Glazunov: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8 (CD review)

Alexander Anissimov, Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.553660.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. If the name of Russian composer Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) conjures up little more in your memory banks than the Raymonda and Seasons ballets, you're probably not alone. He is one of those very fine composers that people know today for mainly just a couple of things even though he composed a huge quantity of stuff. Fortunately, in the late 1990's and early 2000's the Naxos label sought to make Glazunov's symphonies better recognized through a series of recordings with Alexander Anissiov and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

Glazunov  premiered the Eighth Symphony in 1906, his last completed large-scale piece. It is a big symphony, to be sure, and typically Russian: weighty, resonant, and momentous, and, yes, in part a little menacing. Its most interesting movements are its second and third. The slow second movement has a particularly lyrical and serene central portion that would charm almost anyone. Then the tumultuous third movement scherzo provides an ideal contrast to the preceding repose. Fun stuff.

Alexander Anissimov
Nevertheless, it's the Fifth Symphony that most impressed me. It may not display the same command of symphonic forces that the later Eighth does, but the Fifth has a wonderful combination of styles that range from Rimsky-Korsakov to Mendelssohn. At times you'd swear you were listening to one of Rimsky's colorful tone poems and at other times you'd think you were in one of Mendelssohn's enchanted fairy forests. It's really quite delightful, and we must congratulate Maestro Anissiov for his splendid work.

The sound Naxos delivers here is among the best from this source. They provide the Moscow Symphony splendid, natural sonics, with an excellent orchestral bloom, reasonable depth of field, and no untoward prominence of any single instrument. The sonics are perhaps not the utmost in transparency nor is there much deep bass, but there is none of the soft, fuzzy, overly resonant acoustic we sometimes get from the Moscow Orchestra, either.

The disc's reasonable cost (especially now that used copies are so readily available) makes it easy for anybody to sample Glazunov's talents, the Moscow orchestra under Anissimov makes it easy to listen to, and the music takes care of itself in offering the differing sides of this fascinating composer.


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

Lang Lang: New York Rhapsody (CD review)

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; various other short pieces. Herbie Hancock; John Axelod, London Symphony Orchestra; various accompanists. Sony Classical 88985332922.

Chinese pianist Lang Lang tells us in a booklet note that he wanted to do an album paying homage to New York City because the city "changed the course of music more than any other in the last 100 years...the city which has inspired and enriched me beyond words, which has become my home away from home...the city that turned Classical into this wonderful mess of new sounds and styles, the genius of Gershwin, of Copland, of Bernstein, jazz, Broadway, the arty punk of Lou Reed, hip hop.... In music, nothing was ever the same again. One of the greatest stories in the history of human creativity was written in this city--and I wanted to tell it."

Lang Lang's hyperbole may be a bit over-the-top, but, like his music making, his passion overflows. Whether his album tells the full story of NYC's contributions to the musical world, listeners will have to judge for themselves. Certainly, he attempts on this disc to cover a lot of bases, mainly in Gershwin's signature work and in a number of shorter selections by other composers.

Naturally, the centerpiece of the program is Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (1898-1937). By now, almost every music lover knows it was bandleader Paul Whiteman who persuaded a brash, young Gershwin to write a jazz-inflected showpiece for him and his jazz orchestra. When Gershwin initially declined, saying he didn't know enough about orchestration to do the work justice, Whiteman assured him that he could get Ferde Grofe to arrange it for piano and orchestra. That was 1924, and Gershwin's classical jazz became a new musical phenomenon.

The trouble is, we've got so many recordings of the Gershwin, any new one doesn't have much chance unless it can provide something unique. Depending only upon Lang Lang's legion of fans to buy the disc might not be enough to make a substantial enough profit on the investment of so much time and talent. The "something unique" here is an arrangement for two pianos (Lang Lang and jazz artist Herbie Hancock), accompanied by John Axelrod and the London Symphony. Since the music is a combination of classical and jazz, the two pianists attempt to capture that classical jazz spirit.

Lang Lang
The thing is, Lang Lang is not exactly a jazz artist himself, and I could never always tell exactly which performer was playing which parts. What I do know is that Lang Lang tends to attack the piece at first as though he were playing the Grieg Concerto. It's big and bold, but it doesn't quite capture the essence of Gershwin for me. It reminded me, in fact, of a 1968 recording I reviewed just a few weeks earlier with classical pianist Julius Katchen and Istvan Kertesz conducting the LSO. For me, that older performance was a bit too staid for the fusion of classical music and jazz I've always admired in Gershwin, and so, too, did I find Lang Lang's newer interpretation. Even with the help of Hancock, it comes off a touch too dreamy in some parts and too stiff in others. Happily, though, Gershwin's music is resilient enough to withstand almost any reading, and I'm sure a lot of folks will enjoy this different, more personal approach.

Plus, the reading is long. At over twenty-one minutes the performance lasts a good twenty-five per cent longer than most competing versions I'm aware of. Maybe fans will enjoy the lingering over details, too, but other listeners may simply find some sections slack or lethargic. The interpretation seems to want to romanticize Gershwin's music and only occasionally catches the edgier side of the city that inspired it. Nevertheless, Lang Lang's playing is up to the technical challenges of the work, and he's at his pyrotechnic best here. What's more, the LSO once again prove they can play anything, often at a moment's notice.

Understand, I'm not against newer or different interpretations. In fact, I enjoyed immensely Jeffrey Biegel's trimmed-down performance with Paul Phillips and the Brown University Orchestra on Naxos. And I continue to enjoy Leonard Bernstein's performance on Sony and Andre Previn's on EMI/Warner Classics because both of those performers worked in the popular idioms of jazz, Broadway, and Hollywood as well as classical, and they knew what Gershwin's work needed. Lang Lang's rendering does not convince me that he knows everything about the work, despite the black-and-white cover photo of him in vest and open tie, looking like the stereotypical world-weary Manhattanite.

Anyway, the rest of the program includes other bits and pieces Lang Lang and his producer felt exemplified the New York City experience:

"Story of 'Our Town'" (from "Our Town") with Lang Lang
"New York Morning" with Lang Lang and Jason Isbell
"Empire State of Mind" with Lang Lang and Andra Day
"New York Minute" with Lang Lang and Kandace Springs
"Somewhere" (Dirty Blvd.) with Lang Lang, Lisa Fischer, and Jeffrey Wright
"Main Theme" (from "Spider-Man") with Lang Lang and Lindsey Stirling
"Tonight" (from "West Side Story") with Lang Lang and Sean Jones
"Moon River" (from "Breakfast at Tiffany's") with Lang Lang and Madeleine Peyroux
"In Evening Air" with Lang Lang

These attendant works were more to my liking, although the whole agenda seems too scattered for much extended, concentrated listening. For me, it's more or less background material. Lang's opening piece from Copland's "Our Town" is quiet and sensitive. "New York Morning" is smoothly evocative. "Empire State of Mind" is fairly easy on the ear in a pop-music vein. As is Danny Elfman's "Spider-Man" theme, which tends to dominate the accompanying selections. The performers give Leonard Bernstein's "Tonight" a fairly jazzy treatment, and they do with Henry Mancini's "Moon River" about what they did with the Gershwin, sentimentalizing it too much.

David Lai and Larry Klein produced the Gershwin recording, with Jonathan Allen the engineer, making it at Abbey Road Studio One. Larry Klein and a number of other folks produced and engineered the rest of the selections, recording them in Los Angeles, New York, Manchester, Nashville, and Budapest. Sony Classical released the album in 2016.

The sound is a tad steely in the strings when it's not equally soft elsewhere, but the piano appears quite natural, if a little close-up. The overall impression is a combination, then, of realistic piano sound and somewhat mixed orchestral response. While I didn't find it particularly lifelike, there is certainly nothing to distract the listener from enjoying the music, and the recording's stereo spread and instrumental depth are more than adequate. Of lesser note, there were occasional odd noises I could never account for, noises I heard both on my big living-room speakers while auditioning the album and on my little computer speakers while recording an excerpt for the review.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 15, 2016

American Brass Quintet Embarks on Fall Tour, Featuring World and NY Premieres

Hailed by Newsweek as "the high priests of brass," the American Brass Quintet is internationally recognized as one of the premier chamber music ensembles of our time, celebrated for peerless leadership in the brass world. As 2013 recipient of Chamber Music America's highest honor, the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award for significant and lasting contributions to the field, the American Brass Quintet's rich history includes performances in Asia, Australia, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Canada and the United States; a discography of nearly 60 recordings; and the premieres of over 150 contemporary brass works. Committed to the development of brass chamber music through higher education, the American Brass Quintet has served as Ensemble-in-Residence at The Juilliard School since 1987 and the Aspen Music Festival since 1970.

Following their residency at Adelphi University on October 8, the Quintet returned to Juilliard with two NYC premieres by Kenneth Fuchs and Eric Nathan (both of which debuted in Aspen this past summer), along with works by the late Brazilian composer Osvaldo Lacerda and a suite of Renaissance pieces for large brass ensemble, for which the Quintet will be joined onstage by their Juilliard students. Fuchs's "American" Quintet, commissioned by the ABQ, aims to capture a truly "Americana" style; consonant, pleasing and grand, with great virtuosic and musical variety. The Aspen Times commented that the composition "lit a fire under the players' virtuosity, with rapidly moving, colorful and delightfully accessible writing that never flagged. It was so good I wished they had played the entire 12 minutes over again." Kenneth Fuchs was a student at The Juilliard School during the beginning of the American Brass Quintet's tenure as Ensemble-in-Residence, and is a faculty colleague of the Quintet's trumpet player Louis Hanzlik at the University of Connecticut.

On October 23, the American Brass Quintet appears at the Guggenheim as part of its Works & Process performing arts series for a Works & Process encore commission of Zorn's Commedia dell'arte, a suite of five miniatures for multiple ensembles inspired by the dell'arte characters Harlequin, Colombina, Scaramouche, Pulcinella and Pierrot. The Quintet's movement is the jovial, quasi-minimalist "Pulcinella." Commedia dell'arte displays a wide range of compositional styles spanning minimalism, post-bop jazz, avant-garde and more. This suite is being choreographed for a future collaboration with the ABQ.

Additional fall engagements bring the Quintet to Colgate University (Hamilton, NY), The Hotchkiss School (Lakeville, CT), Adelphi University (Garden City, NY), Coastal Concerts (Lewes, DE) and University of Maryland – Baltimore County (Baltimore, MD).

Internationally, the American Brass Quintet is presented by the Santa Marcelina Cultural Society in São Paulo, Brazil, and tours Asia in November in coordination with The Juilliard School.

For the full schedule, visit

--Katharine Boone, Kirshbaum Associates

DCINY Presents Messiah...Refreshed!
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) is proud to present its sixth annual performance of "Messiah…Refreshed!" on November 27th at 2PM, bringing their signature version of Handel's Messiah in the Thomas Beecham/Eugene Goossens 1959 re-orchestration for full symphony orchestra to Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. The performance will feature an international choir made up of singers all over the world, as well as soloists from the Metropolitan Opera and the award-winning Distinguished Concerts Orchestra led by maestro Jonathan Griffith.

The performance will be livestreamed via DCINY's Facebook page, whose previous livestreams have been viewed by over 1.5 million people around the world.

For more information, visit

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

Women Composers Highlighted in Free Concert Nov. 4
The Music Institute of Chicago presents the Cleveland ensemble Burning River Baroque, performing a free concert that explores well-known and overlooked female composers, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

"Twisted Fate: Famed and Forgotten Female Composers" blends works from antiquity to the present and explores the ways in which historical circumstances twisted the lives of some women into the spotlight and others into the shadows. The history of Western art music predominantly focuses on the lives and works of male teachers, composers, and performers. In eras when women rarely had access to the same educational and professional opportunities as their male colleagues, it can be easy to presume that women were simply not as productive and successful in the field. A closer look at history, however, reveals that some women were able to rise above the gender restrictions placed on them and achieved great success as professional musicians. Others led more private professional lives cloistered in abbeys and composing for their fellow sisters.

"Twisted Fate: Famed and Forgotten Female Composers" takes place Friday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Admission is free. All programming is subject to change.

For more information, call 847-905-1500 or visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Sonus Inenarrabilis: Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark, November 22
Some music just won't be pigeonholed, including the collection of compositions presented in Sonus Inenarrabilis. To do justice to this adventurous and haunting melding of diverse influences, you have to apply the immortal Duke Ellington's highest compliment: It's beyond category.

Sonus Inenarrabilis, soon to be released on Dave Soldier's Mulatta Records label (, features six jazz-inflected compositions by John Clark, rendered by a nonet starring instruments more commonly associated with symphonic music, including French Horn, Bassoon, Viola, and Cello.

Clark secured his jazz bona fides early on, playing with NEA Jazz Masters McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, George Russell, and Gil Evans: Clark was a mainstay of Evans' renowned Monday Night Orchestra, which reigned supreme at Sweet Basil in the 1980s. He has played with luminaries including Joe Lovano, Julius Hemphill, Jaco Pastorius, the Mingus Orchestra, and has done extensive pop, Broadway, classical, and studio work. Ensembles who have performed Clark's compositions include the Gil Evans Orchestra, the McCoy Tyner Big Band, the Paul Winter Consort, Composers' Concordance, Genghis Barbie, Imani Winds, and the Pugh-Taylor Project. Clark earned an advanced degree from the New England Conservatory, and is currently on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music.

November 22nd, 7:00pm
Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3
196 Allen Street (between Houston St & Stanton St)
New York City
 $10 plus 2-drink minimum

For more information, visit

--Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services

New Century Announces Daniel Hope as Artistic Partner
New Century Chamber Orchestra announced today the appointment of British violinist Daniel Hope as Artistic Partner for three seasons, beginning 2017-2018 through 2019-2020. The position of Artistic Partner will provide artistic continuity throughout the search process for a permanent Music Director to succeed Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who steps down at the end of the 2016-2017 season.

Following the January announcement that Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg would be stepping down at the end of the 2016-2017 season, Executive Director Philip Wilder and the New Century Chamber Orchestra Board of Directors initiated a strategic process, creating a search committee dedicated to identifying the next stage of New Century's artistic leadership. It was unanimously agreed that the creation of a short-term artistic position would serve to maintain artistic stability and enhance organizational direction during the search for a permanent Music Director. In his role as Artistic Partner, Daniel Hope will lead the orchestra in multiple performances each season, with candidates appearing as Guest Concertmasters until a permanent successor has been appointed. The search committee is led by Founding President Paula Gambs and consists of members of the Board, musicians and staff.

--Brenden Guy, New Century Chamber Orchestra

National Philharmonic Chamber Concert at Potter Violins on Oct. 23, 2016
Under the direction of National Philharmonic Concertmaster Colin Sorgi, the newly formed National Philharmonic Chamber Players make their debut with a program of music by Mozart, Prokofiev and Fauré on October 23 at  John Kendall Recital Hall at Potter Violins in Takoma Park, MD. The intimate hall seats only 90, allowing concert goers to experience chamber music as it was originally intended, up close and personal.

"The new partnership between the National Philharmonic and Potter Violins is really exciting and the Philharmonic very much looks forward to bringing great chamber music to this wonderful new addition to Washington-area's music venues," said National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski.

The October 23rd concert will feature violinists Colin Sorgi and Henry Flory; cellist Kerry Van Laanen; and pianist Kathryn Brake. The group will perform Mozart's Piano Trio in B-flat Major, K. 502; Sergei Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 56; and Gabriel Fauré's Piano Quartet No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 45.

The NP Chamber Players will also perform on two Sundays in 2017--a program of  Brahms, Szymanowski and Lutoslawski on February 12, from 3-5, and a program of  Ravel, Janacek and Korngold on May 7, also from 3-5.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here:

Potter Violins, John Kendall Recital Hall is at  7711 Eastern Ave, Takoma Park, MD.

For more information, visit

--Deborah Birnbaum, National Philharmonic

Young People's Chorus of New York City Receives $750,000 Arts Education Impact Grant From Matisse Foundation
The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation has awarded an Arts Education Impact Grant of $750,000 to the Young People's Chorus of New York City for its new initiative: Vocal Resolutions: Shaping Perceptions Through Music. The Matisse Grant, one of today's most prestigious and competitive arts grants, will be distributed over five years and support YPC's innovative new initiative that focuses on matters of social justice and uses music as a catalyst for cultural exploration and mutual understanding among young people of diverse backgrounds.

Vocal Resolutions: Shaping Perceptions Through Music will provide YPC choristers vocal training that includes customized private lessons, recitals, as well as master classes led by celebrated professional singers. The program will not only develop highly trained singers with individually honed vocal skills, but also provide them with knowledge and understanding of social concerns that will lead to a skillful cultural dialogue. Each year of the five year project, a composer will be chosen to write a new work that raises awareness of our current social climate. The work will aim to stimulate conflict resolution discussions in music workshops that further shape the piece, which will be premiered as part of a year-end summit conference and concert in association with Carnegie Hall. The first composer chosen for the new initiative is Michael Gordon, who also serves as YPC's composer-in-residence.

For more information, visit

--Lisa Jaehnig, Shuman Associates

Music Institute Chorale Announces 30th Season
The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale, conducted by Daniel Wallenberg, announces its 30th anniversary season, collaborating with Music Institute ensembles and faculty on three concerts at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

The season opens Sunday, December 11 at 7:30 p.m. with "Curtains Up!" Music Institute voice faculty and Chicago Children's Choir ensembles from Rogers Park and Humboldt Park join the Chorale for music of the stage, opera, and musical theatre.

"Sing We and Chant It" on Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m. celebrates early music, with the Music Institute's Recorder Orchestra, Gamba Ensemble, and Natural Trumpet Ensemble enhancing the Chorale's vocals.

The season concludes with "Dona Nobis Pacem" Sunday, June 11 at 3 p.m., a choral and orchestra concert featuring Music Institute string faculty members in the orchestra and the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Choir singing with the Chorale. The program includes Dona Nobis Pacem by Vaughan Williams and To the Chief Musician by Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun.

The Music Institute of Chicago Chorale's 30th anniversary season concerts take place Sundays, December 11 at 7:30 p.m.:
March 19 at 3 p.m.:
June 11 at 3 p.m.: at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL. Tickets are $15 adults, $10 seniors and $7 students.

For information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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

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