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Volume 19 Issue 4 - December 2013

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Two Russian violin

Two Russian violin concertoswritten within four yearsof each other by composerswho had both left theirnative country for politicalreasons are featured on the newCD Prokofiev and Stravinsky,with Patricia Kopatchinskajaand the London PhilharmonicOrchestra under Vladimir Jurowski(naïve V 5352).Stravinsky’s Concertoin D was written in 1931; ittakes more than just its individualmovement titles from theBaroque era, and is in the composer’sneoclassical style. It’s probablyheard less frequently than theProkofiev, and with its pricklynature seems to be slightly lessapproachable. Kopatchinskaja,though, is a wonderful interpreter,capturing the strident nature ofthe music while fully illustratingthat this is not a work lacking incolour and warmth.The concerto is followed on theCD by a short uncredited cadenza in whichKopatchinskaja is joined by the LPO’s leaderPieter Schoeman.Prokofiev’s Concerto No.2 in G minordates from 1935, when Prokofiev haddecided — unlike Stravinsky — to return tothe Soviet Union. It’s a beautifully lyricalwork, albeit with typical Prokofiev momentsof spiky percussiveness, and Kopatchinskajaalways finds the perfect balance. The openingof the slow middle movement is particularlystriking, with the solo line held back in aquite mysterious way, but with beautiful tonalcolour and shading. The orchestral support isexcellent on a truly outstanding disc.Another excellent concerto CD is DvořákCello Concertos, the latest issue from StevenIsserlis and the Mahler Chamber Orchestraunder Daniel Harding (Hyperion CDA67917).“Concertos,” you say? —“Surely there is onlyone?” Well, yes and no. Some 30 years beforehis celebrated B minor concerto, the youngDvořák had written an A major concertofor the cellist Ludevit Peer, an orchestralcolleague of the composer’s in Prague. Itwas never orchestrated, and the piano scoremanuscript stayed with Peer when he movedto Germany; Dvořák presumably considered itlost. It is now in the British Library.There have been two attempts at orchestratingit, the latest in 1975 closely followingthe manuscript; Isserlis, however, has chosena 1920s reworking of the concerto’s materialTERRY ROBBINSby the German composer GünterRaphael, who clearly envisionedthe mature Dvořák returning tothe work with a critical eye. It’sunderstandably not in the sameclass as the B minor concerto, butit does have some lovely momentsand a particularly beautiful slowmovement. However, given thatDvořák’s original work was virtuallyrewritten by Raphael, whoalso provided all of the orchestration,it’s a bit difficult to regard itas anything other than an interestinghybrid. Isserlis plays itbeautifully, though, as he doesthe real concerto on the disc.There are two interesting additions tothe CD. On learning of the deathof his sister-in-law and first love,Dvořák rewrote the ending ofthe concerto to incorporate herfavourite of his songs, “Lasst michallein”; an orchestral version of thesong is included here, along withthe original ending of the concerto.Midori performs Violin Sonatasby Bloch, Janáček and Shostakovich on herlatest CD, accompanied by Özgür Aydin(Onyx 4084). During the early years of the20th century — and especially after the GreatWar — many composers strove to find a newexpressive language, and each of the threerepresented here developed a highly individualvoice. Midori says that the sonatasdrew her in, “as they represent a new era intheir genre.”Ernest Bloch’s Sonata No.2 “Poèmemystique” is a lovely, rhapsodic single-movementwork from 1924, written as a counterpartto his war-influenced first sonatafrom 1920. Leoš Janáček’s lone violin sonataspanned the years of the Great War and thecomposer’s sixth decade, the period in whichhis unrequited love for a young woman ledto an outburst of highly personal and idiomaticcompositions; started in 1914, it wascompleted in 1922.The Shostakovich sonata, written in 1968,is everything you would expect from thismost tortured of composers: an ominousslow first movement; an explosively percussive“Allegretto”; and a devastatingly personalclosing movement which seems to endin bitterness and resignation, and devoidof any hope.Midori and Aydin are superb throughout arecital recorded by the German radio stationWDR in Cologne, and first broadcast therein 2012.Strings Attached continues at with anotherinstallment of Sarasate’s music for violin with Tianwa Yang, chamberworks for strings by Kaija Saariaho, a new Haydn release by the LondonHaydn Quartet, Dreamtime with violistDavid Aaron Carpenter, a portrait ofbaroque violinist Amandine Beyer andthe latest Naxos release of music byKenneth Fuchs.MODERN & CONTEMPORARYAmerican Piano ConcertosXiayin Wang; Royal Scottish NationalOrchestra; Peter OundjianChandos CHAN 5128!!Over the years,American composershave contributed tothe piano concertogenre as significantlyas theirEuropean counterparts;this Chandosrecording withconcertos by Barber, Copland and Gershwinfeaturing pianist Xiayin Wang with the RoyalScottish National Orchestra conducted byPeter Oundjian is a fine cross-section ofAmerican music spanning a 35-year period.Wang studied at the Shanghai Conservatoryand later at the Manhattan School of Music,where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s,and professional studies degrees. A winner ofnumerous prizes, she’s since earned an internationalreputation as a recitalist, chambermusician and orchestral soloist.Samuel Barber has long been regardedas one of the most romantic of Americancomposers. His Pulitzer Prize-winningconcerto from 1962 is a true study incontrasts, with more than a stylistic nodto Bartók and Prokofiev. Wang’s formidabletechnique is clearly evident in thefrenetic first and third movements, but thelyrical “Canzone” demonstrates a particularsensitivity with just the right degree oftempo rubato.While Barber’s work is music by a veterancomposer, the piano concerto by AaronCopland was the creation of a youthful26-year-old, and is very much a product ofthe jazz age with its bluesy themes and jazzyrhythms. As in the other two works, Oundjianand the RSNO produce a lush and confidentsound, very much at home with this 20thcentury repertoire.If Copland’s concerto was somewhatinfluenced by the music of the 1920s,Gershwin’s was even more so. This concertois clearly stamped “Broadway, 1925.” Wanghas a particular affinity for this music,already having recorded Earl Wild’s Gershwintranscriptions, and here she embraces thesyncopated rhythms and lyrical melodies74 | December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014

with great panache.An Asian soloist with a Scottish orchestraled by a Canadian-born conductorperforming American music may seem anunlikely combination, but the result is somewonderful music making. Samuel, Aaron andGeorge would all be proud!—Richard HaskellHindemith – Complete Piano ConcertosIdil Biret; Yale Symphony Orchestra;Toshiyuki ShimadaNaxos 8.573201-02!!In celebration ofthe 50th anniversaryof the deathof Paul Hindemith(1895–1963) Naxoshas released a doublediscanthology ofhis works for pianoand orchestra inperformances by the Turkish-born pianistand frequent Naxos collaborator Idil Biretand the student ensembles of Yale Universityunder the direction of Professor ToshiyukiShimada. It is a logical pairing as Hindemithtaught from 1940 to 1953 at the prestigiousIvy League school and had previously servedin the 1930s as a consultant to the Turkishgovernment, helping to establish the nationalstandards and infrastructure for classicalmusic education.The earliest work represented here (from1923), Piano Music with Orchestra (forPiano Left Hand), was commissioned bythe affluent Viennese one-armed pianistPaul Wittgenstein. Unfortunately the pianistgreatly disliked it and refused to perform it,though by contract he retained the exclusiverights to do so (the same impasseoccurred with a work he commissioned fromProkofiev). The score was considered lostuntil the year 2001, when a copy was discoveredin the Wittgenstein family archives.The ever-prolific Hindemith was likely nonetoo concerned, for the lavish ,000 fee inUS dollars he received at the height of theGerman hyperinflation crisis (equivalent to30 million marks at the time) enabled him torenovate and move into his dream home, afour-story 14th-century tower in Frankfurt.The Kammermusik No.2 for piano, stringquartet and brass (1924) is a much strongerwork, brimming with the saucy inventivenessand powerful brass writing typical of thebrilliant Kammermusik series of concertanteworks for diverse instruments. The same canbe said of the innovative instrumentation ofthe intriguing Concert Music for Piano, Op.49for two harps and brass (1930). The Yale brasssection takes to this music like ducks to water,though all three performances suffer fromsloppy co-ordination between the instrumentalgroups. Whether this is the fault ofpoor communication between the conductorand pianist or some quirk of the acoustics ofthe cramped Woolsey Hall stage I cannot say.The Four Temperaments for piano andstrings (1940) began life as a ballet score andis the most often performed of all the workshere. Here again an underpowered stringorchestra ( in instrumental shorthand,as observed in a YouTube video postedby Ms. Biret) playing in a 3,000 seat convocationhall fails to provide the sonic weightHindemith routinely demands, though theperformers themselves are quite capable. Thealbum closes with the mechanistic Concertofor Piano and Orchestra (1945), the finestmoment of which occurs in the surprisingfinal pages with an arrangement of the livelyold medieval melody “Tre Fontane.” Perhapswe could consider this retreat into the past asa coded reference to his gothic ivory tower inFrankfurt, now bombed and incinerated.While the dispirited Bartók and embitteredSchoenberg struggled to survive in America,Hindemith’s influence in the United Stateswas profound and his music was widelyperformed there. By the time of his deathhowever the larger world of composition hadturned its back on him. Perhaps it is time toonce again grant this grand old lion his dueand acknowledge the power, nobility andimpeccable craftsmanship of his music; thisanthology would be a good place to start.—Daniel FoleySound Dreaming – Oracle Songsfrom Ancient Ritual SpacesWendalynCD and 5.1 DVD audio format!!Toronto-based Wendalyn is a composer,vocal performer and sound energy practitioner.In this thought-provoking release, herDrumheller is a Torontobasedquintet, but it turnsout visionary, genre-bendingmusic with wit and skill worthyof Amsterdam origins. That opennessto play and variety is evidentthroughout Sometimes Machine(Barnyard Records BR0333,includingguitarist Eric Chenaux’s opening “AlabamaUK,” suspended between Latin and NewOrleans rhythms; the Ellingtonian richnessachieved in drummer Nick Fraser’s“Sketch #8”; and alto saxophonist BrodieWest’s “Untitlement,“ which begins witha melody that might have fallen out of thehistory of minstrelsy. The musicians bring acreative joy and spontaneity to each other’stunes, constantly finding new dimensions inthe dialogue. Chenaux’s weirdly arrhythmicsolo on bassist Rob Clutton’s “Parc Lineaire”suggests folklore from another world, whileSTUART BROOMERimprovised vocalizationsrecorded inancient temples inMalta and Crete providethe initial soundscapesto which she haslater added environmental,instrumentaland vocal layers.Wendalyn provides clear and succinct linernotes which describe her personal emotionaland subsequent musical responses to hertemple journeys. These greatly aid in understandingthe composer/performer’s estheticand provide the listener a welcome tool tolistening and appreciating the six tracks.Chant-like in nature, her music has anextremely calming effect. Her voice is clear,her pitch is exact and production qualityis high. The initial track “Stone Mysteries”features long syllabic tones (such as ooohs)and subtle static changes of pitch and quiveringvibrations. There is a welcome additionof water-like sounds of the EgyptianRebaba (played by Randy Raine-Reusch) andmelody- driven changes in the second track“Sirens of the Deep.” “Serpentine Dance” hasthe opening vocal breath rhythms juxtaposedagainst tambourines and a cicada chorus. Thissets up the most interesting track of the set,in both its spontaneous response to the Cretetemple, and compositional expertise.At times the chants and musical ideas dragon for too long, and her inspirational musingsseem too farfetched to be believed. But this isan interesting aural foray into the world of aninquisitive and honest artist searching for andfinding her own inner sound.—Tiina Kiiktrombonist Doug Tielli combinesa bending, quavering line withcircular breathing on Fraser’sotherwise sprightly “Sketch #16”in a similarly original way.Montreal-born, Toronto-residentpianist Marilyn Lerner has a longestablishedreputation in jazz,improvised music and klezmer,and a growing international profile thatincludes a co-operative trio with New Yorkbasedbassist Ken Filiano and drummer LouGrassi. Their latest release is Live in Madrid(Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1247’s entirely improvised,with the drive of great free jazz, as alive withlight and shadow as Lerner’s jacket photo ofMadrid, with its mysterious depths, narrow,curving streets and bristling antennae. Theconcert brims with passion and energy: thedense counterpoint of “Intentions Woven”;the rich shifting textures of the December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014 | 75

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