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Volume 17 Issue 8 - May 2012

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BCB performance is

BCB performance is Charles Daniels who,as always, bestows his consummate clarity,intelligence and expressiveness upon the roleof the Evangelist. The other soloists are alsoexcellent, particularly soprano Julia Doylewho imbues “Ich forge Dir gleichfalls” withthe perfect blend of delight and innocence.With the CKCC, John Mark Ainsley alsosings a very fine Evangelist, and hearingthe voices of Paul Agnew, Stephen Varcoand Catherine Bott makes for a cheerful tripdown memory lane.Both choirs sing with impeccable ensembleand depth of expression; the Bethlehemgroup in particular sounds truly congregationalin the chorales, a very welcomequality. The orchestral playing in both isfirst-class, with refined expressiveness, clarityand attention to detail, and the continuogroup players in both are equally topnotch.While the thoughtful playing of theBrandenburg Consort on period instrumentsis a little more to my own taste, the BachFestival Orchestra players play elegantly,adopting “historically informed” influencewith skill and flexibility. Kudos to all involvedin these two excellent recordings.—Alison MelvilleCantate DominoOttawa Bach Choir; Lisette CantonIndependent 2011www.ottawabachchoir.caThe Ottawa BachChoir celebrates itstenth anniversarywith the release ofthis recording whichincludes the choir’sfavourite repertoire.Bach, of course, isgiven pride of placewith first and last selections; first being thewedding cantata, Der Herr denket an unsBWV196, and lastly the motet Der Geisthilft unsrer Schwachheit BWV226. A smallbaroque ensemble led by violinist HélènePlouffe serving as orchestra shines brilliantlyin the opening Sinfonia and director LisetteCanton coaxes excellent work from the choirthroughout. The choir’s namesake appearsagain in a later setting; Knut Nystedt’sImmortal Bach, in which the theme takenfrom Komm süsser Tod BWV478, withlayered notes from the original, is sung indifferent time intervals. Rather than theexpected fugal effect, a unique and etherealmass voice emerges alternating betweenconsonance and dissonance.Soloists shine in Monteverdi’s Beatusvir, and Messiaen’s O sacrum convivium!shows off the choir’s warm and unifiedresponsiveness. One can only wish theOttawa Bach Choir continues to delight theiraudience for (at least) another ten years.—Dianne WellsI’ve Got A Crush On YouMeasha BrueggergosmanKelp Records 333www.kelprecords.comMeashaBrueggergosman isone of those vexingcreatures — theunpredictable artist.Just when you thinkyou know whereto place her, outcomes Measha — thehost of Canada’s Got Talent; Measha — theCBC’s celebrity panellist; Measha — live inconcert in the Maritimes. Her recent DVDappearance in The Rise and Fall of the Cityof Mahagonny welcomed with considerablecritical acclaim for both singing and acting,opened the possibility of Measha, the credibleWeill and cabaret performer … Well, notso fast. I’ve Got a Crush on You throws yetanother spanner in the works. If you expecta solid, even and predictable collection ofstandards old and new, forget about it. Therange of this album is enormous — from acringe-inducing Secret Heart to a brilliantand jazzy Both Sides Now, to a hilarioussend-up of Misty (with whom else but MartinShort) to the greatly nuanced title song andEmbraceable You. Brueggergosman is ather best when she trusts her innate sense ofrhythm, her sultry voice and the considerabletalent of the accompanying musicians.The low points come when she tries to forcethe non-operatic works into an operaticidiom. So yet again, she confounds expectations,surprises, and at times delights — cometo think about it, something that every artistshould strive for. A must for her fans, and aworthy detour for the curious. I wonder whatshe will come up with next …—Robert TomasConcert Notes: “An Evening with MeashaBrueggergosman” includes selections fromI’ve Got a Crush on You at the GrandTheatre in Kingston on May 4 and at theShowplace in Peterborough on May 17.EARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCEUne fête BaroqueLe Concert d’Astrée; Emannuelle HaïmVirgin Classics 50999 730799 2 7Le Concertd’Astrée celebratedten years togetherwith a commemorativeevent atthe Théâtre desChamps Elysées lastDecember, uniting24 soloists in agala fund-raising display of talents for theGustave Roussy Foundation which seeksnon-standard treatments for cancer.Rameau is the first composer selectedfor the gala. Natalie Dessay and StéphaneDegout are the soloists leading the choir ofsavages in Rameau’s Les Indes galantes;there is nothing savage about the interpretations!Anne Sofie von Otter’s plaintive “Airde Phèdre” is greatly enhanced by the stringplayersin the song from Hippolyte et Aricie,an opera which also affords us Jaël Azzarettias a shepherdess in “Rossignols amoureux.”This double CD should not be misinterpretedas purely a collection of intensebaroque arias; Patricia Petibon’s “La Folie”from the ballet-bouffon Platée and the audience’slive laughter prove this.Sometimes there are pleasant surprisesin this worthy anthology. “What Power ArtThou,” the “cold song” from Purcell’s KingArthur, is performed by Christopher Purvesto, dare one say it, chilling effect.Handel’s music dominates the secondCD. Sacred and secular, his most popularoperas are treated with passion by singersand instrumentalists. How better to end thanwith the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’sMessiah — with audience participation?And there is even a rendition of Purcell’sSound the Trumpet which, I hope, wouldhave appealed to Purcell’s sense of humour!—Michael SchwartzBach – Goldberg VariationsDavid JalbertATMA ACD2 2557Bach – Goldberg VariationsDaniel BarenboimEuroArts 2066778We have somany “Goldbergs”to choose from. Infact Goldbergitisfever insures usthat one or morenew versions will bereleased each year.What differentiateseach of these performances?Thereis also the questionof whether any ofthe new CDs willever replace thetwo iconic GlennGould recordings.Often the choice issubjective and sentimental. I grew up listeningto the Gould version but I also loveAndras Schiff, Murray Perahia and the verypersonal and unique performance by SimoneDinnerstein. What puts new CDs in the topechelon of Goldberg recordings? I believeit is the quality of tone, effortless technique,virtuosic control and command of the contrapuntallines, orchestrating the piano and theindecipherable quotient of magic.David Jalbert on the ATMA label certainlyhas the virtuoso technique and articulation62 thewholenote.com May 1 – June 7, 2012

to be in the elite few. The opening Aria wasbeautifully shaded and his control of quickpassagework in succeeding variations wascrisp and articulate. I enjoyed his smoothlines which created an extremely musicalflow in spite of the many embellishmentsand busy counterpoint. His playing wasalways controlled, yet incisive without beingmetronomic. His sensitivity to the tempifor each variation made for engaged listening.Jalbert’s tonal quality is not as warmand sweet as Dinnerstein’s or Perahia’s buthis command and power at the keyboardis unquestionable. I found his trills to beremarkably even and precise. What makesthis recording work for me is that Jalbertdiscovered the thread that links each variationand he made the performance a cohesivemasterpiece.I also like the liner notes by Robert Rival.I found his writing very informative andrevealing from a composer’s perspective. Itbrought to life Bach’s complex and virtuosiccomposition technique in creating this remarkableand timeless work of art.Released this year, the DVD of DanielBarenboim’s performance of Bach’sGoldberg Variations was actually recordedin 1992 and I was surprised to hear such asensitive and musical interpretation. Pastperformances have not always lived up to expectationsin tonal quality. This performanceexudes energy and deep emotional commitmentto the work. Barenboim uses a widerange of dynamics and articulations to createthe instrumental sounds from Bach’s time.He makes pianistic references to thefamous high trumpet, the oboe, the stringfamily and the organ. Barenboim has createdan orchestra from the piano. This is no surpriseas he is a highly respected conductorand it shows in his “orchestration” of eachvariation. His faster variations are dance-likeand real toe-tappers. However, despite thespeed or tempo he never loses his refinedtouch and exquisite control of the rhythmand ornaments. Each variation breathesmusically, dances, sings or speaks in a contemplativemanner. Although linked, eachvariation tells a unique story.Anthony Short in his excellent programnotes wrote that if Bach’s early biographerJohann Forkel is to be believed, when Bach’sextended family got together they oftenstruck up a chorale that would mix spiritualand serious songs with comic and scabrouspopular tunes of the era. These improvisingharmonies produced a quodlibet which is acontrapuntal combination of several differentpopular songs featuring a selection oflowly brassica vegetables such as the tune for“Cabbages and turnips have driven me away,had my Mother cooked meat, I’d have optedto stay.” I feel that Barenboim captured thespirit of this quodlibet in several of the variationsas well as the reflective and spiritualquality of some of the other variations.Both Barenboim and Jalbert have virtuosictechniques and the ability to casta spell when performing this work. Bothhave the communicative and musical skillsto take their place in the elite group ofGoldberg performers. If I had to choosebetween Jalbert and Barenboim I wouldpick Barenboim. His playing had a greaterrange of tonal colour and dynamics. I don’tmean dynamics as simply loud and soft butdynamics that created different moods andinstrumental soundscapes. I also thoughthis warm touch gave him a slight edge overJalbert. I would love to hear Jalbert recordthe Goldberg many years from now. I wasmesmerized by his recording now but whatan amazing performance he will give in theyears to come. We are so lucky to have anartist like David Jalbert in Canada.Picking your favorite Goldberg CD issuch a subjective experience. Do any ofthem knock Gould off his iconic pedestal?Depends on the day but I believe that thesetwo recent performances join him in thatspecial group with others which are certainto come. This is indeed a testament tothe great J.S. Bach whose music continuesto be such a joy and revelation that weforever keep searching and learning fromhis masterpieces.—Christina Petrowska Quilicoclassical & beyondBach; Ysaÿe; OesterleAisslinn NoskyIndependent IF004www.aisslinn.comSuite InspirationJonathan SwartzSoundset SR1039www.Jonathan-Swartz.comThese are twofascinating discsboth of which featurestrong performancesof the musicfor unaccompaniedviolin by J.S. Bachand other more modernpieces whichreflect and refractthe glorious light ofBach’s works.The irrepressibleand omnipresentAisslinn Nosky isone of the Torontomusic scene’s precioustreasures.As this, her debut solo CD, proves, she ispossessed of a rock-solid technique andan open and probing musical mind. Threeextended pieces for solo violin make up theprogram: the Partita in E Major by Bach,Eugene Ysaÿe’s Sonata Op.27 No.2 andStand Still, written especially for Nosky in2011 by the German-Canadian composerMichael Oesterle.Oesterle’s captivating piece is both minimalistand lyrical and exploits the “voice”of the violin to great effect. Nosky’s performance,with its varied dynamics andarticulation, brings out the fanciful characterof the music as well as its fragility. TheBach partita and Ysaÿe’s sonata are inextricablylinked thematically and are both givenluminous performances here. Nosky’s playingand musical intentions are crystal clearthroughout and her free and bright sound iswell supported by the fine production valuesof the disc.The Toronto-born violinist JonathanSwartz was educated at Rice University andMannes College, and teaches at ArizonaState University, where he is active as asoloist and chamber musician. His cleverlytitledCD Suite Inspiration is filled withdance movements for solo violin by JohannGeorg Pisendel, J.S. Bach and the Canadiancomposer Kieren MacMillan. Followinga chronological order, Swartz begins thedisc with the weakest piece, unfortunately.Though it is given a convincing performance,Pisendel’s A Minor Sonata doesn’t haveenough interest to either move or entertain.The highlight of the program is MacMillan’sSuite No.1 and intriguing Chaconne,which — with its hypnotic, circular patterns— provides a trance-inducing, deeplysatisfying conclusion to Swartz’s program.Both Nosky’s and Swartz’s performancesof Bach’s works are brave and thoughtful.My fondest wish for both players – if it’s nottoo corny to say — is that they keep searchingtheir hearts for ever deeper ways tobring this music across, and that they keeprevisiting this repertoire, as I know they will,throughout their careers. There is a delicioussense of abandon in Nosky’s live playing thatis captured thankfully in spades, in her recordingof the E Major Partita, especially inthe outer movements. Swartz’s performanceof the D Minor Partita, with the biblicallyproportionedfinal Chaconne, is a little morereserved and careful and is at times marredby questionable ornamentation choices.These are two welcome additions to anyviolin-lover’s collection. Bravo to both playersfor commissioning new works fromexcellent, imaginative composers and forsharing their musical “voices” so generously.—Larry BeckwithChopin Recital 2Janina FialkowskaATMA ACD2 2666Chopin – Volume 2Louis LortieChandos CHAN 10714Two artists, each presenting a second instalmentin their Chopin discography, inviteus to ponder their muse through the musicof Chopin.While both Louis Lortie and JaninaFialkowska record on Steinway pianos, theirsound is remarkably different. The Lortie/May 1 – June 7, 2012thewholenote.com 63

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