Classical Music News of the Week, February 6, 2021

Good Things Are Happening in 2021 at American Bach Soloists

A Message from Executive Director Don Scott Carpenter:
As we enter 2021, American Bach Soloists is looking to the future!

Over the past twelve months, the world has come together as one as we fight the effects of this pandemic. As you know, so many industries have been hit hard, including the visual and performing arts. Throughout the pandemic, American Bach Soloists has worked to keep the music of Bach and his contemporaries in your living room (or bedroom, kitchen, etc.) to ensure that we could reach out to you in new and innovative ways, all while instilling beauty and calm. As we enter the new year, we will bring you more and even better ways to enjoy our music, all while planning for a post-pandemic world where music will once again ring loudly from the concert hall.

It has now been exactly one year since ABS last performed before a live audience. And while nothing can replace that kind of experience, ABS transitioned immediately to find ways to share music and musicians with you weekly. From our “ABS at Home” to our “Fridays with Friends” and from our virtual Gala to our YouTube premiere of “Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral,” innovation and technology have been the keys to success.

The Connoisseur Series 2021 “Home Edition” are scheduled to begin filming in March. We are planning to record in some of the Bay Area’s most iconic venues including the Kohl Mansion, the Palace Hotel, the Mondavi Center, and others. Subsequent filming will take place in early April and May with release dates at the end of their corresponding months. For details, visit

In just a few days, we will begin to film a new “ABS Artist Profiles Series” featuring ABS soloists as they perform some of their favorite solo works and give us insights into their inspirations, motivations, and devotion to making music in these engaging and captivating high-quality videos.

With COVID cases slowly declining and the continued rollout of vaccines, we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to present the 2021 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in August.

For more information, visit

--Don Scott Carpenter, Executive Director, ABS

Winners Announced for Sphinx Competition Junior and Senior Divisions
The Sphinx Organization announces the winners of its annual Sphinx Competition in both its Junior (17 and under) and Senior (ages 18 to 30) Divisions. Violinist Samuel Abraham Vargas Teixeira (Araure, Portuguesa - Venezuela), the First Place Senior Division Laureate, received the $50,000 Robert Frederick Smith Prize, and will additionally make forthcoming solo appearances with major orchestras. Violinist Amaryn Olmeda (Loomis, CA), the First Place Junior Division Laureate, received a $10,000 cash prize, and will also make solo appearances with major orchestras.

Bassist Christian Gray (Winston-Salem, NC) received Second Place in the Senior Division and a $20,000 cash prize with cellist Luiz Fernando Venturelli (Praia Grande – São Paulo, Brazil) receiving Third Place and a $10,000 cash prize. In the Junior Division, violinist Jonathan Okseniuk (Mesa, Arizona) received Second Place and a $5,000 cash prize; violist Dillon P. Scott (Lansdale, PA) received Third Place and a $3,000 cash prize.

The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas—Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership—form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Applications Open and Jury Announcement! 2021 CAG Virtual Competition
Concert Artists Guild (CAG) is committed to supporting the highest level of musician by recognizing their full potential in an ever-changing world. CAG seeks to partner with musicians who are thoughtful citizen-artists and have a commitment to connecting their music to the greater world.

To align with our European partner, YCAT, our annual competition will be moved to the spring starting in 2021 (no fall 2021 competition). For the safety of the competitors, jury and staff, our 2021 competition will once again be held virtually.

Apply now:

--Concert Artist Guild

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of February 8–14)
Wednesday, February 10 at 10:45 a.m. ET:
Stephen Hough joins panel discussion on the arts and COVID-19, presented by the Peabody Institute.

Friday, February 12 at 3:00 p.m. CT:
Minnesota Orchestra presents Musical Menagerie, a young people's concert in partnership with the Minnesota Zoo.

Friday, February 12 at 6:00 p.m. PT:
Wu Man performs in Chinese New Year celebration, presented by CSU San Marcos.

Saturday, February 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Bard’s US-China Music Institute presents Wu Man in The Sound of Spring: a Chinese New Year Concert.

--Shuman Associates News

Colburn School's Fortissima Program Expands Nationally
The Colburn School, a renowned performing arts school based in Los Angeles, has expanded its Fortissima program nationally. Housed under Colburn’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact, Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music who demonstrate excellence on an orchestral instrument and have an interest in pursuing a career in music.

Fortissima’s innovative leadership curriculum, paired with rigorous artistic development and one-on-one mentorship, is designed to inspire, equip, and empower young women from underrepresented minorities to pursue professional training and careers in the classical music field. Now a national model, Fortissima will be a six-month experience for 10 young women that will include mentorship and virtual engagement, and culminate in a weeklong residential intensive at the Colburn School in Fall 2021. The program is provided at no cost to participants.

For full information, visit

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Music with a View Celebrates Valentine's Day
Sheridan Music Studio presents Music with a View #6: Celebrate Valentine's Day with Susan and Svetlana.

Steinway Artists Susan Merdinger and Svetlana Belsky perform a two-piano concert of Romantic music by Bach, Brahms, Liszt, Chabrier, and Rachmaninoff: Sun, Feb 14, 2021 @ 12:00 PM PST.

For complete information, visit

--Sheridan Music Studio

Tenth Edition of the MNM Festival - a Free Webcast
The 10th edition of the Montreal/New Musics festival will be offered free of charge to music lovers, from February 18 to 28.

A small glimmer of hope in a period that as not been conducive to creation: the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) presents the program for its Montreal/New Musics (MNM) festival. This 10th edition will be held from February 18 to 28 with the theme Au-delà des frontières (Beyond Borders), accessible through free webcast on

This unprecedented and original sound odyssey, tinged with openness and discovery, invites audiences to travel (legally) from one sound continent to another through ten events punctuating the festival.

For complete details, visit

--France Gaignard, Publicist

West Edge Opera Presents Its Summer Opera Festival
West Edge Opera presents a live, outdoor summer opera festival, in partnership with Cal Shakes' “Season of Shared Light.” This summer, West Edge Opera is thrilled to be a part of Cal Shakes “Season of Shared Light,” presenting a three-week-long opera festival--an outdoor celebration of live music and performance - at The Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, nestled in the hills overlooking Orinda, CA. This partnership with Cal Shakes presents the opportunity for safety, collaboration, and most importantly: the opportunity to celebrate live arts again.

For details, visit

--Emelie Whelan, West Edge Opera

ALT Announces Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative
American Lyric Theater Announces Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative (OWDARI) to Increase Participation in its “Essential Contemporary Opera Lab” (New Yorker) by BIPOC Artists. With free virtual Opera Writers Symposium February 27 – April 4, American Lyric Theater seeks to introduce storytellers from diverse racial and artistic backgrounds to ALT’s approach to the development of new opera and encourage applications to the Composer Librettist Development Program, the country’s only full-time mentorship for emerging opera composers, librettists, and dramaturgs.

American Lyric Theater (ALT) announces the Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative (OWDARI) as part of an ongoing commitment to mentoring the next generation of operatic writers. In consultation with an Advisory Committee comprised of BIPOC artists and related experts in the field, through the OWDARI, ALT is examining every part of the company’s operations with the goal of addressing structural inequality and racism and increasing participation by BIPOC artists in the company’s flagship Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP).

For details, visit

--Rebecca Davis PR

Rochester Philharmonic Announces 2021-22 Season
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) today unveiled its 2021-22 Season. The 21-22 Philharmonics season is the first under the baton of Maestro Andreas Delfs as Music Director and is one of the most diverse in the history of the nearly 100-year-old orchestra. The season features two world premieres, by Jessie Montgomery and Roberto Sierra, and works by living composers presented throughout the season alongside eclectic and beloved selections from the classical repertoire.

Visit the Web site for an overview of RPO’s Pops season and a chronological listing of all concerts:

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Virtual Learning Library Adds Three New Programs
In the month of February, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) will add three new programs to its virtual Learning Library that further its mission to promote inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in the arts.

Created to bring free original arts educational content to students, families and educators at a time when in-school classes are often not feasible due to the pandemic, the SPAC Learning Library has collaborated with more than 25 professional regional musicians and dancers including Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company and Caroga Arts Collective, as well as summer resident companies New York City Ballet, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Starting February 1, SPAC’s Learning Library will offer new programming including lessons in Stepping and South African Gumboot Dancing with dance company Soul Steps, five interactive, wheelchair-accessible dance lessons in the “Kitchen Floor Dance Class” series led by Broadway veterans Eric Hatch and Dennis Moench, and “Instrument Beginnings,” a new series of music lessons that guide children through the beginning stages of learning an instrument.

For more information, visit

--Rebecca Davis PR

Beyond the Stage: Musicians on Music
The Music Institute of Chicago’s new livestreamed free lecture series, “Beyond the Stage: Musicians on Music,” offers insights and perspectives on a range of musical topics spanning classical, jazz, and popular music. Following each talk, viewers have the opportunity to ask questions. The series begins February 18 and runs through June.

Designed for music enthusiasts across the globe, the free series showcases esteemed members of the Music Institute’s faculty, which includes nearly 200 experienced and dedicated educators and performers with degrees from the world’s finest music schools.

For details, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Baryshnikov Arts Center Premieres
Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) presents the next installments of its 2021 digital spring season. brownout, a solo created, directed and performed by choreographer and performer Mariana Valencia, premieres on Monday, March 1 at 5pm ET and is available to view until Monday, March 15 at 5pm ET at Filmed at locations in upstate New York, Valencia’s new work uses a series of movement and sound scores to play with narrative, abstraction, and inference. Generating a visual essay through the “stage” of the camera, brownout shifts the frame from one lens to the next with a focus on loss and lack.

“By definition, a brownout is ‘an electrical demand that exceeds the available supply of power,’ says Valencia. “A brownout is similar to other words used to describe shifts in electricity, visibility, or perception such as ‘whiteout,’ ‘greyout,’ and ‘blackout,’ and in this work, we explore them all.”

A live-streamed conversation with Mariana Valencia and curator Ali Rosa-Salas will be held on Wednesday, March 10 at 8pm ET. Free registration for the live Zoom conversation is available beginning March 1 at 5pm ET.

Museum of Calm, a solo by extended-technique vocalist, performer, and composer Holland Andrews, premieres on Monday, March 15 at 5pm ET and is available through Monday, March 29 at 5pm ET at The digital music performance generates interior worlds to offer strategies for navigating through chaos, accessing freedom within fantasy, and sustaining the energy required to survive in a reforming society. The new vocal and electronic music score conjures this realm to convey a total reset from chosen realities and identities, pointing towards a realignment with something that gives craved expansion within a world full of circumstances beyond one’s control.

Filmed in November 2020 at BAC’s John Cage & Merce Cunningham Studio with the natural light of late autumn serving as a backdrop, the piece is equal parts vocal music composition, meditation, and performance art video designed to trigger a cathartic emotional experience.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Mandala Makers Festival Returns in March
Mandala South Asian Performing Arts presents its annual Mandala Makers Festival in a series of digital performances every Friday in March beginning at 7 p.m. The festival supports emerging multidisciplinary South Asian artists by providing a space—virtual at this time—to advance and challenge traditions of the South Asian diaspora. The Mandala Makers Festival is free; donations support the participating artists and festival operations.

“When we knew we couldn’t be together, I felt there was no other choice than to swiftly build a space to encourage continued practice among our artists,” said Mandala’s Programs Manager and Festival Curator Ashwaty Chennat. “This festival honors the breadth of experiences we have had during this time as well as how we, as artists, are continuing to find ways to express ourselves, create change, and collaborate as a community. May this space breathe life into the uncertainty of arts presentation going forward. We see a future in building new structures that endure.”

The Mandala Makers Festival takes place Fridays, March 5–26 at 7 p.m. Attendance is free; donations via support the artists and festival operations.

For the most current artist lineup and to register, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes in Recital
Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall presents a virtual recital by celebrated Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, “a pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight” (The New York Times), in a special program of Beethoven, Grieg, and Dvorák on Sunday, February 21, at 3pm ET, it was announced today by Sam Dixon, Spivey Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director.

“Leif Ove Andsnes has recorded an exceptionally beautiful recital video for Spivey Hall to stream that is a delight to the eye and the ear,” said Dixon. “It allows viewers to experience his outstanding artistry in a wonderfully personal way, with close-ups of his hands and face that complement his excellent and engaging performances.” Mr. Andsnes recorded the concert at the Edvard Grieg Museum recital hall located at Troldhaugen, the home of Nina and Edvard Grieg, in Bergen, Norway, where Mr. Andsnes and his family also live.

For details, visit

--Allison Van Etten, Ravenscroft PR

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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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa