Classical Music News of the Week, December 12, 2020

The Magic of Maria Callas & Vladimir Horowitz

This winter, “Great Performances” shines a spotlight on international music icons Maria Callas and Vladimir Horwitz with two concert documentaries exploring the stories behind the most remarkable performances of their lives.

“Great Performances: The Magic of Callas”:
Premieres Friday, January 15, 2021 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/gperf and the PBSVideo app. Documenting the soprano’s triumphant return to the stage in “Tosca” at London’s Royal Opera House, January 21, 1964, after her career was said to be over, the film features footage from Callas’ groundbreaking turn as Tosca along with original interviews with opera luminaries Thomas Hampson, Kristine Opolais and Rolando Villazón, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and Royal Opera House music director Antonio Pappano.
     
“Great Performances: The Magic of Horowitz”:
Premieres Friday, January 22, 2021 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app. Delving into the story of world-renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz at his historic 1986 Moscow concert, the documentary weaves together concert footage, including intimate close-ups of the pianist's agile hands interspersed with the emotional audience reactions, historical context and original interviews with Horowitz’ former manager Peter Gelb (Metropolitan Opera) as well as contemporary piano virtuosos Martha Argerich and Daniil Trifonov.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Phil Kline's Holiday Cult Classic Unsilent Night Returns
This December, composer Phil Kline’s mobile sound-sculpture Unsilent Night--a landmark in avant-garde public art that has become a holiday tradition for so many--takes place in approximately 20 cities across the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand. City streets, parks, and landscapes will come alive with “a shimmering sound-wall of bells and chimes that is dreamlike to wander through in the December nip” (The Village Voice).

COVID-19 safety precautions will be followed in each city. Phil will lead a few himself (The Mount in Lenox MA and Art Omi in Omi NY), making his collection of vintage boomboxes available to borrow on a first-come first-served basis.

For the first time in 28 years, the flagship Unsilent Night in New York City--which in the past has drawn crowds of over 1,000 that move from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park--will not take place as a large public gathering. Instead, Phil asks the public to experience it in their own private way, enlisting members of their household (or four socially distanced friends), and sticking to their own neighborhood. He suggests that everyone press PLAY on their sound device on Sunday, December 20 at 6PM, creating the possibility that anyone anywhere in the city might have a chance encounter with Unsilent Night, which "like toy chimes floating on the cold air, brings magic to the long, dark winter nights" (The New York Post). Read Kline's note to the public here: http://newyork.unsilentnight.com/

Video about Unsilent Night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzN1BJDegHo

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Salon/Sanctuary Begins with Babylon
The text of Psalm 137 has resonated with oppressed peoples through the centuries. Please join Salon/Sanctuary Concerts, the Kaleidoscope Ensemble, and NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò for this special video project, as we follow Babylon’s waves from Ghetto to Ghetto and Renaissance to Renaissance on December 15th at 5pm on the Salon/Sanctuary Concerts youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/SalonSanctuaryConcerts) and on December 16th on the website of NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò (http://www.casaitaliananyu.org/events/babylon).

Performers will include the Kaleidoscope Ensemble, the Bacchus Consort, actor Ezra Knight, and others.

On December 16th, the video presentation will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Eugenio Refini of NYU, featuring Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Founder and Artistic Director Jessica Gould, Kaleidoscope Ensemble Founder and Artistic Director Dr. Arianne Abela, and composer Dr. Brandon Waddles.

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

American Composers Orchestra Presents “Composer to Composer Talks”
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) presents its next Composer to Composer Talks online in January, with composers William Bolcom and Gabriela Lena Frank on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 5pm ET, and John Corigliano and Mason Bates on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at 5pm ET. The talks will be live-streamed and available for on-demand viewing for seven days. Tickets are free; registration is highly encouraged. Registrants will receive links to recordings of featured works in advance of the event.

ACO’s Composer to Composer series features major American composers in conversation with each other about their work and leading a creative life. The intergenerational discussions begin by exploring a single orchestral piece, with one composer interviewing the other. Attendees will gain insight into the work’s genesis, sound, influence on the American orchestral canon, and will be invited to ask questions of the artists.

Free (registration recommended):
On January 13, 5pm Eastern, Gabriela Lena Frank talks with William Bolcom about his Symphony No. 9. Registration & Information: http://bit.ly/ComposerToComposerBolcom

On January 27, 5 pm Eastern, Mason Bates talks with John Corigliano about Corigliano’s work Circus Maximus (Symphony No. 3 for Large Wind Ensemble). Registration & Information: http://bit.ly/ComposerToComposerCorigliano

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Ariel Quartet's Free Hanukkah Concert and Baking Special
The Ariel Quartet—violinist Alexandra “Sasha” Kazovsky; violinist Gershon Gerchikov;  cellist Amit Even-Tov, and violist Jan Grüning—invites you to celebrate Hanukkah with an afternoon of music and holiday baking on December 13 at 4pm ET. The delicious and musical interactive livestream event is free to those who sign up at https://ourconcerts.live/shows/hanukkah and will be produced by OurConcerts.live.

The Ariel Quartet will perform Schulhoff: String Quartet No. 1; Beethoven: Quartet in G major, Op. 18, No. 2, and Steve Cohen: A Klezmer Nutcracker live from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. They’ll share their family recipes for making Viennese Apple Strudel and Chocolate Babka, and there will even be a bake-off matching up Lebkuchen and Hanukkah doughnuts.

When: Sunday, December 13 at 4pm ET / 3pm CT / 1pm PT
Price: Free
Where: OurConcerts.live: https://ourconcerts.live/hanukkah

--Allison Van Etten, Ravenscroft PR

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of December 14–20)
Tuesday, December 15 at 7:30 p.m. CT
Tulsa Opera LIVE with Leona Mitchell.
https://tulsaopera.com/live/

Wednesday, December 16 at 6:00 p.m. ET (available for 72 hours)
Jonathan Biss celebrates Beethoven’s birthday in chamber program with Mark Steinberg and Marcy Rosen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqmBUORnyDs

Friday, December 18 at 8:00 p.m. CT
Minnesota Orchestra celebrates the holidays in “A Midwinter Gathering with Kevin Kling.”
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/

--Shuman Associates News

SF Girls Chorus Presents “Island Holiday”
The San Francisco Girls Chorus, led by Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, goes virtual for its annual holiday concert, “Island Holiday,” on Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. Traditionally held every December at Davies Symphony Hall, this year’s online version will feature a varied offering of music from the Caribbean and other islands as well as traditional holiday features.

Highlights include two new SFGC commissioned works including Cosecha by Puerto Rican-born composer Angélica Negrón and a special preview of choral-opera Tomorrow’s Memories: A Little Manila Diary by American composer Matthew Welch. Also featured is the world premiere of Music of the Birds by Sahba Aminikia, a special SFGC collaboration with Kronos Quartet, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Sirkane Social Circus School in Turkey. Produced by Joan Osato and New Art Media, the virtual event welcomes the return of guest ukulele artist Florante Aguilar, organist Robert Huw Morgan and Stage Director Sean San José. This performance will be livestreamed on YouTube and is free to watch with a suggested donation of $25.

This performance is free and open to the public with a suggested ticket donation of $25 to offset the cost of video production and guest artist appearances. Guests are invited to reserve their ticket at http://www.sfgirlschorus.org/.

--Brenden Guy PR

Watch: The Piano Guys Share Xmas Video
Gearing up for the holidays, The Piano Guys today share the music video for their fan-favorite rendition of the Christmas classic “What Child Is This.” Embracing the spirit of the season, the group filmed the visual in “Little Jerusalem” in Goshen, Utah, performing outside under cover of night, yet sheltered in the warmth of the locale’s life-size replications of biblical Jerusalem - watch here. The track is available on The Piano Guys’ 2017 holiday album, Christmas Together.  To continue the holiday celebration and commemorate the group’s 10th anniversary, THE PIANO GUYS are set to appear on Good Morning America’s GMA3 and perform “What Child Is This” on December 22 at 1 pm ET on ABC.

Of the new video, The Piano Guys say, “In our arrangement of "What Child is This” we wanted to depict some of the feelings that must have been present at the manger scene at the center of the Christmas so long ago--awe, wonder, consternation, all tempered and sweetened with hope.

Connect with The Piano Guys here: https://thepianoguys.com/

--Larissa Slezak, Sony Music

Special Online Concert! - Handel's Messiah December 19
Free Online Premiere Stream

Watch & Listen. Sing & PlayShare. Engage. Chat
American Bach Soloists are thrilled to present the free YouTube Premiere of "Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral" on Saturday December 19th, 2020 at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Just go to https://americanbach.org/Messiah on that date and time and join others across the country and around the world for a singular ABS experience.

--American Bach Soloists

YPC Announces Virtual Winter Concert
On behalf of the acclaimed Young People’s Chorus of New York City, we are pleased to announce their virtual winter concert, “Once Upon the Holidays.”

Presented in two acts over two nights, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. EST and on December 20 at 5:30 p.m. EST, the event is sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit. An original story by Tony Award-winning Broadway lyricist Lynn Ahrens, “Once Upon the Holidays” features distinguished baritone Lester Lynch and over 500 young voices under the direction of YPC’s Founder and Artistic Director, Francisco J. Núñez.

Tickets for “Once Upon the Holidays” are available for purchase at https://ypc.org/event/once-upon-the-holidays/2020-12-20/ for single ticket $25, family ticket $50, and sponsorship ticket $150, with proceeds supporting YPC programming. One ticket provides digital access to both evenings.

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Minnesota Orchestra Announces Revised Concert Calendar
The Minnesota Orchestra today announced a plan to continue its revised concert season through March 2021, with four Friday night concerts newly-designed for television, radio, and streaming audiences.

These concerts—each hosted by Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall Sarah Hicks—will be shared live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT)’s MN Channel; broadcast live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio and at classicalmpr.org, hosted by Melissa Ousley; and streamed live online for free at minnesotaorchestra.org. The broadcasts and livestreams will continue to afford wide and easy access for audiences across the state (and beyond) to experience a Minnesota Orchestra performance. In addition, a special, livestreamed Young People’s Concert Experience will premiere on February 12, 2021.

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

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

“Duke It Out Nutcracker” Visits “Indoor Voices"
The Music Institute of Chicago’s “Indoor Voices,” a free series of virtual visits with arts luminaries featuring conversation and occasional performances, returns with a new episode spotlighting the Music Institute’s annual holiday celebration, “Duke It Out Nutcracker,” Friday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Music Institute Director of Performance Activities Fiona Queen will talk with John Schmitz, co-founder and artistic producer of Dance Chicago, which has collaborated with the Music Institute on “Duke It Out Nutcracker” since 2009. The episode also includes clips from past performances.

“Duke It Out Nutcracker” pairs the classical (Tchaikovsky) and jazz (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn) versions of the holiday favorite, with music arranged by composer Jim Stephenson and featuring members of Axiom Brass and Music Institute ensemble in residence Quintet Attacca.

The “Duke It Out Nutcracker” episode of "Indoor Voices" is available free on Friday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. at  musicinst.org/indoor-voices and will remain available on the Music Institute’s "Indoor Voices” YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH6Ubj4HUShI-j3Fu66dm1qlf82m3Mral

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa