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Volume 19 Issue 7 - April 2014

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choices in this

choices in this production, the music ofFranck and beautiful singing by Marc Laho asStradella make this disc a keeper.Robert TomasPoulenc – Stabat Mater; Sept Répons deTénèbresCarolyn Sampson; Cappella Amsterdam;Estonian National Symphony Orchestra;Daniel ReussHarmonia Mundi HMC 902149In the 1930s FrancisPoulenc started todisplay a more introspectivecharacterin his compositions.A period of soulsearchingafter thedeaths of two closeto him, his lover Raymonde Linossier andcomposer Pierre-Octave Ferroud, Poulencbegan to explore the religion he had once setaside, undertaking a pilgrimage and addingsacred music to his oeuvre. Highly personalized,the subsequent works seem to vacillatebetween two sides of the composer’slife, embodying both sublime reverence andworldly excess. His settings of Stabat Materand Sept Répons de Ténèbres were composedtwo decades later and represent the matureexpression of this dichotomy, breaking characterfrom the solemnity with expressions ofextreme emotional, sensual and even dancelikediversions. This is a challenging drama foran ensemble to undertake, to tackle Poulenc’spersonification of the sacred and express itin all its complexity. The flawless voicingsof Capella Amsterdam and the EstonianChamber Choir and superb musicianship ofthe Estonian National Symphony Orchestraled by Daniel Reuss produce a truly affectiveinterweaving of these seemingly diverseelements while the dulcet renderings ofsoprano Carolyn Sampson perfectly embodythe Marion essence.Dianne WellsHarrison Birtwistle – The Moth RequiemRoderick Williams; BBC Singers; NashEnsemble; Nicholas KokSignum Classics SIGCD368This fourth ofSignum’s seriesof composerledreleases withexquisite performancesby the BBCSingers is perfectlytimed to coincide withHarrison Birtwistle’s80th year. Though a mixture of recentand older compositions, this is a premiererecording for all works on the disc.The title piece is the most recent. TheMoth Requiem is composed for 12 femalevoices, alto flute and 3 harps. The beauty andtenuous life of the moth is explored througha text based on The Moth Poem by RobinBlaser, with the names of moth species, bothcommon and close to extinct, intertwinedthroughout. An eerie, shimmering fragility isperfectly evoked by the women’s voices whilethe music is crafted to portray a moth trappedinside a piano, touching the strings andbumping on the lid in its efforts to escape.This tenuous hold on life is mirroredthrough similar effect in Three Latin Motetsemployed as interludes for Birtwistle’s operaThe Last Supper. In The Ring Dance of theNazarene, Christ is alternately representedby the superb baritone Roderick Williamsand the chorus while an Iranian darbukadrum is employed to evoke the dance thatChrist performs for his disciples. On theSheer Threshold of the Night, is taken fromhis opera The Mask of Orpheus, a setting ofBoethius’ early Christian interpretation ofthe Orpheus myth, set underneath the motifof Orpheus and Eurydice calling out to eachother over the great divide between life andafterlife.Dianne WellsEARLY MUSIC AND PERIOD PERFORMANCEDoulce MémoireMargaret Little; Sylvain BergeronATMA ACD2 2685This CD explores thevariation techniqueknown as “diminutions,”a conceptmore commonlyknown as “divisions.”It is explained inthe accompanyingbooklet: “Diminutionswere made by dividing long notes of themelody into a series of shorter notes eithersurrounding the melody note or fillingup the interval between it and the nextmelody note.” Many of these were basedon madrigals, most famously Cipriano deRore’s Ancor che col partire. Here the artistshave chosen one set of variations, that byRicardo Rogniono. The title of the CD refersto a different madrigal, Doulce Mémoire, byPierre Sandrin. Here three sets of variationsare played: by François de Layolle, Diego Ortizand Vincenzo Bonizzi.Although there are only two players, therecital gives us many different textures: ofthe 17 tracks, seven are for treble viol andarchlute, six for bass viol and archlute, twofor solo treble viol and two for solo archlute.The material is largely based on variationson 16th century madrigals, but it is complementedby selections from John Playford’s1684 collection The Division Viol with its variationson popular English songs. No selectionof variations would be even half completewithout that most popular of songs, La Folia.Fittingly the CD ends with an anonymous setof variations based on that song.Throughout the CD viol player MargaretLittle and lutenist Sylvain Bergeron, aresuperb. I am always careful not to usesuperlatives too easily but these performancesare truly out of this world.Hans de GrootMeine Seele – German Sacred MusicMatthew White; Tempo Rubato; AlexanderWeimannATMA ACD2 2668As the CD’s bookletreminds us, musicwas very importantto Martin Luther. Itwas “a gift of God,”he wrote in 1530.It should be centralto education: “Ateacher must be ableto sing; if not, I don’t think he’s any use.”Luther’s views account, at least in part, forthe centrality of music in the Lutheran tradition.The tradition culminated with JohannSebastian Bach, but he was able to build on atleast a century of earlier music.This recording begins with an early cantataby Bach (Widerstehe doch der Sünde) butthen moves back into the 17th century(Heinrich Schütz, Franz Tunder, JohannRosenmüller, Johann Michael Bach, ChristophBernhard). It then returns to the early 18thcentury with the final work, a cantata byPhilipp Heinrich Erlebach. The vocal worksare complemented by instrumental pieces: asinfonia by Tunder, extracts from a suite byErlebach, a passacaglia for organ by GeorgMuffat and a set of dances by Rosenmüller.J.S. Bach, Schütz and Rosenmüller arethe only composers here who are at all wellknown today. It is good to hear the religiousmusic of other German composers of theEarly Baroque, especially when sung by thecountertenor Matthew White, who is a fineinterpreter of this music. We used to hearhim often in Toronto, with Tafelmusik or theToronto Consort. Now his work centres onMontreal and Vancouver. I hope he will comeback soon.Hans de GrootCLASSICAL AND BEYONDMozart – Piano Concertos 12 & 13Karin Kei Nagano; Cecilia String QuartetAnalekta AN 2 8765Mozart – Piano Concertos 13 & 14Janina Fialkowska; Chamber Players ofCanadaATMA ACD2 2532The piano concertos featured on thesetwo recordings may not be largely knownto most audiences. After all, Mozart wrote27 piano concertos and many later onesappear to be more dazzling and exciting.However, concertos Nos.12, 13 and 14 were72 | April 1 – May 7, 2014

written at the timewhen Mozart himselfentered a very prosperousand excitingstage in his life; hehad just moved toVienna, thus acquiringmore independencefrom his father,married Constanze Weber, and began developingentrepreneurial spirit by generatingrevenue from public performancesand sales of his new compositions. Thesepiano concertos, written in 1782 (Nos.12 and13) and in 1784 (No.14), reflect the forwardmomentum of Mozart’s life as well as somenostalgic elements and a subtle homage toJohann Christian Bach and Joseph Haydnin the middle movements. In an attempt topromote his work, Mozart wrote two versionsof these concertos:the orchestral version(strings and woodwinds),meant forconcert halls, and thechamber one, makingthem more accessibleto amateur musicians.It is the moreintimate, “a quattro” version that is presentedon both recordings. The absence of the hornsis arguably bothersome to some but it is myopinion that the chamber rendition offersnuance and clarity in phrasing that otherwisemay not be heard and works just aswell. Pianist Karin Kei Nagano and the CeciliaString Quartet dive into the intimate texturesand colours by emphasizing the simplicity ofMozart’s music. Cecilia Quartet uses vibratowith the clear intention of enhancing thesound, making the phrasing appear fresh andexciting at times. Karin Kei Nagano bringsyouthfulness and certain sweetness to herinterpretation – her notes are light, spiritedand virtuosic in a very natural way.The Chamber Players of Canada and JaninaFialkowska included the double bass in thestring ensemble thus achieving a warmeroverall sound. Fialkowska’s playing is fierceat times yet wonderfully lyrical. She doesnot shy away from darker piano colours inthe concertos but emphasizes innocenceand brightness in Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman.The string ensemble playing is intense andelegant. Eine kleine Nachtmusik has a reputationof being the party piece in the classicalmusic world – the Chamber Players of Canadaclearly enjoyed playing it and they did so witha high degree of stylishness.Ivana PopovichAngèle Dubeau and La Pietà are backwith another CD of shortcontemporary works onBLANC (Analekta AN 2 8737), adisc very similar to her Silence,on joue! CD from two years ago.That the approach seems to workso much better this time is almostcertainly due to the fact thatBLANC celebrates Dubeau’s return after ayear spent battling cancer. In thebooklet notes, Dubeau says thatduring her battle, music broughther “comfort, tranquility andsometimes, an essential escape.”The album is the story of her fightagainst illness, and how she “…serenely, came out of it stronger.”Perhaps not surprisingly, then,there is much more of a sense ofprogram here, plus a real feelingof emotional involvement – and,indeed, of serenity and strength.There are 14 tracks on the CD, withOsvaldo Golijov’s Close Your Eyes,Adrian Munsey’s The DistanceBetween and Marjan Mozetich’s “UnfoldingSky,” from his Postcards from the Sky,sounding particularly beautiful. Cat Stevens’Morning Has Broken and Mark O’Connor’sAppalachian Waltz are presented in lovelyarrangements; there are two pieces by DaveBrubeck and one by Ennio Morricone. Alsorepresented are Garry Schyman, Joe Hisaishi,François Dompierre, Ryuichi Sakamoto andShawn Phillips.Recorded at McGill University’s SchulichSchool of Music last November, the soundquality is warm and resonant. Part ofthe proceeds from sales of the CD willgo to support the Quebec Breast CancerFoundation.TERRY ROBBINSToronto Symphony Orchestra concertmasterJonathan Crow is joinedby pianist Paul Stewart onProkofiev’s Works for Violin andPiano, his latest CD on the ATMAClassique label (ACD2 2535). Therecording was made in April 2008,though, when Crow was stillconcertmaster of the OrchestreSymphonique de Montréal. Thethreeworks here – the Sonatas forViolin and Piano No.1 in F MinorandNo.2 in D Major and the FiveMelodies – were all also featuredon the recent 2-CD release ofProkofiev’s complete worksfor violin by James Ehnes,reviewed in this column just twomonths ago.There is a warmth and clarityto Crow’s playing, as well as anice range of tonal colour. TheSonata No.1 in F Minor, by farthe major work on the disc, isgiven a powerful reading, andthe D major sonata, a transcriptionof Prokofiev’s light-hearted FluteSonata, showcases the brightness of Crow’splaying. Stewart is an excellent partner, andthere is strong but sensitive playing from bothperformers throughout an excellent disc.The recording was made in the acousticallysuperb Salle Françoys-Bernier hall atDomaine Forget in Saint-Irénée, Québec.Several of the CDs in the outstandingHyperion series Romantic Violin Concertos –currently at Volume 15 – have been reviewedin previous editions of this column, butVolume 4 in the companion Romantic CelloConcerto series is the first I have received; itfeatures concertos by the German composerHans Pfitzner, who lived from 1869 to 1949(CDA67906).I have long known Pfitzner’s name inconnection with his opera Palestrina, thework for which he is still mostly remembered,but it occurred to me that I couldn’t recallever actually having heard any of his music.And what a loss that turns out to be, if theworks on this revelatory CD are anything togo by. Pfitzner wrote three cello concertos: theConcerto in A Minor, Op.posth., is a studentwork from 1888 that was not performed inpublic until 1977; the Concertos in G major,Op.42 and A minor, Op.52, date from 1935and 1943 respectively.Don’t be put off by Pfitzner’s stern, dourface in his photographs: his music is firmlyin the German late Romantic tradition ofBrahms, Bruch and Humperdinck, and itreally is gorgeous stuff – warm, rich, melodic,finely crafted, beautifully orchestrated, givingthe soloist ample opportunity to display theinstrument’s range and character.The German cellist Alban Gerhardt is inhis element here, and gets wonderful supportfrom the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlinunder Sebastien Weigle. Violinist GerganaGergova joins Gerhardt for the Duo Op.43for Violin, Cello and Small Orchestra, adelightful work from 1937 that brings amarvellous and beautifully-recorded ly CDto a close.Strings Attachedcontinues at thewholenote.comwith twoother terrific HyperionCDs featuring StevenIsserlis and Robert Levin(Beethoven) and theLeonore Piano Trio(Arensky), plus a discby violinist Ning Feng(Bruch and Tchaikovsky)and the second instalmentof string quartetsby Rued Langgaard(Nightingale Quartet) April 1 – May 7, 2014 | 73

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