Classical Music News of the Week, July 18, 2020

Alarm Will Sound Launches "Video Chat Variations”

Alarm Will Sound--"one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene" (The New York Times)--continues to revitalize music-making during the COVID-19 pandemic with “Video Chat Variations,” a new series of remote performances that respond to the quirks of video chat platforms. The series will launch in August 2020 with two visionary, multi-faceted artists, both MacArthur "Genius" Award winners: Meredith Monk (8/1), and Tyshawn Sorey (9/12).  This new project comes on the heels of Alarm Will Sound Artistic Director Alan Pierson’s ingenious tech version of John Luther Adams's Ten Thousand Birds, produced at home under quarantine.

"We're thrilled to be collaborating with our favorite composers to harness the artistic and communicative possibilities of the technologies we're all living with now, in order to create work that speaks to our unprecedented moment," Pierson says. Instead of trying to correct the frustrating idiosyncrasies of video chat platforms, Alarm Will Sound and the Video Chat Variations composers are embracing quirks like delay, latency, jitter, and glitching to discover their beauty and expressive power. The goal is to transform video chat from a stop-gap, content-delivery medium into meaningful artistic material that will capture and therefore outlast the pandemic.

The series opens on Saturday, August 1 at 9:00 p.m. (EST) with a First Performance of  “Anthem” by the legendary artist Meredith Monk. Then on Saturday, September 12, Alarm Will Sound premieres “Autoschediasms” by Tyshawn Sorey.

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Dear SOLI Friend, Happy July
You may have noticed that SOLI Chamber Ensemble has taken a few weeks to allow some time for all of you and Everyone in our extended SOLI family to take care of ourselves and our loved ones in these challenging and unprecedented times. The desire for all of us in the arts world to be "relevant" and "productive" is unbelievably strong, especially since we can’t interact with all of you in-person right now. But we felt we needed to take a step back and take time to re-imagine our upcoming season, our artistic output, and thoughtfully find new and engaging ways to continue realizing our mission to fulfill our role in our community as the Ensemble on the forefront of innovation and creativity. No matter what our future "new reality" may look like, you can count on SOLI to be there, leading the way.

Our 2020-2021 season will be created in a flexible style. We are working with a four-scenario plan (1 being "all is well, with some restrictions" and 4 being "please stay at home"). Each component of the season will be adaptable to any of the scenarios to make sure you are getting the best possible performances with great insights and content that is meaningful, engaging, and fun - maybe even a bit educational! STAY TUNED for future details and as always, wash your hands and wear a mask!

Don't miss the premiere episode of SOLI Chamber Ensemble's new summer video series A Moment of SOLIcitude on YouTube Premieres, featuring composer Elena Kats Chernin's Butterflying.

Recorded on December 12, 2019, the performance of Elena Kats Chernin's Butterflying is part of a longer concert the Ensemble presented at the McNay Art Museum's Music & Minimalism – Gallery Talk and Performance series. McNay Art Museum and SOLI collaborate regularly on creative projects highlighting and amplifying the connection of Music and Art:

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Experiential Orchestra “Morning Meditation”
This week’s “Morning Meditation” is composed by Kirsten Volness, performed by Colin and Izia Weyman, all set to artwork by Megan Slusarewicz. Watching and listening to this to the first time, I found myself grateful once again for the indescribable joy of experiencing new creations through commissions and collaborations. This is a part of the EXO mission that is so powerful. I am grateful to all of these great artists for their generous creative efforts.

This four-part collaborative “Morning Meditation” is here:

--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra

Anthony McGill: Raising Thousands for The Equal Justice Initiative
Clarinetist Anthony McGill, the first African American Principal Player of the New York Philharmonic, has issued a follow-up #TakeTwoKnees challenge, which is already raising thousands of dollars for the Equal Justice Initiative (

The musician will donate $5,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative, and he will add another $50 for every new #TakeTwoKnees tribute he sees (up to $10,000 total) until his birthday on July 17.

In a new Facebook post and an accompanying video in which Mr. McGill performs "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)" to a voice-over recorded by Dr. Thomas Holt, James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History at the University of Chicago, Mr. McGill encouraged people to "please post something meaningful to you with the hashtag #TakeTwoKnees."

--Allison Van Etten for For Anthony McGill, Ravenscroft PR

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Unveils "SPAC REIMAGINED" Video Series
Saratoga Performing Arts Center announces "SPAC REIMAGINED," a series of unique, locally-shot dance videos that pay tribute to the 2020 classical season and feature all three of SPAC's resident companies.

Created by videographers and NYCB dancers, Emily Kikta and Peter Walker, the project combines the talents of seven dancers and four choreographers from New York City Ballet, alongside music performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The videos will be released starting on Tuesday, 7/14, the previously scheduled date of New York City Ballet's Opening Night, and will culminate with a longer-form performance on Saturday, 7/25.

The videos will be released from July 14-25 at, and on SPAC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

--Rebecca Davis PR

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of July 20-26)
Tuesday, July 21 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jen Shyu speaks and performs in virtual event, presented by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

Thursday, July 23:
James Conlon discusses Wagner’s Ring cycle on LA Opera’s Coffee with Conlon.

Thursday, July 23; Friday, July 24; Saturday, July 25 at 5:30 p.m. PT:
Miró Quartet continues livestreamed Beethoven string quartet cycle with “Razumovsky” Quartets.

Saturday, July 25, starting at 7:00 a.m. PT:
LA Opera marathon webcast of Wagner’s Ring cycle, conducted by James Conlon.

Sunday, July 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET:
Jonathan Biss performs as part of Opus 2020, a special online event to benefit Spread the Vote.

Minnesota Orchestra at Home

--Shuman Associates

Bang on a Can Marathon
Bang on a Can will present its third Bang on a Can Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, August 16, 2020 from 3-9pm ET. On its first two live online Marathons (May 3 and June 14) Bang on a Can has presented over 50 performances including 13 new commissions and dozens of composers and performers. Bang on a Can plans to continue these Marathons, streaming online at, until performances for live audiences can fully resume. The 6-hour live Marathon will be hosted by Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, who say:

On August 16, Bang on a Can returns with 6 hours of nonconformist, noncommercial, boundary-smashing music. We kick off at 3pm with the singular and extraordinary Wu Man, one of the world’s foremost Pipa players and close off with György Ligeti’s diabolical etude ‘The Devil’s Staircase’, performed by piano superstar Jeremy Denk. Don’t miss a rare solo performance by jazz legend Oliver Lake, 11 world premieres commissioned especially for the day, as well as music and performances by Leyla McCalla, Kaki King, Annea Lockwood, Craig Taborn, Missy Mazzoli, Tyondai Braxton and many more greats.

This is a free concert! But please consider purchasing a ticket! Doing so will help us to do more performances, pay more players, commission more composers, and share more music worldwide.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

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.13, K. 333, available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, July 15.

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Alarm Will Sound Returns to Live Performance
Fresh off the heels of a celebrated quarantine home version of Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams's Ten Thousand Birds, described by The Washington Post as a “technical feat” with "strange power,” comes Alarm Will Sound's next iteration of this entrancing work.

This August, the 20 members of Alarm Will Sound—"one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene" (The New York Times)—venture upstate for two socially-distanced performances of Ten Thousand Birds in front of live audiences. On Friday, August 7 at 4:00 p.m., the New York State premiere of Ten Thousand Birds takes place in the bucolic 107-acre setting of PS21 in the Hudson Valley. On Sunday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m., AWS performs the work in the natural landscape of the Niagara Gorge at Artpark.

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Camerata Pacifica Announces Cancellation of Entire 20/21 Season
With COVID-19 surging across the country and no indications of containment, Camerata Pacifica has decided to cancel all live performances scheduled through May 2021.

With California recording its highest rates of infection, reversing reopening plans and epidemiologists predicting additional waves of infection for Fall and Winter, the planning necessary to create the architecture to support a concert season is simply impossible.

Artistic Director Adrian Spence says, “We are sad to make the difficult decision to step out of the planned 20/21 season but providing it helps keeps our community safe, it’s a small price to pay. Our focus now turns to planning for a return to performances in the Fall of 2021, and we’re immediately excited about how that will be. The post-COVID-19  concert environment will not be the same as before and therein lies a host of creative opportunities which we plan to fully explore.”

Camerata Pacifica continues online streaming of its popular Sunday ‘Concerts at Home’ performance series on YouTube and Facebook, which have been viewed over 35,000 times since the first Stay at Home order. (

--Amy Williams, Camerata Pacifica

James Conlon and LA Opera’s 2010 Wagner "Ring" Cycle
Ten years after presenting Wagner’s epic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in its first complete staging produced in the city of Los Angeles, Music Director James Conlon and LA Opera invite online audiences to experience these historic performances through a marathon audio stream of all four music dramas back-to-back on Saturday, July 25. Listen via LA Opera’s Facebook channel (@LAOpera) or at

Das Rheingold begins at 8:00 a.m. PT, with Die Walküre following at 11:00 a.m. PT, Siegfried at 3:00 p.m. PT, and Götterdämmerung at 7:00 p.m. PT.

--Shuman Associates

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa