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Volume 19 Issue 4 - December 2013

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in the 12th and 13th

in the 12th and 13th centuries during theCrusades. Evidently when the men returnedfrom the wars social values once againregressed to the point where women were nolonger allowed creative expression. Kradjianwas inspired by his readings to composethe song cycle about Ysabella for his wifeBayrakdarian and the Manitoba ChamberOrchestra. For this attractive and evocativework the basic strings of the MCOare complemented by clarinet,oud, guitar and percussion.In keeping with the theme,Kradjian arranged and orchestratedfour songs by latter-dayArmenian troubadour Sayat-Nova, born Haroutiun Sayatianin 1712, who served for a time atthe court of Heracle II, King ofGeorgia, until his attraction forthe king’s daughter led toexpulsion. To complete theset Kradjian also arrangedthe beautiful Greek songs ofMaurice Ravel and that composer’ssetting of Kaddish, a Jewishprayer in Aramaic magnifyingand glorifying God. Throughoutthe disc Bayrakdarian is in fineform and full voice, often sendingshivers down the listener’s spine.In brief: Rachel Mercer is acellist whose career I’ve beenfollowing since her universitydays when as a broadcaster atCJRT I had the opportunity torecord the brilliant young Metro Quartet.Mercer went on to an international chambercareer with Israel’s Aviv Quartet (2002-10)and since returning to Toronto has been amember of the Mayumi Seiler Trio (withpianist Angela Park), the Mercer-Park Duoand Ensemble Made In Canada. This latteris a piano quartet in which Mercer and Parkare joined by other local young lionessesElissa Lee (violin) and Sharon Wei (viola). TheEMIC’s debut CD ( features the second piano quartet ofMozart and the third of Brahms in dramatic,nuanced and, where appropriate, playfulperformances. Produced by Scott St. John andEMIC and recorded at Glenn Gould Studioin August 2012, the sound is everything youwould hope for (and expect). Incidentally,as the winner of the 2009 Canada CouncilMusical Instrument Bank Competition,Mercer was awarded the use of the 1696Bonjour Stradivarius cello from 2009 to 2012and it can be heard on this fine recording.Concert note: Ensemble Made In Canadaperforms at the Kitchener-Waterloo ChamberMusic Society on December 3.Analekta recently released a disc whichI must confess I was sceptical about when Ifirst came across it. I was afraid that Adagio(AN 2 9848) featuring Ensemble Capriceunder Matthias Maute would turn out to beanother compilation of “the world’s mostbeautiful melodies” or some such saccharinefare. I’m glad that I gave it a chance though; itturned out to be a thoughtful collection withsome surprising inclusions. Although overalla baroque offering — Zelenka, Albinoni,Carissimi, Allegri and Bach areall present — Maute explainsthe premise of the project inhis program note as havingbeen inspired by Charles Ives’The Unanswered Questionand its subtitle AConsideration ofa Serious Matter.He says “This wonderfultitle soon became the programmaticidea behind our recording ofadagios throughout the centuries.[...] all meditations on the fundamentalquestions of life and death[expressing] something impossibleto communicate through words.” It isan interesting concept and one whichworks very well for the most partwith its balance of instrumentaland choral works and ShannonMercer’s wonderful renderingof Bach’s Ich habe genug. Mautehas contributed an original prelude,used as a bridge to his arrangementof Satie’s lovely GymnopédieNo.1 and also an arrangement ofChopin’s Prélude Op.28, No.4. Ionly have two reservations aboutthe disc: I would rather have heardthe string version of Barber’sfamous Adagio rather than thelater choral setting of Agnus Deiusing the same melody; I found the inclusionof Allegri’s Miserere, lovely as it is, to be toomuch in the context — too long in relation tothe other selections, and simply too liturgical.Two excellent and quite different acousticguitar discs came my way this month. Thefirst is by local stalwart of the jazz andindependent music scenes, Brian Katz andthe second features Newfoundland Djangostylejazz guitarist Duane Andrews joinedby country picker Craig Young. Leaves WillSpeak ( is the result of twoyears in the studio although more accuratelyit has been more than three decadesin the making since that day in 1980 whenBrian Katz decided that the nylon-stringguitar would be his instrument of choice.Listening to this disc I was not surprised tofind that Katz studied with Ralph Townerwhose recordings with Oregon and the PaulWinter Consort were an integral part of thesoundtrack to my formative years. But hisinfluences and inspirations extend to manyforms including jazz standards, free improvisation,klezmer, world, classical and newmusic. The 18 solo tracks on the albumshowcase the full range of Katz’ diversemusical world. With only one exception,an arrangement of an anonymous ItalianRenaissance Danza, the tracks are original,most through-composed but some improvisedin the recording studio. The sound iscrisp and warm with a minimum of fingernoise and the booklet is comprehensive withan informative essay about Katz’ backgroundand approaches, and descriptive notes foreach piece.Charlie’s Boogie ( brings together a number ofstyles of steel-string guitar picking,with Duane Andrews and CraigYoung each bringing their owndistinctive influences to the mix.From traditional North Americancountry music and fiddle tunes, ragsand reels through the blues (via BillMonroe) and of course “Hot Club ofFrance” style jazz, there’s even one singersongwritertype offering, Jerry Faires’ homageto his guitar, “The D-18 Song.” Andrews hascreated a unique blend of Newfoundlandtraditional music and jazz guitar (he graduatedwith honours from jazz studies at St.Francis-Xavier University in Nova Scotiaand went on to composition studies in Parisand Marseilles). Young, also a native ofNewfoundland, left home for Alberta in 1993and later relocated to Nashville, Tennessee asa member of the Terri Clark band, playing atthe Grand Ole Opry and the like. Some fourCanadian Country Music Awards later he’sback home in Newfoundland teaching andpickin’ up a storm with Andrews. Althoughboth are composers in their own right, thealbum features only one track by each withthe rest devoted to cover versions of the stuffthey enjoy most. Man, these guys are hot!We welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments should besent to: The WholeNote, Centre for SocialInnovation, 503–720 Bathurst St., TorontoON, M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visitour website where youcan find added features including direct linksto performers, composers, record labels andadditional, expanded and archival reviews.VOCAL—David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comBach – Matthäus-PassionIm; Fink; Gura; Lehtipuu; Weisser; Wolff;RIAS Kammerchor; Akademie für AlteMusik Berlin; René JacobsHarmonia Mundi HMC 802156.58! ! Half a centuryago there were twokinds of performancesof Bach’s Passions:those that used largeforces and modernsymphony orchestrasand those thatused smaller forcesas well as period instruments and baroqueperformance practices. Now the former kindhave all but disappeared. There is, however, agreat deal of variety in historically informedperformances. In 1981 Joshua Rifkin proposedthat there was no chorus in the modern sense70 | December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014

in Bach’s sacred music and that choruses andchorales were sung by the soloists, one to apart. Initially that proposal was greeted withderision but over the years it has gained agreat deal of acceptance.A 2008 recording of the Matthew Passionthat comes close to what Rifkin proposedis that of the Dunedin Consort and Players,conducted by John Butt (Linn Records CKD313). In that performance the Evangelist isthe tenor of the first Choir and the Christusis the bass. The singers of the arias also singin the choral sections. Butt needed a fewextra singers for the smaller parts and for thesopranos who sing the cantus firmus in theopening chorus. That gives us 12 as the totalnumber of singers.By contrast, Jacobs proposes that the largerof the two choirs sing at the west end and thesmaller choir at the other end of the church.He divides the larger choir into two groupsand also adds a boys’ choir. Those who singthe smaller parts also sing in the chorus butnot the major soloists or (with one exception)the singers of the arias. That brings thetotal number of singers to 61. Instrumentalforces are also larger: 37 as against 25 in theDunedin Players. Jacobs also has a muchheavier bass line because he has added twobassoons as well as a lute to the continuo.It is clear that the new recording is onaltogether a different scale than that of theDunedin Consort. While I like the lightness ofthe latter performance, I would concede that(whatever the historical validity) Jacobs’ interpretationhas one great advantage and that isthat he can scale down his large forces whenneeded. The performance is very dramaticand is none the worse for that. He has verygood soloists. Werner Güra (the Evangelist),Johannes Weisser (Christus) and BernardaFink (the alto arias) are especially fine. Thisis Jacobs’ first recording of the work, thoughhe has sung the alto solos many times. Buthis love for the work goes back further, tothe time when he sang it as a boy choristerin St. Bavo Cathedral in Ghent. It is fittingthat the illustration on the box of the CDsis that of Jan van Eyck’s Adoration of theLamb, the central portion of the altarpiece inthat church.—Hans de GrootMozart – Don GiovanniSkovhus; Ketelsen; Petersen; Opolais;English Voices; FreiburgerBarockorchester; Louis LangréeBelAir BAC080!!It is to the credit of Mozart’s greatest operato be able to endure many different viewpoints,from traditional to the wildest moderninterpretations. I’ve even seen one that tookplace in the South Bronx with an all-blackcast and it was marvellous. Here the Don Juanlegend, or “morality tale” is from the handof a young, very talented Russian directorDmitri Tcherniakov with a well-thoughtoutand imaginative concept that infusesthe action, setting and characters to the lastdetail. That conceptputs the drama ina modern setting:a drawing room ofa luxurious residenceof a dysfunctionalfamily is quiteimmaterial. It really isall about a man tryingto live above the rulesof society; althoughhe is successful fora while, he is ultimatelydoomed.To achieve this, the director, who knowsthe score and libretto by heart and thereforeis no bumbling dilettante, selected hissinging actors with utmost care, mostlyyoung with fine voices and remarkably fit tolive up to his strenuous physical, emotionaldemands. The dissolute Don, Danish baritoneBo Skovhus is a larger-than-life presence,alternatively charming, elegant, seductive,insolent, despondent or manic, you name it,although the superhuman demands do taketheir toll and his powerful voice is sometimesoff pitch. The three women representingthree social classes and of different ages, areall memorable, each with their own issues,but common in one respect: their uncontrollable,conscious or subliminal attractionto the Don. I was most impressed by theingenue, exceptional Swedish soprano KerstinAvemo, giving a simply unforgettable, manylayeredemotional, heartbreakingly empatheticportrayal of Zerlina.Under the enthusiastic, firm musicalleadership of French conductor LouisLangrée driving his virtuoso period instrumentorchestra with verve and brisk tempi,the show moves along seamlessly and it’srefreshing like the Provence air.—Janos GardonyiFrancis Poulenc – Intégrales des mélodiespour voix et pianoPascale Beaudin; Julie Fuchs;Hélène Guilmette; Julie Boulianne;Marc Boucher; François Le Roux;Olivier GodinATMA ADC2 2688 (5 CDs)!!In his booklet notesfor this collection ofPoulenc’s mélodiesand chansons, baritoneFrançois Le Rouxdescribes Poulenc’smusic as “a mixture ofmelancholy and joiede vivre, of solemnityand fun.” As the Canadian Opera Company’sstunning production of Dialogues of theCarmelites last season made clear, Poulenc’smusic is not to be taken lightly. Underlyingeven his most playful works — and there areplenty of those here–is a deeply felt reflectiveness.That’s precisely what the musiciansinvolved in this recording convey so well, andwhat makes this collection so enjoyable.Poulenc always claimed that it was thepoets whose words he was setting thatdirectly shaped his music. With so manypoets involved, it’s no wonder there is suchvariety in these 170 songs. There are threesongs which have never been recorded, somerarities, including a few songs that Poulencdropped from Le bestiare, and a song cyclefor chamber orchestra accompaniment,Quatre poèmes de Max Jacob, that pianistOlivier Godin has transcribed for piano. Butwhat sets this recording apart is that it isthe first complete collection of the songs forvoice and piano to feature francophone musicians,four from Canada and two from France.This turns out to be revelatory. It’s not justbecause they all sound so natural and idiomatic.The enunciation of each singer is so clearand unmannered that you can make outevery word.Poulenc loved the music of MauriceChevalier, and with Les chemins de l’amourhe steps into Chevalier’s music hall. Heconjures up a delectable waltz for Anouilh’sbittersweet ode to paths not taken. SopranoPascale Beaudin uses a wonderfully nuancedpalette of colours to create a jaunty mood and,at the same time, bring out the undercurrentsof longing and regret.Soprano Julie Fuchs balances the shiftingmoods of a robust ballad with the touchinginnocence of a prayer in “La Petite Servante,”one of the Cinq poèmes de Max Jacob.Vocalise shows how expressive Poulenc canbe without any text at all, especially withsoprano Hélène Guilmette imaginativelyfashioning a tragicomic scenario of operaticproportions. Mezzo Julie Bouliannedeftly contrasts the despair of Montparnasse,Poulenc’s wartime ode to Paris’ oncevibrantartists’ quarter, with the wryness ofHyde Park in Deux mélodies de GuillaumeApollinaire. Baritone Marc Boucher bringsmoving lyricism to the nine songs of Tel jourtelle nuit (Such a Day Such a Night). His voiceseems to grow darker and more urgent as dayturns into night in Éluard’s cycle of poems.In his prime, François Le Roux was a peerlessinterpreter of art songs from his nativeFrance. Here he is no longer in his prime. Hisvoice is brittle, underpowered and weatheredaround the edges. But that doesn’t affectmy pleasure in his singing on this set. He’salways interesting, never bland. There’s a lifetime’sexperience in the way he embraces thenostalgic mood of “Hôtel” from Apollinaire’sBanalités, his top notes resonating withtenderness. You can smell the Gauloises(unfiltered, of course) as he sings, “I don’twant to work, I want to smoke.”Poulenc was himself a marvellous pianist,and he demands a lot from a pianist in hissongs. Olivier Godin makes an especiallyresponsive partner. His finely calibrated senseof momentum and evocative textures animatepassages like the exquisite pulsing coda thatends Tel Jour Telle Nuit. Booklet notes andbios are in French and English, but the Frenchsong-texts are not, unfortunately, translated.—Pamela December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014 | 71

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