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Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017

  • Text
  • March
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • April
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Musical
  • Performing
  • Theatre
  • Orchestra
  • Violin
On our cover: Owen Pallett's musical palette on display at New Creations. Spring brings thoughts of summer music education! (It's never too late.). For Marc-Andre Hamelin the score is king. Ella at 100 has the tributes happening. All; this and more.

L/R Seong-Jin Cho won

L/R Seong-Jin Cho won the 17th International Chopin Piano Competition in 2015, the first Korean to do so. His latest recording Chopin – Piano Concerto No.1; Ballades; London Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda (Deutsche Grammophon 4795941) shows how his focus on the singing qualities of Chopin’s ideas won him that coveted prize. Cho’s treatment of the principal melodic ideas in the opening movement is fluid and lyrical. Even his ornaments come across more as small eddies in a current than clusters of notes on a page. The second movement Romance is exquisite. Cho manages to retain a fragility about his playing, even through the slightly more assertive middle section. His technical display in the final movement is flawlessly clear. The Ballades too, reveal Cho’s fascination with the singing qualities of Chopin’s ideas. Much of the Ballade No. 1 in G Minor Op.23 is remarkably understated, making for a starker contrast with the outburst of the middle section as well as the closing measures. The Ballade No.2 follows in a similar vein. The effectiveness of Cho’s playing lies as much in his virtuosity as in his ability to fall into Chopin’s moments of repose with a delicacy that transcends the pianissimo markings. He’s a tall young man whose interviews reveal a shyness, a non-star-like simplicity that seems to suit him perfectly for this music. Garrick Ohlsson won the Chopin International Piano Competition more than 45 years ago and has, since then, been a recognized and respected interpreter of Chopin’s music. The way in which Chopin expanded musical boundaries in his own time, is very much echoed in the evolution of Alexander Scriabin’s piano music. So it seems a natural choice for Ohlsson to make a recording of Scriabin – The Ten Piano Sonatas; Fantasy Op.28 (Bridge 9468A/B). The ten sonatas chart a dramatic course of evolution in both form and tonality with the Sonata No.5 in F-sharp Major Op.53 being the significant turning point. The 1907 work is the first to break free of individual movements, and Scriabin himself referred to it as a “large poem for piano.” Perhaps more importantly, it moves fearlessly and convincingly in the direction of atonality. Ohlsson captures this new freedom from tonal centre and form with breathtaking virtuosic energy. The Sonata No.6 Op.62 is different again. While still a single movement, it’s a work that Scriabin never played in public, despite his habit of premiering his own compositions. He is said to have feared the darkness inherent in the writing. Ohlsson explores this without reservation and reveals something of what may have perturbed the composer so much about his own creation. The 2-disc set is a welcome and revealing document that sheds valuable light on the development of a composer who saw himself as something of a mystic whose music might change the world. Organ recordings appear infrequently in this column. It’s of special interest therefore, that organist Erik Simmons’ latest release, Hymnus – Music for Organ by Carson Cooman, Divine Art (dda 25147) demonstrates how new technology and contemporary music can be a winning formula for an older genre. Producers of organ recordings have always wrestled with microphone placement in the quest for the right balance of acoustic space and the instrument’s presence. The problem becomes more complex when organ pipes are located in different places throughout a building. Enter digital technology. Anyone can now purchase a digitally sampled pipe organ, recorded as individual notes from an optimal acoustic location, and play that library of samples through a midi system from a compatible keyboard. That’s exactly how this 1787 organ in Weissenau, Germany, appears in this recording. Every actual sound from the initial speaking attack of a pipe to its final decay and slight pitch drop is captured faithfully with every note. The authenticity of the performance location sounds so complete, it makes the likelihood of the recording being done in the comfort of his living room, even more astounding. American composer Carson Cooman, in his mid-30s, has a body of works that numbers well over a thousand. Most are short pieces, three to six minutes, and designed as music for church services where preludes, postludes and interludes on that scale are best suited. His style is fairly traditional, and contemporary in the lightest sense, engaging only occasionally with atonality. The variety of his writing is impressive and he’s capable of evoking greatly contrasting moods. This is especially effective as Erik Simmons uses the Weissenau organ to maximum colouristic effect, whether drawing a single flute rank or the full organ registration. It’s a terrific recording for three reasons: superb playing, fine composition and technological astonishment. Pianist Boris Giltburg’s discography expands yet again with Shostakovich – Piano Concertos; String Quartet No.8 (transcribed for piano) Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Vasily Petrenko (Naxos 8.573666). As he often does, Giltburg writes his own notes for the recording, exploring the circumstances around the creation of these works by a composer admittedly close to his own heart. Giltburg relates the historical events with academic precision and L/R Like the review? Listen to some tracks from all the recordings in the ads below at The WholeNote.com/Listening L/R Alma oppressa - Julie Boulianne The magnificent mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne gives these Handel and Vivaldi arias all their grandeur, their grace and their beauty. Gorgeous! Up in the Morning Early —Baroque Music from Celtic Countries performed on period instruments Mussorgsky: Pictures At An Exhibition Available at L’Atelier Grigorian 70 Yorkville Ave, Toronto & Grigorian.com Weinberg /Chamber Symphonies; Piano Quintet Available at L’Atelier Grigorian 70 Yorkville Ave, Toronto & Grigorian.com 72 | March 1, 2017 - April 7, 2017 thewholenote.com

links them to the subtlest aspects of Shostakovich’s music with the knowing intimacy of a soulmate. His exceptional performances of the Piano Concertos No.1 in C Minor and No.2 in F Major reflect this deep understanding. In the case of the Concerto No.2, Giltburg brings ebullience to the music that captures the paternal joy of its dedication to his son Maxim on his birthday in 1957. The earlier concerto predates it by more than two decades and is more formal, but Giltburg finds the positive energy that Shostakovich was soon to have repressed under the attack of the Soviet party establishment. The transcription for piano of the string quartet material is a fascinating and ambitious undertaking. Wanting to have a larger-scale Shostakovich work for solo piano available to him, Giltburg has transcribed the String Quartet in C Minor Op.110. Being as thorough as he is, he sought and received permission of the Shostakovich family for special access to resource materials for this project. The result is a new iteration of a work from a dark and discouraging period in the composer’s life. In a curious way, Shostakovich never surrendered the skill of his craft to the hopelessness of his present condition. Giltburg has inexplicably and beautifully captured this moment of genius slipping into despair. Another recording of comparisons is on the shelves this month in Natalia Andreeva plays Preludes and Fugues; Bach, Liszt, Franck and Shostakovich (Divine Art dda 25139). This Russian pianist has given considerable thought to her program and liner notes, and lays out a wonderful rationale for the enjoyment of a series of preludes and fugues that includes some form of shared material. She begins, logically, with Bach, giving the Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Minor BWV 849 a disciplined and sensitive reading. Proceeding through Liszt’s transcription of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A Minor S462 No.1 she arrives at Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue in B Minor Op 21. By now it’s clear that Andreeva is making serious connections. She concludes with Shostakovich’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor Op.87 No.20 leaving the impression that 350 years have not diminished the appeal of fugal form, especially when paired with the Prelude. Altogether a very worthwhile artistic and intellectual exercise. VOCAL Ars elaboratio Ensembe Scholastica ATMA ACD2 2755 !! These days, the kids call them remixes, but in the hands of musicologist Rebecca Bain, the music on Ars elaboratio is the product of taking plainchant and adding tropes from other sources to create new versions. This was not unheard of in the millennium that was not litigious about intellectual property and it was common because of a more flexible and oral, rather than notated, tradition of handing music down. Think of this as more serious Mediæval Babes repertoire with scholastically informed liberties, which in that era were called elaborations. The result is litanies, antiphons, poetry and scripture that are often mesmerizing and calming, especially with the addition of symphonia or, in the instrumental version of Claris vocibus, of organetto, a portable precursor to the pipe organ, played with one hand on the keyboard and the other working the bellows. The medieval pronunciation charmed this Latinist, although I may have heard some elision, as in spoken Latin poetry recitation, which may throw some listeners. And there are spots in the CD booklet that omit the original liturgical text that is discussed (e.g. the melisma on “mulierum” in Velox impulit) so that only the tropes can be followed, if that is your wont. The fascinating background to some of the elaborations contains some ballsy feminist stuff (praise of the chastity of innocent virgins aside), such as the one in Dilexisti iustitiam, in which St. Catherine of Alexandria kicks some male philosophical-debate butt. The approachable narrative in Sancti baptiste of “amice Christi Johannes” ([O] John, friend of Christ) reflects the presumed (relative) egalitarianism of the coeducational abbey of St. Martial de Limoges in the 1100s. The acoustics of the Chapelle Notre-Damede-Bon-Secours in Old Montreal lend themselves to a lovely presentation of the organic nine-voice Ensemble Scholastica. Hildegard of Bingen must be pumping her fist in coelis. Vanessa Wells Melancholy & Opus 8 Independent OPUS001 (opus8choir.com) L/R !! Opus 8 is a new Toronto ensemble. This is their first disc. The ensemble consists of eight singers and it is directed by Robert Busiakiewicz, who also sings tenor. Busiakiewicz is the director of the choir of St. James Cathedral in Toronto and a number of the singers in Opus 8 are members of the cathedral choir. Great care has been taken on this disc to provide songs from different periods. The oldest is Josquin des Prez’s great elegy on the death of Johannes Ockeghem; the most recent is a folk-song arrangement by Keith Roberts, who was born in 1971 (when I myself was in my early 30s). In between we have Renaissance madrigals (Thomas Weelkes and John Ward), part-songs by Delius and Parry and 20th-century works by Ravel and Schoenberg, Stockhausen and Maconchy. There is also variation in the number of singers employed: the three Ravel songs take the form of a duet between mezzo and tenor; the Stockhausen sets a soprano soloist against the choir. Different listeners will like different things. I myself could do without the Martinů with which the disc opens. On the other hand, I was very moved by How are the mighty fallen by Robert Ramsey, an early 17th-century work, perhaps an elegy written on the death of Prince Henry, the British Crown Prince. I was also much taken by Elizabeth Maconchy’s piece on the burial of a dead cat, sad and skittish at the same time. The performances are very fine in terms of rhythmic precision and purity of intonation. I look forward to the group’s next concert and their next CD. Hans de Groot Concert notes: Opus 8 has two upcoming performances in Toronto: “The Magic of the Madrigal” (secular partsongs spanning the centuries unfold in playful polyphony, melancholy laments and colourful songs that cover a multitude of topics from sex and dancing to youth and obesity) on March 31 at St. Clement’s Anglican Church and “H2O” (no mere offering of sea shanties, but a phantasmagoria of all things aquatic, shipwrecked and watery) on May 17 at Trinity College Chapel. Both events start at 7:30. Alma Oppressa – Vivaldi; Handel – Arias Julie Boulianne; Clavecin en Concert; Luc Beauséjour Analekta AN 2 8780 L/R !! There are on this recital disc six arias by Handel and three by Vivaldi; there are also several instrumental interludes by both. Care has been taken to pair the very well-known Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo as well as the relatively well-known arias from his Giulio Cesare and Ariodante with the less familiar arias from Imeneo and from Arianna in Creta. Of the Vivaldi arias I was especially moved by the extract from Andromeda liberata. This serenata was apparently composed by a number of composers but Luc Beauséjour assures us that Vivaldi “almost certainly” wrote this particular aria. What thewholenote.com March 1, 2017 - April 7, 2017 | 73

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