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Volume 16 Issue 10 - July/August 2011

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among them). The

among them). The episodes are typically anhour long, though the latest Mahler instalmentis twice that length. The retail version of thebroadcast includes a second CD featuring thecomplete First Symphony and isolated movementsfrom three more symphonies (detailsare available at This handsomelyproduced and thoughtful documentaryis considerably enhanced by on-location visitsto Mahler’s boyhood home of Iglau (nowJihlava, in the Czech Republic) and the re-creationof its unique soundscape: a melange ofmilitary bands, the hymnody of St. Jacob’schurch (Mahler, though Jewish, joined thechoir there), the rustic sounds emanatingfrom his father Bernard’s tavern, and the sylvanstillness of the ravine just beyond thetown walls. Tilson-Thomas delivers an extendedand quite engaging thematic analysis ofMahler’s First Symphony, convincingly demonstratinghow Mahler forged the touchstonefor all his subsequent works from these disparatecultural elements. Mahler’s rapid rise tothe very top of his profession as a conductor istraced via stops in Budapest, Vienna and NewYork, including an unprecedented opportunityto enter his villa on the Wörthersee and visitsto the various “composing huts” he had builtfor his precious few summers of composing.We learn of the genesis of most, though not all,of his 10 symphonies along the way. It is perhapsunderstandable, considering the huge expenseof the recording contracts involved, thatthe choral symphonies (2 and 8) are glossedover and the grandiose 8th symphony rates buta single sentence. It is nonetheless an unfortunateomission, as both these works embracea message of resurrection and transcendencethat belie the clichéd thesis of Mahler’s introverted“otherness” which forms such a largepart of Tilson-Thomas’s argument.—Daniel FoleyStrings AttachedThe polish composer Henryk Gorecki,who died last November, wrote threestring quartets fairly late in his career— a fourth was apparently unfinishedat the time of his death — and these arepresented on the specially-priced 2-CD setGorecki: The Three String Quartets (HyperionCDA67812) performed by the Warsaw-basedRoyal String Quartet. It’s certainly not easylistening, with predominantlyslow, quiet, and often dissonantmeditative passages withlow harmonies and little vibrato,interspersed with rich tonal outbursts.Already it is dusk, from1988, Quasi una fantasia, from1991, and … songs are sung, completedin 1995 but not releaseduntil 2005, all offer ample supportfor Adrian Thomas’ commentin the booklet notes that“contemplation was always centralto Gorecki”— certainly there is asacred as well as a secular feel tothese complex and very individualisticworks. All three quartetswere commissioned and first performedby the Kronos Quartet,who have also recorded them. Ihaven’t heard their versions, buthowever different they may beit’s hard to believe that theycould be any more authoritativethan these exemplary performancesby the Polish ensemble.Hyperion continues to addoutstanding discs to its catalogue, and hasjust re-issued the Anthony Marwood andSusan Tomes recital of Music for Violin andPiano by D v o ř á k in their Helios budgetlabelseries (CDH55365). It’s an absolutedelight from start to finish, with really fineworks, outstanding playing, and a beautifulrecorded sound. The Sonata in F minor andthe Sonatina in G are the major works, butthere isn’t a single track that is less thantop-drawer. The Four Romantic Pieces wereTERRY ROBBINSoriginally written for 2 violins and viola,Dvořák arranging them almost simultaneouslyfor violin and piano; two shorter works,the Ballad in D minor and the Notturno in Bmajor, complete the disc. Marwood’s playingis simply faultless, with perfect intonation,a lovely tone, and sensitive and intelligentphrasing. He is matched in all respects byTomes. Marwood has a half-dozen otherfascinating and highly-acclaimedCDs on the Hyperion label, rangingfrom Weill and Stravinskyto little-known British Romanticconcertos. He’s clearly a playerwith a range to match his ability— and that’s saying something.I’m constantly reminded ofhow difficult it is to keep upwith contemporary performersand compositions — or at leastreminded of the fact that I’mprobably not doing as well as Ishould be in that respect. A casein point is the new CD from theIsraeli violinist Ittai Shapira,who is active as a soloist and asa composer. He performs hisown Concierto Latino on anabbreviated (26 minutes) CDfrom Champs Hill (CHRCD020)with the London Serenataconducted by KrzysztofChorzelski. Shapira is a newname to me, but in addition tohis own works he has alreadyhad 14 concertos written for himby other composers! This concerto waswritten in response to a personal assaultShapira experienced when he was mugged bya New York gang in January 2005: the threemovements, titled Assault, Lament and Party,clearly indicate the therapeutic nature of thework, and Shapira’s celebration of hisrecovery. It’s an interesting and accessiblepiece, with a mix of various technical andmusical influences — Latin, Iberian,Sephardic, Cuban, among others — and isextremely well played by all the performers.Recorded at St. Paul New Southgate,London the sound quality is excellent.Naxos has releasedVolume 3of the projected8-volume seriesof the completeMusic for Violinand Orchestra bySarasate (8.572275).I wrote a glowingreview of the earlier volumes a few yearsago, and this latest CD is clearly their equal.The young Chinese violinist Tianwa Yangis again simply brilliant throughout, playingSarasate’s own violin on two of thetracks. The Orquesta Sinfonica de Navarra(founded by Sarasate himself in 1879) underErnest Martinez Izquierdo provides the mostidiomatic support imaginable. And don’tthink for a moment that the standard of theworks themselves is lagging as the seriesproceeds: the Concert Fantasy on Mozart’sDie Zauberflõte is dazzling; Navarra (withthe soloist double-tracked) is an exuberantduet; the bagpipe-influenced Muineiras is adelight. The Nouvelle fantasie sur Faust deGounod, the Barcarolle venitienne and theIntroduction et Caprice-Jota complete animmensely satisfying, entertaining and probablydefinitive disc.string attached continues onlinewith string quartets of Saint-Saëns (FineArts) and Beethoven (Artemis) and theBruch Violin Concerto (Vadim Gluzman) & CONTEMPORARYErich Wolfgang Korngold –Symphony in F SharpHelsinki Philharmonic Orchestra;John StorgårdsOndine ODE 1182-2Here is a fine addition to the significantrevivals and original works recorded by JohnStorgårds with the Helsinki Philharmonic.The precocious Erich Korngold was already64 thewholenote.comJuly 1–September 7, 2011

writing chambermusic, orchestralworks, and operas atan age when manycomposers havebarely started. Buthe was forced toleave Austria duringthe Nazi scourgeand turned to Hollywood, becoming an innovatorin the new art of film music. TheSymphony in F sharp, completed in 1952after his return to Vienna, is a wonderfulsummation of his concert and filmmusic accomplishments.Korngold was a story-teller when criticalopinion prized abstract and esoteric music.Only recently have we appreciated his expressivepersona, orchestral mastery, andjudicious incorporation of musical modernity.The Symphony’s dramatic opening movementdemonstrates all these qualities. Itsangular melodies, dissonant harmony andinterjections by brass and percussion (particularlythe xylophone) show his masteryof newer idioms. Storgårds’ transitionsassuredly through the work’s contrastingmoods, as in a flute solo over hushed stringsor in cinematic flashes featuring the hornsection. The orchestration of the Scherzois especially colourful and the HelsinkiOrchestra takes it all in stride with tightensemble work. I find their performance ofthe anguished slow movement extraordinarilymoving. More cheerful and witty is thefinale, whose popular American film idiom isinterrupted by intense interludes. Roundingoff this valuable disk is Korngold’s youthfulTänzchen, which receives a charminglyViennese treatment by the Helsinki Orchestra.—Roger KnoxArvo Pärt – Symphony No.4Los Angeles Philharmonic;Esa-Pekka SalonenECM New Series ECM 2160For many years,a quote from theEstonian composerhas resoundedwith me: “I havediscovered that itis enough whena single note isbeautifully played.”This line speaks volumes of Arvo Pärt’stintinnabuli approach to musical expression.Shortly after I was tragically and verysuddenly widowed, I attended the Canadianpremier performance of this symphony (longbefore the ECM release). Supportive familymembers and friends had been encouragingme, suggesting that once again I would findbeauty in a world that seemed so empty,as it often does during the early stages ofgrief. I will never forget the profound senseof beauty, tonal balance and celestial blissthat surrounded me for the duration of thesymphony. It truly was the first time I hadencountered beauty amongst my suffering.With the ECM release of this symphony,I was eager to discover whether the samesense of wonder that I experienced livecould possibly be documented. Esa-PekkaSalonen intimately and delicately conductsthe Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra ina way that masterfully conveys Pärt’s aweinspiringcomposition.This label has a long history of workingwith Arvo Pärt. His sparse and minimaliststyle (which seems to rely on silence asmuch as sound at times) lends itself perfectlyto the label’s established approach of audiophilerecording techniques. It is a superlativerecording that draws the listener right in,or rather, right above the front of the stage;there’s a stunning balance of direct andreverberant sound, while still maintainingpinpoint imaging.—John LaroqueFederico Mompou – Silent MusicJenny LinSteinway & Sons 30004I understandFederico Mompou’sfour books entitledSilent Music forpiano (1959-67)as music to beco-constructed bycreator and listener.The neededframe of mind, conditions, and responsesmust come from the listener. Then pensivemoments may arrive that take us beyondourselves. The Spanish title Musica Calladacomes from mystical poetry by St. John ofthe Cross, the 28 pieces sharing a quality ofmonastic sparseness with soft dynamics andslow tempi.Since acquiring ArkivMusic in 2008,Steinway & Sons has released several discsshowcasing its topflight piano. This is a specialrecording where instrument, production,engineering, documentation, and performanceare all superb. Jenny Lin displays flawlesspianism with superb control of dynamicsand occasional flashes of virtuosity. I amreluctant to single out particular favourites:the books create cumulative effects and listenerresponses will vary widely.In Mompou’s own recordings, melodiesare shaped more incisively, rubato is freer,and old-fashioned “breaking of the hands”is heard. As a contemporary listener, Imuch prefer Lin’s approach. But Mompou’sown passionate playing belies any notionof minimalist intentions. The mood is differentthan Satie’s and closer to Debussy athis most sparse, in the prelude … De passur la neige, or in Le petit berger from theChildren’s Corner Suite.One extra piece, Secreto, comes at thedisc’s end. Here, criticism takes its leave andreaders are invited to seek their own experienceswith this remarkable music.—Roger KnoxDaniel Janke –Cinco Puntos CardinalesMark Fewer; Coro In LimineCentrediscs CMCCD 16911In partcompositions forviolin solo, a men’schorus, mixedinstrumentalensemble andsoundscapes fromSouth America, theunifying principleof this eclectic collection is its design asan accompaniment and essential text to amodern dance work by the Lima Peru dancecompany, Danza Contemporanea.The work’s title may be translated as“Five Cardinal Points” and its choreographerYvonne von Mollendorff suggests ametaphysical reading: the four directionsof the compass plus the fifth — “the self, theobserver.” The work’s sections range widelyin kind from three austere solo violin pieceseloquently performed by Mark Fewer, to therhythmic sound of palm fronds in Guyana,to the lush male sounds of the Peruvian Coroin Limine. Composer Daniel Janke deftlymerges international and his own Canadianmusical influences and creates a work thatverges on the cinematic in scope. The varietyof performing ensembles and where theywere recorded geographically reminds one ofJanke’s more recent career as a film writer,composer and director.Adding to the kaleidoscope of aestheticsand genres is a track recorded with some ofToronto’s top improvisers, as well as a WestAfrican tinged track Miawezo. The lattercomposition alludes to Janke’s studies of thekora (West African harp-lute) in the 1970sand ’80s with some of its leading hereditaryJali musicians.Long devoted to incorporating worldmusic influences in his compositions, DanielJanke continues to boldly bridge parts of ourglobe through the music on this album.—Andrew TimarJuly 1–September 7, 2011 65

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