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Volume 15 Issue 7 - April 2010

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  • April
  • Toronto
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Angèle Dubeau & La

Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà’s latest, ArvoPärt: Portrait (Analekta AN 2 8731), is astrong collectionof the Estonianmaster’s works.A leadingproponentof so-calledMystic or HolyMinimalism (notthe composer’sterms), Pärt employs a self-made lush butaustere compositional style called tintinnabuli.Several of his best known works are here,including Cantus In Memoriam BenjaminBritten for string orchestra and bell, TabulaRasa for 2 violins, string orchestra andprepared piano and Spiegel im Spiegel forviolin and piano. Pärt is particularly notedfor his choral writing, represented hereby Wallfartslied (Pilgrim’s Song) for malechoir and strings. First championed byGidon Kremer, it is perhaps appropriate thatQuebec’s own superstar violinist AngèleDubeau should be bringing Pärt’s music to anew audience. If you are not already familiar,this would make a great introduction to hiswork.We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments shouldbe sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We alsoencourage you to visit our website, www.thewholenote.com, where you can find addedfeatures including direct links to performers,composers and record labels, “buy buttons”for on-line shopping and additional, expandedand archival reviews.David OldsDISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALHaydn - Orlando PaladinoMarlis Petersen; Tom Randle; PietroSpagnoli; Magnus Staveland; FreiburgerBarockorchester; René JacobsEuroArts 2057788Early music enthusiasts may be attractedto this DVD by the name René Jacobs,renowned as a counter-tenor; here he enjoysthe role of musical director. From theopening Sinfonia, he brings out the best inthe Freiburger Barockorchester.Last summer was the two-hundredthanniversary of Haydn’s death; thisDVD shows the Berlin State Opera’scommemorative production. Almostincredibly, with the reputation Haydn enjoysfor serious symphonies and masses, OrlandoPaladino, with its heroic and comic themes,was the Haydn opera performed most oftenduring his lifetime.The accompanying notes with thisproduction are comprehensive in all but onerespect – only two-anda-halflines are devotedto the plot of theopera. The rest of thenotes cover historicalcontext. Mercifully,the Internet yieldsseveral extremelyhelpful synopses.There are spiritedperformances in Act1 from Magnus Staveland (Medoro) in thearia “Parto. Ma, oh dio, non posso” andalso from Marlis Petersen’s Angelica, whomakes her presence felt throughout the act.Tom Randle is noteworthy for his passionateinterpretation of Orlando. What a contrastwith the enforced timidity and frustration ofSunhae Im (Eurilla). One feels poor Eurillais left to sort everything out on her own; shegets aggravation - and our sympathy vote.Acts 2 and 3 are, if anything, more zany.“Vittoria, vittoria!” (Victor Torres, Pasquale)proves this. Opera purists will appreciate“Aure chete, verdi allori” (Angelica) and“Miei pensieri, dove siete?” (Orlando) butfrankly, for those expecting the costumes andscenery to be as authentic as the orchestra,they aren’t. Let’s just say that this is a highlyindividual production!Michael SchwartzGreat Operatic AriasGerald Finley; London PhilharmonicOrchestra; Edward GardnerCHANDOS Opera in English CHAN 3167For no logical reason, opera sounds betterwhen you can’t understand it. We seemsatisfied with knowing the plot and readingprojected “surtitles” in order to follow theprogress of grand opera. We grant a foreignlanguage status as carrier of refinement andclass, keepingopera tantalizinglybeyond the reachof many potentialnew followers.English seems justfine for Oklahomaand Pinafore butwhat about Verdiand Wagner?Baritone Gerald Finley is a key playerin the CHANDOS Opera in English seriesfunded by British Philanthropist PeterMoores whose mission is to have us all enjoyopera as much as Italian, French and Germanaudiences do. The project’s core belief isthat opera in an audience’s native languageconveys the immediacy of each moment moreeffectively.Perhaps not surprisingly, operas originallywritten in English seem just fine. And thismay actually prove the point. Gerald Finleydoes a truly splendid job with arias fromAdams’ Doctor Atomic and Turnage’s TheSilver Tassie. These tracks offer credibilityto other selections from Don Giovanni, DieMeistersinger and Otello. The Tosca excerptis especially rewarding.Whatever the final verdict from operalovers, it’s clear that opera sung in Englishtranslation seems a bit odd – at first. Muchdepends on the quality of the translation,matching English text to the phrasing andcadence of music never intended as a poeticpartner. Done well, however, it actuallyworks. Listen to Gerald Finley and you’llunderstand why.Alex BaranBad BoysBryn Terfel; Swedish Radio Choir andSymphony Orchestra; Paul DanielDeutsche Grammophon 477 8091Tenors may win winsome hearts playingthe romantic lead, but, as we often see, the“bad” bass-baritone elicits a strange yet muchmore compelling attraction. Perhaps it’s rawbrute force that turns our heads and makesus quiver with excitement, or maybe it’s theelement of danger that we find fascinating:the kind of thrillthat even the nobleDonna Elvirasof this worldcan’t possiblyresist. With thisrecording and atour of the samename, Bryn Terfeloffers highlightsfrom villains of the opera house and musicaltheatre in all their various forms, rangingfrom gossips, swindlers and cads to theruinous, murderous and satanic.He is menacing as Sweeney Todd, crueland calculating as Iago (Otello) and Scarpia(Tosca), pure evil as Mephistopheles (Faust)and Kaspar (Der Freischutz). As Sportin’Life (Porgy & Bess) “It ain’t Necessarily So”54 www.thewholenote.comApril 1 - May 7, 2010

transposed to the baritone range gives himthe opportunity for a carefree, devil-may-careattitude. The final scene of Don Giovanniprovides the best showcase of all as Terfelsings all three roles: The Commendatore,Leporello and Don Giovanni.Bryn Terfel is a consummate showman;he brings these characters driven by lust,revenge and greed to life with sheer powerand range of emotion few are capable of.And, at the same time, he seems to be havingan awfully good time giving us a good scarewith a fierce growl.Dianne WellsEARLY, CLASSICAL AND BEYONDPhoenixRaymond SpasovskiIndependent (www.raymondspasovski.com)I don’t imagine Walter Hall has changedall that much since I gave my one and onlynoon-hour recital there many years ago as afourth-year composition student. But what Ido know is that pianist Raymond Spasovskiplays much betterthan I did on thislive recording of aconcert held therelast October. Bornin Macedonia,Spasovski madehis debut at theage of 10 withthe MacedonianSymphony, and since then, has appearedwith major orchestras throughout Europe andNorth America to great acclaim.This CD, his first, presents an attractiveprogram drawing heavily from the lateRomantic period, but opening with a shortsonata by the 18th century composer MateoAlbeniz. Although this piece and the BachPrelude in A minor BWV 807 clearlydemonstrate his technical dexterity, it’sthe repertoire from the late 19th century inwhich he particularly excels, especially thatby Spanish and South American composers.Indeed, de Falla, Granados, Isaac Albeniz,Lecuona, and Ginastera are well represented,and he approaches them all with greatpanache. The playing is confident and bold,particularly demonstrated in the Tres DanzasArgentinas by Ginastera, and Granados’Allegro de Concierto. Yet his interpretation ofthe Chopin Berçeuse shows a decidedly moresensitive side to his playing.While I’m always a little leery about liverecordings with respect to audio quality, thesound here is well-balanced and warmlyresonant - and even the frequent applausedoesn’t detract in any way. So a big bravo,Mr. Spasovski – the Walter Hall Steinwaysounds much better under your capable handsthan it ever did with mine!Richard HaskellFauré - Works for Violin and PianoOlivier Thouin; Francois ZeitouniXXI XXI-CD2 1702This fine disc’s two “pillars” are the earlyand late Fauré violin sonatas. Sonata No. 1in A Major shows Fauré already at the heightof his powers.This performancerealizes themusic’s striving,yearning sensibility.The passionatefirst movementfeatures Fauré’sdistinctive modaland chromaticharmony. Zeitouni controls the florid pianoaccompaniment well, bringing out motifsand subordinating lines, or underlining theviolin’s melodic shaping. In the barcarolelikeslow movement, sensitivity to harmonyis displayed in violinist Thouin’s classic,subtly-coloured style. Both players meet thedemands of the intricate, skittering scherzo,featuring fine staccato from Thouin’s bow.The duo makes the most of the disc’sthree lighter works. Berceuse in D Major islike a charming French mélodie. I find theRomance in B-flat Major too conventionallysentimental, but the forward-looking Andantein the B-flat Major’s melody in ascendingfourths receives particularly interestingharmonizations.The performers capture well the muchdifferent character of Sonata No. 2 in Eminor: the first movement’s soaring linesseeming to ascend out of tumult towardslight; the second movement’s tossingand turning; and the finale’s conflict andambiguity resolving only at the final measure.This disc may attract new listeners toFauré, while aficionados will find it faithfulto the composer’s style and spirit. Therecording quality is excellent, capturing a fulldynamic range in all registers, and Zeitouni’saccompanying notes only reinforce the casebeing made for this great composer.Roger KnoxPiano Music of Edward Grieg, Volume 2Sandra MogensenIndependent CHM 0901120 (www.sandramogensen.com)Edvard Grieg was not an especiallycomplicated composer – yet, ironically, hisstyle offers something of a challenge forperformers. On one hand, a pianist shouldrespect the heart-on-sleeve emotionalismand down-to-earth directness of Grieg’sideas. On theother hand, thismusic demandsinterpretation: apianist must dosomething with it.And SandraMogensen, aCanadian pianistwho lives in Stratford, Ontario, does plentywith it. With all of the 23 selections recordedhere, there’s a strong sense of mood anddramatic purpose. In her hands, each pieceon this clear-sounding disc captures an imageor tells a story.For instance, there’s a Schumannesqueflutteriness to Butterfly (Op. 43. No. 1); anda sunny, pleasant disposition to Gade (Op. 57No. 2) – a musical portrait of Grieg’s teacherNiels Gade. As well At the Cradle (Op. 68No. 5) is suitably dreamy, and Bell Ringing(Op. 54 No. 6) is dark and mysterious. ForNordic folksiness look to Springdans (Op. 17No. 1) or Norwegian (Op. 12 No. 6).Some of these pieces go beyond theexpression of a single idea, enfoldingcontrasting material into single movements.Mogensen’s performance of the famousSolveig’s Song (Op. 52 No. 2) is alternatelymournful and sweet. And the enigmaticVanished Days (Op. 57. No. 1) – the longestpiece on the disc – runs the gamut fromintrospective wistfulness to intense highdrama, with some playful passages thrown infor good measure.For those with a penchant for sterner stuff,some of the pieces recorded here will nodoubt seem overly sentimental. Be that as itmay, Mogensen pleads Grieg’s case sincerelyand well.Colin EatockMahler - Symphony No.7Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich; David ZinmanRCA Red Seal 88697 50650 2Integral sets ofMahler symphonieshave run amokas the doublewhammy of thecomposer’s sesquiand-centennialanniversariesapproach (born1860, died 1911).Among the finest of these is the ongoingseries, released in chronological order, byDavid Zinman and the Swiss TonhalleOrchestra.The Seventh Symphony has long beenregarded as the problem child of the set, atrue test of a conductor’s insight due to itsmulti-faceted interpretive challenges. It is,relatively speaking, an uncharacteristicallyoptimistic work and one which hints atadvances in Mahler’s harmonic thinking towhich he would return in his uncompletedTenth Symphony. Critics of the pastregarded the composer’s appropriationof a sunny disposition in this work forcedand disingenuous. Influential curmudgeonT.W. Adorno declared the work a completefailure, dismissing Mahler as “a poor yeasayer”,while Mahler’s acolyte Bruno Walteravoided this work throughout his career.Today Mahler’s puzzling ambiguities havecaptured the imagination of our own era toApril 1 - May 7, 2010 w w w.t h e w h o l e n o t e.c o m 55

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