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Volume 20 Issue 6 - March 2015

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company. An interesting

company. An interesting fellow, that Gounod…He sprang into world fame in one fell swoopwith one opera, Faust, so successful that ithas held the stage for the past 150-odd yearsand made him very rich, but he never couldwrite another comparable opera ever again.However, as a young man and prior to hisfame, he did dabble in orchestral compositionwith two symphonies plus an incompletethird, the latter newly discovered in ahistoric first performance here. Needless tosay all were duly forgotten and completelyovershadowed by Faust.Fine works these are indeed in the hands ofthe extremely capable Italian conductor andKarajan Competition-winner Oleg Caetaniwho studied under the legendary FrancoFerrara (much admired in my teenage yearswhen I saw him and he pretty well made mediscover Schubert!). Much like the First ofBeethoven, also inspired by Haydn, Gounod’sSymphony in D Major is a real charmer withfinely sprung rhythms, unmistakeably Frenchin character and conducted with a light spiritmaking the music sing and dance joyfullywith the trumpets ringing out triumphantlyat the end.The more ambitious and mature SecondSymphony in E-Flat Major already foreshadowsthe wonderful garden love scene inFaust. It is so lovingly performed with shimmeringcolours that it alone would make thisdisc worthwhile.Janos GardonyiSaint-Saëns – Symphony No.3 “Organ”Vincent Warnier; Orchestre National deLyon; Leonard SlatkinNaxos 8.573331!!This disc is recommendedfor anycollection lackingthe Saint-SaënsOrgan Symphony(1886). OrganistVincent Warnier andconductor LeonardSlatkin give a colourful reading, creating acoherent whole from diversity. In the openingmovement strings and winds complementeach other. The Lyon winds in particularare superb, both as soloists and as a windchoir, playing everything from busy doublenotefigures to the chorale theme. Saint-Saëns held off introducing the organ untilafter the sublime transition at the close ofthe first movement. This passage is pacedand balanced expertly by Slatkin, and thefollowing Poco adagio with its beautifulromantic harmony is alone worth the disc’sprice. The organ becomes a new force,connecting well to wind and brass timbreswhile supporting the strings’ melodic voice.The scherzo’s tricky ensemble and the lightning-fasttrio with its piano flourishes arehandled impeccably. A foursquare and populistfinale that incorporates brilliant brassand organ, ingenious development of thechorale theme and the Dies irae and muchbesides, ought not to work but on thisrecording it does!The Lyon Auditorium organ on thisrecording is a refurbished transplant fromParis of the Cavaillé-Coll instrument on whichCyprès et Lauriers (1919) was premiered.Warnier is sensitive to the composer`s lateexploratory chromaticism in the solo organlament Cyprès, and appropriately celebratoryin Lauriers for organ and orchestra. Aningenious transcription of Saint-Saëns’s wellknownDanse macabre completes the disc.Roger KnoxPierné; Vierne – Piano QuintetsQuatuor Arthur-Leblanc; Stéphane LemelinATMA ACD2 2384!!Pianist StéphaneLemelin is director of“Découvertes 1890-1939,” a music seriesdedicated to the rediscoveryof neglectedearly 20th-centuryFrench repertoire. Hecollaborated with the wonderful QuatuorArthur-LeBlanc on this marvellous recordingof piano quintets by Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) and Louis Vierne (1870-1937). Thesetwo composers were contemporaries whoshared not only turbulent times in both thehistory of Europe and the history of Frenchmusic, but also similar musical aesthetics thatcould be described as very French and veryrefined. Gabriel Pierné, a prolific composer,also had a successful career as a conductorand was a passionate proponent of modernmusic, having premiered works of Stravinsky,Debussy and Ravel, among others. LouisVierne was a respected organist – six organsymphonies are prominent in his opus.As I was listening to this recording on acold and snowy February day, it occurred tome that these piano quintets carry intensitythat is emblematic of the winter season – athick, undiluted, powerful “force majeure” ofharmonies and expressions. Vierne’s musictransmits darkness and pathos (possiblybecause he was mourning the death of hisson) but also has a fierce energy to it. Pierné’squintet appears to be more gentle, cinematic,with constant rhythmic drive that bringsforward flow to each movement.Passion and virtuosity are evident inLemelin’s interpretation. The piano andstrings have a good rapport, resulting inconstant and flawless passing of expressionsand big, enveloping sound at times. I especiallyenjoyed the delicate string textures inthe quieter and accompanying sections.Ivana PopovicIdil Biret Solo Edition 8 – AlexanderScriabinIdil BiretIBA 8.571302!!The Idil BiretArchive (IBA) coversthe long career ofthis much-recordedpianist; its SoloEdition features recentperformances by thestill-masterly Biret.This disc includes all 12 Scriabin Études ofOp.8 and the eight of Op.42, along with Op.2,No.1 and the Fantaisie, Op.38. Biret’s expansivetechnique and musicianship meet themany requirements of these intricate, virtuosicpieces. Though it is greatly influencedby Chopin, I find Scriabin’s early style more“Russian” than do most commentators. Biretprojects well the Russian soul and idiomaticvocal inflections of the dolorous Op.8,No.11 (1895). She is equally at home withthe intense expressiveness, typically thickmiddle- and low-register textures and widerangingleaps (though a couple are missed) inthe popular No.12 in D-Sharp Minor.In the Op.42 Études (1903) Scriabin’s stylebecomes more idiosyncratic. The rapid mothlikeNo.1 is crowded with non-harmonictones. Unequal note-grouping between lefthandaccompaniment and right hand melodypervades several pieces, including No.6 withits five against three ratio. Scriabin’s tendencytoward agitated and complex inner partsbecomes more frequent as in No.5, as well asin the Fantaisie (1900). The overall tendencytoward greater harmonic and rhythmicexploration connects with the often-improvisatoryorigins of Scriabin’s works, whichBiret conveys with convincing rubato whereappropriate. Among other things, this set is agood preparation for Scriabin’s later experimental,darkly mystical piano compositions.Roger KnoxMODERN AND CONTEMPORARYFrench Trumpet ConcertosPaul Merkelo; Orchestre Symphonique deMontréal; Kent NaganoAnalekta AN 2 9847! ! Three challenging French trumpetconcertos composedin the 20th century aregiven pristine, energeticand rollickingperformances bysoloist Paul Merkelowith the Orchestresymphonique deMontréal under KentNagano. Merkelo has been principal trumpetwith OSM since 1995. This long working associationwith his orchestral colleagues is heardin the performances, especially in sectionswhere the soloist and orchestra have tightmusical conversations. Conductor Nagano isyet again brilliant in his ability to lead themboth while allowing considerable freedom forindividual sound statements.70 | March 1 - April 7, 2015

Each concerto is interesting in its compositionalattributes. Militarist musical referencessuch as trumpet fanfares and snaredrums with jazz-like solo trumpet lines highlightHenri Tomasi’s Concerto pour trumpetteet orchestre. Alfred Desenclos’ Incantation,Thrène et Dance pour trompette et orchestreis the most academic of the works here.Rooted in the Romantic harmonic andmelodic tradition, Desenclos also sneaks injazz-rooted ideas, creating a movie musicscenario which ends with an appropriate bigbang. Even more jazz influences are foundin André Jolivet‘s Concerto pour trompetteNo.2. Described by the composer as “a balletfor trumpet,” 14 different percussion instruments,piano and saxophones lead the restof the orchestra to groove like a big band.Merkelo shines in the second movement solowith its changing sonic qualities.These may not be the strongest trumpetconcertos ever written but the aboundingessence of fun and enthusiasm in performanceis uplifting!Tiina KiikSpirit of the American RangeOregon Symphony; Carlos KalmarPentatone PTC 5186 481!!The “AmericanRange” moniker ofthis album is a taddisingenuous as thethree composersrepresented here allhoned their craft inParis in the 1920s andhailed from the EastCoast of America. Boston-based Walter Piston(1894-1976) was an esteemed figure in mid-20th century American music who taughta generation of composers as a professorat Harvard. His most popular work, themasterful and highly entertaining suite fromhis 1938 ballet The Incredible Flutist opensthis fine recording with panache.George Antheil (1900-1959), the selfdescribed“bad boy of modern music,”was born in Trenton, New Jersey. His 1927composition, A Jazz Symphony, was firstperformed at Carnegie Hall by the African-American Harlem Symphonietta directedby W.C. Handy. The orchestra responds tothis swaggering score with great gusto, withnotable contributions from a very tightbrass section.Brooklyn-born composer Aaron Copland(1900-1990) stressed in his program notefor the 1946 Boston premiere of his ThirdSymphony under Koussevitsky that his workcontained “no folk or popular material,”hallmarks of his previous highly successfulseries of ballet scores. Nevertheless, thetriumphalism of this, his most ambitious andextended composition, mirrored the optimismof the Postwar Era and the work wasswiftly hailed as the epitome of the longedfor“Great American Symphony.” Kalmar’sinterpretation eschews the tub-thumpingoften brought to this symphony with a highlysensitive and fluid reading which illuminatesthe complex thematic relationships betweenthe four movements of this mighty work.Pristinely captured in vivid sonics, theseare live performances unmarred by anyextraneous noises. This is a recording you’llsurely enjoy listening to repeatedly.Daniel FoleyJohn Korsrud – CrushJohn Korsrud’s Hard Rubber Orchestrarubhard 04 (!!From note one, it’s clear that composerand bandleader JohnKorsud studied at theBurning Man schoolof jazz, forging hiswide-ranging musicalinspirations into abubbling hot electricKool-Aid. Crushis all about oppositions: between big bandand chamber music instrumentations; in themash-up of musical genres; as competingstrands within individual textures, andamong the pieces, interpolating between therabid (Crush, Lowest Tide, Slice, Wise Up)and the pensive (Peace for Ross, Mist 1 & 2).While the longer, heavier works symbolizea hydraulic press squeezing divergent energiesout the seams, their shorter counterpartsare the compacted, focused units at the end ofthe process.On first hearing some of the pieces maysound discombobulated, but further listeningreveals that even the most frenetic surfacesare unified with careful constraint. In Crush,surrounding the flailing wildness of drummerDave Robbins, percussionist Jack Duncanand trumpet soloist Brad Turner, Korsruddisplays near-tantric restraint with a slow,sustained low-register chorale, generatingthe tension that defines the piece. For LowestTide, among visceral clouds of fast andwiry ascending figures reminiscent of midperiodLigeti, a Phil Dwyer solo scorches theEarth, Wind & Fire-inspired groove, punctuatedwith metallic horn shots that turn intoa buzzing sax section pulp. In Come to theDark Side, a serpentine trumpet lead (playedby Korsrud) is pitted against a consistentlypneumatic, stuttering accompaniment looselyrecalling John Adams’ Short Ride in a FastMachine. Industrial-strength MahavishnuOrchestra-styled ostinati churn their repetitionsalongside guttural baritone saxophoneexhortations and Ron Samworth’s warpedguitar playing in the final piece, Wise Up. If itseems like an implausible assemblage of ideasand sources, Korsrud and crew’s deft handlingwill flatten any doubt like a Jumping JackTamper on the sands of the playa.Paul SteenhuisenZigguratNeal Bennett; Brian NesselroadRedshift Records TK433(!!Matching personalityto instrumentsin the brass section,trumpets are thealphas, French hornsare quietly confidentteam playersof generally modestdemeanour; near the bottom you find theseeking souls who play trombone. Sensitiveby nature, they mask this trait with toughguyattitudes, fooling nobody. (The tuba runsthe show, but nobody wants that to get out).The last half-century has seen a surprisingnumber of highly gifted sackbut virtuosi,players who turn their unwieldy horns onvarious dimes to produce striking results.Taking his place among them is CanadianNeal Bennett. His recent release, Ziggurat,offers works for solo trombone as well as avariety of choir sizes. Best known to localfans of new music will be Jocelyn Morlock,who contributed Sequoia for an ensemble ofeight trombones and percussion and Afterthe Rain, a solo piece. Scott Good’s LiquidMetal for ten (!) trombones, is a mighty enjoyableevocation of the foundry scene fromTerminator 2.Most of the composers are based in B.C.,and his lone collaborator is percussionistBrian Nesselroad. Yes, instead of herding allavailable and capable practitioners for themulti-bone works (four of the seven tracks),Bennett worked all 34 (THIRTY-FOUR) partsup himself, layering overdub upon overdub.Sink that putt, I ask you.The material is uneven. I’m nuts aboutRob McKenzie’s blues-based Indigo but I feelRoydon Tse’s Continual Awakening, riffingon short-term memory impairment, is moreinteresting in idea than execution. Theatricsfail to work on a disc as they might on stagein Swedish composer Folke Rabe’s Basta,though the piece serves to highlight Bennett’svirtuosity. Finally there’s Ziggurat, by FarshidSamandari, a gorgeous dialogue with backgroundvoices and drums; it evokes the grandstructure suggested by the title. A chatteringcoda ends the disc with a bang.Max ChristiePEP: Piano and Ehru ProjectNicole Ge Li; Corey HammRedshift Records TK437(! ! The Vancouverduo Piano and ErhuProject (PEP), foundedin 2011, is by its verynature a cross-culturalenterprise. It representsthe ongoingartistic March 1 - April 7, 2015 | 71

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