Mozert: Sinfonia Estrema per Una Nota (Betamax review)

Lft. Sir Cedric Noel Vivian Barnstable III (KCB, KCBS, KGB, CGI, DoD, WSJ), the Katzenjammer Baroquen Orchestra; North Corvina Girls' Drum and Bungee Corps; Norman Labernacle Choir; Bill Gates Singers; with the Emerson, Lake & Palmer Quartet. Odyssey Records HAL2001.

Australian composer, trapdoor salesman, and origamist Myles P. Galleon Mozert (1739-1862) was another in the long line of musical prodigies produced by the Mozert family this past quarter century. Although the public probably recognizes him best as the owner of a trapdoor company and an origami shop, he turned to music when the trapdoor business fell through and the origami business folded. All the better for the musical community, then, when he wrote his Sinfonia Estrema per Una Nota in B-flat C-minor Major, here performed by Lft. Sir Cedric Noel Vivian Barnstable III and his accomplished East Corvina Boys' Drum and Bungee Corps.

Mozert wrote the Sinfonia in November 1732, just three days short of his death in December 1659, and the work has remained among his most-popular compositions ever since. Critics who argue that it was his only composition are clearly missing the point.

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As most readers know, Mozert wrote the Sinfonia in thirty-seven contiguous movements rather than the customary two, the work consisting of a single, sustained tone lasting approximately two and a half hours, with no breaks between notes. What's more, the composer left explicit written instructions for the ensemble to omit any suggestion of contrast, inflection, rubato, legato, brio, sostenuto, spirito, bicarbonato, carborundum, initiative, or referendum of any kind. The results can be intensely exhilarating or unbearably emulsifying by turns, and a performance requires the utmost care in its execution, stand, and delivery.

With consummate facility, the band's concertmaster, Major Domo, opens the piece with the work's signature introduction on the Campanelli Metallophone Glockenspiel, Model 17, 9mm, followed by a diverssimentino of gradually diminishing extrapolation. The effect in toto (we're not in Kansas anymore) is exfoliating, to say the least.

Associate Executive Unit Producer Yelberton Abraham Tittle, Jr. and Second Assistant Co-Coordinating Sound Engineering Director Joseph Clifford Montana, Jr. recorded the symphony at the Hoover-Electrolux Junior Studios, South Corvina, California in January 2014. They used advanced Toshiba Betamax technology for maximum fidelity, transferring the recording to Crypton 42 carbon-fiber tape for standard home playback.

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Now, back to our show.]

The sound obtained by the Odyssey Records junior engineering team can charitably called fluxinary. That is, it appears in continual transition from chocolatey vanilla to obtuse molasses, with hints of cherry blossoms and wild mint in the outermost ridges. Within this framework of estranged epiphanies, one can perceive the delicate fragrances of olive oil, paprika, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, especially when the timpani corps join in. Altogether, it makes for an extraordinary listening experience as well as a bewildering culinary encounter.

JJP

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


Bax: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Also, November Woods. David Lloyd-Jones, Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Naxos 8.554093.

It's always surprised me that the music of English composer Sir Arnold Bax (1883–1953) has never been more recorded. The material is certainly right for the high-fidelity medium. Take his Symphony No. 2 in E minor and C major (1926), for instance. Bax worked on it for two years, scoring it for a very large orchestra, featuring a wide variety of instrumental colors, with big, dramatic contrasts throughout its length. The first of three movements opens on an almost sinister note, builds through a huge, jagged crescendo, settles into a soft, somewhat melancholy mood, and then returns in the finale to the craggy heights of its beginnings, ending where it began in a gentle yet sinister mood. Such rugged individualism was something new for an English composer of the early twentieth century, yet Bax set all of it clearly within a late-Romantic framework.

Audiences apparently loved Bax's Second Symphony for a time, until his style went out of vogue in the mid century. But it isn't so much the symphony here that counts, anyway, as it is his tone poem "November Woods," one of the best things he ever wrote (along with another of his tone poems, "Tintagel"). "November Woods" is even more evocative than the Second Symphony, a kind of miniature adventure in the woods on the proverbial dark and stormy night. 

David Lloyd-Jones
Maestro David Lloyd-Jones brings off both works successfully, especially the symphony, but unfortunately for him he has to compete in the tone poem with Sir Adrian Boult. Boult's "November Woods" on Lyrita is without peer; indeed, it is one of my ten favorite recordings of all time, capturing the spirit of the forest at night with inimitable persuasion. Lloyd-Jones makes the woods dark and menacing. Boult makes them magical, as well.

Besides which Boult's late-Sixties Lyrita sound is superior to the Naxos digital effort. This is not to downgrade the Naxos sound, mind you, which is fine in its own right; but the Lyrita recording has greater transparency, more dynamic range, a wider stereo spread, and, most important, a better presentation of front-to-back imaging, or depth. One has to pay through the nose for the Lyrita reissue, however, about five times the price of the Naxos disc. And therein may lie difference.

You actually can't go wrong with this Naxos release; the performances are first-rate, the sound is OK, and the price is right. It's just my bias showing for the older Lyrita favorite in the tone poem. 

JJP

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


Mozart: Piano Concertos 25 & 27 (CD review)

Piotr Anderszewski, Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Warner Classics 0190295724221.

This Mozart album marks the third or fourth time I've reviewed something from Polish pianist and composer Piotr Anderszewski (b. 1969). As with the previous performances I've heard from him, the pianist appears technically brilliant, stylistically accomplished, and interpretively subdued. In other words, while he's pleasant enough to listen to, there may not be a lot that's particularly compelling enough about his interpretations to make listeners who already have favorites in the material turn to Anderszewski for anything new or different.

Anyway, Anderszewski begins the program with the Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, which Mozart wrote in 1786. Interestingly, in Mozart's lifetime it was not among his most-admired works and only gained prominence after his death. Today, music critics and audiences alike consider it one of his finest, most-mature works. Because of its symphonic overtones, the concerto is sometimes compared to the composer's "Jupiter" symphony, and one can see the resemblance in the concerto's long orchestral introduction alone.

When the piano enters, we hear immediately Anderszewski's bravura playing--articulate, smooth, flowing, and seemingly effortless. What we don't hear, however, is much explicative variation from the ordinary. The soloist is sensitive when necessary and exclamatory when needed, but not much more.  In other words, the performance is hard to fault on any technical grounds. Anderszewski provides everything Mozart intended except, perhaps, for heart. While it is not exactly a cold approach to the score, it is not one that a listener can easily fall in love with, either.

Piotr Anderszewski
I enjoyed the Andante a little more than the opening, and the pianist does inject a healthy dose of poetic sentiment into it. Again, though, there isn't much variety in the movement's conflicting moods, leaving the whole a little flat. Finally, we get to that festive frolic of an ending, which the pianist handles with characteristic frankness, if not exactly flair. It's all very proper and aboveboard.

Anderszewski follows No. 25 with Mozart's final piano concerto, No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595, which premiered in the year of Mozart's death, 1791, but which Mozart may have written as early as 1788. The work is more strongly linked by internal themes than most of Mozart's other concertos, and it is more thinly scored, helping it to stand out among his many piano works. As with No. 25, No. 27 begins with a lengthy orchestral introduction.

No. 27 is a somewhat more tranquil work than No. 25, and Anderszewski handles it in an even more-moderate fashion than before. As always, his playing is precise, fluent, and fluid, and it's a bit more involving. Maybe it doesn't convey all the longing and despondency of some other renditions, but it does at least give us a glimpse into Mozart's troubled mind at the time of its composition. This is especially true of the mournful Larghetto. With Anderszewski, the movement is sweet without being cloying, a case in which the pianist's straightforwardness is an asset. In the final movement, Mozart alternates and blends a subdued joy and a hushed sadness, a combination that slightly eludes Anderszewski. Nevertheless, with such refined, if low-key, expression, his goals never appear in doubt.

So, as I said earlier, Anderszewski's performances are technically flawless but not exactly inspiring. If one already has a favored Mozart interpreter--say, Stephen Kovacevich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Clifford Curzon, Evgeny Kissin, or a host of others--there is probably little reason to acquire additional albums by Anderszewski. If, however, one is a fan of Anderszewski's moderately reserved approach to music making, the present performances will doubtless please one.

Producers Andrzej Sasin, Aleksandra Nagorka, and Alain Lanceron and engineers Rainer Maillard and Douglas Ward recorded the album in the Festpeilhaus, Baden Baden, Germany in July 2017. The sound they obtained is clear and clean, if a tad bright and forward. The piano is nicely integrated with the orchestra, well defined, yet not too close. Because of the relatively small, chamber-sized orchestra, we get a fairly dynamic and transparent overall sound, which should satisfy most discerning listeners.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, March 24, 2018

Bach Week Festival for 2018

The Bach Week Festival has announced its 45th annual program of concerts in Evanston, Illinois, April 27 and 29 and Chicago, IL May 4, featuring new twists on presenting music by the event's namesake, German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

"Each season, we go 'Bach' to the drawing board to keep the festival fresh while remaining true to our mission," says Richard Webster, Bach Week's long-time music director and conductor. Webster performed in and helped organize Evanston's inaugural Bach Week in 1974 and has been music director since 1975.

The 45th annual concert series will feature the world premiere of Marcos Balter's new Bach-inspired work for solo cello, pianist Sergei Babayan in a Bach concerto and solo works, and the festival's first performance of Bach's Cantata 191.

Single-admission tickets to each of the three main concerts are $30 for adults, $20 seniors, $10 students. Subscriptions to the main concerts are $80 for adults, $50 for seniors, and $20 for students. All tickets for the April 27 Candlelight Concert are $20. Tickets can be purchased online at bachweek.org or by phone, (800) 838-3006. For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email info@bachweek.org.

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

--Nathan J. Silverman Company

West Edge Opera Announces 2018 Summer Festival
West Edge Opera announces its 2018 summer festival venue, casting and program, which includes Debussy's Pélleas and Mélisande, Luca Francesconi's Quartett, and Matt Marks's Mata Hari. The artists include soprano Heather Buck, baritones Hadleigh Adams and Efrain Solis, actress Tina Mitchell, directors Elkhanah Pulitzer, Keturah Stickan and Paul Peers, conductors John Kennedy, Jonathan Khuner and Emily Senturia.

The West Edge Festival 2018 opens August 4 and closes August 19. This year's venue is The Craneway Conference Center, a former Ford assembly plant on the Richmond, CA waterfront. Series tickets go on sale April 1 with a significant reduction in the price of general admission tickets. Single tickets go on sale June 1.

For complete information, call 510-841-1903 or visit WestEdgeOpera.org

--Adam Flowers, West Edge Opera

Vienna Philharmonic and IDAGIO Announce Partnership
The Vienna Philharmonic and classical music streaming service IDAGIO announce an important new partnership today.

Classical music lovers can now audio-stream live recordings of the Vienna Philharmonic's famous subscription concerts at the Vienna Musikverein on IDAGIO. First in this series of exclusive recordings to be made available on the streaming service features Christian Thielemann conducting the farewell concert of Dieter Flury, the orchestra's principal flute from 1981 to 2017. The programme includes Brahms's Fourth Symphony and Jörg Widmann's "Flûte en suite".

The partnership also encompasses joint marketing activities, including a series of short films, "Up Close," in which members of the Vienna Philharmonic answer one simple questions: "Which recording should we listen to and why?" You can watch the first in this revealing series of exclusive videos here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6Plmx2hmQg

--Elias Wuermeling, IDAGIO PR

MasterVoices Presents New Production of Orphic Moments at JALC Rose Theater
MasterVoices--dedicated to celebrating the power of the human voice through the art of musical storytelling--presents two performances of a new production of Orphic Moments, in conjunction with producers Anthony Roth Costanzo and Cath Brittan.

The performances are Sunday, May 6, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. and Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, NYC. The inventive and contemporary pairing, which premiered at National Sawdust in 2016 to great acclaim, combines trailblazing composer and librettist Matthew Aucoin's dramatic cantata, The Orphic Moment, with Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, in a large-scale new version re-conceived for MasterVoices.

The production probes Orpheus's psychology, and his fatal decision to turn back. The traditional myth is viewed through the lens of artistic ego and hubris in moral choice. The production is conducted by Ted Sperling, directed by Zack Winokur, and has scenic design by Douglas Fitch. It features countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, sopranos Kiera Duffy and Lauren Snouffer, dancer Bobbi Jene Smith, violinist Keir GoGwilt, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and the MasterVoices Chorus.

Sunday, May 6 at 8:30 p.m.
Monday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10023

Tickets can be purchased at www.jazz.org, by calling CenterCharge (212-721-6500) or by visiting the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office, within the Time Warner Center, at Broadway at 60th Street, Ground Floor Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 12pm-6pm.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

ROCO Announces its 2018-19 Season
ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) is excited to announce its 2018-19 season, entitled "Games People Play." The rollicking musical rumpus will include seven world premiere commissions – bringing the organization's total to an impressive 76 – and will reinforce ROCO's commitment to diversity by featuring a female composer, conductor, or soloist on every concert.

The In Concert performances feature pieces running the game-related gamut from a chess match between piano and orchestra, to a sonic simulacrum of solitaire, to an orchestral depiction of a Turkish wrestler. The delightfully unorthodox, musician-led Unchambered series continues to offer a new vision of how chamber music can uniquely connect performers and audiences – including a new piece entitled "Mind Games," where the audience votes with their phones during the performance and influences the direction of the piece.

The Connections series continues to take the music out of the concert hall and into new and unusual places, including a vintage game night at Rienzi, a larger-than-life version of musical chairs at The Heritage Society, and a performance of Peter and the Wolf at the Houston Zoo that swaps 'wolf' for 'bear' in celebration of the zoo's new ursine exhibit.

For more information go to www.ROCO.org

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

PBO Closes Season with a Beethovenian Bang
Waverley Fund Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale are soon to cap off another season of historically informed performances with a powerful Beethoven program that includes the composer's monumental Mass in C major, Op. 86 and Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy" in concerts throughout the San Francisco Bay Area April 25-29.

The 2017/18 season finale entitled "Beethoven Unleashed" is inspired by Beethoven's epic Akademie concert of 1808, during which he premiered the Mass in C and "Choral Fantasy." PBO will also include Cherubini's poignant tribute to Haydn, "Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn."

For complete information, visit philharmonia.org

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque

Coming up in France à Cordes...
The 14th-century relocation of the papacy from Rome to Avignon provided ripe opportunity for both shock and satire. The Roman de Fauvel, an allegorical verse about an orange-hued donkey who becomes king, and whose marriage to Fortune results in the antichrist, is probably the best known work to come out of the tumult.

Basel-based virtuosa Corina Marti performs exquisite musical selections by Philippe de Vitry and others, Ars Nova tales that tell of calamity that ensues when a state loses its way and an ass takes the throne.

Sunday, April 8 at 4:00pm
L'Église Française du Saint Esprit
111 East 60th Street, NYC

Corina Marti, clavisymbalum, double flutes, and recorders

For more information and tickets, visit https://www.showclix.com/event/Fauvel

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

San Francisco Girls Chorus Concludes Season with Jacobsen World Premiere
The San Francisco Girls Chorus and Artistic Director Designate Valérie Sainte-Agathe conclude the 2017-18 subscription season on Sunday, April 22, at 4 p.m. at the Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, in a program in collaboration with composer and violinist Colin Jacobsen.

Featuring the world premiere of Jacobsen's Vocalissimus, the program celebrates Lisa Bielawa's final concert as SFGC's Artistic Director with a musical amalgam of projects and partnerships created during her five seasons with the chorus. Selections from the ensemble's newly released album Final Answer are featured, including Opening: Forest from Bielawa's TV opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser, Final Answer by Theo Bleckmann, Herring Run by Carla Kihlstedt, and Bubbles by Aleksandra Vrebalov. Also featured on the program are three hymns from The Crucible by Philip Glass and Septuor by French composer André Caplet.

For more information, visit http://www.sfgirlschorus.org

--Brenden Guy PR

ASPECT Foundation Presents "Weimar, The Cradle of Musical Talent"
The ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts presents Weimar: The Cradle of Musical Talent on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at The Italian Academy at Columbia University, NYC, 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.

The evening features celebrated pianist Vsevolod Dvorkin and 2007 International Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medalist, cellist Sergey Antonon, in Bach's Cello Suite No.1 in G Major, Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, and Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor, paired with an illustrated talk by veteran BBC radio host and musicologist Stephen Johnson. Johnson will delve into the city of Weimar's significance during the twentieth century as a beacon of culture. This includes Bach's tenure as Weimar's court organist; twelve-year-old Mendelssohn's visit to the city, effectively making an impression on the writer Goethe; and Liszt's 1842 appointment as court composer. Alongside performances of some of these three composers finest instrumental works, this concert examines the Golden Age of a city that became a place of refuge during troubled times.

"Weimar: The Cradle of Musical Talent"
Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7:30pm
The Italian Academy at Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC
Tickets: $45 includes wine and refreshments
Link: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3065677

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

The Emerson String Quartet and Pianist Evgeny Kissin's First U.S. Tour
For the first time, Evgeny Kissin joins the Emerson String Quartet in chamber music for three performances in the U.S. at Chicago's Symphony Hall (April 15), Boston's Jordan Hall (April 22) and  New York's Carnegie Hall (April 27), following a European tour in Baden Baden, Paris, Munich, Essen, Vienna, Amsterdam. The program features Piano Quartets by Mozart and Fauré, and Dvorák's Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81, a central masterwork of Romantic-era chamber music.

The Emerson Quartet & Evgeny Kissin talk about their first-time collaboration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7jM2ZcSDPo

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Graupner: Two Overtures, G14 and D5 (CD review)

Also, Cantata for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. Barbara Schlick, soprano; Hein Meens, tenor; Hermann Max, Das Kleine Konzert. CPO 999 592-2.

This is the kind of disc that would probably go by unnoticed by most classical record shoppers unless they had heard about it somewhere. Now you've heard about it. Johann Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) was a German Baroque composer with over 1,500 published works to his credit, yet hardly anyone recognizes his name anymore. He worked as Kapellmeister at the Hesse court in Darmstadt for almost fifty years, composing both secular and religious music, and he might have gotten the music director's post in Leipzig that went to J.S Bach instead had Graupner's patron allowed him leave.

Graupner was, in fact, one of the leading composers of his day, but his name and works fell into obscurity. According to what I've read, this obscurity is unfair: his heirs fought legal battles over his manuscripts, and he had very few pupils to carry on his work. So it's good that a label like CPO and artists like soprano Barbara Schlick,  tenor Hein Meens, conductor Hermann Max, and Das Kleine Konzert to honor him on occasion and keep his name alive.

Hermann Max
Appropriately, the disc offers two overtures (suites) with a cantata between them as representative of his output. There is nothing remarkable about any of the pieces that might describe him as a genius, but each work is highly likable and approachable. More important, Maestro Max and the small Das Kleine Konzert ensemble play each work with spirit and dignity, never overreaching their limits in headlong displays of period-instrument frenzy.

Executive producer Barbara Schwendowius and engineer Dietrich Wohlfromm recorded the overtures in 1996 and Ms. Schwendowius and engineer Hans Vieren recorded the cantata in 1983. They captured the results in wonderfully revealing and realistic sound, even though the overtures and the cantata were recorded some thirteen years apart. For a few listeners there may be too much sense of "space," too much ambient reflection in the setting, but it is a flattering acoustic that puts the group firmly in the stage picture and the listener firmly in the audience.

Graupner was an important composer, though now largely unknown; the performances are animated yet wholly earnest; the sound is natural and lifelike. It is a lovely album.

JJP

To listen to several brief excerpts from this album, click below:


Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Piano Sonata No. 1. Norman Krieger, piano; Philip Ryan Mann, London Symphony Orchestra. Decca DD41142 / 481 4871.

German composer Johannes Brahms (1833–97) wrote two piano concertos, the first one (1858) all rugged and craggy, and the second one over twenty years later (1881) more lyrical and poetic. As American pianist (and professor of music) Norman Krieger had already recorded an excellent version of the First Concerto, it came as no surprise that he would record the Second. And with the help of Maestro Philip Ryan Mann (Music Director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) leading the London Symphony, Krieger does a splendid job with it.

Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83 became an immediate success from the very beginning, with the composer himself as the soloist, and he went on to perform the work all over Europe. Brahms wrote the piece in four movements rather than the traditional three, so it's a little longer than most concertos (I've read that Brahms included the extra movement, a scherzo, because he thought the opening movement sounded too plain and simple.) Still, he filled the work with so many memorable melodies and Krieger plays the whole thing so lovingly, the time flies by.

Krieger's playing is characterized not only by its technical virtuosity but by its clarity of expression. He exposes every note to the listener with extreme care, the pianism precisely executed. Yet he manages to maintain the poetry and lyricism of Brahms in the process. Certainly, Brahms didn't make it easy on the performer, though, and the concerto contains numerous difficult passages, which Krieger flies through with ease. His tone is big and robust, filled with energy and emotion, yet compassionate and yielding at the same time, qualities demanded of the Brahms.

Norman Krieger
After the relative calm of the first movement, Krieger plays the second-movement with the drama and passion it needs, yet without bombast, pretentiousness, or padding. Again, for Krieger, clarity dominates, although it is of the fervent kind. In the third movement, Krieger is careful not to upstage the lovely cello duet, and it comes off with a charming grace. Then, while the finale may not exhibit as much sheer joy and abandon as some other interpretations, it is exuberant and filled with an effortless good cheer.

Would I recommend Krieger's recording over some of my personal favorites from Stephen Kovacevich (Newton Classics), Emil Giles (DG), Maurizio Pollini (DG), or Sviatoslav Richter SO (RCA)? Probably not. As good as Krieger's version is, listeners may find it a tad too matter-of-fact compared to the others. Nonetheless, Krieger demonstrates much of the same combination of gusto and lyricism as the pianists mentioned and can walk in their company.

Accompanying the concerto, Krieger includes the Brahms Piano Sonata No. 1 in C, Op. 1 (1853), his first published work. Actually, he wrote his Second Sonata before it but wanted this one to be his first published because he liked it more. The opening Allegro is a kind of homage to Beethoven; the second movement is a theme and variations inspired by a song, which he would later rewrite for female chorus; the third movement is a scherzo; and the finale is a rondo, the theme recurring with noticeable changes. Krieger's reading is as skilled and heartfelt as any I've heard, so no complaints here.

Producer Richard Fine and engineer Wolf-Dieter Karwatky recorded the concerto at Abbey Road, Studio 1, London in September 2014 and the sonata at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin in August 2015. The London Symphony recording at Abbey Road: Who'da thunk? It must be like a second home for them.

Anyway, it's a fine-sounding recording. The sonics are round, warm, and natural, detailed but not at the expense of being hard or bright. The piano is a bit too close for my taste, but it's not right on top of the listener. The hall acoustics are moderately reflective, making the sound more realistic than analytical. Dynamics are acceptably wide and strong, but not grossly so; and the frequency response seems at least adequately extended. It makes for a pleasurable, easy-listening experience.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, March 17, 2018

Subscription Tix Available Now! 48th Anniversary Season: "Music Without Borders"

Festival Mosaic
"Music Without Borders"
July 17-29, 2018, San Luis Obispo Country, CA
48th Anniversary Season | Scott Yoo, Music Director

Music is the universal language. It can break down the barriers that exist between cultures, people, and even time periods. Composers throughout the ages have operated independently of borders - beginning with the composers of the baroque and classical period performing on tours of the royal courts of Europe. The composers and musicians featured in this summer's festival tackle questions of national identity, inclusion, and equity. How does music transcend borders like genre, national identity, gender, and technological divides? Join us this summer to explore these timely questions in fun, festive and intimate performances in beautiful venues on the Central California Coast.

For full information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/summer-brochure-900e

--Bettina Swigger, Festival Mozaic

Salon/Sanctuary Presents France à Cordes
It is telling that à cordes, which refers to a strung instrument, so closely resembles accord, which means agreement, harmony, concordance, and peace.

France à Cordes explores 500 years of political echoes in French music. From the biting social satire of the medieval Roman de Fauvel to the bourgeois triumph of the Guitare Napolonienne, from the Athenian nostalgia of La Rhétorique des Dieux to the absolutist splendor of Mazzarin's Italian imports, France has long provided fertile ground for musical statecraft.

Five concerts and four venues bring together an international roster of artists and scholars, joined by a city-wide consortium of partnering institutions, including La Maison Française of NYU, NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Church of St. Jean Baptiste, NYC, L'Église Française du Saint Esprit, NYC, and Princeton University Press.

April 8, 12, 17, 26, 28
Ticket prices: $20/$35/$50/$100

For complete information and tickets, call 1 888 718 4253 or visit http://www.salonsanctuary.org

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Emerson String Quartet Revisits Bolcom's Piano Quintet No. 1
Emerson String Quartet, returns to Stony Brook University's Staller Center for the Arts, New York, on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 8:00 PM with a program that spans three centuries, featuring  masterworks by Purcell , Beethoven, and Bolcom.

Fun fact: In 2001, violinist Isaac Stern, along with members of the Emerson Quartet (Philip Setzer, violin, Lawrence Dutton, viola, David Finckel, cello) and pianist Jonathan Biss, premiered Bolcom's Piano Quintet No. 1 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of his 80th birthday celebration.  For this upcoming concert, the Emerson Quartet will be joined by pianist Christina Dahl (Associate Professor for Piano, Chamber music and Piano Pedagogy at Stony Brook University) to revisit this brilliant work.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 8:00 pm
Recital Hall, Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook, NY

Emerson String Quartet
Christina Dahl, piano

Purcell: Chacony
Purcell: Two Fantasias
Bolcom: Piano Quintet No. 1
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 13 in A Minor, Op. 132

For complete information, visit https://stallercenter.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=117

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Beethoven Unleashed, April 25-29
Philhrmonia Baroque Orchestra closes the season in a blaze of Beethovenian glory.

What better way to cap off the 2017/18 season than with two Beethoven works that the master himself performed during his famous Akademie benefit concert of 1808. Featuring a star-studded cast and our illustrious Chorale, Nic and the Orchestra will perform Beethoven's Mass in C major Op. 86 and his Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy" alongside Cherubini's Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn.

Often overshadowed by the later Missa Solemnis, Beethoven's more pensive Mass in C major is a masterpiece that maintains an immediate emotional appeal throughout. Cherubini shares that sense of sincerity in his poignant tribute to Haydn. And Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy" was originally the grand finale of the epic Akademie concert that also premiered his 5th and 6th Symphonies and his Piano Concerto No. 4.

For complete information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2017-2018-season/beethoven-unleashed/

--Marketing, Philharmonia Baroque

Sir Andras Schiff Begins North American Tour
The forthcoming highly anticipated North American Tour of Sir Andras Schiff offers rich and imaginative programs centered around specific works by Johannes Brahms. The relational aspects of Brahms' writing to the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann inform the basis of this thoughtful two-program series. Reviewing the programs in London, The Independent enthused that this was "Programming at its most creative."

Spring 2018 North American concert dates:
Mar. 29  -   Princeton, Princeton University
Mar. 31  -   Philadelphia, Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center   
Apr. 3    -   New York, Carnegie Hall                       
Apr. 5    -   New York, Carnegie Hall                       
Apr. 8    -   Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall               
Apr. 10  -   Vancouver, Vancouver Playhouse         
Apr. 12  -   Santa Barbara, Lobero Theatre                                 
Apr. 15  -   San Francisco, Davies Symphony Hall                   
Apr. 17  -   San Francisco, Davies Symphony Hall

For more information, visit http://www.kirshbaumassociates.com/artist.php?id=andrasschiff&aview=news&nid=9419

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Nimrod Borenstein: new choral music with Ex Cathedra Return to Carnegie Hall
Hot on the heels of his successful album with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra for Chandos, London-based composer Nimrod Borenstein has a busy March and April, with world premieres in the UK and US; including a long-awaited return to choral music and then in June, a return for his music to Carnegie Hall in a unique international link-up.

First up is a choral premiere, and then there was light, written to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Codsall Arts Festival, to be performed by Ex Cathedra. The premiere, on Thursday 22nd March, takes place at St Nicholas Church, Codsall, and marks a special moment for Borenstein. "I composed a lot of choral music in my early years as a composer," he says, "but I have always wanted to come back to it. This return has felt very natural to me. And to work with such a great choir as Ex Cathedra and for such a special occasion as the marvellous Codsall Festival's remarkable anniversary feels very special." So much has Borenstein enjoyed the experience, indeed, that he feels more choral music will follow, and soon.

April is a US-focussed month, with another world premiere, Borenstein's Tango Etude Op. 66, No. 3, given by its dedicatee, pianist Tania Stevreva, at the National Opera Centre in New York. That's followed later in the month by four performances of one of the works on the Chandos disc, "If You Will It, It Is No Dream," given by the South Florida Symphony Orchestra (15th-19th April) — to tour Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key West. This will be the first North America outing for a work that was recently performed to great success at the Enescu Festival (Romania).

And 1st June will bring two connected world premieres, for a link-up between Greece and New York City. The first-ever collaboration between the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Carnegie Hall and El Sistema Greece will feature new works by Borenstein around the ideas of lullabies; Lullaby opus 81a for solo piano, and Lullaby opus 81b for string quartet. There will be simultaneous events in Athens and New York, and Borenstein's two premieres will be played at the former and beamed in live to Carnegie Hall.

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Orion's 25th Season Concludes with Quintessential Quintets in May
To conclude its 25th anniversary season, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, welcomes back guest violist Stephen Boe and guest violinist Mathias Tacke for "Quintessential Quintets." Performances take place May 13 at First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church; May 23 at the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago; and May 27 at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois.

The Orion Ensemble's concert program "Quintessential Quintets" takes place Sunday, May 13 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, The Orion Ensemble

Preview Bre'r Rabbit, the New Opera by Nkeiru Okoye and Carman Moore
Composer Nkeiro Okoye (Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom) will present scenes from her new opera at the Dance Theatre of Harlem Sunday Matinee Celebrating Women's Herstory Month. Okoye uses her trademark opera/jazz/ gospel/folk stylings to reclaim the African-American Bre'r Rabbit tales for the modern age. Presented by AOP and Virginia Arts Festival John Duffy Institute for Opera.

Sunday March 18th | 3:00 PM
Dance Theatre of Harlem
466 West 152nd Street (Between Amsterdam and Convent Ave)
New York, NY

General Admission: $15
Seniors, Children, Students w/ ID: $10

For complete information, visit http://www.aopopera.org/events.html#brerrabbitdth

--AOP News

Thomas Cooley: "A World-Class Evangelist"
Bach St. Matthew Passion: "A stroke of luck…named Thomas Cooley who took on the part of the Evangelist. And he demonstrated with a remarkably versatile and clear tone, what musical story telling in an emphatic sense can mean." --Süddeutsche Zeitung (Münich)

Bach St. John Passion: "As the Evangelist he took every risk to increase the drama of the narrative."
--Berliner Morgenpost

Next appearance as the Evangelist:
St. John Passion - Music of the Baroque Chorus and Orchestra, Jane Glover, conductor
March 25, 26: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts,9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, IL

For more information, visit https://www.baroque.org/Seasons/2017-2018/the-st-john-passion

--Schwalbe and Partners, Inc.

ABS Performs Venetian Masterpieces of Monteverdi & Gabrieli
American Bach Soloists' (ABS) 29th subscription season continues with four performances of Claudio Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine and Giovanni Gabrieli's In ecclesiis and Magnificat à 14. Under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas, the magnificent ABS orchestra and an ensemble of ten superb vocal soloists combine to present this splendid music from the Venetian school.

Performances:
Friday April 6 2018 at 8:00 pm
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
3 Bay View Avenue, Belvedere, CA 94920

Saturday April 7 2018 at 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church of Berkeley
2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

Sunday April 8 2018 at 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church
1111 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Monday April 9 2018 at 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church
412 C Street, Davis, CA 95616

Tickets:
Online: americanbach.org/tickets
Phone: 800-595-4TIX (-4849)
$25–$89
$10 student tickets for ages 25 and under with valid student ID, at the door or reserve at 415-621-7900

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

--Jonathon Hampton, American Bach Soloists

The Crypt Sessions Presents Countertenor John Holiday
The Crypt Sessions continues on April 26 with countertenor John Holiday.

Holiday will perform an intimate set of art songs, arias, spirituals, and standards, taking a break from touring with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (including a performance of Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, April 29 at Lincoln Center).

All concerts take place in the Crypt Chapel under the Church of the Intercession in Harlem. Each new performance - announced directly following the preceding concert - includes a pre-concert food and wine tasting paired to the music, prepared by Ward 8 Events.

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 website (http://deathofclassical.com/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cryptsessions.unisonmedia/).

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Summer Fun for Children and Adults at Music Institute
This summer, the Music Institute of Chicago offers a wide range of private lessons, classes, camps, workshops, festivals, and more for aspiring musicians of all ages and levels of experience. Children and adults have the opportunity to work with award-winning faculty and ensembles in residence at Music Institute campuses in downtown Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, and Lake Forest. The six-week session for group classes runs June 12–July 30 with other activities running throughout the summer months. Of special note are "first experience" camps and classes for children ages 3 to 11, as follows:

Camps:
Summer Music for Life Camp
SmashUp! Camp
Brass for Beginners Summer Camp

Classses:
Musikgarten: The Cycles of Seasons and Music Makers I – At Home and in the World
Suzuki Samplers (ages 4–6)
Group Classes (ages 7–11): Violin, viola, cello, bass, piano, guitar, clarinet, saxophone, recorder, Brass for Beginners, voice
Music Mind Games (ages 5–11)

For a complete schedule and more information, visit  musicinst.org/summer.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

New Century Announces Daniel Hope as Music Director
New Century Chamber Orchestra announced today the appointment of British violinist Daniel Hope as Music Director beginning in the 2018-2019 season.

Previously appointed as Artistic Partner, a three-year position created to provide artistic continuity throughout the search process for a permanent Music Director, Hope will now lead the ensemble on a five-year contract as Music Director through the 2022-2023 seasons.

--Brenden Guy PR

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (CD review)

David Zinman, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich. Arte Nova Classics 74321-65410-2 (box set).

Because the nine symphonies of Beethoven form the core of any classical library, all interpretations of them are welcome. When they are as good as these and at such low cost, the prospect is nigh-well irresistible.

Conductor David Zinman leads the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in performances that adhere as closely as possible to Beethoven's designs. The orchestra is much the size of Beethoven's, Maestro Zinman tries to adhere to Beethoven's metronome marks, and the scores are among the most authentic and up-to-date, the Barenreiter editions. The only difference is that the orchestra plays on modern instruments. So the idea is obtain the best of the old and new worlds: Historically informed performances and modern sound. Nikolaus Harnoncourt attempted a similar approach with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, but Zinman, I think, is even more successful, and the results come at a price almost anyone can afford. Arte Nova present the discs in a boxed set, or singly if one chooses to experiment. What's more, the works are sensibly paired two symphonies to a disc consecutively, with Nos. 1 & 2 occupying the first disc, Nos. 3 & 4 the second disc, etc., and No. 9 on a disc to itself. Thus, only five discs are needed to accommodate the complete cycle.

Zinman starts things rolling with a lively rendering of the Symphony No. 1. The tempos are much quicker than even Norrington in his period instruments' version. There is good attack, particularly in the first movement, which is taken at almost breakneck speed. Then things settle down, the second movement Andante having a wonderful lilt. Paired on the same disc is the Symphony No. 2, which again has quick tempos, although they don't seem as noticeable. The reading is invigorating and enlivening, yet the articulation is always precise. I question if the joy of this interpretation has as much to do with the conductor's following the new performing edition as it does simply with Zinman's own personal vision. Whatever, it works wonderfully. The sound in both pieces has good bloom; the timpani, apparently struck with hard mallets, are solidly pronounced and most realistic; and the relatively small ensemble, under fifty players, is clearly delineated. My only quibble is that the overall sonic picture is somewhat dark, with not a lot of high-end sparkle. But one hardly notices such trifles when caught up in music making of this caliber.

Symphony No. 3, the "Eroica," is one of the highlights of the set. It is the first of the "major" symphonies, a departure from Beethoven's earlier environment of Haydn and Mozart and a step into big-time orchestral surroundings. In its day the size and shape of the "Eroica" were unlike anything audiences had heard before. One is again aware of the brisk tempos, but this time they are not nearly so breathtaking, though still exhilarating. Accordingly, the piece does not have the expansive grandeur of Sir John Barbirolli's approach or the nobility of Otto Klemperer's or Karl Bohm's, but it does demonstrate a passionate forward momentum that rightly conjures up heroic images of the Napoleonic era. The second movement funeral march is quicker than we are accustomed to, certainly not a slow dirge as is usually the case, but undoubtedly what Beethoven had in mind. And I especially liked the finale, which gallops along in fine style. The sound here is very much together, of a whole, and somewhat cleaner than in Nos. 1 or 2. On the same disc is the Fourth Symphony. Generally speaking, it sounds a little too rushed for my taste, particularly the first movement, which misses some of the composer's lighter touches. Nevertheless, it is surprisingly poetic and cheerful in Zinman's hands. Utilizing an orchestral force about a third smaller than the works on either side of it, it makes a delightful contrast to its more serious neighbors.

David Zinman
Traditionally, the middle symphonies, Nos. 5-7, have been among the most popular. Yet it is with Zinman's performances of these works that I have the most trouble. The third disc includes the coupling of Nos. 5 and 6, possibly the two most famous symphonies ever written. Beethoven composed the pieces almost simultaneously and premiered them during the same concert in 1808.  What would you have given to be at that historic event? Anyway, unlike his Fourth, Zinman's Fifth is not particularly rushed and is characteristically vibrant. All the same, it doesn't crackle with pent-up energy as Carlos Kleiber's reading does nor hurl forth headlong with relentless momentum as does Fritz Reiner's. And there is not the same triumphal burst at the end that we find with either of the other conductors I mentioned. Furthermore, Zinman's avoidance of anything but the most subtle rubato--he directs only very small contrasts in tempo--is here much in evidence, and before long an air of sameness sets in. For all that, it is a reasonably exciting performance, and those timpani are fun, banging away all along. The sound is curiously less dynamic and a bit more spotlighted than in the big Third Symphony. A year's difference in their recording dates may be responsible.

The first movement of Zinman's "Pastoral" Symphony moves along in bouncy style, giving way to a much gentler "Scene at the Brook" than I expected. The counterpoint in the second movement's closing moments is exceptionally affecting. But the merrymaking that follows is more perfunctory than merry, the storm less menacing than it should be, and the final thanksgiving less than revelatory.  Scored for the same orchestral forces as the Fifth Symphony and recorded on back-to-back days, the Sixth also sounds a little darker than the others in the set. However, there is a greater sense of space and depth to the presentation, especially during the storm. For all this, neither Zinman's Fifth nor Sixth would be close to any of my first choice recommendations in these works--Kleiber, Bohm, Reiner,  Klemperer, or Bruno Walter.

Disc four brings us Nos. 7 and 8. After hearing Zinman sometimes follow Beethoven's tempo marks overzealously in the first six symphonies, I was quite prepared for a hasty rush through the Seventh.  Not so. In fact, Zinman's pace, while appropriately quick, is relaxed and buoyant, the joyous dance melodies compromised only slightly by the heaviness of the sound and the hardness of the drums. Then, with an orchestra slightly pared down from the sixty-odd players in the previous three symphonies to a little over fifty in the Eighth, the sound takes on a greater clarity and lightness of spirit, enlivening this work even more. It is one of Zinman's most delightful interpretations, with special attention given to the second movement's little tiptoes tune. Only in the final Allegro does the music seem at all hasty, yet not enough to dampen the work's overall high spirits.

As befits the crown jewel in Beethoven's cycle, the Ninth Symphony is Zinman's own crowning glory. It appears smaller in scale than those from other conductors, to be sure, but one of the most exceptional Ninths on record. As always following Beethoven's metronome, Zinman transforms the Ninth into a new piece of music. Yet the whole structure is rock solid; and as it feels all of a whole, one is never aware that it shouldn't have always been this way. A comparable recording is one by Sir Charles Mackerras and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic on EMI, which also tries to follow Beethoven's tempo markings and is played on modern instruments. But Zinman's reading is even more lithe and fleet footed, with the advantage, too, of cleaner sound. The second movement Scherzo is specifically fiery. Then, when the finale's "Ode to Joy" bursts onto the scene it is exultant, indeed, even if the staccato pacing of the final minutes takes one slightly aback. Surely, this performance is the way Beethoven would have wanted his legacy to be remembered. Even the sonics are more taut and clear in this last recording.

In summary, one should not miss Nos. 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9 in particular. Nevertheless, at the price we find these discs, the whole box set is a must. This is not to say, however, that there aren't other, good low-cost alternatives available. Overall, I still favor Karl Bohm's more old-fashioned, conventional approach with the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in the Seventies and issued by DG in three double packages. Bohm's set contains the most treasurable of all "Pastorales," plus highly recommendable versions of Nos. 3, 5, 7, and 9. What's more, they are among the best-recorded Beethoven symphonies at any price. And we can't forget the Philips discs with Eugen Jochum and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded in the late Sixties, very imaginative, reasonably well recorded, and offered at budget price. But neither Bohm nor Jochum boasts the authenticity of Zinman's readings, for which similar sets--Harnoncourt on modern instruments, Norrington and Gardiner on period instruments--will set you back more money.

Needless to say, I am speaking to those of you who already have individual favorites in your collection and are now looking for supplemental material in any case. As for Zinman, the argument seems clear.

JJP

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


Dvorak: Cello Concerto (XRCD review)

Also, Silent Woods. Jacqueline du Pre, cello; Daniel Barenboim, Chicago Symphony Orchestra. ARC ARCXRCD806.

When Jacqueline du Pre (1945-1987) made this recording in 1970 with her husband Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, she was already one of the most-famous and most-accomplished cellists in the world. However, although Ms. du Pre's Dvorak performance is good, it probably isn't one of her signature recordings. Still, if you like the sound, which admittedly takes a little getting used to, the new remastering does more with it than ever before.

British cellist Jacqueline du Pre (1945-1987) began studying the cello at age five, winning the first of many awards at age eleven, followed by television and concert appearances. (Her formal debut was at Wigmore Hall, London in March 1961, when she was sixteen.) Then came the recording career, and the rest, as they say, is history. She met and married pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim in the mid Sixties, and they appeared destined for mutual stardom, an ideal musical couple. The present recording is one of the fruits of that partnership. Unfortunately, her last public appearance would be in 1973 due to multiple sclerosis, her promising career ending shortly thereafter.

Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) wrote his Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 rather late in life (1895), the work since becoming one of the most-popular cello concertos of all time. It's popularity has been so enduring that practically every major cellist in the world has recorded it, with the likes of Mstislav Rostropovich (DG), Yo-Yo Ma (Sony), Pierre Fournier (DG), Leonard Rose (Sony), Gregor Piatigorsky (RCA), Lynn Harrell (RCA), Pablo Casals (EMI and Dutton Labs), Paul Tortelier (EMI/Warner), Rafael Wallfisch (Chandos), Truls Mork (EMI/Warner), Maurice Gendron (Philips or HDTT), and Janos Starker (Mercury) heading up a lengthy list. Ms. du Pre's version, then, finds itself in heady company.

Because the concerto contains an abundance of attractive melodies, it gives the soloist and orchestra ample opportunity for displaying bravura, nuance, sensitivity, and a little sentimentality, all of which Ms. du Pre handles well, with her characteristic flair. Barenboim and the orchestra contribute to their parts with an equal zeal and enthusiasm.

The concerto begins with a long, imposing orchestral introduction before the cello enters, an intro that alludes to both of the work's two upcoming themes. Ms. du Pre plays it with the kind of spontaneous-appearing gusto we expect, yet it is not so brawny an interpretation as those of Gendron or Starker. It's a gentler kind of spirit that nonetheless captures the grand, robust vigor of Dvorak.

Jacqueline du Pre
After the strong start comes a slow, second-movement Adagio, which Dvorak wrote while his much-beloved sister-in-law lay dying, and he used one of her favorite pieces of music as a central theme. In it, he creates a lovely, explosively gentle, faintly melancholic mood, which should glide sweetly along like a slow-moving stream, wistfully, with a touch of sadness. Here, Ms. du Pre stands out from the crowd with a most-sensitive, sincere, evocative rendering.

In the Finale, we find more heroics and more pensiveness from both the soloist and the orchestra than we heard previously from them. Dvorak apparently wanted the soloist and orchestra to work on equal terms, and certainly du Pre, Barenboim, and the orchestra each contribute their fair share to the whole, producing a fittingly zesty yet reflective conclusion to the proceedings.

Accompanying the concerto is Dvorak's Silent Woods (1883), originally written for piano and later transcribed for cello and piano and then cello and orchestra. It's a beautifully sweet, lyrical piece, which I enjoyed immensely. Perhaps this is because the music so aptly suits the instrument, or perhaps it's because Ms. du Pre so appropriately expresses the meditative mood of the piece.

Producer Peter Andry and engineer Carson Taylor made the recording for EMI at the Medinah Temple, Chicago, Illinois in November 1970. Tohru Kotetsu remastered the recording for ARC at the JVC mastering Center, Japan, using the latest XRCD24/K2 processing for maximum fidelity CD playback.

A hallmark of the recording is its clarity. The orchestral sound is well detailed, but at the expense of some upper midrange hardness and brightness and some small lack of upper-bass warmth. (To be fair, this is a sound from the Chicago Symphony I've heard in other recordings, so it may be a condition of the orchestra and hall and not the recording.) Nevertheless, the new remastering sounds good and better than I have heard it. Then after that long introduction I mentioned earlier, the cello enters, and it's practically on top of us. The instrument sounds good, mind you--warm, mellow, and rich--just unnecessarily close and nothing like what one might hear in any real concert. What's more, the cello's entrance points up the wide dynamic range of the recording because it's quite a bit louder than the preceding orchestral preface.

Frankly, because I have never thought of the sound of this recording as audiophile material, I have to wonder why ARC/JVC chose to remaster it so meticulously. That said, for listeners who already enjoy the performance and want to hear it reproduced from the best possible source, the disc may be worth its asking price.

You can find ARC products at some of the best prices at Elusive Disc: http://www.elusivedisc.com/

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 10, 2018

2018 SF Bach Festival & 2018 Gala

Beginning with the 2018 Festival &
Academy, the American Bach Soloists 30th Season will commemorate the core of ABS's rich history through performances of works that represent the finest of the Baroque era. Grand special events including "Sparkle" — the 2018 Gala Auction, Concert, and Dinner — make the upcoming 30th Season a joyful celebration of the organization's past, present, and future.

The Glorious Court of Dresden
August 3-12, 2018
San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival

For the 2018 ABS Festival & Academy, artistic director Jeffrey Thomas has chosen the music of Germany with a particular emphasis on The Glorious Court of Dresden, known for the extraordinary quality of music that was composed for the Electors and Kings of Saxony who upheld the highest artistic and cultural standards for their subjects. Its splendid Baroque and Rococo architecture brought the city its nickname as the "Jewel Box," and a distinguished roster of performers and composers made it one of Europe's most important musical capitals. A full array of free events—including public master classes, lectures, concerts, and colloquia—complement the performances by American Bach Soloists in two exceptionally fine venues.

The Glorious Court of Dresden
Friday August 3, 2018. 8:00 p.m. St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA

For complete information on all ABS events, visit http://americanbach.org/

--American Bach Soloists

92Y April 2018 Concerts
Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 7:30 pm
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Benjamin Grosvenor, piano
Musicians from the New York Philharmonic

Friday, April 13, 2018, 9:00 pm
92Y – Buttenwieser Hall, NYC
Schubert: Epic and Intimate (Part 1)
Shai Wosner, piano

Sunday, April 29, 2018, 3:00 pm
92Y – Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
Steven Isserlis, cello
Richard Egarr, harpsichord (92Y debut)

Tickets and information are available at www.92Y.org/Concerts or 212-415-5500.

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Other Minds Announces Festival 23 Lineup
Other Minds today announced the lineup for its Festival 23 "Sound Poetry: The Wages of Syntax" April 9 through 14 in San Francisco, CA. Curated by Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian, the festival brings sound poet pioneers from across the United States and Europe for an exploration of text-sound compositions that utilize speech and verbalization as a medium.

Highlighted works include World Premieres by Italian master sound poet Enzo Minarelli, leading American experimental writer Clark Coolidge in collaboration with Rome-based composer Alvin Curran, prominent American essayist Lawrence Weschler, Scandinavian jazz artists Sten Sandell and Tone Åse, and Bay Area composer Amy X Neuburg; the U.S. premiere of the three-movement reconstructed concert version of Gesprochene Musik by Austrian émigré composer Ernst Toch; and rare performances of Virgil Thomson-Gertrude Stein's Capital Capitals, Bernard Heidsieck's La Poinçonneuse, Åke Hodell's politically scathing Mr. Smith in Rhodesia, and Kurt Schwitters' controversial Ursonate.

Single tickets are priced at $30 with discounted $15 tickets available to students. Tickets can be purchased online through https://www.otherminds.org or by calling the ODC Theatre Box Office at 415.863.9834.

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

--Brenden Guy Public Relations

Countertenor John Holiday to Tour with the LA Phil
Countertenor John Holiday makes his debut with the LA Phil and conductor Gustavo Dudamel in Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, in celebration of the composer's centennial. The LA Phil will perform four concerts at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, April 19-22, and will continue on to performances in New York City at Lincoln Center (April 29), the Barbican Centre in London (May 4), and the Paris Philharmonie (May 6).

A winner of the prestigious Marian Anderson Award in 2017, John has quickly established himself as a singer to watch, having just premiered the role of John Blue in Daniel Roumain's We Shall Not Be Moved with Opera Philadelphia last fall. A regular performer of the Chichester Psalms and classical repertoire ranging from contemporary to baroque, John also excels in jazz and gospel music, and recently performed a mixed program for his Kennedy Center debut.

For more information, visit http://johnholidaylive.com/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Tod Machover Composes and Curates a Symphony of "Philadelphia Voices"
Philadelphia Voices, the sixth and largest-scale installment of Tod Machover's acclaimed City Symphony projects, premieres in April 2018 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by its music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with a troupe of voices representing multiple Philadelphia-area choruses.

Machover, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of Musical America's 2016 Composer of the Year award, has long been regarded as one of the most notable trailblazers of 20th and 21st century composition, and one the world's leading authorities on the vast and evolving relationships between music, technology, and human expression. Through specially-designed mobile technologies developed by Machover and his Opera of the Future group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Machover has given residents of Philadelphia the opportunity to contribute their own samplings of cityscapes, vocalizations, and texts, reviewed and compiled by Machover and his team, uniting the richly diverse communities of Philadelphia through sound. The result is a celebration of the birthplace of American democracy written for, and with, the Philadelphians who know it best.

For more information, visit https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/philadelphia-voices/overview/

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

J.S. Bach and Meg Bragle: "An Inspired Choice"
B Minor Mass:
"The Agnus Dei melted my heart." --The Independent

"Ms. Bragle's supple account of the Agnus Dei stood out as a clear highlight." --The New York Times

Next Bach appearances:
St. Matthew Passion
Mercury Houston
https://www.mercuryhouston.org/1718-bachs-st-matthew-passion
March 10

St. John Passion
Music of the Baroque
https://www.baroque.org/Seasons/2017-2018/the-st-john-passion
March 25, 26

"Schleicht, spielende Wellen", BWV 206
Tempesta di Mare
https://tempestadimare.org/events/2017-2018-river-music/
May 19, 20

St. Matthew Passion
Carmel Bach Festival
https://www.bachfestival.org/calendar
July 14 - 28

For more about Meg Bragle, visit http://schwalbeandpartners.com/project/meg-bragle-mezzo-soprano/

--Schwalbe and Partners

Daniel Barenboim and Deutsche Grammophon Announce New Contract
Daniel Barenboim, one of the world's greatest classical artists and a staunch champion of music's civilizing power, has signed a new and exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. The partnership was announced on March 8, 2018, just days after the first anniversary of the Pierre Boulez Saal, Maestro Barenboim's pioneering project devoted to the promotion of cultural exchange and dialogue.

The Berlin connection will be significant throughout his new and future recordings for the yellow label – Barenboim will work with the Staatskapelle Berlin, the Staatsoper unter den Linden, the Boulez Ensemble and members of the Barenboim-Said Akademie. Many of his recordings will be made in the flexible space of the Boulez Saal, home to the Barenboim-Said Akademie, a centre for the cultivation of communication, listening and understanding.

--Julia Casey, DG

Max Richter's SLEEP at SXSW March 12
Composer Max Richter will give the North American debut concert of SLEEP, made possible by premiere sponsor Beautyrest and secondary sponsor Philips on March 12 at SXSW in Austin, TX. Beautyrest mattresses will replace traditional concert seating so attendees can immerse themselves into the eight-hour overnight SLEEP experience. Doors open at 11pm on March 12 at Bass Hall and the concert ends at 8:30AM on March 13. Admission is open to SXSW Platinum and Music badges only.

--Julia Casey, DG

Strathmore 18-19 Season Preview
Strathmore audiences get their first glimpse of what's to come in the 2018-2019 Season with the announcement of 11 performances in the Music Center and historic Mansion at Strathmore, on sale to the general public today, Friday, March 9, 2018.

Strathmore continues its exploration of diverse perspectives and the potential of global music to spark conversations, mutual respect, and greater understanding, beginning with Balkan composer Goran Bregovic's new work for solo violin, Three Letters from Sarajevo. Other international performances include "Queen of Ranchera Music" Aida Cuevas in tribute to her mentor, mariachi legend Juan Gabriel, the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba with Esperanza Spalding, and powerhouse flamenco dancer Farruquito. Dynamic duos coming to the Music Center stage include playwright and activist Eve Ensler in conversation with bestselling author Anne Lamott, and masterful musicians Chick Corea & Béla Fleck. Pioneering jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and circus arts troupe The New Chinese Acrobats add to the growing diversity of programming in the Music Center.

In the historic Mansion at Strathmore, Brazilian vocalist-composer-guitarist Vinicius Cantuária pays homage to bossa nova icon Antonio Carlos Jobim, dynamic harpist Lavinia Meijer performs the music of Phillip Glass, and violinist Tessa Lark explores of the musical form of the Fantasy from the Baroque period through the present.

These performances join just-announced summer concerts with jazz icon Herbie Hancock and sublime vocalist Kristin Chenoweth.

For complete information, call (301) 581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.

--Mike Fila, Bucklewweet Media

Stravinsky: L'Histoire du Soldat, complete (CD review)

Madeleine Milhaud, narrator; Jean Pierre Aumont, the soldier; Martial Singher, the Devil;  Leopold Stokowski, Instrumental Ensemble. Vanguard Classics OVC 8004.

I'm sure it's only my imagination that the Vanguard label issued this recording about thirty times since its initial release in 1967: In English, in French, in a suite, in various remastered editions, etc. However, this 1999 edition is probably the definitive one. It is complete in two parts, about fifty-five minutes long; conducted by Leopold Stokowski and a select few instrumentalists; narrated by Madeleine Milhaud, wife of the composer, Darius Milhaud, and a distinguished actress in her own right; and performed by French opera star Martial Singher and stage and film actor Jean Pierre Aumont.

Although Igor Stravinsky's 1918 L'Histoire du Soldat ("The Soldier's Tale") is no doubt more popular today in its purely instrumental suite, the complete work ("to be read, played, and danced") with its substantial narration is worth a listen. It is more than a drama with music. This story of the soldier and the devil has a charming simplicity of tone and manner, combining lyrical and occasional raucous elements in pointed contrast. Overall, the mood is acerbic, to be sure, but there is much grace underlying the expressionistic exterior, too, which Stokowski and his players capture nicely.

Leopold Stokowski
The 1967 Vanguard recording has the distinction of having been the first American recording made with the Dolby Noise Reduction System. As such, there was no great need to impose further noise reduction or other modifications on the present remastering. Instead, it is a 24-bit, SBM, high-definition transfer made from the original 30 I.P.S. tapes and utilizing the same type of Ampex 300 series vacuum tube recorder used when Vanguard first produced it.

The results are impressively transparent yet warm and sweet in a purely realistic way. Detail is excellent. Voices are natural and well placed within the context of the music. Bass has a splendid bloom. Dynamics are wide, transients are quick, and impact is strong. Imaging and depth of field are not particularly pronounced but perceptively accurate. And backgrounds are dead quiet.

In terms of both performance and sound, it is an excellent recording by the standards of any day.

JJP

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


Lara Downes & Friends: For Lenny (CD review)

Lara Downes, piano; Kevin "I.O." Olusola; Javier Morales-Martinez; Rhiannon Giddens; Thomas Hampson. Naxos Sony 84284011251.

The last time I reviewed an album from American pianist Lara Downes, it was America Again, her tribute to some of the American music and musicians that inspired her. Now, with For Lenny she pays tribute to another person who inspired her, Leonard Bernstein. She's accompanied along the way in several of the selections by fellow musicians Kevin "I.O." Olusola; Javier Morales-Martinez; Rhiannon Giddens; and Thomas Hampson. The musical tracks, either composed by or written about and for Mr. Bernstein, make for a fascinating, entertaining, and enlightening look at one of America's foremost musical talents.

Most folks today probably know American conductor, composer, author, lecturer, and pianist Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) from his many recordings as conductor of the New York Philharmonic and from his music for West Side Story. But after his tenure with the NY Phil ended, he went on to conduct and make many more records with the Vienna Philharmonic, among other ensembles; and many people recognize him for his work on Candide, Peter Pan, Wonderful Town, On the Town, and On the Waterfront, plus symphonies, a mass, and other works. Or TV viewers might still recognize him for his long television series of musical lectures. Whatever, his legacy is broad enough to live on for a very long time.

Ms. Downes gives us a pleasant overview of Bernstein's contributions to our cultural heritage, and she and her colleagues do so using various unique styles and approaches, so the album isn't just another collection of greatest hits. There are twenty-eight tracks in all, covering a wide range of the composer's music. Here's a run-down on the contents:

  1. Something's Coming
  2. Anniversary for Lenny (John Corgliano)
  3. Anniversaire for Lenny (Stephen Schwartz)
  4. Romance for Lenny (Eleonor Sanderesky)
  5. Iconoclasm/for Lenny (Michael Abels)
  6. Fancy Free: Big Stuff
  7. Anniversary for Johnny Mehegan
  8. Anniversary for Aaron Copland
  9. Anniversary for Stephen Sondheim
10. I Remember (Stephen Sondheim)
11. Cool
12. The Story of My Life
13. Greeting
14. Innocent Psalm for the Bernstein Baby (Marc Blitzstein)
15. Anniversary for My Daughter, Nina
16. Anniversary for Felicia, on Our 28th
17. So Pretty
18. Anniversary in Memoriam (Daron Hagen)
19. Anniversary for Lukas Foss
20. For Lenny: Variation on New York, New York (Lucas Foss)
21. What Shall We Remember? (Ricky Ian Gordon)
22. A Simple Song
23. Exuberance for Lenny (Shulamit Ran)
24. Anniversary for Craig Urquhart
25. Remembering Lenny (Craig Urquhart)
26. Goodbye Chorale for Lenny (Theo Bleckmann)
27. Youth, Day, Old Age & Night (Ned Rorem)
28. Some Other Time

Lara Downes
I have to admit after listening straight through all twenty-eight selections that I preferred the ones written by Bernstein himself more than I liked the ones written about or for him. Nevertheless, all the songs are classy, thanks not only to their being timeless classics but because Ms. Downes makes them sound new again. Her sensitive, nuanced playing brings out the best in everything, and even the familiar material from West Side Story seems fresh and innovative. Of course, it may help if you enjoy modern jazz and blues because these are prevalent styles among many of the performances.

As Ms. Downes proved on previous albums of American music, she has a manner all her own while at the same time conveying a sincere interpretation of a composer's intent. Same here, with Bernstein sounding like Bernstein, all the while sounding like Downes. It's a unique sleight of hand and an appealing one. She makes the music the composer's and her own at the same time. Good examples are "The Story of My Life" and "Some Other Time" (perhaps not coincidentally both arranged by Jed Distler), delicate, haunting pieces made all the more compelling by Ms. Downes's sweet, gentle, elegant, passionate pianism. Her poignant artistry is first-rate, and she makes an exemplary communicator of all things Bernstein and all things American.

Producer Adam Abeshouse recorded "Something's Coming" and "Cool" at the Colburn School, Los Angeles, CA; "A Simple Song" at Question de Son Studio, Paris; and most other tracks at Pelham, NY; and Ian Schreier recorded "So Pretty" at Manifold Recording, Pittsboro, NC. They made all the recordings between May and October 2017.

Depending on the venue, the sound is big and open and sometimes overly reverberant. The dynamics are wide, and impact is strong. Ultimate transparency seems a bit sacrificed on some tracks, though, for the sake of ambient bloom, while on other selections, mainly the ones recorded in NY, things appear clearer, better focused, and better detailed.

JJP

To listen to an excerpt from this album, click below:


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa