Some New Releases (CD/SACD Mini-reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

With COVID-19 still ravaging central Ohio, the library is still restricted to drive-through service, but that has not prevented me from auditioning some new discs, so allow me to offer some more abbreviated reviews of what I have been able to sample lately in hopes that you might see something that sounds as though it would be worth an audition in your listening room. Enjoy!


Balada: Works for Clarinet.  Ivan Ivanov, clarinet. Naxos 8.579056.

This program of chamber music by Spanish-born American composer Leonardo Balada (b. 1933) is fairly “modern-sounding” music, probably not for all tastes, but there are some wonderful passages that should bring a smile to those who, like yours truly, are a fool for a clarinet. The program opens with Caprichos No. 7 “Fantasies of La Tarara” from 2009, a chamber concerto for clarinet and instrumental ensemble, which on this recording comprises two violins, a cello, piano, and percussion. Ivanov explains in the liner notes that “caprichos” does not have the same connotation as the typically light-hearted “capriccio,” but rather is “closely associated with the series of etchings of that name by Goya… (that) harshly critique life in late 18th and early 19th century Spain, and do no shy away from depicting poverty, corruption, superstition, violence, and, most famously, the horrors of the 1810 Napoleonic invasion…” Yes, the music does get pretty intense. The shorter Caprichos No.7, also from 2009, is for clarinet and piano, a brief piece in four short movements with titles that in English are “Anger,” “Tears,” “Anguish,” and “Shivers.” Nope, not exactly light-hearted, but fascinating musically. The disc closes with Balada’s Double Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet and Orchestra, a 2010 composition that is performed here in a 2012 version for flute, clarinet, and piano. It is a 19-minute piece in one movement that offers passages of challenging intensity along with more lighthearted moments verging on playfulness. Again, this is not a not a release I would recommend to everyone, but if you have an adventurous ear – and especially if you are a fan of the clarinet – you might want to give it a listen.

Shostakovich: Cello Concertos. Alban Gerhardt, cello; Jukka-Pekka Saraste, WDR Sinfonieorchester. Hyperion CDA68340.

Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) gifted the musical world with many wondrous works, among them these two remarkable cello concertos.
Cello Concerto No. 1 from 1956 consists of four movements, marked Allegretto, Moderato, Cadenza, and Finale: Allegro con moto. I can’t resist quoting the liner notes about the way the concerto begins “with a fast, pithy four-note theme (marked piano) from the soloist, answered by a brief military tattoo from the orchestra. No previous cello concerto had ever opened like this, and the music’s fast, nervous pulse never slackens in this buoyant and colourful movement…” The piece really does grab the listener right from the git-go, especially when performed and recorded as remarkably as it is on this Hyperion release. In contrast, Cello Concerto No. 2, completed in 1996 when the composer was in ill health, is more somber and reflective, but despairingly so. It is scored for a larger than normal orchestra, but those forces are not unleashed all at once; rather, it sounds almost more like a piece for cello and chamber orchestra. The closing measures are haunting. The music just seems to drift away and disappear in the space of a few measure, a truly remarkable effect. Cellist Alban Gerhardt has some interesting things to say in his liner note essay (especially noteworthy are his remarks about Rostropovich), and he has certainly given us a masterly interpretation. My long-time favorite recording has been a 1990 RCA recording featuring cellist Natalia Gutman with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Yuri Temirkanov, but I have found this new Hyperion release to sound appreciably better, lacking the slight glare of the older recording, not to mention that Gerhardt’s playing is completely convincing. Once I can no longer renew my copy from the library, I may well look for a copy to purchase for my personal home audio library. I guess that must mean I recommend it highly…

Roger Eno and Brian Eno: Mixing Colours. Roger Eno, keyboards; Brian Eno, programming and sound design. Deutsche Grammophon 483 777 1.

Most classical music fans probably have no idea that Brian Eno was a co-founder of the glam-rock group Roxy music, or that he served as a producer of albums by U2, Talking Heads, James, and Devo; however, some may remember that he was a pioneer of ambient music who actually coined the term in his liner notes for his 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports
In 1983, he and his brother Roger Eno, along with Daniel Lanois, recorded the album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, music from which has been featured in several films. Now at long last the brothers Eno have made an album together, Mixing Colours (more information here), which straddles the line between ambient music and electronica, but which does not seem all that far removed from what might be considered “classical” keyboard music along the lines of some of the piano pieces of Pärt or Silvestrov. Its 18 selections encompass 75 minutes of reflective music, interesting enough to capture the imagination but relaxing enough to serve as background music for reading, cooking, working out, or whatever. Be forewarned, however, that it is cut at a pretty high level, so be sure to turn the volume down before pushing the PLAY button. (By the way, there is also now available an expanded version that includes 25 tracks, but I have not auditioned it.)

GoGo Penguin. Blue Note B003198202.

GoGo Penguin is an English jazz trio consisting of pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner. Their music is reminiscent of the late lamented Esbjörn Svensson Trio, jazz with an adventurous energy informed by a rock-reminiscent vibe and overlaid occasionally with electronica, a kind of 21
st-century Keith Jarrett Trio had Keith at some point started listening to a lot of Radiohead. I hope that does not make them sound too crazy to appeal to either classical or jazz fans, for this really is an enjoyable recording, their best yet, with energy and imagination in abundance but never taken over the top.

Michael Hoppé: Peace and Reconciliation. Sedona Academy of Chamber Singers, Ryan Holder, conductor; Tetra String Quartet. Spring Hill Music SHM6076.

I had no idea what to expect from this one, having never heard of either Michael Hoppé or the Spring Hill label, but when I gave the CD a listen it proved to be a delightful surprise.
The Requiem for Peace and Reconciliation for choir and string quartet is a beautiful composition, and this arrangement works really well in establishing an intimate, reverential tone. It turns out that Hoppé is a composer more on the New Age side of things who has released 30 recordings during his career, but this particular release is decidedly “classical” in its form. The liner notes tell quite a story about how the piece came to be and what it signifies, which you can read more about here. If you are a fan of choral music, this release is well worth seeking out.

