8 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 4 - December 2013

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Jake Heggie –

Jake Heggie – Moby-DickMorris; Costello; Smith; Lemalu; Trevigne;San Francisco Opera; Patrick SummersEuroArts 2059658!!The only lingeringquestion about Moby-Dick as an opera is:why did it take solong to happen? Theepic tale, charactersand intensity ofemotions — they all areperfectly operatic inscope. Deconstructingthe linearity of thestory was the rightapproach to the sprawling novel, suggestedby Heggie’s collaborator Terrence McNally.(McNally, who was the librettist for Heggie’sDead Man Walking began this project but hadto back out and the libretto was completedby Gene Scheer). Paraphrasing the immortalfirst line of the novel as, “You may call meIshmael ...” for the closing line was anotherstroke of genius. The rest relies on Heggie’sbrilliant, neo-romantic score, with its delightfullyunanticipated musical quotations fromPoulenc and Debussy and all-male vocal score(save for the “in-trousers” role of Pip). Inthis production, the demonic Captain Ahab(Jay Hunter Morris) demonstrates considerablehubris early on —“I’d strike at the sunif it’d burned me.” His relentless pursuitof the whale, leading to a loss of humanityand almost complete annihilation, is set instark relief by Starbuck (Morgan Smith), themoral centre of the opera. Joseph Costello asGreenhorn (Ishmael) imbues the music witha sense of foreboding and fear. The productionvalues are truly spectacular — inventiveuse of digital projections (with a tip of thehat to our own Robert Lepage), beautiful setsand creative lighting make for an immenselywatchable 140 minutes. Finally, the directionfor video by Frank Zamacona is of a calibrerarely seen on operatic DVDs. All in all,Moby-Dick is a solid new entry in the standardrepertoire and this production is a musthavefor watching at home.—Robert TomasEARLY MUSIC & PERIOD PERFORMANCEIo Vidi In TerraJosé Lemos; Jory Vinikour; Deborah FoxSono Luminus!!SeventeenthcenturyItaly presentsus with images oflove, debauchery,power games, murdersand ruthless ambition— but at leastthere were some greatItalian composersaround to set the romantic elements to music!Brazilian José Lemos displays his in-depthlove for Italian vocal music by selecting notonly giants of the period but also lesserknowncomposers. It is, indeed, a less-wellknowncomposer, Tarquinio Merula, withwhom José Lemos opens his recital. Hisrendition of “Su la cetra amorosa” draws ona very wide range of skills as it combines analmost rushed score with a sometimes highlyexhilarating one.“Io Vidi in Terra” sets lines by Petrarch,and it is a tribute to both Marco da Gaglianoand José Lemos that poetry and song of suchbeauty and sensitivity are to be found onthis CD. Just as anguished by love’s pains is“Ardo” by Benedetto Ferrari, bringing outthe best in Lemos’ longer notes and drawingon Vinikour’s harpsichord and DeborahFox’s theorbo.Instrumental solos feature. Spagnoletta wasone of the most popular and longest-livedpieces of the entire Renaissance. Vinikourgives a spirited interpretation of Storace’scomplex score — the most demanding thisreviewer has heard. And for good measurethere is the exuberant Balletto by thesame composer.Lemos starts and finishes his recital withsongs by Merula, who deserves to be betterknown. Listening to this choice of songs, it iseasy to see why — this is a wonderful collectionof early Italian baroque music.—Michael SchwartzSplendore a Venezia – Music in Venicefrom the Renaissance to the BaroqueVarious ArtistsATMA ACD2 3013!!This compilationdisc was created toaccompany the exhibitionpresented at theMontreal Museum ofFine Arts this seasonfrom October toJanuary focusing onthe interrelationshipbetween the visual arts and music during the16th, 17th and 18th centuries, In addition topaintings, the show features historical instruments,musical texts and manuscripts. Forthe recording, the ATMA label draws from itscatalogue works by composers who figurein the exhibition, including Monteverdi,Gabrieli, Rossi, Vivaldi and Albinoni,performed by local Montreal artists and theirguests. There is a cornucopia of instrumentaland vocal works offered, bringing to life therich, festive tapestry of Venetian society. TheAcadémie baroque de Montréal offers a stunningperformance of a Vivaldi concerto withthe late Washington McClain as oboe soloist.Perhaps in honour of the string instrumentson display at the gallery, such as theKoch archlute, a lovely Ballo secondo byKapsberger features chitarrone and harp.Vocal ensemble Les Voix Baroques andTragicomedia perform Gabrieli’s madrigalDue rose fresche and Monterverdi’s Laetatussum. Charles Daniels and Colin Balzer delightin Monterverdi’s whimsical Zefiro tornaand the superb voice of Karina Gauvin soarsthrough the lovely Vivaldi aria “Addio Caro.”A delightful surprise is Benedetto Marcello’ssetting of Psalm 15 gorgeously sung by Israelimezzo Rinat Shaham. For those lookingfor a reason to brave the cold in Montrealthis winter, the exhibit is a must-see; forall others, vicarious enjoyment through themusic, complete with a full-colour bookletillustrated with several of the works presentedin the MMFA exhibition.—Dianne WellsHandel; Boieldieu;Mozart – Harp ConcertosValérie Milot; Les Violins du Roi;Bernard LabadieAnalekta AN 29990! ! The three concertoson this recordingremain a major partof the harp repertoiretoday even thoughthey were written atthe time when theharp was not consideredmuch morethan a salon instrument, due to the defectsof the single pedal mechanism. Interestinglyenough, it was Sébastien Érard, a roommateof Boieldieu, who invented the double-actionpedal mechanism that greatly improved thesound and the ability of the harp. All threeconcertos, featuring Valérie Milot as soloist,were recorded on the modern harp thusadding an array of colours and textures thatwould have been impossible to achieve at thetime they were composed.Handel’s Concerto in B flat Major is mypersonal favourite on this recording. It waspremiered in 1736 at Covent Garden inLondon, at a concert dedicated exclusivelyto Handel’s compositions. This concerto hasa wonderfully intimate sound throughout.Elegant baroque phrasing of Les Violons DuRoy complements the crispy, sparkling harpsound — creating an atmosphere that is notoverly dramatic yet containing a wide rangeof emotions.François-Adrien Boieldieu (1775–1834) maynot be a familiar name but he was a popularopera composer and piano teacher at theConservatoire de Paris. His love for opera isevident in his concerto for harp — dramaticorchestra opening of both the first and secondmovements and many ornaments in delicatelyvirtuosic harp lines. The last movement has avery enjoyable swaying momentum, evokingthe spirit of the times.Mozart wrote the Concerto for Flute andHarp in C, K299 while he was visiting Parisand happened to become a compositionteacher for the Duc de Guines’ daughter, who,in turn, occasionally played the harp accompaniedby her father on the transverse flute.This concerto is signature Mozart, bursting72 | December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014

with melodies and brightness. The flutesoloist, Claire Marchand, plays with sensitivityand clarity, and the two instrumentsblend very well. Milot has composed cadenzasfor both Handel’s and Mozart’s concertos,in keeping with the practices of the timesand contributing more authenticity to thisrecording.—Ivana PopovicCLASSICAL & BEYONDBrahms – The SymphoniesGewandhausorchester; Riccardo ChaillyDecca 4785344!!The FourSymphonies includingsome revised andoriginal material:Tragic Overture,Haydn Variations,Academic FestivalOverture; Intermezzi,Liebeslieder Waltzes,Hungarian Dances (3 CDs in a hard-boundbook). Here are some notes to myself as Imade them listening to this set in preparationto write a review:Hits the ground running ... Not traditionalweighted-down performance ... Keepsmoving ... The music flows ... Thrilling ... Couldbe the Beethoven Tenth ... Hearing with newears ... Perfect balances ... Translucent ... Clearlyhear the pluck in the plucked basses.Vivid recording, you can see theorchestra ... Outstanding string section thatdoesn’t swamp the woodwinds ... Instrumentsclear without spotlighting ... Clearly hear theinner instrumentation in true perspective.Feels like hearing the works for the firsttime ... Outstanding dynamics ... Texture inthe horns reminiscent of Szell ... Tempos fluidand forward-looking ... Well-rehearsed but nosense of hearing a routine performance ... Notrudging through well-worn paths ... Notdutiful or obligatory.Gorgeous singing winds ... Excitinglyfresh ... Spectacular ... Confident ... Brahmsrestored ... Chailly, the orchestra a perfectmatch ... Brings to mind Toscanini’s 1951recording of the First ... Unique interpretations... Enthusiastic, firm, clear, articulate,translucent ... This is how Brahms was heard atthe first performances before there were anycoats of traditions to wear.I guess what I’m saying is “Highlyrecommended!”—Bruce SurteesRachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances;Stravinsky – The Rite of SpringToronto Symphony Orchestra;Peter OundjianTSO!!TSO Live is a self-produced label of liveconcert recordings, established in 2008 by theToronto SymphonyOrchestra and itsmusic director PeterOundjian. Theirnewest release featuresRachmaninov’sSymphonic Dancesand Stravinsky’s TheRite of Spring, twoworks that share a common thread of experimentalharmonies and prominent rhythms.Rachmaninov composed this orchestralsuite in three movements in 1940,shortly after escaping the war in Europe andmoving to the United States. It was originallyconceived as a ballet; its final versionretained complex rhythms but also becamevery symphonic in nature. The first movementstarts with a marching fast section, withbeautifully rendered dynamic contrasts in theorchestra. Shifting harmonies and elementsof sarcasm continue in the second movement,combining folksy melodies with waltzlikelilts. The last movement is inspired bythe chants of the Russian Orthodox Churchand the Gregorian chant of the dead. In away, it was as if Rachmaninov had a premonition— Symphonic Dances was to be his lastoriginal composition. The TSO maintainsa cohesive expression with many beautifultextures throughout this piece.The star of this recording, in my opinion,is The Rite of Spring. It is dark, it is pagan, itis mystically powerful. It contains complexrhythms and metres, experiments in tonalityand dissonance. Stravinsky wrote it 100years ago, in 1913, for a Paris season of SergeiDiaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. Thepremiere caused a riot in the audience — manywere escorted outside and the reaction barelysubsided by the end of this 35-minute ballet.It was said that Nijinsky, who choreographedthis piece, had to keep shouting the numberof steps to the dancers as they could nothear the orchestra at times. It was a pleasurehearing the TSO playing with such gustoand precision. The avant-garde elements thatcaused a disturbance 100 years ago are almostcertainly the same elements that appeal to thecontemporary audience. It is not a surprisethat The Rite of Spring remains one of themost recorded works of the classical repertoire.This recording has a freshness thatcaptivates the listener.—Ivana PopovicStravinsky – Rite of Spring;Moussorgski – Pictures at an ExhibitionPentaèdreATMA ACD2 2687!!Canadian quintetPentaèdre tackles therhythmic complexitiesand melodic nuancesin wind transcriptionsof two works byRussian composers,Igor Stravinsky andModest Mussorgsky.Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is surprisinglymusically successful in this wind transcriptionby Michael Byerly. Shorter in lengthhere than the original composition, the flute,clarinet, oboe, bassoon and horn parts areremarkable in their loyalty to the originalscore. The driving rhythmic patterns andtwirling melodies that shocked audienceswhen first performed continue to shockand amaze here. The quintet is a tightly knitensemble which works to its advantage in thiscolourful and virtuosic performance.In contrast, the Mussorgsky Pictures atan Exhibition is, though performed exquisitely,not as successful. The transcription byStéphane Mooser is perhaps too much of agood thing here as his goal was to expand thewind instruments’ tonal palate in contrastto his liner notes comment that “the otherexisting versions for wind quintet are toolimited in colour range.” These occasionaldense sections take away from the overallbeautiful phrasing and melodies of bothperformance and individual parts.The high production quality allows for eachwind instrument to sound “live.” Pentaèdreneeds to be congratulated for expandingthe woodwind repertoire with these transcriptionsof audience-loved works. Theensemble’s fresh musical approach and technicalacumen brings new life to establishedrepertoire.—Tiina KiikQuartetski Does StravinskyQuartetskiAmbiances Magnétiques AM! ! Jazz andmodernism botherupted in the early20th century, andthe lines of concordanceare many,including the polyrhythmsof jazz inIgor Stravinsky’smasterpiece of primordial impulses, LeSacre du printemps. Its opening melodyhas been referenced by jazz musicians suchas Carla Bley, Rahsaan Roland Kirk andOrnette Coleman. Celebrating the work’s100th anniversary, Montreal’s transformativeQuartetski Does Stravinsky, followsa loose and reduced score while interpolatingand overlaying improvisations eitheranarchic or folk-inspired. The instrumentationis constructed for maximum chronologicalassociation, leaping from the sound ofa medieval consort with founder Pierre-YvesMartel’s viola de gamba, Phillippe Lauzier’sbass clarinet, Isaiah Ceccarelli’s percussionand Josh Zubot’s violin to guitarist BernardFalaise’s very electronic approach. Alternatelyhomage and deconstruction, it’s a fearlesswork, casting Stravinsky’s masterwork in anew light — at once more intimate, flexibleand playful.—Stuart December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014 | 73

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