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Volume 16 Issue 5 - February 2011

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  • February
  • Toronto
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Editor’s CornerAS WE

Editor’s CornerAS WE ENTER the New Year you’llnotice a couple of new aspects toDISCoveries. “Strings Attached” is acolumn in which Terry Robbins will “roundup”recent releases featuring the violinfamily – concertos, sonatas and chambermusic offerings from the international catalogueon a monthly basis. We also welcomeJason van Eyk, long familiar for his “InWith The New” column in these pages, toon a new piano disc by Rachel Kiyo Iwaasain the Modern and Contemporary reviews.As for my own column, as the snow piledup outside my window over the past twomonths, so have the mounds of CDs on mydesk. I’ve had lots of listening time to exploreinnumerable new releases which onlymakes the task of selecting what to includehighlights from my hibernation are includedbelow.In my other life as general manager ofNew Music Concerts I have had the pleasureof being exposed to the music of someof the world’s most exciting compositionaltalents over the past decade. Last May, in aconcert curated by Brian Current, CanadiansNicole Lizée and Analia Llugdar were featuredalongside Frenchman Fabien Levy andGermans Enno Poppe and Oliver Schneller.Schneller’s delicate Trio (1998) for accordion,cello and piano was featured on thaton a new Wergomore recent Schneller compositions (WER6579-2). Trio and Aqua Vit (1999) for eightinstruments are theonly purely acousticcompositions on thedisc, with all of themore recent worksinvolving live electronics.Schneller’sfascination withthe nature of sounditself is evident even in the instrumentalcompositions, as he examines textures andtimbres as if through a microscope. Thisconcern is taken further with his use oftechnology in the later works, most notablyStratigraphie I (2006) and II (2010), bothDAVID OLDSfor six instruments and live electronics.Also of note is his alluring addition to thetwo pianos/two percussion repertoire withResonant Space, a compelling work whichadds live sound manipulation to the mix.The most recent New Music Concertfeatured Quatuor Diotima, a Paris-basedensemble whose repertoire spans threecenturies with a particular interest and expertisein the work of living composers. Ofthe works they performed in Toronto, byfar the most intriguing was Madhares, thethird string quartet by Thomas Larcher, whowas born in Austria in 1963. This extendedwork called upon the musicians to employa number of extended techniques, includingtapping on the strings with wooden mutesto make eerie pointillistic glissandi up theneck of their instruments. The dynamicrange varied from sub-audible to shriekinglyloud in moments reminiscent of the showerscene from Psycho. But the piece was alsoimbued with beautiful melodies harkeningback to pre-classical times and moments oflanguid calm. You can hear the work foryourself performed by Diotima on an ECMNew Series release (ECM 2111) which alsoincludes Larcher’sBöse Zelten forpiano and orchestraand Still for violaand chamber orchestrawith soloists TillFellner and KimKashkashian and theMunich ChamberOrchestra under Dennis nis Russell Davies.Both of the concerted works have the intimacyof chamber music while exploitingthe full resources of the orchestra. As withOliver Schneller, the exploration of sounditself is paramount. The prepared piano isparticularly effective in Böse Zelten whosetitle translates as Malign Cells.On the most recent release by QuatuorDiotima the group is joined by sopranoSandrine Piau and Canadian contraltoMarie-Nicole Lemieux in works by Berg,Webern and Schoenberg (Naïve V 5240).Piau’s impeccable vocals are expected inSchoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2 wherethe third and fourth movements are settingsof texts by StefanGeorge, but anunexpected treatis the sixth movementof Berg’sLyric Suite whereLemieux sings thetext inscribed bythe composer in aminiature copy of the score sent to his “beloved”Hanna Fuchs. That only came to lightthanks to Fuchs’ daughter after the death ofBerg’s widow in 1976. I’m not sure if this isLemieux makes a convincing case for it. Thequartet is impeccable in their interpretationsof all the works, including the purely instrumentalSechs Bagatelles of Anton Webern.Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) andDmitri Shostakovich (1906-1974) sharea remarkably similar voice and seem tothought that much of Shostakovich’s interestin Jewish music stemmed from his friendshipwith the younger Pole. Weinberg’s PianoTrio was composed in 1945, two years beforethe masterpiece in the same genre byworks featured on a new recording by TrioVoce, an ensemble which includes Americanviolinist Jasmine Lin and Canadians MarinaHoover, founding cellist of the St. LawrenceString Quartet, and Alberta pianist PatriciaTao. The disc, entitled Inscapes (Con BrioCBR21045, www.conbriorecordings.com),includes not only the Weinberg trio Op.24and Shostakovich’s familiar Op.67, but alsoa rare performanceof the latter’s earlyperformances aresensitively nuancedand dynamic and therecording, done atWFMT Studios inChicago last May, isimmaculate.I’m not sure why, but it seems like kindof a “guilty pleasure” to revisit some of themasterworks of the past century upon whichthat so many of my generation never seemto get beyond the pop music they heard intheir formative years, yet I also realize thatthe music which informed my own artisticdevelopment still remains my favourite. Soit is with a grain of salt that I recommendCanada’s best classical & jazz onlinegrigorian.com60 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 - March 7, 2011

Avantgarde Favourites of the 20th Century(Scandinavian Classics 220571-205) performedby the Arthuis Sinfonietta. Buthearing Ligeti’sChamber Concertofor ThirteenInstruments,Webern’s Concerto,Varèse’ Octandre,Lutoslawski’s ChainI and Takemitsu’sRain Coming againexperience. To hear these seminal worksso well performed in a new context wasinvigorating. And the addition of HarrisonBirtwistle’s Ritual Fragment which I was notpreviously aware of was a real treat.Another wonderful revisitation was anexuberant new recording of Stravinsky’sRite of Spring by Gustavo Dudamel and theSimon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela(Deutsche Grammophon 477 8775).Although appointedMusic Director ofthe Los AngelesPhilharmonic in2009, Dudamelcontinues to workwith the outstandingyoung playersof his homeland asthese thrilling live recordings from Caracasin February 2010 attest. As always Dudamelbrings the best out in the youngsters andone would not likely guess this is anythingother than a fully professional orchestra justby listening. The Stravinsky is paired withLa noche de los mayas (Night of the Maya)by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas.Completed a year before the composer’sdeath in 1940 La noche had to wait twentynot likely to replace Rite of Spring in therepertoire anytime soon, this is a dramatic,lyrical, colourful and powerful work that deservesto be much more widely heard. WithDudamel as its champion we can rest assuredthat it will be. musical experiences ofthe past several monthswas not a piece of musicat all, but rather a bookwritten by Toronto playwrightand director ofOne Little Goat Theatre,Adam Seelig. Every Dayin the Morning (slow)(New Star Books) is anovella crafted like a musical compositionand typeset in a very graphic way – its verysparse text spread over the page like poetry,with far more white space than print. Thisaffects, and effects, the way we read thismonologue, with pauses built in as an inherentpart of the process. Told alternately inthe inner thoughts of a writer’s-block-riddencomposer, railing against himself, the world,the classical music business, Steve Reich andthe minimalists, his father and his childlessmarriage. It is effective and compelling.immediately and read the book again, aloudthis time, and found it even more satisfying.WE WELCOME your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments shouldbe sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720VOCALHenri Duparc – Intégrale des MelodiesMarc Boucher; Olivier GodinXXI XXI-CD 2 1705Theodore Dubois – Chansons de MarjolieAnne Saint-Denis; Olivier GodinXXI XXI-CD 2 1704Henri Duparc,despite having beenpossibly most talentedpupils of CésarFranck, despitehaving been oneof the founders ofSociété Nationale deMusique Moderne(with Saint-Saëns),despite having livedto the age of 85, lefta legacy of fewerthan 40 works. Theshocking explanationis that Duparc, whostopped composingat 37 due to what was then diagnosed as“neurasthenia” (a type of mental exhaustionwith elements of depression, anxiety andpain), destroyed most of his works, includinghis only opera. In a letter to Jean Cras,Duparc wrote: “Having lived 25 years in asplendid dream, the whole idea of [musical]representation has become – I repeat toyou – repugnant. The other reason for thisdestruction, which I do not regret, was thecomplete moral transformation that Godimposed on me 20 years ago and which, in asingle minute, obliterated all of my past life.Since then, [my opera] Roussalka, not havingany connection with my new life, shouldno longer exist.”This album’s 17 songs have been calleda perfect blend of poetry and music, in nosmall part because Duparc was inspired bythe words of Gauthier, Sully-Prud’homme,Baudelaire and Cazalis. Marc Boucherand Olivier Godin, frequent collaboratorson stage and on record, are delightfullymatched and attuned to each other’s musicalsensibilities. These eminently able Quebecmusicians have successfully rendered songsrequiring not just musical skill, but also alove of these texts. A great introduction toBathurst St., Toronto ON M5S 2R4. Wealso encourage you to visit our website,www.thewholenote.com, where you canperformers, composers and record labels,“buy buttons” for on-line shopping andadditional, expanded and archival reviews.—David Olds,DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comDuparc’s tragically small repertoire.François-Clément Théodore Dubois wasan almost-contemporary to Henri Duparc,their lives intersecting at many junctures,though his composing life was a much moreprestigious Prix de Rome in 1861, he alsotook over from César Franck as choirmasterat the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde and, in1877, succeeded Camille Saint-Saëns asorganist at the Church of the Madeleine. Heserved as director of the Paris Conservatoirefrom 1896 to 1905.The true surprise is that his song cyclesremain virtually unknown and numerousoperas and ballets either have never beenperformed or have fallen into oblivion.The only work attaining some popularity ishis oratorio Les Sept Paroles de Christ. Inthis recording, Dubois’ compositions provea true epitome of French Romanticism.Though rarely indicating the type of voicethat should sing them, they neverthelessfollow faithfully the overall theme, usingcontemporary poetry and reaching for inspirationfrom the Renaissance and MiddleAges. Anne Saint-Denis is a revelation here:her voice is not really what one would call“beautiful,” with a somewhat over-pronouncedvibrato and shallow tessitura, andyet it seems perfectly suited. This rare, perfectmatch of music and instrument delivera true delight to the listener of this (mostlikely) unfamiliar music. The unfamiliaritypasses quickly, as one feels compelled tolisten again and again, soon humming alongto the tracks.—Robert TomasFebruary 1 - March 7, 2011 thewholenote.com 61

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