Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic" (CD review)

Also, Wagner: Lohengrin Prelude. Andris Nelsons, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. DG 479 7577.

Begin rant:
I may be the only the person left on the planet who is not 100% enamoured of live recordings. I keep reading reviews of live recorded performances that say how wonderful the sound is, how the audio engineers should be nominated for Grammys, and so forth. Sorry; I don't hear it. Even when a live recording is done well, as this one is with the applause edited out, I often find the microphones too close, the sound too mechanical and flat, and audience presence still too noticeable, especially during quiet moments. Yes, I understand the economic needs for recording live, and I respect a conductor's desire to capture the spontaneity of a live performance; but it doesn't mean I have to like the sound, which in almost every case would have been better if done in a studio.
End rant.

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons is, as of 2018, the Music Director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, one of the oldest and most prestigious orchestras in the world. In 2017 Maestro Nelsons embarked on a Bruckner symphony cycle with the Gewandhaus players, and the current Fourth Symphony is the third such effort (following the Third and Seventh Symphonies). Critics received his previous releases favorably, and I see no reason why they wouldn't do the same here. It's a mature account of what is possibly Bruckner most-popular music.

Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), Austrian composer and organist, wrote the Symphony No. 4 in E flat major "Romantic" in 1874, revising it several times before his death. (Maestro Nelsons uses the familiar 1878-80 revision edited by Leopold Nowak in 1953). No doubt, audiences like the work's abundance of Romantic, programmatic qualities. Bruckner was a deeply spiritual man, and his symphonies illustrate the point. The composer goes further by telling us what each of the symphony's movements represents, from knights riding out of a medieval castle through the mists of dawn to the sounds of the forest and birds, to a funeral, then a hunt, complete with horn calls, and finally a brilliant culminating summation.

Andris Nelsons
Still, the real question about any new recording is whether the conductor brings to the performance anything new, anything we haven't heard before, anything that might set it apart from the many fine recordings that have come before it. To my mind and ear, we already have fine performances by Otto Klemperer (EMI), Karl Bohm (Decca), Eugen Jochum (DG and EMI), Gunther Wand (RCA), Herbert von Karajan (DG), and Georg Tintner (Naxos), among others. So, does Nelsons compare? Maybe.

In the first movement Bruckner offers us a vision of Nature, and the composer's several scenic landscapes should remind us of how much Bruckner admired Beethoven and Wagner. Here, according to the composer, "...after a full night's sleep the day is announced by the horn." Other authorities have argued that the composer wanted us to see a morning breaking, the mists giving way to dawn around a medieval castle, and an army of knights bursting out from the castle gates in a blaze of glory. Whatever, Nelsons does a good job establishing the atmosphere and maintaining the mystery of the score, accenting the mystical side of the music rather than the purely programmatic.

The second-movement Andante is a serenade, sometimes described as representing a young lad's amorous but ultimately hopeless longings and expressions. Nelsons, however, says that "This movement is like a song or a prayer" and it reveals "a genuine, intimate connection with God." Fair enough. I've always thought it sounded elegiac, halfway between a nocturne and a funeral march, the composer indicating he wanted something between a moderately slow but still comfortably forward pace (Andante quasi Allegretto). Nelsons, in an apparent effort to accommodate his own view of things, adopts a very slow tempo for it, more like an adagio. Where most conductors take about thirteen or fourteen minutes to cover the movement, Nelsons goes over seventeen. The listener may either appreciate the added beauty or find the length interminable. I can't say I preferred it over more traditional readings, but, then, I may simply have to get used to it.

The lively third-movement Scherzo Bruckner teasingly called "a rabbit hunt," and it should build a proper momentum as it goes forward. I thought Nelsons was at his best here. The music rollicks.

The Finale opens with a heroic theme, then works its way into a more idyllic second subject, eventually reworking both themes into a closing statement. This movement begins rather ominously, with dark clouds overhead, leading to a thunderstorm; however, the storm soon breaks and gives way to variations on the symphony's heroic opening music and a summation of all the parts. If you're wondering what it means, not even Bruckner was sure. He said, "...even I myself can't say what I was thinking about at the time."

Nelsons tells us that "The music is like a glimpse of heaven," which may explain why he takes the final movement so deliberately. As with the second movement, the listener may enjoy the conductor's pace or find it too fragmented or sluggish. I would have liked a bit smoother forward progress and a bit more resolute determination.

Along with the symphony is the piece that opens the program, Richard Wagner's Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin, premiered in 1850. Nelsons, of course, wants us to see (hear) for ourselves the influence of Wagner's music on Bruckner, particularly the ethereal, religious elements, so, given his approach to the symphony, it's not a bad way to begin things. He handles it well.

Executive producer Sid McLauchlan and recording producer and engineer Everett Porter recorded the music live at the Gewandhaus Leipzig in May 2017. As I said at the start, one can take or leave a live recording. My own prejudice is to leave it, even when done as well as here. Like most other live recordings, in this one the microphones are a little close, resulting on the positive side in a reasonably detailed response with very wide dynamics and on the negative side a somewhat forward sound picture with an emphasis on the upper midrange and some odd instrumental relationships. Take the opening of the symphony, for instance. The horn solo appears admirably well focused, while one can barely hear the orchestral accompaniment. Otherwise, the sound is fairly warm (if a tad hard, edgy, and pinched in louder passages), ambient, and realistic. Still, it doesn't quite capture the Gewandhaus's characteristically dark, golden glow as well as I've heard it in many studio productions.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, June 16, 2018

Have You Planned Your Holiday Concerts?

American Bach Soloists have planned two stellar events in December: Handel's Messiah in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral and "A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera."

Handel's timeless masterpiece will be presented for the 21st consecutive year in the awe-inspiring majesty of Grace Cathedral. Perennially a sold-out event, audience members from far and wide attend this Bay Area favorite that features the superb American Bach Choir and the period-instrument specialists of ABS in one of their largest configurations, under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas. Praising his performances of Handel, Opera News wrote "Jeffrey Thomas draws crisp, vital playing from the ace baroque instrumentalists of American Bach Soloists." An annual holiday tradition, these performances meld together Handel's glorious music with the serene beauty of one of San Francisco's greatest architectural treasures.

Wednesday December 12 2018 7:30 p.m. - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Thursday December 13 2018 7:30 p.m. - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Friday December 14 2018 7:30 p.m. - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Tickets: $25–$125
$10 student tickets for ages 25 and under with valid student ID at the door or reserve at 415-621-7900 Online: americanbach.org/tickets
Phone: 800-595-4TIX (-4849)

"A Baroque New Year's Eve" will be presented in San Francisco's beautiful Herbst Theatre--a cornerstone and jewel among the city's most prestigious venues--will feature one of the opera world's exciting new vocal talents, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. The 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Young Artists Award Winner, former Merola Opera Program participant, 2018 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, and ABS Academy alumnus has been capturing the hearts of opera lovers around the world and will be featured in arias by Handel and Gluck. Joined by the incomparable soprano Mary Wilson, and along with a delightful program of instrumental music from opera and concert, this early night on the town will joyfully ring in the New Year in elegant style.

One performance only:
Monday, December 31, 2018. 4:00 p.m.
Herbst Theater, San Francisco, CA

Tickets: $25–$125
City Box Office: (415) 392-4400
Online: americanbach.org/NYE or cityboxoffice.com

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

--Jonathan Hampton, American Bach Soloists

Robert Trevino Extends Music Directorship of Basque National Orchestra
With audiences growing and reviews overwhelmingly positive, the Basque National Orchestra has extended - after only one year - Robert Trevino's tenure as Music Director. The fast-rising American conductor made an immediate impression upon his arrival and forged a strong partnership with the orchestra's General Manager Oriol Roch. The new contract will see Trevino as the orchestra's artistic leader until the 2021/22 season.

As the start of his time with the orchestra, Trevino spoke of his determination to strive with the players to achieve the highest standards of music-making for the Basque Country and beyond, critics have been quick to enthusiastically note the results, with Klassikbidea opining, "Trevino is taking this orchestra to very high levels of quality and his appointment there is a success that we hope will be extended for many seasons...He approaches music as an active experience, as a journey in which each length is questioned and illuminated." On reporting the news of the contract extension, that same outlet commented, "(There was a) fear that the American maestro might not finish his first contract in view of the volume and the quality of his international commitments...The orchestra can make a lot of progress with Trevino...Basque fans are in luck. Trevino is invaluable..."

For more information visit www.robert-trevino.com

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

This Week and Next at Miami Music Festival
Alexandre Moutouzkine
June 16 - 8pm - Gato Gallery - Barry University
Works by Bach and Chopin.

Opera Scenes
June 17 - 7pm - Weber Hall - Barry University
Don't miss a night of scenes from your favorite operas! Our Opera Apprentice singers perform an intriguing program of opera and operetta dating from the inception of the art form to current works.

Dido and Aeneas and The Medium (Double Bill)
June 21 and 22 - Broad Auditorium - Barry University
Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell
The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti

Enjoy a double bill evening with two one-act classic operas: Dido and Aeneas, based on the legendary love story between the Queen of Carthage, Dido, and the Trojan prince, Aeneas; and The Medium, a modern work about Baba, a psychic who hosts seances that trick bereaved parents into spending their money.

Friends of MMF
Carnegie Hall's NYO2 and Gil Shaham
July 21 - 8:30pm - New World Center - Miami Beach

Carnegie Hall's NYO2 makes its New World Center debut alongside Grammy Award-winning violinist Gil Shaham and NWS Fellows and alumni for an exclusive one-night-only event—the orchestra's only public performance before its finale at Carnegie Hall on July 24. NYO2 is joined by conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto for Mexican and Russian masterpieces, including the vibrant suite from Revueltas's Redes, Prokofiev's rich First Violin Concerto and Shostakovich's dramatic Symphony No. 5.

For the full season schedule, tickets and information, visit http://miamimusicfestival.com/

--Leticia Rivera, Miami Music Festival

Composer Lisa Bielawa and Director Charles Otte Receive LA Emmy Nominations
The Television Academy has announced 155 nominations in 47 categories for the 70th Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards. Composer Lisa Bielawa and director Charles Otte are nominees for their work on VIREO: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser, the first episodic made-for-TV & online opera. Bielawa is nominated in the Creative Technical Crafts--Composer category and Otte's nomination is for Outstanding Director--Programming.

Winners will be announced on June 26, 2018, and will receive their Emmy statuette July 28, 2018 at the 70th Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards ceremony at the Television Academy's Saban Media Center. Los Angeles Area nominees were selected by national active and Los Angeles Area Peer Group active members within the Television Academy. A complete list of today's nominations, tabulated by the Academy's accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP, is available here: http://m.emmys.com/news/awards-news/70th-los-angeles-area-emmy-awards-nominations-announced

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Kosmos to Play New Errollyn Wallen Concerto at Chichester Festival
Typically, concertos have a been a way to showcase the virtuosity of a soloist (every so often, multiple soloists) set against the spectacular, multi-dimensional canvas of an orchestra. Typically. But there is little that is typical about the Kosmos Ensemble. They are, indeed, a brilliantly untypical ensemble, who play untypical repertoire and with an untypical philosophy.

The violinist (Harriet Mackenzie), violist (Meg Hamilton). and accordionist (Milos Milivojevic) who comprise Kosmos (who have, individually and collectively, virtuosity to spare) are fascinated to explore the relationships between classical, folk and world musics. Errollyn Wallen - one of the UK's most in-demand composers - has similarly been much-admired for her wide stylistic palette and her ability to somehow connect different musical worlds in ways that make perfect sense. So Wallen's new "Concerto for Kosmos and Orchestra" was always going to be about more than virtuosity.

The piece becomes a conversation about what music is and where it comes from, right there on the stage. Traditionally, concertos would have had an element of improvisation for the soloists, even if that was just a cadenza. Errollyn has been brave enough to let us improvise in the concerto, giving us a tangible freedom. So in this piece, I feel there is a real sense of continuing and expanding traditions as well as challenging and expanding boundaries. It's fantastically exciting to play and, we hope, to hear!"

To hear the Kosmos Ensemble play the world premiere of Errollyn Wallen's new triple concerto at the Jersey Liberation Festival, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DENjeVaFCqw&feature=youtu.be

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Premieres: Arturo O'Farrill's "Borderless" and Paola Prestini's "The Glass Box"
Young People's Chorus of New York City and Yale Choral Artists come together for a compelling concert at Kaufman Music Center's Merkin Concert Hall. The program is highlighted by the world premiere of "Borderless," a YPC commission from six-time, Grammy-winning Latin jazz composer Arturo O'Farrill featuring the Haven String Quartet, and the New York premiere of "The Glass Box," a YPC-Yale Choral Artists co-commission from the visionary composer/impresario Paola Prestini and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Royce Vavrek, set to dramatic visuals by Kevork Mourad.

Monday, June 18 from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Merkin Concert Hall, NYC
The 8:00 p.m. concert will be preceded by a discussion at 7:30 p.m. moderated by YPC Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez, about the relevance and importance of music in today's society.

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

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Also, The Tempest, Suite No. 1. Petri Sakari, Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.554266.

What, you say you don't want to lay out thirty bucks for the Barbirolli gold disc of the Sibelius Second on Chesky? OK, how about considerably less money for this pleasant little Naxos release? It isn't the ultimate in refinement or interpretive flair, but it is a good, solid performer.

The Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is perhaps the man's most popular work, outside of the ubiquitous "Finlandia," and there are many fine recordings of the symphony available. If you already own a favorite (the aforementioned Barbirolli disc for me), you may stop reading now and continue on with the next review. If, on the other hand, you are new to Sibelius or you are exploring alternative readings, this medium-priced issue seems a good investment.

Petri Sakari
Maestro Petri Sakari and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra handle the first movement especially well, conveying a proper, shivery introduction leading up to a probing major subject. If there is any minor disappointment, it is in the heroic final theme, which sounds a bit too homogenized for my taste. For an unfair comparison here, try Herbert von Karajan, the master of the grand gesture, on EMI, and Sakari will seem positively staid. But it isn't so bad in context and should not distract one from a possible purchase.

In sum, Sakari and his forces provide an ardent and colorful journey through Sibelius's characteristic landscape. Plus, the inclusion of the first suite of tunes from Sibelius's incidental music to Shakespeare's The Tempest makes a good companion piece. Sakari's interpretation brings out much of the music's imagination and color.

The sound likewise is pretty good, although not in the absolute top class. There is a pleasing concert hall ambience present that enriches verisimilitude while doing relatively little harm to detail clarity. It's rich, smooth, and resonant. And the music for The Tempest sounds equally fine.

This disc may not carry the mark of authority manifest by conductors like Sir John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Colin Davis, or Vladimir Ashkenazy, but it is fair value for the dollar.

JJP

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


Schubert: Oktett (CD review)

Also, Funf Menuette mit sechs Trios. Isabelle Faust et al. Harmonia Mundi HM 902263.

As I've rhetorically asked before, Was there ever a writer of more charming, more thoroughly delightful music than Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828)? Whether it's his symphonies, his songs, his chamber music, his church music, his incidental music, or his stage pieces, it's all so enjoyable it's a wonder he wrote so much of it in so short a time (he died at age thirty-one). And it's an even greater shame that so few people in the composer's lifetime got the chance to hear his work. Still, the years since his death have proved his worth, and the invention of the phonograph further cemented his place in musical history.

On the present album, we have one of his crowning achievements, the Octet in F major D.803, for clarinet, horn, bassoon, two violins, viola, cello, and double bass, which Schubert wrote in 1824 on commission from clarinetist Ferdinand Troyer. The fact that Troyer asked for a piece patterned after Beethoven's Septet, Op. 20 and that Schubert delivered an octet instead (adding a second violin) probably just proves how creative and resolute Schubert could be.

In order to get to the heart of the work, the renowned German violinist Isabelle Faust here interprets the Octet in a presentation featuring period instruments (she herself plays the Stradivarius "Sleeping Beauty," 1704). Her ensemble includes Anne Katharina Schreiber, violin; Danusha Waskiewicz, viola; Kristin von der Goltz, cello; James Munro, double bass; Lorenzo Coppola, clarinets; Teunis van der Zwart, horn; and Javier Zafra, bassoon.

Isabelle Faust
Anyway, Schubert divided the Octet into six movements, the first one based on a theme from his song "Der Wanderer" and the fourth movement variations on a theme from his Singspiel "Die Freunde von Salamanka." Ms. Faust and company provide a loving and enthusiastic interpretation that well captures the joy of Schubert's music. The two slow sections--the Adagio and Andante--are poignant, and I especially liked the sweetness of the variations in the latter movement (so similar in spirit to those of the "Trout" quintet). The ensemble plays the scherzo in appropriately playful fashion, and they ensure the finale is as big and dramatic as it should be without overshadowing its good cheer.

As a historical performance, Ms. Faust's recording comes into direct competition and comparison with one of my longtime favorites, that by Hausmusik (EMI), recorded in 1990. In the opening movements, Hausmusik are marginally more lively and spontaneous, but by the last movements Mr. Faust and her company appear almost equally felicitous. Sonically, the earlier disc is a bit more transparent, but certainly the warmer acoustic of the Harmonia Mundi disc flatters the music in its own way.

To accompany the Octet Ms. Faust and her friends offer two of Schubert's Five Minuets D.89, from 1813, arranged for octet by Ms. Faust's friend, the composer, conductor, and pianist Oscar Strasnoy. These are hardly trifling pieces, and the present group help them attain what one might call at least a measure of apt nobility.

Artistic Director Martin Sauer and engineer Tobias Lehmann of Teldex Studio Berlin recorded the music at Mediapole Saint-Cesaire, Arles, France in July 2017. The sound, as I mentioned above, displays a warm, ambient glow that nicely complements the warmth of Schubert's music. It's a tad close for my liking but captures instrumental color well enough. There is also a moderate sense of depth to the ensemble as well as space around the instruments. If played back at a realistic level, the recording sounds most enjoyable.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, June 9, 2018

American Classical Orchestra Announces 2018-2019 Season

American Classical Orchestra (ACO) today announces its programming for the 2018-19 season, the orchestra's 34th year of presenting historically accurate, engaging, and educational concerts led by Artistic Director and Founder Thomas Crawford. ACO performs four concerts presented in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and two salon concerts in a private venue. ACO is joined this season by an illustrious group of acclaimed period-performance soloists including violinists Krista Bennion Feeney and Aisslinn Nosky, pianist Christian De Luca, and flutist Sandra Miller.

American Classical Orchestra continues its innovative Concert Preview that brings listeners closer to the music. Before conducting the programmed works, Maestro Crawford delivers an introduction, using the full orchestra on-stage to illustrate and perform excerpts from the evening's program. Crawford's engaging narratives, along with the live music, give audiences greater insights into what they're about to hear, resulting in a more enriched musical experience.

ACO kicks off its 2018-19 season on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 8:00pm in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center with Mozart Serenade, featuring festive music by Mozart. ACO is joined by violinist Krista Bennion Feeney in Mozart's Haffner Serenade, an hour-long work performed interspersed throughout the evening, as it would have been done in the 1700s. Pianist Christian De Luca, a virtuosic Juilliard historical performance masters student, makes his Lincoln Center debut on fortepiano in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major.

From there, ACO features four concerts at Lincoln Center and two salon concerts,
in collaboration with acclaimed period violinists Krista Bennion Feeney and Aisslinn Nosky,
fortepianist Christian De Luca, and flutist Sandra Miller.

For complete information, visit www.aconyc.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

American Bach Soloists 30th Season
The American Bach Soloists 30th Season commemorates the core of ABS's rich history through stunning performances of works that represent the finest of the Baroque era. Grand special events including the "Sparkle 2018 Gala" and "A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera," a glamorous evening of stars in San Francisco's Herbst Theater, make this an unparalleled celebratory season of the organization's past, present, and future.

For three decades, a synthesis of the musical and expressive gifts of some of the world's most distinguished Baroque music experts and new generations of young virtuosi has inspired audiences far and wide through polished, insightful, and revelatory performances. Together, and through the mentoring and curatorship of Jeffrey Thomas, American Bach Soloists have cultivated an internationally appreciated and cherished ensemble of extraordinary musicians.

For complete information about American Bach Soloists and their new season, visit americanbach.org

--Jonathon Hampton, American Bach Soloists

Sharon Isbin's 2018 Grammy Honor, Season Highlights
Columbia Artists is proud to announce multiple Grammy winner Sharon Isbin's summer highlights include performances at Caramoor,  the Aspen Music Festival, and Chautauqua's Ampitheater where she will perform the concerto written for her by John Corigliano.

She returns to the studio to record a disc of world premiere recordings of works commissioned for her including the "thoughtful, emotionally complex, and technically extraordinary" new concerto by Chris Brubeck, and a recording with the Pacifica Quartet. The 2018/19 season features solo and concerto appearances, and chamber concerts with the Pacifica Quartet, Latin Grammy-winning Brazilian jazz guitarist Romero Lubambo, and her Guitar Passions trio with jazz icon Stanley Jordan.

For more information, visit http://www.sharonisbin.com/

--Genevieve Spielberg Artists

An Enjoyment of Novelty
Statistics demonstrate how limited the repertoires of our major orchestras are, and how much they mirror one another. We believe this is a contributing factor in the decline in subscription sales at many symphony orchestras.

When faced with this information, one reader suggested that it could make sense for orchestras to program more unfamiliar works of favorite composers--with the goal of creating an "enjoyment of novelty" that might make audiences more receptive to composers with whom they are less familiar--such as Meyerbeer and Spohr, or composers of our time. Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart wrote great quantities of music, much of it magnificent, that is hardly ever heard in symphony programs. Were "fringe" items such as these offered more frequently, audiences might well become more receptive to a broader range of sound worlds.

What do you think? We at Classical Music Repertoire Project would be curious to know what ideas you have for encouraging orchestras to expand their repertoires, and for reassuring them that audiences will support the effort.

Send us an email at doug@classicalrep.com

--Douglas Schwalbe, Classical Music Repertoire Project

St. Charles Singers to Premiere New Work
The St. Charles Singers, conducted by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will present the world premiere of a new work written for them by revered English composer and choirmaster John Rutter when the professional chamber choir performs June 21, 2018, in a concert hosted by Chorus America, a choral music association, during its national conference in Chicago, IL.

The concert, which will showcase three Chicago-area choral groups, will be at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, at Old St. Patrick's Church, 700 W. Adams St., Chicago. In addition to the St. Charles Singers, Anima-Glen Ellyn Children's Chorus, and Cantate Chicago also will perform. Tickets, available to the public, are $20 and can be purchased online at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272.

Rutter, a superstar in the choral music world, is a friend and fan of the St. Charles Singers and has conducted the choir on several occasions in the U.S.

The new piece, for unaccompanied mixed-voice choir, is a setting of William Shakespeare's romantic Sonnet No. 18, "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?"

For more information, visit www.stcharlessingers.com

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Coming Soon to the Miami Music Festival
Dido and Aeneas and The Medium (Double Bill)
June 21 and 22
Broad Auditorium - Barry University

Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell
The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti

Enjoy a double bill evening with two one-act classic operas: Dido and Aeneas, based on the legendary love story between the Queen of Carthage, Dido, and the Trojan prince, Aeneas; and The Medium, a modern work about Baba, a psychic who hosts seances that trick bereaved parents into spending their money.

For full information and tickets, visit http://miamimusicfestival.com/

--Leticia Rivera, Miami Music Festival

Miami Music Festival Announces Official 2018 Program Lineup
Miami Music Festival (MMF), an intensive training program for the next generation of classical musicians to work with mentors and gain performing experience, announces the lineup for the 2018 season from June 5 through July 29, 2018 at various venues in Miami. Going into its fifth season, MMF will host young artists from around the world selected from top conservatories and universities.

This season will include musical milestones such as the return of MMF's POPS Concert and Independence Day Celebration after a successful first year and the directorial debut of Antoine Wagner, great grandson of famed German composer Richard Wagner, as the MMF critically acclaimed Wagner Institute stages complete Acts from Lohengrin and Die Walküre.

The Festival will present over 45 public events this summer including the MMF Wagner Institute, full opera productions, symphonic concerts, piano performances by guest artists, numerous piano recitals and chamber music performances by MMF participants, Opera Aria Nights, Zarzuela in the Summer Nights, Broadway Nights, Faculty Chamber Series, more than 30 masterclasses, and more.

For complete information, visit miamimusicfestival.com

--Juliana Gutierrez, JWI PR

Young People's Chorus of New York City Presents The Glass Box
Young People's Chorus of New York City and Yale Choral Artists come together for a compelling concert at Kaufman Music Center's Merkin Concert Hall. The program is highlighted by the world premiere of Borderless, a YPC commission from six-time, Grammy-winning Latin jazz composer Arturo O'Farrill featuring the Haven String Quartet, and New York premiere of The Glass Box, a YPC-Yale Choral Artists co-commission from the visionary composer/impresario Paola Prestini and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Royce Vavrek, set to dramatic visuals by Kevork Mourad.

Monday, June 18 from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m.

For complete information and tickets, visit http://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/young-peoples-chorus-of-nyc-and-yale-concert-artists-present-the-glass-box/

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Long Yu and Shanghai Symphony Join Deutsche Grammophon
Long Yu, China's pre-eminent conductor on the international scene, and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (SSO) have signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

The new partnership is set to build on Long Yu's critically acclaimed work as Music Director of the SSO and help promote the orchestra's powerful blend of tradition and ambitious future vision. It will also enhance the SSO's "Music Connecting Worlds" ethos. Their first DG recording, an album of works from the Chinese and Russian repertoires, will be released in 2019 to mark the SSO's 140th anniversary and celebrate its status as China's earliest symphony orchestra. In addition to making new albums with the orchestra, Deutsche Grammophon will also release earlier recordings from the SSO's existing catalogue.

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

PBO Season Wrap
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2017/18 season was outstanding from beginning to end. We experienced dramatic performances by virtuosic concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock who led a program of fast-paced Vivaldi violin concertos, Nic brought his interpretation of Handel's rarely-heard Joseph and his Brethren, violoncellist Steven Isserlis wowed us with a dramatic program of Haydn, and guest maestro Richard Egarr took us a journey of works by Corelli and Handel. And Nic brought the season to a spectacular Beethovenian finish! Thank you for being a part of this past year's musical journey.

In addition to our regular concerts, PBO also presented three PBO SESSIONS programs. We began with Female Composers and the Women Who Bring Their Music to Life with Caroline Shaw, followed by Jewish Songlines, an exploration of Jewish music and heritage at the Contemporary Jewish Museum with Steven Isserlis and Francesco Spagnolo of the Magnes Collection at UC Berkeley. And finally, maestro Richard Egarr took us on a guided tour of music by Arcangelo Corelli and his influence on Handel in "Corelli the Godfather" at ODC.

The 2018/19 Season is on sale now! You only need 3 concerts to become a subscriber and pricing starts at just $91. There's no better way to experience Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale than as a season subscriber.

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

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6 (CD review)

Also, In the Fen Country; On Wenlock Edge. Ian Bostridge, tenor; Bernard Haitink, London Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI 7243-5-56762-2.

Bernard Haitink's 1999 release of Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 6 (EMI, now Warner Classics) is a good illustration of why record reviewing can sometimes be frustrating, especially if a reference disc is not handy. On its own, Haitink's interpretation appears competently together, well focused, unified, and, as always, straightforward. As Haitink does in most of his performances, he allows the music to speak for itself, seldom straying from the letter of the score.

Then I put on a favorite old recording of the Sixth, in this case the one by Sir Adrian Boult (also on EMI), recorded exactly thirty years earlier. Why Boult? He premiered the work in 1948, so one supposes he knows a little something about it. Under Boult, the music has more warmth than under Haitink, not just sonically but interpretively, a broader, more loving gait, a sense of real communication between conductor and audience. This is nothing that one can adequately explain in words. It is a feeling one has to experience, and a direct comparison is the easiest way to hear it. Otherwise, one has only a vague notion that "something" is missing somewhere in the Haitink account, as good as it is.

Bernard Haitink
Make no mistake, however. Haitink does offer up a fine performance. It's one that most fans of Vaughan Williams will enjoy. And because of Haitink's usual precision and sharpness of focus, it's a performance that belongs at or near the top of any list of recommendations. The thing is, though, that it's also hard to dismiss Boult, not that most listeners have to make the choice.

Sound has a lot to do with it, too. The newer, digital EMI/Warner Classics is marginally cleaner and clearer than the older, analogue Boult recording, yet at the same time the newer disc appears colder, harder, and less inviting. The older recording is richer and provides more bloom, which may affect one's judgment of the two discs, as it did mine.

How much did the warmer, softer, older recording of Boult's slower-paced performance influence my appreciation of it over the newer one? I'd guess enough. What if the newer reading had had the older sound? Who knows.

In any event, Haitink's companion works on the disc, the tone poem "In the Fen Country" and the song cycle "On Wenlock Edge" (based on poems by A.E. Housman), are more readily up my alley and display a sweetness of spirit and a bent for the color of the Vaughan Williams countryside that I found slightly wanting in the symphony. So, if it's the shorter pieces one is looking for, yes. If it's the symphony, maybe not as much. Stick with either Haitink or Boult, though, and you can't go wrong.

JJP

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


Debussy: La Mer (CD review)

Also, Images. Emmanuel Krivine, Orchestre national de France. Erato 0190295687045.

The last time I heard a recording from French conductor Emmanuel Krivine, it was Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade with the Philharmonia Orchestra on Denon, a performance I found beautifully lyrical and engaging. But that was over a quarter century ago. Although Maestro Krivine has continued with a distinguished career in the concert hall and recording studio, he hasn't quite been front and center in the general public's eye. Nevertheless, he currently holds the position of Music Director of the Orchestre National de France, with which he recorded the current Erato disc of Debussy's La Mer and Images. It was good to reacquaint myself with him.

French impressionist composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) wrote La Mer between 1903 and 1905, and the work has since become one of his most well-known pieces. Certainly, it is one of his greatest and most descriptive pieces. Debussy named it La mer, trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestre (or "The sea, three symphonic sketches for orchestra"), but usually people just call it La Mer. He made it clear that even though the movements have descriptive titles, he didn't consider the work program music. As an impressionist, Debussy was conjuring up just that--musical impressions, in this case of the sea.

Debussy said he wanted the first movement, "From dawn till noon on the sea," to be a little less showy than the other movements and added that the conductor should take it slowly and animate it little by little. It begins with a warmly atmospheric introduction and then opens up about halfway through to a rapturous melody. In this first movement, Krivine takes the composer at his word, and it is quite gentle until opening up to the big melodies. In this regard, it reminded me of Jean Martinon's rendering of the work, sweet and lyrical.

Emmanuel Krivine
The composer intended the second movement, "Play of the waves," to sound light and carefree, the dancing waters luminescent and magical. He indicated it should be an allegro (a brisk, lively tempo), animated with a versatile rhythm. In reality, the second movement acts as a kind of slowish scherzo, although, to be fair, it isn't actually slow or fast. As its subtitle indicates, it's more playful than anything else, and again Krivine does well by it. His approach is perhaps not so frothy or enchanting as Martinon's, Previn's, or Reiner's readings, but it is charming nonetheless.

Then comes probably the most well-known segment of the work, the third-movement finale, "Dialogue between wind and waves," in which Debussy provided his biggest splashes of color and which he noted should sound animated and tumultuous. It is only here that Krivine is possibly a little too lightweight, choosing to caress the waves rather than picturing them as particularly turbulent. Krivine's is a legitimately poetic realization of the score, which will please some listeners and maybe not others. (If you're looking for ultimate power, try Stokowski's reading with the LSO on Decca or, especially, HDTT.)

Accompanying La Mer is Debussy's Images pour orchestre, which he wrote between 1905-1912, originally designing it as a two-piano sequel to his Images for Solo Piano. As he did in La Mer, Debussy divided the work into three sections, three movements, each inspired by a country or a song.

In the first section, "Gigues," Debussy used his recollections of England as his inspiration for the music. Krivine does a fine job conveying both the light and serious moods of the music, with an effective varying of contrasts, tempos, dynamics, and the like.

In the second, longest, and probably most-familiar section, "Iberia," Debussy used his memories of Spain as inspiration. He further divided this section into three more parts: "Par les rues et par les chemins" ("Through the streets and the paths"); "Les parfums de la nuit" ("The fragrance of the night"); and "Le matin d'un jour de fête" ("The morning of a festival day"). Here, Krivine is in his element, with pleasantly flowing rhythms. Although his account of things is perhaps not as lively as Argenta's performance or as well recorded as Haitink's, it does capture much of the music's color and joy.

In the closing section, "Rondes de printemps ("Round dances of spring"), Debussy relied for inspiration on a pair of songs. Krivine does a splendid job with this section, finishing up the piece by tying it to, if anything, La Mer, with its frolicsome play of tunes, phrases, and tonalities. I'm sure Krivine didn't emphasize these similarities by accident, and it provides an appropriate way to end the program.

Finally, as a bonus track, we get an excerpt from Debussy's original 1905 version of the third movement of La Mer, which contains a brief fanfare in bars 237-144 that the composer later decided was inappropriate and cut.

Producer Daniel Zalay and engineers Maiwenn Legehan and Philippe Thibaut recorded the music at the Auditorium Radio France in March 2017. The sound they obtained is clear and natural, with a fairly good orchestral perspective, depth and width, slightly warm yet fairly transparent. There is nothing spectacular about it; it's not as up-close as Stokowski's recording or quite as detailed as Previn's. It is realistic and engaging, with a decent frequency response (again, not heavy on the bass or treble) and a moderate dynamic range and impact.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, June 2, 2018

New Century Chamber Orchestra Announces 2018-2019 Season

Music Director Daniel Hope and New Century Chamber Orchestra announces its 2018-2019 season including four subscription weeks in venues across the San Francisco Bay Area and a debut European tour of Germany and Poland.

Recently announced as the ensemble's permanent Music Director, Hope will lead a season that includes a debut appearance by Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez performing Erwin Schulhoff's Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings; the San Francisco premiere of Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons featuring Hope as soloist; the U.S. premiere of Seavaigers by British composer Sally Beamish featuring Guest Concertmaster Anthony Marwood and Scottish accordionist James Crabb; and a program of American masterworks that showcases jazz legends The Marcus Roberts Trio.

"I am thrilled to be leading New Century as Music Director and can't wait to build upon the many successes that we have enjoyed together so far," said Daniel Hope. "This orchestra has achieved many significant milestones in its 26 year history and thoroughly deserves its reputation as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world."

New Century's season opens November 1-4, 2018. For a complete list of places, times, and ticket prices, visit http://www.ncco.org.

--Brenden Guy, New Century Chamber Orchestra

Concerts at Saint Thomas Presents a Program of Organ Duets on June 16
Concerts at Saint Thomas closes their 2017-18 season with "Four Hands, Four Feet: Daniel Hyde and Benjamin Sheen in Recital" on June 16, 2018 at 2 pm. In their debut duo recital, showcasing the magnificent pipe organs of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, NYC, award-winning organists Daniel Hyde and Benjamin Sheen perform virtuosic transcriptions of works from the orchestral and operatic literature.

The pipe organ is one of the oldest instruments in the Western musical tradition. In the 19th century, before the advent of recording technology, transcriptions for organ of symphonic and opera works became a popular way for people to hear the masterworks of the repertoire – every area had a church with an organ.

For further information, visit http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Zukerman Receives Dushkin Award at Music Institute's Anniversary Gala
The Music Institute of Chicago, one of the nation's oldest, largest, and most distinguished community music schools, welcomed 300 guests to its 2018 Anniversary Gala on Monday, May 21 at the Fairmont Hotel Chicago. The event raised more than $715,000 from a combination of table sponsorships, ticket sales, and outright contributions.

The evening included a cocktail reception, followed by an elegant dinner and awards presentation. Musical performances took place throughout the evening, representing every area of the Music Institute. Highlights included young musicians from the Community Music School; award-winning students from the renowned Academy, a training center for gifted pre-college musicians; and young students from its outreach programs, including ArtsLink, an arts integration program offered in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, and Third Coast Suzuki Strings, a violin program on Chicago's Northwest Side in collaboration with the YMCA of Metro Chicago.

The prestigious Dushkin Award, established 30 years ago and named for the Music Institute's visionary founders, Dorothy and David Dushkin, recognizes international luminaries in the world of music for their contributions to the art form, as well as to the education of youth. This year's recipient, Pinchas Zukerman, has remained a phenomenon in the world of classical music for more than four decades.

For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

July 17-29: Music Without Borders
Join us for our 48th annual summer season, Music Without Borders, July 17-29, 2018, featuring 30 events in 19 different venues in beautiful San Luis Obispo County, California.

Explore all of Festival Mozaic's unique concert series: Orchestra, Chamber Music, UnClassical, and Notable Encounters. The Festival also offers a range of Free Community Events, including lectures, open rehearsals, master classes, and the popular Midday Mini-Concerts.

There are three easy ways to order your tickets:
Online: Click the link below to select seats, view venue maps (available 24 hours a day)
Phone: 805 781-3009 (Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM)
Walk-in: Visit our new office at 265 South Street, Suite G, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 (Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM)

For complete information, visit https://www.flipsnack.com/797BB55C5A8/2018-summer-music-festival.html

--Festival Mozaic

Yannick Nezet-Seguin Signs Exclusive Contract with Deutsche Grammophon
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, incoming Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera and Artistic Director, and Principal Conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, has signed an exclusive contract with esteemed classical label, Deutsche Grammophon.

The Montreal-born conductor, hailed by the Financial Times as the "greatest generator of energy on the international podium," will record a broad range of symphonic and operatic repertoire under the label as part of his work as Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, and as an Honorary Member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE). The contract was signed in Hamburg on May 30 2018, during Nézet-Seeguin's nine-city tour of Europe and Israel with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

--Samatha Sklar, Universal Music

Miami Music Festival Summer Program Lineup
Miami Music Festival (MFF), an intensive training program for the next generation of classical musicians, announces the lineup for the 2018 season from June 5 through July 29, 2018 at various venues in Miami. In its fifth season, MMF will host young artists from around the world selected from top conservatories and universities.

This year, 250 students from over 25 countries will receive instruction from an assembly of world-class faculty while the community benefits from accessible public concerts featuring many of the industry's most talented artists.

This season will include musical milestones such as the return of MMF's POPS Concert and Independence Day Celebration after a successful first year, and the directorial debut of Antoine Wagner-great grandson of famed German composer Richard Wagner- as the MMF's critically acclaimed Wagner Institute stages complete Acts from Lohengrin and Die Walküre.

For complete information, visit http://miamimusicfestival.com/

--Leticia Rivera, Miami Music Festival

New England Conservatory's Children's Choruses: Three Choirs to Perform in Jordan Hall
Children's choirs are woven through the 150-year history of New England Conservatory. Two years after Eben Tourjée opened NEC, famous bandleader, Patrick Gilmore (he penned "When Johnny Comes Marching Home") conceived the idea of a "Great Peace Jubilee." He asked Tourjée to organize and train 20,000 chorus members and an orchestra of 2,000. Many children participated in the chorus from all over the United States. The coliseum built in 1872 for the Jubilee was situated on what is now the Copley Plaza Hotel. It covered four and a half acres, seated 50,000 people, and contained the world's largest organ.

Continuing the tradition of children's choir, New England Conservatory presents an afternoon of delightful choral music with its Preparatory Chorus, Children's Chorus and Chamber Chorus. The afternoon will be conducted by Carey Shunskis, who also curated the program. Studies show there are many benefits for children who sing in groups, including positive social, community, and academic development.

The NEC Children's Chorus event will be held on Sunday, June 10, 2018 at 3:00pm in NEC's Jordan Hall.

For more information, visit https://necmusic.edu/event/8671

--Lisa Helfer, New England Conservatory

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians Newsletter, June 2018
Summer 2018 Calendar

FAYM Summer Camp
June 4th to June 9th
8:30am to 1pm
Roy Martin Middle School
Las Vegas, NV

Mariachi Summer Camp
June 4th to June 9th
12:30am to 3:30pm
Roy Martin Middle School
Las Vegas, NV

Couldn't make it to the End of Year Recital? You can view each performance on the FAYM Youtube channel. Find the links here: http://thefaym.org/june-2018-newsletter/

--Arturo Ochoa, President, FAYM

Young People's Chorus of New York City Partners with Yale Choral Artists
The Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) partners with Yale Choral Artists for two concerts in New Haven and New York that explore the theme of citizenship--Saturday, June 16 at 2:00 p.m. at the Yale School of Music's Morse Recital Hall and Monday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m. at Merkin Concert Hall, respectively.

The performances feature works that engage with such topics as immigration, inclusion, and national identity, including world premieres of Paola Prestini's The Glass Box (YPC and Yale Choral Artists co-commission; to be performed June 16 and 18) and Arturo O'Farrill's Borderless (YPC commission; to be performed June 18), as well as works by Dominick DiOrio, Michael Gordon, David Lang, and YPC Founder and Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez, among others. The two choirs sing separately as well as together, and both Mr. Núñez and Yale Choral Artists Director Jeffrey Douma conduct. The performance in New Haven is programmed within the Yale International Choral Festival, which is part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

For more information, visit ypc.org

--Shuman Associates PR

Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, excerpts (CD Review)

Also, Symphony No. 6. Charles Dutoit, NHK Symphony Orchestra. Decca 458 190-2.

First, a few notes of clarification. After Universal's acquisition of PolyGram, the English and American Decca labels were no longer in conflict. Thus, Decca no longer had to market its product in America under the alternative London title to avoid conflict with the unrelated American Decca label. As of the late Nineties, London Records was no more. Hello, Decca.

This no doubt sent shock waves through the audiophile community, which for the previous half century had sworn that original English Deccas sounded superior to the lowly London products sent to America. Just an observation from decades ago.

Next, Charles Dutoit was for a long time the Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, then became the Principal Conductor of Japan's NHK Symphony Orchestra and England's Royal Philharmonic, facts that only struck me a few minutes into the Romeo and Juliet excerpts reviewed here. Something was not right, I said to myself. Then I looked at the jewel box. Part of my concern was related to the orchestra itself not sounding right, not as well upholstered, velvety, or smooth as the Montreal group, and part to the different venue, Tokyo in the Romeo and Juliet, Vienna in the Sixth Symphony. From this first issue with the NHK Symphony in 1999, I can't say I liked the new orchestra or the new sound very much.

Charles Dutoit
The ballet highlights sound, frankly, nondescript. They aren't completely bland, but they have relatively little color or character to them. After such noteworthy interpretations as those from Previn, Maazel, and Leinsdorf, as well as from Dutoit himself in a previous Decca recording with Montreal, these NHK readings seem almost lifeless.

The Symphony No. 6, on the other hand, appears more creatively performed, the bizarre workings of this Romeo and Juliet-cum-Shostakovich piece more vividly contrasted than the excerpts are. The symphony's opening Allegro brings mainly gloom, apparently symbolizing the Russian suffering in the Second World War. The middle movement, a broad Largo, begins in the same mood and then unexpectedly changes to one of mellowness, grace, and then perhaps sweet regret. The final section of this three-movement symphony Prokofiev marked Vivace, and it is, indeed, quick and lively. Its neoclassical exuberance may reflect an expression of relief at War's end, but this portion nevertheless concludes ambiguously. Dutoit succeeds in exacting significance from each passage.

The Decca sonics for the two pieces do not impress one as vividly as did the sound of the old Montreal recordings I was used to. The Romeo and Juliet, which Decca recorded in Japan, appears dark in the midrange, bright and edgy in the highs, and one-dimensional overall. The Symphony, recorded in Austria, seems a tad better. It sounds more flowing  and has better depth. Neither, though, can match the flattering ambiance Dutoit had always received in his Canadian location.

As a sonic reality check, I suggest a comparison of the sound of Dutoit's digital release to that of the simultaneously reissued, forty-year-older Arthur Fiedler recording, "Pops Stoppers," on RCA Living Stereo. Different material but different sonics, too. And no contest. The older disc wins hands down.

JJP

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


Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (SACD review)

Also, Il Riposo per Il S.S., Concerto L'Amoroso, Concerto Il Grosso Mogul. Rachel Podger, Brecon Baroque. Channel Classics CCS SA 40318.

For the past twenty-odd years, British conductor and violinist Rachel Podger has been a dominant figure in the fields of period-instruments and historically informed performances. She is a past leader of the Gabrieli Consort and Players and later of The English Concert, plus a guest director of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Arte dei Suonatori (Poland), Musica Angelica, and Santa Fe Pro Musica (both in the United States) and as soloist with The Academy of Ancient Music, Philharmonia Baroque, and others. If that were not enough to keep one busy, Ms. Podger is also a professor of Baroque violin at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and teaches regularly at the Hochschule für Künste, Bremen. Moreover, in 2008, she took up the newly founded Micaela Comberti Chair for Baroque violin at London's Royal Academy of Music and then became professor of Baroque violin at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

And she has also made a ton of recordings. Among them are Vivaldi's La Stravaganza concertos, which won Gramophone magazine's Best Baroque Recording of 2003, and Vivaldi's L'estro Armonico, Opus 3, which won Gramophone's recording of the month for April 2015. So she knows her Vivaldi. The wonder is that it took her so long to record Vivaldi's most ubiquitous work, The Four Seasons, but in this case better late than never.

Ms. Podger conducts from the violin and this time she is working with Brecon Baroque, a small period-instrument ensemble that includes Johannes Pramsohler, violin; Sabine Stoffer, violin; Jane Rogers, viola; Allison McGillvray, cello; Jan Spencer, violone; Daniele Caminiti, theorbo; and Marcin Swiatkiewicz, harpsichord and chamber organ.

The first thing one notices about a group so small is the transparency of the sound. Compared to bigger ensembles in these pieces, Mr. Podger and her players sound eminently clear. Which brings up the second thing one notices immediately: the period instruments. Each of them stands out for the distinctiveness of its sound.

I doubt I need to add anything more about the primary works here, the four concertos popularly known as The Four Seasons by the Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Practically everyone recognizes the little tone poems with their chirping birds, galumphing horses, barking hounds, and dripping icicles. Meant to accompany four descriptive sonnets, they comprise the first four sections of a longer work the composer wrote in 1723 titled Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione ("The Contest between Harmony and Invention"). While most people no doubt hardly remember the other eight concertos in the set, they cannot easily forget these first four.

Rachel Podger
Apparently, Ms. Podger has made something of a name for herself with previous concert performances of The Four Seasons, so, again, experience pays off. As I said, because of the small number of players involved, one hears a remarkably vivid, transparent sound. Then, there is the sound of the period instruments. Again, because of the small size of the ensemble and the clarity of the sound, each instrument stands out as something special, something unique, and definitely ancient (in a good way).

Perhaps most important, though, is that while Ms. Podger and her company follow historically informed practice, that does not mean they make the music a race to the finish line. You'll find no rushed, frenzied, galloping tempos here. Indeed, the whole production sounds about as leisurely as you'll find most of the time. This is not to say the Allegros are slack, however. No, not at all. In the faster sections, Ms. Podger leads and plays with vigor and conveys an appropriate excitement or high spirits or whatever as necessary. It's just that she never speeds things up or slows them down simply for some ultimate dramatic effect. She does so as the music (and composer) demands.

I especially liked the unhurried simplicity of the "Spring" concerto; the sunny charm of the "Summer" concerto (and its thrilling conclusion); the humor and commotion of the "Autumn" concerto; and the contrasts of trembling cold and cozy warmth in the "Winter" concerto. Ms. Podger and her friends convey the musical scenes with vivid color and picturesqueness.

The other items on the program--Il Riposo per Il S.S., Concerto L'Amoroso, and Concerto Il Grosso Mogul--are ones that Ms. Podger has been performing for years, and again practice makes perfect. Even though these pieces don't leave one with the visual and aural impressions of Vivaldi's "Seasons," they are richly eventful, nonetheless, and Ms. Podger presents them with affection, authority, conviction, and utmost virtuosity throughout.

Producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and engineer Jared Sacks recorded the music at St. Jude's Church, London in October 2017. They made the disc for hybrid SACD playback, so you can listen to it in two-channel or multichannel SACD if you have an SACD player and regular two-channel stereo if you have only a regular CD player. As usual, I listened in the two-channel SACD mode using a Sony SACD player.

The sound is full, clean, and mildly resonant. Thus, we hear a good, lucid response from the instruments while they appear to be in a natural setting. The ambient bloom helps with the production's overall realism, yet it never interferes with the music's clarity. It's a sweet, warm, easy listening sound that puts one in the room with the players.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, May 26, 2018

Brahms Requiem to Close LA Master Chorale 2017/18 Season

A pillar of the choral repertoire, Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, is paired with contemporary works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers David Lang and Caroline Shaw in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's final concerts of its 2017/18 season on Saturday, June 9 at 2 PM and Sunday, June 10 at 7 PM at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA.

The concerts will feature the West Coast premiere of Lang's where you go and open with Shaw's Fly Away I. The performances will be conducted by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, and feature the full 100-voice chorus and LA Master Chorale Orchestra.

Gershon said he decided to program the short a cappella choral works as a prelude to the Requiem, suggesting a contemporary context to then hear Brahms's score.

Tickets are available now, starting from $29:
Online: lamasterchorale.org
Phone: 213-972-7282

Tickets can also be purchased in-person at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM.

For for more information, visit lamasterchorale.org

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Young People's Chorus of New York City Performs in Debut
In continuation of its year-long 30th anniversary celebration, the Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) makes its debut at the world's largest Gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, on Saturday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets priced $30 (general admission) are on sale now online or in-person at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street). VIP tickets are priced $130.

This spring performance, co-presented by YPC and the Cathedral, brings together more than 425 choristers from all of YPC's choral divisions, with girls and boys from 8 to 18 years of age singing in a variety of different choral configurations. Led by YPC Founder and Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, the choristers perform repertoire that exemplifies their versatility and virtuosity, from classical and contemporary compositions to Broadway, spiritual, folk, and popular music.

Tickets priced $30 (general admission) are on sale now online or in-person at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street). VIP tickets are priced $130.

For complete information, visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/992544 or https://ypc.org/

--Shuman Associates PR

ABS Presents the 9th Annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
For the 2018 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival—Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas has chosen the music of Germany with a particular emphasis on "The Glorious Court of Dresden," known for the extraordinary quality of music that was composed for the Electors and Kings of Saxony who upheld the highest artistic and cultural standards for their subjects. A full array of free events—including public master classes, lectures, concerts, and colloquia—complement the performances by American Bach Soloists, American Bach Soloists Festival Orchestra, and the American Bach Soloists Academy.

August 3-12
San Francisco Conservatory of Music and St. Mark's Lutheran Church
Tickets: $35 - $105
Order online at americanbach.org/tickets or call 800-595-4TIX (-4849)

For more information, visit americanbach.org/festival

--Jonathon Hampton, American Bach Soloists

SOLI Travels to Italy
Between May 24 and June 4, 2018, the Soli Chamber Ensemble will present concerts in San Remo & Baiardo, in the Ligurian region of Italy before they travel North to the Piedmont region to perform in the towns of Busca, Monforte d'Alba, and finally two more performances in the city of Alba. SOLI will be the Ensemble-in-Residence at the Alba Music Festival Composition Program from May 26 through June 4. While in residence, the Ensemble will perform and record 15 new works by the Composition Program Fellows.

You can follow SOLI's travels on this blog: http://solitaliantravel.blogspot.com/

We are also working on Live Streaming some of our performances from Italy on Facebook Live, and post photos on Instagram and Twitter, so please be on the lookout for those.

For more information, visit http://www.solichamberensemble.com/

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Big Sing California Announced: Free State-side Singing Event July 21
This summer the Los Angeles Master Chorale and choral music superstar Eric Whitacre will present the largest free group singing event in California history--Big Sing California.

Big Sing California culminates in a concert in Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, July 21st at 2 PM (PDT). The full 100-voice Master Chorale will perform from the stage and the 2,200-person audience will sing-along to selected works on the program. The concert will be conducted by Whitacre, Grant Gershon, the Master Chorale's Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, and guest conductors Moira Smiley and Rollo Dilworth. Whitacre, who is currently the Master Chorale's Swan Family Artist-in-Residence--and who has a huge global audience through his Virtual Choir projects, popular choral compositions, and Grammy Award-winning recordings--will also serve as the event's host.

People can register online now at lamasterchorale.org/big-sing-california to attend the Los Angeles concert or any of the five hub broadcast venues. Once capacity has been reached, a wait-list will be created for each venue, and ticket vouchers will be distributed 10 days prior to the performance.

Live feeds will take place during the concert, connecting the participants in the hub cities to Whitacre and the Master Chorale in Los Angeles. The event's reach is further expanded with the concert being live-streamed on the Big Sing California website, making it possible for people around the world to participate. (The combined capacity of the six venues is 9,800; over 10,000 singers are expected to participate including the live-stream audience.)

Ticket information:
Participants who want to attend a Big Sing California event at the venues must register individually through the website. Once capacity has been reached for the concert venues, a wait-list will be created. Ticket vouchers to all locations will be distributed via email 10 days prior to the event.

Music books can be ordered online for a $3 shipping fee (U.S.). Music books will also be distributed for free at the venues on the day of the concert.

Live-streamed at www.lamasterchorale.org/big-sing-california

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

The Crossing Presents Ninth "Month of Moderns" Festival
The Crossing presents the  ninth annual Festival of New Music, "The Month of Moderns" 2018.

The Crossing, winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, presents its ninth annual festival of new music, "The Month of Moderns," June 9, 17, and 30, 2018, in Philadelphia at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. Donald Nally conducts the 24-voice ensemble in new music that addresses our lives and speaks to our current political environment.

On Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 8:00 p.m., The Crossing opens the festival with "a house," a concert featuring three works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang. The festival continues with "Voyages" on Sunday, June 17, 2018 at 4:00 p.m., an exploration of two stylistically diverse settings of one of the great poem cycles of the 20th century, Hart Crane's masterpiece, "Voyages." Then, "The Arc in the Sky" on Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. features the world premiere of Kile Smith's unaccompanied concert-length work of the same name, commissioned by The Crossing and Donald Nally.

For complete information, visit https://www.crossingchoir.org/monthofmoderns

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble to Celebrate French Music June 24 at Chicago Concert
The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble will celebrate French music of the late-19th and early 20th centuries at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, 2018, at St. John Cantius Church, 825 N. Carpenter St., Chicago, featuring, as guest artists, the church's resident organists on an historic instrument ideally suited to the repertoire.

The Gargoyle ensemble's "French Reverence" concert will include two of its own commissioned arrangements: Alexandre Guilmant's colorful, power-packed Symphony No. 1, Op. 42; and Maurice Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess," both arranged for brass and organ by Craig Garner.

They'll also perform Marcel Dupré's audience-pleasing, late-Romantic "Poème héroïque" for brass, organ, and field drum; Dupré's "Symphony-Passion" for solo organ, a religiously inspired work that utilizes the instrument's full resources; and British-born Canadian composer Healey Willan's motet "How They So Softly Rest," arranged by Garner for brass and organ.

Stephen Squires, resident conductor of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the brass and organ works.

Tickets and information:
Single tickets for French Reverence are $15 adult general admission, $10 seniors and students, and $5 for ages 6-18. Tickets are available at gargoylebrass.com, by phone at (800) 838-3006, and at the door. For additional information, call the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble's Rodney Holmes at (708) 975-0055.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Robert Trevino and the Basque National Orchestra Focus on Basque Female Composers
Robert Trevino's tenure as Music Director of the Basque National Orchestra continues with a special focus on two female Basque composers. The selected composers, Maria Eugenia Luc and Maria Luisa Ozaita, are, says Trevino, just the first two in an ongoing initiative that will see female Basque composers performed across future seasons.

The performances are part of the Musikaste Festival in the Basque Country that closes out this month, with Trevino himself conducting. And he sees the pair as something of a study in contrasts, in terms of their locus to Basque culture. "Maria Luis Ozaita, who sadly passed away quite recently, focussed very much on the Basque culture in her music, and involving that in her pieces, using folk tunes and indigenous rhythms," says Trevino, "Whereas Maria Eugenia Luc is more of an 'absolute music' type of composer, musically speaking."

The project, adds Trevino, is an important one to the orchestra. "We want to support the female composers of the Basque Country - in tandem with male composers of course - we want all great Basque music and artists to be heard, and to have equal opportunities to be heard."

For more information visit www.robert-trevino.com

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Musica Viva NY Announces 2018-19 Season
Musica Viva NY—a chamber choir under the artistic direction of Dr. Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, that presents a series of chamber concerts on the Upper East Side--today announces its 2018-19 season.

Highlights of the season include a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I featuring a co-commission for choir and orchestra by acclaimed American composer Joseph Turrin; a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's birth; a performance by the Aeolus Quartet, the organization's quartet-in-residence; a concert featuring Poulenc's Organ Concerto; and a performance of Duruflé's Requiem.

The season kicks off with a benefit concert on Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. at All Souls Church, NYC, entitled "Songs of Love," featuring songs by Brahms, Schumann, and P.D.Q. Bach, performed by Musica Viva NY soloists together with Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez. Concerts continue through Sunay, May 19, 2019.

Ticket information:
Subscription tickets, priced at $130, and single tickets, priced at $40, for the four-concert series are available by visiting http://musicaviva.org/tickets/. Single tickets are also available at the door on the evening of the concert. Some discounts apply; please visit the website for more information. The season benefit concert on September 23 is free with donations accepted at the door.

For complete information, visit http://musicaviva.org/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

FAYM Spring Recital

In the fall of 2009, retired symphony conductor Hal Weller and retired inner-city school principal Arturo Ochoa launched the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians (FAYM) and the "Violins for Kids" project.

Their aim was to offer low-cost music instruction to youngsters in underserved neighborhoods in Las Vegas. The program has grown from 15 to over 150 students from 51 elementary schools currently enrolled in two community center locations for after-school lessons beginning in third grade. What's more, FAYM has exciting plans for further expansion.

The mission of the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians is to encourage and support gifted young musicians in (1) early training, (2) advanced study, and (3) professional career development, specifically those who are in need of financial and/or mentoring support up to the age of 26. In addition, an important part of the FAYM mission is to develop programs for the support of needy children in receiving music education.

As an affiliate of the worldwide El Sistema movement, FAYM's "Violins for Kids" project provides youngsters with instruments, materials, two to three lessons a week, a weeklong music camp experience in June, and special musical field trips for just $20 per month. Parents are urged to attend lessons with their children to form a strong, common family bond. In addition to violin training, classes are offered in cello, beginning and advanced string orchestra, and Mariachi.

Cofounder Hal Weller writes:
"Scholarship and career assistance has been offered from the beginning and has reached students not only in Las Vegas and the U.S. but across the world--in Poland, Australia, Germany, Peru, and the U.K. to name just a few.

To our great fortune, Las Vegas has one of the very finest music education programs in the nation.  Through our "Violins for Kids" program we hope to level the playing field by starting kids who otherwise could not afford instruments and lessons at the third grade level so that by the time they enter CCSD's instrumental training in sixth grade, they are at least equal to those whose families are better off.

Also, the intent from the beginning of FAYM has been to make sure that from every dollar contributed to FAYM, at least $0.99 goes directly to the cause of bringing music into the lives of those who cannot afford instruments, materials, and lessons.

As a result, FAYM pays no CEO, has no office or facility rents, no phone bills, or other such overhead. Our instruments are purchased at cost and cared for by a luthier (a maker of stringed instruments, board member Juan Soto), who generously gives his labor pro bono. Accounting, Internet service, and social media functions are also provided on a pro bono basis. Our board is composed of devoted individuals who make sure that the nearly "zero overhead" construct remains an essential part of FAYM.

Our FAYM parents and relatives are super invested in "Violins for Kids." Over the years, they have held fund-raisers that have been a major factor in subsidizing the program, and they have actively participated in the classes and board.

For those interested in donating time, talent, or treasure, Arturo Ochoa, I, and others on our board would be happy to hear from you. Just e-mail FAYM@live.com."

For more information about the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians, visit http://thefaym.org/




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