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Volume 17 Issue 5 - February 2012

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Centre and Periphery,

Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile:Interpreting the Music of István Anhalt,György Kurtág, and Sándor Veressedited by Friedemann Sallis, Robin Elliott,and Kenneth DeLongWilfrid Laurier University Press480 pages, score examples; .00In 2005, IstvánAnhalt’s The Tentsof Abraham wonthe JUNO Awardfor best Canadianclassical compositionof the year. Itwas remarkable forsuch a provocative,uncompromisingand politically ambitiouspiece. But itseemed even more remarkable, because forthe 54 years Anhalt had lived in Canada, asWilliam Benjamin points out in this collectionof essays, his music had been almosttotally neglected by performers and audiencesin his adopted homeland.Anhalt is one of the three composers,along with Sándor Veress and GyörgyKurtág, whose relationship to the place ofhis roots, and the process of displacementthat took him away, is looked at. But theideas of place and displacement are treatednot just as physical states. As Gordon Smithwrites, “They also embody metaphoricalideas of being and dwelling, and ideas pertainingto danger, persecution, exile, adaption,and the resultant imperative discoveryof others and the emergent self.”Anhalt, Veress, and Kurtág were all bornin Hungary and all studied in Budapest at theFranz Liszt Academy — Anhalt and Veresswith Zoltán Kodály, and Kurtág with Veress.All left Hungary, having survived the warand the subsequent Soviet occupation of theirhomeland. Anhalt and Veress left soon afterthe war ended, but Kurtág, who is younger,didn’t leave until 1993. Anhalt and Kurtágare Jewish, and all three are haunted by apast which is memorialized in their music.These 20 papers by various academics,composers and performers were first presentedat a symposium at the University ofCalgary in 2008. To set the scene, there’s alovely musical tribute to Veress, who diedin Switzerland in 1992, by his son, ClaudioVeress. Kurtág, who has the greatest internationalreputation of the three, is recalledin an insightful reminiscence by his godson,Hungarian-born Canadian pianist GergelySzokolay. Anhalt, now 93 years old and livingin Kingston, Ontario, where he spentmany years teaching at Queen’s University,contributes a brief personal memoir to complementJohn Beckwith’s astute portrait, andemerges as a thoroughly fascinating figure.PAMELA MARGLESThe strength of this probing collectionlies in the way the various approaches toplace and displacement offer insights intointerpreting key works by these three composers.But the connection between Anhalt,Veress and Kurtág is left unexplored — onlyFriedemann Sallis’s introduction links themtogether. Otherwise, each paper deals withan individual composer and his own milieu.So in the end I was left wanting to knowmore about how the shared roots and experiencesof these three composers influencedthe development of their individual styles.Concert Note: The Toronto SymphonyOrchestra will perform Kurtág’s Messageson Thursday March 1 in Roy Thomson Hall,as part of their New Creations Festival, curatedby Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös .Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives,Dialoguesedited by Tim Howell with Jon Hargreavesand Michael RofeAshgate Publishing Company238 pages, score samples; .95 USLike István Anhalt,Finnish composerKaija Saariaho hasspent most of hercareer outside herhomeland. But unlikeAnhalt, she leftunder no duress, havingbenefited fromFinland’s supportiveculture and enlightenedpolitical values.This collection of essays charts the developmentof Saariaho’s distinctive voice asa composer, with its unusual sensual beauty,expressive power and emotional directness.“Harmony, texture and timbre: those threethings were then, and still are, at the heart ofmy musical thinking,” Saariaho says in theinterview with Tom Service included here.In her stage works — three operas and anoratorio so far — she creates something newand challenging, with inventive, unclichédstorytelling and innovative use of painting,mime, lighting, electronic sounds and prerecordedmaterials. Yet traditional musicaldevices are also part of her operatic language.As Liisamaija Hautsalo writes, “Themusical topics within Saariaho’s works, oftenmodified into the musical language of ourtime, could be described as whispers fromthe past: a link between tradition and thecomposer’s individual expression.”A number of writers discuss how dreamsplay an essential part in Saariaho’s work.While L’Amour de loin (Love from Afar)features a dream scene, the whole operacan be seen, as Anni Iskala describes it,as “an opera about dreaming of, and loving,the unattainable.” In fact, dreams havebeen a direct source of inspiration rightfrom Saariaho’s earliest works like From theGrammar of Dreams, and, starting with ImTraume, she has used her own dream diariesto provide material.While these eight essays and the interviewwith the composer provide an invaluableperspective on Saariaho’s music, they do notattempt to situate her music in today’s contemporarymusic scene. The contributors are allfrom either Finland or England — oddly thereare none from France, where she has livedsince coming to Paris as a student in 1982.It’s certainly noteworthy that when theCanadian Opera Company produces L’Amourde loin in February, it will be the first operaby that company written in the 21st century.Even more noteworthy, this will be the firstopera written by a woman to be producedon their main stage. Even though Saariahoresists being defined as a woman composer— or as any type of composer, for thatmatter — she has never stepped back frombreaking down barriers, as this book shows.Concert Notes: On Monday January 30,Soundstreams presents soprano CarlaHuhtanen performing music by KaijaSaariaho at 7:30pm in the Gardiner Museum.On Tuesday January 31 at 12pm,Soundstreams presents the Elmer IselerSingers performing Saariaho’s Tag desJahrs and soprano Carla Huhtanen performingthe Leino Songs, as well as chamberworks by the composer in the RichardBradshaw Amphitheatre.On Thursday February 2 at 12pm inthe Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, artistsof the COC Ensemble studio performvocal works by Saariaho, including From theGrammar of Dreams and Lohn (From Afar).These performances will be introducedby Saariaho.On Thursday February 2 and FridayFebruary 3 at 8pm in Koerner Hall,Soundstreams presents Saariaho’s Tag desJahrs, performed by the Elmer Iseler Singersunder Lydia Adams.58 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012

Editor’s CornerDAVID OLDSTo make room for the best of the wealth of material received over the holiday breakand to accommodate the addition of three wonderful new reviewers to our fold,I find I have left insufficient space for my own musings this month. So let me justtake a moment to introduce to these pages pianist and pedagogue Christina PetrowskaQuilico who shares insights on a new release by her colleague Stephen Hough;composer and tuba virtuoso J. Scott Irvine who opines on a CD of contemporary tubaand euphonium repertoire from Deanna Swoboda; and my own chamber music coachand mentor, violinist Ivana Popovich who gives us her take on the Tokyo Quartet’srecent Schubert release. Welcome aboard to one and all!We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments shouldbe sent to: The WholeNote, 503–720 Bathurst St., Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We alsoencourage you to visit our website www.thewholenote.com where you can find addedfeatures including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buybuttons” for on-line shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews.—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALWeill – Rise and Fall ofthe City of MahagonnyMeasha Brueggergosman; Jane Henschel;Michael König; Willard White; Teatro RealMadrid; Pablo Heras-CasadoBelAir BAC067refreshing risks with the score. MichaelKönig (Jim MacIntyre) and Willard White(Trinity Moses) in the meantime, completethe play’s — and music’s — symmetry. Theorchestra delivers the score beautifully,with a strangely appropriate Spanish verve.This is truly an “edge of your seat” operaexperience, even without the originalGerman rhythms of speech. Bravo.—Robert Tomasspectacular new recording produced in Israelwhose people have suffered and continue tosuffer from the ravages of war. In the traditionbegun by the composer himself, KurtMasur, a former director of the LeipzigerGewandhaus, commands the massive ensembleof forces (full symphony orchestra,chamber orchestra, several choruses andthree soloists) with precision, clear insightand passionate understanding. The deafeningsounds of war in the “Dies Irae” section,martial trumpets and horns with rumblingbass drums emulating the roar of cannonsand snare drums imitating the rattle of machinegun fire, sound frighteningly real.But the soul of the piece is in the singing.The Latin text is carried by the mixedchoruses and the boys’ choir as well as thefemale soloist, Canadian soprano of internationalrepute Edith Wiens. Her wailinglament, for example in the “Lacrimosa” isheartbreaking. In stark contrast, Owen’sverses in the declamatory style of theEnglish language are sung by the tenor NigelRobson and baritone Håkan Hagegård. Theirprecise diction, annunciation of remarkableclarity and emotional involvement rival thatlegendary first recording by Peter Pears andDietrich Fischer-Dieskau of 1963, under thecomposer’s baton.—Janos GardonyiBritten – Songs & Proverbs ofWilliam BlakeGerald Finley; Julius DrakeHyperion CDA67778Kurt Weill’s musicstands alone andneeds no visuals tocovey its brilliant,contemporary andrelevant meaning.That said, hisstage worksalways assault thesenses when produced well — especiallywhen accompanied by the words of hismost famous collaborator, Bertold Brecht.Mahagonny, immortalized by the countlessrenditions of the “Alabama Song,” is somuch more than the simple morality playthat many perceive it as. It is a work,which especially in this brilliant productionsatirizes, troubles and challenges the viewer.In these years of market crashes and thedisenfranchised “99%” its resonance is asfresh as it must have been in the WeimarRepublic. The stunning sets, including averdant golf course — surely as much of apower centre as one can imagine — create thebackdrop to the all too human struggle withthat “crime of crimes” — not having moneyin the materialistic world. Jane Henschelas the widow Begbick and Canada’sown Measha Brueggergosman as JennySmith form a powerful female axis of theperformance, with Brueggergosman takingBritten – War RequiemEdith Wiens; Nigel Robson;Håkan Hagegård; Prague PhilharmonicChoir; Ankor Children’s Choir; IsraelPhilharmonic Orchestra; Kurt MasurHeilicon Classics 02-9645Ominous soundsissuing from thelower depths of thestrings with theinsistent tolling ofbells and the tenor‘sdesperate question“what passing bellsfor those who dieas cattle?” — so begins the pacifist BenjaminBritten’s mass for the dead, a passionateantiwar statement written in 1962 for theopening of the newly rebuilt CoventryCathedral. The ingenious idea to combinethe Latin text, the basic underpinningstructure of the mass, with poems of dark,terrifying imagery of the war in the trenchesis what distinguishes Britten’s work fromother requiems of the past. The poemsof Wilfred Owen, an English foot soldierwho was killed a week before the fightingended in 1918 are what give this piece itsunforgettable poignancy and impact.Nothing but praise can be given to thisThe songs ofBritten naturallyconjure up thememory of PeterPears, Britten’spartner, muse andgreatest influence.The celebrated tenorwas also the poetryconsultant to the composer and their sharedtastes shaped Britten’s output. But therewere other voices he composed for. Oneof the most significant ones was DietrichFischer-Dieskau, the wonderful baritone.Just like in his operas, from Billy Budd toDeath in Venice, Britten approaches thebaritone voice in these songs with a lyricismusually reserved for the tenor. Given thatand the special nature of Blake’s poetry, itisn’t any voice that can tackle this material.Fortunately, Gerald Finley possesses abaritone worthy of comparisons withFischer-Dieskau. It may not sound like aninsightful comment, but Finley’s baritone issimply elegant. His phrasing and understatedornamentation bring a fully engagedunderstanding to the texts. What makes thisdisc even more interesting is that it containsBritten’s settings spanning a lifetime — fromthe revised early compositions of a 14-yearoldboy to late-in-life, mature compositionsFebruary – March 7, 2012thewholenote.com 59

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