On Power Amplifier DC Offset…

By Bryan Geyer

Heads up, please!  It’s time to consider an important power amplifier parameter that a great many audiophiles overlook. It’s known as DC offset, and it has direct bearing on the dynamic range capability of your low frequency loudspeakers.

Fluke 87V Multimeter
When a high quality audio power amplifier is in a quiescent state (operational, but no input signal), its output terminals will normally measure nearly zero AC and zero DC volts. A tiny residual AC voltage (some ~ 40-80 microvolts) will reflect the sum of the internal noise generated within the power amplifier. And a small residual DC voltage (generally on the order of ~ 2 to 15 millivolts DC) will represent the amplifier’s implicit output imbalance; a.k.a. its DC offset. (In the case of vacuum tube power amplifiers there’s no DC voltage present because the output is normally isolated by a transformer. Similar DC isolation applies if the power amp is coupled to the load through a capacitor, an archaic compromise that’s taboo in modern hi-end power amps.)

The loudspeaker system connects directly to the power amplifier, so any offset that’s present at the amplifier output will also appear at the inputs of the speaker system’s passive crossover network, and then feed directly to the DC-coupled low frequency woofer. Higher bandpass speakers will be DC-isolated by the network’s coupling capacitors; it’s only the woofers that will see the DC offset.

When quiescent, the woofer rests in the neutral middle of its magnetic field. Optimally, the cone is not displaced—forward or backward—from that mid-point rest position until it sees an input signal. Of course, the presence of any DC bias will slightly offset that ideal mid-point rest position, and this shift could potentially impact the cone’s full range of linear excursion. If the offset is very slight, that impact will be entirely negligible. As offset increases, its influence can become significant. Any major offset (e.g. ~ 100-200mVdc) could measurably (audibly?) degrade the woofer’s dynamic range.

It’s commonly promulgated that some small (~ 10 or 20mVdc) offset is both harmless and inevitable. Since DC offset will increase as operating temperature rises, it becomes more difficult to hold offset within desirable limits in the case of class A (or partial class A) power amplifiers. They operate at higher chassis temperatures than class A/B amplifiers, so owners of class A (or pseudo-class A) power amplifiers should be especially vigilant. DC offset is a very easy measurement to monitor, and accurate DC millivolt reading multimeters are readily available. (Select a meter with input impedance ≥ 10MΩ that can read 600mVdc full scale, with 0.1mVdc resolution. Fluke’s products are highly recommended. Here is an excellent hi-end model: https://www.myflukestore.com/product/fluke-87-5-industrial-multimeter)

Modern solid-state hi-end power amplifiers typically apply symmetrical input stage circuitry using complimentary bipolar, Jfet, or MOSfet discreet devices that are carefully matched to minimize potential DC offset. It’s especially critical to minimize this imbalance at the input stage because, in a DC-coupled amplifier, that offset will then be magnified by the voltage gain (generally +23dB to +29dB) of the product. As a result, it’s only reasonable to tolerate some modest (e.g. ~20mVdc) output offset, and one supplier (Pass) of partial class A power amplifiers specifies a 50mVdc maximum offset limit for their respected “Point 8” series (e.g. X250.8) of pseudo-class A power amplifiers.

Many makers don’t disclose any DC offset specification, although they might maintain an internal screening limit that’s never published (hence not guaranteed), so some snooping could prove helpful. The company’s Service Department can sometimes be a good place to start when it’s a domestic operation. In some cases (e.g. Parasound Products Inc., of San Francisco), the company president, Richard Schram, is both technically savvy and personally accessible. I like that kind of company!

My recommendation is that you personally measure your power amplifier’s DC offset. Know what the offset is at moderate operating temperatures, in normal use, and know what happens to DC offset after you’ve pushed your power amplifier through a heavy listening session. If you are in the course of considering the purchase of a new power amplifier, research the DC offset specification. If it’s not published, contact the maker; seek reliable information. High quality audio power amplifiers with negligible DC offset are readily available, as are identical models with excessive DC offset. It’s up to you to discern (and reject) the lemons*. Leave the latter for the lazy buyers—the audiophiles that always evaluate everything exclusively by listening.

BG (October 23, 2019)

*Moderate DC offset, e.g. ~ 50-150mVdc, is extremely difficult to diagnose by ear. Imbalance of that nature becomes apparent only when the amplifier is approaching full output, a condition that invites other sundry (and more likely) imperfections. Those issues will normally mask the subtle evidence of moderate offset error, so aural screening—even for those who profess exceptional sensitivity—will probably prove ineffective. To be more precise, measure the DC offset.

Haydn: String Quartets, Opp. 71 & 74 (CD review)

The London Haydn Quartet. Hyperion CDA68230 (2-disc set)

Let me begin with a story, and I apologize that I've told it before. If you recognize it, you may safely skip to the third paragraph.

OK, I've always loved album covers. Especially classical covers that put me in a mind of the recorded music. A good illustration of this is a Philips album I bought many years ago on LP. It was the augmented Beaux Arts Trio doing Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. The bucolic cover painting showed an old mill and waterwheel on a stream in the country. It was lovely, and I enjoyed gazing at it while listening to Schubert's music. But when Philips issued the recording on CD some years later, they changed covers, giving it a mundane, almost nondescript booklet picture. Likewise happened when Pentatone released it on SACD. So what I did was go on-line and find a picture of the original LP cover, which I saved, resized, sharpened, and color corrected. Printed out on glossy photo paper, it looks beautiful, and slipped in front of the SACD booklet, I can again enjoy the pleasures of a day in the country while listening to the music.

Of course, it takes more than a pretty cover to sell me on a record album. Certainly, the music counts for a lot, the musicians, their performance, and the sound of the recording. All of which this Haydn album has going for it. The performers, the London Haydn Quartet, are superb. Their playing of the string quartets is above reproach. The Hyperion sound is about as good as it gets. And the cover painting, "The Naval Dockyard at Depford" by Samuel Scott (c1702-1772), puts one in mind of Haydn's environs at the time he wrote the music and, yes, contributes to my enjoyment of it.

The players, as I say, are the London Haydn Quartet, comprised of Catherine Manson, violin; Michael Gurevich, violin; John Crockatt, viola; and Jonathan Manson, cello. Founded in 2000, the players perform on period instruments, and their release of the present two-disc album is a part of their complete Haydn quartet recordings for the Hyperion label.

The material embraces the Opuses 71 and 74 string quartets, the so-called Apponyi quartets because Haydn publicly dedicated them to Count Anton Georg Apponyi (for a price). They are sometimes called the "London" quartets, too, owing to Haydn's having composed them for London premieres. Each opus contains three quartets of about twenty-five minutes each. Haydn wrote them in 1793, and in addition to being referred to as Op. 71, Nos. 1-3 and Op. 74, Nos. 1-3, they are also simply numbered Nos. 54-59.

London Haydn Quartet
Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) didn't invent the symphony or the string quartet, but he refined and popularized the genres. Not only did he write 106 symphonies, earning him the nickname "Father of the Symphony," he wrote some 70 string quartets, making it fair to call him the "Father of the Quartet" as well.

Anyway, the quartets themselves are a delight, as we would expect from a genius like Haydn in his late middle period. So, what about the playing? It's obviously a historically informed performance, coming at us on period instruments. However, it is not one of those hell-bent-for-leather affairs that leave our sensibilities in the dust. The interpretations are completely charming, carefully judged, well paced, and judiciously measured. Nothing is too fast or too slow; there are no exaggerated contrasts or prolonged pauses. The fast movements are temperate and mostly joyous rather than helter-skelter. The slow movements are lovely, reflective, contemplative, without ever dragging. This is music-making to be appreciated and savored rather than admired solely for its virtuosity.

And the playing is immaculate and, yes, virtuosic.

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this album. Some two-and-a-half hours of music went by before I knew it, and I enjoyed every minute. Each succeeding quartet seems better than the last, culminating in perhaps my favorite, Op. 74, No. 3.

As an aside, I also enjoyed a booklet note informing us that Haydn included a loud introductory gesture at the beginning of each quartet, intended to let the audience know the music was starting and to quiet down. It appears people never change.

Producer and engineer Philip Hobbs and editor Julia Thomas made the recording at Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England in October 2018. How good is the recording? It's the proverbially reach-out-and-touch-it good. Clean. Clear. Close but not objectionably so. Smooth. Radiantly atmospheric, with lifelike imaging and a realistic separation of instruments. It's about as good as a chamber ensemble can sound without their being live in your living room.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 26, 2019

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Brings Family Program to Princeton University Concerts

Princeton University Concerts' annual family concert for kids ages 6–12 returns to the Richardson Auditorium stage, Princeton, New Jersey, on Saturday, November 2, 2019 at 1PM.

This year's "Meet the Music" program, features musicians from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with their host, composer Bruce Adolphe. The program, "Oceanophony," will plunge kids into an ocean of music and poetry to meet the sarcastic fringehead fish, an expanding pufferfish, a stoplight parrotfish, a love-struck seahorse, and eight-part fugal octopus, and more! Kids will be introduced to the joys of live chamber music through music by Bruce Adolphe and poems by Kate Light. Musicians from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center include pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner, violinist Alice Ivy-Pemberton, cellist Estelle Choi, double bassist Xavier Foley, flutist Sooyun Kim, clarinetist Romie De Guise-Langlois, bassoonist Brad Balliett, and percussionist Victor Caccese.

Tickets for Princeton University Concerts' family programs go quickly, and are only $5 kids/$10
adults available at princetonuniversityconcerts.org, or by calling 609-258-9220.

--Kerry Heimann, Princeton University Concerts

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Juilliard415 Join Forces for a Historically Informed Jam Session, November 10
PBO and The Juilliard School's renowned period instrument ensemble present a program of Baroque heavy hitters, including Bach, Vivaldi, and Rameau.

To nurture the next generation of historically informed performance, Philharmonia and The Juilliard School's Historical Performance program will collaborate for the third time to bring the star students of Juilliard415, the school's acclaimed period-instrument ensemble, to practice and perform alongside PBO's seasoned professionals. Annual residencies include masterclasses, coaching, and a culminating side-by-side showcase of PBO mentors and J415 students.

On November 10 at the ODC Theater in San Francisco, musicians from J415 and the Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players present a bi-coastal celebration of historically informed performance, with works by Bach, Vivaldi, and Rameau. With the growing popularity of historical performance practice among conservatory students, Philharmonia and The Juilliard School's Historical Performance program launched a long-term collaboration in 2016.

Several musicians who perform with Philharmonia are also on faculty at Juilliard, including oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz, violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and cellist Phoebe Carrai. Richard Egarr, Philharmonia's Music Director Designate, has also been on faculty for the past seven years. The Juilliard Historical Performance program celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2019-2020-season/j415-baroque-bouquet/

--Stephanie Li, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

New Century Artist-in-Residence Simone Dinnerstein Leads Bach
New Century Chamber Orchestra continues its 2019-2020 season with the return of pianist Simone Dinnerstein, November 7-10, in venues across the San Francisco Bay Area.

Making her first appearance as artist-in-residence, Dinnerstein will lead the Orchestra from the piano with a program of keyboard concerti by J.S. Bach. Highlighted works include the composer's popular Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, BWV 1050, featuring New Century principal second violinist Candace Guirao and flutist Christina Jennings, Keyboard Concerti in E Major, BWV 1053, F minor, BWV 1056 and D minor, BWV 1052 as well as the Bach-Busoni chorale prelude for piano "Ich ruf zu dir."

The program will be performed on four different occasions throughout the SF Bay Area: Thursday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, November 8 at 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; Saturday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theater, San Francisco; and Sunday, November 10 at 3 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael. This season, New Century will offer free admission to its popular Open Rehearsal at 10 AM on Wednesday, November 6 at Trinity & St. Peter's Church, San Francisco.

For more information, visit www.ncco.org

--Brenden Guy Media

Grammy Winner Sharon Isbin Honored with 2020 Musical America Instrumentalist of the Year Award
Musical America announced the annual coveted Musical America Awards today which recognizes each year's stellar performers including multiple Grammy Award winner Sharon Isbin who will be honored with the 2020 Instrumentalist of the Year Award, the first guitarist ever to receive the award in its 59 year history.

Other awardees include Festival of the Year,  Salzburg Festival, Composer of the Year, Joan Tower, Vocalist of the Year, Peter Mattei, and Ensemble of the Year, the Danish String Quartet. Representing the pinnacle of artistic achievement, previous winners include Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Horowitz, Beverly Sills, George Balanchine, Arthur Rubinstein, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Marilyn Horne, Andre Previn and Yo-Yo Ma. The ceremony will take place at Carnegie Hall in December.

For more information, visit www.sharonisbin.com

--Genevieve Spielberg Inc.

Inuit Singer Lydia Etok Joins Oktoecho as the Artistic Co-Director for Its Aboriginal Projects
Lydia Etok joins Oktoécho as the artistic co-director of its aboriginal division. Oktoécho guides the listener into a sonic world brimming with hope found in the exceptional encounter between Middle Eastern, North American Aboriginal, and the Western musical expressions. Under the artistic direction of composer Katia Makdissi-Warren, Oktoécho explores a musical landscape and musical sounds through original compositions. Oktoécho has collaborated with renowned artists from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq, Austria, Syria, and Argentina, as well as famed Montreal chamber orchestra I Musici.

Lydia Etok is an exceptional Inuit throat singer and a remarkably versatile artist. Hailing from a family of storytellers, her Inuit tales and legends are told in Inuktitut, French and English. "I am delighted to share my culture with respect and in the tradition of my ancestors," she says.

For more information, visit https://www.oktoecho.com/about

--France Gaignard

ASPECT Chamber Music Series Presents "Haunted Minds"
The ASPECT Chamber Music Series continues its fourth New York City season of illuminating performances with "Haunted Minds" on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 7:30pm at the Italian Academy of Columbia University, NYC. The concert features the Ariel Quartet in Bartók's String Quartet No. 1 and Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8.

Musicologist Nicholas Chong gives an illustrated talk about how both Bartók and Shostakovich not only survived traumatic experiences, but transformed them into music of inspirational nature. Profoundly hurt when rejected by violinist Stefi Geyer, Bartók turned inwards, weaving music from a 'Stefi' motif that passes from grief to energetic folk-inspired resolution. Half a century later, guilt-ridden at having been pressured into joining the Communist Party, Shostakovich wrote his Eighth Quartet as a kind of epitaph for himself, filling it with quotations from his own works. Both quartets reveal much about how confrontation with darkness can ultimately lead back to the light.

For more information, visit https://www.aspectmusic.net/payment-test/haunted-minds

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

NYFOS Presents Two Rare Protest Pieces
New York Festival of Song--the "engaging, ever-curious series" (The New York Times)--presents two exceedingly rare theater works by Marc Blitzstein and Kurt Weill that grapple passionately with themes of social injustice. NYFOS will present 50-minute concert suites from each show, with narration.

Blitzstein's No For An Answer, first staged in 1941, focuses on a feisty group of resort hotel workers struggling with unemployment and oppression during the off-season; Der Silbersee is a dystopian fantasy with a miraculous, happy ending. The Second World War cut the original runs of both shows down to a scant two performances each. Weill was forced to flee Germany after the opening of Der Silbersee, and Blitzstein was shipped off to Europe with the Armed Forces soon after his show had its brief moment off-Broadway.

Both works are about ordinary people fighting to free themselves from tyranny and discrimination. In Der Silbersee, there's a miracle; in No For An Answer, a murder. Both are filled with first-class songs that speak directly to our times.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
 Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
129 West 67th Street, NYC

$20-$65 from the Merkin Box Office: 212-501-3330 or kaufmanmusiccenter.org

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Handel and Haydn Society Makes Double NYC Christmastime Appearances
In December 2019, the Boston-based, 204-year-old Handel and Haydn Society, globally renowned for its exceptional body of singers and instrumentalists specializing in authentic Baroque and Classical music traditions, returns to New York as prominently featured artists in two of New York City's most anticipated holiday season performances, occurring simultaneously.

On December 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21, the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, "internationally respected for its precision and ability to make complex polyphony speak in the most cavernous of halls" (Boston Music Intelligencer), makes their New York Philharmonic debut and first Lincoln Center appearance in more than two decades as the voices of Handel's immortal Messiah with soloists soprano Louise Alder, countertenor Iestyn Davies, tenor Joshua Ellicott, and baritone Dashon Burton, led by acclaimed English conductor Harry Bicket.

For complete information, visit https://handelandhaydn.org/concerts/2019-20/baroque-christmas

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Celebrate with "A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera"
At the end of last season's enormously popular New Year's Eve concert, American Bach Soloists music director Jeffrey Thomas announced that we'd be back at the end of 2019 for a reprise of the event. It turned out to be one of the hottest tickets in town so make your reservations early for a delightful program of arias and instrumental music from opera and concert.

This early night on the town in San Francisco's beautiful Herbst Theatre--a cornerstone and jewel among the city's most prestigious venues--will joyfully ring in the New Year in elegant style. Bring your friends and celebrate a New Year full of wonderful music!

Sarah Coit, mezzo-soprano
Hadleigh Adams, baritone
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
December 31; 4 p.m.
Herbst Theater, San Francisco

For complete information, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

Miller Theatre Opens Its 2019-20 Jazz Series
Brandee Younger Quintet
Saturday, November 16, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC

Tickets: starting at $20; Students with valid ID: starting at $7

With a style reminiscent of the great Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, the genre-defying Brandee Younger has helped to re-introduce the harp as a powerful jazz instrument. Her nuanced presence and willingness to push boundaries have made her invaluable on recordings and in live performance, and here she collaborates with some of her esteemed contemporaries.

For more information, visit https://www.songkick.com/concerts/38294349-brandee-younger-at-miller-theatre?utm_source=38867&utm_medium=partner

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Music Institute's Contreras Partners on Latin American Cello Catalog
Dr. Horacio Contreras, a member of the Music Institute of Chicago's cello faculty, has partnered with cellist Dr. Germán Marcano and the Sphinx Organization to update a comprehensive resource: the Sphinx Catalog of Latin American Cello Works. Contreras and Marcano, internationally active cellists from Venezuela and recognized experts in Latin American cello repertoire, will continue to revise the work as the repertoire continues to grow.

Marcano originally created the catalog in 2004 as his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Sphinx Organization revived it in 2018.

"One of my main interests as a performer and a teacher is to introduce excellent works to musicians and audiences," explained Contreras. "I was interested in Germán's first catalog, and I knew about the Sphinx Organization while I was a student at the University of Michigan, when I had the opportunity to meet and perform with performing artist and social entrepreneur Aaron Dworkin, founder of the Sphinx Organization and a professor at the University of Michigan. Germán and I had talked about making his work more widely available through a website, and Mr. Dworkin recommended we reach out to Sphinx. They generously offered to support the initiative, and, after more than a year of work, it is now a reality! We are very excited about the catalog's potential to exponentially increase the exposure of work by Latin American composers."

The catalog, which is free and accessible at sphinxmusic.org, is the most extensive source of its kind, with more than 2,000 entries on the date of its release. It provides information about a wide range of works in which the cello has a prominent role as a solo instrument, as soloist with orchestra, in duo with another instrument or electronic media, or in cello ensembles.

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Ensemble Basiani, Monday, November 18, Princeton University
On Monday, November 18, 2019 at 7:30PM, Ensemble Basiani, the State Vocal Ensemble of Georgia will make its Princeton University Concerts debut in the spellbinding acoustic of the Princeton University Chapel, Princeton, NJ.

The all-male vocal ensemble will be joined by the Princeton University Glee Club who will work with the ensemble during their visit. Performing mesmerizing Georgian sacred and folk choral music from every corner of this ancient, ethnically diverse region, the striking male voices of Ensemble Basiani embody otherworldly sound from the world's oldest polyphonic tradition.

Tickets are $10-$40, and are available online at princetonuniversityconcerts.org, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at the Princeton University Chapel.

--Kerry Heimann, Princeton University Concerts

Tenor Paul Appleby Performs Schumann's Dichterliebe at Lincoln Center
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presents celebrated American tenor Paul Appleby in Schumann's Dichterliebe for Voice and Piano, Op. 48 (1840) with pianist Ken Noda on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 7:30pm at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC.

Part of a concert titled "1891: Brahms's Clarinet Quintet," the program also includes Schubert's Fantasie in F minor for Piano, Four Hands, D. 940, Op. 103 (1828) and Brahms's Quintet in B minor for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello, Op. 115 (1891) performed by pianist and Artistic Director Wu Han, violinists Aaron Boyd and Francisco Fullana, violinist and violist Yura Lee, cellist Keith Robinson, and clarinetist David Shifrin.

Admired for his interpretive depth, vocal strength, and range of expressivity, Paul Appleby is one of the most sought-after voices of his generation. Opera News claims, "[Paul's] tenor is limpid and focused, but with a range of color unusual in an instrument so essentially lyric… His singing is scrupulous and musical; the voice moves fluidly and accurately."

For more information, visit https://www.chambermusicsociety.org/nyc/events/upcoming/brahms-clarinet-quintet-november-19-2019/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Wet Ink Ensemble Announces 2019-2020 Season Concerts
The "sublimely exploratory" (The Chicago Reader) Wet Ink Ensemble opens its 21st season in 2019-2020 with two performances at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival followed by a performance of the works of Columbia University undergraduate composers in NYC and a collaboration with vocalist Charmaine Lee and UK-based composers Kristina Wolfe, Bryn Harrison, and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. The Wet Ink Ensemble is also thrilled to announce the official appointment of frequent collaborator, cellist Mariel Roberts, to the group beginning in the 2019-2020 season.

Seattle Symphony Presents Kate Soper in Recital (Seattle), November 3
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), November 19-20
Columbia University Undergraduate Composers (NYC), December 7
Wet Ink Collaborations: Huddersfield Composers with Charmaine Lee (NYC), December 13
Constellation Frequency Series: Peter Ablinger + Sam Pluta (Chicago), January 19
Collaborative Premieres: Wubbels/Lee Duo + Wet Ink (NYC), February 13
Kate Soper's The Romance of the Rose, Co-Produced by Peak Performances (NJ), April 2-5
Alex Mincek/Sam Pluta Album Release, April 2020
Wet Ink Large Ensemble Concert (NYC), May 1
Harvard Group for New Music Residency (MA), May 11-16
New Music on the Point Residency (VT), June 1-11

For complete information, visit www.wetink.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Giuliani: Complete Guitar Concertos (CD review)

Pepe Romero, guitar; Celdonio Romero, guitar; Sir Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Philips Duo 454 262-2 (2-disc set).

Quite a few years ago the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine, our own Karl W. Nehring, asked each of the magazine's reviewers to come up with a list of ten favorite recordings, "Desert Island Recordings" if you will. I was a little reluctant at the time to find ten among hundreds of favorites. Today, however, I am not so hesitant, and I included the First Guitar Concerto by Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829) in my current listing. You'll find it here: https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2009/12/desert-island-classics.html.

It was a recording previously available only on a full-price Philips disc, coupled with the Third Concerto, but in 1996 or so, for the same price as the single disc, Philips gave us all three of Giuliani's guitar concertos, plus over half a dozen others of his guitar works on a pair of CD's in Philips's impressive, and long lamented, Duo series. I can't begin to tell you how enjoyable this set is. And as far as I can tell, it's still available.

Pepe Romero
The First Concerto, which premiered in 1808, was a popular favorite in its day and deserves its popularity to our own time. It was to the nineteenth century what Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez became to the twentieth century and beyond in terms of public acceptance. One could not ask for a lighter, happier, sunnier, sweeter, more charming piece of music, seductively performed by a master of the guitar, Pepe Romero, and accompanied by the ever-reliable Neville Marriner and his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Giuliani's Second Concerto is darker in tone, and not nearly so much fun, but it's worth one's time because it's still better than almost anything else composed for the guitar. By the Third Concerto in 1820, Giuliani had become, for better or worse, far more sophisticated in his composition and arrangement; the Third Concerto's main attractions are its enchantingly beautiful slow movement and its brilliant finale.

Closer to the stylistic simplicity of the First Concerto, however, is Giuliani's three-movement Introduction, Theme with Variations, and Polonaise, a thoroughly enchanting piece that comes close to challenging the First Concerto for all-out charisma. Philips also include on the set the Gran Sonata Eroica, Grande Ouverture, La Melanconia, Handel Variations, and Variazioni concertanti. It is a pleasurable mix, to say the least.

Originally issued on three full-priced LP's, Philips recorded the pieces between 1974 and 1978. The sound is typical of Philips's late analogue work, not analytically clear but well focused, warm, and smooth. The guitar is prominently displayed but not too far forward.

On the whole, I can't think of a better way to while away a little over two and a half hours with pleasant listening than with these "Duo" discs. Highly recommended, obviously.   


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

Williams: Across the Stars (CD review)

Music of John Williams. Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; John Williams, Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles. DG B0030629-02.

If I had to guess which orchestral music of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries would survive into the twenty-second century and beyond, I'd put my money on the film scores of John Williams being among them.

Here, Mr. Williams conducts some of his better-known works to accompany violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, largely in special adaptations for violin and orchestra made by Williams just for Ms. Mutter. How successful the music is in their new arrangements may depend on how familiar you already are with the original film scores and how attached you are to them. Arranged for Ms. Mutter, they can come across as somewhat dewy-eyed to some listeners while being downright inspirational to others. For me, they were pleasantly charming, if fairly lightweight and sometimes schmaltzy.

The Recording Arts Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Williams appears to understand Ms. Mutter's relatively gentle, lyrical, romantic approach to these tunes, and their accompaniment remains buoyant and breezy throughout. Mr. Williams seemed to tailor-make these new arrangements to Ms. Mutter's style, or at least to her style as represented here.

"In discussing this idea, we both (Williams and Mutter) realized that I had adapted only one or two of these pieces for solo violin and orchestra, and that the remainder of the chosen material would have to be newly developed and orchestrated to complete her album. Because the opportunity to write for a great virtuoso always presents an energizing and exciting opportunity, I set about this project with great enthusiasm. Truly, this endeavor has been a particular joy to me." --John Williams

Here's a list of the album's contents:
  1. "Rey's Theme" from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. "Yoda's Theme" from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. "Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone in the US)
  4. "Across the Stars" from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
  5. "Donnybrook Fair" from Far and Away
  6. "Sayuri's Theme" from Memoirs of a Geisha
  7. "Night Journeys" from Dracula
  8. "Theme" from Sabrina
  9. "The Duel" from The Adventures of Tintin
10. "Luke and Leia" from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
11. "Nice to be Around" from Cinderella Liberty
12. "Theme" from Schindler's List

Anne-Sophie Mutter
Ms. Mutter's tone is silky and smooth, of course, perfectly matching Mr. Williams's silky smooth arrangements. It's all a little dreamy, to be sure, but it's mostly enjoyable. "Yoda's Theme," for instance, seems more ethereal than we might have expected, especially in the opening passage. This approach works especially well in "Hedwig's Theme," as well as the various love themes. Not so much in the more adventurous music, which has some of the life sucked out of it.

If I had to pick a favorite track, I'd say "Night Journeys" from Dracula (the  1979 version with Frank Langella, for which I had forgotten Williams did the music). Here, Ms. Mutter's violin commands a melodramatic score that perfectly fits the melodrama of the story.

Having heard most of this material in its original form, I can't say Mr. Williams's new adaptations or Ms. Mutter's virtuoso playing improve on things. Yes, some of it is downright syrupy, but it is different and certainly none of it does any harm to the genuine article. Fans of Ms. Mutter will no doubt adore it. Fans of Mr. Williams may wonder what the fuss is about.

I should add, too, that not only is the music rather pop-oriented, the album follows another well-worn tradition of the pop-music industry: It's relatively short. That is, the playing time is rather brief: twelve selections at about fifty-five minutes.

Producer Bernhard Guttler and engineer Shawn Murphy recorded the music in April 2019 at the Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City, CA. According to a booklet note, this was the very location "where, decades earlier, such iconic scores as The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain and Doctor Zhivago were recorded." So, there's a long film history here. Like Ms. Mutter's playing, the sound is silky and smooth, the violin never too forward, and the orchestra spread out behind and around her (well, OK, maybe too spread out in a cinematic sort of way). Instruments in the orchestra are not particularly well placed, a lot of them appearing to come at us rather haphazardly from here and there around the sound stage. Nevertheless, the violin is well detailed and well positioned, as I say, and always sounds natural, never shrill.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 19, 2019

Concerts at Saint Thomas Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of Saint Thomas Choir School

The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys marks the 100th anniversary of Saint Thomas Choir School with a performance with Orchestra of St. Luke's on November 7, 2019 at 7:30 pm at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (on West 53rd Street, NYC).

The concert will include a repertoire of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, a concerto for piano and orchestra, which will mark the 85th anniversary of the piece's premiere in Baltimore by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski on November 7, 1934. The performance will feature Saint Thomas's newly appointed Organist and Director of Music Jeremy Filsell at the keyboard.

The concert will continue with an homage to T. Tertius Noble, who founded the choir school in 1919, with extracts of his cantata Gloria Domini, which has not been performed in New York since 1916. The choir will close the performance with American composer Stephen Paulus's cantata Prayers and Remembrances, which was commissioned for the tenth anniversary of September 11, in commemoration of the week of Veterans Day.

For more information, visit https://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Miller Theatre's Early Music series continues with New York Polyphony, Nov. 9
The illustrious male vocal quartet New York Polyphony returns for a program that begins at the dawn of the Renaissance, with selections of the very earliest works that can be found in England. Rescued from the Reformation as recycled book-bindings, these Medieval gems show the mastery of the English style that would influence the next three centuries of composition, such as works by England's first great composer, John Dunstable. The program culminates with music from the Golden Age of the Renaissance in Spain.

November 9, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
145 West 46th Street (between 6th & 7th Avenues), NYC

For more information, visit http://newyorkpolyphony.com/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Chelsea Symphony Concert Features Jessie Montgomery's Starburst, Oct. 25-26
The second concert, Made of Stars, on The Chelsea Symphony's 2019/2020 season, "RISE UP: Music that Inspires and Uplifts," on October 25 and 26 is a chamber orchestra concert featuring Jessie Montgomery's Starburst, a work for string orchestra that plays on the imagery of rapidly changing musical colors by using exploding gestures juxtaposed with gentle fleeting melodies to create a multidimensional soundscape.

Starburst was commissioned by the Sphinx Organization and premiered in 2012. Packing a big punch in just three and a half minutes, it "reflects today's fashionable motoric, pop-oriented, post-minimalist style, albeit with memorable melodies, structural discipline, and not one cliché in the book" (Classics Today).

Also on the concert is Mozart's Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter" and "Twilight Song," a World Premiere by TCS resident composer and founding member, Aaron Dai.

Offering seven concert series from September 2019 through June 2020, The Chelsea Symphony's 2019/20 season RISE UP features orchestral works that inspire and uplift.

Friday, October 25 at 8pm
Saturday, October 26 at 8pm
Conductors Reuben Blundell and Mark Seto
St. Paul's Church (315 West 22nd Street), NYC
$25 reserved premium general seating on sale at Eventbrite
$20 suggested donation seating available at the door

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

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Robert Trevino Signs to Ondine for Multi-Year Recording Deal
Robert Trevino, one of today's most in-demand American conductors of the younger generation, has signed with Ondine for a major, ongoing recording relationship. Trevino is chief conductor of the Basque National Orchestra and of the Malmo Symphony Orchestra, both of which will feature in the first releases - a complete Beethoven symphonies cycle drawn from this season's Beethoven Festival in Malmo and, with the Basques, a survey of American repertoire to include neglected works by Howard Hanson - as well as digital releases of core repertoire works.

Ondine, part of the Naxos group, is one of the most prestigious independent recording labels in the world and has regularly recorded other important conductors such as Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Hannu Lintu. "Ondine chooses the artists with whom it works very carefully," says the label's founding director Reijo Kiilunen, "We try to find the special few; great artists who perform visionary and imaginative interpretations of standard repertoire and who also have an adventurous mind in presenting the public with fascinating lesser-known musical discoveries. Robert Trevino is a perfect match for these qualities."

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Violinist Midori Tours Vivian Fung's Birdsong to DC, NYC, and London
Internationally acclaimed violinist Midori will tour JUNO Award-winning Canadian composer Vivian Fung's Birdsong to DC, NYC, and London from November 2-8, 2019. Commissioned by the Delaware Chamber Music Festival through the DeRosa Family Fund, Fung's 10-minute long Birdsong was premiered in June, 2012 in Wilmington, Delaware by violinist Kristin Lee and pianist Conor Hanick. Birdsong was written in memoriam of Julian Rodescu and showcases the virtuosity of both piano and violin, with quick runs, intense rhythmic passages, and exploration of improvisational moments. The title refers to the birdcalls of the opening and closing, as well as the general rhapsodic nature of the violin in this piece.

On Saturday, November 2, 2019 at 8:00pm, The Library of Congress in DC presents Midori and pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute in a program of works by pieces by prominent living female composers, including Fung's Birdsong.

The program is repeated in New York City on Monday, November 4, 2019 at 8:00pm presented by Le Poisson Rouge. The performance marks the New York premiere of Tamar Diesendruck's new work. Midori and Ieva Jokubaviciute travel to the United Kingdom to perform the program at London's Kings Place on Friday, November 8, 2019 at 7:30pm. The performance marks the UK premieres of both Tamar Diesendruck's new work and Vivian Fung's Birdsong.

Listen to Birdsong on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/vivianfung/birdsong-for-violin-and-piano

For more information, visit http://www.gotomidori.com/concerts/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Opens Its 11th Season
Thriving for centuries before and surviving four centuries after, persisting in a hostile foreign land long after the first ship bearing human cargo arrived in 1619, the chants and dances of Western Africa pre-date by centuries any music that we currently refer to as "early."

Come hear some of the oldest music known to us today – music that survived a harrowing ocean journey, flickering in the shadows of the Land of the Free, pulsing with enduring power through the amplified soundscape of modern American popular song.

Acclaimed Liberian soprano Dawn Padmore and kora master Yacouba Sissoko join Afro Roots Artistic Director, percussion virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Nathaniel and an ensemble of West African virtuosi in a thrilling performance of traditional Western African music from lands now known to us as Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Our New York season opens with music from the beginning.

In the Beginning: Early Music of Western Africa
Tuesday, November 12, 7:30pm
The Bernie Wohl Center
647 Columbus Avenue, New York City

Tickets: $20/35/50/100
Call 1 888 718 4253 or visit http://www.salonsanctuary.org

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Los Angeles Master Chorale Opens 2019-20 Season
The Los Angeles Master Chorale will open its new season on Saturday, October 19 at 2:00 PM and Sunday, October 20 at 7:00 PM with two works new to the ensemble, conducted by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director. Bruckner's majestic Mass in F Minor reflects the composer's devout spiritualism and Romantic-era passion, intensity, and color. Golijov's Oceana, which gets its Los Angeles premiere at these concerts, marries music with poetry by Pablo Neruda to depict, in the composer's words, "water and longing, light and hope, the immensity of South America's nature and pain."

Soloists from the ranks of the Master Chorale will join the chorus and orchestra for the Bruckner Mass, and jazz singer Luciana Souza will be the guest soloist in the Golijov's Oceana. "We are thrilled to begin our 2019-20 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall," says Jean Davidson, President and CEO of the Master Chorale. "This pairing of Bruckner's Great Mass No. 3 in F Minor and Osvaldo Golijov's transcendent Oceana together create a feeling of connection, the synthesis of many human voices harmonizing together to remind us that dissonance always leads to resolution, that we are all in this together, that we are not alone."

An opening night benefit celebration will take place after the Sunday evening concert, with live music, cocktails and a buffet inspired by Golijov's Oceana. Tickets to the celebration are $400 for the Opening Night Celebration and a concert ticket, and $250 for the post-concert celebration. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Brian Tillis, Events Manager at events@lasmasterchorale.org (213) 972-3162.

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/bruckner-mass.

--Lisa Bellamore, LA Master Chorale

The Crypt Sessions Presents Matan Porat
On November 19, 2019, The Crypt Sessions presents pianist Matan Porat, hailed by The New York Times for his "magnificent sound and breath of expression," in his program Lux, a cycle that traces the course of a day from dawn to dusk, journeying through twelve pieces of music composed across twelve centuries. The performance features an eclectic range of composers from Schumann and Beethoven to Adès and Pintscher.

The performance will begin at 8:00 pm, with a food and wine pre-concert reception at 7:00 pm included in the ticket price.

For complete information, visit https://www.deathofclassical.com/cryptsessions/lux

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Single Tickets to All WinterMezzo Events Now on Sale
Festival Mozaic's WinterMezzo Chamber Music Series features three weekends of great works of chamber music, offering sequential ways to connect to the music and the artists. We encourage you to attend all three events in each weekend to experience the special intimacy that only happens at Festival Mozaic.

Join Music Director and Violinist Scott Yoo, along with seven visiting artists, for nine chamber music events throughout the year in San Luis Obispo County, California.

WinterMezzo Series I, November 15-17, 2019: music of Beethoven, Dohnanyi, and Dvorak.
WinterMezzo Series II, February 21-23, 2020: Bach Cello Suites paired with dance by the SLO Movement Arts Collective.
WinterMezzo Series III, April 17-19, 2020: music of Nino Rota and Franz Schubert.

For more information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/

--Festival Mosaic

Hear Chaeyoung Park Performing on WQXR's Young Artist Showcase
Listen to Chaeyoung Park, First Prize winner of the 2019 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, on WQXR's "Young Artist Showcase," hosted by Robert Sherman:

Ms. Park previews selections from her upcoming performance at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on Sunday, October 27, 2019, 7:30 p.m., and plays additional works just for her Young Artist Showcase appearance (Ms. Park performs works by Ligeti, Ravel, and Rachmaninoff).

"Young Artists Showcase" is a WQXR weekly radio show that, since 1978, has sought out and displayed the talents of young emerging artists. WQXR's Young Artists Showcase is supported by The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation (produced by WQXR).

--Nancy Shear Arts Services

Danish String Quartet is Musical America's 2020 Ensemble of the Year
Kirshbaum Associates is thrilled to congratulate the Danish String Quartet on winning 2020 Ensemble of the Year by Musical America!

These days there is no shortage of bright, shiny young string quartets nipping at the heels of the masters, but there's plenty about the three Danes and one Norwegian who make up the Danish String Quartet to make them stand out from the pack.

They bonded around a football stuck in a tree. "It was our first challenge as a string quartet," quips DSQ violist Asbjørn Nørgaard. Several years and first prizes later, the foursome faces a different challenge: a complete Beethoven cycle and recordings of the late quartets for ECM.

For more information, visit https://www.musicalamerica.com/features/index.cfm?fid=345&fyear=2020

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

PENTATONE Is Gramophone's Label of the Year 2019
We are proud to announce that PENTATONE has been awarded Label of the Year at the prestigious Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2019. The ceremony was hosted by Editor-in-Chief James Jolly at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, Covent Garden, and was broadcast worldwide by Medici TV on October 16, 2019. The winners of the Recording of the Year, Orchestra of the Year, Artist and Young Artist of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award were revealed during the ceremony along with the Disc Award's winners this year.

Quote from Martin Cullingford, Gramophone's Editor and Publisher:
"What do we look for in our label of the year? Firstly, a label that embraces a real breadth of repertoire, that's very innovative, creative and courageous in its programming and in the artists that it chooses and then champions. And then one that presents those albums beautifully, in terms both of the recording quality, but also captivating packaging. Pentatone really fulfils on all of that."

--Talita Sakuntala, PENTATONE

Steiner: King Kong (CD review)

The Complete 1933 Film Score. William Stromberg, Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.557799.

When some of us think of the original 1933 movie King Kong, we think of the gigantic gates that lead into the big ape's domain or the titanic struggle between the two giant dinosaurs or, heck, even Kong himself standing in chains on a Broadway stage. But I wonder how many of us remember the music, without which the whole affair would have been a mere shadow of itself.

Austrian-born composer Max Steiner (1888-1971) is generally credited with having invented film music. He always shrugged it off, saying it was an idea originated with Richard Wagner. Well, Wagner may have championed the idea of musical motifs, but in the early 1930's, film music was in its infancy. Sound had only just been added to movies a few years earlier, and filmmakers were anxious to find as much original music as they could. Steiner's score for Kong was among the first (often cited as THE first) full-length scores with musical cues to underline specific segments of the action.

Steiner would go on to write many more classic film scores for things like Gone With the Wind, Now Voyager, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Fountainhead, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Searchers.  But it all started with Kong.

Marco Polo gave us Steiner's complete film score for the movie in their 1996 recording, with the music reconstructed and restored by John Morgan, at which time I duly noted it in my review. Now, movie buffs, monster-movie fans, and fanciers of film scores in general should be pleased that Naxos is offering the same recording at an even more affordable price on the parent label. If the higher price of the Marco Polo disc put you off before, this 2005 Naxos reissue gives you a second chance to buy it.

William Stromberg
In the accompanying booklet notes, John Morgan tells us that this recording "is not a recreation of the 1933 music tracks, but a musical performance of the complete score as Steiner's original sketches dictated. When we noted differences in the soundtrack as compared to the original sketches (whether added or subtracted bars, repeated phrases, or instrumentation additions or deletions), we first tried to determine why these changes were made." The results are more than welcome.

The reconstructed musical score is a little over 72 minutes long. Considering that the entire film is only about 103 minutes, this means we are getting practically every note Steiner composed for the picture. Not that all of the music is exceptional, but it is thoroughly entertaining, whether or not one remembers the specific cues in the film. And it's one of those film scores that gets better as it goes along, with "Hey, Look Out! It's Kong. Kong's Coming" and the "King Kong March" among the better items near the end. Steiner does a terrific job evoking atmosphere and even imitating real-life sounds with his orchestra. "The Sea at Night," for instance, and "Cryptic Shadows" create wonderfully flavorful moods, and "Aeroplanes" sounds for all the world like real airplanes. OK, some of it also gets a bit repetitious and maybe even redundant, but that's film music for you.

As far as I could tell, the sonics are the same on the Naxos reissue as they were on the older disc, not entirely transparent but natural. The whole affair sounds like a genuine orchestra playing, not a multi-megabuck hi-fi system. I was especially impressed by the miking distance, which was just close enough for moderate detail yet not distant enough to sound muffled. Depth perception is also good, along with left-to-right orchestral balance. The sonics also have a nice, ambient bloom to them, a quality that will delight those who attend live music regularly and will annoy those who expect absolute audio purity. However, I have to admit I enjoy the sound of this same orchestra, the Moscow Symphony, recorded a tad closer, as they are on the Marco Polo disc of music from Steiner's Treasure of the Sierra Madre, one of the best film recordings ever. And the overall sound level on King Kong is slightly lower than it is on later recordings from this same source, so crank it up and enjoy.

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

Lara Downes: For Love of You (CD review)

Music of Robert Schumann and Clara: Piano Concerto in A minor; Fantasiestucke; Three Romances. Lara Downes, piano; Martin West, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Flipside Music FL0013.

"My Clara, what would I not do for love of you?" --Robert Schumann to Clara Wieck, 1838.

"For Love of You is a tribute to Clara Wieck Schumann, painter and composer, celebrating the 200th anniversary of her birth (9/13/1819)."

Pianist Lara Downes is famous for her theme-oriented albums, and this one is no different, honoring the music and marriage of two beloved composers, Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck Schumann. The program begins with Robert's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 from 1845; continues with Clara's Three Romances, Op. 11 from 1840; and ends with Robert's Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 from 1837.

So, things begin with Robert's Piano Concerto, his one and only piano concerto, with Ms. Downes accompanied by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under the direction of Martin West, their Music Director since 2005. When Robert premiered the completed concerto, his wife Clara, an accomplished pianist, was the soloist. Here, of course, it's Ms. Downes, also an accomplished pianist, although she doesn't always get to show off her classical credentials in full-scale works.

After so many years of hearing the Piano Concerto played by gung-ho Romantic pianists banging away with it, Ms. Downes's performance may come as a surprise. For the good, I hope. She takes a slightly gentler approach to the score than do most other performers, a more nuanced approach that eschews a lot of the theatrics we often associate with it. Perhaps Ms. Downes is remembering that Clara Schumann premiered the work, and this is part of her tribute to the composer's wife. The interpretation certainly emphasizes the longings and dreamlike aspects of the music.

In any case, with Ms. Downes the opening Allegro affettuoso lives up to its name, "fast but tender and affecting." And Maestro West ensures a poignant presentation with his lyrical direction of the orchestral support. It's really quite refreshing. The slow central movement, an Andantino, follows suit, lighthearted and charming but never sentimental. Then Ms. Downes and company bring the work to a rousing but still softhearted close.

Lara Downes
I've read over the years that Schumann meant his concerto to express the feelings of longing and happiness between two people in love, presumably inspired by the love between Clara and him. If this be the case, Ms. Downes conveys those ideas as well as anyone on record. It's a lovely performance all the way around.

Following the concerto we get Clara Schumann's Three Romances, a brief, three-movement work written during Clara and Robert's rather turbulent courtship. Ms. Downs suggests in the liner notes that the pieces "illustrate the passion and creative synergy that brought two great artists together, despite obstacles and struggles, into a union that produced some of the greatest works of the Romantic era." Ms. Downes's playing illustrates the point with a performance of controlled passion and creativity.

The program concludes with Robert Schumann's Fantasiestucke, also written during Clara and Robert's courtship. The Fantasiestucke is a set of eight solo pieces for piano inspired by an 1814-15 collection of works by one of Robert's favorite authors, E.T.A. Hoffmann (think here of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, Delibes's Coppelia, and Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker). The music is colorful, to be sure, and as in the concerto depicts the two sides of the composer's own personality, one dreamy, the other passionate. Ms. Downes's handling of the material is appropriately vivid, exciting, picturesque, and reflective.

The only minor drawback to the product is the fact that like so many CD's these days, the disc is enclosed in a slip-out compartment in a cardboard container. This necessitates using one's fingers on the top and bottom of the disc to pull it out, not only incurring inevitable fingerprints but possibly scratching the disc on the cardboard in the process.

Producer Adam Abeshouse made the recording at Skywalker Sound, Marin County, CA in February 2016. As we might expect from a record made at Skywalker, it sounds excellent. In the concerto the piano is exceptionally well defined without being too close-up, and the orchestra, perhaps a trifle soft, is well set out behind the soloist. Never once do we hear a note that is too bright, too edgy, too forward, nor too veiled or subdued. The solo pieces are likewise well detailed and smoothly recorded.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 12, 2019

Holiday Cheer on Stage at VPAC Dec. 21-Jan. 3

This winter season, spend time with loved ones while enjoying uplifting, warm-hearted holiday entertainment courtesy of the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC). This year's Winter Holiday Series includes shows that will delight audiences of all ages featuring A Classical Christmas with the Boulder Philharmonic; Twas the Night Before Christmas; Judy Collins; Masters of Illusion; and Neil Berg's 50 Years of Rock & Roll. Tickets for each show are on sale now at the VPAC box office (970-845-8497; www.vilarpac.org). The VPAC is located under the ice rink in Beaver Creek Village (68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek, Colorado).

2019 VPAC Winter Holiday Series:
A Classical Christmas with the Boulder Philharmonic: Handel's Messiah
Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. | Starting at $54 Adults/ $20 Students

"Twas the Night Before Christmas"
Monday, Dec. 23 at 6:30 p.m. | $48

An Evening with Judy Collins: Holidays & Hits
Thursday, Dec. 26 at 7 p.m. | Starting at $67

Masters of Illusion – Believe the Impossible
Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. | $88 Adults/$68 Children 12 & Under

Neil Berg's 50 Years of Rock and Roll
Friday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. | $68

For complete information, visit www.vilarpac.org

--Ruthie Hamrick, Vail Valley Foundation, Vilar Performing Arts Center

Miller Theatre Presents Vocal Quartet New York Polyphony in Gothic Polyphony
Miller Theatre presents illustrious GRAMMY-nominated vocal quartet New York Polyphony in Gothic Polyphony on Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 8pm at Church of St. Mary the Virgin, NYC.

The program begins at the dawn of the Renaissance, with selections of the Worcester Fragments. Rescued from the Reformation as recycled book-bindings, these Medieval gems show the mastery of the English style that would influence the next three centuries of composition, such as works by England's first great composer, John Dunstable, as well as John Pyamour, John Plummer, Thomas Byttering, and Leonel Power. The program culminates with music from the Golden Age of the Spanish Renaissance: selections from Francisco de Peñalosa's Missa 'L'homme arme and Sancta Maria, Pedro de Escobar's Stabat mater dolorosa, Francisco Guerrero's Antes que comáis a Dios, and Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla's Stabat mater dolorosa.

Church of St. Mary the Virgin
145 West 46th Street, New York, NY
Tickets: Starting at $30
Link: https://www.millertheatre.com/events/new-york-polyphony-gothic

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Schwalbe Artists in October
Oct. 12:
Meg Bragle
Crumb: Three Early Songs, for Voice and Piano
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Music
Philadelphia, PA

Oct. 13:
Alexander Dobson
Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Florentine Opera
Milwaukee, WI

Michael Schade
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Oct. 17, 18, 19 & 20:
Nicholas McGegan
Shaw: The Listeners
Handel: Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
San Francisco, Palo Alto, Berkeley, CA

Oct. 19:
Diana Moore
Mendelssohn: Elijah
Hertfordshire Chorus
St. Albans Cathedral
St. Albans, England

Oct. 20, 21:
Anne Manson
Dvorák: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104
Saint-Saëns: La Nuit
Sibelius: Symphony No. 3
Aachen Symphony Orchestra

Oct. 20:
Sherezade Panthaki
Love and Revenge: The Baroque Diva
Virtuoso Opera arias by Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Graupner, Clérambault, and more
Katonah, NY

Oct. 26:
Sherezade Panthaki
Brahms: Liebeslieder-Waltzer
Brahms: Nänie
Yale Choral Artists
New Haven, CT

Oct. 24:
Matthew Halls
Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 1
Muffat: Passacaglia from Sonata No. 5
Handel: Concerto grosso, Op. 3 No. 2
Walpurgis: Talestri, Overture
Von Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel: Erwin und Elmire, intermezzo
Haydn: Symphony No. 102
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Reykjavík, Iceland

Oct. 25:
Michael Kelly
Guest Artist for PFund Foundation 2019 Moxie Awards
Minneapolis, MN

Oct. 25 & 27:
Michael Schade
Beethoven: Fidelio
L'Opera de Montreal
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Oct. 26:
Daniel Taylor
"The Coronation of King George"
Theatre of Early Music
Bach Choir of Bethlehem
Bethlehem, PA

Oct. 26, 27:
Stephen Stubbs
Music by Isabella Leonarda
Pacific MusicWorks
Seattle, WA

Oct. 26 & 27:
Nicholas McGegan
Rameau: Music from Dardanus
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 19
Schubert: Overture from Der Häusliche Krieg
Schubert: Symphony No. 6
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles, CA

Oct. 28 & 29:
Diana Moore
Mahler: Rückert Lieder
Bremen Philharmoniker
Bremen, Germany

Oct. 31:
Doug Williams
Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527
Opera Atelier
Toronto, ON, Canada

--Schwalbe and Partners

ABS Exclusives 2020 Now Available
If you missed American Bach Soloists' wonderful "Sparkle Gala," we now offer the opportunity for you to attend our upcoming "ABS Exclusives" that were offered first to our Gala attendees.

"ABS Exclusives" are opportunities for patrons to meet, greet, and hear ABS musicians and ABS Academy alumni in up-close-and-personal house concert events. Limited to 25 seats or less on each date, "ABS Exclusives" include a concert, hors d'oeuvres, and plenty of wine. Following the concert, audience members have an opportunity to visit with the musicians on a one-on-one basis.

Hélène Brunet, soprano & Steven Bailey, piano
Sunday January 19 2020 - 4:00 p.m.

"Into the Woods"
Sunday February 23 2020 - 4:00 p.m.

Jesse Blumberg, baritone & Steven Bailey, piano
Sunday March 22 2020 - 4:00 p.m.

Tekla Cunningham, violin & Corey Jamason, harpsichord
Sunday May 3 2020 - 4:00 p.m.

"Baroque in the Backyard" with Tatiana & Friends
Sunday June 7 2020 - 2:00 p.m.

For complete information and tickets, visit https://americanbach.org/ and  https://americanbach.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2641&SubCategory=Music&SubCategory=Fundraiser

--American Bach Soloists

SOLI's 2019-2020 Season Blooms Open with a World Premiere
Our 2019-2020 season blooms open with the World Premiere of a new work from San Antonio-raised composer Yvonne Freckmann for SOLI and field recordings.

SOLI has a long-time relationship with Yvonne. We first met her as a student at Trinity University of both SOLI's pianist Carolyn True and clarinetist Stephanie Key. She then became our first intern (studying in the 'school of SOLI' in Yvonne's words) before receiving a Fulbright award to continue her piano and composition studies in Holland. Now living and composing in Europe, Yvonne is a true success story in which SOLI takes great pride in playing a part. Her new work will incorporate field recordings gathered throughout San Antonio and Lytle, Texas, electronics, and SOLI's core ensemble. Yvonne will also be featured as guest performer for a work for live cactus (yes, cactus) and electronics, called Land of the Living by composer Steven Snowden

Also on the program Elliott Cole's arrangement of Bloom, Robert Ceely's Synoecy for solo clarinet and tape, and Mason Bates' exciting Red River, chronicling the long journey of the mighty Colorado River.

For complete information, visit https://www.solichamberensemble.com/naturesvoices/

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

PBO Mozart's Musings with Guest Conductor Jeannette Sorrell
Grammy award-winning conductor Jeannette Sorrell makes her debut with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale in November.

Sorell and PBO present an enchanting Mozartian voyage, featuring works spanning Mozart's life from childhood to prime. Paired with a beautiful suite from Mozart's then-popular contemporary and rarely-heard today, André Grétry, the music is immersed in Mozart's sound world. PBO's own Gonzalo X. Ruiz, one of America's most sought-after woodwind soloists, will star in Mozart's Concerto for Oboe.

For further information, visit philharmonia.org

--Stephanie Li, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

Sing with New York City
Sing with us at the second annual Young People's Chorus Big Sing!

Saturday, October 19 at 3:00 p.m.
Gerald W. Lynch Theater, 524 W 59th St, New York, NY 10019.

The YPC Big Sing, our second annual community singalong, is less than two weeks away! Join Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Director Elizabeth Núñez, along with special guests a cappella quartet Midtown and musical renegade Nick Demeris, in a program of Broadway, pop, and folk favorites.

Tickets on sale now at TicketCentral.com. $15 for adults and $1 for children 12 and under.

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

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

ROCO's November 2019 Concerts Feature a Newly Commisioned Piece
ROCO's 2019-20 season "Coming of Age" continues with two concerts in November. ROCO's concertmaster, Scott St. John, continues the "Unchambered" series with Morsels on November 2 at MATCH, in a program he has curated including string quartets by Haydn, Mozart, Dvorák, and more, as well as a premiere from composer Rob Maggio.

"Hope for Beauty," the second program of ROCO's In Concert series at Houston's Church of St. John the Divine on November 16, will be conducted by Alaistair Wills. The concert will center around the world premiere of Bruce Adolphe's I Too Bleed, and Hope for Beauty, a musical tribute to Alma Rose, Gustav Mahler's niece and conductor of the women's orchestra at Auschwitz. Adolphe's piece, which was commissioned by ROCO in conjunction with the reopening of the Holocaust Museum Houston, is a testament to the enduring power of music, and how it can offer hope and beauty even in the worst of circumstances. The program will also include Edwar Elgar's Sospiri, op. 70, Giya Kancheli's A Little Daneliade, and El Amor Brujo by Manuel de Falla.

For complete information, visit https://roco.org/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Górecki: Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (CD review)

Beth Gibbons, soprano; Krzystof Penderecki, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Domino WGC0395.

By Karl W. Nehring

Classical music lovers who have been around for a while may well recall the unexpected popularity of Górecki's Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" when a Nonesuch recording of this at that time relatively obscure Polish composer by American soprano Dawn Upshaw with the London Sinfonietta under the baton of American conductor David Zinman became a worldwide bestseller after its release in 1992, eventually selling a million copies, which was (and remains) an incredible achievement for a classical release of any kind – but especially so for music by a contemporary composer. The mournful, plaintive work seemed to strike a resonant chord in the hearts and minds of both classical fans and what appeared to be a significant cross-section of many other types of music lovers. Speaking from my own experience, I remember a business associate who rarely discussed music gushing enthusiastically about the Górecki, which really surprised me, and my wife -- who enjoys classical music but does not usually have much to say about the recordings I play on our home -- falling immediately head-over-heels for the piece and it remains to this day one of the few pieces she will from time to time request that I put on the stereo.

I also love the symphony and listened to several other recordings over the years (a quick scan of my CD rack reveals that I currently own three recordings – Gritton/Simonov/Royal Philharmonic on Intersound, Kilanowicz/Wit/Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra on Naxos, and the aforementioned Nonesuch). When I am in the mood to listen to the Górecki, it is the Nonesuch to which I nearly always return. It is a wonderful recording.

My interest was perked a couple of months or so ago when I read somewhere of the forthcoming release of a recording of the piece sung by not by some or another opera star but rather by Beth Gibbons, lead singer for the British electronic band Portishead, whose 1994 release Dummy made big waves in the rock world and eventually sold more than three million copies worldwide. So how does a rock singer who neither speaks Polish nor reads music – and does not really have a soprano voice – prepare to sing Polish lyrics as a soprano?

Krzystof Penderecki
According to her website, "she worked from an especially prepared vocal score bearing the original text, a phonetic interpretation, and – crucially - a translation… Beth's voice is, in classical terms, a contralto; Górecki wrote for a soprano, one register higher. While she had ventured into the soprano range before – the chorus of 'All Mine,' from Portishead's second album, for instance – she hadn't spent a sustained stretch of time there in performance. So she had vocal coaching – from Caroline Jaya-Ratnam in England, then Anna Marchwinska from Poland, with whom she also refined the pronunciation."

My goodness, it is difficult to imagine the determination and dedication – and bravery—that that it must have taken not just to learn the piece, but to plan to sing and record it not in some studio somewhere so that the engineer and producer could carefully assemble a finished product, not in a live performance with some second- or third-tier British orchestra, but rather in Warsaw with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by a prominent Polish composer and conductor.

The concert was held in November, 2014 (not sure why it took nearly five years for the recording to be released), and as you can see from the cover of the CD, included an element borrowed from a rock concert in terms of a light show that accompanied the performance. What a spectacle! 

So how did it all turn out? Although Ms. Gibbons seems a bit shaky at the beginning, she soon hits her stride and delivers a solid performance. Judging from the recorded sound, her voice may have been amplified a bit; in any event, it is prominent in the recorded mix, which also seems to favor a close-up perspective on the orchestra. The tempi chosen by Maestro Penderecki seem slightly on the slow side (a comparison of the movement timings with the Nonesuch release confirmed that). This may have been to make it easier to sing, but it also has the effect of increasing the opportunity to reflect emotions. This is, after all, a symphony of sorrowful songs.

All told, this would not be my first recommendation for the classical music lover who has for one reason or another never heard the Górecki Third. I would instead direct that listener to the Nonesuch release, which remains my favorite version.

However, although readers by now might think I don't really care that much for this release, I actually love it! I find it moving. I find it exciting. I find that it really does sound like a symphony of truly sorrowful songs. For listeners coming from a non-classical music perspective (although I doubt many of them follow Classical Candor, alas), this recording might well be a splendid way to whet their appetites for more classical recordings. And for those already familiar with the Górecki Third, I would recommend this new recording to offer them a refreshing and stimulating perspective on a piece they may have heard many times before.


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

Pianissimo! (CD review)

The Chicago Debut Concert. Pianists Svetlana Belsky, Elena Doubovitskaya, Irina Feoktistova, and Susan Merdinger. Sheridan Music Studio.

Yes, Pianissimo in music refers to a passage or movement played softly or very softly. But Pianissimo! also refers to an ensemble of four very talented pianists. As described in the disc's accompanying booklet, "Pianissimo! was first formed in December 2014, and recently appeared in several venues for "Make Music Chicago." As soloists and duo pianists, the four women have appeared in major concert halls and on TV and radio around the world, recorded a number of CD's, "and won numerous awards and honors, as well as accolades and rave reviews from major publications for their outstanding performances and programming."

The four members of Pianissimo! consist of Dr. Svetlana Beisky, critically acclaimed as "a passionate pianist and scholar," performing extensively in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Next is Dr. Elena Doubovitskaya, "a native of Russia who established herself as a solo and collaborative musician after moving to the US in 1998." In addition, there is Irina Feoktistova, "a graduate of the Petersburg Conservatoire, Russia," who has performed in the major halls of Russia, Europe, and the United States. And Susan Merdinger, a Steinway Artist who has been hailed as "tender and impassioned" (Glasgow Herald) and "breathtaking" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung).

On the current album they present their Chicago debut concert, which includes selections for piano two hands, piano four hands, two pianos four hands, two pianos eight hands, and four pianos, three of the pieces being world-premiere performances. The track list follows:

  1. Beethoven: Egmont Overture (arr. T. Herbert)
  2. Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Scheherazade (arr. M. Zelenaia; world premiere)
  3. Saint-Saens: Danse Macabre
  4. Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italienne (arr. A. Ton/S. Belsky)
  5. Gershwin: Fantasy on "The Man I Love" (arr. A. Tsafsman)
  6. Lutoslawski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini
  7. James Stone: Rip Current
  8. Ilya Levinson: Fireball (world premiere)
  9. Ilya Levinson: Broadway Medley for Classical Pianists (world premiere)

The opening overture from Beethoven shows off what can happen with eight hands at two pianos, and it's a rich and rewarding experience. The performers are brilliant in their own right, each a virtuoso, but together they are unmatched, and the playing produces an enriching few minutes.

The next item, the Rimsky-Korsakov fantasy, displays the talents of all four players on four pianos, making the number that much plusher and more opulent in sound and content, and making for a touching and exciting interpretation. And so it goes through the familiar repertoire of names like Beethoven, Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, and Rachmaninov in fantasies, variations, and single numbers. (The Danse Macabre for two pianos, eight hands, is particularly thrilling.)

Then there are the two newer selections from the Russian-born composer Ilya Levinson, selections that receive world-premiere performances. They have a more modern sensibility, of course, yet they take us back to an earlier period of twentieth-century American music, too, especially the Broadway medley arranged for four pianos. It pairs up favorite Broadway show tunes with seamless transitions to produce a rollicking good time. The four skilled pianists will make one forget all about Broadway pit orchestras in their lush and luxurious readings.

I should add, as well, that the disc offers a healthy seventy-six minutes of playing time, making the concert not only entertaining but also good value for the dollar.

Engineer Edward Ingold recorded the concert live at the Merit School of Music, Anne and Howard Gottlieb Hall in September 2015. Would I rather have heard Pianissimo recorded in a studio than live? Of course, it would no doubt have sounded even better without the constraints of a live audience present. Nevertheless, we have what we have, and I'm sure Pianissimo fans will enjoy the experience of the live moment. Besides, the wide dynamics of the presentations help to make up for any minor live deficiencies. For example, while there could be more presence, more high-end sheen, more brilliance, and more hall ambience on offer, the intensity of the music making always shines through and lights up the room.

Still, I really could have done without the applause at the end of each selection.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 5, 2019

Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral

American Bach Soloists' December concerts begin with three performances of Handel's treasured masterwork, Messiah, in San Francisco's resounding Grace Cathedral. Jeffrey Thomas will conduct the ABS period-instrument orchestra, the acclaimed American Bach Choir, and an outstanding quartet of soloists.

"What stood out above all, in this annual rite that drew a huge crowd, was the sense of being addressed directly, personally, confidingly. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas brought it all together, melding his ABS forces with precision and intuitive responsiveness to Handel's capacious 1742 masterwork." Steven Winn, SFCV

Wednesday December 11 2019 7:30 p.m.
Thursday December 12 2019 7:30 p.m.
Friday December 13 2019 7:30 p.m.

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

For complete information, visit https://americanbach.org/Messiah2019.html

--American Bach Soloists

Park Avenue Chamber Symphony's 20th Anniversary Season
The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (PACS) is riding high these days, its Music Director David Bernard and musicians alike so full of energy and vigour that it comes perhaps as a mild shock to learn that this beloved New York orchestra marks its twentieth year with the 2019/20 season. At a time when some orchestras have settled into a routine, a "that's the way we've always done it" attitude, PACS seems to be reinventing - if not the wheel, then themselves - almost with every season.

Recent years have seen - and continue - a partnership with the pioneering InsideOut Concerts with their immersive orchestra experiences (to feature in two programs this PACS season), the launching of a series of recordings on Recursive Classics that have been applauded by critics in Gramophone, The Arts Desk, and elsewhere, and compelling stand-alone events such as their "Tribute to Veterans" (an event that saw more than 300 musicians on the Carnegie Hall stage, and the New York premiere of Dreams of the Fallen by Jake Runestad and poet and military veteran Brian Turner).

For more information, visit https://chambersymphony.com/

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Miller Theatre Presents a "Composer Portrait of Vijay Iyer," with Jennifer Koh and The Knights
The New York Times states that "there's probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output" of composer, pianist, bandleader, and scholar Vijay Iyer. A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist, and DownBeat magazine's Artist of the Year four times, Iyer is creating a modern realization of the practice of American music through his wide-ranging work. Brooklyn-based ensemble The Knights make their Miller debut in this Portrait which includes a world premiere commission as part of Columbia's Year of Water, along with the New York premiere of Iyer's concerto Trouble, written for violinist Jennifer Koh.

"Song for Flint" (2019) world premiere, Miller Theatre commission
"Crisis Modes" (2019) New York premiere
"Trouble" (2017) New York premiere
"The Law of Returns" (2017) New York premiere

Jennifer Koh, violin
The Knights
Vijay Iyer, piano

Thursday, October 24, 2019, 8:00 P.M.
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC
Tickets: starting at $20; Students with valid ID: starting at $7

For complete information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/vijay-iyer-composer-portrait

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Tenor Ian Bostridge & Pianist Brad Mehldau Launch Icons of Song Series
Princeton University Concerts is thrilled to launch the brand-new Icons of Song series with two unmatched musicians: 15-time Grammy nominee tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Brad Mehldau, considered to be the most influential jazz pianist of our time.

Their concert on Tuesday, October 22 at 8PM will pair Schumann's iconic Dichterliebe cycle with Mehldau's latest song cycle set on texts by Shakespeare, e. e. cummings, Brecht, Yeats, Goethe, Blake, and others. The concert will take place in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

Tickets are $45-$55 general/$10 student, and free to Princeton University students through Passport to the Arts.

Brad Mehldau will also participate in the first Live Music Meditation of our 2019/20 at 12:30PM on the day of his recital, also in Richardson Auditorium. This free, unticketed event is an opportunity to experience Mehldau's jaw-dropping improvisation within the focus allowed in a guided meditation.

For more information, visit http://www.princetonuniversityconcerts.org/concerts/concert/ian-bostridge-brad-mehldau

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

SOLI Chamber Ensemble Announces Its 2019-2020 Season
Winner of the 2013 CMA/ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award, San Antonio based SOLI Chamber Ensemble has earned National and International acclaim for giving voice to 20th-and 21st-century contemporary classical music through its commissioning projects, high-caliber performances, cross-genre collaborations, and engaging educational and outreach programs.

SOLI is proud to present its 26th season, "Rarified Air," featuring 20 exciting pieces from 19 culturally diverse composers and 6 World Premieres.

For complete information, visit https://www.solichamberensemble.com/rarified-air-solis-2019-2020-season/

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Festival Mosaic Offers "Choose-Your-Own WinterMezzo Package"
Festival Mozaic's WinterMezzo Chamber Music Series features three weekends of great works of chamber music, offering sequential ways to connect to the music and the artists. We encourage you to attend all three events in each weekend to experience the special intimacy that only happens at Festival Mozaic.

Join Music Director and Violinist Scott Yoo, along with seven visiting artists, for nine chamber music events throughout the year in San Luis Obispo County, California.

WinterMezzo Series I, November 15-17, 2019: music of Beethoven, Dohnanyi, and Dvorak.
WinterMezzo Series II, February 21-23, 2020: Bach Cello Suites paired with ballet.
WinterMezzo Series III, April 17-19, 2020: music of Nino Rota and Franz Schubert.

For information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/

--Festival Mosaic

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians October 2019 Newsletter
Classes Begin:
The 2019/2020 school has begun and FAYM's Violins For Kids Program is off to a good start!  We have a new group of beginning 3rd grade violin students at the East Las Vegas Community Center and another new group of 3rd grade students at the Pearson Center. These students started lessons using 'stick' bows to learn and practice the correct way to hold a violin bow. I observed classes using their stick bows and saw students trying very hard to learn the correct bow hold. In order to be a good violinist you must have complete control of the bow and if you start by holding the bow incorrectly it is very difficult to unlearn a bad habit!

 Handing out Instruments:
 After two weeks of lessons and home practice these student surrendered their 'stick' bows and were issued 'real' violins to continue their studies. That day was filled with smiles and proud parents as the students embraced 'their' violin and returned to their seats!

New Program at the Library:
Additionally, we are also starting a new group of 1st and 2nd grade students at the East Las Vegas Library located at 2851 E. Bonanza Road (on the corner of Bonanza and 28th street).  This group will meet only once a week on Thursdays. On September 19th, their first day of class they were issued 'stick' bows and eventually they too will receive violins to take home. Many of these students are siblings of our 'veteran' students. They are so excited to get an early start and not having to wait till they reach 3rd grade!

Please join the Family of FAYM:
You can donate directly online (see below) OR by mailing your check to:
FAYM: PO Box 1993; Las Vegas, NV 89125-1993.
Share your love of music with a deserving youngster.  You'll be glad you did!
(All Contributions are Tax Deductible.)

Or, you can support FAYM students at our Web site: https://www.thefaym.org/donate
FAYM keeps our costs low by relying on highly qualified volunteers to handle our administrative tasks. You can be sure that your donation will go directly to scholarship assistance, program support, and student lessons.

--Foundation to Assist Young Musicians

Richardson Chamber Players "Clara Schumann at 200"
On Sunday, October 20, 2019 at 3PM, the Richardson Chamber Players – an ensemble of Princeton University performance faculty, distinguished guest artists, and talented students – will pay tribute to the 200th birthday of Clara Schumann, saluting her extraordinary career as both a virtuoso pianist and a respected composer. The program includes works by Clara Schumann, interspersed with those of her husband Robert Schumann, and close friend Johannes Brahms.

The performers are Alan Feinberg and Jennifer Tao, piano; Chris Komer, horn; Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, soprano; Anna Lim, violin; and Susannah Chapman, cello.

Tickets are $15 General/$5 Students, available online at princetonuniversityconcerts.org, by phone at 609-258-9220, or in person two hours prior to the concert at Richardson Auditorium.

--Kerry Heimann, Princeton University Concerts

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 (classicalcandor@gmail.com) 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

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa