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

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Meet the Staff

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

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big 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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa