Classical Music News of the Week, May 1, 2021

Virtual Concert Invitation from the Frederick Historical Piano Collection

Dear Friends of Historical Piano Concerts and The Frederick Piano Collection: We will be hosting a Groupmuse online, and we’d love for you to be there!

In case you are unfamiliar with the term, this is an event organized by the platform Groupmuse, that in these socially distant times enables friends, family, and communities worldwide to come together online--not only for the much-needed connection, but to listen to and support live chamber music.

This will be our first Groupmuse concert. Our pianist for the event, Clemens Teufel,  having played Groupmuses before, has found the platform so satisfactory, he recommended it to us. Clemens, who has played on our regular concert series, will perform works of Liszt on our 1859 Erard; two Chopin nocturnes on the 1840 Erard after Intermission; then back to the 1859 Erard for Chopin’s Bb-minor Scherzo.

Here's how it works: Wednesday evening, May 5th, at 7:30, via Groupmuse, we will host Clemens Teufel’s concert. At 7:15 we and our guests will gather in a Zoom meeting for introductory hellos. It will be fun to see people from around the world tuning in! The concert will begin about 15 - 20 minutes later on Groupmuse's website, streamed through Youtube live, just for us! The program will last about 50 minutes with a brief intermission after the Liszt selections.  After the concert, there will be a private Q&A with Clemens, as well as additional time to chat and hang out online.

In order to attend, you must RSVP, by clicking here: https://www.groupmuse.com/events/11561-chopin-and-liszt-on-historical-erard-pianos-clemens-teufel-plays-at-the-frederick-historical-piano-collection

A $3.00 RSVP charge pays Groupmuse for coordinating this program.

--Pat and Mike Frederick, The Frederick Collection of Historical Grand Pianos

5BMF and The Noguchi Museum Present the Argus Quartet
Five Boroughs Music Festival and The Noguchi Museum co-present the daring and innovative Argus Quartet in a digital world premiere concert, noise/SILENCE. Part of Five Boroughs Music Festival’s 2020-2021 digital mainstage season, noise/SILENCE is co-produced by the Argus Quartet and was filmed on-site at the Queens-based Noguchi Museum in early April 2021.

The program explores 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.

Watch for free on the 5BMF YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh3WIOTWXtE
Learn more at https://5bmf.org/events/noise-silence

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

New Multimedia Work from Daniel Wohl for iSing Silicon Valley
iSing Silicon Valley, the award-winning girlchoir based in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, is thrilled to announce the world premiere of Drift, with music by Daniel Wohl, “a sorcerer of electroacoustic music” (NPR). and video by Máni M. Sigfússon, known for his genre-bending work with Ólafur Arnalds, the Rolling Stones, and Sigur Rós.

Commissioned by iSing, Drift is a five-minute multimedia work for treble choir, electronics, acoustic instruments, and video. It is iSing’s first multimedia and entirely digital commission. Drift will debut on May 15th at 8am PT/11am ET on iSing’s YouTube channel. The piece will also be a part of their concert, Choosing Harmony on Saturday, May 22, at 4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET on YouTube (free, and streaming afterward).

View here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ising+silicon+valley

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

What's Streaming: Classical (Week of May 3-9)
Thursday, May 6 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Bass-baritone Davóne Tines performs an aria from X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X and VIGIL with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
https://www.philorch.org/performances/our-season/events-and-tickets/digital-stage-2021/fire-hope-and-truth/

Friday, May 7 at 6:00 p.m. ET:
Lara Downes presents an online workshop, "Welcome to the Rising Sun: Shining a light on music by Black composers," for the Manhattan School of Music.
https://msmnyc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0qdemhqDoiGdV5IJ-3kiWj1X-Y1fDjQsFK

Friday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. PT:
Lara Downes presents "Holes in the Sky" webinar as part of her University of Oregon virtual residency.
https://music.uoregon.edu/breaking-news/lara-downes-virtual-residency

--Shuman Associates

The Crossing and Annenberg Center Present “The Month of Moderns Outdoors”
Grammy Award-winning choir The Crossing, led by Donald Nally, announces the return of its annual summer festival of new music, “The Month of Moderns 2021,” co-presented with the Annenberg Center from June 3-19, 2021. Each of the three outdoor programs, spread throughout Philadelphia and neighboring New Hope, will be performed with singers and audience spatially distanced using The Crossing’s Echoes Amplification Kits designed by in-house sound designer Paul Vazquez, which allow an intimate aural experience while observing pandemic-time protocols.

The Crossing will reprise their sold-out October 2020 run of The Forest at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope from June 3-6, 2021; perform the world premiere of Matana Roberts’ “we got time.”, a work honoring the life of Breonna Taylor, presented in collaboration with Ars Nova Workshop at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia from June 11-13, 2021; and present the world premieres of At which point by Wang Lu and an expanded version of Ayanna Woods’s Shift, plus the U.S. premiere of David Lang’s the sense of senses, at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown on June 18 and 19, 2021. Tickets will go on sale May 11, 2021.

More information: https://www.crossingchoir.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Roberto Alagna, Aleksandra Kurzak, Lise Davidsen on PBS
Great Performances at the Met: Lise Davidsen in Concert premieres beginning Friday, May 7 on PBS (check local listings). The New York metro area broadcast premieres Monday, May 17 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN.
        
The soprano performs arias and songs that brought her success around the world including selections from Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos,” Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” and Scandinavian songs by Sibelius and Grieg, from Oslo’s Oscarshall Palace in Norway. The concert was recorded last August. James Bailleu accompanies her on piano and Christine Goerke hosts.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Bang on a Can presents Steve Reich and Amy Sillman
Bang on a Can, BOMB Magazine, and the Jewish Museum announce their latest online event: a live conversation featuring two of the most renowned American artists of their generation -- composer Steve Reich and painter Amy Sillman -- plus performances of two Reich classics: Piano/Video Phase and Electric Counterpoint by the Bang on a Can All-Stars’ David Cossin (percussion) and Mark Stewart (electric guitar).

Among the most iconic and well known composers of his generation, Steve Reich’s music has had a broad influence that continues to inspire music makers across genres, from techno and electronica to rock and roll. In the words of The Guardian, “There’s just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich in one of them.”

Reich will be joined in conversation with Brooklyn-based painter Amy Sillman, who had two triumphal exhibitions in New York last year -- a show of her own work at Barbara Gladstone Gallery and one she curated for the reopening of The Museum of Modern Art. Coincidentally, she is also Steve Reich’s cousin.

Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 7:30pm EDT
Streaming at https://live.bangonacan.org/

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

PARMA Live Stage
On Thursday, May 6th at 7:00 pm EDT, composer and pianist David Haney and multi instrumentalist Dave Storrs will present a unique classical experience featuring improvisations on famous works by Ravel, Stravinsky, among others.

Learn more about the event here:
https://www.parmarecordings.com/event/david-haney-live-stream-05-06-21/

On Friday, May 7th at 7:30 pm EDT, Ken Field (alto saxophone/electronics) and Dave Harris (tuba) present a wide-ranging electro-acoustic performance of composed and improvised music, including works from the repertoire of Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, plus re-envisioned treatments of material by J.S. Bach, Charlie Parker, and others.

Learn more about the event here: https://www.parmarecordings.com/event/ken-field-david-harris-live-stream-05-07-21/

On Wednesday, May 26th at 2:00 pm EDT, In honor of the 100th anniversary of Astor Piazzolla’s birth, the PARMA Music Festival is pleased to present ¡Gracias, Astor! by Tanguango Quinteto, whose performance is dedicated to the tango nuevo movement. The concert features compositions by Piazzolla, the father of tango nuevo, and works composed with his influence, including selections by Serbian artists and Argentinian traditional tango songs in “nuevo” arrangements.

Learn more about the event here: https://www.parmarecordings.com/event/tanguango-quinteto-live-stream-05-26-21/

Finally, on Thursday May 27th at 6:30 pm EDT, Eight Strings and a Whistle will be performing a concert where in addition to new works, they will play two works from their upcoming PARMA release.

Learn more about the event here:
https://www.parmarecordings.com/event/eight-strings-and-a-whistle-live-stream-05-27-21/

--Aidan Curran, PARMA Recordings

Chant Boreal: Bringing Students Together for a Wild Project
The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) Youth Sector proposes a new musical adventure in the form of virtual choirs that will bring students together around an original creation: Chant boréal.

Composed by François-Hugues Leclair to an evocative text by Serge Bouchard, Chant boréal invites students to slip into the shoes of animals from the boreal forest to create a collective work. The children are invited to learn pieces of their choice from the four canons of l'Écureuil roux, Le Lynx, Le Hibou, and l'Ours blanc and to film themselves. Their contributions will then be professionally edited into a large virtual choir and broadcast on the web.

More information available here: http://www.smcq.qc.ca/balado/fr/balado/smcq55/SMCQ_L_histoire

--France Gaignard

American Pianists Association Awards 2021
The American Pianists Association has updated its 2021 classical award plans. The five finalists, Dominic Cheli, Kenny Broberg, Mackenzie Melemed, Michael Davidman and Sahun Sam Hong, have each recorded a private adjudicated recital with WFYI TV in Indianapolis. The recitals begin broadcasting May 23rd for five consecutive Sunday afternoons via multiple platforms including radio, Facebook and YouTube (full schedule below). The five pianists will return to Indianapolis for the finals in front of live audiences June 25–27.

Concerts throughout the weekend include chamber performances with the Dover Quartet and concerto performances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Gerard Schwarz. All finals weekend performances will be hosted by two–time Grammy award–winning vocalist Sylvia McNair and WQXR–FM radio host Terrance McKnight.

The 2021 competition will feature a new commission by Laura Kaminsky called "Alluvion," which will be performed by each of the finalists during their solo recitals. Previous commissions include works from Judith Zaimont, Lowell Liebermann, Augusta Read Thomas, Earl Wild, Lisa Bielawa, Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider and others.

The five finalists were announced in early March 2020 just before the world was turned upside down, and in June of 2020 in response to the dire situation that musicians were (and still are) living in, American Pianists Association awarded all five 2021 classical finalists a cash prize of $50,000.

On June 27th, the winner of the American Pianists Awards will receive the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship, valued at more than $100,000, which includes the previously awarded (in June 2020) $50,000 cash award as well as career assistance for two years, including publicity, performance engagements of concerti and solo recitals worldwide, an Artist–in–Residence post at the University of Indianapolis, and a recording contract with Steinway & Sons record label.

For more information, visit https://www.americanpianists.org/

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Chicago’s Bach Week Festival Announces 2021 Virtual Concert Lineup
Chicago’s 2021 Bach Week Festival will arrive as a virtual two-concert series of free-to-view webcasts May 16 and 21 featuring instrumental and vocal music of the festival’s namesake, German Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach, plus a work by Bach contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann, in prerecorded and livestreamed performances.

Bach works will include a selection of chorales and chorale preludes for organ, an organ toccata, a harpsichord concerto, and a Brandenburg Concerto. Internationally recognized young violist Matthew Lipman will make his Bach Week Festival debut as soloist in Telemann’s landmark Viola Concerto.

“We’re going Bach to basics in our first festival since the onset of the COVID-19 situation,” Richard Webster, Bach Week’s longtime music director, says. “The focus is squarely on J. S. Bach and a satisfying swath of his music.”

For complete details, visit https://bachweek.org/

--Nathan J. Silverman Co. PR

B Live: A Series of 6 Concert Films
A baroque Hungarian palace hosts music from the Carpathian Basin and a Bach violin sonata graces a Montana mountaintop. Dutch treats sweeten a New Amsterdam house in Brooklyn, while a stately viol concert animates the stones of a medieval Basel sanctuary. An English titan of the lute brings forth rarities in Bloomington, while gems of the English Renaissance ring through the foothills of the Berkshires.

A testament to early music’s fortitude in the face of challenging times and technical leaps, B Live unites six unique locations and over 25 outstanding musicians in an online series like no other. Both subscription and individual ticket purchase options are available. All concert premieres will be followed by a live Q&A with the artists and Salon/Sanctuary Artistic Director Jessica Gould

All concerts premiere at 3pm EST and will run for a week. Each concert lasts one half hour. Individual tickets are $10, a six concert subscription is $50.

For details, visit https://www.salonsanctuary.org/blive

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Soul of Spanish Guitar (CD review)

Pablo Sáinz-Villegas. Sony Classical 19439786732.

By Bill Heck

When confronted with an album like this, it can be tempting to say something like “Yeah, yeah, another guitar recital with some Spanish stuff, we’ve heard it all before….” In this case, while it’s true that we have here another guitar recital, that the works played are indeed all by Spanish composers (counting an “anonymous” traditional piece), and that you likely have heard many of the works before, at least if you listen to many classical guitar albums, this one is worth a listen and should be a plausible addition to your collection. 

First, the performer: Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, hardly a rookie, having some half dozen or so albums to his credit already. Judging from what I hear on this collection, he has not only the requisite technical ability but also, and just as importantly, the ability to translate technique into real music. In sampling performances by various other artists for comparisons, I was struck by how many – not all, of course, but enough – seemed just to run through the notes, concentrating on getting them out in order, but forgetting to bring the whole together, to add a sense of coherence, or even to make it sound like they cared. (I know that this last bit sounds over the top, but I must say that a fair number of number of performances seemed low on the emotion scale.) Secondly, the recording itself is excellent, with the sound of a small-bodied guitar, one built in the Spanish style, captured in a natural perspective. One would think that recording the guitar would be relatively easy, but apparently not: in sampling guitar recordings, one often hears tone that is off or excessive reverberation (even artificial reverb) or an eight-foot-wide instrument or excessive finger noise or sound that seems to be coming from another room or…you get the idea.

Despite these grumbles, there are plenty of other nice recitals with similar collections of music out there. But as I listened to alternatives, it became clear that the Villegas album combines music, musicianship, and sound engineering to deliver an enjoyable product.

To illustrate, let’s compare performances of two familiar works. In Albeniz’ Asturias (Leyenda), Villegas moves at a pace that we might call brisk but not rushed. One point of note is how well the strummed chords that punctuate the central section fit in without interrupting the musical flow. As a very low-level guitarist, I can appreciate that this is quite a trick to pull off. Villegas also uses subtle gradations of volume to bring life – may I say “sparkle”? – to the work, and his descent to pianissimo at the end of the bridging section is very well done indeed.

My first comparison was obligatory: to Segovia, the godfather of them all. His tempo is similar to Villegas, or rather we should say that Villegas’ tempo is similar to Segovia’s; indeed, the entire approach is similar. (There certainly is no shame in being compared to Segovia!) Villegas may be slightly ahead on technique; there is no doubt that the modern recording is significantly ahead of the older one. I made notes on other performances by the likes of Williams, Isbin, Li, and Grondona, but I’ll spare you all the details. Suffice it to say that Villegas’ account holds up nicely: indeed, I thought that Villegas was in some ways the most satisfactory of the bunch.

My second comparison work was Tarrega’s Recuerdes de la Alhambra (“Memories of the Alhambra” for those lacking a Spanish dictionary). Villegas’ account is quite slow; indeed, I think he would be better served by speeding up just a bit, as the tempo tends to emphasize the inevitable slight unevenness of the trilled notes as well as the shifting pitch as the melody notes are “bent”. Still, he exhibits wonderful phrasing and control, creating a mood of wistful longing, which surely fits the music. Moreover, he produces an actual dynamic range, not the easiest with this piece. And Villegas is hardly the slowest of quite a group: Pepe Romero and Sharon Isbin, for example, are even slower (Romero by a lot). Again, Villegas holds up well relative to these and my other comparisons (Yepes, Bream, Schulstad, Gueddes, and – of course – Segovia); in particular, a couple who shall remain unnamed just seem to be running through the notes, something that Villegas never does.

I mentioned those two works because they are particularly familiar: if you don’t remember them by title, you’ll know them when you hear them. But no need to revisit every track on the album: let’s just posit that this is a well-played and enjoyable collection.

As described above, the sound is first-rate, very clean and natural if perhaps seeming just a touch closeup on occasion. The liner notes include an essay about Spain, Spanish music, and the Spanish guitar that, if not particularly informative in regard to the music, nicely conveys Villegas’s love for his native country and its music.

BH

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

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 (CD review)

Teodor Currentzis, MusicAeterna. Sony 19439743772.

By John J. Puccio

The Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis is the latest musician to take the classical music world by storm (even though he was nearly fifty at the time of this review), producing sometimes controversial but decidedly absorbing interpretations that at the very least meet his own demanding if unconventional standards. He reminds me a little of Gustavo Dudamel over a decade ago in his creativity, enthusiasm, and willingness to throw caution to the wind. It’s clear Currentzis knows exactly what he wants and isn’t about to let anyone stop him from achieving it.

Serving Currentzis’s occasionally unorthodox approach to the classics is his handpicked, relatively small, period-performance orchestra, MusicAeterna, which he founded in 2004. According to the Web site Allmusic.com, Currentzis chose his players from around Russia and persuaded them to move to Siberia, where they experienced intense rehearsal and recording schedules. According to James Rhodes in The London Guardian, "They live, eat and breathe there, and the majority of their waking moments are spent creating music." During this time, the orchestra appeared on several of Currentzis’s recordings on the Alpha label. The following year, Currentzis moved to the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, and MusicAeterna was reconstituted in that city as Currentzis began to forge distinctive, highly dramatic interpretations of music from the Baroque to the early 20th century. Sony Classical signed MusicAeterna to its label and in 2013 released their first album with Currentzis, a collection of arias by Rameau. The conductor and orchestra’s fame spread internationally with recordings of Mozart operas and the Tchaikovsky Sixth Symphony.

Currentzis and MusicAeterna have performed all over the world, as well as in their home city of Perm. Their repertory ranges from Baroque choral music to Russian music and contemporary music, and they have toured with a concert version of Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas. In 2016, MusicAeterna became the first Russian orchestra to open the Salzburg Festival.

On the present recording, they tackle Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, written in 1811-12. At its première, which Beethoven conducted, the composer remarked that it was one of his best works. The second movement Allegretto proved so popular he had to encore it, and it has often been performed in concert separate from the rest of the symphony.

Beethoven’s Seventh has remained among the composer’s most popular symphonies to this day, and it’s easy to see why. One of its fans, Richard Wagner noted the work’s lively rhythms and called it the "apotheosis of the dance." In other words, a model of perfection for dance music.

So, what does the Currentzis recording bring to the table that previous recordings have not? That, of course, would be a purely subjective assessment. You would think the first thing from a historical perspective might be a slavish adherence to Beethoven’s rather quick metronome marks, but, no. A quick comparison to two period-instrument performances, one from Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players and the other from Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque, show that Currentzis’s timings are just about between the two: Norrington the fastest, McGegan a tad slower. To my ear, the difference in this new Currentzis account is that it strives more for dynamism than most, for a vigorous forceful thrust throughout the dance rhythms. Yet it does so with the utmost grace and perfection in mind, the orchestra reacting to every note as a polished whole, as though they were all one instrument. In this regard, it reminds me a little of the old Fritz Reiner performance with the Chicago Symphony. It’s clear that both conductors knew exactly what they wanted, even if it took away some of music’s ultimate joy.

Anyway, the symphony opens with a Poco Sostenuto, sustained about as Beethoven might have wanted, which leads inevitably to a full-fleged Vivace (lively and fast). Here, Currentzis is not so very different from many other conductors. This is certainly not an “unorthodox” reading. In fact, while Currentzis is unmistakably precise, he ultimately sounds pretty much like everyone else. Still, there are some delightful nuances, mostly of dynamism and rubato, that make some of it a delight to hear.

The second movement is, as I mentioned, an Allegretto (a moderately fast, intermediate tempo between an Andante and an Allegro). It’s here that we find Currentzis at his most idiosyncratic. The deviations in dynamic levels are intense, and the sense of forward momentum seldom decreases. Yet the movement never sounds rushed or hurried. It unfolds splendidly.

Beethoven marks the third movement scherzo Presto-Presto meno assai (fast, then less). The central trio is an Austrian “pilgrims hymn” repeated twice. Currentzis takes the composer at his word, starting very fast and exciting and transitioning seamlessly to a more moderate tempo. Currentzis plays the whole thing with a smoothness of flow that rivets one’s attention.

The symphony concludes with an impassioned flourish, an Allegro con brio (a fast, spirited, animated tempo). Musical analysts over the years have described it as a fiery bacchanal, the dance rhythms more and more a revel, an unrestrained merrymaking. Currentzis keeps the rhythms at the forefront, but I didn’t find the degree of exhilaration I expected. The conductor seems a bit too fastidious with producing exacting but not particularly stirring or stimulating notes.

My own personal reaction to Currentzis’s interpretation is that it doesn’t always conform to my own preferences. I always think of Beethoven’s Sixth and Seventh Symphonies as his most genial and happy symphonies, the Seventh especially alive with its bouncy, infectious dance music. It’s perhaps why I enjoy Sir Colin Davis’s modern-instruments recordings (EMI and Philips) and Nicholas McGegan’s period-instruments recording so much. Yet unlike these other conductors, Currentzis appears more concerned with the exactitude and detail of the notes rather than with the pleasure they can produce. Still, even for all his fastidiousness, Currentzis’s performance is really not significantly different from many others, so I can’t complain much. The sound is good, and the dynamics are extraordinary; a lot of folks will enjoy it.

The only real drawback to the disc is that it contains only the Seventh Symphony, no couplings. At almost an even forty minutes, the symphony hardly takes up half the disc, and a lot of classical-music listeners might be conditioned to expect somewhat more.

Producer Giovanni Prosdocimi and engineer Damien Quintard recorded the symphony at the Great Hall, Vienna Concert House, Vienna, Austria in July and August 2018. The sound they obtained is very dynamic, with a wide range and good impact. It’s also very clean and smooth, a trifle close, and fairly one-dimensional. There’s not a lot of hall ambience, either, which adds to the sound’s clarity but diminishes its realism. It’s the kind of sound that seems to embrace the conductor’s clear-sighted vision of the music without quite taking us into its heart.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, April 24, 2021

Baryshnikov Arts Center Premieres Final Installment of Digital Spring 2021 Season

Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) presents the final installment of world premieres commissioned for the Digital Spring 2021 season. Through this initiative, BAC has continued supporting the development of new work by providing resources for artists to realize their creative visions specifically for online presentation. When released on Mondays at 5PM ET, the digital works will be free and available to watch on-demand at bacnyc.org for two weeks until Monday at 5PM ET. The artists will discuss their projects and creative processes in a series of live-streamed conversations held in conjunction with the premieres.

All three presentations rounding out the Digital Spring 2021 season were filmed at BAC’s Jerome Robbins Theater in December 2020 and early 2021 with strict adherence to COVID health and safety protocols. The first, premiering May 3-17, is choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland’s Kolonial, created in collaboration with installation artist Conrad Quesen and inspired by the colonial exposition parks of Europe, North America, and the Caribbean during the 1810s–1940s.

Next is a video docudrama from multimedia artists and musicians Tei Blow and Sean McElroy of Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble, premiering May 17-31. The Sprezzaturameron follows two men who must confront the precarious nature of art-making in an apocalyptic near-future.

The final premiere June 7-21 is STELLAR by choreographer Kyle Marshall. This dance of speculative fiction began as virtual improvisation sessions with Marshall and two fellow movement artists, Bree Breeden and Ariana Speight.

Free and available on demand at https://bacnyc.org/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Bach Soloists’ New Artist Profile: Elizabeth Blumenstock
In the most-recent episode of our Free Artist Profile Series, American Bach Soloist’s violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock talks about her first inspirations that led to a lifelong passion about music. She shares stories about her early mentors including the encouragement and guidance from her mother and her first exposure to early music performed on period instruments.

ABS Music Director says, "This is such a beautiful interview. Elizabeth is a treasure, and her eloquence and generosity in sharing insights into her truly amazing spirit is inspiring. You'll be touched by this wonderful film."

Click and enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYak63G5ERk

--American Bach Soloists

PBS - Lise Davidsen in Concert
Coming up, “Great Performances at the Met: Lise Davidsen in Concert” premieres beginning Friday, May 7 on PBS (check local listings). The New York metro area broadcast premieres Monday, May 17 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

The soprano performs arias and songs that brought her success around the world including selections from Wagner’s “Tannhäuser,” Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos,” Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” and Scandinavian songs by Sibelius and Grieg, from Oslo’s Oscarshall Palace in Norway. The concert was recorded last August. James Bailleu accompanies her on piano and Christine Goerke hosts.

This season of Great Performances at the Met presents opera stars in concert performing favorite arias and songs in striking locations around the world.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

International Contemporary Ensemble Hosts Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum
The International Contemporary Ensemble, in partnership with Opera Omaha and FringeArts, presents the Afro-Diasporic Opera Forum online from May 26-28, 2021. The Forum is a free, three-day series of online events produced by colleagues and collaborators of the International Contemporary Ensemble in order to celebrate, share, and reflect on four operas that have had a major impact on the organization and collaborators. They include: George Lewis’ Afterword (2015), Tyshawn Sorey’s Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine Baker (2016), Pauline Oliveros and IONE’s The Nubian Word for Flowers: A Phantom Opera (2017), and a new work-in-development, Awakening (to be premiered in 2022), by Courtney Bryan with Charlotte Brathwaite, Sharan Strange, Cauleen Smith, and Helga Davis.

In order to cultivate awareness among presenters, producers, ensembles, and audiences, the Ensemble will bring these works into conversation with one another and with leading scholars in the field. Renowned musicologist Dr. Naomi André is the lead scholar and conversation partner for this three-day series featuring presenters and panelists such as Julia Bullock, IONE, George Lewis, Tyshawn Sorey, and many others.

More details about the schedule of events will be announced at the beginning of May at
https://www.iceorg.org/aof

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

New York City Ballet at Saratoga Performing Arts Center
In a joint decision by Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and New York City Ballet (NYCB), SPAC announces that due to the ongoing health and safety concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines mandated by the State of New York, NYCB will not return to its summer home in Saratoga Springs with the full company this July. Instead a small group of NYCB dancers and musicians will present NYCB On and Off Stage, an intimate, up-close look at selected excerpts from the Company’s extraordinary repertory of ballets. This series of educational programs has never before been presented for Saratoga audiences. NYCB On and Off Stage is slated for six shows from July 14-17, 2021, and will feature two special presentations. All shows will be hosted by a NYCB Principal Dancer who will introduce the excerpts and provide insights on each ballet. 

SPAC and New York City Ballet have also confirmed that the traditional residency engagement with the full company will be presented in 2022 from July 12-16.

For more information, visit https://spac.org/calendar/calendar-of-events/

--Rebecca Davis PR

Season 3 of the Angel's Share
Death of Classical and The Green-Wood Cemetery announce season three of their acclaimed concert series The Angel’s Share. The series will offer seven in-person events in the Cemetery and Catacombs, and seven filmed programs broadcast on The WNET Group's ALL ARTS TV channel, and streaming on https://allarts.org/ and the ALL ARTS app.

The season opens June 3-5 with “Hymn to the City,” a sprawling, immersive event in partnership with the New York Philharmonic. Next up on June 25, violinist Gil Shaham is joined by five players from the Brooklyn-born orchestra The Knights. July 8 & 9, pianist Min Kwon will play two programs from her “America/Beautiful” project. August 4, 6, & 7, the PUBLIQuartet perform music from their album Freedom and Faith. September 15-17, pianist Simone Dinnerstein will give a one-of-a-kind performance of “An American Mosaic,” a new piece written for her by Richard Danielpour. Ulysses Quartet will perform “Death and Shadows” in the Catacombs on October 6-8, a program that pairs Schubert’s towering Death and the Maiden string quartet with Osvaldo Golijov’s otherworldly Tenebrae, The season closes October 21-23 with a large-scale, outdoor, candlelit performance of Fauré’s Requiem by Cantori New York.

To purchase tickets, visit https://www.deathofclassical.com/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

New Century Announces Virtual Spring 2021 Season
New Century Chamber Orchestra announced programming for its Virtual Spring 2021 season. Performing together as an orchestra together with Daniel Hope for the first time in over a year, New Century will release the world premiere of Tan Dun’s Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra starting on Thursday, May 20 at 12:00 p.m., in a streaming concert film presented by Stanford Live. Guest pianist Alexey Botvinov returns for his second appearance with the orchestra in a program that also features Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 and Aaron Jay Kernis’s Elegy (for those we lost).

For details about the complete season, visit https://www.ncco.org/

--Brenden Guy Media

What's Streaming: Classical (April 26-May 2)
Thursday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
Pipa virtuoso Wu Man and shakuhachi master Kojiro Umezaki perform music from their album Flow in Silkroad Ensemble concert.
https://fac.umass.edu/UMCA/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=8AC6D871-1668-437D-A097-6AF77E87F4F3

Thursday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET:
Pianist Shai Wosner performs Dvorák's Legends, Nos. 1-3 and Piano Quintet No. 2 with members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
https://www.dso.org/events-and-tickets/events/2021-digital/wave2/dvorak-piano-quintet-no-2

Thursday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. ET:
Bass-baritone Davóne Tines hosts a virtual gala event for the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale.
https://event.auctria.com/dd848873-3541-4d9a-8376-c2ebfb781152/

Friday, April 30 at 5:00 p.m. ET:
Pianist Lara Downes to host Q&A following a preview screening of the film Los Hermanos/The Brothers.
https://www.carnegiehall.org/Calendar/2021/04/30/Sneak-Preview-Los-HermanosThe-Brothers-0500PM

Friday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. ET:
World premiere of The Gilmore-commissioned piano concerto by Michael Brown to be performed by the composer with the Kalamazoo Symphony.
https://boxoffice.kalamazoosymphony.com/19571

Friday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Minnesota Orchestra and guest conductor Fabien Gabel perform works by Eleanor Alberga, Stravinsky, and Mozart.
https://minnesotaorchestra.org/

Saturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. CT:
Tulsa Opera presents Greenwood Overcomes, a concert commemorating the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
https://tulsaopera.com/

Saturday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Wu Man performs Tan Dun's Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.
https://annapolissymphony.org/events/debussy-la-mer/

Saturday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET:
Pianist Shai Wosner to perform Beethoven's Triple Concerto with The Orchestra Now and Leon Botstein.
https://tickets.fishercenter.bard.edu/2432/2438

Sunday, May 2 at 4:00 p.m. ET:
The Gilmore Virtual Rising Stars Series presents the Glenn Zaleski Trio.
https://www.thegilmore.org/event/glenn-zaleski-trio/

--Shuman Associates

"Unmasking the Arts" with Helga Davis: Conversation Series
Princeton University Concerts is excited to announce a new, online, free conversation series hosted by multidisciplinary artist and WNYC host Helga Davis: "Unmasking the Arts: Looking to the Future." Premiering next Tuesday, April 27 at 7PM with Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, this weekly series aims to reflect on how a time of pandemic has changed, or shed light on, the way that we think about the arts.

Conversations touch on a wide range of subjects, including the intersection of the arts and questions of social justice and climate change, how politics play into evolving cultural values, shaping the future of the performing arts, and more. In addition to Anthony McGill, participants include musicians Rhiannon Giddens, Wu Han, and Patricia Kopatchinskaja; critics/writers Jason Farago, Anne Midgette, and Maya Chung, and director Yuval Sharon.

For full information, visit https://princetonuniversityconcerts.princeton.edu/

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Peoples’ Symphony Concerts
As we come down to the last few concerts of our virtual 120th Anniversary season, we are grateful to all of you who have shared this season with us and the wonderfully generous artists who have helped us celebrate this milestone. Many thanks to all who have sent badly-needed contributions and special hugs to those who have substantially increased their contributions in this time of need.  Even though only half of last year's subscribers renewed their subscriptions,  we wanted to show our appreciation and support to our essential workers and students and, in keeping with our mission, we have offered them the chance to hear our concerts without charge. 

While we all can't wait for the time that we can be together again in-person, many of you have expressed your appreciation for the chance to see the artists up close, to get to know them a bit as people and to also have their perspectives on the music that they played for us. As with our life's journey, this difficult year has been a time for learning, about so many things - about ourselves, about nature, about who and what really is important to us and about how music is vital to whom we are and to our spiritual and emotional well being.

On Sunday, April 25 at 2 PM (and for the subsequent six days), we have the opportunity to be uplifted by pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, an artist whose recent Carnegie Hall recital was described by the New York Times as, not only "thrilling" for it's virtuosity but also filled with playing of "warmth and affection."  In his previous PSC performances, Marc-Andre has always brought us new works to treasure as well as fascinating takes on pillars of the piano repertoire.  He will do that again for us on Sunday with works by CPE Bach, Faure and Debussy - our final piano recital of the season and one that you won't want to miss.

Full information here: https://www.pscny.org/

--Frank Salomon, Peoples’ Symphony Concerts

Babylon Becomes the Most Highly Decorated Early Music Film of All Time
Since its December 2020 première, Babylon has garnered over 40 awards and counting from film festivals across the globe in multiple categories, surpassing the most decorated early music film of the past few decades, Tous les matins du monde.

Babylon considers the text of Psalm 137 (“By the Waters of Babylon”) as it has resonated through the music of two ghettoized peoples – Italian Jews of Mantua during the period of the Counter-Reformation, and African Americans before, during, and after the Harlem Renaissance.

Narrated by the titanic voice of actor Ezra Knight, the musical performances of works by Italian-Jewish composer Salamone Rossi (1570 – 1630) and contemporary American Brandon Waddles (1988 –) are by the groundbreaking Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble. Other musical selections are historical recordings by such luminaries as Ma Rainey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, and others, as well as two noted figures in contemporary West African music, Kevin Nathaniel Hylton and Yacouba Sissoko. The film's director and script writer, soprano Jessica Gould performs with Toronto-based lutenist Lucas Harris.

Click here to view the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m6ZBLplTVQ

--Salon/Sanctuary Concerts

Tesla Quartet Continues A Bartók Journey
The Tesla Quartet continues A Bartók Journey, an exploration of the complete string quartets of Béla Bartók, in late May and June 2021. Each week will focus on one string quartet and features live expert discussions with authors, members of eminent string quartets, and composers; live virtual open rehearsals; enriching social media content; and live stream performances. Guest speakers and experts for weeks 4-6 include Nicholas Kitchen, first violinist of the Borromeo String Quartet; Károly Schranz, founding second violinist of the Takács Quartet; and composer Gabriela Lena Frank. Audience members will immerse themselves in the unique characteristics of each work and trace the development of Bartók’s style throughout his career through six weeks of live events hosted on the Tesla Quartet’s YouTube Channel, plus additional content on the quartet’s social media platforms.

Details here: https://www.teslaquartet.com/bartok-journey

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

On Upgrading What’s Analog…

By Bryan Geyer

THE POSIT—Recent technology advances make it practical to upgrade select analog functions in many conventional stereo systems. It’s now possible to…
…dramatically extend the range and enhance the linearity of low bass response.
…materially reduce the mass of the main speaker enclosures.
…clarify the midrange response by isolating it from low bass modulation.
…eliminate archaic high-level passive crossovers that reflect only low order filter slopes.
…enable precise line-level active crossovers with full 4th order (-24dB/octave) attenuation.

BACKGROUND—The pursuit of good sound is evolutionary, but the conviction that high fidelity = big speakers persists. Low frequencies have long wavelengths (28 feet at 40 Hz), so big transducers, in big enclosures, have always been considered essential to reproduce, propel, and propagate big bass. Regardless, monstrous monkey coffins that require prominent front-and-center placement look absurd in domestic living rooms, so reasonable compromise is vital. The usual course is: (a) downsize the speakers, or (b) always entertain outside, or (c) cram the system into a “man-cave”, even though the main LR offers superior acoustics (lower Schroeder frequency), or (d) use headphones only. These are odious options; let’s pursue better.

WHAT’S CHANGED—In the mid ’90s, the push to popularize home theater became dependent on finding a practical way to recreate Godzilla’s footfall while squeezing the mass out of the additional speaker enclosures. This paradox looked hopeless until design guru Bob Carver, then at Sunfire, proposed his astonishing new (1997) self-powered “True Subwoofer” as a viable solution. Market acceptance was slow until Sunfire’s patent grip was softened; then the trade piled on. The new subs could pump out pure (low harmonic content) 30Hz sine wave bursts at pressure levels exceeding anything previously envisioned. Today, relatively compact subwoofers with only a single 10" or 12" diameter driver (e.g., https://www.jlaudio.com/collections/home-audio-e-sub/products/e112-gloss-home-audio-e-sub-powered-subwoofers-96279) can produce lower, louder, and cleaner bottom bass (the two bass octaves below 80Hz) than the very best, biggest, and most expensive full range floor-standers ever built by anybody, anywhere.

Tempering this marvel is the reality that these new self-powered subwoofers excel at just one thing: They can handle those two bass octaves better than any conventional woofer. They’re able to do that because they’re expressly designed for a single, solitary mission. They have extremely deep, ultra stiff cones, long and compliant surrounds with extended x-mass capability, and they’re driven by high power class D amps that apply carefully contoured equalization. Unlike the woofers in a costly full range floor-stander, the “sub” doesn’t have to produce any appreciable output above ~ 140Hz. Conversely, a conventional full range floor-stander is designed with the expectation that it must also cover the full low-to-middle bass range, commonly extending to frequencies approaching ~ 800Hz, and do so with good linearity. That’s a stringent additional assignment.

TODAY—If the intent is to achieve optimal fidelity, we need to reconsider how stereo systems should be configured. Clearly, paired stereo subwoofers* should handle the bottom bass octaves. The main stereo loudspeakers can then be reduced in size to reflect the fact that they will no longer have to reproduce those subterranean sounds. Stand-mount main speakers with 6" to 8" drivers have proved absolutely optimum. Excellent bookshelf-size speakers, like Harman’s Revel Performa M126Be (https://www.audioholics.com/bookshelf-speaker-reviews/revel-performa-m126be), or the Revel M106 (https://hometheaterhifi.com/reviews/speaker/bookshelf/revel-performa3-m106-2-way-bookshelf-monitor-loudspeaker-review-part-one/), come to mind, and they confer welcome decor relief. The related subwoofers are best placed near the front corners of the room, at or near floor level, where they’re generally easy to accommodate. There’s simply no need, anymore, for monstrous four to five foot tall main speakers that are packed with multiple 10", 12", or 15" woofers. At least, not unless you’re personally committed to high-end electrostatic-type speakers, such as those championed by Sanders Sound Systems. (In that event, please see https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2019/09/on-elephants-in-room.html.)

In addition to the cited decor benefit, separating the low bass from the upper bass presents a compelling aural upside. In a conventional setup, the main woofer and its power amplifier handle both signals, so there’s often some mild modulation blur of the upper bass or lower mids when the score calls for a sudden burst of big bass thunder. Routing that sound directly to the low-pass amplifiers, inside the self-powered subs, means the main speakers will now be unaffected. The main power amplifier will never see those low bass signals when they’re appreciably below the crossover notch. Eliminating this potential midrange modulation is one of the most vital rewards that you can claim when you add subwoofers and install an external active crossover. Some listeners feel that the midrange benefit is even more audible than the subwoofers’ bass extension. Your own impression might be a bit program-dependent in sensing these complementary improvements, but it’s clearly evident when the score fits**.

MODERNIZING CROSSOVERS—A further concern is that conventional full-range speakers impose the need for accurate driver-level crossover networks. Such filters are fussy to design and awkward to assemble. They’re wholly dependent on precisely defined R/L/C components that must pass high current signals to low impedance loads. Tight tolerance passive parts of this unique nature are rare—most have no other fundamental application in the scope of the electronics trade, so they’re often difficult to obtain in the exact values that are needed. The inevitable consequence of this difficulty is compromise, and compromise breeds inaccuracy. Even when they’re effectively designed and constructed, these high level crossovers often prove inadequate because they’re typically just first order or second order (-6dB or -12dB/octave) filters with gentle attenuation slopes. Full fourth order (-24dB/octave) passive crossover networks would be more suitable, but they become impractical (too complex, physically prohibitive) for high level (low impedance) applications.

The solution to this crossover dilemma is to move that function from its classic position, between the power amplifier outputs and the various driver inputs (where it must process high level signals), to an earlier point, prior to the power amplifier, where the components will see only lower line level signals.This preferred location assures ready access to lots of stable, tight tolerance R/L/C components of virtually any desired value. When combined with active op-amp circuitry it’s then possible to form highly selective Linkwitz-Riley type filters with full 4th order attenuation slopes. The penalty implicit with inserting the crossover in this line-level position is that a separate power amplifier will now be needed to connect each crossover output (high pass and low pass) directly to its designated driver. That means operating in “bi-amplifier” mode, a form of connection that confers useful advantages; e.g., better load (driver) damping; also the ability to independently dictate the signal amplitude sent to each power amplifier.

A fully external (meaning separately enclosed and powered) active crossover controller is invaluable when adding supplementary self-powered subwoofers. The active crossover’s high-pass outputs can feed the main stereo power amplifier + main speaker system, while its low-pass outputs feed the line inputs on the self-powered subs. (The active crossover thereby supersedes any built-in low-pass filtering that might be a part of the sub’s internal circuit, so the subs should then be operated in their selectable “bypass mode”.) This setup facilitates convenient adjustment of the “mains-to-subs” dominance (the relative output levels of the main speakers compared to the subs) from a single, central location. Without this crossover controller you’d need to crawl to each individual subwoofer and separately adjust their input sensitivity controls—and repeat that crawl every time you want to tweak the mains-to-subs settings or alter the relative channel balance.

An external active crossover controller with variable frequency capability will allow the user to position the crossover notch at a point that’s optimum for the main speakers in use. For most subwoofer setups, this will involve a setting that’s somewhere between ~ 76Hz and 100Hz. (Lower crossover frequencies are not advisable, regardless of the main speakers’ perceived bass capability.)

Loudspeaker systems with internal line-level active crossovers + self-powered class D amps are already in common use as near-field monitors; also as desk-top setups. Designs of this nature offering higher power output have also appeared, e.g., the “Kii Three”. Clearly, this trend will accelerate. We’re going to see lots of analog circuitry integrate with the loudspeaker, and some of the speaker makers are likely to merge with those that currently make power amplifiers. Of course, vacuum tube power amps—already a moribund species—will then fade forever. Ditto for big solid-state quasi-class A power amps and heavyweights that resemble engine blocks. Niche products will always exist, but it’s doubtful that those who make them will prosper and survive, so be wary about where you hitch your wagon.

THE PREAMPLIFIER—Refer https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2019/12/on-controlling-volume.html. Amen.

Footnotes…
*Paired stereo subwoofers (not a solo “shared bass” subwoofer) are essential for acoustic advantage; refer https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2019/03/basics-about-bass_20.html.

**Re. “when the score fits”…is a phrase that brings to mind a subwoofer quirk that you need to know. Many (all?) of the companies making self-powered subs provide the useful ability to select automatic “signal sensing” as a means of activating the sub’s internal power amplifier; i.e., to auto-awaken the sub from its passive sleep state. In sleep mode, the sub stays on, but it dissipates minimal power until it perceives that it’s time to rumble. The sub then goes into active mode, and remains active until there’s no input signal for an appreciable duration, e.g., 20 or 30 minutes. An initial problem is sometimes evident with respect to the maker’s signal-sensing level. Bear in mind that the sub can only hear very low frequency signals because its line-level input path is through a low-pass filter. When there’s persistent heavy bass (as with virtually all pop music today), the sub will awaken quickly. But when the bass content is evident only where Mozart scored it, that sub might not awaken (go active) until you’re a third through an extended concerto. Classical music just doesn’t exhibit the same pounding bass line that persists with pop. Unfortunately, the folks that make subs think classical music is extinct, so they normally set the signal sensing to trigger at a higher (less sensitive) level than what’s optimum for classical format. In many cases the original factory setting is as much as 14dB to 16dB too high (too insensitive). So—when you buy a sub, communicate with your supplier. Have the maker set your subs to auto-activate when The Lark [is barely] Ascending. (I bow to Mr. Vaughan Williams.) If they fail to do this you’ll then need to return your subs to the source, and have a factory guy readjust the trip point (warranty return, maker’s expense). With all of the subs that I’ve seen, this setting is always an internal adjustment. Some subs might now make this tweak externally accessible, but internal-only is more logical because it’s a “set once” consideration, and external access invites misuse. Home-based DIY readjustment is definitely not feasible. The internal class D “plate amp” has complex multi-layer boards + tiny surface-mount (not “through-hole”) components, and that makes this simple task too risky when no schematic is at hand.

Be assured that there’s no downside related to increasing the subs’ activation sensitivity. When your external active crossover controller’s low pass outputs (to the subs’ inputs) cease sending a source signal (for the specified time lapse) to the subs, they’ll automatically revert to their dormant sleep mode, exactly as intended. The only instance in which this might not happen is if your crossover controller suddenly became intolerably noisy—with noise so annoying that you’d be fully absorbed with that fix before noting that the subs didn’t go to sleep.

It’s only natural that those who own big full-range floor-standing speakers would assume that the internal high level crossovers buried inside their costly purchase are both optimum and accurate. Regardless, their faith is likely misplaced. Accuracy is certain to be deficient in the case of passive networks that have accumulated appreciable use because passive high level crossover components drift. High level operation = high level stress. (Refer paper headed “On Crossing Over,” at https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2020/01/on-crossing-over.html.)

BG (April 2021)

Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major (CD review)

Also, Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major. Gil Shaham, violin; Eric Jacobsen, The Knights. Canary Classics 5 060133 3000 14.

By John J. Puccio

If you’re not quite sure who Gil Shaham is, a word from his bio might help. Mr. Shaham “is one of the foremost violinists of our time; his flawless technique combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity of spirit has solidified his renown as an American master.” He’s also a Grammy Award-winner, Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year,” and in demand throughout the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors. Most important, he’s very good at what he does, a vibrant, creative, virtuosic entertainer.

On the present recording Mr. Shaham performs with The Knights. They, too, may be unfamiliar to some listeners, although they shouldn’t be because they have recorded quite a lot of material over the past few decades. They are a New York-based chamber orchestra formed by Eric and Colin Jacobsen while they were music students in the 1990’s. Originally, they called themselves “The Knights of the Many-Sided Table,” a rather unwieldy title they changed simply to The Knights. According to Wikipedpia, “Members of The Knights are composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters, and improvisers who bring a range of cultural influences to the group from baroque and classical performance practice to jazz and klezmer genres to pop and indie rock music.”

Together, Shaham and The Knights present two of the best-known violin concertos in the classical repertoire, those by Beethoven and Brahms, and they make them seem new all over again.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major in 1806, where it received an unsuccessful première and was practically shelved for the rest of the composer’s lifetime. He never published another violin concerto, so maybe he lost heart. The world would have to wait until 1844 to see the piece revived by violinist Joseph Joachim and conductor and composer Felix Mendelssohn, and, of course, it has been one of the leading concertos in the genre ever since.

Beethoven’s concerto begins with a lengthy and fairly laid-back introduction before the violin finally enters with a flourish. A slow, central Larghetto follows, and then a lively Rondo caps things off. When Shaham enters with the violin, he does so with a flourish. His musicianship is impeccable, a violin virtuoso of the highest order. More important, Shaham practically attacks the score, imbuing it with vigor and enthusiasm, yet losing nothing of the music’s inherent lyrical qualities. Along with the interpretation by Jascha Heifetz, Shaham’s performance is among the most exciting I’ve ever heard on record. Understand, however, that there are more subtle, more refined, more cultivated recordings available from the likes of Itzhak Perlman (EMI),  Henryk Szeryng (Philips), James Ehnes (Onyx), Vadim Repin (DG), Gidon Kremer (Teldec), Arthur Grumiaux (Pentatone), Rachel Barton Pine (Cedille), and others. But none of them tops this new release from Gil Shaham for total listener involvement and satisfaction.

Shaham takes the second-movement Larghetto at a smooth, leisurely, yet entirely engaging pace, providing all the beauty Beethoven has to offer. Finally, there’s that bouncy Rondo, Allegro, where Shaham shows us how playful he can get. It helps, too, to have so responsive a group as The Knights behind him, who complement him perfectly with their own heartiness and exuberance.

German composer and pianist Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) wrote his Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 around the time he wrote his Second Symphony (1877), and the two pieces display a similar pastoral, bucolic atmosphere. However, the slightly later Violin Concerto sounds a little more rugged and robust, yet more lofty and aristocratic, almost as rustic as it is rhapsodic, making it something of an opposition in charms. What’s more, because Brahms grew up in a period where classicism was giving way to full-blown Romanticism, the composer sometimes found himself caught between the two competing styles, as we hear in this piece.

Although Brahms’s concerto is a little more complex and a bit more difficult to manage than Beethoven’s, Shaham negotiates it with an assuredness that comes from years of dedication and experience. His approach is flawless, cogent, and persuasive. As in the Beethoven, his playing is keen and ebullient, bringing a consummate joy to the music. These performances are laser focused yet spontaneous, pleasing in every regard. As with the Beethoven, you may find other recordings you like as well, but it’s hard to imagine one any more appealing on all counts, including the sound.

Producer Martha de Francisco and engineer Brian Losch recorded the music at LeFrak Hall, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, Flushing, New York in August 2019. Because The Knights are a relatively small ensemble, they show up quite transparently on record. It helps, of course, that the recording engineer ensured that the sound wasn’t too close or too distant, and that nothing appeared unnaturally bright, heavy, dull, or soft. Everything is just about right, including some full-bodied drum work. When the violin enters, it’s just where we expect it to be, nicely centered yet agreeably integrated with the orchestra.

JJP

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

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

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