8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 6 - March 2008

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'updated' and eroticSalzburg performancewith Anna Netrebko. Asa response, directorMarta (Mrs. Placido)Domingo has chosen atraditional approachdone with immaculatetaste, gorgeously col-, ourful sets and cos­~ldilllllill tumes. She does make,however some minor departures such as thelst Act being set in a roof garden and thesudden, but to me uncalled for appearance of amasked death-like figure in the 3rdAct.Musically speaking, James Conlon 's unerringsense of tempi and inspired conducting providesexcitement you can feel throughout and no otherAmerican soprano could be more ideally suitedfor the title role than Renee Fleming. Her abilityto throw herself into the part with total emotionalcommitment and her vocal artistry in this verydemanding role makes her performance a stunningsuccess. Her partner, young Mexican tenorRolando Villazon, with his strong, clear voice,dramatic and passionate acting is an instantaudience favorite. Perhaps he will be a possibleheir to the tradition of Pavarotti and Domingo.Third in this exceptional trio is Renato Bruson,who at 71 is already a legend creating a stern,elegant and ultimately a very sympathetic GermontPere with his powerful, expressive velvetybaritone.Unhesitatingly recommended.Janos GardonyiFerruccio Busoni - Doktor FaustThomas Hampson; Gregory Kunde;Sandra Trattnigg; Chorus and Orchestra ofthe Zurich Opera House; Philippe JordanArthaus Musik 2 DVDs 101 283Kurt Weill - Rise and Fall of theCity of MahagonnyAudra McDonald; Patti Lupone; AnthonyDean Griffey; Los Angeles OperaOrchestra and Chorus; James ConlonEuroArts DVD 2056258Ferruccio Busoni, universally considered one ofthe greatest pianists and pedagogues of his era,detested his ephemeral role as a performer andthought of himself primarily as a composer.Not unlike Gustav Mahler, his idiosyncratic compositionswere often met with virulent criticismand ridicule tinged with racist overtones referencinghis mixed German-Italian heritage. His reputationas a significant composer lay dormant untilrevivals of his operatic masterpiece DoktorFaust cemented his reputation in the 1960s.64Inspired by Medieval sources pre-dating Goethe'srenowned play, Busoni wrote his own libretto in1910 and continued to work on the score until hisdeath in 1924. His pupil Philipp Jarnach completedthe unwritten ending of the work for its Dresdenpremiere in 1925. Though rarely staged dueto its unusual nature, it is a work fully equal instature to the operas of Berg or Britten.Busoni composed the greater part of thisopera while exiled in Zurich during the FirstWorld War. Perversely enough, this 2006 ZurichOpera staging by Klaus Michael Gruber delightsin undermining numerous aspects of Busoni 'sdecidedly supernatural scenario. Faust's Satanicbook is replaced by a statue, his malevolent devilswith tongues of flame are reduced to Dada-esquegewgaws flown from the ceiling, and his magicalapparitions spring clumsily from trap doors. Musicallyhowever the production is superb. ThomasHampson 's Faust is a commanding presencethroughout, though his consistently morose stagedeportment grows a bit wearisome over time.Fortunately the inspired casting of the vibrant be!canto tenor Gregory Kunde in the taxing role ofMephistopheles compensates for Hampson 'sstolidity. Sandra Trattnigg, the sole woman in thecast, proves an alluring Countess of Parma. TheZurich Opera orchestra and their extraordinarilydeft chorus are in top form under the circumspectdirection of Philippe Jordan.Kurt Weill was undoubtedly the most talentedand seasoned member of Busoni's finalpost-war master classes in Berlin. He alsobenefited from years of private counterpointstudies offered without charge by the aforementionedJarnach. His career might havetaken quite a different turn had he not had thegood fortune to meet the seditious playwrightBertold Brecht in 1927. They embarked ontheir historic partnership with the opera Mahagonny,though the wildly popular ThreePenny Opera intervened before its completion.Even so, the lessons of his student daysare clearly evident in Weill's contrapuntalmastery and stylistic allusions derived from the'new classicism' Busoni had advocated to hisstudents.This 2007 Los Angeles Opera production ofMahagonny was recently broadcast on thePBS network. Presented in an English translationby Michael Feingold, the stellar cast includesthe voluptuous Audra McDonald asJenny, Broadway veteran Patti Lupone as theconniving Leocadia Begbick, and the risingoperatic tenor Anthony Dean Griffey as thehapless Jimmy Mcintyre. John Doyle 's efficientstaging follows the remorseless scenariochronologically through the Depression era tomodern day Las Vegas. Conductor JamesConlon's incisive, steely interpretation is extremelyeffective. Both sound and visual aspectsare excellent.Daniel FoleyEARLY MUSIC ANDPERIOD PERFORMANCEBach - The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1Luc BeausejourNaxos 8.557625-56WWW, THEWHOLENOTE,COMThey say, "They'll know you by the company youkeep" - and Luc Beausejour has kept somewonderful company. The harpsichordist, organistand teacher has appeared on most European andAmerican stages and music festivals and hasplayed or recorded•th Ph·1· J Ell .,:,. g \{ I I =w1 11ppe arous- , ,·. ,. ,. , ,,sky, Karina Gauvin, 1 '· • 1 1James Ehnes, Ton 1 .. ,, ......., 11 ,..,. , ,,Koopman and manyothers. In 1994 hefounded Clavecinen concert, a concertseries for harp- L~~~~~~~~Jsichord and chambermusic. He has also worked closely with hisformer teacher, Rejean Poirier on reconstructionof authentic instruments.From this prodigious artist comes a new recordingof Bach Preludes and Fugues and it is yetanother interesting experience. By now the Bachorthodoxy, at least when it comes to solo keyboardmusic is that counterpoint is somewhatmore related to computer sciences than music.Expert upon expert will insist that the key toBach's music is mathematics, not emotionalresponse. So we have recordings sounding likeprecision drills, automated and deprived ofpersonality, "because that's just the way it is!"Well, try to tell that to Luc Beausejour!He rediscovers the heart, playfulness, andirregular rhythms inherent in the compositionand he does so on a harpsichord built speciallyto emulate the composer's own instruments.The result is a captivating, exciting and intenselyemotional performance of the wellknown repertoire. Listening to JS. Bach hasnot been this much fun in a long while!Robert TomasBach in the WindMontreal Festival Wind OrchestraMarquis Classics 81375BachCanadian Brass; Robert MoodyOpening Day Records ODR 7346The Classic TrumpetJens LindemannMarquis 7 74718 13472 2MARCH 1 - APRI L 7 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach never had it so good.After all his permutations from Pablo Casalsthrough the period instrumenUperiod performancerevival (still ongoing, even now) we now find thatthe Leipzig master's torch has been taken up bywind players and ensembles."Bach in the Wind" is a live recording fromlast year's Montreal Chamber Music Festival.The Montreal Festival Wind Orchestra takes itsinclusion in the chamber music festival very liberally,consisting of a relatively massive 24-playergroup. But rather than unwieldy, they are tightand cohesive, with many Orchestre Symphoniquede Montreal names, Timothy Hutchins amongthem, in the roster. They feature a programmeentirely of organ works, and with such expertorchestration, razor-sharp ensemble playing andunerring pitch at work here, it is easy at times tofall into the trap of thinking that you are in facthearing a large organ in an unusually reverber -ance-free cathedral. The Passacaglia and FugueBWV 582 is especially effective, but the otherworks are just as wonderful. At 73:41, a great andgenerous recording.The Canadian Brass augment themselves intoan octet for part of this disc "Bach", rompingthough a series of preludes and fugues. All theusual polish and panache of the Canadian Brassproduction are present here. A Canadian arranger'scontribution of four additional works, allbased on Bach's Anna Magdalena Notebookthemes, blends seamlessly into the flow. Recordedin the legendary acoustic of the Church of St.Mary Magdalene in Toronto, the sound is breathtaking.Canadian Brass alumnus Jens Lindemannplays a wider field of 18th century composers on"Classic Trumpet", with Baldassare, Hertel,Marcello, Tartini and Neruda all appearing beforeBach and Handel. Lindemann has a degree ofcontrol over his instruments (including somespecial new custom trumpets made especially forhim by a big Japanese factory) that is awe-inspiring.Lindemann's little orchestra, consisting ofstring quartet, bass, and two horns, is as good as itgets, with bassist]oel Quarrington laying down asure-footed foundation . The trumpet arrangementof the Adagio from Marcello 's D minor oboeconcerto is particularly effective. Tartini 's TrumpetConcerto is also worth the price of admission.Bach's Air on the G-string will please one and all.Lindemann shows a restraint that is oftenlacking in his former colleagues, and never undulydominates his orchestra. Recorded in Montreal 'sspacious Redpath Hall, the sound is manipulatedby no fewer than nine engineers in addition to theproducer; therefore the technical people outnumberthe orchestra. The result? A great recording.JohnS. GrayConcert note: The Canadian Brass presents"From Bach to blues" at the Capitol Theatre inPort Hope on March 14.Juana Zayas per -forms Mozart withgreat energy and anearthy vitality. ThisCD contains threepopular Sonatas, anda late Rondo. Thefamous "Alla Turca"sonata (K 331) isheard first, and it isa lovely way to start off. Zayas plays with a finesense of rubato, which never crossed my personalline of good taste. She brings out a variety ofcontrasting characteristics in her performances -moving with agility from passages of operaticlyricism through passages of rhythmic energy topassages of charming simplicity. I still rememberseeing a documentary on French television, featuringa rare fortepiano that had a cymbal effectincorporated into the instrument that was absolutelyperfect for this piece.The F+ Sonata (K 332) follows, and the senseof phrasing keeps the music propelled forward,especially in the first and last movements. Zayasthen plays two of very few Mozart works forpianoinaminorkey. The Rondo in A- (K551) isfull of expressive nuance, and a sense of angstpermeates this performance, although the sunnyepisodes in F + and A+ give us hope. The dramaticSonata in A- (K 310) concludes this disc. Ithink that some of the edges in this piece havebeen smoothed out more than necessary in thisperformance. It's not Beethoven at his angriest,but there is rare sense of furioso that I'd love tohear more of in this piece. Overall however, thisis a very enjoyable recording.James ParkerConcert notes: Juana Zayas will perform onMarch 29 at 2:00 P.M. at the Hamilton Conservatoryfor the Arts, 126 James Street South,Hamilton and on March 30 at 8:00 P.M. at theK-W Chamber Music Society, 5 7 Young StreetWest, Waterloo. Reviewer James Parker andhis colleagues of the Gryphon Trio premiere anew work by Marjan Mozetich along withmusic of Schumann and Beethoven at MusicToronto on March 4.Bruckner - Symphony No.7Orchestre de la Francophonie Canadienne;Jean-Philippe TremblayAnalekta AN 2 9893A Canadian Francophone orchestra performinglate l 9th century German repertoire? Hmmm, Iapproached this disc with just a bit of trepidation.Aren't French orchestras better at Debussy andRavel than Brahms and Mahler? Not that there isanything wrong with l 'Orchestre de la FrancophonieCanadienne or their conductor, Jean-PhilippeCLASSICAL AND BEYONDMozart - Sonatas K331; K332; K310;Rondo KSllJuana ZayasZMI ZMICD103 ( A RCH 1 - APR IL 7 2008WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM65

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