8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 2 - October 2012

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DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDLast month when mentioning anew recording of Olivier Messiaen’sEt exspecto ressurectionem mortuorumI lamented the fact that, althoughadmittedly designed for very differentpurposes, the 1964 work lacked the exuberanceof the earlier TurangalîlaSymphony. I was very pleasedto find in a recent shipmentfrom Harmonia Mundi Canada,which distributes a number ofdistinguished European labels,a June 2011 recording of thatseminal work. Juanjo Mena conductsthe Bergen PhilharmonicOrchestra with Steven Osborne(piano) and Cynthia Millar(ondes Martenot) in a gloriouslyrambunctious performanceof the Turangalîla on Hyperion(CDA67816). Commissioned bySerge Koussevitsky for his BostonSymphony immediately after theSecond World War, Messiaentook several years to complete theten movement work. Althoughunmistakably Messiaen, thereare distinct hints of Gershwin inthe music, perhaps reflecting theAmerican nature of the commission.By the time of completionKoussevitsky was too frail to conductthe premiere and that dutyfell to his flamboyant protégéLeonard Bernstein. The pianistfor that December 2, 1949performance was Messiaen’sown protégé Yvonne Loriod whowould later become his secondwife and the ondes Martenot wasplayed by Ginette Martenot, sister ofthe inventor of that unique electronicinstrument. Yvonne Loriodand her sister Jeanne would laterbe featured in an RCA recordingof Turangalîla with the TorontoSymphony under the direction ofSeiji Ozawa with the composer’sparticipation. Recorded in 1967,the TSO LP was the first commercialrelease of the symphony and to thisday it is the benchmark against which allothers must be measured. In 1994 it was reissuedon CD as part of the RCA NEW BEST100 line, but only released in Japan. A decadelater it finally became available in the restof the world as RCA Victor Red Seal 59418and a quick check of the siteconfirms it is still available. But back to theissue at hand. This new recording capturesthe energy and excitement of the score in allits nuances. My only reservation is the overlyDAVID OLDSprominent placement of the ondes Martenotin the mix with its soaring (almost searing)textures just slightly over the top at times. Itdoes add to the exuberance though. All in all,a welcome addition to the discography.Last month I also mentionedlooking forward to the releaseof Vivian Fung’s Dreamscapes,the latest addition to the NaxosCanadian Classics line (8.573009),and I am pleased to report thatthe disc lives up to my expectations.I first encountered Fung’smusic in the mid-1990s in a concertwith Scott St. John and friends(including Marina Piccinini as Irecall) and later through recordingsby the Ying Quartet(Pizzicato) and Composers inthe Loft (Miniatures for clarinetand string quartet). Althoughrenowned for her writing for stringquartet — her second quartet wascommissioned by the ShanghaiQuartet for its 25th anniversaryseason and it has just beenannounced that she will composethe required work for the 11thBanff International String QuartetCompetition in 2013 — Fung’soeuvre ranges from solo, chamberand vocal to works for full orchestra.This new recording presents asort of middle ground, with violinand piano concertos written forthe Metropolis Ensemble, a largechamber orchestra based in NewYork, and Glimpses, a set ofthree works for prepared piano.This latter, performed by Conor Hanick,dates from 2006 and is the earliestof the works presented here(the violin concerto was completedin 2011). It marks a turningpoint in Fung’s development asthe Edmonton-born composerexpands the exploration of herAsian roots to encompass themusic of Indonesia. All three ofthe works presented here are based on gamelanmotifs and melodies giving the disc awonderful continuity. The most obvious connectionto Bali is the sound of the preparedpiano, John Cage’s invention that mimicsthe sounds of a percussion orchestra by placinga variety of objects between and uponthe strings of the piano. But the melodies borrowedand developed in the Violin Concertoand the Piano Concerto, ”Dreamscapes”which open and close the disc respectivelyare evocative of the exotic culture that hasbeen so attractive to Western composers sinceDebussy first heard a gamelan perform atthe Paris Exposition of 1889, and more particularlysince Canadian-born composerColin McPhee brought his wealth of researchand recordings of the music back to NorthAmerica in the 1930s. Like a number of composersbefore her Fung has taken inspirationfrom her own travels to Indonesia and trulymade this music her own.A triumvirate of Canadian soloists hasrecently joined forces under the banner TripleForte to record some early 20th centurygems from the piano trio literature. Ravel–Shostakovich–Ives: Piano Trios (ATMA ACD22633) features Jasper Wood (violin), YegorDyachkov (cello) and David Jalbert (piano),and what a team they make. Although Ravel’sTrio in A Minor, completed in 1914 after aprolonged gestation, has become a standardof the repertoire, the Shostakovich andIves trios are rarely heard. Unlike the fullydeveloped second trio from 1944 and themuch later Seven Romances (after poems byAlexander Blok) for soprano, violin, cello andpiano, Shostakovich’s brief Piano Trio No.1in C Minor was written as a student in 1923.The one movement work was Shostakovich’sfirst foray into the world of chamber music. Itis a poignant piece that reflects the loss of hisfather on the one hand and the splendour offirst love on the other. Although Shostakovichperformed the trio with two friends shortlyafter its completion, the score was actuallyleft unfinished and it was his student BorisTischenko who added the 22 missing barsof piano for the work’s posthumous publication.Like Ravel’s, Charles Ives’ Trio forViolin, Cello and Piano is a full length workthat was a long time developing. Begun in1904, the composer worked on it over a periodof seven years. It bears all the hallmarksof Ives’ eclectic style with its interweavingof popular, patriotic and religious melodies.After the almost dirge-like moderato openingmovement, the scherzo — entitled TSIAJ [Thisscherzo is a joke] — bursts forth in a rollickingcombination of marches and joyous hymntunes which occasionally give way to quietstrains of What a Friend We Have in Jesus.The final movement juxtaposes a quasi-Wagnerianmelody that Ives had written in 1896with Rock of Ages and then with Ives’ playfulhumour incorporates popular songs treatedwith syncopated ragtime rhythms. While theplaying throughout this disc is exemplary, it isin the Ives, especially in the dense and oftenfrenzied scherzo, that the skills of these finemusicians are put to the test. They pass withflying colours!In February 2008 Finnish composerMagnus Lindberg visited Toronto to participatein concerts with the TSO and New MusicConcerts. In the latter, TSO assistant principalcellist David Hetherington performed a recentLindberg composition Konzertstück with thecomposer at the piano. A new Ondine releasesimply entitled Chamber Works (ODE 1199-2)64 October 1 – November 7, 2012

features this piece and three others whichall prominently showcase the cello andAnssi Karttunen who has worked closelywith Lindberg over the past three decades.They perform as a duo called DosCoyotes which is also the name of a hauntinglylyrical work that is the earliest onthis disc, dating from 1993 and revised in2002. Karttunen also performs the 2001Partia for solo cello, commissioned by theTurku Cello Competition. The notes tell usit is based on Bach’s partitas for solo violinrather than the cello suites in spite ofits six movement form and indeed thedance rhythms of the traditional suite aremissing in this more introspective work.Lindberg and Karttunen are joined by clarinettistKari Kriikku for a three movementTrio. Although perhaps best known for hislarge orchestral canvasses, Lindberg has astrong penchant for chamber music, bothas a composer and a performer, as this discaptly demonstrates.A few years back there was a local bassplayer named Eli Eisenberg who did somework at The WholeNote including a bitof jazz reviewing. I heard from him againrecently when he let me know he’d justreleased a CD called The Iceberg Project( featuringinstrumental music he composed,arranged, played and programmed. I mustsay it’s a treat. Funky, bright and bluesy,it’s a feel good situation from start to finish.I understand the title to be a pun onhis name, but I think the CD would bemore aptly called “The Boat Drinks Project”because it certainly would go well withone (or more) of those drinks with thelittle umbrellas. Definitely more reminiscentof the tropics than the North Sea. Themusic is jazz inflected and mainly Latin infeel. The instrumentation is mostly bassand guitar with programmed orchestrationswhich would normally leave me cold.But I must say that synthesis, or I guess it’smore likely sampling in this day and age,has come a long way and there are somevery sophisticated sounds here. Still, whenBill McBirnie plays the flute, as he does ona couple of tracks, the ear is still remindedthat acoustic instruments really do soundbest. Overall this is a disc that I’ve enjoyedimmensely since it arrived, especially duringthose otherwise oh-so-dreary morningexercise sessions.We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments should besent to: The WholeNote, 503–720 BathurstSt., Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourageyou to visit our website,, where you can find added featuresincluding direct links to performers, composersand record labels, and additional,expanded and archival reviews.