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Volume 17 Issue 7 - April 2012

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  • April
  • Toronto
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that shows off the

that shows off the pianist’s talents with itscomplex structures and varied moods. Howbeautifully he makes the piano sing in theslow section of the Scherzo or in the trio ofthe ubiquitous Marche Funebre!The remainder of the program is devotedto the impressionist sound-world of Raveland evocations of Spain by Albeniz. A surprisetreat is I Leap through the Sky withStars by the Toronto composer AlexinaLouie that appears to be influenced by Ravelat first, but almost imperceptibly loses itstonal centre as it develops and becomes morelike “new music.” It receives grand applausefrom the Paris audience.—Janos GardonyiKatsaris plays Liszt, Volume 1Cyprien KatsarisPiano 21 P21 041-Nwww.cyprienkatsaris.netLiszt! What do wethink of when oneof the most flamboyantcomposersof the 19th centurycomes to mind?Swooning ladies?Technical brillianceon an almost superhumanscale? Whatever image we have, the200th birthday of this legendary pianist/composer from Raiding was celebrated in2011, and among those marking the occasionwas French-Cypriot pianist CyprienKatsaris, who issued a splendid two-disc settitled Katsaris Plays Liszt on his own label,Piano 21.Internationally famous since his debut inParis in 1966, Katsaris has been the recipientof several prizes for his recordings, includingthe Grand Prix du Disc Franz Liszt in1984 and 1989, and the German Record ofthe Year in 1984. This set — recorded overa 39 year period — is bound to appeal to anyLiszt aficionado. The first disc, titled Gypsyand Romantic, is mainly devoted to his earlierworks, including four of the HungarianRhapsodies, the well-known Liebestraum,and the Piano Concerto No.2 with theGerman Radio Symphony of Berlin, AridRemmereit conducting. Here, Katsaris handlesthe technical demands of the repertoirewith ease and panache, easily upholding hisreputation as a fleet-fingered virtuoso.Yet the set is not all tinsel and glitter. Thesecond disc, titled Avant Garde, Hommageà Wagner, The Philosopher, is considerablymore introspective and features music fromLiszt’s late period. This was a time whenthe composer was very much “pushing theboundaries.” Indeed, Grey Clouds, TheLugubrious Gondola 1 and 2 and At RichardWagner’s Grave stylistically look to the future,with Katsaris perfectly conveying thedark, almost sinister quality of the music.As this set is designated as “Volume I,”may we assume there are more to come?We can only hope so, in light of the highstandards and intriguing programming presentedin this one.—Richard HaskellBerlioz – Les Nuits d’Été; Harold en ItalieAnne Sofie von Otter; Antoine Tamestit;Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble;Marc MinkowskiNaïve V 5266I was introducedto “Harold” bythe Victor recordingwith WilliamPrimrose thatSerge Koussevitzkyand the BostonSymphony madein 1944. Hearingthis was a thrilling discovery and repeatedencores did not diminish its impact.Particularly winning was Primrose’s patricianelegance and focused performance thatwould define the role for me.As it turns out, the genius of Berlioz benefitsfrom a large, well oiled virtuoso orchestra,as the two Primrose recordings with theBoston Symphony in its prime, conducted byKoussevitzky and the 1958 Charles Munch(RCA 88697 08280, hybrid CD/SACD), somagnificently demonstrate. I have also heardmany excellent European performances withdifferent soloists, the most notable of whichare conducted by Colin Davis.This new recording with a somewhatsmaller orchestra (about 50 players) wouldseem to lack the splendour and power wehave come to expect in a worthy Berliozperformance. Minkowski and his group,however, have a thorough understanding ofBerlioz’ musical essence and convey a persuasiveenthusiasm, overriding any misgivingsabout size. Tempos in each of the fourmovements are well judged and unerringlybalanced. Some unusual accents flavour abeautifully constructed performance playedwith immaculate ensemble. Acclaimed violist,Antoine Tamestit, delivers a compelling,deeply felt performance with a deliciousviola sound throughout.The Les nuits d’été (a work that contrastswith the hectic finale it follows) is one of thefinest versions of this enchanting song cycleto come my way. The program concludeswith the strange narrative “The King ofThulé” from The Damnation of Faust, withthe viola intertwining with Anne Sophie vonOtter’s voice in this haunting Gothic lullaby… a master stroke of programming. Thisdisc is a treasure.—Bruce SurteesCharles Tournemire – TrinitasVincent BoucherATMA ACD2 2472The organ music of Charles Tournemire(1870–1939) is a revelation. The youngeststudent of César Franck, Tournemire developedtowards modernism with a mysticalbent and was admiredby Messiaen.The Triple Choral(1910) is a key workin his journey to individuality.OrganistVincent Boucher’sperformance is wellpaced and his expressiverubato is tasteful. I was especiallymoved by the sense of growth in the stirring,ecstatic middle section, followed by the contrastingmeditative ending. In conveying thetone-palette of Tournemire’s music, Boucheremploys to full advantage the magnificentCasavant organ and acoustics of the Churchof St. John the Baptist in Montreal; thesound on this recording is glorious.The two other major works on the disc areOffices from L’Orgue Mystique (1927–1932),organ music for each Sunday in the liturgicalyear to be played between sung sections ofthe mass. In the first, for Trinity Sunday,Boucher handles confidently the final recessionalwith its colouristic wave-like openingand its working of three themes in the introspectivemood characteristic of Tournemire’slater works. Boucher captures the improvisationalfeel of Tournemire’s style in thesecond — music that is unearthly at times,seemingly in-the-moment explorations conveyingstriking visions. Here tone-content,texture and timbre together produce myriadeffects of light, of brilliant rays, glimmeringpulsations, murky depths. Three briefPostludes for antiphons of the Magnificatround out this deeply reflective disc.—Roger KnoxCanadian Brass Takes FlightCanadian BrassOpening Day Records ODR 7416www.openingday.comIt’s yet anotherrecording by theubiquitous CanadianBrass, and as thetitle suggests, theCanadian Brassdoes take flight onthis new release,departing fromwhat we are used to in a number of ways.First, it is a new Canadian Brass. In 1970,over 40 years ago, with tuba virtuoso ChuckDaellenbach at the helm, the Canadian Brassbegan the journey of introducing the worldto brass music. Now, with four new permanentmembers, and Daellenbach performingbetter than ever, we are treated to someoldies in new arrangements and some departuresfrom what we have come to expect.The Brass is as stunning as ever with suchold favourites as The Flight of the Bumblebeeand The Carnival of Venice in sparklingnew arrangements. In particular, I enjoyedthe versions of La Cumparsita and Mozart’sTurkish Rondo, works not usually consideredpart of the brass repertoire. Having played70 thewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2012

in a brass quintet for a few years, I wasparticularly humbled by their rendition ofScheidt’s Galliard Battaglia. Having attemptedthat arrangement in rehearsal, I nowknow how it should sound. The finale on thisCD is their long-time favourite Just a CloserWalk with Thee.The stunning sparkle is still there, butthere is also a new warmth and mellow feelingin several of the slower numbers on thisrelease. As for technique, this new youngteam of Daellenbach’s doesn’t have to take aback seat to anyone. It’s a top notch group tocarry on the Canadian Brass name. For fansof brass, this one is a must.—Jack MacQuarrieConcert Note: The Canadian Brass is featuredin three regional concerts this month.On April 11 they will be at the SandersonCentre for the Performing Arts in Brantford,on April 12 at the Markham Theatre for thePerfoming Arts and on April 28 in a subscriptiononly performance at the Hi-WayPentecostal Church presented by BarrieConcerts (705-726-1181).PastoralJean-Louis Beaumadier; Various ArtistsSkarbo DSK4117As spring arrivesand thoughts turnto the outdoors,Pastoral makesan apt musicalcounterpart. Aboveall it is French piccoloistJean-LouisBeaumadier’s playingthat is memorable for perfectly-tunedlong tones, controlled dynamic changesand technical virtuosity. Two short chamberpieces on the disc specify use of thepiccolo; otherwise, Beaumadier has assembleda group of pastoral 20th-centuryworks originally written for the pipe or theflute. Of special interest are seldom-heardminiatures for pipe by such composers asRoussel, Poulenc and Milhaud, publishedin the volume Pipeaux 1934. I particularlyenjoyed the Poulenc Villanelle which has aquality of quirky sentiment. A number ofcomposers included have associations withBeaumadier’s native Provence. Henri Tomasi(1901–1971) wrote Le tombeau de Mireillefor galoubet (tabor) and tambourin (pipe),evocative of the medieval Provençal world oftroubadours and chivalry. (Note: the tabor’srattle takes getting used to.)In the flute works, the piccolo’s pure, focusedtimbre shows to advantage, conveyingwell the birdsong, whistle, outdoor piping,dance and amatory elements of the pastoralgenre. The soloist moves assuredly throughcontrasts of melody and rapid filigree inPhilippe Gaubert’s tender Andante pastoral.He captures the intimate and pensive feelingin Germaine Tailleferre’s Pastorale, with itsgently rocking piano accompaniment. Thebest is saved for last: the Sicilienne et burlesque(1914) by Alfredo Casella remindingus of the significant accomplishment of thisneglected modernist.—Roger KnoxStorytellerTine Thing Helseth; Royal LiverpoolPhilharmonic Orchestra; Eivind AadlandEMI Classics 0 88328 2Seraph – Trumpet ConcertosAlison Balsom; Scottish EnsembleEMI Classics 6 78590 2Having received,within days of eachother, two CDs withmuch in common,it was decided toinclude them in adouble review. Thefirst is Storyteller,trumpet solos performedby TineThing Helseth withthe Royal LiverpoolPhilharmonicOrchestra andEivind Aadland,piano. The otheris Seraph, trumpetconcertos playedby Alison Balsom with various accompaniments.The commonality is that both containperformances by young women trumpetplayers and both depart from the “traditionalrepertoire” usually associated with trumpets.Storyteller is an apt title for the first CD.Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helsethtakes a very different approach to the trumpetand her repertoire. As she describes herapproach in the program notes, “My soundis my voice.” There are no “show off” selectionshere. You won’t find Carnival of Veniceor similar traditional trumpet technicalchallenges to display the soloist’s virtuosity.Without exception, the works performed werenot written for trumpet. Most were originallyfor voice by such composers as Rachmaninov,Dvořák, Delibes. Sibelius, Grieg, Mahler andSaint-Saëns. The soloist is singing her storiesto her audience through her trumpet.As I scanned the list of titles on the disc,one stood out above all others for me. Herewas my all-time favourite operatic aria witha different voice: “Mon coeur s’ouvre à tavoix” from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila.Ms. Helseth’s trumpet voice came as a surprise.Rather than the usual tone with anedge usually associated with the trumpet, hertone is warmer and mellow, more like thatof a cornet. Most of the time her lyric passagesare smooth and appear effortless, buton occasion her tonguing is assisted by thetechnique of a slight bit of valve flicking. Forme this did not detract in any way from myenjoyment. In all, it is an excellent departurefrom the usual trumpet fare.Of the 22 tracks on the CD, Kurt Weill’sJe ne t’aime pas and Grieg’s eight-movementThe Mountain Maid are with piano accompaniment.All others are with full symphonyorchestra.In contrast, Seraph, with one exception,contains works written for trumpetby such 20th-century composers as JamesMacMillan, Toru Takemitsu, AlexanderArutiunian and Bernd Alois Zimmerman.The one exception is a slow haunting arrangementof the Negro spiritual Nobodyknows. That latter selection is followed by,and contrasted with, a trumpet concerto byZimmerman entitled Nobody knows de troubleI see based on the same spiritual theme.These are definitely not your standardtrumpet fare, and for me at least, will requirerepeated listening to determine my level ofapproval. From a performance standpoint,as with her other recordings, Alison Balsomexcels. As a passionate champion of contemporarymusic, she highlights the many voicesof her instrument that are not normally heard,and introduces them to her audience.—Jack MacQuarriemodern & cONtEMPORARyChild’s Play – Stories, Songs and DancesKelly JohnsonPotenza Music PM1014www.potenzamusic.comThe crossoverset of Americancontemporary musicwhich features soloclarinet and at thesame time appealsto the young (thepost-infant, pretween)crowd, mustbe very small indeed. To hold any appealfor wee ones, the music must have a degreeof bounce and action. These qualities canbe found in the more rhythmically intricateofferings on Child’s Play, a well-executedselection of challenging pieces recorded byKelly Johnson.As judged by my own four year old,the more action the better. He lost interestquickly during the more languid pieces, andhad no time at all for the cutesy revisionistnursery tales called Story Hour, by composerPhillip Parker. No wonder. Poet SaraHay ought to know that irony is a tricky sellwith children. Kids laugh at The Simpsons,but most only start really getting the humourwhen they leave childhood behind.Johnson has a deft technical ability, herrhythm is tight and her tone fluid. She has agood stable of collaborators, notably DrewIrwin as the violinist in the opening duo.Another work by Phillip Parker, MerryMusic sounds like Bernstein and Milhaudhad drinks and then went dancing. Parker’sGrooves is also successful if once againcontinued on page 73April 1 – May 7, 2012thewholenote.com 71

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