efficient matter. The Sonoma State University Box Office can be reached at 1.866.955.6040 or via e-mail at tickets@sonoma.edu.
 
In the coming weeks, we hope for the Green Music Center to be a place for us to gather and come together as a community in support of each other. We seek to be a beacon of hope, connection, and restoration, and to find healing through the power of music as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

--Jacob Yarrow, Executive Director, Green Music Center

Benjamin Beilman Leads New Century, November 9-12
New Century continues its 2017-2018 season November 9-12 with debut performances by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, American violinist Benjamin Beilman. Hailed by the Washington Post as "mightily impressive," Beilman will lead New Century in a varied program that spans the ages ranging from Biber's Battaglia to Stravinsky's Concerto in Re and Andrew Norman's virtuoso Gran Turissmo. Beilman will also take center stage for J.S. Bach's Violin Concerto in E major BWV 1042 with Mahler's arrangement of Beethoven's Quartet in F minor Op. 95 rounding out the program.

Praised by The New York Times for his "handsome technique, burnished sound, and quiet confidence," 27-year old Benjamin Beilman has fast become a sought-after artist across the world appearing with orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Frankfurt Radio Symphony. In addition to receiving a 2012 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Beilman has received numerous accolades including First Prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and First Prize in the Montréal International Musical Competition with The Strad praising his performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in the latter as "pure poetry." A favorite among Bay Area audiences, Beilman made his San Francisco Symphony debut in July 2014 performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, and has also appeared with Music@Menlo and San Francisco Performances.

For more information on New Century, please visit http://www.ncco.org

--Brenden Guy

SOLI's First Annual Contemporary Music Open Mic. Night
November 6, 2017
312 Pearl Parkway, Bld. #6, Suite #6001, San Antonio, TX 78215 - 7:30PM

Have you been toiling away at your instrument, waiting for your moment to shine? Are you a fan of modern music? Well then, your opportunity is now, as Texas Public Radio and SOLI Chamber Ensemble team up to present the first annual SOLI Contemporary Music Open Mic Night at Jazz TX.

For more information, visit http://www.solichamberensemble.com/
To sign up, visit https://form.jotform.com/72466936564166

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents "Benjamin Beilman Leads"
New Century Chamber Orchestra presents upcoming performances of "Benjamin Beilman Leads" November 9 through 12, featuring Benjamin Beilman as Guest Concertmaster and soloist. Four performances will be given around the SF Bay Area in Berkeley, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and San Rafael.

New Century continues its 2017-2018 season with debut performances by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, and American violinist Benjamin Beilman with a varied program that spans the ages. Works are by Biber, J.S Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky and Norman.

Open Rehearsal: Wednesday, November 8, 10 a.m., Kanbar Performing Arts Center, San Francisco, CA
Thursday, November 9, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Friday, November 10, 8 p.m., Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, November 11, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, November 12, 3 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA

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

--Brenden Guy PR

YPC's Countdown to "Dancing Voices" and "Odyssey" Opera
With YPC's performance in Lincoln Center's White Light Festival on October 20 & 21, and the Met Museum's premiere of "Odyssey: A Youth Opera" on November 3 & 4, Young People's Chorus of New York City is earning a reputation as "the chorus that never sleeps." From daily rehearsals to film crews, costume fittings and puppet repair, YPC choristers have been fully engaged in the entire art-making process.

U.S. Premiere of "Dancing Voices" at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival with Meredith Monk and YPC, October 20 - 21.

YPC in NYC Premiere of Ben Moore's "Odyssey," an opera at the Met Museum, November 3 - 4.

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

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Beethoven's 6th and a World Premiere
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle, announces the continuation of its 2017/18 season, entitled "Sea Change," with concerts on October 27 and 28 featuring Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral"), View of Life, a World Premiere by composer Aaron Dai, Camille Saint-Saëns's Cello Concerto No. 1, featuring cellist Alicia Furey (10/27 only), Ludwig van Beethoven's Romance No. 2, featuring violinist Jessica Lightfoot (10/28 only), and Carl Maria von Weber's Bassoon Concerto, featuring bassoonist Anna Keelin Fitzgerald (10/28 only).

The Chelsea Symphony's 2017/18 season features orchestral works with a focus on nature and environmental stewardship. Every concert by The Chelsea Symphony features soloists, composers, and conductors taken from the ensemble. This is a collective of New York City professional freelancers coming together to create meaningful, self-governed concerts—a unique model in the classical world.

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

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Maria Callas: The Legend (CD review)

EMI CDC 7243 5 57057  2 3 (Warner Classics 2435570575)

The American operatic soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977) may still be the most recognizable female name in opera, almost a quarter century after her death. Although she was quite versatile, singing in French, German, and Italian, she is known today primarily for her French and Italian roles, which are well represented on this collection of her art. She was also known for her volatile disposition and the notoriety of her lifestyle, but that's another story. The questions is, Was she really the greatest female soprano of all time? One can only say, maybe. Personal taste dictates the answer.

Certainly, one could make the case that Callas should come somewhere near the top of any list of great singers. And another thing seems clear: she probably did not possess the most dynamic, lilting, precise, or beautiful voice of all time. Those titles might go to other contenders. What is equally clear, however, is that no other soprano in modern history interpreted a song quite like her. By the time she retired, she had performed over forty separate roles and had recorded something like twenty operas.

Maria Callas
The booklet insert provides a good example of her singing style. When a reporter once asked her after a film appearance, "So you have decided to start out on a career as an actress," she replied that she thought she had always been one. Yes, above all she was an actress, a dramatic singer who could transform herself into the character she was performing and convey the character's emotions through the words. She was not simply singing; she was being.

The seventeen arias on this recital disc, among the best she ever recorded, are good examples of her ability to transcend the mere lyrics of a song and create a genuine persona. Listen to the first item, Bellini's "Casta Diva" from Norma, and you'll see what I mean. There follow songs from Catalani, Rossini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi, of course, Saint-Saens and Bizet. Trust me in saying you will recognize all of them; they are standard repertoire fare like "Un bel di vedremo," "Si, Mi chiamano Mimi," "O mio babbino caro," and the like. Each is exquisite; each a gem.

EMI's sound varies from mediocre to above average in these remasters, now available from Warner Classics. Remember, these recordings were taken from the mid Fifties on. Most are in monaural, but like "Vissi d 'arte" from Tosca, it is quite good mono sound. My only complaint is that the EMI engineers occasionally seem to have applied a little too much noise reduction, softening the high end more than necessary. Most of the tracks evidence a degree of hardness or roughness, but it is not extreme, and if you love music you won't even notice. Strongly recommended.

JJP

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


Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (CD review)

Kristin Sampson, soprano; Edith Dowd, alto; Cameron Schutza, tenor; Brian Kontes, bass; New Amsterdam Singers; West Point Glee Club; Young New Yorkers' Chorus. David Bernard, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Recursive Classics RC2058306.

If you're like me (heaven forbid), you may view Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 as the epitome of big-scale classical music. So it might give you some slight pause to consider the symphony played by a chamber orchestra. You might have even more doubts to learn that the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony comprises mainly players who do other things for a living (hedge-fund managers, philanthropists, CEO's, UN officials, and so on). They're not exactly amateurs, but they're not full-time, paid musicians, either. Fortunately, one listen to their playing should dispel any lingering skepticism. Everyone involved with this current production deserves praise.

Not that the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony is a particularly small ensemble. It just isn't the size of a full symphony orchestra, and no matter how well they play, you won't mistake them for the Concertgebouw Orchestra or the Berlin Philharmonic. In fact, in the final movement the solo and choral forces (Kristin Sampson, soprano; Edith Dowd, alto; Cameron Schutza, tenor; Brian Kontes, bass; New Amsterdam Singers, the West Point Glee Club, and the Young New Yorkers' Chorus) must outnumber the orchestral players two to one. Nevertheless, the New Yorkers play with enthusiasm, and Maestro David Bernard leads them with gusto.

David Bernard
Did I say "gusto"? I mean, Bernard really has them zipping along. Remember back in the early days of CD, we heard that Philips and Sony, the cofounders of the format, decided upon seventy-five minutes as the limit for content (although some CD's now contain a little over eighty minutes) because seventy-five minutes would accommodate the average length for the Beethoven Ninth Symphony? Well, Bernard's performance leaves plenty of room on the disc to spare. I compared his timings for all four movements to Roger Norrington's historically informed performance, which uses Beethoven's own metronome marks (for better or for worse, depending on your attitude toward the reliability of the markings), and Bernard's sixty-five minute mark is almost as fast. So, yes, this is a zippy reading.

The first thing one notices about the performance is that the fairly small size of the ensemble provides a cozier, more intimate style than many of us may be used to. I still miss the big-scale approach, but the inner detail this one provides compensates in part.

Anyway, the first two (orchestral) movements roll along with a zesty fervor, thanks largely to Maestro Bernard's obvious love of the subject matter and his keen desire to communicate that love to his listeners. The orchestra, amateur or not, respond with equal ardor. They may not produce the lush, rich tones of a bigger group, but they make up for it with their eager (and accurate) musicianship. And the third-movement Adagio is as lyrical and sensitive as you'll find.

Which brings us to the concluding choral movement (the familiar "Ode to Joy"), the moment everybody's been waiting for. Here, the orchestra takes a backseat to the various soloists and choruses participating. In fact, the orchestra practically gets overwhelmed. Moreover, Maestro Bernard lessens the speeds a tad, giving the music a little more chance to breathe, yet the overall impression remains one of intense drive. It's an exceptionally energetic and dramatic interpretation, with the soloists and choruses contributing to favorable effect.

Maybe not everyone will take a shine to Bernard's thrill-a-minute rendering of so well-loved and well-travelled a piece of music, but there's no doubt his is an entertaining ride. You may even find yourself coming back to it more often than you imagined.

Engineers Joseph Patrych and Antonio Oliart recorded the symphony at the DiMenna Center, New York City in November 2016. You'll find a fine sense of orchestral depth, a modest hall bloom, and a relatively wide dynamic range involved, which greatly enhance the realism of the production. Voices elicit a clear, vibrant response, if a bit close. Although stage width is somewhat limited, it has little impact on the recording's clarity. There is also some degree of upper midrange brightness and edge, particularly noticeable in the vocals, but it's not enough of a deal killer to be entirely distracting. While the sound may not be absolutely audiophile, it's quite good and complements the orchestra especially well.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, October 7, 2017

Nashville Symphony's Second Composer Lab and Workshop Brings Four Emerging Composers to Nashville

Following a nationwide call for submissions, the Nashville Symphony has selected four promising young composers to participate in the second edition of its Composer Lab and Workshop, an initiative designed to cultivate the next generation of great American composers.

The four composers – Emily Cooley, James Diaz, Liliya Ugay, and Shen Yiwen – will be in Nashville on November 13-15 to take part in the comprehensive program, led by Symphony music director Giancarlo Guerrero and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, during which they will showcase their music and learn about every facet of working with a major American orchestra.

"This program is an important part of the Symphony's long-standing commitment to promote the creation of new, forward-thinking American music," said Guerrero. "Each of these gifted artists represents the vibrancy and diversity of our country today, and each is helping to shape the sound of orchestral music in the 21st century. We're so thrilled to welcome them to Nashville and to help them take the next step in their careers — and we invite the community to hear what we believe will be the classics of the future."

For complete information, visit NashvilleSymphony.org/ComposerLab

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

PBO's Elizabeth Blumenstock Leads Italian Baroque Violin Program
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale will present a vivacious program of violin works from --- and inspired by --- Baroque Venice this November. PBO's long-time co-concertmaster and violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock will lead the Orchestra in a program called "Vivaldi in Venice" that she designed to spotlight the virtuosity of her fellow Orchestra members.

Baroque era Venice was the hub of violin-making and the city's musicians and composers wrote a profusion of music at the time. Some of that work is rarely performed today --- the program includes a violin concerto by one of Blumenstock's favorite composers, Giuseppe Tartini, whom she has helped champion in the last decade. Blumenstock will open with Vivaldi's masterpiece "l'Autunno" (Autumn) from Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) and will also showcase works by Locatelli, Veracini, Campra, Pisendel and Handel. In addition, oboist Marc Schachman will perform the virtuosic Albinoni Concerto in D minor.

Wednesday November 8, 7:30 pm
First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto

Friday November 10, 8 pm
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Saturday November 11, 8 pm
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday November 12, 4 pm
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Ticket prices range from $28 to $20
Tickets are available at City Box Office 415-392-4400 or cityboxoffice.com
For more information, visit philharmonia.org

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Chicago Duo Piano Fest Celebrates 30
The Music Institute of Chicago announces the 30th anniversary season of its annual Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) beginning this fall with a concert program Friday, October 27 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois and continuing with a year of performances and a youth duo piano competition.

Called a "duo piano mecca" by Pioneer Press, the Chicago Duo Piano Festival was founded in 1988 by Music Institute of Chicago faculty members and piano duo in residence Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem. Its mission is to foster a deeper interest in the repertoire, performance, and teaching of music for piano, four hands and two pianos, in a fun and supportive atmosphere. The festival offers coaching, master classes, concerts with special guest artists, and student recitals for students age 12 through adult.

For complete information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble and Oriana Singers in 'Echoes of Wittenberg'
The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble and The Oriana Singers chamber choir, in a first-time collaboration, will perform a centuries-spanning concert on Sunday, October 22, in Wheaton, Illinois, featuring German Renaissance a cappella music from the Roman Catholic tradition and instrumental works by Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz, Felix Mendelssohn, and others, based on famous melodies by Protestant Reformation leader and composer Martin Luther.

Free and open to the public, the one-time-only "Echoes of Wittenberg: Music of a Momentous Era" will take place at 5 p.m. at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave, Wheaton, IL. The concert is presented by St. Michael church. No tickets or reservations are required. Donations are welcome. For information, call (630) 665-2250 or visit www.stmichaelcommunity.org.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

One Found Sound Opens Fifth Anniversary Season
One Found Sound, a chamber orchestra that performs without a conductor, opens its fifth anniversary season on Friday, October 27 at Monument SF with a program titled "Monster Masquerade." The program features three diverse works that highlight varying styles of dance music spanning three centuries including Webern's arrangement of Ricercar a 6 from J.S. Bach's The Musical Offering, Serenade for Winds, Op. 44 by Dvorák and Danses Concertantes by Stravinsky. Dedicated to presenting classical music in an intimate and informal setting, One Found Sound kicks-off its anniversary celebrations with a Halloween-inspired "masquerade ball" and invites audiences to attend the performance in full costume. Concluding the evening with a twist, One Found Sound will convert the venue into a post-concert dance party to feature a selection of music by Michael Jackson and other popular artists.

Founded in 2013 by five graduates of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, One Found Sound is a democratically run orchestra that rehearses and performs exclusively without a conductor. Artistic decisions are made by the collective participation of each member, with leadership positions chosen on a rotating basis. Now celebrating its fifth full season, the organization has presented more than 20 concerts in unique, accessible venues such as Salle Pianos, Monument SF and Heron Arts with an emphasis on showcasing the creativity of each individual musician. Regular members of the ensemble perform professionally in the Bay Area with a variety of orchestras, ensembles and chamber groups, with each member sharing the united goal of changing the way that audiences experience classical music.

Subscriptions to One Found Sound's 2017-2018 fifth anniversary season are on sale now. VIP passes to all three regular season concerts can be purchased online at the discounted price of $121.50 through http://www.onefoundsound.org.

Single tickets to "Monster Masquerade" and all regular season concerts range in price from $25 to $45 and are available through http://www.onefoundsound.org.

Annual gala tickets are available now for an early bird discounted price ranging from $45 to $100 until November 4, 2017. Full price tickets will then range in price from $50 to $125. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.onefoundsound.org.

