Classical Music News of the Week, December 7, 2019

West Edge Announces the 2020 Snapshot Program

Entering its fourth consecutive season, Snapshot is a collaboration between West Edge Opera and Earplay dedicated to getting new operas on their feet and giving audiences a first look at developing works from West Coast composers and librettists. The performances will take place on Friday January 31th, 2020 at 8:00PM at the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703 and Saturday February 1st, 2020 at 8:00PM at the Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102. Tickets are $40.00 and can be purchased from the West Edge web page at http://www.westedgeopera.org/snapshot

This year's program features a particularly diverse selection of pieces, with settings ranging from rainforests of South America, all the way to China during the Han Dynasty, with a stop in the historic ballrooms of Oakland in the fifties.

Chinese-American composer Joan Huang has translated the poetry of noted historical figure Cai Wenji to create Eighteen Melodies for Hujia, an inventive portrait of a woman who has been forcibly removed from her home and family by powerful men during the Han Dynasty. The music is drawn from ancient tunes and the orchestral treatment evokes traditional Chinese instruments such as the guqin (similar to a zither) and hujia (a reeded ram's horn).

With music by Nicolas Lell Benavides and a libretto by Marella Martic Koch, Gilberto tells the story of a young latino man who struggles to keep his cultural identity despite being drafted into the violence of the Korean War. In the opening scene, Gilberto celebrates his last night dancing with friends at Oakland's historic Sweet's Ballroom before heading off to the war. Snapshot is proud to work with Opera Cultura to present an all latinx cast of singers.

In their brief chamber opera Moon, Bride, Dog, librettist Cristina Fríes and composer Ryan Suleiman reimagine the haunting fairy tale Donkey Skin as a surreal, post-apocalyptic dream. A young girl pursued by wild dogs struggles to remember how she arrived in her predicament, and is ultimately consumed by the traumatic act of remembering.

Finally, German born composer Peter Michael von der Nahmer and librettist Cynthia Lewis Ferrel shine a spotlight on the dark side of capitalism with El Canguro, the story of a young South American woman whose father forces her to bear and sell children on the lucrative adoption market.

For more information, visit https://www.westedgeopera.org/snapshot

--West Edge Opera

Mariss Jansons, Conductor of Top Classical Orchestras, Dies at 76
Mariss Jansons, conductor of top classical ensembles including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, has died in Russia. He was 76.

Jansons' death in St. Petersburg was confirmed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he was chief conductor. Jansons had canceled concerts this summer because of health reasons, the dpa news agency reported.

Born in German-occupied Riga in 1943 in what is now independent Latvia as the son of a conductor father and an opera singer mother, Jansons grew up in the Soviet Union and studied at the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Conservatory. He moved to Austria in 1969 and studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and with Herbert von Karajan in Salzburg.

He was chief conductor in Pittsburgh from 1997 to 2004, regularly appeared at the Salzburg Festival, and in 2006 and 2012 conducted the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert broadcast around the world. He left the Pittsburgh orchestra to become principal conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, a post he held until 2015. Jansons is credited with raising the reputation of the Oslo Philharmonic through recordings and international tours during a 23-year tenure as music director.

--Associated Press

FAYM December Newsletter
40 violins that were part of a youth music program at the Boy's and Girl's Clubs of South Nevada several years ago and sponsored by the Las Vegas Philharmonic have been presented to the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians for use in our "Violins for Kids" program. The violins were purchased via a grant from the Rogers Foundation and will be a welcomed asset for expanding our "V4K" program!

FAYM students perform for Stella Mason Parson Excellence in Education Awards brunch. Stella Parson was the first black woman to get a bachelor's degree from University of Reno many years ago. Ms. Parson took her degree and went to work teaching in the Clark County School District. It was my privilege to get to know Ms. Parson as my own daughter was a student in Ms. Parson's 3rd grade class approximately 40 years ago. Ms. Parson is now deceased, but her family and friends have established a scholarship to honor this great teacher's work in educating our children. It is their goal to gather enough monies to offer a full-ride scholarship to an African-American female student here in Nevada. On November 16, 2019 our FAYM students were invited to perform some music during their Excellence in Education Awards/scholarship fundraising event.

Mr. Thomas arranged for several of our advanced musicians to perform, and I of course was in the audience along with my daughter Jessica, Ms. Parson's former student. Our FAYM students were awesome! They performed Abendsegen, David and Michael, Celtic Dance, and Finale from First Symphony. It was very exciting for me to see and hear our students perform. Mr. Thomas and I were very proud of their beautiful performance.

For complete information, visit https://www.thefaym.org/

--Arturo Ochoa, Past FAYM President

Compositions Must Be Learned, Not Memorized
Most pianists and piano students memorize their work being 'studied', but without the slightest idea of what is in the work. I am preparing individual compositions with analyses that must be part of the practice and/or the piano lesson. This is a completely different approach that is not presented in any theory manual or teaching method.

Visit the Web site for complete information: https://thepianoprofessor.com/

--Ralph Carroll Hedges, "The Piano Professor"

New World Symphony and Miami City Ballet Celebrate Stravinsky and Balanchine
On Saturday, February 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET, the New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), and Miami City Ballet (MCB) come together for a special live-streamed WALLCAST event celebrating Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine, two icons of the 20th century whose decades-long friendship proved to be one of the most prolific artistic pairings of their time.

Led by NWS Co-Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), this performance at the New World Center is projected live on the 7,000-sq.-ft. eastern façade of the building and may be experienced for free in adjacent SoundScape Park. Additionally, a free live-stream is available to viewers around the world via Medici.tv.

Curated by MTT and MCB Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, who as young artists worked with Stravinsky and Balanchine respectively, the program on both evenings comprises Stravinsky-Balanchine's Apollon musagète; Balanchine's Stravinsky Violin Concerto, featuring violinist James Ehnes; and Stravinsky's Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant, originally choreographed for circus elephants and ballerinas by Balanchine on commission from Ringling Bros. Circus Polka is performed in its orchestral concert version, accompanied by immersive visuals by video artist Emily Eckstein.

For more information, visit https://www.nws.edu/news/nws-joins-miami-city-ballet-in-celebrating-stravinsky-and-balanchine/

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

ROCO Celebrates the New Year with Beer and Brass, Peter and the Raptor, and Age of Aquarius
ROCO will kick off the new year with three Connections series events this January, spotlighting exciting community collaborations and taking audiences to unique spaces across Houston.

First, on January 9, the ROCO Brass Quintet will present their annual Beer & Brass evening at Saint Arnold Brewing Company, featuring the ROCO Brass Quintet in traditional beer hall music and favorite arrangements of popular tunes.

Then, on January 11, ROCO will put their own twist on Prokofiev's beloved tale Peter and the Wolf, with Peter and the Raptor in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science - performed by a ROCO Wind Quintet with timpani and brought to life by actors portraying each character of the children's classic.

Finally, on January 30, ROCO will explore the music of the 70s (the 1770s, 1870s, and 1970s, that is) at the historic house museum Rienzi, with a program entitled "Age of Aquarius." Featuring Professor Robert Greenberg of "The Great Courses," the lecture-performance showcasing a trio of ROCO musicians will include works from Haydn, Mozart, and Dvorak, as well as lesser-known composers Zdenek Fibich and Ivan Erod. Prior to the concert, there will be a reception of food and refreshments, including an opportunity to enjoy a docent-led tour of Rienzi.

For more information, visit https://roco.org/performances/roco-connections-beer-brass-3/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Meet Sarah Coit
An interview with Sarah Coit, making her American Bach Soloists debut on New Year's Eve.
Hometown: Spring Hill, FL
Education: Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Theatre Performance and Music Studies from the University of South Florida. Masters in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan.
Hobbies: Baking, visiting aquariums and historical landmarks, being goofy.
Favorite opera singer before 1960:  Dame Janet Baker: I think love for her singing transcends time!
Favorite modern opera singer: Dame Sarah Connolly
Favorite food: White Cheddar Popcorn
Mantra: It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

Q: When did you start singing?
A: I participated in choir in elementary school, but I didn't take formal singing lessons until high school.

Q: Who/what were your major influences?
A: I think I was always interested in performing. Some of my clearest memories from elementary school were when they had theater or music groups come to perform for us. My first voice teacher, Dr. Roberta (Bobbi) Moger, had such a big influence on me. Her two biggest things were vocal health and leading with joy. She'd always take time to find pieces for her students that spoke to them. Her love of music wasn't ego driven and you could just tell how much joy it gave her to participate in music making. It was such a great way to be introduced to serious music study.

Q: What's a typical day like in the life of Sarah Coit?
A: I feel like I've just gotten out of the YAP [Young Artist Program] circuit, so there's no such thing as a typical day yet, which I kind of love. Frequent gigging can give you a sense of homelessness, which I thought would be a struggle for me, but has actually made it easier for me to live in the moment. I don't have kids and my boyfriend and I visit each other when we have time off and play tourist. It's nothing like I expected and it's really fun!

--American Bach Soloists

Carnegie Hall Presents the International Contemporary Ensemble in Widmann Program
Carnegie Hall presents "America's foremost new-music group" (Alex Ross), the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and this season's Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair, Jörg Widmann, on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 7:30pm in Zankel Hall, NYC.

The all-Widmann program, part of Carnegie Hall's Fast Forward series, features the composer as virtuosic clarinet soloist and chamber music collaborator in his Liebeslied for Eight Instruments; Air for Solo Horn; Etude No. 2 for Solo Violin; Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, and Piano; Three Shadow Dances for Solo Clarinet; and Freie Stücke (Free Pieces).

International Contemporary Ensemble co-artistic director and percussionist Ross Karre says, "Widmann's practice is a perfect complement to the spirit of the International Contemporary Ensemble's collaborative history with composer-performers. A concert celebrating his compositions, his incredible clarinet virtuosity, and his conducting is a very special occasion. Though monographic in nature, the audience will experience an eclectic musical spectrum of sound-colors, instrumentations, and musical invention."

For more information, visit https://www.iceorg.org/events/2020/1/28/international-contemporary-ensemble-with-jrg-widmann

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Fifth Graders Compose and Perform Original Songs for Los Angeles Master Chorale
Fifth graders from Plasencia Elementary School and Compton Avenue Elementary STEAM Academy can now call themselves budding composers and songwriters, thanks to participation in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Voices Within program. The fall series of "Voices Within" concerts featuring students performing songs they have written will take place on Friday, December 13, 2019 at 9:30am at Plasencia Elementary School and Tuesday December 17, 2019 at 9:30am at Compton Avenue Elementary STEAM Academy.

The concerts are the culmination of the 12-week "Voices Within" residency program that brings three teaching artists--a composer, a lyricist, and a performer--into the schools to introduce the students to musical concepts such as pitch, rhythm, and melody, and teaches them how to apply those concepts to songwriting. The students perform their songs for fellow students, teachers, friends and family. Each school will give two performances.

Free and open to the public
Street parking only

Friday, December 13, 2019 at 9:30am
Betty Plasencia Elementary School
1321 Cortez St. Los Angeles, 90026

Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 9:30am
Compton Avenue Elementary School
1515 E. 104th Street, Los Angeles, 90002

--Lisa Bellamore, Los Angeles Master Chorale

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa