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Volume 17 Issue 5 - February 2012

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performances live up to

performances live up to expectation. I lovehis intelligent and well-paced interpretations.He never descends to the affectation andoverly mannered playing that some pianistsuse in this repertoire. Hough is always aboutthe music and beautiful sound. He does notsacrifice the musicality for virtuoso tricks.The florid Lisztian passage-work is always anextension of the melodic line. The trills androulades enhance the cantabile expression.The tonal quality of Hough’s touch on thepiano has a clear ring to it which impressesin both the bravura octaves, trills and theslow lines. His sound is never harsh and thesensitive phrasing is never replaced by emptytechnical gestures. There is also a wonderfulrapport between piano and orchestra. Theensemble is seamless and the music breathesnaturally. Andrew Litton’s conducting isa soloist’s dream. The performances arestunning and I highly recommend this CD.The Grieg is an absolute gem.—Christina Petrowska QuilicoVaughan Williams – Symphony Nos.4 & 5Toronto Symphony Orchestra;Peter OundjianTSO Live (www.tso.ca)If you think ofVaughan Williamsonly in termsof English folksong and churchmusic, listen tothis recording!Compelling liveperformances ofthe fourth and fifth symphonies by PeterOundjian and the Toronto SymphonyOrchestra reveal the composer’s wide rangeand continuing relevance. The Fourthis the darker of the pair, its semitonaltheme generating dissonance and tensionthroughout. At numerous points theinterlacing motifs and the accumulatingcontrapuntal weave create tremendousenergy, which Oundjian captures withoutsacrificing clarity or losing the long view.He maintains the lyricism of the firstmovement’s second theme, and consistentlybrings out expressive moments within theoverall turbulence. Contrasts are handledeffectively, for example in the uneasypeace of that movement’s coda or in thequiet section before the finale’s climax. Ilike especially the slow movement, withits walking bass line and sense of a bleakjourney towards a lonely close, whichOundjian paces perfectly.Symphony No.5 shows a brighter side ofVaughan Williams. In the first movementrich textures and tone colours evoke anatural setting, but overall the personalexceeds the pastoral. Incorporating materialfrom a planned opera based on Bunyan’sThe Pilgrim’s Progress, the work to meis suffused with integrity and spirituality.Handling transitions and their changesof dynamics, tempo and mood especiallywell, Oundjian indeed conveys the striving,committed voice of Vaughan Williams.—Roger KnoxFauré – Complete Chamber Music forStrings and PianoRenaud Capuçon; Gautier Capuçon;Gerard Caussé; Michel Dalberto;Quatuor EbèneVirgin Classics 5099907087523The composerAaron Copland onceremarked that themusic of GabrielFauré possessedall the earmarks ofthe French temperament:harmonicsensitivity, impeccabletaste, classic restraint and a love ofclear lines and well-made proportions. Thesequalities are no more evident than in Fauré’schamber music for piano and strings, nowpresented in its entirety in this attractivefive-disc box set on the Virgin Classics label.Is French music best interpreted by Frenchmusicians? That question is certainly opento debate, but in this case, it doesn’t hurtthat most of those taking part in this recordingare top-rated French artists, includingviolinist Renaud Capuçon, violist GerardCaussé, cellist Gautier Capuçon, pianistMichel Dalberto joined by the Ebène Quartetand the American pianist Nicholas Angelich.Everything is included here: the pairs of violinand cello sonatas, the two piano quartetsand quintets, the piano trio, as well as thesole string quartet.The extensive notes rightly point outthat Fauré’s chamber music was composedover the course of his lifetime, from thefirst of the two violin sonatas and the firstpiano quartet written when he was 30, tothe second piano quintet and the Piano Trioin D Minor completed over 40 years later,when deafness and advancing age obviouslyweren’t hindering his creativity. The resultis a wonderful sense of progression and developmentspanning a 45 year period. TheViolin Sonata No.1, for example, containsall the optimism and freshness of a youthfulcomposer, the quirky rhythms and modulationsadeptly handled by Renaud Capuçonand Michel Dalberto. On the other hand,the Piano Quintet No.2 Op.115, completedin 1921, is dark and impassioned, surely themusic of a composer resigned to the frailtiesof old age; one refusing to abandon his ownmusical idiom in favour of more moderntrends. The performance here by Andelichand the Ebène Quartet is boldly assured,imbued with a deeply-rooted sensitivity tothe demands of the music.One of the most intriguing pieces in thiscollection is the String Quartet in E Minor,the only one Fauré ever wrote and the lastof his works to be completed. It was writtenonly at the request of several colleagues,including his pupil Ravel, and even thenFauré did not fully embrace the project. Theend result is an angular piece that has a decidedlyatmospheric quality to it — a hauntingswan song concluding a lifetime devotedto music.An added bonus in this set is the inclusionof musical miniatures for which Fauré isjustifiably famous, pieces such as the Élégie,Sicilienne and Romance. And as if greatmusic superbly performed wasn’t enough,the attractive packaging–involving “BelleÉpoch” graphics and typeface on the covers–servesto further enhance this most appealingcollection which will surely becomea mainstay in the catalogue.—Richard HaskellThere’s more at www.thewholenote.com:Read Richard Haskell’s impressionsof Garrick Ohlsson’s new recording ofRachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 withthe Atlantic Symphony Orchestra.Strings AttachedThe montreal violinistAlexandre Da Costa is backwith another outstanding CDof contemporary works, this timewith the Orchestre Symphoniquede Montreal under Pedro Halffterin Fire and Blood, featuring themusic of the American composerMichael Daugherty (AcaciaClassics ACA 2 0931). The title work is aviolin concerto from 2003; commissioned bythe Detroit Symphony Orchestra, it was inspiredby the “Detroit Industry” murals atthe Detroit Institute of Art, painted in theearly 1930s by the Mexican artist DiegoRivera on a commission from Edsel Ford.TERRY ROBBINSThe opening movement— “Volcano” — invokes the firesof Mexican volcanoes and theblaze of factory furnaces. Thebeautiful second movement— “River Rouge” — is named forthe Ford complex where Riveraspent several months sketchingwith his wife, artist Frida Kahlo;her long-term serious health problems — shealmost died from a miscarriage while inDetroit with her husband — resulted in “thecolor of blood” being everywhere in herworks of that period. The third movement— “Assembly Line” — is described by thecomposer as “a roller coaster ride on a62 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012

conveyor belt,” with the violin representingthe worker surrounded by a mechanical andmetallic orchestra that includes a ratchet andbrake drums! It’s stunning stuff with wonderfulorchestration. It’s difficult to imagineit being performed any better. Two shorterworks complete the CD: Flamingo, for twotambourines and orchestra; and Ladder tothe Moon, for violin, wind octet, double bassand percussion. Da Costa is again outstandingin the latter, a two-movement work alsoinspired by art — this time a musical tributeto Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1925–30 paintings ofNew York skyscrapers and the Manhattancityscape.The latest CDfrom Canada’sJames Ehnes seeshim paired with theSydney Symphonyand VladimirAshkenazy in anall-Tchaikovsky programmerecordedlive at Australia’s Sydney Opera House inDecember 2010 (ONYX 4076). I was luckyenough to catch this same team in a memorableperformance of the Elgar violin concertoin Sydney in 2009, and it’s no surpriseto find them continuing their relationship.Ashkenazy was also the conductor for theEhnes CD of the Mendelssohn concerto in2010. The Violin Concerto is obviously themain work here, and it’s a terrific performance,with Ashkenazy drawing idiomaticplaying from the orchestra, and Ehnes alwaysmanaging to find something freshto say in the solo part while making thetechnical difficulties sound easy. The twoother works with orchestra, the Sérénademélancolique Op.26, and the Valse-scherzoOp.34, receive equally compelling performancesfrom all concerned.Ashkenazy returns to his first professionas pianist for the final work, accompanyingEhnes in the three-movement Souvenir d’unlieu cher Op.42. Again, the mutual understandingis there for all to hear. It’s anotherterrific addition to the already impressiveEhnes discography.There are morelive recordingsfeatured on thelatest CD fromChristian Tetzlaff(ONDINE ODE 1195-2) which featuresthe Violin Concertosof Mendelssohnand Schumann, with Paavo Järvi conductingthe Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.Tetzlaff was artist in residence with the orchestrawhen the recordings were made inSeptember 2008 and February 2009. TheMendelssohn is a beautiful performance,never over-played, with an affecting slowmovement and a finale that displays detailed,subtle and sensitive playing without ever losinga sense of line. The Schumann concertohas had a troubled history and waited 84years for its eventual premiere in 1937. Thebeautiful slow movement is its saving grace,but the opening movement material is not thegreatest, and with its demanding technicaldifficulty it’s not hard to see why the concertocontinues to struggle to enter the mainstreamrepertoire. Tetzlaff, however, doesa lovely job with this work, as he does withthe Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, whichwas also written in 1853 and quickly fellout of favour. It was originally felt to be abrilliant and cheerful piece, but Schumann’smental illness and death within three yearsseemed to change the public perception ofthe work. In this repertoire, though, Tetzlaffis up against stiff competition from UlfWallin, whose definitive performances ofthese works on the BIS label were reviewedin depth in the September 2011 StringsAttached column.Strings Attached continues at www.thewholenote.com with recent releasesfrom the Jasper and Takács string quartets,violinist Tim Fain and violists Matthew Jonesand Nathan Braude.MODERN & CONTEMPORARYSoutham – ReturningsEve EgoyanCentrediscs CMCCD 17211This album marksthe premiere recordingof four pianoworks by the lateAnn Southam. Themusic was chosenby Southam, amongCanada’s finest composers,who died atage 73 in November 2010. The consummateToronto pianist Eve Egoyan, for whom theworks were created, makes a convincing andmoving case for them.I first heard Southam’s music in the 1970swhen she became known for the electroacousticworks she made for Toronto DanceTheatre choreographers. I was surprisedto hear later that we shared a mutual compositionteacher, Samuel Dolin of the RoyalConservatory of Music. In Returnings I,the piano tolls in the low register while theconsonant mid-keyboard chords support adisjunct melodic line. The haunting, thoughreassuring, music is over well before I wantit to be. It hardly seems to last the quarter ofan hour the CD timing states.In Retrospect is like a broken harmonicseries rearranged, a set of cubist impressionsof bells ringing, their pitches ranging overmost of the keyboard. One can imagine inthe listening Southam’s abstracted, distancedand terse life in review, fastidious in itsavoidance of dramatic overstatement andemotional sturm und drang. While hermodernist colours are on display here, by theend of the work I am left with the feeling ofunquiet, unnamed musical questions beingposed rather than clear statements articulatedand argued.Qualities of Consonance, in contrast, hasa dramatic agenda. It serves up dissonant,aggressive, loud musical gestures that wouldbe quite at home in the mid-20th century,alternating with soft sostenuto passages.The resulting dialectic resonates on adeep emotional level. In the final work,Returnings II: A Meditation, Southam offersus a more refined aesthetic. Set in a haltinglyrocking rhythm, it revisits the harmonicgrammar of Returnings I.Yes, I hear links in these last piano piecesto the more pattern-concerned jubilantminimalism of Southam’s earlier works,yet this mature autumnal music speaks tome with more conviction. They have theadmirable gravitas and serenity of a fulllife well lived. These pieces, along withSoutham’s Simple Lines of Enquiry (recordedby Egoyan on Centrediscs CMCCD 14609),should take their rightful place in the top tierof contemporary concert piano repertoire.—Andrew TimarO Music – The Music of Allan GillilandNew Edmonton Wind SinfoniaCentrediscs CMCCD 17111This disc by thewell-establishedNew EdmontonWind Sinfoniacontains a varietyof music by prolificEdmonton-basedcomposer AllanGilliland. ConductorRaymond Baril maintains a high standardthroughout, with soloists James Campbelland Dean McNeill making distinguishedcontributions. Included are jazz andBroadway suites as well as music based onthe composer’s Scottish heritage. My mainreservation is that, for a single-composercollection, I don’t hear enough of Gilliland’s“own” musical voice coming through.Dreaming of the Masters I pays tributeto great jazz clarinettists including BennyGoodman, Pee Wee Russell and BuddyDeFranco. Perhaps better known as aclassical clarinettist, James Campbellemerges here as also a fine jazz stylist andimproviser. In Kalla (“call” in Norwegian),trumpeter and arranger Dean McNeillconveys brilliantly the role of a riversidetrumpeter in New Orleans circa 1900making echoing calls that are answered byother trumpets throughout the city (withjazz plunger mutes much in evidence).Fantasia on Themes from West SideStory demonstrates Gilliland’s inventiveorchestration and idiomatic technique inwhat he calls a “re-composition” of materialfrom the beloved musical. O Music, LochNa Beiste, and Love’s Red Rose evokethe Scottish landscape and traditionalFebruary – March 7, 2012thewholenote.com 63

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