— David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALLe Triomphe de l’amourSandrine Piau; Les Paladins;Jerome CorreasNaïve OP 30532!!The recorded repertoireof the sopranoSandrine Piau isextensive; it also coversa remarkably widefield, from Purcell andBiber in the 17th centuryto Frank Martinand Benjamin Brittenin the 20th. It is, however, as an interpreterof baroque music, both opera and oratorio,that Piau is best known and it is French baroqueopera, from Lully and Charpentier in the1680s to Sacchini in 1783, which forms thesubject matter of the disc under review.As the title suggests, the arias are all aboutlove: about desire, about jealousy, about grieffor the death of the beloved. Piau has an agileand expressive voice. She displays an impressivecoloratura in the disc’s opening aria fromGrétry’s L’amant jaloux and even more so inthe fearsome passage work of the extract fromSacchini’s Renaud. Her technique is, however,never offered for its own sake. This is bestheard in the sadness and the passion of thearia from Campra’s Idomenée and in the longsustained lines of the arias from Charpentier’sDavid et Jonathas and from two Rameauoperas: Les paladins and Les indes galantes.There are also several instrumental tracks; ofthese the dance sequence from Rameau’s Lesfêtes de Ramire is especially attractive.We can look forward to Piau’s appearancewith Tafelmusik early in the new year.Meanwhile we have this disc, which I recommendwith enthusiasm.—Hans de GrootSogno BaroccoAnne Sofie von Otter; Sandrine Piau;Ensemble Cappella Mediterranea;Leonardo Garcia AlarconNaïve V 5286!!The mezzo-sopranoAnne Sofie von Otterhas never been knownas an early musicsinger, in the limitingsense of that term,but she has sung insome very fine recordingsof early music.The CD under review is a very welcome additionto her repertoire: it both begins andends with Monteverdi; in between there ismusic by Cavalli, Rossi and Provenzale. Thefirst Monteverdi item is the solo madrigal,Si dolce è ‘l tormento, which has in the pastbeen recorded by other fine singers, notablyJanet Baker, Montserrat Figueras and PhilippeJaroussky, as well as by von Otter herself.There are two duets from L’incoranazionedi Poppaea, in which von Otter sings Neroto Sandrine Piau’s Poppaea, while the concludingpiece is Penelope’s great lament in Ilritorno di Ulisse in patria. Of especial interesttoo is Rossi’s lament by the Queen of Swedenon hearing the news of the death of her husbandGustavus Adolphus on the battlefield. Itis complemented by Provenzale’s parody ofthat lament.Von Otter is in great voice throughout therecording, which I recommend with enthusiasm.The three duets with Piau are especiallyfine. We shall be able to hear Piau in concertwith Tafelmusik in the new year; von Otterlast sang in Toronto in February 2011, but Iremember her from a much earlier occasion,when she did a fabulous recital at the GeorgeWeston Recital Hall. When shall we hearher again?—Hans de GrootMassenet – Don QuichotteJose Van Dam; Orchestre symphonique etchoeurs de la Monnaie; Marc MinkowskiNaïve DR 2147!!One of the lastoperas of JulesMassenet, a movingincarnation of an“impossible dream”and the inevitablereality of old age, iscelebrating its 100thanniversary, performedto perfection at the Royal OperaHouse of Belgium. A grand event attendedby the Queen who contributed to the showby financing four new young singers. It alsobecame a farewell performance for José vanDam, who dazzled the world in the title rolefor decades. He was also a vocal coach for theyoung singers; an inspirational figure indeed.As to what was involved to realize thismagnificent occasion there exists an excellentlong, exhaustive documentary. It showsthe almost superhuman painstaking effortsstep by step from the directorial concept, therehearsals, the building of the scenery withmillions of sheets of paper, the coaching ofthe choir and the tireless efforts of the youngassistant conductor. Finally the godlike arrivalof conductor Marc Minkowski and the mercurialpresence of le directeur, Laurent Pelly,whose enormous contribution this videoincreasingly demonstrates.Because of the very difficult task of copingwith a huge, episodic novel, the composerdecided to select a few key episodes, like theiconic windmill adventure and came up witha dramatically cohesive structure with oneof the most moving endings in opera. Josévan Dam is ideally suited for Don Quixote,a role originally written for Chaliapin. As aFrenchman would, Massenet expanded therole of the woman in the story into a sophisticated,tempestuous and beautiful femmefatale (Cervantes’ Dulcinea was never likethis!). The role is exquisitely sung and actedOctober 1 – November 7, 2012 65

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