8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 4 - December 2012

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EARLY & PERIOD PERFORMANCEThe Guerra Manuscript Volume 2:17th Century Secular Spanish Vocal MusicJuan Sancho; Ars Atlántica; Manuel VilasNaxos 8.572876!!The Universityof Santiago deCompostella’s librariesare an indispensiblesource of informationregarding Spanishmusic. Many tonoshumanos (secularsongs) were copied byJosé Miguel Guerra; his name is given to theGuerra manuscript. It is Ars Atlántica’s aim torecord all 100 of these tonos humanos.In this recording the instruments accompanyingtenor Juan Sancho comprise atwo-course Spanish harp based on a 1704 original— a highly contemporary touch — and afour- and five-course pair of guitars based onoriginals even older than the manuscript!From the start Juan Sancho’s clear Spanishtenor voice brings the songs to life. JuanHidalgo’s Ay de mi dolor, despite its sorrowfultitle, places varied demands on Sancho’svocal range. This is comforted by whatimmediately follows, Dichoso yo que adoro,in turn benefiting from the guitar accompaniment.It was rare for instruments to bespecified but harp and guitar are known tohave been used frequently. As an example,Hidalgo exploited the range of both tenor andbaroque harp in his La noche tenebrosa.Many of the songs on this particularrecording are of anonymous composition.Frescos airecillos with its beautiful guitarembellishments is one such example; what ashame that we do not know who composedthis beautiful and expressive piece.Among the composers who can be identified(sometimes by similar songs appearingin other manuscripts where they are attributed)are Hidalgo and José Marín. The latterexploited his talents as a tenor, composer andguitarist to write Amante, Ausente Y Triste,although the notes in this recording indicatehe did not have too much time for composing,having been sentenced to exile andthe galleys!All of the songs in the Guerra manuscriptwill be recorded in this series — they will forma joyful and informative contribution to ourknowledge of the Spanish Baroque.—Michael SchwartzHandel – MessiahKarina Gauvin; Robin Blaze; Rufus Müller;Brett Polegato; Tafelmusik BaroqueOrchestra and Chamber Choir;Ivars TaurinsTafelmusik TMK1016CD2!!Handel’s Messiah was first performed inDublin in 1742 and in London on numerousoccasions between 1743 and 1759. AfterHandel’s death, performancesgrew largerin scale, culminatingin the Crystal Palaceperformance of 1857with its 2,500 musicians.Something ofthat big band effectcan be heard in theperformances conducted by Sir MalcolmSargent. In his 1959 recording his tempi areponderous with huge rallentandos at the endof movements. He also re-orchestrated a greatdeal of the work.A major event in the recording history ofMessiah was the performance conducted byCharles Mackerras in 1966. Mackerras usedmodern instruments but nevertheless communicatedhis understanding of baroqueperformance practice. Soloists were encouragedto decorate their parts, something heardto especially fine effect in Janet Baker’s handlingof the da capo in He was despised.Since then there have been many historicallyinformed performances: my own preferenceis for the one conducted by William Christie.Just listen to the buoyancy of For unto usa Child is born or to the radiance whichBarbara Schlick brings to I know that myRedeemer liveth.The new Tafelmusik recording holds upwell. The orchestra and choir are excellent.As for the soloists, tenor Rufus Müller is verygood, baritone Brett Polegato is outstandingand soprano Karina Gauvin is out of thisworld. I am of two minds, however, aboutthe countertenor: he is good in O thou thatbringest good tidings, but He was despiseddrags and other arias need greater evennessthan Robin Blaze brings to them.Over the years Tafelmusik made a numberof recordings for Sony. Many of these havebeen deleted but some of them have beenbrought back by Arkivmusic and now byTafelmusik’s own label. This recording is new,however, and it is also the first live recordingof the orchestra. I hope that there will bemany more. The achievements of Tafelmusikhave been immense and further recordingsshould bring them to the attention of awider audience.Tafelmusik’s annual Messiah performancestake place at Koerner Hall December 19through 23.—Hans de GrootBach – Brandenburg Concertos;Shostakovich – Preludes (arr. Maute)Ensemble Caprice; Matthias MauteAnalekta AN 2 9996-7!!The Montreal-basedrecorder/flute player,composer and conductorMatthias Mautehas established himselfas one of thecountry’s finest baroquemusicians andhis Ensemble Capricemaintains a busy annual touring and recordingschedule. The oft-recorded BrandenburgConcertos are given lively performancesby Maute and his excellent Montreal colleagues,with stellar work from violinist (andviolist in the sixth concerto) Olivier Brault,oboist Matthew Jennejohn, trumpeter JoshCohen and, perhaps especially, harpsichordistErin Helyard, who handles the challengingsolo part in the fifth concerto with eleganceand style.There is a certain hyper-energetic quality tothe playing that is at first attractive, but canbecome exhausting. Maute’s approach, evenin the slow movements, is aggressive and rustic,with extreme dynamic contrasts, accentsand abrupt endings to phases and — sometimes— whole movements. This is certainlynot easy listening, but it gives a fresh, honestand immediate feel to the music making,emphasizing the improvisatory nature ofBach’s music.Maute’s liner notes are fanciful and entertaining,as he analyzes each concerto in termsof instrument hierarchy, trying to prove thatBach was making subversive political statementswith these pieces.Each concerto is preceded by a shortwork by Shostakovich, originally for piano,but orchestrated by Maute especially for theBach forces. These preludes (and one fugue)were apparently inspired by Shostakovich’sadjudication of the 1950 International BachCompetition and his admiration of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The performances aretremendously successful and their inclusionlends a special flavour to the whole program.—Larry BeckwithCLASSICAL & BEYONDDevienne – Six Trios, Op.17Mathieu Lussier; Pascale Giguère;Benoît LoiselleATMA ACD2 2583!!Although FrançoisDevienne (1759–1803)was quite well knownin France in the late18th century, he hasreceived little attentionin recent times.Devienne was a veryprominent bassoonistand flutist in the royal court of France priorto the French Revolution. For five years hewas a member of Cardinal de Rohan’s householdorchestra, a group popular with QueenMarie-Antoinette. During the period of therevolution, bands and orchestras changednames many times and Devienne seems tohave spent that time in military bands onlyto emerge as a professor at what is now theParis Conservatory.This series of Six Trios Op.17, for bassoon,violin and cello, has never been recordedbefore. So we owe a debt of gratitude toMontreal bassoonist and conductor Mathieu76 December 1 – February 7, 2013

Lussier for bringing these delightful works toour attention. At all times Mathieu Lussier’sbassoon playing is flawless. His articulation iscrisp, clear and dazzling in the fast passagesand his tone is full and rich with a lyricalquality rarely heard on bassoon.While this CD definitely highlights the bassoon,Pascale Giguère on violin and BenoîtLoiselle on cello certainly don’t take a backseat here. There is an almost seamless transitionbetween the performers as each takescentre stage with the melody. It’s a unifiedensemble. Throughout, the strings make limiteduse of vibrato as befits the genre. Witheyes closed, one is easily transported back tothe household of Cardinal de Rohan or theQueen before the violence of the revolution.In addition to the six trios, the CD containstranscriptions of three airs from Devienne’sopéra comique Les Visitandines. For theseselections, the trio is augmented with a violain the capable hands of Jean-Louis Blouin.These provide a pleasant contrast, yet remainin the spirit of the musical times when theywere written and performed.As one who has, in the past, struggled withthe diabolical fingering system of the bassoon,I have two very mixed reactions. Is thevirtuosity displayed by Mathieu Lussier achallenge? Do I get my bassoon out of its caseand practice diligently as I once did, or do Iadvertise a bassoon for sale? In the meantime,I will enjoy this CD of delightful happy musicperformed by true virtuoso musicians.—Jack MacQuarrieBeethoven Galore! Christmas came earlyfor Christina Petrowska Quilico with thearrival of a host of new Beethoven sonatarecordings. Find her review of discs byStewart Goodyear, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet,Javier Perianes, Christian Leotta and LuisaGuembes-Buchanan at HewittHyperion CDA67898!!Angela Hewitt firstachieved internationalrecognition for herinterpretations of themusic of Bach — wasthat really 27 yearsago? Since then, theOttawa-born pianisthas proven to theworld that her talents are truly eclectic, witha repertoire ranging from Handel to Messiaen.And how appropriate now that we’ve cometo the end of 2012 — the 150th anniversary ofthe birth of Claude Debussy — that she shouldreturn once again to France for music by themusicien from Saint-Germaine-en-Laye.This latest CD on the Hyperion label comprisesmany of Debussy’s major piano works,including the Suite bergamasque, Children’sCorner, Pour le piano, Masques, L’isle joyeuseand Deux Arabesques. Nevertheless, inrecording such well-known repertoire, Hewitthad a tall order to fill. What amateur pianistwith some degree of proficiency hasn’t triedhis or her hand at least a few of these chestnuts?The challenge was thus a question ofbreathing new life into these oft-performedpieces. Not surprisingly, she succeeds admirably.Opening with the familiar Children’sCorner suite from 1908, Hewitt brings a particularfreshness and vitality to the music,from the tongue-in-cheek Doctor Gradus adParnassum to the good-humoured Golliwog’sCake-walk. Similarly, with the Suite bergamasque,each miniature demonstrates awonderful sense of tonal colour, particularlyin the famous Clair de lune. In contrastis L’isle joyeuse, music of gregarious buoyancy,inspired in part by Watteau’s paintingL’embarquement pour Cythère.My only quibble — and it’s a minor one — arethe tempos, at times slightly brisker thanwe’re accustomed to. Yet this is not always thecase. La Plus que lente is all sensuousness,performed with just the right degree of hesitancyand tempo rubato, thus rounding out afine recording of much-loved repertoire.—Richard HaskellCan there ever beToo Much Mahler? to findout what Daniel Foleyhas to say about it.Rachmaninov – Symphony No.2;Dances from AlekoRoyal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra;Vasily PetrenkoEMI Classics 9154732!!Early in his career Rachmaninov wasregarded as a giftedpianist, an occupationthat supportedthe unrecognizedcomposer. By his lastdecade, living in theUnited States, he wasrecognized both asa composer and anextraordinary concert pianist. I was told bya friend who was a member of the New YorkPhilharmonic during the Toscanini era thatthe maestro asserted that Rachmaninov’s performancein Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concertoin 1933 remained peerless. The SecondSymphony was written during 1906 and1907, half a dozen years after the now signaturePiano Concerto No.2 and is solidly of theromantic era, full of great tunes in the recognizableRussian tradition. Performances wereoften truncated in order not to burden audienceswith a 60-minute symphony. Into theLP era, too, shortened versions were recorded.Under an unsympathetic baton, the firstmovement can seem endless and tiresome, animpression put to rest by some fine recordedperformances, none more convincing thanthis one.Here Petrenko’s penetration into the scoreproduces a reading of unusual empathy thatquickly draws the listener’s attention to thecomposer’s sensitivity and yearning, tensionand release. There is Russian lushness aplentyfrom musicians who clearly love what theyare playing.The second movement, marked AllegroMolto in the opening, is given a perceptiblybroader tempo than is favoured by others but,to my ears, it has panache.The third movement, Adagio, is quiteexquisite as Petrenko preserves the tranquilityand nostalgia implicit in the score withwistful memories of the first movement. Thetriumphant rush of the last movement bringsthis superb recording to a rousing finale. Ifyou are up for some orchestral thrills anda startlingly real recording with dramaticdynamics and astonishing body from the veryquietest passages to ravishing tuttis then thisrecording is a must, even if it duplicates otherperformances in your collection.—Bruce SurteesLugano ConcertosMartha Argerich and FriendsDeutsche Grammophon 477 9884! ! Martha Argerich!For lovers of pianomusic such as myself,the very name conjuresup feelings ofnear reverence fora veritable icon inthe world of classicalmusic. Ever sinceshe wandered into an EMI recording studioin London in 1965, aged 24, to record herfirst major album, she has rightfully enjoyedan international reputation as a charismaticpianist and recording artist. Since 2002,Argerich has also assumed the role of impresario,annually gathering musicians for theMartha Argerich Project, part of the LuganoFestival held every June — and it’s from thisevent that her latest offering is based, afine four-disc set of live recordings on theDeutsche Grammophon label titled MarthaArgerich Lugano Concertos.This is a beautifully packaged collection,with extensive notes and photographs inbook-in-sleeve format. Drawn from past festivals,the music was recorded over sevensummers, with repertoire spanning a periodof 150 years. Not all the other artists takingpart are well known but included in thegroup are pianists Paul Gulda and GabrielaMontero, the Lugano Percussion Group andthe Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana undera number of different conductors includingGabriel Chmura, Ion Marin and her one-timehusband, Charles Dutoit.At first impression, the listener isimmediately struck by the set’s eclecticism.December 1 – February 7, 2013 77

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