Optimizing Subwoofer Integration, Part 1

Welcome Classical Candor's newest contributor, Tech Analyst Bryan Geyer, whose article on "Optimizing Subwoofer Integration" should prove fascinating and informative to anyone interested in the subject of sound reproduction.

Mating subwoofers with "mini-monitor" main speakers in a 2-channel stereo (not "home theater") system

How to select and optimally blend small subwoofers with mini-monitors: When space or decor preference dictates the use of small "mini-monitor" main speakers (instead of big full-range speakers) you'll need to supplement the bass if your goal is full fidelity. The best way to do that is to add a pair of small self-powered subwoofers--and the best place to "hide" them is in the front corners of the room, flanked outside the main mini-monitors. This location generally offers acceptable cosmetic compromise, and it assures that both subwoofers are effectively positioned to partially cancel the inevitable modal reflections that muddy the low bass in home listening rooms.

The smallest self-powered subwoofer that I find acceptable is JL Audio's E-Sub e110. These subs are fully-sealed, and sum to about 1.8 cubic feet each; weight = 53 lbs. Bigger gets impractical, so check the linear dimensions of the e110 and use that as your guideline.

The JL Audio E-Sub e110 is capable of virtually flat output over the 30 Hz to 130 Hz range, and it's solidly built; it's a fine small subwoofer. Fully-sealed subs are inherently less fussy to position and orient than ported reflex or passive radiator type subs, and sealed subs are naturally easier to phase-sync with the output from your main speakers at the listening position. This latter benefit will materially simplify final tuning.

Next, decide what crossover frequency to apply. If you use small monitors with ~ 5 inch woofers they'll exhibit rapid falloff approaching 85 Hz, so select a higher crossover, like 94-96 Hz. At that frequency you'll also need to assure that your subwoofer is capable of near flat output up to a half-octave higher, e.g. to 130 Hz. If your subwoofer can't reach that high (many don't) you might have to pick a lower crossover point. Choose a compromise, but don't consider anything below 84 Hz. A lower crossover is not appropriate for mini-monitors of any cone diameter, and going lower always invites more room-related modal trash--disruptive resonance best kept below the crossover point.

Clearly, you should select a crossover frequency consistent what your main speakers can handle. You'll want to filter the low-pass drive, to the subwoofers, to reject frequencies above your crossover point. And you should also filter the high-pass drive, to your main speakers, to reject signals below the crossover point. This latter filtration is especially vital. You don't want to route power-hungry low-bass signals to mini-monitors that can't handle "heavy lifting," and the cleanest way to do so is to keep that low bass energy out of the main speakers' power amplifier.

The most effective way to assure optimum crossover is by means of a Linkwitz-Riley aligned 4th order (24 dB/octave) active crossover. That function is already self-contained in some of the premium high-end subwoofers (including the E-Sub e110). Lesser subwoofers generally provide simpler filtering, often just for the low-pass stage, and many of those are not full 4th order filters. Some subwoofers also include rudimentary high-pass filters too, but only with simple first or second order (6 dB, 12 dB/octave) attenuation slopes, and that's just not adequate. A clean, complementary crossover transition is of vital importance, and a Linkwitz-Riley aligned 4th order active filter is the best solution--but don't despair if your preferred subwoofer omits this important feature.

Why not? Well, because the best way to utilize such a crossover is to implement it externally, as a separate control box that's positioned with all of your other command functions. This will allow you to manage the subwoofer/main speaker blend from a single, central location. If this function stays buried inside each subwoofer, you'd then have to crawl to each separate unit to individually adjust the subwoofer/main speaker acoustic ratio. An external electronic crossover control eliminates that odious task. When this function is external, the subwoofers' internal crossovers should then be switched to their "bypass mode," rendering those internal filters non-functional. The crossover frequency and sub-to-main mix will then be set at the new external electronic crossover control.

Marchand Electronics, of Rochester, NY, offers a professional grade stereo electronic crossover, model XM66, that's ideal; refer http://www.marchandelec.com/xm66.html. The price at this writing is $850. It can be set, by the user, for any desired crossover frequency, and it provides a full 4th order (24-dB/octave) Linkwitz-Riley aligned slope for both the high passband (to main power amplifier) and the low passband (to self-powered subs), with ±5 dB (in precise ±1 dB steps) front panel level controls for each passband, on each channel. These controls make it quite easy to trim and shape the respective gain settings as desired to optimally accommodate programs of different genre. In addition, the XM66 includes a damping control that permits fine tuning of the response at the crossing notch. This makes it possible to build in a gentle (+1 to +2 dB) bump at the immediate hi/low hinge point to smooth over any perceived evidence of the passband transition.

Aurally blending subwoofers with main speakers by means of endless tweak-and-listen trials can get tiresome. There are more direct and precise ways to accomplish this critical final step; request my white paper headed "On Optimizing Subwoofer Gain & Phase Angle." This sheet describes how to accurately set the subwoofer's internal input gain and phase angle controls to assure that a phase coincident bass wave front of optimum amplitude is delivered at the designated listening position.

An external electronic crossover control should be inserted into the audio system at a point that follows the main preamp (or follows the master volume control if using a "passive preamp") and precedes the main power amplifier. The Marchand XM66 controller's input impedance is ~100kΩ, so it's fully load compatible with any preamp ever made. Ditto for any "passive preamp" that utilizes a stereo volume control of 10kΩ to 20kΩ, with no need for a unity gain buffer to load the passive stage when it can mate with the XM66 inputs via ≤ 2 meters of audio cable. That length restriction is normally not a problem. The standard XM66 is normally furnished with gold-plated unbalanced RCA-type input and output jacks; XLR-type connector sockets are available at additional cost. The XM66 output impedance is quite low, so it can couple to any power amplifier that exhibits an input impedance of ≥ 10kΩ. In sum, the Marchand XM66 crossover controller is easily integrated.

BG

Schumann: Cello Concerto (CD review)

Also, Adagio un Allegro; Fantasiestucke Opus 73; Funf Stucke im Volkston; Fantasiestucke Op. 88. Gautier Capucon, cello; Martha Argerich, piano; Renaud Capucon, violin; Bernard Haitink, Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Erato 0190295634216.

So, what's it to be first? The good news or the bad? Of course, the good.

On the plus side, the disc offers some great music in the Schumann Cello Concerto plus an assortment of other music by the composer. It's played by some of the world's great performers, including Gautier Capucon, cello; Renaud Capucon, violin; Martha Argerich, piano; Bernard Haitink, conductor; and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. It's hard to ask for better talent.

On the minus side for me (or still on the plus side for a lot of other folks), Erato chose to record the music live, in concert. So, no, I don't think it sounds as good as it could have sounded, but such are the demands of today's economics. Besides, it's some of the most natural live sound I've heard in years, so it's not much of a real minus.

Anyway, the program begins with the Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129 by German composer and critic Robert Schumann (1810-1856). He wrote it in 1850, zipping through its composition in a mere two weeks. However, he would never hear it performed in his lifetime, and it only found a première some four years after his death.

Why no public performance in his lifetime? Possibly because Schumann recognized it was too unusual a piece. The opening movement is rather fragmentary; the second intensely lyrical, with a conversation between the soloist and the principal cellist; and the finale is in a quick Vivace tempo. Further, possibly because Schumann didn't want there to be any chance for applause between movements, he indicated all three movements be played without pause.

Gautier Capucon
Capucon and Haitink appear to take things a bit more leisurely than we generally hear, yet the timings would indicate they're in the ballpark with other recordings. And there is certainly nothing lax in Capucon's presentation. Indeed, he seems right on the money in most regards, if perhaps emphasizing the poetic aspects of the score more so than the purely dramatic. The performers take the transitions between movements at so smooth a pace, one hardly notices the change. Capucon's forte in the piece is his lyrical playing, which works best in the second movement. Then, the whole team works up a good head of steam in the final part yet in a performance that still maintains the romantically melodious, yearning nature of the score, also making it sound less disjointed than it sometimes can sound.

Filling out the disc are four additional Schumann items: the Adagio un Allegro, Op. 70; the Fantasiestuckes Op. 73 and Op. 88; and the Funf Stucke im Volkston, Op. 102. They are ably performed by pianist Martha Argerich and violinist Renaud Capucon. I found these performances more animated, more spontaneous, even in the slower pieces, than those of the concerto. They are worth the price of the album in themselves.

Producer Michael Fine and engineer Erdo Groot recorded the concerto live in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Netherlands, in November 2015. Producer and engineer Ulrich Ruscher recorded the other pieces live at the Auditorio Stello Molo Luganao, Switzerland in June 2009 and 2010, and November 2012.

The engineers miked the concerto a little farther away than we usually hear in a live performance, thus making it sound a bit more realistic. It's also a little softer than usual but again not unrealistically so. The solo instrument, too, is a bit farther back but well integrated with the orchestra. Detailing, as I say, is not entirely transparent but more natural than is common for a live recording. Dynamics seem a little restrained as well, so you may have to turn up the volume to get it to sound at all impressive.

In the closing duets, the sound is also a bit softer and more distant than one often finds in live recordings, making them sound more like studio recordings. I'm not sure if this was the result of the mike placement or a bit engineering magic afterward, but they sound quite nice.

The engineers have also mercifully edited out any applause.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, February 23, 2019

PBO Presents Anne Sofie von Otter and New Shaw Commission

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale presents mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter in works by Handel, Purcell, Arvo Pärt, and commissions by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Caroline Shaw, March 6-10.

Shaw will also headline a PBO SESSIONS alt-concert showcasing synergies between old and new music at Stanford on March 7.

Legendary mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter has never been shy about expressing her affinity for music from all historical eras, from Baroque to pop. Her omnivorous musical tastes make her a natural fit for the ethos of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO), which first presented von Otter in a program of works by Handel, Arvo Pärt, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw in Los Angeles in 2016 in celebration of Nicholas McGegan's 30th anniversary as Music Director.

On March 6, 8, 9, and 10, 2019, von Otter and PBO will reprise that program, bringing it home to the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time. McGegan will lead PBO, von Otter, and countertenor Daniel Moody through Handel arias and duets; Purcell's Suite from The Fairy Queen; devotionals by Arvo Pärt; and two works by Shaw, commissioned by PBO. In addition to this concert set, Von Otter, Moody, and Shaw will all perform at PBO's 2019 gala on March 1, 2019 at the Four Seasons in San Francisco.

Wednesday March 6, 2019 @ 7:30 pm | Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, CA
Friday March 8, 2019 @ 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Saturday March 9, 2019 @ 8 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday March 10, 2019 @ 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

For complete information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2018-2019-season/anne-sofie/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Princeton University Concerts: Opera Superstar Joyce DiDonato
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato will make a highly anticipated return to Princeton University Concerts ("PUC") on Sunday, March 10, 2019 at 3PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

This special event performance, a part of PUC's 125th anniversary celebratory season, will feature the Kansas-born operatic superstar, "the perfect 21st-century diva," (The New York Times) in a new, genre-defying program: "Songplay." Joined by pianist Craig Terry, bassist Chuck Israels, trumpeter Charlie Porter, drummer Jimmy Madison and bandoneon player Lautaro Greco, the multi Grammy award-winner will trace the musical thread from the Italian Baroque to the American Songbook, including everything from art songs to sambas to jazz ballads, weaving a musical tapestry connected by a collective sense of joy and experimentation.

Tickets are $45 general/$15 student, available online at princetonuniversityconcerts.org, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Nu Deco Ensemble to Perform at Global Cuba Fest 2019
Nu Deco Ensemble will return to The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, Miami, FL, March 6 - 8 at 8:00 pm in celebration of the 12th annual Global Cuba Fest.

Presented in collaboration with FUNDarte and Miami Light Project, Nu Deco Nucleus will perform music from rising young Cuban composers, iconic masters, and unique collaborations with guest artists, world-renowned singer-songwriter Yusa.

Tickets for these performances will be available on the Nu Deco website. For more information about Nu Deco Ensemble's fourth season, and to purchase tickets for all upcoming performances, please visit www.nu-deco.org.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

SF Girls Chorus Honors Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi at Annual Gala
The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) will hold its 40th anniversary season Gala: A Ruby Ball on Friday, March 15, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco.

The event will honor Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, as the inaugural recipient of the Elizabeth Appling Arts Champion Award, a new award named for SFGC's founder. The award will be presented annually to an individual who has made profound contributions to the Chorus and the broader Bay Area performing arts community.

A limited number of individual tickets are available for $350, with tables sponsorships starting at $3,000. For more information on the gala, tickets or table sponsorships, please visit sfgirlschorus.org or call (415) 863-1752 x306.

--Brenden Guy PR

U.S. Premieres of Works by Ivan Wyschnegradsky
Other Minds opens Festival 24 on Saturday, March 23, 8:00 p.m at the Wilsey Center Taube Atrium Theater, San Francisco, with the first of two performances dedicated to the rarely heard piano and string chamber works of Franco-Russian microtonal composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky.

The Arditti Quartet of London, champions of Wyschnegradsky's works and leading contemporary music interpreters, will present an entire program of U.S. Premieres including the composer's String Quartets No. 1-3, Composition for String Quartet, and Trio for violin, viola and cello as well as String Quartet No. 2 by Georg Friedrich Haas, an admirer of Wyschnegradsky. Festival 24 will conclude in June with two final performances: a large-scale world premiere by American composer Brian Baumbusch and a second showcase of works for multiple pianos by Wyschnegradsky.

Though considered as one of the founding fathers of microtonal composition and theory, Ivan Wyschnegradsky was ignored and overlooked by the changing musical tastes of the early-mid 20th century. As a result, his music is still largely unknown to this day.

General admission tickets are $45 and can be purchased online at http://www.brownpapertickets. $30 student tickets are available with a valid student ID.

For further information on Other Minds, please visit www.otherminds.org.

--Brenden Guy PR

Los Angeles Master Chorale to Open Salzburg Festival in July
The Los Angeles Master Chorale and Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, will begin their 2019-20 season with a high profile engagement at the prestigious Salzburg Festival in Austria on July 20 and 21 opening the Festival with performances of its critically-acclaimed production of Orlando di Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro directed by Peter Sellars. The honor of opening the Festival is a huge international profile boost for the Master Chorale, the country's preeminent professional choir that is choir-in-residence at Walt Disney Concert Hall and a founding resident company of The Music Center for the Performing Arts.

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

PBO 2019 Winter Gala & Auction Catalogue Is Here
Phiharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2019 Winter Gala & Auction is just around the corner and we unveil the auction catalogue! Peruse the pages to preview the wonderful items and make your plans. If you can't join us on March 1st, you can still win fabulous items. All proceeds support PBO's artistic and education programs.

If you wish to bid on any of these exceptional items beforehand, please contact Courtney Beck by email at cbeck@philharmonia.org and she will be sure to include your bid on the night of the Gala. (Download the starting bid prices here: https://philharmonia.org/wp-content/uploads/securepdfs/StartingBids.pdf.)

Early bids will be accepted until February 28th at 5 pm.

And there are a few raffle tickets left for the PBO Board of Directors Curated Wine Collection. Tickets are $75 and only 100 will be sold. Purchase your raffle tickets here for a chance to win 24 high-end bottles of wine PLUS a bottle of rare scotch: https://philharmoniabaroqueorchestra.secure.force.com/donate/?dfId=a0ni000000KmgvKAAR

--Melanie P. Peña, 2019 Gala Chair

Montreal/New Musics (MNM) Festival
The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) is preparing to kick off the Montreal/New Musics international festival, with a major concert by the Ensemble de la SMCQ entitled HoMa on February 21st, at 7.30 p.m. at l'Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Revealing wind instruments and percussions situated in the four corners of the church – in addition to the grand organ pipes – the concert sets the tone for this 9th edition, with its theme "Wide Open Spaces."

Events will be held in various Montreal venues until March 2nd. All details can be found at www.festivalmnm.ca.

--France Gaignard, Media Relations

Princeton University Orchestra: Soloist Spotlight
The Princeton University Orchestra brings one of its most popular programs on Friday & Saturday March 8-9 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

The "Soloist Spotlight" features winners of this year's concerto competition: violinist Haeun Jung '20 and violist Katie Liu '20 in W. A. Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364; and clarinetist Hanson Kang '20 in Jean Francaix's Clarinet Concerto. The program will also feature guest conductor student Lou Chen '19 in Johannes Brahms' beloved Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80. Maurice Ravel's Ma Mere l'Oye (Mother Goose) Suite rounds out the program, otherwise conducted by PUO director Michael Pratt.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Music Institute Chorale Performs The Creation
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale, conducted by Daniel Wallenberg, performs Joseph Haydn's The Creation Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall.

In addition to conducting, Wallenberg has adapted the work for soloists, choir, and chamber ensemble. Soloists include Music Institute faculty member Rae-Myra Hilliard, soprano, along with tenor Nathan Oakes and bass Ivo Suarez. Gregory Shifrin is pianist.

The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale performs The Creation
Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for students.
For tickets call 847-905-1500. For information, visit musicinst.org/chorale-creation.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

International Contemporary Ensemble Performs Tyshawn Sorey Miller Theater Composer
On Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 8:00pm, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) joins the JACK Quartet for a Miller Theatre Composer Portrait of composer Tyshawn Sorey. 

Sorey, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, has a wide-ranging creative practice, embracing the roles of composer, conductor, multi-instrumentalist, scholar, and educator. His Miller Theatre Composer Portrait features two new works, written for ICE and JACK, ensembles with which Sorey has close ties. The program includes the world premiere of Autoschediasms for Creative Chamber Orchestra (2019), commissioned by Miller Theatre, and the New York premiere of ...Changes (2018), as well as Sorey's Violin and Glockenspiel, in Memoriam Muhal Richard Abrams (2018); Bertha's Lair (2016); and Ornations (2014).

Tyshawn Sorey Composer Portrait
Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 8pm
Miller Theatre | 2960 Broadway | New York, NY
Tickets: $20-30
Link: https://www.millertheatre.com/events/tyshawn-sorey

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Third Coast Baroque to Present Chicago Premiere of Handel's Triumph of Time and Disenchantment
Third Coast Baroque will conclude its 2018-19 season with the Chicago premiere of Handel's first oratorio – The Triumph of Time and Disenchantment, HWV 46a – on Friday, April 12, 2019, at 7:30 pm at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. Artistic director Rubén Dubrovsky also will lead "Chicago's most accomplished period instrumentalists and singers" (Chicago Tribune) in the work's North Shore premiere Saturday, April 13, 2019, at 7:30 pm at Galvin Recital Hall in Evanston, Illinois.

George Frideric Handel composed The Triumph of Time and Disenchantment (Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno) at age 22, decades before the premiere of his most famous oratorio, The Messiah. Just after young Handel wrote his first operas for Hamburg, he traveled to Italy to absorb the latest musical trends. He developed a reputation as a promising composer and exceptional keyboardist in Florence, Naples, Venice, and Rome, where he created The Triumph of Time and Disenchantment.

Friday, April 12, 2019, 7:30 pm
First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple
77 W Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

Saturday, April 13, 2019, 7:30 pm
Galvin Recital Hall
70 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at thirdcoastbaroque.org ($10-50) or at the door ($10-60).

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Rare Breilh-Decruck Work Performed
The Chelsea Symphony (TCS), continues its 2018-2019 season reflecting on social action with a chamber concert series featuring two pieces written during world wars, including a rarely heard work for voice and orchestra by French and erstwhile New Yorker, Fernande Breilh-Decruck.

French composer Fernande Breilh-Decruck's Cinq poèmes chrétiens (Five Christian Pieces) for voice and orchestra based on text by French poets was written and performed in 1944 occupied France while the composer was living in Paris. Decruck has special ties to The Chelsea Symphony -- she lived in the London Terrace apartments in Chelsea from 1928-1933, and TCS co-Artistic Director Matthew Aubin is the foremost scholar on Decruck and is leading the resurgent interest in her work. Joining TCS as soloist for the Decruck is mezzo-soprano Kate Maroney, recognized by The New York Times for her "vibrant and colorful" singing.

Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at 8:00 PM
The Chelsea Symphony
Conducted by Matthew Aubin and Reuben Blundell
St. Paul's Church (315 West 22nd Street), New York, NY
$25 reserved premium general seating on sale at Eventbrite.
$20 suggested donation seating available at the door.

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

New Century Presents Pianist Vanessa Perez
New Century Chamber Orchestra welcomes Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez for her debut appearance with the ensemble, March 21-24. Exploring works written by composers under the shadow of oppressive regimes, Perez will feature alongside Music Director Daniel Hope in a rare performance of Erwin Schulhoff's Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings. Also featured on the program is Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a, Hans Krása's Tanec and two works by Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 13 in C minor, "Sinfoniesatz" and String Symphony No. 10 in B minor.

This program will be presented as part of New Century's subscription series on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area: Thursday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m., Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto; Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco and Sunday, March 24 at 3 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal Wednesday, March 20 at 10 a.m., Trinity St. Peter's Church, San Francisco with free admission. The Open Rehearsal offers a sneak preview of the concert repertoire while allowing audiences to experience the musical democracy of a rehearsal without a conductor.

Single tickets range in price from $29 to $61 and can be purchased through City Box Office: http://www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Discounted $15 single tickets are available for patrons under 35 and $10 single tickets for Students with a valid ID.

Admission to the Open Rehearsal is free and can be reserved by contacting tickets@ncco.org or (415) 357-1111.

--Brenden Guy PR

Strauss, R.: Thus Spake Zarathustra (CD review)

Also Holst: The Planets. Andrew Litton, Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Delos DE 3225 (2-disc set).

This double album is titled "Dallas Space Spectacular," a designation based on a tenuous connection between Richard Strauss's Thus Spake Zarathustra and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Because director Stanley Kubrick used Strauss's "Sunrise" Introduction to Zarathustra several times in his 1968 film, I suppose the piece will forevermore be referred to by the general public as "space" music. So be it.

In any event, on the set under review I preferred Andrew Litton's interpretation of Zarathustra to his more hurried performance of Gustav Holst's The Planets. His Zarathustra has real weight and body to it, with the big dramatic climaxes resounding with emotion. Most of Litton's Planets, however, seem like they're spinning crazily out of orbit. Maybe they're rushing to face some unknown cosmic appointment that we don't know about, or maybe Litton himself was rushing to keep a dinner date.

Andrew Litton
Delos recorded the sound in what they called at the time (1998) "Virtual Reality," actually Dolby Pro Logic. It sounds just fine in normal two-channel stereo, but played over a surround-sound system with a center and rear speakers, it is supposed to exhibit enhanced spatial qualities. I tried it in both of my sound systems--in my main, living room system, which uses two, large bi-amplified speakers and in my home theater system located in an adjacent room, which uses seven smaller speakers, a bass woofer, and a Denon 7.1 receiver. The recording sounded best in two channel, not just because the living room speakers are better but because with 7.1 speakers the Dolby Pro Logic matrix fed too much information to the center and rear channels. Frankly, I wasn't about to readjust the levels of the center and rear speakers to accommodate the recording, as a matter of principle. I have yet to hear one of these surround-sound recordings that didn't need some sort of volume adjustment in one or more speakers, and even then I have never been fully satisfied with the sound. I know some people say that Pro Logic was meant only for movie soundtracks, not for the reproduction of music, and I see their point.

Anyway, in two-channel, as I say, it sounded fine. Compared to several other Zarathustra recordings (EMI, Newport Classic Auricle, Philips, DG, and JVC/RCA), however, the Delos sound had less depth, less transparency, and less deep bass. My reference Planets (Hi-Q/EMI), also sounded better than the Delos, with greater depth and clarity. My conclusion, therefore, is that the comparison recordings are better, even if a couple of them are costlier.

Still, you will find nothing to dislike about Delos's sound, either, and Litton's performance of The Planets may even grow on you. So if the set's combination of titles appeals you, there is no serious need to hesitate.

JJP

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


Saint-Saens: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 5 (CD review)

Also, etudes, mazurka, Allegro appassionato, and valse. Bertrand Chamayou, piano; Emmanuel Krivine, Orchestre National de France. Erato 0190295634261.

French composer, conductor, organist, and pianist Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) wrote five piano concertos. Of the five, the Second and Fifth are probably the most famous, which, by no coincidence, is what we have on the present disc, played by French pianist Bertrand Chamayou, accompanied by French conductor Emmanuel Krivine and the French National Orchestra, and recorded by the French record label Erato. You might say it's all-French affair.

Saint-Saens wrote the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 in 1868, and, as I say, it remains among the most-popular of his piano concertos. Oddly for a modern concerto, Saint-Saens begins the work with a relatively slow movement, followed by a faster second movement that resembles a scherzo, and finishes with a very quick Presto. These mercurial tempo changes prompted the Polish pianist and composer Zygmunt Stojowski to joke that the piece "begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach."

I should tell you here that up until hearing Chamayou my favorite recordings of the concertos have been with Jean-Philippe Collard on EMI/Warner Classics, as well as Stephen Hough on Hyperion. Now I have to reconsider those top choices, at the least adding Chamayou to them. His dazzling, detailed finger work in the opening section of No. 2 is hard to resist from the start. He then goes on to produce more excitement than most other pianists combined in this work, if not quite as much lyrical beauty. In all, I'd give Collard the nod in poetry and Chamayou the edge in warmth and fervor.

Bertrand Chamayou
Piano Concerto No. 5 "Egyptian" Saint-Saens wrote in 1896, some twenty years after his fourth piano concerto. It has the nickname "Egyptian" because the composer wrote it in Luxor, Egypt, and because the music is among his most exotic, displaying Spanish, Asian, and Middle-Eastern influences. Saint-Saens explained that the music represented a sea voyage.

The opening Allegro alternates between slow and fast segments; the central Andante begins with an introductory blast before settling into its more lyrical section; and the piece ends with an energetic Molto Allegro, the opening of which simulates the sound and feeling of a paddle-wheel boat up the Nile.

As with the Second Concerto Chamayou is consistently faster than most of his rivals, sometimes surprisingly so. If you regard Saint-Saens as a master of dramatic contrasts, juxtaposing sections of sheer, luxuriant composure with passages of intense, almost riotous passion, then Chamayou's interpretation should appeal to you. It did to me.

In addition to the two piano concertos, Chamayou provides seven short, lesser-known solo pieces: Etude Op. 111 No. 4 "Les Cloches de Las Palmas"; Etude Op. 52 No. 6 "En forme de valse"; Mazurka Op. 66 No. 3; Etude Op. 111 No. 1 "Tierces majeures et mineures"; Allegro appassionato Op. 70; Etude Op. 52 No. 2 "Pour I'independance des doigts"; and Valse nonchalante Op. 110. Chamayou's playing is as brilliant here as it is in the concertos, with buoyancy, ebullience, detail, and opulence aplenty.

Producers Daniel Zalay and engineer Catherine Derethe recorded the concertos at the Auditorium, Radio France, Paris (concertos) in December 2017 and April 2018. Producer Vincent Villetard and engineer Catherine Derethe recorded the solo pieces at the same location as the concertos in April 2018. The clarity of the piano is superb, among the best I've heard. Moreover, in the concertos the engineer integrated the piano fairly well with the orchestra instead of the soloist being a mile out in front. The orchestral accompaniment is also nicely transparent, without being too strident or hard. The whole affair is miked a trifle close for my liking, but it's a minor concern and no doubt accounts for the recording's excellent clarity. Because of the closeness, too, there is not quite so much natural hall resonance present (for some reason more noticeable to me in the Second Concerto than the Fifth), but again it's a small price to pay for the overall lucidity of the production.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, February 16, 2019

Berkshire Opera Festival Announces Its Fourth Season

Berkshire Opera Festival (BOF) is proud to present Gaetano Donizetti's charming classic Don Pasquale for its fourth season, with performances August 24, 27, and 30 at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA.

The production is conducted by Artistic Director Brian Garman and directed by and Director of Production Jonathon Loy, the co-founders of Berkshire Opera Festival. As with the first three seasons, there will also be accompanying recitals and outreach events around the local Berkshire community, including an exciting new collaboration with Hancock Shaker Village entitled "Ain't It a Pretty Night: Excerpts from American Opera," and "Savor the Sound: An Evening of Bel Canto," a free concert for the Berkshire community.

The delightful comedy tells the story of a crusty old bachelor, Don Pasquale, who decides to marry a much younger wife and produce an heir to spite his nephew Ernesto, but then gets much more than he bargained for when Doctor Malatesta and Norina decide to teach him a lesson. The production follows BOF's acclaimed first three seasons, which featured Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, and Verdi's Rigoletto.

The cast is made up of some of America's greatest bel canto interpreters, with American bass-baritone Craig Colclough starring in the title role. He is joined by Metropolitan Opera soprano Deanna Breiwick as Norina and American tenor Matthew Grills as her lover, Ernesto. Irish-American baritone Emmett O'Hanlon rounds out the cast as Doctor Malatesta.

Don Pasquale will be sung in Italian with projected English translations. Tickets are priced from $20 to $99. Tickets are on sale now.  For more more information, please visit www.berkshireoperafestival.org/donpasquale.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Aspen Music Festival & School 70th Anniversary Season
70th anniversary season runs eight weeks with more than 400 events: June 27–Aug. 18.
Music Director Robert Spano leads a season themed "Being American," with works by Gershwin, Ives, Barber, Bernstein, and Copland, including Appalachian Spring; works by contemporary American and immigrant composers; as well as settings of the poetry of Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, and Poe.

In a 1926 article for Theatre Magazine, composer George Gershwin wrote that true music "must repeat the thoughts and aspirations of the people and the time." He went on to emphasize, "My people are Americans. My time is today."

When we ask ourselves what it is to be American, we often look to our artists for inspiration, for answers and for truth. As the Aspen Music Festival and School celebrates its 70th anniversary season, it felt like the right time—as one of America's flagship arts institutions—to ask, through the lens of great music, what it means to be American.

"Being American" is the major strand woven through Aspen's anniversary season, led by Music Director Robert Spano. It will include music by Gershwin, Ives, Copland, Barber and Bernstein; and by Wynton Marsalis, Stephen Sondheim, and Philip Glass. It will feature new and recent works by American composers from the Aspen Music Festival and School's own artist-faculty such as Stephen Hartke, Christopher Theofanidis, Edgar Meyer, Donald Crockett and Alan Fletcher; by composers from immigrant backgrounds such as Kati Agócs, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Vijay Iyer; and by émigrés such as Bartók, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky, all of whom made America their home later in life.

It will include works that reflect the sweeping diversity of American landscape and culture and works inspired by the words of canonical American literati Walt Whitman (whose bicentenary falls this year), Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Like the composers featured this 70th anniversary season, the musicians performing their works represent a wide swath of the American experience, whether visiting artists, members of the AMFS artist-faculty who come from the preeminent classical music teaching and performing institutions in the United States and worldwide or AMFS students, who come to Aspen from 40 U.S. states and 34 other countries.

Tickets and information:                                                                                                       
Online: www.aspenmusicfestival.com
Phone: 970-925-9042 (M-F, 9-5)
Email: tickets@aspenmusic.org

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Steven Isserlis, Gramophone Hall of Fame Cellist, Feb 28
Princeton University Concerts continues its 125th anniversary Concert Classics series on Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 8PM at Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ with a debut by Steven Isserlis, one of only two living cellists in the Gramophone Hall of Fame. Joined by pianist Connie Shih, he will present a program juxtaposing works by female composers with those of the men they inspired Clara Schumann and Robert Schumann, Vítezslava Kaprálová and Bohuslav Martinu, and Augusta Holmès and César Franck.

For more information, visit http://www.princetonuniversityconcerts.org/concerts/concert/steven-isserlis-cello-and-connie-shih-piano

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

George Li Signed to Steinway & Sons Artist Roster
Since winning the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, George Li has rapidly established a major international reputation, performing regularly with some of the world's leading orchestras and conductors, including Valery Gergiev, Gustavo Dudamel, Manfred Honeck, Vassily Petrenko, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Long Yu.

This month George Li adds the title of Steinway Artist to an extensive and growing collection of honors, a resume which already includes the 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2012 Gilmore Young Artist Award, and the First Prize winner of the 2010 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Officially welcomed to the Steinway & Sons family, Li now proudly joins the ranks of Steinway's esteemed roster alongside such distinguished pianists as Martha Argerich, Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, Murray Perahia, Mitsuko Uchida, and Yuja Wang, as well as musical legends such as Vladimir Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Arthur Rubinstein.

For more information, visit www.georgelipianist.com

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Montreal/New Music (MNM) Festival
There is something for everyone at the Montreal/New Music Festival: vocal, digital, acoustic, family. Let yourself be tempted by an experience where music surrounds us!

The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) is preparing to kick off the Montreal/New Musics International Festival, with a major concert by the Ensemble de la SMCQ entitled HoMa on February 21st, at 7.30 p.m. at l'Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Revealing wind instruments and percussions situated in the four corners of the church – in addition to the grand organ pipes – the concert sets the tone for this 9th edition, with its theme "Wide Open Spaces."

For complete information, visit www.festivalmnm.ca

--France Gaignard, Media Relations

PBO and the Shaw Commissions
In September 2015, Anne Sofie von Otter suggested that Philharmonia commission a young female composer, Caroline Shaw, to write a song for her to sing while on tour with PBO in May 2016. The result was "Red, Red Rose." PBO debuted the song at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and it was a sensation which became the catalyst for PBO's "New Music for Old Instruments Initiative."

The initial commission developed into a song cycle entitled "Is a Rose." The second piece was first performed at PBO's 2017 Annual Gala by Dominique Labelle. Bay Area audiences will hear that piece, titled "The Edge," at PBO's March program with Anne Sofie von Otter March 6-10.

And now, PBO will debut the third and final piece, titled "And So," at Lincoln Center in New York with Anne Sofie von Otter alongside star countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in a program of works by Handel, Purcell, Arvo Pärt, and Caroline Shaw on March 12.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2018-2019-season/anne-sofie/

--Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

La Jolla Music Society Announces Opening Gala Concerts
La Jolla Music Society, one of the West Coast's foremost performing arts institutions, has announced the launch of its greatly-anticipated, cutting-edge new home, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center (The Conrad), with three illustrious opening-weekend concerts.

With ceremonies, performances, and receptions being held Friday through Sunday, April 5, 6, and 7, 2019, the variety and caliber of these festivities in celebration of its $82 million, 49,000-square-foot complex reflect La Jolla Music Society's invaluable positioning in the classical music world at large, and especially of its immeasurable significance to performing arts programming on an international scale.

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

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates Inc.

Chanticleer Presents "Spacious Skies"
Grammy Award-winning Chanticleer continues its 2018-2019 season with "Spacious Skies" March 16 through 21 in venues across the San Francisco Bay Area. Following a highly successful 11-concert European tour across eight countries, the ensemble returns home for a program of works that showcases a vast panorama of American choral repertoire spanning three centuries.

This program will be presented as part of Chanticleer's S.F. Bay Area subscription season on four occasions in locations around the Bay Area: Saturday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Sunday, March 17 at 5:00 p.m., St. John's Lutheran Church, Sacramento; Tuesday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m., Mission Santa Clara; and Wednesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m., St. Augustine Church, Pleasanton.

An intimate and curated performance of "Spacious Skies," part of Chanticleer's new Salon Series, and featuring commentary by William Fred Scott will take place on Thursday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m., at a privately owned historic property in San Francisco that will be revealed to attendees.

Single tickets range in price from $20 to $60 and can be purchased through City Box Office: http://www.cityboxoffice.com and (415) 392-4400. Salon Series tickets are currently sold out. Please visit http://www.chanticleer.org for updates on availability.

For further information, please visit http://www.chanticleer.org.

--Brenden Guy PR

New York Philharmonic Ensembles Performs With Pianist Benjamin Hochman
The winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011, pianist Benjamin Hochamn, will be joining the New York Philharmonic Ensembles as guest artist on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 3 pm for an enchanting chamber music concert at the Merkin Hall. Together with musicians from the New York Philharmonic, Benjamin will perform two iconic works from the French piano chamber repertoire: Debussy's Piano Trio and Faure's Piano Quartet.

For the past three years, Benjamin suffered from a hand injury that pulled him away from extensive tours and concert engagements. This upcoming concert with the NY Phil Ensembles marks the first concert he gives in NYC since the sabbatical is over. He opened the 2018-2019 season with a 5-part cycle of the complete Mozart piano sonatas at Bard College Conservatory, followed by Israel Conservatory in Tel Aviv. He returns to center stage this season with Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Whatcom Symphony and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414 with Santa Fe Pro Musica and the Orlando Philharmonic (play/conduct). In recital and chamber concerts, he gives world premieres by Jesse Brault, Gilad Cohen and Max Grafe, and appears in Seattle, Delaware, Hanover, NH and Chatham, NY, as well as at Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Goucher College and Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Spring.

For more information, visit https://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/new-york-philharmonic-ensembles-4a/

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

Stradella's Ester Presented by Salon/Sanctuary
Known as the "Caravaggio of Music," the violent, volatile, and startlingly innovative Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) can be considered a bridge between Carissimi and Handel. His innumerable works, both sacred and secular, still await a broader hearing in our time.

The historic Brotherhood Synagogue, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, sets the stage for this work dedicated to the Hebrew Queen who saved her people. The first New York performance in over 30 years coincides with Purim, the Jewish holiday dedicated to Esther.

Wednesday, March 13, 8 p.m.
Brotherhood Synagogue
28 Gramercy Park South
New York City

Tickets:
$20 – $100
1 888 718-4253
https://www.sscconcerts.org/current-season

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Merdinger and Greene in Concert
The Northbrook Public Library presents the Merdinger-Greene Piano Duo.

Susan and Steve will perform a program of beloved melodies and themes from opera, film, and classical composers in viturosic arrangements for two pianos: Der Rosenkavalier, Carmen, The Blue Danube, Paganini's 24th Caprice, Bernstein's West Side Story, and more.

March 3, 2019. 3 p.m - 4:30 p.m. 1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook, Illinois, 60062.

"Flair and verve...Intimate and touching."  --Fanfare Magazine

"Delightful playing superbly matched to the musical storytelling" --Hyde Park Herald

This concert is free and open to the public. Reserve seats now at (847) 272-6224.

For more information, visit https://www.northbrook.info/events/2-pianos-4-hands-series-susan-merdinger-and-steven-greene

To download the track "Rachmaninoff: IV. Waltz from Six Pieces for Piano Duet, Op. 11: " for free, go to https://susanmerdingerpianist.com/dl and enter the code zwl2-xc8z

--Susan Merdinger, Sheridan Music

Impromptu Fest Returns March 21–31
New Music Chicago (NMC), an organization dedicated to the performance and support of experimental and non-mainstream music, announces the second annual Impromptu Fest, a celebration of Chicago composers, musicians, and enthusiasts of contemporary music. Concerts take place March 21–31 at the brand-new Guarneri Hall in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

A showcase for NMC members, Impromptu Fest is a series of eight concerts featuring 16 Chicago-based ensembles playing newly composed music. This year, Impromptu Fest showcases a number of student ensembles and a wealth of multimedia presentations incorporating video, electronics, still images, and live improvisation.

"After last year's successful debut, we are expanding our horizons," said Impromptu Fest curator Amy Wurtz. "This year we are celebrating homegrown music with the work of 22 Chicago-based composers, including several performing their own work, and well-known Chicago groups such as Gaudete Brass, Fifth House Ensemble, and Crossing Borders Music. The music ranges from completely acoustic to totally electronic and everything in between. We also are including performers from outside the city, including Elmhurst, Evanston, and Naperville. And we are so pleased to help introduce more music lovers to Guarneri Hall, which has exquisite acoustic engineering and state-of-the-art equipment in an intimate, 75-seat setting."

Impromptu Fest 2019 takes place March 21–31, Thursday–Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. at Guarneri Hall, 11 E. Adams Street, Suite 350A, Chicago.

Single tickets are $20, a four-concert pass is $60, and a pass to all eight concerts is $100;
each ticket level is half price for students.

For information, please visit impromptufest.org.
For tickets, please visit impromptufest.brownpapertickets.com.

--Jill Chukerman, New Music Chicago

Takács Quartet Returns to the Vilar Performing Arts Center on February 19
The Takács Quartet, recognized as one of the world's greatest classical ensembles, will return to the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, February 19 at 7:00 p.m. The quartet plays with a unique blend of drama, warmth and humor, combining four distinct musical personalities to bring fresh insights to the string quartet repertoire.

Single tickets for the show are $68 for adults, $10 for students and are available now at the VPAC box office (970-845-8497; www.vilarpac.org). The VPAC is located under the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village (68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek, Colorado).

--Ruthie Hamrick, Vilar Performing Arts Center

Annual YPC Gala Benefit Concert Tickets on Sale Now
March 12 at 7:00 p.m. | Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, NYC.

Tickets are now on sale for Young People's Chorus of NYC's Annual Gala Benefit Concert, which supports the 2,000 children that benefit from YPC's programs. A limited number of individual concert tickets, priced at $50, $85, $95, $150, $500, will only be sold through the JALC box office.

Go to Jazz.org, call CenterCharge - 212-721-6500, or visit the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office in person. (Broadway at 60th Street, ground floor; Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm, Sunday, 12pm-6pm).

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Rule Britannia: Last Night of the Proms (CD review)

Paul Daniel, English Northern Philharmonia and Leeds Festival Chorus. Naxos 8.553981.

The Naxos disclaimer reads, "This is a recording of music performed frequently at the Last Night of the Proms, but not of the event itself." Just so you don't think you're getting an actual live Royal Albert Hall performance as traditionally recorded by other labels.

Nevertheless, the music is thoroughly English in spirit, and the disc represents a good value in popular chauvinistic English music. The program starts with Walton's "Crown Imperial," then goes on to what is practically England's second national anthem, "Jerusalem." It continues with the centerpiece of the collection, Sir Henry Wood's "Fantasia on British Sea Songs"; and it concludes with Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1."

Paul Daniel
In between these works are other pieces by Elgar, Arnold, Parry, and Walton. Maestro Paul Daniel, the English Northern Philharmonia, and the Leeds Festival Chorus play the music with great enthusiasm, if not in so grand a manner as those recordings by Sir Adrian Boult or Sir John Barbirolli. But the music is so stirring and patriotic, it practically makes even a non-British citizen want to stand up and cheer.

The sound Naxos provides is very wide ranging, with good transient impact and a decent depth of field. It is a little thick around the middle, though; not so transparent as the aforementioned Boult or Barbirolli performances on older EMI recordings. The bass is deep enough but not particularly well defined. Ensemble performance and overall tone are not so resplendent as the Philharmonia or London Philharmonic, either, but for the cost of the disc it is quite a reasonable compromise. For the Henry Wood medley itself the disc is worth the price.

JJP

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


Schreker: The Birthday of the Infanta, Suite (CD review)

Also, Prelude to a Drama; the Romantic Suite. JoAnn Falletta, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.573821.

Here's another of those composers whose music was once very popular but then fell into disfavor, whose name is hardly recognized anymore. Franz Schreker (1878-1934) was an Austrian composer and conductor who at one time in the first part of the twentieth century was among the most-famous living opera composers in the world, second only at the time to Richard Strauss. But he had the misfortune to live at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Austria and Germany, and by the 1930s because he was Jewish his music was banned by the Nazis, and he lost his position in the music world.

Fortunately, we have people like JoAnn Falletta championing his work. On the present album she leaves her familiar Buffalo Symphony for the Berlin Radio Symphony, which is perhaps a tad closer to the source, and presents three of Schreker's purely orchestral pieces.

The program begins with Prelude to a Drama, completed in 1915 as a concert overture to Schreker's opera Die Gezeichneten ("The Branded" or "The Stigmatized"), which the booklet note describes as "a lurid drama involving murder and madness." Although Schreker worked during the onset of the modern era, his roots were still firmly planted in the Romanticism of the eighteenth century with Wagner and the early Richard Strauss, tempered by the emerging impressionism and expressionism movements. The Prelude is filled with unabashed emotionalism and melodrama, yet Ms. Falletta maintains a dignified approach, making it all seem perhaps more substantial than it really is. What's more, the Berlin orchestra plays with such a sophisticated charm, we can almost forgive the music of some of its excesses.

Next comes the album's title piece, Der Geburtstag der Infantin ("The Birthday of the Infanta"), a theatrical pantomime Schreker wrote in 1923. Its subject matter is even more bizarre than Prelude to a Drama, the composer basing his story on Oscar Wilde's "tragic tale of an ugly dwarf who dies of a broken heart."

JoAnn Falletta
In ten sections, The Birthday is the longest piece on the program, and it, too, gets pretty emotional. Ms. Falletta makes the most of it, however, with a flexible rubato and a moderate use of contrast to keep things moving at a steady but not excessive pace. Like the Prelude, it's fun stuff, if overlong. Moreover, there are smoother, richer segments, as in the opening "Reigen" (roundelay or round dance) that are quite lovely. Conversely, there are also long stretches of bombast. Still, it's quite colorful, with surprisingly playful interludes mixed in with the seriousness, and Ms. Falletta presents it persuasively.

The third and final piece on the agenda is the four-part Romantische Suite ("Romantic Suite") from 1903. It is a more lyrical, subjective, abstract work than most of the program music that precedes it on the album. Of the three pieces Ms. Falletta offers here, I found the "Romantic Suite" the most attractive. At about twenty-five minutes it does not overstay its welcome, yet it seems to pretty much encapsulate everything Schreker was capable of doing. Falletta maintains a grand, sweeping Romantic mood throughout, concluding with a rousing dance.

In all, while Schreker probably didn't mine much new territory here nor create much that listeners will take with them for long, he did provide an entertaining assortment of styles, much of which is hard to dislike. More important, Ms. Falletta gives us a refreshingly clear-eyed glimpse into a long-forgotten composer who deserves a second look.

Producer Wolfram Nehls and engineer Ekkehard Stoffregen recorded the music at the Grosser Sendesaal des RBB, Berlin, Germany in June 2017. The sound is natural, as opposed to overly close, bright, edgy, or distant. Speaking of distance, though, there is a good sense of depth to the orchestra and a fairly wide stereo spread. The frequency response does not favor any part of the spectrum too much, unless you count a sometimes prominent peak in the lower treble range. Detailing is good, with instruments standing out well yet still being reasonably warm and resonant. Dynamics appear a little too constricted for absolute realism, and bass could be deeper, so it's really not what I'd call audiophile sound; just pleasantly listenable, if a tad soft, sound.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, February 9, 2019

On Site Opera Presents the World Premiere of Murasaki's Moon

On Site Opera will present the World Premiere of Michi Wiancko and Deborah Brevoort's new opera, Murasaki's Moon on May 17, 2019 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Astor Chinese Garden, NYC. Made possible by Opera America's 2018 Female Composer Grant, the work was commissioned by On Site Opera, MetLiveArts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Lyric Theater.

Murasaki's Moon tells a dramatic tale inspired by the life and work of Lady Murasaki, a member of the Japanese Imperial Court in 11th century Japan. Granddaughter of a writer and daughter of a scholar, Lady Murasaki was well known in her time for her poetry and story-telling, and is historically famous for authoring what many scholars consider the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji.

Friday, May 17 at 4:00pm & 6:30pm
Saturday, May 18 at 2:00pm & 6:00pm
Sunday, May 19 at 11:00am & 3:00pm

Astor Chinese Garden Court
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

For complete information, visit https://osopera.org/productions/murasakismoon/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Free Performance of Rossini's "Petite Messe Solennelle"
The Princeton University Chamber Choir offers a free performance of Gioachino Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle ("Little Solemn Mass") on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.

One of only a handful of larger works that Rossini did not write for the opera house, the 80-minute composition is both heart-warming and celebratory, full of Rossinian quirks and bursting with humor, charm and sincerity.

Scored modestly for small choir, two pianos and harmonium, the unusual instrumentation of the work is a reflection of the intimate salon setting for which it was written -- a trait that will translate beautifully into the intimacy of Richardson Auditorium.

Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

Tickets for this performance are FREE, available at music.princeton.edu or by calling
Princeton University Ticketing at 609-258-9220.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Join Us for YPC's Annual Gala on March 12
Young People's Chorus of New York City Annual Gala Benefit Concert and Dinner:
Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 7:00 p.m.
Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall.
Dinner immediately following at the Mandarin Oriental.
Please join us for a gala evening at Jazz at Lincoln Center benefiting the 2,000 children of the award-winning Young People's Chorus of New York City.

For more information, please contact our Gala Coordinator at (212) 289-7779 ext. 16 or ypcgala@ypc.org.

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

PBO's Winter Gala Honors Anne Sofie von Otter and Caroline Shaw
On March 1, 2019, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) will host its annual Winter Gala & Auction at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, chaired by Melanie Peña, and honoring legendary mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw.

Von Otter, who will be honored for her outstanding commitment to early music, is a versatile performer who has never been shy about expressing her affinity for music from all historical eras, from Baroque to pop. She has full command of the operatic canon, including many seminal early operas by Handel and Monteverdi, but she has also recorded the music of Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Bjork, and Brad Mehldau on her 2016 album "So Many Things" with string quartet Brooklyn Rider.

--Dianne Provenzano, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Naxos to Launch "The Music of Brazil"
On February 8, 2019 Naxos--the repertoire label--launched "The Music of Brazil," a series which is part of the project Brasil em Concerto, developed by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to promote music by Brazilian composers. Naxos has a long recording history in Brazil, having already recorded the Villa-Lobos symphonies. This new project builds significantly on this recorded legacy, and is to eventually include 30 albums featuring 100 orchestral works from the 19th and 20th centuries by composers such as César Guerra-Peixe, Alberto Nepomuceno, Cláudio Santoro, Bïa Krieger, Antônio Carlo Gomes, Leopoldo Miguez, Marcus Siqueira, Camargo Guarnieri, and many others. It will also include the songs and concertos of Villa-Lobos. The music will be performed by the Minas Gerais Symphony Orchestra, the Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra, and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.

The first release focuses on the music of Alberto Nepomuceno, one of the first composers in his country to employ elements of folklore in his composition. Performed by the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra led by music director and principal conductor Fabio Mechetti, the album includes Nepomuceno's Prelude to O Garatuja; Série Brasileira; and his Symphony in G Minor.

In announcing this project, Naxos founder Klaus Heymann commented: "This new 30-album project, "The Music of Brazil," introduces the general public to a wide range of often unknown composers and orchestral works. The project is a continuation of my longstanding interest in the classical music of Brazil.

--Paula Mlyn, A440 Arts

Will Crutchfield's Teatro Nuovo Announces Its Second Annual Bel Canto Season
Teatro Nuovo, the cutting-edge Bel Canto ensemble launched last summer by Will Crutchfield, is pleased to announce its 2019 summer season, with performances in The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, and The Church of the Heavenly Rest on Manhattan's Upper East Side, NYC.

The ensemble will present semi-staged productions of Bellini's La Straniera (July 13 at The PAC; July 17 at Rose) and Rossini's La Gazza Ladra (July 14 at The PAC; July 18 at Rose). These will be preceded by a June 27 pairing of Rossini's Stabat Mater with a first New York hearing of Donizetti's Symphony in E Minor at Heavenly Rest (1085 Fifth Avenue). Additional chamber-music events are to be announced in the coming weeks.

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Meany Center's Creative Fellowships Initiative Announces Full Roster
The University of Washington has announced the complete roster of artists who have been selected as Creative Research Fellows as part of its first three-year Creative Fellowships Initiative. Funded by a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the interdisciplinary initiative will advance the field of performing arts by supporting artists in the development of new works and by integrating the performing arts disciplines into a broader context--academically, artistically, and socially.

"Research is absolutely imperative in the arts, as it is in the sciences," says Catherine Cole, Divisional Dean for the Arts. "The Mellon Creative Fellowships Initiative is an exceptional opportunity for the University of Washington to create and hold space for the kind of interdisciplinary, open-ended arts research, which is the lifeblood not only of arts advancement, but that also has the potential to have unique implications in the scope of a major research institution like UW."

The Initiative, a partnership between the Department of Dance, Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXArts), the Schools of Music and Drama, and spearheaded by Meany Center for the Performing Arts, supports exploration by guest artists in the fields of dance, theater and music through one- to three-year residencies, which incorporate a multitude of commissions, collaborations and performances.

For more information, visit https://meanycenter.org/engage/creative-fellowships-initiative

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Paul Barnes Premieres Bond, Performs Liszt, Glass
Pianist and chanter Paul Barnes brings "Love, Death, and Resurrection in the Musical Vision of Philip Glass, Victoria Bond, Franz Liszt, and Orthodox Chant," along with a premiere commission by Victoria Bond, to Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois on Sunday, March 10 at 3 p.m., presented by the Music Institute of Chicago.

During the summer of 2017, Barnes lost many close friends to cancer. One of the ways he processed his grief was developing this powerful musical meditation exploring love and death. Beginning with the story of Orpheus, the program connects the music of Glass, Liszt, Bond, and byzantine chant. Glass and Bond have written multiple pieces for him in the past, many based on byzantine chant. He has also specialized in Liszt, particularly in terms of religious symbolism in his piano music.

Admission is $50 for VIP seating, $40 for adults, $25 for senior citizens, and $15 for students.
Tickets are available at musicinst.org/faculty-guest-artist-series or by calling 800.838.3006. For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

GALA 2019 to Reveal New Commission from Artist Doug Aitken
The Los Angeles Master Chorale--the country's preeminent professional choir and choir-in-residence at Walt Disney Concert Hall--will reveal a new collaboration with acclaimed artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken at GALA 2019 on Saturday, March 23. The Gala will be held at the Marciano Art Foundation at 4357 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA from 5:30PM - 10PM, providing guests with a rare opportunity to enjoy exclusive evening access to the contemporary art gallery's collection and exhibitions in addition to a special preview performance of the commission from Doug Aitken performed by the Master Chorale conducted by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director.

Aitken will be honored at the black tie event for his visionary work across multiple genres and media alongside fellow honoree, prominent California philanthropist Lillian Lovelace, who will be celebrated for her extraordinary support of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

For more information, visit lamasterchorale.org

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Nashville Symphony Announces 2019/20 Season
The Nashville Symphony has announced the lineup for its 2019/20 season, which kicks off in September and features an extensive variety of classical, pops, jazz and family concerts, including top-flight guest artists, film favorites with live orchestral accompaniment, unique speaker events and much more. At the heart of this concert programming, Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero will lead the orchestra in its flagship Classical Series, which includes everything from masterworks by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Berlioz, and Beethoven to boundary-pushing contemporary American works.

For a full listing of the Nashville Symphony's 2019/20 lineup, visit NashvilleSymphony.org/2019-20.

Season ticket packages are now available for all 2019/20 concerts and may be purchased at NashvilleSymphony.org/2019-20, by phone at 615.687.6400, or in person at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Box Office. Season ticket holders enjoy a long list of benefits, including priority seating, bonus tickets, free unlimited ticket exchanges, discounted parking and much more.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Chicago's Bach Week Festival Announces 2019 Season April 26-May 3
The Chicago area's Bach Week Festival has announced its 46th annual concert programs, with performances in Evanston, Illinois, and Chicago April 26 to May 3, 2019, featuring several Johann Sebastian Bach works never before heard at the festival; the return of pianist Sergei Babayan, praised by The New York Times for his "consummate technique and insight"; and a first-time collaboration with gifted pre-college musicians of the Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago.

J. S. Bach works to be performed for the first time at Bach Week include the Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 544; celebratory wedding cantata "O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit," BWV 210; and church cantata "Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens," BWV 148, according to Richard Webster, Bach Week's long-time music director and conductor. Webster performed in and helped organize Evanston's inaugural Bach Week in 1974 and has been music director since 1975.

Other new programming twists, Webster says, include opening the festival with Spanish Baroque composer Antonio Soler's fiery Fandango for harpsichord and including in the festival lineup, for variety and contrast, a concerto for woodwinds, brass, and strings by Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi and a well-known instrumental suite for recorder and strings by Bach's German contemporary and rival, Georg Phillip Telemann.

Tickets can be purchased online at bachweek.org or by phone, (800) 838-3006. For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email info@bachweek.org.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Gade: Jealousy (CD review)

Suites, Tangos & Waltzes. Matthias Aeschbacher, Odense Symphony Orchestra. Dacapo Records 6.220509.

When I first started listening to this album, I expected mainly to enjoy one of the most popular tangos ever written, "Jalousie." What I did not expect was to find some of the best audio I'd heard in quite a long while.

Originally released on the Marco Polo label (now issued by Dacapo), the engineers recorded the music fairly close up yet with plenty of bloom. The middle section of the ensemble displays good depth, as a typical orchestral setup would, while the stereo spread to the sides is quite wide. The disc was a part of a Marco Polo series called "Danish Light Music," and while the musical content might be relatively lightweight, there is obviously nothing light about the arrangements or sonics.

Matthias Aeschbacher
Anyway, the Danish violinist and composer Jacob Gade (1879-1963) wrote his famous tango, "Jalousie 'Tango Tzigane,'" in 1925 as part of the musical accompaniment for the silent film Don Q: Son of Zorro. According to Wikipedia, "The composer claimed that the mood of the piece had been inspired by his reading a sensational news report of a crime of passion, and 'jealousy' became fixed in his mind."

Here, Maestro Matthias Aeschbacher and the Odense Symphony Orchestra take it at a more graceful gait than I have heard it done before, and there is less edge to it and more nobility than I would have thought possible. In fact, they make it sound quite grand in this big, flowing rendition.

The album includes a second tango by Gade called "Romanesca," one he wrote in 1933, a few years after "Jalousie." It, too, is quite good, but it never achieved the attention of the earlier work. Still, Aeschbacher gives it due attention.

In addition, the collection contains other Gade works, like "Leda and the Swan," a short ballet; "Rhapsodietta," "Wedding at Himmelpind," "Valse Capriccio," "Copenhagen Life Waltz," and "Douces Secrets Waltz." Most of these pieces receive their première recordings here, and all of them are equally charming.

This is a surprising and highly recommendable disc.

JJP

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


Bernstein: Symphony No. 2 "The Age of Anxiety" (CD review)

Krystian Zimerman, piano; Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic. DG 483 5539.

First, the good news: The album offers the music of one of the world's finest composer-conductor-pianists, Leonard Bernstein; played by one of the world's finest pianists, Krystian Zimerman; conducted by one of the world's finest conductors, Sir Simon Rattle; accompanied by one of the world's finest orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic; and recorded by the world's oldest continuously operating record label, Deutsche Grammophon.

The bad news: DG or DG's producers or Simon Rattle himself decided to recorded the album live; that is, before a live audience. This was Bernstein's wont during his later years, and it has been Rattle's wont for many years as well. They would no doubt say recording live better captures the spirit and spontaneity of the moment; I would say it usually sounds worse than a studio recording; that is, without an audience.

Whatever, Bernstein (1918-1990) completed his Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety" for piano and orchestra in 1949, revising it in 1965. He subtitled the two-part composition after W.H. Auden's Pulitzer Prizewinning poem of the same name. Bernstein intended that the two parts be performed without pause, although there are a number of subsections (variations) plus a prologue that pretty much mirror Auden's lengthy verse. Here's a run-down of the parts:

Part I:
The Prologue: Lento moderato

The Seven Ages: Variations 1–7
1. L'istesso tempo
2. Poco più mosso
3. Largamente, ma mosso
4. Più mosso
5. Agitato
6. Poco meno mosso
7. L'istesso tempo

The Seven Stages: Variations 8–14
8. Molto moderato, ma movendo
9. Più mosso (Tempo di Valse)
10. Più mosso
11. L'istesso tempo
12. Poco più vivace
13. L'istesso tempo
14. Poco più vivace

Part II
The Dirge: Largo
The Masque: Extremely Fast
The Epilogue: L'istesso temp - Adagio; Andante; Con moto

Krystian Zimerman
Yes, that's quite a lot for one "symphony" to cover. According to Wikipedia, the poem deals with "man's quest to find substance and identity in a shifting and increasingly industrialized world. Set in a wartime bar in New York City, Auden uses four characters--Quant, Malin, Rosetta, and Emble--to explore and develop his themes." Bernstein attempted to establish a musical relationship with those subjects.

When Bernstein celebrated his seventieth birthday, he invited Krystian Zimerman to perform the solo piano part with him. Thirty years later, we have Zimerman doing it again, here with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. Incidentally, this live recording also marked Rattle's final performance as the Berlin orchestra's chief conductor.

The album begins with a two-minute interview excerpt with Bernstein that is not too distracting. At least you can bypass it. Rattle's interpretation of the music is probably as exacting and as emotional as one could want. Frankly, I've never cared much for the work; one is hard-pressed to find much peace or harmony in it, but that is the point, of course, the "anxiety" of the title. Zimerman tells us in a booklet note that Bernstein never played the symphony the same way twice; there were always shifts and turns in the way he handled it. Zimerman called Bernstein's way with it "daring," and he says Rattle approaches the music in the same way. Apparently, it was an improvisational spirit the two conductors shared, and certainly Bernstein's score allows for any number of different readings.

So Rattle's realization is no doubt as good as any and shows real imagination in its handling of complex sections, especially the jazz interludes. Zimerman's piano, which is front and foremost throughout much of the proceedings should be considered authoritative as well, given the pianist's association with the piece and its composer. And the Berlin Philharmonic remain one of the world's treasures, even if the live recording doesn't fully do them justice.

Producer Christoph Franke and engineer Rene Moller recorded the symphony live in the Berliner Philharmonie, June 2018. The audience is as quiet as one could expect, helped by the close-up recording, I'm sure, and probably a bit of noise reduction. The sound is mostly warm and comfortable, despite its closeness. It's also exceptionally dynamic, so when big crescendos enter, they are, well, big. They are also a touch hard at the high end, but nothing of serious concern. I can't say there's much depth to the orchestra, either, except for the occasional percussion part; it just seems one big entity surrounding the piano. Thankfully, the engineers have edited out any final applause.

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 over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine 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, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
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.

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