8 years ago

Volume 7 Issue 5 - February 2002

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CONCERT PREP Britten: Three Suites for Violoni;ello Solo Peter Wispelwey Channel Classics CCS 17198 Britten: Cello Suites 1-3 Tri'.ils Merk Virgin Classics 7243 5 45399 2 3 Britten: Cello Suites and Sonata .Mstislav Rostropovich, Benjamin Britten DECCA London 421 859-2 Two recent recordings of Benjamin Britten's complete works for solo cello are welcome · additions to the available discograp9y of these highly regarded but all too rarely heard masterpieces. All three solo suites were written for Rostropovich between 1964 and 1971, following closely on the Sonata for Cello and Piano and Cello Symphony which ""'.ere also inspired by the great Russian cellist. With this in mind, all subsequent recordings must be measured against Rostropovich's classic 1968 Decca perform,ance, marvelously remastered for CD release in 1989. I'm pleased to report that both of the current releases pass muster with flying colours, but I'm at a loss as to what to recommend the savvy shopper do. Both the Norwegian Truls M0rk and Dutchman PeterWispelwey bring a wealt~ of technique and experience to their interpretations, and they, both seem to have ma~e DISCOVERIF:S IJ!lll!~~~;;;i Both these recent discs offer extensive liner notes and a wealth of information about the works themselves. The Wispe l wey disc, once we get over the boinbastic biographical material, offers some genuine insights into the works through the eyes of the performer, and also includes some graphic examples from the scores. While M0rk relies on the expertise of a third party, the notes for the Virgin Classics release are even more thorough and are explicit about the debt to Rostropovich. All three performances feature a marvelous acoustic, and kudos are due the Decca record company which .has man'aged to transfer to compact disc the wonderful sound of the original Rostropovich recordings made 'at Snape, where the works were premiered during the Aldeburgh Festival in the 1960s. Both M0rk and Wispelwey include the Third Suite, written in 1971, which Rostropovich has yet to record. On the. other hand, Rostropovich includes the first work Britten ever wrote for him, the Sonata for Cello and Piano, with the composer at the piano. A tough choke; the listener would be well served by any (or all) of these recordings .. David Olds these pieces their own. . . I f~rst came to Concert Note: Both the music of Britten and W 1 s P e 1. w e Y / that for the cello abound this month: Steven through his fab- Isserlis will perform Britten's Third Suite (and ulous "period" the Third Suite by J.S. Bach) for Via Salzburg performances at Glenn Gould Studio on February 5; Clemens of the Bach Romijn states in the liner notes to the Wispelwey Suites• and I recording: "Those who deplore the small quantity must confess of chamber mrisic which Britten composed and that I found consider him a more vocal coniposer should search them even in those very same vocal works for the perpetual more convin- chamber composer that Britten really was." To cing than those of his mentor Anner Bylsma. In that etulwe mention thai The Aldeburgh Conneccontrast to this, I first became aware ofM0rk's tion will present A Britten Recital featuring prowess through his recordings of modernists Catherine Robbin arid Colin Ainsworth on Febru- Crumb, Nord- ary 8; and for fans of the contemporary cello, heim, Lidholm the Continuum Contemporary Music Ensemble · and Kodaly. It is presents A Superfluity and Celebration of Celperhaps because los featuring Paul Pulford, Karl Toews, John of this early Marshman, Roberta Janzen & others at the Muexperience that sic Gallery at St. George the Martyr on February I expected to 3. find M0rk a Joe Trio Set 'em up, Joe CBC Muska Viva MVCD 1145 work. It is with a certain chagrin that I report that no such easy choice presented itself. Wispelwey seems just as at ho!lle with modern repertoire and a modern instrument as he does in ,his "authentic" performances. 46 I can't ever recall seeing a CD before that managed to list Dvorak, Coltrane and Mick Jagger as the composers. Such is the versatility of Joe Trio. arrangements is Orange Blossom Zorbet, in wh.ich the theme from 'Zorba The Greek morphs into the classic fiddle tune Orange Blossom Special. My favourite track on the disc is not one of the quodlibets, but rather the simple, straightforward and beautiful version of Jerome Kern's The Way You Look Tonight. Those who would question Joe Trio's classical chops need only to listen to the two Dvorak trios. The playing is clean, precise and energetic. The group has been recorded well, though it sounds to me as though the dynamic range may have been compressed somewhat . . This disc is clearly not for the humourimpaired, but I'd highly recommend it for any friends you have who claim to hate classical music. Hearing a piano trio playing Paint It Black might just get them hooked. · Merlin Williams Concert Note: Joe ·Trio provides fun for t/(e whole family in a "cushion concert" at Harbourfront's Brigantine Room on February 17, at 1:00. NEWAND RECENT RELEASES Sanctuary Jeff Reilly, Peter Togni, Christoph Both XXI CD 2 1419 ' It's not very often that I find myself able to agree with some, let alone all, of the promotional blurbs inside the cover of a CD. And let's face it - what good do they do there? You have to buy the disc just to be able to read them. In the case of this recording; I was amazed to find I actually agree with what is said. Sanctuary is a trio comprising Jeff Reilly, Peter Togni and Christoph Both. Their music February ·1 -- March 7 2002

is described as "Contemplative Improvisations". Contemplative, yes. Soporific? No! Jeff Reilly's extraordinary bass clarinet playing captured my attention.first. His use of the entire range of his instrument is astonishing. His technique is impressive, but never overshadows the musical content. Christoph Both's cello playing is a perfect mate to Reilly's bass clarinet-impassioned sound and excellent facility, but always used in the service of the music. Peter Togni shines on his solo Organ Improvisation on Veni Creator. So often organists are called upon only to improvise linking passages in church service. Togni'.s three-minute improvisation is impressive in its imagination and colour. Sanctuary's website (http://www. sanctuary has mp3 ·files of two of the cuts from this CD for preview. It's well worth visiting the- site and listening to get an idea of what this wonderful recording is really like. Merlin Williams Russian Serenade Martin Beaver; K-W Symphony/ Chosei Komatsu CBC Records SMCD 5209 DISCOVERIES 'Islamey: Borodin/Shostakovich/Balakirev I Khachaturian Vancouver Symphony Orchestra/ Bramwell Tovey CBC Records SMCD 5210 None But the Lonely Heart: Russian Romances Joanne Kolomyjec; Janina Fialkowska CBC Records MVCD 1144 If T. S. Eliot had been Canadian, February would have been the cruelest month. To while away the dreariness before Spring, CBC Records offers three discs dedicated to music from our sister hinterland, Russia. Too bleak, perhaps? As these releases prove, ·February is the perfect month for hibernating with the dark Russia of lore. No existential angst rattles the ear on these three discs. Instead, we are treated to pure Romanticism: the delectable pain of the lovelorn soul on soprano Joanne Kolomyjec's collection of Russian songs None But the Lonely and on Russian Serenade, featuring violinist Martin Beaver and the Kitchener­ Waterloo Symphony. Even from two composers who felt the full bru.nt of Communist censorship, Shostakovich and Khachaturian (on the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Islamey) we hear only fanciful ballet suites. While Shostakovich is de.cidedly more cosmopolitan (jazzy even!) with waltzes and a wild "gal op," the musical evocation of Russia's multicultural, mythic past that characterizes Khachaturian's suite from Gayane points to the true inspiration of most of the composers on these discs. When matters of the heart do not preoccupy them, they chase that elusive Romantic and Communist ideal: a national musical essence. Amidst all this ethnic colour,· Tchaikovsky (the most European of the lot), whose Opp. 26, 34, and 42 are pillars of Russian Serenade, comes off as the least appealin~. Though exquisitely played, one can't help but dismiss his compositions as incidental chest.nuts of the violin repertory. Much more interesting ar~ the two concertos. Glazunov's is arch Romanticism; the rambunctious allegro sounds like a Hollywood western a la St.­ Petersbourg. Though the subtle elasticity of this sprawling wprk se!!ms to elude conductor Chosei Komatsu, there are isolated thrilling lnoments. Prokofiev's No. l in D is

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