8 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015

Vol 21 No 2 is now available for your viewing pleasure, and it's a bumper crop, right at the harvest moon. First ever Canadian opera on the Four Seasons Centre main stage gets double coverage with Wende Bartley interviewing Pyramus and Thisbe composer Barbara Monk Feldman and Chris Hoile connecting with director Christopher Alden; Paul Ennis digs into the musical mind of pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, and pianist Eve Egoyan is "On the Record" in conversation with publisher David Perlman ahead of the Oct release concert for her tenth recording. And at the heart of it all the 16th edition of our annual BLUE PAGES directory of presenters profile the season now well and truly under way.

octaves higher. A sense

octaves higher. A sense of wide-open spaces extends our comfort zone – in dynamic range and variability, pitch register (including note-to-note and between-hands distances in the piano part), and implied landscape. Barenboim displays complete confidence technically and musically. Stretched-out phrases convey longing; even over-emphasizing accents in the first movement’s exposition is justified by the weary climb of the melodic line. Dudamel and players equal Barenboim’s expressive level and finesse, including tender passages and delicate passage work. Of many highlights I will mention one: the magnificent “starry night” suggested by single, high piano notes over hushed strings towards the Andante’s end, paced beautifully by Dudamel and Barenboim. The Concerto No.1 in D Minor is also a wonderful work of large dimensions and endless inventiveness. In the first movement the pianist has chosen the most apt structural points to broaden the tempo. Barenboim’s pedalling is clear throughout, including the rapid filigree passages. The slow movement is a model of expression and colour; in the finale, Barenboim and Dudamel capture well the serious rhetorical interplay within and between piano and orchestra parts. Roger Knox Schoenberg – Gurrelieder Barbara Haveman; Brandon Jovanovich; Thomas Bauer; Gerhard Siegel; Claudia Mahnke; Johannes Martin Kränzle; Gürzenich-Orchester, Köln; Markus Stenz Hyperion CDA68081/2 Schoenberg – Pierrot Lunaire; Documentary: Solar Plexus of Modernism Salzburg Festival Belvedere 10125 !! Gurrelieder, songs of Gurre, is one of the most exotic expressions of the late romantic era. The work, set to Jens Peter Jacobsen’s Gurre Sange, grew from a modest song cycle for two voices and piano into a giant cantata demanding an orchestra of twice the normal size, a triple male choir, a full choir and five soloists of post-Wagnerian capabilities. Not to mention a kitchen of iron chains. Beginning with the 1932 live Stokowski/Philadelphia and then the 1953 René Leibowitz (a pupil of Schoenberg)/Paris recordings, there are now 24 versions on CD and another on one DVD, almost all recorded in public concerts. For decades the work was considered unperformable and probably unsaleable (as did our own TSO in 2000, abruptly cancelling scheduled performances), undoubtedly because of Schoenberg’s role as the high priest of modernism whose music would not attract audiences. Nothing could be further from the truth, for this is the crowning glory of the high romantic, post-Wagnerian period. This new performance is a product of the highest refinement of every aspect from individual players and ensembles inspired by a conductor who most clearly understands the innermost workings of this piece. The five soloists, whose names are not familiar, are perfectly cast and well understand the nuances of their roles. As the work resolves, the additional Sprechstimme role here receives a definitive performance, Kranzle naturally observing the implied pitches and occasionally breaking into actual singing as he announces the most glorious sunrise in all music. Quite an event. This