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Volume 17 Issue 9 - June 2012

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ers who reveal whythat

ers who reveal whythat neglect cannotbe justified.Stile antico risesto the sumptuousdemands of ThomasTomkins’ O praisethe Lord with its12-part texturereminding us of polyphony’s own past glories.Immediately afterwards Fretwork makeits instrumental presence felt through itsexperienced viol-playing in O ye little flockby the all-but forgotten John Amner. Indeed,on occasions the deep, hollow resonance ofFretwork’s playing makes one almost forgetthat viols are the only instruments involved:listen to Robert Parsons’ second In Nomine.Then there are the hymns that give the lieto the myth that England was a Protestantcountry at ease with its spirituality. ThomasCampion’s Never weather-beaten sail mayindeed be a prayer of relief for those survivinga voyage. It may also be a prayer of reliefby the Catholic Campion for his own survivalin an age when his namesake Saint EdmundCampion died a cruel death for his faith.That death, in fact, is the subject of a song byWilliam Byrd on this very CD.Although some might say this collection ismelancholic, divine and spiritually upliftingare the fitting adjectives.—Michael SchwartzLawes – The Royal ConsortsLes Voix HumainesATMA ACD2 2373!!England’s CivilWar claimed the lifeof William Lawes in1645. Charles I, towhom Lawes wasextremely loyal, describedhim as “theFather of Music.” Theten Royall Consortsdate from the early 1630s, but were still beingplayed from hand-written scores in 1680.All ten are performed here by the seeminglylimited combination of violin, viola dagamba and theorbo. And yet from the firstnotes it is clear that we are to be treated tocompositions that display the versatile capabilitiesof these same instruments. The twoFantazies alone prove this.In fact, the clear majority of the movementsin the consorts are named after thestylized dance movements of the Baroque.The pieces here would hold their own amongany contemporary baroque entertainment.Take, for example, the spirited violin playingin the Alman, Corant and Saraband that concludeConsort 10.Lawes even includes a galliard and sixpavans in the Royall Consorts; perhaps he orhis clients felt nostalgia for the best-knownrenaissance dances. The delicate pavan at thestart of Consort 9 tests all the musicians.Overall, Lawes’ music challenges the ideathat England’s Golden Age of Music endedin 1620; surely he would have greatly influencedthe course of 17th century Englishmusic had he lived?—Michael Schwartzclassical & beyondRachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.4Alain Lefèvre; Orchestre symphonique deMontréal; Kent NaganoAnalekta AN 2 9288!!This concerto isat once a reminderof Rachmaninov’sconsistent and recognizablemusicallanguage. The styleof lush orchestralwashes ledby strings againstbroad piano chords reminds the listener offamiliar passages in the previous concertos.There is, however, a new element of modernityin this work that for Rachmaninov seemsto have been a long time in coming.Pianist Alain Lefèvre is a powerful player.At the keyboard he creates the kind ofLisztian fear that instruments must surelyhave when they’re about to be shaken to thecore. He is an exemplar of the player thatthe Rachmaninov Fourth needs. Nothingless will do. Lefèvre and Nagano explodeout of the starting gate with so much energythat it’s tempting to think your CD playerhas started the final movement by mistake.They make the perfect team required tonavigate Rachmaninov’s new polyrhythmsstrewn throughout the work. They embracethe numerous harmonic collisions withoutreservation and offer a highly charged performancethat sets the heart racing. In all,this performance can actually be a little disturbingfor anyone unaccustomed to hearingRachmaninov’s dark side so eloquently referencedhere by Lefèvre and Nagano.By contrast, and a well-programmedone it is, Scriabin’s Prometheus draws theOSM into repertoire it does so well. Whileof the same generation, Scriabin turnsRachmaninov’s flirtations with modernisminto a full nuptial embrace. It’s all here, theFrench school of the early 20th century excitedwith rich colours on broad canvas andusing every potential offered by the piano togild the orchestral palette.—Alex BaranBerlioz – Symphonie FantastiqueOrchestre de la Francophonie;Jean-Philippe TremblayAnalekta AN 2 9998!!To my mind, there are few major orchestralworks that embody the spirit of earlyromanticism better than the SymphonieFantastique by Hector Berlioz. Completedin 1830, this monumentalwork wassubtitled “Episode inthe Life of an Artist,”and tells of a lovesickyoung musicianwho attempts topoison himself withopium. The drugdoesn’t prove strong enough to cause death,but instead, only creates fantastic visions, allof which are glowingly portrayed throughoutthe symphony. And who better to interpretthis myriad of ever-contrasting moodsthan the Orchestre de la Francophonie underthe direction of Jean-Philippe Tremblay onthis new Analekta recording? The Ottawaand-Montreal-basedensemble was foundedin 2001, and since then has gone on to earnan enviable reputation as one of NorthAmerica’s most vibrant youth orchestras.I’ve asked the question, “Do French musiciansbest interpret French music?” before,and the question is still open to debate.Nevertheless, in this case it certainly doesn’thurt, for the OF’s performance is splendid.From the cautious and hesitant mood ofthe opening measures, Tremblay demonstratesa full command of the score, coaxinga warm and expressive sound from the orchestra.We can truly feel the despair of thelove-stricken young man! The second movementfinds our hero at a ball, and the musicis appropriately light and graceful. Followingthe placid “Scene in the Meadows” comes thesinister “March to the Scaffold,” where thetalents of the wind and brass sections of theOF are shown to full effect. The exuberant finale— “Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath” —is all atonce grotesque, exhilarating and terrifying.Here, the OF “pulls out all the stops,” bringingthe mad frenzy to a rousing conclusion.This is indeed an exemplary interpretationof a musical landmark —felicitations to Jean-Philippe Tremblay and the OF. Hector wouldsurely have approved!—Richard HaskellMusic is the Language of the Heart andSoul: Mahler – Symphony No.2Ricarda Merbeth; Bernarda Fink;Netherlands Radio Choir; RoyalConcertgebouw Orchestra; Mariss JansonsCmajor 709708Mahler – Symphony No.2Christiane Oelze; Sarah Connolly; MDRRundfunkchor; BerlinerRundfunkchor; GewandhausChor;Gewandhaus Orchestra, Leipzig;Riccardo ChaillyAccentus Music ACC10238! ! The above Blu-ray sets enter a well-populatedcommunity of commendable recordedperformances that stretch back to c.1923when Oskar Fried, who had conducted thepremier performance in 1905 and to whomMahler had conveyed all he should knowabout the work, conducted it for Polydor.62 thewholenote.com June 1 – July 7, 2012

Balancing orchestra,soloists and choirwas a monumentalundertaking in theacoustic era andone wonders howmany sets theyhad hoped to sell,particularly whenMahler’s workswere not as deeplyadmired then. ThatPolydor not-foraudiophilesrecordingis available on a2-CD set from Pearl(CDS 9929).Each of thesenew videos presents a performance thatwill satisfy the most ardent and jaded critic.Both orchestras are at home with the scoreand the soloists in each are well-matched.Of course, the vocal mavens may have theirpersonal opinions about the choice of soloistsbut, to these ears, there are no good reasonsfor any petty or insignificant objections.There are no complaints about the state-ofthe-artvideo production in either versionand the audio is equally matched in presenceand detail.I watched the Jansons first and heard avery romantic performance, indicating thatthe conductor is comfortable with the scoreand views the work as belonging to its pastand not as a portent of things to come.I may not have felt this so acutely had Inot, soon after, played the Chailly version.There is a real sense of hearing somethingnew and exciting …from unexpected, subtleinstrumental inflections and phrasing tothe just perceptible spaces between phrases.The musicians are caught up in the excitementand significance of their parts, oftenplaying like they have their feet in ice-water.The last movement and the closing pages aredevastating. Repeated viewings have notdampened my enthusiasm for the Chailly inany way.The Concertgebouw disc includes a 50+minute videography of Jansons entitledMusic is the Language of the Heart andSoul. There is a companion Blu-ray disc ofthe Eighth Symphony from the 2011 MahlerFestival in Leipzig that I have put off playinguntil the “right” time.—Bruce SurteesStill SoundBruce LevingstonSono Luminus DSL-92148!!Exquisite coloursand haunting cadenceshighlightthe remarkable soloperformances ofAmerican pianistBruce Levingston inStill Sound.Levingston ispowerful in his well thought out performancesof Chopin, Satie and Schubert. He hasa firm grasp of technique and style here.However, he is most striking when performingmore contemporary works. ArvoPärt’s popular Für Alina and Variationenzur Gesundung von Arinuschka are breathtakingin their bell-like charm and quality ofattention to the spaces between the notes.Levingston is also a champion of Americancomposers. Augusta Gross is a fine composerin the contemporary American style andis featured in five tracks. Memorable is herpolyphonic writing in Reflections on Airwhich is intricately captured by Levingston’sTime Transcending (Oehms Classics OC832) is the first solo recital disc of theAustralian-born violinist Daniel Dodds,and it’s quite stunning. The works rangefrom Bach through Paganini, Ysaÿe andErnst to 20th century works by Rochberg,Berio, Bram and Messiaen. You’llfind better —or, at least, morenuanced —versions of the greatChaconne from Bach’s Partita inD Minor, but you’d be hardpushed to find anything anywhereto match the playing onthe rest of the CD. There are terrificperformances of Ysaÿe’sSonata No.3, Ballade, and LucianoBerio’s Sequenza VIII from 1976, followed bya stunning Caprice No.24 fromthe Paganini Op.1. The Americancomposer George Rochberg published50 Caprice Variations onthis particular piece in 1970, and12 of them are here, played with aquite startling range of tone, colourand special effects. The EtudeVI by H. W. Ernst is his famous1864 set of variations on The LastRose of Summer, and a work ofalmost ridiculous technicaldifficulty —but apparently notfor Daniel Dodds.The phenomenal playingcontinues in Swiss composerThuring Bram’s Uhrwerk(Clockwork), written in 1976;Dodds is called on to play a dazzlingarray of effects — thumps,harmonics, bow scrapings, left-hand pizzicatoand more —in an engrossing piece thattreats the violin, in the composer’s words, as“a sophisticated percussion instrument.”Dodds is joined by pianist TomaszTrzebiatowski for the final track, Messiaen’sLouange a l’immortalité de Jesus, the finalmovement from his Quatuor pour le fin dutemps. The beautifully sustained long, highgentle performance. William Bolcom’s NewYork Lights is a solo piano version basedon an aria from his opera A View from theBridge. Bolcom’s clever use of a multitudeof American musical styles makes this anaccessible yet modern work. Unfortunately,Levingston is suddenly a bit too bangy andpercussive in the climatic, louder section,though he retreats back to his mature musicaltouch for the end of the work.Levingston is to be applauded for hischoice of programming. This is a collectionof reflective, personal music with which toenjoy, contemplate and unwind.—Tiina KiikStrings AttachedTERRY ROBBINSmelodic line brings a breathtaking CD to aserene close.We’re not exactly overwhelmed with violaconcertos, so I was delighted to receive thelatest CD by the marvellous young Americanviolist David Aaron Carpenter, whichfeatures world premiere recordingsof three Viola Concertos byJoseph Martin Kraus (ONDINEODE 1193-2). Kraus, a Germancomposer who spent most ofhis working life in Sweden,was an exact contemporary ofMozart, born in the same yearand dying just 12 months afterMozart’s death. Until just a few years ago,however, these works were mistakenly attributedto his friend and compatriot,Roman Hoffstetter.There are two solo concertos,in e-flat major and c major,and a double concerto for violaand cello (although really violawith cello obbligato) in whichCarpenter is joined by RiittaPesola. All three works wereprobably written around thetime that Kraus moved to Swedenin 1778; not surprisingly, thereare stylistic similarities withboth Mozart and Haydn — who,apparently, named Mozart andKraus as the only two geniuseshe knew —but all three worksare full of melodic and harmonicsurprises.Carpenter’s playing is superb: warm andrich across the entire range, and wonderfullyexpressive. He also directs the TapiolaSinfonietta, an orchestra which has theViennese music of this period as part of itscore repertoire as is clear from their perfectly-judgedaccompaniment.The Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang, whois currently based in the UK, presents herown transcriptions and arrangements ofJune 1 – July 7, 2012thewholenote.com 63

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