Tchaikovsky: Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra (CD review)

Jennifer Koh, violin; Alexander Vedernikov, Odense Symphony Orchestra. Cedille 90000 166.

To begin, there's the matter of this Tchaikovsky album's title, "Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra." It sounds pretty impressive and should cover a wide range of pieces, possibly a box set. The fact is, though, Tchaikovsky wrote only three works for violin and orchestra and a fourth orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov. So a single disc contains seventy-four minutes of music. Fortunately, my second point more than makes up for any possible overstatement in the title: American violinist Jennifer Koh, Alexander Vedernikov, and the Odense Symphony do a fine job executing these works, and the Cedille engineers do their usual splendid job recording them. While it may not be an earthshaking release, the album makes for a rewarding listening experience.

The Cedille team have arranged the pieces in chronological order on the disc, but I'll start with the most-popular among them first, the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, written by Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in 1878. He wrote it just after the dissolution of a calamitous marriage and while carrying on a relationship with his pupil, violinist Iosif Kotek. The composer even wanted to dedicate the piece to Kotek but felt such a measure would put an undue strain on public gossip. In any case, the premiere took place in 1881, and what we consider one of the mainstays of the classical repertoire these days met with a mixed reaction at the time.

Jennifer Koh
Whatever, as good as she is, Ms. Koh never quite answers the question of whether we needed yet another recording of it. Koh displays her technical prowess throughout, while maintaining a sensitive atmosphere. It's a good juggling act, providing all the pyrotechnics needed and at the same time conveying the work's slightly melancholy mood. Of course, there are times when you may want her to just get on with it, as she does tend to linger over details quite a bit. So, for example, the first movement doesn't have quite the forward momentum or sense of sentimental urgency voiced by, say, Jascha Heifetz (RCA or JVC) or the young Itzhak Perlman (Chesky). Still, Ms. Koh plays the second-movement Canzonetta: Andante movingly (if, again, rather slowly), and she adds a note of rollicking boisterousness to the finale that helps toward relieving some of the mournfulness of the preceding movement. And, perhaps most important, Ms. Koh always sustains a graceful, elegant air. Under Ms. Koh and Maestro Vedernikov, the music conveys a healthy dose of Romanticism, combining polish, athleticism, and passion in equal measure. The fact that it also contains perhaps more stops and starts, more changes of direction, than probably any other interpretation is something the listener lives with. You get used to it.

The other works on the disc appeared to me more immediately pleasing: the little Serenade melancolique, Op. 26, and Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34; and the longer, three-movement Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42, the one orchestrated by Glazunov. Here, Ms. Koh's melding of overt Romanticism with effortless efficiency seemed well and appropriately executed. The Serenade is tender and affectionate without being too weepy; the Valse-Scherzo is ideal for showing off Ms. Koh's virtuosic brilliance; and the Souvenir is poignant, rhapsodic, wistful, and pointed by turns, with an especially frolicsome central scherzo.

Producer Judith Sherman and session engineer Viggo Mangor, along with post-production engineer Bill Maylone and editing assistant Jeanne Velonis, recorded the music at the Odense Concert House's Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense, Denmark in September 2015.

The sound is about as near perfect as it can be in these works, with excellent tonal balance, instrumental balance, orchestral depth, clarity, and definition. What's more, the engineers have positioned the violin ideally in relation to the other instruments and captured it in a most-natural manner, never bright, forward, or steely. With good dynamics and frequency range, the recording is probably the best we currently have for this music, so if you're just looking for sound, this might be a good choice.


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

Classical Music News of the Week, October 22, 2016

November Concerts at 92nd Street Y

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 7:30PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall
Jerusalem Quartet

Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 8:00PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 8:00PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall
Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 8:00PM
92Y - Kaufmann Concert Hall
Isabelle Faust, violin
Alexander Melnikov, piano

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 8:30PM
92Y - Buttenwieser Hall
Variation Trio - Jennifer Koh, violin
with Hsin-Yun Huang, viola, and Wilhelmina Smith, cello

Tickets are available at or 212-415-5500.
For more information, visit

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

The Highlight of the Fall Season
"Transient Glory," the groundbreaking new music commissioning series created in 2001 by Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez for the Young People's Chorus of New York City, returns with six world premieres, representing a wide range of perspectives and styles from composers Mason Bates, Michael Gordon, Joan La Barbara, Jessie Montgomery, Robert Xavier Rodriguez, and Charles Wuorinen.

The season begins November 4 and 6 with Movements from "Sirens" by Mason Bates. Bates writes "The sirens, those mythical beings of the island of Circe, occupy a unique place in literature.  Unlike other temptresses, their lure is art, a song of such overpowering beauty that it draws sailors to a rocky death. In contemplating a large work, I imagined alluring and haunting music that would fully explore their special gifts.

Perhaps one thinks of lyrical, melodic music coming from sirens, but this cycle casts a wide net in exploring seduction music. But sirens do not always involve danger, and in fact sometimes they are personified as pure, heavenly beings emanating harmonious music. Pietro Aretino's 16th-Century sonnet, a love poem in one breath, pays homage to the stars ("Stelle"), who are each blessed with a lovely siren atop them. This celestial setting gives way, in the central piece of the cycle, to the earthy and rich world of the indigenous South American people. The Quechua Indians associated sirens ("Sirinu") with equal parts mystery, temptation, and magic. Sitting in a rainy hollow, our sleepy narrator tells of the sudden appearance of a beguiling, singing siren of indefinite color. The dreamy music of the opening soon turns into a bluesy, ritualistic dance when the siren begins its song. But even when the siren disappears, the half-asleep narrator still cannot rid his mind of its strange song.

The cycle goes furthest afield, at least on the dramatic level, in the inclusion of Christ's calling of the first disciples from the Book of Matthew. Fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Peter and Andrew are approached by Christ, who offers perhaps the most intriguing (and haunting) line in history: '
Come, follow me, and I will teach you to be fishers of men.' The meditative, highly static music of the fishermen breaks from its confines when Jesus speaks."

Tickets and info for November 4:
Tickets and info for November 6:

--Young People's Chorus of New York City

DCINY Presents Eternal Light with Acclaimed British Composer Howard Goodall
Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) is honored to present Eternal Light, a concert which will take place on Sunday, November 20 at 8:30PM at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. The performance features the NYC premiere of Eternal Light by DCINY's composer-in-residence Howard Goodall, along with Morten Lauridsen's sweeping Lux Aeterna.

Howard Goodall is a British composer who has achieved worldwide acclaim for his many contributions to the contemporary choral repertoire. He is also an Emmy Award-winning composer with a number of platinum-selling albums to his name, and is known to millions for his popular TV themes, including "Mr. Bean," "Blackadder," and more.

Originally Commissioned by London Musici to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Eternal Light is a requiem composed with a progressive mindset. Goodall, in discussing his work, states that the "traditional requiem text…emphasizes judgment and everlasting damnation for anyone who transgresses… so in an attempt to provide some solace for the living that mourn, I stripped down the old Latin texts to a few phrases in each movement and laid beside them words from English poems from across the last 500 years."

The concert will also feature a number of participating ensembles from the US and UK, including The Grove Singers of London, Heathfield Choral Society, Hook Choral Society, and Coro Lux among others. Guest conductor Bradley Ellingboe will conduct Lux Aeterna, while DCINY Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Jonathan Griffith will lead the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra for Eternal Light.

Eternal Light
Sunday, Nov 20, 2016, 8:30 PM
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, Carnegie Hall, NYC

More information, visit:

--Ely Moskowitz, Unison Media

Music Institute and Dance Chicago "Duke It Out" Dec. 10
The Music Institute of Chicago collaborates with Dance Chicago to present a family concert, "Duke It Out!," Saturday, December 10 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois.

This adaptation of TheNutcracker, curated by Dance Chicago, pairs the classical (Tchaikovsky) and jazz (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn) versions of the holiday favorite, performed by Axiom Brass and Music Institute Ensemble-in-Residence Quintet Attacca. Featured ensembles include Forum Jazz Dance Theatre, Moscow Ballet's children's cast, The Kate Jablonski Statement, Tapman Productions, Visceral Dance Chicago, Wheatland Dance Theater, and other companies and choreographers participating in Dance Chicago 2016.

"Duke It Out!" takes place Saturday, December 10 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston, IL. Tickets are $7 general admission, available at or 847.905.1500 ext. 108. All programming is subject to change.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

American Bach Soloists Present Handel's Messiah in San Francisco's Historic Grace Cathedral
American Bach Soloists, led by Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, present their annual performances of Handel's masterpiece, Messiah, 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.

Since 1998, ABS has presented Messiah in San Francisco's historic Grace Cathedral to more than 38,000 attendees. This holiday tradition has become an essential part of the musical year for many music lovers and was voted "Best of the Bay" by the readers of San Francisco Classical Voice in 2015. The Bay Area Reporter observed, "For those who treasure Messiah, Thomas' version is revelatory." Maestro Thomas will conduct the period-instrument specialists of ABS, the renowned American Bach Choir, and a quartet of brilliant vocal soloists.

December 14, 15, 16, 2016: Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

For more information, visit

--American Bach Soloists

Season-Long Celebration of the Human Voice
Cal Performances at UC Berkeley launches season-long celebration of the human voice, part of Berkeley Radical Immersion strand, featuring eleven choirs, ensembles, and soloists.

Communicity Sing, free and open to the public, invites choral groups & vocalists of all levels to commune through song - November 17

From Georgia, Ensemble Basiani - October 21

Afropop Spectacular, Mahmoud Ahmed & Trio Da Kali - November 4

Christmas in Vienna, Vienna Boys Choir - November 26

Joyce DiDonato with Il Pomo D'oro - December 4
"In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music"

Messiah, Choir of Trinity Wall Street - December 10
With Trinity Baroque Orchestra

Miah Personn and Florian Boesch, with pianist Malcolm Martineau - March 19

Choir of King's College Cambridge - March 24
"English Choral Tradition"

Metamorphosis, The Tallis Scholars - April 7

Jazz & Sondheim, Side by Side, Ann Hampston Callaway - April 13

Cappella SF - April 22

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale in world premiere production of Rameau's opera-ballet Le Temple de la Gloire - April 28-30

For more information, visit

--Louisa Spier, Cal Performances

Orion's Original Three Perform Khatchaturian, Liszt, Yadzinski, John Williams
Showcasing its three original ensemble members--clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, and pianist Diana Schmück--The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, presents "Serenade by Three: Orion Beginnings."

Performances take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva, Illinois on November 6; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois on November 13; and the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago, Illinois on November 16.

For more information, visit

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Cantus Presents "No Greater Love Than This" in 30 Cities this Season
This month, Cantus launches their new touring program entitled "No Greater Love Than This." On the program, the men's vocal chamber ensemble addresses the camaraderie, bravery, honor, elation, loss and longing common to all soldiers in times of both peace and war, and shared between loved ones at home and across nations. Over the past week, Cantus has presented the program to unanimous critical and audience acclaim throughout Minneapolis-St. Paul -- where the ensemble is based -- and will head out on October 26th for the first major leg of their 30-city nationwide tour of "No Greater Love Than This" that will see the ensemble performing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and in Dallas, New Jersey, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Southern California.

With repertoire by Lee Hoiby, Melissa Dunphy, William Billings, John Lennon, Christine Donkin, a new commission by Emmy Award-winning composer Jeff Beal (House of Cards) and rarely performed songs for men's voices by Dvórak and Janácek, Cantus delves into the bonds that have defined those willing to lay down their lives for others.

For complete information and tour dates and locations, visit

--Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Collaborates with Pianist and Composer Fazil Say
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra reunites with Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say on Saturday, December 3 at 7:00 p.m. in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall, following a highly successful collaborative New York and European tour in 2015.

Say is featured in his own Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 4, "Silk Road", inspired by the folk music found along the ancient trade route from China to Europe. He describes the composition as "a musical journey along a road, beginning in Tibet, leading into Hindu dances, with the third part dealing with music from Iraq. Then, the finale consists of folk tunes and songs from my homeland of Turkey." Say also performs Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, which includes the slow movement popularized by the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan.

The concert also includes Rossini's Overture to his comedic opera La Scala di Seta (The Silk Ladder), and Haydn's Symphony No. 83, "The Hen," nicknamed for its clucking grace notes and honking oboe solo.

The program premieres on Thursday, December 1 at 7:00 p.m. at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale, New York, and repeats on Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m. at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College in Purchase, New York.

For more information, visit

--Katlyn Morahan, Morahan Arts and Media

Collage New Music's 45th Season Starts
On Monday, October 24, 2016, the Grammy nominated, Boston-based ensemble, Collage New Music, will embark on its 45th Season. This season opener features the music of William Kraft and Nina C. Young, as well as a premier of Hayg Boyadjian's Mi Tango No. 2 - Al Abstracto, Arthur Berger's spiky and elegant Collage III, and Andrew Rindfleisch's exuberant What Vibes!

The concert will be held at Edward M. Pickman Hall at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 8pm. It includes a 7pm conversation about the program with composers and music director David Hoose, and a post-concert reception for audience and musicians. Tickets available at the door on the night of the concert. Student and senior discounts are available.

For more tickets and information visit:

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Celesta Marketing and PR

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:

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