Bonus Recommendation:

The book Leading Tones by American conductor Leonard Slatkin (published in 2017 by Amadeus Press, ISBN 978-1-4950-9189-6) contains a bit of this and a bit of that, including sketches of some of his favorite musical figures, remarks about some of his favorite compositions, some stories from throughout his career, some insights into labor negotiations, some thoughts about music critics, and even some jokes. Nothing in here is especially in-depth or profound, but if you are a fan of classical music, you will find much to inform and entertain you. Slatkin turns out to be an interesting writer as well as a gifted conductor.

KWN

Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major (CD review)

Also, 2 Romances. Midori, violin; Daniel Dodds, Festival Strings Lucerne. Warner Classics 0190295179205.

By John J. Puccio

It still seems like only yesterday to me that violinist Midori Goto (b. 1971) made headlines after a surprise appearance at Tanglewood with conductor Leonard Bernstein. That was in 1982, when Ms. Goto was only eleven years ago and had not yet decided to go by only the single name “Midori.” Today, she is no longer the child prodigy, but she is an honored musician worldwide with about two dozen record albums to her name.

With this latest recording, Midori tackles the Beethoven Violin Concerto, a project one might have expected her to have undertaken many years ago, given the popularity of the music. Perhaps better late than never, and fans of the violinist’s fluid, mellifluous style will no doubt find great satisfaction in the performance. For myself, I found Midor’s interpretation beautiful, to be sure, but at the same time somewhat languorous, and occasionally almost inanimate. To each his own.

German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major in 1806, where it received an unsuccessful première and was practically shelved for the rest of the composer’s lifetime. He never published another violin concerto, so maybe his heart wasn’t in it. The world would have to wait until 1844 to see it brought back to life by violinist Joseph Joachim and conductor and composer Felix Mendelssohn, and, of course, it has been one of the leading concertos in the genre ever since.

The concerto begins with a lengthy and fairly laid-back introduction before the violin finally enters with some flourish. The slow, central Larghetto follows, and a lively Rondo caps things off. I found Midori’s particular style best suited here to the slow movement, where she is able to give free rein to her delicate tone. Compared to some of her colleagues on the violin, however, most the concerto sounded to me a little too tepid. Compare it, for instance, to the electrifying performance by Jascha Heifetz (RCA), the well-rounded version from James Ehnes (Onyx), the more traditional approaches of Itzhak Perlman (EMI) and Henryk Szeryng (Philips), as well as other contenders from Vadim Repin (DG), Gidon Kremer (Teldec), Arthur Grumiaux (Pentatone), and Rachel Baron Pine (Cedille). I’m not sure Midori’s performance quite stands up to these distinguished accounts, despite her complete mastery of the instrument.

Anyway, the recording begins with the Lucerne Festival Strings under director Daniel Dodds playing the opening section somewhat listlessly, which is probably what Midori wanted in order for the whole affair to coalesce around her ravishing but decidedly relaxed performance. Incidentally, the Festival Strings Lucerne was originally established as a chamber string orchestra, but Maestro Dodds adds further instruments as needed, such as here.

Understand, it isn’t that Midori’s tempos are slow or lethargic; they certainly are not. It’s just that she seems to prioritize a perfection of tone above musical color. So, while the performance is lovely to listen to, there isn’t a lot of passion in it. In her booklet notes, Midori indicates that she finds “Beethoven’s composition singularly sincere, beautiful, elegant, and noble,” and that’s the way she plays it. Personally, I would have opted for a little more vibrancy and fire, but that’s just me.

Coupled with the concerto are Beethoven’s two Romances for Violin and Orchestra, Nos. 1 in G major, Op. 40 (1803) and No. 2 in F major, Op. 50 (1798). Because he published the second of them first, it bears the designation No. 1. The two Romances are sort of precursors to the Violin Concerto, and whatever the numbering the F major Romance has always remained the more popular. The Romances have a graceful lyricism about them that nicely suits Midori’s graceful style, and I actually enjoyed them more than I did her performance of the Concerto.

Producer Wolfram Nehls and engineer Max Molling recorded the music at KKL Luzern, Switzerland in March 2020. The recording is quite nice, with everything sounding remarkably realistic, lifelike, without any undue brightness or edginess. Instruments appear smooth and well rounded, with good dynamics, air, and bloom. The solo violin is well placed, too, clearly the center of attention but not ten feet in front of the orchestra.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, December 26, 2020

Happy Holidays from the Family of FAYM

As we finally say goodbye to this crazy year, there are people who have made it easier and actually better for our kids. Claudia Rivera, Foundation to Assist Young Musicians's board president for the past two years, is stepping down from that position. Program Director Tim Thomas put into words exactly what we all feel about Claudia:

“I am compelled to write a public letter of gratitude to Claudia Rivera for her work as President, and her continued work as Past President. FAYM's Violins for Programs has faced many, many changes in its 11 years and the growth has been spectacular. Under Claudia's watch we grew from:

20 hours of classes a week to 27 hours
1 class of mariachi to 3
1 orchestra to 2.5 (counting Chris Bonds class as the half:) 
Added additional performance opportunities
Transitioned to a new system during a pandemic

So, from All of us at FAYM....Thank you for keeping the music alive for our youngsters during this most uncertain year. We ask that you consider making a modest gift this holiday season, so that 2021 can be the best year yet for them: https://thefaym.org/donate

--Tim Thomas, FAYM Program Coordinator

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Presents Babylon
As the 450th anniversary year of the great Jewish-Italian composer Salomone Rossi (1570-1630) draws to a close, we proudly present Babylon, a new video release featuring actor Ezra Knight, the Kaleidoscope Ensemble, the Bacchus Consort, Jessica Goul,d and Lucas Harris, plus archival audio of The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ma Rainey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, and a world premiere by Brandon Waddles (b. 1988).

"There our captors asked us for songs...
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
For there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’”

The text of Psalm 137 resonates as strongly today as it did for previous generations, and as a year of turmoil and loss draws to a close, a musical anniversary inspires us with light.

The 450th birthday of the Jewish-Italian composer Salamone Rossi gives cause to reflect on an innovative figure who flourished during a dark time of plague and marginalization. Rossi revolutionized the music of both Jew and Gentile, ushering forward his art form while cautiously traversing the two worlds of Ghetto and Palazzo. He very likely died in a plague that swept Mantua in 1630, but not before leaving his mark on the music of both his own community and that of the dominant culture he served.

For more detailed information on the project, click to read the program notes: https://www.exquisitepandemic.com/jessica-gould

What does polyphony have to do with diasporas? Click to hear the answer and more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swgAV4bAGIw&feature=youtu.be

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

The Crossing Releases New Film, You can Plan on Me, Focusing on the Experience of Aloneness
Today, Grammy-winning new music choir The Crossing releases a new film, You can Plan on Me, a reflective new composition based on works from their long history of commissioned world premieres. The project is conceived by conductor Donald Nally, who also composed the film score, largely based on Aaron Helgeson's A way far home, which was written for and premiered by The Crossing in December 2017. The film is by Luke Carpenter and Emma Oehlers, with The Crossing’s in-house sound producer Paul Vazquez and assistance to the score and sound by Kevin Vondrak. The work is dedicated to the artists of The Crossing in isolation.

The 2020 iteration of The Crossing @ Christmas, an annual Philadelphia tradition, was set to feature the world premiere of a new work by composer Matana Roberts, "we got time.," a piece that honors the life of Breonna Taylor. Though conceived to be performed outside and socially distanced, recent safety restrictions in Philadelphia caused the postponement of that concert to The Crossing's annual Month of Moderns in June 2021. In its place, The Crossing releases You can Plan on Me, a film requiring no contact nor gathering. The film also serves as this year's Jeffrey Dinsmore Memorial Concert, which has for six years been celebrated at The Crossing @ Christmas.

Like all the pandemic-time creations of The Crossing, You can Plan on Me focuses on the experience of aloneness, of not being able to do the thing we love and rely on. In The Crossing's case, that is singing. Thus, the film content: a solitary figure in a candle-lit room sits at a table reminiscing. We join her as observers, while hearing the soundtrack in her mind. That soundtrack was recorded by the singers individually, at home on their phones, and assembled by Paul Vazquez.

Watch You can Plan on Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0xvnEIKhxE

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

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Joyce DiDonato Sings "Silent Night"
On behalf of Princeton University Concerts, I hope you will enjoy this music video featuring opera star Joyce DiDonato singing a special arrangement of "Silent Night," as a special holiday treat from Princeton University Concerts and the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan (UMS).

As Joyce puts it so beautifully: “As we come to the conclusion of 2020, I want to sing this song for you...to infuse in your heart a sense of peace.” This is the second installment of our “Sing for Today” initiative, a partnership with the UMS that features responses to global events through song.

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk2aQSP9Mi8&feature=youtu.be

Happy listening, and happy holidays to you and yours!

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Mozaic Moment - Brahms Piano Quartet
In today's Mozaic Moment, let's rewind to a performance of the Brahms Piano Quartet in C minor from the 2016 summer festival. Johannes Brahms was famously in love with Robert Schumann's wife, Clara. Robert Schumann often used five notes to signify the five letters of the word "Clara" in many of his works. Brahms appropriated a variation of those notes in this work which can be heard throughout the piece.

We wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season!

Watch now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwNKA7mnjdc&feature=youtu.be&linkNum=5&campaignID=395892&patronID=1234665928&memberID=0f7e312e9448e6fed7cbc52ad891b3d

--Scott Yoo, Festival Mozaic

SOLI Chamber Ensemble: Wishing You Peace and Joy This Season
This year, more than ever, SOLI is deeply grateful to the many individuals, foundations, and entities who have supported our mission and vision of bringing new contemporary classical music to life. We invite you to watch this performance by our own Carolyn True and enjoy a few minutes of peace and solitude in the midst of the season's rush and jumble.

Watch now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U1WIf4LwbI&feature=youtu.be

SOLI wishes you and your family a peaceful holiday season.

Support SOLI today: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/donate/

--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble

YPC Is Learning...
There is learning...
... to establish a foundation of musical skills for every singer.
... to discover how to warm up your voice and your body.
...to develop skills in rhythm, melody, score navigation, and musical literacy.
... to perform across all genres at the highest level.
... to create a lifelong passion for music.
This is YPC, In the Key of Love.

The Young People's Chorus of New York City has nearly 2,000 choristers participating in our online programs this year. This tells us that YPC is still needed. And that YPC still needs you.

Please consider donating to YPC to support LEARNING for our choristers: https://ypc.org/in-the-key-of-love/ - donate

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Richter: Voices (CD review)

Max Richter, piano, organ, synthesizers; Kiki Lane, narrator; Robert Ziegler, conductor; Grace Davidson, soprano; Mari Samuelsen, violin solo; Ian Burdge, cello solo; Camilla Pay, harp; Joby Burgess, percussion; plus various other singers and instrumentalists. Decca  B0032383-02.

By Karl W. Nehring

The German-born British composer Max Richter (b. 1966) has made a name for himself by striving to bring together elements of more traditional "classical" music with more contemporary instruments and sounds. His most well-known composition is probably his reworking of Vivaldi's Four Seasons (reviewed by JJP), while perhaps his most notorious composition is his 8-hour overnight opus Sleep. His 2020 release of Voices comes at a time when not only is the world suffering from a deadly pandemic, but also from cynical and sinister political machinations that threaten democratic institutions and societal norms throughout the world. The true, the good, and the beautiful are under attack by small-minded greedy egos in leadership positions. In a small but noble way, Richter’s Voices speaks to this perilous world situation by presenting words of hope and inspiration while reassuring us with some soothing and reassuring music.

