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Volume 14 - Issue 7 - April 2009

VOCALBach - Jesu, Meine

VOCALBach - Jesu, Meine FreudeAgnes Zsigovics; Daniel Taylor; BenjaminButterfield; Daniel Lichti; Ottawa BachChoir and Baroque Orchestra;Lisette CantonOttawa Bach Choir OBC2009CD(www.ottawabachchoir.ca)For this CD, which finds our column justin time for Easter, the Ottawa Bach Choir'sconductor and founder, Lisette Canton, haschosen three works b Bach which focus on· - the theme of salvationthrough deathand resurrectionand which representthree distinctperiods in Bach'soutput. The firstCantata, BWV 4,Christ lag in TodesBanden is famousfor its exquisite descending semitones. Theensemble artfully resigns itself to the recurringsighing motif and cascading counterpoint.Sandwiched between the two cantatason this disc is one of Bach's most famousmotets, BWV 227, Jesu, meine freude.The choir does a brilliant job with thestarts and stops that represent the type ofhesitant, breathless, yet joyful declarationreminiscent of someone recovering from longperiods of weeping. Lastly is the Cantata,BWV 78, Jesu, der du meine Seele, thehighlight of which is the soprano/alto duetsung with great agility and energy by AgnesZsigovics and Daniel Taylor. BenjaminButterfield and Daniel Lichti execute thedramatic recitatives and arias of this cantatabeautifully. True to its name, this choirappears to make an annual pilgrimage toperform at Bach's Thomaskirche in Leipzig.I'm sure Bach would be pleased.Dianne WellsConcert note: On April 25th at St. Matthew'sAnglican Church in Ottawa the OttawaBach Choir presents "Prelude - Europe2009", a concert to launch the choir's thirdEuropean tour to London, Paris and Leipzig.The Ice Age and Beyond: Songs by CanadianWomen ComposersPatricia Green; Midori KogaBlue Griffin Records BGRl 73Unsleeping: Songs by Living ComposersPatricia Green; John HessBlue Griffin Records BGR177(www.bluegriffin.com)The songs on these two discs were all writtenin the last fifty years. Patricia Green, a Canadianmezzo known especially for interpretingmodern music, does full justice to thesealways interesting, frequently moving songs."The Ice Age and Beyond: Songs byCanadian Women Composers" presentsnew and rarelyheard art songs bywomen composers.Why just womencomposers? Tocall a disc "Songsby Canadian MenComposers" wouldbe laughable. Butit would also beunnecessary, because almost all recordings- Canadian or otherwise - contain just malecomposers.In the booklet notes Green writes that BarbaraPentland "laid the path for young womencomposers across Canada". Pentland'ssearing, gorgeous works are visionary, andshe remains one of Canada's most important,if under-appreciated, composers. What I likebest about Green's performances of her songsis that they capture Pentland's fierce passion.In Ice Age, Green is especially sensitive tothe mood of desperation summed up in poetDorothy Livesay's concluding question,"Who among us dares to be righteous?"Shifting rhythms enliven Emily Doolittle'scharming Airs of Men Long Dead. The shimmeringlyricism of Isabelle Panneton's Echoreflects the colourful imagery of the text. InCity Night, Alice Ping Yee Ho explores themore percussive qualities of voice and piano.Kati Ag6cs uses clarinet, violin and celloaccompaniment to set the medieval texts ofImagination of Their Hearts so eloquently.This is the only work described in the bookletnotes, but for every work there are song textsand biographies of all involved, including theversatile pianist Midori Koga."Unsleeping" takes its title from JonathanHarvey's moving Lullaby for the Unsleeping.The highlight for me is R. Murray Schafer'sKinderlieder, written to texts by BertoldBrecht as well as two German nursery poems.Green is terrificat colouring hervoice to capture theirony in Brecht' slyrics. Each imagetakes on symbolicmeaning, like thetree that surviveswar-time destructionin The Poplarin Karlsplatz. Pianist John Hess is an expertaccompanist throughout.In both collections, Green approaches eachtext with conviction, uncovering layers ofmeaning. She sings convincingly in French,Spanish, Italian, German, Hungarian, andeven Latin, along with English. There is agreat deal of beauty in her lower and middleranges. Too often as she goes higher she getslouder - and shriller. But even then what standsout so effectively is her dramatic power.Pamela MarglesEARLY, CLASSICALAND BEYONDLouis-Claude D'Aquin - Noels pour orgueFrancois ZeitouniXXI XXI-CD 2 1609Ouvres pour Violon et OrgueAnne Robert; Jacques BoucherXXI XXI-CD 2 1626Two organ records arrive from Montreal,from the same label, and they could not bemore different from one another! Frarn;oisLOUIS-.C:..AUDED'AOUII,NOELSPOUR ORGUEf~fa,f·..:(:01.SZEITOUNIZeituoni plays therecently-installedGuibault-Therienorgan at Le GrandsSeminaire de Montreal.The specificallyFrench voicing andregistration give therecording an alarmingimmediacy, and D'Aquin's early 18thcenturyNoels contain enough angular linesand fanfare-like passages to wake the mostdrowsy parishioner.Violinist Anne Robert and organist JacquesBoucher work with the recently restoredsprawling CasavantOpus 615 at Saint­Jean Baptiste, andthis monster shimmerswith a sublimedelicacy that makesit a truly effectivepartner for violin,although the engineerexaggerates this equality by his microphoneplacement. Their disc runs through the workof seven different composers, including CanadianJohn Burge, who contributed a commissionedpiece. Reger's short Romanze soundsalmost as if it were written for these two.Both of the CD's are well presented, withmusic superbly played and recorded. However,you need reading glasses to cope withthe notes. Robert and Boucher's disc has thetiniest of type, white on black background, inboth languages. The Noels CD is particularlybad, with a compressed, ALL-CAPS FONT,ill-suited to body copy. Both organs are dissectedin the usual way of listing, with fullfrontalphotos of each. Both CD's are suitablefor serious collections, and enthusiasts willnote that Karl Wilhelm (builder of Toronto'sSt. Andrew's Presbyterian organ) helpedprepare the instrument for Zeituoni.John S. GrayConcert notes: The month-long organ festivalOrganix 2009 kicks off on May 1 at theChurch of the Holy Trinity with a recital byDame Gillian Weir and runs throughout May .See our current listings for two organ recitalson May 4 and a tribute to Felix Mendelssohnon May 6.54------- ------- WWW.THEWHO LENOTE.COMAPRIL 1 M AY 7 2009

Liszt - Sonata in B minorPatrice LareXXI XXI-CD 2 1533Patrice Lare is a Parisborn pianist whostudied in Russia andcame to Quebec in1993. He is buildingan impressivecareer (see www.patricelare.com) and hasalready issued two CD's with his cellist wifeVelitchka Yatcheva. This is his first solo CDas a pianist.Playing these ambitious showpieces of thegreat magician of the keyboard is no meantask. The pianist possesses an elemental,masculine force, lots of stamina and powerfulhands to handle the thundering climaxes. Histechnical prowess is unquestionable and hisplaying is very precise. Note for example thefugato section in the Sonata where his skill inBach shows up par excellance.The Sonata in b minor is a titanic masterpiece,a milestone in the literature whereLiszt experimented with changing the traditionalform by compressing or 'telescoping'the movements. Although the form seemsloose, there is an inner logic difficult tointerpret. In Lare's playing I feel the overallstructure is too rigid and lacking the naturalsweep of emotion, the ebb and flow that onlythe greatest pianists could achieve. At thispoint I couldn't rightfully recommend thisperformance, but given time and maturity hewill assuredly overcome this challenge.The shorter, bravura pieces however generallycome off very well. My favorite is theMephisto Waltz, where his powerful handsbuild up a very effective crescendo right atthe beginning and the transition to the lyricalmid-section is beautifully done. There aremany changes of mood here but the structureis held together and the piece really becomesa brilliant mockingly devilish dance. Insimilar vein, the Rhapsodie Espagnole, a verycolourful, challenging and enjoyable work isplayed to the hilt and the good old Steinwayis given a big workout.Janos GardonyiFlute Sketches - Mosaic of Flute FavouritesSamantha Chang; Ellen Meyer; KhaiNguyen; Amy LaingIndependent (www .samanthaflute.com)Flutist Samantha Chang's debut CD, "FluteSketches" offers a variety of repertoire, rangingfrom Paul Taffanel's Mignon Fantasy of1866 to Tod Dorozio's The Exodus Partitawritten just last year for Ms. Chang. Fromthe one hundred and forty-two years separatingthese two compositionsare worksby Albert Woodall,Erwin Schulhoff,Carl Reinecke,Eugene Goossens,Astor Piazzolla andMizi Tan.APRIL 1 - M AY 7 2009Ms. Chang is at her best in the lyricalmusic she has chosen for the CD. She hasa strong affinity, for example, to A CagedPartridge's Longing, by Toronto flutist, composerand her first teacher, Mizi Tan, using asound akin to that of a bamboo flute, entirelyappropriate to the piece. Her interpretationof Schulhoffs Sonata, especially the firstmovement, is very convincing, although Ioften wished she could bring to more of herplaying the intensity of sound she producedabout three-quarters of the way through CarlReinecke's late (1908) composition, Ballade.The always confident but never intrusivepiano playing of Ellen Meyer makes a tremendouscontribution throughout. Amy Laing'sexpressive cello in Piazzolla's Oblivionand Khai Nguyen's capable violin playing inthe Piazzolla and in Goossens' Romance andHumoreske add variety and interest.Ms. Chang is a young and resourceful artistwith a strong personal commitment to theflute. This CD is a promising beginning.Allan PulkerMozartHong XuHonens(www.honens.com)SchumannHinrich AlpersHonensNamed for Calgary philanthropist EstherHonens, the Honens Piano Competition is aunique Canadian musical event which beganin 1992, and is held every three years. Thecompetition's unique approach takes as itspremise that much of the learning process ofa concert artist occurs outside the practicestudio, and the focus is to discover thoseindividuals whose talent both "inspires theheart and engages the intellect." Indeed, aformidable pairing of both heart and intellectare clearly discernible on these three Honenslabel discs which I had the recent pleasure ofauditioning, and which feature the respectivefirst, second, and third Laureate prizewinnersfrom the 2006 competition: MinsooSohn, Heinrich Alpers, and Hong Xu.First Laureate Minsoo Sohn began pianostudies in his native Korea and he later continuedat the New England Conservatory in Boston.He admits he wasn't entirely convincedhe would eventually be a musician, explainingthat for a while, he even dreamed of becominga baseball player! Nevertheless, there is nodoubt as to his prodigious talent in listening tothis all-Liszt recording featuring the 6 PaganiniEtudes in addition to transcriptions of musicby Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. MinsooSohn takes these pieces - surely among themost difficult in the repertory - in his stride,WWW. THEWHOLENOTE .COMdisplaying a breathtaking technique and the relentlessfortitude required of any Liszt player.Yet Sohn's approach is not all bombast. Inpieces such as La Campanella and La Chasse,he demonstrates a particular lightness of touch,his hands seemingly dancing over the keyboardwith a shimmering delicacy.German-born Heinrich Alpers offers anall-Schumann disc , featuring the Faschingschwankaus Wien, the Kinderszenen, and theless-often played Sonata in F sharp minor.Alpers studied at the Hanover Hochschule fiirMusik and later at the Juilliard School, and hecurrently teaches piano, improvisation, andmusic theory at the Institute for Highly GiftedChildren in Hanover. He won rave reviews athis New York debut in 2008, and little wonder!Alpers' playing is stylish and eloquent- and while his solid technique is evident atall times, it never becomes an end unto itself.Clearly this is music played by a musicianrather than a mere technician, and one whodisplays an innate feeling for the repertoire.From 19th century Leipzig we turn to18th century Vienna for a recording of keyboardmusic by Mozart performed by thirdLaureate Hong Xu. Included on this disc arethe sonatas K.282, 310, 332, and 576 as wellas the Adagio in B minor K540 . A graduateof Wuhan Conservatory and the JuilliardSchool, Xu admits a love for the piano worksof Mozart, and this admiration is clearlyreflected on this recording. The playing ispolished and self-assured, while always demonstratingthe subtle nuances so important ininterpreting this deceptively complex music.Three different artists, each playing verydifferent repertoire, and doing it well, makefor very satisfying listening - a perfect meldingof heart and intellect!Richard HaskellFELIX MENDELSSOHN -A BICENTENNIAL SALUTEEditor's Note: The Honens International PianoCompetition and the Calgary PhilharmonicOrchestra will celebrate Mendelssohn's 200thbirthday with the North American premiereof his Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor. Thescore was recently completed and reconstructedby composer/conductor Marcello Bufalinifor exclusive performance by Italian pianistRoberto Prosseda. Julian Kuerti conducts theall-Mendelssohn program on May 11, 2009 atJack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, whichalso includes the Hebrides Overture Op. 26(Fingal's Cave) and Sinfonia for String OrchestraNo. 10 in B minor. Roberto Prossedawill be joined by his wife Alessandra MariaAmmara (2000 Honens Laureate) to performthe Concerto for Two Pianos in E major.Mendelssohn - Complete works for celloand pianoforteSergei Istomin; Viviana SofronitskyPassacaille 947 (www.passacaille.be)During his short life Felix Mendelssohn55

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