In Schubert's Company (CD review)

Maxim Rysanov, viola and conductor; Yakov Katsnelson, piano; Riga Sinfonietta. Onyx Classics 4183 (2-disc set).

You may not hear as much about Ukrainian violist (and here also conductor) Maxim Rysanov (b. 1978) as you should because he works for a relatively small record company that probably doesn't promote him as much as a big company would. Or maybe it's because he plays the viola, and the viola is not exactly the superstar of the classical world that violins and cellos are. In any case, Rysanov is a fine player, and this current album should go a long way to gain him some of the attention he deserves.

Most new albums need an angle, of course, something to draw one's interest to them and set them apart from the rest. The idea of the present program is that, called "In Schubert's Company," includes music both old and new. It contains mostly the works of Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828), but it intersperses Schubert with pieces by several of Rysanov's contemporaries, composers who say Schubert inspired their compositions. So, we see that even after almost two hundred years, a great composer can continue to inspire modern artists. The albums's two discs and 115 minutes of material make for entertaining, enlightening, and consistently fascinating listening.

The program begins with Schubert's delightful Polonaise for violin and orchestra in B flat major, arranged by Mr. Rysanov for viola (he uses an il Soldato Guadagnini). It's a splendid way to introduce the album because Rysanov approaches the piece with a sweet, leisurely warmth. The music flows smoothly, effortlessly from his viola.

Next is a short piece called "In Schubert's Company" by Sergey Akhunov (b. 1967), which won a YouTube competition Rysanov created a few years ago. One can easily hear Schubert in it, yet it is also clearly Akhunov's work as well, and it flows along with a melancholy grace.

Then there's another new piece, "Wie der alte Lieermann" for violin and orchestra, by Leonid Desyatnikov (b. 1955), again arranged for viola by Mr. Rysanov. The music is a take on Schubert's slow movement from the C major Fantasy for violin and piano, the "take" being most modern and a little jarring after the abundant ease of the first two tracks.

The first disc concludes with the longest work on the album, Schubert's Sonata in A minor for arpeggione & piano, with Rysanov on arpeggione (a six-stringed musical instrument, fretted and tuned like a guitar but bowed like a cello) and Yakov Katsnelson on piano. The piece is quite lovely and the performers do justice to it.

Maxim Rysanov
Disc two starts with Schubert's Symphony No. 5, conducted by Mr. Rysanov. Here, the conductor has rather formidable competition from Sir Thomas Beecham in an unequaled performance. All the same, Rysanov negotiates the piece with a commendable elegance, not quite matching Beecham's charming lilt but giving us plenty of sweetness and light in a slightly more rigid manner. The Riga Sinfonietta respond eagerly, with a flawless precision.

After that, it's on to a contemporary piece, Fantasy Homage to Schubert for viola and string orchestra, by Dobrinka Tabakova (b. 1980), It's kind of spacey, his description of it "a vision of floating through the cosmos," with Schubert slowly emerging as one sails along. It's the most different music on the agenda and certainly fun. Following that is another brief work by Sergey Akhunov, "Der Erlkonig" for viola and orchestra, again different in style and scope but still fascinating.

The album ends with two pieces by Schubert, the Violin Sonata No. 3, in Rysanov's arrangement for viola and piano, and Winterreise "Der Leiermann." I think along with the opening Polonaise, the sonata was my favorite music on the program. It has an enchantingly fairy-tale quality to it, and the performers handle it with a refined and affectionate comeliness.

Executive producer Matthew Cosgrove, producer and sound engineer Maria Soboleva, and engineer in Riga Normuns Sne recorded the music at the Choral Academy Music Hall, Moscow, and the Reformation Church, Riga, in March and September 2016. The viola sound is rich and warm; the orchestral sound likewise pleasing, a little dark with a touch of hall resonance to bring out its natural ambience. The sonata sounds a bit closer yet softer, nevertheless still lifelike. One also hears some extraneous noises, but they are never too bothersome or distracting. In other words, the sound is as welcome as the performances.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, July 29, 2017

Ars Minerva Presents "La Circe" Sept 8, 9 at ODC Theater

Ars Minerva, a San Francisco-based arts nonprofit organization, presents Pietro Andrea Ziani's "La Circe," September 8 and 9 at the ODC Theater. Directed by Founder and Artistic Director of Ars Minerva Céline Ricci, this performance marks the first time the opera has been performed since its creation in 1665.

The "La Circe" manuscript, which resides at the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, is attributed to Pietro Andrea Ziani (1616-1684) with a libretto by Cristoforo Ivanovich (1620-1689). Ziani was the organist at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice and served the Holy Roman Empress, Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg, in Vienna later in his life. Ivanovich was the first historian of Venetian opera and was a librettist for several operas performed in Venice, Vienna and Piacenza. He catalogued all opera performances held in Venice from 1637 until 1681 in his treatise Memorie teatrali di Venezia published in 1680 as part of collection Minerva al tavolino.

"La Circe" is inspired by the adventures of Circe, the goddess and magician of Greek mythology made famous in Homer's Odyssey and in Ovid's Metamorphosis. After Ulysses escapes Circe's clutches, the outraged enchantress remains on her island with a number of unlucky captives who fall victim to her resentment and manipulations. Dreadful potions, transformations, dancing Graces, Furies and other colorful agents of evil – alongside carnival-esque comic scenes – bring drama featuring laments, rage arias and drinking tunes.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the opera will be semi-staged by Céline Ricci and presented on September 8 and 9 at the ODC Theater in San Francisco. It will feature eight singers, an acrobat and an orchestra led by Derek Tam.

Ars Minerva Presents Pietro Andrea Ziani's "La Circe"
The ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street, San Francisco, California
7:30 p.m. September 8 and 7:30 p.m. September 9
Tickets: $86, $56, or $25 for students

For complete information, visit www.arsminerva.org

--Kristin Cockerham

Pierre-Laurent Aimard Signs to Pentatone
Pentatone is proud to announce that Pierre-Laurent Aimard, one of today's most celebrated musicians and winner of the 2017 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, has signed with the label.

The French pianist intends to record key works from his repertoire, spanning three centuries and ranging from Bach to Kurtág. His move to Pentatone follows an exclusive association with Deutsche Grammophon that began nearly a decade ago.

This significant new partnership, destined to deliver interpretations of the highest artistic calibre to the Pentatone catalogue, will be launched next March with the release of Messiaen's complete Catalogue d'oiseaux, a first in Aimard's discography.

For more information, visit https://www.pentatonemusic.com/

--Silvia Pietrosanti, Pentatone

American Classical Orchestra Opens Season at Lincoln Center with Prodigy Adrian Romoff
The American Classical Orchestra opens its 2017-2018 season on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 8:00 p.m., at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center with a concert of Mendelssohn and Berwald, featuring 12-year old prodigy and Mensa competition winner Adrian Romoff in his Lincoln Center debut, led by Music Director and ACO founder Thomas Crawford.

The program includes Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G minor with Romoff on fortepiano; Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4, "Italian"; and Berwald's Symphony No. 3, "Singulière."

Season subscriptions are currently on-sale until September 13th by visiting www.aconyc.org or by calling 212-362-2727. Beginning on August XX, single tickets, priced at $35 to $95, can be purchased at www.lincolncenter.org, by calling Center Charge (212-721-6500) or by visiting the Alice Tully Hall Box Office. $15 student tickets are available at the Alice Tully Hall Box Office with valid student ID. Please visit www.aconyc.org for more information.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Catherine LeClair New Director of Development of Young People's Chorus of NYC
Francisco J. Núñez, Artistic Director and Founder of the Young People's Chorus of New York City (YPC) is pleased to announce that Catherine LeClair has joined the Young People's Chorus of New York City as its new Director of Development.

In making this announcement, Mr. Núñez said, "We are very excited to welcome Catherine LeClair as our Director of Development. We believe her experience and enthusiasm for the arts and her belief in arts education for all children are going to make this an extremely fruitful partnership for us all.  As we approach our 30th anniversary, we are looking to her leadership to help us prepare for the future."

Ms. LeClair, who said she is "thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Núñez to help advance the organization's work," comes to YPC most recently from the Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY, where she was Director of Development, and previously, from New York City Ballet, where she was Director of Foundation and Government Relations for the company for nearly eight years.

For more information, visit www.ypc.org

--Angela Duryea, Young People's Chorus of NYC

YPC Singers Return From a Triumphant Tour to Spain
Eighty-one YPC choristers recently returned from a spectacular 10-day tour in Spain. It was highlighted by two performances at the world-famous Palau de la Música Catalana and competitions and performances conducted by Francisco Núñez and Elizabeth Núñez at the Festival Internacional de Música de Cantonigròs. The tour culminated with a first-place win in the Children's Choir competition and two second-place awards in the Female Choirs and Folk Song competitions.

At the invitation of famed choral conductor Simon Halsey, the tour began with two performances in the Palau de la Música Catalana, the world famous modernistic concert hall, home to the Orfeó Català and the Orfeó Català's Youth Choir. YPC was able to meet with the resident choir and their conductor Esteve Nabona and share an afternoon of singing Catalonian and American music. The exquisite architecture provided a stunning backdrop to the choristers' performances, which were received by enthusiastic audiences. In addition to rehearsals and performances, the choristers and staff happily found time to take in the sights of the city.

The second leg of YPC's journey took them to the Festival Internacional de Música de Cantonigròs in Vic, where the YPC travelers stayed in a beautiful historic seminary, performed for live and television audiences, and was the only choir from America invited among 25 other extraordinary groups from all over the world. The YPC singers returned to New York exhausted but inspired, with new knowledge of the world around them, and ready to take on their next summer challenge: their Mostly Mozart Festival debut.

For more information, visit www.ypc.org

--Young People's Chorus of NYC

Orpheus & Bach - Two Musical Inspirations
The American Bach Soloists Academy--the educational component of the ABS Festival--features one of the most distinguished faculty of Early Music performers to be found anywhere. This Festival program, "Orpheus in Britannia" on Saturday August 5th, designed specifically to spotlight their gifts as powerful and dramatic performers, takes its name from the legendary ancient Greek hero who was endowed with superhuman musical skills that could move all living things, charm wild beasts, and even coax rocks and trees into movement. Selections by the greatest composers of the English Baroque—including Dowland, Gibbons, and Handel, among others—will present the unique artistry of the Academy Faculty in an enthralling showcase.

The 2017 Festival, running August 4-13, features Concerts that extol the Masterful Achievements of London's most Celebrated Baroque Composers. Annual performances of Bach's towering Mass in B Minor and a special program titled "Bach & Sons" complete the lineup of performances.

Venues:
St. Mark's Lutheran Church • 1111 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Conservatory of Music • 50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA

For full schedule and tickets, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival/Festival-Schedule.html

--American Bach Soloists

Mirror Visions Ensemble Announces 2017-2018 Season
Mirror Visions Ensemble (MVE) announces its 2017-2018 season, which brings the group to Hudson, Quebec; Jamaica Plain and Salem, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fullerton, California; Morristown, New Jersey; and New York City. Now in its 26th season, MVE was founded from a desire to explore the relationship between music and text, initially through the creation of "mirror visions" — settings of the same text to music by different composers. Featuring soprano, tenor, baritone and piano, often joined by other instrumentalists, Mirror Visions Ensemble artists include soprano Vira Slywotzky, tenor Scott Murphree, baritones Jesse Blumberg, and Mischa Bouvier, and pianists Grant Wenaus, and Margaret Kampmeier. Guest artists this season include sopranos Mireille Asselin and Justine Aronson, and mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis.

Monday, August 7, 2017 at 7:00pm
"Journeys" at Hudson Music Festival (Hudson, Quebec)

Friday, September 15, 2017 at 8:00pm
"Journeys" at JP Concerts (Jamaica Plain, MA)

Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 8:00pm
"Flights of Fantasy" at Media Performing Arts Series (Media, PA)

October 5 - 10, 2017
"Residency" at California State University Fullerton (Fullerton, CA)

Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 7:30pm
"Journeys" at Abendmusik (Morristown, NJ)

Friday, December 8, 2017 at 7:30pm
"When Icicles Hang by the Wall" at Salem Classical (Salem, MA)

Saturday, February 3, 2018 at 2:30pm
Of Beasts and Brutes at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Bruno Walter Auditorium (NYC)

Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 8:00pm
"Of Beasts and Brutes" at the Sheen Center (NYC)

For more information, visit www.mirrorvisions.org

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Only 20% of Seats Still Available for Bach's Mass in B Minor
ABS Academy Festival Orchestra & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

A cherished tradition, the annual performances of this pinnacle work of the repertory feature instrumental and vocal soloists from the American Bach Soloists Academy.

Sunday August 6 2017 at 7:00 p.m.
St. Mark's Lutheran Church
1111 O'Farrell Street between Gough & Franklin, San Francisco

Sunday August 13 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
(This performance is nearly sold out)
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
50 Oak Street between Van Ness & Franklin, San Francisco

For more information, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival/index.html

--American Bach Soloists

Verdi's La Traviata Comes to "Great Performances at the Met"
Sonya Yoncheva reprises her widely praised interpretation of the heroine Violetta Valéry in Verdi's La Traviata, on "Great Performances at the Met" Friday, August 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Michael Fabiano is her lover, Alfredo, Thomas Hampson, in one of his most acclaimed Met roles, returns as Alfredo's protective father, Giorgio Germont. San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts.

Visit "Great Performances" online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information on this and other Great Performances programs.

--Harry Forbes, WNET

Yo-Yo Ma Joins Philadelphia Orchestra for a PlayIN at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 9th
Cellists of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in a rare musical event that will allow them to play alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma as well as cellists from The Philadelphia Orchestra for a one-hour PlayIN event, taking place on August 9th at 1:30 p.m. at Saratoga Performing Arts Center's amphitheatre stage.

PlayINs are signature events for The Philadelphia Orchestra and this will be the first to be held at SPAC. They are part of the HEAR initiative, a portfolio of programs promoting the role of music in Health, Education, Access and Research. PlayINs have taken place regularly in Philadelphia since 2012 and are part of a full array of programs designed to promote access for people of all ages to experience orchestral music either as listeners or performers.

For more information on the PlayIN as well as a schedule of The Philadelphia Orchestra's SPAC programming, August 2 – 19, visit spac.org.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Bach: Violin Concertos (DVD review)

Also, Double Concerto; Air on the G-String. Takako Nishizaki and Alexander Jablokov, violins; Oliver Dohnanyi, Capella Istropolitana. Naxos DVD 0991.

Labeled "A Naxos Musical Journey," this DVD music video from 2000 was among the first in a series of such productions from the company that had hitherto given us audio-only CDs.

But before I tell you what I think of the disc, let me make an introductory remark: A while ago I said to a friend that if it had not been for the advent of home-theater and surround sound, two-channel home stereo would be practically dead by now. What I was getting at was that in the old days a lot of people interested in music would sit in front of and between their two speakers and concentrate on the musical sounds coming at them. But I guess such people as we were, and still are, in a minority. From everyone I know come comments like, "How do you just sit and listen to music? Isn't that a little like meditation?" Most folks, it seems, attend to music while doing other things, sometimes not even in the same room with the music. So, for years even audiophiles would spend thousands of dollars on elaborate stereo setups and then hardly ever listen to them except, of course, to show them off to friends. Now that home theater has been with us for a good long time, people have a reason to listen attentively again. Namely, the movies they watch force them to sit in front of and often between their front speakers because that's where the TV is. And they no longer have to address the music alone; they have images to go with the sound. The world is happy.

Frankly, I still don't subscribe to this all-inclusive audiovisual theory, and I maintain two separate systems in my home: A two-channel stereo rig in the living room for music-only listening and a 7.1-channel surround-sound setup in a separate room for home theater viewing and listening. It is in this latter room that I auditioned the present crossover disc from DVD International and Naxos Records. Naturally, it combines music with pictures and does so in a relaxing audiovisual environment.

Takako Nishizaki
Although the music seems almost secondary to the imagery, for those interested Takako Nishizaki, Oliver Dohnanyi, and Capella Istropolitana present the Bach violin concertos in reasonably attentive if somewhat staid interpretations characteristic of the performances often recorded by Naxos. However, they are not the most lively, distinctive, or creative performances you'll find, meaning they are solid, middle-of-the-road readings, well matching the easygoing serenity of the visuals. The DVD's total running time is fifty-six minutes.

The disc offers an image in a 1.33:1 ratio, presenting a lovely pictorial survey of architecture and nature. The scenery is mostly from Italy--ancient Roman ruins, parks, palaces, interspersed with mountains, hills, valleys, vineyards, seas, bays, and such. The picture quality looks warm and inviting, sometimes quite beautiful. It sometimes looks very slightly blurred, too, but nothing to worry about, and there were a couple of instances of fluttering horizontal lines.

The audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby 2.0, and DTS. In DD 5.1, the sound, recorded in 1989, is pleasant, a bit bright on my system but easily tamed, with a couple of occasional, extraneous bass rumblings. The rear channels hardly come alive, adding only a subtle ambiance appropriate to music reproduction. In any case, with music the listener should not actually notice the back speakers at all unless they're turned off. This is not an action movie we're listening to. Also, there is no narration on the disc, thankfully, just music and pictures, and an easy-to-use menu system allowing one to navigate quickly through the musical selections or the written travel notes. There is also an option to repeat certain chapters or play them randomly.

Now, I have to be perfectly frank with you here in saying that I found all the imagery superfluous.  Personally, I would still rather listen to a more imaginative interpretation of Bach by, say, Kuijken and La Petite Bande, Menuhin and the Bath Festival Orchestra, Grumiaux and the New Philharmonia, or Lamon and Tafelmusik than these. Then, closing my eyes and listening only, I can use my imagination to envision whatever I choose without the distracting pictures. OK, as I said before, I know I'm in a minority here.

JJP

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


Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" (CD review)

Sir John Barbirolli, BBC Symphony Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

It is seldom that I remember just where or how I first learned about a particular recording. Most of the time, it's something a studio has sent me for review. But when something like Sir John Barbirolli's 1967 EMI recording of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony found its way into my collection some forty-odd years ago, it's a different story: I recall exactly the way I learned about this one. It was a 1973 book I still own called 101 Masterpieces of Music and Their Composers by announcer, commentator, and author Martin Bookspan (b. 1926). In the publication, Bookspan comments on various pieces of classical music and makes recommendations for specific recordings. For the Beethoven Third, he wrote, "...my own favorites among the many 'Eroica' recordings are the performances conducted by Barbirolli, Bernstein, and Schmidt-Isserstedt. Barbirolli's, in fact, is the finest 'Eroica' performance I have ever heard, on or off records; it is noble, visionary and truly heroic, with playing and recorded sound to match. The performance has lost none of its power and impact with the passage of time. If anything, its stature has grown as far as I'm concerned."

High praise, indeed, from a man who knew music well, and the recording has remained high in my own regard all these many years. So it is with open arms and welcome ears that I find it remastered yet again, this time by the estimable team of engineers at HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers).

Anyway, Beethoven originally wrote his Symphony No. 3 "Eroica" in 1804 in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom the composer greatly admired. However, just before Beethoven premiered the piece in 1805, he learned that Bonaparte had declared himself "Emperor," corrupting the ideals of the French Revolution, so he removed the man's name from the manuscript, inscribing it, instead, "to celebrate the memory of a great man." More important, the Third marked a turning point in Beethoven's artistic output, with its daring length, range, and emotional commitment, marking something of a new beginning in the development of symphonic structure and prompting endless discussions among critics about what it all meant.

Sir John Barbirolli
What it meant to Sir John, apparently, was something a bit kinder and gentler than it has meant to some other conductors. Barbirolli approached the work with a greater affection than many other conductors, offering up music of urgency and emotion, to be sure, but of resplendent love, stately nuances, and sublime caresses as well. It's not the kind of performance that sets the blood to boil, but it is a performance that is hard for one not to find appealing.

Take, for instance, those opening strokes that introduce us to Beethoven's vision of the emperor. With many conductors, the notes sound sharp and concise; with Barbirolli, they sound mellower, more resigned. It's as though the conductor wants us to know at the outset that this is going to be a more benign, more humane interpretation than you've probably heard before. The second-movement funeral march is more leisurely than most, too. Rather than bring out the stateliness of the music, Barbirolli chooses to bring out the beauty. By the time of the Scherzo, though, the conductor has picked up more steam and seems to want us to pay closer attention to details. Then we get a reasonably driving Finale, still not taken at a hectic pace but with a reassuringly triumphant conclusion.

So, Barbirolli's account of the symphony is more lyrical, more musical, more sensitive than we usually hear. Add to this a wonderfully alert response from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and you get possibly the most poetic account of the music you're likely to find. This was among the final recordings Barbirolli made, and it has an appropriately autumnal glow about it, with Sir John lingering over individual phrases as was his wont in later life. If the whole thing hasn't the tautness one cares for, well, that was his way. The performance is still well worth hearing.

Producer Ronald Kinloch Anderson and engineer Neville Boyling recorded the music for EMI in No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London in May 1967. In the years since EMI released it, the recording has appeared in several different forms and formats from LP and tape to CD. As of this writing, one can obtain it from Dutton Laboratories, who remastered it in 1997, and from HDTT, who transferred it from a four-track tape in 2017.

First, let me say that the Dutton remastering is quite good, and, in fact, for overall clarity it actually surpasses the newer HDTT product. That said, there is an argument for the smoother, warmer sound from HDTT. Namely, it rather flatters Barbirolli's overall design. Both versions provide plenty of dynamic range and a fairly quiet background. In the end, it may be one's choice of price or playback format that determines which edition to buy. They're both quite good, as I say.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, July 22, 2017

ICE Performs Summer Events in NYC Presented by Lincoln Center

From July 28, 2017 - August 14, 2017, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will perform in five summer events presented by Lincoln Center's "Out of Doors" and "Mostly Mozart" Festivals.

On Friday, July 28 at 7pm, ICE will perform Heart of Tones: A Tribute to Pauline Oliveros, a free Lincoln Center "Out of Doors" concert honoring the memory and legacy of long-time ICE mentor Pauline Oliveros.

Part of Lincoln Center's "Mostly Mozart Festival," ICE performs another free concert, "Schubertiade Remix," at the David Rubenstein Atrium on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 7:30pm. In the festive spirit of Schubert's famous musical soirées, artists from New York's eclectic music scene will present an evening of radical contemporary responses to Schubert's songs.

In two highly anticipated "Mostly Mozart" performances on Saturday, August 12 at 7:30pm and Sunday, August 13 at 5pm, ICE performs Netia Jones's "enthralling" (The Daily Telegraph) theatrical production of Hans Zender's adaptation of Schubert's Winterreise, The Dark Mirror: Zender's Winterreise, at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. ICE will be joined by tenor Ian Bostridge -- one of today's foremost interpreters of Winterreise -- and conductor Baldur Brönnimann in his "Mostly Mozart" Festival debut to bring Schubert's poignant song cycle about lost love to life through the contemporary orchestrations and Jones' stunning monochrome imagery.

ICE's final "Mostly Mozart" concert of the summer is How Forests Think, a contemporary interpretation of the temple of nature in which Schubert and his fellow Romantics worshipped, on Monday, August 14, 2017 at 7:30pm at Merkin Concert Hall.

For complete information, visit https://iceorg.org/

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Szymon Laks, a Pole Apart: The Remarkable Music of Auschwitz Survivor Szymon Laks
Born into an assimilated Jewish family in 1901, Laks left his native Warsaw and settled in Paris in the early 1920s. He soon established himself as a versatile pianist and violinist and, by the the end of the decade, a published composer. When he was deported to Auschwitz Birkenau in the summer of 1942, these musical gifts, a fluency in six languages and an intuitive resourcefulness served him well. Shortly after his arrival, a chance game of bridge introduced Laks to a barracks Kapo who arranged his transfer to the violin section of the camp orchestra. This led to work as a copyist and arranger, and finally to the position of conductor. His extraordinary story and his survival is recounted in his memoir Music of Another World, published shortly after the war.

Laks's view of music as powerless to effect change and irrelevant to the quality of prisoners' lives, capsizes assumptions that credit music with an intrinsic goodness or redemptive power, and this is something that many continue to find troubling. Laks did little to promote his music after the war and his survival left him depressed and reclusive; he stopped composing in the late 1960s and devoted himself entirely to translating and literary work. He died in Paris in 1986.

Laks's music has had to wait over three decades for the beginnings of a revival. It  is an extraordinary irony that as a survivor his works were marginalized, whereas those of his murdered colleagues are regularly performed on memorial programs. Laks's music is witty, elegant, beautifully crafted and full of rhythmic energy, and this is clearly evidenced by the ARC Ensemble's third recording in its series devoted to composers who were forced into exile by National Socialism. But Laks's music tells us very little of the composer's wartime experience, or the pressure that ultimately drove him from composition.

For more information, visit https://www.gramophone.co.uk/blog/gramophone-guest-blog/szymon-laks

-- Simon Wynberg, Artistic Director, ARC Ensemble

Tuomas Hiltunen Named General Director of Fort Worth Opera
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) today announced Tuomas Hiltunen as its new General Director. Joe Illick, currently the company's Music Director, has been named as Artistic Director. Hiltunen joins the Fort Worth Opera from the international Barenboim-Said Foundation where he most recently served as Director of Administration and Management. In this position, Hiltunen was instrumental in significantly growing the Foundation's endowment, advancing its brand, and developing and executing its business plans and strategies.

Born and educated in Finland, Hiltunen began his formal theater training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Columbia University. In the following years, he became a lecturer at Barnard College and joined Columbia University as the Director of the Finnish Studies Program where he taught Finnish language and culture courses. As a performer, Hiltunen has worked extensively in theater, opera, concerts, television, and film in Finland, England, and the United States. He has performed at the Metropolitan Opera with James Levine, Carnegie Hall with Hannu Lintu, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra with Neeme Järvi, and the New York Philharmonic with Joshua Gersen. He also appeared in the 2009 film Confessions of a Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher.

"I am honored to be part of the Fort Worth community and Fort Worth Opera. I would like to thank the association for giving me a chance to lead this fine organization in its mission toward excellence," said Hiltunen. "I am looking forward to sharing thrilling experiences of music and theater with the broader Fort Worth community, and to bringing in new and expanded audiences to share our passion for this ever-changing art form."

--Ryan Lathan, FW Opera

Call for Scores - Piano/Violin Works, Chamber Orchestra, and Choral Works
1. Piano, violin, and violin/piano duo works:San Francisco US, Prague CZ.
PARMA is now accepting score submissions for a new compilation of works for solo piano, two pianos, solo violin, and violin/piano duo. Sessions will be held in San Francisco US and Prague CZ with pianist Karolina Rojahn, violinist Vít Mužík, and pianist Lukáš Klánský. There is also the possibility of live performance of recorded works pending performer approval.

The compilation will include up to 60 minutes of music, we encourage submissions of pieces between 5-12 minutes in duration. Deadline for submissions is August 7, 2017. Please inquire regarding possibility of remote recording/rehearsal/performance via ISDN line.

2. Chamber orchestra: Chicago US, Zagreb HR.
PARMA is now accepting score submissions for a new compilation of works for chamber orchestra. Sessions in Chicago US will feature the Chicago Arts Orchestra under the baton of Javier Mendoza and sessions in Zagreb HR will feature the Croatian Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Miran Vaupotic. The album will include up to 50-60 minutes of music. Deadline for submissions is August 7, 2017.

3. Choral works – Philadelphia US, Prague CZ
PARMA is now accepting score submissions for a new compilation of choral works. Sessions in Philadelphia US will feature The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally, and sessions in Prague CZ will feature the Prague Mixed Choir, conducted by Jirí Petrdlík. The album will include up to 50-60 minutes of music. Deadline for submissions is August 7, 2017.

Click here to submit your score: submissions@parmarecordings.com

Click here to learn more about PARMA Recordings: http://www.parmarecordings.com/index.html

--PARMA Recordings

Arsht Center Debut with Miami Wagner Institute
For the first time in 30 years, the Miami Music Festival brings to life Wagner's Die Walküre, the composer's grand musical drama from the Ring Cycle. The Grammy Award-winning soprano Christine Brewer joins bass-baritone Alan Held – hailed as "one of opera's finest singing actors" with the Institute's extraordinary young professional artists, the 100 musicians of the MMF Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Michael Rossi in a staged performance at the Adrienne Arsht Knight Concert Hall.

Featuring:
Michael Rossi - Artistic Director Conductor
David Toulson - Director
Christine Brewer -Brünnhilde
Alan Held - Wotan

--Miami Music Festival

Today's Musical Anniversary
Three hundred years ago by the calendar, George Frideric Handel's inimitable "Water Music" was heard by hundreds of Londoners for the first time. Join the "ace baroque instrumentalists" (Opera News) of American Bach Soloists at our 2017 FESTIVAL & ACADEMY to celebrate the 300th anniversary of that legendary performance for King George I during an evening on the River Thames.

The 2017 Festival features Concerts that extol the Masterful Achievements of London's most Celebrated Baroque Composers. Annual performances of Bach's towering Mass in B Minor and a special program titled "Bach & Sons" complete the lineup of performances.

St. Mark's Lutheran Church • 1111 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA
Friday, August 4, 2017 - 8:00 P.M.
Saturday, August 5, 2017 - 8 P.M.

For tickets and further festival information, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival/Programs.html

--American Bach Soloists

Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin Comes to PBS's "Great Performances"
Anna Netrebko reprises one of her most acclaimed roles as Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky's opera, adapted from Pushkin's classic verse novel. Peter Mattei stars as the title character, who rejects Tatiana's love until it's too late.

Eugene Onegin airs on "Great Performances at the Met" Sunday, August 13 at 12 p.m. on PBS.

For more information, visit www.pbs.org/gperf

--Harry Forbes, WNET

The Wallis Extends Hershey Felder's "Our Great Tchaikovsky"
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts announced today the extension of the Los Angeles premiere engagement of actor and pianist Hershey Felder's "Our Great Tchaikovsky," which now runs through the closing matinee performance on Sunday, August 13 at 2pm. Directed by Felder collaborator Trevor Hay, Hershey Felder's "Our Great Tchaikovsky" is a time-bending tale of music, politics and one of the world's most beloved composers.

Single tickets are now available for $35-$100 at TheWallis.org/Felder. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit TheWallis.org, call 310.746.4000, or stop by in person at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Ticket Services located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Ticket prices subject to change.

--Sarah Jarvis, The Wallis

Composer/Librettist Fellowships Awarded for Two-Year Opera Training
AOP (American Opera Projects) and Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood have selected six composers and three librettists to receive fellowships for its upcoming ninth season of Composers & the Voice. The 2017-2019 season will train, and present new works from, composers Matthew Browne, Scott Ordway, Frances Pollock, Pamela Stein Lynde, Liliya Ugay, and Amber Vistein and librettists Laura Barati, Kim Davies, and Sokunthary Svay. The primary focus of Composers & the Voice is to give emerging composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage.

"The philosophy of Composers & the Voice since its beginning has been that by immersing composers and librettists in hands-on work with skilled singers and music directors, we empower them to create groundbreaking works that are true to each of their artistic languages," says Osgood. "Composers rarely have the opportunity to work with opera singers during their training, and C&V was designed to address this void. I could not be prouder of the commissions and premieres that have flowed from the alumni of C&V."

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (CD review)

Sir Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Warner Classics 7243 5 56972 2 6.

Controversy continues to swirl around Mahler's final, uncompleted Tenth Symphony, largely because of musical scholars trying to guess what the composer might have done with it had he lived long enough to finish it. Mahler did most of the score for his Tenth during the summer of 1910, leaving a complete skeleton of the piece before he died in 1911. He himself spoke of it as "a work fully prepared in the sketch." But a sketch is not a fully realized composition, and he would have probably done a good deal of revision before its premiere.

Whatever, Deryck Cooke prepared the performing edition of Mahler's draft used by Sir Simon Rattle on this disc, an edition Cooke did in collaboration with Berthold Goldschmidt, Colin Matthews, and David Matthews. EMI recorded the production live in 1999, and Warner Classics are now distributing it.

Under Maestro Rattle, the Tenth appears more a direct kin or continuation of the Ninth than ever. It begins in the same slow, eloquent, mystic way of the Ninth, then bursts into quintessential Mahler strife, its energy spent dying off into a long, pensive close. The second and fourth movements are typically bizarre Mahler Scherzos, sounding vaguely familiar yet distant. The brief, middle movement is reminiscent of the Fourth Symphony, and the Finale, starting with some mysterious drum strokes moves into a languorous melody, concluding with a great murmur of relief. The whole thing can seem at first glance like a distillation of all of Mahler's past symphonic heartaches, and there is no denying it is largely a solemn affair.

Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle recorded the work once before for EMI in the early Eighties with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. This newer interpretation has the advantage of Rattle's added maturity, and in a side-by-side comparison, the Berlin effort appears the slightly better bet. The conductor takes the slow movements a shade more leisurely, giving Mahler's sublime dramatic moments more time to breathe, and the scherzos are more intense than ever. Interestingly, while the overall timing of the new rendition is over a minute and a half longer, it fits snugly on a single disc. With the older version, released at the very beginning of the CD era, EMI spread it out over two discs and added the Brahms/Schoenberg Piano Quartet No. 1 as a coupling.

Producer Stephen Johns and engineer Mike Clements recorded the music live at the Philarmonie, Berlin in September 1999, a composite of several evenings' recordings. It is brighter and sharper at the high end than the older Bournemouth recording, and even though the audience is fairly quiet, there are noticeable instances of wheezing and breathing, perhaps from Rattle himself. EMI thankfully edited out any applause. One cannot doubt the orchestra is always a delight to hear, but the sound will not strike everyone as an improvement over the older disc.

For new-time buyers of the Tenth, this newer Rattle realization is a good choice. For those who already have a Tenth, especially Rattle's own earlier one, all things considered, the differences between those and this new one may not seem worth the expense. Still, there is no questioning that Rattle knows his Mahler, and the glamour and allure of the mighty Berlin Philharmonic prove hard to resist.

JJP

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


Cimarosa: Overtures, Vol. 4 (CD review)

Michael Halasz, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice. Naxos 8.573459.

The Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) was among the most prolific and in his day most popular composers of the late eighteenth century, probably as popular as Haydn and known to more people than Mozart. Still, life is sometimes unfair, and time has a way of making up for things. Mozart may have died penniless, but today it's obviously his music, not Cimarosa's, that most people recognize and prefer. Meanwhile, with the possible exception of his opera Il matrimonio segeteo, the listening public have largely relegated Cimarosa to the ranks of near obscurity.

Fortunately, the folks at Naxos have been trying their best to keep Cimarosa's name alive with among other things a series of overture recordings, this being the fourth volume and this time with Michael Halasz and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice.

The disc contains nine Cimarosa overtures for a total playing time of just over sixty-six minutes. Here's a rundown of the program:

I sdegni per amore
La finta frascatana
I tre amanti
Le donne rivali
I finti nobili
Il pittore parigino
L'amante combattuto dalle donne di punto, "La Biondolina"
Giunio Bruto
L'amor costante

Michael Halasz
Maestro Halasz's approach to the music sounds suitably refined and appropriately lively. While he doesn't seem quite as persuasively elegant as some conductors of scores from the Baroque or Classical eras (Marriner was among the heads of the class here), he does project a healthy respect for the music and presents the overtures stylishly enough. Also, while Halasz may not seem as exciting as some conductors, he generates a considerable amount of electricity when needed. These are neither hell-bent-for-leather races to the finish line nor staid, overly sedate interpretations. Halasz negotiates a steady, reasonable course that does full justice to the music, and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Pardubice, which numbers about thirty-five or so players, responds splendidly.

All of the overtures are colorful and spirited, but I couldn't help taking special pleasure from La finta frascatana ("The Fake Lady of Frascata"), which not only projects a vigorous mood but has segments of intense beauty, too. The booklet notes tell us that it was I tre amanti ("The Three Lovers") that established Cimarosa's name outside Naples, and one can certainly see why it became so well liked with its rhythmic charm and pleasant lilt. Still, it was the tragedy Giunio Bruto that Haydn most admired, and who conducted it at the Esterhazy court.

Producer Jiri Stilec and engineers Vaclav Roubal and Karel Soukenik recorded the disc at The House of Music, Pardubice, Czech Republic in October 2014. If you have a few of Naxos's better recordings already on your shelf, the sound of this one won't surprise you too much. It's smooth and rounded, almost of audiophile quality, well balanced, natural, nicely defined, and, most important, easy on the ear.

More specifically, the sound is a slight bit closer than usual for a Naxos production, yielding better than average detail and clarity. It also appears more dynamic than a lot of Naxos products, again probably because it's a little more close-up than normal for the company. In any case, as I said above, it sounds just about right for the type of music it's presenting and for a small chamber orchestra.

Overall, with its lustrous performances and high-quality sound, I'd have to say this is one of the best Naxos releases I've heard in while and should make my list of 2017 favorites.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, July 15, 2017

David Bernard and Park Avenue Chamber Symphony's "Inside Out" Season

Park Avenue Chamber Symphony Music Director David Bernard devotes the entire 2017/18 season to his popular and highly-innovative concert format.

"Hidden inside every classical concert is an experience that is as captivating as the most brilliant, immersive events produced today. And until now, audiences have been mostly limited to a distant, diluted experience that not only keeps the music at arm's length, but also blocks access to the incredible process of music-making that occurs in real time onstage," says David Bernard, music director of New York's Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (PACS). "We will be changing this on a broad scale by revamping our entire 2017-17 season to our 'InsideOut' format--bringing our entire audience onstage with the orchestra at all of our concerts. Sharing the thrilling experience that is usually only available to performers, audiences will not just hear great music, they will be surrounded and enveloped by it. It's an immersive experience that will blow their minds!"

A sold-out success in trials with PACS this past season, Bernard's "InsideOut" concert positions audience members in the precise configuration of the orchestra, in other words, they are sitting inside the sections as though they themselves might be musicians, and the orchestra retains its shape. As with other close-up/immersive productions, "InsideOut" is a premium event, one which Bernard compared to the effect of IMAX on cinema-goers or Immersive Theatre on audiences.

For complete information, visit http://chambersymphony.com/

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Hotchkiss Summer Piano Portals Program Celebrates Five Years
On July 22, 2017, the talented young students of the Hotchkiss School Summer Portals Piano Program will perform a fifth-anniversary gala performance in honor of Hotchkiss School former Chairman and Board Member Frederick Frank (class of 1950) and Mary Tanner Frank.

The concert features celebrated international pianists, Hotchkiss Piano Program Director Fabio Witkowski and Resident Piano Faculty Gisele Nacif Witkowski; joining them are the Fine Arts Quartet, described as a "powerhouse of American chamber music for more than six decades," (Washington Post) and with "tone… both beguilingly tangy and warm" (The Strad), comprised of violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Gil Sharon, and cellist Niklas Schmidt. The rich program includes Haydn's The Lark String Quartet in D Major, and Robert Schumann's E-flat Major Piano Quartet and E-flat Major Piano Quintet.

The Hotchkiss School recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and remains one of the most lauded educational institutions on the East Coast. For the past 15 years, the Summer Portals program, a nonprofit under the auspices of The Hotchkiss School, has offered highly intensive training to uniquely gifted and dedicated young students between 6th and 12th grades from around the world in a variety of specialized subjects, from DNA Science to Documentary Film, American Literature and Theater to Robotics, and beyond.

For more information, visit https://www.hotchkiss.org/our-school/summer-programs

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates Inc.

Mozart's Idomeneo Conducted by James Levine on "Great Performances at the Met" Sunday
Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts an extraordinary ensemble in Idomeneo, Mozart's early masterpiece of love and vengeance following the Trojan War on "Great Performances at the Met" Sunday, July 16 at 12 p.m. on PBS.

Tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role of the King of Crete, with mezzo-soprano Alice Coote in the trouser role of his noble son Idamante, soprano Elza van den Heever as Elettra, and soprano Nadine Sierra as Ilia.

For complete information, visit http://pressroom.pbs.org/Programs/g/GREAT-PERFORMANCES-AT-THE-MET/1107-Idomeneo

--Harry Forbes, WNET.org

New Opera About Steve Jobs by Mason Bates
From Saturday, July 22 – Friday, August 15, 2017, conductor Michael Christie will lead world premiere performances of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs composed by Mason Bates on a libretto by Mark Campbell, presented by Santa Fe Opera.

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, directed by Kevin Newbury, begins at a critical moment in Jobs' life and examines the people and experiences that shaped one of the most influential figures of our time: his father's mentorship, his devotion to Buddhism, his relationships, his rise and fall as a mogul, and finally his marriage to Laurene Jobs, who showed him the power of human connection. The role of Steve Jobs is sung by baritone Edward Parks, joined by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as his wife Laurene Powell, baritone Kelly Markgraf as his father Paul Jobs, bass Wei Wu as Kôbun Chino Otogawa, Jobs' spiritual advisor, and tenor Garrett Sorenson as Woz, his friend and business partner.

"It is a pleasure and an honor to be part of another phenomenally talented American composer's first opera," Christie says. "Mason is a true theater composer, blending voice, drama and his revelatory musical vision."

In the spirit of Steve Jobs' innovation in the tech industry, this production promises to push boundaries. Victoria "Vita" Tzykun, the production's scenic designer, explains, "The products and experiences that (Steve Jobs) dreamed up with his teams defied expectations and provided a sense of wonder. That sense of wonder is what is very important to us to capture in this production. In order to provide that for modern audiences, we are harnessing cutting edge technology, and fusing it with traditional stagecraft in a way that will create a world that has never yet been seen on an operatic stage."

For more information, visit Santa Fe Opera at www.santafeopera.org

--Christina Jensen, Jensen Artists

Resident Ensemble of Professional Opera Singers Selected for AOP Training Program
AOP (American Opera Projects) announces the six singers who will become its Resident Ensemble for the upcoming ninth season of its Composers & the Voice training program. Comprised of one each of the basic operatic/vocal categories, the singers for the 2015-16 season will be Coloratura Soprano Tookah Sapper, Lyric Soprano Jennifer Goode Cooper, Mezzo-Soprano Blythe Gaissert, Tenor Blake Friedman, Baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco and Bass Adrian Rosas.

The singers will spend a year working collaboratively with composers and librettists who have received fellowships to develop skills for writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. The Resident Ensemble was selected by Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood based on their superior technical and musical skills, as well as their commitment to developing and performing new works.

More information about the 2017-19 Composers & the Voice Series can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

--Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director

PBO's Le Temple de la Gloire Nominated for a BachTrack Opera Award
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's first fully-staged opera, Le Temple de la Gloire, has been nominated in Bachtrack's annual Opera Awards, in the category of Best Production Photograph.

PBO Photographer Frank Wing's photograph of Aaron Sheehan (as Apollo) and his muses was taken at the dress rehearsal and is one of six photographs nominated in this international category.

Frank Wing has been photographing PBO concerts and special events for more than a decade and we could not be more honored and proud to work with him.

For more information, visit https://bachtrack.com/bachtrack-opera-awards-2017-best-photograph.

--Marketing, Philharmonia Baroque

Summer Greetings from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra
As the concert season winds down for many of our colleagues, we look ahead to our annual residency at the Lucerne Festival, where we will be appearing in two guises: as the core of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and as the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

In the past few weeks, we performed with Artistic Advisor Daniele Gatti and violinist Christian Tetzlaff at the annual Dresden Music Festival before returning to Festival de Saint-Denis for the final concert of our residency. We travelled to Jerusalem, where we performed the chamber orchestra version of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde at the Israel Museum's See the Sounds Festival. Just last week, we were back at Rencontres Musicales d'Evian to pay tribute to longtime festival director, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, in a programme featuring conductor Gustavo Dudamel and cellist Edgar Moreau.

And the musical journey this summer continues. We look forward to seeing you in Lucerne – in the KKL for the LFO and MCO concerts, at Inseli for the livestream of the opening concert, or at the Vierwaldstättersee between rehearsals!

For complete information, visit http://www.mahlerchamber.com/

--Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo Signs to Decca Gold
Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo has signed to Universal Music Group's US-based classical label, Decca Gold. The first album of this new partnership will include arias by Handel and a diverse selection of works by Philip Glass. It is slated for release in the fall of 2018.

Anthony Roth Costanzo has been performing professionally since the age of 11 and has had a wide-ranging career appearing in opera, concert, recital, on Broadway, and in film. As his star continues to rise, he has established himself at the forefront of expanding the boundaries of classical music. His reputation for creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and bold repertoire choices have made him a unique force in the evolving musical landscape.

--Julia Casey, Verve Label Group/Decca Gold

Merola Grand Finale Aug. 19 at War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
The acclaimed Merola Opera Program, one of the most prestigious and selective opera training programs in the United States, concludes its 2017 Summer Festival and its 60th Anniversary Season with the Merola Grand Finale on Saturday, August 19 at 7:30 pm at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA.

Conductor Antony Walker will lead the orchestra and 2017 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Victoria Crutchfield will stage the program, featuring works by Donizetti, Massenet, Verdi, Rossini, Lehár, Berg, Boito, Thomas, Bizet, Mozart, Britten, and Handel. The performance is a culmination of the 12-week Merola Opera training program, and all 23 of the 2017 Merola singers will perform, under the coaching and direction of their fellow artists.

Tickets for the performance range from $25 to $50, with a limited number of $15 student tickets available, and are on sale at San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330, merola.org or www.sfopera.com. A special post-performance reception follows the Grand Finale (tickets sold separately).

--Jean Catino Shirk, Shirk Media

Utah Symphony's "Great American Road Trip"
Led by Music Director Thierry Fischer, the Utah Symphony tours the preserved lands of Utah's National Parks, State Parks, and National Monuments from August 29 to September 2, 2017, connecting with rural communities through free outdoor performances and educational activities that pay homage to the state's landscape and the country's Native American heritage.

Supported by Signature Sponsor the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, this "Great American Road Trip" includes three full orchestra concerts and three chamber performances. Mr. Fischer conducts symphonic works that complement the natural beauty of Utah, as well as music by Native American composer Brent Michael Davids, who performs in his own work as a wood flute soloist. The tour's educational outreach comprises in-school assemblies in each local area and pre-concert interactive presentations revolving around the role of wind in music making and regional topics in the natural sciences, while post-concert "star parties," hosted by local astronomy groups and park rangers, allow visitors to experience and learn about Utah's night sky. Utah Symphony's "Great American Road Trip" builds on the successes of the orchestra's 2014 Mighty 5 Tour and its collaboration with KUED on the 2015 Emmy Award-winning documentary National Park Symphony.

Tickets for all performances are free. Evening outdoor concerts with the full orchestra conducted by Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer will headline the tour. Attendance at each concert will be ticketed and free-of-charge.

Tickets will be available through the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera ticket office starting at 10:00 am on May 31 by calling (801) 533-6683. Based on availability, walk-up tickets on the night of each concert may be offered. Visit utahsymphony.org/tours/GART for more information on obtaining tickets for performances.

--Shuman Associates News

Vivaldi: Concerti con Titoli (CD review)

Fabio Biondi, Europa Galante. Virgin Veritas 7243-5-45424-2-8.

The diversity of these concertos for assorted instruments (Concerti con Titoli or "Concerts with Titles") contradicts the popular notion that Vivaldi wrote only countless variations of The Four Seasons. Each of the seven concertos presented here is brief, from just under six minutes to just over sixteen, but together they provide a well-rounded idea of the composer's creativity. None of the works is quite as descriptive as The Four Seasons, but each is highly dramatic and fairly evocative, nonetheless.

The opening piece, "L'inquietudine" (Anxiety), is in direct contrast to the penultimate piece on the agenda, "Il Riposo," both for violin and orchestra. The first is agitated and intense, the other sweet and spiritual. The second number, "Concerto funebre" for violin, oboe, chalumeau, viole, and orchestra, illustrates a procession to the gallows and is obviously quite somber in tone.

Fabio Biondi
The most familiar concerto is probably "La tempesta di mare" for recorder, oboe, bassoon, violin, and orchestra, a follow-up to The Four Seasons and describing a boat in a storm. The centerpiece of the program is the six-movement concerto for recorder and orchestra, "La  notte," a wonderfully evocative representation of night and a journey to the netherworld. "Per eco in lontano" for two violins is the longest work included, about sixteen minutes or so, with groups of instruments located in different places. The disc concludes with Concerto RV 531 for two cellos and orchestra, an encounter between the two solo instruments that is quite theatrical.

As always, Fabio Biondi and his period-instrument ensemble Europa Galante play every fast part at a hell-bent-for-leather speed. This style has made Biondi quite popular among some folks in the historically informed segment of the musical world, and it does, indeed, create some invigorating and highly exciting moments. It also gets old really fast. Fortunately, Biondi and his players perform most of the slow sections gracefully and poetically, emphasizing strongly all the contrasts available.

Erato/Virgin Veritas provided Biondi and company with reasonably good, naturally balanced sound for this year 2000 release, sound that does fair justice to the music. However, a quick comparison check against several of my favored Vivaldi recordings--one done on modern instruments by I Solisti Italiani on Denon and the other by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on their own label--shows the latter two capturing a more detailed and better-imaged sound stage.

In any case, if you are in the mood for some varied and dramatic Baroque, the Biondi disc fills the request nicely.

JJP

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


R. Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (CD review)

Also, Don Juan; Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche. Herman Krebbers, violin; Bernard Haitink, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam. Philips UCCP-7034 (Japan).

When Philips released this recording in the early 1970's with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra doing Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, it was about the same time DG released their recording of Zarathustra by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. I suppose one can forgive listeners in the day for going for the Karajan disc and rather forgetting about the Haitink. Karajan was, after all, probably the most-popular conductor in the world back then, producing glamorous music with a glamorous orchestra. Besides, it was Karajan who had brought new life to the score with his earlier, Vienna recording of the score for Decca when Stanley Kubrick featured it in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Still and all, it was the Haitink recording I found more involving, equally well performed, and better recorded; and it remains a favorite of mine to this day.

German composer and conductor Richard Strauss (1864-1949) wrote Also Sprach Zarathustra in 1896, his inspiration for the symphonic poem a philosophical novel by the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche. Strauss divided his score into nine segments, naming the sections after various chapters of Nietzsche's book.

However, the listener should not put too much stock in the literal meanings of the music but instead enjoy each section for its figurative spirit. In fact, Strauss himself, whom some people criticized at the time for trying to put Nietzsche's philosophy into music, said, "I did not intend to write philosophical music, or to portray in music Nietzsche's great work. I meant to convey by means of music an idea of the development of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of its evolution, religious and scientific, up to Nietzsche's idea of the superman. The whole symphonic poem is intended as my homage to the genius of Nietzsche, which found its greatest exemplification in his book, Thus Spake Zarathustra." In other words, one should enjoy the music for itself and not as some sort of musical distillation of Nietzsche's ideas.

Anyway, the nine sections are "Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang" (Introduction, or Sunrise); "Von den Hinterweltlern" (Of Those in Backwaters); "Von der großen Sehnsucht" (Of the Great Longing); "Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften" (Of Joys and Passions); "Das Grablied" (The Song of the Grave); "Von der Wissenschaft" (Of Science and Learning); "Der Genesende" (The Convalescent); "Das Tanzlied" (The Dance Song); and "Nachtwandlerlied" (Song of the Night Wanderer).

And what does Haitink do with the music? He brings to it the same straightforward, unfussy approach he always does, an approach that has served him well for a remarkably long time. It is an approach that serves the music above all, with none of the grand gestures of a Karajan yet with an endearing and engaging simplicity that puts the score foremost. And as well as the Berlin Philharmonic played for Karajan, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra matched them in refinement, richness, sonority, and precision.

Haitink takes us gracefully from one extreme to the next, from the gentlest, most tender moments to the most massive of climaxes. It all sounds beautifully nuanced under this conductor--nothing forced and nothing left to chance. Even the "Science and Learning" section, which I find the least interesting, comes off with a greater degree of lyric passion with Haitink than with most anyone else, and there's a wonderful lilt in the dance number that follows. And so it goes.

Bernard Haitink
Maestro Haitink handles the couplings well, too, with plenty of flair but little of the sloppy melodrama we hear from some other conductors. Don Juan carries all the swagger you could want and reminds us again where Erich Wolfgang Korngold and John Williams probably got their inspiration, while Till Eulenspiegel maintains a playfully heady demeanor throughout.

Philips recorded Zarathustra and Don Juan in April 1973, and Till Eulenspiegel in December 1982, all three at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Although the recordings are still available on the now-defunct Philips label in a two-disc collection (442-281-2), the recording I reviewed was a single disc from Philips Japan, reissued in 2005. What's more, from what I understand, Decca Records have also rereleased the recordings on a single disc under their own label.

For me, the Seventies were a kind of Golden Age in recording, a bit like the Fifties with RCA "Living Stereo" and Mercury "Living Presence" but in the later decade with EMI and Philips. In the Seventies, while the folks at EMI were recording Andre Previn and the London Symphony and Louis Fremaux and the City of Birmingham Symphony with excellent transparency, balance, and range, the Philips engineers were recording Haitink and the Concertgebouw with a wonderful sense of ambience, depth, and spaciousness. The present recording displays these latter qualities to fine advantage, the Concertgebouw ensemble never sounding richer or more resplendent.

The sound has an all-enveloping sense of place, as though home listeners were actually in the concert hall with the orchestra. Yet there is never any distracting resonance or reverberation, just a natural, realistic response, with enough detail to satisfy the most-demanding audiophile. There is never any brightness, forwardness, or edginess; nor is there any undue softness to the sound. All of it, in fact, is nigh-well perfect, the excellence of the sonics complementing the excellence of the performance.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, July 8, 2017

Music Institute of Chicago Announces 2017-18 Season

Ella Fitzgerald Tribute, Pinchas Zukerman Trio, Trio Settecento, the Music Institute Faculty, and the Minnesota Orchestra's Erin Keefe are among the season highlights.

The Music Institute of Chicago announced the 2017-18 season of its Faculty and Guest Artist Series, featuring the Music Institute's renowned faculty and an array of stellar guest artists. All concerts take place at the historic Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston, Illinois.

Opening Night: "Sonic Youth"
Saturday, September 23, 7:30 p.m.

Ella Fitzgerald Centennial Concert
Saturday, November 11, 7:30 p.m.

Family Concert: Duke It Out!
Saturday, December 9, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
General admission: $7

Trio Settecento
Sunday, February 18, 3 p.m.
Rachel Barton Pine, baroque violin, viola d'amore; John Mark Rozendaal, viola da gamba, baroque cello; David Schrader, harpsichord, positiv organ

Academy Orchestra with Erin Keefe
Saturday, May 19, 7:30 p.m.

Zukerman Trio
Pinchas Zukerman, violin; Amanda Forsyth, cello; Angela Cheng, piano?
Sunday, May 20, 3 p.m.

All performances take place at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Tickets, except where noted, are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available online or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change.

For complete information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Festival Mozaic Kicks Off This Month
The Festival brings talented musicians from around the country to beautiful San Luis Obispo, CA. See players from the Cleveland Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and many more, brought together by Music Director Scott Yoo.

These musicians will play in Chamber Music,  Orchestra, Fringe events and free Midday Mini-Concerts. Join us! This constellation of stars arrives in San Luis Obispo in just two short weeks...don't miss the heavenly music!

For complete information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/summer-festival

--Katy E., Festival Mozaic

Orion Celebrates 25th Season
The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, celebrates 25 years of chamber music performance with four concert programs welcoming respected guest musicians who will join Orion's three founding members--clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu and pianist Diana Schmück--along with longtime cellist Judy Stone. The season features a 25th anniversary world premiere and several favorite Orion works from past seasons.

"We are grateful to our loyal audiences and the thousands of people our music has touched in Chicago and across the country," said Pirtle. "Throughout the years, we have had the opportunity and joy of sharing our stage with some of the finest artists in music, dance, poetry and visual arts. We are particularly proud of greatly expanding the repertoire for our instrumentation by inspiring and commissioning many composers." Ramniceanu added, "We are blessed to have made music together for 25 years, growing into the chamber music family we are today. The generosity and support of our funders and patrons has inspired us to do more for our community and reach for the stars. We are looking forward to continuing for many years as we share our love of music."

The Orion Ensemble performs its 2017-18 concert programs at three Chicago-area venues: the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, September 27, November 8, March 7 and May 23 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, October 1, November 12, March 11 and May 27 at 7:30 p.m.; and First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church, 2300 South Street in Geneva on Sundays, September 24, November 5, March 4 and May 13 at 7 p.m.

Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

World Premiere of a Work by Richard Strauss
On July 15 at 4 p.m., Shani Diluka will play the world premiere of a piano piece by Richard Strauss at the Markus Sittikus Hall, Austria. The short "Nocturno" was composed as a part of the "Stimmungsbilder" op. 9 (finished in 1884), but eventually not included by Strauss in the printed edition. The piece was thought lost until, recently, Berlin-based antiques dealer Rainer Schlicht managed to obtain the manuscript. The Strauss family has kindly given their consent to the first public performance of the piece at the Schubertiade.

Also, due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts, the lieder recital with Anna Lucia Richter and Sir András Schiff on August 31, 2018 cannot take place. Instead, Sir András Schiff will perform a solo recital.

For complete information, visit http://www.schubertiade.at/

--Schubertiade in Hohenems 2017

Pentatone Announces Long-Term Partnership with Vladimir Jurowski
Pentatone announced the signature of a long-term, multi-album agreement with Vladimir Jurowski, one of the leading conductors of his generation.

"Vladimir Jurowski delivers an absolutely stunning account that vividly captures the work's drama and emotional intensity" – BBC Music Magazine on Schnittke's 3rd Symphony

The Russian-born maestro will helm a new complete cycle of the symphonies of Sergei Prokofiev with his Moscow-based State Academic Symphony Orchestra, the first installment of which will feature Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 and is slated for release in November this year. Both the original and revised versions of Symphony No. 4 will follow in 2018. In addition to this major undertaking, Tchaikovsky's complete ballet Swan Lake will be captured with the same forces and released during next year.

Jurowski, who becomes Chief Conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) in September, will also conduct the orchestra on two new releases marking the beginning of his tenure in the German capital: Mahler's rarely recorded tone poem Totenfeier (the original version of the first movement of the composer's Second Symphony) and Strauss' famous Also sprach Zarathustra will come out that same month, while Britten and Hindemith violin concertos with Arabella Steinbacher's revelatory take on the two seminal works of the 20th-century , will come out in October.

--Silvia Pietrosanti, Pentatone

Michael Stern Replaces Gianandrea Noseda in Aug. 1 Ravinia Concert
Michael Stern has graciously agreed to step in as conductor for Ravinia's Aug. 1, 2017, concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and pianist Simon Trpceski. He replaces Maestro Gianandrea Noseda, who is recovering from surgery. The program on Aug. 1 will remain as scheduled, featuring works by Smetana, Strauss, Rachmaninoff and Ravel.

Stern's most recent appearance at Ravinia was with Joshua Bell and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Summer Festival Orchestra, celebrating the 100th anniversary of IU's music department in 2011. Stern, the son of legendary violinist Isaac Stern, has guest conducted and held titled positions with orchestras throughout Europe and the US, most recently as music director of the Kansas City Symphony, now beautifully housed in Moshe Safdie's Kauffman Center, one of the most acclaimed theaters in the world.

For complete information on the Ravinia Festival, visit https://www.ravinia.org/

--Allie Brightwell, Press Ravinia

The Toscanini Wars
No maestro was more revered--or more reviled. On the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his birth, it's time to give him a fair hearing.

To read the article, visit http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/10/the-toscanini-wars

To read a list of some of Toscanini's greatest recordings, visit http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/toscaninis-greatest-recorded-performances

--David Denby, The New Yorker

Fort Worth Opera Announces Formation of the FWOpera National Artistic Council
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) announced today the creation of the Fort Worth Opera National Artistic Council. Led by international opera star Plácido Domingo, this distinguished advisory council, composed of renowned artists, classical musicians, and directors, will provide ongoing support and guidance to FWOpera regarding artistic endeavors and educational programs that impact the city of Fort Worth. This extraordinary ensemble of creative minds and operatic entrepreneurs will keep FWOpera informed of larger trends within the opera world, as the company embarks upon its 72nd year and writes its next great chapter.

The Council is designed to establish a long-term relationship with FWOpera, and it will become an integral part of its foundation going forward. Members will make recommendations about singers and repertoire in conjunction with the vision of the company's General Director and its staff. They will receive and evaluate input from the Fort Worth community, acting as a liaison to other professionals in the opera field on behalf of the organization. The Council will also serve as a resource and advocate for the opera company, and will assist in crafting long-range strategic plans for Fort Worth Opera in conjunction with current initiatives, like the company's bold, 4-year celebration of Spanish language operas, Latino culture and heritage, Noches de Ópera.

The formation of the Council arrives in the second month of FWOpera's pivotal, summer-long campaign, FWOpera FOREWORD, which was recently launched to secure the legacy of the oldest opera company in the state of Texas, and celebrate the rich stories, history, and cultural vibrancy of Fort Worth. Maestro Domingo encourages the public to give generously as the company moves forward. To share your stories of the city and join Fort Worth Opera in writing the next great chapter of the company's future, donate today by calling 817.288.1212 or go online at www.fwforeword.org.

--Ryan Lathan, Fort Worth Opera

A Very Busy Summer for Young People's Chorus
The Young People's Chorus of New York City's choristers and staff have begun a whirlwind of activity that will continue throughout the summer. They returned from Finland in June, and now 80 YPC choristers leave for Barcelona, Spain.

July 11 - July 16: Barcelona, Spain
YPC's first stop in Barcelona will be a performance at the world famous Palau de la Musica Catalana, listed as a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO. Next, YPC will participate in the Festival Internacional de Música de Cantonigròs, an international festival with performances and competitions with other choruses from all over the world.

The summer is far from over. Stay tuned for many more YPC performances, such as our Mostly Mozart debut on July 25 and 26. Learn more and get tickets at http://lincolncenter.org/mostly-mozart/show/the-singing-heart

--Young People's Chorus of NYC

PostClassical Ensemble Named Ensemble in Residence at Washington National Cathedral
Washington, D.C.'s intrepid classical music group, PostClassical Ensemble, with Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez and Executive Director Joseph Horowitz, has been named ensemble in residence at the Washington National Cathedral. The partnership provides PCE, a distinguished "experimental orchestral laboratory" for classical music programming, with its first dedicated performance space since its founding in 2003.

A benchmark for the pioneering classical music ensemble, the partnership is also a shift toward decidedly contemporary programming for the Cathedral.

PCE and the Cathedral will explore music in historic and social contexts, and in their inaugural season will present musical responses to World War II, music of the "cultural Cold War" between the United States and Soviet Union, and the legacy of African American composer/singer Harry Burleigh. Concerts will align with exhibitions and public lectures, to deepen the experience for patrons.

--Mike Fila, BuckleSweet Media

Nexyt @ AOP: Free Pop-Up Opera in the Park
At American Opera Projects, free opera is a walk in the park the next two weekends.

7/8 @ Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park 11am - 12:30pm:
AOP presents free pop-up opera with tenor Bernard Holcomb and The Walt Whitman Project at the Fort Greene Park Conservancy's Walt Whitman Walking Tour. Tour begins at Visitor Center.  RSVP HERE

7/15 @ Governors Island 1pm:
AOP's free pop up opera with baritone Jorell Williams and  Greg Trupiano for The Walt Whitman Project at the yellow house, 4-B Nolan Park by the Manhattan ferry landing on Governors Island. More Walt Whitman events noon to 4.

7/15 @ Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park 11am - 12:30pm:
AOP has more free pop-up opera with the Fort Greene Park Conservancy's and Myrtle Avenue Downtown Partnerships' Wallabout Historic Walking tour, featuring soprano Adrienne Danrich with Ron Janoff. Tour begins at the Visitor Center.


Complete information and event calendar at www.aopopera.org

--Matt Gray, American Opera Projects

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