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Volume 19 Issue 5 - February 2014

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  • February
  • Toronto
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Gold medalist Kholodenko

Gold medalist Kholodenko chose an enduranceprogram of Stravinsky (Petrouchka)and Liszt. The Transcendental Etudes, bestknown for the broad range of their technicaldemands, never seem to tax Kholodenko.He rises easily above them to allow himselfgenerous interpretive ground. Here heplays wistfully with the melodies of FeuxFollets and Harmonies du Soir, drawing outLiszt’s inner themes woven across left andright hand parts. His muscular approachto Mazeppa and Wilde Jagd leave no doubtabout his power over the instrument ashe makes it roar louder than either of hiswinning competitors. Similarly, his approachto Petrouchka demonstrates a remarkableclipped staccato in the very opening phrasesthat adds razor sharpness to the phrasingunlike what most other pianists are able toachieve. This power is beautifully contrastedwith his playing of the second movementwhere a gentle legato and light touch confirmexactly why his medal was the gold.Rana, the silvermedalist, bringsan elegant, dancelikestyle to herSchumann, Ravel andBartók. Schumann’sSymphonic Etudesare very dense attimes requiring theutmost in accuracy and articulation. Rana iswonderfully adept at drawing out melodiesfrom within this quasi-orchestral score. Theninth etude, although only a few seconds induration, is an excellent example of how shedoes this while sustaining a relentless drivingpulse around the theme. Her performanceof Ravel’s Gaspard meets every expectationfor superbly fluid playing in the opening“Ondine.” “Le Gibet” and “Scarbo” each showus how well Rana can shift to a portrayal ofdarkness and mystery.Perhaps most convincing is her primal andsomewhat savage approach to Bartók’s Outof Doors. Despite the gentler requirementsof the second and fourth movements, theopening almost puts the piano at risk as sheastonishes the audience with her raw power.A performer with a demonstrably impressiveinterpretive ability, one understands why shealso won the Audience Award.Finally, Chen,winner of the crystalaward performs aprogram of Brahms,Beethoven andBartók. This youngAmerican pianisttakes his Bartók justas seriously as hisformidable Italian competitor but regards thecomposer’s rhythmic and harmonic angularitywith more romance and less anger. Avery different but very creditable approach.Chen is a thinker, a pianist who clearly appreciatesclean structure. This is what informsall his playing. Nowhere is this more evidentthan in the closing epic fugal movementof Beethoven’s Hammerklavier. Adjectivessimply fail to describe Chen’s grasp of howBeethoven built this complex edifice. He playsit brilliantly. The cheering audience reactionsays it all.Alex BaranBusoni – Late Piano MusicMarc-André HamelinHyperion CDA67951/3!!Canadian pianistMarc-André Hamelinhas recorded some50 albums on theHyperion label ofgenerally unfamiliarand often extremelyvirtuosic repertoireto great criticalacclaim. His recent release of three CDsdevoted to the late piano music of FerruccioBusoni represents another milestone in anoutstanding career.The repertoire covers the last 15 yearsof Busoni’s life and includes a number ofpieces which self-reference his lesser-knownorchestral works. CD 1 opens with the pivotalcollection of seven Elegies composed in1907. According to the composer, “My entirepersonal vision I put down at last and forthe first time in the Elegies.” These worksreveal a tonal expansion of his earlier, morefacile and traditional approach. The titleis misleading, as these works are far fromfunereal. As might be expected from the onlychild of an Italian father and German mother,both of them professional musicians, Busoni’sstyle is cosmopolitan in the extreme, freelymixing influences ranging from an exuberantItalianate Tarantella (later incorporated intohis massive Piano Concerto, recorded byHamelin in 1999 in a staggering performance)to variations on the well-known Englishfolk song Greensleeves (strangely, Busonihad been led to believe this melody was ofChinese origin and had used it as such in hisopera based on Gozzi’s play Turandot).CD 2 is largely devoted to Busoni’s sixSonatinas, again of exceptional emotionalrange, from the inward-looking Sonatinaseconda (containing thematic references tohis opera Doktor Faust) to the sixth, overtlyLisztian, Kammer-Fantasie über Carmenthat concludes the cycle. One even finds anintriguing example of “World Music.” Busonihad toured the United States repeatedly in theearly 20th century and while resident theretook a keen interest in the Native Americanmusic which had been brought to his attentionby Natalie Curtis, a former piano studentof his who gifted him a copy of her massive1907 volume of pioneering ethnomusicologicaltranscriptions, The Indians’ Book.Busoni responded with a handful of Indianinspiredworks including his Indian Diary inwhich short motifs from her collection appearas thematic springboards for his kaleidoscopicinventions.Many of the pieces included on CD 3 havea pedagogical purpose. Opening with a fabulouslyfleeting performance of the demandingToccata of 1920, the bulk of the disc isdevoted to a generous sampling from his lateKlavierübung volumes which explore technicalissues involving trills, staccato passagesand polyphony as well as an intriguing set ofvariations on Chopin’s familiar Prelude in CMinor. These three discs contain a numberof pieces not previously recorded and alsoinclude a sampling of the numerous Bacharrangements Busoni is best known for. Theprogramming is exemplary, the sound isalluring (from a Steinway piano recorded inLondon’s Henry Wood Hall) and the programnotes are excellent. Bravo Hamelin!Daniel FoleyMahler – Symphony No.4 in G MajorChristina Landshamer; GewandhausOrchestra; Riccardo ChaillyAccentus Music Blu-Ray disc, ACC10257Mahler – Symphony No.6 in A MinorGewandhaus Orchestra; Riccardo ChaillyAccentus Music Blu-Ray disc, ACC10268! ! The new Mahlercycle by RiccardoChailly and theGewandhausOrchestra continues.Chailly already hasa complete cycle onCD (which includesCooke’s realizationof the 10th with the Berlin RSO), withthe Concertgebouw recorded between 1994and 2003 when he was their music director,succeeding Bernard Haitink who also hadset down a cycle. Both these Concertgebouwperformances are cast in the traditionalmould.Most conductors and orchestras thatinclude Mahler in their repertoire are on firmground delivering performances that do notstray beyond the, by now, traditional waythe scores unfold. Tradition, to paraphraseToscanini, is what you heard in the last badperformance… and so on back down the line.This new Fourth Symphony disc contains,in addition to the revelatory, searchingperformance, two bonus features. Mahleris heard playing from the fourth movementon the 1905 Welte-Mignon piano rolls, andChailly expounds on his new interpretationof the symphony with illustrations fromthe rehearsals and performance. Chailly:“It is important to take the time to studymusic you’ve performed many times before.I hadn’t conducted Mahler’s Fourth for 11years and it felt like unfinished business. I’vetried to rethink my interpretation from startto finish and give this great symphony a farstronger sense of structure. I’ve started againfrom scratch. Mahler takes everything toextremes: he takes his climaxes to the limit,and the movement lengths, so you have to payclose attention to the enormous extremes indynamics…”56 | February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

The Sixth is immediatelyarresting. Chaillyreverses the orderof the middle movements,returning the“Andante” to secondplace followed bythe “Scherzo,” nowan hysterical dansemacabre, distancedfrom the Allegro energico of the first movement.The total performance is a new experience,to say the very least. On the 15-minutebonus track, Chailly and Reinhold Kubikof the International Gustav Mahler Societydiscuss many aspects of the symphonyincluding, of course, how many hammerblows. Chailly talks about and illustrates,as before, his break away from destructivetraditions.As do the Second (Accentus ACC10238) andEighth (ACC10222) released in 2012, thesenonpareil performances realize Mahler’sgenius as an orchestrator and music visionary.As before, no one on the stage is on automaticpilot…they are all in the moment. My attentionwas rapt through gossamer pianissimosto translucent, shattering tuttis. I’m sold.Bruce SurteesThe latest offering from JamesEhnes is an outstanding 2-CDset of the Complete Worksfor Violin by Sergei Prokofiev(Chandos CHAN 10787(2)).Gianandrea Noseda conducts theBBC Philharmonic in the ViolinConcerto No.1 in D Major and theViolin Concerto No.2 in G Minoron disc one, and Andrew Armstrong isthe accompanist for the violinand piano works on disc two.Ehnes gives thoughtful andsensitive performances of the twoconcertos, and is given perfectsupport by Noseda, a conductorwho has few equals when it comesto drawing nuanced, sensitiveplaying from a large orchestra.Violinist Amy Schwartz Morettijoins Ehnes in the Sonata forTwo Violins, Op.56, and Ehnesgives a spirited performanceof the lovely Sonata for ViolinSolo, Op.115. The difficult andengrossing Sonata No.1 in FMinor, Op.80, is the major work on disc 2,and Ehnes and Armstrong are outstanding.Although completed in 1946, three years afterthe sonata we know as No.2, Prokofiev hadstarted work on it in 1938.The Five Melodies Op.35bis were transcribedby Prokofiev in 1925 from his original1920 version for voice and piano. The finalwork on disc two is the Sonata No.2 in DMajor, Op.94bis, the composer’s transcriptionof his Flute Sonata from 1943.Balance and sound quality throughout areup to the quality you would expect from aTERRY ROBBINSthoroughly satisfying CD set.My eyes light up whenever Isee a new Jennifer Koh CD fromthe Cedille label, and the latestrelease from this most intelligentof performers, signs, games+ messages (CDR 90000 143)certainly doesn’t disappoint. Kohis joined by pianist Shai Wosnerin a recital that features worksby Leoš Janáček, Béla Bartókand the 87-year-old Hungariancomposer György Kurtág. Kohand Wosner, in a joint statementin the excellent booklet notes,cite their desire to explore thetension between the visionarymodernism of the works and the pullof the folk and cultural memorythat is so essential to the personallanguage of these composers, asthe spark for this recital.There really does seem to bea logical progression throughthe program, from Janáček’sViolin Sonata, through a selectionof short aphorisms by Kurtág, to Bartók’sFirst Violin Sonata. There are four solopiano pieces from the Játékok series andfour solo violin pieces from Signs, Gamesand Messages in the Kurtág works in additionto three duo works, and the pianopieces in particular have echoes of Janáček’spiano series On An Overgrown Path. TheBartók sonata seems to follow naturallyfrom the final Kurtág work, the In Nomine –all’ongherese for solo violin.Needless to say, the performing andrecording standard throughout is of thehighest quality. Once again, Koh provides uswith a fascinating journey through a carefullychosen and perfectly balanced program.The husband and wife team of violinistBenjamin Schmid and pianist Ariane Haeringare in superb form on the CD Romantic Duos,featuring works by Franz Liszt, Frank Bridgeand Edvard Grieg (TwoPianists RecordsTP1039299). Schmid’s tone throughout isrich, warm and full-blooded; Haering is atrue partner with a beautiful piano tone, andthe balance and sound quality are perfect.Although usually attributed solely to Liszt,his Grand Duo Concertant was actually acollaborative effort between Liszt and theviolinist Charles-Philippe Lafont, whoseRomance, Le Marin is the basis for a set ofshort variations. It’s a lovely work. Liszt’sbrief Consolation No.3 was originally one ofsix solo piano works, and is presented herein a transcription for violin and piano byNathan Milstein.The English composer Frank Bridge onlypublished one acknowledged violin sonata,in 1922, but there is an incomplete sonatathat pre-dates the Great War, comprising anopening movement and an unfinished secondmovement. It is this work that is recordedhere, with the second movement completedby the Bridge authority Paul Hindmarsh. It’s abeautifully rhapsodic work that draws terrificplaying from the performers. Two shortpieces by Bridge are also included: Romanze,from 1904 (the same year as the unfinishedsonata); and Heart’s Ease, written in theearly 1920s. A passionate performance ofGrieg’s Violin Sonata No.3 in C Minor, Op.45,completes an outstanding disc.There’s much more at thewholenote.com, where Strings Attached continues with new discs by Duo Renard (Mozart & Brydern), Sergeyand Lusine Khachatryan (Brahms), Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt (Schumann), Pacifica Quartet (Soviet Experience Vol.4), WieniawskiString Quartet (Krzysztof Meyer), Fanny Clamagirand and Vanya Cohen (Saint-Saëns), Fred Sherry String Quartet and Sextet (Schoenberg)and two new recordings of Schubert’s String Quintet (Quatuor Diotima and Pavel Haas Quartet with friends).thewholenote.com February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 | 57

Volume 26 (2020- )

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