7 years ago

Volume 18 Issue 9 - June/July/August 2013

  • Text
  • Festival
  • August
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Concerts
  • September
  • Festivals
  • Flute
  • Arts
  • Quartet


DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDIwill begin with apologies to TerryRobbins. Due to his personal itinerarythis month several discs arrived too late tobe included in his Strings Attached columnwhich, I must admit, I am happy to be ableto add to my own collection. First is the latestrelease from Canadian superstarJames Ehnes – Britten &Shostakovich Violin Concertos(Onyx 4113) performed withthe Bournemouth SymphonyOrchestra under the directionof Kirill Karabits. Following onhis 2013 JUNO award-winningTchaikovsky recording withthe Sydney Symphony andVladimir Ashkenazy (Onyx 4076),Ehnes’ performances are everythingthat we’ve come to expect.But what really caught me aboutthis recording is the pairing of theBritten with Shostakovich’s First.These two works, written ten yearsapart, bear remarkable similaritiesand as presented here the openingNocturne of the Shostakovichseems to grow inherently outof the slow Passacaglia finale ofthe Britten. I’m surprised thatthese works are not more oftenpresented together. As a matterof fact this seems to be theonly recording currently availablewhich includes them both.Malcolm MacDonald’s booklet notes are thoroughand enlightening. The orchestral soundis irreproachable and as mentioned above,Ehnes is in top form.Quatuor Molinari’s latest ATMA release(ACD2 2672) completes their cycle of the12 (currently existing) String Quartets ofR. Murray Schafer. Following their 2000release of the first seven quartets and in 2003the eighth quartet paired with Theseus andBeauty and the Beast, the current double CDincludes new recordings of Quartets 9 to 12and a re-issue of No.8. Since the recording ofthe first set the personnel of the quartet haschanged substantially, with only foundingfirst violinist Olga Ranzenhofer remaining.The current line-up includes FrédéricBednorz, Frédéric Lambert and Pierre-AlainBouvrette. They seem as comfortable andconfident in this sometimes challenging,and oft’ times playful, repertoire as theirforerunners. I would be curious though toknow whether Bouvrette will prove as adeptat playing the cello while marching as hispredecessor Julie Trudeau was in the SeventhQuartet when the Molinari performed aSchafer marathon at Glenn Gould Studioback in 2003.DAVID OLDSWhen the Orford Quartet recorded thefirst cycle of Schafer string quartets, thennumbering five, for the Centrediscs label in1990, producer David Jaeger suggested thatthe individual works could be consideredmovements of one large piece, much thesame way that Schafer’s Patria seriesof music theatre works constitute awhole. There are many internal referencesfrom one quartet to the nextand this has continued throughoutthe extended cycle.Due in part to timingconsiderations within themedium of the compactdisc I expect, the currentset begins with theNinth Quartet andcontinues chronologicallythroughthe Twelfth with the2003 recording of theEighth added as anappendix at the endof the second disc. This servesthe double purposeof isolating the previouslyreleased materialbut also, since the Ninthbegins by quoting atheme from the Eighth, of bringingthe mini-cycle full circle to wherethe first disc began. Includingthe re-issue in this new set alsofacilitates listening for those who want toexperience all 12 quartets by including thefirst seven on one set (ACD2 2188/89) andthe remaining five on this new collection.Kudos to the Molinari, past and present, fortheir documentation of and dedication tothis outstanding and unique cycle from oneof Canada’s foremost composers. One of mysummer projects will be to take up the challengeand listen to all 12 as one über quartet.Our WholeNote reviews tend to focus onthe best of the plethora of new releases wereceive each month, but there are sometimesreasons for visiting or re-visiting older discs.One example of this is Jack MacQuarrie’sreview of a 2005 CD by flutist ChristopherLee later in these pages. It is a disc we missedwhen it was released and which came toMacQuarrie’s attention at a recent liveperformance. Since Lee is a very active partof the Canadian Flute Convention in Oakvilleat the end of June it was decided to includea review in the current issue. Similarly, I hadthe exceptional experience of hearing theComplete String Quartets of Iannis Xenakisperformed by the JACK Quartet during therecent Random Walks: Music of Xenakis andBeyond festival/symposium presented by theFields Institute at the University of Torontoand the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo. Thismusic is definitely not for the faint of heart,with its density and abrasiveness, but whenheard in the context of explanatory papers atthe symposium and so stunningly performedby a group that has truly made these workstheir own, it was exhilarating. The programnotes by James Harley were reprinted fromthe 2009 Xenakis Edition Volume 10 (Mode209) compact disc and during a break I wentin search of it. After checking Grigorian (theyhad several volumes of the series,but not the quartets) and HMVwith no luck, I rememberedthat someone had mentionedan independent shop with quitean eclectic collection. I’d liketo thank whoever that was, andSoundscapes (572 College St.) wherethe disc was indeed in stock. Thiswas JACK’s first appearance inToronto (although it turns outthat three of the members, all butthe current violist, did come herefor a masterclass with HelmutLachenmann presented by NewMusic Concerts back in 2003) andthey certainly lived up to theirreputation as one of the foremostcontemporary ensembles in the world. I awaittheir return with bated breath and in theinterim will revisit their recording time andtime again.I will thank Bruce Surtees for my nextforay into the archives. In his review of a newrecording of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nachtby the Emerson String Quartet and friends,Bruce mentioned that Eduard Steuermann,a student of Schoenberg, had made a transcriptionof the fabled work for piano trio.This whetted my appetite as an amateur cellistwho loves to play trios, quartets and quintetswith friends, and I was very pleased to findseveral choices of recording available at AtelierGrigorian (70 Yorkville Ave.). I chose the 2005Vienna Piano Trio version (Dabringhaus undGrimm MDG 342 1354-2) because I foundthe inclusion of Zemlinsky’s Piano Trio andMahler’s piano quartet movement to bemost appropriate. I am happy to say that Ifound Steuermann’s adaptation for violin,cello and piano of Schoenberg’s String Sextetvery satisfying, in fact more so than I mighthave expected. Steuermann was a renownedpianist and his arrangement captures thedensity of the score without sacrificing any ofthe subtlety. The performance is convincingand the sound quality on the MDG “gold” discis clear and robust. I’ve added having a handsongo at this arrangement as another one ofmy summer aspirations.82 | June 7 – September 7, 2013

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions.CDs and comments should be sent to:The WholeNote, 503–720 Bathurst St., TorontoON, M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visitour website where youEditor’s Corner continues at thewhole with a new recording of Bach’s Art ofthe Fugue with Les Voix humaines and theLutoslawski Centenary Edition released byPolish Radio.VOCALRameau – Les Amants TrahisPhilippe Sly; Hélène Guilmette;Clavecin en Concert; Luc BeauséjourAnalekta AN 2 9991!!Rameau was alwayssupremely confidentof his instrumentalcompositions, yetopera remained hiskey challenge. Hisquest for excellenceis demonstrated inthis CD. In some shortextracts from Thétis, bass-baritone PhilippeSly sings an attractive prélude “Muses, dansvos divins concerts,” demonstrating Rameau’smastery of airs and récitatifs. More complexare the pieces selected from Les AmantsTrahis: Hélène Guilmette and Sly are almostpolyphonic in “Ma bergère a trahi sa foi,”carefully interpreting the moods of the duo.In fact, it is difficult to decide which are themore enjoyable, the duos or the airs — thecompilers offer us no fewer than 30 tracks tohelp us make up our minds!Les Amants Trahis, with 12 tracks selected,dominates this anthology, but let us notforget Aquilon et Orithie. The air “Servez mesfeux à vôtre tour” features not only somespirited singing but also a vigourous violinaccompaniment. Le Berger Fidèle’s “Faut-ilqu’Amarillis périsse?” is an excellent vehiclefor Guilmette’s skills, stately and pensive as isthe air in question.Finally, there is the conducting from theharpsichord by Luc Beauséjour, who bringsout the best in his continuo. All demonstratethe importance of Rameau whether to operaor to French music.—Michael SchwartzMahler – OrchesterliederChristian Gerhaher; Orchestresymphonique de Montréal; Kent NaganoAnalekta AN 2 9849!!Kent Nagano’s initial collaboration withthe splendid German baritone ChristianGerhaher and the OSM in a Sony recording ofMahler’s Das Lied von der Erde drew qualifiedadmiration from me in 2009. This newrecording of Mahler’s vocal works on thecan find added features including direct linksto performers, composers, record labels andadditional, expanded and archival reviews.—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comAnalekta label is apatchwork from twoJanuary eveningsduring the inauguralseason of theOSM’s new concerthall in 2012. As before,the main attractionis Gerhaher’s exceptionalvoice and sensitive interpretation of thethree major song cycles: the youthful Liedereines fahrenden Gesellen, the ruminativeKindertotenlieder, and the variegated settingsof the Rückert Lieder. (Gerhaher also releaseda sensational Deutsche Grammophonrecording of Des Knaben Wunderhornwith Pierre Boulez and the ClevelandOrchestra in 2010.)Nagano is an attentive collaborator andhandles tempo fluctuations adroitly, thoughthe dynamic contrasts and drama of themusic are decidedly underplayed. Therecorded sound has considerable presencewhich is both a blessing and a curse as this isone of the noisier live performance pick-upsI’ve heard. Beyond the usual muffled coughsfrom the audience, odd thumps and strangemutterings occasionally infest the stage aswell. (This is the downside of making recordingson the cheap without the contribution ofan engaged producer in proper studio conditions.)Gerhaher’s finely modulated voice andexcellent diction set a new standard for futureinterpreters of Mahler lieder. Thankfullythis time (unlike the OSM Das Lied release)full French and English translations of theGerman texts are provided.—Daniel FoleyKaija Saariaho – La Passion de SimoneDawn Upshaw; Finnish RSO; TapiolaChamber Choir; Esa-Pekka SalonenOndine ODE 1217-5!!There is no easyway to explain themystery that wasSimone Weil. Atrained philosopherbefore women wereseen as capable ofcomprehending philosophy,a secularizedJew who converted to Catholicism, a pacifistwho sought combat in the Spanish CivilWar, a left-wing thinker who put her ideasto the test by joining a factory assemblyline ... Add to it a martyr in her death (or wasshe anorexic?), an altruist living an asceticlife and a major irritant to those who believethat upholding convention is the only wayto maintain social order. It is a small wonderthat the composer who embarked on writingan oratorio based on the life of this incrediblewoman is a rebel herself — Kaija Saariaho,known to Toronto audiences through herremarkable opera Love from Afar.This oratorio, a small and reflective work,uses the martyr scenario of Stations of theCross to depict Weil’s life. The music is notgrand by any measure, as the life depictedwas contemplative and largely introverted.This is served well by the voice of DawnUpshaw, who sounds here as Weil mighthave — suffering and tired. Esa-Pekka Salonenskilfully coaxes the delicate harmonies outof the tightly wound melodies, bringing hisunderstanding of nuance to the task. Weilherself said it best: “Two powers hold swayover the universe: light and gravity.” There isan abundance of both of them here.—Robert TomasRossini – Il Barbiere di SivigliaCecilia Bartoli; David Kuebler; Gino Quilico;Carlos Feller; Schwetzingen SWRFestspiele; Gabriele FerroArtHaus Musik 102 305!!Useless Precaution.Believe it or not, thiswas how this operawas called at itspremiere. Since theBarbiere had alreadybeen written by theolder, well-establishedPaisiello, Rossini hadto choose a differenttitle. Opening nightthe Teatro Argentinain Rome was filledwith Paisiello fans and this new opera by a“young upstart” was booed and whistled offthe stage, but now, almost 200 years laterwhere is Paisiello?This wonderful production from Colognejust proves how successful a performance canbe without any directorial updating, added“relevance” or other nonsense that has ruinedso many present day productions. Althoughtraditional, it is brilliantly directed by veteranMichael Hampe, but it is the principal singerswho make this production unforgettable.The star mezzo, Cecilia Bartoli, has distinguishedherself as a true Rossini diva bothas a dramatic actress (e.g. Desdemona) andhere as a delightful comedienne singing withvirtuoso brilliance and conquering Rossini’shair-raising fioraturas with supreme ease.Underneath she has a mischievous trait andhidden fire par excellence so essential for aRossini heroine.Her counterpart as Count Almaviva,American tenor David Kuebler, wreaks havocin some hilarious scenes (especially as June 7 – September 7, 2013 | 83

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)