Jöhann Jöhannsson: 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann (CD Review)

Echo Collective (Margaret Hermant, violin; Sophie Bayet, violin; Neil Leiter, viola; Thomas Engelen, cello).  Deutsche Grammophon 0289 483 7218 8.

By Karl W. Nehring

The late Icelandic composer Jöhann Jöhannsson (1969-2018) is perhaps best known for his film scores such as those for the movies Sicario and Arrival. His compoaitions often combined elements of classical, electronic, and ambient music to great effect. Among his other attributes, the composer had a remarkable gift for writing music conveying an atmosphere of sadness that is deep, moving, but somehow neither morose nor depressing. On this posthumous release of music that was unfinished at his death but brought to life by the Brussels-based ensemble Echo Collective (more on that process below), his music for string quartet spurs the listener to reflect, perhaps even to grieve, but not to despair; to contemplate darkness, but not to be engulfed by it; to remember the disappointments life brings, but not to succumb to bitterness; to confront the inevitability of death while simultaneously savoring the transient but immediately embracing wonder of life.

These dimensions of Jöhannsson’s music take on a special poignancy in light of his tragically short life. He died at 48 in Berlin, the German autopsy report indicating that the likely cause of death was a fatal conjunction of cocaine and flu medication. On the surface, that might strike some readers as an indication of a character flaw or another case of some high-flying celebrity being brought down by wretched excess, but it is highly plausible that the story is deeper and more tragic than it might first appear, involving the pressure of composing music for high-profile film studios. But that is speculation to which it is best not to take too far, lest we ourselves succumb to our own dark and very possibly untrue thoughts. Let us instead turn to the music at hand on this release.

Echo Collective
The musicians of Echo Collective had worked with Jöhannsson to realize some performances of his music that combined elements of classical and electronic approaches. According to the Echo Collective on their website and in the liner notes for this CD (which once again are nearly impossible to read because of small print plus very little contrast in color between the background and the lettering – what was the design team thinking?!), in the wake of their collaboration:

“Jöhann approached us to work with him on his project. He intended for Echo Collective to help him finish the composition of the Quartet.  The score Echo received after Jöhann’s death was uncommonly sparse in the sort of markings classical composers typically include to convey their wishes in terms of dynamics, phrasing, and articulation.

As musical interpreters, we have an almost visceral need to perfect a music's intended tone, and to connect its audience to an authentic emotional experience. While a score lacking detailed direction can sometimes frustrate that goal, Echo Collective's musicians found a freedom in Jöhann's music which allowed them to create without feeling constrained by reference standards or critical comparisons. When Jöhann died, it became Echo Collective’s responsibility to determine how the music should sound and what emotions it should convey. Our previous work with him on Orphée, and the many discussions and time spent together, provided us with the tools needed to honour his request to the highest possible standard. Inspired and informed by the memory of the composer’s energy and masterful command of timing, tension and silence, Echo Collective was able to articulate a musical journey such that every listener could individually experience something meaningful and personal. We have followed through on what we fully believe were Jöhann’s intentions for these Quartets.”

The end result comprises twelve tracks of music for string quartet. The music is serious in tone, personal and reflective. It is for the most part somber, but not maudlin. Although not in the format of a typical string quartet, it is clearly music for string quartet, very musical and very moving. The musicians of Echo Collective have done a remarkable job of completing Jöhannsson’s composition and producing this remarkable recording. The only complaint some might have is the length of this CD, which clocks in at less than 42 minutes. Still, it is a truly moving musical experience – one can only wonder what other treasures Jöhannsson might have gone on to compose had his life not been cut short.


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

A Beethoven Odyssey, Volume 6 (CD review)

Piano Sonatas Nos. 4, 11, and 12. James Brawn, piano. MSR Classics MS 1470.

The German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1826) wrote 32 piano sonatas over a period of 27 years (1795-1822). English concert pianist James Brawn has so far recorded about 175 of them over a period of some 800 years. Or so it seems. Fortunately, they are among the best played and best recorded Beethoven piano sonatas you will find, so you will get no complaints from me.

This is Mr. Brawn's sixth volume of Beethoven piano sonatas, and at three to a disc, yes, it's going to take time to complete the job. He started the project in 2012, and when it's done, one hopes the buyer will be able to choose between separate sonatas on separate discs or together in a complete box set. We'll see. In the meantime, enjoy Nos. 4, 11, and 12.

In case you've forgotten, James Brawn was born in England in 1971, started piano lessons at the age of seven, won the first of many awards at the age of eight, made his debut with a Mozart concerto in Australia at the age of twelve, continued studying with important pianists, and subsequently played in recital and in concert all over the world. From his Web site: "In 2016, Brawn was appointed to the piano faculty of the FaceArt Institute of Music, Shanghai. His recent concerto performances include the Beethoven 1, 3, 4 and 5 with the English Symphony Orchestra, Surrey Mozart Players, Capriol Chamber and Stroud Symphony Orchestras. James Brawn is a Steinway Artist."

The program begins with Piano Sonata No. 4, which Beethoven composed between 1796-97. It's one of Beethoven's longest piano sonatas, and because it stands alone, not a part of any set, the composer called it the "Grand Sonata." Also, because it is among Beethoven's earliest piano sonatas, written when the composer was still in his twenties, it has a lighter, more youthful feeling than most of the later works. That's the way Brawn plays, with a lightness of touch and a youthful feeling of joy, turbulence, calm, grace, eloquence, restlessness, and resolution by turns.

James Brawn
I've mentioned this before, but bear with me. There's a difference between merely playing notes of music and interpreting them. Moreover, there's a difference between interpreting those notes with sensitivity and faithfulness and interpreting them so idiosyncratically they no longer sound like they belong to the composer. Mr. Brawn, I'm pleased to say, falls into the sensitive yet faithful category. He doesn't simply play the music but interprets it sensibly. One can hear this in almost every note he plays. One can hear it in the very tone of his piano; in the subtleties of his tempos and rubato; in the shadings of his dynamic contrasts. Yes, he is a virtuosic pianist, and his fingers can fly with the best of them, but he is not one to be content with showmanship alone. His is playing of refinement, of art.

Anyway, next is the Piano Sonata No. 12, composed by Beethoven between 1800-1801, about the time he finished his Symphony No. 1. Probably the most striking elements of this sonata are that the first movement is a relatively slow andante for variations, the movements do not follow the usual Sonata-Allegro format, and they're all in the key of A-flat. What's more, the third-movement funeral march was later played during the composer's own funeral. Brawn calls this sonata "beautiful," and that's the way he approaches it, with consummate brilliance yet great feeling. And, as always, his piano tone is rich, mellow, full, warm, and resonant as the occasion requires.

The disc ends with Piano Sonata No. 11, composed in 1800. Beethoven himself regarded No. 11 as the best of his early piano sonatas, and it has always remained popular with audiences. Maybe it's why Brawn chose to close the show with it. Listening to Brawn play it so effortlessly, one cannot imagine what sublime complexity there is in the piece. It was probably the culmination of Beethoven's creative genius at the time, and Brawn gives it its due, with playing of profound artistry, flexibility, sympathy, and awareness.

Producer Jeremy Hayes and Engineer Ben Connilian recorded the music at Potton Hall, Suffolk, United Kingdom in December 2018. As always, the piano sound is excellent. It is not quite so pinpoint sharp as most DG piano recordings, but it is more natural. The piano sounds the way a real piano would sound in a real room, with a rich, mildly resonant bloom. As I mentioned earlier, these piano sonatas from Mr. Brawn are not only among the best performances you'll find, they're among the best recorded.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 15, 2020

Concerts at Saint Thomas March Performances

Concerts at Saint Thomas continues their 2019-20 season in March with guest performances from The King's Singers and Joy-Leilani Garbutt, and a performance of C.P.E. Bach's Die letzen Leiden des Erlösers (The Last Sufferings of Christ) from the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys.

British a cappella vocal ensemble The King's Singers will perform at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (at West 53rd Street) for the first time on March 3 at 7:30 pm, with a versatile program called An Audience with the King's Singers. The program will include pieces from their upcoming album and program Finding Harmony, which will be released on January 31, 2020. The performance will focus on the idea of using music as a tool to find unity in a divided world.

On March 14 at 3:00 pm, organist and Fulbright scholar Joy-Leilani Garbutt will present the fourth of five Grand Organ Series performances on the Miller-Scott Organ. Garbutt will perform French organ music composed by women in the early 20th century including Claude Arrieu, Elsa Barraine, Nadia Boulanger, and more.

New York Baroque Incorporated joins The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys to honor the Lenten season on March 26 at 7:30 pm with a performance of Die letzen Leiden des Erlösers (The Last Sufferings of Christ), a piece composed by J.S. Bach's son, C.P.E. Bach. The piece was first performed in 1770, and was performed in Bach's native Hamburg every year until 1785.

Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue at W 53rd Street, NYC

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Ars Longa de la Habana, Cuba's Premier Early Music Group
Cuba's premier early music group, Ars Longa de la Habana, appears in a special co-presentation by Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF), Gotham Early Music Scene/Americas Society (GEMAS), and Baryshnikov Arts Center on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. at Baryshnikov Arts Center. The 12 musicians of Ars Longa perform Tesoros de América, a program of villancicos and dances from the 17th and 18th century colonial Americas. The concert is part of the group's third US tour.

Founded in 1994 by soprano Teresa Paz and baroque guitarist Aland Lopez, Ars Longa de la Habana has performed all over Cuba as well as in many European and Latin American countries. Their repertoire focuses on 18th century music written by Cuban composer Esteban Salas and other composers of the Caribbean and Latin America region with many of their pieces reflecting the blending of African slave roots with Spanish influences in the New World—both secular and sacred. The group's music is lively and accessible, blurring the lines of performer and listener in an outburst of joy and celebration. Since 1995, the group has belonged to the Historian's Office of Havana City. Several of their fourteen CD releases have received international acclaim.

For more information, visit https://bacnyc.org/performances/performance/ars-longa-de-la-habana
Tickets are $25. Visit www.bacnyc.org or call 866.811.411.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

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

"Into the Woods"
Bethanne Walker, flute • Tomà Iliev, violin
Gabriel Benton, harpsichord
Sunday, February 23, 2020: 4:00 p.m.

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

For details, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

Princeton University Orchestra Soloist Spotlight
The Princeton University Orchestra, directed by Maestro Michael Pratt, will present one of its most popular programs on Friday & Saturday March 6-7 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, NJ, when concerto competition winners violinist Fumika Mizuno '21 and pianist Vian Wagatsuma '23 appear alongside the orchestra in its annual "Soloist Spotlight." The concerts will also feature a new work by graduate student composer Annika Socolofsky, and a guest appearance by conductor Reilly Bova '20. Event listing>

Tickets are $15 General/$5 Students.

For more information, visit http://princetonuniversityconcerts.princeton.edu/

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

A List of the Most Egregious Issues in Music Theory
A word from Ralph Carroll Hedges, the Piano Professor:
"I have spent the last several decades researching music theory as it is presented in the current manuals published by the major publishing houses. I find it disturbing the amount of nonsense that goes into these books, with not one iota capable of use. Joseph Lhevinne has also commented on this issue.

My purpose is to expose these false issues and present a far more pragmatic route to leaning the language of music. I will be most interested in your ideas, and comments, and if you have any questions I will be most happy to answer your issues. Thank you!"

For issue No. 8 from the Professor's site, "Learning the Language of Music," visit https://thepianoprofessor.com/2018/01/26/why-this-site/

--Ralph Carroll Hedges

The Blustering Bigot and the Clever Queen
The Old Testament story of a blustering genocidal despot and the canny woman who resists and brings him down finds voice in one of the most innovative works of the violent, volatile, and tragically short-lived genius Alessandro Stradella.

Ester, Liberatrice del Popolo Ebreo
Alessandro Stradella (1643 – 1682)

Thursday, March 5th 8:00pm
Brotherhood Synagogue
28 Gramercy Park South, NYC

For complete information, visit https://www.showclix.com/event/stradella-ester

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Lute in Spotlight at Music Institute
Music Institute of Chicago celebrates the lute in a series of free events, featuring instructor Joel Spears and guest musician Crawford Young, Saturday, February 29 at its Evanston East Campus, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.

The day's events include:
An Introduction to the Lute; 3rd Annual Chicago Lute Tasting; Crawford Young talk; and Crawford Young masterclass, the latter open to lutenists, guitarists, singers, and other instrumentalists interested in pre-baroque music. Please contact Joel Spears at jspears@musicinst.org to reserve a spot.

For further information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Chicago Student Wins National Sphinx Competition
On Friday, 14-year-old Esme Arias-Kim from Chicago (Hoffman Estates) was awarded 1st prize in the Junior Division of the 2020 Sphinx Competition, for American black and Latino classical string soloists younger than 18, in Detroit. She is a student at the Music Institute of Chicago's Academy for gifted pre-college musicians. (Her sister Claire, who currently studies at Juilliard, is a former Academy student.)

A student of Almita Vamos, Esme is a former 1st prize winner at the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and New York International Artists Association Concerto Competitions. She also won the early music category for the 2019 Walgreens National Concerto Competition  (open junior division) in December. Last summer she toured in Italy playing master classes, and in 2018 she premiered with the orchestra at the Krannert Center in Urbana at U. of Illinois.

Sphinx is awarding Esme $10,000, a number of solo concerto engagements and a nationally broadcast radio appearance on "From The Top."

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Third Coast Baroque to Spotlight Vivaldi Opera Arias
"Welcome Back, Vivaldi: Revisiting Forgotten Treasures" to feature rarely heard highlights from "Orlando furioso" and virtuosic chamber works for strings.

Third Coast Baroque, Chicago's newest early music ensemble, will showcase selected arias from Antonio Vivaldi's 1727 Orlando furioso, RV 728, his rarely performed, three-act dramatic opera about romance, jealousy, and magic, in its April season-finale concerts, "Welcome Back, Vivaldi: Revisiting Forgotten Treasures."

The program features company mezzo-soprano and co-founder Angela Young Smucker, applauded for her "impassioned, virtuosic" singing (Chicago Classical Review), performing five arias from the Vivaldi opera, which received its U.S. premiere just 40 years ago.

She'll be accompanied by the TCB Chamber Ensemble, led by concertmaster and violinist Martin Davids. The period-instrument ensemble will play five of Vivaldi's intimate works for strings, including string concertos, solo sonatas, and a trio sonata, between the vocal performances.

 "Welcome Back, Vivaldi" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, 2020, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston; and 5:00 p. m. Saturday, April 18, at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple 77 W. Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois.

Tickets can be purchased in advance ($10-50) online at thirdcoastbaroque.org or by calling 312-725-9296. Tickets may also be purchased at the door ($10-60). Special pricing is available for seniors (65+), students (with valid ID), and patrons under 35.

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Opera Flourishes in "Flyover Country"
Opera Omaha announces its third annual "One Festival." Roger Weitz, General Director, James Darrah, Artistic Director. March 20 - April 5 in Omaha, Nebraska.

A unique "downtown" scene on the prairie, a new communal approach to making opera. Artists' wildest ideas are realized because Opera Omaha provides them with time and space—and a voracious audience. Experimentation and risk-taking are the norm.

Two seldom-seen 17th & 19th century operatic masterpieces turn avant-garde with cutting-edge directors, designers, dancers: Stradella's 1675 oratorio St. John the Baptist, directed by provocateur Christopher Alden (who began his career at Opera Omaha in 1974). March 25, 27 & April 5, 7:30pm
March 29 & April 4, 2pm. Midco Glass Building, 1141 N. 11th Street.

Bellini's 1830 bel canto gem The Capulets and the Montagues, reimagined by director/choreographer James Darrah. Mezzo Daniela Mack & soprano Andriana Chuchman = Romeo and Juliet. April 3, 7:30pm & April 5, 2pm. Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th Street. Tickets: start at $19.

For complete information, visit onefestivalomaha.org

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

First Lotos Foundation James McCracken and Sandra Warfield Opera Prize to be Awarded to Tenor Joshua Blue
The Lotos Foundation, with a philanthropic mission of encouraging and supporting the creative arts and sciences, will bestow eight grants to in-school and after-school programs across New York City, as well as award six monetary prizes to creative artists at the outset of their careers across a broad spectrum of the arts. This year's awards include a new prize, The Lotos Foundation James McCracken and Sandra Warfield Opera Prize, honoring the late internationally-acclaimed American tenor and mezzo-soprano. Ms. Warfield and Mr. McCracken, who were married, were both mainstays at the Metropolitan Opera. In its obituary of Mr. McCracken, the New York Times stated he was, "The most successful dramatic tenor yet produced by the United States and a pillar of the Metropolitan Opera during the 1960s and 1970s."

The award will be given to a deserving singer selected by a nominator. The beloved Metropolitan Opera star Marilyn Horne has graciously agreed to serve as nominator for this year's prize, naming tenor, Joshua Blue, as the award's inaugural recipient. Mr. Blue is currently in his second year as a Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist with the Washington National Opera. He was a semi-finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2018. Mr. Blue earned his bachelor's degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and graduated from The Juilliard School with a master's degree, studying voice with Dr. Robert C. White, Jr.

The prize will be awarded to Joshua Blu in NYC on April 1, 2020.

--Nancy Shear Arts Services

Jonathan Biss Performs Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas
On the anniversary of Beethoven's death, March 26, pianist Jonathan Biss gives a solo recital of the composer's last three piano sonatas—Op. 109 in E major, Op. 110 in A-flat major, and Op. 111 in C minor—at 92nd Street Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall.

The performance, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. that evening, continues Mr. Biss's decade-long immersion in the music of Beethoven—including recording and lecture cycles of all 32 piano sonatas—leading up to the worldwide celebrations of the composer's 250th birthday this year. Tickets from $35 are available at 92Y.org or by calling (212) 415-5500.

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

Third Coast Percussion and Sérgio & Clarice Assad Perform Original New Music
For their latest project, Grammy-winning percussion quartet Third Coast Percussion joins Brazilian music legends Sérgio and Clarice Assad for "Archetypes," a new program that uses original compositions to examine the 12 Jungian archetypes: characters and themes that appear in stories, myths, and legends across time periods and different cultures.

Sérgio and Clarice Assad and Third Coast Percussion will perform the New York premiere of "Archetypes" at the 92nd Street Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall on March 28, 2020 at 8pm. This is the final concert this season on 92Y's "Inflection Series," which gathers artists from various disciplines — including music, literature, visual art, and dance — to explore a creative project from multiple perspectives.

For more information, call 212-415-5500 or visit 92Y.org.

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

Richardson Chamber Players Present "Beethoven at 250"
The Richardson Chamber Players, featuring Princeton University performance faculty and talented students, present a program in celebration of Beethoven's 250th birthday on Sunday, March 8, 2020 at 3PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

With an unusually varied ensemble lineup of instruments—Geoffrey Burleson, piano; Jo-Ann Sternberg, clarinet; Robert Wagner, bassoon; Eric Reed and Jacob Williams '20, horns; Eric Wyrick and Hana Mundiya '20, violins; Jessica Thompson, viola; Na-Young Baek, cello; and Jack Hill, bass—the program will include a diverse array of some of Beethoven's less commonly performed works. These include a Sextet for Horns and String Quartet, a Septet, and several piano settings. This afternoon performance will provide a unique and expansive overview of Beethoven's oeuvre.

Tickets are only $15 General/$5 Students, available by calling 609-258-9220 or visiting princetonuniversityconcerts.org.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Joseph Shabalala, Ladysmith Black Mambazo Founder, Dies at 78
Joseph Shabalala, the gentle-voiced South African songwriter whose choir, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, brought Zulu music to listeners worldwide, died on Tuesday in a hospital in Pretoria. He was 78. The cause was not immediately known, but his health had deteriorated after he had back surgery in 2013, said the group's manager, Xolani Majozi, who announced the death.

Shabalala's choral group acquired an international following and won Grammys after collaborating with Paul Simon on the album "Graceland."

--New York Times

Transfiguration: Music of Mahler, Beethoven, and Schoenberg (CD review)

Kenneth Slowik, The Smithsonian Chamber Players. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 05472 77374 2.

By John J. Puccio and Karl W. Nehring

John's View:
This DHM (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) release from 1996 may be as instructional as it is purely entertaining.

The program begins with Mahler's Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 (1901-02), the Adagietto composed as a love song for his wife Alma and the music becoming probably the most popular he ever wrote. Here, it is played on period instruments strung with gut rather than metal strings and performed with special attention to the playing technique and performance style one assumes preferred by the composer. Mahler gave instructions that it be played "very slowly," most conductors taking about ten minutes to get through it, yet Mahler himself played it in about seven minutes, which is about how long it takes Slowik. Interestingly, Slowik's interpretation is remarkably like that of Mahler researcher and amateur conductor Gilbert Kaplan's performance in that the tempo is much brisker than we are used to hearing on most modern recordings (and more like Mahler's). Yet, like Kaplan's reading, Slowik's recording works to good effect, perhaps because it appears to conform so readily to Mahler's intentions. Furthermore, the smaller size of the ensemble, the Smithsonian Chamber Players under the direction of Kenneth Slowik, helps to clarify textures, making it a unique experience worth in itself the price of the disc.

Following the Adagietto is Beethoven's Quartetto seriouso in F minor, arranged by Mahler in 1899 for string orchestra. It seems a bit bulky for its own good, but it retains an admirable inner beauty.

Kenneth Slowik
Next comes Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, using the 1917 arrangement scored for string orchestra. This is the centerpiece of the disc's agenda and almost comes into direct competition with a version by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (DG). The two interpretations sound very much alike except for the slightly smoother tone of the Orpheus Orchestra's newer, modern instruments. Both versions are well recorded, but this newer disc is a touch more transparent.

The album continues with several excerpts from vintage Mahler recordings of the 1920's and 30's for reference points; and it concludes with Arnold Schonberg's 1950 program notes to "Transfigured Night," read in the original English by Richard Hoffmann, Schonberg's secretary and assistant from 1948-51.

The highlight for me, then, is the Adagietto, for its beauty and authenticity. The Schoenberg is a good companion to the Orpheus rendition, hearing Transfigured Night in somewhat different, perhaps more historically attuned sound. And the other bits and pieces make for enlightening listening and learning. With exceptionally warm, clear sound, this disc is a distinctly recommendable buy.

Karl's view:
Be forewarned: this CD is fascinating from the point of view of someone who loves Mahler and wants to learn all he or she can; however, it is also a CD that even for the Mahler fan will probably not be played more than a few times. I will quickly say that I enjoyed the chamber orchestra arrangement of the Beethoven quartet, but have no real desire to hear it again, and let's face it, Verklarte Nacht is something that many music lovers want to hear only occasionally. When you get right down to it, then, the only real attraction on this disk is the Mahler Adagietto.

While Gilbert Kaplan makes a point of playing the Adagietto faster than most conductors tend to play it (7:57--the excellent Abbado 5th on DG has it at 9:01, while I seem to recall that Leonard Bernstein would linger over it for 10 or 11 minutes), Slowik gets through it in an even faster 7:28. And while Kaplan draws a beautiful sound from the London Symphony Orchestra, the smaller forces under Slowik, playing older instruments and sliding spookily (portamento) between notes, manage to make an entirely familiar and beautiful piece of music sound downright strange, perhaps even a bit weird.

As I said at the outset, this will be of interest to hard-core Mahler fans. Believe me, you'll probably never hear another Adagietto that sounds quite like this one--and you'll probably never want to again once you've heard it--but you've really got to hear it at least once.


Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 (CD review)

Also, Liszt: Le Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Sonetto 104 del Petrarca; Reminiscences de Don Juan. George Li, piano; Vasily Petrenko, London Philharmonic Orchestra. Warner Classics 0190295379575.

I usually avoid live recordings. I don't think they sound as realistic, as natural, as a good studio recording. But I also understand today's economic situation, and I understand it's hard for even the biggest record companies to produce financially marketable products with the high costs involved for studio time, musicians' contracts, and the like. So, we have what we have, probably half or more of all orchestral recordings done during live performances, this one from pianist George Li, Maestro Vasily Petrenko, and the Royal Philharmonic made during a concert at London's Royal Festival Hall. The solo Liszt pieces were done in a studio, though, so all is not lost, and to be fair, the concerto comes off well enough, too.

So, first, who is George Li? He's a young (b. 1995) American concert pianist who made his solo debut at the age of eight and his orchestral debut at nine. Then he placed second at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition (the same competition Van Cliburn won in 1958) and received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2016. Yes, like so many young musicians these days, he's got the credentials, and he has played with numerous international orchestras ever since. This Tchaikovsky/Liszt album is his second release, and the Tchaikovsky is his first with orchestra.

The program begins with Tchaikovsky's ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. Yet the composer never seemed satisfied with it. He completed it in 1874-75, revised it in 1879, and then revised it yet again in 1888. It may have been that Tchaikovsky was simply thin-skinned and could not bear the criticism that came before and after the concerto's première, or maybe he didn't care for the way the first performers played it. Whatever, audiences seemed to like the piece more as the years wore on, and today it one of the best-known piano concertos in the world.

George Li
The concerto's opening theme, one of the most famous in all of music, is towering, monumental in nature, and often played in a heroic style befitting its scope. Certainly, Li starts off well, with plenty of bravura. Yet as the movement goes on, one senses a few too many fluctuations of tempo and contrast for the whole to stick together fully. The virtuosity is assuredly there, and Li is unquestionably a major talent. It's just that thus far his musical instincts may not have entirely matured as much as they undoubtedly will. I realize why Li and Warner Classics wanted to record the Tchaikovsky for his first orchestral recording, it being the piece that vaulted him to prominence in competition, but I'm not sure he won't re-record it a few years (or decades) from now in an even more coherent and persuasive performance.

Pianists on record have interpreted the second, slow movement in a variety of ways, with some zipping through it in as little six minutes and others taking a more leisurely approach in as much as eight minutes. Li takes a middle ground (literally) at about seven minutes in an interpretation that may not mark any new ground but comes off well enough. It has a lovely lyrical grace that is splendidly communicated.

The final Allegro con fuoco is both fiery and lyrical by turns, a general romp. Here, as in the first movement, Li starts off well enough, with dazzling finger work, and continues the exercise with consistency through to the end. Maestro Petrenko and his orchestra seem equally up to the task and back up Li with vigor, enthusiasm, and good humor. For the most part, the movement is a solid, red-blooded account of the score that seldom lets go of its grip on the listener.

That said, it's probably still the concerto's first movement that many listeners cherish and remember most, and Li's interpretation of it does not displace those of Cliburn (RCA/JVC), Horowitz (RCA), Argerich (DG, Philips), Giles (RCA), Wild (Chesky), and others in a very competitive field. However, there remains the Liszt works below, which may be worth the price of the disc.

Accompanying the Tchaikovsky, Li has chosen three solo pieces by Franz Liszt: Le Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Sonetto 104 del Petrarca; and Reminiscences de Don Juan. Although Liszt originally wrote them as vocal pieces with accompaniment, he later transcribed them for piano alone. As with most of Liszt's work, they are colorful and pictorial, and Li takes advantage of it. In fact, I enjoyed Li's Liszt readings more than I did the Tchaikovsky concerto. His incredible technique is captivating, and, unlike the Tchaikovsky, he seems able here to convey a more consistent impression of the composer's poetry and beauty. Although the subject matter of the Liszt pieces may seem at odds with the more flamboyant work of Tchaikovsky, it's well worth hearing. Indeed, it made me wish Li had done a whole album of Liszt, with maybe Liszt's first piano concerto rather than Tchaikovsky's.

Executive producer Alain Lanceron and the team of Philip Burwell and Chris Muir recorded the piano concerto live at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London in March 2019; and producer Antonio Oliart recorded the solo pieces at Fraser Performance Studio, WGBH, Boston in July 2019.

As expected, the concerto recording is fairly close, with the piano quite dominant. Also as expected it is very dynamic, which goes a long way toward mitigating the closeness. Surprising, perhaps, there is also a small but welcome degree of hall ambience present, and the sound is reasonably warm and smooth. The piano sound is lifelike enough, although seeming to recede and advance occasionally, while the orchestral clarity is a tad muffled in addition to being somewhat one-dimensional. The editors mercifully expunged any closing applause from the conclusion of the concerto.

In the studio-recorded Liszt, the piano is as smooth as we heard it in the concerto, and it's miked at enough a distance to provide it with a natural warmth.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 8, 2020

SF Girls Chorus & Berkeley Ballet Theater Present "Rightfully Ours"

San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) and Berkeley Ballet Theater (BBT) continue their 2019-2020 seasons on Saturday, February 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Blue Shield of California Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with "Rightfully Ours," an original fully-staged choral music and dance production.

Inspired by the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and the legacy of those who fought to guarantee women's constitutional right to vote, the program will feature eight new pieces of choreography created for BBT's Studio Company set to choral works by eight living composers including world premiere performances of "I Shouldn't Be Up Here" by Angélica Negrón and "Belong Not" by Aviya Kopelman, commissioned and co-commissioned by SFGC with the Israel Institute, respectively. Led by SFGC Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe and BBT Artistic Director Robert Dekkers, more than 25 dancers and 40 singers will share the stage.

Tickets range in price from $28 to $50, and can be purchased through City Box Office online at http//www.cityboxoffice.com or by calling (415) 392-4400.

For more information, visit https://ybca.org/event/sfgc-rightfully-ours/

--Brenden Guy PR

Miller Theatre Continues "Bach from the Piano" Series
Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts, NY, continues its "Bach from the Piano" series--curated by Simone Dinnerstein--with two concerts: "Bach Concertos," Thursday, February 13, 2020, 8:00 p.m. and "Bach Collection," Thursday, March 12, 2020, 8:00 p.m.

Miller Theatre, 116th St. and Broadway, NYC.

Tickets starting at $30; Students with valid ID starting at $7.

American pianist Simone Dinnerstein is known for her "majestic originality of vision" (The Independent) and her "lean, knowing, and unpretentious elegance" (The New Yorker). Her self-produced recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations in 2007 brought her considerable attention. It reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart in its first week of sales and was named to many "Best of 2007" lists.

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

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

ROCO Partners with Holocaust Museum Houston for "We Were the Music"
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) continues their 2019-20 season "Coming of Age" on March 5 with "We Were the Music," a program that commemorates the recent reopening of Holocaust Museum Houston's expanded new building with music from Jewish composers.

The concert will feature the world premieres of two ROCO commissions by composer Bruce Adolphe, We Were the Music and Music Is a Dream - part of an overall triptych of works he has written for ROCO's various ensemble sizes to showcase the group's breadth and scope. The works are dedicated to women who performed in the orchestras of Auschwitz and Theresienstadt.

For complete details, visit https://roco.org/performances/roco-connections-we-were-the-music/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Winter 2020 Call for Scores - PARMA Recordings
A new year can seem like an arbitrary marker in the middle of our days. That being said, any opportunity to pause, reflect, and recalibrate towards one's goals seems worth taking. If your goal is to record new music, or if you've got an idea for a project and are not sure where to begin, the first Call for Scores of 2020 is here to offer you a path forward.

In addition to being recorded, selected submissions will be considered for live performance. Previously accepted scores have been performed in Russia, Croatia, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United States, and more.

We are accepting submissions for:
Works featuring Mezzo-Soprano - Chicago IL
Works for Woodwind Quintet or subset - London UK
Works for Orchestra with or without soloists - Zagreb, Croatia

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

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

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

Deadline for all submissions is 2/21/20. There is no fee to submit.

You will receive a confirmation of receipt for submissions. We will work with the performers and our Sessions, Audio, and A&R Teams to select pieces that could fit these open projects. Should your music be selected, we will reach out to you with more information on pricing, scheduling, and other details.

Project Submission form: https://www.parmarecordings.com/call-for-scores/

--PARMA Recordings

Chicago Duo Piano Festival Presents Winter Mini-Fest
The Music Institute of Chicago's Chicago Duo Piano Festival (CDPF) celebrates the joy of two-piano and four-hand piano performance at the CDPF Winter Mini-fest March 6–8 at the Evanston East campus, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Il. Registration deadline is Saturday, February 1, 2020.

In addition to coachings and student recitals available to participants, the Mini-Fest includes a faculty recital, open to the public, Friday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall. The program and musicians include:

Schubert: Andantino Varié D. 823, No. 2 for Piano, Four Hands, with Maya Brodotskaya and Irene Faliks.
Debussy: Prélude à l'apres-midi d'un faune, with Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem
Lisa Kaplan: whirligig for piano, four hands, with Louise Chan and Susan Tang
Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries, with Katherine Lee, Elaine Felder, Soo Young Lee, Fiona Queen
Lutoslawski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini, with Soo Young Lee and Katherine Petersen
Debussy: Six épigraphes antiques for Piano, with Mio Isoda and Matthew Hagle
Barber: Souvenirs, with Xiaomin Liang and Jue He

The CDPF Winter Mini-fest public concert takes place Friday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

Admission is $50 for early access seating, $25 for advance purchase, and $30 at the door.
Tickets are available at musicinst.org/nch or by calling 847.448.8326.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

FAYM February 2020 Newsletter
President's Message:
Foundation to Assist Young Musicians would like to welcome our new students and their families, we are looking forward to accomplish many goals together. We also would like to welcome our new music teachers and wish them many successes in their new jobs.

Here at FAYM, we are very happy with the growth we had shown in the past few years and that we continue having today. We are also very excited to see that some parents are joining their children in learning to play the violin together.

With the addition of new classes, we welcome new teachers to our staff.
Ms. Carlene San-Fillipo will teach two new beginners' classes at the East Las Vegas Community Center. These classes are being conducted on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Welcome Ms. San-Fillipo.

Mrs. Erika Syroid is the lead music teacher at the East Las Vegas Library located on E. Bonanza Road and 28th St.  Ms. Syroid is featured in this month's newsletter and Ms. San- Filipo will be featured in the February newsletter. Please welcome both to our FAYM family.

Meet Erika Syroid:
My name is Erika Syroid.  I am currently teaching in my home studio and at FAYM. 

Over the past 50 years I have been teaching EVERYWHERE!  I have taught privately and have taught classes in Montana, Colorado, California, and in Nevada.  Recently, I taught at Violin Outlet with Mara Lieberman.

Music has always been a part of my life.  My father, Walter Syroid inspired me as a child and throughout my life to pursue music. He loved music, created a musical environment, and drove me to lessons and rehearsals and auditions.  There was always violin music playing.

For information about FAYM, visit https://www.thefaym.org/

--Foundation to Assist Young Musicians

Learning, Not Memorizing the CPE Bach "Solfeggio"
Dear colleague,
February 2020 already. Unbelievable! In any case, I'm presenting compositions for you that are learning experiences. We must get away from the idea that musical compositions are to be just "memorized" and "practiced." There is so much music in musical masterpieces that gets ignored by the average piano student. Each week I will offer a work that will be analyzed, along with a video to show what is there. This week is the CPE Bach "Solfeggio." Learn and enjoy!

Visit Issue #7: https://thepianoprofessor.com/

--Ralph Carroll Hedges, Chopin Piano Academy

Utah Symphony Announces 2020-21 Season
Music Director Thierry Fischer and Interim President and CEO Patricia A. Richards today announced the Utah Symphony's 2020–21 season, with highlights including world and U.S. premieres commissioned by the orchestra, as well as a cycle of all five Beethoven piano concertos featuring world-renowned pianists in celebration of the composer's 250th birthday.

American composer Arlene Sierra will be the Utah Symphony's 2020–21 Composer-in-Association, and in addition to having several works premiered or given their first U.S. performances by the orchestra, she will travel to Salt Lake City to engage with the community as an ambassador for contemporary music. The orchestra also welcomes a new Artist-in-Association, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, who performs works by Mozart and Nielsen, as well as a U.S. premiere by Philippe Manoury. Additional highlights include the third season of UNWOUND, which offers a more casual alternative to the traditional concert hall experience, and numerous guest artists making their Utah Symphony debuts.

2020-21 season: https://utahsymphony.org/2020-21-season/

--Shuman Associates

Princeton University Glee Club Presents World Premiere
The Princeton University Glee Club will present one of its most historically significant programs to date on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

Joined by the Antioch Chamber Ensemble, one of the finest professional choral ensembles in the United States, the Glee Club will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Princeton University through "Conversations," a program that contemplates the anniversary through both historic and contemporary works, including a world premiere by Joanna Marsh with text by award-winning poet Jane Hirshfield. Ms. Hirshfield is an alumna of the Class of 1973, the first class of women at Princeton University.

Tickets are $15 General/$5 Student, available at 609-258-9220 and music.princeton.edu.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Announces Free Summer Events for 2020
Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, the longest-running series of its type in the world, announces its 115th season of free summer concerts, running from June 17 to July 21, 2020. Due to the ongoing renovation of the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, NYC, Naumburg Orchestral Concerts will continue its partnership with Temple Emanu-El for all five concerts this season.

Summer 2020's slate of ensembles includes the return of New York-based The Knights and East Coast Chamber Orchestra as well as Boston-based A Far Cry. Two groups make their series debut this season: Ulysses String Quartet with Mark-André Hamelin and Lara St. John, and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Find full program information for all five ensembles below.

"As the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts enters its 115th season, we are grateful that Temple Emanu-El has agreed to host our concerts for a second season while repairs to the Naumburg Bandshell continue," said Christopher London, President of the Board of Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. "The audience response to the venue was overwhelmingly positive, and we hope they will join us this summer for more exciting and musically varied programs, from returning and new ensembles to the series."

All concerts will take place at 7 PM at Temple Emanu-El (Fifth Avenue at 65th Street, New York, NY 10065). Tickets are free but reservations are required. For more information, call 212-501-7809 or visit naumburgconcerts.org.

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

SOLI's "Winds of Change"
SOLI Chamber Ensemble, San Antonio, TX, will sow the stories of our time with the help of an International lineup of composers. The performances will feature music by American composer Jonathan Bailey Holland, Syrian composer/clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, Belizean-British composer Errollyn Wallen, Chinese-American composer Chen Yi, and San Antonio's own, American composer Ethan Wickman.

Monday, February 10, 2020, 7:30 PM: Jazz, TX, Pearl Brewery
Tuesday, February 11, 2020, 7:30 PM: Ruth Taylor Recital Hall, Trinity University

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

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Van Nuys High School Students Write and Perform Oratorio
Requiem: This Earth, Our Home, a timely new oratorio written by Van Nuys High School students for the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Voices Within Oratorio Project, will be premiered by students and members of the Master Chorale on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, February 29th in the school's auditorium. The Friday performance will be for fellow students; Saturday's performance at 1:00 p.m. is a free community concert and open to the public.

Every year the Los Angeles Master Chorale's Oratorio Project immerses a group of high school students in the creation of an original oratorio. The text and theme of the work has varied over the years, usually inspired by current political and cultural issues, and this year is no exception. Riding the global, youth-driven wave of momentum, this year's Oratorio Project will be a requiem for climate change--a theme and format chosen by the school--and the urgency to do something about it.

"We asked students for their ideas for possible subject matter for the Oratorio Project," says Lesili Beard, the Master Chorale's Director of Education. "This year the school felt strongly about a requiem for Mother Earth and the subject of climate change was borne out of our conversations. We invited guest speaker Matt Almos from the Climate Reality Project (founded by Al Gore) to come talk with the students as well."

For more information, visit https://www.lamasterchorale.org/oratorio-project

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

PBO Announces 2020-21 Season
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale announces programming for the 2020/21 season, Richard Egarr's first as Music Director.

Highlights include a recreation of Beethoven's epic 1808 concert; the world premiere of The No One's Rose by MacArthur Fellow Matthew Aucoin; the Bay Area premiere of Georg Muffat's Missa in labore requies in a side-by-side gala performance with Juilliard415; Philharmonia's first-ever performances of Tchaikovsky; and much more.

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale's (PBO) 2020/2021 season encapsulates the omnivorous musical tastes of incoming Music Director Richard Egarr. Richard has put together a season of programs that challenge performers and audiences alike, with many new-to-PBO works from the Baroque canon, new guest artists and new composers like Britten and Tchaikovsky, and a vital new commission. In Richard's view, historical performance practice can be applied to all eras of music and believes that Baroque at its best can be woven seamlessly into a range of programs that seek to stimulate audiences of all kinds.

Subscriptions to the new 2020/21 season are available to the public. Call (415) 295-1900 to subscribe or visit philharmonia.org/subscribe.

For complete details, visit https://philharmonia.org/

--Stephanie Li, Philharmonia Baroque

Nagano's Final Carnegie Hall Performance with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
As part of Carnegie Hall's "International Festival of Orchestras," Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) returns for its 45th appearance at the hall on March 24th, 2020.

In his triumphant final season with the OSM, Music Director of 16 years Kent Nagano will conduct Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, featuring Mikhail Pletnev in his first piano collaboration with the orchestra. Bass Alexander Vinogradov, 22 bass singers from the OSM chorus (conducted by Andrew Megill), and two men's choruses from the University of Illinois (OSM debut) join the OSM in Shostakovich's wrenching Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar." March 24th marks OSM's second performance of "Babi Yar" at Carnegie Hall; its first was in 1984, and was also the venue's inaugural presentation of the piece.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

On Speaker Setup Options…

By Bryan Geyer

Revel M106 (grille off)
In 2012, we decided to “downsize” our retirement life. So we sold our house overlooking the bay and moved inland. We found a suitable 2 BR condo, set off-street, that was right in the downtown hub of a nearby coastal town. Of course, this downsizing process implied abandoning our existing audio system. Our big floor-standing full range loudspeakers and related 200 Watts/channel stereo power amplifier were too massive for our new condo—a consequence of great joy to our grandson. An all-new and much more compact system would now be necessary.

Our new condo LR was tight. Small bookshelf-type mini-monitor speakers would likely be necessary. Clap tests indicated favorable acoustics—the 10 foot ceiling and partially open back wall was clearly a benefit—so maybe I could rig something tolerable. Strictly as a test, I tried a pair of 4 inch desktop-type speakers, driven by a tiny 15 WPC class D power amplifier. The sound was promising. The room acoustics were clearly good enough to warrant serious effort.

Addressing what to get as the main speakers came first. There really wasn’t enough open front space to accommodate speaker stands; they’d be an obstruction. So any new speakers would either have to sit atop the brick fireplace mantle (just 8.5 inches deep) or get bolted directly to the brick facing below the mantle. The classic acoustic guideline about pulling the main speakers away from the front wall simply couldn’t be applied; it didn’t fit our layout. So I chose to use the mantle as the speakers’ shelf. I bought a pair of little BBC-type monitors—Spendor S3/5R2 (now superseded). They had a 5 inch Ø woofer and a 0.9 inch soft dome tweeter in fully sealed enclosures; weight 10.1 pounds each. A review is here…https://www.stereophile.com/content/spendor-s35rsup2sup-loudspeaker#1i6C3c8Fzmprgukb.97. The size is 6.4” wide x 11.2” high x 7.4” deep; street price $1,500/pair. These minuscule monitors have proved to sound truly excellent when not pushed beyond a sound pressure level = 83dB (C-weighted)* at the listening position. That’s pretty loud, but it’s certainly not audiophile “demo-level” loud. You need some +6 to +8dB more dynamic boost to reach that sacred listening level, and that’s definitely beyond what these small speakers can comfortably reproduce.

As anticipated, the bass response was marginal, so I had to augment the bottom with a pair of larger and more costly self-powered subwoofers. The subwoofer addition would have proved necessary with any mini-monitor speakers of this size, as 5 inch Ø woofers in a sealed enclosure will fall off rapidly from about 90Hz downward. (OK, 75 to 80Hz if they’re in a ported enclosure, but these were fully sealed.)

Placing the subwoofers didn’t pose a problem. The best location under these circumstances is generally in the two front corners, sitting very near the floor, with some angled toe-in, and that placement worked well in our LR. It’s best to apply fully sealed subs, not ported (and no passive drone cones), when they’re placed in this manner. Small enclosure size was desired, and we selected JL Audio E-Sub type e-110 self-powered subwoofers; refer…https://www.jlaudio.com/products/e110-ash-home-audio-e-sub-powered-subwoofers-96276. There’s a technically astute review here…https://www.audioholics.com/subwoofer-reviews/e-sub-e110-e112. This sub consumes some 1.8 cubic feet, and weighs 53 pounds each. They are the smallest fully-sealed high performance self-powered subwoofers that I have been able to find that also feature a continuously variable phase angle control in addition to a fully variable input level control. These two controls are absolutely vital in order to facilitate accurate phase angle matching of the subwoofers with the main speakers at the precise point of crossover. You cannot accurately match the waveform phase at the crossover frequency if the built-in delay option in the subwoofer provides only a 0˚-180˚ polarity inversion switch.

Given the small mini-monitors in use, I choose 96Hz as my crossover frequency for the main speaker/subwoofer split, and I used an external active crossover controller (Marchand XM66, refer…https://www.marchandelec.com/xm66.html) to apply Linkwitz-Riley full 4th order (-24dB/octave) filter slopes for both the low-pass and high-pass outputs. (The subwoofers’ internal crossovers were placed in bypass mode.) The use of this external active crossover control unit assures a level of accuracy, adjustment range, and setting convenience that’s not possible when using the subwoofers’ internal passband filters.

Gain matching and phase coherency matching of the subwoofers/mini-monitors is best done at the crossover frequency. This can be assured with precise visual accuracy by using the instrumented means described in this paper: https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2019/03/optimizing-subwoofer-integration-part-2.html.

So what’s significant here? Well, I found that the sound of my new compact system was better than I’d ever done before with big full-range main speakers. The articulation and clarity in the mid-to-upper bass octaves was now more apparent, presumably because that driver was no longer burdened with the need to handle any power-hungry low bass. And the liberated low bass now seemed more extended and authentic than I’d ever experienced when using my full-range speakers. Good subwoofers can woof!

Equally instructive was the new revelation that good sound doesn’t automatically mean big main speakers. Dumping those 5 foot tall floor-standers was a welcome reward. I never liked staring at them, and I was tired of the intrusive prominence that they presented in our main living room.

The only aspect where my mini-monitor setup falls short is in the ability to reach that last level of loud. You might not want to stretch all the way to the 90dB SPL (C-weighted) realm often, but it’s certainly nice to get there, cleanly, when you want to go full throttle. To reach 90dB+, use these speakers…https://www.revelspeakers.com/products/types/bookshelf/M106-.html?cgid=bookshelf&dwvar_M106-_color=Black-GLOBAL-Current.
These Revel M106 speakers are fairly hefty, at 18.5 pounds each, but just 8.3 inches wide by 15 inches tall. They’re 11 inches deep, so these speakers can’t sit on a mantle. I’ll mount mine a bit lower, on the brick fireplace facing, using these unobtrusive and capable brackets…https://www.rockvilleaudio.com/RHSB8/, and mate it to the brick via 1/4–20 machine screw anchors. These speakers are still of modest size, but they utilize a 6.5 inch Ø driver (see photo), so a 90dB SPL (C-weighted) target will be well within reach. The M106 is rear-ported, and ships with optional port plugs. In my intended mounting position the ports will be plugged. You can see a Stereophile review of the Revel M106 here…https://www.stereophile.com/content/revel-performa3-m106-loudspeaker. A more comprehensive review (by widely regarded design engineer David Rich) appears here…https://hometheaterhifi.com/reviews/speaker/bookshelf/revel-performa3-m106-2-way-bookshelf-monitor-loudspeaker-review-part-one/.

After all these many years (my hi-fi interest sparked in 1949, and I began to install home audio systems in 1955) I’m now certain that big floor-standing full-range loudspeakers are not the ultimate keystone anymore. Paired (or more) subwoofers, plus modest-sized main speakers, when managed by an external active crossover controller, promises a more compelling means. This latter approach presents a potentially more effective way to resolve some of the bass response limitations implicit with small room acoustics, and it materially improves your home decor freedom by eliminating the need to place two big monkey coffins in your face forever. Do consider this option when planning any audio system upgrade.
Bryan Geyer (January 2020)

*SPL as read on Nady DSM-1 digital SPL meter, slow-mode, averaged mean level, fixed-mounted on stand, at ear level, normal listening position.

Alison Balsom: Royal Fireworks (CD review)

Music of Handel, Purcell, Bach, and Telemann. Alison Balsom, natural trumpet; Balsom Ensemble. Warner Classics 0190295370060.

For those few people who may not know her by now, British trumpet soloist, producer, arranger, and music educator Alison Balsom has been playing trumpet professionally since 2001. She is now a multiple award winner with over a dozen recordings to her credit; she was the former principal trumpet of the London Chamber Orchestra; she is a Visiting Professor of Trumpet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama; she was the artistic director of the 2019 Cheltenham Music Festival; and she is an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). What's more important, though, as I've said before, she is a darn fine trumpet player.

On the present album, "Royal Fireworks," she presents a collection of six virtuosic works from the Baroque age, featuring the music of Handel, Purcell, Bach, and Telemann. The pieces are all done up in new arrangements for solo trumpet (Ms. Balsom, as usual, playing a natural, valveless trumpet) and a small baroque ensemble (natural trumpets, sackbut, theorbo, strings, timpani, organ, harpsichord, and vocals). The results are unique and, as always from Ms. Balsom, delightful.

First up is George Frideric Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks. Listeners used to hearing the suite played by a modern orchestra or by a big ensemble of period instruments (Handel originally scored it for around sixty players, and some in attendance at the original event reported seeing about a hundred players in the band) may find Ms. Balsom's recording with but a handful of musicians a bit undernourished. However, with a vibrant recording and an enthusiastic performance, one may not notice such quibbles. Ms. Balsom carries the day, to be sure, but her accompaniment is splendid, too. No, I would not recommend her reading as a first choice with so many other fine recordings available, but it makes an interesting alternative interpretation with Ms. Balsom's trumpet in the forefront of the presentation.

Alison Balsom
Next is Henry Purcell's Sonata in D. Here we have another virtuosic vehicle for displaying Ms. Balsom's skills. Still, the accompanying players hold up their end with an accomplished élan, and the piece, brief as it may be, comes off with elegance and refinement.

Following that is Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" in an endearing arrangement that again highlights Ms. Balsom's excellent execution. It moves along at a healthy but never rushed gait and marks a pleasant few minutes.

Then, there is George Philip Telemann's Trumpet Concerto in D. It's in four very short movements and represents a good change of pace from Purcell's sonata. It begins, perhaps unusually, with a stately Adagio and then alternates more vigorous sections bookending a solemn one. So, it's slow, fast, slow, fast. Unusual, as I say, but fascinating in its contrasts.

After the Telemann is another of J.S. Bach's pieces, a suite from the Christmas Oratorio. This and the Handel that opens the show are the longest works on the program and the centerpieces of the album. Ms. Balsom's trumpet stands out strongly in these new arrangements, while the other trumpets add a richness to the proceedings.

The music ends with Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary II. Here, we find even more percussion work, plus a vocal quartet, so it adds to the variety of the album. It's appropriately grave, yet evocatively charming and makes a fine conclusion to the program.

Producers Simon Kiln and Alison Balsom and engineer Arne Akselberg recorded the music at St. Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London in August 2019. Big sonics here: wide and resonant, with a good depth of image. It isn't the most transparent of recordings, but it is realistic in its sense of place--the natural warmth and bloom of the venue--and it captures the Purcell vocals realistically. So, while ultimate clarity may not be its long suit, its hall ambience and strong dynamics help to compensate.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 1, 2020

Miller Theatre Presents a Composer Portrait of Caroline Shaw

Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts continues its 20th season of Composer Portraits with "Caroline Shaw." Attacca Quartet and So Percussion perform the Pulitzer-winning
star composer's chamber music from the last decade.

Thursday, February 6, 2020, 8:00 P.M.
Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC

Tickets start at $20; students with valid ID start at $7.

Miller Theatre Executive Director Melissa Smey writes, "A wonderful facet of our Composer Portraits is that we reflect the breadth of creative practice embraced by composers today, and Caroline Shaw does it all: she composes, produces, sings, and plays violin. Here her multiplicity is on display, with a focus on her string quartets, her writing for So Percussion, as well as performing as a singer. Another highlight for me is welcoming back So Percussion to the Miller stage; they were deeply involved in the Composer Portraits series in its formative years, and it will be a welcome homecoming."

Composer, violinist, and singer Caroline Shaw became the youngest recipient ever of the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2013, and she's since taken both the pop and classical music worlds by storm. A "breakout star of New York's contemporary classical scene" (The Guardian), Shaw is a unique creative voice whose music paints luscious soundscapes with moments of discord and unexpected resolutions. The Attacca Quartet and So Percussion, both close collaborators of the composer, perform a program of her works from the last decade.

selected songs (2019)
Narrow Sea (2017)
Blueprint (2016)
Entr'acte (2011/2014)
Punctum (2009/2013)

Attacca Quartet
So Percussion
Caroline Shaw, voice

For more information, visit https://www.millertheatre.com/events/2020/02/06

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Peter Serkin, 72, Dies; Pianist with Pedigree Who Forged a New Path
Peter Serkin, a pianist admired for his insightful interpretations, technically pristine performances and tenacious commitment to contemporary music, died on Saturday morning at his home in Red Hook, N.Y., in Dutchess County, near the campus of Bard University, where he was on the faculty. He was 72.

His death, from pancreatic cancer, was announced by his family.

Mr. Serkin was descended from storied musical lineages on both sides of his family. His father was the eminent pianist Rudolf Serkin; his maternal grandfather was the influential conductor and violinist Adolf Busch, whose musical forebears went back generations. whose musical forebears went back generations.

--New York Times

So Percussion and Caroline Shaw Join Forces in Free Concert
So Percussion, Princeton University Concerts' Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence, are gearing up for their final free performance on the Department of Music's 2019-2020 season. Free tickets will be released at 10AM on Friday, February 7 for their performance on Saturday, February 15 at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton University, NJ.

The program will feature guest artists percussionist Ji Hye Jung and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, including a recent  collaboration between Shaw and So -- a new song cycle touching on influences from James Joyce to pop group ABBA.

For complete information, visit https://music.princeton.edu/events/s%C5%8D-percussion-6

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Miller Theatre Presents a Composer Portrait of Oscar Bettison
With an affinity for inventing instruments from found material and for reimagining the roles of existing instruments, Oscar Bettison's music explores the boundaries of pitch and noise, classical and rock, convention and invention. His work has been described as possessing "an unconventional lyricism and a menacing beauty" (WNYC). Two chamber concertos comprise this Portrait, which features the exciting return of Alarm Will Sound to the Miller stage.

Thursday, February 20, 2020, 8:00 P.M.
Columbia University's Miller Theatre, located north of the Main Campus Gate at 116th St. & Broadway on the ground floor of Dodge Hall.

Pale Icons of Night (2018) New York premiere
Livre des Sauvages (2012)

Courtney Orlando, violin
Alarm Will Sound, Alan Pierson, conductor

Directions and information are available via the Miller Theatre Box Office at 212.854.7799 or online at millertheatre.com.

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Concerts at St. Ignatius Presents Unaccompanied Choral Music of Verdi, Rossini, and Others
Concerts at St. Ignatius continues its Choral Classics series with a deep dive into a cappella Italian choral music from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Italy "Unplugged" takes place on February 25, 2020 at 8pm at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola (980 Park Ave) and will feature the unaccompanied Choir of St. Ignatius Loyola under the direction of K. Scott Warren, Robert Reuter, and Michael Sheetz. Tickets are $25-$80; purchase at ignatius.nyc or call 212-288-2520.

Rossini and Verdi, anchors of Concerts at St. Ignatius's 2019/20 season, are represented on this program by a set of sumptuous motets. Although the bulk of their compositional output was opera, they remained conscious of the great choral tradition of their musical ancestors: Palestrina, Monteverdi, and Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli. In Rossini's Cantemus Domino and O salutaris hostia and Verdi's Ave Maria and Lauda alla vergine Maria, these two masters of the stage return to the church, the cradle of the choral tradition.

The program pays homage to Palestrina's influence on Italian choral music with his Missa sine nomine, one of his many large-scale Mass settings. Scored for six voice parts, J. S. Bach was so impressed with this Mass that he copied it by hand. The evening concludes with 20th-century composer Ildebrando Pizzetti's Requiem from 1922. Like Rossini and Verdi, Pizzetti was also predominantly an opera composer, but made some forays into the world of church music. His Requiem is woven from Gregorian and other chant-like motifs, creating a radiant, multi-textured soundscape that recalls 16th-century polyphony. Pizzetti represents the ultimate synthesis of the wide array of choral styles that came out of Italy over many centuries.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 8 p.m.
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Main Sanctuary, NYC
Tickets: $25-$80
For more information, visit ignatius.nyc

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

Calidore Quartet Gives World Premiere of New Anna Clyne Work
Princeton University Concerts ("PUC") is thrilled to welcome back the Calidore String Quartet at 8PM on Thursday, February 20 to Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey for a world premiere performance of Anna Clyne's Breathing Statues, co-commissioned by PUC and other presenters across the country. Last on our series in 2015 when they were still on the cusp of their career, the Quartet now returns as one of the most decorated and well-respected young string quartets internationally. Tickets are $25-$55 General/$10 Students.

Annual chamber jam: following their concert, the Calidore Quartet invites string players of all levels and ages to read through a Beethoven string quartet with them on the stage of Richardson Auditorium. This is a free opportunity for amateur musicians to play with some of the world's greatest professionals.

Registration is open at princetonuniversityconcerts.org and 609-258-2800.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

The Annenberg Center Presents The Crossing in New Production
The Annenberg Center presents Grammy-winning new-music choir The Crossing in the premiere of a newly staged theatrical production, Knee Plays, on Friday, February 21, 2020 at 8pm and Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 8pm at the Harold Prince Theatre. The program, part of the Center's #GLASSFEST celebration, features a rare opportunity to hear Knee Plays from Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach and David Byrne's New Orleans-inspired contribution to Robert Wilson's large scale project, the CIVIL warS. The premiere will be narrated by popular Philadelphia actor Dito van Reigersberg.

The production, conceived and led by Donald Nally, explores the Knee Plays' spirit of connection and transformation, and plays with the contrast between the objectivity of Byrne's Knee Plays and the subjectivity of those of Glass. The costumed singers of The Crossing move into roles that stretch their identities, performing on instruments from their past and connecting that past to their present roles among the world's leading choral musicians. Arrangements by The Crossing's assistant conductor Kevin Vondrak echo David Byrne's original orchestrations for Les Miserable Brass Band and are especially adapted – at times virtuosically and at other times with humor – to this eclectic tribe which, all the while, retains the sung word at the center of their art.

Knee Plays
Friday, February 21, 2020 at 8pm
Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 8pm
Presented by the Annenberg Center
Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA
Link: https://annenbergcenter.org/event/the-crossing

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Music Institute Students & Alum Win Competitions
Current students and an alumnus of the Music Institute of Chicago  won important competitions recently.

Aurora Piano Quartet was the 1st place winner at the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians 25th Annual High School Chamber Music Competition. The competition took place Sunday, January 26 at North Park College. Founded in 1995, the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians Annual High School Chamber Music competition is highly regarded as one of the premier competitions of its kind in the Midwest. The Rembrandt Young Artists will perform at the Winds of Spring Concerts in March. Aurora Piano Quartet comprise Sidney Lee, violin (Arlington Heights); Elinor Detmer, violin (Chicago); Colin Song, piano (Glenview); Amelia Zitoun, cello (Shorewood, Wisconsin)—coached by Music Institute faculty Elaine Felder and Sang Yee Lee

Honorable Mention: Dasani String Quartet – Isabella Brown (Gurnee), Katya Moeller (Coralville, Iowa), Zechariah Mo (Rolling Meadows), Brandon Cheng (Chicago)—coached by Music Institute faculty Mathias Tacke.

2nd Triennial Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition: Academy alumnus Julian Rhee, 19 (Brookfield, Wisconsin), has been awarded 1st prize at the 2020 The Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition in Boca Raton, Florida, United States. Julian, who studied with Almita Vamos,  is a current undergraduate student of Miriam Fried at the New England Conservatory. Julian is a former major prize winner at the Johansen and Klein International String Competitions.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Partners with Three Prestigious Venetian Institutions
Salon/Sanctuary Concerts enters a new partnership with three prestigious Venetian institutions to present concerts of Venetian baroque music in the historic Palazzo Grimani.

As the 400th anniversary year of the great Venetian composer Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) drew to a close, Salon/Sanctuary offered three original programs dedicated to "la virtuossissima cantatrice" in the stunning Renaissance edifice of Palazzo Grimani, the only Roman mannerist-inspired house in Venice.

Jessica Gould, the Founder and Artistic Director of Salon/Sanctuary Concerts, was honored with the invitation to conceive and perform a series of original programs of Venetian music by Marco Rosa Salva, the Director of the Scuola di Musica Antica Venezia, the early music school in residence at Palazzo Grimani. The invitation provided not only the opportunity for some characteristically inventive programming from Salon/Sanctuary, but also for the creation of a new resident ensemble, The Camerata Grimani.

"Barbara Strozzi e la sua eredità," the first concert on December 28th, explored Strozzi's artistic heritage, with works by her, her teacher Francesco Cavalli (1602 – 1676) and his teacher, the great Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643). In the second concert on January 3rd (postponed from earlier in December on account of the flooding) Gould was joined by French mezzo-soprano Lila Hajosi to perform selections from Strozzi's only volume of sacred music. The third concert, on January 5th, featured Gould and Cantalupi in "Ave Regina," a recital of seicento Venetian works that explored the idea of the regal feminine, sacred and secular, pagan and christian, through the lens of characters both exaulted and denigrated, in music composed entirely by men.

Future programming plans include interdisciplinary projects that interweave historical dance and baroque music, with the guidance and participation of historical dancer, stage director, musicologist and SMAV faculty member Ilaria Sainato.

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Claudia Acuña Brings Bilingual Concert to Jazz at Princeton
Jazz at Princeton University resumes its 2019-2020 season on Saturday, February 22nd at 8PM with beloved Chilean singer/songwriter/arranger Claudia Acuña joining students in the Vocal Collective for a program titled "Historias" ("Stories").

The concert, in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ will bridge cultures and traditions, featuring songs performed in both Spanish and English. Tickets are $15 General/$5 Students.

For more information, visit https://music.princeton.edu/events/jazz-vocal-collective-claudia-acu%C3%B1a

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

From Radio to Livestream - "Relevant Tones" Finds a New Audience
"Relevant Tones" is a new Livestreamed broadcast series that features conversations with leading thinkers on important current topics paired with performances of music by living composers inspired by the topic.

Hosted by composer Seth Boustead, "Relevant Tones" is dedicated to presenting a plurality of voices, engaging with the world, and presenting classical music, in all its various guises, as a living art form.

Art doesn't happen in a vacuum. Current events, trends and personal histories have an enormous impact on the direction of music history and "Relevant Tones" covers these events in real time.

"Relevant Tones" was an award-winning nationally syndicated radio program about contemporary classical music but Boustead has reformatted it for the digital age and for a younger audience than is typical for classical radio. The show seeks to engage in its topics with seriousness yet keep a light touch throughout.

For more information, visit https://www.caveat.nyc/event/relevant-tones-2-23-2020

--Seth Boustead, Access Contemporary Music

WinterMezzo II: Bach Cello Suites
WinterMezzo II: Bach Cello Suites, with Jonah Kim, cellist; maartje Lawrence-Hermans and Ryan Lawrence, choreographers.

Only 50 tickets left!
Cellist Jonah Kim is joined by dancers from the Movement Arts Collective for a collaborative performance of three of J. S. Bach's famous suites for solo cello.
Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello, BWV 1007
Suite No. 3 in C major for solo cello BWV 1009
Suite No. 5 in C minor for solo cello BWV 1011

Call (805) 781-3009 or click the link: http://www.festivalmozaic.com/event/c2f45041eff5c164076da4c674f0aa6b

--Festival Mosaic

Dalbavie: La source d'un regard (CD review)

Also, Oboe Concerto; Flute Concerto; Cello Concerto. DeMarre McGill, flute; Mary Lynch, oboe; Jay Campbell, cello; Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony. Seattle Symphony Media SSM022.

By Karl W. Nehring

Once in a while you take a chance and luck out. That happened to me recently when I was browsing through the new releases rack at my favorite public library and came upon a CD by a composer whom I had never heard of by the name of "Dalbavie." When I looked at the cover and saw that the recorded musical program comprised a piece with a French title and three concerti, my initial impression that Dalbavie must have been some obscure French Baroque composer for whom Icould not muster the first faint feeling of enthusiasm.

I was just about ready to put the CD back in the rack and move on when I noticed the vertical letters at the edge of the cover that spelled out "Seattle Symphony." I could not really imagine the Seattle Symphony, which has recorded the works of contemporary composers such as John Luther Adams, releasing a recording of some obscure French Baroque composer, so I took a look at the liner notes to discover that Marc-André Dalbavie (b. 1961) is a contemporary French composer of some renown on the Continent. Now my feelings of enthusiasm were fanned – but also my apprehension. Would his music be listenable, or would it be lamentable? Only one way to find out…

From the opening notes of La source d'un regard, (which can be translated as "The Source of a Glance," "The Start of a Look," or "The Way to Begin Looking") I was fascinated. The piece begins with a four-note chime motif – think of church bells – with the final note not what your mind expects. The effect is a bit jarring, but also intriguing. What is Dalbavie up to? Where is this going? As things develop, the piece, which was written under a commission from the Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw in honor of French composer Olivier Messiaen's centenary on 2008, moves along a delightfully musical path. There are no jarring dissonances, nothing to assault the ear of even the most conservative of classical music connoisseurs, just plenty of intriguing melodic and rhythmic motion to delight the senses. At one point, for example, the opening chime motif returns – but without the final note. The jarring effect of tbe "wrong" fourth note has been replaced by the jarring effect of its absence. Interesting! This is truly a fascinatingly delightful work, one that will give both your imagination and audio system a good workout – some mighty bass notes as well as plenty of orchestral color. The recording team has done a remarkable job of capturing a live performance in splendid full-bodied sound.

Ludovic Morlot
I could heartily recommend this CD on the basis of La source d'un regard alone, but wait -- there's more! If you call now, you will receive three concerti as a bonus!

The Oboe Concerto, which was not recorded in a live public performance, features as soloist Mary Lynch, the Seattle Symphony's Principal Oboist. It is a lively, energetic piece in one movement. Again, there are no dissonances, but plenty of action as soloist and orchestra weave a colorful tapestry. I could not help but chuckle at one section where Ms. Lynch makes the oboe sound like a braying jackass – perhaps that does not sound enticing, but believe me, this is an enjoyable performance.

Next up is Dalbavie's Flute Concerto, with this performance (once again from a live concert) featuring another of the orchestra's own, Principal Flute DeMarre McGill, and once again we are treated to lively, colorful, and stimulating music that tickles the senses. I must confess that I generally avoid flute concerti (indeed, the worst live classical performance concert I ever attended featured flautist Eugenia Zuckerman, who managed to make Mozart unenjoyable. Mozart, for crying out loud!), but Dalbavie's is a good one.

The CD closes with the Cello Concerto, another "studio" (i.e., not a live concert) recording. The soloist for this piece, Jay Campbell (a member of the JACK Quartet) is not a member of the Seattle Symphony. And yes, once again we have music of great energy, but once again a feast for rather than an assault upon the ears.  The playing by both soloist and orchestra is animated and expressive.

All in all, this is a quality CD. Interesting new music, excellent recorded sound, helpful liner notes that are actually printed so that even my 70-year-old eyes can read them, and a generous length of nearly 73 minutes. If you are willing to take a chance on a recording of a composer heretofore unknown to you, I hope you will feel as lucky as I did when I heard the fascinating French modern music by Monsieur Dalbavie.


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

Meet the Staff

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

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big 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 simple-minded, 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 Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. 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 LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. 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.

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