Jan 29, 2020

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 The jarring effect of tbe "wrong" fourth note has been replaced by the jarring effect of its absence.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:

Jan 26, 2020

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:

Jan 22, 2020

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.

Jan 19, 2020

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:

Jan 15, 2020

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:

Jan 12, 2020

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:

Jan 8, 2020

The John Adams Album (CD review)

Common Tones in Simple Time; Harmonielehre; Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Kent Nagano, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Decca 483 4938.

By Karl W. Nehring

For music lovers who may not be familiar with the music of American composer John Adams (b. 1947), this recording of some of his orchestral music might be the perfect introduction. Under the direction of Kent Nagano, who has long been an advocate of Adams's music, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra performs three compelling compositions that are "modern" enough to sound new and different but at the same time "comfortable" enough in terms of harmony, melody, and rhythm that they should be entertaining for all but the most conservative of listeners.

The disc opens with one of his earlier scores for orchestra, Common Tones in Simple Time, composed in 1979. The piece carries a strong rhythmic pulse throughout, recalling the days when Adams was looked upon as one of the new "Minimalist" composers (others so characterized included Philip Glass and Steve Reich), but the orchestral colors are rich, far from what could reasonably described as minimal. I had enjoyed hearing this piece decades ago on a recording I cannot now recall by whom, but had not heard it in quite some time and was quite excited to hear it again. It evokes feelings of space, wonder, possibility, and hope. Can it really be 40 years since it was composed? My goodness…

Next up is Harmonielehre (1985), a three-movement piece that could be thought of as a kind of symphony (Adams has never composed a formal symphony, alas – such a work is high on my musical wish list). A similar sort of composition would be Hindemith's Symphony: Mathis der Maler, a symphony in three movements: Engelkonzert (Angelic Concert), Grablegung (Entombment), and Versuchung des heiligen Antonius (The Temptation of Saint Anthony). The titles of the movements refer to paintings by Mathias Grunewald and the work feels more like a series of three tone poems than a symphony. Harmonielehre, by contrast, feels more like a symphony, although the titles of its three movements are a mixed blend of the symphonic-sounding straightforward ("First movement") and the tone-poemish-sounding strange ("The Anfortas Wound" and "Meister Eckhardt and Quackie"). Those interested in finding out more about these titles and the piece overall would do well to read Adams's own exposition at his informative website.

Kent Nagano
The first movement begins with pounding chords in an insistent rhythm that is pretty much sustained throughout. At times, prominent woodwinds will remind some listeners of the scoring of Sibelius. Although the movement does not have a descriptive title, the music arouses in my admittedly unfettered mind imagery of motion past a background of mountains, forests, and other natural wonders. As the movement comes to an end, the rhythm remains in the percussion as the volume fades, the music that started with a bang ending in a whimper. The second movement is like an adagio, brooding music short on percussion with woodwinds playing in the middle registers, then some brass, a trumpet sounding a plaintive call, building to a climax with the trumpet on top, reminiscent of Mahler. The movement ends with the brass section yielding to the strings playing softly. The third movement reverts to the rhythmic emphasis and vigorous energy of the first movement, but rather than fading into a soft ending sustains its musical vigor throughout. As a whole, Harmonielehre truly does sound like a symphony, a splendid symphony indeed.

The final piece in this collection is the one most likely to be familiar to classical music fans, as it has been often recorded and widely performed in concert. As the title "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" might suggest, the music is fast and exhilarating, surging forward with great energy, ending the program on this CD with a colorful flourish.

Although as I said at the outset I find this a recommendable release, I do have a couple of minor quibbles. First, the liner notes are nearly unreadable because of their small font size and some truly unfortunate color choices. What were they thinking? Second, the sound quality, although certainly adequate, left me wishing for a bit more bass (I like big bass and I cannot lie). The sound does not seem quite up to the lofty standards set by those classic Dutoit/OSM recordings of decades past. Still, the generous program (the first time I heard Harmonielehre was on a CD that contained only that piece) of truly entertaining and stimulating music makes this a release of genuine value.


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

Jan 5, 2020

Favorite Recordings of 2019

As you may remember, I don't do "best-of" lists. "Best" suggests that I've sampled everything available, and even though I review a lot of music every year, I have not heard but a fraction of what's out there. So I prefer to do a simple "favorites" list. Here are just a few of the discs (listed alphabetically, to be fair) I heard last year that I enjoyed for their performance and sound. I know I've forgotten some; forgive me.

Beethoven: String Quartets, Op. 18, Nos. 4-6
Eybler Quartet. CORO Connections
To read the review, click here:

Dvorak: Violin Concerto
Also, Khachaturian: Violin Concerto. Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Teddy Abrams, Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Avie.
To read the review, click here:

Haydn: Cello Concertos
Also, Vivaldi: Concerto for Violin and Cello. Christoph Croise, cello; Sherniyaz Mussakhan, violin; Eurasian Soloists Chamber Orchestra. Avie.
To read the review, click here:

Haydn: String Quartets, Opp. 71 & 74
The London Haydn Quartet. Hyperion.
To read the review, click here:

Matthews: Symphony No. 9
Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra and English String Orchestra. Nimbus Alliance.
To read the review,click here:

Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 2
Also, Symphony No. 1 and The Fair Melusine overture. Kristian Bezuidenhout, piano; Pablo Heras-Casado, Freiburger Barockorchester. Harmonia Mundi.
To read the review, click here:

Respighi: Roman Trilogy
Roman Festivals; Fountains of Rome; Pines of Rome. JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic. Naxos.
To read the review, click here:

Saint-Saens: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 5
Also, etudes, mazurka, Allegro appassionato, and valse. Bertrand Chamayou, piano; Emmanuel Krivine, Orchestre National de France. Erato.
To read the review, click here:

Symphonic Dances
Music of Copland, Ravel, and Stravinsky. David Bernard, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Recursive Classics.
To read the review, click here:

Virtuoso Music for Cello
Music of Boccherini, Franchomme, Rossini & Servais. Constantin Macherel, cello; Sebastian Comberti, London Mozart Players. Claves.
To read the review, click here:

Vivaldi x2
Double Concertos for Horns, Oboes, Violin and Cello, and Oboe and Bassoon. Adrian Chandler. La Serenissima. Avie.
To read the review, click here:


Jan 1, 2020

On Crossing Over…

By Bryan Geyer

Loudspeaker systems are designed with the expectation that each internal driver will be operated within its optimum frequency range. The need to comply with this restriction is traditionally accomplished by sectioning the input signal into several (commonly 2 or 3, sometimes 4) frequency-defined passbands that feed the individual drivers. These bands present sufficient overlap (“cross over”) to create a flat and seamless integrated output. The analog crossover networks that formulate these passbands and link them to the allocated drivers are generally derived by either of two basic means…

(1) As a low impedance passive filter network, composed entirely of discrete passive parts, that’s inserted into the high current signal path between the power amplifier output and the loudspeaker drivers. (The parts are normally secured inside the sealed loudspeaker enclosure.) A significant advantage implicit with this passive network is that it facilitates the use of a single power amplifier to feed all of the derived passbands and related drivers serving that channel.

(2) As a separate active filter network (with high Zin), composed of active solid-state circuitry in a dedicated external control box (with its own power supply), that is inserted into the line-level signal path after the preamp stage (or after the master volume attenuator when there’s no preamp) and before the ensuing (hence multiple) power amplifiers. Each of the derived frequency-defined passbands will then connect (via low Zout) directly to its own independent power amplifier, and each such amplifier will output directly to a designated driver within the speaker system. An obvious disadvantage with this active approach is the escalating cost. There’s the initial expense incurred in creating the active filter circuits + enclosure, as well as the cost of providing a captive power amplifier for each of the output passbands.

Passive low impedance crossovers can be effective when they’re properly implemented with care, but doing so becomes a challenge. Because the passive elements will be inside the path between the power amplifier and the loudspeaker, they must be able to tolerate high current signals and still stay stable. That dictates beefy parts, i.e. the use of wire-wound resistors, low gauge (fat) wires for the inductor chokes, and large value non-polarized capacitors. These comprise the sort of parts that aren’t normally stocked in tight tolerances, although precision is essential to assure that the filter network will be accurate. This mix of requirements isn’t mainstream; obtaining and/or creating such components often becomes difficult.

Passive crossover design can be deceptive. Erroneous assumptions and unexpected complexities are frequently experienced. Below are four such examples, as previously cited by prolific DIY contributor Tom Perazella, in a letter that appeared in the September, 2017 issue of the Boston Audio Society’s “Speaker” journal…

(a) Using the driver manufacturer’s designated impedance as a guideline for the selection of the required passive component values might lead to significant error. The real impedance of the woofer at the intended point of crossover is likely to be appreciably different in value than the manufacturer’s stated impedance. Using the labeled value could cause significant initial error.

(b) Matching the different drivers’ relative passband sensitivity is inherently difficult when using a passive low impedance network. In order to keep the crossover points stable you must use L-pads to achieve the corrected levels. Again, the manufacturer’s stated sensitivity might not be entirely accurate, so the components required for the L-pad should be selected only after measuring individual driver sensitivity at the intended crossover frequency.

(c) After all of the requisite driver measurements are made, and all of the passive components fully specified, it is very likely that the desired values won’t be available. Complex series/parallel groupings will probably be required to approximate the target values. This component selection challenge becomes particularly vexing in the case of air core inductor chokes, where you’ll need to specify higher-than-needed values, and then remove some of the wire turns while making constant in-process measurements.

(d) Last, when the construction phase is done and you conduct final measurement and listening tests you will generally want to make some adjustments. This will often require exchanging expensive passive components. The consequent rewiring will likely force layout changes, and the related delay makes new comparison measurements more difficult, less reliable. For these reasons, completing those critical final adjustments gets quite arduous.

Clearly, it’s apparent that some of the pitfalls described above might go unrealized—or get ignored—or simply remain unsolved—when a low impedance passive crossover network is created. In such case, the related speaker system’s output will forever reflect the inaccuracy of that oversight. Personally speaking, I believe that numerous commercially marketed “high end” speaker systems do exhibit some of these same errors.

Active crossovers are relatively more complex than passive networks, but easier to enable. They’re generally more precise, also inherently cleaner. (Separately amplified passbands foster less IM than with a passive network. The latter uses only one amplifier.) But the most obvious and vital advantage that an external active crossover bestows is that it’s both accessible and controllable. It’s not buried inside a sealed speaker enclosure, and the output levels can be varied, they’re not fixed. Given this combination of convenience and flexibility, it’s easy to alter the tonal subtlety of the sound to favor a particular program or genre, and then rapidly reset to “standard profile” when desired. It’s this versatile control advantage that makes an external active crossover network so compelling in use.

For more insight on the many advantages implicit with active analog crossover networks, check some of these informative sites…

Both types of analog crossovers, active and passive, are often applied together. One very effective case is to use an active crossover to split the incoming line-level signal at 70 to 100 Hz, and send the low-pass output to a pair of self-powered subwoofers with the high-pass output to the main stereo power amplifier and main speakers. The latter’s internal passive crossover will then generate new frequency-defined passbands and link to a designated driver. (In such case, any crossover that was supplied as an integral feature of the self-powered subwoofer is simply bypassed* and unused. Bypass mode option is normally enabled via the subwoofer’s control panel.)

Of course, it’s also possible to apply active analog crossovers at the main speakers too. In such case, the high passband from the initial subwoofer/main speaker split would feed a cascaded active network, with those outputs linked to multiple captive power amplifiers. Each such power amplifier would then connect directly to a driver inside the main enclosure. (The internal passive crossovers would have to be deactivated or removed.) However, let’s review some basic fundamentals first…

In terms of the potential benefit, it’s particularly rewarding to apply active crossovers at the bass end of the spectrum. This is because…
            …the low bass is where passive networks become more difficult; there are vexing component problems.
            …it’s important to confine high energy low bass to the subs, so effective high-pass filtering is essential.
            …the bass range is where an active Linkwitz-Riley full 4th order filter slope is most helpful.

Further, at mid-to-treble range frequencies the use of a traditional passive crossover becomes more practical, or more fitting, because…
            …the passive parts get smaller in size than those needed for the low bass, so they’re easier to implement.
            …the passband “handoff” frequencies becomes less critical, more forgiving with respect to accuracy.
            …a passive crossover avoids the need to provide a captive power amplifier for every passband.

That last aspect is decisive. Dedicating a captive stereo power amplifier (the “self-power” amp) to the subwoofers while also providing another stereo power amplifier to drive the ensuing stages seems prudent and practical. But adding still more power amps in order to serve the main speaker’s upper bass, mid, and treble drivers borders on obsessive. This seems especially so when considering that the primary audible benefit derived with captive bandpass power amplifiers fades at frequencies beyond the middle bass (400 to 600 Hz) region. In truth, the upper bass, mid, and treble drivers can be effectively served by properly designed passive low impedance crossovers. Such networks have proved acceptable in that role for decades. Their continued use seems logical and warranted.

Main speakers only…
All of the applications noted above assume the use of paired subwoofers in concert with the main speakers. That combination is especially helpful when “mini-monitors” comprise the primary speakers, but active networks are just as helpful when full range speakers are used without any supplementary subs. The existing passive crossover networks within the full range speaker enclosures would then be (wholly or partially) deactivated, and the related drivers linked directly to the active network’s independent power amplifiers. A single active crossover controller with just two output passbands could serve to drive the woofer and all of the higher frequency drivers (requires two stereo power amplifiers). Or a dual active crossover controller—such as this product: https://sublimeacoustic.com/products/k231-stereo-3-way-active-crossover—could serve to provide three distinctly separate output passbands to drive the woofer, the mid-range, and the tweeter sections independently (requires three stereo power amplifiers). In either case, convenient access to fully independent ± gain controls would be provided for each separate passband. This latter feature represents a critical advantage that can’t be achieved by means of a passive network.

BG (December 2019)

*The purported “crossover” that’s inside many commercial self-powered subwoofers might not be a true crossover. It’s often just an active low-pass filter that rejects frequencies that are higher than the internal “crossover” option. It might not provide any complementary high-pass output to keep the low frequencies out of the input to the main power amplifier. Or, when provided, that high-pass output might be routed only via a simple series capacitor, with grossly inadequate (-6dB/octave) bass rejection slope. Measure carefully if you actually intend to use one of these built-in subwoofer “crossovers”. Some are worthy, many are not.

Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Founder and Contributor

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 for 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 Nehring, Editor and Contributor

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I occasionally do some listening through pair of Sennheiser 560S headphones. I miss the excellent ELS Studio sound system in our 2016 Acura RDX (now my wife's daily driver) on which I had ripped more than a hundred favorite CDs to the hard drive, so now when driving my 2022 Accord EX-L Hybrid I stream music from my phone through its adequate but not outstanding factory system. 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 tolerably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom II 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Webmaster and Contributor

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 classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet II DAC/preamp/crossover, dual Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

Ryan Ross, Contributor

I started listening to and studying classical music in earnest nearly three decades ago. This interest grew naturally out of my training as a pianist. I am now a musicologist by profession, specializing in British and other symphonic music of the 19th and 20th centuries. My scholarly work has been published in major music journals, as well as in other outlets. Current research focuses include twentieth-century symphonic historiography, and the music of Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Malcolm Arnold.

I am honored to contribute writings to Classical Candor. In an age where the classical recording industry is being subjected to such profound pressures and changes, it is more important than ever for those of us steeped in this cultural tradition to continue to foster its love and exposure. I hope that my readers can find value, no matter how modest, in what I offer here.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa