Views
2 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
  • Concerts
  • Musicians
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • 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.

never warrant any degree

never warrant any degree of modification. Yet the Israeli-born pianist Matan Porat had other ideas, and the result is this splendid recording on the Mirare label, his third disc to date. Porat acknowledged that while Carnaval is a quintessential document of Romanticism, he wanted to take a closer look at Schumann’s musical mind and expand upon the original score through the insertion of 23 additional short pieces by 18 composers as diverse as Heitor Villa-Lobos, François Couperin and György Kurtág. In so doing, Porat hoped it would not only shed light on music by other composers, but also inspire a greater appreciation for the original score. And it works! Delivering a polished and elegant performance, Porat has clearly taken considerable care with the placement of the musical selections. As an example, Schumann’s Pierrot is followed by Villa- Lobos’ A manha da Pierrette, written in the same coquettish mood. On the other hand, Kurtág’s Ostinato in A-flat, with its repeated bass notes, forms a fine introduction to Schumann’s Reconnaissance in the same key, which is followed by the Prelude in C Minor from Bach’s first book of the Well- Tempered Clavier, and in turn, Pantolon and Columbine, all demonstrating the same frenetic energy. Finally, after 43 tracks, what could be a better ending than the rousing Davidsbündler March, bringing the set to a most satisfying conclusion? Kudos to Porat, not only for an exemplary performance, but for his skillful reconfiguration of a much-loved piece – recommended. Richard Haskell Reawakened – Clarinet Concertos Robert Plane; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Martyn Brabbins Champs Hill Records CHRCD160 (champshillrecords.co.uk/691/Robert- Plane-Reawakened) ! Three longoverlooked British clarinet concertos here receive their first-ever recordings, “reawakened” by Robert Plane, principal clarinet of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. For unspecified reasons, Richard H. Walthew (1872-1951) left his Concerto for Clarinet (1902) in manuscript, unorchestrated until recently completed by Alfie Pugh. Its opening movement resembles Richard Strauss’ “Mozartian” style; the Andante and Vivace partake, respectively, of Edwardian nobility and jollity. It’s a charming, cheerful work, well worth a listen. Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) composed her Clarinet Concerto in G Minor, Op.9 in 1940, the year she began studying with Ralph Vaughan Williams. His influence pervades throughout: in the first movement, the clarinet seemingly extemporizes over an outdoorsy walking bass; the bucolic mood is sustained in the pastoral slow movement and the folk-dancy finale. It’s another attractive audience-pleaser. What should have been recognized by now as a major contribution to the clarinet repertoire is the CD’s longest, most colourfully scored, most modern-sounding work – the 28-minute Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op.7 (1950) by Iain Hamilton (1922-2000). Propulsive, irregular, even jazzy rhythms contrast with long-lined, darkly melancholic lyricism, all calling for extreme virtuosity from the soloist, amply provided by Plane. Another first recording ends the CD – Graham Parlett’s arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra of the warmly lyrical Fantasy Sonata (1943), originally for clarinet and piano, by John Ireland (1879-1962), a minor master deserving much greater exposure in North America. Four fine works, exuberantly performed, making one truly pleasurable CD. Michael Schulman Brahms – Symphony No.1 Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; Herbert Blomstedt PentaTone PTC5186850 (naxosdirect.com/search/827949085062) ! At the risk of stranding ourselves in a past we’ll never relive, we continue to revisit masterpieces from over a century ago. This provides work for my fellow performers and me, and possibly keeps the public in touch with sonic masterpieces. We might ask ourselves, what is new and different in this latest iteration? Otherwise, is there any point? I take enormous pleasure in hearing the fine Gewandhaus Orchestra, under Herbert Blomstedt, recraft Brahms’ titanic First Symphony in C Minor Op.68 into audible form. The performance has so much clarity and poise, nothing I write in response can mean much at all. I’m no collector of things, nor of recordings, but I am a repository of memories, and this piece remains on a prominent shelf in the room where professional reminiscence is housed. As a student, the experience of hearing the wonderful energy and intelligence of Brahms’ First fuelled my desire to be among the lucky few who might perform it in a professional setting. Knowing how long he took to knuckle down and live up to his billing as the next great symphonist after Beethoven inspires me to carry on at my advanced age. It is a fantastic rendition, as good as any out there I’m sure, and worth owning whether it is one among many, or your first (even only) version. The playing is pure, both delicate and yet powerful. Blomstedt asks for and receives fine and subtle performances from the entire band. The Andante sostenuto second movement is languid and deliciously melancholy. Add in the uplifting finale, with its wunderhorn call and its hymn answering Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, and perhaps the troubles of today might be more bearable. Max Christie Brahms; Bartók; Liszt Alexandre Kantorow Bis BIS-2380 (naxosdirect.com/search/bis-2380) ! Young French pianist Alexandre Kantorow has already had a distinguished recording career with three awardwinning releases. This recital is his first since winning the Tchaikovsky Competition in 2019 and it too is a real winner. As a thought-provoking musician he now focuses on the Rhapsody, a thoroughly Romantic genre, invented by Liszt followed by Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Sibelius etc. and into the modern era with Bartók and even Gershwin. Kantorow is not looking for popular show pieces, although his program offers plenty of hair raising virtuosity. He starts off with a very effective rendition of the tempestuous Brahms Rhapsody No.1 demonstrating a virtuoso Romantic abandon, full of fire, but also a gentle lyricism in the middle part. Kantorow is a truly mature artist who belies his age as evidenced in the most ambitious work on the program, Brahms’ Piano Sonata No.2. This was the youthful composer’s first major piano work and it is full of rich musical ideas, opulent harmonies, yet under strict compositional rigour. It starts off with virtuoso double fortissimo octaves as its opening salvo. I love the Trio part of the Scherzo, Poco piu moderato – a wonderful melody that enchants the ear. The second half is devoted to Hungarians. Young Bartók’s Rhapsody Op.1, which harks back to the Romantic era, and in tribute to Liszt, seems to revel in beautiful harmonies and evokes Gypsy music. Very much unlike the later avant-garde Bartók. The fiery second part is a wild Hungarian dance of amazing bravura. The disc ends spectacularly with Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.11 played with such amazing gusto that it will lift you up from your seat. A gorgeous recording. Janos Gardonyi 38 | November 2020 thewholenote.com

Dunhill & Erlanger – Piano Quintets Piers Lane; Goldner String Quartet Hyperion CDA68296 (hyperion-records.co.uk) ! British composers Thomas Dunhill (1877-1946) and Baron Frédéric d’Erlanger (1868- 1943) each wrote a piano quintet, both in four substantial movements. Until Australia’s pre-eminent Goldner Quartet and pianist Piers Lane recorded them for Hyperion, however, these late Romantic works were largely overlooked by the musical mainstream. Born in Paris, d’Erlanger lived for most of his life in London where he worked in the family business as a banker. His biography further notes that he was “by inclination a patron of the arts, and through creativity a composer.” His opera, ballet, orchestra and chamber music scores were widely performed during his lifetime. D’Erlanger’s 1901 Quintet reflects Brahmsian and Dvořákian influences, as well as a distinctive tunefulness paired with lively rhythms, playful thematic flow and a sure feel for drama. The substantial piano part certainly adds heft to the string quartet writing imbued with an audio palm court aura, on the lighter side of the classical music spectrum. Londoner Thomas Dunhill on the other hand, d’Erlanger’s contemporary, was a prolific career composer and professor of music. His C-Minor Quintet evokes earlier 19th-century musical idioms drawing on Robert Schumann’s scores, but it also echoes Elgar’s chamber music. Part of this album’s interest is in the dual thrill of discovery and (musical) time travel: I had heard of neither composer before, nor of their century-old music. Early Edwardian chamber music seldom sounded as good, particularly when played this well. Andrew Timar MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY reTHiNK junctQin keyboard collective Redshift Records TK479 (redshiftrecords.org) ! Pianist Thomas Larcher once lamented that he was unable to “get away from the piano’s natural sound... with all the intensity that marks a musician’s relationship to his instrument.” He went on to equate “this sound” to “something worn out, obsolete…” Meanwhile, Elaine Lau, Joseph Ferretti and Stephanie Chua, collectively junctQín, have been toying with the instrument, with radical and experimental joy, since 2009. Their magical adventure takes place both on all the 88 keys as well as inside their respective pianos as they continue to bend and shape the 311-year-old (and counting) instrument to their will. reTHiNK is not only an appropriate title for their new selection of works, it might easily be seen as an ongoing one. The performances of junctQín, after all, are always evolving. This recording is sure to be remembered as being unique in their repertoire. On reTHiNK the trio dazzle the senses with an arresting performance. The captivating music fuses contemplative harmonies with innovative performance techniques. As a result, music as radically eloquent as Alfred Schnittke’s 1979 Hommage à Stravinsky, Prokofiev, & Shostakovich is not only re-imagined, but redefined in 21st-century terms. This is also true – perhaps more remarkably so – of Maurice Ravel’s 1918 work, Frontispice. The wonders never cease as junctQín teases out the mysteries of works by Finnish composer Tomi Räisänen and Canadians Monica Pearce, Emily Doolittle, Chris Thornborrow, Alex Eddington and Elisha Denburg in an embarrassment of riches. Raul da Gama Alice Ping Yee Ho – Venom of Love Alice Ping Yee Ho; Vania Chan; Patty Chan; Lulu Leaf Music Digital (leaf-music.ca) ! One of Canada’s most acclaimed composers, twotime JUNO nominee and Dora Mavor Moore Award winner for Outstanding Original Opera, Alice Ping Yee Ho, has gifted us with a gorgeous work that almost defies characterization. This 60-minute composition deals with elements of fantasy and eroticism from a primeval, magical world; a musical composition for ballet based on the Legend of the White Snake, one of China’s Four Great Folktales. The work is compiled as 20 tracks inside four acts, which serve to guide the listener along the extraordinary journey as we turn the pages of an epic-sized book of fantasy and desire, love and rivalry between mortals and spirits, and finally the ultimate sacrifice for eternal love. Fusing synthesized and acoustic instrumental sounds with soprano voice and percussion, this work is a dramatic dance/ opera/musical theatre composition telling an ancient myth in contemporary form. The music sweeps us up so deftly we are captive travellers inside dripping caves; clusters of tonalities are richly layered with electronics and we imagine shimmering dragons, writhing snakes, and hear spectacular sounds of animals, bats and water, evoking the hues of brilliant blues, greens and greys. Of special mention is lyric coloratura soprano Vania Lizbeth Chan’s voice that somehow manages to hold warmth and charm while soaring at stratospheric heights. Commissioned by Toronto’s Little Pear Garden Dance Company in 2014, the music is so evocative I almost feel like I’ve already seen the ballet, but I’ll be sure to be in line for that production when it comes back to a live stage in the future. Cheryl Ockrant Jaap Nico Hamburger – Piano Concerto Assaff Weisman; Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal; Vincent de Kort Leaf Music LM238 (leaf-music.ca) ! Composer Jaap Nico Hamburger’s first CD release is a Leaf Music recording of his Piano Concerto performed by Orchestra Métropolitain de Montréal under the direction of Vincent de Kort, with soloist Assaff Weisman. Set in the traditional three-movement concerto form, the piece opens with a mysterious orchestral introduction where the piano is welcomed into the texture through a Mahlerian sensibility. The second movement unmistakably recalls Prokofiev in its playfulness and tricky rhythmic attitudes. This almost schizophrenic hyperactivity is interrupted by a serene landscape evoking tragedy or loss. The boisterous activity quickly returns to provide somewhat of a rollercoaster for the listener. Throughout the third movement, sparse bells and undulating strings paint a menacing atmosphere for the final moments of the piece. Weisman handles the virtuosic writing with extreme touch and sensitivity. With the concerto being only 22 minutes, one is perhaps left wanting more of a featured moment for the pianist, such as a cadenza – especially considering the fact that the piece is in the traditional three-movement form. The orchestra and soloist deliver a top-notch performance of a work that will please those who enjoy new sounds created in a Late- Romantic style. Adam Scime thewholenote.com November 2020 | 39

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020
Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 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)