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Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

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  • Thewholenotecom
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Blue pages and orange shirts; R. Murray Schafer's complex legacy, stirrings of life on the live concert scene; and the Bookshelf is back. This and much more. Print to follow. Welcome back from endless summer, one and all.

Among the interesting

Among the interesting biographical information included in Eric Johns’ extensive essay in the program booklet is that, at its first performance, Piazzolla’s Sinfonía Buenos Aires Op.15 (1951) “scandalized the audience to the point of fistfights and shouting, supposedly in response to the inclusion of two bandoneóns [concertinas] in an orchestral work.” It seems that he managed to alienate the tango community as well, with his introduction of classical stylings, techniques and instrumentation to the traditional form. Eventually, as we know, his Nuevo Tango style became widely accepted and is now lauded in concert and dance halls alike. Although originally written for flute, both the Etudes and Histoire are published in alternate versions for violin, and are well suited to the stringed instrument which, along with bandoneón and flute, was a staple in the traditional tango ensemble. In fact, again from Johns’ notes, “When performed on violin, Etude No.5 allows for the inclusion of double-stops, impossible on flute, to outline the alternation in the rhythmic pattern between 3+3+2, 3+2+3 and 4+4.” Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas was originally scored for Piazzolla’s quintet of violin/viola, piano, electric guitar, double bass and bandoneón but is heard here in a string orchestra arrangement by Leonid Desyatnikov. It is the earliest work presented here, having been written between 1965 and 1970. It was not originally conceived of as a suite – the first movement Verano (Summer) was written as incidental music for a play by Alberto Rodríguez Muñoz – nor evidently as a tribute to Vivaldi, but there are a number of quotations from that Baroque master’s own Quattro Stagioni and it certainly serves as one. Gomyo’s playing is stellar throughout, full of idiomatic nuance and enthusiasm, with a rich warm tone in the lilting melodies, but suitably gruff as the sometimes gritty music requires. The same is true of Jones’ guitar, lyrical and percussive by turns. There is a lovely cello solo in Otoño Porteña (Autumn) superbly performed by Paul Ben Soussan, but the highlight of the movement is Gomyo’s extended and extravagant cadenza. A fine disc, and a wonderful centennial tribute to the Argentine master. Well, I thought that was all I had this time around, but as I was putting the finishing touches on my screed I received an advance copy of the latest from Toronto (former) wunderkind Stewart Goodyear. Phoenix (Bright Shiny Things BSTC- 0154 brightshiny.ninja) will be released on October 8 and adds a glimpse into yet another side of this many-faceted musical force to an already impressive discography. The press release tells us that “The ashes from which Phoenix rises are, as the pianist says: the ‘soundworld, past traditions, and gestures of Franz Liszt’ [who was] thought to have had a profound influence on Debussy and Ravel, the latter of whom famously orchestrated Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.” Mussorgsky’s masterwork, masterfully performed in the original solo piano version, is the centrepiece of this impressive sonic essay. The disc is bookended by unaccompanied renditions of original works by Goodyear himself – the quasi moto perpetuo Congotay, recently released as a single with his jazz quintet, and the ebullient Panorama, extracted from Callaloo, a Gershwin-inspired work for piano and orchestra – both based on his half-Trinidadian heritage. Jennifer Higdon’s Secret and Glass Gardens, called by the composer “a journey of wonder and discovery” that “reflects the paths of our hearts,” is contrasted by Anthony Davis’ more introspective and ultimately tumultuous Middle Passage, inspired by a poem of Robert Hayden that, according to Davis, “speaks to the essential irony of our people and culture born of the horror of slavery.” Middle Passage includes two sections in which the performer is instructed to improvise and this recording marks Goodyear’s debut as an improvising pianist. Two works by Debussy, L’isle joyeuse and La cathédrale engloutie, complete a thoughtful and fascinating disc. We invite submissions. CDs, DVDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS The new CD Debussy-Franck-Szymanowski finds the Canadian duo of violinist Marie Bégin and pianist Samuel Blanchette-Gagnon in quite superb form (ATMA Classique ACD2 2850 atmaclassique.com/en). Bégin’s Carlo Bergonzi violin from 1710-1715 produces a glorious sound, and there’s a lovely range of tone colour from both players in the Debussy Sonata in G Minor and in the shimmering, atmospheric performance of the three Szymanowski Mythes Op.30. The heart of the disc is a wonderfully expansive and insightful reading of the Franck Sonata in A Major, with a slow build-up through the opening Allegretto, a brooding and passionate Allegro second movement, a heartfelt Recitativo: Fantasia and a final canon of depth and strength. Two short transcriptions – Fauré’s Après un rêve and Debussy’s Beau soir, the latter in the Heifetz arrangement – complete a superlative CD. Roots, the debut CD from the young American violinist Randall Goosby has been attracting a lot of interest, and with good reason. Described as “an exploration of the music written by Black composers and inspired by Black American culture” it’s a strong recital that features fine playing from Goosby and pianist Zhu Wang (Decca Classics 4851664 store.deccaclassics.com/*/ CD-Classics/Roots/6Z5A16YW000). Xavier Dubois Foley’s Shelter Island for violin and string bass (with the composer on bass) is a world-premiere recording, as are the three pieces by Florence Price: Adoration and the two Fantasies, No.1 in G Minor and No.2 in F-sharp Minor. Also here are Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Blue/s Forms for Solo Violin, four songs from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in the Heifetz transcriptions, William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano (with its gorgeous second movement), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Deep River (in an arrangement by violinist Maud Powell) and Dvořák’s three-movement Sonatina in G Major. Goosby draws a full, warm tone from the 1735 “Sennhauser” Guarneri del Gesù violin, and has a lovely feel for line and phrase. Wang provides excellent support on an impressive debut disc. From the opening bars of The Viennese Viola: Emma Wernig, the debut CD from the winner of the 2017 Cecil Aronowitz competition with Albert Cano Smit at the piano, it’s clear that we’re in very good hands. Wernig’s warm, assured playing is supported by Cano Smit’s perfectly matched accompaniment in a beautifully balanced recording of Austrian rarities for viola and piano (Champs Hill Records CHRCD163 emmawernig.com). Hans Gál wrote his Viola Sonata in A Major Op.101 in Edinburgh in late 1942, having fled Austria in 1938. It’s a lovely work, lyrical and passionate but with moments of melancholy and gloomy introspection. Two fine works by Robert Fuchs are at the centre of the recital: his Sechs Phantasiestücke Op.117 from 1927 and his Viola Sonata in D Minor Op.86 from 1899. Brahms greatly admired Fuchs, and his influence – as well as that of Schubert – is keenly felt. 32 | September and October 2021 thewholenote.com

Four Schubert songs – Am See, Frühlingstraum, An die Musik and Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen – chosen and arranged by the two performers, complete an outstanding CD. A third – and equally accomplished – debut CD is Elegy: Toby Hughes, featuring the young English bassist accompanied by pianist Benjamin Powell in a recital that Hughes feels offers an insight into the instrument’s versatility (Champs Hill Records CHRCD162 tobyhughesdoublebass.com). Hughes’ bass is built for solo playing, custom made for him, and what a sound it has – the warmth and agility of a cello, but with heft. The Aria et Rondo from 1952 by the French composer Alfred Desenclos opens the disc, followed by Reinhold Glière’s Four Pieces – the Prelude and Scherzo Op.32 Nos.1 & 2 and the Intermezzo and Tarantella Op.9 Nos.1 & 2 – the Tarantella drawing dazzling virtuosity from Hughes. The brief Ekskize No.1, in a transcription by its composer Richard Dubugnon, was originally for voice and piano. The other major work on the CD is the four-movement Sonata No.2 in E Minor Op.6 from 1911 by Czech composer Adolf Mišek; it’s a passionate work with shades of Brahms and Dvořák. Bottesini’s lovely Elegia No.1, which takes Hughes to the instrument’s highest register, brings an impressive debut CD to a close. On the outstanding Bach’s Long Shadow, his first solo album, the Spanish-American violinist Francisco Fullana builds a program of interlinked yet contrasting works around the Bach Partita No.3 in E Major BWV1006 (Orchid Classics ORC100165 orchidclassics.com). Ysaÿe’s Solo Sonata Op.27 No.2 directly quotes the Bach Partita. Kreisler’s Recitativo & Scherzo Op.6 was dedicated to Ysaÿe, and Fullana is playing Kreisler’s first Guarneri violin, the 1735 “Mary Portman” Guarneri del Gesù which, for the Bach, is set up with gut strings, Fullana using a Baroque bow and historically informed ornamentation for that performance. Striking transcriptions of Albéniz’ Asturias and Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, the latter particularly difficult and effective, end a dazzling solo recital, Fullana being joined in an “encore” by Stella Chen, the most recent winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition, in the first movement of Ysaÿe’s Sonata for Two Violins. On Richard Strauss/César Franck the French duo of violinist Brieuc Vourch and pianist Guillaume Vincent present the Strauss Sonata in E-flat Major Op.18 together with yet another recording of the Franck Sonata in A Major (FARAO Classics B 108112 farao-classics.de). There’s a strong, bright tone to Vourch’s 1690 Francesco Ruggeri violin in a suitably passionate performance of the Strauss. Interestingly, the performers’ booklet notes for this and the Bégin/Blanchette- Gagnon disc both mention the tough challenge of trying to find an authentic personal voice in the much-recorded Franck sonata, but the resulting performances could hardly be more different. Vourch and Vincent push the tempo throughout, especially in the Allegro and in a final canon faster than any of the four other Franck CDs I’ve received recently, but at times it simply feels rushed and lacking in subtlety – certainly not as thoughtful or satisfying as the Bégin disc. Diffusion, the outstanding debut CD from the Verona Quartet is described as exploring a mosaic of folk cultures through the lens of three quartets from the early 20th century (Azica Records ACDF-71339 veronaquartet.com). As musicians hailing from across the world, the quartet wanted their first album to reflect the essence of the cultural migration that is such a big part of their identity. The performances of the three works – Janáček’s String Quartet No.2 “Intimate Letters”, Szymanowski’s String Quartet No.2 Op.56 and Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major – are quite superb in all respects. The intensely personal intimacy and passion of the Janáček, written near the end of his life and inspired by his unfulfilled love for a much younger married woman, are beautifully captured in a performance that penetrates to the heart of the work. The Szymanowski, similar in style and tone, is equally striking, and a shimmering performance of the Ravel completes an extremely impressive disc full of breathtaking interpretations and playing. The two guitarists who form the contemporary FretXDuo, Daniel Lippel and Mak Grgic have both issued solo CDs of music by Johann Sebastian Bach played on the welltempered guitar. The guitar is by the German luthier Walter Vogt, using his invention The Fine-Tunable Precision Fretboard, in which each fret is split into six individual moveable frets, placed according to the Well-Tempered III tuning designed by Johann Kirnberger, a composer who studied with Bach. This not only enables the music to be heard in its original keys but also retains the specific Baroque character of each key that What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Twelve Sacred Choral Concerti Luminous Voices In these sacred a cappella choral concerti, composer Artem Vedel (1767-1808) introduces an innovative tendency of “romanticizing” traditional Ukrainian partesny singing. Rasa Vitkauskaite plays Mozart & Beethoven Piano Concertos Rasa Vitkauskaite “She plays the solo part as boldly as Rudolf Serkin, and he conducts with more dramatic force than George Szell…” (Fanfare Magazine) Reimagine: Beethoven & Ravel Inna Faliks Commissioned works by Billy Childs, Timo Andres, Paola Prestini, Richard Danielpour and more, alongside exquisite performances of Beethoven’s Bagatelles Op. 126. Quest Elisabeth Remy Johnson Solo harp works by a dozen historic and contemporary women. Original transcriptions and premiere recordings. “Exquisite” Gramophone, “Dazzling” EarRelevant, “Revelatory” Lucid Culture. thewholenote.com September and October 2021 | 33

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