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Volume 20 Issue 3 - November 2014

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here are any indication,

here are any indication, they seem to feelquite at home in the desolate (musical) landscapesof Australia. British-born Steven Kenttrained as a French horn player but whileworking in Australia as music director ofCircus Oz he developed a profound interestin Aboriginal culture and immersed himselfin the didjeridu. He states, “The didjeriduis played with the greatest respect for theAboriginal Peoples of Australia and thestruggle for rights in their homeland.”At the time of recording Peter Sculthorpewas still alive. I can’t help but feel that thisposthumous release is an appropriate monumentto a man who let his art speak for hisconscience, with no compromise to either. Animportant example to us all.Toward the end of his life and already sickwith cancer, Claude Debussy (1862-1918)conceived the project of composing “sixsonatas for diverse instruments” of which hecompleted only three; the first for cello andpiano, the third for violin and piano and asecond which spawned a whole new genre,for flute, viola and harp. Two recent releasesexplore the repertoire created for this unusualcombination of instruments.Tre Voci is anensemble createdat the MarlboroMusic Festival in2010 consisting ofCanadian-born flutistMarina Piccinini(an internationallyrenownedsoloist now teaching at the Peabody Institutein Baltimore and at the Hochschule inHannover, Germany), American violistKim Kashkashian and Israeli harpist SivanMagen. Their inaugural recording Takemitsu/ Debussy / Gubaidulina (ECM 2345) featuresDebussy’s seminal work from 1915 whichbegan it all, and two works which take poetryas their point of departure. The disc openswith And then I knew ‘twas Wind by ToruTakemitsu (1930-1996) which takes its inspiration,or at least its title, from a poem byEmily Dickinson. It is a single-movementwork composed in 1992 which, like muchof Takemitsu’s last work, is quite reminiscentof Debussy albeit within the JapaneseVOCALMozart – RequiemSoloists; Accentus; Insula Orchestra;Laurence Equilbeynaïve V 5370There are manyrecordings of Mozart’sRequiem. My ownfavourite is the liverecording made in2001 by Les Violonsdu Roy and LaChapelle de Québec,conducted by Bernardcomposer’s own quiet and lush sensibility.Following the three-movement Debussysonata – Pastorale, Interlude, Final: Allegro –the disc concludes with the mostly contemplativeThe Garden of Joys and Sorrows,by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina(b.1931) dating from 1980 which is repletewith rich flute tones, “bent” harp notes andGubaidulina’s characteristic overtone-seriesharmonics from the viola. The work endswith an ad libitum recitation of a poem byMoscow poet Iv Oganov: “When is it trulyover? When is the true end? […] Tomorrow wewill play another game.”The sound on this disc is as pristine andwarmly clear as we have come to expect fromECM under Manfred Eicher’s careful supervision,and the performance leaves nothingto be desired. I was a bit surprised however,to find that the 28-page booklet includedsix photographs of the musicians (and oneeach of the composers) but no biographicalinformation at all about the performersand only cursory bits about the composersin the otherwise impressive liner notes (inGerman and English, including the textsof the poems). If it weren’t for the pressrelease sent with the recording (which didn’tmention Piccinini’s Canadian upbringingother than her success in the CBC YoungPerformers Competition) I would have beenleft Googling to find out about the players.It seems a surprising oversight, especiallyconsidering Kashkashian has been an ECMartist since 1985. The booklet does howevercredit the abstract cover photo (which Itake to be a very stunning cloudscape) toKashkashian, revealing another side of thisaccomplished artist.Canadian Trio Verlaine (Lorna McGhee,flute; David Harding, viola; Heidi Krutzen,harp) released their first CD Fin de Siècle –Music of Debussy and Ravel back in 2008(reviewed in these pages by John Keillor inMay of that year). Although now based indifferent cities (Krutzen is principal harp ofthe Victoria Opera, McGhee and Harding nowlive in Pittsburgh working as principal fluteof the Pittsburgh Symphony and professorat Carnegie Mellon University respectively)they continue to perform and record together.Six Departures (Ravello Records RR7895Labadie, with Karina Gauvin, Marie-NicoleLemieux, John Tessier and Nathan Berg assoloists, and with a brilliant cameo part bythe trombonist Alain Trudel (on Dorian; atpresent only available as an MP3).The Requiem was unfinished when Mozartdied and was subsequently completed byhis student, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, withsome input by Jakob Freystädtler and JosephEybler. It is likely that they based their workon sketches by Mozart himself but, sincethese sketches