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

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