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Volume 18 Issue 7 - April 2013

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Arts
  • Choir
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Concerts
  • Singers

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDOne of the most intriguing releases tocome my way in a good long time is the3-CD + DVD set How We Tried a NewCombination of Notes to Show the Invisibleor Even the Embrace of Eternity, featuring themusic of 40-something French composer andguitarist Olivier Mellano (naïve MO 782182).The first disc is devoted to the eponymousextended symphonic work commissionedby the Orchestre symphonique de Bretagnewhich performs with soprano Valérie Gabailunder the direction of Québécois conductorJean-Michaël Lavoie. Both themusic and the text (in six languagesplus a recitation of theformulas for the first 17 numbersof the Fibonacci series) areby Mellano. The gorgeous longmelodic soprano line soars overorchestral textures that range fromplacid to tumultuous throughoutthe five movements, with a passing similarityto Górecki’s iconic Symphonyof Sorrowful Songs. As movingand dramatic as this work is,what makes it especially interestingare the variations that followon the other two CDs. Mellano hastaken the basic material of the soprano/orchestralcomposition andreworked it for male voice (halfsung and half spoken by SimonHuw Jones), 17 electric guitars(overdubbed by the composer)and drums (Nicolas Courret). Inthis instance the text is renderedentirely in English and comes tothe forefront. This is even morethe case in the third version inwhich the lyrics are “co-written and reimagined”by Hip-Hop veteranMC Dälek (Will Brooks). Thevarious transformations are stunningand taken to yet another levelwith a silent narrative interpretationby French filmmaker AlantéKavaïté using Cocteau-like imagesover a soundtrack of the originalorchestral version.Mellano’s was not the only intriguingsymphonic work involving voice and electricguitar to come my way this month. TimBrady – Atacama: Symphony No.3 featuringBradyworks and Vivavoce (ATMA ACD22676) is a setting of poems from the collectionSymphony by Chilean activist Elias Letelierwho was given sanctuary in Canada in 1981after being imprisoned and tortured by thePinochet regime. Brady says “The text speaksof the political terror of the Pinochet era inChile, one of the country’s darkest moments,but it uses striking metaphors of hope andDAVID OLDSlove in the midst of the nightmare of tortureand disappearances. This mixture oftenderness and cruelty, of lightand dark, gave me a kind of strongemotional and dramatic contrastthat I look for in a text.” Hiseffective settings range from mostlya cappella, close harmony singingby the virtuosic Montreal choirto extended, often minimalisticrhythmical instrumental passagesby his unique ensemble of keyboards,percussion,flute(s), clarinet(s),saxophone(s), violin,viola, double bassand his own electricguitar. Perhapsmost effective arethe movements thatskilfully combine thetwo as Brady continues toredefine the designation“symphony.”As we celebrate amyriad of centennialsthis season it wouldbehoove us to keepin mind some ofthe senior living composerswho continue tocreate. Henri Dutilleux isa case in point at the age of97. The latest release of hismusic, Correspondances(DG 479 1180), includesthe world premiere recordingof the title piecefeaturing Canadian soprano BarbaraHannigan. Although there are noperformer bios included in thebooklet, according to the blurbon the back of the CD Hanniganis “today’s foremost interpreterof contemporary vocal music.”She has performed the workwith both the Toronto and theMontreal symphonies. Althoughoriginally written for Dawn Upshaw,Dutilleux was so impressed with Hannigan’sperformance that he rewrote the endingespecially for her. Also included are thecello concerto Tout un Monde Lointain withAnssi Karttunen and The Shadows of Time, awork based on The Diary of Anne Frank. TheOrchestre Philharmonique de Radio Franceand conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen recordedthis disc in the presence of the composer.Dutilleux is no stranger to Toronto audiencesand the TSO’s 1998 recording of SymphonyNo.2, Metaboles and Timbres, Espace,Mouvement under Jukka-Pekka Saraste is stillavailable (Finlandia 3984 2525324-2). Bothdiscs are highly recommended.If the DG disc can be faulted for havingno performer bios, the next disc goes tothe opposite extreme. The latest release onOrange Mountain Music (OMM 0086), a labeldevoted to the music of Philip Glass, featuresthe Manitoba Chamber Orchestra underAnne Manson’s direction. In thisinstance the booklet includes twopages about the conductor, twopages about the guest piano soloist(Glass’s collaborator MichaelRiesman), a page about theorchestra and full credits for therecording done at Glenn GouldStudio, but not one wordabout the composer or the music.I understand that a label which featuresGlass’ music exclusively might notneed to include his biography onevery release, but I was very surprisedthat there were no programnotes about the pieces, SymphonyNo.3 and The Hours. The symphony,for string orchestra, surprised me asnot being typical of the composer’sminimalist style, at least not untilthe third movement. The first twomovements are reminiscent ofEnglish string symphonies of theearly 20th century, although thiswouldn’t really be mistaken forone, with only the final two morerecognizable as Glass. The Hoursis a suite arranged by Riesmanfrom Glass’s original music for the2002 film of the same name. It islush and warm and beautifullybalanced, exactly what we havecome to expect from the cinematicGlass with his repetitivewash of diatonic unison melodies.Listening to the suiteenticed me to revisit the marvellousfilm with a stellar cast including NicoleKidman as Virginia Woolf. I now look forwardto re-reading Michael Cunningham’s book onwhich it was based. By the way, the DVD ofthe movie includes an interesting bonus trackwith Glass discussing the music.Brief notes: It’s hard to keep up with allthe excellent new releases by Montreal’sATMA label. I was very pleased to find thatone of their latest features a work that I fell inlove with in my formative years and have nothad occasion to revisit recently, the Sextet forpiano and wind quintet by Francis Poulenc. Itgets a stirring performance by David Jalbertand the woodwind quintet Pentaèdre onFrancis Poulenc – Chamber Music (ACD22646). The disc also includes fine renditionsof the sonatas for flute and piano and clarinetand piano, the Elégie for horn and piano andthe Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon. A verywelcome addition to the catalogue.Rye Whiskey is the latest offering fromthe eclectic local quasi old-time musicquintet The Boxcar Boys (theboxcarboys.ca). The unusual instrumentation of the62 | April 1 – May 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

group — clarinet, accordion, violin, tromboneand sousaphone, supplemented by mandolinon some tracks — works surprisingly well ina wide range of music that spans originalcompositions in the form of waltzes, stompsand tangos to the standards Freight Trainand You Are My Sunshine, and traditionaltunes like the title track. The music is mostlyinstrumental and happily so. The occasionalvocals are tentative at best, and while I thinkthis may be part of the point — reminiscent ofscratchy, distant sounding early 20th centuryfolk recordings — in contrast to the highsound quality of the instrumentals they seemincongruent. Overall though, this disc is awonderful swinging romp through a varietyof hills and dales, swamps and deltas.Toronto-based flamenco guitarist JorgeMiguel (jorgemiguel.com) has undertakena monthly residency at the Lula Lounge(next instalment April 17) in support of hislatest release Guitarra Flamenca (AndaluzMusic AM1012). The playing is crisp andnuanced with lively, if minimal, supportfrom percussionists Luis Orbegoso andDaniel Stone — often with just complex handclapping — and bassist Justin Gray. Highlightsinclude the opener Tortilla de Buleria,the rousing Rumba Tangos with vocalsby the percussionists and the somewhatintrospective Romance del Amargo, the onlynon-original composition on the disc. Writtenby Federico Garcia Lorca and Ricardo Pachon,it works very well in Miguel’s arrangement.In all this is a very satisfying release, one thatmakes it hard to keep your feet still.The final disc I will mention is one thatwould not normally find its way into ourpages due to its mainstream pop sensibility,but Beatle Ballads (martinandfrank.com)is quite surprising in its accomplishment.Singer/guitarist Martin Gladstone, wellknown on the Toronto scene for a numberof decades now, and his younger colleaguesFrank Caruso (piano and direction) andBrenton Chan (cello), have managed tocapture the essence of 17 of the mostpoignant Beatles songs in their solo voice andinstrumental trio arrangements. Purists willno doubt prefer to stick with the originals,but as a tribute album this features a greatselection of well-loved tunes, lovinglyperformed. Highlights will no doubt varywith your own particular favourite Beatlesongs, but even this jaded old critic (notknown to have a fondness for the Fab Four)can’t resist such gems as Here Comes theSun, Michelle, Julia and While My GuitarGently Weeps.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 encourageyou to visit our website, thewholenote.com,where you can find added features includingdirect links to performers, composers andrecord labels and additional, expanded andarchival reviews.—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALSchubert – ErlkönigMatthias Goerne; Andreas HaefligerHarmonia Mundi HMC 902141!!Six hundred andthirty-four is thetotal number of sololieder written byFranz Schubert, andMatthias Goerne hasthe ambition to recordthem all! This isthe seventh disc in theseries (each with a different piano accompanist)and Goerne is into some wonderfulterritory. Erlkönig is of course the setting ofa poem by Goethe and Schubert’s first songmasterpiece. The composer himself designatedit as his Opus No.1. What remains amystery is the studious indifference thatGoethe seems to have shown to this brilliantsong. When initially sent the setting by oneof the young Schubert’s patrons, he returnedit some months later — without a word of acomment. Later on, Schubert himself sent tothe author beautifully bound scores for thisand other Goethe poems, but never received areply. Finally, after Schubert’s death, Erlkönigwas performed for Goethe publically — andthe only comment from the venerated poetwas: “It reminds me of something I haveheard before.”No matter what Goethe thought, the song isa masterpiece — on this recording accompaniedby other works, such as Die Forelle and ImAbendrot. Goerne has a beautiful baritone,perfectly suited to the lieder repertoire and ofcourse a perfect command of the language.Many international singers, despite languagecoaching, get tripped up by the dense textureof Schubert’s settings. The thoughtfulinterpretation, combined with some trulyinspired accompaniment, in this instance byAndreas Haefliger, make this Schubert editionan exciting endeavour. At least this reviewerwill be looking up volumes one through six inrecord stores.—Robert TomasJanos Gardonyi reviews Die Walküre,conducted by Gergiev, calling René Pape“probably today’s greatest, most intelligentWotan.” Robert Tomas gives “special mention”to principal Andreas Schmidt, in Rim’sOedipus DVD. Both at thewholenote.com.EARLY MUSIC & PERIOD PERFORMANCESentirete Una CanzonettaHarmonious Blacksmith;directors Joseph Gascho, Justin Godoyharmoniousblacksmith.com!!Improvisations characterize this anthology,and they are both vocal and instrumental.Harmonious Blacksmith draws on theimprovisations foundin the instrumentalinstruction books ofmid-16th century Italy.Ah Hong (soprano)brings an intensequality to SentireteUna Canzonetta byTarquinio Merula;the more rustic Se l’aura spira tutta vezzosadraws on Hong’s vocal expertise in tandemwith Justin Godoy’s recorder playing — thelatter well in keeping with the demandsimposed on the baroque recorder by any ofthat era’s greatest composers. This mastery isagain reflected in Giovanni Battista Fontana’sSonata 3, with its hints of baroque countrydancemovements.In solo instrumental terms, Joseph Gascho’sinspired harpsichord playing interprets thevirtuoso quality of Girolamo Frescobaldi’sToccata 1 (Libro 2). Godoy’s recorder playingin Ricercar is up to the demands of themusic by Jacob van Eyck. Nicola Matteis, whodied after the heyday of Italian improvisation,introduces gentility to the instrumental piecesin this compilation. More spirited, not to sayimpassioned, is Nika Zlatarić’s cello playing inGiovanni Antonio Bertoli’s Sonata 7.Godoy’s arrangement of pieces by five composersunder the title More palatino is anintense and entertaining combination demonstratingjust what baroque composerscould bring out of their instruments — andtheir players. In fact, this attractive recital ofbaroque variations confirms that they werenever confined to the harpsichord or lute.—Michael SchwartzBach – Flute SonatasAndrea Oliva; Angela HewittHyperion CDA67897! ! On this recordingAndrea Oliva andAngela Hewitt makea convincing case forplaying Bach’s musicon contemporaryinstruments. Hewitt’snuanced approachto the master’scontrapuntal writing, especially evident inthe long B minor sonata’s Andante openingmovement, allows for an exquisite clarityand independence of the “voices.” FlutistOliva brings a wide range of expression,from tender pathos in the Largo e dolcesecond movement of the same sonata toriveting bravura excitement in both Allegromovements of the E minor sonata. Hebrings effortless technique and consistentlyincisive but not aggressive articulation toeverything he plays; this was particularlyevident in the Allegro second movementof the Sonata in C Major. And then therewas the confident repose of his relaxed andintelligent phrasing in the opening AllegroModerato of the E-flat major sonata, thesparing but highly expressive use of vibrato inthewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2013 | 63

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