7 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 8 - May 2008

Includes the 2008 Canary Pages

ago when attendingThe

ago when attendingThe Padejo Project- a collaborativeexhibition by visualartists Paul Walty,Denis Leclerc andJoseph Muscat - atwhich Alan Bloorwas performing.Bloor, AKA harshnoise artist Knurl, explores a more ambientside in his project Pholde - Finding InternalAsylum (C3R 010). Using self-designedmetal sculptures, a variety of scraping toolsand a bank of electronics for looping, layeringand extending the eerie sounds created, BloorVOCAL AND OPERAFrauenliebe und LebenSusan Platts; Rena SharonATMA ACD2 2586The theme oflongingand deep emotionreached new levelsof expression in thelieder of the Romanticperiod, and one ofthe crowning gloriesof the genre can befound in the songcycle Frauenliebeund Leben (Woman's Life and Love). Writtenfrom the point of view of a woman through hercourtship, engagement, marriage, motherhoodand widowhood, it portrays a deep attachmentand oneness with the beloved. In actual fact,the texts chosen by Schumann reveal his ownlonging for submission and devotion from hiswife Clara, a famous pianist for whom theconflicts of family vs. career created muchinner turmoil. Nonetheless, Robert Schumanndemonstrated a rare gift for creating the essenceof this most precious ideal with a masterfuland poignant setting. In turn, this workdemands an equally masterful and poignantperformance, which mezzo-soprano SusanPlatts and pianist Rena Sharon deliver. With anamber-honeyed voice that fully conveys therange from dreams of youth to the full blossomof womanly emotion, this singer conveys awarmth and range well worthy of the honourof having Jessye Norman as her mentor.Rounding out this CD are selections oflieder by Clara Schumann as well as JohannesBrahms who from his youth was a fixture atthe Schumann household. Though none are asdeeply moving as the aforementioned cycle, theycontain many delightful turns and provide a welcomeintroduction to pieces seldom heard.Dianne Wells60manages to create a surprisingly welcomingambient audio atmosphere. As it says on thewebsite (, "this disc is a subtle,nuanced, and warm collection ofreverbdrenchedimprovisations ... perfect for lonelyevenings of contemplation, or as mood music inyour isolation chamber." Sound like fun?We welcome your feedback and invite submissions.CDs and comments should be sent to:The WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St. TorontoON M5S 2R4. We also welcome your inputvia our website, OldsDISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comCielo e marRolando VillazonDeutsche Grammophon 4777224In an era of recorded sound, almost everyworld renowned singer starts with recordingsof standard repertoire, as if to establish themselvesagainst a universal benchmark. Theythen proceed to... _ _ _carve out a personal "":...:__niche and to uncover ~~ ·forgotten operas andcomposers, makingthem their own.Such is the stage ofthe career of theMexican tenor, RolandoVillazon. In hisfirst solo recital discfor Deutsche Grammophon, Villazon discoveredquite a few forgotten arias that deserve asecond hearing. The list of operas stretchesfrom the oldest, early-l 9th century works ofSaverio Mercandante and a little performedopera by Donizetti, Poliuto, to later works ofGiuseppe Pietri, Antonio Carlos Gomes andVerdi. Of course the title track, from Ponchielli's La Gioconda is nothing new in tenor recitals,but here it serves as a measuring stick ofsorts. The musical selections on this disc arethoughtful and passionate, but since the repertoireis unfamiliar to both the listener and thesinger, it may take a few tries to select a favourite.Courtesy of a transparent, highlydetailedrecording and orchestral playing thatalways supports, but never overwhelms, Villazon's voice sounds even more powerful thanever. That power at times detracts from thebeauty of tone of this remarkable tenor, who isboldly navigating uncharted waters. Villazon 'snext album will truly show which forgotten partof the operatic repertoire will become "hisown".Robert TomasWWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COMItalian Opera AriasNatalie Dessay; Concerto Koln;Evelino PidoVirgin Classics 00946 395243 2The harshest critics ofbel canto opera insistthat these works were nothing better than l 9thcentury's form of popular entertainment. Infact, Countess d'Agoult wrote to the composerFerdinand Hiller in 1838: "A host of maestroswhose names will never reach you - the Riccis,Piccis and Ticcisof this world - takebut a fortnight tocompose operaswhich are onlybrought to life hereand there by courtesyof thefts fromRossini." Most of theoperatic libretti mightconfirm this grimdiagnosis of being hastily assembled for thepurpose of popular entertainment. And yet it isthe be] canto period that gave rise to the undeniablegenius of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini.It is also the source of some of the most belovedrepertoire and instantly recognizable melodies.On this collection Natalie Dessay, theFrench soprano whose rise to stardom startedas Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann andwas cemented by a bravura performance ofthe Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute,delivers a tantalizing selection of great arias. Itis a feat made all the more remarkable by thefact that in 200 l and then again in 2003,Dessay underwent surgeries to repair hervocal cords. That potentially career-endingepisode likely made her an even better interpreterof the tragic heroines ofbel canto -Lucia, Elvira, Maria Stuarda and Giulietta. Thisremarkable collection of heart-felt and beautifully-sungarias is a worthy addition to anylibrary.Robert TomasMussorgsky - KhovanshchinaGran Teatre de! Liceu; Michael BoderOpusArte OA0989DKhovanshchina is a problematic opera onmany counts. Despite running well over fourhours for a complete performance, it wasnever orchestrated or completed by Mussorgsky.The story of political dissent at the time ofPeter the Great makes for an incoherent plot.The miserable Russiaof the opera is populatedby murderouswould-be tyrants,drunken peasants,religious zealots, alicentious prince, hisrape victim, and hiserstwhile mistress, agloomy sorceress whosurvives her owndrowning. The operaends, appropriatelyMAY 1 · ] UNE 7 2008

enough, with a mass suicide.But there is no problem with the music -from the stirring overture to the moving finale,Khovanshchina has truly one of the mostglorious scores of any Russian opera. MusicalDirector Michael Boder and Stage DirectorStein Winge have marshalled considerableresources for this production from Barcelona'sLiceu Opera: Shostakovich's orchestration anda new ending by Guerassim Voronkov, thesuperb (and enormous) orchestra and chorus, ahuge cast of principals, mostly Russian, andoverbearing and appropriately grim sets whichmove the action to a vaguely mid-20th centuryperiod.Both Boder and Winge have obviouslylooked carefully at the score and libretto, creatingan overwhelming musical performance aswell as an enthralling staging of the difficultwork. The singers make a superb, and thoroughlyidiomatic, ensemble; in a male-dominatedcast, Elena Zaremba stands out as thefervent Martha. The high-definition camerawork is excellent, and bonuses include a lucid(and much needed) illustrated synopsis.Seth EstrinCLASSICAL & BEYONDBeethoven - Piano Sonatas 8; 15; 27; 30Jonathan BissEMI 3 94422 2Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Vol.1Christian LeottaATMA ACD2 2486The American pianist Jonathan Biss and theItalian Christian Leotta are still in their twenties,but on the evidence of these new recordings,they are both thoroughly compelling musicians.The fact that they both reveal such deepmusicality reflects their pedagogical lineage.Both studied with teachers who themselvesstudied with the visionary Artur Schnabel -Biss with one ofSchnabel's greatest students,Leon Fleisher, and Leotta with his son Karl­Urlich Schnabel.In these recordings of Beethoven sonatas,both pianists, in different ways, resist the manyopportunities to settle for dazzling surfaces thatabound in Beethoven's writing, with its complextextures and powerful rhythms. Instead,they each use their prodigious techniques tobetter express the poetry of Beethoven's music.Biss grasps the longing behind Beethoven 'svision. His singing lines create dreamy, rhapsodicmoods. But he also provides lots of thebrio that Beethoven asks for, with elegantornaments and deft passagework. His temposcan get a bit erratic, especially when he takesa big breath before reaching the top note of anascending passage, or holds on to a chord wellpast its written value. But it is exciting how hehighlights the bass line, and brings out the innervoices, especially in contrapuntal textures. Bisswrites his own booklet notes, and they actuallyilluminate the music.Both recordings offer the Pathetique sonata.Biss takes the introductory andante slowly,but Leotta takes it even more slowly, whichleads to even greater dramatic contrasts. Leotta's approach is muscular, with driven dynamicsand tempos. With Leotta you get the intensestruggling Beethoven. This is passionatemusic-making. Details are spelled out, and thedance movements really dance. His ornamentscan be so deliberate that they missBeethoven's playfulness. But his texturesremain delightfully clear throughout, thanks tohis extraordinary legato technique and lightfoot on the sostenuto pedal.The sound from ATMA is brighter and morepresent than the sound from EMI here, thoughnot as warm.Pamela MarglesConcert Note: Jonathan Biss is playingBeethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 with theToronto Symphony Orchestra on May 7 and 8.Beethoven; Mozart - Violin ConcertosNigel Kennedy; Polish ChamberOrchestra; Nigel KennedyEMT 3 95373 2Any time an artist ofNigel Kennedy's standingfeels he has something new to say about theBeethoven concerto, you listen. Kennedy firstrecorded the Beethoven with Tennstedt in1992, and says thathe "wanted to bringa greater rhythmicvitality" to the scorethis time. He does,but the rhythmiccontrasts and thequick tempo of theopening movementtend to work at theexpense of the serenity and linear continuityone normally hears. The Larghetto actuallyfeels slower than usual, but the final Rondo hasplenty of bounce. Kennedy's cadenzas workwell.Not so in the other concerto here,Kennedy's first-ever Mozart recording. Heintroduces a harpsichord which he feels "addswarmth", but I would have preferred thewarmth to have come from his playing; as it is,the exaggerated dynamics and tonal contrastsand some appoggiatura/grace note choicesmake this an unsatisfying performance for me.Above all , Kennedy supplies his own cadenzas,and in the first two movements slides into anextended and accompanied jazz-influencedcontemporary interlude that wouldn 't sound outof place in an eastern European lounge bar.Jazz is clearly a strong magnet for Kennedy,and for the bonus track he offers his ownterrific arrangement of bop legend HoraceSilver's Creep in ' In in a duet with bassistMichal Baranski. Context, as they say, is everything.Terry RobbinsGrieg - Piano MusicSandra MogensenIndependent CHM 070801( was a master of writing songs and songlikeshort piano pieces, but these have sadlylost their place in recital programmes in recentyears due to thepublic's lack ofinterest and easy....... 0-J.>J •1 ,,,• • , ••,.,..impressibility by themainstream,"shamefully narrowstock" of the obvious,"great works".That is not to saythat there are nogreat recordingsavailable and hopefully this new, inspired discby acclaimed Canadian pianist SandraMogensen will be recognized as one of them.The well selected programme is principallyfrom the Lyric Pieces, a set of 66 writtenbetween 1867 and 190 I. All very short, likelittle sketches, they express poetic feelings oflove, sadness and affection towards nature andhis homeland, Norway.While some of the first pieces are clearlyinfluenced by Chopin and Liszt (I love youwith a familiar melody), but as we go along,more and more of Grieg's personal voiceemerges. There are notable innovations in hisharmonies that later influenced Debussy andDelius. The syncopated and chromatic Erotikwith its dance-like rhythms is entertaininglydifferent.Herders Song has a distinct Norwegianfolk-like character with interesting harmoniesand a bagpipe-like ostinato base. Brook is asuccessful attempt in impressionism with rippling1/16 notes played with great bravura.I was most impressed, however by the Airfrom the Holberg Suite, the longest piece onthe disc. The work reminds me of Bach, butGrieg's individuality comes out unmistakably.Mogensen sustains a wonderful uninterruptedlong line melody and her powerful left hand isvery expressive.A satisfying disc, worth repeated listening.Janos GardonyiOpera Fantasies for ViolinLivia Sohn; Benjamin LoebNaxos 8.570202It sometimes seems that Naxos is intent onrecording every note of music ever written, butifit means our exposure to little-heard worksM AY 1 - J UNE 7 2008WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM61

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