8 years ago

Volume 12 - Issue 9 - June 2007

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DISCS REVIEWEDVOCALStrauss - Die Frau ohne SchattenSeiffert; DeVol; Titus; Martin; Lipovsek;Rootering; Bayerischen Staatsoper;Wolfgang SawallischTDK DVWW-OPFROS DVDThis splendid productionof Strauss's 1919 moralizingmusic drama representsWolfgang Sawallich'sardent schwanengesangafter 25 years atthe Bavarian Opera. Itwas directed by EnnosukeIchikawa and an all­Japanese production teamto inaugurate the openingof a new theatre inNagoya in 1992. A parable of greed, fertility andredemption by Hugo von Hofrnannstahl, The WomanWithout a Shadow's allegorical scenario depicts,in the poet's words, "two worlds, two pairs ofbeings, two interwoven conflicts [which] take theirturns, reflect each other and eventually find theirequilibrium." Ichikawa effectively illuminates thedichotomies of this convoluted libretto by depictingthe supernatural trio of the Emperor (Peter Seiffert),Empress (Luana De Vol) and her nurse (MarjanaLipovsek) as opulent Kabuki figures, in strong contrastto the drab attire of the mundane Barak (AlanTitus) and his wretched, nameless Wife (JanisMartin). The cast is uniformly excellent and thestaging is appropriately magical. Seiffert's commandingEmperor, Lipov5ek's effortlessAmmaandthe simple dignity ofTitus's Barak are outstanding.Regretfully, the State Censor of Japan deemedthe subject matter of this opera unfit for publicbroadcast (presumably a quasi-divine Emperor,Barak's mutilated brothers, and the glorification ofpregnancy are still quite sensitive subjects) andconsequently this well-recorded NHK transcripthas not been publicly available until now. It is awelcome alternative to the only other availableDVD (also from 1992), the comparatively bombasticthough unabridged Georg Sol ti performancewith the Vienna Philharmonic.Daniel FoleyStrauss - Salome: Closing scene; Capriccio:Interlude and Closing Scene; Four Last SongsNina Stemme; Orchestra of the Royal OperaHouse Covent Garden; Antonio PappanoEMI CD 3 78797 2From the very first bars of this CD the listener realizesthat this will not be an ordinary experience!Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, who studied violaand sang in the chorus at the Stockholm Opera Studio,has been heard and seen on the internationalscene for the past dozen years in a wide range ofroles from Mozart to Shostakovich and now seemspoised to ' break out of the pack' . Her characterizationof Salome is dazzling. Here is no spoiled young56/princess but a lascivious,worldly womanblinded by herobsessionwith the body, orpart thereof, of the unattainableholy man,Jochanaan. Equallyimpressive is the powerof the orchestra,which Pappano unleashes from the very openingto overwhelming effect abetted and unfettered byEMl's superb recording. We hope that EMI willproduce a complete Salome from the same artists.The two Capriccio excerpts come as welcomerespite, settling the listener down for the nextoffering.Equally impressive are Stemme's Four lastSongs. They were composed in 1948 and weregrouped by his friend Ernst Roth as the Four lastSongs to be premiered on May 22, 1950 by KirstenFlagstad conducted by Furtwangler, a performancethat Strauss did not live to hear. There arenow countless recordings of these deeply movingsongs of gentle resignation and some of us have apreferred version ... or two ... or three. Stemmetakes her place at or near the top, deposing somefavourites, although I confess that I missed someof the innigkeit, the depth and intimacy, so movinglyappropriate for the composer's last works.That caveat notwithstanding, this is one of the mostimpressive and thrilling CDs that I've heard in avery long time.Bruce SurteesFootnote: A CD of that Flagstad/Furtwanglerpremier performance of the Four last Songs willbe issued this month by Testament licensed fromthe BBC.Schafer, Murray - Letters from MignonEleanor James; Esprit Orchestra;Alex PaukATMA ACD2 2553Three orchestralsongs: two song cycles(Letters from Mignon,and Minnelieder)bracketing Thunder:Perfect Mind, aweighty "revelationdiscourse" text fromancient Egypt, revealCanadian composer R. Murray Schafer at the topof his dramatic form. Almost operatic in emotionalintensity and in their beautifully nuanced orchestration,these songs belong in the first tierofthe genre,and the Esprit Orchestra under the direction ofAlex Pauk illuminate the scores, serving to highlightthe darkly rich and passionate voice of thedramatic mezzo, Eleanor James.The cover photos and liner notes make clear theromantic context of the songs, involving the composerand singer. The two song cycles, Letters fromWWW .THEWHOLENOTE.COMMignon, and Minnelieder - the latter brilliantlyorchestrated in 1986 from an original score composedin 1956-serve as letters oflove, a sentimentmade explicit in the letters featured in thenotes. The (post)Romantic sound-world of GustavMahler and even Alban Berg wells up in theorchestra, despite the predominantly modernistmusical language, particularly in the two latterlycomposed works.Should one be surprised that the original Minneliederfor mezzo and woodwind quintet was composedover 50 years ago? During his long and prolificcareer, R. Murray Schafer has established aformidable body of compositions which haveearned him international honours and set him at theforefront of the ranks of Canadian composers.As evidence that Schafer is an active creativeforce today, his challenging Thunder: PerfectMind (2003) can still literally rock the (opera)house - and your speakers.Andrew TimarEARLY MUSIC ANDPERIOD PERFORMANCEBach - The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1Luc Beausejour, harpsichordNaxos 8.557625-26Johann SebastianBach is known formany things. He wasa genius keyboardist,had three million children(or something likethat), he wrote moresacred music thanyou can shake a stick.I. ' · H \( II11 1 ] , 11r111"11. 1' I1 '11 II'I '· h, ·" '"I''" ll.11,1·.•· h •!Iat and all of his children were the kind you wouldwant to take home to your mother. He had a lot tobe proud of, and his Preludes and Fugues are morethan most people could accomplish in a lifetime.This double CD set of Luc Beausejour featuresthe twenty-four Preludes and Fugues of thefirst book of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Amongthese twenty-four pieces are some of Bach's betterknown keyboard masterpieces, made famousagain by Glenn Gould a number of years back.It is a delight to hear the pieces on the harpsichord,as they were originally intended.The crisp nature of the instrument (built byYves Beaupre in 1985) and the precision of LucBeausejour's playing make for what feels to be ahighly German Baroque experience. That said, however,this recording could not be more Quebecois.Performers, instrument-makers and researchers areall esteemed representatives of La Belle Provence.I listened to both CDs in anticipation of fallingasleep from boredom, but no such thing occurred.Luc Beausejour disproves Sir ThomasBeecham's statement that the sound of the harpsichordresembles "two skeletons copulating ona corrugated tin roof."Gabrielle McLaughlinPerformance note: Speaking (in passing) ofGlenn Gould, the Luminato festival includes JohnMcGreevy's An Evening with Glenn Gould featuringTed Dykstra and the film Glenn GouldsToronto at the Young Centre on June 6.JUNE 1 - JULY 7 2007

CLASSICAL AND BEYONDMozart - Complete Piano TriosGryphon TrioAnalekta AN 2 9827-8~ To celebrate the 250anniversary of theyear of his birth, thesesix piano trios by Mozarthave been carefullypreserved on thisrecording, thanks tothe talent of TheGryphon Trio, the initiativeof the Analekta recording label, and generousgrant funding.It has been noted that the piano trio form rosein popularity during the second halfofthe 18thcentury, coincidentally just as the pianoforte, thena new kind of keyboard, was gaining attention.Though it was also a time when amateur musicmakingwas encouraged, this didn't necessarilymean that the music was simple. To hear theevolution of these Mozart's trios is to witnessthe maturity of his genius.I can' t imagine finer performances of thesetrios than that to be found on this recording. Theimpeccable musicianship of the Gryphon Trio -violinist Annalee Patipatakoon, 'cellist RomanBorys, and pianist Jamie Parker - is evidentthroughout. Everything from the delicate pianis­~imo, the pulsating Allegro, the elegant lyricism,it's all there. Mesmerizing, stunning. What morecan I say? If you' re smart, you'll go out and buythis recording right away. Who knows, maybelistening to it may make you even smarter?Frank NakashimaConcert Notes: The Gryphon Trio is featuredin Christos Hatzis' Constantinople which willhave five performances June 7 - 9 at the BlumaAppel Theatre as part of Luminato. Among theGryphon Trio's many summer festival appearancesthey will be featured at the CollingwoodMusic Festival, the Brott Music Festival in Hamiltonand the Indian River Festival in PEI.Brahms - Violin Concerto; Double ConcertoJulia Fischer; Daniel Muller-Schott;Netherlands Philharmonic;Yakov KreizbergTone 5186066In case you haven'theard anything of24year old Julia Fischer,you should know thatshe is a world classviolinist who in 2006,following gold in twoprestigious internationalcompetitions,was appointed professor at the Frankfurt Hochschuleflir Musik. She is in demand as a chamberplayer and soloist(she has 40 concerted works inher repertoire ... so far) and is booked with orchestrasthrough 2009.In 200 I the BBC made a video of her as soloistin the Vivaldi Four Seasons with twelve playersfrom the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields playingin the National Botanical Gardens of Wales.To say that she is in full control of her instrumentsensitive, and communicative does not convey th~full scope of her talents. As was the case in theVivaldi, when listening to the Brahms violin concertoon this disc, I found myself with the sameenthusiasm as hearing this work for the first time.Her freshness and originality is in perfect classicalstyle and imparts her admiration for the composer.Russian-born American conductor YakovKreizberg, her usual conductor on recordings, isof the same mind. With so many new recordingsof the Brahms concerto appearing, this performance,recorded in December 2006 in Amsterdamis noticeably well above average and is her bestrecording to date. The recording, heard eitheronCD or SACO is of demonstration quality.The double concerto, recorded one year earlier,perhaps because of the engineering, does nothave the same impact as the violin concerto althoughFischer is equally inspired and Daniel Miiller­Schott is with her all the way.It is with good reason that Fischer's newrecordings are eagerly awaited by her admirers.Perfection in the Heifetz or Milstein mode whilestill fresh and newly inspired is quite rare. She isan inspiration to a new generation of performersand listeners.Bruce SurteesConcert Note: Daniel Hope performs Brahms'Violin Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestraon June 6 & 7.CD Release Concert - June 5th 2007I'll Be GoodSolo piano CO composedand performed by Admission includes concert. CD &Franl< Horvatscores of selected compositionsMODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYStravinsky's Rite of SpringSan Francisco Symphony;Michael Tilson ThomasSan Francisco Symphony8 21936-0015-9 DVD ,-.,.,,,..------~Harking back to thegolden days of TilsonThomas's mentor LeonardBernstein and hisYoung People's Concerts,the San FranciscoSymphony's "KeepingScore" project is an ambitiousfive-year projectinvolving television, theweb, radio and classroom presentations. Not forthe first time, Stravinsky's incendiary 1913 balletThe Rite of Spring has been appropriated as avehicle for music education in the belief that ifapproached a certain way - as a little bit country,a little bit rock and roll - it has an inherently wideappeal. Simon Rattle recently instituted a similareffort in Berlin, staging this work with a cast ofdisaffected street youth and issuing the results asa DVD.Stravinsky once proclaimed, "A good composerdoes not imitate - he steals!" Copious documentaryevidence is provided on this count, includinga sojourn to the Russian countryside tosample the village music and forensic evidenceGladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W. (east of Dufferin)Doors open at 7:30pm. Show starts al 8:00pm.TicketsareS15in advance, S20atthedoor.Buy tickets at THEWHOLENOTE.COM

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