Classical Music News of the Week, February 29, 2020

Songs of Hope - March 6 & 7

In honor of International Women's Day, The Chelsea Symphony's March 6 and 7, 2020 concert series, "Songs of Hope," features compositions by contemporary American female composers whose work captures the American experience.

On the program each night are Missy Mazzoli's River Rouge Transfiguration, which draws inspiration from the dynamic landscape of Detroit, Gabriela Lena Frank's Elegía Andina, which explores the composer's multicultural (Lithuanian-Jewish-Chinese-Peruvian-Spanish) identity, and Joan Tower's Made in America, an uplifting meditation on how we can keep our country beautiful, even in times of uncertainty and turmoil.

Both evenings open with two World Premieres by TCS resident composers. Truth unto the People, by Tim Kiah, is inspired by Sojourner Truth featuring text from her 1851 Woman's Rights Convention speech in Akron, OH, and a new concerto for two horns by Mike Boyman, features TCS hornists Jessica Santiago and Emily Wong.

Friday - March 6 at 8:00 PM
Saturday - March 7 at 8:00 PM
St. Paul's Church, 315 West 22nd Street, NYC

For more information, visit https://chelseasymphony.org/concerts/2019-2020/songs-hope/

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea, Symphony

François Bédard Retires as 30th Season Ramps Up
Lanaudiere Festival Director Francois Bedard said recently "The Festival is doing very well, the music is in good hands with Renaud Loranger as Artistic Director, the team is well established, and the Festival is in excellent financial shape. Therefore, I can retire with both mind and heart at ease."

With these words, François Bédard, Executive Director of Canada's most prominent classical music festival, announced his retirement—effective in May—to the Festival's Board of Directors. Bédard began his tenure in May 1991, a pivotal time when the Festival faced many challenges. A passionate administrator and high-ranking manager, he significantly improved the finances of this institution dedicated to classical music. As a discerning music lover, he also vigorously supported the Festival's mission, promoting it within local, national and international circles, successfully implementing its projects as well as securing its long-term stability and sustainability.

François Bédard's accomplishments, both great and small, are numerous. He is credited with setting up the Festival's Foundation, which today plays an important role in financing its programming and activities. The Chair of the Board of Directors has stated that the Festival de Lanaudière will soon issue a call for applications to the position of Executive Director.

--France Gaignard for CN2 Communication

Peoples' Symphony Concerts Presents "March Lion & Lamb"
Peoples' Symphony Concerts' proverbial "March Lion," ushering in the new month, is a dynamic duo of two of today's most acclaimed instrumentalists - violinist Augustin Hadelich and pianist Orion Weiss in their only New York recital. Their Sunday, March 8, 2 PM concert at historic Town Hall offers solo works for violin by Coll and Ysaye and a beloved piano work - the Debussy 'L'isle Joyeuse.' There will also be violin and piano sonatas by Beethoven, Debussy, Brahms, and John Adams.

While the series is sold out, returned tickets, which are always available, will go on sale at 1 pm on the day of the concert.

More information and tickets for remaining concerts at pscny.org.

--Frank Salomon Associates

Was the Story of Esther Written By a Woman?
The 1682 murder of the 43-year old Alessandro Stradella cut short the turbulent life of one of the greatest composers of his generation. Most probably ordered by a jealous husband or paramour of one of his lovers, his life ended as lurid as it was prolific, leaving a legacy illuminated by genius and saturated by scandal.

In 1673 Stradella writes an oratorio called Ester Liberatrice del Popolo Ebreo (Esther, Liberator of the Jewish People). The libretto by Leilo Orsini sets the one story from the Old Testament (or simply the Bible, as it is referred to by Jews) in which God is never mentioned. It is a story in which banquets, sexual revelry, court intrigue, gossip, plots and strategy wind their way to the triumph of a clever Jewish queen over a murderous court minister. The Book of Esther is also the first mention of genocide in the Bible and in Jewish history.

Much ink has been spilled over the centuries, asking why it ever became part of the bible in the first place, while more recent scholarship suggests the radical possibility that the Book of Esther may have actually been written by a woman.

Stradella's finely etched characterizations give us a specificity of emotion that is worthy of the greatest art of the Counter-Reformation period, rendering him a musical Caravaggio. His music brims with exquisite but mysterious compositional choices, and the identity of his murderer remains as much a question as why a story about the liberation of the Jewish people was set to music at the time of proliferating ghettos.

Alessandro Stradella: Ester
Thursday, March 5
Brotherhood Synagogue
28 Gramercy Park South, NYC

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

--Jessica Gould, Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Music Is a Language and Must Be Approached As Such
My research in regards the theory of music has resulted in the almost total rejection of the subject due to its lack of any ability to understand what music is made up of. Much of it is for the specialist only, viz. the 'figured bass'. This was developed during the Baroque period approx. 1650-1750 for a keyboardist (organ or harpsichord) to accompany a Baroque orchestra according to the performers' own liking and ability. It has no use for 'you and me' unless we are Baroque specialists. There are many other areas that have utterly no use exept for the theorist, or the PhD. For example, a PhD in medicine obtains his PhD with research into cell strcture, for example, but it has no use for the general public. However, a PhD may contribute to a more 'popular' site that gives information on symptoms and what to do about them for 'you and me'.

Music theory as it is taught in all universities, music studios, etc., is academic, i.e. for the specialist and not for the piano student. There are only a few areas that are vital in understanding the language of music, just as there are in learning and understanding a foreign language; syntax, function, and identity, plus some details along the way. It's not easy, but it has a beneficial end result that traditional theory doesn't have.

For more info from the Piano Professor, visit https://thepianoprofessor.com/2020/02/23/chopin-waltz-op-64-nr-2-in-c-minor-an-analysis/

--Ralph Carroll Hedges, the Piano Professor

Berkeley Symphony Features Trumpeter Sean Jones in Two Bay Area Premieres
Music Director Joseph Young and Berkeley Symphony continue the 2019-2020 season on Thursday, March 26 at 8:00 p.m. with two Bay Area premieres by Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Gunther Schuller in an evening of jazz-inspired works. Making his debut appearance, legendary jazz trumpeter Sean Jones performs as soloist in Zimmermann's Trumpet Concerto "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" and shares the stage with the Berkeley High Jazz Combo for Schuller's Journey Into Jazz. Written for narrator, orchestra and jazz quintet, this work will also feature Artistic Director of the African-American Shakespeare Company L. Peter Callender as narrator. Rounding out the program is Darius Milhaud's La création du monde and Gershwin's iconic An American in Paris.

A busy schedule of March appearances also includes Berkeley Symphony's third Chamber Series concert this season on Sunday, March 15 at 4:00 p.m. at the Piedmont Center for the Arts, featuring works by Gershwin, John Adams and Emily Onderdonk. On Sunday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m., the Orchestra will present Sean Jones and the Berkeley High Jazz Combo at a free community concert at the Downtown Berkeley Plaza as part of the "Berkeley Symphony Live! On the Plaza" series.

For more information, call (510) 841-2800 x1 or visit www.berkeleysymphony.org.

--Brenden Guy PR

New World Symphony Welcomes IDAGIO as Official Audio Streaming Partner
New World Symphony President & CEO Howard Herring today announced that IDAGIO, the first global streaming service for classical music, is now The Official Audio Streaming Partner of the New World Symphony.

As part of this partnership, IDAGIO will regularly feature new NWS concert recordings, including performances led by NWS Co-Founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), as well as additional content including playlists curated by NWS, and artist profiles featuring music by individual Fellows. NWS, its Fellows, and its patrons will also receive special discounts on IDAGIO subscriptions. The first recording to be released as part of this partnership—MTT conducting Stravinsky's Variations: Aldous Huxley in Memoriam, Symphony in Three Movements, Pétrouchka (1947 revision), and Scherzo à la russe (symphonic version)—is now available exclusively on IDAGIO.

MTT said:
"The New World Symphony envisions a strong and secure future for classical music and is thrilled to share our young musicians' artistry with as many people as possible through this new partnership with IDAGIO. This collaboration will allow NWS to reach new global audiences and continue our exploration of classical music in the digital realm."

For more information, visit www.IDAGIO.com or download IDAGIO for your mobile device from the App Store or Google Play Store.

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

Young People's Chorus of New York City to Honor Gordon Getty
Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC), led by Founder and Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez, returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall on Tuesday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m. for the chorus' 32nd annual Gala Concert, this year in honor of composer and philanthropist Gordon Getty. Hosted by multiple Grammy Award-winning artist Jason Mraz, the event recognizes Mr. Getty as a YPC Legacy Honoree for his shared commitment to and efforts on behalf of making music education accessible to young people of all backgrounds.

Mr. Núñez said:"When we honor Gordon Getty at this year's Gala, we honor someone who fully believes in the power of music to transform lives from an early age."

For information about concert-only sponsorship tickets and dinner reservations, contact YPC at (212) 289-7779 or visit ypcgala@ypc.org.

--Shuman Associates

The Crossing Premieres Michael Gordon's "Travel Guide to Nicaragua"
Grammy-winning new-music choir The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, gives the world premiere performances of Michael Gordon's "Travel Guide to Nicaragua" with cellist Maya Beiser in presentations by co-commissioners, the Annenberg Center on Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 7:00pm in Philadelphia and Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 7:30pm in New York City. Before the Carnegie Hall performance on March 25, Donald Nally and Michael Gordon will have a 6:30pm pre-concert conversation with John Schaefer, host of WNYC's New Sounds and Soundcheck.

"Travel Guide to Nicaragua" is inspired by Gordon's hazy memory of his first eight years of life living on the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua. Gordon's third substantial work written for The Crossing, it reaches beyond his childhood, pondering the world of the Maya and Aztecs and drawing on the words of poet Rube´n Dari´o.

Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 7:00pm
Zellerbach Theatre, Annenberg Center | 3680 Walnut St. | Philadelphia, PA
Link: https://annenbergcenter.org/event/the-crossing-808

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 7:30pm
(6:30pm Pre-Concert Talk with Donald Nally, Michael Gordon, and John Schaefer)
Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall | Seventh Avenue between 56th and 57th | New York, NY
Link: https://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2020/03/25/The-Crossing-0730PM

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Enhanced eBook Enchants with Chopin
Author Roland Colton has created a unique and novel reading experience with the release of the eBook, "Forever Gentleman." The central character of this fictional romance set in Victorian London is Nathan Sinclair, a concert pianist. Embedded links to streaming audio of over ten hours of classical music integrated in the eBook immerse the reader into Sinclair's world of love and intrigue with musical selections by Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, and more.

The music inside the novel includes three original pieces, ostensibly composed by characters in the book. To create this music, Mr. Colton launched an international composition contest, offering cash prizes for the winners. Several hundred entries were received from nearly every country in the world, and the world premiere recordings of the winners' music is featured in "Forever Gentleman." Hear these new works and get to know the composers here: http://rolandcolton.com/composition-contest-winners/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Northbrook Symphony Orchestra Performs Brahms and Beethoven
Tickets on sale now for Sunday, April 5, 2020, 4pm. Northbrook Symphony performs Beethoven and Brahms. Mina Zikri, Music Director. Susan Merdinger, Guest Soloist. Please visit: www.northbrooksymphony.org or Call: 847-272-0755

To download the track "Schubert - Sonata In B - IV" for free, go to https://susanmerdingerpianist.com/dl and enter the code yksp-7igq

--Susan Merdinger, American Concert Pianist

On Vacuum Tube Power Amps…

By Bryan Geyer

As commonly credited to Mark Twain*…
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
—and—
“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it's that they know so many things that aren't so.”

Were this not the case, the production, sale, and use of receiving-type vacuum tubes would have permanently perished throughout the world. Instead, some tubes still cling to life in the modest audiophile and amplified guitar markets**.

The continued use of vacuum tubes in guitar amps is easy to comprehend. That’s because guitar buffs treasure the sound of 2nd harmonic distortion, and tube amplifiers present high levels of that noxious stuff. Plus it’s very easy to create more whenever you overdrive (clip) a vacuum tube amplifier’s output stage.

The on-going acceptance of vacuum tube design in high-end audio power amplifiers is more puzzling, especially given the premiums paid for power amplifiers that always…
            …operate at high temperatures, at all output levels,
            …utilize hazardous (potentially deadly) high voltages,
            …perform poorly when compared to solid-state equivalent***,
            …require endless costly maintenance†,
            …and violate every precept of the “go green” environmental initiative††.

Yes, it’s a puzzle. Science seemingly gets smothered by expectation bias and confirmation bias; refer Audioholics: “Do Our Expectations Determine Our Experience of Sound More Than We Realize?” at https://www.audioholics.com/room-acoustics/mind-over-music.

The audiophiles of today that use tube-type power amplifiers tend to be < age 65. This tells me that they’re not likely to have owned a power amplifier during the era when all electronic equipment was vacuum tube dependent. The genial glow of those orange filaments is not always reminiscent of happy hassles for those of us that serviced such stuff. We recall the hours devoted to trouble tracing and repair; maybe charred salvage.

A significant number of audiophiles say that they prefer the “warm” sound of a tube-type power amplifier. What’s generally overlooked is that the source of this warm coloration traces to a design limitation that’s implicit with all traditional tube-type power amplifiers. Because the output stage of a vacuum tube power amplifier operates at high source impedance (several kΩ), it’s not optimum to directly drive a low impedance load (e.g.: a loudspeaker). A load that presents low impedance is best driven by a source that exhibits still lower impedance. Indeed, a value of zero source impedance would be ideal. The classic means of curing this circuit-to-load impedance disparity is to introduce an output transformer between the tube circuit’s final stage and the external load. This (big, heavy, and expensive) magnetic device will then, by virtue of its differing internal winding ratios, transform the high impedance state into a low impedance source, so that the signal can better mate with its intended low impedance load. Audio engineers conclude that it’s probably this processing path through the windings of the output transformer that create the perception of warmer sound, so “tube sound” likely doesn’t trace directly to the presence of vacuum tubes—it’s the consequence of coupling the circuit’s output stage to the load by means of a transformer. What you’re hearing is “transformer sound.”

Tung-Sol Ad, 1955
As always, this beneficial design fix (add transformer) is not without restrictive limitation. An audio output transformer is a non-linear device by nature, with low end frequency response that’s largely dependent on the mass of its magnetic core, and high frequency response that’s subject to the vagaries of leakage inductance and stray capacitance. It’s also prone to waveform saturation at high signal amplitudes, and that tends to create undesired harmonic distortion due to soft clipping. Further, design constraints generally limit the output source impedance to some 3 or 4 Ohms. Lower Zout is impractical, and higher Zout options must sometimes be applied (when increased load impedance permits) in order to linearize a tube amplifier’s voltage gain, as the latter will often vary (by several dB) with changes in the loading impedance (refer “Special Footnote,” at end).

Modern solid-state power amp circuits don’t have to contend with any of these messy generic issues that plague tube-type power amplifiers. A solid-state power amplifier’s natural internal source impedance will be very close to zero; normally somewhat < 0.1 Ohm, and it will be stable. That near zero value is more than an order of magnitude below the source impedance of any transformer aided tube-type power amplifier, so there’s negligible undesired source/load interactive variance. In addition, the solid-state power amplifier can provide direct coupling to the load, so there’s no transformer interface imposed. This assures better transient damping, with wider, flatter frequency coverage; also less distortion, firmly fixed voltage gain, lighter weight, and (potentially) lower cost. As a result, the signal that gets delivered to the load will be a highly accurate representation of the input, and the sound that’s perceived will be determined purely by the input source and by the load, not by the compound interaction of a higher driving impedance in tandem with the load impedance. This is why a well designed solid-state power amplifier has no intrinsic sonic signature, it’s functionally transparent.

Vacuum tube users sometimes recommend a particular power amplifier + speaker with a preferred connecting cable, with choice of cable based on listening tests. Beneficial cable effect is potentially possible when a tandem source/load termination happens to form a euphonious (aurally pleasing) filter. However, do realize that any termination so marginally sensitive that the niggling impedance variance conveyed by a few feet of cable can cause audible change must be highly unstable to start. Merely moving such cable might provoke further change. This shaky state is precisely why audio engineers extoll the load invariant advantage assured by driving the speaker from a near-zero (≤ 0.1Ω) source impedance, something that’s naturally inherent with solid-state power amplifier design.

Despite all of the noted technical and environmental deficiencies, there’s no ethical deceit implicit in the promotion and sale of high-end vacuum tube power amplifiers. Natural acceptance and approval of such product reflects the innocence of human trust, just as with faith in a deity or a belief in astrology. Blind trust defies rational explanation, but many regard trust as noble—no reasoning required. Others are more realistic—they want to see the data. How you side in this issue is your choice, but don’t let the inexorable tide of audiophile groupthink††† swamp straight thinking and good science.

BG (February 25, 2020)

*A popular attribution; probably apocryphal.

**All of the U.S., British, Dutch, and German producers of vacuum tubes are now either defunct or ceased making tubes some four decades ago. The entire world market for new tubes is presently served solely by obscure sources in China, Russia, and Slovakia. New tubes that get labeled with the names of long deceased and respected sources (like Tung-Sol, Mullard, et al) exist simply because a Russian entrepreneur bought the right to reuse dormant copyrights. (Tung-Sol died in the early 1960s.)

***Ruler-flat power response, near-zero (<  0.1%) total harmonic distortion (THD) at full rated power, and ultra-low output impedance (less than 1/10th the Zout of a typical tube amp) is now routine in the case of solid-state power amplifiers. Identical measurements made on the very best vacuum tube models show that they can’t approach those values. For example, typical tube-type power amplifier THD limits are ~ 16X to 50X worse (1% to 3% THD instead of 0.06% max.) than as specified for a popular “mid-market” solid-state power amplifier (Parasound Halo A23+).

†A matched pair of vintage “NOS” Tung-Sol 6550 output pentodes = $220. Refer…http://vintagetubeservices.com/pentodes/. Back in the era (1963-1976) when I used a Marantz model 8B stereo power amplifier (four EL34 output tubes, rated 35 Watts/channel), I had to replace the output stage pairs on the order of every 30 months to maintain optimum “in spec” operation. I also readjusted the bias settings 2-3 times/year to minimize IM distortion (SMPTE) at full output, using a Heathkit AA-1 analyzer and a ’scope.

††A typical 150 Watt/channel stereo tube-type power amplifier consumes more power (about 240 Watts) when in benign standby than a 55 inch Sony LED/LCD TV set does when in actual use. Consider: 240 Watts of standby (just idle, no signal output) power consumption is equivalent to continuously burning four 60 Watt incandescent light bulbs without providing any light; just heat. That’s conspicuous waste.


Special Footnote: Unlike solid-state power amplifiers, vacuum tube power amplifiers do not exhibit stable fixed voltage gains. Their intrinsic gain will typically vary by several dB, dependent on nominal load impedance. To minimize this undesired variance, the output transformer often exhibits multiple output taps, e.g. 4Ω, 8Ω, 16Ω. When the nominal rated load impedance permits (i.e., rises), the use of these higher Zout taps will assist in stabilizing the voltage gain. (Refer AudioXpress, issue dated Feb. 2020, p. 64, fig. 5)

Truman Harris: A Warm Day in Winter (CD review)

Rosemoor Suite; Aulos Triptych; Concertino for Horn and Chamber Orchestra; Flowers; Sonata for Two Bassoons and Piano; and Concertina for Flute and Chamber Orchestra. Alice K. Weinreb, flute; Laurel B. Ohlson, horn; Sylvia Alimena, Eclipse Chamber Orchestra. Naxos 8.559858.

American composer and bassoonist Truman Harris (b. 1945) should not be confused with American composer Roy Harris (1898-1979). Truman Harris is the contemporary one; Roy Harris was the perhaps more well-known, older one. So, we've got to give Truman a little more time and a few more listens.

According to his bio, "Mr. Harris joined the bassoon section of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC in 1973, as the orchestra's contrabassoonist. After two years, he moved to second bassoon, and later was promoted to Assistant Principal, where he remained until his retirement in 2017. He was also Principal Bassoonist of Eclipse Chamber Orchestra from its founding in 1992 until 2017, and bassoonist of the Capitol Woodwind Quintet from 1977 until the group ceased performing in 2012. Truman Harris' performance career also included stints with the Fort Worth Symphony and Opera, the United States Air Force Band, National Musical Arts in residence at the National Academy of Sciences, and The Twenty First Century Consort."

Mr. Harris, with whose music I was not acquainted before this album, appears to be a sort of American Percy Grainger, the early twentieth-century composer and collector of mostly lighthearted, impressionistic British folk music. Like Grainger's most-famous work, "Country Gardens," much of Mr. Harris's music is also lighthearted and pictorial. Add a little Leroy Anderson and you get the idea. On the present album, which appears to be his first, the folks at Naxos give us six of Harris's compositions, presumably illustrative of his main body of work, performed by his old ensemble, the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra led by Sylvia Alimena.

First up is the Rosemoor Suite for flute oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn (2015). It's made up of five short movements, each of which describes a scene from the composer's life: "Fantasia," "On the Trampoline," "By the Stream, Late September," "Charleston," and "Silent Movie." These movements last from about a minute and a half to a little over three minutes each, which is really too brief to enjoy them much. But they are all highly descriptive in content and carefree in tone. "By the Stream" is especially winsome, evoking a kind of English pastoral scene.

Next is the Aulos Triptych for four flutes and piano (2015). It's in three movements, again depicting various musical settings: "Light and Color," "Dreams of Fantastic Places," and "A Warm Day in Winter," all self-explanatory. Again, the music is sweet and charming, and again quite short.

Sylvia Alimena
Following that is the Concertino for Horn and Chamber Orchestra (2001), one of the more conventional pieces on the album in three traditional movements: Allegro, Andante, and Rondo: Allegetto giocoso. At over sixteen minutes, it's the longest work on the program and, for me, one of the most substantial musically. Although the horn was recorded rather close up, which tends to overwhelm the rest of the ensemble slightly, there is a delightful interplay between the instruments throughout the music.

Then, there's Flowers (2006), six very concise movements describing six very different flowers: "Pansy," "Clover," "Tulip," ""Lavender," "Kudzu," and "Black-eyed Susan." Here, we're back to some of the buoyant high spirits of the album's opening pieces. "Tulips" introduces a note of sadness because they bloom and fade so quickly and "Kudzu" a sense of the dramatic.

After Flowers, we get the Sonata for Two Bassoons and Piano (2008), not the shortest work on the agenda but written for the smallest number of players. It appears to be a sort of cross between modern classical and a sometimes bluesy modern jazz, the two bassoonists working well as a team with piano support.

The program concludes with the Concertina for Flute and Chamber Orchestra (2003), which contains elements of lyricism, nostalgia, jazz, and march in a mostly playful display. It has the distinctions of incorporating the best of Harris's playful, upbeat style with maybe the best sound on the disc.

Producers James Ross, Laurel Bennert Ohlson, Elizabeth Schulze, and Steven Honigberg and engineers Antonio D'Urzo and Paul Blakemore recorded the music at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia and the Dekelboum Concert hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland in 2007, 2009, and 2016.

As one might expect from the several recording dates and venues, the sound varies a bit from selection to selection. Nevertheless, it is mostly good, the little chamber pieces sounding fresh and alive. Overall, I didn't notice any particular instances of brightness in the treble or boominess in the bass, just some minor veiling in occasional areas. The sound is, in fact, reasonably smooth for the most part and pleasantly warm, just as real music might sound.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 22, 2020

15th Biennial Gilmore International Keyboard Festival

The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, which is presented biennially in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is the largest gathering of keyboard artists in North America, this year including nearly 40 pianists in more than 100 concerts and events from Wednesday, April 22 to Sunday, May 10.

