Classical Music News of the Week, September 1, 2018

Concerts at Saint Thomas Presents a Pair of October 2018 Performances

The 2018-19 season at Concerts at Saint Thomas will begin with a major dedicatory event centered around the inauguration of the church's new Miller-Scott Organ. After over ten years of planning, this magnificent organ will be debuted by Saint Thomas's current Organist and Director of Music, Daniel Hyde, in a special solo recital on October 5th officially dedicating the instrument to the church's former music director, John Scott. A virtuosic program has been planned with the intent of showcasing the instrument's full sonic capabilities ranging from soft string voices to the iconic "blazing Saint Thomas sound."

On October 18th, Benjamin Sheen plays the organ for its first concert with the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and its orchestral debut with the Orchestra of St. Luke's.

October 5, 2018: Friday at 7:00 PM
The Irene D. and William R. Miller Chancel Organ in Memory of John Scott Dedication Recital
Grand Organ Series I, Daniel Hyde, organ
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC
(Tickets required)

October 18, 2018: Thursday at 7:30 PM
Parry, Janacek, Bernstein, Poulenc and Barber
The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys and Orchestra of St. Luke's
Benjamin Sheen, organ; Sara Cutler, harp; Hyesang Park, soprano; Daniel Hyde, conductor
Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC
(Tickets required)

Tickets may be purchased at www.saintthomaschurch.org, by calling the Concerts Office at (212) 664-9360, by email at concerts@saintthomaschurch.org, or in person at the Concerts Office at One West 53rd Street at Fifth Avenue (enter through the Parish House).

Video of the The Miller-Scott Organ, Saint Thomas Church:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56v_wz35mcI&feature=youtu.be

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

International Contemporary Ensemble Announces Fall 2018 Concerts
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces their fall 2018 season and the appointment of Executive Director Rebecca Sigel.

Engagements this autumn include residencies at Depauw University, University of North Texas, Cornell University, and University of Michigan; a concert at the 2018 Resonant Bodies Festival at Roulette Intermedium; performances of Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen's In Plain Air at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Philadelphia, part of the Philly Fringe Festival; the New York premiere performances of Missy Mazzoli's opera Proving Up at Miller Theatre; the politically themed program, the national anthems, with The Crossing at Peak Performances; a performance with Hidejiro Honjo at the Japan Society; a concert at the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; 100 for 100: Musical Decades of Freedom with the Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne and Polish Cultural Institute New York at Roulette; a Miller Theatre Composer Portrait of Du Yun; and a return to Constellation in Chicago.

For more specific information about the upcoming season, visit https://www.iceorg.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Czech Star Violinist Pavel Sporcl Receives "Torch-Bearer Award" in NYC
The award is given to people who outstandingly serve their cities, communities, and countries; Sporcl is a rare musician recipient for a prize that often focuses on sports rather than arts.

Superstar Czech violinist Pavel Sporcl is in New York to receive a special prize for his work bringing society together through music. The prize, called the "Torch-Bearer Award," was presented outside the United Nations building this past weekend by the Sri Chimnoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a nonprofit institute whose other activities include an international run in which a torch is passed from person to person to encourage people to express their hopes and dreams for a better world. The award "honours those people whose who have inspired and served their nations, their cities and their communities." It was presented in front of fellow luminaries and UN national delegates.

Previous winners of the award include Olympian athlete Carl Lewis, European Council President Herman van Rompuy, tennis legend Billie Jean King and Archibishop Desmond Tutu amongst many others.

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Violin and Guitar Duo
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) opens its 2018-19 season with a performance by duo Fire & Grace, featuring guitarist William Coulter and violinist Edwin Huizinga. Fire & Grace's programs explore the connective musical elements of classical, folk, and contemporary traditions from around the world, showcased through the duo's own arrangements. Concerts are held on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at An Beal Bocht Café in Riverdale in collaboration with ClassicalCafé, with additional performances on Friday, September 28, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 in Manhattan, and on Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. at Alice Austen House in Staten Island.

Additional 5BMF performances in the 2018-19 season include An Empire of Silver & Gold: Music of 18th Century Latin America, an exploration of 18th century vocal and instrumental pieces from Latin American manuscript sources on November 5; the return of baroque virtuosi, Les Délices, in a new program entitled "Songs Without Words" on February 23 & 24; the award-winning all female Aizuri Quartet on March 22; a collaboration with pianist Martin Katz and the Brooklyn Art Song Society in "Hugo Wolf: The Complete Mörike-Lieder" on April 28, May 3 and 4; and concludes with two special programs celebrating LGBT composers and librettists in collaboration with the New York Festival of Song and the LGBT Community Center ("The Center") on June 11 and 25.

For more information, visit http://5bmf.org/

--Will Albach, Morahan Arts and Media

Musica Viva NY Presents "Songs of Love" Benefit Concert
Musica Viva NY kicks off its 2018-19 season with "Songs of Love," an evening of lieder by Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, and P.D.Q. Bach, on Sunday, September 23 at 5:00 p.m. at All Souls Church. The concert features soprano Devony Smith, mezzo-soprano Michèle Eaton, tenor Nathan Siler, and baritone Brian Mextorf, accompanied by Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez and Trent Johnson.

There will be a pre-concert talk at 4pm at All Souls Church, open to all, given by Professor Peter Schickele. Admission is free, with a suggested donation at the door to support Musica Viva NY's artistic programming.

Founded in 1977, Musica Viva NY shares the transcendent power of choral and instrumental music with audiences in New York City and beyond, through its annual four-concert series. The Musica Viva NY choir of thirty professionals and highly skilled volunteers performs broad repertoire, including new compositions and classic masterworks, emphasizing artistic excellence and transformative interpretations.

Additional concerts in Musica Viva NY's 2018-19 season include End of the War to End All Wars on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at All Souls Church, commemorating the end of World War I; Musica Viva NY Presents the Aeolus Quartet on Sunday, January 27, 2019 at Bohemian National Hall; "Bernstein at 100" on Sunday, March 10, 2019 celebrating Bernstein's centennial; and Homage on Sunday, May 19, 2019 spotlighting composers paying tribute to the past masters who inspired them.

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

--Will Albach, Morahan Arts and Media

Wang Piano Duo To Conclude 30th Chicago Duo Piano Festival
The Music Institute of Chicago's Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) concludes its 30th anniversary season with the celebrated Susan and Sarah Wang Piano Duo in concert Friday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.

The concert program includes Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K448; Stravinsky's Concerto per Due Pianoforti Soli; Mendelssohn's Andante and Allegro Brillant, Op. 92; Sven Daigger's "su" for two pianos (2009); and Ravel's La Valse.

In addition, the duo will give a master class, free and open to the public, Saturday, October 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall.

Susan and Sarah Wang Piano Duo performs Friday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

Admission is $50 for VIP seating, $40 for adults, $25 for senior citizens, and $15 for students. Tickets are available musicinst.org/nichols-concert-hall or by calling 847.448.8328 or 800.838-3006 ext. 108. The master class is free. All programming is subject to change.

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Mahler: Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection" (CD review)

Heidi Grant Murphy and Petra Lang, soloists; Andrew Litton, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Delos DE 3237 (2 CDs).

Mahler's Second Symphony "Resurrection" was his first really massive work, not only long but incorporating the talents of a large orchestra, soloists, and chorus. Such size became his eventual trademark, the quintessential "big, Mahler symphony." In order for any new recording to do it justice, the performance must stand up to at least two towering predecessors, those of Otto Klemperer and Sir Simon Rattle, both on EMI. Klemperer imparted a feeling of monumental grandeur to Man's triumph over death, while Rattle provided an even greater sense of spirituality in the process. Andrew Litton does not ascend these lofty peaks without the difficulty of comparison; he comes off second best.

For me, Litton is in trouble from the beginning. He takes the opening Allegro, a signature funeral march for Mahler, much too slowly. Certainly, a funeral dirge should be solemn, but it should never drag. This one dawdles along at what seems an interminable pace without much recourse to any punctuation of lines; there is little sense of drama or scope in the reading of this initial movement. Then things improve. Litton gives the three middle sections a more affecting treatment, never mind that the second segment, a Landler or slow waltz, as Mahler wrote it seems worlds apart from the rest of the work's symphonic content. The soloist performs well in the fourth movement, the famous "Urlicht" song from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The major letdown, however, is in the finale, which has nothing like the elation and exaltation it demands. Rather, Litton just seems to let the music fall as notes from a page; it's not lifeless but not exhilarating, either, in spite of a full chorus, soloists, and organ thundering behind the orchestra. 

Andrew Litton
Delos present the symphony with their Virtual Reality processing, whereby the music was originally recorded in multiple channels and mixed down into two for playback either on regular two-channel stereo equipment or in various multichannel formats like Dolby Pro Logic. I did not try it in surround mode as my multichannel home theater system is not really up to the musical standards of my separate stereo music system. I rather suspect, though, that some of the sound's thicker qualities in regular playback are due to its abundance of multiple resonances.

Anyway, Delos recorded the symphony live at the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall of the Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas in September 1998. The sound they obtained is quite natural in frequency response and smooth in all extremes, but it lacks the overall clarity of the much older Klemperer disc I've mentioned. The chorus in the finale of the Delos, for example, sounds like a soft blur. Like many recordings of the Second, this one is spread out over two discs, with the first movement on disc one. (Klemperer is complete on one disc, another point in his favor.) But the turnover is not as inconvenient as one may think, considering that Mahler himself recommended a five-minute break at this point. Delos offer an unusually high number of tracking points within each movement, especially helpful in a work so long.

Surely, the peoplel at Delos were aiming for spectacle with their Virtual Reality recordings, and just as surely they achieved it. They have also offered some of their things on DVD, although I have not heard their fully discrete discs in the multichannel medium.

JJP

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


Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major (CD review)

Orchestrated and conducted by Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra. Nimbus Alliance NI 6364.

Wait a minute. The title says Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 2. What's with the English Symphony Orchestra? The answer, of course, is that this recording documents Maestro Kenneth Woods's arrangement of the quartet for orchestra. It's a practice that often pleases music fans while annoying purists. Yet it's a practice that many composers followed themselves, rewriting previously published material into new forms. Brahms himself might have orchestrated his own quartet if he had thought of it or had time for it. Who knows.

So, why orchestrate the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 2 in particular? Maestro Woods tells us in a booklet note that it "contains a generosity of material and spirit that one doesn't often find in his later music." There's also the fact that the quartet is the longest of Brahms's chamber compositions and that it is among his most symphonic. But I rather suspect that Woods probably just thought it would be fun. Fair enough. ("I think it would be fun to run a newspaper." --Citizen Kane)

Anyway, German composer and pianist Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) wrote his Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 26 in 1861, scoring it for piano, violin, viola, and cello. Like most symphonies, it comprises an opening Allegro (non troppo), a slow Poco Adagio, a quick Scherzo: Poco Allegro, and a closing Finale-Allegro. So, yes, you can see the symphonic development.

The question is how the music, originally intended for so few instruments, holds up when transcribed for some tenfold or more players. The answer (again, for anyone but the purist) is, pretty well. As we might figure, the result of hearing a newly orchestrated piece is at once familiar yet different. Admittedly, it had been many, many years since I last heard the quartet played as a quartet. (Although I no longer have it, I think my last listening might have been an LP with William Primrose in the ensemble.) Still, there was enough Brahms in Woods's reworking to remind me that this was, indeed, Brahms, while at the same time providing a completely fresh feel.

Kenneth Woods
Naturally, it helps that Maestro Woods has the full measure of the music. Well, he ought to since he orchestrated it. It's not quite like hearing music played by the composer himself, but it's close. Mostly, though, it helps that Woods doesn't try to enhance the music further with any flashy conducting gymnastics. Pretty much we get Woods at the podium and not a HIP, period-instruments whiz trying to flash through the score in record time. And it helps that the English Symphony Orchestra is a well-disciplined group that seems perfectly comfortable with Woods's direction. Together, conductor and orchestra ensure a rewarding experience.

The opening Allegro at about seventeen minutes is the longest movement in the work. Woods takes it at an easy, graceful pace, the melodies flowing freely and effortlessly. The slow movement follows seamlessly, building on the bucolic atmosphere created in the previous section. Yet, under Woods there is a melancholic tone as well, compounded by a touch of pain. The fast movement is hardly that, at least not with Woods. It's just as gentle as the preceding parts, if at an obviously quicker tempo. Nevertheless, it builds steadily to a strong, vigorous head. Brahms ends the work in high fashion, with a Gypsy-like flourish, and Woods does it justice, both as orchestrator and conductor. It has all the grand yet youthful style you would expect from a Brahms not yet in his thirties.

By the time the work concludes, one has forgotten that the composer intended the music for a quartet. In essence, Woods has created a new Brahms Fifth Symphony.

Philip Rowlands produced and engineered the album, which he recorded at 192kHz at Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Ganarew, England in November 2017. The sound, as I've found from most Nimbus recordings over the years, is admirably lifelike, with just a touch of natural hall ambience. Although you won't find the absolute pinnacle of transparency here, you will get a smooth, detailed presentation in a realistic setting. The sound is warm, reasonably dimensional and dynamic, and pleasantly agreeable. It's just the sort of thing that fits Brahms to a T.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, August 25, 2018

LA Master Chorale to Open 2018/19 Season with the Mozart Requiem

The Los Angeles Master Chorale will open its 2018/19 concert season in Walt Disney Concert Hall with two performances of the Mozart Requiem on Saturday, September 22 at 2 PM and Sunday, September 23 at 7 PM.

The performances will feature the full 100-voice Master Chorale and Orchestra, and will be conducted by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director. Guest soloists for the Requiem are Liv Redpath (soprano), J'Nai Bridges (mezzo-soprano), David Portillo (tenor), and Rod Gilfry (baritone). The concerts will open with Shawn Kirchner's Songs of Ascent--a setting of the Psalms sung by pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem--commissioned and premiered by the Master Chorale in 2015 when Kirchner was the Swan Family Composer-in-Residence. These performances will include three Psalms Kirchner has since added to the piece.

Mozart's Requiem--the last piece of music he composed and infamous for its mysterious origins and posthumous completion--has been performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale under each of its directors. It was last performed by Gershon and the Master Chorale in 2009, and the choir most recently performed it with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in August 2017. There have been several versions of the Requiem published. Gershon and the Master Chorale will perform the Franz Xaver Süssmayr version. Süssmayr (1766-1803) is the Austrian composer and conductor credited with completing the Requiem after Mozart's death in 1791.

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

The Master Chorale's 2018/19 concert season continues through May 2019, including its popular Christmas concerts in December. Full details of the season can be found here: http://lamasterchorale.org/images/media/1518456067_2018-19%20Season%20Announcement.pdf

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Thank You for Season 29
The reverberation of our final performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor has barely stopped ringing through the Conservatory hall on the 9th annual American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy, and as I write this on a typically wonderful foggy San Francisco summer morning, I'm reflecting on the past twelve months and all that ABS has accomplished because of you, our dedicated donors and patrons. We have done so many great things. Thank you!

--Don Scott Carpenter, ABS Executive Director

Robert Trevino Announced as Chief Conductor of the Malmo Symphony Orchestra
American star conductor Robert Trevino has been confirmed as the new chief conductor of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra (MSO), taking up the post in autumn 2019. The highly-gifted and in-demand Trevino is in his second season as Music Director of the Basque National Orchestra (which recently extended his tenure to 2022) and is a regular collaborator with orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Vienna Symphony, Sao Paulo Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra and many others.

The now 34-year-old Robert Trevino conducted his first concert as a 16-year-old, with his major international breakthrough coming in December 2013 when he stepped in at short notice to conduct Verdi's Don Carlos at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. With a euphoric audience and glowing reviews behind him, he went on to conduct leading orchestras around the world.

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Cendrillon on "Great Performances at the Met"
 Season 12 of "Great Performances at the Met" concludes on Sunday, September 9 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) with Cendrillon, Massenet's operatic take on the classic fairy tale Cinderella, starring Joyce DiDonato as the titular heroine, Alice Coote as Prince Charming, Kathleen Kim as the Fairy Godmother and Stephanie Blythe as Madame de la Haltière.

Laurent Pelly's imaginative production takes place in a storybook kingdom. After Cendrillon is forbidden from attending the ball at the palace, her Fairy Godmother appears and gifts her with a coach, a gown and glass slippers that will hide her true identity. At the ball, Prince Charming's mood suddenly changes when Cendrillon arrives, and the two immediately fall in love, but as midnight approaches, Cendrillon hurries away and leaves behind a glass slipper. Bertrand de Billy conducts. Ailyn Pérez hosts.

For more information, visit http://www.pbs.org/gperf and https://www.facebook.com/GreatPerformances

--Dorean Rose Pugh, WNET

San Francisco Girls Chorus Announces 40th Anniversary Season
The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) announced its 2018-2019 40th anniversary season. Led by Valérie Sainte-Agathe in her first season as Artistic Director, SFGC will present four subscription programs starting October 18, 2018 in venues across San Francisco and Berkeley and collaborate with ensembles from the Bay Area and Denmark.

Program highlights include world premiere performances of SFGC commissions by Fred Frith, Richard Danielpour, and Aviya Kopelman; debut performances by tenor Nicholas Phan, contralto Kirsten Sollek, and Persian vocalist Mahsa Vahdat; the audience-favorite holiday concert at Davies Symphony Hall featuring Kronos Quartet and women's chorus Musae; and a five-performance summer tour to England and France in July 2019. This season's repertoire encompasses a breadth of works from ten prominent women composers that span eleven centuries, including Hildegard von Bingen, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Talma Louise, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Reena Esmail, Kaija Saariaho, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Mahsa Vahdat and Aviya Kopelman.

For complete information, visit sfgirlschorus.org

--Brenden Guy PR

Yo-Yo Ma Introduces New Amazon Alexa Skill
Following the Friday premiere of Six Evolutions – Bach: Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma brings his voice to all Amazon Alexa-enabled devices with Yo-Yo Ma's "Musical Moments." In 36 short episodes, Ma will take listeners on a journey through the music of J.S. Bach, sharing snippets from Six Evolutions and stories from a lifetime of playing Bach's legendary cello suites. A first-of-its-kind for any classical artist, this conversation with Yo-Yo will be available as an Alexa Skill and on Sony "Classical's Today" in "Classical Flash Briefing" on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.

As classical music continues its tremendous growth in streaming on voice-enabled devices, Yo-Yo Ma's "Musical Moments" gives Amazon Alexa users even more ways to explore the genre. The content is designed for anyone who is curious about classical music and its contemporary significance, providing thoughtful commentary from one of our best-known performers. Users can access the skill with the simple voice command, "Alexa, open Yo-Yo Ma's Musical Moments" or by adding "Today in Classical" to their "Flash Briefing" in the Amazon Alexa app, and then saying, "Alexa, what's my Flash Briefing?"

For more information and a step-by-step guide on how to access the skill and Flash Briefing, please visit https://sonymusicmasterworks.com/yo-yo-ma-alexa-skill/

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music Masterworks

A Leonard Bernstein 100th Birthday Celebration
Sony Classical honors the great Leonard Bernstein with a celebration of what would have been the cultural icon's 100th birthday. Bernstein, an American composer, conductor, pianist, writer, humanitarian, and twentieth-century pop-culture icon will be celebrated with a two-month social media and streaming campaign built around a new rollout of his popular legacy of recordings that are part of Sony Classical's library.

Sony Classical's global campaign will feature eight playlists curated especially for the centennial, that explore Bernstein as composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, Broadway icon, and visionary advocate for the music of Gustav Mahler. Sony Classical will also share a wealth of rarely seen photos, new video interviews with Bernstein's daughter, Jamie, as well as longtime New York Philharmonic archivist, Barbara Hawes.

For updates and access to Leonard Bernstein's archival videos and images, be sure to follow Sony Classical on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

To stream their specially curated Leonard Bernstein playlists and more, visit https://leonardbernstein.lnk.to/SonyClassicalSpotlightsPR

--Colin Yost, Sony Music

The First Cellist Signed by Deutsche Grammophon in 40 Years
We are absolutely delighted to share the exciting news that Franco-Belgian star cellist Camille Thomas has joined the Frank Salomon Associates roster for North American representation. We were drawn to Camille's elegant, passionate musicality paired with an effortless virtuosity and are thrilled to have the opportunity to share her artistry with audiences on this side of the ocean.

Camille comes to us as one of the most exciting young artists in Europe. Her numerous accolades and awards include being Deutsche Grammophon's first-ever female cellist (and first cellist in over 40 years); being listed on Forbes' 30 under 30 for European Art & Culture; and being selected as the European Broadcasting Union's "New Talent of the Year" in 2014.

For more information, visit www.camillethomas.com/ and Deutsche Grammophon: www.deutschegrammophon.com/us/artist/thomas/

--Frank Salomon Associates, Inc.

YPC's Choristers Bring Harmony to Audiences in North America and Across the Ocean
From sold-out concert halls throughout Japan and an international choral competition in British Columbia to performances with Lincoln Center and The Classical Theatre of Harlem, Young People's Chorus of New York City is making the most of its 30th Anniversary summer.

With a full schedule of workshops, cultural exchanges, and concerts conducted by Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez, YPC's choristers recently returned from bringing their extraordinary tour program of music and dance to audiences in 15 Japanese cities. The concert-goers were so spirited that in Osaka, the audience members would not let the singers leave the stage until they had performed a record-breaking six encores!

We are very excited that we are able to share this YPC tour experience with you. NHK Global, Japan's largest broadcasting organization, has created a documentary about Francisco and this YPC tour. The segment aired on Friday, August 3, and is now available on the NHK website. Visit our Summer Tour page for more information: https://ypc.org/

--Young People's Chorus of NYC

Schubert: Trout Quintet (CD review)

Also Wolf: Italian Serenade; Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Andreas Haefliger, piano; Joseph Carver, double bass; Takacs Quartet. London 289 460 034-2.

I once wrote that there were as many "Trout" recordings in the music world as there were fish in the sea. If I didn't, I should have. Sometimes we wonder why record companies keep releasing the same tired, old stuff over and over again, but in the case of Schubert's "Trout," there is ample justification. This 1999 recording will appear to some listeners as sparkling with freshness and to others as infuriating in its garden-variety plainness. Whatever, it's another interpretation to consider.

With Andreas Haefliger, piano, and Joseph Carver, double bass, the Takacs Quartet take on three popular chamber pieces from Schubert, Wolf, and Mozart. Overall, they do acceptable work, but whether any of the performances are better than old favorites in this repertoire I find doubtful.

The Takacs's take on Franz Schubert's Piano Quintet in A major "Trout" begins more intensely than most, with rhythms well sprung and accents keenly punctuated. It is a far cry from the leisurely but for me more charming "Trout" I reviewed a year earlier by Alfred Brendel and company (Philips). The next two movements appear far more conventional but still fairly expressive. The central set of variations is given some persuasive turns, although in this regard they are not as infectious as those in my favored recording from an augmented Beaux Arts Trio (like the Brendel, also on Philips but also on Pentatone).

Andreas Haefliger
It is in the finale, however, that the greatest controversy may arise. The Takacs ensemble take it much faster than usual, but never breathlessly so. In fact, it seems just right for the moment, and comparisons to the other recordings I've mentioned find those performances almost hopelessly dragging. Of course, they're not. It's the danger of comparisons; taking bits and pieces out of context makes them appear unfairly different. There is obvious charm in taking things slowly, yet the exhilarating pace of the Takacs group creates its own delights. And as for what is actually "right," Schubert's only indication for the last movement is Allegro giusto (cheerful, joyful, usually fast, and fitting or just right), which is a pretty broad tempo marking, allowing for a lot of interpretative leeway. At least we know Schubert wanted something a little fast and lively, and he gets it here, for better or for worse.

As for couplings, Hugo Wolf's diminutive Italian Serenade is a serviceable transition into Mozart's familiar Serenade in G major, "Eine kleine Nachtmusik." The Mozart, too, is given a much more sprightly reading than we commonly hear and combined with the added clarity of a small group makes listening to this piece a fresh, if not entirely rewarding, experience. Again, the approach Takacs takes will annoy those people whose expectations are more traditional, while others will find all three pieces original and more than satisfactory.

When Decca discontinued their London label in America, they repackaged much of their catalogue under the original Decca name, but they never seemed to have gotten around to this issue. Nevertheless, I see a number of London copies still around under the old designation. Anyway, Decca's sound is not always as well defined as I would have liked, but it is well balanced, particularly front to back, and it adds to the disc's enjoyment.

JJP

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


Bye-Bye Berlin (CD review)

Marion Rampal, vocals; Quatuor Manfred; Raphael Imbert, saxophone and bass clarinet. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902295.

In order to give you an idea of the theme behind this album, I quote from the booklet note, which does a better job than I could do: "English writer Christopher Iserwood's fictionalised Berlin memoirs, Goodbye to Berlin, provided the title for the 1951 Broadway play I am a camera, adapted from Isherwood's novel. His stories also later inspired the 1966 musical comedy Cabaret (notably starring Lotte Lenya) and the scenario for Bob Fosse's 1972 film version. Writing after his departure from Berlin in 1933, Isherwood's optical metaphor evokes one of the most striking and characteristic aesthetic principles that influenced all cultural life in 1920s Berlin, that of 'Neue Sachlichkeit,' or 'New Objectivity.' The movement was considered the essence of modernity, as practised and theorized by many artists."

The album Bye-Bye Berlin includes seventeen songs, airs, and lieder from the 1920s Berlin era, composed by such notable persons as Kurt Weill, Paul Hindemith, Hanns Eisler, Friedrich Hollaender, Bertolt Brecht, and others. The French singer-songwriter Marion Rampal (no relation to the Jean-Pierre Rampal) does the vocals, accompanied by the Quatuor Manfred, a quartet made up of Marie Bereau, violin; Luigi Vecchioni, violin; Emmanuel Haratyk, viola; and Christian Wolff, cello; and featuring Raphael Imbert on saxophones and bass clarinet.

Ms. Rampal is principally a jazz singer, with a wonderful range, and does up the songs in both German and French. Her accompaniment is principally a classical quartet, but they adapt nicely to the more-popular rhythms of the jazz-inflected music; and Mr. Imbert is principally a jazz and improvisation artist who provides a strong backbone for most of the scores.

Here's a rundown on the selections:
  1. Kurt Weill: Youkali (from Marie Galante)
  2. Erwin Schulhoff: Chanson (from Cinq Études de jazz)
  3. Kurt Weill: Die Morität von Mackie Messer (from The Threepenny Opera)
  4. Kurt Weill: Barbara-Song (from The Threepenny Opera)
  5. Erwin Schulhoff: Andante molto sostenuto (from First String Quartet)
  6. Paul Hindemith: Ouvertüre from The Flying Dutchman
  7. Arno Billing (Mischa Spoliansky): The Lavender Song
  8. Jan Meyerowitz: Help me Lord (from The Barrier)
  9. Hanns Eisler: Nein (from Kammerkantate Nr. 6)
10. Kurt Weill: Langsam und innig (from String Quartet in B Minor)
11. Kurt Weill: Ballad of a Drowned Girl (from Das Berliner Requiem)
12. Hanns Eisler: Solidaritätslied (from Kühle Wampe, oder: Wem gehört die Welt?)
13. Hanns Eisler: I saw many friends (from Die Hollywood Elegien)
14. Friedrich Hollaender: The Ruins of Berlin (from A Foreign Affair)
15. Friedrich Hollaender: Black Market (from A Foreign Affair)
16. Friedrich Hollaender: Falling in love again (from The Blue Angel)
17. Alban Berg: Die Nachtigall (from Sieben frühe Lieder)

Marion Rampal
The program presents a fascinating and enlightening look at the cabaret scene in Berlin in the 1920's and early 30's. More important, it's well sung and well performed by the jazz and classical artists involved. Ms. Rampal's dark-toned vocals have a kind of longing, melancholy tinge to them, as though trying to make us aware of the hope of an age and, from a future perspective, the horrors to follow. The accompaniment supports her with a mutual compassion, appearing to share the contradictions of the music.

Favorites? As usual, some things struck me as a tad bland, while many others were hard to resist. The opening Kurt Weill song sets the tone for the album. The sorrowful instrumental by Erwin Schulhoff that follows makes a skillful transition into the familiar "Mack the Knife" tune. And so it goes. Listeners who appreciate the musical Cabaret or just listeners who appreciate classical or jazz music will doubtless find the selections of interest.

Finally, an informative, forty-odd-page set of booklet notes in several languages complete the package. Musically and sonically, it's is a worthy treat.

Producer Alban Moraud and the Alban Morand Studio made the recordings at Cite de la Voix, Vezelay, France in November 2016. The voice is nicely placed in the center front, with the ensemble realistically laid out behind her. The frequency balance seems nearly perfect, although the instruments tend very occasionally to overpower the vocals. So, one can hardly fault the sonics, which come through in lifelike fashion.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, August 18, 2018

Violinist Jennifer Koh Opens the Music Institute of Chicago's 18-19 Artist Series

The Music Institute of Chicago welcomes back alumna violinist Jennifer Koh for the opening concert of its 2018–19 Faculty and Guest Artist Series Saturday, September 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston, Illinois.

The acclaimed Glen Ellyn native returns to play a program featuring two solo works by Bach--Sonata No. 1 in G minor and Sonata No. 3 in C Major--juxtaposed with a contemporary piece for solo violin, For Violin Alone, by John Harbison. Critics have described her playing of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas as intense, beautifully shaped, and mesmerizing. "Koh's arresting tone and emotional interpretations of Bach are a perfect fit for the acoustics of Nichols Concert Hall," said Music Institute President and CEO Mark George.

Violinist Jennifer Koh is recognized for commanding performances delivered with dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance. An adventurous musician, she collaborates with artists from multiple disciplines and curates projects that find connections between music of all eras from traditional to contemporary.

For more information, visit jenniferkoh.com and Music Institute of Chicago: https://www.musicinst.org/faculty-guest-artist-series

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

PBS: Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2018
There is new video available from "Great Performances: Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2018," led by guest conductor Valery Gergiev, which aired Friday, August 17 on PBS.

The world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic returned for its 15th open-air concert, with the Baroque gardens of Austria's Imperial Schönbrunn Palace serving as the magnificent backdrop. The program featured internationally acclaimed soprano Anna Netrebko as special guest soloist and celebrated Italian operatic masters, with works by Rossini, Verdi and Puccini.

New Clip: Anna Netrebko sings "Stridono lassù":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc7Yx7vfWqE

--Chelsey Saatkamp, WNET.org

Wet Ink Announces Fall Season in NYC
The "sublimely exploratory" (The Chicago Reader) Wet Ink Ensemble announces its fall 2018 concerts in New York City, celebrating the group's 20th anniversary season as a collective of composers, improvisers, and interpreters at the forefront of the performance and presentation of adventurous music. Described by Time Out New York as "a group [that] doesn't so much cross boundaries as disregard them," Wet Ink Ensemble's fall 2018 season includes a double album release event at The DiMenna Center, Miller Theatre at Columbia University's Composer Portrait of Kate Soper, a performance at the For/With Festival, a performance with Darius Jones as part of "For The People" at Roulette, and a collaboration with Peter Evans' Being & Becoming Ensemble at St. Peter's Church in Chelsea.

Learn more at http://www.wetink.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Green Music Center 2018-19 Season
The 2018-19 Season comprises 35 performances representing the finest talent across a variety of genres including classical, jazz, folk, and popular music; 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. All at Green Music Center, Sonoma State Unviersity, Rohnert Park, CA.

Single tickets are now on sale, or save with subscription packages.

For complete information and tickets, visit https://gmc.sonoma.edu/events-by-presenter

--Green Music Center

Kian Soltani Announces His 2018–19 US Tour Dates
Critically acclaimed Austrian-Persian cellist, Kian Soltani, will be performing throughout the United States this season, with dates ranging from August of 2018 to May of 2019. Beginning with the Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood, Soltani will perform in a total of nine concerts with ensembles including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra, culminating in his recital debut at Carnegie Hall.

For complete information, visit http://www.kiansoltani.com/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

The Crossing Performs of arms and the man at the Park Avenue Armory
Winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, The Crossing, led by conductor Donald Nally, performs of arms and the man on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at New York's Park Avenue Armory.

The evenings will feature the 24-voice ensemble of The Crossing with three cellists (Thomas Mesa, Arlen Hlusko, and Sujin Lee) and will explore the timeless themes of nationalism and war while navigating personal stories of joy and despair.

of arms and the man is designed to utilize the Armory's historic reception rooms with cello solos punctuating the transitions between the spaces. The program features a New York 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."

For more information, visit https://www.crossingchoir.org/events/2018/9/19/of-arms-and-the-man

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

American Classical Orchestra Opens Lincoln Center Season with All-Mozart Program
American Classical Orchestra (ACO) kicks off its 2018-19 season on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 8:00pm in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center with "Mozart Serenade," a concert of festive music by Mozart.

ACO is joined by acclaimed period violinist Krista Bennion Feeney in Mozart's Haffner Serenade and will use contrabasses instead of cellos as is indicated in the original score, creating a refreshingly transparent sound. Pianist Christian De Luca, a virtuosic Juilliard historical performance program graduate, makes his Lincoln Center debut on fortepiano in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, a work popularized in the Swedish film Elvira Madigan. The 2018-2019 season marks the orchestra's 34th year of presenting historically accurate, engaging, and educational concerts, led by Artistic Director and Founder Thomas Crawford.

Crawford writes, "Our September program is a rare opportunity to hear the fabulous Haffner family wedding music of 1776 on period instruments. This music is paired on the program with Mozart's most well-known of all concertos, No. 21, here performed on the dulcet tones of a 1780 fortepiano. The serene slow movement, loved by millions, is given an intimate portrayal that is both revealing and evocative of another world in another time."

For more information, visit https://aconyc.org/concert-event/mozart-serenade/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Wallace Foundation Names New Director of Arts, Bahia Ramos
The Wallace Foundation announced today that Bahia Ramos will become the foundation's new Director of Arts, succeeding Daniel Windham who is retiring at the end of September. Ramos, most recently the National Director/Arts at the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will join Wallace on September 6, 2018.

As Director of Arts, Ramos will lead the arts program unit and the interdisciplinary team responsible for the strategic design and implementation of Wallace's initiatives in the arts, including Building Audiences for Sustainability, the foundation's current initiative funding 25 performing arts organizations in their audience-building efforts. She will also lead Wallace's work in arts education, which seeks to increase the equitable access to high-quality arts education for young people, especially those in high-poverty urban areas.

The full press release can be read here: https://resnicow.com/client-news/wallace-foundation-names-bahia-ramos-new-director-arts

--Sarah Palay, Resnicow and Associates

Musikiwest Opens 2018-2019 Season
Artistic Director Michelle Djokic and Musikiwest, a Palo Alto-based chamber ensemble featuring professional musicians from all over the country, opens its 2018-2019 season on Thursday, September 20, 7:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto.

Spanning three centuries and incorporating works inspired by world music, the program will feature three string quartets - John Zorn's Kol Nidre, Kevin Volans's White Man Sleeps and Arvo Pärt's Fratres – as well as Mendelssohn's chamber masterwork Quintet in B flat Major, Op. 87. This season's performances are sponsored by the City of Palo Alto.

Musikiwest's core mission is to help build peaceable communities using the collaborative nature of chamber music. Prior to their public concert, the musicians of Musikiwest will stage three to four "open rehearsals" for local middle and high schools that will address issues such as bullying, shaming and exclusivity. Unknown to the participants, the rehearsal exchanges between musicians are entirely scripted, creating a deeper connection and awareness to the process. Rona Hu MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and founder of CHIPAO, serves as moderator for the open rehearsals, maintaining an interactive dialogue with the audience as they uncover the art of conflict resolution.

Single tickets are $10 and $15 and can be purchased through Event Brite at http://www.eventbrite.com. Admission is free for patrons under 18.

--Brenden Guy

Julia Adolphe Announces LA Phil Commission
Composer Julia Adolphe will see her new orchestral work, Underneath the Sheen, premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic this September as part of the orchestra's centennial season celebration. Additionally, Adolphe's new comic opera, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears, will be a Project-in-Residence at National Sawdust.

In commemoration of their centennial year, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has commissioned over 50 new works from the world's leading composers to be premiered throughout their 2018-19 season. Adolphe's Underneath the Sheen will premiere on September 27, 2018, as part of their opening night concert and gala event, California Soul, joining a California-centric concert program conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

In addition, as one of four Projects-in-Residence at National Sawdust this season, Adolphe is collaborating with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann and director Elkhanah Pulitzer to adapt Jules Feiffer's loopy fairytale, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears, into an opera for all ages.

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Solera Quartet Announces First Recording and Carnegie Debut
The Solera Quartet, embarking on its fourth season, has already accumulated a remarkable and unique list of accolades, garnered for their fiery musical expression, poetic sensibility, entrepreneurial acumen, and exceptional dedication to outreach initiatives. 

Celebrating this banner year, the Solera Quartet's debut album, "Every Moment Present," is due for release on September 25th, 2018. Comprised of three poignant string quartets by Mendelssohn, Janácek, and Caroline Shaw, the album explores the role of obsessive thought as creative muse.

The Quartet continues this year of milestones by making their Carnegie Hall debut in Weill Auditorium on October 23, 2018. For complete information, visit https://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2018/10/23/Solera-Quartet-0730PM

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

42nd Street Moon Presents Sondheim's Follies in Concert
San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon (Daren A.C. Carollo and Daniel Thomas, Co-Executive Directors) has announced the cast and creative team for the upcoming special engagement of Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical Follies in concert.

Follies features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Goldman. Both performances will take place at the Alcazar Theatre (650 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102) on Friday, September 7 and Saturday, September 8, 2018 (both evenings at 8:00 p.m.). Tickets are $45 and can be purchased through the Box Office at (415) 255-8207 or online at www.42ndstmoon.org.

--Jonathan White PR

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.

JJP

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.

JJP

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 http://schwalbeandpartners.com/project/dominique-labelle-soprano/

--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 info@orionensemble.org or calling 630-628-9591.

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

--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 www.stcharlessingers.com

--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: https://www.kdfc.com/radio/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 www.OrpheusNYC.org.

--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 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/gp-met-luisa-miller/8701/
Or at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzgZet50Rv4

--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 http://fringearts.com/event/of-arms-and-the-man/

--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 https://www.pias.com/

--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 https://www.deathofclassical.com/angelshare

--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.

JJP

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.

JJP

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 pucciojj@gmail.com.

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa