Classical Music News of the Week, December 23, 2017

Artist Kevork Mourad to Bring a Contemporary Perspective to Handel's Israel in Egypt

A new production of Handel's Israel in Egypt by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Syrian-Armenian artist Kevork Mourad aims to present the oratorio's story of human diaspora through a contemporary lens. The one-night-only performance on Sunday, February 11 will be conducted by Grant Gershon, the Master Chorale's Kiki and David Gindler Artistic Director, and feature 80 singers and 7 soloists. In addition to creating animated projections for Walt Disney Concert Hall for the performance, Mourad will be on stage, creating his paintings in real-time to be projected as he draws them.

Born in Syria of Armenian descent, New York-based Mourad is committed to highlighting the current Syrian refugee crisis in his work. With Israel in Egypt, he aims to explore parallels between the exodus of the Israelites and the plagues that besieged Egypt, as chronicled in the libretto, with today's refugee experience.

The Israel in Egypt performance is part of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Gershon's "Hidden Handel" project that aims to present Handel's under-performed oratorios in collaboration with artists and directors. The project began in 2016 with a performance of Alexander's Feast directed by Trevore Ross. This will be the Master Chorale's first full performance of all three parts of Israel in Egypt, a work that contains 20 choruses, the most of all of Handel's oratorios. The Master Chorale previously performed parts II and III in 2002 during Gershon's first season as Music Director.

For more information, visit

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth Performs Two Concerti with Orpheus at Carnegie Hall
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra presents "Fire and Light" with Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 7pm in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall. The concert is the finale of a national tour of the program, and marks Helseth's debut on the Carnegie Hall main stage, performing as featured soloist in two concertos: Albinoni's Concerto Op. 9, No. 2 and Bach's Trumpet Concerto in D major (after Vivaldi), BWV 972. Also on the program is Rossini's Overture to Il Signore Bruschino, Haydn's Notturno No. 1 in C Major, and Mozart's Symphony No. 40.

The tour begins on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 8pm at the South Side Center for the Arts in Opelika, AL and continues on Saturday, January 27 at 5pm at the Huntsville Chamber Music Guild at Trinity UMC in Huntsville, AL; Monday, January 29 at 7:30pm at Louisiana State University's Union Theater in Baton Rouge, LA; Wednesday, January 31 at 7:30pm at Kansas State University's McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, KS; and Friday, February 2 at 8pm at the Williams Center for the Arts at Lafayette College in Easton, PA.

Single tickets for the February 3 performance, priced from $12.50 to $115, are available for purchase at the Carnegie Hall box office at 57th and 7th, can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website at

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Composer Gregory Spears on Supporting American Opera Projects
"Dear Opera Supporters,

I am honored to be a composer with American Opera Projects, which is keeping opera a vital and contemporary form of expression in today's world.  (Just this past year, AOP presented over 80 performances to over 38,000 people).

For me, AOP was central in the development of Paul's Case, which I wrote with the playwright Kathryn Walat. It was the first time either of us had written an opera.  Before making its way to Pittsburgh Opera, UrbanArias, and the Prototype Festival, AOP nurtured Paul's Case through two years of workshops and countless revisions, allowing Kathryn and me to develop a collaborative language that could serve Cather's important LGBT-themed story of rebellion and teenage angst.

Please give generously. Or come to an AOP event and help shape this powerful art form with your thoughts and impressions. New opera - and American Opera Projects -  need you!"

Yours in gratitude, Gregory Spears"

To donate to American Opera Projects, click here:

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Violinist Sarah Chang and Pianist Julio Elizalde Join Musical Forces
One of the world's premier violinists Sarah Chang joins forces with the multifaceted pianist Julio Elizalde for a one-night-only performance highlighting their brilliant talents in their debut at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis) on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 7:30pm.

The program includes Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances, Brahms's Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 and Franck's Sonata in A major, FWV 8. Prior to the concert at 6:30pm, Classical KUSC's Brian Lauritzen will host a conversation with Sarah Chang as part of the organization's Preludes @ The Wallis series. This concert is made possible by the generous support of the Simms-Mann Family Foundation.

Single tickets are now available for $45 – $95. 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.

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

World Premiere Opera Based on Gertrude Stein's Works
The literary giant Gertrude Stein has inspired books, plays and paintings. Now her plays have inspired the composer Daniel Thomas Davis to create an opera. Along with librettist Adam Frank and director-designer Doug Fitch, Daniel Thomas Davis has adapted three of Stein's plays into a three-act fantastical opera. SIX. TWENTY. OUTRAGEOUS receives its world premiere on February 9 and 10 at 7:30 pm, and February 11 at 2:00 pm, at Symphony Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY.

Friday, February 9, 2018 7:30pm
Saturday, February 10, 2018 7:30pm
Sunday, February 11, 2018 2:00pm

Tickets are $30 for General Admission
Symphony Space members: $26
30 and under with ID: $20

For more information, visit

--Gail Wein, ClassicalCommunications

New Century Presents Menahem Pressler & Sebastian Knauer
Artistic Partner Daniel Hope and New Century Chamber Orchestra present "Mozart Birthday Celebration" January 25-28, featuring debut appearances by pianists Menahem Pressler and Sebastian Knauer.

Marking the composer's birth date, Pressler will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, KV 488 in San Francisco (January 27) with Knauer appearing as the soloist for the remaining three performances in Berkeley, CA; Palo Alto, CA; and San Rafael, CA (January 25, 26 and 28). The all-Mozart program also highlights the composer's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, KV 216, showcasing Daniel Hope as soloist, Adagio and Fugue in C minor, KV 546, and Symphony No. 29 in A Major, KV 201.

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and can be purchased through City Box Office: and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35 and $10 single tickets for Students with a valid ID.

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

For more information on New Century, please visit

--Brenden Guy, Press and Media Relations

Soprano Francesca Aspromonte Signs to PENTATONE
PENTATONE is delighted to announce that Italian soprano Francesca Aspromonte has signed an exclusive, long-term deal with the label. Her first solo album, titled "Prologue," is due to be released in May this year. It features prime period-ensemble Il Pomo d'Oro, led by Enrico Onofri, in an exquisite collection of instrumental and vocal prologues, gems taken from some of the earliest operas ever written, including Monteverdi's founding masterpiece, L'Orfeo.

Francesca Aspromonte was born in 1991. After her studies in piano and harpsichord, she entered the singing class of Maria Pia Piscitelli. She graduated from the Mozarteum in Salzburg under the guidance of Boris Bakow, and she specialized at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia with Renata Scotto. She furthered her interpretation of the XVIIth century repertoire taking part in the 20th Academie Baroque Européenne d'Ambronay. Francesca Aspromonte is now specializing under the guidance of Fernando Cordeiro Opa. Ms. Aspromonte has already performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Wigmore Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus, Teatro La Fenice, Wiener Musikverein, Royal Albert Hall, Grand Théâtre du Luxembourg, Opera de Nancy, Bozar de Bruxelles, Opéra National de Montpellier, and at prestigious festivals in Ambronay, Aix-en-Provence, Bremen. She sang with renowned conductors such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Christophe Rousset, Enrico Onofri, Leonardo García Alarcón, Raphaël Pichon, Giovanni Antonini,
Vaclav Luks, Stefano Montanari, and Alessandro Quarta.

For more information, visit

--Silvia Pietrosanti, PENTATONE

The Tucson Desert Song Festival Announces the 2018 Leonard Bernstein Artist-in-Residence: Jamie Bernstein
Jamie Bernstein, daughter of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, will serve as the Tucson Desert Song Festival's (TDSF) Artist-in-Residence for 2018. Ms. Bernstein, a narrator, writer and broadcaster, will share insights and memories of her father and his work and will provide context to help understand the complex life and career of Leonard Bernstein. As the Festival celebrates the 100th anniversary of her father's birth, Jamie will appear in several venues with TDSF partners,

The Tucson Desert Song Festival is a unique, collaborative festival, presented in partnership with Tucson's leading arts organizations. TDSF provides subsidies to its partners, enabling them to bring world-class singers and exciting programs to their stages. It is the Festival's mission to enrich Tucson's musical life, while making the city a true "Culture Destination." The festival provides a world spotlight to shine on Tucson.

For more information, visit

--Raphael Zinman, Tucson Desert Song Festival

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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 its classical 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 simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I 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 an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, 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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa