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Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019

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  • Performing
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  • April
Arraymusic, the Music Gallery and Native Women in the Arts join for a mini-festival celebrating the work of composer, performer and installation artist Raven Chacon; Music and Health looks at the role of Healing Arts Ontario in supporting concerts in care facilities; Kingston-based composer Marjan Mozetich's life and work are celebrated in film; "Forest Bathing" recontextualizes Schumann, Shostakovich and Hindemith; in Judy Loman's hands, the harp can sing; Mahler's Resurrection bursts the bounds of symphonic form; Ed Bickert, guitar master remembered. All this and more in our April issue, now online in flip-through here, and on stands commencing Friday March 29.

the North American and

the North American and European tectonic plates which are gradually moving apart at a rate of a millimetre or two per year; a number of unbelievable waterfalls, various hot springs and geysers and the black sand beaches of Vik. Most striking was the stark, treeless landscape and the barren hillsides dotted with Iceland’s miniature horses and endless sheep. And why am I telling you all this? I believe that trip gave me the background to truly appreciate the starkness of the next disc. Icelandic-born cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir has just released Vernacular (Sono Luminus DSL-92229 saeunn.com/vernacular) which includes world premieres of solo works written for her by three of the current generation of Icelandic composers, and a contemporary classic by senior composer Haflidi Hallgrímsson (b.1941). Composer Hallgrímsson is a cellist in his own right (and incidentally was in the trio ICE with Robert Aitken and composer/pianist Thorkell Sigurbjörnsson during the 1970s). He composed Solitaire for solo cello in 1969 and it was his first published work, later revising it to its current form two decades later. Thorsteinsdóttir says that from the first time she played the work she felt a connection “not only to the music, but also beyond the music.” The idiomatic writing is like “playing [with Hallgrímsson’s] hands… getting to know a fellow musician in this physical way is satisfying and humbling at the same time.” After the extremes of the first three pieces on the disc, Solitaire is a welcome relief. A five-movement work, it opens with Oration employing simultaneous left-hand pizzicato beneath a soaring bowed melody. Serenade is played entirely without the bow while the central Nocturne is richly melodic in a meditative way. This is followed by a Dirge which the composer says “is lyrical in nature and hints at darker thoughts, leading eventually to the last movement which is a lively and energetic Jig.” This performance makes clear why Solitaire is regarded as a seminal and significant exploration of “the sound world… available to the contemporary cellist,” at least as perceived in 1969. As mentioned, the recent works on this recording explore more extreme notions. The disc begins with Páll Ragnar Pálsson (b.1977), a rock musician who has recently come to the world of art music. He studied with Helena Tulve at the Estonian Academy of Music where he received a PhD and in 2017 released his first album as a composer. In 2018 his Quake for solo cello and chamber orchestra was a selected work at the International Rostrum of Composers in Budapest, which marked his first collaboration with compatriot Thorsteinsdóttir. The solo work Afterquake is a direct outgrowth of that project. This is followed by 48 Images of the Moon by Thurídur Jónsdóttir (b.1967), thewholenote.com/listening which combines solo cello with quiet natural sounds from a field recording made at night in an Icelandic fjord by Magnús Bergsson. The entire piece takes place in barely audible gestures with only a rare pizzicato pop rising above the field. Halldór Smárason (b.1989) contributes a three-movement work simply titled