5 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 2 - October 2008

the composer at

the composer at thepiano. The dramaticallycontrastedsongs are ample evidenceof Mather 'scommand of themedium, and hisinstrument. Particularlyeffective arethe Carrefour deBuci with its inside-the-piano effects and theunaccompanied Les grands lis blancs whichcontrast with the dynamic explosions of suchmovements as Au Palais de l 'enfant sauvage.Less effective for me is the 1985 setting ofMarie-France Rose's Un Criqui durerait lamer (A Cry Which Would Last the Sea). Inthis instance the voice of Patricia Rideoutseems just too big for the role. I also find thecomposer's decision to use repeated singlevowels sounds (i.e. la-la-la) to represent thespace between words on the printed pagesomewhat off-putting. Be that as it may thisis an important document providing an all toorare opportunity to hear the late contralto,who premiered this work and many others, inan extended setting.(sne final disc arrivedon the very dayI write this column,along with a notefrom Daniel LichtiSCHUBERTWinterreisesaying he was "lookingforward to seeing e.~:~.~t ~~~ ~ -what you think ofthis" , "this" being ·-his recording with pianist Leslie De' Ath ofSchubert's celebrated song cycle Winterreise(Analekta AN 2 9921). As Winterreise issurely one of the most remarkable achievementsin the art of song and as Lichti's lushand expressive bass baritone is supremelysuited to its realization, I find myself with littleto say except "Thanks for sharing"! Duringthe 200th anniversary year in 1997, Lichtiand De' Ath created a stir in Schubert circleswhen they filled in on short notice for an ailingHermann Prey at the National Gallery inWashington D.C. to perform a Winterreisewhich, as Michelle Rendelman reported atthe time, " ... was a great success and veryrewarding. It was also very emotional, as anevening of Winterreise should be." Thanks toengineer Ed Marshall and the good auspicesof Analekta we are treated to a performanceof the same calibre, recorded in MaureenForrester Recital Hall at Wilfrid LaurierUniversity where Lichti has been an AssociateProfessor since 1998. This is a disc totreasure .We welcome your feedback and invite submissions.CDs and comments should be sentto: The WholeNote, 503 - 720 Bathurst St.Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also welcomeyour input via our website, OldsD/SCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote. corn54DIVOCAL AND OPERASchumann - Dichterliebe & other HeineSettingsGerald Finley; Julius DrakeHyperion CDA67676John Adams - Doctor AtomicNetherlands Opera; Lawrence Renes;Peter SellarsOpusArte OA0998Baritone GeraldFinley is one ofCanada's greatestsingers, but appearancesin his homecountry have beenrare events sinceearly in his career.Two superb newrecordings featuringhim are reminders and documents of what acompelling artist he is.On Hyperion, Finley and his accompanistJulius Drake present an all-Schumann disc,comprising the song cycle Dichterliebe andother settings of the poet Heinrich Heine . Fora lyric baritone, Finley has an unusually rich,resplendent voice - a truly beautiful instrument.But what distinguishes him is his intelligenceas a singer. His interpretive insightscome across so successfully because of histotal technical control. Finley can sing withheroic grandeur or quiet reflection; he gnarlsand flattens his voice at moments, and singswith a haunting but fully-voiced whisper atothers. Listen to how in song VI of the Dichterliebehe modulates from the gothic grandeurof Cologne's cathedral to the tenderdepiction of the Madonna within. In the narrativesongs, such as Belshazzar, he shapesthe story with dramatic conviction. Drake isan expert pianist and a sympathetic accompanist.In short, these are as compelling andidiomatic performances of Schumann's songsas any on disc.Finley stars as J.Robert Oppenheimerin this DVD of JohnAdams' opera DoctorAtomic, whichfocuses on the Manhattanproject in thehours leading up tothe first detonation ofthe atomic bomb.Reprising the role hesang at the opera's2005 premiere in San Francisco for this performancefrom De Nederlandse Opera,Finley is a dynamic , convincing character onstage. Peter Sellars' libretto, drawing onhistorical documents, focuses not on a dra-WWW.THEWHOLENOTE. COMmatic narrative but on the fears, anxietiesand desires of figures involved in the projectand Oppenheimer's wife Kitty (strikinglyportrayed by Jessica Rivera). Many of themost compelling moments, such as Oppenheimer'sintense, searing monologue at the endof the first act or Kitty's at the beginning ofthe second, reveal more about the charactersthan the historical events they play out. Adams'music, beautiful as it often is , does notromanticize the story, but undercuts the risksinvolved. These are not the sort of dangerssignalled by cliched bombastic orchestralgestures, but poetic, personal, and sometimestrivial moments of the characters' lives thatthe bomb risks eradicating. The production isstark and simple, dominated by the physicalbomb itself. Bonuses include interviews and anarrated synopsis.Seth EstrinVerdi - Luisa MillerTakova; Sabbatini; Salerno; Vinogradov;Kotchinian; Ferri; Favaron; Martorana;Teatro la Fenice, Venice; Maurizio BeniniNaxos 2.110225-26Just like the mythicalPhoenix bird that'rose from the ashes',so did its namesakethe Teatro laFenice, burned downand rebuilt severaltimes in its history,the last time in 1996,rise again rebuilt toits former splendourin 2003. The magnifi!!l!~VerdiLuisa Millericent opera house on Venice's lagoons haswitnessed many premieres of world renownedoperas by immortal Italian masters.Now it is dedicated to revivals of lesserknown Italian works promoting new, young,mostly Italian talents .Luisa Miller is by no means an easy operato produce, with six major singing rolesdemanding powerful voices and high interpretiveskills, and this performance is a tremendoussuccess. In the title role DarinaTakova, a strong dramatic soprano in allregisters, gives a formidable interpretation ofthe tortured heroine. The young Italian tenor,Giuseppe Sabbatini, is simply a force ofnature with a voice that lifts the roof, embracingthe role of Rodolfo with his entirebeing , probably the best I've heard sincePlacido Domingo. The remaining four majorroles are all outstanding, but sensationalArmenian basso Arutjun Ko tchinian deservesa special mention in the role of Wurm, acombination of charm and evil that makesour skin crawl every time he appears onstage.Schiller's wonderfully structured, chillingand terrifying drama is captured expertly byVerdi's music and it's a shame that LuisaMiller was almost forgotten for over a centuryand never really accepted by audiencesuntil its revival by James Levine at the Met30 years ago. To follow suit, conductor Mau-O CTOBER 1 - NOVEMBER 7 20 08

izio Benini's well paced reading unleashesthe dramatic intensity and brings out all thebeauties of the score.This production is particularly noteworthyfor Arnaud Bernard's imaginative directioninspired by Bertolucci's film " 1900" withshadowy silhouetted figures formed by backlighting,fittingly creating the element ofmenace and doom in this tragic melodrama.Janos GardonyiEARLY, CLASSICALAND BEYONDVivaldi - The Four SeasonsJoshua Bell; Academy ofSaint Martin in the FieldsSony Classical 88697-11013-2This recordingcomes in a lovelypackage. The booklethas many picturesof the admittedlyphotogenicJoshua Bell - he ' s40 now, but stilllooks half his age.Additionally, thereare four singlecards for each season with the sonnets uponwhich the four remarkable Vivaldi concertoswere based on one side and dreamy seasonalpictures on the other.The Four Seasons is one of the most recordedand recognizable works of the canon,certainly of the baroque era. For the greatAmerican violinist Joshua Bell, who is notknown for his performances of baroque repertoire,the concertos present no particulartechnical challenges. Rather than throwingcaution to the wind and really digging inthough, there's a certain lack of abandon toBell's playing. It's lyrical and virtuosic whenit needs to be, and stunningly so in places(most notably in the heart-breaking Largo of"Winter"). But overall, there' s a distance andreserve to his performance that doesn't suitthis passionate music. The orchestra is fantasticthough, especially in the faster movements.They launch into the last movementof "Summer" with admirable recklessnessand the outer movements of "Spring" depictthe "sweet blossoming meadow " in a tangibleway.The Tartini "Devil's Trill" sonata is perfectlyplayed, though again it almost soundstoo easy for Bell. And here we need a moreinteresting harpsichord player and maybeanother continuo player or two. At the veryleast a cello and lute would have added morecolour to the performance. But that probablywouldn't have occurred to Bell, demonstratingwhat a huge divide still exists betweenthe worlds and approaches of "baroque" and"modern" players.Larry BeckwithWhat