7 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 10 - July/August 2005

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  • Festival
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DISC I must confess that

DISC I must confess that as I prepared to write this column during the "Dog Days" of June (I thought that was supposed to be an August phenomenon) the idea of puning on headphones and getting down to "work" was a much too daunting thought most days. Fortunately a number of the discs that found their way to my desk this month proved worth the effort of overcoming my torpor. I'll begin with what Naxos is touting as "Kevin Mallon at 30! " - 30 COs on the label that is. The Irishborn violinist and early music specialist who moved to Canada a few years back to take up positions with U of T and Tafelmusik, is an alumnus of such orchestras as Halle and the BBC Philharmonic, Le Concert Spirituel and Les Arts Florisants. His Naxos credits include recordings with Toronto Camerata and, as in the case in point, Aradia Ensemble for both of which he serves as director. Mallon's most recent release, William Boyce- Eight Symphonies, Op.2 (8.557278), features some very elegant music by this lesser known English composer of the late baroque. Published in EDITOR'S CORNER WillWm. !lOYCE 1760 these "symphonies" consist for the most part of overtures and interludes extracted from odes wrinen while second Composer of the Chapel Royal , and various of Boyce's theatrical works. I used the word elegant to describe !,his music and I must say that is exactly what jumped to mind when I first put on this disc. If "Masterpiece Theatre" didn't already have a signature theme the opening of Boyce's first symphony would serve admirably. Tile performances, recorded at Grace Church on the Hill two summers ago, are everything you'd want them to be. My only complaint? The personnel list, obviously "cut and pasted" from an earlier release, mentions only oboe and trumpet in the way of winds or brass, but I distinctly hear wooden flute, bassoon and horns on various tracks, and lists 15 singers although there is no vocal music on the CD. Elegance and opulence also abound in the new A TMA release Suzie Le­ Blanc Portrait: Handel (ACD2 2387). While this is in fact a compilation of earlier material its thematic nature puts the disc a cut above a mere "sampler". Fans of LeBlanc will no doubt have all of this material already, but for those few unfamiliar with her crystal clear and perfectly nuanced voice, this disc provides a wonderful introduction. Containing arias from Rinald o, Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda (~ith Ensemble Arion), the rece.ntly discovered Gloria in Excels is Deo (with Academie Baroque de Montreal) and excerpts from A cis and Gafl11ea (Les Boreactes) it also serves an excellent sampling of the vocal music of Handel and three fine period ensembles from Montreal. Speaking of period instruments, I first heard Pieter Wispelwey, the first cellist to ever win the Netherlands Music Prize, with his recording of the Bach Cello Suites on a 17 10 Barak Norman instrument back in 1990. Touted as the "Best Recording of the Year" by the Boston Globe, those performances took the baroque world - and my fledgling ears -by storm. 15 years and 30 Channel Classics recordings later Wispelwey's catalogue includes virtually all of the important solo repertoire for his instrument, from the baroque era to the present day . He re-recorded the Bach Suites in 1998 and his most recent release, Beethoven - The Complete Sonatas and Variations (CCS SA 22605), with pianist Dejan Lazic, is a Super Audio CD (also playable by regular CD technology) of material he previously recorded on period instruments with (forte)pianists in 1992and 1994. WhileWispelwey's liner notes explain why he felt compelled to revisit this material with modem instruments and someone with whom he had been "trying out" the sonatas for 7 years, I do wish he had explained why he considers his recently acquired 1760 Guadagnini cello (i.e. constructed 35 years before Beethoven wrote his first sonata) something other than a "period" instrument. That question aside, I must say these are riveting performances. The benchmark of the repertOire for me is the Sonata in A Major, Op.69, and this performance is light and fluid, lightening fast when required, yet powerful and dynamic in the contrasting sforzando turns. Wispelwey has inspired me to pick up the bow and return to my own anempts to conquer this fabulous music. The next disc spans two eras, the Classical and the Contemporary, with its link being English pianist/composer Thomas Ades . I admit I was curious, and a linle surprised, to fmd a catalogue listing for a disc that included both Schubert's "Trout" Quintet and the Ardini String Quartet. The Arditti, who carmot be topped for their interpretation of contemporary quartet repertoire many examples of which have been wrinen expressly for them, are not known for their interest in the music of past. All was revealed however when the disc Ades - Schubert: Piano Quintets (EMI 5 57664 2) arrived - the Arditti join ThomasAdes to perform his own:nl1 ronposition, but it is members of the Belcea Quartet and bassist Carin Long who are enrolled for Schubert's masterpiece. It is a curious pairing of works, but one that works strangely well. The two pieces draw on distinctly different sound worlds and evoke vastly different images. The playful trout we hear frisking in the placid world of Schubert's stream are replaced with darker presences in more troubled waters in Ades' quintet. This is not to say that it is a particularly dark work, or even particularly challenging to the listener, simply that it is starker and at times relentless. Somehow I don't think that fans of Schubert will find the world of contemporary music exemplified by Thomas Ades a welcoming place, but the placement of the Schubert last on the disc will provide welcome respite. One of the most intriguing discs to cross my desk this month com e s from the Societe NouveUe d'En-registrement in Quebec. La Voix de L'Oiseau (SNE-657-CD) presents vocal works by Bruce Mather spanning two and a half decades. Mather himself is the pianist for three of the four selections, which each feature a different vocal range. Yolande Parent is the coloratura soprano in the title track on a poem by Anne Hebert. Bass-baritone Michel Ducharme is featured in three poems by Gatien Lapointe. Both of these are recent works dating from 1998. Soprano Pauline Vaillancourt, accompanied by Jean-Eudes Vaillancourt, is featured in a 1981 setting of another Hebert poem, Les grandesfontaines. For the final work, Madrigal!!! from 1971 , the accompaniment is expanded to include piano, harp (Judy Loman) and marimba (Robin Engelman). We are treated to the lovely "dark" voice of contralto Patricia Rideout in her prime in this 1974 live recording. It is this work, perhaps because of the extended instrumental palette, that I found most satisfying. But the whole disc is an impressive document that gives us entry to a surprisingly lyrical "other" side of the senior Canadian composer perhaps best known for his microtonal instrumental compositions. The final disc I'd like to mention, is a compilation York' s The Kitchen featuring Steve at New Reich and Musicians, Uve 1!Ji7 (Orange Mountain Music OMM0018). One of my first experiences ofMinimalism was a performance of Steve Reich's music by the New Music Concerts Ensemble about 25 years ago. That occasion marked the first time that Reich had "permitted" a group other than his own to perform his compositions. This was no doubt because the NMC ensemble included two local members of Reich's own "Musicians", versatile and virtuosic percussionists Bob Becker and Russell Hartenberger, who incidentally were also founding members of Nexus. Becker and Hartenberger feature prominently in these archival recordings from The Kitchen, performing in Six Pianos, Music for Pieces of Woai and Dnmuning- Pan Four. The disc also includes Shem Guibbory's performance of Violin Phase and a bunch of swinging microphones and loudspeakers in Perululwn Music. I confess I have been less than enthralled by recent Reich releases - lush orchestral versions of earlier chamber pieces and the narrative Three Tales with its less than inspired video component. This disc of edgy live performances was therefore a welcome reminder of what initially drew me to this trance-like repetitive music, and just how compelling it can be. We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. Catalogues, review copies of CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503- 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcome your input via our website, DavidOids Editor, DISCoveries 14 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM ] ULY 1 - SEPTEM BER 7 2005

DISCS OF THE MONTH RO.BERT LOWREY Proudly Introduces F/1ZIOLr De Bach a Mozart - Following the path of the Trio Sonata Claire Guimond; Gary Cooper; Jaap ter Linden EMCCD-7762 Clever programming will always contribute to the success of a recording project. This survey of the Trio Sonata from the mature J.S . Bach to the young Mozart, aged 9, covers only thirty years of the form 's evolution - but what remarkable change! In the hands of J .S. Bach, three of his sons and finally Mozart, this project follows the evolution of ingeniously dense counterpoint into more open and tlirtatious melodic interplay. A Trio Sonata from any era requires restraint in the interest of balanced beauty. Whether for keyboard alone or with a single or pair of partners, performers must retain the highest regard for their parts however simple they may, at times, seem. Claire Guimond plays a modern copy of an 18th century transverse tlute whose tone is always round, warm and sweet. Even in the high register she maintains this quality without ever drifting toward harshness . Her technique is clean and virtually without any audible breathiness. Keyboard partner Gary Cooper also plays a modern copy of a period harpsichord. His skill brings out inner contrapuntal lines despite being produced on an instrument with little or no dynamic expressive range. In slow movements "playing" hardly seems a fair word to describe the effect he achieves while "caressing" would be more apt. Cellist Jaap ter Linden plays a 1703 Grancino and proves adept at unerringly giving himself to either the humble role of mere bass line or delicate melodic choreography with his two partners. In sum, these artists achieve a unity that transcends the requirements of the notation - a veritable musical trinity . Alex Baran Kiran Ahluwalia Kiran Ahluwalia Triloka, TRI-CD-82055 Although this CD would be categorized as world music and even fusion, its influences are distinctly from the Indian subcontinent (India and Pakistan) . Vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia performs two very dif(erent genres: ghazal, a semi-classical, sophisticated Urdu poetic form set to music, and associated with the urban courtly culture of India's past, and Punjabi folk songs which are lively, danceable tunes from the rural Punjab region which straddles northwest India and Pakistan. The juxtaposition of these two styles is but one aspect of the interesting variety on this recording, which also includes many different instruments (Inqian and Western), moods, and musical arrangements. That said , the uniting force and centerpiece of each track is Ahluwalia' s alluring singingstyle, replete with subtle ornamentation and inflection. Her fans will already have most of the songs on this CD as only two are completely new, both featuring the violin playing of guest artist, Natalie MacMaster. Although this seems to be a big selling point, in this context I actually preferred the more traditional sound of the Indian fiddle, sarangi, as found on tracks 6 and 10. Two other instruments traditional to ghazal - tabla and harmonium - are both featured extensively, and the dhol (folk drum) which opens the Punjabi song, lk Ranjha (My Longing), adds an exciting, authentic groove to this lively number. The detailed liner notes give English translations of the exquisite poetry of these songs, as well as background information - well-advised for this rising star's first international release that holds great appeal, not just fo r Indians but also for the general world music audience. Annette Sanger DISCOVERIES continues on page 56 I Grandi Italiani Now only in Toronto (and nowhere else in North America) Can you compare The World's finest pianos Side - By - Side ~ · o s Pn b off Pf F/lZIOLr BECHSTEIN ~ SCHIMMEL Plus ~ BECH·ST E IN FAMILY OF PIANOS C. Bechstein • Wm. Knabe • Sohmer • Kohler & Campbell • Hazelton Five other new brands and lk >Roland" DIGITAL PIANOS All backed by our 20 person service facility Tour our famous piano workshops • Concert Rentals • Appraisals • Rebuilding ROBE~T LOWREY'S~ PIANO EXPERTS i ui , 943 Eglinton Ave. East 416 423-0434 ] ULY 1 - SEPTEMBER 7 2005 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM 15

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