8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 6 - March 2006

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  • Toronto
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  • Mozart

DIS - _,, In the last

DIS - _,, In the last issue Bruce Surtees wrote an essay about one of the truly inspiring success stories of the music industry of our time: BIS records and its founder Robert von Bahr. I must confess that following a very enjoyable lunch at which several of the WholeNote crew were entertained by Mr. von Bahr's tall tales and reminiscences of his ' life in the trade', l appropriated one of the discs that had been provided for that article, "Nordic Spel I" (BIS-CD- 1499). Von Bahr's wife, Sharon Bezaly, was chosen Instrumentalist of the Year by the prestigious Klassik Echo in Ger- ,,:i,,,,. ,, . many in 2002 and in 2003 received the Cannes Classical Award as Young Artist of the Year. A host of international composers have dedicated works to her, and it was with few qualms that l decided to commandeer this disc featuring world premiere recordings of concertos written for Bezaly by three top rank Nordic composers: Kalevi Aho (Finland), Haukur Tomasson (Iceland) and Christian Lindberg (Sweden). With apologies to Bruce I admit no regrets as to my decision. I have found endless delight in Ms Bezaly's extraordinary technique (which includes a total command of 'circular breathing' learned from Aurele Nicolet) and the lush works composed for her by our northern neighbours. As we have come to expect from the discerning and uncompromising standards of Mr. von Bahr, the performances and BIS production standards are exceptional. I would say that this is equally true of the recently released DVD edition ofYo­ Yo Ma's multidisciplinary interpretation of Bach's solo cello suites, marvelously realized by Toronto's Rhombus Media in the series "Inspired by Bach" (Sony SV3D 58785). Six notable Canadian directors (Kevin McMahon, Franc;ois Girard, Barbara Willis Sweete, Atom Egoyan, N iv Fichman and Patricia Rozema) produced this illuminating set of hour long films that feature collaborations with artists from diverse fields to bring the suites to life in a variety of ways. ... EDITOR'S CORNER From the landscape artistry of garden designer Julie Moir Messervy, the ' impossible' Escherlike architectural designs of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (in computer graphic realizations) and the choreography of Mark Morris, through Atom Egoyan 's dramatic miniature (featuring Arsinee Khanjian, Lori Singer, Don McKellar and George Sperdakos), a Kabuki interpretation by Tamasaburo Banda and the stunning ice ballet ofTorvill and Dean, we are presented with six very different artistic visions " inspired by Bach". If you missed these films when they were first released almost a decade ago I urge you to give yourself a treat and catch them this time around. And for those of you who are familiar, I found that they withstood the test of time very we! l. With the DVD technology we are presented with a few bonus features, interviews with the directors, photo gallery and the like, but I do wish there had been some sort of a coda included, especially for the first suite. The Music Garden documents the development of that Toronto harbour landmark, originally planned for the city of Boston, that has become home to a very successful summer series of concerts and it would have been nice to be presented with glimpses of how garden has grown since its planting IO years ago. In addition to the DVD bonuses we are told that there are a number of DVD-ROM features available, including Interactive Music Scores, Internet Web-links, Bias, Production Notes and Discography, but with its previous history of using "copy-protected" technologies that led to potential security risks for consumers, I personally hesitate to invite Sony into my computer. We are assured by Sony/BMG and the Electronic Frontier Foundation that this is no longer the case, but as the saying goes, " buyer beware". Yo-Yo Ma is not the only cellist to capture my attention this month. As I write this I have just returned from a fabulous performance at the U ofT Music Faculty billed as "Fred Sherry and Friends". Sherry, a leading light on the New York music scene for the past four decades, spent an intense week in Toronto preparing an extremely challenging program of contemporary music with Scott St. John and his colleagues at the faculty. The program culminated in an invigorating performance of Schoenberg's rarely heard Ode to Napoleon. Sherry joked from the stage that the concert's title referred not only to hi s actual friendships with composers Elliott Carter and Charles Wuorinen whose works were featured, but also to Schoe nberg who Sherry considers " his hero". Which brings me to our next CD. The third release in the Robert Craft " Schoen- berg Coll ection" E9 .,, 11 ,111 \ li Hti . (Naxos , . 11 .,,. ,·•. , ..., , """ 8.557521) features the Fred Sherry String Quartet and soprano Jennifer Welch­ Babidge in the String Quartet No. 2 with its third and fourth movement settings of"Litany" and " Ecstasy" by Stefan George. Written in l 908, this uncompromising work was the last to which Schoenberg gave a key designation - F sharp minor - as he was on the brink of developing his system of"composing with all twelve notes". And certainly in this work the idea of tonality is greatly expanded. It was only in 1934 that Schoenberg would return to the use of the key signature, in the Suite in G for String Orchestra, his first American composition, written in 'the old style' as a pedagogical piece intended for student-level performers. The Suite, performed by the Twentieth Century Classics Ensemble under Craft's direction, is paired with Six A Cappella Mixed Choruses with the Simon Joly Singers to complete this foray into the little-known tonal side ofone of the 20th century's most talked about and least perfonmed composers. Russian music publisher Mitrofan Petrovich Belaiev ( 1836- 1904) was an extremely important link in the development of the Russian school of composition in the late nineteenth century, nurturing the likes of Borodin, Balakirev and Glazunov. It was not on ly through his efforts as a publisher - he founded the third largest house in Leipzig, thereby ensuring that Russian composers would be entitled to royalties not otherwise available to them in their homeland which had not signed international copyright agreements - but also through the bi-weekly salons held at his home on Friday evenings. Belaiev was an accomplished string player in his own right and these " Vendredies", as they were called, often featured chamber works written especially for the occasion. Sixteen of these were eventually published by Belaiev and Quebec's Quatuor A lean has just released a recording of the complete set (ATMA ACD2 2500). While most of them are charming miniatures, like Liadov's Mazurka, Wihtol 's Menuet and Kopilov's Polka, there are a few extended works, including a 12-minute Scherzo by Borodin, an extended Prelude and Fugue by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov's Allegro. All in all the Quatuor Al can paints a convincing picture of a by-gone age in this welcome addition to the string quartet discography. 12 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM M ARC H 1 - APRIL 7 2006

Bill Brennan, who returned to Newfoundland a while back after working as a percussionist on the Toronto scene for a number of years, has recently reinvented himself and emerged as both a record producer and pianist. In the first instance he engineered a compelling disc of jazz-based improvisations by reedman Paul Bendsza and percussionist Rob Power entitled "Spanner" (Independent 0206927). The disc starts off in the realm of Ornette Coleman, with a busy percussion track underneath some frantic clarinet riffing in a tune entitled Carnivore. On this track and others Bendsza incorporates some sampled sounds that add to the mix without overpowering the inherently acoustic nature of the performances. The disc encompasses a variety of jazz-based and musique-actuelle concepts and varies in mood from frenzied ecstacy to otherwordly calm. Power draws on a wide range of percussion equipment from around the world to create an extremely broad palete, and Bendsza's array of wind instruments, keyboards and extensions keeps the ' melody' lines just as diverse. The disc is distributed by the Canadian Music Centre ( Brennan's own disc, "Solo Piano" (Independent 0206918), comes from another end of the spectrum, or perhaps it is a different world altogether. Bordering on 'ambient', these soothing improvisations were just what I needed to get through some extremely stressful times in recent weeks. Modal and melodic, the gentle pieces exhude calm and a peacefulness that are 'just what the doctor ordered' . Waves of nostalgia washed over me as I was carried back to the time when I first discovered Keith Jarrett's " Koln Concert", although there is none of Jarrett's virtuosic busy-ness in Brennan's nuanced playing and, thankfully, no vocalizations. I'm sure this disc will be added to the Canadian Music Centre's catalogue in the near future, but at the moment you can order on-line from The remainder ofmy listening this month was captured by something I would call a 'guilty pleasure'. As I told the publicist who sent me the disc, I was quite prepared to dismiss it as something that WholeNote does not cover, given our primary focus on Classical and Jazz releases. However, I made the 'mistake' of putting guitarist Danny Weis' "Sweet Spot" (Marshmellow Records MMr030) on the CD player and found myself enthralled. Toronto has a long history of Rhythm and Blues bands and I grew up wishing I were old enough to go to the clubs that were featuring such seemingly legendary artists as Little Ceasar and the Consuls, Luke and the Apostles and David Clayton Thomas with his early bands the Fabulous Shays and the Bossmen. A decade or two later I was donning my dancing shoes and heading off to the El Mocambo to catch Mary Margaret O' Hara's band Dollars or over to Jarvis St. for Billy Reed and the Street People featuring Molly Johnson. Weis, originally from California, was a founding member of Iron Butterfly (although he left the band before their break-through hit fn-a-Gadda-da-vida) and Rhinoceros. He ended up marrying a Toronto girl and now makes his home in the country east of our fair city. It's nice to hear of great musicians moving here instead of away! " Sweet Spot" is a predominantly instrumental album that took me back to the heady days of the 1980s with reminders of such Jazz/R&B crossover greats as George Benson and Lee Ritenour, and occasional forays into the realm of Wes Montgomery. Weis comes by his chops honestly - his father was an accomplished jazz guitarist who set a good example but left him free to discover his own funky and soulful voice. With able assistance from sideman Rich Brown on bass, drummer Jorn Andersen, saxophonist and horn arranger Vern Dorge and keyboardist Lou Pomani, who fills out the mix with 'strings' that are not annoyingly synthetic-sounding, Danny Weis has produced some fine R&B. "Sweet Spot" indeed I We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. Catalogues, review copies of CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcome your input via our website, David Olds Editor, D/SCoveries rJ."cl~ dO jud:ics to !:Jovr cJY' ~,,..£ ~' 0 GA RY GRAY 0 ~~ JS ~Q cf Juno Award Winning Audio Engineer ~~ Thirty Vgarn f.xpe ri gnee? World tlaf:f: ~quipment Lockridge Hi Fi Lockridge March Promotion "First Hi-Fi System for Music Lovers" "Musical" "Best Value" "Highly Recommended" Complete System for ,648 (Taxes Extra): Cambridge Audio 540C v2 CD Player - 9 Cambridge Audio 540A v2 Integrated Amplifier - 9 Tannoy Mercury F3 Speakers - 0 Pair Coneerk 4 16-469-5650 • • - -~~~:_ .::~ .:--------. - ~ ::.. ...- , ,- .- . - - "_- '-c- - --=~r J)-::nc~ ['-~ 1- T --,__:_Ji ;~) ~J-=-~,=:if.-.::. __ ,:___ _::.'_ -"'~- ;:_C.~~ -~-- d-?:::!i.::=--.Jl~ .JF---.· ~ ~ ~--:";..~'/. ·- ·- -:·,;zs:.:LJD Jot r1'1 /v\ u s·rc-- MARCH 1 - APRI L 7 2006 WWW, TH EWHOLENOTE,COM * 0) 16th Ave Q) > ..,,. .,: ~ 0 Q) ..,,. c Q) >, Cl :.a N "O 3 "O ~ T I 0 0 u 0 s -' Q) > .,: c Q) le "' s 13

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