whole production is a triumph not only for the performance but for the work itself which is now actually becoming popular. The entire experience is captured in a recording of extraordinary clarity, balance and dynamics including the thunder of this vast array. It’s all there without any audible spotlighting. I consider this to be a most significant release and thoroughly recommendable. When Igor Stravinsky was asked to name an important musical work of the beginning of the 20th century, he replied that “Pierrot Lunaire is the solar plexus of 20th century music.” Schoenberg’s melodrama and its era are discussed and illustrated on the DVD including illuminating commentaries by an impassioned Mitsuko Uchida and the four other members of the chamber group that she assembled for this live performance from the 2011 Salzburg Festival. The actual performance has all the intensity and passion imaginable; however, vocalist Barbara Sukowa is not a trained singer but an actress. Without the discipline of a finely tuned vocal technique so essential in this complex genre, she is but an actress playing a role. Not even close to good enough. Pity, because the well-prepared documentary is valuable. Bruce Surtees Shostakovich – Piano Concertos Anna Vinnitskaya; Kremerata Baltica Alpha 203 !! This is a remarkable debut disc from Russian- German pianist Anna Vinnitskaya. The two Shostakovich piano concertos are brilliant and entertaining, parodic and pensive in turn. In the Concerto in C Minor for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Op.35 (1933) soloist-director Vinnitskaya maintains tight ensemble and clear articulation with the Kremerata Baltica string orchestra and trumpeter Tobias Willner. The first movement illustrates Shostakovich’s method of assembling triads, scales and popular songs or classical themes into an ironic crazy-quilt whole, featuring harmonic sidesteps into new keys. In the second movement strings play a wide-ranging lyrical melody with poise, as a muted trumpet in dialogue with the piano does later. The virtuosic finale features Vinnitskaya’s still more rapid-fire piano and Willner’s matching double-tonguing. In the Piano Concerto No.2 in F Major, Op.102 (1957), Omer Meir Wellber conducts the Winds of Staatskapelle Dresden together with Kremerata Baltica. The first and third major-key movements are tuneful in accordance with Soviet expectations, with military band-style flourishes and plenty of piano scales. The third however has sufficient contrast: it is largely in 7/4 metre, woodwinds are brilliant and French horns a standout, and there is even a quoted Hanon piano finger exercise! Best of all for me is Anna Vinnitskaya’s sensitive high-register playing in the the middle movement, which seems like a reminiscence of childhood. In the disc’s last two works pianist Ivan Rudin joins Vinnitskaya in idiomatic playing of Shostakovich’s Concertino (1954) and Tarantella (1955) for two pianos. Recommended for Shostakovich lovers. Roger Knox MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Fancies and Interludes Jacques Israelievitch; Christina Petrowska Quilico Centrediscs CMCCD 21315 !! Fancies and Interludes is both a labour of love and musical declaration, intuited and played by two ingenious and accomplished musicians – former Toronto Symphony concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico. Recorded live at York University’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall, it has the immediacy and the vigour of a live performance (background sounds of pages being turned included), which makes the music come alive with the splendour of the excitement (or the sorrow) of each precious phrase as it was played in the moment. Fancies and Interludes includes four duos for violin and piano by contemporary Canadian composers. The title track belongs 66 | Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015

to the last piece on the album, the lengthy and rich Fancies and Interludes VI by Raymond Luedeke, a prolific composer and former TSO clarinetist who wrote this composition especially for Jacques Israelievitch. Five Fancies are framed by Six Interludes, starting as a somewhat fragmented conversation between two vastly different voices and resolving in a harmonious ending. On the other hand, the album opens with the strong momentum of Oskar Morawetz’s Duo for violin and piano. This piece grabs the listener right away, taking them on the journey from the rhythmical flow of the beginning to the deep lament in a Phrygian D-minor in the last section. Nestled in between are Drop by James Rolfe, my personal favourite on this recording, a fascinating musical travel from earth to heaven and back, and ...and dark time flowed by her like a river, by another composer with a TSO connection, composer-adviser Gary Kulesha. The work is a play between tonal and atonal, reflecting a search for the meaning of a moment in time. The programming on this CD is exquisite – the compositions flow one after another as if they were meant to be. Israelievitch and Petrowska Quilico allow the impulse, the urge to soar and expand in their playing while granting the listener a breathing space – the true embodiment of Fancies and Interludes. Ivana Popovic Editor’s Note: Jacques Israelievitch, who enjoyed an international career as a soloist, conductor and teacher, died September 5. He was 67 years old. He was diagnosed with aggressive, metastatic lung cancer in late February this year. Israelievitch had the distinction of being the longest-serving concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Retiring in 2008 after 20 years, he joined the faculty of York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, as professor of violin and viola. On August 14, in a special ceremony at his home, Israelievitch was presented with the Order of Canada, one of this country’s highest civilian orders, recognizing outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation for nearly three decades. Although Fancies and Interludes was the last CD released during his lifetime, Isrealievitch and Christina Petrowska Quilico completed recording Mozart’s 28 violin sonatas last May. The CDs will be released in 2016. Andrew Staniland – Talking Down the Tiger Various Artists Naxos Canadian Classics 8.573428 !! Talking Down the Tiger is the latest release in the important CD series under the Naxos Canadian Classics masthead. Five world premiere recordings of as many works by Andrew Staniland, who has emerged as one of Canada’s foremost concert composers, are featured here. The subtitle and other works for solo instruments and electronics aptly describes the format these compositions, dating from 2007 to 2013, are cast in. Opening the disc is the title work, scored for percussion and electroacoustic looping. The composer evocatively notes that for him, “percussion is a metaphorical tiger: possessing all at once ferociousness, beauty and mystery.” In Talking Down the Tiger (2010) he aimed to “explore a journey from a wild and ferocious sound world that gradually recedes into a mystical and beautiful sound world lying beneath.” Virtuoso Toronto percussionist Ryan Scott brings both the ferocity and lyrical sensitivity suggested by Staniland’s score alive in his musically sensitive performance. As for the electronics, they effectively extend the percussion sounds, bouncing them around the listening space, sometimes resulting in mysterious sonifications. All five works receive terrifically musical and convincing performances. Each one – for guitar, flute, cello, and soprano saxophone, in addition to the percussion of the first track – has special musical felicities I would enjoy commenting on, if only space permitted. Unfortunately there’s only room left to mention the impressive Still Turning (2011), thematically inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem Four Quartets. Staniland’s expansive near- 18-minute score is brought to vivid dramatic life by the celebrated cellist Frances-Marie Uitti, eliciting for this listener a wide range of emotional states. It’s a very satisfying musical experience, as is the rest of the album. Andrew Timar Concert note: TorQ Percussion Quartet includes a world premiere by Andrew Staniland in its program at the Tranzac Club on October 28. Poetic Sketches Elaine Keillor Centrediscs CMCCD 21615 !! Pianist Elaine Keillor appears on an extensive discography of 28 solo and chamber albums. Her newest solo release Poetic Sketches takes its title from Oskar Morawetz’s 1991 composition that includes the rhythmically energetic Prelude to a Drama, Raindrops, Storm, a haunting Prayer in Distress and the lively perpetual motion Olympic Sprinter. Through a Narrow Window is an intense and convincing work by Estonian-Canadian composer Elma Miller that imparts the composer’s concern for the devastation of the environment and our “narrow window” of understanding regarding the ecological destruction of the planet. John Weinzweig’s Netscapes is constructed from repeating motivic fragments that, according to the composer’s program notes, require “no further elaboration.” Having recorded the work on my own CD released last year, I am still intrigued, now as a listener, by the innovative structure of the piece and the integration of jazz-inflected interludes. Although entirely different in compositional technique and style, Alexina Louie’s In a Flash also incorporates jazz-like influences as Keillor’s interpretation brings verve to the composer’s performance direction of “energetically sassy.” From John Milton’s pastoral poem L’Allegro, Patrick Cardy’s humorous Quips and Cranks: Five Bagatelles for piano (2004) was the composer’s last piece written before his untimely death at age 52. Keillor’s clarity of articulation creates vitality as she conveys the charm of these delightful works. Kelly-Marie Murphy’s virtuoso Let Hands Speak (2003) was written for the Honens International Piano Competition and Keillor meets the technical challenges head-on in a spirited driving interpretation as the CD ends with an exciting climax. Réa Beaumont Chamber Music of John Burge Ensemble Made in Canada Centrediscs CMCCD 21715 !! John Burge (b.1961) has produced a large body of instrumental and vocal works, while teaching at Queen’s University since 1987 and serving as president of the Canadian League of Composers (1998 to 2006). His Flanders Fields Reflections for string orchestra won the 2009 JUNO for best Canadian composition. The three works on this disc display Burge’s characteristic neo-romantic coupling of melodiousness with strong rhythmic drive. Ensemble Made in Canada, formed in 2006 and winner of the CBC Galaxie Rising Stars award, is currently ensemble-in-residence at Western University. The ensemble commissioned this CD’s major work, the 34-minute Piano Quartet (2012), in which two highly propulsive movements, the first employing minimalist elements, bracket an elegiac Adagietto containing a scherzo (Presto misterioso). All three movements are dramatic attention-holders. The disc opens with Pas de Deux (2010), performed by the Ensemble’s violinist Elissa Lee and cellist Rachel Mercer. Its structure mirrors that of the balletic duo and the music’s warm lyricism and rocking rhythm could easily be choreographed for a real, danced love-duet. The ensemble’s other pair, violist Sharon Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015 | 67

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