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

--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

--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

--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 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

--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 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

--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

--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

--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:

--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:

Gunning: Symphonies Nos. 2, 10 & 12 (CD review)

Kenneth Woods, BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Signum Classics SIGCD593.

Maestro Kenneth Woods seems determined to champion every lesser-known composer in Europe, which in the case of English composer Christopher Gunning (b. 1944) is not quite true because the man has been around for as long as I have, has over twelve albums and twelve symphonies to his credit, and wrote the music for numerous television shows, most prominently for Rosemary and Thyme and Agatha Christie's Poirot. But, still, Gunning's name is probably not as familiar to most people as, say, Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. Give him time.

From his Wikipedia entry, here's a brief bio for Mr. Gunning: He's "an English composer of concert works and music for films and television. Gunning was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where his tutors included Edmund Rubbra and Richard Rodney Bennett.

Gunning's film and TV compositions have received many awards, including the 2007 BAFTA Award for Best Film Music for La Vie en Rose, as well as three additional awards for Agatha Christie's Poirot, Middlemarch, and Porterhouse Blue. He also has won three Ivor Novello Awards, for the TV miniseries Rebecca, and the film scores for Under Suspicion (1991), and Firelight (1997). His other film scores include Goodbye Gemini (1970), Hands of the Ripper (1971), Ooh... You Are Awful (1972), the film version of Man About the House (1974), In Celebration (1975), Rogue Male (1976), Charlie Muffin (1979), Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981), When the Whales Came (1989), Lighthouse Hill (2004), and Grace of Monaco (2014). In recognition of Gunning's unique contribution to music, he was awarded with a BASCA Gold Badge Award October 19, 2011."

The program of three short symphonies begins with the Symphony No. 10, which Gunning wrote in 2016. The composer describes it as a series of variations, extending about twenty minutes and played nonstop, without movements. OK, so that doesn't sound much like the description of a symphony. We'll take his word for it. The piece begins on a somewhat lonely, almost melancholy and certainly serious note, before breaking into the full orchestra where the mood starts to change and become more optimistic. As I say, it's just over twenty minutes long, and by the six or seven minute mark it's up and running. Note, however, that like most modern music, it's all about tone and feeling and atmosphere rather than catchy themes and popular melodies. Still, Gunning has had a lot of experience in these latter elements of music, and they do not entirely desert him here. While the music does not seem to me entirely memorable, it passes a pleasant few minutes, with several lovely moments.

Kenneth Woods
Next we have Gunning's Symphony No. 2, in three movements, by a small margin the longest work on the disc. He initially wrote it in 2003 and then, because he wasn't happy with it, put it away in a drawer until 2018. And now we have it, getting its première recording along with the other two symphonies. It plays more like a conventional symphony than No. 10 due to its fast-slow-fast contrasting movements, although for that matter none of the movements completely conform to these tempos. Rather, each movement seems to contrast phrase after phrase and beat after beat.

Understand, these are the first recordings of these pieces, so we have to trust Maestro Woods as to how they go. I do trust him, and certainly he handles everything as though he had been playing them all his life. Yet I still didn't become particularly involved with this symphony, finding it too static despite its constantly shifting differentiations in pacing and temper, from smooth and mellow to intense and dramatic.

The final work on the disc is the Symphony No. 12, written in 2018, the same year he completed the revised version of No. 2. Gunning describes Symphony No. 12 as "far more overtly tonal than Nos. 2 or 10. I needed to write something more direct, even melodic, and the textures are mostly clear and uncomplicated." It's in two movements and, as the composer indicates, more tuneful than the other pieces on the disc.

Perhaps because No. 12 is filled with the most accessible tunes and because I'm basically a philistine when it comes to modern music, I enjoyed this symphony best of all. It's really quite charming, and Maestro Wood brings out all of its most delightful lyricism. There is also an easy rhythmic pulse that both the conductor and orchestra capture well, adding to the musical pleasures. (Don't expect all sunshine and light, however. The first movement ends in almost melodramatic fashion, and the funeral of a friend inspired the second movement. Still, it was this movement that I liked most of all, perhaps because of its pictorial nature and quiet thoughtfulness. It reminded me of the English pastoral music of a hundred years earlier.

In sum, there is much to like about the album, much to ponder in placid contemplation, much to like about the conductor and orchestra, and especially much to like about the sound. If the music is maybe in part a little too routine, too complacent, too safe, well, that's the price you pay for the parts that are truly moving. On balance, it seems a good deal.

Producer Christopher Gunning and engineers Mike Hatch and Mike Cox recorded the music at Hoddinot Hall, Cardiff, Wales in April 2019. The sound is quite realistic, as we have to expect from non-live English studio productions. It is wide and deep, with a natural tonal balance that does not unnecessarily favor any part of the frequency spectrum. So the sound is neither soft nor forward, dull nor bright. It's also quite smooth, with well defined though not spotlighted delineation. Add in a good, strong dynamic impact, and you get some impressive sonics. In fact, the more I think about it (and the more I listen to it) this may be some of the best sound I've heard in years.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 25, 2020

Young People's Chorus of NYC Annual Gala March 10

Please join us for a Gala Evening at Jazz at Lincoln Center, featuring over 400 members of the award-winning Young People's Chorus of New York City.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Concert begins at 7:00 p.m.
Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, NYC.
Dinner immediately following.

For complete information, visit

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Pianist Gabriela Montero Improvises at Princeton University Concerts
Princeton University Concerts' popular "Performances Up Close" series, with the audience seated onstage in Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, in hour-long programs, continues on Tuesday, February 11 with Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero.

Two programs, one at 6PM (sold out) and one at 9PM, will showcase her extraordinary skills as both pianist and improviser. While this will be her Princeton debut, audiences might recognize her from her performance at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Tickets are just $30 General/$10 Students.

Ms. Montero will also participate in our new Neighborhood Project, visiting students at the Trenton Central High School during her visit to Princeton. And in tribute to her improvising a score to Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant during one of her programs, the Princeton Garden Theatre will also screen Chaplin's Modern Times on Monday, February 10 at 7:30PM.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Daily Lineups Announced for Bang on a Can's New Festival
Bang on a Can announces the daily lineups today for LONG PLAY, a new, three-day destination music festival, presented for the first time from Friday, May 1 through Sunday, May 3, 2020 in Brooklyn, NY.

Featuring dozens of concerts, LONG PLAY also showcases a dense network of pioneering music venues in Brooklyn – with performances at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Roulette, Public Records, ShapeShifter Lab, Littlefield, Brooklyn Music School, BAM Lepercq Space, outdoor events at The Plaza at 300 Ashland, and more. Festival passes and special early bird offers are available now at Additional scheduling information, venue assignments, and artists to be announced.

Bang on a Can's Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, say of the new festival: "For over 30 years, Bang on a Can has dedicated itself to working the frontier – bringing together the most innovative voices in music and building new audiences for new work. Right now – this minute – is an amazing time to be a musician. Musicians from every corner of the music world are pushing beyond their boundaries, questioning their roots, searching and stretching for the new. There has never been a time when music contained so much innovation and diversity, so much audacity and so much courage. And we want to show you all of it. With the creation of LONG PLAY we are presenting more kinds of musicians, playing more kinds of music, bending more kinds of minds. LONG PLAY expands and enlarges our scope and our reach, and puts more new faces on stages than ever before. It's a lot of music!"

For details, visit

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Evgeny Kissin, Helen Zell Honored at Music Institute Gala
The Music Institute of Chicago hosts its 2020 Anniversary Gala on Monday, April 20 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Street, celebrating its history as one of the largest and most respected community music schools in the nation. Highlights of this festive evening include presentations of the Dushkin Award to acclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin and the 11th annual Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago to Helen Zell.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by an elegant dinner and awards presentation. Musical performances throughout the evening include talented students from the Music Institute's Community School and award-winning students from its renowned Academy for gifted pre-college musicians.

The prestigious Dushkin Award, established more than 30 years ago and named for the Music Institute's visionary founders Dorothy and David Dushkin, recognizes international luminaries in the world of music for their contributions to the art form, as well as to the education of youth. Past recipients include Wynton Marsalis, Pinchas Zukerman, Rachel Barton Pine, Joshua Bell, Lang Lang, Stephen Sondheim, Riccardo Muti, and Yo-Yo Ma, among others.

The Music Institute of Chicago's 2020 Anniversary Gala takes place Monday, April 20 at 6 p.m. at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Street in Chicago. Individual tickets are $550; table sponsorships are $5,500–50,000.

For event information, please call 312.553.2000 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Piatigorsky International Cello Festival Updates
The 2020 Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, listed by The New York Times as a classical season highlight, comes to Los Angeles March 13 -22, presented by the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with support from The Strad and classical music radio KUSC.

This truly unparalleled, 10-day, 42-event Festival, brings together masters of the cello and young cellists from around the world, in a remarkable quadrennial celebration of the cello (the last iteration was in 2016). More than 30 renowned international artists representing 15 countries and four continents will participate in dozens of concerts, workshops and master classes.

The Festival and its Artistic Director, Ralph Kirshbaum, have recently announced a few changes and additions, including the appearance of 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition Winner Zlatomir Fung; an update on Julia Adolphe's newly commissioned work for Ralph Kirshbaum and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and an expansion of the Exhibition Hall, an on-site mini-expo for lovers and players of fine stringed instruments. Tickets to all 42 events of this truly unique international celebration of the cello are now on sale.

For complete information, visit

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

ICE Performs Dai Fujikura "Composer Portrait"
As one of the leading voices of his generation, composer Dai Fujikura's signature "high octane instrumental writing" (The Guardian) will be exhibited in a Miller Theatre "Composer Portrait" on Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 8:00pm, performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), longtime champions of and collaborators with Fujikura.

ICE will be joined by soprano Alice Teyssier, guitarist Daniel Lippel, and conductor Daniela Candillari in an all-Fujikura program of chamber works. As a part of the New York Public Library and ICE series Collecting Composers, the Ensemble joins Dai Fujikura in a free, open conversation and workshop in advance of the performance on Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 7:00pm at the New York Public Library.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Sun Valley Music Festival Announces 2020 Summer Season
Festival Music Director Alasdair Neale and Executive Director Derek Dean today announced the summer programming for the 36th annual Sun Valley Music Festival, which takes place from July 27 to August 19 in the scenic, Rocky Mountain resort city of Sun Valley, Idaho.

Since 1985, the Festival has brought together world-class musicians from distinguished orchestras across North America to perform three weeks of free chamber and orchestral concerts each summer. This season's lineup includes a special Beethoven @ 250 series; concerts featuring guest artists Leila Josefowicz, Daniil Trifonov, Orion Weiss, and string trio Time for Three; and—performed by the latter—a triple concerto by Kevin Puts, a Festival co-commission with the Florida Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony.

All Festival performances take place at the state-of-the-art Sun Valley Pavilion amphitheater at 6:30 p.m., except where specified otherwise.

For complete information, visit

--Shuman Associates PR

Watch Composer/Performer Max Richter's NPR Tiny Desk Concert
Composer and performer Max Richter and members of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) performed at NPR's offices for a Tiny Desk concert, which was published earlier this week.

Watch here:

Richter performed some of his most well-known works for the mini-concert, including "Vladimir's Blues" and "On The Nature of Daylight" from his critically acclaimed album The Blue Notebooks, as well as "Infra 5" from his record Infra.

Max was joined by the renowned American Contemporary Music Ensemble, with whom he has performed and toured throughout the United States, including for his epic 8-hour masterpiece SLEEP, which made its United States premiere in 2018 at SXSW in Austin, TX, in New York City, and Los Angeles.

For more information about Mr. Richter, visit

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 Announces Competitors
The Menuhin Competition Trust and the Richmond Symphony today announced the 44 competitors selected from a pool of 321 applicants to participate in the biennial Menuhin Competition, the world's leading international competition for young violinists, to be held May 14-24.

The Competition, which is held every two years in a different location, is hosted this year in Richmond, Virginia, by a consortium of local institutions headed by the Richmond Symphony together with the City of Richmond, VPM, Virginia's home for public media, the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The selected competitors – 22 Juniors (ages 15 and under) and 22 Seniors (ages 21 and under) – reflect the incredible diversity and prodigious global talent that distinguishes the Menuhin Competition as "the Olympics of the Violin." These extraordinary young musicians – representing 18 nationalities in 16 countries of residence across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and 13 states within the U.S. – will gather in Richmond in May 2020 not only to participate in Competition events, but to be immersed in music among peers, mentors and audiences, with masterclasses, panel discussions, workshops, concerts and engagement activities.

For the full list of events and to purchase tickets, please visit:

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC) News
The Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC) will continue to bring a diverse group of world renowned classical musicians to Colorado's Vail Valley this Sunday with the Australian guitar duo, the Grigoryan Brothers.

Upcoming VPAC Winter Classical performances include:
Sunday, January 26 – Grigoryan Brothers  Famed Australian guitar duo playing on Australia Day

Although regarded as Australia's finest guitar duo performing much of the instrument's standard classical repertoire, the Grigoryan Brothers' passion is to expand their horizons through new arrangements, their own compositions and commissions.

Wednesday, January 29 – Joshua Bell & Alessio Bax:  Powerhouse matchup with world renowned violinist and pianist. With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor, Joshua Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era.

Thursday, January 30 – Classical Salon Series: Alessio Bax  Curated to provide a deeper connection with classical music: Taking place at a spectacular private home in Vail, Alessio Bax combines exceptional lyricism and insight with consummate technique, he is without a doubt "among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public" (Gramophone).

For more information, visit

--Ruthie Hamrick, Vail Valley Foundation

On CD Quality…

By Bryan Geyer

Bob Widlar, the Genesis
When partners Sony and Philips initially teamed to develop the compact disc (1979) and the first CDs came to market (in early 1983, in the U.S.), the unveiling was widely hailed as the arrival of “perfect sound forever”. That infamous quote has long been derided by persistent doubters, and there have been plenty of hiccups en route, but much of the best unbiased opinion of today concludes that the Sony/Philips claim was effectively prescient, although premature. Assuming good playback mechanics and modern decoding technology, standard Red Book CDs are now aurally indistinguishable from the finest high resolution means of digital recording extant. While a select set of audiophiles might still dispute that opinion, and contend that some favored hi-rez digital streaming process presents audible advantage, their collective criticism has shriveled. Today, with obviously increasing consistency, dedicated audio connoisseurs concur that, finally, there’s little or no detectable difference between standard Red Book CD audio quality and the best of the other alternatives. Any aural quality gap, if such exists at all, is now too trifling to merit recognition when it comes to human perception.

What accounts for this evolutionary improvement in CD sound quality? Well, just as in the case of so many other things, there’s likely no one single reason. It’s probably the culmination of a lot of learning, adjustment, and adaptation—plus dramatic improvement the accuracy of the monolithic integrated circuit chips that comprise all modern digital-to-analog converters (DACs). Here’s my take…

Listening habits…
When CDs were initially introduced, listeners were quick to appreciate the improvement in background noise, but many didn’t know how to handle the enhanced dynamic range to best advantage. This certainly happened to me! In 1987, I already owned an LP recording of the original Perlman/Giulini  performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and when I compared it to the new CD release of the same performance, I judged the CD sound to be inferior; it seemed subdued. I later realized that this was because I had listened at about the same peak volume levels as set for the LP record. When I later advanced the volume to boost the quiet passages of the CD to more nearly match the LP’s quiet parts, the CD sound came alive; the enhanced dynamic range was then apparent. It took me a while to adjust to this asset. Even today, I think that lots of listeners persist in setting “sub-natural” CD volume levels. This tendency is further driven by the compulsion to reduce the listening level when bombarded by pop-market CDs that are mastered with compressed peaks (to yield consistently loud sound). That’s a stunt that can’t be done when mastering to vinyl, and might account for the vinyl preference that some listeners profess when they compare a popular LP record with its CD equivalent. Thankfully, this intentional compression of the signal is confined exclusively to the making of “pop market” CDs, where the “mobile market” dominates, and where loud equates with better. Classical music CDs have never been mis-mastered in this same corrupt manner.

Learning curve priorities…
Early phase CDs that trace to the mid/late 1980s were often inconsistent. Mixing and mastering techniques were in flux, and conversion accuracy didn’t meet what’s available today*. Progressive improvements in recording technology evolved throughout the mid-’90s and into the ensuing decade, buoyed by improved methods of test and measurement. This progress was probably slowed by the attendant clamor to create higher density storage when emphasis was diverted to focus on various forms of compression, e.g. MP3 (1993) + its derivatives (1995, 1998, 2008). Regardless, the decisions and commitments that Sony and Philips made in the beginning have ultimately proved correct. Forty year foresight in the field of consumer technology is rare, but these two companies were uniquely capable, with superb engineering staffs, visionary management, and a strength of conviction seldom seen in corporate environs. It’s accurate to say that what they promised has been achieved.

Conversion accuracy…
Major advances in monolithic semiconductor manufacture, especially with respect to the “on board” integration of symmetrical differential linear topology, has progressively boosted the performance of audio frequency DAC chips. Designs that were once considered challenging are now churned out on bigger wafers, with better test yields. These current generation chips can provide standard Red Book CD sound quality that’s fully consistent with the limits of human perception, and do so at costs that make it feasible to use them in a wide variety of consumer-level gear. Their application in the high performance audio products market has been pervasive in the course of the recent decade.

CD access…
While it’s convenient to access CD quality via Tidal streaming, that means is somewhat better suited to popular music. Cloud shopping for classical selections can get complex; maybe even messy. Your personal nature, and the music genre involved, will largely decide how you elect to build your own private music library. My overwhelming preference is to buy and own the physical CD, rather than pay for periodic access. I vastly prefer having the disc in hand. But I always listen only at home—I’m not into mobile listening—and I utilize headphones only in the bedroom, and only for audio books.

Those who express serious interest in playing CDs at home will need a good player and a modern DAC. The latter can be either self-contained, inside the CD transport, or provided as a separate external box. Top quality converters are available both ways, and an external DAC isn’t inherently superior. In my experience, “good” CD players start in the vicinity of ~ $1,500 and go upward. The cheaper players are just not consistently reliable. A really good CD player should provide long problem-free service life, smooth and responsive control options, quiet operation, and a relatively modern DAC. Stick to single disc players. There are no existing multi-disc CD players that I can personally recommend at this time, and the play time (to 80 minutes max.) of a CD is such that one-at-a-time feeding is appropriate. Use an FM tuner source if you want background fill. Used CD players are obviously high risk, and they might not utilize a modern DAC.

The vinyl alternative…

BG (January 2020)

*Monolithic operational amplifiers have become a vital component in the evolution of high performance DACs. The world’s first op amp chips (µA702, µA709) appeared in the mid-1960s, as devised by linear design genius Bob Widlar, a brilliant eccentric who was then at Fairchild Semiconductor. Intensive development and improvement followed throughout the 1970s and into the mid-’80s. Later emphasis was devoted to advances in symmetrical integration, shrinking topology, increases in wafer size, and yield enhancement. All of the high performance DACs made today utilize this late phase linear technology. The level of excellence that’s been achieved in the past 15 years exceeds anything previously envisioned, and current OEM selling prices make these op amp chips practical for use in almost any consumer market electronic product.

Roberto Alagna: Caruso 1873 (CD review)

Roberto Alagna, tenor; various other artists; Yvan Cassar, piano & conductor, Orchestre National D'Ile-de-France. Sony Classical 19075950482.

French-Italian tenor Roberto Alagna (b. 1963) has been one of the leading lights in opera for the past forty years, so it's interesting to hear him say that although his grandparents had met Enrico Caruso in New York, he first became interested in his fellow tenor when as a child he saw the biographical movie The Great Caruso (1951) starring Mario Lanza. Apparently, he's been a fan of Caruso (and other historical tenors) ever since then, and he decided to do this album as a tribute to the legendary star.

Alagna also says that he didn't want to try to imitate Caruso on the recording, but rather to suggest Caruso's style, especially the way the iconic tenor combined the best of the bel canto tradition with that of the newer verismo trends. Alagna explains that he tried "to adopt as accurately as possible Caruoso's style of singing, of emitting sound, his individual manner of phrasing--an exercise in subtlety." His aim was to celebrate Caruso, not imitate him, while still hanging on to his own identity. Alagna appears to do just that in a program that doesn't really include Caruso's greatest hits, most of which Alagna has already recorded. Instead, Alagna has chosen Caruso favorites that show off the versatility of his idol.

Here's a track list of the album's contents:
    1. Dalla: "Caruso"
    2. Rossini: "Domine Deus" (from Petite Messe solennelle, IGR 51)
    3. Handel: "Frondi tenere e belle ... Ombra mai fu" (from Serse HWV 40)
    4. Gomes: "Mia piccirella" (from Salvator Rosa)
    5. Pergolesi: "Tre giorni son che Nina"
    6. Niedermeyer: "Pietà, Signore"
    7. Rubinstein: "Ô lumière du jour" (from Néron)
    8. Cottrau: "Santa Lucia"
    9. Puccini: "Vecchia zimarra" (from La bohème)
  10. Gomes: "Sento una forza indomita" (from Il Guarany)
  11. Tchaikovsky: Sérénade de Don Juan, Op. 38/1
  12. Massenet: Élégie
  13. Rhodes: "Parce que" (Because)
  14. Verdi: "Qual voluttà trascorrere" (from I Lombardi alla prima crociata)
  15. Nutile: "Mamma mia, che vo' sapè?"
  16. Bizet: "Mi par d'udire ancora" (from Les Pêcheurs de perles)
  17. Leoncavallo: "Mattinata"
  18. Cilea: "No, più nobile" (from Adriana Lecouvreur)
  19. Massenet: "Chiudo gli occhi" (rom Manon)
  20. Curtis: "Tu ca nun chiagne"

Roberto Alagna
The first item, "Caruso," a tribute written to the singer by Lucio Dalla and modified by Alagna and conductor Yvan Cassar, is the only song Caruso himself would not have sung. But it opens things well enough in setting the tone for the album. From there it's a roller-coaster ride of differing tunes--some favorites of Caruso, some favorites of Alagna, some from opera, some from pop culture--all taken pretty much as Caruso did them up. Although Alagna recorded the bulk of the album using current recording technology, he concludes things with a bonus number recorded with the equipment Caruso himself might have used. It's a charming gimmick.

As with most collections, the listener will no doubt like some of the material and not like others. In this regard, Alagna tells us that Caruso would often record a song at a faster-than-normal tempo just to accommodate it on discs of the time that would not hold more than five minutes per side. Whatever, there is no doubt about Alagna's throwing himself into each and every song with gusto.

The various other artists involved besides the Orchestre National D'Ile-de-France under Maestro Yvan Cassar are Aleksandra Kurzak, soprano; Rafal Siwek, bass; Stephanie-Marie Degand, violin; Julien Martineau, mandolin; and Nicholas Montazaud, percussion. But mostly this is Alagna's show.

Personal favorites? The Gomes and Verdi numbers Alagna does with soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and bass Rafal Siwek. They sing well together and complement one another's voices, especially in the Verdi.

Now, I'm no expert in or connoisseur of opera, Caruso, or Alagna, so I can't tell you if Alagna captures the older singer's style or not, or whether it's even great singing. What I can say is that Alagna has a clear, clean, rich tenor voice, and he sings with heart, even if he's channeling Caruso. His arias are moving and well phrased. If they're Caruso's phrasing, all the better; if not, they mainly still work.

1873? The date of Caruso's birth.

Producer, arranger, and conductor Yvan Cassar recorded the music at La maison de l"Orchestre national d'Ille-de-France and at Ondif Studio, Paris in June-August 2019. The sound is kind of in the pop category, with the soloist very close up and the orchestral accompaniment clear and wide behind him. The voice does have a nice, round, realistic quality to it, although it tends to get a trifle strident at higher frequencies in louder passages. There is also a wide dynamic range involved, so things do get very loud very quickly. Still, the sound emphasizes the voice, and that's likely all Alagna's fans will care about. So it works.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 18, 2020

New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents a Two-Day Event, "Beethoven in the Presidio"

As part of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, New Century Chamber Orchestra will present a two-day event at the Presidio Theatre in San Francisco featuring Music Director Daniel Hope, Artist-in-Residence pianist Simone Dinnerstein, and cellist Lynn Harrell in two unique programs. On Friday, January 24, all three artists will perform a program of chamber masterworks before sharing the stage together with orchestra on Saturday, January 25 for Beethoven's Triple Concerto. A special preview performance of the second program will be held on Thursday, January 23 in Berkeley.

That same weekend, New Century will present a concert on Sunday, January 26 in San Rafael as part of Music at Kohl Mansion's eight-week residency of "Violins of Hope." The program will feature music by Jewish composers that suffered and perished at Terezin concentration camp including Erwin Schulhoff, Hans Krása, among others.

New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents "Beethoven in the Presidio"
January 23-25, 2020
Daniel Hope, violin
Lynn Harrell, cello
Simone Dinnerstein, piano

For tickets and information, visit

--Brenden Guy Media

PRISM Quartet Premieres Mending Wall
PRISM Quartet celebrates its 35th Anniversary in PA and NY with the world premiere of
an immersive and timely evening of new music, poetry and light: Mending Wall, a fully staged concert exploring the meaning of walls in our world.

Music for saxophone quartet, soprano Tony Arnold, pianist Arturo O'Farill by composers George Lewis, Arturo O'Farrill, Juri Seo, and Martin Bresnick. Based on poems by Robert Frost, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Waly Salomão, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña.

March 21, 2020 at 8 PM
March 22, 2020 at 3 PM

Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series and PRISM Quartet, Inc.
Goodhart Hall, McPherson Auditorium
150 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA
$10 General Admission; $5 Children

New York City:
March 23, 2020 at 8 PM
509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY
$20 General Admission; $15 Students/Seniors ($5 more at door)

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Princeton University Concerts Announces Neighborhood Project
Princeton University Concerts is thrilled to officially announce our new Neighborhood Project: an educational initiative designed to connect the professional musicians on our series with students from neighboring underserved communities. The program has launched in our 2019-20 season connecting violinist Stefan Jackiw, pianists Gabriela Montero and Conrad Tao, and tap dancer Caleb Teicher with students at public schools in Trenton, NJ.

Building on Gustavo Dudamel's residency last season, the Neighborhood Project is a collaboration with Trenton Arts at Princeton and is generously supported by The Gustavo Dudamel Foundation, expanding the opportunity to experience music for as many children and communities as possible.

For details, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Music Institute of Chicago Celebrates Valentine's Day
For "date night" on Valentine's Day weekend, the Music Institute of Chicago presents "From the Heart," a concert featuring members of the Music Institute's internationally renowned faculty performing romantic music, Saturday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

Concertgoers may enjoy champagne and chocolates with a program of jazz and classical works featuring piano, violin, marimba, flute, guitar and more, including Brahms's Waltzes Op. 39, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 15; Schubert's Sonatina, Op. 137, No. 2; Kreisler's Liebeslied and Liebesfreud; Rachmaninoff's Variation XVIII from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; Piazzolla's "Romantico" from Cinco Piezas Para Guitarra, and much more.

"From the Heart" takes place Saturday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Il
. Admission is $50 for VIP seating, $25 for advance purchase and $30 at the door.

Tickets are available at or by calling 847.448.8326.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Learning the Language of Music
In this issue we have a sample video on learning the language of music with examples of improvisation using popular pieces, including "Silent Night" and "Christmastime." This issue also features the ebook "How Music Works: Volume 002: Chopin Nocturne in C# minor (1830)."

Go to Issue #5:

--Ralph Carroll Hedges, The Piano Professor

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Announces 2020 Classical Season
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) resident companies – New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – return this summer to present a 2020 season highlighting a continued commitment to SPAC premieres of both new and classic works and a landmark celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth.

New York City Ballet returns from July 14-18, with its roster of more than 90 dancers under the direction of Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, accompanied by the New York City Ballet Orchestra, led by Music Director Andrew Litton.

The Philadelphia Orchestra's three-week residency (August 5 – 22) will feature thirteen SPAC premieres including the East Coast premiere of the Triple Concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts composed for the genre-crossing ensemble Time for Three, and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess in concert conducted by Marin Alsop.

Plus, Beethoven 2020, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and much more.

For complete information, visit

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

ASPECT Chamber Music Series Announces Spring 2020 Season
The ASPECT Chamber Music Series announces four spring 2020 concerts, part of its fourth New York City season of illuminating performances. Taking place at Bohemian National Hall and the Italian Academy at Columbia University, New York City, ASPECT's concerts feature expertly curated chamber music by the world's top performers alongside illustrated talks by leading musicologist and industry experts that reveal fascinating details about the program's composers, works, and the cultural history of the time period.

ASPECT's first concert of 2020 on Thursday, February 27, 2020 at 7:30pm at Bohemian National Hall is titled "French Impressions" and features the Calidore String Quartet with violinist Grace Park and pianist Gilles Vonsattel. The program, which explores the period of French Impressionism through the paintings of Claude Monet and visual art's effect on composers Claude Debussy and Ernest Chausson, features performances of Chausson's Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet, Op. 21 and Debussy's Violin Sonata in G minor with an illustrated lecture by the musicians.

The season continues through April. For a complete rundown on concerts, events, venues, and tickets, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Nicola Benedetti to Perform at Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony
Violinist Nicola Benedetti will perform at the Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony, which takes place at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, 26 January, from 3:30 – 6:30pm EST (12:30–3:30pm PT), and will be streamed live internationally via

Nicola Benedetti is nominated for Best Classical Instrumental Solo (Marsalis: Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite) and Wynton Marsalis is nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (Marsalis: Violin Concerto).

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

An Unprecedented Event in Israel
On Thursday, January 23, more than 45 world leaders from Europe, North America, and Australia will converge in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Birkenau at Yad Vashem.

During these proceedings, the Young People's Chorus of New York City will join three eminent, professional choirs from the U.K. France, and Russia in performances of movements from the Requiems by Mozart, Saint Saëns, and Karl Jenkins, with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, conducted by renowned Maestro Vladimir Spivakov.

YPC's choristers and Founder/Artistic Director Francisco Núñez are honored to represent the United States on this historic occasion. They will join singers from the Royal Opera House in the U.K., the Opera Garnier/Bastille & Radio France; and the Grand Choir "Masters of Choral Singing" from Russia. Our singers hail from all of New York City's five boroughs and Long Island, and in keeping with the founding mission of YPC over three decades ago, represent the cultural and economic diversity of America.
For more informantion, visit

--Young People's Chorus of NYC

New York Festival of Song Begins Feb 13 at The DiMenna Center
New York Festival of Song is an "invaluable contemporary-music series" (The New Yorker). NYFOS enters its tenth season with three concerts of new music at The DiMenna Center, NYC, in February, March, and April 2020.

The mini-series opens on Thursday, February 13 at 8:00 p.m. with Director's Pick, hosted and curated by Michael Barrett, NYFOS's co-founder, Associate Artistic Director, and co-pianist. New York Festival of Song has a storied history of commissioning and premiering vocal works, and since its founding, the organization has particularly celebrated American song. This program looks back at some of the beautiful songs NYFOS has brought into the world.

For complete information and to read about the other events in the series, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Wet Ink Ensemble Presents Premieres by Eric Wubbels and Mariel Roberts
On Thursday, February 13, 2020 at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. at Scholes Street Studio, the "sublimely exploratory" (The Chicago Reader) Wet Ink Ensemble presents two performances featuring the world premiere of Eric Wubbels' new work for voice and piano, Field of Action (2020), written for and featuring Charmaine Lee, the debut of Mariel Roberts's Duo (2020) for cello and violin, and a new work developed collaboratively by Wet Ink, Performance Practice (2020).

Wubbels's new work features the singular vocalist Charmaine Lee, a rising star of New York's improvised music community. Field of Action is the first culmination of a collaborative project that Wubbels and Lee have developed together since 2018, working to find new balances of freedom and structure, and shared spaces and meeting points between their individual creative practices of composition, performance, and improvisation.

Mariel Roberts's Duo is the first in a series of new works that places Roberts' cello in dialogue with an improvising partner – in this case, Wet Ink violinist Josh Modney.

This concert also marks the debut of Performance Practice, a set of music developed collectively by Wet Ink. More like an ongoing project than a fixed piece, Performance Practice represents a distinctive approach to organizing the sounds, language, and unique musical style forged over Wet Ink's two-plus-decades of close-knit artistic collaboration. Moving freely along the continuum of structured and open music, Performance Practice incorporates music determined cooperatively in rehearsal, notated materials and forms composed by Wet Ink members (in this performance, by Alex Mincek and Josh Modney), and improvisation.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

92Y Presents Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
On Sunday, February 9, 2020 at 3:00pm at Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y presents Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in a program featuring Louise Farrenc's Nonet in E-flat Major, Op. 38, a work which earned her the leverage to collect a salary equal to that of her male colleagues at the Paris Conservatoire, and Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20, written when the composer was just 16 years old.

Program Information:
Sunday, February 9, 2020 at 3:00pm
92nd Street Y | Kaufmann Concert Hall
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Ticket Information:
Tickets can be purchased at or by calling (212) 415-5500.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Chesky Gold (CD reviews)

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2. Sir John Barbirolli, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Chesky Gold CG903.
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D; Capriccio Italien; Andante Cantabile; Marche slav. Itzhak Perlman, violin; Alfred Wallenstein, London Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Gibson, New Symphony Orchestra of London; Massimo Freccia, London Philharmonic Orchestra. Chesky Gold CG9012.

Somewhere in the mid 1990's, Chesky Records decided to remaster several of their better-sounding classical albums on gold discs, the gold plating presumably offering a cleaner reading of digital pits. Be that what it may, the results were impressive, with first-rate performances in first-rate sound. Unfortunately, a quick check of Chesky's Web site indicates they no longer offer the product. Fortunately, both of the discs reviewed here are still available on-line, albeit at fairly high prices.

Anyway, Sir John Barbirolli's Sibelius Second Symphony, from 1962, has been a consensus choice of critics almost since its release, but more particularly since its CD debut on Chesky Records over a decade ago. The interpretation is beyond reproach, an ideal blend of Nordic chill and Romantic, Italianate warmth. Now, the sound has caught up with the performance as Chesky have completely remastered it in 128x over-sampling and stamped it out in gold. The result is a stunning issue, completely belying its thirty-odd years. Above all, the sound on Chesky's gold disc is smoother, more refined, slightly better delineated, and quieter than on their regular silver disc. In short, it is more listenable and takes its place alongside the better audiophile discs available.

Sir John Barbirolli
Perlman's 1967 version of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is less well known. To my knowledge, only I have recommended it without reservation as one of the best interpretations of this much-loved favorite, and I have included it repeatedly in my "Basic Classical Collection on Compact Disc." To my mind, it is a better performance than any of Perlman's subsequent recordings, sweeter yet just as emotionally charged. Here, as with the Sibelius, gold remastering lends the sound an added polish, greater transparency, and smoother tone. The differences are not quite so noticeable as with the Sibelius, but they are improvements that anyone with a good hi-fi system will appreciate. 

In addition to the amended sonics, Chesky have also clarified their box labeling to the point where one no longer needs an interpreter to decipher who is playing what with which orchestra and conductor; and on the Tchaikovsky album, the works themselves are better laid out, with the Violin Concerto sensibly placed first.

I know that some people will question the value of buying expensive gold discs for a limited amount of music, especially for the Sibelius, which lasts only forty-four minutes. For them, excellent alternatives abound. For instance, Sir Colin Davis's Sibelius Second is coupled with No. 6 on an RCA digital release, and Jascha Heifetz's Tchaikovsky comes with either the Brahms or Mendelssohn violin concertos on RCA reissues. But if you're willing to pay for the very best, you won't be disappointed seeking out the Chesky gold series.


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

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique (CD review)

Also, Les Francs-Juges overture. Francois-Xavier Roth, Les Siecles. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902644.

You'll find dozens, maybe hundreds of recordings of Hector Berlioz's popular Symphonie fantastique. But you'll not find many of them done by a period instruments band in a historically informed performance. Here, you will. Francois-Xavier Roth leads his period ensemble Les Siecles (The Centuries) in an interpretation based on Roth's close study of the composer's autograph score and even using the church bells of his hometown. It's probably about as close as we're going to get to what Berlioz heard and imagined when he wrote the piece in 1830.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Les Siecles, here is some info from Wikipedia that may help: "Les Siècles is a French philharmonic orchestra founded in 2003 by François-Xavier Roth, whose ambition is to put works from the 17th to today into perspective. The musicians of this orchestra play each repertoire on the appropriate historical instruments.

Les Siècles perform regularly in Paris (Opéra Comique, Salle Pleyel, Théâtre du Châtelet, Philharmonie de Paris), in La Côte-Saint-André (Aisne department),[1] in Aix-en-Provence, Metz, Caen, Nîmes, Royaumont and international stages, Amsterdam (Royal Concertgebouw), London (BBC Proms), Bremen, Brussels (Klara Festival), Wiesbaden, Luxembourg, Cologne, Tokyo, Essen.

Eager to transmit to the greatest number the passion for classical music, the musicians of the ensemble regularly propose educational actions in schools, hospitals or prisons. The orchestra is also a partner of the Atelier symphonique départemental de l'Aisne du Jeune Orchestre européen Hector Berlioz, and DEMOS (Dispositif d'Éducation musicale et orchestrale à vocation sociale) in Picardy."

Anyway, you are probably already know the Symphonie fantastique pretty well. After Berlioz wrote it, it didn't take long for it to become one of the most influential pieces of music of all time. With programmatic elements and using a huge orchestral arrangement for well over a hundred players (I've read that Berlioz employed about 130 musicians for the première), the result must have been extraordinary for its time--or any time. Nevertheless, it's not really a traditional symphony; it's more like a psychodrama in five movements, wherein the young Berlioz writes autobiographically of the hopeless love of a young man for a woman, and the young man falling into a drug-induced dream, which the composer describes in his music. The woman reappears throughout the music in the form of an idée fixe, a "fixed idea" that the young man cannot shake, a musical innovation Berlioz used to advantage and that later composers like Richard Wagner used extensively.

Francois-Xavier Roth
Berlioz titled the opening movement "Reveries--Passions," describing the dejected romantic lover of the score conjuring up opium dreams and nightmares of his lost love. I mentioned that Berlioz used over a hundred players in his arrangement, and Les Siecles come close with almost a hundred in their ensemble. Yet because it's a period band and not a modern orchestra, there is an added clarity to the sound. It's not as lush or rich a sound as a modern orchestra would produce, but it's quite impressive in its translucence.

As important, Maestro Roth takes his time to show us the narrative rather than just tell it by playing the notes. He conjures up most the movement's pictorial elements quite well, aurally painting the tone poem as a portrait we can see in our minds. In other words, he does what any good conductor should do: He invests the music with color, passion, excitement, and sorrow as the case may be.

The second movement, "Un bal," describes a ball in which the young man catches a flash of his beloved. Roth keeps it flowing with exquisite dance-like rhythms and textures. Although he moves it along at a fairly speedy gait, it never feels fast or rushed.

After that is the "Scene aux champs," the scene in the country, a long, slow adagio. In it, the young man sees a pair of shepherds playing a pipe melody to call their flock, and all is well until, as always, the young man notices his love in the picture, and the music takes a sudden turn. Again, Maestro Roth has the measure of the score, as he builds the movement from slow and ardent to desperately fervent.

Then, we come to the two movements that audiophiles most love because they bubble over with so much busy, vigorous energy and orchestral flourish. They're ideal for showing off one's audio system, and what better way to do it than with a period-instrument band? The "March to the Scaffold" brings the young man to a dream of his death for the murder of his beloved, and the "Witches' Sabbath" finds the poor fellow imagining his fate at Judgment Day in hell.

The "March to the Scaffold" brings up an interesting question. Should the conductor take it seriously or as a cartoonish joke? A lot of conductors seem to consider it a bit of whimsy, having the character in the music stride jauntily up to his death. Others, like Sir Thomas Beecham (EMI/Warner), see it as a more somber affair. Maestro Roth takes a measured approach, keeping the scene staid but not a little fantastic. However, I thought he could have made the final movement, "Witches' Sabbath," a little scarier, as Bernstein did in his 1976 recording with the French National Orchestra (EMI/Hi-Q). While the Symphonie should end in an ostentatious flourish, Roth's interpretation is a tad light on spectacle.

As a companion piece on the disc, Maestro Roth selected Berlioz's overture to Les Franc-juges, a work the composer wrote only a few years earlier than his "symphonie." It's really only the overture that most people know today, so it's not a great loss having so little of the music. Whatever, Roth does a good job playing up the contrasts in the music and making it enjoyably energetic.

Producer Jiri Heger and engineer Alix Ewald recorded the album at Maison de l'Orchestre national d'lle-de-France, Alfortville, France in July 2019. As we might expect from a period ensemble, there is a good deal of transparency involved as the instruments stand out realistically. Then, add in an enormous dynamic range (watch that volume control), and you get a most lifelike presentation. The orchestral spread is wide but not exaggerated; the orchestral depth is fairly deep; the mild ambient bloom of the hall is pleasant; the transient impact is strong; and the frequency range is reasonably well extended, though somewhat lacking in deepest bass and highest treble. About the only quibble I have is that at higher volume, there is a touch of stridency present. At more reasonable levels, it sounds excellent.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, January 11, 2020

Miller Theatre's Early Music Series Continues with New York Baroque Incorporated

The talented New York Baroque Incorporated, "studded with stars in the making" (The New York Times), makes its Miller debut with a program reflecting the life of Jean-Baptiste Lully, the godfather of French opera. NYBI explores works shaped by the style, structure, and spectacle of his music as well as his multicultural upbringing, with music by Mondonville, Telemann, Muffat, and Handel.

Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville: Sonata No. 1 from Pièces de clavecin en sonates
George Frideric Handel: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 5
Jean-Baptiste Lully: Armide, passacaille
Georg Muffat: Sonata No. 5 from Armonico tribute
Georg Philipp Telemann: Ouverture-Suite in A minor

New York Baroque Incorporated
Miller Theatre at Columbia University, NYC

Complete information and tickets are available via the Miller Theatre Box Office at 212.854.7799 or online at

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Organ Recital from Nathan Laube - Concerts at Saint Thomas
Concerts at Saint Thomas rings in the New Year with an organ recital from Nathan Laube on February 15. The American organist will perform a collection of works from the 18th and 19th centuries on the Miller-Scott Organ.

Concerts at Saint Thomas continues their 2019-20 season on Saturday, February 15 at 3:00 pm with the third of five Grand Organ Series performances on the Miller-Scott Organ at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (on West 53rd Street), NYC.

Organ recitalist Nathan Laube will perform a program of works by esteemed composers from the 18th and 19th centuries including Beethoven, Bach, and Hollins. Laube will also perform his own transcriptions of Liszt's Sonata in B minor, and Wagner's Overture to Tannhauser.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Pianist Jonathan Biss Embarks on Seven-City Tour
As part of the culminating season of his decade-long focus on the music of Beethoven, pianist Jonathan Biss performs the composer's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major ("Emperor") with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, led by Osmo Vänskä, on its first U.S. tour, from January 30 to February 8.

This seven-city East Coast tour comprises concerts at Immaculata University's Alumnae Hall (Immaculata, PA) on Thursday, January 30 at 8:00 p.m.; Kimmel Center's Merriam Theater (Philadelphia, PA) on Friday, January 31 at 8:00 p.m.; Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center (Bethlehem, PA) on Saturday, February 1 at 4:00 p.m.; University of Georgia's Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall (Athens, GA) on Monday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m.; Virginia Tech's Moss Arts Center (Blacksburg, VA) on Wednesday, February 5 at 7:30 p.m.;  Duke University's Baldwin Auditorium (Durham, NC) on Thursday, February 6 at 8:00 p.m.; and Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage (New York, NY) on Saturday, February 8 at 8:00 p.m.

In addition to the "Emperor" Concerto, the tour program includes Mr. Vänskä conducting Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 and Curtis alumna Gabriella Smith's newly commissioned work f(x) = sin²x –1/x.

Links to ticketing information are available at

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

Happy New Year from Princeton University Concerts
The new season of Princeton University Concerts resumes on Thursday, February 6 with a program of Beethoven's piano trios in tribute to the composer's 250th birthday. Violinist Isabelle Faust, pianist Alexander Melnikov, and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras return to the Richardson Auditorium stage at 8PM, preceded by a pre-concert discussion about Beethoven between Princeton Professors Scott Burnham (Department of Music, Emeritus) and Elaine Pagels (Department of Religion) at 7PM, free to all ticket-holders. Tickets are $25-$55, available at and by calling 609-258-9220.

There will also be two FREE, related events: a family film screening of "Beethoven Lives Upstairs" at the Princeton Public Library on Saturday, February 1 at 3PM; and a Live Music Meditation with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras on February 6 as 12:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall. Both events are free and non-ticketed.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Berkeley Symphony Presents World Premiere by Mary Kouyoumdjian
Music Director Joseph Young and Berkeley Symphony continue the 2019-2020 season on Thursday, February 6 at 8:00 p.m. with the World Premiere string orchestra version of Mary Kouyoumdjian's Become Who I Am featuring the San Francisco Girls Chorus and the Bay Area premiere of Bryce Dessner's song cycle Voy a Dormir featuring mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor in her debut appearance.

Concluding an evening of music that explores the finding of one's voice is Brahms's Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, a work that took the composer almost twenty years to complete. The previously announced world premiere commission by Chinese composer Xi Wang has been rescheduled for the 2021-2022 season.

For more information about Berkeley Symphony, visit

--Brenden Guy PR

Los Angeles Master Chorale to Premiere Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, led by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, presents the world-premiere live-to-picture performance of Emmy Award-winning composer Jeff Beal's new score for F.W. Murnau's iconic silent film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 7:00 pm at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Widely considered by many film critics and historians to be one of the greatest films ever made, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingstone, won the Unique and Artistic Picture award at the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. It also won the award for Best Cinematography for Charles Rosher and Karl Struss and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Janet Gaynor. For many of the film's admirers, the only flaw has been its soundtrack. Although one of the first-ever films with a synchronized musical score and sound effects, the music was drawn from various sources and not created for the picture. For this world premiere presentation, Jeff Beal (House of Cards) has created a new score for choir and chamber orchestra, bringing a human touch to the monochrome melodrama and reaffirming the Master Chorale's long association with the film industry so prominent in its home city. Most recently, the Master Chorale was invited by John Williams to record the soundtrack for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

For more about the Los Angeles Master Chorale, click here:

--Lisa Bellamore, LA Master Chorale

Ugandan Composer and More on Orion's March Program
Highlighted by a premiere arrangement by and for its musicians, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, continues its 27th season with a diverse chamber music program combining classics with modern works. Performances, which also feature guest violist Stephen Boe, take place at a new venue this season--New England Congregational Church in Aurora--March 1, followed by a benefit reception; PianoForte Studios in Chicago, March 4; and Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois on March 8.

A highlight of the concert is the premiere of Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle and Orion violinist Florentina Ramniceanu's arrangement of Ugandan composer Justinian Tamusuza's Mu Kkubo Ery 'Omusaalaba (On the Way of the Cross) for clarinet quartet (1993), a rhythmically innovative and captivating work earlier recorded by the Kronos Quartet. Tamusuza blends Western classical and Ugandan traditional styles in his compositions, including African folk elements, minimalist techniques and poly-rhythms.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

The Chelsea Symphony Features Jennifer Higdon and Alexandra Gardner
The second half of The Chelsea Symphony's 2019/2020 season begins on January 24 and 25 with The Noble Spirit, featuring Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral, Alexandra Gardner's drumset concerto, Just Say Yes, and Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5.

Both concerts open with Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral, commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music to commemorate their 75th anniversary. The composer described it as "the most cathartic thing [she] could have done" in memory of her younger brother, Andrew Blue Higdon, who died of skin cancer in 1998.

For more information, visit

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

SF Symphony Media Launches Digital Concert Series
San Francisco Symphony Media launches a digital concert series in celebration of MTT's 25th and final season as Music Director.

Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) announce the launch of SFS Media's new Digital Concert Series on Apple Music and all major streaming and download platforms on January 10, 2020.

In celebration of MTT's 25th and final season as Music Director, the series will include live concert recordings from 2019–20 season concerts featuring composers that MTT and the SFS have championed throughout their decades together. This major new addition to the SFS Media catalog launches with the initial release of five San Francisco Symphony performances conducted by MTT and recorded in 96/24-bit quality in September 2019: Mahler's Symphony No. 6; Stravinsky's Canticum sacrum with tenor Nicholas Phan, baritone Tyler Duncan, and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 2 with Oliver Herbert; and Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements.

Throughout the season, the Digital Concert Series will grow to include additional 2019–20 recordings—each released approximately one month after performances. The Symphony is also launching an ongoing season playlist named "Join the Season" that will be available exclusively on Apple Music. The playlist will allow global audiences to participate in the ongoing celebration of MTT's final season as Music Director throughout the 2019-20 Season. Users with Apple Music subscriptions can add the playlist to their library which will automatically add every new work to their Apple Music library. All recordings in the playlist are available as Apple Digital Masters, which optimize native 24-bit files for streaming.

For more information, visit

--S.F. Symphony PR

American Bach Soloists 2020 Winter/Spring Concerts
The American Bach Soloists annual Subscription Series, January through May 2020--now known as the "Connoisseur Series"--will provide opportunities for ABS audiences to delve deeper into the amazing repertoire of the Baroque era, offering the anticipation and excitement of works that may be less well-known than some, but that are spellbinding, enchanting, and powerful in their effectiveness.

In January 2020, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen will return to ABS as the solo artist in a program featuring Vivaldi, Bach, Buxtehude, Hoffmann, and Muffat.

Heinrich Schütz's deeply moving Musikalische Exequien will be performed alongside Bach's magnificent "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" (Cantata 106) and vividly dramatic works by North German composers Bruhns, Buxtehude, and Weckmann.

The season finale brings concerts of Bach's fascinating Missa in A Major, a truly unique and imaginative work, and Handel's setting of exquisite poetry by John Dryden, the Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day, a tribute to the patron saint of music.

For more information about this program and upcoming programs, visit

--American Bach Soloists

ROCO's February 2020 Concerts
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra's 2019-20 season "Coming of Age" continues with two concerts in February. ROCO's principal hornist, Danielle Kuhlmann, next helms the musician-curated Unchambered series with Unraveled at MATCH on February 22. The program will outline Danielle's own coming of age story through music, featuring a trio for oboe, horn, and piano by Heinrich Herzogenberg, an arrangement of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" by Adam Wolf, and a piece composed by Danielle Kuhlmann's brother, Evan. The piece, Sonata for Horn and Piano, was written to honor Alice Render, one of Danielle's first teachers and mentors. Unraveled will also premiere a new co-commissioned work by Jim Stephenson, Minefields.

On February 8, ROCO will present the third program of their In Concert series at Houston's Church of St. John the Divine, Houston, TX. Conductor Christopher Rountree makes his ROCO debut, leading the orchestra in the world premiere of composer Kevin Lau's Between the Earth and Forever.

Find complete information on this and upcoming ROCO concert events at

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, 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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa