Classical Music News of the Week, October 31, 2020

Pianist Sarah Cahill's Fall Virtual Concerts
 
Sarah Cahill, described as “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times, announces performance highlights between November 15 and December 19, 2020, including concerts presented by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in England, Old First Concerts, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Ross McKee Foundation, Amateur Music Network, and Community School of Music & Arts.
 
Cahill’s recent and upcoming streaming speaking engagements have included a two-day discussion presented by the Boulanger Initiative, “The Future is Female: In Conversation and Performance” (watch online); a Piano Talk presented by the Ross McKee Foundation titled “Challenging the Canon” (watch online); a panel presented by American Composers Forum on Advocating for Gender Equity; and a webinar presented by the San Francisco Symphony, “Five Composers You Should Know (Who Happen to be Women)” (November 10). Her previous streamed performances this year have included the Bang on a Can Marathon in June, a concert presented by Harrison House in Joshua Tree as part of Cahill’s residency there (watch online), as well as appearances streamed by Musaics of the Bay and Old First Concerts.
 
In addition, thus far in 2020 Sarah Cahill has commissioned five new works for solo piano by composers Frederic Rzewski, Robert Pollock, Mary Watkins, Regina Harris Baiocchi, and Michelle Li. With violinist Kate Stenberg, she has commissioned composers Pamela Z, Roscoe Mitchell, and Maija Hynninen; and with Regina Myers, she has commissioned Riley Nicholson’s Up for two pianos.
 
Committed to continuing to reach audiences during these challenging times for live performance, all of Cahill’s fall appearances will be online. Her next scheduled in-person performance is currently March 6, 2021 at the Barbican Centre in London, where she will present a marathon version of her program “The Future is Female,” an immersive listening experience featuring more than sixty compositions by women from around the globe.
 
Sarah Cahill’s radio show, “Revolutions Per Minute,” can be heard every Sunday evening from 8 to 10 pm on KALW, 91.7 FM in San Francisco. The program focuses on the relationships between classical music and new music, encompassing interviews with musicians and composers, historical performances, and recordings outside the mainstream. Cahill is on the piano faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband, video artist John Sanborn, and daughter.
 
For more information, visit http://www.sarahcahill.com/
 
--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists
 
A Platform for Our Voices and Performances Is Here
For the last five months, we at Young People’s Chorus of New York City have been hard at work creating YPC's exciting new multimedia platform. It's called “In the Key of Love,” and I am so excited to share it with you! 
 
“In the Key of Love” will give you an immersive look into the world and talent of YPC, from the voices of our diverse choristers, to amazing projects from our alumni and panel discussions on bringing inclusion to the arts—it will all be showcased and celebrated here.
 
On this platform, we are premiering our new album Heroes, dedicated to New York City’s essential workers. You will also find “Just Songs,” a project featuring brand new compositions and performances from our alumni surrounding social causes. We are bringing the power of our past performances into your home and inviting guests from different disciplines to take on issues centered on equity and inclusion and reimagining the arts. And that’s just the beginning…
 
A virtual global stage, a celebration of our diversity, a platform for our choristers' voices, ”In the Key of Love” is all this and more.
 
For more information, visit https://ypc.org/
 
--Francisco J. Nunez, Founder and Artistic Director
 
PROTOTYPE: Opera | Theattre | Now Announces Ninth Annual Festival
PROTOTYPE: Opera | Theatre | Now, Beth Morrison Projects and HERE’s annual festival announces its ninth season, January 8-16 2021.
 
The season, curated by festival directors Jecca Barry, Kristin Marting, and Beth Morrison, has been completely re-envisioned following the COVID-19 crisis, responding to the seismic events of the present moment in a way that would be impossible under normal circumstances, when works are often created over the course of several years. The result is a series of multi-disciplinary, cross-platform events that expand the technological boundaries of opera-theatre and music-theatre, and offer a new vision for the audience experience.
 
PROTOTYPE launches January 8, 2021. The multi-screen film and music installation Ocean Body will also premiere on January 9 at HERE. In-person by appointment audiences of eight people at a time will experience an audiovisual experience crafted by composer/vocalists Helga Davis and Shara Nova, director-filmmaker Mark DeChiazza, and visual artist Annica Cuppetelli. The emotionally-charged installation will combine four video screens with surround sound audio, growing from the longstanding musical and personal relationship between Davis and Nova.
 
Entrance for all shows must be reserved in advance, and can be secured beginning November 16 by visiting http://prototypefestival.org/
 
--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media
 
The Washington Chorus: Cantata for a More Hopeful Tomorrow
Influenced by stories of hope and the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on the Black community, The Washington Chorus and Artistic Director Dr. Eugene Rogers commissioned composer Damien Geter and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Bob Berg to produce a short music film. Cantata For A More Hopeful Tomorrow is led by Dr. Rogers and features soprano Aundi Marie Moore, cellist Seth Parker Woods, and over 100 singers of The Washington Chorus. The film premieres via live stream on Saturday November 14 at 7.30pm, on the Vimeo platform via TicketSpice, and will thereafter be available via Vimeo+ on demand and other streaming services.
 
The 25-minute, heart-rending film portrays a love story of a couple separated by coronavirus. An elderly African American husband, Martin Rogers, has been diagnosed with severe COVID-19. His wife Michelle, fights to save his life by showing him how much he has to live for.
 
Cantata for a More Hopeful Tomorrow
World premiere debut online: Saturday, November 14, 2020 – 7:30 pm Eastern.
Tickets: $15 (streaming on Vimeo via the TicketSpice platform).
 
On-demand streaming through Vimeo+ and other platforms will be available starting Sunday, November 15 – full details at https://thewashingtonchorus.org/.
 
--Amy Killian, Bucklesweet Media
 
Lisa Brown Joins Music Institute as Sr. Development Director
The Music Institute of Chicago announces that Lisa Brown will join the institution as Senior Director of Development, effective November 2, 2020. Brown will serve as a member of the organization’s senior management team and be responsible for a broad range of fundraising and donor relations initiatives.
 
President and CEO Dr. Mark George stated, “I am absolutely thrilled that Lisa has joined our team. Her approach to fundraising is both thoughtful and high-energy, and I know she will advance the mission of our organization as we head toward our 90th anniversary in 2021.”
 
For more information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/
 
--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications
 
Colburn School and Sphinx Organization Form Partnership
The Colburn School, a leader in music and dance education based in Los Angeles, and the Sphinx Organization, a non-profit organization based in Detroit dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, have formed a partnership aimed at creating new opportunities on the West Coast for emerging young Black and Latinx musicians and arts professionals.
 
Beginning in 2021, Colburn will provide full scholarships in its Music Academy program to pre-collegiate musicians who are winners and semi-finalists in the Junior Division of the Sphinx Competition; present the Sphinx Virtuosi in a residency that encompasses performance, education, and community engagement; and host the first West Coast retreat for the Sphinx LEAD cohort. Designed as a long-term collaborative partnership, the two organizations will explore additional opportunities to engage, develop, and empower young artists of color.
 
Each year, more than 2,000 students from around the world come to Colburn to benefit from the renowned faculty, exceptional facilities, and focus on excellence that unites the community. Learn more at https://www.colburnschool.edu/.
 
--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications
 
What's Streaming: Classical (Week of November 2–8)
Friday, November 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Jennifer Koh premieres Tyshawn Sorey Violin Concerto with Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
https://www.dso.org/watch/1062832
 
Friday, November 6 at 8:00 p.m. CT
Minnesota Orchestra performs music by Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Nebojša Jovan Živkovic, and Louis W. Ballard.
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/
 
Saturday, November 7 at 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. PT (time period for full seminar)
James Conlon discusses pioneering Black composer Joseph Bologne, and his opera The Anonymous Lover as part of LA Opera web seminar.
https://www.laopera.org/community/learn-at-home-grown-up-edition/play-on-salons/anonymous-lover-and-joseph-bologne/
 
Saturday, November 7 at 3:00 p.m. PT
Lara Downes premieres Stephanie Ann Boyd's My Grandmother's Garden as part of Festival of New American Music.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCkUcxSmqmVCRoYhOLAYJDw
 
Saturday, November 7 at 7:00 p.m. PT
Jen Shyu’s composition “Jum Jeng Yi (Fortune Teller)” performed by Olivia de Prato as part of Festival of New American Music.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCkUcxSmqmVCRoYhOLAYJDw
 
Sunday, November 8 at 2:00 p.m. ET
The Gilmore presents Pierre Laurent-Aimard in recital.
https://www.thegilmore.org/event/pierre-laurent-aimard/
 
--Shuman Associates News
 
Heartbeat Opera announces "Breathing Free"
Heartbeat Opera--the radical indie opera company "leading the charge in online opera" (Parterre) with "groundbreaking" virtual content (Operawire) that is "hacking the corporate contours of Zoom into a postmodern proscenium” (Washington Post)--announces Breathing Free, an ambitious six-part virtual series from December 4-12, dedicated to the celebration of Black artistic voices.
 
Breathing Free builds on Heartbeat's 2018 collaboration with 100 incarcerated singers in six prison choirs, part of a contemporary Fidelio told through the lens of Black Lives Matter—a production that left Alex Ross of The New Yorker "blindsided by its impact." Now, in a year of George Floyd’s murder, a pandemic which ravages our prison population, and the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth—Heartbeat curates a song cycle brought to life in vivid music videos, mingling excerpts from Fidelio with songs by Black composers and lyricists, which together manifest a dream of justice and equity.
 
This 45-minute "visual album" features three singers, three dancers, eight instrumentalists, and a robust creative production team. Rehearsed remotely on Zoom, the cast has recorded their individual audio tracks at home, with the music team then layering the tracks together. Heartbeat's filmmaker Anaiis Cisco collaborates with cinematographers to film the performers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
 
For complete information, visit https://www.heartbeatopera.org/
 
--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.
 
Orion Performs Brahms, Arutiunian
Following a successful return to the stage in October, The Orion Ensemble performs again this fall for a limited in-person and unlimited virtual audience on Thursday, November 12 at 7 p.m. at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
 
The program includes Trio No. 1 in B Major for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 8 by Johannes Brahms; composed in 1853-4 and revised 35 years later, it is a deep and mature work that nonetheless exudes youthful energy. The Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano (1992) by Alexander Arutiunian, commissioned by the Verdehr Trio, contains moods ranging from emotionally tense to lyrical. Verdehr members have written that its final movement "contains elements of Armenian dance rhythms with their capricious pulse and unexpected irregularities in a freely improvised melodic style."
 
A maximum of 20 people may attend in person at PianoForte Studios; audience members must wear masks at all times, and, while family groups may sit together, different audience members/groups will be seated at least six feet apart. Extra masks and hand sanitizer will be available. The livestream will be available on Orion's YouTube channel, which will also host a recording of the performance for a limited time.
 
The Orion Ensemble performs Thursday, November 12 at 7 p.m. at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Limited in-person tickets are $25 for advance purchase only at 630-628-9591 or https://www.orionensemble.org/.
 
Virtual access is free; donations are welcome. The livestream will be available on Orion's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4yVkS6Pp0wzG6HxxXGe1SA.
 
--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications
 
CMS Presents the Work of Contemporary Composers
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) is thrilled to present two online series this season dedicated to living composers and their work: New Milestones and Composers in Focus.  Both series are being offered for free and include newly-recorded and archival performances of music; interviews and conversations with composers and musicians; documentary film; and online resource guides for audiences. Once again, CMS has moved forward, in the midst of a pandemic, with new approaches to programming, like their intimate online concert series that continue bringing music, musicians, composers and audiences closer, even as they are physically kept apart.
 
New Milestones, which is primarily a concert experience, supplemented with informational material to provide context, explores and unpacks the work of a wide-ranging selection of international composers: Eleanor Alberga, Andreia Pinto Correia, Patrick Castillo, Zosha Di Castri, Dai Fujikura, Helen Grime, Malika Kishino, Olivier Messiaen, Jessie Montgomery, Juri Seo, Alvin Singleton, Toru Takemitsu, Alejandro Viñao, Thomas Meadowcroft,  and Trevor Weston. This group consciously includes women and people of color, but is also diverse in other ways; there are newcomers and standard-bearers; lovers of tonal melody and artists embracing dissonance; and important composers from the U.S. and many representing other parts of the world, notably Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Jamaica, Japan, Portugal, and Scotland.
 
All events are available for free, beginning Monday, November 16, at https://www.chambermusicsociety.org/.
 
--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates
 
The Show Must Go On(line)!
Last spring, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada (NYO Canada) joined the rest of the nation – and the world – in struggling to meet the new realities of the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the many challenges, NYO Canada was determined not to let down the deserving and gifted young musicians who had worked so hard to earn a place for its 60th anniversary season and international tour.
 
In just a few short weeks, NYO launched a successful 45-day online musical training and professional development session, providing a much-needed lifeline for these newly-isolated young musicians. Now, for its 61st season, NYO Canada is poised to launch a comprehensive “cancel-proof” training institute, with expanded programs, scholarships for all, and masterclasses with international marquee artists – while preparing musicians to be performance-ready, as soon as it is possible to reunite in person.
 
Applications for NYO 2021, are open starting November 1st through to January 1st. For more information. visit https://nyoc.org/auditions/2021-preview/.
 
--Shira Gilbert PR
 
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein in Six Upcoming Virtual Performances
Committed to continuing to reach audiences during these challenging times for live performance, Simone Dinnerstein announces virtual performance highlights between October 31, 2020 and January 8, 2021, including concerts presented online by Dumbarton Oaks, the Boulder Philharmonic, ArtsRock, Oregon Bach Festival, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, and Music Worcester. Dinnerstein’s repertoire for the fall season is wide ranging and includes music by Philip Glass, Richard Danielpour, J.S. Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Satie, and Couperin.
 
The concerts follow shortly after the release of Dinnerstein’s latest album, A Character of Quiet, by Orange Mountain Music on September 18. The new album includes Philip Glass’s Etudes No. 16, No. 6 and No. 2 paired with Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960. Dinnerstein recorded it over the course of two evenings at her home in Brooklyn in June 2020, during the quiet of the New York City lockdown, with her longtime producer and friend Adam Abeshouse. It reached the number one spot on the Billboard Classical Chart, and was described by NPR as, “music that speaks to a sense of the world slowing down,” and by The New Yorker as, “a reminder that quiet can contain multitudes.”
 
For more information, visit https://www.simonedinnerstein.com/
 
--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists
 
Joyce DiDonato: "Sing For Today" Series Launched
Princeton University Concerts, in partnership with University Musical Society (University of Michigan), is excited to announce the launch of "Sing For Today," a new digital initiative conceived by and featuring multiple Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.
 
