7 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 9 - June 2005

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Canada, as the former

Canada, as the former music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Trevor Pinnock has recently defected from the podium to resume his c;areer as a keyboard virtuoso with these brilliant performances on the 18th-century Goermans­ Taskin French harpsichord from the collection of the University of Edinburgh. The generous selection of 80 minutes includes two 1728 Suites in A minor and E minor flanked by six selections (L 'Entretien des Muses, Les Tourbillons, Les Cyclopes, L 'Enharmonique, L 'Egyptienne and La Paule) from Rameau's most beguiling character pieces. Avie's recording of this remarkably well-voiced instrument is exemplary. Special recognition is due to the exquisite tuning of the instrument in French unequal temperament by John Raymond, which allows us to truly appreciate the boldness of Rameau 's tonal excursions. Daniel Foley La Casa de! Diavolo II Giardino Armonico; Giovanni Antonini Na"ive OP 30399 II Giardino Armonico's new CD, "La Casa del Diavolo" is my kind of disc. It contains works of Gluck, Locatelli, Boccherini and two of the Bach boys. All of the pieces ride on the theme of the furies and hell; spectres are mentioned at one · point, Hades and horrible monsters seem to recur frequently. Fabulous. The arc of the programming on this recording works very well, and draws the listener in to the very depths it generates. II Giardino Armonico has a signature sound, and has found its niche. Directed by Giovanni Antonini, the group has soared to its current height on its tremendous vulgarity, which it has nurtured and cultivated over the years. Many people will remember, or indeed own, the orchestra's recording of Vivaldi's "Quattro Staggioni", the cover of which depicted a violin being shot through with a bullet. The violence portrayed on the jacket was revealed fully in the sound on the disc. The same is found here, and the orchestra does 48 not wimp out on the extremity of violent insanity it can articulate. The pieces are stunning apd rarely performed, the soloists are passionate and unreserved, the· orchestra is energetic and virtuosic. What more can I say? II Giardino Armonico represents the Baroque purely and skillfully. If you don't like this disc, call me at home, and I'll change your·mind. Gabrielle Mclaughlin CLASSICAL Clara Schumann - Piano Concerto; Piano Trio Francesco Nicolisi Alma Mahler Sinfonietta; Stefania Rinaldi Naxos 8.557552 some ten years after the final version of the concerto. Clara toured with her own piano trio and these well crafted four movements demonstrate her real gift for writing for this combination. At Naxos prices, this Trio alone repays the cost of the disc. Chopin - Concertos (chamber version) .Bruce Surtees Jabina Fiaikowska; Chamber Players of Canada ATMA ACD 2 2291 Chamber Version? Correct. We know historically that Chopin, like many other composers, had versions of his orchestral works set for performance with smaller forces where budgets couldn't provide for full orchestras. Documents also Surely we all know about Clara show that he even played these two Schumann, nee Wieck. She was the daughter of Schumann's teacher in LeiP,zig who strongly opposed her marriage to the young Robert. Bot- piano concertos as solos pieces! Based on careful research, Fi­ alkowska and friends found early scores for piano and string quintet. tom line: they did marry, had many- Wind parts are marked as cues for children, he achieved fame as a composer and she became the greatest woman pianist of her time who, it is said, was Liszt's equal. Also she appeared with the legen- dary Jenny Lind in Vienna in 1846. She championed her husband's pi- Happily, these familiar orchesano music but, as was posthumous- ly revealed, she often changed the empo markings on Robert's scores m .order to display her virtuosity. We gather that musicologists have now restored the originals. She was a facile composer who The. greatest impact of this setmanaged to write quite a host of works while keeping house, rear- the string players to parcel out as they wish. Major brass passages, however, appear absent suggesting that perhaps Chopin may have im­ provised them from the keyboard when more power was needed. tral items in chamber version fare much better than expected. In fact it's the familiarity of the piano part that helps "sell" the quintet as a creditable orchestral partner- albeit a modest one. ting is its significantly heightened sense of intimacy. In the slow ing her eight surviving children and movements of both concertos the coping with Robert's declining mental condition. The Concerto in A minor _ started off as a single piece which she gave to Robert to or _ chestrate. Later she prefaced it with two more movements which she orchestrated herself. It is some what Schumanesque in scoring, as Janina Fialkowska has made an aswere most of her compositions, but I don't hear any attributes that just mi ht have advanced it to first rate. Inc1dentally this 20+ minutes opus cle transplant and determined rewas premiered with Felix Men- delssohn conducting. The major work _ on this . disc turns out to be E minor especially, these sp ' arse strings make the piano line com­ pellingly poignant - breathtaking at times. Expect a sniffle and some tears. This is wonderful playing. What's more remarkable and equally moving is the memory that tonishing comeback from a recent bout with a cancerous tumour in her left arm. Surgical removal, a mus­ covery have succeeded in bringing her back to the performing world. Judging by this recording, we are Alice Mary Smith London Mozar.t Players; Howard Shelley Chandos CHAN 10283 Alice Mary Smith (1839-1884) was the first British woman to have written a true symphony and heard it performed. In her day, women were considered incapable of writing music of more substance than a nice little item to be played during afternoon tea. An accomplished pianist, she was a symphonist who wrote several concert overtures, a movement for piano and orchestra, string quartets and a fully scored operetta. She wrote a clarinet sonata, the Adagio movement of which she orchestrated as a concert piece. The Symphony in C minor was written when she was 24 years old and was very favourably reviewed at the first performance in November 1863. The Illustrated London News said that "Miss Smith's symphony, especially coming from the pen of a young lady, was a striking proof of the sound studies and high attainments of the female votaries of the art in this country." The later Symphony in A minor·is equally resolute and effective. Almost a century and a half later, thanks to pianist turned conductor Howard Shelley, Chandos offers convincing proof of Smith's authoritative mastery of orchestral writing. None of the three works is derivative although without knowing the author, a listener would guess at an unfamiliar piece from the time of Mendelssohn and Schumann. Presented in excellent sound these works reward repeated hear ings. Brahms - Concertos and Piano Pieces Anton Kuerti Analekta AN 2 9205-7 Bruce Surtees the Piano Tno, op.17 from 1846, listening to a miracle. Alex Baran Toronto pianist Anton Kuerti's new www. THEWHOLENOTE.COM )UNE 1 - )ULY 7 2005

ecording of Brahms' late piano pieces confirms his place in the top rank of pianists today. These brief works are 'spontaneous, simple and natural', as Kuerti writes in his enjoyable booklet notes. Kuerti 's restrained tempos, judicious use of pedal, and natural-sounding rubato emphasize the poetic aspects of these exquisite works. Kuerti is a warm, persuasive artist. By going beyond Brahms' surface complexities and getting at the heart of his introspective yearning, Kuerti achieves ineffable poignancy. He brings out Brahms's constantly shifting perspectives, from the playfulness of the Capriccio Op. 76 no. 2, the soul-searching of the Intermezzo Op. 76 no. 7, the tumultuous passion of the Rhapsodie Op.79 no. 2, and the profound tranquility of the Inter mezzo Op. 119 no. l. In Brahms' two piano concert s, the relationship with the orchesra. tends to be intense and volati e. Kuerti forges a real dialogu . Rescigno and the Orchestre Me - ropolitain provide responsive support, with fine solos, especially from the timpani in the first concerto, and the cello in the second. This is a most attractive and desirable set. Yet there is no mention in the booklet or on the case that the piano concertos were previously released by Analekta in 1998. Only the disc of solo works is a new release. The photo of Kuerti on the cover is terrific. Pamela Margles Dvorak - Symphonies (complete) Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Valek Supraphon SU 3802-2 With influences from Brahms, Smetana, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Czech folk music, Dvorak is a distinctive composer with a natural freshness and a great gift for melody. Unlike Brahms, his chief mentor, Dvorak didn't procrastinate in composing his first symphony, forging ahead in youthful fashion unconcerned about the consequences. His first two symphonies show compositional weaknesses, but there are also inklings of great- ness that increase with each successive work. The 2nd symphony is already a vast improvement over the meandering lst. It is over 50 minutes long with an abundance of melodies, in a restless, rhapsodic, ever pulsating style full of dynamic contrasts and great forward 'momentum sustained very well by this conductor. The heavenly melody in the last movement will win many converts to this neglected work. By the heroic 3rd Symphony, his originality and exuberance begin to assert themselves and he gets into full stride with the "Pastoral" 5th, noticeably different even in the very first notes. His final 5 symphonies show fully developed compositional s rength and a masterly handling the orchestra, especially the woodwinds and the brass. By this time Dvorak had established an international reputation and the 6th.symphony was commissioned by the Vienna Philharmonic. Much inspired by the Brahms 2nd, this a wonderfully relaxed work and is a joy to listen to. At the beginning the full orchestra bursting outff is like the sun coming out from the clouds. The very Brahmsian second subject truly sings on the cellos and the flutes in the development section sound like birds twittering. Valek builds solidly to a Coda where his ·brass rings out in full glory. After the lovely cantilena, a long sustained string melody in the 2nd movement, comes a typical Dvorak scherzo, this time a Furiant, a wild country dance played with full-blooded spirit. In the last movement the playful second subject goes through many· ingenious transformations and the symphony builds to an exciting finale. A fine performance. Vladimir Valek is a talented, energetic conductor passionately in love with Czech music. Unfortunately his exuberance sometimes backfires like the last movement of the sombre 7th. It is so furiously driven it harms the performance. The beautifully idyllic account of the 5th symphony is eroded by the long awaited final punch of the main subject not accentuated enough. But just listen to those four glorious trumpets at the first bars of last movement of the marvelous 8th symphony ... I And at the end of the set we are amply compensated by a vivid, exciting performance of the New World Symphony that I will not hesitate to listen to over and over again. Janos Gardonyi )UNE 1 - )ULY 7 2005

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