Classical Music News of the Week, December 16, 2017

Musica Viva NY Presents "Reintroducing Seymour" Benefit Concert

Musica Viva NY presents legendary pianist, teacher, and composer Seymour Bernstein in a special benefit concert, Reintroducing Seymour, on Sunday, January 21 at 2:00 p.m at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side (Lexington Avenue at 80th Street), NYC.

The program begins with Bernstein in solo piano works by Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Liszt and Grieg. Following this, Musica Viva NY Artistic Director Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez is featured in solo piano works by Chopin, Schumann, and Schubert, and members of the Musica Viva NY Choir, soprano Devony Smith and baritone Brian Mextorf, perform lieder by Schubert and Schumann, accompanied by Seymour Bernstein. The program concludes with Schubert's Fantasy in F Minor, D. 940, featuring both Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez and Seymour Bernstein.

The concert is free, with a suggested donation at the door.

Additional concerts in Musica Viva NY's 2017-18 season at All Souls Church include "Voices in Motion: Exploring Sound and Space" on February 25, 2018 featuring guest organist, conductor and Musica Viva NY founder Walter Klauss; "Infinite Hope: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of MLK's Assassination" on April 8, 2018 featuring the music of conductor, composer, and writer Alice Parker; and "Sunrise in the City: Musica Viva NY Celebrates 40 Years" on May 20, 2018 featuring a new commission by Elena Ruehr.

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

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

New Century Presents Zurich Chamber Orchestra
New Century Chamber Orchestra announce a special San Francisco performance featuring the Zurich Chamber Orchestra on Friday, March 16, 2018, 5:30 p.m. at Herbst Theatre.

In his first season as Artistic Partner of New Century, Daniel Hope brings the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, with whom he also serves as Music Director, for the opening performance of its 2018 United States Tour. Both ensembles will be highlighted separately in a selection of works from the chamber orchestra repertoire including Bartók's Romanian Dances, Mozart's Divertimento in F Major, K. 138 and Summer 3 from Max Richter's Recomposed: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons. The evening will conclude with both orchestras combining forces for Grieg's Holberg Suite.

Immediately following the concert, New Century will host its 2018 annual gala in the Green Room at Herbst Theatre with proceeds benefiting the organization's education and artistic programs.

Tickets to the Zurich Chamber Orchestra concert go on general sale January 5, 2018 and range in price between $29 and $61. Purchase by phone (415) 392-4400 or online at http://www.cityboxoffice.com.

--Brenden Guy, NCCO

Concerts at ASPECT Foundation for Music & Arts
Praised by Epoch Times as "a very welcome addition to the chamber music landscape of New York, the Aspect Foundation for Music & Arts eagerly presents the latter half of its second New York City season, with illuminating performances, underscoring a different thematic concept each evening. With appearances by many of the most prominent performers and musical scholars of today, the Aspect Foundation has quickly become a favorite series among New York's classical concert-goers. The Foundation is housed by the elegant Italian Academy at Columbia University, further instilling Aspect's core sentiments of curiosity, intellectualism, and deriving pleasure from art.

Taneyev and Arensky...In Tchaikovsky's Shadow
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 7:30PM
Alexander Kobrin, piano; Philippe Quint, violin; and others

J.S. Bach: The Art of Fugue
Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 7:30PM
Fretwork

Weimar: The Cradle of Musical Talent
Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7:30PM
Vsevolod Dvorkin, piano; Sergey Antonov, cello

Fête Galante: The Anatomy of Melancholy
Monday, May 14, 2018 at 7:30PM
Sherezade Panthaki, soprano; Four Nations Ensemble

For complete information, visit http://www.aspectfoundation.net/

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Senior Public Relations Associate

Strathmore Mansion Winter Concerts
Strathmore's Music at the Mansion (10701 Rockville Pike North Bethesda, MD) performances in January and February focus on the intricacies of the individual instrument.

Internationally-recognized pianist and member of the revered Silk Road Ensemble Joel Fan thrills with a blend of canonical and contemporary music. Principal oboist for the London Symphony Orchestra, Olivier Stankiewicz, finds expressiveness in his passion for experimental new music and timeless symphonic traditions. Ashley Bathgate concentrates on the power of a solitary instrument in the concert hall, performing a reinterpretation of Bach's cello suites by composer/collective Sleeping Giant. In a decided departure, the Jon Stickley Trio grooves things up with thumping melodies and harmonies, blending gypsy jazz, bluegrass, and hip-hop with guitar, violin, and drums.

Joel Fan, piano
Thursday, January 25, 2018; 7:30 p.m.

Olivier Stankiewicz, oboe
Thursday, February 1, 2018; 7:30 p.m.

Jon Stickley Trio
Thursday, February 8, 2018; 7:30 p.m.

Ashley Bathgate, cello
Bach Unwound
Thursday, February 22, 2018; 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.strathmore.org

--Mike Fila, Bucklesweet Media

ICE Reprises David Lang's the whisper opera
From January 24 to February 3, 2018, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) reprises Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lang's the whisper opera in 13 performances at NYU Skirball.

The small audience and musicians are enclosed in an intimate onstage set, as the opera, performed almost entirely in whispers, explores the question: "What if a piece were so quiet and so personal to the performers that you needed to be right next them or you would hear almost nothing?" With direction and design by Jim Findlay, the whisper opera features sopranos Tony Arnold and Alice Teyssier and ICE musicians Kivie Cahn-Lipman (cello), Claire Chase (flute), Ross Karre (percussion), Joshua Rubin (clarinet). the whisper opera was premiered in NYC with one performance at Lincoln Center's 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival, and since toured across the US and Europe.

David Lang's the whisper opera
January 24, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31, February 1, 2, 3, 2018 at 7:30pm and January 27, 28, February 3, 4 at 3pm
NYU Skirball | 566 LaGuardia Pl | NYC
Tickets: $75
Link: https://nyuskirball.org/events/ice-whisper-opera/#tickets

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Foundation to Assist Young Musicians
After 10 years, FAYM is still going strong. At our most recent board meeting we looked back at where we have been and began long term planning with hopes to make the next 10 years even better than the first.

FAYM began with an idea from Mr. Harold Weller, and thanks to the help of many individuals along the way has grown. I especially want to draw attention to our board and all they have done to make that growth possible. Our board members come from different backgrounds and professions that come together for one reason: to bring music education to young people.

None of us are interested in personal fame or fortune. We are only trying to make a difference in the lives of others. I frequently quote the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child". The FAYM village could not exist without the leadership of our board members.

Every month, the board gathers to share ideas and make plans to improve and expand FAYM programs, all in the hope that we are creating a legacy for young people yet to come. We share the dream that this program will continue long after we are gone!

We put in a lot of time, effort, and financial support to keep FAYM going strong. At this time I would like to thank Board Members past, present, and future who have share this mission and work hard to bring it to fruition.

Spring 2018 Calendar:
Classes Resume
Week of January 8th

Spring Recital
Saturday, March 10, 3pm to 5:30pm
East Las Vegas Community Center

Last Day of Spring Classes
May 9th and 10th

Year End Recital
Saturday, May 12th
3pm to 5:30pm
East Las Vegas Community Center

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

---Arturo Ochoa, President, FAYM

Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (CD review)

Martha Argerich, piano; Charles Dutoit, Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Warner Classics 7243 5 56798 2 6.

First, a prefatory note:  Since I first heard it in the mid Sixties, Maurizio Polloni's 1960 rendering of Chopin's First Piano Concerto (EMI) has been one of my top ten favorite recordings of all time. I never thought that anything could or would shake my confidence in that particular conviction. But then I should never have underestimated Martha Argerich, who continually amazes me with each of her releases. Her 1998 recording of the First Concerto is sublime. No, I will not go so far as to concede that it overshadows Pollini's version, but it comes closer than most other recordings I have listened to in the past fifty years or so.

In the first movement, Argerich and Pollini are equally poetic and equally heroic, and if anyone can find an advantage for either of them, he or she is a better listener than I. Amazingly, the interpretations are within two seconds of one another in the opening movement, and both are hauntingly beautiful in the big middle tune.

Martha Argerich
In the slow, second movement, however, I have to stick with Pollini.  Chopin himself describes the movement as "...calm and melancholy, giving the impression of someone looking gently towards a spot which calls to mind a thousand happy memories. It is a kind of reverie in the moonlight on a beautiful spring evening." Such is Pollini's account, which lingers ever that much longer in the moonlight than Argerich's.

In the final movement, the Rondo Vivace, again the two  performances are almost equally vigorous, but here I have to admit to a marginally greater fluency in Argerich's playing, even if she takes things at a rather heady pace. 

What I cannot deny is that EMI's (now Warner's) sound mostly improved over the years. It was richer, smoother, quieter, and more refined in 1998 than in 1960. I say "mostly," though, because the actual piano sound is a tad more well focused in the older recording and a bit more crisply defined. Perhaps for the first-time buyer of either disc, price may play a part in the decision or the couplings on the two discs.

The new Argerich issue combines the First Concerto with the Second (actually written earlier than the First). As expected, the Second also goes to the top of the pile, although I don't especially respond to much of the music except its lovely second movement. Pollini rounds out his mid-priced album with a collection of short solo Chopin pieces, all of them must-buys as well. So, in the end I'd have to advise any serious music collector to purchase both discs. The older recording is an acknowledged classic; the newer one was my personal choice for record of the year when it came out. What else can a person do but own them both?

JJP

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


Krenek: Complete Piano Concertos, Volume Two (CD review)

Double Concerto; Little Concerto; Concerto for Two Pianos; Piano Concerto No. 4. Mikhail Korzhev, piano; Eric Huebner, piano; Nurit Pacht, violin; Adrian Partington, organ. Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra. Toccata Classics TOCC 0392.

In a booklet note accompanying this disc, author/teacher/conductor Peter Tregear writes, "Ernst Krenek's reputation as a 'one-man history of twentieth century music' is nothing if not well deserved." I think he probably means that the Austrian-born American composer Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) produced over 240 works in his lifetime, adopting a variety of compositional forms along the way, from late-Romantic to atonality, from neoclassicism to experimental jazz, and from modal counterpoint to twelve-tone writing, serial techniques, and electronic music. He mainly earned a living, though, by teaching, lecturing, and completing the unfinished material of other composers, and today he may be more famous for his short-lived marriage to the daughter of Gustav Mahler than for anything he composed.

Anyway, in 2016 Toccata Classics released the first volume of Krenek's complete piano concertos with Mikhail Korzhev, piano, and Kenneth Woods leading the English Symphony Orchestra. It contained the first three of Krenek's four solo piano concertos, and this second volume with the same forces contains the fourth one, along with several other, shorter concerto works that make Volume Two even more varied and interesting than the first disc.

The program begins with Krenek's Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 123, which he wrote in 1950. What I said about the performance team last year still applies: Korzhev's piano playing is scintillating, Woods's direction is warmly encouraging, and the orchestra is uniformly precise. For me, the Fourth Concerto is also the most fascinating and perhaps the most consciously modern, meaning it's nothing that you're going to go away humming, but it's something that may rivet your attention from beginning to end. Also, interestingly, Korshev, Woods, and the English Symphony give it its premiere recording. You'd think somebody in the past sixty-odd years would have found the music attractive enough to record, but I guess some things just get lost in the shuffle. Thank goodness for people like Woods championing a good cause.

Kenneth Woods
So, the first movement starts us off in a somewhat tumultuous state (marked "agitato" or agitated and "pesante" or heavy), its cadences unremitting. The second, slow movement is both lyrical and slightly atonal, which also seems a contradiction, yet works. The third and final movement is the most stylistically varied, a kind of march, and the most insistently rhythmic. Pianist Korzhev gets us through it with verve aplenty, and Maestro Woods and his players accompany him with an equal zest.

Next is the Concerto for Two Pianos, Op. 127, written in 1951, in which pianist Eric Huebner joins Mr. Korzhev. It's in four short movements and alternates between the sublime and the frenetic. The fact that I did not particularly enjoy it seems irrelevant; it's vibrant, pulsating, and dynamic in the capable hands of the soloists and orchestra.

After that is the Double Concerto for Violin and Piano, Op. 124 from 1950, with violinist Nurit Pacht joining Mr. Korzhev. This work is in six or seven movements, depending on how you break up the final one. Despite the number of movements, the whole piece is quite brief, the movements only two or three minutes each. The dialogue between the violin and piano (the violin usually dominant) is casual and intimate, the music dance-like. The performers do up the work in an elegant manner, giving it a modern yet quaintly old-fashioned feeling.

The program ends with the Little Concerto for Piano and Organ, Op. 88 from 1940, with organist Adrian Partington joining in the fun. The orchestral accompaniment is the most diminutive in this selection, the score almost salon-like in its chamber setting. The music is also at its most poetic here, the organ gently filling in a quiet background. There is nothing ostentatious about the piece, just a sweet, generally tenderhearted little ditty performed with warmth and affection.

Producer Michael Haas and engineer Ben Connellan recorded the concertos at Wyastone Concert Hall, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales in September 2016. The sound is a little close and sometimes highlights instruments unnecessarily, but it nevertheless provides good orchestral depth and excellent clarity. There is nothing harsh, bright, or edgy about the sonics; indeed, it is quite the contrary, with smooth, detailed sound all the way around, especially the highs, which truly shimmer and glisten.

JJP

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


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

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

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

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

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

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa