May 31, 2023

Nielsen: The Symphonies (CD Review)

by Ryan Ross


Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Fabio Luisi, conductor. Deutsche Grammophon 486 3471 (3 CDs)


I had high hopes for this one. Being someone who believes that concert programming, and classical music history as it’s normally relayed, are too much in thrall to Late Romantic (especially German) aesthetics, I see renewed focus on composers like Carl Nielsen as a viable way out of the morass. His highly individual, appealing music is a breath of fresh air. It emphasizes rigor, energy, optimism, and (as musicologist Daniel Grimley puts it) life-affirmation. I keep hoping we’ll more fully admit Nielsen into the classical canon as the great symphonist he was, and that our current Mahler/Bruckner/etc. obsessions will subside enough to allow this. So yes, I was thrilled to see Fabio Luisi’s and the DNSO’s new recorded cycle appear on perhaps classical music’s most prestigious label. This had to be a wonderful tool for the cause, right?

Not so much. Oh, the DNSO’s playing is good, and the sound quality is fine. It’s Luisi’s vision of Nielsen’s music that makes the venture objectionable. To be blunt: he doesn’t feel it. He’s a relative newcomer to this repertoire – someone who’s used to conducting music we’re already well used to hearing. Well, these symphonies in his hands sound too much like music we’re already well used to hearing. The result is not just mostly poor Nielsen, but also a weary accompanying realization that Mahler and Bruckner have indeed seemed to permeate everywhere, ostensibly even performances of scores by the Great Dane. 

The biggest problem here is Luisi’s lack of energy. We’ll discuss two instances for the sake of example. In the score of the Second Symphony (subtitled “The Four Temperaments”), Nielsen clearly indicates a tempo marking of eighth equals 126 at the head of the opening movement. Luisi, however, comes in at about 106 to 108. This would be weird in any case, but in a movement entitled “Allegro collerico” (indicating the “choleric” temperament), a slow pulse simply doesn’t get the job done. Luisi himself may not be of such a disposition, but he’s obligated to use the orchestra to do his best impression if he’s conducting this music. Has he met anyone who is choleric? Those folks typically don’t saunter. Maybe worse is the finale of the Fifth Symphony. Again, Luisi proceeds noticeably under the composer’s tempo marking, and in a setting where doing so similarly saps the music of its character. The whole movement is one of epic struggle; from the roiling outer sections, to the terrifying cataclysm of the first fugue, to even the slower “rebirth” presented by the second fugue, this music requires spark and momentum. Instead, the dominant impression is one of lethargy. It comes across like somebody trying to run a marathon immediately after scoffing a huge plate of spaghetti. 

Related to tempo problems are Luisi’s dynamics and phrase shaping. They’re just too steeped in late Romanticism. Nielsen’s music at times shares something with Romanticism, but there is a rather stronger Classical streak present that greatly leavens this overlap and clashes with Luisi’s apparent instincts. A good example is how he conceives the finale of the Third Symphony, subtitled “Espansiva.” Evidently Luisi takes this term to mean “expansive” as in imitating exaggerated Romantic climaxes. Instead of the open-air hymn to hard work and common rural experience (which would be consistent with Nielsen’s own remarks on this section), the tune and its supporting materials become just another Mahlerian lied, with gushy strings and overwrought arrivals. Combine these things with another slow tempo (I cannot imagine why this movement needs to clock in at 10:59!), and we’re quite far from the spirit of the work. Similar interpretive miscues hamper nearly every performance here, from the odd dynamic spasms (heard right away in the First Symphony), to poorly accentuated subject lines in fugal sections, to excessive disruptions of tempo. 

Probably the best performance in this cycle is of the Sixth and final symphony, named the Sinfonia semplice. Still the least understood work of a too-little-known composer, it is singular and delightfully strange. For these reasons, it’s probably the best symphony of the bunch to withstand the kind of interpretive “license” that the conductor inflicts upon its brethren. For once Luisi’s tempi and shaping are solid; the finale is appreciatively humorous. This is not the best performance of the Sixth available, but it will serve. Would that it could be issued on a singleton release. 

But on the whole these recordings present a missed opportunity. Even if they do become influential in spurring more performances of Nielsen’s music in the concert hall, will those performances sound like these? That’s a dispiriting train of thought. Thus motivated, I’ll lend my tiny voice to suggesting Herbert Blomstedt’s fine cycle with the San Francisco Symphony on the London label as a preferred alternative. (Schonwandt/DNSO, Salonen/SRSO, and Kuchar/JPO are all good, too.) In terms of isolated performances, Leonard Bernstein’s renderings of the Third and Fifth with the New York Philharmonic on Sony are stupendous. If you don’t know Nielsen’s symphonies, start there. Leave Luisi and Company to the collectors. 

May 28, 2023

Ralph Towner: At First Light (CD Review)

by Karl Nehring

Towner: FlowStrait; Jule Styne, Betty Comden, Adolph Green: Make Someone Happy; Towner: Ubi SuntGuitarra PicanteAt First Light; (Traditional): Danny Boy; Towner: Fat FootArgentinian Nights; Stanley Adams, Hoagy Carmichael: Little Old Lady; Towner: Empty Stage. Ralph Towner, classical guitar. ECM 2758 486 1035 


Long-time music fans may remember American guitarist Ralph Towner (b. 1940) from his long association with the band Oregon, a group that Towner co-founded back in 1970. Oregon went on to release a number of albums on the Vanguard, Elektra, ECM, and Intuition labels over the years. (The Oregon album Out of the Woods from 1978 is especially well worth seeking out; it is an acoustic and musical wonder.) In his liner notes for At First Light, a solo guitar outing, Towner writes about how unique it is to have most of his own having most of his own life’s work represented on one record label. He’s been an ECM artist for more than fifty years, appearing in many different contexts, one of the most important being a run of solo recordings that began with Diary in 1973, and now 50 hears later, At First Light is the newest addition to his series of solo guitar releases. “My solo recordings,” writes Towner, “have always included my own compositions in which there are trace elements of the composers and musicians that have attracted me over the years. Musicians such as George Gershwin, John Coltrane, John Dowland, Bill Evans, to name a few. The blend of keyboard and guitar techniques is an important aspect of my playing and composition, and I feel that this album is a good example of shaping this expanse of influences into my personal music.”

Towner recounts that he studied classical music composition in college while also becoming interested in learning jazz piano, having been inspired by hearing the interplay of the Bill Evans Trio. Before graduating from the University of Oregon in 1963, he discovered the classical guitar. “I found that it a very pianistic instrument,” he writes, “capable of sophisticated polyphony and myriad tone colors. I was fascinated by it. I made a major decision to travel to Vienna to strictly study the classical guitar at the Academy of Music in Vienna. My studies there involved much renaissance and baroque music which was to play a great part in shaping my writing and performance techniques.”  A fellow guitarist, Scott Nygaard, has observed of Towner that “No one else plays guitar like Ralph Towner. And while his compositions often sound ‘classical’ (combining a fondness for baroque voice leading, Stravinskian harmonies, and odd time signatures with his own strong sense of melody) that’s primarily because each piece grows organically and gracefully from an initial idea.” Listeners can get additional insight into the both the guitarist and the music on the album from this video, in which Towner recounts some of the details of his musical education and how he approaches composition and recording, focusing briefly on the album’s title composition, At First Light.

From the opening cut, his composition
 Flow, the majority of the music has the feeling of classical guitar music – not jazz (although jazz fans will hear a faint echo of Naima in the opening measures of Strait), not blues, not folk, but music very much in the classical guitar vein. Yes, they're a couple popular tunes and a traditional favorite included in the set list, but Towner does not play these in an overtly popular style. Instead, he plays them in more of a restrained way so that although the familiar notes are there, they blend right in with his more thoughtful, classical approach. Guitarra Piccante and Fat Foot are the most energetic cuts on the album; they might even tempt some listeners to tap their toes or even dance around a little, but should not cause anyone to get arrested. The shortest cut on the CD (1:42),Argentinian Nights, is like a miniature sketch of an imagined memory somehow captured on guitar, brief but memorable. The album ends with the reflective sounds of Empty Stage, a piece that ends enigmatically, leaving the listener longing for more. Ralph Towner was 82 at the time he made this recording, bringing a lifetime of lived experience into the studio with him to record alongside his trusted producer of more than 50 years, Manfred Eicher. The two old friends have produced a gem. 


May 24, 2023

Recent Releases No. 53 (CD Reviews)

by Karl Nehring

Prism V. J.S. Bach: Choral prelude Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit, BWV 668; Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16 in F major, Op. 135; Webern: String Quartet (1905); Bach: Contrapuctus XIV from The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080. Danish String Quartet (Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, violin; Frederik Øland, violin; Asbjørn Nørgaard, viola; Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin, cello). ECM New Series 2565 485 8469


With the release of Prism V, the Danish String Quartet has now reached the end point of the Prism series of releases, in which, as the note on the back of the CD cover explains, “Lines of connection are drawn in the Danish String Quartet’s five Prism volumes from a Bach fugue through one of the late Beethoven quartets to the music of a subsequent composer.”  In the previous release in the series, Prism IVwhich was reviewed here, that subsequent composer was Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847); with Prism V, however, the Danes take a longer leap forward in time, this time connecting Beethoven’s music with the 20th-century music of the Austrian composer Anton Webern (1883-1945). Another passage of time marked by the release of this album is the time it took the group to record all five albums. From the CD booklet: “Almost eight years have passed since we first put our bows to the strings and started one of the longest journeys we have embarked upon as a quartet. The five Prism albums, our recording project on ECM anchored around the five last string quartets by Beethoven. We started the series with the resonant chords of  Beethoven’s quartet in E-flat major op. 127. This monumental opening forms the entry gate into the promised land of the late Beethoven quartets, but in this case it also became the exit door from our life as a young string quartet. The Prism albums became our string quartet rite of passage… The Prism albums were an important part of our final development into what one might call a fully-fledged string quartet, and the recording process has gone hand in hand with substantial changes in our personal lives. The first album was recorded by four relatively fresh young men, now we are father of babies, toddlers and school kids. If nothing else, this project proves that you don’t need much sleep to play a string instrument.”

Something else this project proves is that there is more than one way to enjoy and appreciate the late Beethoven quartets. As I mentioned in my review of Prism IV, my introduction to string quartets period was a dive into the deep end of the pool: I went from never listening to a string quartet in my life to purchasing a box set of the late Beethoven quartets on LP (Yale Quartet on Vanguard Cardinal) and listening to them over and over again. I still tend to gravitate toward sets (now on CD), possessing currently the Calidore (review pending), Emerson, Medici, Takacs, Tokyo, and Yale. Occasionally I will listen to all five of the quartets from one of the sets over a day or two, but to be honest, once I finally became aware of the Prism series (alas, not until Prism III), I have begun to think that the Danish group has really come up with a brilliant concept: Hearing Beethoven hearing Bach, then moving forward. In Prism V, the Danes close the loop. They start with Bach, then on to Beethoven’s final quartet, culminating in the question and answer: “Must it be? It must be!” And then it is on to the quartet of Webern, a spare, haunting work in one movement. Although it is not all that long (18:01), it is the longest work that Webern ever wrote. Then for the final piece on the program the four musicians of the Danish Quartet play a Bach fugue, the music at the heart of the Prism project. But for this album they have chosen to present not just any Bach fugue, but rather the final, uncompleted Contrapunctus XIV “Fuga a 3 Soggetti” – the fugue that marks the end of the great master’s The Art of Fugue. Thus on Prism V we are presented the finale of the Beethoven’s immortal quartet cycle and the finale of the Bach’s immortal fugue composition, the abrupt ending of which is always haunting to hear.

In addition to the booklet note by the quartet itself, there is a stimulating essay on the music by the British music critic and novelist Paul Griffiths. As music listeners have come to expect from ECM, the sound quality is first-rate. The recording, which was done in Copenhagen, was engineered by veteran ECM engineer Markus Heiland and produced by Mr. ECM himself, Manfred Eicher. My hope is that ECM will release the series as a boxed set, which would be a formidable contender in the late quartet sweepstakes. But for now, Prism V is a simply wonderful way to enjoy Beethoven’s final string quartet, perfectly paired and marvelously recorded.


Bartók: 4 Orchestral Pieces, SZ 51 ()p. 12); Concerto for Orchestra, SZ 116. Karina Canellakis, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Pentatone PTC 5187 827


Karina Canellakis (b. 1981) is an American violinist and conductor who currently serves as  Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the orchestra featured on this new release, and as Principal Guest Conductor for both the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin). She clearly has a deep affection for these two works by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945), as evidenced by her detailed and impassioned recounting of the story of how he came to write what would turn out to be his most famous work, his Concerto for Orchestra: “As Beethoven wrote his joyful Second Symphony in the midst of deep despair at the loss of his hearing, so did Bartók write his brilliant, often witty, atmospheric and riveting Concerto for Orchestra in a moment of profound desperation. An outspoken anti-fascist, he and his wife had reluctantly fled Europe in 1940 after he had made his anti-nazi sentiments clear in the midst of the increasingly terrifying political situation. His lack of comfort with New York life was worsened by financial strain and illness, although it wasn’t until 1944 that leukemia was diagnosed, too late, before his death in September 1945. It was during the summer of 1943 that he lay in a hospital bed, feverish and dizzy, where the famous conductor Sergei Koussevitzsky visited to offer him $1000 to write an orchestral work for the Boston Symphony. These five masterfully orchestrated movements then seemed to pour out of him. In the mere two months it took to complete, he managed to construct something both deeply personal and wildly entertaining. He would never have imagined the success it would achieve.” (Note that $1,000 in 1943 would have been equivalent to about $17,500 in 2023 terms.) She then goes on to offer a detailed analysis of both the Concerto and its companion piece that leads off this CD, the Four Pieces for Orchestra.


The affection that Canellakis feels for as well as the insight she has into these two compositions is evident from the outset, with the first few measures of the opening Preludio seeming to lead us into a mysterious, unknown world. As Canellakis writes: “Bookending the majority of Bartók’s creative output, we begin this album with his Four Pieces, originally written for two pianos

in 1912 and then orchestrated in 1921. Bewilderingly unknown even to experienced listeners and musicians, these four vignettes give a brilliant and enchanting look into his earlier mentality as a composer, reveal the immense influence of Debussy, and foreshadow many of the works he would write during the following three decades.” The Scherzo movement that follows exhibits more of the energy and dynamic contrast listeners have come to expect from Bartók, with some growling brass and swirling strings. The Intermezzo movement calms the waters to some degree, but then Bartók ends things with a Marcia funebre that is far from a Beethoven or Mahler funeral march, although it does sound like it could be music played at a funeral. 


In contrast to the Four Pieces, The Concerto for Orchestra is one of those pieces that has been recorded over and over again. Canellakis and her Netherlands forces offer a perfectly fine performance, although I felt she had a slight tendency to linger a bit in the beginning. Still, this is a very good performance, and the sound quality is excellent, full and robust. For the person new to classical music looking to pick up a recording of the Concerto for Orchestra, this new Pentatone would be a solid choice, with its combination of a good performance, excellent sound, and unbeatable booklet. For the more experienced listener, my top two choices for the Concerto both feature the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Boulez on DG (also paired with the Four Pieces) and the classic Reiner on RCA (usually paired with Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste). But as a further nod toward this new release, if you are interested in the Four Pieces for Orchestra, then I strongly recommend that even if you already have the Boulez, you give this new Canellakis version a listen. The two performances are different, but both are truly excellent and well worth hearing.

May 21, 2023

Zsófia Boros: El ultimo aliento (CD Review)

by Karl Nehring

Mathias Duplessy: De rêve et de pluie; Joaquin Alem: Salir adentro; Quique Sinesi: El abrazo; Alberto Ginastera:Milonga; Duplessy: Le secret d'HiroshigéPerle de Rosée; Sinesi: Tormenta de ilusión; Duplessy: Le labyrinthe de VermeerBerceuseValse pour Camille; Carlos Moscardini: El último aliento. Zsófia Boros, classical guitar, ronroco. ECM New Series 2769 485 8302

The  Vienna-based Hungarian guitarist Zsófia Boros brings together compositions from two continents on this new release, her third for the ECM New Series label. In so doing, she not only introduces her listeners to several composers they have most likely never heard of before, but she also introduces them to the sound of an instrument that have most likely never heard before. To be honest, there is only one composer from the list above that I have heard of before, Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), the preeminent Argentinian composer of the 20th century. But there are three other Argentinians whose works Boros has chosen to highlight: Joaquin Alem (b. 1975), an Argentine-born bandoneon master based in Germany; Quique Sinesi (b.1960), a Latin Grammy Award-winning Argentinian guitarist; and Carlos Moscardini (b. 1959), an Argentine composer and guitarist. In addition to Argentina, France is also well represented, for although Mathias Duplessy (b. 1972) is the only composer from that country, a total four of his compositions appear on the album. His De rêve et de pluie, which opens the album, is a quietly beautiful piece that establishes the overall contemplative and peaceful atmosphere of the album as a whole. 

A contrast in the texture of the sound is provided by the ronroco, a 10-string Andean instrument (five sets of doubled strings) something akin to a mandolin, on which Boros plays Sinesi’s Tormenta de ilusión, the most overtly energetic composition on the album. The other piece with a slightly different sound is Sinesi’s “El Abrazo” (in English the title translates to ‘Hug’), for which Boros plays with a rubber band fastened around her guitar strings. “While my children were sleeping, I thought of muting the guitar differently so that I could play late in the evening, too,” she explains. “One day I stretched a rubber band over the fretboard and was fascinated by the sound. I found it particularly beautiful with ‘El Abrazo’, a song that indeed feels like a warm embrace.” 

The piece with the most dramatic expressiveness is the title piece, Moscardini’s El último aliento, which ends the program, but even that composition projects an aura of gentle mystery that is in keeping with the album’s general sense of calm and well-being. I hope, however, that I have not made this release sound boring, for it is anything but – it is entrancing, captivating, involving; assuredly, the kind of album that invites repeated listening. Overall, this is a truly lovely recital of gentle music with enduring power.

May 17, 2023

Stravinsky: Violin Concerto & Chamber Works (CD Review)

by Karl Nehring

Stravinsky: Apollon Musagète – Variation of Apollo (Apollo and the Muses); Violin Concerto in D majorThree Pieces for String QuartetConcertino for String QuartetPastorale for Violin, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, and BassoonDouble Canon for String Quartet. Isabelle Faust, violin; Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth, conductor. harmonia mundi HMM 902718


At first glance it might seem a bit strange to encounter a coupling of  a violin concerto and chamber works, but in this particular case, it all makes sense. The German violinist Isabelle Faust (b. 1972) puts it all very neatly when she says, “as this concerto is so clearly inspired by chamber music, we thought it was natural to complete the disc with some pearls from his chamber works that I perform with musicians from Les Siècles. By way of background, it should be noted that Ms. Faust has a long history of performing chamber music; in fact, she is said to have founded a string quartet at the ripe old age of 11. Many readers are perhaps already familiar with Les Siècles from some of their previous recordings (two of which were reviewed in Classical Candor, one by JJP and the other by me); but for those who are not, Les Siècles (“The Centuries”) is a French orchestra that was formed in. 2003 by the French conductor François-Xavier Roth (b. 1951) with the idea that they would play music on instruments appropriate to the time in which the music was originally composed, from the late Baroque era forward to the modern era. 


The CD booklet includes a helpfully informative interview with Roth and Faust in which Roth explains that he and his orchestra “have been working n Stravinsky’s works for many years now – since 2009, to be exact. We’ve been exploring his universe, trying to rediscover the rhythms, colours, and dynamics that were characteristic of his time, and trying to convey all the originality of these scores – that is, the meaning they had at their origins. So this project fitted very logically into our programme. And then there’s our friendship with Isabelle Faust, a miraculous meeting of minds if ever there was one, with an artist who is always keen to deepen her understanding of the musical text, to go back to the sources in order to get a better grasp of where each work comes from, how it sounded at the time of its creation. The unswerving companionship between us found new territory to be opened up in this programme.” Faust then explains that in her case, an experience she had of playing Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale with a group of friends who used period instruments “paved the way for me. We were excited to discover that this music takes the fullest advantage of the vast palette of these instruments, with their relief, their articulation, their transparency, the possibilities they offer of biting into and caressing the sound. The piece had clearly gained in terms of character, breadth, and theatrical vision from their use. That experience made me want to see what effect similar instruments would produce in the Violin Concerto. And could I have dreamt of better partners for this adventure than Les Siècles and François-Xavier Roth? The first rehearsal on gut strings took us completely by surprise, and we were immediately convinced that we were on the right track.” The musicians would go on to perform concerto numerous times in concert halls worldwide before making this recording.


The album opens not with the concerto, but rather with a brief (3:09) movement from Stravinsky’s lesser-known ballet, Apollon Musagète (1928), which marked his first collaboration with famed choreographer George Balanchine. Scored for strings only, this is a sound far removed from the more widely known ballets for many people have come to completely define the Stravinsky sound, the bold, often brash, colorful, dynamic, big-orchestra sound of The Rite of SpringThe Firebird, and Petrushka. In contrast, this music from Apollon Musagète is from Stravinsky’s neo-classical style, and especially as played here on gut strings, is nothing like the music of those ballets. Here, however, it serves as a bracing introduction to the feature attraction of this release, Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto (1931. Those who have not hear then piece may be surprised to hear that as Roth points out, “from the very first chord, Stravinsky writes in a very un-violinistic way: it’s clear that the composer is not trying to flatter the violin or ‘accommodate the violist’s hand’ to impress the audience.” Instead, what you hear is a lot of interplay between the violin and the other instruments in the orchestra. The overall impression is more like a large piece of chamber music featuring a violin than a typical violin concerto. The gut strings on Faust’s violins give her sound a bit of an edge that seem to make it fit in “just right” with the rest of the players. It was fascinating to compare this recording with another great version, Perlman/Ozawa/Boston on DG – the latter sounding a shade more on the “concerto” side, the violin with a sweeter sound; however, the harmonia mundi recording captures a more intimate, playful, yet electric performance.

The remainder of the program comprises brief chamber pieces in which Faust plays but not in a lead role as in the concerto. The Three Pieces for String Quartet (1914) come across as brief sketches, three brief pieces lasting one, two, and four minutes, respectively. More likely to offer musical enjoyment to more listeners are the next two compositions, the Concertino for String Quartet (1920) and the Pastorale for Violin, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1923). As its name implies, the Concertino is something of miniature concerto, Faust’s violin playing a prominent role as this six-minute piece loosely follows the fast-slow-fast pattern of a concerto. The Pastorale, as is apparent from its title, features the winds, the violin playing a minor role. The work has a jaunty feeling to it, lively and colorful. Much the opposite is the final selection, the brief (1:26) Double Canon for String Quartet (1959), a dour-sounding 12-tone piece that was intended as a memorial for the painter Raoul Daly. On one hand, it ends the album on something of a negative note; on the other hand, it brings to light a rarely recorded Stravinsky composition.


How refreshing it is to have a new release of Stravinsky that is not yet another recording featuring any of the Big Three ballets! Add to that both the sound and the skill of the musicians involved and the excellence of then engineering, throw in the booklet that includes not only an interview with Faust and Roth but an essay about the music by the noted French musicologist Denis Herlin, and you have a recording for which it is easy to give an enthusiastic recommendation.

May 14, 2023

Recent Releases No. 52 (CD Reviews)

by Karl Nehring

Mahler: Symphony No. 9. Osmo Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra. BIS-2476 SACD 

Many classical music fans may be familiar with the backstory behind this symphony by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). Concerned about his health as he worked on the successor to his Symphony No. 8, and haunted by the idea that to complete a ninth symphony would portend the end of his life, he decided to christen his newborn symphonic offspring “Das Lied von der Erde (‘The Song of the Earth’)” rather than call it a symphony. But then, proclaims Mahler scholar Jeremy Barham to begin his extensive and insightful booklet essay: “The stars of compositional refinement, depth, virtuosity, and in tuition were aligned for Mahler in 1909-1910 to form what for many is the pinnacle of his creative achievement: the Ninth Symphony, his last completed work.” Vänskä and his Minnesota forces have recorded several of the Mahler symphonies before; two of those recordings having been reviewed in Classical CandorSymphony No. 1 here and Symphony No. 7 here (and briefly here). Like their recording of the Seventh, they do themselves proud in this new release, aided in no small measure by the BIS engineering team, which has plenty of experience capturing the sound of this orchestra. There are so many Mahler recordings out there, and serious classical music fans, especially those with a passion for Mahler, no doubt already have their favorite recordings of his Symphony No. 9. My personal favorites, for example, have been López-Cobos/Cincinnati (Telarc) and Boulez/Chicago (DG). This new BIS release is in that same exalted league and will remain on my shelf. For someone who is fairly new to Mahler and is looking for a recommendation for the Ninth, this new BIS recording would be a fine one for sure, particularly for the person who might be interested in listening in SACD 5-0 surround-sound format (my listening, however, was done from the CD layer).


Jacob Young: Eventually. Eventually; I Told You in OctoberMoon Over MenoOne for LouisSchönstedtstrasse;NorthboundThe Dog Ate My HomeworkThe Meaning of JoyInside. Jacob Young, guitar; Mats Eilertsen, double bass; Audun Kleive, drums. ECM 2764 488 3269 


Jacob Young (b.1970) is a Norwegian guitarist who has made four albums as a leader for the ECM label, the first all the way back in 2004, but those previous recordings (the most recent of which was released in 2015) all involved ensembles that included keyboards and/or horns that could shoulder their share of the melodic and harmonic load. This newest release, however,  presents Young’s first pass at the guitar trio format, leaving him alone in the spotlight – not to mention that he composed all the music on the album. Young lays out both the challenges and opportunities involved in such an effort: “It took quite a while to make a new album after Forever Young, because I had to get older. I had to dare to just play with bass and drums – no piano or horns. When Mats and Audun agreed to do this recording with me in the classic guitar, bass, and drums trio format, it was important for us not to go ahead and make ‘just another guitar-trio record’, but to make it sound fresh, like something we’ve never done before. When I am the only chordal instrument it gives me more freedom playing these harmonically dense pieces, because when playing single lines during an improvisation and only having the bass beneath more notes are available. Then I can throw in a chord that sounds good with the bass without having to adjust to a piano’s voicing and sound, or any other chordal instrument. We treated the material like equals. I was the leader in the sense that I composed the music, but more than anything, it’s about the interplay with these two masters.” Although Young clearly is the leader, with his guitar playing the melodies, as in the single-note runs of the opening cut, Eventually, or the chordal strumming as exemplified in The Meaning of Joy, or both picking and strumming, as in The Dog Ate My Homework – throughout the album, it is the interplay among the three musicians that truly brings the mostly laid-back music to life, all captured in clean, clear, comfortable sound. 

May 10, 2023

Recent Releases No. 51 (CD Reviews)

by Karl Nehring

Atmospheriques Vol. I. Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Catamorphosis; Missy Mazzoli: Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres); Daniel Bjarnason: From Space I Saw Earth; Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir: Clockworking for Orchestra. Bára Gisladóttir: ÓS. Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Bjarnason (conductor). Sono Luminus DSL-92267


One the one hand, Atmospheriques is an appropriate title for this new release from Sono Luninus in that all of the pieces are certainly “atmospheric” in terms of evoking sensory impressions; on the other hand, at least two of the pieces on the album – Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) and Daniel Bjarnason’s From Space I Saw Earth – have ambitions that extend far beyond our home planet’s atmosphere. As violist and music writer Doyle Armbrust writes in the CD booklet: “Despite a bewildering insistence by journalists to characterize music written by those with Icelandic surnames as a monolith, the entries on this tracklist are as singular as hand blown glass. The inclusion of American sonic clairvoyant Missy Mazzoli is a helpful geographic foil here, but there is one element fusing all of these inventions: Your person is about to feel minuscule or massive, by contrast to – or motivated by – these sounds.”

The most ambitious composition is that which begins the program, Catamorphosis by Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977). This is a powerful piece that projects both solidity and transparency as it swells and subsides, at times evoking volcanic forces, at other times perhaps the ocean, the shifting of tectonic plates, or whatever your imagination might conjure throughout its 21 spellbinding minutes. We have reviewed a couple of works by this intriguing composer before, one for piano (see review here) and one for string quartet (reviewed here), both of which were interesting but neither of which prepared these ears for the splendor of this new work. Next on the program is the only piece by a non-Icelandic composer, Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) by the American composer Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980), a work that recently received another recording that was recently released on the BIS label as part of an all-Mazzoli disc that we reviewed here. This version under Bjarnason’s baton  is slightly more expansive than the BIS version, making the piece feel grander and more expressive. Spheres is another work that although relatively short in duration at just over nine minutes is grand in the scope of its imaginative scale, evoking a sense of cosmic wonder and mystery.


The remaining three compositions are all by Icelandic composers starting with From Space I Saw Earth, conducted by the composer himself, Daniel Bjarnason (b. 1979). The overall impression is something of a blend of the first two pieces, with the sense of the waves of Catamorphosis and the vastness of scale of Sinfonia (of Orbiting Spheres), but of course completely different from those two compositions. Toward the end, Bjarnason employs the percussion section to dramatic effect. The percussion section also plays a significant role in Clockworking for Orchestra by composer and violinist Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (b. 1980), whose beautiful EP of choral music we reviewed here.Clockworking gradually but progressively builds up a sense of urgency by adding percussion to the sound of the orchestra, the rhythm seeming to remind the listener of the urgencies of life. It is a compelling nine minutes of music. Of the final piece on the program, ÓS by composer and double bassist Bára Gisladóttir (b. 1989), Armbrust writes: “is ÓS gasping in air, or desperately exhaling? Whatever your observation, and as with every waypoint on this illusory itinerary, the answer is likely: both.” Hmmm. I’m not sure about the breathing metaphor; however, in light of the fact that the biographical information in the CD booklet states that “her work is generally based on thoughts regarding the approach and concept of sound as a living being,” I guess I can see where Armbrust found his inspiration. In any event, it’s a striking piece, perhaps a soundscape of an alien landscape, forbiddingly attractive over its brief six minutes. 

Kudos to Sono Luminus for putting together an appealing program of contemporary music, recorded in vivid, full-range sound. There is fairly extensive background information provided about the composers, although it would have been useful to have more information about the music itself. There are actually two discs in the package: a standard CD, which is what I auditioned, plus a Blu-ray surround-sound disc that apparently supports several different formats including 5.1 DTS, 9.1 Auro, 2.0 LPCM, and 9.1 Dolby Atmos. If future volumes in this series live up to the high standard set by this release, then we are in for quite a treat indeed!


Dominic Miller: VagabondAll ChangeCruel but FairOpen HeartVauginesClandestinAlteaMi ViejoLone Waltz. Dominic Miller, guitar; Jacob Karlzon, piano/keyboard; Nicolas Fiszman, bass; Ziv Ravitz, drums. ECM 2704 458 9048


Dominic Miller (b. 1960) is an Argentina-born guitarist who has long been a member of rock luminary Sting's road band. There is a fascinating in-depth interview with Miller and Sting on Rick Beato’s YouTube channel wherein both musicians pay homage to J.S. Bach, saying that they study and practice his music daily. Like his two previous albums on the ECM label, Vagabond is not at all a rock album, lest any readers worry. His first album for ECM, Silent Light, was a solo guitar outing, accompanied on a few cuts by some subtle percussion, while his second, Absinthe, (reviewed here) featured his acoustic guitar in a quartet setting with the unusual inclusion of bandoneon rather than piano as on this latest release. Once again, you might expect an album recorded by quartet led by a guitarist who composed all of the music to feature high-speed virtuosic guitar solos, but that is not the case here. The music is generally quiet, laid-back, and contemplative, with cooperative interplay among the musicians rather than trading off solos. The cut Mi Viejo(“My Old Man”) is a solo guitar outing of great tenderness; although it is brief at just over two minutes, it obviously carries a great depth of meaning for Miller, which he communicates though the abstract but powerful medium of music. The sound is rich and reverberant in the traditional ECM style. Although this album is brief (around 32 minutes), it is a quiet little treasure, a refuge from the madness, a softly glowing gem.

May 6, 2023

The American Project (CD review)

The American Project. Michael Tilson Thomas: Do You Come Here Often?; Teddy Abrams: Piano Concerto. (Yuja Wang, piano; Teddy Abrams, Louisville Symphony). Deutsche Grammophon 4864478

Teddy Abrams, the composer of the piano concerto that is the main work on this album, was a classmate of pianist Yuja Wang at the Curtis Institute; their relationship led to this album. Abrams was trained as a pianist and has performed in that capacity, but mostly has built a career in conducting, currently serving as the music director of the Louisville Symphony. Moreover, he has established a second career in composition, with something like sixteen published works. Wang, meanwhile, has made her name as a concert pianist. As near as I can figure, she has twenty-one albums to her credit, and has a reputation for formidable technical virtuosity - which takes us back to that composer / pianist relationship.

According to the all too brief liner notes, Abrams wrote the Concerto with Wang in mind. He was originally thinking of a piece along the lines of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, but the composition grew into this nearly 40-minute full concerto. Although the composition outgrew the original idea, it retains the use of jazz styles, now augmented with a broader range of idioms, still mostly identifiably American.

While Abrams’s Concerto is the main work here, the album opens with brief work for solo piano by Michael Tilson Thomas: Do You Come Here Often?

Both Bill and Karl reviewed this one. We didn't discuss the album until our respective reviews were complete, so let's see how our respective opinions line up!

Bill’s Take

I'll get one concern out of the way immediately: this CD is nowhere near “full”, containing just over 42 minutes of music. I listened via streaming, so for me that’s no big deal. But I can imagine a CD buyer feeling rather deprived.

Upon checking out the album, one might get a sense of what’s going on by reading the six page CD brochure. (Why do we still call them liner notes anyway?) The first page, the cover, is a photo of Ms Wang. On page 2, we have a half page photo of Wang; the other half shows her name in large font along with the album title, composer names, and orchestra name in smaller type. Page 3 shows a half page track listing, with the other half devoted to another photo of Wang. Page 4 is a half page graphic of a cityscape and a half page of notes mostly devoted to effusive praise of Wang's virtuosity. Page 5 continues the notes on a half page with – you knew this was coming – yet another photo of Wang on the other half. Finally, page six has a half page of credits with the other half containing a photo of Abrams and Wang together. Well, this is hardly the first time that a record label has devoted considerable space to promoting its artist, but a little more information about the composers and the compositions would have been nice.

So what about the Piano Concerto itself? Things start off with a nice groove in which the orchestra, augmented by a full drum kit, functions as a very large big band, and initially they swing pretty well. Subsequent movements run through several related styles, but retain a “jazzy American” feel. Indeed, the first time through the entire work, I found it enjoyable, although my attention did wander a bit. With repeated listening, though, my good mood gradually evaporated. Throughout the work, Wang's energy and technical abilities were apparent, with runs and leaps across the keyboard. But the orchestra too often was reduced to playing repeated short riffs over and over, gradually rising to a crescendo, usually to introduce yet another display of piano fireworks. Too often, solos from both the orchestra and the piano sounded like what we used to call noodling around; they had, as that supreme American musician Chuck Berry sang, no particular place to go.

Perhaps it’s just my inability to understand or appreciate the structure here; perhaps others will find the Concerto a work of great value. But in the end, for me, it simply seemed to be a vehicle for showing off technical chops rather than being music with the depth that I would have hoped for.

Ironically, the four-minute piece by Tilson Thomas,  Do You Come Here Often?, which even the liner notes seem to dismiss as a lightweight throwaway, was something that I found to be quite clever and interesting. Essentially a conversation between two hands on the piano, it called for just the kind of dexterity that Wang possesses. I heard the two melodic lines as sort of minimalist pieces, with each line repeating phrases that slide into new forms, sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly. It stood up well to repeated hearings, and I would be eager to hear more of Tilson Thomas’s work from Wang, or from anyone else for that matter.

Karl’s Take

This is one of those release that I wanted to like, tried hard to like, listened to a number of times in several different settings to see whether that would help, but in the end, I could just never quite work up too much enthusiasm. But that does not mean that I found it without merit, as I shall attempt to explain. The program leads off with a brief piece for solo piano titled Do You Come Here Often? by the esteemed American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. I’m not sure why the producer thought to open the program with this piece, as it seems to fit the bill better as an encore, but be that as it may, it is actually quite an interesting composition, rambunctious and playful, giving Ms. Wang a chance to display her dexterity with both hands without ever devolving into mere splashiness. When I first auditioned the album. I found the piece something of a distraction – something to be endured while waiting to get to the main program (like an ad before a YouTube video), but as I started to listen more seriously, I discovered that the more I listened, the more I found to appreciate and enjoy. With the Abrams Concerto, however, I never did quite reach that same point of appreciation and enjoyment. The work just struck me as unconvincing. It is hard to make a symphony orchestra truly swing, and Abrams, although he tries hard, does not quite bring it off. Wang digs deeply into her piano part, jazzing things up, giving us a little boogie-woogie, some ragtime – but overall, despite the virtuosity of the orchestra and soloist, the end product is ultimately unconvincing. In Abrams’s defense, though, I must point that a convincing marriage of jazz and orchestral music is extremely difficult to achieve. The composer who has come the closest is the late Russian, Nikolai Kapustin (a Kapustin concerto is reviewed here).

May 3, 2023

Weinberg String Quartets (CD Review)

by Ryan Ross

Weinberg: String Quartet No. 4 in E-Flat Major, Op. 20; String Quartet No. 16 in A-Flat Minor, Op. 130. Arcadia Quartet. Chandos CHAN 20180


I admit it: I don’t know what to make of Mieczysław Weinberg’s music on the whole. And the more I listen to it, the more my bemusement deepens. Often I’ll be strongly reminded of Shostakovich, with more than a few works striking me as interesting, competent, and yet ultimately inferior to the more famous composer’s finest. But sometimes I’m completely won over by what I hear. When this happens, any Shostakovich influence that may be present recedes to irrelevance. Maybe Weinberg had more individuality than I give him credit for, maybe his inspiration was of an intermittent kind (his inconsistency can run from movement to movement, and not just work to work), or maybe there’s some other “IT” factor at play. I can’t tell. In any case, I remain willing to listen to more nice but scarcely memorable music by him in search of the occasional stretch to which I’ll eagerly keep returning. (I still play the first movement of his Third Symphony on repeat, years after my first hearing.) 


The third volume of Weinberg string quartets by the Arcadia Quartet on Chandos encapsulates my dilemma. It features his Fourth Quartet (1945) and his Sixteenth Quartet (1981). The Fourth Quartet is an absolutely stunning piece of music; it’s a new favorite that for me holds its own in any (yes, any) company from a crowded literature. The first movement is of a somewhat pastoral character, with a gently lilting theme and scalar figure that give it a bittersweet flavor. A punchy, flavorful scherzo follows. David Fanning’s terrific liner notes rightly identify Prokofiev, and not just Shostakovich, as an influence here. But there’s definitely an added “something” that provides a special kick, perhaps helped by extended string techniques contributing to a feeling of artful garishness. Something like a dirge occupies the slow movement slot, beginning with an earworm main theme that recurs in different contexts throughout. But perhaps the most powerfully emotional juncture is the rondo-ish finale. It opens with a portentous figure featuring chords in the bass and rising arpeggios in the treble. Such a description cannot do justice to how affecting I find this idea. Other descriptions of the Fourth Quartet identify its childlike qualities, and nowhere would I agree more than here. As a child might, I didn’t know whether to be allured or disturbed. I’m going to use an overly-used label and call this entire, thoroughly consistent work a masterpiece. 


From the get-go, we hear that the Sixteenth Quartet is a rather more austere work. An expertly crafted opening proceeds from a forceful theme on the first violin that gets taken up in the other instruments. The next movement seems to be a kind of scherzo, the outer sections of which make use of a rapid and dissonant motive that also gets passed from instrument to instrument. (This movement reminds me a bit of the conclusion to Britten’s Second Quartet.) The inner section here features an angular, mournful melody over shifting chords. While the whole work smells of late Shostakovich, the slow movement in particular sounds like it could have been taken from an undiscovered quartet by DSCH. It has craft, even feeling, but to my ears lacks both strong thematic interest and character of its own. The dance-like rondo finale comes across very similarly: it not so much stands on the shoulders of a giant as it is carried by them. I was rooting for this Sixteenth Quartet to be at least as compelling as the Fourth, especially given the former’s dedication to the composer’s sister, a victim of World War II. It’s certainly well composed and interesting. But I am going to have to place this work in the “scarcely memorable” category. When I want Swan Song Shostakovich, I’ll go for the real McCoy. Still, the Arcadia Quartet provides fervent advocacy, not to mention a special message from the performers to that effect in the liner notes. Other listeners’ mileage may vary from mine. I hope that it does. 

This pairing of the Fourth and Sixteenth Quartets directly competes with performances by the Quatuor Daniel (CPO 777313-2). Having heard both recordings, as well as the same works done by the Silesian Quartet on the Accord label (ACD 291 and ACD 284), I recommend this Chandos recording on account of its sound quality and the Arcadia Quartet’s expressivity. But Weinberg enthusiasts are now fortunate to have several good options. Will they ever have more, including in the concert hall? I look forward to seeing whether and when this quartet cycle ever achieves a status that the best music in it deserves. Maybe by then I’ll have changed my mind about some of the rest of the cycle.

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

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa