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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Arts
  • Choir
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
Presenters, start your engines! With TIFF and "back-to-work" out of the way, the regular concert season rumbles to life, and, if our Editor's Opener can be trusted, "Seeking Synergies" seems to be the name of the game. Denise Williams' constantly evolving "Walk Together Children" touching down at the Toronto Centre for the Arts; the second annual Festival of Arabic Music and Arts expanding its range; a lesson in Jazz Survival with Steve Wallace; the 150 presenter and performer profiles in our 19th annual Blue Pages directory... this is an issue that is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

New York City. It begins

New York City. It begins in near silence with nervous scratching and harmonics in the high strings. Ever so gradually, melodies emerge and a cello solo comes to the fore. Later the violin and viola join in a furious round of glissandi and dense choppy rhythms. Eventually the eerie atmosphere of the opening returns as “this portrait of an urban crossing beautifully captures how one spot in a city can contain an entire universe.” Members of counter)induction perform the brief but intense Piano Quartet No.1 which is a splendidly raucous homage to Boyce’s youthful love of Bartók and King Crimson. The final work, filling more than half of the disc, is the intriguing Fortuitous Variations, in four movements performed by Trio Cavatina. There are literally pages of program notes about this piece in the covering letter I received from Boyce, on the one-sheet press release and in the extended notes on the new focus website (the disc itself has none). Boyce writes “The CD’s title is borrowed from an essay of C.S. Peirce, the inaugurator of philosophical Pragmatism and its particularly ferocious rethinking of the potential of thought in comparison to practice. […] There is a darkness here, as there is in so much of Peirce – a seeming submission to human finitude, to limits both cognitive and biological. And, I think, that gothic and mournful mood carries across all the works on the disc.” The movement titles – every deduction involves the observation of a diagram; the vastness hitherto spoken of is as great in one direction as in another; so it is rather the whole river that is place, because as a whole it is motionless and the dawn and the gloaming most invite one to musement – presumably refer further to Peirce and his development of “America’s great contribution to philosophy.” The web notes tell us (in part): “Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) is a fascinating figure philosophically, historically, and biographically. [...] founder of an intellectual enterprise committed to disrupting all foundations. His most inventive work addressed language, communication, and symbology; the pure volume of his output on pretty much everything is quite belittling to one’s own sense of capacity – mathematics, mathematical logic, physics, geodesy, spectroscopy, astronomy, psychology, anthropology, history, and economics.” How this actually relates to the music and its composition is beyond me, but Boyce, who is associate professor of music at George Washington University, has found in it inspiration to create a compelling cycle of works. Recommended for those who are not concerned with finding hummable tunes in their craggy contemporary music. The performances are all outstanding. The final disc this month provides a bit of a “guilty pleasure” or at least a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I believe I first heard Offenbach’s Gaîté parisienne in my early teenage years on my mother’s Reader’s Digest collection of great classical favourites (I don’t remember the exact title, but it was about ten LPs and had more or less what you’d expect in a sampler). A new ATMA release by the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec under the direction of Fabien Gabel – Gaîté Parisienne (ACD2 2757 atmaclassique.com) – features that cancan-filled work along with Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales and Poulenc’s suite from Les Biches in spirited performances. Paris-born Gabel, director of the OSQ since 2012, brings with him an innate love and understanding of French repertoire as witnessed in this, OSQ’s fifth ATMA, and 25th overall release, recorded live in Salle Louis-Frèchette, Grand Théâtre de Québec in May of this year. Ravel’s love of the waltz, “You know my great liking for these wonderful rhythms,” resulted in a set of eight piano pieces in 1911, titled in homage to Schubert who had published two collections, Valses nobles and Valses sentimentales. Ravel orchestrated his set and in 1914 it was premiered under the direction of the legendary Pierre Monteux (who incidentally conducted the OSQ in 1962). Less well known is Poulenc’s ballet suite, but it provides an appropriate bridge to the final work that is the icing on the cake, Offenbach’s Gaîté parisienne, created in 1938 for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo with choreography from Léonide Massine, one of the leading lights of the former Ballet Russes. We are here presented with a half-hour long suite arranged at Massine’s request, by Manuel Rosenthal drawing on the best of Offenbach’s operettas, although primarily La vie parisienne. It ends with the gorgeous Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann, and a good time is had by all! 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 enhanced reviews in the Listening Room with audio samples, upcoming performance details and direct links to performers, composers and record labels. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Solo Seven Marc Djokic For his debut album, Solo Seven, violinist Marc Djokic is proud to present a collection of pieces for solo violin by great Canadian composers. Gaîté parisienne Orchestre symphonique de Québec; Fabien Gabel From the waltz to the French cancan to the ballet, this program illustrates the perfect symbiosis between dance and French music. Un Sospiro - Italian Art Songs Julie Nesrallah, mezzo soprano; Caroline Léonardelli, harp Recording of the week - Saturday Afternoon at the Opera Apogee: Music of Farshid Samandari Farshid Samandari fuses the sound worlds of the contemporary avant-garde and traditional Persia in Apogee, the latest release from Redshift Records. 66 | October 2018 thewholenote.com

STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS The chamber music of the Hungarian composer Ernő Dohnányi is featured in outstanding performances by the Nash Ensemble on a new Hyperion CD (CDA68215 hyperion-records.co.uk). Dohnányi was a central figure in Hungarian musical life in the 1930s, but unfounded Nazi sympathiser accusations by the post-war Communist government essentially destroyed his reputation. It was not until the 1990s that it began to recover. The works here are from three periods of Dohnányi’s career. The Serenade in C major for string trio Op.10 is an early work, inventive, masterful and humorous. The String Quartet No.3 in A Minor Op.33 is a nationalistic and modernist work from 1926, the composer having returned to Hungary from Berlin at the start of the First World War. The absolute gem here, though, is the Sextet in C major for piano, clarinet, horn and string trio Op.37 from 1935, the last chamber work Dohnányi completed. It’s absolutely stunning, with writing that’s brilliant and passionate throughout – at times overwhelmingly so. The incredible performance here simply takes your breath away. Pianist Joyce Yang joins members of the Alexander String Quartet – violinist Zakarias Grafilo, violist Paul Yarbrough and cellist Sandy Wilson – in Apotheosis: Mozart Vol.2 The Piano Quartets (Foghorn Classics CD2018 FoghornClassics.com). Volume 1 featured the Late String Quartets, and Volume 3 will feature the Late Quintets. Mozart was not the first to write quartets for piano and strings, but his two contributions – the Piano Quartet in G Minor K478 and Piano Quartet in E-flat Major K493 from 1785 and 1786 respectively – are the first two great works in the genre. They are given simply beautiful performances here, with sensitive, expressive playing all round. The outstanding Yang plays with crystal-clear articulation and a fine sense of melodic line and phrase; the string playing – as one would expect from this ensemble founded in 1981 – is warm and stylish, with generous but never excessive vibrato. The recorded sound, ambience and balance are all that you could wish for. There’s another quite outstanding set of the Bach Cello Suites in the version for viola on J. S. Bach Six Suites for Viola Solo BWV1007-1012 with American violist Kim Kashkashian (ECM New Series ECM2553/54 ecmrecords.com). The viola is tuned an octave above the cello, so this arrangement, while not altering the music’s physical relation with the instrument, creates a different range of tonal colour. Kashkashian plays a modern viola by Stefan-Peter Greiner and – for Suite V – a 1989 five-string viola by Francesco Bissolotti. Both instruments have a glowing, lustrous tone. Kashkashian plays these dance suites with an unerring sense of movement, with faultless technique, and with warmth, flexibility, smoothness and a controlled emotionality that mines the depths of these remarkable creations. Three viola concertos usually attributed to the 18th-century German composer Georg Benda but now believed by the soloist here to be by Benda’s nephew are presented on Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Benda Viola Concertos 1-3 (cpo 555 167-2 naxosdirect.com/items/benda-viola-concertosnos.-1-3-455473). The Quebec-born violist Jean-Eric Soucy is the soloist with the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiberg under Bernard Labadie, with whom Soucy was a co-founder of Les Violins du Roy. Soucy’s excellent notes trace the intricate but fascinating research journey that led to his opinion regarding the true source of these concertos. They’re simply lovely works which Soucy rightly calls magnificent additions to the viola repertoire. Concerto No.1 is in F Major; Concerto Nos. 2 and 3 are in E-flat Major. Soucy plays with a lovely warm tone, agility and clear articulation. Labadie creates a perfect setting for him, with the delicate harpsichord sound in particular adding to a transparent orchestral texture to create a perfect period feel. The always outstanding Steven Isserlis plays works by Chopin, Schubert and Franchomme on Chopin & Schubert Sonatas with pianist Dénes Várjon (Hyperion CDA68227 hyperion-records.co.uk). Isserlis is one of the most insightful and intelligent cellists around, and his warm, expansive playing is evident from the opening work, Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise brillante in C Major Op.3. Chopin met the French cellist Auguste Franchomme in Paris and the two became close associates, the latter joining Chopin in the premiere performance of the Cello Sonata in G Minor Op.65, the last work published in Chopin’s lifetime. Isserlis, in his customary insightful booklet notes, describes Franchomme’s Nocturne in C Minor Op.15 No.1 as a nice bridge from the youthful Chopin to the inward-looking composer of the late, dark sonata. There’s impassioned playing by Isserlis and Várjon in the Chopin Cello Sonata, especially in the lengthy opening movement. The Schubert work is the Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor D821. The arpeggione, sometimes called the cello-guitar, was a fretted instrument held between the knees and played with a bow. It was an awkward invention that would probably be forgotten by now were it not for this sonata; certainly its awkwardness isn’t reflected in Schubert’s music. Two songs in transcriptions by Isserlis complete the CD: Chopin’s Nie ma czego trzeba Op.74 No.13; and Schubert’s Nacht und Träume D827. I don’t recall ever hearing any music by the German late-Romantic composer Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), so the new CD of his Complete Cello Sonatas with cellist Alexander Hülshoff and pianist Oliver Triendl came as a welcome – and pleasant – surprise (cpo 555 054-2 naxosdirect.com/items/ gernsheim-complete-cello-sonatas-455471). This is the first recording of all three of Gernsheim’s cello sonatas, presented here along with two short pieces for cello and piano. The Sonata No.3 in E Minor Op.87 was a direct result of Gernsheim’s dissatisfaction with the Sonata No.2 in E Minor Op.79 from 1906, the composer reworking the finale in 1914 and replacing the original first two movements with completely new ones. The Sonata No.1 in D Minor Op.12 is an early work from 1868 that still inhabits the world of Mendelssohn. That Gernsheim could clearly write beautiful slow movements thewholenote.com October 2018 | 67

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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