5 years ago

Volume 17 Issue 1 - September 2011

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  • September
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Book of the Hanging

Book of the Hanging GardensVancouver Festival. She tells us in the notesthat Gould was a superb and deferentialaccompanist, who followed her “likea shadow.”Sound quality throughout these CDs isso-so, yet very present and alive. EngineerAlbert Frantz did the digital restorations: youknow right away these are dated performances,but you also feel like a time-traveller,sitting in a good seat at each concert venue.It is sad to recall that this brilliant youngToronto pianist of the 1950s could still beconcertizing today, had he lived, and had hecontinued a normal path. Gould would turn80 next year. He was a contemporary of PaulBadura-Skoda, Alfred Brendel and MarthaArgerich. But something went wrong, andGould’s retreat into the recording studiobrought a more mannered musical trajectorythat still confounds many.Strongly recommended! Order onlinefrom (.99).—Peter Kristian MoseStrings AttachedTERRY ROBBINSThroughout his life, Robert Schumanntended to concentrate on one particularform of composition at a time, and in1853 he produced his only three works forviolin and orchestra, although only one — theFantasy in C minor — was premiered beforehis death 3 years later.BIS has released anoutstanding SACD of theComplete Works for Violin andOrchestra (BIS-SACD-1775)featuring Ulf Wallin with theRobert-Schumann-Philharmonieunder Frank Beermann. TheConcerto in A minor isSchumann’s own transcription ofhis 1850 Cello Concerto, and itworks remarkably well, given thetwo instruments’ differences inpitch and tone. It was premieredas recently as 1987 after a copywas found in the papers of theviolinist Joseph Joachim, towhom both the Fantasy andthe Violin Concerto in D minorwere dedicated. The Fantasy, anattractive work with a strikingcadenza, fell out of favourafter Schumann’s death, andthe D minor concerto fared nobetter, with several projectedpremieres being cancelled beforeClara Schumann and Joachimlost faith in it and decidedagainst publishing it. Joachim’sresistance was probably due to the econcerto’stechnical and musical challenges: it’s a largework with a beautiful slow movement, buthas never really established itself in thepremiered in 1937. If anything can changethat, it’s this recording. Ulf Wallin (whoalso wrote the outstanding booklet notes)uses Schumann’s original solo part, wiselychoosing to ignore the later unauthorized“corrections and alterations” apparentlyperformance, full of strength and beauty,and perfectly displaying the mix of Classicaland Romantic styles that typify the music ofthis still often misunderstood composer.CHANDOS has issued Volume 2 of theViolin Concertos of the Polish violinist andcomposer Grazyna Bacewicz (CHAN 10673),was that 20th century rarity — a world-classviolin virtuoso with compositional skills tomatch. Volume 1 featured Concertos 1, 3and 7, and this new CD completes the setwith Nos. 2 (1945), 4 (1951) and 5 (1954)and has never been performed).The three works here rangelike No.2, with its mix ofmelodic and strongly rhythmicmaterial, to the much tougher,terser world of No.5, as Polishmusic began moving away fromthe “formalist” Communistdays. All three demonstrateBacewicz’s innate understandingof the instrument, and herassured grasp of form andorchestration. The Polish-bornviolinist Joanna Kurkowicz, nowresident in the United States,is wonderful throughout, andPolish Radio Symphony Orchestraunder Lukasz Borowicz. Anabsolutely essential addition tothe 20th century violin concertorecord catalogue.Bohuslav Martinu, ArthurHonegger and Paul Hindemithlived almost exactlycontemporaneous lives, beingborn within5 years of each other in the earlyJohannes Moserperceptively notes in the booklet for hislatest CD, Cello Concertos (Hänssler CLASSICCD 93.276) they had one other thing incommon: they all consciously avoided thepath of serialism and consistently developedtheir own very individual styles. Moser’sidea of bringing their cello concertostogether in one programme is a real winner,are in the traditional three-movement formand are immediately accessible, while clearlyimbued with each composer’s individualvoice. The Martinu, from 1930, has itstimes. The Honegger is a short (15 minutes)but very effective work from the sameyear. The Hindemith, from 1940, is classicHindemith: a strong, rhythmic opening; animmediate melodic entry for the soloist; anuse of tonality; stunning orchestration. It’sa wonderful partner for the Violin Concertofrom the previous year. I’m completely ata loss to understand why Hindemith is stillregarded in some circles as a dry, theoreticalmusician — it’s a view completely at oddswith his mature orchestral works, and onecompletely destroyed by performanceslike this. Moser is outstanding throughoutthe disc. The recorded sound is warmand resonant, and the Deutsche RadioPhilharmonie and conductor ChristophPoppen are ideal partners.strings attached continues & CONTEMPORARYXenakis – Orchestral WorksOrchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg;Arturo TamayoTimpani 5C1177(–2001) wasa Greek composerbased in Paris, witha long relationshipto Canada: fourpremieres and manyvisits going backall that, there have been just two orchestralperformance of Jonchaies (1977), a majorwork included in this set.Over the 40-some years of his career,amazing output considering that hecomposed 100 or so other works as well.Until recently, few of the orchestral pieceswere available on disc. Thankfully, in2000, conductor Arturo Tamayo and thebegan recording these works for TimpaniRecords, a French label. Over the pastcollected in a handy box set. Of the 2362 thewholenote.comSeptember 1–October 7, 2011

works presented, only a few have beenAchorripsis (1957) for ensemble rather thanorchestra. As it is out on disc already, onewonders why it was included. That quibbleaside, this is an important collection, verywell recorded and performed. Tamayo isa great deal of contemporary music allaround Europe.Metastaseis(1954) and Pithopraktabeen available on disc through reissuesof early recordings. This new one isa revelation, not only for the pristinequality but for the assurance of the stringplayers, who now very well know how toperform the glissandi, steely non-vibrato,and other extended techniques that earliermusicians struggled with. Hiketidesis a little-known orchestral suite derivedfrom incidental music for the Aeschylustragedy The Suppliants, and is a fascinatingmixture of textural music and archaicsoundingmodal passages.The majority of the works recorded forthis set date from the 1980s and 1990s.Most are scored for full orchestra, althoughSyrmos (1959) and Shaar (1983) are forstrings alone, and Akratawinds. Two are concertante works forpiano, dazzlingly performed by the youngJapanese pianist Hiroaki Ooï: Synaphaïwritten on 10 staves, and Erikhthon (1974).The other work in this set featuring soloistsis Aïs (1980), written for the extraordinaryvoice of Spyros Sakkas, jumping betweenbaritone and falsetto. He is heard alongwith a solo percussion part ably performedby Béatrice Daudin. This work opens theset, and is truly evocative and emotionallygripping. The latest pieces included inthe set date from 1991: Roaï, Kyania andKrinoïdi. An extraordinary year! Evenmore amazing is the variety of characterand material between these works. Whilefrom ill health, it certainly does notshow in these forceful, sophisticated,beautiful works.In listening through all this music,various strands of the composer’s thoughtand expression surface; some — like theglissando textures, the layered polyrhythms,or the modal melodies harmonizedin blocks — reappear. Others appear thensubmerge, giving rise to new ideas. Theevolution from one orchestral score tothe next is quite organic, and the visceralintensity of the music remains constant.Try listening chronologically as well asfollowing the order presented on the discs.What is most apparent, in the end, isinspiration from the symphony orchestra.The important contribution he made to thegenre can start to be understood and appre-—James HarleyS. C. Eckhardt-Gramatté –The Six Piano SonatasMarc-André HamelinCentrediscs CMCCD 16611Outside Canadianmusic circles whereher legacy liveson in a prestigiousmusic competition,the colourful nameof Sophie-CarmenEckhardt-Gramatté(1899-1974) mightnot be particularly well known. Butrest assured, this woman led an equallycolourful life as performer, composerand pedagogue. Born in Moscow, sheentered the Paris Conservatory at ageeight, studying piano and violin, and wenton to a successful concert career on bothher to Barcelona, Berlin, Vienna, and1953 when her second husband FerdinandEckhardt became the director of theWinnipeg Art Gallery. There she brokenew ground as a teacher and composer,her contemporary style very much steepedin the romantic tradition. Among hercompositions are six piano sonatas, writtenbetween 1923 and 1952 — and who better toperform this technically challenging musicthan piano titan Marc-André Hamelin?This two CD Centrediscs set is a re-issueof an Altarus recording from 1991.These sonatas, covering a thirty yearperiod, display a wealth of contrastinghomage to the Baroque period — think1920s neo-classicism. Conceived as atwo-part invention, the mood is buoyantlyoptimistic, and Hamelin easily meets thetechnical demands required to bring it offconvincingly. Considerably more subjectiveis the second sonata, completed only a yearlater. In four movements, the piece aptlydescribes Eckhardt-Gramatté’s emotionalstate over a two year period, from the darkdays in Berlin during the Great War to thehusband, artist Walter Gramatté settledin Spain.The mercurial nature of these sonatas,with their ever-changing moods presentsno challenge to Hamelin. The vivaciousdeftly as the languorous Nocturne of theSonata No.4.Eckhardt-Gramatté’s music might not bestrident, while others, too deeply-rootedin late romanticism. Nevertheless, sheoccupies a unique place in 20th centurya composer who undoubtedly deserveswider recognition.—Richard HaskellMathieu Lussier – PassagesPentaedre; Louise Lessard;Claudia Schaetzle; Fraser JacksonATMA ACD2 2657Bassoonist andcomposer Mathieuitionshere featurewind instrumentsand piano in variouscombinations,some conventionaland others unusual. winds in solo and chamber music that haswon support of major performers. His worksalign with the French neoclassical woodwindtradition, and add distinctive touches. I particularlylike his Sextet for wind quintet andcontrabassoon, a concise three-movementwork in which the contrabassoon providesboth weight and wit!shows up in harmonic progressions and inthe presence of the siciliano and chaconne,for example. Also, there are popular elementsalong with the baroque; after all,repeated chord progressions in pop songscan be compared to the ground bass whichappears in the last movement of the Sextetand in Passages for bassoon and piano. Inthe White Rock Sonata syncopation providesa rhythmic spark to the earlier be an expressive and technically facilebassoon soloist. I am also particularly takenwith clarinettist Martin Carpentier’s performanceof the Introduction and Sicilienne.In fact the wind soloists are all of high cali-oboe d’amore player Normand Forget, altosaxophonist Claudia Schaetzle, French horn-companiesbut periodically steers well-pacedand convincing interpretations.—Roger KnoxPRES Revisited: Józef Patkowskiin MemoriumVarious ArtistsBolt Records DUX 0812/13( inits bravado, thisset joins one CDrecordings ofimportant musiquePolish composerswith another CD ofacoustic improvisations onsonthese themesby three British and two Polish players.The result not only captures cerebralvariants of the compositions but alsoSeptember 1–October 7, 2011 63

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