7 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 10 - July/August 2008


BirthAraz SalekIndependentwww .arazsalek.comAraz Salek, born inIran and now based inToronto, began playingthe tar (a pluckedlute with three sets ofdouble stings and a twin-bowled wooden body)at the age of 8, and two decades later his masteryshows. The debut CD of this tar virtuoso isa testament to a new and eloquent voice enrichingour Canadian cultural landscape.Having thoroughly imbibed the Iranianclassical repertoire of vocal and instrumentalradifs (established melodic phrases transmittedvia the oral tradition) under Iranian masters,Salek has produced in "Birth" a fullyrealised and mature musical statement withinthat tradition. Most refreshing in this recitalis the purist approach taken by Salek . Onehears only the clear and intimate string voiceof the tar in its various technical and affectiveguises. I also couldn't help but be impressedwith this artist's single-minded decisionto stick with a single dastgah calledDashti (with a keening optional tone onits third scalar note) for the entire of non-stopduration of the album's 10 tracks. This selfimposedrestriction, as in many artistic realms,is actually a springboard to creativity. Themusic's movements progress masterfully frommoody free-metered introductions (taqsim)embellished with complex mellismas, to songlikemetered expositions.I can't claim to be more than a casual fan ofclassical Iranian music with its well-developedsystems of radif, dastgah (modal scales), andidiosyncratic rhythms and meters, but I mustsay I was mightily impressed with Araz Salek'sdebut solo flight on CD on a purely music level.Andrew TimarOLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES - Fine old recordings re-released - by Bruce SurteesFriedrich Guida, who remains one of my favouritepianists of the last generation, was bornin Vienna in 1939 and died in 2000. Hearing hisrecordings, one could never infer that he wasan outrageous and bizarre musician who embracedevery genre of music and survived hismost vociferous and malicious critics. He wasa superlative and insightful interpreter of theclassical repertoire, specialising in Bach, Mozartand Beethoven but a glance at the CD andDVD catalogues reveal an encyclopaedic repertoire.His playing was never tentative evenwhen improvising. His complete BeethovenSonatas, recorded in 1967 by Amadeo and nowavailable at a ridiculously low price from BrilliantClassics, are arguably the most persuasiveperformances available (Brilliant BRr~ 92773, 9 CDs). Martha Ar-AL, -·I c . · gerich said that he was herfinest teacher. "He was oneof the most talented people Iever met", she stated.DG has issued a DVD entitledSo What?! (073 4376, 1DVD) which includes an intriguingbiography of Guida,mostly compiled from filmedinterviews with him over theyears and videos of many ofhis public performances,some of which were wildlyeccentric. Another bonus featureis a revealing 1986 interviewby Joachim Kaiser. The-"' .;body of the DVD is occupiedby a live performance from1981 played on clavichordand piano. Bach, beautifullyplayed on the clavichord, includes Gulda's appreciationof the instrument. He then turns 45degrees to the piano which sits at a right angleto the clavichord to continue with Debussy, Mozartand little talk about Schubert's Wandererafter which he thanks the audience for not applaudinghis performance. Guida was not anordinary musician and this is no ordinary collection.But it is a super package!Guida is also heard on a new Medici ArtsCD (MM024-2) in performances from 1957playing Beethoven's Third with the CologneRadio Symphony conducted by Mario Rossi plusthe Appassionata and the no. 28, op .101 Sonatas.In clear mono sound from the WDR Cologne, it62is clear why he already was much admired.Alexis Weissenberg is a classical pianist who,as Ziggy Weissenberg, played jazz in NewYork, including Birdland, in the 1950s. A newDVD from Medici Arts (307804) begins withthe celebrated 1965 film of Three Movementsfrom Petrushka performed by Weissenbergthat remains, to this day, unique in concept andexecution. This original black and white productionis not simply a video of a performance ofthese ferociously difficult obstacle courses, buta visual work of art devised and created inStockholm by film maker Ake Falck. It took 10days to film and as Weissenberg explains on abonus feature, it would be prohibitivelyexpensive today .Broadcast videos of Prokofiev,Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Chopin,Bach and the Brahms secondconcerto from 1969 conductedby Georges Pretre round out thedisc.Tatiana Nikolayeva plays ShostakovichPreludes and Fuguesis the title of another MediciArts DVD (3085248). This inspiredopus, in essence 24 littlemasterpieces, was written injust four months from October10, 1950toFebruary25, 1951 isseen in BBC broadcasts fromDecember 1992, the year before Nikolayeva'sdeath . One is not ever likely to witness such anintimate homage to a departed friend as conveyedin every note by Nikolayev as she, in effect,recites each piece. On a bonus BBC documentary,complete with archive footage ofShostakovich in performance, she talks aboutthe genesis of the 24, which she inspired andpremiered, and her friendship with the composer.She quotes conductor Kurt Sanderling whobelieved that the Preludes and Fugues are "theintimate diary of Dmitri Shostakovich; not thequartets, not the symphonies .. . an intimate diary,kept for himself, that brings happiness to allof us." A rather romantic view, but why not?Sviatoslav Richter is the third DVD in this trioof pianists issued by Medici Arts in which weare invited to a recital at the Barbican on March29, 1989 (3085208). We hear three Mozart so-WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMnatas; no.4 K.282, no.8 K.310,and no.16 K.545, followed byeight of the 12 Chopin Etudesop .10 and four from op. 25. Unawareuntil shortly before theconcert that it was to be filmed,he reluctantly agreed on thecondition that they would notilluminate the stage and that no cameras ortechnicians would be in his line of sight. It washis practice by this time, to have only a single40 watt bulb trained on the music. I think it allworked out rather well, as we can see all wewish to with no distractions . As a bonus we seethree items from a BBC broadcast of 1969 playingRachmaninov and two Chopin Etudes atbreakneck tempi, cutting about a minute eachfrom the later Chopin performances. Musically,I prefer the later versions.Centering around of the thirdquarter of last century, ArturRubinstein was one of the on! ythree or four pianists who namewas recognized around theworld (the others were Paderewski,Horowitz, and someoneelse). Judging only from hisrecordings, he played betterafter the 1940s than before, which is really sayingsomething. In answer to a leading question,he stated that he was not the world's best player,merely different. "An artist must bealone ... in a world by himself and not an imitator."Included on a new DG DVD (073 4445)are the Beethoven Third Concerto and theBrahms First, both with Bernard Haitink andthe Concertgebouw Orchestra (1973). Both arepatrician performances with pianist and conductorin total harmony, presenting musicmaking of the highest order. The orchestraunder Haitink has a lovely breathy sound thatis most attractive. These are performancesthat will, I believe, never become wearisome.The solo pieces are previously unreleasedperformances of Schubert's Impromptuopus 90 no.4; Brahms' Capriccio in B minorop. 76 no.2 and Intermezzo op.117 no.2; and asa finale , Chopin's second Scherzo, op.31. Thebonus on this disc is Rubinstein at 90, in whichthe pianist opens up to Robert MacNeil in 1977in a film made by Unite! and shown on PBS stations.A beautiful disc.] ULY 1 - S EPT 7 2008


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