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Volume 17 Issue 8 - May 2012

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Chandos recording is

Chandos recording is dark, more heavilypedaled and given more room. Whetherthis darker tone is the result of instrumentvoicing or recording equalization is unclear.But the contrast to Fialkowska’s brighter,more present sound lays the groundwork forappreciating the difference between thesetwo pianists.Fialkowska is quick, articulate and generouswith interpretive variations in her tempi.The impression her playing gives is of anartist revelling in the energy of Chopin’spianistic dance forms. Her command of thiscomposer’s language leaves no doubt abouther convictions to follow Chopin throughthe turmoil of cascading note clusters andthe depths of melancholic harmonies. Herplaying gives the impression that she feelsquite “in-charge” of this material but neversurrenders herself entirely to the seductionof Chopin’s voice. Still, she performs verymuch from “inside” the music.Lortie is no less an interpreter or technician.He is adept at fluidity of phrasing andcoaxing Chopin’smenacing growlsto emerge from thepiano’s bass register.He favours a moreweighty approachthat blends keyboardarticulationinto longer ideas.Somehow, Lortieintroduces a strongerelement of mysteryinto this same music.We recognize thecomposer and hislanguage but seehim in less definiteterms, with moreunanswered questions.The two recordings present differentrepertoire with Fialkowska playing waltzes,polonaises and mazurkas, along with thelarger F Minor Fantaisie and the B-FlatMinor Scherzo. Lortie, by contrast, givesus nocturnes, ballades, the Berceuse andBarcarolle. Both, however, perform theBallade No.2 in F Major Op.38 and here wefind ground for a revealing comparison.What appears to distinguish these twoextraordinary artists is the extent to whichthey pull back the curtain to reveal Chopin.The opening ideas of the ballade are shortand tender, supported by simple but artfulharmonies that return as a coda to closethe work. Between them lies a bombasticand turbulent middle section that demandsbreathtaking technique.Fialkowska is ready to expose both theexplosive and the deeply intimate by pushingthe piano to its technical limits frommassive volume to notes that are barelyplayed. It’s an all-or-nothing approach withimmediate impact. Lortie, by contrast, keepsback from the brink and doesn’t take us allthe way to where we know the emotionaljourney must surely go. This distance ofuntraveled emotion may be the key to themystique in Lortie’s art — the power of unfulfilledexpectation.Both these artists command completeattention. Their interpretations are matureand eminently credible. Which of thesea listener favours may depend merelyupon the mood of the moment. Any seriousChopin collector should own both ofthese recordings.—Alex BaranLegendsCaroline Léonardelli; Matthew LarkinCentaur Records CEN1110Now here’s somethingyou don’t comeacross every day:an album of musicfor harp and organ.Harpist CarolineLéonardelli joinsorganist MatthewLarkin in a singularrecital of celestial sounds from the post-Romanticera. The music of Marcel Grandjany,doyen of the French harp school in NorthAmerica, opens the disc in an understatedfashion with his solemn and dignified Ariain Classic Style. Russia is represented bythe second movement from Glière’s HarpConcerto, a livelier work with some lovelyregistrations provided in the arrangement byMatthew Larkin. A heavyweight from Viennaincongruously appears in the form of theAdagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. I’msorry to say the balance of the instrumentshere is frankly a travesty. The overstatedharp part, copied verbatim from the orchestralversion in an unimaginative transcriptionby Joachim Dorfmüller, is not, and was nevermeant to be, a concerto! (Mahlerians mightcare to seek out David Biggs’ mind-blowingperformance of the complete symphony onthe Gloucester Cathedral organ.) Two extendedworks follow by the equally obscurecomposers Rudolf Zingel and Alfred Holy,both entitled Légende. Athematic and teemingwith arpeggios, they are well-nigh stylisticallyindistinguishable from each other. TheConcerto for Harp by the American LeoSowerby struck me as the most effective andimaginative work of the lot, providing numerousopportunities to demonstrate the registralvarieties of the organ of Christ ChurchCathedral in Ottawa.Mahler aside, the recording values aregenerally excellent and the artists are bothat the top of their game. The packaginghowever is infuriating, replete with confusinglayouts, virtually illegible Englishtranslations and no track timings. To addinsult to injury, the identity of the very wellmaintainedorgan is nowhere apparent untilone removes the disc from its spindle. Here’shoping Centaur gives the estimable Mr.Larkin his due in the future with a disc ofsolo organ music.—Daniel FoleyWagner en SuisseOrchestre Symphonique Bienne;Thomas RosnerATMA ACD2 2580Tribschen, theWagner villa inLucerne, is onthe cover of thissurprisingly beautifulcollection byATMA. I visitedthis house and itsbreathtaking surroundingsexactly 100 years after SiegfriedIdyll was first performed in its central staircaseas “Symphonic Birthday Gift” to hissoon-to-be second wife, Cosima von Bülow(December 25, 1870). Wagner’s Swiss exiledue to political reasons is so rich in significantevents, inspiration and compositionalscope that volumes could be written. Tristanund Isolde, Die Meistersinger, the completionof Siegfried will barely scratch thesurface …The original chamber version of SiegriedIdyll dreamily performed recreating theintimate acoustic properties of the house,suitably starts off the program. This is followedlater by Traume, an early study forthe phenomenal second act love duet, dedicatedto Mathilde Wesendonk, his Zurichbenefactor’s wife and object of Wagner’stempestuous love affair that inspired Tristanund Isolde. All this and much more is containedhere, lovingly played by the OrchestreSymphonique Bienne conducted by a youngand up and coming Thomas Rösner. Hisfresh inspiration breathes new soul intothese works.In stark contrast, Richard Strauss’ “sojournen Suisse” in 1946 was not really anexile, more like an escape from the defeat ofthe Third Reich (whose composer emeritushe was), looking for greener pastures and amore comfortable life. His Oboe Concertowritten, ironically, for an American GI oboistcertainly reflects his newfound peace.Much inspired by Mozart, Strauss, by thistime, abandoned his earlier, overheated post-Romantic, albeit masterful, style. Performedto perfection and virtuoso grace by LouisePellerin, it makes an appropriate close to thishighly recommendable new release.—Janos GardonyiDvořák – String Quartet No.13; CypressesCecilia String QuartetAnalekta AN 2 9892Dvořák’s StringQuartet No.13 in GMajor was writtentowards the end of1895, a particularlyhappy time in thecomposer’s life.Only a few monthsearlier, Dvořákhad returned from his second successful64 thewholenote.com May 1 – June 7, 2012

tour of the USA and was now back in thefamiliar landscape of his beloved Bohemia.Working from his country home in Vysoká,he completed the quartet in just four weeks,putting the final touches on it on ChristmasDay. The piece exudes contentment, and itsbuoyant spirit is clearly evident in this newAnalekta recording featuring the CeciliaString Quartet.Named for the patron saint of music,the Toronto-based ensemble formed whenall four members were studying at theUniversity of Toronto. The quartet wonthe Felix Galimir Chamber Music Awardin 2005, went on to win first prize at theBanff International Quartet Competitionin 2010 and has since made appearancesboth in Europe and North America. Thisis the Cecilia’s first recording in a series offour to be recorded for Analekta, and it’s agem! From the quartet’s sprightly openingmeasures, the ensemble achieves a wonderfulsense of balance throughout the finelyinterwoven counterpoint. The intonation isclear and precise, and there is none of themuddiness which can sometimes occur instring performance. The languorous linesof the Adagio result in a wonderful sound,while the Finale is treated with an arrestingenergy, the changes in mood and tempoadeptly handled.An added bonus on this disc is the setof Cypresses Op.152. These expressions ofyoung love initially began as songs, but werelater adapted for string quartet. Together,they contain a bevy of contrasting moods,from yearning and tender to anguished anddefiant. The Cecilia Quartet does them alljustice, playing with an assured elegance, asit does the set of Two Waltzes Op.54 whichrounds out this most satisfying recording.—Richard HaskellConcert Note: This year’s Felix GalimirPrize will be presented to Trio Danzka in aconcert at Walter Hall on Sunday May 13 at3pm. Trio Danzka will perform Beethoven’s“Ghost” trio and Schumann’s Piano Trio No.1in D Minor.FEELING LUCKY?THREE WAYS TO WINCDs, tickets and othermusical prizes courtesy ofThe WholeNote1. Join our mailing list byregistering atwww.thewholenote.com2. Like us on Facebook3. Follow us on TwitterStrings AttachedToronto’s Windermere String Quartetwas founded in 2005, but has onlyjust released its first CD, The GoldenAge of String Quartets, on Alison Melville’sPipistrelle label (pip0112). The ensemblebills itself as the Windermere String Quartet“on period instruments” and the players,violinists Rona Goldensher and ElizabethLoewen Andrews, violistAnthony Rapoport and cellistLaura Jones, all have extensiveexperience with leading periodinstrument ensembles.Their debut CD highlights theperiod at the heart of their repertoire,with Mozart’s Quartet inC Major K465, the “Dissonance,”Haydn’s Quartet in E-Flat MajorOp.33 No.2, “The Joke,” andBeethoven’s Quartet in CMinor Op.18 No.4.As you would expect, there isno overtly “romantic” approachto the playing here, but these areterrific interpretations, with fineensemble playing, great dynamicsand expression, excellent choicesof tempo, sensitivity in theMozart, a fine sense of humourin the Haydn and real passion inthe Beethoven.The recordings were made almosttwo years ago in St. Anne’sAnglican Church in Toronto,with the expert team of NorbertKraft and Bonnie Silver, and the ambience isspacious and reverberant.Period performances often display a sparsityof vibrato and a softness of attack thatcan make them sound somewhat flat and lifeless,and lacking in fullness and warmth — orat least, warmth the way we have come toexpect it. There is never any danger of thathere, though. These are period performancesthat blend life, spirit and soul with aperfectly-judged sensitivity for contemporarystyle and practice. It’s the perfect marriage,and hopefully we won’t have to wait toolong for further offspring to accompany thisexemplary debut disc.Two interesting CDs of early Italian stringquartets arrived recently, neither of whichturned out to be quite what I expected.TErrY ROBBINSLuigi Boccherini (1743–1805) is mostlyremembered for his famous Minuet, butalong with Haydn he was in at the birthof the string quartet form, writing closeto 100 quartets, almost always in groups ofsix, starting with his Op.2 in 1761. The sixString Quartets Op.8 from 1768 are featuredon a budget re-issue CD from the ItalianDYNAMic label in excellent 1994performances by the Quartettod’archi di Venezia (DM8027).Despite their brevity — thelongest quartet is only 14 minuteslong — and their limitedemotional range, this is in noway merely functional musicbut true part-writing that is bothwell-balanced and idiomatic.Niccolo Paganini wrote onlythree works in the quartetgenre, but despite their beingwritten some 50 years afterBoccherini’s there is virtuallyno part-writing; it’s almostall first violin solo withstring accompaniment. Perhapssurprisingly, this is not becausePaganini wanted to displayhis virtuosic technique: theyare, in fact, very much of theirtime. Paganini was a closefriend of Rossini, and themusic here — like Rossini’s — isessentially melodic, withno attempt at dialogue. TheString Quartets Nos.1–3 are charming andcompetent, but with no great depth, andreceive effortless performances by the AmatiEnsemble String Quartet on Brilliant Classics(94287). These quartets live or die on theskills of the first violin, and happily, Dutchviolinist Gil Sharon is more than up tothe task.Strings Attached continues at www.thewholenote.com with Robert Gibbsand Gusztav Fenyo’s Complete music forViolin and Piano by Eugene Goossens, TaiMurray’s recording of Ysaÿe’s solo sonatas,Volume II of the Pacifica Quartet’s SovietExperience and Volume III of Sarasate’sComplete Music for Violin and Piano withTianwa Yang and Markus Hadulla.thewholenote.comMay 1 – June 7, 2012thewholenote.com 65

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