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Volume 11 Issue 6 - March 2006

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DISCS REVIEWED CLASSICAL

DISCS REVIEWED CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Handel - Delirio Natalie Dessay; Le Concert d' Astree; Emmanuelle Hai'm Virgin Classics 0946 332624 2 3 With so many fine singers producing solo Handel discs these days, what makes this one such a standout? For one thing, Dessay stamps these cantatas with her charismatic personality. For another, she is unsurpassed in melding Handel's dazzling coloratura with soulful lyricism. Dessay has given up her former signature role as Mozart's star-blazing Queen of the Night to become Queen of the mad scene, devoting much of her time on operatic stages to bel canto roles such as Ophelie in Thomas's long-neglected Hamlet, and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. This collection of 'delirious' arias expands on that repertoire. Emmanuelle Hai"m's Concert d' Astree provides lively, colourful backup. Ha"im highlights the individual timbres of her terrific soloists to support Dessay's rich spectrum of colours. Some exquisitely effective duets between singer and instrumental soloist emerge. In Delirio amoroso Dessay convinces as a rejected lover whose torment sends her into a florid state of delirium. The orchestra plays up the jauntiness of the incongruous ending with finesse. Mi pa/pita il cor gives Dessay further opportunity to explore the emotional range of an unhinged lover. In the aria Qui / 'augel da pianta, Dessay movingly alternates between joy and misery. Here she is not a spurned woman, but a young lad tenderly mourning the death of his faithful lover. How well-matched Dessay and Hai"m are is indeed evident throughout this disc. But that point is rather unsubtly overdone by the bizarre photography. Pamela Margles 68 Brahms - Cello Sonatas Stephen lsserlis; Stephen Hough Hyperion CDA67529 Brahms called the two featured works on this disc simply Cello Sonatas, but that's not how Steven Isserlis and Stephen Hough treat them. Rarely have there been a pair of musicians able to strike the same balance between cello and piano in their performance that Brahms achieves in his composition. Isserlis, playing on gut strings, creates a sinewy but powerful sound, capable of deep expression and intensity without indulgent introversion. Hough in his turn is known as a formidable soloist, but here he plays with sensitivity rarely found with even the most experienced accompanists. At the same time he conveys the integrity of the piano part as an equal to the cello. In the rapturous opening of the second sonata, where with many performances the cellist is too often overpowered by the busy piano part, Hough is assertive not through his volume but through his approach and clarity. This allows Isserlis to shape the cello part with gorgeous tone without having to compete with the piano. Such mutual musical interplay, combined with technical flawlessness, takes these performances to the highest standard. Separating the sonatas are two works each of Dvorak and Suk. These delightful pieces are given luxurious readings bringing out some musical similarities which are overshadowed by the compositional differences between them and the intense sonatas. This recording sets standards for not only the Brahms sonatas, but for chamber music in general. Seth Estrin Future Concert Note: Stephen Hough will be one of the featured artists in Music Toronto's Piano Series next season with a concert on February 20, 2007. WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM Bruckner - Symphony No.5 NDR Sinfonieorchester; Giinther Wand TDK DVUS-COWANDI (DVD) These days when conductors with even a modicum of talent are jet setting around the globe, giving under-rehearsed "stopover" performances, the career of Giinter Wand is notably contrary. In a long lifetime that ended in 2002, at the age of 90, he rarely left Germany and worked mostly in Cologne and later in Hamburg. In both cases he transformed the musical life of these cities. He never achieved the glamour and fame of many of his colleagues. He devoted himself to authenticity, the pursuit of excellence and to following composers' intentions religiously. This finely wrought video gives ample proof of this and will document his art for posterity. Already a feared perfectionist and a fine interpreter of Beethoven and Schubert, he came to Bruckner relatively late, especially to the 5th symphony. He was afraid of not being worthy of such a monumental task. The mighty Fifth is a revolutionary work, a great departure from Bruckner's earlier symphonies to such an extent that only the visionary Ninth surpassed it as a quantum leap. Hardly able to move without assistance, the octogenarian ascends the podium with difficulty, but once he faces his magnificent NDR Radio-Orchester of Hamburg, an orchestra he whipped into a formidable ensemble, he becomes a lion. To conserve energy, his movements are very economical, but his face is full of expression, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce and his eyes are laser-like. With minimal effort he holds together the grandiose architectonic structure and we are not even aware of what he is doing until the incredibly complex Finale when everything falls perfectly into place. The end is cataclysmic. Janos Gardonyi Rachmaninov - Symphony 2 Budapest Festival Orchestra; Ivan Fischer Channel Classics CCS SA 21604 Mahler - Symphony 6 Budapest Festival Orchestra; Ivan Fischer Channel Classics CCS SA 22905 Tchaikovsky - Symphony 4 Budapest Festival Orchestra; Ivan Fischer Channel Classics CCS SA 21704 The Budapest Festival Orchestra was founded in 1983 by Ivan Fischer and Zoltan Kocsis, two of the foremost musical figures of Hungary. Assembling it from the most talented young players, their purpose was to form an orchestra of international stature. Fischer treated each player as a creative soloist, introducing rigorous rehearsal methods with an emphasis on chamber music. Within the last ten years this effort has paid vast dividends in terms of international honours and impressive recording contracts. The orchestra has become one of the great ensembles of our time. Those who attended the BFO concert at Roy Thomson Hall on Jan 22nd, the last stop of their 11 day, 9 city tour of North America and their only concert in Canada, were lucky indeed. Of the three romantic masterpieces presented I was most impressed by the rarely performed Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony. What a performance it was! Near the beginning the attack of furious cellos in impeccably precise unison set the tone of excitement while in the Berlioz-like Scherzo the virtuoso flutes were dazzling. In the pastoral 3rd move- MARCH 1 - APRIL 7 2006

ment the sweet toned Budapest strings brought wonderful enjoyment. The bravura finale was overwhelming. In a chat with the Maestro after the concert, he said "that it was high time to restore this fine work to mainstream repertory". This he surely did with great panache. At the end of the concert the thunderous applause, the shouting and foot stomping were probably heard outside in the street. After their first significant contract with Philips which resulted in many award winning releases, in 2004 the BFO signed up with the Dutch state-of-the-art recording company Channel Records . SACDs recorded in 5 channel surround sound place the listener literally inside the orchestra, and when played on standard CD players give superlative sound. The three discs under review have already received international acclaim. The Rachmaninov 2nd is my favourite. This symphony can turn into hackneyed syrupy mush in the hands of a lesser conductor, but Fischer discovers much hidden beauty in it, with translucent textures and uncanny precision. Passionate but never sentimental, with subtly graded dynamics and perfectly chosen tempos, this is surely what Rachmaninov intended. The Tchaikovsky and the Mahler have a similar theme, that is, Man's struggle against Fate. It is ironic that Man comes out victorious in former, written at a time when Tchaikovsky went through a severe emotional crisis. On the other hand, Mahler was enjoying an unusually happy period in his life which does not correspond with one of the most relentlessly "Tragic" of symphonies. In Tchaikovsky's 4th Fischer emphasizes the dramatic and passionate aspects without a trace of sentiment. His orchestra's virtuosity and precision are manifest in the capricious and lively pizzicato 3rd movement as well as in the whirlwind 4th. Fischer follows the footsteps of his erstwhile compatriots, the immortal Szell and Solti, with a stunning performance of the incredibly demanding and complex Mahler 6th. This recording with its superlative sound is now a clear first choice. Janos Gardonyi Concert Note: Symphony Hamilton performs Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony on March 10 at St. Christopher' s Anglican Church in Burlington and March 11 in the Studio Theatre at Hamilton Place. M ARCH 1 - A PRIL 7 2006 Strauss - Eine Alpensinfonie Gustav Mahler Jugendorechester; Franz Weiser-Most EMI3 345692 Gustav Mahler, for whom this superlative youth orchestra is named, once remarked to his eminent contemporary Richard Strauss that though their respective compositions had their differences, they were both tunneling into different sides of the same mountain. Mahler composed timeless abstract symphonies, while Strauss excelled in the Romantic genre of the descriptive tone poem. The last of these, An Alpine Symphony, was begun in 1911, the year of Mahler's death, at Strauss's villa at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps. Lasting 45 minutes and divided into 22 discrete scenes, this musical travelogue of a day spent climbing and descending a mountain (including a sudden storm, of course!) can be appreciated either as diverting sonic cinematography or a Nietzchean allegory celebrating selftranscendence through the worship of nature. It is a work that approximates the Mahlerian universe without the corresponding mortal burden of doubt and anxieties. Strauss, it seems, knew all the answers. Don't be dissuaded by the notion that a youth orchestra is a poor substitute for its adult counterpart. The full power of Strauss' s luxuriant orchestration positively glows in this excellent live performance from the historic Great Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. This is a cream-of-the crop ensemble that has put in ten times as much rehearsal as usual. The greatly expanded string section, offstage brass and organ passages near the end are all recorded to perfection. Franz Weiser-Most directs his young charges with an icy elegance worthy of Strauss himself. Daniel Foley Starry, Starry Night Robert Silverman Marquis 81503 Canadian pianist Robert Silverman was a musical inspiration to me during my long ago student days . I believe I heard him performing back Ul 111 Ill iii Ill ill Iii Ill Ill tmi'tmi'itmi'tmi' NAXOS lllll lllll lllll lllll lllll OF CANADA lTO • Over 3,000 titles • All digital recordings • New recordings and compositions monthly • Critical acclaim in all key classical publications Featuring great Canadian artists All this at an astonishingly Low price! The world's Leading Classical Music Label! 1'.\L I. ;\HIIU\ IT l h,· J"i u 1· C: a!lt1 "_1 l'rn:, ,m l nm .,,_, . lri,I F.111!;1,J •I, ,'l Paul Moravec The Time Gallery • Protean Fantasy • Ariel Fantasy eighth blackbird 8559267 1111.I.L\I IIOl.l'O\I .,.,l,rn 11 11 :-.uri ,ka. \ i11ln1• \ rthut (;n·c11,. l'::1nn William Bolcom Complete Violin Sonatas Solomia Soroka, violin Arthur Greene, piano 8559150 I'll; 1,1,1 I . nil:u \ lu"il )l11,·,·\.11•ri1, \l.11"1 I.UI.I\H, l ,\l l ,1! Nicolo Paganini Guitar Music Marco Tamayo, guitar 8557598 'I t"'c'I li;;;.l Charl1·-. ,\VISON ,j\ l •1 11\'\Tlo,. (Ip . . i l .1;:1 11 ( "H

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