--Brenden Guy, Press & Media Relations

Thomas Dausgaard Named Music Director of Seattle Symphony Orchestra
The Seattle Symphony announced today that Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard will become the orchestra's next Music Director, beginning in the 2019–2020 season. Dausgaard will succeed current Music Director Ludovic Morlot, whose tenure concludes after the 2018–2019 season.

Dausgaard has served as the Seattle Symphony's Principal Guest Conductor since 2014. Additionally, he is Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Chief Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra (through 2019), Honorary Conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana, and Honorary Conductor of the Danish National Symphony, having previously served as its Principal Conductor from 2004–11.

--Hannah, Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Musica Viva NY Opens 40th Anniversary Celebration Season
Musica Viva NY opens its 40th anniversary celebration season, with a concert entitled "The Wheel and the Sphere" on Sunday, November 12 at 5:00 p.m. at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side, NYC.

The performance features Carl Orff's joyful masterpiece, Carmina Burana—his most well-known work—featuring the Musica Viva NY choir, joined by the Allen-Stevenson School Chorus, Sandbox Percussion, sopranos Shabnam Abedi and Devony Smith, tenor Shawn Bartels, baritone Alex Lawrence, and pianists Margaret Kampmeier and Nelson Padgett. Also on the program is the New York premiere of Guillaume Connesson's Sphaera, based on a Latin poem by 17th century writer Richard Crashaw.

Tickets, priced at $40, are available by visiting http://musicaviva.org/tickets/ or at the door.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts & Media

ROCO November 2017 Concerts
ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Houston, Texas) continues its thirteenth season, themed "Cultivate Curiosity," with a varied series of November performances, including a new commission in honor of JFK's 100th birthday this year, a delicious evening of music paired with chocolate, as well as ROCO's grateful tribute to the former owners of Rienzi.

Courageous Catalysts (In Concert – November 11)
Musical Parfait (Unchambered – November 19)
A Season of Thanks (Connections – November 30)

For complete information, visit https://rocohouston.org

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

New World Symphony Premieres Project 305
Project 305, a nearly yearlong project to crowdsource a symphony and accompanying film about Miami, FL by its residents, will culminate in a free concert celebrating the diversity of Miami-Dade County and the power of music on Saturday, October 21, 7:30 PM at the New World Center (500 17th Street). The project is a collaboration of the New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), Knight Foundation, the MIT Media Lab, and Miami-Dade County.

The crowdsourced work, composed by Ted Hearne with an accompanying film by Jonathan David Kane, is titled "Miami in Movements." The title not only alludes to the work's six-movement structure, but also pays homage to the variety of cultures and influences that have moved through and contributed to Miami-Dade County's identity over time.

"Miami in Movements" will be conducted by NWS Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas and performed by the New World Symphony to close the concert, immediately preceded by George Gershwin's Cuban Overture. The first half of the concert will feature performances by Miami-based musical ensembles, including Picadillo – with vocalists Sol Ruiz and Rey Rodríguez – and the Barry Bucaneiros, a Brazilian drumming ensemble from Barry University.

The concert will be streamed via Facebook Live and projected onto the 7,000-square foot front wall of the New World Center as a WALLCAST concert, presented by Citi, for audiences in the adjacent SoundScape Park. Audiences online and at the Park will not only experience the new work's accompanying film, but will also see live video from the concert hall integrated throughout. To watch the performance on Facebook Live, follow the New World Symphony on Facebook at facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony.

--Shuman Associates

Harlem Quartet Returns to The Wallis
The Harlem Quartet Returns to The Wallis with Game-Changers Concert Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 7:30pm

When the Harlem Quartet stepped onto the stage of the Bram Goldsmith Theater in 2016 for its debut at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis) in Beverly Hills, it brought down the house. Praised for its "panache" by The New York Times, the acclaimed quartet is "bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent," says the Cincinnati Enquirer. That new attitude will be on full display at The Wallis when they return with Harlem Quartet: Game-Changers on Sunday, October 15 at 7:30pm.

Harlem Quartet's members include violinists Ilmar Gavilan and Melissa White, violist Jaime Amador and cellist Felix Umansky. The evening program explores game-changing works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries—including Claude Debussy, Dizzy Gillespie and Gabriela Lena Frank, as well as a work by Gavilan's father Guido Gavilan, one of Cuba's most celebrated composers and conductors.

Single tickets are now available for $25 – $75. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit TheWallis.org/HQ, 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

Bach: Brandenburg Concertos (CD review)

Also, Triple Concerto; Orchestral Suites; others. Helmut Muller-Bruhl, Cologne Chamber Orchestra. Naxos 8.554607, 8.554608, and 8.554609.

I have to admit that I have developed a fondness over the past few decades for baroque music played on period instruments. However, there is always room for performances of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Orchestral Overtures (Suites) on modern instruments, too, as they are rendered here on three discs from Naxos. Helmut Muller-Bruhl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra observe some of the performing practices of the past (the orchestra used to play with period instruments but here use modern ones) with a fluent, contemporary sound. Now, if I could have said the same for the interpretations, these discs might have been sure bets.

Bach's six Brandenburgs are notable not only for the attractiveness of their tunes but for their variety of instrumentation and diversity of style. Muller-Bruhl's tempos for the First Brandenburg Concerto are quick but not breathless. The piece flows nicely, if somewhat blandly, along. Be that as it may, I found the First and Sixth of his Concerto performances the most uninteresting of the lot, no matter how well the Cologne Chamber Orchestra plays.

Then, Muller-Bruhl dashes through Nos. 2 and 3, probably the most popular of the set, about as quickly as I have ever heard. They are almost exhausting, in fact. One could charitably say they are effervescent, and, in fact, they may surely appeal to some listeners. But not to me because they seem to lack elegance or any discernable style. Nos. 4 and 5 come off best of all. After the hectic pace of the previous two works, Muller-Bruhl finally allows his players a few minutes to relax and enjoy themselves, and we're all the better for it.

Helmut Muller-Bruhl
Naxos pretty well fills out the three discs they sent for review, each sold separately: Disc one contains the Brandenburgs Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6. Disc two contains Brandenburgs Nos. 4 and 5, plus the Triple Concerto in A minor for flute, violin, and harpsichord and the Concerto in F major for two recorders, harpsichord, and strings. Disc three contains the four Orchestral Suites. Of the latter, we have a different story. Where Muller-Bruhl's Brandenburgs appear somewhat controversial, and thus at least partially entertaining in their way, the Suites seem respectful in the extreme, sometimes solemnly so. They are as straightforward and straight-arrow as one could find, which may or may not be what every listener is after. For only a few dollars more, Neville Marriner's mid-priced set of Suites on Decca offers more spirit and vitality.

Sonically, all three Naxos discs sound pretty much alike. The sonics are clear, clean, and well balanced throughout the midrange and treble. It is not ideally well imaged front-to-back, though, and without much bass resonance it appears smooth but lightweight. A little more mid-bass foundation and added warmth might have helped give the music more character.

For me, these discs have only the advantage of a reasonable price, but if it's a cost advantage you're looking for in the Brandenburgs I suggest checking out used copies with conductors and groups like Marriner, Leppard, or I Musici on modern instruments; or Pinnock, Hogwood, Savall, Harnoncourt, Leonhardt, Koopman, Goodman, or the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on period instruments. Any of them will provide a rewarding musical experience.

JJP

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


Sawyers: Symphony No. 3 (CD review)

Also, Songs of Loss and Regret; Fanfare. April Fredrick, Soprano; Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra; English String Orchestra. Nimbus Alliance NI 6353.

Although English composer Philip Sawyers (b. 1951) has been around for a good many years, he is probably not yet a household name. Indeed, his major fame has no doubt come from the Nimbus recordings of his works conducted by Kenneth Woods, with three records now available with four different orchestras. In 2015 the English Symphony Orchestra, of which Woods is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, appointed Sawyers their John McCabe Composer in Association, with various commissions including a song cycle, a trumpet concerto, and the Third Symphony that we find on the present disc.

