Alfven: Symphony No. 1 (CD review)

Also, Festival Overture; The Mountain King; Uppsala Rhapsody. Niklas Willen, Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Naxos 8.553962.

Composer, conductor, and violinist Hugo Alfven (1872-1960) was among Sweden's most-popular classical composers of his day, and this Naxos collection presents a well-rounded picture of the man's work. Most of it sounds like late-Romantic fare, with an emphasis on the programmatic.

The selections begin with the Festival Overture, a somewhat blustery, bombastic piece that, nevertheless, makes a good, rousing curtain raiser. So, it works in the capacity for which the composer doubtless intended it. Maestro Niklas Willen and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra give it their all, and if one doesn't expect something more substantial, it does its job.

The suite that follows, from the ballet The Mountain King, is more temperate, a series of picturesque tone poems based on old Swedish legends. All four sections of the suite are colorful, the two middle parts the most charming. Overall, though, it sounds for the all the world like second-string Grieg. The Uppsala or Swedish Rhapsody that comes next is a cavalcade of familiar Swedish college songs, including a few drinking songs that the college that commissioned the work disapproved of. It bears a superficial resemblance to Brahms's Academic Festival Overture and comes to a stirring conclusion.

Niklas Willen
The real substance of the disc, however, is Alfven's Symphony No. 1, written in 1897 when the composer was only in his mid twenties. It is a serious work, though not somber. The first movement alternates between light and shadow, between playfulness and dead earnestness. It's hard to find a focus in this opening music, yet it seems to sum up the whole piece. The slow, second movement is overtly Romantic, with lush melodies in abundance. The Scherzo is somewhat too exuberant and becomes tiresome and repetitious. But the concluding Allegro is most engaging, weaving a balletic grace in with its weighty intentions, conductor Willen managing the high-wire act with an appropriate balance.

The sound Naxos provides for the Royal Scottish Orchestra is startlingly real, if a bit dark and heavy. In fact, it's rather huge in size, with a thunderously deep bass impact. The stereo spread is wide; the clarity, in spite of some mid-bass heaviness, is impressive; and the depth of field is more than adequate. This is what some people might have called a stereo spectacular in the old days. Today it's more commonplace to find good, dynamic sonics on a disc; but at a medium a price it comes as a pleasant bonus to some unusual music. Overall, the disc makes a release worth considering.


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

Ragtime in Washington (CD review)

Michael Adcock, piano. Centaur Records CRC 3639.

First, it might prove helpful to hear an authoritative definition of the musical genre known as ragtime, so here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says about the subject: Ragtime is a "propulsively syncopated musical style, one forerunner of jazz and the predominant style of American popular music from about 1899 to 1917. Ragtime evolved in the playing of honky-tonk pianists along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the last decades of the 19th century. It was influenced by minstrel-show songs, blacks' banjo styles, and syncopated (off-beat) dance rhythms of the cakewalk, and also elements of European music. Ragtime found its characteristic expression in formally structured piano compositions. The regularly accented left-hand beat, in 4/4 or 2/4 time, was opposed in the right hand by a fast, bouncingly syncopated melody that gave the music its powerful forward impetus.

"Scott Joplin, called 'King of Ragtime,' published the most successful of the early rags, 'The Maple Leaf Rag,' in 1899. Joplin, who considered ragtime a permanent and serious branch of classical music, composed hundreds of short pieces, a set of études, and operas in the style. Other important performers were, in St. Louis, Louis Chauvin and Thomas M. Turpin (father of St. Louis ragtime) and, in New Orleans, Tony Jackson."

On the present recording, pianist Michael Adcock plays a wide-ranging assortment of ragtime tunes, from Scott Joplin to William Bolcom and John Musto. Mr. Adcock's Web site describes him as follows: "Hailed for his prodigious technique and praised by the Washington Post for an 'unusually fresh and arresting approach to the piano,' pianist Michael Adcock has cultivated a versatile career as soloist, chamber musician and pre-concert lecturer. Recipient of the 1998 Lili Boulanger Memorial Award, Mr. Adcock was also a prizewinner in the 1996 Washington International Competition and the Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Competitions in Chicago and New York. Mr. Adcock gave his Carnegie Weill Recital Hall debut in December of 1998. Mr. Adcock earned Master's, Artist Diploma and Doctoral degrees from Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Leon Fleisher and Ellen Mack, and was adjunct faculty in theory and chamber music. Mr. Adcock took his Bachelor's degree from Oberlin College-Conservatory and attended secondary school at North Carolina School of the Arts."

Because Scott Joplin considered ragtime a form of classical music and because Mr. Adcock is primarily a classical pianist, it is no wonder that Adcock takes a kind of classical approach to the music. His playing is more subtle, more reserved, more intimate than most other performers I've heard in this genre. It's quite beautiful, but it is also a bit different and, at the same time, refreshing.

The selections on the album:
  1. Scott Joplin (1868-1917): Bethena (A Concert Waltz)
  2. Henry Lodge (1885-1933): Red Pepper Rag
  3. Scott Joplin: The Easy Winners
  4. George Gershwin (1898-1937) and Will Donaldson (1891-1954): Rialto Ripples
  5. Scott Joplin: Palm Leaf Rag
  6. Thomas Benjamin (b. 1940): That Old Second-Viennese-School Rag
  7. William Albright (1944-1998): Sleepwalker's Shuffle
  8. William Albright: Scott Joplin's Victory
  9. William Bolcom (b. 1938): Incinerator Rag
10. William Bolcom: The Brooklyn Dodge
11. William Bolcom: Last Rag
12. William Bolcom: Fields of Flowers
13. John Musto (b. 1954): Recollections
14. John Musto: In Stride
15. Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941): Grandpa's Spells
16. Bob Zurke (1912-1944): Old Tom-Cat on the Keys
17. Scott Joplin: Solace

Michael Adcock
Interestingly, the popularity of ragtime has ebbed and flowed. As the encyclopedia mentioned, its height of favor was from about 1899 to about 1917, the end of the First World War. Then it got pretty much shoved aside by various other kinds of jazz. However, a revival occurred in 1973, thanks to the film The Sting, with Marvin Hamlisch arranging and playing Joplin's music. Hamlisch's single from the soundtrack, "The Entertainer," even became a top-ten hit. The irony is that the movie's time setting was 1936, well after the heyday of ragtime; but it didn't matter. For a while, ragtime was back in the public eye. And then, well, the music sort of faded into obscurity again, so it's good to have Mr. Adcock's new album.

Favorites on the disc? Of course. Since "Bethena" has been well liked for over a century, Adcock leads with it. He presents it in an attractively gentle manner, bringing out the more-plaintive, lyrical waltz characteristics of the music. Likewise is Adcock's handling of the crowd-pleasing "The Easy Winners" takes on a sweeter quality than usual. Then he follows with the more upbeat "Red Pepper Rag," which like Gershwin's "Rialto Ripples" gives the pianist room to rock.

Still, as I say, Adcock's classical leanings may be more than a bit disconcerting to people more attuned to traditionally hell-bent interpretations. For the rest of us, the playing is superb and the renditions charming and affectionate. That's doubly the case for Adcock's reading of Thomas Benjamin's delightful lampoon of Arnold Schonberg via Scott Joplin in "That Old Second-Viennese-School Rag." So, even the modern things from Benjamin, Bolcom, Albright, and Musto come off well. Joplin's "Solace" brings the program to an appropriately tranquil and comforting end.

It's all highly entertaining (and not a little enlightening), which is the whole point of music.

Producer Michael Adcock and engineer David Shoemaker recorded the music at Calvary United Methodist Church, Frederick, Maryland in May 2017. The results are quite good.

First, however, a digression. Many years ago (1982 to be exact), the late Dave Wilson of Wilson Audio had just recorded a pair of albums he called "Ragtime Razzmatazz" with pianist Mark P. Wetch. Dave invited me to listen to the actual piano in the actual location he recorded the albums and then to hear the music in his living room through his big WAMM (Wilson Audio Modular Monitor) super speakers. With my eyes closed, the sound of the real thing and the sound of the recording were pretty much alike, especially as Dave had recorded the piano very close, and when we were listening to the real thing, we were sitting very close.

Now, I mention this because there are similarities between Dave's recording and this newer one from Centaur. Both are fairly close up, and both capture the sound of the instrument in a similar fashion. Dave's recording, though, used a huge, Kroeger "hard-tuned" honky-tonk-sounding upright piano. Mr. Adcock plays a fully restored New York Steinway D from PianoCraft. Big difference. So, yes, Adcock's piano has less obvious ring and reverberation, a softer, mellower, and more precise sound, nicely captured by the sound engineer in a modestly reverberant setting, with a mild fuzz or buzz around the strings. Dave went for an authentic saloon sound; Centaur projects a more classical concert-hall presentation. Both are worthy of the music, which works so well in both mediums.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, August 11, 2018

Dominique Labelle To Receive Opera Canada's "Ruby" Award

Opera Canada Publications announces 2018 Opera Canada Awards, "The Rubies" recipients to be honoured at October 22nd, 2018 Gala. The three distinguished honourees who will receive the 2018 Opera Canada Awards will be celebrated at a gala award evening at First Canadian Place in downtown Toronto.

The 2018 Opera Canada Award honourees are Dominique Labelle, soprano and vocal pedagogue; Wayne Gooding, opera educator and Editor, Opera Canada (1994-2017); and Alexander Neef, General Director, Canadian Opera Company and Artistic Director, Santa Fe Opera.

In 2000, Opera Canada magazine introduced the Opera Canada Awards, nicknamed 'The Rubies,' in honour of its founding Editor, Ruby Mercer. This gala evening celebrates the talent and accomplishments of Canadians who have made a significant contribution to the opera world as artists, builders, administrators and philanthropists.

For more information, visit

--Schwalbe and Partners

Orion Hosts Benefits Combining Music and Festivity
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for
Adventurous Programming, hosts two special events this fall: a post-concert event following its opening performance September 23 in Evanston, Illinois and a benefit performance and party Saturday, October 13 in St. Charles, Illinois. Proceeds will help support Orion's performances and outreach efforts to young musicians.

On Sunday, September 23 at 3 p.m., Orion opens its 26th season, The Journey Continues, with "Vienna, City of My Dreams," at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinios. The program, which includes guest violist Stephen Boe, features Mozart's Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major, after KV317d; Schubert's Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F Major for Piano Quartet, D. 487; and Strauss's Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 13.

Following the performance, Orion celebrates the season opening at a benefit reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at Vinic Wines, 1509 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. Guests enjoy wine, snacks and conversation with Orion artists, board members and concertgoers. Orion is requesting a $50 donation for admission. Space is limited; reservations are available by emailing or calling 630-628-9591.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, The Orion Ensemble

St. Charles Singers to Open 35th Season with Mozart Festival Weekend Aug. 24-26
Professional chamber choir St. Charles Singers, conducted by Jeffrey Hunt, will open its 35th concert season with a three-day Mozart Festival Weekend August 24-26, 2018, joined by the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra and guest soloist, soprano Michelle Areyzaga.

Each festival day will feature a different concert of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, including two new installments of the choir's Mozart Journey, its multiyear excursion through Mozart's complete sacred choral music.

All three concerts will take place at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, Illinois.

The Mozart Journey XIII concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 24, will include Mozart's Missa in C Major, K. 262, notable for its large complement of woodwind and brass instruments; "Grabmusik," K. 42, in which an Angel (soprano) and human soul (bass) sing solos and duets; and sacramental motet "Tantum ergo" in B-flat Major, K. 142. Areyzaga will sing in "Grabmusik" and "Tantum ergo."

The Metropolis Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Hunt, will take center stage at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 25, for an all-instrumental concert of Mozart's orchestral music. The program will include the Overture to Mozart's unfinished opera "Lo sposo deluso" ("The Deluded Bridegroom"), K. 430; the humorous Serenade in D Major, K. 320 ("Post Horn"); and Symphony in C Major, No. 41, K. 551 ("Jupiter"), Mozart's final symphony and one of his greatest creations, bursting with action and musical colors.

For more information, visit

--Nat Silverman, Nathan J. Silverman Company PR

Get Your Free Rameau Audio Download from KDFC
Like free music? Sign up for Classical KDFC's eNotes and you'll get access to their free music "downloads of the week." This week, KDFC is offering a free download of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's recording of the Overture of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Le Temple de la Gloire.

If you already receive KDFC eNotes, watch for the free Rameau download today. If not, sign up now to get it while it's available. Sign up here to get KDFC weekly eNotes and get the free download:

--Marketing, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Performs with Pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii
In its 46th year of innovative concerts, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra kicks off its 2018-19 Carnegie Hall series on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage with Gentle Giants, featuring 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition-winning Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii.

Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Pärt--three of music's gentlest giants--turned inward to discover their groundbreaking, heart-wrenching voices. Now Orpheus expands the reach of their pivotal masterpieces through lucid re-orchestrations. Tsujii, who has been blind since birth, joins Orpheus for Chinese-American composer Shuying Li's new chamber orchestra arrangement of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 21. The program also includes Arvo Pärt's Fratres and Tchaikovsky's String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 reimagined and arranged for chamber orchestra by Christopher Theofanidis. Both arrangements were commissioned by Orpheus.

The program receives its world premiere on Friday, September 14, 2018 at the Williams Center for the Arts at Lafayette College in Easton, PA and will also be performed on Sunday, September 16, 2018 at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College in Purchase, NY; and Friday, September 21, 2018 at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY.

For complete information about Orpheus, please call 212.896.1700 or visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

August 12 on PBS: Luisa Miller on "Great Performances at the Met"
There is new video available from "Great Performances at the Met": Luisa Miller, starring Sonya Yoncheva in the title role and Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo, with Plácido Domingo as Luisa's father, Miller, airing Sunday, August 12 at 12:00 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Verdi's heart-wrenching opera follows the tragic romance of Luisa and Rodolfo as their love is tested by intrigue, lies and betrayal. Bertrand de Billy conducts. Anthony Roth Costanzo hosts.

For video, visit
Or at YouTube:

--Dorian Rose Pugh, WNET

The Crossing Premieres Ted Hearne Work in Of Arms and the Man
Winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally, kicks off its 2018-2019 season on Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. with Of Arms and the Man, part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

The program, which explores the timeless themes of nationalism and war while navigating personal stories of joy and despair, features a world premiere by 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist Ted Hearne, the nation's preeminent composer of works of social advocacy, co-commissioned by Park Avenue Armory and The Crossing.

Donald Nally describes, "The concert takes a look at life and war and life during war from a number of angles: national pride, grief, and anger. Ted's new piece is going to fit into this overall theme of how we agree or disagree across nations and continents and what we're actually doing when we act on those alliances or arguments. In Of Arms and the Man, The Crossing continues to ask complex questions for which there may be no easy answers." Three cellos will join the 24-voice ensemble, weaving a tapestry of works that explore what's happening in choral music today.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

PIAS Launches Contemporary Music Label Sancho Panza
Artist manager and agent Steve Abbott of Harmonic Artists has partnered with [PIAS] for his new record label, Sancho Panza, which will specialise in contemporary music. Sancho Panza exists solely to release new music; music being made in and representing the times we live in. Classical music will be a core focus for the label, which will also feature jazz and electronic releases.

Sancho Panza's first signing is a London based string group, the 12 ensemble, with their debut album 'Resurrection'. The ensemble are set to appear at The Good Life Experience in North Wales on 15th September, showcasing their versatility with a performance of Schubert's epic 'Death and the Maiden' quartet (arr. Mahler) followed by a stunning arrangement of Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós's song 'Fljotavik' by ensemble member Guy Button. The ensemble then embarks on their 'Reborn' tour, performing Tansy Davies 'Residuum', Woolrich 'Ulysses Awakes', Britten 'Lachrymae' and Schubert 'Death and the Maiden' with dates in London, Manchester and Bristol throughout September.

For more information, visit

--Sarah Folger, PIAS

The Angel's Share presents the JACK Quartet, September 24
The Angel's Share, a new concert series by Unison Media and The Green-Wood Historic Fund which features opera and chamber music concerts in Green-Wood's remarkable Catacombs, will continue September 24 with a one-night-only performance by acclaimed new music ensemble the JACK Quartet.

The quartet will perform their remarkable Modern Medieval program, which traces the threads across centuries, weaving together contemporary works with arrangements of Medieval plainchant from JACK violinist Christopher Otto. The program escalates in intensity, beginning with Marcos Balter's Chambers, then moving to Chaya Czernowin's String Quartet, before culminating in John Zorn's hypnotic, necromantic fantasy, The Alchemist.

The JACK Quartet: Modern Medieval
Green-Wood Cemetery
500 25th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Monday, September 24: 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

For complete information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Organ Spectacular (CD review)

David Briggs, organist. Delos DE 3241.

The sell here is that Delos Records bills the disc as the "Inaugural recording on the world's largest church organ." English organist and composer David Briggs plays the organs (there are two--one in the back of the church and one in front) of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles in six compositions demonstrating the power of the mighty beasts.

Producer and recording engineer John Eargle writes that the Dolby Surround technique he used "enhances the listening experience by reproducing an ambient sound field more closely approaching that of a musical performance in a reverberant space." I have the utmost respect for Mr. Eargle's work, but that "reverberant space" he speaks of needs to be toned down on this recording--way down. The sound is appropriately big all right: big, big, and more big, but it's also soft and distant and somewhat unfocused. I have to admit here that I am not a fan of solo organ music to begin with, so, yes, I'm showing my bias. Maybe this is exactly what the world's largest church organs do sound like in this church. However, it isn't like any other organ recording in my collection, which all sound much more clearly defined in spite of hall ambience; nor is it like any live church organ music I've ever experienced, like, say, the organ of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, with which I'm fairly familiar. Of course, it's only one organ, not two.

David Briggs
Anyway, of the six works performed on the disc, it's hard to tell why Mr. Briggs chose his own improvisations on an old Lutheran chorale, "Ein Feste Burg," to open the program. It is a twenty-three minute work that seems primarily designed to test one's patience. Of course, Mr. Briggs is a noted improviser, at the time of the recording in 1999 a Visiting Tutor in Improvisation at the Royal Northern College of Music, so that may explain it.

The rest of the pieces have more substance, although Briggs's playing is a little conservative, so don't expect the music to come to life as it might have under more-flamboyant (and more-controversial) players like Virgil Fox or E. Power Biggs. So, depending on your preference in organ playing (modest or splashy), you take your chances. For me, Briggs seemed a consummate artist in most of the pieces, although Walton's "Orb and Sceptre" march seemed so forward it was almost deafening yet so distant we have to squint over the crowds to see the music performed; odd.

Be that as it may, Faure's "Shylock: V. Nocturne," Nevin's "Will o' the Wisp," and Vierne's "Pieces de Fantasie: Carillon de Westminster" come off better, especially the latter with its playful takes on the chimes of Big Ben. Then, the program ends with another long piece, Reubke's Sonata on the 94th Psalm, which in four movements has its ups and downs (fortunately, mostly ups). Especially if you're a dedicated organ lover, you'll probably enjoy it. 

I'd have to say this disc is designed mainly for dedicated organ lovers, or for those curious to hear what these particular, really big organs sound like in surround audio; if, in fact, this IS what they really sound like, regardless of the number of channels. Non organ lovers, though, may safely pass.


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

John Williams: A Life in Music (CD review)

Gavin Greenaway, London Symphony Orchestra. Decca 6738332.

You may remember that I've mused upon this subject before: namely, asking the question, What orchestral music from the mid-twentieth century onward will people still be listening to a hundred or more years from now? As most of the classical repertoire even today is comprised mainly of Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music, it doesn't leave a lot of room for most modern material. Then I think of American composer, conductor, and pianist John Williams (b. 1932). Granted, the majority of Mr. Williams's work is in the field of film scores, for which he has won numerous awards, and most listeners probably aren't even aware of his concertos, symphonies, and chamber pieces. But the film scores may be enough; indeed, many of them may already be classics, if not strictly of the classical kind. And when audiences go to an orchestral concert centuries from now, they may yet find the name "John Williams" on the program.

The current album takes its place among a host of such discs that pay tribute to John Williams's most-famous film scores. This one gives us ten of his most-beloved works, conducted by Gavin Greenaway and played by the orchestra that performed most of it for the movie soundtracks, the London Symphony. By now, they must know this material by heart.

The tracks include, as I say, some of the most-popular Williams stuff you can name, selections from Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Schindler's List, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, and Superman. It helps that Maestro Greenaway is no stranger to film himself, having conducted the soundtrack music for such things as Pearl Harbor, Gladiator, The Thin Red Line, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Here, he does up the music of Mr. Williams in find style.

Of course, any John Williams fan is going to have his or her favorites, and mine include the opening number, the familiar Star Wars main title theme. Greenaway plays it with plenty of pizzazz and bravura, so I'm sure Williams would applaud it, too. And one can easily see in it the inspiration Williams got from people like Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who was no doubt inspired in turn by Richard Strauss, who was probably inspired in part by Franz Liszt, and so on.

The far more-gentle theme from Jurassic Park gets a sweet, unaffected treatment that I appreciated. "Hedwig's Theme" from the first Harry Potter movie is likewise amiable and winning. Then the "Raiders March" takes us back to the daring brilliance of the opening track, a kind of spiritual uplift from an old friend, played by Greenaway with an abundance flourish and panache as well as sensitivity during the quieter moments.

John Williams
And so it goes. The "Flying Theme" from  E.T. has a sprightly cadence; the theme from Schindler's List exhibits an appropriate melancholy, with its longing violin solo; "The Flight to Neverland" from Hook rollicks along at a splendid pace; and the "Hymn to the Fallen" from Saving Private Ryan establishes an elegiac tone. Then, everybody's favorite "Shark Theme" and the heroic "Superman March" close out the show with an imposing flair.

It's all quite a lot of fun, well performed and well recorded. I can't imagine anyone who hasn't seen most of these movies, but even if one hasn't, the music is inspiring and well worth the time. Time and again. The album does have one drawback, though: It's only a little over fifty minutes long, and I'm sure the producers could have found a lot more of John Williams's work worth recording. Still, what we have is good enough.

Finally, as this is a tribute album, for each of the selections a member or members of the LSO say a few words in the booklet notes about Mr. Williams. They are touching remembrances of the work and legacy of a great composer.

Producers James Morgan and Juliette Pochin and engineers Geoff Foster and Tony Cousins recorded the music at Air Lyndhurst Studios, London, UK. Decca Records and Classic FM released the album in 2018. The results of their work sound like a big studio production, and it's exactly what this music needed. Yes, it is big, big, big. Dynamic, wide-ranging, fairly well imaged, with a moderate orchestral depth and a good, balanced stereo spread that leaves no hole in the middle. In short, it sounds like a realistic concert-hall performance, which is what I'd imagine a lot audiophiles look for in a recording, even if it isn't the topmost in ultimate transparency.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, August 4, 2018

Bravo! Vail, Philadelphia Orchestra Contract Extension

The Bravo! Vail Music Festival is pleased to announce that The Philadelphia Orchestra will continue to be a mainstay of this distinguished summer destination for classical music, with a three-year contract extension ensuring its presence in Vail from 2019-2021. The announcement was made by Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott and The Philadelphia Orchestra's Board Chairman Richard Worley and Interim President Ryan Fleur during its finale performance on Saturday, July 14, 2018, with esteemed pianist Daniil Trifonov. The Philadelphia Orchestra first performed at Bravo! Vail in 2007. More information about Bravo! Vail is available at

Highlights of The Philadelphia Orchestra's relationship with Bravo! Vail include the Festival debut or world premiere of works by Mason Bates, Guillaume Connesson, and Jennifer Higdon, as well as notable orchestral transcriptions created by the Orchestra's famed late Music Director Leopold Stokowski. Together, they also presented the Festival's first film screening with the live score, Disney's Fantasia in 2014, and the concert music of critically acclaimed film composer John Williams. The Orchestra also brought the circus to the mountains with the exciting debut production of Cirque de la Symphonie at Bravo! Vail.

Early in his tenure with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin concluded the ensemble's 2013 residency with a triumphant performance of Verdi's Requiem Mass, which was broadcast live on Colorado Public Radio stations across the state. Additionally, the Orchestra presented a theatrically staged Shakespeare program in collaboration with Colorado Shakespeare Theater, selections from La bohème in concert with conductor Rossen Milanov, and a Jazz evening with the legendary Paquito d'Rivera. The Orchestra has also been an enthusiastic participant in Bravo! Vail's community and education outreach, dispatching musicians to perform in Free Family and Little Listeners @ the Library concerts throughout the Vail Valley.

"Our partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra has yielded some of Bravo! Vail's most innovative offerings," said Festival Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott. "The announcement of our first opera production, Tosca, in collaboration with the Orchestra, signals that Bravo! Vail will continue to evolve and pursue new artistic endeavors with this exceptional creative partner. We are thrilled for their renewed commitment to the Festival and Vail audiences."

"The Philadelphia Orchestra has enjoyed more than a decade of memorable performances at the esteemed Bravo! Vail Music Festival," said Richard B. Worley, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Philadelphia Orchestra. "We look forward to continuing this fruitful relationship with a partner that believes in the versatility of the Orchestra and the inspiring possibilities of symphonic music. This special collaboration enables us to present the most creative forms of our art for the devoted and appreciative audiences of Vail."

For more information on Bravo! Vail, call 970.827.5700 or visit

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Brubeck & More That's New
The name BRUBECK evokes memories of the 1950's hit "Take Five" with the amazing sax player Paul Desmond but, nowadays, it means CHRIS Brubeck, who has written superb pieces for Canadian Brass, Time for Three, and Sharon Isbin.

On August 11th at the Classical Tahoe Festival, Jaime Laredo & Sharon Robinson will give the world premiere, with conductor Joel Revzen, of the Double Concerto "Pas de Deux" that Chris has written for them. It's bound to be another great piece for Jaime and Sharon. So, if it's Brubeck or Brahms, Rozsa, Previn, Zwilich, Danielpour or more, you'll want to have Jaime and Sharon come and delight your audience.

For complete information, visit

--Frank Salomon Associates

WinterMezzo Tickets On Sale Now
The last notes are still ringing from our incredible 2018 Summer Festival. And oh, what a Festival it was! Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see new videos of the Summer Festival. And be sure to follow our Facebook page to re-live the Festival magic by seeing the photos from all of our Summer events.

Tickets for our 2018-2019 WinterMezzo Chamber Music Series are on sale now! Buy tickets online at or call our office at (805) 781-3009.

Festival Mozaic's internationally-renowned artists present chamber music concerts in spectacular venues on the California Central Coast in the fall and winter. This season, Music Director Scott Yoo presents two weekends of great works of chamber music and offers three sequential ways to connect to the music and the musicians. We encourage you to attend all events in each weekend, and experience the special intimacy that comes from Festival Mozaic.

For complete information, visit

--Festival Mosaic

September Concerts Open Orion's 26th Season
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, opens its 26th season with "Vienna, City of My Dreams," welcoming guest violist Stephen Boe. Performances take place September 23 at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois; September 26 at the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago; and September 30 at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva.

The program
Orion's first concert program of the season features Mozart's Clarinet Quartet in B-flat Major, after KV317d. Mozart's love for the violin and viola was second in his heart only to his beloved fortepiano.

Opening night event: September 23
To open the season, Orion hosts a benefit reception after the September 23 performance from 5 to 7 p.m. at Vinic Wines, 1509 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Guests enjoy wine, snacks and conversation with Orion artists, board members and concertgoers.

For more information about the Orion Ensemble's season, visit

--Jill Chukerman, The Orion Ensemble

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians: President's Message
The summer is almost over and we will soon be into the2018/2019 school year. This newsletter has lots of important information regarding the start of the year's activities. Please be sure to review important dates and if you have any questions feel free to call!

This past year, we started a Mariachi program that is doing very well under the leadership of Ms. Marla Huizar. This year we are looking at creating a Beginning Mariachi class in which any FAYM student that has completed their first year with us may attend. We are still working out the details and are searching for a teacher for this class. We will have more information at the orientation meetings.

In addition to our Violins for Kids program, FAYM also provides some scholarship assistance to students that have finished high school and are moving on to college. This month I would like to give an update on one of our scholarship recipients, Miss Kelly Haines. Kelly is a very accomplished young musician that is pursuing a college degree. If you are a FAYM parent, please be sure to share this article with your children currently in FAYM. Someday they too may receive a FAYM scholarship.  --Aruthur Ochoa, President

To register, visit
For more information on the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians, visit


Turn the Spotlight Launches to Create a More Equitable Future in the Arts
Today, twenty-one arts leaders and activists announce the launch of Turn the Spotlight, a foundation created to pair top-tier mentors with exceptional women, people of color, and other equity-seeking groups in the arts. Beth Stewart, a New York City-based arts entrepreneur and classical music publicist, will lead the foundation, which is supported by an Advisory Board of arts world luminaries, including soprano Julia Bullock, journalists Anne Midgette and Celeste Headlee, conductors Lidiya Yankovskaya and Nicole Paiement, stage director Francesca Zambello, classical music publicist Mary Lou Falcone, arts advocates Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora, and women's rights advocate Amanda Mejia.

"We believe that systemic change is crucial," said Turn The Spotlight Founder Beth Stewart. "We also believe that one-on-one mentoring can have real impact, particularly in an industry in which so many professionals are freelancers working outside an established institutional framework. Our mission is to identify, nurture, and empower leaders, and in turn, illuminate the path to a more equitable future in the arts."

For more information, visit

--Beth Stewart, Verismo Communications

2018/19 Single Tickets Now on Sale for Philharmonia Baroque
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2018/19 Season promises an eclectic array of sound experiences, with sacred vocal works by Bach, Mozart and Pärt, virtuosic concerti by Vivaldi and Geminiani, and Handel at his dramatic heights. Join us at one (or more) of these exciting season programs.

Purchase tickets early while the best seats are still available!

For complete season listings and tickets, visit

Or call Call City Box Office at (415) 392-4400

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

PUBLIQuartet Announces Nat'l Sawdust Residency & PUBLIQ Access Composers
PUBLIQuartet has named the recipients of the 2018-19 PUBLIQ Access award (PQA), three composers with whom they will collaborate for the 2018-19 season, Vahid Jahandari, Gemma Peacocke and Niloufar Nourbakhsh. They will each receive a commission to write for PUBLIQuartet and get the chance to engage in high profile talks, panels and concerts featuring their compositions, performed by PUBLIQuartet. Additionally, The Violin Channel will share the composers' works in their New Music Tuesday feature and conduct an interview with each of them.

2018 marks the commencement of PUBLIQ Access Junior, which serves as an avenue of exposure for composers age 17 and under. This year's award recipient is Avik Sarkar. This PQA Junior award will allow him the opportunity to compose a 5-minute commission for PUBLIQuartet that will debut along with the other PQA composers on April 26th. Additionally, The Violin Channel will feature Sarkar's work in New Music Tuesday and conduct an interview with him.

PUBLIQuartet residency at National Sawdust:
National Sawdust recently announced that PUBLIQuartet will be their 2018-19 Artists-In-Residence.  All workshops with PQA & PQA Junior composers will be held at National Sawdust as well as performances of all four works on April 26th. Other residency performances by the Quartet are November 7th, 2018 and February 10th, 2019.

For complete information, visit

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Bizet/Shchedrin: Carmen Ballet (CD review)

Also, Shostakovich: Hamlet; Glazunov: Carnaval Overture. Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops Orchestra. RCA HP 09026-63308-2.

This was the first recording I heard in RCA's "High Performance" audiophile series, which they launched in the late Nineties and subsequently abandoned. Their remastering process involved 24/96 bit technology, using a customized Studer transport with Cello electronics and UV22TM Super CD encoding. It all appeared quite impressive, and I'm sure the results sounded better than much of what the company usually produced. But at the time I questioned their choice of material and never fully appreciated their sonics.

Arthur Fiedler conducted the Bizet and Shostakovich pieces vivaciously, to be sure; Fiedler was a highly underrated conductor by the music critics of his day (and maybe ours today). All they could see was that he led a "pops" orchestra, and many of them doubted he could lead a suitable interpretation of anything more serious than pop material. They were generally wrong.

Arthur Fiedler
All three works on the disc get crackerjack performances from Fiedler, especially the Carmen Ballet, in Rodion Shchedrin's quirky arrangement of Bizet's music utilizing nothing but strings and forty-seven percussion instruments. Fiedler's realization is filled with all the color, creativity, irreverence, and sly wit Shchedrin no doubt intended. Likewise with the other selections.

But it was the sound I was interested in when I listened to my first disc in this series. RCA advertised it as spectacularly wide ranging in dynamics and frequency response. When I listened, I found it in a favorable light, yet not much more so than I did any normally good recording. The sound derived from 1968 and 1969 masters, not an era for which RCA was known for its greatest sonics. The music is quiet in background, smooth, and fairly natural in overall response. However, it is also very much multi-miked and flat in its depth perspective.

Frankly, I preferred then and prefer now the sound of RCA's earlier Living Stereo discs, in spite of their occasionally rougher projection and sometimes higher noise level. Nonetheless, for readers interested in the Carmen selection, in particular, one can hardly find a better release.


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

John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa