Classical Music News of the Week, April 21, 2018

Academy Orchestra Welcomes Violinist Ilana Setapen May 26

Concluding the Music Institute of Chicago's Faculty and Guest Artist Series' 2017–18 season, the Academy Orchestra performs with noted violinist Ilana Setapen Saturday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

The program includes the Overture to Mozart's opera The Impresario; Copland's "Down a Country Lane"; and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 "Scottish." Setapen joins the Orchestra for the program's second half, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35. Conducting the program is Academy Director James Setapen, Ilana's father.

The Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago, led by Director James Setapen, is a nationally recognized training center for highly gifted pre-college pianists and string players that provides a comprehensive music education for students who aspire to be professional musicians. Faculty, staff, and students come together for an intensive 30-week program that includes private lessons with Academy artist faculty, a rigorous chamber music component, a stimulating chamber orchestra experience, and accelerated music theory classes. Pianists additionally study keyboard history and literature, improvisation, and keyboard skills in an intimate group setting. A hallmark of the Academy is the weekly master class series when students perform for and observe acclaimed musicians and educators who share their knowledge. The Academy faculty, who teach at some of the country's most prestigious conservatories and music schools, have a passion for developing young talent and an established track record of student achievement.

The Music Institute of Chicago's Academy Orchestra concert featuring violinist Ilana Setapen takes place Saturday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students, available at 847.905.1500 ext. 108 or musicinst.org/nichols-concert-hall. All programming is subject to change. For more information, visit musicinst.org.

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

University Musical Society Announces 2018-19 Season - 140th Anniversary
The University Musical Society (UMS), under the leadership of President Matthew VanBesien, announced its 140th season in 2018-19 with an initial slate of 40 performances and events. One of the country's most acclaimed performing arts presenters, UMS honors its past by showcasing respected ensembles and performers with whom it has enjoyed rich relationships, and fully embraces the future as initiator, incubator, and accelerator for innovative new works and projects. This potent combination infuses the anniversary season with dynamic and diverse voices and perspectives featuring artists at the top of their game — celebrating the canon, taking risks, moving genres in new directions, disrupting stereotypes, and surprising audiences.

"At UMS, we always commit to bringing a dazzling array of artists whose work amazes, entertains, comforts, and even provokes. We believe strongly in the importance of nurturing young talent and fostering experimentation, while also collaborating with those cherished artists and ensembles who have been a hallmark of our series.

"We open our 140th season in September with three events that truly embody our strong sense of tradition, innovation, and collaboration: teaming up with the University of Michigan's College of Engineering to present a 50th anniversary live presentation of Stanley Kubrick's audacious 2001: A Space Odyssey to Michigan's campus, with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Musica Sacra chorus providing the live musical soundtrack; the legendary Philadelphia Orchestra, which served as the resident orchestra for Ann Arbor's May Festival for 49 years, returning to Hill Auditorium with new music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin; and actor Alec Baldwin, who comes to Ann Arbor to work with students and faculty in the U-M Department of Theatre & Drama on dramatic readings of Arthur Miller's great work, Death of a Salesman. That's just the first few weeks of our 140th season!" said UMS President Matthew VanBesien. "Our 2018-19 offerings also include an extraordinary world première project and many other moments during which UMS invites artists to use our spaces to freely experiment, develop, and refine new works, and to provide audiences with insights to the creative process and the first look at exciting performances."

Subscription packages go on sale to renewing subscribers on Monday, April 23 and to the general public on Monday, May 1. Current subscribers will receive renewal packets in April. Subscribers may add on additional performances at any point during the subscription period.

Tickets to individual events will go on sale to the general public online, in person, and by phone on Monday, August 13; UMS donors of $250+ may purchase beginning Monday, August 6. Groups of 10 or more may reserve tickets beginning Monday, July 9. To be added to the mailing list, please contact the UMS Ticket Office at 734.764.2538 or visit ums.org. UMS also has an e-mail list that provides up-to-date information about all UMS events; sign-up information is available on the website.

For complete information, visit ums.org

--Mike Fila, Bucklesweet Media

Max Richter's Live SLEEP Concert in New York City May 4 & 5
After a successful North American debut of the live performance of his 8-hour masterpiece SLEEP, Max Richter brings the "intoxicating" (NPR) performance to New York City for the first time, for two nights of performances on May 4 & 5 at Spring Studios (50 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013). Doors will open at 9:00pm, the concert will begin at 10:30pm. Tickets are being announced on the artist's socials.

Watch NPR Music's video from SLEEP at SXSW: https://www.npr.org/event/music/589337022/south-x-lullaby-max-richter

--Julia Casey, Universal Music

Fifth Graders to Perform Songs They Wrote About Heroes, April 25 & 26
At a recent Los Angles Master Chorale event, a technician asked the group's Director of the Marketing if the Master Chorale was the same organization that went into schools and taught kids how to write and sing songs. When it was affirmed that it was, he exclaimed: "I was one of those kids!" His fond memory of the "Voices Within" program 12 years after he participated illustrates the lasting impact the program has had on thousands of students since it was launched in 2001. This year's spring series of "Voices Within" concerts will take place at Hooper Avenue Elementary in South Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 25 and at Sheridan Street Elementary in Boyle Heights on Thursday, April 26, creating new memories for this season's 110 participants.

The concerts are the culmination of the 12-week "Voices Within" program that brings three teaching artists—a composer, a lyricist, and a performer—into the schools to introduce the students to music ideas such as pitch, rhythm, and melody, and teaches them how to apply these concepts to songwriting. The students perform their songs for fellow students, teachers, and friends and family. Each school will give two performances. It is the first time that Hooper Avenue Elementary has taken part in the "Voices Within" program.

"Voices Within" concerts performed by fifth grade students featuring members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Open to the public & free to attend. (Street parking only.)

Wednesday, April 25, 9:30 AM & 10:45 AM
Hooper Avenue Elementary School, 1225 E 52nd St, Los Angeles

Thursday, April 26, 9:00 AM & 10:15 AM
Sheridan Street Elementary School, 1833, 416 Cornwell St, Los Angeles

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

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angeles Master Chorale

New Century Presents Philip Glass Premiere
New Century Chamber Orchestra concludes its 2017-2018 season, May 16 through 20, with the West Coast Premiere of Philip Glass's Piano Concerto No. 3, featuring Simone Dinnerstein. Appearing as piano soloist, Dinnerstein will perform this work alongside Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor. Indianapolis Symphony concertmaster Zachary DePue serves as Guest Concertmaster in a program that also features Henry Purcell's Chacony in G minor (arr. Britten), Bryce Dessner's Aheym and Francesco Geminiani's Concerto Grosso No. 12  in D minor.

This program will be presented as part of New Century's subscription series on four evenings in different locations around the the San Francisco Bay Area: Thursday, May 17 at 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, CA; Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m., Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto, CA; Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, and Sunday, May 20 at 3 p.m., Osher Marin JCC, San Rafael, CA. New Century will also feature in a special performance of this program on Wednesday, May 16 at 8 p.m. at UC Davis, CA, presented by the Mondavi Center of the Arts.

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

--Brenden Guy, Marketing and Public Relations

New Video April 29 PBS: Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore with Pretty Yende & Matthew Polenzani
There is a new video available for "Great Performances at the Met": L'Elisir d'Amore, which premieres Sunday, April 29 at 12:00 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Watch the video trailer here:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/gp-at-the-met-lelisir-damore-about-the-opera-2/8369/
Or the YouTube link here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrr6lBDl58E&feature=youtu.be

This series brings the best of the Metropolitan Opera into the homes of classical music fans across the United States. Donizetti's classic comic opera L'Elisir d'Amore features Pretty Yende as the feisty Adina, opposite Matthew Polenzani as Nemorino, with Davide Luciano as Belcore and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Dulcamara.

--Emma Dayton, WNET

Warner Classics and IDAGIO Embark on Streaming Partnership
Warner Classics has launched a new collaboration with IDAGIO, in a partnership that will see the specialist classical music streaming service make the entire Warner Classics and Erato catalogue available to its users.

The IDAGIO catalogue, which already comprises over 650,000 tracks, will encompass all new and recent releases from the Warner Classics and Erato labels, as well as the complete catalogue, including recordings originally issued on such iconic labels as EMI Classics, Teldec (now Warner Classics), and Virgin Classics (now Erato).

As an additional aspect of the partnership, IDAGIO will feature exclusive playlists curated by Warner Classics and its artists, and will work closely with the label on additional initiatives to provide an engaging classical listening experience for IDAGIO users.

--Elias Wuermeling, IDAGIO PR

Pavel Sporcl Leads 60th Anniversary Gala Concert of Kocian Violin Competition
The leading Czech violinist and patron of the world's oldest violin competition for under-sixteens will lead a gala concert in Prague on April 25th, featuring a gathering of competition laureates

The name Jaroslav Kocian holds a special place in the hearts of Czech music-lovers, so much so that after that iconic violinist died a violin competition was established in his name, and in his beloved home town of Usti nad Orlici. It remains the oldest major violin competition in the world for under-sixteen-year-olds. Its patron is a successor of Kocian as the leading Czech violinist, Pavel Sporcl. This year, to mark the competition's 60th anniversary, Sporcl has curated a gala concert at Prague's Smetana Concert Hall.

He has invited for the occasion, the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jessica Cottis, and a line-up of laureates of the Kocian Violin Competition. Among them, Stefan Milenkovich, Josef Spacek, Bohuslav Matousek and others. Sporcl will play works by Kocian himself, Vivaldi, Saint-Saëns and will take part in the finale, a world premiere by Lukás Sommer for eight violinists called "Gala Violin - Concert Phantasy on Jaroslav Kocian Themes for Eight Soloists And Orchestra." The event will be recorded for broadcast by Czech Television.

Watch Pavel Sporcl with the Prague Symphony Orchestra here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri3zS4AqJBw

--James Inverne Music Consultancy

Bruckner: Mass in F minor (CD review)

Margaret Price, soprano; Doris Soffel, alto; Peter Straka, tenor; Matthias Holle, bass; Sergiu Celibidache, Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. EMI Classics CDC 7243-5-56702-2.

The late Romanian conductor and composer Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) must be the least-known famous conductor of the twentieth century. He brought it upon himself: He refused absolutely to record any of his music, believing that sound could only be "lived and experienced in real space." I respect his principles, but as a result he deprived about ninety-nine per cent of the classical music loving world of potentially great performances. So be it. After he passed on, however, his son helped to select a handful of his father's live taped sessions for release. Among the first issues were Celibidache's Bruckner interpretations, for which he was well known. 

Any Bruckner work is characterized by its nobility, its grandeur, and its intense spirituality. No Bruckner offering could be more endowed with these qualities than his Mass in F minor. And these attributes are exactly what Celibidache delivers, using the 1881 Robert Haas edition. In some ways the conductor's approach is similar to his contemporary, Herbert von Karajan. There is always the grand gesture.

Sergiu Celibidache
But I felt a more profound sense of the sublime with this Celibidache recording than I usually get from the more bravura performances of Karajan. Celibidache's timing is that much more sweeping, the hushes more extended, the tempos more expansive. His broad view of things can nowhere be better found than in the big, central "Credo," where we find everything from the quietest whisper of a note to a full, fortissimo chorus, each punctuated with the greatest warmth of expression. 

By the time it's over, one must be in awe of both composer and conductor. But one thing that didn't impress me overmuch was the sound. It is rather antiseptic. There is clarity, to be sure, in this 1990 recording but at the expense of richness and sonority. The upper midrange is bright and often brittle, especially in massed vocal passages. I wouldn't let this deter one from buying the disc, though, if only for the experience of discovering a man so well known and so little heard.

JJP

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


Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 (SACD review)

Andrew Manze, NDR Radiophilharmonie. Pentatone PTC 5186 611.

The last time I heard English conductor and violinist Andrew Manze doing Mendelssohn, it was in the First and Third Symphonies, where his propensity for zippy, early music practice produced a pair of exciting but, for me, not entirely persuasive performances. Continuing his Mendelssohn series, here he and the German radio orchestra NDR Radiophilharmonie tackle the popular Fourth Symphony and the more solemn Fifth. Although the disc would not displace my own old favorites, for Mendelssohn fans it might still provide a worthwhile listen.

First up on the program is the Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90 "Italian," which Mendelssohn wrote after a trip to Italy and premiered 1833. The first movement Allegro is among the most recognizable of all the music Mendelssohn wrote for his symphonies. Then, music scholars think that the many religious processions Mendelssohn saw in Rome may have inspired the second-movement Andante. There follows a delicate minuet, and the work concludes with a whirlwind of music reminiscent of the composer's Midsummer Night's Dream.

Despite my initial reservations that Manze's historical-performance inclinations might lead him to tempos at a more robust gait than I like, he actually takes things at a reasonably pleasant, if sometimes exhilarating pace. With well-judged dynamic inflections and an orchestra that seems to follow his every direction, the result in the first movement is as sunny as any, if a tad dark and billowy due to the recording's pronounced ambient bloom.

Manze emphasizes the staccato motif of the second movement at perhaps a headier stride than other conductors often take, yet it seems to fit the strapping dimensions for the piece the conductor envisions. The rhapsodic elements of the third movement come to the fore under Manze, too, and he makes it a welcome contrast to the preceding parade-like passages. Then, the conductor provides a fittingly high-spirited finale that seems only mildly rushed.

Andrew Manze
Compared to the ebullient "Italian" symphony, the Fifth can appear positively grave. Interestingly, the Fifth, finished in 1830, was actually only the second symphony Mendelssohn wrote. However, the composer couldn't complete it in time for a commission and never liked it much, anyway, refusing in his lifetime to allow its publication, which didn't occur until some twenty-nine years after his death. (For those interested, the order of composition for Mendelssohn's symphonies is 1, 5, 4, 2, and 3.)

Mendelssohn's sister Fanny dubbed No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 107 the "Reformation Symphony" because its subject matter celebrated the Protestant Reformation. The composer wrote it, as I said, on commission--for some festivities in Berlin, but ill health prevented him from completing it and he finally premiered it in 1832. After a somber opening movement, the symphony moves to a much-lighter Allegro vivace and a lyrical Andante, all culminating in a finale based on Martin Luther's chorale "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A mighty fortress is our God").

Here, Manze's big-scale yet intimate-feeling approach works quite well. His "Reformation" doesn't have the ponderous dimensions that some conductors seem to impose on it. Instead, it comes out more cohesive, more of a whole, tying the opening movements more closely to the last, giving the little Allegro its sprightly due and the Andante a gentle lilt. It all builds, of course, to that final chorale, which Manze handles splendidly, building and magnifying with a dignified grandeur.

So, could I say that Manze's performance of the "Italian" symphony strikes my fancy more than several of my old favorites? Not exactly. My two favorites (among others) in the "Italian" could not be more different from one another nor more different from Manze's interpretation. They are the recordings by Claudio Abbado in his earlier Decca rendering and Otto Klemperer in his EMI reading. Both continue to strike me as having more sheer joy, zest, and charm than anybody else's. In the "Reformation," though, Manze is no doubt as good as anybody, and his realization should greatly please fans of the work.

Producers Renaud Loranger and Matthias Llkenhans and engineer Martin Lohmann recorded the symphonies in the Grober Sendesaal desNDR Landesfunkhaus in January 2016 and February 2017. They made the hybrid recording for SACD multichannel and two-channel stereo playback via an SACD player as well as two-channel stereo via a regular CD player. I listened in two-channel SACD.

The sound is much the same as Pentatone delivered for Manze's previous Mendelssohn disc, so I'll repeat what I said of it: There is a good deal of ambient reflection around the orchestra, almost too much. The reflections may sound realistic in multichannel, but in two-channel stereo they can be overmuch and somewhat obscure inner detailing. Still, it's not too distracting, and the overall sonic image is impressively dynamic. To be fair, there's enough of a lifelike quality about the sound to satisfy most listeners.

As always with these things, the Pentatone folks do up the disc with a standard SACD case, further enclosed in a light-cardboard slipcover. My bewilderment continues, though, over what purpose a slipcover actually serves, but it is a handsome packaging feature, redundant or not. I wish I could say the same for the minimalist design of the album/booklet cover.

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