Recent Releases, No. 11 (CD Mini-reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Brahms: Symphony No. 3; Serenade No. 2. Iván Fischer, Budapest Festival Orchestra. Channel Classics CCS SA 43821.

I will say at the outset that this is a truly fine recording and performance of the Brahms symphony and serenade; seriously, if you read any further, you may be left scratching your head and wondering what the heck my problem is. Believe me, good reader, the problem is mine, not yours, nor Channel Classics, nor Maestro Fischer’s (who with the same orchestra has made some dynamite Mahler recordings). In an event, I have rarely been able to find recordings of Brahms symphonies with which I am truly satisfied (that list – a rather short one indeed – consists of Klemperer in No. 1, Karajan and Walter in No. 3, and Walter and Stokowski in No. 4). The engineering on this new Channel release is superior to either of my two favorites (I listened to the stereo CD layer of this SACD disc, which also contains a 5.0 surround mix for those so inclined and equipped). (As far as the Serenade No. 2, I will withhold any comment, for this is music I have tried repeatedly over the years to develop any sort of feeling for without any success.) Although the Budapest Festival Orchestra sounds splendid on this recording, what holds me back from giving it my own enthusiastic recommendation is a certain feeling of squareness, of liveliness, of spontaneity. For my taste at least, Fischer just seems too earthbound. All the notes are there, but he does not quite make them sing or dance or come completely to life. But in my experience, very few conductors do, and again, the sound quality is excellent, so this release is certainly well worth an audition by Brahmsians more broadminded than I.

Glass-Sandresky: Strange Energies. Sandresky: Flowing Water Encounters Obstacles; Nor'easter; What's Left; Fear; Force; Waves; Laughter. Glass: Etudes Nos. 2, 9, 12, 16.      
Eleonor Sandresky, piano. Orange Mountain Music OMM 7019.

Eleonor Sandresky is a pianist who has worked closely with composer Philip Glass for than three decades and has often performed with the Philip Glass Ensemble. Her works for the piano as presented on this recording, however, do not sound like warmed-over Glass. They are more expressive, more varied in style and mood. On her website, Sandresky says of this music that “I began composing these pieces back in 2012 as a way to try to capture various properties of sound: how it dies away, how it travels, where I feel it in my body, etc. With each of these pieces, I have tried to explore a different set of parameters for the performer and the audience. These are as much etudes for the audience to listen with specific intention as they are for the pianist!” Although the music of Glass that concludes the album by comparison seems more buttoned-down emotionally, the piano music of Glass can be fascinating, even spellbinding, and Sandresky does a fine job of drawing out the “strange energies” that lie below the surface of what can come across as shallow and repetitive music. This CD was one of those library finds that I hesitated to audition, having never having heard of Sandresky, but in the end I was glad I took the chance. If you are a fan of piano music, I invite you to do the same.

Reflections. Vikingur Ólafsson, piano. Deutsche Grammophon 00289 483 9222.
This new album from Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólafsson is something of a follow-up to an album that we reviewed last year (that review can be found here). This time around, however, what we have is not a straightforward recital by Ólafsson of music by Debussy and Rameau, but rather some cuts featuring Ólafsson on the piano along with a variety of other musicians and sonorities. Ólafsson says of his aims in putting this project together: "I wanted to explore certain works from fresh perspectives, to reimagine them and invite other composers to rework elements of these extraordinary pieces... In addition to my own new recordings and material, this album features wonderful artists from different directions who have used my recordings from the Debussy-Rameau album as material for their own highly original works. They have opened my ears to new, fascinating paths and for that I am immensely grateful." Those new paths and sounds include the use of some electronic manipulation of sounds, synthesizers, guitars, percussion - this might sound quite daunting, but overall, the sounds produced are quite tasteful. The most jarring sound to my ears was the inclusion of a human voice on one cut. The sound of the voice was not in itself jarring, it was just unexpected on what is otherwise an instrumental album. Still, the best cuts on the albums were those featuring Ólafsson on the piano, of which fortunately there are quite a few, the most amazing of which is Track 8, titled Reflection, which is an improvisation on Debussy's Bruyères, the piece with which Ólafsson also opens and closes the album. The only fly in the ointment is the recorded sound, as some of the Ólafsson tracks were apparently recorded during pandemic lockdown under less than ideal circumstances and there are some extraneous noises that some listeners might find an unwelcome distraction. The other tracks are just fine. All in all, Reflections is a fascinating and imaginative release.

The Tower and the Garden: Toivo Tulev: A child said, what is the grass?; Gregory Spears: The Tower and the Garden; Joel Puckett: I enter the earth; Donald Nally, The Crossing. Navona NV6303.

The Crossing is a professional chamber choir that specializes in new music. They have made a number of recordings and picked up Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance of 2018 for their recording of The Fifth Century by Gavin Bryars and 2019 for their recording of Zealot Chronicles by Lansing McCloskey. The three compositions on The Tower and the Garden each have a different overall sonority and sonic signature to them; ideally, that means listeners will be bound to find a sound they really like (reminiscent of the old Jimmy Dean restaurant television commercials – remember them? – “we’ll treat you so many ways you’re bound to like one of ‘em!). First up is A child said, what is the grass? by Estonian composer Toivo Tulev (b. 1958), which features some relatively mild dissonances but not to the point of annoyance. Next up is the title piece, The Tower and the Garden by American composer Gregory Spears (b. 1977), which consists of four movements. On this piece, the sound of the choir is augmented by the sound of a string quartet, producing a rich sonic rich tapestry. For the final composition, I enter the earth by American composer Joel Puckett (b. 1977), The Crossing produce some truly enticing harmonies, leaving the listener with a sense of serenity and inspiration.


R. Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (CD review)

Also, Burleske. Bertrand Chamayou, piano; Antonio Pappano, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Warner Classics 190295028459.

By John J. Puccio

Richard Strauss (1864-1949), the German composer and conductor of so many lengthy symphonic tone poems wrote Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life”) in 1898 or thereabouts as a tongue-in-cheek autobiography, a semi-serious portrait of himself. Strauss was only thirty-four years old at the time, so you can see what self-confidence he must have had by writing so whimsical a life story at so early an age. He seems to have written it primarily, though, to get in a few digs at his critics, whom he convincingly silences through the music. Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia give it their all in a big, robustly imposing live performance.

Strauss divided Ein Heldenleben into seven parts that describe seven stages in the artist’s life. The first segment, “The Hero,” obviously describes Strauss himself and does so on a large, swashbuckling scale. Here, the music is dashing and needs to be presented with plenty of panache. Next, the music turns to “The Hero’s Adversaries,” his critics, where we hear them squabbling among themselves in amusing fashion, their trivialities, to be sure, yet their possibly sinister nature as well. Following that is “The Hero’s Companion,” his wife, whom the violinist sweetly defines in solo. Then in the ensuing “Love Scene” we find not only a loving, harmonious wife but an apparently complex one.

Maestro Pappano takes the big sections, like the opening, in a grand, full-blooded manner. It loses subtlety but makes up for it in grandeur. The Hero’s wife, played by solo violin, is nicely done, with fine inflection and feeling. While I’d like to single out this solo violinist, the booklet notes don’t indicate who it is. I will assume it was the concertmaster, Roberto Gonzalez-Monjas. Well done, sir.

“The Hero’s Battlefield” is the centerpiece of the work, where Strauss engages in all-out war with his critics, reminding them (musically) of his accomplishments with bits from his own Don Juan and Also sprach Zarathustra, as well as a few horns from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. It’s music filled with urgency and excitement but should not be hectic or bombastic. Here, I would have liked more impetus, even more energy from Pappano. Still, the recording makes up for any lack of muscularity in the performance with plenty of bite and impact in the sound.

“The Hero’s Works of Peace” is another slow movement, again a remembrance of the composer’s previous tone poems as an almost-final rebuke of his foes. After that, the work closes with “The Hero’s Retirement from the World and His Fulfillment,” the longest movement, a concluding note of possible contentment and repose for a life of art well spent. Remember, this is coming from a fellow who at the time was relatively young, so Strauss no doubt meant it more than a bit ironically, maybe sarcastically. I liked these final sections in Maestro Pappano’s hands more than I did his treatment of the first parts. He seems more in the spirit of the proceedings as things go along.

Coupled with Heldenleben Maestro Pappano has chosen another Strauss work, the shorter Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra (1885-86), with pianist Bertrand Chamayou. It’s an early work, written by Strauss when he was twenty-one. Originally, Strauss had written it for pianist and conductor Hans von Bulow, who thought it a “complicated piece of nonsense,” with an unplayable piano part, and refused to perform it. Well, the title translates into “farce” or “mockery,” so what did he expect? It eventually became one of Strauss’s personal favorite works. Chamayou handles the solo piano with appropriate flair, and Pappano’s accompaniment follows in a like manner. The music is fun, and Chamayou and Pappano seem to be enjoying themselves.

Producer and engineer Giacomo De Caterini recorded Ein Heldenleben live at the Auditorium Parco della musica, Rome in January 2018 and Burleske in October 2020. Because the engineer recorded Heldenleben live, it’s rather close-up and without much orchestral depth. It also appears slightly dull for some reason. There are, however, compensating dynamic and frequency ranges of strength and width that help Strauss’s heroic music come alive. The Burleske comes off much better sonically. It sounds more robust and a little more dimensional.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, June 26, 2021

American Bach Soloists Festival in Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Tickets are now on sale for the ABS Festival in Herbst Theatre, August 1-7, San Francisco.

“Triples Alley”: Sunday, August 1, 4pm.

“Transformation”: Tuesday, August 3, 7pm.

“The Devil’s Trill”: Thursday, August 5, 7pm.

“Bach & His World”: Friday, August 6, 7pm.

“The Garden of Harmony”: Saturday, August 7, 7pm.

$25 • $42 • $56 • $89 • VIP seating $150.

Read all about the artists and programs at

--American Bach Soloists

July on PBS: Joyce DiDonato in Concert
Coming up from Great Performances at the Met, Joyce DiDonato in Concert premieres beginning Friday, July 2 on PBS (check local listings).

Hosted by Christine Goerke, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato performs from the converted art-nouveau Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum, Germany. The program includes the world premiere of “I Dream a World,” a work with music by Kenyatta Hughes and text from the Langston Hughes poem of the same name. The concert also features Baroque works by Handel and Monteverdi as well as well-known songs such as “La vie en rose” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The singer is accompanied by Carrie-Ann Matheson on piano and the chamber music ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro. The concert was recorded last September.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Chicago Opera Theater Serves Up Brand-New Works
Fresh on the heels of a high-stakes digital season in which Chicago Opera Theater “turned obstacles to art” (Hyde Park Herald), COT Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya and Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus announce a return to in-person performances for the 2021/22 season. The company’s commitment to showcasing new voices, fresh takes, and different styles of opera will be on full display in a varied season of premieres and high-profile debuts.

“Coming off a pandemic season where we’ve really flexed our resilience and creativity, we’re keenly aware that the audience is part of our art-making,” said Magnus. “We’re so eager to return to sharing live performances with our community, and to present the incredible stories and voices of our upcoming season.”

For details, visit

--Beth Stewart, Verismo Communications

International Contemporary Ensemble Announces Commissions in “Call for ____” Program
After a two-month review process, the International Contemporary Ensemble has selected eight artists for their “Call for ____” Commission Program from a pool of over 400 submissions. Lesley Mok, Kevin Ramsay, Mazz Swift, and Chris Ryan Williams will work with the Ensemble in the 2021-2023 seasons. Sandra Kluge, Bonita Oliver, Cleo Reed, and Sylvain Souklaye will work with the Ensemble in the 2022-2024 seasons. Each artist will receive the support of Ensemble musicians, rehearsal time, video and audio documentation, marketing support, and a paid commission all alongside performances of their pieces created with the Ensemble.

The International Contemporary Ensemble has had a long history of collaboration with artists as well as calls for proposals and scores. Throughout this past year, the Ensemble sought out new ways to make the process more inviting to welcome as many applicants as possible. After holding an open forum in October 2020 which was focused on how to make calls for works more inclusive and to reimagine the open call process, there was an overwhelming desire to humanize the process and hone in on collaborating with artists. The Ensemble took feedback from this forum to build a new submission form.

"Our annual call for works became a broader invitation to collaborate with the Ensemble, open to creators from any discipline,” says Artistic Director Ross Karre. “We are thrilled to work with these eight artists over the next few years. Their work will help to expand the boundaries of our collective artistic practice. Their selection by the panel is a welcome byproduct of moving away from restricting identifiers such as composer, improviser, sound artist, performer, etc., understanding that many creative artists work across and in-between these markers. We focused more on asking about artists’ goals, their practice, and how they can expand their work with our organization.”

For complete information, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Colburn School Announces National Cohort of Fortissima Fellows
The Colburn School, a renowned performing arts school based in Los Angeles, today announced the first national cohort of its recently expanded Fortissima program. Housed under Colburn’s Center for Innovation and Community Impact, Fortissima is an artistic and leadership development program for high school age young women from underrepresented minorities in classical music who demonstrate excellence on an orchestral instrument and have an interest in pursuing a career in music.

The 2021 Fortissima Fellows are:
Gabriela Salvador Riera, 14-year-old violinist from Wilmington, Delaware.
Suubi Laurent, 14-year-old cellist from Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Anagha Kapsi, 15-year-old violinist from Exton, Pennsylvania.
Leena Hocutt Duarte, 17-year-old violinist from Cary, North Carolina.
Genesis Garay, 16-year-old trumpet player from Los Angeles, California.
Valeria Serrano, 17-year-old violist from Arlington, Virginia.
Leah Marcelle, 16-year-old pianist from Los Angeles, California.
Bianca Quddus, 14-year-old clarinetist from Richmond Hill, New York.
Lauren Edwards, 16-year-old violinist from Owings Mills, Maryland.
Esme Arias Kim, 15-year-old violinist from Hoffman estates, Illinois.

Fortissima’s innovative leadership curriculum, paired with rigorous artistic development and one-on-one mentorship, is designed to inspire, equip, and empower young women from underrepresented minorities to pursue professional training and careers in the classical music field. Now a national model, Fortissima will be a six-month experience for 10 young women that will consist of two components, beginning online with innovative leadership curriculum and one-on-one mentorship, and culminating in a week-long residential intensive on the Colburn campus, October 30 – November 6, 2021.

For more information, visit

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Festival Mozaic: Tickets Are Going Fast
Tickets to our 2021 Summer Festival are going fast! Four events have already sold out and only a handful of tickets remain for Serra Chapel. Get your tickets today to ensure you don't miss out on your favorite performers or venues.

Tickets and information:

--Festival Mozaic

Teatro Nuovo Announces Cast and Ticket Details for The Barber of Seville
Teatro Nuovo announced today the full cast and opening of ticket sales for the first live full opera performances in over a year in New York City: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on July 27 and 28 on Lincoln Center’s summer stage at Damrosch Park.

Headlining the cast will be the Rosina of mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig, whose breakout performance in Teatro Nuovo’s La gazza ladra in 2019 earned her “Young Artist of the year” from Opernwelt magazine. She is joined by the Figaro of bass Hans Tashjian and the Almaviva of tenor Nicholas Simpson.

Tickets for the socially-distanced audience are available immediately via the Lincoln Center online box office and through the company’s website. Only 480 seats are available for each performance.

Full information here:

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Tulsa Opera Announces 2021-22 Season
General Director Ken McConnell and Artistic Director Tobias Picker today announced Tulsa Opera’s 74th season, which includes Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi performed at ONEOK Field, a new production of Mr. Picker’s 1996 opera Emmeline, and a new immersive production of Richard Strauss’s Salome. All three operas are Tulsa Opera premieres with Emmeline and Salome Oklahoma premieres.

For details, visit

--Shuman Associates

Bang on a Can and MASS MoCA Announce LOUD Weekend, July 30 & 31
 Bang on a Can and MASS MoCA announce the return of their multi-day music festival called LOUD Weekend, presented on Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31, 2021, at MASS MoCA in North Adams, located in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts (1040 MASS MoCA Way). LOUD Weekend features two days of ear-bending music and mind-blowing art exhibitions taking place throughout the museum’s vast galleries and its stunning collection of indoor and outdoor performing arts venues. Tickets are available now for $95 (2-day Pass). Capacity is limited.

For details, visit

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

"Embrace Everything: The World of Gustav Mahler"
The chart-topping podcast series “Embrace Everything,” which celebrates the life and music of Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) through an in-depth exploration of his symphonies, returns for its second season on Mahler’s birthday, Wednesday, July 7.

Created and hosted by award-winning radio producer Aaron Cohen, each season of the “Embrace Everything” podcast guides listeners through one of Mahler’s landmark symphonies, incorporating commentary from leading Mahler interpreters and scholars, readings from the letters of Mahler and his contemporaries, and music from the symphonies themselves. Titled “Rise Again,” Season 2 delves into Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor (“Resurrection”) over five episodes—one per movement—taking listeners on a powerful and illuminating journey through death, reminiscence, futility, release, transcendence, and renewal.

For complete information, visit

--Shumann Associates

Tom Borrow Named a BBC New Generation Artist
Tom Borrow, the fast-rising Israeli pianist, has this week been named to the BBC New Generation Artists scheme (BBC NGA). One of the most prestigious such schemes in the world, the BBC NGA selects a handful of prodigious young international talents every two years. The NGAs are then offered a wide range of performing and developmental opportunities, across the BBC orchestras, Wigmore Hall, the Aldeburgh Festival and others, including multiple broadcasts on BBC Radio 3. Previous NGA pianists include, variously, Benjamin Grosvenor, Igor Levit, Jonathan Biss, Paul Lewis, Beatrice Rana, Ingrid Fliter, Paul Lewis, and Simon Trpceski.

Borrow, a protege of Murray Perahia and student of Tomer Lev, Director of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, has been named "One To Watch" by both Gramophone and International Piano magazines ("Tom Borrow is...the very definition of 'one to watch'").

For more information about tom Borrow, visit

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Princeton University Concerts: 2021-22 Season Update
Princeton University Concerts (“PUC”) shares initial plans for transitioning the series’ concert offerings to a live, in-person format. Although the kinds of gatherings possible on-campus in the coming year is not yet known, PUC is actively working with Princeton University officials to lay the groundwork for a Spring 2022 season. At the core of this season, as it has been for 129 years, is a “Concert Classics” series—featuring many of the world-renowned artists whose concerts were canceled during the past two seasons due to the pandemic:

Takács String Quartet & Julien Labro, Bandoneón
Mark Padmore, Tenor* & Mitsuko Uchida, Piano*
Mahler Chamber Orchestra* & Mitsuko Uchida, Piano*
Ébène String Quartet
Dover String Quartet*
Tetzlaff String Quartet*
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Cello* & Isata Kanneh-Mason, Piano*
     *Denotes Princeton University Concerts in-person debut

PUC looks forward to adding more programming throughout the season as guidance allows, and will release information about accessing tickets over the course of the summer. All planned events will be realized in accordance with concurrent scientific, state, and university guidance, with the safety and health of the community in mind.

In the meantime, patrons are urged to mark their calendars and explore the planned offerings on PUC’s brand-new website:

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Jennifer Koh Performs Works from "Alone Together"
The dynamic and innovative violinist Jennifer Koh performs a selection of works from her “Alone Together” series, created in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the financial hardship it has placed on many in the arts community, to be presented by IDAGIO’s Global Concert Hall in partnership with Boston public media producer GBH. The virtual recital will premiere on Saturday, July 10 at 10:00 P.M. CET / 4:00 P.M. ET and stream on demand through Sunday, October 10.

Tickets priced from $5 can be purchased from IDAGIO’s Global Concert Hall via The ticket purchase allows the ticket buyer to choose how much they want to pay and directly supports the participating artist through IDAGIO's Fair Artist Payout Model.

--Shuman Associates

Recent Releases, No. 10 (CD Mini-Reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1; Symphonic Dances. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, The Philadelphia Orchestra. Deutsche Grammophon 483 9839.

One of the pleasures of following Classical Candor is reading reviews by fellow reviewers John Puccio and Bill Heck not only to enjoy their insights and recommendations about various recordings but also to delight in their deft and descriptive deployment of the English language. They always seem to find just the right words with which to craft their insightful and delightful prose. In sad contrast to those distinguished gentlemen, after listening to this new recording numerous times all I can say is that the music, the performances, and the and the engineering are all totally kickass. Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 1 suffered a disastrous first public performance in 1897 by an ill-prepared orchestra conducted badly by an apparently drunken Alexander Glazunov. The resultant fiasco and humiliating press coverage so unnerved Rachmaninoff that he suffered a nervous breakdown that stifled his creative energy for three years. But in this recording we have the “Fabulous Philadelphians” at the height of their powers under the baton of a conductor in full possession of his faculties; together, they make a persuasive case indeed for this oft-overlooked symphony, a work full of passion and excitement. Its disc-mate is the more widely known Symphonic Dances, a rousing piece that has long been a favorite of audiophiles. Old-timers may remember the old Donald Johanos/Dallas Symphony recording, one that seemed exciting at the time, especially in light of its being on a budget label, but in retrospect was maybe not really all that great (the low price may have perhaps tainted our judgment). Other audiophiles might have fond memories of the David Zinman/Baltimore Symphonic Dances on Telarc, which still sounds darned good. Whatever your preference might be, this new DG recording is right up there with the best in terms of both sonics and performance, with plenty of energy in both those dimensions (and with, yes, Telarc-worthy bass). As I said above, kickass. Enough said…     

Pat Metheny: Road to the Sun. Metheny: Four Paths of Light; Road to the Sun; Arvo Part: Fur Alina. Jason Vieaux and Pat Metheny, guitar; Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (John Dearman, Matthew Greif, William Kanengiser, Scott Tennant). Modern Recordings 538639322.

The first concert I ever took my young sons to was the Pat Metheny Group sometime back in the early 80s – may even have been the late 70s. Over the ensuing decades, Metheny has made some memorable music, never resting on his laurels or content to play his familiar tunes over and over again, always striving to create something new, pushing himself as a composer and arranger as well as a guitarist. From his earlier albums with his Pat Metheny Group (Still Life Talking and We Live Here are noteworthy examples highlighting his melodic gift, along with that of his gifted keyboard companion, the late Lyle Mays) through his ultimate album with that group, The Way Up, which is virtually a through-composed symphonic piece by Metheny that strains against the limitations of a small jazz ensemble, Metheny followers could sense that he was more than just a guitarist, he was a composer whose chosen instrument was the guitar. Then in 2020 he returned to the studio with a new group to release From This Place, a flowingly lyrical album that included some symphonic accompaniment. At 76 minutes, it was an amazing achievement, emphasizing once again Metheny’s gift for composition as well as his prowess on the guitar.

Each month, the final page of BBC Music Magazine features an interview titled “Music That Changed Me,” in which some public figure, typically someone connected with the arts, is asked about the music that has had a significant influence in the course of their life. Imagine my surprise – and joy! – when I reached the final page of the most recent issue to reach my humble abode (May 2021) and saw a photo of a smiling, curly-headed American guitarist by the name of Pat Metheny. What a wonderful surprise! The interviewees are always asked to list a few key recordings, and Metheny’s list of five pieces began with three that were not particularly surprising: “And I Love Her” by the Beatles (as a teenager he loved George Harrison’s guitar work, and later in his career he recorded the piece himself on acoustic guitar), “Seven Step to Heaven” by Miles Davis (Metheny says that his brother brought home Davis’s Four and More album and that “hearing this cut was like being hit over the head by a two-by-four, and instant life-changing moment. At the time I didn’t know anything about form and chord changes, I just heard the sound…”), and Wes Montgomery’s “If You Could See Me Now” (which Metheny says contains “the greatest guitar solo of all time, including Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Segovia”). His next selection was something of a surprise, Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (Metheny notes that “among the best phone calls I ever got was Steve Reich asking me to play his solo work for electric guitar, Electric Counterpoint. I’d been a fan for years: his Music for 18 Musicians changed everything – Steve had somehow captured the worldwide polar-magnetic shift from triple to duple time”). But it was his final choice that really surprised me, none other than Furtwangler’s recording of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (“Filling in blanks, particularly in the world of written music, is an ongoing process for me. I’m lucky to live across the street from Lincoln Center in New York and I had the chance to see Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde conducted by Sir Simon Rattle at the Met. It was a life-changing experience to rival ‘Seven Steps to Heaven.’ I knew the piece because it is famous in my world as being this four-hour exploration of a minor seventh, flat five chord, of the ‘Tristan’ chord. I went three night in a row, and each night it just got better”). I really did not see that one coming…

Something else that I did not see coming was that the next recording that Metheny would release after From This Place would be his first release ever to feature his work not as a performer, but rather as a composer. The album leads off with classical guitarist Jason Vieaux performing a Metheny composition for solo guitar titled Four Paths of Light. Naturally enough, the composition comprises four parts, each possessing a depth of expression and emotion that long-time listeners of Metheny’s music will recognize; however, Vieaux’s style of playing and the sound of his guitar does come across as more traditionally classical most of the time – still, there are passages where you can really hear Metheny ringing through. The next composition is the title piece, Road to the Sun, a six-part work written for and performed by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (with some “guest strumming” by Metheny on a couple of the parts). This is of course a more ambitious undertaking, more complex in structure, more formal sounding, but not without phrases that make you think that yes, this sounds like something that Pat Metheny could have composed. It truly is a delightful work, one that rewards repeated listening.

The album closes with a bonus track, and once again I can honestly say that just like I never see it coming that Pat Metheny would list Furtwangler conducting Tristan and Isolde as one of his favorite recordings, neither did I ever foresee him playing an Arvo Pärt tune on one of his recordings, but Road to the Sun concludes with Metheny offering a haunting version of Pärt’s Für Alina on his custom-made 42-string guitar. My friends, hearing Pat Metheny, one of my all-time favorite musicians, play the music of Arvo Pärt, one of my all-time favorite composers, on his amazing instrument with its incredible range of sounds made me feel that my life was now complete and had not been lived entirely in vain. To be sure, this recording may not have anywhere near the same profound sort of spiritual effect on you, but still, there is some genuinely fine music here that I can recommend without reservation.       

Bonus Recommendation:

Images of Metheny. Jason Vieaux, guitar. Azica Records ACD 71233.

On this recording from 2005, classical guitarist Jason Vieaux presents 13 songs by Pat Metheny in arrangements for classical guitar, including taking five songs and arranging them into the form of a baroque suite. Unfortunately, the CD is now hard to find; it can be streamed, however, for those so inclined. 


Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto (Digital DL review)

Also, Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto. Jascha Heifetz, violin; Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra. HDTT Direct Stream Digital and DXD PCM FLAC downloads.

By John J. Puccio

Let me begin with a few personal opinions and observations so you know where my biases lie.

First, I think Jascha Heifetz is one of the greatest violinists of the stereo age. Maybe the greatest violinist of any age. Yes, there are some fine runners up, like Itzhak Perlman, Nathan Milstein, Arthur Grumiaux, Yehudi Menuhin, Henryk Szeryng, Isaac Stern, and others. And certainly there are any number of contemporary musicians who may, in time, lay claim to the title. In any case, it’s always a pleasure to review something by Heifetz. (These HDTT remasters were originally recorded in the late Fifties.)

Second, I do have slightly mixed feelings about these particular Heifetz recordings of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn concertos. I have always thought Heifetz’s Tchaikovsky was unsurpassed for its performance, but I’ve never cared overmuch for the sound. With the Mendelssohn I always found the sound acceptable but thought the performance a bit rushed. Nevertheless, they are both well worth owning.

Third, I have no horse in the vinyl vs. compact disc vs. digital streaming vs. digital download races. I’m sure there are excellent examples of superb sound in each format. For me, the fact that I listened to these Heifetz performances via Direct Stream Digital DSD and DXL PCM FLAC downloads is immaterial to my preference in formats. Whatever sounds best is what I enjoy, so I try to look for whatever I haven’t heard, make comparisons, and not generalize too much about what is always going to be best.

Now, about the performances: The program begins with the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). He wrote it in 1878 during a time when he was trying to recover from a bout of depression. Some critics of the day found the work wanting, one of them going so far as to say that it sounded "long and pretentious" and that it "brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear." Thank heaven for the passage of time and the eventual validation of the work as a classic of the repertoire.

As with most concertos, Tchaikovsky’s piece begins with an Allegro, in this case taken at an appropriately healthy tempo, followed by a slow middle section Andante and then, without a break, a spirited Allegro vivacissimo. I doubt that anyone could argue against the Heifetz performance. He generates more excitement than probably any violinist in history. Still, he’s not all flash, and he handles the Andante with infinite care before concluding with a dazzling finish. Heifetz plays the piece with authority. It’s beautiful.

The other piece on the agenda is the Violin Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) The composer premiered it in 1845, just two years before his early death, and it would be the last big orchestral work of his lifetime. Fortunately, he went out in style, the concerto being among the most popular in the violin repertoire. The work consists of three fairly standard movements, but it was inventive in its day in that the violin appears almost immediately, and the movements are played without pause. In this concerto, Heifetz again puts on a blazing display of virtuosity, and while it can be fun in most respects, it may also be overkill. Some would say Mendelssohn needs a lighter, gentler touch.

Producer John Pfeiffer and engineer Lewis Layton recorded the Tchaikovsky at Orchestra Hall, Chicago in April 1957. Producer Pfeiffer and engineer John Crawford recorded the Mendelssohn at Orchestra Hall, Boston in February 1959. HDTT remastered the recordings in a variety of download formats including DSD128 (Direct Stream Digital), 24/352 8 DXD PCM FLAC digital, DSD64, 24/192 PCM, and 24/96 PCM, plus a variety of DVD Audio and CD configurations on physical disc. I listened to the DSD128 and 24/352 8 DXD PCM FLAC downloads.

During my listening sessions, I couldn’t help compare apples to oranges. I had on my shelf two longtime favorite CDs of these Heifetz recordings from JVC (Japanese Victor Company) using their meticulous XRCD processing. So I brought them down for a direct A-B comparison with the HDTT products. Which is unfair, I know, because JVC used the original RCA master tapes, and HDTT used commercially available tapes. Therefore, the reader should draw no absolute conclusions from my listening.

The differences, though, were quite apparent between the HDTT DSD download and the JVC discs, even after much fiddling with the volume to adjust each source to within a decibel of one another. HDTT tells us ahead of time what to expect, so I’ll quote from their Web site: “Because of the limited editing capability of DSD, to keep it ‘Pure DSD’ with no PCM used, you could hear blemishes from the original tape source that would be normally edited out in a PCM release.” In the case of the Tchaikovsky and the Mendelssohn, both recorded in the late 1950’s, HDTT retained not only”blemishes” but the original tape hiss, which was quite noticeabe in the Tchaikovsky and especially in the DSD format. JVC apparently used some sort of noise-reduction process to edit out the tape hiss, making their CD’s considerably quieter. However, the HDTT transfers appear to have retained much of the dynamic range of the originals. They’re just noisier, which is unfortunate. On the other hand, once adjusting one’s ears to the HDTT hiss, the JVC discs could sound downright dull for a moment, until one got used to the quieter sonics. The Mendelssohn sounded better than the Tchaikovsky all the way around in both HDTT download formats as well as on the JVC discs, with a better balance between the soloist and orchestra and a generally warmer, fuller presentation.

In any case, the HDTT transfers sounded fine, if not as easy on the ears as the JVC discs (which I’m not sure are available anymore). Yet, the fact remains that neither of these recordings--neither the Tchaikovsky nor the Mendelssohn--was ever the ultimate in sound to begin with. The close-up violin in the Tchaikovsky, for instance, can be annoying given the quality of the performance.

Bottom line: In the absence of the JVC XRCD’s, the HDTT transfers may be a person’s best bet for sound. The DSD download is slightly the better sounding if you can put up with the tape hiss. The DXD PCM FLAC, however, may be the optimum compromise: good sound with less hiss. Finally, if you are unable to play back digital downloads at all, HDTT offers various CD transfers that will do nicely, and they have the advantage of HDTT having cleared them of most tape noise.

Both of these Heifetz performances--the Tchaikovsky and the Mendelssohn--remain among the finest ever recorded, and I would advise anyone to seek them out in whatever format is available.

For complete information on HDTT products, visit their Web site at


To listen to a brief excerpt from the DXD FLAC download, click below:

Classical Music News of the Week, June 19, 2021

American Composers Orchestra Presents Two Composer Spotlights

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) presents two online Composer Spotlights events for the Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program at 3pm ET on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 and Wednesday, July 7, 2021, streaming live on YouTube and Facebook. On Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 6pm, ACO will host an online Listening Party via Zoom with ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel and special guest composers John Adams, Laurie Anderson, Eugene Moye, and Melinda Wagner. Advance registration is required for the Listening Party; advance registration is recommended for the Composer Spotlights. General admission for all the events is free, with donation options available.

Central to its values of diversity, disruption, and discovery, ACO partners each year with orchestras nationwide through its EarShot program (formerly the New Music Readings), which has identified and championed some of the most important rising compositional voices in the orchestral field since its founding in 1991. To deepen the creative community around this work, the Virginia B. Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program (formerly the Women Composers Readings and Commissions Program), an initiative of the League of American Orchestras in partnership with ACO, has commissioned three EarShot alumni each year to write a new orchestral work that is premiered by participating orchestras across the country. The panels on June 23 and July 7 highlight eight composers whose pieces have been recently premiered, or will soon premiere, as part of the program. Get to know each artist, hear recordings of their music, and catch an inside look into the relationships they have built with the orchestras that will premiere their works.

Registration and information:

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Berkshire Opera Festival Announces Indoor Full Capacity Summer Season
The fast-growing Berkshire Opera Festival moves full steam ahead after last summer's pandemic cancellations and virtual programs. In accordance with Massachusetts' revised reopening timeline, the two featured operas this summer—at both venues—will be offered at full capacity. Tickets are on sale through the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office.

The only company of its kind in the region, Berkshire Opera Festival has restored fully-staged opera to the Berkshires, with savvy productions and superlative casts under the vision of co-founders Brian Garman (Artistic Director) and Jonathon Loy (Director of Production). Just a few years after its founding in 2016, Opera News declared "destination status" on the Festival, and Berkshire On Stage wrote "No longer need we confine our opera-going to HD films—now we have the highest quality productions and performers in our own backyard." The New York Times called BOF's Ariadne auf Naxos "one of those productions that change the way you think about things."

For complete information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Chanticleer Announces Summer 2021 Season
Chanticleer announced today its summer 2021 season including a new concert film event, “After a Dream,” streaming on-demand beginning June 27, and a six-state national tour throughout the month of July including eight performances, the ensemble’s first live appearances since March 2020.

Following the highly successful holiday film, A Chanticleer Christmas: From Darkness to Light, Chanticleer will release an innovative new concert film that showcases the world premiere commission of close[r], now by American composer Ayanna Woods. Also featured on the program is a 2002 commissioned work by renowned film composer Carlos Rafael Rivera entitled Motet for 12 Singers, arrangements newly created for the ensemble of music ranging from Gabriel Fauré to Des’ree, as well as a selection of Renaissance works by Monteverdi, de Lassus, Vecchi, Lusitano and Byrd.

Tickets are priced at $25 for individuals and $42 for households and the event will remain available for unlimited viewing through July 11, 2021. For further information, visit

--Brenden Guy PR

Festival Mozaic Single Tickets on Sale Now
Join us for eight exciting days of live music in beautiful venues throughout San Luis Obispo County. We've assembled programs ranging from Baroque composers J. S. Bach, Vivaldi and Handel to Romantic works by Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn. Enjoy the soulful singing of Latin Grammy-winning Guatemalan songwriter Gaby Moreno. Explore classical remixes and modern tango with Grand Orquesta Navarre.

It's been a tough year-plus. Let's gather together for unparalleled performances in unforgettable places. It's time to make music with applause at the end!

For tickets and information, visit

--Festival Mozaic

Donghoon Shin Wins Claudio Abbado Composition Prize
London based Korean composer Donghoon Shin has today been announced as the winner of the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize presented by the Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker in honour of their Chief Conductor from 1989–2002. Awarded at irregular intervals, the recipient of the Claudio Abbado Composition prize is commissioned to write a work for members of the Karajan Academy.

Donghoon Shin’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra will be premièred in May 2022 at a Gala Concert to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Karajan Academy. The orchestra, conducted by the Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko, will be a combination of current scholars of the Karajan Academy and alumni who are members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The soloist is Bruno Delepelaire, first principal cellist of the 0rchestra and former graduate of the Karajan Academy. The programme will open with Mozart’s Linz Symphony under conducting scholar Nodoka Okisawa and concludes with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony under Kirill Petrenko.

The Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker was an initiative of Herbert von Karajan who had the idea of organising the training of young orchestra musicians for the Berliner Philharmoniker in an academy. The commission is composed for the musical and artistic qualities of the current scholarship holders and is rehearsed by the composer with the scholarship holders.

--Ginny Macbeth, Macbeth Media Relations

“Great Performances: Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2020”
Coming up on June 25, “Great Performances: Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2020” premieres at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings),, and the PBS Video app. Enjoy the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of selections by Strauss, Wagner, Offenbach, Puccini and more from the Schönbrunn Palace Gardens under the baton of conductor Valery Gergiev and featuring Metropolitan Opera tenor Jonas Kaufmann.

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

James Conlon Conducts Four Spanish Orchestras
From June 18 leading up to World Music Day (or Fiesta de la Música) on June 21, internationally renowned maestro James Conlon celebrates by conducting the complete Schumann and Brahms symphonies in collaboration with four different Spanish orchestras. Most of these performances are part of the sixth ¡SOLO MÚSICA! biennial, this year titled “Duelo Romántico,” at Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música. Given that Schumann and Brahms each composed four symphonies, the biennial treats each of the four programs as a ‘duel’ between their respective symphonies of the same number.

For more information, visit

--Shuman Associates

A Season of Metamorphosis: National Youth Orchestra of Canada
As Canada begins to slowly emerge from an unprecedented shutdown of live music performance – and life as we knew it – the National Youth Orchestra of Canada (NYO Canada) is at the ready to guide and inspire the new generation of musicians to thrive in a world forever changed. While a second season – the orchestra’s 61st – will be exclusively online, instead of the usual intensive rehearsal and touring schedule, NYO Canada is proud to introduce a varied, flexible, and innovative online training institute. The exceptional program makes this season a true Metamorphosis, as today’s best young instrumentalists prepare to meet the future.

Launched this past Saturday, NYO 2021 includes a robust schedule of individual lessons, a remarkable series of marquee masterclasses from top musicians and teachers from around the world, and workshops covering essentials for today’s performer – from audio capture and production to digital marketing, and performance and audition skills. NYO Canada continues to be a world leader in providing exceptional mental health support and personal skills-building for its musicians, aiding top performance as well as life balance.

“I never could have imagined that we would see such extraordinary digital reach and collaboration with partners from across the country and around the world,” comments Kevin Latimer, Q.C., Board Chair of NYO Canada. “We are taking a whole new approach to ensuring our next generation of gifted orchestral musicians continue their training journey and will be ready in person when the time is right.”

For more information, visit

--Shira Gilbert PR

Festival de Lanaudière’s Return of Large-Scale Concerts Before Live Audiences
Consolidating tradition and renewal, the Festival de Lanaudière announces its programming under the theme The Thrill of Enchantment, and joyfully reconnects with its audiences this summer from July 17 to August 8.

“The Festival exists for the public and therefore reconnecting with audiences is a profoundly emotional event. In addition to celebrating this reunion, this edition is an occasion for us to reflect on what we experienced and what we were deprived of during the pandemic: live music, beauty, but especially our connection with others and the freedom to share,” explained Artistic Director Renaud Loranger.

As such, the region will resonate to the sounds of ten large-scale concerts at the Amphithéâtre Fernand-Lindsay, five recitals given in some of Lanaudière most beautiful churches, as well as fifteen or so free performances in parks and public spaces in the Greater Joliette Area. Four online webcasts of large-scale outdoor summer concerts (available for purchase) and four outdoor screenings of musical films (free of charge) complete the programming.

For complete information, visit

--France Gaignard, CN2 Communication

Opera Maine Presents a New Production of The Elixir of Love
Opera Maine will celebrate a return to live opera with two performances July 28 and 30 at Merrill Auditorium. Under the direction of Artistic Director Dona D. Vaughn, the company will stage an original production of Gaetano Donizetti's endearing comic opera L'elisir d'amore (“The Elixir of Love”). The opera will be reimagined and presented without intermission. Maestro Israel Gursky will conduct an outstanding cast of singers, along with an Opera Maine orchestra of sixteen select musicians. Nicolás Alberto Dosman is chorus master. Set and lighting will be designed by Tony-award winning Christopher Akerlind and costumes by Millie Hiibel.

The Elixir of Love combines Donizetti's exuberant music with a joyful story in which true love is revealed--with a little help from a magic potion.
Opera Maine's production of The Elixir of Love will be presented at Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday, July 28 and Friday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. The opera will be sung in Italian, with English supertitles. Pre-performance talks at 6:30 p.m. will be given in Merrill by Calien Lewis, dramaturg.

For more information, visit

--Kristen Levesque PR

MUSE/IQUE Announces 2021-22 Season
“L.A. Composed: A Festival of Los Angeles Music” led by Artistic Director Rachael Worby at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens and Skirball Cultural Center, July - October. 2021

July 14, 15 & 18: Tapestry at 50
In honor of the 50th anniversary of this iconic record, MUSE/IQUE weaves a surprising new performance of her seminal album through an eclectic range of performers and styles.

August 18, 19 & 22: Dylan Goes Hollywood
MUSE/IQUE explores Bob Dylan on the west coast and his quintessentially cinematic songs through the Hollywood lens.

September 22, 23 & 26: The House that Nat Built
MUSE/IQUE explores the enduring music of Nat King Cole and his impressive L.A. story, from his lasting legacy on television, on the Billboard charts, in the recording booth, and beyond.

October 13, 14 & 17: Etta At Last
MUSE/IQUE celebrates Etta’s most beloved songs and relives her most famous collaborations
Tickets on sale Friday, June 18

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Death of Classical Present Gil Shaham and The Knights
The Angel’s Share will continue its third season on June 25, with superstar violinist Gil Shaham and the Brooklyn-based ensemble The Knights, performing their own pandemic-proof “pocket” version of Beethoven’s immortal Violin Concerto, in an outdoor performance set underneath Green-Wood’s historic Gothic Arch.

Normally, in order to perform Beethoven’s luminous, life-affirmingly beautiful Violin Concerto, one needs a full orchestra…fortunately, we have superstar violinist Gil Shaham and a contingent of five top-shelf players from Brooklyn’s own ensemble, The Knights (including founding brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen), who have shrunk the work down to their pandemic-proof “pocket Beethoven” version. They’ll make six players sound like sixty, and cut to the core of this transcendent masterwork.

For complete information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents Oracle Hysterical and Hub New Music
Five Boroughs Music Festival and the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor co-present the digital premiere of “Terra Nova,” a new concert-length song cycle created by the members of composer-collective Oracle Hysterical and performed in collaboration with the contemporary mixed-instrument quartet Hub New Music. Commissioned by Hub New Music and Five Boroughs Music Festival, Terra Nova is inspired by a range of ambitious, gritty (and sometimes naïve, cruel, and myopic) explorers, comprising songs that are by turns darkly ironic, heartrending, and straight-up fun (and occasionally a confounding mix of all three), coalescing into a powerful experience of both text and music. The ensemble recorded the cycle at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor in Staten Island and it received its in-person premiere on May 15 outdoors at the Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza.

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents “Terra Nova” (Digital World Premiere)
Filmed at and Co-Produced by the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor
Watch Free on the 5BMF YouTube channel through December 31, 2021

Learn More:

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Heartbeat Opera Announces Company Changes
Heartbeat Opera proudly announces that starting July 1, 2021, bass-baritone Derrell Acon will become the company's first Associate Artistic Director. Acon will also serve part-time on the West Coast at Long Beach Opera as their Associate Artistic Director and Chief Impact Officer. Heartbeat audiences know Acon from his astonishing performances as Rocco in Fidelio, Kaspar in Der Freischütz, and a singer in “Breathing Free.” In addition to his illustrious career as a performer, Acon has established himself as a respected and sought-after thought-leader and Blacktivist in the opera industry.

Heartbeat Co-Founder Louisa Proske, who was Co-Artistic Director for its first seven seasons, will become the Associate Artistic Director of Oper Halle in Germany. She will remain on Heartbeat’s board of directors, maintain ongoing close communication with Heartbeat leadership, and return to direct individual Heartbeat productions, including the upcoming world premiere of The Extinctionist. Her new role at Heartbeat will be Co-Founder & Resident Director.

For details, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

The See Within (CD review)

Echo Collective. 7K! 7K024CD.

By Karl W. Nehring

Readers who have followed Classical Candor for a while might remember the Brussels-based musicians Echo Collective from our review of their DG release 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann, music composed by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson. They have had an interesting and varied career, performing in concert settings in support of  artists such as Jóhannsson and A Winged Victory For The Sullen. They have also lent their interpretative talents to releases by themselves and others and others in musical genres as diverse as alt.rock, synth-pop, and black metal. Classical music fans need not worry, however, because The See Within, which is Echo Collective’s first album comprising their own original material (one of their previous releases, for example, was their instrumental version of Radiohead’s Amnesiac). Although The See Within is clearly contemporary in outlook, is fits without too awkward a stretch into the Western “classical” chamber music tradition.

The music is scored for violin, viola, cello, harp and, in its first appearance on a commercially released album recording, the magnetic resonator piano (MRP). “All sounds are acoustic, and produced in real time,” explain Echo Collective co-founders Margaret Hermant (violin, harp) and Neil Leiter (viola). “No processing or post-production other than reverb. The acoustic element is Echo Collective’s identity. A natural sound.”

The MRP, of which only one currently exists (built by its inventor, Andrew MacPherson), is something else again. I listened to the CD several times and assumed that there must be some subtle electronic instrumentation involved, some sort of synthesizer or perhaps electronic processing of the sound produced by a piano and perhaps some other instruments, although overall most of the sounds seemed quite natural. Only later did I do a little investigation and learn that all the sounds on the recording were acoustic. What I thought were synthesized tones were produced acoustically by the MRP, in which powerful electromagnets fitted to an acoustic piano – “imagine the effect of a giant E-bow” suggests Hermant – and an extra pedal prolong the notes, creating the kind of sustain and crescendos that can be achieved with strings. The MRP preserves all the sounds and techniques of the acoustic piano, while expanding its range of sounds to include things such as infinite sustain, crescendos (including crescendos from silence), harmonics on each string, new timbres that can be shaped in real time, and subtle pitch bends. Leiter explains that “in contrast to the conventional (hammer-actuated) piano sound, the sounds of the MRP are pure and ethereal, emphasizing the fundamental frequency of each string over its high partials. We discovered the MRP about six months before recording the album. It allowed us to give piano and strings equal expression, and to present a unified acoustic sound, since any drone effect on a piano is usually reliant on electronics. It’s been fascinating to take a traditional instrument and set it free.”

The MRP is played by Gary De Cart, The See Within’s third composer alongside Hermant and Leiter, while the album’s fourth musician, cellist Charlotte Danhier, is credited with co-writing the title track. Both De Cart and Danhier are regular members of the fluctuating collective, but the core of the ensemble is its two founders.

The opening cut, “Inflection Point,” sounds like fairly straightforward chamber music, with some subtle use of the MRP, while the second cut, “The See Within,” begins to let us hear what the MRP is capable of, creating some interesting sustains in the lower strings of the piano as a foundation for the sounds of the violin and harp above.

In the third cut, “From Last Night’s Rain,” we hear chords on the piano in addition to some other occasional effects. However, I should not over-emphasize the MRP; in truth, it is an integrated part of a true chamber ensemble, and there is much more to this music than just the sound of this instrument, which I have focused on because of its unusual nature, not because it has in any way dominated the sound of the music. At least to my mind’s ear (or ear’s mind), cut 4, “The Witching Hour,” expresses longing mingled with apprehension. It is a focused and convincing piece of music.    

Cut 5, “Glitch,” opens with some unusual sounds that resemble the calls of dolphins. As the music progresses, the listener can perhaps imagine it being part of the soundtrack for some psychological thriller. The next piece, “Unknown Gates,” gives prominence to the harp with support from the MRP. It really does function as something of a gateway, bringing us to the major composition on the album, the 11-minute “Respire.” This truly is a remarkable piece of music, calling upon the sounds of the MRP, the cello, the violin, and the harp to evoke feelings of calm, joy, peace, and wonder. Listen, breathe, behold, be calm, be well. The final track, “First Brightening,” turns the energy level up a notch or two. After all, we must not be content to sit and be well, we must stand and do good, bringing about some brightening.

All in all, The See Within is a musical breath of fresh air blowing in from Brussels. Give this remarkable album an audition and be amazed, as was I, that all the sounds you hear are produced by acoustic instruments. I look eagerly forward to future releases by this remarkable ensemble, regardless of musical genre. Brava and bravo! 


Beethoven: Violin Concerto (SACD review)

Also, Schnittke: Violin Concerto No. 3. Vadim Gluzman, violin; James Gaffigan, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester. BIS 2392.

By John J. Puccio

Another Beethoven Violin Concerto? Well, it’s a popular piece. Every violinist with aspirations of greatness must play and record it. And the obsessive Beethoven or classical collector can never get enough of anything. So where there’s a need, there’s someone to fill it. Fortunately, this one is pretty good, with Ukrainian-born Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman accompanied by conductor James Gaffigan and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra.

Beethoven wrote the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major in 1806. It received an unfavorable première, and the composer practically shelved it for the rest of his life, never publishing another violin concerto again. The world would have to wait until 1844 before violinist Joseph Joachim and conductor and composer Felix Mendelssohn revived the work, and, needless to say, it has been one of the most important concertos in the genre ever since.

The work begins with a lengthy and fairly laid-back introduction before the violin finally enters with a flourish. A slow, central Larghetto follows, with a lively Rondo to cap things off. Gluzman measures up well to most other soloists in this work, his tempos and spirit well judged. There is nothing revolutionary about his playing; it’s simply exciting and vigorous when it needs to be; lyrical and melodious when it needs to be (the Larghetto wins the day); and straightforward and affecting when it needs to be. It’s a performance that’s never pushy yet never boring. I wouldn’t put it in the Heifetz category, but it’s genial and pleasing enough, and the smoothness of its recording is quite a lot better than most.

Paired with the Beethoven Violin Concerto is the Concerto No. 3 for violin and chamber orchestra by the Soviet-German composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-98). Why Schnittke? Probably because of the cadenzas he wrote for the Beethoven piece. We go from cadenzas to concerto. Simple.

Schnittke wrote his Third Violin Concerto in 1978 for Soviet violinist Oleg Kagan, and, not surprisingly, the cadenza plays an important role in the music making. In fact, the work opens with an extended cadenza, the soloist finally joined by winds. Although the whole piece seems more eccentric to me than musically satisfying, it makes a fascinating listen all the same. It holds one’s attention, while never entirely engaging one’s sympathy or affection. Schnittke’s concerto is a kind of tour-de-force for the soloist, who is almost the entire show. There’s not a lot of dialogue between the violinist and the accompanists at first; they are there merely to hold up the tent. Nevertheless, by the second movement they all join in and work splendidly together, with even a string quartet eventually getting in on the act. Throughout, Gluzman’s playing is impeccable.

Producer Martin Nagorni and engineers Fabian Frank (Schnittke) and Thore Brinkmann (Beethoven) recorded the music at the Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern, Seitzerland in November 2017 (Schnittke) and December 2019 (Beethoven). They made it for hybrid SACD/CD playback, meaning that if you have an SACD player, you can enjoy the music in either two-channel or multichannel playback, and if you have a regular CD player, you can enjoy the regular two-channel CD layer. I listened in two-channel SACD.

Either way, CD or SACD, the sound is quite satisfying. Indeed, you could hardly improve upon it. It’s big and warm and robust, without a trace of brightness or edge. Perhaps the soloist could have been better centered, I dunno. The dynamic range is wide; the impact is solid; hall resonance is realistic; transparency is fine; and frequency extremes are more than adequate. Enjoyable listening.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, June 12, 2021

PBO Announces Radical 2021/22 Season

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) comes roaring back for its 2021/22 concert season. Richard Egarr, whose first planned season as PBO Music Director was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, has assembled a season chock full of music old, new and rarely heard.

A hallmark of the season is the number of debuts by star soloists and conductors; world premieres, and new productions; large-scale choral works by J.S. Bach and Schumann; the return of acclaimed series “Jews & Music,” and SESSIONS; tour performances in New York; and a reimagining of the new talk show "What’s New & H.I.P. with Tarik & Rick," which originated during the pandemic. Taken as a whole, the 21/22 season commits fully to exploring and presenting what a Baroque ensemble can and should be in the 21st century, all this alongside the very recent appointments of Composer-in-Residence Tarik O’Regan and Creative Partner Davóne Tines.

For complete details, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Festival Mozaic: Choose Your Own Package Today
Enjoy discounts on your tickets when you purchase a Choose-Your-Own Experience package of three or more events during the Festival Mozaic! While the Notable Dinners have already sold out, there are tickets available to all of our other six concerts.

Please call our office at (805) 781-3009 to purchase your Choose-Your-Own Experience today! We are available 9am - 4pm. If we are on the phone please leave a message for any staff member, and we will return your call as soon as possible.

The Chamber Series Experience is also available now and includes all four chamber concerts: July 24 at Serra Chapel, July 27 and 30 at SLO Brew Rock, and July 31 at the Performing Arts Center. You may purchase this package via our website or by calling our office.

All packages include a free ticket to attend a screening of a brand new episode of Scott Yoo's PBS series “Now Hear This.” The screening will take place Sunday, July 25th at 7:30pm at the Fremont Theater and includes a Q&A with Mr. Yoo and the show's creator/director/producer Harry Lynch.

For details, visit

--Festival Mozaic

Concert Dialogues: from one flute to another
The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) concludes its hybrid season (in theatres and on the web) on June 17, with the Dialogues concert at the Cocathédrale Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue in Longueuil.
Initiated by Marie-Hélène Breault around works by composer Katia Makdissi-Warren, the program will explore the flute repertoire with works highlighted by serenity. Presented in a magnificent church in Longueuil, the pieces will illustrate the spellbinding power of this instrument, one of the oldest and most played world-wide. Works for harp and voice complete this invitation to contemplation.

Navigating between the written and the improvised, Dialogues leads listeners into a complex and mysterious sound universe, where the modern flute is imbued with the colours of the nay (a reed flute played in Arab, Turkish and Persian music), bringing together a dozen musicians in a skilful blend of western and eastern influences.

"The idea of exchange is fundamental in Katia's writing. She allows for a great deal of freedom in the interpretation, so it's a real pleasure to be able to get involved with our own notions," says Ms. Breault, who has been collaborating with the composer for 15 years. "And more broadly, there is obviously a dialogue between cultures that comes across in her style. For example, several pieces on the programme are inspired by taqasim, a form of improvisation found in Arab music.

This concert will allow us to immerse ourselves in the mixed shadings of Ms. Makdissi-Warren, while punctuating the great homage paid to her last year by the SMCQ. The music of this Lebanese-born Quebecer had already brought together thousands of listeners across Canada as part of the Homage Series, before many other concerts were sadly cancelled due to the pandemic.

Dialogues – free concert (concert hall and online)
Thursday, June 17, 2021, 7 pm
Cocathédrale Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue
55, rue Sainte-Elizabeth – Longueuil (Québec)

For more information, visit

--France Gaignard

Let's Celebrate the Strawberry
Our next edition of “Lunar Landscapes” celebrates the Strawberry Moon on June 24, 2021 at 9PM EDT with special guest Leonardo Heiblum, creator of the Encyclopedia Sónica and its associated works, as well as a prolific composer for film. The program will include performances of “The Monk and the Elephant,” “The Sheep,” my own “Strange Energy #11,” “Freedom,” and Leo will join me in a very special version of Etude #16 by Philip Glass.

The Strawberry Moon is the time to reap the benefits of the seeds we sowed in March after the blooming of all our work last month, the Strawberry is the first fruit. With the solstice around the corner, and the longest day of the year, this month’s cocktail/mocktail pays homage to Leo’s home country of Mexico with a mezcal concoction, the Strawberry Sling.

Tickets are available on Eventbrite for single tickets and Patreon for series subscriptions for as little as $5 per month. For tickets and information, visit

--Eleonor Sandresky

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2021 CAG Virtual Competition
Balourdet String Quartet, Chromic Duo, Ariel Lanyi and Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux are this year's Concert Artists Guild/YCAT Grand Prize Winners, and Evren Ozel and Adam Sadberry are the winners of the Ambassador Prize!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information on these amazing young artists. In case you missed it, you can watch the full Winners Announcement and Finalists Showcase below which include performances of all the finalists and messages from CAG President Tanya Bannister.

Watch the announcement here:

--Tanya Bannister, Concert Artists Guild

Colorado Music Festival Begins July 1
Colorado Music Festival (CMF) presents its summer concert season from July 1 through August 7 at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, CO, under the direction of Music Director Peter Oundjian. The Festival offers 22 diverse performances of orchestral and chamber music by the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra and guest artists including Artist-in-Residence Augustin Hadelich.

“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.

For a complete schedule of concerts, visit

For a complete schedule  of live-streamed concerts, visit:

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

2021 Season of the Orchestre de la francophonie
The Orchestre de la francophonie (OF) is opening its borders wide and pushing its educational mission further on the occasion of its 20th edition. OF Academy has chosen to share its passion with 37 young musicians, from all over the world (including, for the first time, a student from Iran), but also with the general public.

From July 6th to August 15th, music lovers are invited to follow the recitals and digital projects of the selected young musicians online, but they will exceptionally be able to discover the master classes, the presentations with distinguished guests and the conversations with experts, all for free.

“Despite the pandemic, it is important to continue to provide OF educational experience to talented young musicians. In digital form, once again this year, our program focused on real orchestral life allowing trainees to rub shoulders with experienced teachers from prestigious orchestras. By participating in the OF, students are encouraged to prepare for the competitive world that awaits them by developing the best technical and musical tools,” confirms Jean-Philippe Tremblay, artistic and educational director of the OF since its creation.

For complete information, visit

--France Gaignard

University of North Carolina School of the Arts Names Saxton Rose Dean of the School of Music
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) has named bassoonist and educator Saxton Rose as its new dean of the School of Music effective immediately.

Mr. Rose has served as interim dean of music since July 2020, including leading the school through the COVID-19 pandemic with an entire academic year of in-person instruction and performance. He has been on the faculty since 2008, having chaired the woodwind department since 2009 and been named associate professor of bassoon in 2015. Rose is an active leader within the School of Music and the university at large, holding leadership positions within the music school’s strategic planning and curriculum revision task forces, with a particular focus on technology development; innovative approaches to ensemble training; and equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) initiatives. He has chaired the university’s faculty welfare committee and served as a member of the faculty council.

For more information, visit

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

Michael Christie and New West Symphony Present “America the Melting Pot”
New West Symphony (NWS), with Grammy-winning conductor Michael Christie as Artistic and Music Director, continues its 2020-21 groundbreaking and reimagined season of “Global Sounds, Local Cultures” with “America the Melting Pot.”

This virtual festival, running June 24-27, embraces New West Symphony’s belief that the arts have a critical role to play in capturing the most important stories of our times, expressing the lived experiences of all members of our society, and ultimately leading the way toward a more equitable, inclusive, and just world for all. “America the Melting Pot” culminates with a feature symphony concert program, streaming on Sunday, June 27 at 3pm PT, that promotes unity through music by presenting the works of Eubie Blake, Margaret Bonds, Valerie Coleman, Duke Ellington, Florence Price, Hazel Scott, William Grant Still, as well as featured guest artist, composer and double bass virtuoso, Xavier Foley. Additional guest artists for this performance include pianist and NPR series host Lara Downes, tenor Ashley Faatoalia, and violinist Eunice Kim.

For more information, visit and

--Maggie Stapleton, Jensen Artists

Empowering Our Choristers to Think Beyond Their Wildest Dreams
At Young People’s Chorus of New York City, music is the unifying force that brings our children together, showcasing their individuality and empowering them to think beyond their wildest dreams.

None of this could be possible without the generosity of donors. Your gift will help our young people get back on stage help YPC create new opportunities for connection, artistic expression and personal growth through music education, performance, and community building.

To donate and learn more about Young People’s Chorus, visit

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

American Bach Soloists Summer Festival in Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Our ABS musicians are absolutely overjoyed to be reuniting with our audiences and with each other, so we’ve put together programs that celebrate much of what we’ve missed and can return to now.

The opening program, named after the Giants ballpark’s famous “Triples Alley” features three concertos for three violins by three great Baroque composers: Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi. The concert—all about teamwork and collaboration—includes a grand slam in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins.

This summer's Bach Explorations concert called "Transformations" features music by Bach and transcriptions of the same works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and Ysaÿe.

“The Devil’s Trill” brings virtuoso violin music front and center in a duo/duel concert of music by Bach, Handel, and Tartini featuring some of ABS's most exciting performers.

We've missed the music of our beloved namesake, Bach, over the past year, so we will present “Bach & His World,” featuring captivating works by Johann Sebastian and the composers who inspired his genius.

This special season of ABS's Summer Festival closes with performances of the marquee event, "The Garden of Harmony," a sensational program of music about birds, animals, and the harmony of nature. While we were sheltering to protect each other, nature flourished in ways that it hadn't for many years. This concert celebrates that inspiring part of our shared experiences.

For complete information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

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

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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