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Volume 17 Issue 10 - July/August 2012

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Symphony under the

Symphony under the direction of ManfredHoneck on the Japanese audiophile Extonlabel, available from the orchestra’s website.Honeck’s visceral interpretation of the Firstsymphony deeply impressed me when I firstheard it (the Pittsburgh orchestra boasts afabulously lusty sounding horn section, an essentialcomponent in this work); superlativeperformances of Symphonies Three, Four andFive are also available.British conductor Jonathan Nott, director ofthe Bamberg Symphoniker for the past decade,has passed the halfway mark in his cycleof live performances of the complete Mahlersymphonies with the release of the SeventhSymphony. I’ve not heard the others, but onthe present evidence his is a no-nonsense,objective approach, more intellectual thanpassionate. Much depends on the orchestralmusicians in such a case; thankfully, theBamberg artists do not disappoint and therecorded sound is decent enough. Yet one hasto ask of this conductor, where is Mahler?Nott’s novice shortcomings (this is evidentlyhis first ever performance of this work) arepainfully evident in the Finale, which flies byin a blur, missing the many textural detailsand eccentric mood swings of Mahler’s mocktriumphalism. You might almost think thisis the black sheep of the cycle, as the contentiousliner notes suggest. Try any performanceof this work by Abbado (preferably the mostrecent Lucerne Festival DVD) and you’ll becomeconvinced otherwise.I’ve saved the best for last: a real winnerof a disc from Markus Stenz and the wondrousGürzenich orchestra in a compellingperformance of the Third Symphony featuringcontralto Michaela Schuster and an ensembleof children’s voices from the CologneCathedral and Opera choirs. The first five ofthe symphonies and a disc of vocal workshave been recorded in the Stenz cycle so far;all are excellent, but this one in particular hasa surpassing beauty. Stenz has a deep understandingof Mahler which shines throughand the admirable sonic engineering is spectacularlytransparent. Tempi are refreshinglynimble in the inner movements, lending adelightfully Shakespearian sense of fantasy toMahler’s symphonic cosmos; there’s nary adull moment over the course of this mighty,six movement double CD performance. Fromthe opening depiction of summer’s awakeningto the deeply felt, amorous conclusion,Stenz and his magnificent orchestra bring ussheer delight from first to last.— Daniel FoleyAlways find more reviews onlineat thewholenote.comStrings AttachedTERRY ROBBINSThe Danish composer Rued Langgaard(1893–1952) is a new name to me, butif the music on String Quartets Vol.1(DACAPO 6.220575) is anything to go bythen I’ve really been missing something.Denmark’s Nightingale String Quartet issimply superb in this first volume of a seriesof all nine quartets by a composer describedin the excellent booklet notes as an eccentricoutsider who was virtually ignored bythe Danish musicalestablishment in hislifetime. The worksare essentially in thelate romantic style,but mixed with astartling modernity:listen to TrainPassing By, the shortsecond movementof String QuartetNo.2, written in 1918and revised in 1931,and you could swearyou were listeningto two minutes ofPhilip Glass or SteveReich; the followingslow movement,Landscape in Twilight, is a simplybeautiful pastoral episode. TheString Quartet No.3 from 1924,the quite lovely single-movementString Quartet No.6 from 1918(Langgaard’s numbering systemis quite confusing!) and the variationson the chorale melody Mig hjertelig nulaenges complete a revelationary CD.Beautifully recorded at the Royal DanishAcademy of Music and issued on Denmark’snational record label, these performancesare as close to definitive as you can get.Wonderful stuff, and I can’t wait to hear therest of the series.The chamber music of the Irish composerSir Herbert Hamilton Harty (1879–1941) isfeatured on the 2-CD set Hamilton HartyString Quartets & Piano Quintet, performedby Australia’s Goldner String Quartet andpianist Piers Lane (Hyperion CDA67927).Dating from the opening years of the 20thcentury, all three works — the String Quartetsin F Major (1900) and A Minor (1902) andthe Piano Quintet in F Major (1904, revised1906) — are virtually unknown today, thesecond string quartet and the piano quintetapparently remaining unheard from the yearof their premieres until the present recording.Like so much British music of the period,these are highly competent and really lovelyworks, given absolutely beautiful performanceshere. There are the expected hints ofMendelssohn and Brahms, but it’s Harty’slove of Russian music that seems to predominate,particularly with the echoes ofBorodin in the quartets. The faultless recordingquality and the excellent booklet notesmake this a very attractive set.The Jasper String Quartet is back withanother volume in their excellent series ofstring quartets by the American composerAaron Jay Kernis, this time pairing Kernis’String Quartet No. 1 “Musica Celestis” from1990 with Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”quartet in The KernisProject: Schubert(Sono Luminus DSL-92152). I enthusiasticallyreviewed theearlier volume pairinga Kernis quartetwith a Beethovenquartet some timeago, and have nohesitation in beingjust as enthusiasticthis time around.The performancesare top-notch,and the recordingquality is equallygood. If you don’tknow this series, then you’rereally missing something; apartfrom anything else, it is all theproof you could ever need thatthere are contemporary composersadding magnificent andsignificant works to the stringquartet repertoire.The Brilliant Classics label lives up to itsname once again with a 2-CD reissue of theexcellent 1990 recordings by The BrittenQuartet of the String Quartets Nos. 1-4 by theEnglish composer Sir Michael Tippett (2CD9257). Tippett’s life (1905–1998) spannedalmost the entire 20th century, and his quartetscome from both ends of his creative career:Quartets Nos.1-3 are from 1934–1946;Quartet No.4 was written in 1977–78. Thecomposer’s early obsession with Beethoven’squartets can be discerned, but it is Tippett’scharacteristic emphasis on line and counterpoint— especially in the earlier quartets — thatstands out.The six string quartets of Bela Bartók comprisearguably the most significant series inthat genre since the Beethoven quartets, andthe Dutch mid-price label Newton Classics,distributed here by Naxos, has reissued a 2-CDset of Bartók: String Quartets Nos.1-6 in the1975 recordings by the Guarneri Quartet originallyissued by Sony (8802111). The GuarneriQuartet was in top form in these performancesof works which span Bartók’s entire career,and the set — especially at the price — can berecommended without reservation. The originalrecording and transfers are all excellent.66 thewholenote.com July 1 – September 7, 2012

MODERN & CONTEMPORARYPremieres: Music by Bruce Broughton,Ronald Royer and Kevin LauConrad Chow; Sinfonia Toronto;Ronald Royer; Bruce BoughtonCambria Master Recordings CD-1204www.cambriamus.com!!The concept of thisproject is new worksthat are inspired byearlier musical styles.Bruce Broughton’sTriptych: ThreeIncongruities forviolin and chamberorchestra (in thiscase 15 solo instruments) is essentially a typeof concerto, with each movement written ina different style. Thus, we hear influences ofJ.S. Bach’s violin music in the first movement,Prokofiev and more romantic expressionsin the second and rhythmic, dance-like elementsof Scottish fiddle music in the third.Another composition by Broughton, GoldRush Songs, is based on three American songsassociated with the California Gold Rush.Ronald Royer’s Rhapsody displays influencesof French impressionism and Spanishviolin music, among others, with mysteriouselements in the first movement and morerhythmic expressions in the second. Royer’sIn Memoriam J.S. Bach is based on differentmotifs from Bach’s works. Sarabandeis expressive, even romantic at times, whileCapriccio carries playfulness coupled withrecognizable Bach rhythms.Joy for solo violin and string orchestra byKevin Lau is a lyrical, meditative piece thatlets the soloist explore different colours andtextures. Conrad Chow’s tone has a wonderfulquality of sweetness, which is most prominentin Chopin’s Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor,No.20 Op. posth., the encore piece on thealbum. His playing is rhythmical and precise,and he easily traverses the variety and depthof expression in each piece.Some may argue that contemporary classicalmusic should be forward-looking andnot an evocation of the styles and musicaltastes of the past. This, however, should notlimit the scope of creativity and inspiration,which can spring from all objects and times.If your musical tastes enjoy revisiting compositionalstyles of the previous centurieswhile using contemporary expressions andtechniques, this recording is a wonderful opportunityto hear Toronto composers in collaborationwith Toronto musicians.— Ivana PopovićPasiónBeatriz BoizánGalano Records GLO–2813www.beatrizboizan.com!!Latin American piano music is not commonlyfound on record. Even the Brazilianmaster, HectorVilla-Lobos, onlysometimes gets acknowledgedfor hispiano output. Howrefreshing then, thatthe Cuban-bornCanadian pianistBeatriz Boizán hasdecided to change this on her debut disc. Oh,sure, there is an occasional Soler and Albenizhere, but the spirit of this album is an unbridledfiesta. The pianist has a light, precisetouch that serves her well in the break-neckpace of some of the pieces, and infuses thewhole with a sense of fun.Most of the pieces will be both unfamiliarand very familiar at the same time, as theyreflect the region’s tradition of rhythmicdance. Whether filled with carnival fervor ormoments of whimsy, the music of Lecuona,Cervantes and Ginastera shimmers with lightand colour — and of course, the “Passion”of the title. This delightful disc is a musicalequivalent of sangria— a perfect accompanimentto a hot summer evening. Muy caliente!— Robert TomasEnglish Recorder ConcertosMichala Petri; City Chamber OrchestraHong Kong; Jean ThorelOUR Recordings 6.220606!!Of the manyworks written forthe recorder over thelast century, few ofthe neo-classical orneo-impressionistexamples ever makeit onto concert programsor CDs, soit’s good to see the release of this recording.Opening the program is Richard Harvey’sConcerto Incantato, written for soloistMichala Petri in 2009. Using a variety of sizesof recorder over five movements, Harveywrites beautifully for the instrument andthe piece also sweetly reflects his sensibilitiesas a composer for film and television.Here’s hoping that the piece receives moreperformances by recorder players aroundthe world!Following the Harvey is Malcolm Arnold’sdiminutive Concerto Op.133, written for Petriin 1988, and his inclusion of winds in theorchestration makes for a welcome colourchange. Gordon Jacob’s exemplary sevenmovementConcerto for alto (and sopranino)recorder and strings closes the program.Written in 1957 for Carl Dolmetsch, it blendsthe strengths of both string and recorderworlds and is given a definitive and expressivereading here.Conducted by Jean Thorel, the CityChamber Orchestra of Hong Kong is superlativethroughout, and Michala Petri, one of therecorder’s leading figures of the past 40 years,is completely at home in this repertoire.— Alison MelvilleAccordion ConcertosBjarke Mogensen;Danish Chamber Orchestra; Rolf GuptaDacapo 6.220592!!Danish accordionistBjarke Mogensenis the rising youngstar in the accordionworld. Here heperforms concertoworks representingfour decades ofcomposition. Thisis really is a “coming of age” release for boththe performer and the instrument. Mogensenand the colourful Danish National ChamberOrchestra under the direction of Rolf Guptaare brilliant both in their interpretations andtight ensemble nuances.Any serious student/performer of accordionwill have tackled the accordion works ofthe late Ole Schmidt. Symphonic Fantasy andAllegro, Op.20 is a very early work for classicalaccordion. The 1958 piece draws its inspirationfrom Bartók and Stravinsky. Its rhythmicpulse cries out for a modern dance interpretation.Per Nørgård’s Recall (1968/1977) is ahappy rhapsodic work with its many popularmusic harmonic and groove references.The remaining two concertos were composedfor Mogensen. The underlying “ticktock” idea in Anders Koppel’s ConcertoPiccolo (2009) sets the mood in a work clearlyrooted in the film score idiom. Martin Lohse’sIn Liquid (2008/2010) is one of the most originalworks for accordion I have ever heard.Mogensen makes his brutal technical partsound so easy in this quasi minimalistic exercisein shifting fluid breathtaking sounds.Mogensen’s strength lies in his great independenceof line in the contrapuntal sections.Occasionally the higher pitches coulduse some added bellows support to createa fuller colour but this is a moot point.Mogensen is an artist to experience!— Tiina KiikGames and ImprovisationsKatharina Weber; Barry Guy; Balts NillIntakt CD 203www.intakrec.ch!!More than merechild’s play, this significantCD expandssome of Hungariancomposer GyörgyKurtág’s performancepieces toevocative chamberimprovisations.Taking 11 miniatures for solo piano from hiseight-volume Játékok series, which translatesas “Games” in English, the trio’s intuitiveskills create nine exciting tracks that referboth to Kurtág (born 1926) and the widermusical world.The high quality shouldn’t come as a surprise.Besides a career as an improviser, Bern-July 1 – September 7, 2012thewholenote.com 67

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