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Volume 16 Issue 7 - April 2011

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  • April
  • Toronto
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chaconne and lament

chaconne and lament movements.This is a remarkably detailed and wellexecutedrecording, at the centre of which isthe stellar and imaginative playing of JuliaWedman, who is a mainstay of Tafelmusik, IFuriosi and the Eybler Quartet. The varietyof continuo playing – performed exquisitelyby top-notch local players Felix Deak,Charlotte Nediger, Lucas Harris and JuliaSeager Scott – contributes to the brillianceof this CD, as does the excellent technicalproduction and program booklet.It’s clear that this project is a labour oflove for Wedman and it represents a highachievement, produced relatively early inwhat we hope is a long and productive career.Highly recommended.—Larry BeckwithCLASSICAL & BEYONDThe Liszt Anniversary CollectionChristina Petrowska QuilicoWelspringe Productions WP011(www.indiepool.com)Liszt – The CompleteAnnées de PèlerinageLouis LortieChandos CHAN10662(2)Is it true that women used to vie for alock of Franz Liszt’s hair? Justin Biebermove over! In any event, it seems particularlyappropriate that this being the 200thanniversary of his birth, we have not one,but two new releases devoted to piano musicby the Hungarian virtuoso, and both of themperformed by Canadians.Ottawa-bornChristina PetrowskaQuilico studiedat the RoyalConservatory, andlater at the JuilliardSchool. Since then,she has earned areputation as anexceptional and innovative teacher andperformer, with a particular dedicationto music by contemporary Canadiancomposers. Nevertheless, in her newest CD,titled “The Liszt Anniversary Collection” onthe Welspringe label, she returns to the 19thcentury, with selections spanning Liszt’sentire career. True to form, her playingis polished, self-assured, and technicallyabout this recording is the wonderfulvariety achieved within the carefully chosenprogramme. Well-known favourites such asLa Campanella (as transcribed by Busoni)and the concert étude Un Sospiro are here,but also included are less familiar pieces,such as Wiegenlied, En rêve, and Nuagesgris. These smaller works dating fromLiszt’s late period are quietly introspective,and stylistically point to the 20th century.Petrowska Quilico treats them with awonderful delicacy, adeptly proving thatLiszt is not all bravura and showmanship!More gargantuanin scale is a newChandos doublediscset by LouisLortie featuring theentire Années dePelèrinage, includingan addendumto the second set,Italie. Lortie has made deaconsiderablenamenameBusoni Piano Competition in 1984, and amajor prize at the Leeds Competition …Now based in Berlin, he continues to enjoyinternational fame through concerts and recordings.The three sets of Années – basedon Liszt’s voyages to Switzerland and Italy- are gigantic in scope, and I would deemfew pianists are able to interpret this musicconvincingly. Needless to say, Lortie doesapproach is bold and impassioned, demonstratinga herculean technique. The Valléed’Obermannnicalchallenges that would make the averagepianist wince, but Lortie brings it off withaplomb. On the other hand, his treatment ofsuch pieces as the Sonetto 47 and 123 fromthe second set, Italie, is elegantly understated.Bringing the disc to a rousing conclu-Tarantella, music requiringalmost superhuman powers. Is it anywonder that Liszt was sometimes regarded asMephistopheles himself?In all, two exemplary recordings whichtogether comprise admirable recognition toLiszt’s bicentenary.—Richard HaskellSchmidtt – La Tragedie de Salomé;Franck – Symphonie in D minorOrchestre Metropolitain du GrandMontreal; Yannick Nézet-SéguinATMA ACD2 2647 A half-submergedtreasurein the dark andluxurious orchestralrepertoire of theearly 20th-century isthe ballet/orchestralwork The Tragedyof Salomé (1907) byFrench composer Florent Schmitt. Dancecritic Toni Bentley’s intriguing book Sistersof Salomé describes the era’s “Salomania”craze. Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé that becamethe libretto for the Richard Straussopera (1905) was not the only manifestation.There were also solo Salomé acts by protomoderndancers including Canadian MaudAllan, “Mata Hari” (real name MargarethaZelle) and Ida Rubenstein.Schmitt’s work was premiered byAmerican dancer Loïe Fuller, also wellknownfor her own Salomé creations whenSchmitt composed his version. After thepremiere he shortened and re-scored it forlarge orchestra, in the form recorded onMontreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain in anexciting yet carefully-balanced performance.The shifts of mood and pacing essentialfor this post-Debussy style are handledsensitively, as is the balance of solo windsemerging out of complex symphonictextures. I particularly liked the brilliance ofthe Dance of PearlsDance of Terror in 5/4 time.Franck’s Symphony in D minor (1888)has its defenders, but for me the overworkedmotifs eventually turn into unwelcomeguests. Nézet-Séguin delivers with subtledynamics and clear delineation of theorgan-like instrumentation, enough to at-a gap in their late-19th-century orchestralcollections.—Roger KnoxHolst – The Planets; BeniMora; Japanese SuiteManchester Chamber Choir; BBCPhilharmonic; Sir Andrew DavisChandos CHSA 5086This is Davis’third recording ofThe Planets, Holst’sbest known work.EMI in 1986 withthe TSO duringhis tenure here.His second, forTeldec, was in 1993 with the BBC SymphonyOrchestra during his tenure there.There is no paucity of recorded versionsinterpreted by a who’s who of eminently suitableconductors and some quite unsuitable. Ihave heard just about all of them and someare outstanding, such as Boult’s 1966 versionwith the New Philharmonia (EMI) butDavis’s new version, all things considered, isthe one some of us have been waiting for. Mars, TheBringer of War, it is clear that Davis hasre-thought the music with striking results.There is a fresh clarity and transparencyachieved primarily by adjusting the balancesbetween instruments and through subtle andnot so subtle adjustments to the tempi andphrasing.Beni Mora is a delicately scored,The Japanese Suite is another dance piece,alternately stimulating and reposeful. It isnew to me but I’ve listened a few times andregard both beautifully scored little works asundeservedly obscure gems that live in theshadow of The Planets. Holst and there are more recordings tocome from these forces. The wide range ofsonorities together with scrupulous regardfor dynamic gradations from juggernaut64 thewholenote.comApril 1 - May 7, 2011

tuttis to the gossamer pianissimos in ThePlanets are captured to absolute perfectionby CHANDOS. This disc is a must have,particularly for the most demanding audiophile.A hybrid disc, the outstanding soundin stereo is enhanced with astonishing realityin surround sound on SACD players.—Bruce SurteesMahler: Symphony No. 9Lucerne Festival Orchestra;Claudio AbbadoAccentus Music; Arte DVD ACC20214This is thesecond DVD ofAbbado conductingthis work at theLucerne Festival;a previous 2005EuroArts releasehad featured amarvellous renditionby the Gustav Mahler rYouthOrchestra Orchestra. AsBY HIS OWN ADMISSION Americancomposer John Adams, star of therecent TSO New Creations Festival, ishard to classify. Given his large output, thethree works on John Adams – Portrait, thelatest CD from Angèle Dubeau and La Pietà(Analekta AN 2 8732), won’t really help youin that regard, despitethe CD’s title.This is the group’sthird ‘portrait’ CD,following discs dedicatedto Philip Glassand Arvo Pärt, butthere is little ofAdams’ range ondisplay here. Shaker Loops, for string septet,an early work from 1978 with echoes ofSteve Reich, has more going on and some interestingtextures. The other works are onlya year apart, and over 15 years old. RoadMoves for violin and piano (with LouiseBessette) is from 1995, and closer to theAdams of the Short Ride in a Fast Machinestyle. John’s Book of Alleged Dances forstring quartet, from 1994, is a set of dancesthat can be played in whole or in part, and inany order. Six of the ten – the ones selectedfor this CD – are accompanied by a recordedtrack of percussion noises produced on aprepared piano. The booklet notes inform usthat “except for a few excerpts, the dancesare played here with a double quartet, addingconsiderably to the challenge of performingthe work.” Nobody says why. Recorded atMcGill’s Schulich School of Music, the performanceand sound quality are top notch.utterly astonished by the excellence of thislatest incarnation from August of 2010with the incomparable Lucerne Festivaland orchestra are of one mind, setting anew standard of excellence in revealingthis purportedly death-obsessed work as asarcastic and caring, brave and pensive, in atruly revelatory performance of astoundingsensitivity and beauty of tone. As the houseof the symphony we are transported into anatmosphere of sublime transcendence: nowbarely audible, the music is drawn out tominutes of stunned silence from an audiencewhich clearly has witnessed a truly historicevent. The DVD (also available in the Blu-improved sound from previous releases andincludes the option of a “conductor camera”view focused on Abbado alone.—Daniel FoleyStrings AttachedTERRY ROBBINSThe DeutscheGrammophondebut CD by theGeorgian violinistLisa Batiashvili,Echoes of Time(DGG 477 9299)is her selectionof works by composerswhose artistic lives were impactedby the Soviet regime, and it’s a real winner.At its core is the Shostakovich ViolinConcerto No.1, and it’s worth the price ofthe CD on its own. Whatever the truth ofthe composer’s apparent compliance withthe regime, there is no music from the 20 thcentury that is more painfully personal thanthat of Shostakovich: listening to this deeplymoving performance made me feel almostuncomfortable, as if intruding on someone’smost intimate thoughts. The contributionof the Symphonieorchester des BayerischenRundfunks under Esa-Pekka Salonen isoutstanding. Nothing else on the disc reallyplaying. Giya Kancheli’s V&V, for violinand taped voice with string orchestra, andShostakovich’s Lyrical Waltz (orchestratedby Batiashvili’s father) are paired with ArvoPärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel and Rachmaninov’sVocalise, Batiashvili being joined by the excellentHélène Grimaud on piano.CHANCES ARE YOU MAY know thename of Erwin Schulhoff but not his music; Iwas unaware of his violin works before hearingthe excellent CD of his Violin Sonatasby Tanja Becker-Bender and MarkusBender (HyperionCDA67833).Schulhoff, whowas in his late 40swhen he died oftuberculosis in aNazi concentrationcamp in 1942, was a student of Reger andof Brahms’ close friend Fritz Steinbach, and1911. Within two years, however, Schulhoffhad discovered the music of Debussy, andthe harmonic language in his Sonata No.1,Op.7 is far more sophisticated. The othertwo works on the CD are from 1927. TheSonata for Solo Violin is a stunning workhighly chromatic slow movement, and thirdand fourth movements strongly reminiscentthe Sonata No.2 for violin and piano. Theplaying and sound quality throughout are ofI’VE NEVERQUITE understoodthe lack of interestin the music of MaxReger. Outside hisnative Germany heis still misunderstoodand rarelyheard, usually beingregarded as some turgid, chromatichybrid of Brahms and Mahler. A brilliantorganist, Reger revered Bach, taking himas a model, and his life-long obsession withof music he wrote for organ and for soloviolin. The Japanese violinist Sayaka Shojihas produced a fascinating 2-CD set (MirareMIR 128) which pairs three of Reger’sPreludes & Fugues from his Op.117, writtenbetween 1909 and 1912, with three of theBach Sonatas & Partitas: the Sonata No.1April 1 - May 7, 2011 thewholenote.com 65

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