no longer exist, we cannot becertain about that. Most performances adoptthe Süssmayr completion: it may not be allMozart but it is the closest we can get toMozart’s conception of the work. The Labadieperformance, however, uses a revision andtrioverlain.com) exploresrepertoire createdon the Debussymodel with musicby Sir Arnold Bax,Jeffrey Cotton, R.Murray Schafer andAndré Jolivet.In addition to Bax’sElegiac Trio and Jolivet’sPetite Suite, both staples of the repertoire,the disc includes two world premiere recordingsof works written for Trio Verlaine: thetitle track by Cotton, an American composerwho died last year at the age of 55, commissionedby the Seattle Chamber Music Society,and Schafer’s Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp,co-commissioned by Michael Koerner, theOttawa Chamber Music Festival and Music onMain. The first is based on the baroque suite,a set of six dances beginning with a preludeand including two Passacaglia movements.Cotton’s lyrical tonal language reflects “thedeceptively sunny Los Angeles of his childhoodfiltered through the haunted Germanexpressionism he encountered as a student ofHans Werner Henze.” Schafer’s trio soundsparticularly French to my ear, perhaps referencingthe origins of this instrumentalcombination. The three movements – Freelyflowing; Slowly, calmly; and Rhythmic –are again lyrically tonal in their languagewith no shortage of Schafer’s characteristicplayfulness.Recorded earlier this year, the performancesare committed and commendable, thecrisp attacks and seamless ensemble playingcaptured admirably in the warm acoustic ofSt. Mark’s Anglican Church in Vancouver.We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments should besent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc.,The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We alsoencourage you to visit our website thewholenote.comwhere you can find addedfeatures including direct links to performers,composers and record labels and additional,expanded and archival reviews.David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comcompletion by Robert D. Levin.The version on the present recording ismore traditional. It features a new periodensemble, the Insula Orchestra, and a veryfine choir, Accentus, which has been in existencefor 20 years. The soloists are SandrinePiau, soprano, Sara Mingardo, contralto,Werner Güra, tenor, and Christopher Purves,bass-baritone. They are also very good. Thebooklet that comes with the CD has a usefulchart outlining what Mozart completedand what was completed by others. I could,however, do without passages like: “And so helaid down his pen after the first eight bars ofthe ‘Lacrymosa’ ... For he was not God, but aman, and could bear no more.”74 | November 1 - December 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Although my allegiance is still to theLabadie performance, I liked the new one andrecommend it.Hans de GrootMozart – Don GiovanniSoloists; Fondazione Orchestra Regionaledelle Marche; Riccardo FrizzaCmajor 717408After some 230years the fascinationfor Mozart’s greatestopera has neverceased. In fact thereseems to be a renaissancethese days withnew productions allover the world: NewYork, London, Milan,even Toronto. But weneed not go to thoseglittering, superexpensivecentres (atLa Scala tickets went for 2,300 euros!) as herewe have a DVD from a small town in centralItaly, Macerata, which most of you I daresaynever heard of, produced on a limited budget;an elegant, rapt and joyful reading thatputs those grandiose, star-studded productionsto shame.This success that “will enter the annalsof opera” (ForumOpera.com) can be attributedto many things, not least to the work ofItaly’s gran maestro of staging and set designPier Luigi Pizzi’s brilliant and inspired direction.His vision is that of vast amusementyet sympathetic understanding of the foiblesof men (and women), a dramma giocosoas Mozart envisioned it. A big, unmadebed is ever present and much of the actiontakes place in and around it, reminding usconstantly what all this fuss is all about. Yet,his taste is impeccable without any vulgarity.The cast is virtually flawless: all young singers,mainly Italian, energetic and attractive withvoices that could rival any of the big stars;The women especially, among whom CarmelaRemigio (Donna Elvira) is probably the mostmemorable.But what delivers the biggest punch is DonJuan himself, Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, whosecareer I’ve followed in the last ten years fromhumble bit roles to his major break in Viennaas a very unlikely Henry VIII in Donizetti’sAnna Bolena. Here he is a phenomenon, alife force, the essence of the show no onewill likely forget. Another young Italian,conductor Riccardo Frizza’s upbeat tempi, abit on the fast side, keep everything movingforward with the supreme glory of Mozartalways shining through.Janos GardonyiMercadante – I BrigantiSoloists; Camerata Bach Choir, Poznan;Virtuosi Brunensis; Antonino FoglianiNaxos 8.660343-44Saverio Mercadante was a prominent early19th-century Italian composer. He wrote 57operas. Few peopleliving now will haveseen any, althoughthere are now recordingsof several, mainlyon the Opera Raralabel. The present CDwas recorded live atthe XXIV Rossini inWildbad Festival in July 2012. The libretto isbased on Schiller’s play Die Räuber, as isVerdi’s later opera I Masnadieri. The cast onthis recording is cosmopolitan: the tenor isRussian, the soprano Bulgarian, the baritoneItalian, the chorus Polish and the orchestraCzech. The soloists are very good and theyperform with virtuosity and with gusto.This world premiere recording uses anew edition based on research by MichaelWittmann, who also contributes an informativenote. He argues that Mercadante’s operasrepresent a movement away from the elaboratedecorations of bel canto opera in favourof a greater emphasis on the dramatic aspect.It was left to Verdi, Wittmann suggests, to takethis a stage further and to place “veracity ofexpression above its beauty.” I find the argumentconvincing but I also think that weshould appreciate the opera on its own terms,not just as a missing link between Belliniand Verdi.Hans de GrootSchoenberg – Moses und AronFranz Grundheber; Andreas Conrad;SWRSO Baden-Baden und Freiburg; SylvainCambrelingHanssler Classic 93.314ArnoldSchoenberg’s selfauthoredlibretto forhis dodecaphonicbiblical spectacularMoses und Aron(the latter protagonistis intentionallyrespelled so thatthe title contains exactly 12 letters) calls forthe on-stage appearance of rape, murder,butchery and camels. (Take that, Verdi!)Though he intended the work to includethree acts, the composer completed onlythe first two from 1930 to 1932. In essencehowever the work is closer in spirit to anoratorio and is often effectively presented assuch. Recordings of Moses have been slowbut steady following the composer’s death in1951, with about a dozen available in variousformats. What has kept this opera in theshadows (it was not staged in this hemisphereuntil the Metropolitan Opera presented it in1999) has less to do with the lurid scenariothan the extensive and hugely demandingchoral writing – the most recent staging inWales saw the chorus rehearsing the work forsome 18 months.I consider the true stars of this newrecording to be the members of the eliteEuropaChorAkademie who have thoroughlymastered the score with spectacularresults. In the lead roles the magisterial FranzGrundheber makes a lasting impression in thehalf-sung, half-spoken interpretation of thetongue-tied Moses and is effectively pairedwith the forceful Heldentenor of AndreasConrad as his eloquent spokesman Aron. TheFrench conductor and new music specialistSylvain Cambreling leads the SWR radioorchestra (sadly scheduled to be dissolved in2016) in a finely balanced and lucid accountof the score miraculously cobbled togetherfrom no less than four different performancesin as many venues during a 2012European tour.Daniel FoleyDean Burry – Baby Kintyre, An OperaSoloists; Ensemble; John Hess; Dairine NiMheadhraCentrediscs CMCCD 20314Composer/librettistDean Burry has takena gruesome piece ofToronto history andcreated an episodic,edge-of-seat serialradio opera thrilleroriginally performedin six consecutive2009 broadcasts of CBC’s Saturday Afternoonat the Opera.I remember the media frenzy surroundingthe horrific event. In 2007, a home renovatordiscovered a mummified baby wrappedin a 1925 newspaper in the floorboards of anEast Toronto home. Burry was so moved bythe discovery, that he used the news detailsof the characters to create so appropriatelyemotional, strong and larger-than-life operaticcharacters.Burry’s libretto weaves a spellbinding talewith splashes of slapstick-flavoured humourin this story set in both the 2007 renovator’sdiscovery, and the 1920s’ life in the house onKintyre Ave. The vocal melodies are tonallycontemporary yet accessible. Burry’s use of“Amazing Grace” and “By the Light of theSilvery Moon” add a popular music sentiment.The performances by all the singersare clear and colourful. Eileen Nash is especiallyoutstanding in her performance andchildlike vocal tuning of the ten-year-oldRita. The small orchestra, with super pianistJohn Hess, plays with abandon and colour.Snippets of newscasts, cell phones and othermodern day tidbits complete the soundscape.The CBC Radio Metro Morning documentaryBaby Kintyre – Part 1 & 2 is included afterthe opera, pushing the story back into thereal world.Dean Burry has written a clever, thoughtprovokingand solid opera that requires novisual set to keep the listener enthralled! Oh,the secrets that families hold.Tiina Kiikthewholenote.com November 1 - December 7, 2014 | 75

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020
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Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
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