6 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 9 - June 2009

selections by Dowland,

selections by Dowland, Morley, Campion,Byrd and others interspersed with traditionalEnglish music in unique arrangements byFallis and other members of the consort.Featuring a uniquely English combinationof instruments called the “mixed consort”,consisting of lute, bandora, cittern, viola dagamba, flute and violin along with recorderand harpsichord, the accompaniments and instrumentalselections are as hearty and multilayeredas the part-singing throughout. Withtoo many wonderful solo performances tosingle out in these brief pages, let us simplypraise the performance as being as gloriousand as charming as Oriana herself!Dianne WellsCLASSICAL AND BEYONDSchubert - Death and the Maiden;Symphony No.8Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra;JoAnn FallettaNaxos 8.572051Naxos brings us two ‘new’ symphonicworks by Schubert: a transcription of a majorchamber work and another attempt to solvethe enigma of the Unfinished Symphony.American musician Andy Stein’s full orchestrationof the Death and the Maidenstring quartet is quite striking and works extremelywell, supporting his view that thequartet is arguably Schubert’s greatest largescalecomposition, and successfully realizeshis desire to create a late Classical/early Romanticsymphony out of it. The instrumentalscoring is idiomatic and highly effective, andthere is excellentbalance andcontrast betweenthestrings, brassand woodwind.Lesssuccessful - or,at least, lesssatisfying - isthe completed version of the Unfinished Symphony,perhaps because our familiarity withthe original makes it virtually impossible tolisten objectively to any additions. Over thepast 140 years there have been countless attemptsto complete the work. This versionhas a reconstruction of the Scherzo - basedon Schubert’s own sketches - by the EnglishSchubert scholar Brian Newbould, togetherwith a Finale assembled by the Swiss conductorMario Venzago which combines extractsfrom Schubert’s Rosamunde incidental musicwith the same work’s Entr’acte, which somehistorians believe may have been intended asthe original Finale for the symphony. It’s animpressive and credible attempt at doing theimpossible perhaps, but fails to address thefundamental question with projects like this –“Why even try?”Apparently recorded live in concert, theBPO and Falletta deliver performances full ofpassion and conviction.Terry RobbinsSonatas & EtudesYuja WangDeutsche Grammophon 477 8140Among those joining the line of giftedyoung pianists emerging from China is YujaWang, a 22 year old from Beijing, now livingin New York. A graduate of the BeijingConservatory and the Curtis Institute, Wangmade her debutat 16 with theTonhalle Orchestrain Zurich withDavid Zinman -and this new CD,the first of fiveto be recordedfor DeutscheGrammophon, isample evidence of her talents.An eclectic collection, it features music byChopin, Ligeti, Scriabin and Liszt. From thebeginning, it’s clear that Ms. Wang possessesa dazzling technique – little wonder she chosesuch demanding repertoire! Yet at the sametime, fast fingers shouldn’t be an end untothemselves. For example, I found the openingmovement of the Chopin piano sonatain B flat minor a little disconcerting – neverhave I heard it played so briskly. Surely, amusical depiction of a race-horse is not whatChopin had in mind! On the other hand, thelyrical and introspective opening movementof the Scriabin Piano Sonata #2 is approachedwith great sensitivity. Two etudes by Ligetimay seem an odd choice on a disc of Romanticrepertoire, but it is their very nature ofcontrast (#4 even hinting at the style of jazzpianist Thelonious Monk) that Wang decidedto include them. Rounding out the disc is thegreat Liszt B minor piano sonata, a true tourde force. Not surprisingly, she has full commandof this most challenging work – thosethundering octaves and arpeggios roll off herhands with apparent ease.This is indeed an impressive first disc bya young artist to watch out for in years tocome. But for her next recording, may Isuggest a little less bravura and a little morepoetry?Richard HaskellRavel - L’Enfant et les Sortilèges;Ma Mère L’OyeBerliner Philharmoniker; Sir Simon RattleEMI Classics 2 64197 2The plot of Ravel’s “lyric fantasy” TheChild and the Magic Spells involves a petulantboy who trashes his room, which thencomes to life to haunt him. Chairs spring tolife, teapots foxtrot, and cats come a-courtin’in this beautifully orchestrated and endlesslyimaginative work. Originally intended as aballet, the scenario was first conceived in1914 by the popular French novelist Colettefollowing the birth of her only child. Thevocal element only came into play later whenshe began to collaborate with Ravel in 1917.The score was completed in 1925. As it involvesa large orchestra, 21 characters andextensive choreographyand costuming,it is rarelyheard despiteRavel’s otherwisesolid presence inthe standard repertoire.Sir SimonRattle is fully inhis element here(he first conducted this work at the age of19) and the orchestra responds brilliantly.Magdalena Kožena as the Child leads an accomplishedensemble of singers ably backedby the outstanding contribution of the BerlinRadio Chorus. The recording is seamlesslypatched together from live performances inSeptember 2008 at Berlin’s PhilharmonieHall; an array of microphones suspendedover the orchestra provides pin-point detailwhile sacrificing a degree of acoustic depth.The heightened sonic presence succeeds admirablyin the accompanying Mother Goose,which features many gorgeous instrumentalsolos cushioned by the renowned deep velvetof the Berlin strings. Full texts and translationsare provided in a 60-page booklet. Anexcellent release, not to be missed.Daniel FoleyPromenadeBand of the Royal Regiment of Canadaand GuestsRoyal Regiment of Canada RRC007( was the case with this band’s previousrecording, this offering includes a potpourriof selections by the band and guests. In thelimited space of a review it is not possible todiscuss all of the selections included. For me,the highlight of this CD is the First Suite in Eflat by Gustav Holst. Lamenting the dearth ofmajor works for concert band, other thantranscriptions from orchestral scores, officialsof the Royal MilitarySchool ofMusic at KnellerHall commissionedHolst towrite two majorworks in the early1920’s. Under thebaton of MajorPaul Weston, formerlyof the Royal Marines, this performanceof the first of these suites captures all of themany nuances the music requires.Compositions by both conductors are alsoincluded. Promenade, the title number onthis CD by Music Director, Lt. WilliamMighton leads the listener along a number oflight-hearted musical pathways. In contrastDefence of the Realm by Associate Director,Major Paul Weston, is a “Fanfare March”with a much stronger and determined drive.Two other numbers which particularly appealedto me were the traditional arrangementof The Holy City with a stunning euphoniumsolo by Roman Yasinsky and the superb40 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM JUNE 1 - JULY 7, 2009

Sammy Nestico arrangement of All Throughthe Night.Also included are a medley of Songs of theForties featuring vocalist Danielle Bourré,the Alford march The Vanished Army and avariety other British and Canadian traditionaland contemporary selections.Jack McQuarrieMODERN ANDCONTEMPORARYRued Langgaard - The SymphoniesDanish National Symphony Orchestra,Vocal Ensemble and Choir;Thomas DausgaardDacapo 6.200001At one time, many music lovers and recordcollectors, including myself, believed that therecord companies were archivists who (I saywho because we thought of them as people),from the beginningof the 20th centuryhad recorded andpreserved the artof both performerand composer forthe present and forposterity. Therewere performerswhose name on thelabel, regardless of repertoire, translated tomoney in the bank, particularly for EMI,RCA and Columbia who had just about everyoneand everybody of significance undercontract.As CD sales diminish, the majors’ outputis almost exclusively artist driven. Today, itis the smaller, lesser known companies thatexplore new repertoire played by musicianswho know and illuminate the scores. Exceptfor Naxos, Chandos, and some others whoconscientiously record new repertoire, companies,by and large, are merely replacingfamiliar repertoire with new performances.To record and issue works by obscure composersamounts to artistic heroism, no matterhow they are funded. Such an undertaking isthis omnibus collection of orchestral worksby Rued Langgaard assembled from performancesrecorded from 1998 to 2008.The ninth edition of The International Cyclopediaof Music and Musicians (1964, completelyrevised) has no entry for Rued Langgaard,the Danish composer who lived from1893 to 1952. It does mention his father,Siegfried, a pianist and composer who hadstudied with Franz Liszt. Siegfried, it seems,was also immersed in Theosophy, a religiousphilosophy based on meditation and mysticism,which in turn was deeply embraced byRued. His music attempts and, dependingon the listener’s frame of mind, succeeds inconveying his belief in dimensional realitiesbeyond empirical perceptions.Langgaard was an ingenuously inventiveand highly skilled composer and orchestrator.He was not a Stravinsky, a Schoenbergor a Shostakovich but his lack of originallyis compensated by an ingenious and inspiredinvention within the established Late Romanticstyle.His first symphony, written in 1911, waspremiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestraconducted by Max Fiedler. This hourlongwork is already indicative of his latersymphonic development and his individualrhapsodic, drama driven output, soundingfor all the world like epic film scores whichclearly puts him ahead of his time. This iscertainly not a deprecating characterisationbut these are the impressions of today, notthen. A group of five named orchestral piecesof special character, deeply moving in theLiszt-Wagner genre, round out the collection.Will Rued Langgaard’s career now takeoff? Will his symphonies become standardrepertoire? Will musical dictionaries nowenlarge their coverage? Will we hear histunes whistled in the subway? Not a chance.But by the same token I commend the colossaland patient undertaking by DACAPO tobring Langgaard’s music to our attention insuch superlative performances as these andtheir many other CDs and DVDs of the musicof this undeservedly obscure composer.This set is a generous appetiser. In additionto his symphonic scores, Langgaard wroteoperas, music for the stage, chamber musicincluding string quartets, etc.I intend to explore his music further.Bruce SurteesRagomania - Music of William Bolcomand Clare FischerRichard Stoltzman; Lancaster FestivalOrchestra; Gary SheldonMarquis 81397( Bolcom, the eclectic Americancomposer, is an enigma for me. Either I lovehis work or I just cannot fathom it. He drawson a multitude of sonic styles to construct hispieces, resulting in the ever present threatthat a huge aural surprise is patiently waitingaround the corner.“Ragomania” features three works by Bolcom.The opening track of the same nameis an interestingdocumentation ofBolcom’s musicalexperiments.Bolcom discusseshis decision on a“heavy percussionpart” in the linernotes. Buried involume and suddendynamic shifts, his music charm is sadlylost in the noise, in this first recording of thework. His Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestrais a three movement, well constructedwork played with passion by soloist RichardStoltzman and the Lancaster Festival Orchestraunder the direction of Gary Sheldon. Undoubtedly,Bolcom’s Commedia for (almost)18th-century orchestra is the highlight here.Drawing on commedia dell’arte, the orchestrationwas limited by the quasi 18th centurytype ensemble of the work’s 1971 commissioner,the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.The snippets of ideas are fun and intriguing;there is never a dull musical moment here.No wonder Bolcom writes that is “by far mymost-played orchestral work”.The release is rounded out by Clare Fischer’sThe Duke, Swee’Pea and Me. Usinga number of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorntunes as a basis, clarinettist Stoltzmangives a stellar rendition, whether playing hispart or even more surprisingly, improvising.Just like trying a new dish at your favouriterestaurant, “Ragomania” is worth the effortof sampling the unique music of William Bolcom.Tiina KiikJAZZ AND IMPROVIZEDThe PathToronto Jazz OrchestraIndependent TJO003 ( Toronto Jazz Orchestra’s third releasecoincides with the 10th anniversary of its existence.Founding Artistic Director and ConductorJosh Grossman’s baby initially beganas a rehearsal band of friends and peers fromU of T, Humber College and York University;the grown TJO has gone on to performwith numerous high-profile jazz artists includingPhil Nimmons, Seamus Blakeand Kurt Elling.While they haveperformed varioustributes to big bandheroes of Americanyesteryear, agreat deal of theCanadian bigband’s appeal liesin its decidedlymodern arrangements, compositions and interpretations.One such example is the funky,futuristic Cereal Blocks by Finnish composerJohan Pyykkö; otherwise, “The Path”abounds with mostly home-grown compositions.The meticulously scored i love you onthe microphone by Montreal-based composerMoiya Callahan is an intriguing, challengingcommission.Another outstanding track is The Call,an inspired composition by David Braid arrangedby Andrew Jones. Grossman contributesthree of his own, including the adventuresometitle track, the sparkling Chazz andthe comical TJO. The director’s intelligentarrangements of Amazing Grace and VinceMendoza’s Esperanto are commendable forbalancing freshness and accessibility; the latteris one of two tracks featuring immenselytalented vocalist, Sophia Perlman. There aremore than a few memorable solos, includingwonderful reed work by Mark Laverand Terry Quinney and pianist Ali Berkok.JUNE 1 - JULY 7, 2009 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM 41

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