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Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
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  • Choir
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  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • November
Alanis Obomsawin's art of life; fifteen Exquisite Departures; UnCovered re(dis)covered; jazz in the kitchen; three takes on managing record releases in times of plague; baroque for babies; presenter directory (blue pages) part two; and, here at the WholeNote, work in progress on four brick walls (or is it five?). All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Tuesday Nov 3.

writer, Cesare Pavese

writer, Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), the cycle abounds with emotional feelings of loss, grief, love, life and nature in Kõrvits’ Romantic- and Mahler-influenced tonal/atonal music. Six parts are sung in Italian and two in English. Highlights include the opening Fade In with its mysterious orchestral quiet minor chord that later reappears before the final song, enveloping the work in contemplative haunting soundscapes. The first part, Tu sei come una terra (You Are Like a Land), is accessible and modern simultaneously, as its introductory vocal motive (which recurs throughout the entire work), traditional choral colours and high string held notes with atonal touches, prepare the listener for what’s coming. Pavese’s poetic declaration to his love Constance is musically symbolized in To C. From C featuring full choir singing above softer walking/tiptoed pizzicato in the strings. The lush sound changes (like love sometimes) to suspenseful minor tonalities until the final vocal hum with more string plucks. As an Estonian-Canadian, I grew up and still listen to Estonian choral music. Kõrvits’ work here is so clearly his own, with the performers outdoing themselves in their interpretations. Thank you/aitäh for this memorable music! Tiina Kiik Arvo Pärt – Stabat Mater Gloriae Dei Cantores; Richard K. Pugsley Gloriae Dei Cantores Recordings GDCD065 ( ! If any composer could, singlehandedly, have created a public receptive to the holy minimalism of John Tavener and Górecki’s third symphony, it would be the monkish Estonian, Arvo Pärt whose 85th birthday (September 11) was the occasion of this release. Pärt‘s music has evolved through serialism – using the dissonances of atonal music – and Franco-Flemish choral music until, after years of meditation, religious consultation and even a break from composing, Pärt settled into using his singular voice to initiate his enduring tintinnabuli period, featuring such masterpieces as Tabula Rasa, Fratres and Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. This disc takes its name from Stabat Mater but also consists of other masterfully performed still and contemplative choral works. As with Pärt’s orchestral pieces, the uniqueness of this choral music is achieved largely through a build-up of dynamics and contrasting sonorities used in an almost circular manner. The Magnificat and Nunc dimittis are particularly eloquent examples. The longest work is Stabat Mater. While this music is intense, Pärt eschews the pain of the crucifixion; rather he imbues the event’s sadness with a ritualistic element by way of the gently rocking motion that forms the basis of the work. You couldn’t ask for a better end to this disc. Yet the build-up to it is extraordinary because Gloriæ Dei Cantores, directed by Richard K. Pugsley, has interiorized Pärt’s spirit – indeed his very soul – as they traverse his music to an unprecedented degree of poignancy, with beautifully moulded choral textures and colours. Raul da Gama Marfa Songs Danielle Buonaiuto Starkland ST-234 ( ! For her debut album, Marfa Songs, Danielle Buonaiuto enlisted four emerging composers to write song cycles for her. Marfa Songs features 19 premiere recordings by Douglas Buchanan, Natalie Draper, James Young and Canadian composer, Cecilia Livingston. Each composer provides a unique vocal terrain for Buonaiuto to explore: Buchanan’s Scots and Waters is influenced by Scottish music; Draper’s O sea-starved, hungry sea is ritualistic and portrays the sea’s powers; Young’s miniature Marfa Songs pay homage to the Texas high plains; and Livingston’s Penelope and Kalypso voyage through Homer’s Odyssey. Marfa Songs is marked by stylistic differences that make it challenging to find musical cohesiveness and is best considered as a soundscape journey. Together with pianist John Wilson, Buonaiuto creates atmospheres that include a minimalistic panorama of a desert city, water odysseys, themes of mortality and eternity as well as Scottish folk songs and a Scots rendition of Psalm 23. Buonaiuto’s vocal agility is most notable in the Young song cycle, which is brazen and fun, although the purposeful minimalistic instrumentation and jumpy nature of the songs do not always serve her voice. Buonaiuto’s diction is flawless, especially in the highest registers and her emotional capacity as well as her full and warm voice is especially displayed in the Buchanan cycle. Marfa Songs comes with a booklet that includes composer notes, lyrics and an introduction by American soprano Phyllis Bryn- Julson, one of the great interpreters of 20th century vocal music. Sophie Bisson Peter-Anthony Togni – Sea Dreams Luminous Voices Chamber Choir Leaf Music LM236 ( ! Sea Dreams showcases eight works by Dartmouth-based composer, Peter- Anthony Togni, performed by the Calgary professional chamber choir, Luminous Voices, under artistic director Timothy Shantz, with special guest instrumentalists. The three-movement title track, Sea Dreams (2018), for choir and two flutes (Sara Hahn-Scinocco and Sarah MacDonald) reflects on Togni’s relationship with the ocean/sea/water and journey of faith. The first movement, Pray for those who are in Ships, draws on texts from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The choir is cast as the sailing ship, singing diverse dynamics, held notes and harmonies, highlighted by soprano Katie Partridge’s warm high-pitched solo. The flutes are the water, playing atonal lines, puffs and breaths. Alma Redemptoris uses a Marian hymn text in its calmer mood and floating vocal swells. More Eliot texts, choir held notes, whispers, a tenor solo by Oliver Munar and flute wavelike runs adorn Perpetual Angelus. Sparse instrumentation in Earth Voices (2014) as hand drummer Tova Olson and percussionist Victor Cheng play contrasting builds to a more atonal vocal section, and bell rings with choral whispers. Bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly plays with nuance, low pitches and extended technique touches, especially during tenor Timothy Shantz’s colourful solo in Responsio introit, and the dramatic clarinet/choir duets in Silentio. The five a cappella compositions include the earlier work Psaume 98 (1997) with its more traditional counterpoint and repeated bass/ tenor rhythms. Togni’s choral composition evolution is perfectly recorded by Luminous Voices. An amazing artistic accomplishment by all! Tiina Kiik CLASSICAL AND BEYOND The Filippo Dalla Casa Collection Pablo Zapico; Daniel Zapico (archlute/ theorbo duet) Winter and Winter 910 258-2 ( ! Convention tells us that the theorbo and archlute were rivals of the newly emerging harpsichord before conceding defeat and disappearing. 36 | November 2020

Enter Filippo Dalla Casa to dispel this illusion, for he compiled a two-volume collection of music for these two instruments dated 1759 and 1760 – several years after their supposed demise. (Even then it was not until 1811 that Dalla Casa donated his manuscript to a musical conservatory in Bologna.) Full credit to Pablo and Daniel Zapico for playing 17 pieces from Dalla Casa’s manuscript plus an anonymous sinfonia. Their enthusiasm and skill show themselves in the very first Sonata, which has come down to us anonymously. This is a lively composition of the quality associated with the archlute’s earlier (and supposedly greater) days; it is followed by similarly demanding movements scored Allegro. The anonymous composer of track 13 who composed the Largo, with its dignified cascading entrance, certainly deserves to be known to us. Contrast it with the spritely quality of Giuseppe Vaccari’s two Allegro movements. Dalla Casa only lists an author for seven of the tracks on this CD; even then they are almost unknown writers – but surely one more reason why this recording is important. This CD breaks down misconceptions. First, that the theorbo and archlute died out earlier than they did with the rise of the harpsichord. Secondly, that they were doomed to monotonous continuo parts. This CD proves otherwise. Michael Schwartz Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe et ses filles Lucile Boulanger; Rolf Lislevand; Myriam Rignol; Philippe Pierlot Mirare MIR336 ( ! Other than being slightly aware that there had been a brief renaissance of the music of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (Jean de Sainte- Colombe 1640- 1700) during the 1990s, I knew little about the French composer and celebrated violist, prior to picking up this fine recording. I am glad that I did, however. Recorded beautifully in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Nantes, the church’s gorgeous acoustics become a welcome fifth member of the consort of Philippe Pierlot, Lucile Boulanger and Myriam Rignol, all on viola de gamba, along with theorbist Rolf Lislevand, to faithfully recreate and capture the nuance and intimacy of this still-popular musical form. Listening to the 17th-century music of Sainte-Colombe, along with complementary pieces by Louis Couperin, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières and Robert de Visée during Lockdown 2020 can, I suppose, feel somewhat anachronistic, if not downright discordant from the realities that we are all dealing with on a daily basis. But if it is possible for you to do so, the opportunity to disconnect and to immerse yourself in the listening pleasure of this straight-forward, well-played and conversational music is there for you here. Perhaps most meaningfully, the realities of COVID-19 have forced many of us to potentially re-evaluate friendships, reconnect (or make amends), realizing that life is valuable and, sadly, short. Always, perhaps, but seeming to be particularly so during this time of widespread illness and loss. Accordingly, Sainte-Colombe’s Tombeau Les Regrets, performed beautifully here, offers an opportunity for listeners to contemplate and “meditate upon death,” allowing the Stoic edict Memento Mori (“remember that you will die”), to be not a morbid reality check, but rather to remind us all to love, live and listen, fully and completely. A valuable lesson to be sure, and one, perhaps, that the beauty of early music can teach us today. Andrew Scott Beethoven – Variations Angela Hewitt Hyperion CDA68346 ( ! 2020 has certainly been a year like no other. And while social media informs me that many of us, while hibernating in lockdown, have turned to amateur immunology, sourdough baking and mask creation as a way of passing the time, the Canadian-born, beloved and highly fêted pianist, Angela Hewitt, turned her keen musical gaze during lockdown towards Beethoven’s colossal “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106, which she learned, thus completing her cycle of the composer’s 32 sonatas. Hewitt, renowned for her interpretations of the major keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach, for which she was, earlier this year, awarded the City of Leipzig Bach Medal – the first time in its history the award was bestowed upon a woman – continues her focus on LvB here, on this great new Hyperion recording, Beethoven Variations. Approaching the repertoire with the creative insight, scholarly rigour and wholly unique interpretative lens for which she is known, Hewitt once again reveals her singular ability to not only bridge, but illuminate Beethoven’s challenging musical passages (which she seems to traverse with effortless virtuosic ease) with the baked-in humour and sense of fun that perhaps few see, but which Hewitt neatly brings to the fore. As she writes about the album’s penultimate track, “God save the King” in her own terrifically penned liner notes that offer invaluable informative pedagogical insight into her artistic and pianistic process, “if ever you needed proof of humour in his music, here it is,” before launching into its deft contrapuntal workout. Andrew Scott Schubert – Octet Quatuor Modigliani; Bruno Schneider; Sabine Meyer; Dag Jensen; Knut Erik Sundquist Mirare MIR4438 ( ! When Schubert took on a commission request in 1824 to compose a piece similar to Beethoven’s Septet, he was in a vulnerable place in his life – his physical health was poor, he was experiencing bouts of depression and his music was not getting the recognition he was hoping for. Yet he wrote the largest-scale chamber music work of his opus and it did not reflect the intensity of his life at the time. The Octet is pure Schubert magic – full of abundant solo lines for each of the eight instruments, beautiful, elegant and uplifting. Although this piece has a similar instrumentation and basic structure to Beethoven’s Septet, perhaps Schubert’s biggest nod to Beethoven comes through the achievement of great creativity and layers of expression in the midst of suffering. The Modigliani Quartet and their respective colleagues, Sabine Meyer (clarinet), Bruno Schneider (horn), Dag Jensen (bassoon) and Knut Erik Sundquist (double bass), take on this magical piece with an understated gusto. Almost an hour long and consisting of six movements, Schubert’s Octet requires unrelenting drive and imagination, both of which came through in the fabulous artistry of the ensemble. Their performance has a wonderful combination of intensity and lightness that kept me both relaxed and at the edge of my seat. This ensemble has enjoyable synergy that is most obvious in a unity and refinement of their interpretative ideas and sound. Ivana Popovic Carnaval – A recital around Schumann’s Carnaval Op.9 Matan Porat Mirare MIR502D ( ! These are challenging times and what better way to help lift the pervading dark mood than a musical carnival – specifically Schumann’s Carnaval Op.9? The piece, completed in 1835, remains among the most beloved from the Romantic repertoire and, seemingly, would November 2020 | 37

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