7 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 8 - May 2009


ecordings reviewedEDITOR’S CORNERMy first encounter with minimalist musicwas a recording of Terry Riley’s In C – 53short motifs, each to be repeated an indefinitenumber of times, as desired, by any numberof performers until eventually everyone hasworked through all the motifs in order. WhenI brought it home and put it on the recordplayer it took my mother less than a minuteto call out from the kitchen “The record’sstuck”. My first live exposure to the conceptwas a couple of years later at an Arraymusicconcert in the late ’70s. There was a pieceby Marjan Mozetich and as its patterns kepton repeating I found myself wondering if theinstructions in the score were to keep hammeringout the same phrase until everyone inthe audience had given up and left the hall.Of course it soon became clear in both casesthat the patterns were subtly changing andthat there was indeed a musical progressionunder way. I grew enamoured of the form andalthough I seem to now have grown out of thatphase I still consider works like Steve Reich’sMusic for 18 Musicians, Philip Glass’ Einsteinon the Beach, and for that matter, LaurieAnderson’s O Superman to be important andrewarding works. Over the decades MarjanMozetich too has grown away from minimalism,at least in its more relentless forms, andhas developed a style that can best be describedas Lush. A new Centrediscs release,Lament in the Trampled Garden (CMCCD14009), presents a beautiful cross section ofchamber works spanning two decades. ThePenderecki StringQuartet is joinedby Erica Goodman,Nora Shulman andShalom Bard (harp,flute and clarinet)for Angels inFlight, a 1987 triptychinspired by anItalian RenaissanceAnnunciation scene by Fra Filippo Lippi, andby Christopher Dawes (harmonium) for thecontemplative Hymn of Ascension (1998).The title track was written as the mandatorypiece for the 1992 Banff International StringQuartet competition and as such entered therepertoire of 10 outstanding young ensembles,including that year’s grand prize winning St.Lawrence Quartet. In the intervening years Lamenthas enjoyed countless performances but Ibelieve this is the first commercially availablerecording. It is a brilliant work that 17 yearslater is still fresh and exhilarating, especiallyin the hands of the consummate musiciansof the PSQ. The final work dates from just 2years ago and was commissioned by the OttawaInternational Chamber Music Festival forthe Gryphon Trio. Scales of Joy and Sorrowis another triptych, with outer movements thatrespectively build from slow and expressive tofast and exhilarating and vice versa, surroundinga gentle and lilting Arabesque, making aneffective A-B-C-B-A arc. The Gryphon Trio isin fine form as always, working together like awell-oiled machine.While Mozetich’s music is generallypainted in pastel shades, that of Marc-AndréDalbavie, while still concerned with colour,uses a broader palate. Since first hearing themusic of this French “spectral” composer ata Continuum concert in 2005 I have encountereda number of his intriguing works, alwayswith great appreciation. The most recent tocome my way is a brilliant Piano Concertocommissioned and performed by Leif OveAndsnes on a new EMI recording (2 641822) with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra underFranz Welser-Möst. While itseems to be centralto the thesis of therecording, this discis not devoted tomusic of Dalbavie.It also includes thepowerful concertoof WitoldLutoslawski, whose music was in many waysa precursor to the spectral pioneers Grisey andDufourt. While I would not recommend thisperformance over the 1992 DG recording (431664-2) with dedicatee Krystian Zimerman assoloist and the composer conducting the BBCSymphony, I welcome this “second opinion”and am happy to be reminded what a strikingwork it is. These two entrées are book-endedby contemplative works for solo piano by BentSorensen and separated by selections fromGyörgy Kurtág’s playful Játékok (Games).All in all a very well balanced and thoroughlycontemporary disc.While quite familiar with the career of Québecpianist Alain Lefèvre, I was not aware ofWholeNote Marketplace: Recording Serviceshis brother, violinist David Lefèvre, who hasspent most of his career in Europe in the firstchair at the Orchestre national du Capitole deToulouse, and later the Orchestre Philharmoniquede Monte Carlo, and as Guest concertmasterwith the Lisbon Gulbenkian Orchestra.David returned to Montreal last summer,at least long enough to record a CD withbrother Alain. The Analekta disc (AN 2 9982)features the familiar(and always welcome)Sonata in A by CésarFranck, along with alesser-known G MajorSonata by Franck’sBelgian protégéGuillaume Lekeu(1870-1894) and theBallade-Fantaisie by André Mathieu. Lekeulived a tragically short life and composed hissonata at 22, just two years before his death.The work was commissioned by Eugene Ysaÿeand thanks to him it “traveled the world”and was picked up by some of the greatestviolinists of the first half of the 20th century.The dramatic, if somewhat melancholy, workhas not stayed in the repertoire however andso we come upon it here as something of ahidden treasure. I expect this fine performancewill bring some well-deserved attention to thenear-forgotten gem. Alain Lefèvre has beeninstrumental in reconstructing and promotingthe works of Québec child prodigy AndréMathieu (1929-1968) whose European careerwas cut short by the outbreak of the SecondWorld War. Written at the age of 13, the sameyear Mathieu won first prize in the New YorkPhilharmonic’s centenary young composers’competition, this charming, if somewhatanachronistic, lyric piece is a perfect Canadiancompanion for the sonatas of these earlierEuropean masters.The final disc this month is also one of violinand piano duos, but this time more eclecticand somewhat lighter fare. Violinist NancyDahn and pianist Timothy Steeves, hail fromNewfoundland where they are professors atMemorial University. They have shown a strongcommitment to Canadian composers during thetwelve years they have been playing together asDuo Concertante and a previous CD includedworks written for them by Chan Ka Nin, Kelly- Marie Murphy and Omar Daniel. In June they will record their fifth CD at Glenn Gould Stu- MarketPlace: Educationdio, another all-Canadian disc, featuring a workby R. Murray Schafer which they premieredlast year. Their current offering, It Takes Two(Marquis Classics 81401), is meant as morebacksplit classical soundsuperbly engineered recordingsconcert hall qualitygrand pianoaudio & video demosCD production, editing, masteringTimothy Minthorn416-461-0635www.classicalsound.ca48S p e c i a l i z e d R e c o r d i n g S e r v i c e sf o r C l a s s i c a l a n d Ac o u s t i c M u s i c6 4 7 3 4 9 6 4 6 7l o c k w o o d . f r a n k @ g ma i l . c o mLockwoodw w w .t h e w h o l e n o t e.c o m Ma y 1 – Ju n e 7 2009backsplit classical soundsuperbly engineered recordingsSi

Dowland - The Queen’s Galliard(Lute Music Vol. 4)Nigel NorthNaxos 8.570284The fourth and final CD of a series devotedto John Dowland’s lute music, this disc’sprogram of galliards, corants and Elizabethansong tunes offers an affectionate and intriguingglimpse into the musical development ofthis brilliant composer. Though Dowland’sfamiliar pensivespirit is rarelyout of sight, itsreflection throughthe prism of danceand song makes fordelightful listeningof a more livelykind, especially inthe expert musicalhands of Nigel North.This CD is replete with great tunes expertlyplayed. Several of the composer’s earlier andless familiar galliards can be heard here, ofwhich John Dowland’s Galliard is a particuofa crowd pleaser, an album of encoretypepieces. With repertoire ranging from amedley of Gershwintunes through DizzyGillespie’s A Nightin Tunisia and deAbreu’s Tico Tico toclassical show-stopperslike Rondo alla Turkaand Sabre Dance andmore melancholy faresuch as Solveig’s Song and Valse triste, thereis literally something for everybody. Whilethoroughly international in scope, even thisproject has a strong Canadian component. Allthe works were arranged for Duo Concertanteby Clifford Crawley, a British-born Canadianwho is Professor Emeritus at Queen’s Universityand now makes his home in St. John’s.In the words of the Duo, the title of this discmight more accurately be “It Takes Three”.Concert Note: Duo Concertante will performa free noon-hour concert in the Richard BradshawAmphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centreon May 5.We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments should besent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 BathurstSt. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourageyou to visit our website,, where you can find added featuresincluding direct links to performers, composersand record labels and “buy buttons” foron-line shopping.David OldsDISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALBeethoven - FidelioKennedy; Sherratt; Coleman-Wright;Kampe; Milne; London PhilharmonicOrchestra; Mark ElderGlyndebourne GFOCD 004-06Debussy - Pelléas et MélisandeRoux; Duval; Reynolds; Hoekman;Wilbrink; Bredy; Shirley-Quirk;Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Vittoria GuiGlyndebourne GFOCD 003-63This year the Glyndebourne Festival in Sussex,England celebrates its 75th year. Thisis no mean achievement considering itssurvival depends entirely on private fundsand donations. For any artist it has alwaysbeen a great honour to be invited to be theguest of the Christie family, the foundersand owners of this event. There have beenmany improvements over the years notthe least of which is the magnificent newauditorium built in 1994. Glyndebourne hasalways been in the forefront of recordingopera. As early as the 1930’s they were doingMozart operas on EMI like the famousDon Giovanni with Fritz Busch. This yearthey have begun issuing recordings undertheir own label and this month we are presentedwith two of these: an inspired Fideliofrom 2006 and from the archives, a 1963performance of Pelléas et Mélisande.Beethoven’s only opera embodies his innermostphilosophy of life, the triumph of goodagainst evil and the journey from darkness tolight. This is what the Leonore Overture #3does by compressing the journey into perhapsthe most glorious 15 minutes of music everwritten. With an emphasis on the symphonicnature of theopera, Mark Elderand his LondonPhilharmonic, withexcellent pacingand throbbingenergy propel themusic forward andyet illuminate allthe nuances. Similarto the 9th Symphony the finale is truly anexplosion and a culmination of joy.The almost faultless cast deserves muchcredit. Soprano Anja Kampe as the heroinesings with heartfelt passion and tendernessand occasional outbursts of sincere indignation;Tornsten Kerl, the wrongfully convictedFlorestan, has a shorter but no less gruellingrole and his strong heroic tenor overcomes allthe difficulties. The Glyndebourne Choir alsomakes a tremendous contribution.At the end of the 19th century Frenchmusic was under the heavy influence ofWagner and Brahms. A fervent desire forchange was in the air and the young Debussywas the right man at the right timeto bring it about. With new harmonies andtranslucent textures he brought in a breath offresh air with a completely new approach,l’impressionisme. His sole opera Pelléas etMélisande is a sublime masterpiece and a pinnacleof French art. It is totally different fromanything writtenbefore yet, to behonest, still oweshomage to Tristanand Parsifal whichDebussy admired.Its long score isdelicate but of thehighest inspirationand every phraseis meaningful. It moves in the atmosphereof shadows, in and out of silence, generallyquiet, rarely reaching a fortissimo.This performance from 1963 is an inspiredone from the beautifully poetic impressionisticsets by Beni Montresor, throughthe incisive and sympathetic conducting ofVittorio Gui to the faultless, impressive cast.French soprano Denise Duval is exceptionalas the fragile, semi wild creature Mélisande.Dutch baritone Hans Wilbrink with his slowawareness to love and ardent declaration ismost memorable. A worthwhile listeningexperience.Last but not least, an A+ for presentationof these discs: elegantly designed hardcoverbooks, with complete quattro lingual libretto.They will be a treasure for any collector.Janos GardonyiWales - The Land of SongShannon Mercer; Skye ConsortAnalekta AN 2 9965In her fourth CD for Analekta, once againthe lovely soprano voice of Shannon Mercerrings clear and true, this time in a most warmand heartfelt performance of Welsh songs.As the daughter of a long-time member of theOttawa Welsh Society, Mercer well understandsmusic and language as the culturalglue that binds people of Welsh descent. Andwhat fond melodies they are. In fact, Mercerattributes her choice of career to the influenceWelsh song had inher young life. Theimagery inherent inthe poetic languagealong withthe sweet lyricalmelodies chosenfor this recordinghave quite an emotiveimpact on thelistener, despite the fact that no translationsare provided in the liner notes. Best-knownpieces on this album are the well-loved lullabySuo Gan, as well as the poignant Dafydda Gareg Wen (David of the White Rock) andthe unrequited Bugeillo’r Gwenith Gwyn.In arranging the accompaniments andinstrumental pieces, Sean Dagher has donea marvellous job of preserving traditionalelements while melding them to a more contemporaryaesthetic. The Skye Consort whichincludes flute, violins, cello, bass, cittern,accordion and percussion adds a 17th-centuryItalian harp similar to the Welsh triple-harp.Beautifully played, beautifully sung.Dianne WellsEARLY MUSIC ANDPERIOD PERFORMANCEMa y 1 – Ju n e 7 2009 w w w .t h e w h o l e n o t e.c o m49

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