Classical Music News of the Week, April 17, 2021

Pivot Arts Festival Safely Returns to In-Person Events

Pivot Arts, a hub for adventurous, multidisciplinary performance, announces “Reimagining Utopia,” the ninth annual Pivot Arts Festival featuring almost entirely world premieres, May 21–June 6, 2021 at several indoor and outdoor performance spaces. Following the all-virtual 2020 Festival, Pivot Arts this year plans to bring together audiences and artists safely and in observance of public health protocols.

Pivot Arts selected 12 artists and companies to create small, live works of theatre, dance and/or music, as well as video installations, inspired by this year’s theme, “Reimagining Utopia.” Pivot asked the artists to think about a better world post-pandemic and respond to the global health crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020. Audience members will also have the opportunity to respond with their visions of a brighter future and more just and equitable society.

To observe safety precautions due to the pandemic, most in-person festival works are video installations, and live performers and audience members must wear masks. Audiences engage in events by proceeding through a space featuring video and small live works, similar to a walking tour through a gallery, rather than sitting and watching longer performances. There are also outdoor events and videos on the Pivot Arts website.

Details and tickets are on sale April 30 at https://pivotarts.org/festival/.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Orion Performs Mozart, Rabl
Concluding a four-concert season of limited in-person and virtual performances, The Orion Ensemble returns to perform at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, on Saturday, May 22 at 3 p.m.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Trio in C Major for Violin, Cello and Piano, K. 548, which Orion performs, in 1788, the year he also wrote his last and best-known symphonies and his final three piano trios. Some have compared this Trio to the “Jupiter” Symphony, written in the same key near the same time. Musicologist Alfred Einstein referred to this work as “classic in its mastery.” This Trio displays Mozart’s consummate artistry in handling a genre that began as a keyboard sonata accompanied by violin and cello and became in his hands so mature and balanced that it flows in elegant simplicity as a lively conversation between the three instruments.

Also on Orion’s program is Walter Rabl’s (1873–1940) Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 1, which won the 23-year-old Austrian composer and pianist first prize in an important Viennese composition competition.

The Orion Ensemble performs Saturday, May 22 at 3 p.m. at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Limited in-person tickets are $25 available for advance purchase only at 630-628-9591 or info@orionensemble.org. Virtual access is free; donations are welcome.

The livestream will be available on Orion's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4yVkS6Pp0wzG6HxxXGe1SA

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Colburn School Presents the World Premiere of the Film The Way Forward
The Colburn School presents the online and in-person world premieres of The Way Forward, a 54-minute film which reimagines the concert-going experience for the digital age on Thursday, April 29, 2021 a 12 p.m. PDT.

Tickets for the online premiere are free and registration is required at. The screening will be followed by a Q&A at 1 p.m. PDT with director Hamid Shams and artists featured in the film, hosted by Chris Lee, Senior Reporter, Vulture/New York Magazine.

Limited capacity in-person screenings will be held on Friday, April 30, 2021 and Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 5 p.m. at Thayer Hall, and 8 p.m. at Zipper Hall. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at https://www.colburnschool.edu/calendar/events/online-film-premiere-the-way-forward/. Following guidelines from the LA County Department of Health, screenings will be at 25% capacity and temperature checks, face coverings, and physical distancing are required for all visitors, in addition to other safety protocols.

Please visit https://www.colburnschool.edu/calendar/events/online-film-premiere-the-way-forward to watch the trailer.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of April 19-25)
Monday, April 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Davóne Tines interviewed by Kenneth Overton on “Black Opera Live!”
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAvuh5XgELmr1jNlPgL3OHw?view_as=subscriber

Wednesday, April 21 at 7:00 p.m. PT:
Pianist Shai Wosner performs a live-streamed recital with violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth.
https://www.thebarclay.org/buy-tickets/2020-2021-season-events/pinchas-zukerman-amanda-forsyth-shai-wosner.html

Thursday, April 22 & Friday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET:
James Conlon and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra perform works by Shostakovich, Mozart, and Saint-Georges.
https://www.dso.org/watch/1260255

Friday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh and Davóne Tines present the world premiere of music film Strange Fruit for Carnegie Hall's "Voices of Hope" virtual festival.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoU7xxMfMAZmB7THNylLZ4g

Friday, April 23 at 2:00 p.m. PT:
Pianist and advocate Lara Downes launches University of Oregon virtual residency with "Uncovering Lost Treasures" seminar.
https://music.uoregon.edu/breaking-news/lara-downes-virtual-residency

Friday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m. CET / 1:00 p.m. ET:
Jonathan Biss performs Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto & Salvatore Sciarrino's Il sogno di Stradella with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
https://www.berwaldhallen.se/en/play/

Saturday, April 24:
AMPLIFY with Lara Downes features chef, writer, and opera singer Alexander Smalls*.
https://www.npr.org/series/922438111/amplify-with-lara-downes

--Shuman Associates

Newport Music Festival Announces Schedule
The Newport Music Festival has announced the complete seventeen-concert schedule for its 53rd season, from July 4-20, 2021. All concerts will be held outdoors at historic mansions and venues in Newport, Rhode Island including The Breakers, Bellevue House, Castle Hill Inn, The Chanler at Cliff Walk, King Park, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Rough Point. The full schedule is available at https://www.newportmusic.org/. Tickets will go on sale to the public on April 19.

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Los Angeles Master Chorale Announces GALA 2021
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, the country’s preeminent professional choir, led by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, will honor its singers and the philanthropic leadership of Laney Techentin at GALA 2021: “Shine Bright,” on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 5 p.m. PDT. This special online experience, hosted by Broadway legend Patti LuPone, will feature performances by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, including a virtual “surround sing,” and the world premiere of “Shine Bright,” a triptych of videos featuring Reena Esmail’s “TaReKiTa,” Meredith Monk’s “Earth Seen From Above” from her landmark opera Atlas, and Derrick Spiva, Jr.’s “Ready, Bright” (Los Angeles Master Chorale commission). “TaReKiTa” was released in November 2020, and “Earth Seen from Above” and “Ready, Bright” will premiere at GALA 2021.

Sunday, May 16, 2021: 5 p.m. PDT, reception; 6 p.m. PDT, show.
Tickets for GALA 2021 start at $25

For information about ticket packages and benefits, visit https://lamasterchorale.org/gala-2021.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

SOLI’s “Stories from the Voices Within”
SOLI Chamber Ensemble presents “Stories from the Voices Within,” April 25 and 26, 7:30 p.m., at the Betty Kelso Center and Greehey Lawn, San Antonio Botanical Garden, San Antonio, Texas.

SOLI continues its season at the San Antonio Botanical Garden with :Stories from the Voices Within – featuring two world premieres and special guest appearances by San Antonio Poet Laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and Flamenco artist Tamara Adira.

“Stories from the Voices Within” features world premieres of Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Elegy for those we lost” and San Antonio-native Darian Donovan Thomas’s “((HERE)),” an extended work for SOLI, electronics, vocalist (singing, rapping, and narrating), and androgynous dancer.

Tickets start at $15. Seating is limited at the Betty Kelso Center and Greehey Lawn and advance purchase is strongly recommended. To reserve a seat, click here: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/concerts/

Unable to attend in person...but still want to help SOLI bring new music to life? Please consider clicking here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/here2

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Colburn School Appoints Violist Geraldine Walther as Interim Director of Chamber Music
The Colburn School is pleased to announce that violist Geraldine Walther will join the Colburn School faculty as Interim Director of Chamber Music for the Colburn Conservatory of Music, beginning August 2021. Walther will oversee strings and piano chamber music, and will also be featured on the Colburn Chamber Music Society series in the 2021-22 season.

An international search for a permanent director of chamber music will begin immediately for a fall 2022 start date.

Walther succeeds current Director of Chamber Music and violinist Scott St. John, who has led the chamber music program for the Conservatory of Music and pre-college Music Academy since 2018. During his tenure, St. John developed and led the Beethoven 250 Celebration, a six-day festival built around the composer’s beloved string quartets, in collaboration with fellow Colburn faculty member and violinist Arnold Steinhardt, and mentored the Viano Quartet, the Colburn School’s first Ensemble-in-Residence, who recently joined the illustrious Opus 3 roster.

Learn more: https://www.colburnschool.edu/

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Brahms: Intermezzi (CD review)

Christophe Sirodeau. Melism MLS-CD-022.

By Bill Heck

Chrisophe Sirodeau is not a truly familiar name among classical music fans, but judging from this album, he should be better known. His recorded output is small, most notably discs of the works of Samuil Feinberg and Viktor Ullmann. (For the curious, I am not familiar with either of these composers, although a few quick listens suggest that further investigation is warranted.) It is perhaps a little surprising that Sirodeau’s first venture into the more often recorded “mainstream” is with the solo piano music of Johannes Brahms, but he has the chops to make the leap.

For those unfamiliar with the term, an “intermezzo” – plural “intermezzi” – was originally a short piece meant to be played between two longer, more substantial pieces. By Brahms’s time, intermezzi could be short, usually expressive pieces without reference to other works. And those unfamiliar with Brahms’s piano works, or those who do not look closely at the liner notes for this album, might suppose that Brahms composed a few sets of piano “intermezzi” and that Sirodeau is simply playing some or all of them in order, just as one might find on a recording of, say, Chopin’s Nocturnes. Not so on several counts: Brahms mixed in a few other forms, e.g., caprices, with the intermezzi in several opus numbers; Sirodeau includes only 14 of the 18 Intermezzi; and the artist has ordered them not chronologically, but in a sequence that he finds most appealing. So, let’s say that this release is rather more like a recital than a comprehensive survey, but a very focused recital.

In any case, most of works here are from a few years late in Brahms’s life: although four of the Intermezzi are part of Op.76 dating from 1878, the remaining 10heard here are from Op. 116 – 119, published in 1892 – 93. (Brahms’s last works were published in 1896, and he died in 1897.) After Op. 76, the days of large-scale orchestral compositions, such as symphonies and concertos, were long past; Brahms’s music had become leaner, more intensely concentrated. Thus, most of the pieces here are the works of a mature composer, giving the sense of a mature human reflecting on life.

Indeed, these works seem to me to be distilled Brahms, the essence of Brahms if you will. This is particularly true in all but the Op. 76 works: ornamentation is stripped away; the melodies can be downright simple – although sometimes deceptively so. (By the way, even on first hearing I easily identified, without peeking, several tracks as being from Op. 76: they are a little less distilled, with more notes that, had the pieces been composed later, might not have been there.)  Perhaps there is no better example than the ninth track on this disc, Andante Moderato in E-flat, the first of the three Intermezzi of Op. 117. The opening melody sounds like a child’s song or perhaps a lullaby; the left hand plays but a few simple chords. The development becomes more complex, but the melody is never far away; the piece ends by returning to nearly the same basic simplicity with which it started. At the same time, that melody is a lovely one, tugging at the emotions and sticking in the mind.

Meanwhile, the dominant mood through the entire series of works is reflective, introspective. Gone is the fire and passion of youth. (Try listening to this disk immediately after hearing the First Symphony or the First Piano Concerto; good heavens, what a contrast!) Gone are the complications and dense scoring of the orchestral works. There are frequent passages where the music can be played with two fingers, and many others where, even if more fingers are involved, we hear simple melodies and chords. But lest we forget, it still is Brahms, meaning that the musical intelligence shines through.

Sirodeau’s playing suits the music well, steering a course between literal but soulless readings on one hand and overdramatization on the other. No mawkish sentimentality here, thank you very much, but also no bored disengagement, no mechanical run-throughs. There is rubato aplenty, but not so much as to bring progress completely to a halt, a fault that I too often hear in some solo piano recordings, and one that drives me nuts. Phrasings seem to me always well-judged, and although the music does not lend itself to dynamic extremes, Sirodeau modulates the volume sufficiently to emphasize that which should be highlighted.

I did not locate an album comparable in the sense of being all intermezzi (regardless of order), but these works have been recorded numerous times in different groupings. A complete survey is impossible, but a few comparisons might give a general flavor.

Jonathan Plowwright has recorded a well-regarded series of albums of Brahms music for solo piano. As one example, returning to the Op. 117/1 piece mentioned above, Plowright is a bit quicker, clocking in at 5:02, compared to Sirodeau’s 5:34. Sirodeau lays a bit more emphasis on the lower notes (left hand), and there are slight differences in phrasing, with my overall impression being that Sirodeau is the more wistful, even dreamier in comparison – but hardly a startling difference. In that same work, Radu Lupu takes still longer at 5:46, and in comparison to Sirodeau, his dynamic control is even more noticeable – and incredible. His feather light touch in softer passages seems next to impossible: how can anyone press a piano key that softly and still produce any sound at all? More broadly, Lupu’s recording is a classic, truly expressive, but Sirodeau’s holds its own even so, at least in part because Decca’s 1980’s sound is a bit more congested than Melism’s 21st century version. Really, I can happily listen to any of these albums, reveling in the differences.

Speaking of sound, the Melism recording is indeed is very good. I found it just short of the very best in terms of focus, but that’s largely a quibble, nothing to be worried about at all.

If you are unfamiliar with this music, you surely ought to give Sirodeau’s album a listen. If you already have recordings of these works, you still might want to pick up this one, if only for the experience of hearing a series of well-played versions of most of the intermezzi in an intelligently chosen sequence. A comparison that comes to mind is that of a treasured book; just as one might return to that written work at just the right times, this album is on my list of performances to return to on quiet evenings when I want to hear music that will stay with me.

BH

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

Sullivan: Ballet Music (CD review)

L’Ile Enchantee; Thespis. Andrew Penny, RTE Concert Orchestra. Naxos 8.555180.

By John J. Puccio

Many people today probably only know the British composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) from his collaborations with Sir William S. Gilbert, Sullivan writing the music and Gilbert the lyrics of their many hit light operas. But Sullivan’s work also includes operas, orchestral works, incidental music, songs, piano, and chamber pieces. Among them is the ballet presented here, L’Ile Enchantee (“The Enchanted Isle”), performed by Andrew Penny and Ireland’s RTE Concert Orchestra.

Sullivan wrote L’Ile Enchantee in 1861, and it was among his first orchestral compositions. He intended it as a divertissement, a light entertainment, a diversion, usually used during an interlude in a longer, more-serious work but here used at the end of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera La sonnambula at Covent Garden. The public received the music with acclaim, but the full score was subsequently lost.  We may consider Penny’s recording, in which Roderick Spencer and Selwyn Tillett have found and restored some previously lost passages, a world-première event.

The opening Prelude has a serious Mendelssohnian feeling to it. The music continues with a whole parade of light, melodic, and wholly delightful tunes. There’s even a brief Strauss-like waltz involved. The story line of the ballet is negligible, to say the least. A shipwrecked sailor washes ashore on an enchanted island filled with gnomes and fairies (and thus the Mendelssohn reference). He falls for the queen, and the rest is...well, music. I’m surprised this little ballet didn’t catch on the way so much of Sullivan’s other music has. Whatever, Maestro Penny appears to be on top of everything--from the rollicking inner sections to the sweetest, most-gentle ones, and his Irish orchestra seems to be enjoying itself as well.

Accompanying L’Ile Enchantee are some snippets of ballet music from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Thespis (1871), their first collaboration together. However, they never published the piece, and most of it is now lost, except for the fragments of ballet from it we get here.

Producer Murray Khouri made the album at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland in April 1992. Naxos originally released the disc in their full-priced Marco Polo line but now offer it at a substantially lower price (although if you insist on paying more, you can still find it new on the Marco Polo label). I liked the sound a lot. It’s among the more natural recordings I’ve heard lately, even though Naxos recorded it some thirty years ago (or perhaps because they recorded it so long ago). The recording displays good depth, with more than adequate dynamics and frequency range. And all without a hint of brightness or edge.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 10, 2021

Tulsa Opera Announces Additional Performance and Live-Stream

Due to high demand, Tulsa Opera has announced a second performance of Greenwood Overcomes featuring a program of works by 23 living Black composers performed by eight Black artists to commemorate the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The performances will be Saturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. CT and Sunday, May 2 at 2:30 p.m. CT at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Additionally, the Saturday performance will be live-streamed free on Tulsa Opera’s website, https://tulsaopera.com/.

Greenwood Overcomes is part of a citywide commemoration effort spearheaded by the concert’s co-producer, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission (Tulsa2021.org), which is dedicated to producing and promoting projects that further the remembrance and honor the legacy of Black Wall Street, the Greenwood neighborhood that was razed by mobs of white residents on May 31–June 1, 1921.

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

What Soes YPC's Gala Support?
Young People’s Chorus of New York City uses music as the unifying force to connect children from all cultural and economic backgrounds. We are proud to provide full scholarships to 85% of our 2,000 choristers, which allows every child the opportunity to participate in YPC's life-changing music education and mentorship programs along with academic and social support. The contributions of our YPC supporters strengthen our ability to create a space in which all young people can find themselves in a song and create lifelong memories.

By supporting YPC’s Gala (May 10), you are supporting our scholarship program. Support our Gala here:
https://ypc.org/event/gala-2021/

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

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

The documentary spotlights the resurgence of classical music in China through the legacy of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the first American orchestra to perform in China in 1973. Following the end of China’s Cultural Revolution, when Western classical music was banned in favor of politically themed works, the onset of “Beethoven fever” began. Narrated by American and Chinese musicians and historians, the film explores the impact of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s historic tour on China both then and now and incorporates interviews with renowned musicians including Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun, famed classical pianist Lang Lang, Philadelphia Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and more.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

The Argus Quartet in noise/SILENCE
Five Boroughs Music Festival and The Noguchi Museum co-present the daring and innovative Argus Quartet in noise/SILENCE, a digital world premiere concert, on Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 7:30pm ET.

Part of Five Boroughs Music Festival’s 2020-2021 digital mainstage season, noise/SILENCE is co-produced by the Argus Quartet and will be filmed on-site at the Queens-based Noguchi Museum in early April 2021, exploring the symbiosis of silence and sound through music inspired by and in response to the art of Isamu Noguchi, the iconic 20th century sculptor. Noguchi’s sculptures, on display at his eponymous museum, provide a stunning backdrop to the Argus Quartet’s performances of works by John Cage, Rolf Wallin, Dorothy Rudd Moore, and Paul Wiancko, who joins the quartet as a guest performer for his piece, Vox Petra.

Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 7:30pm ET
Tickets: Free on the 5BMF YouTube channel
Learn More: https://5bmf.org/events/noise-silence

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

West Edge Adds Another Live Performance
West Edge Opera is adding a Snapshot live performance on Sunday, May 16th, 4pm, at The Bruns Amphitheater. 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda CA. Originally, West Edge Opera was to offer only one live performance on Saturday May 15th, and to offer a recording of the program released online for patrons to watch in at home. However, when our box office opened last Thursday, tickets for the Saturday performance were nearly sold out within hours.

In response, West Edge Opera has added a live performance to the Snapshot program on Sunday, May 16th, 4pm, at The Bruns Amphitheater. We have cancelled our online recording. Tickets for Sunday, May 16th are available online at https://www.westedgeopera.org/. General Admission tickets are $40, and very few Underwriter Tickets are still available at $200. Underwriters are seated front and center, with best acoustic sound.

--West Edge Opera

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of April 12-18)
Tuesday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh featured in University of Georgia conversation.
https://www.facebook.com/ugapresents or
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiYzutgFY7n82ls2dibTFSA

Thursday, April 15 at 12:00 p.m. GMT / 7:00 a.m. ET:
Stephen Hough performs Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé orchestra.
https://www.halle.co.uk/booking-information/

riday, April 16 at 8:00 p.m. CT:
Minnesota Orchestra, conductor Marc Albrecht, and pianist Simon Trpceski perform works by Shostakovich and Schumann.
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/

Available now:
James Conlon discusses “Una voce poco fa” from Rossini's The Barber of Seville on the Aria Code podcast.
https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/aria-code/episodes/aria-code-rossini-barber-of-seville-pretty-yende

--Shuman Associates

Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021
The Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 and the Richmond Symphony announced today the schedule of events for this year’s Competition, May 14-23, 2021. After a year of waiting necessitated by the global pandemic, the Competition welcomes the exceptional young violinists originally selected to participate in the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020. Finally, they will have a chance to perform via video recital for the jury, for each other and for a virtual audience of family, friends, teachers and music lovers around the globe.

The co-hosts—the City of Richmond, Virginia, Richmond Symphony, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and VPM, Virginia’s home for public media—are looking forward to providing a warm “virtual” welcome to the young violinists from around the world taking part in the Competition.

For details, visit https://2021.menuhincompetition.org/

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirschbaum Associates

Bang on a Can's OneBeat Marathon No. 2
Bang on a Can is excited to present the second OneBeat Marathon – Live Online – on Sunday, May 2, 2021 from 12PM - 4PM EDT, curated by Found Sound Nation, its social practice and global collaboration wing. Over four hours the OneBeat Marathon will share the power of music and tap into the most urgent and essential sounds of our time. From the Kyrgyz three-stringed komuz played on the high steppe, to the tranceful marimba de chonta of Colombia's pacific shore, to the Algerian Amazigh highlands and to the trippy organic beats of Bombay’s underground scene – OneBeat finds a unifying possibility of sound that ties us all together.

OneBeat, a cultural diplomacy program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by Found Sound Nation, is redefining intercultural music exchange and developing methodologies to promote civic engagement through music. Since 2011, OneBeat residency programs have convened more than 200 young pioneering musicians from 41 countries to dive into the musical unknown together and build a global network of artists committed to civic discourse.

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

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Valley of the Moon Music Festival Announces 2021 Season
Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF) brings the captivating sound of period instruments to the world of Classical and Romantic chamber music for its 2021 season, “Love and Longing: Reaching Across the Distance.” A series of nine curated programs inspired by the fundamental human desire to connect, the Festival brings together artists and audiences across digital platforms and modified in-person live performances, July 17 – August 1, 2021, with a special preview concert on June 24.

RSVP is required and is now open for all virtual events. A limited number of tickets for the live, outdoor, socially-distanced concerts in Sonoma County will be available for purchase on or around May 1, 2021. Please visit https://valleyofthemoonmusicfestival.org/ to make a seating reservation.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Lebanese-American Tenor, Amine Hachem, Releases New Single
“I share with you a song that observes the hardships we’ve encountered this past year. A worldwide pandemic, the Beirut explosion, natural disasters across the globe, political instability, loss of livelihoods, and the complete shut down of many industries including show business have left many of us reconstructing our lives.

This song has allowed me to reflect deeply and discover that indeed hard times seem to follow us no matter where we find ourselves in history. It’s also reinforced in me the understanding of what is important in life; the fortunate looking out for the less fortunate.

Listen to “Hard Times Come Again No More”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzx1CXTLOWo

--Amine J. Hachem

SOLI Presents “Stories from the Voices Within”
SOLI Chamber Ensemble continues its season on April 25-26, 7:30 pm, at the San Antonio Botanical Garden with “Stories from the Voices Within” – featuring two world premieres and special guest appearances by San Antonio Poet Laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and Flamenco artist Tamara Adira.

SOLI will present the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’ Elegy for those we lost. Originally written as a solo piano work in collaboration with filmmaker Esther Shubinski and released on YouTube as a memorial to victims of COVID-19, Kernis has arranged the work for violin and piano for SOLI musicians Ertan Torgul and Carolyn True.

The centerpiece of the concert will be the world premiere of San Antonio-native Darian Donovan Thomas’ ((HERE)), an extended work for SOLI, electronics, vocalist (singing, rapping, and narrating), and androgynous dancer. Thomas sources texts and song material from San Antonio Poet Laureate and Hip-Hop artist Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, who collaborated with Thomas on the commission.

Tickets start at $15. Seating is limited at the Betty Kelso Center and Greehey Lawn and advance purchase is strongly recommended. Click here to reserve your seat today!

Details: https://www.solichamberensemble.com/voices-within/

--Anne Schellenge, SOLI Chamber Ensemble

“Music with a View” Concert No.7
We are proud to announce and invite you to our next “Music with a View” Concert Livestream featuring Chicago Symphony Orchestra Principal French Hornist, David Cooper, with distinguished pianist Kuang-Hao Huang. All of our “Music with a View” concerts are professionally recorded and archived for your continued enjoyment.

Ticket prices start at just $15 on IN.LIVE, the world's best new platform for live streaming. Featuring easy sign-on, and ultimate audio and video quality, this livestream concert experience is second-to-none.

“Music with a View” subscribers will receive a separate email with a PROMO code to enable you to enter and view the live stream event for free, so please mark your calendars and stay tuned.

More information: https://sheridanmusicstudio.com/music-with-a-view

--Sheridan Music Studio

Los Angeles Master Chorale's Oratorio Project
Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Voices Within Oratorio Project, now in its 10th year, culminates in the digital premiere of “Naia: The Spirit of Hoyo Negro,” an original oratorio written by approximately 80 Van Nuys High School students who participated in the 20-week program remotely and virtually during the 2020-21 academic school year.

“Naia: The Spirit of Hoyo Negro” will be premiered as a series of digital episodes, Monday - Thursday, May 3 - 6, 2021, culminating in the digital release of the complete work on Friday, May 7, 2021.

Mon. - Fri., May 3 - 7, 2021 at 10 a.m. PST: https://lamasterchorale.org/

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Concours Musical International de Montréal
From April 26 – May 14, the Concours Musical International de Montréal (CMIM) will hold its triennial piano edition in a virtual format after a one-year postponement due to COVID-19.  A preliminary jury has selected from among 229 candidates twenty-six semifinalists aged 21-30 who represent 11 different countries including Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, the United States and Uzbekistan to compete for over $230,000 in prizes and awards.

In addition to a grand prize of $30,000 from the city of Montréal and the $50,000 Joseph Rouleau Career Development Grant offered by the Azrieli Foundation, the first prize winner will also be offered a concert tour in three North American cities (sponsored by Sarah Beauchamp), an artist residency at Canada’s Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, a concerto performance with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in an upcoming season and a solo album recording on the Steinway & Sons label with a launch event at Steinway Hall in New York City.

All stages of the competition will be available for free, on-demand listening on CMIM’s website, https://www.concoursmontreal.ca/en/.

--Bucklesweet/Rebecca Davis PR

The Atterbury Sessions Continue with Nella
Nella is a new voice hailing from the Venezuelan island of Margarita.

In a short time, she went from Berklee College of Music graduate to winner of the 2019 Latin Grammy Award for Best New Artist. That same year, her full-length debut, “Voy (I Go)” received acclaim from NPR and yielded the hit “Me Llaman Nella.”

Merging the folklore roots of Venezuela, modern production, and Andalusian inspirations, her sound resounds in every corner of the globe. She has sold out venues throughout the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, and the UK. At the beginning of 2020 Nella signed with Sony Music Records and will release her next album in late spring.

Livestream is Saturday April 10 at 5 PM EST, and will be available for one week thereafter. Please join us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imc_LiRPut0

--Lara St. John

John Luther Adams: The Become Trilogy (CD and book review)

Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony. Cantaloupe CA21161 (3-disc set).
Also, Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York, 2020. 194 pp. ISBN: 978-0-374-26462-8.

By Karl W. Nehring

Just to be perfectly clear, the composer of the Become Trilogy is the American composer John Luther Adams (b. 1953), who is not the same person as the American composer John Adams (b. 1947), who is famous for compositions such as his opera Nixon in China and his orchestral showpiece Short Ride in a Fast Machine. John Adams is based in California, while John Luther Adams was long based in Alaska, where he lived from 1978 to 2014. He now resides in the American Southwest.

John Luther Adams received widespread attention for the first of the three compositions included in this three-CD boxed set, Become Ocean, which was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music. It is a powerful piece, deep and brooding and churning, capturing the energy and mystery of the ocean depths. In his liner notes, Adams explains that, “Become Ocean is titled after a mesostic poem that John Cage wrote in honor of Lou Harrison. Likening Harrison’s music to a river in delta, Cage wrote:

            LiStening to it
    we becOme
        oceaN.

Adams goes on to explain that “in Become Ocean a full symphony orchestra is deployed in three different ensembles, separated as widely as possible. Each of these groups has its own distinctive instrumental and harmonic colorations, each moving in its own tempo.” Lest his talk of three ensembles playing in three tempos immediately scare you off, let me assure you that although Become Ocean has a dense, complex sound, it does not have a dissonant, chaotic, forbidding sound. Indeed, the piece has a majesty to it that can truly draw the listener in. It conveys a sense of elemental power that goes beyond waves on the surface to reveal the force of the mighty currents below and the astonishing force of the tides. Debussy’s La Mer gives us a vivid portrait of the ocean as seen from without; Adams has a different goal in mind. “I composed Become Ocean on the edge of the Pacific, in Mexico, where my wife and I lived for most of a decade. Yet from time to time when people ask me: ‘Which ocean is it?’ My answer is always the same: ‘Your ocean…’ Become Ocean is a meditation on the deep and mysterious tides of existence.”  The piece was something of a sensation when it was originally released, perhaps not quite to the scale of Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 (here) but still quite noteworthy for a classical music release.

The remaining two compositions in the trilogy Become River and Become Desert, were recorded in 2018. Reflecting on the kind of music he was trying to create in the works that make up this trilogy, Adams notes that “Stravinsky remarked that music is the sole domain in which we fully realize the present. Yet so much orchestral music is continually becoming—unfolding in narrative arcs, like novels or movies… The pieces of the Become trilogy are not symphonic studies about rivers, deserts, or the sea. This is music that aspires to the condition of place. The titles are not ‘Becoming…’. They’re ‘Become…’. The invitation is for you, the listener, to enter into the music, to lose yourself, and perhaps to discover oceans, deserts, and rivers of your own.”

Adams observes that he has known many rivers throughout his life, and that for a good part of his life he lived in the Tanana River basin in Alaska, of which he notes that “a musical evocation of the Tanana would have to be a long piece, for a large orchestra. Become River is shorter, and scored for a smaller orchestra—an orchestra turned upside down. Rather than their usual position near the edge of the stage, the violins are seated far upstage and elevated. The entire assembly is raked, from high to low sounds. Over the course of twenty minutes, the music flows downstream in three interlocking streams moving at different tempos, running to the sea.” Once again that description might make the music sound forbidding, or even unlistenable, but in truth, Become River is actually quite beguiling. The various elements of the sound -- tinkling percussion, swirling strings, shifting tones from the brass and woodwinds—all combine in the imagination to offer a striking impression of a river, and if you let yourself go as you listen, you truly can begin to feel in some sense becoming at least a wee bit riverish… Seriously, though, it is a remarkable composition, a 21st-century Die Moldau.

Adams notes of the final piece of the trilogy that “Become Desert completes this trilogy that I didn’t set out to write. In all three of these works, space is a fundamental compositional element. I’m not speaking only of poetic or metaphorical space, but also of the physical space of the musical ensemble, and the acoustical space in which the music is heard. At forty-two minutes, Become Desert is the same length as Become Ocean. But it encompasses an even larger musical space. Five different ensembles are stationed around the audience… In the desert, as Octavio Paz observes: ‘That which is not stone is light.’ Here, you can ‘close your eyes and listen to the singing of the light.’ This image led me to realize that Become Desert needed to include human voices. The chorus sings a single word, throughout: Luz (the Spanish word for ‘light’).” As you might expect, there is less sense of motion in this music, although there is still a great sense of energy. The subtle contribution of the voices produces a different texture to this music that further sets it apart from the two water-based members of the trilogy. Of the three compositions, I found it the hardest to get into at first, but upon repeated listening, I came to really appreciate it. As with the other two pieces, it rewards concentrated listening, but it can also be enjoyed by just closing your eyes and letting the sound take you away.

Speaking of sound, I of course listened in stereo, which is quite excellent, but there are also 5.1 surround and Dolby Atmos mixes of all three compositions available (in digital format only). That could be quite interesting, both sonically and psychologically. Unfortunately, without (a) wideband internet access (one of the few drawbacks of my rural lifestyle) or (b) a 5.1 or Dolby Atmos system, I am unable to report on what particular sonic and/or spiritual bliss that immersive listening experience might entail, alas.

In his memoir Silences So Deep, Adams writes that “Music is my way of understanding the world, of knowing where I am and how I fit in. An unsettled childhood left me with a gnawing, inarticulate hunger to find my real home and family—the place to which I would truly belong, and the people with whom I would share ties deeper than blood. In Alaska—where I lived for four decades—I found both.” We learn how he came to find friendship, a cabin in the wilderness with no running water, a role as a timpanist in the Fairbanks Symphony, and a gig as a music director and program host for a local NPR radio station. We read about how inspiration came to him for some of his early musical compositions, and how he grew in his conception of music and composition. He writes of friendships and how they influenced him, of how observing skilled craftsmen such as masons and carpenters influenced his approach to composing music.

Eventually, though, as he felt both the climate and his life inevitably changing, he chose to leave Alaska. He writes that “as Cindy and I got a little older and as the pristine ferocity of the cold began to diminish, the subarctic winter darkness became more challenging. We began spending more and more time in a house on the Pacific coast of Baja California… In that house, over the next decade or so, I would compose Canticles of the Holy Wind, Become River, Become Ocean, and Become Desert. In the Become trilogy, I sought to bring my ideal of an entire piece of music as a single, rich, complex sonority to its fullest realization.”

Silences So Deep is an enjoyable book that can stand on its own apart from Adams’s music. However, if you have enjoyed the music of John Luther Adams, whether from one or all of his Become trilogy compositions or some of his many other fine works, then this is a book that you will most likely truly enjoy.

KWN

Schoenberg: Verklarte Nacht (SACD review)

Also, Lehar: Fieber; Fried: Verklarte Nacht; Korngold: Lieder des Abschieds. Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano; Stuart Skelton, tenor; Edward Gardner, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Chandos CHSA 5243.

By John J. Puccio

“Two people walk through a leafless frosty copse,
the moon tags along and draws their gaze.
...
He grasps her about her strong hips.
Their breath is mingling in the air.
Two people walk through a brightly shining night.”

--Richard Dehmel, “Transfigured Night,”

Those are the opening and closing lines of the poem “Verklarte Nach” by German poet and writer Richard Dehmel (1863-1920). Dehmel’s poems inspired such composers as such as Richard Strauss, Max Reger, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Oskar Fried, Alma Mahler, Anton Webern, Ignatz Waghalter, Carl Orff, and Kurt Weill to set them to music. On the present album we have four composers whom Dehmel inspired in one way or another: Arnold Schoenberg, Oskar Fried, Franz Lehar, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Maestro Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra do the honors, with tenor Stuart Skelton lending his voice to Lehar’s Fieber and both Skelton and mezzo-soprano Christine Rice singing in Fried’s Verklarte Nacht.

First up on the program is Fieber (“Fever,” 1915), a short piece by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehar (1870-1948). Although Lehar was a contemporary of Schoenberg, his music is more associated with that of operetta, and the link between him and Dehmel’s poem is tenuous at best. Lehar’s tone poem (as he called it) is a musical tribute to his younger brother who lay in hospital at the time from wounds received in the early going of the First World War. Lehar set the words of poet Erwin Weill to music, and they do bear resemblance in tone to Dehmel’s poem. The music is very dramatic, perhaps even melodramatic, and between bouts of seriousness, it also betrays Lehar’s light-opera leanings. Tenor Stuart Skelton sings it well, and Gardner and the orchestra accompany him unobtrusively.

Next up is Verklarte Nacht (“Transfigured Night,” 1901), another short work, this one by German conductor and composer Oskar Fried (1871-1941). Although Schoenberg wrote his musical setting for Dehmel’s poem a couple of years earlier, he didn’t see it performed until 1902, a full year after Fried’s operatic, vocal-instrumental version appeared. Fried’s piece is pretty much a musical setting of the whole Dehmel poem, where tenor Skelton is joined by soprano Christine Rice. I found it rather forgettable, but listeners more attuned to opera than I am may enjoy its sentiment. There is no question that everyone involved performs it well.

Then we get the centerpiece of the album, Verklarte Nacht by Austrian-born composer, writer, and painter Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). He originally wrote it for string sextet but arranged a string orchestra version in 1917, which we have here. The work is pretty well known, and one can find it recorded by practically every major conductor in the world. Later in life, Schoenberg would credit not only Dehmel’s poem for his inspiration but Brahms and Mahler as well. Interestingly, both the poem and Schoenberg’s music were condemned back in the day for their frank sexuality. Maybe that’s why they became so famous. In any case, Gardner provides us with a notably expressive presentation of the score. While his reading is not so glamorized or Romanticized as Karajan’s nor so incisive as Stokowski’s--older recordings that easily come to mind--it gets to the heart of the music’s passion and turmoil in perhaps more concise terms. Of course, it’s hard to match the sheer sensuality of the Berlin strings. Still, Gardner well captures the extremes of sadness, reflection, and forgiveness expressed in the poem, and without exaggeration. It’s true that a few listeners may miss some of Schoenberg’s lush harmonies here, which tend to get a little lost in the unfolding of the story, but Gardner makes up for it with the lucidity of his musical storytelling.

The final work on the agenda is Lieder des Abschieds (“Songs of Farewell,” 1920-21) by Austrian-born composer and conductor Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957). Korngold may be better recognized today for his film scores (Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood) but he wrote a large body of serious classical music as well, including these four vocal settings for tenor and orchestra. Again the connection to Dehmel’s poem is slender at best, but inside the booklet notes we find the heading “German Orchestral Songs/Verklate Nacht” so maybe that explains it. Whatever, tenor Stuart Skelton and Maestro’s Gardner manage to convey a lovely, poignant mood in the piece, with the orchestra keeping a safe distance in the more sensitive and affecting parts.

Producer Brian Pidgeon and engineer Ralph Couzens recorded the music at Phoenix Concert Hall, Fairfield Halls, Croydon, England in March 2020. They made it for hybrid SACD; that is, playback in 2-channel stereo via a regular CD player and 2-channel and multichannel via an SACD player. I listened in 2-channel SACD.

Clearly, what Chandos Records were going for here was as natural a sound as possible, with no bright edginess accompanying any sort pretense to audiophile clarity. Yet, the sound is quite clear and natural, so I’d say they succeeded, even though some listeners not used to such things may think it’s too soft for their taste. The sound is also moderately dynamic, evident from the low initial volume. Trust me: It gets plenty loud enough as it goes along, the dynamic range being relatively wide. There is also good orchestral depth and a broad and well-balanced frequency response.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 3, 2021

Colorado Music Festival Announces 2021 Season

The Colorado Music Festival (CMF) in Boulder, Colorado, under the leadership of Music Director Peter Oundjian, returns to the concert hall this summer for 22 concerts between July 1 and August 7. The diverse offerings reflect Oundjian’s commitment to presenting the work of living composers as well as music by masters of the canon; nearly half of the concerts will feature music created in the twenty-first or late-twentieth centuries. The Festival features world-class musicians from around the country who arrive in Boulder to perform as the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra under the direction of Peter Oundjian, along with 17 guest artists, three internationally acclaimed string quartets and three guest conductors.

“In our 2021 season, we wish to commemorate the challenges of the pandemic, while celebrating the return to live, communal music-making. This season’s music offers the healing that our communities are yearning for, the creativity to clear our minds and hearts, and the inspiration to look toward the brighter days ahead,” said Peter Oundjian, music director.

Guidance for safe social distancing practices will be observed closely in the months to come, and will most likely include limiting the number of orchestra members on stage. The event’s venue, Chautauqua Auditorium, will implement a COVID-19 safety plan throughout the 2021 season, including the latest guidelines for spacing between seats, distance between performers and audience members, and mask requirements for all.

For a full list of live-streaming performances and to purchase tickets beginning April 20, visit https://coloradomusicfestival.org/.

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of April 5-11)
Tuesday, April 6 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue celebrate their new album “Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses” with a live-streamed performance from Roulette.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKPkJNXxgjI

Thursday, April 8 at 6:00 p.m. ET:
Pianist Shai Wosner performs sonatas by Schubert, Scarlatti, and Beethoven, and three Rzewski "Nanosonatas."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgNL9W8tgzM

Friday, April 9:
Lara Downes releases “Spring Fever” on her Rising Sun Music label with pieces by Betty Jackson King, Nkeiru Okoye, H. Leslie Adams, and Alvin Singleton.
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0v3wogbYP5XAfG38SnB3Qu

Friday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET:
The Gilmore Virtual Jazz Club presents the Aaron Diehl Trio.
https://www.thegilmore.org/event/aaron-diehl-trio/

Saturday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET:
Shai Wosner and the JACK Quartet perform works by Thomas Adès, John Luther Adams, and Amy Williams alongside Mozart and Grieg.
https://www.pscny.org/jackquartet

Saturday, April 10:
AMPLIFY with Lara Downes on NPR Music features chef, writer, and opera singer Alexander Smalls.
https://www.npr.org/series/922438111/amplify-with-lara-downes

Sunday, April 11 at 5:30 p.m. ET:
Jennifer Koh performs Bach’s Partita No. 3 and Sonata No. 3 alongside new works commissioned for her "Alone Together" project.
https://www.shriverconcerts.org/event/tickets/index.php?id=131 - concert-131

--Shuman Associates

“Bach with a View” International Young Artists Festival and Competition
Sheridan Music Studio Artistic Directors Susan Merdinger and Dr. Svetlana Belsky are pleased to announce the great success of our second annual Young Artists Festival and Competition. We had a huge turnout of tremendously talented pianists and string players from around the world who entered and participated. We look forward to presenting our two Grand Prize Winners in recital in our studio in 2021-2022.

Sheridan Music Studio is proud of our own five piano students who entered this year: College Division: Laura Sieh, 2nd Prize and the Wanda Landowska Award; Jeremy Burroughs, Finalist; Annika Huprikar, Honorable Mention; Alison Gan, Finalist.

Congratulations to all the fine young musicians who participated! We look forward to continuing our Music with a View Competition Series in 2021-2022- so please stay tuned for more information. Meanwhile, you can view all the results and prizes at the above link, and the contestants' photos and bios at this link: https://sheridanmusicstudio.com/bach-with-a-view-contestants

You may watch any of the three-day "Bach with a View Festival and Competition" including Lecture-Recitals, Gala Concerts, and the complete Finals Rounds with Winners Announcements now archived on IN.LIVE at the following links:
https://in.live/event/details/A37w8rjWga Friday March 5th
https://in.live/event/details/eZn2iM2YXU Saturday March 6th
https://in.live/event/details/Tacf2SB3gt Sunday March 7th

--Sheridan Music Studio

Experiential Orchestra New Video
The folks at Experiential Orchestra are thrilled to share our new video A New Experience of Sound with you, edited by Tomomi Sato.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPiYYrUryfk

--James Blachly, Music Director, Experiential Orchestra

Philadelphia: Pianist Richard Goode Performs His 30th PCMS Recital
After 29 PCMS recitals and counting, we are beginning to run out of superlatives to describe the artistry of Richard Goode. He has soloed with the Society more than any other pianist, and even after appearing with us in nearly every season of our existence, we find ourselves always eagerly anticipating his next visit.

Read on for more information on Richard's Wednesday evening performance, which will be livestreamed to our entire audience on a pay-what-you-wish basis. We look forward to sharing the music with you.

Watch: https://www.pcmsconcerts.org/concerts/richard-goode-piano-2021/

--Miles Cohen, Artistic Director, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

Los Angeles Master Chorale Announces New Board Member Tom Strickler
The Los Angeles Master Chorale announced today the appointment of Tom Strickler to its board of directors.

The board, chaired by Philip A. Swan, provides leadership in carrying out the Master Chorale’s mission to share the spectrum of choral music with the widest possible audience. “We are thrilled to welcome Tom Strickler to the Master Chorale’s board or directors,” said Swan. “Tom is a pioneer in the worlds of entertainment and education, and his guidance will be invaluable, especially during this critical time of planning our post-pandemic future.”

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

90th Anniversary Gala May 10 Honors Zubin Mehta
Celebrating 90 years of innovation, access, and excellence in music education, the Music Institute of Chicago hosts its 90th Anniversary Virtual Gala on Monday, May 10 at 6 p.m. CDT. Highlights of this festive evening include presentation of the Dushkin Award to Maestro Zubin Mehta, the 12th annual Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago to Linda Theis Gantz and Wilbur “Bill” Gantz, and the Colburn Award for Teaching Excellence to Nina Wallenberg and Daniel Wallenberg.

The evening features a prerecorded performance by Music Institute alumna and past Dushkin awardee violinist Rachel Barton Pine, along with prerecorded messages from additional past Dushkin awardees, including jazz icon Wynton Marsalis and violinists Joshua Bell, Midori, Pinchas Zukerman, and others. Other highlights include performances by alumni from the Music Institute’s renowned Academy program for gifted pre-college musicians, and current students from the Academy and the Music Institute’s Community Music School.

Admission to this virtual celebration is complimentary. For event information or to make a gift, please visit https://www.musicinst.org/anniversary-gala.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Miller Theatre’s Mission: Commission Podcast Follows 3 Composers
Miller Theatre at Columbia University's mission to create new works takes center stage as Miller ventures into the world of podcasts for the first time. Mission: Commission, launching on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, is a six-episode, free weekly podcast that demystifies the process of how classical music gets made, lifting the curtain to reveal the inner lives of three composers as they create vibrant new works of music: Marcos Balter in NYC, Courtney Bryan in New Orleans, and Augusta Read Thomas in Chicago.

The hook: In fall 2020, Miller Theatre invited Balter, Bryan, and Thomas—three fascinatingly different composers stylistically—to each write a new piece of music in six weeks, checking in with podcast host Melissa Smey (Miller’s Executive Director) weekly to discuss their unique processes along the way. Like an audio diary, listeners will get a rare inside look as an artist creates—from the blank page, to inspiration, risk-taking and hard work, to the finished product. The result is a dialogue about music creation that ventures into joy, frustration, and humor—and just being a human during a global pandemic. Recordings of the final pieces will be shared at the conclusion of the podcast, on Tuesday, May 18.

Listen to the Mission: Commission podcast trailer here: https://www.missioncommissionpodcast.com/trailer
Preview excerpts from the first episode here: https://www.missioncommissionpodcast.com/preview

Available for free at https://www.missioncommissionpodcast.com/, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Pianist Karl Larson Performs Scott Wollschleger’s Dark Days
On Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 8:00pm ET, pianist Karl Larson makes his solo debut at Brooklyn’s Roulette in a free, live streamed concert celebrating the release of Dark Days, a new album of solo piano music by composer Scott Wollschleger out April 23 on New Focus Recordings.

The program will echo the album’s experiential journey, a compilation of 10 of Wollschleger’s deeply personal works composed between 2007-2020, tracing the evolution of Wollschleger’s synesthetic compositional style. Larson, Wollschleger’s close friend and frequent collaborator, will give listeners a glimpse into the intimate depths of the composer’s working process and the utilization of his rare synesthesia through the tactile use of the piano. Described by Pitchfork as “marvelous” and “powerful,” Karl Larson is a specialist in the music of our time and is uniquely suited to perform these works thanks to a deep understanding of Wollschleger’s musical language.

Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 8:00pm ET
Live Streamed Online from Roulette Intermedium
Tickets: Free
Link: https://roulette.org/event/dark-days-karl-larson-plays-scott-wollschleger/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

American Lyric Theater Presents From Erased to Self-Empowered
American Lyric Theater (ALT) presents From Erased to Self-Empowered: Celebrating Bipoc Opera Composers and Librettists, a three-part online seminar and roundtable, culminating in a free virtual concert performance April 10th at 7:30 pm et. The program is open to composers, librettists, educators and the general public. Advance registration is required.

“BIPOC composers and librettists have written for the lyric stage for centuries, but so many of their contributions have been consciously erased from the opera house — historically white, Euro-centric, racist institutions where select, self-anointed groups of people have gone out of their way to control the repertoire, who writes opera, who is represented on stage, and how,” said ALT’s Founder, Lawrence Edelson, explaining the impetus behind the program. “The tide is beginning to turn, but we still have a long way to go before opera reflects the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary American society.”

For details, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0D6vgFNEVrJRK0DeSQL6Nw or https://www.facebook.com/GreatOperasDontJustHappen

--Rebecca Davis PR

May & June Programming from Bucklesweet Clients
Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC
Spring Affair 2021: A Ruby Jubilee
Date: Saturday, May 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Tickets: Free for all with registration: https://www.gmcw.org/spring-affair/

Third Coast Percussion Archetypes with Sergio and Clarice Assad
Ppresented by Hancher Auditorium
Date: Friday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. CT / 8:30 p.m. ET
More information: https://hancher.uiowa.edu/

Washington Performing Arts
Home Delivery Plus: Alisa Weilerstein, cellist
Date: Premieres Friday, May 7 at 8 p.m. ET, streaming through Thursday, May 13
Tickets: $20: https://www.washingtonperformingarts.org/seasontickets/home-delivery-plus/alisa-weilerstein-cello/

Concours Musical International de Montreal Finals
Date: Monday, May 10–Friday, May 14
More information: https://www.concoursmontreal.ca/en/piano-2021/

iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir
Premiere of Daniel Wohl’s Commission
Date: Saturday, May 15
More information: https://isingsv.com/

Washington Performing Arts
Home Delivery Plus: Evgeny Kissin, Joshua Bell, and Steven Isserlis
Date: Premieres Friday, May 21 at 8 p.m. ET, streaming through Thursday, May 27
Tickets: $30: https://www.washingtonperformingarts.org/seasontickets/home-delivery-plus/evgeny-kissin-joshua-bell-steven-isserlis/

The Washington Chorus: Resilience
Date: Friday, June 11 at 8 p.m. ET, streaming through Wednesday, June 30
Tickets: $15: https://thewashingtonchorus.secure.force.com/ticket/ - /instances/a0F0y00001C9RpcEAF

American Pianists Association
2021 Classical Awards Finals
Date: Friday, June 25–Sunday, June 27
More information: https://www.americanpianists.org/about

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Famed Pianist Lang Lang to Be Honored at YPC's Annual Gala
The Young People’s Chorus of New York City (YPC) has announced it will honor famed pianist Lang Lang as YPC’s Artistic Honoree during its 2021 Virtual Gala in recognition of his achievements and contribution to the arts as a pianist, educator and philanthropist. The annual event, which will be live streamed on Monday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET, is the chorus’s largest fundraiser and helps to support its year-round programs for more than 2,000 children in New York City and beyond. This will be the first year the gala will be virtual, providing access to a world-wide audience. Tickets are on sale now.

The 2021 gala will feature a vast range of new choral arrangements, from songs by Beyoncé to the Beatles, composers David Lang to Yuka Honda, and from YPC Artist in Residence Gordon Getty. Sweeping across five locations around New York City – from Brooklyn to Harlem to Washington Heights - it will showcase Covid compliant filming with lively vignettes including guest appearances by Grammy, Emmy and Academy Award-winning artists soon to be announced.

Complete information here: https://ypc.org/event/gala-2021/

--Laura Gigounas, Glodow Nead Communications

Meet the Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

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

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

Mission Statement

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

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

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

Contact Information

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

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