Classical Music News of the Week, December 10, 2016

Park Avenue Armory Announces 2017 Season

Park Avenue Armory announces today its upcoming 2017 season, which will include two new commissions, and world and North American premieres across disciplines in its Wade Thompson Drill Hall and historic interiors. Marking the first full season programmed by Artistic Director Pierre Audi, and the 10th anniversary of the Armory's artistic program, the year features major collaborations with an international roster of artists working in theater, classical, and popular music, visual art, and installation.

Highlights of the season's major productions include The Hairy Ape, Eugene O'Neill's classic expressionist play that reimagines the Old Vic production; the world premiere of Hansel and Gretel, a new commission by Ai Weiwei and Herzog & de Meuron that explores the meaning of public space in our surveillance laden-world; Répons by Pierre Boulez, a rarely performed spatial masterpiece experienced from multiple perspectives; Blank Out, a multi-disciplinary chamber opera based on the life and work of Ingrid Jonker by Michael van der Aa; and the world premiere of KANATA, a three-part theater commission by Le Theatre du Soleil and Ex Machina, and directed by Robert Lepage that explores the history of Canada's aboriginal communities. The 2017 season will open with the North American premiere of Manifesto, Julian Rosefeldt's large-scale cinematic installation of reinterpreted artistic declarations brought to life by Cate Blanchett.

This season also includes the continuation of its intimate performance programs, including the Recital Series, which presents both rising and celebrated operatic talent in the Belle Époque setting of the Board of Officer's Room, and the Artists Studio series, curated by Jason Moran, which presents contemporary music from across the globe in the revitalized Veterans Room.

For more information, visit http://www.armoryonpark.org/programs_events/2017_Season

--Stephanie Yeo, Resnicow and Associates

Carl Palmer on the Passing of Greg Lake
It is with great sadness that I must now say goodbye to my friend and fellow band-mate, Greg Lake.  Greg's soaring voice and skill as a musician will be remembered by all who knew his music and recordings he made with ELP and King Crimson.  I have fond memories of those great years we had in the 1970s and many memorable shows we performed together. Having lost Keith this year as well, has made this particularly hard for all of us.  As Greg sang at the end of Pictures At An Exhibition, "death is life." His music can now live forever in the hearts of all who loved him. --Greg Lake, December 8, 2016

--Bruce Pilato

KODO: Taiko Percussion Ensemble Announce 22 City U.S. Tour
Kodo--the world's foremost professional taiko company who have played a singular role in popularizing modern taiko drumming--will present their program DADAN in North America for the first time, visiting 22 U.S. cities between January and March 2017.

Forging new directions for the traditional Japanese drum, Kodo will bring a display of their raw athleticism and rhythmic mastery back to the U.S. with this cutting-edge and ever-evolving production featuring the men of Kodo in a bold portrayal of the essence of drumming through this vibrant living art form. The 2017 tour highlights include stops at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Chicago's Symphony Center, the Smith Center in Las Vegas, and BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in New York City.

For complete information, visit http://www.kodo.or.jp/index_en.html

--Liza Prijatel Thors, Rebecca Davis PR

Watch Two New Videos about American Bach Soloists' Messiah in Grace Cathedral
Jeffrey Thomas conducts the period-instrument specialists of ABS, the renowned American Bach Choir, and a quartet of brilliant vocal soloists in Handel's beloved masterpiece in one of San Francisco's most awe-inspiring, sacred spaces. ABS, Handel, and Grace Cathedral are perennially a winning combination and a highlight of the holiday season. A beloved Bay Area tradition now in its 18th consecutive year, ABS's performances of Handel's timeless work attract music lovers from around the world.

Wednesday, December 14 2016 7:30 pm
Thursday, December 15 2016 7:30 pm
Friday, December 16 2016 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

"The 1753 Foundling Hospital Version of Handel's Messiah" - Jeffrey Thomas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w14qytkJ0_Q&index=6&list=PLmbakg-rAnFhGphIKBLJW4cqjprDGdU0M

"Welcome to Grace Cathedral" - The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fna74hqO2A&index=5&list=PLmbakg-rAnFhGphIKBLJW4cqjprDGdU0M

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

--American Bach Soloists

Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba--Live From Lincoln Center with Dave Matthews Dec. 16
"Live From Lincoln Center" presents Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell in a performance with the Chamber Orchestra of Havana and some of Cuba's most renowned artists, as well as special guest Dave Matthews. This marks the U.S. debut of the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, conducted by Daiana García. Live From Lincoln Center's "Joshua Bell: Seasons of Cuba" airs nationally as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival on Friday, December 16, 2016 (check local listings).

--Jane Covner, Jag PR

New England Conservatory Alumni and Faculty on the 59th Annual Grammy Nomination List
New England Conservatory alumni and faculty were included in nominations for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, announced yesterday. The Grammy Awards ceremony, on which winners will be revealed, will be televised live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Sunday, February 12, 8pm EST, on CBS. Final-round ballots will be mailed to voting members of The Recording Academy on December 14, and are due back to the accounting firm of Deloitte for tabulating by January 13, 2017.

The album Undercurrent by singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz '13 is recognized with nominations for Best American Roots Performance (track "House of Mercy") and Best Folk Album, which accrue to the performers; the album also received a nomination for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Jarosz has previously been nominated for Build Me Up from Bones (2013) and a track from her debut album, Song Up in Her Head (2009).

Moving to the classical categories, an orchestra with deep ties to NEC appears among the nominations, after having previously been nominated for a Grammy award for another release in the nominated project. More than half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's players are NEC faculty and/or alumni. The BSO and music director Andris Nelsons are nominated for Best Orchestra Performance with Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow-Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9. This follows up on last year's nominated release of Symphony No. 10 in a series of live recordings for Deutsche Grammophon.

Among the nominees for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, Third Coast Percussion is nominated for its Steve Reich recording. This quartet of percussionists includes Robert Dillon '04 M.M., who was a member of the NEC Percussion Ensemble during the recording of its Naxos CD American Music for Percussion, Vol. 1.

Marta Aznavoorian '96 M.M. is pianist of the Lincoln Trio, nominated for Trios from Our Homelands. In reference to the recording's theme, Aznavoorian's Armenian heritage is represented by composer Arno Babajanian.

For more information, visit http://necmusic.edu/bso

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Celesta PR

International Contemporary Ensemble Featured in PROTOTYPE Festival
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is featured in two events as part of the fifth annual PROTOTYPE festival — the New York City premiere of David Lang and Mark Dion's theatrical work anatomy theater, and the Silent Voices concert.

Inspired by actual medical texts from the 17th and 18th century, anatomy theater follows the progression of a convicted murderess from her confession to execution, to denouncement, and finally to dissection. Peabody Southwell (Sarah Osborne), Marc Kudisch (Joshua Crouch), Robert Osborne (Baron Peel), and Timura (Ambrose Strang) are featured together with the International Contemporary Ensemble in seven performances on January 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 at 8:00 p.m. at the BRIC House Ballroom, 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217.

On January 14 and 15 at 5:00 p.m. at the Florence Gould Hall at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), ICE and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus are featured in Silent Voices, a multimedia, multi-composer stage work conceived by BYC Founding Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker, and commissioned and produced by the Chorus. The project harnesses the power of young people to be instruments of change, giving voice to those silenced or marginalized by social, cultural or religious circumstances and features music by Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal, Rhiannon Giddens, Alicia Hall Moran, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, Nico Muhly, Toshi Reagon, Ellen Reid, Kamala Sankaram, Caroline Shaw and Paul Miller/DJ Spooky and texts by Hilton Als, Michelle Alexander, Samad Behrangi, and Pauli Murray.

Tickets: Priced at $30, can be purchased from the Prototype Festival website at http://prototypefestival.org/

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Rimsky-Korsakov: The Maid of Pskov Suite (CD review)

Also, The Legend of the Invisible City Suite; Fairy Tale; Fantasia on Serbian Themes. Igor Golovchin, Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.553513.

The music for The Maid of Pskov is incidental to the play on which Rimsky-Korsakov based his troubled opera (1872). The suite, frankly, left me a little bored. Perhaps I was expecting Scheherazade or the Russian Easter Festival Overture. In any event, most of the five movements are Entr'actes, meant to set various scenes rather than elaborate upon them. Maestro Igor Golovchin and the Moscow Symphony players do the best they can with it, I'm sure, the orchestra sounding finely polished.

The second work, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, from 1903, is much more evocative and has an especially elaborate and fanciful finale that is, in fact, reminiscent of the composer's earlier Scheherazade. Here, however, Golovchin seems a little understated when more color might have helped.

Igor Golovchin
Probably the best piece on the disc, though, is Fairy Tale (1880), a brief, thirteen-minute tone poem for which Rimsky-Korsakov felt forced to suggest a few guidelines to listeners, suggestions like the sounds of the forest, the call of a mythical bird, a water nymph, and the famous witch, Baba Yaga. It holds up pretty well under Golovchin's still somewhat conservative approach.

The program concludes with another short work, the eight-minute Fantasia on Serbian Themes (1887), which again seems better focused and more impressionistic than the Maid music. My only concern in the performance was for conductor Igor Golovchin's rather measured, somewhat foursquare interpretations. I was hoping he would let loose with some real Russian zeal, at least in the closing moments of the piece, but it was not to be.

The sound the Naxos engineers provide for the Moscow Symphony is typically firm and solid for the company. It's a bit warm and soft and doesn't have much sparkle, but it does come across as rock steady, clean, and sturdy. Stereo spread appears quite wide, depth is moderate, dynamics are fine, and bass, particularly from a prominent bass drum, shows up firm and deep. No real complaints here.

With an ample seventy-two minutes of music, the Naxos label again provides one's money's worth in terms of material offered. And at the very least the little Fairy Tale is worth one's time.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


Antal Dorati Conducts Albeniz, Kodaly & Prokofiev (CD review)

Antal Dorati, Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra. HDTT remastered.

If you're an audiophile, I don't need to tell you that a lot of folks have prized the mid 1950's to early 1960's recordings from RCA "Living Stereo" and Mercury "Living Presence" as collector's items. So it's always a pleasure to hear another of the latter recordings from this era remastered by HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), this time with Antal Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony from 1956-57 and the London Symphony from 1957.

First up are five of the twelve piano "impressions" from Iberia by Spanish composer and pianist Isaac Albeniz (1860–1909), orchestrated by E. Fernandez Arbos. Color and atmosphere fill the music, and those are things Hungarian-born conductor Dorati (1906-1988) did exceptionally well. This is important because Arbos's orchestration is lush and varied, and Dorati does it justice throughout all the sections.

Next is the Hary Janos Suite by Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly (1882–1967). Kodaly extracted the orchestral suite from his comic opera of the same name, which he prefaced saying, "Hary is a peasant, a veteran soldier who day after day sits at the tavern spinning yarns about his heroic exploits. The stories released by his imagination are an inextricable mixture of realism and naivety, of comic humour and pathos." The music begins with an orchestral "sneeze," and from there it gets even more picturesque as it goes along. Dorati gives the piece a fine combination of vigor and excitement, and the Minneapolis players provide him all the zip and polish the work needs.

Antal Dorati
The final item on the program is the six-movement concert suite from the comic opera The Love of Three Oranges by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953). If anything, this work is more outwardly exciting than the others, and again Dorati is up the challenge. What's more, the LSO play with all the zeal the music needs, so we get another triumph from the conductor and orchestra.

If I had to find any fault in the album (which I don't have to but will anyway, because, you know, it's what critics do), it's that the there are only three track points, one for each major item. I would have liked track points for each selection within each suite. Oh, well, a minor quibble.

Producer Wilma Cozart (Fine), editor Harold Lawrence, and engineer C. R. Fine recorded the Kodaly at the Northrop Memorial Auditorium, Minneapolis, Minnesota in November 1956; the Albeniz in April 1957; and the Prokofiev at Watford Town Hall, London, England in July 1957. HDTT transferred the recordings from Mercury two-track tapes.

The recordings from Minneapolis are as vivid as they can be. Highs seem a trifle hard and sharp at times, but, otherwise, the sound is as spectacular as a listener could want. I remember owning these recordings on vinyl many years ago, but I don't remember them sounding as good as they do here. The frequency and dynamic ranges are very wide, with strong impact all through the spectrum and as quick a transient response as you'll find. The midrange sounds beautifully balanced and transparent. The stereo spread is wide without being too close up. The London recording is similarly clear and dynamic, but it adds a touch more roundness and resonance from Watford Town Hall, making it even more lifelike. Really fine listening.

For further information on HDTT products, prices, discs, and downloads in a variety of formats, you can visit their Web site at http://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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