7 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 5 - February 2013

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Canada’s Jasper Wood

Canada’s Jasper Wood has longbeen one of my favourite violinists,ever since he used to come intothe music store where I was workingsome ten years ago to promotehis terrific CDs of the Eckhardt-Gramattéand Gary Kulesha solo Caprices and Saint-Saëns’ Music for Violin and Piano.Since then he has built a widerangingdiscography, includingCDs of music by Ives, Stravinsky,Bartók and Morawetz. His latestCD on the American Max FrankMusic label (MFM 003) is titledChartreuse, and features Woodand his long-time accompanistDavid Riley in beautifully judged performancesof sonatas by Mozart,Debussy and Richard Strauss.The Mozart is the Sonatain B-Flat Major K454, and theplaying here — as it is throughoutthe CD — is Wood at his usualbest: clean; accurate; tasteful;sweet-toned; stylish; intelligent andthoughtful. The Debussy sonatais given an impassioned reading;and in the Strauss Sonata in E-FlatMajor, Op.18 Wood and Riley handlethe virtuosic demands withsensitive subtlety, invoking Brahmsrather than providing a mere displayof fireworks. The soundthroughout is resonant and warm,and the instrumental balance just right. TheCD digipak comes without booklet notes, butnone are really necessary; listening to this CDis like being at a memorable live recital.Cellist Simon Fryer teams up with pianistLeslie De’Ath on a fascinating CD of VictorianCello Sonatas on the independent Americanlabel Centaur Records (CRC 3216). The composersAlgernon Ashton and Samuel Liddleare probably new to you — they certainly wereto me — but they are representative of thatgeneration of late 19th century English composerswhose style went out of fashion in theyears before the Great War, and whose worksvirtually disappeared from the repertoire.Not surprisingly, their works here — Ashton’sSonata No.2 in G Major from 1882 andLiddle’s Sonata in E-Flat Major and his Elegyfrom 1889 and 1900 respectively — are worldpremiere recordings; the Sonata No.2 in DMinor, Op.39 by Sir Charles Villiers Stanfordcompletes the recital.The previously unknown Liddle sonatawas discovered by De’Ath in the course ofhis hobby of collecting musical documentsand ephemera. The predominant influenceseems to be German, especially the music ofMendelssohn and Brahms, but that’s hardlysurprising, given the musical connectionsbetween the two countries in Victorian times.TERRY ROBBINSAshton’s music, although scarcely acknowledgedat home, was widely published inGermany, where he had studied at the LeipzigConservatory; Liddle and Stanford also studiedin Leipzig during the late 1870s, as hadArthur Sullivan some 20 years earlier.While the Stanford sonata may be thestronger work, there is a great dealof worthwhile and highly attractivemusic here, clearly the work ofcompetent and imaginative craftsmen.Fryer and De’Ath certainlypresent a persuasive case for thepieces, surmounting the oftenformidable technical challengeswith expansive playing that neverresorts to overly Romantic indulgence.Fryer’s tone in the lowerregister is particularly lovely.Sometimes, admittedly, worksdo remain buried or neglected forgood reasons, but CDs like thisone remind us just how rewardingit can be to take the pathless trodden.Fans of violinist ChristianTetzlaff will be delighted with hisnew CD of three Mozart Sonatasfor Piano and Violin, with LarsVogt at the keyboard (OndineODE 1204-2). The sonatas arethose in B Flat Major K454, GMajor K379 and A Major K526and Tetzlaff more than lives up tohis usual world-class standard in works thatrequire not only virtuosity but also a greatdeal of sensitivity. His playing seems effortless,with a smooth legato and a lovely rangeof dynamics.The booklet notes tell us that Vogt andTetzlaff are both very conscious of the ambiguitycreated in these sonatas by Mozart’scustomary emotional range, and their performancesquite beautifully reflect this.Tetzlaff apparently came to Mozart’s musicfairly late — well, at 15; late for a prodigy — butclearly understands that growing older is crucialto understanding the music.The sound is spacious without being overlyresonant, with the two instruments clearlyseparated but nicely balanced, remindingus — as does the CD’s title — that these werenot originally written as sonatas for solo violinwith piano accompaniment.Strings Attached continues with new releases bythe Amar and New Zealand string quartets(music by Hindemith and Asian composersrespectively), violin music by the Polishcomposer Ignaz Waghalter performedby Irmina Trynkos and AmericanSerenade featuring Swiss violinist RachelKolly D’Alba.MODERN & CONTEMPORARY continued from previous page“World Music” and a pioneer of new soundsfrom his own instrument, the piano. His fascinating1930 Synchrony for orchestra wasoriginally titled Synchrony of Dance, Music,Light and was intended as a vehicle for theAmerican dance pioneer Martha Graham,who unfortunately lost interest in this multimediaproject. There is undoubtedly ascenario behind this work which might helpexplain its episodic character. Unfortunatelythe very meagre program notes leave us inthe dark. Cowell’s rather more conventionalthree-movement Piano Concerto was alsocomposed in that year, with the composerhimself the pianist for the premiere performances.Both scores make prominent use ofCowell’s trademark “chord clusters” — aggressiveconglomerations of notes played byclosed fists or open palms — which causedquite a sensation at the time. Pianist JeremyDenk is the soloist in a rousing rendition ofthis very propulsive work.Lou Harrison (1917–2003), a student ofCowell’s, carried on his mentor’s interestin Asian musical traditions with a particularemphasis on Balinese music. His Concertofor Organ with Percussion Orchestra, completedin 1973 though incorporating elementsfrom as far back as 1951, features an excellentperformance from Paul Jacobs. The five movementsof the concerto form a convincing andsatisfying synthesis of Eastern and Westernelements seasoned with a strong Frenchinfluence reminiscent of Messiaen. Thepercussion section of the orchestra is in particularlyfine form in this invigorating score.A superlative performance ofthe landmark1927 version of Amériques by Edgard Varèse(1883–1965) brings the album to a close on aspectacular note. Tilson Thomas has alwayshad an uncanny knack for voicing the mostdissonant of chords into a harmonious blendand here he outdoes himself. These splendidlive performances from 2010 and 2012 areindispensable fodder for devotees of any ofthese unbranded composers.—Daniel FoleyBarbara Pentland – ToccataBarbara PritchardCentrediscs CMCCD 18312!!I am very happythat Centrediscs, alabel on which I alsorecord, has releasedthis CD of the solopiano music ofBarbara Pentland. Shewas one of Canada’sleading composerswho also had a place in the internationalavant-garde. Although she favoured serialtechniques she did not let the rules restricther. Her music sings and flows with imaginationand colour. These are not the dry asceticpieces you might expect from a serialist.The first piece on the CD, Toccata (1958),is modelled on the toccatas of Frescobaldi56 February 1 – March 7, 2013

and reflects the baroque virtuosic style of fasttrills, arpeggios and hand crossings. BarbaraPritchard played this piece for the composerand gives an exemplary performance.Ephemera (1974–78) is made up of severalshort pieces named Angelus, Spectre, Whales,Coral Reef and Persiflage.This is an extraordinaryset of works and Pritchard’s sensitivetone and attention to detail make this impressionistic-soundingmusic a mesmerizingexperience. The humour that Pentland injectsinto two of these pieces is charming. A hint ofReveille in Persiflage is quirky and fun.Tenebrae (1976) is full of brooding shadowslovingly played by Pritchard. Dirge from1948 and From Long Agofrom 1946 illustratePentland’s early style and you can hear theinfluence of Copland, Stravinsky and Bartókon her work. Vita Brevis (1973) and Horizons(1985) complete this excellent CD whichshould encourage pianists of all levels andmusicians of any taste to discover the marvellous,musical world of Barbara Pentland.—Christina Petrowska QuilicoAdam Sherkin – As At FirstAdam SherkinCentrediscs CMCCD 18212!!This new recordingfinds Adam Sherkinat a fascinating earlypoint in his career asa composer. Sherkintrained first as a pianist,and the works onthis CD of his solopiano compositionsshow him processing this experience. Havingengaged the piano repertoire as broadly andcomprehensively as one could ask of an artistof 29 years, classical piano music remainshis central point of reference. Clearly evidentare the influences of an entire gallery ofEuropean piano keyboard composers fromthe Baroque through the late 18th, 19th and20th centuries. Mozart and Haydn are overtlyacknowledged in this recording (in the piecescalled Amadeus A.D. and Daycurrents,respectively), but the presence of Bach, Lisztand Shostakovich are no less clearly felt atvarious points in the proceedings.Influences aside, what do we perceiveof Sherkin himself? It’s a fair question inthis case, because his compositions mustaccommodate the performer’s own fulsomeexpressivity: the dynamic range of his playingis wide, tending to the forte; his articulation iscrisp with a fondness for jabbing accents; hisphrasing often features a late-Romantic emotionalismin its rubato, but can also — albeitless frequently — settle into a calmer metricmomentum. And here is what is interestingabout this portrait: as a composer, he isdealing with the conflicting attractions ofself-expression on one hand, as in the solopiano music of Schoenberg or Scriabin forexample, and a less subjective, more outwardand “American” approach on the other, as inthe music of John Adams, with whose solopiano music Sherkin is well acquainted. It is atypically 21st century creative quandary, andAdam Sherkin has taken up the struggle withenergy and panache.—Nic GothamLevantAmici Chamber EnsembleATMA Classique ACD2 2655!!Clarinettist JoaquinValdepeñas, cellistDavid Hetheringtonand pianist SeroujKradjian are joinedby first-rate guests(Benjamin Bowmanand Stephen Sitarski,violins, Steven Dann,viola) to perform a wide range of pieceswhich make up the passionately played programof this superb recording. The musicof familiar composers such as Glazunovand Prokofiev sits alongside that of littleknownGayané Chebotaryan, Solhi Al-Wadi,Marko Tajčević and other artists inspiredby the “sounds and colours of the MiddleEast,” as explained in Kradjian’s informativeliner notes.Highlights include Prokofiev’s Overture onHebrew Themes, involving all the musiciansand featuring Valdepeñas’ gorgeous clarinetsound, and the Seven Balkan Dances byTajčević, a 20th century Yugoslav composer.The performance of these dances is highlyspirited and showcases the artistry and virtuosityof the core ensemble.The program is punctuated by chantsby the spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff,arranged for solo piano by Thomas deHartmann. These contemplative pieces, sensitivelyplayed by Kradjian, act as a welcomefoil to the larger, longer and more intenseensemble pieces.The disc ends with a sensational solo pianowork — Levante, by Osvaldo Golijov — brilliantlyrendered by Kradjian.The string playing by Hetherington andguests is rhapsodic and committed andthe whole disc exudes polish and thoughtfulmusicianship. Special mention should bemade of Carlos Prieto’s engineering.—Larry BeckwithConcert notes: Amici provides live music toaccompany classic silent (and neo-silent)films by Buster Keaton, Man Ray and GuyMaddin at the Bell Lightbox on February 3 at3:00. They will be joined by soprano IsabelBayrakdarian and other guests in music ofBeethoven, Chausson, Poulenc and Montsalvatgeat Koerner Hall on March 1 at 8:00.JAZZ & IMPROVISEDStealing GeniusAmy McConnell; William SperandeiFemme Cache Productions!!The debut recordfrom singerAmy McConnell andtrumpeter WilliamSperandei, with producerFeisal Patel, is astylish romp through20th century musicoriginating from arange of genres and eras. The title, StealingGenius, is a reference to Oscar Wilde’s quip“talent borrows; genius steals.” But since coveringother songwriters’ work is standardpractice in the world of jazz, the quip couldbe reworked as “talent borrows; jazz artistsassume ownership.” In this case, the victimsof the thefts are varied and sometimesunexpected such as Elvis Presley (SuspiciousMinds), Led Zeppelin (Thank You) and JamesBond (From Russia With Love).McConnell’s background in theatre showsin her vocal phrasing and approach — shehas a big sound and emotions are expressedin broad strokes that play to the back ofthe house. Her accent is beautiful andconvincing on the few French offeringsincluding, of course, Piaf’s La Vie en Rose.Sperandei’s nice, bright sound blends wellwith McConnell’s and his soloing is confidentand concise. Singer/stride pianistMichael Kaeshammer’s guest turn on the InkSpots’ I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fireis inspired. But the real genius is in havingLarnell Lewis and Rob Piltch play drums andguitar on this record. Lewis’ exuberant precisionand Piltch’s subtle musicality elevatemany of the songs from stylish to artful.—Cathy RichesThe Speakeasy Quartet –Vintage Style Hot Jazz, Swing and PopSpeakeasy QuartetIndependent! ! Hugh Leal maynot be well knownin Toronto but he hasbeen a significantforce for jazz in theWindsor area since thelate 70s. He has beena real catalyst for themusic as a guitarist/promoter/record producer; between 1983 and2000 his Parkwood Records label recordedsuch veteran musicians as Doc Cheatham,J.C. Heard, Art Hodes, Franz Jackson andSammy Price.On this latest CD he features the SpeakeasyQuartet in a program of jazz standards fromthe 20s and 30s including a couple of Bechetcompositions, Egyptian Fantasy and therarely heard Premier Bal, East St. LouisToodle-oo and The Mooche by Ellington,Jubilee, Willie The Weeper, two trio numberswhere the cello lays out, Wrap YourTroubles In Dreams and Indian Summerplus three originals by saxophonist RayManzerolle whose impressive playing is fea-February 1 – March 7, 2013 57

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