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Volume 11 Issue 7 - April 2006

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Symphony
  • Concerto
  • Choir

work, in last month's

work, in last month's visit by another European orchestra, were similarly rebuffed: lower-drawer Schubert was substituted. The C major is an exhausting hour's work for the players; though a peak of the classical canon, it doesn't fit the festival-ritual role of, say , Beethoven' s Ninth. But recordings like this remind us of its special power. John Beckwith The second half of the concert is devoted to Mendelssohn's ecclesiastical works, not really fully characteristic of the composer who converted to Christianity for career reasons. The 2nd Symphony, "Hymn of Praise", is magnificent in its orchestral movements, but the choral finale is sometimes forced and uninspired. This performance however, with superb soloists and Choir, is impressive in its solemnity and the orchestra truly "sings" as Mendelssohn really should. Janos Gardonyi essays by Rota, Pierne, Faure and Murphy. The transcriptions in this recording include Prokofiev 's surprisingly mellow piano Prelude Op . JO No .7 (dedicated to a harpist classmate of his) and a dazzling rendition of the Spanish Dance from Manuel de Falla's La vide breve. Production values are uniformly excellent in these two releases, both recorded at St. John Chrysostom Church in Newmarket by the golden eared tag team of Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft. Daniel Foley placid sea. Its form seems amorphous but with an underlying firm structure. The pianist, like a captain of this ship, has to keep the elusive form under control and be wary of emotional excesses. While my favourite, David Helfgott' s wonderfully balanced, insightful performance can hardly be surpassed, this is a very satisfying, if a bit youthful, reading. Janos Gardonyi Concert Note: Both Alexander Kobrin and the renowned Vienna Concert-Verein Orchestra make their Canadian debut under the baton of Kerry Stratton at the George Weston Recital Hall on April 6. Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 2 Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; Riccardo Chailly Euroarts 2054668 The name of Leipzig has been so synonymous with such giants as Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, Schiller and Goethe that it has been called the Paris of Germany . Its orchestra, the famous Gewandhausorchester, is one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the world and definitely one of the best. It was Mendelssohn's orchestra from 1835 and subsequently led by such musical icons as Nikish, Furtwangler, Walter and more recently Masur and Blomstedt. This DVD celebrates the new Music Director, the world famous, charismatic, ebullient Italian, Riccardo Chailly, with an inaugural concert devoted almost entirely to Mendelssohn. Everyone involved down to the last chorister is full of inspiration infused with spirit and dedication. Cha illy, like a big teddy bear, propels the ensemble with his energy and emotion to an articulated, well detailed performance. Under Chailly the Gewandhaus will no longer be a museum for tired old pieces. He champions modern works like Rihm's intense, adventurous sound journey Verwandlung 2, included here, and researches autographic scores of old works to shed new light on them. Right at the outset the Midsummer Night's Dream overture is played in its original form, but it has rarely sounded more delicate with shimmering strings, more hilarious in its braying "donkey theme" or more glorious with its brass fanfares . 70 1'111 ·. RO \ I \'I I( 11 \ 111' (,1,11,!1,"'' l'in ,1, J • .i .. ,1,J,,11., 'qi,,,!,, J{ .. 1 A Baroque Harp - Judy Loman performs Bach and Scarlatti Judy Loman Marquis 1 81343 2 The Romantic Harp Judy Loman Naxos 8.554561 Judy Loman's sixth solo release on the Marquis label , A Baroque Harp , takes us back to her early childhood in Indiana and the piano repertoire she once studied with her father's teacher, Noble Kreider. The ingenious asymmetries of CPE Bach's Sonata in G Wq 139 that launches the album is the lone work originally intended for the harp. Papa Bach's French Suite No . I fares tolerably well on the instrument though at times the counterpoint in the lower registers does not speak very clearly and the use ofornaments is functionally limited. Loman is radiant in her selection of 11 Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti . The higher tessitura and lucid textures of these exquisitely crafted gems allow her to call upon her tremendous control of dynamics to reveal a realm of expressive subtleties unknown to the harpsichord. The Naxos release, The Romantic Harp , finds us on more familiar ground in a programme of typically idiomatic works by past masters of the instrument Grandjany, Tournier and Salzedo and intrepid Twelfth Van Cliburn International Competition Alexander Kobrin, Gold Medalist Harmonia Mundi HMU 907404 It has been nearly 50 years since a lanky Texan, Van Cliburn, conquered Russian audiences by winning the most prestigious piano competition of the world, the Tchaikovsky. This breakthrough event in East-West cultural relations and consequent resurgence of American pride initiated the Van Cliburn International Competition in 1962. Since then it has been held every 4 years introducing outstanding gold medalists such as Radu Lupu and Cristina Ortiz. This year's winner, 25 year old Russian, Alexander Kobrin, established himself as an outstanding interpreter of the Romantic repertoire especially Chopin and Rachmaninov. This live recording begins with Rachmaninov's 8 Etudes-Tableaux , each focusing on one particular aspect of technique, but also creating romantic mood "paintings" or tableaux. With his unfailing skill this work is a perfect vehicle for Kobrin who captures the varying moods with a sensitive touch and romantic imagination. Playing the full two books of Brahms' Paganini Variations is no mean achievement and shows, apart from his brilliant technique, endurance second to none. The Chopin Nocturne that follows is limpid and understated while the middle section is appropriately passionate. Rachmaninov's masterpiece, the Sonata No . 2 is like a ship on a sometimes turbulent, sometimes WWW , TH EWHOLENOTE,COM Reflection (R.Schumann; C.Schumann; Brahms) Helene Grimaud Anne Sofie von Otter; Truls M0rk; Staatskapelle Dresden; Esa-Pekka Salonen; Deutsche Grammophon 4775719 In her earlier concept album, "Credo " , Grimaud combined unlikely disc-mates Beethoven, John Corigliano and Arvo Part into a convincing and successful collection. The connection in "Reflection" is quite obvious, as all three composers had, for a time, lived together under one roof. Grimaud's playing in every piece is impressively nuanced and poetic while retaining that air of spontaneity that inhabits all her playing. Where called for she is introspective, impetuous, or passionate. Sounding freshly minted, Salonen 's sunny conducting and Grimaud's affinity for the music make this a most refreshing reading of Robert Schumann's concerto. Jaded listeners will be agreeably surprised. Clara's songs are pleasant enough but don't linger in the mind, although von Otter and Grimaud argue a good case. The Brahms first cello sonata is played not as a work for cello with piano obbligato but as a symbiotic relationship as each player raises the other to heightened levels of beauty and intensity. It almost APRI L 1 - M AY 7 2006

sounds like a new work. I have replayed these tracks many times over the last week . In the 1947 movie Song of love, a young Johannes Brahms (Robert Walker) comes to Schumann (Paul Henried) for instruction. "Play something you've written," says Robert. Johannes anachronistically tosses off the Rhapsody Op. 79, No. l. Clara (Katharine Hepburn) rushes to kiss Johannes on both cheeks and a stunned Robert says "I wish I could write music like that. It's strange. It's magnificent." He was right. Both of these Rhapsodies are magnificent. Grimaud's playing confirms it. Bruce Surtees Piano Music by Emmanuel Chabrier Angela Hewitt Hyperion SACD67515 Though he adored music from the age of six, the influential French composer Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) spent a painfully dull two decades of his adulthood as a civil servant until a revelatory performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde during a visit to Munich in 1880 compelled him to risk a belated career in music. His first professional composition, the Dix pieces pittoresques ( 1881), forms the centrepiece of Angela Hewitt's insightful new recording. In the little more than a decade remaining to him he composed feverishly before succumbing to a complete mental breakdown - a dismal fate for a man well known for his sparkling wit and joie de vivre. Though he is best known today for his uncharacteristically extroverted orchestral showpiece, Espana, his influence in his time was considerable. Ravel and Poulenc in particular acknowledged their deep admiration for him. Vincent d'Indy said at the premiere of the Dix pieces, "We have just heard something extraordinary. This music links our time with that of Couperin and Rameau." Angela Hewitt, having recently traversed the works of these very composers on recent Hyperion releases, is an ideal interpreter for these exquisite minia- APRI L 1 - M AY 7 2006 tures, and performs them with a charming spontaneity, elegance and tenderness. The disc also includes several ofChabrier's other piano works, including a vivacious performance of the 1891 Bouree fantasque. Daniel Foley Folklore Denise Djokic; David Jalbert Endeavour Classic END1013 What can be added to superlatives already heaped upon cellist Denise Djokic? Decades after her respected Yugoslav parents opted for the safe existence of professorships in Halifax, Denise hit the concert stage with a splash. She surpassed her teacher Shimon Walt in her teens, and her meteoric rise continues unabated. Her collaborations with pianist David Jalbert have culminated in an excellent CD. The balanced repertoire includes Six Studies in English Folk Song by Vaughan Williams, which exists in several arrangements and has been recorded by many musicians. Putting this at the top of the programme shows Djokic and Jalbert' s considerable audacity. The performance is flawless and polished. Following that, they dive into Stravinsky's Suite ltalienne. Incorporating themes from Pulcinella heard in Stravinsky's 1932 arrangement and given the duo' s utmost, this performance very much deserves hearing. Schumann's Funf Stucke im Volkston is a major work, and admirable respect is given. Curiously, Janacek's Fairy Tale and Cassado's Suite for Cello (with Djokic alone) finish the CD. As Canada spawned such robust talent, a Canadian work (something by Glick comes to mind) might have suited. No studio in Halifax, nor any Yamaha CF2 there, was sufficient for Folklore. CBC's Glenn Gould Studio and its Steinway fill the bill. Photographs, as stage-managed as the young musicians, permit no blemish, and Djokic wears two sweaters in her casual back-flap photo to preserve modesty. Adoring fans will surely snap up this CD. John S. Gray Performance Note: Denise Djokic is one of the artists featured at the Canada/ Africa Partnership on AIDS Concert on April 23 . Journey-Podroz Grzegorz Krawiec Ma Records M068A The debut disc "Journey-Podroz" from the young Polish guitarist Grzegorz Krawiec features European repertoire of the 19th to 21st centuries. That the journey bounces back and forth between 19th century Romantic and various Modern styles is somewhat unusual for a single disc given the trend toward stylistically unified recordings. However on straight through listening the 19th century style pieces give the ear a chance to refresh between bouts of more intense modern music and the resulting Nadina Macl

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