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Volume 17 Issue 7 - April 2012

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Strings AttachedApart

Strings AttachedApart from the single-movementSonatensatz written when he was just15, Schubert’s works for piano, violinand cello all date from 1827, the year beforehe died. Two of the three works fromthat year — the E-Flat MajorPiano Trio Op.100 and the singlemovementAdagio or Notturno,also in e-flat — are featured ona new CD from Trio Latitude 41(ELOQUENTIA EL 1129).The Op.100 is a large, fourmovementwork that makes animmediate impression and clearlyhas a great deal of depth. Thebooklet notes quote RobertSchumann’s 1836 descriptionof the trio as a work that“blazed forth like some enragedmeteor,” with an opening movement“inspired by deep indignationas well as boundless longing.”The artists here — Canadianpianist Bernadene Blaha, violinistLivia Sohn and cellist LuigiPiovano — find all this and morein a memorable performance. Afinely-nuanced and highly effectiveperformance of the Notturnocompletes an excellent recitaldisc. Recorded at the RolstonRecital Hall in the Banff Centre,the balance and ambienceare perfect.The first thing that comesto mind whenever I receivea CD of the Tchaikovsky andMendelssohn Violin Concertosis: do we really need yet anotherrecording of these classic works?Well, yes, of course we do: establishedartists often find somethingnew to say, and all new artists have to measurethemselves against these cornerstonesof the repertoire. For the young violinistRay Chen, the choice of these works for hissecond Sony CD (SONY 88697984102) — hisfirst with orchestra — was easy: he won theMenuhin Competition in 2008 playing theMendelssohn concerto, and the prestigiousQueen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in2009 with the Tchaikovsky.The first words I wrote down while listeningto the Tchaikovsky were “relaxedtempo/approach in first movement,” so itwas interesting to read “relaxed and peaceful… that is also what Ray Chen demands ofhis interpretations of the two concertos” inthe booklet notes. That’s very much how theworks come across, although that certainlyshouldn’t be taken to imply any absenceof line or a lack of intensity when needed.Chen’s playing is expansive, warm andTERRY ROBBINSsympathetic, and he communicates a clearempathy for these works.The conductor of the Swedish RadioSymphony Orchestra is the outstanding DanielHarding, whose name on a CD virtuallyguarantees a top-notch accompaniment,and that’s certainlythe case here. Great balance anda lovely recorded ambience makefor an impressive CD that promisesa great future for Chen.The latest CD in the outstandingHyperion series TheRomantic Violin Concerto isVolume 11. It features the worksfor violin and orchestra by MaxReger in terrific performancesby Tanja Becker-Bender andthe KonzerthausorchesterBerlin under Lothar Zagrosek(Hyperion CDA67892).Reger, who was only 43when he died in 1916, trod a highlyindividualistic road as a composer.As was the case with Mahler,who had died exactly five yearsearlier, his main exponents andinterpreters left Germany in the1930s, but, unlike Mahler, hismusic and reputation failed togain a foothold on foreign soilafter the Second World War.The Violin Concerto in A Major,Op.101, from 1907, is a simplyhuge, melodic and immediatelyaccessible work, almost an hourlong, and clearly in the post-Brahms tradition. The TwoRomances in G Major and DMajor, Op.50, written in 1900and scored for a smaller orchestra thanthe concerto, were a deliberate attempt to securemore concert performances in the majorGerman cities. Wolfgang Rathert’s excellentbooklet notes refer to their “fusion of contrapuntaltexture and flowing melody,” whichis a pretty good description of Reger’s musicin general. They are simply gorgeous works,reminiscent of Brahms and Bruch, and theyreceive sympathetically beautiful performancesby Becker-Bender and Zagrosek.Reger still tends to be criticized for thecomplexity and turgidity of his compositions,but it’s really more a case of an overabundanceof creative ideas making it difficult forthe listener to discern the overall shape andform. It’s quite beautiful writing, however,and if you don’t know any of his music thenthe three lovely works on this terrific CD offerthe perfect opportunity to put that right.It’s really difficult to know what to sayabout Silence, on joue! A Time for Us, thenew CD from Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà(ANALEKTA AN 2 8733). It’s a collection ofmovie themes quite clearly aimed at a massmarket — and, sure enough, it’s already beingenthusiastically played on a certain TorontoFM radio station.Film music is an extremely important areaof contemporary composition, of course,and the big names are here in force: JohnWilliams, James Horner, Howard Shore,Erich Korngold, Ennio Morricone, NinoRota, John Barry. The problem is that thereseems to be little of any real substance: ofthe 20 tracks, 12 are under four minutesin length, and only one exceeds five minutes— just. It’s unrelenting easy listening,with no real “bite” anywhere, although thismay well be due to the fact that virtually allof the 15 basic tracks (there are five “bonus”tracks from previous Dubeau CDs) are –hardly surprisingly — transcriptions, adaptationsor arrangements.Tracks include My Heart Will Go On,Over the Rainbow, Smile, the Love Themesfrom Romeo and Juliet and CinemaParadiso, and music from The EnglishPatient, Lord of the Rings and Danceswith Wolves. The bonus tracks includethe “Cavatina” from Stanley Myers’ TheDeer Hunter and the main themes fromSchindler’s List and The Mission.Dubeau, clearly a top-notch player, isapparently the only Canadian “classical”musician to have earned two gold recordsfor album sales exceeding 50,000 in oneyear. This CD will probably do equally well,although one may hopefully be excused forpondering the relationship between quantityand quality, and wondering whether or notDubeau’s undoubted talents could be put tobetter use.Strings Attached continues at www.thewholenote.com with the latest from theNew York orchestra The Knights with worksby Schubert, Satie and Philip Glass amongothers.FEEliNG LUCKY?THREE WAYS TO WINCDs, tickets and othermusical prizes courtesy ofThe WholeNote1. Join our mailing list byregistering atwww.thewholenote.com2. Like us on Facebook3. Follow us on Twitterthewholenote.com72 thewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2012

continued from page 71derivative, this time of jazz and rock styles(Sultry Waltz should have been called “TakeFive Plus One”).Eric Mandat’s piece The Moon in MyWindow was inspired by one of the greatunderstated works written for the disc’starget demographic: Harold and the PurpleCrayon, by Crockett Johnson. Mandat’smusic is direct and fun for kids, and dangeddifficult to boot. It features extended techniquesthat Johnson (the performer, not thechildren’s author) handles with only occasionaltrouble, mostly with impressive ease.Packaging notwithstanding, this is not somuch a children’s disc as it is a resource forclarinettists looking for new and difficultrecital repertoire from the United States. Isit just me or does most of it sound the same?—Max ChristiePhilip Glass; Michael Nyman –Works for Saxophone Quartetsonic.art Saxophone QuartetGenuin GEN 11222The second recordingof sonic.art SaxophoneQuartet (based inGermany) featuresminimalist musicof Philip Glass andMichael Nyman.Glass’ StringQuartet No.3 “Mishima” is a suite of musicfrom a film documentary about a novelistwho — fearing an increasing Western influencein Japan — embraced a samurai lifethat ended in a ritual suicide. I do not findGlass’ music programmatic, but as concertmusic it exudes the “high minimalism” ofthe composer mid-career. The homogeneityof the saxophone quartet lends itself well totranscription, especially considering that theartists can circular breathe.With writing that is much more idiomatic,and allows the individual playersto diverge from the texture as soloists,Glass’ Saxophone Quartet is a reworkingof the Concerto for Saxophone Quartet andOrchestra. I find the lack of orchestral accompanimentto be more intimate, as thewriting is more contrapuntal than we mightnormally expect from Glass. (I comparedthis with the Raschèr Quartet recording withorchestra, on Nonesuch).Songs for Tony by Michael Nyman alsofeatures previously composed Nyman material,although the work is originally forsaxophones. Again, the individuals shine inaria-like sections, and in the last two movementsthe alto switches to baritone; the deepsonority is haunting and mournful.This is excellent saxophone quartet playing.Clean articulation and superb intonationhelp to explain sonic.art’s numerousaccolades, including Best New Ensemble atGermany’s Jeunesses Musicales in 2010.—Wallace HalladayConcert Note: Reviewer Wallace Halladayis the featured saxophone soloist withOrchestra Toronto in concertos by Glazunovand Yoshimatsu on April 15 in the GeorgeWeston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centrefor the Performing Arts.John Cage – Variations ViiJohn CageE.A.T. & ARTpiXwww.9evenings.org/variations_vii.phpIn October 1966the series “9 Evenings:Theatre &Engineering” tookplace at New YorkCity’s 69th RegimentArmoury. A collaborationbetweenten New York artistsand 30 engineersand scientists fromBell Telephone Laboratories, the performancesfeatured dance, music and theatre. Allwere documented, and are now released in aseries of ten DVDs.Variations VII by John Cage is an importantarchival, educational and entertainingDVD release from this artistic happening.Cage wanted to use “only those soundswhich are in the air at the moment of performance”so ten hooks-off telephoneswere positioned around the city to pick upthe “music” and fed into a sound modulationsystem, along with six onstage contactmicrophones.The resulting performance is filmed withsensitivity and detail. Watching Cage andhis engineers manipulate, mix and alterthe latest technology amidst the monstrousamount of cables on tables is a feat of coordinationand a modern dance piece initself. The power of the “soundscape” ofmusical sounds and lighting is reflected inthe amazing clips of audience member facialreactions. Most amazing is how the senseof the vast space of the Armoury setting iscaptured on film.A documentary section includes recentinterviews with some of the participants anda lengthy audio-only track of the music.Cage’s pants apparently started smoulderingfrom the stage lights during thisperformance. This DVD is equally hot andsmouldering in its successful documentationof the great John Cage.—Tiina KiikEditor’s Note: This year marks the centenaryof John Cage who was born on September 5,1912, and we anticipate a wealth of recordedmaterial and live performances celebratingthe iconic composer/philosopher in the comingmonths.Cycles – New Music for Tabla by Ledroit,Lizée, Paquet, Hiscott & FrehnerShawn Mativetsky; Marie-Hélène Breault;Catherine Meunier; Xenia Pestova;Windsor Symphony Orchestra;Brian Currentombu 1015www.shawnmativetsky.comMontreal percussionistShawnMativetsky has madea specialty of performingon the tabla(twin hand drums),not only in musicindigenous to itsHindustani (NorthIndian) roots but also with dance, Westerninstruments and orchestras. As a leadingCanadian disciple of the renowned ShardaSahai he has serious tabla street cred. OnCycles however Mativetsky presents his culturemash-up side in six commissions datingfrom the last decade by mostly Quebecoiscomposers. The works admirably showcasehis timbral, temporal control and musicalsensitivity on the tabla alone, and as supportedby a series of duo, chamber musicand orchestral forces.While individual pieces variously drawinspiration from Western and Hindustanimusical sources, they also clearly reflect thepersonalities and musical aesthetics of theircomposers. Metal Jacket (2005) for tabla& harmonium by the busy Montreal composerNicole Lizée is an excellent example.This smart, crafty and playful work pushesboundaries of groove, drone, repetition,phrase augmentation and diminution — allessential features of traditional Hindustanimusic — and overlaps them with characteristicsfound in electronic mediated music: glissandos,fades and extreme distortion effects.Mativetsky’s project reflected on thisCD is not unlike that of other Canadianswho have combined musical instrumentsand genres from afar and presented themalongside the classical music traditionsof the “West.” Toronto’s Evergreen ClubGamelan’s 1980s pioneering work and thatof the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestrain the 2000s come to mind. Cycles willdelight both world music and new musicaficionados alike.—Andrew TimarJAZZ & IMPROVISEDSteal the NightHolly ColeAlert Music Inc. 61528-10449For a performerwith as much stagepresence as veteranToronto jazz singerHolly Cole, a DVD-CD package of a liveperformance seemslike an ideal vehicle.Steal the Night wasApril 1 – May 7, 2012thewholenote.com 73

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