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:

--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:

What does polyphony have to do with diasporas? Click to hear the answer and more:

--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:

Learn more at

--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 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:

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:

--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:

SOLI wishes you and your family a peaceful holiday season.

Support SOLI today:

--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. 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: - donate

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

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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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa