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Volume 16 Issue 7 - April 2011

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  • April
  • Toronto
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Editor’s CornerWhen I

Editor’s CornerWhen I heard there was a new additionto the “Window on Somers” seriesI was hoping it was the soon to bereleased DVD of Louis Riel out to coincidewith WholeNote’s opera issue.My expectationswere dashedwhen I found thenew release to bea CD of orchestralmusic, but that isnot to say that I wasdisappointed. Anyaddition to the HarrySomers catalogue is most welcome and Livefrom Toronto (Centrediscs CMCCD 15911)features previously unavailable recordings bythe Toronto Symphony and Esprit Orchestra.The disc opens with a 1997 recording ofStereophony, a work performed to greateffect in the Barbara Frum Atrium of theCBC Broadcast Centre by the TSO under“A lucid introduction tothe orchestral works ofone of Canada’s mostimportant creators”the direction of Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Theliner notes tell us this unique spatial compositionwas commissioned by the TSO incareful arrangement of the orchestra on thestage and […] at various positions around theauditorium” which at that time was MasseyHall. It would have been interesting to knowhow this was translated to the very differentarchitecture of the CBC Atrium. We nexthear the TSO under the direction of VictorFeldbrill in a 1978 performance of the PianoConcerto No. 2 featuring Robert Silverman.DAVID OLDSThis wonderfully dramatic extended work –45 minutes and four movements despite whatthe liner notes say – dates from 1956 andshows 31 year old Somers in mature voicewith fully developed command of both key-jesticwork dating from 1978. Those Silent,Awe Filled Spaces was inspired by an entryfrom Emily Carr’s journal. The 2004 performanceby Esprit brings life to the angularwriting, especially the juxtaposition of brassfanfares and strident strings, which graduallygives way to an unearthly calm. All in allthis is an important document which wouldprovide a lucid introduction to the orchestralworks of one of Canada’s most importantcreators were it not for the lack of biographicalinformation; a major disservice and anoversight unusual for the Centrediscs label.A favourite overthe past month,She Comes to Shoreis a concerto forimprovised pianoand orchestra byToronto’s Lee PuiMing performedwith the Bay-AtlanticSymphony under the direction of Jed Gaylin(Innova 796). This busy yet meditative2009 work is in three movements. In thethe piano. The second movement is muchmore dramatic with roiling and poundingfrom both the piano and the full orchestralforces. This gives way seamlessly to a gentleand extended cadenza in which the piano iseventually joined by a soaring Hollywoodlikeorchestral melody, primarily in thestrings. This piece has been something of aguilty pleasure to the modernist in me, butit is so gorgeous that I have found myselfindulging time and again. The concerto iscomplemented by series of solo piano improvisations,each exploring different worldsfrom exuberant free-form jazz to quietcontemplation.Editor’s Corner continues online atwww.thewholenote.com: a new ATMArelease of music by Serge Arcuri and thelatest from eclectic singing cellist KevinFox. There’s also more opera: Janos Garonyilooks at Verdi’s Don Carlo, Bruce Surteesvisits the underworld in Orphée by PhilipGlass and Ken Waxman explores a dark sideof NYC in Elliott Sharp’s Binibon. See alsoexpanded and archival reviews, direct linksto performers, composers and labels.Your feedback is welcome. Please sendCDs and comments to: The WholeNote, 503– 720 Bathurst St., Toronto ON M5S 2R4. —David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALDIVAS’ DELIGHTS –Opera, Lieder, Art Songand the Contemporary AirWE ENJOY A WIDE RANGE of genre inrecent offerings from those best known inthe world of opera. This month, we salutethose with more conventional releasesand those who stray unexpectedly butdelightfully from the fold, all manifesting aschanteuses extraordinaire.Sospiri (Decca4782558), is acompilation ofCecilia Bartoli’s bestrecital selectionsand is comprisedof opera ariasand sacred songsrecorded between1994 and 2009. A singer famous for herthrilling and fast-paced virtuosic vocal runs,this collection’s name which translates as‘sighs’ indicates a focus on her mastery ofmore relaxed and tender expressions. To thisend, we have pieces like Handel’s Lasciala spina and Mozart’s Laudate dominumperformed with exquisite beauty andsensitivity. It seems, however, they could notresist the inclusion of spectacular runs anddramatic showpieces such as Una voce pocofa and Geminiano Giacomelli’s Merope:Sposa non mi conosci. An enchanting mixof well-known favourites with obscure andprecious gems.Natalie Dessay’sCleopatra: Ariasfrom Giulio Cesare(Virgin Classics5099990 7872 25) showcases thissoprano’s dramaticrange in her newestrole at the ParisOpéra as the Queen of the Nile’s ariasto by Shakespeare. Regal bearing forms onefacet of the bejewelled monarch, jealousyand vindictiveness another and sensualityand tenderness yet another. Dessay handlesthe beauty and precision of her vocal workcreates a superb pairing with the dynamicensemble Le Concert d’Astrée. All are led byEmmanuelle Haim who Dessay says is theperfect stage director for her voice.Diva Divo (Virgin Classics 50999641986 0 6) is Joyce DiDonato’s tribute tothe world of the mezzo-soprano who, à laVictor/Victoria, “has always been calledupon to bend the genders, to convinceequally in both pants and skirts … while62 thewholenote.comApril 1 - May 7, 2011

hopefully retainingan individual andunique sound.”Featured ‘trouserroles’ such asMozart’s Cherubino,Bellini’s Romeoand Massenet’sPrince Charmingare set alongside female alecounterpartssuchassuch asMozart’s Susanna and Rossini’s Cinderella.Not only gender variations, but same themesand stories set by different composers arejuxtaposed in this recording from the Operade Lyon under Kazushi Ono’s direction,for example selections from both Mozart& Gluck’s La Clemenza di Tito, providingan interesting perspective on the versatilityof the performer. Which, of course, Ms.Donato is (and a stellar one at that!).Poésie (VirginClassics 50999628664 0 8), featuresthe orchestral songsof Richard Straussthroughout whichDiana Damrau’stranscendentlyall the while sustaining ng enormous depthof emotion. She really makes the most ofthe atmospheric changes and seeminglyinfuses his songs. It is breathtakinglyexpressive even when Damrau drops toa pianissimo passage. Strauss consideredhis temperamental wife Pauline the idealinterpreter of his songs and the only one towhom he would entrust the intimate rapturesof songs like Morgen and Allerseelen.Perhaps he would reconsider if he were withus today to hear this singer who seems tounderstand the ever-shifting nuances of hiswork so well. Christian Thielemann is in topform leading the Munich Philharmonic.With Cirque(Sono LuminusDSL-92125 www.sonoluminus.com),Céline Ricciconjures up thecarnival atmosphereof the streets of1920s Paris withsongs of the era weaving vingasmokyscreenscreenof mesmerizing inventions and illusions.Having been chosen by William Christiefor Les Jardin des Voix and named oneof opera’s promising young talents bytackles Henri Sauguet’s cycle Cirque withSix Chansons de Théatre with the brashseductiveness of the cabaret singer andPoulenc’s Cocardes with fantastical whimsy.Pianist Daniel Lockert adds a dash ofpanache to the scene with Satie’s Rag-timeParade.—Dianne WellsWagner – Tristan und IsoldeWaltraub Meier; Ian Story; MichelleDeYoung; Gerd Groehowski;Matti Salminen; Teatro allaScala; Daniel BarenboimVirgin Classics 51931599On December7, 2007 an eventthat reverberatedthroughout Milantook place at LaScala with the greatestartists gatheredto breathe new lifeinto Wagner’s immortalmasterpiece.The main reason for the celebrationwas the re-emergence of director Patricethe centennial Ring in Bayreuth in 1976, arevolutionary concept that started a chainof new productions all over the world. Now30 years later and no longer young he wasTristan. There is nothing revolutionaryhere, however. His production is almosttraditional. The sets are unobtrusive, neutralin colour, quasi abstract and echo timelessreality, the stage movements are relaxed,exquisitely handled almost like a ballet.The action erupts only when the musicChereau allows his singers to act naturallyand so optimize their talents.Waltraud Meier (Isolde) is a wonderfulsinger-actress who has sung the role manytimes and simply lives in it. She is the crownof the production. Her interpretation is soconvincing, so spontaneous that it’s nearperfection in itself. Ian Storey as Tristan,a relative new-comer, is steady and a ‘tidalwave of power and passion’ – especially inthe third act where he abandons himselftotally as the suffering hero. The other threeprincipals, Michelle deYoung (Brangaene),Greg Grochowsky (Kurwenal) and MattiSalminen are theatrically and musically allon the same level as the protagonists.The musical triumph however belongs toDaniel Barenboim who proudly steps into theformidable tradition established by Böhm,Furtwangler, Kleiber and Karajan. He formshis own style with well thought out tempiand details, making the Scala Orchestrasound glorious and exciting. This is productionthat will go down in history.—Janos GardonyiPeter Hannan – Rethink ForeverMusica Intima; Vancouver Cantata SingersArtifact Music ART040(www.artifactmusic.ca)Happiness, love and the inequities oflife drive the creative juices of composerPeter Hannan in the four vocal works (twowith tape) here. This is not your standardchoral fare – featuring Musica Intima ontwo tracks, the Vancouver Cantata Singerson another, andsoprano SiriOlesen on the last,“Rethink Forever”will challenge thelistener to rethinkthe nature ofcontemporary choralmusic forever.Hannan uses his formidable skills invocal scoring and tape development to set hisself-penned, witty yet at times very troubling,lyrics to music. Musically, he draws onto traditional African music to the beats ofpop. His words are drawn from his experiencesliving in Africa to Christopher Columbusto the happy gal at the checkout counter.What amazes is his ability to develop andsuperimpose these ideas seamlessly.The performances are world class. Thisis tough material to perform, yet both choirsare solid in their technique and musicality.Soprano Siri Olesen’s distinct voice isespecially suitable to Hannan’s compositionalstyle – her haunting take on the equallyhaunting work for soprano and tape entitledNo Brighter Sun: No Darker Night is asudden reminder that “art” at its very best issimple and clear.The liner notes are a great support inaiding one through the material. Artifact’ssuperb production values are impressive too.Hannan need not search for “happiness”anymore. He’s got it right on his own CD!—Tiina KiikEARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCEBiber – Mystery SonatasJulia WedmanSono Luminus DSL-92127(www.sonoluminus.com)Biber was by allaccounts at least asistas his late 17 thcentury contemporaryCorelli. He wasrenowned for hisabilities to play inthe upper positionsand for his complex compositions for theinstrument. The sonatas on this disc are perhapshis most well-known, though they arerarely performed for a number of reasons.The Mystery Sonatas were written mostlikely sometime in the 1670s “to honour theRosary. They are contemplative, deeplyspiritual, almost private, intimate pieces.One of their most interesting aspects is thateach sonata calls for a different tuning of theopen strings of the violin, a technique knownas “scordatura” or “de-tuning.” Each sonatahas a different structure, some featuringdance movements, others theme and variations,with #4 and #6 featuring extendedApril 1 - May 7, 2011 thewholenote.com 63

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