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Volume 15 Issue 10 - July/August 2010

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
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“I love a

“I love a mystery.It’s where surprisescome from.”That something is why Ted is so fascinatedwith Mara. Mara, whose daughter Michelle,a jazz singer, has just died, has apparently cutoff the dead girl’s earlobes. Ted, a jazz pianist,is obsessed with discovering why.Lilly Barnes, a scriptwriter and documentary-makerfor the CBC, uses her keen earfor dialogue to create a cast of vivid personalitiesto tell her story from various points ofview. We hear from Ted, a jazz pianist enlistedto help Mara, Bear, who is Ted’s jazzpartner and best friend, Bear’s wife Alicia,Michelle’s former neighbour Lena, and Maraherself, who had been a concert pianist inEurope. Barnes gives each one a distinctivelyidiosyncratic way of talking.The story is set in Toronto in 1964, withfrequent references to the thriving jazz scenethen. By sending Ted off to Europe, Barnesis able to introduce characters from Mara’smysterious past and describe what it took forher to survive the Holocaust as a Jew. In fact,the most compellingaspects of this novelrelate to Barnes’ ownlife, since her motherwas a Russian concertpianist, Barnesherself was marriedto the late Canadiancomposer MiltonBarnes, and hersons Micah and Danielare jazz musicians.At one point,Lena says, “I love a mystery. It’s wheresurprises come from.” But, richly layeredand moving though this novel is, surprisesare few, since it turns out that things arejust as they seemed all along. It’s just thatTed couldn’t see it. But at least in the endTed, who had been musically blocked, getshis chops back –and more – and the musictriumphs.• Cosima Wagner: The Lady of Bayreuthby Oliver HilmesYale University Press374 pages; .00“The last thing I wantto do,” writes OliverHilmes in this penetratingbiography ofCosima Wagner, “isto criticize Cosima orturn her in to a psychoticstudy.” Fanatical,insecure,humourless, self-debasing,pugnacious,manipulative, andautocratic, Cosima offers few qualities thatare likeable, and many that are downright repugnant.But she certainly is fascinating - allthe more so when put into the perspective ofher times and mileu as deftly as Hilmes does.For the first half of this portrait, whichroughly covers the first half of Cosima’slife, Hilmes treats her with sympathy. Cutoff from her mother, the Countess Maried’Agoult, a writer who used the pen-nameDaniel Stern, neglected by her father FranzLiszt and his termagant mistress PrincessCarolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, bullied bya harsh governess, she was understandablyeager for an escape. She married Liszt’s brilliantbut effete – and abusive – student Hansvon Bülow. Soon after, her beloved brotherand sister both died. She ran off with RichardWagner, colleague to her father (Wagnerwas just two years younger than Liszt)and mentor to her husband. Wagner was anegotistical philanderer, though he did writeSiegfried Idyll for her thirty-third birthday in1870, the year they were finally able to marry.But as Hilmes covers the second half ofCosima’s very long life, from the death ofWagner in 1883 until her own death in 1930,at the age of ninety-two, Hilmes’ sympathyis significantly reduced. Cosima takes controlof her husband’s fledgling opera festivalin Bayreuth, and even manages to controlthe production of Wagner’s operas. Hilmesdescribes how she would hide in a blackcurtainedbooth at the side of the stage duringrehearsals, sending her comments out onscraps of paper. In fact she turned the BayreuthFestival into a fiefdom, and establishedher own family as the ruling dynasty, a traditionwhich continues today with the recentappointment of two of her great grand-daughtersas co-directors following the death of hergrandson, their father Wolfgang.But Hilmes shows Cosima’s Bayreuth Festivalto be not just a family business but areactionary cult. Exposing how she turnedWagner’s nationalistic, anti-semitic ideas intoa political cause that led directly to the destructiveGerman nationalism of the Nazis,he traces the roots of the family’s well-documentedties to Hitler and the Nazis directly toCosima.The translation from the German by Wagnerexpert Stewart Spencer is elegant andclear. But I wonder whether it is Hilmes orSpenser who identifies Alma Mahler-Werfelas a ‘Viennese socialite’, since Hilmes’ previousbooks include a biography of AlmaMahler.Address all inquiries concerning this columnto bookshelf@thewholenote.com5 F I F T H A N N I V E R S A R Y S E A S O NMaster class seriespresenting partnerMASTER CLASSESObserve as top artist-pedagogues pass on their musical expertise and interpretive secrets toAcademy artists − and enjoy the engaging dynamics that often transpire! Tickets /classVienna Piano TrioFriday July 23, 3 pmMatthias GoerneWednesday July 28, 9:30 amMenahem PresslerSunday August 1, 10 amPacifica String QuartetSunday August 1, 2:30pmJanos Starker*Sunday August 8, 11 am & 2:30 pm*For tickets to Starker’s classes,please call 647-430-5699 ext 111www.torontosummermusic.com | 416-408-020852 THEWHOLENOTE.COMJuly 1 - September 7, 2010

Editor’s CornerIt’s not often that a new work by Beethovencomes to light and so my curiousity waspiqued by The Beethoven Project TrioCD which boasts two world premiere recordings(Çedille CDR 90000 118). The verythorough liner notes explain in detail thepedigree of the pieces and why they have remainedunperformed all this time. The PianoTrio in E Flat Major, Hess 47 is Beethoven’sown transcription of the first movement of hisOpus 3 String Trio of 1794, thought to havebeen done sometime after 1800. The twomovementPiano Trio in D Major, Kinsky/Hahm Anhang 3 was originally thought tobe by Mozart andhas the distinctionof being the onlywork by Beethovenwith a Köchel number(52a). By the20 th century it hadbeen recognized byscholars as an originalBeethovendating from 1799, although its genesis is stillunknown. There are two pages – 33 measures– missing from that manuscript which havebeen re-constructed by Robert McConnell,who provides the rationale behind his choicesin the notes. Undertaken in conjunction withthe American Beethoven Society, the AssociationBeethoven France and the Beethoven-HausBonn, The International BeethovenProject musicians are European-trained pianistGeorge Lepauw who is now based in Chicago,and Americans Sang Mee Lee, violinand Wendy Warner, cello. Although theconcert of American premieres took place inChicago, this excellent recording was doneat the American Academy of Arts and Lettersin New York City last September. Alsoincluded is another lesser-known Beethovenwork, the Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, Op.63. Although now acknowledged as authenticBeethoven there has been some controversysince its original publication in 1806. It is anarrangement of the String Quintet Op. 4 of1795, which is itself a re-working of an earlierwind octet written as dinner music for theBishop of Bonn in 1792 before Beethoven’smove to Vienna. While none of this isBeethoven at his best, these are welcomeadditions to the repertoire, immaculately performedand recorded. I look forward to thepublication of the performance edition of thescores currently in production by The InternationalBeethoven Project and promised bythe end of the year. Now there’s a project formy amateur trio to undertake next summer!Heather Slater’s program notes in the latestaddition to the TSO Live series (TSO-1108)give us a detailed history of the origins ofSymphony No.7 “Leningrad” by DmitriShostakovich including the original “partyline” programmatic description for each ofthe movements andapocryphal speculationabout Shostakovich’ssubtexts.The performance,recorded in March2008, is suitablydramatic. The signaturefirst movementMarch overthe snare drum ostinato begins in near silenceand builds ever so gradually over thenext thirteen minutes to deafening bombastbefore subsiding into the gentle strains of soloclarinet, bassoon and lush strings. Shostakovichwe are told was aware of this section’ssimilarity to Ravel’s Bolero but asked to beforgiven as “this is how I hear the war”. Asin Bolero the careful combination of individualinstruments is like a guide to the orchestraas the tension grows and grows. The playersshine collectively and individually in thisshowcase. The thunderous applause when wereach the end of our mammoth journey nearlyseventy-eight minutes later confirms thisfeeling as unanimous. Concert note: The TorontoSymphony will perform Shostakovich’sFourth Symphony along with the SibeliusViolin Concerto (Henning Kraggerud, violin)and Stravinsky’s Fireworks under Jukka-Pekka Saraste October 14 & 16.From the Heartland (Centrediscs CMC-CD15410) features works written for and performedby Toronto violinist Erika Raum, accompaniedby pianist David Moroz, by threeprairie-based composers: Sid Robinovitch,David McIntyre and Elizabeth Raum. We arepresented with two full fledged sonatas writtenfor Raum very early in her career. Hermother’s sonata was composed in 1994 andpremiered at Walter Hall the following yearwith accompanist Lydia Wong. McIntyre’s1996 second sonata was written for Erika’sdebut at the Women’s Musical Club of Torontowith pianist Francine Kay, also at WalterHall. Both are substantial works whichexploit the full range of the instruments. Mc-Intyre’s is the lighter of the two, with a finalethat begins not far from Tin Pan Alleyand swings through a number of styles includinga few bars reminiscent of a raucousbarn dance. ElizabethRaum is alsorepresented by aneven earlier workwhich Erika premieredin 1989 withthe co-dedicateeRachel Andrist.Robinovitch’s contribution,a set ofmostly playful dance movements, is the onlywork presented here that was composed specificallyfor Raum and Moroz, for their 2003Prairie Debut concert tour. Recorded at theBanff Centre in June 2008, around the sametime that she conceived triplets with her husbandcomposer Omar Daniel, the disc showcasesErika Raum at the top of her game. Herrecent performance of Daniel’s Violin Concertowith Esprit Orchestra assures us thatthe burden of motherhood has not dampenedher control or musical passion.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 encourageyou to visit our website, www.thewholenote.com, where you can find added features includingdirect links to performers, composersand record labels, “buy buttons” for on-lineshopping and additional, expanded and archivalreviews.David OldsDISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comPublicity, press kits & image consultingfor performers416.544.1803 www.lizpr.comJuly 1 - September 7, 2010 THEWHOLENOTE.COM53

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