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Volume 14 - Issue 4 - December 2008

DIrecordings

DIrecordings reviewedEDITOR'S CORNERTo begin with the season, The Call of Christmas isa lovely disc from extraordinary local French hornlegend Joan Watson (TNBOOS www.joanwatson.com). Featuring arrangements byWatson's life-mate J. Scott Irvine and Jim Mc­Grath, and performances by some of Toronto's finest musicians includingspecial contributions from violinist Marie Berard, harpist EricaGoodman and Watson's colleagues from the horn section of the COCorchestra, I must say that this disc rises above the usual seasonalfare. From the first track, Irvine's Nowell Echoes, through to theclosing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Joan Watson's purityof tone and immaculate control over her notoriously unpredictableinstrument make this new take on some traditional fare a disc totreasure. Concert Note: Joan Watson and her True North Brass performwith St. Michael's Choir at Massey Hall on December 12 and13 and with the Toronto Children's Chorus at Roy =Thomson Hall on December 20.Tafelmusik and Bruno Weil continue their explorationof the music of Beethoven with Symphonies7 & 8 on a new Analekta release (AN 29947). Their bright and animated approach bringsa breath of fresh air to these familiar pieces. TheCD is accompanied by a DVD documentary with performance highlightsfrom the George Weston Recital Hall.Also from Analekta, a newly discovered work by the "little CanadianMozart", Andre Mathieu (1929-1968) whose career as a childprodigy began in earnest at age seven when heperformed as soloist in his own Piano ConcertoNo. I with the CBC Radio Orchestra. Best knownfor the Concerto de Quebec, Mathieu was fetedin his early life, but later forgotten, even beforehis early death at 39. Pianist Alain Lefevre hasbecome a champion of Mathieu's music, cata--·-t&== \loguing, publishing, performing and recording it extensively in his effortto bring attention to this remarkable musician. When a recordingof Mathieu performing the piano part of a later concerto, previouslyassumed lost, recently came to light, Lefevre had it transcribed andorchestrated. The resulting Concerto No.4 (AN 2 9281) was premieredand recorded live with the Tuscon Symphony Orchestra under thedirection of George Hanson. The disc also includes Mathieu's Scenes deballet and four songs for choir and orchestra.Speaking of Canadian piano music, A Shrinking Planet (SSP 0088www.shringkingplanetproductions.com) is a beautiful and thoughtfulCD by Rea Beaumont that we managed to overlook when it was releaseda year or so ago. Recorded at Glenn Gould Studio its centrepieceis the world premiere recording of Barbara Pentland's Small Pieces fora Shrinking Planet, miniatures composed ratherlate in that iconic composer's career between 1988and 1990. These pieces pay homage to The Mothersof May Plaza who from 1977 have held vigils inBuenos Aires searching for information about their"disappeared" children. Also included are AlicePing Ye Ho's angst-ridden Garage about peopletrapped in and seeking escape from an underground garage, Chan KaNin's In Search Of .. , a work commissioned by the CBC for Beaumontwhich asks the perennial question "What are we in search of",and Walter Buczynski 's seminal 1967 Piano Sonata No. I "Sounds".Watching the TV presentation "Everybody Knows ", a tribute to LeonardCohen from last year's Montreal International Jazz Festival a fewweeks back, somehow set the stage for my encounter with Born to theBreed: A Tribute to Judy Collins (WFL 1313 www.wildflowerrecords.corn). I tend to think of Collins less as a writer than as an interpreterof songs, especially those of Leonard Cohen, and so it came as awelcome surprise to realize that the more than a dozen titles included'l .r.r::i-•here, all penned by Collins, were imbedded inmy psyche from those formative years of the 60s and early 70s .Highlights include Joan Baez singing Since You Asked, ChrissieHynde's My Father, Amy Speace's Born to the Breed, Rufus Wainwright'sAlbatross and Ali Eskandarian's Song for Sarajevo. Less effectivefor me are Dolly Parton's rendition of Fisherman's Song,Bernadette Peters' Trust Your Heart and James Mudriczki's take onChe, but overall this a very satisfying disc. The album ends with atribute from Leonard Cohen himself.One final brief note: Karina Gauvin's new ATMA CD of HandelArias with Tempo Rubato and Alexander Weimann (AN 22589) is bound to please fans of this fine Montreal-basedsoprano and those of George FridericHandel alike. Featuring oratorio arias and dramaticscenes from Samson, Rinaldo, Semele,Jephta, L 'allegro, il penseroso ed ii moderato andof course Messiah, this is a welcome addition tothe discography .We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 -720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON MSS 2R4. We also welcome your inputvia our website, www.thewholenote.com.David Olds, D/SCoveries Editor; discoveries@thewholenote.comIN CONCERTDEC 7 HALIFAXTHE CARLETONDEC 22 ST. JOHN 'STHE SHIP"REFRESHING ANDSTUNNING"Folkworld Magazine, Germany"STARTLINGLY GOOD"NOW Magazine, TorontoraindropsALBUM OF THE YEAR2008 MusicNLIN STORES AND ONLINE NOW60 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM

ONataLuxMusica IntimaATMA ACD2 2577VOCALBach - La Nativite Cantatas61;122; 123;182Monika Mauch; Matthew White;Charles Daniels; Harry van der Kamp;Montreal Baroque; Eric MilnesATMA SACD2 2403These CDs are by farthe two best Canadian Christmas choralrecordings heard from this year's offerings.Vancouver's Musica Intima, a 12-voice acapella ensemble perform seasonal gems, somemodern, some ancient with fresh arrangements,many by the members themselves, and selec-.tions by Willan, Howells and Bntten. The puntyof sound, perfect intonation and ethereal qualityof the tonalities evoke an often-mystical expenencethroughout the album. Yet this sound is notwithout the warm, lush harmonies representingthe heart's fires kindled by love at yuletide. Addto this a shimmering, luminous quality suggestingan angelic presence and all the elements ofChristmas are perfectly awakened.In contrast, we have the splendour of orchestrationand richness of passion representedin four cantatas by Bach, performed byMontreal Baroque with four soloists alonehandling recit, aria and chorales: sopranoMonika Mauch, alto Matthew White, tenorCharles Daniels and bass Harry van derKamp. Eric Milnes, who has undertaken themonumental project of recording all the Bachcantatas for the ATMA label, conducts this4th volume in the series from the organ. Hematches Bach's zeal in these complex, multilayered,highly interwoven and ornamented .works with great energy and vivacity. The voicesare superb and the period-instrument orchestrabrilliant in its virtuosity.Dianne WellsMagdalena Ko•emi -Songs My Mother Taught MeMagdalena Ko•ina; Dorothea Roschmann;Malcolm Martineau; Michael FreimuthDeutsche Grammophon 4776665Magdalena Ko•ena appears to be at the highestpoint of her career - she has successfully conqueredthe Baroque repertoire, French and Italianclassical vocal music, as well as Mozart'soperas and scores by her countrymen, Dvorak,Janacek and Smetana. She has been named"Artist of the Year" by Gramophone magazineand continues her concert schedule to universalacclaim. Hers is a voice of rare beauty, power,DECE M BE R 1 2008 - FEBRUARY 7 2009and amazing virtuosity.Taxing passagesin Vivaldi and Bachare delivered withsuch an ease, theydefy human limitations.It is the prerogativeof any successfulartist to have freedomin choosing the subject of the next record.It is also the obligation of such an artist tochoose that subject wisely. Folk songs, rememberedfrom childhood and indeed, taught byone's mother usually prove irresistible. Theyare also risky. They were never meant to besung by a trained operatic voice. Their powerand charm rest in the rustic, raw quahty they allposses. There is nothing rustic or raw aboutKo•ena's voice. She would be an ideal mterpreterof the Songs of the Auvergne: re-writtenby Joseph Cantaloube for an operatic voice.Dvorak, Janacek and Schulhoff, however, weretrue ethnographers in their approach to folk music.They never tried to beautify it or to adJust 1tto a higher performing standard. Therein liesthe danger for brilliant singers like Ko•ena - thesongs her mother taught her are not necessarilythe songs she would teach her daughter.Robert TomasPuccini - La Boheme(A Film by Robert Dornhelm)Anna Netrebko; Rollando Villazon; BayerischenRundfunks; Bertrand de BillyDeutsche Grammophon 4777949One of the world'smost beloved andpopular operas, Puccini'smasterpiece,has had such a resoundingsuccess thatin the past 100 oddyears it has hardlyever left the stage.One can't but admireits compositional mastery, the unceasingflow of melodic inspiration, its concise, succincteconomy with not a single superfluous note'. itstightly structured score and Puccini's.une~nngskill in writing for the voice. La Boheme 1s everyopera company's principal box office draw.Not necessarily a good thing, as this has resultedin many cheap, hackneyed, mediocre performancesturning the work, unjustly, into a syrupymush. This trend was fortunately reversedby Sir Thomas Beecham's classic Capitol set mthe 50's with a bold new refreshing look at thescore.Happily, now Deutsche Grarnmophon followssuit by cooperating in a film production,directed by Robert Dornhelm that promises toturn millions again into lovers of this opera.The cast of the film and the 'soundtrack' isidentical to an earlier released CD set, butthanks to the computer here we are given trailers,interviews and glimpses into the film itself.Musically, leading opera conductor Bertrandde Billy, propels the music vigorously, with inspiration,and upbeat tempi, but able to relaxWWW, THEWH OLENOTE.COMand let the music 'breathe' when necessary.The two principals have great chemistry andVillazon's tenor is impassioned, youthful,heartfelt and impetuous, injecting an excitingnew dimension into the role of the poet Rodolfo.Superstar Anna Netrebko is most intriguing,with her darker hued, womanly v~1ce expressingvulnerability and innocence with underlyingpassion, quite unlike many sopranos Ihave heard. The other 'loving' couple, NicoleCabell and Boaz Daniel also in fine voice andgood characterization, is a worthy addition tothe superb cast.Superb, atmospheric, well detailed recording.Looking forward to the DVD!! .Janos Gardony1Strauss - SalomeNadja Michael; Thomas Moser; MichaelVolle; Royal Opera House; Philippe JordanOpusArte OA 0996 DStrauss - SalomeNadja Michael; Peter Bronder;Iris Vermillion; Matthias Klink;Falk Struckmann; Orchestra de!Teatro alla Scala; Daniel HardingTDK DVWW-OPSALOMEThe recent Saturdayafternoon Salome 'live from the Met' at movietheatres may have whetted the home-viewer'sinterest. With perfect timing, two new Salomeshave arrived on DVD.Both the new productions feature the sensationalsoprano Nadja Michael but there the similarityends. The Covent Garden production,from early March, 2008 enjoys the better castand more elaborate staging. The action takesplace downstairs 'in a debauched palace in NaziGermany' which has no relevance to the storynor affects our perception of the plot. Particularlyeffective are Thomas Moser's suaveHerod and the Narraboth of Joseph Kaiser.Jokanaan (John the Baptist), without whomthere would be no story, is sung with religiousfervour by Michael Volle. Nadja Michael'sflawless technique and her total absorption intoher role add credence to the story, supported bya flowing choreography. The virtuoso orchestra,so very important in Strauss operas, playswith unrelenting intensity conducted by theflamboyant Philippe Jordan (see Carmen inOld Wine, New Bottles in this issue). The 2DVD set includes revealing interviews andextensive behind the scenes footage.The La Scala production from exactly a yearearlier is a far cry from the opulent London production.The set is as simple as it needs to be61

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