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Volume 18 Issue 1 - September 2012

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ecording quality, which

ecording quality, which I found somewhat“dry.” Fine playing such as this deserves adecent sound, and a little more resonancewould have been preferable. But this is minorissue and certainly doesn’t detract fromthese eclectic collections of piano repertoire.Bravissimo, Mr. Bertoli — let’s hear fromyou again!—Richard HaskellConcert Notes: Bertoli is pianist-inresidenceat Barrie’s Colours of Music festival(September 21 to 30) and will be performingseveral concerts there including Strauss’Enoch Arden with actor Kevin White onthe 24th and a solo recital on September 30featuring works by Gershwin, Khachaturianand Schumann; he will also conduct amasterclass on September 27. On October 7,Bertoli performs at U of T’s Hart House fortheir Sunday Concert Series.Alison BalsomAlison BalsomEMI Classics 50999731660 2 3!!Two years agoI had the opportunityto review the firstrecording I had heardby this amazing youngBritish trumpeter. Forthe most part, thatrecording consistedof transcriptions ofworks which were not originally written fortrumpet. By contrast, this recent disc containsa wider spectrum of music. The recordingstarts and ends with works by Argentineancomposer Astor Piazzolla. Balsom’s hauntingtone sets the stage with his Escuale, andends with a dazzling fiery performance ofLibertango. While this recording too containsmostly transcriptions, it also has the Andantemovement of a trumpet concerto by acomposer named Neruda. Since no first namewas given, a visit to Google turned up threecomposers by that name. From the sound ofthe work, I would assume that it is the workof 18th century composer Johann BaptistNeruda. There are movements from an oboeconcerto by Marcello, a trio sonata by Bach,a flute work by Debussy and yet anotherexcellent transcription of Rachmaninoff’subiquitous Vocalise. A new work, writtenfor Balsom by Scottish composer JamesMacmillan, Seraph for trumpet and stringorchestra, is in a similar vein.Rounding out the program arearrangements of two traditional works,Shenandoah and Nobody Knows. Sincemuch of the music is by lesser knowncomposers, I would have appreciated somebiographical information. Unfortunatelythere is none. Overall this is an excellentdisplay of the talent of this young woman’svirtuosity. One does not have to be a trumpetaficionado to enjoy an hour of quality musicwith this CD.—Jack MacQuarrieStrings AttachedFrom my reviewing standpoint, I don’tthink any CD label has provided as manyinteresting releases over the past fewyears as England’s Hyperion Records. Thelatest release to reach me is a 2-CD set ofthe Complete Suites for Violin and Piano byJoseph Achron (CDA67841), in simply stunningperformances by Hagai Shahamand Arnon Erez. Five of the sixSuites are on CD2, recordedin 2009 at the Jerusalem MusicCentre in Israel; the StempenyuSuite and the 17 shorter pieces onCD1 were actually recorded 13 yearsearlier at the same location, andwere previously released on Biddulph(LAW021). There is no discernibledifference in the sound quality.Achron (1886–1943) was aRussian Jewish virtuoso who studiedunder Leopold Auer in St.Petersburg, as did Milstein, Elman,Zimbalist and Heifetz; the latter isdescribed in the excellent bookletnotes by Malcolm Miller asAchron’s “friend and champion.” It’s a fittingconnection, for Achron’s compositions — especiallythe earlier ones — are much in the styleof the encore and salon pieces of Kreislerand Heifetz; the Children’s Suite on CD2 is a1934 arrangement by Heifetz of eight of the20 pieces in Achron’s original piano suite ofthe same name. Achron’s brother, incidentally,was Heifetz’s pianist in the US in the early1920s. To strengthen the connection evenmore, Shaham’s tone and vibrato are very reminiscentof Heifetz’s own playing. And whatplaying there is on these two discs! Shaham isnot only technically superb, but presents perfectinterpretations, never treating the musicas just occasional pieces, but never going overthe top with the virtuosic aspects either.What is particularly interesting aboutthe music here is that it presents such anintriguing picture of the musical worldthrough the early years of the 20th century;names mentioned in the notes as influenceson Achron include Scriabin, Franck, Ravel,Stravinsky, Bartok, Mahler, Zemlinsky andBloch. Achron’s style clearly developed as hemoved through his life, from his early Russianpieces, through his connection with theSociety for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburgin 1911, to his later, more chromatic works inBerlin and the US, works which were muchadmired by Schoenberg.TERRY ROBBINSI simply can’t say enough about Shaham’splaying here — this is truly a violinist’sviolinist. Erez is no slouch at the keyboardeither, albeit possibly with less virtuosicdemands. Surprisingly, much of Achron’smusic still remains in manuscript form only,which makes this CD set even morevaluable. Achron wrote three violinconcertos, premiering the last twoof them with the Los AngelesPhilharmonic Orchestra duringhis Hollywood years in the late1930s; what I wouldn’t giveto be able to hear Shahamplaying them!The latest CD from England’s BrodskyQuartet offers beautifully-judgedperformances of the StringQuartet and Piano Trio of ClaudeDebussy (Chandos CHAN 10717).The quartet was founded 40 yearsago, with two of the originalmembers still there, so theirfaultless ensemble playing shouldcome as no surprise.The String Quartet is a beautiful andidiomatic reading: passionate, nicely colouredand with a wonderful range of tone anddynamics. The Piano Trio is an early workfrom 1880, when the 18 year old Debussywas employed by Nadejda von Meck,Tchaikovsky’s patroness. Despite its lack ofmaturity, it’s an interesting piece, with manyhints at the composer’s later style, but witha rather weak ending. Jean-Efflam Bavouzetis the perfect pianist for this music, havingrecorded Debussy’s Complete Works for SoloPiano for the Chandos label. Again, it’s abeautiful performance.Two shorter works fill out the CD. TheDeux Danses (Danses Sacrée et Profane) forchromatic harp and orchestra were written in1904 as examination pieces for the BrusselsConservatory, after that institution had beenpersuaded by the Parisian instrument makersPleyel, the chromatic harp’s inventors, to runcourses for the instrument. Welsh harpistSioned Williams is the excellent soloist inthis arrangement for pedal harp and stringquintet, with Chris Laurence on double bass.The closing track is the 1890 piano pieceReverie, arranged for string quartet by theBrodsky’s violist Paul Cassidy. Beautifulstring playing throughout, with excellentbalance and sound quality, make this a veryattractive release.Strings Attached continues atthewholenote.com with violin music byPaganini’s only pupil Camillo Sivori,virtuosic works for the double bass byGiovanni Bottesini and Charles Curtis’unusual take on three cello suites ofJohann Sebastian Bach.64 thewholenote.com September 1 – October 7, 2012

MODERN & CONTEMPORARYBouliane; Gougeon; Rea Joseph Petric;Nouvel Ensemble Moderne;Lorraine VaillancourtATMA ACD2 2395!!LorraineVaillancourt and theNouvel EnsembleModerne (NEM)deliver a vibrant performancein this mostrecent of an ongoingseries of releases celebratingthe new musicof Montreal. Equally precise and passionate,they play the music like they own it.Denys Bouliane’s Rythmes et échos desrivages anticostiens is an exciting work basedon his imagined historical reconstruction ofthe music of Anticosti Island. The composeris particularly interested in the encounterbetween European and First Nations cultures,a project in which he brings to bearboth his European academic background andmore recent research into First Nations music.Sophisticated use of devices such as simplerepetition achieve highly complex results,propelling the piece though an intense andinventive timbral tour of the NEM’s resources.In En accordéon, Denis Gougeon, the selfdescribed“knitter of sounds,” bases his ideason the alternating squeezing and stretchingof the accordion’s bellows. Dramatic gesturesabound in this contemporary rendition of theclassic concerto genre, as Joseph Petric’s virtuosicpassage work and the silvery tone ofhis accordion are juxtaposed and combinedwith the sound of the ensemble. In Mutation,the composer’s use of musical gesture lengthensto encompass the entire work, giving it astrong sense of sweep and clarity.John Rea’s fascination with music’s essentialfoundation, time, connects him withGyörgy Ligeti, to whom his piece Singulari-Tis dedicated in its subtitle. Listeners willbe fascinated to follow various musicalmanipulations of our sense of time: frommetronomically steady, speeding up orslowing down, to irregular and unpredictable.At certain moments, some tendencyreaches a breaking point and everything suddenlychanges.In all, a highly recommended album.—Nic GothamEatock, Colin – Chamber MusicVarious ArtistsCentrediscs CMCCD 17812!!Toronto-based renaissanceartist ColinEatock is successfuland thought provokingat whatever heattempts. As a writerand critic, he is thoroughand relentlessat unearthing the truth. As a composer, heis justified in his acknowledgement of suchmusical influences as Shostakovich, Messiaenand Crumb, as he experiments and developsthe truth of his own sound.The six works featured here were composedfrom 1987 to 2010, and are colourfulexamples of his favourite musical worlds.Eatock is strongest in the three vocal works.Especially noteworthy is the final movementof Three Songs from Blake’s “America”(1987). The transparent piano part exposesthe bass-baritone (Andrew Tees) in a hauntinghummable melody. This ethereal sparsequality again surfaces in the “Elegy” movementof the Suite for Piano (1995) performedby Timothy Minthorn. The stillness of thismovement is a welcome rest after the previousjaunty Toccata with its movie musicchase lines.Eatock’s compositions are carefully writtenworks that accommodate the performerwhile pushing them to enter his harmonicnuances. All the musicians on this studiorelease recorded at various times since 1999are superb in their interpretations. Recordingquality is of an equally high standard.—Tiina KiikJAZZ & IMPROVISEDEnsorcellBill GilliamMelos Production MPBG-004www.bill-gilliam.com!!Bill Gilliam’sexperience and hisoutput since the mid-80s has spannedformal composition,jazz and jazz-orientedimprovisationas well as electroacousticmusic andmusic-visual media. His new recordingfeatures the kind of music-making thatone suspects is closest to his heart: it’s avery personal-sounding collection of solopiano improvisations.Gilliam has aimed to bring his composer’ssense of form and continuity to the improvisationalprocess so that each of the piecesin the recording has its own distinct character.Nevertheless, separate compositions oftenseem to flow into and resemble one another,but this only enhances the enjoyment of listeningto this album start-to-finish. While,in earlier work, the jazz element in Gilliam’scompositions included a strongly pulse-basedrhythmic aspect, this recording tends moretoward an elastic, rubato approach that iscloser to the post-Romantic European traditionthan to jazz. Meanwhile, his harmoniesblend 20th century classical and jazz soundsin a convincing, comfortable modal-chromaticstyle.The music communicates the integratedjoy of moment-to-moment composition and,especially, of piano playing: Gilliam’s loveof his instrument both as performer andcomposer-improviser is this album’s majorattraction. Respect and affection for the soundof the piano has also guided the technical sideof the project, resulting in a warm, sonicallyaccurate and dynamic recording.—Nic GothamSophisticated LadiesPeter Appleyard; Molly Johnson;Emilie-Claire Barlow; Jill Barber;Elizabeth Shepherd; Sophie Milman;Jackie Richardson; Diana Panton;Carol McCartney; Barbra LicaLinus 270151!!The veteranAmerican bassplayer Charlie Hadenreleased SophisticatedLadies, a collection ofsongs covered by contemporary,mostlyAmerican, female jazzsingers, in early 2011.(See my January 2011 review at thewholenote.com.) Now veteran Canadian vibraphonistPeter Appleyard has released a CD calledSophisticated Ladies that is a collectionof songs covered by mostly Toronto-basedfemale jazz singers.Whether the mimicry was deliberate ornot, comparison is difficult to avoid. Bothdiscs feature solid musicianship from thesingers (such as Jackie Richardson, Emilie-Claire Barlow and Jill Barber in this case)and players (Appleyard is joined by RegSchwager, Neil Swainson, Terry Clarke andJohn Sherwood), but where the Canadian versionpales a bit is in the song choices, whichare predominantly well-worn standards. Thearrangements are all straightforward, jazzytreatments with few musical curveballs, so itall adds up to a pleasant, swingy listen. Thiswould make a fine addition to a CD collectionfor anyone wanting a sampler of currentCanadian jazz singers.—Cathy RichesJane and the Magic BananasSam Shanabi; Alexandre St-Onge;Michel F. Côté& Records &17www.actuellecd.com!!Exemplars of a distinctiveQuébécoisaesthetic calledMusique Actuelle, theoddly named Jane andthe Magic Bananas isactually a trio of maleperformers who duringnine bizarrelytitled improvisations confirm the linksbetween Heavy Metal and Musique Concrète.With Michel F. Côté’s drums electronicallyamplified, plus Alexandre St-Onge extendingSeptember 1 – October 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 65

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