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Volume 19 Issue 1 - September 2013

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“sensuously beautiful

“sensuously beautiful in the most refined andfastidiously decorous way, but thoughtless.”Shaw was willing to set Elijah next to the“seraphic,” not religious, music of Gounodbut could not find more in it than “exquisiteprettiness.” Parsifal, Die Zauberflöte,Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the best ofBach and Handel were adduced as contrasts.In recent years interest in Elijah has revived(there are now 25 recordings available), aslisteners have begun to consider the workon its own merits, not as a pale imitation ofHandel’s oratorios or Bach’s Passions.The CDs under review constitute are-release; the music was recorded in 1994and the discs were first released soon afterwards.There is stiff competition from twoearlier recordings, which both date from1968: the Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (avery dramatic reading with Janet Bakersuperb in the alto arias) and the WolfgangSawallisch (with Elly Ameling, Peter Schreierand Theo Adam as Elias). It stands up well,both because of Rilling’s conducting andthe quality of the singing. The soloists areChristine Schäfer, soprano, Cornelia Kallisch,alto, Michael Schade, tenor, and baritoneWolfgang Schöne as Elias.—Hans de GrootTutto Verdi – Un ballo in mascheraFrancesco Meli; Vladimir Stoyanov;Kristin Lewis; Elisabetta Fiorillo;Serena Gamberoni; Teatro Regio di Parma;Gianluigi GelmettiCmajor 724208!!By age 46 theworld famous Verdihad many triumphsbehind him, butall was not smoothsailing. His opera onthe subject of regicidewas strenuouslyobjected toby the Neapolitancensors and he simplycancelled in disgust.Verdi was taken tocourt, but went to Rome instead; changedthe setting and the protagonist to a mereGovernor in remote colonial North Americaand thus the opera, Un ballo in maschera waspremiered and succeeded.This is a wonderful performance, oneof the finest in this Tutto Verdi series ofthe complete operas. Conductor GianluigiGelmetti is an unlikely looking gentleman atfirst glance but at his first wave of the batonone realizes he is a master. His upbeat tempihave a big sweep that gives the opera the brillianceVerdi intended. The tenor, FrancescoMeli (Riccardo), is a young fresh voice,powerful and sensitive; the baritone, VladimirStoyanov is beginning to take over fromthe venerable Nucci in the series. His voiceis powerful, well shaded, his acting puts amenace into his Renato and we commiseratewith his agony of being a betrayed husband.Serena Gamberoni’s Oscar is a delight — astunning beauty, her voice supple and flexible,she moves like a real opera star! AnAmerican from Arkansas, Kristin Lewis is apassionate Amelia with power, secure in hertop notes. Elisabetta Fiorillo (Ulrica), an oldtimernow with an alto range, makes a strongimpression as the wise and not at all wickedsoothsayer.About the scenery: it’s simply eye-poppingand stunning, with grandiose highly artisticarchitecture, monumental creations andgorgeous colouring.—Janos GardonyiEditor’s Note: Next month’s WholeNote willfeature an extended article by Janos Gardonyiin honour of the bicentennial of Verdi’s birthon October 10, 1813.George Benjamin – Written on SkinBarbara Hannigan; Bejun Mehta;Chrisopher Purves; Rebecca Jo Loeb;Allan Clayton; Pierre-Laurent Aimard;Mahler Chamber Orchestra;George BenjaminNimbus Records NI 5885/6!!Written on Skinwas a hit right fromthe first performancesat the 2012 Aix-en-Provence festival,where this recordingwas made. The hardhittinglibretto byBritish playwrightMartin Crimp involves murder, cannibalismand suicide, while the riveting score by fellowBrit George Benjamin includes some of themost sexually charged passages in opera sinceShostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.Yet the action unfolds subtly, in a series ofintimate conversations, while the diaphanousmusic, with its silky colours and angulartextures, avoids sensationalism altogether.Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigandazzles as the passionately defiant Agnès. Herhusband, the oily, malevolent Protector, ismasterfully portrayed by baritone ChristopherPurves. Counter-tenor Bejun Mehta isthrilling as the Boy, an itinerant artist.Though the story is set in the MiddleAges, characters occasionally step into thepresent to “snap the dead back to life.” Sothe Boy imagines how a forest where he istaking refuge will be covered by “eight lanesof poured concrete” in a thousand years.Moments like these resonate powerfully. Lesseffective is when the characters slip into thethird person to narrate their own story, or,especially, when the Boy turns up as one of thebusybody 21st century angels. Their chillingpresence may be provocative as a poeticdevice, but it does interfere with the drama.A bonus, Benjamin’s imaginative Duet forpiano and orchestra, featuring pianist wizardPierre-Laurent Aimard, adds to the manyreasons to enjoy this terrific recording.—Pamela MarglesLa Voix Nue – Songs for UnaccompaniedVoice by Living ComposersPatricia GreenBlue Griffin Records!!An entire disc ofunaccompanied vocalworks is a courageousundertaking for asinger, as the selectionand performanceof repertoire as well asits pacing and placementmust engagethe listener from start to finish. In addition,the singer must execute absolute precisionof pitch while effectively conveying dramaticcontent. The beautiful, rich, warm tone ofPatricia Green’s voice, combined with herdramatic sensibilities and skilful musicianship,is perfect for this collection of songsby living composers. These pieces, thoughmodern, for the most part draw on historicalmaterial with texts from Shakespeare,Norwegian history, Ovid, Native legend,5th-6th century aphorisms and surrealistFrench poetry.As a committed performer of new music,Green is highly attuned to the intention ofcomposers and respectfully steps out of thestudio to delightfully make an exception toher solitude, allowing the accompanimentof birdsong for the excerpt from R. MurraySchafer’s Princess of the Stars. Another interestingand iconic work, King Harald’s Sagaby Scottish composer Judith Weir, highlightsGreen’s dramatic flare, featuring a mixtureof narrative and interchanging roles, each ofwhich is given its own characteristic voice.Hillary Tann’s dramatic song cycle Arachne,in which an apprentice weaver takes ahaughty stance with her teacher Athene andpays dearly for it, gives Green yet anotheropportunity to characterize more than onevoice. The same again for Jonathan Dove’ssetting of Shakespeare’s Tempest verses inAriel. A couple of eclectic cycles by JoséEvangelista and György Kurtág provide thesinger a chance to exhibit a light and playfulair, most charming indeed.—Dianne WellsCLASSICAL & BEYONDO’Riley’s LisztChristopher O’RileyOxingale! ! This wonderful pairof CDs is the perfectchoice for avid loversof the piano and itsorchestral sound.The Lisztian virtuosicexcess is like havinga meal of rich overwhelmingtextures62 | September 1 – October 7, 2013

and layers of scintillating colours. ChristopherO’Riley has astounding technique andcontrol, as well as a creative and wild imagination.Those skills make these Liszt transcriptionsa sumptuous and sensual listeningexperience.I enjoyed his programming on the firstCD. He paired two mammoth showpieces,alternating them with sensitive song transcriptions.He began with the extremelydifficult transcription of Mozart’s DonJuan Fantasy, which Moritz Rosenthal hadperformed to impress Brahms. Schumann/Liszt’s Fruhlingsnacht followed in a tenderand gentle interpretation. This was a breathof calm before the stormy and tragic Tristanund Isolde by Wagner/Liszt/Moskowski andO’Riley, who added a vocal line near the endof the piece and managed to make his fingerssing throughout this opera for the piano.He concludes the first CD with Schubert’sFruhlingslaube. His emotional response to themusic is refreshing and his musicality subtle.The second CD is Liszt’s transcription of theBerlioz Symphonie fantastique. In his excellentprogram notes, Ethan Iverson quotesCharles Halle who said that Liszt played hispiano version “with an effect even surpassingthat of a full orchestra and creating anindescribable furor.” O’Riley displays his owngargantuan keyboard skills in this incredibleperformance. I didn’t miss the orchestra atall and O’Riley made the piano thunder andsing in washes of orchestral sound. Dreamof a Witches’ Sabbath was monumental anddevilish. These CDs are highly recommended.—Christina Petrowska QuilicoEditor’s Note: O’Riley’s Liszt is also availableon a Blu-Ray video disc which includesa special feature The Bells of Berlioz withartist’s commentary (Oxingale OX2021).Koechlin; Schmitt; Rivier; Cartan;Bozza Duo (Jean-Guy Boisvert;Christiane Laflamme)ATMA ACD2 2679!!Moncton-basedclarinettist Jean-GuyBoisvert’s latestproject on the ATMAlabel brings togethercolleagues ChristianeLaflamme (flute)and Jean-Willy Kunz(keyboards) fromthe Université de Montréal in an extendedprogram of relatively unknown Frenchminiatures from the margins of the 20thcentury wind repertoire, including severalworld premiere recordings. The 27 tracksare united by the recurring presence of thegreat Alsatian master Charles Koechlin, whois represented by 14 tracks interspersed withcompositions by his contemporaries.The best known of these fellow travellersis Florent Schmitt, represented here by thedelightfully quirky modulations of his 1935Sonatine for flute, clarinet and harpsichord.Also of note is the intriguing 1967 Duo forflute and clarinet by Jean Rivier, the slowmovement of which is the only example thatbriefly flirts with the serial techniques of the1960s. A series of duets by the short-livedJean Cartan and the woodwind doyen EugèneBozza fill out the guest list.Koechlin is represented by the selfconsciouslyantiquarian Sonatine modaleand similarly conceived Motets de stylearchaïque duets along with six excerpts fromhis Monodies for solo clarinet. An exampleof Koechlin’s unique harmonic palette isbriefly represented by his Pastorale for flute,At the time of writing, the outstandingToronto double bassist and former TSOprincipal Joel Quarringtonis about to take up his newposition as principal bassist ofthe London Symphony Orchestra.His latest CD with pianist DavidJalbert on the Modica Music label,Brothers in Brahms (MM013),consequently has somewhat of aparting gift feel about it, havingbeen recorded at the CBC’s GlennGould Studio just this past Marchand released in June. The titlecomes from a concert programthat the Toronto RCM’s ARCEnsemble presented ten years ago,in which Quarrington was askedto play the Double Bass SonataOp.97 by Brahms’ contemporary andfriend Robert Fuchs. Quarringtonhad never heard of Fuchs orthe sonata, but was quite takenwith it, and eventually chose torecord it by following the ARCEnsemble’s original program idea,pairing it with his own transcriptionsof works by Brahms andRobert Schumann.The Brahms might stop you in your tracksat first hearing: it’s the Violin Sonata No.1 inG Major, Op.78; a work you wouldn’t thinkwould be able to survive a drop of a coupleof octaves for the solo part. It takes a bit ofgetting used to, but soon assumes a characterof its own and does work very well.Quarrington rightly stresses the singingnature of the solo part in his booklet notesand more than justifies this observation withhis playing.The transcription of Schumann’s beautifulAdagio and Allegro Op.70 for French horn ismore immediately successful, but the maininterest here is the Fuchs sonata. It’s a terrificwork, with a cello-like quality much of thetime, and quite Brahmsian in style — lyrical,Romantic, lush and passionate. As the originalTERRY ROBBINSclarinet and piano. The duets are masterpiecesof contrapuntal writing while thebest of the solo pieces is represented by theeerie chromatic bifurcations of the Chantfunéraire. Koechlin also wrote extensivelyfor solo flute and it is regrettable that we arenot allowed to enjoy the clear and attractivetone of Christiane Laflamme in at least a fewexamples from the 96 pieces that constitutehis monumental Les Chants de Nectaire.The recording is artfully captured in a warm,close acoustic recorded at the Domain Forgetin Québec.—Daniel Foleythree movements are all Allegro, Quarringtonchose to add the Andante from Fuchs’ ThreePieces for Contrabass and PianoOp.96 as a slow third movement; itworks extremely well.Quarrington’s playingthroughout the CD is superb,combining virtuosity and musicianshipwith a tone and agilitythat are at times quite astonishing.Jalbert is his equal in all respects,and the recorded sound andbalance are faultless.Polish-born violinist JerzyKaplanek is a member of theWaterloo-based Penderecki StringQuartet and associate professorin the Faculty of Music atWilfrid Laurier University. Onhis new CD Exoticism – TheMusic of Karol Szymanowski(Marquis MAR 437), he is joinedby pianist Stéphan Sylvestre, associateprofessor of piano at WesternUniversity, in a recital of works byhis compatriot.Kaplanek readily admits thathe feels he has known and understoodSzymanowski’s music sincehis childhood days; it’s certainly borne out byhis exemplary playing on this excellent disc.Two of the major works here — the Nocturneand Tarantella Op.28 and Mythes Op.30 — arefrom 1915, at the start of the composer’s mostprolific period. Also included are the Sonatain D Minor, Op.9 from 1904, the early BMinor Prelude Op.1 No.1 in a transcription byGrażyna Bacewicz, and the Chant de Roxanefrom the post-war opera King Roger.Szymanowski always wrote gratefullyfor the violin — his two violin concertosare particularly beautiful — and the musicthroughout this disc is a delight. Beautifullyrecorded at the Banff Centre in 2011, therecital features outstanding playing fromboth artists, with the wonderful Mythes theparticularly dazzling highlight of a terrific September 1 – October 7, 2013 | 63

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