Elgar: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1. Rachel Barton Pine, violin; Andrew Litton, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Avie AV2375.

American violinist Rachel Barton Pine (b. 1974) began her recording career with the Dorian and Cedille labels in the mid 1990's, which is about where I first encountered her. She continued mostly with Cedille, with an occasional detour to Hannsler and Warner Classics before going to Avie Records in the last few years. Whatever the record company, she has continued to produce well poised and sweetly polished performances, with some of the best sound afforded a violinist. The present disc is no exception.

English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) was forever Elgar. His style is unmistakable, whether in his symphonies, his concertos, or his marches. The Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 is no exception, its opening notes sounding like much else of Elgar's in its aristocratic, ceremonial manner. But then it moves into a slightly melancholy subject that more suits Ms. Barton Pine's music making, a "rich" and "soulful" mood as she describes it. Certainly, rich and soulful are apt descriptors of Ms. Barton Pine's style.

Rachel Barton Pine
More important, I think, is that Barton Pine does little to take our attention away from the music itself. She is not an idiosyncratic performer in any way, and her interpretation, while exceptionally expressive, is not entirely out of the mainstream. What's more, Andrew Litton and the BBC Symphony accompany the soloist as though they had done this sort of thing before. I jest, of course, as they probably have done this sort of thing a hundred times. Incidentally, Sir Neville Marriner was to accompany her but passed away shortly before the time of the recording. In a booklet note, Ms. Barton Pine gives her thanks to him for helping her prepare for and better understand the work.

Anyway, there is much to enjoy in Ms. Barton Pine's recording, including the sensitive way she negotiates the ins and outs, the cogency and mournfulness of the first movement (or as some listeners have suggested, the masculine-feminine dialogue); the ethereal qualities of the central Andante; and the tumultuous poetry of the final movement. Hers is a strong, virtuosic account of a sometimes underrated piece of music. Given the quality of the performance and the sound, this may be the best recording of the Elgar in the catalogue.

Ms. Barton Pine pairs the Elgar with the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by Max Bruch (1838-1920). This familiar concerto is a work that in many ways imitates, or at least pays tribute, to Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Bruch premiered a much revised version in 1867, and it soon became a staple of the violin repertoire. Bruch's lush, lofty, lilting melodies seem tailor-made for Ms. Barton Pine's elegantly honed technique so the whole thing comes off as movingly as anybody's.

Producer Andrew Keener and engineer Robert Winter recorded the music at BBC Maida Vale Studio No. 1, Delaware Road, London in January 2017. The sound is full and wide ranging, with the violin well centered, if a trifle close. The depth of image is fine, too, as are the frequency extremes and the dynamic impact. Moreover, there's a pleasant warmth attending the music, along with a touch of hall resonance and an overriding smoothness that compliment Ms. Barton Pine's playing.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, February 17, 2018

Violinist Paul Huang and Pianist Orion Weiss to Perform at Kennedy Center

Avery Fisher Career Grantees Paul Huang and Orion Weiss will give a recital at the Kennedy Center on April 27, presented by Washington Performing Arts. The program includes music by Brahms, Dvorák, and Prokofiev, and features a new work by pianist-composer Conrad Tao, with whom Huang attended both high school and Juilliard Pre-College. Tao performs in his own piano solo recital at the Kennedy Center on April 21, also presented by WPA.

Says Huang of the performance: "Washington D.C. holds a special place in my heart, as the place where I made my American recital debut at the Kennedy Center, and all of the pieces on this program are very dear to me. As a musician, I feel a deep commitment to exploring how music - whether it be contemporary or older repertoire - reflects the time and space in which it was created, and so I'm extremely excited to be able to highlight one of the most exciting and thought-provoking composers of my generation, Conrad Tao (we went to high school and Juilliard Pre-College together!). His new piece promises to offer the audience a special insight into how poetic and how romantic contemporary music can be in the best sense possible."

Antonín Dvorák: Sonatina in G major for violin and piano, Op. 100
Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80
Conrad Tao: New Work (title TBC)
Johannes Brahms: Sonata No. 3 in D minor for violin and piano, Op. 108

Friday, April 21, 7:30 PM

The Kennedy Center – Terrace Theater
2700 F St NW
Washington, DC 20566

For more information, visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/WSWAS

--Andrew Ousley, Unison Media

PBO SESSIONS with Richard Egarr March 7
Join renowned Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music and harpsichordist Richard Egarr as well as members of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for PBO SESSIONS: "Corelli the Godfather: The Corleone of the Concerto" for an evening of concerto intrigue! The 90-minute deep-dive will shed light on what became the most important instrumental compositional technique still in use today. Arcangelo Corelli was prolific, wealthy, and powerful, and his legacy--- the concerto---lives on.

This exciting program includes works by Corelli and Handel and a few musical surprises, accompanied by riotous repartee with Richard. Afterwards, join us for complimentary wine and a chance to meet the musicians.

Tickets Regularly Priced at $25. But here's an offer you can't refuse: Buy one, get one free!
Order online, using promo code "Corelli" at

--Marketing, Philharmonia Baroque

Inaugural Wadsworth Piano Competition Announces Semi-Finalists
The Charles Wadsworth Piano Competition (CWPC) today announces the eight semi-finalists chosen to compete in the inaugural competition held at The Donald W. Nixon Centre for the Visual and Performing Arts in Newnan, GA: Nadia Azzi (Colburn School, CA), Hilda Huang (Yale University, CT), Aristo Sham (Harvard University, MA), Zhiheng Guo (Manhattan School of Music, NY), Dominic Cheli (Colburn School, CA), Michael Davidman (Curtis Institute of Music, PA), Angie Zhang (The Juilliard School, NY), Peng Lin (The Juilliard School, NY).

Named after Newnan, Georgia native, pianist Charles Wadsworth, this competition honors Wadsworth's extensive legacy and contributions to the field of classical music, through his work as both the founding director of the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center, and former artistic director at the Spoleto USA Festival. The inaugural competition, dedicated to providing artistic and entrepreneurial growth opportunities for talented pianists aged 18 to 25 in early stages of career development, will take place from April 22 to 25, 2018.

For more information, visit http://www.thenixoncentre.net/piano-comp

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

Los Angles Master Chorale 2018/19 Season Prominently Features L.A. Composers
Los Angeles composers feature prominently in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's 55th concert season announced today by Grant Gershon, Kiki and David Gindler Artistic Director, and Jean Davidson, President and CEO. The contemporary works include the world premiere of Eric Whitacre's The Sacred Veil and the West Coast premiere of Reena Esmail's This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity. All concerts will be performed in Walt Disney Concert Hall where the Master Chorale is choir-in-residence.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale's 2018/19 concert season, beginning in September 2018 and running through May 2019, also features Songs of Ascent by Shawn Kirchner and How to Go On by Dale Trumbore on subscription series programs alongside the Mozart and Duruflé Requiems respectively. Esmail's This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity is paired with Bach's Magnificat.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit lamasterchorale.org.

--Jennifer Scott, Los Angeles Master Chorale

Opera Maine Trustee and Supporter Dr. John Serrage to Receive a National Opera Trustee Recognition
Dr. John Serrage, a longtime Opera Maine trustee and supporter, has been selected by OPERA America to receive the 2018 National Opera Trustee Recognition Award. Opera Maine, formerly PORTopera, is one of 43 Budget Four opera companies in the United States that are members of OPERA America, and Dr. Serrage is the only honoree recognized in this category.  Chosen for his remarkable service and leadership, Dr. Serrage will receive his award at an event that is part of the annual National Opera Trustee Forum on Friday, February 23 in New York City.

"This is a much-deserved honor for Dr. Serrage who has done so much for the company from its beginning 24 years ago," said Opera Maine Board President Arlene Palmer Schwind.  "He was a founding supporter of Opera Maine in 1995, and he has remained committed ever since to the importance of the company's mission and its contribution to the vibrant arts scene in Northern New England. As a fervent believer that opera companies have a responsibility to provide training opportunities for young singers, Dr. Serrage cultivated and managed Opera Maine's Young Artist Program for many years. He has also set the tone for other trustees to follow in terms of his level of financial support and the elegant atmosphere and social milieu he has created around participation with the company."

For more information, visit operamaine.com.

--Kristen Levesque PR

Contralto Avery Amereau Joins ACO in Brahms, Ries, and Schubert at Lincoln Center
On Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 8pm, American Classical Orchestra, "the nation's premier orchestra dedicated to period instrument performance" (Vulture), closes out its 2017-2018 season with the return of celebrated contralto Avery Amereau in a program of bright light and visible darkness at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Amereau takes center stage with ACO Men's Chorus in a performance of Brahms's Alto Rhapsody, paired with Schubert's iconic Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished" and Gesang der Geister for male chorus and low strings. The program ends with a contrasting symphony by little-known composer Ferdinand Ries, a student of Beethoven in Bonn.

For this event, ACO is supporting the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) by offering a portion of concert ticket proceeds to benefit the organization. Of the collaboration, UNICEF Next Generation Steering Committee member Bryan Klipsch says, "UNICEF's mission is to help save and protect the world's most vulnerable children, and that's inclusive of bringing joy to their lives. Music brings joy to people and fills their hearts, and ACO does this in a magical way. We are touched by ACO's commitment to bringing joy to children and this opportunity for us to come together to bring joy to people's lives, even if for only one evening."

For more information, visit www.lincolncenter.org or www.aconyc.org.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

PBO Honors David Daniels at Winter Gala
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) is pleased to announce its Annual Winter Gala on Friday, February 23, 2018. The evening will take place at San Francisco's Four Seasons Hotel and will honor acclaimed countertenor David Daniels. The celebratory Gala will recognize Daniels's extraordinary artistic contributions to the world of historically-informed vocal performance and opera as well as his role as an educator.

David Daniels made his professional debut with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale in 1995 and made history as the first countertenor to give a solo recital at Carnegie Hall. He has been named by Gramophone magazine as the one of the "Top Ten Trailblazers" in classical music today. He most recently appeared with Philharmonia in 2015 in a performance of Handel arias and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.

The evening will unfold with a cocktail party and silent auction followed by a performance of Handel arias and other surprises led by PBO Music Director Nicholas McGegan and featuring countertenor David Daniels, members of the Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorale. The evening will also include a lively After Party with a full scotch tasting.

For more information or tickets for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale's Annual Winter Gala, please visit: https://philharmonia.org/support-us/annual-gala/

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

48th Anniversary Season: Music Without Borders
Music Without Borders
Mosaic Summer Music Festival
July 17-29, 2018
Sam Luis Obispo County, California

Music is the universal language. It can break down the barriers that exist between cultures, people, and even time periods. Composers throughout the ages have operated independently of borders - beginning with the composers of the baroque and classical period performing on tours of the royal courts of Europe. The composers and musicians featured in this summer's festival tackle questions of national identity, inclusion, and equity. How does music transcend borders like genre, national identity, gender, and technological divides? Join Festival Mosaic this summer to explore these timely questions in fun, festive and intimate performances in beautiful venues on the Central Coast.

For complete program information, visit https://www.flipsnack.com/797BB55C5A8/2018-summer-music-festival.html

For tickets, visit https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OKgw-f9COd03s8UGSF_oMeWaQf70ocUX/view

--Bettina Swigger, Festival Mosaic

5BMF Presents ICE and UpBeat NYC
Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents South-Bronx music education non-profit UpBeat NYC and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) on Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 8:00 p.m., part of the Pregones Theater's "March is Music" week.

Under the auspices of the EntICE educational initiative, instrumentalists from ICE collaborate with youth musicians from UpBeat NYC's free, community programs for a concert of exciting new classical works. The first half of the program includes Georges Aperghis's Rasch for viola and soprano saxophone; Clara Ionnatta's Limun for violin, viola, and two page turners; Zach Sheets's from the Silhouette Quarry for violin and bassoon; and Pauline Oliveros's Thirteen Changes. The second half of the evening features the centerpiece of the program, the New York premiere of Nicole Mitchell's Inescapable Spiral (2016), performed by ICE and UpBeat NYC side-by-side. UpBeat NYC students will also present the premiere of a graphic score and older students will lead the ensemble in an improvised conducted soundpainting.

Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.
Pregones Theater | 571-575 Walton Avenue | Bronx, NY
Tickets: $15 - 50
Link: http://pregonesprtt.org/events/ice-upbeat-nyc-at-pregones-march-is-music-2018-series/

Please visit www.5bmf.org or email info@5bmf.org for more information.

--Katy Salomon, Morahan Arts and Media

R. Strauss: Also sprach Zarathushtra (CD review)

Also, Rosenkavalier Suite; Don Juan. Lorin Maazel, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. RCA 09026-68225-2RE.

This disc is one of four RCA releases of orchestral works by German composer and conductor Richard Strauss (1864-1949) conducted by the late Lorin Maazel. RCA recorded the discs between 1995 and 1998, and they have made them available as separate CD's or in a boxed set. Maazel presents the pieces in his usual straightforward manner, always letting the music speak for itself. In this regard he is in the company of Bernard Haitink and Rudolf Kempe (as opposed to Herbert von Karajan and Georg Solti, who impart more of their own personality to the interpretations). However, being in the company of someone is not to say they are equals. Haitink and Kempe seem to me more magisterial, more authoritative, more commanding. What's more, as fine as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra plays, they cannot quite match the glorious richness of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, or the Staatskapelle Dresden.

Anyway, I found the accompanying Rosenkavalier Suite most attractive of all and the Don Juan tone poem adequate, if slightly underpowered. Maazel's Zarathushtra, though, seemed a little wanting in animation. It appears to me that as Strauss was one of the last of the great Romantics, his works ought to be played with a bit more fervor. Still, if more foursquare playing is your bent, Maazel is your man.

Lorin Maazel
RCA recorded the sound at Herkulessaal Der Münchner Residenz, Munich, Germany in February 1995. They did so in Dolby Pro Logic, and the best one can say for it is that it doesn't interfere much with regular two-channel stereo playback. I did find my ears unaccountably plugging up on occasion, but I cannot attest to its being a result of anything in the playback.

By and large, the sound is wide and full, somewhat congested in loudest passages and spotlighted like mad. Instruments will suddenly loom up out of nowhere, which makes for a striking effect but is not too realistic. I suspect that as more and more people buy surround-sound systems, which is obviously the direction the industry has been heading for quite some time, we will see more and more recordings made expressly for the medium. Of course, most people are buying surround sound to enhance their movie-watching experience, not necessarily to listen to music. As a number of readers indicated to me some years ago, not many of them sit down in the sweet spot to listen only to music for longer than a few minutes. So I'm not sure what effect all of this will have on the future of audiophile recordings.

For those of us who still treasure good, old-fashioned two-channel stereo, however, there is more reason than ever to appreciate the bargain and mid-price reissues that most companies continue to produce. In the matter of Richard Strauss, for instance, one can find the composer's complete orchestral music available on three sets of discs from Rudoph Kempe (EMI), and in bits and pieces on discs from Fritz Reiner (RCA) and Bernard Haitink (Philips), none of which will set you back too many coins.


To listen to a few brief excerpts 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