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Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Composer
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  • Quartet
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  • Symphony
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  • 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.

Russian experience and

Russian experience and bring forward an expressive range of both sorrow and joy that demonstrates to listeners what truly great performances of wonderful music are capable of conveying. Andrew Scott Bruckner – Symphony No.6 Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Robin Ticciati Linn Records CKD 620 (naxosdirect.com) Bruckner – Symphonies Nos.6 & 9 Gewandhausorchester; Andris Nelsons Deutsche Grammophon 483 6859 (deutschegrammophon.com) !! Throughout much of the century following his death, Anton Bruckner’s name was routinely paired with that of Gustav Mahler. After all, the external similarities seemed obvious: both were Austrian, both wrote vast symphonies and both needed many years of proselytizing from dedicated interpreters before their music was truly appreciated. Bruckner found his true musical calling when he heard his teacher Otto Kitzler conduct Wagner’s Tannhäuser in Linz. The revelation marked the character of Bruckner’s symphonies, taking a cue from everything Wagner did to break virtually every theoretical rule and create a new music drama. Bruckner’s epiphany resulted in a series of truly original scores, including the Symphony in D Minor (1963-64), which he later designated No.0, three masses between 1864 and 1868 and his acknowledged Symphonies of considerable density from No. 1 (1865-66) to No. 5 (1875-76). The Symphony No. 6 in A Major performed by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted here by Robin Ticciati proves to be a lighter, more congenial work than its predecessors – especially No. 5, say the equivalent of Beethoven’s Eighth or Brahms’ Second. Still, far from being flippant, the majestic and deeply profound slow movement, for example, has a depth and eloquence that almost demands an attitude of reverence. Ticciati handles the Deutsches Symphonie- Orchester with serene confidence, and both orchestra and conductor revel in the symphony’s joyous climaxes. And there are plenty of moments in the slow movement that afford real poetry. Andris Nelsons posits – and rightly so – that you could not have Bruckner without Wagner. His December 2018, live recording complements the Bruckner Symphonies 6 and 9 with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll – a work of flawless delicacy – and the deeply reflective Parsifal Prelude Act I. The shorter Wagner pieces that preface each of the two discs appear to have been astutely selected for their lyricism and profound beauty and serve to put one in a meditative space in which prepares one for the respective Bruckner symphonies. Nelsons’ brilliant performance of the Sixth with the Gewandhausorchester ends in the pure splendour of praise and – especially in the sombre Adagio and the mercurial Scherzo – is a benchmark performance of the symphony; the devotional, awestruck intensity of the work is effectively captured by the recording. Symphony No.9 is the musical summation of Bruckner’s life, with all of its struggles. It is a monumental work despite being incomplete, and is sometimes said to have a mystical quality, like that of Beethoven’s Ninth. Nelsons’ depth of insight makes for a deeply moving and humbling experience in this incomparable live recording. It is a gaunt, craggy, unforgiving affair, doubtless much as Bruckner intended it should be; a magnificent, chastening and ultimately uplifting musical event. Raul da Gama Manuel de Falla – El amor brujo; El retablo de Maese Pedro Fernández; Zetlan; Garza; Garcia; Perspectives Ensemble; Sato Moughalian; Angel Gil-Ordóňez Naxos 8.573890 (naxosdirect.com) !! An interesting new issue presents two of de Falla’s stage works as noted above. I have a sentimental attachment to El amor brujo (Love the Magician). It was the very first thing I ever saw in an opera house at age nine, but it was the ballet version. De Falla adapted the score a few times; the ballet from 1929 is the most often played. This performance however is the original 1915 version, the most complete and original conception performed by a small dedicated group of instrumentalists well suited for a work of this nature. El amor brujo is actually a one-act zarzuela telling the story of a Roma woman who is haunted by the ghost of her former faithless lover, her struggle to exorcise it and finally be able to love again. It’s a journey from darkness to light, from a night of sorcery and terror to the splendour of a new dawn, with de Falla’s atmospheric, colourful score imbued in Andalusian folk idiom with dances that express the mood of each segment. The vocal lines are either spoken or sung authoritatively by the cantaora, a full-throated flamenco singer, Esperenza Fernandez. Most famous of the dances is the Ritual Fire Dance but all the others, especially the gentle, rollicking Dance of True Love are equally impressive; and the final apotheosis with all bells ringing is simply glorious. The second work, El retablo de Maese Pedro (Master Peter’s Puppet Show) is somewhat less characteristic. It is a mini-opera based on a chapter of Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote, and inspired by the age of Charlemagne. The music with “incisive Spanish rhythms and acerbic harmonies” is all skillfully fused with the French impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, de Falla’s main influences. The performances are intense and very authentic. Janos Gardonyi Bruch – Double Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Orchestra Giovanni Punzi; Eva Katrine Dalsgaard; Tanja Zapolski; Copenhagen Phil; Vincenzo Milletari Brilliant Classics 95673 (naxosdirect.com) ! ! Like Brahms, and Mozart before him, Max Bruch reserved some of his finest writing for the clarinet, “discovering” the instrument late in his life, and writing with a particular player in mind. As Stadler for Mozart, and Muhlfeld for Brahms, Bruch’s son Max Felix gave premieres of both the pieces on this release, Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, Op.83, and the Double Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Orchestra, Op.88. Giovanni Punzi on clarinet and Eva Katrine Dalsgaard on viola are joined by pianist Tanja Zapolski in the eight pieces, and are backed by the Copenhagen Philharmonic led by Vincenzo Milletari in the concerto. The chamber work was never intended to be performed as a unified piece. Although the individual pieces are delightful, and the performers bring them off with suitable melancholy Romanticism, it’s best to take them in smaller doses. Though Bruch idolized Brahms, these works owe more to Schumann in scope and mood. Punzi is perhaps the most restrained of the performers, setting an unadorned tone versus the intensity of Dalsgaard and Zapolski. Pitch is never an issue, and phrasing certainly not. There is a certain muddiness to the lower octaves, as if the hall chosen for the recording offered the benefit of reverb in quantities perhaps slightly more than needed. The more substantial work is Bruch at his blue best. Seldom programmed for the live stage (a pity; so many fine violists and clarinetists would love to be given the opportunity), it follows an unusual movement format: Andante con moto, Allegro moderato, and Allegro molto. Perhaps the overarching melancholy is the deterrent. Shouldn’t be, audiences can handle a little weltschmerz. Max Christie 66 | September 2019 thewholenote.com

MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY André Mathieu – Musique de chambre Marc Djokic; Andréa Tyniec; Elvira Misbakhova; Chloé Dominguez; Jean- Philippe Sylvestre ATMA ACD2 2784 (atmaclassique.com) !! The turbulent life of the pianist and composer André Mathieu (1929–68) began in triumph and ended in tragedy. This son of professional musicians was hailed as “the Mozart of Québec” at his Parisian debut in 1936 but ultimately faded into in a haze of alcoholism and obscurity, succumbing to a heart attack at the age of 39. It is perhaps not surprising that Mathieu’s resolutely post-Romantic style, heavily influenced by Scriabin and Debussy and profoundly melodic and episodic by nature, was disdained in the new music circles of the 1960s. It is largely due to the advocacy of the Québécois pianist-composer Alain Lefèvre, a champion of Mathieu’s piano concertos, that his reputation has been restored in our post-modern era. The album features Mathieu’s eight chamber works from the middle of the 20th century, the era of his finest compositions. It includes a selection of compact duets for violin and piano featuring pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre with violinists Mark Djokic and Andréa Tyniec alternating as soloists. Tyniec (who dazzled Toronto recently performing Ana Sokolović’s violin concerto for New Music Concerts) lays claim to the enjoyable though discursive Violin Sonata. Of particular interest are the Quintette for piano and string quartet and the Trio for violin, cello and piano, two substantial works in which Mathieu exceeds himself in the mastery of large-scale forms. The performances are uniformly excellent and production values are top notch. Daniel Foley Canadian Amber – Music by Latvian- Canadian Composers Laura Zarina; Arthur Ozolins; Beverley Johnston; Canadian Opera Company Orchestra; Ninth Latvian Song Festival Orchestra; Alfred Strombergs; Maris Simais Centrediscs CMCCD 26519 (musiccentre.ca) !! Back in July 2019 I attended a concert which highlighted “significant contributions made by émigrés from Latvia to the music and culture of Canada.” Part of the Toronto XV Latvian Song and Dance Festival, it focused naturally on Latvia’s famous choral tradition, yet I was curious also to hear orchestral works by Latvian-Canadian composers including Tālivaldis Ķeniņš (1919-2008) and Imant Raminsh (b.1943). It is perhaps not surprising to hear works by the same composers on the CD Canadian Amber – dedicated to the same theme – with the addition of the slightly older Jānis Kalniņš (1904-2000). All three Latvian composers made Canada their home after World War II. Kalniņš’ three-movement Violin Concerto (1945), firmly anchored in late-Romantic style, offers attractive lyrical passages for the soloist and orchestra, though overall the work sounds some 50 years past the style’s prime era. Raminsh is best known for his choral works. True to form, his Aria for Violin and Piano (1987) is imbued with arching, expressive melodies, framed by easygoing tonal settings with modal implications on the piano. On the other hand Ķeniņš’ Concerto for Piano, Percussion, and String Orchestra (1990) reflects a very different sound world. The title, instrumentation, shear energy and terse, shifting dramatic moods evoke Béla Bartók’s expressionistic, modernist, chromatic musical language, though the instrumentation also brings to mind aspects of some Alban Berg works. Despite these surface homages, Ķeniņš’ idiosyncratic compositional voice emerges clearly, emotionally gripping us with effective writing for the piano soloist as well as for the strings and percussion. Here’s a work that begs for programming on both Canadian and Latvian stages. Andrew Timar Bolton; Godin; Oesterle Music in the Barns New Focus Recordings FCR226 DDD (newfocusrecordings.com) !! Classical traditions seldom come together so gloriously with the unpredictability of the avantgarde than on this disc titled after its contributing Canadian composers Rose Bolton, Scott Godin and Michael Oesterle. When that happens, it somehow seems fortuitous that Toronto’s Music in the Barns – a quintet where violinist Lance Ouellette and violists Carol Gimbel and Pemi Paull sometimes play musical chairs – should be tasked to play their repertoire. Bolton’s The Coming of Sobs is a particularly intense work. But even here the musicians make the black dots literally fly off the page intensifying the experience that the composer has written into the work. After a relatively quiet opening the music develops – through a series of pulses and crescendos to a shattering fortissimo that emphasizes its darkly dramatic and veritably vocal What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Canadian Hits: Unplugged Saint John String Quartet Saint John String Quartet plays hits from Canadian icons Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and more on Canadian Hits: Unplugged. Available now on Leaf Music. I'll Be Seeing You Andrea Koziol and Bill Brennan "... music that is elegant, impulsive, unfiltered, sexy, and as real as it can be." (Tom Allen, CBC's “Shift”) Available now from andreakoziolandbillbrennan. bandcamp.com In a Landscape Montreal Guitar Trio & California Guitar Trio The first joint studio album of the Montreal Guitar Trio and the California Guitar Trio, celebrating 10 years of musical collaboration! Spinning in the Wheel Projeto Arcomusical “Spinning in the Wheel” feels like a jam session with a plan…” - Kathleen McGowan, I Care if You Listen thewholenote.com September 2019 | 67

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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