Dec 29, 2021

KWN’s Delightful Dozen of 2021

By Karl W. Nehring
As I write these words, the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is wreaking havoc around the globe; I urge all readers of Classical Candor to become fully vaccinated (and boosted) and to practice masking and social distancing. The safest thing might be to stay at home as much as possible, where the most pleasant thing might be to enjoy some fine music. To that end, and to follow that venerable end of the year tradition, I have compiled a list of a dozen delightful recordings that it was my pleasure to review over this past year. Let us all hope that 2022 proves healthier and safer for us all while bringing us even more musical delights. Happy New Year! 
Americascapes: Loeffler: La Mort de Tintagiles, Op. 6; Ruggles: Evocations (Orchestral version, 1943); Hanson: Before the Dawn, Op. 17; Cowell: Variations for Orchestra. Delphine Dupuy, viola d’amore; Robert Trevino, Basque National Orchestra. Ondine ODE 1396-2.
It is always exciting to come across a new release that features a program of unfamiliar music by composers you have heard of although you have heard very little of their music. It is even more exciting when it turns out to be as delightful a disc as this new Ondine release of American music played by a Spanish orchestra led by American conductor Robert Trevino (b. 1984). The engineering is first-class, the orchestra plays with finesse, the program is imaginative and rewarding – what’s not to like? Hats off to a Finnish label for recording a Mexican-American conductor leading a Spanish orchestra in a revealing program of rarely-heard American music deserving much wider recognition. Bravo!
Arnold: Complete Symphonies and Dances. (CD1) Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; (CD2) Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4; (CD3) Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6; (CD4) Symphonies 7 & 8; (CD5) Symphony No. 9; Sir Malcolm Arnold in Conversation with Andrew Penny; (CD6) English Dances, Set 1; English Dances, Set 2; Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59; Four Scottish Dances, Op. 91; Four Irish Dances; Four Welsh Dances. Andrew Penny, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (Symphonies), Queensland Symphony Orchestra (Dances). Naxos 8.506041.
October 21, 2021, marked the 100th birthday of the late British composer Sir Malcolm Arnold, one of the greatest yet most overlooked composers of the 20th century. Even in the UK, his music is seldom performed in concert, which is a shame. Thanks to Naxos, though, who have decided to mark the occasion of this centennial year with a budget-priced boxed set of his complete symphonies and dances, music lovers now have the chance to immerse themselves in the symphonic music of this most remarkable composer for a most reasonable price. Please rest assured that although this is a budget release, the playing and the engineering are all first-rate. The booklet included in the box gives some background on the symphonies and is prefaced with a reflection about the music and the composer by conductor Andrew Penny. Arnold’s music is a musical universe begging to be explored by those who have not yet entered it, and now Naxos has provided the portal key. Enter and enjoy!
Chopin: Nocturnes. (CD 1) Nocturne in B Flat minor Op. 9 No.1; Nocturne in E Flat Major Op. 9 No. 2; Nocturne in B Major Op. 9 No. 3; Nocturne in F Major Op. 15 No. 1; Nocturne in F Sharp Major Op. 15 No. 2; Nocturne in G minor Op. 15 No. 3; Nocturne in C Sharp minor Op. 27 No. 1; Nocturne in D Flat Major Op. 27 No. 2; Nocturne in B Major Op. 32 No. 1; Nocturne in a Flat Major Op. 32 No. 2; Nocturne in G minor Op. 37 No.1; Nocturne in G Major Op. 37 No. 2; (CD 2) Nocturne in C minor Op. 48 No. 1; Nocturne in F Sharp minor Op. 48 No. 2; Nocturne in F minor Op. 55 No. 1; Nocturne in E Flat Major Op. 55 No. 2; Nocturne in B Major Op. 62 No. 1; Nocturne in E Major Op. 62 No. 2; Lento Con Gran Espressione in C Sharp minor 'Nocturne', Kkiva/16; Nocturne in E minor Op. 72 No. 1: Nocturne in C minor Kkivb/8; Anonymous: Larghetto in C Sharp minor 'Nocturne Oublié', Kkanh. Ia/6; Nocturne in E Flat Major Op. 9 No. 2B. Stephen Hough, piano. Hyperion CDA86351/2.
British pianist Stephen Hough (b.1961) introduces this recording by noting that, “Chopin wrote no operas, even though that art form was his favorite and singers, not pianists, were his musical heroes… Enter the nocturnes – a corpus of some of the finest operatic arias ever written. Here bel canto melodies abound, dramatic, tender and tragic, with virtuoso decoration reminiscent of a coloratura diva.” Hough has a touch at the keyboard that seems to bring out the beauty of these pieces by truly making them sing. The engineering helps, too, as Hough’s piano seems to be recorded just a bit distantly, giving it a slightly warmer, enveloping sound. A wonderful release!
Echoes of Life. IN THE BEGINNING WAS | Francesco Tristano: In the Beginning Was; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 1-4: INFANT REBELLION | Ligeti: Musica ricercata I; Chopin: Preludes op. 28. Nos. 5-9; WHEN THE GRASS WAS GREENER | Nino Rota: Valzer; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 10-15; NO ROADMAP TO ADULTHOOD | Chilly Gonzales: Prelude in C sharp major; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 16-18; IDENTITY | Takemitsu; Litany I; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 19-20; A PATH TO WHERE | Arvo Pärt: Für Alina; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 21-24; LULLABY TO ETERNITY | Alice Sara Ott: Lullaby to Eternity. Alice Sara Ott. Piano. Deutsche Grammophon 486 0474.
As the German pianist Alice Sara Ott (b. 1988) explains it, “Echoes of Life is a personal reflection on the thoughts and moments that influence and change our lives. With his Preludes op. 28, Frédéric Chopin composed a collection of individual character pieces – very different from each other and yet all connected in some way. They remind me of life. I have chosen seven contemporary works to intersperse the Preludes and, while they echo some of my most personal and vulnerable experiences, they also conform how modern, provocative, and timeless Chopin’s music is.”  The end result is a musical delight, as Ott mingles stimulating newer music together with the music of Chopin to create a program that flows smoothly and draws the listener in. You really don’t get the sense that you are jumping back and forth in time or making abrupt shifts in style. Yes, the Ligeti piece has a fierceness about it, but not overwhelmingly so, and yes, when you think about it, Chopin’s music has energy in abundance also. And so it goes with Takemitsu and Chopin, and Pärt and Chopin; in the hands of Alice Sara Ott, this music all makes sense together. The engineering is also first-rate, with a coherent piano sound. This truly is a splendid release.
Ramon Humet: Llum (Light). Tanca els ulls (Close Your Eyes); Camina endins (Walk Inside); Baixa al cim de l’Anima (Descent to the Summit of the Soul); Pedra nua (Naked Stone); Pau al Cor (The Peaceful Heart); Engrunes de Llum (Luminous Crumbs); Al•leluia (Alleluia). Sigvards Klava, Latvian Radio Choir. Ondine ODE 1389-2.
In his brief liner notes, Spanish composer Ramon Humet (b. 1968) invites his listeners to “take a journey inward, to travel to the immense space which is, precisely, what makes us human, to that silent place which exists within us, to the deep wellspring that is the birthplace of everything, to the bright sapling of Peace; to the infinite, which announces the Mystery; to the gift of Life, Peace and Love.” For many potential listeners, that might sound like pretentious twaddle; however, I hope it does not dissuade you from giving this release an audition, for I have found it to be one of the most beautiful recordings I have heard in quite some time.
Images: Anna Lapwood, Organ of Ely Cathedral. Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin (arr. Erwin Wiersinga); Patrick Gowers: An Occasional Trumpet Voluntary; Debussy: Andante from String Quartet in G Minor (arr. Alexandre Guilmant); Kerensa Briggs: Light in Darkness; Nadia Boulanger: III. Improvisation from Trois Improvisations; Owain Park: Images; Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (arr.Lapwood); Messiaen: Vocalise-Étude (arr. Lapwood); Cheryl Frances-Hoad: Taking Your Leave. Signum Classics SIGCD688.
The centerpiece of the album is Ms. Lapwood’s arrangement and performance of Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from his opera Peter Grimes. This is music that in its orchestral guise is doubtless familiar to many readers of Classical Candor, two of the finest recordings being those of Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra on EMI and Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony on Reference Recordings, but it is remarkable to hear how effective these transcriptions for organ turn out to be  You quickly find yourself forgetting that this is not an orchestra -– you just let yourself be drawn into and swept away by the music. Images was recorded by the veteran engineer Mike Hatch, who has done his usual fine job of capturing a convincing sonic portrait. Ms. Lapwood offers informative and charming notes on all of the selections included on the album. In every way, this is truly a first-class production for which I offer a highly enthusiastic recommendation.
Last Song. Louis Couperin (1626-1661): Unmeasured Prelude (arr. Una Sveinbjarnardóttir & Tinna Þorsteinsdóttir);Atli Heimir Sveinsson (1938-2019): Three Marian Prayers (arr. Fritz Kreisler); Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787): Melodie (arr. Fritz Kreisler); Jórunn Viðar (1918-2017): Icelandic Suite; Ole Bull (1810-1880) Ensomme Stunde (arr. Una Sveinbjarnardóttir);  Jules Massenet (1842-1912): Meditation; Karólína Eiríksdóttir (b. 1951): Winter; Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson (1925-2005): In a Dream; Lullaby; Couperin: Aubade Provencale (arr. Fritz Kreisler);  Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): Ave Maria; Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179): Anima Processional; Una Sveinbjarnardóttir (b. 1975): Last Song before the News. Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, violin; Tinna Þorsteinsdóttir, piano, prepared piano, toy piano. Sono Luminus DSL-92248.
Well, I see no need to beat around the bush on this one. Last Song is the finest, most entertaining, thoughtfully assembled, artfully performed, and skillfully engineered recording of music for violin and piano that I have heard in many years.
Mozart Momentum 1785. CD1: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K 466; Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major K 467. CD2: Fantasia in C minor K 475; Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello No. 1 in G minor K 478; Masonic Funeral Music in C minor K477; Piano Concerto No 22 in E-Flat Major K 482. Leif Ove Andsnes, piano and direction (concertos); Matthew Truscott, violin and direction (Masonic Funeral Music); Joel Hunter, viola; Frank Michael Guthmann, Cello; Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Sony Classical 194397462.
Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes brings us a two-CD set of music composed by Mozart in the year 1785. Certainly the two concertos found on CD1 are probably the best-known of all the Mozart concertos, having been paired together on LP and CD countless times by countless musicians, and for good reason – they are both amazing works. This is a splendid collection of some of Mozart’s most inspired music.
Arvo Pärt: Miserere. Which Was the Son of…; Festina lente; Tribute to Caesar; Sequentia; The Deer’s Cry; Miserere; And I Heard a Voice…. Howard Arman, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Münchner Rundfunkorchester; oestereichisches ensemble fuer neue music. BR Klassik 900527.
The choral music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) is always a joy to hear, and especially so when it is so expertly performed and recorded as it is on this collection featuring the Bavarian Radio Chorus. The excellent liner booklet that includes texts makes this a first-class release in every respect.
The See Within. Echo Collective. 7K! 7K024CD.
The music is scored for violin, viola, cello, harp and, in its first appearance on a commercially released album recording, the magnetic resonator piano (MRP). The See Within is a musical breath of fresh air blowing in from Brussels. Give this remarkable album an audition and be amazed, as was I, that all the sounds you hear are produced by acoustic instruments. I
Songs of Solitude: Hiyoli Togawa, viola. Toshio Hosokawa: Sakura/Solitude; Bach: Cello Suite No. 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010 – Sarabande; Johanna Doderer: Shadows; José Serebrier: Nostalgia; Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 – Sarabande; Tigran Mansurian: Ode an die Stille; Michiru Oshima: Silence; Bach: Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009 - Sarabande; Kalevi Aho: Am Horizont; John Powell: Perfect Time for a Spring Cleaning; Bach: Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 – Sarabande; Cristina Spinei: Keep Moving; Rhian Samuel: Salve Nos; Bach: Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008 – Sarabande; Gabriel Prokofiev: Five Impressions of Self-Isolation (Calling Out/Wine for One/Only Birds in the Sky/How Many Weeks...?/Back to the English Garden); Bach: Cello Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012 – Sarabande; Federico Gardella: Consolation. BIS 2533 SACD.
This gorgeous production is generously filled along several dimensions. At nearly 79 minutes in duration, you certainly get your money’s worth in that respect; moreover, the booklet included with the disc contains not only an introductory note from violist Togawa about how the recording came about (yes, this is another of those pandemic-inspired projects) but also notes about the composers, complete with photos. A glance through the program reveals not just works by contemporary composers, but several Bach Sarabandes originally composed for solo cello but played here on the viola. The end result is an album of energy and grace, appropriate listening during a pandemic that is, alas, still ongoing.
Igor Levit: On DSCH. Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87; Stevenson: Passacaglia on DSCH. Igor Levit, piano. Sony Classical 19439809212.
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. The Stevenson is a complex piece, expressing a multitude of styles and emotions, something like a symphony for the piano. 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.

Dec 26, 2021

Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1-5 (CD review)

Rudolf Buchbinder, piano; various orchestras and conductors. DG 486-0494 (3-disc set).

By John J. Puccio

When I saw the name “Rudolf Buchbinder” on the cover of this set, I recognized one thing immediately and another thing a moment later. I realized I was familiar with the name, probably because this Czechoslovakian-born, Austrian classical pianist (b. 1946) has been around for almost as long as I have; has played in most of the world’s top concert halls and with most of the world’s top orchestras; and has made dozens of recordings spanning over sixty years in the business of making music. But then I also realized that I hadn’t heard a single thing the man had ever played, whether on record or in person. How could this be? Maybe he’s more popular in Europe than in America? I dunno.

In any case, the present album is, according to Amazon, Buchbinder’s third recording of the complete Beethoven piano concertos, these present ones made live in 2019 and 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic. And the names involved are all the best in the business: the Gewandhaus Orchestra under Nelsons; the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Jansons; the Munich Philharmonic under Gergiev; the Staatskapelle Dresden under Thielemann; and the Vienna Philharmonic under Muti. The names don’t get much bigger than that. So, yes, Buchbinder is a world-class pianist. Does he deserve the adulation and honors he has received over the decades? Judging by the current album, certainly; although I would by no means declare any of these performances definitive or surpassing the dozens of fine recordings already available, separately or in complete sets. For that honor he would have had to impress me more than Kovacevich, Perahia, Richter, Ashkenazy, Brendel, Gilels, Kempff, Arrau, and others, which he didn’t do. So, no, I wouldn’t classify the present set as the final word on the subject, even though it has its merits.

The program opens on disc one with the Piano Concerto Nos. 1 in C major, op. 15, with Andris Nelsons leading the Gewandhaus Orchestra accompanying Buchbinder. Beethoven wrote the Concerto No. 1 in 1795, premiered it with himself as soloist, and then revised it slightly in 1800. Like Concerto No. 2, the first concerto is sort of Beethoven light, still showing the earmarks of Mozart and Haydn in its style and execution. It sounds more blithe, more carefree, than the composer’s later concertos. The Gewandhaus Orchestra was already an established ensemble by the time Beethoven arrived on the scene, so we would expect them to know the music inside out. Maestro Nelsons leads a fairly spirited orchestral accompaniment, while Buchbinder maintains a clear, classical line. Although his playing may not be so playful or youthful-sounding as some other performers, it is certainly smooth and accomplished. Every phrase is tenderly served, the slow movement particularly sweet, resulting in a carefully structured, easy, and charming interpretation.

Coupled with No. 1 on disc one is the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19, which Beethoven published in 1795 but had been working on since around 1787. Here, Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra accompany the soloist. Buchbinder appears a bit more relaxed and free this time around, and his playing technique is really a marvel of dexterity and drive. Yet while he can be quite forceful, he is also quite warm and delicate when need arises. Still, he doesn’t strike me as being as flowing or affectionate in his reading as Kovacevich. While both he and Jansons seem to miss some of the mischievousness of the final movement, they give it their professional best and still produce an accomplished reading.

Disc two opens with the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, Buchbinder accompanied by Valery Gergiev and the Munich Philharmonic. No. 3 is a kind of transitional concerto for Beethoven, not quite in the league with Nos. 4 and 5 but clearly on a road away from Mozart and Haydn. Beethoven premiered it in 1803 along with his Second Symphony, with himself again as the concerto’s soloist. Here, we get into the more dramatic, more Romantic Beethoven that we all know and love. The piano enters after a rather long-winded introduction, so it needs to be strong and energetic. That introduction, incidentally, is handled perhaps a little more solemnly by Gergiev than I would have liked, but the extra gravitas is probably a good thing. When Buchbinder does finally enter, it is with a grandeur and eloquence fully appropriate to the music. And so it goes. Buchbinder is a mite too reserved and formal for my taste, but he has an appealingly old-fashioned style to his playing that should offend no one.

The second disc concludes with the Piano Concerto Nos. 4 in G major, Op. 58, with Christian Thielemann and the Dresden Staatskapelle. The Fourth Concerto is among the most mature of Beethoven’s piano concertos, as well as one of his most popular. He finished it in 1806 and premiered it in 1807 during a private concert along with his Fourth Symphony. Its first public concert came the next year in a monumental outing along with the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Choral Fantasy. It would also be Beethoven’s last public appearance as a soloist, so he went out swinging. The piano enters immediately, and Buchbinder makes the most of it, establishing an imposing command of the score. He pretty much tells you “this is my music, and I don’t care if you like what I’m doing or not.” Again, I found his manner a touch too distant for my liking, but there is no denying his supreme mastery of the piano, and there is an especially deep-felt understanding of the music of the final movement.

The Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, “Emperor” gets the entire third disc to itself, which only seems apropos given the majesty and scope of its music, with Buchbinder accompanied by Riccardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic. Beethoven wrote the “Emperor” Concerto between 1809-1810 and published it in 1811. The extended solo and orchestral introduction should have a grand and imposing presence, which Buchbinder, Muti, and the magnificent Vienna Phil accomplish with ease. It’s a big, warmhearted performance that should please most classical listeners, although it adds little to what has already been done successfully many times. I enjoyed and admired the reading while not really feeling a need to revisit it. In other words, even though it’s competent, well thought out, and well played, it seemed a trifle too mechanical to me, too perfect, not daring enough. Even the slow middle movement seemed too reserved and aloof to me, never quite reaching the expressive depths I had hoped for. Nevertheless, these are mere quibbles compared to Buchbinder and company’s unwavering sincerity and flawless execution of the score.

Producers Philipp Nedel and Florian Rosensteiner and engineers Christian Gorz and Matthias Erb recorded the concertos live at the Musikverein, Vienna and the Kulturepalast Dresden in October, November, and December 2019 and October 2020. Considering the different venues involved, the sound is pretty consistent thanks, I suppose, to the same two producers and engineers involved. It sounds particularly good for live recordings, the First Concerto appearing quite lifelike, without being too close up, one-dimensional, or overly bright. The Second Concerto sounds a tad more steely in the upper midrange and treble, but it’s still more than acceptable. The Third Concerto seems a bit warmer and softer than the preceding two, which works in its favor as a more-mature piece of music. By the Fourth Concerto, I was either getting used to the sound or it was improving dramatically. This one sounds almost exactly like a good studio recording. Finally, we come to the Fifth Piano Concerto, the “Emperor,” where the sound is a little less natural than in the Fourth, slightly harder through the midrange and a mite softer in the bass. Still and all, the sound of all five concertos is, as I say, quite good for live recordings and better than most.


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

Dec 22, 2021

Infinity (CD review)

By Karl W. Nehring

Sophie Hutchings: By Night; Slow Meadow: Helium Life Jacket; Jon Hopkins: Scene Suspended; Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson; Heyr himna smiður; Jóhann Jóhannsson: A Pile of Dust; Kelly Lee Owens & Sebastian Plano: Find Our Way; Ólafur Arnalds: momentary; Anne Lovett: Infinity; Benjamin Rimmer: In the Shining Blackness; Ola Gjeilo: Still; Stephen Barton: The Universe Within You; Nainita Desai: My Mind is Still; Hildur Guðnadóttir: Ascent; A Winged Victory for the Sullen: Atomos XI; Luke Howard: There is a Solitude. Voces8 (Andrea Haines, Eleonore Cockerham, soprano; Katie Jeffries Harris, Barnaby Smith, alto; Blake Morgan, Euan Williamson, tenor; Christopher Moore, Jonathan Pacey, bass). Decca B0034074-02,

Voces8 is an English vocal octet originally founded in 2003. They have had numerous personnel changes over the years, but have remained consistent in their overall sound. As you can see from a glance through the listing of selections on their latest offering, they have decided this time around to focus primarily on music of the current century. Unfortunately, the minimal liner sheet included by Decca with the CD provides scarcely any information other than the bare minimum beyond what we are told on the back cover, which gives us the names of the songs and composers along with the following brief statement: “Escape to another world with the soothing voices of VOCES8 in this space-inspired collection of meditative and transcendental works. Featuring six new commissions alongside brand-new choral versions of calming instrumental pieces, this album showcases the transportive power of the human voice, interwoven with soft instrumental sounds.” Well, were I not (a) already familiar with Voces8 from a couple of their earlier albums and (b) already familiar with the music of several of the composers, then I most likely would have (c) put this CD right back into the library rack. But I persisted.

But first, a quick overview of the composers, with a tip of the cap (and yes, I have donated) to Wikipedia. Sophi Hutchings (b. 1978) is an Australian pianist/composer. “Slow Meadow” is a name used for ambient compositions by Texas-born multi-instrumentalist Matt Kidd. Jon Hopkins (b. 1979) is an English musician and producer who writes and performs electronic music. He has produced but also contributed to albums by Brian Eno, Coldplay, and others.

"Heyr himna smiður" (literally "Hear, smith of the heavens") is a medieval Icelandic hymn written by chieftain and poet Kolbeinn Tumason in the 13th-century. The music that accompanies the text was composed by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938–2013), more than 700 years later. Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) was an Icelandic composer who wrote music for a wide array of media including theatre, dance, television, and films. Kelly Lee Owens (b. 1988) is a Welsh electronic musician and producer. Sebastian Plano (b. 1985) is an Argentinian composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist based in Berlin, Germany. His 2019 album Verve was nominated for Best New Age Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. Ólafur Arnalds (b. 1986) is an Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer who mixes strings and piano with loops and beats, a sound ranging from ambient/electronic to atmospheric pop. Benjamin Rimmer (b. 1993) is a composer based in London. Ola Gjeilo (b.1978) is a Norwegian composer and pianist living in the United States. Stephen Barton (b.1982) is a British composer who has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 2001. He has composed the music for dozens of major film, television, and video game projects. Nainita Desai is a British-Indian composer of film, television and video game music. Hildur Guðnadóttir (b. 1982) is an Icelandic musician and composer. A Winged Victory for the Sullen is an ambient music duo composed of Dustin O'Halloran (b. 1971), an American composer and pianist, and Adam Wiltzie (b. 1969), an American composer and sound engineer currently based in Brussels, Belgium. Luke Howard (b. 1978) is an Australian composer and pianist.

Although the backgrounds of the composers are quite varied, the overall sound and mood of the compositions on Infinity are fairly consistent. Depending upon the mood of the listener, this can be either a plus or a minus. There are times when it is nice to put on this CD and just relax to the beautiful sounds; however, there are times when more contrast will begin to seem desirable. In my experience with Infinity, it is an album that I enjoyed more the more intently I listened to it. When I listened more casually, the sameness of the sound began to bother me; however, when I sat down and really LISTENED, I found much to admire in the individual compositions. Other than the woefully inadequate liner insert, this is an excellent release both musically and sonically, well worth an audition.

By the way, I read recently that Eric Whitacre is planning to record his composition The Sacred Veil (a previous recording is reviewed here: with Voces8 in 2022. That should be something well worth watching out for.


Dec 19, 2021

Liebermann: Frankenstein, complete ballet (CD review)

Choreography by Liam Scarlett. Martin West, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Reference Recordings RR-148 (2-disc set).

By John J. Puccio

Admittedly, the idea of using ballet--which most of us think of as among most refined and delicate of musical genres--to tell the story of the Frankenstein monster--surely, one of the least refined and most brutal of literary creations--may at first blush seem like an April Fool’s joke. However, that’s exactly what composer Lowell Libermann did in 2018 when he wrote the music for choreographer Liam Scarlett’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 gothic horror novel

Now, whether you think Liebermann’s music does justice to the novel is another story, and it’s a little hard to judge just listening to this live recording of the San Francisco ballet’s performance of it. Unless any ballet score contains an abundance of memorable tunes, it tends to be a rather listless affair if you’re just listening to it. One misses the glamor and excitement of seeing the sets, the costumes, and the actual dancing. In the case of Frankenstein, I would rather have had a single highlights disc than the complete ballet on two discs. But that’s just me. Still, you might consider programming your CD player on subsequent listenings.

The ballet’s story pretty much follows the plot (within the framework and much abridged) of Ms. Shelley’s book: It begins at Frankenstein Manor, where Victor Frankenstein and his fiancé Elizabeth announce their engagement. Then we have scenes in the anatomy theatre where Dr. Frankenstein explains his theories on regeneration, and for the end of Act I we’re back to the professor’s laboratory where he brings his creature to life. Act II is where the real fun begins, with the creature getting loose and killing anyone in his way. Act III is mainly about Victor and Elizabeth and their relationship now that all hell is breaking loose. As in the novel, things do not end well for any of them, although here the story closes in a more-efficient, truncated form.

As I say, it probably all works better on stage--where we can actually see the macabre staging, the murder, and the mayhem--than it does as a purely listening experience where we have to imagine much of it. That said, the music itself is not at all hard to listen to. It has a traditional cinema feel to it, as though it might accompany an old Universal Studios B&W monster movie. Whether that is enough to propel a modern-day ballet is another story. Insofar as the music helping us to visualize the action of the story, it probably does as good a job as we could want. It seems colorful enough, if a little static for much repeat listening (at least for me. Your mileage may vary).

Then there is the matter of continuity. There are forty-two separate segments within the ballet’s three acts, making the narrative more than a bit episodic. Worse, many of the sections sound suspiciously alike. The author and composer use much of the First Act as introduction and exposition, and long stretches can be dull without the visuals to accompany them. Things pick up in the final segment of Act I when Dr. Frankenstein declares “The Creature lives!”

Act II starts off with a flurry of activity, signaling early on (in the Prologue) that things are about to get ever more frightful. Still, there is more of Victor and Elizabeth, providing long interludes of calm, romantic melodies: Maybe a few interludes too many and too long. Frankly, it gets fairly repetitious fairly quickly and, again, without anything visually to hold one’s attention, well, it doesn’t entirely hold up. Fortunately, the more dramatic moments shake out the cobwebs and at times keep us riveted to the music. For this reason, I enjoyed Act III best of all. The score is just active enough, and just old-fashioned enough, to maintain interest. It seems more creative, more inventive, yet never ventures into chaotic atonality. The Third Act “Waltz” is actually quite delightful, swirling all around in a Lisztian sort of manner. Apparently the composer thought so, too, since he reprises it a few tracks later. All in all, a good effort from composer Liebermann in a rather eccentric work. That it maybe doesn’t completely hang together is more the fault of Ms. Shelley’s book than Mr. Liebermann’s score, and I can’t imagine anyone pulling it off any better than Martin West and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

Producers Marina A. Ledin and Victor Ledin and engineer Keith O. Johnson recorded the ballet live at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA in March 2018. Despite my general tendency to dismiss any live recording from having good sound, this one from “Professor” Johnson is as good as any I’ve heard. There is no close-up feeling, no bright harshness, and very few or no extraneous sounds from the audience or orchestra except the inevitable applause at the end of each act. It sounds, most of the time, like a good studio recording. There is a wide stereo spread; a good, if slightly soft, tonal balance; a mild hall ambience; plenty of dynamic range and impact; and even a bit of orchestral depth.


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

Dec 15, 2021

Emily D’Angelo: Enargeia (CD review)

Hildur Guðnadóttir (arr. Jarko Riihimäki): Fólk fær andlit; Hildegard von Bingen (arr. Sarah Kirkland Snider): O virtus sapientae; Missy Mazzoli (arr. Riihimäki): This World Within Me Is too Small; Kirkland Snider: Caritas; Mazzoli: Hello Lord; Mazzoli: You Are the Dust; Kirkland Snider: Dead Friend; Kirkland Snider: Nausicaa; Hildegard von Bingen (arr. Mazzoli): For the Virgin; Mazzoli: A Thousand Tongues; Guðnadóttir (arr. Riihimäki): Lidur; Kirkland Snider: The Lotus Eaters. Emily D’Angelo, mezzo-soprano; Jarkko Riihimäki, das freie orchester Berlin; Kuss Quartett; Matangi Quartet; Wolfgang Fischer, percussion; Rene Flächsenhaar, Mikayel Hakhnazaryan, cello; Frédéric L’Épée, electric guitar; Jonas Niederstadt, glockenspiel; Marc Prietzel, drums; Marion Ravot, harp; Christian Vogel, bass clarinet; Norbert Wahren, double bass. Deuthsche Grammophon 486 0536.

by Karl W. Nehring

 is the debut album from Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo (b. 1994). As a glance at the program should tell you, this is hardly the typical debut recital album one would expect to hear from a rising young opera star. Rather than the usual familiar arias by famous operatic composers, she has brought together unfamiliar music by women composers both past and present, arranging them into a varied but coherent program that captivates from start to finish. As she remarks in her liner notes, “the pieces in this program are bound together by the ancient Greek concept of enargeia, whose spirit is found throughout the music of each composer and the texts they have made manifest on the sound waves. Each piece is part of a sonic journey, each track born out of the previous one as the listener is guided through a progression, a cohesive and exploratory listening experience.”

Regarding the composers represented on this album, D’Angelo first encountered the music of Hildegard (1098-1179) while singing in a choir during her youth and was quite taken by what she heard. Of Hildegard, D’Angelo writes that “her belief in music as a heightened communicative mode (is) woven throughout the songs on this album.” Moving ahead to our current time, D’Angelo has included music by the Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, of whom she observes, “creates compostions that evoke otherworldly, multidimensional qualities, which have translated into diverse mediums ranging from scores for film and television to solo recordings. The use of bowed instruments as a drone harkens back to medieval music but seen through a modern, ambient lens.”    The other two composers represented on Enargiea are the Americans Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980), whom D’Angelo credits as being adept at the “crossing of sacred themes and electronic instrumentation,” and Sarah Kirkland Snider (b. 1973), who D’Angelo observes is “known for her direct expression and vivid narrative.”

Although the music is by four different composers, the program is focused and unified. Certainly Ms. D’Angelo’s voice, which is rich and strong and persuasive, brings coherence to the music, along with conviction and great beauty. The songs focus on death, but not in a morbid, obsessive manner (texts are provided). The instrumental accompaniments are generally quite spare, but varied in timbre and texture, at times augmented by electronic effects; however, there is an overall rightness and naturalness to the sound that makes the whole effort sound as though it could be a contemporary version of a song cycle by Mahler, something along the lines of his Kindertotenlieder, or perhaps a scaled-down Das Lied von der Erde. If you are a classical music lover who enjoys that sort of vocal music, you should find Enargeia to be a most fascinating recording. D’Angelo has a truly special voice, the instrumental arrangements are apt and imaginative, and the engineering frames everything well. Brava, Ms. D’Angelo! Your bold vision has brought us something special indeed, and just in time for the holidays.


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

Dec 12, 2021

The British Project (CD review)

Music of Elgar, Britten, Walton, and Vaughan Williams. Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. DG 486 1547.

By Karl W. Nehring and John J. Puccio

The music according to Karl:
Parts of this recording were previously made available by DG in dribs and drabs as digital downloads by DG but now the entirety of The British Project featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the young Lithuanian conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla (b. 1936) is finally available on CD. Having been quite impressed by a previous recording by these same forces (, and being quite a fan of British music, I have long been looking forward to this release. So, with a Lithuanian conductor and a German label, what do we have going here?

The program opens with Sospiri (“Sighs”) by Sir Edward Elgar, a brief composition for string orchestra, harp, and organ. This is not the Elgar of Pomp and Circumstance; rather, it is music that is plaintive and emotional, yes, but in a much more introspective way than we might expect from Elgar. In any event, it is beautiful music and its somber tone sets the stage for the next work on the program, Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, a work for large orchestra that the liner notes aptly describe as “a musical onslaught of rage and sorrow whose dark brilliance and concentrated emotional power can still thrill and disturb us today.” I spent some time comparing this version to two other versions that are well-regarded in audiophile circles, the Previn on EMI and the Stern on Reference Recordings. I was really surprised at how different the Grazinyte-Tyla version sounds from those two, both of which seem to go out of their way to sound dramatic, with drum sounds that seem to be heralding the end of time. As much as the audiophile got a kick out of that kind of sound, I must say that the music lover in me was won over by what seems to be the more rational, better balanced approach of Grazinyte-Tyla and the DG engineers. I just found myself enjoying the music more. Not to say that the DG engineering does not sound excellent; indeed, it is clean and well-balanced. But hey, I’ll still pull out the RR or EMI CDs when I want a guilty pleasure.

As far as Walton’s Troilus and Cressida music, which actually takes up the most time on this release, I unfortunately do not have much to say, as it is music with which I am completely unfamiliar. It is interesting enough, and has some dramatic moments (the movement titled The Lovers has some beautiful passages, and the Finale generates plenty of energy), and yes, it is good to have something to audition other than the “usual suspects.” The program ends with a rendition of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams that seems to begin with a bit more nervous energy than usual, but as it moves along, develops more of the calm, reflective beauty to which we are accustomed to hearing in this venerable composition, surely one of the landmarks of British music. Both the performance and the recording do a fine job of highlighting the antiphonal nature of the arrangement, helping to make this an appropriate performance to cap off an endeavor titled The British Project. 


The music according to John:
For at least the last fifty-odd years I have had a deep admiration for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Of course, the orchestra has been around a lot longer than that. In fact, its origins (if not its name) go back hundreds of years. But it was only in the early 1970’s that I noticed them because EMI was making some of the best-sounding records available with the orchestra under their leader at the time, Louis Fremaux. When Fremaux departed, the orchestra got Sir Simon Rattle, who produced some of the most-enthusiastic performances I have probably ever heard from him. After a few more notable leaders (Sakari Oroma, Andris Nelsons), in 2016 the Lithuanian conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla became the orchestra’s newest Music Director.

Just as Rattle’s energetic ardour replaced Fremaux’s Gallic charm, so does Ms. Grazinyte-Tyla’s delicate touch supplant the bulkier styles of her predecessors. Not that she isn’t capable of generating a good deal of excitement, as several of the selections on this disc demonstrate, but it’s her more sensitive moments that linger in memory. At least that’s how I came away from this first listening to her work. It was a good first impression.

So, we have four British works on the agenda, the first being Edward Elgar’s Sospiri, an adagio for string orchestra, harp, and organ that Elgar wrote in 1914. Although it is brief, Ms. Grazinyte-Tyla makes the most of it--almost literally, as it’s the longest performance of the piece I think I’ve ever heard. To put that into perspective, Sir John Barbirolli took just over five minutes to perform it. Ms. Grazinyte-Tyla takes almost seven minutes. “Sospiri” in Italian means “sighs,” and that’s the way Ms. Grazinyte-Tyla plays it: as one, long, wistful sigh. The performance is a little different, but it’s quite a moving one, given The Great War that was about to change England and Europe forever.

Next, we have Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, the centerpiece of the album. Britten wrote it in 1940 for the Japanese government to celebrate the government’s founding. However, they rejected it for its use of Latin headings for the movements and for its largely grim tone. Maybe they didn’t understand the meaning of “requiem” (a mass for the dead). Good thing, in any case, given the coming Second World War. Fortunately, it found an audience at home and has been one of Britten’s more popular pieces ever since. Here, Ms. Grazinyte-Tyla can be fairly forceful, along with being subtle and conscientious. The work offers her every opportunity to show us her expertise as a conductor, and she comes through in both tender and thrilling fashion. She pulls the music gently in all directions and delivers a mournful yet warmhearted performance.

Following Britten is William Walton’s Symphonic Suite from his opera Troilus and Cressida. The opera appeared in the mid 1950’s to mixed reviews (it wasn’t “modern” enough), but the orchestral suite we get here (created in 1988 by Walton’s collaborator Christopher Palmer) has fared a tad better. It’s filled with high drama, which Grazinyte-Tyla elaborates with an easy grace.

The program concludes with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for double string orchestra. Vaughn Williams based the central tune on a hymn by the eighteenth-century English composer Thomas Tallis, and VW premiered it 1910. It was among his early successes, and under Grazinyte-Tyla’s graceful control it gets a splendidly relaxed yet spirited and sweetly flowing interpretation.

Producer Andy Guthrie and engineers Ian Barfoot and Jamie Hickey recorded the Vaughan Williams and Elgar at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England in November 2020 and March 2021; and producer Vilius Keras and engineer Aleksandra Keriene recorded the Britten and Walton at Elbphilarmonie, Hamburg, Germany in October 2019. The sound is quite good. Not quite in the same league as the old EMI/Fremaux recordings for ultimate clarity and impact but smooth, natural, and ultimately realistic, nevertheless. DG has always been good with dynamic range, and the engineers demonstrate their skills with the softest to loudest passages. The disc makes a pleasurable listen.


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

Dec 8, 2021

Recent Releases, No. 22 (CD reviews)

By Karl W. Nehring

Arnold: Complete Symphonies and Dances. (CD1) Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; (CD2) Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4; (CD3) Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6; (CD4) Symphonies 7 & 8; (CD5) Symphony No. 9; Sir Malcolm Arnold in Conversation with Andrew Penny; (CD6) English Dances, Set 1; English Dances, Set 2; Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59; Four Scottish Dances, Op. 91; Four Irish Dances; Four Welsh Dances. Andrew Penny, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (Symphonies), Queensland Symphony Orchestra (Dances). Naxos 8.506041.

October 21, 2021, marked the 100th birthday of the late British composer Sir Malcolm Arnold, one of the greatest yet most overlooked composers of the 20th century. Even in the UK, his music is seldom performed in concert, which is a shame. I was going to say that I first became acquainted with his music thanks to a recommendation by the late Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound, who wrote with enthusiasm of an EMI LP featuring Arnold conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Arnold’s Symphony No. 5 and Peterloo Overture, the first LP I ever ordered from England. But that was not, as I now recall, my first exposure to the music of Arnold; instead, my first exposure had actually come many years before, when my father took me to see the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which Arnold had composed the memorable score. (The film featured a young Alec Guinness, who many years later I would take my own kids to see play the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and would some years after that delight me with his portrayal of George Smiley.) Thanks to Naxos, though, who have decided to mark the occasion of this centennial year with a budget-priced boxed set of his complete symphonies and dances, music lovers now have the chance to immerse themselves in the symphonic music of this most remarkable composer for a most reasonable price.

Arnold had played trumpet in the London Symphony Orchestra; he knew orchestras and loved writing music for them. His symphonies contain melodies and tunes that musicians enjoy playing and listeners enjoy hearing. But no, his music is not simple. It is varied and complex, shifting from mood to mood, sometimes turning on a dime, but never leaving the listener behind. It can go from a tickle to a tear within a matter of measures. But it is always listenable, always colorful, ever imaginative. In a nutshell, the first couple of symphonies are on the bold and brash side, yet not without their moments of reflection. Nos. 3 and 4 are a bit more exotic sounding, especially No. 4., which makes lively use of percussion in places.

Symphony No. 5, the work that Harry Pearson raved about, is often considered Arnold’s masterwork; indeed, it is a symphony that cannot help but make an indelible impression. Its sound is rich and varied, with memorable contributions especially from the brass section, with some trombone parts that will haunt your memory. It is the quintessential Arnold symphony, packed with gorgeous melodies but still managing to be tense, restless, and disturbing under the surface. It is a great work, one that deserves a place in the concert hall. Its discmate, No. 6., is a shorter work (24:41) in three movements, said to be inspired by jazz but communicating a more serious, focused tone than his previous symphonies.

Nos. 7 and 8 are even more serious in tone, but still display that same Arnold sound, that ability to weave phrases and melodies that linger in the memory and tug at the heartstrings of the listeners without ever sounding cloying or sentimental, punctuated with bursts of energy, especially from the bass drum. The opening measures of No. 8 will definitely give both your speakers and your emotions a workout! But then the second movement Andantino will ply on your emotions in a quieter but no less powerful way, setting the stage for the final movement, and energetic romp that by now you will recognize sounds like pure Malcolm Arnold as it shifts gears and moves merrily along. Then we come to Symphony No. 9, Arnold’s most enigmatic symphony. The April 2021 issue of BBC Music Magazine featured an article on Arnold, and displayed his portrait on the cover, alongside which was a teaser that read, “Malcolm Arnold: Was the talented but troubled composer England’s Shostakovich?” That’s the kind of thing you expect to see while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, and a bit of baloney overall, but listening to the 9th does admittedly invite the comparison to the great Russian composer. Its structure is unusual and yes, Shostakovich-like: three relatively short movements followed by a long (23:10) Lento finale that is serious and brooding. But still, as much as it might remind one of Shostakovich, it remains clearly a work by Arnold. A welcome bonus is the appended interview, in which conductor and composer discuss the work. Much different in mood and most rousingly Arnold-like are the sets of Dances gather together on the final disc in this set. These works are an unabashed delight, tuneful and tasty. It was certainly generous of Naxos to include them here along with the symphonies.

Please rest assured that although this is a budget release, the playing and the engineering are all first-rate. The booklet included in the box gives some background on the symphonies and is prefaced with a reflection about the music and the composer by conductor Andrew Penny. I will confess to being a huge fan of Arnold’s music; I have previously purchased recordings of all of his symphonies (and numerous other works) by several orchestras on several labels, including the individual Naxos discs as they were released during the 1990s. To have this set together in one box, along with the complete Dances (the first time all of his Dances have been recorded together), so well done and at a reasonably low price, makes this set a must-have. Arnold’s music is a musical universe begging to be explored by those who have not yet entered it, and now Naxos has provided the portal key. Enter and enjoy!

Of All Joys. Arvo Pärt (b. 1935): Summa; Luca Marenzio (c. 1535-1599): Solo e pensoso; John Dowland (1565-1626): Flow My Tears (Lachrimae); Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) Fantasia a 6 in d minor; Philip Glass (b. 1937): String Quartet No. 3 “Mishima”; John Bennet (c. 1575 - c. 1615): Weep, O Mine Eyes; Jacobus Clemens non Papa (c.1510 - c. 1555): Ego Flos Campi a 7; Pärt: Fratres. Attacca Quartet (Amy Schroeder and Domenic Salerni, violins; Nathan Schram, viola; Andrew Yee, cello). Sony Classical 19439936062.

The Attacca Quartet have assembled a musical program of works from the 16th and 20th centuries that flows seamlessly from one musical delight into another, truly testifying to the listener of all joys indeed: the joys of life, the universe, and everything. The disc begins and ends with string quartet arrangements of familiar works by the beloved Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, Summa and Fratres. As with much of Pärt’s music, both pieces have a spiritual dimension to them. That feeling of calm and inwardness carries throughout the program, which is not always quiet and soporific, but in general has a feeling of grace about it. It is revealing to hear how naturally the music of Philip Glass blends so seamlessly into the program. Yes, listeners familiar with his compositional style will recognize that pulsing undercurrent, but they will also come to hear that over 500 years, music still remains music, the tones and the rhythms and the attendant emotions are still there, still flowing, still touching our hearts and minds. The Attacca Quartet’s violinist Domenic Salerni remarks of Glass’s music that “using an extreme economy of means, he creates moments and momentums out of simple whole-number harmonic ansd rhythmic ratios that can leave one feeling resigned and despairing, uplifted and filled with joy, or simply at peace and transported to a place of beauty.” The liner notes go on to assert that “this album seeks to replicate such emotional breadth. And while the textures and harmonies of Glass were a natural and obvious fit, the record is a project that began with the quartet listing off their favorite minimalist and Renaissance pieces, and considering how modern works resonate with what came before.” The end result is an album that should resonate with listeners seeking to engage with the beauty that can be found in simple music with surprising depth.    

Vince Mendoza: Freedom Over Everything. Concerto for Orchestra: American Noise; Concerto For Orchestra: Consolation; Concerto For Orchestra: Hit The Streets; Concerto For Orchestra: Meditation; Concerto for Orchestra: Justice And The Blues; Freedom Over Everything; Concerto For Orchestra: Finale; To The Edge Of Longing; New York Stories (Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra). Antonio Sanchez, drums; Joshua Redman, tenor saxophone; Derrick Hodge, bass; Jan Hasenohrl, trumpet; Tariq Trotter (a.k.a. Black Thought), vocals; Julia Bullock, vocals; Alexej Rosik, violin; Vince Mendoza, Czech National Symphony Orchestra. Modern Recordings 538668092.

This recent release from the Grammy award-winning American composer, arranger, and conductor Vince Mendoza (b. 1961) features music that hovers in a space that is not quite classical, not quite jazz, not quite film music, not quite protest music, but which blends elements of all those genres and more into a program of energetic and entertaining orchestral music mingled with other styles and voices. The featured work is his Concerto for Orchestra, about which he explains, “My approach is a departure from the traditions of an orchestra concerto. For me, it was more about having an arc that tells a particular story, but also incorporates rhythmic and melodic aspects of African American music and improvisationCoinciding with the composition of the concerto was the 2016 saga of the election of ‘45’ and the resulting tremendous discord in the U.S. during that time. While writing this piece, the events happening in our country invaded my artistic space. For the first time I felt I couldn’t really write music and be removed from what was going on in our environment.  I started seriously considering the importance of an artist to reflect the times and how I could make my music a reflection not only of what I was witnessing but what I hoped would occur. So that’s when the arc of this concerto started to take shape. I sought to design the structure of the concerto to be inspired by M.L. King’s remarks on the moral universe, that the arc is long, but it bends toward justice. The beginning of the concerto (the first movement is called ‘American Noise’) reflects the discord that began leading up to the 2016 election. Of course, it pales in comparison to what we dealt with in 2020 and now 2021, but the arc of the composition goes through that process of pure noise, much needed consolation and the need for ‘hitting the streets’. The end of the concerto seeks to reflect justice and the hope for a peaceful resolution to what we were only entering in 2016. Arguably in 2021 we still haven’t quite gotten there.”

The Concerto is in six relatively short movements, the longest being the opening American Noise at 9:47, all the way down to the Finale at only 2:17. Between the fifth movement (Justice and the Blues) and Finale, there is a brief (1:27) interlude (Freedom over Everything) featuring rapper Black Thought. Drummer Antonio Sanchez, who has played with guitarist Pat Metheny and other jazz notables as well as leading ensembles of his own, adds a complex texture to the music as he comes in to join the orchestra along with electric guitar and later, the saxophone of veteran reedman Joshua Redman. The music has plenty of drive and energy, even in its less boisterous moments, with a kinetic feeling of motion to that suggests it would serve well as the score for a modern dance presentation.

Following the turmoil of his Concerto, Mendoza then presents music meant to calm, a setting of verse from the German poet Rilke titled To the Edge of Longing, featuring the rich soprano voice of Julia Bullock accompanied by the solo violin of Alexej Rosik and the orchestra. It truly is a beautiful work, flowing and melodic. The program concludes with New York Stories, a brief concertino for trumpet and orchestra that finds Mendoza returning to the jazz-tinged sound of the Concerto. The drums return, and on the whole, there is something of a film score vibe to this music, especially the sound of the orchestral strings. The end result is pleasant, but at least to these ears, not as striking as the other two works on the program. As far as the engineering goes, frequency balance and imaging are fine; however, be forewarned that this CD is mastered at a level that is clearly several dB higher than the norm for classical recordings, so you will want to back off a few notches on your volume control when auditioning it for the first time. You can always turn it up later, and well you might want to for such exuberant music, but better safe than sorry at the start…

Bach: The Art of Fugue. Les InAttendus (Vincent Lhermet, accordion; Marianne Muller, 7-string bass viol; Alice Piérot, violin). Harmonia Mundi HMM 905313.

Although modern scholarly consensus is that Bach’s The Art of Fugue was originally intended by the composer to be played at the keyboard, as with many other of Bach’s compositions, there have been many other transcriptions and arrangements performed and recorded over the years. Although my favorite is the organ and piano version by Glenn Gould, I have also enjoyed a string quartet version by the Emerson String Quartet, and have at times enjoyed and at other times loathed that infamous Bach/Malloch Sheffield production titled The Art of Fuguing. This new release for the unusual combination of violin, accordion, and bass viol gives the music a baroque sonority, yet because of the unfamiliar element of the accordion blending with the strings, there is a freshness to the sound that makes it piece seem new again. No, this is not a CD for everyone, but for devoted fans of J.S. Bach, it is well worth an audition.

Bonus Recommendation:

How Shostakovich Changed My Mind. Johnson, Stephen. Notting Hill Editions Ltd (2018).

Especially for – but certainly not only for – fans of the music of the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, this brief book of just over 150 pages offers some fascinating insights into his music. It does so not by presenting dry academic musicological analyses, but rather by offering penetrating personal insights into not only the composer and his music, but also into the effects his music can have upon those who listen with real purpose. As the note on the back cover explains, “music broadcaster and composer Stephen Johnson explores how Shostakovich’s music took shape under Stalin’s reign of terror, and how it gave form to the fears and hopes of an oppressed people. Johnson writes of the healing effect of music on sufferers of mental illness and tells of how Shostakovich’s music lent him unexpected strength in his struggle with bipolar disorder. Through interviews conducted with surviving members of Soviet orchestras, through his reading of philosophers, psychoanalysts, and neurologists, Johnson paints a compelling picture of one man’s music and its power to validate and sustain another man’s life.”

Now, that talk of philosophers and neurologists and psychoanalysts might make it sound as if this book might be a dense, heavy read, quite the opposite is true. Instead, Johnson is a skilled storyteller, and he weaves together a number of different threads – his own story, accounts of his interviews, his accounts of some of Shostakovichs’s compositions (including the Cello Concerto No. 1, String Quartet No. 8, Symphonies Nos. 4, 8, and 11) and how they affected his mental health and overall well-being – into a compelling story that is not just about Shostakovich, or music, but about the human condition and the challenges we all face as we make our way through life. Especially fascinating – offering insights both musical and psychological – are some interviews and analyses that reveal some of the hidden messages that Shostakovich wrote into his music, his way of taunting his tormentors without exposing himself openly to further persecution. This is a little volume that can easily be read in a day or two, but with a message that will resonate in readers’ hearts and minds for far longer.


Dec 5, 2021

Webber: Symphonic Suites (CD review)

Music from Evita, Sunset Boulevard, and The Phantom of the Opera. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Andrew Lloyd Webber Orchestra. Decca B0033918-02.

By John J. Puccio

One hardly needs reminding that English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most popular and most prolific musical writers of the past fifty-odd years, from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the mid Sixties through Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, to his latest project, Cinderella; and a lot of other stuff in between. On the present album, he has assembled an eighty-piece orchestra to do justice to the music of three of his works, Evita, Sunset Boulevard, and The Phantom of the Opera, and he recorded them in London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Although I am not particularly a Lloyd Webber fan, I have to admit it’s a grand undertaking, with some grand results.

Mr. Webber comments that “These orchestral suites have been in the works for some time. They are performed by a fantastic orchestra, on a stage with unrivaled sound quality, that means more to me than anywhere in the world. But, after the trials and tribulations of 2020-21, this album represents so much more. For me, this is the triumphant and hopeful return of the live music theatre and entertainment across the world.”

First up on the album is the suite from Evita, the musical first produced in 1978 that focuses on the life of Eva Perón, wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. For me, it outlasted its welcome and reminded me of why I don’t care much for modern musicals. OK, admittedly, I’m an old fuddy-duddy without much taste for contemporary pop music. As a guy who grew up with musicals like My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Camelot, Cabaret, and the like, filled with an abundance of great songs, it seems to me that most of today’s musicals are built around a strong central tune and then about 800 variations of the same. A good example involves the 1964 movie musical Mary Poppins. You couldn’t help coming out of the theater whistling half a dozen infectious melodies. Now, compare that to 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns. How many memorable tunes can you name from it? For me, none. And Disney had over fifty years to come up with some. Anyway, back to Evita: “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is unquestionably a good and memorable tune. But there isn’t a whole lot more, really, to remember. So, we’ve got a suite almost twenty-five minutes long of pretty lightweight music that’s mostly forgettable two minutes after hearing it. Pleasant music, yes. Memorable, for the most part, no.

Next is Sunset Boulevard from 1993, a musical adaptation of director Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 movie about an aging silent movie star and her young kept man. I have to admit, I had never heard any of the music from Sunset Boulevard before, and I appreciated the way it evoked the spirit of old Hollywood. Whether it is worth another listen remains to be seen. I’m sure it would go over better with the visuals on stage. However, like the preceding suite, this one is very well presented, the huge orchestra imposing its will with a polished enthusiasm.

The program closes with The Phantom of the Opera from 1986, the musical version of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 horror-romance of the same name. This one, with its compelling dramatic effects, was my favorite of the three Webber suites. Even if you’re not familiar with the Leroux story (or the even more-famous Lon Chaney silent movie), with Webber’s music you’re bound to visualize it in all its creepy gothic glory. It was the only suite of the three that kept me occupied, without my attention wandering afield. It doesn’t need a plethora of pop tunes to keep it afloat. The music is all of a whole, each section well integrated into the overall structure. It may just hold up over time better than the others.

Producer Nick Lloyd Webber and engineer Dave Rowell recorded the suites at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, in April 2021. The resultant tracks were mixed at Such Sweet Thunder and mastered at Abbey Road, London. The sound is vintage Decca: big, wide, multimiked, clear but not bright, edgy, or steely, with good dynamics and impact. It’s everything you could want for big, brazen, outsized musical numbers.


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

Dec 1, 2021

Piano Potpourri, No. 3 (CD reviews)

Echoes of Life. IN THE BEGINNING WAS | Francesco Tristano: In the Beginning Was; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 1-4: INFANT REBELLION | Ligeti: Musica ricercata I; Chopin: Preludes op. 28. Nos. 5-9; WHEN THE GRASS WAS GREENER | Nino Rota: Valzer; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 10-15; NO ROADMAP TO ADULTHOOD | Chilly Gonzales: Prelude in C sharp major; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 16-18; IDENTITY | Takemitsu; Litany I; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 19-20; A PATH TO WHERE | Arvo Pärt: Für Alina; Chopin: Preludes op. 28: Nos. 21-24; LULLABY TO ETERNITY | Alice Sara Ott: Lullaby to Eternity. Alice Sara Ott. Piano. Deutsche Grammophon 486 0474.

By Karl W. Nehring

With so much of recorded music trending toward the “song” as the fundamental commodity, and with even classical music labels such as, yes, Deutsche Grammophon releasing individual digital tracks as singles, it is encouraging to see that the concept of the album is still alive and well; moreover, what we have here is not just an album, but by golly, a concept album. Not just a collection of pieces, but a collection assembled in an attempt to tell some sort of story, augmented by the liner notes and art. You have probably already noticed the all-caps interjections in the list of compositions above, which are taken directly from the back cover of the CD digipack. As the German pianist Alice Sara Ott (b. 1988) explains it, “Echoes of Life is a personal reflection on the thoughts and moments that influence and change our lives. It also portrays the journey and transformation I took to become the person and artist I see myself as today. In interpreting music from composers who, in their own time, challenged the system and redefined music, I see it as my role as a classical musician to carry this spirit forward by not insisting on reproducing bygone traditions and limitations… With his Preludes op. 28, Frédéric Chopin composed a collection of individual character pieces – very different from each other and yet all connected in some way. They remind me of life. I have chosen seven contemporary works to intersperse the Preludes and, while they echo some of my most personal and vulnerable experiences, they also conform how modern, provocative, and timeless Chopin’s music is.”  

The end result is a musical delight, as Ott mingles stimulating newer music together with the music of Chopin to create a program that flows smoothly and draws the listener in. You really don’t get the sense that you are jumping back and forth in time or making abrupt shifts in style. Yes, the Ligeti piece has a fierceness about it, but not overwhelmingly so, and yes, when you think about it, Chopin’s music has energy in abundance also. And so it goes with Takemitsu and Chopin, and Pärt and Chopin; in the hands of Alice Sara Ott, this music all makes sense together. The engineering is also first-rate, with a coherent piano sound. This truly is a splendid release.

When Do We Dance? George Gershwin: When Do We Dance?; Art Tatum: Tea for Two; William Bolcom; Graceful Ghost Rag; Fats Waller: Vipers Drag; Astor Piazzolla: Libertango; Alberto Ginastera: Argentine Dances No. 2; Manuel de Falla: Ritual Fire Dance; Maurice Ravel: Valses Nobles et Sentimentales; Camille Saint-Saëns: Étude en Forme de Valse; Béla Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances; Igor Stravinsky: Tango; Alexander Scriabin: Waltz in A flat Major; Rachmaninoff: Polka Italienne. Lise de la Salle, piano. Naïve V 5468.

As you can readily infer from the selections on this release from French pianist Lise de la Salle (b. 1988), the emphasis here is on dance music. As the pianist explains, “With so many dances and so much music to play, I could take ten albums to tell this whole story. So, I decided to focus on one century (1850-1950) but travel the world. I believe this is the most fascinating period in the history of all the arts, alive with new rules and techniques, and an explosion of potential – not just in music but also in literature, painting and dance. It all explodes, and the twentieth century opens up to a new modern world. This gives rise to new emotions of incredible depth. When Do We Dance? is a journey through this century to explore the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body: with an amazing swing in North America, developing a  strong sensuality in South America and Spain, with reserve, elegance and sophistication in France, or through the expression of a late, sentimental romanticism in eastern Europe and Russia.”

What is particularly rewarding about the program she has chosen is to see the names of Art Tatum, Fats Waller, and Astor Piazzolla in there along with more recognizable names from the classical music world. De la Salle obviously loves music, loves dance (which she has studied), and knows how to play dance music in a way that does it justice – that lets it swing and sway; however, she never lets herself get carried away, she never takes it over the top. From Tatum to Ravel to Stravinsky, she lets the music dance. My only reservation about this release is the engineering. Although the sound of the piano is clean and clear, the stereo imaging is a bit odd, with the piano seeming too wide and not quite coherent. If your system has a mono setting, that might be the best. Really, the sound is not at all a deal-breaker, and many listeners will find it just fine, so don’t let my sonic quibbles dissuade you from listening to this energetic collection, which Ms. de la Salle characterizes as “a journey to explore the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body.”

Northscapes. Lasse Thoresen: Invocation of Pristine Light Op. 52, No. 1; Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Scape; Bent Sorensen: (from 12 Nocturnes) I: Mignon - Und die Sonne geht Unter; III: Nachtlicher Fluss; VII: Mitternacht mit Mignon; Kaija Saariaho: Prelude; Raminta Serksnyte: Fantasia; Peteris Vasks: Music for a Summer Evening; Lasse Thoresen: Invocation of Rising Air, Op. 52, No. 2. Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano. Sono Luminus DSL-92251.

Although I was not quite sure what to expect from this release, I certainly looked forward to auditioning it. As for as the composers, I was quite familiar with the orchestral music of Vasks, but had never heard any of his piano music; had heard some orchestral music by Saariaho but none of her piano music; some chamber music by Thorvaldsdottir but no piano music; and nothing at all by any of the other composers or the pianist. So why did I look forward to auditioning it? Because I knew that Sono Luminus had great sound and because the program looked intriguing indeed. I knew I had to give it a listen.

I’m glad I did so, for I was richly rewarded. Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute is able to draw astonishing sounds from the piano, both form the keyboard and from “under the hood” if so requested by the composer; and Sono Luminus has captured in all in gloriously realistic sound quality. Particularly impressive are the two contributions by Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen, which open and close the program. Invocation of Pristine Light really does evoke a feeling of illumination, a sense of wonder, discovery, and joy. Although of course I have never heard anyone else interpret this piece before, it is hard to imagine anyone bringing any more sensitivity to it than Ms. Jokubaviciute. The closing Invocation of Rising Air has a contrasting energy to it, more subdued, but still imbued with wonder. Thorvaldsdottir’s Scape finds the pianist drawing some unusual sounds from her instrument. As the liner notes explain, Scape “calls for the piano to be prepared with screws placed between certain strings, for the use of a thimble, and for the application of an e-bow. Already, we have here the composer asking the performer to coax a host of sounds and gestures from inside the piano beyond hammers striking strings. The preparation of the piano and the use of extended techniques unleash sounds inherent to the instrument yet repressed by the mechanisms of the tradition.”  One of the liner note photos depicts Ms. Jokubaviciute manipulating the strings inside the piano. Although to read of these techniques might lead one to believe that the music must sound hostile and unlistenable, the end result is far from that. Strange, perhaps, but compelling – musically compelling at that. And so the rest of the album goes, fresh, bracing new sounds, expertly played and magnificently recorded. If you are a fan of piano music and have at least a modicum of musical adventurousness in your soul, Northscapes belongs on your audition list.

Bonus Recommendations:

Puerta. Jorge Rossy, vibraphone, marimba; Robert Landfermann, double bass; Jeff Ballard, drums, percussion. ECM 2661 382 2596.

There is an interesting backstory here. Jorge Rossy was for a time the drummer in the Brad Mehldau Trio, but left that group to return to his native Spain and concentrate on his piano playing. He was replaced in Mehldau’s piano trio by the American drummer Jeff Ballard. And now we have here Rossy on neither drums nor piano, but rather on vibes and marimba, recording an album of mostly his own compositions supported by Ballard on drums and German bassist Landfermann. Most of the tunes have a relatively easygoing feel to them, medium tempos, minimum flash, with the musicians more interested in communicating with the listener than showing off their chops. It is fascinating to hear the sonic interplay between the drums and the vibes. Both involve instruments that are struck with sticks/mallets; both are being played by musicians who are experienced drummers. The crystal clear ECM sound allows you to really focus on their interaction, which is fascinating, and of course you also have the underlying plucking support of the double bass, which at times steps out into the foreground, occasionally bowed rather than plucked, marimba sometimes ringing…  Amazing now instruments that are struck and plucked can sound so soothing, yet while sounding so soothing still hold our attention.  

Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music. Tindall, Blair. Grove Press (2005).

Although this book covers the classical music world of several decades ago, many of the issues that Blair Tindall brings up regarding the financial and management practices within the industry are still relevant today. In addition, many of the personalities she discusses involve names that would be recognizable to most fans of classical music. Yes, there are some salacious details involving sex and drugs that could well have been left out, some of those salacious details do serve to give readers a perspective on the world of classical music they might otherwise never have been afforded. As a quick example, I recall attending a performance by the famed violinist Ihtzak Perlman, who was accompanied on piano by Samuel Sanders, back in the early 1980s. According to Tindall, who came to know Sanders very well, Perlman was making around $33,000 for such appearances at that time, and paying Sanders all of $1,000. Interesting… Tindall also writes of how as orchestras came to get money from corporations and other donors, they tended to increase their spending; in fact, the more donations the received, the larger their debt became. There are also some interesting character sketches in this memoir; unfortunately, some of them turn out to have sad endings as some individuals fall prey to drugs, alcohol, disease, or despair. Tindall was one of the fortunate few, able to escape the classical music world she felt trapped in by discovering she had a talent for writing and actually earning a scholarship to Stanford and starting a second career in journalism, and eventually writing her book. It is not a volume I would recommend to everyone, but it is worth at least a skim through if you are interested in gaining another perspective on classical music – sex, drugs, money, and all the rest that goes with it.


Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Founder and Contributor

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 for 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 Nehring, Editor and Contributor

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, NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I occasionally do some listening through pair of Sennheiser 560S headphones. I miss the excellent ELS Studio sound system in our 2016 Acura RDX (now my wife's daily driver) on which I had ripped more than a hundred favorite CDs to the hard drive, so now when driving my 2022 Accord EX-L Hybrid I stream music from my phone through its adequate but not outstanding factory system. 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 tolerably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom II 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Webmaster and Contributor

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 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. Most recently I’ve moved to my “ultimate system” consisting of a BlueSound Node streamer, an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a CD transport, Legacy Wavelet II DAC/preamp/crossover, dual Legacy PowerBloc2 amps, and Legacy Signature SE speakers (biamped), all connected with decently made, no-frills cables. With the arrival of CD and higher resolution streaming, that is now the source for most of my listening.

Ryan Ross, Contributor

I started listening to and studying classical music in earnest nearly three decades ago. This interest grew naturally out of my training as a pianist. I am now a musicologist by profession, specializing in British and other symphonic music of the 19th and 20th centuries. My scholarly work has been published in major music journals, as well as in other outlets. Current research focuses include twentieth-century symphonic historiography, and the music of Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Malcolm Arnold.

I am honored to contribute writings to Classical Candor. In an age where the classical recording industry is being subjected to such profound pressures and changes, it is more important than ever for those of us steeped in this cultural tradition to continue to foster its love and exposure. I hope that my readers can find value, no matter how modest, in what I offer here.

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.

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