Classical Music News of the Week, November 18, 2017

American Classical Orchestra Performs CPE Bach and Handel's Messiah with ACO Chorus

On Monday, December 4, 2017 at 8:00 p.m., the American Classical Orchestra, "the nation's premier orchestra dedicated to period instrument performance (Vulture)," presents a holiday program featuring the acclaimed ACO Chorus in the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah, performed in the sacred setting of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, NYC. Soloists will include sopranos Katherine Wessinger and Nola Richardson; altos Kate Maroney and Clifton Massey; tenors Andrew Fuchs, Nils Neubert, and Gene Stenger; and basses Timothy McDevitt and Edmund Milly. For the first time ever, ACO also performs Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach's Magnificat.

This season, the American Classical Orchestra is launching an innovative Concert Preview program that will bring listeners closer to the music. Before conducting the program, Maestro Crawford will deliver an introduction, with the full orchestra and chorus onstage to perform excerpts from the evening's program. Crawford's engaging narratives, along with the live music, will give the audience greater insights into what they're about to hear, resulting in a more enriched musical experience.

Additional concerts in the ACO's 2017-18 season include five Baroque concertos with violinist Stephanie Chase at Alice Tully Hall on February 8; and a program of works by Brahms, Schubert, and Ries with contralto Avery Amereau and the ACO Men's Chorus on March 24.

CPE Bach: Magnificat
Handel: Messiah Christmas Portion, with ACO Chorus and Soloists
Monday, December 4, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
St. Ignatius of Antioch Church: 87th St. and West End Ave., New York City

Ticket Information:
Tickets for the December 4 concert can be purchased at http://aconyc.org/concert-event/cpe-bach-handel/ or by calling ACO at 212.362.2727. Please visit www.aconyc.org for more information.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Salisbury Symphony's Messiah
The Salisbury Symphony and the Salisbury Symphony Chorale present their first holiday concert of Christmas excerpts from Handel's ever-popular Messiah. The concert will take place on Tuesday December 19 at 6.30pm at First Presbyterian Church, 308 W Fisher Street, Salisbury, NC.

This concert is part of the inaugural season for the newly-formed 40 member-strong Salisbury Symphony Chorale, which has already earned a reputation as a leading choral society in the region following their highly acclaimed concert with St. John's Lutheran Church as part of the celebration of the Reformation's 500th anniversary.   

Soloists for the Messiah are University of North Carolina School of the Arts-trained soprano Anyée Farrar, alto Alden Pridgen, tenor Logan Weber, and bass Eric Powell. Music Director David Hagy will conduct this concert, which also features an 18-piece orchestra.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for ages 18 and below. Children under 10 years old get free admission. Seating is general admission. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 704 216 1513 or online at www.salisburysymphony.org.

For complete information, visit www.salisburysymphony.org

--James Harvey, Salisbury Symphony

Magdalena Kozena Signs to Pentatone
Pentatone announce that Magdalena Kožená, one of the most celebrated vocalists of our time, has formed a long-term partnership with the label. This new partnership will showcase the breadth of her repertoire over several albums, from Baroque opera to contemporary art song, from Rameau to Berio.

The Czech mezzo-soprano spent time in the recording studio this past summer and documented a selection of heart-wrenchingly beautiful songs from her homeland by Dvorák and Janácek, coupled with some of the repertoire's most famous melodies, including Strauss's eternal "Morgen!," Chausson's poetic "Chanson perpétuelle" and Brahms's "Two Songs," Op. 91 – some of them in new arrangements. Joining her were her husband, Sir Simon Rattle, in his first-ever appearance as a pianist on record, and six of their closest colleagues: Wolfram Brandl and Rahel Rilling on violin, Yulia Deyneka on viola, Dávid Adorján on cello, Andrew Marriner on clarinet and Kaspar Zehnder on flute.

"So, all friends together. You could imagine them playing hausmusik in someone's living room, in proper German fashion, and this concert felt as if they'd been performing these pieces for ages and were now graciously allowing us to eavesdrop. Rattle was all smiles, with none of the nervousness you'd expect from someone venturing into the unfamiliar role of pianist."  --The Telegraph

--Silvia Pietrosanti, Pentatone Music

Gulbenkian Orchestra Appoints Giancarlo Guerrero as Principal Guest Conductor
Giancarlo Guerrero, who has led the Nashville Symphony as its Music Director for nearly a decade, has in the last six months picked up two additional posts in Europe. Today, the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon announced that it has appointed Guerrero Principal Guest Conductor. He will conduct up to four weeks with that orchestra, beginning in August 2018. Just six months ago, in June 2017, it was announced that Guerrero will be the new Music Director of the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic in Poland, where he will conduct four weeks in 2017/18 - increasing to eight weeks in the 2018/19 season - and take part in touring and recording projects.

Guerrero was appointed Music Director of the Nashville Symphony in 2009 and has committed to serve in this role through the 2024/25 season. During his tenure, Guerrero and the orchestra have made more than a dozen award-winning recordings for Naxos, and have won eight of the ensemble's eleven Grammy Awards.

For more information, visit www.giancarlo-guerrero.com.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Young People's Chorus of NYC and Ailyn Pérez Celebrate the Holidays
The Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) celebrates the holidays at Carnegie Hall with its Winter Wonder program featuring soprano and Metropolitan Opera star Ailyn Pérez as guest artist on Thursday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. Under the direction of YPC Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez and Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Núñez, the program highlights the different ways New York City families commemorate the festivities, with repertoire including holiday classics and international songs sung by over 400 YPC choristers ages 8 to 18.

Tickets priced $25-100 are available via the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street; by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800; or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.

--Shuman Associates

PostClassical Emsemble, National Cathedral Embark on New Concert Series
Washington, DC's intrepid PostClassical Ensemble (PCE) and Music Director Angel Gil-Ordoñez perform "Music in Wartime: A Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration" at the Washington National Cathedral on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 7:30pm. Produced by PCE's Executive Director Joseph Horowitz, the performance is comprised of musical responses to war from Hanns Eisler, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Arnold Schoenberg. The concert marks the start of PCE's inaugural season as the Cathedral's ensemble in residence and underscores PCE's drive to use this season to contextualize music throughout history.

The concert begins with Eisler's The Hollywood Songbook, a collaboration with playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, a wartime workers' song performed as a processional. The set of 46 short songs details the affliction of war and the helplessness these German emigres felt as they watched from California as their homeland slipped into dissolution and destruction. 

Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 is a cry of pain provoked by the barbaric Nazi Siege of Leningrad, in which half a million perished. 

Concluding the performance, Schoenberg's seething and exalted Ode to Napoleon, composed in Los Angeles in response to Pearl Harbor, uses Lord Byron's "Ode to Napoleon" to excoriate Hitler and exalt Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Byron's poem rages against the autocrat Napoleon in favor of the democrat George Washington; Schoenberg uses this inspiration to draw comparisons between Hitler and FDR.

Tickets and information are available at http://postclassical.com/

--Mike Fila, BuckleSweet Media

SF Symphony's Fire Relief Benefit, Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen
SF Symphony's fire relief benefit: Sunday, November 19, Davies Symphony Hall, Civic Center, San Francisco, CA.

In the wake of the devastating wildfires that brought extensive damage throughout the North Bay last month, many artistic organizations have looked for ways to contribute to the relief efforts. The healing power of music--not to mention the opportunity to garner financial support for those affected--makes a benefit concert the natural path.

For more information, visit http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Michael-Tilson-Thomas-SF-Symphony-host-benefit-12354865.php

--SF Gate

Emerson String Quartet Returns to Alice Tully Hall
The renowned Emerson String Quartet has returned from a European tour to perform at the Alice Tully Hall, NYC on November 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM.

The program features Beethoven's B-flat-major quartet, which shattered tradition with six movements, including the profoundly beautiful "Cavatina"; the original ending, the Grosse Fuge, was deemed too momentous for an already overpowering work and now stands alone in the repertoire. The "indispensable" Emerson String Quartet (Newsday) will perform both pieces along with Shostakovich's Thirteenth Quartet, a surreal piece in which simplicity becomes sonically extraordinary.

November 28, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Alice Tully Hall, NYC

For more information and tickets, visit http://www.lincolncenter.org/great-performers/show/emerson-string-quartet-5

--Xi Wang, Kirshbaum Associates

The Chelsea Symphony Performs Ravel, Smetena, Reinecke, Mozart, and Dai
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show "Mozart in the Jungle," announces the continuation of its 2017/18 season, entitled "Sea Change," with a holiday concert on December 1 featuring special guest, comedian Judy Gold, narrating "The Night Before Christmas" by composer Aaron Dai.

The concert also includes Bedrich Smetana's The Moldau, Carl Reinecke's Flute Concerto, featuring flutist Dirk Wels, Maurice Ravel's Tzigane, featuring violinist Megan Hilands, Leopold Mozart's Sinfonia pastorale, "Alphorn" and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Concert Rondo featuring trumpetist Warren Wernick, and seminal holiday classic, Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" with guest conductor Pam Aubin.

A silent auction in support of the orchestra will take place before the downbeat and during intermission, concluding during a festive complimentary wine reception following the concert. Start your holiday season with The Chelsea Symphony!

December 1, 2017 Concert at 8:00 PM
Conducted by Reuben Blundell, Nell Flanders, and special guest Pam Aubin
St. Paul's Church (315 West 22nd Street), NYC

For more information, visit www.chelseasymphony.org

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Hartmann: Overtures (CD review)

Thomas Dausgaard, Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Dacapo 8.224097.
And, Hartmann-Bournonville: The Valkyrie. Michail Jorowski, Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt. CPO 999 620-2 (2-disc set).

Danish composer Johan Peder Emilius Hartmann (1805-1900) lived nearly the whole of the nineteenth century. Think of that: Haydn was still alive when Hartmann was born, and Mahler was just finishing his Fourth Symphony when Hartmann died. Although not so popular anymore, during most of this time Hartmann was at the center of Danish musical life as an organist, composer, and co-director the Copenhagen Conservatory. His works include operas; ballets; vocal, orchestral, organ, and piano pieces; popular songs; and chamber music. 

The five overtures featured on this 1999 release from Maestro Thomas Dausgaard and the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra reveal a distinctly Romantic leaning, as we might expect, yet a modern, adventurous spirit as well. There is nothing particularly remarkable about any of the overtures, but they are clearly a step toward tone painting and even impressionism, and the conductor and orchestra give them full measure.

The five overtures are Yrsa, Axel og Valborg, Hakon Jarl, Correggio, and Guldhornene. He based most of them on Danish folk lore, poetry, and legend. Of the five, two stand out for me: First, there is Guldhormene, or The Golden Horns, because it is background music for the recitation of a poem by Adam Oehlenschlager, one of Denmark's "Golden Age" dramatists. It is not the longest work on the disc, but it covers the most sweeping ground. To be honest, though, I could have done without the recitation by Bodil Udsen and just enjoyed the music by itself. The second standout is Hakon Jarl, a descriptive work that tackles no less than "the struggle of Heathendom in Norway against Christianity, and the victory of the latter under Olaf Trygvason." Like the other overtures, it begins with a slow, moody introduction soon developing into a series of contrasting sections that become quite exciting and contain some of Hartmann's most imaginative tunes.

Thomas Dausgaard
For those listeners seeking a more sustained and substantial output from Hartmann, the CPO label simultaneously issued a two-disc set of his ballet The Valkyrie, with Michail Jorowski and the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt. In four acts and based on a story by August Bournonville, the work is somewhat bombastic but highly descriptive. As the title suggests, it is all about gods and warriors and Valkyrie of ancient Norse mythology. Music scholars consider it one of the great ballets of Danish theater. Although it did not particularly impress me on my one and only listening, ballet fans should find much to enjoy in its 103 minutes. Whether Maestro Jorowski helped or hindered my appreciation of the music, I could not say. 

Both Dacapo's and CPO's sound is remarkable in its unremarkableness. This is not meant as a criticism, just an observation. The sonics appear moderately distanced and slightly veiled, with passably good depth of field, little deep bass, and rather mundane dynamic impact. Like Hartmann's music, nothing really stands out, but that is the way it probably should be. Unless the listener is an audiophile more interested in how the discs sound than in the music itself, the albums should satisfy because nothing calls attention to itself. These are unassuming releases of unassuming music.

JJP     

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


Handel Goes Wild (CD review)

Valer Sabadus, countertenor; Nuria Rial, soprano; Christina Pluhar, L'Arpeggiata. Erato 0190295811693.

This is another novelty from conductor (and therobist) Christina Pluhar and her Baroque ensemble L'Arpeggiata: A recording that blends a period band with a contemporary jazz quintet to do improvisations inspired by the works of German composer George Frederic Handel (1685-1759). Ms. Pluhar and her group have done this kind of thing several times before, notably with albums of music by Purcell, Monteverdi, and Cavalli. The results may remind you, as they did me, of the discs from the Jacques Loussier Trio, a jazz group that has successfully navigated the classical world for decades. But Ms. Pluhar and her players go them one better in combining historical instruments with modern jazz ones and coming up with lusher, richer tones that still maintain much of the spirit of the original composer.

The program, mainly arias, highlights soloists in some selections, the jazz players on some tracks, and the period instruments ensemble in yet other numbers. What's more, some of the pieces are well known while others are less famous; some are slow, while others are fast; some are recognizable as Handel, while others are not quite so identifiable; and some are done relatively straight, while others are more jazz inflected. Thus, we get a good variety of music, from the energetic pomp of "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" (with interjections by the jazz ensemble) to the familiar larghetto "Ombra mai fu." Whether any of this will appeal to the committed classical lover or the enthusiastic jazz fan, however, is another story and entirely a matter of taste.

To give you an idea of the material involved, here's a list of the disc's contents:

  1. Sinfonia (from Alcina)
  2. "Venti, turbini" (from Rinaldo)
  3. "O sleep, why dost thou leave me" (from Semele)
  4. Vivaldi Allegro (from Concerto in G minor)
  5. "Cara sposa" (from Rinaldo)
  6. "Where'er you walk" (from Semele)
  7. "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" (from Solomon)
  8. "Pena tiranna" (from Amadigi di Gaula)
  9. "Piangerò la sorte mia" (from Giulio Cesare in Egitto)
10. Canario (improvisations based on Girolamo Kapsberger)
11. "Verdi prati" (from Alcina)
12. "Tu del Ciel ministro eletto" (from Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno)
13. "Mi lusinga il dolce affetto" (from Alcina)
14. "Lascia ch'io pianga" (from Rinaldo)
15 "Ombra mai fu" (from Serse)

Christina Pluhar
So, OK, admittedly, it's a little hard to judge either the music or the performances until you get past the oddity of the album's concept. Nevertheless, even though one may question the album's purpose and appeal, there should be no question about its sincerity. Ms. Pluhar and her fellow musicians appear wholly committed to the approach, whatever classification you might apply to it. She and her players are excellent, professional musicians who produce crisp, well-polished performances, whether you call it classical, jazz, or fusion.

The opening tune is a good example of the program's diversity as well as its controversy. Even the seasoned Handel admirer might have trouble recognizing the Sinfonia from Alcina, beginning as it does with light jazz riffs that take a while to open up into something resembling traditional Handel. The next piece, the aria "Venti, turbini" from Rinaldo, is more clearly Handel, especially when the countertenor Valer Sabadus enters, and no amount of jazz accents can hide the composer's rhythms.

And so it goes. The aria "O Sleep, why dost thou leave me" from Semele has the lovely quality of a music-box lullaby about it; the Vivaldi Allegro from Concerto in G minor finds a more jazz-oriented tone with double bass, piano, and clarinet dominating the piece until the rest of the players join in; and so on.

Earlier I asked whether the album would appeal more to jazz or classical lovers, and I'm hard pressed to provide an answer. There may not be enough of one or the other idiom to satisfy either camp. So maybe its appeal is to neither; that is, its major attraction may be to folks who don't have strong convictions one way or the other. Then again, those same listeners may think it's too much of one or the other, jazz or classical, so who knows.

The album is an odd duck, to be sure. My recommendation is to try and listen to as many selections from it as possible before laying out any cash. I found a lot of it delightful and fascinating, but at seventy-five minutes, it also seemed a bit too much of a good thing.

Sound, mixing, and mastering engineer Hugues Deschaux recorded the album in Switzerland in November 2016. The sonics have a smooth, well-rounded texture that is pleasing to the ear if not entirely transparent. The room acoustics open up the sound to a warm bloom, with a good sense of space and depth. Much of it, though, appears a bit too close up in relation to the softness of the music, which would seem to indicate a more distant perspective. Still, minor quibbles. The sound is appealing.

JJP

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


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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 John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa