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Volume 18 Issue 8 - May 2013

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Festival
  • Vocal
Includes the 2013 Canary Pages choral directory.

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDuring the 1 0 0 th birthday celebrationsfor the “Dean of CanadianComposers” at Walter Hall last month, Ihad the pleasure of hearing the Cecilia StringQuartet performing John Weinzweig’s StringQuartet No.3, a rare treat indeed. I hopenow that they have taken that wonderful,but sorely neglected, work into their repertoirewe will have other occasions to hearit in the future. In the interim wecan content ourselves with thesecond release in their 4-CDcontract with Analekta. TheCecilia, named after the patronsaint of music, is quartet-in-residenceat the University of Torontowhere they were founded in 2004.They have not spent the last decadeon campus however and theirworld travels and accomplishmentshave included winninginternational string quartetcompetitions in Osaka in 2008,Bordeaux in 2010 and, perhapsmost famously, First Prize atthe Banff International StringQuartet Competition that sameyear. Winners of a Galaxie RisingStars Award in Canada, the CSQhave held residencies at the AustinChamber Music Festival, San DiegoState University, McGill University,QuartetFest at Wilfrid LaurierUniversity, the Summer StringAcademy at Indiana University andwere Quartet Fellows at the GlennGould School of the Royal Conservatory.In addition they have presentededucational programs forelementary and high schoolsacross Canada, the USA, Italyand France.But back to the matter at hand.Amoroso (AN 2 9984) includesclassic European works from thefirst quarter of the 20th century:Leoš Janáček’s String Quartet No.1 (“TheKreutzer Sonata”), Alban Berg’s Lyric Suiteand Anton Webern’s Langsamer Satz. Thepremise of the recording is that all of theworks included reflect love stories in oneway or another. Janáček based his quartet onthe tragic novella by Leo Tolstoy which givesthe work its subtitle. Berg, whose Lyric Suitewas incidentally one of the seminal worksthat affected Weinzweig while studying atthe Eastman School and led to his interestin serialism, which in turn would influenceseveral generations of Canadian composersthrough his teaching, was evidently inspiredby a long-lasting illicit love affair. An autographcopy of the score which came to light inDAVID OLDS1977 includes many personal annotations toBerg’s beloved. Webern, primarily known fora small output of miniature gems that distillmusical ideas to their crystalline essence, wasactually quite prolific in his student days. TheLangsamer Satz (slow movement), is one ofabout a hundred finished and sketched worksfrom the time of his studies with ArnoldSchoenberg which remainedunpublished during his lifetime.The lushly romantic score, reminiscentof his teacher’s VerklärteNacht, was written at a timewhen Webern was “head overheels” in love with his cousinWilhelmine. This and the otherlove stories are well explainedin Keith Horner’s very readableand detailed liner notes.The Cecilia String Quartetshine in these nuanced andmoving performances which wererecorded at the Banff Centre lastDecember. Their first Analektarecording (AN 2 9892) featuredworks of 19th century giant AntoninDvořák and this, their second, worksof the early 20th century. DareI hope that they will continuetheir march toward the presentday and that a future disc mayinclude the Weinzweig andperhaps the required works byGilbert Amy and Ana Sokolovićthat were integral parts of theirsuccesses in Bordeaux and Banff?Icicles of Fire (Centrediscs CMCCD18813) is one of the latest slew ofreleases from the Canadian MusicCentre (discs of music by AnnSoutham and T. Patrick Carrabréwill be reviewed in next month’sWholeNote). It features musicwritten for cellist ShaunaRolston by Heather Schmidt with thecomposer at the piano. There are numerousBanff connections with this disc as well.Rolston literally grew up at the Banff Centrewhere her parents Tom and Isobel were theteachers and directors from the mid-1960s.Calgary-born Schmidt, who is now basedin Los Angeles, enjoyed numerous residenciesat the Banff Centre over her developingyears and composed the required work forthe 1995 Banff International String QuartetCompetition.There are three works included here,presented in reverse chronological order.Synchronicity (2007) begins with a meditativechant-like introduction which is followedby a dramatic movement that begins withdense chords and tremolos and builds to afiery conclusion replete with eerie animallikesqueals and glissandi from the cello. Itwas written for a documentary film by PaulKimball about the collaboration betweenRolston and Schmidt. Fantasy (2006) againbegins in calm, this time in a minor tonality.After an extended meditation there is a lyricalinterlude with tintinnabulations in the pianoline overlaid by a gentle flowing cello melodythat gradually gains momentum and intensitybefore returning to the darkly placidwaters of the opening. Icicles of Fire (2003)is the most extended work presented here; at21 minutes it is more than the length of theother two pieces combined. It was inspired bythe composer’s participation in the governorgeneral’s state visit to Finland and Icelandand the latter’s glacial landscapes and fieryvolcanoes are reflected in the name. Thefirst movement is quiet and delicate in itsdepiction of icicles while the second mixessoaring lyrical lines with the fiery moltoperpetuo passages so well suited to Rolston’sstyle and temperament. There is obviously astrong bond between these two fine artistsand Schmidt’s music is tailor-made to illustratethis.Although just being released now, theseperformances were recorded at the BanffCentre in 2007 by the late Tom Rolston whodied in 2010.There is also a nominal connection toBanff with the next disc as Poland’s RoyalString Quartet placed third in the 2004quartet competition there. But it is in theUnited Kingdom that the group has had mostsuccess with a nomination for the RoyalPhilharmonic Society chamber music awardand an invitation to participate in the BBC’sNew Generation Artists program. Foundedin 1998 at the Fryderyk Chopin University ofMusic in Warsaw, they are currently quartetin-residenceat Queen’s University in Belfast.Although well versed in and well respectedfor their interpretations of the standard repertoire,the Royal Quartet specialize in musicof their native Poland as attested by theirthree recordings on the Hyperion label.Following on the success of their Górecki andSzymanowski discs the latest CD (CDA67943)features the quartets of Penderecki andLutosławski. The three quartets of Pendereckispan nearly half a century and the changesin style are substantial. The first, dating from1960, is from the same period as his seminalThrenody for the Victims of Hiroshima andbears the hallmarks of that experimentaltime, full of extended and “non-musical”techniques — bows are nowhere in evidencein the first two minutes of the piece, withthe body of the instruments providing asmuch fodder as the strings. The second, from1968, is still in the realm of the avant-garde,with abrasive passages alternating with eeriesounds of glissandi complemented by whistlingfrom the musicians and extremely quiet,almost sub-audible sections.There is a gap of 40 years beforePenderecki’s next full foray into the quartetidiom. String Quartet No.3 bears the subtitle58 | May 1 – June 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

“Leaves of an unwritten diary” and reflectsthe post-romantic language that has permeatedthe composer’s work since the PolishRequiem completed in 1984. The openingpassage is reminiscent of the Lacrimosamovement from that large-scale work, amotif which I have heard time and again inPenderecki’s later years. This is followed bya rhythmic section with close harmoniesperhaps harkening back to the earlier quartets,but this is quickly replaced by a morelyrical sensibility that permeates mostof the work. All three of the quartets areperformed effortlessly and with conviction.This is obviously music close to the heartsof these fine young musicians. One omissionthat I find curious: in 1988 Pendereckiwrote another brief piece for string quartet,Der Unterbrochene Gedanke (The BrokenThought), a miniature in homage toSchoenberg and the New Viennese School,which I am aware of from a 1994 recordingby the Penderecki String Quartet. I thinkthis would have provided a welcome bridgebetween the two early experimental worksand the lyricism of the mature Penderecki.The disc concludes with a masterfulperformance of one of the most importantpieces of 20th century chamber music, WitoldLutosławski’s String Quartet from 1964. Ilook forward to hearing much more from theRoyal String Quartet.The final disc I will mention is somethingcompletely different. Canadian actor DavidCalderisi has developed a wonderful entertainmentbased on The Rubaiyat of OmarKhayyam (okdac.net). The CD is in two parts.The first is Calderisi’s introduction to thework, the author (an 11th-century Persianmathematician) and the 19th-century “translator”Edward Fitzgerald who producedwhat went on to become the most widelypublished poem in the English language.The second is a stunning performance of 93of the four-line poems (rubaiy’i) selected byCalderisi from the five collections authorizedby Fitzgerald. Calderisi’s mellifluous voice andnuanced interpretation bring a wonderful lifeto these paeans to the author’s beloved andpraises to his preferred libation: “Wine! Wine!Wine! — Red Wine!” The reading is interspersedwith short and evocative musicalinterludes composed and performed on thekamancheh, a traditional Persian stringedinstrument, by Kousha Nakhaei.In his introduction Calderisi states that hehas found people react in one of three wayswhen asked if they know The Rubaiyat ofOmar Khayyam: the first take offence at thevery suggestion that they might not be wellversed in the subject; the second admit tosome knowledge if not an intimate acquaintance;and the third say “what?” I firmlyfell into the second category before comingacross this disc, but am pleased to say I feelI’ve moved a notch closer to knowledge now.Whatever your relationship to this 1000-yearoldtreasure, I think you will delight inCalderisi’s scholarship and presentation ofone of the great works of “English” literature.We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments should besent to: The WholeNote, 503–720 BathurstSt., Toronto ON, M5S 2R4. We also encourageyou to visit our website thewholenote.comwhere you can find added features includingdirect links to performers, composers,record labels and additional, expanded andarchival reviews.—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALPsalms and Motets for ReflectionChoir of St. John’s Elora; Michael Bloss;Noel EdisonNaxos 8.572540!!Canadian churchchoirs usually consistof amateur singers. Ifa church can afford it,it will try to get fourprofessional sectionleaders. The Choirof St John’s, Elora,however, is a fullyprofessional 22-voice choir. The disc underreview is its fifth CD.This new CD contains eight settings ofpsalms and ten items that are described,somewhat loosely, as motets. Some of thepsalms I would describe as serviceable but afew are rather more than that and I was especiallytaken with Thomas Handforth’s settingof Psalm 145 (I will magnify thee, O God myKing). Only one of the motets is something ofa chestnut: God so loved the World by JohnStainer. I have sung that a number of timesand I would be content to live without it.The oldest work on the disc is a fineRenaissance motet in the Lutheran tradition(When to the Temple Mary went), sung hereto a 19th-century English text. Otherwisethe most interesting motets are the modernand contemporary works: those by Poulenc,Tavener, Paulus, MacMillan, Harvey andHalley. The last-named is of special interestas it was commissioned by the Choir of StJohn’s. Its melodic source is a 16th-centuryLutheran hymn by Johann Walter.This is clearly a very fine choir. I have notyet heard it live, but the choir performs everyweek as part of the 11am Sunday service.Elora is easy to get to from Toronto and I hopeto make the trip soon.—Hans de GrootEARLY MUSIC & PERIOD PERFORMANCEHandel – Concerti Grossi Op.6Aradia Ensemble; Kevin MallonNaxos 8.557358-60!!Toronto’s early music Aradia Ensemble,under the energetic direction of conductor/violinist Kevin Mallon, performs with graceand momentum inthis three-disc collectionof George FridericHandel’s 12 ConcertiGrossi, Op.6.Composed over theperiod of a few weeks,the first seven Concertiare scored for theconcertino solo group of two violins and cello,and ripieno orchestra of strings and continuo.Mallon’s first violin solos are impeccable, withGenevieve Gillardeau and Cristina Zachariastaking turns in the second chair. The richcello concertino solos are well performed byAllen Whear and Katie Rietman. As the linernotes explain, Handel began composing oboeparts later, possibly for the theatre, but nevercompleted them. Aradia oboists Stephen Bard,Chris Palemeta and Kathryn Montoya playthese wind parts in Nos.8 to 12. The richnessof the winds adds a welcome extra layer oftexture. In the compositional style of the day,there are numerous references to Handel’sother works, as well as a nod to composerssuch as Domenico Scarlatti, and folk musicidioms including the Sicilian dance andEnglish hornpipe.This is music to listen to intently in orderto marvel at Aradia’s phrasing, ornamentationand stylistic interpretation. And asbackground music, the drive and spirit of theperformances will brighten even the mostdrab of days. The strings shine, especially inthe cohesive descending lines of No.2 andthe triumphant trumpet-like opening of theOverture of No.5, while the resonating doublebass of J. Tracy Mortimore adds depth andsupport, especially in the Musette of No.6.The sound quality is clear, with eachinstrumental line carefully balanced. The linernotes are informative and concise. Mallonhas brought out the very best in his Aradiaensemble as their passionate performancesradiate Handel’s inquisitive artistry.—Tiina KiikCLASSICAL & BEYONDBeethoven – Symphony No.9Erin Wall; Kendall Gladen; William Burden;Nathan Berg; San Francisco Symphony;Michael Tilson ThomasSFS Media 821936-0055-2! ! Beethovensymphonies hold aspecial place in myheart, having beenmy point of entry intothe world of classicalmusic, starting withthe Sixth Symphonyat the tender age ofseven or eight. The very sweep of the master’scompositions sent shivers down my spine.But it was the Ninth that truly shocked anddisturbed me, providing enough nervoustension and pent-up force-under-the-surfacethewholenote.com May 1 – June 7, 2013 | 59

Volume 26 (2020- )

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