6 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 6 - March 2009

102 #1 and #2 were

102 #1 and #2 were composed during thesummer of 1814, the very beginning ofBeethoven 's late period. Just as in the worksfor solo piano, Beethoven was also "pushingboundaries" through his use of counterpointand extensive modulations. Together withcellist Philip Weihrauch, Guembas-Buchananapproaches the music with a bold assuranceand both demonstrate a deep affinity for themusic.The pleasure in this set is indeed two-fold -apart from the illuminating information provided,it is also great listening - a treat bothfor Beethoven scholars and those who simplylove and admire the music of "the great mogul" .Richard HaskellGrigory Sokolov - Live in Paris:Beethoven; Komitas; ProkofievDirected by Bruno MonsaingeonIdeale-Audience DR 2109 AV 127( I mention the name Grigory Sokolov andyou give me a blank stare, I wouldn' t be surprised.The reclusive Russianpianist, winner of the1966 International TchaikovskyCompetition, regardedas a true successorto the giants, Gilels andRichter and who givesabout 60 recitals a year tosold out houses in Europe,is almost unknown inNorth America. He hasn'trecorded much as he distrusts recordings unlessthey are made live and in one take. Sothis DVD is likely as close as you will get toseeing him live.The remarkable program starts off with 2Beethoven early sonatas (Nos.9 & 10) playedwith an exquisite lyrical and romantic touchand a fine dynamic and emotional range. Amore complex work, the Pastoral Sonata(No.15) , is a true adventure especially the2nd movement with its understated yet poignantostinato staccato left hand and the beautifullyshaded virtuoso Rondo finale.Sokolov 's phenomenal gift is getting insidethe composer's head and intuitively findingthe right style although he never plays anythingthe same way twice. The 6 Armeniandances by Komitas that follow all sound similaryet different from one another. They arelanguid, soft, using exotic oriental rhythms toa mesmerizing, hypnotic effect.The final work is the monumental andfiendishly difficult Sonata No. 7 by Prokofiev.The masterful interpretation winds up with'Precipitato', a monstrous physical effortwith an incessant toccata in steady ff and yetthe pianist still manages to increase the crescendoto an overwhelming culmination.The ecstatic audience simply refuses toleave and Sokolov tirelessly keeps giving encoresone after the other, five in all. Muchmore can be said, but let the music speak foritself.Janos Gardonyi50Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto;Souvenir d'un lieu cherJanine Jansen; Mahler ChamberOrchestra; Daniel HardingDecca 4780651The Dutch violinist Janine Jansen is rapidlyrising to the very forefront of the internationalranks, and this outstanding CD, her secondfull concerto recording, clearly demonstrateswhy.Recorded live in July2008 at the Festival ViaStellae in Santiago deCompostela, Spain, it isJansen at her best: intelligent,articulate phrasing;stunning technique;a full, warm tone; and a rich sweetness withthat characteristic underlying steely strength.I had high praise for the Vadim Gluzmanrecording of this concerto last year, and ifyou ever needed proof of the need for contrastinginterpretations, then this is it. Theremay perhaps be less sheer excitement here attimes, but Jansen presents a beautifullythoughtful, introspective and fully committedperformance that I actually find more satisfying.Nothing is rushed or glossed over, andthe somewhat slower tempos are well-balancedin the overall structure. Clearly Jansenand Daniel Harding are of one mind here, asentiment borne out by even a cursory glanceat the DVD footage of their rehearsals andperformance for this recording that is currentlyviewable on YouTube.The three pieces that comprise Souvenird 'un Lieu Cher make an obvious couplingchoice, as the first piece, Meditation , is theconcerto's original slow movement whichTchaikovsky rewrote for violin and piano.The version heard here is not the usual Glazunovorchestration but a smaller and extremelyeffective arrangement for violin andstrings by the Romanian-Dutch conductor AlexandruLascae.Terry RobbinsGergiev conducts Mahler Symphonies 1, 2,3, 6 &7London Symphony Orchestra;Valery GergievLSO LIVELSO LIVE, the LondonSymphony Orchestra'sown label , is well into itsMahler cycle recorded'live' in The Barbican,their home venue. Thelabel has been remarkably successful sinceits introduction in 2000 with selected concertperformances conducted by Colin Davis, BernardHaitink, Mstislav Rostropovich, andnow Valery Gergiev. The discs are usuallyhybrid-SACD discs and are, as this Mahlercycle, state of the art technically with extraordinarydynamic range and true to lifetimbres. Tuttis never become congested.Acoustically , the Barbican is not an ideal venuebut producer James Mallinson's recordingsare articulate with a sparkling clarity.WWW. TH EWHOLEN OTE.C OMValery Gergiev is one of the busiest conductorsaround today , in demand everywhereit seems. He has brought his Kirov Orchestrato Thomson Hall , treating us to stunning performancesof Russian music, each work givendefinitive performances. His Le Sacre duPrintemps was both illuminating and shattering... an unforgettable performance; hisScheherazade electrifying. However his performancescertainly did not reveal the essenceof some non-Russian repertoire whichbrings us to this ongoing Mahler cycle.It has become standard practice for conductorswho 'understand' Mahler and 'feelhis pain' to wear their hearts on their sleeveand subtly, or not so subtly, convey this empathyto the listener, whether live or fromrecordings. Leonard Bernstein comes immediatelyto mind. But can a conductor simplyplay what is written when every reading is anew decoding of the composer's notation?Gergiev's Mahler may well be the mostarticulate on disc! There can be no doubt thatthe LSO is one of the very finest on the planetand under the proven eye of their currentprinciple conductor they have turned in inspired,immaculate performances.However, Mr. Gergiev does not, as yet,have the special insight that leads to Mahler'sanima which would have elevated theseacclaimed performances from outstandinginto Mahler's inspired visions. Still, acknowledgingthis shortcoming, these five initialreleases are so well performed and recordedthat I look forward to the balance ofthe cycle.Bruce SurteesExtended Play - CANADIAN STRINGSBy Terry RobbinsThree Sonatas for Violin and Piano - a maturework by Elgar, and early works by RichardStrauss and Ravel - are presented on anexcellent disc by the Canadian duo JonathanCrow and Paul Stewart on ATMA Classique(ACD2 2534). Elgar's sonata, completedin September1918, is a somewhat conservativepiece that reflectsthe sombre effecton the composer of fouryears of the Great War.It has never really establisheda secure place inthe repertoire, but is a work that really deservesto be heard more often. The Strausssonata, written in 1887, is a passionate Romanticwork clearly influenced by the chambermusic of Brahms. The Ravel is an earlysingle-movement work from 1897 that remainedunknown until its discovery in manuscriptmany years after the composer'sdeath; its first public performance was in1975. Crow, a Professor of Violin at McGillUniversity and former concertmaster of theMontreal Symphony, plays with faultless intonationand a sweet, clear tone throughout. Hehas a sympathetic partner in Stewart, who isparticularly outstanding in the Strauss. Recordedin Saint-Irenee, Quebec, the sound isM ARCH 1 - A PRIL 7 2009

excellent.Odd Couple, the title of a new CD ofAmerican works from cellist Matt Haimovitzand pianist Geoffrey Burleson (OxingaleOX2015) is not a commenton the players;rather, it is taken fromMatt Haimovitz's descriptionof the relationshipbetween these twoseemingly disparate instruments.Unsuitablepartners they may be insome respects, but the music on this outstandingdisc shows none of the weaknesses and allof the strengths that the cello and piano duocan display. The two central works are thesonatas by Samuel Barber and Elliott Carter,the former having its roots firmly in theRomantic tradition of the two Brahms sonatas,although firmly stamped with Barber'sown unmistakeable voice, and the latter,from 1948, harking back to the Beethoven sonatasin some respects while still lookingahead to Carter's mature style. The openingand closing works are both world-premiererecordings: David Sanford's 22 Part I from1998 and Augusta Read Thomas' Cantos forSlava, which was commissioned as part of anASCAP award Haimovitz received in 2006,shortly after the death of Mstislav ("Slava")Rostropovich. Thomas had worked closelywith the great Russian cellist over the previous15 years. The disc was recorded this pastJune at McGill's Schulich School of Music,where Haimovitz is Professor of Cello. Thesound quality is excellent, and both playersare outstanding in difficult and challenging,but highly rewarding, repertoire.There are two recent CDs of the BachGoldberg Variations in the string trio arrangementby the violinist Dmitri Sitkovetsky.On the first the abovementioned JonathanCrow and Matt Haimovitz team up with violistDouglas McNabney(Oxingale OX2014); theother features Vancouver'sTrio Accord -Mary Sokol Brown (violin),Andrew Brown (viola)and Ariel Barnes(cello) (Skylark MusicSKY0802). As McNabneypoints out, Bach'smusic is strong enough totranscend the many transcriptionsthat have beenmade of this work; certainlythis version, whichSitkovetsky dedicated toGlenn Gould, serves the predominantly threepartkeyboard writing extremely well. Thereare many differences in tempo and track timingshere, the latter probably due to the observance- or lack thereof - of repeats asmuch as anything, but both recordings are extremelysatisfying performances. The playingis excellent on both CDs, both from an individualand ensemble viewpoint, and the recordingambience - both were recorded in achurch - is warm and resonant. On first hear-M AR CH 1 - A PRI L 7 2009ing I preferred the brightness and contrast inthe Trio Accord CD, whereas the Quebecbasedensemble plays with a touch more legatothroughout, but on further comparison I'mnot so sure; in two outstanding recordings Ihave a feeling that it's Jonathan Crow andfriends who come closest to the spiritualheart of this astonishing work.Terry RobbinsMODERN &CONTEMPORARYShostakovich; Weinberg; lchmouratovI Musici de Montreal; Yuli TurovskyAnalekta AN 2 9899Though the name ofShostakovich is printed inthe largest typeface onthis engaging releasefrom the ever-reliable IMusici ensemble, intruth his music serves asbookends for some lesser-known works, mostimportantly the Chamber Symphony No. 1 bythe Polish-Jewish composer MieczyslawWeinberg (1919-1996). Weinberg (sometimesspelled as Vaynberg) fled to Russia in 1939during the Nazi decimation of Warsaw; theremainder of his family would later perish inthe Trawinki concentration camp. During hisevacuation in Tashkent he met Dmitri Shostakovich.Impressed by his talent, Shostakovichlater encouraged the younger man to move tohis Moscow neighbourhood in 1943 . Theysubsequently became very close friends, andwhile Weinberg was never formally a studentof Shostakovich his own music was closelymodelled on that of his mentor, though in thecase of his Chamber Symphony (a late workfrom from 1987) evidencing a more neo-classicaland abstract approach betraying littleevidence of his harrowing life experiences.The young composer, clarinettist and conductorAirat Ichmouratov was born in 1973 inKazan, Tatarstan and now enjoys a busy concertlife in Montreal. His Fantastic Dances forpiano trio (his own Muczynski trio) and stringswas commissioned by I Musici in 2007. It isan affectionate tribute to both Shostakovichand Weinberg incorporating klezmer elementsand includes a recasting the second movementof Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony aspart of a demented waltz. The ghost of GustavMahler also makes a perplexing cameoappearance in the Ravel-derived grand finale .The Shostakovich works include the youthfulPrelude and Scherzo Op. 11 , notable forits hard-driven second movement, as well asstring orchestra arrangements of the Elegyfrom the opera Lady Macbeth of Mzensk andthe sardonic Polka from the ballet The Age ofGold. Excellent sound and intriguing programmingmake this one a winner.Daniel FoleyElliott Carter - lOOth Anniversary ReleaseNew Music Concerts; Robert AitkenNaxos 8.559614WWW, TH EWHO LENOTE, COMElliott Carter's one hundredth birthday is beingcelebrated this year on a scale previouslyunthinkable for a living ... ·""'"'0 ·""' ~composer - especially a l!i'l f;!;';m!:!.!i:,'W:!}composer whose music 1, .. h~,:~,:~::'. ~:1, 1 !'.·~1 .~f. 1,'.';~. \, .•was for long considered _ ,1i...,- ......,.-11,-ll.,.,,Hll\aexcessively complicatedand difficult. Carter isnow recognized asAmerica's greatest composer- and not just because he has beenaround the longest. Amazingly, he is stillcomposing.This CD/DVD set of late works is a standout.It was recorded live in Toronto in 2006 attwo concerts given by New Music Concerts.The most significant works are the two beautifullyperformed ensemble pieces, Dialoguesand Mosaic, both presented in audio and videoformats. But what particularly draw me onthis disc are the virtuosic pieces for solo instruments,especially the exquisite wind pieces.The jazzy, playful Steep Steps is perfonmedwith remarkable versatility by the lone non­Canadian performer, American bass-clarinettistVirgil Blackwell, the dedicatee of thepiece. In Gra clarinettist Max Christie shapescontrasting layers into a single eloquentvoice. Scrivo in Vento, written for New MusicConcerts artistic director, flutist RobertAitken, provides an intense, expressive explorationof the instrument.I especially enjoyed Aitken 's pre-concertinterview with Carter on the DVD. You canfeel the affectionate relationship betweenthese two long-time friends. Carter is genial,witty, and brilliant - and quite mischievous.Aitken handles him deftly, but Carter doesn' tmake his job easy. Asked about the genesis ofa piece, he says, ''I'm interested in the music- I'm not interested in where it came from."Superb recorded sound, exemplary bookletnotes, and snazzy camera work contribute toa terrific set, not just for Carter aficionadosbut for those wanting to know more about themusic of our time.Pamela MarglesJAZZ AND IMPROVIZEDMombachoMike Janzen and FriendsSignpost Music SP43-102(www Janzen completed his Masters inComposition at the University of Toronto in1997. Under the first name Mike, Janzen is agifted composer, jazz pianist, organist, vocalistand heaven knows what else. This selfproducedsophomore release is a work of artwith respect to all musical processes fromstart to finish: composition, personnel, performance,and having a John "Beetle" Bailey'skiller mix doesn't hurt. Every tune is awinner, from Where it Goes to Swankometer.It's obvious that Janzen considered his bandcarefully, and he had his work cut out for himwith such a deep pool of talent to choose fromon the Canadian scene. Bass-wise, one can' tgo wrong with the luminous George Koller,51

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