Richter is straightforward in his rationale for his unusual composition: “ I like the idea of a piece of music as a place to think, and it is clear we all have some thinking to do at the moment. We live in a hugely challenging time and, looking around at the world we have made, it’s easy to feel hopeless or angry. But, just as the problems we face are of our own making, so their solutions are within our reach, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is something that offers us a way forward. Although it isn’t a perfect document, the declaration does represent an inspiring vision for the possibility of better and kinder world.” You can see a brief video with Richter explaining more about the music and the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF6No3T2ulY

The work had its world premiere in February 2020, with more than 60 musicians performing live on the  London stage. According to the composer, the music involves a radical reimagining of the traditional orchestra formation. “It came out of this idea of the world being turned upside down, our sense of what’s normal being subverted, so I have turned the orchestra upside down in terms of the proportion of instruments.” He has scored the work for 12 double basses, 24 cellos, 6 violas, 8 violins, and a harp. They are joined by a wordless 12-piece choir as well as Richter on keyboards, violin soloist Mari Samuelsen, cello soloist Ian Burdge, percussionist Joby Burgess, soprano Grace Davidson and conductor Robert Ziegler.

The CD recording of Voices comprises two discs. The first highlights, as you might guess, voices, starting with a recording of Eleanor Roosevelt introducing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The recitation of this document is then conducted by various voices in various languages, with Richter’s music laying down a musical foundation. The second disc consists of the ten musical tracks mixed without the voices. The first disc is interesting to hear, with its blending of voices in many different languages, accents, and timbres along with musical interludes of great beauty. To be honest, though, it is not the kind of CD most listeners would want to play over and over again, making the inclusion of the second disc a welcome addition, for it is a substantial and satisfying collection of well-recorded music that is conducive to thought, relaxation, and straightforward musical enjoyment. Highlights include Richter’s meditative piano complementing Burdge’s earnest cello on track 2 (“Origins), the skillful blending of chorus and orchestra on track 3 (“Journey”), the artful blending of acoustic and electronic sounds on track 7 (“Murmuration”), and the soulful playing of Mari Samuelsen on track 10 (“Mercy”).

The engineering is truly top-notch. Blending orchestra, voices, recordings, electronic effects, and so forth could easily have ended up sounding gimmicky, but the recording comes across as quite natural and easy to enjoy. There is no harshness on top, but plenty of power on the bottom when needed. All in all, Voices is an unusual composition, but a stimulating and satisfying intellectual, emotional, and musical achievement.

Bonus Recommendation: Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen (b. 1935) is hardly a household name, but this BIS recording of three of his works for orchestra by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Okko Kamu is well worth an audition. The program opens with Sunrise Serenade, which features trumpeters Kjell-Âke Pettersson and Per Falck. In under eight minutes, this piece creates an atmospheric mood of mystery and anticipation within a spacious sonic setting. Next up is the relatively brief (15:35) Symphony No. 2 (Symphonic Dialogue for Solo Percussion Player and Orchestra), a one-movement composition that highlights the energetic and versatile playing of percussionist Gert Mortensen. But no, the piece is much more than just banging around, it creates a musical world of wonder and mystery. The disc closes with Sallinen’s substantial Symphony No. 6 “From a New Zealand Diary,” which was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The composer vacationed in New Zealand in early 1989 to help prepare himself for composing the work, which he completed in 1990. Its four movements are rich and atmospheric. None of the music on this disc is harsh, dissonant, or random-sounding. Indeed, it is inviting and rewarding, and recorded in excellent BIS sound by engineer Robert von Bahr.

KWN

Italian Postcards (CD review)

Music of Wolf, Mozart, Borenstein, and Tchaikovsky. Quartetto di Cremona, with Ori Kam and Eckart Runge. Avie AV2436.

By John J. Puccio

Italy has long been a favorite destination of travelers, vacationers, history buffs, music lovers, composers, and, well, just about everyone. From Lake Como, Venice, Milan, and Verona to the North through Rome and Sicily farther south, the country has offered artists a wealth of material to work with. Such is the case with Hugo Wolf, W.A. Mozart, Nimrod Borenstein, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, all of whom were inspired by the merits of the country. On the present disc, the Quartetto di Cremona and friends present four selections by the aforementioned composers in as sunny, Italianate performances as you could want.

For those of you unaware, the Quartetto di Cremona is an award-winning Italian string ensemble founded in Cremona, Italy in 2000. Their members are Cristiano Gualco, violin; Paolo Andreoli, violin; Simone Gramaglia, viola; and Giovanni Scaglione, cello. On the Tchaikovsky piece, they are joined by Ori Kam, viola, and Eckart Runge, cello. The quartet has appeared practically everywhere in the world and has recorded well over a dozen record albums.

The program begins with the Italian Serenade (1887), a short work (about seven minutes) by the Austrian composer Hugo Wolf (1860-1903). It is a favorite of string quartets worldwide, often played as an encore but here used as a curtain raiser. It works no matter how people use it. Wolf heard the melody while on holiday, and the Quartetto di Cremona play it with an appropriately sunny zest.

Next up is the String Quartet No. 1 in G, K. 80, “Lodi” (1770) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Mozart wrote it at age fourteen while touring in Lodi, Lombardy. You may remember Lodi, California having a similar effect on the young John Fogarty some 200 years later. Something about the name, I suppose. Anyway, it was Mozart's first string quartet, with a finale he composed a few years later. The Cremona Quartet provide a lovely poignancy to the opening Adagio, which, unusual for a string quartet, is a slow movement. Then they add their aforementioned zest to the second, Allegro, movement and a regal presence to the Minuetto. Which is where it should have ended, but Mozart felt the need to be conventional and added a fourth movement, a closing Allegro. The Quartetto di Cremona have an uncanny knack for sounding like more than just four players, their sound rich, vibrant, and resplendent.

Following the Mozart piece is the only modern work on the agenda, Cieli d’Italia, Op. 88 by the British-French-Israeli composer Nimrod Borenstein (b. 1969). Despite being modern, it fits in nicely with the older classical and Romantic material. While its single movement is brief (about seven minutes), it manages to catch a lot of varying moods and a good deal of Italian charm. The composer describes it as having an “ethereal beauty and magical peacefulness...with episodes of great despair, courageous protest, and even playfulness.” He wrote it on a commission from the Quartetto di Cremona, who play it, one assumes, with authority.

The final selection on the album is the most substantial in terms of timing, the String Sextet in D minor, Op. 70, “Souvenir de Florence” (1890) by the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Tchaikovsky wrote the piece while sketching one of its themes in Florence, Italy. On the present recording, Ori Kam, viola, and Eckart Runge, cello, sit in with the Cremona Quartet. Together, they produce a sound that comes close to seeming like a small chamber orchestra of strings, which is apt in that the piece works for the most part like a miniature symphony. The performance is wholly delightful, with plenty of emotional impact as well as sheer artistry and elegance.

Producer and engineer Michael Seberich recorded the music at Palazzina Banna, Tenuta Banna, Poirino (Torino) in December 2019. As with so many chamber recordings, this one is recorded somewhat closely. It’s great for clarity, detail, and dynamic impact but spreads out the players across the speakers a bit too wide. No matter, the recording sounds fine, with an especially welcome ambient bloom from venue.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, December 19, 2020

Mozaic Moment: Bach Sonata for English Horn and Harpsichord

In this week's Mozaic Moment, Festival Mozaic looks back to the Bach English Horn Sonata, performed by Robert Walters of the Cleveland Orchestra and harpsichordist Noam Elkies at Mozaic’s 2015 Summer Festival. Originally composed for the viola da gamba, this sonata (like many of Bach's works) is performed frequently on other instruments. We hope you enjoy!

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcM9Sq-szNI&feature=youtu.be&linkNum=3&campaignID=395890&patronID=1231585051&memberID=0f7e312e9448e6fed7cbc52ad891b3d9

In this season of giving, on behalf of all of us at Festival Mozaic, thank you for your support and generosity. Consider any gift to Festival Mozaic today and help ensure our future of bringing music to San Luis Obispo County year after year: https://tickets.vendini.com/donation-software.html?t=donation&d=f956bff3869da21f1b600b2fe5a41a87&linkNum=4&campaignID=395890&patronID=1231585051&memberID=0f7e312e9448e6fed7cbc52ad891b3d9&vqitq=2f476484-deca-4538-9b98-62fc2e2cfda1&vqitp=9ae9d049-9e

--Festival Mozaic

Sphinx Organization Digitally Presents Two of Its Flagship Programs
The Sphinx Organization, dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, is presenting its fifth annual and first ever digital SphinxConnect convening, SphinxConnect 2021: UNITY!, from January 28 to 30, 2021. SphinxConnect is the annual epicenter where artists and leaders in diversity meet, and this year’s convening features over 70 speakers exploring topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts.

Conference highlights include an opening session with Elizabeth Alexander, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President, interviewed by American public radio host and journalist Jenn White, and a closing session with pianist and 2014 Sphinx Medalist Damien Sneed. Other panels include: Artful Resilience: How Musicians Innovate in Crisis, Socially Vocal: a Discussion on Race and Identity in the Arts, This is Everyone's Fight: How Philanthropic Institutions Stepped Forth to Support Artists and BIPOC Institutions, and The ABCs of DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) and EDIB (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging): Best Practices in Implicit Bias and Anti-Racist Training with speakers including Jenny Bilfield, Clive Gillinson, and Deborah Rutter. The digital sessions are interactive and participants will have opportunities for one on one networking with panelists during the course of the three day conference.

Tickets for the conference are priced at $150 for the full series of events, as well as a “Pay What You Are Able” option to minimize attendance barriers. SphinxConnect Virtual Fellowships provide free access to the conference and $75 towards internet costs. An application for a SphinxConnect Fellowship is available here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScPO3XCkSSq21r4ncA9Z-96jUZAjeleiw_-4wOhxFX5Zv6ySg/viewform

In conjunction with the convening, the Sphinx Organization also hosts its prestigious competition recognizing the outstanding achievements of young Black and Latinx classical string players, offering them the opportunity to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges, and receive mentorship from established professional musicians. The organization’s founding program, now in its 24th year, includes both a Senior Division (ages 18 to 30) and a Junior Division (ages 17 and under).

The Sphinx Competition Junior and Senior Division Finals will feature the three Finalists from both the Senior and Junior Divisions. Presented by DTE Energy Foundation, the concert will be available to watch on Saturday, January 30 at 7pm ET on Sphinx’s YouTube Channel and website: https://www.sphinxmusic.org/sphinx-competition/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

MNM Festival: Our 10th Edition Goes “Beyond Borders”
With a few months to go before the start of its Montreal/New Musics festival (MNM), the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) announces the theme of its 10th edition, to be held from February 18 to 28, 2021. The MNM festival is reinventing itself to offer an unprecedented sound odyssey with the theme Au-delà des frontières (“Beyond Borders”). MNM 2021 will stand out for the global aspect that webcast now offers, and through its programming, tinged with openness and discovery.

Thus for 10 days musical and artistic frontiers will open up to reveal new and unprecedented sounds with universal accents. "I have always wanted to program music without limits and without concessions. We don't as yet know if we'll be able to go back to the concert hall, but we'll certainly be able to present concerts that will go over and above musical limits!” says Walter Boudreau, the festival's Artistic Director, known for his willingness to go beyond conventional rules.

For further information, visit http://smcq.qc.ca/

--France Gaignard, Publicist

Peoples’ Symphony Concerts
On Sunday, we had our fourth concert of our 120th Anniversary Season - dedicated to Isaac Stern on his centenary - with one of today's premier violinists Gil Shaham. We not only had some beautiful Bach and three delightful short pieces by living composers, we also had conductor Michael Stern join Gil for a fascinating post-concert chat about his father.

You can still buy a single ticket this week ($12 + a contribution, if you are able), or, even better,  buy a 5-concert series ticket (available through the end of January) for less than $10 per concert, per person + a contribution, if possible, and hear: Dover Qt. & Shai Wosner (Dvorak Piano Qnt.) - Gil Shaham (Bach) - Schubertiade (“Trout” Qnt.) - Calidore Qt  -  Marc-Andre Hamelin.

By purchasing a series ticket for yourself or for family and friends (anywhere in the country) and by contributing to Peoples' Symphony Concerts,  you are doing a mitzvah (good deed) bringing inspiring music to the recipient as well as contributing, in this critical time, to PSC, which has been bringing great and affordable concerts to New Yorkers on a limited budget since 1900.

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

--Frank Salomon Associates

Pianist Orli Shaham's MidWeek Mozart Celebrates Beethoven at 250
This week, music-lovers everywhere are celebrating the 250th anniversary of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s birth, and Orli Shaham couldn't resist joining the party. So, head over to Midweek Mozart to enjoy Ms. Shaham's recital presented by Kaufman Music Center at Merkin Hall this fall. In this program, Ms. Shaham reveals the connections between Mozart’s intense Sonata No. 14 in C minor and Beethoven’s moving “Pathétique."

Watch this performance at https://orlishahammozart.com/

Gail Wein, Classical Communications

New Century Announces Cancellation of Spring Performances
In accordance with directives from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, New Century Chamber Orchestra announces the cancellation of its February and April 2021 performances. Cancellations include Mozart Birthday Celebration concerts in Berkeley (February 5), San Francisco (February 6) and Belvedere Tiburon (February 7) as well as Call of Destiny concerts in Berkeley (April 22), San Francisco (April 24) and Belvedere Tiburon (April 25).

Please visit respective venue websites for updates on additional appearances presented by Stanford Live at Bing Concert Hall (April 20) and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (April 23).

--Brenden Guy Media

What's Streaming: Classical – Beethoven 250th Birthday Edition
Jonathan Biss’s all-Beethoven NPR Music Tiny Desk (home) concert:
NPR.org: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/14/945451489/jonathan-biss-tiny-desk-home-concert
And NPR Music’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99jaKJvtRBY

Thursday, December 17:
Jonathan Biss’s audio memoir, UNQUIET: My Life with Beethoven, recorded for Audible.
https://www.audible.com/ep/upcomingoriginals

Tuesday, December 22 at 10:00 a.m. PT:
Coffee with Conlon: Happy Birthday Beethoven & Puccini!
https://www.laopera.org/discover/la-opera-on-now/

Saturday, December 26:
NPR Music’s AMPLIFY with Lara Downes features Jon Batiste.
https://www.npr.org/series/922438111/amplify-with-lara-downes

Thursday, December 31 at 8:00 p.m. CT:
Vänskä Conducts a New Year's Celebration with Minnesota Orchestra.
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/

Sunday, January 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET (available for 30 days):
The Gilmore presents Emmet Cohen Trio.
https://www.thegilmore.org/event/jazz-club-emmet-cohen-trio/

--Shuman Associates

American Baritone Quinn Kelsey's Opera Kanikapila Session
American baritone Quinn Kamakanalani Kelsey on January 29th returns to his Hawaiian roots in Hawai’i Opera Theatre's inaugural Opera Kanikapila session. In this series, HOT’s newest digital offering, opera singers are paired with a local musician from different cultures to let them explore ways to combine their art.

Quinn, who came up with HOT, is paired with the virtuoso ukulele player, Taimane Tauiliili Bobbie Gardner. These two artists seem destined to collaborate. Quinn has long been talking about undertaking a project of Hawaiian music, so this is a terrific entry into a genre that he certainly grew up with, but his career took him on a different journey. Taimane has already infused her music with classical repertoire, including opera.

Hawai'i Opera Theatre was forced to postpone their 20-21 season due to the pandemic.  All is not lost though as they have been developing HOT Digital to ‘opera different’ and appeal to a broader base. One such offering is a multi-year project called Hapa Opera, which houses, among other ‘programs’, Opera Kanikapila. Kanikapila is a style of Hawaiian music produced by an impromptu jam session. Usually it is folk-influenced, but for Opera Kanikapila, opera artists are brought together with local musicians combining their art. The series speaks to the aloha spirit that imbues HOT.

Pricing: $25
Purchase tickets: https://hotdigital.vhx.tv/products/opera-kanikapila-quinn-kelsey-taimane-gardner
Telephone: 1.808.596.7858

For more information, visit: http://hawaiiopera.org/

--Maria DiSalvo, Two Sheps That Pass...

Bang on a Can Offers Performances from All Four 2020 Online Marathons
Bang on a Can Announces performances from all four 2020 online Marathons available on-demand from December 24, 2020 - January 1, 2021 at https://marathon2020.bangonacan.org/.

Each online Marathon in 2020 (May 3, June 14, August 16, and October 18) featured performances from musicians' homes around the country and across the world -  a total of 95 performances including 31 world premieres of new commissions and over 130 composers and performers. All Marathon performers and composers participating live have been compensated by Bang on a Can. In all, Bang on a Can signed more than 150 paychecks to working artists to create and play the music on these marathons. The online collection also includes dozens of artist conversations with Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, who interviewed many of the composers throughout the 24 hours of Marathon concert streams.

All videos will be free to stream. But as the entire ecosystem of composers and performers still needs assistance, viewers are encouraged to consider purchasing a ticket as doing so will enable Bang on a Can to do more performances, pay more players, commission more composers, and share more music worldwide. Bang on a Can plans to continue presenting online performances as long as the closure of presenting venues continues, and perhaps beyond.

For more information, visit https://bangonacan.org/.

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Announces Winter Season
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) announces its Winter 2021 Digital Season, with 26 new digital offerings, available for free, from January 14 to March 26, 2021.  CMS introduces a new online schedule in January, with concerts premiering Thursday evenings and educational and conversational programs premiering on Monday evenings. The series of weekly family programming continues on Friday mornings.

On Thursdays, CMS presents new digital concerts: newly-curated concerts drawn from the vast CMS HD-video archive and newly-recorded performances created for CMS. On Monday evenings, CMS offers seminars and hybrid performance-and-discussion programs, live from (or recently taped in) the Rose Studio on the Lincoln Center campus. CMS’s online series for families, Inspector Pulse at Home, continues airing Friday mornings at 11 am. CMS continues to emphasize creativity and flexibility as it develops new approaches to programming, with the goal of bringing music, musicians, composers and audiences closer, even while the pandemic keeps concert halls from serving as a gathering place for musicians and music lovers.

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

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

New York String Orchestra Seminar
Every year, since I started the New York String Orchestra Seminar in 1969,  we've brought some of the country's most exceptional young musicians to New York for ten days of chamber music coaching, orchestral rehearsals and Carnegie Hall performances that, happily, have become a treasured holiday and professional training tradition.  The idea of the Seminar was to go beyond technical proficiency, open new musical worlds and emphasize expressivity and using chamber music tenets in orchestral performance.

Although Covid-19 isn’t allowing us to have concerts this year, we’re very excited about having over 30 of today’s most respected musicians (most drawn from our distinguished alumni)  join Jaime Laredo & Manny Ax to inspire our 2020 participating young artists in a five-day virtual Seminar starting  tomorrow, Saturday, December 19th.  The mastermind for this imaginative re-imaging of the SemInar is our wonderful Director Rohana Elias-Reyes, who has been an integral part of all of our activities at The New School's  Mannes School of Music for over twenty years.  She's reachable at EliasReR@newschool.edu or 646-221-5608 and happy to answer any questions that you might have.

You and the public will have a chance to sit on a few of the  50 + sessions that will be part of an immersive and stimulating learning experience for this year's 34 participating stuidents. Among the mentors will be vilonist Pamela Frank, the former concertmaster of the Boston Symphony, the concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Principal players from the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics and Orpheus, members of the Emerson, Guarneri, Juilliard, and Orion String Quartets, The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, faculty members of such music schools as Curtis, Juilliard, Cleveland Institute, Colburn, U. of Indiana, Manhattan Scool of Music.  There will be sessions on orchestral repertoire, chamber music works with individuals assigned passages to play for their coaches, stretching exercise with a physical therapist and sessions to address important professional questions.

Whenever you have a chance, I hope you’ll have a look at some of what we’re doing to continue to open new musical worlds for our 2020 participants. Carnegie Hall will also stream a special program for our traditional Christmas Eve gathering.  All the sessions below will continue to be available on demand going forward, after their initial streaming over the next five days.

Have a good holiday, stay well and here's to a hopeful 2021,

Stream on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn2owkwrH1tll-OasFkLszg

Stream on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkStringOrchestraSeminar/

--Frank Salomon, Frank Salomon Associates

Beethoven Revolution: Symphonies 1-5 (SACD review)

Jordi Savall, Le Concert des Nations. Alia Vox AVSA9937.

By Karl W. Nehring

Perhaps it was the pioneering set of Beethoven symphonies on period instruments that put me off the idea of period instrument performances of these symphonies. Norrington’s recordings at the time seemed fun, but they just did not seem to bear up to repeated listening. Later, I did come to enjoy David Zinman’s recordings with his Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, which combined the energy and brisk tempos of the “historically informed practices” approach of Norrington with a modern orchestra.

More recently, I found the 5-CD boxed set of Beethoven symphonies featuring the period-instrument Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique led by conductor John Eliot Gardiner for sale at an irresistibly low price at one of the several used book/media stores in the area whose shelves I peruse at regular intervals. (“Hello! My name is Karl and I am a CDaholic.”) This budget-priced box was released in 2010, replacing the set that was originally released in 1994. It proved to be an enjoyable set; as a bonus, my auditioning of it led me finally to appreciate Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, which I had pretty much completely ignored throughout my long so-called life. Although Gardiner may not usually be my first choice when I want to hear a Beethoven symphony, I have enjoyed the set thoroughly and do return to it from time to time.

Having had my interest in period-instrument recordings resuscitated and recharged by the Gardiner set, I was intrigued to hear these new renditions of Symphonies Nos. 1-5 by the Catalonian conductor, viol player, and early music specialist Jordi Savall (b. 1941) leading his hand-picked orchestra, Le Concert des Nations, which was formed in 1989 and features musicians primarily from Latin nations. Of the ensemble employed for these recording sessions, Savall writes in the liner notes that “all our orchestral work was done using instruments corresponding to those used in Beethoven’s day and with a similar number of musicians to those deployed by the composer for the first performances of his symphonies, in other words, about 55 to 60 musicians, depending on the symphonies. We have chosen 35 instrumentalists from the professional musicians of the Concert de Nations, including many who have been part of the ensemble since 1989, the remaining 20 instrumentalists being young musicians from different European countries and around the world who were selected from among the best of their generation at in-person auditions.”  (You can get a sense of the instrumental forces and venue for the recording sessions here and here.)

Regarding his approach to performing the Beethoven symphonies, Savall explains in his extensive liner essay that “we started with the basic idea of returning to the original sound and line-up of the orchestra as envisaged by Beethoven, constituted by the ensemble of instruments available in his day. Moreover, we needed to discover the original sources for the existing manuscripts, we studied and compared not only the autograph sources and the extant parts used in the first concert performances, but also modern editions based on those same sources, with the aim of verifying all the indications concerning dynamics and articulation.”

Truth be told, it seems these days that many recordings of Beethoven symphonies, particularly those that in one way or another claim to go back to the “original sound,” to be a “historically informed performance,” to go back to “Beethoven’s metronome markings,” or to be based on some “new critical edition of the score” come packaged with liner notes from the conductor explaining his or her insight into what this music should really sound like. Frankly, it gets a little old (see what I did there?), but Savall comes across as so utterly sincere and guileless that this seems to be more than just another marketing ploy, especially in light of his stated approach to the recording process: “From the outset it was obvious to us that the other key for our project would be the study period necessary to embark upon and bring to fruition such a major and complex task. Sufficient, ample time was one of the essential conditions necessary for a successful in-depth study of this collection of nine symphonies. To ensure the success of the work plan as well as a coherent distribution of the complete symphonies, we divided the nine symphonies into four major programmes with a view to preparing them over a period of two years. Each programme is studied and rehearsed, respectively, in the course of two separate Acadamies: the first academy of each pair, which we refer to as the “preparation Academy,” is devoted to reflection, experimentation, and definition dealing with all the essential elements of a successful performance. In the second “enhancement Academy,” the orchestra as a whole and each instrumentalist individually focus in on all aspects that are crucial to achieving a performance that is faithful to the spirit of each work. Symphonies 1, 2, and 4, which were scheduled and prepared in the spring of 2109, and Symphonies 3 and 5, which we worked on in the autumn of the same year, are those that we now have the pleasure of presenting to you in this first album.”   

And what an album this is! Here are the first five symphonies of Beethoven in performances that crackle with energy but never sound frantic or rushed, presented in recorded sound that is immediate, dynamic, and full-bodied. There are three SACDs in the set. SACD 1 includes Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2, SACD 2 is devoted to Symphony No. 3 “Eroica,” and SACD includes Symphonies 4 and 5. My guess is that many listeners will skip right over SACD 1 (and yes, I must admit that it has been and will be the disc that gets the least playing time in my system), but that would be their loss, as the first two symphonies of Beethoven, especially when presented in crackling performances and powerful yet natural sound as they are here are well worth hearing, savoring, and hearing again. As I mentioned above, Gardiner led me to discover Symphony No. 2. Savall has not only deepened my devotion to that work, but he has also led me to discover that most neglected of all Beethoven’s symphonies, Symphony No. 1. Yes, I would imagine that for most listeners, as it will be for me, SACD 1 will be played the least of this set, but I do hope it will not be completely overlooked by anyone. It has much to offer!

Because of the near-mythical status of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, my further guess is that SACD 3 will be the first disc that most listeners will pop into their players. The performance of No. 4, though, should not be skipped over. This is a delightful symphony, bursting with energy. Of particular note in the Savall set is the sound of the tympani, projected with power but not through spotlighting or overemphasis. In Symphony No. 4, the sound of the tympani highlights the drive and energy found in this music. And as you might expect, Savall and his players do a fine job of bringing energy to Symphony No 5. Theirs is a fine performance, moving right along and making the music come to life. In a future installment of Classical Candor I will be comparing this recording of the 5th with several other notable recordings, a listening experience to which I am looking eagerly forward.

For my money, though, the real highlight of this release is their performance of the Eroica. The opening movement has never sounded so exciting to me. Wow! There are many ways to interpret this work (more about that below), but Savall, Le Concert des Nations, and the engineering team have truly produced something undeniably heroic. I’m not sure theirs is my favorite version of the symphony as a whole, although it is certainly right up there, but I find their performance of the opening Allegro con brio the most exciting I have ever auditioned. My goodness…


The planning, preparation, and passion that Savall, his players, the recording engineer (Manuel Mohino), and the Alia Vox staff who produced the meticulously conceived and beautifully executed physical package (one of the finest I have ever run across) have brought to this project have resulted in a Beethoven box that excels in every way. Not every music lover will prefer the period-instrument approach, but if you are a Beethoven fan who is looking for a really first-class recording of these symphonies, this is definitely a set to consider regardless of your opinion of period-instrument approaches to Beethoven. This is reference-quality Beethoven, no doubt about it.

If you do wind up auditioning and enjoying this album, you will very likely find yourself looking forward to hearing what Savall and his crew can bring to the final four Beethoven symphonies. Unfortunately, it is not clear when the rest of the set might become available. Savall explains, “it was our intention to finish our version of the complete Symphonies in 2020, concentrating on Symphonies 6 and 7 in the spring and Symphonies 8 and 9 during the months of August and October. Of course, all these plans are now on hold because of the social consequences of the tragic pandemic currently affecting the world, and nobody can predict what will be possible in this uncertain future. Depending on the evolution of the pandemic, therefore, we shall see what we are able to do regarding the second part of our Complete Beethoven Symphony project.”  Meanwhile, at least we have this set to savor.

Bonus Recommendations: In light of the excellence Savall recording of Beethoven’s Eroica, let me pass along some quick recommendations on some other fine recordings with which I am quite familiar. As I mentioned above, David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (Pro Arte ANO 592140) offer a brisk, refreshing performance that combines a nod to Beethoven’s tempo markings with the sonority of a modern orchestra. It is coupled with an equally attractive version of Symphony No. 4. A much different take on the Eroica is offered by Otto Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI Classics 7243 5 67741 2 4). This is a magisterial account, slow and noble. Don’t be put off by the mono sound, this truly is a “Great Recording of the Century” as the CD cover proclaims. Discmates include Leonore Overtures Nos. 1 & 2. Still something of an old-school performance but in stereo sound is Bruno Walter’s account with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra (a crack studio orchestra assembled in California for the express purpose of giving Walter a chance to record the Beethoven symphonies in stereophonic sound), a loving, flowing rendition of the symphony that is well worth seeking out (CBS Maestro MYK 42599), Walter’s performance is coupled with the Coriolan Overture. A straightforward, well-recorded account by Christoph von Dohnanyi leading the superb Cleveland Orchestra is available on Telarc (CD-80090), a disc that includes just the Eroica. Finally, a relative newcomer (released in 2018) is the Honeck/Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra version on Reference Recordings (FR-728SACD), taken from live performance that is captured in splendid sound quality by the technical wizards at Soundmirror. Not surprisingly these days, Honeck has points to make about the music and his approach to it in his extensive liner notes, including his fascinating opening remark, “I view all four movements of the ‘Eroica’ as dance movements, each one with a distinctive character.” He then goes on to dig deeply into the music, in his closing paragraph asserting, “In conclusion, it is clear to me that the ‘Eroica’ paved a new path forward as a dance symphony with dramatic inventiveness, full of new elements that had never been heard before, I am sure that music lovers in the time of Beethoven were not at all ready for this radical originality and I can only imagine how shocking it must have been for them. The modern ear, though, in our current day and age, and now over 200 years removed from the time of the ‘Eroica’s’ premiere, has become accustomed to many of these sounds and only absorbs and register them as extreme when they are intensified. And this is exactly what I have tried to work out clearly in this recording, as it was my intention in these performances that one can experience the novelties of the ‘Eroica’ as one might have for the very first time.” Hmmmmm. I’m not quite sure what to make of that, but it is an energetic and splendidly engineered account, for which the unexpected but dazzlingly delightful coupling is Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 1.
 
For those music lovers who thrive on such things, here are the comparative movement timings for these recordings. Enjoy!
 

Mvt

Gardiner

Savall

Zinman

Klemperer

Walter

Honeck

Dohnanyi

3-1

15:34

15:31

15:34

15:54

16:05

16:15

16:30

3-2

12:41

12:49

12:58

14:43

15:33

15:11

15:10

3-3

5:32

5:29

6:15

6:26

6:03

5:36

5:12

3-4

10:42

10:08

10:22

12:25

12:16

11:50

11:25

 
 KWN
 

 

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