Classical Music News of the Week, October 14, 2017

The Crypt Sessions Presents Alyson Cambridge, Singing From the Diary of Sally Hemings

Alyson Cambridge
The Crypt Sessions Season 2 concludes on November 15, 2017 with American Soprano Alyson Cambridge singing William Bolcom's song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemings. The eighteen imagined diary entries tell the life story of Thomas Jefferson's slave-turned-mistress, grappling with issues of race, regret, respect and love that are as relevant today as they were back then.

Cambridge has been hailed by critics as "radiant, vocally assured, dramatically subtle and compelling, and artistically imaginative" (Washington Post), noted for her "powerful, clear voice" (New York Times) and "revelatory, sensual, smoky readings" (Opera News).

The performance will feature a pre-concert reception included in the ticket price, where Magnvm Opvs hosts a tasting of wines specially chosen to suit the music of that evening's concert, and Ward 8 Events provides hors d'oeuvres similarly tailored to the wine and the performance.

November 11, 2017 | Wine & Food Tasting 7 pm | Show 8 pm
Tickets: $75, including Wine & Food Tasting
Crypt Chapel underneath the Church of the Intercession, Harlem, NY.

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

One Found Sound's Season Opening Performance
A democratically run chamber orchestra that performs without a conductor, One Found Sound opens its fifth anniversary season with a program that highlights varying styles of dance music spanning three centuries. Works include Webern's arrangement of Ricercar a 6 from J.S. Bach's The Musical Offering, Serenade for Winds, Op. 44 by Dvorák and Danses Concertantes by Stravinsky. Audiences members are invited to attend in Halloween-inspired costume and stay for the after-show dance party.

Friday, October 27, 8:00 p.m.
Monument SF (140 9th Street, San Francisco)

--Brenden Guy

Historic Nichols Concert Hall Undergoing Renovation
The Music Institute of Chicago is preparing to undertake significant capital restoration of Nichols Concert Hall, a cultural anchor on Chicago's North Shore located at 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. The project will enhance and improve the experience for audiences of chamber music, jazz, orchestral concerts, dance, and much more, while preserving the characteristics that qualified the facility for landmark designation by the Evanston Historical Landmark Commission.

Renovation work began in 2015 and included a full replacement of the HVAC system, repairs to 12 original entrance doors, and restoration of window lintels. In this second phase of capital improvements, the Music Institute will rebuild the Hall's front steps with a full masonry restoration of the Indiana Limestone Treads matching original materials and aesthetics, replace hand railings, add lighting, and refresh landscaping. Immediate repair of the entry is imperative due to safety concerns, and the aging decline and settlement of the staircase led to deterioration of the original foundation. Approved by the Evanston Historical Landmark Commission, the work is scheduled for completion in late April 2018.

Nichols Concert Hall, a Classical Revival-style structure, was designed in 1912 by renowned Chicago architect Solon S. Beman as First Church of Christ, Scientist. The Music Institute acquired the building and transformed the upper level into an acoustically perfect, 550-seat performance space that is home to a fully restored 1914 E.M. Skinner pipe organ. The Music Institute converted the lower level into Evanston's Community Music School campus. Nichols Concert Hall opened in 2003 and received the Richard H. Driehaus Award for best adaptive use by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois.

For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Conductor Nell Flanders To Join The Chelsea Symphony
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle, announces the appointment of conductor Nell Flanders to their conducting staff. Ms. Flanders takes the podium on October 27 and 28 in her first official concert as TCS conductor, joining the ranks with Matthew Aubin, Reuben Blundell, and Mark Seto in leading concerts throughout the 2017/18 season. Ms. Flanders was chosen from a field of four finalists after a year-long selection process with dozens of candidates.

Every concert by The Chelsea Symphony features soloists, composers, and conductors taken from the ensemble. This is a collective of New York City professional freelancers coming together to create meaningful, self-governed concerts--a unique model in the classical world.

Nell Flanders' conducting credits include performances with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Chelsea Symphony, Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, and the Riverside Orchestra. She served as a cover conductor for JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic during the 2014-15 season and was the assistant conductor at Peabody Opera Theater during 2016-17. An enthusiastic proponent of contemporary music, Ms. Flanders has conducted many orchestral premieres with groups such as Mannes American Composers Ensemble, The Secret Opera Company, Peabody's Now Hear This, and The Chelsea Symphony. In May 2016 she conducted the premiere of Jochem Le Cointre's opera Steppenwolf.

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

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Lucy Moses School joins Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra for "Instrument Zoo"
The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony partners with the Lucy Moses School to bring an "Instrument Zoo" to its special family InsideOut Halloween offering, October 28th.

The afternoon family event that precedes each Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (PACS) evening concert is always a special event. This fall, with the addition of an "Instrument Zoo" led by New York's largest community music school, the InsideOut family Halloween event on October 28th at 2pm will offer an unforgettable afternoon for children.

The "Instrument Zoo" will feature members of the Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center, who will join the PACS musicians and Music Director David Bernard at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, to offer a menagerie of string and wind instruments for children to touch and get to know (but probably best not to attempt to feed them). It will round off a thrilling afternoon.

The afternoon event will begin with a performance at 2pm featuring Saint-Saens's hugely entertaining Danse Macabre, alongside excerpts from Berlioz's ghoulsome Symphonie Fantastique. The audience will experience the musical ghouls up close, as they will be seated amongst the musicians throughout the orchestra, in Bernard's popular and vivid InsideOut concert format. Bernard will explain and talk about each musical piece.

All events will take place at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 W 37th St, New York City, NY.

For more information, visit http://chambersymphony.com/upcoming-season/

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

To Our Community in This Difficult Time
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you as our Green Music Center community experiences immense loss from the fires in the North Bay, Sonoma County, CA. Our thoughts are with the many people who are impacted and those who are serving the community at this time.
 
Sonoma State University has canceled all classes and university business until Monday, October 16, and the Green Music Center has followed suit by canceling the performances scheduled this weekend. We aim to resume normal business hours on Monday. At that point, please reach out with any questions or concerns and our team will do our best to meet each request in a timely and efficient matter. The Sonoma State University Box Office can be reached at 1.866.955.6040 or via e-mail at tickets@sonoma.edu.
 
In the coming weeks, we hope for the Green Music Center to be a place for us to gather and come together as a community in support of each other. We seek to be a beacon of hope, connection, and restoration, and to find healing through the power of music as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

--Jacob Yarrow, Executive Director, Green Music Center

Benjamin Beilman Leads New Century, November 9-12
New Century continues its 2017-2018 season November 9-12 with debut performances by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, American violinist Benjamin Beilman. Hailed by the Washington Post as "mightily impressive," Beilman will lead New Century in a varied program that spans the ages ranging from Biber's Battaglia to Stravinsky's Concerto in Re and Andrew Norman's virtuoso Gran Turissmo. Beilman will also take center stage for J.S. Bach's Violin Concerto in E major BWV 1042 with Mahler's arrangement of Beethoven's Quartet in F minor Op. 95 rounding out the program.

Praised by The New York Times for his "handsome technique, burnished sound, and quiet confidence," 27-year old Benjamin Beilman has fast become a sought-after artist across the world appearing with orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Frankfurt Radio Symphony. In addition to receiving a 2012 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Beilman has received numerous accolades including First Prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and First Prize in the Montréal International Musical Competition with The Strad praising his performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in the latter as "pure poetry." A favorite among Bay Area audiences, Beilman made his San Francisco Symphony debut in July 2014 performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, and has also appeared with Music@Menlo and San Francisco Performances.

For more information on New Century, please visit http://www.ncco.org

--Brenden Guy

SOLI's First Annual Contemporary Music Open Mic. Night
November 6, 2017
312 Pearl Parkway, Bld. #6, Suite #6001, San Antonio, TX 78215 - 7:30PM

Have you been toiling away at your instrument, waiting for your moment to shine? Are you a fan of modern music? Well then, your opportunity is now, as Texas Public Radio and SOLI Chamber Ensemble team up to present the first annual SOLI Contemporary Music Open Mic Night at Jazz TX.

For more information, visit http://www.solichamberensemble.com/
To sign up, visit https://form.jotform.com/72466936564166

--SOLI Chamber Ensemble

New Century Chamber Orchestra Presents "Benjamin Beilman Leads"
New Century Chamber Orchestra presents upcoming performances of "Benjamin Beilman Leads" November 9 through 12, featuring Benjamin Beilman as Guest Concertmaster and soloist. Four performances will be given around the SF Bay Area in Berkeley, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and San Rafael.

New Century continues its 2017-2018 season with debut performances by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, and American violinist Benjamin Beilman with a varied program that spans the ages. Works are by Biber, J.S Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky and Norman.

Open Rehearsal: Wednesday, November 8, 10 a.m., Kanbar Performing Arts Center, San Francisco, CA
Thursday, November 9, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA
Friday, November 10, 8 p.m., Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto, CA
Saturday, November 11, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, November 12, 3 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA

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

--Brenden Guy PR

YPC's Countdown to "Dancing Voices" and "Odyssey" Opera
With YPC's performance in Lincoln Center's White Light Festival on October 20 & 21, and the Met Museum's premiere of "Odyssey: A Youth Opera" on November 3 & 4, Young People's Chorus of New York City is earning a reputation as "the chorus that never sleeps." From daily rehearsals to film crews, costume fittings and puppet repair, YPC choristers have been fully engaged in the entire art-making process.

U.S. Premiere of "Dancing Voices" at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival with Meredith Monk and YPC, October 20 - 21.

YPC in NYC Premiere of Ben Moore's "Odyssey," an opera at the Met Museum, November 3 - 4.

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

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

Beethoven's 6th and a World Premiere
The Chelsea Symphony, featured in the hit Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle, announces the continuation of its 2017/18 season, entitled "Sea Change," with concerts on October 27 and 28 featuring Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral"), View of Life, a World Premiere by composer Aaron Dai, Camille Saint-Saëns's Cello Concerto No. 1, featuring cellist Alicia Furey (10/27 only), Ludwig van Beethoven's Romance No. 2, featuring violinist Jessica Lightfoot (10/28 only), and Carl Maria von Weber's Bassoon Concerto, featuring bassoonist Anna Keelin Fitzgerald (10/28 only).

The Chelsea Symphony's 2017/18 season features orchestral works with a focus on nature and environmental stewardship. Every concert by The Chelsea Symphony features soloists, composers, and conductors taken from the ensemble. This is a collective of New York City professional freelancers coming together to create meaningful, self-governed concerts—a unique model in the classical world.

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

--Elizabeth Holub, Chelsea Symphony

Maria Callas: The Legend (CD review)

EMI CDC 7243 5 57057  2 3 (Warner Classics 2435570575)

The American operatic soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977) may still be the most recognizable female name in opera, almost a quarter century after her death. Although she was quite versatile, singing in French, German, and Italian, she is known today primarily for her French and Italian roles, which are well represented on this collection of her art. She was also known for her volatile disposition and the notoriety of her lifestyle, but that's another story. The questions is, Was she really the greatest female soprano of all time? One can only say, maybe. Personal taste dictates the answer.

Certainly, one could make the case that Callas should come somewhere near the top of any list of great singers. And another thing seems clear: she probably did not possess the most dynamic, lilting, precise, or beautiful voice of all time. Those titles might go to other contenders. What is equally clear, however, is that no other soprano in modern history interpreted a song quite like her. By the time she retired, she had performed over forty separate roles and had recorded something like twenty operas.

Maria Callas
The booklet insert provides a good example of her singing style. When a reporter once asked her after a film appearance, "So you have decided to start out on a career as an actress," she replied that she thought she had always been one. Yes, above all she was an actress, a dramatic singer who could transform herself into the character she was performing and convey the character's emotions through the words. She was not simply singing; she was being.

The seventeen arias on this recital disc, among the best she ever recorded, are good examples of her ability to transcend the mere lyrics of a song and create a genuine persona. Listen to the first item, Bellini's "Casta Diva" from Norma, and you'll see what I mean. There follow songs from Catalani, Rossini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi, of course, Saint-Saens and Bizet. Trust me in saying you will recognize all of them; they are standard repertoire fare like "Un bel di vedremo," "Si, Mi chiamano Mimi," "O mio babbino caro," and the like. Each is exquisite; each a gem.

EMI's sound varies from mediocre to above average in these remasters, now available from Warner Classics. Remember, these recordings were taken from the mid Fifties on. Most are in monaural, but like "Vissi d 'arte" from Tosca, it is quite good mono sound. My only complaint is that the EMI engineers occasionally seem to have applied a little too much noise reduction, softening the high end more than necessary. Most of the tracks evidence a degree of hardness or roughness, but it is not extreme, and if you love music you won't even notice. Strongly recommended.

JJP

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


Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (CD review)

Kristin Sampson, soprano; Edith Dowd, alto; Cameron Schutza, tenor; Brian Kontes, bass; New Amsterdam Singers; West Point Glee Club; Young New Yorkers' Chorus. David Bernard, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Recursive Classics RC2058306.

If you're like me (heaven forbid), you may view Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 as the epitome of big-scale classical music. So it might give you some slight pause to consider the symphony played by a chamber orchestra. You might have even more doubts to learn that the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony comprises mainly players who do other things for a living (hedge-fund managers, philanthropists, CEO's, UN officials, and so on). They're not exactly amateurs, but they're not full-time, paid musicians, either. Fortunately, one listen to their playing should dispel any lingering skepticism. Everyone involved with this current production deserves praise.

Not that the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony is a particularly small ensemble. It just isn't the size of a full symphony orchestra, and no matter how well they play, you won't mistake them for the Concertgebouw Orchestra or the Berlin Philharmonic. In fact, in the final movement the solo and choral forces (Kristin Sampson, soprano; Edith Dowd, alto; Cameron Schutza, tenor; Brian Kontes, bass; New Amsterdam Singers, the West Point Glee Club, and the Young New Yorkers' Chorus) must outnumber the orchestral players two to one. Nevertheless, the New Yorkers play with enthusiasm, and Maestro David Bernard leads them with gusto.

David Bernard
Did I say "gusto"? I mean, Bernard really has them zipping along. Remember back in the early days of CD, we heard that Philips and Sony, the cofounders of the format, decided upon seventy-five minutes as the limit for content (although some CD's now contain a little over eighty minutes) because seventy-five minutes would accommodate the average length for the Beethoven Ninth Symphony? Well, Bernard's performance leaves plenty of room on the disc to spare. I compared his timings for all four movements to Roger Norrington's historically informed performance, which uses Beethoven's own metronome marks (for better or for worse, depending on your attitude toward the reliability of the markings), and Bernard's sixty-five minute mark is almost as fast. So, yes, this is a zippy reading.

The first thing one notices about the performance is that the fairly small size of the ensemble provides a cozier, more intimate style than many of us may be used to. I still miss the big-scale approach, but the inner detail this one provides compensates in part.

Anyway, the first two (orchestral) movements roll along with a zesty fervor, thanks largely to Maestro Bernard's obvious love of the subject matter and his keen desire to communicate that love to his listeners. The orchestra, amateur or not, respond with equal ardor. They may not produce the lush, rich tones of a bigger group, but they make up for it with their eager (and accurate) musicianship. And the third-movement Adagio is as lyrical and sensitive as you'll find.

Which brings us to the concluding choral movement (the familiar "Ode to Joy"), the moment everybody's been waiting for. Here, the orchestra takes a backseat to the various soloists and choruses participating. In fact, the orchestra practically gets overwhelmed. Moreover, Maestro Bernard lessens the speeds a tad, giving the music a little more chance to breathe, yet the overall impression remains one of intense drive. It's an exceptionally energetic and dramatic interpretation, with the soloists and choruses contributing to favorable effect.

Maybe not everyone will take a shine to Bernard's thrill-a-minute rendering of so well-loved and well-travelled a piece of music, but there's no doubt his is an entertaining ride. You may even find yourself coming back to it more often than you imagined.

Engineers Joseph Patrych and Antonio Oliart recorded the symphony at the DiMenna Center, New York City in November 2016. You'll find a fine sense of orchestral depth, a modest hall bloom, and a relatively wide dynamic range involved, which greatly enhance the realism of the production. Voices elicit a clear, vibrant response, if a bit close. Although stage width is somewhat limited, it has little impact on the recording's clarity. There is also some degree of upper midrange brightness and edge, particularly noticeable in the vocals, but it's not enough of a deal killer to be entirely distracting. While the sound may not be absolutely audiophile, it's quite good and complements the orchestra especially well.

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