Mar 29, 2023

Recent Releases No.48 (CD Reviews)

 by Karl Nehring

Impromptus. Fauré: Impromptu No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 25; Chopin: Impromptu No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 29; Fauré: Impromptu No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 31; Chopin: Étude in F Minor, Op. 25; Fauré: Impromptu No. 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 34; Chopin: Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 66; Fauré: Impromptu No. 4 in D-Flat Major, Op. 91; Chopin: Impromptu No. 2 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 36; Fauré: Impromptu No. 5 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 102: Chopin: Impromptu No. 3 in G-Flat Major, Op. 51; Fauré: Impromptu No. 6 in D-Flat Major, Op. 86; Chopin: Berceuse in D-Flat Major, Op. 57; Fauré: Improvisation in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 84; Ismaël Margain: Improvisation. Ismaël Margain, piano, naïve V7860


The French pianist Ismaël Margain (b. 1992) says in the liner booklet that the idea for this new recording first came about “when I chanced upon Fauré’s impromptus four years ago, when I was looking for a repertoire. It is astonishing to see how rarely this composer’s piano music is played in his own country, and the impromptus are, with the exception of the third, largely unknown. Compared to Debussy and Ravel, Fauré  is much less in the limelight. On reading the impromptus, I was immediately struck by their beauty, by a desire to play them, and by how close the first three were to the language of Chopin… So I looked again at Chopin’s impromptus with the idea of juxtaposing them with Fauré’s.” Chopin wrote a total of four impromptus, while Fauré wrote a total of six. Margain has organized his program around similar tonalities, and to further balance the program and ensure the strict alternation between the two composers, Margain also adds the Chopin Étude op.25 no.2 in F minorBerceuse op.57, and the Fantaisie-Impromptu

 My guess would be that many readers will also be less familiar with the piano music of Fauré (1845-1924) than they are with that of Chopin (1810-1849,). For those in that particular circumstance, this recording would serve as an excellent introduction to the charming, inviting work of the French master. Just listening to the first few bars of his Impromptu No. 1, which opens the program, should be enough to entice most listeners to want to hear more. With six impromptus by Fauré on the program, there is plenty more to hear, not to mention some excellent Chopin playing by the young Margain. The music of Chopin will no doubt sound familiar to many listeners, who will be pleased to discover that the Fauré pieces, although certainly different from the Chopin, do indeed blend seamlessly into the program, which is beautifully played by Margain and beautifully recorded by engineer/producer Alice Legros.


Margain closes out the program with an something out of the ordinary, an improvisation of his own – played as an encore as he might do in a concert performance. Margain says of this idea, “I wanted to do an improvisation if we had time at the end of the recording. After three days in the studio, with my head full of all of Chopin’s and Fauré’s music, I made a start, without really knowing how to approach it all. I didn’t want to make an exercise in style, nor did I want to include absolutely all the themes. In the end I began by taking up the theme of Chopin’s berceuse, which is just before this on the album, to play with it, transform it, and then mix it with other pieces of the program, sometimes merely hinted at, before gradually moving away from it.” It’s a delightful piece, by turns wistful and playful, clearly inspired by what has come before – especially Chopin – “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” – but original and imaginative as well, adjectives that apply fittingly to this entire release.

Tomer Cohen: Not the Same RiverNot the Same RiverConnecting DotsHithadshut (Regeneration)Empty?;PasturesSunriseProbably More Than TwoFirst Laps. Tomer Cohen, guitar; Matt Penman, Bass; Obed Calvaire, drums. Hypnote Records HR028


The Israeli-raised New York-based guitarist-composer Tomer Cohen (b. 1996) makes his debut as a leader with Not the Same River, an album that serves as another example of how jazz can be viewed as a form of chamber music. Sometimes classical music folks have a misguided idea that jazz is mostly improvisation, played by people who really do not know much about music theory and are just kind of getting together and making it all up as they go along. This is most assuredly not the case; in fact, the majority of professional jazz musicians are well-versed in the nuances of music theory. Their ability to improvise grows out of their knowledge of chords, scales, modes, transpositions, key changes, meters, rhythms, and such – plus plenty of practice, practice, practice. And you’d be surprised at how many top jazz musicians are also fans of classical music. But I digress…

Although Cohen composed all of the selections on this recording, and his guitar takes the spotlight in term of melodic invention, Penman’s bass and Calvaire’s drums provide more than merely rhythmic support, as the three musicians listen to and play off each other with drive and intensity. Cohen plays his guitar with an unusual technique of playing single notes with a pick between his thumb and forefinger while simultaneously chording and playing counterpoint with his three remaining fingers, which allows him to play arpeggios and melody lines while comping for himself. This gives him a smooth, tuneful sound that has an easy, natural flow to it

There is a consistency of sound throughout the album, as Cohen does not strive for effects or far-out sounds from his guitar. He maintains a consistent guitar tone throughout. The overall mood of the tunes does not vary much, either. That is not to say they all sound the same; rather, that there is an overall feeling or mood to the album that seems to point to a point to a single vision. Cohen says of the album, “I used to play outside with my guitar, watching the fields and the blue sky. I believe some of that vibe is reflected in some of the tunes on this record.” For example, he points to the tune Pastures as an example of offering a sense of place. “I’m trying to get the listener to see the place where I wrote the song. Basically, I’m saying to the listener: ‘Close your eyes and imagine that you’re sitting on a high hill. You see the green fields and you can see the wind move them like the waves in the sea. Above you only cloudless blue skies. Far back you can see two rivers, one is a bit bigger than the other. On your right you see a green forest with some white birds flying above the trees.’ That’s the image I’m trying to convey in that piece. That’s exactly what I was trying to do on this record, trying to connect some stories, images and life philosophies that I have into one thing.” That’s an ambitious agenda, to be sure, but it certainly demonstrates a seriousness of purpose that belies the idea that jazz is just some guys just getting together and playing whatever happens to come into their heads. This is a fine album of well-crafted, tuneful, engaging music that should appeal to a wide-cross-section of jazz and classical fans alike.

Mar 26, 2023

Connecting Cultures: Four hand music from around the world (CD Review)

 by Karl Nehring

Dvořák: Slavonic Dance, Op 46No. 8Slavonic Dance, Op. 72 No. 2; Mozart: Andante and Five Variations in G major, K. 501; Wang Jianzhong: Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon; Gong Huahua: Mountain Harvest: Manuel de Falla: Two Spanish Dances from “La Vida Breve”; Amy Marcy Cheney Beach: Summer Dreams, Op. 47; Florence Beatrice Price: Three Negro Spirituals – I Couldn’t Hear Nobody PrayLord I Want to Be a ChristianEv’ry Time I Feel the Spirit; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (arranged by Henry Levine). Deborah Moriarty and Zhihua Tang, piano. Blue Griffin BGR633


This is one of those releases about which I just wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The program looked to be a mix of composers both familiar and unknown, the performers were both unknown to me, and I wondered what the arrangements for piano four hands would sound like – especially Rhapsody in Blue. For piano four hands? Really?? But no matter what questions or doubts I or any potential listener might have about this or any other recording, the music itself is what actually counts, so I just popped the disc into the player, settled into my listening chair, grabbed the remote, and pushed the PLAY button.

 The familiar melodies of the two Dvořák Slavonic Dances open the program with energy and enthusiasm from the four busy hands at the keyboard, with the sound matching the performance, lively and assertive – just right for this music. The following Andante and Five Variations by Mozart are in a more stately, buttoned-down style, but they still have an element of the dance about them, which the two pianists clearly communicate. Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon by Wang Jianzhong (1933–2016), turns out to be as perfectly pleasant as its title implies, with a rhythmic pulse beneath and some fluttering melodies in the upper registers. Mountain Harvest by Gong Huahua (b. 1978) makes a different impression with its more serious, slightly dissonant sound. That said, it is not a forbidding piece; if anything, it has moments of playfulness and mystery. Overall, it is an intriguing work, one that invites repeated listening. 


It's then back to more familiar names, although not all of the music will be familiar to most listeners. From Manuel de Falla we get Two Spanish Dances from his opera La Vida Breve, which as you might expect, receive a splashy, extroverted performance from the two pianists, who are both on the faculty at the Michigan State University College of Music. The two women pianists next bring us music by two distinguished  American women composers. Amy Beach (1867-1944) was the first American female composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra (the Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered her “Gaelic” Symphony in 1896), while Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953) was the first African-American woman to have a composition performed by a major orchestra (the Chicago Symphony performed her Symphony in E Minor in 1933).  Beach’s Summer Dreams comprises a half-dozen short musical sketches titled The BrowniesRobin RedbreastTwilightKaty-didsElfin Tarantelle, and Good Night. The first (which is the longest at 3:46) is dance-like, the next four (none of which is lasts more than two minutes) are generally playful, and then Good Night (longer again at 2:59) is, as you might expect, calmer in mood. Price’s Three Negro Spirituals are simply her brief arrangements of three spirituals: I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1:53), Lord I Want to Be a Christian(4:03), and Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit (1:32). Hearing the first of these immediately brought to mind the gospel stylings of Keith Jarrett in some of his solo improvisations, such as in parts of his Köln Concert recording on ECM. The longest of these, Lord I Want to Be a Christian, is slower, more intense, and quite moving in its own way. 


The two pianists end their program with a rousing rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. This is a piece that has been played and recorded aa a concert piece for piano and full orchestra, as a more jazz-oriented piece for piano and jazz band – but who would have thought it would work so well as played on one piano by two pianists? These two artists did, and they were right. This is a marvelous performance of the work, exciting and involving from start to finish. With more than 74 minutes of well-recorded music from around the world including this revelatory performance of Gershwin’s showstopper, Connecting Cultures is an exciting new release.

Mar 22, 2023

Missy Mazzoli: Dark with Excessive Bright (SACD Review)

by Karl Nehring

Missy Mazzoli: Dark with Excessive Bright, Concerto for solo violin and string orchestra*; Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)**These Worlds in Us**Orpheus Undone**Vespers for Violin (for solo violin with electronic soundtrack)Dark with Excessive Bright (arranged for solo violin and string quintet)***. Peter Herresthal, violin soloist; Bergen Philharmonic/James Gaffigan, conductor; **Arctic Philharmonic/Tim Weiss, conductor; ***Quintet from the Arctic Philharmonic (Oganes Girunyan, violin I; Øyvind Mehus, violin II; Natalya Girunyan, viola; Mary Auner, cello; Ingvild Maria Mehus, double bass);Tim Weiss, conductor. BIS-2572 SACD


The title composition of this release by American composer Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980), which opens and closes the program on this BIS SACD (I auditioned the CD layer only) exists in at least three versions. Mazzoli originally composed it as a concerto for double bass and string orchestra. As she explains about the two versions that appear on this recording, “in 2019, at the request of soloist Peter Herresthal, I transformed this piece into a concerto for violin and string orchestra, essentially flipping the original work upside-down… While loosely based in baroque idioms, this piece slips between string techniques from several centuries, all while twisting a pattern of repeated chords beyond recognition. ‘Dark with excessive bright,’ a phrase from Milton’s Paradise Lost, is a surreal and evocative description of God’s robes, written by a blind man. I love the impossibility of this phrase and how perfectly it describes the ghostly, heart-rending sound of strings. In 2019, again at the request of Peter Herresthal, I arranged this piece for soloist and string quintet.” Curiously, Mazzoli’s liner notes state that both arrangements were done in 2019, while the back cover gives the dates for both arrangements as 2021.  My guess is that both are half-correct: 2019 for the violin/string orchestra arrangement and 2021 for the violin/string quintet version. 

In any event, the arrangements for violin and string orchestra and violin and string quintet open and close the program, respectively. The former is intense, brooding, introspective, leaning more to the dark than the bright. The chamber-music scale of the latter arrangement somehow makes the piece much more inviting and involving. Both versions, however, are engrossing in their own way; moreover, having the two different arrangements on the same disc will afford the serious listener the opportunity to ponder the ways in which they differ in terms of both sonority and aesthetic/emotional appeal. Following the opening arrangement of Dark with Excessive Bright on the program comes Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres), which Mazzoli describes as “music in the shape of a solar system, a collection of rococo loops that twist around each other within a larger orbit.” That sounds rather imposing, but the music is not as ponderous as all that. Now with a full orchestra making music, we hear more contrasting sonorities, with brass and string sounds whirling and swirling. The next selection, These Worlds in Us, carries on with the whirling and swirling; if anything, even more exuberantly. The title may suggest introspection, but the sound is assertive and outgoing. Mazzoli writes, “this piece is dedicated to my father, who was a soldier during the Vietnam War. I  like the idea that music can reflect painful and blissful sentiments in a single note or gesture, and have sought to create a sound palette that I hope is at once completely new and strangely familiar to the listener.”

When I heard the woodblock at the beginning of the next composition, Orpheus Undone, I immediately flashed to Short Ride in a Fast Machine by John Adams (see an Adams review here), which opens in the same way. But Orpheus Undone is far different from the Adams work. Throughout its two movements it bristles with restless energy. As Mazzoli describes the effect of the piece, “then listener feels Orpheus’s sense of timelessness and alienation, for a moment joining him in what Nietzsche called the hourglass of existence, turning over and over’.”  Next up is the highlight of the album – for these ears at least – a truly captivating work for amplified violin and electronics titled Vespers for Violin. Mazzoli writes of this this work that it “began as a reimagining of my composition Vespers for a New Dark Age. I sampled keyboards, vintage organs, voices and strings from that composition, drenched them in delay and distortion, and reworked them into a piece that can be performed by a soloist.” Her reference to drenching sounds in delay and distortion might tend to scare some potential listeners off, but I hope not, for the end result sounds at times as though Herresthal is performing in a cathedral along with an organ and an ethereal wordless choir. It is an utterly spellbinding performance. 

The program closes as Herresthal’s violin takes the lead once more, this time in the chamber version of the title piece, Dark with Excessive Bright, which in this more intimate arrangement communicates with a captivating intensity throughout its nearly 14 minutes. As we have come to expect from BIS, the engineering is impeccable, which combined with insights from the composer herself about her richly imaginative music – not to mention the virtuosic performances by Herresthal and the his accompanying orchestral and chamber players – make this a highly recommendable release indeed. 

Mar 19, 2023

Recent Releases No. 47 (CD Reviews)

by Karl Nehring 

Move: The Westerlies. Nico Muhly: Move; Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte (arr. The Westerlies); Mason Bynes: For Rosa; Andy Clausen: This Is Water ICarmelThis Is Water IILopezThis Is Water III: Harlem River. The Westerlies (Riley Muhlerkar, trumpet; Chloe Rowlands, trumpet; Andy Clausen, trombone; Willem de Koch, trombone. Westerlies Music WST012


The Westerlies is a New York-based brass quartet consisting of four childhood friends from Seattle. The group has a varied and interesting recording history, including albums by Fleet Foxes (rock), Vieux Farka Touré (world music), Common (rap) and Dave Douglas (jazz). On their new album titled Move, they play music by three contemporary classical composers plus a suite composed by one of their own, trombonist Andy Clausen. About this newest release, The Westerlies said: "This album is a culmination of decades of friendship, music-making, and risk-taking, going all the way back to our days in the middle school band room in Seattle, to our first rehearsal at Juilliard ten years ago, to the countless hours in tour vans, rock clubs, and concert halls across the country... It's all about cultivating a sound and expressive palette that feels honest, exciting, and personal, regardless of where it comes from genre-wise, and regardless of whether or not it falls within the brass-chamber-music canon.”  


The album begins with the group’s arrangement of Nico Muhly’s 2017 solo piano piece, Move. The brass quartet version has a jumpy quality, charged with energy throughout its brief three-minute span, with trumpets on the left and trombones on the right recorded with startlingly realistic clarity and impact. Next up is the longest piece on the program at just a shade under 12 minutes, a reimagining for brass quartet of Caroline Shaw’s string quartet titled Entr’acte. The sonority that The Westerlies bring to this work is much different, with breathy sounds at times producing a particularly striking effect. The “Rosa” of Mason Bynes’s For Rosa is civil rights heroine Rosa Parks; his 11-minute “musically expressed love letter and tribute” that is in essence a miniature tone poem. The program ends with Clausen’s This Is Water, a 20-minute piece comprising three movements, titled respectively CarmelLopez, and Harlem RiverCarmel is upbeat and bubbly, evoking sunshine on the waves; Lopez is quieter, moodier, darker; while the program-ending Harlem River brings a feeling of movement before slowing down and seeming simply to slip away. The sound quality is crisp, clear,  and dynamic, with a realistic perspective, but liner notes giving some background information about the music and musicians (for that, you can check out the group's website) would have been welcome. Overall, though, Move is a stimulating release both musically and sonically that would be well worth tracking down by fans of contemporary classical music.

 Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 (cadenzas by Jörg Widmann)Fragment from Violin Concerto on C Major, WoO 5. Veronika Eberle, violin; Sir Simon Rattle, London Symphony Orchestra. LSO Live LSO5094


The German violinist Veronika Eberle (b. 1988) is another of the amazingly talented young musicians who demonstrate that the level of virtuosity in the rising generation of classical musicians is as high or higher than it has ever been. It shows my age when I confess that there are moments when I still find myself as thinking of British conductor Simon Rattle (b. 1955) – now Sir Simon – as a conducting wunderkind. In this new release, the young violinist and by now seasoned conductor team up with the venerable London Symphony Orchestra to bring us a recording of one of the most beloved – and oft-recorded – violin concertos, that of Ludwig van Beethoven. There are of course numerous recordings of this work already available; in fact, there are many noted violinists and conductors who have made several recordings of the piece over the years, and most devoted fans of classical music no doubt have at least one and in many instances several favorite recordings already in their collections. What sets this new recording apart from all the rest on the market is that the performance features new cadenzas by the German composer, clarinetist, and conductor Jörg Widmann (b. 1973), whose Wikipedia page asserts was the world’s third-most performed contemporary composer in 2018. By the way, Widmann contributes a brief liner note essay in which he offers a brief explanation of his musical intentions, which is a welcome addition to the expected liner note material about the composer and the music. 


As you might expect from musicians of this stature, the performance is excellent, as is the live recording (note: the SACD includes a 5.1 surround mix and HD stereo mix, but listened to the CD layer). The question most listeners will have will concern the cadenzas, which are definitely different. At first listening, they might come across as a bit jarring, as they did for me – “the shock of the new” – but after listening to the performance a few more times, I found them interesting, if not completely convincing. Some readers may recall the controversial recording by Gidon  Kremer with Sir Neville Marriner and the ASMF in which Kremer chose to use cadenzas by Alfred Schnittke. It was considered pretty “out there” when it was released and in fact disappeared from the catalog for a while. But when you consider that one of the ideas of a cadenza was to give the soloist the opportunity to improvise on themes from the movement, the idea of using a cadenza other than Beethoven’s is not completely wrong. Some, as I do, might find this new release an interesting alternative recording of the Beethoven, well worth keeping on the shelf alongside (in my case, at least) the likes of Heifetz, Perlman, and yes, Kremer. Although it would not be my first recommendation for someone new to classical music, I would recommend that those familiar with the Beethoven Violin Concerto would do well to give it a listen – preferably more than one – and see what they think, then please let us know with a comment below.

Mar 15, 2023

Anne Akiko Meyers: Mysterium (EP Review)

 by Karl Nehring

J.S. Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (arr. Samuel Adler); Sheep May Safely Graze (arr. Len Rhodes); Wachet Auf, Sleepers Wake (arr. Len Rhodes); Morten Lauridsen: Magnum Mysterium (arr. Gershon/Lauridsen). Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Los Angeles Master Chorale; Jaebon Hwang, organ; Grant Gershon, conductor. AVIE AV2601


I should be clear at the outset that what we have here is not a full CD with an extended program, but rather an EP released in compact disc format but available for a reduced price compared to a standard-length CD. The duration of the program that is recorded on this disc is less than 19 minutes, but a more glorious 19 minutes would be hard to find. Most listeners should be familiar with the three Bach works, and at least some listeners may have encountered the work O Magnum Mysterium by American composer Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943), which has been recorded many times in its original arrangement for chorus. According to the composer, “My first piece as the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s composer-in-residence was O Magnum Mysterium, premiered in 1994. It has become a signature piece for the Chorale, constantly performed throughout the world and recorded on well over a hundred CDs. Anne loved the a capella motet and asked me to provide a new version of it for violin/orchestra or violin/piano, both of which she has superbly recorded. This instrumental score retains the essence of the original choral version plus newly composed violinistic countermelodies to display Anne’s magnificent artistry. Grant’s splendid idea to combine the solo violin part with his sensitive adjustments to the original choral score is heard here in in its premiere recording by the Chorale and Anne, providing a new listening experience for this quiet song of profound inner joy…’ 


Conductor Gershon (b. 1960) adds, “It’s especially satisfying to marry the mysticism of Lauridsen’s music with the spirituality of three beloved works from the cantatas of J.S. Bach, also in newly created arrangements. We recorded this music in the glowing acoustics of Frank Gehry’s masterpiece, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where we were able to utilize the 6,100 pipes of that hall’s iconic organ.” Don’t let his reference to the number of pipes in the organ mislead you: this is not an organ spectacular by any means – in fact, the organ is employed quite tastefully, never calling attention it itself. The arrangements of the Bach pieces manage to combine the sound of the Chorale, accompanied at times by the organ, with the sound of the violin seeming to float gracefully above it. 

 What is especially gratifying about these arrangements is that even though it is Anne Akiko Meyers (b. 1970) who is the featured artist, her violin playing is tastefully integrated into the fabric of the music, not calling attention to itself but rather adding texture and color. Kudos to the arrangers of the Bach selections, Samuel Adler and Len Rhodes, who respect the music of the master, using their arrangements to highlight the beauty inherent in the original rather than to make any radical changes. Likewise with what Lauridsen and Gershon have done with their arrangement of O Magnum Mysterium, working the violin into part into the mix with skill and grace, which is how Ms. Meyers performs it. This is music composed for the contemplation of spiritual matters, not as a vehicle for a violin virtuoso to display their flashy technique. Yes, Mysterium is a release that is less than 19 minutes long, but my goodness, it provides an album’s worth of musical satisfaction.


Mar 12, 2023

Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3 (CD Review)

by Karl Nehring 

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 in. C minor, Op. 18Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. Abbey Simon, piano; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, conductor. VOX-NX-3014CD

This new release is another in the “Audiophile Edition” series of releases from the old Vox catalog that the folks at Naxos are bringing back into circulation. (For a review of some previous releases in this series, please see here.)  Many experienced music lovers of a certain age are probably familiar with Vox, a budget label that produced some real gems back in the day, such as the Vox Box of Ravel’s orchestral music featuring Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting the Minnesota Orchestra. Although Vox was a budget label, the sound quality on some of their releases was excellent (the main drawback was the questionable quality of their vinyl pressings), and this Ravel set, which was recorded by Elite Recordings (engineer Marc Aubort and producer Joanna Nickrenz), had beguiling sound. Those performances and recordings still hold up as you can see from reviews of subsequent digital rereleases of the Ravel recordings, such as a review from our own John Puccio that you can read here, or an article at the PS Audio website that provides some insight into the recording process, which you can find here.

Appearing on the back cover of the new “Audiophile Edition” releases is a highlighted statement stating that “The recordings of American orchestras produced for VOX by the legendary Elite Recordings team of Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz are considered by audiophiles to be among the very finest sounding orchestral recordings ever made.”For this new series of reissues from the Vox catalog, the folks at Naxos have begun to pull some of those  tapes out from the vaults and carefully prepare these CDs for release, the end product of their labors being what they describe as “new192 kHz / 24-bit ultra high definition transcriptions of the original Elite Recordings analogue master tapes.”


This new recording, the original Vox version of which was released in 1979, features the American pianist Abbey Simon (1910-2019). Who is perhaps best known to classical music fans for his recording of the complete piano works of Maurice Ravel, also undertaken for Vox, a  set considered by many to be one of the finest ever recorded. Simon is accompanied on this recording by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the American conductor Leonard Slatkin (b.1944), who served as the orchestra’s Music Director from 1979 through 1996 and is now its Conductor Laureate. Their performance is lyrical and assured. There is excitement, but not hysteria. I found it quite enjoyable, although perhaps lacking that last bit of drama.


I thought it would be interesting to do a quick comparison of the Simon/Slatkin with another older recording that had long served as one of my favorites, largely because of its feeling of energy and excitement – the famous 1965 recording by pianist Earl Wild (1915-2010) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jascha Horenstein (1898-1793), which was originally captured on analog tape by the legendary recording team of engineer Kenneth Wilkinson and producer Charles Gerhardt for RCA and later digitally remastered by Ralph Couzens and released in 1990 as Chandos CD CHAN 6507. (A quick aside: Over the years, I have owned and/or listened to many recordings of both concertos on both LP and CD. The Wild/Horenstein is not necessarily my absolute favorite – I’m not sure what is – but I always enjoyed the sheer excitement of the playing; moreover, the fact that Wild spent the last years of his life in Columbus, Ohio, the area where I moved in the late 1970s to attend graduate school and remain to this day probably swayed me toward his recording). 


As I began comparing the two recordings, a couple of things were immediately apparent: the Chandos CD was mastered several dB louder than the Vox disc, and the Wild performances were faster and more dramatic-sounding, especially in Concerto No. 3. Although the Wild CD has long been a favorite of mine, I found myself preferring the smoother approach of Simon; however; I plan to keep both recordings, just as there are some mornings when I prefer my caffeinated rich chocolate breakfast shake, but other mornings find me reaching for the noncaffeinated creamy chocolate version.

 As I pointed out in my review of the previous releases in this series, although the vintage analog recording lacks that last bit of transparency and definition that can be attained by modern digital recording technologies, Marc Aubort Elite Recordings knew where best to place their microphones and they did the very best with the technology of their day. In addition, advances in digital technology mean that it is not surprising that this restoration of a vintage analog master yields slightly superior (in the sense of less bright-sounding in brass and massed strings) sound quality for the Vox as opposed to the Chandos release. This release is another fine one in this new series; let’s hope there are many more to come!


Mar 8, 2023

Recent Releases No. 46 (CD Reviews)

by Karl Nehring

Steve Reich: The String Quartets. Reich: WTC 9/11; Triple QuartetDifferent Trains. Mivos Quartet (Olivia De Prato & Maya Bennardo, violins; Victor Lowrie Tafoya, viola; Tyler J. Borden, cello). Deutsche Grammophon 486 3385


American composer Steve Reich (b. 1936) once said that he “never expected to write a string quartet,” but as music author/radio host John Schaefer notes in his liner note essay, “that all changed in 1988, and the solution was as simple as it was elegant: Reich treated the string quartet as a single, composite instrument. Suddenly, the format of soloist with recorded tracks, used in the ‘Counterpoint’ works, made sense. The result was Different Trains… the piece wove together voice samples with multiple layers of string quartet, three of them pre-recorded and the final layer performed live. It was the first of three pieces Reich would compose for the Kronos Quartet. The purely instrumental Triple Quartet followed in 1998, and WTC 9/11, built around voice samples relating to the World Trade Center attacks, in 2010. This recording marks the first time that all three have been gathered in one place, and it was the composer himself who suggested that the Mivos Quartet take on the challenge.”


When I mentioned I was reviewing this CD to Bill Heck, he said that he just could not bring himself to listen to the first selection on this recording, finding it too emotionally upsetting. I understand his feelings. WTC 9/11, with its recorded telephone sounds and voices bringing back memories of that tragic day, truly does pack quite an emotional wallop. But it also connects on a musical level, as the quartet echoes the speech patterns of the voices while also providing a pulse that drives the music forward with a restless, relentless sense of energy. Reich says of his Triple Quartet that it was inspired by the energetic ending of Bártok’s String Quartet No. 4. The work is not for twelve strings, as the title might seem to imply, but rather is a relatively brief string quartet in three movements. The opening movement begins with a rhythmic pulse that shifts toward a dance rhythm, the second movement at times has a hint of Middle Eastern sounds and at times incorporates a striking echo effect, and then the third movement begins tentatively but gathers energy that builds into a frenetic dance. Different Trains once again features the quartet playing over the sounds of a prerecorded soundtrack, this time of train sounds and voices from America before WWII, Europe during the war, and finally after the war. The pulsing sound of Reich’s writing for the strings lends itself well to evoking the feeling of trains, and the members of the Mivos Quartet seem to be able to lean right into this music with full conviction. The idea of mixing prerecorded sounds with voices might sound gimmicky, but it works; moreover, the engineering team has done an excellent job of making everything cohere. Fans of Steve Reich should rejoice at having these three works brought together in these three first-rate performances.

Chicago Clarinet Classics. Alexander Tcherepnin (1899-1977): Sonata in One Movement for Clarinet and Piano; Stacy Garrop (b. 1969): Phoenix Rising for Solo Clarinet; Leo Sowerby (1895-1968): Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, H 240a; Shulamit Ran (b. 1949): Spirit for Solo Clarinet (in memory of Laura Flax); Teresa Reilly (b. 1976): The Forgiveness Train (for two clarinets)*; Robert Muczynski (1929-2010): Two Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 43. John Bruce Yeh, clarinet; Patrick Godon, piano; *Teresa Reilly, clarinet. Cedille CDR 90000 218


John Bruce Yeh (b. 1957) joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1977 as bass clarinet by Georg Solti at the age of 19, the first Asian musician ever appointed to the CSO. Two years later, he was named assistant principal and E-flat clarinet. He is now the longest-serving clarinetist in CSO history, so it is not surprising that a series of events including being asked by the Chicago-based Cedille label about recording the Leo Sowerby’s Wind Quintet would eventually lead to this album. In the course of researching Sowerby, Yeh discovered his Sonata, a large (26:32) four-movement work that forms the centerpiece of this album. It is a solidly entertaining work; given that it was first published in 1944, I am surprised not to have come across a recording of it before. While doing his research, Yeh next discovered the Tcherepnin Sonata, the sprightly little (5:04) piece that leads off the program with a burst of joyous energy. 


Yeh notes that “with these two contrasting Sonatas, grouped with Robert Muczynski’s 1983 Time Pieces, already a classic with clarinet players, my long-time piano collaborator, Patrick Godon, and I had the basis for an album. Jim [Ginsburg, producer at Cedille] agreed that diversity in the form of three 21st-century clarinet works by outstanding composers with whom I’ve had decades-long associations, would be the ideal complement to this collection. Accordingly, we are delighted to present the first recordings of Stacy Garrop’s 2017 Phoenix Rising for Solo Clarinet, Shulamit Ran’s 2017 solo clarinet work Spirit, and my wife Teresa Reilly’s recent clarinet duet, The Forgiveness Train(2020).” All the composers have ties to Chicago – thus the album’s title. Although the whole album is enjoyable, especially if you are happen to be as big a fool for a clarinet as I am other highlights include the three pieces by women composers: Stacy Garrop’s colorful and evocative Phoenix Rising, in which Yeh is able to produce some startling tones from his instrument; Shulamit Ran’s Spirit, dedicated to a dear friend of the composer and expressing a wide range of emotion; and Teresa Reilly’s Train of Forgiveness, on which Yeh and Reilly play together, clearly enjoying the opportunity. 

 All of the music on this generously-filled (76:51) CD, though, is enjoyable. Don’t let the fact that this is music from the 20th and 21st centuries from composers with names that may be unfamiliar give you the idea that this must be music that would be harsh and forbidding. This is not music that is dissonant, strident, screaming, or screeching. No, it is music that is enticing to the ear. Not syrupy sweet, but rather thoughtful and enduring. There are liner notes with helpful essays on the music and background information about the performers, and the sonics are up to the usual high Cedille standard.


Mar 5, 2023

Recent Releases No. 45 (CD Reviews)

by Karl Nehring 

Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 7 (“Sinfonia Antartica”); Symphony No. 9 in E minor. Elizabeth Watts, soprano, BBC Symphony Chorus; BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins, conductor. Hyperion CDA68405

Many classical music fans, or at least those conversant with the music of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, know that his Symphony No. 7 (“Sinfonia Antartica”) grew out of music that he had composed for the film Scott of the Antarctic, which portrayed the ill-fated South Pole expedition of Royal Navy officer Captain Robert Scott. On their way back from the Pole in 1912, Scott and all four other members of his party met their frozen deaths. Intrigued by the story, RVW decided to write a symphony based upon some of the themes from the music he had composed for the film. It is a grand and stirring composition full of spectacular sounds, featuring a large orchestra augmented by an organ, a wordless choir, a wordless soprano, gong, bells, glockenspiel, xylophone, piano, celesta, and if that’s not enough to test your stereo system, a wind machine (which on this recording is replaced by the recorded sounds of actual wind – a first in my experience). In addition, literary quotations meant to be spoken aloud were attached to each of the five movements, although many recordings, including this one, omit them. Other recordings, taking advantage of the programmable possibilities of digital media such as the CD, include the spoken sections so listeners can decide whether to listen to them or not for any particular listening session. The Onyx recording led by Andrew Manze that I reviewed previously for Classical Candor of these same RVW symphonies (you can find that review here) put them at the beginning of each movement. 

The engineering team on  this Hyperion release has met the challenge of capturing the power of the assembled forces. From tinkling treble to rumbling bass, the sounds coming from your speakers will bring the cold chill and dark terror of the Antarctic into your listening space as the orchestral forces project a sense of grandeur and the voices and wind noises that come in later in the movement evoke feelings of isolation and fear. The organ rumblings attest to the sheer power and majesty of the bleak, frozen landscape. Brabbins’s interpretation seems at times just a bit smoother than that of Manze, but overall this is still a powerful and dramatic performance and recording of this work. Especially moving is the final movement. Although this recording does not include the spoken introduction, the performance captures the spirit: "I do not regret this journey; we took risks, we knew we took them, things have come out against us, therefore we have no cause for complaint." (from Captain Scott's Last Journal). The movement opens with a drum roll and brass fanfare, perhaps a final  of act of bravado in the face of defeat and death. As the movement continues, the wind and and wordless voices echo once more, the orchestra plays echoes of the symphony's opening theme, and then we hear the soprano, chorus, and wind sounds as the symphony – and Scott’s ill-fated quest – fade to the end. 


RVW’s Symphony No. 9 seems to be greatly underappreciated, which is a shame, for it is a marvelous work. The first recording I ever owned the Ninth was an Everest LP (remember Everest? 35mm tape technology subverted by mediocre pressings – not  to mention their often laughable cover art) with Sir Adrian Boult, a close friend of the composer, conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This was in fact the very first recording of the work, and Vaughan Williams was to be on hand for this auspicious occasion. Sadly, he passed away just hours before the session began. As a result, the recording session began opened with Sir Adrian informing the orchestra of the composer's passing, and his words were captured on tape and included at the beginning of the Everest LP. Although the orchestral forces RVW specified for the Ninth are modest, especially in comparison to those employed in the Seventh, a sound that you do not often hear in symphonic music results from the trio of saxophones that the composer added to the orchestra. 

The opening movement reminds me somewhat of the Seventh, with some themes sounding similar in feeling. Not in terms of sonority, of course, the orchestration being much different, much less grandiose – RVW is making a much more intimate statement with this work. The second movement, which opens with a flugelhorn solo (this apparently caused some eyebrows to raise when the work was new), brings in an element of mystery, perhaps even a sense of danger, especially near the end. The third movement is more jaunty and bouncy, with the saxophones and percussion section getting a chance to have some fun, the movement ending with a drum roll on the snares. The final movement begins in the strings but then gives all sections of the orchestra time in the spotlight as it unfolds, with some tender phrases from the saxophones near the final measures. Overall, the music is complex but flowing, showing Vaughan Williams to be still at the height of his compositional powers even late in his long life (in fact, the liner notes point out that the composer had begun some preliminary sketches for two more symphonies before his death). Brabbins and his BBC forces make a strong case for this final symphony, in a performance that stands right up there with previous favorites such as Manze and Slatkin. If you are one of those casual RVW fans who might have overlooked his Symphony No. 9, this new Hyperion recording would be an excellent opportunity for you make your acquaintance with something special indeed.

Schubert: Piano Sonata in A minor D537; Piano Sonata in A major D959. Garrick Ohlsson, piano. Hyperion CDA68398


The veteran American pianist Garrick Ohlsson (b. 1948) has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. He won the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1970 and remains the only American pianist ever to have done so. He has recorded the complete works of Chopin (and has of course made many other recordings over the years), but here turns his attention to a pair of piano sonatas by Schubert, his first completed sonata (D537), and one of the three (D959) completed only two months before the composer’s death. Bill Heck and I recently had a conversation about Schubert’s piano music wherein we both agreed that there is truly something special about it, some element of sheer beauty that has never been surpassed. We both love the piano music of Beethoven, and those late piano pieces by Brahms – but my goodness, the way Schubert can just spin out the melodies that dance, sing, weep, cry, laugh, ponder, pray, prance… 

The sounds that Ohlsson coaxes from the keyboard do justice to the range of feelings that Schubert pours into his composing. The earlier work is lighter, with more of the feeling of the dance about it from the outset. Ohlsson shades dynamics and plays with a flexible tempo that brings out the galloping drama of the first movement and makes the second movement just flow along with a sprightly air about it, making it truly atmospheric and lovely. The relatively brief (5:06) finale abounds in dynamic contrasts as it races toward its conclusion. Then it is on to D959, one of the glories of the piano literature. Ohlsson brings his ability to shade dynamics and shift the tempo to this monumental work as well. In comparing his interpretation to that of Uchida, it seemed as though hers seemed to lean more to drama, while his leaned more to color. Or perhaps you could say that Uchida is a bit more percussive – but just a bit.  Perhaps some of the difference could also be attributed to the engineering, with Ohlsson being afforded a warm, slightly distant sound, Uchida having been recorded a tad closer. 

Once again, then, Hyperion has given us a recording with excellent sound, informative liner notes, and an artistic cover. Even if you already have some Schubert piano recordings in your collection, this one is worth an audition to hear what Ohlsson’s tender touch reveals from Schubert’s scores. And if you have not encountered the piano music of Schubert, this recording would make an excellent introduction.

As a final note, some classical music fans may have already heard, but for those who have not, the latest news is that Hyperion Records, long an independent UK-based recording label, was recently sold to the Universal Music Group (UMG), the giant corporation that owns the rights to familiar classical recording labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, and EMI, as well as jazz/popular labels such as Geffen, A&M, Motown, Island, Polydor, Def Jam, Interscope, Capitol – they even own Abbey Road Studios. Although there is always fear when a little fish gets swallowed up by a great big one, there are some potential benefits to classical music fans. If nothing else, the Hyperion catalog may become more accessible on streaming services, which would certainly be a plus. Meanwhile, there are more Hyperion releases in the pipeline, and we have already received some CDs for future review. At this juncture, the long-term future of the label is not crystal-clear, but if we all follow the advice of Hulk Hogan (say our prayers and take our vitamins), the music will continue to be served admirably well.

Mar 1, 2023

Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles (CD Review)

by Karl Nehring

I Am the WalrusYour Mother Should KnowI Saw Her Standing ThereFor No OneBaby’s in BlackShe Said She SaidHere, There, and EverywhereIf I Needed SomeoneMaxwell’s Silver HammerGolden SlumbersLife on Mars? Brad Mehldau, piano. Nonesuch 075597907407


The American pianist Brad Mehldau (b. 1970) is best known for his work in jazz, most notably as the leader of his own trio, but also for his work with musicians such as Pat Metheny, Chris Thile, and Josh Redman. However, his musical interests are not restricted to jazz alone. For example, he has composed songs and performed recitals with singers such as Renee Fleming and  Anne Sofie von Otter. Other examples of his wide musical interests and talents include: his solo piano album After Bach, which contains five selections from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier plus some Mehldau pieces inspired by them; an album titled Taming then Dragon on which he plays a variety of electronic synthesizers teamed with drummer/percussionist Mark Giuliana; and an album where he performs what is essentially a piano concerto of his own composition, accompanied by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Our review of that album, titled  Variations on a Melancholy Themecan be found here

His most recent effort comprises his solo piano interpretations of 11 songs, 10 of them by the Beatles and one by David Bowie. Please rest assured that were Mehldau simply to be banging these out on the keyboard as simple-minded pop tunes, I would not be posting a review of this album on Classical Candor. But as you might have gleaned from the above paragraph, Mehldau is a serious musician, and he takes this music seriously. We sometimes forget that our revered classical music composers were often interested in and sometimes inspired by the popular music of their own era. There is a Nonesuch website promotional website for the album that includes several short videos, one of which features Mehldau discussing how he views the “swing” inherent in some of the rock music of his day and his approach to playing the title tune from this album. If you are interested, you can find that website here.


One of the reasons that Mehldau came to appreciate the music of the Beatles is that it is music that has endured. Although the group disbanded more than 50 years ago, there is still a strong interest in their music. Mehldau begins his liner note essay by observing, “In his book The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, the scholar Harold Bloom confronted the question of what makes particular books endure: ‘The answer, more often than not, has turned out to be strangeness, a mode of originality that either cannot be assimilated, or at so assimilates us that we cease to see it as strange. If we look at The Beatles and the multitude of artists who have been influenced by one or another facet of their oeuvre, this paradoxical recipe for longevity is one way to consider their ongoing footprint. For there is a good deal of strangeness to much of their music, particularly in the series of game-changing albums that begin with Rubber Soul through the release of their final record, Let It Be.” He goes on to mention music by the Beach Boys (the album Pet Sounds) and Zombies (the album Odyssey and Oracle) as embodying that same swinging “dotted feel” that he discussed in his video before going on to note that “what was new as well in all those ‘swinging’ songs from those three bands was a way of building the sounds around the piano, instead of the guitar – or some harpsichord-like variant of the piano. It gave the music a different kind of harmonic imprint, as it moved away from the bending blue notes of guitars towards a new variety of chordal progressions, often more reminiscent of Romantic-era classical music than rhythm and blues.”

From the opening notes of the first song, I Am the Walrus, you can hear that no, this is not going to be just a straightforward run-through of familiar simple melodies. Mehldau throws in some harmonic surprises, a few little dissonances here and there – not enough to be disturbing, but enough to add some zest. (Does anyone remember Angela from the television series The Office tearfully exclaiming, “jazz is stupid – why can’t they just play the right notes?”) And so it continues, as Mehldau brings not just his jazz sensibilities but also a hints of his classical leanings to his interpretations. A bit of boogie-woogie (I Saw Her Standing There), a blend of gospel and Romanticism (She Said She Said), some interesting modulations and harmonic shifts (Here, There, and Everywhere), counterpoint (If I Needed Someone), a kind of  harmonically ambiguous post-modern ragtime style (Maxwell’ Silver Hammer), a sweetly lyrical, somewhat ornamented approach (Golden Slumbers), then ending with a lyrical ballad style (Life on Mars?) to close the program with the one non=Beatles number. 


The recording was made over the course of a couple of live performances in Paris, so these is some audience noise and applause, although not enough that I would think most listeners would mind bothersome. The piano sound itself is robust, full on the bottom end and not harsh or clangy on top. Highly recommended to those looking for some top-quality piano music from outside the classical mainstream – and to all Beatles fans, too, of course. 



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