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Volume 16 Issue 5 - February 2011

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  • February
  • Toronto
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Proulx plays the 1921

Proulx plays the 1921 Casavant restoredin 1979 by Guilbault-Therien (CathédraleSaint Germain de Rimouski) and makesthe the most memorablemovement. Proulx also plays the SymphonyNo.4 in what is the most skilfully registered(tonally coloured) and virtuosic performancein the entire set. Superb.Benjamin Waterhouse performs SymphonyNo.2 at Cathédrale Saint Hyacinthe onone of Casavant’s earliest instruments (1885,rebuilt in 1978). The fugal 4th movementScherzo is a playful dance of solo reeds andSymphony No.3 is played by GillesRioux on a 1964 Casavant, rebuilt in 1990 inthe Basilique Notre-Dame-du-Cap, Cap-dela-Madeleine.The 2nd movement Minuettois an utter delight and the 3rd movementMarche is simply explosive!Organist Jacquelin Rochette plays the1943 Casavant (rebuilt 1995) in Église Saint-Roch, Quebec City. Her performance of theSymphony No.5 features the famous Toccataevery organist either plays or wishes theyplayed better. Her Symphony No.6 Finale iseven more spectacular and shows Widor athis rhythmic and inventive best.Symphonies 9 and 10 are both more compactworks with fewer movements. OrganistJacques Boucher has the advantage of playingthe 1995 rebuild of the 1915 Casavantin Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal.Of all the organs this one seems most solidlyin tune throughout its entire set of ranks.Most others show some minor tuning issues,though not serious enough to detract fromtheir performance.—Alex BaranEditor’s Note:selections from the XXI-21 organ catalogueon our website: www.thewholenote.com.Universal Music Canada, distributor forXXI-21, tells us that the label’s product isavailable at L’Atelier Grigorian(www.grigorian.com).Brahms – Handel Variations;Rhapsodies; Piano PiecesMurray PerahiaSony 88697794692Brahms – Works for Solo PianoStéphan SylvestreXXI XXI-CD 2 1717As youthful inappearance as pianistMurray Perahiamay be, he is nowrightfully regardedas one of the veteransof the concertstage,havingenjoyed a successfulinternational careerever since makinghis debut at NewYork’s CarnegieHall in 1966. Hisrecordings covermost of the majorrepertoire, yet forsome reason, theentlyin his creative output. (Perhaps he feltthat Bach was better suited for his recurringreturned to the master from Hamburg in thisSony recording which features the HandelVariations, the two Rhapsodies Op.79, andtwo sets of Piano Pieces, Opp.118 and 119.From the very opening measures of theHandel Variations, the listener senses thatthis disc is a winner. True to his pianisticstyle, the playing is controlled, elegant, andcidedlyBrahms for the 21st century, cleanand straight-ahead without being fussy and-of piano pieces Op.118. And I also found thetone a little bright – a little more bass please!But this is the Perahia we have come toknow and respect, at all times allowing themusic to speak for itself.From a veteran, we go to music ofBrahms as performed by a young Canadianartist, Stéphan Sylvestre. Currentlyon faculty at the University of Western Ontario,Sylvestre is a graduate of the Universitéde Montréal and the Glenn GouldSchool. He was twice a prize-winner at theJeunesses Musicales of Canada, and also awinner at the Prix d’Europe, the CanadianMusic Competition, and the Montreal SymphonyOrchestra Competition. This CD, onthe XXI label, is his fourth, and features theBrahms Ballades Op.10, and the two sets ofPiano Pieces Op.118 and 119. In contrast toPerahia’s no-nonsense interpretation, Sylvestre’sapproach is much more romantic,but equally appealing. His playing is introspectiveand thoughtful, imbued with a deepsensitivity. Tempos are considerably morelanguorous, and he produces a wonderfullywarm and resonant tone from the instrument.If this is Brahms for the 19th century, so beit – Sylvestre’s masterful performance is awelcome presence in our sometimes harshand too technologically advanced world.So for all lovers of Brahms’ piano music(and there should be many), these are twotionsto the catalogue.—Richard HaskellMahler – Symphony No. 4; Ruckert-LiederMagdalena Kožená; Lucerne FestivalOrchestra; Claudio AbbadoEuroArts 2057988Mahler – Des Knaben Wunderhorn;Adagio from Symphony No. 10Magdalena Kožená; Christian Gerhaher;Cleveland Orchestra; Pierre BoulezDeutsche Grammophon 477 9060These twoexceptionalperformances canbe counted amongthe crown jewels ofdiscs celebrating thelegacy of GustavMahler. The mezzosopranoMagdalenaof exceptionalintelligence andsensitivity wellknown for herartfully calculatedinterpretations,features in bothperformance of the Rückert-Lieder withthe superb Lucerne Festival Orchestra.This hand-picked ensemble of Europe’sClaudio Abbado’s direction and possessesa clairvoyant ability to respond instantlyto his minutest gestures. Their stunninglive performance of the Fourth Symphonycaptured here on a EuroArts DVD isa miracle of gracefulness, though themacabre sarcasm of this most accessible ofMahler’s symphonies is equally pointed.The highlight of this disc is the beautifully ablebaritone Christian Gerhaher in twelveselections from Mahler’s Des KnabenWunderhorn song cycle on the DeutscheGrammophon label. This is a live performancewith The Cleveland Orchestra and completesthe cycle of Mahler’s orchestral worksrecorded by Pierre Boulez over the past 15years with various orchestras. Unfortunatelythe rustic charms and barnyard humour ofthese early songs of Mahler’s do not seemparticularly well suited to the über-urbaneBoulez, who adapts some curiously straitlacedtempos and, with the exception of64 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 - March 7, 2011

Gerhaher’s chilling account of the militantmasterpiece Revelge, delivers a generallymundane though admirably dapper performance.Boulez redeems himself utterly howeverwith his supple, near-ideal rendition ofthe posthumous Adagio from the incompleteTenth Symphony. This highly chromatic,searching movement culminating in a shattering,ten-note dissonance points to the futureand as such is clearly dear to his heart.The Cleveland Orchestra yet again distin-—Daniel FoleyUrban VariationsThe Junction TrioIndependent TJTCD20110(www.myspace.com/thejunctiontrio)In their coverphoto they look grittyand hard-edged,staring expressionlessinto the camera,in the style of punkrockers. A part ofJamie Thompson’sUrban Flute Project,which has a history of fseekingoutunusualunusualurban performance spaces, where acousticstrump décor, this presentation of theJunction Trio seems appropriate enough.Even a cursory listening to the CD, however,reveals that art trumps the visuals, withaccomplished readings of music by Bach,Borodin, Haydn and Vivaldi.The highlights of the CD for me, however,were the two compositions by the trio’sis his arrangement of Radiohead’s song,Where I End and You Begin, which it is nomistake to refer to as a “composition.” In thetradition of so many composers, Scheininrock concert beginnings – contemporary“folk?” – and transformed it into an exquisitepiece of chamber music, which, to myears anyway, sounds more contemporarythan the original! In his other work on thedisc, Flutter, built on a repeated ostinatopattern introduced by the unaccompaniedother instruments, including percussion,played by the ensemble’s versatile cellist,Lucas Tensen. Best of all in these two worksby Scheinin, the players seem most at homeingbehind the sounds. Kudos to the JunctionTrio for bringing us something that is bothclassical and contemporary.—Allan PulkerThere’s more on the web!Check thewholenote.com formore reviews by Alex Baran,Geoff Chapman, BruceSurtees, and Ken WaxmanStrings AttachedDESPITE HIS UNDISPUTED talents,I’ve always been a bit unsure of howI feel about the playing of the Frenchviolinist Renaud Capuçonstarted listening to his new 3-CD set of theBeethoven – Complete Sonatas for Violin& Piano with Frank Braley (Virgin Classics9 64200 1) I didn’t think that was goingto change, but I was wrong. True, theearly Op.12 sonatas do seem to get off toa lacklustre start, but Capuçon and Braleyhave been working on this project for 14years, and it soon shows. The second CDopens with a beautifulreading of the“Spring” sonata,and the qualitynever lags. There’s aminor – and a marvellous“Kreutzer”,with a particularlysuperb opening movement. ment Throughout,tempos seem perfectly judged, and there’s awonderful range of dynamics. The balancesiblya bit far back, but it actually enablesthe individual players to be clearly heard,and their obvious understanding to emerge.And what an understanding it is. I realized Ididn’t know some of these sonatas as well asI thought; this outstanding set is a tremendousand welcome way to put that right.You only have to listen to Mozart’s stringquintets to appreciate that the string quartetdoes not have sole claim to the ‘perfectstring family’ designation, and the samecomposer’s Divertimento in E flat K563, forViolin, Viola and Cello, proves conclusivelythat ‘one less’ can be just as satisfying as‘one more’. Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermannonly formed the Trio Zimmermannwith violist Antoine Tamestit and cellistChristian Poltera in 2007, but their playingon this Super Audio CD (BIS-SACD-1817) issimply remarkable;you would thinkthey had spent a lifetimeplaying together.Despite its title,this Divertimento isa large-scale stringtrio. A maturework from 1788,TERRY ROBBINSits 6-movement structure turefollowsthatofthethat of thewhimsical Divertimento popular in Vienna atthe time, but musically and emotionally it’sin a different world. The Mozart scholar AlfredEinstein went so far as to call this workmanifested itself in this world.” Listeningto this enthralling and beautifully recordedperformance, it’s hard to disagree. Schu-single Allegro openingmovement fora work started andabandoned in 1816 –completes a marvellousCD.When I saw thatthe latest CD fromCanadian violin sensationJames Ehnes was the MendelssohnViolin Concerto (ONYX 4060)thought was “Do we really need another recordingof probably the most popular – andmost frequently recorded – concerto in therepertoire?” Well as it turns out, yes, we do.The Mendelssohn is also probably the mostperfect of all violin concertos, and simplycan’t be avoided by any player who reachesthe top rank. The real challenge, of course,the music speak for itself. This CD reunitesEhnes with the Philharmonia Orchestra,partners in his 2007 recording of theElgar concerto, but this time with VladimirAshkenazy conducting. The qualities mostoften mentioned in Ehnes reviews – his impeccabletechnique and sumptuous tone – arefully evident here in another top-notch performance.Ehnes joins forces with membersof the Seattle Chamber Music Society for asimply astonishing work written for doublestring quartet when Mendelssohn was only16. Both performances were recorded live inconcert, the concerto – with an occasionallymuddy orchestral sound – at the WarwickArts Centre in the UK, and the Octet atBenaroya Hall in Seattle.It’s somewhatsurprising that theYsaÿe Six Sonatasfor Solo ViolinOp.27 aren’t betterknown. EugèneYsaÿe – a colossusof a performer, inall respects – isist,and the sonatas, written in 1923 when hewas 64, not only summed up the polyphonicachievements of the preceding 200 yearsbut also introduced new techniques thatof – a colleague of Ysaÿe’s: Joseph Szigeti;Jacques Thibaud; George Enescu; FritzKreisler; Mathieu Crickboom; and ManuelQuiroga. Consequently, they differ greatlyin form and content, but this simply makesthe startling originality and individuality ofthese remarkable works even more apparent.February 1 - March 7, 2011 thewholenote.com 65

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