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Volume 19 Issue 2 - October 2013

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the music and further

the music and further proof that underLohmann’s careful direction a baroque stringensemble is a viable means of enjoying thiswell-known fare.—Richard HaskellCLASSICAL & BEYONDCarnaval – Robert Schumann’s Carnavaland KinderszenenCanadian BrassOpening Day ODR 7438openingday.com!!The CanadianBrass has their workcut out for them inthis recording ofbrass adaptations ofRobert Schumann’spiano compositionsCarnaval, Op.9 andKinderszenen, Op.15.Both works are mainstays of the pianorepertoire, being musically and technicallydaunting, humbling and gratifying toperform. In these versions by Brass membersChris Colleti and Brandon Ridenour, thesame challenges are remarkably conquered.Iam familiar with the original piano compositionsso I do miss the subtlety of colour andsentiment in both the fast contrapuntal linesand slower melodic sections that the pianistachieves. However, the performances on brassinstruments add new elements of expression.The brass choir sound such as in theopening “Preambule” of Carnaval worksextremely well. The technical brilliance ofthe ensemble is proven again in the speedyIntermezzo: Paganini. Surprisingly, themost “piano specific” movements work thebest. In Chopin, the pianistic arpeggio-likelines are transformed into a steady backdropagainst the soaring melody. “Traumerei” fromKinderszenen transforms into a brass anthemof contrasting instrumental phrases. Alsofun is to hear the low instruments in “Fastzu Ernst” and in the closing cadence of finaltrack “Der Dichter spricht.” I only wish therewas more sense of spontaneity and abandonin the performances.No surprise in the excellent sound qualityachieved by recording in Toronto’s ChristChurch Deer Park. This is a worthy venue torecord in. And this is a worthy recording tolisten to.—Tiina KiikPiano TitansAnagnoson & KintonOpening Day ODR 7432openingday.com!!Has it really been almost 40 years that theToronto-based pianists James Anagnosonand Leslie Kinton have delighted audienceswith their exemplary keyboard skills? Thetwo pianists met as students while at theAspen Music Festival. Nine discs and morethan 1,000 performanceslater, they’rerecognized as one ofthe world’s foremostpiano duos and thislatest CD, titled PianoTitans with music byClementi, Beethovenand Schubert, is atestament to their ongoing success.To be honest, the title may be a bit of amisnomer. While Anagnoson & Kinton couldrightly be regarded as piano titans, (as couldBeethoven and Schubert), most of the musicon this CD — apart from the great SchubertFantasie — wouldn’t be regarded as “titanic.”Instead, it comprises small musical gems, aspleasing to listen to as they are to perform.The disc opens with two short pianosonatas by Clementi, famous during his lifetimeas a pianist, composer and piano manufacturer.Nowadays Clementi’s works areperformed more by students than by professionals,but his music is not without itscharm, and the duo does it justice, exhibitinga particular precision and elegance of phrase.Three Marches Op.45 by Beethoven follow,scored for four hands at one piano. Completewith musical depictions of treading feet anddrum-roll effects, these pieces are great fun,undoubtedly conceived for performance inamateur Viennese drawing rooms.Anagnoson & Kinton save the best forlast in a compelling performance of thegreat Schubert Fantasie in F Minor D940.Written for one piano, four hands, the pieceis now regarded as one of the finest pianoduet compositions in the repertoire. Herethe two are in perfect sync, easily capturingthe dramatic intensity of the music througha strong and assured performance, thusrounding off the CD in a most satisfying way.Well done, gentlemen. May you continueto face each other across the expanse of twogrand pianos for many years to come!—Richard HaskellFauré – Piano MusicAngela HewittHyperion CDA67875!!In her informativeliner notes, pianistAngela Hewitt writesin her commentaryabout GabrielFauré’s NocturneNo.5 in B-Flat Major,Op.37 that “there is agrace combined witha contained strength behind every note.”This description can also be used to describeHewitt’s powerhouse performances here.Thème et variations, Op.73 opens witha march-like statement reminiscent ofHewitt’s Bach performances. The abruptchanges in dynamics from loud to soft areexecuted perfectly by Hewitt, with heartfeltbeauty and an inherent sense of romanticmelodic line. Each variation is flowing, clearand spontaneous. After variation 10, Allegrovivo’s dramatic ending, it is Hewitt’s intelligentand emotional interpretation of themore sparse variation 11, Andante molto,moderato espressivo that foreshadows moremoving performances of the following twosparkling Valse-caprices and three dreamyNocturnes. The slightly chromatic natureof the opening melody combined with thedarkness of the harmonies of the abovementionedtechnically demanding NocturneNo.5 leads to a carefully crafted work of widerangingmoods. The Ballade pour piano seul,Op.19 is the earliest piece featured. Hewitt’ssense of cadence resolution and manipulationof tempo supports well-defined andtonally colourful melodies and trillingornamentation.Hewitt writes that she was first introducedto and learned Fauré’s Ballade as a 15-yearoldstudent. Her decades-long dedication tohis work is apparent here. This is not salonmusic — it is substantial piano repertoireperformed unforgettably by a passionate andbrilliant pianist.—Tiina KiikMODERN & CONTEMPORARYMagnus Lindberg – EXPO;Piano Concerto No.2; Al largoYefim Bronfman; New York Philharmonic;Alan GilbertDacapo 8.226076! ! Magnus Lindbergwas the Marie-JoséeKravis composer-inresidenceat the NewYork Philharmonicfrom 2009 to 2012 andthis CD was recordedlive with the New YorkPhilharmonic underthe leadership of music director Alan Gilbert.You couldn’t ask for a better orchestra orperformances. The New York Philharmonicand Israeli/American pianist Yefim Bronfmanare both incredible virtuosos who can playanything and make it sound effortless.EXPO (2009) is a dynamic piece usingcontrasting fast and slow tempi. Frictionis created when the pulse is calm and thequicker-paced music begins to agitate nervously,merging the various layers of flowingmusic in a kind of perpetuum mobile. Thisis a stunning opener for the CD and it is nosurprise that EXPO has received numerousperformances.The Piano Concerto No.2 (2012), averitable cornucopia of styles, begins withthe solo piano in a slow, hesitating quasiimprovisatorycadenza which is mostappealing. Except for a few more quietmoments the concerto continues in a classicdialogue between piano and orchestra in amenu of flashy pianistic tricks requiring avirtuoso technique and stamina from thecontinued on page 6462 | October 1 – November 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

The terrific Matt Haimovitz is backwith another fascinating CD, thistime featuring the Cello ConcertoNo.2 “Naqoyqatsi” by Philip Glass(Orange Mountain Music OMM 0087).Long-time Glass champion Dennis RussellDavies provides excellent support with theCincinnati Symphony Orchestra.The bulk of the music datesfrom the 2002 score Glass wrotefor Naqoyqatsi: Life as War, thethird film in a Godfrey Reggiotrilogy that featured only musicand images. The prominentsolo cello part was played byYo-Yo Ma. When Glass became acreative director of the CincinnatiSymphony Orchestra in the 2011/12 season,a commission from the orchestragave him the opportunity tore-work the film score as a fullconcerto for cello and orchestra.It’s not a concerto in the traditionalformal or structural sense,but neither is it always what youmight expect to hear if you arefamiliar with Glass’ music. Glassacknowledges that the film’slargely digital images steeredhim towards “a very acoustic,symphonic piece” which wouldmake the images seem lesssynthetic and more approachable,thus hopefully making iteasier for audiences to connectwith the film.There are seven movements, all shorterthan eight minutes in length, with the solocello third and fifth movements acting asconnecting passages within the overall structure.The faster movements certainly havethe typical Glass sound, but the cello writingthroughout is contemplative and more rhapsodicthan virtuosic. Haimovitz plays beautifullythroughout this intriguing and highlysatisfying work.If you come across a performance of theElgar Cello Concerto that puts the iconicJacqueline du Pré recording with Barbirollicompletely out of your mind, then you knowyou’ve found something really special. That’sexactly what the French (but Montreal-born)cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras manages to dowith his stunning new harmonia mundiCD, which couples the Elgar concerto withTchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations and twoshort pieces by Dvořák (HMC 902148).It’s clear from the opening solo bars of theElgar that Queyras understands the innersoul of this quintessentially English work bythe most English of composers. It’s a simplybeautiful opening — thoughtful, probing andexpansive. Jiří Bĕlohlávek draws a performancefrom the BBC Symphony Orchestra thatTERRY ROBBINSis perfectly attuned, catching the mood ofwistful Romanticism with playing that alwayshas weight and depth, but is never heavy.The performance level never dropsthroughout the remainder of the CD. Dvořák’sRondo Op.94 and Klid (Silent Woods)Op.68/5 were originally written for celloand piano, and orchestrated by thecomposer in 1893, shortlybefore he began workon his Cello Concerto.Again, Queyras’ tone isquite beautiful.The TchaikovskyVariations were extensivelyrevised andrearranged, prior to publication,by the cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen,the composer’s colleague at theMoscow Conservatory, not exactlywith Tchaikovsky’s approval,but apparently without muchcomplaint either. It’s still theversion we usually hear.Another dazzling performanceby Queyras rounds out amarvellous CD.The Dutch cellist PieterWispelwey has compiled an extensiveand impressively varied discography,ranging from the BachSolo Suites (reviewed in thiscolumn last April) to works byShostakovich, Ligeti and Britten.His latest CD on Onyx Classicspairs two rarely heard works: theLalo D Minor Cello Concerto and the ConcertoNo.2, also in D minor, by Saint-Saëns(Onyx 4107).Wispelwey is in terrific form; indeed, onthe strength of these performances it’s difficultto understand why we don’t hear thesetwo outstanding concertos more often. TheLalo is a powerful work with a charming slowmovement. Wispelwey’s line is strong andfluent, offering wonderfully assured playingwith never a hint of empty bravura. The Saint-Saëns No.2 is a striking concerto that has beenunjustly overshadowed by No.1, and remindsus just how much this often-marginalizedcomposer has to offer. Wispelwey displaysterrific agility in an extremely difficult andchallenging work, with some particularlytender and heartfelt high register playing inthe slow movement.The Flanders Symphony Orchestra underSeikyo Kim provides top-notch supportthroughout, and also performs the filleron this CD, the Love Scene from Berlioz’dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette. It’sBerlioz at his best and beautifully performed,but this is a CD you’ll be buying for the Laloand Saint-Saëns.Violinist Isabelle Faust and conductorDaniel Harding team up on anotheroutstanding harmonia mundi CD, withmarvellous performances of the ViolinConcertos Nos.1 & 2 by Béla Bartók (HMC902146). The orchestra is the Swedish RadioSymphony Orchestra; Harding has beentheir principal conductor since 2007. He hasalready recorded highly successful concertodiscs with violinists Nicola Benedetti, JanineJansen and Ray Chen, and this latest CD is theequal of any of them. Faust is a consummateartist, and her rapport here with Hardingis palpable.For many years the 1938 concertowe now refer to as No.2 wasregarded as Bartók’s only violinconcerto, but 30 years earlierhe had written a concerto forthe violinist Stefi Geyer, withwhom he was deeply in love.The relationship didn’t last,though, with Geyer rejecting notonly the composer but also theconcerto. She did keep the manuscript thecomposer sent her, however, and bequeathedit to the Swiss conductor Paul Sacher, whoconducted the premiere in Basel in 1958; itwas published in 1959 as Violin ConcertoNo.1, Op.posth. In her preparation for thisrecording Faust went back to the variousoriginal sources for this early concerto, anddiscusses the process in fascinating detail inher excellent — and extensive — booklet notes.The depth of her understanding is evident inthe depth of her interpretation; this really isan exceptional performance in all respects.The same innate grasp of the material is justas evident in the Concerto No.2, which alsoreceives an outstanding performance. Whatmakes it even more special is that Faust andHarding choose to use the original ending forthe work, which has no solo violin part overthe closing bars. Zoltán Székely, for whom theconcerto was written, asked the composer towrite an alternative ending where the violincould play to the end of the work along withthe orchestra and Bartók obliged. The originalending is well worth hearing!The young Dutch violinist RosannePhilippens is a new name to me, but ifRhapsody, her debut CD on Channel Classics(CCS SA 35013), is anything to go by, we’llall be hearing a lot more of her in the future.She is accompanied by her regular keyboardpartner Yuri van Nieuwkerk in a recital ofworks by Ravel and Bartók. This may seemlike an odd pairing at first glance, but theperformers note that both composers workedin a period when a wide range of musicalstyles — jazz and blues, for instance — wereinfluencing the European musical world;almost all of the works here were written inthe 1920s.Ravel’s Tzigane is given a straightforwardbut very solid performance, but the real Ravelgem here is the Violin Sonata No.2, whichshowcases Philippens’ big, expansive tone.There is a perfect balance between the twoperformers in the first movement; a lovelyModerato: Blues middle movement; and somethewholenote.com October 1 – November 7, 2013 | 63

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