8 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 5 - February 2009

quality disc on the

quality disc on the FrenchParaty label played on amagnificent Steinway byyoung American artist ofSerbian origin, Ivan Ilic ,is now an outstandingrecommendation.Debussy, like his predecessorChopin whom he admired tremendously,also wrote 24 preludes in two books.While Chopin's Preludes are short pieces ofemotional states and based on varying techniques,Debussy's Preludes invoke impressionsof an imaginary universe and are generallylonger and more complex than Chopin's.Nature, in form of water, fog , winds andlandscapes figure heavily, but some capricioushumour and dances also occur.Due to the many images of varying moods,impressions and atmospheres, it requires apianist of phenomenal technique, utmost sensitivityand playing with elan, colour, restrainedbut pronounced emotional engagement and anextraordinary imagination. All these are presentedhere in abundance, with the naturalresonances of the Steinway just as Debussyintended it. Each piece has its own atmosphereand structure that the pianist never failsto bring out. As random examples, Ce qu 'a vule Vent d'Ouest is a very dynamic piece simulatingthe powerful, menacing wind, perhapsthe loudest in the series, but even here thepianist never pounds the piano. It comes as abreathtaking climax. Or La Cathedrale engloutiewith its archaic harmonies and longsustained pedal notes suggesting the texture ofdeep water. I could go on ...Janos GardonyiConcert Note: Ivan Ilic performs music ofDebussy and Canadian premieres of works byBrian Current, Keeril Makan and John Metcalfat Glenn Gould Studio on February 19.HomageJames EhnesONYX 4038David Fulton has spentyears assembling anastonishing collection ofinstruments by the greatCremonese makers, and Canadian violinistJames Ehnes has selected nine violins - 6Stradivari, 2 Guarneri 'de! Gesu' and a PietroGuarneri - and three violas for a dazzlingrecital programme designed to showcase thespecific qualities of each instrument. Several, like the 1709 Stradivari 'La Pucelle', havenever been recorded before, and one - the 1715Stradivari 'Marsick' - has been Ehnes' concertinstrument since 1999. Seven different bowsfrom Fulton's equally superb collection of bowsby Tourte and Peccatte were used in the recording,each hand-picked to complement thestrengths of the particular instrument.In addition to a CD, the ONYX release includesa 100-minute DVD which features theentire 21-piece CD recital , with Ehnes describingthe instrument and its qualities before eachtrack , plus selection options and a 30-minuteExtras chapter that includes the audio compari-F EBRUARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2009son tracks from the CD and extended commentaryclips by Ehnes and Fulton.Ehnes hardly moves when he plays, but theclose-up camerawork still manages to make itdifficult to see exactly what he 's doing at times,especially his deceptively effortless bowing.The filming of the instruments is beautiful,though, and Ehnes is in spectacular form, withthe opening track, Bazzini's La Ronde desLutins, worth the price of the set on its own.The violinist remarks in his outstanding bookletnotes that "the difference in tone betweeninstruments is often very subtle indeed", especiallywhen it's the same player, of course, andit will take a professional ear to identify significantdifferences between the instruments. Still,a wonderful record of a remarkable project.Terry RobbinsSibelius - Compositions for PianoHeidi SaarioIndependent(www .CD Baby .com/heidisaario)As a young boy, I used todelight in leafing thoughmy grandmother's oldsheet-music from the1920s, and one piece Irecall in particular wasthe Sibelius RomanceOp.24 #9. I can stillenvision it - the heavy yellowed score with thebright orange cover, and the title in a bold blackscript across the front. Admittedly, I had forgottenall about the piece until I came across it onthis disc of piano music by Sibelius played byHeidi Saario on the Aspasia label. A native ofFinland, Saario moved to Canada six years agoin order to undertake graduate-work at theGlenn Gould School. Since completing herstudies, she has made a determined effort topromote the piano music of Sibelius, a genre toooften overlooked. After all , the composer ismuch better known for his vibrant and nationalisttone-poems and symphonies than for hissmall output for the piano.In the past, certain critics have dismissedSibelius' piano works as nothing more thansalon-music. Unfair! While perhaps not great,these miniatures nevertheless seem well-crafted,containing a charm all their own, and assuch , have much to offer the listener. What isparticularly striking is the wide variety ofmoods achieved on a relatively small scale.These range from the gentle introspection of theBerceuse Op.104 #1 to the robust virtuosity ofthe finale from the Piano Sonata in F major.Saarios's playing is polished and self-assured, atall times displaying a real affinity for the music.Is it the Nordic blood? Quite possibly - for althoughthese pieces cannot honestly take theirplace beside those by a Beethoven or a Chopin ,her elegant and heartfelt interpretation makesthem particularly endearing, and well worthinvestigating. Recommended.Richard HaskellMODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYWWW. THEWHOLENOTE. COMEl DoradoCaroline LeonardelliCentaur ClassicsCEN1021Ottawa-based harpistCaroline Leonardelli 'sfourth album to date offersan enticing mix ofold and new: a program of beloved Frenchstandards by Debussy, Tournier and Damasebook-ended by compositions by Canada'sleading composer for the harp.Devising convincing music for the so-called"naked piano" involves technical and conceptualchallenges exasperating enough to discouragemany a composer. Marjan Mozetich, however,composes in a style ideally suited for the instrumentand has contributed greatly to its repertoire.His El Dorado was commissioned in 1981for harpist Erica Goodman by Toronto's NewMusic Concerts and was followed by severalfurther works for the instrument. There is apronounced minimalist influence detectable inthe evocative oscillations of Mozetich's earlyworks which have since given way to a moresupple and idyllic approach. Originally scoredwith string orchestra and formerly available ona now deleted CBC recording of the premiereperformance, El Dorado is admirably revivedhere in a budget-conscious arrangement featuringthe Penderecki String Quartet and doublebassist Joel Quarrington. The album also featuresthe third(!) recording of Mozetich's 1988cycle of four solo pieces, Song of Nymphs, in anexceptionally scintillating performance. Amongthe French solo pieces placed between theseCanadian works Marcel Tournier's Feeriestands out for its rhapsodic and dramatic sweep,a welcome antidote to the comparative bucolicplacidity of its neighbours. The recording boastsoutstanding sound engineered by celebrity tonmeisterAnton Kwiatkowski.Daniel FoleyQuos Ego - Complete Piano Works ofZoltan KodalyMary KenediEchiquier Records ECD009( Kodaly, Hungary'sComposer Laureate of thelatter half of the 20th century,is mostly known byhis orchestral, chamberand choral works. Hispiano music was mostlyneglected, so this collectionperformed by acclaimed Toronto pianistof Hungarian origin, Mary Kenedi, is welcome.Although by no means complete, it isstill rewarding to follow the composer'sevolution from his youthful attempts towardshis mature style.The 9 Pieces for Piano, Op.3 date back to1907, when the 25 year old Kodaly in Paris fellunder the spell of Debussy. The talented, somewhatrebellious young fellow experimented bymingling impressionism with radical newrhythms and original harmonies of the pentatonicscale, which is the basis of Hungarian folk57

idiom. His predominantly serious mood issometimes relieved with humorous piecesshowing Kodaly' s lighter side that later becameso irresistible in his famous Hary Janossingspiel.In the 7 pieces, Op.11 one can see how muchKodaly developed in less than 10 years. Themesare more meaningful , full of feeling and theideas previously experimented with have becomeintegrated into the music's message.Some of the pieces are based on haunting, lamentingmelodies of Transylvania, that foreboding,mysterious region of the Carpathians wheremuch of Kodaly's research took place. MsKenedi's firm, authoritative hands are mostimpressive in No.18 Rubato where she carriesthe assertive, long melodic line with wonderfulatmosphere. The piece de resistance is the wellknown Dances of Marosszek (1927) in its originalversion, a formidably difficult, colourfulbravura piece that reminds me of Liszt's pianotranscriptions. Here Kenedi pulls out all thestops and brings this disc to an exciting close.Perhaps due to the recording, some harshtones are noticeable that detract from the otherwisevery fine performances.Janos GardonyiRemembered VoicesRalitsa Tcholakova; Elaine KeillorCarleton Sound CSCD-1012As a violin and piano recording, this one isimmediately evident as being at the top of thegenre. Performers are first rate, and playingwith a passion. Audio production is unusuallywell done, with none ofthe bizarre qualities onefinds so often nowadays,either of the violinistsounding as if she islarger than the accompanist,or the listener being l~lllil~Jright inside the piano.Excellent choices were made for the musicon this CD, with special emphasis on Bulgarianiconic figure Pantcho Vladiguerov, who isrepresented by the Chant from his largerBulgarian Suite, the widely-known RhapsodyVardar, a Humoreske , plus an encore arrangementof Dinicu 's Hora Staccato.Tcholakova and Keillor show an admirablecommitment to Canadian repertoire, beginningwith Gena Branscombe's unjustly neglectedA minor Sonata, well represented inthis performance. Violet Archer's Fantasyand Prelude and the Prelude and Allegro areequally well served. But the best is saved forlast: we get to hear the violin version of thelate Patrick Cardy's Liessel, Suse, llze, andGerda , and Mary Gardiner's monumentalRemembered Voices , here finally blossomingin a hall vastly superior to the HeliconianClub.The Glenn Gould Studio's hand-pickedSteinway is on its best behaviour. No fewerthan three sound engineers did the microphonewizardry. All photos are posed , withnone showing the actual recording sessions.An excellent CD.John S. Gray58Manhattan MusicCanadian Brass; Eastman Wind EnsembleOpening Day Records OD 7368The Eastman Wind Ensemble(EWE) is a celebratedstudent ensembleat the University ofRochester with a traditionof very high standardshoned through extensiverehearsals. Tuba player Chuck Dallenbachof the Canadian Brass was a student atthe Eastman School of Music in the 1960s,where he shared lodgings with the producer ofthis recent souvenir album, fellow tubist Dixonvan Winkle.The title track, British composer and conductorBramwell Tovey's Manhattan Music, is abrash and bountiful set of seven variationswhich somehow manages to hang together quitenicely. Originally commissioned for the CanadianBrass, Tovey has recast the work for windensemble since leading the premiere with theVancouver Symphony in 2005. A subsequentsuite carved from Leonard Bernstein's controversialMass wrests the most attractive sectionsof music from this sadly dated 1971 work, whilesparing us the cringe-worthy theatrical scenario.The arrangement by Michael Sweeneyhighlights the quintet most effectively. RayburnWright's Shaker Suite tills the familiar groundappropriated long ago by Aaron Copland butfalls short ofCopland's level of inspiration. JeffTyck's eclectic, over-the-top New York Cityscapesuite brings the proceedings to an appropriatelyrambunctious close. Mark Scatterdayconducts the fine-sounding, slightly slap-happyensemble with vigour.The perplexing liner notes include a pleonasticencomium touting the virtues of the 1950sMercury record label (marketer of some twodozen EWE Frederick Fennell albums back intheir glory days) and a stint of shameless pimpingfor the founders of ArkivMusic, who, itseems, will bum you a copy of this disc for afee should you happen to hear of it.Daniel FoleyOppens plays Carter - Elliott Carter at 100The Complete Piano MusicUrsula OppensCedille CDR 90000108In 1997 Charles Rosenrecorded all of ElliottCarter's piano music fora disc called "The CompleteMusic for Piano".At that time, the composerwas over ninety yearsold . Now, some tenyears later, Ursula Oppens offers "The CompletePiano Music", with six new works. Allshorter than the earlier pieces, none is a masterworklike Night Fantasies . But what they lackin monumentality, they compensate for inwarmth and charm, especially the lovelyMatribute and the ebulliently virtuosicCatenaires. Both are recorded here for the firsttime .Oppens has long been recognized as a singu-WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMlarly eloquent interpreter of contemporarymusic . She has worked closely with Carter formany years, and was one of the four pianistsresponsible for commissioning Night Fantasies ,along with Rosen, Paul Jacobs and GilbertKalish. In fact , she gave the premiere performanceat the Bath Festival in 1980.Oppens' luminous performances of Mozartpiano concertos with Mark Morris' dancetroupe during last summer's Luminato Festivalin Toronto attested to the breadth of her musicalscope. This stands her in good stead here as sheilluminates Carter's complex textures withmusical insight, revealing the poetry in thisexpressive music. This is a disc to treasure, andwould serve as a fine introduction to a seminalcomposer of our time .Carter just turned one hundred, and is stillcomposing brilliantly - a miracle of creativeactivity surely unmatched in the history of music.I hope the next complete piano recordingoffers even more new works.Pamela MarglesNicole Lizee - This Will Not Be TelevisedVarious artistsCentrediscs CMCCD 13508Not all CDs were createdequal. This CD wipesa smile across my beard.After listening to it overand over, it's apparent:Nicole Lizee knows thegood stuff. I began doinganthropological studies byrms \/!ILL MOT .. ·.~- TELEVISED .,j . '.,·~:•··.'· .···" . fflij1.Jllltt~ r'?"·"'""~.~,J ~Iii·'-=:«·.· Lihaving this recording playing in the backgroundand watching people's reactions. What I deducedis that "This is not background music"could have been an easy alternate title to "ThisWill Not be Televised".The title composition is a wonderfully creepymusical adventure. The music goes in so manyinteresting directions. In the liner notes of this2008 Centrediscs release, it's mentioned thatthis piece was named a Top 10 recommendedwork at the 2008 International Rostrum of Composers.I would agree that this piece sets the barfor great contemporary music!The piece RPM blends turntables with alarger orchestra. I love this sound, and I thinkthe symphony orchestras of the future shouldmake it standard to include an entire turntablesection. It's very difficult to describe the magicalcombination of turntables and ensemble thatLizee has achieved. It is obvious that everysample she uses is carefully chosen and appropriatelyplaced. I love the sense of play in thismusic, from the live mimicking of skippingrecords , to the nostalgic use of cheesy 1980sheavy metal albums. When I close my eyes, alot of this music is the soundtrack to the cartoonin my mind.Girl You 're Living a Life of Crime is a popbasedpiece, reminding the listener that thecomposer is also a multi-instrumentalist in thesuccessful Montreal pop outfit Besnard Lakes.This piece certainly is not a standard pop tunethough as it messes with the idea of tape-splicingand in the end the musicians create a shakyostinato and eventually drive it off a cliff.FEBR UAR Y 7 - M ARCH 7 2009

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