Masterpiece II (XRCD24 review)

Touching folklore music. Mario Suzuki, guitar; Masao Okada, guitar; Miyuki Fujimoto, guitar; Susumu Nishizaki, piano. Master Music XRCD24-NT021.

First of all, I'm not sure why this 2017 album bears the title "Masterpiece II," unless it's because it follows an album guitarist Mario Suzuki made ten years earlier called "Masterpiece I." Certainly, there are no actual "masterpieces" or classics on the program unless the producers are engaging in a bit of hyperbole. Second, I'm not sure why the album bears the subtitle "Touching folklore music," since it appears Mr. Suzuki wrote all of the selections himself, thus negating the notion of folklore referring to traditional songs or stories handed down by people from generation to generation. I'm going to assume here that Mr. Suzuki is a folklorist the way Bob Dylan is a folk singer. None of which makes any difference in the least because this is a terrifically well recorded album of pleasantly performed guitar music that is sure to impress (and soothe) almost anyone.

Admittedly, I was not familiar with Mr. Suzuki before this album, so I looked up some information about him. According to Elusive Disc, "Mario Suzuki is a writer, composer and excellent guitar player! Suzuki is an extraordinary individual who you may not have heard of... but once you hear him play, he is hard to forget. Folklore guitarra is the traditional Spanish folk guitar music popular in the Spanish speaking countries in South America. It also includes contemporary guitar music which carries on much of the tradition of the folklore guitar music. It is of a completely different type either from American style modern folk music or pop folklore band music.

"Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1947 Mario Suzuki is a native of Japan. He has learned music composition and folklore guitar playing from Mr. Atsumasa Nakabayashi. He also learned folklore playing from both Jesusbenites (president of Mexican folklore guitarra association) and master folklore guitarist Eduardo Falu in Argentine. Mario has composed amazingly more than 500 pieces of folklore music."

On the present album, Mr. Suzuki plays either alone or with accompanists Masao Okada, guitar; Miyuki Fujimoto, guitar; and Susumu Nishizaki, piano. Here's a rundown of their program:

1. Journey
2. Whispering
3. Poem
4. In Breezing
5. Thinking of You
6. Cinema (New Snow Village) Theme
7. Memory Of Arashiyama
8. At Hotel La Mirador
9. Elapsed Waltz
10. Feelings
11. In Granada
12. Night Goes On
13. Remembering of You
14. Reminiscence
15. Monologue
16. Voice of Wave

Mario Suzuki
Because the booklet notes are mostly in Japanese and what aren't in Japanese are poorly translated into English, it was a little hard to get the full story on these melodies. Nevertheless, the music speaks for itself. It's quiet music, serene, tranquil, romantic, and appropriately sentimental. What's more, Suzuki plays with delicacy and finesse. The performances from all of the artists involved are fluid and graceful, caressing the music with subtlety and charm. One could hardly ask more from the performers.

While I'm still not persuaded that these tunes are quite "masterpieces," I cannot deny their peaceful beauty. Nor can I deny the audiophile quality of JVC's remastering for Master Music. I just wish the total time for the album, forty-three minutes, had been a little longer.

Producers Kazuo Kiuchi and Shizuo Nomiyama and engineer Yoshihiko Kannari recorded the music at Onkio Haus Studio (aka Onkyo House), Tokyo in November 2017. Tohru Kotetsu mastered the compact disc at JVC Mastering Center, Japan in January 2018 using XRCD24/K2 technology. A further note adds that "This album was directly recorded in half inch analog tape, 15ips. Mastered utilizing JVC 24bit AD converter with Digital K2, Rubidium clock."

That seems impressive, but does the album actually sound as good as what's written about the processing? Well, it sounds pretty good, that's for sure. Indeed, it's one of the finest-sounding guitar albums I've ever heard. The instruments have a warm, smooth, natural appearance, much like hearing them live in the room with you. Recorded on analog tape (and remastered digitally), the sound betrays no digital edge. The miking is somewhat close in order to capture a full fidelity dynamic range and transient impact, yet it's not objectionably close. The duets and trios are especially well spaced across the sound stage, and the room reflections are well judged. This is an audiophile disc, to be sure, and as such it probably sounds better in accordance with the quality of one's playback equipment.

You can find Master Music products at some of the best prices at Elusive Disc:


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 27, 2019

Music of the Americas Presents the International Contemporary Ensemble NY Premiere

Music of the Americas presents the New York premiere of Canadian composer Claude Vivier's chamber opera Kopernikus, performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble and Meridionalis conducted by Sebastian Zubieta, with live video by Sergio Policicchio.

There will be two presentations, the first on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 7:00pm and the second on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 7:00pm at 22 Boerum Place, Brooklyn, NY.

Described by Vivier as a "ritual opera of death," Kopernikus centers around a young woman named Agni, who descends into a dream world where "mystical beings borrowed from stories, gravitate around her: Lewis Carroll, Merlin, a witch, the Queen of the Night, a blind prophet, an old monk, Tristan and Isolde, Mozart, the Master of the Waters, Copernicus and his mother. These characters could be Agni's dreams that follow her during her initiation and finally into her dematerialization."

Tickets are free for Americas Society and Young Professionals of the Americas members and $20 General Admission.

To view an excerpt from the opera, visit

For complete information, visit:

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

The Crypt Sessions Presents Clarinetist Sam Boutris
The Crypt Sessions will continue its fourth season on May 14, 2019, with fast-rising Juillard-trained clarinetist Sam Boutris playing the two pillars of the clarinet repertoire: Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A major, K.581 and Brahms's Clarinet Quintet, Op.115. Boutris will be joined by a crack team of young string players: Brian Hong (Violin), Helen Vassiliou (Violin), Sergio Munoz Leiva (Viola), and Sam DeCaprio (Cello).

In addition to their shared Autumnal sound-world, numerous musical threads connect the two works, as Brahms sprinkled elements of the Mozart quintet throughout his own profoundly nostalgic, achingly reflective work.

Tickets will be released on the Death of Classical Facebook Page at 12:00PM Eastern Time on May 1, following the previous evening's performance by the Attacca Quartet, playing an all-Caroline Shaw program.

The Crypt Sessions are presented under the new non-profit sponsored organization Death of Classical. Both The Crypt Sessions and its new sister series The Angel's Share in the Catacombs of The Green-Wood Cemetery are curated by Andrew Ousley.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

So Percussion Offers Free Concert
So Percussion, the Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence at the Princeton University Department of Music, offer their final, FREE concert in the 2018-19 season on Wednesday, May 1 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ. Their program includes cutting edge works by two female composers -- Nicole Lizée and Julia Wolfe -- as well as "From Out a Darker Sea," a new multimedia work by the ensemble exploring the social history of British Coal Mining.

Free tickets are required for this concert, which will be released on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 10AM online at and in person during box office hours at the Frist Campus Center and Lewis Arts complex box offices. Remaining tickets will be available one hour before the concert at the venue.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Grammy-Winning Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, Jazz at Princeton University
Jazz at Princeton University's 2018-19 season finale on Saturday, May 11, 8PM features Grammy Award-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington as a guest artist with students in the Princeton University Creative Large Ensemble, directed by Darcy James Argue. The unique program features a rare performance of Jim McNeely's Tribute to Tony Williams Lifetime in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall. Tickets $15 General/$5 students.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Festival Mozaic Selects Nonprofit Arts Executive Lloyd Tanner as Executive Director
The Board of Directors of Festival Mozaic announced today that Lloyd Tanner will take on the role of Executive Director, following a nationwide search conducted by the Arts Consulting Group. Mr. Tanner will officially join Festival Mozaic on May 23, 2019 and will immediately focus his attention on the Festival's 49th season, which opens July 24th.

Search Committee Chair and Board President Jo Anne Miller noted "We are incredibly excited to welcome Lloyd Tanner to the Festival Mozaic family. His leadership experience and accomplishments achieved at internationally recognized arts organizations will help further establish the ambitious artistic programming of our Music Director Scott Yoo.  We look forward to collaborating with Lloyd on further engaging our donors and stakeholders and building their support for the mission and programs of the Festival."

Over its nearly five decades, the Festival has expanded its programming to include early music, jazz, contemporary music, opera, world music, and new commissions and world premieres. The concerts have taken place in multiple venues around San Luis Obispo county, CA, including Chapel Serra in Shandon and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.

In 2019, our 49th season, the Festival continues its artistic evolution, bringing the world's best musical influences to San Luis Obispo County through performances and informative educational music experiences. The Festival draws visitors from around the state, country and the world to its events each year to enjoy not only the music, but also the bounty of our region and our warm hospitality.

For more information, visit

--David George, Festival Mosaic

Have You Attended ABS's Free Educational and Outreach Programs?
A variety of formats attracts wide audiences. American Bach Soloists' 30th Season may be approaching its final notes, but our programs are launching forward with an especially wide range of free activities for audiences from all backgrounds and with all amounts of experience with Early Music.

ABS trumpeter John Thiessen will present a free Master Class at the end of April. Victor Gavenda will provide "Insights" before upcoming Brandenburg Concertos concerts. ABS Festival & Academy offers more than a dozen free performances and educational events.

The 30th Season's final free public Master Class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music takes place on Monday, April 29th at 7:30 p.m. Witness the artistic transformations that make Master Classes so tremendously exciting, as performers from the Conservatory's curricula and ABS musicians share their knowledge and insights.

For more information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

Tod Machover World Premiere for Kronos Quartet Livestreamed
As a part of its important initiative to support the future of the string quartet, the globally-renowned Kronos Quartet will perform the first public performance of GAMMIFIED by American composer Tod Machover, through the expansive "50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire" commissioning and education project in partnership with Carnegie Hall and others.

Utilizing cutting-edge research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, where Machover holds the position of Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media, the piece for string quartet and electronics features Gamma frequencies, which have begun to show highly promising results for resynching the brain and promoting mental well-being. Machover, alongside graduate students  Alexandra Rieger, Nikhil Singh and Ben Bloomberg in Machover's "Opera of the Future" group, will discuss this technology and its potential implications for mental health with the Kronos Quartet.  Additionally, the composer and quartet will address Kronos's five-year 50 for the "Future" project and its aspirations of creating a free library of 50 works – 25 by women and 25 by men – designed to guide young amateur and early-career professional string quartets in developing and honing the skills required for the performance of 21st-century repertoire.

Monday, April 29th
1:00-2:30 pm
MIT Media Lab
6th Floor Multi-Purpose Room (E14-674)
Admission free; no tickets required

View live on YouTube:
or on MIT Media Lab's Web site:

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Cantata Profana's Politically Charged Lucretia
The audacious stars of New York's Cantata Profana--as comfortable on period instruments as they are on modern ones--juxtapose masterpieces from the medieval era to the 21st century in lovingly curated shows filled with unexpected works and daring theater. On May 23, 24, and 25 they premiere their most dramatically and politically charged creation yet: Lucretia at HERE Arts Center on the Lower East Side (145 6th Avenue, NYC). HERE's Mainstage Theater is a perfect space for the visceral power of the Lucretia story; Handel's genre-busting cantata needs to be felt up close, the audience contending with the lonely horror of her unanswered pleas from only feet away.

La Lucrezia is a masterwork from Handel's earlier life in Italy, when he wrote his most experimental and utterly brilliant music. It is scored for solo voice and continuo, and follows the traditional alternating recitative and aria format until the very end. In the last movement, as Lucretia feels the blade entering her breast, she sings the briefest Arioso ("Gia nel seno")—"one of the most sublime 60 seconds in all of music," says Jacob Ashworth, CP's Artistic Director—but then splinters into a scattered accompagnando, ending on a wild note, swearing vengeance from the grave. Ashworth continues: "Handel was one of the greatest dramatists to ever compose for the voice. This piece is proof."

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 Announces Applications and Jury
The Menuhin Competition Richmond has been characterized as the "Olympics of the Violin," and for more than three decades has established itself as the world's leading international violin competition for young violinists, with each new competition year accepting hundreds of applicants for 44 coveted spots.

Founded in 1983, the Menuhin Competition has served countless aspiring concert violinists as a major catalyst for initiating the trajectory from the very early days of their international solo and orchestral careers into household names. Notable alumni include Ray Chen, Tasmin Little, Julia Fischer, Chad Hoopes, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, and Stephen Waarts. The application period for the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 closes on October 31, 2019 and welcomes all aspiring young violinists under the age of 22 to apply. Gordon Back, Artistic Director of the Menuhin Competition, says: "We are thrilled and honoured that Richmond is hosting the 2020 Menuhin Competition. It will be a brilliant and innovative collaboration and promises to be an event of the highest artistic excellence.  We look forward to receiving applications from young violinists across the globe.

May 14-24, 2020
Applications open now through October 31, 2019.
Announcing full roster of jurors, including acclaimed performers, pedagogues, and Menuhin alumni.

For more information, visit

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

ASPECT Foundation Presents the Four Nations Ensemble
The ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts concludes its third New York City season of illuminating performances with "Music of the 18th Century Grand Tour" on Thursday, May 30, 2019 at 7:30pm at Bohemian National Hall, NYC. The concert features New York's Four Nations Ensemble and soprano Pascale Beaudin in a program celebrating the 18th century culture of Paris, Venice, Rome, and Napes, including Jean-Baptiste Quentin's Quatuor in A, Op. 12, No. 1; selected Gondoliere Songs arranged by Johann Hasse; Vivaldi's Concerto in F Major for Flute, Op. 10, No. 5; Corelli's La Folia, Op. 5, No. 12; and Pergolesi's Orfeo for Soprano and Strings.

Historian John Brewer, author of "The Pleasures of the Imagination," presents an illustrated talk that takes the audience on a musical journey to better understand the historical and artistic importance of the "Grand Tour" -- a trip wealthy young men in the 18th century customarily took to experience art, culture, and forbidden pleasures after they'd finished their formal education.

Program information:
"Music of the 18th Century Grand Tour"
Thursday, May 30, 2019 at 7:30pm
Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd St., New York, NY
Tickets: $45, includes wine and refreshments

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Composers & the Voice Extends Deadline
Composers & the Voice, a tuition-free training program, is a competitive two-year fellowship offered to composers and librettists. AOP welcomes applications from musicians of all backgrounds interested in composing for opera and music theatre and seeks to present a group of fellows that represent the diversity of our community and country. Applications are reviewed and fellowships are selected by the C&V artistic team and a panel of industry professionals chosen with an emphasis on diversity. Deadlines for applications is now extended until Tuesday, April 30 at 11:59PM EST.

Application and info at

--American Opera Projects

Young People's Chorus of New York City Monthly News
YPC Choristers Return from Toronto Tour
This month, 41 of YPC's enthusiastic Intermezzo choristers traveled to Toronto for their first international tour! At the invitation of the Toronto Children's Chorus, YPC was the only chorus from outside Canada to perform in the Junior Treble Festival. The choristers participated in engaging music and movement workshops and presented a magical performance at the festival concert.

Vocal Resolutions: Balancing Bubbles 
May 19, 2019: Gerald W. Lynch Theater, NYC
YPC's third annual Vocal Resolutions Summit features a partnership with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid, Mantra Percussion, and Newfoundland's Shallaway Youth Choir. The weekend will culminate with a concert exploring the theme of "Balance" and presenting a world premiere of Ms. Reid's piece, "So Much on My Soul."

YPC's Community Chorus Concert
May 11, 2019: The Church of the Intercession, NYC
Over 100 excited young artists from the two community choruses of the Young People's Chorus of New York City in Washington Heights and at Goddard Riverside Community Center, will join together for a buoyant program of music beloved by the singers and sure to delight their spring concert audience on May 11.

YPC's School Chorus Concert
May 13, 2019: 92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC
The energy and talents of the children who participate in the School Choruses music education program of the Young People's Chorus of New York City will be on display at its 16th annual School Choruses celebration concert on Monday, May 13.

YPC's Spring Concert
June 1, 2019: The United Palace, NYC
YPC is excited to celebrate the coming of summer with its debut in the historic 3400-seat United Palace, one of Manhattan's largest theaters. As YPC continues to grow, the United Palace provides the perfect setting for the more than 425 YPC choristers to perform a program of music and choreography of extraordinary and astonishing breadth.

For complete information, visit

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Spring 2019 Call for Scores - PARMA Recordings
Winter has come to a close, flowers and trees are beginning to bloom, and if you live anywhere near the PARMA headquarters in New England, you're probably sighing in relief with us as the temperatures climb higher above freezing. With the change in season comes time for creative inspiration, new music, and of course, the latest Call for Scores. In addition to being recorded, selected submissions will be considered for live performance. Previously accepted scores have been performed in Russia, Croatia, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United States, and more.

We are currently accepting submissions for:
1. Dieter Flury
Works for flute, flute with chamber ensemble, and flute with orchestra
Zagreb Croatia

2. Vox Futura and Prague-based Choirs
Works for Choir
Boston MA; Prague CZ

3. Athens Philharmonia Orchestra
Works for Orchestra
Athens Greece

Please submit PDF scores and corresponding MIDI renderings or live recordings via our Project Submission form.

Selected scores will be recorded and commercially released by PARMA Recordings. The submitter is responsible for securing funds associated with the production and retains all ownership of the master and underlying composition.

Works should ideally be between 5 and 15 minutes in length, but pieces outside of that range will still be considered.

Deadline for all submissions is May 17, 2019. There is no fee to submit.

Project Submission Form:

--PARMA Recordings

Public Solidarity Concert for Notre-Dame de Paris
American Bach Soloists are proud to collaborate with members of the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera, the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, Johann Vexo (organist of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame), and singers Frederica von Stade and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen in a free Public Solidarity Concert for Notre-Dame de Paris on Monday evening, April 29th. San Francisco and Paris are Sister Cities, and this musical offering of solidarity expresses our support for the Paris community. The event--co-sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco, the French Consulate in San Francisco, and Grace Cathedral--begins at 6:00 p.m.

Monday, April 29, 2019 at 6 p.m.
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., San Francisco, CA 94108.

This is a free public concert and is first-come first-served. Registration is available at

--American Bach Soloists

Haydn: Cello Concertos in C and D (CD review)

Also, "Lo speziale" (Overture). Han-Na Chang, cello; Giuseppe Sinopoli, Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden. EMI 7243 5 56535 2.

This Haydn disc did double duty in its several weeks of evaluation prior to my writing these comments, serving not only as a usual test subject but as background music for several dinner gatherings. Like a coincidentally similar disc of material from Steven Isserlis and Roger Norrington on RCA, I found this EMI issue (now released by Warner Classics) delightful through and through, and I look forward to many years of continued listening to its charming melodies.

Haydn's bracing Cello Concerto in C that opens the program makes an engaging contrast to the more serene Concerto in D. Between them is the three-movement Overture from Haydn's comic opera Lo speziale, an animated, if somewhat repetitive, work.

Han-Na Chang
Ms. Chang's playing is light and lyrical, particularly complementing the Concerto in D. The Dresden Staatskapelle remain one of the world's great orchestras, and Maestro Giuseppe Sinopoli leads them through the music with little fuss. While it is perhaps true that some listeners would have liked more forward, maybe more idiosyncratic interpretations than the ones presented here, I doubt that most classical-music fans will find much to criticize. These are elegant, poised performances rather than overtly virtuosic ones.

The recording, originally issued by EMI in 1998, sounds well balanced throughout, with the cello realistically placed, a little close but not dominating. The orchestra and cello both have good definition and immediacy, yet they retain a warm aural bloom. Imaging, too, is good, though not so precise in the localization of individual supporting instruments as on some older, more modestly-miked recordings.

I'm glad I don't personally have to make a choice between this disc and the Isserlis/Norrington one I had on hand at the time, but if I did I would probably choose this one for its slightly more natural sound and its sweeter, gentler approach. Then, too, there is Jacqueline DuPre's EMI/Warner disc, which also has it merits. Nonetheless, this disc from Chang/Sinopoli is hard to resist; I recommend all three for purely casual, relaxing, and highly pleasurable listening.


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

Stravinsky: Le Sacre du printemps (CD review)

Also, Debussy: La Mer. Jaap van Zweden, New York Philharmonic. Decca Gold B0029690-02.

In 2018 Dutch conductor and violinist Jaap van Zweden (b. 1960) became the twenty-sixth Music Director of the prestigious New York Philharmonic, founded in 1842, one of America's oldest orchestras. Maestro van Zweden also leads the Hong Kong Philharmonic and guest conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, and a host of others. He's a busy man, and this 2018 Sony release marks his second for Decca with the New York Phil.

In van Zweden's first recording for Decca with the NYPO he conducted Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies. Here he is doing Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps ("The Rite of Spring") and Debussy's La Mer ("The Sea"). He obviously wanted to start things off on the right foot by choosing to do some of the basic repertoire's most-popular, almost-can't-miss items. Still, with so much competition in this material, he's sure to run into some detractors.

Anyway, as you know, Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) caused quite a stir when he premiered his ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913. The ballet (and, to be fair, the choreography) so shocked Paris audiences that many of them booed and headed for the doors. By now, the world has pretty much begun to take the avant-garde nature of Stravinsky's music for granted, but it was groundbreaking in its day.

The work's subtitle, "Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts," pretty much says it all. The story involves various primitive rituals celebrating the approach of spring, after which a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death. Grim and heady stuff, and certainly not the kind of music for the weak of heart, either on the part of the audience or the conductor. My own favorite recording of the piece remains Leonard Bernstein's, leading this very same orchestra in 1958. So van Zweden has some heavy lifting to keep up with the old master.

Jaap van Zweden
However, it's not that van Zweden doesn't try. This is music that a conductor must take with a certain abandon, and van Zweden does that on occasion. Those occasions are few and far between, however, no matter how raucous the conductor makes them appear. For the most part van Zweden seems content merely to keep order. He takes a rather leisurely approach throughout most of the score, building a degree of appropriate atmosphere, to be, sure, and then letting loose in a few wildly loud sections. Although one can still feel the tensions and excitement in the music, as a whole it all seems a bit forced, even awkwardly so at times as transitions seem too abrupt and climaxes too hurried.

The second selection on the disc is La Mer by French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918). In what he called "Three symphonic sketches for orchestra," Debussy drew inspiration, he said, from art, "preferring the seascapes available in painting and literature" to an actual ocean. Whatever, he managed to convey some vivid impressions of the sea. The three movements are "From dawn to noon (or midday) on the sea," taken very slowly and animated little by little; "Play of the Waves," an animated allegro; and, perhaps most famously, "Dialogue of the wind and the sea" (or "Dialogue between wind and waves"), animated and tumultuous, easing up very slightly at the end.

Personally, I liked van Zweden's handling of the Debussy piece a little more than I liked his work in the Stravinsky. Again, van Zweden is slower in all three movements than any of the conductors on my comparison discs (Stokowski, Karajan, Previn, Simon, Haitink, and Giulini), yet van Zweden's steady pace makes for a different kind of vividness that can at times be appealing. It's a calmer sea in a lot of ways than the one imagined by other conductors, yet it's one that remains filled with unexpected, if not always beautiful, magic.

If anything, though, van Zweden's handling of Debussy is too static and commonplace to be of much competition for the aforementioned conductors and recordings. I'd say this van Zweden effort is more of a memento of the conductor's early days with the New York orchestra, a kind of postcard for the ensemble's many admirers.

Producers Lawrence Rock and Mark Travis and engineer Lawrence Rock recorded the music at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City, in September and October 2018. Nowhere on the packaging or in the booklet notes does Decca explicitly tell us this is a live recording, but they do say "The concerts on October 4-6, 2018, were made possible by generous support from The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation," implying that they may have recorded at least the Debussy live in concert. Maybe they assume that so many classical orchestral recordings are made live these days, they don't even have to mention it. Whatever, I'm going to assume they recorded both works live.

Nevertheless, the business of "Is it live or isn't it?" may be a moot point as the sound is not quite vintage Decca to begin with. It's fairly bright and sharp-edged, slightly too close for comfort, and a bit glaring at times. In fact, I found a few of the bigger, louder sections rather uneasy on the ears. It's not entirely bad sound, mind you, and the percussion is impressive; but it's not as persuasive as the sound provided for Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic well over sixty years earlier. Go figure.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 20, 2019

ABS Season Ends and Summer Festival Begins

American Bach Soloists' 30th season will conclude with the remaining four Brandenburg Concertos, Nos. 2, 4, 5, and 6, each one featuring the renowned Bach specialists of ABS.

Friday, May 3, 2019 8:00 p.m.
St. Stephen's Church, Belvedere, CA

Saturday, May 4, 2019 8:00 p.m.
First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

Sunday, May 5, 2019 4:00 p.m.
St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, CA

Monday, May 6, 2019 7:00 p.m.
Davis Community Church, Davis, CA

The ABS annual Summer Festival & Academy,July 28 - August 11, is now expanded to include an additional weekend of performances, more free public events to bring you closer to the excitement that surrounds our annual Academy - now in its 10th year - along with stunning programs of absolutely sensational musical works, and ventures into new and imaginative territory.

Of course, the focus on major works from the Baroque is still at the core of our Summer Festival, voted "Best of the Bay" by SFCV readers. All-time favorites including Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Bach's Mass in B Minor will be presented with Handel's Utrecht Te Deum & Jubilate and Terpsicore, Lotti's "Mass for Three Choirs", Pergolesi's Stabat Mater (in an important newly researched version), Geminiani's imaginative and picturesque Enchanted Forest, and endearing concertos about frogs and crickets by Telemann.

Also new this summer: A "Coffee House Concert" featuring our amazing Academy musicians and "Bach Explorations" including "Bach to Bluegrass & Beyond" and "Bach Re-Imagined."

All Summer Festival events are at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco.

For complete information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

"Dancing the Gods," World Music Institute's Indian Classical Dance Festival
Hailed as "among the most probing and serious" Indian classical dance festivals (DanceTabs), with "a record of attracting some truly godlike dancers" (The New York Times), the World Music Institute's annual "Dancing the Gods" festival returns for its eighth season. Audiences are offered spectacular shows, onstage slide lectures with storytelling, and chat & chai artist receptions.

Night One:
Kalanidhi Dance
Saturday, April 27, 2019
7:00 p.m. Lec-Dem by Rajika Puri: "What make an Indian dancer great?"
8:00 p.m. performance

Night Two:
Sujata Mohapatra & Musicians
Sunday, April 28, 2019
6:00 p.m. Lec-Dem by Rajika Puri: "What make an Indian dancer great?"
7:00 p.m. performance

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Ébène Quartet Closes Princeton University Concerts' 125th Anniversary
Princeton University Concerts concludes its 125th anniversary season with fan favorites, the Ébène String Quartet ("Quatuor Ébène"), on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 8PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ. The ensemble--now with new violist Marie Chilemme as the first female member in the quartet's history--will perform quartets by Beethoven and Fauré.

At 7 p.m., ticketholders are invited for an announcement and presentation of this year's winner(s) of PUC's annual Creative Reactions Contest, a writing and visual arts contest that asks Princeton University students to respond to themes on this year's series.

Tickets are $10-$55, available by phone at 609-258-9220, in person two hours prior to the concert at the Richardson Auditorium Box Office, or online at

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Eighth Blackbird Presents DISSOLVE at Steppenwolf
Four-time Grammy Award winners Eighth Blackbird, moving music forward with innovative chamber music performance, showcases its six ensemble members with DISSOLVE, an evening featuring the musicians performing in smaller subsets that highlight their playful, intimate, and spirited versatility.

DISSOLVE is part of Steppenwolf's spring LookOut series and includes the following works:
Quimbombó (2010) by Angélica Negrón
Rot Blau (2009) by 2018–19 Rome Prize winner Jessie Marino
Four Rain Beggings Songs (2017), by Welsh composer Alex Mills
Madam Bellegarde (2018), composed and performed by flutist Nathalie Joachim
Less is More (2017) by Molly Joyce
Amygdala (2015) by Blackbird Creative Lab alumna Gemma Peacocke
Dissolve, O My Heart (2011), by Chicago Symphony Orchestra Mead Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli

DISSOLVE takes place Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL.

Tickets are $35 general admission, $15 for students, available through Steppenwolf at 312-335-1650 or

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

New Century Chamber Orchestra, May 9-12
New Century Chamber Orchestra's upcoming performances "American Masters" are May 9 through 12, featuring debut appearances by the Marcus Roberts Trio. Four performances will be given around the San Francisco Bay Area in Berkeley, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Rafael.

Showcasing a variety of masterworks by American composers, New Century will share the stage with the trio in a selection of songs by George Gershwin arranged for Violin, Jazz Trio and Orchestra by Paul Bateman. Two additional Bateman arrangements are also featured including selections from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and Aaron Copland's Old American Folk Songs, with Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings completing the program.

American Masters
May 9-12, 2019
Daniel Hope, Concertmaster
Marcus Roberts Trio

Open Rehearsal
Wednesday, May 8, 10 a.m., Trinity St. Peter's Church, San Francisco

Thursday, May 9, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Friday, May 10, 2019, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, May 11, 2019, 7:30 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, May 12, 2019, 3:00 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA

For more information, visit

--Brenden Guy PR

Hola and Bonjour! IDAGIO is now available in Spanish and French
IDAGIO, the leading streaming service for classical music, is enhancing its app experience for iOS users. In addition to English and German, the app will now be available to classical music enthusiasts in French and Spanish. Mobile devices are the main source of music consumption at IDAGIO with over 80 percent of playback coming from iOS devices. The localisation of the app with additional languages is an essential step in improving the user experience for IDAGIO subscribers.

"Classical music acts as a universal language for connecting people all over the world" says Christoph Lange, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of IDAGIO, "By adding more languages to the IDAGIO apps, we make it convenient for French and Spanish speaking listeners to experience the world of classical music and be part of IDAGIO's growing global community."

IDAGIO is the leading streaming service for classical music. Crafted in Berlin by a world-class team of over 80 passionate experts in music, technology, business and design, IDAGIO offers a search tailor-made for classical music, a catalogue of over 2 million licensed tracks, and exclusive recordings and playlists – all available in CD-quality sound (FLAC). Each artist, orchestra and ensemble has a clear profile displaying albums and recorded works including filters like composer, conductor, soloists and more. IDAGIO has subscribers in over 180 countries and the app has been downloaded more than one million times worldwide.

For more information, visit

--Birgit Gehring, IDAGIO

La Jolla Music Society Announces SummerFest 2019
The La Jolla Music Society, which celebrates its 50th anniversary season this year, has announced the complete programming for its 34th SummerFest under the new musical direction of globally-renowned pianist Inon Barnatan. With its enormously varied concert offerings ranging from interdisciplinary collaborations to chamber arrangements of the orchestral canon and newly commissioned works to French Baroque, the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest carries on its tradition of world-class concert offerings, uniting a stellar roster of resident soloists, composers, ensembles, and artistic fellows in the San Diego area for the month of August.

The scope of each concert at La Jolla Music Society SummerFest 2019 encompasses meticulously designed programming, drawing from a vast range of centuries, artistic styles, and thematic ideas. This season examines the idea of transformation and the complexity of its various meanings. Delving into the multitude of settings in which artistic transformation occurs, Barnatan's programming explores this common thread through a variety of practical, historical, artistic, musical, and conceptual relationships.

Subscriptions will be available beginning Friday, April 19, 2019 at 10:00 AM.
Single tickets will be available beginning Monday, June 3, 2019 at 10:00 AM.

For complete information, visit La Jolla Music Society at

--Kirshbaum Associates

Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra Launch Artistic Partnership
Leif Ove Andsnes became the Mahler Chamber Orchestra's first Artistic Partner during the Beethoven Journey, a four-year project (2012 – 2015) which took the artists across the globe for over 70 live performances and resulted in award-winning recordings of the complete Beethoven piano concertos on Sony Classical. This spring they reunite for a second Artistic Partnership which sees the launch of a new four year project (2019 – 2022), Mozart Momentum 1785/1786, dedicated to the music of Mozart.

With Mozart Momentum 1785/1786, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Leif Ove Andsnes embark on an exploration of two especially remarkable years in the history of classical music. In 1785 and 1786, Mozart wrote a series of masterpieces reinventing the nature of the piano concerto. In this period, he began to re-examine the roles of the soloist and orchestra, thus developing aspects of communication and dialogue between the two entities in a way that had not been done before.

For more information, visit

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

University Musical Society announces 2019-20 Season
The University Musical Society (UMS, University of Michigan) announces its 141st season, which runs from September 2019 through April 2020. One of the most acclaimed and innovative performing art presenters in the nation and a 2014 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, UMS will continue to showcase time-honored ensembles and artists alongside a diverse lineup of young performers who push the boundaries of their art forms in new directions. In addition to presenting world-class performances, UMS is also committed to creating unique and engaging ways for audiences to connect with the artists on stage through a robust offering of education and community engagement activities.

"UMS's 2019-20 season was conceived with an eye toward both the familiar and the disruptive, the traditional and the uncommon, and the emotional and the provocative--sometimes even within a single work or performance," says UMS president Matthew VanBesien. "We're thrilled to present another dynamic lineup of experiences that honors our 141-year history of presenting classic works while also taking risks that surprise audiences in new and innovative ways."

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma returns to UMS in the 2019-20 season after collaborating with the organization to host a Day of Action in Flint this past February. This time, he comes to Hill Auditorium for a trio performance with pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos on Tuesday, March 3 at 7:30 pm. The all-star ensemble will perform a program of Beethoven piano trios. This special concert is not included on a UMS subscription series, but is available to 2019-20 subscribers for purchase as an add-on throughout the subscription period. Individual tickets for this performance will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, August 7.

Tickets to individual events will go on sale to the general public online, in person, and by phone on Wednesday, August 7; UMS donors of $250+ may purchase beginning Wednesday, July 24. Groups of 10 or more may reserve tickets beginning Monday, July 15. To be added to the mailing list, please contact the UMS Ticket Office at 734.764.2538 or visit UMS also has an e-mail list that provides up-to-date information about all UMS events; sign-up information is available on the Web site.

For complete information, visit

--Ann Killion, Bucklesweet

On Evaluating Audio Equipment...

2018 marked the 70th year of the high fidelity sound era. 

By Bryan Geyer

Jack Mullin with Ampex 200s, 1948
Initial public recognition swelled in early 1940 with release of the movie Fantasia, but it waned with the approach of WW II. Later, in 1946, returning veterans--notably Major Jack Mullin--brought news of the amazing German Magnetophon tape recorders. When radio celebrity Bing Crosby berated his broadcasters to upgrade their recording capability, fledgling six man Ampex Corporation answered. Then, in 1948, Columbia released the first “long play” 33.3 rpm vinyl records, and the drive to bring “hi-fi” to the home went full bore.

From that start and well into the mid-1970s, hi-fi progress was propelled by avid “seat-of-the-pants” enthusiasts who scrupulously applied Ohm’s law logic and test-and-measure diligence. Local audio clubs bubbled with chatter about circuit design. Technical paper presentations were well attended. Kit building and home-rolled DIY projects were popular. And science-based magazines like Audio, High Fidelity, Stereo Review, Popular Electronics, Radio-Electronics, and Electronics World all flourished. 

As the consumer base spread, a new breed of subjectivist reviewer gained recognition, nurtured by Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. Many of these contributors were technical neophytes, but so were their readers. The traditional need for qualified rigor withered. Science was out, ears were in, and personal perception became the arbiter of what’s good/what’s not. The feedback that has followed has been both bewildering and discordant. There are bizarre tales of $300 replacement AC line cords that instantly improve the sound from a power amplifier, and $500 speaker cables (+ $200 connector cords) that accomplish equivalent aural wonders. How can such folly ever be reconciled with good engineering practice? Is there some plausible explanation? Is this the sort of error-in-judgment that can stem from confirmation bias ( Or could this be a consequence of too much audiophile groupthink (

The origin of this dichotomy might lie here: Clearly, this 2013 study shows that visual cues convey far more impact than any audible evidence. For example, your newly purchased AC Line Regenerator box will surely make your entire audio system sound better--as long as you can see the box. In sum, your eyes will implant a more vivid and persistent impression than anything that you hear. Did those gold-on-titanium connectors and teflon coated speaker wire truly improve the sound, or did their presence just make it seem so? (Yes, all readily answered by A/B/X testing, but blind comparison trials are not popular with audiophiles.)

Aside from grossly over-compressed pop-market CDs, I’ve often wondered how any listener could possibly contend that vinyl playback was preferable to standard redbook CD sound. The audible superiority of the digital CD disc is overwhelming when compared to the archaic capability of an analog LP record. How can such obvious advantage not be instantly apparent? Well, now I know. Just viewing that massive turntable and exotic tonearm/cartridge can implant the aural memory of sounds that were never really heard. A new and convincing (and artificial) reality can emerge.

It’s important to keep this visual dominance in mind when evaluating new equipment. Apply careful technical analysis—assess both intent and execution—and then conduct your audition. But know that the audible evidence is likely to be of little merit; it will get swamped by what you’ve seen.

BG (February 2019)

Symphonic Dances (CD review)

Music of Copland, Ravel, and Stravinsky. David Bernard, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Recursive Classics RC2061415.

The first time I saw this album title, "Symphonic Dances," I thought immediately of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, but it was not to be. These are ballet suites performed by a symphonic chamber orchestra: Copland's Appalachian Spring, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, and Stravinsky's Firebird. Good enough, especially when they're played by Maestro David Bernard and his Park Avenue Chamber Symphony.

As you may remember, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, formed in 1999, includes mainly players who do other things for a living (like being hedge-fund managers, philanthropists, CEO's, movie magnates, UN officials, and so on). They're not exactly amateurs, but they're not full-time, paid musicians, either. Fortunately, their playing dispels any doubts about the quality of their work; everyone involved with the orchestra deserves praise. Nor is the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony a particularly small group; it's about the size of a full symphony orchestra. The main thing is they play very, very well.

First up on their program is the suite from Appalachian Spring by American composer, writer, teacher, and conductor Aaron Copland (1900-1990). He premiered his ballet in 1944, and the following year it won a Pulitzer Prize in Music. The Suite is in eight parts, telling the story of American pioneers of the 1800s celebrating after building a new Pennsylvania farmhouse. Among the central characters are a bride, a groom, a pioneer woman, a preacher, and his congregation.

As always, the Park Avenue players are well up the task, performing like the best purely professional orchestras. They always seem to demonstrate a stylish precision. Moreover, Maestro Bernard leads with a deft hand. He's sensitive when necessary, as in the beginning of the Copland piece and in interludes throughout, and he knows how to handle the biggest climaxes and most energetic themes. When "Simple Gifts" arrives, we expect it to be something special, and it is. Bernard and his team avoid sentimentality and play it with joy and love.

David Bernard
Second up is the Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe, premiered in 1912 by French composer, pianist, and conductor Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Ravel described it as a "symphonie chorégraphique" (a choreographic symphony). He based the music on Greek myth, although one really doesn't have to follow the story line to appreciate Ravel's profusely impressionist music.

Bernard ensures that Ravel's score exudes the proper fairy-tale magic and mysticism it deserves. The textures are always lush and luminous, the story unfolding at a steady but not insistent pace. When the excitement develops, it, too, is properly judged--not too indulgent, not too overdone, yet with conviction and sprightly animation.

The final item on the program is The Firebird Suite by the Russian-born composer, pianist, and conductor Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). The Firebird was the first (1910) of three acclaimed ballets Stravinsky produced in an astonishingly short time, with Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913) following closely He based The Firebird on various Russian folk tales he'd read concerning a magical bird that could either help or harm those who captured him. The story itself is an adventure involving a young prince, a group of lovely young maidens, an inevitable love interest, an argument, and the conflict we would expect, with a final resolution courtesy of the bird. It's all very exotic, colorful, warmhearted, and exciting.

Maestro Bernard and the Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra do Stravinsky justice. This is music that, as the booklet observes, should "take the listener by storm." Under Bernard's direction, it does. Yet, again, it isn't a totally bombastic storm. It's a gentle storm when necessary, an alternation of calm and turbulence. It comes out one of the most satisfying Firebird Suites I've heard, and makes me wish Bernard had done (or will do) the complete score.

My only gripe is really a mere quibble: Although Recursive Classics provide plenty of tracks, one for each movement of each work, they don't provide actual track numbers anywhere, nor do they provide timings for each selection. It's a curious oversight.

Audio engineers Joseph Patrych, Antonio Oliart, and Joel Watts recorded the music at DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York City in January 2017 and Good Shepard-Faith Presbyterian Church, NYC in February 2018. The sound is clear and clean, with a nice ambient bloom. It's also quite dynamic, with strong impact, which further adds to the realism (just listen to that "Danse Infernale"). The tonal balance seems ideal as well, with good bass and treble extension, and there's a fair sense of depth and space to the soundstage. Nothing to complain about here.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 13, 2019

The English Concert and Princeton Glee Club Present Bach's St. John Passion

Friday, April 19 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton Univeristy, NJ.

On Friday, April 19, 2019 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, the Princeton University Glee Club presents their annual Walter L. Nollner memorial concert, joining internationally renowned early music specialists -- The English Concert baroque orchestra and renowned tenor James Taylor as the Evangelist -- to bring Bach's beloved oratorio to life. Taylor recently made his New York Philharmonic debut in this role with conductor Kurt Masur, bringing a "sweet, light yet penetrating voice to the role of the Evangelist" (The New York Times). Glee Club Director Gabriel Crouch conducts.

Tickets are only $15 general/$5 students, available at, 609-258-9220, and at the Princeton University campus box offices.

For further information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

New York Festival of Song Offers Musical Portrait of Spanish Poet Federico Garcia Lorca
New York Festival of Song's co-founder, pianist and host Steven Blier, whose knowledge and passion for Spanish music is well known, has assembled a program that paints a fascinating portrait of the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca through songs by an international roster of composers.

Blier divides the program into six sections: Lorca in Andalucía, with three folk songs arranged by the writer himself, who studied music in his youth; Children's Songs, with works by Mompou, Montsalvage, and Abril; Manuel de Falla, an early mentor for Lorca; Coming out, with songs by Bañuelas and Ohana; The spirit of 'cante jondo' ("deep song" in Andalusian Spanish), the most serious and deeply moving variety of flamenco; and Across the Atlantic, which features songs by Americans who set Lorca's poetry, including Paul Bowles, Billy Strayhorn, Leonard Cohen, and Cuban songwriter Ana Belén.

The brilliant American soprano Corinne Winters and Mexican-American baritone Efraín Solís are the featured soloists.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
129 West 67th Street, NYC

$20-$62 from the Merkin Box Office, 212-501-3330, or

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Festival Mozaic's 49th Annual Summer Music Festival Explores World Music Origins
Music lovers can hear legendary music performed at 30 different events in 19 scenic venues all over picturesque San Luis Obispo County during Festival Mozaic's 49th Summer Music Festival season.

This summer, July 24-August 4, 2019, violinist and Festival Mozaic music director Scott Yoo will lead more than 50 talented musicians. These brilliant artists are gathered from top orchestras and chamber ensembles all over the United States and abroad. "I'm so excited to be presenting this music in festive and intimate performances in beautiful venues throughout SLO County," says Yoo.

Individual tickets are on sale April 8th. Tickets may be ordered by calling (805) 781-3009 / (877) 881-8899 or online at

--David George, Festival Mosaic

Moab Music Festival 27th Season
The sensual rhythms of South America and harmonies of 1920s Paris take the stage along with the ruggedly stunning desert of southeast Utah and the world-class artists of the Moab Music Festival (MMF).

Music in concert with the landscapeTM comes to life from August 26 - September 12, 2019 when patrons will experience performances set in a variety of spectacular outdoor venues along the Colorado River, in the charming and historic Star Hall, local ranches, on musical hikes, rafting adventures, and in intimate gatherings and salons, all surrounded by the majestic sky, the Colorado River, and blazing red rock cliffs - the quintessential backdrop for the musical ride of a lifetime. Performances celebrate the wildly diverse and unifying spirit of music-making found all over the globe and throughout history with a dazzling inaugural Cabaret evening, South American inspired programs, explorations of the "taboo" musical compositions that transformed Paris in the early 20th century, and a poignant look at war through the eyes and ears of Stravinsky.

For complete information about the Festival or to purchase tickets for the 27th Annual Moab Music Festival, you may also visit the Festival Office at 58 East 300 South, Moab, UT 84532; or telephone the Box Office at (435) 259-7003; or visit the Web site at

--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company

Montreal Chamber Music Festival 2019
Welcome to the 2019 Season of The Montreal Chamber Music Festival, June 7-16, where our theme for the next three seasons is Beethoven Chez Nous.

Highlights include:
A special opening night event with the phenomenal Gregory Charles.
Beethoven's complete violin sonatas featuring 2019 Grammy winner James Ehnes.
Beethoven's complete symphonies transcribed for solo piano by Franz Liszt.
Five free noon-hour concerts: BMO Hottest Classical Artists Under 30!
Two evening oncerts featuring Metropolitan Opera Star Joseph Kaiser, the Danel Quartet, and more.

Watch our season announcement video here:

--Shira Gilbert PR

Over 1,000 Student Singers to Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Annual High School Choir
The celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Annual High School Choir Festival will be so joyous, it cannot be contained within the walls of Walt Disney Concert Hall! As part of the celebratory Festival Day on Friday, May 3, over 1,000 student singers will give a pop-up performance outdoors on the main staircase of Disney Hall on Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA at 11:30 AM. Internationally renowned choral conductor and composer Eric Whitacre, who is the 2019 Festival's guest artist, will lead the students in a performance of Pentatonix's Sing, arranged for the Master Chorale by Ben Bram and Pentatonix.

The main event on Festival Day is the Festival concert performed by the students at 1 PM conducted by Grant Gershon, the Master Chorale's Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, and Whitacre, the Master Chorale's Swan Family Artist-in-Residence. The program for this year's concert includes Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, works by contemporary choral composers Abbie Betinis, Sydney Guillaume, and Rosephanye Powell, and the 17th century hymn Hanacpachap cussicuinin by Juan Pérez Bocanegra. In addition to the pop-up performance of Sing, Whitacre will conduct performances of his own compositions, "Cloudburst" and "Fly to Paradise." The Festival concert grand finale will be a performance of "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers.

Friday, May 3, 2019; 11 AM - 3 PM
Los Angeles Master Chorale Chamber Ensemble performance at 11 AM
Pop-up outdoor performance by students at 11:30 AM
High School Choir Festival performance by students at 1 PM

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA

Open to the public; free entry. Limited advance ticket reservations available at starting April 8.

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angeles Master Chorale

NYOA Announces the NY Opera Fest Kickoff Party
The New York Opera Alliance (NYOA) will launch their fourth annual New York Opera Fest at a Kickoff Party on Monday, April 29th with a performance and celebration at Marc A. Scorca Hall in the National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Ave at 29th St., NYC. The kickoff will feature performances by the little OPERA theatre of ny, Hunter Opera Theater, City Lyric Opera, Divaria Productions, Regina Opera Company, Rhymes With Opera, and Vertical Players Repertory.

The event will honor Ira Siff for his indelible impact as a performer, commentator, director, teacher, and artistic director of La Gran Scena. Conceived and launched in 1981, La Gran Scena featured Ira Siff assuming the identity of Mme. Vera Galupe-Borszkh, prima donna of La Gran Scena Opera Company. Through its acclaimed combination of affectionate, knowledgeable spoof and musical excellence, La Gran Scena broadened the ways in which opera is perceived, making it  closely aligned with the goal of the New York Opera Alliance to showcase the breadth and diversity of opera.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Pavarotti - A Film By Ron Howard
From the filmmaking team behind the highly-acclaimed documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years, Pavarotti is a riveting film that lifts the curtain on the icon who brought opera to the people. Academy Award winning director Ron Howard puts audiences front row center for an exploration of The Voice...The Man...The Legend. Luciano Pavarotti gave his life to the music and a voice to the world. This cinematic event features history-making performances and intimate interviews, including never-before-seen footage and cutting-edge Dolby Atmos technology.

CBS Films will release Pavarotti in select theaters June 7, 2019.

Watch the official trailer here:

--Julia Casey, Universal Music Group

Outhere Music Group and IDAGIO Announce Partnership
IDAGIO, the leading streaming service for classical music, is partnering with Outhere Music, making all of the recording group's back catalogue and new releases available to classical music fans globally. The agreement, which encompasses recordings from renowned labels such as Alpha, Phi, Aeon and Ricercar, is the latest addition to the offering of the classical music specialist streaming service. As an additional aspect of the partnership, IDAGIO will feature exclusive playlists curated by Outhere Music and its artists, and will work closely with the recording group on additional initiatives such as video productions to provide the most engaging classical listening experience possible for IDAGIO subscribers.

IDAGIO has licensing agreements with over 1,000 labels and rights holders, making more than 2 million tracks available to its global subscriber base.

Birgit Gehring, IDAGIO

Tickets Now on Sale for the NYC Return of As One
Since its 2014 Brooklyn premiere by American Opera Projects, As One has become the most performed opera in the U.S. and Canada written in the 21st century. American Opera Projects and New York City Opera, and Kaufman Music Center are proud to bring As One back to New York in a new production with that joins the citywide celebrations that mark the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and a half-century of LGBTQ+ liberation.

In As One, two voices share the role of the sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, in this moving and often funny story that follows her journey to self truth. With empathy and humor, As One traces Hannah's experiences from her youth in a small town to her college years on the West Coast, and finally to Norway where she is surprised at what she learns about herself.

May 30 - June 8 at 8:00 pm
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
129 W 67th St New York, NY 10036
Tickets: $30 - $95

Information and tickets:

--American Opera Projects

Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla Becomes First Female Conductor to Sign Long-Term Exclusively to DG
Young maestro Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla makes history as she signs to Deutsche Grammophon – home to legendary conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Karl Böhm, Pierre Boulez and Carlos Kleiber. The Lithuanian musician, who is the Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, becomes the first female conductor to sign an exclusive long-term contract with the label.

Gražinyte-Tyla will release her debut album on May 3--a collection of orchestral works by Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose centenary falls this year. She conducts the combined forces of the CBSO, Kremerata Baltica and violinist Gidon Kremer in Symphony No. 21 "Kaddish" – a major work completed in 1991 and dedicated to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. She also directs Kremerata Baltica in the early Symphony No. 2.

Gražinyte-Tyla will go on to present music by her compatriot Raminta Šerkšnyte with the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Vilnius Municipal Choir and Kremerata Baltica, a project she will follow up with an album of works by British composers with the CBSO as the orchestra celebrates its centenary.

--Samantha Sklar, Universal Music

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Concludes the Season
Salon/Sanctuary Concerts presents selections from I Sacri Musicali Affetti (Opus 5, 1655 Venice) by Barbara Strozzi in honor of the 400th anniversay of her birth.

Friday, May 10th 8:00pm
The Church of St. Francis Xavier
46 West 16th Street
New York City, NY

Jessica Gould, soprano & Elena Biscuola, mezzo-soprano
Catherine Liddell & Paula Chateauneuf, theorbos
Christa Patton, baroque harp
Katie Rietman, baroque cello
Caitlyn Koester, harpsichord

$25 senior/student
$35 general
$50 prime
$100 front row season supporter

To purchase tickets, call 1 888 718-4253 or visit

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Robert Trevino Leaves Basque Audiences Guessing
Announcing his third season as Chief Conductor of the Basque National Orchestra, fast-rising American maestro Robert Trevino revealed a fascinating, multi-year initiative inspired by a great historical event - and with a twist. The three-year Elkano Project will start with a concert where the audience will be almost entirely in the dark about what it is they are about to hear.

Why? Five hundred years ago, the Basque explorer Juan Sebastián Elkano set off on a three-year voyage that would see him lead the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe (on his return, Charles I of Spain presented him with a coat of arms featuring a globe, on which was written "Primus circumdedisti me" - 'you were the first to go around me'). Marking this momentous voyage, Robert Trevino leads his orchestra on its own epic (if less dangerous!) journey.

For more information about the 2019/2020 Basque National Orchestra season, visit

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Announces Free Summer Events for 2019
Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, the longest-running series of its type in the world, announces its 114th season of free summer concerts, running from June 18 to August 6, 2019. This season's concerts will take place indoors at Temple Emanu-El as the iconic Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, NYC, undergoes necessary repairs.

Summer 2019's slate of chamber orchestras includes the return of New York-based ensembles The Knights, Orchestra of St. Luke's and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, as well as Boston-based A Far Cry. Making its series debut is the Venice Baroque Orchestra, which gives frequent modern-day premieres of forgotten masterpieces from the past on period instruments. Find full program information for all five ensembles below.

"As the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts enters its 114th season, we are especially grateful for this new partnership with Temple Emanu-El," said Christopher London, President of the Board of Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. "They have helped us ensure that there will be no disruption to our series of free concerts of top-tier classical ensembles while the Naumburg Bandshell undergoes renovation. We hope that our longstanding audience members, as well as new attendees, will enthusiastically embrace this new location and its stellar acoustics for the summer of 2019."

All concerts will take place at 7 PM at Temple Emanu-El's Streicker Center (Fifth Avenue at 65th Street, New York, NY 10065). Tickets are free but reservations are required. Call 212-501-7809 for more information or visit

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

New Century Presents The Marcus Roberts Trio
Music Director Daniel Hope and New Century Chamber Orchestra conclude the 2018-2019 season with a debut appearance by jazz legends the Marcus Roberts Trio, May 9-12.

Showcasing a variety of masterworks by American composers, New Century will share the stage with the trio in a selection of songs by George Gershwin arranged for violin, jazz trio, and orchestra by Paul Bateman. Two additional Bateman arrangements are also featured, including selections from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and Aaron Copland's Old American Folks Songs, with Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings completing the program.

This program will be presented as part of New Century's subscription series on four evenings in different locations around the Bay Area: Thursday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA; Friday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA; Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music; and Sunday, May 12 at 3 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA. New Century offers an Open Rehearsal Wednesday, May 8 at 10 a.m., Trinity St. Peter's Church, San Francisco with free admission.

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

--Brenden Guy PR

Moeran: Symphony in G minor (CD Review)

Also, Sinfonietta. David Lloyd-Jones, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.555837.

By Karl W. Nehring

Anyone who has bothered to take a look at my photo (which was taken a few years back, by the way) has no doubt surmised that I am not a fellow still in the bloom of youth. When it comes to recordings, I sometimes find myself searching my memory to try to recall whether I have once owned this or that symphony or whatever--and yes, I have occasionally brought home an interesting-looking CD only to discover that I already had a copy of it gathering dust on a shelf or in some pile stacked up somewhere in my terminally messy listening room. In the case of this Naxos recording of the Moeran Symphony in G minor, however, I knew for certain that I did not have a duplicate CD tucked away somewhere.

What I remembered was that way back in the day (late 70s/early 80s, when I was in grad school) I once owned an LP version of the Moeran Symphony in G minor and that I had liked it.  I believe the record label was Lyrita, although I probably had a Musical Heritage Society version (plain white covers – remember those?) rather than the original Lyrita--I just cannot remember after all this time. I do recall that the disc-mate was the same as on this Naxos release, Moeran's Sinfonietta, which means I must have had the version recorded by Sir Adrian Boult. Over the intervening years, I had never picked up a CD version of the Moeran, but for whatever reason, one day a short while back I suddenly found myself remembering that I had enjoyed the work and deciding to look into picking it up on CD. Further disclosure: I could not even really remember what I had liked about the symphony. I recalled that it was British, that it was pleasant, and that I had not heard it in ages. I seemed to recall that it was rather slow, quiet, dreamy music, and that I had also enjoyed the Sinfonietta, although I could not recall anything about it. When I logged into Amazon and found a used copy of this Lloyd-Jones CD recording available for $0.86, I of course immediately placed my order.

David Lloyd-Jones
My first surprise was that the Symphony in G minor is neither really slow, nor quiet, nor what I would describe as dreamy. No, it is an energetic work, pulsing with tuneful phrases and insistent rhythms. The opening movement is lively and playful, outgoing, yet reflective. Moeran was interested in folk tunes, and you can sense that as you listen to this lively Allegro. The second movement, marked Lento, is more brooding, although "brooding" may be a misleading term. This is not Shostakovich-like anguish, it is more like the brooding sighs of someone who is weary after a long hike in nature, someone reflecting on the beauty he or she has seen, but also recalling the evidences of death and decay found along the way. The third movement, marked Vivace, seems to have been influenced by the music of Sibelius--not that there is anything wrong with that. It is lively, spirited--but there are still moments of reflection and wonder. The final movement, marked Lento – Allegro Molto, begins in reflection but gather steam as it moves along, finally ending with assertive chords that bring back memories of the ending of the Sibelius Fifth without sounding plagiaristic. I humbly admit my brief sketch of this work is not very illuminating, but I must say that if you are a fan of the symphonies of Vaughan Williams, then you will probably really enjoy this symphony by Moeran. It is a gem.

The Sinfonietta is also well worth a listen. Playful and exuberant, it is arranged rather unusually: a theme and six variations are sandwiched between an opening Allegro con brio and a closing Allegro risoluto. Once again, the music is by turns playful and introspective, but always colorful and tuneful.

The recorded sound captured by the eminently reliable engineer Mike Hatch is well-balanced and enjoyable. There is no sense of this being a sonic spectacular, just a well-recorded session of some truly enjoyable orchestral music.


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

Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 "Organ" (CD review)

Also, Trois tableaux symphoniques d-apres La foi; Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila. Thierry Fischer, Utah Symphony. Hyperion CDA68201.

This disc looked pretty promising when it arrived for review. The "Organ" Symphony is always a crowd pleaser; in my experience Hyperion produces good-sounding recordings; and I had heard good things about Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer's previous work with Saint-Saens. So it was a little disappointing that I wasn't entirely knocked out by Hyperion's live sound or by Maestro Fischer's somewhat reserved reading of so flamboyant a score.

Let's get to the main subject first, the Symphony No. 3 in C-minor, Op. 78, written in 1886 by French composer, organist, pianist, and conductor Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). It's no doubt the most-popular thing Saint-Saens ever wrote and to this day remains one of the most popular pieces of classical music of any kind.

Saint-Saëns called the work "a symphony with organ," and remarked, "I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again." Apparently he knew what he was talking about because even though he lived another thirty-five years, he never wrote another symphony, organ or otherwise.

The composer divides the work into two major parts, with two divisions in each part. It's an odd arrangement but essentially works out to a conventional four-movement symphony. The first movement has always seemed to me the least distinguished, the least characterful, but Maestro Fischer and the Utah Symphony do their best to make it seem as purposeful as possible. Nevertheless, it still comes off a bit mundane compared to the rest of the work. For his part, Fischer increases the tempo and dynamic contrasts as he goes along and builds a decent head of steam by the end of it.

Thierry Fischer
The second movement Adagio always reminds me of great, warm, soft waves flowing over and around one's body on a sunny, tropical beach. Here's where the organ (Paul Jacobs, organist) makes its first entry, coming in with what are usually huge, gentle, undulating washes of sound. Fischer makes it warm and gentle enough, to be sure, he's a most-sensitive conductor, but I didn't think the organ carried the weight it could have to make much of an impression. Plus, Fischer's relaxed pace may be too slow for a lot of listeners. It's one thing to be sensitive and another to be lax.

The two movements that comprise the finale should be fiery and exhilarating, if not a little bombastic, with the organ blazing the trail. Here, Fischer comes to life, yet without exaggerating the music. Those folks who think Saint-Saens overdid himself in the final passages may appreciate Fischer's calmer demeanor in taming and refining the score. Then, too, the organ finally makes its presence known (what with its going into hiding in the recording's second movement). That being said, I wasn't exactly thrilled or inspired by Fischer's performance as I have been by conductors like Louis Fremaux, Charles Munch, or Jean Martinon. Fischer is a little too overly refined, too sedate, too serious for my taste.

Accompanying the symphony are a couple of other items by Saint-Saens, and they actually precede the main course. They are Trois tableaux symphonique d'apres La foi ("Three symphonic scenes from The Faith") and the Bacchanale from the Samson et Dalila. The first of these, the "Scenes," the composer took from his incidental music to the play The Faith, although one should not take them as literally describing any specific action from the play. Whatever, I enjoyed these "Scenes" best of all on the program because Fischer's natural sensitivity seems perfectly suited to their content, and I also admired the exotic color Fischer effected in the Bacchanale.

Producer and engineer Tim Handley recorded the music live at Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah in December 2017. The audience is either unusually silent or the engineer carefully removed all evidence of audience noise, including applause, so the sound doesn't suffer much from people's presence. There is, however, a degree of smooth roundness to the sound that may have something to do with noise reduction; I don't know. Audio levels are on the low side, perhaps to accommodate the wide dynamics. Still, the actual dynamic impact seems a tad muted except in the Bacchanale. Depth perception is good; detailing is fine without being harsh or steely; orchestral hall bloom is moderate at best; and bass, while slightly limited, is at least adequate. The whole thing, though, appears more than a bit soft and veiled, again maybe to reduce the effects of the audience's presence.


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 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.

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.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to both its equipment and recordings 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 they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, 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.
The reader will find Classical Candor's Mission Statement, Staff Profiles, and contact information ( toward the bottom of each page.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Writer

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. 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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet DAC/preamp/crossover, Tandberg 2016A and Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

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

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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