8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 4 - December 2012

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  • Toronto
  • December
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  • Jazz
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  • Concerts

Yes, they all involve

Yes, they all involve ensembles of varioussizes, but the music comprises a myriadof styles and periods, with works by suchdiverse composers as Beethoven, Schumann,Bartok, Brahms, Milhaud and Stravinsky. Theset opens with the classically refined PianoConcerto No.1 by Beethoven, music fromaround 1800. Here, Argerich demonstratesher typically flawless technique and a certainrobust quality that seems particularly suitablefor the music of a young composer on theverge of fame. In complete contrast is theConcerto for Two Pianos by Francis Poulenc,where she and her pianist partner AlexanderGurning along with the Swiss-ItalianOrchestra conducted by Ersmo Capilla easilycapture the cheeky and exuberant spirit ofthis music written in 1932.Not all the pieces involve large ensembles.Violinist Jacques Israelievitch hasbeen active with a solo and chambercareer since stepping down from his20-year stint as concertmaster of the TorontoSymphony Orchestra in 2008. He has compileda fascinating CD catalogue on the Fleurde Son Classics label over the past 12 years,and two new issueswere received thismonth. Well, one newissue and one notquite so new, by thelook of it.French ViolinSonatas (FDS58005), in whichIsraelievitch is ablyaccompanied by theoutstanding pianistKanae Matsumoto,is certainly new — it’sscheduled for releaseon November 13 andat the time of writingis not even listedon the label’s website — but it was recordedmore than two years ago at the ChautauquaInstitution in New York state. Israelievitch is,not surprisingly, very comfortable with thesefour works from his native country. He has aquite distinctive style, with a gentleness anda sweet softness to his playing that makes theviolin very much a feminine instrument inhis hands. That’s not to say that it lacks intensityor strength, though, as the spiky openingof the lovely Poulenc sonata proves.The rarely-heard sonata by Gabriel Piernéis a cyclical, post-Franck work from 1900 thatapparently did much to establish the violinsonata as a serious chamber music formin a French music world that was dominatedby opera.TERRY ROBBINSFor example, the Divertissement à laHongroise by Schubert finds Argerich onstage with pianist Alexander Mogilevsky ina thoughtful interpretation of Schubert’shomage to the Hungarian folk idiom. For adelightful 2005 performance of the BrahmsLiebeslieder Waltzes, she’s joined by pianistGabriela Montero and the Swiss RadioTelevision Chorus directed by Diego Fasolis.Martha Argerich Lugano Concertos isindeed a fine testimony not only to Argerich’stalents as a performer, but also to her skillat gathering and showcasing talent, bothwell known and less familiar. All have cometogether for the purpose of making music ona very high level — and what a perfect holidaygift the set would make for the music lover onyour list!—Richard HaskellThe Debussy sonata was the last workthat the composer was to complete; the 1917premiere with the young violinist GastonPoulet was also Debussy’s last public performance.There’s a direct link here: in1944 Poulet became a professor at the ParisConservatoire, where one of his future pupilswould be a certainJacques Israelievitch.A fine performanceof the Ravel sonatacompletes a fascinatingCD, beautifullypresented in a glossydigi-pack.The New ArtsTrio has been thetrio-in-residenceat the ChautauquaInstitution since1978. Pianist RebeccaPenneys is the onlyoriginal member; cellistArie Lipsky joinedin 1996 and JacquesIsraelievitch in 1999.Their 30th Anniversary Recital is availableon New Arts Trio at Chautauqua (FDS58000), just received but apparently issued in2010. There are solid if not spectacular performancesof Dvořák’s “Dumky” Piano Trioand Astor Piazzolla’s Primavera Porteña,along with two works written for the Trio in2008 — Michael Colina’s Idoru and Ella Milch-Sheriff’s Credo. The Dumky is by far themajor work here, though, both in content andin length.The Brahms Clarinet Quintet has long beenone of my favourite works, and you can usuallytell within the first few bars what sortof performance it’s going to be. The greatestpraise I can give the performance by theTokyo String Quartet with clarinettist JonManasse on the new harmonia mundi CDBrahms Quintets Op.34 & Op.115 (HMU807558) is that after the opening bars Iwrote “Glorious opening — wistful, warm,autumnal — clarinet tone just right — stringsbeautifully judged” and then spent the next38 minutes basking in as engrossing andsatisfying a performance of this wonderfulwork as I can remember.The same high standard continues withthe Piano Quintet, Op.34 where the TokyoQuartet is joined by Jon Nakamatsu inanother perfectly-judged performance. Againone to cherish.Sometimes, as a reviewer, you just stop listeningcritically and simply get lost in theperformances. That’s what happened here,and what can possibly top that?The excellent Hyperion series TheRomantic Violin Concerto reaches Volume 13with another outstanding CD, this time featuringAnthony Marwood and the BBCScottish Symphony Orchestra under DouglasBoyd in the Schumann Violin Concertos inD Minor and A Minor — the latter a directtranscription by the composer of his CelloConcerto — and the Phantasie in C Major(CDA67847).There seems to be renewed interest inthese works, which for many years — until1937 for the D Minor and 1987 for the AMinor — remained unplayed and unheard;this is the second set I’ve received in just overa year, following Ulf Wallin’s meticulouslyresearched performances on the BIS label,reviewed in September 2011.Marwood, as usual, is simply outstandingin this, his third contribution to the highlyacclaimed series.There is more Schumann with the FineArts Quartet and pianist Xiaying Wangand Haydn performed by Toronto’s EyblerString Quartet in the continuation of StringsAttached at & CONTEMPORARYFind Tiina Kiik’s review of an impressiverelease of new music for accordion withMatti Rantanen at & IMPROVISEDAlive at MusideumSophia Perlman; Adrean FarrugiaIndependent!!This latest CD project from lumin-78 December 1 – February 7, 2013

ous vocalist SophiaPerlman and giftedpianist AdreanFarrugia was recorded“Live” at an intimate,evocative venue boastingone of Toronto’sfinest pianos — theideal spot for capturingthis intimate, eclectic and thoroughlysplendid performance. Perlman and Farrugiahave a profound chemistry and sensitivity totheir individual creative modalities, and thecollection of tunes is diverse, to say the least.The duo explores compositions from suchfar-flung artists as David Bowie, Gershwin,Thelonious Monk and Geri Allen. These arebold, original choices in repertoire — renderedwith an intuitive, high musicality and purityof intent that is reminiscent of the work ofAlan Broadbent and the late Irene Kral.Standouts include a clever, contemporizedreworking of Gershwin’s But Not For Me, featuringa rhythmic piano part and Perlman’shorn-like scat singing. Also, her rich, sensual,alto voice caresses the melody of a rarely performedEllington composition, All Too Soon.Certainly one of the most interesting tracksis the duo’s interpretation of David Bowie’santhem against the mundane, Life on Mars.Also gorgeous — albeit deliciously melancholy— is a legato take on the Tin Pan Alleyclassic After You’ve Gone, and Farrugia’sdynamic solo piano performance on GeriAllen’s Feed the Fire clearly establishes hisposition as one of the finest and most technicallygifted pianists on the scene today.Kudos must go to Donald Quan and RogerSader for their superb job of onsite recording.Every lovely, melodic and complex nuancehas been beautifully captured.—Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeChristmas KissDiana PantonIndependent!!If the post isn’talready taken, I’d liketo nominate DianaPanton as Canada’sjazz sweetheart. Withthis, her fifth CD inabout as many years,Panton firmly establishesherself as asteadfast source for pretty and accessible songcollections. Though she works in the jazzrealm and collaborates with some of the mostrespected jazz players in the industry — DonThompson on bass and piano, Reg Schwageron guitar and Guido Basso on flugelhornand trumpet — Panton takes quite a straightforwardapproach in her singing. She picksfinely written pieces, usually from a few decadesago, and delivers them in an honest andendearing way. With Christmas Kiss, winterand holiday tunes get the velvet glove treatment.Although most will be familiar suchas Winter Wonderland and Have Yourself aMerry Little Christmas, there are a few lesserknown selections such as C’est Noel Cheriand the title tune, written by Panton andThompson. Dave Fishberg’s Snowbound epitomizescool yet cozy comfort, especially withthe addition of Thompson’s tasteful workon vibes. And for that perennial duet, Babyit’s Could Outside, R & B legend and fellowHamiltonian, Harrison Kennedy, plays therole of the persuader. The CD release event isDecember 10 at the Old Mill Inn.—Cathy Riches1619 Broadway –The Brill Building ProjectKurt EllingConcord Jazz CJA-33959-02!!When I first heardthat Kurt Elling wasturning his cerebralmusical sights onsongs from the BrillBuilding era for hisnext album, I couldn’timagine how the twovery different styleswould come together. The Brill Building was amusical factory known for churning out teenorientedpop hits in the late 50s and early 60sfrom resident songwriters such as Jerry Goffinand Carole King, Barry Mann and CynthiaWeil and Neil Sedaka.Kurt Elling is a true jazz singer; a hep catwho takes a serious and sometimes ponderousapproach to music, often with stunningresults. So hearing his take on fluffy tunes likeYou Send Me and Pleasant Valley Sunday isan exercise in open-mindedness for listenersfamiliar with the original versions.1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Projectis no trip down memory lane — these songshave, for the most part, been completelyand successfully re-imagined. Working withhis longtime collaborator, pianist LaurenceHobgood, guitarist John McLean, bassistClark Sommers and drummer KendrickScott, Elling plays with tempos and enrichesharmonies at every turn. The most effectivearrangements are those that stay true oradd additional depth to the original meaningof the song, despite musical wanderings,like the taut, striving On Broadway and I’mSatisfied with its swingy groove. Best, though,are the more straightforward and expressiveapproaches such as I Only Have Eyes for You,So Far Away and American Tune. Nobodycan touch Elling when it comes to delivering abeautiful ballad.Kurt Elling and his quintet play the LivingArts Centre in Mississauga, March 22, 2013.—Cathy RichesRed Hot RambleRed Hot RambleIndependent!!Recorded at The Canterbury MusicCompany, Toronto,March 30, 2012 withRoberta Hunt, leadvocals, piano, AlisonYoung, baritoneand alto sax, GlennAnderson, drums,percussion and JackZorawski, bass. Allthree also sing background vocals. They arejoined by Andrej Saradin, trumpet and JamieStager, trombone on some of the numbers.Roberta Hunt and Red Hot Ramble haveestablished a following in Toronto with theirNew Orleans influenced brand of jazz and thisCD is a good representation of their entertainingapproach to the music.The music is infectious and I particularlyenjoyed the soloing of Alison Young.The music is a mix of material ranging fromDoctor Jazz by Joe “King” Oliver to HoraceSilver’s The Preacher and all of it with a contemporaryNew Orleans feel. Purists mightraise an eyebrow or two at the chord changesof Lonesome Road, the 1927 song byNathaniel Shilkret and Gene Austin, butwith repeated listening I got accustomed tothis version.The band is propelled along nicely by GlennAnderson and Jack Zorawski. Anderson’splaying, for example, on the Eddie Harrisnumber Cold Duck Time shows a real understandingof the idiom. Roberta herself lendsher own distinctive styling to the proceedingsand the overall result is like party night in afriendly bar.—Jim GallowayDream GypsyBruce Harvey; Tom Hazlitt; Kevin CoadyAudubon Music Productions! ! Bruce Harvey isan exceptionally talentedpianist, a factwell-known by othermusicians but underrecognizedas far asthe general listeningpublic is concerned.This is partly becausehe has a busy career playing shows andaccompanying singers, and he spends muchless time featuring himself as a soloist orbuilding a high profile outside the immediatemusical community.This recording will go some way tochanging that perception. There is a pensivequality to much of the music throughout thisCD which is made up of well-known standards,like Laura and Falling In Love WithLove, some lesser-known pieces such asYou’re My Everything, Old Portrait by CharlesMingus, J. J. Johnson’s Lament and one originalby Bruce called Claire De Soleil. Thereis also a tantalisingly short, (just over oneminute), take on Ray Noble’s Cherokee whichis given the name Odd Fragment.Throughout the album Harvey’s imaginativeplaying amply demonstrates whyDecember 1 – February 7, 2013 79

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