Recent Releases, No. 19 (CD reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Igor Levit: On DSCH. Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87; Stevenson: Passacaglia on DSCH. Igor Levit, piano. Sony Classical 19439809212.

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. In preparation for this review I did a quick mental inventory of recordings of the Shostakovich 24 preludes and Fugues in my collection. Of course there was the version that had served as my introduction to these pieces nearly 30 years ago (how could that be?!), Keith Jarrett’s ECM recording. Then there was the Konstantin Scherbakov Naxos recording, originally released in 2000 but which I have owned for maybe 10 years or so. Then I remembered that I also owned a version by Vladimir Ashkenazy, which was included in a Decca boxed set of Shostakovich’s chamber music. But what made me laugh is that while looking for that boxed set, I ran across another Decca release that I did not even realize I owned, this one featuring just the 24 Preludes and Fugues. An embarrassment, yes, but an embarrassment of riches. Having previously been impressed by Levit’s pianistic artistry, I had been looking forward eagerly to this new release, not only to hear his interpretation of the Shostakovich, but also to hear for the first time the Passacaglia on DSCH by the late Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015), having read read an  interview with Levit in the September issue of Gramophone magazine in which Levit discussed at some length this new recording and his thoughts about the composers and their music, at one point declaring that, “the Passacaglia on DSCH is a combination of intellectual, pianistic, physical and emotional effort. So far it’s really been second to none for me. It’s kind of a larger-than-life piece that I feel very close to -- a musical piece of genius beyond belief.”

Although I hardly needed yet another recording of DSCH’s 24 to add to my collection, my admiration for Levit’s musicianship combined with my curiosity about the Stevenson piece compelled me to place an advance order for the bizarrely illustrated 3-CD set that I began to audition as soon as it arrived a couple of weeks ago and have listened to numerous times since. Levit brings a warmth and depth of expression to the Shostakovich that draws the listener in. Part of this impression may be attributable to the recorded sound of the piano, which is on the warm and full side, yet very clear and detailed. In comparison, Jarrett’s interpretation seems a bit more Bach-like, whereas Levit’s strikes my ears as more Liszt-like, if that makes any sense at all. To be honest, I like them both, but at different times and for different reasons and different purposes. But my goodness, the Levit is wonderful, and has become my favored version. The Stevenson piece is something I have not quite completely come to grips with; that is not to say I do not like it, for I do, but it is a complex piece, expressing a multitude of styles and emotions, something like a symphony for the piano. I can well appreciate Levit’s thoughts about it and I furthermore appreciate his having recorded it for us to hear and enjoy. This is quite a release. The music is rewarding, particularly with the inclusion of the seldom-encountered but significant composition by Stevenson that so well complements the Shostakovich, the playing is beyond reproach, as is the engineering, and the liner booklet is informative and engaging. The net result is a first-class release that I highly recommend to DSCH fans, even those who already have a favorite recording of his marvelous 24 Preludes and Fugues. Allow me to close with a thought to ponder from Levit: “Music is freer than certain figures of our industry on the writing side, or blogging side, are trying to make us believe. That’s something I find uplifting about music; it’s just there to be experienced, not to be explained. I am not a teacher.”

Klebanov: Chamber Works. Includes String Quartets Nos 4 and 5; Piano Trio No. 2. ARC Ensemble (Erika Raun and Marie Berard, violins; Steven Dann, viola; Thomas Wiebe, Kevin Ahfat, piano). Chandos CHAN 20231.

I slipped this CD into the tray of my CD player, hit the PLAY button, and retreated quickly to my listening chair, not quite sure what to expect, never having heard any music by the Jewish-Ukrainian composer Dmitri Klebanov (1907-1987). Would it be harsh and discordant, spooky and mysterious. or just kind of faceless and bland? Imagine my surprise, then, when the first music that I heard pouring from my speakers was – are you ready for this? – Christmas music! Yes, the first few bars of Klebanov’s String Quartet No. 4 were familiar to my ears as the opening bars of that familiar Christmas tune, Carol of the Bells. As the liner notes explain, “The accessible and spirited Fourth Quartet is dedicated to the memory of the much-loved Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych, whose secular choral works draw on the country’s folk music… The quartet draws on melodies by Leontovych; the opening movement is based on his song Shchedryk (Little Swallow), a perennial favourite composed in 1904 and better known in the West as the Christmas favourite ‘Carol of the Bells’.” You learn something every day! The Fourth Quartet (1946) is rather brief, its four movements totaling under 17 minutes in this performance, but it is lively, tuneful and engaging. His Piano Trio No. 2 (1958) is the longest work on the program at nearly 31 minutes. It is more serious in mood than the preceding quartet, but that is not to imply that it is somber by any means. It simply feels more musically mature, more expressive – and the three musicians really dig into their parts with gusto, as if to convince their listeners of the musical value of this long-overlooked score. This is an impassioned performance indeed! And likewise with the performance of Klebanov’s String Quartet No. 5 (1965), which likewise feels more musically mature and deeply expressive than his preceding quartet. All in all, this is another truly rewarding release in the “Music in Exile” series of recordings by Canada’s ARC Ensemble. (We previously reviewed their fine recording of chamber works by Walter Kaufmann here.) Like Kaufmann, Klebanov was a composer whose music was suppressed by the Soviet regime and has long been neglected. All three works featured on this beautifully engineered CD are premier recordings; moreover, the liner booklet features not only information about the music but also biographical information to put Klebanov’s life and travails in clear perspective. As my Belgian friend said to me after we listened to this album and poured through the liner notes, “Mon ami, this ARC Ensemble, they not only play the music most beautiful, but they also do the work most noble, n’cest-pas?

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1, 14, & 15; Chamber Symphony in C minor. Andris Nelsons, Boston Symphony Orchestra. Deutsche Grammophon B0033803-02.

Not long into auditioning this release from Nelsons and his Boston forces, I was struck by two things. First, the bass on this recording was prodigious, with a drum sound to rival the most impressive Telarc recordings from back in the day. Second, the performance of the Shostakovich First Symphony seemed slow. My first impression regarding the engineering held up throughout my listening sessions, and was frankly kind of fun; however, I could not quite get over the slow tempi. The Shostakovich First should sound like a bit of a romp, some high-spirited fun, but that quality is missing here. I thought Bernstein on his old Chicago recording on DG stretched the First about as far as it could go, but Nelsons stretches it beyond the breaking point. Symphony No. 15 likewise just feels, at least to these ears, a bit too slow, and likewise with the Chamber Symphony. All things considered, the recorded sound is powerful and resonant, most impressive indeed, but the performances just never seem to catch fire. If you are new to Shostakovich and are looking for a good coupling of his Symphonies Nos. 1 & 15, two worthy options I can recommend are Wigglesworth on BIS and Inbal on Denon. Also, the Bernstein/Chicago DG recording that couples Symphonies Nos. 1 & 7 features a performance of No. 1 that although slow, is still intriguing and well worth a listen. To be honest, though, it is not a recording I would recommend for someone coming to this symphony for the first time, but rather to those already familiar with the work. But the Symphony No. 7  by these forces is simply incredible, a recording that every fan of Shostakovich would do well to give an audition. Oh. My. Goodness.

Jan Järvlepp: High Voltage Chamber Music. Includes Quintet 2003; Woodwind Quintet; Bassoon Quartet; String Quartet No. 1. Jae Cosmos Lee, violin; Sirius Quartet (Fung Chen Hwei and Gregor Huebner, violins; Ron Lawrence, viola; Jeremy Harman, cello); Arcadian Winds (Vanessa Holroyd, flute/alto flute; Jennifer Slowick, oboe and English horn; Rane Moore, clarinet; Clark Matthews, French horn; Janet Underhill, Meryl Summers, Naho Zhu, bassoons; Susie Tulsie, contrabassoon/bassoon). Navona NV6366.

This album of chamber music by contemporary Canadian composer Jan Järvlepp (b. 1953) might also be titled “High-Spirited Chamber Music,” because each of the four musical selections projects energy, optimism, and a real zest for both music and life. Although that overall mood prevails throughout the four pieces, each is for a different ensemble – string quintet (featuring three violins, leading to what Jarvlepp calls some “fancy fiddling”), woodwind quintet, bassoon quartet, and string quartet – making for a refreshing variety of sonorities as the program proceeds. Although I would characterize the music on this album as “easy to listen to,” I do not at all mean to imply that it is not serious music. It is serious, finely crafted music that happens to be of a nature that makes it pleasant but still captivating, evincing a mood in the listener more along the lines of Shubert’s “Trout” than a late Beethoven quartet. Each of the ensembles digs into the music with evident enthusiasm, reminding the listener that the true purpose of chamber music is not so much to be heard as to be played. But as consolation for those of us who can only hear it, not play it, let us remember that chamber music is meant to be played not in a concert hall but in intimate setting, for a few family and friends gathered in a home -- and if not in the same room as the actual quartet or quintet, then in a comfortable room with decent stereo system reproducing fine chamber music recordings such as this one.


Leo Sowerby: The Paul Whiteman Commissions (CD review)

Andy Baker Orchestra; Avalon String Quartet. Cedille CDR 90000 205.

By John J. Puccio

Jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman’s greatest contributions to music were probably his commissions, like George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, which he premiered with his band. However, these were not the only works he requested, and on the present disc we get two scores he commissioned from American composer Leo Sowerby (1895-1968), as well as three other Sowerby pieces, which are here rendered as closely as possible to their original versions by the Andy Baker Orchestra and by the Avalon String Quartet.

First up on the program is Synconata, a work Whiteman debuted in 1924. In offering the commission to Sowerby, Whiteman requested something that would incorporate the typical American idioms of jazz, gospel, and folk in an orchestral setting and fit into what the bandleader called his “Revolutionary Concerts.” Because Sowerby never published a definitive edition of this work and several of the others, the disc rightfully calls the present arrangements world-premiere recordings.

There’s a good deal of jazz in Synconata, probably more so than we find in Gershwin, yet it all works in fine, high fashion. There is nothing gaudy, tacky, or showy about the music; it’s just a good combination of classical jazz and jazzy classical, with a profoundly rhythmic forward pulse. The band plays it with zeal and provides it with all the color it deserves.

The other Whiteman commission is Symphony for Jazz Orchestra (“Monotony”), which followed Synconata in 1925. It’s subtitled “A Symphony for Metronome and Jazz Orchestra,” a description that pretty well describes its four movements. As befitting the symmetry of the album, it closes the show. This one is more symphonic in structure than Synconato and appears to borrow a tad more from Gershwin. Moreover, this time out Sowerby is more whimsical than before, as well as more melodious. The ragtime element isn’t quite as prominent but the 1920s’ jazz element is. While the piece may be a little too long for its material, it is certainly fun stuff and infectious. It’s almost impossible not to smile and enjoy it.

In between the Whiteman commissions on the disc there are three Sowerby chamber works. The first is the Serenade in G Major for String Quartet from 1917, one of the composer’s first important pieces. It is here ably performed by the Avalon String Quartet. One can see why Whiteman a little later wanted Sowerby to write something specifically for him. The Serenade is not a serenade in the strictest sense, but it does impart a strong classical sense, along with a snappy vigor.

After that we hear the String Quartet in D minor (1923) with the Avalon Quartet and Tramping Tune for Piano and Strings (1917) with pianist Winston Choi, double-bassist Alexander Hanna, and the Avalon players. The D minor Quartet is a bit more serious than the earlier Serenade and considerably longer, placing it more strongly in the traditional classical genre. However, as it goes along, it opens up to a fluent, springy gait and a generally warm, affable cheerfulness. The little Tramping Tune is obviously a nod to World War I and marches along in hearty fashion.

Producer James Ginsburg and engineer Bill Maylone recorded the music at Kennedy-King College, Chicago, Illinois in January 2020 and at Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois in January 2021. Cedille’s crackerjack team produces a sound that is the cat’s meow. It’s a snazzy combination of transparency, dynamics, ambience, air, wide frequency response, and naturalness. In other words, it’s a doozy and could hardly be better. Zowie!


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

Classical Music News of the Week, September 25, 2021

New York Festival of Song Presents 2021 NYFOS Next Festival

New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), led by Artistic Director Steven Blier, is presenting the 2021 NYFOS Next Festival with two concerts held at the Ann Goodman Recital Hall at Kaufman Music Center.

On Friday, October 22, 2021 at 7:00pm, the festival kicks off with 9 UNDER 34: Composers Younger Than NYFOS, co-curated by baritone Gregory Feldmann. The evening will feature works by composers born after NYFOS’s first program was presented, performed by baritone Gregory Feldmann and mezzo-soprano and 2021 Naumberg Award winner Erin Wagner, together with pianists Nathaniel LaNasa and Shawn Chang and cellist Thapelo Masita. Works include songs by Jake Landau, Sato Matsui, Shawn Chang, Iván Enrique Rodríguez, David Clay Mettens, Emily Cooley, Tariq al-Sabir, Curtis Stewart, and Molly Joyce.

Co-curator Feldmann says about the 9 UNDER 34 program, “In building this program, I hoped to present composers from a wide array of backgrounds and demographics that were writing songs about what mattered to them. The final result has had several themes emerge that, while not unique to our generation, are absolutely core conversations of today: Identity, the shifting social and environmental landscape, and our ability to communicate and connect within these new landscapes. The songs feature texts ranging from 19th century Scotland, to the lesser known words of Francis Scott Key, to nonverbal individuals with autism in Chicago, to personal reflections.”

For complete details, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Sphinx Virtuosi to Perform “Tracing Visions”
The Sphinx Virtuosi--a professional chamber orchestra comprising 18 of the nation's top Black and Latinx classical soloists--will return to live performances with a nine-city tour this fall. Featuring works by Jessie Montgomery, Xavier Foley, Andrea Casarrubios, and more, the tour program, “Tracing Visions,” sets out to challenge and evolve the classical canon with music that celebrates the rich history of America as a place where differences can be overcome and diverse communities can unite under a shared identity. The Sphinx Virtuosi is part of the Sphinx Organization, the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

For details, visit

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

Semyon Bychkov & Czech Philharmonic launch 126th Season
Welcoming back audiences to Prague’s Rudolfinum on 29 September, the Czech Philharmonic launches its 126th season with Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov marking the start of his fourth year at the helm of the Orchestra. The season opens with Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, a work that has a deep significance for Bychkov who was born in Leningrad and whose mother lived through the 900 days of the siege which was still ravaging Leningrad when the second performance of the work was given in the city.

Recorded and broadcast by the Czech Philharmonic’s own state-of-the-art producing house Czech Phil Media, the first performance on 29 September can be enjoyed live by national audiences on Czech TV (available thereafter for 7 days on Czech TV’s iVysilani web player). International subscribers to takt1 can watch the live stream of the second performance on 30 September:

--Moë Faulkner, Macbeth Media Relations

Greek National Opera Announces Fall 2021 Season
The Greek National Opera (GNO) today announced the programming for its fall 2021 season, which runs from October through December and marks the company’s return to indoor performance at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). Featuring opera, ballet, dance, and concert performances, much of the fall lineup is dedicated to celebrating 200 years since the Greek revolution began. The fall program is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach and also to create a tribute to the 2021 bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.

For details, visit

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

Tickets for “Tableau” Are Selling
SOLI Chamber Ensemble has carefully crafted evenings to include voices of distinct compositional colors: each voice and concert contributing equally to a season that is one color wheel - not complete without each integral hue. Season tickets are now available and include all concerts listed above.

For information and tickets, visit

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

Death of Classical Presents Ulysses Quartet
Death of Classical will continue its third season of The Angel’s Share, with the Ulysses Quartet performing in the Catacombs of The Green-Wood Cemetery on October 6, 7, and 8, with two performances per night. The quartet will perform a program of works reflecting on the beauty and brevity of human life, with Osvaldo Golijov’s Tenebrae followed by Schubert’s String Quartet no. 14, “Death and the Maiden.”

For more information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

JoAnn Falletta Returns to Live Concerts, Recording and Celebrations
Multiple Grammy Award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta is delighted to be once again performing for live audiences, recording and celebrating career achievements with fellow musicians and friends.

On September 14,  Falletta led the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at The Kennedy Center's 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert, which will be broadcast nationwide on October 1 at 9pm EST as “The Kennedy Center at 50” on PBS,, and the PBS video app. Earlier this summer, JoAnn conducted Wolf Trap's 50th anniversary concert, made her debut at the Sunflower Music Festival featuring women composers, conducted her Covid-delayed farewell concert in Virginia, led an all-star performance and Naxos recording of William Walton's Façade, accepted the Virginia Arts Festival's Ovation Award, and was finally able to celebrate her 2021 Grammy win with fellow awardee Adam Luebke for Richard Danielpour's choral masterpiece, The Passion of Yeshua.

More information on Maestro Falletta may be found at

--Genevieve Spielberg Inc.

Wet Ink Ensemble Announces Fall Season
The Wet Ink Ensemble announces its fall 2021 lineup of concerts and inaugural Artist-in-Residence Program, featuring composer-performers Nick Dunston and Katherine Young, as well as new editions of the Wet Ink Archive, the ensemble’s artist-curated online journal of adventurous music.

Wet Ink’s fall concerts kick off with an appearance at the Ear Taxi Festival on Saturday, October 2, 2021 at 7:30pm. Held at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago, the Wet Ink octet will perform four premieres, presented by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition in partnership with UChicago Presents. The program features the Chicago premiere of Ben LaMar Gay’s. Better Known, Still Lit, who joins Wet Ink on the cornet; the world premieres of new works by Ted Moore and Maria Kaoutzani; and the Chicago premiere of Alex Mincek’s So Many Ways.

For the complete schedule, details, and tickets, visit

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

EXO’s Season Kick-Off
Join Experiential Orchestra’s 2021-2022 season, Saturday, October 2nd, 8:00pm at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, NYC.

Don't miss our first concert in nearly two years as we celebrate a powerful program of hope -
featuring two New York premieres by Julia Perry and works by Quinn Mason, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Margaret Bonds, William Grant Still, David Baker, Jessie Montgomery, Julia Perry, and Jessica Meyer.

Buy tickets and view full program details here:

--James Blachly, Experiential Orchestra

2021 Primrose International Viola Competition
The Colburn School and the American Viola Society today announced the 24 live round competitors for the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition. The 24 live round competitors were chosen from a pool of 103 applications received during the pre-screening round that closed in July 2021. The 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition takes place at the Colburn School, December 13-18, 2021.

The 24 live round competitors come from all over the world, representing 10 countries. The average age of participants is 23, with the youngest aged 18 and the oldest 29.

“After a prolonged period of closure, it is especially meaningful this year to be able to present, in-person, the Primrose International Viola Competition in collaboration with the American Viola Society,” said Colburn School President and CEO Sel Kardan. “As we prepare for the 16th international competition honoring the legacy of William Primrose, we look forward to hearing the next top soloists, chamber musicians, orchestral players, and pedagogues on campus. These talented young musicians are an inspiration and testament to perseverance during the challenging pandemic period, and this will undoubtedly be an uplifting week of music and celebration.”

For details, visit

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Oratorio Society of New York Opens 21-22 Season
The Oratorio Society of New York (OSNY), led by Music Director Kent Tritle, presents the opening concert of its 2021-2022 season on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 7:30pm at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, its first performance for a live audience since March 2020. The concert showcases Britten’s sacred choral piece Festival Te Deum and the cantata “Rejoice in the Lamb”; Pärt’s Berliner Messe and Two Slavonic Psalms; and Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo, Omnis Terra (A 8), with organist Raymond Nagem, and conducted by Kent Tritle, David Rosenmeyer, and William Janiszewski.

Additional concerts in OSNY’s 2021-22 season include: Handel’s Messiah on December 20, 2021 at 8pm in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall featuring soprano Leslie Fagan, contralto Heather Petrie, tenor Joshua Blue, and baritone Sidney Outlaw; Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Coronation Mass on March 8, 2022 at 7:30pm at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine featuring soprano Hyeyoung Moon, mezzo-soprano Jasmin White, tenor Patrick Bessenbacher, and bass-baritone William Socolof with the Orchestra of the Society; and Mendelssohn’s Elijah on May 9, 2022 at 8pm in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall featuring soprano Susanna Phillips, tenor Isaiah Bell, baritone Justin Austin, and the Orchestra of the Society. (Mezzo-soprano to be determined.) The Oratorio Society of New York also hosts its 45th annual Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition on April 9, 2022 at 1:30pm in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

For complete information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Princeton University Orchestra: Free Concerts
The Princeton University Orchestra, directed by Maestro Michael Pratt, will present their first live performances since the start of the pandemic on Friday & Saturday, October 8-9, at 7:30PM in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ.

The two concerts, free to all (tickets required), will feature two recent alumni: guest conductor Mariana Corichi Gómez (Class of 2021), and violinist Hana Mundiya (Class of 2020). The program, featuring works by Copland, Mozart, and Rimsky-Korsakov, will be performed without an intermission. All attendees will be required to be masked and fully-vaccinated against COVID-19.

For more information, visit

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Fall 2021 Updates from Young People’s Chorus
Young People's Chorus of New York City has opened up its doors and we are thrilled to welcome back our choristers to their home away from home! It is magical to hear their beautiful voices and the sounds of laughter coming from our rehearsal studios as we kick off our exciting 2021-22 season.

Saturday, September 25th, YPC will be on stage in Central Park with Lang Lang at Global Citizen Live–a 24-hour live broadcast with events and performances happening around the world. The New York lineup includes Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello, Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo, Meek Mill, and Shawn Mendes, with special guest performances by Alessia Cara, Burna Boy, Cyndi Lauper, and Jon Batiste.

To learn more and watch, visit

--Young People’s Chorus of New York City

International Contemporary Ensemble Announces New Ensemble Members
The International Contemporary Ensemble welcomes Matana Roberts and Fay Victor as new, permanent Ensemble members and Vimbayi Kaziboni as Artist-in-Residence for the 2021-22 season. As the Ensemble approaches its 20th year anniversary, Roberts, Victor, and Kaziboni will join and lead creative collaborations, as well as shape programming and policies in support of the organization’s overall mission to develop new work built on equity, belonging, and cultural responsiveness.

“Alongside growing our board of directors and staff, we are thrilled to welcome Matana, Fay, and Vimbayi as part of the International Contemporary Ensemble. They each have a collaborative history with the Ensemble that we are excited to grow and deepen together,” says Executive Director Jennifer Kessler.

Learn more:

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Novak: Piano Concerto (CD review)

Also, At Dusk; Toman and the Wood Nymph. Jan Bartos, piano; Jakub Hrusa, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. Supraphon SU-4284-2.

By Bill Heck

The title of this release,
Piano Concerto, Toman and the Wood Nymph, needs a little clarification. Yes, the first work on the disk is Novak’s one and only piano concerto, but that’s not the real highlight: the concerto is a very early work, enjoyable but not truly representative of the composer’s more mature style. Next, the second piece that you’ll hear is not in the title at all: a four-movement work for solo piano entitled At Dusk. Finally, the last work on the disk, Toman, not only is the featured item, but also the last composed. What doesn’t need clarification is that all three pieces are worth hearing and well-played to boot. (One might accuse Supraphon of burying the lede; as that last sentence shows, I won’t!)

With those clarifications out of the way, let’s turn to the question surely on the minds of many readers: just who was this Vitezslav Novak anyway? Although the list of classical music “headline” composers may not include many Czech names other than Dvorak, the next tier is surprisingly large: Smetana in the Romantic period, followed by more contemporary names like Janacek, Mahler (born in Bohemia), Suk, and Martinu. Novak, it turns out, is part of this latter group. In his day, he often was considered the natural musical heir to Dvorak: the latter’s star pupil, one of a small group of musical revolutionaries bent on casting off Germanic forms in order to develop a more nationalistic, truly Czech musical style. (In this they were perhaps following the better-known example of the earlier Russian “Mighty Five.”) Novak’s own style evolved from one recognizably like Dvorak’s – listen to the Piano Concerto on this disk for evidence – to a more contemporary (think sonorities more like Stravinsky than Dvorak) but still noticeably east European one. Yet somehow there was a missing spark, something that allowed Novak’s music to sink into obscurity while that of some of his contemporaries lived on. The liner notes for this release, along with the music, make the case that this obscurity is not deserved.

Turning to the music, the concerto opens dramatically in a minor key, and we immediately hear external influences that Novak incorporates: phrases vaguely reminiscent of Liszt and, a bit later, some that remind us of Mendelssohn. In the proceedings, a lively first theme is bandied about between the orchestra and piano and reiterated in suitably dramatic fashion by all. The piano settles in for some development, with varying tempos. Shortly, a gentle, pretty second theme emerges: a ray of sunlight through the clouds; the temperature rises again. All this goes on nicely, with a more than competent resolution.

The second movement, andante con sentimento, really is quite lovely. The piano plays quietly alone for the first two minutes of the movement, then the orchestra comes in as a partner in a duet, reminding me a bit of the slow movement of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto. To be clear, that's meant as high praise.

As the second movement fades away, it is replaced immediately by a sprightly allegro. This last movement is the one that perhaps owes most to Dvorak, with harmonies that sound "Czech" to my untutored ear and using the rhythm of the furiant, a Czech dance. (That last bit is courtesy of the very informative liner notes that come with this release.)
Next up is At Dusk, a collection of four short pieces for solo piano totaling just over 10 minutes. Again, the word “charming” comes to mind: these are far more than filler for the album, very listenable pieces in their own right. They are mostly quiet and reflective, and clearly demonstrate the Novak had matured as a composer since writing the concerto.

The final work on the disk is a major one: Toman and the Wood Nymph, subtitled A Symphonic Poem After A Bohemian Legend For Large Orchestra. As many readers will know, fairies, sprites, and other magical beings, including nymphs, have been frequent subjects for more abstract musical pieces, particularly in the late romantic period, and this work is in that tradition. The gist of the poem on which the work is based, and which in turn is based on a German folktale, tells the story of a young man (Toman) who is betrayed by his lover, wanders into the forest, and makes the fatal mistake of yielding to the blandishments of a nymph. Along the way there are plenty of dramatic, even passionate moments as depicted in the music, a few passages of sprightly dance-like tunes, all interspersed with thoughts of longing and sorrow and even peace and hope, with some quite lovely passages in the latter vein. (Yes, it really is a tone poem.) As we approach the end, the music fades softly, only to shatter the calm spell with a final short burst of just a couple of notes.

Of course, these capsule descriptions can’t do the works here justice, or may even suggest that the music is trivial. Not so! Novak had earned his reputation back in the day, and we’re fortunate to have a chance to hear his work now.

As to the music-making, all involved seem intent on making the case that this music is worth hearing. The playing is thoughtful, dynamic, and technically secure. The Supraphon engineers are on the job as well, capturing a natural sound for both piano and orchestra. By the way, I noticed that the recording particularly highlights the lovely “woody” sounds of the orchestra’s string sections, a sound that reminds me of some other recordings of Czech orchestras. Quite nice.

To put all this in perspective, Novak is not going to replace Beethoven – nor Dvorak – in the pantheon of classical composers. But it would be a rather small and boring world that had room for only a handful of certified superheroes. Have a listen, I think you’ll like it.


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

Sounds of America (CD review)

Music of Barber, Copland, and Bernstein. Jon Manasse, clarinet; David Bernard, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Recursive Classics RC3139941.

By John J. Puccio

You probably already know that David Bernard is an award-winning conductor and that the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony includes mainly players who do other things for a living (like being hedge-fund managers, philanthropists, CEO's, UN officials, and so on). While they are not full-time musicians, their playing belies any skepticism about the quality of their work; everyone involved with the orchestra deserves praise. Nor does the word “Chamber” in the ensemble’s title indicate a particularly small group. It's about the size of a regular, full-sized symphony orchestra; yet their performances are slightly more intimate and the sound slightly more transparent than most orchestras. In the last analysis, they make beautiful music together, which is all that matters.

With the current album, Maestro Bernard and company present four pieces celebrating America by American composers. The first up is the familiar but always welcome Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (1910-1981). It’s an arrangement for orchestra that Barber took from the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11. Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony premiered it in 1938. The thing about the Adagio is that although that tempo marking means “slow and graceful,” there is a good deal of latitude about how a conductor actually handles it. The accompanying booklet mentions, for instance, that Toscanini got through the piece in a little over seven minutes, and that subsequent conductors have taken as long as nine or ten minutes. Maestro Bernard manages a tidy 8:35, neither too hurried nor too relaxed. It is as lovely a rendition as any I’ve heard.

Next is the familiar suite from Appalachian Spring, written in 1944 by Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Its eight movements take us through the ballet. Copland originally scored it for a small theater-pit orchestra, but the subsequent suite opens it up to a bigger, fuller, more luxuriant sound, one well suited to the Park Avenue players. Bernard does a splendid job conveying all the color of the piece, the characters, and their actions.

The third item is also by Copland, the Clarinet Concerto, written between 1947-49 on a commission from bandleader and jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman. On the present recording the soloist is Jon Manasse. Bernard leads a longingly pensive, wistfully reflective interpretation of the work, with a beautifully measured response from Manasse.

The album concludes with the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Bernstein premiered the musical West Side Story on Broadway in 1957. The Symphonic Dances is a suite in nine movements of music derived from the show, a suite the composer prepared in 1960. Like the rest of the program, it’s familiar territory, but it’s freshened by Maestro Bernard’s enthusiastic approach. He seems genuinely engaged with the music, its story, and its people, and he brings the whole thing to life with his vigorous, animated direction.

Audio engineers Joel Watts, Brian Losch, and Jennifer Nulsen recorded the music at the DiMenna Center for the Performing Arts, New York City in November 2019. Appropriate to the music, the sound is lush and full, a trifle warm and soft, but quite natural. It displays good, lifelike detail, range, and dynamics without being in any way bright, forward, or edgy. It’s remarkably easy on the ear, rewarding both the casual listener and the discerning audiophile alike.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, September 18, 2021

The Chelsea Symphony Announces Its 2021-2022 Season

The Chelsea Symphony is thrilled to announce its 2021-2022 concert season, “Reunited.” Each program this season responds in a different way to the past unprecedented year. We celebrate the joys of being back on the town and remember those we have lost; we find solace in nature, strength in diversity, and inspiration in resilience.

As always, TCS aims to radically democratize the concert experience. Every concert will showcase The Chelsea Symphony’s unique collaborative structure, with our musicians rotating as featured soloists, composers, and conductors. We invite you to join us in conversation after each performance—come over and say hello!

The season begins with “Back on the Town,” September 24 & 25, 2021:
Our season opener celebrates the resilience of our community in times of adversity. Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, written during the darkest days of World War II, depicts an exuberant romp through New York City.

For the full schedule of programs and events, visit

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Scott Yoo and Friends Perform Live Sep. 26
Join Scott Yoo  for an afternoon of great chamber music. This concert will feature Festival Mozaic's music director Scott Yoo along with Los Angeles Philharmonic principal cellist Robert deMaine and renowned pianist John Novacek in Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano and Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1. Tickets start as low as $35. Package pricing available when grouping tickets for all four fall events.

Sunday, September 26 • 2:00 PM
Harold J. Miossi CPAC at Cuesta College, CA.

For complete concert and ticket informaiton, visit

--Festival Mozaic

Marini's "Echo Sonata" for Three Violins
American Bach Soloists present this week's new music video in "The Baroque Experience": "Echo Sonata" for 3 Violins by Biagio Marini, featuring Elizabeth Blumenstock, YuEun Gemma Kim, and Cynthia Keiko Black, violins; with Corey Jamason, organ.

Watch on YouTube:

--American Bach Soloists

Tulsa Opera 2021-22 Season Opens
Tulsa Opera will came out swinging on Friday, October 15 with a celebratory 74th season opening night event titled “Puccini and Verdi Play Ball at ONEOK Field.”

The evening--held at the home of the Tulsa Drillers baseball team--included a new production of Puccini’s one-act comic opera, Gianni Schicchi, directed by James Blaszko. Oriol Sans conducted a cast that featured baritone Levi Hernandez in the title role, sopranos Rachel Blaustein, Danielle Pastin, and Emily Pulley, tenors Julius Ahn and Jonathan Johnson, and bass Andrew Potter. Mr. Blaszko, Mr. Sans, and all of the singers with the exception of Mr. Ahn and Mr. Potter made their company debut. The evening’s program also featured a selection of Puccini and Verdi arias performed by the cast, and concluded with a fireworks display.

Tulsa Opera’s 2021-22 season continues in February 2022 with the Oklahoma premiere of Mr. Picker’s first opera Emmeline in a new production directed by Tara Faircloth. The season concludes in April 2022 with a new immersive production of Richard Strauss’s Salome in its Oklahoma premiere directed by Thaddeus Strassberger and starring soprano Patricia Racette.

For details and tickets, visit

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

More Upcoming Events
Tuesday, September 21, at 6 p.m., Salastina’s Virtual Happy Hour: Premiere of Derrick Skye's Grace Unbound.

MUSE/IQUE presents "The House That Nat Built" with Hamilton alums Julia Harriman and Joshua Henry, and Lula Washington Dance Theatre.
Wednesday & Thursday, September 22 & 23 at The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens; September 26 at The Skirball Cultural Center.
Shows at 7:30 p.m.; mingling & nosh at 6:30 p.m.

Salastina Kicks Off its 2021-22 Season on Friday, September 24,at 8 p.m., The Bowers Museum Courtyard; Saturday, September 25, at 8 p.m., Fowler Museum Courtyard, UCLA; Sunday, September 26, at 8 p.m., USC Pacific Asia Museum Courtyard. Featuring works by previous favorite Happy Hour guest composers Michi and Paul Wiancko, Kenji Bunch, and Judd Greenstein; Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht opens the program.

American Youth Symphony’s Opening Night Concert, Saturday, September 25, at 7 p.m., UCLA's Royce Hall, featuring Carlos Izcaray’s Geometric Unity, Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4.
Pay what you can. Tickets available now.

Invitation: Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Welcome Back Concert for L.A.
Saturday, September 25, at 2 p.m. and Sunday, September 26, at 7 p.m; featuring works by L.A.-based composers Nilo Alcala and Shawn Kirchner, “Together at Last” from Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Reena Esmail, Morten Lauridsen’s rendition of Sure on This Shining Night, and many more.

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Orion Continues in Nov. with Beethoven, Hindemith, Price, Schubert
The Orion Ensemble, with guest violist Stephen Boe, continues its 29th season with performances featuring works by Beethoven, Hindemith, Price and Schubert at three venues: New England Congregational Church in Aurora, IL (Nov. 7, followed by a wine and cheese benefit), PianoForte Studios in Chicago (Nov. 10) and a new venue, Lake Street Church in Evanston (Nov. 14). The Chicago and Evanston performances also will be available via livestream.

Per the state of Illinois’s requirements, all audience members will be required to wear masks at all three venues. Audience members may email for any updates to these requirements closer to the performances.

The livestreams from Chicago and Evanston will be available on Orion’s YouTube channel, which will also host a recording of the performance for a limited time.

For details, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Lara Downes & Rising Sun Music Release "Migration Music"
Pianist and curator Lara Downes continues her transformative Rising Sun Music series of monthly digital EPs with Migration Music, a three-part focus on music commemorating the Great Migration--the exodus of Black Americans out of the rural South during the first part of the 20th century.

Ms. Downes says, “From about 1915 to 1970, there was a great migration of more than six million Black Americans, following a ray of light out of the rural South to the cities of the North, Midwest and West. They left behind everything and everyone they knew. They took only what they could carry, the humblest of belongings that Rita Dove catalogs in her poem Say Grace: '...a nail to hang our things on / a wish / an empty sack...' But what they brought with them--their dreams, their courage, their faith in a brighter tomorrow--transformed American life and culture in every possible way. This music tells the story of migration and metamorphosis, the first light of a new day.”

“Migration Music” will be released in three parts--Light, Flight, and Settle--named for the three movements of Carlos Simon’s string quartet Warmth from Other Suns. Each of the three movements, performed by the Ivalas Quartet, will be featured on the September, October and November releases respectively, creating a throughline that bridges the complete series.

For more information, visit

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

Pianist Susan Merdinger In Concert on October 2
Pianist Susan Merdinger will be in concert on Sunday, October 2 at 12:15 PM CDT, as part of the Ear Taxi Festival at University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts Performance Penthouse (9th Floor), 915 E 60th St. in Chicago.

She’ll perform solo piano music by contemporary composers Aaron Alter, Elbio Barilari and Ilya Levinson. All three of the pieces were premiered and/or recorded by Ms. Merdinger.

Tickets and more event information at

--Jeffrey James Arts Consulting

Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra Begin Final Season Together
This month, Osmo Vänskä begins his final season as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, a season whose programming recalls milestone performances, collaborations, commissions, tours, and recordings from his soon-to-be 19-year tenure.

The season opens September 23 and 24 with Mr. Vänskä and the Orchestra welcoming violinist Joshua Bell for performances of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy.

For more information on Maestro Vanska and the Minnesota season, visit

--Jennifer Scott, Shuman Associates

On PBS: “Three Divas at Versailles”
In “Great Performances at the Met: Three Divas at Versailles,” three-time Grammy winner Isabel Leonard joins Nadine Sierra and Ailyn Pérez to perform timeless selections by Mozart, Offenbach and Bizet including “Voi che sapete” and “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour,” along with beloved songs like “Bésame Mucho” and “Cielito Lindo.” Recorded in May at the Royal Opera of Versailles in France, Met Opera soprano Christine Goerke hosts the broadcast Friday, October 8 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

For details, visit

--Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Will Liverman Featured in Recital at Park Avenue Armory
Acclaimed baritone Will Liverman gives a solo recital together with pianist Myra Huang, presented by Park Avenue Armory on Sunday, October 10, 2021 at 3:00pm and Monday, October 11, 2021 at 7:30pm in the Armory’s Board of Officers Room (643 Park Avenue, NYC).

The recital spotlights the works of Black composers and writers, in addition to works from the traditional classical music canon including three Strauss pieces, "Wie sollten wir geheim sie halten," "Traum durch die Dämmerung," and "Zueignung"; the song cycle Don Quichotte à Dulcinée by Ravel; plus songs by Brian McKnight arranged by Liverman. Additional works to be announced.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Tickets for SOLI’s Tableau Available
San Antonio’s SOLI Chamber Ensemble opens its new season at the San Antonio Botanical Garden with Tableau. The Garden’s current exhibit, Frida Kahlo Oasis, is the inspiration for a vibrant event filled with fusions of dance rhythms and contemporary expressions in the music of Aaron Prado, Arturo Marquez, and Robert Xavier Rodrigues. SOLI welcomes guest artist Jacquelyn Matava, mezzo-soprano, to the stage.

Tableau includes San Antonio composer Aaron Prado’s recent adaptation for SOLI of his Ofrenda, written in 2015 as a tribute to Frida Kahlo, and Arturo Marquez’s sinuous and joyous celebration of the danzon: Zarabandeo.

For more information, visit

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

The OM’s Orchestral Conducting Academy Welcomes Six New Talents
The Orchestre Métropolitain (OM) and its artistic director and principal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin today introduced the next-generation conductors who will take part in the first edition of the Academy of Orchestral Conducting.

Selected after a call for applications launched earlier this summer, six young talents were chosen from a field of 32. They are Monica Chen (British Columbia); Marie-Claire Cardinal (Quebec); Benoît Gauthier (Quebec); Félix Ste-Marie (Quebec); Trevor Wilson (Ontario); and Naomi Woo (Manitoba).

The young conductors will be immersed in the symphonic milieu and enjoy backstage access to rehearsals and concerts of the OM's 2021-2022 season. They will also have a unique mentoring experience alongside Yannick Nézet-Séguin and, for training purposes, regular interaction with the Orchestre's team members and musicians. Additionally, they will take part in the OM's educational and artistic activities.

For more information, visit

--France Gaignard Media Relations

Andreas Delfs Opens Inaugural Season as RPO Music Director
Maestro Andreas Delfs opens his inaugural season as music director of The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) on September 23.

On the program for the opening concerts, September 23 & 25, is Jennifer Higdon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Violin Concerto, praised as "an attractive, colourful work, scored most imaginatively and with great finesse" (Gramophone), featuring soloist Benjamin Beilman.

For complete details, visit

--Beverly Greenfield, Kirshbaum Associates

“Live Music Meditation Outdoors” at Princeton University Concerts
Princeton University Concerts (“PUC”) will transition its popular “Breathe in Music” program, conceived in partnership with the Princeton University Office of Religious Life, to an outdoor format this October. A series of eight “Live Music Meditation: Outdoors” events--four afternoon sessions at 2PM at the Princeton University Graduate College Courtyard, and four twilight sessions at 5:30PM at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center Campus, surrounded by Greenway Meadows park--will invite listeners to experience a guided meditation to live music performed by the next generation of classical music stars.

Limited capacity tickets for the hour-long programs ($25 General/$10 Student) will be released on Thursday, September 23 at 11AM online at

--Dasha Koltunyuk, Princeton University Concerts

Los Angeles Master Chorale Opens 2021-22 Season
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, led by Grant Gershon, Kiki & David Gindler Artistic Director, makes its long-awaited return to Walt Disney Concert Hall and welcomes back concertgoers on Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26, 2021 with its season kick-off concert, “Invitation,” featuring works by L.A.-based composers Nilo Alcala and Shawn Kirchner, “Together at Last” from Swan Family Artist-in-Residence Reena Esmail, and Morten Lauridsen’s rendition of “Sure on This Shining Night.” On September 25, all teachers are invited to attend for free and can call the box office in advance of the concert for information on how to receive their tickets.

The 2021-22 season also marks 20 years of the highest artistic aspiration under the direction of Grant Gershon. The outstanding skill and artistry of the Master Chorale singers and the range of programming of this year’s tremendous concerts reflect the impact he’s had on the ensemble and organization.

More information and pay-what-you-can tickets for “Invitation” are available here:

Subscriptions for the Master Chorale’s 2021-22 season start at $117 and are available now by phone, 213-972-7282, or online at Single tickets are available now at 213-972-7282 or online at

--Lisa Bellamore, Crescent Communications

Recent Releases, No. 18 (CD Reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Sebastian Knauer: The Mozart/Nyman Concert. Includes Mozart: Sonata C Major K 545: I. Allegro. Michael Nyman: 6 Piano Pieces for Sebastian Knauer: K1; Mozart: Sonata C Major K 330: II. Andante cantabile; Nyman: 6 Piano Pieces for Sebastian Knauer: K2; Mozart: Sonata F Major K 332: III. Allegro assai; Nyman: 6 Piano Pieces for Sebastian Knauer: K3; Mozart: Sonata A Minor K 310: I. Allegro maestoso; Nyman: 6 Piano Pieces for Sebastian Knauer: K4; Mozart: Fantasy C Minor K 475; Nyman: 6 Piano Pieces for Sebastian Knauer: K5; Mozart: Sonata D Major K 311: III. Rondeau-Allegro; Nyman: 6 Piano Pieces for Sebastian Knauer: K6; Mozart: 12 Variations C Major on ?Ah, vous dirai-je Maman" K 265. Sebastian Knauer, piano. Modern Recordings 538682452.

The British composer Michael Nyman (b. 1944) is probably most widely known for his soundtrack to the award-winning film The Piano, although he has composed music in many other genres, most notably opera. He composes in a minimalist style, so when I came across this CD at my local public library, despite never having heard of the performer, I could not help but be intrigued. Mozart and Nyman? Hmmmm? As soon as I got in my car, I slid the disc into the CD player. By the time I got home, I was won over to the idea that mixing Mozart and Nyman was not a dubious idea, but an inspired one. Wondering whether the liner notes might offer any insights into how the program was chosen, I was delighted to discover a detailed explanation from the German pianist Sebastian Knauer (b. 1971). "For my project, 'The Mozart Nyman Concert,' I chose two tremendous and highly esteemed composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Michael Nyman. It has long been my dream to connect the two composers in a special project. In 2021, for the occasion of my fiftieth birthday, I seek to fulfill this wish and have asked Michael Nyman, who is just as much an admirer of Mozart as I am, to compose six piano pieces directly related to Mozart's piano sonatas. The classical and traditional form of the piano recital, in which we are accustomed to hearing entire works of one or more composers, continues to develop, and so I have conceived of a new and modern piano recital for myself. I have put together two new, three-movement sonatas from the first, second and third movements of six different Mozart sonatas and the c Minor Fantasy, each connected by one of Michael Nyman's piano pieces. At the end, serving as an encore, are Mozart's Twelve Variations, KV 265. The soundscapes of the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries are closely interwoven, the transitions between Mozart and Nyman are fluid, and a listening experience is created which makes the connection between antiquity and modernity a thrilling and innovative concert program for me." With the opening familiar notes of Mozart's C Major Sonata, the program starts with a cheerful exuberance, and even as the mood shifts from time to time as the music varies, the overall positive feeling of musical energy and enthusiasm prevails, whether it be expressed in the lyricism of Mozart or the rhythmic pulse of Nyman, in whose music you really can come to understand his expressed esteem for the music of Mozart. The album moves along with a feeling of flow and purpose that transcends the differences in musical styles between the two composers. The liner notes include a conversation between Knauer and Nyman as well as brief biographies of both musicians. If you enjoy solo piano music, you will most likely really enjoy this album, which offers more than 79 minutes of centuries-spanning musical joy.

Richter: Exiles. Includes Flowers of Herself (from Woolf Works); On the Nature of Daylight (from The Blue Notebooks); The Haunted Ocean (from Waltz with Bashir); Infra 5 (from Infra); Sunlight (from Songs from Before); Exiles. Deutsche Grammophon 486 0445.

We have previously reviewed several recordings by Max Richter (b. 1966) in Classical Candor. This new release offers a blend of the old and the new in terms of compositions, but with a twist, as the older compositions all done in arrangements for full orchestra, whereas most of Richters previous releases featured much smaller ensembles. For example, Richter explains that the second track, On the Nature of Daylight, was originally five strings and now it's over 65 strings so it has a different texture, a different energy, a different kind of sonic fingerprint. The orchestral version is a different emotional register, it's a bigger canvas. In the quintet you really feel that someone is speaking quietly just to you, but with the orchestra it's a broader dialogue. According to the liner notes, Infra 5, also originally scored for five strings, is a mantra-like meditation on the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London, while Sunlight, originally a string quartet movement, is one of Richte's favorite works, from his 2006 album Songs from Before (one of David Bowie's favourite albums), and its yearning quality sings out in the new orchestral version. The composition that opens the album, Flowers of Herself, establishes a mood ripe with anticipation. It is an orchestration of music that Richter composed to evoke the atmosphere at the start of Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway, the hustle and bustle of city sidewalks. Even the briefest (2:19) composition on the album, The Haunted Ocean, a hypnotic work from the soundtrack score to Waltz with Bashir (2008), which deals with writer and director Ari Folman's traumatic recollections of his military service during the 1982 Lebanon War, makes a distinct impression despite its brevity. The new composition on this release is the title piece, Exiles, which Richter was inspired to write in response to the refugee crisis ensuing from the brutal government actions in Syria that led to many thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives under desperate circumstances. Throughout its 33 minutes, the music is a round upon a simple, compelling melody that is repeated in various guises. It's a very simple idea, explains Richter, but I wanted to put this notion of exile, of walking, of movement, into the heart of the music in a technical sense as well as metaphorical. The music grows in intensity as it progresses, then ends in an enigmatic fade. As Richter notes, Exiles ends on a question: What if? That question is far from settled. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic was founded in 2008 as the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic with Kristjan Jarvi (b. 1972, son of Neeme and younger brother of Paavo) as their conductor. They play this music with conviction, and their sound has been well captured by the engineers.

Sebastian Fagerlund: Nomade; Water Atlas. Nicolas Altstaedt, cello; Hannu Lintu, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. BIS-2455 SACD.

We previously reviewed an earlier release by the Finnish composer Sebastian Fagerlund (b.1972), which, as it turns out, contains two works that are linked to one of the works on this new release, as explained in the liner notes: "When Sebastian Fagerlund began composing a new orchestral work in 2014, he was inspired to commence an entire trilogy, comprising Stonework (2014-15), Drifts (2016-17), and Water Atlas (2017-18). Although the works are linked by the same basic musical materials, each of them is independent and self-contained in itself. Nonetheless, Fagerlund considers it possible that they could also be presented as a unified suite. The works use a large symphony orchestra of similar proportions, differing only in the choice of percussion instruments. As well as using the same basic material, the works of the trilogy are united by the various stimuli and associations suggested by their titles. All of them are about basic elements music of stone, wind (or currents) and water in Water Atlas the eternal cycle of water is combined with the human desire and need to analyze the environment." Well, I'm not sure about the veracity of that last sentence, but I can say that Water Atlas is a powerful composition that makes a strong impression both musically and sonically. Like water, it seems to flow effortlessly and with great power, all sections of the orchestra contributing, swirling and cascading, pulling the listener along on a journey of imagination. It is preceded on this disc by Nomade, Fagerlund's atypically structured (six movements rather than the usual four, plus two brief interludes thrown in for good measure) cello concerto. The composer dedicated the piece to cellist Altstaedt, who brings a sense of longing, of searching, and dogged determination to his performance. For those classical music lovers who might be afraid that music written so recently might be harsh, dissonant, or otherwise lacking in aesthetic appeal, allow me to reassure you: no, the  music Fagerlund does not sound like the music of Mozart, but if you can enjoy the concertos of, say, Shostakovich, or the tone poems of, say, Sibelius, then there is a good chance you will find this music to be right in your wheelhouse. As a bonus, if your system can handle it (to borrow an old phrase from the automotive world, there is no replacement for displacement), you will be able to revel in some fine BIS recorded sound of a large orchestra.

Enigma: Spektral Quartet Performs Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Spektral Quartet (Maeve Feinberg, violin; Clara Lyon; violin; Doyle Armbrust, viola; Russell Rolen, cello). Sono Luminus DSL-92250.

 is the first string quartet from Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977). It was given its premier in 2019 by the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet, who have now recorded the work. This is an utterly fascinating piece, at once evoking feelings of immensity and intimacy, tension and calm, or, to paraphrase Kant, the starry heavens above and the moral law within. The music is strange, but compelling, and it invites repeated listening, yielding new delights each time. In the words of the composer, "the music of Enigma is inspired by the notion of the in-between, juxtaposing flow and fragmentation. Pulsating stasis - the whole, an expanding and contracting fundament - is contrasted with fragmented materials - shadows of things that live as part of the whole. Harmonies emerge and evaporate or break into pieces in various ways, leaving traces of materials that project through different kinds of textures and nuances and gradually take on their own shape. Some return to the core, some remain apart. Throughout the piece, the perspective continuously moves between the two, the fundament and the fragmented shadows, but the focus is always their relationship - the in-between. As with my music generally, the inspiration behind Enigma is not something I am trying to describe through the piece - to me, the qualities of the music are first and foremost musical. When I am inspired by a particular element or quality, it is because I perceive it as musically interesting, and the qualities I tend to be inspired by are often structural, like proportion and flow, as well as relationships of balance between details within a larger structure, and how to move in perspective between the two, the details and the unity of the whole." There is plucking, there are chords, there are brief melodic lines. There is tension and there is release. The piece comprises three movements and lasts 28:28, which I suppose will be a deal breaker for some, at least in CD format. Among those thanked in in the liner note acknowledgements are Haribo gummy treats, Science, and Dr. Anthony Fauci. I second that emotion.


Massenet: Ballet Music (XRCD24/K2 review)

Le Cid. Also, Scenes Pittoresques; The Last Sleep of the Virgin; Offenbach: La Belle Helene; Berlioz: Dance of the Sylphs; Minuet of the Will-O’-the-Wisps. Louis Fremaux, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Klavier/JVC VICJ-035-1107.

By John J. Puccio

To be honest, I don’t think audio recording has improved all that much since the introduction of home stereo almost seventy years ago. Sure, there have been some big changes, like Dolby noise reduction and digital engineering, but they haven’t always resulted in actual improvements. The real improvements have come in mastering techniques, transferring original recordings to LP, CD, SACD, or download. Here is where a number of companies over the years came up with unique strategies to perfect the art. In the old vinyl days, Sheffield Labs, for instance, had their direct to disc masters, and Mobile Fidelity had their half-speed remasters. Then came the digital age, and audiophile companies had to come up with other ploys to justify their existence. One tactic that Sheffield, Mo-Fi, and other companies employed was using the gold disc. The companies claimed that gold was better than silver for producing more precise, uniform pits for a CD laser to read, thus generating a more precise audio image. I almost always found that the gold products I reviewed did, indeed, sound better than their silver counterparts, usually appearing smoother and better detailed. Still, I always concluded my reviews of gold discs with the caution that I could never actually tell if the audio upgrade was the result of the disc’s gold plating or the result of better, more-careful remastering. So, now, with this Massenet disc, I had the chance to compare a well-made gold disc with a JVC XRCD24 remastering on silver, both made from the same master tapes.

My conclusions on the audio issue come at the end of the review, but first I’ll add a little something about the disc’s contents. The original EMI LP of Massenet’s Le Cid ballet music found its way to my attention quite by accident a couple of years after EMI made it back in 1971. You see, in the mid Seventies I was compiling a list of favorite audiophile records for a magazine article, and I had asked every music and audio lover I knew for their recommendations. Everybody contributed, from high-end audio dealers, audio engineers, and record and equipment reviewers to various friends professing “golden ears,” about thirty people in all. As you may have already guessed, this recording of Le Cid figured high in the final tally. It not only contained a great performance of the music, it sounded state-of-the-art.

As luck would have it, though, by the time I tried to buy the recording, EMI had already withdrawn their Studio Two vinyl disc that everybody loved so well and replaced it with a lower-priced issue in their Greensleeves line. Fortunately, it was still plenty good, with a tremendous dynamic range and a whopping big bass. The next time it showed up on LP in America was on the Klavier label. Then came the CD age, and it appeared both in EMI’s mid-priced Studio line and on a Klavier silver disc. The EMI release retained the vinyl’s warmth, but the slightly leaner-sounding Klavier disc seemed a bit more transparent. Then Klavier issued the recording on a 24-karat gold-plated disc that I eagerly sought out and still own. Unfortunately, Klavier didn’t keep it around for long, and today it’s rather hard to find and costly if you do find it. Ditto for their later XRCD24 silver disc.

The music on the album comprises bits and pieces of the orchestral score in Massenet’s opera, namely the second-act ballet, and conductor Fremaux and his Birmingham orchestra provide a vigorous, zesty rendition of the Spanish-flavored tunes. The story of the opera, of course, is based on Spain’s legendary hero, Rodrigo de Bivar, or “El Cid” (from the Arabic “Al Sid” or “Lord”) who in the eleventh century reclaimed the city of Valencia from the Moors and became the hero of one of Spain’s most significant medieval epic poems. Massenet’s music, which premiered in 1885, is tuneful, exciting, and highly Romantic by turns, and Maestro Fremaux provides it with exactly the zesty and exciting performance it needs. The disc’s accompanying music by Berlioz and Offenbach is equally well presented.

Producers David Mottley and Brian Culverhouse and engineers Stuart Eltham and Neville Boyling recorded the music for EMI Studio Two (the Le Cid music in 1971, as I said), and EMI originally released the vinyl LP in both two-channel stereo and four-channel Quadraphonic. Not long after, Klavier released the recording on LP and then later on silver disc. In 1994 engineer Bruce Leek remastered the original tapes for a Klavier gold disc, and some years after that JVC (Victor Company of Japan) remastered it once more, again for Klavier, this time using their meticulous XRCD24/K2 mastering and manufacturing processes, using JVC’s original analog mastering console, 24-bit K2 A/D converter, digital K2 interface, K2 rubidium master clock, and K2 laser cutter.

So, getting back to that question we started with: Which sounds better, the gold disc or the XRCD24 silver disc? Now, here’s the thing: I love the gold disc. It retained all the warmth of the LP that I remembered and with greater impact and definition than the ordinary compact disc. Consequently, I was eager to compare the gold disc to JVC’s XRCD24 silver transfer. Putting them into separate CD players and adjusting for a slight volume imbalance (the JVC plays about two decibels louder), I started switching back and forth. My findings were rather what I had expected. JVC’s silver disc was slightly more dynamic and exhibited slightly more transparency. By comparison, the gold disc sounded marginally smoother but softer. This is not, however, to say that the JVC transfer was brighter or edgier than the gold. Indeed, without the direct comparison, one would not even have considered such a thing. What was clear to me more than anything, though, was that the XRCD24/K2 silver disc seemed to have greater impact than the gold disc, something the original LP had in abundance.

Which still leaves me wondering whether it is gold plating that makes a difference in better sound or simply better remastering techniques. After this experience, though, I’m leaning more than ever on the idea of better mastering.

And what would the difference be between this XRCD24 on silver and the same XRCD24 on gold? I suspect no difference at all, but I doubt that we’ll ever find out.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, September 11, 2021

New Century Opens Season with Turnage U.S. Premiere

New Century Chamber Orchestra opens its 2021-2022 season, September 30 through October 3, with four Bay Area performances of “New Century Returns.” The program is highlighted by the U.S. premiere of Lament for solo violin and string orchestra by British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage featuring Music Director Daniel Hope as soloist. Hope also appears as soloist in a rare performance of Concertino for Violin and Strings by Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg and leads the orchestra in Josef Suk’s popular Serenade for Strings, one of the composer’s most celebrated and well-known works.

The program will be performed on four different occasions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area: Thursday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Friday, October 1 at 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; Saturday, October 2 at 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theater, San Francisco; and Sunday, October 3 at 3 p.m., St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Belvedere Tiburon. This season, New Century will offer free admission to its popular Open Rehearsal at 10 AM on Wednesday, September 29 at Forest Hill Christian Church, San Francisco.

For complete information, visit

--Brenden Guy Media

Experiential Orchestra: “Renewal: An Evening with Louise Toppin”
October 2nd, The DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 W. 37th St., NYC.

Tickets are on sale now for our first concert of the season. Join us on October 2nd as we return to live performances. “Renewal: An Evening with Louise Toppin” will feature two New York premieres of works by Julia Perry, plus music by Quinn Mason, Jessica Meyer, David Baker, William Grant Still, and Jessie Montgomery.

The evening will celebrate EXO’s partnership with the African Diaspora Music Project. Founder and editor of the ADMP, soprano Dr. Louise Toppin, will perform three works for voice. The concert will include a conversation with Dr. Toppin, focusing on her remarkable career as a world-renowned soprano and scholar.

For details, visit

--Experiential Orchestra

Société de Musique de La Chaux-de-Fonds - 129th Season
As a mark of solidarity and at the request of our season ticket-holders, our committee has decided to reschedule the concerts that we were forced to cancel in 2020 and 2021. We believe that both our abandoned seasons and the artists who were unable to perform deserve a second chance. Some concert programmes will remain unchanged; others with get some "added value" in the form of an additional, no-less prestigious soloist. We are also adding a completely new operatic concert devoted to bel canto.

The Société de Musique de La Chaux-de-Fonds is proud to be able to reschedule the concerts featuring such outstanding talents with unique artistic personalities and a host of stars who have performed in the world's greatest concert halls. We cannot wait to – at long last! – welcome back as many of you as possible to the magnificent Salle de musique with its legendary acoustics.

The season kicks off on 24 October 2021 with pianist Alexander Melnikov, winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, who will perform among other works the Symphonie Fantastique.

For complete information, visit

--Société de Musique de La Chaux-de-Fonds

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes Sept. 17 on PBS
“Great Performances: The Red Shoes” premieres Friday, September 17 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings),, and the PBS Video app.

This two-time Olivier Award-winning production adapted from the classic 1948 feature film recounts Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale of obsession, possession and one dancer’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Starring Ashley Shaw and Tony nominee Adam Cooper.

Set to the music of golden-age Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann, “Great Performances: The Red Shoes” from Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Matthew Bourne is orchestrated by Terry Davies and performed by the New Adventures Orchestra with set and costumes by Tony-winning designer Lez Brotherson and lighting by Tony winner Paule Constable.

Elizabeth Boone, WNET

Houston's ROCO Opens Their 17th Season
Houston’s ROCO opens their 2021-2022 season “Musical Threads” on September 25th with “Bursting at the Seams”, their first Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation In Concert series performance showcasing the full 40-piece orchestra at The Church of St. John the Divine.

Conducted by ROCO’s Artistic Partner Mei-Ann Chen, the concert will feature the world premiere of “Turmoil,” the first movement of Maxime Goulet’s Ice Storm Symphony, which tells the story of Canada’s historic, devastating ice storm of 1998. The symphony was co-commissioned by ROCO, Orchestre Classique de Montréal, Laval Symphony Orchestra, Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, and Trois-Rivières Symphony Orchestra.

For details, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Heartbeat Opera Announces Free Outdoor Screening of Breathing Free
Heartbeat Opera--the radical indie opera company "leading the charge in online opera" (Parterre) with "groundbreaking" virtual content (Operawire) that is "hacking the corporate contours of Zoom into a postmodern proscenium” (Washington Post)--announces a free, outdoor screening of its acclaimed visual album, Breathing Free, an ambitious project dedicated to the celebration of Black artistic voices. On September 18, 2021, Breathing Free will be shown for free at dusk (approximately 7pm) at Hudson River Park's Pier 63, alongside live performances, marking Heartbeat's first live, in-person event since 2019. The public is invited to bring a picnic, enjoy the sunset, and join the growing community and conversation that is Breathing Free.

For more information, visit

--Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

PROTOTYPE Festival Details 10th Anniversary Season
PROTOTYPE: Opera | Theatre | Now, Beth Morrison Projects and HERE’s annual festival announces its tenth anniversary season running from January 7-16, 2022. Curated by festival directors Jecca Barry, Kristin Marting, and Beth Morrison, this season will mark PROTOTYPE’s return to live performances following COVID-19, with a hybrid online and in-person festival. Leading up to the season, live digital streams will take place each month as part of PROTOTYPE X. The festival will present five world premieres and one United States premiere, and will feature a diverse group of over 600 artists, including composers, librettists, performers, and more.

For complete information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

SMCQ Opens Its Season with In auditorium
The Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) opens its season with In auditorium, a portrait concert dedicated to the music of André Hamel, on Sunday, September 26 at 3 p.m., at the Pierre-Mercure Hall.

This composer, prolific of instrumental and electroacoustic music, brings audiences to a new conquest of soundscapes. “I've been interested in playing with sound localization since my first composing experiences. By breaking the rigidity of the instruments frozen on stage, we create a new acoustic ecology; it blurs the boundaries between ambient noises and music. And it brings a certain closeness to the public,” says André Hamel.

Two OPUS award-winning prizes are on the program. First, the monumental In auditorium which allows the full measure of this spatial dimension with no less than 31 musicians scattered across the room and on the balconies. Then, the ensemble work L'être et la réminiscence which echoes vague memories of Mozartian accents.

For further information, visit

--France Gaignard

Oratorio Society of New York Announces 2021-2022 Season
The Oratorio Society of New York, led by Music Director Kent Tritle, announces its 2021-2022 season of concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC.

The season begins on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 7:30pm at the Cathedral of St. John Divine with a highly-anticipated concert featuring Britten’s Festival Te Deum and Rejoice in the Lamb; Pärt’s Berliner Messe and Two Slavonic Psalms; and Gabrieli’s Jubilate Deo, omnis terra (a 8). The chorus and conductors Kent Tritle, David Rosenmeyer, and William Janiszewski are joined by organist Raymond Nagem.

On Monday, December 20, 2021 at 8:00pm, the Oratorio Society presents its annual tradition, Handel’s iconic Messiah, in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall. The chorus is joined by soloists soprano Leslie Fagan, contralto Heather Petrie, tenor Joshua Blue, and baritone Sidney Outlaw with the Orchestra of the Society for the complete Part 1 with highlights from Parts II and III.

Bach’s Magnificat and Mozart’s Coronation Mass take place at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 at 7:30pm featuring soprano Hyeyoung Moon, mezzo-soprano Jasmin White, tenor Patrick Bessenbacher, and bass-baritone William Socolof—all soloists from The Juilliard School’s Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts—together with the Orchestra of the Society.

To close the season, on Monday, May 9, 2022 at 8:00pm, the Oratorio Society is featured in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall together with soloists soprano Susanna Phillips, mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, tenor Isaiah Bell, baritone Justin Austin, and the Orchestra of the Society.

For details, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

SF Girls Chorus Announces Adriana Marcial as Executive Director
Adriana Marcial has been appointed Executive Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) effective immediately, it was announced today by Board President Mary Ruppert. Marcial, who has served as Interim Executive Director since August 2020, will oversee strategic planning and operations for SFGC and the Chorus School, work closely with Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe on furthering the organization’s artistic and education vision, drive major donor fundraising and earned revenue goals, and collaborate with the Board of Directors to ensure the long-term fiscal health of the organization and sustainability through the era of COVID. For the first time in its history, SFGC will be led by two women of color, with rich professional experiences as both practicing artists and non-profit arts administrators.

--Brenden Guy Media

Concerts at Saint Thomas Announce 2021-2022 Concert Season
Concerts at Saint Thomas announces their 2021-2022 season, the third season with Organist and Director of Music, Jeremy Filsell. Concerts on this year's season will be presented both in-person (with limited seating and adhering to the church's most current Covid protocols) and digitally with livestream and on-demand ticket options available.

All concerts take place at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue at One West 53rd Street, NYC.

Tickets may be purchased at, by calling the Concerts Office at (212) 664-9360, by email at, or in person at the Concerts Office at One West 53rd Street at Fifth Avenue (enter through the Parish House).

For further information, visit

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

James Conlon Extends Contract as Music Director of Los Angeles Opera
Today, the Los Angeles Opera announced the extension of Music Director James Conlon’s contract through the end of the 2024-25 season, which will mark his 19th season with the company.

“I am extremely happy to continue my collaboration with all of the forces of Los Angeles Opera,” said James Conlon. “I am grateful for the close working relationship to the LA Opera Orchestra and Chorus, the music staff, and stage team, Christopher Koelsch, the entire administration, and Board of Directors. As we gradually emerge from these many months of closure during the pandemic, I feel I could not have better colleagues throughout the opera company. Their support, and that of our public, gives me great hope for our continued mission of keeping opera thriving in today's world.”

For more information, visit

--Shuman Associates

Del Sol Quartet & Volti Present Huang Ruo World Premiere
Del Sol Quartet and the vocal ensemble Volti will give the world premiere performance of internationally acclaimed composer Huang Ruo’s Angel Island - Oratorio for Voices and String Quartet at the newly renovated Presidio Theatre on Friday, October 22 at 8pm PT and (safety permitting) a site-specific performance on Angel Island, San Francisco Bay, on Saturday, October 23 at 8pm PT.

The oratorio depicts an immigrant's journey through three large choral settings sung in Mandarin — “The Seascape,” “When We Bade Farewell,” and “Buried Beneath Clay and Earth.” Angel Island - Oratorio for Voices and String Quartet brings to life the poems inscribed on the walls by Chinese immigrants detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station. During the 30 years while the station was in use, many young men, women, and children, often families found themselves detained at Angel Island, often under brutal conditions, only to be denied entry into the U.S. or with their hopes for a new life deferred for years. Over 220 poems composed in a classical Chinese poetic style and singing of homesickness, ancestral folklore, unfulfilled dreams, and surprisingly, hope are engraved at the detention center.

For details, visit

--Amanda Sweet, Bucklesweet

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Announces SPAC School of the Arts
Saratoga Performing Arts Center announces the launch this month of the SPAC School of the Arts, a multidisciplinary school dedicated to dance, music, and theater as well as literary, visual and media arts. SPAC also has announced that Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco will serve as the first visiting artist at the SPAC School of the Arts and will be a Mentor for the 2022 Adirondack Trust Company Festival of Young Artists.

The SPAC School of the Arts builds upon the legacy of Lewis A. Swyer, Marylou Whitney and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney who founded the National Museum of Dance and School of the Arts in 1987. The new School of the Arts will prioritize multi-cultural, multi-genre education for children and adults, while furthering SPAC’s ongoing mission to facilitate inclusion, equity and access in arts education. The School will operate out of the Lewis A. Swyer Studios, a state-of-the-art facility which opened in 1992 and is located behind the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. It will include introductory and exploratory arts instruction for children of all abilities ages 4-18 – all designed to complement SPAC’s extensive education program, which currently serves 49,000 students throughout the Capital Region.

For more information, visit

--Rebecca Davis PR

Moments Musicaux: From New Discoveries to Old Favourites
In keeping with its tradition of uncovering young talent, Jeunesses Musicales Canada (JM Canada) presents Moments musicaux, a virtual concert series featuring 10 Canadian artists and ensembles.

Recorded at JM Canada's André Bourbeau House, these select 40-minute concerts are available for free in the Media Library section of the organization's website for a year.

These artists stood out during competitions, concerts and selection panels. “In the past year, I've heard artists who charmed me with their passion, interpretation and creativity. I want to support them in their journey and give them the opportunity to gain exposure,” says Danièle LeBlanc, Executive and Artistic Director.

JM Canada wanted to provide artists with professional experience through these concerts. Artists can develop their recording skills while expressing their creativity in an environment where performances in front of an audience are still few and far between and where digital technology is fast becoming a po
JM Canada media library:

--France Gaignard

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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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa