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Volume 11 Issue 5 - February 2006

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • February
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Mozart
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Quartet

DIS FROM the first track

DIS FROM the first track of Goran S6llscher's new CD "The Renaissance Album" (Deutsche Grammophon 477 5726) I was hooked. Mudarra's Fantasia que contrahaze la harpe was the point of departure for one of the seminal classical-jazz-pop fusion hits of my formative years - Fantasy, Fugue and Ghost Beads by the Paul Winter Consort - and hearing the original in the hands of this elevenstring guitar virtuoso immediately transported me back to the heady days of my youth. I was already familiar with Mr. Sollscher's inspired playing from my time at CJRT-FM where I discovered a recording of the Bach Cello Suites in his own transcription. As a devotee of the cello it is rare to find a truly satisfying rendition of these jewels performed on anything other than that sensuous tenor member of the violin family, but Soltscher was convincing indeed. He is no less so when turning his talent, as he does here, to the lute music of Renaissance Italy (Milano, Molinaro), Germany (Schlick, Neusidler), Spain (Mudarra, Milan, de Narvaez) and France (Robert Ballard). The highlights of the disc for me however are the English contributions of Philips, Holborne and of course John Dowland. This is a first class collection of the music of the period. WELL I have mentioned my predilection for the cello time and again, and that was certainly 1 -...,.......11, the main focus of my listening over the holiday period. A set that I continue to wal- ~-------__J low in, enjoying every moment of the epic journey, is a collection of 10 CDs entitled the Mstislav Rostropovich Edition (Brilliant Classics 92771). Drawn from the Historic Russian Archives, it is a collection oflive recordings made between 1949 and 1972. While the focus is primarily Russian/Soviet repertoire, with concertos and sonatas by Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Stravinsky, Miaskovsky, Prokofiev, Vlasov, Khatchaturian, Shostakovich, Tishchenko, Mirzoyan and Rostropovich himself (a virtuosic bonbon entitled Humoresque), the collection also includes significant contributions to the ce llo re pertoire by Dvorak, Schumann, Beethoven, Brahms, Lalo, Faure, Haydn, de Falla, Sauguet and Honegger, along with solo suites by Britten and, of course, Bach. Although the sound quality is as varied as you might ex- EDITOR'S CORNER pect from air-checks from midcentury, most of the recordings range from adequate to very good, and these live performances are positively thrilling. This is an extremely valuable document, and with a cover price of how could you go wrong? As IF that were not enough cello for any two ears, I had the pleasure of engaging my eyes as welt this month with a DVD release of two television performances by another of the truly great cellists of the 20th century. "The Art of Pierre Fournier" (VAi 4356) presents programs originally aired by Radio Canada in 1959 and 1960. The first features solo suites by Bach (No.3) and Kodaly. For the second Fournier is joined by pianist Guy Bourassa in the Adagio and Allegro by Schumann and sonatas of Debussy and Francoeur. This last was a revelation - a charmingly virtuosic work by an 18th century Frenchman previously unknown to me. While there is nothing adventurous or even inherently interesting in the video aspects of this production (limited camera angles and closeups of the musicians alone on a bare stage), it is still a treat to be given such an intimate look at the performance of such a master and the opportunity to study his bow and fingering techniques. THERE were a couple of other DVDs that held my attention as well. The first is the sixth volume in the series "Leaving Home - Orchestral Music in the 20th Century" (ArtHaus Musik 102 043) narrated by Sir Simon Rattle. I now cringe to think that when I reviewed the first offering in this series Several months ago I ruefully wondered about the fact that Rattle's survey of the century seemed to end with Alban Berg' s Violin Concerto (1935). Well the scope of the project has all come clear to me now and, in this the Convi no HQme • • •cr:l!IJ " u ':, ' ' sixth of seven volumes, Rattle leads us through some of the most important aspects of the postwar period. Starting with the Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss (sung movingly by Amanda Roocroft) and Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw, Rattle then introduces us to a new generation in the persons ofBoulez (through Le Marteau sans maftre) and Stockhausen (Gruppen), who met and found their inspiration in Messiaen's analysis classes (erroneously referred to as composition classes here) at the Paris Conservatoire in the 1950s. A highlight of the disc is the full performance of Gruppen for three orchestras, included as a "special feature". Rattle mentions that he has not included any British music in his survey thus far because "it was never forward looking", but at this point introduces the music of Benjamin Britten with a stirring performance of the Serenade for tenor, horn and strings featuring Anthony Rolfe Johnson. He concludes this 50 minute segment by noting that a study of Stravinsky's music would quite effectively encompass most of the significant musical developments of the century and examines the ballet Agon (1957). Rattle makes a convincing guide as he leads us through the "music of our time" with his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and I look forward to the final installment of the series which is to include music of Berio Henze, Kurtag, Birtwistle, Turnage, Knusse~ and Gubaidulina. Concert Note: The Scarborough Philharmonic performs Britten's Serenade with tenor Stephen Erickson and Wendy Limbertie, French horn, under Kevin Mallon's direction, February 11. The other video production which held my interest was quite closely related to the Rattle presentation in subject, bringing together two films by Frank Scheffer: Igor Stravinsky - The Final Chorale; and Arnold Schoenberg - Five Orchestral Pieces (ldeale Audience 3). The Stravinsky is an exploration of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments with insightful commentary by conductor Reinbert de Leeuw whose Netherlands Wind Ensemble is featured' along with an interview with Stravinsky'~ amanuensis Robert Craft and historic footage of Stravinsky himself. The Schoenberg features conductor Michael Gielen introducing each of the Five Pieces with further commentary by scholar Carl Schorske and pianist Charles Rosen who bring their own detailed insights to this seminal set of pieces. Frank Scheffer has established himself as one of the most important contemporary music documentary filmmakers. You can read Daniel Foley' s review of his Mahler and Berio films elsewhere in our section, and later this season New Music Con- 12 WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM F EBRUARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2006

certs will present Scheffer's portrait of Elliott Carter "A Labyrinth of Time" as part of a weekend celebration entitled "Elliott Carter at 97" (May 27-28). THE REST OF MY LISTENING THIS MONTH was devoted to orchestral works by a couple of latter day symphonists from Eastern Europe, Osvaldas Balakauskas (b. Lithuania 1937) and Henryk Gorecki (b. Poland 1933), and the American minimalist icon Philip Glass. ... Gorecki of course achieved near super-star status with Dawn Upshaw's recording of Symphony No. 3, the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", more than a decade ago with the London Sinfonietta under David Zinman (Nonesuch 79282) which sold over a million copies worldwide. Since that time there have been numerous recordings of this slowly unfolding, devastatingly beautiful and sombre masterpiece inspired by the horrors of the Auschwitz death camp. The latest to appear features the young voice of French soprano Ingrid Perruche with Krzysztof Penderecki's Sinfonia Varsovia under guest conductor Alain Altinoglu (Nai"ve V 5019). While I don't think the work will ever again have the impact on me that I experienced from my exposure to that first CD recording, this current release has several things to recommend it beyond its moving performance. The disc includes the world premiere recording of an earlier related instrumental work, Canticum Graduum (1969), which elucidates Gorecki's ongoing concerns with social justice. A more intriguing aspect is the incl us ion in the liner 00 jutlics to ~"'cf~ !:ioc..tr notes of a translation of a portion of the Hungarian Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz' text "The Sleuth", dealing with the same issues of the Holocaust. If you are not already familiar with Gorecki's stunning homage, this CD would be a good place to start. IF ONE is not paying close attention, the Balakauskas Symphonies 4 & 5 (Naxos 8.557605) can be mistaken for seven movements of one extended work, with the themes of the latter seeming to grow organically out of the calm dissipation of sound at the end of the first. Composed in 1998 and 2001 they both employ Balakauskas' unique "dodecatonic" system of composition - exploring new tonal connections within strict serial structures and strictly calculated rhythmic progressions. Far I ', 1, 1 11 :, I

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

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