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Volume 19 Issue 6 - March 2014

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teaching and

teaching and performing.He seems to have been a master of theshort form, writing brilliant little pieces ofevery kind, skillfully evoking a wide range ofmoods…very French and very Russian. TheBallade in A Minor for cello and piano, witha cameo by grandson Steven, is the longestwork and offers some hint of what Isserlismight have achieved had he written morefrequently on a larger scale.This recording is something of an Isserlisfamily project, but offers a very fine exampleof hitherto unheard music.Alex BaranMODERN AND CONTEMPORARYHotRyan Muncy; Various ArtistsNew Focus Recordings NFR130Chicago-based saxophonist Ryan Muncyhas become a champion of new music, bothas a soloist and as executive director of thefine new music ensemble, Dal Niente – if youhave yet to hear this group deservedly dubbed“super-musicians” by the Chicago Tribune,check it out.Muncy’s debutrecording is bookendedwith works bytwo composers thatfew performers tackle:Georges Aperghisand Franco Donatoni.The craft and wit ofthese composers are the highlights of the CD.Aperghis’ Rasch for soprano saxophone andviola is almost conceptual in its difficulty;Muncy and violist Nadia Sirota give a meticulousreading, although I wish the gestures andThis has been a bumper fewmonths for string quartetCDs, with some outstandingissues from several world-classensembles.Britain’s Brodsky Quartet addsanother winner to its alreadyextensive discography with NewWorld Quartets (Chandos CHAN 10801).The main works on the disc areDvořák’s String Quartet Op.96(“American”) and SamuelBarber’s String Quartet Op.11,best known for its slow movementthat later became his Adagiofor Strings; it remains extremelyeffective in its original version. Theshorter works are Gershwin’sLullaby, Copland’s Two Piecesand the Hoe-Down from Rodeo(here in a transcription by two ofthe Brodsky members) and DaveBrubeck’s Regret, a hauntinglybeautiful piece presented herein an arrangement that the classicallytrained Brubeck preparedspecifically for the Brodsky Quartet.Everything on this CD simply glows: theplaying is warm, radiant and expressive, andthe balance and sound quality are ideal.The latest CD from the Jerusalem Quartetcelebrates the Czech national school, with thefirst – and best known – of Bedřich Smetana’stwo quartets, the String Quartet in E minor“From My Life,” and both quartets by hisspiritual heir Leoš Janáček (harmonia mundiHMC 902178).The players take a thoughtful, carefullymeasured approach to the Smetana, with asteady underlying rhythm and a wide range ofdynamics. Overall, though, the result seemsTERRY ROBBINSStrings Attached continues at thewholenote.com with newviolin discs featuring Laurent Korcia (Mister Paganini),Orsolya Korcsolan (Korngold and Goldmark) andTianwa Yang (Sarasate), plus Beethoven Piano Trioswith Alexander Melnikov, Isabelle Faust and Jean-GuihenQueyras and cello music of Hindemith performed bySébastien Hurtaud.more controlled thanrhapsodic; there’s noreal outburst of joy andexhilaration at the startof the second movement,and little senseof desolation at theend of the finale.The two Janáček quartets,however – subtitledthe “Kreutzer Sonata”and “Intimate Pages”– are worth the priceof the CD on theirown, the JerusalemQuartet capturingthe wide emotional rangeand almost improvisatoryrhythms of this astonishinglypersonal and achingly beautifulmusic in stunning performances.Another British ensemble,the Dante Quartet, is nowapproaching its 20th year. Theirlatest CD on the Hyperion labelis devoted to the music of theHungarian composer Zoltán Kodály, andfeatures the String Quartets Nos.1 & 2 and theIntermezzo for String Trio, all three worksdating from the first 18 years of the 20thcentury (CDA67999). The very short Gavottefrom 1952 completes the CD.The quartets in particular are wonderfulworks, and the Dante Quartet displays a reallyterrific feel for this music in highly idiomaticperformances.The excellent booklet notes for the DanteCD stress the close relationship betweenKodály and his friend and compatriot BélaBartók, and the Alexander String Quartettake things to the logical conclusion withtheir 3-CD set of the Complete StringQuartets of Bartók and Kodály (FoghornClassics CD2009).Again, the Kodály works receiveoutstanding performances, with possibly evenmore depth in the slow movements than inthe Dante recording.The Bartók quartets are of anequally high standard, with arefined and polished feel to them,although the tougher, abrasivemoments never lose their edge. Allin all, a marvellous set, especiallyat the mid-range price.I’ve probably received half a dozendifferent 2-CD sets of the BachSuites for Solo Cello over the pastthree or four years, and I alwaysfind them difficult to review. It’snot simply the sheer amount ofmusic and its emotional and intellectualrange and depth, but thealmost limitless possibilities forphrasing, bowing, interpretation,ornamentation, tempo choice, style,tone and vibrato use available to the soloist.No two sets are ever the same, and there areso many available that to try comparisonreviews would be almost impossible. All youcan really do is give prospective listenerssome idea of what to expect. After that, it justcomes down to personal taste.Rachel Mercer’s new release onthe Pipistrelle label (PIP1403) is herSeptember 2011 recording from Walter Hall ofthe Suites on the 1696 Bonjour Stradivariuscello, which was on loan to her from theCanada Council from 2009 to 2012. Mercerfelt an immediate affinity with the instrument,and began performing the Suites onit as often as possible. It certainly has a big,strong sound, with a good deal of bite thatsounds almost rough in places. Mercer’sapproach is quite slow and introspective,although the dance movements havea nice line, and it’s clearly a very personaljourney for her.56 | March 1 – April 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

pauses were more erratic. Donatoni’s Hot hasbecome the most popular chamber concertofor saxophone and “jazz” ensemble. Muncyand Dal Niente perform this difficult scorewith ease, although the saxophone couldbe more present and wild in this concertantework.Throughout the recording, Muncy showshis sensitivity and skill in works featuringinstruments that the saxophone wouldnormally overpower. In Refrain from Riffingby Anthony Cheung, the alto saxophonesweeps and quivers microtonally in tandemwith the harp. Marcos Balter’s Strohbass, inwhich the bass flute acts as resonance for thesubtle key clicks of the baritone saxophone, isso skillful and almost electroacoustic.It would be wrong not to mention TheLast Leaf, the commission from establishedIsraeli-born Harvard Professor, ChayaChernowin, for sopranino (!) saxophone,highlighting the plethora of extended saxophonetechniques that Muncy executeseffortlessly.Wallace Halladay100 namesRebekah HellerTundra Records 001Americanbassoonist RebekahHeller is a respectedperformer in bothclassical and contemporarymusic styles,and a core memberof the U.S.-basedInternational Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).In her debut solo release on ICE’s own Tundralabel, Heller performs with a sweet tone,precise attack and colourful phrases in sixrecent compositions written for her.She is especially original in her wittymusical repartees to the electroacoustic tapes,feedback effects and live processing. The gutwrenchingdistortion and percussive bassoonmake the opening track by Edgar Guzmanloud and in-your-face memorable. Thoughmore tape effects provide colourful backdropsto the bassoon in works by MarceloToledo and the bonus track by Du Yun,these are no match for the superb compositionOn speaking a hundred names byNathan Davis. This strong composition forbassoon and live processing is a showpiecefor Heller’s sensitive interpretation and enviablebreath control. The bassoon solo Callingby Dai Fujikura is a microtonal outing thatdemonstrates her strength as a soloist. Notonly can Heller play the bassoon, she canfearlessly speak the text of Gertrude Stein’sTender Buttons and play percussion too inthe moving work …and also a fountain byMarcos Balter.100 names features a wide breadth ofextended bassoon techniques, all performedbeautifully, and sure to be enjoyed by newmusic lovers. Rebekah Heller needs to becongratulated for her dedication to thebassoon, and her ability to inspire composers.Tiina KiikTrade WindsTiresius Duo (Mark Takeshi McGregor;Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa)Redshift Records TK428 (redshiftmusic.org)Having reviewedMark TakeshiMcGregor’s CD offlute ensemble music,Different Stones backin November 2009,and now his mostrecent 2CD set, TradeWinds, I can saywith conviction that I think he is a nationaltreasure! It is not only that he is a great flutistand a truly engaging performer. I heard hisrecital at the Canadian Flute Associationconvention in June – it was truly memorable,not only because of his rapport withcontemporary repertoire but also because hehas a nose for that je ne sais quoi that makesa work a good piece of music. His choiceof repertoire, and there is a lot of it – closeto two hours – is unerringly good. The factthat the field was narrowed by limiting it tocomposers with some sort of connection withJapan makes his accomplishment even moreremarkable.There are discoveries here such as KaraGibbs, whose Untitled Scenes covers thegamut from playful to meditative and serene;the flute sonata by Vancouver composer,Christopher Kovarik, reveals a uniquecompositional voice, forged through the studyof Bach, Prokofiev and Shostakovich; andI was taken completely by surprise by thethree works for solo flute by Paul Douglas, aflutist as well as a composer, and McGregor’steacher at UBC. Elliot Weisgarber was anotherCanadian composer I had never heard of. Aclarinetist in the late 1960s, he spent threeyears in Japan, where he learned to play theshakuhachi. His Miyako Sketches, to meanyway, reveals a thorough absorption ofthe Japanese musical tradition convincinglytransferred to the western tradition.I would be remiss not to mention RachelKiyo Iwaasa, whose superb ease and sensitivityas McGregor’s collaborator on thepiano contribute substantially to the project.Canadian flutists, get this CD and then getthe music performed on it and make it part ofyour repertoire! Everyone else, get it and startmarvelling at the quality of the music of ourcomposers.Allan PulkerJörg Widmann – Violin Concerto; Antiphon;Insel der SirenenChristian Tetzlaff; Swedish RSO; DanielHardingOndine ODE 1215-2Orchestral works by contemporary Germancomposer Jörg Widmann (b. 1973) receivefine readings here.Widmann is a virtuosoclarinetist who understandsthe orchestra’snewer sonic resourcesand has a performer’ssense of the dramatic.The title of ChristophSchlüren’s liner notes,Hedonism of Danger, indicates anotheraspect of this composer’s voice.The one-movement Violin Concerto (2007)has roots from the later 20th century Germanneo-Expressionists back to Alban Berg.Overall the work is the antithesis of “cool” –the violin writing is intense with broad lyricalgestures and sharp contrasts. Tetzlaff’s toneis rich in the lower registers; harmonics areethereal and intonation reliable. Harding’sorchestra stays sonorous in extreme registers,never submerging the soloist’s voice in itsnatural soundscape.I particularly like Insel der Sirenen (Islandof the Sirens) of 1997 for violin and 19strings. It re-imagines the episode in Homer’sOdyssey as experienced on a rickety boat inthe harsh seascape, with periodic squeaks,honks and rustling over tremolando waves.The solo violin “siren’s” vibrato is wide andglissandi wider; other sirens are high-pitchedand the atmosphere is menacing.Antiphon (2007-08) for full orchestra isthe most hard-edged and dissonant work.Abrupt, aggressive gestures such as sharpattacks and crescendi suggest a post-industrialworld where things are battered andtorn at. In both this and the preceding work,innovations of Schafer, Penderecki and Ligetiare excitingly transformed by and for a newgeneration in a new millennium.Roger KnoxConcert Note: Widmann is featured ascomposer, conductor and clarinetist whenNew Music Concerts presents ”A Portraitof Jörg Widmann” on April 18 at the BettyOliphant Theatre.JAZZ AND IMPROVISEDRed ShadowsBill CliftonCliftone Records CT 1667 (billcliftonpiano.com)Toronto-born BillClifton is hardly ahousehold namebut at a time whensome pianists wereexploring a moremodern approachto their playingusing advancedharmonics, Clifton was one of them.Oscar Peterson, in his autobiography AJazz Odyssey, makes mention of Clifton,describing his playing as “noticeably introspective,having an intuitive, languidthewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2014 | 57

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