8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 5 - February 2008

Book Shelfby Pamela

Book Shelfby Pamela MarglesCongratulations to writer Kevin Bau.ana. Hisbiography of pianist Ervin Nyiregyhazi, LostGenius, reviewed here last April, has beenshort-listed for the 2008 Charles Taylor Prizefor Canadian literary non-fiction. The winnerwill be announced on March 3.After reading Bruce Haynes' defense ofperiod peiformance, The End of Early Music, Iwondered whether his polemical tone was necessarytoday, given the inroads made by periodstyle. But then I read a review in the New YorkTimes of a fortepiano concert peiformed byRobert Levin, who also peiforms on the modernpiano. The reviewer, Bernard Holland, wrote,'The modern piano is what we have and what weare.' He then went on to say that early-musicpeople need to 'avoid the moral tone thatequates original with virtuous, 'or else they 'riskturning museum pieces into yard-sale items'. Sothe battle continues.The End of Early Music: A Period Performer'sHistory of Music for the Twenty-FirstCenturyby Bruce HaynesOxford University Press304 pages; .50Bruce Haynes is a periodinstrument performer whostarted out in the burgeoningearly music movementback in the sixties withpioneers like Gustav Leonhardtand Nikolaus Har-I,\"Tlf l11Pl'l 1!1\'"J.\II I: ·.f 11 ~-]\.' ~.-I 1;,"•I 1',IJ,i',1';:noncourt. Although he now teaches at the Universityof Montreal, his book is far removedfrom an academic study. For one thing, Haynesconcentrates on the performance aspects of thehistory of music, using recorded examples, bothhistorical and contemporary, as illustrations.For another, a colourful way of putting things,like calling vibrato 'the MSG of music", reflectsa very personal approach.Haynes nails down the values that shapeperiod style, romantic style, and modern style.For him, the enemy of period performance is,surprisingly, not romanticism but modernism,which he targets for its unyielding tempos,unnuanced interpretations ofrhythmic details,continuous vibrato and seamless legato.Of course, Haynes' controversial opinionsinvite challenges, especially regarding authenticityand the composer's intentions. He underestimatesthe significance of the rapprochmentbetween period and modern ensembles which ishappening today, with ensembles on moderninstruments using modern tunings, like LesViol ons du Roy, the Berlin Philharmonic, andthe Munich Opera orchestra, paying greatattention to historically informed performancestyles, and even using baroque bows. At thesame time, period ensembles are moving forwardchronologically into newer repertoire likeBeethoven, Bruckner, Elgar, and beyond. Ratherthan "The End of Early Music', we may well62be looking at the beginning -of its ascendancy.As period performance values become moreand more inevitable, Haynes' book becomesmore necessary.Music in Medieval Europe:Studies in Honour of Bryan Gillinghamedited by Terence Bailey, Alma SantosuossoAshgate Publishing456 pages; .95 USThis collection of twentyessays on medievalmusic by internationalscholars honours BryanGillingham, a Canadianmusicologist who teachesat Carleton U niversity.The broad range oftopics reflects thebreadth of his contributions to his field.Co-editor Alma Santosuosso, who teaches atWilfred Laurier University, examines the veryfirst dictionary of music, an influential sourcewhich is especially significant for revealing'both the breadth and limitations' of medievalscholars. Unfortunately for those of us whodon't read medieval Latin, the examples fromthis extraordinary document aren't translated.Her co-editor, Terence Bailey, ProfessorEmeritus at University of Western Ontario,looks at original descriptions of the medievalprocessions of the saints in Milan. These areespecially interesting because they had theirown special chants, many of which havesurvived. Fortunately Bailey does offertranslations of some the surviving instructionsfor these processions, making it possible toimagine what they were like.One of Canada's most eminent musicologists,Andrew Hughes, pays tribute to Gillinghamas 'a good friend, inspiring scholar, adviserand swift publisher of so many important andvaried volumes.' Hughes, Professor Emeritusat the University of Toronto, writes about hisown ongoing study of different versions of theexisting sources of medieval liturgy, and thecomplex issues involved in identifying them.This collection is aimed at the scholar andspecialist performer. But it rewards the generalreader with a wealth of fascinating details,providing invaluable in-depth glimpses into themusic of this vast period.The Osterling Weekend: A Musical Misadventureby Steven DuffAydy Press240 pages, paper; .99The cover of this novelfeatures a grand piano, lidopened, sitting on a treelinedpathway. On thepiano bench is a pack ofdynamite tied up with atimer. Lighthearted tone,explosive plot. The storytakes place mainly at asummer music camp run by the BirkenstockCounty Roman Catholic School Board. Thehumour is frequently witty, always broad,WWW.THEWHOLENOTE,COMgenerously spiced with puns, and, more oftenthan not, quite corny. For example, the localchoir comes from neighbouring Annville, so ofcourse is called the Annville Chorus. It's funny- and fun.Steven Duff creates vibrant personalities forhis characters, and gives each one an interestingback story. There's the narrator, a highschool music teacher and camp director, hiswife Aileen, whose name changes to Alien asshe becomes his ex-wife, his boss and mentor,a good-natured but outspoken priest, hislover, who also happens to be his wife's stepmother,and a pompous Italian maestro, An-• tonio d' A verso, who turns out to be a completefraud.Duff is a retired high school music teacher.One of the things I liked best about this tale ishow he creates a fictional world where thechief livelihood is making music, and the charactershave an easy familiarity with music as away of life. Yet the characters, settings andeven their outrageous situations ring true.Jan Rubes: A Man of Many Talentsby Ezra SchabasDundurn Press204 pages; .00Jan Rubes may be bestknown for his actingroles in movies like theHollywood hit Witness,and in television serieslike Due South , where heplayed a coroner whosings opera arias whiledissecting bodies. But hecounts as one of the most important singers inthe history of opera in Canada. A key memberof the Canadian Opera Company since itsfounding in 1950, he sang with the companyup until 1988.In this authorized biography, Ezra Schabasconveys Rubes' natural ability to inhabit thestage and create a vivid character. He couldmake an audience laugh. And he could singbeautifully. But vocal problems prevented Rubesfrom reaching the highest level as a singer.Schabas traces these problems to faulty techniqueacquired during Rubes' formative years inhis native Czechoslovakia. Later in Canada, heperformed too frequently, and took on too manyroles outside his natural range.Schabas is a former principal of the RoyalConservatory of Music, Professor Emeritusat the University of Toronto, and co-author ofa history of the COC, Opera Viva. He is alsoa long-time friend of Rubes and his wife,actor and founder of the Young People'sTheatre Susan Rubes. Rubes' recent healthproblems unfortunately prevented Schabasfrom interviewing him extensively . But hehas mined Rubes' extensive archives, andtalked to many people who worked with him .This a compelling story of a remarkablelife. The photos are great. Schabas writesabout a particular performance, 'He deservedmore attention.' A list of Rubes' appearancesin opera, radio and film, as well as any recordings,would have bolstered that claim.FEBR UARY 1 - MARCH 7 2 008

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