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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Concerts
  • Singers
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • Choir
What a range of stuff! A profile of Liz Upchurch, the COC ensemble studio's vocal mentor extraordinaire; a backgrounder on win-win faith/arts centre partnerships and ways of exploring the possibilities; an interview with St. Petersburg-based Eifman Ballet's Boris Eifman; Ana Sokolovic's violin concert Evta finally coming to town; a Love Letter to YouTube, and much more. Plus our 17th annual Canary Pages Choral directory if all you want to do is sing! sing! sing!

Throughout, the

Throughout, the 13-member instrumental ensemble – including a bodhrán, a tin whistle and a harp – provide a solid and sensitive accompaniment. For lovers of the Irish folk tradition, Perpetual Twilight is a delight – joyful singing from the land of Joyce and Beckett – comhghairdeas! Richard Haskell CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Johann Nepomuk Hummel – Flute Sonatas Dorothea Seel; Christoph Hammer Hanssler Classics HC18103 (naxosdirect.com) !! Dorothea Seel is both a flutist and a musicologist, whose area of research is the playing techniques and sound aesthetics of 19th-century flutes. She has presented her research in her dissertation, Der Diskurs um den Klang der Flöte im 19. Jahrhundert (The Discourse about the Sound of the Flute in the 19th Century), published earlier this year by Kunstuniversität Graz, for which she has received the Award of Excellence from the Austrian government. Her collaborator on this recording, Christoph Hammer, also a specialist in the music and instruments of the 19th century is, according to the liner notes, “also committed to the revival of less-well-known composers and the research and editing of their works.” What I heard listening to this recording was something of a shock; it revealed an entirely different sound aesthetic from that with which I am familiar and, I would say, have come to expect, listening to recordings of music for the flute. As the liner notes explain, Seel’s research led her to “forgotten playing techniques... many of which would meet with the disapproval of modern-day exponents.” When I left behind my expectations, however, Hummel’s music took on an almost exotic quality, revealing the forgotten zeitgeist of a world long gone. So, while I am not about to abandon my Boehm flute for an early 19th-century Viennese Ziegler instrument of the type played by Seel on this recording, I am extremely grateful for her work and her ability to translate her research into practice. Allan Pulker Mendelssohn: Symphony No.1; Piano Concerto No.2 Kristian Bezuidenhout; Freiburger Barockorchester; Pablo Heras-Casado Harmonia mundi HMM 902369 (smarturl.it/xs369d) !! This brand new issue belongs to a series initiated by young conductor Pablo Heras-Casado’s Diving into German Romanticism and what better way to start than Mendelssohn? Mendelssohn was probably one of the most gifted musicians that ever lived and was capable of composing a symphony for full orchestra at the age of 12! Perhaps due to the superiority of his later mature works, Symphony No.1 has been unjustifiably neglected but it’s certainly worth hearing as it is performed here. Typically sturm und drang and written in the sombre key of C Minor, the first movement is full of sound and fury at a frantic speed of Allegro di molto with strings rushing like a whirlwind demonstrating this orchestra’s amazing virtuosity. Peace and solace relieve the storm in the beautiful second movement that sings like one of Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Worte where the interplay of woodwinds is a pure delight. The dominating C Minor stormy mood returns Allegro con fuoco piu stretto in the fourth movement with interesting contrapuntal episodes but ending the symphony triumphantly in a major key. The Piano Concerto No.2 in D Minor was regrettably completely overshadowed by Mendelssohn’s popular, irresistible first foray into the genre. However, South African Kristian Bezuidenhout’s agile brilliance yet gentle touch on the Fortepiano Érard (Paris 1837) plus a highly precise and exciting period instrument accompaniment, makes this concerto truly shine. As the recording progressed I found myself falling in love with Mendelssohn over and over again. And that energetically driven, passionate rendition of the Fair Melusina Overture tops it all. I haven’t heard it played as beautifully since Sir Thomas Beecham. Janos Gardonyi The Rossini Project Volume 1 – The Young Rossini Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana; Markus Poschner Concerto Classics CD 2112 (naxosdirect.com) !! Rossini was a wunderkind who came on the musical scene like a comet and music just poured out of him, much like Mozart. His creative genius never diminished and his greatest works came near the end of his long life. Last year was the 150th anniversary of his death and this ongoing ambitious project, which includes some first recordings, has been created with the Lugano-based Swiss orchestra to explore and record much of his lesser-known and hitherto unedited works. It certainly starts off splendidly with a wonderfully pointed, sparkling rendition of the Overture to L’Italiana in Algeri. Though not at all unknown, it immediately demonstrates the gifted young German conductor Markus Poschner’s obvious affinity to Rossini. The overtures that follow are youthful attempts but already showing the lion’s teeth of the master emerging, as in the alternate version of L’equivoco stravagante (1811) with its beautiful horn solo and subsequent brilliant use of woodwinds, and the first manifestations of the Rossini crescendo in Tancredi Overture. The period covered (1808-14) is mostly from Venice, young Rossini’s first major stop, just up the Adriatic coast from his birthplace Pesaro where he ran away as a teenager to become the toast of the town in a few years. The Venetian sojourn produced a dozen operas, two of them masterpieces: L’Italiana in Algeri and Tancredi , the latter duly represented here by excerpts and sung by virtuoso, strong Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak, who proves to be very much at home in Rossini’s murderous tessituras. Highly recommended – a most enjoyable inaugural release in a series worthy of Rossini. Janos Gardonyi Rachmaninoff – The Isle of the Dead; Symphony No.1 London Philharmonic Orchestra. Vladimir Jurowsky-cond. LPO Live LPO 0111 (lpo.org.uk/recordingsand-gifts) ! ! Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony hasn’t had an easy time. Conductor Glazunov was drunk and made it a dismal failure at its premiere in 1897 and the 74 | May 2019 thewholenote.com

discouraged young composer locked the score away vowing never to perform it again. The original score was never found, but miraculously the orchestral parts were discovered in 1944 and it was performed once more in 1945 in Moscow. This new performance comes from a recent concert in London conducted by Vladimir Jurowsky and what a concert it must have been! The audience went wild and the critics were raving and I imagine Rachmaninoff must have been very pleased and the symphony vindicated. Royal Philharmonic Society 2018 award winner Jurowsky’s name may not be too familiar, but he is one of the most sought after conductors and has a tremendous worldwide reputation that’s well proven here. None of this music will come to you easily, in fact it requires several hearings and total concentration to appreciate Jurowsky’s “hypnotic drive,” especially in The Isle of the Dead’s sinister 5/8 ostinato undulating motion representing Charon the oarsman rowing a boat towards the other shore. It brought an “eerie chill” to the Festival Hall, one critic remarked. The Symphony itself was a triumph. Rachmaninoff is the connecting tissue in Russian music between Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich and here you can see why. It has youthful excitement, intense passion and a tremendous emotional depth Jurowsky brings out to the utmost. The last movement Allegro con fuoco is where it all comes together; it’s both “frightening and triumphant” and one could feel the intensity and frisson of the live performance. Janos Gardonyi Symphonic Dances – Copland; Ravel; Stravinsky Park Avenue Chamber Symphony; David Bernard Recursive Classics (naxosdirect.com) !! Pity the ballet orchestra musician; so much great music gets borne away from their pit by the changing tides of dance fashion. The 20th century is littered with scores from the early moderns that were introduced as dance accompaniment and became, instead, great works for the symphony stage. Hardly anyone stages Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring anymore, and almost all of Ravel’s works are similarly banished from the standard ballet repertoire. The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, under conductor David Bernard, has recorded three modern masterworks: Aaron Copland’s Appalachain Spring Suite, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suite No.2, and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. With time and space, one could discuss the ways ballet scenarios changed from the mythic to the mundane as reflected in the selected works, but better to leave that to dance critics. These are, above all, wondrous works that orchestral players love to sink their chops into, and symphonic audience members love them as much. All three are now period pieces of earlyto mid-20th-century French and American music. Don’t tell me Stravinsky was neither; he wrote for the tastes of his audience, and The Firebird often sounds a lot like Ravel. And of course, Copland was deeply influenced by Nadia Boulanger. The recordings took place in three different locations, the orchestra may well have had a few interchangeable players, and the 1919 Kalmus version of the Firebird score was edited, possibly to suit the size of the orchestra. The playing is uneven, especially as regards intonation, and microphone placement brings the wind soloists uncomfortably close, but the performances are careful and loving; in fact it’s just nice to hear a scrappy, not-quite-perfect recording of any of this material, which might make it more periodauthentic than anything else. Max Christie George Antheil – Symphonies 3 & 6 BBC Philharmonic; John Storgårds Chandos CHAN 10982 (naxosdirect.com) !! The 1940s was an especially busy decade for the prolific American composer, pianist, author and inventor George Antheil (1900- 1959). With the spectre of WWII looming in the USA, in 1941 he and the actress Hedy Lamarr set out to develop a code-based radio guidance system for torpedoes. He also continued to turn out scores for Hollywood features (his catalogue lists 30), while his 1945 autobiography Bad Boy of Music – referring to the international avant-garde reputation he attracted in the 1920s – became a best-seller. As well, Antheil continued to compose for the concert stage, completing several symphonies, a violin concerto and other works in the 1940s. This second Chandos album of his symphonic output by the BBC Philharmonic and its chief guest conductor, John Storgårds, delights listeners with outstanding performances of two of those symphonies plus three shorter orchestral works. Symphony No.3 “American” (completed 1946) is cinematic in its conservative harmonic language and highly episodic block treatment of themes. In parts, an Aaron Copland-esque American populism is jump-cut with syncopated jazzy sections and a marked stylistic eclecticism: Antheil leans strongly on the musical legacies of Sibelius, Mahler and Prokofiev. The work concludes with a triumphalist finale. Symphony No.6 (completed 1949-50) is overall a more sombre and artistically ambitious work. The influences of Shostakovich, and in parts Ives, permeate Antheil’s patriotic portrait of American life in music in a manner both touching in its heart-on-sleeve Romantic lyricism, and evocative of the vernacular regionalisms and dynamism of post-war USA. Andrew Timar Concert note: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra begins its 2019/2020 season with “Dynamic Duo: Hannigan & Storgårds” on September 19 and 21. Both Barbara Hannigan and John Storgårds are featured in double roles, soprano/conductor and violinist/ conductor respectively. MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY 20th Century French Flute Concertos Ransom Wilson; BBC Concert Orchestra; Perry So Nimbus Alliance NI 6375 (naxosdirect.com) ! ! No nation’s composers have contributed more to the flute repertoire than those of France. From the Baroque era to the present, French composers have excelled as weavers of iridescent, gossamer musical tapestries, employing as a favourite filament the diaphanous sound of the flute. On this CD, American flutist Ransom Wilson, conductor Perry So and the BBC Concert Orchestra present three rarely recorded, captivating works by Jean Françaix (1912-1997), Jean Rivier (1896-1987) and Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013), plus a repertoire staple by Jacques Ibert (1890-1962). In the opening Moderato of Françaix’s Impromptu for Flute and Strings (1983), the flute dances sprightly filigrees over the strings’ waltz beat. Two sweetly dreamy movements, Largo and Andante poetica, containing echoes of Poulenc (I’ve always thought of Françaix as “Poulenc-lite”), frame a playful Scherzando. It’s an irresistibly charming piece! The Allegro moderato of Rivier’s Concerto for Flute and Strings (1956) alternates wistful and animated passages for the flute, followed by the central Lento sensibile, in which the flute seems to wander in a subterranean labyrinth, before emerging into the light and sprinting to the finish line in the Molto vivace. The three connected movements of Damase’s Sérénade for Flute and Strings, Op.36 (1956), all marked Très large, encompass mystery, joy, angst-filled disquiet and a thewholenote.com May 2019 | 75

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
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Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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