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Volume 19 Issue 7 - April 2014

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Beethoven – Symphonies

Beethoven – Symphonies 1 & 7Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal; KentNaganoAnalekta AN 2 9887Conductor KentNagano leadsthe OrchestreSymphonique deMontréal (OSM) inenergetic and technicallytight live performancesof BeethovenSymphonies Nos.1 and7 in this thought-provoking release.Symphony No.1 is an early work wherethe compositional influences of late Haydnare combined with Beethoven’s preciseand contrasting dynamics. In contrast, thelater Symphony No. 7 is a robust rhythmiccomposition, as the liner notes state, “thetheme of Joy in conjunction with that ofDance and dance rhythms arising fromphysical impulses consistently predominates.”Both works are given thorough and invigoratinginterpretations. The musical andensemble mastery of OSM is most evident inthe faster sections, where Nagano’s appropriatechoices of tempo create a sense ofurgency without a feeling of rushing the beat.The orchestra shines in these sections, and itis a joy to listen to such crisp performances.But it is the contrasts in dynamics thatmakes these performances stand out from thecrowd. Nagano and the OSM seem to trusteach other’s musical choices, as the louds,softs and in between volumes are succinct,colourful and result in energetically focusedperformances that are never exaggeratedfor effect.Each performance ends with justifiablerousing applause from the audience.Combined with clear production, this is arecording to listen to, contemplate and appreciateas Nagano and the OSM offer a fresh andmodern take on two Beethoven symphonicchestnuts!Tiina KiikMODERN AND CONTEMPORARYResolve – Hindemith masterworks forclarinetRichard Stoltzman; Various artistsNavona Records NV5934One has to thankRichard Stoltzman,dean of the clarinetin North America, forthis latest addition toa long list of recordings,in this instancea celebration of PaulHindemith’s clarinet music. Missing only theQuartet (1938), this disc features the Concerto(1947), the Sonata (1939) and the Quintetwith strings (1923, revised in 1954). The lastis the most curious of the lot, at times starklymodern and strange, reflecting the composer’searly experiments with form and tonality,at others oddly restrained. No clue if this is onaccount of the later revisions. Recorded twoand a half decades ago, it’s certainly fun tohear a younger Richard Stoltzman strut aboutwith the E-flat (piccolo) instrument in themiddle movement.It can be lonely work sticking up forHindemith among colleagues who championthe work of more adventurous composers.I love his music, its assured quality, itsexploration of the instruments’ possibilities,and okay yes, his adherence to a formof TONALITY! His writing for strings inthe quintet is masterful, recalling somewhatthe character of his ballet: The FourTemperaments. Tashi, the chamber groupco-founded by Stoltzman and Peter Serkin,plays with mad commitment. This is theearliest recording of the set, dating from 1988.He recorded the Concerto with the SlovakRadio Orchestra in 2003.Now in his early 70s, Mr. Stoltzman seemsnot ready to pack up his horn. The sonata wasrecorded just last year, with Yehudi Wyneron piano. If Stoltzman has lost some of hisbeautiful tonal focus over time, his ability toform la phrase juste has not diminished.This disc bears a dedication to the lategreat Keith Wilson, his (and my) onetimeprofessor at Yale. It’s a fitting tributeto both men.Max ChristieA Concert for New YorkEdmonton Symphony Orchestra; WilliamEddinsESO Live 2012-05-1 ( two-disc liverecording (from theWindspear Centre) ofthe program from theEdmonton SymphonyOrchestra’s CarnegieHall debut concert isan impressive package.It demonstrates the ESO’s remarkable growthand features works by its three composers-inresidenceto date, John Estacio, Allan Gillilandand Robert Rival, along with a rarely heardsymphony by Bohuslav Martinů. I recommendEstacio’s Triple Concerto for Violin,Cello and Piano (1997) with first-rate soloistsJuliette Kang, Denise Djokic and AngelaCheng. In brief, this might be described asneo-romanticism with mystical tendencies.Wonderful music.In his Symphony No.1 (1942) BohuslavMartinů melds elements of modernism, jazz,and Czech folk melody into his distinctiveneoclassical style. The large orchestra andprominent piano part add resonance, helpingavoid the spiky dryness of some neoclassicalworks. Strange ascending chromatic passagesseem to steam up from a chemist’s vat, andthere are premonitions of minimalism!William Eddins keeps everything balanced inan exciting performance.Robert Rival’s tender, slightly RavelianLullaby (2012) uses changing metres, ratherthan the triple time of cradle-rocking, toevoke walking and rocking his first child.Dreaming of the Masters III (2010) continuesAllan Gilliland’s concerto series referencingolder jazz styles. With Jens Lindemanas soloist on trumpet and flugelhorn, potentialfor virtuosity is realized and all involvedhave a great time. Ditto in the concert encore-- the “Mambo” from Bernstein’s West SideStory – where the ESO percussion add a“Wow!” factor.(Note: On my copy the recording’s volumeneeded to be cranked up considerably toreach normal listening levels.)Roger KnoxGlistening Pianos – Music by Alice Ping YeeHoDuo Piano 2X10Centrediscs CMCCD 19714There is a plethoraof exquisite auraldelights in this newrelease featuringthe music of HongKong-born Canadiancomposer AlicePing Yee Ho.As to be expectedfrom the Canadian Music Centre Centrediscslabel, the usual high production qualities, firstclass performance, musicianship and strongcompositions create a great listening experience.The five very distinct and contrastingpieces offer a superb cross section of styles,tonal sensibilities and musical forays, makingGlistening Pianos the perfect calling card forthe composer. Each work features the corepiano duo 2X10 – pianists Midori Koga andLydia Wong are powerhouse technicians whoboth easily jump through demanding technicaland musical hoops. Their expertise glistens,sparkles and glitters when they soundlike one piano in the more tonal opening titletrack while their keyboard conversations inAn Eastern Apparition reveal two distinct yinand yang musical beings. The closing trackHeart to Heart features a calmer etherealmood reminiscent of 19th century romanticpiano repertoire. Flutist Susan Hoeppner joinsthe duo in the emotive Chain of Being. Thereis just too much fun taking place in War!, afunky LOUD frolic, inspired by Ho’s daughterBo Wen Chan’s spoken lyrics, featuringpercussionist Adam Campbell, electronics.Only the omission of composition datesbeside the titles keeps the listener fromfully appreciating the development of Ho’sfirm grasp of writing for piano, from floridfast ascending and descending lines torhythmic marching backdrops and glisteningpiano timbres.Tiina Kiik74 | April 1 – May 7, 2014

Kitchen PartyDerek Charke; Mark AdamCentrediscs CMCCD 19814The idea behind thisCD is simple: give atheme to seven EastCoast composers andask them to writesomething four toten minutes long forflute and percussionand premiere theoutcomes at a traditional Nova Scotia kitchenparty for 70 guests. The flute-percussion duocomprises “extended techniques” specialistflutist Derek Charke and “veteran of virtuallyevery percussion genre,” Mark Adam, nowboth music professors at Acadia Universityin Wolfville. The composers may all be fromNova Scotia but their music is from all overthe map (in a good way!).Redundancy is out and originality isin; everyone has something different andinteresting to say.There is, as one would hope, lots ofextended flute technique – whistles,harmonics, multiphonics, pops and buzzes,as in some of the variations in Charke’scontribution, ‘Reel’ Variations on a Jig andJim O’Leary’s Music for Amplified Bass Fluteand Drum Set.There is also lots of very contemporarymelodic writing as in John Plant’s Capriccio,in which the forward momentum of themarimba’s arpeggiated ostinato is matched bythe flute’s equally dynamic melody line, andeven a toe-tapping jig in Charke’s piece. Andthen there are the fascinating rhythms, as inAnthony Genge’s Third Duo, Jeff Hennessy’sBalor’s Flute and Robert Bauer’s CaféAntiqua. Yes, there is even some Japaneseinspiredmusic in Charke’s improvisation,recorded live at the kitchen party.So you don’t think you like contemporarymusic? Think again!Allan PulkerJAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSICThe Big PictureDavid KrakauerTable Pounding TDR 002 davidkrakauer.comAnti-Semitism orapproval is behindthe oft-repeatedcanard that “Jewsrun Hollywood,“ butcertainly no one candeny the influenceproducers, directors,writers and composers of Jewish backgroundhave had on the history of cinema.Clarinetist David Krakauer pays tribute toHollywood’s Semitic tinge on The Big Pictureperforming a dozen songs from films whoseactors, director, composer or themes reflectJewish topics. Considering that the moviesrange from Sophie’s Choice to The ProducersSomething in the AirA New Take on Standards – Jazz and OtherwiseSince jazz’s beginnings, the measureof a musician’s talent hasnot only been how wellthe person improvises, but alsohow he or she interprets standards.In the 21st century a standardsong has evolved past its TinPan Alley origins, plus distinctivepurely jazz compositions haveentered the canon. But whilemore conservative playerstreat standards as immutable,the CDs here are noteworthybecause their creatorsdistinctively re-imaginestandards.In an exercise that’sbreathtakingly difficult,drummer Tom Rainey and hisquintet take a collection of hyper-familiartunes and upend them in such a way thatit sounds as if they’re being played for thefirst time. Rainey, plus Canadian pianist KrisDavis, bassist Drew Gress, trumpeter RalphAlessi and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, turnObbligato (Intakt Records CD 227 a showcase for new ideas.Starting with the hoary Just in Time, the fivecannily layer dissonant variations onto thebasic theme before conjuring up the head.These restructurings take in songs by DukeEllington, Dave Brubeck, Jerome Kern andJule Styne among others. Secret Love, forexample is given a sharpened, stop-timetreatment, with an extended octave-jumpingsolo from Laubrock, decorated with smearedtriplets from Alessi. Meanwhile whinnyingKEN WAXMANbrass and cymbal swishes back upsteady vamping on You Don’t KnowWhat Love Is until the pressurizedtorque explodes into the mutedmelody. With sophisticated timing,Davis shows her skills by pluckingthe recognizable melody ofReflections, while the saxophonistis constructing a related buoyanttheme outof pinpointed smears and rests.Most extraordinarily, before the trumpetercreates a quivering impressionisticvariant of Prelude to a Kiss, Raineyvalidates his percussion refinement,with one of his few solos. Puttingin motion many parts of his kit, hemoves the narrative forward withoutturning to bombast.Another variation on this themeis interpreting another musician’scompositions while seamlessly adding yourown themes in a similar style. That’s whatAmerican trumpeter Dave Douglas andMontreal reedist Chet Doxas do on Riverside(Greenleaf Music GLM 1036 salute to the music of influentialclarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, the quartet,filled out by electric bassist Steve Swallow anddrummer Jim Doxas, Chet’s brother, performstracks from this CD at The Rex on April 19.Although New Englander Douglas andQuebecer Doxas come from dissimilar backgroundsthan Texas-born Giuffre, their originalsreflect the same sort of Southwesternspaciousness in which the clarinetist’s triosspecialized. Their sophisticated transformationsare substantiated by slotting Douglasand Doxas tunes near Giuffre’s. Maintaininga loping swing throughout, the quartet alsoredefines a Giuffre standard like The Trainand the River by carving out parts for drumsand trumpet, unlike the original. Making themelody speedier and hard hitting doesn’tdestroy its fragile beauty though. Canteringalong via the drummer’s clip-clops andSwallow’s guitar-like plucks, Douglas’ FrontYard attains the same easy swing in whichGiuffre specialized, harmonizing his mutedtrumpet and Doxas’ chalumeau clarinet.Doxas’ extended Sing on the Mountain/Northern Miner reflects his command ofthe moderato idiom as well, as contrapuntaltrumpet tones and leisurely tenor sax slursintertwine. Nonetheless, the quartet’s originalityis confirmed with Douglas’ Backyard,a vamping blues line. While Douglas’ brassytongue slurps and the drummer’s rappingbackbeat create a tune much weightier thananything by Giuffre, its contrapuntal call-andresponseorganization maintains the mood.To read dhow Dutch pianistMichiel Braam, the Dutch-American groupThe Whammies and the French-German bandDie Hochstapler reinterpret standards seethe continuation of this column at April 1 – May 7, 2014 | 75

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