Staging the festival for the 15th time, The Gilmore continues its commitment to showcasing the keyboard through a wide variety of programming—from solo and concerto performances by most recently named Gilmore Artist Igor Levit; to chamber jazz by "Late Show" bandleader Jon Batiste; to the inspiring educational work of pianist Maria João Pires, which she brings to the U.S. for the first time. The festival's diverse performance schedule is complemented by an extensive series of master classes, pre-concert talks, film screenings, and lectures, as well as an interactive, public art installation. Among those leading master classes are Igor Levit, Yefim Bronfman, and Beatrice Rana. The festival experience is further enriched by its unique setting in West Michigan, characterized by rolling countryside filled with orchards, wineries, art galleries and farmers markets, as well as the natural beauty of nearby Lake Michigan.

Tickets may be purchased online at thegilmore.org, by phone at (269) 359-7311, or in person at the Gilmore box office, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall.

For a full list of festival concerts and performances, visit https://www.thegilmore.org/2020-festival/

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

Violinist Sean Lee and Pianist Peter Dugan in Paganini's Complete Caprices
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presents award-winning violinist Sean Lee in a recital with pianist Peter Dugan on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 7:30pm at the Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Studio. The performance features Lee and Dugan in Schumann's arrangement of Paganini's Complete Caprices for Violin and Piano, Op. 1 (c. 1805).

A top prizewinner at the "Premio Paganini" International Violin Competition, Lee embraces the legacy of his late mentor, violinist Ruggiero Ricci, as one of few violinists who dare to perform the complete 24 Caprices of Niccolò Paganini in recital. This is the first time that all 24 of Paganini's Caprices have been performed at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in the organization's 50 year history.

Of Paganini's Caprices, Lee says "The 24 Caprices of Niccolò Paganini are like the Mount Everest of the violin repertoire. But beyond the technical challenges, each Caprice is a compelling character piece--and even more colorful with the addition of Robert Schumann's piano arrangements, which keep the original violin score completely intact, unchanged. Having studied in my high school years with violinist Ruggiero Ricci (who made the first solo violin recording in 1947), I'm thrilled to perform the complete set, something I didn't even dream of when I initially studied them!"

Tickets: $68. Link: https://www.chambermusicsociety.org/nyc/events/upcoming/the-art-of-the-recital-march-26-2020/

Livestream will be available here: https://www.chambermusicsociety.org/watch-and-listen/live/art-of-the-recital-sean-lee-and-peter-dugan-march-26-2020/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

YPC: ACDA Eastern Region Conference and Annual Gala Benefit Concert
Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez and singers from Young People's Chorus will travel to Rochester, NY to participate in a major regional conference for choral directors. YPC is honored to be chosen as one of the choruses to perform in individual concert sessions, which will take place at the historic Hochstein School of Music on Friday, March 6.

Then, on March 10, 2020, 7:00 p.m., at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, under the baton of Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez, YPC is set to hit the stage for the Annual Gala Benefit Concert. The event will be hosted by Grammy Award-winning superstar Jason Mraz, whose passion for inclusive arts education deeply aligns with YPC's mission of diversity, education and artistic excellence. Over 400 young artists will be joined by YPC alumna Aneesa Folds from Broadway's "Freestyle Love Supreme" and acclaimed soprano Lisa Delan. Get ready for a show-stopping performance full of dazzling choreography and music ranging from Gordon Getty and Karl Jenkins to Prince and Hall and Oates.

For more information, visit https://ypc.org/

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Katia Makdissi-Warren: A Record of New Creations
The SMCQ is continuing its series "Tribute to Composer Katia Makdissi-Warren." The Homage Series, originated by the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) honouring composer Katia Makdissi-Warren, begins the second part of its season with a multitude of events celebrating her music. This movement sparked an unprecedented rally around the composer, who has accumulated some twenty new creations this year, as much for soloists, small groups, dance and theater, as for large orchestras. A record to which are added numerous interpretations of other pieces from her repertoire, including some performed internationally, and an enthusiastic influence with young people in schools.

Autumn illustrated the musical and cultural mix which inspire her work. From the opening of the Arab World Festival of Montreal (nominated for the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal) to Inuit throat singing, as well as the SMCQ's major concerts … This broad spectrum, demonstrating her ability to transcend musical boundaries, was recently awarded the Prix Opus "Inclusion et diversité" for her Oktoécho ensemble.

To stay informed on all SMCQ projects, subscribe to our infolettre: http://www.smcq.qc.ca/smcq/fr/apropos/liste/

--France Gaignard, Relationniste de presse

The Art of Pleasure at Merkin Hall
New York Festival of Song brings its Emerging Artists to the Mainstage with The Art of Pleasure. The beauties of the seaside, romance, and the spirit--along with some guilty pleasures too. Music by Montsalvatge, Rachmaninoff, Piazzolla, Bernstein, Jonathan Dove, Tom Lehrer, Gabriel Kahane, Michael John LaChiusa, The Kinks, and more.

From artistic director/co-founder/pianist/host Steven Blier:
"The world seems to be going through a very rough patch, so I thought that people needed to take a deep breath and take stock of life's pleasures—the delight of the seaside in August, the wish-fulfillment of dreams, the intoxication of a new love affair. The Art of Pleasure brings all of them to musical life, in music ranging from Rachmaninoff and Montsalvatge to Lehár and Musto. But we also dip into a range of guilty pleasures—private compulsions and obsessions that we usually try to keep under wraps. For those, we have songs by Jonathan Dove, Leonard Bernstein, Gabriel Kahane, and the Kinks. The playlist takes us through a series of supersaturated fantasies, recharging us for the challenges ahead."

Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 8:00 p.m.
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center
129 West 67th Street, NYC

For complete information and tickets, visit https://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/new-york-festival-of-song-the-art-of-pleasure/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Family Concert - Orli Shaham's Bach Yard
Princeton University Concerts' annual concert for kids ages 3-6 and their families is one of the most heart-warming events of our season. On Saturday, March 14 at 1PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ, internationally renowned pianist Orli Shaham will join wind players from Carnegie Hall's "Ensemble Connect" for "Orli Shaham's Bach Yard: Welcome the Winds!," a program introducing youngsters to wind instruments and the joy of live chamber music.

Tickets are just $5 kids/$10 adults: http://princetonuniversityconcerts.princeton.edu/concerts/concert/orli-shahams-bach-yard

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Lara Downes Teaching the Importance of Spirituals and Freedom
Throughout 2020 pianist Lara Downes will host workshops and performances nationwide with at-risk youth and local youth choirs. She will use selections featured on Some Of These Days - "We Shall Overcome," "Down By The Riverside," "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," "Steal Away" and others - to teach younger generations about the powerful legacy and lineage of these freedom songs.

Lara and the students will talk about the history of these songs together, then rehearse and perform them as a way to foster a deeper connection to the lessons of the past while illuminating the potential of the future. Exploring the texts and melodies, Lara will lead students in reflection of the nature of progress, and ask them to recognize and articulate their own potential to act as agents of change in their communities. Workshops are scheduled in New York City, Los Angeles, Sacramento, St. Louis, Eugene, Louisville and Chicago.

For more information and play dates, visit https://americansongwriter.com/lara-downes-releases-steal-away-first-single-from-forthcoming-album/ryan-baltz-2/

--Natalie Maher, Shore Fire Media

Michael Tilson Thomas To Receive Honorary Doctorate
The Cleveland Institute of Music announced yesterday that acclaimed conductor, composer and educator Michael Tilson Thomas will be awarded an honorary doctorate at the school's 95th Commencement Ceremony in Kulas Hall on Saturday, May 16 at 10am EDT. Attendance is by invitation only, but a live stream will be available via cim.edu. Yesterday's announcement was given at a special MTT-led rehearsal of the CIM Orchestra at Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra, which MTT also conducts February 20-23.

Michael Tilson Thomas – Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra and a 2019 Kennedy Center Honoree – is recognized globally as an innovator on and off the podium. His wide-ranging projects encompass a broad repertoire – from the classical canon to 20th-century masterpieces to contemporary works, particularly those by leading American composers. He shares this music with audiences in person in the concert hall; in televised performances and radio broadcasts; through recordings and online streaming; and even via "wallcast" simulcasts at the New World Center in Miami, Florida.

For more information, visit michaeltilsonthomas.com

--Shuman Associates

MetLiveArts Presents Portrait of Composer Mary Kouyoumdjian
On Friday, March 27, 2020 at 7:00pm, "They Will Take My Island," a multimedia portrait concert featuring the works of Armenian-American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian, will be performed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the MetLiveArts series.

Unreleased scenes and highly personal short films by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) are given original new scores by Kouyoumdjian in the world premiere of MetLiveArts commission, "They Will Take My Island" (2020). The JACK Quartet and newly formed Silvana Quartet join forces to form the ensemble. Kouyoumdjian's string quartets "Bombs of Beirut," performed by the Silvana Quartet, and "Silent Cranes," performed by the JACK Quartet, explore her family's history with the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide through survivor testimonies and documentary with projections by multimedia designer, painter, photographer, and textile designer Laurie Olinder.

In the world premiere of Mary Kouyoumdjian's MetLiveArts commission "They Will Take My Island (2020)," Atom Egoyan's highly personal films and excerpts showing the life of abstract painter Arshile Gorky are infused with themes of family and immigration. Recorded interviewees include Saskia Spender, granddaughter of Arshile Gorky and President of the Arshile Gorky Foundation; Parker Field, Managing Director of the Arshile Gorky Foundation; and Michael Taylor, Chief Curator of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Friday, March 27, 2020 at 7:00pm
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave., New York, NY. Tickets: $65. Bring the Kids for $1 (ages 6–16). Tickets include same-day Museum admission.

Tickets and information: https://rsecure.metmuseum.org/event/ticket/575319

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Violinist Alana Youssefian Returns to Philharmonia for "Romantic Reflections"
This March, violinist Alana Youssefian returns for her third appearance with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, this time as soloist for Mendelssohn's lushly virtuosic Violin Concerto in E minor, which she will perform on a 1924 Léon Victor Mougenot violin. The program, "Romantic Reflections," also includes Cherubini's Overture to Démophoon and Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major, "The Great," all conducted by Music Director Nicholas McGegan. Nic, Alana, and the 48-piece orchestra will bring a keen knowledge of historically informed performance to these staples of the Romantic repertoire.

Wednesday, March 11 at 7:30 pm | Bing Concert Hall, Palo Alto, CA
Friday, March 13 at 8 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 14 at 8 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Sunday, March 15 at 4 pm | First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2019-2020-season/romantic-reflections/

--Stephanie Li, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale

Los Angeles Master Chorale Announces 2020-21 Season
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, led by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, today announced its 2020-21 season that showcases the immense power of voices united in song, including monumental testaments to the power of music by Bach, Haydn, and Handel; an exploration of American music; and a program that features newly appointed Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Reena Esmail's inspiring "I Rise: Women in Song." This is a season that opens hearts to the glory of singing and celebrates the expression of spirituality through music.

"From our earliest days to modern times, our single greatest unifying force has been the power of our collective voices," says Gershon. "The Los Angeles Master Chorale's 2020-21 season showcases the breadth and impact of the choral repertoire, from the most famous classics to essential contemporary works by today's composers, including our new Swan Family Artist-in-Residence, Reena Esmail. This season offers the opportunity for everyone, whether a first time concert-goer or seasoned patron, to enjoy the versatility of the Master Chorale, and to share our universal connectedness through music."

For complete information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Sarah Coit Named 2020 Jeffrey Thomas Award Recipient
 The American Bach Soloists are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2020 Jeffrey Thomas Award. Granted annually at the Artistic Director's discretion to honor, recognize, and encourage exceptionally gifted emerging professionals in the field of early music who show extraordinary promise and accomplishment, Maestro Thomas has selected mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit to receive this year's award.

Ms. Coit was heard with ABS earlier this season in "A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera" at Herbst Theatre. Her performances of arias from Handel's Riccardo I, ré d'Inghilterra, Giulio Cesare, and Ariodante dazzled audience members and brought standing ovations. She will return to ABS in December 2020 for performances of Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral and Sonoma's Green Music Center.

--Amerian Bach Soloists

PARMA Winter 2020 Call for Scores
Based on several requests, we have decided to extend the deadline for submissions to PARMA's Winter 2020 Call for Scores by one week to February 28.

On a related note, this means you have one more week to submit your music to record with the same orchestra, which can be heard performing on "Wild Symphony," a project announced this week by best-selling author Dan Brown, as featured Thursday morning in the New York Times and Associated Press.

Yesterday, we also shared a new audio interview with featured Call for Scores artist Megan Ihnen, which can be found through the following link: www.parmarecordings.com/conversations-with-megan-ihnen/

For more information on these opportunities or to submit your music, please see below, follow the link to our Project Submission Form, or write to submissions@parmarecordings.com with any questions.

More information: https://www.parmarecordings.com/call-for-scores/

--PARMA Recordings

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

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

By Karl W. Nehring

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

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

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

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

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

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

KWN

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

A Beethoven Odyssey, Volume 6 (CD review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 15, 2020

Concerts at Saint Thomas March Performances

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

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

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

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

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

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

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

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

For details, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

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

Tickets are $15 General/$5 Students.

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

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

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

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

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

--Ralph Carroll Hedges

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

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

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

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

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

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

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

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

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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

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

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

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

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

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

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

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

For complete information, visit onefestivalomaha.org

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

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

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

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

--Nancy Shear Arts Services

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

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

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

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

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

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

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

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

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

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

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

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

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

--New York Times

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

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

By John J. Puccio and Karl W. Nehring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JJP/KWN

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 (CD review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 8, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

--Brenden Guy PR

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

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

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

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

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

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

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

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

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

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--PARMA Recordings

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

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

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

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

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

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Foundation to Assist Young Musicians

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

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

--Ralph Carroll Hedges, Chopin Piano Academy

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

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

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

--Shuman Associates

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

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

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

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

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

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

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

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

--Caroline Heaney, Bucklesweet

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

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

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

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

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

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

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

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

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

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

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

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

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

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

--Stephanie Li, Philharmonia Baroque

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

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

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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