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Volume 11 Issue 1 - September 2005

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  • Toronto
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sculptor Benvenuto

sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. It revolves around the casting of his famous statue of Perseus holding Medusa's just-severed head. Conductor John Nelson's handling of Berlioz's angular melodies, audacious rhythms, startling harmonies, and imaginative orchestrations is thoroughly persuasive. He brings out both the sublime and the sardonic aspects of Berlioz's genius. Gregory Kunde makes an ideal Berlioz hero - ardent and mellifluous, but with an edge. Ciofi is radiant, giving the rather elusive Teresa strength of character. Joyce Di Donato makes a colourful Ascanio, convincing in her insouciance if not her masculinity. Laurent Nouri is, as ever, delectable. The choir does full justice to Berlioz's exquisite choral writing, and the orchestra is responsive and buoyant. Pamela Marg/es Concert note: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is peiforming Berlioz 's Symphonie fantastique at Ray Thomson Hall on Sept. 21, 22 and 24 for its season opener. On Feb. 22 and 23 the TSO peiforms Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, based on themes from Benvenuto Cellini. Wagner Der Fliegende Hollander Estes; Baslev; Salminen Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele 1985; Woldemar Nelsson Directed by Harry Kupfer Deutsche Grammophon DVD0734041 Wagner's escape from Germany in a rickety old ship on the stormy North Sea inspired this opera. It was here that he first employed his new ideas of "music drama" and leitmotiv structure that revolutionized the genre from the mid-19th century onward. It is also one of the most melodic of his opera scores. While still much influenced by the early German romanticism of Weber, Mendelssohn and Lortzing, Wagner's originality and genius show in the integrated role given to his large orchestra and the "ewige melodie", the relentlessly uninterrupted flow of music. Wagner's ideefixe, the redemption of the sinner by a woman's love and self-sacrifice also first emerges in this opera. 58 Back to Ad Index Harry Kupfer's 1985 Bayreuth production caused much controversy. His psycho-analytical interpretation centres around a hysterical Senta' s disturbed mind, and her pathological obsession over the tormented but imaginary Dutchman. Whether one agrees with this approach or not, the theatrical execution with ingenious set changes and incredible lighting effects and remarkable stage direction creates great theatre and a thoroughly electrifying, memorable production. The inspired, passionate conducting ofWoldemar Nelsson contributes to the overall success of the musical performance. The Chorus sends up shivers on one's spine in the ghostly, frightening scenes of the third act. The principals without exception are superlative. Simon Estes with his stentorian bass-baritone is a commanding Dutchman. Lisbeth Balslev as Senta, acts and sings with great emotion and conviction. Matti Salminen is phenomenal in the basso-profundo role of Daland. Among the supporting roles Robert Schunk as Erik and Graham Clark of Mime fame as the Helmsman stand out. Exceptional sound and picture quality. Highly recommended. Janos Gardonyi Bizet - Carmen ~ ~---~­ Bumbry; Vickers; Freni; Diaz Wiener Philharmoniker; Herbert von Karajan Deutsche Grammophon DVD0734032 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE . COM thralling. He's not just singing Jose here - he is Jose, disturbingly intense and noticeably tormented by demons, even in his most gorgeous moments. Freni is luminous and adorable, with none of the blandness that can reduce Micaela to a cipher. Diaz makes a wonderfully fatuous and self-absorbed Escamillo, although his voice is somewhat strained on the bottom. Karajan shows off his remarkably articulate, communicative hands, which is good because he conducts with his eyes closed. The addition of 'supplementary dances' following Carmen's Gypsy Song is decidedly anachronistic. But what really dates this production is that the orchestra has no women. Even so, it sounds splendid. The lighting is generous, and the costumes flattering, unlike the hairstyles - Elvis pompadours and sideburns for the men, Supremes bouffants for the women. The sound and picture quality are remarkable. Pamela Marg/es Concert note: The Canadian Opera Company performs Carmen on Sept. 29, Oct. I, 4, 7, 13, 19, and 23 at the Hummingbird. CIASSICAL AND BEYOND Karajan conducted Carmen frequently, made a number of recordings, and occasionally, as here, even directed. He always attracted top singers, but he never had a more interesting cast than in this film, based on a production from the 1966 Salzburg Festival. Grace Bumbry, Jon Vickers, Mirella Freni and Justino Diaz were all in their vocal prime here, singing roles that particularly suited them. And, most strikingly, each of them has a tremendous amount of personality. Bumbry's Carmen is more dreamer than manipulator, trying desperately to defy her fate. She looks terrific, and her extraordinary voice - part true mezzo, part dramatic soprano - fascinates. Vickers is enii·' Live "" .... ~: ...... mez~ai'i~-.... ~:'. ~al: Chamber Music by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, and Dvorak Martha Argerich and Friends EMI 4 768712 From the first bars of the diamondbright transcription for two pianos of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony it is clear that Martha Argerich and Yefin Bronfrnan enjoy the music they are playing. The Nutcracker Suite, again for two pianos conveys unalloyed exuberance. It gets better. Shostakovich's second Piano Trio finds Argerich, Maxim Vengerov and Gautier Capw;on illuminating this familiar piece. How many times have we attended recitals by trios, quartets, etc. where, while the players are busily working away, we in the audience wait patiently for the last note to fall? Argerich and friends are committed to the chosen repertoire and enjoy what they are playing and with whom and we, the audience, are willingly swept along. The third Brahms Violin Sonata is a tour de force for Vengerov and Lilya Zilberstein who make the four movements sound almost spontaneous. And Bronfrnan, Renaud and Gautier Capw;;on sound as if they have played together enough times to turn Schubert's first trio into a three way conversation, often animated, between friends . The audience's enthusiasm is well merited. The third disc opens with Schu- mann's Piano Quintet in E flat. The gentle second movement has never sounded more poignant, exquisite and thrilling. If that sounds impossible try to hear it. This performance is, as they say, worth the price of the entire album. Involved are Argerich, Dora Schwarzberg, Renaud Capur;on, Nora Romanoff-Schwarzberg and Mark Drobinsky. This is an experience to talk about for years. Completing the set are Schumann's Violin Sonata No . I and Dvorak's Piano Quartet No.2, both played with the expected panache. If this collection doesn't prove that chamber music is the highest form of music-making, nothing will. Bruce Surtees At the Opera - Paraphrases, Transcriptions and Fantasies Bergmann Piano Duo Arktos 200584 CDs are so prevalent and easily available these days it is hard to imagine what it was like before the invention of recorded sound. Before the 20th century, the only way to hear music was to hear it performed live. And however much the prices for Wagner's Ring at the COC may shock us, opera is still more affordable today than it was in the days of Mozart or Bellini. It was the limited access to Ii ve opera and other largescale forms of music that created demand for paraphrases or transcriptions - chamber versions of famous and popular tunes that could be performed on a piano or other solo SEPTE MBER 1 - OCTOBER 7 2005

instrument. The art of transcription seems to have reached its peak in the 19th century, courtesy of such masters as Franz Liszt and Ferruccio Busoni. Their skillful renderings of most complex orchestrations on the keyboard conveyed all the power of the original compositions without the large-scale orchestral and vocal demands . But these variations on the music composed by others were usually so much more than just interpretations - in fact, they are works in their own right. One supports Liszt' s tendency to call them "Fantasies" . Alberta-based Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann, in addition to being talented and spirited virtuoso performers, are also actively expanding the paraphrase repertoire and Marcel Bergmann has adapted parts of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for this recording. In fairness , it is risky proposition to put one's own transcription against the genius of Liszt, but the benefit of having a major 20th century work available in this form outweighs any potential failings. A very interesting, enjoyable and recommended recording. Robert Tomas this lovely performance it sparkles, dances and whips along. The Panocha is equally winning in No. 5 in F minor, whose exquisite Andante was the source for Dvorak's well-known Romance for Violin and Orchestra. The Finale represents the exuberant Dvorak of the Slavonic Dances. The popular No. 12 in F major is known as the American because Dvorak wrote it while visiting the United States. The Panocha builds up thrilling momentum in the heavily syncopated folk-based dance rhythms. Yet, throughout, they capture the underlying mood of reflective nostalgia. The final two quartets add operatic dimensions to Dvol'ak's textures, with long lyrical lines and lots of drama. The Panocha maximizes his spirited exuberance with their spontaneity and warmth. Included in the set are two quartet movements and the charming Cypresses, based on an earlier song cycle about youthful love. Unfortunately the texts of the poems are not included. These are beautifully recorded discs, with vivid sound and realistic balance. Pamela Margles Of the three Dvorak concertos the one for piano seems like a mistreated stepchild, the least performed and recorded. Perhaps the composer never felt quite comfortable with the piano resulting in a work that is somewhat awkward and difficult to play. The legendary Sviatoslav Richter said that it was the most difficult concerto he ever had to learn. Fortunately this excellent recording will rectify the situation and win many converts to this beautiful work. The young Russian pianist, Rustem Hoyroudinoff gives a sensitive, imaginative and idiomatic reading that brings out the many attractive features of the concerto. A great virtuoso in the making, he can be forceful , but also gentle, almost Chopinesque as in the second movement or entertainingly playful in the third. He cooperates fully with the BBC Philharmonic which plays with great authority, dynamism and precision under the brilliant Gianandrea Noseda, a frequent visitor to Toronto. The result is an integrated and exhilarating effort. The Violin Concerto is a far more successful work, perhaps because Dvorak himself was a violinist. The young Canadian virtuoso, James Ehnes steps into a large field of excellent recordings. This shouldn't be a hindrance because Ehnes plays with a flamboyant sense of drama, superb technique and gorgeous violin sound, especially in the high register. Although his performance is stunning, I nevertheless felt this concerto could have had an earthier gypsy-1 ike approach and been played with more uninhibited romantic abandon. Fine, well detailed, dynamic recording with high quality digital sound. Janos Gardonyi Concert note: Both James Ehnes and Gianandrea Noseda appear with the Toronto Symphony on October 29-30, with the conductor staying on for November 2 and 3 performances as well. NEW RELEASES SU 3821 'Talich Edition' A series of recordings devoted to Vaclav Talich the legendary chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic SU 3806 Jan Dismas Zelenka Good Friday Responses Sonatas A minor, E min Symphonies B flat maj Boni Pueri - Musica Florea Dvorak String Quartets (complete) Panocha Quartet Supraphon SU-3815-2 Spanning thirty-three years, Dvorak's fourteen string quartets form an autobiography of the composer. They describe the emotional vicissitudes ofDvorak's life, his passionate love for his native Czech folklore and landscapes, and his development as a composer. Only the final three quartets are regularly performed. But, as this set reveals, they are all works of exquisite variety and beauty. The excellent, though too brief, booklet essay calls No. 9 in D minor the first of Dvorak's quartets to be written with 'complete maturity and individuality' . Yet the earlier works are lovely, with rich sonorities, invigorating cross-rhythms and exciting contrasts. At almost 57 minutes, No. 3 in D major is by far the longest, with the Prague-based Panocha Quartet observing all Dvorak's repeats. But in EPTEMBER 1 - CTOBER 7 2005 Dvofak - Piano Concerto; Violin Concerto Rustem Hayroudinoff; James Ehnes BBC Philharmonic; Gianandrea Noseda Chandos CHAN 10309 ~cC. ~~l Busoni: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 Nelson Goerner, piano BBC Philharmonic; Neeme Jarvi Chandos CHAN 10302 Busoni: Orchestral Works John Bradbury, clarinet BBC Philharmonic; Neeme Jarvi Chandos CHAN 9920 Ferruccio Busoni's prowess as pianist and pedagogue of the highest rank has long obscured his considerable achievements as a composer. In an era of Dionysian expressionism Busoni ( 1866-1924) proposed an Apollonian alternative, a "new classicism" . Using common chords in an uncommon way, he brought to life his personal credo: "Music was born free; and to win its freedom is its destiny. " The most recent Chandos volume devoted to Busoni's orchestral works features the reliably proficient BBC WWW. THEWHOLENOTE. COM CONTINUES SU 3805 Martinu - de Falla Harsichord Works Monika Knoblochova Gillmore Music Exclusive distributor of: Supraphon · Accent Orfeo · Columna Musica Somm · Vax · Coviello Marc Aurel · Cavalli · NMC Ars Musici · Divine Art Christophorus· Cedille Raumklang · Aeolus www.gillmoremusic.com info@gillmoremusic.com 5 Back to Ad Index

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