Classical Music News of the Week, November 30, 2019

Vilar Performing Arts Center Announces Winter 2020 Lineup

The 2020 winter lineup at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC) is jam packed with everything from national Broadway tours, Grammy Award-winners and family fun. The wide variety of entertainment options will provide something exciting for all to look forward to this winter. This lineup joins the previously announced classical, dance and holiday series. The VPAC winter season will run December 21, 2019--April 5, 2020.

Ticket prices vary and start at just $24 and will be available 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). This winter, the VPAC is the place to be to hear and see your favorite artists perform in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.

Here are a few of the opening concerts in the VPAC 2020 Winter Season:

"DSQ Electric"
Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 7:00 PM | $48 [$25 Student]
"Where Bach Meets Bon Jovi," a fusion of classical and contemporary music on both traditional and electric strings. 

"Cirque Mechanics 42FT"
Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 7:00 PM | $68 [$48 Child]
Inspired by modern circus, with a signature style.

An American in Paris
Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 7:00 PM | Starting at $88
A National Broadway Tour. Romance! Adventure! Gershwin! Who could ask for anything more!

For a complete lineup of events, click here: www.vilarpac.org

Tickets are available at the VPAC box office (970-845-8497 or at www.vilarpac.org).

--Ruthie Hamrick, Vilar Performing Arts Center

NYFOS Unearths Rare Songs from Harlem's Gay Underground
New York Festival of Song--the long-running "engaging, ever-curious series" (The New York Times)--premieres a fascinating new show called "Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Songs from Gay Harlem," revealing the musical heart of a subculture within a subculture.

The program features exceedingly rare material by Bessie Smith, Billy Strayhorn, and Porter Grainger, as well as songs popularized by Albreta Hunter, Ethel Waters, and 'Ma' Rainey.

NYFOS will also introduce songs by Gladys Bentley, the most popular gay entertainer in 1920s Harlem. She is featured in this New York Times series about prominent people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, and there is a large banner with her photo on 125th Street, along with the ones of Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, and Claude McKay. Bentley's songs have not been performed in 90 years, and existed only as records until November 2019, when they were rediscovered by the early blues scholar Elliott Hurwitt (who provided programming assistance for this event).

NYFOS brings back the superb cast of last season's hit production W.C. Handy and the "Birth of the Blues" (with the exception of Shereen Pimentel, the NYFOS and Blier protégé who was cast as Maria in Broadway's upcoming revival of West Side Story): mezzo Lucia Bradford, British-American tenor Joshua Blue, and baritone Justin Austin. Broadway actress and soprano Bryonha Marie joins the cast as well. Steven Blier and Joseph Li share piano duties. The crack band includes winds and brass man Scott Robinson and bass/tuba player Brian Nalepka.

For complete information, visit http://nyfos.org/gayharlem/

--Albeba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Los Angeles Master Chorale Celebrates the Holidays
From the Messiah Sing-Along to Eric Whitacre's world premiere of The Gift of the Magi, Los Angeles Master Chorale's Holiday Concerts have something for everyone.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale will light up this holiday season with four spectacular concerts that include a world premiere by Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Eric Whitacre, the now-classic O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen, and Handel's Messiah.

Eric Whitacre will conduct the venerable ensemble at "Festival of Carols" on December 7 at 8:00 PM and December 14 at 2:00 PM at Walt Disney Concert Hall, including his world premiere of The Gift of the Magi, a setting of O. Henry's charming tale of love and generosity.

On Sunday, December 15 at 7:00 PM, also at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Master Chorale will give the 25th-anniversary performance of Morten Lauridsen's celebrated choral piece O Magnum Mysterium alongside Victoria's 16th-century setting of the same text. Also on the program is the west coast premiere of The Faire Starre by Nico Muhly, and works by Jennifer Higdon, Dale Trumbore, Matthew Brown and more.

On Wednesday, December 18 at 7:30 PM at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Master Chorale will present the highly anticipated 39th annual sing-along performance of Handel's Messiah, where the audience becomes the chorus. A limited number of VIP tickets, which allow you to perform onstage, are available.

Finally, on Saturday, December 21 at 8:00 PM at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles audiences will have the chance to hear Handel's Messiah in its most refined light when the Los Angeles Master Chorale and orchestra, conducted by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, perform the piece in its entirety.

Please visit https://lamasterchorale.org/show_listing.php for more information.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Wet Ink Ensemble Presents "Collaborations: Huddersfield Composers"
On Friday, December 13, 2019 at 8:00 P.M. at St. Peters Church, Chelsea, NY the "sublimely exploratory" (The Chicago Reader) Wet Ink Ensemble presents a concert of collaborations from the 2019 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, featuring the US premieres of sextets written for Wet Ink by UK-based composers Kristina Wolfe, Bryn Harrison, and Pierre Alexandre Tremblay; NYC-based voice phenom Charmaine Lee; and Wet Ink's Eric Wubbels. Wet Ink debuted these works at hcmf// in November 2019 and recorded them for release on Huddersfield's HCR label. The program features the US premieres of Charmaine Lee's Smoke, Airs (2017 rev. 2019); Bryn Harrison's Dead Time (2019); Pierre Alexandre Tremblay's (un)weave (2019), Kristina Wolfe's A Mere Echo of Aristoxenus (2019), and Eric Wubbels's modules/relationships (2019); all written for Wet Ink.

Charmaine Lee will join the ensemble for her work, Smoke, Airs, which merges tightly structured improvisation with Lee's acrobatic vocal technique, at turns mysterious, playful, and brutal. Kristina Wolfe's A Mere Echo of Aristoxenus explores the structural, mathematical, and spiritual meanings of sound through the acoustic reconstruction of two lost Ancient Greek sites, as part of Wolfe's ongoing research in sound and music archaeology. Dead Time, Bryn Harrison's second chamber composition written for Wet Ink, weaves an intricate texture of micro-repetition with subtle and ever-changing timbral variation, juxtaposed with electronic interruptions that play with one's perception of time in fascinating and unexpected ways. Pierre Alexandre Tremblay's (un)weave features a rich palette of live electronics processing and fixed media in a brightly virtuosic ensemble work inspired by a crowded metropolis of independent yet interacting people. Of his new work, Eric Wubbels writes, "modules / relationships is an open-form work that explores continuums between freedom and determinacy, openness and specificity, concrete meaning and abstract expression in sound. The materials in the piece manifest musical relationships, social relationships, and explicitly personal relationships between the instruments and the members of the ensemble, drawing on many years of playing and being together. The piece takes advantage of the unique fluency of the Wet Ink Ensemble in embodying an extremely broad range of musical practices, including virtuosic notated music, electronics, theatrical performance, and improvisation."

For more information, visit www.wetink.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Happy Hour Concerts: "Resonances"
Jeunesses Musicales Canada (JMC) invites music lovers to its Happy Hour Concerts, an opportunity to relax, sip a glass of wine after work and hear the best emerging artists in the classical world.

Starting at 6:15 p.m., JMC partner RéZin will offer a selection of wines. Then, at 7 p.m., the audience is in for a little over an hour of music, including commentary by the artists, in an intimate venue with impeccable acoustics. Don't miss this special occasion, taking place at Joseph Rouleau Hall, located at 305 Mont-Royal Avenue East, in Montréal, just a few steps from the Mont-Royal metro station.

"Resonances," December 12, 2019
Krystina Marcoux, marimba
Juan Sebastian Delgado, cello

The explosive energy of the marimba and the lyricism of the cello create an interesting and unusual combination that transcends musical eras and styles. From Bach to Radiohead to tango, the duo STICK&BOW contrast classical pieces with more recent ones in their performances to reveal how the great masters of yesterday laid the foundations for several current musical styles.

"The Truth About Love," February 6, 2020
Alexandra Smither, soprano
Rachael Kerr, piano

One is married, the other is resolutely single. Two musicians and friends explore all the facets of love in a fun and uninhibited musical conversation. From Schubert to Britten and from love to heartache, soprano Alexandra Smither and pianist Rachael Kerr combine personal anecdotes with pieces for voice and piano in their quest to demystify true love.

"Peace," March 26, 2020
Anna-Sophie Neher, soprano
Carl-Matthieu Neher, piano

Driven by a desire to relay a social message that goes beyond notes, this brother and sister duo present a collection of luminous pieces written in a spirit of peace. The repertoire will consist of music by Francis Poulenc, Ilse Weber, Walter Kent, and others, creating a unifying concert that, with a little hope, will inspire everyone to build a better world.

Jeunesses Musicales Canada
Jeunesses Musicales Canada (JMC) is a talent incubator that boosts the careers of the best emerging artists, while helping to bring classical music to audiences of all ages. Today, JMC seasons include over 1,200 musical activities presented across Canada, ranging from high-calibre concerts to exciting musical activities for young audiences.

--France Gaignard, Media liaison

Maisons sur rue / Les villes intérieures
As part of the Homage Series, Ensemble Mruta Mertsi and the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) present the concert Maisons sur rue / Les villes intérieures, on December 5 at 7:30 pm, at Église Sacré-Cœur-de-Jésus,1471, Ontario Est, Montréal.

This concert will gather one hundred voices, 9 musicians and an ensemble of soloists. Inspired in part by the work of composer Katia Makdissi-Warren, due to its relationship to world music, the program will also include new works by André Pappathomas and Rachel Burman.

Several of the soloists and instrumentalists involved in this project have already collaborated for works of the honoured composer; they were invited to spontaneously nourish the event's creation process. In addition to the Ensemble Mruta Mertsi, the Chœur Bref will bring together vocal ensembles consisting of small groups from several Montreal-based choirs from various cultural communities. Le Grand Chœur du Centre-Sud, made up of residents of the Centre-Sud neighbourhood, completes the picture by ensuring a great profoundness of tones to the vocal works.

Information: 514 843-9305 ext 301
http://www.smcq.qc.ca/smcq/fr/evenement/42037/Maisons_sur_rue_Les_villes_intérieures

--France Gaignard, Relationniste de presse

Sheridan Music Studio- Chicago Opens in the Fine Arts Building
It is with great pleasure that we announce the opening of our new studio in the historic Fine Arts Building, at 410 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 908, Chicago, Illinois. You can read more about us at our newly expanded website: Sheridan Music Studio.

Our new space is a premier teaching and performance venue, which features two grand pianos, and magnificent views of Lake Michigan and the Buckingham Fountain.

In addition to the private piano lessons, performance/rep classes and chamber music coaching we provide, our offerings include a new concert series, "Music with a View," a new video-podcast series Steinway Sundays with Susan and Svetlana, and a Young Artist Festival Series, as well as recording and studio rentals.

We are partnering with a brand new company based in California, Immedia, to bring many of our events to the wider public around the globe via a proprietary live-streaming platform. More information on that coming soon.

In the meantime, please take a look at the Music with View concerts we already have lined up on our "Events" page and reserve your seats now, as seating will be limited to no more than 40 people per event at this time: https://sheridanmusicstudio.com/events

--Susan Merdinger and Svetlana Belsky, Artistic Directors

Haydn: Favourite Symphonies Nos. 88, 92, 95, 98, 100, 101, 102, 104 (CD review)

Separately, Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1-4. Klemperer, Philharmonia and New Philharmonia Orchestras. EMI/Warner Classics 5099921530 (Haydn); EMI CMS7- 63613-2 (Schumann).

Originality, singularity, and individuality are elements key to prominence in any field. No one aspiring to greatness can do so through imitation alone. Otto Klemperer was a great conductor because he dared to be different. Unlike many of today's homogeneous conductors, Klemperer was unafraid to impose his personality on his interpretations. Not that all of his performances attained greatness, of course, as the following examples testify, but those that were on target will remain with us for as long as people enjoy music.

Yes, Klemperer's tempos were slow. The man's constant insistence on structural integrity and strong symphonic design often left his music sounding merely slower than that of his rivals. But listen again. Listen to the Schumann First "Spring" Symphony, for instance--the highlight of his Schumann set. The music sings. There is not a trace of the ponderous heaviness of which Klemperer is sometimes accused. There is, instead, a light-footed sureness that creates a totally delightful Spring. It is the best, most thoroughly convincing rendering of this score available. His version of the Fourth is almost equally fetching, but in a different way. It combines a deftness of touch with a powerful, yet well-balanced, rhythmical proposition that produces a performance of towering proportions. Where the First possesses an appropriate spirit of benign vitality, the Fourth has an apt sense of grandiloquence.

Unfortunately, Klemperer's Second and Third Schumann symphonies don't fare as well. No. 3 begins sluggishly and never attains the grandeur for which the conductor was evidently striving. It's a good, if flawed, effort, which is more than can be said about No. 2, which I find simply boring. Nevertheless, with two symphonies that are treasures (Nos. 1 and 4) and one so-so (No. 3), the set is a bargain at mid price. And one can have a little fun with the sound as well. The two earliest symphonies Schumann wrote, Nos. 1 and 4, were also the earliest of this set recorded, in 1966 and 1961 respectively, and the sound is typical of the time: close-up, with a good deal of highlighting of individual instruments and compartmentalizing of orchestral sections. The sonics are stunningly vivid and dynamic in a hi-fi sense, if not too genuine from a concert hall perspective. Nos. 2 and 3, on the other hand, are more realistically recorded. They were made in 1970 and incorporate EMI's later views on natural sound. Miked at a moderate distance, they are not as lucid as the earlier efforts, but the orchestral image is more of a whole, the sounds of the hall and individual instruments blending to produce greater unity and cohesion. Both recording techniques are valid, to be sure, and both methods have their adherents. It's a bonus to hear them in the same set where the differences are so clearly revealed.

Otto Klemperer
This brings us to the Haydn symphonies, recorded in the early to mid Sixties. Here I suspect one's appreciation for Klemperer's performances must depend on one's regard for his recordings of Mozart; they are of the same mold. This is big-scale Haydn, generally slow and steady, emphasizing as always the music's architecture rather than displaying the overt jauntiness of, say, a Beecham or the energetic ardor of a period- instruments group. In most cases, Klemperer's Haydn is like listening to the composer with new ears.

Outstanding among the eight symphonies presented in the set are Nos. 88, 101, 102, and 104, with No. 101 "Clock" a good example of the best of the Klemperer style. It is an enchantingly beautiful performance, the argument strong and the rhythms feather light. This Clock is no modern digital affair, moving without heart or soul, nor is it an old grandfather snoozing laboriously in a corner (although for some listeners, it may come close). This Clock is graceful and ornate, all filigree and glass, inviting us to relax and take our time. (Compare the tempo of the second movement, for instance, to a clock your own with a second hand; the beats tick off almost exactly with the movement of the seconds. Still, too slow for you? Well, as Klemperer might say, "You will get used to it.")

Likewise do the three other Haydn symphonies I enjoyed combine refinement and reason in perfect eighteenth-century order. Regarding the symphonies I enjoyed less well, they are perhaps too much of a good thing, the conductor trying too hard to make every piece sound like a precursor to Beethoven. But when Klemperer is off, it isn't for lack of trying.

These performances are for people seeking something out of the ordinary. The interpretations are uniquely personal and, as such, variable; but when the music is good, it's worth a hundred of anything else.

JJP

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

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Symphonic Dances (arr. for two pianos). Dong Hyek Lim, piano; Martha Argerich, piano; Alexander Vedernikov, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Warner Classics 0190295455514.

Was there ever a more grand and glorious Romantic composition than Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto? Well, that's a pretty subjective question, made all the more remarkable by the fact that the composer premiered it in 1901, at the very end of the Romantic era and on the cusp of the Modern age in music. On the present recording pianist Dong Hyek Lim, conductor Alexander Vedernikov, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra undertake the work in a performance both grand and Romantic. How well it stacks up against so many other great recordings is another matter.

South Korean pianist Dong Hyek Lim (b. 1984) studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hanover, received the Samsung Culture Scholarship and Ezoe Scholarships, and currently studies with Emanuel Ax at the Juilliard School. Like so many young, up-and-coming pianists, Lim has received many awards, won numerous competitions, performed with major orchestras all over the world, and recorded about a dozen record albums. So he has the credentials to take on Rachmaninov.

Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) premiered his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 after having undergone hypnotherapy for severe depression. Apparently, the perceived failure of his First Symphony so disturbed him that he feared he would never write another piece of music, so he decided he'd try anything. The hypnotherapy seemed to work as the Concerto No. 2 became an immediate success.

Dong Hyek Lim
Lim and his associates handle the opening movement in a suitably big, powerful style, emphasizing not only the grander emotional rhapsodies but the gentler, more lyrical ones as well. In the peaceful second movement, Lim and company establish an appropriately dreamlike atmosphere, the pianist nicely capturing the music's feeling of calm and repose and doing justice to the beauty of the movement's central theme, if perhaps a little too gentle at times. Then comes that memorable finale, where Rachmaninov revives the familiar themes he introduced in the previous two movements. Here, Lim's balance of expressive showmanship and delicate sensitivity works pretty well, and he and his fellow musicians provide an entertainingly expressive conclusion to the work.

So, in the end how does Lim's performance stack up against great recordings of the past, ones from Cliburn, Ashkenazy, Janis, Horowitz, Richter, Wild, even Rachmaninov himself? Here, things become a bit stickier here. I certainly enjoyed Lim's relaxed, easygoing, fairly engaging treatment of the score; yet I didn't think he displayed quite the Romantic sweep or intimate transparency of the leading recorded contenders in the work. Still, if you're a Lim fan or just want the luxury of a plush new digital recording, the disc should satisfy your wants.

As a coupling, the album features Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, the composer's final major work before his death, in Rachmaninov's own arrangement for two pianos. Here, Lim partners with one of the giants of the piano world, the Argentine virtuoso Martha Argerich. If you're familiar only with the orchestral version, this adaptation for piano may seem a bit underwhelming. However, in the hands of two such capable artists as Lim and Argerich, the power is still there, along with an added degree of sweetness and light. If you don't already have a favorite recording of the piano transcription, you might consider this album for that reason alone.

Producer John Fraser and engineer Phil Hobbs recorded the concerto at Maida Vale Studios, London in November 2018, and producer Fraser and engineer Arne Akselberg recorded the dances at Teldex Studio Berlin in December 2018. There's a wonderfully mellow ambient bloom to the piano in the concerto, as well as a huge dynamic range. The overall sound of the concerto is quite smooth, too, and only a tad soft. In any case. the big, warm, cushy sonics nicely complement the Romantic nature of the music. The two pianos in the Symphonic Dances share a similar recorded sound: big, fairly close, yet smooth and warm.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 23, 2019

Holiday Programming from Concerts at St. Ignatius

"A Chanticleer Christmas"
Friday, December 6, 2019 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 4 p.m.
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Main Sanctuary, NYC
Tickets: $48-$88
More information: ignatius.nyc

The joy of Christmas comes once again to Chanticleer, as we celebrate this age-old narrative with what we hope are fresh eyes and ears, hearts and voices. Gregorian chant and Biebl are never far away, but this year we turn also to carols in a half dozen languages, American hymns, Spanish villancicos that ask us to dance, and "I Wonder as I Wander," which calls us to pray. This is a tradition we cherish, and we can't wait to celebrate the holidays with you again.

"Star of Wonder"
Combined Choirs & Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola
K. Scott Warren, conductor
Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 3 p.m.
Sunday, December 22, 2019 at 3 p.m.
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Main Sanctuary, NYC
Tickets: $30-$88
More information: ignatius.nyc

In our most popular concert year after year, raise your voice with the Choirs and Orchestra in traditional carols and a thundering "Hallelujah Chorus" sing-along. Over 100 musicians deliver the heart-warming melodies of Christmas.

Bonus Concert - "Yale Schola Cantorum: Christ Is Born"
Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 2 p.m.
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Main Sanctuary, NYC
Free Admission
More information: ignatius.nyc

The astonishing Yale Schola Cantorum returns to the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola with a program to celebrate Epiphany.

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

The Piano Professor
Ralph Carroll Hedges, B.Ed., B.M., M.M., is a piano teacher of some renown. In 1990 he founded the Chopin International Piano Competition of the Pacific, which had its first competition at the newly renovated Hawaii Theater in downtown Honolulu. In 2015 he was chosen as a judge in the Enkor Piano and Violin Competition, based in Dusseldorf, Germany. He has written many books on music theory and has a complete analysis of much of the work of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, and Debussy.  He believes that the so-called 'popular' song is the better and more enjoyable way to learn the language of music, aka music theory.

Now, Mr. Hedges has opened up his teaching to include the Internet, preparing short weekly posts to cover special subjects. The first week's post covers the subject of modulation, because, as he says, modulation seems to be somewhat of a mystery to many piano students. So he hopes this post will help.

Here's a link to the Piano Professor's blog: https://thepianoprofessor.com/

--Director, Chopin Piano Academy

Video Greetings from ABS's Hélène Brunet and Steven Brennfleck
The Messiah soloists are eager to return to American Bach Soloists audiences and look forward to Messiah in Grace Cathedral. They are Hélène Brunet, soprano; Rebecca Powers, mezzo-soprano; Steven Brennfleck, tenor; Hadleigh Adams, baritone; with the American Bach Soloists, the American Bach Choir, and Jeffrey Thomas, conductor.

Hear their comments here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4J1AaZ-aZo&feature=youtu.be

Three performances: Wed 12/11/2019 at 7:30 PM; Thu 12/12/2019 at 7:30 PM; and Fri 12/13/2019
at 7:30 PM. Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA.

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

--Amercian Bach Soloists

The Crypt Sessions Presents a Salon Séance for Benjamin Britten
On December 4, 2019, The Crypt Sessions closes out their fourth season with a Salon Séance in honor of the 43rd anniversary of Benjamin Britten's death. This carefully crafted program meshes the music of Benjamin Britten with an actor channeling the late British composer. The performance will explore Britten's experience of leaving England and experiencing the "American Way of Life," before returning home to find Europe descending into war. The show also builds drama with Britten's brief, but potent, relationship with poet W.H. Auden, who criticizes Britten's values and his way of life as an artist in a written letter.

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Miller Theatre's Early Music Series Continues with the Tallis Scholars
For twenty years, the venerable Tallis Scholars have made a much-anticipated annual appearance in New York City to perform on Miller Theatre's Early Music series, Columbia University. This year's program explores the ways in which composers from different eras and backgrounds reacted to the same seminal texts; it includes multiple settings of "Ave Maria," "Salve Regina," "Magnificat," and "O sacrum convivium," alongside Allegri's exquisite "Miserere."

The Tallis Scholars just released a new album on Gimell Records, which features Josquin's Missa Mater Patris and Bauldeweyn's Missa Da pacem. This is the eighth of nine albums in the Tallis Scholars' project to record all of Josquin's masses.

For more information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/tallis-scholars-sacred-Interpretations

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Vocal Sensation Emanne Beasha Signs with Decca Records U.S.
Emanne Beasha, the 11-year-old opera singing phenomenon who captured the hearts of millions on season 14 of "America's Got Talent" has signed to Decca Records, US. The vocal prodigy will release her first ever set of holiday songs, "A Christmas Wish," just in time for the holiday season, on November 22.

Beasha made her national debut on "America's Got Talent" in June of 2019 with a showstopping rendition of Puccini's classic aria "Nessun Dorma." Catapulting into the national consciousness she went on to receive the Golden Buzzer from Jay Leno for her operatic version of "Caruso." Quickly becoming a fan-favorite, additional performances included an amazing crossover of Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do" and "Quello Che Faro" and her finale showstopper, "La Mamma Morta." On the "Finale Results" show the vocal powerhouse performed "Con Te Partiro" with the world-renowned pianist Lang Lang.

You can follow Emanne Beasha on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and FaceBook.

--Carlos Vega, Universal Music Group

"Carthage Conquer'd: Dreams of Tunis" in the Baroque Imagination
Thursday, December 12th, 8:00pm
The Players Club
16 Gramercy Park South, NYC

The capital of present-day Tunisia was once the legendary city of Carthage. Immortalized by Virgil in The Aeneid, the Carthaginian queen Dido was loved and abandoned by the Trojan war hero Aeneas, a casualty in his mission to found Rome. Her story inspired countless musical masterworks from the baroque era to Berlioz, her name internationally shape-shifting from Didone to Dido to Didon as her story captured the imagination of composers from Venice to London to Paris and beyond.

Selections from perhaps the best known of Dido settings, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, open and close the concert. Cavalli's treatment of the Dido story differs from Purcell's, however. Busenello replaces Virgil's tragic destiny with a happy ending, as Dido's suitor, Iarbas, ultimately marries her after Aeneas abandons her. The vocal works are punctuated by short pieces for solo lute by Girolamo Kapsberger, a composer and lute virtuoso of noble birth and German heritage who may have been born in Venice. --Jessica Gould

For more information, visit https://www.salonsanctuary.org/2019-2020-season

--Publius Vergilius Maro, Salon Sanctuary Concerts

The Crossing @ Christmas Features World Premiere of Edie Hill's Spectral Spirits
Grammy-winning new-music choir The Crossing reprises its annual holiday program, The Crossing @ Christmas, at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia on Friday, December 20, 2019 at 7:30pm presented by the Annenberg Center; at The Met Cloisters in New York City on Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 12:30pm and 3:30pm; and back in Philadelphia at The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill on Sunday, December 22, 2019 at 5:00pm.

The Crossing @ Christmas also features the world premiere performances of Spectral Spirits, a major commission from Edie Hill based on poems of Holly Hughes. The new 30-minute work explores the extraordinary beauty and diversity of the natural world found in birds; and it views those birds through a lens of loss and nostalgia. All of the birds in the work once numbered in millions and are now gone. The program includes David Lang's Pulitzer-winning the little match girl passion (2008), a work championed by The Crossing and one of the few works they return to repeatedly.

For complete information, visit https://www.crossingchoir.org/upcoming

 --Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Share the Magic of the Holidays
Share the magic of the holidays with the Young People's Chorus of New York City.

Founder and Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez lead the chorus in a program that blends traditional holiday favorites with contemporary works, joined by Metropolitan Opera star Nadine Sierra and dramatic baritone Lester Lynch.

Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.
David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC

Learn more & buy tickets: https://www.lincolncenter.org/show/winter-wonder-a-festive-holiday-concert

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

2020 Season Announcement and Give Miami Day
 Please help support the Miami Classical Music Festival's thrilling 2020 summer season by making your donation on Give Miami Day this Thursday. All donations on Thursday, November 21st from $25-$10,000 will receive a bonus match from the Miami Foundation!

Your donation will go to help support our festival and educate over 300 of the world's future classical music stars who come from over 25 countries each year. We have just begun our application period and are preparing to listen to over 1500 wonderful musicians over the next 4 months.

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

--Miami Music Festival

Support Festival Mozaic
What's your favorite part of Festival Mozaic? The concerts? The venues? Getting to know the musicians? All of this is possible because of your support.

Every ticket you buy, every donation you make, every word you spread of our performances has been critical to our success. Thank you! As the year draws to a close and you reflect on your charitable giving, we invite you to renew your support today! Your gift will foster our year-round programming, including the weekends of chamber music during our February and April WinterMezzo Series.
Our Board of Directors is committed to moving forward and growing support. Please stand with us as we look ahead to celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2020.

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

--Lloyd Tanner, Festival Mozaic

New Century Presents "Christmas with Anne Sofie von Otter"
New Century Chamber Orchestra celebrates the holidays December 18-20 with debut appearances by internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. In celebration of the Christmas season, Anne Sofie von Otter will join New Century for a selection of arias including "Bereite dich, Zion" from J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 and "Vedro con mio diletto" from Vivaldi's Giustino, as well as traditional songs, such as "White Christmas," "O Tannenbaum" and "A Child is Born." Music Director Daniel Hope will take the stage as soloist in "Winter" from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and leads the orchestra for Handel's Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op. 6 No. 10, HWV 328 and Corelli's Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6. No. 8 "Christmas Concerto."

"Christmas with Anne Sofie von Otter" will be given on three evenings in locations around the Bay Area: Wednesday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, Thursday, December 19 at 7:30 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, and Friday, December 20 at 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley.

--Brenden Guy Media

On Power Amplifier Listening Trials…

A common opinion among qualified audio experts (restated here by me) is that…
All modern audio power amplifiers that present high input impedance (≥ 20 kΩ), very low output impedance (≤ 0.2 Ω), flat power response (20 Hz–20 kHz ± 0.5 dB at rated output), ultra-low distortion (≤ 0.1% THD at rated output), and a virtually inaudible noise floor will sound exactly the same when operated at matched (± 0.25 dB) levels, not clipped, and properly connected to the same load.

Do appreciate that amplifiers meeting the above specifications all sound the same because they share a single common attribute: They are highly accurate. A power amplifier that is accurate is one that faithfully replicates the original input source signal without making any change, loss, or addition. Given this measured assurance of accuracy, why do so many hi-end audiophiles conduct listening trials to detect the audible difference between power amplifiers? Well, here’s my opinion on…

Why listening trials persist, and grief to avoid when conducting a listening trial…

1—Irrelevance: To an overwhelming extent, today’s audiophiles are non-technical subjectivists*. They have no interest (and little understanding) of the measurements that define audio performance, and they don’t expressly seek accuracy. The audiophiles’ primary goal is to identify equipment that renders euphonic sound; i.e., sound that’s subjectively pleasing, and vacuum tube power amps provide more range of choice. This accrues because…
(a) THD at rated output runs > an order of magnitude higher for a tube-type power amp than on a solid-state equivalent, and that difference might be audible.
(b) And because transformer-coupled tube amps can’t approach the optimal low impedance drive of solid-state power amps, where Zout is typically ≤ 0.1Ω. The tube amp’s higher Zout will directly interact with the shifting Zin presented by the loudspeaker/crossover load because both values will then be of similar order. This will color the sound; the speaker’s sonic signature will differ slightly from its natural voice. The result could be deemed either pleasing or displeasing—a subjective option. Of course, the change will reflect degraded source accuracy, but accurate sound was never the audiophile objective.

2—Expectation: Do appreciate that it’s instinctive to assume that different amplifiers will sound different. Indeed, for a great many decades (from the 1949 origin of “hi-fi” until the early 1980s) most power amplifiers did sound different, and their sound was materially affected by load impedance. Of course, few of those power amplifiers met the stringent specifications cited in the opening paragraph, so they were not highly accurate amplifiers, although some might approach that goal when paired with a favorable load. When sampling amplifiers today, some listeners still expect to hear such differences, and some are certain to fulfill their expectation, regardless of the sound. Aural perception is a fickle and fleeting sensation, prone to uncertainty and subject to human frailty; be wary.

3—DC Offset Orphans: Since power amplifier comparisons imply the probability of high output operation, it’s helpful to know (for sure!) that your samples exhibit only nominal DC offset. So measure the amps’ initial DC offsets before running a listening trial. Don’t evaluate some random lemon with anomalous excessive offset. Be certain that your intended samples truly represent the breed. (Note: This need for offset screening applies only to direct-coupled power amps; not to transformer-coupled amps.)

4—Marginal Mavericks: If a comparison trial involves a power amplifier that is just marginally accurate, that margin might prove audible. This generally involves an amplifier with slightly out-of-spec power response, and the character of the aberration might be perceived by a sensitive listener. Lots of audiophiles express personal preference for a particular sort of biased sound (warm/detailed/liquid/analytic, et al.) that marginally differs from source reality. (In many cases they might do well to reassess their speakers’ crossover settings, rather than change their power amp.) Of course, a “maverick” is an outcast, it’s generally not representative of the breed, so another sample of the same model might not sound the same. Instrumented measurement is a useful way to isolate marginal mavericks, and testing power response (frequency response at high power output) is easily done, with basic test equipment.

5—Output Level Accuracy: All listening comparisons must be accomplished at precisely identical output levels. This is best assured by actually measuring the respective outputs at some appropriate (400-800 Hz) fixed test frequency, using a microphone or sound level meter, mounted on a stand, and fixed precisely at the intended listening position. Simply keeping the main volume dial at the same position will not assure identical output because different amplifiers exhibit different voltage gains. Most modern power amps have internal voltage gains that fall between +23 dB and +29 dB, and some amps have rear panel trim pots to independently adjust the left/right input balance. So, (a) review the technical aspects and check the gain spec; (b) inspect and adjust sample amplifiers as needed; then (c) listen as desired, but be aware that you’ll learn very little if the amplifiers are accurate (see opening).

6—Termination Variables: In the course of disconnecting and reconnecting the speaker load to the various amplifiers in a listening trial (and repeating that cycle numerous times—often as quickly as possible), it’s quite likely that there might be some variation in the uniformity of the termination. Indeed, sometimes even different connector types are used (see photo**), with different results. It’s really quite easy, in the course of this repetitive attach/detach process, to introduce some contact inequality, and that variable could cause aural disparity when conducting high power comparisons. To assure optimum signal transfer it’s vital to carefully inspect, clean, reseat, and tighten all terminations, and assure that all parts are in optimum visual alignment every time that they’re mated.

7—Room Acoustics & Comb Filtering: Aural comparison trials require that all acoustic environs be uniform. This includes a precisely fixed position within the listening space. It also means that the occupancy and every furnishing detail must be exactly the same. Even a minor change can materially affect the acoustic reflections and standing wave patterns, and these disruptions, however slight, can alter the sound. Despite every effort to comply, the small listening areas typical in most private homes can still yield appreciable (6 dB) variation over distances as small as four inches and frequencies as low as 200 Hz. This is the unfortunate consequence of comb filtering. (Refer p.101-104 of “The Audio Expert”, by Ethan Winer [Routledge, 2nd edition, 2018], ISBN 978-0-415-78884-7.)

8—Sight Before Sound: In a previous paper (refer “On Evaluating Audio Equipment…”), I cited a significant study (http://www.pnas.org/content/110/36/14580), conducted in 2013, describing the finding that visual cues convey far more impact than any audible evidence. In sum, your eyes will implant a more vivid and persistent impression than anything that you hear, and what you see will determine what you think you hear. As a consequence, any serious listening trial should be administered under blind test conditions. If you know which amplifier is playing, you will be unable to render valid aural judgement. The statistics in support of this finding are persuasive, and the evidence is undeniable. Listening trial choices that were formed prior to observing this guidance should be ignored.

9—Confirmation Bias: When you’re comparing your old power amplifier against some new and costly wonder that you’ve got on temporary loan, it’s very difficult to admit that there might be no audible difference. And in the event that you’ve already purchased that prized new model, I’d say that it’s not possible to declare that both amps sound the same. We’re not robots.

BG (November 16, 2019)

*Among audiophile organizations, the sole exception appears to be the Boston Audio Society, where most members comprehend and respect the value of technical analysis in defining product performance.

**The discrete banana plugs that are shown in the photo are a bit unusual. They have an internal free-floating slug that achieves uniform compression against the (side entry) wire without transferring any twisting strain; see…
A  TIP:  If your amplifier’s rear clearance (to wall) is especially tight, you can shorten these banana plugs (by 5mm) by discarding the knurled end posts and substituting flat point metric set screws (use M8–1.0 x 8mm) to retain the wires.

Mozart: Piano Concertos 17 & 24 (CD review)

Benjamin Hochman, piano and conductor; English Chamber Orchestra. Avie AV2404. 

If you are as unfamiliar with pianist Benjamin Hochman as I was, here is a passage from his Web site to help you get acquainted: "Winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011, Benjamin Hochman's eloquent and virtuosic performances blend colorful artistry with poetic interpretation to the delight of audiences and critics alike. He performs in major cities around the world as an orchestral soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, working with an array of renowned musicians. Possessed of an intellectual and heartfelt musical inquisitiveness, his playing was described by the Vancouver Sun as "stylish and lucid, with patrician authority and touches of elegant wit." Hochman frequently juxtaposes familiar and unfamiliar works in his concert programs, a talent that also extends to his thoughtful recorded repertoire, from Bach and Mozart to Kurtág and Peter Lieberson. The New York Times wrote of pianist Benjamin Hochman "classical music doesn't get better than this."

After that, it's a lot to live up to. Fortunately, he does. He's obviously a fine young pianist and deserves attention. The thing I liked most about this playing on this Mozart album is that he never seems to show off his virtuosity as a few more celebrated pianists of his generation do. He appears to be content to play the music without embellishment and to play it rather traditionally as opposed to what we hear from today's popular "historically informed performances" do. To some ears, that may mean he's a bit old-fashioned. So be it; he's also comfortably entertaining.

Explaining why he chose this particular pairing of Mozart concertos, Mr. Hochman explains, "I chose to record these two concertos because to me they are mirror images of each other. The G major is full of sunshine and joy, but it also has these moments of darkness that show complexity, whereas the C minor is essentially tragic, full of fury and storm, yet it also has moments of calm and resignation, including much of the slow movement. Also, the last movements of the two concertos are both in variation form--the only two final movements of Mozart piano concertos that are variations. For these reasons, the two concertos really complement each other very well."

Benjamin Hochman
The set begins with the Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K.453, which Mozart wrote in 1781 along with five others. The concerto is lyrical and playful, and Hochman's performance is as frolicsome as the piece demands while remaining polished and civilized. Mozart intended a degree of melancholy to pervade the second-movement Andante, which Hochman handles with delicacy. Then, there's that memorable finale; Mozart himself was so fond of it that he taught his pet starling to sing it. Hochman seems to be enjoying himself here, too, yet he never goes overboard in forcing the merriment of the variations.

The Piano Concerto No. 24 in c minor, K491 is a contrast to No. 17, more mature, darker and more dramatic. Mozart finished it in 1786, writing it for a larger array of instruments than for No. 17, more so than for any of his other concertos, in fact, and its opening movement is the longest he had written to that point. Some music critics admire it so much, they consider it the best piano concerto Mozart ever wrote. I wouldn't go that far, but, then, music is so much a matter of taste and opinion, who can say?

You can tell from its long introduction that No. 24 has a bigger feel than his previous concertos and a more somber tone. When the piano finally enters, it's quietly subdued, Hochman gradually increasing its emotional scope and building its dramatic intensity. Still, Hochman always maintains an admirable poise, one clearly appropriate to the classical style. The slow, middle movement is sweet and simple, Hochman keeping it that way with playing both light and transparent. Hochman concludes by playing the finale with the grace and dignity it deserves as the culmination of an essentially tragic concerto, yet he never lets it sag and lag.

Hochman's interpretations of both concertos on the album are sensible, often reflective, and somewhat sedate. Whether that is what the listener is looking for is, of course, again a matter of personal taste. While there is certainly nothing earthshaking or revelatory about Hochman's readings, they are comfortably well performed, with thought and care. For most listeners that should be more than enough.

Producers Eric Wen and Melanne Mueller and engineer Dennis Patterson recorded the music at St. John's Smith Square, London in April 2019. As we have come to expect from Avie recordings, the sound on this one is as natural as one could want. It's not overly precise or clinically transparent; it's just clear, clean, and realistic, with as much detail as one would hear in a concert hall. There's a pleasant ambience communicated from the venue that adds to one's enjoyment, too, as well as a perceptible and lifelike depth to the orchestra. Moreover, the sound is smooth enough to enhance and enrich Hochman's fluent delivery. It all works quite well together. Although the piano stretches a bit far across the sound stage for my taste, it's not a serious concern when everything else lines up so well.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 16, 2019

The Richardson Chamber Players Celebrate American Chamber Music: Dvorak & Harry T. Burleigh

On Sunday, November 24, 2019 at 3PM, the Richardson Chamber Players--an ensemble of Princeton University performance faculty, distinguished guest artists, and talented students--will pay tribute to American chamber music with a program of works by Antonin Dvorak and Harry T. Burleigh, one of Dvorak's most important students.

Performers: Sarah Pelletier, soprano; Kevin Deas, bass-baritone; Eric Wyrick and Haeun Jung '20, violins; Anna Lim and Katie Liu '20, violas; Alberto Parrini, cello; Francine Kay, piano.

Following on the heels of Princeton University Concerts' opening event featuring the music of African-American composer and singer Harry T. Burleigh played by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Richardson Chamber Players will continue to highlight the unique relationship between Dvorak and Burleigh. At age 26, Burleigh won a scholarship to the new National Conservatory in New York City where he became a student of Dvorák. Dvorak, who was then director of the school, was deeply influenced by his performance of spirituals and other traditional American songs. "I am convinced," Dvorák stated, "that they can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States." Dvorak's "New World" Symphony shows their effect on his music. The unique program will be as follows:

Antonin Dvorak from Humoresques for Solo Piano, Op. 20
Dvorak from "Biblical Songs for Soprano & Piano," Op. 99
Harry T. Burleigh 6 Spirituals
Dvorak/William Arms Fisher "Goin' Home," arranged for Baritone & String Quartet
Dvorak Quintet No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97

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, Princeton, NJ.

--Kerry Heimann, Princeton University Concerts

Miller Theatre Presents a Composer Portrait of Bright Sheng
Bright Sheng is one of the foremost composers of our time. His emotionally-driven music ranges from dramatic to lyrical, with strong influences of the folk and classical music of Eastern and Central Asia. The MacArthur Fellow returns to Columbia—where he received his DMA in composition—for this Portrait of recent works. The program features the composer as pianist and conductor, as well as the marimba concerto Deep Red, performed by the talented Curtis 20/21 Ensemble.

Program:                                                           
Clearwater Rhapsody (2018)
Deep Red (2014)
Dance Capriccio (2011)
String Quartet No. 4 "Silent Temple" (2000)

Artists:
Curtis 20/21 Ensemble
Bright Sheng, piano and conductor

Thursday, December 5, 2019, 8:00 P.M.
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC

For more information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/bright-sheng

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

SF Choral Society Performs Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Magnificat
The San Francisco Choral Society concludes its historic 30th anniversary season with a liturgical telling of Christmas to the Feast of Epiphany as heard through J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 (Cantatas IV, V and VI) and Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243.

Led by Artistic Director Robert Geary, the program will be presented twice at St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco on Friday, December 6 at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 7 at 8:00 p.m. An array of guests will join the chorus for these historically informed performances including the Jubilate Orchestra on period instruments as well as sopranos Michele Kennedy and Jessica House Steward, mezzo-soprano Leandra Ramm, tenor Michael Jankosky and baritone Nikolas Nackley.

For more information, visit http://www.sfchoral.org/site/celebrate-the-season-with-j-s-bach/

--Brenden Guy PR

Happy Hour Concerts - Body and Soul
Jeunesses Musicales Canada (JMC) invites music lovers to its Happy Hour Concerts, an opportunity to relax, sip a glass of wine after work and hear the best emerging artists in the classical world.

Starting at 6:15 p.m., JMC partner RéZin will offer a selection of wines. Then, at 7 p.m., the audience is in for a little over an hour of music, including commentary by the artists, in an intimate venue with impeccable acoustics. Don't miss this special occasion, taking place at Joseph Rouleau Hall, located at 305 Mont-Royal Avenue East, in Montréal, just a few steps from the Mont-Royal metro station.

Body and Soul, November 28, 2019
Teo Georghiu, piano

 A child prodigy turned citizen of the world, cyclist, and accomplished pianist, Teo Gheorghiu offers performances that are highly personal. Evocative works by Debussy, Ravel, Albéniz, Granados, Enescu, and Mussorgsky blend with his own story and memories of French and Spanish landscapes. Follow Teo during a tour that will also include some cycling, as he pedals from city to city and from piece to piece.

--France Gaignard, Media liaison

ASPECT Chamber Music Series Presents "Russian Elegy"
The ASPECT Chamber Music Series continues its fourth New York City season of illuminating performances with "Russian Elegy" on Thursday, December 4, 2019 at 7:30pm at Bohemian National Hall. The program features violinist Misha Keylin, cellist Zlatomir Fung, and pianist Pavel Nersessian in Anatoly Lyadov's Three Pieces, Op. 57; Glinka's Trio Pathétique; and Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in a minor, Op. 50.

Veteran BBC radio host and musicologist Stephen Johnson leads an illustrated lecture on the three Russian composers on the bill, exploring the theme of the Russian elegy. Johnson is a writer, broadcaster and lecturer on music. A popular and acclaimed BBC Radio presenter, he won a Sony Gold Award for his documentary Vaughan Williams: Valiant for Truth. He is the author of Bruckner Remembered (Faber 1998), Discover Music of the Classical Era (Naxos 2008) and studies of Mahler and Wagner (Naxos 2006/2007), and is a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Conducting (CUP 2004). He is also a composer, and his orchestral work Behemoth Dances received its world premiere in Moscow in April 2016, the UK premiere taking place in London a month later.

"Russian Elegy"
Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 7:30PM
Bohemian National Hall | 321 E 73rd St | New York, NY 10021
Tickets: $45 includes wine and refreshments
Link: https://www.aspectmusic.net/payment-test/russian-elegy

To find out more, please visit www.aspectmusic.net

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

SOLI's Third Annual Contemporary Music Open Mic
Monday, December 2: 7:30 PM | JAZZ TX

If you've been toiling away at your instrument and have been waiting for your moment to shine, here's your opportunity. Ten to twelve amateur musicians will be joining us to perform their favorite contemporary pieces for SOLI's highly enthusiastic and friendly audience. Wouldn't you want to be one of the lucky ones?

Click here for more information: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/contemporary-open-mic-night/

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Benjamin Hochman Explores Interrelation of Words and Music
Pianist Benjamin Hochman will perform at 92Y's Buttenwieser Hall, NYC on Nov. 22, 2019 at 8 PM for an intimate recital exploring the interrelation of words and music.

The recital features Brahms's Four Ballades, a touching farewell to Schumann, Brahms' mentor whose troubled life was coming to a tragic end when the Ballades were composed; Schumann's Kreisleriana, a musical response to ETA Hoffman's phantasmagorical The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1822): an autobiography of a well-read cat, written on wastepaper and containing the musings of the eccentric musician Kreisler; Chopin's Fourth Ballade that is based on Adam Mickiewicz's "The Three Budrys," a poem about three brothers sent away by their father to seek treasure, and their return with three Polish wives instead; and Thomas Adès's Darknesse Visible, an "explosion" of John Dowland's song "In Darkness Let Me Dwell" (1610). The melancholy of the Renaissance text is mirrored in Dowland's music, while Adés reworks the musical material into a modern version that both amplifies and masks the original.

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

ROCO Celebrates the Holiday Season
ROCO's 2019-20 season "Coming of Age" continues in December with the start of their Connections series in Houston. On December 9 at 10 am, ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) will celebrate the holiday season at the Czech Center Museum Houston with "Yuletide Brunch and Brass."

The event will include a Czech-inspired menu and holiday music from the ROCO Brass Quintet--in a program of traditional Czech works, Hanukkah tunes, and jazzy arrangements by ROCO's own Jason Adams, including Duke Ellington's rendition of the Nutcracker Suite, and Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas, infused with the engaging wit and humor the ROCO Brass Quintet is beloved for.

Post-concert, Czech Center docents will be on hand for an optional guided tour of the Museum's collections, spanning Czech and Slovakian art and culture and featuring a temporary exhibition of Greek art from the Charalampous Art Collection.

For more information, visit https://roco.org/performances/roco-connections-yuletide/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

SFCM Announces Center for Innovative Leadership
As The New York Times writes, San Francisco Conservatory of Music has "emphasized risk-taking and an expansive view of the field." Deeply committed to cultivating a sense of entrepreneurial spirit among its student body, SFCM will now expand its culture of exploration with rapid-fire programs designed to empower arts professionals. The SFCM Center for Innovative Leadership will welcome its first cohort in January 2021 to the new Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts, a comprehensive arts hub created through a transformative $46.4 million gift in 2018.

"SFCM is built on an expansive and inclusive vision for the future," said President David H. Stull. "To make that vision a reality, the industry needs committed and energetic arts leaders with the tools to lead their institutions toward artistic and fiscal growth. The Center for Innovative Leadership will contribute major resources and top-tier faculty and mentors to enhance the talent pipeline for arts administration."

The Center for Innovative Leadership will be nestled among the concert halls, classrooms, conference facilities, and guest suites of the Bowes Center, which opens in fall 2020. Curricular models will be designed to address the needs of multiple administrative constituencies. In June 2021, aspiring arts managers will enroll in the center's flagship offering: Project ADAM (Audience Development and Advancement of Music) Seminar for Early Career Professionals, which will inform and empower rising leaders at the entry point to the talent pipeline. A series of alternating Level-Up Workshops will take place each January, with a cohort of first-time executive directors convening in January 2021, and a group of revenue-generating professionals in fundraising and marketing roles meeting the following year. In September 2021, orchestra and opera board leaders will have the opportunity to learn from distinguished board heads--and each other--in the Board Chair Forum.

For more information about SFCM, visit https://sfcm.edu/

--Beth Stewart, Verismo Communications

American Bach Soloists (ABS) present "Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral"
This holiday season, the 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, totaling 72 musicians.

Now beginning their fourth decade of celebrated Bay Area performances, and well into the third decade of annual presentations of Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral, American Bach Soloists have established a singular holiday tradition with these concerts. Noted especially for their adept mastery of complex and technically difficult choruses that call upon each singer to demonstrate control over Baroque coloratura, the American Bach Choir under Thomas's direction have established themselves as experts particularly in the music of Handel and Bach.

For more information, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

Savannah Music Festival 2020 Season Announced
From March 26 through April 11, 2020, the Savannah Music Festival (SMF) celebrates its 31st season with artist residencies, thrilling debuts, unique co-bills and special projects in myriad genres. Over 17 days, Savannah's Historic District becomes home to visionaries and creative voices from across the United States, as well as from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, India, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Trinidad, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

Noteworthy performances include: orchestral and chamber concerts commemorating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth (March 28, April 3, April 5); a dance program with Georgia ties by Troy Schumacher's innovative company BalletCollective (March 31); a first-time trio showcase of fiddlers Martin Hayes and Jeremy Kittel with guitarist Roger Tallroth (April 9); a bluegrass concert honoring Doc Watson with acclaimed flatpickers Bryan Sutton and Jack Lawrence and bassist T. Michael Coleman (April 6); a celebration of fado, flamenco, and their offshoots featuring guitarist Marta Pereira da Costa and Canary Island timple virtuoso Germán López (March 28); and an evening of Afro-Cuban sounds with jazz pianist Harold López-Nussa and the astonishing piano/percussion duo of Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez (April 11).

This spring, Marcus Roberts and Mike Marshall return as leaders of SMF's two workshop programs for aspiring young musicians – Swing Central Jazz and the Acoustic Music Seminar. Roberts also heads the Swing Central Jazz Finale, New Orleans Swing Time (April 3), while Marshall directs a special presentation of the Ger Mandolin Orchestra Project (April 2). In his new role as Artistic Advisor, Chamber Music, festival veteran and violist Philip Dukes joins returning and new musicians for an eight-concert chamber series.

"Our organization continues to elaborate upon a programming model that is artist driven," says Artistic Director Ryan McMaken. "In late March and early April, Savannah hosts artists and music lovers from all over to experience creative collaborations, unique co-bills and residencies involving performance and education."

Tickets to the 2020 Savannah Music Festival are available online at savannahmusicfestival.org, by phone at 912.525.5050, and in person at the Savannah Box Office (216 E. Broughton Street, Savannah, Georgia).

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Quasi Morendo (CD Review)

Music of Brahms, Sciarrino, and Pesson. Reto Bieri, clarinet; Meta4 (Antti Tikkanen, violin; Minna Pensola, violin; Atte Kilpeläinen, viola; Tomas Djupsjöbacka, cello). ECM New Series 2557 481 8082.

By Karl W. Nehring

I was going to open this review by saying something along the lines of, "people who are fans of Brahms probably are averse to auditioning music by composers who are new and strange to them." Upon a bit of further reflection, though, I realized that I myself am a fan of Brahms but in fact do indeed enjoy auditioning music by composers who are new and strange to me. That being said, though, I must confess that when I saw that ECM had sandwiched my beloved Brahms Clarinet Quintet between two slices of music by composers that were new and strange to me, I was a bit apprehensive. Still, I persisted.

Upon first hearing the first few measures of the Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino's Let Me Die Before I Wake (the liner notes state that the title is taken from a book by Derek Humphry, an American advocate of euthanasia), the opening piece on this CD, I must confess that my apprehension level increased significantly. The sounds were ghostly – strange and otherworldly. I am quite familiar with the sound of a clarinet, as I used to play the clarinet and have enjoyed the sound of the clarinet on many, many recordings. But I had never heard one sound like this before.  It reminded me of Tuvan throat singing, with two notes – a high and a low – being played simultaneously by clarinetist Reto Bieri, who explain in the line notes that "with special grips, even with slight changes in the approach to the sound, it is possible to create particular multiphonics, through breathing and blowing (a big difference!) I can influence these sounds in the finest degree. How to explain this physically is really a mystery to me. And I am very happy that most of it is a mystery to me. That's the way it has to be, it's mysterious music and has to be mysterious." After my initial shock, I played the piece a few more times and began to appreciate its haunting and fascinating sounds, finding myself in awe at the ability of both composer Sciarrino and performer Bieri to create and navigate such a strange but wonderful musical landscape. This is music from the bardo.

Reto Bieri
Moving from the mysterious to the familiar, the next piece on this release is the Brahms Quintet in b minor, op. 115, which I would assume is music with which many who read this blog are familiar.  I myself have owned several recordings, back in the day on LP and now on CD. A quick check of my collection revealed the Shifrin/Chamber Music Northwest recording on Delos neatly filed where it belongs in a classical rack, but I failed to find the Stoltzman/Tokyo String Quartet version on RCA that is apparently piled in a box where is awaits refilling one of these days when I assemble the new CD rack that I bought months ago so I could accommodate my ever-growing collection. The Brahms is a piece near and dear to my heart and it is given a fine performance by Bieri and Meta4. Having demonstrated his amazing ability to create strange tones from his instrument in the Sciarrino, Bieri then demonstrates his ability to produce an amazingly pure-toned and virtuosic performance of the Brahms, matched in kind by the clean, precise, and well-balanced support of the string quartet. Indeed, my one very slight reservation about their version is that at times it seemed almost too pure, too clean – just a touch more warmth would have been welcome at times. Still, this is a breathtaking performance, well captured by the engineers, and it is a version to which I will often return in the future when I want to enter the autumnal world of the Brahms Quintet.

Meta4
The final piece on the program is Nebenstück for clarinet and string quartet by French composer Gérard Pesson. The title roughly translates as "next-to piece," and has been referred to as a "filtering of Brahms." The liner notes describe the piece as "an estranged instrumentation, or rather arrangement, for clarinet and string quartet, of the Ballade for Piano, Op. 10 No. 4, that Brahms composed in 1854."  To my ears, the music unfolds as a kind of dialogue between the clarinet and the strings, with the clarinet having a smooth, calming effect, while the strings sound more nervous and edgy, often being plucked. The overall result is a very affecting musical experience, haunting in the positive sense of the word. The piece ends in a kind of fading sigh, a dying breath, or perhaps just a memory of some mostly forgotten dream.

Overall, then, Quasi Morendo ("Almost Dying") is an artistic reflection on death, life, and states that lie between. The liner notes are helpfully informative, with an especially interesting essay on the Brahms. I can recommend this release highly to music lovers – especially Brahms fans – whether they be familiar or not with his Clarinet Quintet. There is much to enjoy and much to contemplate here, both in the music and in the notes. A splendid CD!

KWN

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

Virtuoso Music for Cello (CD review)

Music of Boccherini, Franchomme, Rossini & Servais. Constantin Macherel, cello; Sebastian Comberti, London Mozart Players. Claves 50-1903.

Here are a few things I didn't know: The cello was "derived from the viole da braccio family rather than that of the viols." Moreover, the young Swiss cellist Constantin Macherel featured on this disc is a laureate of numerous competitions and has performed recitals all over the world. He plays an old English cello by Joseph Hill, ca. 1765. Here, he is accompanied by the London Mozart Players, which, again news to me, is the UK's longest established chamber orchestra. They play under the direction of cellist Sebastian Comberti, who has appeared many times as a soloist with the London Mozart Players, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Hanover Band.

The disc's program consists of five selections from the Baroque, Classical, and early Romantic periods. The opening number is the Variations sur deux themes (russe and ecossais) (1835) by the French cellist and composer Auguste-Joseph Franchomme (1808-1884). It's a charming piece played with elegance and refinement by Macherel. One certainly notices the melodies of Russia and Scotland throughout, but there are also hints of America's Stephen Foster as well. Whatever, it's nostalgic and reflective and poetically presented.

Constantin Macherel
Next comes Souvenir de Spa, Fantaisie (1844) by Franchomme's good friend Adrien Francois Servais (1807-1866), who was one of the most influential cellists of the nineteenth century. As in the Franchomme piece, we get music of extended refinement, this time the composer's impressions of Spa, the Belgian resort town famous for its mineral springs. It can be a bit more energetic than the Franchomme and not quite as sentimental, but it is equally as enchanting, with Macherel showing off his virtuosity.

After that is the longest and earliest piece on the agenda, the three-movement Cello Concerto No. 6 in D Major (1770) by the Italian composer and cellist Ridolfo Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805). It's a typically delightful piece from Boccherini, and the string accompaniment from the London Mozart Players well complements Macherel's graceful playing.

In the penultimate spot we find Une Larme, Theme et variations (1858) by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868). These variations on "A Tear" can range rather pointedly from lively to playful to pensive. They are fun, and Macherel makes the most of the change-ups.

The album concludes with Chant d'adieux, Fantaise (1836), by the same man who opened the program, Auguste-Joseph Franchomme. He based the music on a funereal melody, so don't expect a lighthearted close to the agenda. But do expect the same degree of stylishly dignified attention by everyone involved.

Producer Rachel Smith and engineer Ben Connellan recorded the music at St. John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, London in June 2018. The sound, while a tad close-up in the cello work, is otherwise excellent. The clarity is admirable, the detail, the definition. When the stage opens to the full chamber orchestra, it is well spread out, with lifelike distances between the instruments and a reasonably wide stereo spread. It's among the nicest, cleanest, most realistic things I've heard this year.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, November 9, 2019

Miller Theatre Presents a Composer Portrait of Annea Lockwood

Composer Portraits: Thursday, November 14, 2019, 8:00 P.M.
Columbia University School of the Arts
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC

A tiger's purr, burning pianos, helium balloons, and the Hudson River have all played a part in the music of Annea Lockwood (b. 1939). The intense focus on deep listening of sonic details from nature and electronics has formed the basis of the eclectic output of the New Zealand-born composer and sound artist. The adventurous piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire returns to perform a world premiere commission, alongside three other works, including the technically demanding Becoming Air, written for and performed by trumpeter Nate Wooley.

Program:                                                         
Into the Vanishing Point (2019) world premiere, co-commissioned by New York State Council on the Arts and Miller Theatre
Becoming Air (2018)
Ear-Walking Woman (1996)
I Give You Back (1995)

Artists:
Estelí Gomez, voice
Nate Wooley, trumpet
Yarn/Wire

For complete information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/annea-lockwood

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Nimrod Borenstein Composes For Top Hong Kong Piano Competition
Rising composer Nimrod Borenstein is in demand these days from leading music competitions--his Mephisto piano etude received its world premiere recently, 15 times over as it were, from all the semi-finalists at the Hong Kong International Piano Competition. Every day from October 7th to 14th will see two competitors play the new work, which was specially commissioned from Borenstein by the competition.

Borenstein, whose music has received frequent recordings in recent years (by Vladimir Ashkenazy and others), is no stranger to writing for competitions - among those to have commissioned him are the International Jeunesses Musicales Competition (for their forthcoming 50th anniversary), and the Marie Cantagrill International Violin Competition.

"It's an honour and a great experience to compose for great competitions like the Hong Kong International Piano Competition," says Borenstein, "Because, as an artist, how often is it that you get to hear 15 performances - 15 different interpretations of your work by brilliant musicians? At the same time, the competition setting imposes a useful discipline to compose in a way that really explores various technical facilities of the instrument - which is also of course a kind of freedom!"

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Le matin des magiciens
The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) presents "Le matin des magiciens," as part of a first collaboration with the Arab World Festival of Montreal on November 10 at 3 pm at the Place des Arts (Cinquième salle), Montreal.

As part of the Homage Series dedicated to composer Katia Makdissi-Warren, this major concert features an eclectic repertoire, by the nature of the works and the instruments used, marked by an opening with music from the Middle East and the Orient.

The SMCQ Ensemble, musicians from Toronto's Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan and the Oktoécho Ensemble, which is co-producing the event, share the stage, highlighting the Indonesian hues characteristic of the gamelan.

Katia Makdissi-Warren and composer Gabriel Evangelista will present new works for gamelan and Middle Eastern instruments, directed by conductor Jean-Michaël Lavoie, while two works for gamelan and instruments from Quebec's contemporary repertoire will be presented under the baton of conductor Walter Boudreau.

For more information, visit http://smcq.qc.ca/smcq/en/evenement/42039/Le_matin_des_magiciens

--France Gaignard

Experiential Orchestra Presents "Bulgarian Virtuosity" November 15
For our concert at Roulette (Brooklyn, NY) on November 15, we have commissioned five superb composers--Brad Balliett, Patrick Castillo, Lainie Fefferman, Michi Wiancko, and Kate Copeland Ettinger--to write pieces in dialogue with the music that Bulgarika, on tour from Bulgaria, will be playing.

Today the pieces arrived! They are tr
emendous, engaging, personal, and we can't wait to premiere them for you in two weeks. Each piece will be performed juxtaposed with the performances by Bulgarika of the same melodies.

In addition to music of Béla Bartók (arrangements of his "Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm" pieces from Mikrokosmos), we will be presenting music by Pancho Vladigerov, the most renowned Bulgarian classical composer of the last century, and we are honored to be giving the US premiere of several of his works for you.

For those of you who are fascinated by the incredible choral tradition in Bulgaria, we will be performing string arrangements of several of the most beloved pieces familiar from the Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares recordings of the 1980s.

In order to experience the sound in different ways, we offer the chance to sit embedded in the orchestra; and we feature a gorgeous arrangement of Michi Wiancko that places our musicians in all corners of the hall. Finally, in true EXO fashion, we will end the concert with the audience dancing (note: dancing optional but encouraged).

Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bulgarian-virtuosity-with-exo-tickets-71536438413?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing

Additional information here: www.experientialorchestra.com

--Experiential Orchestra

92Y Presents Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Violinist Carolin Widmann
On Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 8:00pm at Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC, 92nd Street Y presents the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and German violinist Carolin Widmann in her New York debut.

Widmann takes the lead in Kurt Weill's showstopping Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra, Op. 12, which combines the composer's classical European pedigree with hints of the swinging Broadway style he would later adopt in full. Works for winds by Mozart bookend the Weill Concerto: a transcription of the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro and the substantial, operatic Serenade No. 10 in B-flat Major, K. 361 "Gran Partita," notably used in the popular film Amadeus.

Program Information
Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 8:00pm
92nd Street Y | Kaufmann Concert Hall
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Carolin Widmann, violin

Link: https://www.92y.org/event/orpheus-chamber-orchestra-carolin-widmann.aspx

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Handel's Judas Maccabaeus with Tenor Nicholas Phan
This holiday season, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) will present one of Handel's most celebrated vocal works, as Nicholas McGegan, an international authority on Handel, conducts his final Handel oratorio as music director. Judas Maccabaeus, a stirring tale of the triumph of perseverance and peace over oppression, has endured relevance and popularity since its original performances, and PBO will perform this work for the first time since 1992. Powerhouse tenor Nicholas Phan takes on the title role of the conquering hero, and the award-winning Philharmonia Chorale led by Bruce Lamott shares the spotlight as the Chorus of Israelites. Performances take place throughout the San Francisco Bay Area on December 5–8.

For complete information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2019-2020-season/handels-judas-maccabaeus/

--Stephanie Li, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale

Chelsea Symphony's Annual Holiday Concert
The Chelsea Symphony's Holiday Concert at 8pm on December 6th, 2019, features the orchestra's annual performance of Aaron Dai's "The Night Before Christmas," narrated by actor and comedian Mario Cantone, best known for his role as Anthony on Sex and the City.

Also on the concert is the NYC premiere of Fernande Breilh-Decruck's Les clochers de Vienne: Suite de Valses, a work first published in 1935 and is unique in its pioneering inclusion of the vibraphone, an instrument that only became widely available in the previous decade. The orchestra will also perform Arturo Márquez's Danzón No. 2. Written in 1994, Danzón No. 2 is one of the most widely-known works from the Mexican contemporary classical canon, and was featured in the Amazon original series "Mozart in the Jungle."

Concertos for this concert are Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 featuring Molly Fletcher, and Camille Saint-Saëns's Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso with violinist Dawn Wang. In a Chelsea Symphony tradition, the winner of the previous year's holiday concert silent auction will conduct Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." TCS is thrilled this year to welcome award-winning actor, director, and choreographer Devanand Janki to the podium for this festive event.

Following the concert, the orchestra will host a reception and silent auction to benefit the orchestra.

Friday, December 6, 8:00 p.m.
St. Paul's Church, 315 West 22nd Street, NYC

For more information, visit https://chelseasymphony.org/concerts/2019-2020/holiday-2019-20/

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis Announces New Book
Internationally acclaimed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis announces the release of her new book, The Composer's Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp (Carl Fischer Music), a comprehensive guide and conversational text on composing idiomatically for the harp. The book features 22 detailed chapters on a full spectrum of topics, including technical logistics, chromaticism, notation, context, resonance management, special effects, and more.

As one of the world's most renowned harp soloists, as well as an author, professor, orchestral harpist, and passionate champion of new music for her instrument, Kondonassis' experience spans over thirty years in the field of classical music. She writes, "In many ways, this book has been writing itself in my head for at least two decades. My motivation to demystify the harp is strong; I would even go so far as to call it a mission, but my goal is not merely to provide a set of rules, lists, and practical suggestions. While I have made a concentrated effort to streamline information and highlight those areas that I consider to be the most valuable and important, this volume should not read like a textbook. It should feel more like a friendly, candid conversation with an experienced harpist who wants to make composing for the harp easier and more successful."

For more information, visit https://www.yolandaharp.com/

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Winter Wonder Tickets on Sale
Young People's Chorus of New York City Presents "Winter Wonder: A Festive Holiday Concert"
Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 4:00 pm. David Geffen Hall, NYC

Share the magic of the holidays with friends and family at the Young People's Chorus of New York City's very special "Winter Wonder" holiday concert! Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez turn the spotlight on YPC's award-winning choristers and two extraordinary guest artists: Metropolitan Opera star Nadine Sierra and the incredible dramatic baritone Lester Lynch, who will join their voices with over 400 talented young people in a joyous program of holiday classics. If you can only make it to one holiday concert this season, make sure it is Winter Wonder!

For complete information, visit http://lincolncenter.org/show/winter-wonder-a-festive-holiday-concert

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Emma Kirkby, Soprano, Wins Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award
Not many singers are revolutionaries; not many can be said to have radically changed the sound of music in our time. But that is the lifetime achievement of Emma Kirkby: through her totally distinctive voice, focused artistry and supremely intelligent music-making she has transformed our experience of a repertory of great music. She has been one of the most powerful forces in the early music revival across nearly 50 years, and thus a key part of one of the most important and influential movements in today's musical world.

To learn more about Emma Kirkby, visit https://schwalbeandpartners.com/project/emma-kirkby-soprano/

--Schwalbe and Partners

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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