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Volume 11 Issue 5 - February 2006

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  • Toronto
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Robert von Bahr's BIS

Robert von Bahr's BIS revisited BY BRUCE SURTEES ~~t;. _,.c A QUARTER OF A CENTURY ~· , .;~ \ significant in the music recordago, I was introduced to Rob- ?.! ' • -,.·=-'i· '-·· ~ ing world. The complete SibeIert von Bahr, founder and ius, for example, is a major unowner of Scandinavian -~ dertaking which includes origirecord label BIS, and I can ,...._,. nal versions of the composer's still remember so clearly his -. Fifth Symphony, En Saga, confidence in the future of Karelia, and others, and the his label. We met up again original version of the violin conlast December at a lunch with certo. The Sibelius family aI- WhoieNote. Von Bahr's en- lowed BIS to record this longer thusiasm and confidence was first version which, because of unquenched, twenty-five strict copyright protection, canyears on. not receive a public performance When von Bahr founded for another 20 years! The solo- BIS in 1973, he focused on recording neglected ist for this Sibelius recording is Leonidas Kavadomains of music instead of an established body kos, who recently performed the final version of familiar music, and this philosophy seems to with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. have stood him well. He talked about the gene- Osmo Vanska, the conductor for the Sibelius sis of BIS. orchestral works, is now music director of the "! had long planned to do something, since Minnesota Orchestra and has embarked on a no one else in my country was. The opportu- Beethoven cycle to be recorded by BIS in surni ty came when ! was working as a round sound. The first disc to appear contains summer step-in cantor in the Cathedral of the Fourth and Fifth symphonies [SACO Hybrid Stockholm. The organist also 'did' the Syna- 1416]. I had no expectation of hearing anything gogue and, since! was studying to teach sing- to challenge or displace the well-known recording, at the Stockholm Conservatory, she told ings of these pieces, but these are very special me to go to the Shu/ to listen to 'that incredi- performances. There are no extremes of tempi ble voice ·. I did, was totally bowled over, and or unusual balances which may impress upon took the decision right there to start with re- first hearing but become tiresome later. These cording him, quickly, are two of those all too before he died, since That he has never deleted a recording rare performances that he was about 70 (he says much for the integrity of Robert von touch the anima of the died at almost 95 Bahr, a musician who records musicians composer. The sound, years old, still singing). I persuaded Eric Ericson and his choir to participate, and that was that. " This recording, made in September of 1973, became BIS LP-I. This recording was later transferred to compact disc in 1989 as, appropriately, CD- I. The baritone was Leo Rosenbluth with instrumental soloists and the Musikhogskolans Kammarkor conducted by the legendary Eric Ericson. That recording is still available as is every recording ever issued on BIS. That he has never deleted a recording says much for the integrity of Robert von Bahr, a musician who records musicians, and who critically auditions every new recording before it goes into final production. As a matter of interest, the flautist on this first BIS recording, and many others since, is Gunilla von Bahr, Robert's ex-wife, who is internationally recognized and for whom Einojuhani Rautavaara wrote his concerto for flute and orchestra, Dances with the Winds in 1974-75. His present wife, also one of the current world leaders in flute playing, is Sharon Bezaly, for whom almost a dozen concertos have been written. DURING THOSE EARLY YEARS, Robert drove to the recording sessions along with his equipment but today BIS dispatches personnel and equipment to venues around the world, producing recordings of the highest artistic and technical excellence. Many of the BIS recordings are unique and both in stereo and surround sound, is totally convincing in timbre and dynamics. Also of interest is the Orchestral Music of Grieg, conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud with the Bergen Philharmonic. The fourth installment is the complete incidental music to Peer Gynt, including dialogue [SACO Hybrid 1441/42]. The recording is in Norwegian but it sounds rather lyrical. The orchestral playing is quite exquisite and the impression of being in the hall is quite realistic, particularly so in a surround sound system. IN ADD ITION TO THESE THREE albums, Robert sent along a few recent discs of which he is particularly proud, including Yevgeny Sudbin plays Rachmaninov, which includes the second Sonata, op.36, in a performance based on the Horowitz version, together with the Variations on a Theme of Chopin, op.22. These are powerful performances by an emerging Russian pianist of formidable technique which deserve many re-hearings [SACO Hybrid 1518]. Von Bahr is also quite proud ofThe Swedish Radio Choir directed by Tonu Kaljuste in Schnittke's Concerto for Choir ( 1984/5) & Voices of Nature ( 1972) together with three works by Arvo Part [CD-1157]. The TSO's own Peter Oundjian leading the Amsterdam Sinfonietta in Mozart A major concerto, KV622 with basset clarinet player Martin Frost and Frost with the Vertavo String Quartet playing the Clarinet Quintet in A major, KV58 I are two of Bl S's recordings heralded by Robert Von Bahr. In surround sound, these excellent performances are recorded to perfection [SACO Hybrid 1263]. Von Bahr also says a must-listen is The Bach Collegium Japan, playing the four Bach Suites, BWV I 066-69, directed by Masaaki Suzuki. For many, these are definitive versions of the very popular Bach pieces by the group who is involved in the ongoing project of the complete cantatas. These familiar suites have enjoyed umpteen performances over the years but none more eloquent than these and certainly none so faultlessly recorded [SACO Hybrid 1431 , two discs priced as one]. THE BEST SELLING BIS o,sc ever is Vivaldi 's The Four Seasons played by the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble [CD-275]. But what about recordings which aesthetically should be made but which will have no, or very little, expectation of recouping costs? Von Bahr thinks they are still worthwhile, and mentioned two recordings in this connection. "The first is Kaikoshru Shapurji Sorabji 's 100 Etudes, a trifle about 7-8 hours in duration. Our eminent star pianist Fredrik Ullen, a neurologist who can read scores of any complexity as we mortals read Donald Duck, has just warmed up with the 25 first and easy ones, which will have been released when this goes into print. The last two eludes are gargantuan mountains of about 50 minutes each and they are seriously difficult... this collection, while being interesting to listen to, is basically surpassing what is manually possible on a keyboard. " Von Bahr feels the same way about another recording featuring a different solo instrument: Claude LoyalaAllgen's Solo Violin Sonata. "Just imagine the commission: 'you have access to a solo violin, but I want to hear a string orchestra·. Something like that must have gone on in Al/gen 's mind. Ulf Wallin has spent 5 years of his life to learn the piece. The recording started in 2002 and has gone on until 2005, in 5 installments of a good week each. The duration is 170 minutes (but the 3 discs will be priced as 2) and he is basically playing on all 4 strings the whole time. Why does anyone climb Mount Everest? "Because it's there ". Well, I guess the answer to these two projects would be the same. Invaluable music, incredibly performed. " When asked about hi s plans for the future, von Bahr, as expected, has many ideas. "To try to finish off the cycles we have started. before I die.. Sibelius, Bach Cantatas, the Complete Flute Repertoire, small things like that, the van Beethoven project with Osmo Vanska and Ronald Brautigam, to make sure that Yevgeny Sudbin really gets established as the world class pianist he is. " THERE ARE SOME 1,350 BIS TITLES available now and another 150 more recorded not yet released. The entire catalogue and artist information can be accessed at www.bis.se 14 WWW, TH EWHOLENOTE.COM FEBR UAR Y 1 - M ARCH 7 2006

TO MARKET TO MARKET: Petric & Forget's independent twist BY ALLAN PULKER One of Canada's unique contributors to the world of classical and contemporary art music is accordionist, Joseph Petric, the only accordionist in the world today who devotes himself solely to concertizing, commissioning, recording, transcribing and writing about the accordion. With twenty-one CDs to Oboist Normand Forget and accordionist Joseph Petric his credit and another on the way, he has made a tremendous contribution to the discography of his instrument. Even more significantly, he has commissioned many new works for the accordion, in his words, "to fill gaps in the repertoire." In the words of the cognoscenti, he has "redefined the accordion canon!" Joseph Petric was introduced to the accordion at the age of five by his father. " Music-making in my family and community was something used for social occasions. It was functional music, so I got my start playing functional music." With an undergraduate degree in music from Queen's University and a master's degree in musicology from the University ofToronto, Petric is no stranger to art music. The aim that informs his music making is to discover the common ground between music as an artistic statement and functional music, regardless of the style or period. "Bach's music is functional, music written for an occasion, for church or social gatherings. What I have found playing this music on the accordion is the vernacular and dance elements emerge, the harmonies trigger kinetic responses." The cycle of 5ths in the first movement of Bach's c­ minor suite, he told me, would do Piazzolla proud! Another composition in Petric 's wide-ranging repertoire is Berio 's Sequenza, which incorporates "nothing less than a non-measured prelude." Petric was fortunate to study for a time with harpsichordist and early music specialist, Colin Tilney, focusing on the challenges of playing baroque repertoire in an artistically convincing way. " We discovered that the accordion can do interpretive things that are not possible on the harpsichord, adding levels of awareness to repertoire that is considered to be old .... Recent research suggests that J.S. Bach was a fearless explorer of new sounds. His Goldberg Variations were the longest piece for solo keyboard written in the eighteenth century." Bach, too, embraced the interchangeability of instruments, which is one reason that Petric is totally comfortable with playing his music on an instrument that did not even exist in his time. The Petric Bach project that prompted this story is the endeavour under way to perform and record Bach's organ sonatas with Quebec oboist, Normand Forget. Both have similar interests in both new and old music, but their meeting in 2000 was quite accidental, the outcome of both participating in a concert given by Quebec's Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne of which Forget was a charter member and with which Petric was performing as a soloist. The two worked initially on a transcription that Forget had done of Schubert's Die Winterreise. Their most recent offering is the Bach organ sonatas. They emphasize the interpretive, developing new ways of engaging the role of the listener as interpreter. "Contemporary audiences come better prepared to listen," Petric says. The duo will perform the six sonatas at a concert at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse on March I. As enterprising as the folks behind the recent " Mega Launch" I wrote about in December, they are using the event as a fund-raiser to support the production of the independent CD of these works. The price ofadmission includes a copy of the CD, which will be mailed to ticket holders once it has been produced. ANALEKTA THE 'FINEST CANADIAN 'MUSICIANS Jewels of The Romantic Era Mozart: Complete Piano Trios The Gryphon Trio •2-CDSET• To celebrate Mozart's 250"' anniversary, the acclaimed Canadian ensemble performs all six of the composer's works for piano trio. !ttA THE Jf. W H BOX ® Mitf@MII CO i'i'R::T r\ ii.lJOVX .,,•J /)1!\ ~ ) Each recording in this series features quintessentia l masterpieces from a specific era, inviting neophytes and connoisseurs to experience the works that defined different periods in music history. Graupner: Darmstadt Harpsichord Book , Partitas for Harpsichord, Vol. 5 Genevieve Soly, harpsichord In her 5'' volume of partitas for harpsichord, Soly turns to works from the Darmstadt Harpsichord Book, copied around 1720 by Samuel Endler, a friend and colleague of Graupner. The manuscript is comprised of 17 partitas by the little-known Baroque-era composer. Shostakovich's Circle I Musici de Montreal Yuli Turovski, conductor I Serhiy Salov, pia no All 3 works on this recording (Shostakovich, Galynin, Ustvolskaya) were written in 1946, one of the darkest years for Russian culture. There was a real pogrom in Soviet literature that year, as in 1948 in Soviet music, when many Soviet composers of the highest rank were public ly reprimanded for writing NORTH-AMERICAN PREMIERE "formalist'' music. Galynin, Piano Concerto Release Date: February 21 " CDs available at Sam the Record Man, 347 Yonge St, Toronto '"' ~COM. "The Greatest Store On Earth" .----.., ==-...,_,, FACTOR mUSlcaction ==::::-' aa analekta C -----·- Canadll Canadl! Qut!becna • om FEB RUA RY 1 - M ARC H 7 2006 WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM 15

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