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Volume 18 Issue 3 - November 2012

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average-sized calves”to produce; none diedin vain, as this recordingproves.Two composersincluded here, Lambeand Browne, probablyhad connectionswith Eton. Lambe’sNesciens mater a 5 is so exhilarating it couldbe used at any modern service — and theChoirbook likely dates from 1500!William, Monk of Stratford, gave hisMagnificat a 4 an ebullient character. TonusPeregrinus uses 13 voices, five upper and eightlower, initially alternating but ultimatelycombined. Occasionally William’s polyphonyuses strange examples of either lost or extrabeats — is the lost beat between “the rich” and“he hath sent away empty” a deliberate ploy?A second Magnificat, by Hugh Kellyk, isnot as strident as William’s. It is nonethelessvery demanding on the higher voices.Tonus Peregrinus’ already high reputation isonly enhanced by its interpretations of theEton Choirbook.The opening pages of Richard Davy’sSt. Matthew Passion have been lost. Jesusstands before Pilate and the events leadingto crucifixion are recounted. Davy uses thearrangement soprano, alto, tenor, bass forboth Pilate and Pilate’s wife. The bass part forboth characters is, perhaps strangely, sung byone singer, Nick Flower. This certainly doesnot detract from the sheer forcefulness ofDavy’s interpretation.John Browne’s Stabat mater also uses 13voices. Emphasis is placed on the sopranovoices in what is a very powerful setting;mention must be made, however, of thebass parts, which are omnipresent if somewhatovershadowed.Naxos is celebrating its 25th anniversary thisyear. It describes this recording as “perhaps thejewel in the crown of its series of Milestonesof Western music.” Only “perhaps?”—Michael SchwartzChauvon – Les nouveaux bijouxWashington McClean; Alison Melville;Julia Wedman; Michael McCraw;Charlotte!!A virtual who’swho of NorthAmerican early musicspecialists jump headfirstinto the cleverand charming worldof French baroquecomposer FrançoisChauvon, whose namemay be unfamiliar to the reader. A studentof Couperin, he composed a small numberof chamber and vocal works between 1710and 1740.Tibiades (1717) is a collection of suites forbaroque oboe and flute, with some suitesincluding violin. Influenced by the Italianconcertato texture style of the time, the instrumentsto be played were specified, but whichline for each was not indicated. The performersare at liberty to choose their part, andwhen to play tutti and solo. Here, the performersnot only choose their parts, but expandtheir choices by the addition of bassoon andcontinuo. The resulting instrumentation createscharming and distinct settings.Eight suites are featured. Each is shortin duration, with the occasional movementunder one minute. The 44 second“Arpégement, le Pièche (gracieusement)” isa memorable harpsichord interlude from thePremière Suite. Chauvon also dabbled withprogrammatic titles. The “la Mélancholique”movement from the Troisième Suite is slowand somewhat glum in notation and theselected instrumentation.As to be expected, all the performers arespectacular. I especially marvel at AlisonMelville’s breath control on recorders andtraverse flute and harpsichordist CharlotteNediger’s extraordinary continuo expertise.This recording is early music at its best.—Tiina KiikCLASSICAL & BEYONDHaydn – Piano Sonatas IIIMarc-André HamelinHyperion CDA67882!!Few Canadianpianists have producedsuch an eclectic catalogueof recordings asMarc-André Hamelin.Ever since his firstCDs featuring musicby composers such asClaude Caron, StephenAlbert and William Bolcom, he has demonstrateda decided affinity for music a little offthe mainstream. Yet this isn’t to suggest thatthe Montreal native has ever ignored the standard“old masters” either, and indeed, hislatest offering on the Hyperion label is a casein point, a fine two-disc compilation of Haydnpiano sonatas from the HobXVI series.This is actually the third volume of Haydnpiano sonatas Hamelin has recorded, the firsttwo appearing in 2007 and 2009. For thisset, he chose 11 sonatas mainly dating fromHaydn’s middle period of the 1760s and 70s.This was a time when the 30- and 40-something-year-oldcomposer was prodigiouslycreating string quartets and full scale operaswhile in the service of the Esterhazy family.Not surprisingly, these sonatas are true modelsof classical form. While they present nohuge technical demands on the part of theperformer, Hamelin approaches them in anintelligent manner, his playing finely nuancedwith the subtleties so integral in musicfrom this period. Yet not all is rococo galanteriehere. Many of the slow movementsdemonstrate a deep melancholia, clearlyforeshadowing romanticism, and once againHamelin has no difficulty in conveying thecontrasting moods through his finely shapedphrases and sense of timing.An added bonus in this set is the inclusionof two divertimentos, later publishedas Sonatas 1 and 6 in the Hoboken XVI catalogue,and also a short sonata in D major, nowknown as “#51.” The sonata was a product ofHaydn’s second visit to London in 1794 anddemonstrates a much greater sense of stylisticfreedom, as if Haydn was by now attemptingto go beyond the restrictions of traditionalViennese classicism. He was to live only 15more years and by 1809 the European musicalworld had very much moved on.This set of finely crafted music elegantlyplayed is a wonderful addition to the catalogue,proof once again (if proof is needed),of Hamelin’s outstanding musicianship andability to excel at anything he chooses to play.—Richard HaskellMahler – Symphony No.1Budapest Festival Orchestra; Ivan FischerChannel Classics CCS SA 33112Mahler – Symphony No.1Baltimore Symphony Orchestra;Marin AlsopNaxos 8.572207! ! The preliminaryversion ofGustav Mahler’s FirstSymphony (describedat the time as aSymphonic Poem infive movements) waspremiered under thecomposer’s directionin Budapest in 1889.Its unfamiliar polystylisticcollage andinexplicable programmaticelements utterlybaffled the audienceof the day. ConductorIván Fischer, in hisnotes to this newrecording with his elite Budapest FestivalOrchestra, writes that ever since “at each performancewe Hungarians have a moral dutyto convince audiences that this is a perfectand exceptionally beautiful masterpiece.”Mission accomplished! This is a performanceof remarkable sensitivity, ranging fromthe intimacy of chamber music to the mostpowerful, heaven-storming explosions, masterfullyrecorded in first class studio sound.The dynamic range is exceptionally vivid,tempos are flexible without ever becomingneurotic and the interpretation is thoroughlyconvincing throughout. The near doublingof the tempo in the closing pages provides anovel and exhilarating conclusion to a trulyadmirable performance, one of the very bestI’ve heard in decades.Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphonypaint this score with a much broader brush. In64 November 1 – December 7, 2012

such grandiose music this blunt approach stillworks marvelously, thanks to the enthusiastic,gritty response from the orchestra and theirequally feisty conductor who for the mostpart seems happy to be carried along with thetide. I take exception however to their use ofa recent edition of the score that proposes, onextremely flimsy evidence found not in thescore itself but in a set of contested orchestralparts, that the celebrated contrabass solothat so poignantly launches the funereal thirdmovement was intended to be played by theentire bass section. It is known that Mahlerevidently tried it this way just once in arehearsal with the New York Philharmonic in1909 but quickly abandoned the idea, describingtheir bass section as “just ONE bass playerand seven cobblers!” While these infamouslyhigh pitched eight bars (to the tune of thewell-known Frére Jacques) have now becomestandard audition material, to pull such astunt simply because standards of bass playinghave since greatly improved strikes meas a poetic crime of the highest order. I wasbothered as well that the recording level hasbeen audibly heightened for this movement,proof positive that the additional basses donot result in a richer tonal experience. This isa generally quite satisfying live performancefrom quite some time ago (2008), unfortunatelymarred by notably muddy sound andless than stellar production values.—Daniel FoleySTRINGS ATTACHEDTerry Robbins’ Strings Attached columncan be found at month Terry reviews Americanconcertos performed by Israeli violinistIttai Shapira, Nordic concertos featuringcellist Jakob Jullberg, a new recording ofSchubert’s String Quintet in C with theArcanto Quartet and Olivier Marron andthe Alias Chamber Ensemble’s BoilingPoint, music by American Kenji Bunch.MODERN & CONTEMPORARYCelebrating Women! Music for Fluteand Piano by Women ComposersLaurel Swinden; Stephanie MaraIndependent!!The flute and pianoduo has never hadsuch a powerful andmemorable momentas in this collection ofmusic by women composersfrom past andpresent. Flutist LaurelSwinden has a sweetand distinct tone which, when combinedwith pianist Stephanie Mara’s full piano colour,creates a truly beautiful sound. The twomusicians are remarkably tight and in sync asan ensemble. In sections of matching rhythmsand harmonies, I thought I was hearing athird new instrument in the mix!The more classical genre works are representedby Mel Bonis, Anna Bon di Venezia,Cécile Chaminade and Lili Boulanger. Thoughperhaps not household names, each composer’swork stands the test of time. Swinden andMara perform them with elegance.However the musicians really shine inthe more contemporary works. HeatherSchmidt’s Chiaroscuro is filled with mysteriousharmonies and tension-filled rhythms.A technically challenging work, it is also thehighlight. The duo creates a sense of sweepingmoods in their performance. In contrast,Cecilia McDowall’s Piper’s Dream has bothinstruments emulate the sound of the pipesand draws on traditional folk music for itsmelodies and ambience. Swindon’s lengthyheld notes are breathtaking in colour andduration. Anne Boyd’s minimalistic BaliMoods, Jean Coulthard’s Where the TradeWinds Blow and Katherine Hoover’s wittyTwo for Two complete the collection.The production quality is clear, capturingeven the most subtle of Swinden’s andMara’s distinct musical nuances andtechnical abilities.—Tiina Kiikbetween the shore and the ships –The Grand-Pré RecordingsHelen Pridmore; Wesley FerreiraCentrediscs CMCCD 17912! ! The fallout fromthe Acadian expulsionhaunts Canadianamour-propre tothis day. That is thefact lurking behinda release fromCentrediscs calledbetween the shoreand the ships, a loose cycle of settings forvoice and clarinet by eight Eastern-Canadiancomposers and performed with fitting solemnityby Helen Pridmore and Wesley Ferreira.The texts are varied and range from an extractfrom Longfellow’s Evangeline to contemporaryreflections like Mouvence by GeraldLeblanc. The compositional range is somewhatnarrower and though the pairing ishighly effective — composers have often beendrawn to the matching character of sopranoand clarinet — the material rarely strays fromdour and dreary elongations of vocal line andwandering clarinet decoration. A welcomechange is the above-mentioned Mouvence asset by Jérôme Blais. The text is mysterious andfresh; he sets it for spoken voice and largelyimprovised bass clarinet. Interestingly, theonly francophone composer to be includedchooses a text that “carries the essence of theAcadian tragedy without ever referring to itdirectly.” Could the rest be too earnest in theirexpressions of retroactive guilt?Singer Pridmore is fearless faced withrepeated demands for expressive vowelizationsentwining with a clarinet accompaniment thatis sometimes played for pleasing dissonances:a challenge for the singer and usually rewardingfor the listener. Her tone is on occasionnasal and raw and her pitch suffers in a numberof instances, most noticeably the RobertBauer setting of the Dykes of Acadie. Ferreirahas a beautiful and controlled sound that heuses to support as well as he can the sopranoand which he highlights beautifully in his solopassages. The overall effect is strong, but Ihave the urge to go hear some Zydeco and eatsome blackened catfish just to feel better.—Max ChristieSecret of the Seven Stars:Music of Hope Lee and David EagleStefan Hussong; New Music Concerts;Robert AitkenCentrediscs CMCCD 18012!!Three of thisrecording’s five selectionsfeature Germannew music accordionvirtuoso StefanHussong. Hope Lee’sSecret of the SevenStars is performedby the New MusicConcerts Ensemble with Joseph Macerollo assoloist. Hussong’s sound highlights a brighter,more metallic area of the instrument’s timbralrange, while Macerollo’s accordion isdeliciously deep and mellow sounding.Composer David Eagle’s works make upthe first half of the program and each relieson an electronically enhanced sense of acousticspace. This music requires a good deliverysystem, i.e. headphones or home stereo.Computer speakers won’t cut it, and MP3is less than adequate, so buy a full qualitydownload or, better still, the physical CDto get the added benefit of extensive printedinformation in a very nice package. (The samegoes for my review of Janet elsewhere in thesepages.) Eagle pursues an inventive array ofstrategies and techniques in combining andcounterposing the live accordion with thecomputer’s “responses.” In his 2009 work forflutist Robert Aitken, Fluctuare, the computerinteractivity elegantly supports Aitken’s warmand masterful interpretation of the solo part.Hope Lee’s spiritually inspired, highly gesturalstyle is featured in Secret of the SevenStars and the unaccompanied solo and theend is the beginning. Here, the accordion’sextended resources are on display: pitchbending, bellows shaking and other titillatingaccordion exotica. Both works trace theemergence of entire soundworlds from asingle, sustained pitch — a process the composerrepeats in a consistently fascinatingvariety of ways. Lee’s approach to the contemporaryquasi-concerto format in SevenStars is more to combine solo and ensemblevoices than to counterpose them, making heracoustic music sound just as “interactive” asEagle’s electronica.—Nic GothamNovember 1 – December 7, 2012 65

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