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Volume 19 Issue 3 - November 2013

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a ballet since

a ballet since 1900, partly because, as heconfided to his parents, “One does not have toworry about singers and can storm about inthe orchestra.”In 1912 he witnessed a sensationalperformance of Sergei Diaghilev’s BalletsRusses in Berlin and, through his librettistHugo von Hofmannsthal and the diplomatCount Harry Kessler, arranged a commissionfrom the celebrated troupe. The endresult was a gargantuan, 65-minute pantomime(subtitled “Action in One Act”) withan incredibly detailed scenario based on thebiblical episode of Joseph’s enslavement at theEgyptian court by Potiphar, updated to theera of the Venetian Renaissance for the sakeof sumptuous costuming. The central role ofJoseph was designed for the stupendouslytalented Vaslav Nijinsky, though by the timeof the premiere Strauss was disappointedto learn that Diaghilev had dismissed himafter a lover’s quarrel and replaced him withLéonide Massine. Strauss himself concededthat while composing the work he felt frustratedwith the “boring” piety of the saintlyyoung Joseph and the angel that guardshim but even so his score roars to life withhis grandly erotic depictions of the suicidalattempts by Potiphar’s wife to seduce thereluctant underage Israelite. Sadly for Straussand all concerned, the 1914 Parisian premierewas swiftly followed by the onset of the GreatWar and the ballet fell into obscurity.Josephslegende demands such an immenseorchestra that stagings of the work are quiterare and there are precious few recordingsavailable (notably by Sinopoli andIván Fischer) for comparison. This compellingnew performance by Neeme Järvi,conductor laureate of the Royal ScottishNational Orchestra, is a welcome addition,plushly recorded by Chandos in a hybridSACD format. Two brief works, an orchestralexcerpt from the early opera Feuersnotand the juvenile Festmarsch Op.1 (composedat the age of 12!) fill out the disc. ThoughJosephslegende is perhaps not among thecomposer’s greatest achievements, the sheerorchestral magnificence of this little-knownscore is immensely captivating.—Daniel Foleyconcerto. Virtuosic technique blazes throughthis concerto. Scintillating runs and octavesare spectacular. I loved the opening, whichreflects the composer’s intent on showing theuniverse breathing. I would have liked moredevelopment of that mood however, insteadof the constant runs. The second movementwas charming with hints of the rhythms andjazz of New York. The orchestration soundedretro in a good way. The third movementwas a more intimate, reflective performanceand a prelude to the last dance-like movement.Hints of Italian tarantellas, overtonesand brilliant technique brought this dazzlingconcerto to its finale. Bravo for an imaginativefirst piano concerto.The idea of programming Chopin’s FirstPiano Concerto with his own has merit.DeGaetano went the extra mile in havingJohn Yaffé revise the orchestration due toquestions about the originality of Chopin’s.Yaffé began his work with the 1910 versionby Mily Balakirev as the point of departurefor his own. It will be available for otherperformers in a published version. There isnot enough room in this review to discussorchestration so I will address the performance.DeGaetano is an excellent technicianand musician. He has a lot of fire and energyin his playing. I would prefer more breadthand breath in both the opening orchestraltutti and the piano. More singing tone and avocal approach would help elevate this into astunning performance. The third movementis dancelike and the syncopated rhythmscould convey this more. However, I think theCD is valuable in showing off two opus oneconcertos and with exemplary performancesthey deserve a listen.—Christina Petrowska QuilicoMosh Pit (One Piano Four Hands)ZofoSono Luminus DSL-92167sonoluminus.com!!Listening to twopianists at a singlekeyboard usually setsup an expectation ofsomething slightlyheavy and possiblyungainly. Zofo,however (love thatname!), blow all thataway with their euphoric energy. These twoare young, driven and fearless. There is norepertoire from which they shrink. Theyexude a “take no prisoners” approach yetperform with an interpretive competence andoriginality that leaves listeners wanting tohear more.Gershwin’s Cuban Overture is so fresh andalive I hardly recognized it and checked theliner notes to ensure it was really Gershwin’sown version of his orchestral score. This is aterrific way to open the disc and it grabs youinstantly.Nancarrow’s Sonatina immediately shiftsto an intense and delicate discipline that isby contrast, quite arresting. Zofo’s gift forextracting and delivering melody makes thiswork seem all too short. Likewise, SamuelBarber’s Op.28 Souvenirs, a bouquet oftuneful post-romantic ideas, are also playedwith profound engagement.Two sets of dances by John Corigliano andAllen Shawm set a new stage for Zofo as thepair work ever so seductively with shiftingrhythms to leave listeners embraced by theconstant sense of movement.Finally, the disc’s major work, Schoenfield’sFive Days from the Life of a ManicDepressive, isn’t nearly as frightening as thetitle suggests. Rather, filled with a humourouscynicism about contemporary music, itbecomes a good-humoured showpiece by itsend, closing the CD with the same kind ofenergy that opened it.—Alex BaranDeGaetano – Concerto No.1;Chopin – Concerto No.1Robert DeGaetano;Moravian PhilharmonicOrchestra; John YafféNavona Records NV5929!!I always lookforward to CDs thatfeature composer/pianists. The resultsusually portray theperformer in their bestlight. The composer/pianist knows theinstrument intimatelyand shows off the pianists’ uniqueskills to their best advantage. Such is thecase with Robert DeGaetano’s first pianoCello sonatas, featuring the G minorsonatas by Rachmaninov and Chopin,is the outstanding new release bythe Canadian duo of cellist DeniseDjokic and pianist David Jalbert on the ATMAClassique label (ACD22525).The Rachmaninov Sonata Op.19 is a relativelyearly work, written at the same timeas his Second Piano Concerto and at the endof a three-year period of depression causedby the failure of his First Symphony. It’s amarvellous work, melancholy at times, butpassionate and virtuosic, and full of thosetypical Rachmaninov melodies.When Chopin wrote his Op.65 sonata inTERRY ROBBINS1846, his health was failing and his affair withthe writer George Sand was coming to an end;three years later he would be dead. Listeningto it back-to-back with the Rachmaninov,it’s quite striking how similar their moodsare at times; despite the gap of over 50 yearsbetween them, they seem to be soulmates.The final track on the CD is Rachmaninov’sVocalise, written in 1915 following the deathsof the composer’s friends and colleaguesSergei Taneyev and Alexander Scriabin. Thetranscription is by Leonard Rose. Not surprisingly,it’s no mere afterthought but a perfectfit with the two major works.Djokic is in tremendous form throughout70 | Novemberr 1 – December 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

the disc, as is Jalbert, a top soloist in his ownright — in fact, you only have to look at thecomposers’ names to realize how demandingand virtuosic the piano writing will be. Theinstrumental sound is warm and vibrant,and the interpretation everything youcould ask for.Toronto-based guitarist WarrenNicholson is a graduate ofHamilton’s McMaster Universityand the Manhattan School ofMusic, and made his solo debutat New York’s Weill Recital Hallin 1998. He has been active as ateacher and performer ever since,but Latin American GuitarFavourites (warrennicholsonguitar.com)is his debut CD. Itfeatures works by two early 20thcentury South American guitarmasters, together with worksby two contemporary Latincomposers.The program opens with theCinq Préludes by the BrazilianHeitor Villa-Lobos, followedby four pieces by Cuba’s LeoBrouwer: his Dos aires popularesCubanos and Dos temas popularesCubanos. Milonga, by theArgentinian Jorge Cardoso, andfive pieces by the ParaguayanAgustín Barrios Mangoré completethe recital. In the final track, Unalimosna por el amor de Dios, Nicholsondisplays a fine control of right-hand tremolo.The playing throughout is accurate, cleanand thoughtful, although perhaps a little tooreserved at times. The guitar tone is lovely andthe recorded sound is warm and clear.There is, unfortunately, no information atall regarding recording dates or location, andthere are no timings for the individual tracks;the CD clocks in at just under 50 minutes.There is another excellent release fromthe Danish national label, Dacapo Records,this time featuring Concertos by the Danishcomposer Vagn Holmboe (6.220599).Holmboe, who was 86 when he died in 1996,produced an enormous number of stronglytonal compositions, many of which haveinevitably been overlooked. The three highlyaccessible works on this CD are all worldpremiere recordings, and one — the Concertofor Orchestra (1929) — is believed to be aworld premiere performance as well.Lars Anders Tomter is the soloist in theConcerto for Viola Op.189 from 1992. Writtenfor Rivka Golani, it’s a work which immediatelyshows strength and personality. ViolinistErik Heide performs the Concerto forViolin No.2, Op.139 from 1979, although thenumber is somewhat misleading; there is anearlier violin concerto from 1938 that carriesthe designation No.1 but has never beenperformed, and this current work is apparentlyregarded as “the” violin concerto. Again,it’s a two-movement work, with hints ofSamuel Barber as well as Carl Nielsen, especiallyin the beautiful slow movement.Dima Slobodeniouk conducts theNorrköping Symphony Orchestra in theconcertos, and the orchestra takes centrestage for the Concerto for Orchestra, a singlemovementwork from 1929 that has apparentlynever been performed. It’s a veryattractive piece, quite heavy onbrass and percussion, and againwith distinct hints of Nielsen, whowas the examiner when Holmboeauditioned for the Royal DanishAcademy of Music, and whoclearly influencedthe young composer’searly works.Cellist Wendy Warneradds to an already impressivediscography witha CD of the two CelloConcertos of JosephHaydn, paired with theCello Concerto In Cmajor by Josef Mysliveček(Cedille CDR 90000142). Drostan Hall leadsCamerata Chicagoin excellent orchestralsupport.The Haydnconcertos are relativelyrecent additions to the cellorepertoire, the C major workhaving been discovered and firstperformed in the early 1960s. TheD major concerto was long believed to havebeen written by Anton Kraft, a cellist withHaydn`s Esterhazy orchestra, until Haydn`soriginal score was discovered in the 1950s.The virtuosic cadenzas here are by MauriceGendron and Emanuel Feuermann.Mysliveček was a contemporary andacquaintance of Mozart, and known at thetime mostly for his operas and concertos. Hiscello concerto is actually a transcription ofone of his violin concertos and features a gooddeal of playing in the higher register.Warner is a simply marvellous player, withgreat tone, lovely phrasing, and agility andtechnique to burn. She effortlessly holds ourattention throughout a simply dazzling anddelightful CD.There is more thoughtful and intelligentplaying of the highest order on Mendelssohn& Schumann Violin Concertos, whereviolinist Rachel Barton Pine is joined bythe Göttinger Symphonie Orchester underChristoph-Mathias Mueller (Cedille CDR90000 144). The two Beethoven Romancesare also included.It sometimes seems that there can’t beanything left for a soloist to say with theMendelssohn, but Barton Pine would doubtlessdisagree; “The older I get,” she says,“The more difficult this ‘easier’ concertobecomes.” Her approach here is sensitiveand low-key, but no less effective for that. It’sthoughtful playing with a light touch, andwith tempi that are kept moving; no time forwallowing in sentiment here, but no lack offeeling either.The Schumann concerto has had a troubledhistory. Written shortly before Schumann’s1854 suicide attempt that led to his enteringthe sanatorium in which he would die twoyears later, it was never fine-tuned to thecomposer’s satisfaction, and was suppressedby its dedicatee, Joseph Joachim, not longafter Schumann’s death. It resurfaced inGermany in the 1930s due primarily to theefforts of violinists Jelly d’Arányi and YehudiMenuhin, but plans for a premiere werehijacked by the Nazis, who hopedto promote it at the expense of theMendelssohn concerto, with itsJewish connection. The concertohas its technical problems, inparticular an exceptionally difficultsolo part in the last movementwhich makes an idealtempo almost impossible,but it has a particularly beautiful slowmovement. Mueller was responsiblefor Barton Pine’s deciding torecord the work, and the soloisthas done her work here, makingjudicious changes where she feltnecessary; in particular, she andMueller make the final movementwork extremely well.The performances of the BeethovenF major and G major Romances followthe approach set in the Mendelssohn, with aclear tone, slow and spare vibrato and a nicesense of movement.Barton Pine’s own extensive and excellentbooklet notes contribute to another top-notchCedille issue.Strings Attachedcontinues at thewholenote.comwith the latestmostly jazz-based releasefrom aging enfant terribleNigel Kennedy.JAZZ & IMPROVISED MUSICReflectionsMike Murley; University of Toronto JazzOrchestra; Gordon FooteU of T Jazz! ! RecordedApril 8 and 9, 2013 atRevolution RecordingStudios, Toronto.Everybody forgetsabout the arranger. Forexample jazz enthusiastsknow about theThelonious Monk bigband concert in 1963, but how many know orcare that arrangements for much of that greatmusic were by Hal Overton. Or that the landmarkrecording by Basie of “April In Paris”was arranged by Wild Bill Davis?The reason for this preamble is that onlistening to this album I realized just howessential the arrangements are; so hats offthewholenote.com November 1 – December 7, 2013 | 71

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