6 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 4 - December 2007

Seasons Mosaic," an

Seasons Mosaic," an award-wirming documentarythat follows composer Mychael Danna's reimaginationofVivaldi's most famous work in across-cultural Toronto collaboration featuring theTafelmusik orchestra, Jeanne Lamon 's solo violin,the Indian sarangi, the Chinese pipa, and Inuitthroat-singers. One might question the appropriatenessof the latter in an otherwise all-stringcollaboration, but this is nonetheless fascinatingviewing.Terry RobbinsConcert Notes: Tafelmusik presents Bach'sChristmas Oratorio on December 1 & 2, Handel's Messiah December I 9-22, the ever popularSing-Along Messiah on December 23 and Biber'sMystery Sonatas January 24-27.Handel - Water MusicLes Violons du Roy; Bernard LabadieATMA ACD2 2569My two questions:just how many recordingsof Handel'sWater Music Suitesare there out there,and do we reallyneed another? Inanswer to the first,the current REDcatalogue I ists over40 interpretations, while the answer to thesecond will be made plain by the end of thisreview! I admit I winced upon learning thatLes Viol ons du Roi had completed a recordingof Handel's most popular music - but thenagain, I've always been an admirer of thisensemble. Since it's foundation by BernardLabadie in 1984 in Quebec City, the group hasearned a reputation as one of Canada's premierchamber orchestras, and this new recordingon the ATMA label is indeed further proofof its excellence.Their approach to the three suites is indeedstylish and elegant, without the ponderousnesswhich characterizes certain performances of30years ago. At the same time, the music is neverrushed - it seems to me that in certain recentrecordings I have heard of this music, thetempos are much brisker than to what we havebecome accustomed, almost as if the leaderwere rushing through the score in order to gethome for supper. Not so in this case - Labadieleads with great sensitivity - the pace is alwayscivilized, while always achievingjust theright amount ofHandelian grandeur.Without a doubt, Labadie and his group of24 prove that it's not always necessary toemploy period instruments to achieve a convincingBaroque sound. (For those like myselfwho are blessed/cursed with perfect pitch,period instruments can be at times disconcerting!)As an added bonus, the disc concludeswith three excerpts from Handel's oratorioSolomon, finishing with the familiar Arrival ofthe Queen of Sheba. So do we need anotherWater Music? In this case, a definite "OU!" -this recording surely ranks among the best.Richard Haskell64CLASSICAL AND BEYONDJanacek - String Quartet No. 1;Haas - String Quartet No. 1;String Quartet No.3Pavel Haas QuartetSupraphon CD SU3922-2Janacek - String Quartet No.2"Intimate Letters";Pavel Haas - String Quartet No.2"From the Monkey Mountains"Pavel Haas QuartetSupraphon CD SU3877-2rII ,,fllllrrSupraphon has just released a second disc bythe youthful and outstanding, highly accomplishedPavel Haas Quartet which proudlybears the name of a Czech composer murderedin Auschwitz in 1944. Pavel Haas, bornin 1899 in Brno is considered to be one of themost important pupils of Leos Janacek. Haas'searly works were naturally a reflection of histeacher but he developed his own unique styleand powerful vocabulary.The First Quartet ( 1920) in one movementis introspective, calmly sombre but forwardlooking. Listening to this genuine masterpieceand the others to follow, one cannot but marvelat the sheer originality of this composer. TheThird Quartet, which follows immediately onthis disc, dates from 1938 and is striking evidenceof how times had changed: innocence isdisplaced by a feeling of stark realism. I believethat one could closely estimate that date.The earlier release offers the Haas SecondQuartet, with a percussionist added, bearingthe curious subtitle "From the Monkey Mountains".Written in 1925, it again confirms hisstature as a major talent. Even if these quartetswere the only examples of what Haaspromised, the tragedy of his untimely deathwould be manifestly lamentable.The presentation of the Pavel Haas Quartetis astonishingly formidable in all aspects expectedof a first class chamber group. As anaside, listening to these youthful players onebecomes optimistic about the level of futuregenerations of music makers.With similar insight and astuteness, thegroup interprets the two Janacek quartets withenergy, vitality and maturity no less so thanfound in recorded versions by seasoned ensembles.Here are unexpected treasures for devoteesof chamber music.Concert Note: The Emerson String Quartetwill perform Janacek's Intimate letters at anWWW, THEWHOLENOH,COMOttawa Chamber Society recital on January 29.La Mer - Debussy; Britten; MercureOrchestre Metropolitain duGrand Montreal; Yannick Nezet-SeguinATMA SACD2 2549Considering that thereis no shortage oflegendary recordingsof la Mer available( conspicuously includingthat of CharlesDutoit with the MontrealSymphonyOrchestra) YannickNezet-Seguin's latestATMA disc with the Orchestre Metropolitanmight seem an audacious venture. Yet such is therapport between this orchestra and their cherishedconductor that they have triumphantlyrisen to the challenge in what may be theirfinest performance to date. This is a La Merthat prances and dances off the page. Detailsnormally hidden in an impressionist wash ofsound are brought forward just enough toprovide an incantatory, radiant pulsation. Allsails are proudly unfurled, yet there's no dangerof sea-sickness on this sweeping voyage.The Debussy work is paired with BenjaminBritten's Four Sea Interludes from his landmark1945 opera Peter Grimes. The performanceof the concluding Storm scene is remarkablypowerful, though the more introspectivefirst and third movements seem a bit stodgy ­the sea as seen from afar, perchance from acomfy cottage. Certainly there's no lack of therequisite tendresse to be heard in Debussy'sexquisite Prelude a l 'apres-midi d 'un faune,featuring the delicately shaded flute solos ofMarie-Andree Benny. A welcome bonus is amarvelous performance ofan early work bythe tragically short-lived Quebecois composerPierre Mercure. Composed in 1948 while still astudent of Claude Champagne, his Kaleidoscopeis aptly named both for its sparklingorchestration and stylistic diversity.Daniel FoleyEditor's Note: WholeNote congratulatesconductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, on his appointmentas Principal Guest Conductor of theLondon Philharmonic Orchestra, effective atthe start of the Orchestra's 2008/09 season.The announcement follows his appointment lastyear as Music Director of the prestigious RotterdamPhilharmonic Orchestra in the Netherlands,succeeding the illustrious Valery Gergiev.The 32 year-old Canadian will hold thesepositions in tandem with his current post at theOrchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montreal,where he has been Artistic Director and PrincipalConductor since 2000.Bruce Surtees Oskar Morawetz -MODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYA Child's Cry from lzieuJasper Wood; David RileyCentrediscs CMCCD 12807D EC EMBER 1 2007 - FEBR UARY 7 2008

This disc containsfive intense piecesfrom the pen of oneof Canada's mostsignificant and celebratedcomposers ofthe last halfofthe20th century - OskarMorawetz ( 1917-2007).The three sonatas for violin and piano span 30years ofOskar Morawetz' life ( 1956-85) anddisplay a wide range of expressive writing forboth instruments. There is a haunting lyricism toall three pieces and countless examples of howwell and dramatically Morawetz wrote for thiscombination. The Duo for Violin and Piano, writtenin 1947, is the earliest work on the disc -alsothe most well-known ofMorawetz' works forviolin and piano - and is in the tradition of onemovementvirtuosic pieces that stretch thetechnical limits of both instruments.I was privileged to be in attendance at thepremiere performance of A Child's Cry fromlzieu given by Wood and Riley at the IndianRiver Festival in 2006. This piece was inspired bya heartbreaking "letter to God" written by the I!­year old Liliane Gerenstein, a Jewish orphan fromthe French town ofLizieu who was shipped toAuschwitz and eventually perished. Morawetzwrote the piece in 1987 and never heard apublic performance ofit. It's a very strongwork, mixing grandeur and tragic sense withplayful motifs clearly suggesting Gerenstein 'sinnocence and lost promise.The performances from Wood and Riley areofa very high standard, full of drama andexpressiveness. Wood especially is to be applaudedfor his devotion to contemporary Canadianmusic. He throws himself into theseperformances and makes this a very excitingand passionate recording.Those interested in learning more aboutMorawetz should visit his daughter's handsomewebsite at It is fullof fascinating biographical, musical and philosophicalinformation.Larry BeckwithGeorge Tsontakis - Man of SorrowsStephen Hough; Dallas SymphonyOrchestra; Andrew LittonHyperion CDA67564Man of Sorrows forpiano and orchestrawas written in 2005by American composerGeorge Tsantakis.The title isreligious and the- I r "' _,. --.tmood is contemplative,reflecting Tsantakis'inspiration, aByzantine icon. But there are touches of flamboyance,with vibrant colours, flashy glissandi andexciting percussive effects. The rich harmoniesfrequently resolve, and the catchy motifs recurthroughout. It's an expressive, narrative work,weakened only by a lack of contrast among thesix movements. British pianist Stephen HoughD ECEMBER l 2007 - F EBRUARY 7 2008manages to sound both poetic and virtuosic, andthe Dallas Symphony Orchestra plays with commitmentunder the baton of Andrew Litton in thislive recording.The second part of this disc contains three keyworks of the 20th century solo piano repertoireby Schoenberg and his two star pupils, Webemand Berg. Hough emphasizes the lyricism ofthese works, which many pianists underplay. InBerg's Sonata, he successfully blurs the distinctionbetween modernism and romanticism, and hebrings out the subtle dance-like textures ofWebem's angular Variations. But Schoenberg's shortpieces are in comparison pale, the range of colourstoo narrow for the composer's minutelycalibrated expressive markings.The programming of this disc is intriguing.Tsantakis' tone poem seems far removed fromthese three works of early serial ism. But the finalwork, Tsantakis' rhapsodic Sarabesque for solopiano, ties this lovely disc together deftly. Toparaphrase the quotation from Schoenberg in thebooklet notes, what ultimately matters is not howthese works were written, but how they sound.Pamela MarglesConcert Note: George Tsontakis will be inresidence at the University ofToronto Faculty ofMusic as the Roger D. Moore DistinguishedVisitor in Composition in January. There will beconcerts featuring his works on Jan. 28, 29, Feb.I and 2, as well as a lecture on Jan. 29 at 7:30.JAZZ AND IMPROVIZEDIf the Moon Turns GreenDiana PantonIndependent DP2007CD02( has been a lotof buzz around DianaPanton since her firstCD was released in2005, and as all ofuscynics know, sometimesbuzz is justifiedand sometimes itisn't. In Panton'scase, I am happy toadd my voice to the chorus of praise and reportthat the buzz is utterly justified. Her second CD"If the Moon Tums Green" is a gorgeous collectionof star-and moon-themed standards. Andeven though they are mostly familiar songs -although there are a few rarities - this Frenchteacher from Hamilton brings an indefinablejenesais quoi to the material that is at once fresh andtraditional. Perhaps it is her devotion to melodyand ability to impart a lyric with complete sincerity.Jenesais pas. I just know that her renditionsof Destination Moon and So Many Stars are aswarm and comforting as buttered toast. Ofcourse it helps to have la creme de la cremeworking with you, and Reg Schwager on guitarand Don Thompson on bass and piano, are brilliantsupporters.With her gift and the market's apparent appetitefor mainstream vocal jazz, Panton could be assuccessful as that other Diana. So why someenterprising record label or agent hasn 't yetWWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COMsnapped her up and introduced her to the world, isbeyond me. But the world's loss is our gain, sonext time you see Panton on the bill ofa local jazzclub or festival, run to see her up close, while youstill can.Cathy RichesConcert Note: Panton 's sidemen Reg SchwagerandDon Thompson perform at MezzettaRestaurant on December 12.Lessons LearnedWilliam Carn QuintetTimely Manor TM 116-02( I' m dreadfullyold fashionedbut I still shudderevery time I see aCD filled with nothingbut original compositions.I remembera time wheneven the giantsincluded a smatteringof standards in their programs. Today,however, everyone's a composer. Having saidthat I must confess I was very impressed byWilliam Carn 's second quintet recording. Thetrombonist/leader who wrote and arranged allnine of the set's pieces follows the example ofsuch masters as Duke Ellington: he writes withhis own musicians in mind. As a result, the fivemen here sound as though they were born toplay this music.Together the leader's gruff trombone andKelly Jefferson's agile tenor and soprano saxophonesform a formidable front line. Bothplayers are thoughtful improvisers who nevercoast, and their ensemble work is razor-sharp.It certainly helps of course to have the supportof musicians like pianist David Braid, bassistKieran Overs and drummer Anthony Michelli.Each of these men plays an integral part inbringing Carn 's compositions to I ife. The pu Isingbass work ofKieran Overs is a delightA unique - original recordingwith 9 fine jazz pianistsu .. r~u.u c;i:.:.,-.r..1 ~ f r,:1~01:s Bout;,1.~s,-. +lorralfl.e O(S11,,1,v-1., ic .. 1r~ OIJl!IU( • J,um:~ G£, •·fr.~1·,;.c1I.., GHiJUuiJlf•.rer JIJNES ' AIUIII lEfit',9C ~ GU)' S1·{1tjG[0u ... t1 ~ ~ .. analekta.corn65

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