In the first of what will be a series of videos that respond to global events through song and dialogue, DiDonato--inspired by the patriotic energy of this current moment--sings "This Land Is Your Land," followed by a conversation with Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, and members of the Poll Hero Project Kai Tsurumaki (Princeton University Class of 2023) and Saika Islam (University of Michigan Class of 2021).
 
There is a trailer for the project circulating on our social media channels; the full song and conversation can be accessed here: http://princetonuniversityconcerts.princeton.edu/blog/entry/sing-for-today
 
--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

The New Audiophile Confusion, Part One

By Bill Heck

For many years, assembling a good two-channel audio system was straightforward. Put together one or a few sources, a preamplifier, an amplifier, and speakers – done. You might agonize over brands and choices – this preamp, that amp – but you knew which components did what.

The sources might have included, depending on your tastes and habits, an LP record player, a CD player, and perhaps an FM tuner. If you were really into audio, you might complicate the record playing device by selecting your own combination of turntable, arm, and cartridge. On the other end, if you were on the less finicky side, you might simplify by combining preamp and amp into an integrated amplifier, or perhaps adding a tuner to the integrated amp in the form of a receiver. But that was it, the lines were clear: sources to preamp to amp to speakers. Done.

The lines are clear no longer. The phono part hasn’t changed much. But the rise of digital sources and processing have made all sorts of combinations possible – and if it’s possible, some manufacturer probably is making it.

It started innocently enough with separating the parts of CD players: a CD transport to spin the disk and extract the digital signal, and a separate digital-to-analog converter (DAC) to – well, that’s obvious. This division of labor appealed to the more tweaking-oriented audiophiles, the same folks who would choose their own turntable/arm/cartridge combinations for LPs. But then things got out of hand.

I blame it on the availability of high-quality music file downloads and the rise of streaming. Of course, we have had MP3s streaming on smartphones for ages, but this was hardly of interest to those with audiophile chops. But then along came high-resolution music files that you could download and store on a hard drive in your home – no CDs needed. More recently, Tidal and Qobuz and Idagio and Primephonic and a bunch of others, now including the 800-pound gorilla, Amazon, came along to stream tons of music at CD or higher quality in real time. No downloaded files needed either.

So, let’s see what happens with your audio system. You already have a DAC in your CD player. You buy a device to store and play downloaded music files, and it not only has a DAC to connect to an analog input on your preamp, but it also might have what amounts to an entire desktop computer inside to index all those files and let you control the action. Then you buy a streaming device and, yes, it also has a DAC. Obviously, having three different DACs doing the same thing is a waste, so perhaps manufacturers should produce streamers and file storage/players without the DAC, assuming you would connect everything to that one central outboard DAC.

Ah! We have it figured out: the new paradigm is sources (CD transport, file storage device, streaming device), all feeding a DAC that in turn connects to a preamp.

But wait! Given that everyone is now using at least one digital source, what if we combine the DAC and the preamp? But wait! If we’re going to do that, we could make the entire preamp (except for the connection to the power amp) digital. This would allow us to do source selection and signal processing in the digital domain, converting to analog only at the end of the chain. But wait! While we’re at it, let’s adapt some features often found in multi-channel receivers, such as subwoofer outputs, to the two-channel world. But wait! We have all that other digital stuff going on, so we could easily add the streaming function to our preamp – all we need is a WiFi or ethernet connection and we’re in business.

But wait! With all this digital processing power lying around, let’s think outside the box, or in this case the boxes, and add room correction to the mix. After all, those who have been around audio for a while know a dirty little secret: one of the most important “components”, some even say the most important, is the room. (Others say that the most important component is between your ears, but we’re not going there today.) Most of us manage to ignore the effect of the room, perhaps because it is simply a part of the background, or maybe because there usually is so little that we can do about it. And really, isn’t it much more fun to think that the next shiny box, the next upgraded component, will work some sonic miracle in that less-than-perfect room?

Swapping components or using gadgets and tweaks may indeed improve some things. (Or, in the gadgets and tweaks case, may make you feel better even if they do nothing to change the sound.) But even if they do, you’re still stuck with the room and its potential – or likely – acoustic problems. Better speakers obviously will upgrade the sound, but even great speakers may continue to struggle in less-than-ideal rooms, which is most rooms. Changing room characteristics in significant ways, in turn, is out of reach for all but the most dedicated, the wealthiest, and those who are willing to put up with truly awful aesthetics – and who live alone or with partners who are similarly oblivious to room appearance.

The solution: room correction. Today’s digital processing power makes it possible to improve the response at the listening position by adjusting the output of the speakers. Oh sure, audiophiles have played with equalizers for years, but equalizers were, by today’s standards, primitive, and using them was excruciatingly difficult. Room correction promises to change all that. As to where it goes in the chain, it works by altering the outgoing music signal, so the room correction processor should come just before the signal is amplified and fed to the speakers. 

Hooray! Finally! We’ve figured out which parts go in which components.

Or not. Different manufacturers have different ideas about just what should be combined with what. Indeed, it’s worse than that: different series and models from the very same manufacturers provide different combinations of functions in seemingly similar components.

Examples abound. Multiple digital sources are becoming common, which logically suggests removing the DACs from source components and instead relying on a single, high-quality “central” one. Despite this, most CD players still include DACs, and some include very high-end, expensive DACs at that. Meanwhile, the few transport-only CD spinners still available are super high-end, multi-thousand-dollar items; where are the reasonably priced DAC-less ones? Some DAC-containing CD players, though, now accept digital inputs from other sources (e.g., steaming devices), while others even include streaming capabilities. Are these really preamps in disguise? Meanwhile, some separate DACs now handle streaming, but still require a preamp, while some preamps include DACs but not streaming. And then there are combinations that are more like integrated amps, combining digital inputs and even streaming with preamp/power amp combinations. It turns out to be remarkably difficult to find a single combination of components to handle the whole sequence – all the desired inputs (CD, file playback, streaming, phono), digital to audio conversion, all preamp functions, and power amplification – without duplicating some functionality, be it multiple DACs, multiple streaming capabilities, or something else. Throw in advanced signal processing (subwoofer control, room correction) and the situation is even worse: your poor tired music might go through multiple digital to audio conversions and back again, passing through several sets of cables, before making it to the power amp, much less to the speakers. Oh, did I mention a headphone amp in there somewhere?

So far as I know, no manufacturer has integrated everything from sources to power amp in one box. Some have come close, but with slightly different combinations of functions. True, there may be good reasons for separating some components. For example, CD transports are mechanical devices (and some people want SACD or Blu-ray capabilities), so perhaps they should be kept apart for easy repair or replacement. The requirements for a power amp are more related to the speakers in use than to anything on the front end – and active speakers make a power amp superfluous – so it makes sense to keep that separate. But we still have a rather confusing mess on our hands.

I hesitate to make it all sound even worse, but, well, it is even worse. We also need to consider remote controls, which are morphing into apps.

Before the explosion of digital sources, controlling the components was simple. If you played LPs, you pulled out the record, put in on the table, started it turning, and dropped the needle in the groove: all manual processes, no remote control needed. With CDs, you still loaded the player manually, so the remote control was limited to functions such as starting, pausing, and skipping tracks. Most preamps did not even have remote controls; if yours did, you could select a source, adjust the volume, and maybe manipulate the tone controls. You may have had separate remotes for the CD player and preamp, but you really needed only a few buttons on each. Two remotes might be mildly annoying on occasion, but it all worked out.

But in our new digital world, you need control far beyond what can be accomplished with a small set of buttons. If you download digital files onto a storage device, that device might have hundreds or thousands of tracks; meanwhile, your streaming service has millions. Thus, we need software that communicates with you (to allow you to select and play the music that you want), with the file storage device or streaming service (to show you what music is available and to tell the device or service to send the music to the audio component) and the audio component (to tell the component to receive the music and play it through the system, as well as to control the basic functionality such as source selection and volume control). To make it more complicated, we really would like the software to organize all those downloaded files rather than just displaying you a gigantic random list. And even more complication: each streaming service has a different software interface; the software needs to know how to talk to each of them. Finally, this software will run on your smartphone or tablet, which means that it must work on your platform of choice: Windows, Mac OS, Android, or iPhone iOS.

Now imagine that you have one device to play downloaded files, another for streaming services, and then a regular preamp. You might have three completely different apps with completely different interfaces – and don’t forget the remote control for the CD player. Mind-boggling.

What is the poor, confused, music-loving-but-frugal audiophile to do? Next time, we’ll look at one solution.

BH

Brown: Wild Symphony (Digital review)

Miran Vaupotic, Zagreb Festival Orchestra. PARMA Recordings.

By John J. Puccio
 
Yes, THAT Dan Brown.
 
Who’d have thought Dan Brown, who wrote the best-selling series of Robert Langdon thrillers (Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, etc.), would follow them up with a children’s book and a “symphony” to go with it? Seems Mr. Brown considered a career in music working as a composer and lyricist before he became a full-time writer. I guess now that he has conquered the world of adult fiction, he decided to turn to children’s books and children’s music.
 
The music is, in fact, children’s music. Not that adults can’t enjoy it, but it is highly derivative, rather brief and direct, and meant primarily to accompany his book Wild Symphony with sound. The book describes animals, and the music describes the animals. Here’s the way Brown explains it: “My intent with Wild Symphony is to provide a fun, fresh opportunity for families, parents, children, and people of all ages to reconnect with the magical experience of classical music. Wild Symphony is a very wild symphony indeed, and offers a refreshingly real experience for children of all ages.” He goes on to say, “Music is a kind of storytelling, and the orchestral movements in Wild Symphony--combined with their accompanying poems and illustrations--all work together (like a code, of sorts!) to tell a story and reveal a funny or interesting side of an animal’s personality. If you listen carefully, you might be able to find each animal hiding in the music.”
 
I doubt that the music of Wild Symphony not actually being a symphony at all but a medley of very short tone poems will put anybody off. It is what it is, and The Carnival of Animals it ain’t. Brown says his inspirations for the music were Saint-Saens’s Carnival, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Only unlike those composer’s aforementioned music, Brown aimed Wild Symphony squarely at very young children, say three to ten years old.
 
Still, imitative though it may be, there is much an adult can enjoy in the music. It is sprightly and attentive, and Maestro Miran Vaupotic and the Zagreb Festival Orchestra play it with professional aplomb and high good humor. If a few parents don’t already have the Saint-Saens, Prokofiev, and Britten works, Brown’s book and music might persuade them to seek out the longer, more-serious stuff, which is not a bad idea at all.
 
Here’s a rundown of the disc’s twenty-one tracks:
01. Maestro Mouse
02. Woodbird Welcome
03. Bouncing Kangaroo
04. Clumsy Kittens
05. The Ray
06. happy Hippo
07. Frogs in a Bog
08. Anxious Ostrich
09. The Armadillo Shell
10. Dancing Bear
11. Impatient Ponies
12. Wondrous Whale
13. Cheetah Chase
14. Eager Elephant
15. Rat Attack
16. Busy Beetles
17. Spiders on a Web
18. Brilliant Bat
19. Swan in the Mist
20. Cricket Lullaby
21. Maestro Mouse Reprise
 
As you can see from the work’s program, it bears a strong similarity to Saint-Saens’s Carnival of the Animals in a kind of condensed version, which Brown freely admits, right down to the “Swan” toward the end. The main difference is that Brown’s little tone poems are briefer (one to four minutes each) and more obviously suited to the ears of small children than Saint-Saens’s music. Yet, as I say, that’s not a bad thing. My own first love of classical music came when I was about six years old, listening to the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show where host Jon Arthur would play classical clips, and I would whistle or hum along with them. I would hope that Brown’s music and book could do the same for children today.
 
I was reminded throughout Brown’s Wild Symphony of Disney’s Silly Symphonies, those early cartoons with accompanying orchestral music. It’s movie music of a kind. Naturally, things get off to a rousing start with “Maestro Mouse,” a real curtain-raising overture. The rest are appropriately impressionistic or literal as the job requires. I liked the representation of “The Ray” in particular, with its mellifluous, sinuous, gliding tone, as well as “Swan in the Mist” for its sweet agility and “Rat Attack” for its quaint orientalism. Things like “Happy Hippo” and “Frogs in a Bog” are sillier renderings and should delight children of all ages.
 
And so it goes. For parents of younger kids, the book and its accompanying music might be a winning combination.
 
Producers Bob Lord, Kresimir Selerkovic, and Jeff LeRoy and engineer Jan Kosulic recorded the music at Blagoje Bersa Concert Hall at the Music Academy of the University of Zagreb, Croatia in December 2018 and March and June 2019. The music is available via download, streaming, or the PARMA app. As producer Lord puts it, “The app is extraordinary. The effect of simply holding the phone over the book to hear the music, magically jumping from one animal and musical movement to another, is really something.” I listened to a CD that PARMA was kind enough to burn for me so I could hear on my big speakers.
 
The sound is recorded somewhat closely, but it still has a pleasantly realistic ambient air about it, and it never hits you in the face. The instruments are nicely rounded without being soft or dull, just natural. The whole might have benefited from a little more orchestral depth, but that’s of little concern. Strong, wide dynamics further enhance a good thing.

To view the world premiere of Wild Symphony live, visit Dan Brown's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=259028005447708&ref=watch_permalink.

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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 24, 2020

Miller Theatre Announces 2020-2021 Digital Initiatives

Miller Theatre’s celebrated, fun and free Pop-Up Concerts resume, with a change of venue. Filmed live in the awe-inspiring Lantern (the top floor venue in the Lenfest Center for the Arts, with sweeping views of Manhattan), Miller invites the public to take a virtual front-row seat for exciting performances by world-class musicians. Miller brings Columbia to audiences around the world through these unique digital concert experiences showing the breadth of Miller's programming, from Bach to jazz to living composers, while highlighting the iconic beauty of the campus of Columbia University.

In previous Pop-Up Concerts, audiences sat on on the Miller stage and enjoyed a free drink during hour-long weeknight concerts, mingling with the musicians and fellow concertgoers after the show. While this season’s iteration features a change in setting, it offers the same up-close opportunity to experience music--virtually.

Viewers can tune in to watch and learn more here:  https://www.millertheatre.com/about/news/live-from-columbia-pop-ups-in-the-lantern

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Announcing the 2021 ABS ACADEMY
The American Bach Soloists ACADEMY was founded in 2010 with the purpose of providing mentorship and artistic support to those musicians who are seeking to bridge the gap between advanced conservatory, university, or personal studies and an emerging career, either as soloists, chamber musicians, or with professional Early Music institutions.

Since the ACADEMY's inaugural year, more than 500 participants have been admitted from around the world, representing Australia, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Republic of Singapore, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United States, and Venezuela.

The ACADEMY is held in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s exquisite facilities in the heart of the city’s arts district. The ABS ACADEMY features limited studio sizes that provide a personalized and exclusive mentoring environment to a select group of instrumentalists and vocalists. Approximately 40 instrumentalists and 12 singers will be admitted.

There are no age restrictions for applicants. However, the program is designed for musicians who are at a particular phase of their professional development. Applicants are considered according to their level of accomplishment and potential for a promising career in the field.

For more information about the ABS Academy, visit: https://americanbach.org/academy/

--American Bach Soloists

SOLI Chamber Ensemble Launches Its New Season
SOLI Chamber Ensemble launches its new season on October 25th with the idea of a work within a work - through the eyes and lenses of the creators! Glimpse a preview below and watch this space for interviews capturing the composers' view.

Concerts will be staged from the new Betty Kelso Center as you, the audience, engage in SOLI's exciting and imaginative performances from the comfort and safety of the Greehey Lawn - LIVE in an outdoor, safe, natural setting. Seating is limited and tickets are on sale now - secure your seat today!

For more information, visit: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/eyes-lens/

--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Death of Classical Presents “To America”
Death of Classical, in partnership with The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, will present “To America” on October 22-24. The in-person, immersive cemetery-wide event is inspired by the poetry of James Weldon Johnson, who is buried in the Cemetery and best known for his anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and combines music, history, literature, and dance into a single sweeping statement—a lament, a love song, a plea, and a prayer to a nation in a time of deep uncertainty. To America is co-curated by Death of Classical founder Andrew Ousley and Harry Weil, Green-Wood’s Director of Public Programs, with Artistic Partner Liz Player and The Harlem Chamber Players.

During the event, socially-distanced groups of audience members will walk through the Cemetery, hearing the stories of those buried there, including Margaret Pine, the last slave in New York state, Clarence MacKenzie, a twelve-year-old drummer boy who was Brooklyn’s first casualty in the Civil War, and others. The walk will be punctuated by music and dance performances, as well as poetry readings.

For more information, visit https://www.deathofclassical.com/angelshare/to-america

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

The Crossing Announces Pre-Election Project
GRAMMY-winning new-music choir The Crossing announces the launch of its current project The Crossing Votes: 2020, a series of four new short films, continuing the ensemble’s commitment to reporting and responding to the times in which we live. The Crossing Votes: 2020 includes two world premieres, written for the project – Robert Maggio’s Democracy and Ayanna Woods’ Shift – plus Nicholas Cline’s she took his hands (2017) and David Lang’s stateless (2019), all addressing issues in the national discourse leading up to Election Day, November 3, 2020. 

All four films will premiere at 5:38am ET, representing the 538 electoral votes, on the morning of their release on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crossingchoir/
YouTube Live: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheCrossingChoir
And Web site: https://www.crossingchoir.org/2020

Learn more at https://www.crossingchoir.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

The Crossing Awarded $360,000 Grant
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage today announces a major grant of $300,000 to Grammy-winning new-music choir The Crossing in support of Farming, a concert-length musical work by frequent Crossing collaborator, composer Ted Hearne, to be premiered in summer 2023.

The new work, which addresses food production and its effects on the environment and individuals, will be performed in a setting new to the ensemble: Kings Oaks Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This sustainable farm retains the agronomical concerns of centuries past and reflects conductor Donald Nally’s formative upbringing in rural Pennsylvania--experiences seminal to this project’s inception. The project also includes a studio recording that will live on in a digital format, and a film of the outdoor, dusk performance.

Learn more at https://www.crossingchoir.org/.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Rachel Barton Pine Offers Free "Family Fridays
Join violinist Rachel Barton Pine on Fridays at 12:30pm ET/ 11:30am CT/ 9:30am PT for “Family Fridays with RBP.”

The 20-minute free weekly show streams live on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RBPviolinist) and YouTube (http://youtube.com/user/RachelBartonPine).

--Allison Van Etten, Ravenscroft PR

Young People's Chorus of NYC Announces Launch of Virtual Media Platform
World-renowned Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC) today announces the official launch of In the Key of Love, a multi-media platform that gives visitors an immersive look into the world and talent of YPC.

“This new platform enables us to really share with the world everything YPC has to offer, from the talent of our diverse choristers, to amazing projects from our alumni, to panel discussions on bringing inclusion to the arts,” said Francisco J. Núñez, founder and artistic director of YPC.

The new virtual platform will continue to feature performances by choristers and upcoming events, with a much more innovative and robust user experience.

To learn more, visit http://www.ypc.org/

--Young People’s Chorus of NYC

Los Angeles Master Chorale Announces New Board Members
The Los Angeles Master Chorale announced today the appointment of two new members to its board of directors: Jennifer Flinton Diener and Shawn Kravich.

The board, chaired by Philip A. Swan, provides leadership in carrying out the Master Chorale’s mission to share the spectrum of choral music with the widest possible audience. “We are excited to welcome Jennifer Flinton Diener and Shawn Kravich to the Master Chorale’s dedicated board of directors,” said Swan. “Their knowledge and expertise, combined with their passion for the arts, will help us to continue to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic period and to realize the Master Chorale’s vision as we look towards the future.”

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/los-angeles-master-chorale.php

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Recital: Visions cosmiques
Accustomed to large ensembles, the Société de musique contemporaine (SMCQ) is adapting to the new health standards this season by exploring the form of the recital. Visions cosmiques, a webcast concert on October 25 at 3 p.m., will allow the public to hear works from the repertoire for two pianos, performed by Brigitte Poulin and Jean Marchand.

"Historically, the repertoire for two pianos was used, among other things, for the reduction of orchestral works or large works for rehearsals, and then the form developed at the request of pianists who appreciated the wide range of possibilities," says Walter Boudreau, SMCQ Artistic Director.

The Poulin-Marchand pianist duo places the infinite possibilities of the repertoire for two pianos at the service of a program in search of the infinite! Les Visions de l'Amen, Olivier Messiaen's monumental work, will be presented 50 years after the composer himself performed it in Montreal with his wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod, at the invitation of the SMCQ. Jean Marchand was in the hall at the time. "I have fond memories of it!“ he recalls.

Visions cosmiques will continue with Denis Gougeon's Schubertian-accented work Andante Sostenuto, created by the long-time duo in 2015. The critics were unanimous in their praise, and Lucie Renaud declared it to be "a piece of exquisite slowness and meditative orientation,” in her blog le Clavier Bien Tempéré.

Finally, Bechara El-Khoury's Sonate pour piano no. 3 will complete this poetic and universal recital, paying tribute to the victims of the recent explosion in Beirut. This webcast concert will allow the audience to experience a virtual, but nonetheless astronomical musical communion!

Sunday, October 25, 2020, 3 pm: Simultaneous live webcast on Youtube and Facebook live
FREE. Works introduced with commentary by Georges Nicholson. The concert will be followed by a live Q & A with the artists.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7PfAW-ngeI&feature=youtu.be
Facebook live: https://www.facebook.com/events/5071089812988067

--France Gaignard, Publicist

ROCO’s November Performances
ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) continues their 16th season “Color and Light” with a livestreamed Musical & Literary Ofrenda with MECA @ TBH on November 1, and a nature-inspired program, entitled Oceans, featuring a conductorless orchestra.

The performance will be broadcast from The Church of St. John the Divine without an in-person audience. Both performances can be viewed on Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or on ROCO’s website, at ROCO.org/live: https://roco.org/live/

More information is available at https://roco.org/rocorooters/.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Welcome to Amplify With Lara Downes
I'm so thrilled to invite you to visit me on NPR Music, as the creator, producer and host of a new video series called Amplify With Lara Downes.

In this time of our collective reckoning about historical inequities in American life and art, I'm setting out to amplify the voices of extraordinary musicians of color whose creative energy is shaping the present and the future of our art form. Sit in and eavesdrop on our intimate conversations about what we're making in this time of reckoning, reimagining, and maybe rebirth.

Episode 1 launched this past Saturday: a kitchen-table conversation with my friend Rhiannon Giddens, who is an intrepid fellow traveler into the deep heart of American music. In this year of staying home and standing still, we reflect together on the long miles we've traveled so far and what we've found on our journeys, envisioning the wide open road ahead.

New episodes appear every other Saturday. Next up on October 31: Superstar clarinetist Anthony McGill.

You can follow the bi-weekly series here: https://www.npr.org/series/922438111/amplify-with-lara-downes

--Lara Downes

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of October 26 – November 1)
Monday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. CT
Tulsa Opera Alive, a new conversation series hosted by Artistic Director Tobias Picker, launches with guest Francesca Zambello.
https://tulsaopera.com/

Tuesday, October 27 at 8:00 p.m. ET (rescheduled from last month)
Jen Shyu joins percussionist Keita Ogawa at the Free Assembly Festival.
https://metropolisensemble.org/all-events/free-assembly

Saturday, October 31
NPR Music’s AMPLIFY with Lara Downes features Anthony McGill.
https://www.youtube.com/user/nprmusic

Minnesota Orchestra at Home
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/blog

--Shuman Associates News

Whitacre: The Sacred Veil (CD Review)

Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, Artistic Director; Eric Whitacre, conductor; Lisa Edwards, piano; Jeffrey Zeigler, cello. Signum SIGCD630.

Composer Eric Whitacre (b. 1970) is a gifted composer and choral conductor whose work always seems to be bursting with energy, imagination, and beauty. His style is a mixture of the simple and the complex, with melodies that are beguiling and straightforward on the surface but often expressed in harmonies that can stretch, soar, and bedazzle. His energy does not confine itself to his composing, as he also is active as a conductor. With the rise of the internet and technologies for interacting electronically, he has recently been active in assembling “virtual choirs” that feature singers from throughout the world joyfully blending their voices under his direction and stewardship.

Whitacre composed The Sacred Veil in with his friend and frequent collaborator Charles Anthony Silvestri, who wrote the lyrics, which revolve around the death from cancer of his late wife, Julia Lawrence Silvestri. As you might surmise from those circumstances, The Sacred Veil is an intensely personal, deeply moving work of art; moreover, this Signum CD is rewarding in many different ways.

One of the interesting qualities of The Sacred Veil is the way it balances intimacy with expression. The lyrics focus on the really private story of Julia’s passing, told from the perspective of her husband, Charles. At the same time, the lyrics are used to evoke Silvestri’s concept of a thin veil that separates the past from the future, the living from the dead, the temporal from the eternal. A simple concept intellectually, but packed with mystery and complexity as a lived experience. Whitacre’s musical setting of the lyrics uses simple melodies played by the piano and the cello to provide a ground for the sometimes straightforward, sometimes soaringly complex choral parts.

Just listen to the opening measures, with a simple melody on the piano soon joined by a tone from the cello, the choir then joining in with some exquisite harmonizing that draws the listener right into the lyrics and thus into the story. By the time the final movements arrive, the vocal harmonies have become more layered, more complex, but the piano and cello still are there to provide a solid foundation for the harmonic structure of the voices. A particularly moving choral device that Whitacre uses to great effect are sliding harmonies in the voices as the lyrics reflect Silvestri’s thoughts and emotions in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s passing in the penultimate movement, “You Rise, I Fall,” an incredibly moving portrait of grief built upon love and hope.

Following the music there is a recorded interview with Silvestri and Whitacre. Such appendices to a musical performance can be annoying, but Silvestri and Whitacre offer an explanation of the meaning of the work and the creative process that the two of them used to bring the piece to fruition. The interview provides insights into The Sacred Veil that makes the listener want to listen to the music again, and again, and again.

Insight into the recording is also provided by the liner notes, which include a brief foreword by Grant Gershon, an introduction to the background story underlying the lyrics by Silvestri, and a movement-by-movement essay on the music by Whitacre. The liner notes also include background information and photographs for not only Whitacre and Silvestri, but also for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, pianist Lisa Edwards, and cellist Jeffrey Ziegler. Seeing information provided for all involved just seems to add to the cooperative, supportive, intimate, indeed loving feeling engendered by both the music and the interview contained in this generously filled (nearly 80 minutes) compact disc. Even the austere but expressive black-and-white cover art feels perfectly appropriate for this release.

Last but not least, the recorded sound is of such excellent quality (Fred Vogler was the recording engineer) that the listener is not likely to really even think about it. The music is just there, sounding utterly natural and unstrained. This is a magnificent CD that I cannot recommend too highly. I hope you find it as moving and inspiring as I do.

Bonus Recommendations: Whitacre has several commercial CD recordings available, notably Light and Gold (2010) and Water Night (2012) on the Decca label. The former is all-choral, while the latter also feature some orchestral compositions. Another fine all-choral collection is Cloudburst and Other Choral Works (2007) on Hyperion. A release easy to overlook but wonderful to hear is The Complete A Cappella Works 1991-2001 (2007) performed by the Brigham Young University Singers on the Arsis label. They may be an amateur group, but both the performances and the engineering are first-class. Finally, a work by Whitacre that is a must-hear is Deep Field, orchestral music that Whitacre composed based on images of deep space from the Hubble space telescope. It is not available on CD as of this writing, but you can find links at Whitacre’s website, ericwhitacre.com.

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

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 (CD review)

Also Coriolan and The Creatures of Prometheus Overtures. Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano; Pablo Heras-Casado, Freiburger Barockorchester. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902413.

By John J. Puccio

Another Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto? So, what sets this one apart from the other 800 recordings of the concerto in the catalogue? Well, for starters, this one is played by a period-instrument ensemble, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and they’re pretty darn good. Second, the soloist is Kristian Bezuidenhout, and he, too, is pretty darned good. And to cap off a good thing, Bezuidenhout plays the piece on a copy of an 1824 Graff fortepiano, one that might have been used in Beethoven’s own time. If it’s authenticity you’re after, this issue might be the ticket.

Beethoven wrote his Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 between 1805 and 1806 (around the same time he wrote the Fourth Symphony and parts of the Fifth Symphony) premiering it in 1807 with the composer himself as soloist. The opening movement is melodic, with the piano part often sounding improvisatory. Beethoven scored the slow movement for piano and strings, keeping it fairly poetic with a slightly agitated orchestral accompaniment, leading quietly into the finale. Then, we get a passionate, tempestuous, yet gracefully rhythmic third movement. Here, you name it; Beethoven goes for broke.

The fortepiano had its heyday in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, so it’s the instrument that Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven would have written for until the fortepiano evolved into the modern grand piano. The sound of the fortepiano isn’t quite as well-rounded as a modern piano, not as rich, mellow, or resonant. The highs of a fortepiano still sound a little tinkly or ringing, and the lows don’t sound as plush. Nevertheless, Bezuidenhout coaxes some luxurious sounds from it, and the Freiburg ensemble accompany him with an easy precision, Maestro Heras-Casado ensuring that the playing never sounds hectic or rushed.

Bezuidenhout performs the piece with a combination of poetic refinement and virtuosic zest. In the first movement he handles the lyricism of the opening beautifully and moves gracefully into moments of inspired spontaneity. In the Andante con Moto, Bezuidenhout takes advantage of the music’s contrasts to create a highly volatile slow movement, the perfect vehicle to transition into the music’s vivacious finale. So, while the performance as a whole may not quite displace my favorite recording on modern instruments by Stephen Kovacevich, it is among the very best period-instrument versions now available.

For companion pieces, Harmonia Mundi fill out the disc with two more Beethoven works, the Coriolan and The Creatures of Prometheus Overtures (1807 and 1801). Again, it’s nice hearing them played by a period-instrument band and sounding probably close to what Beethoven might have heard in his day if he weren’t going deaf. Incidentally, the program opens with the more dramatic Coriolan Overture, which makes a good curtain raiser.

Producer and editor Martin Sauer and engineer Tobias Lehmann, both of Teldex Studio Berlin, recorded the music at the Ensemblehaus Freiburg in December 2017. The piano is well placed, not too far out in front of the orchestra, and the orchestra is well spread out around the soloist. Dynamics are quite good, and detailing is more than adequate. The lower treble/upper midrange can at times seem a trifle forward, especially during moments of loudest expression, but it is not a worrisome issue. In all, the recording is quite realistic and enjoyable.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 17, 2020

Sparks & Wiry Cries Annual songSLAM Festival January 11-22
 
From January 11 to 22, 2021, the New York-based global art song platform Sparks & Wiry Cries will present their flagship songSLAM Festival with twelve days of song. The Festival will include the annual songSLAM competition for up to fifteen emerging composer/performer teams to present new art song compositions. Because audiences cannot meet in person at this time, all songSLAM teams will be professionally recorded in November at the Blue Building in New York City, with performances available online beginning January 11. Audiences will text to vote for as little as $1 per vote, and the top three teams to generate the most funds will win cash prizes.
 
Two additional prizes have been added for the songSLAM awardees this season. Firstly, the composer for the team earning the most unique votes will receive mentorship from “one of New York’s favorite song composers” (The New Yorker), Tom Cipullo. Second, a panel of judges will choose their favorite composer from the pool of submissions and commission an additional 15-minute work for voice and piano to be premiered during the 2022 songSLAM festival. The panel will include mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, bass-baritone Eric Owens, composer Reinaldo Moya and Sparks’ Co-Artistic Directors Erika Switzer and Martha Guth.
 
For complete information, visit http://www.sparksandwirycries.org/
 
--Rebecca Davis PR
 
New Video: SOS VOTE!
SOS VOTE! is the title of our next EXO: VOTE videos, which Mark Dover, Ben Willis and I created using morse code.
 
Watch and listen here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sESd8xPwzw&feature=youtu.be
or here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=692289824718597
 
Election Day is coming, and registration is still open in several key states. If you are already registered and have a plan for how to vote, encourage others to do so as well!
 
This week's resource is www.vote.org where you can find lots of resources about registration, early voting, and vote-by-mail. And here is our lineup for the final three videos in this series:
 
Video #3: October 20
Animation: Lembit Beecher
Music: Joseph Bologne and Lembit Beecher
Performers: Lembit Beecher, Brad Balliet, Ben Roidl-Ward, Maddy Wildman and Karen Ouzounian
 
Video #4: October 27
Video: Lynne Rosenberg
Composer: Patrick Castillo
Performer: Karen Kim, Violin
 
Video #5: November 3 (Election Day)
Animation video: Ayane Kozasa
Composer: Judd Greenstein
Audio editing: Paul Wiancko
Performers: Ayane Kozasa, Viola & Paul Wiancko, Cello
 
--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra
 
Through the Eyes and Lens of the Beholder
SOLI Chamber Ensemble launches its new season at the San Antonio Botanical Garden with a program that looks at the idea of a work within a work. Included are the Texas premiere of Jennifer Jolley’s Recomposed Scriabin, a new arrangement for SOLI by San Antonio composer James Scott Balentine, and the world premiere of till our bodies into the night slip by Michael Matthews, a featured artist in FOTOSEPTIEMBRE 2020.
 
Concerts will be staged from the new Betty Kelso Center as you, the audience, engage in SOLI's exciting and imaginative performances from the comfort and safety of the Greehey Lawn - LIVE in an outdoor, safe, natural setting. Seating is limited and tickets are on sale now - secure your seat today!
 
Purchase tickets: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/concerts/
 
--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble
 
West Edge Opera Announces the First Round of Aperture Projects
West Edge Opera announces a varied and diverse line-up of 22 projects to be included in the first round of Aperture, their online program dedicated to creating new works of opera and music theater.
 
These pieces make up a portfolio of projects available to Aperture's subscribing members to discover and explore in the months to come. Each proposal is driven by an artistic team, some of whom have several fully produced operas under their belts, while others have little more than a rough concept, promising talent, and a lot of optimism. A handful of these pieces will be selected for an intensive three-month residency in early 2021. During this “sprint,” Aperture subscribers will follow along as teams work on their projects and create regular video updates about their progress. At least one of the pieces will receive a $60,000 commission and a concert production in early 2022.
 
For complete information, visit http://www.westedgeopera.org/
 
--Press, West Edge Opera
 
Young People’s Chorus of New York City Kicks Off New Season
Welcome to YPC's 33rd Year: “In the Key of Love!” We are thrilled to kick off a season packed with virtual rehearsals, recordings, and performances, and filled with dynamic new and ongoing projects. We are so happy to see our choristers active, engaged, and singing with us each week. This year, we are taking it a step further and launching a virtual platform, coming soon -- a place you will be able to visit anytime to experience many of our new and past performances.
 
During a time when everything is different for our choristers, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City is still here serving our community through our world-renowned musical afterschool and in-school programs, and we need your support. YPC is committed to artistic excellence by providing our children with consistency, hope, joy, and a place to sing and perform.
 
For more information, visit https://ypc.org/
 
--Francisco J. Núñez, Founder and Artistic Director, Young People's Chorus of NYC
 
Announcing the Winners of the 2020 CAG Competition
Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition.
 
Gabriel Martins and Geneva Lewis are this year's CAG/YCAT Grand Prize Winners, and Britton-René Collins, Empire Wild and Ariel Horowitz are the inaugural winners of the Ambassador Prize!
 
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information on these amazing young artists. In case you missed it, you can watch the full Winners Announcement below, which includes clips of all the finalists and a message from CAG President Tanya Bannister.
 
Read more about the CAG winners and CAG here: http://www.concertartists.org/
 
--Tanya Bannister, CA
 
What's Streaming: Classical (Week of October 19–25)
Wednesday, October 21
Davóne Tines featured on Philadelphia Orchestra’s Hear Together podcast
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/hear-together-podcast/id1533149053
 
Wednesday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. GMT
Stephen Hough performs Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
https://bsolive.com/events/viennese-masters-digital/
 
Thursday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m. PT
James Conlon joins astronomer Laura Danly in “A Return to Venusberg,” presented by LA Opera
https://www.laopera.org/community/learn-at-home-grown-up-edition/play-on-salons/a-return-to-venusberg/
 
Friday, October 23 at 9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings)
Michael Tilson Thomas: “Where Now Is,” an American Masters documentary
https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/
 
Friday, October 23 at 8:00 p.m. CT
Minnesota Orchestra performs music by Beethoven, Valerie Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, and Jennifer Higdon
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/
 
--Shuman Associates News
 
Recital: Visions cosmiques
Accustomed to large ensembles, the Société de musique contemporaine (SMCQ) is adapting to the new health standards this season by exploring the form of the recital. Visions cosmiques, a webcast concert on October 25 at 3 p.m., will allow the public to hear works from the repertoire for two pianos, performed by Brigitte Poulin and Jean Marchand.
 
"Historically, the repertoire for two pianos was used, among other things, for the reduction of orchestral works or large works for rehearsals, and then the form developed at the request of pianists who appreciated the wide range of possibilities," says Walter Boudreau, SMCQ Artistic Director.
 
The Poulin-Marchand pianist duo places the infinite possibilities of the repertoire for two pianos at the service of a program in search of the infinite! Les Visions de l'Amen, Olivier Messiaen's monumental work, will be presented 50 years after the composer himself performed it in Montreal with his wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod, at the invitation of the SMCQ. Jean Marchand was in the hall at the time.
 
Sunday, October 25,2020, 3 pm:
Simultaneous live webcast free on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7PfAW-ngeI&feature=youtu.be
And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/5071089812988067
 
--France Gaignard, Publicist
 
International Contemporary Ensemble Announces Leadership Transitions
The pioneering International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) announces bassoonist Rebekah Heller’s transition from Co-Artistic Director to Board Member, and welcomes a new cohort of Board Members with close ties to the Ensemble: Marcos Balter, David Byrd-Marrow, and Du Yun. Eddy Kwon joins the Ensemble’s staff as Director of Individual Giving.
 
For further information, visit https://www.iceorg.org/
 
--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media
 
Bang on a Can's OneBeat Marathon
Bang on a Can is excited to present the OneBeat Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, November 15, 2020 from 12-4pm ET, curated by Found Sound Nation, its social engagement wing. Over four hours the OneBeat Marathon will feature live-streamed multimedia performances by musicians from 14 countries stretching over five continents to transport audiences to a paradigm-bending sonic universe.
 
For more inforation, visit https://bangonacan.org/
 
--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists
 
Colburn School and LA Opera Present Joseph Bologne's The Anonymous Lover
The Colburn School has partnered with LA Opera to present the company premiere of The Anonymous Lover (L'Amant Anonyme), a 1780 opera by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), who is widely regarded as the first Black classical composer known to history. Conducted by James Conlon, LA Opera's Richard Seaver Music Director, and directed by Bruce Lemon, Jr., in a socially distanced stage setting, the performance will be streamed online for free on Saturday, November 14th, 2020.
 
To ensure a socially distant and safe environment to stage and produce the opera, the Colburn School digitized the campus, enabling the cast and crew to stay connected while performing and working from different locations. Fred Vogler of Sonitus Consulting and Francesco Perlangeli, Colburn School’s AV Manager, developed plans to connect a number of spaces in the school’s Grand Building via data, video, and fiber optic cables, expanding the existing video network. For rehearsals and the performance of The Anonymous Lover, the singers will perform in Zipper Hall while the orchestra will perform in the nearby Grand Rehearsal Hall.
 
For more information, visit https://www.laopera.org/performances/updated-2021-season/the-anonymous-lover/
 
--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications
 
“Mozart’s Own Violin” Featuring Christoph Koncz
QChamberStream.com, the premier platform for high-quality broadcast concerts founded by Tanja Dorn’s Dorn Music and producer Bernhard Fleischer’s BFMI in April 2020, announces its next concert Mozart’s Own Violin on Sunday, October 25, 2020 at 12pm ET, featuring violinist and conductor Christoph Koncz with Les Musiciens du Louvre, broadcast from the Mozarteum Salzburg in Austria. This is QChamberStream.com’s first concert in partnership with Ticketmaster’s Universe ticketing platform.
 
Christoph Koncz will perform Mozart's Violin Concertos No. 4 and No. 5 on Mozart’s violin--the same violin on which Mozart had played as concertmaster in the Salzburg Hofkapelle; a Baroque instrument that was carefully preserved after Mozart’s death.
 
For details, visit https://qchamberstream.com/
 
--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists
 
Young Concert Artists Announces 60th Anniversary Programming
Young Concert Artists (YCA) is proud to announce its Fall 2020 season of programming, that both reaffirms its core commitment to discovering and launching the careers of exceptional young musicians, while also offering an array of creative solutions towards managing and presenting artists amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The 60th Anniversary Season programming opens with an October 21 livestreamed performance from Merkin Hall, featuring current YCA artists, alums, and a world premiere. YCA’s world-renowned artist auditions will continue with a Final Round on November 8, and a Winners Concert on November 9--both livestreamed on YCA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Later in the season, on December 9, pianist Aristo Sham will have his YCA debut concert livestreamed from Merkin Hall.
 
For complete details, visit https://yca.org/
 
--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media
 
Lisa Bielawa's Election Year Musical Work Voters' Broadcast Premieres Live
Voters’ Broadcast is a broadly participatory musical performance for an unlimited number of voices and instruments made up of choral and instrumental ensembles. The work is produced, conceived and composed by Rome Prize and American Academy of Arts & Letters Award-winning composer Lisa Bielawa, with text excerpted from celebrated artist Sheryl Oring’s I Wish to Say.
 
Voters’ Broadcast will be premiered live in one day of three socially distanced, outdoor performances presented by Kaufman Music Center and Brooklyn Public Library at the main entrance to BPL’s Central Library on Grand Army Plaza on Saturday, October 24 at 11am, 12:30pm, and 2pm ET, as part of the Library’s crowd-sourced 28th Amendment Project. In addition, the complete work will be premiered virtually on Wednesday, October 28 at 3pm ET, co-presented online by University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Kaufman Music Center. All events are free and open to the public.
 
About Voters’ Broadcast: http://www.lisabielawa.net/voters-broadcast
 
Watch Parts One and Two Online: http://bit.ly/VotersBroadcastYouTubePlaylist
 
--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists
 
New NPR Music Video Series "Amplify With Lara Downes"
NPR Music and Lara Downes announce the launch of AMPLIFY With Lara Downes, a new bi-weekly series of intimate and deeply personal video conversations with visionary Black musicians who are shaping the present and future of the art form, premiering Saturday, October 17 on NPRMusic.org, YouTube, and social media platforms.
 
Created and hosted by pianist and artist/citizen Lara Downes, and co-produced by NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga, this series invites viewers to experience raw, revealing, and open-hearted conversations reflecting on how artists are responding and creating in this time of profound challenge and change. Downes and her guests—initially including MacArthur Fellow vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, 2020 Avery Fisher Prize-winning clarinetist Anthony McGill, multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis, and boundary-breaking vocalist Davóne Tines, with other guests such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family to follow—connect and reflect on highly relevant themes ranging from music and mission, legacy and lineage, to transformation and change.
 
Learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_HtZoDWXQM&feature=youtu.be
 
--Shuman Associates News

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 both its equipment and recordings 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 simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me — point out recordings that they 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 Marantz CD 6007 and Onkyo CD 7030 CD players, 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