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Volume 18 Issue 7 - April 2013

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  • April
  • Toronto
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the famous Siciliano

the famous Siciliano second movement of thesame sonata, the persuasive use of dynamiccontrasts to delineate episodes in the firstmovement of the B minor sonata and theexquisite pianissimos, allowing the melodicline of the piano to come out, later in thesame work.Extraordinary as it may sound, havingplayed all these sonatas many times, even Iwas surprised by the beauty of the Andantethird movement of the Sonata in E Minor.There is artistry in this recording that seemsto get better every time you listen to it.—Allan PulkerCLASSICAL & BEYONDSonatas & SuiteSteven Dann; James ParkerATMA ACD2 2519!!The accomplishedmusicians featuredon this disc need littleintroduction toToronto audiencesfamiliar with their frequentappearanceson the local chambermusic scene. Theirrecital together on the ATMA label providesan intriguing opportunity to explore the repertoireof French viola works from the turn ofthe 20th century.Pride of place in this collection goesto the central work in the program, thesonata by Charles Koechlin (1867–1950),a truly outstanding composition and amajor contribution to the viola repertoire.Completed in the midst of the First WorldWar, the work is dedicated to fellow composerand erstwhile violinist (and violist) DariusMilhaud who premiered the work in Paris in1915. Koechlin’s crystalline harmonies, supplerhythms and melodic inventiveness areinimitable and it is a pleasure to see his musicgradually attracting the attention it deserves.Throughout the four movements of the workthe unusually wide-ranging piano writingis very much at the forefront of Koechlin’sthought, with the viola often receding intothe background texture. Parker’s evocationof Koechlin’s kaleidoscopic quasi-orchestraltextures is masterful and Dann’s artistry ismovingly eloquent throughout.The two flanking works receive theirfirst recorded performances here. Pierre deBréville (1861–1949) was a noted professor,music critic and the author of a biographyof César Franck, a mentor whose influencepermeates his finely crafted sonata which,though composed in the war ravaged daysof 1944, still speaks the dainty language ofthe fin-de-siècle. The spirited opening andlively finale of the 1897 Suite in three parts bythe celebrated organist Charles Tournemire(1870–1939) provide a rousing conclusion tothis excellent and enterprising disc.—Daniel FoleySounds North: Two Centuries ofCanadian Piano MusicElaine KeillorGala Records Gala-108galarecords.ca!!Canadian pianistand CarletonUniversity distinguishedresearch professoremerita ElaineKeillor shines in thisfour-CD collectionof solo piano worksby Canadian composersdedicated to the memory of HelmutKallmann (1922–2012), the noted musicologistlargely responsible for the Encyclopediaof Music in Canada. Each disc features worksfrom a specific time frame with many of theworks drawing on Canadian landscapes andtraditions for their artistic motivation.The first disc opens with the 1807 compositionGeneral Craig’s March by F.Glackemeyer. Keillor’s delicate touch andflorid lines set the mood for a selection of ragtimeand parlour music so popular in the1800s and early 1900s. Keillor is fantastic inher performances of rags, as her solid beatingof the rhythm drives the melodic lines.CD2, Developments to the End of WWI,continues with more of the same genreof works and lyrical performance. AlexisContant’s Yvonne (1903) is especially enjoyableas Keillor’s sense of playfulness and joycreates a danceable waltz. In W.C. Barron’sLullalo, An Irish Lullaby (1890), Keillor sustainsa swaying Irish folk lilt that supportsthe more intense mood in the dramaticharmonic sections. More European compositionalinfluences are evident in suchselections as Mazurka Nos.1 and 2 (1890) byClarence Lucas.The third disc extends to the end ofWWII. Here, even more European compositionalinfluences are heard in a number ofmulti-movement works by such composersas Robert Fleming, Georges-Emile Tanguayand George M. Brewer. In Leo Smith’s Suitefor Piano (1930s?), the mournful melodyof the opening movement is transformedand developed in an almost jazz-like mannerin each of four movements. Keillor hasalso included Two Pieces (1951–52) by GlennGould. Gould’s development of contrapuntalideas is fascinating in the second piece.The fourth disc, Canada’s Space in Sound,opens with Louis Applebaum’s A NorthernLegend (1957), a four-section work that isprogrammatic in its successful aural depictionsof such classic Canadian features astundra, rocks and huskies. “Unfinished Rag,”the fourth movement from John Beckwith’sMarch, March! (2001), continues to delightwith its bouncing rhythm. The last chordleaves the listener waiting for more. The discends with Jocelyn Morlock’s The Jack Pine(2010), a work inspired by a painting of thesame name by Tom Thomson. At first, the coloursand timbres seem to be played too brittleand shrill but as the piece progresses, the harmoniessupport this touch.This is a monumental project. The sheernumber of works is astounding. Keillor playseach with more than the expected necessaryskill, accuracy and respect. Musically,the pianist is able to convey each composer’ssensibilities as she glides through the diversestyles. Her choice of works is interesting inboth its inclusions and exclusions but thecollection is a fitting tribute to Canadian composerspast and present.— Tiina KiikFranck & Strauss – Violin SonatasAugustin Dumay; Louis LortieOnyx 4096! ! César Franck’s passionateand romanticViolin Sonata hasbeen regarded as oneof the greatest in therepertoire. Thanksto this disc however,I have fallen in lovewith Richard Strauss’sViolin Sonata Op.18, a work of his early years.It is lyrical and lush with all the hallmarksof his later style. It was written in 1887 andStrauss had studied both violin and pianofrom a very early age. He had already composeda violin concerto in 1882 so it is notsurprising to hear superb writing for bothinstruments. This sonata is expansive in thegrand manner using idiomatic writing for virtuosoperformers but it is also melodic, tenderand intimate. There are references to Brahmsin several moments of the music and in thelast few bars the piano part quotes from theAdagio of Beethoven’s “Pathétique” Sonata.This is vigorous and adventurous music,full of bravura. The middle section seemsto be invaded by the Erlking. However, thelyrical moments melt your heart as do theperformances.César Franck’s only violin sonata was writtenin 1886 as a wedding present for thevirtuoso violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. It is a stapleof all violinists. Both violinist and pianistget to flex their muscles in this unabashedlyemotional and radiant work. The secondmovement is the most fiery music Franckever wrote and lets the pianist display his virtuosictechnique. However, the dolcissimoand rhapsodic, improvisatory nature of theRecitativo-Fantasia shows Franck at his mostexpressive with an intense but serene melodicline. No wonder this piece became a standard-bearerfor French chamber music. Theseperformances are poised, refined and exquisite.They match in their touch and in thepacing of the music. Both Dumay and Lortiesing the melodic line on their instruments inintense and sensitive unison. The two artistshave chosen to highlight the music instead oftheir own technique and it is a journey wellworth listening to. A highly recommended CDfor lovers of French chamber music.—Christina Petrowska Quilico64 | April 1 – May 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

MODERN & CONTEMPORARYThe dutch cellist PieterWispelwey has lived with theBach Cello Suites for virtuallyhis entire professional career,having explored them and playedthem in recital close to an astonishing1,000 times. He has alreadyrecorded them twice, 14 and 21years ago, but decided to celebratehis 50th birthday last September byrecording them for a third time;the new 2-CD plus DVD set onEvil Penguin Records Classic(EPRC 012) is the result. GivenWispelwey’s ongoing relationshipwith the pieces, however, he readilyadmits that this won’t be the endof the road. “Six suites, six recordings,”he says in the DVD; “Whynot?” Wispelwey also took thisopportunity to “take the plunge,”in his own words, and do somethinghe had done in private buthad never dared to do in concert:tune his cellos down from the standard415 baroque pitch to 392, thecontemporary pitch in Cöthen,where Bach wrote the suites around 1720. Thisdropped the tuning a semi-tone; it gave him,he says, “the sensation of entering rooms that Ihadn’t been in before or didn’t know existed.”Wispelwey plays a 1710 Pieter Romboutsbaroque cello for the first five suites, and ananonymous 18th-century five-string violoncellopiccolo for the sixth. His familiarity withthis music is obvious from the free-flowingopening bars of the Suite No.1 in G Major;there’s a great sense of flow and structurehere, and a confidence and assurance in theplaying that doesn’t preclude a sense of joyfulexploration; it’s as if we are fortunate enoughto be joining Wispelwey on yet another of hisjourneys through these wonderful works, andare witness to his new discoveries.The DVD, entitled 392, Pieter Wispelweyand the Bach Cello Suites, is an entertaining52-minute documentary filmed duringWispelwey’s dress rehearsal for the recording,a concert performance of all six suites at theHolywell Concert Room in Oxford in May oflast year; excerpts from the recital are interspersedwith discussions and observationsabout Bach and contemporary performanceissues — particularly for the dance movements— with Bach scholars Laurence Dreyfusof Oxford University and Glasgow University’sTERRY ROBBINSJohn Butt. Fascinating bookletnotes and an attractive presentationbox format help to make thisa set to treasure.The Six Cello Suites also turnup in transcriptions on twonaïve CDs from American lutenistHopkinson Smith, Bach SuitesNos.1, 2, 3 (E 8937) being performedon theorbo, and Bach SuitesNos.4, 5, 6 (E 8938) on lute. Despitethe consecutive numbers, the twoCDs are not issued as a set; thefirst is in an attractive cardboardDigipak, while the second is ina traditional plastic jewel case.There’s a quite different feel tothe suites in these performances — they’resofter and gentler, for a start,with Suites 1 to 3 transposed up afourth and Suite 4 up a fifth — butthe music doesn’t seem to suffer;indeed, the opportunity for fulleraccompaniment and added basslines serves to clarify and expandthe harmonies implicit in the solocello writing. And again, there’sthat sense of journeying and exploring, ofparticipating with an interpreter in an intimatepersonal experience that underlines yetagain just how much depth these works have.Detailed booklet notes explain the choice ofinstruments, tunings and transpositions.It would be hard to imagine a more suitablepair of performers for the Bach 6 Sonatasfor Harpsichord and Violin BWV 1014–1019than Catherine Manson and Ton Koopman,or a better performance than they give on anew Challenge Classics 2-CD set (CC72560).The Dutch Baroque specialist Koopman, nownearly 70, founded the Amsterdam BaroqueOrchestra in 1979; Manson became itsleader in 2006.As the excellent and detailed bookletnotes by Christoph Wolff point out, this setof innovative sonatas forms a pivotal linkbetween the baroque trio sonata and theclassical duo sonata of the late 18th century.There is true partnership in the writing, asthere is in these outstanding performances.Koopman’s harpsichord sound is strong, deepand warm; Manson’s violin sound is the perfectcompanion and counterpart: light, butnever lacking in depth.Beautifully recorded, this is intelligentplaying full of sensitivity, energy and drive.Continues at thewhole note.com with viola music of Hindemith performedby Yury Gandelsman, chamber music by Weber featuring violinist Isabel Faust,Shostakovich and Rachmaninov performed by cellist Sol Gabetta and more.Brundibár – Music by composersin Theresienstadt (1941–1945)The Nash EnsembleHyperion CDA67973!!The outstandingNash Ensemble presentsa compellingtribute to four Jewishcomposers basedin Czechoslovakiaand held in theTheresienstadt ghettofor prisoners oftenAuschwitz-bound. Hearing these works wemourn the untimely deaths of Holocaust victimsHans Krása, Victor Ullman, Gideon Kleinand Pavel Haas.The concise String Quartet No.3 by Ullman(1898–1944) is particularly accomplished.Expressiveness akin to Alban Berg’s pervadesthe opening movement. The colourful finaleopens march-like and in canon, then takesoff with many grainy sul ponticello effectsand pizzicato chords. All is handled expertlyby the Nash’s strings: Stephanie Gonley andLaura Samuel, violins; Lawrence Power, viola;and Paul Watkins, cello.Their performances of the String QuartetNo.2 “From the Monkey Mountains” byHaas (1899–1944) and the String Trio byKlein (1919–1945) also deserve accolades.In the Haas quartet’s opening movement,“Landscape,” intonation of violinists Samueland Gonley is superb in high, difficult figuresreminiscent of Haas’ teacher Janáček. In thehilarious “Coach, Coachman and Horse,” allplayers provide suitably grotesque glissandi toportray the sliding cart!The young Klein’s trio includes deft andimaginative variations on a Moravian folksong.Finally, the full Nash Ensemble includingwinds, piano and percussion gives an energeticreading of a suite from the children’s operaBrundibár by Krása (1899–1944). It is a delightfulwork with witty allusions to popular styles.Brundibár stands as a brilliant testimony to theresilience of cultural life in Theresienstadt.— Roger KnoxBritten – Les Illuminations; Variations;Serenade; Now Sleeps the Crimson PetalBarbara Hannigan; James Gilchrist;Jasper de Waal; Amsterdam Sinfonietta;Candida ThompsonChannel Classics CCS sa 32213!!It’s centennial seasonagain and it’sBenjamin Britten’swell-deserved turnto hog the limelight.This new discfrom the AmsterdamSinfonietta bringsus two familiarsong cycles and an early work for stringthewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2013 | 65

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