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Volume 15 Issue 9 - June 2010

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North Czech Philharmonic

North Czech Philharmonic shines under thebaton of Charles Olivieri-Munroe. The CDalso includes Kenedi performing two rarelyrecorded piano concertos – Scherzo Fantasqueby Ernest Bloch and Rhapsody forPiano and Orchestra Op.1 by Bela Bartok.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 onlineshopping and additional, expanded andarchival reviews.David OldsDISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALSamuel Arnold - PollyAradia; Kevin MallonNaxos 8.660241This is a thoroughand charming recordingof the 50rather slight musicalnumbers writtenand arranged forthe little-known sequelto John Gay’sThe Beggar’s Opera.The newly-published edition of the score is alabour of love by Robert Hoskins, a musicologiston faculty at the New Zealand Schoolof Music in Wellington. The opera followsPolly Peachum to the West Indies as sheseeks out MacHeath and the score followsa similar “ballad opera” blueprint, offeringfamous tunes of the day paired with literaland sometimes clumsy lyrics describing thecharacters’ predicaments.Polly is boldly subtitled “an Opera”, writtenby a learned English composer/scholarwho was known for his mastery of providingincidental music for plays in the latter halfof the 18th century. In the end, what makesopera interesting and compelling is thematicdevelopment and poetic imagery, both in textand music, and both are missing in this pieceto a great degree.In the latest addition to its extensive Naxosdiscography, the Toronto-based Aradia Ensemble,directed by Irish violinist KevinMallon, sounds warm and tidy in their accompanimentsof the short songs, while inthe instrumental numbers – the overture anddance suites of Pirates and Indians – they aregiven a little more opportunity to shine. Thelocal singers turn in spirited and lyrical performances,notably soprano Eve Rachel Mc-Leod, mezzo Marion Newman, tenor LawrenceWiliford and baritone Jason Nedecky,all of whose diction paves the way to a greaterunderstanding of the story.Larry BeckwithMeyerbeer - Il crociato in EgittoTeatro La Fenice; Emmanuel VillaumeNaxos 8.660245-47A great deal of what is known as “FrenchGrand Opera” has Italian (Verdi’s “Don Carlos”)or German roots. Case in point for thelatter – the output of Giacomo Meyerbeer(born Jakob Beer near Berlin). Known to today’sopera goers from a handful of showcasearias (“Shadow Song” from Dinorah, “OParadis” from L’Africaine), Meyerbeer was inmid-nineteenth century the king of the genre.A direct musical descendant of Rossini, aninspiration to Bellini and Verdi, Meyerbeer’soperas were extraordinary triumphs.Much of the credit for the present-day obscurityof his workgoes to the relentlesscampaignwaged against himby Wagner. Motivatedin equal partsby professional jealousyand anti-Semitism,Wagner deridedand undermined Meyerbeer at everyturn. It is then great to see the Master’s operasproduced again. “The Crusader inEgypt” previous to its 2007 production at laFenice was not staged for over 100 years.That alone would make this disc set worthowning, but then there are the performances.Even though Patricia Ciofi is a darlingof the Venetian crowd, having heard herlive in La Traviata, I have to admit I am nota fan. Her wobbly and frequently shrill sopranodoes warm up as the opera progresses,but the true revelation in this recording isMichael Maniaci. The role of Armano, oncesung by the legendary Giuditta Pasta, offershim a great opportunity to showcase his unusual,beautiful voice. With a solid cast andgreat choral scenes, this disc set is highlyrecommended.Robert TomasCarl Orff - AntigonaeMartha Mödl; Marianne Radev;William Dooley; Carlos Alexander;Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orchestra;Wolfgang SawallischProfil PH09066There’s a lot more to the Bavarian composerCarl Orff than the Gothic chorus of ‘O Fortuna’that launched this refractory composer’scareer in NaziGermany in 1937and has since reducedhis reputationto a 15 secondpop culture icon. Therowdy monks andeasy virtues of CarminaBurana pale incomparison to Orff’s later, more demandingworks which find their voice in the pre-Christian era.Following his compromised war years Orffbegan a trilogy of tragedies with this settingof Sophocles’ Antigonae in the Germantranslation by the Romantic poet FriederichHölderlin. Much of the vocal writing is highlydeclamatory and unaccompanied, evokingthe austere dramatic practice of ancientGreece. The drama is scored for a strikinglyexotic ensemble of six each of trumpets,oboes, flutes and double basses, four harps,six pianos played by a dozen pianists anda panoply of percussion. Orff keeps theseforces in reserve much of the time but whenthey weigh in the results are spectacular.In hindsight, the ritualistic character of this1949 work presages the music theatre of contemporaryminimalism.The present recording features the commandingpresence of contralto Martha Mödlas Antigonae and a stellar cast of male voicesled by the great Wolfgang Sawallisch in aBavarian Radio live broadcast from 1958.The early stereo tape, only recently obtainedfrom the Mödl estate, is astoundingly wellpreserved and vivid and the performance,closely supervised by the composer, is consistentlyriveting. Sadly, no libretto is providedand the synopsis is quite useless.Daniel FoleyJulian Wachner -Complete Choral Music Vol.1Elora Festival Singers; Noel EdisonNaxos 8.559607Not quite a household name, American composer/conductorJulian Wachner is now inhis early 40s and hasbuilt himself a stylisticreputation foreclecticism. This recordingby the EloraFestival Singers is anexample of just howbroad Wachner’s stylisticembrace can be.It is also another example of the artisticallytenacious style that has become the hallmark50 w w w.t h e w h o l e n o t e.c o mJune 1 - July 7, 2010

of the EFS.Because we most often associate a composerwith an identifiable vocabulary or language,it’s a bit odd to find someone so stylisticallydiverse yet so secure in his writing.Wachner’s command of choral techniquesand effects is solid and polished. The EFS’sability to meet the exacting demands ofthis music makes this recording altogetherremarkable.Wachner describes his choral writing as“text-driven”. How important and effectivethis is becomes evident as one plays throughthe 19 tracks of sacred and secular works.Poetic texts by E.E. Cummings and Rilkedeliver fanciful, sensitive and experimentalmoments always linked to a detectably romanticundercurrent.Wachner’s sacred music, by contrast, mayappeal more to the structured expectations ofits audience but is no less inventive than hisart song. Perhaps the most colourful workon this recording is his Missa Brevis. Eachof its four sections is clearly cast in a uniqueform with considerable variation in ensemblecolour and tempo. Most importantly, Wachnernever loses touch with the “other-worldliness”that needs to be at the heart of allsacred music.Naxos has produced a fine recording withthe EFS, which bodes well for their projected“complete choral music” series. ATMA plansa release in the fall of more Wachner music –for organ and orchestra.Alex BaranInto LightMusica IntimaATMA ACD2 2613The outstanding vocalensemble Musica Intimais based in Vancouver,a city with arich tradition of explorationin choralmusic. Musica Intima’sinnovationsare many. It is a youthful chorus of 12 outstandingprofessional musicians who performwithout a conductor; instead, membershave developed their own signals for musicalintercommunication. They sing with pure,vibrato-less tone, and “Into Light” demonstratestheir ability to sound effortless in themost difficult music.There is much talk today of “spiritualityin music” but do we know what we are talkingabout? For me, spirituality lies as muchas anything in the way things happen musically,the processes in the work and how weexperience them. At least, “Into Light” is tome a spiritual collection both in texts, religiousor otherwise, and in musical settingsby familiar and lesser-known Canadian composers.There is the sense of discovery, ofseeing-beyond, in Three Hymns from R.Murray Schafer’s The Fall Into Light. Andin the mystery of deep, dark, complex texturesin Jocelyn Morlock’s Exaudi. ClaudeVivier’s pleading, dissonant Jesus erbarmedich seems to come from a startlingly-evokedwilderness, while Imant Raminsh’s tonal,harmonically-subtle Ave Verum Corpus keepssettling in an uncanny way on the “right”added-note chords, inversions, and spacingsas it builds to an ecstatic climax.“Into Light” was recorded beautifullyby the team of producer Liz Hamel, engineerDon Harder, and digital editor JonathanQuick. A must-buy for fans of choral musicand of all-around musical excellence.Roger KnoxEARLY MUSIC ANDPERIOD PERFORMANCERameau - Pieces de clavecin en concertsEnsemble Masques; Olivier FortinATMA ACD2 2624No, Jean-PhilippeRameau was not asympathetic man. Hewas a misanthropicindividual who lostno opportunity tostart arguments withJean-Jacques Rousseauduring the heateddiscussions on the merits of French versusItalian opera.From its very first tracks, La Pantomineand L’indiscrète, this is mercifully not apparenton this CD. Both display the virtuosotechniques of the baroque harpsichordist, inparticular that French operatic style whichRameau came above all others to dominate.There is an element of caricature to mostof the sixteen movements in the collection.Speculation about the intended target - if any- for La Laborde remains to this day, but it isstill a highly charming if eccentric composition.Possibly composed, one pundit says,to honour the inventor of an electric piano in1759...Of course, the Pièces de clavecin are notjust about the harpsichord. Spirited violinplayinggives L’Agaçante its name and placesLa Coulicam in its grand and exotic context.Measured flute-playing imparts a slightlysombre quality to La Livri, a lament on thepassing of a musical patron.To describe this CD as varied is a grossunder-statement. Pieces are scored for harpsichord,strings and woodwind, for personalacquaintances of Rameau and for his musicalfriends - in view of his hostile opinions theycould hardly be for his enemies.Michael SchwartzHandel in DarmstadtGeneviève SolyAnalekta AN 2 9121Researching the music of Christoph Graupnerled Geneviève Soly to the DarmstadtHarpsichord Book, which features works byfour German composers: Graupner, Handel,Telemann and Kuhnau.Twenty-nineworks by Handelare found in the collectionand Ms Solyperforms twenty-oneon this CD - plus aparody on Graupner.Handel’s Chaconnein G major receives the lively interpretationfrom Soly that this varied and florid piece deserves.The CD-notes - by Soly - are right tostress Handel’s lyricism.Some cynically note that Handel was England’sbest composer between Purcell and Elgar.The Sonata del Signor Hendel (sic), publishedin London in 1720, can justify thisview. The second allegro and adagio are bothtesting pieces for any harpsichordist, theformer with its two-voice structure of sopranoover bass, and the latter sounding asif it were directly transcribed from organ toharpsichord.Ms Soly adores Handel’s music. As well asmeeting the challenge of the adagio alreadymentioned, she tackles the traditional stylisedBaroque dance movements (the sarabande,gigue, allemande and courante). For this reviewer,however, the really inspired playingcomes in the Sonata in G major. A test on accountof its complexity, its speed, and evenits pure stamina, this is Geneviève Soly ather most driven.Soly’s choice of compositions by Handel isvaried to say the least. A traditional Germanair and variations make up eight of the tracks- Handel at his jolliest. There is even whatappears to be a parody of Graupner by Handel,a marche en rondeau.At the age of eight, Ms Soly knew shewould become a performer of classicalmusic. How grateful we are for her ambition.Michael SchwartzCLASSICAL AND BEYONDMendelssohn - SchubertAfiara String Quartet;Alexander String QuartetFoghorn Records CD 1995(www.afiara.com)A debut CD is something like a “rookieyear” hockey card. It makes you wonderwhere the talent behind it will ultimately endup – in stardom or in obscurity? Based onthis disc, I’m prepared to go out on a sturdylimb and predict a bright future for the AfiaraString Quartet.In case you don’tknow, the AfiaraQuartet is ayoung group of Canadians:Valerie Liand Yuri Cho, violins;David Samuel,viola; and AdrianJune 1 - July 7, 2010 w w w.t h e w h o l e n o t e.c o m 51

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