Classical Music News of the Week, August 1, 2020

Jupiter String Quartet Gives World Premiere

The Jupiter String Quartet remains committed to making music during these challenging times, and in place of its scheduled in-person performance will give a virtual concert presented by Rockport, Maine’s Bay Chamber Concerts on August 6, 2020 at 7:30pm, recorded from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, where the ensemble has been artists-in-residence since 2012. The concert will be available for the public worldwide to watch at www.baychamberconcerts.org.

The Jupiter is a particularly intimate group, consisting of violinists Nelson Lee and Meg Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel (Meg’s older sister), and cellist Daniel McDonough (Meg’s husband, Liz’s brother-in-law). Now enjoying their 19th year together, this tight-knit ensemble is firmly established as an important voice in the world of chamber music. The New Yorker writes, “The Jupiter String Quartet, an ensemble of eloquent intensity, has matured into one of the mainstays of the American chamber-music scene.”

On August 6, the Jupiter will give the world premiere of composer Michi Wiancko’s To Unpathed Waters, Uncharted Shores, a new commission for them by Bay Chamber Concerts with the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, alongside Beethoven’s monumental String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132. The new work was commissioned in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Bay Chamber Concerts as well as Maine’s Bicentennial, and is paired with Beethoven’s music in honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

For more information, visit www.jupiterquartet.com

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

What's Streaming: Classical / Theater (Week of August 3–9)
Monday, August 3 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Gala performances by Audra McDonald, Kelli O’Hara, and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Tuesday, August 4 at 2:00 p.m. CT
Tulsa Opera’s “Staying Alive” continues with soprano Sarah Coburn.

Tuesday, August 4 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Reich, Golijov, Mozart, Handel, and The Beatles, for strings and percussion.

Thursday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Mason Bates’s Mothership and Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata.

Thursday, August 6; Friday, August 7; and Saturday, August 8 at 5:30 p.m. PT
Miró Quartet concludes live-streamed Beethoven cycle with late quartets and Grosse Fuge.

Saturday, August 8 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Family Concert Inspiring Duos.

Sunday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m. MT (one-time-only viewing)
Sun Valley Music Festival: Daniil Trifonov in recital.

Minnesota Orchestra at Home

--Shuman Associates

Notable Encounters Online - Dvorak Bass Quintet
Today we are pleased to introduce a four-episode Notable Encounter Online exploring the Bass Quintet in G major by Antonin Dvorak. In this first episode, Scott Yoo discusses how the addition of a double bass affects a musical ensemble.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, our artists, our staff, and our hundreds of volunteers, we thank you for staying home and helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. We will perform for you live in our favorite venues— and some new ones as well— when our local and state officials deem safe.
In the meantime, we have prepared some new Notable Encounters Online for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Recently a few of our artists came together safely with music director Scott Yoo to prepare Brahms’s Second String Sextet and Dvorak's Bass Quintet.

For the next several days, we will send you a daily episode to illuminate the genius behind these masterpieces. We will conclude with a complete performance of each work at the end of the week.

You may view all past Notable Encounters Online here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpI84aVMZC_JMcvmgm1PMyAEKlyuY0cLK

--Scott Yoo, Music Director, Festival Mozaic

American Composers Orchestra Announces New Commissions and Virtual Premieres
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announces Volume 3 of Connecting ACO Community, featuring seven commissions to be premiered online on Sundays at 5pm ET between August 2 and October 4, 2020, for a ticketed audience on ACO’s YouTube Channel. Each session includes a live conversation with the featured composer and performer(s), hosted by ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel or ACO President Edward Yim, in addition to the performance.

ACO initiated Connecting ACO Community in response to the coronavirus pandemic crisis and since launching it on April 19 has created twelve brand new pieces by twelve composers, written for twelve solo performers plus the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, through the program. Previously commissioned composers include Ethan Iverson, Shara Nova, Vicente Hansen Atria, Sakari Dixon Vanderveer, Gity Razaz, Yuan-Chen Li, Joseph Pereira, Karena Ingram, Krists Auznieks, Lembit Beecher, and Alejandro Basulto Martinez.

Volume 3 includes seven more commissions and premieres, and features four soloists, two duos, and a sextet of musicians from ACO. Commissioned composers and performers for this installment include Tanner Porter composing for cellist Eric Jacobsen and vocalist Aoife O’Donovan; Vincent Calianno composing for trombonist Mike Seltzer; Wynton Guess composing for pianist Aaron Diehl; Amina Figarova composing a flute duo for ACO orchestra musicians Susan Palma Nidel and Laura Conwesser; Dawn Norfleet composing for vocalist Clarice Assad, voice; Guy Mintus composing for violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins; and Brian Nabors composing for a sextet of ACO Musicians (violinist Debbie Wong; violist Sandy Robbins; cellist Gene Moye; bassoonist Harry Searing; flutist Diva Goodfriend Koven; and harpist Susan Jolles).

August 2, 2020 – October 4, 2020
Online world premieres streaming live on Sundays at 5pm ET


More information here: bit.ly/ACOConnectVol3

Watch Connecting ACO Community Volumes 1 and 2 on ACO’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqToHsgaez-t3iuWx42eG8pcmQTdazOuf

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Arranging Songs That Sound Pro
When you pick up a lead-sheet for a song, it looks pretty sparse, doesn’t it? I imagine you wonder, ‘what do I do with it?’ I also imagine that you pick up already arranged versions of songs, right? The problem is they don’t sound all that wonderful, and some are difficult to play. Have you found that to be true?

The four videos in this post take a song and show several ways to create arrangements that are not only surprisingly easy but indeed, sound ‘pro’. It shouldn’t take you but a short time to get the idea of the arrangements, then start to practice them. I think you will be excited at what you can do with a minimum of effort… work smart, not hard!

In addition, you will be learning the language of music that can be used directly in the classics because you will have a working knowledge of the different chord identities with their characteristic intervals. Not hard!

But please, if you haven’t already, get your copy of ‘Learning the Language of Music… with Bach’ in my last post and continue to work with the videos in that post. It will be a life-changing experience since you will be learning things you never learned previously. The companion videos, ‘Rudiments’ are a must! I have avoided ‘theory’ like the plague in all posts!


--Ralph Hedges, Chopin Piano Academy

HAUSER Performs from Dubrovnik, Croatia
HAUSER now shares the third installment in his “Alone, Together” concert series, this time taking fans to the historic old town of Dubrovnik for a special solo performance amongst the city’s stunning scenery. “Alone, Together--From Dubrovnik” is now streaming globally on HAUSER’s official YouTube channel. With cinematic views of the city and surrounding Adriatic Sea, HAUSER’s latest performance includes a mix of classic compositions as well as his renditions of popular themes from film and television titles.

The repertoire fittingly includes a nod to “Game of Thrones,” much of which was filmed within the medieval walls of Dubrovnik’s old town, with HAUSER performing his rendition of the series’ well-loved theme song from the iconic Fort Lovrijenac. The latest in his series of “Alone, Together” performances, the event arrives on the heels of HAUSER’s previous concerts filmed in an empty Pula Arena in Croatia and the beautiful Krka Waterfalls National Park – watch HAUSER’s recent concerts here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdVkHRu3zRbJvd6VxF31HlgiNCf0mhtrQ

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music

Episode 3 of SOLI's new Summer video series, "Moments of SOLIcitude"
Don't miss Episode 3 of SOLI's new summer video series Moments of SOLIcitude on YouTube Premieres featuring an original work composed and performed on Bass clarinet by SOLI's Stephanie Key with Sound Design and mixing by Jason Murgo.

Inspired by the prints by American artist Mary Bonner and the words of President Barack Obama, this project was created for McNay Art Museum's '100 Years of Printmaking in San Antonio' exhibit in 2018. Stephanie was inspired to create this original music in response to Marry Bonner's powerful print Fighting Bulls and inspirational text from President Barack Obama's acceptance speech on November 6, 2012.

The episode premiered Wednesday, July 29.


--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

New Century Announces 2021 Season
Music Director Daniel Hope and New Century Chamber Orchestra announced today a 2021 season that includes two San Francisco Bay Area subscription weeks in February and April.

Returning to the stage for the first time since January 2020, New Century will present a reduced season highlighted by the world premiere of a new work for piano and string orchestra by Chinese composer Tan Dun at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall, featuring Ukrainian pianist Alexey Botvinov; an evening of orchestral works in honor of Mozart’s birthday showcasing American violist Paul Neubauer and Daniel Hope in the composer’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat Major, K. 364; and a selection of string orchestra masterworks including Bloch’s Conceto Gross No. 1 and Dvorák’s Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22 as well as George Gershwin and Kurt Weill song suites arranged by Paul Bateman.

In addition to performances in Berkeley, San Francisco and Marin, New Century will be at the Green Music Center in Sonoma and a debut appearance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles.

For more information, visit https://www.ncco.org/ebrochure

--Brenden Guy PR

Festival de Lanaudière Connected: Charles Richard-Hamelin Gives the Finale
Festival de Lanaudière unveils its surprise concert, scheduled for August 9: an exclusive recital by pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, filmed at the Musée d'art de Joliette. The pianist will perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Nos. 13 and 14, Op. 27 – which includes the famous “Moonlight Sonata” – as well as Frédéric Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28.

“I am very pleased to be performing live again in my hometown. Festival de Lanaudière is one of the events and places in the world where I have experienced some of the best moments of my career,” remarked Mr. Richard-Hamelin, whose last concert dates back to early March.

For Artistic Director Renaud Loranger, “It is only fitting to close our virtual edition with a unique concert given by one of the finest musicians from the region.”

For complete information, visit https://www.lanaudiere.org/en/

--France Gaignard, CN2 Communication

Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart - Piano Sonata No.16
Pianist Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart features a different complete Mozart piano sonata each week. This week enjoy Sonata No.16, K. 545 in its entirety, available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, July 29.

"The C major sonata is the first big classical sonata that most piano students learn. Mozart wrote this in a didactic way with all the fingerwork, technique, and getting around the keyboard with arpeggios, trills, and scales – it’s all in there," says Ms. Shaham about Sonata No.16.


--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Arlen Hlusko as the New Bang on a Can All-Stars Cellist
Bang on a Can announces Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko as the newest member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Hlusko has been performing with the All-Stars throughout the 2019-20 season and now joins the group as the permanent cellist.

Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, welcome Hlusko by saying, "We're thrilled to introduce the dynamic cellist Arlen Hlusko as the newest member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Her spectacular playing and commitment to community engagement wowed us all!"

Hlusko’s first official performance as an All-Star will be Saturday, August 1, 2020 at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA as part of Bang on a Can & Friends, two nights of live-in person music on July 31 and August 1. She’ll perform a solo work - Michael Gordon’s Light is Calling - as well Louis Andriessen's Workers Union and Thurston Moore's Stroking Piece #1 with the All-Stars.

More about Bang on a Can & Friends, including program info, performer bios, and COVID-19 safety information, is available at friends2020.bangonacan.org.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Announces CMS FRONT ROW: National
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) announces a new digital initiative to enable local chamber music venues to bring its outstanding series of digital chamber music concerts, CMS: FRONT ROW, to audiences around the country. That not only brings the concerts to new audiences, it also gives local presenters a tool they can use to stay in touch with their audiences while concert halls in the U.S. and Canada remain shuttered.


--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

PARMA Summer 2020 Call for Scores
PARMA Recordings is pleased to present our Summer 2020 Call for Scores. We are currently accepting submissions for Armenian Symphony Orchestra, Live Orchestral Performance. Performing Artist: The Armenian State Symphony Orchestra

One selected work will be performed live via the PARMA Live Stage.

Studio recording and release: Selected scores will be recorded and commercially released by PARMA Recordings. For these recording options, the submitter is responsible for securing funds associated with the production and retains all ownership of the master and underlying composition. Grammy Award-winner Brad Michel (PARMA’s Senior Producer, North America) is available to produce approved sessions.

Works for soloists, duos, Ttios, quartets, or quintets. Recording locations: Boston, MA / The Czech Republic.
        
Works for full or chamber orchestra.
Recording Artist: The Grammy Award-winning Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra.

The deadline for all submissions is August 14, 2020. Interested in submitting your work? Visit our website for more information: https://www.parmarecordings.com/call-for-scores/

--PARMA Recordings

From Holland with Love (CD review)

Waltzes I've Saved for You. André Rieu, Johann Strauss Orchestra. Philips 314 522 933-2.

Maybe I'm a sucker for sentimentality, but just as I liked Ofra Harnoy's recording of romantically-paced, vibrato-prone Dvorak (RCA) over twenty years ago and which I listened to at about the same time, I enjoyed this disc of old favorites from violinist André Rieu the more I listened to it. This is saying a lot, too, considering that I’m not particularly fond of overrated superstar performers with tens of millions of records to their credit.

Playing with a band Rieu formed in 1987, the Johann Strauss Orchestra, and reminiscent of Willi Boskovsky's old Vienna Johann Strauss Orchestra, the conductor-violinist directs vigorous, lusty, sometimes boisterous, always zesty, and ultimately joyous performances of waltzes and polkas by the Strausses, Lehar, Gruber, and others.

Andre Rieu
However, I wasn't instantly won over. During the first few selections I feared Rieu was only playing to the galleries, trying too hard to foist pop culture on the masses, commercializing and vulgarizing old favorites. His way with Anton Karas’s Third Man theme seemed to me especially romanticized, as did the opening selection, a medley of Strauss and colleagues' tunes. But I soon came to recognize Rieu's sincerity and joined in the spirit of the festivities. Evidently, the Strausses themselves had a high time with their music in concert and expected their listeners to do likewise. So, don't count on subtlety; Rieu plays for fun and merriment and hardly with subtlety or refinement. 

Producer Ruud Jacobs and engineer Ronald Prent recorded the music at Wijngrachttheater, Kerkrade, and Philips Classics released it in 1994. The sound they obtained appropriately fits the style of the music making. It's big and bold, meaning close, and recorded in a fairly resonant venue, making the smallish, twenty-piece Johann Strauss Orchestra (which has subsequently grown much larger) seem bigger than it is. Interestingly, the program concludes with a fairly direct interpretation of "Roses from the South," almost as though Rieu were saying, "See, I can play it straight, too!" If you like traditional Viennese waltzes but can also keep an open mind, you might enjoy this collection.

JJP

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

American Melting Pot (CD review)

Music of Alter, Barilari, Gould, Levinson, and Vazquez. David Yonan, violin; Christopher Ferrer, cello; Susan Merdinger, piano. Sheridan Music Studio.

Concert pianist and Steinway Artist Susan Merdinger explains her rationale for the current album, “American Melting Pot,” in this way: “My goal performing, recording and compiling this ‘American Melting Pot’ CD of my live concert performances of music by American composers is to demonstrate not only my deep commitment to supporting the work of living composers of my own time, but also to demonstrate the rich and varied legacies of musical traditions that are embodied in composers who were both born in the USA as well as those who were immigrated to the USA and now call America ‘home.’ It is my hope that the true American spirit of welcoming immigrants and their assimilation into a large society which embraces diversity, inclusivity and the dissemination of ideas, both musical and otherwise, will be celebrated and exemplified in the works I have chosen for this compendium of American music.

“In these works we can hear the influences of musical styles emanating from or originating in China, Eastern and Western Europe, South America, and the USA. Indeed, American music is a fusion and integration of musical styles as our American society is indeed a ‘melting pot’ of which I am very proud to be a part. It has been my great privilege and honor to work with each of these talented and distinguished composers.”

What Ms. Merdinger doesn’t mention is that she also premiered each of the pieces presented here, and that most of the live selections on the album are those very première performances.

First up on the program is a six-movement work called Pieces of China (1985) by Pulitzer prizewinning composer Morton Gould (1913-1996). Ms. Merdinger premiered it in 1990 with the composer present, so we have to regard it as authoritative. My wife thought it sounded “like a Picasso painting,” which seems apt given the slightly askew musical portraits of Asia that Gould paints. Ms. Merdinger approaches them with her usual poise and grace, allowing her natural virtuosic talents to serve the music rather than vice versa.

Susan Merdinger
Next is the Ballade in F-sharp minor (2012) by Argentinean-born composer Fernando Vazquez (b. 1962). Although the Ballade may be a short piece (a little over six minutes), it includes a pleasing variety of textures and tunes, which Ms. Merdinger captures with her equally pleasing, sensitive, and affecting style.

After that, we have the Piano Sonata “My New Beginning” Part 1 (2018) by Aaron Alter (b. 1955), a piece the composer dedicated to Ms. Merdinger. Alter says that his inspiration for the piece was the first movement of Beethoven’s “Walstein” Sonata, Op. 53. You may recognize bits of the Beethoven, and you may also enjoy the jazz and even rock variations that Alter places on them. Ms. Merdinger easily keeps pace with the music, providing it with a poise that other interpretations may miss.

Then, there is the two-part Toccata Gaucha (2008) by Uruguayan-born composer Elbio Barilari (b. 1952). Barilari is both a classical composer and a jazz musician, and one can hear elements of both idioms in the work. It is certainly the jazziest music Ms. Merdinger plays on the program, and if she’d like to pursue a parallel career I’m sure the jazz world would welcome her.

The final piece on the agenda is Shtetl Scenes by Russian-born composer Ilya Levinson (b. 1958). It recounts scenes in a small Jewish village in pre-World War II Eastern Europe. Here, Ms. Merdinger performs the trio version of the work, accompanied by David Yonan, violin, and Christopher Ferrer, cello. The music is melancholic, dramatic, joyful, introspective, energetic, and haunting by turns. The piece itself and the trio’s realization of it afforded some of my favorite moments in the album.

Various sound engineers worked with producer Susan Merdinger at various different venues. For the Morton Gould recording it was Tim Martyn at Merkin Concert Hall, New York City in 1990. For the Fernando Vasquez piece it was Hudson Fair at the Chicago Latin Music Festival, 2013. For the Aaron Alter work it was David Hill and Svetlana Belsky at Harrison Oaks Studio, Fair Oaks, CA in 2018. For the Elbio Barilari music it was Hudson Fair again at the Pianoforte Salon in Chicago, 2013. And for the Ilya Levinson recording, it was Edward Ingold at the Northbrook Public Library, Illinois, in 2016. Various degrees of applause follow each selection.

There is a remarkable similarity of sound on the album, considering that the selections were recorded over a twenty-six year timespan. There is some evidence of possible noise reduction in the sound, resulting in a slight dimming of the highest frequencies. Nevertheless, the engineers miked things closely enough to reveal good detail yet not so close as to overpower one’s listening room. More important, the sound appears rich and mildly resonant, much as a live piano might sound.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, July 25, 2020

Notable Encounters Online: Brahms Sextet in G Major

This week would have been the first days of Festival Mozaic's Summer 2020 music festival, celebrating 50 years of incredible music, gatherings, and community here in beautiful San Luis Obispo.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, our artists, our staff, and our hundreds of volunteers, we thank you for staying home and helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. We will perform for you live in our favorite venues--and some new ones as well--when our local and state officials deem safe.

In the meantime, we have prepared some new Notable Encounters Online for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Recently a few of our artists came together safely with music director Scott Yoo to prepare Brahms’s Sextet in G major.

You can view all past and present Notable Encounters Online episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpI84aVMZC_JMcvmgm1PMyAEKlyuY0cLK

--Festival Mozaic

Brahms String Sextet - Full-Length Performance
And now the moment you have all been waiting for! We hope you enjoy this amazing full-length performance of Brahms' String Sextet in G major.

This performance from Festival Mozaic features the artistry of Grace Park and Scott Yoo, violins; Jessica Chang and Ben Ullery, violas; and Robert deMaine and Jonah Kim, cellos.

--Festival Mozaic

XO Morning Meditation - Panorama
This week's Morning Meditation, “Panorama,” was composed by Jessie Montgomery and Eleanor Oppenheim, and comes from their collaboration called Big Dog Little Dog. We are grateful that Juliette Woodcum created the artwork for this meditation in direct response to the music.

As a violinist, Jessie played many of my earliest compositions, recording several of them. Over the past decade or so, I have been honored to premiere several of her pieces, including her first commission for orchestra. I encourage you to listen to all of her music and read about her truly remarkable career.

The Big Dog Little Dog project is described as the "mind-melding duo project" of Jessie and Eleanor.

Listen and view this Experiential Orchestra Morning Meditation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy4tZC-zttg&feature=youtu.be

To purchase “Panorama” and other music from this great collaboration, click here: https://bigdoglittledog.bandcamp.com/track/panorama

--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra

The Language of Music… as Bach Gave It to Us
I have wondered why we must study theory to understand music.

Theory is a “system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” …from the dictionary on the web. The italics are mine. What this says to me is that we don’t open a piece of music, but that we open a theory manual to understand music.

I don’t think so.

I have put together a set of videos that shows what there is in a piece of music, using the Bach Prelude in C major as the guide. 

There are seventeen (17) videos using the Prelude at the piano. There are also six (6) videos on areas that you can use, not the rules and procedures of the theory manual.

I will appreciate your thoughts on the matter, and I hope that you will consider purchasing the material inherent in this post. Everything is learned directly from this Prelude as you play. It is a way of learning directly from the music that is available nowhere else. I’m including a free sample here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyySidgE7SQ&feature=youtu.be

I also hope that you will follow me, and use the concepts that I have advanced, to be used in your own work, and in your own teaching. I use it every time I sit at my piano.


--Ralph Hedges, The Piano Professor

“Room | to | Breathe” Series Presents "Culture Creatures"
A 6-part streaming concert series co-presented by the cell and Bright Shiny Things.

Next in the series is Culture Creatures presented on July 25th, and featuring award winning composer/vocalist Kamala Sankaram, guitarist Drew Fleming of Bombay Rickey, visual artist Kevork Mourad, and Postmodern Jukebox's Arthur Vint. Culture Creatures dives deep into the great variety of cultural influences in the creative world with original compositions by Sankaram, American Songbook selections, an Edith Piaf classic and unexpected alt-pop hits from Pink and Glen Hansard. Part of all proceeds will benefit The Young Center For Immigrant Children’s Rights.


--Paula Mlyn, A440 Arts

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians: July Newsletter
While waiting for in-person lessons to resume, the need to continue FAYM’s connection to its students and families remains our prime focus. This musical connection is important to our collective well-being and it is vital that a child’s music education does not lapse. In light of the current situation, FAYM will continue to evolve, reimagining its connections to our students, families and supporters in innovative and impactful ways outside of the classroom.

We are now connecting with our kids virtually, one-on-one, bringing music education into their homes through our on-line learning experience. Currently, over 67 students from all three community centers (East Las Vegas Community Center, Pearson Center and the East Las Vegas Library) are taking advantage of FAYM’s on-line lessons on violin, viola, cello and bass.

Our dedicated on-line teaching team, consisting of six highly qualified instructors, spends valuable one-on-one time with each of their students, providing motivation and encouragement, while tracking their progress. Parents of students wishing to enroll in FAYM’s on-line learning program should do so by July 27th.

Additionally, our Program Coordinator, Tim Thomas has scheduled in-person “Instrument Days” at the East Las Vegas Community Center where students and parents can bring their instruments to be tuned, re-strung, repaired or changed out as necessary.

While distance learning continues for the time being, we are anxious to re-establish our orchestra and mariachi ensembles when it is safe to meet again. In the meantime, FAYM’s innovative approach and creative thinking underscores our unwavering commitment to uplift our community in the months and years ahead.

Please join the Family of FAYM. You can donate by mailing your check to FAYM, PO Box 1993; Las Vegas, NV 89125-1993 or directly online: https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/MakeDonation.aspx?ORGID2=261472871&vlrStratCode=yJecz6hazVcR9yfKuRrLnWguTu6ZZ2h7cYL6esAEAbLuIT%2b1M5qtkBApBvSWEQdq

--Foundation to Assist Young Musicians

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of July 27 – August 2)
Monday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m. MT:
Opening night of the Sun Valley Music Festival, including performance of finale from Beethoven’s Fifth.

Tuesday, July 28 at 6:30 p.m. MT:
Sun Valley Music Festival features Orion Weiss in Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata.

Thursday, July 30 at 5:30 p.m. PT:
Miró Quartet continues live-streamed Beethoven cycle with “Harp” and “Serioso” Quartets.

Thursday, July 30 at 6:30 p.m. MT:
Sun Valley Music Festival continues with Leila Josefowicz and more.

Friday, July 31 at 5:30 p.m. PT:
Miró Quartet live-streams Beethoven’s late quartet Op. 127 in E-flat major.

Friday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m. MT:
Sun Valley Music Festival presents Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio.

Saturday, August 1 at 5:30 p.m. PT:
Miró Quartet concludes third week of Beethoven cycle with Op. 132 string quartet.

Minnesota Orchestra at Home

--Shuman Associates

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Presents Virtual Event
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra presents a free virtual concert, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 7:00 P.M. Eastern. The event features Orpheus musicians performing in small chamber groups for the first time since February 2020, and the exclusive online premiere of Orpheus’ 2015 Dresden Music Festival performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, filmed at the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche after it was destroyed in World War II.

The evening will also feature free A Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed party packs mailed to those who RSVP by July 24 (available while supplies last), a pre-show happy hour with cooking videos by Orpheus musicians, illustrations of how Orpheus is taking its education and community engagement programs online, special messages from Orpheus board members and musicians, and appearances by guest artists including saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Khatia Buniatishvili.

In addition to the Dresden Mendelssohn performance, the program includes Valerie Coleman’s Danza de la Mariposa [Dance of the Butterfly] for solo flute; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet Op. 10, mvt. IV; Jessie Montgomery’s Duo for Violin and Cello, mvt. III; and Rossini’s “Di Piacer mi Balza il Cor” from La Gazza Ladra for bassoon, voice, and string quartet performed by Orpheus musicians cellist Eric Bartlett, bassoonist and vocalist Gina Cuffari, clarinetist Alan Kay, violist Dana Kelley, flutist Elizabeth Mann, and violinists Richard Rood and Eric Wyrick.

Performance Information:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 7:00 P.M. Eastern
Watch on the Orpheus Website, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram
Tickets: Free


--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

“Festival de Lanaudière Connected”
Festival de Lanaudière's “connected” edition has garnered more than 16,000 screenings over its first two weekends. To date, six concerts selected from the Festival's archives and marking its 42 years of existence have been presented… and the number of registrations keeps increasing for the next broadcasts.

“This is a robust and highly positive response that demonstrates our love of classical music, the joy of revisiting great moments together, and the atmosphere of Canada's largest classical music festival,” remarked Artistic Director Renaud Loranger.

Overview of the concerts on July 24, 25 and 26. Follow the links:

Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf - July 24 | 19 h 30 -

Kent Nagano Conducts Mahler -July 25 | 19 h 30 -

Gwyneth Jones in Concert - July 26 | 15 h 30 -

--France Gaignard, CN2 Communication

Orli Shaham's “MidWeek Mozart”
All through July, Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart features a different complete Mozart piano sonata each week. This week enjoy Sonata No.3, K. 281 in its entirety, available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, July 22.


--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

King's Singers Announce New Music Prize for Composers
Grammy-winning, internationally acclaimed British vocal ensemble, The King’s Singers, have teamed-up with Washington National Cathedral and choral publishers, Walton Music to create the New Music Prize for composers in the U.S.A. and Canada.

“Throughout history, music has provided hope and healing at some of societies’ most challenging times. We’re launching The King’s Singers New Music Prize to recognize, develop, and encourage a spirit of musical creativity in today’s world. Through this Prize, we hope to leave the world a musically richer place than we found it.” 
The King’s Singers

Composers are invited to write a new choral piece using one of five beautiful texts chosen by The King’s Singers and Creative Advisor Charles Anthony Silvestri. Works include Emily Dickinson’s I Had No Time To Hate, James Weldon Johnson’s The Gift to Sing, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Invitation to Love, Malcolm Guite’s The Singing Bowl, and a new work written especially for the competition, When All Falls Silent by Silvestri.

The King’s Singers New Music Prize is open to residents of the U.S.A. and Canada. Entries open on Tuesday July 21, 2020 and close at 3pm ET / 12pm PT October 16, 2020. All submissions must be new, original works and may be written in any musical genre. They cannot have been published, performing in public or have been recording for commercial or public use.

For more information, visit http://www.kingssingers.com/newmusicprize/

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Midsummer’s Music 2020
Midsummer’s Music Reimagined for 2020, celebrating 30 years of extraordinary chamber music.  Midsummer’s Presents a 5-week virtual season sowcasing classical favorites and seldom heard treasures by women and composers of color.

Midsummer's Music, whose concerts have been hailed as “exiting, pulse-pounding, and riveting” will present a virtual season of chamber music concerts for five weeks starting August 5.  Devoted Midsummer’s fans and new chamber music enthusiasts can enjoy the free concerts, which will be streamed at midsummersmusic.com, YouTube, and via Facebook, allowing audiences to enjoy performances in the comfort of their home. Nationally recognized radio personalities John Clare of 107.3-St. Louis & Sirius XM, Lisa Flynn of WFMT-Chicago, and Norman Gilliland and Lori Skelton of Wisconsin Public Radio will serve as concert hosts.

In consideration for the safety of its audiences and musicians, which is of paramount concern to the organization, Midsummer’s Artistic Director Jim Berkenstock and Assistant Artistic Director Allyson Fleck cleverly reimagined the 30th Anniversary season with consideration given to COVID-19 pandemic social distancing guidelines and welcomes global audiences to experience and celebrate Wisconsin’s oldest summer chamber music series.

The virtual season will feature five programs performed by world-class musicians, including returning favorites, violinists David Perry and Ann Palen, violist Sally Chisholm, cellist Paula Kosower, pianist Jeannie Yu, flutist Heather Zinninger-Yarmel, clarinetist Dan Won, and new to Midsummers, cellist Greg Sauer, to name a few. Midsummer’s artists will, as always, draw upon on the extraordinary talent of musicians from the Chicago Symphony, Chicago's Lyric Opera, Milwaukee Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, Aspen Music Festival, China National Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, and the renowned Pro Arte Quartet.

For the complete schedule, repertoire and more, visit midsummersmusic.com.

--Genevieve Spielberg, GSI Artists

Colburn School Honors Eric Whitacre and Max. H. Gluck Foundation
On Sunday, July 19, 2020, the Colburn School honored composer Eric Whitacre and the Max H. Gluck Foundation with the Richard D. Colburn award, for their exemplary achievements and contributions to the worlds of classical music and the performing arts. The award was presented by Colburn School President and CEO Sel Kardan during a virtual reception preceding The Way Forward, a private online event that replaced the traditional gala concert with an all-encompassing experience that connected the School’s resilient artistic community with a global audience.

“It is a special privilege to recognize the important contributions of Eric Whitacre and the Max H. Gluck Foundation, especially during this time when connecting through the arts matters more than ever,” said Kardan. “Both Eric and the Foundation have given so many people from Los Angeles and throughout the world the means to find hope and build communities through the power of music.”

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Los Angeles Master Chorale Postpones 2020-21 Season
The Los Angeles Master Chorale announced today that it will postpone the originally scheduled 2020-21 season at Walt Disney Concert Hall to the 2021-22 season due to the pandemic. Because of the postponement, changes to the previously announced repertoire may be necessary; details about the concerts, including dates and times, will be announced at a later date.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Bang on a Can Presents Two Concerts
Bang on a Can and MASS MoCA announce Bang on a Can & Friends – two nights of LIVE in-person music under the Berkshire stars – on Friday, July 31 and Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 8:30pm, at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. With a maximum capacity of 100 people, the concerts will be held outside in MASS MoCA’s spacious Courtyard D and concert goers will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe say:

“MASS MoCA is now reopened to the public and we are ecstatic!  For the 21st year in a row, Bang on a Can is thrilled to be partnering with MASS MoCA, bringing our boundary-busting concerts to the Berkshires.”

Extremely Limited Tickets Available ($35 for one night / $60 for both nights) on sale Wednesday, July 22, 2020 at www.massmoca.org/event/bang-on-a-can-friends.

More information: friends2020.bangonacan.org

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

The Crossing and WMPAC Co-Present World Premiere of David Lang's in nature
On Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. ET, Warren Miller Performing Arts Center (WMPAC) and Grammy-winning choir The Crossing, led by conductor Donald Nally, co-present the world premiere of David Lang’s in nature, performed in real time with Montana-based choir Roots in the Sky (formerly the Aoide Chamber Singers).

The work is specifically written as a hybrid of live and pre-filmed music observing the limitations presented by COVID 19. 20 singers of The Crossing recorded one-at-a-time at the Icebox Project Space at CraneArts, while four socially-distanced singers of Roots in the Sky perform live from WMPAC during the premiere on August 1. As such, they reach over the 2100 miles span between them to make a work of art together. in nature reflects The Crossing’s commitment to their Montana summer home at WMPAC, led by its Artistic Director, John Zirkle. The text, by Lang, is a series of reflections and thoughts of being in nature and, as such, the work both celebrates and marks the absence of nature during the pandemic.

Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. MT/8:00 p.m. ET
Tickets: $7-19

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Classical (and Other) Streaming Services

By Bill Heck

Introduction

Terminology: to save my typing and your patience, I here use the term “laptop” to mean a desktop or laptop computer, tablet, or smartphone. Unless otherwise noted, you can use any such device in the context indicated. For brevity, I also use the term “pop” to refer to all types of music other than classical and jazz.

Amazon, Tidal, Qobuz, Idagio, Primephonic: all premium streaming services, but differing in focus. Amazon, Tidal, and Qobuz aim to be everything to everyone. Idagio and Primephonic aim solely at classical music lovers: no pop, no jazz, no country, no anything but classical. So how might these services work out for Classical Candor readers?

First, just what is a streaming service? Those familiar with such services can skip ahead to the Streaming Criteria section below. For those still reading here: do streaming services have to do with trout fishing? Perhaps freshwater supplies for small cities?

Don’t worry, you already know what streaming is. You’ve used it: you’ve surely watched videos on YouTube or Facebook; or you’ve followed links in John Puccio’s News of the Week columns to find websites where you listened to musical selections; or you’ve clicked on the link at the end of a review in these pages to hear a sample. All those are examples of streaming: sending an electronic file (a video file, a music file) to some device for playback. Is that like downloading an MP3 file to your smartphone? Yes, but in downloading, the file is saved on your smartphone for later use. In streaming, the file is read and used – played – on the fly, not saved for later.

So a music streaming “service” is a business that streams music to you. You already know that you can receive and play that music on your laptop, but you probably want to hear that music on your home audio system. To accomplish that, you could plug your laptop into your preamp, and some people do so. But a simpler, more convenient approach is to use an audio component designed for the purpose, and there are many such devices on the market. We’ll discuss all this below.

Finally, what music do streaming services offer? Unlike YouTube or typical websites, streaming services offer the content of huge libraries of commercially available recordings – the equivalent of CDs from a large selection of labels. In other words, using a streaming service is like having a very, very large CD collection without having any physical CDs – a good thing, because you probably don’t have space to store a hundred thousand CDs anyway.

But all those music files are just hanging out on a file server somewhere. How does the server know which music to send to you? That's the other half of the streaming service: an app for your laptop that allows you to find the music that you want. Once you find a work that you want to hear, you click a button and voila - music plays.

Streaming Service Criteria

We have three different considerations when selecting a streaming service. The first two are obvious: the music side – what music is offered in what format(s) at what cost – and the app side – what features are offered in the app and how easy is it to search for the music that you want? The third consideration is whether and how the service can be easily used with your audio system, which can be trickier than you might think.

Let's start with music, or rather file, formats, simply because that will help us eliminate some services. Readers of this blog are likely to own decent audio systems and listen critically to them. Thus, said readers will be interested in services that offer at least CD quality sound – MP3-only services need not apply. This restriction eliminates some of the most popular streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music. The major players left standing are Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon (a recent addition), Primephonic and Idagio.

Turning to the other musical consideration, which of these services offers a large selection of classical music? In theory, all of them. Tidal, Qobuz, and Amazon advertise that they have millions of “tracks” in all genres. But a complication arises: they don't all necessarily have the same tracks, and there's little predicting which service will have which tracks. Moreover, it is difficult to compare advertised numbers: a service may have millions of tracks, but how many are classical? And if a “track” is similar to a track on a CD, the count will be inflated for classical works: is an album of Chopin’s Etudes one track (the entire album) or 27 tracks (one per etude)?

On to the second aspect of comparison: what features are offered in the apps, and how easily can you find what you are looking for? All of the services have some sort of “featured music” displays on the home page, most provide lists of new (to them) artists and releases, most provide “curated lists” or collections of various types, and so on. All provide a search capability allowing you to enter something like “beethoven symphony 5” and (we hope) returning a list of performances of that work. All allow you to make the search more precise, e.g., “beethoven symphony 5 furtwangler”. It would be nice if you could make searches even more intelligent by asking for recordings made with, say, period instruments or even specifying the record label; sadly, such meta-terms do not work.

Now about this connecting to your audio system business…. If your use case is playing music through your smartphone as you work out at the gym or through your laptop as you write music reviews for Classical Candor, it’s easy-peasy: fire up the app and hit the play button. But connecting to your real audio system?

In the old days, meaning a few years ago, the most common connection method involved using a laptop connected to the audio system by a USB cable. More specifically, you would connect the laptop to a standalone digital to analog converter (DAC) or to a receiver or preamp containing a DAC. While this works, it is less than convenient: either you dedicate a computer for this purpose (perhaps an older one that you have lying around or, if you are really into it, a dedicated, specially tweaked standalone computer), or you must plug and unplug your laptop every time you sit down to listen to music. (And perhaps have a very long USB cable if you want to have the laptop in your lap!) That’s not even counting potential tweaks that some audiophiles recommend to “improve” the USB connection.

You might suppose that with modern cellphones, you could connect wirelessly using Bluetooth. Technically, that sort of works, but Bluetooth generally has issues with transmitting high quality sound.

Not long ago, meaning last year, another method that audiophiles used was to download the music that they wanted and store it on a computer or music server/external drive. (Also, some audiophiles believe that they can obtain better sound by downloading a file than by streaming it.) The music could then be played through the audio system via a permanent network connection. I say “not long ago” as it’s becoming more difficult to do this. Primephonic used to offer downloads, but that option is gone. Qobuz allows subscribers to purchase downloads, often in high resolution, but I cannot say whether that’s possible for their entire catalog. Idagio, Qobuz, and Primephonic allow downloads for offline listening only in their Android and iOS apps. Regardless, I assume here that readers really, really want to be able to listen to music as the spirit moves them, without fiddling around with downloads in advance.
At last we come to the far simpler and more convenient method: buy a purpose-built audio streaming device and find a streaming service that “natively” integrates with it. No cables needed! But there’s a catch (you knew that was coming): not all streaming services integrate with all (or even many – or even any) streaming components. It’s a little like finding apps for your smartphone: you cannot expect to load apps built for the iPhone onto an Android phone or vice versa. Fortunately, both streaming services and equipment manufacturers list the counterparts with which they integrate, so you can look up which services work with what equipment. Note that these lists change as vendors develop new integrations.
Finally, a clarification: I mentioned earlier that you could use any type of “computer” with each service, anything from desktop to smartphone. That’s true for the basics. However, you may want to use different computers for different purposes.

With a desktop, laptop, or even a tablet, you can access the services through a web page. Because these devices have large screens, this method provides the richest experience for exploring each service’s offerings of recommendations and articles about music and performers.
While you can play music directly from any of these devices, it’s likely to sound a lot better with external speakers that you might have connected to your desktop computer.
Some services allow you to save music for later offline playback, and you probably have more space available on your desktop or laptop than on your phone.
If you are listening on the go, including while in your car, you obviously will want to use the app on your smartphone, or possibly a tablet.

If you are controlling a streaming player in your audio system, you will be using an app that communicates directly with the player, and that app will be on your smartphone or tablet.

The Choices

With these considerations in mind, let’s look at several different services.

Idagio

A good place to begin is with Idagio, which focuses solely on classical music – just what we need. And indeed, Idagio does offer much to classical music lovers. To begin with, playlists found on the home page could provide hours of listening pleasure, even if you never bothered to search for additional works. There are collections of featured albums, new releases, performances by young artists, “weekly mixes” – the list goes on and on. Some provide only movements from larger works, which may or may not appeal, but many list full albums. There are “Idagio exclusives,” albums available only on this service, 30 recent recordings as of this writing. Finally, Idagio subscribers can join “Idagio Live” Events, which feature various artists discussing performance and compositions. Attending the live events requires purchasing a ticket, usually around $10, but you can view past events for free through the Idagio website. The little touches go on and on: for example, on the web player, you can click on the photo of an album cover to see the liner notes. (That does not seem to work on the smartphone app, probably because the screen is too small.)

When I searched for specific items, results generally were appropriate; the work that I wanted was usually somewhere near the top of the search results list. Oddly, however, search results differed between searches performed on the website versus inside the app; on these admittedly rare occasions, the app searches were less helpful. Perhaps the highest hurdle was that I often had to figure out which performance was which by squinting at a tiny thumbnail of an album cover on my phone, which in turn meant that I might need several tries to find the right performance.

Idagio has plenty of works and performances to choose from, but – based on random searches for obscure older recordings – it seemed that the catalog is slightly less comprehensive than that of Primephonic or Qobuz (see below). Not wanting to rely solely on impressions, I tested by searching for the most recent twenty CDs reviewed in Classical Candor. In this test, Qobuz was slightly ahead of Idagio, i.e., Qobuz found more of the CDs for which I searched. Meanwhile, both slightly trailed Primephonic. Then again, when I searched for “bwv 565”, Idagio returned a list of 100 soloists (!), some with multiple performances. However, keep in mind that none of this is really scientific, that my searches are mostly biased toward romantic and later musical periods, and that some performances are found on one service and not the other.

Idagio offers three plans: Free (supposedly with ads, but I used it for a few days and don’t recall any ads), Student, and Premium at €5 and €10 respectively, the latter offering CD quality. Idagio does not offer high resolution. Until someone reminds Idagio’s accountants, it’s even cheaper than that in the US, as I am being billed $10, not €10 (about a 13% discount), for Premium. For the paid plans, music is streamed at CD quality; no high-resolution option is offered. Idagio does integrate with several audio operating systems, including Bluesound, Burmester, and Nativ. Sadly, that’s not a very large list, which means there’s a good chance that you will need to connect your laptop to your audio system via a USB cable for the best sound. Luckily my NAD C 658 streaming preamp (review forthcoming) does use Bluesound, and the connection worked perfectly.

Primephonic

In many ways, Primephonic was the most appealing service of the bunch. Like Idagio, it is strictly focused on classical music and offers many of the same benefits in terms of home page content, such as list of new releases and recommendations. Indeed, the similarities between the two largely outweigh the differences, although I did find Idagio’s various lists and features a little more impressive than Primephonic’s.

Claiming to have 2,500,000 classical “tracks” available, Primephonic’s catalog obviously is huge. In both my random searching and Classical Candor tests, the number of albums found on Primephonic was greater than that on Idagio and Qobuz, although not by a large margin. Another point in favor of Primephonic is their “Fair Payout Model” for musicians. Streaming services are notorious for paying incredibly low amounts to the musicians whose work they use. As a former musician myself, I find Primephonic’s attempt to do better appealing.

Speaking of payment, Primephonic offers two plans: Premium, which is not premium at all in offering only MP3 quality, is $10 (or $99 annually); the Platinum plan, which provides up 24-bit (without mentioning bit rate, but surely at least 96) is very competitive at $15 ($149 annually).

So can we simply declare Primephonic the winner and go home? Not quite: Primephonic integrates only with Sonos, which has minimal penetration in the audiophile market. Instead, Primephonic recommends using a mini-jack or RCA interconnect – meaning that your laptop will do the digital to audio conversion, bypassing the multi-hundred (or multi-thousand) dollar DAC in your audio system. That’s a non-starter for even the least dedicated audiophile. Fortunately, you still can use the USB cable connection method. Primephonic says that they are working on integrations, but they are rather late to this particular party. However, if you don’t mind the cable connection, this may be the service for you.

Qobuz

Qobuz offers all type of music, but with a clever twist: on the home page of the web site or within the app, you can select “classical”, among other choices, as a musical genre. When you do so, Qobuz presents its lists (New Releases, Recommended, etc.) based solely on classical music, thus giving it much the feel of a classical-only service. Thus restricted, the home page also includes sections with articles about and interviews with performers and composers, among other goodies.

Given that Qobuz has all kinds of music in addition to classical, I worried that search results would be clogged with irrelevant entries. In practice, though, this was not a significant issue. Entering, say, a composer’s name and the partial title of a work was enough to exclude unwanted results. Moreover, Qobuz is smart enough about classical compositions to show when multiple tracks on an album belong to different works. Idagio and Primephonic do this naturally, as it is a common case with classical albums.

In terms of catalog size, my impression based on my random searching and the Classical Candor test is that Qobuz is in the middle of the pack, slightly ahead of Idagio but slightly trailing Primephonic. But to show how hard it is to assess such things: my search for “bwv 565” returned a measly 39 performances – but Qobuz was the only service to have the entire set (or any) of Chapuis’ traversal of the Buxtehude organ works.

Of all the services covered here, Qobuz is the most aggressive (in a good way) in offering music in high-resolution. The base plan, “Studio Premier” at $15, streams all music in the highest resolution available: high resolution (24/192) when available, otherwise CD quality. The “Sublime” plan at $249 annually adds a discount for purchases of CDs and high res downloads.

In terms of connecting to audio systems, Qobuz integrates with a host of audio equipment brands. There’s an excellent chance that you will be able to avoid the hassle of cabling your laptop to your audio system. The Bluesound integration that I used worked perfectly.

Finally, keep in mind the Qobuz offers a huge selection of music other than classical. I know, I know: in this article, we’re considering services for classical music lovers. But loving classical music doesn’t mean that you can’t love other music, too – and maybe even listen to some once in a while. Old guys like me can pull up tunes form the Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, or Jefferson Airplane or jazz from across multiple styles and eras. Meanwhile, your kids can listen to the latest from Beyoncé or Jay-Z or Taylor Swift or… (but if your kids are truly hip, they’ve moved on from those names). Anyway, you get the idea.

Amazon

Amazon, the 800 pound gorilla of streaming services and everything else, is a latecomer to high resolution streaming. Now that it has arrived, how does it work for classical music lovers?

In short, not very well. It goes without saying that Amazon’s catalog is huge. But the Amazon music home page gives equal weight to a wide assortment of musical types and styles, so finding anything relevant to classical is, to put it mildly, difficult. Amazon does offer “stations”, which are curated playlists, but their very names suggest that the curation is of the airline seatback entertainment variety: nothing offensive, but hardly designed for the serious listener. For example, my click on “Ultimate Classics” started something playing – but what was it? It sounded vaguely like late Renaissance, but there was no description, no indication of a composer or performer, just music playing. Suddenly another track started, this time an orchestral movement, late romantic – maybe something by Liszt? You get the idea.

Well, we still can search for works or performances. Sadly, searching on Amazon Music is particularly maddening. Unlike searches on all of the other services discussed here, typing in a search does not show partial results. Instead, one needs to complete the entire search string, hit the Enter key, then select either Amazon Music or My Music, and finally hope that your typing was not in vain. Amazon has way more software engineering talent than such a primitive search would indicate. In addition, searches seem to fail for no obvious reason, even though very similar searches find the desired works.

Once a work is found and selected, the results are presented as single list of tracks, with no indications of any grouping. In many cases, that’s acceptable, but for albums containing multiple works, the user has to figure out where the divisions are. Consider the tracks on the album “A State of Wonder” which contains Glenn Gould’s 1955 and 1981 performances of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Quick, where in the list of tracks do the 1955 performances end and the later ones begin?

The good news is that Amazon Music Service integrates with audio equipment from a boatload of manufacturers. The HD Music plan is reasonably priced at $15. However, other similar plans that are more classical-friendly are similarly priced and probably more appealing to readers of Classical Candor.

Tidal

Tidal may be the best known of the major services. It offers all types of music, including classical. However, my experience with Tidal is limited: I quickly found several issues that, in my opinion, made it less than ideal for classical music lovers, so I soon moved on.

First, the Tidal home page feels less than welcoming to those whose interests lie outside of current pop music: the visually overwhelming array of current artists invoked a gut level feeling that this was not the place for me. But unlike Qobuz, Tidal seems not to provide a way to restrict the home page to classical works. Thus, listings such as “new releases” were useless in terms of classical music only.

Second, Tidal’s explanation of what was in which plans is just opaque. It’s quite clear that high resolution (better than CD) is available only in the HiFi plan. What’s confusing is whether CD quality is part of the standard plan: my best guess is that it is not. In any case, high resolution, and maybe CD resolution, is available only in MQA format, which is not supported by all DACs and is somewhat controversial in terms of its ultimate audio quality. MQA does have the advantage of using less data for high resolution files than standard high-res streaming, but this is irrelevant for home use with a high-speed Internet connection.

On the positive side, Tidal claims that it provides higher payments to musicians then do its competitors. That’s a worthy goal, but unfortunately, it’s unclear how this works out for classical music and musicians given Tidal’s “payment by song” orientation.

Having said all this, Tidal does have a huge catalog, and it does integrate with equipment from a long list of manufacturers. If you already have Tidal, or if you have other reasons to prefer it, or it is the only service with native integration to your audio equipment, go for it. Otherwise, it may not be the service for classical music fans.

Caveats

I should point out two things that we have not discussed: internet requirements and sound.

The internet requirements are simple: you need a reasonably high speed – but not crazy – connection. These days, the minimum speed offered by cable and DSL providers should be fine. If you live beyond the reach of these services, satellite services might work, but try first. Several of the services recommend a wired (ethernet) connection to your router, but in my experience WiFi is fine, provided that the whatever you have a strong WiFi signal to the streaming device. If the signal is so-so, there are ways to improve matters, but that’s beyond the scope of our discussion.

It may seem strange that I have not talked about the sound quality of each service. But other than the question of resolution, when the services receive and stream the same files from the record companies, the results should sound the same. (Tidal’s could sound slightly different because of MQA encoding.) The sneaky issue here, though, is that with large numbers of reissues floating around, it’s hard to say which services received exactly which versions of which recordings. If someone tells you that service X sounds better than service Y, the services could be playing different releases of the same performance.

Summary

So which service is right for you? Here are a few thoughts:

Personally, I want the convenience of native integration with my audio system, so Idagio and Qobuz are on my list. Let’s hope that Primephonic gets its act together soon, and for that matter that Idagio extends its integrations to other manufacturers as well.

If you want to select from every last recorded performance known to humanity, the size of the catalog makes a difference. In practice, if you already have your favorite performances on CD and are more interested in using a steaming service to explore, catalog size may be less important.

If higher-than-CD resolution is a must, Qobuz and Primephonic are your choices. But keep in mind that most of the music available on all of the services is at CD quality – and there is some controversy about how audible higher resolutions really are.

For those fearing that high resolution streaming will eat up the data plan on your cell phone, no worries:  you always can switch to a lower resolution on the fly when you use your cell phone on a data plan. That’s true for all of the services.

My best advice is to try any and all that sound interesting. All of these services offer free trials of from 14 days to 30 days. Most of the trials, except Qobuz, are for lower resolution plans. But in all cases, you can sample the entire catalog and explore all of the extra features, knowing that you will have at least CD resolution if and when you pony up. If you have a particular area of interest, e.g., early Baroque madrigals or contemporary American composers, you can evaluate each service’s catalog relative to that interest. If you just can’t decide, these services have become so inexpensive that you could keep two of them! What do you have to lose?

BH

Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 “Kreutzer” (CD review)

Also, Franck: Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano; Kreisler: Schon Rosmarin. Lara St. John, violin; Matt Herskowitz, piano. Ancalagon Records ANC 144.

Lara St. John is not your usual violinist. She’s more daring than most, more apt to take chances. Not that she reinvents the music she plays nor distorts it with pyrotechnics or virtuosity for its own sake.

Ms. St. John says about herself and the two violin sonatas on the disc, “I’m a bit of a strange violinist, and when I was a kid, supposed to be learning all these normal works that folks play, instead I was learning Bartok’s solo sonata and Debussy, and Beethoven’s concerto and 10th sonata, and I just sort of missed some of these more ‘normal’ pieces. I learned both of these sonatas rather late in life--in my late 20s. When I first asked Matt (Herskowitz) to perform the Franck, which we have been playing together now for many years, I had performed it once or twice before, but had never been entirely free of a normal pianist’s ideas of ‘tradition,’ which I found hobbling and somewhat nonsensical. As for Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 ‘Kreutzer,’ I had been waiting for a pianist who would be able to keep up the extremes I envisioned for this piece, tempo and volume-wise. Obviously, old Ludwig wanted the pianist to improvise, which is what Matt does in the piano cadenzas.”

St. John began playing the violin at two years old and gave her first public performance as a soloist with an orchestra at age four. By five she was making frequent trips with her mother and brother to Cleveland, Ohio, where she worked under the instruction of Linda Cerone. By age nine, she won grand prize at the Canadian Music Competition. Then at age ten, she made her European debut with the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Portugal, after which she spent three years touring the continent, including Spain, France, and Hungary. At age thirteen she entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she later received her degree. At age sixteen, she moved on her own to the former Soviet Union, becoming the youngest postgraduate student at the Moscow Conservatory. In that same year, St. John traveled throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, where she encountered the Romani people, a cultural experience that would later influence her musical performance projects.

Eventually returning to her studies, St. John attended three different academies: the Guildhall School in London, Mannes College of Music in New York, and the New England Conservatory. Since then she has appeared with major orchestras throughout the world and recorded over a dozen albums. She performs on the 1779 “Salabue” Guadagnini.

Lara St. John
Her colleague on the current disc is pianist, composer, and arranger Matt Herskowitz, who, according to his Web site, “has produced a series of critically-acclaimed recordings, premiered his works in settings from New York’s Central Park to Germany’s Koln Philharmonie, collaborated with top classical, jazz and pop artists, and has performed at music festivals across the globe.”

So, first up on the program is the Violin Sonata No. 9 “Kreutzer,” Op. 47, written by Ludwig Van Beethoven in 1803. It’s called the “Kreutzer” sonata because Beethoven dedicated it to the violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, who hated it and refused to play it. Kreutzer called it "outrageously unintelligible." Maybe the composer was a whole lot before his day, and that’s why Ms. St. John chose to record it? In any case, like the Franck piece that accompanies it on the disc, the Beethoven sonata is in the key of A, which explains the album’s subtitle, “Key of A.” The sonata became even more famous after Leo Tolstoy published a novella called The Kreutzer Sonata in 1889, and it’s been popular ever since.

One can hear from the outset why Kreutzer refused to play Beethoven’s sonata. It’s extremely complicated and takes virtuosic skill to pull off. Ms. St. John does it with seemingly effortless skill. Beethoven wrote the piece as he was becoming ever more acutely aware of his impending deafness. Maybe he was angry, and the often tumultuous music reflects it. Beethoven appears to structure the whole first movement as an argument between the violin and piano, with each instrument holding its own. Listening to St. John and Herskowitz play it, one can practically see the ensuing battle going on, and it’s both a stimulating clash and a joy to hear. The central Andante and Variations come as a gentle, needed respite, with the performers at restful ease, even when the spirits get more lively. The work ends on a relatively brief Presto, so expect a sprightly and festive finish.

After the Beethoven is the Sonata for Violin and Piano, written by the composer, pianist, and organist Cesar Franck in 1886. It’s a familiar sonata, one you may recognize, and it’s considered by many music critics as one of the finest sonatas of its kind ever written. It became so popular, in fact, that it has seen any number of transcriptions for other instruments, as well as an orchestral version. But it’s nice to hear the original.

Needless to say, St. John and Herskowitz have the measure of the work. Supposedly, Franck’s four movements represent the four stages of life: birth, youthful passion, tragedy, and joyous acceptance. Unlike the Beethoven, the conversation between the violin and piano is rapt and rapturous. The performers create a mood that is totally captivating, wholly delightful, and, like the music, flawlessly triumphal.

The program concludes with the little Schon Rosmarin (“Lovely Rosemary”), published by the Austrian violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler in 1905. As expected, it’s a charming rendition.

Producers Lara St. John, Stephen H. Judson, and Martha de Francisco and engineer Martha De Francisco recorded the music at the Fraser Performance Studio of WBGH’s Educational Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts in November 2017. The violin sound is crisp and extremely well detailed; and the piano is big and warm, just as though they were in your listening room with you. The two instruments complement one another, and the sound does both of them justice. You can hear every nuance of the music with this kind of definition.

JJP

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