Mozart: Requiem (CD review)

Karita Mattila, Rachel Harnisch, Sara Mingardo, Michael Schade, Bryn Terfel; Schwedischer Rundfunkchor; Claudio Abbado, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. DG 289 463 181-2.

When I first put this 1999 disc on, some twenty years ago, it had already been a long while since I had last heard the Mozart Requiem played by anything but a period-instruments band or a chamber group. I guess I was expecting to hear something a little old-fashioned in a full orchestral setting, and I wasn't disappointed. What I wasn't expecting, however, was to be as satisfied with the performance as I was. True, it's nothing like Mozart might have heard in his own day, had he lived to hear it. Yet under Abbado it is quite compassionate, effortlessly dignified, and, in some moments, even sublime.

Abbado uses the familiar Sussmayr edition, with, as the booklet notes, "modifications by Franz Beyer and Robert Levin." But the booklet doesn't tell us what those modifications are. In any case, Mozart only wrote the first couple of sections before he died, leaving the rest in sketchy form at best.

Claudio Abbado
In Abbado's hands, I can't remember an interpretation pointing up the differences so vividly between the parts Mozart wrote and the later, added parts. The final few portions are positively mundane, almost lifeless, by comparison to the work's opening movements, and through no fault of Abbado. Indeed, it is because of Abbado's respectful conducting of this work that the deficiencies of the closing pages show up at all.

That said, this is a performance in which most things fall readily into place, perhaps sounding "old-fashioned" in the process: a little too polite and maybe a bit too sedate, yes, yet in a good sense if you are in the mood for that sort of presentation. And do I even have to mention that the Berlin Philharmonic play gloriously and that the soloists and choir respond equally well?

DG's sound is about what I expected, too, but more so. It is big overall, like the performance, warm in the midrange, slightly veiled, a little overly bright in the high strings, wide in stereo spread, and, surprise, reasonably deep in the bass. I don't usually like live recordings, as this one is from the Salzburg Festival, but at least the DG engineers kept the audience noise to a minimum. A reality check comparing this new release to a disc using smaller instrumental forces, however, revealed a startling difference in clarity and focus, favoring the smaller group, of course. Nevertheless, the grave forward momentum and well-timed rhythms of this new Abbado effort place it among the better choices for a full, modern-orchestra version of the music.

Two shorter pieces, "Betracht dies Herz" KV 42 and "Laudate Dominum" KV 339, the latter most sweetly rendered, round out the program.


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

The Topping Tooters of the Town (CD review)

Music of the London Waits, 1580-1650. William Lyons, The City Musick. Avie Records AV2364.

I hear what you're asking: What's with the oddball title? A booklet note explains that a fellow named Ned Ward wrote in The London Spy of 1709, "Why these are the city waits, who play every winter's night through the streets to rouse each lazy drone to family duty. These are the topping tooters of the town, and have gowns, silver, chains, and salaries, for playing 'Lilliburlero' to Lord Mayor's horse through the city." Furthermore, "The City Waits were highly skilled and much valued musicians in Elizabethan and Jacobean society. They were the aural emblem of their city, and were employed in civic ceremony, the theatre, dances, in church services and gave public concerts. This recording celebrates the diversity and glorious sound of a Waits band at its best."

The Waits band in this case is The City Musick, led by William Lyons, who also plays shawm, bass dulcian, recorders, and bagpipes. He's joined by ten other musicians on instruments as varied as hoboy, recorders, lysard, cornett, and sackbut, with occasional solo voices thrown in for good measure. The music is enjoyable, and the fact that it's authentic adds to the fun.

Here's the playlist to give you an idea of what the album's all about:

Anthony Holborne (c.1545-1602)
  1. The Night Watch

John Adson (c.1585-1640)
  2. The Bull Maske (Courtly Masquing Ayre 18)
  3. Courtly Masquing Ayre 20
  4. Courtly Masquing Ayre 21

Peter Philips (c.1560-1628)
  5. Pavane Dolorosa
  6. Galliard Doloroso

Anon., arr. William Lyons
  7. The Quadran Pavan
  8. Turkeyloney
  9. The Earl of Essex Measures
10. Tinternell
11. The Old Almain
12. The Queen's Alman

Anthony Holborne
13. The Cecilia Almain

Anon., arr. Lyons
14. The Black Almain

Thomas Morley (c.1557-1602)
15. See, see, myne owne sweet jewell
16. Hould out my hart
17. Crewell you pull away too soone

John Dowland (1563-1626)
18. Psalm 100: All people that on earth do dwell

Richard Allison (c.1560-c.1610)
19. Psalm 68: Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered

Simon Stubbs (fl. 1616-21)
20. Psalm 149: Sing ye unto the Lord our God

Thomas Ravenscroft (1590-1633)
21. Psalm 117: O praise the Lord, all ye nations

Anthony Holborne
22. Paradizo
23. The Lullabie
24. The Cradle

John Playford (1623-1686/7)
25. Pauls Wharf

Valentin Haussmann (c.1560-c.1614)
26. All ye who love

John Playford, arr. Lyons
27. Lilliburlero
28. Maiden Lane
29. Halfe Hannikin
30. Sellengers Rownde

Willian Lyons
So, the Waits were sort of the pop bands of their day, the Rolling Stones of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. (Come to think of it, the Stones may actually have been playing back then.) Anyway, the tunes run the gamut from ballads to dances, from airs to pavanes, some of them stately, some lively, some serious, and some lighthearted. Lyons and The City Musick play them all with equal zeal and seem to be having as good a time performing them as we do listening to them.

Of course, it takes a few minutes for the ear to adjust to the unusual qualities of the instruments, most of which are winds of one kind or another, but once attuned to the sound, it's easy to like. The melodies are simple and the repetitions plentiful. About the only qualm I had was that although there are thirty selections on the program, each track is very brief, not more than a minute or two. So, at only about forty-nine minutes total, the program is a little short on content.

Producer and engineer Adrian Hunter recorded the album at St. Georges Church, Chesterton, Cambridge, UK in September 2015. The first thing you may notice is that the acoustic is moderately lively, and the room reflections enhance the realism of the sonics. Still, the spatial relationships remain somewhat flat. You'd think that maybe individual instruments would stand out better in contrast to one another. Be that as it may, there are no glaring deficiencies in the sound: no brightness, edginess, woolliness, or dullness and not much veiling. Not quite audiophile but pleasant and serviceable, nonetheless.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 27, 2018

Bearthoven Gives Four NY Premieres by Wollschleger, Washington, Wolfe, & Roberts

On Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 8pm at Roulette in Brooklyn, Bearthoven (Karl Larson, piano; Pat Swoboda, bass; and Matt Evans, percussion) performs the New York premieres of four new, diverse works, written specifically for their 2017-2018 season. The program features Shelley Washington's Silk (2017), Kristina Wolfe's Near Sky (2017), Adam Roberts's Happy/Angry Music (2017), and Scott Wollschleger's American Dream (2017). These works received their world premieres in September 2017 at the Short North Stage in Columbus, OH.

Scott Wollschleger's American Dream is a major addition to Bearthoven's repertoire, a substantial work in the composer's already impressive catalogue, and the focal point of this  program. The thirty-minute piece is an intricate quilt of delicate textures and sound objects composed for piano, double bass, and percussion.

Shelley Washington's Silk is a dynamically subdued yet rhythmically complex work for piano, double bass, drum set, and vibraphone composed for Bearthoven during their spring 2017 NYU residency.

Kristina Wolfe's Near Sky is a deeply meditative, graphically notated work for piano, double bass, percussion, and electronics (MaxMSP).

Adam Roberts's Happy/Angry Music is a multifaceted work for piano, double bass, and percussion commissioned for Bearthoven by the Johnstone Fund for New Music.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Free Master Classes & Pre-Concert Insights
Dig into historically informed performance practice: American Bach Soloists will present three Master Classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Come early to enjoy the Conservatory's Café Crème, and during the half hour prior to each Master Class, enjoy a complimentary glass of wine (21+) on us.

Meet the master artists and catch up with friends in the music community during receptions that start at 7:00 p.m.. Then, at 7:30 p.m., witness the artistic transformations that make Master Classes so tremendously exciting, as performers and ABS musicians share their knowledge and insights. These events are free and open to the public.

Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Monday February 12th, 7:30 pm

William Skeen, violoncello
Monday April 2nd, 7:30 pm

Debra Nagy, oboe
Monday May 7th, 7:30 pm

San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Osher Salon
50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Also, ABS perform Bach's Saint John Passion, February 23-26 2018 in Belvedere, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Davis, CA.

For more information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

ICE Announces Appointment of New Co-Artistic Director Rebekah Heller
The pioneering International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces the appointment of its newest co-Artistic Director, bassoonist Rebekah Heller. Heller replaces clarinetist Joshua Rubin, who has served as artistic director since 2014, and joins percussionist Ross Karre who has served in this capacity since 2016. This change is part of ICE's innovative leadership model, in which artistic directors rotate every few years to ensure the opportunity for artistic variety and exceptional functionality within the collective. Similar to an artistic residency, this fluid model allows the members of ICE the opportunity to accept curatorial responsibilities while simultaneously engaging in the multifaceted performance opportunities for which ICE is known.

Executive Director William McDaniel says, "It's thrilling to play a part in the leadership of an organization that holds the idea of being 'artist-led' as a central tenet of our own working methods—from how programming decisions are made to how artists are incorporated into the staff itself. "

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Lise de la Salle Tours the US with "Bach Unlimited"
French pianist Lise de la Salle performs repertoire from her latest Naïve Classiques release on tour in New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, Montréal, and Virginia.

A profound and elegant tribute to the timeless genius, "Bach Unlimited" presents works from across three centuries by Bach, Liszt, Busoni, Roussel, Poulenc and Thomas Enhco. "De la Salle has developed in her 20s into a musical thinker of impressive weight, with charm, imagination and a dazzling technique." --Stephen Brookes, Washington Post

For more information, visit

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Grammy nominees Steven Isserlis and PBO Perform Haydn
Witness a Big Bang of Grammy-worthy excellence as two Haydn forces align to bring you the stuff that brought them their gold stars. Nominated for their interpretations of Haydn symphonies and concertos, musical masterminds conductor Nicholas McGegan and cellist Steven Isserlis bring you exactly that in a "Harmonic Convergence" February 7-11.

PBO conductor Nicholas McGegan is critically acclaimed for his adept interpretations of Haydn and in 2012, Nic and the Orchestra were nominated for a Grammy Award for their recording of Haydn Symphonies Nos. 57, 67 & 68 in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Additionally, star cellist and February guest artist Steven Isserlis was also nominated for a 2018 Grammy in the category of Best Classical Instrumental Solo for his recording of the Haydn Cello Concertos with conductor Florian Donderer and The Deutsch Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

Dates & Tickets:
Wednesday February 7 @ 7:30 PM
First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Friday February 9 @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Saturday February 10 @ 8:00 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday February 11 @ 4:00 PM
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

For more information, visit

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Tenor Piotr Beczala Signs to PENTATONE
PENTATONE is delighted to announce that Polish tenor Piotr Beczala, one of the most celebrated vocalists of our time, has signed an exclusive, multi-album contract with the label. His first solo recording on PENTATONE will focus on the works of Puccini and his contemporaries, and include some of the repertoire's most beloved arias. Further details will be announced at a later date.

Piotr Beczala sang his first Don José in Bizet's Carmen to wide acclaim earlier this year at the Wiener Staatsoper. "Piotr Beczala has the kind of voice you want to hang medals on." --Opera News, 2015

For more information, visit

--Silvia Pietrosanti, PENTATONE

Concerts at Saint Thomas Presents Its March Performances
Concerts at Saint Thomas opens their Spring 2018 concerts with a March 22 performance of the intimate two-piano arrangement of Brahms' towering A German Requiem. The performance features the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys alongside soloists Hyesang Park (soprano) and John Brancy (baritone), and pianists Michal Biel and Katelan Terrell, all of whom are up-and-coming Juilliard graduates. The rarely heard two-piano version allows for a degree of precision and contrapuntal clarity not always found in the orchestral version.

Brahms: A German Requiem
Version for choir and two pianos
March 22, 2018, Thursday at 7:30 pm
Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC
Tickets required

The intensity of the Brahms work leads into Holy Week, which will be observed with a pair of musical meditations on the organ, with Associate Organist Benjamin Sheen on March 26 and Organist and Director of Music Daniel Hyde on March 27. Each performance surveys the spiritual and theological influences of the music of J.S. Bach on three of the nineteenth century's greatest composers—Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schumann.

Holy Week Organ Meditations
March 26, Monday at 7:00 pm amd March 27, Tuesday at 7:00 pm
Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC
No tickets required, donation requested

For more information and tickets, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

American Brass Quintet Celebrate Thirty Years as Juilliard's Ensemble-in-Residence
This season marks the 30th anniversary of the American Brass Quintet as Ensemble-in-Residence at The Juilliard School.

As a special celebration, Juilliard has commissioned Philip Lasser, professor of Compositional Studies, for a piece dedicated to the Quintet, Common Heroes, Uncommon Land. A visionary composer with ties to both traditions, Lasser is known for his unique style of blending the colorful harmonies of French Impressionist sonorities with the dynamic rhythms and characteristics of American music.

The new piece will be premiered on February 14, 2018 at Juilliard's Paul Hall. Additional works to be performed include selections arranged by the Quintet's members Louis Hanzlik and Kevin Cobb, and Copperwave by Joan Tower.

For complete information, visit

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Orchestra and Astrophysicist Explore the Art and Science of Sunrises Through Music
February 3rd, 2018: Immersive concert event continues the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony's Innovative Series of "InsideOut Experiences for Audiences," which will feature noted Astrophysicist Dr. Jackie Faherty, Senior Scientist in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.

Already breaking new ground with InsideOut Experiences that seat audiences interspersed between the musicians of the orchestra, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony Music Director David Bernard is going one step further — taking the experience interstellar. "Music has an almost infinite ability to capture audience's imagination, transporting them across time and space," says Maestro Bernard. "There is no better example of this phenomenon than the vivid depiction of a sunrise in Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe that starts our February 3rd InsideOut event." The orchestra will conclude the program with a performance of Brahms Symphony No. 2.

Saturday, February 3, 2018, 2 p.m. (Family Experience) and 5 p.m. (Full Experience): Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church, 152 West 66th Street, New York, N.Y.

For more information, visit

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Violinist Xi Wang Returns to Carnegie Hall
Violinist Xi Wang returns to the Carnegie Hall with the Karwendel Artists on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 7:30 pm. Praised by the Bavarian Radio Klassik as "the inspiration of the Alpine town", the Karwendel Artists, consisting of faculty and outstanding alumni of the Karwendel Music Festival, perform a program perfectly reflecting their spirits: flashy, bold and passionate.

On the bill: Carmen Fantasy by Franz Waxman and Concert Fantasy on themes from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess by Frolov; the New York premiere of Chinese Folk Tunes for Two Violins, arranged by Xi Wang; and one of the summits of the piano trio repertoire – Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50.

For complete information, visit

--Sida Tang, W&T Arts Promotion

Wu Man and Huayin Shadow Puppet Band to Embark on Twelve-City U.S. Tour
An ambassador for China's vibrant cultural heritage, pipa virtuoso Wu Man embarks on a twelve-city U.S. tour March 1-25 with the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, whose traditional shadow puppetry and music she discovered in rural China while unearthing ancient art forms to preserve and bring to international attention.

This group, formerly known as the Zhang Family Band, continues a centuries-old tradition of blending music, drama, and classic Chinese shadow puppetry, but was little known outside the mountains of northeastern China until Wu Man brought them to Carnegie Hall in 2009 and now to the wider U.S. The concert program features Wu Man performing both solo and with the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band.

For complete information, visit

--Shuman Associates

Haydn: "Paris" Symphonies, Nos. 82-87 (CD review)

Frans Bruggen, Orchestra of the 18th Century. Philips 462 111-2 (2-disc set).

I doubt that too many readers have collected all one hundred and four of Haydn's symphonies, or are even vaguely interested in doing so, but certainly the last eighteen, the "Paris" and "London" symphonies, plus assorted earlier pieces might be a part of a well-rounded classical music library. Prior to this 1999 set of "Paris" Symphonies from Frans Bruggen and the Orchestra of the 18th Century, I had been living happily with Sigiswald Kuijken's period-instrument performances of them with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on Virgin Classics and with Antal Dorati's modern-instrument versions on Decca. Then, along came this newer set to give me pause.

Franz Bruggen's realizations for Philips are every bit as lively and grand as Kuijken's but offer two minor advantages. First, the sound is more immediate, closer to what Kuijken would do later in the "London" Symphonies for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. The Philips recordings, made live in Paris and the Netherlands, are slightly less vague than the Kuijken's renditions, with added definition and focus. It isn't enough of a difference to recommend a change if one already owns the Kuijken accounts, but for the first-time buyer it may matter. Second, the packaging of the two Bruggen discs uses a single slim-line case, thus occupying less shelf space the older, bulkier Kuijken edition. OK, not much of a consideration these days, to be sure, unless you find yourself with an expanding CD collection and fighting for every inch of space you can find.

Frans Bruggen
Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) wrote his six "Paris" Symphonies in 1786 and 1787, as far as scholars can determine. Paris's prestigious La Loge Olympique, a prominent musical organization of its time, commissioned the works, and Haydn premiered them during their 1787 season. The most immediate hit, which remains my preferred symphony as well, is No. 85, nicknamed "The Queen" because it was a favorite of Marie Antoinette. Each of the symphonies is varied and sometimes elaborate, but they are marked most distinctively by their slow movements.  No. 85 takes its Allegretto from a charming French folk song of the time.

More important, Bruggen's interpretations are first class, perhaps even first choices for those listeners interested in the period-instrument approach. The performances are energetic, stimulating, and engaging. And, of course, Bruggen takes them at a lively pace, as so many historically informed interpretations do. Expect a little less refinement than excitement.

Philips recorded the symphonies live at the Cite de la Musique, Paris, and the Muziekcentrum Enschede and Vredenburg, Ultrecht, The Netherlands in November 1996. The sound is clean, if a tad close, full and well-bodied except in the mid bass where there appears a hint of thinness and only a touch of harshness at times. Generally, it sounds the way you would expect to hear a period-instruments band live, with the same degree of transparency you would find at a live event.


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

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (XRCD review)

Also, Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1. Itzhak Perlman, violin; Andre Previn, London Symphony Orchestra. ARC ARCXRCD805, remastered.

Because the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is one of the most-popular violin concertos ever written, maybe the most popular, practically every major violinist in the world has recorded it. So, there is a huge selection of recordings of it in the catalogue, most of them pretty good. Still, I have always found Itzhak Perlman's 1972 recording with Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra as good as any and better than most. Now, we find it in a modern audiophile remastering, making it better than ever. At least, for those with deep pockets.

German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) premiered his Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 in 1845, and it would be his final large orchestral work. Audiences pretty much loved it at the time, and it has continued to be one of the staples of the violin repertoire ever since.

Because the Mendelssohn concerto is "nobly poised between romantic and classic" as W.A. Chislett writes in a booklet note, that's the way Perlman plays it, with an expressive romantic flair and a classic restraint and refinement. And unlike many competing versions on record, the soloist and the orchestra are on equal terms, neither actually dominating the other. Previn is a fine interpreter of Mendelssohn, anyway, and the LSO provide a warm, illuminating, and thoroughly captivating accompaniment for Perlman. Yes, you will find more vigorous accounts of the music, more vivacious ones, and more sweetly flowing ones, but you will be hard pressed to find one that sounds more totally attuned to the charms of Mendelssohn. It simply sounds "right," as fresh and scintillating as the day Perlman and his fellow players recorded it.

Itzhak Perlman
As a coupling, Perlman chose to do the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by German composer and conductor Max Bruch (1838-1920). Bruch premiered a revised version in 1867, and it, too, like the Mendelssohn, has become a staple of the violin repertoire. Perlman and Previn play it in a traditional manner, with no exaggerated tempos, pauses, or contrasts. Perlman's playing is engaging, too, nuanced yet lively, giving the music all the enchantment and vivacity it needs. Moreover, the LSO were in peak form, providing Perlman a strong accompaniment.

The Bruch has a curious first movement, a Vorspiel (or Prelude) leading directly to the second movement. This Vorspiel is like a slow march, with some ornamental flourishes along the way. The second-movement is an Adagio, the heart of the work with its beautiful melodies, broadly sweeping themes, and graceful orchestral accompaniment. The piece ends with a Finale that begins quietly until the violin opens up with a vivacious theme in the form of a dance, which along with its lyricism reminds us of its Romantic origins, culminating in a grand climax. Anyway, as I say, Perlman, Previn, and the LSO do it up as well as anyone.

EMI producer Suvi Raj Grubb and engineer Robert Grooch recorded the concertos at Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London, in November 1972. Tohru Kotetsu remastered the original tapes at the JVC Mastering Center, Japan, for the Associated Recordings Company (ARC). The JVC team used meticulous XRCD24/K2 technology to assure the finest quality reproduction currently available for CD playback.

I had on hand for comparison another remastering of the same recording, this one also from Japan (Toshiba-EMI), though not in the XRCD format. The older Toshiba remaster seemed to me at the time marginally better, clearer and cleaner, than the regular EMI (currently Warner) product. Now, the JVC/ARC XRCD24 production is even clearer and cleaner than the older Japanese remastering, albeit at substantially higher cost. Is it for everyone? Of course not. It's for audiophiles who already love this particular recording and want the very best-sounding version of it. To that end, the JVC/ARC XRCD24 fills the bill.

Compared to the Toshiba-EMI product, the JVC/ARC disc sounds tighter, better defined, slightly more detailed, stronger, smoother, and fuller. Are the differences major? No, they're small but noticeable, at least in side-by-side comparison. Are they worth the extra money? That's up to the individual, not for me to decide. In any case, the sound in both versions revealed excellent balance, a superb reproduction of the soloist, well centered and not too far in front of the orchestra, with good response at both ends of the frequency spectrum. It's a fine recording made better by excellent processing.

You can find ARC products at some of the best prices at Elusive Disc:


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 20, 2018

Scott Yoo and Friends at Festival Mozaic's February WinterMezzo Chamber Music Weekend

Musique Française:
Join Music Director Scott Yoo and friends for three days of chamber music and camaraderie in San Luis Obispo. French composers in the 20th century reinvented melody through impressionism and neo-classicism. The melodic works of Gabriel Fauré, Jean Cras and Albert Roussel were written when jazz sounds from the United States had crossed the pond. Rounding out this imaginative and evocative program is a jazz riff on the baroque style by living composer Noam Elkies. Click here to read the program notes.

Noam Elkies: E Sonata for flute and keyboard in E minor, op. 40
Albert Roussel: Serenade, op. 30
Jean Émile Paul Cras: Suite en Duo
Gabriel Fauré: Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, op. 45

Musicians: Alice K. Dade, flute, John Novacek, piano, Jessica Chang, viola, Meredith Clark, harp, Scott Yoo, violin, and Jonah Kim, cello.

Notable Encounter INSIGHT
Friday, February 23, 2018 5:30 p.m. $25
Mission San Luis Obispo Parish Hall
One hour program of Performance + Speaking
Exploring works by Cras and Roussel and featuring Alice Dade, Scott Yoo, Jessica Chang, Jonah Kim, and Meredith Clark.

Notable Encounter DINNER
Saturday, February 24, 2018 5:30 p.m. $135
Park Ballroom, Paso Robles
Dinner, Performance + Speaking
Exploring works by Cras and Roussel and featuring Alice Dade, Scott Yoo, Jessica Chang, Jonah Kim, and Meredith Clark.

Musique Française CONCERT
Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. $35-$65
Cuesta College Cultural and Performing Arts Center
The weekend culminates with a performance of all four works by Scott Yoo and the visiting musicians.

For complete information, visit

--Bettina Swigger, Festival Mosaic

West Edge Opera Announces Snapshot 2018
West Edge Opera's SNAPSHOT presents excerpts from new, previously unproduced operas by West Coast composers and librettists February 24 and 25, 2018. Inaugurated in 2017, the program is the first of its kind in the Bay Area and is a collaboration with Earplay, New Chamber Music Ensemble.

Performances will take place Saturday February 24, 2018 at 8:00PM at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, 2288 Fulton St, Berkeley, CA 94704 and Sunday February 25, 2018 at 3:00PM at the Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102. Both venues are ideally suited to the intimate yet expansive demands of Snapshot and are conveniently close to BART. General admission tickets go on sale January 5 and will be available online at or by phone at 510-841-1903. Tickets are $40 each.

--Adam Flowers, West Edge Opera

2018 Young Musicians to Watch
The National YoungArts Foundation is proud to introduce the 2018 classical musicians to watch. On Thursday, January 11, 19 up-and-coming musicians performed, and two aspiring composers presented new works to audiences at New World Center in Miami as part of National YoungArts Week. These extraordinarily talented artists have been named 2018 YoungArts Finalists—one of the nation's most prestigious awards for aspiring artists 15 to 18 years old.

2018 standout performances included
Composer Benjamin Champion from Idyllwild, CA
Flutist Audrey Emata from West Chester, PA
Harpist Annette Lee Pasadena, CA
Pianist Anne Liu from San Diego, CA
Double Bassist William McGregor from West Chester, PA
Pianist Benjamin Rossen from Great Neck, NY
Violinist Adrian Steele from Seattle, WA
Pianist Ray Ushikubo from Riverside, CA
Composer Lauren Vandervelden from Mill Valley, CA

A complete list of the 2018 winners is available here at

--Megan V. Sprenger, Polskin Arts & Communications

San Francisco Girls Chorus Makes Carnegie Hall Debut
The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC), led by Music Director and Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, will make its Carnegie Hall debut alongside the Philip Glass Ensemble on Friday, February 16, 8:00 p.m. with a rare performance of the composer's groundbreaking 1970 work Music With Changing Parts. The program will be repeated in San Francisco on Tuesday, February 20, 7:30 p.m. in Davies Symphony Hall under the auspices of San Francisco Performances.

Music with Changing Parts was originally composed for the Philip Glass Ensemble. This new performance, which will include SFGC and a brass section from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, was arranged by Philip Glass Ensemble Music Director Michael Riesman, SFGC Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and composer Philip Glass.

Single tickets range in price from $14.50 to $95 and can be purchased through Carnegie Hall at and 212.247.7800.

For more information, please visit

--Brednen Guy, Marketing

Mirror Visions Ensemble Performs Of Beasts and Brutes
Mirror Visions Ensemble (MVE) -- an acclaimed vocal chamber ensemble dedicated to exploring the relationship between music and text -- presents its newest program, Of Beasts and Brutes, in the Loreto Theater at The Sheen Center on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.

Of Beasts and Brutes playfully and seriously shines light on the human and animal traits that might emerge in an uprising against totalitarianism, as seen in Orwell's Animal Farm. The songs reference animalized brutes since the early Romans, up to and including modern times. Curated by Yale Department of Music professor Richard Lalli, this concert of great music and texts includes three newly commissioned world premieres from Scott Wheeler, Francine Trester, and Christopher Berg, along with Tchaikovsky, Poulenc and Rachmaninoff, among others.

Monday, March 12, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.
Loreto Theater at The Sheen Center | 18 Bleecker Street | New York, NY
Tickets: General Admission $20.00, Students $15.00 (Plus $2 Facility Fee)

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Berkshire Opera Festival Announces Its Third Season
Berkshire Opera Festival (BOF) is proud to present Giuseppe Verdi's masterpiece Rigoletto for its third season, with performances August 25, 28, and 31 at the historic Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. The production is conducted by Artistic Director Brian Garman and directed by General Director Jonathon Loy. As with the first and second seasons, there will also be accompanying recitals and outreach events around the local Berkshire community.

A timeless story of love, betrayal, and vengeance, Rigoletto tells the story of the young Gilda suffering at the hands of self-entitled and abusive men — a theme never more relevant than in our present day. The production follows BOF's acclaimed first two seasons, which featured Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos.

Rigoletto will be sung in Italian with projected English translations. Tickets are priced from $20 to $99. All tickets will go on sale January 15, 2018.  For more information, please visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Tucson Desert Song Festival Opened January 16
The Tucson Desert Song Festival's (TDSF) sixth season opened January 16 and will run through February, 4th. The festival celebrates the life and music of Leonard Bernstein, the iconic conductor, composer, pianist and educator. Over the coming weeks TDSF, in partnership with Tucson's leading arts organizations, will present events honoring Bernstein at 100. The festival will provide a rich and unusual context in which to experience Bernstein's work.  Highlights include a fully-staged production of Bernstein's comic operetta Candide (in partnership with Arizona Opera); Trouble in Tahiti (in partnership with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra) featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Kelly Markgraf; Mass, in a chamber version (in partnership with True Concord Voices & Orchestra) featuring Jubilant Sykes; the "Kaddish" symphony, narrated by Jamie Bernstein, and an evening with Broadway star Chita Rivera.

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

Tucson Desert Song Festival Presents "Bernstein at 100: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Leonard Bernstein"
January 16 - February 4, 2018
Tucson, AZ

For complete information, visit

--Raphael Zinman, Tucson Desert Song Festival

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein signs to PENTATONE
PENTATONE is delighted to announce that one of the most celebrated cellists of her generation, American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, has signed an exclusive, multi-album deal with the label.

Due for release in August this year, the first album pairs masterworks of the First and Second Viennese Schools – two Haydn concertos with Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht – and marks the first collaboration of her new multi-season role as Artistic Partner of Norway's celebrated Trondheim Soloists.

"Pentatone's values are in line with mine. Our conversations about repertoire have demonstrated the depth of their knowledge and, perhaps even more importantly, their eagerness in encouraging me to expand my musical horizons. Our first recording together is a testament to that ethos – that artistic integrity and curiosity should always be the first priority. I feel completely at home." --Alisa Weilerstein

--Silvia Pietrosanti, PENTATONE Marketing & PR Manager

Chicago Gargoyle Ensemble to Offer Valentine's Concert Feb.10
The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, with guest artists The Oriana Singers and City Voices, will present the world premiere of British-born composer Peter Meechan's "Love Songs (Shakespeare)" at a holiday-themed concert titled "Shakespeare Valentines" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 10, 2018, at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St., Oak Park, Illinois.

Commissioned by the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, "Love Songs (Shakespeare)" is a half-hour neo-Romantic work in four movements for brass quintet, organ, narrator, and choir, inspired by four of William Shakespeare's poems on love.

"The audience will develop a crush on this music,'" says Rodney Holmes, founder and music director of the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble.

For more information, visit

Nat Silverman, Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Musica Viva NY Presents "Voices In Motion" on Sunday, February 25
Musica Viva NY presents its third installment of "Voices In Motion," Sunday, February 25 at 5:00 p.m at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side (Lexington Avenue at 80th Street, NYC).

The concert features the Musica Viva NY Choir, led by Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, with a guest appearance by founder Walter Klauss, together with organist Trent Johnson in an exploration of the relationship of sound and space through inspiring psalms, folk songs, and organ works from the Italian Renaissance to the 21st century with pieces by a diverse group of composers including G. Allegri, Holst, Eric Whitacre, Osvaldo Golijov, and more.

Tickets, priced at $40, are available by visiting or can be purchased at the door.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Pianist Stephen Hough and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet Make Debut at The Wallis
Hailed as "the best ensemble of its kind in the world," (Manchester Evening News), the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet make its debut at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Art (The Wallis) with one of the most distinctive artists of his generation, pianist and MacArthur "Genius" Stephen Hough, in a one-night-only performance in the Bram Goldsmith Theater on Saturday, February 10 at 7:30pm. The evening concert includes works by W.A. Mozart, Samuel Barber, Jacques Ibert, Francis Poulenc, and an original work by multitalented Hough.

Single tickets are now available for $45 – $95. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

For more information, visit

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Iceland Comes to Winnipeg - Additions Announced to Winnipeg New Music Festival
The Winnipeg New Music Festival's (WNMF) unique relationship with Iceland – its innovative composers and their uniquely evocative music – has evolved over a number of seasons.  This year is the 100th anniversary of an important milestone in Icelandic history: the Danish Icelandic Act, a pivotal point in Iceland's history and journey to independence. In celebration of that event, the 2018 Festival (running Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2018) presents multiple world premieres by Icelandic composers including a major new work for orchestra and choir by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson on January 31.

Also featured is a premiere choral work by two-time Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner for Best Score Jóhann Jóhannsson (Jan 29), and a Canadian premiere of music by Björk (Jan. 27). The world premiere live music score and film of "Dawson City: Frozen Time" by film director Bill Morrison (The Miners Hymns with Jóhann Jóhannsson) and Sigur Ros producer, collaborator, and composer Alex Somers (of Jonsi and Alex, and Riceboy Sleeps) takes place Feb. 3. In addition, Björk's pianist and collaborator Jonas Sen will be performing his own music (Jan. 25) as well as performing with Philip Glass (Jan. 28, The Complete Piano Etudes), and there will be a sneak preview of a new film by Guy Maddin (Jan. 25).

For complete information, visit

--Shira Gilbert PR

Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (CD review)

Also, Four Early Songs. Ruth Ziesak, soprano; Daniele Gatti, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. RCA 75605 51345 2.

Although by the time he wrote the Fourth Symphony Mahler had begun giving up trying to link descriptive titles to his music, he did leave us two designations for the Fourth, "The world as eternal present" for the first movement and "Friend Death--strike up" for the second. As the first movement begins with sleigh bells, it isn't hard to imagine programmatic content wherein we are journeying toward immortality. The second movement's Death may be seen as a welcoming character leading us to Heaven, the third movement as the final ascent, and the conclusion as our eternal resting place of sweetness and bliss.

Conductor Daniele Gatti continues his Mahler cycle, leading the Royal Philharmonic through the Fourth Symphony's trek with more fervor than one usually associates with this piece. Whether one responds to Maestro Gatti's more idiosyncratic-than-usual treatment of the score may depend on one's view of the symphony as a whole or, simply, what one has gotten used to in the past.

Daniele Gatti
Mahler is a composer of contrasts, to be sure, but in the Fourth the differences are less extreme than in the man's other symphonies. The Fourth is the most idyllic, the most pastoral, the most restful of his nine numbered symphonies. However, that isn't quite how Gatti sees it. Instead of a smooth and freely moving tempo and rubato as adopted by most conductors, Gatti chooses to indulge in a series of starts and stops, never quite adopting a steady pace. There are numerous hesitations, shortenings and elongations, and new tempo changes, devices that may work in the more spectacular of Mahler's symphonies but here tend to impede some of the sweetness of the work's forward progress. Still, Gatti's reading is his own, and for many listeners it may inject new life into an old favorite.

For purposes of comparison I had five other Mahler Fourths on hand at the time of this review: Bernard Haitink, Franz Welser-Most, Otto Klemperer, George Szell, and Sir Colin Davis. I chose Davis for my comparison listening because his was the most recent recording of the bunch and because RCA had recorded him, as they did Gatti. In this comparison, the older conductor came off the more musically mature. Davis is more direct, more velvety smooth in his transitions, and less given to dramatic pauses. The biggest differences I heard were in the third movement where Davis comes into his own, the refined assuredness of his approach adding to the section's general repose. I must admit that in the finale, however, Haitink's soloist in his 1983 recording, Roberta Alexander, sounds the most innocent of all the contenders on hand, more so than Ruth Ziesak in Gatti's ending.

In terms of sound, the Gatti disc is very clear but a bit edgy and needing in warmth. In essence, it lacks much conviction in the upper-bass department. Again by comparison, the Davis recording is darker, less airy or open, but, overall, more realistic. I'd say Gatti's is more the young person's interpretation, more impetuous and impulsive than the others in my collection. The differences are not extreme, in any case, and those who appreciated Gatti's youthful realizations of other Mahler symphonies will find much satisfaction here as well.


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

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 (SACD review)

Also, Barber: Adagio for Strings. Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Reference Recordings Fresh! FR-724SACD.

Many years ago the announcer, author, and music critic Martin Bookspan wrote of the Shostakovich Fifth that it is "... a symphony more than ordinarily pretentious, brooding, mystical, sardonic and sometimes vulgar. In short, it has many of the same virtues and faults one finds in the symphonies of Mahler." I've always agreed with most of that assessment. Even though Shostakovich and Mahler lived in different eras, their approach to symphonic writing was at least similar, the many changing moods of their music probably contributing to both composers' enduring popularity.

After his music fell out of favor with the Soviet government, Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) wrote his Symphony in D minor in 1937 to ingratiate himself with the State. On the surface the piece appears to be traditional, inspirational, and patriotic; but later the composer would deny its patriotic bent, claiming it to be, in effect, satiric. Consequently, there are any number of ways to approach the score, some, like Leonard Bernstein doing it hell-bent-for-leather and others, like Manfred Honeck and his Pittsburgh Symphony, doing it in a more-restrained, orderly manner. Whether you take to Honeck's reading or not, there is no questioning he has an orchestra that responds beautifully to his every demand.

The opening movement, a Moderato-Allegro non troppo, is, as the tempo marking indicates, both gentle and reasonably vigorous. It starts slowly, lyrically, and gradually becomes faster and more agitated, but not too fast, building in momentum, and then ending in relative calm. Well, at least that's the way conductors usually approach it. Honeck, however, takes it at a more leisurely clip throughout, more quietly, building the contrasts more studiously, building the tensions and releases in broader incremental steps. There is more sadness here than anger in Honeck's view.

The second-movement Allegretto is a variation of the first theme of the preceding movement, taken at a speed just a little slower than Allegro. It serves as a scherzo, its tone satiric, mock-heroic. One can hear the influences of Mahler in this music more strongly than in most any other part of the symphony. Again, Honeck takes his time with the score's development, and I found that in his doing so he misses some of the music's more ironic elements.

The slow movement, the Largo, is the actual soul of the symphony, with long, engaging melodies predominating. It's a most-personal expression of the composer's feelings, and it's here that Honeck particularly excels, imparting to the music a heartfelt dignity, a longing, and a mournfulness that are quite affecting.

Manfred Honeck
The finale generally takes up where the first movement ended, with a clear martial or marchlike character. Whether the music is joyous and life-affirming or hectic and cynical is pretty much up to the conductor. Shostakovich seemed to want it both ways: to please the government and to please himself. Anyway, again we hear the Mahler influence (the final movement of Mahler's First Symphony comes to mind), and even though Honeck doesn't attack it with anything like the animation of a Bernstein, he stays in keeping with the rest of the presentation, and it comes off with a cautious expressiveness.

Accompanying the Shostakovich we find the little Adagio for Strings (1936), which the American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981) prepared for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11. It may seem at first glance an odd choice for a coupling, given that the Shostakovich symphony can be so feverish and the Barber so peaceful. However, I suppose that's the point: to juxtapose the two works, both of them written at around the same time yet in contrasting places and circumstances. And no doubt Maestro Honeck wanted especially to play up the similarities between the Barber piece and the sadness of the Shostakovich symphony's Largo. The real question, though, is whether Maestro Honeck does the Adagio justice, and the answer is yes, despite Honeck's penchant for drawing out phrases longer than always necessary and over emphasizing the point.

There are any number of good recordings of the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony one can choose from, among them Maris Jansons and the Vienna Philharmonic (EMI), Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Royal Philharmonic (Decca), Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (Sony), Maxim Shostakovich and the USSR Symphony (RCA), Leopold Stokowski and the Stadium Symphony Orchestra (Everest), Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (Sony/RCA), Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca), Andre Previn and the London Symphony (RCA), Neeme Jarvi and the Scottish National Orchestra (Chandos), and the list goes on. Where does Honeck and his orchestra fit in? Almost anywhere in a crowded field, depending on how you like your Shostakovich played. For me personally, I prefer the energy of Bernstein and Stokowski; the sweep and grandeur of Ormandy; the authority of the composer's son, Maxim Shostakovich; and the simple directness and overall rightness of Haitink, Jansons, Ashkenazy, and Previn. Still, Honeck for his few idiosyncrasies, makes a viable alternative.

Producer Dirk Sobotka and engineer Mark Donahue (of Soundmirror, Boston) recorded the music live at Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA in June (Shostakovich) and October (Barber) 2013. They made it for multichannel SACD playback, two-channel stereo SACD playback, and two-channel regular CD playback. I listened in the two-channel SACD mode.

Despite the music being recorded live, which too often results in a close-up, one-dimensional sound, this one is excellent. It's moderately distanced, with a fine sense of space and place. Dynamics are wide but not overpowering; frequency response is extended, notably at the high end; the depth of image is lifelike; and detailing is realistically defined without being bright or edgy. Thankfully, too, Reference Recordings edited out any hint of applause. It's one of the best-sounding live orchestral discs of the year.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 13, 2018

Announcing The Crypt Sessions, Season 3

Unison Media is excited to announce Season 3 of its acclaimed concert series The Crypt Sessions, featuring intimate classical music and opera performances in the remarkable Crypt chapel underneath the Church of the Intercession in Harlem. The season will begin February 1, 2018, with the Attacca Quartet performing Beethoven's extraordinary String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132.

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

Each Crypt Session will feature a pre-concert reception included in the ticket price, with a tasting of food and wine that is paired to the themes and moods of that evening's music, prepared by Ward 8 Events.

All proceeds from ticket sales of The Crypt Sessions are donated to the Church of the Intercession, where the crypt is located.

Listing Info:
The Crypt Sessions Presents: The Attacca Quartet
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132
February 1, 2018 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM
Tickets: $75, including Wine Tasting & hors d'oeuvres
For complete information, visit

About The Crypt Sessions:
The Crypt Sessions ( is a concert series presented and produced by Unison Media ( and curated by Andrew Ousley, located in the crypt chapel underneath the Church of the Intercession in Harlem, NY. The series features intimate performances by some of the world's top classical music and opera stars, with programs tailored to the crypt's extraordinary atmosphere and remarkable acoustic. A performance by Conrad Tao was chosen as one of The New York Times' Best Classical Music Performances of 2017.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Steven Isserlis in PBO SESSIONS Jewish Songlines
"Jewish Songlines: An Exploration of Music and Heritage"
February 8, 2018 | 8 pm
Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA

Join Nicholas McGegan, renowned cellist Steven Isserlis, and members of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra at the Contemporary Jewish Museum for a 90-minute exploration of Jewish music and heritage. The program will feature music from the 18th to the 20th centuries, including a Bach Prelude arranged by Ignaz (Isaac) Moscheles and Isserlis's own arrangement of Maurice Ravel's Deux mélodies hébraïques and Felix Mendelssohn's "Scherzo" from the Octet for Strings, Op. 20.

Steven Isserlis and Nicholas McGegan will engage in deep discussion about the impact of Jewish composers, illuminated by a multimedia presentation, as well as Steven's own Jewish heritage.

Get tickets now, as space is limited. General admission: $25. Save $5 with discount code: PBO18

Order by Phone Monday - Friday, 9 am - 5 pm - (415) 295-1900, or on-line at

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

92 Street Y February 2018 Concerts
Saturday, February 10, 2018, 8:00 pm
Art of the Guitar
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Jorge Caballero, guitar
(92Y recital debut)

  Friday, February 16, 2018 at 9:00 pm
92Y – Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Christoph Prégardien, tenor
Julius Drake, piano
(92Y recital debut)

Saturday, February 17, 2018, 8:00 pm
Distinguished Artists
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Emmanuel Pahud, flute
Alessio Bax, piano

Tickets are available at or 212-415-5500.

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Lorelei Ensemble
On Friday, February 9, 2018 at 7:30 p.m., Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents the acclaimed all-female vocal group, Lorelei Ensemble in concert at Manhattan's Church of St. Luke in the Fields, NYC.

The program, entitled "Impermanence/Reconstructed," features works from the early-Renaissance through contemporary Eastern, Western and American sounds from across the ages including selected motets by Guillaume Du Fay and Torino Codex; David Lang's i want to live; selections from Scott Ordway's North Woods; Peter Gilbert's Tsukimi; Steve Reich's Know What Is Above You; selections from Joshua Bornfield's Reconstruction; Shawn Kirchner's Rose/Riddle Rainbows; Joshua Shank's Saro; Adam Jacob Simon's Joys Above His Power; and Moira Smiley's Utopia.

Program information:
Friday, February 9, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Church of St. Luke in the Fields | 487 Hudson St. | New York, NY 10014
Lorelei Ensemble "Impermanence/Reconstructed"

Tickets: VIP Preferred Seating - $40.00, General Admission - $25.00

Please visit or email for more information.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

The Wallis Presents World Premiere of Ory Shihor's "Last Thoughts: Schubert's Final Works"
In the last few months of his short life, prolific Austrian composer Franz Schubert wrote some of the most miraculous music ever created. Now, acclaimed Los Angeles-based pianist Ory Shihor presents the story behind Schubert's last compositions in the world premiere of "Last Thoughts: Schubert's Final Works" at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis) on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 7:30pm.

With words by master musical storyteller Hershey Felder, Shihor's program includes the two of three final piano sonatas created by Schubert, who bridged the worlds of Classical and Romantic music in the early nineteenth century.

Single tickets are now available for $25 – $75. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Women's Rights Explored in New Oratorio by Van Nuys High School Students
"Hear Our Voice: A Woman's Journey," a timely new oratorio written by Van Nuys High School students for the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Voices Within Oratorio Project, will be premiered by students and members of the Master Chorale on Friday, February 16 and Saturday, February 17 at the school's auditorium. The Friday performance will be for fellow students. The Saturday performance at 1 PM is presented as a free community concert and is open to the public.

Friday, February 16, 1:00 PM
Van Nuys High School student performance

Saturday, February 17, 1:00 PM
Community performance – free and open to the public

Van Nuys High School Auditorium
6535 Cedros Ave, Van Nuys, CA 914

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Huydts World Premiere on Orion's 25th Season's Third Program
As a special tribute for its 25th anniversary, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, performs a world premiere on the season's third program, "Old Meets New," featuring guest violist Stephen Boe.

Performances take place March 4 at First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church, Geneva, Illinois; March 7 at the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago, Illinois, joined by a Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras quintet; and March 11 at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois.

Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets.

For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, The Orion Ensemble

The Genius of Bach's Passions
American Bach Soloists' interpretation of the St. John Passion
February 23 - 26 2018
Belvedere, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Davis, CA

The two monumental Passion settings that survive from the pen of J.S. Bach (the St. John Passion, BWV 245, and the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244) are universally acknowledged as the pinnacle of perfection in the genre. For some listeners, the musical beauty of these works alone sets them far above all similar compositions. Others are inspired by the unsurpassed dramatic impact Bach's music lends to the already intensely emotional texts of the Evangelists' accounts. Bach's St. John Passion sets not only chapters 18 and 19 from the fourth Gospel, but also contains two interpolations from the Gospel Gccording to St. Matthew, a relatively small number of aria texts, and a series of carefully chosen stanzas from the rich genre of Bach's chorales.

Friday February 23rd 8:00 pm
St. Stephen's Church
3 Bay View Avenue, Belvedere, CA 94920

Saturday February 24th 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church
2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

Sunday February 25th 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church
1111 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Monday February 26th 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church
412 C Street, Davis, CA 95616

For tickets and information, call 800-595-4TIX (-4849) or visit

--American Bach Soloists

The Wallis and the Arturo Sandoval Institute Present the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Weekend
The program features four nights of extraordinary music celebrating both the legendary trumpeter and emerging jazz artists.

Thursday, January 25 through Sunday, January 28, 2018.

The Wallis will be the place for jazz lovers this month when the performing arts center, in conjunction with the Arturo Sandoval Institute, present a special four-night musical celebration curated by the dynamic American jazz legend Arturo Sandoval from Thursday, January 25 through Sunday, January 28.

Sandoval shines a spotlight on his legacy, as well as up-and-coming musicians, in an exciting jazz series featuring a Master Class, sponsored by the Arturo Sandoval Institute; two extraordinary nights of emerging jazz artists, whom Sandoval proudly calls the "Young Lions;" and an unforgettable concert of his own with special guests.

Single tickets are now available for $20 – $75. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

The Chelsea Symphony Performs Lemmon, Saint-Saëns, Colina, and Sibelius
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the Golden Globe-winning Amazon Originals show "Mozart in the Jungle," announces the continuation of its 2017/18 season, entitled "Sea Change," with concerts on January 26 and 27 featuring a World Premiere by Eric Lemmon, Camille Saint-Saëns's Violin Concerto No. 3 featuring violinist Deborah Nixon (1/26 only), the World Premiere of Michael Colina's Isles of Shoals featuring flutist Michelle Stockman (1/27 only), and Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 5.

Friday, January 26th at 8:30 PM
Saturday, January 27th at 7:30 PM
St. Paul's Church, 315 West 22nd Street, NYC
Conducted by Reuben Blundell, and Mark Seto

For complete information, visit

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Opera Gala (CD review)

Alessandra Marc, soprano; Andrew Litton, Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Delos DE 3240.

The program on this 2000 Delos release consists of well over an hour of live music-making from soprano Alessandra Marc and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton. The orchestra by itself performs several Verdi overtures, La forza del destino and Luisa Miller, and Puccini's Preludio sinfonico. Ms. Marc sings arias from Bellini's Norma, "Casta Diva" and "Guerra, guerra"; Donizetti's Anna Bolena, "Al dolce guidami"; Richard Strauss's The Egyptian Helen, "Zweite Brauchtnacht"; Barber's Anthony & Cleopatra, "Give Me My Robe"; and Puccini's Tosca, "Vissi d'arte," and Turandot, "In questa reggia." Ms. Marc has a lovely dark-toned voice that especially complements the several less well-known selections, and the Dallas Symphony Chorus do an outstandingly beautiful job in their brief appearances.

I had only a couple of misgivings about the disc. First, I would have preferred hearing from both a soprano and a tenor and maybe others at a "gala," putting a little more variety into the show. "Gala" suggests a festive event featuring, I would have hoped, more than a single star. Ms. Marc performs a recital. Maybe it's a gala recital.

Alessandra Marc
Second, I have never been fond of live recordings, this one made on the nights of September 17-19, 1998, in the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas. Trying to keep an audience quiet for more than an hour is the first problem, although the coughs and sneezes that customarily accompany these things seem pretty well under control. The applause between each number is another matter. Yes, it helps put the living-room listener into the concert hall to participate in the sense of occasion. Yes, it is also a distraction to anyone who just wants to enjoy the music.

Nor did I care to play the session as loudly as I found necessary to experience Delos's "Virtual Reality." Alas, nothing is perfect. Some recordings sound wonderful at low gain and get raucous, bright, or shrill as they are played louder; this one, though, sounds boring at low levels but comes to life at higher volume. In fairness, it sounded fine played back on my 5.1-channel home-theater system in another room, where the rear speakers handled some of the ambient informaton, and the sound is brighter and leaner to begin with. In any case, close all the doors and windows before listening, unless your neighbors are opera lovers.

So, as I say, played loudly, this album of live opera extracts can sound excitingly alive. Played back at a normal-to-soft level, and it will sound dull and indistinct, fading well back from the speakers, veiled and soft. I'm mentioning this because the first impression some listeners may get is that the disc is too distant and clouded. In fact, it was recording engineer John Eargle's usual way of miking, using Delos's "Virtual Reality" process, a technique that picks up a good deal of side and rear-wall ambiance for the sake of multi-channel, surround-sound playback. Ordinary two-channel reproduction may suffer, however, in that the reflective sounds can overpower the direct sound unless the volume is tweaked up a notch.


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

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique" (CD review)

Teodor Currentzis, MusicAeterna. Sony 88985404352.

You'll forgive me if I keep thinking of the Greek-born conductor, musician, and actor Teodor Currentzis as a new and upcoming young conductor. He was, in fact, in his mid forties (b. 1972) at the time of this writing, he's won numerous awards, conducted even more concerts, and made a dozen recordings. In 2004 he formed the MusicAeterna Orchestra (and later the MusicAeterna Chorus). Although audiences probably best know him for his opera productions, he's no slouch at purely orchestral music, either, where critics have found his direction everywhere from electrifying to terrifying. At the very least, you can say he's enthusiastic, as this recording of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony demonstrates.

Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) wrote his Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathetique" in the last year of his life, and it was his final work before he died. The ensuing century brought it growing fame, and today person can hardly doubt its value as one of the late-Romantic period's most-popular works. The title "Pathetique" in Russian means "passionate" or "emotional," which is how most conductors, like Currentzis, play it--big, bold, and red-blooded. It's just that Maestro Currentzis perhaps takes the "passionate" direction a step further than most.

The work begins with a fairly lengthy introduction, building in agitated fashion before culminating in the music's famous central theme. Currentzis takes this opening with more than adequate agitation; indeed, with more agitation than one normally hears. Then, he goes into the main theme with a delicacy one doesn't often hear, as well. Although the result is a timing for the first movement that differs little from the half dozen comparison recordings I had on hand, it's made up of more variable rubato, more stops and starts, more lengthened and shortened notes and phrases, and definitely more volatile dynamics than I have ever heard before in a performance of this music. There were several moments in the proceedings when the orchestra positively jolted me upright. One can question whether this is purely showmanship on Currentzis's part or whether it suits the mercurial nature of Tchaikovsky's music. There is no doubt it will keep you awake.

Teodor Currentzis
The second-movement is another of the composer's famous waltzes, followed by a zippy third-movement scherzo, and ending in a mournful Finale. Currentzis takes the waltz in headlong fashion, perhaps faster than the usual waltz tempo; yet, like the rest of the performance, it seems perfectly attuned to the idiosyncratic nature of the rest of the reading. The scherzo is as peppy and lively as any you'll hear, but by this point we expect that of Currentzis. The Finale is probably the least controversial part of the recording, with Currentzis calming down and offering a fine, passionately soulful conclusion to the music.

In all, I dunno. If you like your Tchaikovsky expressive and emotional to the nth degree, you'll get that from Currentzis. It's not subtle, not terribly nuanced, not delicate or polished. It's Tchaikovsky unrefined, undiluted. Like the sound I'll mention next, listeners are apt to find the performance immensely satisfying or overwhelmingly unwelcome.

The disc's jewel box comes enclosed in a glossy paper slipcase and a booklet essay by Maestro Currentzis himself. I'm afraid I couldn't get through much of the conductor's prose, which tends to be as flashy as his music making.

Damien Quintard produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered the album at Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, Berlin in February 2015. To put this kindly, think of your seating position as being in the front one or two rows of an auditorium. The orchestra is spread out very wide in front of you, and the instruments are practically in your lap. The effect is not without its commensurate thrills, but it may take a moment to get used to. This is the kind of close miking one usually associates with live recordings; however, nowhere on the packaging does it indicate this is a live recording. So, it's apparently just a close-up studio performance. It certainly gives clarity, life, and dynamism to the sound, although there isn't a lot of orchestral depth to give us a feeling of reality; nor is there much hall resonance; and there are some odd, audible effects in the final movement. The dynamic range and sonic impact may for some listeners compensate for the recording's eccentricities, though, and provide more excitement than they've ever heard before in this symphony. Like Currentzis's interpretation of the music itself, the sound may either delight or infuriate you.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 6, 2018

American Classical Orchestra Performs Six Baroque Concerti with Violinist Stephanie Chase

On Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 8pm, American Classical Orchestra, "the nation's premier orchestra dedicated to period instrument performance" (Vulture), celebrates the virtuosic violin concerti of great Baroque masters at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. The program features acclaimed violinist and expert period instrumentalist, Stephanie Chase, in six concerti: Handel's Concerto Grosso in B-flat Major, Opus 6, No. 7; J.S. Bach's Concerto for Violin in A Minor, BWV 1041; Muffat's Concerto Grosso in G Major, 'Perseverantia'; Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043 with Orchestra of St. Luke's concertmaster violinist Krista Bennion Feeney; Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048; and Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins in B Minor, RV 580 with violinists Krista Bennion Feeney, Theresa Salomon, and Karen Dekker.

This season, American Classical Orchestra has instituted an innovative Concert Preview program that will bring listeners closer to the music. Before conducting the program, Maestro Crawford delivers an introduction, with the full orchestra on-stage performing 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.

The final concert of ACO's 2017-18 season includes a program of works by Brahms, Schubert, and Ries with contralto Avery Amereau and the ACO Men's Chorus on March 24.

Program information:
Thursday, February 8, 2018 at 8:00pm (7:30pm Concert Preview)
Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, 1941 Broadway, New York, NY
American Classical Orchestra

Tickets start at $35. To purchase, please call 212.721.6500 or visit Visit for more information.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

American Opera Projects: New Operas for the New Year
With your help, American Opera Projects (AOP) develops up to twenty new operas at a time, taking operas from concept to workshops and into final productions at leading venues and opera companies across 40 cities. In the 2016/17 season alone, AOP had 80 performances for 38,000 people, many of them seeing an opera for the first time. Here's what's coming in the new year:

AOP-developed operas with 5 full productions in 2018:
The Echo Drift by composer Mikael Karlsson and librettists Elle Kunnos de Voss and Kathryn Walat on solitary confinement, at New York City's PROTOTYPE Festival January 10 - 20, 2018.

Six. Twenty. Outrageous. by composer Daniel Davis based on texts by Gertrude Stein at New York City's Symphony Space, February 9-11, 2018 (and ask about our private party February 11).

Ashes & Snow by composer Douglas J. Cuomo at Pittsburgh Opera, February 17 - 25, 2018 and fall 2018 in New York City.

The Summer King on Negro League star, Josh Gibson, by composer Daniel Sonenberg, co-librettist Daniel Nester, and additional lyrics by Mark Campbell. At Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit from May 12 -19, 2018, following a successful world premiere at Pittsburgh Opera in spring 2017.

As One by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed. As One will be at Hawaii Opera Theatre, January 11-16; Lyric Opera Kansas City, January 27-28; and Anchorage Opera February 9-11; and more venues through 2018, making it one of the most performed contemporary operas in the US.

For details, see

AOP's training for emerging artists is growing:
AOP's Composers & the Voice just started a new two-year season to train young composers and librettists - primarily women - in all aspects of operatic writing. AOP also provides and is expanding training programs for college students.

More pop-up operas, now every month:
AOP partners with several community groups  providing 20 free outdoor performances to the general public across New York's five boroughs.

We appreciate your support in the coming year for American Opera Projects and for contemporary opera.

For more information, visit

--Charles Jarden, General Director, AOP

Trio Settecento Makes Nichols Hall Debut Feb. 18
The Music Institute of Chicago presents Trio Settecento—comprising Rachel Barton Pine, John Mark Rozendaal, and David Schrader—Sunday, February 18 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

For the program "Five at Twenty," Trio Settecento celebrates 20 years of making music with an evening of sonatas drawn from Arcangelo Corelli's Opus V of 1700, one of the most beloved publications in the history of music. This set of violin solos, comprising six "church sonatas" (containing fugues) and six "chamber sonatas" (mostly dances), offered compelling new conceptions of what both the violin and the sonata could achieve, a feat that has impacted the practice of instrumental music to the present day.

Trio Settecento—Rachel Barton Pine, baroque violin, viola d'amore, as well as a Music Institute alumna and Life Trustee; John Mark Rozendaal, viola da gamba, baroque cello; and David Schrader, harpsichord, positiv organ—formed in 1996 to perform 17th and 18th century chamber music from Italy, Germany, France, and England, using antique instruments of rare beauty and expressive power.

Trio Settecento performs Sunday, February 18 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, IL. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students, available at or 847.905.1500 ext. 108.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Grammy Nominee Steven Isserlis Plays with PBO
Grammy-nominated cellist Steven Isserlis joins the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for February Concerts in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Palo Alto, CA.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale's planets have aligned to bring star violoncellist Steven Isserlis back to perform Haydn's Concerto for Violoncello No. 2 in D major, fresh off his 2018 Grammy-nominated album, in a program featuring Haydn, Mozart and composer-come-astronomer Sir William Herschel called "Harmonic Convergence."

In addition to a 2017 Grammy nomination for his recording of cello concertos by Haydn and CPE Bach with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Isserlis's recording was named "Limelight" Magazine's Orchestral Recording of the Year for 2017.

In an interview with Australia's "Limelight" Magazine, Isserlis says, "The D Major is much more operatic. When I checked it out I was not surprised that it was from the year he [Haydn] wrote his last opera. It's very much about melodies, but it's also a dramatic thing. It's so like a love song."

Considered one of the most important cellists of his generation, Isserlis brings extraordinary verve and a deep complexity to his playing. This marks Isserlis' fourth appearance with Philharmonia. In addition to the Orchestra's subscription concerts, Isserlis will also appear with Nicholas McGegan, scholar Francesco Spagnolo and the orchestra in "Jewish Songlines" as part of PBO SESSIONS, the organization's alternative concert series. This program will take place at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on February 8 at 8 pm.

PBO SESSIONS tickets are $25 and available only through PBO Patron Services which can be reached at 415-295-1900 or

When and where:
Wednesday February 7, 7:30 pm
First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Friday February 9, 8 pm
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Saturday February 10, 8 pm
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday February 11, 4 pm
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Tickets range from $28 to $125. For more information about these and other Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale concerts, visit For tickets, call 415-392-4400 or visit

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Nashville Symphony Bringing Violins of Hope to Nashville in 2018
The Nashville Symphony is leading a landmark community-wide partnership to bring the Violins of Hope to Nashville in one of the most wide-ranging and comprehensive collections of events ever compiled around this rare collection of restored instruments played by Jewish musicians during The Holocaust.

Kicking off February 9-11, 2018, with Nashville Ballet's performances of Light: The Holocaust and Humanity Project, two dozen organizations – including the Nashville Symphony, Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Nashville Public Library, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, the Tennessee Holocaust Commission and multiple houses of worship – will take part in this collaborative effort by presenting performances, lectures, exhibits and other events, highlighted by a free public exhibition at the Nashville Public Library running March 26-May 27, 2018. The sound, presence and stories of these instruments will drive the creation of public conversation, interfaith dialogue and educational activities throughout Middle Tennessee.

"Each of these instruments has a remarkable story to tell about resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable difficulty," says Alan D. Valentine, Nashville Symphony President and CEO. "This singular collection will serve as a springboard for many of Nashville's cultural organizations to explore the vital role that music, the arts and creativity play in all of our lives."

More information, including a complete schedule of events and photos and histories of the violins, is available at

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Lucas Meachem Announces His 2017-2018 Season
Following his Grammy win for "Best Opera Recording" as Figaro in Los Angeles Opera's production of The Ghosts of Versailles, baritone Lucas Meachem hits the ground running in 2018, performing lead roles at top opera houses around the world.

Meachem opened his 2017-2018 season with a return to the Metropolitan Opera for one of his signature roles as Marcello in Franco Zeffirelli's acclaimed production of La bohème. Meachem's talent for making audiences laugh will be featured in his most iconic role of Figaro in The Barber of Seville, as he brings his bel canto expertise to the Houston Grand Opera for a much anticipated house debut.

Following that, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera for a second run of La bohème, which will be simulcast in movie theaters across the globe for the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD broadcasts. Meachem then turns his attention to tackling his 50th operatic role as Athanaël in Thaïs with the Minnesota Opera.

From pious monk to the world's most iconic womanizer, Meachem will return to the Dresden Semperoper to reprise the title role in Andreas Kriegenburg's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. He will then finish out his season with a series of concerts in Prague, Montréal, Napa Valley, Salzburg, and Grafenegg.

For full 2017-2018 season information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Aspect Foundation Presents Taneyev & Arensky
The ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts presents "Taneyev and Arensky: In Tchaikovsky's Shadow" on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at Bohemian National Hall, part of the foundation's second New York City season of illuminating performances featuring many of the most prominent performers and musical scholars of today.

"Taneyev and Arensky: In Tchaikovsky's Shadow," conceived by violinist Philippe Quint, shines a spotlight on Sergei Taneyev's Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 30 and Anton Arensky's String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, performed by Quint together with violinist Ji in Yang, pianist Alexander Kobrin, violist Milena Pajaro van de Stadt, and cellists Zlatomir Fung and Brook Speltz.

Journalist Damian Fowler will interview Quint in an illustrated talk interspersed throughout the program, bringing to life the music of these two composers who lived under the shadow of Tchaikovsky's greatness through historical artifacts, scores, paintings, and photographs. Anton Arensky's Quartet was composed in memory of Tchaikovsky for an ensemble of single violin, viola and two cellos, and Tchaikovsky's pupil Sergei Taneyev is often called the "Russian Brahms."

Additional concerts in ASPECT Foundations' 2017-18 season include "The Art of Fugue" on Thursday, April 12, 2018, featuring the Fretwork Ensemble and an illustrated talk by Richard Boothby; "Weimar: The Cradle of Musical Talent" on Thursday, April 19 featuring pianist Vsevolod Dvorkin and cellist Sergey Antonov, with an illustrated talk by Stephen Johnson; and "Fête Galante: The Anatomy of Melancholy" on Thursday, May 17 featuring the Four Nations Ensemble and soprano Sherezade Panthaki, with an illustrated talk by Tav Holmes.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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

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

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, Goldpoint SA4 “passive preamp,” Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura’s hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa