8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 4 - December 2012

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over the next quarter

over the next quarter hour we are transportedthrough intense drama and momentsof quiet introspection. The final movementbursts forth with toccata-like precision andkeeps it up with only momentary respitesalong the way to a wonderfully executed bravuraending.The delicate opening of Matthew Whittall’sFrom the Edge of Mist with its use of harmonicsquickly heralds us into another kindof soundworld, with ethereal passages anddrones. Different again is the angular andabrasive opening of Stigmata by Vincent Ho.This gradually gives way to more contemplative“moments of loneliness and desolation”but always with a hard edge. Clark WinslowRoss’ Lamentations lives up to its nameand we hear the cantorial voice of the celloalternating with high wailing lines and wonderfullywarm pizzicato passages. InterludeI by François-Hughes Leclair explores thedeep and resonant range of the cello in itsopening passage and then overlays a highmelody upon the drone of the lower strings.Interlude II centres around an ostinato bassline with occasional melodic interruptions.Kati Agócs’ Versprechen, composed whenshe was studying with Milton Babbitt, applies12-note techniques to Bach’s harmonizationof the Lutheran chorale God is my shield andhelper. What begins in the realm of academegradually sheds its serial trappings and in theend we are left with a simple and beautifulrendition of Bach’s original.As the title suggests, through his choiceof repertoire Regehr presents us with a fullspectrum of the cello’s natural sound capabilities.Admittedly there are no extra-musicalextended techniques employed (bowing onthe tail piece or scraping the body of theinstrument for instance) and no microtonalplaying involved, but within the traditionalrange of the instrument we are taken to itsouter limits, with Regehr a very able guide.There is a Naxos recording that dates from2006 that I’d like to mention. New MusicConcerts’ first event back in January 1972featured the music of Luciano Berio andfor months in advance there were crypticannouncements in the press simply stating“Berio is coming.” Elsewhere in thesepages you will find an article by PaulaCitron about a marathon performance comingup in January at the Faculty of Music atU of T featuring the complete Sequenzasby that seminal Italian composer. This cycleof solo works spans more than four decadesof Berio’s output beginning in 1958with Sequenza I for flute (to be performed byRobert Aitken) and ending in 2002, the yearbefore the composer’s death, with SequenzaXIV for cello (to be performed by DavidHetherington). The in-between works willbe performed by a host of Toronto’s finestmusicians including Joseph Petric (accordion),Guy Few (trumpet), Wallace Halladay(saxophone), Xin Wang (soprano), Sanya Eng(harp) and Adam Sherkin (piano). The Naxosrecording (8.557661-63) features some ofthese same players (Petric, Few and Halladay)and other local notables (Nora Shulman,Erica Goodman, Steven Dann, Jasper Woodand Joaquin Valdepeñas to name a few).While all of these works were written forspecific performers (Severino Gazzelloni,Cathy Berberian, Heinz Holliger, Rohan deSaram, etc.) and many have been recordedindividually by the dedicatees, this is a comprehensivecollection of all 14 (and includesvariants of number seven and number nineas well) in very convincing performances.Listening to this set would be a good way toprepare for the upcoming marathon.We welcome your feedback and invite submissions.CDs and comments should be sentto: The WholeNote, 503–720 Bathurst St.,Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage youto visit where you can findadded features including direct links to performers,composers and record labels, “buybuttons” for on-line shopping and additional,expanded and archival reviews.—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comEditor’s Corner continues with moreElliott Carter on the website.VOCALTUTTO VERDI!!2013 is rapidly approaching and with it the200th birthday of Giuseppe Verdi. To celebrate,the C Major label and the Orchestra eCoro del Teatro Regio di Parma have puttogether a worthy birthday present, DVDs ofall his 26 operas plus the Requiem performedto perfection on Italian stages, by Italian singers,conductors and designers. According tocritics: “this is how Verdi should be played.”So far from what I’ve seen and heard I definitelyagree.Un Giorno di Regno(C Major 720208) the26-year-old Verdi’ssecond opera for LaScala was a total,unremitting failure.He not only failedmiserably trying towrite a comic opera,but at the same timelost his wife and twochildren and was nearsuicide. He decidednever to compose again and the piece wasalmost ignored until recent years. Seeing thisproduction from Teatro Regio di Parma, aregional theatre of architectural splendour,one is immediately taken by the wealth ofcatchy melodies, all original, no repeats, theirrepressible upbeat rhythms and hilariouscomedy at its best. A connoisseur howeverwould find the influences of Rossini andDonizetti, but at the same time hear premonitionsof the master to come (e.g. echoes ofthe Su vendetta of Rigoletto). Conducted byDonato Renzetti, the production wasdesigned by famous Italian Pier Luigi Pizziwith an elegant, symmetrical renaissance setwith ingenious lighting changes following theprogress of the day (giorno). Six major voices(four male, two female) mainly all youngsingers in top form carry the action that neverfor a moment stands still. It’s unfair to pick afavourite, but I was partial to the lead mezzoAnna Caterina Antonacci whose vocal powerin all registers, beautiful intonation, feelingfor nuances and a comic talent could put anymezzo currently basking in glory to shame.The protagonist Guido Locansolo is a radiantbaritone, looks the part, elegant, regal butrelaxed and charmant, a worthy foil forAntonacci.The legend goesthat Verdi, driven tonear suicide, founda new libretto smuggledinto his furnishedroom but in desperationthrew it on thefloor. The new libretto,Solera’s masterwork,fell open withthe words “Va pensiero,sull’ali dorate”(Fly thought on goldenwings) and the rest is history. His new operaNabucco (C Major 720408) became a tremendousovernight success and firmly establishedhis reputation. The opera is conducted withexcitement and enthusiasm, beautifullypointed, with soaring melodies and upbeattempi by a young Italian named MicheleMariotti and sung by youthful, strong voicesso that even the lowliest chorister could be asoloist at any world stage. In addition thereare two veterans in the principal roles. LeoNucci as Nabucco is easily the world’s topVerdi baritone (succeeding the legendaryRenato Bruson) who is larger than life, witha voice of immense power and touching lyricism.Dimitra Theodossiou takes one of themost murderous dramatic soprano roles inthe entire opera repertoire, that of Abigaille,a role usually reserved for the Callases in thepast, and simply astounds the audience to athunderous ovation. A third principal, a stentorianbasso with exceptional power even inthe deepest registers, is Riccardo Zanellatoas Zaccaria, the high priest of Israel. This is aproduction to cherish. It’s as good as can beand this bodes well for the rest of the series. Ican hardly wait!—Janos GardonyiFind Janos Gardonyi’sreview of Arias forMarietta Marcolini(Rossini’s First Muse)with Ann Hallenberg December 1 – February 7, 2013

Wagner – Der Ring Des Nibelungen;Wagner’s Dream, a documentaryRobert Lepage; Metropolitan OperaDeutsche Grammophon 073 4770 (8 DVD)073 4771 (4 Blu-ray)!!This set is derivedfrom the Live from theMet broadcasts fromthe 2010/11/12 seasonsand is the second Ringcycle from the Metfor the home screen.The first was the OttoSchenk/GuntherSchneider-Siemssen cycle that was seen onPBS in the early 1990s. While watching thesenew discs I thought about this earlier set andhad a peek. The peek turned into a marathon.Every aspect of that cycle pleases me;the mise-en-scène, the cast and Levine’s direction.It remains the perfect documentexemplifying the traditional productions ofthe last 100 years (DG 073043-9, 7 DVDs).Dutifully returning to the Lepage Ring, asit is now referred to, was an utterly differentexperience, drawing undue attention to anddistracted by the stage-wide row of plankswaving around and wondering what they willdo next. Viewing these four music dramas inthe theatre over three years, many were disappointed,perplexed and intolerant of such aradical departure from tradition.Wagner’s Dream is an engrossing, informativedocumentary of the philosophy, conceptand construction of “The Machine,” thebrainchild of Robert Lepage. We are in on itsfabrication in Quebec and the installation atthe Met. Then the inevitable little hitches asstage people, the choreographer and the singersfamiliarize themselves with this 9,000pound machine and its ability to producethe desired result. The Machine, it dawnedon me, is simply an elaborate new form ofscrim, adjustable in countless ways to alsoprovide planes according to the needs of thescenes, while the projected images serve onlyto evoke the surroundings and not to furnishthem. Once the penny dropped, it allseemed so obvious. I no longer lamented theabsence of traditional three-dimensionalsets but was well aware of the atmosphereand environment.This was to be Levine’s Ring but due tohis declining health he was able to conductonly Das Rheingold (October 9, 2010)and Die Walkure (May 14, 2011). The cyclewas completed by Fabio Luisi who hadassumed the post of principal conductor ofthe Metropolitan Opera on September 6,2011: Siegfried (November 5, 2011) and finallyGötterdämmerung (February 11, 2012).Singers in the principal roles remain constantacross the four dramas including BrynTerfel as Wotan, Stephanie Blythe as Fricka,Hans-Peter König as Fafner and Hunding andHagen while Gerhard Siegel is Mime and EricOwens is Alberich. This is Deborah Voigt’sfirst Brunnhilde and Jay Hunter Morris’ firstMet Siegfried but the viewer would neverguess it, so “to the manner born” are theirperformances. I see and hear them as ideallycast. Morris was born and raised in Paris,Texas and in conversation has not lost hischarming Texas drawl. The many interviewswith each tell their stories.Jonas Kaufmann appears only in DieWalkure where the attraction of his Siegmundto Eva-Maria Westbrook’s Sieglinde is exquisitelyintense. Performances from Voigt,Morris, Terfel and König are outstanding butthere are no lesser players. Conversationsand interviews with the principals caughtbetween acts in the original transmissions areincluded as separately tracked extras.The Met orchestra has been honed to perfectionover the years and their enthusiasmand sensitivity can be movingly gentle orstrongly dramatic with enormous horsepowerwhere called for.This unique set will be irresistible for manyRing fans, and diehard traditionalists may bepleasantly surprised.—Bruce SurteesLigeti – Le Grand MacabreChris Merritt; Ines Moraleda; Ana Puche;Werner Van Mechelen; Barbara Hannigan;Frode Olsen; Symphony Orchestra andChorus of the Gran Teatre del Licau;Michael BoderArtHaus Musik 101 043!!Ligeti owes someof the popularity ofhis music to futuristicimages: the hypnoticpassages in StanleyKubrick’s 2001: ASpace Odyssey wereincredible backgroundto Ligeti’s music. Itis then little wonderthat a combination ofhis difficult, relentlessand entrancingmusic, with fascinating and at times shockingstaging by La Fura dels Baus, results insuch an explosive combination. The La Furaensemble is Europe’s answer to the theatricalwizardry of Robert Lepage’s ExMachina.After a visually stunning production of Weill’sMahagonny on the same label, Le GrandMacabre sets the bar even higher. The stage,dominated by a female shape, vaguely reminiscentof Picasso’s large-boned nudes, istransformed by tricks of light and projectionsinto a phantasmagoria of nightmarish images,truly a “Grand Macabre.”The tale of a false prophet of an impendingapocalypse was written by Ligeti between1974 and 1977, but he completely reworkedit in 1996. Opera as a genre forces Ligeti toaccommodate the most difficult of instruments,the human voice. Hence the presenceof both melody and tonality in this intensework. The striking visuals will transfix eventhe most reluctant modern opera followers,but this is not to say that the singing isnot amazing. Werner Van Mechelen inhabitsthe role of Nekrotzar, the prophet of doom,with ease and class, while Barbara Hanniganas Gepopo and Brian Asawa as Prince Go-Goshine in their respective roles.This is certainly not a production thatleaves the listener toe-tapping or humminga familiar aria. Instead, one will be forced tothink, reflect and then put the DVD back on.Such is the power of Ligeti’s music and futuristicimagery.—Robert TomasFind out why RobertTomas is head over heelsfor Marie-Josée Lord Consort;David FallisMarquis MAR 81435!!The TorontoConsort’s Christmasoffering this year featuresvillancicos anddances from 16th and17th century LatinAmerica and Spain.More earthy andfun than the moreformal church music, the villancico traditionallymimicked ethnic speech patternsand was accompanied by folk instruments.So, true to form (and similar to the TorontoConsort’s treatment of early popular Englishmusic), some of the stresses and pronunciationyou hear in selections such as Riu, riu,chiu may at first sound a little rough aroundthe edges, but serve well to portray the joyful,lusty nature of the peasant class. In fact,as pointed out in David Fallis’ detailed linernotes, people actually got up in Church andoften danced to these, “much to the consternationof church authorities.”Other songs on this disc, such as the sweetand tender lullaby Xicochi and the mystic Ay,luna que reluzes provide a lovely contrast tosoothe and inspire. The players have pickedup some less familiar instruments suitedto the repertoire, with Terry McKenna andLucas Harris on vihuela (shaped like a guitar,tuned like a lute), Julia Seager-Scott onbaroque harp and Dominic Teresi on bajón(an instrument similar to the bassoon). Withlively notes as well as lovely voices and goodhumouredtoo, this is an excellent recordingto liven up the Christmas season.The Toronto Consort performs MichaelPraetorious’ Mass for Christmas Morning atTrinity-St. Paul’s Centre on December 14, 15and 16.—Dianne WellsDianne Wells hassome good things to sayabout These Old Walls,a new release from theChoir of MCC Toronto 1 – February 7, 2013 75

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