8 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 3 - November 2008

most bizarre experiences

most bizarre experiences of my long concertgoing career. Imagine if you will, a "pop" bandconsisting of banjo, harpsichord, vibraphone,drum kit, acoustic bass, bassoon, accordion,bass clarinet, trumpet, harp and trombone, withgrowly eccentric vocals vaguely reminiscent ofCaptain Beetheart. Add to the mix a watermelonripe for smashing and an attitude fit to tie oneon. Friendly Rich, aka Richard Marsella whose"In with the New" column can be found elsewherein these pages, arranges all the music,and pens most of the "songs". Rife withsocial comment, Dinosaur Power ( defies description.Suffice it to say that Rich is a story teller, andhis stories are as strange as they come. Itdoesn't help, or maybe it does, that the lyricsare not included with the disc. It means that ifyou want to "get it" you really have to payattention. And even then it doesn't alwayshelp. I admit to obtaining "cheat sheets" fromthe composer - which he promises to uploadto his website if I publish this review - butI'm still at a loss in a number of places. TheBallad of Ken Carter being a case in point. IfI had not Googled Ken Carter and watched aYouTube video (with a voice-over which I'msure was by Gordon Pinsent) I would not havehad the slightest idea of what this song wasabout -a 1970s daredevil "Brighter thanKneivel or Earl The Squirrel" - whoseintended leap off the St. Lawrence River in arocket-powered car was sabotaged by rainand his financial backers. Likewise Fatwa -"I put a fatwa on ya baby, Is what she said inthe Hebrew, Fatwa on ya baby, And then shepoured some tea for two ... " What the??? -and Goodbye Blue Monday - "I knew a guywho tried to light his wife on fire, When thefuzz arrived, they called his wife a liar, 'I'lllive off the land ... I'll cut off my hand, Andplant it in the sand ... water if you can. And atree of me will grow up to the sky, And giveyou the finger forever' (she cried)". Richgoes on to say that this guy "is not a man ofGod." Twisted as these lyrics seem to be,and twisted is the operative term I think, theyare worth the effort of unravelling. And thespoken word Magic Realism adventure TheFamily Tree alone is worth the price of admission.Don't let the cutesy cover fool youinto thinking this is a children's CD-actuallyit should probably have one of those warningstickers on the cover-this is definitely a discfor grown ups.We welcome your feedback and invite submissions.CDs and comments should be sentto: The WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St.Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcomeyour input via our website, OldsD/SCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote. cornVOCAL AND OPERALieder RecitalNathan Berg; Julius DrakeATMA ACD2 2571This program could -----·------- - ---- r------­easily be re-titled"Songs of Death,Dreams & Parting".Though fourcomposers, Schubert,Schumann,Brahms and Straussare represented,the choice of songs(at least in the case of the first three composers)is focused on sunset, death or the lamentfor love lost. British pianist Julius Drakeexpertly accompanies Saskatchewan-bornbass-baritone, Nathan Berg on this his debutsolo recording. They work beautifully togetherto create the tenderness, drama and longinginherent in these romantic works. Deathis explored alternately as terrifying, as inSchubert's familiar Erlkonig, or as a comfortingbalm or tender release, as in his DerTod und das Mii.dchen, or simply as a journeyin Schumann's Lied eines Schmiedes (Song ofthe Blacksmith). At any rate Schubert's giftfor story telling, Schumann's tenderness,Brahms' dark resignation to fate and Strauss'soothing dreamscapes are skilfully deliveredin this excellent recording. Berg's deep,profound tonings are gorgeously virile anddownright chilling in the more fearsomeportrayals, yet, on occasions when moreaffection is called for, he can carry in thatmanliness a certain emotional restraint. Thisis a superb voice delivering both beauty andvigour to a richly crafted program.Dianne WellsMahler - Das Lied von der ErdeStuart Skelton; Thomas Hampson;San Francisco Symphony;Michael Tilson ThomasSan Francisco Symphony Hybrid CD/SACD 821936 00192Michael Tilson Thomas is emerging as, arguably,one of the finest Mahler interpreters ofhis generation. I have been following withenthusiasm theoutstanding recordingsof Mahlersymphonies fromSan Francisco andthis recordingmaintains that veryhigh standard.When Mahlerwrote Das Lied vander Erde he did notspecify the voice opposite the tenor, simplythat it could be a contralto or a baritone. Itwas Bruno Walter, conductor of the firstperformance in 1911, who opted for a contraltoand that became the convention. Performancesby two male voices are not commonbut there have been a few successfulrecordings over the years.Any recording of this work must stand inthe shadow of Klemperer's with ChristaLudwig and the late Fritz Wunderlich (EMI74325 66944). The Klemperer Das Lied isoutstanding not only because it successfullyreflects Mahler's intentions both musicallyand spiritually, he also employs two refinedvocalists who remain the ultimate choices forthis Mahlerian summit.Tilson Thomas's approach is extroverted,treating the work as an orchestral showpiece.This is convincing but in a completelydifferent way from Klemperer. Unfortunately,tenor Skelton just does not measure up toWunderlich either musically or vocally.Luckily, Thomas Hampson, who sings thesongs usually assigned to a contralto is excellentand a true Mahlerian in every way. Theengineering is astounding, faithfully andtransparently reproducing the textures sonecessary for the full impact of Maher'scomplex score.Bruce SurteesMahler - LiederThomas Quasthoff; Hakan Hagegard;KiHn RSO; Gary BertiniPhoenix Edition 105It is safe to say,that together withthose of Schubert,the songs of Mahlerare the most oftenperformed, mostbeloved and mostfrequent! y recordedamong the liederrepertoire. In fact,many classical music lovers have grown upwith "their" reference recordings of TheSongs of the Wayfarer, Kindertotenlieder andDes Knaben Wunderhorn. It is then that muchmore of an unexpected pleasure to listen to apreviously unknown performance only todiscover that it shatters all preconceptionsand instantly vaults itself into a top position onthe list of favourites. If you think my praiseexcessive, then you must listen to this disc.Taken from an early 1990's radio broadcast,the disc opens with Thomas Quasthoff.An artist with a growing North-Americanprofile, Quasthoff deserves to be celebratedas a Mahler artist of the century. His voice,measured, strong and lyrical, touches all theright buttons in a performance that seemseffortless, understated, deeply thought-outand heart-wrenching all at the same time.This is my new "reference" recording!Hakan Hagegard, a Swedish artist with acareer spanning 40 years, is equally at homewith the repertoire, even though his voicepresents less complexity and depth than that54WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMNOVEMBER 1 - DECEMBER 7 2008

EARLY MUSIC AND PERIODPERFORMANCELawes - Harp ConsortsMaxine Eilander; Les Voix HumainesATMA ACD2 2372What a completelydelightful recordingthis is. I'm alreadya sucker for musicfrom 17th-centuryEngland, but thisCD makes myDesert Island listfor sure. Likely theonly extant earlyensemble music to feature the harp, theseunique pieces "for the Harp, Bass Viall,Violin and Theorbo" attest to the genius ofWilliam Lawes (1602-45), one of 17th-centuryEngland's brightest musical lights, andthey receive an inspiring performance here.The repertoire includes a fantasy, six sets ofstylized dance pieces, three pavens with precomposeddivisions , and a stand-alone aire.The CD ends with a duo for harp and theorbo,some icing on the proverbial cake.From the sweetly effortless G majorPaven and divisions which open the programto the final consort set of dance movements,the balance of melodic expressiveness, contrapuntalexpertise and rhythmic vigour ofLawes' writing is expertly and affectionatelyhandled. Maxine Eilander's triple harp playingis imaginative and beautiful, whethersupporting the ensemble harmonically oracting in a more soloistic capacity, and thetheorbo playing of Stephen Stubbs is exemplary. (Thanks go to him as well for the excellentand thought-provoking booklet notes .)Margaret Little and Susie Napper take expertturns navigating the demanding divisions inthe bass viol parts, and it's very interesting tohear them individually instead of in theirusual duo formation. David Greenberg'sjudgement and rendition of what's needed inthe violin part, from delicate tenderness torousing fire, is right on the money.This CD will be on regular rotation in ourhouse. If you buy only one CD of 17th-centuryEnglish chamber music, make it this one.Alison MelvilleAlmiranteDeborah York; Lydia Vierlinger;Capella Leopoldina; Jorg ZwickerPhoenix Edition 121N OVEMB ER 1 - D ECEMBE R 7 2008of his younger colleague. The album is also a What if the giantstribute to the late Gary Bertini, a conductor of Baroque musicwhose illustrious teachers included Nadia wrote an operaBoulanger, Arthur Honegger and Olivier together? Well,Messiaen. He approaches Mahler's sacrosancttempi with the courage of an iconoclast with the help ofthey did, sort of,and delivers some of the most sensitive readingsof the scores to date .Some of the mostJorg Zwicker.Robert Tomas beautiful sopranoaltoduets of the eracome together onthis disc - not merely as a collection, butlinked, with additional work from Ugo Nastrucci.The result is "Almirante", a cohesive"new" Baroque opera, with music by Bach,Handel, Fux and the brothers Purcell. Theapproach is not new - Handel himself frequentlycompiled pasticcios and copied ariaswritten by others. The Handel scholar DuncanChisholm is quoted to that point: "Handel's most beautiful melodies were written byGasparini."So, what is to be gained from this compilationthat could not have been achieved throughmore traditional methods? Well, for one itdelivers a complete opera-like experience.The tale of two lovers, Elmira and Almirante,augmented by battle scenes (courtesyof Purcell) and other operatic accoutrements,possesses a dramatic structure and continuitythat a simple collection of duets could notprovide. It also offers an intriguing light inwhich to examine the "true" Baroque operas,as they were frequently just as fragmentedand combinative in nature.The strength of this recording lies ofcourse with the musicians. The soloists delivera truly lovely blend of voices and convincingcharacterizations and Capella Leopoldina,assembled and conducted by Zwicker, replicatesthe sound of the courtly orchestras ofthe emperor Leopold I. Together they transportyou to a Viennese court in an era goneby, where the latest opera by Messrs Bach,Purcell, Fux and Handel is presented. Enjoy!Robert TomasCLASSICAL AND BEYONDBach MetamorphosisOrchestre symphonique de Quebec; YoavTalmiATMA ACD2 2570Bruckner 9Orchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montreal;Yannick Nezet-SeguinATMA SACD2 2514Charles Dutoit and the OSM started a snowballrolling back in 1980, one that continues toexpand. We now benefit from the many excellentCD's from Quebec. While DeccaRecords was there initially, ATMA is nowthe major player. And presently two noteworthyCD 's have come our way .Yoav Talmi and Yannick Nezet-Seguin aregoing from strength to strength with majorinternational careers, and we should considerWWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMourselves lucky tohave giants such asthese in Canada,however briefly.Nezet-Seguin's new Bruckner 9th withl'Orchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montrealis one for the keeping. Readers may recallmy 2004 recommendation of Georg Tintner's9th from Naxos, and this new one exceedseven that, on several levels. The symphonycalls for a sweeping breadth and a grandsense of vision, and receives both in abundanceby these deft hands. The climaxes,particularly in the final Adagio movement,are nothing short of spectacular. The sound ishelped by the interior of Eglise-Sainte-nomde-Jesusin Montreal. With recent successesin Rotterdam, let us hope that we can stillcontinue toenjoy this conductor on our side ofthe "pond". A first-rate effort.Yoav Talmi, meanwhile, has polished theQuebec Symphony's sound like never before,and their new Bach transcriptions disc showsoff this mettle. Listen to Stokowski's transcriptionof BWV 565 with fresh ears, asDisney's people never experienced it. Walton'sThe Wise Virgins suite is welcome,particularly as Wordsworth's 2003 recordingis hard to find. Holst's Fugue a la gigue isusually heard in its original wind band version.Elgar's Victorian arrangement of BWV537 sounds totally correct in this setting.Talmi himself arranged the Italian Concerto,with a solo harpsichord (Alexander Weimann).Webern's transcription of the sixvoicefugue will charm you and Respighi'snotable version of the Passacaglia and Fugue ,done for Toscanini, is a fitting close. Highlyrecommended.John S. GrayMozart - Early Piano ConcertosDavid Greilsammer; Suedama EnsembleNai've V5149The French labelNaive is known forthe promotion of upand coming youngartists and highproduction valuesand this new releaseof early Mozartpiano concertos(originally issuedtwo years agoby Vanguard Classics) is no exception.Born in Jerusalem in 1977, pianist DavidGreilsammer studied in Florence and Parisbefore concluding his training at the Juilliard55

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