Classical Music News of the Week, March 7, 2020

Formosa Quartet Defies Musical Genres

To conclude the 2019–20 Nichols Concert Hall season, the Music Institute of Chicago presents the Formosa Quartet, winners of both the First Prize and Amadeus Prize at the London International String Quartet Competition, Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

The first half of the program features Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 132. After intermission, the quartet will switch gears for their signature "Formosa Quartet Set," selections from their exclusive collection of pop, folk, jazz, and poetry arrangements. Works include a sampling of their newest commission, Clancy Newman's "Pop-Popped: #1 Songs from Around the World," in which Newman translates pop songs from Mexico, Turkey, Nigeria, Ukraine, the U.S., and Taiwan into fun "quartet-speak." Custom tailored to each performance, this evening's set also includes a musical salute to jazz bassist Neils-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, as well as poetry inspired by a French grammar book.

The Formosa Quartet—violinist Jasmine Lin (a Music Institute faculty member), violinist Wayne Lee, violist Che-Yen Chen, and cellist Deborah Pae—has given critically acclaimed performances at the Library of Congress, the Da Camera Society of Los Angeles, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, the National Concert Hall in Taipei, and more. Based in Chicago and Los Angeles, the ensemble is deeply committed to exploring new mediums for string quartet, while retaining its founders' mission of championing Taiwanese music and promoting the arts in Taiwan. The Formosa Quartet has played a leading role in actively commissioning new works, contributing significantly to the modern string quartet repertory.

The Formosa Quartet performs Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

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

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

New York Festival of Song Continues Its Tenth Season
"And Still We Dream"
Wednesday, March 25, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music, NYC

New York Festival of Song's "invaluable contemporary-music series" (The New Yorker) "NYFOS Next" continues its tenth season with "And Still We Dream," curated by Grammy award-winning composers Laura Karpman and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.

In the words of Laura Karpman: "There will be readings, songs, and mediations on Suffrage and Women's Rights acting as both a concert and a town hall—where people are interacting with curators, composers, and performers through music, through words, through engagement."

Mark Campbell & Friends
Wednesday, April 7, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music, NYC

New York Festival of Song concludes the tenth season of its mini "NYFOS Next" series with Mark Campbell & Friends.

Drawing from a prolific body of his own repertoire and from brand new works in-process, Mark Campbell curates a concert that brings together some of his most exciting composer collaborations. He has selected works from John Musto, Mason Bates, Kevin Puts, Iain Bell, William Bolcom, Jake Heggie, Daron Hagen, Ricky Ian Gordon, Paul Moravec, and Kamala Sankaram. This program features a brand new song from his upcoming collaboration with Paul Moravec, "Caltagirone" from A Nation of Others.

For complete information, visit http://nyfos.org/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Isobel Waller-Bridge Signs to Mercury KX
Award-winning composer, artist and musician Isobel Waller-Bridge today announces her new signing to Mercury KX. Joining artists at the forefront of contemporary music, including Anoushka Shankar, Ólafur Arnalds, Keaton Henson and Lambert, Isobel also releases her new track "September," which will feature on the new compilation album "FLOW"– a celebration of three years since the launch of Mercury KX.

With an album of original compositions set for release next year, Isobel's intimate, solo piano piece "September" is her debut offering for Mercury KX.

Speaking of the signing, Isobel says, "I'm so excited to have signed with Mercury KX and to start work on what will be the most personal music of my career. 'September' is my hello to the label. It has a clarity and intimacy that reflect the very personal journey I am about to go on."

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Mitsuko Uchida and Mahler Chamber Orchestra Make Debut
Princeton University Concerts is thrilled to welcome pianist Mitsuko Uchida and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for their series debut on Thursday, March 26 at 8PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ. The program of two Mozart piano concertos and a work by Jörg Widmann will be preceded by a "Warm Up" at 7PM, free to all ticket holders, in which Director Marna Seltzer will announce Princeton University Concerts' programming for the 2020-2021 season.

This concert is sold out; however, turn-back tickets will be released at the Richardson Auditorium box office at 6:15PM on the day of the concert.

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

F.A.Y.M March Newsletter
"A message from Hal Weller, the founder of the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians:
I am writing to give you a little perspective on one of the main reasons I founded FAYM.

I have long been an admirer of two major movements in music training for the young: The Suzuki Violin Method which advocates for violin training for children who are barely out of the cradle; and, for the past 20 years or so, the impactfully positive social program established by Dr. Jose Abreu's in Venezuela called 'El Sistema' ('The System').

It was 11 years ago that I had the privilege to attend the Simon Bolivar Orchestra's first concert in the United States in Los Angeles in the Disney Concert Hall. The orchestra performed the Fifth Symphony by Gustav Mahler....a 75-minute, hugely challenging work for even the finest of major professional orchestras. The Simon Bolivar Orchestra, under Gustavo Dudamel, literally played the work as if it were being composed...with frightening authenticity and passion...with the packed-house audience responding wildly and everlastingly as no other audience I had even experienced! I knew then.....that to bring youngsters into the gloriously vast universe of symphonic literature was something I had to do with my remaining time. And thus was formed FAYM.

We at FAYM are still in our infancy. Still searching. Still trying new things. But my intention still remains. We must bring to our youngsters substantial material, which will not only further their instrumental techniques but will stretch their hearts and emotions to want to express the messages that truly great music can convey. It is to that mission that I, and I hope you, will remain committed."

Please join THE FAMILY OF FAYM today by donating online: https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/MakeDonation.aspx?ORGID2=261472871&vlrStratCode=K9QbngxdXJzvjbRj2Ix4QTOvBIS4WiO960kqWcQpbTX81BRsThWhiQXD8st7EhJC

--Hal Weller, F.A.Y.M

Jenny Lin & Adam Tendler Take On Liszt's Poetic & Religious Harmonies
ALL ARTS is happy to announce the premiere of "The Set List: Liszt's Poetic & Religious Harmonies" at Green-Wood Cemetery. Star pianists Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler took on the entire arduous ten-movement piece by Franz Liszt, which is rarely played live, in the Catacombs of the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn back in September.

Those unable to witness the rare performance in person will now have the chance to enjoy it in its entirety when it premieres on the ALL ARTS broadcast channel, free streaming app, and website on Sunday, March 8 at 8pm.

Broadcast channel: https://allarts.org/everywhere/
Free streaming app: https://allarts.org/everywhere/
Allarts.org: https://allarts.org/programs/the-set-list/

--Titi Oluwo, ALL ARTS

Stokman Raises Funds Through Music and Art
Music Institute of Chicago piano faculty member Abraham Stokman performs a recital Wednesday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois. The performance is a fundraiser for Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, a national nonprofit organization that engages, assists, and empowers men and women in the military, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency medical service professions to go beyond the call of duty by offering them opportunities to volunteer in their communities.

On the all-Schubert program, Stokman performs Three Impromptus and Sonata in A Major, D.V. 959. He also performs Fantasie in F minor with his wife, Arlene Stokman. And joining Stokman for the Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 99  are violinist Sang Mee Lee, chair of the Music Institute's Strings Department, and cellist Paula Kosower, Northwestern University professor. Also a vivid painter, Stokman has painted a new work, Shmei Drei, to auction at the event, with proceeds also benefiting Sheep Dog Impact Assistance.

Music Institute piano faculty Abraham Stokman performs a recital fundraiser Wednesday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Il. Donations are being accepted at the door; a reception follows the performance. All programming is subject to change.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Philip Wilder To Succeed Christine Bullin as President & General Director of Chanticleer
Long-standing President and General Director of Chanticleer Christine Bullin announced today that she will retire from her position September 1, 2020. Board of Trustees Chair Keith Jantzen announced the appointment of Philip Wilder as the ensemble's new President and General Director. After six years as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra, Mr. Wilder makes his Chanticleer return after previously serving as a member of the ensemble, Assistant Music Director, Artistic Administrator and Director of Education from 1990 to 2003.

--Brenden Guy PR

Philip Wilder to Step Down as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra
After six years as Executive Director of New Century Chamber Orchestra, Philip Wilder announced to the Orchestra, Board and Staff that he will step down from his position at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 season. In the fall of 2020, Mr. Wilder will assume the role of President & General Director of the GRAMMY Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer, where he began his career in music as a member of the ensemble in 1990.

--Brenden Guy PR

John Adams is Composer in Residence at Colorado Music Festival
The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) in Boulder, Colorado, isn't broadly known outside the state, but it should be. This summer, under the leadership of the recently arrived Music Director Peter Oundjian, the Festival will actually present more 21st-century pieces (16, including two world premieres) than works by Beethoven (13).  That reflects Oundjian's commitment to presenting the work of living composers as well as music by masters of the canon.  This is the first year of the Festival's five-year commitment to commissioning new works and presenting them in Boulder.

This summer, John Adams makes his CMF debut as composer-in-residence. "I am honored to be composer-in-residence for the 2020 Colorado Music Festival," Adams says. "I deeply appreciate the Festival's enthusiasm for new and imaginative ideas and look forward to the collaboration."

Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, Boulder, Colorado
June 25 – August 1

For more information about CMF or to purchase tickets, call 303-440-7666 or visit ColoradoMusicFestival.org.

--Kirshbaum Associates

James Conlon: Debussy in Los Angeles
For two months this spring, conductor James Conlon delves into the music of Debussy through talks and performances around Los Angeles, culminating in LA Opera's Pelléas and Mélisande from May 2 to 23. Mr. Conlon has conducted the opera throughout his career, including in new productions at the Cologne Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Paris Opera. He has also conducted the composer's orchestral music widely, and his recordings of orchestral selections are included among Warner Classics' collection of Debussy's complete works.

For complete information and tickets, visit https://www.laopera.org/performances/201920-season/pelleas-and-melisande/

--Shuman Associates

Look + Listen Festival Announces 2020 Programming
The Look + Listen Festival—dedicated to sparking dialogue between music and visual art through its annual free programming of contemporary music by today's musical trailblazers in galleries and cultural centers throughout New York City—announces its 2020 season of three performances. Reservations for all events, which are highly recommended, open on March 23.

Performances by pianists Vicky Chow, Adam Tendler, and Kathleen Supove; Mantra Youth Percussion; Paul Pinto; Ensemble Echappe; and Harpsichordist Tristan McKay.

April 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Pioneer Works
April 25 at 4:00 p.m. at Revelation Gallery
May 2 at 7:30 p.m. at The Invisible Dog Art Center

All Festival performances are tied together with three newly-commissioned iterations of an audio-visual Ambient Experience, Turntable Drawings, by composer Danny Clay and San Francisco-based visual artist Jon Fischer. Commissioned Ambient experiences are a hallmark of the Look + Listen Festival, enhancing the concert experience by commissioning artists to create an atmosphere inviting dialogue between audience members, performers, and composers for each performance. Turntable Drawings will feature a pre-show experience invoking the Jewish concept of haMakom (the place) using live musicians, physical imprints, video, and loops to explore the connections between replication, music, and beauty.

All Look + Listen Festival programming is free and open to the public. Reservations, which are highly recommended, open on March 23. Please visit http://www.lookandlisten.org/ to RSVP.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Classical Music Goes Wild: Discover Dan Brown's Wild Symphony
Suppose you are a renowned #1 New York Times bestselling author who has sold over 200 million copies of your addictive, controversial, and always gripping novels, and those novels have been made into box office blockbuster thrillers featuring some of the biggest movie stars of our times.

Assuming all this, your next career move would be… to release a children's picture book and symphony, right? If you said no, well, you're not Dan Brown. The creator of The DaVinci Code announced on February 20 that he will release Wild Symphony, his debut children's book and first music project since beginning his writing career.

Inspired by classics like Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals, Wild Symphony tells the story of Maestro Mouse and his animal friends embarking on a journey of discovery and friendship. Brown's latest offers pithy poetry with bits of life wisdom on every page and family-friendly sounds to delight the young at heart, and even a secret code with a special message.

The music of Wild Symphony, produced by Bob Lord and PARMA Recordings, was recorded by PARMA's Zagreb Festival Orchestra. The ZFO, the newly reestablished Croatian orchestra featuring hand-picked performers from the capital city and beyond, has quickly emerged as one of the industry's top contemporary and film/media recording orchestras.

For more information, visit https://www.parmarecordings.com/dan-brown-unleashes-wild-symphony/

--Bob Lord, PARMA Recordings

ROCO's April 2020 Concerts
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra 2019-20 season "Coming of Age" continues this April with their final Unchambered and Connections series concerts on April 4 and 18, respectively.

On April 4th, ROCO's Founder and Principal Oboist, Alecia Lawyer, will curate and feature in a program entitled "Personalities" at MATCH. The concert's title is inspired by Alyssa Morris's piece Four Personalities, a work based on Hartman's Color Code Personality Profile. In addition to Morris's work, the concert will also feature new commissions by Erberk Eryilmaz and Karim Al-Zand, as well as contemporary works by Josef Bednarik and Tina Nicholson, and Jan Dismas Zelenka's baroque Sonata IV - one of his six "trio sonatas," richly scored for two oboes, bassoon, and basso continuo.

The ROCO Brass Quintet will perform at the First Congregational Church of Houston on April 18th as part of the church's "Music at the Meeting House" series. The program, "Explorations," will include music ranging from the late 16th century to the present day.

For more informaiton, visit https://roco.org/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa