8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 10 - July/August 2008


EARLY MUSIC &PERIOD PERFORMANCEHandel - Israel in EgyptVarious Soloists; Aradia Ensemble;Kevin MallonNaxos 8.570966-67Kevin Mallon isestablishing himselfvery quickly asCanada's crownprince of periodperformance. Notthat we shouldforget his Irishroots or his workIIA \ IJFLI .11111 l !:_1 Ii t..u. ,1.,,... • . l.tao,\ LaL

4; Waltzes; Mazurkas; BarcarolleIngrid FliterEMI 5148992Brahms - Variations Op.21; 24; 35Olga KernHarmonia Mundi HMU 907392Two recent CDs feature repertoire from theromantic period, performed by artists whoboth made their Toronto debuts in recentmonths - Ingrid Fliter who performed withthe Toronto Symphony in January and OlgaKern who was featured with the MoscowVirtuosi under Vladimir Spivakov's baton atRoy Thomson Hall in May.I admit I had never heard of Ingrid Fliterbefore I was introduced to this all-Chopinrecording on the EMI label. Ms Fliter is anative of Argentina, where she was the laureateof several competitions, and where shemade her debut in Buenos Aires at the age of16. She later continued her studies inFreiburg and Rome and, in 2000, was thesilver medalist at the Chopin Competition inWarsaw. Could she possibly be the nextMartha Argerich? Admittedly, an all-Chopindisc is an easy way to my heart, but I findthis one particularly outstanding. The programitself is finely balanced, featuring threemajor works - the B minor sonata, the Barcarolle,and the fourth Ballade, interspersedwith various mazurkas and waltzes. In additionto her flawless technique, the playing isnoble and poetic, at all times displaying thesubtle nuances ever present in the music ofChopin. Martha, I do believe you have asuccessor!I was more familiar with the name OlgaKern whose disc on the Harmonia Mundilabel features three sets of Brahms' variations,Op. 21, 24 and 35 . Gold medalist atthe 11 th van Cliburn competition in 2001,Kern studied in her native Russia, where sheinitially won acclaim as the prize-winner atthe Rachmaninov competition at the age of17. Since then, she has earned a reputationas an artist of international stature. The earliestset of variations on this disc, the Op. 21,dates from 1853, the year Brahms touredwith the violin virtuoso Remenyi, so it wasperhaps not surprising that this music has adecidedly Hungarian flavour, even to thepoint of using a Hungarian theme as the basis.Kern plays with a strong assurance, displayinga formidable technique that we mightexpect from a Russian-trained pianist. Morefamiliar are the variations on a theme byHandel, and the two sets of variations on atheme by Paganini, the latter used by Rachmaninov70 years later. This must be amongthe most difficult piano music Brahms everwrote, requiring an almost super-humantechnique - as challenging for the pianist asPaganini's etudes are for the violin. Notsurprisingly, Ms Kern effortlessly capturesthe ever-changing moods of the music, fromthe delicacy of Variation 5 in the first set, tothe robust bravura of the first variation in thesecond. In all, these are two most satisfyingdiscs - great music superbly performed -who could ask for more?Richard HaskellKarajan - In ConcertBerliner Philharmoniker;Herbert von KarajanDeutsche Grammophon 00440 073 4399Karajan or Beauty as I See ItA Film by Robert DornhelmDeutsche Grammophon 00440 073 4392From audio recordings alone it can be hardtoday to understand why Herbert van Karajanso dominated his age. Now, almost twentyyears after his death, his unified textures andseamless phrasing have lost favour to a lessmannered, more historically informed style.Yet those who heard him live tend to considerthe experience transformative.The centenary of Karajan's birth this yearhas inspired record companies to make evenmore recordings by him available. These twovideo releases are especially valuable for allowingus to not just hear but see him at work.The two-disc set Karajan in Concert containsfilmed concerts with his orchestra, theBerlin Philharmonic, recorded in the 1970's,with Karajan both conducting and directingthe innovative filming. In a gripping performanceof Rachmaninov's Piano Concertono. 2 with Alexis Weissenberg, the intrepidcamera peers over the pianist's shoulder,sweeps around the players and pans out tothe renowned Berlin Philharmonic Hall.Karajan conducts every work from memory,without a score. That's just as well, since hekeeps his eyes closed. The one-hour documentaryportrait of Karajan made by directorVojtech Jasny in 1970 shows how the realwork was done in lengthy rehearsals, whereKarajan keeps his eyes wide open. He eventells jokes.Robert Dornhelm's recent one-and-onehalfhour documentary Karajan or Beauty as ISee It lets the historic footage and interviewswith prominent musicians who worked closelywith Karajan speak for themselves. Ininterview, pianist Evgeny Kissin says thatKarajan opened hidden potential in him.Daughter Isabel von Karajan recalls seeingher father in tears only once - after a performancewith Kissin. Both Rene Kollo andChrista Ludwig recall how, when they startedhaving vocal problems, he dumped them,even though they were still in their prime andhad worked together for years. Dornhelmcleverly cuts between footage of LeonardBernstein and Karajan rehearsing the Berlinersto highlight their contrasting conductingstyles, Bernstein uninhibited and Karajanthoroughly disciplined.A few of the historical clips appear inJasny's documentary as well, but Dornhelm,freed by Karajan's death, is able to present amore well-rounded portrait. So it is disappointingthat he skims so lightly over keycontroversies in Karajan's career, such as histies to the Nazis, his later problems with theBerlin players and, above all, his distinctiveorchestral sound, which today remains themost important aspect of his legacy.Pamela MarglesMODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYMesses de Theodore Dubois &Maurice DurufleAntonio Figueroa; Marc Boucher;Les Voix d'Elles; Regis RousseauXXI XXI-CD 2 1582Claude! Callender, - Messe du Pardon;Hymnes; CantiquesEnsemble Vocal Vox Luminosa:Jacques GirouxXXI XX-CD 2 1592These two sacred music offerings on theXXI-21 label both feature alumni from LesPetits chanteurs, a choir school that wasfounded in 1956 primarily to provide musicfor religious ceremonies at Saint Joseph'sOratory on Mount Royal, Montreal, but hassince become internationally renowned. Thecurrent director, Gilbert Patenaude, foundedLes Chantres Musiciens in 1992, a superbmale voice choir consisting of graduates fromLes Petits chanteurs. From an uncharacteristicallysimple mass setting by Dubois to thecomplex harmonic changes (a cappella) inFlo rent Schmitt's Psalm 112 and Cantique deJ ULY 1 - SEP T 7 2008WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM57

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