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

--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
Tickets are $25. Visit 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

--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

--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

--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

--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 to reserve a spot.

For further information, visit

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

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

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

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

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

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

For complete information, visit

--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 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

--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

--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

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa