8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 3 - November 2007

laborations with

laborations with SirColin Davis in this CDof concerti by Mozartand Schumann. Recently,the two helpedcelebrate Davis' 80thbirthday with a performanceof Beethoven's3rd Piano Concertowith the LSO in London. The rapport thatthey have established is very evident in this recording,which displays tremendous ensembleplaying throughout.The Schumann concerto in particular showstheir affinity with one another - rubato passagesare free, yet together. My favourite moments includedthe recapitulation of the first movement,where Kissin displays a lovely sense of intimacy.And, in the second movement, there are afew gorgeous phrases that are wonderfully spaciouswhile maintaining horizontal direction. Kissinshows real concerto playing expertise throughoutwith regard to ensemble playing and projection.He ever so slightly anticipates entrances sothat he's heard over the orchestra, but never somuch that it sounds like he 's early, or that theorchestra is late.The Mozart Concerto No.24 in C minor(K.491) is played with strength and drama. Thereis a great dynamic range in this interpretation,which is meant for a big hall. As a result, I feltthat occasionally the quality of sound was a bithard for my taste. With Mozart and Schubert, Ijust never want to hear a hard sound, but I fullyunderstand that this happens when you're playingmusic like this with a big orchestra in a big hall.It is fortunate for us that Kissin has successfullymade the difficult transition from prodigy tomaturing artist with seeming ease.James ParkerBeethoven - The Nine SymphoniesRussian National Orchestra;Mikhail PletnevDeutsche Grammophon 477 6409With the multitude of r--------·Beethoven Symphonycycles available, bothrecent and historic (andhistrionic), a sensiblemusic director whobraves the marketplacewith yet another completecycle would do soto introduce a fresh approach with new insights.To my pleasant surprise, Pletnev does just that.Pletnev earned international acclaim for hisformidable keyboard technique which was introducedto the outside world in 1987 in a stormingversion of the Liszt B minor sonata. Since thenhe has recorded extensively for DG and Virginboth as pianist and conductor.Universal (i.e. DG, Philips, Decca, et al), alreadyhad the field very well covered with admirableversions for every musical taste so what isthis new set all about? For me, every symphonygenerated excitement and rediscovery, often witha sense of hearing Beethoven's scores for thefirst time. Some movements, naturally, do not stir58Back to Ad Indexas most others do but this is to be expected insuch a monumental undertaking. And a monumentalundertaking it is. When Toscanini finallyagreed to record the Ninth in 1952, after the lasttake Maestro said to a colleague "You know,young conductor, I have played this symphonyfor fifty years - fifty years - and finall y I think Iunderstand something."Throughout this new cycle there is always aperceivable pulse ensuring a steady and logicalunfolding of the composer's intentions as Pletnevso persuasively senses them. These performancesbreathe. There are so many instances ofuncommon phrasing, subtle accents and lengthenedfermatas combined with freedom of expressiongiven to exposed instruments. The RussianNational Orchestra, of the correct size andweight for these works, performs flawlessly,achieving gorgeous textures and refined balances.A listener certainly could not place it geographically.Pletnev's communication with hismusicians appears intuitive but he is clearly incommand as Mravinsky was with his orchestra.As expected, over the years I have accumulatedand am familiar with more than a few completecycles conducted by well known and notso well known batoneers (to coin a noun). Pletnevbreathes fresh air. Simply astonishing. DG'sengineering exemplifies state of the art. Obviously,highly recommended.Mahler Symphony No. 5Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra ofVenezuela; Gustavo DudamelDeutsche Grammophon 477 6545The tremendouslycharismatic Venezuelanconductor GustavoDudamel, a mere 26years old, was recentlynamed to succeedEsa-Pekka Salonen atthe Los Angeles Philharmonicin the 2009season. Since winning the 2004 Gustav MahlerConducting Prize with his interpretation ofMahler's Fifth Symphony in Bamberg he has been inconstant demand as a guest conductor with thegreat orchestras of the world. Looking very muchlike the young Simon Rattle with his unruly locksof hair, Dudamel is the product of Venezuela'svisionary orchestral educational scheme popularlyknown as El Sistema. Founded by the economistand musician Jose Antonio Abreu in 1975,this program seeks to lift gifted youngsters outof the barrios through participation in a networkof 220 youth orchestras, of which the OrquestaSinf6nica Simon Bolivar is the crown jewel.Dudamel's lively performance emphasizes theextreme emotional contrasts of Mahler's scoreleavened with a nascent spiritual dimension hecredits to the counsel of the venerable ClaudioAbbado. My principal reservation about this recordingis that despite the greatly expanded stringsection the I 00 musicians of the Simon Bolivarorchestra provides, the string tone frequentlysounds pale and unfocused, notably so in pianissimopassages such as the principal theme ofthe opening movement and again in the excep-WWW.THEWHOLENOTE. COMtional ly languorous Adagietto movement. Possiblythe instruments available in Venezuela arenot the best, and/or the hall may be at fault.Dudamel's impulsive tempo shifts also seem tocatch the orchestra by surprise on occasion,though they are quick to recover. Even so, a greatdeal of attention is paid to the finest details ofMahler's score. The more exuberant and vehementpassages are positively electrifying, whilethe problematic architecture of the Rondo Finaleis for once thoroughly convincing. Dudamel isthe real deal. Keep an eagle eye on him.Daniel FoleyMODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYTerezin/TheresienstadtAnne Sophie von Otter;Christian Gerhaher; Bengt Forsberg;Daniel HopeDeutsche Grammophon 477 6546This CD is the resultof Anne Sofie von Otter'sinspiration whileperforming at the year2000 Holocaust ForumBruce Surtees in Stockholm. The Israe1-based TerezinChamber Music Foun­dation had engagedher to sing a selection of pieces composed bycamp inmates most of whom were later executedat Auschwitz. The Theresienstadt concentrationcamp, located about 60 kilometres north ofPrague, held many of the Jewish cultural andintellectual elite of Czechoslovakia, Gennany,Austria and Holland. For the sole purpose of propaganda,the Nazis allowed plays, operas, concertsand cabarets to be performed for inmates,visitors and inspectors from the Red Cross.In listening to the selections on this CD, one isacutely aware of the composers' commitment tomaintain the strength of human spirit and dignityin the face of unspeakable suffering. Sprinkledgenerously amongst musical expressions of angstand sorrow are hints ofbeauty,joie de vivre andeven humour, as heard in cabaret songs by KarelSvenk, Adolf Strauss and Martin Roman. Otherpieces are piercingly haunting, particularly a lullabyby Ilse Weber, a nurse who reportedly sangit along with the children she accompanied tothe gas chamber. The disc ends with ErwinSchulhoff's agitated and fiery violin sonata,played by virtuoso Daniel Hope who evokes afrenetic and defiant grasp for life.Both Sofie von Otter and baritone ChristianGerhaher perform brilliantly in Czech, Yiddish,German and French with a stirring emotionalrange. In addition to von Otter's long-time pianoaccompanist Bengt Forsberg are lb Haussmann,clarinet, Bebe Risenfors, accordion & guitar,Philip Dukes, viola and Josephine Knight, cello.Dianne WellsConcert Notes: November 5-11 is HolocaustRemembrance Week and related events in Torontoinclude: "Out of the Depths -A CanadianN OVEM BER 1 - D ECEM BER 7 2007

Music Response to the Holocaust" November 5at the Baycrest Wagman Centre; the premiereof Brian Cherney's "An Unfinished Life" November6 at Metropolitain United Church (SoundstreamsCanada); "The Children of WillesdenLane: Beyond the Kindertransport - A Memoirof Love and Survival" November I O at theSephardic Kehilla Centre; and "Jewish Composersin the Holocaust" November 11 at St. AnsgarLutheran Church.John Corigliano -The Red Violin Concerto; Violin SonataJoshua Bell; Marin AlsopBaltimore Symphony Orchestra;Sony Classical 87876 88060-2Those of us who werelucky enough to witnessJoshua Bell's performanceof the RedViolin suite at the MasseyHall New MusicFestival a few yearsago will welcome this:Corigliano, with a commissionfrom the Baltimore Symphony, has reworkedthat suite into a major concerto for violinand orchestra. All the pivotal points of the filmscore are intact, and yet the piece is re-cast intoa four-movement concerto that would havepleased Paganini or Heifetz.Corigliano, for many long years a craftsmanof orchestration, has given a muscular score forBell to negotiate. After the tortuous Chaconneand Scherzo movements, the pastoral Andanteseems just the right thing to do, and with goodspeakers or headphones, you can wallow in thesound without feeling any guilt.Joshua Bell plays the work with the confidencedue to he who virtually owns the work, in all itsforms. Yet I detect no callousness: there is lovingattention to every note and phrase. Alsop haspolished the Baltimore strings like never before.Producer Steven Epstein and his team of engineerscapture every nuance in spacious stereo.To round out the CD, Sony has includedCorigliano 's 1962 Violin sonata, with JeremyDenk taking the keyboard duties. There are theusual highly posed photographs and notes in threelanguages.Strongly Recommended.John GrayJAZZ AND IMPROVIZEDJazz Icons - Series 2Dave Brubeck; John Coltrane; DukeEllington; Dexter Gordon; CharlesMingus; Wes Montgomery; Sarah VaughanReelin' In The Years Productions(distributed by Naxos)If you were a good little jazz fan last Christmas,Santa brought you some wonderful DVDs of vintageEuropean TV performances. There is stilltime to mend your ways for 2007, becauseyou're going to want these follow-ups. The sameNOVEMBER1 - DECEMBER 7 2007Back to Ad Indexhigh standards of production and packaging havebeen applied to Jazz Icons Series 2, dating from1958 through 1966.The artists are influential masters who hadachieved international fame in the' 50s and '60s,or even earlier. They were all riding high at thetime, but only Dave Brubeck continues to remindus of a period when real jazz was so widelyappreciated.The discs are all in rich black & white (nearlyall sharp and clear), with well-balanced sound.Included are authoritative 24-page booklets anddetailed production credits. Most come fromseveral sources - only the Ellington is a singleconcert - and are a mix of live and studio performances,and in some cases even rehearsalsare included. Running times are as short as 65minutes, up to two hours."Dave Brubeck Live in '64 & '66"(2.119005) has the classic quartet with PaulDesmond, Eugene Wright and Joe Morello inconcert in Belgium and Germany, playing fromtheir repertoire such favourites as St. LouisBlues, In Your Own Sweet Way, and two versionseach of Koto Song and ( of course) TakeFive. They take delight in each other's work,and the joy spreads to the audience. I think PaulDesmond's work here is among the best I'veseen."John Coltrane Live in '60, '61 and '62"(2.119007) shows the artist in transition fromsideman to leader of one of the most importantgroups in jazz. The 1960 German studio performance(while on a JATP tour) is really the MilesDavis quintet sans the trumpeter. Trane 'son tenorwith Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and JimmyCobb on three tracks, then Stan Getz joins in amedley, and stays around for Hackensack, whenOscar Peterson replaces Kelly. (I never wouldhave thought of that possibility). The '61 sessionhas Coltrane 'sown group - McCoy Tyner, ReggieWorkman and Elvin Jones - plus Eric Dolphy.The last session in '65 in Belgium is the forall-time-quartet,with Jimmy Garrison on bass forWorkman. There's an hour and a half of veryimportant music here."Duke Ellington Live in '58" (2.119001) isa single concert by the orchestra, back on topagain after the Newport triumph of 1956. Amsterdam'sfamous Concertgebouw is the settingfor a jewel of a document. That the film qualityhere is a bit dark and murky does not detractfrom artists like Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance,Harry Carney and "the piano player". The diligenceof the Jazz Icons producers turned uptracks that had been edited from the originalDutch broadcast, giving us a fine Clark Terryfeature on Harlem Airshaft never seen before.Hodges' All Of Me and Things Ain't ... are in-WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMeluded, as is Paul Gonsalves' tenor interlude onDiminuendo in Blue and Crescendo In Blue.(Be sure to watch for a little addendum after thecredits roll, as the band packs up and the audienceleaves. Taciturn Johnny Hodges is actuallycaught smiling!"Dexter Gordon Live in '63 & '64"(2.119002) differs from the other releases inthat the stylish tenorman was resident in Europe,rather than on tour. He roamed from his Copenhagenhome, working all over with various groups.The 1964 sessions in Holland and Belgium findhim with George Gruntz, Guy Pederson and thefine drummer Daniel Humair. The tunes are bopfavourites (Gordon was the first important beboptenorman) like A Night In Tunisia, LadyBird and Blues Walk, along with Body And Soul.The '63 Swiss concert at the Lugano Festival iswith Americans-in-Europe Kenny Drew at thepiano, a frequent collaborator, and Art Taylor ondrums with French bassist Gilbett Rovere. Theserecordings show why Gordon was such an influenceon the European artists."Charles Mingus Live in '64" (2.119006)documents three events in eight days of a tourby the bassist's sextet (quintet on the Belgianstudio gig, as trumpeter Johnny Coles becameill). With the bassist/leader/composer are Coles,Clifford Jordan on tenor, Jaki Byard at the pianoand Dannie Richmond on drums, and especiallyEric Dolphy on flute, alto and bass clarinet. Itwas known that Dolphy would stay in Europe atthe end of the tour, and a particularly poignantmoment comes in a rehearsal sequence whenMingus asks him how long he'd be staying. "Nomore than a year. .. " he responds. Dolphy diedabout 10 weeks later. These are important documentsin the unique Mingus oeuvre, a talent thatspreads over all of jazz."Wes Montgomery Live in '65" (2.119003)finds the guitarist in the spring of the year in threecountries, with three different groups. Withoutgiving up his own sound, Montgomery was ableto continue to play jazz while enjoying considerablecommercial success in this period. His sweetpersonality is especially on display in the Dutchstudio rehearsals ofa session with the Pim Jacobstrio. They're almost more interesting than thefinished takes. A couple of days later he's inBelgium for a studio session with his workingtrio of Harold Mabern, Arthur Harper and JimmyLovelace. In London a month later, whileworking at Ronnie Scott's club he did a TV showwith Stan Tracey, Rick Laird and Jackie Cougan.Scott is the compere, talking about Wes inthe third person while he sits beside him! Themusic's fine, though the staging awkward."Sarah Vaughan Live in '58 &'64" (2.119004)catches Sassy's essential shyness which cameout when without an audience. She seems to notknow where to look, not that that affects hersinging one whit. What an instrument her voicewas! And how well she uses it! The two '58sessions in Sweden (studio) and Holland (concert)have Ronne II Bright, Richard Davis and anEnglish drummer, Att Morgan on signature trackslike Lover Man, September In The Rain andTenderly. Half a dozen years later she's in Swedenagain, with Kirk Stuart, Buster Williams and59

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