6 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 6 - March 2009


ecordings reviewedEDITOR'S CORNERWhen I heard that the Molinari Quartet willpremiere Brian Cherney's String QuartetNo.6 in Montreal this May I was surprised tolearn that he had composed so many. McGilliiRecords recently released a CD featuring theLloyd Carr-Harris Quartet in Cherney'sStringQuartets Nos. 3-5.These works span a decadeand a half beginning in 1985and are an excellent representationof the maturework of one of Canada's" most uncompromising composers.Much of Cherney's work is a responseto trauma, both personal loss and universaltribulations, in particular the Holocaust.The Third Quartet was written inmemory of the composer's father who died inthe year preceding its composition and itdraws on an earlier string trio, written tocommemorate his father's 60th birthday, forsome of its material. Beginning in near silenceas its predecessor ended, Cherney'sFourth seems a continuation of the Third.Written in 1994, this time the inspiration isthe 50th anniversary of the end of the SecondWorld War. The program notes mention numericalsequences at play in the fabric of thecomposition which hint at the influence of ElliottCarter on Cherney's approach. Thisquartet too ends in the "stillness" which is afrequent aspect of this composer's work. Althoughthe Fifth quartet begins in quiet, almostimmediately we hear cries of anguish.This work, commissioned by the Strings ofthe Future festival in Ottawa in 2000, doesnot have any stated programmatic inspiration.In form (and substance) I would liken it to thework of Polish master Witold Lutoslawskiwith its Episode-Interlude-Episode-Interlude­Episode structure and we hear references toBartok's quartets, but in an assimilative, ratherthan a derivative way. Cherney has absorbedthe most important works of the 20thcentury and found his own way to carry themforward.Back in 2006, their 35th anniversary season, Toronto's second oldest contemporarymusic organization Array, embarked on arecording project called Legacy (ArtifactMusic ART 038) to document highlights of itsremarkable history. Founding members(Alex Pauk and Marjan Mozetich) andformer and current artisticdirectors (Doug Perry,Henry Kucharzyk, LindaC. Smith, Allison Cameronand Bob Stevenson) curated·""' p;=,this 2 CD set which featuresa broad spectrum ofthe music written for Array over the pastthree decades. In May 2007 the Legacy concerttook place at Glenn Gould Studio withArray members Bob Stevenson, MichaelWhite, Stephen Clarke, Rebecca van derPost, Peter Pavlovsky, Blair Mackay andRick Sacks joined by guest artists Doug Perryand Paul Widner (both former Array members), Dianne Aitken, and Rachel Thomasthereby adding viola, cello, flute and tromboneto the current instrumentation of the ensemble- clarinet(s), trumpet, piano, violin,bass and 2 percussion - to facilitate performanceof works written for previous incarnationsof the group. Highlights for me includethe late Michael J. Baker' s La vie de Bohemefor multiple clarinets, John Rea's .. . wings ofsilence ... for ensemble and tape, MarjanMozetich's Ice for flute, trombone , piano andviola and Stevenson's Trace, but certainlyothers may find Pauk' s Magaru, JohnAbram's Steiner Shimmy, Kevin Volans' IntoDarkness or Kucharzyk's arrangement ofClaude Vivier's classic Pulau Dewata morecompelling. While in recent times Arraymusichas reinvented itself as a resource centrefor new music rather than exclusively a performancevehicle, this release is a welcometestament to the creative force of the Arraymusicensemble in its heyday. The packagingis visually attractive, however the programnotes are almost impossible to decipher withthe director's message printed in minisculesilver type on a white background and the extensive,though unattributed, program notes ingrey on green. Had these been easier to readthe Legacy would have been much betterserved. You can check out Array's new developmentsat Array director Henry Kucharzykalso has a presence on a new Naxos releasefeaturing the Toronto Wind Orchestra underTerry Gomes' direction. NorthernWinds (8.572248) is an eclectic collection ofCanadian compositions. The disc opens with aboisterous overture entitled High Spirits byLouis Applebaum. Applebaum wrote hundredsof compositions for a myriad of media,= 11.. , 11 .. 1,, .••but it is all too rare to hearhis music performed thesedays outside of the fanfareshe created for the StratfordFestival which are still inuse today. Kudos to the TorontoWind Orchestra forreminding us of his vibrant contribution to Canadianmusic. Dream Dancer is an extendedwork by Michael Colgrass for solo saxophone(the exceptional Wallace Halladay performing)and wind orchestra with a large percussionsection. The work moves from hauntingslow passages through virtuosic pyrotechnicsand sections reminiscent of a variety of exoticcultures with more than a nod to the Indonesiangamelan. Next we are treated to amore abstract work , Kucharzyk's Some AssemblyRequired, which with its three contrastingmovements gives a somewhat moreavant garde approach to the wind orchestraalthough its rollicking final movement re-minds us somewhat of Copland and Bernsteinas seen through the eyes of John Adams.Gary Kulesha's Ensembles inverts the usualfast-slow-fast structure and places its dynamictoccata-like piano and percussion movementin the middle of two slow meditations.The disc is rounded out by Harry Freedman'sLaurentian Moods , a suite of French CanadianFolksongs which unfortunately seem a bittrivial in this context and a centenary tributeto Olivier Messiaen in the form of Oiseauxexotiques featuring pianist Simon Docking.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,www. thewholenote. corn.David OldsDISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thew holenote. cornJuno NomineeTHIS ISN'T SILENCEWorks for Symphony OrchestraCD Available atwww.briancurrent.com48WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM

VOCALExtended Play - VOCAL RECITALSby Seth EstrinSix new recital discs from a variety of greatoperatic singers offer opportunities to hearthem in a new light - in new repertoire, withdifferent partners, or for the first time on arecital disc.Until she recently gaveup the role, the Germansoprano Diana Damrauwas known as the mostthrilling Queen of theNight on stage today. Shehas descended from thestratosphere into other Mozart roles, asheard on Mozart - Opera and Concert Arias(Virgin Classics 2 12023 2), and we arethe luckier for it. Her sparkling high notesand effervescent coloratura is still heard toexcellent effect on several tracks, but what isnew here is the darkness and depth of hervoice. It is rare that a single singer can soundso convincing in such a variety of Mozartparts - from Donna Anna to Donna Elvira toBlonde to Kostanze - but Damrau's remarkableversatility makes her sound at home ineach role. The period orchestra Le Cercle del'Harmonie under Jeremie Rhorer provideexpert support.American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonatohas emerged as one of the most excitingRossini singers in recent years, but on the recitaldisc Furore: Opera Arias (VirginClassics 5 19038 2) shepresents an all-HandelFUprogram. DiDonato is a"' · ·••sensitive stylist of baroquemusic, and usesher rich but clear voiceto great effect. For anessentially light mezzovoice, she has unusual darkness in her lowerregister, and is not afraid to dip into her chestvoice. She gives rich, impassioned readingsof the music without romanticizing it, and sheornaments de capos elaborately but withtaste. Christophe Rousset and Les TalensLyriques help make this one of the best Handelrecitals in recent years.Juan Diego Florez may be one of the mostcelebrated tenors of hisgeneration, but with thegreat bulk his repertoirecoming from the work ofonly three composers -Rossini, Donizetti andBellini - it must be difficultfor him to come upwith new arias to record. So on the disc BelCanto Spectacular (Decca 478 0515) samplingworks from those same three compos-MARCH 1 APRI L 7 2009ers we get to once again hear his nine highC's in the famous aria from Donizetti'sDaughter of the Regiment - but this time inItalian instead of French. We also get fivewonderful be! canto duets, which pair himwith five fantastic singers, including PlacidoDomingo. With a balance of usual and the unusualrepertoire, this makes a charming discthat, with the variety of singers, never getsmonotonous.Baritone Thomas Quastoff's operatic recitalItalian Arias (Deutsche Grammophon4777469) is unusual becauseit contains onlyarias by Joseph Haydn -a composer famous foralmost everything excepthis operas. But severalof Haydn's many operashave been staged in recentyears, and Quasthoff makes an excellentcase for continuing this trend. The disc coversselections from the dramatic operas, suchas Armida, perhaps the best known of Haydn'soperas, to buffo roles in comic operassuch as The World on the Moon. Quasthoff,one of the finest lieder singers of his generation,is a supremely intelligent singer, but heshows himself an excellent comedian as well.With top-rate support from the Reiburger Barockorchester,this disc provides an excellentoverview of Haydn's operas - from a baritone'sperspective, at least.Everything Rene Pape offers on Gods,Kings and Demons (Deutsche Grammophon477 6408) will be new to listenerssince this is his debut'solo recording. But Papehas for some years beenconsidered the outstandingoperatic bass of hisgeneration, with a burnished,warm sound thatis commanding withoutbeing simply a wall of dark sound. This discshowcases his versatility as an artist - theWagner, Verdi, and Gounod tracks stand outin particular. Sometimes extended scenes cansound out of place on recital discs, but SebastianWeigle, conducting the superb StaatskapelleDreden, gives both the longer and shorterselections unusual shape and dimension.Whether we really need another recitaldisc from Russian soprano Anna Netrebko isperhaps not a fair question, but her latest discSouvenirs (Deutsche Grammophon4777639), in what by now must be the mostsubstantial discographyof any soprano of hergeneration, fails to makea convincing case for itself.Netrebko presentsthis disc as a selection ofher favourite songs andlight arias from operasand operettas. It is, for the most part, a lovelyif somewhat insubstantial selection. Netrebko's dark, plangent voice is skillfully deployedto create several beautiful moments.But the voice sounds slightly looser than onearlier discs, and her diction is poorer thanWWW. THEWHOLENOTE,COMever. Besides the eclectic repertoire, there isnothing here that cannot be heard to bettereffect on Netrebko's earlier discs.EARLY, CLASSICALAND BEYONDLate Beethoven - Commentary andPerformanceLuisa Guembes-BuchananDel Aguia DA 55306( Beethoven lived to age 56 , he wrotehis last piano sonata at the age of 52 - a periodwhen his everyday existence was markedby deteriorating health and total deafness.Nevertheless, he was still able to rise abovethe complexities of his daily existence, creatingsome of his finest music, where hepushed the boundaries oftonality and form as henever had before. Thisfine 6-disc set on the DelAguila label featuringpianist/musicologist LuisaGuembas-Buchananand cellist Philip Weihrauchis an examination of the products ofBeethoven's final years, taking as its premisethat these late works have numerous stylisticqualities in common. And what a wealth ofmusic is included! Not only are there five latepiano sonatas (#28 through #32) but also theDiabelli Variations, 11 Bagatelles Op.119 and6 Bagatelles Op.126, in addition to numeroussmaller pieces all from the sketchbook, plusthe two Cello Sonatas Op.102 - enough tokeep a Beethoven connoisseur happy forweeks!I admit the name Luisa Guembas-Buchananwas not one familiar to me. Originallyfrom Lima, Peru she studied in her nativecity at the Conservatorio National de Musicaand later at the Manhattan School of Music 'before concluding her studies at New Yorkand Boston Universities. Since then, she hasheld teaching positions at Amherst Collegeand the New England Conservatory, whereshe has assumed the dual role of musicologistand pianist perhaps not unlike that of CharlesRosen 40 years ago. The scholarly notes sheprovides in the attractive 60-page booklet areimpressive (they are in both English and Germanand even contain end-notes), but there iscertainly more to Ms. Gumbas-Buchananthan scholarship. To anyone who might initiallydismiss this recording as an example ofa musicologist who "also happens to play thepiano", this is clearly not the case! From theserene and reflective opening measures of theSonata Op.101 to the bravura of the DiabelliVariations, Guembas-Buchanan demonstratesan effortless command of this demanding repertoJre.Her playing is noble and majestic,coupled with a flawless technique - quiteclearly an artist who not only performs admirably,but possesses a deep understanding ofthe music and is keen to share that knowledgewith others.The two Cello Sonatas presented here, Op.49

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