8 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 8 - May 2005

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property" Helene Grimaud

property" Helene Grimaud has embarked on a new project into the quintessentially romantic territory of the two "'princes of the piano" Chopin and Rachmaninov. Grimaud's fiery temperament, superb technique, great interpretive skills. inspiration and intuition have made her one of most exciting and sought after young pianists today. Rachmaninov's formidably difficult second sonata shows the pianist's natural affinity to this composer. Her forceful attack at the onset demands immediate attention and is soon followed by thunder and lightning flashes later giving way to a wistful and elegiac secondary theme. beautifully realized. The musical argument is carried through the lyrical 2nd movement into the virtuoso, syncopated and aggressively rhythmical 3rd where Grimaud'simply astounds with her bravura playing bringing the work to an exciting finish. Her passionat';! and youthful enthusiasm, however, is not always successful. In the I st movement of the Chopin Sonata her relentless ff playing in the recapitulation renders the Coda ineffective, losing the final punch. Otherwise the performance is impeccable. The ghostly last movement where the "wind whirls through the gravestones" is truly remarkable. The final two shorter pieces are beyond criticism. The "Berceuse" is light as a butterfly and the "Barcarolle", one of Chopin's greatest inspirations, sings wonderfully in the Venetian night, ending· the disc on a quiet', peaceful n0te. A very satisfying, finely engineered recording. Ja11os Gardo11yi Concert Note: Helene Grimaud performs Ravel's Concerto in G Major with the TSO on June 8 and 9. Brahms; Schumann Piano Quintets Pnina Salzman; Tel Aviv String Quartet Doremi CD DHR 7852 Pnina Salzman was born in Tel Aviv in 1924 and gave her first re- ciral when she was eight. Alfred Cortot heard her play in 1932 and immediately invited her to Paris where she studied with her patron and Magda Tagliaferro. When she was 14. upon the invitation of Bronislav Huberman, she played three piano concertos in a single evening with the Israel Philharmonic which Huberman had recently founded. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that ·she has played everywhere with just about everyone and everybody. Today she teaches and adjudicates on many competitions around the world. Doremi has issued four volumes [six CDsj devoted to her and, to be quite frank, I cannot understand why we, the record buying public, have not had the opportunity to hear her previously. Volume four contains live performances. from 1974 and 1983 respectively, of the Piano Quintets of Brahms, op.34 and Schumann, op.44. From the very first bars it is shiningly clear that here is music making of the highest order, exuberant and engaging. Salzman has long been associated with the Tel Aviv String Quartet and these performances attest to their complete immersion into the essence and spirit of the music. Together they are not making a recording ... they are making music. The real sen e of the occasion is captivating in these 'you are there' recordings. Combined with all this, the recording displays exemplary sound, so there is every good reason to add the disc ro a discerning collection. Bruce Surtees Brahms - The 4 Symphonies WDR Sinfonie Orchester KOio; Semyon Bychkov WDR/ A vie AV 2051 Semyon Bychkov embarked on a courageous undertaking in tackling the four Brahms symphonies, second only to Beethoven's nine in the symphonic world. The young and energetic conductor from Russia is now making a name for himself in Europe and this 3 CD set aptly demonstrates his extraordinary talent. "A symphony is no joke" - to quote Brahms and this shows his reticence to follow Beethoven's footsteps. He began work on his First Symphony in the early 1860s, but it was not until 1876 that he felt ready to send it out into the world as his Op.68. In the end it proved a masterpiece and became a favourite of conductors. Bychkov gives a strong, powerful, well detailed and . idiomatic performance. It is classical in spirit and well driven with a good upbeat tempo. The last movement is especially exciting. The theory that the 2nd Symphony is Brahms' 'Pastoral' is an oversimplification. Whereas there is sunshine in Beethoven's 6th, here there are sudden cloudy periods and mood changes. This is a highly successful performance, sensitive, full of feeling with well chosen tempos and a good understanding of the structure of the symphony. The first movement starts out auspiciously with the dialogue of the horns and base strings and later the cello melody really sings. The conductor moves the 2nd movement at a good clip and the climaxes are well paced and effective. The rollicking 3rd with its tone of resignation at the end is charming and the final movement has an absolutely fantastic ending that could wake the dead. I have always been partial to the short, heroic Third, which is much less· often performed than the others. Perhaps the reason is that here Brahms abandons the usual "glory" ending in favour of a quiet pp conclusion. Here the middle movements are more successful. In the pastoral 2nd the seemingly inexhaustible melodies follow one another other like a daisy chain. The popular third movement really 'breathes' in a comfortable tempo that broadens appropriately to a noble finish. The outer movements are driven competently, but unfortunately at the finale, the most wonderful part of the symphony, the pp return of the cyclical motto theme becomes inaudible and mars the overall effect. Success was long in coming for the serious, introspective and elusive Fourth Symphony which requires a very good conductor to bring off successfully. Fortu"nately, Bychkov definitely fulfills the bill. Keeping in mind that the magnificent Kleiber performance will never be surpassed, this is an effective, structurally sound, dynamic yet sensitive reading. The all important principal lyrical theme at the outset is well contrasted to the sharply rhythmical second subject. The 2nd movement is well detailed and the rambunctious, devil may care Scherzo is entertaining. The Finale, the great Passacaglia, one of the most original of Brahms compositions, brings the work and this excellent cycle to a brilliant close. One of the best sets of recent issues in good SACD sound. Janos Gardo11yi MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY i-'REM'll l·LLTE Ml"IC ·ll:'t:'liH'"•>t 111.tP.I 1'0.ltllhl I >'->II 1?$. hl;oi-1., f'lufc-• f-;'l'dn> \.'v!tJO. t''ili

the darkest days of the German occupa1ion of France. In this performance we hear the composer's anguish grow to an almos1 unbearable intensity. Henri Dutilleux' wonderfu 1 So11a1ine. ( 1942) moves from being pastoral to rhapsodic to playful to agitated. While the virtuosity required of both players is prodigious we always feel it is in the service of conveying the development of the music. In Pierre Boulez' Sona1i11e, (1951), we enter the brave new world of the post war avant garde, serial technique, angular rhythms 1 and melodic lines and lots of flutter-tonguing. Gallois and Wong are as convincing in this as in the more traditional harmonic and 1 melodic language of the other works in the program. These are masterful performances of masterpieces of the modern tlute repertoire. Allan Pulker NAXOS ROBERT CRAFT COLLECTION: Webern - Symphony; Six Pieces; Concerto for 9 Instruments 20th Century Classics Ensemble; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft Naxos 8.557530 Schoenberg - Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra Fred Sherry Quartet; Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble; Robert Craft J'iaxos 8.557520 Stravinsky - The Firebird; Petrushka Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft Naxos 8.557500 Stravinsky - Oedipus Rex; Les Noces Simon Joly Chorale; Philharmonia Orchestra; Robert Craft. Naxos 8.557499 Fifty years have passed since the appearance of Robert Craft's landmark recordings of the complete works of Anton Webern on the Columbia label. The acolyte of Schoenberg, Dr. von Webern focused his mentor's serial method through the lens of· Renaissance polyphony to forge sonic diamonds of unprecedented symmetry. These Columbia recordings and the Schoenberg series that followed them, .. .. ... ,.,, ..... ·1.t} "­ t·--*"f*-, ...., ,•lt.1i despite their shortcomings, became an invaluable and highly influential resource for composers of the post-w . ar generation. That Craft, now in his, will record the complete Webern again for the Naxos label is indeed welcome news. That Naxos will additionally allow Craft the opportunity to once again record the complete works of Schoenberg and Stravinsky approaches a miracle these days. Indeed, had it not been his good fortune to serve as amanuensis to Igor Stravinsky in his final decades, Robert Craft would likely have never been given the chance to make his first recordings and would pe known today mostly as an essayist. An encouraging word from Igor to an ever-accommodat i ng Goddard Lieberson (a.k.a. "God") at Columqia was all it took back then. The initial Webern album contains several of his most influential scores, including the Symphony Op. 21, Six Pieces for orchestra Op. 6 and the Op. 24 Concerto. Soprano Jennifer Welch­ Babidge delivers a supple and sensitive account of the songs Opp. 16, 17 & 18, ably accompanied by the elite musicians of the handpicked ensemble. Pianist Christopher Oldfather contributes a refreshingly lyrical performance of the Piano Variations Op. 27. The Schoenberg album lead off with a rarity, his Conceno for S1 ring Quar1e1 (1933), a totally bizarre deconstruction of Handel's Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 7 in which the past and the near-pre enr are melded into a high-spirited Surrealist bacchanal. Christopher Oldfather makes. another welcome appearance in a totally convincing performance of the first-ever serial work, the Sui1e for Piano. Op. 25 . . Jennifer Lane crowns the recording with her impassioned singing of the chamber ensemble version of the Song of !he Wood-Dove from Gurrelieder and the unrelentingly morose Book of rhe Hanging Gardens. . The Stravinsky albums with the London Philharmonia are in fact re-issues of Craft's recordings for the KOCH label in 200 I. This fine orchestra delivers a magnificent performance of 1he Petrushka ballet score and a somewhat less successful, slightly monotonous account of the complete Firebird ballet, touted as the first recording of the complete original version. The recordings of Oedipus Rex and Les Noces, though respectable, exhibit oi::casional vocal inadequacies. !\ I Just ill The Simon Joly Chorale and soloists in Les Noces (The Wedding, or Svadebka when sung in Russian as it is here), impart a robust, earthy appeal though the co-ordination and balance between the voices and the remarkable ensemble of four pianos and percussion gets a bit tricky at times. Oedipus Rex features a fine performance from the Philharmonia marred by tremulous singing from Martyn Hill in the key role of Oedipus. Narrator Edward Fox delivers his lines as if he were playing Henry Higgins. The slack, timorous singing by the pick-up male chorus is a major disappointment. Aristotle taught that Greek drama should move the audience to pity; unfortunately the only sort of pity the Joly singers drew from me is of the Mr. T. variety. Do yourself a favour and get Bernstein's peppy Harvard Glee Club-style version if you can .. Daniel Foley Concert Note: Reviewer Daniel Foley's vocal setting L 'Amour de mensonge will be performed as part of the Talisker Players program L' Amour et la Vie on June I at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre. DISCOVERIES, CONTINUES ••• True North Brass Truly canadian! listen to what you're missing! True North Brass, Stroif;and Free, and A True North Christmas Three critically-acclaimed discs. These and more available at True North " ... our finest fivesome since The Canadian Brass." William Littler, Toronto Star 4 MAY 1 - )UNE 7 2005

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