8 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 8 - May 2013

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

to forever etch itself

to forever etch itself onto my mind. Later on,in high school, during my mercifully shortcareer as a chorister, I remember the difficultyof singing the last movement at breakneckspeed, as the music hurled towards a climax.Granted, the Ninth does not sound muchlike the rest of Beethoven’s symphonies, butwho knew that Louis Spohr described thefirst three movements as “inferior to all eightprevious symphonies” and the Fourth as“so monstrous and tasteless ... that I cannotunderstand how a genius like Beethovencould have written it.” As I always say,consider the source: Louis who?All joking aside, there was enough experimentationin the Ninth to disturb Beethoven’scontemporaries. Nowadays, what makesit great still is that raw, exposed nerve; thepassion and relentless thrust forward thatstill break convention. In keeping with itsnature, the Ninth is best experienced as a liveperformance or recording thereof, here withMichael Tilson Thomas steering the orchestrawith a steady hand and with passion to spare.When the murmur of the “Ode to Joy” themegrows into a vocal and choral crescendo, theold shivers down my spine are back again.—Robert TomasBrahms – Klavierstucke, Op.76;Fantasien, Op.116; Drei Intermezzi, Op.117Peter LongworthAzica ACD-71279!!I really enjoyedthe warm tone andelegant interpretationof these Brahmsworks as recorded byToronto pianist PeterLongworth. This wasa mature and introspectiveperformance.There was a real sense of intimacy betweenthe music and the performer. This cameacross in fluid music making and exquisiteattention to detail. Longworth plays thismusic with a sense of integrity and delicacythat speaks to the nature of this music.You sense that these Brahms pieces are likeLongworth’s treasured old friends and itshows in the care he takes in shaping themusical lines and phrases. The music ispersonal and tells an intimate emotionalstory. This is not the virtuosic, flashy Brahmsof the sonatas or concerti, but there is enoughdifficult technical detail to keep the pianistworking hard. Longworth makes it soundeasy and I never once thought about techniquewhile I listened. I was too enthralledand mesmerized by the music.I also appreciated hearing these workson one CD, almost like one large piece. Thethree sets of Klavierstucke, Op.76, Fantasien,Op.116 and Drei Intermezzi, Op.117 arecomprised of capriccios and intermezziand it is revealing to hear Brahms’ ownspiritual journey revealed in these tendergems of music. Longworth has long championedchamber music and you can hearthis influencing his texture and mastery oftonal colour. He wrote in the program notesthat “this music remains relevant, and growsincreasingly rich as we savour more of life.I look forward to playing these pieces 40years from now.” I will definitely be lookingforward to hearing him play them again.—Christina Petrowska QuilicoPavel Kolesnikov – Live at Honens 2012Pavel Kolesnikov; Calgary PhilharmonicOrchestra; Roberto MinkusHonens!!Like a particleaccelerator, theannual Honens PianoCompetition is ahighly charged eventprobing the secrets ofthe stars. Ten semifinalistscompete forfive coveted spotsin a final round. These rarities are all intheir 20s, unimaginably gifted and ready toexplode from their orbits. Meanwhile, audiencessit breathlessly on the edge of theirseats in Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hallto witness flashes of genius and streaks ofenergy that rival the deepest mysteries ofsubatomic physics.Is there a Honens particle? It seems so.Every year the competition’s laureate receives0,000 cash and a half million dollar careerlaunch with recording and support. Nowthat’s a career accelerator.2012 Honens laureate Pavel Kolesnikovemerged from his field with a blazing techniqueand a moving interpretive ability. Hiswinning performances, captured in liveconcert recordings, demonstrate why. With aprogram of Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin,Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn, Kolesnikovproves how note-perfect technique cancoexist with the most bombastic and the mosttender keyboard expressions. His SchumannKinderszenen Op.15 is utterly convincing inportraying the composer’s impish, nostalgicand heartfelt vignettes. These may, despitetheir lack of musical heft, be the most beautifullyinterpreted pieces on the two CDs.Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No.1 is innovativelylight and playfully energized and contrastsmarkedly with the darker, heavier performancesthat have become historical standards.Similarly, Chopin’s Sonata in B Minor, Op.58is reborn in an astonishing new lightness.Kolesnikov has conquered the Romantics.He is still very young. His next conquestsshould be equally surprising.—Alex BaranBruckner – Symphony No.6Orchestre Metropolitain du GrandMontréal; Yannick Nézet-SéguinATMA ACD2 2639!!Ludwig Spiedel, the 19th-century Germanwriter on music and theatre, once referredto the music of AntonBruckner saying:“It is no commonmortal who speaksto us in this music.”This was high praiseindeed, particularlyas the Austrianborncomposerwho lived from 1824 to 1896 has sometimesbeen unfairly compared to his morerenowned contemporary Johannes Brahms.Yet Bruckner now seems to have come intohis own, and among his many admirers is theQuebec conductor extraordinaire YannickNézet-Séguin who has already recordedSymphonies Nos. 4, 7, 8 and 9 on the AtmaClassisque label, and has now turned hisattentions to the Sixth, again with theOrchestre Métropolitain.Written between 1879 and 1881, thissymphony is the music of a composer at midlife,confident in his abilities and lookingto the future with optimism. The largefour-movement work reflects this forwardlookingattitude, and is treated here withgreat aplomb. From the bold and passionateopening movement through the languorousAdagio, a lively Scherzo and the exuberantFinale with its prolific use of brass, theorchestra demonstrates a deep engagementwith the music, displaying rich tonal coloursand a full dynamic range. This is indeedmusic making with a true sense of grandeur.It seems that everything Nézet-Séguin and theOM choose to play turns to gold, and this discis no exception. It’s a must-have for devoteesof Bruckner’s music, and it may even swaythose who up to now have stayed away. Highlyrecommended.—Richard HaskellHidden Treasure – Viola MasterpiecesRivka Golani; Michael HamptonHungaroton HCD 32721-22! ! I well rememberriveting Torontoperformances by nowLondon-based violistRivka Golani, andcherish this disc. YorkBowen’s Phantasy isflamboyant Englishpost-romanticism,with a rich harmonic palette and ecstaticclimaxes. Golani’s trademark fiery style andMichael Hampton’s mastery of the floridpiano part mark this performance. GeorgeEnescu’s Concert Piece is also a knockout;Golani’s virtuosity shows in both expressivedouble-stopped passages and rapidfiligree work. In the masterly In Memoriam(1949) by her teacher Ödön Pártos (1907–1977), dedicated to victims of the Holocaust,the duo captures evocatively the sense of ananguished funeral procession.Golani is noble in the opening and fleetof finger in the ensuing Allegro of HenriVieuxtemps’ Sonata in B-Flat Major. The duo60 | May 1 – June 7, 2013

projects a remarkable Barcarolla as thoughfrom a distance, and paces it extremelywell. This is a very fine performance ofan undeservedly neglected work. AntonRubinstein’s Sonata in F Minor is a weakerpiece, with uninspired melodies and tedioussequences in the first two movements. Thingsimprove with Rubinstein’s third movement,a Scherzo, with Hampton producingThere’s a lovely new 3-CD set ofthe Beethoven Complete Sonatas forViolin and Piano from Canada’s ownDuo Concertante, violinist Nancy Dahnand pianist Timothy Steeves (Marquis MAR81517). The two have been playingtogether since 1997 — Beethoven’s“Kreutzer Sonata” was the firstthing they played together, andthey took their duo name fromthe composer’s inscription abovethe title — and the Beethovensonatas have apparently alwaysbeen a part not just of their repertoire,but of their daily lives. My firstimpressions were that for allthe clean playing and fineensemble work these were stillfairly low-key performances, butthey quickly won me over. By thesecond CD, with lovely readings ofthe “Spring” and “Kreutzer” sonatasplaced around the Sonata in A majorOp.12, No.2, I was more thanconvinced.There are certainly morehigh-powered versions available— the Ibragimova/TiberghienWigmore Hall set I reviewed inDecember 2011, for example — butthe sensitivity and musical intelligenceof these performancesmore than compensate for any lack of sheertechnical fireworks. Dahn and Steevesplay these wonderful sonatas as if they arevisiting old friends, and the sense of intimacyand emotional involvement is palpablethroughout the three discs.I’ve received several CDs of the BachSonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1001-1006 over the past few months, all of whichfeature some quite stunning playing. Thereare two complete 2-CD sets and one half-set.Cecylia Arzewski, whose performancesare available on Bridge Records (9358A/B),enjoyed a stellar orchestral career with theBoston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestraand the Atlanta Symphony for almost 40years. Her playing here is of the highestquality — warm, sensitive, intelligent, andwith a great feel for phrasing and tempo;even in the fastest movements there is alwaysa clear sense of pulse, and room to breatheTERRY ROBBINSdelicious double-thirds in its Turkish-styletrio section.Mendelssohn’s precocious Sonata in CMinor composed at age 15 is notable as theearliest sonata for viola and piano, and adelightful rendition of Efrem Zimbalist’sSarasateana suite of Spanish dances roundsout the recording.—Roger Knoxat the beginnings and endings of phrases.Rhythmic articulation is crisp and clear,the multiple stopping handled with clarityand apparent ease, and the sense of linealways secure.Exactly the same cansaid for the completerecording by the FrenchBaroque specialistAmandine Beyer(Zig-Zag TerritoiresZZT110902), althoughthere is a somewhatlighter tone and anadded rhythmic snap andvitality to her playing thatmakes it an even morerewarding listen; even theSonata movements havea dance feel to them.The one major difference— not immediatelyapparent unless you haveperfect pitch or play thetwo versions back-to-back — is thatBeyer apparently tunes to Baroquepitch, so her performances are asemi-tone lower than Arzewski’s.Beyer’s set also includes a SoloSonata by Johann Georg Pisendel,a German virtuoso and exactcontemporary of Bach’s; the twomet in 1709, and Pisendel may (dependingon which set of booklet notes you choose tobelieve) have owned a copy of Bach’s Sonatas& Partitas, and may even have influencedtheir composition.The half-set is the second volume of thecomplete recording by Isabelle Faust, nowavailable on harmonia mundi HMC 902124;the three works, however, are the first halfof the set of six. Again, there is wonderfulplaying here, with some terrific presto movements,relaxed and almost meditative slowermovements, and clean, beautifully controlledplaying in the fugues.Perhaps surprisingly — or maybe not, giventhe huge advances in the understandingof period performance techniques — allthree performers take essentially the sameapproach to the choices of ornamentationand the interpretation of some of thechordal configurations, although obviouslythere are some differences in tempo, bowingand phrasing.If you are interested in these wonderfulworks you probably already own one or moreversions; if you do, you can add any one ofthese to your collection without reservation.In an interesting aside on the issue ofmodern or period instrument, Arzewski saysthat her goal was to be as true as possible,using a modern (my italics) violin and bow, toBach’s style, although her instrument is the1714 Petrus Guarneri of Mantua, which in itsoriginal condition pre-dates the Sonatas &Partitas themselves. Beyer, meanwhile, playsa Baroque violin, but one made by PierreJaquier in 1996, with an Eduardo Gorr bowfrom 2000; both were made over 275 yearsafter the works were written.There is more outstanding Bach playingfrom the ever-reliable Jennifer Koh on Bach& Beyond Part 1, her latest CD from CedilleRecords (CDR 90000 134). I’ve commentedbefore on Koh’s imaginative programming aswell as her marvellous playing, andthis CD is more than up to herown high standards. It recordsthe first of a three-part series ofrecital programs that Koh initiatedin 2009 to explore the historyof solo violin works from Bachto the present day. Each recitalfeatures two of the Bach Sonatas& Partitas paired with solocompositions from the subsequentcenturies.I really can’t say enoughabout Koh’s playing or herprogramming; it’s a perfectmarriage of ability and intellectthat puts her on a different levelthan most performers, and thisCD is a classic example of that. It opens withBach’s E Major Partita No.3, which is followedby Ysaÿe’s Sonata No.2, a work which quotesboth the preceding Bach Partita and the DiesIrae chant. Kaija Saariaho’s short Nocturne, atribute and memorial to the composer WitoldLutosławski, also quotes the E Major Partitaand the Dies Irae, while Missy Mazzoli’sDissolve, O My Heart (the title is taken fromBach’s St. John Passion) takes its material cuefrom the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No.2in D Minor. The complete D Minor Partitafittingly closes a marvellous CD that Kohdescribes as a journey from light throughdarkness, and back to light.The playing throughout is exemplary, witha wonderful purity in the Bach and a clearempathy in the contemporary works. Theremaining two volumes of this fascinatingproject should be well worth waiting for.Continues at withmusic for cello and piano by Lera Auerbachfeaturing cellist Ani Aznavoorian and thecomposer at the piano, Dvořák and Smetanaworks in what may be the Tokyo Quartet’sfinal release, and another new recording ofthe Brahms Piano Quintet with Sharon Kamand the Jerusalem May 1 – June 7, 2013 | 61

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