Still, as his Web site informs us, "Sawyers's works have been performed and broadcast in many countries worldwide including the USA, Canada, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, France and UK. Music-web International described the Nimbus Alliance CD of Sawyers's orchestral work as 'music of instant appeal and enduring quality.' Robert Matthew-Walker writing in Classical Source described the premiere of the Second Symphony by the London Mozart Players as a "deeply impressive work, serious in tone throughout, and genuinely symphonic… one of the finest new symphonies by a British composer I have heard in years…'" High praise for a fellow who, as the Web site continues to note, "began composing as a teenager, shortly after picking up the violin for the first time at the age of 13. However, it has only been in the last few years that his talent has begun to be recognised with major commissions and performances by orchestras in the USA and frequent performances in Europe."

Thus, we come to the Symphony No. 3 and its accompanying pieces on the album under review. Maestro Woods says the programme "reveals Philip Sawyers as a composer at the height of his powers whose music ranges across a relatively wide spectrum of harmonic intensity." Of the Third Symphony, Woods says it "stands very much in the tradition of the great 'darkness to light' symphonies, including Beethoven's 5th, Bruckner's 8th, Brahms' 1st and Shostakovich's 5th." Imposing company, indeed.

Woods goes on to say, "This is turbulent music for a turbulent era, its defiant ending all the more hopeful for being so hard-won. In this respect, I believe this symphony marks a powerful and badly-needed renewal of the symphony as an expression of universal hope and personal will, an archetype which may reach back to Beethoven's iconic Fifth, but the message of which is more relevant than ever."

Kenneth Woods
The Third Symphony exhibits all the hallmarks of modern music, meaning you may not go away humming any memorable tunes, yet it's all quite accessible, even for a Neanderthal like me. The opening movement establishes a dark tone, powerful, with continuing tensions throughout. That is to say, this is the way Woods approaches it, and I assume this was the composer's intention. Without any other recorded interpretations with which to compare it, we have to accept Woods's performance as authoritative, at least for now.

A longing Adagio provides a moment's respite, although even here we notice a good degree of underlying pressure that builds over the course of the movement. But eventually it settles into what Woods calls "a fragile calm." A brief intermezzo follows, which appears at first blush wholly unrelated to anything that went before it, being rather light and fanciful in nature. Then we get a finale that storms onto the scene in rowdy fashion, negotiates its way through a series of themes, both tumultuous and gentle, before ending on what seems like a note of hope, perhaps triumph. It's all a tad disconcerting at first listen, but there's no question its shifting moods do make for a pleasurable experience.

Next on the agenda is the 2015 song-cycle Songs of Loss and Regret, a cycle commissioned to mark the centenary outbreak of World War One, the text of which includes lines from A.E. Housman's "A Shropshire Lad," Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Break, Break, Break," Wilfred Owen's "Futility," Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," the Apocrypha's "Wisdom of Solomon," and William Morris's "The Earthly Paradise." Soprano April Fredrick sings the vocals with Woods and the English String Orchestra, the whole thing enjoyably moving.

The final track is Sawyers's Fanfare (2016), in which the composer tells us he set out to write not another short work "to mark some state or royal occasion" but a "memorable and substantial concert piece." Well, short it is (under four minutes) but substantial it surely is, too, of its kind. Woods is not afraid to let the guns loose, and more power to him.

Producer, engineer, and editor Simon Fox-Gal recorded the Symphony No. 3 and Fanfare at Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, England in February 2017 and the Songs of Loss and Regret at Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, England in October 2017. Nimbus Records have always produced natural-sounding recordings, so it's no surprise this one sounds so realistic. The engineers are more into room ambiance and warm reverberations than ultra-close, clinical accuracy, and more's the better for it. In this case, the big orchestral parts come off with power and authority while still admitting a good deal of detail and clarity. Dynamics and frequency range are strong and wide, stage width is appropriate to the recording's moderately distanced perspective, and stage depth is more than acceptable. Moreover, the solo voice sounds equally lifelike, without a hint of brightness or edge. Very pleasant stuff.

JJP

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


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa