Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, excerpts (CD Review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (SACD review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 26, 2018

Brahms Requiem to Close LA Master Chorale 2017/18 Season

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

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

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

Tickets are available now, starting from $29:
Phone: 213-972-7282

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

For for more information, visit

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

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

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

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

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

For complete information, visit or

--Shuman Associates PR

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

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

For more information, visit

--Jonathon Hampton, American Bach Soloists

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

You can follow SOLI's travels on this blog:

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

For more information, visit

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live-streamed at

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

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

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

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

For complete information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

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

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

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

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

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

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

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

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

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

For more information visit

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

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

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

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

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

For complete information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

FAYM Spring Recital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schubert: "Trout" Quintet (CD review)

Also, Piano Trio "Notturno"; Standchen; Ave Maria. Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Daniil Trifonov, piano; Hwayoon Lee, viola; Maximilian Hornung, cello; Roman Patkolo, double bass. DG 00289 7570.

What's not to like? You've got one of the world's most-popular virtuosic violinists, Anne-Sophie Mutter, in the lead, supported by the equally popular piano virtuoso Daniil Trifonov and three soloists from the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation: Hwayoon Lee, viola; Maximilian Hornung, cello; and Roman Patkolo, double bass. Then you've got some of the world's most-popular chamber music, Schubert's "Trout" Quintet and several other delightful short pieces.

So, what's not to like? Well, some listeners may love the performance, regarding it as sparkling, while others may see it as a tad too fast and commonplace. Still other listeners may find DG's sound detailed and well focused, while others may see it as too big and close up. Like all things, one must give the recording a listen before forming an opinion about it.

The album begins with the Piano Quintet in A major "The Trout" by Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). He wrote it in the summer of 1819 while visiting the town of Steyr in the north of Austria. A wealthy music patron in the area, Sylvester Paumgartner, suggested the composer include in the music a set of variations based on his earlier song "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). But apparently few people outside Schubert's friends and family ever heard the finished product in Schubert's lifetime since the work did not see publication until 1829, a year after the composer's death. Nevertheless, today practically every chamber group in the world has played and recorded it.

The work begins with an Allegro vivace, full of gentle good cheer. The second-movement Andante is more sedate and serious than the first movement. The third-movement Scherzo displays a pleasantly youthful playfulness. After that come the celebrated Variations, which mark the "Trout" as somewhat different from other chamber pieces. Here, it's the piano that often stands out, with the violin coming in a close second. Finally, the work ends with an Allegro giusto of high spirits.

Anne-Sophie Mutter
In the first movement, Ms. Mutter and the others must set some kind of record for pacing. Even the period-instrument versions I've heard don't zip along quite so fast. Not that this is bad, but for a piece of music with such charm as "The Trout," you'd think that a more leisurely approach might have been more appropriate. The speed with which Ms. Mutter takes it does, however, give ample display to her talents and an ample demonstration of a quick and lively Allegro.

In the Andante, things slow down appreciably, which is to say, the players take it at more conventional speeds, and it sounds all the more engaging for it. This also gives us a better chance to hear the contributions of all the players without Ms. Mutter dominating the proceedings. The Scherzo displays plenty of zest, although the fun seems a little forced and the whole thing a bit foursquare. The Variations are probably the best part of the show, and even though the players take them fairly fast, they exhibit a genuine delight. The expressive dynamics, contrasts, and pauses contribute to this effect. Then, in the Finale Ms. Mutter and the group appear warmer and more affectionate than in most of the preceding movements, and it comes off nicely.

Because there must be hundreds of different recordings of "The Trout," the listener has a multitude of choices. My own preferences include the sweetly lyrical one by the augmented Beaux Arts Trio (Pentatone or Philips), the spry period-instrument version by Jos Van Immerseel et al (Sony), and others by the Hagen Quartet (Decca), Sir Clifford Curzon (HDTT or Decca), the Nash Ensemble (CRD), Alfred Brendel (Philips), and many others. How does this one by Ms. Mutter and company stack up? It's fine and will no doubt please Ms. Mutter's fans, but I wouldn't personally put it at the top of my list of recommendations. The competition is just too strong, and Ms. Mutter and friends sound just a bit too commonplace for my liking, despite the alacrity of their playing.

In addition, the album includes three short works: The Piano Trio n E flat major "Notturno" and two arrangements for violin and piano of Standchen D957/4 ("Leise flehen meine Lieder") and the ever-popular "Ave Maria." Lovely.

Executive producer Ute Fesquet, producer and engineer Bernhard Guttler, and engineer Philip Krause recorded the music for Emil Berliner Studios at Baden-Baden, Festspielhaus, in June 2017. In the quintet and trio the instruments are spread widely and closely across the sound stage, with the piano set somewhat farther back than the strings. It's not an unrealistic image but one slightly bigger than I expected. The instruments sound rich and warm, never bright or edgy. No serious complaints.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 19, 2018

Hotchkiss Summer Piano Portals Program Makes Carnegie Debut

The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut will launch its sixth annual Summer Portals Piano Program from July 15-29, 2018. Welcoming a highly selective, international body of exceptionally gifted students ages 11-19 by audition, this uncommonly rigorous two-week training program brings together acclaimed Hotchkiss faculty with guest artists, who engage the young artists with private lessons, masterclasses, and student and faculty concerts.

Hotchkiss Summer Portals Piano Program's ideology is rooted firmly in the belief that music performance is an invaluable learning experience for aspiring musicians and academics alike, and that the discipline efficient practicing habits requires, and the development of poise needed for a successful music performance, helps build a crucial skill set which translates to any advanced study, and ultimately, any career path.

Each Piano Portals student performs in at least one public concert, while attending performances by their globally-renowned faculty. In honor of Chairman and Board Member Frederick Frank (class of 1950) and Mary Tanner Frank, a special gala concert takes place on July 21, 2018 featuring celebrated international pianists, Hotchkiss Piano Program Director Fabio Witkowski and Resident Piano Faculty Gisele Nacif Witkowski; joining them are the Fine Arts Quartet, described as a "powerhouse of American chamber music," (Washington Post) and with "tone… both beguilingly tangy and warm" (The Strad), comprised of violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Gil Sharon, and cellist Niklas Schmidt. 

Following the success of the Hotchkiss School Music Program's Carnegie Hall debut performance in January 2018, the Summer Piano Portals Program makes its own Carnegie debut on July 24, 2018.

The Hotchkiss School recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and remains one of the most distinguished educational institutions on the East Coast. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Philarmonia Baroque Orchestra Players at BFX and More
Every other June, the San Francisco Early Music Society produces the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition--- otherwise known as BFX. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale and its musicians have participated in just about every festival since the early 90's. And this year is no exception. This year, the Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players, consisting of PBO violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock; flutist Stephen Schultz; cellist William Skeen; and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, will perform Telemann's Paris Quartets on June 7. PBO will also co-present Jory Vinikour and Philippe LeRoy in a program of works for two harpsichords on June 8.

Additionally, Elizabeth Blumenstock will appear with soprano Christine Brandes and PBO harpsichordist Katherine Heater in an intriguing program called "Nasty Women" with an all female ensemble on June 4. PBO musicians Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler will appear with their ensemble Voices of Music on June 7 and 9 and the Cantata Collective, which includes six PBO musicians, will perform Bach cantatas with regular PBO soprano Sherezade Panthaki on June 9.

Also on June 9, PBO bassoonist and Harvard Music Professor Kate van Orden will give a lecture titled "Romanticism Now" before PBO cellist Tanya Tomkins and fortepianist Eric Zivian perform works by Schubert and Schumann with Musicians of the Valley of the Moon Festival and regular PBO guest tenor Nicholas Phan.

For more information about BFX and PBO, visit and

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Innovative Brass for Beginners
The Music Institute of Chicago offers a variety of summer programming for brass players, including summer jazz camps for youth and adults and Quintet Attacca Chamber Camp. Among those options are several that offer a unique approach: Brass for Beginners camp for youth and Brass for Beginners® classes for youth and adults.

The innovative Brass for Beginners (BfB) program, developed by Music Institute faculty member Chris Hasselbring in collaboration with music educator Jack Hasselbring and historian Kirsty Montgomery, uses the natural trumpet (an historical trumpet without valves) to limit learning variables and jump-start the development of fundamental brass and aural skills while stimulating students' capacity for creativity. A recipe for success, BfB has proven to be an efficient and effective way to prepare students to play any of the modern brass instruments.

For complete information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Chicago's Kairos Quartet Wins Fischoff
Congratulations to the Kairos Quartet on winning the Junior Strings Division Gold Medal in the
2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. The Kairos Quartet has had quite a year, having already earned: Gold Medal, Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Junior Strings Division; 1st Place, M-Prize International Chamber Arts Competition, Junior String Division; Silver Medal, St. Paul National String Quartet Competition; Grand Prize, A.N. & Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition; Rembrandt Chamber Players Chamber Music Competition; Rembrandt Young Artists for 2018.

The Kairos Quartet will participate in a master class with acclaimed musician and educator Pinchas Zukerman on Monday, May 21 at 11 a.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois. The master class is free and open to the public; RSVP to

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Violinist Tessa Lark Chosen for Prestigious Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship
The Borletti-Buitoni Trust announced in February that violinist Tessa Lark is a recipient of the coveted Borletti-Buitoni 2018 Fellowship. Ms. Lark adds this recognition to her growing stack of impressive awards, which include an Avery Fisher Career Grant and medals at the Naumburg International Violin Competition and the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

The BBT Fellowship puts Ms. Lark in the elite company of prior BBT recipients including Jonathan Biss, Martin Fröst, Sol Gabetta and Augustin Hadelich. Of the £20,000 award, Ms. Lark says, "I am so excited to receive this prestigious Fellowship and to be included among the list of incredible musicians who are part of the BBT family. The BBTrust is unique and extraordinary in its encouragement of creative individuality of its artists."

For more information Tessa Lark and upcoming performances, visit

--Classical Music Communications

Our Senior Class Has Inspired Us...
Since the founding Young People's Chorus of NYC thirty years ago, we have been driven by the belief that music has the power to bring people together, be it across the city or the world, and that all children deserve a chance to be on a winning team. Every child, regardless of background, should have the opportunity to experience a life-changing musical education in an environment that engages, inspires, and helps them realize their aspirations. Seeing our young people thrive as they take part in this vision, form friendships across social barriers, build life skills, and most importantly, make beautiful music together, thrills us all.

As we look forward to YPC's future, the senior class is taking the lead, celebrating our 30th anniversary by starting their own drive to help YPC's scholarship fund. They are setting an example by passionately carrying on YPC's unique vision.

Please join our senior class by making your commitment to support scholarships for YPC choristers. Your gift goes to the heart of YPC's mission to ensure that young people from all walks of life grow up together, singing side by side.

Donate at the YPC Web page:

--Francisco J. Núñez, Founder & Artistic Director, YPC

Opera Maine Receives Grant from Macy's to Launch New Initiative
Opera Maine is pleased to announce that it has received a $2,500 grant from Macy's to launch a new initiative, "Opera for All!" With this grant, Macy's will underwrite opera tickets for those who might otherwise be unable to attend a professional opera performance. Macy's support will provide 100 tickets to nonprofit agencies throughout the state to distribute to young Mainers ages 13 to 18, veterans, members of our immigrant communities, and others. The tickets are for Opera Maine's mainstage performance of The Marriage of Figaro this summer.

"We are thrilled to receive this grant from Macy's for Opera for All!," said Opera Maine's Executive Director Caroline Koelker. "This is a wonderful way for Opera Maine to achieve its mission of introducing opera to new audiences and educating them about this unique art form, while championing equity, diversity, and inclusion. The support from Macy's, and that of other businesses in the community, will enable us to launch this exciting new program."

Opera Maine will present The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Wednesday, July 25 and Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Portland's Merrill Auditorium. This comic masterpiece will be sung in the original Italian with English supertitles. This is a perfect "first opera" for newcomers because it unites a fast-moving and hilarious plot with the sublime music of Mozart. Not only is it a seminal work in the history of opera, but it also addresses themes that remain relevant in the 21st century. For tickets, visit

For a complete list of nonprofits that will receive complimentary tickets, visit

--Kristen Levesque, Public Relations Consultant

Winner of the Busoni Competition Releases First Recording on IDAGIO
For the first time the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition Foundation has produced a studio album, which it has made available exclusively on IDAGIO, the streaming service for classical music. The 20-year old Ivan Krpan, winner of the 2017 competition, took to the legendary Emil Berliner Studios in Berlin to record Chopin's 24 Préludes and Schumann's Fantasie op. 17 and Arabeske op. 18. Classical music lovers around the world can hear the exceptional Croatian pianist from today exclusively on IDAGIO.

The release of this album marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration between IDAGIO and the Busoni Competition, which will see the start of Krpan's career supported by further joint initiatives.

For further information and to see if IDAGIO is available in your area, visit

--Elias Wuermeling, IDAGIO

MTT Leads the SF Symphony in a New Semi-Staged Production of Boris Godunov
Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Chorus, joined by the Pacific Boychoir and an internationally-renowned cast, in semi-staged performances of the epic political drama Boris Godunov featuring Mussorgsky's original orchestration, June 14–15 & 17 at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA.

Inspired by Pushkin's Shakespearean tragedy, the work follows the rise and fall of the 16th-century Tsar Boris Godunov in a story underpinned by ambition, power, and betrayal. The production, conceived by MTT and directed by James Darrah, features original lighting design by Pablo Santiago, projection design by Adam Larsen, and scenic & costume design by Emily Anne MacDonald & Cameron Jaye Mock. This same world-class creative team has previously collaborated with MTT and the SFS on critically-acclaimed productions including Peer Gynt in 2013, Peter Grimes in 2014, and, most recently, On the Town in 2016.

Tickets and information are available at, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.

--San Francisco Symphony Public Relations

"What Rameau Intended"
On conductor Stephen Stubbs:
"What made this opera (Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie,Juilliard Opera) most special was the fact that Stephen Stubbs held true to Rameau's original music and made what was seemingly unfeasible to singers in the past, remarkably vital in interpretation to the Juilliard cast. In Act Two, there was a notable harmonic variation that, as Maestro Stubbs said, 'lends the effect that--as though in an earthquake--the solid ground gives way beneath the listener's feet.' It was in this specific moment of the opera that the audience was able to see and hear what Rameau intended for his work, as part of a large-scale innovative movement. The cast in this scene is in Hades, so to have a particular mind-blowing experience was perfectly fitting." --Operawire

Maestro Stubbs's next opera appearances:
Mozart: Il re pastore
San Francisco Opera Merola Opera Program
July 19, 21

Caccini: Alcina
Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Opera Series
November 24, 25, 26, 27

For more about Stephen Stubbs, visit

--Schwalbe and Partners, Inc.

PARMA: 2018 Spring Call for Scores
PARMA Recordings are currently accepting submissions for:
Piano trio, cello and piano, or solo cello with Trio Casals in Philadelphia.
Solo flute;  flute and electronics;  flute, cello, and piano;  flute quartet; or flute with chamber ensemble in Columbus.
Works for orchestra with or without soloists in Athens.

Selected scores will be recorded and commercially released by PARMA. Submitter is responsible for securing funds associated with the production and retains all ownership of the master and underlying composition.

If selected, submissions will be considered for live performance. Accepted scores from previous calls are set to receive performances later this year in Poland, Russia, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic, the United States, and more.

Deadline for all submissions is June 8, 2018. There is no fee to submit. 

For more information and project submission form, visit:

--PARMA Recordings

Haydn: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (CD review)

Also, Boccherini: Cello Concerto in B flat. Jacqueline du Pre, cello;  Daniel Barenboim, English Chamber Orchestra; Sir John Barbirolli, London Symphony Orchestra. Warner Classics 0825646404155.

Perhaps owing something to the popularity of the 1998 movie about the English cellist Jacqueline du Pre, Hilary and Jackie, her old record company, EMI, re-released more of her work in the late 90's, giving her music a deserved new lease on life. After Ms. Du Pre's tragic death in 1987, her legacy could have been lost to all but the most avid music lovers. Thanks to EMI, however, and now Warner Classics, her Haydn and Boccherini are remastered and sound better than ever.

Her style in these pieces is, as always, sweetly expressive, warmly lyrical, broadly passionate, and I daresay by today's standards a little old-fashioned. Certainly, that's the way the music comes off compared to the less-adorned period-instrument renditions so much in vogue these days. She is best in both of the Haydn slow movements, where her natural affection for the music and for her instrument shine through effectively. The finale of the first concerto is a delight, too, full of youthful intensity and exuberance.

Jacqueline du Pre
The Boccherini is another story, through no fault of Ms. du Pre. In its familiar late-Romantic Grutzmacher arrangement, any resemblance between this piece and Boccherini seems purely accidental. It is so lushly orchestrated it could hardly be called Boccherini, and Ms. du Pre plays it in appropriate nineteenth-century fashion--long winded and luxuriant. There is nothing wrong with this approach, of course; it's just, again, a tad old-fashioned, and I'm happy for it.

The remastered sound of the first Haydn concerto and the Boccherini, recorded with Ms. du Pre's husband Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra in 1967, is ultra smooth and adequately revealing. It is not so clear, however, as either of the newer releases I reviewed at about the same time from Ha-Nah Chang and Giuseppe Sinopoli (EMI) or Steven Isserlis and Roger Norrington (RCA), although it is closer to the Chang in performance and closer to the Isserlis in audio quality.

The sound in the second Haydn concerto, recorded a few months later with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra, is very slightly better defined. None of this matters much as the ear adapts quickly to the beauty of the playing rather than obsessing with any sonic imperfections. Besides, unless you were to put on the other discs as I did for direct comparison in two identical-sounding CD players, you would find little fault in the sound of the older Du Pre recordings. As usual, Du Pre gets my wholehearted endorsement.


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

Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 (CD review)

Claudio Abbado, London Symphony Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

The late Italian conductor Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) was an enormously prolific musician, recording as music director of the La Scala Opera orchestra, the London Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Vienna State Opera orchestra, the Lucerne Festival orchestra, the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic. It's a wonder he had time to breathe.

In any case, as you might guess, he recorded some material more than once as he went along, including Mendelssohn's two most-popular symphonies, Nos. 3 and 4. First he did them for Decca in 1968 and then for DG in the mid 80's, both with the London Symphony. For good measure, he did No. 4 yet again for Sony with Berlin in the mid 90's. What we have in the present disc is a recent transfer of the Decca recordings of Nos. 3 and 4 from HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), and because I have always preferred these earlier Abbado recordings to his newer ones, I welcome the HDTT transfer wholeheartedly.

German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) completed his Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 in 1842, the last of five symphonies he wrote, despite the numbering. He called it his "Scottish" symphony because he started writing it over a dozen years earlier after a visit to Scotland. It doesn't actually sound all that Scottish, though; it's more like a brief, musical impression the composer got of the country, an impression he expanded over the years.

The music begins with a lyrical opening movement, picks up steam with an infectious Scherzo, then a liltingly graceful Adagio, and a vivacious finale. Maestro Abbado and the London Symphony add a zip and flair to the music, an energy that most other conductors only hint at. Although he doesn't exactly skip over the more-poetic aspects of the music, he tends to emphasize the sparkle and pizzazz more. Abbado's realization of the score is one that keeps the listener involved at all times.

This is not to say, however, that I favor Abbado's reading over all others. My own number-one choice continues to be an even older recording (1960) by Peter Maag, also with the LSO. Maag seems to capture the charm and delight of the music better than any conductor before or since. But not to worry: HDTT have it covered, too, with their own excellent transfer of the Maag recording.

Claudio Abbado
Mendelssohn premiered his Symphony No. 4 "Italian" in 1833 after a trip to Italy, but he never published it in his lifetime. The first movement Allegro is probably the best-recognized of all the music Mendelssohn wrote for his symphonies, filled with sunny good cheer and zest. For the second-movement Andante, music scholars think the many religious processions Mendelssohn saw in Rome may have inspired him. Then, the composer gives us a delicate minuet, followed by a conclusion of whirlwind proportions and a glitter reminiscent of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Here, too, Abbado provides a fresh, dynamic, invigorating approach, with the conductor giving the music's more openly exciting moments perhaps a little greater weight than the more sensitive ones. In both symphonies the London Symphony plays with a uniform spontaneity and spotless ensemble.

So, would I recommend Abbado's "Italian" over all others? Again, not quite. His recording is good, but I'm happy with it as a companion, a complement, to Otto Klemperer's 1960 recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI). Klemperer takes a more leisurely approach to the score but one that to my ear captures more of the bright Italian landscape.

Decca Records producer John Mordler and engineer Kenneth Wilkinson recorded the symphonies in February 1968 at Kingsway Hall, London. HDTT transferred the music from a 15ips 2-track tape in 2017.

But here's the thing. It was just back in 2007 that the Decca folks themselves re-released the music in a 96kHz/24-bit remastering. So the question now is which to buy. On the one hand, you may find the Decca remastering very slightly clearer, better focused, but you may also find it a touch harder sounding and a bit more difficult to find as Decca have apparently removed it from the catalogue. On the other hand, you may not think the HDTT transfer sounds much different from Decca's own, and you'd be right. In a level-matched comparison using two separate machines, I could hardly tell the difference. More important, you'll find the HDTT product more readily available in a variety of formats on disc or digital download.

Anyway, the sound (be it from HDTT or Decca) is big and bold in the old Decca tradition. There's a good deal of room ambience from Kingsway Hall, which lends a note of reality to the recording. Depth perception is moderately good, and instrument detailing is fine, if a tad rounded in the spacious environment. You get imaging typical of the era, too, a tad close-up and compartmentalized, with excellent left-to-right stereo spread. It all works out and offers a fairly natural representation of a concert hall sound.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at


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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 12, 2018

Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Announces its 2018 Summer Series

New York City's Naumburg Orchestral Concerts announces its 113th season which continues to feature free, outdoor classical concerts at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park. This season's performances include Ensemble LPR on June 12, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on June 26, A Far Cry on July 10, The Knights on July 17, and Orchestra of St. Luke's on July 31.

Started in 1905, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts seeks to build new and broader audiences for classical music.  It is the oldest, continuous, free, outdoor, western classical music concert series in the world.  The performances occur on Tuesdays throughout June and July, with each one drawing thousands of attendees. All the events are broadcast live on Classical 105.9 WQXR and at

This summer series will be the Naumburg's 113th year of free concerts in New York's Central Park. Elkan Naumburg initiated the concert series in 1905 and gifted the Naumburg Bandshell to New York City in 1923. The concert series, the oldest in the world, is organized by Christopher W. London, a great-grandson of Elkan Naumburg, who passionately continues the concert series as a service to New Yorkers. The free outdoor concerts feature promising new talent and promote the professional development of young composers and conductors. Over 14,000 people enjoyed last year's performances.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Returns to Naumburg Bandshell
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra returns to Central Park's Naumburg Bandshell on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 7:30pm for a free concert presented by Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. The festive summer program features Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21/61 arranged by Andreas Tarkmann; the New York premiere of Othmar Schoeck's Summer Night, Pastoral Intermezzo for Strings, Op. 58, inspired by the Gottfried Keller poem of the same name; and Beethoven's String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 "Serioso" arranged by Mahler. The evening is hosted by WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon and will be live-streamed on WQXR and their website.

The Keller poem on which Othmar Schoeck's work is inspired evokes a lively summer evening: "In a bright summer night, young peasants reap, moved by grateful sensations, the ripe grain of an orphan or widow, who knows no help for this work. Crescent noises, cheers, and harmonica sounds betray the cheerful activity of the old, beautiful custom, until morning cocks, awakening bird calls and early bells call the brave, secret helpers to their own, heavy work."

Program Information
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 7:30pm
Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park, NYC
Free and Open to the Public. Open seating starts at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, visit:

--Katy Salomon, Morohan Arts and Media

Young People's Chorus of New York City Presents 15th Annual School Choruses Concert
Bringing together over 1,000 young choristers, the Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) presents its 15th annual, year-end concert for the citywide YPC School Choruses program at The World Famous Apollo Theater (253 West 125th Street) on Thursday, May 17, at 10:45 a.m. The program is directed year-round by YPC Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, and the upcoming concert showcases the musical growth of its participants—New York City elementary- and middle-school children—over the course of the school year, during which YPC-trained music educators teach them how to read and write music, sing with healthy vocal technique, and perform as a group.

Tickets priced at $15 are available via the Apollo Theater Box Office or online via Ticketmaster by clicking here:

--Shuman Associates

Chicago Area Student Musicians Win M Prize
Congratulations to the Kairos Quartet on winning the Junior Strings Division of the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition!

The Kairos Quartet has already been featured in a live broadcast of WFMT's Introductions, won First Prize at the Rembrandt Chamber Players Chamber Music Competition, was named the 2018 Rembrandt Young Artists, won the Grand Prize at the A.N. & Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition, and was awarded the Silver Medal at the St. Paul National String Quartet Competition. They will also compete in the advanced rounds of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in May.

Thompson Wang, age 18, lives in Glenview, Illinois, relocated from California to study violin at the Academy until he graduates. Joshua Brown, age 18, lives in Gurnee, Illinois, moved from the Washington DC area to study violin at the Academy. Lydia Rhea, age 18, lives in Highland Park, Illinois, relocated from Fishers, Indiana to study cello at the Academy until she graduates.
Julian Rhee, age 17, travels from Brookfield, Wisconsin every week to study violin at the Academy.

The M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition showcases exceptional chamber arts ensembles in Junior and Senior Divisions in Strings, Winds, and Open categories.

The Kairos Quartet will participate in a master class with acclaimed musician and educator Pinchas Zukerman, Monday, May 21 at 11 a.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.

The master class is free and open to the public; RSVP to
For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Robert Cole to Step Down as Director of Berkeley Festival & Exhibition
After almost 30 years as Director of Berkeley Festival & Exhibition (BFX), Robert Cole has announced that he will step down from his position effective June 11, 2018, at the conclusion of the 2018 summer festival.

Mr. Cole founded BFX in 1990, just four years after becoming Director of Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. He has served as Director of BFX since then except for the 2010 and 2012 Festivals following his resignation as Director of Cal Performances. During those years, he directed the preparations for the grand opening of the Green Music Center in Sonoma and spent time conducting in the United States and abroad. In 2010, Harvey Malloy, Executive Director of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS) and John Phillips, then President of SFEMS, stepped in to sustain BFX and the Festivals have since been produced by SFEMS. Mr. Cole returned to the position of Director in 2014 donating his services in this role.

For more information about BFX 2018, please visit

--Brenden Guy Media

Honens International Piano Competition Announces 2018 Semifinalists
Ten pianists have been chosen to advance to the Semifinals of Canada's Honens International Piano Competition. The pianists (aged 21 to 29) come from nine countries: Austria, Belgium, Georgia, Hong Kong, Italy, Romania, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United States. Only one pianist will be named Honens Prize Laureate and win the world's largest award of its kind—$100,000 (CAD) and an Artist Development Program valued at a half million dollars. The Semifinals and Finals of the Honens International Piano Competition take place during the 2018 Honens International Piano Competition & Festival in Calgary, August 30 to September 8, 2018.

The ten Semifinalists are: Stefano Andreatta (Italy), Han Chen (Taiwan), Tzu-Yin Huang (Taiwan), Adela Liculescu (Romania), Nicolas Namoradze (Georgia), Megan-Geoffrey Prins (South Africa), Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner (United States), Philipp Scheucher (Austria), Aristo Sham (Hong Kong), and Yannick Van de Velde (Belgium).

Each Semifinalist performs two recitals (August 30 to September 3): a 65-minute solo recital and a 65-minute collaborative recital with baritone Phillip Addis and violinist Jonathan Crow. Three pianists will advance to the Finals (September 6 and 7) for quintet performances with the Azahar Ensemble and concerti performances with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Karina Canellakis. The 2018 Honens Prize Laureate will be announced on September 7.

For complete information, visit

--Raphael Zinman, Nancy Shear Arts Services

NYU Tisch, the Brooklyn Museum, and American Opera Projects Present 11 Mini-Operas
The Dinner Party Operas, a showcase of eleven original mini-operas inspired by Judy Chicago's iconic feminist installation The Dinner Party, a multi-media work housed in the Brooklyn Museum, will be presented this May in New York City by the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP), the Brooklyn Museum, the NYU Tisch Department of Design for Stage & Film and American Opera Projects (AOP).

Six of the operas will be performed on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at NYU Tisch's GMTWP Black Box Theatre, located in Manhattan at 715 Broadway, between Washington and Waverly places, on the second floor. The remaining five operas will be performed on Sunday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Each under 15-minutes long, the operas were written and composed by students in the NYU Tisch GMTWP Opera Lab and will be performed by professional opera singers with piano accompaniment. The Dinner Party Operas is free with advance registration (May 23) or museum admission (May 27) and open to the public. To reserve tickets for the May 23 performance at NYU, email Complete info at

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Academy Violinist Julian Rhee Makes National Impact
Julian Rhee (age 17, from Brookfield, Wisconsin) is a scholarship Fellow at the Music Institute of Chicago's Academy, a training center for gifted pre-college musicians, and studies violin with Almita Vamos. This week, he was named a 2018 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts (following in the footsteps of Academy alumnus Andrew Guo in 2017). He recently was the first prize winner in the violin division of the 2018 Johansen International Competition and, as a member of the Kairos Quartet, won first prize in the Strings Junior Division of the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition on May 5.  He is a finalist winner of the 2018 National YoungArts Foundation and was a featured performer on NPR's From the Top with Host Christopher O'Riley, where he collaborated with internationally renowned ensemble Time for Three at a concert in Jordan Hall, Boston.

This past summer he returned from a 10-day tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay as a guest soloist and participated in the Bowdoin International Festival. In June, he will compete in the semifinals of the Irving M. Klein International String Competition. He will study at the New England Conservatory of Music beginning this fall.

Julian is one of several students who will have the privilege of working with acclaimed violinist, violist, conductor, and educator Pinchas Zukerman in a master class on May 21 (free and open to the public). Zukerman will be in Chicago to perform with the Zukerman Trio May 20 and receive the prestigious Dushkin Award at the Music Institute's Anniversary Gala May 21.

For more information about the Music Institute of Chicago, which has Community School campuses in downtown Chicago as well as Chicago suburbs Evanston, Winnetka, Lincolnshire, Lake Forest, and Downers Grove, click here:

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Green Music Center at Sonoma State University Announces 2018–19 Season
The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, home of the Mastercard Performance Series, today announced the 2018–19 Season, the first full season where curation was led by new Executive Director Jacob Yarrow. The season spans September 15, 2018–May 9, 2019 and comprises 35 performances representing the finest talent across the genres of classical orchestral, chamber, vocal, and solo recital music; jazz, folk, and popular music; film; theater; and world music and dance. Venues include the traditional 1,400-seat Weill Hall, a new setup in Weill Hall called The Loft which reimagines the concert experience by spinning performers and audiences around to see and hear from a whole new perspective, and the intimate 240-seat Schroeder Hall.

Highlights of the season include debut performances from A Far Cry, Joan Baez, The Kenny Barron Quintet, Brentano String Quartet, Julie Fowlis, Kronos Quartet, Anne Akiko Meyers, Monterey Jazz Festival, Villalobos Brothers, Wild Up, and more.

Returns by Josua Bell, Las Cafeteras, The Chieftains, Dave Koz, Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Peter Serkin, Gil Shaham, Soweto Gospel Choir, Tallis Scholars, Venice Baroque Orchestra, and more.

For complete information, visit

--Kathryn Stewart, Green Music Center

Respighi: La Boutique fantasque (CD review)

Also, Impressioni brasiliane. Charles Dutoit, Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Decca 289 455 983-2.

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936), celebrated mostly for his collections of tone poems like The Pines of Rome, The Fountains of Rome, and The Festivals of Rome, he also created the music for the delightful ballet composite La Boutique fantasque (or "The Magic Toy Shop"), based on lesser-known tunes by Gioacchino Rossini and premiered in 1919. The music makes a splendid impression under conductor Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony.

La Boutique fantasque has a built-in charm. How can one not like a ballet that brings toys to life after the toy shop closes? My comparison in the work was the equally well played recording by Richard Bonynge, an early digital release (1982) also from Decca (which I listened to on a London CD). Dutoit brings a gentler, more delicate quality to the score than Bonynge, which may or may not please all listeners while certainly making the work easy to listen to.

Charles Dutoit
But it's in its sonic properties that the new disc scores over its older rival. Dutoit's orchestra sounds smoother, buttery smooth, in fact, more dynamic, and, most important, better imaged. There is a depth and breadth to the orchestral arena that makes the Bonynge effort sound positively one-dimensional. Dutoit's acoustic is natural and alive, preserving detail and clarity within a subtly reverberant ambiance.

Of course, Dutoit and Bonynge aren't the only conductors to have recorded the work. There are also fine releases from Arthur Fiedler (RCA), Ernest Ansermet (Decca), Andrew Davis (Sony), Antonio Janigro (Vanguard), Gianandrea Noseda (Chandos), Neville Marriner (Philips), Marzio Conti (CPO), Eugene Ormandy (Sony), and many others. So the field is still wide open.

Dutoit's coupling, Respighi's Impressioni brasiliane, seems surprisingly refined for a composer so often thought of for his vigorous color. The piece is almost sedate in its understatement but, frankly, doesn't capture a whole lot of Brazil's traditional spirit until the final movement.

Overall, though, Dutoit's La Boutique fantasque is undoubtedly among the best recordings available of it, surely one of the best sounding, and its companion piece makes it an even better value.


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

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (SACD review)

Also, Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2. Denis Matsuev, piano; Valery Gergiev, Mariinsky Orchestra. Mariinsky Label SACD MAR0599.

The good news is that Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, and the Russian Mariinsky Orchestra (formerly the Kirov Orchestra) put in good, red-blooded Russian performances of good, red-blooded Russian music.

The bad news (for me) is that the Mariinsky Label recorded the music live, which I almost never find as natural sounding as music recorded without an audience where the engineers are free to place their microphones in the most ideal spots for realistic playback in the home. Of course, I understand the need for most orchestras these days to record live, what with the high cost of studio recordings. In essence, the record companies let the audience subsidize the expense. But I also understand that many conductors simply prefer to record live, feeling it best captures the feeling and spirit of the moment. Whatever, I lament the passing of really good studio jobs.

Denis Matsuev came to prominence when at an early age he won the eleventh International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, a competition that began in 1958 and has been held every four years since. This competition has produced quite a few prominent winners, beginning with the first winner, American Van Cliburn, and continuing with Vladimir Ashkenazy, John Ogdon, John Lill, Andrei Gavrilov, Mikhail Pletnev, Barry Douglas, Daniil Trifonov, and many more. Matsuev's win in 1998 lead to a successful career in concert halls around the world.

Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) premiered his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 in 1901 after he had undergone hypnotherapy. The failure of his First Symphony apparently so disturbed him that he feared he'd never write another note of music, so he decided he'd try anything. The hypnotherapy seemed to do the trick as the Concerto No. 2 became an immediate success.

Matsuev and Gergiev handle the opening movement in appropriately weighty, vociferous style, perhaps emphasizing the big emotional outbursts over the more sweepingly lyrical, rhapsodic ones. In the serene second movement, Matsuev and company tend to rush headlong with seemingly little interest in conveying any dreamlike qualities. Certainly, the pianist displays a great deal of virtuosity, but it's sometimes at the expense of the music's feeling. Then comes that glorious finale, where Rachmaninov reintroduces the familiar themes he played with in the previous two movements. Here, Matsuev's tendency toward skillful technique over delicate sensitivity pays off, and he and his fellow musicians provide an appealingly brawny conclusion to the work.

Dennis Matsuev
For a coupling, Matsuev (or Gergiev or the producer or whomever) chose the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninov's fellow Russian contemporary, composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Although Prokofiev completed the score in 1913, it was lost in the Russian Revolution, and he had to rewrite it in 1923. When he finished it (again), he claimed it was "so completely rewritten that it might almost be considered No. 4." At its premiere in 1924, some audience members loved it, while others found it too raucous, too grating, too modern. "The cats on the roof make better music!" said one concertgoer.

Whatever audiences thought about the piece almost a hundred years ago, today's audiences have pretty much come to accept the music as a piece of the standard classical repertoire. Moreover, the music seems to fit Matsuev's style of playing even more than the Rachmaninov. The pianist gets plenty of chances to show off his immense talents, and he can be dazzling (that little second-movement Scherzo is a blast, and the sardonic Intermezzo comes off splendidly). It's a solid, sensible approach all the way around, with no cats on the roof.

Producer, engineer, and editor Vladimir Ryabenko recorded the concertos live at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia in June 2016. He did so in DSD (Direct Stream Digital) for playback in hybrid SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) multichannel and two-channel stereo. As usual, I listened in two-channel SACD.

As we might expect from a live recording, it sounds fairly close up, and the orchestra players seem all on the same plane (with little dimensionality). The piano sounds good, though, rich and warm, if a little too wide across the stage. Unfortunately, the orchestral forces tend to fog over a bit and appear both congested and constricted in louder passages. I'm not sure if listening in multichannel rather than two-channel would help rectify this situation. Nevertheless, the bulk of the audio is fine, with decent dynamics and a reasonably extended frequency response.

Oh, and for those of you worried about audience noise at this live recording, there is none. Backgrounds are dead quiet, and the engineer has thankfully edited out any obtrusive applause.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 5, 2018

Art Haus Makes Second Burning Man Appearance

Art Haus, a San Francisco based classical music and dance organization dedicated to presenting large-scale collaborative performances of classical and contemporary works, will give its second appearance at Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada, August 28 through 30.

Building on the massive success of its 2017 debut, Art Haus will present three separate performances including the World Premiere of Robert Dekker's ballet We Human set to Steve Reich's 8 Lines, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and a community performance of Terry Riley's In C. The performances will be presented on a specially designed Art Car, a mobile stage that Art Haus is creating out of an old fire truck specifically for these events. Over fifty musicians and dancers will be involved in the project including many working professional musicians and dancers from across the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Conceived of by Courtney Wise and Robert Dekkers in 2017, Art Haus is a performance arts organization dedicated to bringing edgy, spectacular performances of classical and contemporary works into unique spaces. In 2017 their performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at Burning Man drew a crowd of estimated 10,000 and a photo capturing the moment earned a spot in the Smithsonian "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" exhibit. The group is made up largely of members of the Bay Area arts communities as well as artists from all over the world.

For more information, visit

--Brenden Guy Media

The Angel's Share, New Concert Series in the Catacombs of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery
Unison Media and The Green-Wood Historic Fund are proud to announce The Angel's Share, a new series of opera and chamber music concerts taking place in Green-Wood's remarkable Catacombs. One of the oldest structures in the 478-acre National Historic Landmark cemetery, the Catacombs were built in the 1850s, and are normally closed to the public. The series takes its name from the distiller's term for whiskey that evaporates while maturing in the barrel, thus going to the angels.

Performances include the World Premiere of David Hertzberg's chamber opera The Rose Elf, harpist Bridget Kibbey and friends, twin sister piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton, the JACK Quartet, and the World Premiere of Gregg Kallor's Sketches from Frankenstein. The season will also include the world-renowned harpist Bridget Kibbey and friends in a program that will include Debussy's "Danses Sacrée et Profane." Pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton will perform the works of French and American composers, including Green-Wood "permanent resident," Leonard Bernstein. The JACK Quartet will also perform a program entitled "Modern Medieval," while pianist and composer Gregg Kallor will also introduce a World Premiere, his new cantata based on Mary Shelley's 1818 Gothic novel, "Frankenstein," in partnership with On Site Opera.

Each performance includes a pre-concert reception with a whiskey tasting overlooking the Manhattan skyline and harbor at sunset. The Angel's Share follows Unison Media's acclaimed Crypt Sessions concert series, conceived and curated by Andrew Ousley.

Each performance will begin with a pre-concert reception with food, drinks, and a whiskey tasting overlooking the Manhattan skyline and the New York Harbor at sunset. At dusk, guests will then follow a candle-lit pathway down to the Catacombs for the performance.

The Angel's Share follows Unison Media's acclaimed Crypt Sessions, which debuted at the Church of the Intercession in Harlem in 2015. The intimate performances have generated unprecedented attention, with tickets selling out within minutes of the on-sale date. The New York Times included one of last year's Crypt Sessions on its list of the "Best Classical Music Performances of 2017."

Andrew Ousley, president of Unison Media, said, "I'm tremendously excited to present The Angel's Share, expanding on all that we've accomplished with the Crypt Sessions. I can think of no better space to experience these programs and no better partner than the amazing people at Green-Wood. There's a lot of angst-ridden, hand-wringing over the death of classical music and opera, but based on the view from the Catacombs, things look very much alive to me."

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Summer Festival Continues Chicago Duo Piano Festival's 30th Season
The Music Institute of Chicago continues the 30th anniversary season of its Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) with an expanded schedule of public performances featuring international guest artists July 8–20, 2018 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.

In addition, pianists age eight and older may apply to participate in the education program of the two-week festival, which includes coachings, lectures, master classes, and recitals. The deadline is May 25.

All concerts and master classes take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Il.
Single concert tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $10 for students; a 3-PASS is $60 for adults, $40 for seniors, and $20 for students.

For complete information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, June 3 through 10
This year's Berkeley Festival and Exhibition reimagines the concept of traditional Early Music by broadening the boundaries to include historically informed masterworks from as far back as the early Middle Ages through the Romantic era.

Highlights include a Festival debut by legendary Early Music ensemble Sequentia in two performances that focus on important Latin texts from the Middle Ages; two programs dedicated to J.S. Bach's cantatas and motets featuring Belgian ensemble Vox Luminis in their third Festival appearance; a concert version recreation of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas co-presented by Voices of Music and the San Francisco Girls Chorus; and a 19th-century salon-style presentation of solo and chamber works by Schumann and Schubert by musicians of the Valley of the Moon Festival and tenor Nick Phan.

The eight-day festival also includes over 50 self-produced concerts by participants from around the world as part of its Fringe Festival; a three-day exhibition, June 7 through 9, that brings together instrument makers, publishers, retailers and organizations; Young Artist Series featuring Seattle Historical Arts for Kids presentation of Handel's Serse, Davis Senior High School Baroque Ensemble, Juilliard415, and San Francisco Conservatory of Music students, faculty and alumni; concurrent special events from the Westfield Historical Keyboard Center and the second International Early Music Film Festival; and special lectures, masterclasses and colloquia.

For more information, including the Fringe Festival, three-day exhibition, lectures, masterclass and special events, visit

--Brenden Guy Public Relations

Young Southland Voices Showcased at Walt Disney Concert Hall
The combined vocal force of over 900 high school students from 29 Southland schools can be heard at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday, May 18 when the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents the 29th Annual High School Choir Festival. The Festival choir concert at 1 PM will be conducted by Grant Gershon, the Master Chorale's Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, and guest artist Dr. Edith A. Copley. The program for the concert includes works by Joseph Haydn, Astor Piazzolla, Paul Simon, and more. Eighty-five students have been selected by their choir directors for a prestigious Honor Choir that performs on stage during the concert.

The concert is open to the public and free to attend. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of tickets can be reserved at Tickets will also be available on the day of the concert on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 AM in the main lobby.

In addition to the Festival concert at 1 PM, the day includes a performance by a 16-member Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Ensemble in Walt Disney Concert Hall conducted by Associate Conductor Jenny Wong at 11 AM. This performance is a professional showcase for the students and is also open to the public. Tickets are required for this free event and can be reserved at

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Violinist Tosca Opdam Makes Weill Debut in Robin de Raaff World Premiere
Dutch violinist Tosca Opdam will make her debut in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall presented by EBF Classics on June 4, 2018 at 8pm with a program exploring the theme of "home." The centerpiece of the evening is the world premiere of Robin de Raaff's North Atlantic Light, commissioned by and dedicated to Opdam and inspired by Willem de Kooning's 1977 painting of the same name. Accompanied by pianist Victor Stanislavsky, she will also perform J.S. Bach's Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in E major, BWV 1016; selections from Korngold's Much Ado About Nothing Suite; Debussy's Violin Sonata; and Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94bis. Opdam plays a Matteo Goffriller violin from 1700, which is generously on loan to her by a private collector.

Composer Robin de Raaff praises "the honesty and authenticity" of Opdam's musical personality. He says, "Her sound palette features a remarkably beautiful core: she can be beautifully fierce at one moment and at other times warm and intimate, with a beauty out of this world. These extremes are exactly what I am looking for when I compose. I feel a great resemblance between her and my music."

The program explores the theme of home: homelands, adopted homes, and changed homes. Prokofiev wrote his Violin Sonata No. 2 at a refuge for Soviet artists in the Ural Mountains in 1943. Austrian-Jewish composer Korngold wrote his Much Ado About Nothing Suite in 1918 before moving to Hollywood, where he hoped to maintain footholds in both his old and new homes, scoring films and writing concert works. Debussy, an ardent champion of the French classical tradition, wrote his Violin Sonata in 1917 in his native Paris, on the front lines of World War I. The fountainhead of Western music, J.S. Bach represents an oft-returned-to home for classical musicians.

Tickets, priced at $25, are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall Web site,


--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians May Newsletter
Recently, Hal Weller and Arturo Ochoa along with two students, Gema Aguirre and Sabdy Cordon had the opportunity to be interviewed on by John Stiles and Beth Toy on a show called "Doing It With Stiles." You can view the interview here:

This was a great opportunity for us to share what FAYM is doing and also let us showcase two of our students playing their violins. Read more here:

Spring 2018 Calendar:

Last Day of Spring Classes
May 9th and 10th

Year End Recital
Saturday, May 12th
3pm to 5:30pm
East Las Vegas Community Center

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

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


Pianist Shai Wosner Returns to 92Y
Israeli pianist Shai Wosner is internationally acclaimed for the scope of his artistic intelligence, deeply perceptive interpretations, outstanding technical sophistication, and inspired programming. Praised by Gramophone as "a Schubertian of unfaltering authority and character," the pianist is welcomed back to 92Y's Soundspace series, performing the second and third of three recitals which highlight the final sonatas Schubert composed during his short lifetime.

Friday, May 11, 2018 at 9:00 PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall
Shai Wosner, piano

Sonata in G Major, D. 894, Op. 78 "Fantasie"
Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960

Tickets: from $30
Buttenwieser Hall, NYC

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Principal Players from Major American Orchestras Perform at Festival Mozaic
Fresh faces and new talent will be joining returning familiar Festival favorites on stage this July. Music Director Scott Yoo has invited several principal players from the nation's top orchestras to travel to San Luis Obispo County for two weeks of glorious chamber music and orchestra concerts in unique venues on the Central Coast. Read more about them below, or click here to see the complete list of artists performing this summer:

And for more information about Festival Mozaic, visit

--Festival Mosaic

New England Conservatory Continues 150th Anniversary Celebrations
Tchaikovsky's music is woven into the fabric of the world and specifically the United States. Imagine the winter Holidays without Nutcracker performances or the July 4th weekend without his Overture 1812. In honor of its 150th anniversary, New England Conservatory (NEC) presents an evening of music by Tchaikovsky for the 28th Annual Composer Celebration.

The event will be held on May 24, 2018 at 7:30 pm in NEC's Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA. For complete information and tickets, visit

--Lisa Helfer, Media Relations

YPC Performs at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the Apollo Theater
Saturday, June 2 - The Cathedral of St. John the Divine:
Young People's Chorus of New York City will celebrate the coming of summer with its debut in The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. For more than 425 YPC singers, the largest cathedral in the world will provide a spectacular setting for a program of music and exciting choreography that spans the musical gamut. From the most challenging commissioned compositions to music from the Broadway, spiritual, folk, and popular genres, YPC's spring concert, led by YPC conductors, will display the remarkable skill and talent of every one of YPC's young singers, and herald the momentous summer performance schedule to come.

Thursday, May 17 at 10:45 a.m. - Apollo Theater:
For the 15th annual celebration of its School Choruses program, YPC welcomes more than 1,000 children from New York City schools in Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan to Harlem's historic Apollo Theater for "Red Light, Green Light," a dynamic concert of songs, dances, and stories from the many vibrant cultures that make New York City the most diverse city in America. The singers–all participants in YPC's School Choruses program, a music education and performance program under the direction of YPC's Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez–will be joined onstage by special guests from The Classical Theatre of Harlem led by Producing Artistic Director Ty Jones, and Elise Monte Dance, led by Artistic Director Tiffany Rea-Fisher.

For complete information, visit

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

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.

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.

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, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, 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.
The reader will find Classical Candor's Mission Statement, Staff Profiles, and contact information ( toward the bottom of each page.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Writer

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. 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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet DAC/preamp/crossover, Tandberg 2016A and Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

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

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa