Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 (CD review)

Also, Piano Sonatas Nos. 3 and 12. Seong-Jin Cho, piano; Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Chamber Orchestra of Europe. DG 00289 483 5522.

The month of this post, December 2018, marks the 120th anniversary of the founding of the German record label Deutsche Grammophon, making it the oldest continuously operating record company in the world. In an era of ever-changing musical formats (vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, SACD, Blu-ray, downloads of every stripe), it's good to see a giant of the industry surviving and, presumably, thriving.

Most of the time with Mozart's piano concertos, record companies couple two such concertos together on the same disc. This time out, either the company or the artist decided to combine one piano concerto with two of the composer's piano sonatas. The artist, Seong-Jin Cho, says he wanted a contrast in the accompanying pieces, which he certainly got.

Seong-Jin Cho is a young (b. 1994) South Korean pianist, who rose to international fame following his first-place finish in the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition. He has since performed with major orchestras all over the world, participated in festivals everywhere, and recorded now five albums for DG. He is an accomplished musician and certainly a crowd favorite.

The program opens with Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466, one of the composer's most-popular offerings. A lot of folks may remember it from Milos Forman's 1984 movie Amadeus, where the Romance appeared in the closing credits. Mozart wrote the concerto in 1785, a half dozen years before his death, and as he only wrote twenty-seven of them (only?), it was also among his last. Anyway, Cho tells us he likes playing Mozart so much because the music is so filled with joy, emotion, and operatic drama. Needless to say, these are the characteristics Cho emphasizes.

Seong-Jin Cho
The first movement Allegro begins a bit solemnly and theatrically, rather in the vein of Don Giovanni, brightens up a bit, and then ends quietly. Although the piano takes its time about entering, it is a welcome entrance as it brings a fair measure of joy. Cho displays a handsome bravura here, and one can understand why he so enjoys the music. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe under the direction of Yannick Nezet-Seguin follows along obediently, if somewhat mechanically.

The second movement Romance is among the most sublime creations in all classical music. It begins in a mood of exalted peacefulness, although we hear a somewhat turbulent and contrasting middle section before the music returns to a tranquil conclusion. The Oxford Dictionary of Music defines "romance" as generally implying "a specially personal or tender quality." Cho doesn't so much convey that "tender quality" as he does carry over the joy conveyed in the first movement. Personally, I could have done with more a heartfelt or even more softhearted interpretation. While Cho's rendering of the music seems too matter-of-fact to me, a lot of listeners will no doubt be more touched by it than I was and find his direct, well-controlled approach most appealing.

The final movement Allegro assai (very fast) is restless yet still cheerful and generally sunny. It appears to fit Cho's manner of skillful, energetic playing quite well and brings the work to a satisfying close.

The two sonatas couldn't be more different from one another, No. 3 youthful and exuberant yet highly virtuosic, No. 12 more diverse and even more demanding. As before, Cho displays an exacting technique that manifestly demonstrates his technical process.

Producer Sid McLauchlan and engineer Rainer Maillard recorded the music at the Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden, Germany (concerto) and Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg-Harburg, Germany (sonatas) in June and July 2018. The orchestral sound is clear, dynamic, and ultra clean. It's also a tad close and dry, with not a lot of depth (kind of one-dimensional). The piano is also a touch close, yet, as always with DG, sounds quite realistic, both in the concerto and in the sonatas.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, December 29, 2018

The Crypt Sessions Presents The Quartet for the End of Time, February 5

Unison Media's acclaimed concert series The Crypt Sessions (in the Crypt under the Church of the Intercession in Harlem, NY) will kick off its fourth season on February 5, 2019, with a performance of Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, performed by a luxury-cast ensemble of Stefan Jackiw (violin), Jay Campbell (cello), Yoonah Kim (clarinet), and Orion Weiss (piano).

Tickets for the performance will go on sale January 3, 2019, alongside an exciting announcement about The Crypt Sessions, and Unison's other series, The Angel's Share (which takes place in the Catacombs of The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY).

For more information, visit www.deathofclassical.com

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

A Baroque New Year's Eve
A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera
December 31 2018, featuring soprano Mary Wilson and countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen.
American Bach Soloists • Jeffrey Thomas conductor.

One performance only: Monday December 31 2018 4:00 p.m., Herbst Theater, San Francisco, CA.

This special event, presented in San Francisco's beautiful Herbst Theatre--a cornerstone and jewel among the city's most prestigious venues--will feature one of the opera world's exciting new vocal talents, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. The 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Young Artists Award Winner, former Merola Opera Program participant, 2018 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, and ABS Academy alumnus has been capturing the hearts of opera lovers around the world. Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen will be featured in arias by Handel and Gluck.

The New York Times wrote that the young breakout artist "possesses a remarkable gift for intimate communication in a vast hall, combined with a voice of velvety gentleness--surprisingly penetrating given the tenderness of its texture — and a taste for adventure.… Expressive yet dignified, his phrasing confident and his ornamentation stylishly discreet, he brought tears to my eyes."

Joined by the incomparable soprano Mary Wilson, and along with a delightful program of instrumental music from opera and concert, this early night on the town will joyfully ring in the New Year in elegant style.

Concert length: approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Tickets for this event are available only through CITY BOX OFFICE
Charge-By-Phone / Information: (415) 392-4400
In Person at City Box Office, 180 Redwood Street, San Francisco.
Order Online: americanbach.org/NYE

--American Bach Soloists

Happy New Year from Experiential Orchestra
Dear Friends of EXO,
We want to wish you all a very happy holiday season and a joyous New Year!

This has been another great year for the orchestra, with performances at Lincoln Center, the Bohemian National Hall, and in Washington, D.C. at the Phillips Collection and American University. We have also completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, with your help, to help fund our world-premiere commercial recording of Dame Ethel Smyth's The Prison, scheduled for 2019.

We can't do any of this without your help. If you have been waiting to donate until the end of the year, it is now officially the end of the year! Please help support our future programming by clicking donate, or by writing a check as below. All donations are fully tax-deductible.

To donate on-line, visit https://www.paypal.com/us/home

To donate by check, make payable to:
Experiential Orchestra
c/o James E. Moskin, Treasurer
205 East 95th Street
New York, NY 10128

With thanks for your role in making all of this happen–with EXO, you are truly inside the orchestra, and you are all an essential part of what we do.

For more information, visit www.experientialorchestra.com

--James and the EXO team

New Year Wishes and Musical Magic in 2019 from PBO
With unforgetable performances of Mozart, Vivaldi, and Bach now behind us, we enter 2019 anticipating more incredible music with violinist Rachel Barton Pine in Feburary, mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter in March, and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen in Handel's Saul in April. We couldn't do it without you--our friends and supporters!

From the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale's family to yours, we wish you a very Happy New Year and look forward to sharing more music together in 2019.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org

--Your friends at PBO

Favourite Piano Concertos, Vol. 2 (CD review)

Piano concertos by Grieg, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Addinsell. Stephen Kovacevich, piano; Sir Colin Davis, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Martha Argerich, piano; Kyrill Kondrashin, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Misha Dichter, piano; Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Philips Duo 289 462 182-2 (2-CD set)

I have often written on this site about fabulous buys, bargains among bargains, things like the Beethoven Fifth and Seventh Symphonies with Carlos Kleiber on a single DG Originals or the Dvorak Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Symphonies with Sir Colin Davis in a Philips Duo set, each of which packages two or three great performances on one or two mid-priced discs. Well, this particular Philips Duo, issued by the company in the late Nineties, may have even them beat.

Of the five concertos on the two discs, there are three works--the Grieg, Schumann, and Addinsell--that are number-one choices in my book. And the other two recordings--the Brahms and Tchaikovsky--are among a handful of my top choices. In fact, I have been recommending most of these items for years. Here, they all come for the cost of a single mid-priced set. Incredible.

The Grieg and Schumann concertos with Stephen Kovacevich are outstanding, and until this release they were available only at full price. The sound is slightly warmer than necessary for good definition, but it is more than acceptable.

Steven Kovacevich
The Brahms, also from Kovacevich, is as powerful and lyrical as one could ask for. I believe it even beats Kovacevich's later EMI recording in performance, if not in sound, which is only slightly less warm and soft than the aforementioned Grieg and Schumann. Second only to Gilels on DG, Kovacevich's Brahms is the one to own, and now you can have it along with four other great performances.

Martha Argerich's Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto is probably a first-choice for many people. I still think her earlier account on DG is more satisfying, as is Cliburn's on RCA, but there is no doubting that this live Philips performance is more energetic than the others. And it's pretty well recorded, too, despite its being live.

Finally, the little, one-movement Warsaw Concerto from Richard Addinsell, composed for the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight, has seldom gotten such good treatment as this one from pianist Misha Dichter and Sir Neville Marriner, and the sound here is the best of any in the set.

All of the recordings derive from the Seventies and Eighties, and all of them have already withstood the test of time. This particular incarnation should have already won them some new fans, and I hope it continues to do so.

JJP

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


Sawyers: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Trumpet Concerto; Valley of Vision; Elegiac Rhapsody. Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin; Simon Desbruslais, trumpet; Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra, English String Orchestra. Nimbus Alliance NI 6374.

British composer Philip Sawyers (b. 1951) has found some of his major fame no doubt from the Nimbus recordings of his works conducted by Kenneth Woods, with four discs now available. In 2015 the English Symphony Orchestra, of which Woods is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, appointed Sawyers their John McCabe Composer in Association, with various commissions including a song cycle, the violin and trumpet concertos found here, and several symphonies, of which I reviewed the Third a year or so ago.

Sawyers's Web site informs us that his "works have been performed and broadcast in many countries worldwide including the USA, Canada, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, France and UK." Music-web International described his orchestral work as "music of instant appeal and enduring quality."

So, on the present disc we get two longer Sawyers pieces of almost thirty minutes each and two slightly shorter pieces. It seems to be a good representation of the man's output, which runs high to somewhat dark, moody, sorrowful, yet completely accessible, never sad tunes.

The program begins with the Violin Concerto, completed in 2016, with violin solo by Alexander Sitkovetsky and accompanied by Maestro Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra. Sawyers is also a violinist, and when Woods suggested he do a violin concerto, he jumped at the opportunity. The piece opens with a theme from Sawyers's Third Symphony, so it may sound familiar. To be honest, though, as I said above, Sawyers's music often appears dark and moody to me, so it all tends to sound familiar.

Anyway, the violin dominates the proceedings, as expected, alternating agitated solo passages with tempestuous dialogues with the orchestra. Woods has a good instinct for where the soloist is going, too, and the two work seamlessly together. The opening movement ends calmly, leading into a melodically reflective Andante touched by melancholy. Again, the violin towers above the orchestra, sounding ever more unsettled as the music moves along, reaching a final movement that is surprisingly playful. Sawyers describes it as all "hustle and bustle" and tells Woods "the violin is my instrument, and if it didn't make me happy, it will have been a bit of a waste to have played it my whole life." It's all quite attractive, with Mr. Sitkovetsky playing brilliantly and Woods and the English Symphony supporting him with conviction.

Alexander Sitkovetsky
Next, we get The Valley of Vision from 2017. It is Sawyers's musical response to some of the paintings of English artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), which themselves represented the countryside around Palmer's home in Shoreham, Kent. Sawyers tells us he did not intend for the five sections of the work to be programmatic but, instead, I guess more impressionistic. Here, Sawyers sounds more than ever like the English pastoral composers of the previous century--Arnold Bax, perhaps, Frank Bridge, Frederick Delius, Percy Grainger, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the like. In any case, the music is lovely and evocative.

And so it goes with the Concerto for Trumpet, Strings, and Timpani (2015), with trumpet solo by Simon Desbruslais and accompaniment by Woods and the English String Orchestra (the English Symphony Orchestra began as the English String Orchestra in 1978, and as their repertoire expanded the orchestra grew larger and today performs under both appellations as the occasion demands). As one might expect for a combination of trumpet and timpani, the music is more dramatic, more martial, and more aggressively rhythmic than anything else on the program. Still, there's a charming central movement that is both lyric and ardent. Certainly, it is well performed by everyone involved, yet it failed to affect me the way the violin concerto did, perhaps because of its blunter edges.

The agenda concludes with the Elegiac Rhapsody for trumpet and strings (2016), performed by Desbruslais, Woods, and the English String Orchestra. The work's title aptly describes its content, the work commissioned as a remembrance of the death of British composer and pianist John McCabe (1939-2015). Although on a more somber level, this final piece sounds almost like a continuation of Sawyers's trumpet concerto and could probably have as well served as the slow movement. Whatever, it is a radiant tribute to McCabe, performed with discernable compassion.

Producer, editor, and engineer Simon Fox-Gal recorded the first four tracks at Hereford Shirehall in February 2018; producer, editor, and engineer Adam Binks recorded tracks five through eight at the Church of St. George's, Worcester in October 2017. The folks at Nimbus have always produced good sounding recordings, and this one continues the pattern. It seems a tad closer than most of their work, especially the solos, but it delivers excellent clarity, with a fine sense of depth and space. Detailing is fine as well, accompanied by a realistic but not overpowering dynamic range and impact.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, December 22, 2018

West Edge Opera Announces New Venue and 2019 West Edge Festival

Under the artistic leadership of General Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, West Edge Opera announces venue and casting for its 2019 Festival, which takes place August 3 though August 18.

Our venue will be The Bridge Yard at 210 Burma Road in Oakland near the East Bay landing of
the Bay Bridge. This historic building is the anchor for what will be the new Gateway Park. The
24,000-square foot industrial building went up in 1938 as a repair facility for rail cars that once
traveled over the Bay Bridge. With renovations completed in January 2017, the Bridge Yard
Seismic and Renovation Project has created a dramatic, seismically sound public event space
preserving the building's original architecture and characteristic 1930s craftsmanship. The
restoration project already has won several awards for preservation and outstanding
engineering.

The Three Penny Opera by Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht opens the season with
performances on Saturday, August 3 at 8:30 with repeat performances on Sunday, August 11
at 3:00 and Thursday, August 15 at 8:30.

Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo & Euridice opens Sunday, August 4 at 3 with repeat
performances Friday, August 9 at 8:30 and Saturday, August 17 at 8:30.

The final opera of our festival will be the West Coast Premiere of Breaking the Waves by
Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek with performances on Saturday, August 10 at 8:30, Friday,
August 16 at 8:30 and Sunday, August 18 at 3:00.

3-Opera series tickets go on sale April 1, priced from $129 to $339. Series ticket holders enjoy
priority seating and a discount as well as easy exchanges. Single tickets go on sale June 1,
priced at $19-$125. For the first time, $19 bronze seats will go on sale on the same date that
single tickets are available. Bronze tickets will not be available to buy as a series. All tickets may
be purchased online at westedgeopera.org or by calling (510) 841-1903.

For more information, visit westedgeopera.org

--Mark Streshinsky, West End Opera

Details about Gustavo Dudamel January Residency Events
Maestro Gustavo Dudamel's residency at Princeton University Concerts, in honor of our 125th anniversary, will continue January 7-9, 2019.

Members of the press only are invited to a press conference during this visit with Maestro Dudamel and Princeton University Concerts Director Marna Seltzer on Monday, January 7 at 2:45PM.

Residency events during this January visit include performances by musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, students from the El Sistema-inspired Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, a conversation in Spanish with Maestro Dudamel, a gallery reception for works by local artist Marsha Levin-Rojer, and two panel discussions with Maestro Dudamel: one about the "El Sistema" music education program, and one about Art and Faith.

An updated residency public schedule is available online at princetonuniversityconcerts.org

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Danube Cruise Deadline Extended
We have great news: Amadeus Cruises has extended our commitment deadline to January 14, 2019!

Don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one of only 50 lucky Festival Mozaic enthusiasts to be a part of this extraordinary 50th Anniversary cruise on the Danube! Amadeus Cruises has created a special itinerary that is designed especially for classical music lovers – with private classical concerts that will be exclusive to our group, in spectacular venues such as the Salzburg Mozarteum, Melk Abbey, and Duna Palace.

Because this is an exclusive itinerary, Amadeus Cruises will only hold space for our group on Amadeus II for a limited time, and they have extended our deadline to January 14, 2019. To guarantee your spot for this unique opportunity, you must commit with a $500 expression of interest deposit. Please make your expression of interest deposit of $500 per person directly with Happy Pilgrims Travel by January 14, 2019. (This deposit is fully refundable until 9/1/19.)

Join us in this unique fundraising opportunity to celebrate Festival Mozaic's 50th Anniversary and to honor our beginnings as the Mozart Festival.

Learn more at www.festivalmozaic.com/cruise; and contact Happy Pilgrims Travel at todd@happypilgrimstravel.com or 805-835-2545.

--Festival Mosaic

Pianist Inna Faliks Premieres Autobiographical Concert-Monologue
Returning to her alma mater with a Chicago premiere, Inna Faliks, an alumna of the Music Institute of Chicago and daughter of faculty member Irene Faliks, brings her autobiographical concert-monologue to Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois on Sunday, February 10 at 3 p.m.

"Polonaise-Fantaisie: The Story of a Pianist" traces Faliks' journey from the former Soviet Union to the freedom of the United States and a life in music. She tells her incredible story while playing music that spans 289 years, running the gamut from Bach and Mozart to contemporary composer Jan Freidlin, interspersed with her own writings chronicling her upbringing in Odessa, Ukraine; her musical and romantic awakenings; and her immigration to the U.S. as a Jewish refugee.

Inna Faliks in "Polonaise-Fantaisie: The Story of a Pianist" takes place Sunday, February 10 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Il. Tickets are $50 for VIP seating, $40 for adults, $25 for senior citizens, and $15 for students.

Tickets are available by calling 847.448.8328 or 800.838.3006 or at musicinst.org/faculty-guest-artist-series.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Baritone Benjamin Appl Embarks on First U.S. Recital Tour
German baritone Benjamin Appl, hailed as "the current front-runner in the new generation of Lieder singers," by Gramophone magazine, will embark on his first U.S. recital tour with pianist James Baillieu from January 6-20, 2019, performing in New York, NY (January 6, 8, 10; Park Avenue Armory); Portland, OR (January 13, Portland Friends of Chamber Music); New Orleans, LA (January 15, 16; New Orleans Friends of Music); Cleveland, OH (January 18, Art Song Festival at CIM; and Washington, DC (January 20, The Phillips Collection).

Benjamin Appl was mentored by one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and records exclusively for Sony Classical. His U.S. tour follows his second Sony album featuring the music of J.S. Bach, which was released in September 2018.

For more information, visit www.benjaminappl.com

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Miller Theatre's Early Music Series Presents the Orlando Consort
With performances described as "simultaneously ravishing and reverential" by the The Los Angeles Times, the London-based Orlando Consort returns to perform a collection of sublime sacred music from the first part of the 16th century. The period is marked by unprecedented richness in music, with text settings that often went beyond the confines of the usual daily liturgy. Joined for this concert by bass Robert Macdonald, the Consort performs a program of works by Josquin des Prez, Clemens non Papa, Nicolas Gombert, and others, concluding with Lamentations by English Tudor composer Robert White.

Saturday, January 26, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
145 West 46th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, NYC

For more information, visit orlandoconsort.com or millertheatre.com

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Nu Deco Ensemble To Perform Outdoor Concert
On January 26, Nu Deco will be performing on Miami Beach for their annual outdoor North Beach Bandshell performance. Hailed by Billboard Magazine as "a sonically spellbinding experience," this genre-bending program will be premiering new works by members of the ensemble, including electric guitarist Aaron Lebos of Aaron Lebos Reality, as well as keyboardist and drummer Jason Matthews and Armando Lopez. The ensemble will also be performing suites including music from modern artists such as Outkast, Daft Punk and more. Special guest performer to be announced in January.

Tickets for the North Beach Bandshell can be purchased at Nu Deco Ensemble's website. For more information about Nu Deco Ensemble's fourth season, and to purchase tickets for all upcoming performances, please visit their website at www.nu-deco.org.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Treefort Music Fest 2019 Announces Second Round of Artists
Treefort Music Fest is an annual music and arts festival featuring over 400 bands plus film, art, comedy, yoga, and more across multiple venues in downtown Boise, Idaho in March. Now in it's eighth year and set for March 20-24th, Treefort Music Fest is excited to announce its second round of artists which include: Vince Staples, American Football, mewithoutYou, JPEGMAFIA, Cherry Glazerr, Sudan Archives, Flint Eastwood, TEEN, and many more. The full list of acts can be found at our Web site below. Be on the lookout for the final artist announcement in February!

With the second artist announcement comes the release of the updated official Treefort Music Fest 2019 playlists, which can be found on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple Music.

Web site: Jump inside the land of Treefort 8 to explore even more bands on the lineup.

Five-day general admission passes are currently on sale for $200. The price will increase on March 1st when single day passes go on sale, so act fast! For additional ticket information, visit: http://www.treefortmusicfest.com.

--Terra Lopez, Terrorbird

A Symphonic Winter from "Great Performances" on PBS
This winter, Great Performances and Great Performances at the Met present a special series of classical music programming starring world-renowned orchestras and leading opera vocalists.

"A Symphonic Winter with Great Performances" features a brand new classical music special each week, beginning January 1 with the annual From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2019 concert hosted by Hugh Bonneville, and concludes February 1 with the broadcast premiere of the Metropolitan Opera's adaptation of the classic novel Marnie.

Great Performances – From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2019
Tuesday, January 1, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

Great Performances: The Cleveland Orchestra Centennial Gala
Friday, January 11 at 9 p.m. on PBS

Great Performances: Orphée et Eurydice from Lyric Opera of Chicago
Friday, January 18 at 9 p.m. on PBS

Great Performances at the Met: Aida
Sunday, January 20 at 12 p.m. on PBS

Great Performances: Doubt from Minnesota Opera
Friday, January 25, at 9 p.m. on PBS

Great Performances at the Met: Marnie
Friday, February 1 at 9 p.m. on PBS

--Dorean Rose Pugh, WNET

Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic" (CD review)

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Sony SK 63301.

Bruckner tried to write a literary program to go with his Fourth Symphony. For the First Movement he wrote: "A citadel of the Middle Ages. Daybreak. Reveille is sounded from the tower. The gates open. Knights on proud chargers leap forth. The magic of nature surrounds them." But by the last movement he admitted, "...I've forgotten completely what picture I had in mind."

It doesn't matter. Even without the composer's program, the "Romantic" Symphony conjures up visions of beauty, grandeur, and majesty aplenty for all but the least imaginative listeners. Although Esa-Pekka Salonen's 1998 Sony release with the Los Angeles Philharmonic is perhaps too dependent upon his trying to convey the grandness of the music to lay claim to top honors, one cannot fault him for trying hard in admittedly so grand a work.

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Still, Salonen has some tough competition in this piece. Eugene Jochum (DG or EMI) does a better job conjuring up the mysticism of the nature motif; Otto Klemperer (EMI) holds the structure together better; and Karl Bohm (Decca) is probably best at maintaining the work's forward momentum. Salonen takes the slowest route; at almost seventy minutes long, the music tends to lag, and one wants to give the maestro a little nudge in the behind from time to time. Salonen tries heroically to sustain every note, mark every contrast, and coax the last ounce of splendor from the score, but he tries a little too hard. In the end, I was moved more by what the interpretation could have been than by what it was. Still, Salonen's effort is noble, and it's really hard not like Bruckner's lovely score no matter whose hands it's in.

Sony's sound, recorded at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, CA in May 1997 is big and full, with an enormous dynamic range. If Sony had made the recording in the really old, analogue days, Salonen's softest passages would have probably sunk beneath a surface of tape hiss. Here, in digital, the contrasts are splendidly dramatic, even if they appear more the work of the audio engineers than the conductor. Overall, too, the sound is a little dark and murky compared to, say, Klemperer (EMI) or Blomstedt (Denon), both of whom open up the stage more and allow us to hear further into the orchestra.

For the Bruckner fan and the Bruckner collector, I can recommend Salonen with little hesitation. For the first-time Bruckner buyer, however, maybe Klemperer, Bohm, or even the old Bruno Walter recording (Sony) would be safer places to start.

JJP

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


A QSF Journey (HDCD review)

Quartet San Francisco. Reference Recordings RR-143.

It's always good news when Reference Recordings releases a new album. It's doubly good news when their chief engineer, Keith O. Johnson, does the recording. It's triply good news when they make it a studio production. And it's quadruply good news when the studio they make it in is the prestigious Skywalker Sound. That the content of the album is contemporary material played by the excellent Quartet San Francisco (QSF) is like the icing on the cake.

If I may quote from Wikipedia: "Quartet San Francisco is a non-traditional and eclectic string quartet led by violinist Jeremy Cohen. The group played their first concert in 2001 and has recorded five albums. Playing a wide range of music genres including jazz, blues, tango, swing, funk, and pop, the group challenges the traditional classical music foundation of the string quartet.

"Quartet San Francisco won a tango music competition in New York in 2004, and their albums have been nominated five times for Grammy Awards: three in the Best Classical Crossover Album category and two for Best Engineered Album, Classical."

The group's current members are Jeremy Cohen, violin; Joseph Christianson, violin; Chad Kaltinger, viola; and Andres Vera, cello. They are consummate performers and work harmoniously with one another to form one of the most-accomplished and most-versatile quartets in the business. On the present album they play what they call "the spirit of our time," twelve relatively new tunes running high to tangos, most of them written or arranged by Mr. Cohen.

Here's a rundown on the program:

Tango Eight (Cohen)
Fiesta! (Lipsky)
Tango Carnevale (Cohen)
Francini (Cohen)
Rhapsody in Bluegrass (Gershwin­Rouse, arr. Cohen)
La Heroi´na (Cohen)
How Sweet the Sound (Cohen)
Federico II (Sollima)
Al Colo´n (Cohen)
Jasmine Flower/Beautiful Scenery of Wuxi (traditional Chinese folk songs, arr. Cohen)
Toroi Bandi (Mongolian folk song, arr. Cohen)
Jambo (traditional African folk song, arr. Cohen)

Quartet San Francisco
The Argentine tango takes center stage in the first track, "Tango Eight," with lively rhythms introducing us to the QSF style. The quartet follows it with an even livelier tune called "Fiesta" by Helmut Lipsky that is quite exciting. For a change of pace, the group have chosen a more leisurely piece called "Tango Carnevale," which is a sort of slow tango. Cohen says he wrote it after spending evenings in the neighborhoods of Buenas Aires. It's lovely.

And so it goes. The QSF play wonderfully well together, seeming to sense one another's movements instinctively and moving together as a whole, yet all the while emphasizing the unique contributions of each member. Thus, although each of the four musicians is a distinct individual with his own style, the combined result is one of effortless unanimity. They play together separately and together simultaneously.

Favorites? Yes, twelve of them. However, if forced to choose just one, I'd say "Rhapsody in Bluegrass," a combination of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and Ervin T. Rouse's bluegrass fiddle favorite "Orange Blossom Special." Classical, jazz, and bluegrass: What could be more natural, and what could go wrong? That nothing goes wrong and everything goes right is remarkable. "La Heroina" and "How Sweet the Sound" I also found effective in quite different ways, but to quibble about favorites in so entertaining an album would just be...quibbling.

Let's call this one of my favorite albums of the year and be done with it.

Producers Victor Ledin and Marina A. Ledin, executive producer Marcia Gordon Martin, and engineer Keith Johnson recorded the music at Skywalker Sound, Nicasio, California in May 2018. As we might expect from a small ensemble in an ideal setting, their HDCD sound reproduction is as lifelike as one could want. The clarity is astonishingly good, the spacing exemplary, the air and ambience realistic, the dynamics strong. Perhaps some listeners might prefer a more distanced approach to the miking, but there is certainly a greater transparency to the QSF sonics with the slightly closer approach Reference Recordings has taken. Whatever, this is audiophile quality sound in almost every way.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, December 15, 2018

Tickets on Sale for Opera Maine's Performance of The Magic Flute

Tickets go on sale today for OperaMaine's 25th Anniversary mainstage production of W.A. Mozart's The Magic Flute presented at Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine on Wednesday, July 24 and Friday, July 26, 2019. Ticket prices start at $34. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary, a grant from Wells Fargo will allow the first 300 registrants, age 25 and under, to attend for free.

To celebrate its 25th Anniversary—and the magic of opera--Opera Maine presents its first-ever production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Magnificent music draws you into a fantasy world, where Prince Tamino and the bird catcher Papageno embark upon a trial-filled journey to rescue the beautiful daughter of the Queen of the Night. The twisting tale of good, evil, enlightenment, and love will captivate young and old alike. The opera will be sung in the original German with English dialogue and with English supertitles. The company's Principal Conductor, Stephen Lord will conduct the Opera Maine Orchestra and Artistic Director, Dona D. Vaughn, will direct the exceptional cast.

Tickets are on sale at PortTIX , the only official box office for Opera Maine. To avoid websites that sell tickets at a markup, tickets may be purchased by calling or visiting the box office, or at OperaMaine.com. The PortTIX box office is located at 20 Myrtle Street in Portland and is open noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Call PortTIX office at (207) 842-0800.

For complete information, visit operamaine.com

--Kristen Levesque, APR

Invest in the Future of Historical Performance
As former teacher and pupil, and now colleagues, it was particularly special to play alongside each other in the "Vivaldi the Teacher" concert set and in the SESSIONS "The H.I.P Revolution" last month.

We are grateful that Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and The Juilliard School's Historical Performance program established a collaboration that would bring students and professional musicians and teachers together. The partnership comes in many forms, including residencies, mentoring, and side-by-side performances. We all believe the future of historically informed performance relies on investing in specialized training for young musicians and nurturing their careers by providing performance opportunities.

We ask for your investment in the next generation of historically-informed musicians. The Economist said this year, "The former rebels are no longer on the fringes, and have inspired a new generation of musicians," and we are proud to be a part of the movement. We greatly appreciate your support.

Please click here to invest in the future: https://philharmoniabaroqueorchestra.secure.force.com/donate/?dfId=a0ni0000000nXXSAA2

From one generation to the next, thank you for your passionate support of historical performance.

--Phoebe Carrai, PBO violoncellist and Juilliard faculty member

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Presents "Homeward Sounds"
On Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, NYC, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra presents "Homeward Sounds," a program delving into the sounds of Mozart and Dvorák's rich lives in Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague.

The concert features the New York premiere of Dvorák's Bagatelles, Op. 47 arranged for chamber orchestra by conductor/arranger Dennis Russell Davies, as well as Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 with Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, and Mozart's Symphony No. 33 in B-flat Major, K. 319. These works will provide a springboard for New York composer James Matheson's Still Life, which opens this program and reflects contemporary American sensibilities. This piece was made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation.

The program will also be performed on January 5, 2019 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, FL, marking the world premieres of the works by Davis and Matheson; and on January 6, 2019 at Walter S. Gubelmann Auditorium in Palm Beach, FL; January 9, 2019 at Halton Theater at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC; and on January 10, 2019 at Wright Auditorium at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Single tickets for the January 12 performance, priced from $12.50 to $115, are available for purchase at the Carnegie Hall box office at 57th and 7th and can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website at carnegiehall.org.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Mary Wilson is Back!
Soprano Mary Wilson, one of American Bach Soloist audiences' most treasured guest artists, is back this week to reprise her legendary performance of Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral.

An annual holiday tradition, these performances meld together Handel's glorious music with the serene beauty of one of San Francisco's greatest architectural treasures.
Wednesday December 12 2018 7:30 p.m.
Thursday December 13, 2018 7:30 p.m.
Friday December 14, 2018 7:30 p.m.
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1EKabbZp9Y&feature=youtu.be

Get more information and tickets here: https://americanbach.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2641

Or order by phone for Messiah: 800-595-4TIX (-4849) or for New Year's Eve: 415-392-4400

Information: 415-621-7900

--American Bach Soloists

Vocal Point Signs to Decca Gold
Vocal Point, the YouTube sensation and chart-topping nine-man a cappella group, is gearing up to bring its music to a much bigger stage. With the release of their latest music video, "What Child is This?" Vocal Point has announced that they've signed a recording deal with Decca Gold, Universal Classics, US, part of Universal Music Group (UMG), the world's largest music company in the world.

Graham Parker, President of Universal Music Classics, US, says of the signing, "Vocal Point has been bringing joy and incredible musicality to audiences for many years, and so I am delighted they have joined Universal to take their collective talents to an even wider audience both here in the U.S.A. and around the world."

UMG initially reached out to Vocal Point two years ago and expressed interest in working with the group. Vocal Point's producer and artistic director McKay Crockett says, "I thought it was exciting but way too good to be true — flattering, but it'll never happen."

It did happen. And with the new deal, Universal Classics, US and Decca Gold will be helping Vocal Point with all aspects of their brand, including physical and digital music release and distribution, touring, social media and more.

--Samatha Sklar, Universal Music

World Premiere Performances of Julia Wolfe's Fire in my mouth
Winner of the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, The Crossing makes its New York Philharmonic debut in world premiere performances of Julia Wolfe's Fire in my mouth on Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, January 25, 2019 at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.

Led by New York Philharmonic Music Director Jaap van Zweden, Julia Wolfe's immersive Fire in my mouth--featuring video, theatrical lighting, and nearly 150 women vocalists--explores the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City which killed 146 garment workers, most of them young, female immigrants. The tragic decisions that led to the devastation instigated protests that led to changes in labor laws. Thirty-six women of The Crossing and conductor Donald Nally will be joined by 110 women of the Young People's Chorus of New York City, led by director Francisco J. Núñez. Fire in my mouth features video and scenic design by Jeff Sugg and is directed by Anne Kauffman.

Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 25, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.
David Geffen Hall | 10 Lincoln Center Plaza | New York, NY
Tickets: $33-120 at nyphil.org or by calling (212) 875-5656.
Link: https://nyphil.org/concerts-tickets/1819/fire-in-my-mouth

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Cantata Profana's Intense VISIONS OF SILENCE
The brilliant and audacious stars of New York's Cantata Profana--as comfortable on period instruments as they are on modern ones--juxtapose masterpieces from the medieval era to the 21st century in lovingly curated shows filled with unexpected works and daring theater. On January 18 and 19 they premiere their boldest creation yet: VISIONS OF SILENCE at St. Peter's Church in Chelsea (346 West 20th Street, NYC). The church is perfectly matched to this mystical program, with its slightly dilapidated yet beautiful looks and perfect acoustics (clear as a bell without being swampy). Lighting design and staging combine to intensify the drama.

The program centers around a theatrical presentation of Salvatore Sciarrino's 1998 Infinito Nero, an "Ecstasy in One Act" for voice (the exquisite soprano Alice Teyssier) and 8 instruments, and conducted by Cantata Profana's Artistic Director Jacob Ashworth. Infinito Nero hasn't been done in New York in many years--and very rarely before then.

For more information, visit https://www.cantataprofana.com/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Wishing Peace and Joy from Young People's Chorus of New York City
The holiday season is a time to be with friends, families, and loved ones. Having been a musician since I was a child, I know firsthand the importance of music in bringing people together. When I worked with YPC on my holiday album, I was so moved to see children from all over New York City united by their love of music, singing with one voice.

Please join me this holiday season in supporting an organization unlike any other, where children from all backgrounds lead the way with their example of respect, understanding and beautiful harmony.

Happy Holidays to you and your family,

Joshua Bell, Artistic Ambassador

Bach's Circle (CD review)

Music of J.S. & J.C.F. Bach, Telemann, and Couperin. Allan Vogel, oboe; Janice Tipton, flute; Patricia Mabee, harpsichord, Mark Chatfield, viola da gamba; Nancy Sartain, continuo harpsichord. Delos DE 3214.

Oboist Allan Vogel reminds us in his booklet essay that, "In his mature years, Johann Sebastian Bach's circle of family, friends, students and colleagues was a large one. Bach was known to be a hospitable man who would often have concerts for this extended family in his home. Such a concert is the inspiration for this recording."

Of course, Bach may not have had Couperin in his own house, but his influence on Bach's work would have been considerable. Telemann, on the other hand, was the godfather to one of Bach's sons, so his impact was both personal and musical.

Anyway, the present disc begins with Telemann's Trio Sonata in E-flat Major and then goes on to Bach's Sonata in G Minor, BWV 1020, and Sonata in G Minor, BWV 1030b, the former much simpler and shorter than the more elaborate later work. The centerpiece of the program is Couperin's Concert Royal No. 4 in E Minor, an elegant set of dances; and the concluding work is son J.C.F. Bach's Sonata in C Major, the blithest and merriest of the sonatas, which makes a fitting conclusion to the agenda.

Allan Vogel
Allan Vogel is among the country's leading oboe players (and former Principal Oboe of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra). Here, he amply demonstrates his skills with delicate and graceful solo passages, particularly charming in the C Major Sonata where he plays a lighter, sweeter-sounding oboe d'amore. The small ensemble--Vogel, oboe; Janice Tipton, flute; Patricia Mabee, harpsichord, Mark Chatfield, viola da gamba; and Nancy Sartain, continuo harpsichord--play with ease and precision, always displaying a charming interaction and an effortless control.

I had not heard a Delos recording of chamber music before this one, released in 1998, and I was impressed by the clarity and definition the engineers brought to the sound, without sacrificing much in the way of natural room acoustics. They recorded the group a bit close for my taste, it's true, and the imaging does not allow for much front-to-back perspective (not that that matters so much with so few players), but other than that it is fairly realistic.

This is the kind of album that makes for either undivided primary listening or relaxing background music. Seems almost a shame, though, to waste it on background alone.

JJP

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


Beethoven: Piano Concertos 4 & 5 "Emperor" (CD review)

Nicholas Angelich, piano; Laurence Equilbey, Insula Orchestra. Erato 0190295634179.

I don't know how the rest of you keep up. American pianist Nicholas Angelich (b. 1970) has made some two dozen albums already, but the only things I could remember were his Brahms piano concertos, maybe because I reviewed them. In any case, he's been playing piano since the age of five and done concerts throughout the world, so all that practice apparently pays off. He's very good. Here, he presents Beethoven's last two piano concertos, Numbers 4 and 5.

When Beethoven was writing his nine symphonies, they seemed to become monumental in size and scope very fast with his third. But with his five piano concertos, they sort of built up incrementally, with No. 4 being impressively large and No. 5 being monumentally impressive. The album begins with No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, completed in 1806 (around time the composer wrote the Fourth Symphony and parts of the Fifth Symphony). Beethoven made the opening movement melodic, with the piano part often sounding improvisational. He then scored the slow movement for piano and strings, keeping it fairly poetic, with a slightly agitated orchestral accompaniment, leading quietly into the concluding Rondo: Vivace. With that, we get a passionate, tempestuous, rhythmic, stormy, yet graceful final movement; you name it, Beethoven threw it in.

Angelich's dexterity at the keyboard is on full display in the Fourth's opening movement. He nimbly glides through the music, making it all seem effortless. He uses a Pleyel piano from 1892, a good compromise between what Beethoven might have heard in his own lifetime and what we have today, and the orchestra tries to remain true to the spirit of Beethoven. The piano resonates clearly and richly, if perhaps not quite as smoothly as a modern instrument. Anyway, Angelich makes the whole concerto sound full of strength and élan, meaning he makes the work appear both extemporaneous and elegant at the same time. His playing is filled with a vigorous energy and a lyrical polish, with maybe a greater emphasis on the former, especially in the fleet-footed finale.

Nicholas Angelich
Beethoven wrote his Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat, Op. 73, "Emperor," in 1809, premiering it in 1811 and dedicating it to the Archduke Rudolf, his patron and student at the time. The piece begins with a big, bravura Allegro, the piano entering immediately. In the central Adagio we get one of the Beethoven's loveliest melodies, a brief duet between piano and orchestra. Then there is a hushed transition into the final Rondo: Allegro, which takes the concerto to a glowing conclusion. Beethoven intended No. 5 to sound monumental, as I've said, although the smallish size of the Insula Orchestra (about forty-six players) under conductor Laurence Equilbey tends to make it more transparent than plush or weighty. Still, it holds its own.

Angelich's high-octane delivery is well suited to the first movement of the Fifth Concerto, even if it tends to dominate the orchestra more so than usual. Conductor and pianist keep the tempos on the urgent but not strident side, making for some exciting moments in the first and third movements. As for the beautifully meditative middle movement, it's fine, even if it's not as beautiful as Wilhelm Kempf's (DG) or as meditative as Stephen Kovacevich's (Philips). Angelich seems a little too matter of fact by comparison.

Producer Laure Casenave-Pere and engineer Thomas Dappelo recorded the concertos at La Seine Musicale, Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, France in March 2018. The sound of the piano and orchestra is generally refined and well balanced, if both appear a touch close. The highs are slightly rough, perhaps due to the closeness of the miking. Nevertheless, I particularly liked the realistic reproduction of the piano, which recreates a lifelike illusion. While the stereo width is more than adequate, the perception of depth is somewhat limited, making things not only a tad close but one-dimensional as well.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, December 8, 2018

Make Your ABS New Year's Eve Plans Now

"A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera"
Monday December 31 2018 4:00 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, featuring Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, countertenor, and Mary Wilson, soprano, with the American Bach Soloists Orchestra, Jeffrey Thomas, conductor.

This special event, presented in San Francisco's beautiful Herbst Theatre--a cornerstone and jewel among the city's most prestigious venues--will feature one of the opera world's exciting new vocal talents, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. The 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Young Artists Award Winner, former Merola Opera Program participant, 2018 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, and ABS Academy alumnus has been capturing the hearts of opera lovers around the world.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen will perform arias by Handel and Gluck. Joined by the incomparable soprano Mary Wilson, and along with a delightful program of instrumental music from opera and concert, this early night on the town will joyfully ring in the New Year in elegant style.

Tickets on sale only through City Box Office:
(415) 392-4400
City Box Office
$25–$125

Online: americanbach.org/NYE or cityboxoffice.com

--Amercan Bach Soloists

Esa-Pekka Salonen Announced as Next Music Director of SF Symphony
San Francisco Symphony President Sakurako Fisher and Chief Executive Officer Mark C. Hanson today announced that Esa-Pekka Salonen will become the Orchestra's next Music Director, beginning in September 2020.

As the San Francisco Symphony's 12th Music Director in its 107-year history, Salonen will succeed Michael Tilson Thomas, who concludes his 25-year tenure as Music Director in July 2020. One of the most influential and creative forces in music, Salonen has, through his many high-profile conducting roles, work as a leading composer, and as an advocate for accessibility and diverse musical voices, shaped a unique vision for the present and future of the symphony orchestra.

Assuming his role as Music Director Designate immediately, Salonen will lead the SFS January 18–20, 2019 in a program featuring the SFS premiere of Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Metacosmos, Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Sibelius's Four Legends from the Kalevala. He will return as Music Director Designate in the 2019–20 season to conduct at least two weeks of programs. In September 2020, Salonen begins his tenure as Music Director with an initial five-year contract, conducting the SFS in six subscription weeks and on a tour of Asia. Beginning in the 2021–22 season, Salonen will conduct 12 to 14 weeks each season. He will conclude his tenure as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London's Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

For more information, visit https://www.sfsymphony.org/

--Oliver Theil, SFS Director of Communications

Celebrate the Season with YPC
"Winter Wonder: A Festive Winter Concert"
Wednesday, December 12 at 7:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, NYC

Young People's Chorus of New York City culminates its 30th anniversary year with "Winter Wonder," a holiday concert featuring the artistry and showmanship of YPC's young choristers and special guest, Time for Three, in a program of new music and fresh arrangements of holiday favorites. Tickets from $30-$125 on sale now as well as Special $200 Concert Sponsor Prime-Seat Tickets.

"For the Miracles: A Holiday Celebration"
Sunday, December 9 at 3:00 p.m.
Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum, NYC

YPC and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez celebrate the holidays at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a program of joyous music that celebrates two holiday traditions.

"New York's Oldest Christmas Tradition"
Sunday, December 16 at 3:00 p.m.
Church of the Intercession, NYC

Assistant Conductor Maria Peña and YPC return to the Church of the Intercession to open the church's century-old holiday tradition: a performance of holiday music, followed by a candlelight reading of Clement Clarke Moore's "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

39th Annual "A City Singing at Christmas"
Thursday, December 20 at 7:00 p.m.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC

Join YPC, Glen Cove High School Select Chorale, St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, The Cathedral Organs, and New York Symphonic Brass for a free program of traditional and contemporary Christmas hymns and carols in the majesty of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Come early for the best seats!

For complete information, visit www.ypc.org

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

White Wigs to Unruly Locks Gave Way
"In the Wake of the Marseillaise: Songs of Love. Loss and Triumph from the Age of Emancipation"
Pascal Valois, early Romantic guitar; Jessical Gould, soprano
Thursday, December 13th, 8:00pm
The Brotherhood Synagogue, 28 Gramercy Park South, NYC

The Ghetto drowned in the wake of the Marseillaise.

Napoleon's conquering armies marched through European capitals, and ancient hierarchies crumbled to the tune of "Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité." Tumbling bricks followed rolling heads, and the Ghetto wall that had separated Jew from Gentile collapsed to dust.

At least until it rose again.

For complete information, visit www.salonsanctuary.org

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Deutsche Grammophon Celebrates 120 Years
Deutsche Grammophon is marking the 120th anniversary of its company foundation on December 6, 1898 with a carefully curated global program of DG120 live concerts, special events, record releases and much more. The world's oldest and best-known classical label will use its anniversary year to continue building a lasting legacy. The company's unprecedented DG120 program has been designed to reach existing fans worldwide, attract new followers in Asia and beyond, and share its peerless catalogue with as many people as possible.

The birthday celebrations began with the spectacular DG 120 – The Tokyo Concert, held at Tokyo's legendary Suntory Hall last night, December 5, in the presence of the Japanese imperial family. Anne-Sophie Mutter joined Seiji Ozawa, Diego Matheuz and the Saito Kinen Orchestra for a program of works by Bach, Beethoven, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky.

In Korea, Seong-Jin Cho marks Deutsche Grammophon's actual birthday in style today with DG120 – The Seoul Anniversary Concert, performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor K.466 with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and Lionel Bringuier at the Seoul Arts Center. Anne-Sophie Mutter joins the Seoul party tomorrow, Friday, December 7, opening the evening's program with Bruch's evergreen First Violin Concerto.

The celebrations continue well into 2019.

For more information, visit https://dg120.info/celebrating-120-years-of-deutsche-grammophon/

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

West Edge Announces the 2019 Snapshot Program
Inaugurated in 2017 and now entering its third year, Snapshot is a collaboration between West Edge Opera and Earplay dedicated to getting new operas on their feet and giving audiences peeks into developing works from West Coast composers and librettists.

This year's program will feature celebrated soprano Marnie Breckenridge singing Nathaniel Stookey's haunting monodrama, Ivonne, with libretto by Chicago playwright Jerre Dye. Inspired by an abandoned Sears building, the opera follows the head secretary of a steno pool as she prepares for yet another day at the office. Her preference for order and structure is upended by a co-worker's medical emergency that threatens to shatter her well-groomed exterior.

The performances will take place on Saturday January 19th, 2019 at 8:00PM at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, 2288 Fulton St, Berkeley, CA 94704 and Sunday January 20th, 2019 at 3:00PM at the Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102. Tickets are $40.00 and can be purchased from the West Edge web page at http://www.westedgeopera.org/snapshot-2019.

--Mark Streshinsky, General Director

F.A.Y.M. December 2018 Newsletter
The first Foundation to Assist Young Musicians recital for the 2018/19 school year was held on October 20 at the East Las Vegas Community Center. This year's beginning students did not perform because they have only had violins in their hands for a few weeks. They will definitely play at our next recital in December.

However, everyone else did get on stage and perform for an excited audience! We even had a few parents and siblings of our students who have been taking beginning guitar, vihuela, and guitarrón classes take the stage and perform Las Mañanitas along with our Beginning Mariachi and Advanced Mariachi. This combined group did an excellent job in performing a traditional Hispanic song which is played on important days such as birthdays, anniversaries, saint days, etc. I recently had a birthday so I listened to this song as if it were dedicated to me!

On another note, parents of FAYM have been working together to assure that our Violins For Kids program continues for their children. They have been working on fund raisers such as candy sales, organizing yard sales and are searching for other ways to help bring in money. It is important that all our wonderful donors that have been helping us over the years know that our families are taking an active role in helping our program grow. By all of us working together as the 'FAYM Family,' we are assuring that our kids get a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn!

Visit us at http://thefaym.org

--Arturo Ochoa, Board President

50th Anniversary Cruise Deposit Deadline is 12/14/18
Usher in Festival Mozaic's 50th Anniversary on a Specially-Curated Danube River Cruise!
To celebrate Festival Mozaic's momentous 50th Anniversary in 2020, we have asked Amadeus Cruises to curate a concert-filled river cruise. The itinerary along the Danube will include private classical concerts that will be exclusive to our group, in spectacular venues such as the Salburg Mozarteum, Melk Abbey, and Duna Palace.

But there's a catch: If we do not have at least 35 committed passengers, Amadeus Cruises will not be able to make this very exclusive, concert-filled itinerary available to us after December 14, 2018.
This cruise is a fundraiser for Festival Mozaic, so a portion of the cost of the cruise is tax-deductible. In recognition of the 50th Anniversary, we are limiting space to only 50 classical music fans. Don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience! Join your fellow Festival Mozaic enthusiasts for this extraordinary 50th Anniversary cruise on the Danube, with an itinerary that is designed especially for classical music lovers.

Learn more at www.festivalmozaic.com/cruise

--Festival Mozaic

42nd Festival de Lanaudière
Renaud Loranger, the new artistic director, announces partial programming for the 42nd Festival de Lanaudière. Guest artists include Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Kent Nagano, Marc-André Hamelin, Veronika Eberle, and Seong-Jin Cho.

The 42nd season of the Festival de Lanaudière will feature two renowned Montreal orchestras: the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and the Orchestre Métropolitain (OM).

Just six weeks after coming on board, the Festival's new artistic director, Renaud Loranger, is prepared to announce four programs with two famous ensembles: "It is an honor to offer music lovers these two great Montreal orchestras as part of the same season," he states with pride. "The OM and OSM always take great pleasure in returning to the Fernand Lindsay Amphitheatre to perform for Festival audiences."

Tickets for these four exceptional concerts will go on sale at noon on Friday, December 7 at lanaudiere.org, at the Place des Arts box office (514-842-2112 or 1-866-842-2112), and at placedesarts.com.

--France Gaignard Public Relations

Bay Area Musicals' Holiday Fundraiser
Bay Area Musicals (Matthew McCoy, Founder & Artistic Director, and AeJay Mitchell, Managing Director) has announced the line-up of performers for the Company's first annual Holiday Benefit Fundraiser, "Once Upon a December"--an evening celebrating family, community, and the Holiday season.

This merry and bright holiday cabaret will star some of the San Francisco Bay Area's best musical performers, including Jenny Angel ("Seussical"), Alissa Sanchez ("The Wedding Singer"), Jesse Cortez ("Crazy for You"), and Jack O'Reilly ("La Cage Aux Folles," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"), among many others (and perhaps even a special appearance by Mr. Claus himself)!

 Audiences will enjoy beautiful renditions of Yuletide and show tunes, while food and cocktails will be available to purchase. "Once Upon a December" will perform on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a second show on Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. On both evenings, cocktails will be available prior to the performance (beginning at 6:30 p.m.), and both evenings will conclude with a post-performance after-party.

Both performances will take place at San Francisco's Gateway Theatre (215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111). Tickets range from $25 - $45 and can be purchased online at www.bamsf.org/once-upon-a-december.

--Jonathan White PR

Milhaud: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 (CD review)

Alun Francis, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Basel. CPO 999 539-2.

The French composer and conductor Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) wrote his Symphony No. 1, Op. 210 in 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War. He was nearly fifty years old at the time and had never written a complete symphony before. While he did not give the symphony a set program, the listener can infer freely from its varied material a possible scenario. The opening movement is light, pastoral, free, and easygoing. It calls to mind the lull before the storm, the peace before the War. The second movement opens boisterously, perhaps representing the War itself. The third movement is slow and serious but with little sense of danger; maybe wishful thinking. Then the finale brings us back to the martial music of the second movement and returns to a relaxed conclusion, possibly Milhaud anticipating a speedy resolution and end to hostilities. Or not. Certainly, he couldn't have anticipated the horrors to come.

Alun Francis
In the next twenty years, Milhaud would go on to write a dozen more symphonies. The Fourth Symphony, Op. 281 is decidedly programmatic, the composer having been commissioned by the French Minister of Education to write a piece based on the one-hundredth anniversary of the Revolution of 1848. Each movement represents a phase in the Revolution, bringing contrasting styles and tempi to a sound picture of vivid contrasts.

Both symphonies are pleasing to the ear, much different from the composer's earlier, more experimental works. Maestro Alun Francis and the Basel Radio Symphony Orchestra bring both joy and despair to the pieces as they require and generally sets up a stately presence throughout. Neither work is particularly striking, yet Francis does a pretty good job bringing out their more imaginative and pictorial qualities. The orchestra likewise sounds good, although the sound it produces appears a tad undernourished compared to, say, the Berlin Philharmonic or Concertgebouw orchestras. Nevertheless, the ensemble displays a fine athleticism and flies through the musical scores with a fair degree of poise.

Miked at a moderate distance, the CPO album, recorded in 1995 and released in 1998, offers the listener a reasonably accurate facsimile of a real symphony orchestra. There is a realistic hall ambiance, a good stage depth, a modest frequency and dynamic range, and as much orchestral detail as we might expect from perhaps a fifteenth row seat or thereabouts. It is a not a recording to wow an audiophile or knock the socks off a neophyte; it just sounds like a large ensemble of players performing in your living room. I say good enough.

JJP

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


Kawarsky: Spoon Hanging from My Nose (CD review)

The Music of J.A. Kawarsky. Various orchestras and conductors. Navona Records NV6194.

If you are like me, you may not be familiar with the name of American composer, conductor, and music professor Jay A. Kawarsky (b. 1959). However, the title and cover art for this first album devoted entirely to his compositions and arrangements, "Spoon Hanging from My Nose," was too hard to resist.

Perhaps Kawarsky's most famous composition, Prayers for Bobby, premiered in 1996 with actress Marlo Thomas narrating and has been performed many times since. Unfortunately, it is not among the pieces on the present album. Nevertheless, it was a fortuitous decision on my part to take a chance and listen to the disc; the music it presents is pleasing, creative, and diverting.

The program consists of four major Kawarsky selections. The first is called Fastidious Notes for solo alto saxophone and chamber orchestra, here performed by Jonathan Helton, alto sax, and the Chicago Arts Orchestra led by Javier Mendoza. As Kawarsky wrote the piece for saxophonist Helton, we have to imagine Helton's interpretation being definitive. It's certainly authoritative and immaculately played. In fact, the whole work is easily accessible, and, as Kawarsky notes, if there are any hints of other composers in the music, well, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

The second item is the longest, a series of eighteen selections: the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, originally written in 1868-69 for vocal quartet and piano four hands and here orchestrated by Kawarsky for multiple voices (the Arizona Choir) and ten instruments. These pieces are really quite beautiful, quite lyrical and lilting renditions, and Brahms is, after all, Brahms. It's charming.

J.A. Kawarsky
The third item on the agenda is called And We All Waited, written for orchestra alone. Kawarsky calls it a reaction to the lack of any new legislation or regulation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra performs the work under the direction of Maestro Petr Vronsky. Again Kawarsky provides hints of other composers, in this case he says Nielsen, Shostakovich, and Reicha, but I also hear Sibelius in there. In any case. the music is not unexpectedly the most somber and earnest on the program. Still, it is easy to listen to because the composer eschews most of the modern conventions that drive audiences to distraction, even Kawarsky's work does get a tad raucous at times.

The final item Kawarsky titled Episodes for piano and orchestra, and it celebrates the 75th anniversary of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, New Jersey. It is performed by the Saint Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, with Vladimir Lande, conductor, and Peter Laul. piano. It has kind of a jazzy beat, all up-tempo and rhythmic in the opening section and alternating with a more-serene landscape as the piece goes on. The most obvious borrowing the composer incorporates here is from Mussorgsky, and it works nicely. The soloist and orchestra afford the whole work a dignified presentation.

Producers John Page, Brad Michel, Vit Muzik, Alexei Barashkin, and Bob Lord, with engineers John McCartney, Brad Michel, Ales Dvorak, Jan Kosulic, and Alexei Barashkin recorded the music at Nichols Concert Hall, Chicago; Tucson Symphony Center, Tucson, AZ; Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic; and Studio 1, House of Radio, St. Petersburg, Russia in 2016-2018.

The various producers and engineers recorded each of the selections in different venues with differing ensembles, so there are some small, inevitable differences in sound. Overall, though, the sonics are smooth and fairly dynamic, with good depth and width qualities. While the opening solo piano is a bit too close for ultimate realism, it helps the performance by emphasizing the instrument. (The closing piano is better balanced.) The choir in the waltzes sounds particularly appealing, since so often choir recordings can be overly bright or edgy. This one is very lifelike. Detailing is a tad on the soft side yet pleasing on the ear, especially as the high end is so well extended. Perhaps not absolute audiophile, but close enough.

Besides, as I say, the album title is hard to resist.

JJP

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


Meet the Staff

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

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big 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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa