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.

Program:
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

Artists:
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 millertheatre.com.

--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 https://ci.ovationtix.com/35174/performance/10412680

--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 Curtis.edu/CSOTour.

--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 princetonuniversityconcerts.org 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 http://www.princetonuniversityconcerts.org/

--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 https://www.berkeleysymphony.org/

--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: https://lamasterchorale.org/newseason.php

--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 https://orionensemble.org/

--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 chelseasymphony.org

--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 https://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/SFS-Media

--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 americanbach.org.

--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 https://roco.org/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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