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Volume 13 - Issue 10 - July/August 2008

DIS [}@f:O@~ dings

DIS [}@f:O@~ dings reviewedEDITOR'S CORNER: July-August 2008In this age of sound bytes, highlights and "classicalmusic favourites" (i.e. song-length clipsfrom well-worn workhorses) it is a rare luxuryto be able to immerse oneself in an unfamiliarhour-long dramatic work that runs the gamut ofmoods and emotions. Such was my pleasurethis month when I discovered the expansiveSymphony No. I of Danish composer RuedLanggaard ( 1893-1952) on the Da Capo label(6.220525). Completed at the age of seventeen,the expansivework was deemedunplayable in Langgaard'shomeland.It languished forthree years untilchampioned by conductorMax Fiedlerwho gave the workits premiere withthe Berlin Philharmonic. That concert also includedanother orchestral work by the youngcomposer, Sphinx, and Langgaard's own perfonnanceof his Preludio patetico on the organof the Berlin Ph ilharmonic Hall. Thiswould turn out to be the highlight ofLanggaard's entire career as the First World Warinterrupted any chance of further success inGermany. He returned home to Denmarkwhere his Symbolist-influenced Scriabin-likescores led to repeated fai lures and disappointmentsand in fact his music never found favourin his homeland during his lifetime. Undauntedby his outsider status, however, he went on tocompose 16 symphonies and had completed431 works by the time of his death. TakingTchaikovsky, Wagner, Bruckner and RichardStrauss as his inspiration, the First Symphony isan epic tone poem. Set in the five movementfonn of Beethoven 's Pastoral and Berlioz'Symphonie Fantastique, it depicts a journeyup a mountain from the breaking surf below tothe peak where the "view with the wide horizon,the high-vaulted sky and the farawayb I ue-sparkling sea with the white crests fi I lsthe heart with new courage to face life." It is ajourney I am glad to have had the opportunityto share, thanks to the Danish National SymphonyOrchestra and conductor Thomas Dausgaard.Another symphonistpreviously unknownto me came to myattention thanks toWholeNote colleagueKaren Agesand publisher All anPu Iker, who wereamong the musiciansfeatured in aconcert of chamber music by AlexanderJacobchuk in May. The Ukrainian-born corn-54poser won international composition prizes inSwitzerland, Germany and Belgium in the1990s before moving to Canada. The CDSymphonic Works(www.alexanderjacobchuk.com) includesJacobchuk's first symphony "Chomobyl 's Biorhythms",Symphony No.2 and the symphonicpoem "Golden Gate". Although the brief biographyavailable on the Canadian Music Centrewebsite states that hi s works were widely published,performed and broadcast in his homelandbefore he emigrated, this is not the casewith two of the pieces presented here. Althoughcomposed in 1982, Golden Gate, whichaims to recreate the atmosphere of early Kyivbeginning in the ninth century and follows itsturbulent history to the present day, had to waituntil 1996 for its premiere which took placehere in Toronto at Massey Hall under the directionofVolodymyr Kolesnyk. The FirstSymphony was composed in 1986 shortly afterthe Chornobyl catastrophe but it too had towait to see the light of day, not receiving itsfirst performance until two decades later. Inthat instance the premiere, recorded here, didtake place in his homeland however, with theSymphony Orchestra of the National Radio ofUkraine in Kyiv conducted by VolodymyrSheiko. The work, a testament to the composer's personal experience and memories of theevents surrounding the nuclear disaster, is intwo movements. Its strident opening is followedby a contemplative and finally hopefulmovement reflecting Jacobchuk's belief in abright future for his compatriots. SymphonyNo.2, a one movement depiction of "mankindconfronted by the cataclysmic events occasionedby globalization", was more readily accepted.First heard shortly after its completionin 1987 it went on to a number of subsequentperfonnances both at home and abroad. Whilethere is nothing "ground-breaking" in this music,it is certainly well-crafted and expressiveand I find it a welcome addition to Canada'sorchestral landscape.The other discs that have found a place in therotation on my CD player this month are quitea bit different, although they also reflect longmusical traditions. Further on in these pagesyou will find Ken Waxman speaking ofan influentialMontreal-born jazz pianist - "no, notthat one" he says in a veiled reference to OscarPeterson. In Ken's case he is revelling inthe CD re-release of an older title by PaulBley. In mine it is a brand new recording byanother Montrealer, but one with direct ties tothe great O.P. As a child, Oliver Jones usedto sit on the porch of the Peterson's house li s­tening to the older boy play and in fact he gothi s first piano lessons from Oscar 's sister Daisy.After a much publicized but evidently failedforay into retirement earlier this decade, JonesWWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMreturned with thealbum "One MoreTime" in 2006. Notcontent to rest onhis laurels, or perhapssimply heedingDylan Thomas' exhortation"Do NotGo Gentle into ThatGood Night", weare now presented with Second TimeAround (Justin Time JUST 229-2) onwhich the stellar pianist is joined by bassistEric Legace and drummer Jim Doxas.This new CD is well balanced between balladsand barn burners, Jones originals andstandards like Misty and When I Fall in Love,the traditional Precious Lord and even Surreywith the Fringe on Top. Having caught his"second wind" and showing no signs slowingdown, let 's hope that the seventy four year oldpianist decides that "Second Time Around" isjust a new beginning.The final disc camewith the re-discoveryofan old friendthrough theWholeNote listingslast month. I wasintrigued to find anotice for "Bach inthe Saddle Again",a concert featuringWhiskey Jack and the Gala String Quartet. Iknew that Bob McNiven, a long-lost classmateof mine and fellow guitar picker, had been inWhiskey Jack for a number of years and wonderingifhe still was I decided to investigatefurther. When it turned out that the Gala StringQuartet is headed by violinist Daniel Kushnerwith whom I've had the pleasure playing mycello on occasion, I simply had to go to EastminsterUnited to check out this hybrid concertthat featured, so to speak, "both kinds of music"- i.e. Country AND Western (art music). Itturns out that Whiskey Jack, whose illustrioushistory has included a decade of sharing thespotlight on the Tommy Hunter Show and extensivetouring with the iconic Stomp in ' TomConnors, is celebrating its 30th anniversary,and sure enough after 28 years Bob McNivenis still "pickin' and a-grinning" along withfounding father Duncan Fremlin. The band hasexpanded from its original quartet formation(vocal harmonies with banjo, guitar, mandolinand bass) to include fiddle, drums and femalevocals (Arlene Zock) in the concert I attended,as well as harmonica and accordion on theirlatest CD WhiskeyJackMusic.com (whichnot-surprisingly is also the address of theirwebsite). The concert was an eclectic mix ofclassical string quartet music - lighter fareJ U LY 1 - S EPT 7 2008

such as you might hear at weddings - andWhiskey Jack's varied repertoire of bluegrass,Western swing, country and pop (such as PaulAnka and the Everly Brothers) with a touch ofgospel thrown in for good measure. McNiven'sstring arrangements for the ensemble numbersbrought both groups together in a way that entrancedthe fans from both camps. And speakingof having a foot in both camps, cellistGeorge Meanwell proved his own versatility bystepping out of the quartet to sing a couple ofhis own songs while strumming a guitar. En-semble highlights for me were Ghost Ridersin the Sky, Tumblin' Tumbleweeds, let it beMe and My Window Faces South, all ofwhich appear on the Whiskey Jack CD. Missingfrom the CD is their arrangement of LyleLovett's If I had a Boat and McNiven's ownBarefoot Sadie, but we are treated to DreamBaby (immortalized by Roy Orbison), and WillieP. Bennett's When I'm Gone. I must confessthis latter sent shivers down my spineupon hearing the lyric "the only time they'llthink of me is in a prayer - when I' m gone"for the first time since Willie's untimely passingearlier this year.We welcome your feedback and invite subm issions.CDs and comments should be sent to:The WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St. TorontoON M5S 2R4. We also welcome your inputvia our website, www.thewholenote.com.David OldsD/SCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCAL & OPERAPuccini - La BohemeAnna Netrebko; Rollando Villazon; BoazDaniel; Nicole Cabell; Stephane Degout;Vitalij Kowaljow; BayerischenRundfunks; Bertrand de BillyDeutsche Grammophon 00289 477 6600A recording of theworld's most popularopera with theworld's most famoussoprano-tenorpairing is hardly anoriginal concept.But it is also onenot likely to disappoint,and even ifthis new recording is not going to displaceclassic recordings of La Boheme (with Pavarotti/Frenior Bjorling/de los Angeles)from the catalogue, it is certainly a worthyaddition. First and foremost comes RolandoVillaz6n, whose beautiful, lyrical voice andardent passion is ideally suited to the role ofthe poet Rodolfo - perhaps more so than anytenor since Pavarotti. He throws himself intothe role pulling out all the stops emotionallyand musically, and the results are consistentlyoutstanding. Anna Netrebko, his frequentpartner on stage and recording, is an affectingMimi, beautifully sung if somewhatconventional dramatically. For all the warmthand tenderness of her voice, her sound ismore veiled and introspective thanVillaz6n's, lacking that simplicity and honestyof an ideal Mimi. The young sopranoNicole Cabell is an alluring Musetta, thoughperhaps too similar in tone to Netrebko. Therest of the Bohemians sound suitably youthfuland sing well, if without particular distinction.Bertrand de Billy, always an expertconductor, leads the superb Bavarian RadioOrchestra in a tight, incisive performance thatgives way to melting lyricism in all the rightplaces. Though taken from live concert performances,the recording has the superbsound and the forward placement of soloiststypical of a studio recording.Seth EstrinVerdi - Un hallo in mascheraKatia Ricciarelli; Jukith Blegen;Bianca Berini; Luciano Pavarotti;Louis Quillico; Metropolitan OperaChorus and Orchestra; Giuseppe PataneDecca 0743227It was the time almost 30 years ago when themodern day dementiaof updating, minimizing,'controversializing'of opera was yetunknown and audiencesgot their money'sworth with doubledigit interest. Thisglorious performance,televised from theMet in 1980, has nowjustly become a milestonein the history of that renowned operahouse.Giuseppe Patane was an outstanding interpreterof Verdi and Puccini and this performancecomes from what New Yorkers affectionatelyrefer to as the 'Patane Years' wheneach time he was in the pit was a greatevent. True follower of Toscanini, a legendaryadvocate of this, Verdi's most passionateopera, Patane lets the dramatic intensity,lyricism, passion and even humour worknaturally with his sense of pacing and welljudged, but always exciting, tempi.The principals? Pavarotti at his prime!Worthy successor of Gigli, who was alwaysregarded as the ultimate Riccardo, a verydifficult tenor role, Pavarotti takes the highestprize, with his magnificent vocal power,colour, sensitivity and emotional range. Ricciarellicomes close second, the strong dramaticsoprano in all registers and wonderfullysympathetic characterization makes a greatpartner. Canadian Louis Quilico, who inheritedthe title 'world's greatest Verdi baritone'from Tito Gobbi in that interim period beforeRenato Bruson appeared on the scene, issimilarly a great asset. Last but not least,Judith Blegen, a fine American coloraturawho had just begun her distinguished careerin this role, is radiant. A feast to the eye andthe ear.Much more could be written. Strong, unhesitatingrecommendation.Janos GardonyiJanacek - From the House of the DeadOlaf Bar; Eric Storlossa; Stefan Margita;Peter Straka; Mahler Chamber Orchestra;Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Pierre BoulezDeutsche Grammophon 00440 073 4426This production ofJanacek's final opera,recorded at the 2007Aix-en-ProvenceFestival, marks themuch-anticipatedreunion of conductorPierre Boulez anddirector PatriceChereau, whose 1976Bayreuth Ring cycleremains a landmarkproduction.In a documentary clip, as Chereau andBoulez discuss how closely Janacek's librettofollows Dostoevsky's novel, we witness theirextraordinary rapport which shows in everyaspect of this production. The subject matteris grim: a group of murderers, thieves, politicalprisoners, and victims of misfortuneexplain how they ended up in a Siberian labourcamp. Like Dostoevsky, Janacek clothesthe brutal stories in resonant beauty. It'sutterly moving when they all sing "My eyeswill never see the land where I was born."But the hopelessness of their situation, underlinedby the massively high concrete walls onstage, is alleviated when one of the prisonersis freed.Under Chereau's insightful direction, aseach soloist emerges from the ensemble, weget to know him - and, in that way, thewhole ensemble. Movement and dance areused effectively, especially when the prisonersput on an entertainment for themselves.Instead of uniforms, the prisoners wear tatteredstreet clothes, making each one individuallyrecognizable.The cast is altogether terrific. Boulez'sconducting is powerfully angular, but alwayssensitive to Janacek's lyrical lines. In thefascinating rehearsal footage, there's a preciousmoment when Chereau calls to thecostume designer, Caroline de Vivaise,"Caroline!", and John Mark Ainsley singsout fortissimo, "Caroleeeeene!" . Chereausays, "Thank you, John. We always need atenor - somewhere."Pamela Margles] U LY 1 - S EPT 7 2008WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM55

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