If?AcclarionAcclarion Records ACC2000(www if ... everybodylistened to thesecond release byCanadian accordionand clarinet duoAcclarion? What if. . . it was an enchantingmusicalexperience for all?I think this husbandand wife musicalteam of David and Rebecca Carovillanowould receive all the respect and adorationthey justly deserve.Now for those who may shudder at theinstrumental combination, please at leastattempt to keep an open mind and give alisten to this accomplished duo. Both holdMasters of Music degrees from the Universityof Toronto so their training has been firstclass. Rebecca on clarinets has a vibranttechnique and milky tone while accordionistDavid bellow shakes his instrument to newheights of rhythmic acuity and melodic finesse.Both arranged the selections, whichrange from an elegant take on J.C. Bach'sConcerto in E flat major to the wobbly Flightof the Funky Bee, a comical take on the Rimsky-Korsakovchop challenger. As arrangers,their understanding of the instruments andtheir tight ensemble playing leads to interestingtunes, though I could have used more"bottom end" throughout, especially in theirversion of Mozart's Marriage of FigaroOverture. David's own compositions shinebrightly in this excellent second release . Theduo's real strength is in the fast sections,with the slow sections perhaps needingslightly more time to settle.The liner notes are witty and their "whatif ... " expose reveals their take on our currentartistic environment. No ifs, ands or butshere. Pop in the CD and enjoy.Tiina KiikStravinsky - SymphoniesBerliner Philharmoniker; Sir Simon RattleEMI207630 0After his recentunremarkable foraysinto vastlyover-exposed repertoire(Brahms ' sRequiem and Orff'sCarmina Buranachief among them)it comes as a considerablerelief thatEMI Classics has unleashed Sir Simon Rattleon somewhat less hackneyed fare in the formof three major quasi-symphonic works byStravinsky.The opening tracks of the 1946 Symphonyin Three Movements are undoubtedly thehighlights of this disc. The Berlin playersbring a propulsive excitement to the muscularouter movements and a graceful suppleness tothe bucolic Interlude. The fine line betweenelegance and mannerism is somewhat lesssuccessfully traversed in Rattle's interpretationof the 1940 Symphony in C. All the roughedges and surprises of Stravinsky' s patchworkpastiche have been smoothed away,while the sheer weight of the famously massiveBerlin string section makes for a lessthan incisive performance, eerily similar toKarajan's 1970 account with this orchestra.The central work of the recording is the ven-, erable Symphony of Psalms, composed for theBoston Symphony in 1930. Interestingly,Stravinsky intentionally left out the violins,violas and clarinets in his orchestration,thereby lightening the load of the chorus andwind soloists. Rattle performs the threemovements without discernible breaks andrisks an unusually broad, "ecstatic" tempofor the closing pages. The RundfunkchorBerlin delivers a solid performance throughout,though their sound seems slightly recessedin this live 2007 recording.Daniel FoleyShostakovich - The Two Cello ConcertosDimitri Maslennikov; NDR SymphonyOrchestra; Christoph EschenbachPhoenix Edition CD 128Shostakovich had a ~ ---------.fondness for thecello and he gavethe world twogreat concertoswhich may verywell have beeninspired by hisfriend MstislavRostropovich whowas their dedicatee. Both works have gainedsuch popularity that leading cellists includethem in their repertoire and numerous finerecordings are available including Rostropovich,Natalia Gutman, Heinrich Schiff, andMischa Maisky. Facing such formidablecompetition, the young Russian/French cellistDimitri Maslennikov, assisted by ChristophEschenbach, offers these concertos andmakes a good case for yet another.Maslennikov has absolute command of hisinstrument and delineates the contrastingmoods expertly. These concertos have someof the darkest moods in the composer's outputas well as bright and vibrant passages.His interpretation is beautiful but not particularlyoriginal as it follows the pattern set byRostropovich. Not once does he sound routine.His playing of the third movement ofthe first concerto, a dark, unaccompaniedcadenza, is full of character and thoroughlymusical.Eschenbach does more than accompany,he supports. Both are of one mind , whichmay be Eschenbach's, the thoroughly seasonedmusician.O CTO BER 1 - N OVEMBER 7 200 8WWW . THEWHOLENOTE.COM55

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