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Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Composer
  • Arts
  • Quartet
  • Festival
  • Symphony
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • September
Vol 1 of our 25th season is now here! And speaking of 25, that's how many films in the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival editor Paul Ennis, in our Eighth Annual TIFF TIPS, has chosen to highlight for their particular musical interest. Also inside: Rob Harris looks through the Rear View Mirror at past and present prognostications about the imminent death of classical music; Mysterious Barricades and Systemic Barriers are Lydia Perović's preoccupations in Art of Song; Andrew Timar reflects on the evolving priorities of the Polaris Prize; and elsewhere, it's chocks away as yet another season creaks or roars (depending on the beat) into motion. Welcome back.

CLASSICAL AND BEYOND

CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Johann Sebastian Bach – The Trio Sonata Project Tripla Concordia Arcana A114 (naxosdirect.com) !! What would Bach think? It’s the question with which the recorder virtuoso Walter van Hauwe began his proverbial quest to re-imagine Bach’s sonatas and a partita as if they were written for his instrument. Van Hauwe also takes comfort from the fact that Bach’s contemporary, the composer and writer, Johann Mattheson deemed “the elaboration of an idea” by another composer “does not harm the original inventor” and, one must assume, his original inventions as well. It is with this in mind that one must approach this wonderfully irreverent music, which is still Bach, but with an iconic twist in articulation and dynamics. While the keyboard remains ubiquitous throughout this repertoire, the viola da gamba has been replaced by a violoncello and both have been embellished by recorders. Most notably, Bach’s basso continuo is replaced, quite ingeniously, by the contrapuntal lines of the bass recorder. As if by magic, Bach’s original trio sonatas – the C Minor BWV1029, G Major BWV1039 (1027), F Major BWV1028, D Minor BWV527 and the Partita in D Minor BWV997 – are reborn in subtle shifts in colour as the music moves from one key to another. It is a refreshingly forthright and decidedly wide-awake performance on bright-sounding instruments by Tripla Concordia. Tempi tend to be wonderfully brisk and bright changes in the dynamics let the leading recorders do the work with verve, in crisp and buoyant style and vivid articulation. Raul da Gama Platti – Flute Sonatas, Op.3 Alexa Raine-Wright Leaf Music LM224 (leaf-music.ca) !! There are five outstanding musicians whose contributions to this wonderful recording all deserve recognition. First and foremost, of course, is the Baroque/rococo composer, Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697-1763), whose six Opus 3 flute sonatas have not, until recently at least, been part of the standard flute repertoire, unlike those by some of his better-known contemporaries. The obscurity of these works, as this recording demonstrates, is due not to any defects but rather to the unavailability of the printed music. The fecundity of Platti’s musical imagination, from joie de vivre to pathos to artfully crafted lyricism is evident throughout the CD. Then there is, of course, the soloist, Baroque flutist Alexa Raine-Wright, whose playing is full of vivacity, exquisite phrasing, breathtaking virtuosity, definite and confident articulation and all-round sensitivity to the voice of the composer. You know from the first seconds of track one that her first priorities are to be musical, that is, to play the phrases, the musical sentences, so that their meaning can be heard, and to be more than just a soloist but also part of the ensemble. Her team (Camille Paquette-Roy, Baroque cello, Rona Nadler, harpsichord, Sylvain Bergeron, archlute and Baroque guitar) are worthy collaborators, who, while always keeping a rock-solid steady tempo, seem also able to allow space for rhapsodic freedom to the flute. Worth mentioning too are the several truly exquisite duo moments for flute and cello, as in the first movement of Sonata 4 and the second movement of Sonata 5. Bravissimi to our musical colleagues in Montreal. Allan Pulker Mozart – The Three Last Symphonies Ensemble Appassionato; Mathieu Herzog Naïve V 5457 (naxosdirect.com) !! A contemporary pace of living, especially in the metropolis, must include small pleasures in the form of art. Mozart’s music might be one of those necessary delights in the lives of many. Although there are countless recordings of his works, it is exciting to discover new aspects of Mozart’s music and this recording undoubtedly brings some new thoughts and sounds. I loved the spirited energy and the clear sound on this recording as well as the candour of the interpretations. Playfulness is interwoven with drama and expressed through resonant simplicity of sound – a perfect formula for bringing out the essence of Mozart’s music. What attracted French conductor Mathieu Herzog to this triptych is the fact that there is a certain mystery surrounding these symphonies – all three were written in the summer of 1788, when things were not looking too bright in Mozart’s life. There is no evidence to suggest any of them were ever performed during the composer’s lifetime and Mozart never again returned to this genre. No.39 and No.41 are warm, expansive and buoyant and No.40 is unusually dark and melancholic. There is a common thread though – all three are powerful masterpieces. Ensemble Appassionato, founded by Herzog and comprised of leading French musicians, is on fire here – both bows and sparks are flying and the joy of the performance is thrilling. This recording is worth hearing, not because it might be perfect but because it just might surprise you. Ivana Popovic Berlioz – Symphonie fantastique; Tempest Fantasy Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Sir Andrew Davis Chandos CHSA 5239 (tso.ca/watch-listen) ! ! Do we really need another Symphony fantastique? Not an unreasonable question. Many more than a few decades ago when the question was asked by a neophyte record producer, “How do you know what to record?,” the experienced answer was “Look through the Schwann Record Catalog, find the most recorded work and make another one.” That proved to be sage advice then. There are countless recordings of the Symphonie fantastique available now, some outstanding performances and some sonic spectaculars. As far as performance is concerned, this new one is high in the outstanding category. The entire string section is splendid, “singing” immaculately together. The winds are a joy, from serene to bustling. The brass is burnished and the percussion can have fearful presence and power. Davis’ beat is steady, without being carried away emotionally, and ever true to the score, observing every nuance. I enjoyed it cerebrally as well as viscerally. Sonically, this is what audiophiles dream of. From piccolos to the lowest notes in the basses and thumping bass drum, to articulate strings and winds this is nirvana. Equally impressing is the Tempest Fantasy with the orchestra and the Mendelssohn Choir in this Berlioz 14-minute showpiece in four parts: Prologue, The Tempest, Action and Dénouement. Those who know their Berlioz will recognize quotations from Lelio: the return to life, the sequel to the Symphonie fantastique. If one were buying a Fantastique this could very well be it. It stands up to repeated hearings for, as I listened for some passages to critique, there were plenty of positives but no negatives that I heard. This disc creates a gorgeous reality in an acoustic better than any seat in Roy Thomson Hall where these recordings were made on September 20-22, 2018. Bruce Surtees 64 | September 2019 thewholenote.com

Antonin Dvořák – Piano Quartets Nos.1 & 2 Dvořák Piano Quartet Supraphon SU 4257-2 (naxosdirect.com) !! Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s music, presented here in a piano quartet form, is beautifully brought to life in this capture on Supraphon Records. Featuring the somewhat unusual instrumentation of piano, violin, viola and cello (inspired by both the public’s interest in his work at the time and by Dvořák’s hero Brahms’ employment of the same musical aggregation), the Dvořák Piano Quartet, a current ensemble based in the Czech Republic, performs this music in a thoughtful, and at times playful manner, bringing out, as great classical music and performance will do, the range of human emotion and expression. A violinist and violist himself, Dvořák’s writing here places a premium on string virtuosity and the accomplished string performers, Štěpán Pražák, Petr Verner and Jan Žďánský, are more than up for the masterful task. While Dvořák is certainly known for his dramatic scope and the power of his fulsome symphonic works, the intimacy of the chamber group context heard here brings out the range of his grand musicianship and empowers listeners towards a quiet reflection of his beautiful musical ideas. This is easy, lyrical music best listened to intently, that combines the beauty of the Western art music tradition in which Dvořák worked so well, with the native folk music influences that the composer so skillfully researched and incorporated into his music. Captured with beautiful clarity and fidelity, this 2018 recording would be a welcome addition to the collections of both Dvořák and chamber music fans alike. Andrew Scott Tchaikovsky – Symphony No.6 “Pathétique” Berliner Philharmoniker; Kirill Petrenko Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings BPHR 190261 (berliner-philharmonikerrecordings.com) !! Honestly, from the first bar of this performance I really felt aware of hearing the notes of this familiar symphony for the first time. After decades of hearing so many fine enhanced performances interpreted by a parade of esteemed conductors, I know the work well. None ever like this one. The essence of this performance comes from within the score and not from a conductor’s opinion as to what should be added or left out to enhance the composer’s wishes. What we hear here is a performance reflecting and respecting Tchaikovsky’s printed score as it opens out. The interesting aspect of this version with Kirill Petrenko recorded on March 22-23, 2017, one of the first two published recordings from those sessions with his new orchestra, is that, until it is heard, one doesn’t know what such a performance as this evokes. The saying that “you don’t know what you’re missing” is so true here. No fiddling with the printed page, no shattering fortes nor wrung out tensions imposed by a creative, well-meaning interpreter to improve this perfect score. Petrenko displays a total empathy with the composer, making this debut an excellent choice for both conductor and orchestra. Credit for this perfect CD/SACD/DSD recording must go to the regular Berlin Philharmonic team, recording producer and editor Christoph Franke and sound engineer René Möller. One could not imagine better sound in whichever mode you are listening. We know exactly who was playing and quite where they sat. Particularly telling are the textures of the just audible opening bassoon and the closing plucked basses. All with no spotlighting or enhancement. Repeated dedicated listening over the last few weeks confirms the first impressions. Bruce Surtees Rachmaninoff Hermitage Piano Trio Reference Recordings RR-1475ACD (referencerecordings.com) !! The Hermitage Piano trio is comprised of three exceptionally talented chamber musicians: violinist Misha Keylin, cellist Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev. All have enjoyed celebrated solo careers before finding common ground in their shared nationality and uniting to explore and re-present the great Russian musical traditions on the world concert stages of today. Now based out of the United States, the ensemble has just released their debut CD for Reference Recordings, a beautifully performed and recorded capture at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts of some of the most intricate and dynamic works of the celebrated late Romantic-era Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943). A conductor, composer and pianist of virtuosic reputation, Rachmaninoff’s music is notoriously difficult to perform, and those musicians who take on his repertoire require a requisite amount of expressive dynamism, musical sophistication and their own instrumental virtuosity. And, like the finest Western art musicians of today, the trio here handles all of this (and more) with ease, expressively and flawlessly traversing the multiple arcs of this timeless and grand music. The iconic Romantic gestures and the endless melodies present within multiple compositional strains and parts (for which Rachmaninoff was celebrated), capture the early 20th-century What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Platti: Flute Sonatas, Op. 3 Alexa Raine-Wright Debut solo recording from Baroque flautist Alexa Raine- Wright brings to light a collection of rarely heard works by Giovanni Benedetto Platti, available on Leaf Music. Andre Mathieu: Musique de chambre A.Tyniec, M. Djokic, J.-P. Sylvestre, E.Misbakhova, C.Dominguez This release includes the recording of two unpublished pieces by Mathieu as well as his Trio of and Quintet, and works for violin and piano. Bolton, Godin, Oesterle Music in the Barns Formed in Toronto, Music in the Barns releases its debut highlighting the fertile Canadian new music scene from the last two decades. Dove Songs David Liptak A collection of chamber works, featuring the cycle, "Dove Songs," written for soprano Tony Arnold with pianist Alison D'Amato. Liptak writes music that is expressively rich and poignantly lyrical. thewholenote.com September 2019 | 65

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
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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