Debussy-Rameau (CD Review)

Vikingur Olafsson, piano. Deutsche Grammophon 479 7701.

Program by track: 1) Debussy: La damoiselle élue – Prélude; 2) Rameau: Piéces de Clavecin (1724), Le Rappel des oiseaux; 3) Rigaudons 1, 2 & Double; 4) Musette en rondeau; 5) Tambourin; 6) La Villageoise; 7) Gigues en rondeau 1 & 2; 8) Debussy: Estampes, 3. Jardins sous la pluie; 9) Children's Corner, 3. Serenade for the Doll; 10) 4. The Snow Is Dancing; 11) Rameau: Piéces de Clavecin (1724), Les Tendres Plaintes; 12) Les Tourbillons, 13) L'entretien des Muses; 14) Debussy: Préludes, Book 1, Des pas sur la neige 15) Rameau: Piéces de Clavecin (1724), La joyeuse; 16) Les Cyclopes; 17) Rameau/Vikingur Ólafsson: The Arts and the Hours; 18) Debussy: Préludes Book 1, 8. La fille aux cheveux de lin; 19) Préludes Book 2, 8. Ondine; 20) Rameau: Cinquième concert, 2. La Cupis 21) Quatrième concert, 2. L'indiscrète; 22) 3. La Rameau; 23) Nouvelle Suites de Piéces de Clavecin, La Poule; 24) L'Enharmonique; 25) Menuets 1 & 2; 26) Les Sauvages; 27) L'Égyptienne; 28) Debussy: Images Book 1, Hommage à Rameau

By Karl W. Nehring

Having previously enjoyed and reviewed recordings by Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson featuring the music of Bach and Philip Glass, I have been most eager to audition his latest release, which features music from two French composers who were separated temporally by a century and a half, the well-known and hugely influential Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and the much less well-known (at least in our modern era) Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). Vikingur ("Olafsson" is a patronymic, so it is appropriate to refer to the pianist in what might appear to be an overly familiar manner) is a remarkable pianist who carefully considers the program for his recordings. As he explains in his liner notes, he was familiar with Debussy's keyboard music for as long as he can remember, but did not encounter the music of Rameau until his student days in New York, where he heard a 1951 recording by the late Russian pianist Emil Gilels of a Rameau composition and was impressed by how well it seemed to lend itself to being played on a modern piano.

However, as he goes on to say, "it wasn't until the spring of 2019 as I waited (and waited and waited and waited) for the birth of my first child that I finally had the chance, having cleared some weeks in my concert schedule, to sit down with all of Rameau's published keyboard works and read through every one of them. A world of wonder revealed itself. Ingenious works of remarkable diversity, rarely programmed or recorded on the modern instrument. Incidentally, what I experienced in the music of Rameau had been aptly put into words in 1903 by a certain Claude Debussy, who had been swept away by a performance of the first two acts of Rameau's opera Castor et Pollux…  In his superlative review, he described the nusic as 'so personal in tone, so new in construction, that space and tine are defeated and Rameau seems to be [our] contemporary.'"

Vikingur goes on to recount that "curiously, the more time I spent with Rameau's keyboard music, the more my mind wandered to Debussy and the seemingly unlikely affinity of that revolutionary, who openly disregarded tradition and denounced all musical rules except the law of pleasure, to the founding father of French music theory and pedagogy… Side by side, their keyboard works allow us to revel in the delightful paradoxes of great music: the wild progressiveness of Rameau is illuminated by Debussy's historically informed sense of detail and proportion – and vice versa… Another shared element of these two giants of French music is what could be called a synaesthetic streak. In my view, a certain blending of sensory experience seems natural to how the two approached music."

Vikingur Olafsson
As is my usual practice, I did not read the liner notes until after I had done some listening, but my first impression of this recording was along the lines that Vikingur has described. More precisely, my impression was to my mind the result of the sensitive, expressive touch that Vikingur brings to the keyboard. From the opening measures of the opening Debussy Etude, I found myself enthralled by the sound; so colorful, so rich in texture, so nuanced in volume and tempo. The music is dreamy, languid, the notes lingering in the air as the music lingers in the ear while yet moving forward.

Then on to Rameau, some selections from his 1724 set of keyboard pieces. The music is brisk and bright, featuring dance rhythms, with Vikingur's fingers dancing on the keyboard in delight, then shifting to a slower, more dreamlike mood that shifts to a more energetic approach as Vikingur returns to Debussy for three cuts.

The first of these, "Jardins sous la pluie," returns to a more rapid tempo. In light of the Rameau that he has just played, Vikingur leads us to feel that this music by Debussy is similar to what we have just heard from Rameau, but with a different harmonic structure, painting a similar picture but with different colors and textures of musical paint. Moving on to the two familiar sections from Children's Corner, Vikingur brings fresh light and life to music that many of us have heard many times before (Debussy fans of a certain age might have vivid memories – favorable or unfavorable – of Tomita's Snowflakes are Dancing, for example). And yes, Vikingur's interpretation reminds is that yes, the snow is dancing, perhaps having fallen while listening to some Rameau…

The program then shifts back to three more short pieces by Rameau from the 1724 set. Although Vikingur is playing a modern piano, his lively touch on these pieces ranges from tender to brisk, at times evoking the feeling of the harpsichord, particularly in his lively rendition of "Les Tourbillons."

The transition between the next two pieces, "L'entretien des Muses" by Rameau and "Des pas sur la neige" by Debussy, highlights Vikingur's way of seeing these two temporally disparate composers as musically intertwined in some significant ways. The wistful spell cast by the reflective Rameau is maintained in the Debussy. Truly, the Debussy sounds as if it is a continuation of the Rameau, not a copy or imitation, but a musical soul mate. Interestingly, both pieces have similar peaceful endings. Vikingur plays both these pieces with a loving, reflective touch. The concluding measures of the Debussy evoke feelings of blissful episodes from your life that your heart longs to keep securely stored in your mind so that they can be recalled in moments of pleasant introspection.

Following a couple more Rameau pieces from the 1724 set that return to a lighter, more lively style, we come to the track that fully embodies Vikingur's study of and appreciation for the music of the French master, The Arts and the Hours. Vikingur based this composition on an music from Rameau's final opera, Les Boreades, which he wrote in 1763 at the age of 80. The pianist explains in his liner notes that he "transcribed it for the modern piano because its colorful resonance allows for new and interesting textural possibilities in a piece that seems so ahead of its time; its rich harmonies of suspended 9ths and 11ths one could almost imagine Mahler writing in the late 19th century. In the original opera, based on a Greek legend, the interlude bears a somewhat lengthy title: "The Arrival of the Muses, Zephyrs, Seasons, Hours and the Arts." As all of these mythical beings summoned to the stage have something to do with the arts and with time's passing, I allowed myself to call my transcription simply The Arts and the Hours, with a nod to the Greek aphorism best known in its Latin version as 'Ars Longa, vita brevis.'"

After a simple but emotionally and sonically resonant opening, the music adopts a songlike quality: an aria from the keyboard. My scribbled listening notes read, "lovely tunes expressively performed, Vikingur pouring heart & soul into it." (By the way, there is a lovely video of Vikingur performing The Arts and the Hours available on YouTube.) 

Then comes another remarkable transition, as the next cut takes us back to Debussy, this time the magical "Girl with the Flaxen Hair," featuring a haunting melody that will no doubt be both familiar to and beloved by many music lovers. In this setting, the piece seems to fit in so naturally following the previous track, with Vikingur once again subtly varying tempo and touch. So too with the next Debussy piece, "Ondine," which is again wistful and imaginative, with a lingering passage about two minutes in that is just so beautiful, so beautiful... 
     
That same reflective tone and sensitive touch at the keyboard carries the listener through the transition back to the music of Rameau, beginning with three selections from his Pieces de clavecin en concerts from 1741. Vikingur performs the first piece, "La Cupis," with much the same subtle expressiveness he had exhibited in the preceding Debussy. To my ears at least, "La Cupis," feels like a "farewell" piece, music that could be used in a movie soundtrack for a scene depicting the parting of a pair of lovers. The next few tracks featuring music of Rameau ore more energetic, playfully culminating in a musical depiction of a barnyard in "La Poule," but then the chickens seem to have become philosophers as depicted by Vikingur's more thoughtful tone for "L'Enharmonic." The final three Rameau compositions on the program find Vikingur's playing returning to the dance-like, playful style of some of the earlier cuts, with his fleet fingers sometimes seeming to dance merrily up and down the keyboard with joyful exuberance. . 

For the final composition included in this release, Vikingur returns to Debussy for the fittingly titled "Hommage a Rameau." With smoothly managed tempo and volume changes, Vikingur shows his deep affection for the music and the legacies of both composers. Especially touching is the quiet ending, with the final soft note being held for several seconds as it fades into final silence. Vikingur's comments about this piece also serve as evidence for his interest in and regard for these two French masters: "[Debussy] was always forward-thinking, even when looking back in time – just as he was meticulous in his craft even when actively reflecting tradition. Much has been written about Debussy's firm roots in the French Baroque and the complicated way in which Rameau influenced not just his music, but also his identity as a French composer. To me, however, this piece epitomizes in simpler terms his relationship with Rameau. As a gesture, it is a nod, not a bow – from one great artist to another, signalling the recognition of spiritual relatedness, rather than a disciple's gratitude to a teacher."

The engineering on this CD is very good. The piano sound is full-bodied. There are no extraneous noises – grunting, clicking fingernails, and other such distractions do not make any unwelcome appearances. I was rather shocked, ion fact, to see on an Amazon Germany site I somehow stumbled across that someone had posted a review slamming this release for its "poor sound quality." I cannot begin to fathom any rational justification for such a judgment. This is a well-engineered production. (As another aside, I recently spoke with an audiophile friend who commented that he did not understand how anyone with a strong regard for audio quality could bear to listen to piano music from a vinyl LP in this day and age.) Moreover, Vikingur once again provides an extensive liner note essay on the music and his approach to it that is fascinating and enlightening. The artwork and layout of the included booklet are attractive and readable, even to "mature" eyes such as mine, and the CD is packed with nearly 80 minutes of music. Vikingur Olafsson and DG have hit another home run (oh, how I miss baseball in this year of COVID-19!) with this release and I look forward eagerly to the next one. Perhaps some piano music by Valentin Silvestrov, John Cage, Maurice Ravel, Jean Sibelius, Isaac Albéniz, or dare I even hope, Bill Evans?   

KWN

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

B2C: Bach to Choir (CD review)

Suites for Solo Cello Nos. 1 & 3, with choir. Sophie Webber, cello; Members of the Choir of the Ascension, Chicago. Sheringham Records.

Sophie Webber is a British cellist now residing in San Diego, California. She recorded her debut album of the Bach Cello Suites in 2018 and titled it "Escape." Now, for something slightly different, Ms. Webber presents an unusual view of the suites, this time for cello and accompanying choir. On the present disc, she plays Suites 1 and 3 with choral arrangements of her own design. Given that every cellist who has ever lived during the age of recordings has already made an album of the Bach suites, including Ms. Webber herself, the novelty (and beauty) of offering them with vocal augmentation seems inspired. The results are lovely.

The exact dates Bach wrote the suites is unclear, but it was probably somewhere between 1717-23. One thing that is certain, though, is that the suites are extraordinary, and they might well be familiar even to listeners not acquainted with much of the composer's music. After all, most of us have heard this material, especially the first suite, used in films and television commercials; I mean, even Bach reused some of the tunes for other instrumental works.

Anyhow, the suites each contain six dance movements, and one of the remarkable things about them is the composer's ability to make the single cello sound like several instruments, with melody and accompaniment. Only this time out, Ms. Webber's cello really IS accompanied by other instruments, namely human voices in the persons of eight members of the Choir of the Ascension, Chicago. Together, they "make a joyful noise" (Psalm 100).

As Ms. Webber puts it, "The vision of this album is to offer an interpretation of the Suites which highlights the implied harmonies and rhythmic characters of Bach's solo string works and potentially invites new listeners into the world of Bach and classical music."

Sophie Webber
First up is the familiar Suite No. 1 in G, BWV 1007. At first the wordless choral accompaniment seems obvious to the ear, pleasant and pronounced. After a few moments, however, one becomes used to it, perhaps even finding it normal. Ms. Webber was keen enough not to make the voices too obtrusive, and they aren't. They complement the cello well and project a tranquil, spirited, soothing, or exuberant enhancement to Bach's music as the case may be.

Ms. Webber's playing is gentle, fluid, and expressive, nicely integrating with the choir. Her performances are happy and invigorating and bring out all the joy in the music. She has no doubt been playing these suites for some time and knows them backwards. The fact that she has devoted her first two albums to the suites attests to this fact. The chorus adds to Bach's many moods, and Ms. Webber's performance brings out the nuances in the various movements.

Then we have the slightly less familiar but still popular Suite No. 3 in C, BWV 1009. While purists may look down upon messing with Bach's creations, it seems to me entirely felicitous that Ms. Webber should provide us with yet another fine set of accompaniments to Bach's solo suites. It's not like it hasn't been done any number of times before, with piano, viola, etc., and with transcriptions for violin, guitar, trumpet, organ, and practically every other instrument in the band. Bach himself frequently borrowed his own material and reworked it for other instruments in later compositions. Besides which, Bach often alternated writing secular and sacred music, and since the suites are quite worldly in nature, the choral background invests them with an almost religious tone despite their lively presentation. It's kind of the best of two worlds.

My one quibble may seem petty and is maybe a backhanded compliment: The disc contains only about forty-two minutes of music, with plenty of space left over for another of the suites. The fact is, though, this album is so entertaining, you may find it over before you know it.

Producers Paul French and James Kallembach and engineer Christopher Willis recorded the music at Guarneri Hall & Bon Chapel, Chicago, Illinois in September and November 2019. The sound places the cello squarely in the middle of the ensemble. Although the singers don't always seem entirely of a piece with the soloist, they do evoke an appropriately resonant, ethereal presence. Clarity, articulation, and detailing are well presented, too, so the whole makes pleasant listening.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 25, 2020

Peoples' Symphony Concerts

In the month of April, Peoples' Symphony had scheduled a double-header with the wonderful Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon on Saturday evening at Washington Irving High School and the inestimable Juilliard String Quartet on Sunday afternoon at Town Hall.

Since we have all been asked to remain hunkered down at home and music has become more and more important, we wanted to share with you why these two artists are revered the world over. Please click the links below to listen and watch these fabulous artists.

Dénes Várjon, piano:
Chopin: Mazurka in A minor, Op.67, No. 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h98lzN6aUfk

Bartók: Hungarian Folksongs Sz 35: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf3VlT41v_8

Liszt: Mephisto Waltz No. 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvSoy9GJ_gE

Juilliard String Quartet:
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 18, No. 3: I. Mvt.:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BjpDQEApaY

Dvorák: String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96, "American"; II. Mvt.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBBBsNiFSjQ

For more information, visit https://www.pscny.org/

--Frank Salomon, Peoples' Symphony Concerts

Exclusive Programming from Baruch PAC and Alexander SQ
 On Wednesday, April 22 at 7:30 PM EDT, BPAC presents streaming audio and video of the Alexander String Quartet's special performance recorded this week for BPAC of Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ. Aldemaro Romero Jr., Dean of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences at Baruch College, welcomes the viewers and introduces the music and the performers.

The Quartet's interpretation of Haydn's intimate work intersperses the music with readings that are meditations on the subject of human suffering, redemption and renewal. Performing it "together," albeit from their respective homes while observing social distancing protocols, the quartet brings this emotionally-rich work to viewers, offering both depth and comfort in difficult times. The performance was recorded expressly for this specially-streamed presentation.

Access is free through May 6: https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/calendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=4/14/2020&todate=5/13/2020&display=&type=public&eventidn=80931&view=EventDetails&information_id=1121393

A second on-line event is a screening of the documentary "Con Moto," followed by a discussion with the members of ASQ and Dennis Slavin, Associate Provost and professor of music at Baruch College. "Con Moto" is available free through May 7 and follows the Alexander String Quartet as they perform throughout Poland, giving a behind-the-scenes view of the Quartet and revealing the collective voice that emerges through the unique personalities of the individuals: https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/calendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=4/14/2020&todate=5/13/2020&display=&type=public&eventidn=80932&view=EventDetails&information_id=1121395

For more information, visit https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

The Gilmore Announces "Virtually Gilmore" Free Streaming Series, April 22 – May 5
In place of the 2020 Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, The Gilmore presents "Virtually Gilmore," a free video-streaming series of performances by leading and emerging keyboard artists, from April 22 to May 5. Programs include new, "Virtually Gilmore" recitals, as well as stand-out performances from The Gilmore's archives.

All performances are presented on the Gilmore Web site: https://www.thegilmore.org/ and the YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/GilFest

--John Hamby, Shuman Associates

Opera Maine Postpones 2020 Season Until 2021
Opera Maine has announced the postponement of its 26th summer season out of concern for public health during the current COVID-19 pandemic. After weeks of careful deliberation, the Board of Trustees decided to reschedule the productions of Richard Wagner's classic, The Flying Dutchman, and Philip Glass's minimalist masterpiece, The Fall of the House of Usher, from this summer to July 2021. The Flying Dutchman will celebrate Maine's Bicentennial, setting the production in 19th-century Maine.

Dona D. Vaughn, Artistic Director, and Caroline Koelker, Executive Director, expressed the difficult choice in a joint statement: "Although we had held out hope that we would all be able to come together this summer, we now realize that it would not be in the best interest of public safety."

Ticket holders will be contacted by Opera Maine by the end of this week and given the option to donate their tickets to Opera Maine, transfer their tickets to next summer's performances on July 28 or July 30, 2021, or request a refund. Opera Maine will be directing the proceeds from donated tickets to the performers and theater professionals who had committed to the 2020 season.

Opera Maine continues to evaluate the possibility of maintaining other events on its 2020 calendar, including an outdoor concert at Lincoln Park on July 14, 2020 and a production of Lee Hoiby's hilarious short opera, Bon Appétit!, on September 13 and 15, 2020. Opera Maine recently launched a virtual program called Opera in ME, a weekly web series that takes audiences behind the scenes through interviews with singers and designers. Opera in ME is available on YouTube Opera Maine, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

--Kristen Levesque PR

HAUSER Shares New "Caruso" Video
HAUSER debuts a new stunningly original music video for his version of Lucio Dalla's classic operatic number "Caruso." With the help of frequent 2Cellos collaborators MedVid Production and director Igor Burlovic, HAUSER's latest video is the perfect visual narrative for the cellist's virtuosic rendition of the heartbreaking Italian ballad – watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7uakHWdSr4&feature=youtu.be

As visually creative as he is sonically, HAUSER has been working hard to create new videos and content for fans, continuing to release both original visuals and performance videos in recent weeks – watch his latest videos here. With upcoming visuals for "Classic" tracks from Chopin, Borodin, Handel and more, HAUSER hopes to provide audiences across the globe a much-needed musical escape and some solace in these troubling times.

In addition, HAUSER announces "Alone, Together from Arena Pula," a special performance event from his home country of Croatia. Performing solo at the iconic Arena Pula without a live audience, the event will stream globally on his official YouTube channel this Monday, April 27th at 1p.m. ET / 10a.m. PT. Dedicated to front-line workers across the globe, "Alone, Together from Arena Pula" is the latest effort in HAUSER's continued goal to provide audiences everywhere a much-needed musical escape and solace in these troubling times. The event will feature the acclaimed cellist performing his renditions of classic compositions, including numbers from his recent debut solo album "Classic." As a part of this special event, HAUSER encourages fans to support the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.  Find more info here.

Watch recent music videos from HAUSER here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdVkHRu3zRbJDkniNkiS5g9UCO-JUhCVb

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music

Bach Yard Playdates with Pianist Orli Shaham
 On April 26, 2020, Orli Shaham's Bach Yard launches a brand-new series: Bach Yard Playdates. Playdates introduces musical concepts, instruments and the experience of concert-going to a global audience of children and their families, in weekly 5 to 10-minute episodes. Kaufman Music Center presents Bach Yard Playdates, and it will appear on their Web site and social media channels at 11:00 am EDT each Sunday through June 28.

To visit the Web site, click here: https://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/series/orli-shahams-bach-yard/

Meanwhile, Pianist Orli Shaham's continues MidWeek Mozart. Each Wednesday, Ms. Shaham brings you an exclusive: music from her forthcoming recording of Mozart sonatas: https://orlishahammozart.com/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Orion Cancels May 2020 Concerts
The Orion Ensemble announces that, after considering all options, it is cancelling its final series of performances in its 2019-20 season, scheduled May 3 at New England Congregational Church in Aurora, Illinois, May 6 at PianoForte Studios in Chicago, and May 10 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

Orion hopes subscribers and those who purchased individual tickets might consider donating their tickets to offset the loss of revenue, but refunds are also available by contacting info@orionensemble.org.

In the meantime, Orion is offering the first in a series of videos featuring excerpts of live performances, which is available for viewing here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qyzwcib6q31dttw/Orion%20200417%20Special%20Request.mp4?dl=0

Looking ahead, Orion is making plans for its 2020-21 season and will share details as soon as there is more information about the ability to provide live, in-person concerts safely.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Heartbeat Opera Announces LADY M
Heartbeat Opera—the daring young indie opera company whose unconventional orchestrations and stagings of classic operas have been called "a radical endeavor" by Alex Ross in The New Yorker—concludes its sixth season with its first adaptation of Verdi: LADY M, a reimagined and re-orchestrated work-in-progress, envisioning the story of Macbeth through the eyes of Lady Macbeth.

In light of COVID-19, Heartbeat Opera takes its LADY M rehearsals and performances online. Rather than cancel its production, the company launches a 10-day Remote Residency (April 20–May 1) with their artists rehearsing at home, followed by a series of intimate Virtual Soirées through Zoom video conferencing from May 11-16. The full production arrives in Spring 2021.

Each 45-minute Soirée will include: a welcome toast, introductory remarks, brief live performance by one cast member, and Q&A. Each Soirée will also feature two videos, newly unveiled for this project: a short documentary showing a behind-the-scenes look at Heartbeat's Remote Residency; and a music video of Lady M's "Sleepwalking Scene" sung by Felicia Moore, played by the six-piece band, and featuring the five other cast members of LADY M.

Tickets: $10 per device at heartbeatopera.org/lady-m

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

The Methods of Training of Piano Students Must Change
It is inconceivable that a piano teacher would allow students to perform in public or competition with knowing little or nothing of key signatures, both prevailing and parent, functions and identities of notes, intervals, chords, and their characteristic intervals, and anything else that pertains to the work at hand, away from the piano, and with complete descriptions of what is going on at any point in the work.

Analyses must be done on regular computer or note paper, again away from the piano with complete analyses of roots, functions and identities especially of chords without roots, as is found in the works of composers from Bach to jazz. Students will cry and complain about marathon three-four hour lessons, and I'm sorry, but that's what it takes, especially from the teacher. Otherwise, find another profession…

Visit the Piano Professor's latest installment here: https://thepianoprofessor.com/2020/04/16/training-piano-students/

--Ralph Hedges, Chopin Piano Academy

What's Streaming Classical This Week
Monday, April 27 as of 10:00 a.m. ET:
The Gilmore presents Lukas Geniušas
https://www.thegilmore.org/

Tuesday, April 28 as of 10:00 a.m. ET:
Virtually Gilmore offers jazz from Emmet Cohen Trio
https://www.thegilmore.org/

Tuesday, April 28 as of 1:00 p.m. PT:
James Conlon discusses Beaumarchais on LA Opera James Conlon at Home podcast
https://soundcloud.com/laopera

Wednesday, April 29 as of 10:00 a.m. ET
The Gilmore streams Rising Stars recital by Tiffany Poon
https://www.thegilmore.org/

Wednesday, April 29 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera continues to showcase selections from Tobias Picker's Emmeline with Andrew and Megan Rose Potter singing "The Railroad Boys Have Arrived"
https://tulsaopera.com/

Thursday, April 30 as of 10:00 a.m. ET:
The Gilmore presents Charles Richard-Hamelin
https://www.thegilmore.org/

Thursday, April 30 at 2:00 p.m. ET:
Michael Tilson Thomas and New World Symphony's Archive+: Dvorák's Symphony No. 8
https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Thursday, April 30 and Friday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. PT:
Miró Quartet performance of Schubert's Quartettsatz, D. 703, to be streamed by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
https://www.laco.org/laco-at-home/

Friday, May 1 as of 10:00 a.m. ET:
Chopin Competition winner Seong-Jin Cho performs Chopin preludes in Virtually Gilmore webcast
https://www.thegilmore.org/

Friday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera presents Love Duet from Tobias Picker's Emmeline, sung by soprano Madison Leonard and tenor John Irvin
https://tulsaopera.com/

Friday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
New World Symphony's NWS Fellows: Live from our Living Room
https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Saturday, May 2 at 4:00 p.m. ET:
Gilmore Young Artist Misha Galant performs Virtually Gilmore recital
https://www.thegilmore.org/streaming/misha-galant-virtually-gilmore-premiere/

Saturday, May 2 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh continues Alone Together series
https://www.facebook.com/jenniferkohviolin/

Minnesota Orchestra at Home
https://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/community-education/lifelong-learning/minnesota-orchestra-at-home

#ICYMI: In Case You Missed It
92nd St. Y
https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=305882957054342&ref=watch_permalink
Jonathan Biss, piano
https://www.facebook.com/pg/JonathanBiss/videos/

--Shuman Associates, Inc.

Newly Composed Fanfare to be Played Citywide
A newly composed symphonic fanfare called "For Our Courageous Workers" will be played by over 1,000 musicians and non-musicians alike on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m., as part of the daily "cheer" honoring front-line workers serving the populace during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The score has been arranged so that everyone in the five New York boroughs can take part from the safety of their windows, rooftops, and doorways, be they professional musicians or amateur pot-bangers.

There are parts for all: musicians of any and every level — beginners, young musicians, amateurs, professionals on voices, strings, brass, winds, keyboards, drums — as well as for all the people of the city who can sing, bang on pots and pans, or just make a general racket.

Composers Frank London (of The Klezmatics), and Hajnal Pivnick and Dorian Wallace (of Tenth Intervention) have joined forces on this effort to bring the city together in a communal music project to honor the efforts of those risking their own health for the benefit of all.

More information here: http://www.tenthintervention.com/workers.html

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

APA Brings Live Conversation and Performance in a New Online Series
Following the success of its recent Jazz @ Home series featuring conversation and performances by American Pianists Awards winners in jazz earlier this month, American Pianists Association continues its commitment to delivering high-quality conversation and performance with Live from the Piano Bench. The five-week series, paused by a special May 3rd concert by 2007 Awards winner Dan Tepfer, features previous Awards winners in conversation with 2021 classical finalists, as well as live performances from each of the contenders. Each Live from the Bench as well as Tepfer's concert will be carried live on Sundays at 3:30pm ET via Facebook @APAPianists.

On March 11, 2020, American Pianists Association announced the five 2021 finalists for the classical competition whom will be competing over the following 13 months leading up to the finals in April 2021.

"As the American Pianists Association continues to celebrate our 40th anniversary throughout this year, it is certainly exciting and appropriate to showcase our many successful winners of the past 4 decades by pairing five of them with our next round of classical finalists, said President/CEO Joel Harrison. "In doing so not only are we reflecting on the past, but also imagining the future with brilliant emerging talent. Add to that the charm of visiting with these 'past and future' APA artists in their homes and you have a unique series."

For more information on the American Pianists Association visit www.americanpianists.org/

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Festival Mozaic Postpones 50th Anniversary Season to 2021
Festival Mozaic, an annual summer celebration of music for the past 49 years in San Luis Obispo County, has announced that its 50th Anniversary season, originally scheduled for July 18-August 1, 2020, will be postponed to July 17-31, 2021. The announcement was made by Festival Executive Director Lloyd Tanner.

"It is with the deepest regret that we must postpone Festival Mozaic's 2020 summer program, especially in the Festival's 50th Anniversary season," Tanner said. "After closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and in compliance with recommendations of state and county health organizations and civil authorities, we cannot in good faith continue to plan for our summer concerts and events. The health and safety of our musicians, audience members, staff, volunteers, vendors, hosts, and of San Luis Obispo County itself, are of utmost importance to all of us. We look forward to celebrating our 50th Anniversary Summer Festival in July 2021. We promise it will be worth the wait!"

--Lloyd Tanner, Executive Director, Festival Mozaic

Bang on a Can's Marathon 2020
Bang on a Can announces the hourly schedule for its ALL LIVE Bang on a Can Marathon on Sunday, May 3, 2020 from 3pm-9pm ET. The Marathon will be streamed online at marathon2020.bangonacan.org.

The Marathon features 26 LIVE performances from musicians' homes in NYC and around the country. The 2020 Bang on a Can Marathon will feature more than 40 participating artists, over two dozen solo performances, and four world premieres of newly commissioned works by Dai Wei, Shara Nova, Molly Joyce, and Ken Thomson. Guest composers will be online to introduce their works. The 6-hour live Marathon will be hosted by Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, who say:

"Bang on a Can means a lot of things to us. It means live performance in front of enthusiastic audiences, which none of us can really have right now. It means music-curious people rubbing elbows with each other, in packed concert halls, talking to each other about the role that music plays in their lives, which we can't have now either.  But it also means supporting a community of artists, commissioning new work from composers, providing live paid performance opportunities to amazing musicians, and introducing listeners worldwide to music that can change their lives. Those are things we can do now! And they are things we need now."

For complete information, visit www.bangonacan.org

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

YPC Joins Festival Napa Valley Remote Ensemble for Performance of "Va, pensiero"
Though Festival Napa Valley has postponed its 2020 season until 2021, all of the festival's scheduled artists, including the Young People's Chorus of New York City, as well as the community of festival artists from past seasons have joined forces in a virtual ensemble in a stirring performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Va, pensiero." With well over 100 artists from eight countries on five continents, this inspiring aria from Verdi's opera Nabucco has been synchronized into one collective performance under conductor Zach Salsburg-Frank. The artists are dedicating this performance to the essential workers whose heroic efforts safeguard our communities' health and safety.

Watch and listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHV9wLvNYxA

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

British Music for Viola and Orchestra (CD review)

Vaughan Williams: Suite for Viola and Orchestra (Group 1); Howells: Elegy; Walton: Viola Concerto; Bowen: Viola Concerto. Helen Callus, viola; string quartet comprising Mesa-Matti Leppanen and David Gilling, violin; Vyvyan Yendoll, viola; David Chickering, cello (principal players of NZSO); Marc Taddei, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.573876.

By Karl W. Nehring

Not only do viola players sometimes lament not having available to them nearly the noteworthy repertoire that composers have heaped upon their colleagues who play the violin and cello, they have to endure hearing knee-slappers such as: "Q: What do you call a violin player who does not practice enough? A: A prospective violist." No wonder that Nobel Prize Laureate Bob Dylan once nearly sang, "I pity the poor viola player, whose strength is spent in vain" and Mr. T once nearly observed, "I pity the fool who takes up the viola."

British-born violist Helen Callus, now a Professor of Viola at Northwestern University, is a virtuosa of that instrument whose playing on this CD should go far to enhance the reputation of the viola and demonstrate that there is some excellent if underappreciated viola repertoire that deserves wider hearing. This is a gorgeous disc from start to finish more than 78 minutes later.

The program opens with music by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), who wrote some truly memorable music spotlighting the viola, such as Flos Campi (well worth seeking out if you have not yet heard it). The music on this disc consists of the first three movements of his eight-movement Suite for Viola and Orchestra (1934). The opening Prelude features a fairly simple tune with the viola leading out, accompanied mainly by strings, with some nice writing for flute as the music wends it way though just over three minutes. The second movement, Carol, is slower and more pensive in temperament. The winds make an appearance to accompany the viola early on, with the flute stepping up toward the end to intertwine melodically with Callus's viola before the brief two minutes wind down to a quiet ending. The final Christmas Dance is even shorter, but features a boisterous dance tune that makes for a jolly, upbeat ending to the brief but entertaining set. 

Next up is a piece by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) that probably few music lovers have ever encountered, his Elegy (1917) for viola, string quartet, and string orchestra. Callus opens the music with a solo, mournful in mood – as you would expect for an elegy – and is then joined by the orchestral strings. She takes another wistful solo later, and then there is some more mournful music from the quartet before being rejoined by the fuller complement of strings. Some restless churning passages underpinned by the lower strings are then joined by the viola, with the quartet then following. The orchestra comes in very softly, Callus's viola sounds floating over them, as Elegy winds down to a thoughtful, quiet ending. Such a wonderful discovery it is to encounter music of such serene sublimity!

Helen Callas
Following Howells in order of birth is William Walton (1902-1983), a prolific British composer whose Viola Concerto was first composed in 1928-1929, revised in 1936-37, then revised yet again in 1961. Walton targeted the piece for viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis, who declined to play it because it sounded "too modern" for his sensibilities. None other than the composer Paul Hindemith (also a violist) then took up the score and gave the premier performance in 1929. Incidentally, Hindemith's own composition Der Schwanendreher (1935) for viola and orchestra stands today as one of the staples of the repertoire for violists. As played so persuasively by Callus and the NZSO under the direction of Maestro Taddei, it is hard to imagine this music being too modern for the sensibilities of all but the most hidebound listener today. As the slow opening unfolds, the sound of Callus's viola floats above the accompaniment of the orchestra. Continuing on, moments of energy are counterbalanced by moments of quiet introspection, with the sound of the viola at times being augmented by the woodwinds. Toward the end, the viola is joined by a violin, then a flute, until the movement ends with the sound of the viola. The second movement is more spirited and energetic, with more input from the brass section of the orchestra. Callus plays in the higher registers at first, later shifting downward and projecting a restless feeling, the music being punctuated by brass and drums. The third movement begins with something of a marchlike sound and cadence, morphing into more a dance-like feeling. As the movement continues, the musical energy ebbs and flows. Enthusiasm and reflection have their turns, ultimately winding down though some passages of deep tenderness, the piece ending in peaceful repose.

Some time ago I received a Tweet from noted Chicago-area violist Michael Hall suggesting that I might want to give a listen to the Viola Concerto of York Bowen (1884-1961), a composer who was entirely unknown to me. I did a quick search on my phone and found a version that I did a cursory listen to (it was one of those evenings when I had three or four things going on at once so I was not able to focus on the music). Because I had never heard of York Bowen, I assumed that he must be some contemporary composer, and for whatever reason got the idea he was from Australia. I decided I would like to listen to his concerto more seriously sometime but never quite got around to it. When I recently discovered a bag containing a few CDs I had purchased a long while back, you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I found that included, of all things, the Bowen piece. A further surprise was my discovery that rather than being a contemporary Australian composer, he was a British composer who was born in the 19th century (missed it by THAAT much)! 

At any rate, his Viola Concerto, which he completed in 1907, was also written for Lionel Tertis, who apparently found it more to his liking than the Walton, for he gave the piece its premier performance in 1908. A century later, Ms. Callus has given us a stirring performance that has been expertly recorded so that we can enjoy this beautiful, melodic music at our leisure. The first movement opens briskly, with the viola spinning rhapsodic strings of sound that are supplemented by other section of the orchestra as the movement unfolds. The opening theme is echoed later in the movement, which comes to an end with a lively flourish. The middle movement opens with the strings, then the winds, and then the viola makes its presence known. The mood is more serious and resolute, but melody still prevails, the movement ending with Callus playing most tenderly and tranquilly. The third and final movement is more swift and rhythmic. After an exuberant orchestral section that comes to a big climax, Callus spins out an extended solo that feels like a cadenza. The orchestra then returns, the viola picks up the energy, and the concerto comes to an end with a big, exuberant chord. Bravo and Brava!

The sound quality is excellent throughout, with a good sense of depth, no sense of harshness or glare, and a neutral tonal balance. There is not much low bass, but that is a function of the music, not the engineering. At more than 78 minutes in length, this CD offers wonderful value and I recommend it highly to those who love that beautiful British sound. Helen Callus is certainly not a violist who did not practice hard enough – she is a top-tier virtuosa of a wondrous instrument. All hail the mighty viola!

KWN

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

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral" (CD review

Also, Knecht: Le Portrait musical de la nature ou Grande Simphonie. Bernhard Forck, Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902425.

The premise of the album is that nothing is created in a vacuum.

It uses the example of one of classical music's most-beloved works, Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral." Did Beethoven's program music, a series of tone poems really, spring entirely from the composer's brain, or did someone else's previous work inspire him? What we know for sure is that Beethoven appreciated a piece of music called Le Portrait musical de la nature ou Grande Simphonie ("The Musical Portrait of Nature or Great Symphony"), written by the German composer and organist Justin Heinrich Knecht (1752-1817) nearly a quarter of a century before Beethoven wrote his Sixth.

A comparison of each composer's movement titles give an idea of how closely they match, at least in spirit:
Beethoven "Pastoral":
1. Awakening of cheerful feelings on arriving in the countryside.
2. Scene by the brook.
3. Merry gathering of countryfolk.
4. Thunder, storm.
5. Shepherds' song. Happy and thankful feelings after the storm.

Knecht: "Le Portrait musical de la Nature":
1. A beautiful landscape where the sun shines, the gentle zephyrs flutter, the streams flow across the valley, birds chirp, a mountain brook trickles babbling from above, the shepherd blows his pipe, the sheep gambol and the shepherdess sings in her sweet voice.
2. The sky suddenly begins to grow dark, all the country around struggles to breathe and takes fright, the black clouds mass, the winds begin to howl, the thunder rumbles from afar and the storm slowly approaches.
3. The storm, accompanied by rushing winds and driving rain, roars with its full force, the treetops rustle, and the waters of the torrent heave with a terrible noise.
4. The storm gradually subsides, the clouds scatter and the sky brightens.
5. Nature, transported by joy, raises its voice to heaven and renders fervent thanks to the Creator in sweet and pleasant songs.

Bernhard Forck
Surely, if Beethoven knew and admired Knecht's piece, the piece must have influenced him. The narratives, or story lines, of both symphonies contain enough similarities that it would be foolish to call it coincidence.

Whatever, maestro Bernhard Forck leads the period-instrument ensemble Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin (Academy for Early Music Berlin) in historically informed performances of the two works, the Knecht, being the earlier of the two, coming first on the disc. Whether or not you enjoy period bands or HIP practices, the pairing offers us new and valuable insights into the history of Beethoven's music.

So, first up is Knecht's Le Portrait musical de la nature ou Grande Simphonie, completed in 1785. It's a little hard for me to assess how well Forck and the Akademie interpret it because, frankly, I had never heard the work before. What I can say is that they play it in a most vivid and colorful manner, probably close to the composer's intentions and with a sweet disposition.

Forck adopts what seem to me fairly restrained tempos, the music moving along in stately, elegant, sometimes sedate but always amiable fashion. One can hear echoes almost immediately of Beethoven's later work, as well as elements of Haydn and Mozart. It is, after all, still a product of the Classical Period, so Forck keeps it within the later stages of the Age of Reason while still maintaining its delightful tone. And certainly the piece is enlightening for illuminating its influence on Beethoven. Of course, as charming as Knecht's music is, it hasn't the wealth of memorable tunes Beethoven devised, so I doubt that Disney will be including it in any future Fantasia III.

Then, there's Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, op. 68 "Pastoral," completed in 1808. Maestro Forck follows Beethoven's metronome markings, so expect it to be faster than a traditional reading. For myself, I no longer care whether a performance may or may not be exactly as the composer intended because I've heard too many recordings where the composer himself has led the orchestra in one of his own works yet I've enjoyed another conductor's interpretation more. The "Pastoral" symphony to me is one of bucolic beauty and frolic, and in my mind to follow Beethoven's markings strictly can sometimes upset the serenity of much of the piece. My preferences are no doubt based on the older, more traditional performances I've known for so long, like the recordings of Karl Bohm (DG), Bruno Walter (Sony), Fritz Reiner (RCA, JVC, HDTT), Otto Klemperer (EMI, Warner), and Eugene Jochum (Philips and EMI, Warner), to name a few.

But I digress. What about Forck's period-instrument performance? As I say, Forck adheres closely to Beethoven's tempo markings, coming within a second or two of Roger Norrington's historically informed performance with the London Classical Players (EMI/Warner). So, if you admire Norrington's reading, you'll find Forck about the same, and if you already have Norrington's recording, you may find the album of value mainly for the Knecht curiosity. But for the Beethoven alone, I'd have to say Forck's reading too rigidly adheres to the composer's metronome, sucking a lot of the life out of the piece and making it sound rather mechanical. There is little of the light, airy geniality the conductor put into the Knecht.

Rene Moller of Teldex Studio Berlin recorded the music in June 2019. The sonics have a nice cohesive sound, not entirely transparent but of a whole. Played too softly, it tends to appear muffled, but at a moderate level, one approximating a concert volume at mid hall, it can sound realistic enough. The timpani show up well, even though the dynamic impact is not always as strong as one might like. It's unobjectionable sound but not in the audiophile class of absolute clarity.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 18, 2020

Andrea Bocelli's Historic Performance of Hope

On an Easter Sunday 2020 like no other, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli gave the most extraordinary performance of his life. There was no audience present in Milan's iconic Duomo, but across the globe people tuned in to witness his emotional performance, streamed live via YouTube, uniting the world at a time when many are apart, being isolated at home.

This unique performance, offering an uplifting message of love, healing and hope through music, took place at the historic Duomo, the cathedral of Milan, Italy, by invitation of the City and of the cathedral, and thanks to the hospitality of the Archpriest and the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo.

Bocelli says of the event: "I will cherish the emotion of this unprecedented and profound experience, of this Holy Easter which this emergency has made painful, but at the same time even more fruitful, one that will stay among my dearest memories of all time. That feeling of being at the same time alone – as we all are in the presence of the Most High – yet of expressing the voice of the prayer of millions of voices, has deeply impressed and moved me. Love is a gift. Making it flow is the primary purpose of life itself. And I find myself once again indebted to life. My gratitude goes to all those who made this possible, the City of Milan and the Duomo, and to all those who accepted the invitation and joined in a planetary embrace, gathering that blessing from Heaven that gives us courage, trust, optimism, in the certainty of our faith."

Accompanied only by the cathedral organist, Emanuele Vianelli, Bocelli sung a carefully chosen selection of pieces, specially arranged for solo voice and organ for the occasion. This historic event reached over 2.8 million peak concurrent viewers, making it one of the biggest musical live stream performances of all-time and the largest simultaneous audience for a classical live stream in YouTube history. The video received more than 28 million views from across the globe in its first 24 hours.

To see and hear the performance, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huTUOek4LgU&feature=youtu.be

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Music on the Rebound and ICE Present "The World Wide Tuning Meditation"
April 11, 18, and 25 (newly added!), 2020 at 5pm EDT – Music on the Rebound and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) present "The World Wide Tuning Meditation."

IONE, Claire Chase, and Raquel Acevedo Klein lead a global performance of the late Pauline Oliveros's "The World Wide Tuning Meditation," a sonic gathering with a legacy of bringing communities together through meditative singing. Anyone from anywhere in the world is invited to join in via Zoom to sing together from their personal phone or computer. No music experience is necessary. The last performance on Saturday, April 25 will also be included in Basilica Hudson's 24-HOUR DRONE Sound and Music Festival, moved completely online with web-based programming in place of its previously scheduled weekend.

For more information, visit https://www.iceorg.org/

--International Contemporary Ensemble

Conductor Donato Cabrera Announces Two New Online Series
Donato Cabrera, Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic, has launched two new online projects. MusicWise - Conversations about Art and Culture with Donato Cabrera is a weekly series on Facebook Live and The Music Plays On is a daily series on Cabrera's blog, featuring commentary and analysis on his favorite performances and recordings. Both initiatives are part of the continued commitment by Cabrera, California Symphony, and Las Vegas Philharmonic to promote engagement and connection with their audiences.

Cabrera will host MusicWise on Tuesdays at 1pm PT on Facebook Live, featuring interviews with engaging artists and civic leaders who influence and shape the cultural landscape. With each guest, Cabrera will explore their background and upbringing, and how these touchstones influence their projects and initiatives, past and present. Guests will showcase and share their favorite performances and recordings, as well as responding to selected questions from the Facebook Live audience.

Upcoming guests include pianist Maria Radutu on April 14; timpanist David Herbert on April 21; composer Katherine Balch on April 28; violinist Alexi Kenney on May 5; and violist Gerhard Marschner on May 12. More information about each guest is below.

Follow Cabrera on Facebook to be notified when he goes live: www.facebook.com/donatocabrerapage

Daily Blog – The Music Plays On: www.donatocabrera.com

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Orli Shaham's "MidWeek Mozart"
Each Wednesday, Ms. Shaham brings you an exclusive: music from her forthcoming recording of Mozart sonatas.

Orli Shaham's "MidWeek Mozart" gives you exclusive access to a different movement of a Mozart piano sonata, available for a whole week, FREE! Get your weekly dose of Mozart each Wednesday, and enjoy it until the following Wednesday when it will be replaced by the next installment, at OrliShahamMozart.com.

Coming Wednesday, April 22: Sonata No. 3, K. 281, first movement.

Last summer pianist Orli Shaham recorded 12 of Mozart's pianos sonatas at historic Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. Volume 1, the first of a five-CD series of the complete Mozart piano sonatas, will be released later this year on Canary Classics.

For more information about Orli Shaham, visit https://www.orlishaham.com/

--Gail Wein, Classical Communications

Minnesota Orchestra Restructures Rest of 2019-20 Concert Season
The Minnesota Orchestra announced today the restructuring of its 2019-2020 concert season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Designed to delay all concerts until August 2020, the revised concert calendar reschedules numerous performances and cancels all others through June 15, 2020; postpones all Summer at Orchestra Hall 2020 concerts and activities until summer 2021; and includes five newly-added weeks of August and early September 2020 performances at Orchestra Hall to accommodate the rescheduled concerts, played during the period that is typically the break time between Minnesota Orchestra seasons.

Featuring the full Minnesota Orchestra and four Orchestra musicians as soloists, the August and early September performances will be led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto. The Orchestra had previously announced concert cancellations through April 28. All ticketholders are being notified directly of these changes and offered a variety of options around their tickets.

Visit www.minnesotarorchestra.org for further information and updates.

For a curated collection of musician at-home performances, Spotify playlists, educational resources and more, visit https://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/community-education/lifelong-learning/minnesota-orchestra-at-home

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

Minnesota Orchestra Announces 2020-21 Season Programming
Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra today announced plans for the ensemble's 2020-21 season, which runs from September 2020 to June 2021, and includes Classical, Holiday, Live at Orchestra Hall, Chamber Music, Music and Mindfulness, Young People's Concerts, and Sensory-Friendly and Relaxed Family Concerts.

"As we look to the 2020-21 season, it is music that gives us hope and that will bring us together to reflect, heal and celebrate," said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. "The communal concert experience has always been sacred to me, but in the season ahead it will have an extraordinary new meaning for us all."

For a chronological listing of all Minnesota Orchestra events for the 2020-21 season, see the Season Calendar here: https://minnesotaorchestra.org/images/pr/pdf/2020_21_Minnesota_Orchestra_Season_Calendar.pdf

Or view the Classical Season-At-A-Glance here: https://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/images/pr/pdf/2020_21_Minnesota_Orchestra_Season_At_a_Glance.pdf

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

Finding Missing Elements in Music
Music is not a cut-and-dried, II-V-I, perfect authentic, dominant seventh kind of thing, but a marvelous array of chords, functions, identities, and missing roots, etc., etc. The teacher and performer must be willing to change, to grow, and learn what it is to be a musician rather than just a performer of notes on the page.

Look and see for yourself; Issue #10: Missing Elements in Music: https://thepianoprofessor.com/2020/04/16/missing-elements-in-music/

--Ralph Hedges, the Piano Professor, Chopin Piano Academy

Bang on a Can Marathon 2020
Bang on a Can will present an ALL LIVE Bang on a Can Marathon on Sunday, May 3, 2020 from 3pm-9pm ET. The Marathon will be streamed online at marathon2020.bangonacan.org, featuring 26 LIVE performances from musicians' homes in NYC and around the country.

The concert begins with a performance by Meredith Monk at 3pm and concludes with a performance by Bang on a Can All-Star pianist Vicky Chow playing John Adams' China Gates. Additional highlights include Steve Reich's Vermont Counterpoint performed by flutist Claire Chase, performances by Vijay Iyer, Maya Beiser, Shara Nova, Nathalie Joachim, and many more. The 6-hour live Marathon will be hosted by Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, who say:

Bang on a Can means a lot of things to us.  It means live performance in front of enthusiastic audiences, which none of us can really have right now.  It means music-curious people rubbing elbows with each other, in packed concert halls, talking to each other about the role that music plays in their lives, which we can't have now either.  But it also means supporting a community of artists, commissioning new work from composers, providing live paid performance opportunities to amazing musicians, and introducing listeners worldwide to music that can change their lives.  Those are things we can do now!  And they are things we need now.

--Maggie Stapeton, Jensen Artists

Classical Streaming This Week: Apr. 21-26
Tuesday, April 21 at 4:00 p.m. PT:
James Conlon at Home podcast continues via LA Opera
Click here: https://soundcloud.com/laopera

Wednesday, April 22 – Tuesday, May 5:
The Gilmore presents Virtually Gilmore streaming series
Click here: https://www.youtube.com/c/GilFest or https://www.thegilmore.org/

Wednesday, April 22 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera presents "They Are Waiting Below" from Tobias Picker's Emmeline, sung by mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore and soprano Madison Leonard, with pianist Justin Williams
Click here: https://tulsaopera.com/

Thursday, April 23 at 2:00 p.m. ET:
Michael Tilson Thomas and New World Symphony's Archive+
Click here: https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Thursday, April 23 at 2:00 p.m. ET:
Shai Wosner featured on Live with Carnegie Hall
Click here: https://www.carnegiehall.org/Explore/Watch-and-Listen/Live-with-Carnegie-Hall

Friday, April 24 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera presents Maryanne Aria from Tobias Picker's Emmeline, sung by soprano Madison Leonard with pianist Tobias Picker
Click here: https://tulsaopera.com/

Friday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
New World Symphony's NWS Fellows: Live from our Living Room
Click here: https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Saturday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh continues "Alone Together" series
Click here: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferkohviolin/

Minnesota Orchestra at Home
Click here: https://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/community-education/lifelong-learning/minnesota-orchestra-at-home

--Shuman Associates

Los Angeles Master Chorale Launches Digital Series & Virtual Gala
The Los Angeles Master Chorale has created two new digital series–Sundays at Seven and Offstage–to share the beautiful and inspiring power of choral music with virtual audiences as Angelenos continue to observe stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Featuring both music and conversation, each of the series offers a welcome opportunity to connect through music during this unprecedented period of self-isolation.

Additionally, the Master Chorale's GALA 2020, originally scheduled to take place at the Hollywood Palladium on April 18th, 2020 and cancelled due to COVID-19, will be held as a virtual event on the same date. As planned, the virtual gala will honor the creative achievements of composer, jazz pianist, and five-time Grammy Award winner Billy Childs and the extraordinary philanthropy of the women of The Blue Ribbon. GALA 2020 will feature a silent auction with one-of-a-kind items and performances by Childs, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, welcome messages from Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Artistic Director, and Jean Davidson, President and CEO, and an inspiring message from Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Eric Whitacre.

GALA 2020
Silent auction
Bidding runs from Wednesday, April 15th to Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Virtual gala program
Saturday, April 18, 12 p.m.
The virtual gala may be accessed April 18 at https://lamasterchorale.org/gala-2020

Sundays at Seven
Weekly series airing at 7 p.m.
Begins Sunday, April 19

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

--Lisa Bellamore, LA Master Chorale

Moeran: Violin Concerto (CD Review)

Also, Lonely Waters; Whythorne's Shadow; Cello Concerto. Lydia Mordkovitch, violin; Raphael Wallfisch, cello; Vernon Handley, Ulster Orchestra; Norman Del Mar, Bournemouth Sinfonietta (Cello Concerto). Chandos Classics CHAN 10168 X.

By Karl W. Nehring

As I write this review, I am, like many music lovers worldwide, hunkered down at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With plenty of time on my hands, I have listened to a great deal of music. Actually, that is something I did before the lockdown, but now I find myself listening with more focus and attention – and gratitude – than before. In this stressful time, music has been a source not just of entertainment, but also of comfort and consolation. This recording of four pastoral works by Moeran, which has been on heavy rotation in my home listening systems lately, has been an especially significant source of both musical satisfaction and emotional sustainment.

Ernest John Moeran (1894-1950) was an English composer with Irish roots who had great affection for nature and folk melodies. If you like me are a fan of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, especially his more pastoral-sounding works, then you really ought to look into the music of Moeran. His catalog is not extensive, but includes some wonderful music that deserves to be more widely performed and recorded (there is a review of his Symphony in G minor and Sinfonietta in the Classical Candor archive). This Chandos recording presents four works that display his gift for crafting melodies that stimulate the ear while soothing the soul.

The program opens with his Violin Concerto, featuring violinist Lydia Mordkovitch (1944-2014) and the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley (1930-2008). According to the liner notes, Moeran started the piece in 1937, but did not complete it until 1942, when it was given its first performance at the Proms by its dedicatee, Arthur Catterall (1883-1943), one of the best-known English violinists of his time.

The concerto is in the usual three movements, marked respectively Allegro moderato, Rondo Vivace – Alla valse burlesca, and Lento. The first movement opens quietly and tenderly, immediately establishing a pastoral, ruminative mood. The orchestral accompaniment is generally spare throughout, with the main focus being on the soloist.

Vernon Handley
To my ears, the violin seemed to be given a bit too much prominence in the mix, and the massed strings seemed to have just a wee bit of edge (something that seems to occur on many Chandos orchestral recordings from the 1980s when these performances were originally recorded) but given the generally quiet nature of this movement, that is not a significant problem. Another minor sonic quibble is that there does not seem to be as much sense of depth to the soundstage as would be ideal, although the stereo spread is excellent. Returning to musical considerations, Mordkovitch has some lovely solos, with the emphasis of her playing being more on tender expression rather than virtuosic display. The second movement exhibits more energy, with brass and percussion playing a more prominent role. There is a dancelike feeling at times to the music, which is lively and enjoyable. The closing Lento starts off slowly and dreamily, sliding into some tuneful passages -- and even a solo -- for clarinet before Mordkovitch’s violin reclaims the spotlight. Later, as the movement begins to wind down, the clarinet reappears, then fades as the violin once again takes over the lead. This is a beautiful concerto that deserves wider performance and recognition.

Lonely Waters is dedicated to Vaughan Williams, and lovers of RVW’s pastoral works (e.g., Symphony No. 3, In the Fen County, The Lark Ascending) will swoon over this delightful tone poem. Listeners can close their eyes and summon images of gently rippling water, birds enjoying a summer morning, and wispy trees lining the banks. There are some striking passages for horns, made all the more impressive by the sound quality, which just feels warmer and more natural than in the Violin Concerto, with excellent depth this time around.

Whythorne’s Shadow starts off a with dancelike lilt at a lively pace. As the music continues, a more pastoral sound emerges, followed a return to the dance rhythms and some enjoyable melodies from the concertmaster’s violin. The sound quality is at the same level as the previous track, which is very good overall.

The final composition on this release, Moeran’s Cello Concerto, is performed by English cellist Raphael Wallfisch (b.1953) and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta under the direction of Norman del Mar (1919-1994). As in the Violin Concerto, Moeran lays out the work in the traditional three movements. The opening movement, marked Moderato, is for the most part quiet and reflective, with Wallfisch playing more in the lower registers. The way the cello is recorded sounds more naturally integrated with the orchestra than was the case for the violin in the Violin Concerto. The middle movement, marked Adagio, is sweetly expressive, with smaller forces backing the cello. Wallfisch spins out a thoughtful solo toward the end of this movement, and then without pause the final movement begins, marked Allegretto deciso, all marcia. It enters with a theme that sounds like a folk tune, the cello interacting with various sections of the orchestra but never in an overtly virtuosic display. The piece ends with a flourish, bringing the program to an end.


Presenting four satisfying compositions that combine for more than 78 minutes of music and including usefully informative liner notes, this Chandos release makes a persuasive case for more widespread appreciation of the music of a composer who has been largely overlooked on this side of the Atlantic. Oh, and by the way, to make this CD even more attractive, it is available at a budget price. What’s not to like?


KWN

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

Bach: Harpsichord Concertos (CD review)

Francesco Corti, harpsichord; Il Pomo d'Oro. Pentatone PTC 5186 837.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1665-1750) wrote eight concertos for harpsichord, the final one unfinished. On this present album, harpsichordist and conductor Francesco Corti and the period-instrument ensemble Il Pomo d'Oro offer four of those concertos: Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 7. They make a commendable team performing commendable material.

First, who is Francesco Corti? From his Web page, "Mr. Corti was born in Arezzo, Italy, in a musical family in 1984. He studied organ in Perugia, then harpsichord in Geneva and in Amsterdam. He was awarded at the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig (2006) and at the Bruges Harpsichord Competition (2007). As a soloist, he has appeared in recitals and concerts all over Europe, in the USA, in Latin America and in New Zealand. Since 2015 he conducts regularly Les Musiciens du Louvre, and since September 2016, he is professor of harpsichord and thorough bass at the Schola Cantorum Basilensis."

Second, who are Il Pomo d'Oro? From their Web page, "The ensemble Il Pomo d'Oro was founded in 2012. It is characterized by an authentic, dynamic interpretation of operas and instrumental works from the Baroque and Classical period. The musicians are all well-known specialists and are among the best in the field of historical performance practice. The ensemble so far worked with the conductors Riccardo Minasi, Maxim Emelyanychev, Stefano Montanari, George Petrou, Enrico Onofri, and Francesco Corti."

Third, what are Bach's harpsichord concertos all about? From Wikipedia we learn that the exact dates of composition for the eight concertos remain uncertain, the first of them perhaps transcribed from an earlier organ concerto. Bach originally intended them "as a set of six, shown in the manuscript in Bach's traditional manner beginning with 'J.J.' (Jesu juva, 'Jesus, help') and ending with 'Finis. S. D. Gl.' (Soli Deo Gloria). Aside from the Brandenburg Concertos, it is the only such collection of concertos in Bach's oeuvre, and it is the only set of concertos from his Leipzig years (1723-44)." What's more, musical historians generally agree that Bach's harpsichord concertos are the first concertos written specifically for the harpsichord. So, whether you like them or not, they have some musical significance.

Francesco Corti
Finally, how well do Corti and Il Pomo d'Oro handle the concertos? I'm not an expert, but I'd say from my listening that they do as well with them as anybody. One of the big secrets to the success of any performance of these concertos is making each one stand out on its own terms. After all, there are not so many obvious differences among the harpsichord concertos as there are, say among the six Brandenburg Concertos, so the performers must be on their guard against complacency. In this regard, they succeed. There is nothing complacent about Corti's playing or Il Pomo d'Oro.

In fact, Corti has studied these scores for quite some time and thoroughly researched their history. As a stickler for historic accuracy, he probably plays them as Bach might have wanted. Again, whether that delights you or bores you is a purely subjective matter. I found their music making exhilarating.

Why "exhilarating"? Well, you have to remember that Corti and his accompanying ensemble are all versed in historical instrument practice, meaning that, depending on your interpretation, quick or slow. They tend to take the opening and closing Allegros lickety-split. These are offset with some fairly light, leisurely central movements, giving the concertos plenty of character but perhaps not always to the satisfaction of the listener used to more traditional performances. Regardless, it's hard not to respond positively to the zesty tempos and graceful contours of Corti's performances and the uniformly virtuosic playing of everyone involved.

Incidentally, if No. 7 in G Minor sounds familiar, it should. Bach based it on his own Violin Concerto in A Minor. What's more, he probably intended it to be the first concerto in a set of six but apparently changed his mind about the whole thing.

Executive producers Renaud Loranger, Gesine Lubben, and Giulio d'Alessio and recording producer Jean-Daniel Noir made the album at the Gustav Mahler Hall, Kulturzentrum, Toblach in March 2019. Unlike many of Pentatone's releases, which have been in multichannel SACD, this one is in standard two-channel stereo PCM only, with no mention of SACD anywhere.

The sound is exceptionally clean, with good definition, body, and detail. My only "however" is that it seems fairly one-dimensional. That is, while there is ample space around the instruments, they all appear to be in a straight line across the speakers. Nevertheless, the harpsichord is well integrated into the ensemble, neither too far out front nor buried within the other instruments, although it does sound a bit wider than it should. Still, as I say, not bad.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 11, 2020

Academy Students Reign at Crain-Maling Competition

Continuing its history of success at the prestigious Crain-Maling Foundation CSO Young Artists Competition, the Music Institute of Chicago's Academy for gifted pre-college musicians took three of the four finalist positions, with violinist Isabella Brown (17, Gurnee, Illinois) taking first place. Academy finalists also included violinist Esme Arias-Kim (14, Hoffman Estates, Illinois), who was the first alternate, and cellist Mia Wimbiscus (16, Wilmette, Illinois).

This is the second time Academy students have claimed three of the four finalist positions in this competition; in 2017, the three Academy students were violinist Maya Anjali Buchanan, who took first place; violinist Joshua Brown, who was first alternate; and violinist Thompson Wang. Academy students have consistently placed—and often won—this competition in each year of string and piano performers (alternate years feature percussion and wind instruments), placing first in 2018, 2017, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2009, and 2008.

Other recent Academy competition successes include:
Violinist Noelle Naito (17, Elkridge, Maryland) won the William C. Byrd Young Artist Competition, an international competition that takes place at the Flint (Michigan) Institute of Music. Violinist Katya Moeller (15, Coralville, Iowa) took second place in the LaCrosse Rising Stars Competition. Esme Arias-Kim won the Fox Valley Youth Concerto Competition. At the MYA (Midwest Young Arts) National Chamber Music Competition, the Insieme Piano Trio—violinist/violist Sonya Jones (15, Chicago, Illinois), violinist/violist Abigail Park (16, Northbrook, Illinois), and pianist Ashley Kim (16, Wilmette, Illinois)—were the Overall and Open Strings Winners.

You can read more about Academy student achievements here: https://www.musicinst.org/student-achievements

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Post Memorial Tribute to Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki
JoAnn Falletta joins the Buffalo Philharmonic and the entire international music community in mourning the loss of Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki. JoAnn says "The extraordinary composer and conductor became an unforgettable part of my personal musical history when he came to conduct the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017 in works by Beethoven, Dvorak and the premiere performance of his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello. Maestro Penderecki welcomed me and the Buffalo Philharmonic to Poland in 2018 for a performance in Warsaw as part of his Beethoven Easter Festival, where we had the pleasure of marking his 85th birthday. Maestro Penderecki's influence on the music of our time and the music of the future is profound, and I will always cherish my personal relationship with him." --JoAnn Falletta

Maestro Falletta and the musicians of the BPO feel a profound loss at Maestro Penderecki's passing and wanted to share this personal memorial tribute to the Maestro, from the BPO's very recent performance of the Adagio from Mahler's Tenth Symphony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7zMAIkUgyw&feature=youtu.be

--Genevieve Spielberg, Inc.

World-Renowned Maestro Joins UNO School of Music
The College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media at the University of Nebraska, Omaha (UNO) is pleased to announced the appointment of Miguel Harth-Bedoya as Director of Orchestral Studies, beginning in August, 2020.

Harth-Bedoya will be charged with expanding and directing the orchestra program in the School of Music at the Strauss Performing Arts Center. His vision includes the creation of a brand new Bachelor of Music program in orchestral conducting, which is currently lacking at the undergraduate level in the United States.

--Brandon Bartling, UNO Media Relations

New Century Announces Cancellation of May Performances
Following recommendations from the San Francisco Department of Public Health to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), New Century Chamber Orchestra announced today the cancellation of its May 13 through 17 "Music of the Spheres" performances. Cancellations include previously scheduled concerts at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford (May 13); First Congregational Church, Berkeley (May 14); Herbst Theatre, San Francisco (May 16); and Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael (May 17). These events will not be rescheduled.

The following options are available to all subscribers and single ticket holders that have already purchased tickets to these performances.

Donate your ticket(s) and receive a tax deduction for the total value.
Receive a full refund for the total value of your existing ticket(s).

Ticket holders can make alternative arrangements by visiting http://www.ncco.org and submitting requests via the online form. For questions or concerns, please call (415) 357-1111 ext. 303 or email tickets@ncco.org.

--Brenden Guy Media

Andrea Bocelli "Music For Hope" Easter Sunday Concert
On Easter Sunday (April 12, 2020), Italian tenor and global music icon Andrea Bocelli will give a solo performance at the historic Duomo, the cathedral of Milan, Italy, by invitation of the City and of the cathedral, and thanks to the hospitality of the Archpriest and the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo.

"On the day on which we celebrate the trust in a life that triumphs, I'm honored and happy to answer 'Sì' to the invitation of the City and the Duomo of Milan." This is how Andrea Bocelli said 'yes' to the City of Milan in this dark time that has wounded all of Italy.

There will be no audience present, and strictly no access for the public (in compliance with government regulations on Covid-19), but the concert will be exclusively streamed live globally on the tenor's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huTUOek4LgU&feature=youtu.be from 6pm UK time, 10am PST, 1pm EST, uniting the world in the face of a global pandemic.

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Richmond Symphony Names Valentina Peleggi as New Music Director
In the midst of this difficult time, the Richmond Symphony is pleased to share some very good news.

We are proud to announce the appointment of award-winning Italian conductor Valentina Peleggi as our next Music Director. Peleggi will begin her role on July 1, 2020, for an initial four-year period conducting at least ten weeks a season, making Peleggi our sixth Music Director, and first woman in that leadership role.

Peleggi's engagement comes after a two year search to replace former Music Director Steven Smith, who stepped down at the end of the 2018-19 season after a distinguished decade of service. The Search Committee, comprised of symphony musicians and board members, unanimously selected Peleggi after she spent two weeks with the Symphony in early March, garnering overwhelming support from the orchestra. Programmed repertoire included works by Respighi, Rossini, Clara Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and Joan Tower.

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

Looking to the Future with American Bach Soloists
ABS's May 2020 concert set, "Sweet Harmony," has been canceled in the interest and safety of our musicians and patrons, and in consideration of the uncertainty of the potential for our shelter-in-place being extended past our concert dates and the continued indefinite closures of some of our performance venues.

We are deeply grateful to our musicians for the preparations they have already made for the "Sweet Harmony" concerts, and we know that we will gather to make great music again soon, but for now, we must continue to make difficult but responsible decisions that best support the ABS community as we continue to endure the pandemic and its effect on the whole world.

If you hold tickets for this concert set, you should have already received an e-mail with your options; if not, please contact info@americanbach.org.

Over the past many months, our staff and musicians have been planning one of the most exciting ABS Summer Festivals in ABS's history.

The 2020 Festival is scheduled to open on Sunday July 26th, and we—like everyone—hope that by then our daily lives will have been opened up again to the rich experiences that music can bring to us. There's definitely a lot to get excited about!

Be well and stay well, from all of us at ABS: americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

"Broadcast from Home": A New Participatory Musical Work from Lisa Bielawa
Composer, vocalist, and producer Lisa Bielawa announces "Broadcast from Home," her new musical work that creates community during the isolation of the coronavirus crisis. Bielawa is asking the public at large to submit testimonies about their own experience of this crisis. Testimonies can be submitted in writing or as recorded spoken word at her website, www.lisabielawa.com/broadcast-from-home. Throughout our period of isolation, Bielawa will be selecting testimonies to set to music which she will compose in response to the text. The public will also be invited to perform Bielawa's music, and the project will eventually culminate in a series of 20- to 30-minute participatory musical performances for an unlimited number of singers and instruments.

"Broadcast from Home" will be a significant musical work that memorializes the unique shared journey on which we find ourselves during this challenging time. The piece will be created through an energizing and participatory artistic process and will be consciously designed for performance under the varying degrees of social distancing that we may find ourselves in in coming months – virtually, in-person but socially distant outdoors or inside, or in large public gatherings once again.

"At the time of this writing (March 28, 2020) world events are at a particularly volatile point," Lisa Bielawa explains. "At this moment our communities share sudden uncertainty and vulnerability in the face of unprecedented challenges in public health, interconnectivity and community, and economic infrastructure. It is not clear to what extent and when people will be able to gather to share community through participatory events. It is also not clear to what degree and for how long various communities will be suffering from the isolation of lock-down, social distancing and quarantine. People's need for community is a constant, and the architecture of Broadcast from Home is designed to effect communal healing in changing circumstances."

Testimonies can be submitted now at www.lisabielawa.net/broadcast-from-home.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Opera Maine Presents a New Web Series
Opera Maine has launched a virtual behind-the-scenes program, Opera in ME. Hosted by baritone Robert Mellon, this weekly online series posted every Tuesday at 5 p.m. introduces audiences to different aspects of opera from unique perspectives. This free series is designed to bring original, educational, and entertaining content to a diverse online audience and promote the mission of Maine's only professional opera company.

The first installment, released on April 7, recounted highlights from Mellon's decade-long career with Opera Maine. The second installment will explore how theatrical projections enhanced last season's The Magic Flute, and will feature Dona D. Vaughn, Artistic Director, and Alex Koch, projection designer. In future sessions, performers, theater professionals, and other special guests will offer insights into a variety of topics related to opera. Many episodes will include archival video clips from Opera Maine productions.

Join Opera Maine every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Opera Maine's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpM0Oy92xtf-a5Wpa4v2f8A), Opera Maine's Facebook page, Opera Maine's Twitter feed, or at www.operamaine.org.

--Kristen Levesque, Public Relations

Heartbeat Opera Produces a Thrilling Communal Music Video
In the midst of this painful and confusing time, Heartbeat Opera has made something beautiful for the world and for its family of artists—a testament to how music can bring people together and spark joy. The Heartbeat family thought immediately of "Make Our Garden Grow," the stirring finale of Bernstein's Candide, which was also the song Heartbeat chose to conclude its 2019 Drag Extravaganza Hot Mama. The song is about making "sense of life." Richard Wilbur's timeless lyrics are:

"We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good;
We'll do the best we know.
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow."

More than 30 Heartbeat alumni—singers, dancers, instrumentalists, and a gardener—participated in this virtual performance.

"Making this video has been a wonderful way to reconnect with friends, and sharing it has been our modest way of responding to this crisis with love and resilience. We hope you enjoy watching it, and we hope you'll share it with your loved ones far and wide," says the Heartbeat team.

Watch "Make Our Garden Grow" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbJTfFcxi48&feature=youtu.be

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

LA Master Chorale Cancels May Concert Due to Extended Stay-at-Home Order
In response to Los Angeles County's extension of the stay-at-home order through at least May 15, and out of an abundance of caution for the community, the Los Angeles Master Chorale has canceled its concert "Come Away to the Skies: A Celebration of Alice Parker," which was scheduled to take place on May 17 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale puts the safety and health of its patrons, artists, staff, visitors, and supporters before anything else, and recognizes the responsibility we all have to socially distance ourselves and avoid public gatherings of any size. As a resident company of The Music Center, the Master Chorale looks forward to the re-opening of the campus, and coming together once again to share and enjoy the healing power of music.

In the absence of being able to experience live performances during the pandemic, the Los Angeles Master Chorale will soon launch two new digital series to keep the music alive while Angelenos observe the current quarantine. Please visit https://lamasterchorale.org/ for news and updates.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Salastina's Virtual Happy Hours and Performance Videos
Chamber ensemble Salastina's Artistic Directors Kevin Kumar and Maia Jasper White have created several musical offerings for virtual audiences to connect with each other and the ensemble during the COVID-19 pandemic. Salastina developed these initiatives after surveying their audience about what they would most like to experience. Like Salastina's regular season programming, each program takes an inquisitive approach towards beloved classics and new works.

Weekly on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m., Salastina will host a virtual happy hour featuring the ensemble's resident artists and special guests.

Virtual Happy Hours: https://www.salastina.org/concerts

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to classicalcandor@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa