6 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 1 - September 2004

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DISC EDITOR'S CORNER continued from page 11 not so different from Demers, who felt he "had to testify in music" to an obsession with the tango, a dance ·where balance is always in question. Lesage evokes a different sort of gravity as he takes as his inspiration a more sombre theme, the memory of one of the masters of 20th century composition, lannis Xenakis, and uses the l 7th century French tombeau as his model. All of the works are effective, and are played with conviction by this fine ensemble. We also received two discs by Ukrainian composers recently, and although the two were born in the same time (1937) and place, their music could not be more different. Nikolai Kapustin's Piano Music (Hyperion CDA67433) features jazz-inspired works spanning a quarter of a century performed by Marc-Andre Hamelin. I say jazzinspired, but I thipk that most listeners, even those schooled in jazz, would be hard. pressed on first hearing to realize that this is something other than spontaneous improvised music. But as the composer is quoted as saying, "You can't improvise a sonata". Trained as a classical pianist and composer, Kapustin has worked as a jazz pianist throughout his career. His compositions however are couched in classical forms in spite of their predominantly jazz idioms. Noticeable influences range from Scott Joplin to Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett and beyond, but Kapustin's music also has a manic edge to it, at tirries reminiscent of Conlon Nancarrow's humanly impossible studies for player piano. Hamelin proves himself to be up to the challenges however, and "who would have thunk it?", this man can real-· ly swing! · The other Ukrainian work, Valentin Silvestrov's Requiem for Larissa (ECM New Series 1778) was written in memory of the corn- 58 VE RIES poser's wife who died in 1996. As with all of Silvestrov's later works, the Requiem evokes the music of the past, but always as if in a dream. We hear echoes of Webern, Bruckner, and, especially, Mozart, not as quotations however, but rather as evocations. There are more recent memories too as we also hear moments reminiscent of Penderecki's early choral writing and Henryk Go·recki's haunting Symphony of Sorrowfu.l Songs. The National Choir of Ukraine (which includes a spine-tingling basso profundo section) is supplemented with soprano, contralto and tenor soloists and the Beethoven-sized orchestra under Volodymyr Sirenko's direction is brought into the 21lst century with the addition of a synthesizer. The work is_ profoundly moving and is, in th words of Larry Lake, host of Two New Hours on CBC Radio Two, Silvestrov's "best yet". We can only regret the unfortunate occasion of its composition. In closing, in case you begin to think that my only interest is in the 'muc sic of our time', I would bring your attention to a wonderful budgetpriced re-issue ·of the Piano Trios of Mozart's pupil and Haydn's collaborator Johann N epomuk Hummel (Eloquence 4761477). This 1997 Philips recording features the Beaux Arts Trio at a time when founding pianist Menahem Pressler was joined by violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Peter Wiley. The playing is superb, as is the recording. Unfortunately the discs of the extensive Eloquence line, a no-frills product of Universal Music that includes reissues from liner notes. We lament a missed the Philips, Deutsche Grammo- opportunity to educate while enterphon and Decca labels, contain no taining, but nonetheless recominformation whatsoever about the mend this marvellous recording. composer, compositions or musicians involved. This mars what would otherwise be an excellent introduction to some of the world's greatest music for those uninitiated who might be drawn by a familiar name or the attractive prices. It is difficult to understand this omission as the original recordings that form the basis of the series did, in many cases, have thorough Sempre Libera VOCAL Anna Netrebko, soprano Coro Sinfonico di Giuseppe Verdi CD REVIEWS Milano Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Claudio Abbado DGG 00289 474 8002 Soprano Arias Marina Mescheriakova, soprano Slovak Philharmonic Choir Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Michel Halasz Naxos 8.557109 For her enthusiastically received first solo disc last year, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko offered mostly lyric arias. Here she moves into heavier dramatic roles, with two mad scenes and a sleepwalking scene from the bel canto repertoire, some Verdi and Puccini. It's good 'to have other soloists and a choir here to present extended scenes - even with the inevitable excisions. The assisting singers and choir are vibrant and the orchestra under Claudio Abbado is superbly coloured .. Netrebko produces radiant sounds, but thrills are surprisingly few. There is just so much more that can - and should - be done to make this repertoire dramatically convincing. Because Netrebko's voice--sits comfortably in the extremely high tessitura where most of this music lies, the phrases flow We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. Catalogues, review copies of CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 720 Bathurst St., Suite 503, Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcome your input via our website, David Olds Editor, DISCoveries easily. But, with a limited dynamic range, and tone colour that varies little from mood to mood, she missi;:s the layers of irony when Lucia sings "Oh, how happy I am!" in the mad scene from Donizetti 's Lucia di Lammermoor. Netrebko's ·unidiomatic Italian does not help the lack of clarity and precision in her coloratura. But it's a delight to h,ear the rarely used glass harmonica originally scored by Donizetti. The notes in my press kit contain no information about the music, their main focus being the dress Netrebko wears in the cover photo. Worse still is the absence of texts and translations. SOPllVi(l At.\. l).'\o.fOJl:""'•lilflh·l'Uto

cabaletta Ernani, involami from Verdi's Ernani she uses the huge leaps and intricate ornamentation as a means of expressing conflicting emotions. Michel Halasz directs the lively and responsive Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Slovak Philharmonic Choir. The intelligent notes are accompanied, as they should be, by texts and translations. PamMargles Concert note: Marina Mescheriakova returns to The Canadian Opera Company in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Hummingbird Centre on September 25, 28, 30, Oct. 3, 6 and 8. written for a convention of telegraphists, the virtuosic winds and brass of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano under Riccardo Chailly form an enthralling concert band. The liner notes are interesting and critically astute, but Decca has done this fascinating disc a disservice by omitting the texts for the vocal works. PamMargles Concert note: A cast of young performers from Opera in Concert presents Puccini's La Rondine with Jean Stilwell as host at the Edward Jackman Centre on October I and 2. Ld 2 New CD Releases Christmas choral music by Canada's finest composers, based on the Piae Cantiones plainsong Puccini: Discoveries Eva Urbanova, Dario Volunte, Chiara Taigi, Joseph Calleja, Alberto Mastromarino Coro and Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi; Riccardo Chailly Decca 475 320-2 The big draw on this disc is the first recording of the new ending for Puccini's Turandot. Puccini died before he was able to finish his final opera, so his friend Franco Alfano completed it. Just qefore his own death last year, the versatile Italian composer Luciano Berio wrote a new ending based on a close re-examination of Puccini's sketches. In both versions the vocal lines are much the same, but in his orchestration Berio uses a wider palette of colours and textures, and a much richer harmonic language. Alfano ends with the chorus joyfully reprising Nessun dorma. Berio drops the final chorus for the orchestra to fade out after Turandot and Calaf proclaim their love. What Berio's more ambiguous ending gains in both cogency and musical interest, it loses in dramatic impact. Eva Urbanova makes a powerful Turandot, as she did with the Canadian Opera Company last year, as does her Calaf, Dario.Yolonte. The rest of the disc features some obscure gems, from the early Motetto for San Paolino, to the sublime Salve Regina for soprano and brgan, tenderly sung here by Chiara Taigi. In Scossa elettrica (Electric Shock) SEPTEMBER 1 ·OCTOBER 7 2004 Vivaldi Opera Arias from the Vivaldi Edition Various Artists OPUSlll OPS30401 How is it possible that over 260 'years after the death of the 'Red Priest', as the contemporaries called Antonio Vivaldi, over 20 of his operas are nowhere near to being well known? This recording, a result of the efforts oflstituto per I Beni Musicali in Piemonte, holder of some 400 manuscripts of Vivaldi's work, provides an answer: we simply don't have the right instruments. I don't mean period violins and cellos, oboes and harpsichords - we have those and three Italian period ensembles perform on this recording. What makes Vivaldi's operas so rare on stage and record is lack of voices capable of handling this extraordinary music. For the Red Priest, human voice was yet another instrument - to be tuned, tweaked and pushed to the limits. all, in Vivaldi's times scores of boys were mutilated just to achieve certain sound. We don't have castrati anymore, but we also don't have too many singers with a purity of pitch, breathing technique and attention to nuances that allows them to render Vivaldi's music. Fortunately, there are some and when Magdalena Kozena or Philippe Yaroussky sing, it is a sound of an angel. In those instances, Vivaldi's vocal music shines with incomparable beauty, forcing even the most cynical listener to be awe-struck. Because the demands are so high, I doubt operas such as Juditha Trium- GREAT MUSIC NOW ONLINE OVER 40,000 CLASSICAL & JAZZ TITLES IN OUR ONLINE· CATALOGUE 0 ···-····-.......... ,........____ ::::; L'tJ.i,r.rigorian

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