Soundtrack of the American Soldier (CD review)

Col. Jim R. Keene, United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus. Navona Records NV6297 (includes CD and Blu-ray disc).

By John J. Puccio

The title of the album, Soundtrack of the American Soldier, might be a bit misleading. It might lead one to believe the disc contains the soundtrack of a movie called “The American Soldier.” But it isn’t. Not quite, anyway. The album is actually a collection of pieces by various composers written to celebrate the stories of American soldiers as depicted in several different movies and musical suites. Much of the music is familiar, and all of it is well presented by Col. Jim Keene and the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus.

Here’s a rundown on the disc’s contents. You’ll recognize most of the names and many of the songs:
  1. Karpman: “Brass Ceiling” (from The Journey of General Ann Dunwoody)
  2. Steiner: Overture to Sergeant York
  3. Giacchino: Medal of Honor Suite
  4. Cohan: “Over There”
  5. Moshier: A Portrait of Honor
  6. Debeasi: American Sniper Suite
  7. Williams: March (from 1941)
  8. Beal: The Long Road Home
  9. Goldsmith/Bernstein: The Great WWII Medley
10. Berlin: “Good Bless America”
11. Key: “The Star-Spangled Banner”
12. Isham: “Army Strong”
13. Williams: “The Jedi Steps” and “Finale” (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Next, a word about the band. According the album jacket, “The United States Army Field Band of Washington, DC is the U.S. Army’s premier touring musical organization, traveling throughout the country and internationally to connect the American people to their Army and to represent the nation around the world. At the heart of the Band’s mission is telling stories of service that honor veterans and remind people what makes America a country worth protecting.”

After listening to this album, I’d have to say that the Army Field Band is not only the Army's premier touring band, they are one of the best bands in the country. Their precision and execution are remarkable, and they produce a rich, robust sound in the military manner. Everything is as clean and sharply creased as a military officer’s uniform. What’s more, the leader, Col. Jim R. Keene, keeps things moving at a healthy clip. Admittedly, he may not be as flexible or imaginative as some better-known conductors, but this is military music, and Col. Keene ensures that it remains true to its source.

Now, about the music. It seems a little odd to me that the producers of the album would choose to begin things with Laura Karpman’s “Brass Ceiling,” not because it isn’t worthy music but because it’s among the least well-known music on the disc, and it’s not exactly a curtain raiser. Nevertheless, it does set an appropriately serious tone for the album, so all is well. I also had to question the inclusion of John Williams’s march from the Steven Spielberg movie 1941. Again, not because the march isn’t a fun piece but because Williams wrote it for a comedy film, and he wrote it as a sort of parody of the march from The Great Escape (from which we hear a snippet in “The Great WWII Medley”). I suppose the album’s producers in this case wanted a little something to lighten the mood, a bit like ending the program with music from a Star Wars film, not exactly “American” soldiers, but I guess we get the idea.

The rest of the music, though, fits the pattern of good, patriotic, militaristic tunes. The Overture to the movie Sergeant York has a pleasant, poignant, homey, classic-Hollywood feel to it. The Medal of Honor Suite is more theatrical than some of the others and more sedately somber. The George M. Cohan number “Over There” finds soloists Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Erbe and Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Garcia and the Soldiers’ Chorus in good voice. (We hear the chorus again in moving renditions of “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”)

And so it goes. The material is appropriate both for celebrating the American soldier and showcasing the talents of the Army Field Band. If any of these things appeal to you, the album makes an attractive proposition.

Producer Dan Merceruio and engineer Leslie Ann Jones recorded the music at Skywalker Sound, Marin County, California in October and November 2018. The album contains two discs: one a regular CD containing the songs in two-channel stereo and the other a Blu-ray containing the songs in two-channel stereo, 5.1 surround sound, and 5.1.4 channel Dolby Atmos. I listened and am reporting on the stereo CD.

Excellent clarity. Excellent depth of field. Excellent transient response. Yeah, mostly an excellent sounding album. There’s a lot of brass involved, so you can expect if your system favors the high midrange or treble at all it might seem a bit bright or forward. Mostly, however, the sound is realistic, miked at a moderate enough distance for lifelike reproduction. I’ve been on the main Skywalker soundstage several times, so I have some idea what things sound like in that big room, and this recording is about what I remember.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 28, 2020

 World Premiere of Nicole Mitchell’s Inescapable Spiral Remote
The International Contemporary Ensemble and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago present a free virtual concert featuring the world premiere of Nicole M. Mitchell’s Inescapable Spiral Remote (2020) on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 6pm CST/7pm EST. The program will stream on YouTube and is open to the public with advanced RSVP. An informal Q & A with the artists will follow the performance.
Inescapable Spiral, commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble with lead support from Oscar Gerardo and premiered at Ojai Music Festival 2017, is written for open instrumentation and a variable ensemble. Performers can range anywhere from 5 to 20 players. As Nicole mentions, “it’s like a choreography of these little miniature pieces, with the intent of collision.” The variable process in her work extends to a new remote edition of the piece, specifically reimagined for pre-recorded and live performances that are created remotely and mixed live online.
"There are a few possible ways that celestial bodies can orbit the Earth. One is called the ‘spiral impact’ orbit, in which it is inevitable for one celestial body to be pulled towards the greater object in an ‘inescapable spiral’ until they ultimately collide,” says Mitchell.
As the pandemic forced our programming, collaboration, and creation into the virtual sphere, we immediately thought of Nicole Mitchell and her extensive experience with remote Telematic performances. We commissioned her to make a new version of the 2017 Inescapable Spiral that could be workshopped in the context of our online “Ensemble Evolution” program in late June in partnership with the New School’s College of Performing Arts. Six months later, as the final event in our weekly streaming series, TUES@7, we’ll bring thirteen members of the Ensemble into collaboration with over a dozen members of Chicago Civic,” says International Contemporary Ensemble’s Artistic Director Ross Karre.
Nicole Mitchell’s Inescapable Spiral Remote
Tuesday, December 15, at 6:00pm CST/7:00pm EST
Tickets: Free with Advanced RSVP
Learn more at
--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media
People’s Symphony Concerts
Thanks for the great response to our opening concert of our 120th Anniversary Season on Sunday in the Salomon Series with some wonderful music-making from our first ever Resident Ensemble, the super Dover String Quartet, and from our new Resident Artist, the acclaimed pianist, Shai Wosner. From the Quartet, we received a shimmering Haydn Op. 76, No. 2, an autumnal Brahms Intermezzo from Shai, and an absolutely delightful Dvorak Piano Quintet from the five of them.
For those of you who haven't yet ordered your tickets, you can still get a subscription to any of our three great Anniversary Series for less than $10 a ticket (plus whatever you can contribute) - we will send you a link for each concert, even for those that have already taken place. The next concert in the Salomon Series is on December 13th with one of today's leading violinists Gil Shaham in a tribute to the Isaac Stern Centenary. We also will get a Schubertiade on the composer's birthday weekend in January with the great "Trout" Quintet, a concert from the terrific Calidore Quartet, and a recital from PSC favorite pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin.
The Arens and Mann series are equally exciting with pianists Emanuel Ax and Garrick Ohlsson, violinists Augustin Hadelich and Pinchas Zukerman, clarinetist Anthony McGill with pianist Anna Polonsky, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Dover Quartet in their Beethoven String Quartet Cycle and the Jack Quartet with Shai Wosner. Wonderful music and music-making in store for us.
You can order here:
Or for more information, click here:
--Frank Salomon, Frank Salomon Associates
FAYM Newsletter
With all the hardships and upheavals this year, the Foundation to Assist Young Musicians is proud to say that our kids are learning and thriving! Our teachers met the challenges, and our students are engaged and growing. Thank you everyone who has made this experience a success. Until we can all meet again, we will keep the music playing. Enjoy the videos below and see for yourself.
Our remote programming would not exist but for the dedication, imagination and determination of our teachers. They make it possible, and our kids are still thriving.
The 2020 Audrey Bush Memorial Scholarship, offered by FAYM,  is an opportunity for High School Senior Double Bass players in Southern Nevada to receive a scholarship for college tuition. This year’s Grand Prize winner of the $2,000 scholarship is bassist Sam Morgan who is attending UNLV pursuing a musical future. 2020 also had an honorable mention winner, Aidan Neuman who received $1,000.
Liam Mansfield performed for FAYM students from Munich, Germany. Liam is a recipient of FAYM’s 4 year collegiate scholarship. Stay tuned to the end to hear a special message. Liam performed: Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4, 1st Movement and Paganini Caprice #16.
Please join the Family of FAYM. You can donate by mailing your check to FAYM, PO Box 1993, Las Vegas, NV 89125-1993 or directly online:
Learn more about FAYM:
--Foundation to Assist Young Musicians
Celebrate Beethoven's 250th Birthday with the Northbrook Symphony and Susan Merdinger
The Northbrook Symphony Presents the second performance of the 2020-2021 season with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op.19, featuring Steinway Artist/ Pianist Susan Merdinger and Music Director Mina Zikri.
Friday, December 4, 2020 at 7:30pm CT
Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 7:30pm CT
Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 4pm CT
Price: $33.50, includes a service charge of $3.50
Visit or
--Susan Merdinger
Chanticleer Presents "A Chanticleer Christmas"
Chanticleer teams up with Stanford Live to celebrate the holidays with a special virtual screening of “A Chanticleer Christmas: From Darkness to Light” on Tuesday, December 15 at 12 p.m. PST.
In collaboration with Director and Independent Spirit Award-nominee Frazer Bradshaw, this brand-new film was created as a way to capture the magic of one of the Bay Area’s most beloved holiday traditions while concert halls remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Works by Antoine Brumel and Josquin des Prez feature alongside longtime audience favorites and traditional carols, as well as a selection of Armenian liturgical pieces.
Tickets are priced at $25 for individuals and $42 for households and the event will remain available for unlimited viewing beginning December 15 through January 1, 2021.
For complete information, visit
--Breden Guy Media
What's Streaming: Classical (Week of November 30 – December 6)
Thursday, December 3 at 7:30 p.m. GMT
Stephen Hough in “Night Under the Stars 2020.”
Sunday, December 6 at 2:00 p.m. ET (available for 7 days)
The Gilmore presents Yefim Bronfman.
Sunday, December 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (M³): World Premieres--Part 1.
Sunday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET (available for 23 hours)
James Conlon conducts Puccini’s Tosca in The Met: Live in HD encore broadcast.
Minnesota Orchestra at Home
--Shuman Associates News
Oratorio Society of New York Presents Its Annual Messiah
The Oratorio Society of New York, led by Music Director Kent Tritle, continues its tradition of presenting an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah--a yearly occurrence since 1874--with a special, reimagined digital offering. Available to stream at beginning on Monday, December 21 at 8pm ET, the virtual concert features 24 members of the Oratorio Society, performing alongside 12 instrumentalists, and joined by soloists soprano Susanna Phillips, mezzo-soprano Heather Petrie, tenor Joshua Blue, and baritone Sidney Outlaw. The joyful “Hallelujah Chorus” features additional video appearances from across the Oratorio Society’s wider membership, filmed separately.
The concert was filmed outdoors this fall, adhering to CDC guidelines regarding social distancing and masking. In addition, participants produced negative Covid tests prior to arriving for the filming and received temperature checks on-site.
Concert Information:
Selections from Handel’s Messiah
Presented by Oratorio Society of New York
Premieres Monday, December 21 at 8pm ET
Free to access at:
--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media
2020 Copland House Residency Awards Announced
Copland House is excited to announce that five outstanding composers have been selected to receive its 2020 Residency Awards, a year curtailed by the COVID pandemic. Ranging in age from 28 to 74 and coming from four states and varied artistic and personal backgrounds, these gifted composers have pursued diverse creative interests and idioms, ranging from concert music to jazz, acoustic to electronic, and socially-engaged to abstract.
The awards go to Theo Chandler, 28 (Houston, TX); Flannery Cunningham, 28 (Philadelphia, PA); Tamar Diesendruck, 74 (Arlington, MA); Meg Okura, 47 (New York, NY); and Keane Southard, 33 (Rochester, NY). Chandler and Cunningham were Fellows in CULTIVATE, Copland House’s acclaimed emerging composers institute, and Diesendruck was a 2007 Resident.
For more information, visit
--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company
The Washington Chorus Goes Virtual with Candelight Christmas Concert
For the first time in its 60-year history, The Washington Chorus (TWC) will present its annual holiday concert “A Candlelight Christmas” as a virtual event. Recorded without an audience at the Music Center at Strathmore and streamed from December 18-20 via Vimeo through the TicketSpice platform. Tickets are $15 and are on sale here:
In addition to the streamed “A Candlelight Christmas” concert, The Washington Chorus is offering “Carols on Demand,” a program that includes a personalized video message and carol performance from a Chorus member. Details are available at The Washington Chorus’ website:
--Amy Killion, Bucklesweet
“Juxtapositions: Old and New Music for Baroque Instruments”
Five Boroughs Music Festival, in partnership with Portland Baroque Orchestra and Great Arts. Period., presents the world premiere of “Juxtapositions: Old and New Music for Baroque Instruments,” a two-part pre-recorded concert video available starting Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 7:00pm ET on YouTube Live: and
5BMF’s original 2020-21 season included a late-fall presentation of the complete sonatas for violin and harpsichord by J.S. Bach, performed by violinist Monica Huggett and keyboardist Elliot Figg. Forced to switch gears due to the pandemic, 5BMF is now proud to present a double-feature of short programs led by Huggett and Figg respectively, recorded on the west and east coasts.
For complete information, visit
--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media
Third Angle New Music Premieres John Luther Adams's Noctilucent
Third Angle New Music will present the world premiere performance of John Luther Adams’s (JLA) Noctilucent (2020) during a portrait concert of JLA’s works for string instruments.
The evening will also include Adams’s the place we began (2008), Three High Places (2007), and the third movement, “Sky with Nameless Colors,” from Canticles of the Sky (2015), performed in the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, considered one of the finest examples of Byzantine Revival architecture. The concert is produced by OurConcerts.Live with Third Angle New Music, in partnership with Congregation Beth Israel.
When: Thursday, December 3, 10pm ET / 9pm CT / 7pm CT
Tickets: $25 household / $15 individual / $5 student
For more information, visit
--Allison van Etten, Ravenscroft PR

More New Releases (CD/SACD Mini-reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Alas, my favorite public library has been forced to close its doors again because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, it was only open for a couple more days after I had finally been able to enter it at last and check out the new music releases that I commented on previously for Classical Candor. ( Not to worry, though, because although its doors have been closed to the public except for that one brief interlude (or was that whole episode merely a dream?), the library has been functioning quite efficiently on a drive-through basis. Buoyed by my experience with discovering new releases on that one brief but magical venture through the library door, I decided to do some searching on their website to see what other new classical releases they might have obtained recently. I there found some interesting items, some of which I am still in the process of auditioning and digesting, others for which I am pleased to offer some brief but, let’s hope, helpful commentary on below. Enjoy and stay safe, my friends...

Johann Johannsson and Yair Elasar Glotman: Last and First Men. (Deutsche Grammophon 4837410)
The late Johann Johannsson composed some truly remarkable music during his relatively brief career. Among his notable achievements were several movie soundtracks that are enjoyable to hear even divorced from their films (e.g., his soundtrack to the film Arrival, a stimulating sci-fi film based on an ingenious short story by author Ted Chiang titled “The Story of Your Life”). The copy I obtained from the library includes both the CD of the soundtrack and a Blu-ray disc of the movie, which I have not yet watched but plan to presently. The music is haunting, moody, sometimes spooky, with acoustic instruments, voices, and synthesized sounds blended together to great effect. If you are already a fan of Johannsson, you’ll want to give this new release a listen. 

MacMillan: Symphony No. 5 “Le grand Inconnu”; The Sun Danced. Mary Bevan, soprano; Harry Christophers, The Sixteen and the Genesis Sixteen, Britten Sinfonia. (CORO COR16179)
Sir James MacMillan (b. 1959) has given us here two large-scale works for chorus and orchestra that are based on religious themes. The Sun Danced (2016) was commissioned by the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal to mark the centennial of a religious miracle, while his Symphony No. 5, le grand Inconnu” (2019) is said by the composer to evoke the mystery of the Holy Spirit. MacMillan explains in the liner notes that the French phrase “Le grand Inconnu” refers to the mystery of the Holy Spirit in a way he cannot find in the English spiritual tradition. Musically, both pieces are expressive and colorful, showing the composer’s skill and imagination in powerful measure. A particularly gripping effect is the quiet breathing of the choir that opens the Symphony, a musical effect that brings to mind the idea of “the whisperings of the Spirit.” The soprano Mary Bevan really shines in The Sun Danced, with orchestra and chorus providing many moments of power and light. Both pieces have an exuberance that sweeps the listener away; indeed, one need not be religious to appreciate the power of MacMillan’s musical vision and the glory of the musicians who bring that vision gloriously to life.  

Mahler: Symphony No. 7. Osmo Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra. (BIS 2386)
One of the highlights of my musical life was attending a concert performance of the Mahler Symphony No. 7 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Claudio Abbado. Given that JJP has already posted a fine in-depth review of this BIS release (, I will simply second his opinion that this is a very fine recording indeed. It is an excellent performance featuring an especially adept interpretation of the final movement. In addition, the sound of the orchestra has been captured with superb engineering, making this release worthy of an enthusiastic recommendation to all Mahler fans.    

Prokofiev: Suites from The Gambler and The Tale of the Stone Flower. Dima Slobodeniouk, Lahti Symphony Orchestra. (BIS 2301)
This SACD of orchestral music by Prokofiev contains just what you would expect from orchestral suites by the Russian master: music that is colorful, expressive, energetic, and entertaining. Many music lovers are no doubt familiar with the colorful orchestral suites from his ballet, Romeo and Juliet. The first suite on this disc, Four Portraits and Denouement from “The Gambler” is derived from an opera rather than a ballet, but the other suite is based upon his ballet The Tale of the Stone Flower. Interestingly enough, I noted in my listening sessions that there was some music that seemed quite parallel to some music from Prokofiev’s ballet score for the star-crossed lovers, but it is certainly no scandal to hear a great composer stealing from his or her own catalog, especially when the end product is so rewardingly entertaining, as it is here. Sandwiched between these two suites is an earlier composition by Prokofiev, his brief but soberly expressive Autumnal Sketch. The engineering is first-rate, which is what we have come to expect from BIS, one of the few labels that still lists the equipment used in the production, a fun touch that brings to mind those heady audiophile days of the 70s and 80s.

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 1. Gianandrea Noseda, London Symphony Orchestra (LSO Live LSO0802)
I thought it seemed a bit surprising to see the reverse numerical order of the symphonies in the title of this release. Perhaps the producers figured that the 5th is the more popular Shostakovich symphony of the two so they needed to list it first? Not a big deal, just a bit odd, so perhaps that was the point: christen it a bit oddly to draw some extra attention in a crowded marketplace. Whatever. A bigger surprise awaited me when I got home, opened the cover, and realized that there were two shiny toruses in the package, one for Symphony No. 5, the other for -- you guessed it -- Symphony No. 1. I had assumed both works would have fit on one SACD, but that might have been stretching it. There are no fillers included on either disc, but given that the package sells for a relatively modest price, value is not really an issue. Both symphonies are well done, recorded in live performance but engineered superbly. Symphony No. 1 is played with just a bit less playfulness than I would like to hear, but is still a delight. Similarly delightful is Noseda’s version of No. 5, an interpretation that seems to strike a balance between hope and despair. For the price, this 2-SACD set would be a great way for someone new to Shostakovich to be introduced to his symphonies.

Voice of Hope
: Camille Thomas, cello; Stephane Deneve (tracks 4-6), Mathieu Herzog (tracks 1-3, 7-13). Brussels Philharmonic. (Deutsche Grammophon 4838564)
What looks to be at first glance just another collection of arrangements for cello of some traditional favorites turns out to be something more complex, more focused, and more satisfying than that. The centerpiece of this collection is not a traditional favorite; rather, it is a new composition  by Turkish composer Fazil Say (b. 1970) titled Concerto for Cello and Orchestra “Never Give Up,” a quite listenable and rewarding piece of contemporary music that fits right in with the other selections in this release, which include impassioned performances of notable compositions such as Ravel’s Kaddish (if you ever get the opportunity, check out the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s “Tree of Life: A Concert for Peace and Unity,” a moving memorial concert for the victims of the tragic 2918 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which among other heartfelt performances included a version of Kaddish with a clarinet taking the lead), Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, and John Williams’s Theme from Schindler’s List. Voice of Hope is a truly remarkable release, much more than a random collection of arrangements for cello. Brava, Ms. Thomas!

Vasks: Viola Concerto; String Symphony “Voices.” Maxim Rysanov, viola and conductor, Sinfonietta Riga. (BIS 2443)
Music lovers who have not yet discovered the entrancing music of Latvian composer Peteris Vasks (b. 1946) will find this new BIS release an excellent gateway into his musical universe. The CD opens with the more recent of the two works on the program, his Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra (2014-2015). Those fearful of contemporary music need not be afraid, this is music to delight rather than assault the ear. The opening movement in particular is breathtakingly beautiful, so listeners are likely to be hooked from the outset (shades of the old strategy of starting off a rock or pop album with a hit song sure to draw listeners in). Rest assured, though, the rest of the music on the disc is up to the same high standard of quality. The second composition is one of the first pieces by Vasks that got me interested in his music back in the early 1990s. His Symphony for Strings, “Voices” (1991) is more inward-focused than the Concerto, more allusive than effusive. Again, it is a good place to start with the music of Vasks, as it employs many of the musical devices that he will use in subsequent works. It truly draws the listener in, giving the mind something to turn over while enjoying the compelling sonorities. It is one of those pieces that upon hearing, you will immediately want to hear again. All in all, this is an excellent release, highly recommended.

Avishai Cohen: Big Vicious. Avishai Cohen, trumpet/effects/synthesizer; Uri Ramirez, guitar; Yonatan Albalak, guitar/bass; Aviv Cohen, drums; Ziv Ravitz, drums/live sampling. (ECM 2680)
It is certainly not an original thought to say that jazz is America’s classical music, but I’ll throw it out there quickly along with another thought that certainly did not originate with me, that jazz musicians in general tend to have a deeper understanding of and ability to implement music theory than do classical musicians. And if you read biographies of and interviews with prominent jazz musicians, you might well be surprised to find out how many are fans of classical music. In any event, Big Vicious is a delight: tuneful, imaginative, and bold in both conception and execution. “Big Vicious” is the name of both Cohen’s band and the album, which contains 11 compositions: nine originals credited to Cohen or the band plus two covers, one an arrangement of the song “Teardrop” by Massive Attack, the other an arrangement of a movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. (“Hey hey, my my, clas-sic-al will never die...”)

Bonus Recommendation: Self-Portrait with Russian Piano. Wolf Wondratscheck, author; Marshall Yarbrough, translator. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, First American Edition, 2020. ISBN 978-0-374-28049-1. It turns out that the library not only carries CDs, but they also carry books that they are more than happy to have their patrons check out to read. How cool is that?! Music lovers with a literary bent might enjoy this somewhat dreamlike novel by the German author, Wolf Wondratscheck. It tells the tale of a writer who encounters an aging Russian pianist, Suvorin, although as the novel moves along, it can become hard to separate the fictional author from the fictional pianist as their stories intertwine. Along the way, we are regaled with anecdotes and observations about actual musicians such as Clara Haskil (“Did she speak Russian? Did she speak at all?  Did her hands get cold before every appearance, too cold for Mozart, who would then warm them for her?”), Sviatislov Richter (“Any interest in success, in seeking admiration for his capabilities as a pianist, was completely alien to Richter. Success was fining the trail of a discovery, the hope of finding it. Richter would probably most preferred it if his name didn’t appear next to the composer’s on the playbill at all.”). Glenn Gould (“Gould was right to quit early. The guy was just thirty-two! But he had had enough and he threw in the towel. Good kid, and he had a sense of humor, too. That he did, you have to hand it to him.”), and Heinrich Schiff (“The worst ones, says Schiff, are the conqueror types, who turn each game into a tournament, each concert into a struggle—the killjoys at the conductor’s stand who wave the queue around like a baton. How little feeling, how little sensitivity they have.”). This novel is not the easiest to read, but it does tend to suck the reader in, weaving quite a psychological spell throughout its relatively brief 204 pages.  

Finally, allow me to be so bold as to recommend another jazz recording, this one also by trumpeter Avishai Cohen. His quintet recording Into the Silence (ECM 2482) is much different in sound and mood from Big Vicious. It is acoustic, moody, Cohen at times muting his trumpet and exploring some deeply introspective spaces both musically and emotionally. It is a simmeringly powerful release that is beautifully recorded and produced.


Brahms: Symphony No. 1 (CD review)

Also, Tragic Overture. Herbert Blomstedt, Gewandhausorchester. Pentatone PTC 5186 850.

By John J. Puccio

First, the good: The music is beyond reproach, the Brahms First being among the most-recognizable symphonies in the classical world. The conductor, Herbert Blomstedt, is beyond reproach at age ninety-one when he made this recording and one of the world’s leading ensemble directors as well as one of the world’s leading authorities on the music of Brahms. The orchestra is beyond reproach, the Gewandhaus Orchestra being one of the oldest orchestras (some would argue THE oldest) in the world and certainly one of the grandest. And the record company is beyond reproach, Pentatone having given us any number of fine albums since their founding in 2001.

The bad? Well, that may be even more a matter of opinion. Pentatone chose to record the music live. Usually, that means a close-up recording with occasional audience noise and inevitable applause. I was prepared for the worst, but Pentatone’s engineers provide a live recording that, thankfully, doesn’t sound too much like live. So even the bad is pretty good.

Johannes Brahms ((1833-1897) wrote his Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 over a period of more than a dozen years, premiering it in 1876. The opening Allegro is tempestuous, crowded, energetic, with various themes, including a “fate” motif, a series of modulations, what has been referred to as “a shocking digression,” a restatement of the exposition, and, finally, a peaceful ending.

The second movement Andante is probably most notable for its solo passages from the oboe and violin. The third movement Allegretto is notable for squeezing in so much detail into so little space. Then the fourth movement finally gives us a memorable tune to hang our hats on and goes out in a triumphant flourish.

Allow me here to quote myself from a review I wrote well over a decade ago: “Beethoven pretty much intimidated everybody, and after his death composers were more than a bit reluctant to continue in the symphonic field. Many of them felt that Beethoven had already said it all, and they were content to deal with concertos, operas, ballets, chamber music, and the like. Brahms himself spent in excess of a dozen years mulling over the ideas for a symphony, finally revealing his Symphony No. 1 in 1876. The public and critics hailed it a success, and it has more or less remained in the basic repertoire ever since.

So, the Brahms First Symphony is something of a historical precedent as one of the first important symphonies since Beethoven, which does not in my book necessarily make it a great piece of music. I have always found the opening movement too messy, the Andante too overtly Romantic, and the third movement too boring, with only the Finale at all interesting, where Brahms saves up his big theme. So shoot me; I’m not a purist.”

Oddly, perhaps, I love Brahms’s Second, Third, and Fourth Symphonies, where the composer seems to have learned a lesson from his first attempt at symphonic writing and settled into a more coherent and more tuneful pattern (although he never outdid himself with the First Symphony’s closing theme).

Anyway, of more importance than my personal feelings about the music, how does Maestro Blomstedt and his formidable orchestral forces handle all of this? Well enough, actually, especially for a fellow in his nineties, that you’d think might produce a really slow, ponderous reading of the “mature” type. But, in fact, it isn’t. Now, the performance isn’t in the same league, mind you, as my favorites: Otto Klemperer (EMI/Warner), who takes a firmer, more cohesive stand, and Sir Adrian Boult (EMI), who gives us a kinder, gentler, yet still quite imposing reading. By comparison, Blomstedt’s approach is grand but not too leisurely, mature but not to the point of tedium. It’s a measured interpretation in which the conductor tries his best to keep everything together and move it along at a healthy, if stately pace. Boring, it is not. Head and shoulders above everything else, it is not. Serviceable, it is.

The opening movement is the most like Beethoven of the symphony’s four movements, and Blomstedt plays it that way, with an emphasis on the “fate” motif and the ominous mood of the Fifth Symphony. Although I thought Blomstedt needed to give it a bit more energy for weight and authority, he plays it in a thoughtful fashion. Brahms interrelates the second and third movements, which Blomstedt nicely connects, making the transition from one to another seem almost seamless. Of course, this does nothing to dispel my feeling that both movements are rather prosaic. Which leaves Blomstedt with the finale, and it is the only movement I felt he handled a bit too slowly. It needs more fire after a somewhat labored introduction. Yet when the conductor reaches the main theme, he does open it up affectionately, and the music comes as a welcome relief from the darkness that came before. It wraps up a good performance that, unfortunately, still does not make its way to the heavens.

Coupled with the symphony is Brahms’s Tragic Overture. I enjoyed Blomstedt’s take on this work more than I did his work with the First. Brahms called the piece a “dramatic” overture, in contrast to the cheerful character of his Academic Overture, written the same year. From strong rhythmic development to funeral march, Blomstedt steadies the music and guides it to an agreeably harmonious conclusion.

What’s more, the Gewandhaus Orchestra never sounded more imposing. I’ve never heard them in person, but on disc in their own hall they have always sounded rich, mellow, golden in tone, and luxuriously resplendent. In this Pentatone recording, you can lay that out in spades. They sound glorious and fully up to the task of performing like one of the great orchestras of the world.

Producers Ranaud Loranger and Bernhard Gutler and engineer Rene Moller recorded the music live at the Gewandhaus, Leipzig, Germany in September and October 2019. Unlike so many of Pentatone’s recordings, which are presented in hybrid multichannel/stereo SACD, this one is a regular CD in two-channel only. And unlike so many live recordings, this one as I’ve said doesn’t really sound live, nor is there any applause or audience noise involved. The sound is smooth, a trifle close but not in the conductor’s lap, and moderately reverberant. The Gewandhaus imparts a mild ambient bloom to the proceedings, enough to make the orchestra appear full and natural. In terms of naturalness, in fact, the sound is warm and lifelike, one of the best, most listenable live recordings I’ve heard in ages.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 21, 2020

"Downton Abbey" Star Hugh Bonneville Opens ESO's New Storytelling Series

Hugh Bonneville, star of the beloved 'Paddington' films and hit series "Downton Abbey," joins the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) under the baton of Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Kenneth Woods for the first in a series of brand-new works for narrator and orchestra as part of the ESO's Music from Wyastone Virtual Concert Series. Bonneville narrates Woods' powerful setting of the Hans Christian Andersen classic, 'The Ugly Duckling', which premieres on the ESO's digital portal, ESO Digital, on Friday, 27 November 2020, at 6.00 p.m.

In keeping with the ESO's longstanding commitments to engaging with young people and promoting new music, the first series includes world premieres of five new works embracing classic children's tales by Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, playful Klezmer tales and one of the oldest surviving folk stories from ancient Egypt.

"Bonneville's involvement is key to getting the project off to a strong start," says Woods. "I knew Hugh would be ideal for Duckling because his understanding of character is so nuanced. But also, I've seen through my own children watching him, repeatedly, in things like 'Muppets Most Wanted' and 'Paddington,' that children really connect with him - he doesn't condescend to them, as many do. His work for young viewers is just as sharp and deep as that for the older crowd."

The performance of 'The Ugly Duckling' will be available at; a trailer will be available from Friday 20 November.

--Melanne Mueller, Music Company International

Upcoming SOLI Events
“Beethoven Reimagined” - December 8, 7:30 pm - A SOLI digital event.

Thank you for making our first concert at the San Antonio Botanical Garden such a great success! We are thrilled with the many wonderful comments we have received and look forward to our future live performances.

SOLI is moving "indoors" for our next event and invites you to reserve time on December 8 to watch “Beethoven Reimagined” from the comfort and safety of your home.

For complete information, visit

--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble

New Century Appears in “Hope@Home” on ARTE Television Network
New Century Chamber Orchestra joins Music Director Daniel Hope for the new installment of his internationally acclaimed television series “Hope@Home – Next Generation,” with six delayed-live episodes to stream daily from San Francisco from November 18 through 23.

Professionally produced by Kobalt Productions for Europe’s ARTE television network, these six episodes will be filmed in San Francisco and comprise six half-hour live solo and chamber music performances that also feature special guest artists from the Bay Area including percussionist Zakir Hussain, pianist Garrick Ohlsson and composer Jake Heggie. The first episode from San Francisco streams on Wednesday, November 18 at 10:00 a.m. PST on the ARTE website with subsequent episodes running at the same time daily through Monday, November 23. The streams are free for audiences all over the world and will be available for viewing for 30 days after the air date.

Visit “Hope@Home - Next Generation” at

--Brenden Guy Media

St. Charles Singers to Present “Candlelight Carols” Free Online December 6
The St. Charles Singers, led by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will present their 2020 Candlelight Carols program as a free-to-view webcast on Sunday, December 6. The 45-minute concert will stream at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m. CST. The viewing link will be posted on the choir’s website,

Thirty-five singers from the mixed-voice ensemble, hailed by American Record Guide as “a national treasure,” took part in the video recording, which features 13 seasonal songs by composers and arrangers from the Renaissance to the 20th-century era, most sung a cappella.

The professional chamber choir’s 37th annual holiday program was recorded November 8 at St. Michael Catholic Church, Wheaton, Illinois, without an audience and in accordance with public health regulations and safety precautions, Hunt says. The COVID-19 situation “has been such a huge loss to the singing world,” he says, because of concerns over airborne spread of the virus. “All the singers expressed immense gratitude for the opportunity to perform in some way and to be with each other again,” the choirmaster says.

For complete information, visit

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

Berkshire Opera Festival Returns to the Stage with an Xxpanded Summer 2021 Season
The young and ambitious Berkshire Opera Festival has the opera world abuzz. The only company of its kind in the Berkshire region, BOF produces opera at the highest level under the vision of esteemed co-founders Brian Garman (Artistic Director) and Jonathon Loy (Director of Production). From 2016-2019, the Festival witnessed wild ovations and glowing praise from locals to operaphiles and national critics. Opera News declared "destination status" on the Festival, and Berkshire On Stage wrote "No longer need we confine our opera-going to HD films—now we have the highest quality productions and performers in our own backyard." The New York Times called BOF's Ariadne auf Naxos "one of those productions that change the way you think about things."

For complete information, visit

Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of November 23–29)
Tuesday, November 24 at 6:00 p.m. ET (available for 72 hours)
Jonathan Biss Performs Beethoven for Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

Saturday, November 28
NPR Music’s AMPLIFY with Lara Downes features Julia Bullock.

Sunday, November 29 at 4:00 p.m. ET (available for 30 days)
The Gilmore presents “Rising Star” Dominic Cheli performing a variety of works--from Beethoven to Clara Schumann to Carl Vine.

All Week (Available until Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. PT)
James Conlon leads LA Opera virtual production of pioneering Black composer Joseph Bologne’s The Anonymous Lover.

--Shuman Associates News

An Evening with Kelli O'Hara
Tony Award-winning stage and screen star Kelli O'Hara returns to the University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts for a virtual live performance streaming Saturday, December 5. The evening will include a generous collection of holiday favorites as well as classics from the Great White Way and the American Songbook.

Immediately following the performance, Jorgensen’s director Rodney Rock will interview Ms. O’Hara, and she will engage in a live Q&A with the audience. The concert is presented through Jorgensen Digital Stage, produced by, with support from the Jorgensen CoStars and Circle of Friends, and media sponsors CT Public, Connecticut Magazine,, and Lite 100.5 WRCH.

More information here:

--Allison Van Etten, Ravenscroft PR

Free Directories of Classical Music Written by Black Composers
The not-for-profit Rachel Barton Pine (RBP) Foundation’s Music by Black Composers (MBC) project has launched its first free online directories of classical music written by Black composers: “Repertoire for Violin and Orchestra,” and “Repertoire for Unaccompanied Solo Violin.” MBC works to rectify historic and ongoing racial injustices in the classical music sphere.

MBC’s repertoire directories establish a central location for existing music by Black classical composers. They are a free resource for performers, conductors, concert programmers, students, and teachers seeking existing music, as well as for researchers and scholars of classical music.

View The Repertoire Directories:

--Allison Van Etten, Ravenscroft PR

2020 Closes Out with Virtual Celebrations
In celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, pianist Yael Weiss presents an all-day marathon concert that features performances of Beethoven Sonatas and newly commissioned pieces written for her project, “32 Bright Clouds: Beethoven Conversations Around the World,” as well as interviews and conversations with the composers and special guests. Along with world premieres by composers from Cambodia and Hong Kong, Weiss also performs works by composers from South Africa, Myanmar, Philippines, Hong Kong, Turkey, and Colombia; all are paired with a Beethoven Sonata (December 16).

View here:

Silicon Valley’s all girlchoir, iSing, presents its eighth annual holiday concert with special guests Angel Blue, the Amaranth Quartet, and members of One Found Sound and the San Francisco Symphony. Holidays@Homefeatures contemporary works, arrangements of traditional carols, and popular holiday songs (December 19).

View here:

The King’s Singers close their Idagio Global Concert series with the annual fan favorite, Christmas with the King’s Singers. Recorded at composer John Rutter’s church, All Saints in Chrishall, UK the concert will feature traditional carols, seasonal songs, and festive cheer (December 22).

Purchase tickets here:

--Amy Killion, Bucklesweet

Eureka Chamber Music Series Announces New Co-Artistic Directors
Eureka Chamber Music Series (ECMS) has appointed Tom Stone and Maggee VanSpeybroeck as Co-Artistic Directors. The EMCS board of directors has also added new members Julie Fulkerson and George Ponnay. Founded by Pearl and Bob Micheli, ECMS has presented renowned classical musicians in live concerts to Humboldt County since 1993, and is committed to continue presenting diverse, world-class musicians in intimate concerts while expanding its audience and serving the community in innovative ways.

ECMS made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020-2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be spending the coming year on a thorough planning process and a re-launch of the series in the fall of 2021, including favorites from the past such as the Pacifica Quartet, the Arianna Quartet, pianist Tian Ying, and the San Francisco Opera Singers. The fall 2021 season will open with a performance by Stone’s newly formed piano trio, Duende, with pianist Awadagin Pratt and cellist Sophie Shao.

For more information, visit

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Stephen Hough’s Book Rough Ideas Wins 2020 Royal Philharmonic Society Award
The Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Awards, widely considered the most prestigious music awards in the UK, have named pianist Stephen Hough’s book Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More as the 2020 award winner in the “Storytelling” category, which focuses on writings, spoken word, radio, television, film, and digital / online projects, among other media, that further the understanding of classical music.

The awarding jury of the Royal Philharmonic Society, which was founded in 1813, praised Rough Ideas as “a colourful and compelling document of a maverick musical mind. It vividly charts vast terrain, illustrating how a virtuoso musician is not divorced from the rest of the world.”

For more information about the RPS and RPS Awards, visit

--Shuman Associates News

Neave Trio Performs in Livestream Concert
The Neave Trio, Alumni Artists, Faculty Ensemble-in-Residence at the Longy School of Music of Bard College, presents “Finding What is Lost,” a livestream performance on Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 7:30pm EST. The trio will perform live in Edward M. Pickman Concert Hall and the stream will be available to watch online with advance registration. Registrants will receive the link to the event in the order confirmation email, and in a reminder email before the event begins. There will not be an in-person audience for this event.

“Finding What is Lost” pairs contemporary works by Eric Nathan and Dale Trumbore, both composed in 2018 and premiered by the Neave Trio, with Glinka’s Trio pathetique (1832). In a search for lost love, he composed this trio right after the end of a relationship and wrote on the score, “The only way I know love is by the pain it causes.” Though it was originally scored for clarinet, bassoon, and piano, it is commonly performed with the piano trio’s instrumentation.

For more information, visit

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Happening at YPC
A Sneak Peek at The Making of Our Winter Concert.

Young People’s Chorus of New York City choristers had the opportunity to do something very exciting: film video, in a COVID-19 compliant environment, for our 2020 winter concert, “Once Upon the Holidays.” This two-part event will stream virtually on December 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET, and December 20th at 5:30 p.m. ET. Save the dates with more details to be announced!

At the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Hearst Plaza and at Seret Studios, small groups of choristers and staff gathered for the first time in months to choreograph holiday classics.

Great measures were taken to make our sets safe, including following the guidelines of the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers, socially distancing, and having a COVID-19 compliance officer on set. Choristers arrived with a bottled up energy that they could not help but release through dancing, laughter, and smiles. It was hard to tell who was more excited–the choristers or the YPC team!

As we share our music with the entire world through our dynamic new platform, “In the Key of Love,” we ask for your support to keep our choristers on the global stage.

Please visit us at

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Schumann: Einsam (CD Review)

Includes Arabeske, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana. Nino Gvetadze, piano. Challenge Classics CC 72855.

by Bill Heck

I admit that, in the past, I’ve not been much of a Schumann fan. Much of his music has seemed to me just a progression of notes, revealing nothing in particular. I listen to Bach, marveling at the structure, but structure surely isn’t Schumann’s strong suit. I can listen to Tchaikovsky and hear echoes of the composer’s joys and longings, but did not hear those echoes in Schumann’s compositions. Just what was it that others saw – or rather heard – in Schumann’s piano works?

It turns out, at least for the works on the recording reviewed here, that I was listening to the wrong performances. Oh, I suppose that it could be age that has made me more patient, more receptive to Schumann’s approach. Or it could be the phase of the moon or the boredom of the pandemic – but I really think it was hearing these performances that made me a convert.
When I first heard this recording, the word “personal” leapt to mind; I felt that I was listening to a musical conversation between performer and composer, or even between the performer and me, an intimate communication played in the moment. From that time to this, I’ve not gotten that word “personal” out of my head.

One bit of trivia to get out of the way: the title of the album, Einsam, usually translated as “lonely.” But why, as none of the works here deals with loneliness? My German professor sister (thanks, Barb!) pointed out that for the German Romantics, of which Schumann surely was one, loneliness has the connotation of solitude, a romantically noble aloneness, especially in connection with nature. Perhaps “contemplation” would be a better word for us English speakers.

The first work on the album, Arabeske, is fairly brief, clocking in here at 7:39. It was perhaps meant as a love letter of sorts to Robert’s beloved Clara Weick, for at the time of this composition he was banished from the Weick household as an unsuitable match for Clara. Schumann himself described the work as “delicate – for ladies”, and I suppose that one could characterize it as delicate. But that would be to sell it short: although a relatively early work (Schumann was 29 when he composed it), it does exhibit emotional depth. As such, I would think of it as a nice and well-played warmup for what is to come.

The Kinderszenen (Children’s Scenes) does have a program, although the program seems to have been added by Schumann after the completion of the composition. It represents a series of 12 scenes from childhood, not from the perspective of the child, but rather as the adult remembers them. As such, we might expect moments of innocent joy, but joy tinged with wistful nostalgia. The 13th and final movement depicts the adult reflecting on the reflections, so to speak, coming back to the reality of adulthood, but with those childhood memories lingering in the background.

To my mind, Gvetadze really has a way with this music. Sampling from the movements, her opening feels a little slower than some, but and she keeps a wonderful balance between the left and right hands, making the rhythm “roll” in an appropriate fashion. In other examples, the 4th feels like what we would stereotypically think of as a gypsy melody. No. 6 is nice but perhaps slightly rushed, but 7 gives us a delightful children’s march, and the playing in 8 almost forces the listener to visualize her own childhood memory.

After more of those childhood memories, we eventually reach 13, which portrays the adult reflecting back on childhood memories. The music is hesitant, as if the memories are quite old now, growing fainter with the years. Played very slowly, the movement still hangs together: each phrase anticipates the next, so that we have a sense of flow and coherence even as the individual thoughts emerge hesitantly. The end is subdued, but the last quiet notes give a sense of repose.

Throughout the performance, one has the feeling of attention lavished on each phrase, Gvetadze exerting full control of the dynamics of each finger and each note throughout the work, with an extraordinarily smooth touch. In contrast, for instance, Lupu delivers a powerful, even robust reading with some wonderful insights, his children in movement 9 are positively rambunctious and his adult of 13 is indeed contemplative. But the percussiveness of his fingering is less persuasive than Gvetadze’s, especially in the slower, quieter movements (and her tone is plenty robust enough when the music calls for it). Another comparison: I’m generally a fan of Ivan Moracvec, especially of his Chopin, and his version of the Kinderszenen does feature some beautiful playing. However, I just could not get past his tendency to come almost to a halt after defining phrases. Gvetadze never commits that sin: the well-judged phrasing is one of the loveliest things about her playing. Her rubato always seems perfectly timed, the delayed notes arriving just at the instant that they should to keep the music moving forward.

I next turned to Argerich: would not Schumann’s work be right up her alley? Indeed, Argerich’s account is in many ways like Gvetadze’s, but there were points where the former’s playing just seemed to fade away rather than to carry me along; I lost engagement from time to time where Gvetadze’s performance kept drawing me in.

Let’s turn to the second work on the disc, the Kreisleriana. Here, the opening seems a little confused (the sound, not the pianist), with notes running together; fortunately, things quickly snap back into focus and the remainder of the movement is well played. The little transition just after the 7:00 mark sneaks up on us, a wonderful effect. The second movement opens with a beautiful sense of longing, the music sounding as if in a dream, which in context feels perfectly appropriate. My listening notes remark repeatedly on the full control over each note, the dynamics of each finger wonderful, the timing just right.

I listened to several other accounts for comparison, but to keep things brief will mention just one. Murray Perahia’s playing is impeccable: after all, it’s Perahia. The entire first movement demonstrates an incredible separation of the two hands; quick finger work throughout the work is no challenge, the little runs that open the 3rd movement are so fleeting as to bring to mind water running down a mountain stream. Such technique! Yet Gvetadze’s playing, while not quite so dazzling, engages me with the music even more.

Look, I don’t really know what it is, but this recording – all of it – feels incredibly “personal.” (As I mentioned earlier, I can’t seem to get that word out of my head.) The music pulls me back in; forget the analysis, I’ll just listen. Surely the recorded sound helps: the Challenge Classics engineers have captured the lower registers of the piano (a Steinway, I believe) to provide structural support; meanwhile, the image of the instrument is there in front of me. In the end, though, it is the playing that is so – oh, no, not that word again – personal. Thank you, Ms. Gvetadze, for properly introducing me to Mr. Schumann.


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

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Hilde Rössl-Majdan, mezzo soprano; Otto Klemperer, New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus. HDTT (2 discs).

By John J. Puccio

The German-born American conductor Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) was one of the few people recording well into the stereo age who actually knew and worked with Gustav Mahler. And of all the Mahler recordings he made, he apparently thought most highly of the Second Symphony, which he recorded several times. Among these recordings, it is probably this 1961-62 release that stands out for the excellence of both its performance and its sound, so it’s good to hear it so well remastered by HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers).

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote his Symphony No. 2 between 1888 and 1894 and premiered it in 1895. Because it references his personal view of the virtues of an afterlife and a resurrection, the composer called it the “Resurrection Symphony.” In a survey of conductors carried out by the BBC Music Magazine, it was voted the fifth-greatest symphony of all time, and one can understand why it was so popular in Mahler’s day and in our own.

Incidentally, I’ve mentioned before that Mahler has always been popular, but his popularity appeared to soar to even greater heights at the beginning of the stereo age. Why? One may wonder. I’ve argued that Mahler’s music is filled with so much hustle and bustle, so much diversity and variation, so many instruments, so many highs and lows, and so many notes (thank you, Amadeus) that it made a perfect vehicle for showing off one’s new stereo rig. And with the stereo age came new proponents of Mahler, not only Klemperer but conductors like Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti, and Bernard Haitink. By the early Eighties, Mahler was so well known to the general public that a movie like Educating Rita (Julie Walters, Michael Caine) could have a character use the wonderfully pretentious line “Wouldn’t you must die without Mahler?” and get away with it.

The first movement Mahler completed he initially designed as a stand-alone symphonic poem called “Funeral Rites” (“Totenfeier”). It took him the next five years or so to decide if he wanted to open a symphony with it. For the première, Mahler drew up a program for the music (which he later withdrew), saying the first movement represented a funeral and asking the question, Is there life after death? The music is appropriately somber and solemn, which is exactly how Klemperer plays it. While Klemperer’s contemporary, Bruno Walter, who also worked with Mahler, may have emphasized more of the music’s plainness, Klemperer underscores more of its contrasts. This is never more evident than in the first movement, which is like a small symphony (or tone poem, as I mentioned) unto itself.

The second movement is relatively simple and slow, a recollection of happy times in the life of the deceased. It is in the form of a delicate Ländler, and Mahler marked it “Sehr gemächlich. Nie eilen” (Very leisurely. Never rush). Klemperer was often criticized for being too slow and ponderous, but this is an overstatement. He did often take his time molding the musical structure of a work, but he was seldom ponderous. Here his conducting is exactly as Mahler instructs: leisurely and never rushed. It’s beautiful.

The third movement, a scherzo, reflects on life as a series of meaningless activities. How meaningless? Mahler called the climax either a "cry of despair" or a "death shriek." Mahler based it on a satirical poem about St. Anthony preaching to fish in a river, the fish comprehending none of it. Klemperer gives it the appropriate nuances to create an atmosphere of pointless desperation while still providing a most entertaining listening experience. I’ve always found this movement the most typically “Mahlerian” in the symphony, filled with pathos, yes, but a degree of playful, ironic joy as well. No one does it better than Klemperer.

Mahler marked the fourth movement "Urlicht" (Primal Light), the tempo “Very solemn, but simple.” It concerns a wish for release from a meaningless life, “relief from worldly woes.” That sounds pretty bleak, I know, yet in Klemperer’s hands it is enchanting and endlessly fascinating. The solo singing that opens the movement is delicate in the extreme, and for a change it isn’t recorded so closely that the singer dominates the rest of the score.

After such inspired gloom, the final movement gives us, after more cries of despair, Mahler’s hope for renewal, resurrection, and everlasting life. Mahler knew from the beginning that he wanted a big, hope-filled choral finale, so he chose the opening lines from the poem “Die Auferstehung” (“The Resurrection”) “Rise Again, yes, rise again” by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock to begin the movement and filled in further lines of his own devising, all accompanied by the full orchestra and chorus. It’s not exactly Beethoven’s Ninth, but it is all Mahler, complete with the Dies irae (the “Day of Wrath”). It’s also all Klemperer, who leaves his stamp of monumental authority all over it.

To sum up, you won’t find a better Mahler Second that this one by Otto Klemperer, both for its performance and sound. Klemperer was a master of subtlety and structure, and he brings out all the gradations and grandeur of the music and does so with consummate ease.

EMI producers Walter Legge, Walter Jellinek, and Suvi Raj Grubb and engineers Douglas Larter, Robert Gooch, and Francis Dillnutt recorded the music in November 1961 and March 1962 at Kingsway Hall, London. HDTT transferred the recording from an Angel 4-track tape. The total length of the performance is a little less than eighty minutes, and both EMI and currently Warner Classics fit it (barely) to a single disc. HDTT, however, chose to spread it over two discs, with the first two movements on the first disc and the final three movements on the second. In fairness, HDTT mark each section of the finale with its own track, so maybe that spacing accounts for the needed extra room. I dunno.

The Klemperer disc I had on hand for comparison was a Japanese import, very good and currently hard to find at a reasonable price (a check of Amazon showed prices from about $25 plus shipping to well over a $100). I put the discs in comparable CD players, adjusted the playback levels, and switched back and forth throughout my listening. The recording has always sounded good but even more so in EMI’s most-recent remastering. The Japanese copy bears a 2006 date but doesn’t say what source Toshiba-EMI used for the disc. When I got it (around the time of its release), I compared it to EMI’s “Great Recordings of the Century” remaster and found the Japanese product slightly clearer than its English counterpart. So, how did this new remaster from HDTT hold up?

The HDTT transfer holds up pretty well. Overall, both the HDTT and Toshiba-EMI sound excellent. The HDTT is slightly smoother, marginally softer of the two, with a bit more upper bass response making it sound a tad mellower. The Toshiba-EMI product is slightly more transparent but at the expense of a touch more edginess to the strings. Without the direct A-B comparison, I doubt these small differences would be noticeable to anyone but the most golden of ears. Of the two, I found the HDTT discs to a small degree more listenable.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at


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

Classical Music News of the Week, November 14, 2020

From Copland's Desk to NPR's Tiny Desk

Where better to have a “Tiny Desk (at Home) Concert” than around Aaron Copland’s not-so-tiny desk? On Friday, November 13 (the day before what would have been the iconic composer’s 120th birthday), National Public Radio’s popular series began streaming a short program of Copland’s instrumental works direct from his longtime home.

In Copland’s own studio, artists from the internationally-acclaimed Music from Copland House (MCH) ensemble performed selections from his Duo for Flute and Piano, composed in that very room; Sonata for Violin and Piano, written on a Hollywood studio backlot while the Oscar-winning composer was working on his film score for The North Star; and Three Moods for Piano, one of his earliest published works. Renowned MCH artists featured are flutist Carol Wincenc, violinist Curtis Macomber, and pianist (and Copland House Artistic and Executive Director) Michael Boriskin.

This “Tiny Desk (at Home) Concert” posted at 5:00am Friday, and is accessible for streaming indefinitely on the “NPR Tiny Desk” page:

For addmitional information, visit

--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company

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. The hourly schedule, now announced, is below.

OneBeat, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by Found Sound Nation, is redefining music diplomacy.  For the past decade, OneBeat residency programs have convened young pioneering musicians from across the world to dive into the musical unknown together and build a global network of artists committed to civic discourse. The OneBeat Marathon will begin a year-long celebration of online events and programs to commemorate OneBeat’s 10th anniversary in 2021.


--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Conductor Michael Christie leads New West Symphony in A Tour of India
New West Symphony (NWS), with Grammy-winning conductor Michael Christie as Artistic and Music Director, continues its 2020-21 groundbreaking and reimagined season of “Global Sounds, Local Cultures” on Sunday, November 15 at 3pm PT / 6pm ET with “A Tour of India.” The digital Sunday concert will be the culmination of a weekend of activities highlighting the profound impact that Indian culture and lifestyle have had on the greater Los Angeles Region.

“Southern California has long been home to musicians, innovators and educators sharing the storied traditions of Indian culture and Indian classical music,” said Christie. “European and American composers have been drawing on India’s vibrant musical language and engrossing formal structures for well over a century so we are delighted to be able to now share some of this incredible music and the musicians who make it come alive.”


--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists
Tulsa Opera’s “Baseball Rigoletto"
Tulsa Opera’s “Baseball Rigoletto,” filmed before a live, in-person audience at local baseball stadium ONEOK Field, premieres as a free, on-demand streaming experience for viewers around the world starting Thursday, November 12 at 6:00 p.m. CT. This performance, which originally took place on Friday, October 9, was the first staged grand opera production in the United States since the coronavirus outbreak.

The film is available on YouTube: and at

--Shuman Associates PR

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of November 16–22)
Monday, November 16 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Lara Downes gives first performance as Manhattan School of Music’s first-ever Artist Citizen-in-Residence.

Thursday, November 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Jennifer Koh kicks off digital residency at Library of Congress.

Friday, November 20 at 8:00 p.m. CT
Minnesota Orchestra performs works by Beethoven, Ravel, and Eleanor Alberga.

Sunday, November 22 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Jennifer Koh in conversation with James Darrah about new collaboration Everything That Rises Must Converge.

All Week (Available from Nov. 14 at 5:00 p.m. PT until Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. PT)
James Conlon leads LA Opera virtual production of pioneering Black composer Joseph Bologne’s The Anonymous Lover.

--Shuman Associates PR

Happy Birthday, Gordon Getty and Lisa Delan!
American composer Gordon Getty celebrates his birthday on December 20, 2020. Mr. Getty’s music has been widely performed in North America and Europe in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Vienna’s Brahmssaal, and Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall and Bolshoi Theatre, as well as at the Aspen, Spoleto, and Bad Kissingen Festivals.

About his compositions, Getty has said: “My style is undoubtedly tonal, though with hints of atonality, such as any composer would likely use to suggest a degree of disorientation. But I’m strictly tonal in my approach. I represent a viewpoint that stands somewhat apart from the twentieth century, which was in large measure a repudiation of the nineteenth and a sock in the nose to sentimentality. Whatever it was that the great Victorian composers and poets were trying to achieve, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.”

American soprano Lisa Delan celebrates her birthday on December 21, 2020. Ms. Delan has won acclaim as an interpreter of an extensive range of repertoire and is recognized for her versatility and breadth of accomplishment. She has performed on some of the world’s leading concert stages including Lincoln Center, Davies Symphony Hall, Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional, the Moscow Conservatory and Tchaikovsky Hall. Her festival appearances include the Bad Kissingen Festival in Germany, the Colmar Festival in France, the Rachmaninoff Festival in Novgorod, Russia, Festival Napa Valley, the Tuscan Sun Festival, and the Domaine Forget Festival in Quebec.

--Nancy Shear Arts Services
Experiments in Opera's New Podcast Opera "Aqua Net & Funyuns"
Starting Monday, November 23, Experiments in Opera (EiO)--the mad scientists behind Video Operas, Radio Operas, Binge Operas--will offer critics the chance to preview EIO's new five-part podcast opera AQUA NET & FUNYUNS (available to the general public for free after December 7).

Aqua Net & Funyuns is a podcast opera featuring five newly-commissioned, original stories, each written by a different librettist/composer combo. Drawing from the style of audio fiction podcasts, the 25-minute, serial episodes are designed specifically to tell compelling narratives with voices, instruments, and immersive sound design. There are no visual elements.

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

The Menil Collection's New Exhibition Features The Crossing
Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang has written an interactive soundscape, specters of noon, for The Menil Collection’s new exhibition “Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon,” on exhibit through June 2021. The installation includes seven large sculptural works by Puerto Rico-based artists Jennifer Allora (b. 1974) and Guillermo Calzadilla (b. 1971) that use sounds, cast shadows, and novel sculptural materials to explore the concept of “noon,” the listless time when “delirious visions momentarily reign in the blinding light.” Noon, as a metaphor for the uncertainties defining our time.

Lang worked closely with Allora and Calzadilla to develop an eight-hour cycle of constantly evolving sounds that will run daily in the exhibition, and according to Lang, “sonically sculpt the day.” A combination of instrumental, vocal, and electrical recordings, the sounds will respond to and activate the works of art on view. Working with in-house sound designer Paul Vazquez and with musical direction by Crossing founder and conductor Donald Nally, members of the GRAMMY-winning new-music choir The Crossing individually recorded tracks in Philadelphia, to create the interactive audio that is broadcast from speakers strategically placed throughout the installation. Entelechy draws on the songs of canaries as inspiration, while Blackout finds the singers competing with the hums and explosions of arcing electricity.

More Information
Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon
Sep 26, 2020 – Jun 20, 2021
The Menil Collection | 1533 Sul Ross St | Houston, TX

And for more information on The Crossing, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Los Angeles Master Chorale Announces Fall 2020 Digital Events
Friday, November 20: Music Video Premiere of Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Reena Esmail’s "TaReKiTa," featuring 24 Master Chorale singers and Bharatanatyam dancer Shalini Haupt, led by Associate Artistic Director Jenny Wong.

Thursday, December 17: Holiday Karaoke: Join the Master Chorale in a full-length livestreamed sing-along as they perform a program of holiday favorites, led by Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director Grant Gershon and Associate Artistic Director Jenny Wong.

For more information, visit

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Less Different Than We Believe
“Just Songs” (Unplugged)
Monica Soyemi’s “Less Different Than We Believe” is the latest release from Just Songs (Unplugged). In this original track, Young People’s Chorus alumna Monica shares her unique voice and love of music with the hope that it will bring the world just a little closer together. She wants listeners to take away that we should “...give others the opportunity to share who they really are. We may be surprised by what we find.”

“Just Songs” is a YPC commissioning program that amplifies voices of first-time and emerging songwriters to inspire our choristers to understand and access today’s world through music. In “Just Songs (Unplugged),” YPC talent performs acoustic versions of their songs and talks about the issues of social equity facing our communities today.

Listen here:

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Soprano Mary Wilson Performs "Rejoice, greatly"
Watch and hear soprano Mary Wilson sing Handel's tour de force aria from Messiah, "Rejoice greatly."

Mary made her debut with American Bach Soloists in July 2004 at that year's Belvedere SummerFest. She sang Handel's motet, “Silete venti,” which she subsequently recorded with ABS on her solo CD "Mary Wilson Sings Handel."

The music of Handel is indeed one of her great specialties. She has extraordinary facility in singing the demanding roulades and coloratura of that repertoire, and she always delivers Handel's virtuoso turns with aplomb and amazing ease and elegance.
Since that historic first performance with us, she has returned for more than 50 concerts of 20 different programs.

Watch the video here:

--American Bach Soloists

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa