Mozert: Sing Song, the Musical (Eight-Tract Bl-R review)

Lft. Sir Cedric Noel Vivian Barnstable III, Westchester Girls Rubber Band and Chorus. Jackson Whole Pictures; 2025; 18 and 2880 minutes. Eight-Tract Blur-ray 09.30.44 (24 discs)

What co-composers George Peter Mozert and Lucas Jackson Mozert have done in their classic operetta is not just reinvent the venerable concept of a giant ape attacking a forbidden island in the sky, but they have set it all gloriously to music! The melodies, the harmonies, the lyrics, even the words to the songs are a revelation. The film and its attendant audio are themselves a marvel, of course; that goes without saying. But now, thanks to the Mozert Twins and Jackson Whole Productions, we are able to see it both in its original theatrical-release form and in the filmmakers' own Unrated Special Edition Audio Commentary Director's Cut (UR/SE/AC/DC). The deluxe, twenty-four-disc package surely offers a surplus of riches. And will just as surely make the Mozerts rich.

The story, based on the classic Anglican novel Great Expectorations by Mark Spitz, is almost too familiar to describe, but I'll recap the highlights for the uninitiated. A poor, down-on-his-luck choirboy, Hansel Solow (alternately performed by Harry Ray Hausen and Harry's son, Ford), finds refuge on a tramp steamer steaming to the steamy, uncharted island of Loonitoonie. Or a tramp steamer is tramping to.... I forget, but the steamer doesn't get halfway there before Hansel is accosted by a Wicki named Wacko. Or a Wacko named Wicki, I forget. In any case, Hansel is rescued by the heroine, Princess Pardonme Madear (Jack Hack), Queen of Medullah, and they instantly fall in love, not realizing that they are actually man and wife.

Then they spot the forbidden planet, Mobius, where everyone has to strip and the situation becomes intense. This is OK, though, because most of the crew are in tents, anyway, what with cabin space being at a premium. They land the ship on a nearby mooring and immediately set out to take pictures of the planet's inhabitants, the Mobiusan Moors. But the Moors are none too happy to greet outlanders, especially ones so keen on taking their pictures. These are, after all, pictures that have been in their families for generations.

Next, we hear the sound of distant rumblings (rumble, rumble), and we see the natives getting restless. It's well past their dinnertime, and their stomachs are growling something terrible. But, wait, it's something else as well; it's the ancient chant of voodoo drums along an enormous granite cliff. Cautiously, our intrepid band climb the rock, a sort of rising rock band, lead by Hansel and the Princess, and make their way to the base of the precipice, any moment fearing an overhead attack by the dreaded Sith. Fortunately, they have nothing to worry about from the Sith, having remembered to wear their sith helmets. But what they find there is something far more terrifying than even they could have imagined--a gigantic ape bigger than the Palpatine Hills and the Lower Antilles combined.

The natives call him...Sing Song.

Lt. Sir Cedric Etc., Etc.
From that point on, you all know the story. Captain Quirk (Louis Armstrong) and the crew of the Starship Babble-On attempt to buy the big ape (Zbig Cirkus) for a song, but can't, so they kidnap him and bring him back to Nabooey. Then the Princess learns that Song is her father, Hansel learns that the Princess is his wife, and Luc Peters learns that he's the half-cousin thrice removed of the wrestler Gorgeous George. It all seems so obvious, but it plays out much better than it sounds, thanks to the songs and music.

Who can forget those unforgettably unforgettable Mozert tunes, orchestrated and sung by composer James Newton Max Howard Steiner Zimmer-Williams: "Gorilla My Dreams," "I Only Have Ice Planets for You," "Simian in the Rain," "Climb Every Building," "Ape and Circumstance," "Yes, We've Got No Stinkin' Bananas" ("Bananas?  We haven't got any bananas. We don't need any bananas. I don't have to show you any stinkin' bananas"), "In the Cage Where You Live," "Get Me to the Perch on Time," "Seventy-Six Skull and Bones," and that perennial favorite, "How To Succeed in Monkey Business Without Really Trying."

"Sing Song" is a monstrous achievement.

The video quality of the theatrical release is excellent, the picture size measuring a screen ratio of approximately 3.437651.34:1, a size closely matching its original 3.437651.43:1 dimensions. Jackson Whole Pictures transferred both the theatrical release and Director's Cut to disc in VHS Super-String Anorexic Blur-Ray UltraVisionSD, at a processing rate of 800K pixels per square centimeter. However, using my own fully calibrated micronometer, I measured an average of between 5-10 psc, a little less than the claimed spec but still ensuring that most of the film's RGB color-matched hues are vividly reflected in the overall picture, so, close enough. A degree of grain washes out several scenes, but there's nothing in them worth seeing, so in all it's a wash.

There is a slight degradation of picture quality in the Directors' Cut. While the theatrical release was filmed in SuperUltra Cinepanormique Kodachrome Technorama VistaScope Todd-AO 70, the Directors' Cut was filmed in Super 8. The difference is, how should I put it...different. Nevertheless, once one gets used to the smaller screen size, .27:1, the black-and-white photography with pea-green overtones, the beclouded image, the montage of moiré effects, and the peripheral snow, everything looks pretty good. There are even several occasions during the forty-eight-hour Directors' Cut that one can almost, if not quite, make out what's happening.

The theatrical release version of the film retains its mono soundtrack, while the Directors' Cut gets a brand-new, newly remastered DDT/Atmost 9.2 remix. Understand, however, that the film was originally recorded in monaural, so the remix puts the same track in all nine-point-two channels. Nevertheless, it places the listener in the dead center of the aural action.

Disc one of this twenty-four disc set contains the complete theatrical version of the film, its entire eighteen minutes; plus English, French, Spanish, and Stallonese spoken languages; Modestian, Orang, Pongadae, and Danish subtitles; seventeen theatrical, TV, and teaser trailers; and one scene selection, with a full-color, black-and-white chapter insert.

In addition, the first disc contains a co-directors' audio commentary, wherein the two Mozerts boys laugh and talk and converse about their childhoods growing up in the far reaches of the galaxy: New Zealand and Modesto. They provide a good deal of verbal description of their lives before and after becoming famous composers, their upbringing, their religious background, their grades in school, their baptisms and bar mitzvahs, their first dates, their college education, their second dates, their courtships and assorted marriages, their mutual acquaintances, their industry buddies, their multitudinous awards, their hardships making the film, and their fishing trips together. Eighteen minutes never went by so fast.

Discs two through twenty-three contain the Unrated Directors' Cut of Sing Song at 2880 minutes (or 48 hours, depending on your math). This version includes several outtakes and deleted scenes. However, it does not contain a Directors' commentary, the two men having completely exhausted their supply of personal anecdotes, jokes, and reminiscences during their comments on the theatrical version.

Disc twenty-four contains the bulk of the extras. First up, there's a guest lecture by school librarian Merriam C. Cooper that lasts about six hours, in which he demonstrates why school librarians should never be allowed to give lectures. Second, there are spy shots of the Great Ape bathing nude with co-star Naomi Watsername, as well as spy shots of SEE-3PO'D bathing nude with co-star Kristian Haywire. They are both worth looking into. Third up, there is a pair of featurettes: "The Making of Harry Pottery and the Giblet of Ire As Told By His Ceramics Teacher" (PG) and "The Making of George Peters and Luc Jackson As Told By Their Parents" (XXX). Fourth, we have the complete text of "The Last of the Mohicans" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, read in its entirety by noted film buff J.D. Salinger (in the buff). Finally, the bonus items are rounded out by a small, circular blotch of unidentifiable material.

Parting Shots:
Alex & Emma is sweet without being romantic, cute without being funny. Even when Reiner has two different stories to work with, one inside the other, he can't do anything with them. Well, nobody stays down forever, and Reiner has a lot of good years ahead of him. From here on, he certainly has nowhere to go but up.

And then Song finds himself trapped in the botanical gardens atop the Empire State Building, surrounded by jet fighters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Air Force. ("How do they get those big horses inside such tiny cockpits?" asks film critic Marilyn Monroe.) To quote from the source, "He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. The thing is...if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything." Reaching for the ring, Song toppled from the tower.

"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was booty killed the beast."


To hear an excerpt from the movie soundtrack, click here:

Max Richter: From Sleep (CD Review)

Max Richter, piano, organ, synthesizers, electronics; American Contemporary Music Ensemble (Ben Russell, Yuki Numata Resnick, violin; Caleb Burhans, viola; Clarice Jensen, Brian Snow, cello; Grace Davidson, soprano). Deutsche Grammophon 479 5258.

By Karl. W. Nehring

Max Richter (b. 1966) is a leading figure among composers working to bring together elements of what we generally consider "classical" music and more contemporary instrumentation and styles of music. For those who follow current classical trends, Richter's most well known composition is probably his reworking of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, released by DG in 2012 and picked up by various classical outlets around the world. It may have not been a "big hit," but it sold well and brought increased attention to the German-born British composer who is now based in London.

But his most notorious composition is undoubtedly Sleep, an 8-hour magnum opus from 2015 that was released as a boxed set comprising eight CDs plus a Blu-ray disc that contained the whole piece for those who might desire to play the music uninterruptedly while they yes, slept. According to the composer, "It's a piece that is meant to be listened to at night. I hope that people will fall asleep while listening to it, because the project is also a personal exploration into how music interacts with consciousness – another fascination for me."

Believe it or not, Sleep has been performed live in numerous venues, with the audience being invited to come not only to hear the piece, but of course to sleep through it, with bedding being provided. A bit of a Bizarro World Woodstock, if you will…

Not to worry though, friends, I am not about to set off on a detailed, track-by-track exposition of all 31 tracks (with many lasting more than 20 minutes) of an eight-hour recording. Even if I had auditioned it (which I haven't), and even were I then somehow buzzed up enough to sit down and write such a review without falling asleep at my keyboard before completing it, I am afraid the end product would likely put you to sleep before you would be able to finish it.  Instead, I am commenting upon a single CD, From Sleep, which contains seven tracks that were recorded during the same sessions that produced the Sleep recording but were not included in that release. From Sleep was released not only to give listeners a taste of what the full version would be like, but also to provide a coherent, satisfying musical experience in its own right. Having not yet experienced either a live or recorded rendition of Sleep in its entirety, I am unqualified to comment on From Sleep's success as representative of the full release, but I hope I am at least marginally qualified in some respects at least to declare that From Sleep does provide an enjoyable musical experience.

Max Richter
The track listing for From Sleep is as follows: 1. Dream 3 (in the midst of my life), 2. Path 5 (delta), 3. Space 11 (invisible pages over), 4. Dream 13 (minus even), 5. Space 21 (petrichor), 6. Path 19 (yet frailest), 7. Dream 8 (late and soon). These titles are reflective of those of the full release, which includes Dreams 1, 2, 11, 19, 17, and 0; Path and Path 17; and Spaces 26, 2, and 17; as well as many other titles not represented in From Sleep.

The net result is a pleasant, soothing, relaxing hour of listening. Several themes weave in and out of the tracks. On the surface, the music sounds much the same throughout the tracks with the same names, but with subtle variations that mean the music is never static. The "Dream" tracks – 1, 4, and 7 -- form the backbone of the program, comprising the opening, middle, and closing selections, with the four "Path" and "Space" tracks symmetrically filling up the rest of the hour-long program.

The opening track, "Dream 3 (in the midst of my life)." is in itself somewhat symmetrical, opening and closing with stately chords on the keyboard, but with strings slowly weaving their lines over keyboard accompaniment throughout its central measures. "Path 5 (delta)" features soothing soprano voice lines combined with keyboards and electronics, including a warm underlay of organ. "Space 11 (invisible pages over)" opens with synth chords and continues with rich-sounding washes of sound, including a deep bass foundation – yes, it sounds spacey. "Dream 13 (minus even)" opens with cello and keyboard, with the cello carrying the main melody in subtle variation. As the track continues, the keyboard sometimes sounds almost harp-like, with some synth and strings hovering above the keyboard accompaniment, all gently pushing forward. "Space 21 (petrichor)" opens with some bass synth notes and continues as a multilayer synth piece. "Path 19 (yet frailest)" sounds much like Path 5, but with instruments rather than voice carrying the melody.  The final track "Dream 8 (late and soon)" reverses that strategy by reintroducing the vocal line.

The sound quality throughout is rich and full-range, with plenty of warmth despite the inclusion of electronic sounds. Indeed, there is no sense of edginess to the electronic sounds and the acoustic instruments are well served tonally. However, the usual considerations of sound stage and imaging and such are of course pretty much obviated by the overdubbing and mix. 

Hopefully assuming that you have yet been lulled into slumber by my somnolent prose, I will conclude by noting that the liner notes include interesting brief essays by Richter, Tim Cooper, and neuroscientist David Eagleman, with whom Richter had consulted in preparation for undertaking such a project. There is even an intriguing and appropriate quotation from the nineteenth-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Enticed by this CD, I may someday go crazy and acquire the full-blown Sleep package, but if I do, I hereby promise not to write a review featuring a full-blown (overblown!) track-by-track exegesis!


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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 28, 2020

Vienna Premiere of Schoenberg in Hollywood Cancelled

The European premiere of Tod Machover's visionary opera Schoenberg in Hollywood at the Vienna Volksoper on April 4 has been cancelled and rescheduled for later in the year.

The opera was inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg following his departure from Hitler's Europe to Los Angeles in the 1930s. It was commissioned and presented by Boston Lyric Opera and had its hugely successful world premiere in Boston in November 2018. Schoenberg in Hollywood was praised as "ingeniously original" by The Wall Street Journal; "dark and brilliant" by the Boston Classical Review; "emotionally engaging…Machover's lyrical gift was allowed to flow" by Musical America; and "a composer biography like no other" by The Boston Globe.

"Schoenberg is a towering figure in music, a great visionary who incorporated so many things into his work that we are just beginning to understand its full impact," Machover said. "I am intrigued with the idea of what happened when Schoenberg – the ultimate uncompromising futurist who was also a wonderful teacher and inventor – wound up in the center of L.A.'s film world. He struggled with how to combine art with entertainment, reflection with action, and tradition with revolution, and that's at the heart of the opera."

--Kirshbaum Associates

Music Community Launches "Love Record Stores" Initiative
The music community are launching a high-profile, global initiative on Thursday of this week (26th March), to help independent record stores during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

With many of these stores now experiencing a catastrophic drop-off in footfall or having already closed their doors there are fears that some may not survive if something is not done urgently to stimulate sales.

With that in mind many music companies have already pledged their support for this new campaign which has been named #loverecordstores.

Companies are coordinating ideas, resources and mobilizing the artists they represent to record messages of support for record stores that can be used across all forms of social media.

All music lovers are invited to participate. All they need to do is share a post on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #LoveRecordStores and say what independent record stores have meant to them.

The #loverecordstores campaign officially launched on Thursday, March 26th.

--Sarah Folger [PIAS America]

POSTPONED: Third Coast Baroque to Spotlight Vivaldi Opera Arias
These concerts have been postponed. Third Coast Baroque is currently exploring dates to reschedule.

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.

For more information, visit

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Princeton University Concerts: Event Cancelations
Princeton University Concerts wishes you and yours well in this difficult time. This is a very bittersweet announcement for us, both confirming the cancelation of the remaining events in our 2019-2020 season, and announcing what the 2020-2021 season, beginning in October, has in store.

Please visit this page for an online announcement of the 2020-2021 season:

Programs to look forward to include a special event performance the day after the 2020 Presidential Election, a new First Monday of the Month Listening Party series, a Performances Up Close series that focuses on a new generation of women at the helm of classical music, and more.

Respecting how difficult it is to currently commit to future events, Princeton University Concerts is delaying announcement of ticket sale policies at this time.

We also invite you to check out our evolving list of free streaming resources, and join our virtual concert hall on Spotify as part of our new Collaborative Listening Project. We hope both initiatives might help fill your social distancing with music!

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

A Message to Our Community from Young People's Chorus of NYC
Last week, all of our conductors and teachers had some great discussions about what we can do to continue to study, learn, and sing and dance together, and in the next few days you will be hearing from us with some new and exciting online learning and online musical activities that you can share all together, each of you from your own homes. Just some of the things you will be hearing from the conductors about are a series of master classes, coaching, choreography, YPConversations, writing opportunities, virtual meetings, and much more.

In the meantime, I want to thank you all for your complete support for our YPC programs and every last one of our incredible singers. Thank you also to our children's parents, each of you so devoted to their safety and positive life experiences. Thank you to the children who so lovingly support one another; and a huge thank-you to the YPC team, for all the love you put into reinforcing the spirit of YPC for our children.

In all we do, please remember that our love of music and the arts can lift us when we are feeling down or isolated. And yes we look forward to seeing each other online very soon, but in the meantime, we need to stay connected, to encourage each other, to continue to love life.

We are not sure when we will be able to sing together in person in our cherished YPC home, but whenever that is, we will be ready: our spirits higher and our voices stronger than ever. I dream every second of that moment!

Stay healthy, stay strong and keep on singing.

--Francisco J. Núñez, Founder and Artistic Director, YPC

Colburn School Transitions to Online Learning for Remainder of Semester
In response to Governor Gavin Newsom's mandatory order requiring California residents to restrict their travel to essential locations, Colburn School President & CEO Sel Kardan recently announced that the Colburn School will suspend all in-person instruction for the remainder of the semester and transition entirely to online learning for all academic units.

The Conservatory, Music Academy, and Dance Academy will continue their plans to begin online learning on March 23, extending through the end of the semester. Over the next few weeks, the Community School of Performing Arts, the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, and the Center for Innovation and Community Impact will also transition to online learning, with private lessons to begin by April 2, and group instruction to follow.

In light of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent recommendation to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, all Colburn performances and rentals on campus are also suspended through at least May 17 and the Colburn campus is closed until further notice.

Please visit for more information.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 Postponed to May 2021
In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and in accordance with international and U.S. public health recommendations and restrictions, the Menuhin Competition Trust and the Richmond Symphony today announced that the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020, scheduled to take place May 14-24, has been postponed one year to May 13-23, 2021. The consortium of local institutions that came together to host this international cultural event in Richmond has enthusiastically recommitted to hosting the postponed Competition in 2021. Led by the Richmond Symphony, the continuing hosts are the City of Richmond, VPM (Virginia's home for public media), University of Richmond, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

For more information about how to donate, exchange, or receive a refund for tickets, please visit:

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

New Recordings Added to SFS Media Digital Concert Series
Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) launched SFS Media's new Digital Concert Series on Apple Music and all major streaming and download platforms on January 10, 2020. In celebration of MTT's 25th and final season as Music Director, the series includes live concert recordings from 2019–20 season concerts featuring composers that MTT and the SFS have championed throughout their decades together. This major new addition to the SFS Media catalog launched with the initial release of five San Francisco Symphony performances conducted by MTT and recorded in 96/24-bit quality in September 2019: Mahler's Symphony No. 6; Stravinsky's Canticum sacrum with tenor Nicholas Phan, baritone Tyler Duncan, and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 2 with Oliver Herbert; and Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements.

Since the January 10 launch, the Digital Concert Series has added performances conducted by MTT in January 2020: Berlioz's Overture to Benvenuto Cellini; selections from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; Ravel's La Valse; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major with Emanuel Ax; and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll.

The San Francisco Symphony also launched an ongoing season playlist named "Join the Season" that is available exclusively on Apple Music. The playlist allows global audiences to participate in the ongoing celebration of MTT's final season as Music Director throughout the 2019–20 Season.

For more information, visit

--San Francisco Symphony Public Relations

Series Packages Are Now on Sale! Chamber • Orchestra • Mozaic
With any of our Series Packages, you can experience the best orchestral, chamber, and popular/crossover performances that Festival Mozaic has to offer at a 15% discount from single ticket prices. Subscribers always get the lowest prices and access to the best seats before individual events go on sale.

Please note that the Festival office is temporarily closed due to the shelter in place order, so in-person orders are unavailable at this time. Click the link below to buy your package online. If you prefer to make your purchase over the phone or have additional questions, please call the Festival Mozaic office at (805) 781-3009, leave a message, and a staff member will return your call at a time that is convenient for you.

To explore Festival Mozaic series packages, visit

--Festival Mozaic

West Edge Festival: Full Steam Ahead
"In this difficult time, West Edge Opera is focused on a hopeful future, a hope that this summer will bring a return to normalcy. We want to be ready for much needed performance to heal us and bring us back together. We as a company have been working to be ready for all possibilities, but we are pleased to announce series tickets going on sale April 1 for Festival 2020." --General Director Mark Streshinsky

Under the artistic leadership of General Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, West Edge Opera will present its annual summer festival from July 25th through August 9th, 2020. The season will continue the company's tradition of presenting a new opera, a classic opera from within the canon, and an early opera on period instruments. The three offerings will be performed in repertory with the modernist sensibilities and unconventional settings that characterize West Edge productions.

For complete information, visit

--West Edge Opera

ROCO Announces Partnership with MyMusicRx
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra is excited to announce their new partnership with MyMusicRx, the flagship program of the Children's Cancer Association designed to help engage seriously ill children and teenagers with tailored one-on-one music experiences to help relieve stress, anxiety, and perception of pain.

Through this partnership, ROCO will provide MyMusicRx with a collection of previous performances featuring both classic works and contemporary commissions, composed by Kevin Lau, Jim Stephenson, Erberk Eryilmaz, and others, which patients can select from according to how they'd like to feel - such as strong, excited, or adventurous. ROCO's performances will mark the first inclusion of classical music into the MyMusicRx program.

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Czech Philharmonic - 125th Season Announcement
At this time we cannot play, but we can dream. These dreams will come true in the coming season, during which we shall be celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Czech Philharmonic, its noble tradition flowing into its vibrant future.  We are impatiently looking forward to welcoming you back to our Rudolfinum and every other venue in which we (will) perform. From the Czech Republic to European capitals to China. However devastating the crisis of the moment is, it is also an opportunity for all of us to assess how we live and how we can start living better. For us musicians, it means making even better music than ever before." --Semyon Bychkov

The Czech Philharmonic will mark its 125th year with the launch of a new annual concert on 17 November commemorating 1989's Velvet Revolution. In his third year at the helm of the Czech Philharmonic, Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov will conduct the inaugural Velvet Revolution concert featuring Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony and Miloslav Kabelác's Mystery of Time.

For the 2020-21 season, Bychkov will conduct world premières of works commissioned from Bryce Dessner, Detlev Glanert and Thomas Larcher; all three of the Czech Philharmonic's concerts at the Wiener Konzerthaus; concerts in Slovakia and Spain, including two at Madrid's Auditorio Nacional; and a major European capitals tour with concerts in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and London. Beginning the season at home in Prague, Bychkov will conduct the opening concerts of the Dvorák Prague International Festival, before opening the Czech Philharmonic's season with a programme featuring music by Shostakovich and Mahler.

Watch the 125th season announcement video here:

--Moë Faulkner, Macbeth Media Relations

A Message from American Bach Soloists Executive Director Don Scott Carpenter
We are all in this together. It has been ten days since most of us were ordered to shelter-in-place and our lives were greatly altered. While in the short-term we may not know when sheltering will end, I believe that we will once again be able to gather to hear and experience great music.

At ABS, our administrative functions are continuing, but remotely, as our staff are all working from home so that they and the others around them remain safe. I hope that you are able to do the same! We have been overwhelmed with "social distancing," but I read last night something that I very much prefer: "physical distancing." We all need social interactions, especially right now. For example, just this past Saturday, many of our musicians, board, and staff had a "Bach Birthday Bash" party via Zoom simply to check in and celebrate Bach's 335th birthday. We are looking into other ways to continue our social interactions, and we will notify you when the next opportunity arises.

Because we are confident that the end to this pandemic will come, Jeffrey and I are continuing to work on the Summer Festival (July 26 – August 9) and the 2020-2021 performance season. But for now, we simply want you to know we are thinking about you, and that we are excited to be together again soon.

--Don Scott, American Bach Soloists

Savannah Music Festival Presents SMF
The first concert of the 2020 Savannah Music Festival was scheduled for this Thursday, March 26 at 12:30 p.m. At a time when SMF artists and audiences would have begun a 17-day gathering in historic venues and theaters, SMF is launching an online alternative to broadcast the spirit of the festival entitled SMF at Noon30. Every day at 12:30 p.m. Eastern from March 26 through April 11, at-home and in-studio video performances by 2020 festival artists will be posted to the SMF YouTube channel, Facebook, and Instagram.

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

New York Youth Symphony Performs Mahler from Home
The New York City-based New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) Orchestra, led by Music Director Michael Repper, is made up of young musicians ages 12-22 from throughout the New York region. The orchestra had to cancel its spring concert at Carnegie Hall due to the coronavirus crisis, but in a moving display of hope, community and resilience, 71 members came together virtually from home isolation to perform this uplifting movement from Mahler's Symphony No. 1, "Titan." The video, which was edited by NYYS violinist Raina Tung, is now available to watch and share:

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Minnesota Orchestra Announces Cancellation of Tour to South Korea and Vietnam
The Minnesota Orchestra's summer 2020 tour to South Korea and Vietnam has been cancelled due to the health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the tour—scheduled for June 21 through July 3, 2020—was intended to celebrate the 25th anniversary of restored diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, as well as to foster connections with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, where Mr. Vänskä was recently appointed music director.

-- Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp Review

Why doesn't anybody tell me these things?

By John J. Puccio

Well, they did. When I bought my current speakers, VMPS RM40s, the designer of the speakers and owner of the VMPS loudspeaker company, the late Brian Cheney, came over to deliver them and set them up. The first thing he said to me when he saw my equipment was, "Ditch the preamp." I told him I needed it as a switch box to handle three separate CD players. He said, "OK," and never mentioned it again. That was over a dozen years ago.

More recently Classical Candor's Tech Analyst Bryan Geyer wrote an article called "On Controlling Volume" ( in which he argued for replacing one's preamp with a passive volume control and input selector. He recommended the Goldpoint products and specifically the SA4. His reasoning made sense and reinforced what I had heard previously, so I tried it out. Why didn't I do this fifty years ago?

All right, then, why have most of us seen the necessity for a traditional preamp in the first place, and why is a passive preamp a better choice? Mostly, it turns out, the preamp has always been there for convenience. It provides not only a volume control but tone controls and switching capabilities for those who need them. More important, it provides additional amplification for components that may need an extra boost to their signal. This was especially important in the old days when everybody used a phonograph.

Now, what is the advantage of a passive preamp? First, let's clear up that name: "passive preamp" is really a misnomer since there is no amplification involved, "pre" or otherwise. The SA4 is more like a straight-wire bypass, taking a signal from your CD player directly to your amplifier. Perhaps "passive volume control" or "passive switch box" is more appropriate, even though the folks at Goldpoint prefer the term "passive preamp."

Anyway, the Goldpoint SA4 two-channel stereo "passive preamp" contains no actual electronic circuitry. It does not plug in. It is simply a volume control and switch box. With the SA4 you can hook up as many as four different components, switch among them, and control their volume. That's really all it does. Thus, you eliminate the need for a pre-amplifying stage and tone controls, thereby removing the added distortion that comes along with them.

Of course, if you don't care about the purity of the sound you're listening to, you're reading the wrong article. If you can't tell the difference between the sound of a well-mastered CD and an MP-3 file, the Goldpoint is probably not for you. The Goldpoint is for people who are trying to wring the last ounce of sonic quality from their system, getting the signal from the CD player to the amplifier with as few sonic impurities as possible. Ridding your system of preamp and tone-control distortions can do this. And at a much lower price than a good preamp would cost.

Next, how does the SA4 sound? Naturally, one would expect it to have no sound of its own. After all, it's not doing anything to the signal. Even if you have a ten-thousand dollar preamp, it's still got electronics in it that are producing distortion. At a twentieth that price, the SA4 has no distortion at all. Yes, I noticed the sonic differences almost immediately. Listening to discs I had heard repeatedly over the years, the clarity with the SA4 was most definitely improved. The dynamic impact and transient response were stronger. Even the breadth of the sound stage seemed widened. Bass resolution also appeared better focused and highs discernibly extended, with the volume control seeming to track left-right balance perfectly at any volume setting.

The SA4 in its natural environment
Mind you, these were not entirely night-and-day differences. We're not going from the sound of a windup Victrola to a contemporary surround-sound system here. My old preamp was about the best-sounding preamp I had owned over a fifty-plus year life in hi-fi, a period that included Pioneer, Soundcraftsmen, Audio Research, and Integra. But the differences were there and obvious to my ear. In other words, I couldn't be happier with the SA4.

Drawbacks? None sonically. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, no more, no less. All the same, it does not provide the convenience factors I mentioned earlier. If you positively have to have tone controls, distortion be hanged, you're out of luck with the SA4. And if you have a component with a very low signal, it may not be the best choice. (Here, Bryan assures me that most modern CD players have a high enough signal to feed the amplifier and most amps have enough gain to drive the speakers.* I have three CD players hooked up, and I've yet to take any of them past the one o'clock position on the SA4's volume control knob.) If in doubt, you might want to call Goldpoint (408-721-7102 or 408-737-3920). Another possible inconvenience is that unlike a lot of new preamps, there is no wireless remote involved. Get used to it.

The only other drawback I can think of is so small I hesitate even to mention it. When you eliminate all the electronic circuitry, you don't need a very big box to house what's left. The SA4 is relatively tiny (2.3" tall  x  4.7" wide  x  7.0" long) compared to a full-sized preamp. That means it's going to look awfully small and lonely on the shelf where your old preamp used to be. Seriously, though, it also means there is less room on the back of the unit for your various inputs and output. And less room means closer spacing of the gold-plated jacks. If you have big fingers, you may find it difficult to plug or unplug things.

Oh, and before I forget, Goldpoint offers their products in a variety of configurations. You can get volume controls in one-db or two-db stepped increments. You can get units that handle just one input and output or units that switch among two-to-four inputs. You can get units with one volume control for both channels or separate volume controls for left and right channels. You can get different input and output jacks and even different knobs. There is truly something at Goldpoint for everyone's passive preamp needs.

Finally, the cost of so small a unit may seem high ($532 for the SA4 as of this writing). However, the cost of the best materials are worth the price, and Goldpoint uses only the finest materials. Besides, when you consider how much better your system will sound and how much audiophile preamps cost, the price of the SA4 may seem like a bargain.

To see the full line of Goldpoint products, visit

JJP (March 26, 2020)

*From "On Controlling Volume...," cited above: "Do confirm that you can drive your system to full output directly, without the need for supplementary preamp gain. In most cases this will be true, but exceptions happen; it’s dependent on your power amplifier’s internal voltage gain and on loudspeaker efficiency. Power amplifiers exhibit different internal voltage gains. Most designs range between +23dB and +29dB; refer spec. sheet, see “input sensitivity” (or equivalent term). Power amplifiers with gain = +29dB (e.g.: 1 Vrms input produces 100 Watts output [28.28 Vrms] across an 8Ω load) are inherently capable of reaching their full rated output capability when driven by virtually any modern line level program source. Power amplifiers with internal gain ≤ +24dB fall into an area that I consider marginal for use with a passive preamp when driving low efficiency mini-monitor speakers. Try to stick with amplifiers that provide ≥ +26dB gain."

Afterthought: I don't mean to imply by this review that everyone who buys an SA4 will like the sound of their system better than before. There is always the euphonious veiling effect of distortion to consider. That is, some people may have gotten used to the masking introduced by the distortion of their old equipment, a masking that, taken away, could reveal weaknesses in their speakers, amplifier, or CD player they hadn't noticed before.

I am reminded here of a subjective reviewer years ago who praised a particular phono cartridge as one of the best he had ever heard. Other reviewers noted that said cartridge had a pronounced peak in the top end, which they found objectionable. Later, the first reviewer revealed that the speakers he was using at the time of his listening tests had a roll-off at the high end that almost exactly matched the phono cartridge's peak. Thus, the deficiencies of the two components complemented one another and produced a euphonious sound.

Such is life; nothing is perfect, not even perfection. :)

Escales: French Orchestral Works (SACD review)

Music of Chabrier, Durufle, Saint-Saens, Debussy, Ibert, Massenet, and Ravel. John Wilson, Sinfonia of London. Chandos CHSA 5252.

The last few times I reviewed albums from conductor John Wilson, he was conducting the BBC Philharmonic in music of Aaron Copland; and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in the music of John Ireland; and his own John Wilson Orchestra in the music of Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Now he's back, this time at the helm of the reconstituted Sinfonia of London, an on-and-off-and-on-again session ensemble originally formed in 1955. Whatever, Escales is an ebullient romp from Maestro Wilson and his players through several well-known (and some less well-known) French light pieces.

The program begins with the ever-popular Espana by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894), the composer's French take on all things Spanish. Wilson gives us a sparkling presentation of Chabrier's colorful music, yet with few surprises. It's a well-crafted performance without offering much we haven't heard before.

The next two items are not quite as famous: Trois Danses by Maurice Durufle (1902-1986) and Le Rouet d'Omphale by Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). The Durufle piece comes through quite well, perhaps helped by the fact that there aren't too many previous recordings with which to compare it. Wilson handles the dynamic contrasts and tonal shadings smoothly, the second, slow dance standing out. "The Spinning Wheel of Omphale" is a piece Saint-Saens based on a Greek legend, and Wilson does a good job helping it come alive for us in highly descriptive fashion.

Following them is the perennial hit Prelude a L'apres-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy (1862-1918). "The Prelude to an Afternoon of the Fawn" is probably as renowned as the composer's La Mer. It is the most atmospheric work on the disc, and the listener probably already has multiple versions of it. Still, its sinuous moods can be captivating, even if Wilson's interpretation brings little that's new to the table.

John Wilson
Then there's the album's title music, Escales ("Ports of Call"), by Jacques Ibert (1890-1962). Each of its three sections evokes the sounds and flavor of a different location: Sicily, Tunisia, and Valencia. These were my favorite pieces, with Wilson recreating the sensations of the three locales vividly

The program wraps up with two prominent numbers, the "Meditation" from Thais by Jules Massenet (1842-1912) and Rapsodie espagnole by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The beauty of the "Meditation" never grows old, and while Wilson's rendering may not be as delicately wrought as some others, it effectively communicates the composer's expression of serenity and sensuality. The Ravel piece seems appropriate as it bookends the agenda with another French composer's idea of Spain. Wilson gives it fair due.

In sum, although John Wilson's take on this celebrated music breaks no new ground, everything is enthusiastically presented and meticulously performed. There is also enough variety in the selections to please most listeners and perhaps even to uncover a hidden gem or two the listener had not heard before. Fair enough.

Producer Brian Pidgeon and engineer Ralph Couzens recorded the music at the Church of St. Augustine, Kilburn, London in January and September, 2019. They recorded it for playback via hybrid SACD 2-channel and multichannel or regular CD 2-channel. As usual, I listened in SACD 2-channel via a Sony SACD player.

