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Volume 18 Issue 3 - November 2012

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  • November
  • Toronto
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  • Jazz
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of the most distinctive

of the most distinctive voices in the music ofour time.In brief: Toronto’s premiere MiddleEastern-South Asian fusion band Jaffa Roadhave just released Where the Light Gets In(JR0002 www.jaffaroad.com), a welcome follow-upto their 2009 release Sunplace. Thedistinctive vocals of Aviva Chernick, singingin English, Hebrew, French and Ladino,are complemented by multi-instrumentalistsAaron Lightstone, Chris Gartner, JeffWilson and Sundar Viswanathan playinga plethora of Western and Middle Easternplucked, blown and struck acoustic and electricinstruments. All share writing credits forthe bulk of the material, although one notableexception is Through the Mist of YourEyes by the group’s “friend and teacher YairDalal, a master Iraqi-Israeli musician wholives in Galilee.” The text is sung in Hebrewby Chernick and repeated in Arabic byguest artist Hazan Aaron Bensoussan. It isquite striking how different the same poemsounds in the two languages. All in all JaffaRoad’s creative blending of sacred and secularJewish songs, classical Arabic and Indianinfluences with a variety of Western musicalstyles makes them an innovative force on theToronto scene and Where the Light Gets In isa worthy testament to this.As noted in September’s issue, 2012 marksthe 80th anniversary of Glenn Gould’s birthand the 30th of his untimely death. Sonyseems determined to make every note thathe ever recorded available to us on compactdisc and the commemorative sets have begunarriving in volume. You’ll find Dianne Wells’take on his Richard Strauss recordings furtheron in this section but one set that I reservedfor myself is Glenn Gould plays Sonatas,Fantasies, Variations (88725413742), fourCDs that include a lot of music that doesn’tnecessarily come to mind when we think ofGlenn Gould. Of particular interest to me arethe Canadian composers included: IstvanAnhalt, Jacques Hétu, Oskar Morawetz andBarbara Pentland. The disc which includesthese pieces also features Alban Berg’s PianoSonata Op.1 and Ernst Krenek’s Sonata forPiano No.3, providing an interesting mix ofmodern Romantics and some spikier fare.Another disc is devoted to Russians AlexanderScriabin and Sergei Prokofiev while Finlandand Norway are represented on another withmusic of Sibelius and Edvard Grieg, a composerGould claimed to be related to throughhis maternal great-grandfather. Perhaps mostout of character is the inclusion of RobertSchumann’s Quartet for Piano, Violin, Violaand Cello with members of the JuilliardString Quartet. Although Gould did recordthe complete Hindemith brass sonataswith members of the Philidelphia BrassEnsemble and the Bach gamba sonatas withcellist Leonard Rose, there really isn’t muchin the way of chamber music in his discography,and as far as I know, no other musicof Schumann. This final disc also includesanother surprise — the Premiere Nocturneand Variations chromatiques de concertby Georges Bizet. While all of this materialhas been previously released over the years,it is an impressive list of rarities when collectedtogether in a set like this, providing atimely reminder of Gould’s eclecticism andinnate curiosity.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, thewholenote.com,where you can find added features includingdirect links to performers, composers andrecord labels, and additional, expanded andarchival reviews.VOCAL— David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comPrima DonnaKarina Gauvin; Arion Orchestre Baroque;Alexander WeimannATMA ACD2 2648!!The sopranoKarina Gauvin has anextensive recordedrepertoire whichranges from Purcellin the 17th century toBritten in the 20th,but it is the music ofHandel with whichshe is most closely associated. She has performedin the recording of three completeoperas (Alcina, Ezio and Ariodante) aswell as in a solo recital and a recording ofduets from Handel’s oratorios with Marie-Nicole Lemieux.The decision to centre a recording onone of Handel’s singers is not new. In 1996Harmonia Mundi brought out a collectionof four discs, each of which containedmusic composed by Handel for specific singers:the soprano Francesca Cuzzoni, themezzo Margherita Durastante, the castrato IlSenesino and the bass Antonio Montagnana.The disc under review is, however, the firstrecording to centre on Anna Maria Strada delPò. It contains six arias by Handel with theaddition of one piece by Vivaldi and anotherby Leonardo Vinci.There have in recent years been a numberof recorded anthologies of baroque arias,by Handel and by others, but this disc rankswith the best: Gauvin is equally at home withthe coruscating swiftness of “Scherza in Mar”(from Lotario) as with the sustained pathos of“Verdi piante” (from Orlando). For some yearsmuch music from the opere serie by Handeland Vivaldi has been available but it is good tosee that a not so well-known composer likeLeonardo Vinci is beginning to get his due.—Hans de GrootOpera Arias: Gluck; Haydn; MozartMarie-Nicole Lemieux; Les Violons du Roy;Bernard LabadieNaïve V5264!!Review is not theright word. This pieceof writing should bemore like an extendedand exalted praise fora childcare workerfrom Quebec turnedstar mezzo-sopranoof the highest calibre.Lemieux has distinguished herself timeand time again ever since her big win at the“Queen Elizabeth” in Belgium in 2000 andoffers began pouring in. And today she is stillyoung, only 37.Her most recent recording on the prestigiousFrench label, naïve, is an adventureinto the 18th century, the world of Mozart,Gluck and Haydn. For the average listener herselections of this repertoire, apart from a fewexceptions, will be mostly unknown, but letme assure you that same listener will becomea devotee by listening to them all.Lemieux immediately plunges into aspirited attack of early Mozart (“Mitridatedi Ponto”), a fiendishly difficult aria whereshe shows off some miraculous deep notesin full forte reminding me of the greatMarilyn Horne. This is followed by beautiful,lyrical, restrained piano singing from arather unknown Haydn opera (L’isola disabitata).Already a considerable feat, butmore surprises are coming. With Iphigenieen Aulide by Gluck she is in familiar, i.e.French, territory where she creates shockwavessinging Clytemnestra’s fire-eating ariawith fierce passion. There will be many moregreat moments by the time she finishes withHaydn’s “Sudo il guerriero,” another bravurashowstopper. To make things even better, andeven more Canadian, she is accompaniedby the world class Les Violons du Roi underBernard Labadie, a group I’ve had the privilegeof reviewing before in these pages. Anunconditionally excellent recommendation.—Janos GardonyiSchoenberg – Complete SongsClaudia Barainsky; Melanie Diener;Konrad Jarnot; Christa Mayer;Markus Schafer; Anke Vondung; Urs LiskaCapriccio 7120! ! A collection ofcomplete songs by onecomposer is a fascinatingobject. As muchof a record as it is akey to the composer’sdevelopment, it allowsthe listener to tracethe styles, fascinationswith different poets and composers, homages,pastiches and breakthrough moments. Whenthe composer is someone as misunderstoodand still controversial as Schoenberg, such a62 thewholenote.com November 1 – December 7, 2012

collection can be nothing short of a revelation.This 4-CD edition traces his involvementin lieder from the self-taught early fascinationwith Brahms, the “apprenticeship” underZemlinsky, the influence of Wagner, the pushtowards the “end of tonality” and finally, the1933 coda of the Three Songs, Op.48 — theonly dodecaphonic songs written by him andindeed, his last foray into the genre.Throughout his life, Schoenberg struggledfor acceptance of his new ideas aboutmusic, but for the most part his supporterswere his fellow composers. Zemlinsky,Mahler and Schoenberg’s students, Webernand Berg, were his greatest proponents. Thegeneral public remained indifferent and attimes hostile to his ideas and music. This collectionreveals a composer who at times wasas poignant and romantic as Schubert, asdramatic as Brahms and as tuned to humanemotions as Mahler. What helps are twoartistic choices: firstly, all of the songs arepresented with piano-only accompaniment,even the Gurrelieder, better known in theirlater orchestral renditions. The second choiceis equally fortuitous: one great pianist, UrsLiska, and six diverse, but equally talentedsingers. This edition is a must-have in anymusic lover’s library.—Robert TomasJanetHelen PridmoreCentrediscs CMCCD 17512!!This is an albumof works created forand performed by theBritish-born, NovaScotia resident, singerand teacher HelenPridmore. Its greatstrength is a closerthan usual collaborationbetween an extraordinary performer andher chosen composers.In Emily Doolittle’s Social Sounds FromWhales at Night, we are often unsure whereactual recordings of humpback whales endand Helen Pridmore’s vocalism begins — aneloquent and effective way to deliver thiswork’s message of the seamless continuitybetween life forms on Earth. The humpback’ssongs (or calls or conversations) translatedinto human vocal music provide Pridmorewith the opportunity to display her veryaccurate microtonal ear.Martin Arnold’s Janet is built of shortphrases that are electronically “gated” so that,as Pridmore sings, we hear all the piece’selements — two vocal tracks plus banjo andelectric guitar along with ambient environmentalsounds — at the same time. But whenshe pauses, all sounds pause with her. Themelodies — vaguely modal-sounding toreflect the Scottish ballad which inspiredthis piece — eventually turn on themselves toprovide passages of effortless-sounding dissonance,while a long and clear downwardmelodic drift ensures formal cohesion. Thebanjo’s timbre brings a certain hominess tothe music which was recorded, in fact, in severalrooms of Pridmore’s home.Another striking piece on this recording isIan Crutchley’s Helen Pridmore Sings, andSings and Sings! wherein the soloist is invitedto perform fragments of a broad and deliberatelybewildering variety of songs and stylesfrom Handel to Marlene Dietrich to the themefrom (70s TV series) Happy Days and evenfrom Emily Doolittle’s composition on thissame album.Clearly, the composers have all beenattracted to Pridmore’s unique skill set andmanner of working. The resulting music takesfull advantage of her attractive and flexiblevoice, impressively extended technical andstylistic range and — perhaps most importantof all — adventuresome spirit.—Nic GothamGlenn Gould plays StraussGlenn Gould; Elizabeth Schwartzkopf;Claude RainsSony 88725413702Richard Strauss: SongsFelicity Lott; Graham JohnsonChamps Hill Records CHRCD037Richard Strauss: Three Hymns; Opera ariasSoile Isokoski; Helsinki Philharmonic;Okko KamuOndine ODE 1202-2!!Glenn Gouldwas an enthusiasticadvocate ofRichard Strauss, asexpressed in performances,writings,lectures and documentaries,but justa handful of recordings.The Sony 2-discset Glenn Gould PlaysStrauss features therare and unique performanceshe choseto record. As he onceexpressed surprisethat so few concertpianists performedthe Piano Sonata in BMinor, Op.5, it seemsfitting that this wasthe very last workthat Gould recordedbefore his death. Thesonata, and the FivePieces, Op.3 featuredon this recording, were romantic, nostalgicworks of Strauss’ youth, and Gould’s playingmasterfully enhances by turn all the inherentinnocence, angst, rapture and exuberance.Included in this collection is Gould’s firstStrauss recording of an obscure melodramabased on a blank verse poem by Tennyson.Enoch Arden, a romantic triangle resulting ina mariner’s unhappy loss, is narrated by actorClaude Rains with Gould on piano deftly andsensitively interpreting the orchestral score.Equally fascinating is the uneasy collaborationin 1966 with Elisabeth Schwarzkopfon the Ophelia Lieder, Op.67. In addition todealing with an overheated studio with airfar too dry for singing, the famed sopranowas forced to comply with Gould’s insistenceon improvising the accompaniment.Nevertheless, she soldiered on, producing anexquisite performance in which she imbuesthe madness of Ophelia with a tremulous,eerie quality that never diminishes her richtonal palette.In Richard Strauss: Songs, recorded in2003 and just rereleased by Champs Hill, sopranoFelicity Lott includes no less than 26Strauss lieder, also including a marvellousand dramatic performance of the Opheliasongs, with piano accompaniment (superblyunadulterated) by pianist Graham Johnson.This and the other repertoire presented asa program divided into five thematic sections,seems a virtual tribute to Strauss’ wifePauline de Ahma. Married in 1894, Strauss’wedding gift to his bride was the four Op.27songs, and these as well as many of the othersincluded on this CD were written for her. Thecouple gave many recitals together until sheretired from singing in 1906, after which hertemperamental and fiery nature continuedto be an inspiration for the female charactersin his operas. Through emotive colouringand smooth sensuality, Lott artfully navigatesthe difficult terrain offered by this demandingand breath-defying repertoire.For our third Strauss selection, we move toorchestral accompanied songs: Three Hymns/Opera Arias featuring another expert Straussinterpreter, Finnish soprano Soile Isokoskiwhose powerful and luminous voice soarsover the Helsinki Philharmonic in excerptsfrom Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Rosenkavalierand Capriccio. Although the Three Hymns,Op.71 is a work rarely recorded because ofits almost excessive demands for the soloist,Isokoski clearly has the fortitude to carry off abrilliant performance.It might be mentioned at this point that allthree of our featured sopranos recorded theseworks in their 50s. It makes me wonder if alifetime of experience is a requirement for theeffective interpretation of and stamina to executethe highly emotive and electrifying songsof this composer.—Dianne WellsEARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCEMusic from the Eton ChoirbookTonus PeregrinusNaxos 8.572840!!The Eton College Choirbook is one ofpre-Reformation England’s greatest glories.English composers rejoiced in their settingsof music that were as joyful as the architecturein which they were performed was lofty.The Choirbook required the skins of “112November 1 – December 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 63

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