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Volume 14 - Issue 7 - April 2009

composed five piecesfor

composed five piecesfor cello and piano,all remarkable fortheir perfect blend ofRomantic expressionclothed in classicallanguage. That thesepieces comprise exactlyenough music to fill a single CD is quitea stroke of luck; that it has been recorded onperiod instruments by Viviana Sofronitskyand Sergei Istomin is not only fortuitousfor us all today, but a posthumous stroke ofluck for Felix Mendelssohn as well. Istomin,formerly with Tafelmusik and now resident inFrance, plays an 18th-century Widhelm cellohere; and JSofronitsky, founder of Toronto'sAcademy Concert Series and now living inPrague, plays a Graf copy fortepiano by PaulMcNulty.The 'big ticket' items on this CD are thethree-movement sonata op. 45 and its later,larger counterpart, op. 58. The first movementsof both are grand and dramatic, andbrilliantly played. The sardonic quality of op.58 's allegretto scherzando is delightful here,and the innocent ending of op. 45 perfectlyconcludes this program of rich musicalchiaroscuro. Also included are the VariationsConcertantes (op.17), premiered onMendelssohn's first trip to London in 1829;the short Romance without words, publishedposthumously in 1868; and a short Assai tranquillo,the ephemeral ending of which leavesus wanting just a little more ...This recording will no doubt come as arevelation to many. Here there is no strugglefor a balance between the voices of cello andpiano, a problem all too familiar on moderninstruments. Istomin and Sofronitsky'sperformance is a genuine and focused musicaldialogue, full of thoughtful phrasing anda fluid and natural exhange of roles as themusic requires. Both artists play with virtuosicflair, refined musical sensitivity, and anobvious affection for the repertoire. And theirbreadth of their tonal and dynamic palette ispretty astonishing!On top of that, this disc is beautifullyrecorded and packaged. The cover featuresa Swiss landscape painted by Mendelssohnhimself in his last year; the notes are informativeand readable; and the CD's programorder is brilliant, highlighting the composer'svariety of approach to this instrumental combination.Buy this disc. You won't be sorry!Alison MelvilleMendelssohn - Violin Concerto;Piano Trio No.I; Violin SonataAnne-Sophie Mutter;Gewandhausorchester Leipzig;Kurt Masur; Andre Previn; Lynn HarrellDeutsche Grammophon 00289 477 8001Anne-Sophie Mutter always manages to findsomething fresh to say with even the mostfamiliar repertoire, and does it again withthis brilliant performance of the Mendelssohnconcerto, recorded in concert at the Gewandhausin Leipzig with Mendelssohn's own56orchestra.Issued to markthe bicentenary ofMendelssohn' s birthin February 1809,this CD/DVD packagealso includesoutstanding performancesof the D minor Piano Trio Op.49 andthe F major Violin Sonata, the latter in the1953 Menuhin edition.All three CD performances were capturedfor the DVD, and the coverage of theconcerto in particular is outstanding, withvirtually every possible camera angle anddistance showing soloist, conductor and orchestralplayers to great effect. Few shots lastlonger than 4 or 5 seconds, but the constantmovement is never annoying or inappropriate;on the contrary, it serves to fully involvethe viewer in the performance. Close-upcoverage of Mutter's left hand, from behindas well as from in front, is particularlysatisfying.Much the same approach is used for thePiano Trio and Violin Sonata, recorded(without an audience) in the Musikverein inVienna; again, these are very much internalviews of the performances.The DVD includes a fairly short documentary,"Encounters with Mendelssohn", whichfeatures some interesting observations fromMutter and her chamber colleagues, especiallyabout Previn's apparently effortless playingin the Piano Trio!The CD sound quality is excellent, with nohint of an audience present in the concerto.Terry RobbinsMendelssohn - Piano ConcertosAnton Kuerti; London Philharmonic Orchestra;Paul FreemanDoReMi DHR-6606 (www.doremi.com)Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto remains aconcert-hall staple - but the two concertosthat he completed for the piano (an instrumenton which he himself was a virtuosoperformer) have fallen into relative neglect.Why did they vanish from the repertoire?This recording of Toronto pianist AntonKuerti 's performance of the concertos - andalso the Capriccio Brillante Op . 22 - raisesthe question. The CD is a reissue from 1986,and Kuerti is heard with the London PhilharmonicOrchestra under Paul Freeman. Whilethe sound quality is not quite up to today'sstandards, the commitment of Kuerti andCo. shine through - illuminating both thestrengths and weakness of the music.The first concerto is unconventional: thethree movements follow without a pause, andthere is no formalcadenza. But there'splenty of glittery pianismin both the firstand third movements,which Kuerti renderswith an admirablefacility and evennessof tone. The secondWWW.THEWHOLENOTE. COMmovement, by contrast, is more introspective.Kuerti 's approach is dreamy and tender- although, at times, his interpretation vergeson the diffuse.Like the first concerto, the second is alsocadenza-less and continuous in its structure.It opens with a Beethoven's Fifth-inspiredmovement that's milked for every drop ofdrama. Kuerti 's handling of the transition tothe slow movement is impressive, and whatfollows is probably the best playing on thisdisc. In the final movement, Kuerti and theLSO make the most of the music's operaticebullience.Completing the disc is Mendelssohn's CapriccioBrillante - which, as its title suggests,is a joyful single-movement romp. There arealso moments of repose - and Kuerti takesfull advantage of the opportunities for expressivenessthat they afford.I said something about strengths and weakness,didn't I? To be sure, there's much thatis beautiful, and even sometimes profound,in this music. But there's also an excess of"passage work" for the piano - and the nai'vecharm of the concertos' final movements issometimes more nai've than charming.Colin EatockMODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYShostakovich - Symphony No. 11Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra;Vasily PetrenkoNaxos 8.572082This is remarkablyfine performance,superbly recorded.The first performanceone hears isoften imprinted asthe way to perform a certain work. I firstheard the Shostakovich 11 th symphony on anEM! recording by Andre Cluytens and theORTF orchestra. Made in the presence of thecomposer on May 15, 1958, it is, by definition,unerringly faithful to Shostakovich'swishes and is my ideal (available in stereo onTestament SBT1099). 1958 was a good yearfor the work as Stokowski made his celebratedrecording for Capitol in Houston exactly51 years ago this month and another Russianperformance under Stokowski from 1958 wasissued. Since then there have been a score ormore versions that have been listened to andfiled away.Titled "The Year 1905", this symphonydepicts the events of Bloody Sunday whenmore than 200 peaceful demonstrators weremassacred by Czarist soldiers outside theWinter Palace in St. Petersburg. From thevery opening bars, Petrenko perfectly shapesand balances the composer's mood picture ofthe inanition of the multitude leading to thesecond movement during which the pregnantstillness is devastatingly broken by the deadlyattack . All is quiet again and pain and sorrowlead to bitter resolution, presaging the revolu-APR1L 1 - M AY 7 2009

tion to follow 12 years later.Petrenko does far more than get it right.From manifest compassion to total brutality,he conducts from the inside, exposing thecomposer' s sources of inspiration, his Muse.The state-of-the-art recording is the bestyet, making this CD a must-have for audiophilesand the composer's following .This is the first instalment of Naxos's announcedcomplete cycle with Petrenko andhis orchestra, presaging an exciting project.Bruce SurteesLiquidFrancois Houle; Turning Point Ensemble;Owen UnderhillATMA ACD2 2394Canada has produced a vibrant cohort of clarinettistswho specialize in new music; a shortlist should include Robert W. Stevenson, LoriFreedman, James Campbell, Joaquin Valdepeiias,Andre Moisan, Jean-Guy Boisvert andFrarn;:ois Houle - the featured soloist on thisrecent disc by the Turning Point Ensemble,conducted by Owen Underhill.First up is Vancouver composer JohnKorsrud's Liquid. Houle's virtuosic techniqueis highlightedthroughout, fromthe opening highlyrhythmic figuration,which graduallydisperses into a morefragmented ensembletexture. It resemblesa concerto grosso,with an extended slow section featuring asparsely-accompanied solo clarinet - repletewith the seemingly obligatory multiphonics -gradually returning to the opening rhythmicfigurations .Next is Schrift, by Quebec composer YannickPlamondon. The liner notes inform usthat Plamondon, like Eric Satie, has placedenigmatic texts throughout the score, suchas "The mechanistic noise of a language thatseeks itself." Plamondon's inventive use ofpercussion sounded "mechanistic" I suppose,but the piece ended before I finished puzzlingover that one.The third work on the disc - Concerto -features Houle as both soloist and composer.The title is in keeping with the original l 8thcenturyconvention of an opening section,or ritornello, introducing the soloist. LikeKorsrud's piece, Concerto is a three-partsingle movement: a slow meditative sectionframed by more vigorous opening and closingmovements.Kya (1959) by Italian composer GiacintoScelsi, is the earliest work on the disc, andone of the most intriguing, using texture andtimbre as compositional determinants. Scelsi,an Italian aristocrat, lived in Rome, yet thepiece seems more acquainted with John Cage,Harry Partch, Indian or even Nepalese classicalmusic than the stylistic tendencies ofScelsi's European contemporaries.Overall, the sound is crisp, clean, and wellengineered.Underhill has done well guidingA PRIL 1 - M AY 7 2009the Turning Point Ensemble - a highly skilledgroup of players on a par with Houle's virtuosity- through some very complex instrumentaltextures.Tim BuellGaito; Ginastera; PiazzollaQuatuor AbysseXXI XXI-CD 2 1589This is a fabulous recording showcasing thebreathtaking emerging Quebec string quartetQuatuor Abysse. Simon Boivin (violin),Melanie Charlebois (Violin 2), Jean-FrancoisGagne (viola) and Sebastien Lepine (cello)are four young stringplayers who playwith a sensitivity andmaturity beyond theircollective years andmusical experience.The cohesivenessand tonal magic theycreate in interpretingthe works of Argentineans Constantino Gaito,Alberto Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla culminatein an unimaginable musical truthfulness .All three composers draw on both their Europeanclassical traditions and Argentinean folkmusic at different degrees. Gaito is more ofthe romantic stylist, though his String QuartetNo . 2, op.33 draws heavily on the pentatonicscale. In contrast, Ginastera' s StringQuartet No. 1, op. 20 is more chromatic andrhythmic in nature. Piazzolla's work needs nointroduction - L'Histoire du Tango is a stringquartet arrangement by Jean-Francoise Gagneof the original flute and guitar duet. The fourpart work chronologically and musically outlinesthe transformation of both the tango asan art form, and Piazzolla as a composer.If you listen to only one recording this year,let it be this one. I hope Quatuor Abyssecontinues to develop musically. Their astutemusicality combined with an uncanny senseof respect for the compositions, the composersand themselves as performers makes forunequivocal and unforgettable listening.James Tenney - Arbor VitaeQuatuor BozziniQuatour Bozzini CQB 0806( www. actuellecd. corn)Tiina KiikThis recording by the Quatuor Bozzini of theAmerican-Canadian composer James Tenneyis essential for anyone interested in experimentalmusic of the 20th century. Superblyrecorded at Radio Frankfurt by tonmeistersChristoph Classen and Udo Wustendorferwith the assistance of sound engineer ThomasEschlen, the two CD set brings together allof Tenney 's music for string quartet, as wellas works for string quartet and additionalinstrument.James Tenney composed for string quartetthroughout his life, and so this release providesan excellent overview of his compositionalinterests throughout his diverselyproductive career. From his lifelong interestWWW. THEWHOLENOTE .COMin just intonation andother tunings, to hisuse of electronicsand computers, hissystems of stochasticdevelopment,his constant desireto engage in anexchange of ideaswith other members of both the music communityand the wider society of artists fromall disciplines, this collection brings forwardall of these interests with great clarity andpassion. The playing is both accurate (and Ican tell you that as a performer who workedwith Jim for over twenty-five years, this is nosmall accomplishment), and sensitive to thesensuality of Tenney's music. The Bozzinisare ably assisted by percussionist Rick Sacks,pianist Eve Egoyan and contrabassist MiriamI Shalinsky.Canadian Oboe QuartetsGallery Players of NiagaraGallery Players GPN09001Robert W. StevensonJames Mason, principal oboe of the Kitchener-WaterlooSymphony for the past twentyyears, is joined by his distinguished colleaguesJulie Baumgartel on violin, PatrickJordan on viola and Margaret Gay on celloin this intriguing recording by The GalleryPlayers. The ensemble's original conceptfor this project was to commission Canadiancomposers to create works derived fromMozart's Oboe Quartet in F major K370 incelebration of the250th anniversary ofthe divine Amadeus.Of the composerson this disc onlyPeter Hatch fullyaccepted this challenge,albeit in quitea perverse way. HisWiki Mozart superimposes a distracting tapecollage upon what seems to be a quite sensitiveperformance of Mozart's work, withthe droning voice of Gertrude Stein thrownin for no good measure. You can replicatethe effect quite easily in your own home byturning your television, CD, DVD and radioon all at once. James Rolfe' s Oboe Quartet,while not in the least bit derivative, echoesMozart's refined style in its carefully wroughtartistry and exceptional architectural balance.Michael Oesterle's Sunspot Letters finds itsinspiration in the solar observations of GalileoGalilei, juxtaposing frenetic, highly ornamentedoboe passages upon the inexorable cosmicpulsation of the string trio to great effect.The studied monotony of John Abram's OboeQuartet is derived from an earlier operaticproject and while agreeably melodic is theleast relevant and most woefully over-extendedpart of the program. The excellent acoustic ofToronto's Humbercrest United Church is vividlycaptured in these exceptionally sensitiveperformances.Daniel Foley57

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