A mild hall resonance tells us where we are, and it's not unpleasant. Dynamics are good, with adequate impact for the big numbers like the Chabrier. Orchestral depth, too, is sufficient, though not entirely audiophile. While ultimate transparency is merely OK, the sound does project a reasonably lifelike presence. In other words, it's good, modern digital sound with a fairly well balanced frequency response, the kind of sound we're used to getting from Chandos.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 21, 2020

Festival Mosaic Postpones April Events

It is with a heavy heart that we regret to announce the postponement of our upcoming WinterMezzo Series events scheduled for April 17, 18 and 19. We've continued to closely follow the developments regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on our patrons, musicians, staff, volunteers, and community. Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected and our hope is for all to be safe in this uncertain time.

It is our current plan to have the same program and artists with us the weekend of September 11, 12 and 13, 2020. We do not take this decision lightly and we are working in partnership with our local government, community leaders, and state officials to do our part in helping reduce the spread of the virus. The health and safety of our community continue to be our top priority.
For those of you who have tickets, in the next couple of days we will email your new tickets to the events and performances. There is nothing you need to do at this time.

For now, Festival Mozaic's 50th Anniversary Season is still scheduled to take place July 18-August 1, 2020. For 50 years, Festival Mozaic has been an integral part of our community, bringing the finest musicians from around the world to the gorgeous Central Coast of California and partnering with local organizations to produce events for everyone.

From Mozart to mariachi, Beethoven to Broadway, our golden anniversary is a celebration of where we've been and where we're headed. Yet our most essential performers are you — our diverse and enthusiastic audiences.

We are thrilled to announce our 50th Anniversary Summer Festival Season to you today and we invite you to join us July 18-August 1 for orchestra and chamber music concerts, Notable Encounters, the Mozaic Series featuring crossover and celebrity artists, and an expanded series of free community events. Experience The Art of Music in San Luis Obispo County, California.

Explore the season now:

--Festival Mosaic

Jonathan Biss Brings Beethoven's Piano Sonatas to Home Audiences
As more and more of this year's highly anticipated Beethoven celebrations are being curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, renowned Beethoven interpreter Jonathan Biss brings the composer's piano sonatas to listeners in their homes through a free, live-streamed recital (planned for Thursday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. EDT), a newly released set of recordings, an Amazon Kindle Single e-book, and an expansive series of online talks—recently completed and currently available for free via Coursera. Through such projects, which are part of Mr. Biss's decade-long immersion in the composer's music, especially the piano sonatas, audiences around the world may continue celebrating Beethoven's 250th birthday this year in a variety of ways outside of the concert hall.

As of January 2020—seven years after its launch—Mr. Biss's Coursera course "Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas" offers lectures on all 32 works, and these lessons serve to complement his complete, nine-disc, nine-year recording cycle of this repertoire.

For more information, visit

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

Pavel Sporcl Launches New Digital Concerts Series
Pavel Sporcl launches new digital concert series in his home, 'Concerts From the Living Room.'

With a California tour and multiple concerts in the Czech republic cancelled due to the coronavirus, the star Czech violinist has started a new online series - 55,000 watch the first concert, and tickets are selling for the next one

Czech violin star Pavel Sporcl may be the most successful classical musician in the Czech Republic (he records for Universal Music, has sold around 250,000 CDs, and famously plays an iconic blue violin) but, like so many others in the classical music world and beyond, he has faced multiple cancellations due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Closed concert-halls, cancelled bookings including an imminent California tour and many concerts - and, as are many of his colleagues, the violinist is all but confined to his home, in Prague, in his country's bid to beat the virus. So he has announced a concert series streamed from his house, "Concerts From The Living Room" which, after an initial free concert, is charging (a nominal amount) for tickets to watch live. Initial signs are that the experiment is a success.

The preview concert-cum-open rehearsal, as he calls it, was watched by some 2,000 people live when it was streamed last Friday, and to date has been seen by more than 55,000, who have left more than 800 supportive comments.

The next 'Music In the Living Room' concert will take place this Wednesday, March 18th, and will feature repertoire including the Bach Chaconne, some of Paganini's Caprices, and Sporcl's own composition Kde domov muj ("Where Is My Homeland?" -- variations on the Czech national anthem).

Tickets can be purchased here:

Watch Pavel Sporcl's preview 'Concerts In the Living Room' concert here:

Watch Pavel Sporcl play Paganini's Caprice No.5 at Cadogan Hall in London here:

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Michael Tilson Thomas and SF Symphony's "Keeping Score" Series  Streaming Free Online
In the midst of cancellations of live performances due to COVID-19, the San Francisco Symphony announced today that all documentary and concert episodes of Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and the San Francisco Symphony's groundbreaking "Keeping Score" project will be made available for unlimited free streaming on the Symphony's YouTube channel. Episodes will be released in four batches, every Wednesday through April 8, 2020.

"Keeping Score" episodes and free YouTube release schedule:

Subscribe to the San Francisco Symphony's YouTube Channel to be notified when each episode is released:

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

American Bach Soloists at HOME
We miss being together with you and with our musicians and staff at performances and other events, but we're working on ways to share beautiful music until live events can take place again.

So here's what we're doing:
Every day, on Facebook or Twitter, we're going to post a short musical work — something beautiful or fun or lively or calming — in the hope that it will be a welcome and warming contribution to your day.

If you already follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you'll see the postings. But if you don't follow us, you can either do that now by clicking on the links below, or sign up for a short email message that will have links to the online musical excerpts.

Signing up to receive the daily musical moments is separate from your regular subscription to ABS emails, and you can opt out at any time. We're calling this "ABS at HOME" and we hope that you'll enjoy the idea that many people will be listening together.

Follow on Facebook:
Follow on Twitter:
Get notifications of daily music:

--American Bach Soloists

New World Center Extends Public Closure Through End of May
Following the recommendations of the CDC and City of Miami Beach, the New World Center has extended its public closure through the end of May and the New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), will cancel the remaining concerts of its 2019-2020 season.

New World Symphony, in collaboration with streaming partners IDAGIO and Medici TV, will make available content and curate a series of online performances and other content available from a number of sources. A highlight of the offerings will be the NWS Archive+ series, which will offer recordings from the New World Symphony archive featuring new commentary and behind-the-scenes insights from Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, NWS Fellows, Alumni, guest artists, and visiting faculty.

--Shuman Associates

The Crypt Sessions Presents Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz
On April 20, 2020, Lara St. John and Matt Herskowitz will return to The Crypt Sessions, performing Beethoven's Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, "Kreutzer," with César Franck's Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano, from their new album "Key of A," released April 17 on Ancalagon Records.

The performance will begin at 8:00 pm with a food and wine pre-concert reception at 7:00 pm included in the ticket price.

Listing Info:
The Crypt Sessions presents Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz
April 20, 2020 | Wine & Food Tasting 7PM | Show 8PM
Tickets: $80, including Wine Tasting & hors-d'oeuvres

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Miller Theatre Announces Spring 2020 Season of Its Free POP-UP CONCERTS
Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts announces the spring 2020 season of
POP-UP CONCERTS, a musical happy hour with the audience onstage.

Tuesday, April 28
Mivos Quartet

Monday, May 18
Kyle Armbrust and Shahzad Ismaily

Tuesday, June 2
Bent Duo

Tuesday, June 9
Mariel Roberts, cello

Free admission • Doors at 5:30pm, music at 6:00pm at Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, NYC.

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Chicago's Bach Week Festival Unveils 2020 Season
The Chicago area's 47th annual Bach Week Festival has announced details of its 2020 season of concerts in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois, May 1 to May 30, 2020, including the Baroque music festival's first mainstage period-instrument program and its first concert in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood, among other events.

"Variety has always been a Bach Week Festival feature, and this year's programming offers that in abundance," says Richard Webster, Bach Week's music director since 1975. "There's a spectrum of textures and colors in every concert."

Tickets can be purchased by phone at (800) 838-3006 or online at
For general festival information, phone 847-269-9050 or email

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Sharing Music and Support Amidst COVID-19
In these unprecedented times, it is vital that we all remain committed to helping each other, being kind, and providing assistance wherever and whenever we can. We will be more dependent on each other than ever before.

Like everyone, we are deeply concerned for the health and well-being of all people, and particularly the healthcare workers and providers who are on the front lines of this fight. We have already begun to see the devastating effects across all elements of society, including our own music industry.

With that in mind we took the liberty of doing a little bit of homework on your behalf to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these times, from grants to emergency medical aid to a few tips and fun items too. COVID-19 has created untold challenges for musicians around the world, but there are possibilities – challenges have a way of breeding solutions.

As the situation develops, we will continue to offer resources and guidance. Discover the PARMA resource list here:

--Bob Lord and the PARMA Team

92Y Presents Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde
Please note that all 92Y regularly scheduled in-person programs are temporarily suspended.

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 7:30pm at Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y presents Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Henk Guittart's chamber orchestration of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde "The Songs of the Earth," featuring mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and tenor Anthony Dean Griffey.

This arrangement of Mahler's awe-inspiring setting of ancient Chinese poetry for voices and orchestra was recently completed by noted Dutch composer, conductor, and violist Henk Guittart using Arnold Schoenberg's abandoned attempt as a guide and has become known for its ability to allow the listener to experience Mahler's tremendous genius in an entirely new, more intimate, light. The "sublime" (Seattle Times) tenor Anthony Dean Griffey is joined by Alice Coote in this immense work, which Leonard Bernstein described as Mahler's "greatest symphony."

Program Information
Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 7:30pm
92nd Street Y | Kaufmann Concert Hall
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Alice Coote, Mezzo-Soprano
Anthony Dean Griffey, Tenor

Please note that all 92Y regularly scheduled in-person programs are temporarily suspended.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Bach: Works and Reworks (CD Review)

Vikingur Olafsson, piano. Deutsche Grammophon 4837769.

By Karl W. Nehring

CD 1:
Works: performed by Vikingur Olafsson, piano: Prelude and Fughetta in G Major BWV 902 – Prelude; Chorale Prelude BWV 734 "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein" transcribed by Wilhelm Kempff; Prelude And Fugue in E minor BWV 855; Organ Sonata in E minor BWV 528 (transcr. August Stradal); Prelude and Fugue in D Major BWV 850; Chorale Prelude BWV 659 "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" (transcr. Busoni); Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 847; "Widerstehe doch der Sünde" BWV 54 (transcr. Olafsson); Aria variata in A minor BWV 989; Invention No. 12 in A Major BWV 783; Sinfonia No. 12 in A Major BWV 798; Partita No. 3 for Violin Solo in E Major BWV 1006 – 3. Gavotte (transcr. Rachmaninov); Prelude and Fugue in E minor BWV 855a – Prelude (transcr. to B minor by Alexander Siloti); Sinfonia No. 15 in B minor BWV 801; Invention No. 15 in B minor BWV 786; Harpsichord Concerto in D minor BWV 974; Chorale Prelude BWV 639 "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (transcr. Busoni); Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV 904.

CD 2:
Reworks: Vikingur Olafsson piano on all tracks, other performers in parentheses, composers other than Bach in brackets: [Bach/Christian Badzura] For Johann; (Valgeir Sigurðsson, electronics) Prelude, BWV 855a - Valgeir Sigurðsson Rework; [Bach/Badzura] Prelude in G Major; (Peter Gregson, cello/electronics) [Bach/Gregson] Above And Below, B minor; (Ben Frost, synthesizer programming) [Bach/Frost] Prelude, BWV 855a - Ben Frost Ladder Mix; Aria from Widerstehe Doch Der Sünde, BWV 54, transcribed by Olafsson; (Ryuichi Sakamoto, electronics) [Bach/Sakamoto] BWV 974 - II Adagio – Rework; (Hildur Guðnadóttir, cello) [Bach/ Guðnadóttir] Minor C Variation; [Bach/Badzura] ...And At the Hour of Death; (Hans-Joachim Roedelius, electronics; Thomas Rabitsch, sound design) [Bach/Roedelius/Rabitsch] Bach Mit Zumutungen; (Skúli Sverrisson, electronics; Anthony Burr, bass clarinet/synthesizer; Olöf Arnalds, voice; Albert Finnbogason, Moog; Borgar Magnason, acoutic bass) [Bach/Sverrisson ] Kyriena; (Halla Oddný Magnúsdóttir, piano) Sonatina from Gottes Zeit Ist Die Allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106 (transcribed for piano four-hands by György Kurtag).

Perhaps presenting such a detailed track listing is a case of overkill on my part; however, I wanted readers to see and appreciate just how wide and deep this new two-CD Bach bonanza from Icelandic pianist (and friends) Vikingur Olafsson really is. Based on my appreciation for the keyboard music of Bach and my enthusiasm for what I have heard previously from this pianist, I looked forward to auditioning this set and was predisposed to like it – but when I first heard it, I was amazed at just how exciting it sounded, and if anything, my enthusiasm has only increased with each subsequent listening (and yes, there have been many). There are simply too many tracks for me to describe them all in this review, but I will share some of my reactions to many of them below.

The first disc, titled "Works," is an extensive Bach piano recital. In his fascinating and informative liner notes, Olafsson discusses his appreciation for Bach, his regard for other pianists whose approaches to playing Bach have captured his interest over the years, and the development of his appreciation for these keyboard gems.  As he recounts, "I have always had a tendency to think of Bach mostly in the colossal sense, as the architect behind glorious cathedrals of sound…   It is easy to forget that the man behind the St. Matthew Passion and the Goldberg Variations also excelled at telling great stories in just a minute or two of music. In the smaller keyboard works, various facets of Bach's complex character are on display. These works reveal his sense of humour, his rhetorical flair and penchant for provocation, in addition to his philosophical depth and spiritual exaltation. Through them, we encounter not only Bach the composer, but also Bach the keyboard virtuoso, Bach the master of improvisation, and Bach the meticulous teacher."

From the first phrases of the first track on Works, Vikingur brings both clarity and energy with his crisp, clear fingering and sprightly – but never manic – interpretation.  In the following Chorale Prelude, he brings out the contrast between the slower left-hand foundation and the quicker right-hand melodies. In the slower selections, such as Track 5, from Bach's Organ Sonata No. 4, he fashions Bach's music into a contemplative evening meditation. It is fascinating to hear how notes originally written to be played on an organ can be so well served by the piano. Another such contemplative interpretation comes to the fore in Track 8, a transcription of a Chorale Prelude, which Vikingur plays singingly and expressively, belying the piano's taxonomy as a percussion instrument. But when precision and clarity are called for, such as in the following Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Vikingur brings the energy.     

Bach's Aria variata comprises a dozen brief tracks that are yes, varied in their styles. You hear dancing, singing, playfulness, but also softness and warmth. Track 28, the Sinfonia No. 15 in B minor, almost seems to tell a story in less than a minute and a half. Delightful! The following composition, the Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, consists of three brief movements, with the central Adagio sounding like slow Mozart. Lovely! The penultimate composition on Works is a Chorale Prelude in A minor, played here with a devotional touch, the net result being a sound that can feel more Romantic than Baroque in nature. The final two tracks, 34 and 35 (whew!), are the Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, with Vikingur playing the former very expressively, not at all mechanically, and the latter with sprightly energy that weaves together the melodic lines of this prototypical Bach fugue.

Vikingur Olafsson
The liner notes explain that because Vikingur had been "particularly taken with Alexander Siloti's transcription of the Prelude, BWV 855a from the Well-Tempered Clavier, the pianist invited some of today's most innovative composers to reimagine that same prelude for Bach Reworks. Peter Gregson, Ben Frost, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Sküli Sverrisson, and Valgeir Sigurðsson have all created new versions based on Olafsson's original. Ryuichi Sakamoto has taken a different path, opting instead to rework a movement from Bach's Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 974. The album also includes two transcriptions taken from Bach cantatas, one by György Kurtäg, the other by Olafsson, as well as pieces freely inspired by Bach's music, one of which substitutes the piano line with cello writing."

That might sound like something of a crazy salad, but the disc provides a garden of delight. The composition of opening piece, "For Johann," has been credited in some reviews to Olafsson himself, but I have it straight from the pianist that it is actually written by Badzura (but based on Bach), and was in fact recorded in Badzura's home. There are some mild electronic sounds, and the piano sound at times sounds slightly amplified, but the overall mood is wistful, a bit melancholy, with an overall sense of reverence. It truly is a fitting farewell to the late composer Johann Johannsson as well as a respectful tip of the cap to Johann Sebastian Bach. The second track, Sigurðsson's  rework of BWV 855a, amps up the electronics – my notes remark, "very Bach but very electronic!" The third track, Prelude in G Major once again attributed to Bach/Badzura, returns to the overall mood of the opening track, with some subtle electronic ambient noises in the background and the piano being given a deeply resonant tone. The tempo slows toward the end, creating a mood of quiet reflection. The fourth cut, Above and Below, B minor, credited to Bach/Gregson, brings out more synth tones, an echoey piano, and eventually a melodic cello, morphing into a kind of cello sonata as the piece goes on.

As you might guess from the listing of the tracks and the excerpt from the program notes, Reworks continues along its eclectic way while remaining faithful to its roots in Bach. Track 7, Ryuichi Sakamoto's rework of BWV 974, perhaps the most removed from the sonic landscape Bach, with its big washes of synthesized sounds – moody, but pleasant, wistful and dreamlike. Track 10, "Bach und Zumutungen," credited to Bach/Roedelius/Rabitsch, introduces bell-like tones, a muffled, distant piano, with the mix becoming more cavernous as the piece goes on. That might sound like a strange description, but the overall sound and music are highly enjoyable. Track 11, "Kyriena," credited to Bach/Sverisson, features electronic and echoey piano sounds plus a background voice and some bowed acoustic bass.

The final cut, Kurtag's transcription for piano four-hands of the Sonatina from BWV 106, returns us to the sound of the acoustic piano, richly resonant in tone, sounding very much like straight Bach. Pianists Olafsson and Halla Oddný Magnúsdóttir gently and lovingly slow the tempo down at the end, bringing the disc and the project to a peaceful and soul-satisfying conclusion.

That I have skipped commenting on some of tracks does not at all indicate I did not enjoy them. Both CDs are a delight from start to finish. With Works clocking in at more than 77 minutes and Reworks at more than 44, richly informative liner notes, and splendid recording quality throughout, this release is a must-have for Bach lovers and a splendid introduction to those who may be just getting into "classical" music.


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

The Classical Style II (CD review)

Sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Susan Merdinger, piano, with Steven Greene, piano. Sheridan Music Studio.

Continuing a succession of outstanding albums, concert pianist Susan Merdinger has released this recording of piano sonatas from the late Classical Period, including works chronologically from Haydn, Mozert, and Beethoven.

In the event you don't know much about Ms. Merdinger, the following information from her Web site might be helpful: "The daughter of a talented pianist/painter, Susan first heard strains of classical piano music before she was even born. Inheriting her Mother's artistic sensibilities and her Father's mathematical mind and enormous hands, playing the piano came very naturally, but it was her passion, hard work, and dedication to music that contributed to her prodigious ability.

"Performing her sold-out solo recital debut at Carnegie Recital Hall at age twenty-four, as a Winner of Artists International, Merdinger has continued to grace the stages of some of the world's best concert halls including Merkin Concert Hall, Diligentia Hall in the Hague, Henry Wood Concert Hall in Scotland's National Orchestra Center, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Sala Felipe Villanueva in Mexico, Ravinia's Bennett Gordon Hall, the Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center, Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago, Logan Center for the Arts, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and The Chicago Symphony Center.

"Merdinger completed her formal education at Yale University, the Yale School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the Westchester Conservatory of Music, the Ecole Normale de Musique in Fontainebleau, France, and the Chautauqua and Norfolk Music Festivals where she held the coveted Patricia Benkman Marsh Scholarship and the Ellen Battel Stoeckel Fellowship. Susan Merdinger is an Artist Faculty of the Summit Music Festival in New York, and Artistic Director and Founder of Sheridan Music Studio--a private music studio, a record label and professional recording studio, and a collaborative arts agency located in Highland Park and Chicago. Merdinger is a Steinway Artist."

And, of course, she's won a slew of medals for her skills. Now, taking on sonatas by the masters, she again demonstrates her prodigous talents in "The Classical Style II," a term that refers both to the era of music to which Haydn, Mozert, and the early Beethoven belonged and to a book by pianist and historian Charles Rosen. Ms. Merdinger defines the "classical style" as that of "refinement, elegance, restraint, formality and tight organization structure." Yes, they're all here on display in Ms. Merdinger's playing.

Susan Merdinger
First up on the program is the Piano Sonata in G major, Hob. XVI:40, written in 1784 by Franz Joseph Haydn. The reader may be excused for the sonata not coming immediately to mind since Haydn wrote about eight hundred chamber pieces. This one is in two short movements, the first a set of variations and the second a spirited Presto. Now, you might think that playing Haydn in the "classical style" might lead to something cold and sterile. Not so with Ms. Merdinger, whose playing brings out the expressive playfulness of the piece.

Next is the Piano Sonata in C major for One Piano, Four Hands, K. 521, written in 1787 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozert. Ms. Merdinger here is accompanied by longtime collaborator Steven Greene. The three-movement sonata's most notable feature, beyond its writing for four hands, is the operatic nature of its closing Allegretto. Here we have a tour de force from the two artists, each perfectly complementing the other. Apparently, Mozart did not favor either of the piano parts over the other, so both pianists are on equal ground and carry out their assignments with exceptional agility and poise. The result is music rich and full in tone and quality.

The final selection is the Piano Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 22, No. 11, written in 1800 by Ludwig van Beethoven. Coincidentally, several weeks before listening to Ms. Merdinger's account of the sonata, I had listened to James Brawn's version, and I couldn't help notice the differences. Ms. Merdinger's interpretation is a tad quicker than Brawn's and a bit more direct. Brawn is just a touch more leisurely. Perhaps Merdinger keeps us more grounded in the Classical Period whereas Brawn points us more toward the emerging Romantic Age. Whatever, the differences do not make one performance better or worse than the other; they're simply a little different from each another.

Beethoven regarded No. 11 as the best of his early piano sonatas, and it has always remained popular with audiences. Listening to great pianists play it with such apparent ease, one cannot always understand what sublime complexity there is in the piece, probably the culmination of Beethoven's creative genius at the time. As always, it was a delight listening to Ms. Merdinger's rendering of the work. She imbues it with a golden glow, a mellow maturity that brings out the music's inherent brilliance and power. I especially enjoyed the poignant lyricism of the slow second movement. Ms. Merdinger never allows the music to sink into mere sentimentality but keeps it on the level of intelligent reflection. Then there's that closing movement where she sums up everything in virtuosic style. Nicely done all the way around.

Engineer Ryan Streber recorded the sonatas at Oktaven Studios, Mount Vernon, New York in December, 2015. Although the piano seems a bit close, it is most realistic in its clarity and impact. It appears pretty much as a piano might appear live, in front of you, in your listening room. There is no harshness, glare, or brightness to the sound, nor is it soft and mushy. It's well detailed, yet smooth and slightly warm, a pleasure to listen to.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 14, 2020

USC Cancels Piatigorsky International Cello Festival

The University of Southern California has announced the cancellation of the 2020 Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, scheduled to take place March 13-22. The University made the decision as a precaution due to the uncertainty around the COVID-19 virus and its impact on large scale events and gatherings as well as the travel disruption our artists and participants may experience. 

We are heartbroken about the cancellation of this unique celebration of music, held every four years in Los Angeles.  The Festival's 42 meticulously planned events were to be the culmination of three years of planning, collaboration and visionary programming.

"We want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to create this extraordinary festival," said Ralph Kirshbaum, the Festival's artistic director."

--Kirshbaum Associates

Berkeley Symphony Announces Cancellation of March Events
Following recommendations from the Alameda County Public Health Department to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the closure of Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley Symphony announced today the cancellation of its March public events. Canceled appearances include a free community concert at the Downtown Berkeley Plaza (Sunday, March 22) and the Symphonic Series concert at Zellerbach Hall (Thursday, March 26). These events will not be rescheduled. The Berkeley Symphony and Friends Chamber Series concert at the Piedmont Center for the Arts (Sunday, March 15) will be rescheduled and announced at a later date.

The following options are available to all patrons who have already purchased tickets to canceled or rescheduled events: Make a tax deductible donation for the ticket value; or receive a full refund.

Ticket holders can make these arrangements by contacting Patron Services Manager, Tiffany Fajardo, at Patrons are asked to include reservation name, number of tickets, preferred option, and the best method of contact.

--Brenden Guy PR

Los Angeles Master Chorale Cancels Presentations, Public Gatherings and Education Programs
Amidst rising concerns regarding the COVID-19 global outbreak, Governor Newsom's strong recommendation that all gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state be canceled, and the County of Los Angeles's order that The Music Center close its theatres, The Los Angeles Master Chorale and the other resident companies of The Music Center (Center Theatre Group, LA Opera, and LA Phil), along with TMC Arts / Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, will close their theatres (Ahmanson Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, and Walt Disney Concert Hall) effective today, March 12, 2020, and cancel all presentations, public gatherings, and education programs through at least March 31, 2020.

--Lisa Bellamore, LA Master Chorale

People's Symphony Concerts Cancellations Due to COVID-19
After the excellent turnout and wonderful concert on Sunday with Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss, we were really looking forward to The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio's final concert in their two-season survey of The Complete Beethoven Piano Trios on March 21st and we were also excited about presenting the New York debut of the Junction Trio (Tao, Jackiw and Campbell) on March 28.

Sadly, the Governor, Mayor, and health authorities feel that with the spread of the Coronavirus, it would be too risky to allow events with more than 500 people. While our audience on Sunday looked pretty healthy to us and there were no coughers, we all want to see this horrible pandemic closed down. Let's hope it won't be too long before we will be able to write and tell you that the music will be happening again. For the time being, because of the Governor's edict, the March 21st and 28th concerts at Washington Irving High School are cancelled. As soon as there is further news, we'll let you know about April and May.

Since this is one of those 'once in a lifetime' happenings,  thanks so much to those of you who have indicated that you really appreciate the gift of our concerts and intend to donate your tickets as a contribution to Peoples' Symphony Concerts.  Please let us know if you would like a receipt for tax purposes.  Given our extremely low ticket prices, even lower budget and part-time staff, we really appreciate your cooperation.

Please stay well and hopefully, it won't be too long until we can all share music together again. For tickets, programs, video: call 212-586-4680 or visit

--Frank Salomon Associates

Colburn School Suspends All In-Person Instruction, Performances and Events Due
Given the fluid nature of the COVID-19 outbreak and the close-knit nature of the Colburn School campus community, Colburn School President & CEO Sel Kardan announced today that beginning Thursday, March 12, the School will suspend all in-person instruction, performances, and related social events associated with the Conservatory, Music Academy, Dance Academy, Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, Community School for Performing Arts, and Center for Innovation and Community Impact, until at least April 13. This includes Colburn events on-campus and off, external use of our facilities, and public use of the Café and Coffee Bar. The Campus will remain closed to the public until at least April 13.

Please visit for more information.

--Lisa Bellamore, Colburn School

All Public Events at the New World Center, March 13 Through April 12, 2020 are Cancelled
Out of an abundance of caution, and in an effort to help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, New World Symphony (NWS) President Howard Herring announced the closure of the New World Center for all public events from March 13 through April 12.

Ticket holders should contact the New World Symphony Box Office to donate tickets, exchange tickets, or receive a refund.

The New World Symphony Box Office can be reached by emailing   

--Shuman Associates

Musica Camerata's 50th Season : Concerts Cancelled
Musica Camerata Montreal, hailed as one of Canada's foremost chamber music ensembles, unfortunately has to cancel the last two concerts of its 50th season because of the risks caused by coronavirus. The concerts on 4 April and 9 May will be postponed to a later date.

--France Gaignard

ABS Cancelation of "Faire is the Heaven" Concerts
American Bach Soloists are sorry to inform our patrons — to whom we are continually grateful for their support through contributions and ticket sales — that based on current information and the potential for more change in the short-term, we are canceling our performances of "Faire is the Heaven" on March 27-30, 2020 due to the outbreak and spread of Covid-19.

Some of our performance venues have already closed their doors to public events such as ours, and we expect any remaining venues to follow suit within the coming days.

--American Bach Soloists

Charles Wuorinen: June 9, 1938–March 11, 2020
It is with regret that we announce the death of Charles Wuorinen, composer of over 270 works, virtuosic pianist, and conductor. He died on Wednesday, March 11 from complications after sustaining a fall in September 2019.

Wuorinen's music of refinement, power, technical excellence and wide-ranging emotional pallet found a home in operas, ballets, symphonies, and chamber and vocal works of all combinations and instruments. Wuorinen's last completed work was his Second Percussion Symphony, premiered in Miami in September 2019.

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

International Contemporary Ensemble Announces New Executive Director
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces the appointment of Executive Director Jennifer Kessler, who joined the organization in January 2020. Kessler brings a breadth of experience in developing community, education, social justice, and artistic programs with arts organizations worldwide, including Orchestra of St. Luke's, Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, and Carnegie Hall, and joins the organization as it embarks on continued growth in the lead-up to its twentieth anniversary season.

"Jennifer's many years of experience within today's musical landscape, along with her nuanced understanding of our mission and vision, is invaluable," said Co-Artistic Director Rebekah Heller. "We are thrilled to be working side-by-side with her to shape the future of the International Contemporary Ensemble."

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Violinist Benjamin Beilman & Pianist Andrew Tyson Make Debut
Princeton University Concerts ventures into an April of debuts, starting on Thursday, April 2 at 8PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ. Violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Andrew Tyson will present a program that takes listeners from Beethoven's luminous "Spring" sonata to Frederic Rzewski's Demons, a musical reaction to the 2016 presidential election dedicated to author/political activist Angela Davis, and co-commissioned by Princeton University Concerts and fellow presenters around the country.

A 7PM pre-concert Warm Up, free to all ticket holders, will highlight Princeton University Concerts' new Neighborhood Project educational program, with a performance by the Trenton Youth Orchestra, an ensemble of high school students from Trenton's public schools, conducted by Lou Chen.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Minnesota Orchestra and Creative Partner Jon Kimura Parker: Summer at Orchestra Hall
Minnesota Orchestra Creative Partner for Summer at Orchestra Hall Jon Kimura Parker and President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns announced plans today for Summer at Orchestra Hall, a new take on the Orchestra's summer festival that will run from Friday, July 17, through Sunday, August 9, celebrating the Orchestra's home in the city and its proximity to the revitalized Peavey Plaza.

Offered this summer with the theme "The Beethoven Influence," the four curated weeks of orchestral and chamber music explore both Beethoven's influences and the composers, artists and causes he influenced, and feature projects with Minneapolis artist collective Free Black Dirt, BRKST Dance Company—known for a synthesis of breakin', martial arts and contemporary dance—and The Moving Company to create new works around Beethoven's music.

For more information, call 612-371-5656  or 800-292-4141 or visit

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

2021 American Pianists Awards Finalists Announced
The American Pianists Association's President/CEO and Artistic Director, Joel Harrison, announces the five pianists who will be finalists for the 2021 American Pianists Awards. Dominic Cheli, Kenny Broberg, Mackenzie Melemed, Michael Davidman and Sahun Sam Hong will participate in the organization's unique 13-month long competition for the coveted award, given every four years to a classical pianist. Every two years the American Pianists Awards alternates between classical and jazz.

Valued at more than $100,000, the American Pianists Awards winner receives the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship, which includes a $50,000 cash award and career assistance for two years, including publicity, performance engagements, an Artist-in-Residence post at the University of Indianapolis, and a recording contract with Steinway & Sons record label.

For more information on the American Pianists Association visit

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

New York Philharmonic String Quartet Headed to Beaver Creek
Hear classical repertoire by Mozart, Ravel and Dvorak brought to life when the New York Philharmonic String Quartet performs at the Vilar Performing Arts Center this month.

The New York Philharmonic String Quartet performs at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC) on Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $68 for adults or $10 for students. For a limited time, buy three tickets to this show and get the fourth one for free. This show is also part of the Pay Your Age ticket program for ages 18-30.

The evening's program includes Mozart's Quartet in G Major, K. 387; Ravel's String Quartet in F Major; and Dvorak's String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, nicknamed the "American."

The New York Philharmonic String Quartet comprises four principal musicians from the Orchestra: Concertmaster Frank Huang; Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples; Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps; and Principal Cello Carter Brey. The group was formed in January 2017, during the Philharmonic's 175th anniversary season.

Ruthie Hamrick, Vail Valley Foundation

ASPECT Chamber Music Series
The ASPECT Chamber Music Series concludes its spring 2020 season with three concerts: "Personal Diaries in A Major" on Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. at Bohemian National Hall; "Sensibility: Gainsborough, Abel & Bach" on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. at the Italian Academy at Columbia University; and "Alma Mahler: Muse or Monster?" on Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. at Bohemian National Hall. ASPECT's concerts feature expertly curated chamber music by the world's top performers, alongside illustrated talks by leading musicologists and industry experts that reveal fascinating details about the program's composers, works, and the cultural history of the period.

For more information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Cantata Profana 3-Day Fest
The audacious stars of New York's Cantata Profana—as comfortable on period instruments as they are on modern ones—bring their newest show, "Fables," to the Irondale Center, in repertory with Michael Hersch's "searing" (The New York Times) monodrama "On the Threshold of Winter." A landmark work of contemporary modernism, Hersch's two-hour monodrama for soprano and eight instruments is part symphony, part herculean mad scene. The work is a harrowing portrait of a battle with cancer and a tour-de-force for the soprano soloist, Ah Young Hong, who premiered the work in 2014. Hong now directs this stark new production in its New York premiere with Cantata Profana.

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Emerson String Quartet Performs Three-Concert Series at Lincoln Center
The world-renowned Emerson String Quartet embarks on a three-concert series pairing Beethoven's "Razumovsky" Quartets with the complete Bartók Cycle at Lincoln Center's Great Performers on March 31, April 21 and May 5.

The nine-time Grammy Award-winning Quartet has firmly established its authority in interpreting the works of Beethoven and Bartók. In 1981, Emerson String Quartet was the first group ever to perform a "Bartok Marathon," in which they boldly played all six Bartok quartets in a single evening. Winner of the 1990 Grammy for Best Classical and Chamber Music Performance, the Quartet's Deutsche Grammophon recording of the composer's cycle was met with critical acclaim. The cycle is not new to the Quartet, but its pairing with Beethoven's "Razumovsky" Quartets offers a unique mirroring look at both composers' works. Over the course of three concerts, they present a chronological progression through Bartok's life.

--Kirshbaum Associates

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

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

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, Goldpoint SA4 “passive preamp,” Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura’s hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can’t imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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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