Classical Music News of the Week, March 30, 2019

Babayan Performs with Academy and Bach Week Orchestras

Concluding its 2018-19 Faculty and Guest Artist Series, the Music Institute of Chicago showcases the talented students of its Academy Orchestra performing with the Bach Week Festival Orchestra and piano soloist Sergei Babayan Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois. This is the second time the two institutions have collaborated, having previously presented Babayan in a solo recital in 2013.

Sergei Babayan, hailed for his emotional intensity, bold energy, and remarkable levels of color, brings a deep understanding and insight to a stylistically diverse repertoire. Le Figaro has praised his "unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity." He performs with the world's leading orchestras, including the London Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestra of the Marinsky Theatre, Warsaw Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, and many others.

Admission is $50 for VIP seating, $40 for adults, $25 for senior citizens, and $15 for students.
Tickets are available by calling 800.838.3006 or at

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

JoAnn Falletta Named 2019 Classical Woman of the Year
Acclaimed conductor JoAnn Falletta was named Performance Today's 2019 Classical Woman of the Year. The award, which was given for the first time, honors the women who have made a lasting impact on classical music or those who love music.

"JoAnn Falletta is a mighty figure on the global music scene. She brings a bright freshness to classical standards, and her vision includes and elevates so many worthy composers and artists who've been too long overlooked," said Fred Child, host of Performance Today. "She is a tireless champion of the art form itself, not just on the podium, but in ways that are not always visible or public; our listeners' nominating stories about her included myriad examples of Falletta's unique combination of artistic authority and compassion, compelling musicianship and humanity. It is an honor for us to name her as Performance Today's 2019 Classical Woman of the Year."

More information on Maestro Falletta may be found at

--Genevieve Spielberg, Inc.

Miller Theatre Presents a Composer Portrait of David T. Little
Composer Portraits: David T. Little
Thursday, April 18, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC

David T. Little grapples with essential human issues through powerfully dramatic compositions. This Portrait features two major works—companion pieces presented together for the first time--that explore the tension between the individual, secrecy, and state violence. Haunt of Last Nightfall, a visceral "ghost play in two acts" for percussion quartet and electronics, examines America's role in the 1981 massacre at El Mozote. AGENCY, for string quartet and electronics, questions individual autonomy, whether we are subject to unknown and powerful social and political forces. Together, they offer a disquieting account of our place in contemporary society.

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

ROCO Announces Its Fifteenth Season: "Coming of Age"
ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Houston, Texas) is thrilled to announce its 2019-20 season, entitled "Coming of Age."

To celebrate their milestone fifteenth season, ROCO will present a record-breaking 21 new commissions, bringing their total to a whopping 100 distinct premieres since their formation in 2005. Throughout the season, 15 of these new works--comprising the FIFteen project: Fanfares, Interludes, and Finales, organized by Mark Buller--will be sprinkled among each series.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Brazilian-American phenom Clarice Assad Returns to San Antonio
Grammy-nominated composer, performer, and music educator of depth and versatility Clarice Assad returns for an evening of musical delight.

Ever since her sensational SOLI (SOLI Chamber Ensemble) debut in 2016, we have been eagerly crafting another collaboration together to include concerts in San Antonio, followed by a National Tour with the program, and a recording project to memorialize her unique and genre-bending music.

For complete information, visit!//

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

"Avital Meets Avital" at Princeton University Concerts
Princeton University Concerts' new "Crossroads" series, drawing together musicians and music from around the globe, culminates on Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 7:30PM with a joint performance by mandolin star Avi Avital and acclaimed jazz performer and composer Omer Avital: "Avital Meets Avital."

While the two musicians are not related and come from differing musical backgrounds, they share a cultural heritage through which they come together in this program, alongside Yonathan Avishai on piano and Itamar Doari on percussion. In addition to their concert, Avi and Omer Avital will also participate in a free public conversation with Princeton University Professor Moulie Vidas at the Princeton Public Library the preceding evening on Monday, April 15, 2019 at 7PM.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

World Music Institute Presents NY debut of Danish Trio Dreamers' Circus
Thursday, April 11, 2019, 7:30 pm
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
129 W 67th Street, NYC

The young Danish trio Dreamers' Circus--led by violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen of the Danish String Quartet--is a new driving force in Nordic world music. Contemporary and innovative in their approach, they draw inspiration from the deep traditions of Scandinavian Folk music. The ensemble has won five prestigious Danish Music Awards and toured throughout Europe and beyond, with performances in Japan and Australia. The trio collaborates regularly with the Danish String Quartet and the Copenhagen Philharmonic. This NYC debut is part of their first American tour.

The band states, "Our approach to music sees us challenge the norms of the traditional music we were brought up with and attempt to shape it into how we imagine Nordic music can sound in 2019."

For more information on Dreamers' Circus, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Concerts at Saint Thomas Concludes the Season
An all-orchestral program May 9 and an organ recital by Ken Cowan May 18 at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC.

Concerts at Saint Thomas will wrap up its 2018-19 season with Benjamin Sheen and New York Baroque Incorporated performing a program of chamber music entitled "Now Is The Month of Maying" on May 9 at 6:00 pm. The performance will be a celebration of the Martha J. Dodge Continuo Organ and a new harpsichord recently purchased from Willard Martin, both of which will be played by Benjamin Sheen. The program for the concert will weave Vivaldi's 'La Primavera' from The Four Seasons with two concerti by Handel and Bach, along with Albinoni's beloved Adagio for organ and strings.

The season's final performance will take place on May 18 at 3:00 pm with one final Grand Organ Series performance from Ken Cowan on the Miller-Scott Organ. The program will include pieces from Wagner, Dupré, Bach, Saint-Saëns, and Duruflé. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Salt Bay Chamberfest 2019
The Salt Bay Chamberfest (SBC) has spent 25 years nestled along coastal Maine near Damariscotta's Great Salt Bay. Visitors spend their days taking walks along jetties to historic lighthouses and trails overlooking blueberry bogs, wandering along the dramatic shore where tidal pools hold secret worlds, or taking in Greek Revival and Italianate architecture. But what has recently brought people to Salt Bay in early August is this world-class Festival. Each season Artistic and Executive Director, and cellist, Wilhelmina Smith takes audiences on a journey through a season of concerts which delve in to larger ideas, often connecting the music to historical, political, or even deeper social ideas.

To celebrate 25, Smith has curated a season called "Music of Our Common Earth" which runs August 1-17, and features works connecting us globally through music as it relates to our environment, and studies human nature or uses it as metaphor, explores ancient myths, uncovers current societal issues, and celebrates our shared landscape. SBC's rich history of presenting and commissioning new music continues with some of today's most exciting musical innovators and the performers that inspired them. Most of the concerts are picturesquely set in the historic 19th-century dairy barn turned concert hall, Darrows Barn, overlooking the scenic Great Salt Bay.

For complete information, visit

--Dworkin & Company

Pianist Lang Lang Celebrates World Piano Day
March 29 was World Piano Day and who better to celebrate it than global superstar pianist Lang Lang. He's already inspired millions of children to play the piano through his performances, method books, recordings and educational programs--and now he's releasing his new album "Piano Book," a collection of pieces he has loved and played from a young age.

The repertoire reflects Lang Lang's commitment to music education and his desire to encourage young people to learn the instrument. In that vein, the Lang Lang Foundation also announced their donation of $5MM to U.S. Public Schools over the next 5 years to continue Lang Lang's commitment to music education. This means in five years, the Lang Lang Foundation will be supporting and working with over 140 public schools across the US, reaching over 56,000 students.

In more piano news, last week at Steinway Hall in NYC, Lang Lang and his friend bandleader/pianist Jon Batiste got together to do what they love--play piano. Watch these two superstars at the top of their game in classical and jazz have fun with "Chopsticks":

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Lang Lang: he's joined Chinese virtual idol Luo Tianyi for a special hologram concert, he's enjoyed international chart success with Beethoven's Für Elise having reached No.4 on the official Chinese pop single charts, and he's even set a new Guinness World Record for the biggest simultaneous four-handed piano performance.

Lang Lang's record-breaking performance took place in his native China, where 777 pianos were packed into the Xiamen Center Sports Stadium and 1554 pianists gathered together to play Schubert's Marche Militaire No.1. The project recruited 777 pairs of 'piano messengers' from schools in five major regions of China, including children from Taiwan. Lang Lang took the helm for the awe-inspiring display, showcasing his gifts as charismatic performer, communicator and educator, as well as his fun-loving personality.

For more information, visit

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

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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