Strauss, R.: Don Quixote (CD review)

Also, works for cello. Ophelie Gaillard, cello; Julien Masmondet, Czech National Symphony Orchestra. Aparte Music AP174.

Quixote. You remember him: the guy with the impossible dream.

Long before the stage musical and film Man of La Mancha, Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) created Don Quixote, the famous elderly gentleman who fancied himself a knight of high ideals, and his sidekick Sancho Panza. Then came German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) with his tone poem describing some of Quixote's adventures. Strauss composed the piece in 1896, just a couple of years after Also Sprach Zarathustra and while he was making a name for himself with his highly descriptive, impressionistic musical sketches.

Strauss's Don Quixote is a work for cello, viola, and orchestra. He subtitled it "Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters" ("Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character") and based the music on episodes from Cervantes's novel Don Quixote de la Mancha. Strauss wrote the score in the form of a theme and variations, with a solo cello depicting Don Quixote, and a solo viola, among other instruments, portraying his squire Sancho Panza. Of the ten variations within the piece, perhaps the most famous is the first one, the Don's "Adventures at the Windmill." The second variation, too, is quite evocative, a section in which Quixote encounters a herd of sheep and sees them as an approaching army. Here, Strauss uses a flutter-tonguing in the brass to represent the bleating of the sheep. It's all quite colorful and fun.

Of course, the question with any new recording of a well-known and oft-recorded piece of music is how well it compares to older, favored performances. For me, some old favorites would include Herbert von Karajan's lush, ripe presentation with Mstislav Rostropovich and the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI); Rudolf Kempe's leaner, tauter interpretation with Paul Tortelier and the Dresden Staatskapelle (EMI); Fritz Reiner's more energetic reading with Antonio Janigro and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (RCA); and Andre Previn's better recorded but more straightforward account with Franz Bartolomey the Vienna Philharmonic (Telarc). The answer to whether this new Aparte recording with Maestro Julien Masmondet, Ms. Ophelie Gaillard, and the Czech National Symphony is any better than the rest is a definite sort of, or maybe, or maybe not.

Ophelie Gaillard
The reason I can't be more enthusiastic about the soloist or interpretation is that it never struck me as being as colorful as it could be. Certainly, Ms. Gaillard's playing is technically beyond reproach, as is the violin work by Alexandra Conunova and the expertise of the Czech orchestra. But the performance itself seems rather reticent. I don't hear much of the old Don's eccentricities, and his adventures seem more than a little mundane rather than sad, humorous, peculiar, stimulating, pathetic, satiric, biting, or inspiring. In other words, I wasn't sure just how Ms. Gaillard and company wanted to represent their Quixote.

I'm sure Strauss intended his musical depiction of the addled old Don to offer some particular point of view on him without actually specifying that point of view, so the choices of approach are boundless. Nevertheless, under the direction of Masmondet and playing of Gaillard, the music simply appears beautiful and well performed, with a little less in the way of secondary responses than one might expect.

Regardless, there's a lot to be said for the beauty of Ms. Gaillard's playing, and the performance makes a charming listening experience. She is especially effectual in the softer, more introspective, more melancholy moments of the score, and one can hardly complain about the serenity of some sections.

Coupled with the main tone poem we find three additional Strauss pieces for cello: the Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6, with Vassilis Varvaresos, piano; the Romance for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 13; and "Morgan," the final section of Four Songs, Op. 27, arranged for cello, piano, and soprano, with Beatrice Uria Monzon, soprano. Because Strauss probably didn't mean for the listener to ascribe too much literal meaning to these pieces, I found them more effective as pure music.

Artistic Director Nicolas Bartholomee and engineers Nicolas Bartholomee, Maximilien Ciup, and Clement Rousset in conjunction with Little Tribeca recorded the music at the studio of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague in 2017 and in Paris, January 2018. The sound they obtained is as good as almost anything I've heard for a while. The solo cello is fairly well balanced with the orchestra; the stereo spread is wide; the highs are sparkling; the dynamic range is strong without being overwhelming, and the impact is good. What's more, the clarity and detailing are very fine, indeed.

My only minor caveats with the sound are that it's a tad closer than I usually like; it doesn't provide a lot of depth, front-to-back perspective; and there is some spotlighting of instruments, with the cello and violin in particular seeming to move closer to the audience at times and then recede into the distance. Fortunately, these issues are relatively small and should not distract most listeners from enjoying the sonics.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 17, 2018

LA Master Chorale to Present Five Christmas Concerts in Walt Disney Concert Hall

"English Cathedral Christmas"
Sunday, December 2 – 7 PM

"Festival of Carols"
Saturday, December 8 & 15 – 2 PM

Handel's Messiah
Sunday, December 16 – 7 PM

38th Annual Messiah Sing-Along
Monday, December 17 – 7:30 PM

All concerts conducted by Grant Gershon,
Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Directors

The Los Angeles Master Chorale will perform five festive Christmas concerts in Walt Disney Concert Hall in December including a new program called English Cathedral Christmas on December 2 that aims to bring the unbroken advent tradition of British carols and anthems to Walt Disney Concert Hall with works by a range of composers dating from the 16th century to today. The concerts include the popular "Festival of Carols" concerts (December 8 and 15), Handel's Messiah (December 16) and the 38th Annual Messiah Sing-Along (December 17) when the 2,200-strong audience sings as the chorus.

Tickets are available now, starting from $29:
Phone: 213-972-7282
Tickets can also be purchased in-person at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM.

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Nu Deco Ensemble To Perform With Macy Gray and BJ The Chicago Kid at the Arsht Center
December 15 will see the Nu Deco Ensemble's first concert at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, Florida in their 2018–19 season, in a soul music-infused program that will center around special collaborations with superstar Macy Gray, R&B singer/songwriter BJ The Chicago Kid, and the Miami Mass Choir. This will be the ensemble's second concert in their fourth season, continuing a commitment to forward-thinking programming and genre-bending performances.

Having kicked off their 2018–19 season with a jazz-influenced program in early October, this December concert offers a smooth segue from jazz to soul. Beginning with Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances" from West Side Story, the first half of the program will end with a suite honoring Aretha Franklin, arranged by Nu Deco's Sam Hyken, Aaron Lebos, Armando López, and Jason Matthews. Contemporary R&B stars Macy Gray and BJ The Chicago Kid will join Nu Deco on stage for the second half of the evening, backed by the Miami Mass Choir featuring original works and reimagined arrangements.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Princeton University Orchestra Presents World Premiere
The Princeton University Orchestra ("PUO") will include the world premiere of Three Places
in Grand Rapids by its principal cellist, Princeton University senior Calvin Van Zytveld , in two
performances on December 6 & 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander
Hall, Princeton, NJ.

On the heels of a busy October that included presenting internationally renowned conductor Ivan Fischer leading the Orchestra of the Accademia Teatro Alla Scala as well as the ensemble's own season opening concerts, PUO continues to showcase its vibrant season under the baton of associate conductor Ruth Ochs, standing in for Michael Pratt. The December programs also include Aaron Copland 's Fanfare for the Common Man, Manuel De Falla 's The Three-Cornered Hat Ballet Suite, and will conclude with Claude Debussy's orchestral masterpiece La mer.

Tickets are $15 General; $5 Students. Tickets are available online at, by
phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Presents "In the Wake of the Marseillaise"
Songs for soprano and early romantic guitar by Cimarosa, Crescentini, Doisy, Haydn, Domenico Puccini, and Fernando Sor join jewel-like arrangements from the popular operas of the day by Rossini and Halévy, speaking of an age of liberation and a growing taste for bel canto singing.

Jessica Gould, soprano
Pascal Valois, early romantic guitar

Thursday, December 13th, 8:00pm

The Brotherhood Synagogue
28 Gramercy Park South
NY, NY 10003

Tickets: or 1 888 718 4253

For more information, visit

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Young People's Chorus of NYC Performs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) brings together two holiday traditions under the baton of Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, who conducts contemporary stagings of Benjamin Britten's Christmas cantata A Ceremony of Carols and Samuel Adler's Hanukkah cantata "The Flames of Freedom" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday, December 9 at 3:00 p.m. Heard for the first time in New York City, "The Flames of Freedom" was composed as a musical counterpart to Britten's classic, and both works are explored on the program through sets, lighting, and choreography.

This YPC program is one of two performances by the chorus on back-to-back weekends at The Met's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. On Sunday, December 2 at 3:00 p.m., the chorus performs two settings of poetry by Langston Hughes: Ricky Ian Gordon's new choral version of "Litany" and YPC alumna Jessie Montgomery's "Danse Africaine," which was commissioned by the chorus. YPC Founder and Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez conducts both works as part of "A Dream Deferred: Langston Hughes in Song," a program created by the Museum's 2018–19 Artist-in-Residence, soprano Julia Bullock.

Tickets start at $50 for December 2 and $65 for December 9, and are available online at or by phone at 212-570-3949. Tickets are $1 for children ages 6 to 16 with the purchase of one adult ticket. For groups of 15 or more, call 212-570-3750.

For more information, visit

--Shuman Associates PR

Lake Simons Directs Holiday Production of Saint-Saëns's' Carnival of the Animals
Saturday, December 15, 2018, 1:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m.
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC

Miller's annual holiday treat returns, a playful production that brings Camille Saint-Saëns's beloved work to life--Carnival of the Animals. A compelling merging of puppets, set design, poetry and music, this production has been described as "enchanting" by The New Yorker and "splendidly witty" by TheaterScene. Audiences will experience magic as everyday objects take on new lives as lions, elephants, and birds, through the incredible vision of director Lake Simons and some of New York's best puppeteers.

Saint-Saens's score, performed by a ten-piece onstage chamber orchestra that is "virtuosic, nuanced, and sublime" (ZealNYC), literally comes to life with Lake's puppets. Lucid Culture calls the ensemble's playing "exquisitely detailed" and "unselfconsciously playful."

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Wet Ink Ensemble and Being & Becoming Perform at St. Peter's Church, Dec. 1
The "sublimely exploratory" (The Chicago Reader) Wet Ink Ensemble teams up with renowned trumpeter/composer and longtime collaborator Peter Evans for an evening of sonic adventure on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 8:00pm at St. Peter's Church, 346 W 20th St., New York, NY.

The concert features a new set of music by Peter Evans with a lineup that Evans describes as "an unholy amalgam of current and closest collaborators in a holiday season blow-out." Performers include 12 musicians from Wet Ink and Being & Becoming (Joel Ross, vibes; Nick Jozwiack, bass and cello; Savannah Grace Harris, drums; Peter Evans, trumpet), with special guests Mazz Swift (violin) and Levy Lorenzo (percussion). Evans writes, "this evening will represent an ongoing process of discovery and collaborative creativity with these players - it is not a culmination of anything. Old and new compositions will be combined together with the improvisational talents of all the musicians, creating an hour-long work tailored specifically for this concert."

Tickets are $10 general admission, students free. No pre-orders, cash only at the door.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Nutcracker Dance Party with the Experiential Orchestra
December 1st, 2018 at the Bohemian National Hall, 321 E. 73rd Street, NY, NY 10021.
3:30pm (Kids with Adult Dancing Companions); 7:30pm (Adults only with full cash bar).

Have you always wanted to dance to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker with a symphony orchestra?
Now is your chance!

Whether you danced ballet as a child or have never set foot in pointe shoes, EXO is expanding the magical experience of the Nutcracker as they invite the audience to dance to
the complete ballet with a live symphony orchestra of top-level freelancers. (Experiential
Orchestra draws from New York freelancers who also perform as subs with the New York
Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra among others).

Video, descriptions, and tickets available at, or

For more information, visit

--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra

SF Girls Chorus Presents "Holidays at Davies"
San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) presents its annual holiday concert, "Holidays at Davies," on Monday, December 17, 7:30 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA.

A longstanding tradition in the San Francisco Bay Area's holiday concert schedule, the program will build on the success of last year's multi-cultural theme with a variety of traditional and holiday music from around the world. SFGC welcomes frequent collaborators Kronos Quartet for works including the West Coast Premiere of Michael Gordon's Exalted, Alexandra Vrebalov's Missa Supratext, Reena Esmail's Still I Rise, and Stacy Garrop's Glorious Mahalia. Women's choral group Musae also features alongside hundreds of members from six Chorus School levels, SFGC's Premier Ensemble and Alumnae.

For more information, visit

--Brenden Guy PR

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 "Pastoral" (CD review)

Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra. EMI CDM 7243-5-66792-2.

When Klemperer's producer, Walter Legge, asked if he didn't think Klemperer took his recording of the Beethoven Sixth Symphony's scherzo a little too slowly, Klemperer replied, "Walter, you will get used to it." Well, we've had over sixty years to get used to it, and I suspect it has by now pretty much grown on us.

Klemperer's performance of the Sixth continues to be one of the most relaxed, leisurely, bucolic interpretations ever put to disc. It has not and will not find favor among the Toscanini crowd, but it has delighted most everyone else since EMI recorded it in 1957.

The conductor takes the first movement, "The Arrival in the Country," very deliberately, very purposefully, its repetitions made weightier through its unhurried pace, yet never dragging, never feeling lugubrious. The second movement, "The Scene at the Brook," flows naturally and smoothly, maintaining the easygoing nature of the setting. Then comes Klemperer's famous third movement, usually a quick and boisterous Allegro representing peasant merrymaking, but here taken as though the peasants were more than tipsy when the scherzo started. The storm that follows is weightily structured in big, bold outlines, flowing effortlessly into one of the most joyous "Shepherd's Hymn" in any Sixth interpretation around. This is no namby-pamby performance, but one with a clear and assertive vision of pastoral life.

Otto Klemperer
For what it's worth, by the way, I consider it pretty much a toss-up among four classic recordings of the Sixth as to which is my favorite: Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic (DG); Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony (JVC, HDTT, or RCA); Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra (Sony, and especially Sony Japan's Blu-Spec CD); and this Klemperer release on EMI. Any time I play any one of them, that one goes to the top of my list, so there's no clear winner for me.

My past reservations about the recording (made by producer Walter Legge and engineer Douglas Larter in Kingsway Hall, London) were in regard to the sound of the original LP and the recording's previous CD embodiment, which tended to be somewhat thin, harsh, and noisy. By comparison, this 1998 20-bit remastering, a part of EMI's "Klemperer Legacy" series, is smoother, fuller, and quieter. Nonetheless, the remastering retains a good deal of clarity, sounding more transparent than a lot of new releases.

The disc's coupling, Klemperer's recording of the Beethoven First Symphony, seems not nearly so characterful as his Sixth, sounding a little too massive to convey all of the work's good cheer. Nevertheless, it also seems more richly recorded than the Sixth. Go figure.

Of final note: EMI later reissued the same mastering of the Sixth as here in their "Great Performances of the Century" series, albeit with several Beethoven overtures as couplings instead of the First Symphony. You'll find that review here:


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

A Certain Slant of Light (SACD review)

Songs on poems by Emily Dickinson. Lisa Delan, soprano; Lawrence Foster, Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille. Pentatone PTC 5186 634.

"I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you - Nobody - too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise - you know!

How dreary - to be - Somebody!
How public - like a Frog - 
To tell one's name - the livelong June - 
To an admiring Bog!"

American poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886) was among the country's most unusual artists in that she was almost unknown as a poet in her lifetime. She was withdrawn and reclusive, never married, and allowed the publication of only a handful of her poems while she was alive. After her death, her relatives found a veritable treasure trove of her poems and published many of them. Then, she became quite famous, yet, remarkably, her complete and largely unedited works would not see publication until 1955.

Although Ms. Dickinson's poems are most often brief and simple, they contain a wealth of insight. Conciseness is probably the single most important element in her poems, her succinctness in expressing big ideas in a small space. She had the unique ability to condense her observations on Nature, spirituality, consciousness, death, solitude, and essential human emotions like fear, longing, and ambition into just a few lines.

It was, perhaps, the breadth of Ms. Dickinson's insights that led a number of composers to set at least some of her poems to music. On the present album we find the work of four such composers, Copland, Heggie, Getty, and Tilson Thomas, effectively sung by soprano Lisa Delan, accompanied by conductor Lawrence Foster and the Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra.

Here's a rundown of the album's contents:

Aaron Copland:
  1. Nature, the gentlest mother
  2. There came a wind like a bugle
  3. The world feels dusty
  4. Heart, we will forget him
  5. Dear March, come in!
  6. Sleep is supposed to be
  7. Going to Heaven!
  8. The Chariot

Jake Heggie:
  9. Silence
10. I'm Nobody! Who are you?
11. Fame
12. That I did always love
13. Goodnight

Gordon Getty:
14. Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers
15. A Bird Came Down the Walk
16. There's a Certain Slant of Light
17. Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Michael Tilson Thomas:
18. Down Time's Quaint Stream
19. The Bible
20. Fame
21. The Earth Has Many Keys
22. Take All Away From Me

The earliest of the musical compositions, Aaron Copland's, date from 1948-50; the others from 2001 (Tilson Thomas) to 2014 (Jake Heggie), with Gordon Getty's pieces deriving from 2004.

Lisa Delan
Soprano Lisa Delan provides a lovely presentation of the poems, her voice radiant and expressive. Maestro Foster's accompaniment with the Marseille Orchestra is sweet and sympathetic. One cannot doubt that the album's selections get a treatment the composers would approve.

That said, I don't know that I appreciated the music as much as I might. Having practically grown up with the poetry of Ms. Dickinson (well, since my teens, at least, in the 1950's), I not sure her poems need the added distinction of music. Would the words of Shakespeare be any better sung? Besides, poetry needs time for reflection, often line by line, maybe word by word, and by turning Ms. Dickinson's poems into songs, we don't get that meditative opportunity (unless you're going to hit the pause button every few seconds).

But I quibble. Of the song-poems presented, I preferred the ones set to music by Aaron Copland. They seemed the most musical and most evocative to me, perhaps because Copland was so used to staging ballet. By contrast, Jake Heggie's arrangements seem more energetic, with more pronounced, more dramatic accompaniments. Gordon Getty's take on some of the poems appears lighter than the others, but certainly appropriate--maybe the most appropriate of all considering the simplicity of the poems. However, he offers up the title poem, "There's a Certain Slant of Light," with a gravity, a seriousness, it deserves. The program ends with five poems by conductor-composer Michael Tilson Thomas, who affords them the most creative, most theatrical frameworks, with a hint of Leonard Bernstein thrown in.

Certainly, there is variety here, with everyone doing his and her part in the proceedings with evident care. I just wish, as I said, I could have enjoyed the music as much as I admired it.

Producers Job Maarse and Lisa Delan and engineers Jean-Marie Geijsen and Karel Bruggeman recorded the music at Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, France in June and July 2017. They made the album in hybrid SACD for multichannel and two-channel playback from an SACD player and two-channel playback from any ordinary CD player. As usual, I listened in two-channel SACD.

Ms. Delan's voice sounds clear, if a tad strident in the highs, and well integrated with the orchestra--out in front but not excessively so, just realistically placed. The orchestral accompaniment is not too widely spaced behind her but again realistically, and it provides a good stage depth. The overall sonic picture is smooth and gentle, nicely complementing the music.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 10, 2018

Concerts at Saint Thomas in December: Handel's Messiah, Britten and Messiaen

Concerts at Saint Thomas will host a special series of holiday programs this December, featuring their annual tradition of Handel's Messiah December 4 & 6, Britten's introspective A Ceremony of Carols December 13, and Messiaen's masterful organ cycle La Nativité du Seigneur December 22, performed on their newly inaugurated Miller-Scott Organ.

Handel: Messiah
December 4 & 6, 2018 | Tuesday & Thursday at 7:30 PM
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC

Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
December 13, 2018 | Thursday at 5:30 PM
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC

Messiaen: La Nativite du Seigneur
December 22, 2018 | Saturday at 3:00 PM
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Andrea Bocelli Achieves First Ever U.S. #1 Record
In the year of his 60th birthday and almost a quarter century since his debut release, global classical music icon Andrea Bocelli has topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart for the first time in his illustrious career with the release of 'Sì' (Decca/Sugar Music), his first album of new original material in 14 years. The album, released in the U.S. on October 26, through Universal Music Classics, part of Verve Label Group, sold 126,000 equivalent units in its first week to debut at #1 stateside and simultaneously topped the charts in the U.K. for the first time.

One of the most universally loved and recognizable performers on the planet, Andrea Bocelli has sold in-excess of 90 million albums to date. His latest album 'Sì' has captivated audiences around the world and features Andrea collaborating with artists including Josh Groban, Dua Lipa, Russian soprano Aida Garifullina, Ed Sheeran and his 21-year-old son Matteo Bocelli. Uniquely for a classical artist, their duet together 'Fall on Me' has become a viral hit around the world with its music video garnering more than 21million views in just 5 weeks, while charting on streaming playlists globally.
'Fall on Me' also appears in the end credits of Disney's latest feature film 'The Nutcracker and The Four Realms' starring Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman which debuted in theaters this week. 'Sì' was recorded at his home in Italy and produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Thirty Seconds To Mars).

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Naxos Music Group Acquires Opus Arte Label
Naxos is happy to announce its acquisition of the Opus Arte label from the Royal Opera House. The acquisition marks an important step in the company's expansion of its audiovisual activities, as video is gaining importance in the classical music industry.

The Naxos Music Group has been distributing the label worldwide almost since its launch in 1999.  Opus Arte is one of the most important top-line international DVD and Blu-ray labels today, focused on opera, ballet and theatre. The acquisition includes an important catalogue of some 600 productions, many of which are also available for licensing for television and video on demand. While productions of the Royal Opera House are central to its activities, Opus Arte also regularly releases productions of its key partners, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Globe and Glyndebourne.

With the addition of the Opus Arte catalogue, the Naxos Music Group holds rights to some 1,600 audiovisual programmes and is now a major player in the business of performing arts on screen.  Along with the acquisition of Opus Arte, the Naxos Music Group signed a long-term cooperation agreement with the Royal Opera House, giving Naxos the first option to distribute and market new and upcoming audiovisual recordings of opera and ballet performances from the Royal Opera House on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as to television, video on demand platforms and educational and other licensing partners.

For more information, visit

--Mara Miller, Naxos USA

Annenberg Center Live Presents The Crossing @ Christmas
On Friday, December 14, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, The Crossing gives its annual Christmas concert, The Crossing @ Christmas, presented by Annenberg Center Live. The concert is in memorial of Jeffrey Dinsmore, co-founder of The Crossing, and features an evening-length world premiere by Gavin Bryars, composer of The Fifth Century, for which The Crossing won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.

The Crossing @ Christmas will receive a special encore performance on Sunday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m. at The Crossing's home venue, The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. A pre-concert talk with conductor Donald Nally and composer Gavin Bryars takes place on Sunday at 4:00 pm in the Burleigh Cruikshank Memorial Chapel.

For complete information, call (215) 898-3900 or visit

--Katy Solomon, Morahan Arts and Media

First Annual Andrew Park Composition Prize and Concert
The Andrew Park Foundation has named composers June Young Kim (South Korea) and Joseph Lee (USA) prize-winners in the Foundation's first annual Andrew Park Composition Prize. Messrs. Kim and Lee will each receive a cash prize valued at $1,500 and will have their new works premiered at New York's Merkin Concert Hall on Sunday, December 16, 2018, 3 p.m.

The purpose of the Andrew Park Composition Prize is to build a broader understanding of the connections between the traditions of the West and East through music and poetry. In the past, Toru Takemitsu and Isang Yun produced some of the most important works of Asian modernism, combining their experiences of their own and Western cultures. The Foundation encourages composers to continue in this spirit, bridging differences and forging stronger ties.

Applications for the 2019 Andrew Park Composition Prize will be available in February, 2019. For more information please visit

--Raphael Zinman, Nancy Shear Arts Services

Patrick Dupré Quigley leads PBO in December Program
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale will welcome guest conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley at their "Philharmonic Fire" program December 5-9. Currently the founder and artistic director of the Grammy-nominated ensemble Seraphic Fire, Quigley brings a passionate approach to scholarship and conducting with his program of Bach cantatas and vocal works by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and Purcell.

"The program features two sides of Bach's musical personality: the florid, Italianate Bach who studied the music of the Roman priest Antonio Vivaldi, and the firm, Lutheran Bach in the capitol of Saxony," says Quigley.

Wednesday December 5 @ 7:30 pm | Bing Concert Hall, Stanford*
Friday December 7 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Saturday December 8 @ 8 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday December 9 @ 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley

*Bing Tickets available at Stanford Live
(650) 724-BING (2464) or

All other concert tickets available at
City Box Office: (415) 392-4400 or
Price range: $32–$120.

For more information, visit

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

ASPECT Foundation Presents Mozart, Schumann & the Tales of Hoffmann
The ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts continues its third New York City season of illuminating performances on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 7:30pm with Mozart, Schumann & the Tales of Hoffmann at Bohemian National Hall. The program features Mozart's String Quintet No. 4 in G minor, K. 516 and Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 performed by an ensemble of world-class musicians: violinists Philippe Quint and Grace Park, violists Matthew Lipman and Kyle Armbrust, cellist Zlatomir Fung, and pianist Vsevolod Dvorkin.

Journalist and author Damian Fowler returns for an illustrated talk on writer E.T.A Hoffmann, about whom Schumann wrote "One hardly dares breathe when reading Hoffmann." Fowler discusses Hoffmann's influence on composers like Schumann, Brahms, and Mozart, having inspired ballets by Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker) and Delibes (Coppélia), as well as operas by Offenbach, Busoni (Die Brautwahl) and Hindemith (Cardillac). His reach as a author, meanwhile, can be seen in the writings of Baudelaire, Balzac, Maupassant, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Gogol, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Mozart, Schumann & the Tales of Hoffmann
Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 7:30pm
Bohemian National Hall | 321 E 73rd St | New York, NY
Tickets: $45 includes wine and refreshments

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

The Nutcracker in New York
In New York on Saturday December 1st, Experiential Theater is thrilled to be bringing the "Nutcracker Dance Party" to the beautiful Bohemian National Hall, NYC. Be transported inside the story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. You'll have the opportunity to dance, drink and be merry at this fully interactive concert. Come at 3:30pm for a family friendly experience, and 7:30pm for Adults (with full bar).

Take it from our audience last year, who were dancing to Tchaikovsky's ballet in a magical experience unlike anything else this holiday season!

Did you attend our Nutcracker last year? If so, we'd love to hear from you! We're looking for any and all kinds of feedback, stories, even photos and videos if you have them. If you're willing to share your Nutcracker experience with us, please let us know. We might even feature you on a future post.

Because of the nature of this performance, seats are limited.  Buy your tickets here:

For more information, visit

--Elizabeth Holub, Experietial Orchestra

Details about Gustavo Dudamel Residency Opening, Dec 1-2
Maestro Gustavo Dudamel's residency at Princeton University Concerts, in honor of our 125th anniversary, will launch on December 1-2, 2018.

As outlined in the press release attached to this email, Maestro Dudamel's first visit to campus will include performances by Afro-Venezuelan folk singer Betsayda Machado, Quartet 212 from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra with mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo, students from the El Sistema-inspired Boston String Academy, and two public discussions with Maestro Dudamel about Art, Education and Social Change: one with musicologist Don Michael Randel, and one with New York Philharmonic President & CEO Deborah Borda.

An updated residency public schedule is available online at

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein Plays Couperin, Glass, Satie, Schumann at Miller Theatre
Saturday, December 8, 2018, 8 p.m.; Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway, NYC
"An Evening with Simone Dinnerstein"

The celebrated pianist Simone Dinnerstein brings her signature expressive elegance to works by Schumann, Satie, Couperin, and Glass. This collection of intriguing musical curios was chosen by Dinnerstein for their lyrical, contemplative, and exuberant qualities.

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Chanticleer Presents "A Chanticleer Christmas"
Chanticleer presents its beloved annual holiday tradition, "A Chanticleer Christmas," with eleven performances in venues across the San Francisco Bay Area, December 11 through 23. Chanticleer will present an offering of sacred music from the Renaissance to joyful spirituals and traditional carols in some of the Bay Area's most ornately decorated missions, churches and cathedrals.

The program will be performed on eleven occasions at eight different venues throughout the Bay Area: Tuesday, December 11 at 8:00 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, December 14 at 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., St. Vincent Church, Petaluma; Saturday, December 15 at 8:00 p.m., St. Ignatius Church, San Francisco; Sunday, December 16 at 6:00 p.m, Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland; Tuesday, December 18 at 8:00 p.m., Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento; Friday, December 21 at 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m., Carmel Mission, Carmel; Saturday, December 22 at 6:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m., Mission Santa Clara, Santa Clara; and Sunday, December 23 at 8:00 p.m., St. Ignatius Church, San Francisco. This season, Chanticleer will also present "A Very Special Chanticleer Christmas" as part of its Salon Series on Monday, December 10 at 7:00 p.m., Trinity & St. Peter's Church, San Francisco, featuring repertoire from "A Chanticleer Christmas," solo selections and music featuring the church's famed 1924 Skinner Organ.

For further information, visit

--Brenden Guy PR

Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges to Make Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall Debut
Mezzo-soprano J'Nai Bridges makes her highly-anticipated Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall Debut on December 13 in a recital with pianist Mark Markham.

The program showcases the breadth of her music-making with a mix of contemporary and core repertoire, from Danielpour to Mahler and Ravel, along with songs of faith and spirituals including works by Undine S. Moore and Margaret Bonds that she feels express her views as a woman of color living in America today.

Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall
154 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
Recital with Mark Markham
Thu, Dec 13 @ 7:30pm

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Savannah Music Festival Announces 30th Anniversary Season
From March 28 through April 13, 2019, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF), Savannah, Georgia, celebrates its landmark 30th season with a stellar lineup of concerts, recitals, dance parties and events, and family-friendly performances in nine venues across Savannah's Historic District. From its origins as Savannah On Stage, SMF has grown to become one of the nation's leading multi-disciplinary musical arts events, distinguished by its commitment to innovative programming and known for attracting top-flight artists and audiences from across the country and overseas.

A non-profit performing arts organization, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) is dedicated to presenting world-class celebrations of the musical arts by creating timeless and adventurous productions that stimulate arts education, foster economic growth and unite artists and audiences in Savannah. In addition to year-round music education and broadcast initiatives, SMF produces one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world. The 2019 festival marks the organization's 30th festival season and runs March 28 through April 13, including performances in venues throughout Savannah's historic district.

For more information, visit

--Mike Fila, Bucklesweet

Pops Stoppers (CD review)

Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops Orchestra. RCA 09026-63304-2.

Here's another of those jaw-dropping recordings that make one stop and say, "How'd they do that over fifty years ago?" The answer is that the engineers of this "Living Stereo" offering from 1958 didn't know any better than to use relatively simple miking techniques.

By coincidence, I listened to this 1999 release the morning after I attended a concert with Kent Nagano conducting at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. I was immediately struck by how much this disc sounded like the real thing. (About once a month is as often as I get to hear live music, not nearly as much as I'd like. Audiophiles might want to listen even more often, just to learn what they're missing.) Maybe it was the seats we had had the night before and the fact that this recording struck just the right ambiance to duplicate the previous night's listening, I don't know.

Arthur Fiedler
In any event, the sound, recorded in 1958 by Richard Mohr and Lewis Layton, is close to real, but don't expect an audiophile's dream. It isn't. The midrange lacks ultimate clarity, the lower treble lacks a bit of sparkle, and the background noise, some of it from the musicians themselves, is occasionally noticeable. But mark the overall musicality, the breadth and depth of the orchestral picture, the proper resonance, the wide dynamics, and the deep bass. It simply sounds like real music.

Not all of the brief pieces on the disc come off sounding as persuasive as others, however. This is definitely a varied "pops" affair. Among the best tracks are the opening number, Gade's tango "Jealousie," Waldteufel's "The Skaters' Waltz," Liszt's "Liebestraum," Chabrier's "Espana," and especially Sibelius's "Alla Marcia."

Among those that do not fare as well are Ketelbey's "In a Persian Market," the "baksheesh" chorus sounding rough and ill placed; Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," odd considering Fiedler must have known it backwards; and the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Nevertheless, these are minor glitches in an otherwise fine set of sonic accomplishments. It hasn't the glitter or glamour of Fiedler's celebrated recording of Gaite parisienne from a few years earlier, but it's just as musical in its own slightly different way.


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

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" (SACD review)

Also, Richard Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1. William Caballero, horn; Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Reference Recordings FR-728SACD.

Dynamic. That's the best word to describe Manfred Honeck's performance of the Beethoven Third. It's dynamic in terms of Honeck's interpretation and in terms of Soundmirror/Reference Recordings' sonics. Of course, if "dynamic" is not the first thing you want from a Beethoven symphony, you might not appreciate Honeck's way with it. But there is no questioning the excitement the recording generates.

Anyway, you'll recall that in 1804 Beethoven originally wrote his Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" to honor Napoleon Bonaparte, whom the composer greatly admired. However, just before Beethoven premiered the piece in 1805, he learned that Bonaparte had declared himself "Emperor," corrupting the ideals of the French Revolution, so he removed the man's name from the manuscript, inscribing it, instead, "to celebrate the memory of a great man." More important, the symphony marked a turning point in Beethoven's artistic output with its daring length, range, and emotional commitment, marking something of a new beginning in the development of symphonic structure and prompting endless discussions among critics about what it all meant.

The first movement Allegro con brio contains the usual complement of rhythms and harmonies we expect of Beethoven. The opening chords set the tone. Under Honeck, they are decisive, forceful, impactful. However, this is not to suggest that Maestro Honeck takes anything too fast. The speeds may sometimes be brisk, sometimes less so, but they are pretty well judged, the rhythms firm but not erratic. So it's a movement of considerable shifts in emphasis--from heroic to downhearted--just as the composer no doubt intended.

Nevertheless, it is in the second-movement funeral march that conductors must prove their worth. Too slow and it becomes a monumental drag; too fast and it no longer sounds like a funeral march. Here, Honeck adopts a pace about midway between the extremes. He doesn't follow Beethoven's original crazy-fast tempo markings (as most period-instrument and historically informed performances do) nor does he allow it to drag on endlessly. Instead, it sounds appropriately solemn and elegiac, opening up beautifully in the second half with dauntless propulsion before returning to earth.

The third-movement Scherzo is quite lively, even by Beethoven's standards. Honeck attacks it with vigor, in truth outpacing Roger Norrington in his period performance. However, I found it a little too relentless and without much requisite charm.

Manfred Honeck
As a conclusion, Beethoven's Finale is both regal and triumphant, a folklike summing up of the whole piece. Honeck begins with a tremendous flourish of passion before settling into Beethoven's joyous cadences. Again, though, Honeck's relentlessly forward momentum almost does him in, the music seeming in parts almost chaotic rather than flowing.

So, what we get from Maestro Honeck is a performance that stresses what the conductor calls "the novelties" of the symphony. It is certainly not a traditional approach, and it is one that a listener might find taking a little getting used to. Yet it is not so out of the mainstream that one could call it eccentric. Given the quality of the Pittsburgh Symphony's playing as an added bonus, I have a feeling most listeners will enjoy it.

As a coupling, Honeck offers Richard Strauss's Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, with William Caballero, horn. Strauss was only eighteen when he wrote it in 1882-83 while a philosophy student at Munich University. It has since become one of the most-popular horn concertos in the classical repertoire, an interesting feat considering the range (and difficulty) of the piece. I suspect the conductor chose it to accompany the Beethoven because it is more directly related to the earlier composer than to Strauss's own later work. Honeck, Caballero, and the Pittsburgh players give it a good workout.

Producer Dirk Sobotka and engineers Mark Donahue (Beethoven) and John Newton (Strauss) of Soundmirror, Boston recorded the music live at Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA in October 2017 (Beethoven) and September 2012 (Strauss). They present the recordings on disc in hybrid SACD, meaning you can play it in 5.0 multichannel sound or 2.0 stereo from an SACD player or 2.0 stereo from a regular CD player. I listened in 2-channel stereo from the SACD layer.

Despite its being a live recording, the sound in the Beethoven is not as close-up as it is in most such enterprises, thus ensuring a fairly natural perspective. The Strauss, recorded some five years earlier appears slightly closer but is still good. There is a nice ambient glow around the instruments in the Beethoven, too, and a realistic sense of the concert hall. There is a mild background noise, but it is hardly troubling, and, of course, the dynamic range and impact are excellent. The overall sonic effect is warm, smooth, and comfortable. The producers have thankfully removed all traces of applause.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 3, 2018

Markus Stenz Conducts Kurtag World Premiere at La Scala

This month at Teatro alla Scala, conductor Markus Stenz leads the world premiere of the highly-anticipated performance of Fin de Partie, the first and only opera by the beloved, visionary composer György Kurtág, composed at the age of 91.

Based on the famous Samuel Beckett play, commonly performed in English as Endgame, the operatic version, to be sung in French, has been more than seven years in the making. At 450 pages, Fin de Partie is by far the largest score ever composed by the reputed "master of the miniature," who has for several decades maintained the desire of writing a musical treatment for the sparse, sardonically existential work. This production is staged by internationally-acclaimed artistic and theater director, Pierre Audi.

November 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 2018
Gyorgy Kurtag: Fin de Partie (World Premiere)
Teatro alla Scala
Frode Olsen - Hamm
Leigh Melrose – Clov
Hilary Summers - Nell
Leonardo Corallazzi – Nagg
Markus Stenz, conductor
Pierre Audi, stage director

Following the world premiere in Milan, Stenz and the full cast bring the production of Fin de Partie to the Dutch National Opera in March 2019.

For more information, visit

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

PUC Announces Full Schedule of the Gustavo Dudamel Residency
Princeton University Concerts (PUC) is proud to announce a comprehensive schedule of concerts and events centered around its first Artist-in-Residence, conductor Gustavo Dudamel, in his first major academic residency that is at the heart of PUC's 125th Season. The residency will take place over the course of three visits to Princeton's campus in December, January, and April 2018-19 and will include concerts curated and led by Maestro Dudamel, community and educational events, and a series of themed talks, discussions and interdisciplinary exhibits exploring music's relationship to the world around us.

The performances include three chamber concerts curated by Maestro Dudamel featuring ensembles from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as a residency opening musical party with venerated Afro-Venezuelan folk music singer Betsayda Machado and Grammy-nominated cuatro/mandolin virtuoso Jorge Glem. The residency will conclude with Maestro Dudamel conducting two performances of the Princeton University Orchestra and Glee Club April 26 & 27, 2019, one at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, and the other a newly-announced FREE (but ticketed) concert in Trenton, NJ, at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, which is open to members of the local community and beyond.

For more information, visit princetonuniversityconcerts.or

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Jazz at Princeton University Presents Ambrose Akinmusire
Jazz at Princeton University presents guest artist and Blue Note Records trumpeter Ambrose
Akinmusire in the world premiere of Slightly Left of Sorrow's Song , commissioned by Jazz at
Princeton University to commemorate the 150th anniversary of W.E.B. DuBois' birth.
Akinmusire will perform the 8-movement suite alongside Princeton University students in Small
Group I under the leadership of saxophonist and program director Rudresh Mahanthappa.

The concert takes place at 8:00PM on Saturday, November 17, 2018 at Richardson Auditorium
in Alexander Hall. Tickets are only $15 general/$5 students, available at or
by calling University Ticketing at 609-258-9220. Any remaining tickets will be made available
at the Richardson Auditorium box office two hours prior to the performance.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

International Contemporary Ensemble Performs Works of Polish Composers
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) partners with the PWM Edition and Polish Cultural Institute New York to present 100 for 100: Musical Decades of Freedom at Roulette Intermedium on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 8pm. Conductor Steven Schick will lead performances of works by five contemporary Polish composers in celebration of the Polish centennial of independence: Pawel Mykietyn, Tadeusz Wielecki, Lidia Zielinska, Aleksander Nowak, and Agata Zubel. 

Program Information:
100 for 100: Musical Decades of Freedom Presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York and PWM Edition
Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 8pm
Roulette Intermedium | 509 Atlantic Ave. | Brooklyn, NY

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

American Bach Soloists Next Performances
Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral
December 12-14
Handel's timeless masterpiece will be presented for the 21st consecutive year in the awe-inspiring majesty of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA. 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.

"A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera"
December 31
This special event, 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.

Phone Orders: 800-595-4TIX (-4849)
No service charges for online orders

New Year's Eve: 415-392-4400
City Box Office service charges applay

Information: 415-621-7900 and

--American Bach Soloists

SOLI's Second Annual "Contemporary Music Open Mic"
If you been toiling away at your instrument and have been waiting for your moment to shine, here's your opportunity!

Twelve to fifteen amateur musicians will be joining us to perform their favorite contemporary pieces for SOLI's highly enthusiastic and friendly audience. Wouldn't you want to be one of the lucky ones?

Click here for more information:!contemporary-open-mic-night/

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Miller Theatre Presents The Tallis Scholars
The renowned Tallis Scholars make their annual appearance on Miller's Early Music series with beloved, festive Renaissance favorites including Palestrina's Missa Hodie Christus natus est. The thrilling program features the world premiere of a work commissioned by Miller Theatre for the occasion by sought-after American composer Nico Muhly. Muhly's opera Marnie is currently enjoying a run at The Metropolitan Opera.

Saturday, December 1, 2018, 8:00 p.m.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
145 West 46th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues)

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Festival Mozaic Names Jeri Corgill Interim Executive Director
Festival Mozaic has named Jeri Corgill, a San Luis Obispo County resident of nearly 30 years and former Festival Mozaic board member, as interim executive director, effective October 1, 2018. With a varied background in finance, public policy, city government, travel/tourism, and nonprofit consulting, Corgill will lead Festival Mozaic until the board's search for a permanent executive director is concluded.

In a statement, she said, "I have long held the belief that the arts can be an important conduit for the betterment – both cultural and economic – of any community.  I look forward to working with Music Director Scott Yoo, the staff and board of Festival Mozaic to ensure a successful transition to the next executive director." Corgill steps in for former executive director Bettina Swigger, who stepped down September 30, to accept the CEO position at Downtown SLO. Swigger was in the executive director role for eight years.

Tickets are on sale for the second weekend of the 2018-2019 WinterMezzo Chamber Music Series, and Music Director Scott Yoo is putting the finishing touches on plans for a delightful 2019 Summer Festival, which will take place July 24 - August 4.

For more information, visit

--David George, Festival Mosaic

Renaud Loranger Appointed Artistic Director of The Festival of Lanaudière
Pentatone congratulates Vice President for Artists and Repertoire Renaud Loranger on his additional role as Artistic Director of the Festival de Lanaudière in Joliette, Canada. Loranger has been developing the Pentatone roster and expanding its international activities since joining the label in 2016. He will remain based in Europe and continue his role at Pentatone further guiding the label's strategic development.

Pentatone's Managing Director, Simon M. Eder, said:
"We are proud and excited for Renaud for being offered to lead one of Canada's flagship musical institutions. We are happy to see him undertaking this new adventure in his hometown in a festival so close to his heart, while he continues being a vital player in our label's expansion."

For more information, visit

--Sylvia Pietrosanti, PENTATONE

Rob Simonsen Signs to Sony Music Masterworks
With an impressive resume of film scores under his belt, composer Rob Simonsen launches a new chapter in his already successful career, signing to Sony Music Masterworks as a recording artist, with new music to be released in early 2019.

Having learned to play the piano at a young age and with an educational background in jazz, electronic and traditional orchestral music, Rob Simonsen has lent his scoring talents to a wide range of film projects.  Since the early 2000s, he's worked on an expansive list of film soundtracks, among them The Front Runner, Love, Simon, Nerve, Foxcatcher, The Way, Way Back and The Spectacular Now. Under the apprenticeship of composer Mychael Danna, Simonsen worked on films like 500 Days of Summer and Moneyball, in addition to collaborating with Danna on his Academy Award-winning score for Ang Lee's Life of Pi.

In addition to his lengthy catalogue of film scores, Simonsen is the founder of The Echo Society, a Los Angeles-based non-profit artist collective.

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music

Callisto Quartet in Nov. 10 Concert
Grand Prize winners at the 2018 Fischoff International Chamber Music Competition, the Callisto Quartet performs Saturday, November 10 at Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston, Illinois. They are all students at the Cleveland Institute of Music, which also happens to be the alma mater of Music Institute President and CEO Mark George. Formed in 2016, the Quartet—violinist Paul Aguilar, violinist Rachel Stenzel, violist Eva Kennedy, and cellist Hannah Moses—was a prize winner at the 2018 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition and was the only American quartet selected to compete in the 2018 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, winning third prize in the Grand Finals.

Mark George conducted a Q&A with the Quartet musicians to learn more about them before the November 10 performance., are all students at the Cleveland Institute of Music, which also happens to be the alma mater of Music Institute President and CEO Mark George. Formed in 2016, the Quartet—violinist Paul Aguilar, violinist Rachel Stenzel, violist Eva Kennedy, and cellist Hannah Moses—was a prize winner at the 2018 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition and was the only American quartet selected to compete in the 2018 Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, winning third prize in the Grand Finals.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Dear Friends of FAYM
The first FAYM (Foundation to Assist Young Musicians) recital for the 2018/19 school year was held on October 20 at the East Las Vegas Community Center. This year's beginning students did not perform because they have only had violins in their hands for a few weeks. They will definitely play at our next recital in December.

However, everyone else did get on stage and perform for an excited audience!  We even had a few parents and siblings of our students who have been taking beginning guitar, vihuela, and guitarrón classes take the stage and perform Las Mañanitas along with our Beginning Mariachi and Advanced Mariachi. This combined group did an excellent job in performing a traditional Hispanic song which is played on important days such as birthdays, anniversaries, saint days, etc. I recently had a birthday so I listened to this song as if it were dedicated to me!

On another note, parents of FAYM have been working together to assure that our Violins For Kids program continues for their children.  They have been working on fund raisers such as candy sales, organizing yard sales and are searching for other ways to help bring in money.  It is important that all our wonderful donors that have been helping us over the years know that our families are taking an active role in helping our program grow.  By all of us working together as the 'FAYM Family', we are assuring that our kids get a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn!

For more information about the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians, visit

--Arturo Ochoa, Board President

Last Chance! Buy One, Get One Free for PBO Sessions Nov. 8
Time is almost up to buy one ticket, get one free!

From HIP's rebellious beginnings to today, come hear three recent Juilliard grads and their teachers (PBO Orchestra members) in this dynamic evening of discussion, history, and music. Audiences will learn about the history of Historically Informed Performance (HIP) from Nicholas McGegan, Ben Sosland and Bruce Lamott and experience it for themselves as the musicians perform works by Vivaldi, Handel, Corelli and Geminiani.

Buy one $25 ticket and get one free! Use discount code: HIP18 at checkout. Join us afterwards for complimentary (good) wine and a chance to meet the performers and moderators!

For more information, visit

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

Ravel: Sheherazade (CD review)

Also, Debussy: La damoiselle ellue; Britten:  Les illuminations. Sylvia McNair; Susan Graham; Seiji Ozawa, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Philips 289 446 682-2.

The three song cycles assembled on this 1999 Philips release are voluptuous and sensitive, even if the musical setting for Britten's collection of short poems is in a somewhat less ethereal world than the other two.

The highlight, as one might expect from its greater popularity, is the opening composition, Maurice Ravel's Sheherazade. Inspired by the impressionism of Debussy, Ravel's Sheherazade inhabits a far different landscape than Rimsky-Korsakov's earlier, more literal series of tone poems. The Ravel is all shapes and shadows and sinuous lines.

Debussy's early piece La damoiselle ellue is likewise more figuratively evocative than literal. It is based on the verses of British poet and illustrator Dante Gabriel Rossetti describing his painting of "The Blessed Damozel," and adds to the mix a chorus with soprano narration. In some ways it is more lyrical than the Ravel and equally atmospheric.

Sylvia McNair
English composer, conductor, and pianist Benjamin Britten's Les illuminations is the newer of the three works, the composer having completed it in 1939, based on poems by French poet Arthur Rimbaud. It is the most eclectic of the written compositions represented here, and, appropriately, the musical accompaniment is the most varied, from serene and seductive to almost raucous by turns. To suggest that all of this music is quite sensuous and sexual in nature would be an understatement.

American opera and Broadway soprano Sylvia McNair sings the title roles expressively yet without fuss. They are reasonably straightforward renderings that allow the songs to breath in their own right. Some listeners may prefer more dramatic, perhaps even more sensitive, readings, but no other interpretation, I'm sure, captures the simple beauty of the poetry any better than these. Maestro Seiji Ozawa's accompaniment, likewise, is unobtrusive, serving only to reinforce the mood and never drawing attention to itself, while the Boston Symphony play with a velvety smoothness.

The Philips sound is slightly dark, with Ms. McNair clearly at stage front. There is good orchestral depth, a sometimes soft high end, and little need for extended dynamic impact or a sweeping frequency range. The recording does not sparkle, but it doesn't need to. The singing and phrasing sparkle enough.


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

Walton: Viola Concerto (SACD review)

Also, Partita for Orchestra; Sonata for String Orchestra. James Ehnes, viola; Edward Gardner, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Chandos CHSA 5210.

Welcome today a guest reviewer, Karl W. Nehring. For over 20 years Karl was the editor of "The $ensible Sound" magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I hope he'll become a regular contributor to "Classical Candor" as well, and I have asked him to give us a little background on his approach to music reviewing. This is what he had to say:

"Thanks, John, for the invitation to contribute to 'Classical Candor,' a truly enjoyable and highly reliable guide to classical music recordings. I will try my best not to diminish your achievement! I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, 'classical' especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me – point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer." 

Sir William Walton (1902-1983) was a prolific British composer of symphonies (but only two), concerti, and film scores who seems to have been largely overshadowed by other Brits such as Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten, and Holst. Indeed, although I have a fair number of recordings of Walton's music in my CD collection, I must confess that I seldom play any of them – yes, when I am in the mood for some British music (which happens often), I am much more likely to play the music of Vaughan Williams, Arnold, Elgar, Britten, Holst, Finzi, Delius, et al.

Because I am such a big fan of British music, when I came across this new Chandos release at my favorite library, I dutifully plucked it from the rack, mostly curious about Walton's Viola Concerto, which I could not recall ever having heard before. Looking at the back cover, I was surprised to see that the piece was first composed in 1928-29 and then revised in 1936-37 and then yet again in 1961. Digging into the liner notes while still standing around at the library, I discovered that Walton composed the piece at the suggestion of the conductor Thomas Beecham. It was targeted for viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis, who declined to play it because it sounded too modern for his sensibilities. Interestingly enough, it was none other than the composer Paul Hindemith (also a violist) who then took up the score and gave the premier performance in 1929.

James Ehnes
Having read a little about the piece I was frankly not expecting to be all that impressed, but still, I was curious enough to check the disc out, bring it home, and fire it up. (My remarks below are based on listening to the two-channel CD layer of this Chandos SACD.)

From the opening notes, I was immediately entranced. Ehnes's viola just seems to sing above the sensitive accompaniment of the orchestra. The overall mood of the opening movement is thoughtful, but there are moments of energy counterbalanced by moments of quiet introspection, with the sound of the viola at times being augmented by the woodwinds. The second movement is more lively and energetic, with more input from the brass section of the orchestra. The third movement returns to a more thoughtful, sometimes introspective mood, ending with a satisfyingly tranquil conclusion.

The other two pieces in this program also proved to be quite satisfying. The Sonata for String Orchestra is a transcription made by Walton and Malcolm Arnold of Walton's String Quartet in A minor. It is a lyrical piece, quite enjoyable. Hearing it has made me want to track down the original quartet version.

The program closes with the Partita for Orchestra, composed in 1957 and dedicated to George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. As you might expect, it is a more flamboyant piece, leaping out of the gate with a burst of energy and at times producing bass sounds that will give your woofers a workout.

The sound quality of the recording is warm and clean in the Chandos tradition. Overall, then, this release is a winner both musically and sonically that should bring enjoyment to many a listener.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 27, 2018

Jazz at Princeton University Opens 2018-2019 Season: Nov. 14-May 11

The 2018-2019 Jazz at Princeton University season under the direction of Rudresh Mahanthappa presents a dynamic roster of guest artists including trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, vocalist Nnenna Freelon, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington alongside student ensembles led by faculty members Mahanthappa, Trineice Robinson-Martin, Darcy James Argue, Jay Clayton, and Matthew Parrish.

Highlights include performances by student groups joined by guest artists including Blue Note Records trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, legendary vocalist Nnenna Freelon, and Grammy winner and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. In April, Jazz at Princeton will present Princeton University's first-ever outdoor Jazz Festival.

"This year's Jazz at Princeton program is going to be extraordinary," says Mahanthappa. "With the contribution of so many of jazz's most articulate voices – both as guest artists and ensemble leaders – we are thrilled to offer performances that will engage, inspire and entertain students, educators and the community at large.  I am also excited that we'll be hosting our first outdoor jazz festival."

Jazz at Princeton's six major student ensembles include the Creative Large Ensemble directed by Darcy James Argue, Small Groups I and A directed by Mahanthappa, Small Group X directed by Matthew Parrish, the Jazz Vocal Collective directed by Trineice Robinson-Martin, and the Vocal Improvisation Ensemble directed by Jay Clayton.

For complete information, visit

Also, The Richardson Chamber Players, Princeton University Concerts' resident ensemble of performance faculty, distinguished guest artists and supremely talented students, offer a Sunday afternoon concert of mixed chamber works on November 11, 2018 at 3PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

Tickets are $15 General/$5 Students, available online at, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at Richardson Auditorium.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Introducing Vocal Currents...Young People's Chorus
"Vocal Currents: Music in our Changing World" reimagines and redefines today's music by bringing YPC's young singers together with composers to spark their visions and imaginations to create the music of tomorrow. Vocal Currents launches with Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez conducting YPC in eight 2018 YPC commissions and a choral arrangement of a 2010 work.

Vocal Currents: Music in our Changing World
November 3 at 3:00 p.m. -  Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center, NYC

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

American Classical Orchestra Presents Imperial Haydn
On Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 8:00pm at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC, American Classical Orchestra (ACO) presents "Imperial Haydn," with guest soloist Aisslinn Nosky (violin) and ACO principals Marc Schachman (oboe), Andrew Schwartz (bassoon), and Myron Lutzke (cello). Along with Haydn's "L'Impériale" (No. 53), the program also features his Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major and a rare performance of Kalliwoda's Symphony No. 5 in B minor.

The orchestra's current season includes two more concerts at Lincoln Center: Joyous Bach, featuring ACO principal flutist Sandra Miller and The ACO Chorus (Thursday, March 7, 2019 at 8:00pm); and Beethoven's Eroica, a performance of the composer's monumental Symphony No. 3, preceded by his Coriolan Overture (Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8:00pm). In addition, ACO is presenting two salon concerts at landmark New York City venues: Bass (Thursday, January 24, 2019) a revelatory look back at the instrument's role in classical music, with ACO principal bassist John Feeney; and "A Ladies' Journey 1876" (Thursday, June 6, 2019), an evening of 19th century parlor music with soprano Christina Kay, Alex Cook on horn and Gwendolyn Toth on fortepiano.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Musica Viva NY Commemorates 100th Anniversary of WWI Conclusion
Musica Viva NY commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with a program entitled the "End of the War to End All Wars" on Sunday, November 11 at 5:00 p.m. at All Souls Church, NYC.

The concert features mezzo-soprano Barbara Dever and the Musica Viva NY Choir led by Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez Valdez performing works by composers directly affected by World War I, including Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin and Holst's Ode to Death. Also on the program is a NY premiere for choir and chamber orchestra based on texts by World War I poets composed by Joseph Turrin, co-commissioned by Musica Viva NY, the New Orchestra of Washington, and the Washington Master Chorale.

Tickets, priced at $40, are available by visiting or can be purchased at the door. For discounted pricing, please visit for details.

--Will Albach, Morahan Arts and Media

NYFOS Opens 2018-19 Season with Celebration of W.C. Handy and the Birth of the Blues
New York Festival of Song--the "engaging, ever-curious series" (The New York Times)--opens its 2018-2019 season by delving into the world of W. C. Handy, often referred to as the "Father of the Blues," and his vast influence as a prominent African-American composer and publisher in the early 20th century.

The concert takes place at Merkin Concert Hall, NYC, on Wednesday, November 14 at 8:00 p.m.

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
On Site Opera (OSO) will present Gian Carlo Menotti's holiday opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen December 6-8, 2018. In partnership with Breaking Ground, New York City's largest provider of permanent supportive housing for the homeless, performances will feature a chorus made up of community members who have experienced homelessness.

Tickets will be free, part of OSO's "Opera Free For All" initiative, though the company asks that all attendees bring a small donation of non-perishable food items, to be given to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

December 6 & 7, 2018 at 7:30pm
December 8, 2018 at 2:00pm & 6:00pm
Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
296 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Music in our Changing World
Don't miss "Vocal Currents," the newest commissioning series from Young People's Chorus of New York City: Saturday, November 3 at 8:00 p.m., at the Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center, NYC.

"Vocal Currents: Music in our Changing World" reimagines and redefines today's music by bringing YPC's young singers together with composers to create the music of tomorrow. Tickets on sale now at $25 general admission | $15 students.

For more information, visit

--Young People's Chorus of NYC

Saint Thomas Church Announces Jeremy Filsell as New Organist and Director of Music
The Rector, Wardens and Vestry of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue announce that Dr. Jeremy Filsell has been called as Organist and Director of Music to succeed Daniel Hyde who is returning to the prestigious King's College, Cambridge in the Spring of 2019.

As a U.S. citizen and a British subject, Jeremy is uniquely placed to lead the finest professional choir of men and boys in North America, whose life owes much to the great English choral tradition since T. Tertius Noble was invited to found the Saint Thomas Choir School in 1919.

"I am very excited to welcome Jeremy to join a hard-working team at Saint Thomas Church and to build on the great legacy of his predecessors.  Jeremy not only has an international reputation on the organ, but is also passionate about music changing peoples' lives, and I know how much he is looking forward to leading our Choir as its unique Choir School celebrates the centenary of its founding," said the Rector, Canon Carl Turner.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

WMI Presents NY Debut of Balkan/Classical Duo Aritmia
World Music Institute presents two celebrated instrumentalists who ruminate on their common roots and love of traditional Balkan and classical music with original works and arrangements of Erik Satie, Manuel de Falla, and the mournful music of sevdah—sometimes called 'Bosnian blues.' Known for their sheer virtuosity combined with a blend of improvisation and jazz with their sound, they are able to create powerful, distinct sound-worlds through their own compositions as well as their own arrangements of folk and classical works.

Bosnian-born Merima Kljuco is one of the world's finest concert accordionists. She is a frequent guest soloist with orchestras including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Holland Symphonia, and has worked with internationally renowned artists and ensembles such as Theodore Bikel, MusikFabrik and the Schönberg Ensemble.

An acclaimed guitarist of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian origins, Miroslav Tadic has performed and recorded with luminaries such as Terry Riley, Plácido Domingo, Wadada Leo Smith, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte-Carlo. He has also recorded duo albums with such luminaries as guitarists Vlatko Stefanovski, Dusan Bogdanovic, vocalists Teofilovic brothers, and saxophonist Peter Epstein, and he is on the faculty of the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts.

Saturday, November 17, 2018
Doors, 7 p.m.
Show, 7:30 p.m.
Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space
2537 Broadway, NYC

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Meet the Juilliard Grads in "Vivaldi the Teacher"
Meet the Future of Period Perfomance!

November 7-11, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra welcomes three recent graduates of the Historical Performance program at The Juilliard School. Violinist Alana Youssefian (Class of 2018), oboist David Dickey (Class of 2016) and cellist Keiran Campbell (Class of 2017) have all been instructed by PBO musicians during their studies. Now, they are coming to PBO to reunite with their former teachers Elizabeth Blumenstock, Gonzalo X. Ruiz and Phoebe Carrai to perform Vivaldi double concerti in "Vivaldi the Teacher."

PBO is pleased to introduce you to our November Guest Artists in the following videos.

Alana Youssefian performs Bach's Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003 (Bach):

David Dickey performs Pierre Danican Philidor's Cinquieme Suite:

Keiran Campell performs Bach's Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major BWV 1012:

For more information and tickets, visit

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

The Crypt Sessions Presents Thibaut Garcia on November 14
Unison Media's acclaimed concert series The Crypt Sessions continues its third season on November 14, with French/Spanish guitarist Thibaut Garcia, performing a program of music composed and inspired by Bach - centering around his towering Chaconne, and also including music by 20th Century composers Heitor Villa-Lobos, Agustín Barrios Mangore, and Alexandre Tansman. The program stems from Thibaut's new Erato album "Bach Inspirations," which was released October 5.

The young guitarist spent six months touring the U.S. in 2016-17, playing over 50 dates across the country while witnessing a period of profound social and political change.

Wed, November 14, 2018
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST
Crypt Chapel of The Church of the Intercession
550 West 155th Street
New York, NY 10032

For complete information and tickets, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

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

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