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Volume 22 Issue 3 - November 2016

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of the Council of Trent

of the Council of Trent in its simplicity and beauty, which have kept it in the repertoire for nearly five centuries. In this presentation it is sung with plainchant Propers for Easter Day interspersed. The other major work on the disc is Missa O Quam Gloriosum for four voices by Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria who succeeded Palestrina as chapel master at the Roman Seminary in 1571. He was ordained in 1575 and enjoyed a very successful career in Rome until returning to Spain as chaplain to the dowager Empress Maria in 1587. The mass presented here is one of 15 “parody Masses” he wrote, this one based on his own joyful All Saints’ Day motet O Quam Gloriosum. Rather than plainchant, in this performance the motets Gaudent in coelis by Victoria and by Palestrina are interspersed between the movements of the mass. The disc opens with one of the four Marian antiphons, the brief Regina Caeli in a setting for four voices by Francisco Guerrero (1528- 1599) that beautifully sets the stage for what is to come. The two main works are separated by Palestrina’s six-voice Tu es Petrus (You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church…) and the recital ends with his quiet Sicut cervus, a psalm text describing the soul’s yearning for God. Concert Note: New York Polyphony will present its Christmas program “Sing Thee Nowell” in a matinee for Fondation Arte Musica in Montreal on December 4 at Salle de concert Bourgie. One of the most intriguing discs to come my way this month is a solo project from flutist Robert Dick. Many of you may have been curious about that bizarrely shaped instrument pictured in the hands of Claire Chase on the cover of October’s The WholeNote. The contrabass flute, about four metres of tubing bent into something resembling the number four, stands on the floor with its vertical shaft towering above the flutist’s head before bending in a triangle with a horizontal extension that includes an oversized mouthpiece. If you didn’t get to Chase’s “Density 2035” last month and want to hear just what this “gentle giant” is capable of, I suggest you pick up Dick’s Our Cells Know on John Zorn’s Tzadik label (TZ 4015 tzadik.com). The disc is a series of six improvisations that really explore and exploit the surprising sound world of this distinctive instrument. Dick is a virtuoso performer on all the members of the flute family, known for his interest in contemporary forms and his encyclopedic knowledge and command of extended performance techniques, many of which he himself developed and has documented in his book The Other Flute: A Performance Manual of Contemporary Techniques. At Zorn’s suggestion this disc focuses solely on the contrabass flute. At first listen it was often hard to realize that the myriad percussive sounds were actually being produced on a flute. As with John Cage’s prepared piano, which turned that familiar instrument into a percussion orchestra, we are presented with sounds that just don’t seem to come from the instrument we are seeing. Thanks to the resonant properties of the contrabass – it looks to be about four times the diameter of a regular flute – the physical sounds of the instrument itself are amplified as if under a microscope. From the opening notes of Mitochondrial Ballet I found myself disoriented, wondering how this “electronic” music was being produced acoustically. The multiphonics sounding simultaneously with an underlying rhythm track provided by the sound of the fingers on the keys, all sustained by Dick’s circular breathing, is almost surreal. The six tracks, averaging about eight minutes each, all focus on different aspects of the instrument or playing techniques. Aura Aurora is primarily melodic, weaving harmonic overtones with some truly beautiful pure low tones. Afterimage, Before for Ginger Baker, as you might expect, is reminiscent of the iconic drummer’s extended solos achieved here almost entirely with fingers tapping on the instrument’s keys and breath sounds that somehow resemble cymbal strikes and tom-tom beats. Efflorescence returns to the lowest register of the instrument in a very calm, melodic treatment which eventually leads to eerie whistling and humming in counterpoint with the low resonance. On the Restless Seas of Time combines percussive finger work with a variety of breath techniques and flutterings. The title track, a memorial to Dick’s friend Stephanie Stone, closes the disc in an extended meditative state. While I feared that an entire disc of solo contrabass flute might prove to be a bit “much of a muchness,” I must say that Dick kept my attention throughout his journey and I have found myself returning to the disc time and again over the past few weeks. Like everyone I suppose, I am always gratified to find out that someone is actually reading these things I write and even paying attention. I received a note from Alex Rodger (alexrodger@ yahoo.ca) recently saying that he remembered I mentioned in passing some months ago that I played 12-string guitar and he thought I might be interested to hear his own creations for that instrument. He included a disc of his “Greatest Hits” titled Alix – 12-String Guitar Dream Series, solo instrumental pieces couched in the lush resonance of his Takemine guitar. Rhythmic and modal, his playing, as he himself points out, is reminiscent of the guitarists of those iconic 70s bands Yes and Genesis. Using a combination of strumming and clever fingerpicking, the Dreams are mostly a wash of harmony with some subtle internal melodies, all quite accomplished. Thanks for sending them along, Alex. We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website thewholenote.com where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for online shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com TERRY ROBBINS L/R There’s a tendency among leading violinists to leave recording the Bach Six Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin until they have been living with them and performing them for some considerable time, given the soul-searching nature of the music. If they do revisit them at a much later date, it’s usually to offer a fresh interpretation that reflects their ever-evolving relationship with these astonishing works. James Ehnes, who turned 40 this year, was only in his early 20s when he recorded the Sonatas & Partitas for Analekta just over 16 years ago, but his recent revisit (AN 2 8772-3) is a reissue, and not a re-recording. In his introductory note Ehnes acknowledges that his interpretations have evolved over the years, and will continue to do so throughout his life, so it’s perhaps a bit surprising that he didn’t take this opportunity to offer an updated version. Still, when you play them like this, who needs to? This set often turns up in personal choice lists of the best versions available, and it’s easy to see – and hear – why: Ehnes plays with grace, ease and eloquence, and with complete technical mastery coupled with emotional warmth and intellectual insight. There’s a smooth, effortless and almost religious serenity to these performances (the recordings were made in a church) with towering fugues, achingly beautiful andantes and wonderfully rhythmic dance movements. 68 | November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016 thewholenote.com

If you missed this set the first time around you might want to put that right – it’s one to treasure. And, oh, that 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius violin! Violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis get together on the new CD For the Love of Brahms, with Bell directing the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (Sony Classical 88985 32179 2). The Double Concerto in A Minor Op.102 for Violin and Cello has often been considered to be inferior to Brahms’ Violin Concerto in critical biographies, but it has always been my favourite of the two works. Perhaps it’s the added warmth and depth of the cello or the simple beauty of the slow movement. In any event, the performance here is one for the ages. From the carefully measured orchestral opening statement, through Isserlis’ beautiful cello solo, to Bell’s tender entry and his dialogue with Isserlis, it’s clear that this is going to be a performance of sensitivity, rhapsodic passion and haunting beauty. Under Bell’s direction the Academy provides an accompaniment that perfectly complements the soloists. It’s a simply wonderful reading. The two other works on the CD highlight the close relationships between Brahms, Joachim and the Schumanns (in Brahms’ case, particularly Clara). Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D Minor was written for Joachim, but later supressed by him and Clara, only surfacing in 1937. The hauntingly beautiful Langsam slow movement, with its prominent cello melody, was adapted as an Elegy for violin and strings by Benjamin Britten (who added a codetta) and Yehudi Menuhin at the 1958 Aldeburgh Festival as a memorial to the brilliant young horn player Dennis Brain, who had been killed in a car crash the previous September. Apparently unperformed since then, it is played here with Isserlis assuming the cello melody and joining Bell as soloist. Pianist Jeremy Denk joins Bell and Isserlis in a sterling performance of Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major Op.8, a work heavily revised and essentially reworked by the composer in 1889 but presented here in its original version from 1854, written less than a year after Brahms had met the Schumanns and replete with apparent references to his growing love for Robert’s wife Clara. Significantly – and uncharacteristically – Brahms never withdrew this earlier version, and after years of living in the shadow of the later and admittedly more polished reworking it now seems to be growing in popularity. Justifiably so, for what it lacks in polish it makes up for in its unbridled youthful passion. The terrific violinist Tianwa Yang is back with another outstanding disc on the Naxos label, this time featuring Lalo and Manén Violin Concertos (8.573067). Yang seems to have a natural affinity for Spanish works, having already recorded the complete violin works of Pablo de Sarasate, and her dazzling brilliance seems perfectly suited to the nature of the music. As in the Sarasate set, Yang is paired with a Spanish orchestra for even more authenticity, this time the Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra under Darrell Ang. Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole has long been a part of the standard repertoire and despite its symphonic title has always been viewed as a violin concerto. Although the composer was French the work is quite clearly greatly influenced by its dedicatee and first performer, Sarasate, a player noted for his purity of tone and quicksilver technique. Much the same can be said of Yang, who gives a splendid performance here. The real revelation on this CD, though, is the Violin Concerto No.1 “Concierto español” by the Spanish composer Joan Manén, who was born in 1883 and lived until 1971. Manén was a childhood virtuoso pianist and violinist who composed from an early age and had an astonishing early career; in the pre-WWI years he was regarded as one of the best violinists of the time. His appeal and career waned after the war, and although he continued performing until 1959 his death in Barcelona attracted little attention. The Violin Concerto No.1 Op.18 was written in the late 1890s when Manén was still only in his mid-teens, and was revised in 1935 when it was re-numbered Op.A-7. It’s an absolute gem of a work in much the same vein as the Lalo, firmly in the 19th-century virtuosic tradition but always more than a mere showcase for technique. The slow movement in particular is simply ravishing, and Yang’s brilliant and sympathetic playing throughout leaves you wondering how on earth you could not have heard this concerto before, and why it has never made its way into the standard repertoire. Quite simply, it’s worth the price of the CD on its own. The British string ensemble the Heath Quartet has built an enviable reputation for itself since its foundation at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in 2002, and garnered glowing reviews for its 2013/14 recording of the complete string quartets of Sir Michael Tippett that comprised its debut CD on the Wigmore Hall Live label last year. Their new CD of Tchaikovsky String Quartets Nos.1 & 3 (HMU 907665) marks the start of a new Yellow arrows like this point you to … ONLINE LISTENING ROOM While you’re enjoying the CD reviews in this printed magazine you’ll notice that some reviews are sporting a jaunty little yellow arrow. Every L/R arrow like this means that if you visit our ONLINE LISTENING ROOM you’ll find an Enhanced Review for that particular recording where you can CLICK to LISTEN to sample tracks and even CLICK to BUY if you really like the recording. Just to get started, find the CD reviews and ads with the yellow arrows in this issue. Delicious musical appetizers for your ears are ready and waiting for you, along withmore than 150 other Enhanced Reviews at thewholenote.com/listening Overtures To Bach Building a bridge from Bach’s time to our own. “A simply outstanding CD.” – The WholeNote thewholenote.com November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016 | 69

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

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