Rachmaninoff: Vocalise (CD review)

Various vocalists, conductors, and orchestras. RCA 09026-63669-2.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (or Rachmaninov) wrote fourteen songs in 1912, published as his Op. 34. The concluding song has no words; titled simply "Vocalise" it has come down to us as probably the best known piece in the set. While it has no really catchy melody, it possesses a hauntingly beautiful charm that has been interpreted and transcribed many times over for solo voice, solo instruments of every kind, chorus, and full orchestra.

So, some years ago RCA went through their archives pulling as many different versions as they could find and collected them on this disc. The result is not so much an album one might enjoy straight through as it is a disc from which to play favored choices. If your player has a memory chip for favorites, this is a CD to program permanently.

The selections range in recording date from 1929 through 1995, with no particular order except possibly the reissue producer's personal preference.

The disc begins with Anna Moffo's vocal rendition with the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski (1964). It is perhaps the highlight of the collection and deserves its number-one billing.

Anna Moffo
Among the purely orchestral versions, Rachmaninoff's own with the Philadelphia Orchestra carries the stamp of authority in spite of its early, 1929 sonics. Morton Gould's rendering with his own orchestra (1960) is the most dreamily romantic of the lot. Then we find Yuri Termirkanov's interpretation with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (1991) the best recorded.

Among solo instrumentalists, James Galway's flute transcription with Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic carries the day (1976). It is seductively airy and lilting. The Norman Luboff Choir do a big-scale production number (1961) of the piece. Next, Wolfram Huschke and Dieter Huschke perform an intimate cello and piano duet arrangement (1995), and Vladimir Spivakov and Sergei Bezrodny do a violin and piano arrangement (1991) that make nice contrasts.

Among the oddities are a lovely account of the score by countertenor Brian Asawa and a bizarre one by Isao Tomita and the Plasma Symphony Orchestra (1964) that sounds exactly as you would imagine. Evgeny Kissin plays a piano arrangement (1993), and Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin do a piano duet (1940).

The collection ends appropriately with a final solo voice, Ruth Ann Swenson, accompanied by Warren Jones on piano (1994).

Among purely orchestral versions I still prefer Previn (EMI) or Stokowski (EMI), but this unique array of realizations from RCA gives us some idea just how good Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" actually is. If you can't find something to like here, you're maybe not a real music lover.

JJP

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


Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra (SACD review)

Also, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Rafael Kubelik; Seiji Ozawa; Boston Symphony Orchestra. Pentatone PTC 5186 247.

The Seventies were interesting times in the classical music world. It was still the age of analogue, and we hadn't yet heard the arguments over whether analogue or digital sounded better. Some of the finest music and best sound were coming from EMI's recordings with the London Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic. And, then, there was Quadraphonic. Of course, for most of us, Quad came and went quickly, mostly with a few LP's from RCA that didn't sound particularly good in straight two-channel stereo. What most of us didn't know back then was that DG and Philips also dabbled in Quad recording but just never released much (or anything) in the format. And that's where Pentatone comes in. They are seeking out and remastering albums originally done in Quad and reproducing them in hybrid SACD (two-channel and multichannel, with another two-channel that one can play on a regular CD player). The present Bartok disc from Pentatone (1973 and 1976 DG recordings) is just such an album, sounding a lot better than it might have from a scratchy LP over forty years ago.

The first thing on the program is the Concerto for Orchestra by Hungarian composer and pianist Bela Bartok (1881-1945), performed in a 1973 DG recording by the Czech conductor and composer Rafael Kubelik and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Bartok wrote the piece at the end of his career, and it has since become one of his most-popular and most-accessible compositions. Bartok premiered the work in 1944 with Serge Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony, so presumably the orchestra was well up on performing it. However, the title is something of a misnomer because the music's form doesn't resemble a traditional concerto at all. Bartok's Concerto is in five movements instead of three, and it involves no solo instruments. Bartok said he gave it the title "concerto" because of the way the score treats each section of instruments in "a soloistic and virtuosic way." Fair enough.

Rafael Kubelik
Maestro Kubelik's manner with Bartok is a tad gentler than some listeners may be accustomed to. He doesn't project as clean and precise an image as, say, Reiner (RCA) or as powerful and driving a force as Solti (Decca, in either of his stereo recordings). As Bartok was ill at the time he wrote the music, perhaps Kubelik's interpretation of it is a nod toward that affliction that would shortly end the composer's life. Nevertheless, under Kubelik the score is vigorous enough, sorrowful enough, introspective enough, and emotionally assertive enough to provide a more-than-moving testament to Bartok's genius, with the Boston players fully behind it.

The coupling on the disc is Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, which the composer wrote in 1936 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the chamber orchestra Basler Kammerorchester. Audiences today may know the music best for its inclusion in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining, as well as Spike Jonze's 1999 film Being John Malkovich. The score is in concertante form, that is, with orchestral support for extended solo parts, although we really don't hear the solo instruments until the second of the four movements. The composer had also by 1936 been experimenting with European folk melodies and "arch" forms (mirrorlike sequences of ideas building in one direction to an arch and then reversing in the second half). We hear it all in Music for Strings, this time in a 1976 recording with Seiji Ozawa leading the Boston Symphony.

Maestro Ozawa takes a more literal view of the music than some other conductors. (I'm still rather fond of Ormandy's EMI account, oddly, perhaps, given Ormandy's own penchant for taking music at face value.) I don't hear in Ozawa quite the dramatic stress or underlying sense of suspense, tension and release that I do with Ormandy (or Solti). However, Ozawa does a fairly good job evoking Bartok's ethereal atmosphere (that "unreal sound world" that conductor Ferenc Fricsay once called it). We'll just have to leave the ultimate mystery of the piece for other conductors to convey.

Pentatone include a matching slipcover with the disc as well as a highly informative booklet insert.

Producers Klaus Behrens, Wolf-Dieter Karwatky, and Hans Weber and engineer Heinz Wildhagen recorded the Concerto in Quadraphonic at Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts in 1973. Producer Rainer Brock and engineer Klaus Hiemann recorded the Music for Strings in Quadraphonic at Symphony Hall in 1976. Polyhymnia International B.V. remastered the album for SACD hybrid stereo/multichannel playback in 2017. I listened in the SACD two-channel stereo mode.

The newly remastered sound in the Concerto is both warm and full, with excellent depth of image and wide dynamics. The upper midrange sounds at times a bit screechy, but that's part of the music's charm. The strings are also a tad compartmentalized, so the overall sonic picture one gets is not entirely realistic. Still, it's more than satisfying. The Music for Strings sounds a little better balanced, with no part of the frequency response shouting at us, and it, too, has a good depth of field and plenty of dynamic range.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, August 26, 2017

Orion Hosts 25th Anniversary Benefit Oct. 7

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, celebrates its 25th anniversary with a benefit performance and party Saturday, October 7 at 12 noon at Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, Illinois. Proceeds will help support Orion's performances and outreach efforts to young musicians.

The event features a special concert by Orion in the intimate setting of the historic Dunham Woods Riding Club, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. After the performance, guests enjoy lunch and mingle and chat with the musicians. This event offers Orion fans an extra chance to enjoy the Ensemble's music while supporting its work.

Orion's 25th anniversary season features four concert programs, all welcoming guest violist Stephen Boe: "A Beautiful Oboe and Friends," also featuring guests Alex Klein, oboe, and Robert Kassinger, bass, on a program of Mozart, Prokofiev and Schubert, in September and October; "Let's Tango," featuring works by Bernstein, von Dohnanyi, Horn and Schumann, in November; "Old Meets New," highlighted by a world premiere in honor of the 25th anniversary by Sebastian Huydts, along with works by Bruch, Klein and Fauré, in March; and "Quintessential Quintets," with additional guest artist violinist Mathias Tacke performing on a program including Weber, Gershwin and Dvorák, in May. Each concert program takes place at three locations: Geneva, Evanston and downtown Chicago, Il.

The Orion Ensemble's benefit takes place Saturday, October 7 at 12 noon at Dunham Woods Riding Club, 33w333 Army Trail, Wayne, Illinois. The requested donation is $75. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

--Jill Chukerman, The Orion Ensemble

PBO Opens Season with U.S. Premiere of Co-Commission with OAE
Two of the world's leading period instrument orchestras have joined forces to commission a provocative new passion by Scottish composer Sally Beamish and librettist David Harsent. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale and London's Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE)---the UK's premier period instrument orchestra---co-commissioned "The Judas Passion" to be written specifically for period instruments. OAE will perform the world premiere in the U.K. September 24 and 25 with PBO music director Nicholas McGegan at the podium. McGegan then returns to the Bay Area to open PBO's 2017/18 season with the U.S. premiere of "The Judas Passion" October 4-8 in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Berkeley.

A few years ago, at a kitchen table in Scotland, Nicholas McGegan and composer and friend Sally Beamish (his neighbor) talked about creating a new work for period instruments. Beamish was fascinated by the story of Judas Iscariot and sought to create a work that would present Judas in a new light. PBO music director and conductor Nicholas McGegan has long been interested in commissioning new music written expressly for period instruments. McGegan then invited OAE to participate and the historic co-commission was born.

"One of the extraordinary things about pieces commissioned by PBO is that they come from composers we know personally---Caroline Shaw, Jake Heggie, Sally Beamish. It's very advantageous this way, because we're then able to work closely and personally with the composer to produce the result. Most of this process is seeing what particular advantages period instruments have over modern instruments, and getting their creative juices flowing," says McGegan.

Librettist David Harsent was engaged to help present a new angle on the traditional Judas narrative. His provocative libretto will explore new ideas of redemption and forgiveness for this often maligned Biblical figure.

Tickets range from $28 to $120. For more information about this and other Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale concerts, visit philharmonia.org. For tickets, visit cityboxoffice.com or call 415-392-4400.

Classical KDFC is the radio home of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale. KDFC broadcasts an unreleased live Philharmonia concert recording the second Sunday of every month from 8-9 PM.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Cellist Mischa Maisky Performs with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at 92Y Opening Night
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra celebrates the 70th birthday year of internationally celebrated cellist and frequent collaborator Mischa Maisky in 92nd Street Y's season opening concert at Kaufmann Concert Hall on Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. Orpheus and Maisky have enjoyed a long history of successful musical collaboration, including recordings of the Saint-Saëns, Vivaldi, and Boccherini Cello Concertos, and many acclaimed concerts. Maisky joins Orpheus for Dobrinka Tabakova's arrangement of Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata in A minor, the US premiere of the cello and orchestra version. The program also includes Arensky's Variations On A Theme By Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a and Tchaikovsky's Serenade For Strings, Op. 48 and will be Orpheus' first performance at 92nd Street Y since 2002. This program will also be performed at Purchase College on Sunday, October 8 at 3:00 p.m. with cellist Cicely Parnas.

Program Information:
Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
Kaufmann Concert Hall at 92nd Street Y
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Mischa Maisky, cello

Arensky: Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a
Schubert: "Arpeggione" Sonata in A minor (arr. D. Tabakova)
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings, Op. 48

Ticket Information
Tickets start at $55 for general admission and are $35 for patrons aged 35 and under. Tickets can be purchased from the www.92Y.org, by calling the 92nd Street Y at 212.415.5500, or in person at 1395 Lexington Avenue (between 91st & 92nd street) in New York City.

For more information, visit www.92Y.org.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

5BMF Presents Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island Premieres of Five Borough Songbook, Volume II
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents the Staten Island, Bronx, and Brooklyn premieres of the Five Borough Songbook, Volume II, completing the Songbook's journey across all five boroughs of New York City, which began during 5BMF's tenth anniversary season.

The Songbook premieres in Staten Island on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church and premieres in the Bronx the following evening, Sunday, September 17, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture. The concerts feature soprano Marnie Breckenridge, mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider, tenor Michael Slattery, baritone Sidney Outlaw, pianist Thomas Bagwell, and cellist Sophie Shao.

On Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. the Songbook completes its journey across New York City with the Brooklyn premiere at National Sawdust in a special finale performance featuring an expanded cast of artists including sopranos Justine Aronson and Marnie Breckenridge, mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider, tenor William Ferguson, baritones Christopher Dylan Herbert and Sidney Outlaw, pianists Thomas Bagwell and Erika Switzer, and cellist Sophie Shao.

Please visit www.5bmf.org or email info@5bmf.org for more information.

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic" (CD review)

Karl Bohm, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Decca 289 466 374-2.

Everybody else was doing it in the late 90's; why not Decca? (You remember that in America Decca released their recordings under the "London" label for many years because there was already an American Decca. Then Universal bought both Decca companies so there was no more need for the "London" designation. It saved the world a lot of confusion.) Anyway, other labels were issuing newly remastered old classics in excellent sound--Mercury "Living Presence," RCA "Living Stereo," DG "Originals," EMI "Great Recordings of the Century," etc. So Decca called their line of reissues the "Legends" series, and among their first releases was Karl Bohm's fine, 1973 recording of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony. It made a good choice for inclusion in Decca's first batch of goodies.

Bohm's interpretation ranks high on my own list of all-time favorite Bruckner Fourths. I would still consider Otto Klemperer's performance (EMI) foremost for its greater majesty and stronger symphonic weight and structure, and maybe Eugen Jochum's older rendering (DG) next in line for its greater mystery and atmosphere, in spite of its thinner, noisier sound. But there is no denying Bohm's complete mastery of the score. The whole thing moves implacably forward with strength, grace, and style. In fact, the second movement Andante is perhaps more beautiful under Bohm than under any other conductor. Needless to say, the Vienna Philharmonic play exquisitely.

Karl Bohm
I think many people greatly underrated Bohm as a conductor, often thinking of him as merely a conservative "kapplemeister." Maybe he was sometimes, but not always. Here, there are no fussy heroics, true, just a simple distillation of the music. The work unfolds at its own pace and is all the more eloquent for it.

Decca's 24-bit remastering uses a 96k Hz sampling rate and some occasional touching up as the occasion demands. The result really is a superior end result (if not quite in the audiophile class, at least better than Decca's previous CD mastering of the recording). I had a friend over listening to this newer remastering side-by-side with Decca's 1992 ADRM mastering, simultaneously using two identical-sounding CD players. Initially, I did the switching and let him sit in the primary listening position. Then we exchanged places and opinions. He said exactly what I was thinking, so I'll use his words. The new version sounded "bigger," "smoother," "warmer," "fuller," "richer," and "more detailed." The older mastering sounded "harder," "harsher," and "brighter."

However, I continue to find the sonics a little less than perfect. There remains a metallic edge that the new processing has reduced but not removed. Nevertheless, I can confidently recommend the disc, and I know it will provide hours of pleasurable listening.

Incidentally, Decca came up with two clever packaging ideas here: First, they gave the disc itself the appearance of an open-reel tape. Second, they replicated the original cover art on the back of the booklet insert. By simply reversing the booklet one can have either the new cover illustration or the old. It's distinctive. And, incidentally again, a few years after this "Legends" release, Decca rereleased the same 96k/24-bit remastered recording in their "Originals" lineup. It's hard to know the players without a scorecard these days.

JJP

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


Liszt: Symphonic Poems (SACD review)

Ferenc Fricsay, RIAS Symphony Berlin; Stanislav Macura, Prague Radio Symphony; Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic; Rafael Kubelik, Bavarian Radio Symphony. Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 350 124.

This album makes me wonder how many other fine older recordings studios have on their shelves collecting dust and possibly never getting a transfer to CD. Of the four Liszt symphonic poems on the disc, two of them are currently unavailable on compact disc, and the others only appear coupled to other, longer items. Whatever, Praga Digitals have remastered four older Liszt recordings in hybrid SACD bi-channel, and the performances and sound are first-rate for any year.

As you undoubtedly know, the Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt (1811-86) practically invented the term "symphonic poem" as well as the form itself. Of course, program music has been around longer than Liszt; that is, music that depicts nonmusical ideas, such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony. But Liszt took program music a step further than mere imitation of things in nature, and he used thematic transformations to represent poetic emotions. It's a style that later composers like Richard Strauss would combine with program music to extend the form even more.

Les Preludes was the third of Liszt's symphonic poems. He premiered it in 1854 and published the score in 1856. The title refers to an Ode from Alphonse de Lamartine in Nouvelles méditations poétiques, written in 1823, although Liszt originally conceived it as an overture. In any case, the title has long given rise to discussion about what it actually means. What is the music a "prelude" or introduction to? While opinions differ on the matter (Liszt himself hinted that it suggested a prelude to his own path of composition), most listeners agree on the music's merits. It's exciting, uplifting, inspirational even, which is perhaps why most older folks will recognize it as the main theme music used throughout the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930's.

Ferenc Fricsay and the RIAS Symphony Berlin recorded the piece in 1956, and it remains among the best performances one can find. It may not convey quite the power or energy that Solti would later project, but it does sound more nuanced, more subtle, than Solti's performance and at the same time maintains a good level of involvement and forward momentum. Given the score's various mood changes, Fricsay does a good job holding it together in fine, dramatic fashion and ends it at full boil.

Ferenc Fricsay
Next on the program is Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo, the composer influenced by music he had heard in Venice and by a poem by Lord Byron. Liszt wrote of it, "Tasso loved and suffered at Ferrara, he was avenged at Rome, and even today lives in the popular songs of Venice. These three moments are inseparable from his immortal fame. To reproduce them in music, we first conjured up the great shade as he wanders through the lagoons of Venice even today; then his countenance appeared to us, lofty and melancholy, as he gazes at the festivities at Ferrara, where he created his masterworks; and finally we followed him to Rome, the Eternal City, which crowned him with fame and thus pays him tribute both as martyr and as poet."

Conductor Stanislav Macura conducts the Prague Radio Symphony in an appropriately atmospheric reading of the score. The conductor is serious to a fault, solemn, in fact, when need be, and melodramatic when the music calls for it, too. He easily keeps one engrossed in the presentation, which is mostly all one can ask of a conductor. The Prague ensemble play splendidly.

Liszt wrote Mazeppa in 1851, taking his inspiration from Victor Hugo and Lord Byron, all of them owing to the story of Ivan Mazeppa, who seduced a noble Polish lady and was tied naked to a wild horse that carried him to Ukraine, where he later achieved a rank of leadership. The music should evoke images of plains, silence, wonder, surprise, and triumph.

Here, the estimable Herbert von Karajan conducts the equally laudable Berlin Philharmonic in a lofty performance of real power, force, and size, which is about what we would come to expect from the glamorous conductor and his mighty assemblage of players.

The final symphonic poem on the program is one of Liszt's last and less well known, Die Ideale. Written in 1857-58, Liszt based the music on sections of a poem of the same name by German poet Friedrich Schiller. It may not be one of Liszt's most-popular pieces, but Maestro Rafael Kubelik gives it his all and helps to produce a reasonably notable performance, spoiled only by the recording's distracting, less-than-impressive live sound.

Karel Soukenik of Studio Domovina, Prague, remastered the recordings for hybrid SACD playback in 2017. Les Preludes derives from a studio stereo recording made in Berlin, 1956; Tasso from a studio stereo recording made in Prague, 1975; Mazeppa from a studio stereo recording made in Berlin, 1960; and Die Ideale from a live monaural recording, 1974.

The studio recordings all sound good, particularly in SACD, but, interestingly, it's the Preludes that sounds especially good, and it's the oldest of the lot. There's good clarity, good depth of field, and good dynamics. While there is some distortion at the high end, one can fairly easily live with it. Tasso, made almost twenty years later, is marginally smoother but no more transparent. Mazeppa sounds a tad brighter than the others, a touch glassier and less warm. There is, however, a better sense of space, of hall acoustics, here than in the other pieces. The live mono recording of Die Ideale, though, sounds worst of all because it's accompanied by an insistent background noise that's quite distracting and seems projected to every corner of the room.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, August 19, 2017

"Sonic Youth" Opens Nichols Hall Season Sept. 23

The Music Institute of Chicago opens the 2017–18 season of its Faculty and Guest Artist Series with "Sonic Youth," a program of works associated with the theme of "youth," Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL.

The program to date includes Ives's Sonata No. 4 for violin and piano "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting"; Janitsch's Sonata da camera in D Major "Echo," Op. 5; Ravel's Mother Goose Suite for 4 Hands; Debussy's Piano Trio in G Major and excerpts from Children's Corner Suite; Schumann's Abegg Variations, Op. 1 and Scenes from Childhood: Traumerei; excerpts from Surace's Pinocchio Suite; movements from Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals" performed by duo pianists Claire Aebersold and Ralph Neiweem; and excerpts from Ifukube's Rhythmic Games for Children.

Faculty members performing include pianist Inah Chiu, pianist Elaine Felder, violinist/violist Julie Fischer, flutist Shanna Gutierrez, pianist Matthew Hagle, pianist Grace Juang, violinist Charlene Kluegel, pianist Sung Hoon Mo, recorder player Patrick O'Malley, cellist Mindy Park, pianist Katherine Petersen, pianist George Radosavljevic, viola da gamba player Phillip Serna, lutist Joel Spears, pianist Ann Surace, pianist Ron Surace, harpist Katherine Ventura and pianist Reiko Yamada. Jim Setapen conducts the faculty ensemble.

"Sonic Youth" takes place Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, IL. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at musicinst.org/nichols-concert-hall or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change.

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

The Crypt Sessions Presents David Greilsammer's Labyrinth
The Crypt Sessions Season 2 continues on September 27, 2017 with Israeli pianist and conductor David Greilsammer giving the only North American performance of his acclaimed Labyrinth program. The performance centers around Leoš Janácek's haunting cycle "On An Overgrown Path," interspersed with works by C.P.E Bach, Mozart, and Jean-Féry Rebel, as well as the North American premiere of Lost in the Labyrinth, by Israeli composer Ofer Pelz.

Greilsammer was slated to perform on the series on April 5, but had to withdraw due to illness.

Says Greilsammer of the program: "Each one of us has been, at some point in life, lost, disoriented, or in search for a safe and luminous path. This feeling of disorientation, leading at times to inner chaos, can also serve as the force that will push us to begin the pursuit of new routes, new ideas, and new emotions. Walking through the daunting sounds of Janácek's music, and exploring the mysterious alleys of various enigmatic pieces from early baroque to our present days, I have decided to embark on a musical journey to the heart of a beautiful, abstract, and dazzling labyrinth."

Due to rapid sell-outs and waiting lists, each new concert will be announced immediately after the one preceding it, first to the mailing list, then via The Crypt Sessions Web site (http://deathofclassical.com/) and Facebook page.

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Carmina Burana to Open LA Master Chorale's New Season
Performances of Carl Orff's perennially popular choral showpiece Carmina Burana and Leonard Bernstein's hope-filled plea for brotherhood, Chichester Psalms, will open the Los Angeles Master Chorale's 54th concert season on Saturday, September 23 at 2 PM and Sunday, September 24 at 7 PM in Walt Disney Concert Hall. Tickets start at $29 and are available online from lamasterchorale.org, by calling the Box Office at 213.972.7283, or in person from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office, Monday – Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM.

The concerts will feature the full roster of 100 singers and a full orchestra and will be conducted by Kiki and David Gindler Artistic Director Grant Gershon, launching his 17th season with the Master Chorale.  Guest soloists in Carmina Burana are So Young Park (soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Stephen Powell (baritone) who will be joined by members of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus. The concerts will open with Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Pslams, presented as part of the worldwide "Bernstein at 100" celebrations.

One of the world's most popular choral masterworks, Carmina Burana was last performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Gershon in 2013. Most recently, the Master Chorale performed the work with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015. The work's use of full chorus heralds the Master Chorale's move this season to becoming a fully professional ensemble.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets to all concerts are available now, starting from $29
Online: lamasterchorale.org
Phone: 213.972.7282
Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM.

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

FAYM Announces Classes for 2017-18
Foundation to assist Young Musicians's "Violins For Kids" (V4K) program is offering violin and cello lessons to students starting in the 3rd grade. With so many community youth orchestras and thriving school programs, our aim is to give students a head start on their musical futures. The students are placed in a group class that meets twice a week and will be given an opportunity to perform in the FAYM orchestra that meets on Tuesdays for those that pass the audition.

Class Locations:
East Las Vegas Community Center – 250 N. Eastern Ave. Las Vegas, NV, 89183
Monday – Thursday 4:00PM-5:00 PM, 5:00PM-6:00 PM
Orchestra meets Tuesday 4:00 PM-5:30 PM

Pearson Community Center – 1625 West Carey, North Las Vegas, NV 89032            
Monday/Wednesday 4:00PM-5:00PM, 5:00PM-6:00PM

FAYM's eligibility requirements for new students:
Be entering third grade this fall.
Attend a Title 1 School and/or qualify for the Free or Reduced Lunch Program at the school.
Have a parent or relative who can accompany them to each class.
Pay monthly fee payment of $20 for the 9-month school year or apply for scholarship assistance. (September thru May). Or pay by the semester or year for reduced fee.
Attend our Orientation for class schedule information and paper registration: Orientation: Pierson Community Center: Tuesday, August 22nd @ 6PM; East LV Community Center: Thursday, August 24th @ 6PM.

If you have any questions please direct them to our program coordinator, Tim Thomas at TimThomasFAYM@gmail.com.

For further information, visit http://thefaym.org/about-violins-for-kids/

--Hal Weller, FAYM

Concerts at Saint Thomas Announces its 2017-2018 Season
The second full season with Organist and Director of Music Daniel Hyde will include a concert of music by Pärt, Rutter and Vaughan Williams, the holiday traditions of Handel's Messiah and Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, the two-piano version of Brahms's A German Requiem, a guest performance by The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and the debut duet organ recital by Daniel Hyde and Associate Organist Benjamin Sheen.

The season will also see the continued installation of the new Miller-Scott organ, slated for completion in 2018-19.

All concerts take place at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue at West 53rd Street, NYC.

Tickets may be purchased at www.saintthomaschurch.org, by calling the Concerts Office at (212) 664-9360, by email at concerts@saintthomaschurch.org or in person at the Concerts Office at One West 53rd Street at Fifth Avenue (enter through the Parish House).

For complete information, visit http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Music Institute of Chicago Chorale Announces Season, Hosts Auditions
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale, conducted by Daniel Wallenberg, announces its 31st season of three concerts, along with its 2017–18 season auditions.

The season opens Saturday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. with a Holiday Concert with the Northbrook Symphony at Our Lady of the Brook Church, 3700 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL. A program of choral and orchestral music features special guests the Chicago Children's Choir's Rogers Park and Humboldt Park Neighborhood Choirs. Tickets and information are available at 847-272-0755.

The Chorale performs Mozart's Mass in C Minor with orchestra on Sunday, March 18 at 3 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL. And the season concludes with "Chicago," a celebratory program of works by Chicago composers, Sunday, June 10 at 3 p.m., also at Nichols Concert Hall. Tickets to each of these concerts are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for students, available by calling 847-905-1500 or visiting musicinst.org/chorale.

2017–18 Season Auditions
Auditions for the Chorale take place Tuesday, August 22 and 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. For an appointment, call Evanston Campus Director Patrick O'Malley, 847-905-1500, ext. 100.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Visit Miami Music Fesival at ArtsLaunch2017 – A Day of FREE Activities!
Thank you for making our 2017 Summer Music Festival such a success. Our festival has now concluded and we are already planning the 2018 festival. To get an exclusive sneak peak of the 2018 festival and hear some of our fabulous alumni in performance, come visit us at the Arsht Center.

Miami DDA Community Arts Village@ArtsLaunch2017
September 9th |10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Ziff Ballet Opera House Stage

2:30 PM | Performance
Betsy Diaz- Soprano (MMF Alumni, 2015, 16)
Ziff Ballet Opera House Green Room

Miami Music Festival will be amongst 100 of our fellow Miami arts & cultural organizations showcasing our upcoming season. Come learn about our 2018 Summer Music Festival and enter our drawing to win a pair of free tickets.

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

--Leticia Rivera, Miami Music Festival

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Consul General of Mexico in Dallas Francisco de la Torre Join Fort Worth Opera for the First Libretto Reading of The Last Dream of Frida and Diego
Fort Worth Opera (FWOpera) will present the first full libretto reading of Nilo Cruz and Gabriela Lena Frank's The Last Dream of Frida and Diego on August 24, 2017, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Francisco de la Torre, Consul General of Mexico in Dallas, will be joining FWOpera for the official announcement. Following the press conference, renowned Mexican actors Anna Silvetti, Javier Díaz Dueñas, Evangelina Sosa, and Adrián Alarcón will read the roles of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Catrina, the keeper of souls, and Leandro. This new co-commissioned work with San Diego Opera, the college of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, and DePauw University in Indiana, will receive further libretto, compositional, and orchestral workshops, as the opera evolves in the years preceding the 2020 world premiere in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said, "For over 70 years, Fort Worth Opera has elevated the arts in our community, presenting innovative stories that reflect the incredible diversity of all North Texans. An investment in the future of our cultural institutions, is an investment in the future of Fort Worth. We are proud to host the 2020 world premiere of The Last Dream of Frida and Diego, and I am honored to join Fort Worth Opera as we make exciting new connections in Mexico City that will impact the city of 'Cowboys and Culture' for years to come."

For complete information, visit http://www.fwopera.org/

--Ryan Lathan, Fort Worth Opera

Renée Fleming Performs a Signature Role in Der Rosenkavalier
On the season finale of "Great Performances at the Met," Sunday, September 3 at 12 p.m. on PBS.
Elina Garanca, Erin Morley, Günther Groissböck, Markus Brück and Matthew Polenzani round out the lustrous cast conducted by Sebastian Weigle.

The Met's first new production since 1969 of Strauss's rich, romantic masterpiece stars Renée Fleming in one of her signature roles as the Marschallin, opposite Elina Garanca as Octavian, the impulsive young title character, on Great Performances at the Met Sunday, September 3 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). In New York, THIRTEEN will air the opera at 12:30 p.m.

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

--Harry Forbes, WNET

SF's Community Music Center Opens Up Its Doors for Free CMC Sundays
San Francisco's Community Music Center (CMC), the Mission District-based nonprofit that provides high quality lessons, programs and concerts at no or low cost, kicks off its quarterly "CMC Sundays" series on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. CMC Sundays is a free event that offers people of all ages the opportunity to explore a variety of musical instruments and classes, or jam with fellow musicians playing jazz, Latin or chamber music. The September event will include CMC faculty led workshops featuring acclaimed composer Jon Jang on jazz piano; noted performer, pianist, and arranger Maestro Curtis work shopping blues music; local jazz composer Charlie Gurke and GRAMMY Award-Winning Javier Cabanillas co-leading a Latin jazz jam; and much more. Two additional CMC Sundays are scheduled to take place on January 7, 2017 and March 18, 2018. The March 18 date will include an all-day performathon to raise money for CMC scholarships.

Founded in 1921, San Francisco's Community Music Center (CMC) is one of the oldest and largest community arts organizations on the West Coast. CMC makes high quality music accessible to all people, regardless of financial means. Last year, CMC awarded nearly $2 million in tuition assistance, serving more than 2,400 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels with music lessons, classes and other programs. Thousands enjoyed performances at CMC and out in the community.

Community Music Center, 544 Capp St., San Francisco, CA 94110
Sun, Sept. 10, 2017: 3-5pm
Free

For more information, visit http://sfcmc.org/

--Anne C. Mitchell, Community Music Center

Viennafest (CD review)

Erich Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Telarc CD-80547.

It had been a while since I last heard the late Erich Kunzel and his Cincinnati Pops doing a record for Telarc, so it was fun renewing an old friendship. Having remembered Kunzel's work with Telarc's Straussfest discs, I prepared myself for something a bit unusual in the way of waltzes and polkas, and that's exactly what Kunzel delivers. However, I didn't find it always in a good way.

In Viennafest we get a mixture of the traditional and the novel, all of it done up in reasonably good taste. The disc starts with an appropriately rousing curtain raiser, the "Radetzky March" by Strauss, Sr., and done in loud, boisterous, if somewhat mechanical fashion, followed by the overture from The Gypsy Baron. Then we have a polka, "The Huntsman," with a horse whinnying for effect.

Here are a few more selections, including one of the more controversial items on the program, the "Voices of Spring" waltz with a vocal part sung by soprano Tracy Dahl that you'll either love or hate, depending on what you're used to. A couple more novelty polkas come next, "At the Double" and Eduard Strauss's "At Full Steam," both featuring suitable sound effects. After those are Franz Lehar with the "Gold and Silver" waltzes and the "Siren of the Dance" waltzes from The Merry Widow.

Josef Lanner's "Court Ball" waltz is particularly nice, Robert Stolz's "Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Time" is delightful, and Strauss, Jr.'s overture to Die Fledermaus is as charming as ever. The proceedings come to a close with a fairly schmaltzy rendition of Rudolf Sieczynski's "Vienna, City of My Dreams," but what are you going to do: It is what it is.

Erich Kunzel
Although Erich Kunzel may have sold probably more albums than almost anyone, he was never among my favorite conductors, generally taking things a little too matter of factly for my taste. This is especially noticeable in the aforementioned "Radetsky March" and also in the Lehar numbers, even if he is certainly felicitous enough in "Voices of Spring." Still, I prefer Willi Boskovsky, Herbert von Karajan, Lorin Maazel, Andre Reiu, and others in Strauss material to Kunzel's more relatively straight-arrow, largely uninspiring approach.

Telarc recorded the album using Super Bit Mapping Direct Stream Digital at the Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio in February 2000. The resultant sound is very smooth, as we have come to expect from this company, the bass drum always at the fore, with decent stage imaging, and a wide dynamic range. Nevertheless, the sound also appears to me a little thin in the midrange while at the same time a bit shy on the sparkle I had expected, as though Telarc had recorded things a tad more distantly than normal for them.

Anyway, the collection will please most of Kunzel's fans, even though I'm not sure any of the old Strauss family themselves would have usually had so large an orchestra at their command. Whatever, the current Johann Strauss Orchestra under Andre Reiu with its considerably fewer players (about two dozen or so) produces a more lustrous and transparent sound, and for a big, full ensemble it's still hard to beat the Vienna or Berlin Philharmonics.

JJP

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


The Deer's Cry (CD review)

Music of Arvo Part, William Byrd, and Thomas Tallis. Harry Christophers, The Sixteen. CORO COR16140.

The juxtaposition of works on this album by modern Estonian composer Arvo Part (b. 1935) and Renaissance English composers William Byrd (c. 1540-1623) and Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) may at first blush seem odd. Yet the combination works surprisingly well.

As almost everyone knows by now, The Sixteen and its founder and conductor Harry Christophers are a vocal and period-instrument ensemble founded by Mr. Christophers in 1977. They deal largely in Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical repertoire but have obviously here expanded their scope to include modern music. With over 130 recordings and numerous awards to their credit, one can understand their critical and popular success.

Here are the track listings for the present album:
1. Byrd: Diliges Dominum
2. Byrd: Christe qui lux es et dies
3. Part: The Deer's Cry
4. Byrd: Emendemus in melius
5. Part: The Woman with the Alabaster Box
6. Byrd: Miserere mihi, Domine
7. Byrd: Ad Dominum cum tribularer
8. Tallis/Byrd: Miserere nostri
9. Tallis: When Jesus went
10. Byrd: O lux beata Trinitas
11. Part: Nunc dimittis
12. Byrd: Laetentur coeli
13. Byrd: Tribue, Domine

The total timing for the album runs very nearly sixty-seven minutes.

Harry Christophers
So, why include the music of Arvo Part among that of Byrd and Tallis? Well, although both Byrd and Tallis wrote some secular music, the bulk of their output was sacred. Byrd, for instance, wrote sacred music for use in Anglican and Catholic services, and Tallis (Byrd's teacher, by the way) worked at a Benedictine priory, Waltham Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, and the Chapel Royal, among other places. And of Part? He, too, writes both classical and religious music. In fact, he is one of the most important and certainly one of the most prominent of today's composers of spiritual music. Yes, as I said, the combination of composers on the album works.

As always, The Sixteen sing in a heavenly manner, and their voices sound rich and full in harmony, their intonation flawless, and their commitment to the music as emotionally vibrant as ever. What we've got as a result is beautiful music, beautifully performed.

Now, what did I like best? That's hard to answer because everything about the music and the singing is so letter-perfect. Of course, the Byrd and Tallis pieces go without saying. Their music has stood the test of time and been enjoyed by and inspirational to people for centuries. However, Part's music in particular impressed me, starting with the album's title tune, The Deer's Cry. Like the other two of the composer's selections, it's partly new, partly old; partly modern, partly ancient. Obviously, Part is a man of many parts. Sorry. The Deer's Cry is an updated setting of an incantation written in the fifth century. It's appropriately solemn yet wonderfully uplifting. The Woman with the Alabaster Box sets a narrative from Matthew 26:6-13. But equally impressive is Nunc dimittis, written in Part's tintinnabular or bell-like style; it's beautiful, and as with the rest of the album the singers do it full justice.

Producer Mark Brown and engineer Mike Hatch recorded the album at the Church of St. Augustine, Kilburn, London in October 2015. Here is the only minor fly in the ointment: The venue is highly reverberant, and, consequently, voices sometimes appear to have a touch too much bloom and echo to them. Still, the ambient glow makes the choir sound more "heavenly," even it doesn't do as much to clarify the album's transparency as it could. There is also a slight upper midrange brightness to the sound, which doesn't hurt and probably actually helps make the voices appear more distinct. There is much to like here, so I'm not really complaining.

JJP

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


Classical Music News of the Week, August 12, 2017

Orion Opens 25th Season with Schubert's Trout Quintet, Mozart, Prokofiev

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, opens its 25th anniversary season with "A Beautiful Oboe and
Friends," welcoming three guest artists who have joined them in previous seasons: violist Stephen Boe, oboist Alex Klein and bass player Robert Kassinger.

For these concerts, Orion revives two works the ensemble performed with Klein in 2002. Mozart composed his Quartet in A Major for oboe, violin, viola and cello, K. 370/368b, for Friedrich Ramm (1744-1813), a brilliant oboist whose artistic connections Mozart was anxious to renew. Hailed as a concerto within the intimate genre of chamber music, the piece's towering first movement leads to the heart-rending Adagio, one of Mozart's finest. The concluding Rondeau is famous for the ingenious passage in which the oboe plays in common time against the energetic 6/8 accompaniment.

Prokofiev's Quintet in G minor for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and bass, the second piece Orion and Klein performed together previously, is a wonderfully imaginative work with colorful scoring that accentuates the composer at his original best. While Prokofiev was visiting Paris in 1924, a traveling dance company commissioned him to write a chamber ballet. As there were only five players to accompany the dancers, Prokofiev created a quintet of wondrous beauty using the instruments available to him.

Thaddaus von Durnitz, a talented amateur bassoonist, commissioned Mozart's delightfully charming Sonata in B-flat Major, here adapted for bass, oboe and cello, K. 292/196c, in 1775. The piece offers each musician opportunities for highly lyrical expression.

In 1819, the 22-year-old Schubert was on vacation in the mountains. Relaxing in the most congenial of surroundings, he met Sylvester Paumgartner, a wealthy amateur cellist. Paumgartner commissioned Schubert to compose a work for his group, which consisted of piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass, and the result was the famous "Trout" Quintet in A Major. The work takes its name from the fourth movement's theme and variations, which use the melody from Schubert's earlier art song "Die Forelle" (The Trout). The wavering ascending accompaniment accentuates the irresistible straightforwardness of the melody.

The concert program takes place Sunday, September 24 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Wednesday, September 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, October 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, IL. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. 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, The Orion Ensemble

Kenneth Woods and English Symphony Orchestra Announce 2017-18 Season
Kenneth Woods embarks on his fifth season as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO), building on a fruitful conductor-orchestra partnership that continues to go from strength to strength. The 2017-18 season reflects Woods' wide-ranging talents, including Classical and Romantic perennials, popular evergreens, commissions and world-premieres, and multi-media presentations.

With decades-old roots established throughout the Midlands, Woods and the ESO continue to cultivate their associations throughout Elgar Country and the surrounding region with an increased number of performances in over a half dozen venues. Further afield, Woods and the ESO return to two cherished London venues and debut in Bristol. Outside of the traditional concert hall, the ESO continues its valuable work with young musicians through its Orchestra Courses, and performances for the elderly in care homes and hospices.

The 2017-18 season marks the ESO's second as Orchestra-in-Residence of Worcester Live, the city's leading live events presenter. Four performances in Worcester's premiere venues Huntingdon Hall and the Swan Theatre range from family-friendly events to world-premieres and unique theatrical stagings.

The Worcestershire-based English Symphony Orchestra, the "International Orchestra of Elgar Country," is an ensemble that has become synonymous with artistic excellence, innovative and visionary programming, distinctive commissioning, ground-breaking recording, a welcoming and immersive concert experience, transformative youth programmes and service to the community.

With the appointment of Kenneth Woods as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director in 2013, the orchestra has become a major force in British musical life.

The season gets under way on 26 August 2017, the season running through May 2018. For complete concert information, please visit www.eso.co.uk.

--Melanne Mueller, MusicCo International

A New Opera in the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs
On Site Opera will present the World Premiere of Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt, a new opera by John Musto with libretto by Eric Einhorn, at the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs this Fall. Performances of the family-friendly opera - which will run approximately 20 minutes - will be free with museum admission, and will take place September 23, 24, 29, 30, October 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 (Fridays at 11:30am; Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00 & 2:30).

Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt is based on the real-life experiences of Rhoda Knight Kalt (soprano Jennifer Zetlan) and her trips to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) with her grandfather Charles R. Knight (baritone Robert Orth), the famous naturalist artist who was commissioned by Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn (tenor Patrick Cook), paleontologist and president of the AMNH, to create paintings and sculptures of prehistoric creatures – many still on display at the AMNH today. During the performances, audiences will join Rhoda as she goes on a hunt for missing fossils around the hall, while learning about the interconnectedness of creativity and science.

Dates & Location:
Sept 23, 24, 29, 30
Oct 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15
*Fridays at 11:30am; Saturdays and Sundays at 12:00 & 2:30.*
Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024

For information, visit http://osopera.org/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

LA Master Chorale Tickets on Sale
Single tickets for the Los Angeles Master Chorale's 2017/18 season are now on sale. The season opens on September 23 and continues through to June 2018 in Walt Disney Concert Hall with nine concert programs presented over this time.

Tickets start at $29 and are available to purchase online from lamasterchorale.org, by phone from 213-972-7282, or in person from the box office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center, of which the Master Chorale is a resident company. It will be the Los Angeles Master Chorale's 54th concert season and Grant Gershon's 17th season as the Kiki and David Gindler Artistic Director.

The new season includes the solo Disney Hall conducting debut of Jenny Wong whose title has been elevated from Assistant Conductor to Associate Conductor. Wong will conduct the December 10 concert of Bach's six motets.

Tickets and information for all concerts are available now:
Online: lamasterchorale.org
Phone: 213-972-7282
Tickets can also be purchased in-person at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office Monday – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM.

--Jennifer Scott, LA Master Chorale

Green Music Center 2017–18 Season – Single Ticket Announcement
Nestled in the picturesque foothills of Northern California's esteemed wine country, the Green Music Center (GMC) is a focal point for arts in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area, presenting year-round programming of premiere classical, contemporary, jazz, chamber, and world music artists in concert. The GMC campus includes the 1,400-seat Weill Hall, the intimate 240-seat Schroeder Hall, as well as the highly unique summertime concert-going experience of Weill Hall + Lawn.

Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Part, CA 94928. Phone 1.866.955.6040.

For a complete listing of all of the season's offerings, visit http://gmc.sonoma.edu/events-by-presenter

--Green Music Center

River Oaks Chamber Orchestra Announces Its 2017-18 Season
ROCO (also known as The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra) of Houston, Texas is excited to announce its 2017–18 season, themed "Cultivate Curiosity." Featuring a staggering nine world premiere commissions (to add to their already-impressive 58) inspired by everything from JFK and nursery rhymes, to punk rock and Disney, the inventive programming also includes concerts that pair chocolates with strings, beer with brass, and lullabies with epitaphs.

Spread out across 16 different venues, ROCO performances will take audiences trick or treating at Houston's Heritage Society (with a musical performer in each historical building), celebrate the Day of the Dead in a gallery surrounded by retablos and altars, and honor the local philanthropists the Mastersons at their magnificent home Rienzi, which they donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Alecia Lawyer, ROCO's founder, artistic director and principal oboist, said of the season: "In our 13th season, ROCO celebrates all the ways that we embrace innovation, and we encourage audiences at home and in the concert hall to dig deeper into what links their personal experiences to the musicians and the music that brings us together."

ROCO's In Concert series, which features the full 40-person orchestra and live videostreamed performances, kicks off September 22 & 23.

For complete information, visit http://rocohouston.org/

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

The Making of The Judas Passion
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra is making history with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) in London. Never before have two of the world's greatest period-instrument orchestras commissioned a new work together, and in October, you'll experience the U.S. premieres in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sitting across the kitchen table a few years ago, Nicholas McGegan and composer and friend Sally Beamish (his neighbor in Scotland) talked about creating a new work for period instruments. Sally was fascinated by the story of Judas Iscariot and sought to create a work that would present Judas in a new light. Sally joined forces with librettist David Harsent to bring Judas to life and now The Judas Passion is ready for its world premieres in the United Kingdom.
 
The UK performances will take place on Sunday, September 24 at Saffron Hall in Essex and on Monday, September 25 at St. John's Smith Square in London. These performances are accompanied by All Words of Forgiveness, a literary project exploring the role of forgiveness in contemporary society. If you're in London in September, let us know since PBO Executive Director Courtney Beck will be there.

For more information, visit http://www.oae.co.uk/category/whats-on/

Following the performances in London and Essex, Nic will conduct the American premieres of The Judas Passion with PBO in October, featuring the same world class cast from the UK.

For more information, visit https://philharmonia.org/2017-2018-season/the-judas-passion/

--Marketing, Philharmonia Baroque

Serenata: A Bouquet of Favorites for Strings (CD review)

Antonio Janigro, I Solisti di Zagreb. Vanguard Classics SVC-142.

If you laid all the albums of string music in the world end to end, some hot new group would try to rerecord all of them. No need to rerecord this collection, though. It contains some splendid music, almost every short favorite for strings you can name. The amazing thing is that Vanguard Classics recorded them so long ago, 1957 and 1962. The recordings were good in their day and they're good now, even if some listeners may not appreciate all of the interpretations.

Every performance is as lively and energetic as you'd expect from this conductor and ensemble, Antonio Janigro and I Solisti di Zagreb, and from the repertoire represented. The program starts with a zesty rendition of Albinoni's Concerto a cinque in B-flat Major, with sonics of startling presence. The Super Bit Map remastering has not only clarified the sound, it has eliminated most of the background noise between the notes. However, it has not removed all of the noise accompanying the notes, so what we get can sound slightly rough or fuzzy at times.

Antonio Janigro
The recordings themselves are a bit forward and bright, anyway, and the result is a little disconcerting at first. But one soon adjusts. The first nine tracks come from 1957 and actually sound the best of the lot; the later 1962 tracks display a fraction more static and low-end rumble.

Following Albinoni, there are Boccherini's familiar Minuet and Haydn's equally famous Serenade, requisite numbers in these kind of collections and pieces I continually mistake for one another. Janigro and his group do up both of them lovingly. The centerpiece of the album is Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, performed with as much verve as one could want. If it doesn't come across quite as smoothly Marriner's or as effortlessly as Boskovsky's, it's close.

Also on hand are Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 3; Paradis's Sicilienne; Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on "Greensleeves," especially moving; Pergolesi's Concertino in G; Sibelius's Valse Triste; and, finally, a rather quick-paced version of Barber's Adagio for Strings that I had heard before from Janigro on an all-Barber anthology. This last one may be a matter of taste; Stokowski and Toscanini took it at about seven minutes; Janigro does it in six, although it doesn't sound particularly hurried, just a little too straightforward for my taste. I think, perhaps, the conductor was better in early music.

Overall, though, this is a fine collection of music, very well played. The audio, if not turned up too loudly, can sound superb as well. The collector will have most of these pieces already in his or her music library, but still a warmly recommended disc.

JJP

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


Schubert: Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished" (CD review)

Also, Haydn: Symphony No. 104 "London." Josef Krips, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Antal Dorati, Philharmonia Hungarica. HDTT remastered.

Austrian conductor and violinist Josef Krips (1902-1974) had recorded the Schubert Ninth Symphony with the London Symphony to great acclaim in 1959, so it was no surprise that he should also record the Schubert Eighth. However, he didn't get around to it for another ten years, this time with the Vienna Philharmonic, and fans didn't think the performance quite matched the sparkle and joy of his Schubert Ninth. Perhaps we can attribute the leisurely pace of Krips's Eighth to his older age; or perhaps he just felt a need to slow things down. It's certainly a more relaxed interpretation than we usually find, and whether it appeals to all listeners, as always, is a matter of personal taste.

Anyway, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) started writing his Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished" in 1822 but left it uncompleted after only two movements. Although no one knows for sure why he left it unfinished, we do know that it wound up in the hands of a friend, Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who kept it in a drawer for the next forty-odd years before it finally premiered in 1865. The score for the two movements received publication a couple of years later.

The first movement begins with a brief, somewhat dark introduction before opening up to a more typically Schubertian theme and lyrical second subject. There follow several soaring melodies, rising to a grand climax, then a gentle receding of power to a final reprise and back to a slightly dark conclusion. Krips takes on the gloomier sections less sullenly than usual and offers up lighter, more sensuous moods in the lyrical segments, thus making the movement more of a whole than most conductors do. It's all quite engaging in its low-key way.

The second movement Andante begins slowly, again develops some lovely melodies, and moves on to a quiet, gentle finish. Here, Krips approaches the score as sweetly and gently as possible but without unnecessary sentimentality or schmaltz. Needless to say, the Vienna Philharmonic play this music as though born to it, and some of the players probably were.

Josef Krips
Coupled with the Schubert is one of Hungarian-born conductor Antal Dorati's (1906-1988) celebrated Haydn recordings, this one of the Symphony No. 104 "London" with the Philharmonia Hungarica. As you no doubt know, Dorati was among the first conductors to record all 104 of Haydn's symphonies, so he knew what he was doing.

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed his Symphony No. 104 in 1795 while living in London, and it would be his last symphony. It may have gotten its "London" nickname simply because he wrote it in London or because the final movement seems to evoke the sounds of London street vendors. Whatever, Dorati seems pleasantly involved in the music and conveys that spirit to the listener. His Haydn may not be as delightful as Beecham's or as energetic as Jochum's, but it is knowing and consistent. The Philharmonia Hungarica isn't as full or rich as the Vienna Philharmonic, but they acquit themselves nicely in the music.

Producer Christopher Raeburn and engineer Colin Moorfoot recorded the Schubert piece at the Sofiensaal, Vienna in March 1969. Producer James Mallinson and engineer Colin Moorfoot recorded the Haydn at St. Bonifatius Kirche, Marl in December 1972. HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers) remastered the recordings from 15ips 2-track tapes in 2017.

The Schubert displays a remarkable clarity and a very wide dynamic range. Combined with a modest touch of orchestral depth, it provides a satisfying musical experience. While there is also a small amount of background noise if played too loudly, and while one hears some minor upper midrange brightness, these things should not prove distractions.

The Haydn sounds much the same as the Schubert, not unexpected as Decca recorded them only a few years apart and as the same engineer made both recordings. Still, the Haydn sometimes appears a tad smoother, even though it retains to some small degree the same slightly glassy "Decca" sound. The venue isn't quite as resonant at that in Vienna, nor do the sonics seem quite as dynamically wide; nevertheless, for all intents and purposes the two recordings sound remarkably alike, and both of them will doubtless provide much enjoyment.

For further information on the various formats, configurations, and prices of HDTT products, you can visit their Web site at https://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

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

Classical Music News of the Week, August 5, 2017

Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2017 Comes to THIRTEEN's "Great Performances"

Led for the second time by German pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach, the world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic returns for its 14th open-air concert, with a program inspired by fairy tales and myths, in Austria's Imperial Schönbrunn Palace Gardens. The Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 2017 airs on THIRTEEN's "Great Performances," Friday, August 18 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

Fairy tales, myths, legends and sagas are closely entwined with many composers and compositions. They have served as inspiration, models and sources for many musical works, several of which have been selected for this concert. Some are new and some are old; some are German, Bohemian, and Russian; some are based on literary models and one is a composer's opinion about a myth.

The concert soloist is renowned soprano Renée Fleming who performs two arias from operas by Antonin Dvorák: the famous "Song to the Moon" of the water nymph Rusalka and the aria of the sorceress Armida from the operas of those names, as well as three songs by Sergei Rachmaninoff: "Twilight," "Sing not to me, beautiful maiden" and "Spring Waters."

The 2017 Summer Night Concert will be released on CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital platforms by Sony Classical on August 11. For more information, visit www.pbs.org/gperf

--Harry Forbes, WNET

FREE Events at the ABS Summer Bach Festival
Observe the American Bach Soloists Academy—the educational component of the ABS Summer Bach Festival—that offers advanced conservatory-level students and emerging professionals unique opportunities to study and perform Baroque music in a multi-disciplinary learning environment.

Academy participants are featured exclusively in three FREE programs of Academy-in-Action "Baroque Marathon" Concerts. Additionally a number of Academy-related events are offered to the public at no charge, including …

Public Colloquia
Annual engaging forums for performers and audience members alike explore a variety of topics centered on historical, artistic, and practical considerations of performing Baroque music today.

Master Class Series
The ABS Academy opens its doors to the public to witness the artistic transformations that make Master Classes so tremendously exciting, as performers and their master teachers share their knowledge and insights.

Lecture Series
Join the members of the American Bach Soloists Academy for a series of enlightening and informative public lectures presented by the Academy faculty on a wide range of subjects centered on Festival themes.

All Free ABS Festival Events are held in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, between Van Ness and Franklin, near Market.

For a full schedule of events, visit http://americanbach.org/sfbachfestival/Festival-Schedule.html

--American Bach Soloists

Merola Opera Grand Finale, 8/19 at the War Memorial Opera House, SF
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.

Conductor Antony Walker will lead the orchestra and 2017 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Victoria Crutchfield will stage the program, featuring works by Donizetti, Wagner, Leoncavallo, Massenet, Verdi, Rossini, Lehár, R. Strauss, Boito, Thomas, 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

August in Saratoga: Philadelphia Orchestra, Chamber Music Society & SPAC on Stage
August at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center brings the return of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to their summer home and the launch of the innovative concert series "SPAC on Stage."

The Philadelphia Orchestra residency – running from August 2 – 19 – kicks off with a Tchaikovsky Spectacular complete with fireworks and performances by New York City Ballet dancers. Russian, American and French mini-festivals follow, celebrating the vital musical traditions of each culture. Yo-Yo Ma also returns to Saratoga for a community PlayIN and performance, and renowned pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio join the orchestra for an All-Gershiwn program featuring a jazzy reimagining of Rhapsody in Blue.

"A Night at the Opera" with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the family-oriented multi-media "Philadelphia for Families" offerings – including Cirque de la Symphonie and Movie Nights featuring E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark – also highlight the orchestra's residency at SPAC. Guest conductors Stéphane Denève, Marin Alsop, Bramwell Tovey, Stephen Reineke and David Newman will also take the podium during the Orchestra's season.

The full schedule of SPAC's programming and events is available at spac.org.

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Five Boroughs Music Festival Annouces Programming for 2017-18 Season
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) announces programming for its 2017-2018 season, continuing its mission of bringing affordable, world-class performances of traditional and contemporary chamber music to all five boroughs of New York City.

Throughout the season, 5BMF presents the Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Bronx premieres of the second volume of its "Five Borough Songbook." The project, which premiered in Manhattan and Queens last year for 5BMF's 10th anniversary season, features 20 new commissions inspired by New York City places, people and poetry from twenty composers, and includes solo songs, duets and ensemble works scored for various combinations of voice, piano and cello.

The "Five Borough Songbook," Volume II receives its Staten Island premiere on Saturday, September 16 at 4:00 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, preceded by a 3:30 p.m chat with some of the project's commissioned composers and lyricists. The next day, on Sunday, September 17 at 5:00 p.m., the program premieres in the Bronx at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture, preceded by a 4:30 p.m. composer chat. The final stop of the borough premiere tour takes place at National Sawdust in Brooklyn on Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a composer chat at 7:00 p.m.

The "Five Borough Songbook," Volume II includes works by Matthew Aucoin, Lembit Beecher, Conrad Cummings, Jonathan Dawe, Evan Fein, Daniel Felsenfeld, Herschel Garfein, Whitney George, Marie Incontrera, Laura Kaminsky, Libby Larsen, Hannah Lash, Missy Mazzoli, Jessie Montgomery, Robert Paterson, Paola Prestini, Kevin Puts, Kamala Sankaram, Gregory Spears and Bora Yoon. Performers this season include sopranos Justine Aronson and Marnie Breckenridge; mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider; tenors William Ferguson and Michael Slattery; baritones Christopher Dylan Herbert and Sidney Outlaw; cellist Sophie Shao; and pianists Thomas Bagwell and Erika Switzer.

For tickets and learn more about all Five Boroughs Music Festival concerts, visit www.5BMF.org.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Lara St. John Announced as Curator of 2017-18 Season of Wolf Trap's "Chamber Music at the Barns"
Violinist Lara St. John announced her curated 2017-18 season of Wolf Trap's "Chamber Music at The Barns," exploring the intersection of classical and folk music. Each performer and ensemble has included a work based on a traditional theme.

The season opens October 20, with St. John and pianist Matt Herskowitz performing music from her recent album Shiksa, in which she commissioned contemporary composers to re-imagine traditional folk tunes, as well as the Franck sonata and a series of jazz arrangements.

November 5, the Attacca Quartet will perform music by Haydn, Beethoven and Michael Ippolito (from their new album Songlines). January 21, clarinetist David Krakauer and pianist Kathleen Tagg will offer a far-reaching program centering on 'lost' music of the Jewish people. March 2, pianist/composer Marc-André Hamelin will give a recital of works by Liszt, Feinberg, Debussy, and Godowsky. March 18, members of the Sphinx Organization will perform a mixed program including Dvorák's String Quintet in G major with Double Bass op. 77. April 8, cellist Cameron Crozman will give a recital of 20th century works by Debussy, Poulenc, Messiaen, Françaix, and Koechlin. The series will conclude on April 22 with a celebration of composer John Corigliano's 80th birthday, with St. John, pianist Martin Kennedy, soprano Melinda Whittington and the PubliQuartet performing selections of his chamber music.

For complete information, visit http://www.wolftrap.org/tickets/chamber.aspx

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

Center for Contemporary Opera Opens 35th Season
The Center for Contemporary Opera opens its 35th season presenting the New York premieres and world premiere roduction of Gordon Getty's "Scare Pair": Usher House and The Canterville Ghost, with Brian Staufenbiel, stage director, and Sara Jobin, conductor. Thursday, October 19 and Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 7:30pm at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, NYC.

Tickets are priced at $35, $25. Senior/Student Tickets are $30 and must be purchased in person with valid ID. For ticket information by phone at 212 772 4448 or at www.hunter.cuny.edu/kayeplayhouse.

--Shear Arts Services

San Francisco Girls Chorus Announces 2017-2018 Season
The San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC) today announced its 2017-2018 season. Led by Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and Music Director and Principal Conductor, Valérie Saint-Agathe, SFGC will present three subscription concerts in San Francisco.

In celebration of Philip Glass's 80th birthday, SFGC will present a program dedicated to the composer in collaboration with members of the Philip Glass Ensemble with whom the Chorus makes its Carnegie Hall debut in February. Further subscription highlights include the Chorus' popular annual holiday concert at Davies Symphony Hall featuring guest soprano and SFGC alumna Michele Kennedy and the world premiere of the chamber version of Colin Jacobsen's "If I Were Not Me," part of an April program showcasing works from the Chorus's latest album, to be recorded in August with the Kronos Quartet and released early next year. Furthering its commitment to the music of living composers, the Chorus School welcomes Bay Area composer Pamela Z for a year-long residency working closely on the process of creating and performing new music as part of its choral training program.

Three-concert subscriptions to San Francisco Girls Chorus self-produced concert season go on sale August 14. Call (415) 392-4400 or visit http://www.cityboxoffice.com.

--Brenden Guy

Festival Mozaic WinterMezzo Tickets on Sale Now
Festival Mozaic continues to bring exceptional classical music performances to the San Luis Obispo area year-round with the WinterMezzo Chamber Music Series. Enjoy chamber music performed by world-class Festival Mozaic musicians in the fall and winter. The two chamber series full-weekend experiences allow you to fully immerse yourself in the wonders of classical music.

Join us for the 2017-2018 WinterMezzo Series, two weekends of music that will suprise, delight, and inform you.

WinterMezzo I - October 20 - 22, 2017:
"Mozart, Chopin & Prokofiev"
The weekend explores three centuries of chamber music's artistic progress. Mozart's sonatas were performed in royal court chambers throughout Europe. Chopin's challenging Ballades beguiled attendees in 19th century Parisian salons. And Prokofiev's passionate Violin Sonata No. 1, written during World War II, was so beloved by the composer that it was performed at his funeral.

WinterMezzo II - February 23 - 25, 2018:
"Musique Française"
French composers in the 20th century reinvented melody through impressionism and neo-classicism. The melodic works of Gabriel Fauré, Jean Cras and Albert Roussel were written when jazz sounds from the United States had crossed the pond. Rounding out this imaginative and evocative program is a jazz riff on the baroque style by living composer Noam Elkies.

For complete information, visit http://www.festivalmozaic.com/wintermezzo-tickets

--Bettina Swigger, Executive Director

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