Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Also, King Christian II (suite). Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Alpha-Classics ALPHA 574.

Despite Santtu-Matias Rouvali's youthful appearance, he was born in 1985, has been the Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra since 2017, and with the 2021-22 season will be the Principal Conductor of London's Philharmonia Orchestra. He is a man of obvious talents.

Here, Maestro Rouvali leads his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in what is perhaps the most popular of the seven symphonies by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). As you know, he wrote his Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 between 1899 and 1901 and premiered it in 1902. Although the public quickly dubbed it his "Symphony of Independence" (from Russia), there was some debate as to whether the composer actually intended any symbolic significance in the piece. Be that as it may, it ends in a gloriously victorious finale that surely evokes a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.

The piece begins in a generally sunny style, then builds to a powerful a climax, with a flock of heroic fanfares thrown in for good measure. The composer wrote it in Italy, where he hoped to find sunshine and relaxation. The weather may have been unusually cold for that part of the country at the time, but he managed a fairly bright, sunny opening statement.

The second movement Sibelius marked as an Andante (moderately slow) and ma rubato (with a flexible tempo) to allow conductors more personal expression. The movement starts with a distant drumroll, followed by a pizzicato section for cellos and basses. Sibelius makes the third movement a scherzo, marking it Vivacissimo. It's a movement that provides a dazzling display of orchestral pyrotechnics, interrupted from time to time by a slower, more melancholy theme. The whole thing should bounce around from an admirable liveliness to a more pastoral theme, then a stormy midsection, and a tranquil conclusion. Then, the final movement bursts forth in explosive radiance--both thrilling and patriotic, the movement gliding directly from the third into the fourth without interruption.

Santtu-Matias Rouvali
So how does Maestro Rouvali handle all this? About the way he's pictured on the album's cover, giving it his best Mick Jagger impression. Although things seem a little quicker throughout than from most other conductors, he never appears too rushed. Everything unfolds with a smooth, flowing gait, rising to electrified climaxes in some places and remaining on solidly bucolic ground at others. From its sweet, folksy opening to its riveting conclusion, the symphony under Rouvali takes on a cohesive structure that binds all four movements together more so we usually hear.

Rouvali does especially well with that volatile third movement, which leaps about from fiery to rustic to tranquil. Instead of the usual starts and stops, Rouvali shapes it into a unified whole, one that moves along without much distraction yet still keeps the listener pinned to the spot. It's quite stirring, even if his transition into the final movement could have been more exhilarating. Here, Rouvali chooses to become more serious than overtly patriotic, showing us this is more than just an athletic workout but a thoughtful and substantial interpretation.

And how does Rouvali compare to other favored conductors of mine in the work: Barbirolli (Chesky, EMI, or HDTT), Monteux (HDTT), Szell (Philips), Karajan (EMI), Kletzki (Hi-Q), C. Davis (RCA), Sondergard (Linn), or Vanska (BIS)? Rouvali is right in there and must be added to the recommended list. Maybe he loses a little something in overall nuance next to Barbirolli, but it's close when you consider what Rouvali makes up for sheer color, spark, and adrenaline.

As a coupling, Rouvali gives us the suite from Sibelius's music for the stage play King Christian II. It may not be as familiar to most listeners as the symphony, yet Rouvali gives it a hefty zest that makes it near irresistible. As I said at the outset, Rouvali is a conductor of obvious talent and one we should be hearing from for many years to come.

Producer Jens Braun and engineer Lars Nisson recorded the music at Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden in June 2019. The sound is nicely balanced top to bottom, with a mild room resonance that provides a good sense of place. Detail and definition remain clear despite the gentle hall ambience present. Left-to-right stereo spread is not overdone and appears realistic, while front-to-back perspective is impressive. The bass reaches down acceptably, too, and the highs are fairly extended. Finally, we get a modest but not overly pronounced dynamic response throughout. It's good sound reproduction for a good performance.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 30, 2020

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Announces 2020-2021 Season

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has announced programming for its 2020-21 season with three concerts presented by the organization in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall and two concerts presented by the 92nd Street Y, as well as touring engagements throughout the United States. Orpheus collaborates this season with an innovative group of soloists including soprano Karen Slack, guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and pianist Fazil Say at Carnegie Hall, and Angela Hewitt and Christian Tetzlaff at 92Y, in addition to Alessio Bax on tour.

In announcing the 2020-21 season, Executive Director Alexander Scheirle expresses, "As the response to COVID-19 continues, we acknowledge that our concert schedule may change, and that our own lives are just as unpredictable. But we can make this promise: we'll be here when the concert halls open. We'll be here when the ushers start scanning tickets. We'll be here, ready with our music for healing, connecting, and celebrating. And we look forward to sharing that moment with our fans."

Ticket Information:
Subscriptions and flexible Orpheus Passes are available at orpheusnyc.org or by calling (212) 896-1704. Single tickets for Carnegie Hall concerts can be purchased at carnegiehall.org or by calling CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, beginning mid-August. 92Y single tickets can be purchased at 92Y.org or by calling (212) 415-5500.

For more information about Orpheus, visit www.OrpheusNYC.org.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Conductor Donato Cabrera Announces May 24 Online Performance
Donato Cabrera, Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic, announces new events to connect with audiences and communities during the ongoing period of isolation due to the coronavirus crisis. The California Symphony presents a special online presentation with Alexi Kenney and Cabrera and the Las Vegas Philharmonic announces weekly encore performances on Nevada Public Radio.

On Sunday, May 24, 2020 at 4pm PT, the California Symphony presents an online premiere featuring new recordings by violinist Alexi Kenney from his home in Palo Alto, plus interviews with Cabrera in San Francisco. Kenney's program features music by Piazzolla, Joe Hisaishi, Du Yun, Clara Schumann, Joni Mitchell, Schubert, Geminiani, Hildegard von Bingen, and J.S. Bach. This special presentation is available to those who donate to the California Symphony in any amount, as well as 2019/20 California Symphony subscribers and ticket holders. The performance link will be live after the premiere for encore listening through May 31, 2020. More information and how to donate is available at www.californiasymphony.org/shows/online-alexi-kenney.

The Las Vegas Philharmonic and Cabrera will be featured weekly on Nevada Public Radio through August 22, 2020. The LVP has partnered with Nevada Public Radio for the fifth consecutive year to broadcast a collection of memorable performances from the past five seasons plus two special broadcasts of music from the current 2019-20 season on Classical 89.7 FM Saturdays at 2pm, starting May 16. The broadcasts will also stream live online at www.knpr.org/classical-897-kcnv.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Welcome to Mozaic Memories
Welcome to the first edition of Mozaic Memories, a series of video presentations looking back on great performances from the past. In this first edition our Music Director Scott Yoo looks back to July 2017 when he performed Ralph Vaughan Williams's Piano Quintet in C minor.

Though this is not a replacement for live performances, we want you to know that we are thinking of you and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Watch now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeA-WTCtbLo&feature=youtu.be&linkNum=1&campaignID=379243&patronID=1149543962&memberID=0f7e312e9448e6fed7cbc52ad891b3d9

--Festival Mozaic

SF Girls Chorus Announces Virtual Festival
San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) announces its first-ever virtual festival featuring SFGC's Premier Ensemble in four events to be live streamed online throughout the month of June.

The festival opens Friday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m. with a never-before-seen broadcast of the February 2020 program "Rightfully Ours," a fully-staged choral music and dance co-production with Berkeley Ballet Theater (BBT). The second live stream event will be presented on Saturday, June 13 at 12:00 p.m. and features Henry Purcell's complete "Dido and Aeneas," a co-production with Voices of Music and the San Francisco Early Music Society recorded live in June 2018 as part of the 2018 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. The festival continues on Saturday, June 20 at 7:00 p.m. with "Songs from the Archipelago" and features a special live performance preview of a scene from "Tomorrow's Memories," an SFGC-commissioned choral-opera by American composer Matthew Welch. This performance replaces the previously scheduled June 16 Herbst Theatre performance now canceled due to the public health crisis.

The virtual festival concludes on Friday, June 26 at 7:00 a.m. with a re-broadcast by Medici TV of SFGC's February 2018 Carnegie Hall debut performance with Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble featuring the composer's groundbreaking 1970 work "Music with Changing Parts." All virtual events will be streamed on SFGC's YouTube Channel.

For more information, visit http://www.sfgirlschorus.org

--Brenden Guy PR

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of June 1-7)
Monday, June 1 as of 12:00 p.m. ET
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 7: Basel Rajoub
Wednesday, June 3 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 8: Raphaël Jouan
Saturday, June 6 at 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 8: Lee Knight
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Monday, June 1 at 6:30 p.m. PT:
Pre-broadcast talk with Shai Wosner, Christopher Cerrone, and Phoenix Symphony Music Director Tito Muñoz
https://kbaq.org/

Tuesday, June 2 as of 1:00 p.m. PT:
James Conlon discusses Beaumarchais and The Ghosts of Versailles on LA Opera James Conlon at Home podcast
https://soundcloud.com/laopera

Thursday, June 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET:
James Conlon conducts Puccini's Tosca in Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Encore Broadcast
https://www.metopera.org/

Friday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. CT:
Minnesota Orchestra's Sound Check: Episode 4 with special guests Kathy Kienzle (Principal Harp) and Michael Gast (Principal Horn)
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/tickets/calendar/eventdetail/1724/-/mpr-broadcast-vaenskae-conducts-paulus-mass

Friday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
New World Symphony's NWS Fellows: Live from our Living Room
https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Saturday, June 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh's Alone Together series continues with new works by Du Yun, Shayna Dunkelman, George Lewis, and Lester St Louis
(re-scheduled from May 30)
https://www.facebook.com/jenniferkohviolin/

--Shuman Associates

Young People's Chorus of NYC Presents "Forward Together"
On Thursday, June 11, at 7:00 p.m. (EDT) the Young People's Chorus of New York City under the direction of Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez will present a digital spring concert, "Forward Together." Driven by its commitment to meet where the children are and move forward together to create an authentic and artistic expression, YPC's annual spring concert will proceed as a special digital viewing event that features favorite works from the season, plus several world premieres.

You will find the concert here: https://ypc.org/

--Young People's Chorus of NYC

Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart
This week pianist Orli Shaham brings us the second movement of Sonata No.16 in C Major, K. 545 with her MidWeek Mozart. Available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, May 27.

Visit https://orlishahammozart.com/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Tabea Debus Receives CAG's Innovation Award
Concert Artists Guild has a long history of supporting innovative artists and is excited to continue this tradition with the Richard S. Weinert Award for Innovation in Classical Music. Open to CAG roster artists and alumni, this $5,000 award is given annually to an artist or ensemble with an outstanding proposal for a distinctive project. CAG is indebted to President Emeritus Richard S. Weinert for his service to CAG since 2000 and is proud to offer this award in honor of him.

The 2020 award will go to Tabea Debus (recorder), a 2019 CAG Competition laureate, to launch the creation of an interactive animated-story-game for children. The animated game will be used in live and online educational settings to introduce contemporary classical works through reflexive storytelling, encouraging interaction between new music, narrative decision-making, and music education.

For more information, visit http://www.concertartists.org/

--Timothy Mar, Concert Artists Guild

Pianist Igor Levit to Give 20-Hour, Live-streamed Performance
To raise awareness for the plight of artists worldwide amidst the coronavirus pandemic, pianist and 2018 Gilmore Artist Igor Levit gives a 20-hour, live-streamed, marathon performance transcending geographical borders and time zones. On Saturday, May 30 at 8:00 a.m. ET, from the b-sharp Studio in Berlin, he performs one of music history's longest compositions, Erik Satie's Vexations, which lasts approximately 20 hours. To support this project, Mr. Levit draws upon the $300,000 awarded to him two years ago as a Gilmore Artist.

Watch here: youtu.be/zqQS_HTunCY
For more information, visit igor-levit.com

--Shuman Associates

Catch Schwalbe Artists Online
Boston Baroque
Boston Baroque Live kicked off with Handel's Agrippina with bass-baritone Douglas Williams and will release full-length opera productions and concerts of choral and orchestral works, all accessible at baroque.boston/live

Alana Youssefian, Violin
Bach's Chaconne from Trinity Wall Street Candlelight Baroque series. Watch at Comfort at One: https://cdnapisec.kaltura.com/index.php/extwidget/preview/partner_id/1872661/uiconf_id/29880861/entry_id/1_hu2ci7xy/embed/dynamic

Vivaldi's Concerto in D Major RV 212 "St. Antonio" from House of Time, September 2019 Violinfest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l21_9KKy1Pg&feature=youtu.be

Fontana's Sonata Seconda with Voices of Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kkpqJkYmms&feature=youtu.be

Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in E Minor, RV 273 with Ars Lyrica Houston: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcoC5GX_xHQ&feature=youtu.be

Paul Agnew, Musical Co-Director
Les Arts Florissants 2020 Festival de Printemps (Spring Festival): Virtual Vivaldi: https://www.arts-florissants.com/main/en_GB/home-page/news/nbsp-lsquo-les-arts-florissants-d-eacute-partement-de-la-vend-eacute-e-rsquo-nbsp-festival-de-printe.html

Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in harmonia mundi Concert Halls at Home series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYUGVnfwDcE&feature=youtu.be

Baroque Odyssey concert at Philharmonie de Paris with the students of The Juilliard School: https://live.philharmoniedeparis.fr/concert/1106247/odyssee-baroque-les-arts-florissants-william-christie-paul.html?jwsource=cl

Thomas Cooley, Tenor
"Waft her, Angels, through the skies" from Handel's Jephtha with Voices of Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M4rS8v_3lk&feature=youtu.be

Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni with Orkest van de Achttiende Eeuw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT2at6FQSCQ&feature=youtu.be&t=3430

Laurence Cummings, Music Director
Laurence Cummings directs the Orquestra Barroca Casa da Musica and soloists in Pergolesi's Stabat Mater: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=241222900528622

Dominique Labelle and Meg Bragle
Pergolesi's Stabat Mater is featured as one of Voices of Music's Fundraiser videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-FKk_J91LU&feature=youtu.be

Marc Molomot, Tenor
Title role in Rameau's Pygmalion. Watch full performance at On Site Opera Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj4ZMzrvI9w&feature=youtu.be

Nicholas McGegan, Music Director
#PBOReflects — weekly series of archival releases brought to you by Nic McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra: https://philharmonia.org/pboreflects/

Sherezade Panthaki, Soprano
Sherezade sings some of her favorite 17th-century English songs by Dowland and Purcell while accompanying herself on the piano in Maine Public Radio's Tiny Screen concert: https://www.mainepublic.org/post/sherezade-panthaki-tiny-screen-concert

Douglas Williams, Bass-Baritone
First up in Opera Atelier's Together/Apart - a virtual showcase of music and dance featuring 14 of the company's longstanding and audience-favourite artists from around the globe. Watch on Opera Atelier's website: https://www.operaatelier.com/season-and-tickets/2020-2021-season/together-apart-opera-atelier

--Schwalbe and Partners

Russian Cello Sonatas (CD review)

Rachmaninov: Sonata in G minor, Op. 19; Vocalise, Op. 34/14; Prokofiev: Sonata in C, Op. 119. Hee-Young Lim, cello; Nathalia Milstein, piano. Sony Classical S807497C (80358118497).

By Karl W. Nehring

One of the fascinating features of classical music is how international it has become. Although long dominated by Europeans, Western classical music has spread around the globe in terms of both composers and performers. As evidence of that internationalization, what we have here is a recording of music by a pair of Russian composers performed by a Korean cellist who trained in the USA, Germany, and France (and is now a Professor of Cello at the Beijing Central Conservatory) and a French pianist who trained in Switzerland and Germany. Adding to the international flair of this release, the liner booklet (itself printed in Korea, the recording sessions having taken place in Germany) displays the first Sony recording by Ms. Lim -- French cello concertos in conjunction with the London Symphony Orchestra led by an American conductor who was born in Japan and is music director of the Mexico City Philharmonic. "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of music…"

I don't think I would be offending anyone by remarking that Russian music tends to be colorful and imbued with passion. Examples that quickly spring to mind are the symphonies of Tchaikovsky, the tone poems of Rismsky-Korsoakov, and the ballets of Stravinsky. Or perhaps we might think of Rachmaninov's Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 or Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. These examples are all large-scale symphonic efforts, but what we have here in this recording are much smaller-scale compositions that are nonetheless colorful and passionate.

The cello is an instrument with great expressive potential, as is, of course, the piano (technically a percussion instrument but capable of profoundly lyrical expression), and both Rachmaninov and Prokofiev are true masters of emotion in music. Cellist Hee-Young Lim (b. 1987) says of the program she has chosen for this recording, "I love how each one of these pieces shows a sense of resilience and unapologetically commits to owning this."

The emotional dimension of this repertoire is evident from the opening measures of the Cello Sonata in g minor by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), which the composer wrote in 1901 after successfully recovering from the creative depression he had suffered in the wake of the unsuccessful debut of his Piano Concerto No. 1. That same year, he also completed his most popular work, the Piano Concerto No. 2. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that a striking characteristic of the sonata is the prominence given to the piano. Lim recalls that her interest in the piece "came late in my studies because I always thought that, despite the beautiful melodies, it was the 'Fifth Piano Concerto' accompanied by the cello. I wished we had as many notes as the piano had! However, I now truly enjoy playing this sonata, which represents great chamber music by Rachmaninov."

Hee-Young Lim and Nathalia Milstein
Indeed, pianist Nathalia Milstein (b. 1995) from the outset plays much more than a mere supporting role. The opening is slow but dramatic, the piano playing expressive, soon joined by the cello with a truly singing quality. I scrawled in my listening notes for this first movement "piano plays lots of notes… singing quality to cello… really does sound at times like a piano concerto… but that's OK, beautiful music for both players." The second movement has a more agitated mood, often underpinned by a galloping sound from the piano. The cello sounds calmer, but overall there is still a sense of motion. A lyrical interlude led by the cello is followed by a climax about four minutes in. The music then reverts to the agitated feeling of the opening, with the piano taking much of the lead and the cello singing along. As you might expect, the following third movement opens more softly and reflectively, with the piano in the lead, followed by the cello echoing the same melody. As the movement continues, there is more soloing by the piano. Toward the end of this short movement, there is an intense passage with both instruments singing away, but then the intensity diminishes as the movement ends quietly, the last note on the cello lingering in the air. The fourth and final movement parallels the opening movement in its scope and intensity. Once again, the piano is assigned a prominent role while the cello plays lyrically and lovingly. The overall impression made by this sonata can be characterized as sounding something like a piano concerto for reduced forces, or better yet, just simply acknowledge it as a truly grand sonata for cello and piano. In any event, it is a beautifully dramatic composition that is played for all it is worth by these two remarkable musicians.

Although the Cello Sonata in C of 1948 by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1963) is smaller in scale than the Rachmaninov (on this recording, the former's three movements are timed at 11:30, 5:03, and 8:47  while the latter's four movements are timed at 13:03, 6:40, 6:05, and 11:11), it packs no less a musical and emotional wallop. Cellist Lim remarks of this sonata that "it has greater range for the cello [compared to the Rachmaninov], with more technical variety. I like the fact that it has a lot of fantasy, like a fairy tale. I feel I'm telling a story."

The opening movement begins with the cello playing in its lower registers, soon joined by the piano, this time playing more percussively than in the Rachmaninov. Moving on, the cello introduces a different theme in a higher register, followed by some plucking accompaniment as the piano takes over the lead for a spell. At about four minutes in, there is a more agitated new melody, followed by some more lyrical lines. As the movement comes to its close, the cello engages in some highly energetic "fiddling," but the movement ends quietly. The second movement at times seems to have the rhythmic feel of a children's song, but its most striking feature -- at least to these ears -- is the incorporation of a musical phrase that sounds for all the world as though Prokofiev lifted it from the American minstrel song, "Dixie." Although it does not play a major role in the movement, to hear a musical phrase from "Dixie" in the midst of a Russian cello sonata is quite an ear-opening experience. The third and final movement begins with plenty of gusto, fast and driving, with plenty of energy from both players. There is a transition to a slower melody about halfway through, but then it is back to increased energy as the sonata heads down the home stretch. Brava! This is a truly engaging piece of music that I wish I had discovered long ago.

The final piece is one that I – and doubtless many other music lovers -- did in fact discover many years ago (although probably not in this particular arrangement), Rachmaninov's Vocalise, originally scored for soprano and orchestra.  Lim writes of this piece, "given that it's a song without words, it's an ideal piece for cello, as the cello is so similar to the human voice. I feel somehow deeply linked to this song, I love its emotional intimacy and passion." To their great credit, Lim and Milstein let Rachmaniov's music speak for itself. There is no sense of exaggerated emotionalism or expressive overload in their playing. This music is expressive as written and does not need extra secret sauce to be poured on by the performers. The end result of their relatively straightforward but nonetheless committed approach is enjoyable and moving. Although this arrangement makes me realize that I would prefer to hear the orchestral version instead (there is a sonically resplendent version sung by Syliva McNair with David Zinman conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on a vintage Telarc CD that also includes a terrific rendition of his Symphony No. 2), that by no means diminishes the pleasure to be found in this scaled-down version, which also sings straight from and to the heart.

For chamber music fans who love melody and emotional depth, I highly recommend this release. And for those just discovering classical music who have not yet delved into the chamber music repertoire, this well-produced and well-engineered release would make an excellent introduction.

KWN

To listen to an excerpt from this album, click below:
 

Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos (CD review)

Stewart Goodyear, piano; Andrew Constantine, BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Orchid Classics ORC100127.

If you have been a regular reader of Classical Candor, you may have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating: When approaching the purchase of a complete cycle of concertos, symphonies, sonatas, what-have-you, it's always best to find individual recordings by individual artists rather than try to find a single set that serves all needs. This certainly applies to Beethoven's five piano concertos, where even if a person did want a single set of all five pieces, that person would face the dilemma that practically every great pianist of the stereo age has already done one. These artists include Andsnes, Arrau, Ashkenazy, Ax, Barenboim, Brendel, De Larrocha, Fleisher, Giles, Guida, Katchen, Kempff, Kissin, Kovacevich, Perahia, Pollini, Rubinstein, Schiff, Serkin, Tan, Uchida, Weissenberg, Zacharias, Zimerman, and others I can't even remember. It's heady competition.

Nevertheless, nothing will stop musicians young and old from attempting to do everything; it's sort of a rite of passage or something. Nor does it mean there will be anything wrong with any of these sets, and that applies to this new set from Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, accompanied by Andrew Constantine and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Goodyear is a fine musician, and the set does display some impressive things.

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 are Beethoven light, so to speak, still showing the earmarks of Mozart and Haydn in their style and execution. They sound more blithe, more carefree, than the composer's later concertos. Beethoven wrote the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, in 1795, premiered it with himself as soloist, and then revised it slightly in 1800. He published the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19 in 1795 as well, but he had been working on it since around 1787.

Anyway, Goodyear handles these early works with his usual dexterity, employed with an exceptionally gentle yet sprightly touch. You'll find more forceful presentation elsewhere, though. Goodyear can exhibit all the virtuosity of the best pianists, but he never puts it on display for its own sake. In other words, he doesn't show off, choosing instead always to place the music above himself. Moreover, under Goodyear the sweetness of the slow movements is matchless. Interestingly, Goodyear tells us in a booklet note that Beethoven's piano concertos are "pursuits of unbridled joy." I say "interestingly" because while I found his performances joyful certainly, I wouldn't exactly call it an "unbridled joy." He seems a little too reserved for that. To me, his readings sound more like a sweetly restrained joy.

Stewart Goodyear
Piano Concerto No. 3 is a kind of transitional concerto, not quite in the league of Nos. 4 and 5 but clearly on a road away from Mozart and Haydn. Beethoven premiered it in 1803 along with his Second Symphony, with himself again as the concerto's soloist. Here, we get into the more dramatic, more Romantic Beethoven that we all know and love. The piano enters after a rather long-winded introduction, so it needs to be strong and energetic. Goodyear accomplishes this, if in a fairly straightforward way. The thing about Goodyear is that his playing is never fussy; everything is there for a purpose, with no frills. This works especially well in the slow, introspective Largo, where Goodyear equals anyone in his nuance and subtlety.

Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5 are not only the most mature of Beethoven's piano concertos, they are also the most popular, with No. 5 "Emperor" taking its place among the most epic and important concertos in the genre. Beethoven finished the Fourth in 1806 and premiered it in 1807 during a private concert along with his Fourth Symphony. Its first public concert came the next year in a monumental concert along with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Choral Fantasy. It would also be Beethoven's last public appearance as a soloist. The piano enters immediately, Goodyear taking the entrance with his accustomed reticence and gradually building an intimate rapport with the orchestra until they become almost as one. The delicacy of this progressive, unhurried union is quite the best feature of the performance.

Beethoven wrote the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 between 1809-1810 and published it in 1811. The opening of the concerto should have a grand and imposing presence, which Maestro Constantine pulls off moderately well, yet when Goodyear's piano enters the pianist still seems a touch too reluctant to let loose. Nonetheless, he maintains a reasonably noble demeanor, and his virtuosity is never in question. The playing just seems a little too reserved for my taste, too plain to shake my allegiance to other performers in this work. The slow movement, though, is beautifully done, hushed, tranquil, and transcendent in the manner of a Chopin to come; and the finale is appropriately joyous.

Bottom line: Goodyear's set is a sturdy, unmannered choice, particularly if you already like Goodyear's style and playing or if you simply want to sample everything out there. Regardless, if you're looking for the best all-around set, performance and sound, I'd continue to recommend Stephen Kovacevich with Sir Colin Davis on Philips. It's almost in a world of its own.

Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Simon Eadon recorded the concertos at Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales in September, 2018. The sound is much the same as previous recordings in Hoddinott Hall, meaning it appears in a realistic setting, with a mild ambient bloom and more of an emphasis on realistic concert hall reproduction than on absolute clarity and transparency. The piano sound is a bit wide, but the overall result is pleasurable from the classical-music listener's point of view, even if it might not be material you'd want to use to show off your brand-new stereo system to an audiophile friend.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, May 23, 2020

Heartbeat Opera Announces On-Line Extension of Lady M

Heartbeat Opera "is leading the charge in online opera" (Parterre, 5/12/20) and extends its Lady M soirées on Zoom after selling out the first eighteen. Fourteen more have been added from May 27-June 6.

Lady M is an online fantasia of Verdi's Macbeth through the eyes of Lady Macbeth, opera's, most thrilling anti-heroine. Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwpYvHtPGVc

New dates:
Wednesday, May 27 at 2pm & 8pm
Thursday, May 28 at 7pm & 9pm
Friday, May 29 at 2pm & 8pm
Saturday, May 30 at 8pm
Wednesday, June 3 at 2pm & 8pm
Thursday, June 4 at 7pm & 9pm
Friday, June 5 at 2pm & 8pm
Saturday, June 6 at 8pm

Each intimate 60-minute soirée includes a welcome toast, live performances by two cast members (on a rotating schedule), screenings of a new behind-the-scenes documentary, a music video of Lady M's Sleepwalking Scene, and Q&A.

Tickets:
$30 per household; $10 for students
Comps for those experiencing financial hardship during this crisis

For complete information, visit heartbeatopera.org/lady-m

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Ling Ling Huang Plays Bach
This week features Ling Ling Huang playing a beautiful version of Bach's Sonata No. 3 in C Major on a rooftop in Brooklyn. We hope you enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhX_Fc1zLXg&feature=youtu.be

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing "Meditations" by more than a dozen other EXO musicians. This allows us to do our own small part to keep musicians employed during this time of no live performances. And we want to invite you to help us create beauty for the world around us.  If you are interested in helping us commission music from these great performers, please visit our donate page. Partial underwriting for these recordings and video projects begins at $75.

If you can renew your support of EXO at your annual giving level for these and future projects, that will be very welcome: https://experientialorchestra.com/donate

--James Blachly, Music Director, Experiential Orchestra

Spotlight on British Composer Richard Blackford
As part of her COVID-19 Solo Sessions, the saxophonist Amy Dickson speaks to composer Richard Blackford and performs his new work, "A Season of Stillness," which reflects his feelings during lockdown and the global crisis. In a short interview before this premier performance, Richard reflects how some people have found the silence and stillness extraordinarily beautiful while others have found it lonely, threatening and unnerving.

"The first thing I noticed was when the planes stopped flying, the birds were singing in a different way and much louder. It has given us a new awareness of the natural world that we never normally hear. It has brought us a new awareness and an extraordinary stillness."

Nimbus hopes to publish and release a recording of A Season of Stillness later this year. Until we can get back in the studio you can enjoy this wonderful performance at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGAK0WluaTQ

--Nimbus Records

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Announces the Cancellation of 2020 Classical Season
Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) have announced the cancellation of its 2020 season, for the first time in its 53 year history. This includes SPAC's summer resident companies New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as "Not Our First Goat Rodeo" featuring Yo-Yo Ma, and "SPAC on Stage." SPAC along with its board of directors made the decision to suspend its programming this summer in recognition of the continued threat to health and safety caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking to the future, SPAC also announces an initiative to donate 2021 performance tickets to first responders and health care workers for every ticketholder that converts a minimum of $25 of their 2020 ticket cost to a tax-deductible donation.

Visit https://www.livenationentertainment.com/ticketrefund/

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Sharon Isbin to Perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony on KRCB Radio
Multiple Grammy-Award winner Sharon Isbin will be featured performing Villa Lobos's Guitar Concerto with the Santa Rosa Symphony on KRCB Radio Sunday, May 24 at 3 pm.

The November 2018 broadcast will also feature Kodály's Dances of Galánta, Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1, and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Show host Steve Mencher will discuss the program with Isbin and Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong.  Tune in to KRCB FM Radio 91, on their mobile app, and streaming via their website: https://norcalpublicmedia.org/

The music will be archived for a full month.

--Genevieve Spielberg Artists

David Hyde Pierce, Jamie Barton, and Anthony Roth Costanzo Headline "Opera Jukebox" Benefit
Audience will vote for their favorite selections to be streamed Saturday, May 30, at 7pm ET.

"The great mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade once observed that music is 'the art form closest to prayer,'" said Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce. "Our world could use some good prayers right now and the Artist Relief Tree is helping ensure that those prayers keep getting sung."

On Saturday, May 30, Pierce will emcee an Artist Relief Tree (ART) benefit, joined by seven world-class opera singers for Opera Jukebox, an innovative and interactive concert streaming on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artistrelieftree/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGhMD5-JRzx06eJd940Nx7w
And the ART website: https://artistrelieftree.com/

--Beth Stewart, Verismo Communications

Pianist Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart
Each Wednesday, Ms. Shaham brings you an exclusive: music from her forthcoming recording of Mozart sonatas. This week: Mozart's Sonata No. 16, K. 545, 1st movement.

Visit Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart here: https://orlishahammozart.com/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Honors Commitment to Summer 2020
Today, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts announced that it would honor its financial commitments to all musicians scheduled to perform during the 2020 season, whether or not the concerts are canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The series is the oldest continuous, free, outdoor, Western classical music concert series in the world and has been held in New York's Central Park every summer since 1905.

"Our series is based on a foundation of deep respect and admiration for the skill and talent of professional musicians," said Christopher W. London, President of the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. "At a time when the country's performing artists are experiencing unprecedented financial hardship, and thousands upon thousands of public performances have been canceled, our board felt strongly that we needed to show our genuine support for the musical community."

For further information, visit www.naumburgconcerts.org

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Bang on a Can Marathon, June 14 - Live Online from 3pm-9pm ET
Bang on a Can will present its second Bang on a Can Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, June 14, 2020 from 3-9pm ET. The first six-hour online Marathon on May 3, 2020 featured 25 live performances and was viewed by over 22,000 people around the world. The upcoming June 14 Marathon will expand the geography and include 25 live performances with musicians connecting from around the USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Scotland, Italy, Ireland, and Japan, plus ten world premieres of newly commissioned works. Bang on a Can plans to continue these Marathons periodically, streaming online at marathon2020.bangonacan.org, until live performances can resume.

The concert begins with a performance by Rhiannon Giddens at 3pm, live from Ireland, and concludes with a performance by Terry Riley, live from Japan. Additional highlights include performances by Roscoe Mitchell, Nico Muhly, Conrad Tao, Pamela Z, and many more. Guest composers and performers will join for conversations in between performances with Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe.

For complete information, visit www.bangonacan.org.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of May 25-31)
Monday, May 25 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 4: Andrea Piccioni
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Monday, May 25 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera's "Staying Alive" series continues with soprano Keely Futterer singing Richard Strauss's "Zueignung"
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

Tuesday, May 26 as of 1:00 p.m. PT:
James Conlon discusses Beaumarchais and The Ghosts of Versailles on LA Opera James Conlon at Home podcast
https://soundcloud.com/laopera

Wednesday, May 27 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 5: Xuefei Yang
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Wednesday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera presents tenor Humberto Borboa performing Dvorák's "Als die alte Mutter sang"
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

Friday, May 29 at 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 6: Wu Wei
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Friday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera concludes its week with mezzo-soprano Kristee Haney in a selection from Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

Friday, May 29 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
New World Symphony's NWS Fellows: Live from our Living Room
https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Saturday, May 30 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh's Alone Together series continues with new works by Du Yun, Shayna Dunkelman, George Lewis, and Lester St Louis
https://www.facebook.com/jenniferkohviolin/

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

--Shuman Associates

Music Institute Launches "Indoor Voices"
In a salute to the legacy of Nichols Concert Hall (NCH), its highly regarded concert venue, the Music Institute of Chicago presents "Indoor Voices," a free series of weekly musical visits with musicians who have performed at NCH, including guest artists, faculty, and alumni.

Each "Indoor Voices" episode, hosted by the Music Institute's Director of Performance Activities Fiona Queen, will debut on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. and last about 30 minutes.

June 5: internationally acclaimed pianist Sergei Babayan, a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive artist who has performed at prestigious venues with the world's leading orchestras.
June 12: jazz vocalist and Music Institute Artist-in-Residence Tammy McCann and jazz vibraphonist, composer, and bandleader Joe Locke.
June 19: award-winning violist and Music Institute Academy alumnus Matthew Lipman.
June 26: pianist and Music Institute faculty member Abraham Stokman.

For more information, visit musicinst.org

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Los Angeles Master Chorale's High School Choir Festival Goes Virtual
For over 30 years, the Los Angeles Master Chorale has created a mega choir of 1,000 high school singers who, after a year of preparation, came together to perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall for its annual High School Choir Festival, one of the longest running continuous educations programs in Southern California. In the absence of being able to gather in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Master Chorale has created a special virtual version of the festival, to be held online on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at 1 p.m. at https://lamasterchorale.org/high-school-choir-festival.

The Virtual High School Choir Festival (VHSCF) will feature favorite moments of recent festivals, curated by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, Associate Conductor Jenny Wong and Director of Education Lesili Beard. Highlights will include the "Purple Rain" tribute to Prince that blew the roof off Disney Hall in 2016; Bill Withers's "Lean on Me" from 2019; student interviews; testimonials of gratitude from high school seniors and shout outs from former festival guest conductors. The festival will culminate in a virtual performance of participants singing "The Promise of Light," by Georgia Stitt, lyrics by Len Schiff. Hundreds of voice and video recordings were submitted by festival participants to create a powerful moment of celebration that encourages hope amidst an environment of isolation and uncertainty.

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/high-school-choir-festival

--Lisa Bellamore, Los Angeles Master Chorale

West Edge Festival: Postponed until 2021
General Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner have announced that West Edge Opera will postpone its annual summer festival until the 2021 season. Their productions of Katya Kabanova, Eliogabalo, and Elizabeth Cree, originally scheduled for July 25th through August 9th, 2020, will instead be presented starting July 24th of 2021.

"We are disappointed, but not devastated" reports Streshinsky. "New research has shown that it is nearly impossible to rehearse an opera with the level of safety and confidence we would need to feel comfortable. We had been holding out hope for a sharp reduction in cases or a medical breakthrough, but none of that seems to be happening in time."

For more information and a full statement issued to the public, visit the West Edge Website at:
http://www.westedgeopera.org/articles/2020/5/20/statement2020

--West Edge Opera

Cyrillus Kreek: The Suspended Harp of Babel (CD Review)

Jaan-Eik Tulve, Vox Clamantis; Instrumental preludes and interludes by Marco and Angela Ambrosini (nyckelharpa) and Anna-Lüsa Eller (kennel). ECM New Series ECM 2620.

By Karl W. Nehring

There are times when I sit down at the keyboard to write a review and feel simply inadequate. It is not that I undervalue my writing skill (although I do not claim to be a particularly great writer, t have been doing it reasonably well for what now seems to be an unreasonably long time) or that the subject of my review seems especially difficult to address (I have plenty of notes on this recording from which to draw upon). No, I simply feel inadequate. I just do not feel as if I can adequately -- much less fully -- express how beautiful this recording is. But in the noble spirit of that stirring admonition, "Duty, Honor, Classical Candor," I will do my bumbling best.

First, though, a bit of background on Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962), who was an Estonian composer whose original given name was Karl Ustav Kreek, but for some reason unfathomable to me he changed his name to Cyrillus Kreek. Because Estonia was at the time part of the Russian Empire, Kreek pursued his study of music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he started studying trombone but switched to composition. After graduating in 1918, he began teaching music while continuing his quest to capture the folk music of his native Estonia. According to the liner notes, by the time he died in 1962, he had notated nearly 1,300 songs, both sacred and secular, and made choral arrangements for about 75% of them, providing a rich inventory of music for Estonian choirs, including the country's foremost small vocal ensemble, Vox Clamantis.

The liner notes go on to explain that "this recording includes four of the self-standing psalms Kreek set over the years between 1914 and 1944, including three from 1923 (104 and141 as well as the opening 121) and one from 1938 (137). These are also the four that, together with two other sacred pieces, he arranged for orchestra as Musica sacra in 1943 -- a year in which he produced several such orchestrations of music based on folk material, to be broadcast to an Estonia occupied by Nazi forces." The remaining selections on this recording include some other folk hymns by Kreek as well as some short fantasias composed by Marco Ambrosini based on musical ideas from Kreek's arrangements. Indeed, the striking instrumental accompaniment and interludes provided by the nyckelharpa and kannel (more explanation below of these unfamiliar instruments) are vital elements contributing to the sublime beauty of this recording.

Jaan-Eik Tulve
Although as with just about any good music this recording can bring pleasure when heard semi-seriously or even casually, to gain full measure of its beauty it really needs to be listened to seriously, in s setting free of distractions both audible and visual, paying some reasonable measure of attention to loudspeaker placement and such. And please, I am not advocating audiophile-grade levels of fussiness, just some more than casual but less than fanatical attention to the listening environment conducive to rewarding sonic satisfaction and musical appreciation for what Kreek, the performers, and the engineers have wrought.

The opening measures of the opening cut, "The Sun Shall Not Smite Thee," clearly and immediately establish the musical and sonic beauty of this recording. The soaring women's voices fill a clearly defined acoustic space, a space soon to be filled by men's voices that provide an echo from a more earthly plane. As the program proceeds, the instrumentalists provide interludes as well as occasional accompaniment to the choir. The nyckelharpas are usually bowed, but sometimes plucked, while the kannel shows its versatility by sometimes sounding much like a harp, at other times something like a harpsichord.

The music on this recording often sounds devotional in nature, but a good portion is firmly based on folk themes, as in the third track, "Jacob's  Dream / Proemial Psalm (from 'Orthodox Vespers')," which begins with a solo female voice accompanied by the kannel, then undergirded by a male voice in recitation, with the whole chorus finally taking over for the closing minutes. Tracks 6 ("Awake, My Heart") and 7 ("Praise the Name of the Lord [from 'Orthodox Vespers'])" also manifest a variety of sonic textures and musical styles, the former beginning with a brief nyckelharpa introduction, then some solo female voice, then some folk-based instrumental passages, some singing by the whole chorus, more instrumental passages, the return of the solo female vocal, then the whole chorus, the nyckelharpa, and then the program transitions to a more devotional tone taken up by the chorus in the latter track.

The interplay of different textures and styles continues as the program proceeds, but the collection does not sound like a random grab bag. Kreek's music seems to have a perspective based on what I would take to be a reverence for both heavenly and earthly realms. His devotional music is rooted in the actual devotion of real people, resulting in music meant to be sung by an earthly chorus rather than by a choir of angels, while his folk-based music elevates these tunes by creating musical lines that sound comfortably at home when performed in sanctified spaces.

As the album continues on towards its close, that sense of music filling a sanctified space is gloriously evoked in  track 11, "By the Rivers of Babylon," performed by male chorus. The music produced by these singers sounds pure and holy from the highest voices down to the bass, their "alleluias" seeming capable of touching the souls of believers and nonbelievers alike, whether perceived as praises to the divine or musical manifestations of the sublime. Following this intense experience, the next track, "The Last Dance," is performed by the Ambrosinis on their two nyckelharpas, weaving simple melodies that offer listeners a chance to unwind a bit from the intensity off the previous track before moving on to the album's final track, "O Jesus, Thy Pain / Dame, Vostre Doulz Viaire," which combines music by Kreek with music from the 14th-century French composer Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377). The track begins with a woman singing a folk hymn ("O Jesus…") arranged by Kreek, followed by the kannel playing the melody of Machaut's "Dame…" The nyckelharpas then enter, first joining the kannel in the Machaut, then providing instrumental underpinning as the music shifts back to the solo female voice singing the hymn. The three instruments then take the spotlight again as they return to the Machaut, this time in an arrangement by Marco Ambrosini. The music of Kreek returns, first with female voices, then joined by male voices as Kreek works in polyphony that the liner notes point out stem from an old German chorale that Bach had used in his St. Matthew Passion. Although this summary might seem to describe quite a musical mishmash, the music hangs together and provides a memorable finish to the album.

Concerning the unusual instruments that add an extra measure of color to the sound, the kannel is essentially an Estonian zither, with metal strings that are plucked with both hands. The basic design is thought to go back more than a thousand years, with more strings being added over time, the modern version able to cover nearly four octaves. As to the nyckelharpa, it is a Scandinavian instrument that is essentially a keyed fiddle. It has bowed strings and resonant strings, producing a rich sound. Crazily enough, just across the creek on the other side of the farm field across the road from my home lives a genial gentleman who actually makes nyckelharpas. For more information about this fascinating instrument, you can navigate to www.cloudninemusical.com.

As I said at the outset, the net effect of the music, the performance, and the recorded sound combine to make The Suspended Harp of Babel an indescribably beautiful release. The informative liner notes and lyrics translated into English add to the overall quality of the production.

KWN

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

Sawyers: Symphony No. 4 (CD review)

Also, Hommage to Kandinsky. Kenneth Woods, BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Nimbus Alliance NI 6405.

It may seem to the casual observer that conductor Kenneth Woods is championing mainly lesser-known modern composers in his recordings. This is probably because Maestro Woods really is championing lesser-known modern composers in his recordings. Hans Gal, Christopher Gunning, John Joubert, Ernst Krenek, David Matthews, and Philip Sawyers are not exactly household names except among the most-dedicated classical music enthusiasts. Yet these are some of the people Woods has been recording. Am I complaining? Certainly not, because these composers have one thing in common: They all write real music instead of random noise, and I think Woods appreciates that, as we should.

This time out, we have British composer Philip Sawyers (b. 1951) and his latest symphony, No. 4, written in 2018, conducted by Woods leading the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. I had the pleasure of reviewing Woods's previous two recordings of works by Sawyers, the Symphony No. 3 and the Violin Concerto, and enjoyed them both. So there was no reason for me to dislike the Symphony No. 4. It may not be Beethoven, but it beats a lot of what passes for music these days.

Sawyers wrote his Fourth Symphony in only three movements, which is right away a bit untraditional. Yet most of the music is squarely in a traditional or conventional vein. In fact, Sawyers has admitted that his music was "distinctly out of fashion" for much of the twentieth century. It's no surprise; he still appears to believe in things like melody, tonality, harmony, and rhythm, things that have largely gone out of favor in much modern music. So, why three movements? Sawyers says that by the time he finished the third movement, he had nothing more to say. Fair enough; quit while you're ahead.

Kenneth Woods
The first movement is dramatic and serene by turns. Certainly, the drama starts with the opening notes, which would have made Beethoven proud. It goes on with a whole series of contrasting outbursts, which Maestro Woods seems to relish. While it's all fairly dark in mood, even during its calmer stretches, it keeps the listener on his toes, wondering what's coming next. By the time the movement finishes, it appears downright combative, as Woods himself admits in the booklet notes.

The second movement is a scherzo, as though we needed more commotion. Yet it's light and playful, as most good scherzos are. The composer calls it "a quicksilver affair," and it surely sounds mercurial and impulsive. But it's also the most delightful section of the piece, with Woods unafraid to extract all the color he can from it.

The final movement is the most rhapsodic of the lot, its melodies the most pronounced and emphatic. It's a slow Adagio that begins as a kind of funeral march, moves on to more robust themes, and dissolves into a tranquil vein, with a resplendent final outburst. Memorable? Perhaps not, but only time will tell. Fun? Entertaining? Meaningful in the moment? To be sure.

The accompanying work is titled Hommage to Kandinsky, which Sawyers calls "a symphonic poem for orchestra," written as a commission from the Grand Rapids Symphony in 2014. The inspiration for the music was a 2006 exhibition the composer attended of paintings by Russian abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky (1868-1944). Still, these are not literal responses to the paintings as, say, Mussorksky's were in Pictures at an Exhibition. They are, as Sawyers explains, primarily "an emotional response to Kandinsky's work." Abstract music responding to abstract paintings, so to speak. I rather enjoyed this sequence of five movements, at least as much as Sawyers's new symphony. It's quite lovely, and Woods and the players in his charge perform it in lovely fashion. I do wish Nimbus had provided separate tracks for the piece, though, even if I can understand their wanting to encourage the listener to view the music as a unified whole

Producer Simon Fox-Gal and engineer Simon Smith recorded the music at Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales in January 2020. As always, Nimbus produces a realistic sounding disc, with plenty of depth and breadth and ambience. Detailing is good, too, as well as dynamics. It's a fine, smooth, balanced presentation that may not be entirely audiophile but is pleasing, nonetheless.

JJP

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

Audio Tech Talk

By Bryan Geyer


BG

Classical Music News of the Week, May 16, 2020

ROCO Announces Its 2020-21 Season: "Color and Light"

River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) is thrilled to announce its 2020-2021 season, entitled "Color and Light." Taking audiences on an illuminating, global journey celebrating nature and culture, the season will include ten new works commissioned by ROCO, including eight co-commissions in partnership with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Orlando Philharmonic, The Knights, and more. Alyssa Morris serves as composer-in-residence for the season, writing a triptych of pieces showcasing the ensemble's flexible model - including a work for wind sextet, solo instrument, and a piece for chamber orchestra inspired by the colorful children's book "Musicians of the Sun", based upon an Aztec tale.

This year's In Concert performances for the full 40-piece ensemble feature new premieres which include a concerto for bandoneon composed and performed by Richard Scofano, a piece for strings by Anna Clyne co-commissioned with the Australian, Scottish, and Lausanne Chamber Orchestras in honor of Beethoven's 250th birthday, the premiere of Alyssa Morris' chamber orchestra work - highlighting ROCO's principal winds, a new work by Jonathan Leshnoff co-commissioned with the IRIS Orchestra, and a new co-commission by Reena Esmail based on the poem "The History of Red," which will feature soprano Kathryn Mueller.

For more information and full 2020-21 season information, visit www.ROCO.org.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Budding Composers : Meeting of Cultures
The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) presents its new edition of "Budding Composers" on Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. After discovering the music of Katia Makdissi-Warren, honoured 7th Homage Series composer, in schools this season, the students will participate in a virtual concert that will echo their own creative activities.

Bringing together musicians from the intercultural ensemble Oktoécho, Inuit throat singers and a choreographer with Indigenous roots, the event will be an opportunity to feature musical traditions from near and far in creation at all levels. Sign up to watch the concert on Zoom - add it to your agenda: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TMKtK1VkShKygOLzmeGBCQ

The culmination of this event, Les Grands espaces, composed by Katia Makdissi-Warren, will bring together 100 previously recorded young people, Inuit throat singers, Oktoécho musicians and a choreography, within an audio-visual display modelled on virtual choirs. The piece, imbued with sounds of nature and the far north (excerpt), will allow young people to create and share an unforgettable moment of musical creation, while offering the public an incredible sound journey.

The concert will also include several other works and highlights celebrating the music of the Homage Series composer. These include the biographical comic strip sounded by École Montessori Orford students, as well as some creations inspired by Ms. Makdissi-Warren's music. The ensemble Oktoécho, founded by the composer, will join the party by presenting a revisited work from her album Saïmaniq.

For more information, visit http://smcq.qc.ca/

--France Gaignard, Relationniste de presse

Menuhin Competition Rescheduled as Richmond 2021
The Menuhin Competition, often called "The Olympics of the Violin," was scheduled to bring the best young violinists in the world to Richmond, VA this month, but in March, organizers were forced to reschedule the international event due to COVID-19. Today, the Menuhin Competition Trust and the Richmond Symphony, on behalf of the consortium of co-host institutions, is thrilled to announce that almost all of those who intended to participate in Richmond 2020 have committed to Richmond 2021, which will take place May 13-23, 2021.

All 44 of the extraordinary young violinists from 18 countries who had been invited to the Competition in 2020, and seven of the nine jurors, have committed to the 2021 Competition. All of the co-host institutions—City of Richmond, Richmond Symphony, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and VPM—will continue as co-hosts for the 2021 event, and all of the stellar artists scheduled to appear in guest performances—including Regina Carter, Mark & Maggie O'Connor, and TwoSet Violin—have committed to participate in 2021 as well.

To honor the Competition (originally scheduled for May 14-24, 2020), VPM, Virginia's home for public media and one of the Richmond co-hosts, will unveil "Making Menuhin," an original podcast series introducing audiences to some of the talented young musicians heading to the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021. "Making Menuhin" will launch on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, exactly one year in advance of the 2021 Competition.

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

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

Pianist Jonathan Biss Performs Benefit Recital
Pianist Jonathan Biss, whose numerous e-performances since the coronavirus outbreak have been seen by hundreds of thousands across the web, gives a video recital in support of online fundraiser Artist Relief Tree (ART) on Wednesday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

The recital is free to watch, but viewers are encouraged to donate to ART, which was established to support artists affected financially by COVID-19. Mr. Biss performs Schumann's Kreisleriana, selections from Janácek's On an Overgrown Path, and two works by Mozart—Piano Sonata in F major, K 533/494, and Rondo in A minor, K 511. Additionally, he interviews Molly Carr and Andrew Janss, Co-Directors of the non-profit organization PROJECT: MUSIC HEALS US, and all four members of the New York-based Aizuri Quartet—offering viewers an on-the-ground perspective of how the musical community is affected by and responding to the coronavirus crisis.

The performance will be streamed on Facebook by ART: facebook.com/artistrelieftree
By Mr. Biss: facebook.com/JonathanBiss
And on YouTube by ART: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGhMD5-JRzx06eJd940Nx7w

To stay up to date on streaming details, see artistrelieftree.com.

--Shuman Associates

Colburn School's Lunchtime Concert Series Celebrates Beethoven
In October 2019, the Colburn School presented Beethoven 250, a six-day festival built around the composer's beloved string quartets, featuring performances by the Calidore String Quartet, one of the School's most notable alumni ensembles, and the Viano String Quartet, the School's Chamber Ensemble-in-Residence, as well as Conservatory students and faculty.

Held weekly and beginning Thursday, May 14, Colburn School will continue this celebration of Beethoven's 250th birthday with a weekly series of lunchtime concerts featuring complete performances from the Beethoven 250 festival, as well as live discussions that will unpack Beethoven's music.

All concerts will stream live on Colburn's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ColburnSchool/

--Lisa Belamore, Crescent Communications

Violinist Nathan Cole Launches The Violympics
The world of classical music has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing an indefinite halt to live performances and shuttering venues throughout the world, leaving many musicians with lost opportunities, as both performers and teachers.

Without being able to provide in-person instruction, many musicians are being challenged to quickly digitize their professions and supplement their incomes. For some, these are unchartered waters - an emergence of a new frontier. For Nathan Cole, First Associate Concertmaster for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this digital transformation is well underway.

On June 1, 2020, Nathan will launch The Violympics, a series of 6 two-week training events that will give advanced violinists the tools to advance their craft like never before. Nathan will mentor participants in the program, which will explore crucial fundamentals in a fun format while building an online global community of musicians. Violympics will culminate in a challenge piece that will bring everyone together through performance (virtually).

The Violympics is an extension of an online teaching platform that began over a decade ago, when Nathan started posting instructional videos on YouTube. Expecting to attract maybe 25-50 people, he instead quickly had an online student base in the thousands. He realized there were not many solutions for advanced training online, so he refined his offerings over the years to focus on this niche. Over 3,000 violinists and violists of all ages and capabilities from all over the world, from Argentina to Israel, registered for the Violympic Trials, a one-week introductory experience that preceded the Violympics. Nathan has created a new model for online instruction and has found a viable way to significantly increase income while elevating his craft and helping thousands of aspiring musicians.

For complete information, visit https://www.natesviolin.com/

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Music Institute Quartet Wins Silver at Fischoff
The Music Institute of Chicago Academy's Dasani String Quartet received the Silver medal in the Junior Division of the 2020 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, which culminated on May 9. Based in South Bend, Indiana, Fischoff is the nation's largest chamber music competition and is regarded as America's premier educational chamber music competition. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition, which included multiple rounds, took place virtually this year. Chamber groups from 24 states and 27 countries and territories were among the 130 competition entries.

Since its inception in 2006, the Academy has produced strong competitors, and its chamber groups have won 15 medals at Fischoff. Of the 48 ensembles who qualified for the quarterfinal competition round this year, five were from the Academy program:

Dasani String Quartet:
Isabella Brown, 17, violin, Gurnee, Illinois
Katya Moeller,16, violin, Coralville, Iowa
Zechary Mo, 18, viola, Rolling Meadows, Illinois
Brandon Cheng, 17, piano, Chicago, Illinois

The Dasani String Quartet is coached by Mathias Tacke, former violinist of the world-renowned and Grammy-nominated Vermeer Quartet.  All four students are Merit Scholarship Fellows at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy, a training program for advanced pre-college students. While the coronavirus pandemic unfortunately shortened the competition season, the group performed as part of two Chicago community events, "Melodies on Canvas" and the Chicago Botanic Gardens Orchid Show, and was one of only two Junior Finalists in the 2020 WDAV Young Chamber Musicians Competition. Individually, their experience includes performances at prestigious venues around the world, many competition wins, and solo appearances with orchestra and on radio.

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

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart
This week pianist Orli Shaham shares all three movements of Sonata No. 3, K. 281 with her MidWeek Mozart. Available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, May 13.

"Mozart was 19 years old and traveling a lot when he wrote this Sonata," says Ms. Shaham. "He was encountering many musical styles and instruments that were new to him – even though they were old hat outside of Salzburg – and exploring both new and old keyboards with sounds he hadn't heard before."

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.

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of May 18–24)
Tuesday, May 19 as of 1:00 p.m. PT:
James Conlon continues discussion of Beaumarchais and
The Marriage of Figaro on LA Opera James Conlon at Home podcast
https://soundcloud.com/laopera

Wednesday, May 20 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 2: Patricia and Raphaël Jouan
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Wednesday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jonathan Biss performs benefit recital for Artist Relief Tree
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGhMD5-JRzx06eJd940Nx7w

Friday, May 22 as of 12:00 p.m. ET:
Pop Up Pipa with Wu Man: Episode 3:
Abbos Kosimov and Umid Ishankhodjaev
https://www.facebook.com/WuManPipa/

Friday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
New World Symphony's NWS Fellows: Live from our Living Room
https://www.facebook.com/NewWorldSymphony/

Saturday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh's "Alone Together" series continues with new works by Caroline Davis, Ted Hearne, Qasim Naqvi, and Nina Shekhar
https://www.facebook.com/jenniferkohviolin/

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

Tulsa Opera's Staying Alive series
https://tulsaopera.com/stayingalive/

--Shuman Associates

Salt Bay Chamberfest Cancels 26th Season
Salt Bay Chamberfest has announced the cancellation of its 2020 summer festival, following Governor Janet Mills' guidelines regarding COVID-19. The organization says it is striving to help ensure the health and safety of the local community, as so many other performing arts organizations across the nation have also done.

Archived Maine Public Radio "Maine Stage" performances by SBC musicians are now accessible at no charge on the organization's website, www.saltbaychamberfest.org. In addition, plans are underway for online live concerts, interviews, and other special programs later this summer.

--Dworkin & Company

International Contemporary Ensemble in World Premieres
Library of Congress and Portland Ovations co-present "America's foremost new-music group" (Alex Ross), the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), in an interactive digital concert—Aural Explorations: Farrin, Fure, and Messiaen—on Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. EDT featuring the world premieres of Suzanne Farrin's Nacht (co-commissioned by the Carolyn Royall Just Fund in the Library of Congress and ICE) and Ashley Fure's interior listening protocol 1, paired with Olivier Messiaen's Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus for ondes Martenot.

The stream will also include a "lobby" experience, before and after the performance, where audiences can tune in to live discussions between Farrin, Fure, and members of ICE. Glimpses into the creation of Suzanne Farrin's Nacht will be shared in a screening of a short documentary. Viewers around the world can tune in to view and participate in the digital event via YouTube Live and are invited to continue conversations with artists after the performance via Zoom.

For more information, visit https://www.iceorg.org/events/may28livestream

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

New World Symphony Fellows Launch VIA: Virtual Summer Music Academy
New World Symphony Fellows Corbin Castro and Christopher Robinson today announced the launch of VIA, a virtual summer music academy supported by the New World Symphony (NWS) as part of its NWS BLUE program of Fellow-led initiatives. VIA, which stands for Virtual Inclusion Artists, seeks to engage young musicians from communities underrepresented in classical music through Zoom-based individual lessons and group classes offered over the course of a week-long, summer music intensive. VIA sessions are tailored to string, woodwind, and brass instrumentalists (grades 7–12), and are led by NWS Fellows, alumni, and guest speakers, including performance specialist Noa Kageyama (BulletProofMusician.com).

Intensives are offered June 20–25, 2020 and June 27–July 2, 2020 and are open to a limited number of participants, who may enroll for one of the two weeks. Internet access and a web camera are required. Deadline to apply is May 29, 2020. Applicants will be notified no later than June 5, 2020 of their admission results.

For more information about VIA and application details, visit nws.edu.via.

--Shuman Associates

Over 100 Singers Unite Virtually in Moravec and Campbell Work
Over 100 singers are raising their voices to join forces in a video performance celebrating the solidarity and strength of artists uniting during these challenging times. Released by OPERA America on Thursday, May 14th, the video features the World Premiere video performance of "Light Shall Lift Us," the brainchild of two Pulitzer Prize winners: librettist/lyricist Mark Campbell and composer Paul Moravec.

Listen on OPERA America's Web site: https://operaamerica.org/content/about/lslu.aspx

Beyond serving as a rallying call to the public to support its opera companies across the country and the arts in general, Moravec and Campbell believe this galvanizing and powerful performance will be a reminder of the importance of the arts to our society, which has always looked, during difficult times, to artists as guiding lights for strength, hope, joy or solace.

--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company

Postponement of ABS 2020 Festival & Academy
It is with deep sadness that American Bach Soloists announces the postponement of the 2020 Festival & Academy until the summer of 2021 due to COVID-19. This decision has not been made in haste, but with diligent concern for our patrons, musicians, Academy participants, faculty, and staff.

While this will not come as a complete surprise, it is yet another in a long string of unfortunate losses due to the pandemic. I want you to know that we've been hoping and working—since the pandemic began—to see if we could go forward in some form, but we've come to the realization that this is not going to be feasible. I want to thank the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for their collegiality through this and for their effort in trying to make something achievable.

For more information or to make a donation, visit americanbach.org

--American Bach Soloists

Tarrodi: Highlands - Cello Concerto (CD review)

Also, Camelopardalis; Serenade to Seven Colors; Zephyros: Lucioles; Birds of Paradise. Jakob Koranyi, cello; Andreas Stoehr, Joäna Carnerio (Highlands), Johannes Gustavsson (Zephyros), Västeräs Sinfonietta. dB Productions dBCD166.

By Karl W. Nehring

Not sure whether any of our readers do this, but I have found it quite useful for discovering new recordings. I subscribe to a couple of British magazines, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine. Gramophone is relatively expensive but is packed with reviews (the version imported to the USA begins with reviews of recent releases featuring American artists and compositions) and interesting feature articles. Each issue also includes retrospective looks at classic recordings, roundup reviews of boxed sets, and recommendations regarding particular compositions. Not cheap, but a good value. BBC Music Magazine also presents good value, but in a different way. Although its reviews are not as extensive, each issue features a section wherein musicians discuss what music they have been listening to recently, plus a section that reveals the same for some of the magazine's staff. In addition, each issue comes with a CD, many of which are quite interesting, plus an article giving the background of the music on the disc. Both magazines, but especially Gramophone, also contain pages and pages of advertisements of new releases from music labels both large and small.

Now, in addition to my subscriptions to these two magazines, I also have a subscription to Amazon Music. So where is all this leading? Well, whenever I find a new issue of either magazine in my mailbox, I eagerly tote it with me back up the driveway, into the house, and oh, oh, are we gonna fly, down in the easy chair! Once settled in cozily, I pull my red pen out of my shirt pocket and begin to leaf methodically through the pages, drawing arrows that point to those recordings in which I might be interested amongst the various reviews, articles, lists, and ads. Then, as the month unfolds, I can pick up the magazine, fire up Amazon music on my phone, connect via Bluetooth to my soundbar system, and then from the comfort of my recliner audition the previously highlighted recordings to determine which ones I might be enthused enough about to justify a purchase of the CD so that I can then enjoy them more fully on my big system.

This release of music by contemporary Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi (b. 1981) is one of the recordings I have purchased after finding a reference to it in a magazine, listening through my phone, and deciding I really wanted to hear it in all its glory. It was a rewarding purchase.

I have encountered the observation in several places that much contemporary orchestral music is more about sound than melody; in this case, that observation seems to hold, as the music on this disc presents much in the way of fascinating sounds but little in the way of hummable tunes. But no, that is not to say that Tarrodi's music is dissonant, or random-sounding, or in any way unpleasant. Although it is not particularly tuneful, it is certainly colorful and engaging to the ear.

The opening track, Camelopardalis, opens quietly in the strings, gradually gaining in volume as the rest of the orchestra joins in, imparting a sense of motion. Following what seems like a breakthrough in to a different scene, the mood changes, the calls of birds can be heard amongst the instruments of the orchestra, then a quiet solo, gentle percussion, a sense of looking out over vistas, flying, soaring, then brass, drums, a large climax, then a fade to the quiet end of what seems to have been a marvelous dream. By the way, I wrote the notes from which I have written my account before reading the liner notes, an activity of that I will leave as an assignment for the reader.

Andrea Tarrodi
The next composition, Serenade for Seven Colours, also begins softly. This time around, the quiet opening begins with the woodwinds, the music moving forward as if propelled by a gentle pulse, with the orchestra leading us on a journey. Brass and percussion join in, and we hear more apparent birdlike sounds, including at one point what my mind's eye envisioned as a woodpecker. Fascinating! The music seems firmly rooted in nature, celebrating a vision of the natural world, at times adopting a pulse that hearkens to the musical style of American composer Steve Reich. Following a section that brass and percussion build in a crescendo, the music returns to the winds, the sound fading off into the distance, leaving only silence.

Next on the agenda is the featured composition of the release, a concerto for cello and orchestra titled Highlands. No quiet opening this time – the orchestra sounds agitated, with support from the drums. After a couple of minutes of churning energy, the solo cello enters with a plaintive sound. After being joined by some percussion, the cello embarks on a solo, with cellist Koranyi sliding down into some of the lower notes on his instrument. As he continues his playing, he is joined by some light accompaniment by some of the other instruments in the orchestra, the music becoming deeply reflective, even mysterious, as we hear what seem once again to be whistles and bird sounds. As you might expect from a piece titled Highlands, Tarrodi's score once again seems deeply rooted in the realms of nature. 

Zephyros features strings and then winds establishing a mood of mystery and wonder, like entering a new realm of nature, sounds from the brass adding more color to the imaginary musical landscape. This composition seems definitely more about mood than melody, but the overall sound is pleasant and beckoning, drawing us in, leading us through some hidden realms of nature and imagination. Later, the sound of the strings seems to hover above the winds, then the brass, as the overall mood of mystery and enchantment carries through to the end.

Lucioles opens with notes from the cello, soon joined by strings and brass and once again featuring what seem to be bird calls. As the piece goes on, there are lots of fluttering sounds, augmented by lower brass notes, then percussion, the energy level building. After a climax, things quiet down, bird sounds reemerge, and a violin takes the lead. The energy then slowly builds again, brass and drums swelling, the bird sounds returning, the cello making an appearance, then the music fades back into silence.

The final selection, Birds of Paradise, opens quietly and mysteriously, then the brass section starts turning up the heat. As the music continues, we once again hear bird calls – as you would certainly expect from the title – but now they are front and center rather than just part of the overall musical landscape. There is some slowly unfolding melody from the cello as more bird calls are heard, but now from what would seem to be a flock off in the distance, getting farther and farther away as the music fades into silence.

The sound quality is excellent, with a natural tonal balance and a good sense of space. The liner notes offer some fascinating insights into the music. At just over 70 minutes, this Swedish release represents good value to those looking to enjoy some music that is different but still listenable and musically satisfying. And for those currently confined indoors because of COVID-19, this music of Tarrodi brings the sounds of nature right into your listening room.

KWN

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

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