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Volume 12 - Issue 6 - March 2007

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Arts
  • April
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Choral
  • Violin

Book Shelfcontinued from

Book Shelfcontinued from page 67Considering Genius: Writingson Jazz by Stanley CrouchBasic Civitas367 pages, .50Crouch is one critic who reallycriticizes - always prepared forattack, even when he is just describinga performance. But he is aterrific writer, with a brilliant mindand a musical sensibility. Crouchis black. That is central to his writing,which is permeated by racialissues - as is jazz itself, he frequentlyreminds us. Although hetargets the pretentious, hypocriticaland inept of any colour, hehas special vitriol for black nationalists,whom he sees as promoting'miseducation'.He reveres Armstrong and Ellington,of course, and has specialpraise for Sonny Rollins, StanGetz, Billy Higgins, Roy Haynes,Hank Jones, and Miles Davis, althoughhe considers Davis' laterwork a sell-out.By far his most controversialallegiance is with Wynton Marsalis,'the most astounding force jazzwould ever see', and his brotherBranford, rescuers of jazz from thewaywardness of the avant-garde."What gives an art its deepestidentity,' he writes in his autobiographicalintroduction, 'is the qualityof its dialogue with the past.'I could not find where the writingsin this collection were originallypublished, although they aredated. The index is spotty, but atleast there is one, for Crouch'swritings deserve to be reread andconsulted.The John Adams Reader:Essential Writings on an AmericanComposerThomas May, editorAmadeus Press473 pages, .95Thomas May claims John Adamsis 'the most frequently performedliving American composer' . Hecertainly is the most controversial.It's not because of his accessiblestyle: Alex Ross calls his NewYorker profile of the composer,included in this collection, TheHarmonist. Rather, it's the politicalcontent of his operas and the suggestivetitles of his orchestralworks which caused a number oforganizations, including the TSO,who had scheduled Shon Ride ina Fast Machine, to cancel performancesright after 9111.There are no writings by Adamshimself here. May has profitablyinterviewed Adams' longtime collaborators,director Peter Sellars,librettist Alice Goodman, conductorRobert Spano, pianist EmanuelAx, soprano Dawn Upshaw, andcomposer Ingram Marshall.Adam's versatility, which Maycalls his 'aesthetic openness',makes him representative of ourage. David Schiff says his symphonicworks 'at times sound like Sibeliussuperimposed on a Eurorock rhythmtrack.' But the ever-provocative RichardTaruskin accuses Adams of glorifyingterrorism, especially in TheDeath of Klinghoffer. Adams repliesthat he does not like his workto be called political because 'alllife is political'.I don't know whether it is 'essential',as the title states, but thiscollection of writings is certainlyinteresting and thought-provoking.Cheeses from around the world,meats, groceries, dry goodsgift baskets ...Everything you needfor reception planning.416-364-7397www.pasqualebros.com16 Goodrich Rd., Etobicoke(south of Bloor, west off Islington)Opera at Homecontinuedfrompage 22True enough, raucous dissonance and dramatic sonic extremes propelledthe story line, but these were employed in the service of socialist critique.(Mind you, being a good socialist was no guarantee againstbeing swept up by the Stalinist state.) One can only speculate why Stalinwent after Shostakovich with such particular determination. It may havebeen a sheer power play: knock down the most talented young composerin the country, and the example will put everyone in his place. Myhunch is the number one factor was dumb misfortune: Stalin was abigtime movie fan and liked to have the boys from the Central Committeeover to his Kremlin office for weekly film nights. He adoredsoundtracks and thought that modern classical music should be one bigeasily digestible film score for building socialism.The musical bottom line was that Russia lost its Benjamin Britten.Shostakovich's principal musical ambition was to compose greatoperas. He was only twenty-six when he finished composing his oneand only major opera, Lady Macbeth.Turning to audio choices for Lady Macbeth, first there's the pioneeringfull-length recording, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich andfeaturing his wife, the great diva Galina Vishnevskaya in the lead roleof Katerina Izmailova. It's been superbly remastered by EMI for their"Great Recordings of the Century" series. Second, Deutsche Grammophonoffers a bargain 5-CD set containing Myung-Whun Chung leadingthe Batille Opera plus three disks of Shostakovich's songs.(None of the DVD versions of the original 1934 productionmeasure up to what we saw last month at the Canadian Opera Company,by the way. True, it was strange to see singers in costumes redolentof the 1920s rather than the mid-nineteenth century where the actionclearly takes place, not to mention that the Soviet revolution wiped outthe merchants who were strutting about the COC's stage. But nevermind: the conducting and singing were so strong that this discordancewas quickly forgotten.)The Nederlands Opera's Lady is a mixed bag. Mariss Jansons'conducting of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is stunning, as is thesound quality. The singing is solid. The staging, however, makes mewant to turn off my screen. The action takes place in a big glass cage.Gee, couldn't we figure out ourselves that the young Katerina feelscaged by her provincial marriage? As to the postmodern BarcelonaOpera production for EMI, which has Katerina suffocate her rival with aplastic bag, Cambodian style: gimme a break.Finally, there's one of the greatest opera films ever, Shostakovich'srevision of Lady for a 1966 Soviet production Katerina /zmailova.It's just been remastered by Decca/Universal. Shostakovich excisedblatant eroticism in favor of tamer implication. His magnificent satire ofthe provincial police is gone. As v. ,, ,,, ,,. ,,, ,,, ,,. c,,,, u,, u,,,,,,,,,,,,,, p~,are most of the orchestral inter- ~ ~~ 314 Churchill Ave (ludes that drove successive acts.~ Toronto , Ont a rio (.On the other hand, the dramaticp M2R 1E7 C a n a da ~coherence is tighter and Vishnevskaya'sperformance has to be f MJKROKOSMOS www.mikrokosmos.com (­~ T e l : 416 -22 4 - 1956 c~ F ax: 4 1 6-224-2964 ~?seen and heard to be believed.~~WWW. TH EWHO LEN OTE.COMAiiention: Opera SingersDo you halfe a dream rn lethat you 'Na nt mneecl to pe1-fo m1?by' ' ·:~·'~"p" f~~)We buy yourclassical LPcollection(classical, such asBeethoven, Mozart,Stockhausen)we travel anywhere' for good collections ;'(((((r(­(­~(M AR C H 1 - APRIL 7 2007

~DISG r~,1-- · :_~EDITOR'S CORNER continued from page 10announcement of the 2007-2008 season included mention that the NewCreations Festival in April 2008 will feature Ryan's Concerto forPiano Trio and Orchestra with guest artists the Gryphon Trio.Well it seems I just can't get enough of Shostakovich. This month I haverediscovered the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op.134, a work that wasdedicated to David Oistrakh on his sixtiethbirthday back in 1968. I got to know the piecethrough Oistrakh's own recording with SviatoslavRichter released as a Meloydia/ Angel Lpin the early 1970s. That outstanding performanceof the eerie, at times angst-filled andoccasionally exuberant work is of course a toughact to follow, but although I still have a turntablehooked up to my audio system, I must confessthat it has been a number years since I've hauled out that particularrecord. The stunning new recording by Vadim Gluzman and AngelaYoffe, "Ballet for a Lonely Violinist" (BIS-CD-1592), opens with theShostakovich and I was immediately drawn back into the spell of thismagical score. The Israeli duo strikes just the right balance of restraintand bombast and the recording quality is second to none. The distinctiveCD title is taken from a piece by the young expatriate Russian composer/pianist Lera Auerbach whose music shares this disc. Lonely Suite is forsolo violin and is a series six brief movements that are at times reminiscentof childhood nursery rhymes. Auerbach emigrated to the West in1991 at the age of 18 after a concert tour and has made her home in NewYork City since that time. This is pertinent because the final piece on thedisc is her Sonata No .2 which is subtitled "September 11 ". The programnote states that she began the work the day after the attack on the WorldTrade Centre. "Since childhood I knew that the only way to deal withpain is by transforming it in to a work of art ... All the different emotionsI experienced at that time - from shock to sorrow, from mourning tohope, from anger to despair. .. - were embodied into its material."Once again, Gluzman and Y offe deliver a performance that capturesand conveys this breadth of emotion. The one quibble I have with thisexcellent disc has to do with the inclusion of Shostakovich's JazzSuite No . I in a transcription by the violinist's father. A strong case ismade in the program booklet suggesting that adding this early andmuch lighter work demonstrates the range of the composer's vision,but frankly the suite just seems trivial in thiscontext and detracts from the whole. Ofrelated interest is another recent BIS release,Lera Auerbach plays her Preludes andDreams (BIS-CD-1462), a solo piano recordingwhich presents us with another sideof this young composer. Hers seems to be apredominantly dark vision, making Auerbachan apt pairing with the late Russian master, avision which I would say is definitely worthexploring through these fine recordings.DayThe final disc I'd like to mention this month ismuch lighter fare, but what else might we expectfrom an ensemble called Day Off? "Picnicin the Cemetery", an independent release' Javailable through the websitewww.musicpicnic.com, features the compositionsof Toronto pianist Njo Kong Kie. Kieand his colleagues, violinist Simon Claude and cellist Alexandre Castonguay,were involved with the touring company of the dance troupe La LaLa Human Steps' production Amelia and spent three years traveling withthe show throughout Europe, Asia and North America. One might betempted to think that with all that time together on the road they wouldwant to get as far away from each other as possible on their "day off' ,but it seems that in their down-time these musicians took solace in eachMARCH 1 - APRI L 7 2007other's company and took the opportunity to perfect some extracurricularrepertoire. Kie's compositions are grounded in traditional tonality,tinged with minimalist rhythms and often feature lyrical, quasiethnicmelodic lines. These playful and heartfelt ditties are a pleasure tobehold and satisfying in a way that lighter fare often is not. Incidentally,the cemetery of the title turns out to be Toronto's own Mount Pleasant, alandmark where I have spent many an afternoon myself taking advantageof the extensive "Discovery Walk" routes on my bicycle, a pastime Iwould recommend to all.We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. Catalogues,review copies of CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote,503 - 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON MSS 2R4. We also welcome yourinput via our website, www.thewholenote.com.David OldsEditor, D/SCoveriesdiscoveries@thewholenote.comDISCS REVIEWEDCHORALRenaissance GiantsThe Tallis ScholarsGimmell CDGIM 207If aliens came to earth and were tryingto find a quintessential Englishchoir upon which to do experiments(don't ask me - it's an alien thing) ,they would only have to look to TheTallis Scholars for their subjects.There is no choir on earth moreEnglish than The Tallis Scholars.The first piece on this compilationof previously recorded hits isTallis' well known 40-part motetSpem In Alium. The list of singersreads like a baby-name book for theAnglo-Saxon child. The performanceis flawless - as only the Englishcan produce. Where else couldone find so many people named Alisonwho sound exactly the same?The aliens might be confused becauseall of the music sung by thegroup (which, in this 2 CD set, includesDes Pres, Palestrina and Vit-1-· toria) sounds English. Is there somethingabout Simons and Adrians thatmakes them sound that way? Is itthe dentistry?This is the most consistent collectionof some of the greatest massesever written. The unparalleled Englishaccuracy ofThe Tallis Scholars isa delight to hear. The recordings areculled from an eight-year period(1985-1993) over which only a fewWWW. THEWHOLENOTE. COMof the members of the groupchanged. The brilliant sound is onethat others try and fail to create ona regular basis.Next time you get abducted in themiddle of the night, play this disc forthe funny green men. They may justleave you be and set the probe onThe Tallis Scholars.Gabrielle McLaughlinConcert Note: Tallis' Spem in Aliumis featured when the TorontoMendelssohn Choir and the VictoriaScholars join forces on March16 at St. Paul's Basilica.Sacred PlacesElektra Women's ChoirSkylark SKY0602This CD features modern sacredcompositions from Hungary, Canada,the U.S. and Spain. It begins withMass No.6 by Gyiirgy Orban whichhas quite diverse movements. A rollickingGloria features some challengingand flashy moments for pianistStephen Smith, whose playingis superb. The Sanctus begins andends with a brilliant shimmering inthe voices akin to angels performingaeronautics overhead. The AgnusDeifeatures chorale-style singingwith a tip-of-the-hat to JS. Bachin the piano accompaniment.Srul Irving Click's Psalm Trilogybegins with a haunting, reverentialsetting of Psalm 92 followed by a jubilantdisplay of antiphonal dancing69

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