Classical Music News of the Week, August 29, 2020


ROCO Opens Their 16th Season

ROCO’s (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) 16th season, “Color and Light,” will kick off on September 26 with Starburst, a program of musical light and energy, in a fully virtual, free live-streamed performance from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, without an in-person audience. Tune in and interact with the orchestra on Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or their website, at ROCO.org/live.

Conducted by ROCO’s Artistic Partner, Mei-Ann Chen, Starburst is built around a world premiere commission by composer and bandoneonist Richard Scofano, who will also be the featured soloist for the work. The symphonic poem, entitled La Tierra Sin Mal (translating to The Land Without Evil), is inspired by the mythology of the Guaraní people, and takes the form of a concerto for bandoneon (a Latin-American bellowed instrument) and orchestra. Starburst will also present works from Fauré, Kodaly, Beethoven, and Debussy, as well as more modern composers, including Jessie Montgomery’s piece Starburst.

Watch the announcement video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQBfQKIHsOE

ROCOrooters, ROCO’s unique music education offering from instructor Keisha Twitchell, will be going all digital this season, even pairing with the orchestra’s Unchambered events.  Mrs. Twitchell will offer downloadable materials ahead of time for families to prepare to watch the live stream of the full concert together, and then the following Saturday ROCO will present a free 30-minute morning ROCOrooters lesson via Zoom, in which she will connect the dots with children to encourage even deeper engagement in ROCO’s music. More information is available at https://roco.org/rocorooters/.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

SOLI's Summer Video Series"Moments of SOLIcitude" Continues
 Don't miss Episode 6 of SOLI's summer video series Moments of SOLIcitude on YouTube Premieres, featuring selections from composer Kinan Azmeh's The Fence, The Roof, and the Distant Sea, performed by SOLI clarinetist Stephanie Key and cellist David Mollenauer.

Recorded on August 16th at a cabin on the shores of Lake Tahoe, CA, the video will also feature a quick word from two of our dearest friends and supporters, Joe and Toni Murgo, and a very special announcement.

“A fence, a rooftop, and the distant sea were all present facing my desk while I finished the piece in Beirut in December 2016,” says the composer. “These elements were a reminder of how near my hometown of Damascus was, yet how far it seemed after being away for five years. The piece is about the random memories of individuals, more precisely about two characters searching for memories from home. The memories jump, sometimes abruptly from one to another until they realize that the most powerful memories were the simplest.” --Kinan Azmeh

The episode premiered on Wednesday, August, 26 @ 5:00 PM and is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeT7tWURvcs&feature=youtu.be

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Orli Shaham's “MidWeek Mozart”
Pianist Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart continues this week with the complete Sonata No.18, K. 576, available to stream for free beginning Wednesday, August 26.

"This was the last piano sonata that Mozart wrote," says Ms. Shaham about Sonata No.18. "It was written during the height of Mozart's creative powers, when he was churning out one opera after another. Mozart couldn't have known this was his last piano sonata but there’s no better one to end with."

Visit, watch, and listen here: https://orlishahammozart.com/

--Gail Wein, Classical Music Communications

Royal Ballet's Francesca Hayward and William Bracewell in Romeo and Juliet
“Great Performances” continues to bring the best in classical and dance programming into homes with a new production of Romeo and Juliet, which kicks off the series’ fall season. A film by the BalletBoyz, the award-winning team of Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, “Great Performances: Romeo and Juliet” premieres Friday, September 11, 2020 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/gperf, and the PBS Video app.

Starring the current generation of The Royal Ballet dancers with William Bracewell as Romeo, Francesca Hayward as Juliet ("Cats") and Matthew Ball as Tybalt, this film adaptation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece takes legendary Royal Ballet choreographer Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 ballet out of the theater and into the streets of a cinematic Verona, offering a passionate reimagining of this timeless love story.

This romantic classic is set to Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s original 1938 score performed by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and is vividly recreated on atmospheric studio sets in Budapest, combining inventive cinematography and dynamic choreography.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

The SMCQ Proposes a Unifying Project for Music in Schools
The back to school season bodes to be cautious, with masks and physical distancing measures in place. So the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) is adding a breath of fresh air to make music vibrate in the schools.

Building on its past twenty years of experience with school networks, and its educational platform to discover Quebec composers, this year, the SMCQ is launching a project bringing together virtual choirs to provide a year's worth of rhythm. The project will focus on the four seasons, with the musical cycle Au regard des solstices plus new creations by François-Hugues Leclair.

“Following this past spring's successful Grands espaces Virtual Choir featuring composer Katia Makdissi-Warren, the SMCQ proposes singing and dancing, discovering local artists, reconnecting with nature through art, and participating in a major collective musical work … Whether at school or at home, students from across the country (and even around the world) will be able to add their voices and sing new musical creations,” notes Claire Cavanagh, SMCQ's Director of Communications and Education.

The Rhythm of the Seasons
Augmenting the four canons of spring, summer, fall, winter, already enthusiastically welcomed in 2016, we will be adding four new canons giving voice to animals native to Quebec. Students will be invited to learn one or two pieces each season and to register to be part of a large virtual choir.

Students may also partake in a prelude to dance featuring choreographies designed by Barbara Diabo, a specialist in traditional and contemporary Indigenous dance from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake. The videos, produced by a professional team with the contributions of the students will then be shared on the web and in a public space at the Quartier des spectacles.

For more about the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, visit http://smcq.qc.ca/

--France Gaignard, Publicist

The Crossing Premieres Animated Film
On Monday, August 31, 2020 at 12 p.m ET, Grammy-winning choir The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, premieres a new animated film by Brett Snodgrass featuring “One Day I Saw,” a movement of Michael Gordon’s hour-long piece on history, home, and homelessness, Anonymous Man.

The premiere will go live on The Crossing’s Facebook page, website, and YouTube Channel and will remain available to view afterwards. The film was conceived by Donald Nally and features original artwork and animation by longtime Crossing collaborator Brett Snodgrass. The Crossing released its recording of Anonymous Man on Friday, March 20, 2020 on Cantaloupe Music. Review copies and downloads available upon request.

Scored for 24 unaccompanied voices, Anonymous Man expands on Michael Gordon’s inventive approach to composition, layering minimalistic swirls of vocal sound on top of one another to create a hypnotic incantation. Gordon regards Anonymous Man as one of his most important and personal works, drawing inspiration for the piece from his neighborhood in lower Manhattan. Now a residential area in Tribeca, the block Gordon was at the time an industrial warehouse district when he moved into the former Romanoff Caviar factory in 1981.

For complete information, visit https://www.crossingchoir.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Saratoga Performing Arts Center presents Joshua Bell and Time For Three
Saratoga Performing Arts Center announces "SPAC @ Home: Concert Series," featuring performances by violinist Joshua Bell alongside pianist Peter Dugan (SEP 12) and genre crossing ensemble Time For Three (SEP 19). Shot on the grounds of SPAC and at Skidmore College's Arthur Zankel Music Center, each presentation will feature an exclusive program and will include greetings and commentary by the artists as well as interviews about the challenges and creative opportunities in the time of COVID-19.

The "SPAC @ Home: Concert Series" is the latest addition to SPAC REIMAGINED, following the recent Beethoven 2020 Festival that featured exclusive concerts, lectures and a new online platform throughout the month of August.

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

--Rebecca Davis PR

50th Anniversary Film Celebrating Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
To celebrate its 50th Anniversary, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presents the global premiere of the documentary film Transcending: The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Celebrates 50 Years. The 53-minute film, introduced by stage and screen actor Annette Bening, premieres on September 10 at 7:00 pm EDT on www.chambermusicsociety.org/gala and on broadcast and digital platforms around the world.

“One of the reasons I love chamber music,” says Bening, is that it has the same power [as ensemble acting] to reach audiences in the most intimate way.” The film explores the remarkable organization that has been, since its founding 50 years ago, a pioneering leader in producing chamber music at the highest level, supporting and nurturing artists performing this repertoire, and presenting concerts to the broadest possible audience around the globe.

On September 8 and 9, in the days leading up to the film’s premiere, The Violin Channel will present a two-day festival, “Celebrating 50 Years of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.” The festival will feature eight full-length concerts, two master classes and one lecture from the CMS archive, with introductions from Co-Artistic Directors David Finckel and Wu Han and additional content posted throughout the Festival. To watch the Festival (Sep 8-9) and the premiere of the film (Sep 10), visit www.theviolinchannel.com.

--Kirshbaum 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 John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa