Mozert: Magnificent Ambersens, the Opera (Super-8 review)

Restored Director’s Cut, with Orson Bean, Joseph Cottontail, Elvis Costello, Tom Hulce, and Agatha Sorehead. Lft. Sir Cedric Noel Vivian Barnstable III, Toontown Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. 1930; 260 minutes. Standard and enormously overblown extra-widescreen presentations; B&W and color; 2-D, 3-D, and DD-T soundtracks.

By John J. Puccio

As every opera buff knows, Magnificent Ambersens (1930) was the writer, producer, actor, composer, film editor, gaffer, grip, and best boy director Wolfgang Orson Wellseyan Mozert’s enigmatic musical follow-up to his celebrated antiestablishment idyll, The Citizen Kane Mutiny. And, as every musical film buff also knows, Ambersens was corrupted, shredded, mutilated, and maimed by its studio, R.K. Maroon International, when the filmmaker left it in their care whilst he took a cruise to South America with his girlfriend, Jessica Rabbit. Mozert always said that he regretted what later happened. (The studio’s cutting of his film, not his fling with Ms. Rabbit.)

Providentially and unbeknownst to anyone outside his immediate circle of friends, Mozert was able to retrieve most of the excised portions of the movie from a dumpster behind the Maroon studios, footage that only today, over ninety years later, he has reconstructed into a true Director’s Cut. The incomprehensible new version--restored to its original operatic setting--now includes several hours of expunged words never before heard outside the Mozert household. The new version runs some 260 minutes, with about three-and-a-half hours of additional, inexplicable verbiage. “A Magnificent Ruin,” as one critic once called the truncated edition, is once again “A Magnificent Rune.”

For those readers who may not be familiar with the film, Magnificent Ambersens recounts the familiar tale of the demise of an American way of life in Yoknapatawpha county, with the dissolution of the once lofty Grierson dynasty and the depletion of the family fortune at the hands of modernity. The cast includes Anne Boxster as Dolores Costello, the demanding matriarch of the clan; young Timmy Holt as Richard Bennett, the handsome, ne’er-do-well; Joseph Cottonball as Sterling Hayden, the corrupt police captain; Peter Lorry as Heinrich Strasser, the gallant saloon keeper; longtime Mercury Theatre singers Agnes Moorfoot, Ray Collyns, and Edward Rochester as Othello’s household staff; and W.O.W. Mozert himself as the narrator, Paul Masson. Oh, and it’s an opera, so there are also some songs.

But the studio’s version of the film was all they wanted audiences to see. At last, with the additional footage, we are introduced to the plot’s more intriguing music and characters: Gibson Gowland as Frank McTeague, a San Francisco podiatrist; Zazu Pitts as Emily Tarkington, an inconsolable harlequin; Humphrey Bogart as Corliss “Rosebud” Archer, a relentless gumshoe; Erik von Stroheim as Mr. Arkadin, a small knot of indecipherable fiber; G.W. Bush as Manderley, the sinister butler; George Lucas as Sabrina, the butler’s daughter; Marlon Brando as the Chorus (widescreen); Gabriel Heatter with the news; and one hard-boiled egg.

Together, they sing and act an unforgettably thrilling narrative of greed, mystery, and women in flimsy white negligees that no film buff, buffed or otherwise, should ignore. To say this new Director’s Cut is merely a melodramatic journey into fear, the equivalent of a black-magic stranger, a third man on the other side of the wind, a touch of evil, or a war of the worlds would simply be the expression of a deep-seated and quixotic riposte. No, this Director’s Cut restores the very essence of the songs, a trial no viewer should miss.

Incidentally, I understand that later this spring Maroon Studios will be releasing their big biographical epic of Mozert’s life, starring Tom Hanks as W.O.W and Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger as his good friend and buddy J.C.Penney Bach. Initially, the studio wanted Arnold to play Mozert, but Arnold refused, saying he’d rather be Bach. Anyway, something to look forward to.

In truth, it will be a long, hot summer in Shanghai before we see the likes of Mozert’s genius again. His Director’s Cut has already established itself above criticism, and far be it from me to peddle any word of reproach. At Classical Candor, we will sell no whine before its time.

Video:
In terms of overall appearance, the old, abridged, theatrical release of Magnificent Ambersens was a departure from the visionary, avant-garde, new-wave technology originally employed by Mozert. Always ahead of his time, Mozert had used widescreen, color, 3-D, and holographic (HG) photography to glorious advantage (despite his alleged claim that “no great film was ever made in color,” a nefarious misquote attributed to him by his enemies). But at the time of the film’s initial release in 1932, the studio would not have it Mozert’s way, bleaching out the color, cropping the frames, and eliminating the HG, three-dimensional sonic effects. Which is another reason the new edition is so welcome. What we have now in the Director’s Cut is the formerly deleted widescreen, color, 3-D, HG footage seamlessly intercut with the theatrical release’s standard-screen black-and-white. In the event a viewer should be uncertain as to which parts have been added to the older edition, the extra material has been clearly labeled with a large pink asterisk on the left-hand side of the screen. A pair of plastic HG glasses are enclosed in the reel’s case, and extra HG 3-D glasses may be ordered from the studio for viewers figuring on the unlikelihood of company.

As might be expected, the picture quality varies only slightly between the original and added elements. Indeed, the theatrical-release’s footage now looks its age, while the added footage looks even older. Using the HG 3-D glasses can be a minor inconvenience, as one has to put them on and take them off every ten seconds, but if you leave them on throughout the viewing, you’ll notice a marked improvement in the black-and-white. A lot of the grain and some of the smear of the old print is ameliorated, and if a character here or there disappears entirely, it will probably not be much of a concern to anyone but a die-hard movie aficionado, anyway.

Which brings up a final concern. With or without the HG 3-D glasses, the average viewer will probably not be able to discern much of what is going on. So, how was I able to see the picture when to you it will be a monumental blur? Because my equipment is better than yours, that’s why. But relax, because once you’ve finished reading my review, you’ll be able to hold an intelligent conversation on the subject with anyone. After all, that’s what reviews are for. You don’t have to go out and actually watch all those boring old classic movies that critics are always raving about. Just check out the reviews and people will think you’re smart.

Audio:
George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic Show have remixed and remastered Mozert’s original 1.0 monaural sound with mixed results in Dolty Digital-DDT 12.4ESP Amos InteriorScope At-the-Most Surround. No longer is the music confined to a single location or even to a single set of speakers; it now arrives at the ear from within the ear. The sound resonants outward from the inner ear to the outer chamber, creating the sensation of being completely under water. It is quite an accomplishment from a company renowned for its creativity and innovation. When questioned about why they wanted to create so aqueous an illusion, Mozert and Lucas replied, “Because.” Which is good enough for us.

Extras:
I had expected a musical-film release of this stature to be offered in at least a two-reel special edition, but, alas, it was not to be. The film and its extra materials are presented on one Zoetrope Super-8 strip, accommodating about twelve hours of content at a bit rate that failed to register on my Zoetrope player’s readout. Nevertheless, it is quantity that counts, especially in Hollywood.

The first and most important of the package’s bonus items is a new audio commentary by Mozert himself.  In it, the director takes us on a frame-by-frame tour of the Macbeth mansion and grounds, with lucid explanations on diet and exercise. Although the feature film itself is not rated, the director’s commentary is classified R for sex, nudity, witches, and violence. Next up is a six-hour documentary, “Along for the Ride,” the director’s unexpurgated diary of his South American road trip, also rated R, this time for scenes of graphic weight gain.

The rest of the extras are of the more mundane variety and are best watched once and forgotten. There are, of course, the usual behind-the-scenes scenes of scenic scenes, these with on-air narration by both W.O.W. Mozert and Marlin Brando (ultra-widescreen recommended). Then, there is a short series of still pictures: a Rita Hayworth pinup shot (required viewing); a Zazu Pitts pinup shot (optional viewing); and an Agnes Moorehead pinup shot (children’s advisory warning). The extras conclude with a menu containing one scene selection; a pan-and-scan theatrical release trailer; a widescreen rerelease trailer; and an obscenely wide re-rerelease trailer featuring both Marlin Brando and Orson Welles on screen at the same time (barely). Although Scottish is the only spoken language provided, there are Danish subtitles for the Scottish impaired.

Parting Thoughts:
For film fans who will undoubtedly greet the Magnificent Ambersens Director’s Cut gleefully, there is even more cause for gleeful glee. Mozert recently let it be known that he and screenwriters Stanley Kubrick and Broken Lizard are putting the final touches on the long-rumored musical sequel to The Citizen Kane Mutiny. Slated for release some time in the fall, Raising Kane is the story of the reclusive billionaire’s illegitimate daughter, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk. It stars Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop as Sugar, with Harry Lime, Michael O’Hara, Will Varner, Hank Quinlan, and Peter Bogdanovich in the immortal and possibly immoral saga of love, hate, sorrow, horror, humor, and women in flimsy white negligees, set within a backdrop of tragedy, redemption, and abstruse reconciliation. Although it sounds too good to be true, it is. True, that is. And abstruse, promising to blow the lid off the entire skateboarding community. There will, indeed, be chimes at midnight and trouble in the glen tonight! And one hard-boiled egg.

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

Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances (CD review)

Also, Concerto all’antica. David Alongna, violin; Salvatore Di Vittorio, Chamber Orchestra of New York. Naxos 8.573901.

By John J. Puccio

Italian composer and violinist Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is probably best known for his trilogy of tone-poem suites The Pines, Fountains, and Festivals of Rome. However, coming close on their heels is his Ancient Airs and Dances, here presented on a Naxos CD by Maestro Salvatore Di Vittorio and the Chamber Orchestra of New York.

Respighi wrote three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances (1917, 1923, and 1931), the music freely adapted from original sixteenth-century pieces for lute. He based the first suite on various Renaissance works by Simone Molinaro, Vincenzo Galilei, and a few other anonymous composers. He based the second suite on works for lute, archlute, and viol by Fabritio Caroso, Jean-Baptiste Besard, Bernardo Gianoncelli, an anonymous composer, and an aria attributed to Marin Mersenne. The third suite Respighi based on lute and guitar works by Besard, Ludovico Roncalli, Santino Garsi da Parma, and a few other anonymous composers. This last suite differs from the previous ones in being slightly sadder than the others.

My own touchstone for these works has long been the 1958 stereo recording by Antal Dorati and the Philharmonia Hungarica, now on a remastered Mercury Living Presence CD (and before that on LP). While I would never suggest that in a field so subjective as music appreciation that there is any absolute “best” of anything, I’ve always found Dorati’s performance masterly, so any newcomer has a lot to look up to. Maestro Di Vittorio does a pretty good job of it, although his interpretations reflect perhaps more of a mock-historical perspective in these pieces than Dorati’s more Romantic approach. I say “mock-historical” because even though Respighi based these Ancient Airs and Dances on Baroque sources, he did intend them for today’s audiences, kind of old works made new. So, it does bring up the question of whether conductors should frame their performances in an ancient, historically informed style or in a manner that more conforms to contemporary standards. As Maestro Di Vittorio notes, “Respighi typically preferred combining pre-Classical melodic styles and musical forms (such as dance suites) with standard late 19th-century Romantic harmonies and textures.”

Whatever, the program begins with the Suite No. 1, which includes four brief dance sections. Di Vittorio then follows Suite No. 1 with Suite No. 3, again four brief dances. It was unclear to me why the conductor chose to present the suites out of chronological order except that Suite No. 2, which comes last on the agenda, is longer than the others, and maybe Di Vittorio wanted to end the Airs with the most substantial material. I dunno.

Probably the most striking things about Di Vittorio’s reading are the tempos. He tends to take the fast movements very quickly and the slower movements very slowly. By that, I mean that he follows one of the period-instrument practices, although not to extremes. The faster music is certainly vigorous and stimulating but without taxing one’s ears, while the slower sections have a sweet, lyrical, flowing quality about them. Nevertheless, the Dorati performances seem more refined to me, more elevated, more stately, more graceful. And with more uniform pacing, Dorati’s handling of the various movements seem to hold together better than in this newer recording.

Accompanying the Ancient Airs and Dances is an early (1908) piece by Respighi, the Concerto all’antica (old-fashioned or antique concert or simply “Concerto in an Ancient Style”). It’s a fairly lyrical work that again draws upon older musical styles for inspiration, even though Respighi admitted that he made up the whole thing himself as a joke for German critics. Maestro Di Vittorio uses the first printed critical edition of the score, published in 2019, making this a world-premiere recording of sorts. I can understand why Di Vittorio begins the program with this selection: It comes across as a proper and welcome complement to the Ancient Airs and Dances, with an especially lovely Adagio and excellent playing from violinist Davide Alogna.

Producers Salvatore Di Vittorio, Bill Siegmund, and Shanan Estreicher and engineer Bill Biegmund recorded the music at the Concert Hall, Adelphi University Performing Arts Center, New York in June 2019. The sound is a tad forward and bright, the upper midrange somewhat edgy at times. Otherwise, it’s good, modern sound, with plenty of clarity and even a little air around the instruments.

Incidentally, since I had the Dorati recording in another player, I couldn’t help notice the difference in sound. The sixty-year older Mercury remaster appeared warmer, smoother, and slightly wider. Just sayin’.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 27, 2021

“Beethoven in Beijing” on PBS

Did you know that after moving from China to study at the Curtis Institute, Lang Lang’s first return to China was to perform as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra?

Narrated by American and Chinese musicians and historians, “Great Performances: Beethoven in Beijing” premieres Friday, April 16 at 9 p.m. on the PBS Video app and on PBS: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/.

This special documentary explores the impact of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s historic 1973 tour of China both then and now, highlighting the resurgence of classical music through its legacy. Renowned musicians including Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun, Philadelphia-trained famed classical pianist Lang Lang, Philadelphia Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and more share their stories of how Beethoven’s music shaped their careers as China’s classical music scene boomed.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

YPC's 2020 ACDA Conference Performance
March 14, 2021 marked one year since the first reported COVID-19 death in New York City. On New York City’s official day of remembrance, Young People’s Chorus of New York City joined Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for a powerful collaboration in memory of all those we have lost to this pandemic. Since the release of this video tribute, we have been overwhelmed by the incredible responses from our families, friends, and supporters from around the world. We are filled with gratitude for everyone who participated in creating this hope-filled rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” 

"I am so encouraged by today's young people, they are all from different backgrounds and races. I see possibilities of change and growth for their tomorrows. Really beautiful. In every way."

Watch now: https://ypc.org/ypc-and-lincoln-center-to-honor-those-lost-to-covid-19/

--Young People’s Chorus of NYC

BFH Radio: Broadcast from Here
Composer and producer Lisa Bielawa has launched BFH Radio – Broadcast from Here, a continuous and evolving soundscape incorporating words, voices, and found audio from participants all over the world, one year after many communities went into pandemic lockdown. BFH Radio is streaming online and open for public participation – anyone may call the BFH Radio Hotline at 1-707-722-BFHR (2347) or visit the online portal at http://www.bfhradio.com/ to contribute found audio, spoken messages, or musical phrases.

BFH Radio asks, “What are the sounds of our world today? What thoughts preoccupy and guide us through this time of transition, uncertainty, and new hope?”

Now that the vaccine is being rolled out, and with the promise of our re-entry into the world, there still loom uncertainties regarding how our lives will be reconstituted in the various phases of that re-entry. BFH Radio will morph as contributions are made by the public, integrated and combined – spoken voices, sung phrases composed from testimonies, instrumental phrases, and field recordings. BFH Radio gathers the sounds of people’s first experiments with narrowing social distance or re-engaging with formerly familiar activities, as well as their encounters with new lockdowns or new challenges, and weaves these together with musical materials.

Tune in & participate: https://www.lisabielawa.net/bfh-radio-broadcast-from-here

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of March 29-April 4)
Thursday, April 1 at 6:00 p.m. ET & Friday, April 2 at 5:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh presents two discussions as part of a Fredonia virtual residency.
https://www.fredonia.edu/news/articles/acclaimed-violinist-koh-give-virtual-residency

Friday, April 2 at 8:00 p.m. CT:
Minnesota Orchestra and Sarah Hicks present travel-themed program with introduction by travel writer and TV host Rick Steves.
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/tickets/calendar/eventdetail/1785/-/a-musical-passport

--Shuman Associates

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Returns to Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Performing Arts Center announces that it has partnered with Pitney Meadows Community Farm to bring back the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for its annual Saratoga Springs residency.

Kicking off on Sunday, June 13, the new "CMS at the Meadows" series marks the first live performances that SPAC has presented since the 2020 season was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The performances, limited to 200 attendees per show, will be held in Pitney Meadows Community Farm's beautiful open-air High Tunnel greenhouse, adhering to carefully mapped out, socially-distanced seating and rigorous COVID-19 protocols.

For additional details, visit https://spac.org/calendar/calendar-of-events/

--Rebecca Davis PR

Bang on a Can Marathon - All Commissions, All World Premieres
Bang on a Can announces its next Bang on a Can Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, April 18, 2021 from 1-5pm ET. All 15 pieces on the program will be world premiere performances of newly commissioned works, streamed from musicians' homes around the country and across the world. Over its first six live online Marathons in 2020-2021 (May 3, June 14, August 1, October 18, February 21, and March 21) Bang on a Can has presented more than 125 performances, including 47 world premieres of new commissions and over 150 composers and performers. Bang on a Can plans to continue these Marathons, streaming online at live.bangonacan.org, as long as the closure of presenting venues continues, and perhaps beyond. The four-hour live Marathon will be hosted by Bang on a Can Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, who say:

New Commissions! On April 18, Bang on a Can presents its 2nd entire marathon of PREMIERES! 15 brand new works by 15 pioneering composers. Tune in to hear 4 hours of nonconformist, noncommercial, mind-blowing music.  Andy Akiho! Carman Moore! Joan LaBarbara! Matana Roberts! Kelly Moran! Rudresh Mahanthappa! and many many more.

This concert is FREE!  But please do consider purchasing a ticket. That helps us pay more players, commission more composers, and make more music.

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

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Opera Maine Presents a New Production of The Elixir of Love
Opera Maine is pleased to announce it will present live opera again this summer at Merrill Auditorium, with two performances July 28 and 30. Under the direction of Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn, the company will stage an original production of Gaetano Donizetti's endearing comic opera, L'elisir d'amore (“The Elixir of Love”). Because of covid safety considerations, the opera will be modified and presented without intermission. Maestro Israel Gursky will conduct a superb cast of singers and an Opera Maine orchestra of 16 select musicians. Nicolás Alberto Dosman will be chorus master. The Elixir of Love combines Donizetti's exuberant music with a joyful story in which true love is revealed--with a little help from a mysterious merchant of magic potions.

On July 16 and 18, Opera Maine's Studio Artists will present the contemporary opera, As One. Composed in 2014 by Laura Kaminsky with a libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, the opera tells a poignant story about a journey towards true identity and self-love. As One is directed by Studio Artist Director Richard Gammon. It features two voices accompanied by The Palaver String Quartet. Jackson McKinnon will conduct.

For latest updates and information about both productions, visit https://www.operamaine.org/

--Kristen Levesque PR

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-6 (CD review)

Also, Manfred Symphony; Slavonic March; Francesca da Rimini; Capriccio italien; 1812 Overture; The Storm; Romeo and Juliet, fantasy-overture. Bernard Haitink, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Philips 442 061-2 (6 CD set).

By John J. Puccio

There are four of five sets of Tchaikovsky symphonies I can recommend to the buyer who is considering a complete cycle by a single conductor. On balance, however, I prefer this older analogue set with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (still available on Philips and now on Decca), both for its reasoned, yet vigorous, performances and for its warm, wide-ranging sound. The other recommendable sets include Jansons's digital set on Chandos, Muti's analogue set on Warner/EMI, Markevitch's budget-priced set on Philips, and Jarvi’s set on BIS, among several others.

So why the Haitink set? Because in the symphonies themselves Maestro Haitink produces no losers and at least three outright winners. His Nos. 2, 3 and 4 have never been bettered, and his No. 5 is among the best on disc. Nos. 1, 6 and Manfred are good serviceable accounts. And then there are the short fill-ups, of which "The Storm" is a stunner. Most of the other pieces, like the 1812 and Romeo and Juliet overtures, recorded earlier than the symphonies, are not first-rate but adequate and stretch the set's value.

For those people who consider Haitink too cool, too reserved, especially performing works by a composer as red-blooded as Tchaikovsky, I suggest starting with the Fourth Symphony. It should end all such preconceptions. As to audio quality, the symphony recordings were made during the mid-to-late 1970's in some of Philips's best analogue sound. Really, only the Chandos set beats it sonically, and that is mainly because the Chandos sound is better imaged. The Philips engineers tended to over-mike things at times, resulting in some compartmentalization. Otherwise, the Philips sound is smooth, natural, robust, and extremely dynamic.

By comparison, the Jansons set costs more, includes fewer fillers, and has at least one questionable recording of the Second Symphony. Like Haitink, the Muti set comes at mid price, but it, too, includes fewer fillers and is less convincing in most of the works (although his Manfred and Fifth Symphonies are standouts). Markevitch has the advantage of coming on four discs at budget price, but the drawbacks are obvious: the set includes only the six numbered symphonies, two of which are split between two discs, and the 1960's sound is thinner and noisier than the competition. Still, Markevitch's interpretations of the first three symphonies in particular must be counted among the best available.

Probably the most useful advice I could give is for one to buy individual symphonies and short works disc by disc, choosing the best possible recordings by a variety of conductors. Unfortunately, Haitink, Muti, and Markevitch are currently available only in complete sets. So, I suggest buying the Haitink as core material and supplementing it with a few other individual discs by Jansons and Ashkenazy. Or check the used shops for deleted copies of single discs by Muti. But by all means check out Haitink. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

JJP

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

Telemann: Polonoise (SACD review)

Aisslinn Nosky, violin; Holland Baroque. Pentatone PTC 5186 878.

By John J. Puccio

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was the German composer who played practically every instrument in the band yet was largely self-taught. He originally wanted to be a lawyer, a course his family favored, but he turned to music while at university. He went on to become one of the most prolific composers the music world has ever known (his output numbers over 3,000 compositions), and he became friends with the likes of Bach and Handel, both of whom admired his work and considered him among the leading composers of the day.

Obviously, a man with such productive musical talents experimented in a number of genres and fashions of the time. Among these was the Polish style, inspired by a short stay in Poland and the dance music he heard there. What we have in the current album is a survey of some of Telemann’s more notable examples in the Polish style as performed by the period-instrument ensemble Holland Baroque.

Founded in 2006, Holland Baroque describe themselves as “an original and innovative baroque orchestra. The musicians use their instruments to sing, dance, cry, and laugh through tradition, innovation, surprise, and a dash of entertainment.” The players include Aisslinn Nosky, violin; Judith Steenbrink, violin; Chloe Prendergast, violin; Filip Rekiec, viola; Tomasz Pokrzywinski, cello; Christoph Sommer, lute; and Tineke Steenbrink, harpsichord. Judith and Tineke Steenbrink are the Artistic Leaders.

So, what exactly is the “Polish style”? According to the booklet notes it would be the style of a polonaise, which is a slow dance of Polish origin, in triple meter, consisting chiefly of a march or promenade in couples. Holland Baroque studied a number of such dances from Telemann and chose a representative sampling for our enlightenment and enjoyment. And for further illumination, they have arranged them into six suites and a chamber-music setting. There are thirty-three selections in all, each brief but entirely engaging.

The collection of tunes Holland Baroque provide is broad enough to encompass a number of varied tempos, from slow dances to quicker ones. The slower ones, like the Polonie 2 that opens the program, can be downright solemn, while others are stately and fashionable. The faster ones offer everything from a delightful lilt to a full-on romp.

Equally important, Holland Baroque play the music with vigor, enthusiasm, and sure-handed precision. Yet their precision does not rob the music of its joy. The sound of their historical instruments lends a distinct flavor to the scores, not as rich, smooth, or mellifluous as modern instruments but pleasing in its own way. It’s all quite captivating. 

Recording producer Carl Schuurbiers and engineer Jean-Marie Geijsen made the hybrid SACD at Musis Arnhem, the Netherland, in August 2020. It plays in two-channel stereo and multichannel on an SACD player and in regular two-channel stereo on a regular CD player. I listened in two-channel SACD stereo using a Sony SACD player. Although the sound is a tad close, the instruments are realistically placed between the two speakers, neither clumped too closely together nor strung out in a line. The sound is natural, not at all bright or edgy, with a sweet but not too reverberant ambient glow. It’s quite attractive sound.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 20, 2021

Bach and Beyond: Concert Violinist David Yonan

Sheridan Music Studio presents David Yonan in "Bach and Beyond," Saturdays at 1pm CST.

Visit https://in.live/event/details/nRxiLi7cfs

Sheridan Music Studio is pleased to present Violinist David Yonan in a 12+ week Concert Series “Bach and Beyond” in which he will perform the complete works of Johan Sebastian Bach for Solo Violin and Solo Viola as well as Solo works inspired by Bach. These pre-recorded VIRTUAL concert performances will take place in various churches in Berlin, Germany with superb acoustics and will be hosted by Silicon Valley’s best new platform for livestreaming music: IN.LIVE.

Exclusively Livestreamed on IN.LIVE every Saturday at 11am PST, 1pm CST, and 8pm Berlin, Germany time.

--Sheridan Music Studio

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of March 22-28)
Monday, March 22 at 3:15 p.m. ET:
Gilmore Artist Igor Levit performs Beethoven's final three Piano Sonatas.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtTMJLTnBu0

Monday, March 22 at 6:00 p.m. CT:
A Conversation with Lara Downes presented by SHE Festival of Women in Music:
https://uark.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqcuigpz4jHtWUM5K_Wz0bg_NByM9ALakH

Wednesday, March 24 at 6:00 p.m. ET:
Pianist Jonathan Biss & violinist Miriam Fried perform Violin Sonatas by Mozart, Janácek, and Debussy.
https://www.pcmsconcerts.org/concerts/miriam-fried-jonathan-biss/

Saturday, March 27:
AMPLIFY with Lara Downes on NPR Music features poet Rita Dove.
https://www.npr.org/series/922438111/amplify-with-lara-downes

Sunday, March 28 at 4:00 p.m. ET:
The Gilmore presents all-Bach recital by pianist Angela Hewitt.
https://www.thegilmore.org/event/angela-hewitt/

--Shuman Associates

“Krzysztof Penderecki In Memoriam”
Lincoln Center will partner with Polish Cultural Institute New York (PCINY) on the multi-faceted project Krzysztof Penderecki in Memoriam, honoring the life and legacy of Poland’s greatest modern composer. The New York City cultural complex will live-stream three of the concerts surrounding the one-year anniversary of Penderecki’s death on March 29, 2021. The concerts – on March 21, March 26 and April 1, 2021 – are part of the 25th Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival, “Beethoven and Penderecki. The Sphere of Sacrum”, and will be streamed on Lincoln Center’s website: https://lincolncenter.org/lincoln-center-at-home

And PCINY’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdhCikwUyBX6xSRNML2mAlw

--Melanne Mueller, Music Company International

Music Camps and Classes Begin June 15
The Music Institute of Chicago is offering a variety of summer programs for all ages and levels beginning June 15. Directed by award-winning Music Institute faculty and artists-in-residence, most camps and classes will take place online, making participation accessible anywhere.

Summer camps opportunities for youth include piano, guitar, ukulele, woodwind and Suzuki camps as well as camps focusing on jazz and musical theater. Camps for adult instrumentalists include Adult Piano, the Art of the Jazz Band, Chamber Music for Winds with Quintet Attacca, the Chicago Suzuki Institute (for teachers), and the Chicago Duo Piano Festival. 

Summer classes for youth include early childhood music and movement, as well as instrument-specific group instruction, while adult classes, in addition to instrument-specific group instruction, include music listening clubs, music appreciation classes, music production, and band programs.

For complete information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/summer

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Broadcast at the Crossroads by Lisa Bielawa, Composer and Producer
Composer and producer Lisa Bielawa, in collaboration with the DePauw University School of Music, presents the online world premiere of Broadcast at the Crossroads on Friday, April 2, 2021 at 7:30pm ET. This new work is the culmination of Bielawa’s Composer-in-Residence appointment at DePauw’s annual Music of the 21st Century festival, organized by School of Music professor Dr. Eliza Brown. Though the residency was originally scheduled pre-pandemic to be in-person, Bielawa and Brown pivoted their work together as a way to build community in the challenging lockdown conditions.

Bielawa explains, “Indiana’s state motto is ‘The Crossroads of America,’ but furthermore, the piece also considers the unique predicament of this generation whose studies have been dramatically affected by Covid and its impact on educational institutions, at the crossroads of their lives.

The video will remain online to watch after its initial premiere, available at DePauw’s YouTube channel and at http://www.lisabielawa.net/broadcast-at-the-crossroads

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Audiences Return to Minnesota Orchestra Concerts
The Minnesota Orchestra will conclude its 2020-21 Classical season with concerts in June that will re-introduce in-person audiences to Orchestra Hall, after nine months of performances that have been designed solely for at-home viewing and listening.

The Orchestra’s Friday night concerts between April and August 2021, including the summer season in July and August, will continue to be televised live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT)’s MN Channel; broadcast live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio (with exception of April 2; see notes in calendar below); and streamed live online for free at https://minnesotaorchestra.org/.

--Shuman Associates

Miller Theatre’s “Mission: Commission” Podcast to Follows Three Composers
Miller Theatre at Columbia University School of the Arts launches “Mission: Commission,” a six-episode podcast demystifying the process of how classical music gets made.

Follow the creative journeys of three composers who have been given six weeks to create a newly commissioned piece of music. In New York, Marcos Balter writes for harpist Parker Ramsay. In New Orleans, Courtney Bryan writes for trombonist Andrae Murchison and herself on piano. And in Chicago, Aususta Read Thomas writes for percussionist John Corkill.

Hosted by MELISSA SMEY, Executive Director of Miller Theatre.

For details, visit https://www.missioncommissionpodcast.com/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Composer Vivian Fung’s (Un) Wandering Souls
Composer Vivian Fung has released (Un) Wandering Souls, a new film collaboration featuring Sandbox Percussion performing Fung’s original composition co-commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts and Metropolis Ensemble. The film, premiered today by I Care if You Listen, originally aired at the 2020 virtual Bangkosol Festival and was created by Oscar-nominated Cambodian film director Rithy Pahn.

Fung says, “My extended family – maternal grandmother, uncles, aunts, and cousins – lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in the 1970s as part of the overseas Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. They were there quite happily, in fact, until the Khmer Rouge stormed the capital in April 1975 and drove everyone out. Those events changed the course of my family forever. I was born in 1975 so my birth and childhood were most definitely affected by these events even though I was born and raised in Canada. I have been increasingly trying to piece together my family history and how it affected my family members' subsequent lives. My extended family miraculously survived an arduous journey – over a month on foot in the countryside of Cambodia, traveling only in the dead of night, and then in Vietnam. Ultimately, they ended up in Paris and Canada. I went to visit Cambodia for the first time in 2019 with my family – parents, son, and husband – and with some sleuthing, we were able to find my family’s former home and the hospital that my aunt ran, still standing all these years later but now abandoned. I look forward to returning and to continuing to understand more about their past.”

View here: https://www.icareifyoulisten.com/2021/03/video-premiere-vivian-fung-unwandering-souls-sandbox-percussion/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

American Lyric Theater Expands Composer Librettist Development Program
Today, American Lyric Theater (ALT) announced significant changes to its flagship Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP), the only full-time, multi-year professional mentorship initiative for opera composers, librettists and dramaturgs in the country. The application period for the 2021-22 season of the CLDP is now open, with applications being accepted online through April 30th.  Three composers and three librettists will be accepted to the new cycle of the CLDP, which begins in September 2021. There is no fee to apply for the program.  Accepted artists will be announced in June.

Full details here: https://www.altnyc.org/composer-librettist-development-program

--Rebecca Davis PR

Los Angeles Master Chorale's High School Choir Festival
Celebrating its 32nd year, the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s annual High School Choir Festival (HSCF) will culminate in a virtual Festival Day video that will premiere on Friday, April 23, 2021, at 10am PST. Featuring hundreds of high school students from 26 schools, the video will feature three virtual choir performances: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Resilience” by Abbie Betinis, and “Es Tu Tiempo” by Francisco Núñez, all led by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director. The Festival Day video will also feature pre-recorded and highlights from past festivals, and can be viewed at https://lamasterchorale.org/high-school-choir-festival.

The High School Choir Festival, one of the longest running arts education programs in Southern California, is designed to deepen students’ exposure to and understanding of the choral art form through a year-long experience leading up to the celebratory Festival Day, traditionally held at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Throughout the pandemic period, the festival experience has been especially meaningful for students, offering a continuous opportunity to connect and build community during an extended period of social isolation.

For more information, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/high-school-choir-festival

--Lisa Bellamore, Cresent Communications

John Rommereim and Claudia Anderson Live Stream
On Thursday, March 25th at 7:00 pm EST, flutist Claudia Anderson and composer/pianist John Rommereim present Homelands, a concert of recent works for flute and piano. The performance includes the premieres of two works by John Rommereim, as well as interviews with two composers/flutists, Ian Clarke and Allison Loggins-Hull.

Learn more about the event here: https://www.parmarecordings.com/event/rommereim-anderson-03-25-21/

--Aidan Curran, PARMA Recordings

Copland House and I Care If You Listen Partner on CULTIVATE Concerts
Copland House announces the debut of a new six-program virtual series called Cultivated Spaces. Featuring the World Premieres of all six new works Copland House commissioned for its CULTIVATE 2020 emerging composers institute, the series begins on March 23, and runs for consecutive Tuesdays at 5:00pm (Eastern Time) through April 27.

“With COVID preventing CULTIVATE’s concluding public concerts premiering these new works from taking place last year,” explained Copland House’s Artistic and Executive Director Michael Boriskin, “Cultivated Spaces is our launch-pad for these amazing creations. And we are so excited that I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, powered by the American Composers Forum, will serve as the exclusive Media Partner in this important initiative.”

Each Cultivated Spaces livestream spotlights one of CULTIVATE’s six 2020 Fellows and their work in a complete performance by the Music from Copland House ensemble, “one of the leading champions of contemporary music” (Louisville Weekly). Each program begins with a brief introduction by the featured composer, who returns for a lively post-performance conversation with CULTIVATE’s Director, Grammy-nominated composer-clarinetist Derek Bermel.

Watch and listen here: https://icareifyoulisten.tv/

--Elizabeth Dworkin, Dworkin & Company

Piano Potpourri (CD Mini-Reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Beethoven: Variations. Angela Hewitt, piano. Hyperion CDA68346.

You’ve got to love the quote from Beethoven that kicks off the liner notes for this new release by the wonderful Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt (b. 1958): “That piece of folly mine? Oh Beethoven, what an ass you were in those days!” Old Ludwig was referring to a set of piano variations that he had heard a friend playing, music that he did not recognize that young Ludwig had composed back in 1806, the year he had also composed his more memorable Fourth Symphony and Violin Concerto. These 32 Variations on an original theme in C minor comprise the opening set of variations on this entertaining release, the final recording Ms. Hewitt was able to make on her beloved Fazioli piano, which was accidentally destroyed when it was dropped by piano movers early in 2020 (she later that year acquired a replacement Fazioli). There are six other sets of variations on this release, the longest and most notable being the 15 Variations and a fugue on an original theme ‘Eroica,’ more commonly referred to as “The Eroica Variations,” but probably the most recognizable – even hummable, for that matter – music appears in the final two sets of variations on the program, 7 Variations on ‘God Save the King’ and 5 Variations on ‘Rule, Britannia.’

No, this is not a disc containing music with the profound musical and emotional depth of Beethoven’s late piano sonatas, but it is a disc containing music by the master that delights and entertains us as we hear him having fun at the keyboard, something that Ms. Hewitt seems to be doing as she romps through these variations and leads us on a tour of some colorful musical byways. Hee haw indeed!

Chick Corea Plays. Concord Jazz CJA00284.

The world lost a beloved musical giant early this year with the passing of keyboard legend Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea (1941-2021). My connection with and affection for Corea go way back, having first encountered his music as a G.I. in Germany back in the ‘70s through his Return to Forever LPs Light as a Feather, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, and Where Have I Known You Before? After my discharge from the Army and return to college, I picked up No Mystery and Romantic Warrior plus my first-ever ECM album, Crystal Silence, a duet album featuring Corea with vibraphonist Gary Burton. Around this same time my wife and I also had the great thrill of seeing Return to Forever in concert. This was shortly after the young Al Di Meola had joined the group on guitar, and he, Lenny White on drums, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Corea on keyboards delivered thrill upon musical thrill that evening. Not long after that, Return to Forever broke up, and Corea went on to many other projects both as a leader and as a sideman, gathering an incredible total of 25 (just this month, two posthumously) Grammy awards during his storied career, of which jazz-rock fusion was just one small part. He was a serious and very accomplished musician, conversant with a wide range of music, which is evident on what would turn out to be his final recording, this two-CD set of solo piano performances.            

“I’m part of a lineage,” Corea once explained. “The thing that I do is similar to what Monk did, to what Bill Evans and Duke Ellington did, and moving back into another era of music, what Bach and Mozart and Beethoven did. These were all pianists who were composers at heart, who gathered their own musicians together to play. I feel so proud to be a part of that tradition.” When you look at the cover of Plays, his final album, for which Corea himself designed the cover art, you see the names Mozart, Scarlatti, Scriabin, Chopin, Evans, Monk, Jobim, Gershwin, Wonder – and Corea. As the program unfolds, he offers spoken introductions to help the audience (the recordings are from concert performances) feel at home with such a wide range of music from such a diverse group of composers. His spoken introductions and his spontaneous, improvisatory style of playing both serve to communicate his wide-ranging love for and mastery of music regardless of genre.

One fascinating feature of his live solo concerts is that he will often invite audience members to come on stage and improvise at the keyboard alongside him. He never knows who might turn up, and he has had children and competent amateurs come forward in past concerts, but on Plays, the pianist who joined him on stage turned out to be the conservatory-trained French classical pianist Charles Heisser and the French-Israeli jazz pianist Yaron Herman, who has released albums on Blue Note and Decca Records. When they were chosen for these brief duets, however, both were simply audience members. “I didn’t know they were pros,” Corea noted. “but it’s always a lot of fun when I invite pianists to come up on stage to improvise with me.” It’s fun for the listener, too, to hear these musicians doing what they love to do, creating music with their hearts, minds, and fingers. You don’t have to be a jazz fan, or a classical fan, or even a fan of piano music to enjoy this album. If you simply love music, I believe you will find that the late Chick Corea’s love for music will reach out and touch your heart as you listen to this well-recorded program of music that spans the centuries.  

Encounter. Igor Levit, piano. Sony Classical 19439786572.

The Russian-born German pianist Igor Levit (b. 1987) is one of the brightest stars in the pianistic firmament. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been active in presenting music online, and in his recent recordings he has taken on programs chosen not to showcase virtuosic pianism but rather to reflect on philosophical/spiritual issues; not in some glib New-Agey sort of way, but as a serious musician who finds himself challenged by and engaged with life and its potential for enhancement. As the liner notes point for Encounter proclaim, “the choice of works that are included on this album is not dictated by any interest in musical history but by one that is intensely existential. The present programme takes its cue from those moments when the heart rate grows calmer, when the information overload is reduced and our gaze is directed solely at what is essential.”

This two-CD set consists primarily of music in the form of arrangements. Disc one is devoted to two sets of arrangements by the Italian composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) of chorale preludes, ten by Bach and six by Brahms. As you might imagine from the type of works these are, they are not virtuoso piano works intended to dazzle; rather, they have a stately, flowing beauty that Levit communicates well. You hear Bach, you hear Brahms, but you begin to feel something beyond the notes.   

Disc two finds Levit taking his listeners ever more inward, beginning with more music by Brahms, but once again not music originally composed by Brahms for the piano, but rather arrangements by Max Reger (1873-1916) of Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs). The liner notes observe that “Brahms’s pitiless examination of mortality and death in his Vier ernste Gesänge was a reaction to the deaths of a number of family members and close friends in the years leading up to their composition. Above all, they anticipate the death of Clara Schumann, whom Brahms had loved all his life and who had suffered a serious stroke in late March 1896. The then sixty-three-year-old composer was also aware of his own incurable illness when he completed these songs that same summer.” Next in the program is an arrangement for piano by Julian Becker of the brief, somber Nachtlied (Night Song) by Reger himself, which was composed as a setting of these lines by a 16th century theologian: “The night has come when we should rest; may it please God to permit the devout to lie down in His company and with His blessing and be at Peace.” Following this brief but deeply moving three-minute piece, Levit concludes the program with the only composition that is not an arrangement, but was originally composed for the piano, Palais de Mari by the American composer Morton Feldman (1926-1987). Written in 1986, it was Feldman’s final composition for solo piano. This is spare music, quiet music, music that hints rather than declares, that sighs rather than sings. For more than 28 minutes, Levit uses Feldman’s haunting score to invite us into a quiet world of reflection, a refuge from a world of polemic and pandemic. This is an utterly beautiful release.

Budapest Concert: Keith Jarrett, piano. ECM 2700/01 B0032851-02.

Like Chick Corea, the versatile pianist Keith Jarrett (b. 1945) has had long and successful career, and even for a time shared keyboard duties with Corea in the legendary Miles Davis electric band of the late’60s (although unlike Corea, he hated the electric piano, but played it then because, well, it was for Miles). His recorded legacy is rich and varied: Forest Flower with Charles Lloyd; his American Quartet albums with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian; his European quartet albums with Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, and Jon Christensen; his Standards Trio albums with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette; his solo piano albums, including one of the most famous solo piano albums of all time, his Köln Concert; his classical albums, including works by Bach, Bartok, Mozart, Harrison, Hovhaness, Shostakovich, Pärt, and others – it is an incredible recorded legacy. Strangely enough, however, and very much unlike his contemporary Chick Corea, he has never received a Grammy (although Köln Concert was named a Grammy Hall of Fame recording in 2011). Tragically enough, in 2018 Jarrett suffered the first of several strokes that have left him unable to play the piano. As a longtime Jarrett fan, that leaves me heartbroken; I cannot begin to imagine being in his situation.

Budapest Concert was recorded live on July 3, 2016 at the Bela Bartok Concert Hall in Budapest. The 1.5-hr concert consisted of 12 improvised selections (titled “Parts I-XII,”), the first four of which appear on CD1 (37:26), while CD2 (54:46) contains the final eight plus two encore pieces, covers of “It’s a Lonesome Old Town” and “Answer Me, My Love.” Jarrett comes out pumped with energy in Part I, the longest (14:42) and most intense, challenging music of the whole program. It is almost as if Jarrett was aware that he was playing in Bartok Hall and was determined to make music in that tradition and spirit. After that initial assault, he seems to relax somewhat, and the music becomes more accessible, especially on CD2, where Jarrett is able to spin some memorable melodies seemingly out of thin air.

Suite: April 2020: Brad Mehldau, piano. Nonesuch 075597919288.

Pianist Brad Mehldau (b.1970) explains on his website that while sheltering at home with his family in the Netherlands during the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote a dozen new songs about what he was experiencing and was able to record them safely in an Amsterdam studio. He characterizes the album as “a musical snapshot of life the last month in the world in which we’ve all found ourselves. I’ve tried to portray on the piano some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us. In ‘Keeping Distance,’ for example, I traced the experience of two people social distancing, represented by the left and right hand—how they are unnaturally drawn apart, yet remain linked in some unexplainable, and perhaps illuminating way… There’s also been a welcome opportunity to connect more deeply with my family than we ever have, because of the abundant time and close proximity. The last three pieces hit on that connection—the harmony we find with each other, making meals together or just horsing around. ‘Lullaby’ is for everyone who might find it hard to sleep now. Neil Young’s words in ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’ have always been counsel for me, now more than ever, when he instructs: ‘Don’t let it bring you down/It’s only castles burning/Find someone who’s turning/And you will come around.’ Billy Joel’s ‘New York State of Mind,’ a song I’ve loved since I was nine years old, is a love letter to a city that I’ve called my home for years, and that I’m far away from now. I know lots of people there and miss them terribly, and I know how much that great city hurts right now. I also know that it too will come around.” This is an album you can just put on, relax, and enjoy. It is not quite easy listening music, but it is human music, communicative music, music that really does seem to capture the spirit of that crazy year, 2020. And nicely enough, Mehldau builds up toward a positive, optimistic finish, capped off with his final cover, Jerome Kern’s “Look for the Silver Lining.” Having just received my second dose of Pfizer vaccine a few days ago, that is a song to which I can definitely relate.

Mehldau is another jazz pianist who is more musically versatile than you might think. If you really want to hear some peak jazz Mehldau, you really can do no better than his The Art of the Trio albums from the 1990s, especially The Art of the Trio III – Songs (Warner Brothers 9362-47051-2), which is absolutely amazing. On the more classical side, his solo release After Bach (Nonesuch 7559-79318-0) is well worth a listen. Enjoy…

KWN

Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (CD review)

Also, music of De La Maza, Tansman, and De Visee. Thibaut Garcia, guitar; Ben Glassberg, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. Erato 0190295235710.

By John J. Puccio

It’s a testament, I suppose, to the enduring popularity of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999) that two new recordings of it appeared within days of one another. This one under review is by the young French classical guitarist Thibaut Garcia (b. 1994), conductor Ben Glassberg, and the somewhat unwieldy named Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. Garcia joins a cavalcade of guitarists who have tackled and recorded the Concierto, and while I enjoyed it, I can’t say it struck me as any better or any worse than a dozen others I’ve come across in the past few years. Nevertheless, Garcia’s fans should find the album a delight.

At the risk of needlessly repeating myself, I’ll begin with some background on the music. As you probably know, Rodrigo got his inspiration for the Concierto (1939) from the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, the spring resort palace and gardens built by Philip II in the last half of the 16th century. The music attempts to convey the feeling of another time and place by summoning the sounds of nature.

Rodrigo described the first movement Allegro con spirito as "animated by a rhythmic spirit and vigour without either of the two themes interrupting its relentless pace." Certainly, Garcia captures the rhythms of the movement well, and the orchestra radiates a suitable vigor. However, the entire ensemble is enhanced so much by the hall acoustics, it perhaps lends a bit too much bloom to the proceedings.

The composer said that the second movement "represents a dialogue between guitar and solo instruments” (cor anglais, bassoon, oboe, horn, etc.). What he didn’t say was how utterly beautiful it can be, something audiences have been saying for more than eighty years now. At its heart the music is a soulful, almost mournful dialogue between the guitar and various instrumental soloists, particularly the cor anglais. Taken too slowly, the movement can sound overly sentimental, even drippy, but taken too quickly it can lose some of its emotional appeal. Garcia approaches it with a delicate yet somewhat hasty hand. While he is a wonderful guitarist, no doubt, and handles all of the material easily, I didn’t feel as involved with the music as I have with some other artists.

The Concierto ends with a perky little closing tune, one that Rodrigo said "recalls a courtly dance in which the combination of double and triple time maintains a taut tempo right to the closing bar." It should be trim and lively, maybe a bit effervescent as well, and Garcia manages it well, both he and the orchestra fresh and alive.

As nice as Garcia’s recording of the Concierto may be, I continue to favor the work of Pepe Romero (Philips or Decca), Angel Romero (Mercury), and Narciso Yepes (HDTT) for their greater spark, originality, poignancy, and flavor, although I must admit it’s close.

Accompanying the Concierto are three additional collections of music for guitar by various other composers. The first of these are four short solo works by Regino Sainz de la Maza (1896-1981), the Spanish composer and guitarist who, interestingly, first performed Rodrigo’s Concierto. Following his pieces is a suite for guitar and chamber orchestra by the Polish composer Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986). And the final tracks are a suite of tunes by the Seventeenth-century French composer Robert de Visee (c. 1655-1732/33), transcribed for solo guitar by the artist, Thibaut Garcia. Of these selections, I preferred the Tansman suite most of all and found the de Visee suite a bit tiresome.

Producers Alain Lanceron, Hughes Deschaux, and Laure Casenave made the album at Halle aux Grains, Toulouse, France in 2019 and 2020. The sound is reverberant and the miking fairly close, producing a big, robust, yet not particularly detailed sound. The sound is, in fact, soft and soothing but doesns’t exactly glisten with transparency. The guitar is well centered, looms large, and tends to dominate the orchestra behind it. Overall, the sound comes across as something of a big clump rather than a collection of individual instruments meshing together. Still, I’m probably nitpicking. It’s big, warm, resonant sound and should please most listeners.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, March 13, 2021

Krzysztof Penderecki In Memoriam

Throughout the spring of 2021, Polish Cultural Institute New York will curate Krzysztof Penderecki in Memoriam, honoring the life and legacy of Poland's greatest modern composer. Leading up to and beyond March 29, 2021, marking the one-year anniversary of Penderecki's death, Polish Cultural Institute New York - in partnership with the Ludwig van Beethoven Association, DUX Records, Naxos of America, Schott Music publishers, and Crossover Media  - will celebrate Penderecki's life and legacy across an array of worldwide media outlets.

Highlights include the Penderecki in Memoriam Podcast with in-depth interviews with artists who collaborated closely with the composer, live radio broadcasts and rebroadcasts of archived performances, live streamed concerts, and a broad presentation of the composer's prolific oeuvre.

Polish Cultural Institute New York's head of music programming, Anna Perzanowska, who worked with Krzysztof Penderecki for over a decade, has been the driving force behind Krzysztof Penderecki in Memoriam since the composer's death on March 29, 2020, at his home in Kraków, Poland. "The passing of Professor Penderecki was a deeply moving loss and a shock to all who knew him personally as well as to those who admired his work. The loss was especially poignant due to the world's Covid-19 isolation - and I was overwhelmed by the response and eagerness of all the artists who wanted to be involved and honor his memory," comments Perzanowska.

For complete details, visit https://instytutpolski.pl/newyork/2021/02/16/krzysztof-penderecki-in-memoriam-worldwide/

--Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International

Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 Goes Virtual
The Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 and the Richmond Symphony announced today that the Competition, originally scheduled to bring 44 of the world’s most talented young violinists to Richmond in May of 2020, will take place virtually from May 14-23, 2021.

The Menuhin Competition distinguishes itself among competitions not only with the high level of playing among participants, but also for creating a festive, nurturing and collegial environment and providing an immersive musical experience for competitors that goes far beyond the competition rounds themselves. The 2021 virtual Competition aims to fulfill that promise by recreating the Competition as an online event that connects competitors, jurors, viewers and guest artists with each other and with Richmond.

For more information, visit https://2021.menuhincompetition.org/competition-2021

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

5.5 Million Views and Counting
Our 2019 rehearsal of Leonard Cohen’s timeless classic “Hallelujah” is resonating in a powerful way with people around the world with over 5.5 million views, thanks in part to our friends at Choral Stream for sharing on Facebook. Watch this performance, conducted by YPC founder and artistic director Francisco J. Núñez, and help keep the momentum going.

View here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=847222092826649

Learn more about Young People’s Chorus of New York City: https://ypc.org/

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

Celebrate the first Moon of Spring on March 28
This month on “Lunar Landscapes” we celebrate the Worm Moon on March 28, 2021 at 9PM EDT with special guest Eve Beglarian. Eve and I have been working away on two new versions of pieces you may have heard before, and we’re super excited to share them with you!

Worms begin to till the earth making ready for Spring and new growth, we are celebrating the inner tilling that we are collectively doing, preparing ourselves for the season of outward growth and prosperity that is Spring. To that end, this month’s cocktail is the Earthworm.

“Lunar Landscapes: Worm Moon”
March 28, 2021 at 9pm EDT

Program:
Glass: Metamorphosis 2
Beglarian: A Solemn Shyness
Sandresky: In Short Db

Tickets are available on Eventbrite for single tickets:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lunar-landscapes-worm-moon-tickets-144515183805

And Patreon for series subscriptions:
https://www.patreon.com/EleonorSandresky

--Eleonor Sandresky, Strange Energy Report

Beethoven in Beijing
Did you know that the Philadelphia Orchestra was the first orchestra to visit China?

Featuring archival footage and first-person recollections from American and Chinese musicians, “Great Performances: Beethoven in Beijing” spotlights the resurgence of classical music in China through the legacy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Renowned musicians, including Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun, Philadelphia-trained famed classical pianist Lang Lang, Philadelphia Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and more share their stories of how Beethoven’s music shaped their careers as China’s classical music scene boomed.

“Great Performances: Beethoven in Beijing” premieres Friday, April 16 at 9 p.m. on the PBS Video app and PBS: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Bach Week Festival Virtual Benefit
Evanston, Illinois-based Bach Week Festival's virtual spring fundraiser, “Happy Birthday, Bach,” will celebrate German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach with livestreamed performances of chamber music by Bach and two of his contemporaries during a free-to-view webcast at 3 p.m. (Central Time) on Sunday, March 21, 2021. Bach was born on that date in 1685.

The “Happy Birthday, Bach” performances will be streamed live from the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

Information and video links are available on the festival’s website: https://bachweek.org/

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

MUSE/IQUE Announces New Board Members
MUSEI/IQUE, Pasadena’s pioneering live music organization, is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to its Board of Directors: Barbara Franks Bice, Christine Swanson, and Jonathan Weedman.

The Board, chaired by philanthropist LeeAnn Havner, provides leadership in carrying out MUSE/IQUE’s mission of making music accessible to all through adventurous and meaningful programming, an effort continued throughout the pandemic with drive-in concerts, lawn serenades, and MUSE/IQUE’s “In A Minute! (...or Two!)” video series, which just surpassed 100 episodes.

“To serve as Chair of MUSE/IQUE’s Board of Directors, is to be part of an inspiring and passionate team,” said Havner. “With much enthusiasm, we welcome to the Board our newest members, Barbara Franks Bice, Chirstine Swanson, and Jonathan Weedman, all of whom bring a breadth of experience and expertise that will help bring to fruition MUSE/IQUE’s adventurous plans for the future.”

For more information, visit http://www.muse-ique.com/

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Nichols Concert Hall Offers Streamed Live Concerts
The Music Institute of Chicago opens its concert home to family homes worldwide through the presentation of “Live from Nichols Concert Hall,” a free chamber music series April 11–May 2 streamed live from its historic Nichols Concert Hall. This series is part of the Music Institute’s 90th anniversary year, which celebrates innovation, access, and excellence in music education, service to the community, and music performance.

President and CEO Mark George described the new series, saying, “One of the Music Institute’s great strengths is our amazing network of professional musicians, so many of whom concertize worldwide. Another is the warm, intimate atmosphere and amazing acoustics of Nichols Concert Hall. Although the pandemic has curtailed our ability to gather in person, we are excited to share this new series of inspiring performances to a much broader audience, no longer limited by location.”

“Live from Nichols Concert Hall" takes place Sundays, April 11–May 2, at 3 p.m. CDT. Performances are free and open to the public and stream live from Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. Under current pandemic restrictions, access will be entirely virtual.

For complete information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/nch-live

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

ROCO Closes Their 16th Season on April 24
ROCO’s (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) 16th season, “Color and Light,” comes to a close on April 24 with Flamenco, the final performance of their In Concert series. The performance will be fully virtual, streaming live from The Church of St. John the Divine, without an in-person audience.

The performance closes a remarkable, groundbreaking season for the ensemble, in which they offered 11 livestreamed performances and gave premieres of 10 new works, all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. For the April 24 concert, viewers can tune in for free and interact with the orchestra on Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/rocohouston/, YouTube Live: https://www.youtube.com/user/rocohouston,
and the ROCO website: https://roco.org/live/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Philharmonia Baroque Appoints Tarik O’Regan first Composer-in-Residence
Uniquely focused on both the baroque and the brand new, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) announces the appointment of Tarik O’Regan as the 40-year old organization’s first-ever Composer-in-Residence. In his three-and-a-half-year residency, O’Regan will work closely with Music Director Richard Egarr, the Orchestra, Chorale, and staff, composing new works and establishing immersive relationships within the larger PBO community. This marks the first of two exciting and unprecedented PBO residencies this season.

One of the most played, commissioned, and recorded British-American composers of his generation, Tarik O'Regan's prolific output reflects his love of Renaissance vocal writing (his choral works are especially renowned) and the music of North Africa (his family is from Morocco and Algeria). The Washington Post describes his music as “exquisite and delicate,” while The Philadelphia Inquirer says it evokes “previously unheard sound worlds with astonishing effect.”

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/concert/episode-4-tarik-on-tarik/

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Safely Singing Together Again: Washington Chorus
The moment that concert halls and other live performance venues begin to re-open will surely be cause for celebration: but we must also proceed with caution. The research we’ve seen shows it will be several years before audiences potentially return to live performance at the same capacity levels they did prior to the onset of COVID-19. And we all know that even before this global health pandemic arrived, audiences for classical music across all genres was in decline. Choral music is a meaningful artistic outlet and art form, but we’ve not listened, advocated, and evolved our art in a way that has meaningfully increased engagement. This changes now.

“Alongside the question of ‘will audiences feel safe to return,’ the larger and perhaps more important question we have to ask is this: how can we fundamentally reimagine who our audience is, both at The Washington Chorus and across the entire industry of classical music and performing arts," noted TWC Executive Director Stephen Beaudoin. "Then how can we create meaningful live and digital arts experiences that cultivate loyalty and connection with these audiences through emotionally rich, high quality, radically inclusive music performance, education, and community?”

For complete information on the Washington Chorus, visit https://ww1.thewashingtonchorus.com/

--Amy Killion, Bucklesweet

SOLI's Electrified Air Premieres March 17th
SOLI Chamber Ensemble continues its season with Grammy award-winning electric guitarist D. J. Sparr in a SOLI DIGITAL event: Electrified Air.

This innovative evening fuses the sounds of diverse music spheres - phasing, loops, and funk meet rock, flavors of jazz, and contemporary classical harmonies to bring electrifying energy to the ear. The program includes the world premieres of three works: “Hammer and Nail” by Anthony Joseph Lanman, “A Singing Planet” by Olivia Kieffer, and the SOLI commissioned work “A Bell Outside a Bell Inside a Bell” by D. J. Sparr.

The broadcast of Electrified Air will be available on Wednesday, March 17 at 7 pm CDT on SOLI's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLpB_riU947pszI-FIB6iag

--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Renée Fleming in Concert on PBS
We're excited to raise the curtain on Season 15 of “Great Performances at the Met with Renée Fleming in Concert” premiering Friday, March 19 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). The acclaimed soprano performs favorite arias by Puccini, Massenet along with selections by Handel and Korngold from the music salon of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C. Acclaimed soprano Christine Goerke hosts.

The broadcast is followed by “Great Performances at the Met: Jonas Kauffman in Concert,” which premieres beginning Friday, April 2 (check local listings). This season, “Great Performances at the Met” presents opera stars in concert performing favorite arias and songs in striking locations around the world.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Geneva Lewis Awarded Avery Fisher Career Grant
Concert Artists Guild is very proud to announce that violinist and 2020 CAG Grand Prize Winner Geneva Lewis has been chosen as a 2021 recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant! Avery Fisher Career Grants are designed to give professional assistance and recognition to talented musicians who the Recommendation Board and Executive Committee of the Avery Fisher Artist Program believe to have great potential for major careers. Geneva will receive an award of $25,000 to be used for specific needs in advancing a career.

Hear Geneva perform Telemann's Fantasia No. 7 in E-flat Major: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz4nWYIP5dQ

--Concert Artists Guild

American Bach Soloists’ New Artist Profile
ABS continues with another installment in our Free Artist Profile Series. Get to know the person behind the instrument, what makes them tick, and what happened in their lives that led them to a career in music that brought them to us to hear and enjoy.

Over the course of the next half year, you'll have access to more than a dozen interesting and delightful videos that explore the personal motivations and inspirations of some of your favorite ABS musicians. They're filmed in crystal-clear 4K (Ultra High Definition) video resolution, and we're happy to bring another one to you.

In today's video, ABS harpsichordist Corey Jamason talks about why he loves the harpsichord, his father's record collection, the joys of performing with others, and playing Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto while being cheered on by a squawking bird!

Watch the Artist Profile here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aODYfUXhWk

--American Bach Soloists

Atterbury Sessions Continue with PUBLIQuartet
The Atterbury House Sessions free livestreams continue on Saturday March 13, 5pm EST, with the PUBLIQuartet.

PUBLIQuartet is a collection of four folks who feel very strongly about all music genres. Jazz, classical, improvisation, hip hop, blues, they do it all (as a string quartet!). Great champions of women and minority composers, tomorrow they will perform works by Jessie Montgomery, Jessica Meyer, and themselves, as well as John Corigliano.

Grammy-nominated for their album Freedom and Faith, PUBLIQuartet has also been quartet in residence at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, and has received Chamber Music America's Visionary Award.

Watch here: https://www.facebook.com/AncalagonRecords
Or here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxtQKPvPN8scdx2uHYLXlJA

--Lara St. John

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