7 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 6 - March 2013

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days following theFrench

days following theFrench Revolution, hisname would probablyhave been quite familiar.Born in Givet in1763, Méhul is nowregarded as the firstFrench Romanticcomposer, his operasenjoying considerable acclaim from the1790s until the first decade of the 19th century.Today, his music has fallen undeservedlyinto obscurity, but what better way of reintroducingit than through this delightfulATMA recording of woodwind arrangementstitled Le Chant du départ performed by theMontréal-based ensemble Les Jacobins underthe direction of Mathieu Lussier?Comprising Quebec’s top woodwind andbrass players, Les Jacobins is a group of variablesize that comes together to explorethe little-known music of the FrenchRevolutionary period. And what a wonderfullyresonant sound they produce! Theeight members delive r a thoughtful andwell-balanced performance of these finearrangements, all of which capture the dramaticintensity and orchestral colour of theoriginal scores. Included on the disc are severalof Méhul’s operatic overtures, includingMélidor & Phrosine, Joseph and La Chassedu jeune Henri. The CD also contains a numberof patriotic songs for which Méhul wasrenowned, his most famous being Le Chantdu retour, spirited music from 1797.For those who look upon arrangementswith slight disdain, it must be rememberedthat operatic overtures, arias and patrioticsongs were frequently popularized by smallwoodwind ensembles in the same manneras Mozart’s Harmoniemusik. Hence, LesJacobins has not only succeeded in recreatinga sound from the streets of revolutionaryParis, it has also brought to light repertoirethat definitely deserves greater recognition.Grands felicitations for some splendidmusic making!—Richard HaskellThe Beethoven Journey –Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3Leif Ove Andsnes;Mahler Chamber OrchestraSony 88725420582!!One of my favoritepianists, Leif OveAndsnes came to recordthis CD by wayof an elevator in SãoPaulo, Brazil. Heloved hearing shortfragments of theseconcertos playingon a loop in the hotel elevator. Lucky for us,Andsnes fell in love again with Beethoven’smusic as we will in listening to this CD. Ifind it difficult to believe that this is his firstrecording of Beethoven.Andsnes also directs the Mahler ChamberOrchestra in this seamless journey in rediscoveringthe diversity of ideas and expressionsin Beethoven’s mesmerizing masterpieces.Andsnes feels the music in a deeply spiritualway which he communicates in sublimephrasing, especially in the slow movements.His shaping of the melodic singing lines capturesBeethoven’s soul-wrenching humanityand desire to change the world throughhis music.The Piano Concerto No.1 in C Major reflectsthe style of Haydn and Mozart. However,Beethoven uses spaciousness and basic rhythmicpatterns to create fresh and intensemusical rhetoric. The slow movement whichis immense is also one of the most beautifulof the concertos. The first theme in the thirdmovement feels like a Turkish march, popularin Vienna at that time. Andsnes has therhythmic articulation and drive, crisp runsand a sense of humour to make this movementsparkle like a gem.The Piano Concerto No.3 in C Minor ismuch grander in scale, with something like amilitary march in the first movement. Thereis a rich layering of motifs building tensionthat results in an extreme dramatic impact.The slow movement is heart wrenching in itsbeauty and Andsnes milks every nuance ofemotion in his performance. The technicalvirtuosity of Andsnes’ playing is flawless.Stylistically it is impeccable. His fingers danceover the keyboard, caress the keys with avelvet touch and display his exquisite musicianshipin a myriad of tonal colours. I lookforward to the rest of his Beethoven journeywith anticipation.—Christina Petrowska QuilicoPlatero y Yo: An Andalusian ElegyMichael!!As I write this,the weather outsideis seasonally greyand cold — so a disctitled Platero y Yo:An Andalusian Elegyfeaturing 20th centuryguitar music fromsunnier climes performedby Michael Kolk seems the perfectantidote. Kolk’s first two recordings were asone half of the Henderson-Kolk guitar duo,but this is his first solo endeavour, presentingmusic by Manuel Ponce, Eduardo Sainz de laMaza, Augustin Barrios Mangoré and JoaquinRodrigo. A native of Vancouver, Kolk studiedat the University of Toronto where he earneda Master’s degree in guitar performance. Sincethen, he has appeared in Europe and NorthAmerica, and has been the recipient of numerousfirst prizes in guitar competitions.This disc is a gem! Taking for its title thename of an eight-movement suite by de laMaza, it opens with Ponce’s set of variationsTheme varié et Finale from 1926. The mood isquietly introspective, and even in the briskermovements, Kolk achieves a wonderfulsense of intimacy. De la Maza’s suite that followscomprises an appealing set of contrasts,apparently inspired by a book by Spanishauthor Juan Jiménez. Four charming waltzesby Paraguayan composer Barrios Mangoréprecede Rodrigo’s Introdución y Danza, abrief but notable example of that composer’saffable style.While all of these pieces were composedduring the 20th century, there’s nothingavant-garde about them and Kolk’s sensitiveand technically flawless performance furtherenhances their charm. Platero y Yo, (with itsattractive packaging) is indeed the perfectdisc to savour on a cold winter’s day — or forthat matter, any time of year.—Richard HaskellMendelssohnAnton KuertiDoReMi CD DDR-6610!!As was evidentfrom his earlierMendelssohn CDcontaining thetwo concertos andCapriccio Brilliante,Op.22, Anton Kuertihas as wonderful away with Mendelssohnas he has with Schumann, Beethoven andSchubert. In this new CD he is a master in allof the pianistic and artistic demands and hisplaying is transparent, sparkling and joyful ... aman happy at his work.This disc presents a cross section ofMendelssohn’s solo piano pieces recordedAugust 25, 2009, in the Willowdale UnitedChurch and 1970 in Walter Hall, beginningwith the evocative Variations SerieusesOp.54. The Fantasy Op.28, Scherzo aCapriccio in F-Sharp Minor, Andante andRondo Capriccioso Op.14 and Three Preludesand Fugues Op.35 follow, and the minisculeScherzo in B Minor without opus numbercloses this attractive recital. The soundis remarkably realistic. A welcome additionto the catalogues of both Kuerti andMendelssohn.—Bruce SurteesLarry Beckwith writes that a disc ofMuzio Clementi’s first two symphonies“reminds us of his considerable gifts as asymphonist,” while Roger Knox reviews an“impressive” new Szymanowski CD featuringLouis Lortie in the composer’s “modernistconcerto, Symphony No.4. Both can be foundat & CONTEMPORARYConstantine Caravassilis:Visions – The Complete Books ofRhapsodies and FantasiasChristina Petrowska QuilicoCentrediscs CMCCD 1861372 March 1 – April 7, 2013

!!As evidenced ineach of her manyreleases on theCentrediscs labelChristina PetrowskaQuilico’s techniqueis blazingly virtuosicbut never “showy” andher interpretationsare always deeply intelligent and sympatheticto her composers. She has championedmany Canadian composers, many womencomposers and has been the main exponentof Ann Southam’s piano music in particular.Her latest collaboration is with Greek-Canadian Constantine Caravassilis. Knowinghis soloist well (she was his piano teacher),the composer has created music thathighlights her skills and her performer’spersonality very effectively. The overallartistic mien of Petrowska Quilico’s workin this recording I would call sunny, as in“radiant” and “brilliant”— perhaps it’s thefamous Greek sunshine, come to think of it.Her technique can be immensely delicatebut also very forceful, while never betrayingany sense of effort. This is quite an offeringof piano music by a single composer butCaravassilis’ work sustains interest with itsstylistic and emotional range and textural anddynamic shifts, while Petrowska Quilico’sinterpretation ensures a delicious listeningexperience.Caravassilis approaches compositionessentially as an expressionist. That is tosay, his personal ideas and feelings are themotivation for, and form the content of, hismusic. As he writes in the liner notes: “ attempt to creatively mold informationdrawn from the subconscious into an artisticform, often through the use of borrowedmaterial.” The borrowed material in thiscase is of two main types: the music, bothsecular and sacred, of Caravassilis’ Greekheritage and some core elements of 19th and20th century classical piano repertoire (pluscontributions from Hildegard von Bingen andAlan Hovhaness).Mercurial is a word that comes to mind asone follows the rapid ups-and-downs of themusic of The Book of Rhapsodies, the firstdisc of Visions. The Shadow Variations on atheme by Alan Hovhaness, for example, isa work of almost a half-hour’s duration, butsince the composer has used a formal schemethat divides the piece into 24 parts, even herethere is little room for sustained reflection.The Book of Fantasias, comprises the programfor the second disc. It begins similarlyto the first Book, a modal melody unfoldingover a long, repeated pedal tone. Most of theseFantasias give their ideas more time to unfoldand it is in general a somewhat more relaxed/relaxing listen compared with the bracingfirst disc. This is especially true of the beautiful,elegiac Lumen de Lumine, dedicated tothe memory of Ann Southam, which closesthe program.—Nic Gothamcontinues on next pageThe wonderful James Ehnes isback with more top-notch performancesin Bartók: Works for Violin andPiano, Volume 2, with the equally terrificAndrew Armstrong at thepiano (CHANDOS CHAN 10752).Volume 1 (CHAN 10705) featuredsonatas and rhapsodies;this new CD features sonatas andfolk dances.Despite the CD’s title, it’s theSolo Sonata from 1944 that opensthe recital, and Ehnes gives a commandingperformance, perhapsnot as edgy as some, but with agreat sense of line and energy.The Sonata in E Minor is an earlywork from 1903 and is perhapsstylistically closer to Brahmsthan to the composer Bartókwas to become. Well worthhearing, it was apparently shelvedafter its first performance in 1904and remained both unplayed andunpublished until the 1960s.Three shorter works complete agenerous — almost 80 minutes — CD.The Hungarian Folksongs andHungarian Folk Tunes were bothtranscribed from the piano collectionFor Children, and the morerecognizable Romanian Folk Dances are transcriptionsof the solo piano pieces of thesame name.The Latvian violinist BaibaSkride is another player in greatform on her latest CD Stravinsky& Martin Violin Concertos,with the BBC National Orchestraof Wales under Thierry Fischer(ORFEO C 849 121 A). There is somebeautifully spiky playing in theneo-classical Stravinsky concerto,but the longest work here– and the real gem – is the 1951concerto by the Swiss composerFrank Martin. It’s a simplylovely work that really should bemuch better known. The orchestrashines in the Two SymphonicMovements from the mid-1920s by Martin’sfellow countryman Arthur Honegger: thestartlingly effective Pacific 231, as good a representationof the physical power of a steamlocomotive as you will ever hear and Rugby,which attempts to convey the cut and thrustof the sport. Stravinsky’s short Circus Polkarounds out a highly enjoyable CD.Cellist Steven Doane and pianist BarrySnyder combine for a quite astonishingRachmaninoff recital on the Bridge label(BRIDGE 9347). It’s astonishing for two reasons:the recordings were made in 1996 andhave simply (and inexplicably) sat on theTERRY ROBBINSshelf for the past 16 years; and the playing isquite extraordinary. The brief Danse OrientaleOp.2, No.2 opens the disc and is followed byan absolutely riveting performanceof the Cello Sonata in G Minor.There is a wonderful balance here,with both players producing afull, rich tonal quality.What comes next is even better,when Snyder performs thecomplete Études-TableauxOp.39 for solo piano; not onlyis his playing quite stunning, the ninepieces were apparently recorded ina single continuous take, withonly a few extraneous soundsover-dubbed after the event.Remarkable.After back-to-back performanceslike those, the very brief (2:07) Liedfor cello and piano that ends the CDalmost seems like an afterthought.The recorded sound throughoutis superb.Sixteen years?? Difficult toexplain, but boy, was this everworth waiting for!Two imported compilation CDsafford the opportunity to hearthree string concertos by contemporaryBritish composers. OliverKnussen’s 2002 Violin Concerto isincluded on Autumnal (NMC D178)in a definitive performance by LeilaJosefowicz and the BBC SymphonyOrchestra, with the composerconducting. The CD also includesAlexandra Wood playing SecretPsalm for solo violin and Woodwith Hugh Watkins (piano)performing the CD’s title work. Worksfor orchestra, solo piano, voiceand piano and voice and orchestracomplete a fascinating look atthis 60-year-old composer’s workover 40 years.Mark-Anthony Turnage,although only eight years younger,was once a composition studentof Knussen’s. The LondonPhilharmonic Orchestra has already issuedtwo CDs dedicated to Turnage on its ownlabel and this third self-titled CD (LPO-0066)features première recordings of five Turnageworks. Mambo, Blues and Tarantella: concertofor violin and orchestra is a liverecording of the September 2008 world premièreperformance by Christian Tetzlaff, withVladimir Jurowski conducting. On OpenedGround: concerto for viola and orchestradates from 2001, and is played here byLawrence Power, with Markus Stenz conducting.Both works provide ample evidencecontinues on next pageMarch 1 – April 7, 2013 73

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