8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 3 - November 2007

Book Shelfby Pamela

Book Shelfby Pamela MarglesRuth Crawford Seeger's Worlds:Innovation and Tradition in Twentieth­Century American Musicedited by Ray Allen and Ellie M. HisamaUniversity of Rochester Press320 pages; US .00As a composer, RuthCrawford Seegercreated some of themost daring works ofearly American modernism.She stoppedwriting music afterher first child wasborn, but went on todo pioneering work inAmerican folk music.This collection doesfull justice to thebreadth of CrawfordSeeger's accomplishments. Writers withbackgrounds in music theory, education,folklore, history, and women's studies takevarious viewpoints. Occasionally they evencontradict each other. Taylor Greer writes, 'It istragic that she died before discovering a way ofuniting the two art forms she so adored'. ButMelissa de Graaf sees her final compositionfrom 1939, Rissolty, Rossolty as an attempt to'integrate the two aesthetics,' high modernismand folklore.Judith Tick, who has written CrawfordSeeger's biography and edited her writings,describes her place in history. Hercompositions influenced composers like ElliottCarter, John Cage and Pauline Oliveros. In alovely memoir, folksinger and songwriterBess Lomax Hawes recalls as a teenagerhelping out her father, John Lomax, herbrother Alan, and Crawford Seeger in theirwork collecting and documenting folksongs.While two of her children, folksingers MikeSeeger and Peggy Seeger, are profiled, stepsonPete Seeger, the greatest folksinger tocome out of the folk revival Crawford Seegerdid so much to foster, is barely mentioned.Crawford Seeger emerges from the book asan accomplished and fascinating woman, whoseearly death in 1953, when she was just fiftytwo,was a loss in many ways. There arethorough notes, score samples, adiscography and a detailed index. Thebeautiful jacket, binding and endpapers seemfitting.Robert Schumann: Life and Death of aMusicianby John WorthenYale University Press512 pages, photos; US .00Schumann's lifeand music are usuallyinterpretedfrom the perspectiveof his final'ghastly' madness.But John Wortheninsists that Schumann'slife, andespecially the musicmust be separatedfrom the diseasethat destroyed hisI1111· ,., " ' 1 1 " , t • ~' "'' 1 ' ·'Ji i i I '~. '1'1 I :,h \ 111 \mind. He is convincedthat Schumann suffered not fromschizophrenia but from syphilis. True, hewas anxious and melancholic. But Worthenfinds that much of that was brought on byphysical problems - his panic and phobias,for instance, being caused by insomnia.Worthen even examines Schumann's autopsyreport, published for the first time in English.Instead of considering every problem in hislife as a step closer to madness, Worthen lookscarefully at individual issues, such as the hellthat Friedrich Wieck, Schumann's one-timementor, put him through before he was finallyable to marry Wieck's daughter, Clara. Heportrays Schumann as self-possessed, thoroughlyin charge of his own life and determinedto follow his own road - at least until thingsstarted going terribly wrong in 1854, whenhe tried to drown himself in the Rhine. Hedied two years later in an insane asylum.Worthen offers numerous musical insights.He defends Schumann's orchestral writing,pointing out how the heaviness and muddinessit is often accused of can be cleared up by theuse of period instruments. He pays a lot ofattention to the copious documentary material,like the diaries of both Clara and Robert,whose love represents 'one of the greatromances of musical history'. This is anexemplary biography. The index has detailedsub-headings, and even the endnotes arefascinating.Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music andWolvesby Helene Grimaudtranslated by Ellen HinseyRiverhead Books (Penguin)247 pages; US.95' My gaze is oftendisturbing, ' writesthe French pianistHelene Grimaud.Grimaud describesherself as a willfuland uncontrollablechild. She grew upin a loving family.But she was isolated,and overwhelmedby herown negativity. But when she was seven, shediscovered the piano. 'Music converted me.It saved me', she writes.Grimaud describes eloquently the physicalpleasure she gets from playing. She seems tofeel every experience directly in her hands.For her, each composer represents anindividual world of sound, so she refers, forinstance, to the 'pain bordering on ecstasythat one hears in Brahms' music'. Playing thepiano is, for her, a 'high-wire act' She eventalks abut the burden of being a beautifullookingwoman, which indeed she is .She calls Glenn Gould 'a musical olderbrother', admiring his freedom, passion, andtruthfulness. 'He lives at the core of what heinterprets', she writes, obviously thinking ofherself as well. Using a personal style,Grimaud intersperses her memoirs of herown life with vignettes on various subjects,from children who have been discoveredliving in the wild, to the treatment of wolvesthroughout history. Her obsession withwolves, and the wilder aspects of humannature they reflect - has lead her to start awolf sanctuary in upper New York State.This is an enthralling memoir - tempestuous,rhapsodic, and, indeed, disturbing.Grimaud has published a new volume ofmemoirs in France, and I'm looking forwardto it coming out in English soon.Acrobat Music .. / '~R EC O R D I N G ST U DI / ·,World professional Class Recording atmosphere. in a re~xed·'···t ~~- ~.v . "" '!'ll'!l' .... , '· ~ rt,.· .·.· ..·.· . .•· ".'./Juno and Emmy winning e~gineer ·'.·• . '". , ,, /,_; A~· .·. .and producer at your service. '..·v. , · .· ~·,-·-.. ; .. ·:'I " 1- . . .Call (905) 420-8625 • WIY\V.acrobatmu&.com •. r ,J. .NATURAL ACOUSTIC RECORDING FOR A DIGITAL WORLDBack to Ad Index,... - ~ :,i ·...,.WWW. THE WHO LENOTE.COM

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10VOCALSchubert - Schwanengesang;Mendelssohn - SongsJan Kobow; Kristian BezuidenhoutATMA ACD2 2339Schubert's final songcycle, Schwanengesang,doesn't tell a storyin the same way thatthe earlier cycles Dieschone Mullerin andWinterreise do. Thereare fourteen songs bythree poets, Rellstab,Heine and Seidl. They have moments of hopeand joy. But mostly there's heartache and longing.German tenor Jan Kobow gives a dramaticallyriveting presentation by finding the emotionalcore of each song.Kobow is capable of great tonal beauty, buthe'll take on a steely quality for expressive effect.He extracts details in the texts to bring outthe full range of Schubert's moods. But he resistsmannerisms. This is especially gratifying inthe best-known song, Stiindchen, which hemakes fresh and heartfelt. His Fruhlingssehnsuchtis brilliant, especially in the way he buildsup to the final exclamation, 'Only you!'. Kobowfinesses the elaborate internal rhymes of In derFerne so that the layers of meaning are revealed.Only in the exposed Der Atlas does he becometoo forceful, so that even the piano must push itssound to keep up. Otherwise, Kristian Bezuidenhout'sfortepiano sparkles and dances in the sustainedtextures. He is a true partner here, colourful,dramatic and soulful.The booklet notes dismiss the six Mendelssohnsongs as charming, but no masterworks. FortunatelyKobow doesn't seem to agree, because he singsthem with such graceful passion that he leaves nodoubt of their mastery. They make an ideal complement.Full texts and translations are included.Pamela MarglesEARLY MUSIC AND PERIODPERFORMANCEJ.S., W.F. and C.P.E. Bach - Trio SonatasA deux fleustes esgales - Valerie Balssa;Jean-Pierre PinetZig Zag ZZT2040601Handel - Recorder SonatasEnsemble FitzwilliamZig Zag ZZT2030201Geminiani - Concerti GrossiEnsemble 415; Chiara BanchiniZig Zag ZZT2040301-2NOVEMBER1 - DECEMBER 7 2007Back to Ad IndexI first encountered the CDs of France's ZigZagTerritoires through an old friend, whose playingwas featured on one particular disc, and sincethat time the label has never failed to impressme. The three recordings here described upholdtheir high musical and audio standards withprojects of fine music, disarmingly played.My favourite of the ,, ...three is a CD featuringfive sonatas for two traversiand continuo bymembers of the illustriousBach family. Fromthe opening, an adaptationof a C.P.E. Bachsonata for a single fluteBACH•7,=;-r: ,; r··-·-and basso continuo, one is bathed in the soft, radiantglow of sound which is one of the greatperks of this instrumental combination - and it'sa beautiful place to be. Flutists Valerie Balssaand Jean-Pierre Pinet make an excellent team,and the mind-meld of the continuo players is extraordinary.I was particularly delighted by cellistHager Spiiter-Hanana 's broad palette of colourand articulation. The quirky sound ofE major,a difficult tonality which Quantz said flutistsought to announce to an audience so their listenersknow what they're up against, needs no excusesin a trio by C.P.E. Bach. J.S. Bach's familiarsonata in G receives one of its best renditionshere - of particular note is the relaxed butspooky third movement - and an arrangementof his BWVI 028 features a luxurious, improvisatoryopening adagio and sparkling allegros. Adazzling performance of a trio by brilliant andwacky Wilhelm Friedemann Bach rounds out theprogram.Many regard the Handelrecorder sonatas asstudent pieces, an unfortunateview since thesepieces are some of thebest-crafted music in theinstrument's repertoireand a genuine test of musicianship,taste and in­4,..,,~· •.\,.t,HA.ENDEt---"'*' .__ ....11, 11ventiveness. Their challenge is laudably met byrecorder player Jean-Pierre Nicolas, who makesa strong personal statement with inventive yetwell-controlled ornamentation, a great sense ofrhythm, masterful technique, and thoughtful interpretationthroughout. His three continuo-playingcolleagues are a great band, creatively varyingtheir colours and playing with blistering speedor refined delicacy as required.To round out my ZZTrepast I was treated tothe church and chamberviolin sonatas of Corelli'sop. V, as arranged fororchestra by FrancescoGeminiani in 1726/27.~ :.:.!.. It's fascinating to hear···- ·· --·-·--· these great sonatas, soenormously popular and influential for decadesafter their composer's death, played as concertigrossi. The program offers a good variety of bothstyles of sonata, and the performance by ChiaraBanchini 's Ensemble 415 is full of musical chiaroscuro,elegance, tenderness and drama.WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMI loved all these discs. ZZT's recorded sound,always engineered by Franck Jaffres, is excellent,and I admire their use of contemporary coverart created by Anne Peultier specifically for eachdisc. Though on one hand I wish there weremore detailed notes and biographical informationprovided, on the other it's gratifying that thelistener is thereby asked simply to respond to themusic and the performance as they stand: no arguments,impressive achievements or frills attached.Alison MelvilleVivaldi - The Four SeasonsSarah Chang;Orpheus Chamber OrchestraEMI 3 94431 260 years ago Vivaldi'smusic was for the mostpart unknown and virtuallyabsent from the concertstage and recordedrepertoire. The manlargely responsible forthe re-awakening of interestin Vivaldi in general- and The Four Seasons in particular -was the American violinist Louis Kaufman,whose 194 7 first-ever recording of the concertoshas been re-issued in the Naxos Historicalseries (8.110297-98).Subsequent recordings of The Four Seasonshave covered almost every possible approachfrom large to small ensemble, and from rich, almostRomantic playing through standard Baroquestyle to the revisionist performance technique ofII GiardinoArmonico. This new CD from SarahChang is among the most satisfying I've everheard; played by a small ensemble with a firmgrasp of period style, the concertos burst withenergy, vitality and character.Chang's playing is impeccable throughout, displayingan unerring sense of Vivaldi's musicalrequirements and a wonderful range of tone colourand dynamics. The sonnets that appear inthe score are printed in full in the booklet- whichunfortunately contains virtually nothing else apartfrom eight full-page colour photos of the soloistin various glamorous poses - and Chang remarkson their specific imagery and their importancefrom a performing perspective, noting that theideas are integral to the way she plays the work.The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's performanceis outstanding and sympathetic; perfectlybalanced and beautifully recorded, they echoChang's interpretation every step of the way.The concerto in G minor, Op.12 No.I , roundsout a superb disc.Terry RobbinsCLASSICAL AND BEYONDMozart - Piano Concerto No. 29;Schumann - Piano ConcertoEvgeny Kissin; London SymphonyOrchestra; Sir Colin DavisEMI 3 82879 2Piano virtuoso Evgeny Kiss in continues his col-57

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