8 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 2 - October 2004

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and Franz Joseph Haydn.

and Franz Joseph Haydn. What goes around comes around though, and Brahms - Piano Works, Volume I Frank Levy Paisiello's own ll Barbiere di Siviglia gave way to Rossini's more successfu I version. If his operas did not stand the test of time, what chance do his Piano Concerti have, you may ask? Well, surprisingly, a good one. Despite h is . Italian origins, Paisello's music remains deeply "Viennese" in its idiom. The comparisons that come to mind include Haydn and early Beethoven, and the Largo movement of Concerto no. 2 will endear this music to even the harshest critic. Concerto no. 4 follows, a tremendous piece that rejects classical constraints and infuses the melody with a power and emotion worthy of the "Sturm und Orang" Romantics. Although the concerti were written for harpsichord and pianoforte, the accomplished and sensitive playing by pianist Francesco Nicolosi renders the music with such a natural ease it is hard to imagine that the composer didn ' 1 have the modem instrument in mind. An added bonus to this excellent Naxos recording is the inclusion of the Overture from Paisiello's opera Proserpine. Robert Tomas Haydn - Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross Emerson Quartet Deutsche Grammophon 474 836-2 It's unusual for a recording of a Haydn string quartet to spark controversy. But the Emerson Quartet has made some changes to The Seven Lasr Words that certainly raise questions. Haydn originally wrote this work for orchestra, to be performed as a set of descriptive interludes during a Gqod Friday service. He soon arranged it for string quartet, and later turned it into an oratorio. Other versions, including a piano transcription, followed, but were not prepared by Haydn. Today it's the string quartet version that is best known. But, as violinist Eugene Drucker explains in his informed booklet notes, the Emerson is convinced that this transcription is not wholly the work of Haydn. The most worthwhile of the Emerson's alterations is the addition of the chorale-like second introduction, taken from the orchestral version. It works so beautifully that it should become standard. Other changes, such as lowering the cello line an octave in places, or adding motifs from the orchestral version, are thoughtful, brief, and subtle. If they hardly seem necessary, they do take the Emerson's quest for greater amplitude and resonance a step further, and contribute to the opulent, passionate sound. Except for the fiery finale - here played with thrilling en emble work - each movement is slow and meditative. The musicians make free use of expressive devices like vibrato, rubato, and portamento. But they still achieve the transparent clarity of ensembles with a far leaner sound, and their command of classical style, especially nuanced in the way they colour the repeats, is exquisite. Pamela Margles Concert Note: The Emerson Quartet performs for Music Toronto at the Jane Mallett Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 7. Palexa CD 0534 Beethoven - Symphony No.7; Stravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps Karajan, Berlin Phjlharmonic Orchestra Palexa CD 0351 Palexa is a Montreal-based record company that has been producing original recordings since 1996. Founded and operated by two piano enthusiasts, Jean-Paul Hamelin and Alexi Lifschitz, they not only produce records but present pianists whom they may record in concert, reflecting (usually) the excitement generated when an audience acts as a catalyst to generate performances different from studied studio productions. Pianists not recorded elsewhere include Konstantin Lifschitz, Gabriela Montero, and Frank Levy. Levy is on the Faculty of the Juilliard School in New York and conducts master classes in Europe and The United States. This first volume of a proposed Brahms cycle includes the shorter pieces opus 117, 118 and 119 in addition to the two Rhapsodies opus 79. Levy's playing may be described as lyrical, revealing the beauty of Brahms' writing rather than playing for maximum dramatic effect. Those who are convinced by Glenn Gould's mannered Brahms will find Levy too amiable; others might enjoy the chance to hear Brahms speak for himself. Levy's Schubert discs are yet to be heard. In addition to their own productions, Palexa issues 'Collection Documents' with selected performances from the recent past, usually unavailable elsewhere. A supreme example is the recent Karajan disc with live performances of the Beethoven Seventh from January 1978 in Berlin and Le Sacre from August 1978 in Lucerne. The performances in natural stereo are different from the studio efforts from DG of the same repertoire, in that they really do sound exactly like that orchestra in performance. Even though the DG studio recordings enjoyed state-of-the art engineering, they sound, well, engineered. Here are two live performances that reveal Karajan and the orchestra in top form. Those who claim that he could not turn in a searing performance of elemental intensity will eat their words when they hear this ferocious live Le Sacre, originating in a not too resonant venue in Lucerne. I look forward to hearing other issues from Palexa, including their own productions and performances by Klemperer, Annie Fischer, Karl Bohm, Jorge Bolet, and others. Bruce Surtees Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.6 "Pathetique" _ Orchestre National de France; Ricardo Muti Radio France Na'ive V4970 AD W8 Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.6 "Pathetique" Concertgebouw Orchestra; Willem Mengelberg Naxos Historic 8.110885 Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.6 "Pathetique" Berlin Philharmonic; Wilhelm Furtwlingler Naxos Historic 8.110885 Scholars will probably argue 'til the cows come home about the events preceding his death bur whatever the true scenario may be, Tchaikovsky died just a few days after the premier of his last symphony. This symphony, dubbed Pmhetique by the composer's brother, Modest, was conceived as programme music and although the scenario was withheld by Tchaikovsky, it is not too difficult to fit one to it. Some listeners want the symphony to end with the unbounded enthusiasm of the third movement's scherzo because that's how a symphony i WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM OCTOBER 1 - NOVEMBER 7 2004

supposed to end. In truth most do, including each of the composer's earlier numbered symphonies, but to expect a 'happy ending' this time is .to miss Tchaikovsky's anima. The symphony tells of hope, serenity, anguish, defiance and a short lived triumph ... until Fate deals the last hand. without concern for the powerless mortal beneath. The last movement is Tchaikovsky's final resignation, his leave-taking, his farewell. is a disc for Mengelberg collectors, even at Naxos prices. Believe me, I have or have heard just about every recording of the PaJhetique and without a moment's hesitation I favour the 1938 Furtwiingler, Berlin Philharmonic recording above all others. Certainly Furtwiingler has his detractors, enemies even, but there is no doubt that this performance glows from within the music and is not imposed on it. The recent Naxos re-issue, clearly boasting the best transfers yet, also has the performances of a lifetime of the Prelude and Love Death from Tristan, recorded in the same year. This is one disc that belongs in every music-lover's collection. Bruce Surtees Janacek- Piano Works (complete) Hakon Austbo Brilliant Classics 92295 Muti in his second recorded performance may be getting closer to Tchaikovsky than he did earlier. Even though there are some dramatic moments in the first movement, Muti's Parherique reri1ains only skin deep .. . viscerally illuminated but philo ophically only wafer thin. It must be said that the playing and recording is first rate, and if having the latest version is what determines the version to buy, then here it is. The Mengelberg dating from April 1941 has some of the qualities so admired by his disciples but it is not easy ro get through the noisy surfaces of the original 78s. From the various transfers heard over the years, none of Mengelberg's Telefunken discs has the presence of the EMis from even a dozen years earlier. Also missing are the expected portamenti, so delightfully characteristic of his earlier recordings. The added feature on this disc is a fine performance of the complete Serenade for Srrings recorded by Telefunken in November of 1938. Basically, this Janacek's international reputation has grown in the last 20 years with the appearance of high quality recordings and advocacy of Sir Charles Mackerras and the late great Czech born pianist Rudolf Firkusny, a friend and disciple of the composer. Janacek was 50 by the time he found his own musical voice, basing it on the articulations of the Czech language as well as Moravian folk music and it is interesting to trace in these previously unrecorded complete piano works the progress from the early, less characteristic Zdenka Variations (1880) to the fully mature masterpieces such as The Overgrown Path (1908), 1n the Mists (1912) and the Piano Sonata 1.X. of '1905. My favourite has always been The Overgrown Path, a set of short pieces with simple emotions expressed in strong musical terms. The melodies are sometimes so achingly beautiful that one can cry listening to them (e.g. "In Tears"). Some pieces are gently humorous like "The barnyard owl that didn't fly away" with its birdlike flutter OCTOBER 1 - NOVEMBER 7 2004

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