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Volume 13 - Issue 5 - February 2008

OPERA AT HOMECONTINUED

OPERA AT HOMECONTINUED FROM PAGE 26melodies" and his intricate weaving of librettoand music , there is an unusually pronouncedand informed sensitivity to the musicality ofspeech that informs every moment ofJanacek's mature operas.He never rested on his laurels. In eachsuccessive opera, he pushed himself ontonew ground. That is supremely the case inHouse of the Dead, which both departs fromhaving a standard narrative line and a standardlineup of protagonists. True to Dosteovsky'saccount, he portrays a gulag whereceaseless privation and beatings deprive inmatesof narrative. It is the end of history.There are no heros and no plot, only onedamned incident after another. The cast isentirely male, with the exception of a prostitute'sbrief appearance. There are, however,sparks of redemption, simple acts of generosityand empathy among men who have committedtruly horrible crimes. At the end ofthe opera, a political prisoner is released, anda wounded eagle that the prisoners have tendedis symbolically set free. But the operaconcludes with a return of the prisoners totheir infernal and incessant grind.The real House of the Dead is captured ina landmark 1980 Decca recording, with SirCharles conducting the Vienna Philharmonic,The Vienna State Opera Chorus, and a firstlineCzech cast singing in the original language.It can be purchased as part of a modestlypriced, 9-CD set of the five Janacekoperas that have cycled from fame to obscurityand back again: Jenufa, Kat'a Kabanova,The Cunning Little Vixen, The MakropulosCase, and House of the Dead, all conductedby Mackerras. (Decca 475 6872)Mackerras' box set of Janacek's principaloperas unambiguously deserves the prizedplace on the record shelves of opera devotees.Granted, Jenufa through Makropulosare available on DVD, but there is, as yet,no commercial House of the Dead DVD(though some archival editions can be locatedwith a bit of diligent Internet search).But there's a level of musical excitement inthe Mackerras box set that is not matched byany DVD of the Janacek's operas.One cornerstone of the Janacek renaissanceon this side of the Atlantic was the "Janacekand His World " festival organized in 2003by Bard College, a highly innovative liberalarts institution located 100 miles north of theBig Apple. An ambitious scholarly conferencewas interspersed among equally ambitiousconcerts of music by Janacek and hiscontemporaries. A companion book, editedby Michael Beckerman and bearing the samename as the festival, was subsequently issuedby Princeton University Press. Thebook kicks off with a first chapter by LeonBotstein on the key role exercised by thepolymath and well-connected intellectual,Max Brod, in making Janacek known to awider world. (Botstein, being simultaneouslythe music director of the American Symphonyand Jerusalem Orchestras, editor of theMusical Quarterly, president of Bard College,and godfather to innovations in k-12education, has firm grounding in how wellconnectedpolymaths operate!)Upon discovering Janacek's genius viathe 1916 Prague premier of Jenufa, Brodbecame as effective a champion for him as hewas for Franz Kafka and Jaroslav Hasek.Brad's reviews in the German and Austrianmusical press, and then his translation ofJenufa and Janacek's subsequent operas intoGerman, were necessary vehicles for spreadingthe word about this most nationalist ofCzech composers. If you wanted to make itin classical music before World War II, approvalfrom Berlin and Vienna was mandatory.A second key to Janacek's late-life burstof creativity was his muse, Kamila. The"captured muse" and creative genius hasbeen a constant thread in Western culturesince ancient Greece, as Diane Paige explainsin a subsequent chapter of Janacek and HisWorld. (Whether Kamila was "captured" ornot remains a subject of titillating debateamong musicologists.) What is sure is thatJana , ek, upon meeting the married Kamila,almost four decades his junior, in 1917, wasdeeply inspired and animated by his belovedmuse for the rest of his life.Janacek mastered the vocabulary of histime, but his shift from standard procedure,like Debussy's, was far greater than firstmeets the ear. The music is so knock-downgorgeous that we don't immediately realizehow far the composer has taken us off thebeaten path.Cheeses from around the world,meats, groceries, dry goodsgift baskets ...Everything you needfor reception planning.416-364-7397www.pasqualebros.com16 Goodrich Rd., Etobicoke(south of Bloor, west off Islington)SPECALIZING INONCERT RECORDINGSCAMERO/\JOGILVIE416.992.4412csogilvie@gmail .comcameronogilvie.comWWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM

RECORDINGSREVIEWED:WINTER 2008Classical and BeyondReviews by Terry RobbinsDISJames Ehnes hasfollowed his Grammy-nominatedCD ofthe Barber, Waltonand Komgold concertoswith anotheroutstanding concertoCD, this time of theElgar Violin Concerto,recorded live" in rehearsal and performance" at London'sQEH in May of last year with Andrew Davisand the Philharmonia Orchestra (ONYX40235). In a recent CBC interview, Ehnesspoke of the technical difficulty and emotionaldemands of this concerto, and of his nervousnessgoing into these performances - not thatyou would ever know it from the resultingrecording, as Ehnes is in superb form and givesa wonderful reading. The Serenade for Stringscompletes the disc. (www.jamesehnes.com)It can't be often thata recording projectof specifically-commissionednewworks results in adisc as successfuland satisfying asThe Nightingale'sRhapsody (Cambria1172), but thisCD ofworld-premiere recordings by clarinettistJerome Summers with The ThirteenStrings Chamber Orchestra of Ottawa underSimon Streatfeild is a de! ight from beginningto end, with the compositions here clearlyfulfilling Summers' intention to commissionworks that would display what he calls theinstrument's "uniquely expressive yet dynamicvoice". Two works by Ronald Royer open andclose the disc, with single works by OliverWhitehead, Michael Conway Baker and DaleReubart completing the programme. All arewinners - finely crafted, beautifully scored, andstrongly lyrical. (www.jeromesummers.com)Concert note: Jerome Summers and TheThirteen Strings will perform selections fromthe new CD on March 14 at St. Andrew'sChurch in Ottawa.Les tresors caches (early-music EMCCD-7766) is a selection of overture-suites andconcertos from Georg Philip Telemann'sformative years, and the Montreal-based baroqueorchestra Arion under Jaap ter Lindendoes everything possible to breathe life intomusic that could easily, in the wrong hands,leave the I istenerunmoved. There is aluminous clarity andvitality to their playingthat makes thebest possible casefor these "hiddentreasures", and therecording quality isexcellent. A highlyrecommendabledisc. (www.early-music.com)Naxos has issued a second volume of OperaOvertures by Mozart's contemporary DomenicoCimarosa, this time with the TorontoChamber Orchestra under Kevin Mallon(N axos 8.570279). Despite their brightnessand vitality there is asameness about the tL J ~i:ti ,\ .. \works that serves to . ,..,. u.'.'.'.~':'.'.: :,}_underline the extent .'..'.::~.~~.. ~·.:=:-:.7'" ;· _to which Mozart wassimply on a differentplanet than his contemporaries.Still,there is much toenjoy in the performancesof what often feel more like early symphoniesthan opera overtures, with fine playingand a lovely spaciousness to the recording inToronto's St. Anne's Church. A very pleasingdisc - and if you' ve ever wondered what theovertures to la donna sempre al suo peggiors 'appiglia or JI fanatico per gli antichi Romanisound like, here's your chance!(www.naxos.com)The outstandingArgentinean guitaristVictor Villadangosadds another excellentCD to the NaxosGuitar CollectionSeries, this time asecond volume ofthe guitar music ofthe Venezuelan~ ... ..e ..\ l HO"- l'i ~.- 11< ',I_.. ~-,~ J • II\ . ..,1,-,,, l."tfl..Hl-""t.......composer and guitarist Antonio Lauro (Naxos8.570250). Fifteen short pieces are included,plus the four £studios en imitaciones butthe major items here are the Sonata, writt~n inthe early 1950s, and the Suite in Hommage toJohn Duarte from 1981. Recorded at St. JohnChrysostom Church in Newmarket by theintrepid team of Bonnie Silver and NorbertKraft, Villadangos plays beautifully, withwarmth and style and hardly a trace of fingerboardnoise. (www.naxos.com)The American guitarist David Pattersonpresents a varied programme on his EsordioCD (T4DragonsT4D 005-01); theworks range fromJ. S. Bach andJohann Mertzthrough Tarregaand Villa-Lobos toGinastera and LeoBrouwer. There isa great deal toadmire here, particularly in the three Brouwerpieces and the Ginastera Sonata. Pattersondisplays a sol id technique, although there aremoments when his playing seems to lack flair.(www.cdbaby.com)The Ottawa guitarist Daniel Bolshoy, on hisMcGillicuddy's Rant CD (Centaur ClassicsCEN 1016), performsfour interestingand challengingworks with greatfluency; despite afew subdued moments,his playingoften leaps off thedisc. The title pieceby Clark Ross is aworld-premiere recording;the other works are Sonata Ill byPonce, the rarely-heard Sonata by AntonioJose, and Aquarelle by the contemporaryBrazilian Sergio Assad. The booklet notes areexcellent, but there is no information on recordingdates or location, and - curiously - notimings for the tracks.(www.danielbolshoy.com)Traditional JazzReviews by Jim GallowayGene DiNovi issomething of amusical encyclopaediaon legs with anastonishing knowledgeof the "GoldenAge" of popularsong. He cut hismusical teeth in theNew York clubscene of the '40s and worked for a number ofprominent bandleaders before becoming theaccompanist for such singers as Peggy Lee,Tony Bennett and Lena Horne. In 1972 hemade Toronto his home, much to the delightof his many followers in this town. In hisGenerations Trio Dave Young and AndrewScott add their considerable talents. TheThree Optimists (Sackville SKCDZ-2072),recorded at The Old Mill in Toronto is ahappy blend of great songs played by' threegifted musicians. (416.465.9093) Concertnote: Gene DiNovi is one of the pianistsfeatured on February 17 at Happy Fingers:A tribute to the piano at the Diesel Playhouse.FEBR UARYl - MARCH 7 2008WWW,THEWHOLENOTE,COM57

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
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Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
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