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

--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:                                                                                                       
Phone: 970-925-9042 (M-F, 9-5)

--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

--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

--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

--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

--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

--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: and (415) 392-4400. Salon Series tickets are currently sold out. Please visit for updates on availability.

For further information, please visit

--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

--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

$20 – $100
1 888 718-4253

--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

To download the track "Rachmaninoff: IV. Waltz from Six Pieces for Piano Duet, Op. 11: " for free, go to 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
For tickets, please visit

--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; 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, 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

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

For more than 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 simpleminded, 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 Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
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.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa