Beethoven: Panorama (CD review)

Leonore Overture; Piano Concerto No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Piano Sonatas 17 & 21; String Quartet "Razumovsky." Carlos Kleiber, Claudio Abbado, Karl Bohm, Maurizio Pollini. DG Panorama 289 469 112-2 (2-disc set).

This two-disc set began DG's second series of "Panorama" double albums, featuring some of the company's best older recordings of Beethoven. Like many others in the series, these discs offer some magical and highly persuasive moments at a relatively low price. It remains a bargain and a must-have if you don't already have these performances in your library.

The program begins with the Leonore Overture, performed by Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded in 1991. The performance displays commendable energy and drive, but finds flaw in its mediocre, curiously lifeless sound.

Following the overture on disc one is the Fourth Piano Concerto with pianist Maurizio Pollini and conductor Karl Bohm with the Vienna Philharmonic. Pollini's playing appears a bit distant but as always his craftsmanship and precision are without peer. The recording, made in 1976, is fuller, warmer, and more ambient than the later Abbado productions and provides a more comfortable listening experience.

Carlos Kleiber
Disc one concludes with what is perhaps the most famous and most critically acclaimed recording of the last forty or fifty years, Carlos Kleiber's 1975 rendition of the Fifth Symphony, also with the Vienna Philharmonic. The set would be worth its price for this electrifying and emotionally charged performance alone. On a side note, DG also offer this Fifth Symphony in their "Originals" series of single discs, coupled with Kleiber's excellent interpretation of the Seventh Symphony.

Disc two begins with a pair of piano sonatas, No. 21 "Waldstein," and No. 17 "The Tempest." Both find pianistic perfection in a 1989 recording by Maurizio Pollini. The lineup concludes with the String Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 "Razumovsky." Recorded in 1997 by the Emerson String Quartet, it is immediate in sound and evocative in spirit.

Given that so many record companies are repackaging older material these days, it's good to see DG doing so with such good taste, creativity, and generosity. What's more, given that DG first issued this set some years ago, one can find it at a ridiculously low price new or almost nothing used. You won't find better value anywhere in the world of recorded music.

JJP

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


McEncroe: Symphonic Suites 1 & 2: A Medieval Saga (CD review)

Mark J. Saliba, orchestration; Anthony Armore, Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra. Navona Records NV6116 (2-disc set).

Australian composer and pianist Mark John McEncroe (b. 1947) began his career in music working in his early twenties and thirties as a label manager for EMI Records in Australia and Sweden. It was during this time that he also took up piano, trumpet, flute, and clarinet, mainly as a hobby but later in depth. It wasn't until 2003 that he began studying music theory and composition, and since that time he has composed a number of works and recorded an equal number of albums. While his usual approach (including the current album) has been to write the scores for piano and then collaborate with Mark J. Saliba, who would orchestrate the pieces, he is currently studying orchestration, perhaps to do more of the work himself.

McEncroe began writing the Symphonic Suites 1 & 2: A Medieval Saga in 2007, originally entitling them "A Modern Medieval Tale" (now "Just Another Medieval Tale") and the second "And The Medieval Tale Continues," perhaps hinting that there are more "medieval tales" to come. Even though McEncroe regards the two works as "symphonies with a story to tell," he was probably right in labeling them suites because that's pretty much what they are: two series of program music describing life in medieval times. In this regard they reminded me of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (if you substitute Renaissance for medieval), and, indeed, the composer is currently developing his suites into a ballet. Of course, the suites may also remind some listeners of film music (here, for example, Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky comes to mind), and perhaps even a score for an Arthurian epic. Understand, I only mean this observation as a compliment as the music is quite graphic.

The titles of the various movements may give you a better idea of their content.

Suite No. 1:
1. Entrance of the King
2. Strutting Peacocks - Hangers on at Court
3. Rising Discontent
4. Peasants Uprising
5. An Uneasy Truce
6. A New Way Forward
7. The Quest - A Search for Truth

Suite No. 2:
1. The Gathering of Forces - A Call to Arms
2. The Night Before the Battle
3. The Siege
4. A Call for Peace
5. Hail to the New King
6. A Brave New World

Each suite is a little over forty minutes, so together they are a bit too long to accommodate on a single CD. But not to worry: Navona Records offers the two-disc set for the price of one, so everyone is happy.

Mark John McEncroe
Anyway, the section titles tell it all. The music describes a series of dramatic scenes from medieval life, mainly conflicts and turbulences among the ruling classes. There's a lovely lyricism to the slower segments that one can see would lend themselves nicely to ballet. The battle sequences also work well, developing an appropriate intensity.

And so it goes. The orchestration is often lush and romantic. The Janácek Philharmonic do a splendid job articulating the various degrees of ardour and periodically feverish passion the score requires. And Maestro Anthony Armore manages to keep it all of one piece, as the score does tend to go off in different directions on occasion.

I can't say the music impressed me overmuch with its originality, however, because by the time I finished the first suite, I wasn't quite ready for a sequel. Fortunately, the second suite actually comes across as more innovative, more creative, more tuneful, and more atmospheric than the first. I can't help wondering, then, if it wouldn't have been better for McEncroe to have synthesized a single suite of numbers from the two suites. At about an hour, he might have something important here. In the meantime, we look forward to the upcoming ballet he has planned for the music.

The album's producer and engineer, Jaroslav Zouhar, recorded the two suites at The Hall of Culture, Ostrava, Czech Republic in June 2015 and January 2016. There is sometimes a rather bright, edgy upper midrange response in the first of the suites that tends to dominate the music, but if you can get past that, things are fairly neutral. Clarity is OK if a bit steely, as I say. Good depth of field helps with realism, as do strong dynamics. Hall resonance sometimes appears just right and at other times appears a tad too reverberant and tubby. Mid bass is full and round, providing a comforting warmth to the proceedings. Most of the time the sound is natural and lifelike, especially in the second suite, which I not only liked more for its musical content but sounds better recorded to me.

JJP

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


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

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