O. Thorsteinsdóttir tells us that “In Iceland, darkness in the winter months has created a need for light and warmth for centuries, and candles continue to be a source for both. This piece explores the meaning and associations with the intimacy, warmth, and the wild yet contained energy of the light of the candle and its effect on the darkness surrounding it.” As effective as this depiction is, it only makes me the more content to have visited Iceland during the days of the midnight sun. This month’s final disc also contains new works for solo cello, but with a very different premise. Guided by Voices – New Music for Baroque Cello (Analekta AN 2 9162 analekta.com/en/) features works written for Elinor Frey. Frey, an accomplished cellist comfortable in the music of all eras but particularly known for her early music acumen, says: “When modern composers write a new piece for ‘Baroque’ cello it becomes an instrument of today, helping to expand the sound worlds of both the cello and new music audiences.” The breadth of vision and diversity of voices represented here certainly support this. Scott Edward Godin’s piece, which gives the album its title, “draws inspiration from the life and oeuvre of Saint Hildegard of Bingen, […and] exploits the obsessiveness found within recurring melodic units of Hildegard’s music, deconstructing these units before reconstructing them in a new musical framework.” Those familiar with Hildegard’s long, sustained melodies may be surprised by the level of activity in Godin’s creation, but strains of her melodies do peek through the busyness. Minerva, says composer Lisa Streich “imagines a goddess who, almost like an octopus, helps with or stands for many things at once – a goddess of everything. She reminds me of the human being of the future, a human fully endowed with equal rights, who, according to Global Gender Gap Reports, should exist in 217 years.” Frey dedicates her project to Maxime McKinley with gratitude for his “humour and kindness.” McKinley’s own contribution, Cortile di Pilato, was inspired by a courtyard in Bologna surrounded by the Basilica of Santo Stefano, a complex of four churches built on a foundation begun in the fifth century that was itself built on a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis. He says: “I was interested in the ‘copresence’ of different epochs in the same place that create a thread among many centuries. This pleased me, particularly when writing a piece for Baroque cello and harpsichord.” For this performance Frey is joined by Mélisande McNabney. Like the McKinley, Linda Catlin Smith’s Ricercar was commissioned with the support of Toronto philanthropist, the late Daniel Cooper. It is perhaps the most “Baroque” of the pieces on offer here; played with little or no vibrato, the melody gently unfolds and grows. But gradually it expands through other sound worlds as the melody is supported by double and triple stops that produce some close harmonies, some wide interval jumps and, toward the middle of the piece, a driving rhythmic pulse. This eventually gives way to a quiet section before building dramatically again and receding once more. Ken Ueno says Chimera “is a kind of meta-suite in five movements, one that traverses time. Starting with a contemporary recasting of a prelude, the following movements gradually approach a ghost of the Baroque.” Frey seems at home in all the realms this journey presents her with, be it just intonation, microtonality, hectic virtuosity or stasis. It is our good fortune to accompany her. John Zorn: Chamber Music Molinari Quartet Recognized as a major influential figure in contemporary jazz and the avant-garde, John Zorn is the focus of the latest recording by Molinari Quartet. Handel – Dixit Dominus; Bach & Schütz – Motets Ottawa Bach Choir; Lisette Canton The Ottawa Bach Choir presents works by three of the most important composers of the German Baroque period – Handel, Schütz and Bach. We 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. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com 70 | April 2019 thewholenote.com

STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS Ascent is the first solo album by the 26-yearold American violist Matthew Lipman, and also marks his debut on the Cedille Records label (CDR 90000 184 cedillerecords.org). He is accompanied by his regular duo partner, American pianist Henry Kramer. The creative process behind the CD started when Lipman asked American composer Clarice Assad to write a fantasy piece for viola and piano in memory of his mother. Lipman chose the Ascent title to describe the album’s music and “the upward movement that happens throughout life and after.” The opening track is the Phantasy for Viola and Piano Op.54 from 1914 by the English composer York Bowen. It’s a simply gorgeous work which perfectly showcases the warmth, lightness and agility of Lipman’s playing as well as the top-notch contribution from Kramer. The standard never drops throughout the world premiere recording of Assad’s two-part Metamorfose or Robert Schumann’s four Märchenbilder Op.113. Fuga libre by the Irish violist and composer Garth Knox is the only solo viola work on the CD. Written in 2008 for the Tokyo International Viola Competition, it uses some really interesting effects, including quite fascinating harmonic glissandi. Shostakovich’s very brief (at 1:56) Impromptu for Viola and Piano Op.33, written in 1931 but not discovered until 2017, is another world premiere recording, Lipman having managed to obtain a pre-publication transcript of the score from the DSCH Publishing House. A viola arrangement of Franz Waxman’s virtuosic Carmen Fantasie brings an outstanding CD to a close, Lipman’s flawless technique, beautiful tone and consummate musicianship making for viola playing as fine as any you will hear. It’s difficult to think of a more exciting duo than violinist Alina Ibragimova and her long-time pianist partner Cédric Tiberghien. Their 3-CD live recital set of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas contained some electrifying performances, and they bring the same level of playing to their latest CD, Vierne & Franck: Violin Sonatas, a recital of works that pay homage in their own ways to 19th-century musical thinking, their fairly dense textures and serious nature being qualities that would be rejected in post-WWI Paris (Hyperion CDA68204 hyperion-records.co.uk). The Poème élégiaque Op.12 by Eugène Ysaÿe opens the CD – and what an opening it is! Published in the piano version in 1893 and the first of Ysaÿe’s nine Poèmes for string instruments and orchestra, it was inspired by the death and funeral scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and employs scordatura tuning for darker colour, the low G string being tuned down to F. It’s a rhapsodic, passionate work that perfectly showcases this duo’s strengths: tone, nuance, intelligence, passion, commitment, and flawless technical assurance. César Franck’s Violin Sonata in A Major was written in 1886 as a wedding present for Ysaÿe; it’s been popular for so long that hearing it again is like revisiting an old and treasured friend, and the visit here is a truly lovely one. The connections between the works on the disc continue with Louis Vierne’s outstanding Violin Sonata in G Minor Op.23. Vierne was a pupil of Franck, and this sonata was written at Ysaÿe’s request and premiered by him in 1908. It’s a sweeping work much in the style of the Franck, and deserves to be much better known. The brief Nocturne from 1911 by the 18-year-old Lili Boulanger, Nadia’s younger sister, acts as a light dessert after the richness that has preceded it, and ends a CD of music-making of the highest order. Whenever there’s another CD from the always wonderful Steven Isserlis in the new releases, you just know you’re in for something special, and so it proves yet again with Shostakovich & Kabalevsky Cello Sonatas, Isserlis being joined by his recital partner of over 30 years, pianist Olli Mustonen (Hyperion CDA68239 hyperion-records.co.uk). The Shostakovich Sonata in D Minor Op.40, written in 1934 when the composer was in his late 20s, sets the tone for the whole CD, Isserlis displaying his usual full-blooded and passionate, yet always sensitive and musically intelligent playing, especially in the opening movement and the fiendish and demonic second. Mustonen is his equal in every respect. Prokofiev’s Ballade in C Major Op.15 is an early work from 1912 when the composer was only 21; it is essentially in two halves, Prokofiev referring to it as “similar in form to a sonata in two movements.” There’s no doubting the strength and quality of Kabalevsky’s Sonata in B-flat major Op.71, written for Rostropovich in 1962. Isserlis notes that this is a work that should really be heard more often, and his performance here makes an even stronger case. Three short works round out the CD. Shostakovich’s brief (at 2:31) Moderato was only published in 1986 after being discovered in a Moscow archive alongside the manuscript of the Cello Sonata. It’s believed to be from the same period, but its real provenance remains unknown. Prokofiev’s Adagio – Cinderella and the Prince is a 1944 arrangement of a section from his ballet Cinderella. Kabalevsky’s Rondo in memory of Prokofiev Op.79 was the third of three test-piece Rondos he wrote for the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow – one for piano in 1958, one for violin in 1962 and this one in 1965. It’s quite substantial, with more than a hint of Prokofiev’s music, especially the wispy “wind-in-the-graveyard” effect from the first violin sonata. In his usual outstanding booklet notes Isserlis includes his customary exact timing references to salient points in the works, adding an extra touch of class to a simply outstanding CD. In his introductory booklet notes to Bach: The Cello Suites (Hyperion CDA68261 hyperion-records.co.uk) the German cellist Alban Gerhardt reveals that, like so many others, he was reluctant to even try recording these challenging works before turning 50 – which he does this coming May. He is also aware that any recording can never be a final word. For some time Gerhardt studied Baroque performance practice, but felt his attempts to assimilate historically informed techniques didn’t work for him, his playing sounding “neither authentic nor musically very interesting. I came to realize that just turning off the vibrato and using a sound which barely touched the surface of the string actually had very little to do with historical performance and didn’t sit well with me as a musician.” He consequently uses vibrato “with great care and control” and aims for “a seemingly effortless articulation with as much depth to the sound as possible.” Add Gerhardt’s 1710 Matteo Gofriller cello and the results are simply beautiful. It’s a set that easily holds its own in a very competitive field. With the BIS Super Audio CD Tan Dun: Fire Ritual – Violin Concertos we enter the distinctive sound world of the Chinese composer Tan Dun, now in his early 60s. The Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing has been collaborating with the composer since 2010, a relationship which resulted in the creation of both of the works on the CD: the thewholenote.com April 2019 | 71

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 2020
Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 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

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)