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Volume 11 Issue 5 - February 2006

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  • Toronto
  • February
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  • Quartet

Beatus vir qui timet

Beatus vir qui timet Dominum by Tarditi, and then Uccellini's Aria sopra la Bergamesca, a fiery flurry of frothy variations on aground, played by violinists Julia Wedman and Aisslinn Nosky, with cellist Felix Deak and harpsichordist Olivier Fortin providing the continuo. In the solo cantata Morie di Lucrezia by Monteclair, Gabrielle McLaughlin's intensely-focused voice finds warmth, meaning, and expressive purpose, accompanied with likewise passion by the ensemble. The pyrotechnic Partita VI from Harmonia Artificioso-ariosa by Biber provides a dazzling showcase for I Furiosi. It's about as close as one gets to hearing early music played by a rock group like, say, Led Zeppelin! Put on this CD and turn up the volume. Frank Nakashima 'i, ''llll'h••fl i{'• I 1,,1 ;1, Sam martini - Six Symphonies Aradia; Kevin Mallon Naxos 8.557298 Who was it that influenced Gluck and J.C. Bach and had Boccherini play cello in his orchestra? To whom did Haydn pay homage in his early works? And who was the kindly-disposed listener of performances by the child prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus, so admired by the prodigy's father, Leopold Mozart? Who was that composer, whose brother, Giuseppe, was the favourite oboist of Handel? Who composed 67 confirmed and 75 attributed symphonies? Give up? Giovanni Battista Sammartini, that's who. Today but a footnote in music history, this 7th out of8 children of the French oboe player, Alexis Saint-Martin, was in hi s prime the toast of Milan. Mind you, at that time Milan was the toast of musical Europe, otherwise why would young Mozart seek to perform there? From his late twenties until his death in 1775, Sammartini was a composer, organist and conductor in the Milanese cathedral and other celebrated churches; and one of the most prolific artists of the baroque era. His works, when recorded with the scholarship and passion required, are proof positive that history is not only the greatest teacher, but may also be a harsh mistress - though all the works here collected should be in the standard baroque repertoire, they are usually nowhere to be found. Spirited, original and passionate, Sammartini's writing comes to full life under the careful baton of Kevin Mallon. The Irish-born artist, now as Canadian as the Maple Leafs, gives this forgotten master the treatment his works deserve. The Toronto-based Aradia Ensemble plays with great sensitivity, but also with a crispness that is pleasantly unexpected. Throughout the recording, they successfully avoid succumbing to the music-box preciousness so frequently befalling period music ensembles. A great disc and my new favourite for 'a little morning baroque music' . Robert Tomas Concert Note: Kevin Mallon is the guest conductor with the Scarborough Philharmonic on February 11. Boismortier - Sonatas for 2 Bassoons and Continuo Musica Franca MSR Classics MS 1170 Corrette - Le Phenix; Les Delices de la Solitude Musica Franca MSR Classics MS 1171 Bassoons? It's about time someone took them seriously. The bassooncentric ensemble Musica Franca is determined to make that point with these two very fine recordings. They present the work of two 18th century French composers, Boismortier and Corrette. The Boismortier sonatas are from his large body of instrumental works, many written for optional solo instruments. These selections are presumably the most bassoon-friendly. The performances are light and transparent as the players meet the textural needs of the different tempi. Fast movements are wonderfully weightless and slower movements l'IICI ffL ( 01111[1 IE J~~r, ,.... l Ml>'>IC A I kt NCI sustain themselves with long phrases and flowing harpsichord arpeggios. The Sonatas by Corrette, a younger contemporary ofBoismortier, are even more playful and colourful than those by Boismortier. The Sonata III in C major has some brief"funky" rhythms that solo bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson handles adeptly and with clear relish. Baroque guitarist Terry McKenna gets in his syncopated licks in the Sonata IV in B-flat major and the bassoons do wonderful hunting horn imitations in the fourth movement of the same sonata. Fraser Jackson plays contrabassoon with alacrity and lightness, holding back the otherwise formidable power of this leviathan. Jackson also does some very fine arranging as in the Corrette Organ Concerto No. I in which the bassoons and baroque guitar take the string parts. These players clearly have a great affection for this entire repertoire and the instruments chosen to express it. There's a good deal of freedom with tempo and phrasing. It offers deep feeling to the music in a way that seems completely natural to both composers' intent. Tone throughout the bassoons' register is delicious - never constricted at the top or rude at the low end. This is ensemble playing of great mutual respect and undeniable musicality. The ensemble's production values are high. They balance the intimacy of their audible breaths and instrumental key clicks with the spacious acoustics of St. Anne's Anglican Church - Toronto's architectural homage to Byzantium. Engineer David vR Bowles' achievement is noteworthy. If you're suspicious that a little bassoon music might really go a long way - these recordings will provide more satisfying listening than thought possible. Musica Franca knows what they're doing. Enjoy these and look forward to their next release. Alex Baran CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Beethoven - The Piano Sonatas, Volume I Andras Schiff ECM New Series 1940/41 Only a handful of pianists have achieved the monumental task of recording Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. Some of the greatest have never attempted it, some died before completing it. The brilliant and accomplished Hungarian pianist, Andras Schiff, is the latest candidate attempting to scale the Olympian heights with this 2 CD set, the first of a projected eight volumes, recorded live in Zurich's Tonhalle. According to Schiff's own words, having been "confronted with a strong interpretation that stretches back as far as Liszt", he deliberately waited to reach sufficient maturity to be worthy of playing Beethoven. I think it was worth the wait. These four early sonatas are Beethoven's first attempts at the form and come from 1792-96, his early Vienna period. Op.2/1 is amazingly mature. It seems to jump out of Jupiter's head like Minerva. It is full of youthful energy but sti ll much influenced by Haydn. Then comes the Op.2/3, a marvelous virtuoso piece quite unlike anything Mozart or Haydn ever wrote. The lengthy, introspective Op. 7 is again a major step forward, gradually breaking away from the classic mould into a more original "Romantic" expression. Schiff's interpretations are lucid, his palette is crisp yet spontaneous and all voices come out crystal-clear. Tempos are well judged and his technique is fl awless. His sensitive touch and imagination bring out the many mood changes and create unforgettable moments throughout. Scholarly documentation enclosed. Beethoven for the 21st century. Highly recommended. Janos Gardonyi 62 WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM FEBR UAR Y 1 - M AR CH 7 2006

The Founding Years - Music of Sibelius, Mozart, Handel, and Cha brier London Philharmonic Orchestra; Sir Thomas Beecham LPO 0006 (mono) Wagner - Orchestral Music from Operas London Philharmonic Orchestra; Klaus Tennstedt LPO 0003 (stereo) Sibelius - Symphony no.2, op.43 and no.7, op.105 London Philharmonic Orchestra; Paavo Berglund LPO 0005 (SACO Hybrid, surround 4.0 I stereo) As The London Symphony and the Halle orchestras have already done, The London Philharmonic has gone into the record business. These three are the first to come to hand. Sir Thomas Beecham created the Philharmonic in 1932 to be at the service of Royal Philharmonic Society and to play for the international opera season at Covent Garden, of which Beecham was the conductor-in-chief. The equal of the best European and American ensembles, Beecham and his orchestra soon began recording for English Columbia's prestige blue label. "The Founding Years" contains one unpublished item, excerpts from Sibelius' incidental music to The Tempest, recorded under the supervision of Walter Legge during the October 1934 Leeds Festival. Included are previously available excerpts from Mozart's Mass in C minor, the Haffner Symphony, Espana, and excerpts from Israel in Egypt. Expertly transferred but really of interest only to archivists and completists. Monaural, of course. The Wagner/Tennstedt disc originated with the BBC's live transmission from the Proms concert on August 20, 1992. These are big boned performances favouring weight and power enhanced by well considered tempi. The Prelude to Die Meistersinger being a little too solemn but the Rienzi Overture is up to speed and quite exciting. Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey (without the concert ending) is followed by the Funeral Music during which, in this performance, the profound tragedy of the event slowly and inexorably uncoils before us. A remarkable achievement. The Ride of the Valkyries is next in a reading as good as it gets. Always in control, Tennstedt's majestic Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music misses the pagan abandon of the under the hill people. All things considered however, quite recommendable. 111~! Paavo Berglund is no stranger to Sibelius symphonies and he has three complete cycles in print. As there is little room in Sibelius for interpretive variations in tempi, conductors simply adjust balances, intensity, and perhaps the length of the rests. Berglund has the full measure of both scores and projects Sibelius' intentions with a sure hand . I don' t believe that these are expected to significantly better his previous efforts but the impact of these committed readings is such that it really doesn ' t matter. The CD sound is expansive, but the SACO tracks move the listener right into the Royal Festival Hall. Bruce Surtees 60th Anniversary Borodin Quartet Onyx 4002 A recording which bears witness to a string quartet that has survived for 60 years cannot be any ordinary thing. Wonders, and anomalies, greet you. There is the phenomenon of the cellist Berlinsky who, having carried the group since its inception, throughout a 60-year period of Russian history, speaks in this music like a sage or a bearer of fine, aged wine - the legacy he brings is a weight of understanding that can only be present after long pondering. There is the understated perfection in the playing of 2nd violinistAbramenkov, and the magnificent strength, sensitivity and clarity in the playing of both I st violinist Aharoni an and violist Naidin. Together, these four create a unique sound: delicate and invincible, transparent and rich, flexible and soulful. There is the maddening (for my taste) Schubert Quartettsatz, its dark treasures missed by a furious tempo and glossed-over rhythmic • impulse - alongside the touching, expansive, perfectly lovely unfolding of Alexander Borodin's (their namesake's) second quartet. There's the fact that this, a 60th anniversary tribute, thwarts expectations because it is not really a retrospective of the ensemble's long achievement. It contains no Shostakovich and no Beethoven, two composers whose works they have intensively explored. The pieces are ( except for the Borodin) excerpted or one-movement romantic works, beautiful in themselves, and undoubtedly performed by them time and time again. Thwarted expectations notwithstanding, repeated listening to this disc brings great rewards as you enter the Borodin's multi-faceted, richly-wrought world of music making. Simone Desilets DIGITAL EDITING CD MASTERING CONTACT: · OPEN REEL TRANSFERS· 96/24 CAPABILITY KARL MACHAT 416 503 3060 OR 647 227 KARL MISTERS.MASTERS@SYMPATICO,CA FEBR UA RY 1 - M A RC H 7 2006 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM

Volume 26 (2020- )

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