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Volume 19 Issue 8 - May 2014

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Concerts
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Festival
Includes the 2014 Canary Pages directory of choirs.

Wiliford sings with

Wiliford sings with passion, power, andclear articulation in The Four Seasons, aneight-song cycle commissioned by the COCin memory of Richard Bradshaw. Set to anumber of British poems, it is a movingcollection rich in lyrical tonality, wordpainting, contrasting moods and subtleharmonic shifts. In Now Sleeps the CrimsonPetal, Wiliford is joined by soprano MireilleAsselin in a virtuosic duet. Asselin shines inthe song cycle title track Ash Roses. The attimes witty text of Canadian poet Tricia Postleis given a more atonal setting with vocalinterval leaps and shifting rhythmic pianoaccompaniment. Pianist Liz Upchurch isunbelievable in her accompaniments – thesedifficult piano parts sound effortless thanksto her awesome musicality and technique.Harpist Sanya Eng accompanies Wilifordadmirably in the intricate Three Songs forHigh Voice and Harp.Holman ends these compositions withsimple luscious resonating cadences leavingthe listener begging for more Canadianart songs.Tiina KiikEARLY MUSIC AND PERIOD PERFORMANCEThe Art of Melancholy – Songs by JohnDowlandIestyn Davies; Thomas DunfordHyperion CDA68007Half a century agoa countertenor wasstill seen as unusual,some would sayunnatural. There arenow a substantialnumber of countertenorsand I wouldrate Iestyn Daviesas one of the very best, judging from therecord under review and also from the recentrecording of Handel’s Belshazzar, in whichhe sings the role of Daniel. He has a strongand very even voice with an excellent senseof pitch. He has himself said that for him thefinest countertenor is Andreas Scholl and hehas commented on Scholl’s ability to create“a column of sound which doesn’t weakenand stays absolutely even.” The comment fitsDavies’ own singing.Melancholy was a common malady in early17th-century England. Think of Hamlet or ofJaques in As You Like It. It could become anaffectation and it was delightfully parodiedin Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour,in which a character calls for a stool to bemelancholy upon. Davies, however, believesstrongly that, for Dowland, melancholyis more than just a pose. That convictionaccounts for the passion which Davies bringsto the songs on this disc.Davies is ably accompanied by lutenistThomas Dunford, who also has five solos.They include The Frog Galliard, a performancewhich, for good measure, throws inGreensleeves as an excursion. Davies sangin Vancouver, Banff and Calgary a coupleof months ago. I hope we shall hear him inToronto soon.Hans de GrootTerra TremuitStudio de musique ancienne de Montréal;Christopher JacksonATMA ACD2 2653Several Renaissancecomposers dwell onthe subject of worldcatastrophe – thecataclysms, floods,epidemics that willlead to humanity’send. On thisdisc ChristopherJackson’s studio (40 years old this year) interpretsdoom-laden compositions by six suchcomposers.An all-too-short one-minute motet Terratremuit by William Byrd, with its sometimesclashing parts, sets the scene. AntoineBrumel’s five-movement Earthquake Massfor 12 voices follows, starting with a serene“Kyrie eleison” and a “Gloria” initially gentlebut where the discordant music finallyreflects the sinister nature of this compilation.It is certainly the case during Brumel’s“Sanctus, Benedictus”; his demands on thevocal abilities of the singers to change fromhigh to low, and to perform melodic leapsmust surely be intended to reflect the eventsof an earthquake.Then there are the composers whofollowed in the footsteps of Brumel. Vaetand Crecquillon, as employees at the courtof the emperor Charles V, saw first hand theterrors of absolute power; not surprisinglythey bring a mellow and melancholy richnessto their compositions – both are terrified asthey look to the last day and their judgment.More formal is Palestrina’s Terra tremuit. Thisdepicts the aftermath of the earth’s tremblingand the quiet that pertains as God risesin judgment.And if the sky does fall in, at least you willhave been warned well in advance by some ofthe greatest early composers.Michael SchwartzCLASSICAL AND BEYONDItalian MemoriesMauro BertoliIndependent (maurobertoli.com)Despite Italy’s longstandingreputationas a country ofvocal music, there isalso a keyboard traditiongoing back as faras Frescobaldi – andwhat better way ofsampling 300 yearsof Italian keyboard music than with this newrecording titled Italian Memories with pianistMauro Bertoli?Born in Brescia, Italy, Bertoli has establishedan international reputation within a fairlyshort time, having appeared in recital andas a soloist with numerous chamber ensemblesand orchestras throughout the world. Arecipient of the prestigious Giuseppe Sinopoliaward in 2006, Bertoli has been artist-inresidenceat Carleton University in Ottawasince 2009. Italian Memories is his fourthrecording, and one that clearly brings himback to his roots.The CD opens with four miniatures by threecomposers, Benedetto Marcello, Mattia Ventoand Domenico Paradisi. Bertoli’s playing iselegant and poised, easily demonstratinghow well music originally intended for harpsichordcan sound on a concert grand. Thename Muzio Clementi is a more familiar one– is there a piano student who hasn’t playedmusic by this Italian-born composer whospent most of his life in England and whosereputation rivalled that of Haydn? The twosonatas presented here are a delight, andBertoli makes ease of the sometimes breakneckspeed required of the performer. Acomplete change of pace comes with twobrief and languorous pieces by Martucci andthe Diario Indiano by Ferruccio Busoni, anhomage to Native American culture. The latteris a true study in contrasts where Bertoli’swonderful sense of tonal colour is juxtaposedwith a formidable technique.The final work is a true tour de force,music not by an Italian but by the 12- yearoldFranz Liszt – the Impromptu Brillianton Themes by Rossini and Spontini. Here,both Liszt and Bertoli pull out all the stopsin this flamboyant piece, thus rounding outa splendid program of music that deservesgreater exposure.Richard HaskellBrahms – String QuintetsTakács Quartet; Lawrence PowerHyperion CDA67900The string quintet,as an art form, offersingenious possibilitiesfor creatingunique harmonies andcolours, and Brahmstook full advantageof that. While he wasknown to have somedifficulties establishing the right mediumfor his creative ideas, with string quintets hehad found a perfect vehicle for expressing thedepth and uniqueness of his artistry. EdvardGrieg allowed for the same sentiments in oneof his letters: “How different the person wecall Brahms now suddenly appears to us! Nowfor the first time I see and feel how whole hewas both as an artist and as a human being.”In String Quintet in F Major, Op.88, wehear Brahms’ signature use of eighth notesagainst triplets enhanced by syncopation78 | May 1, 2014 – June 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

in the first movement. The second movementcombines the characteristics of twomovements by means of alternation, thusexpressing both dark colours that evokemystery and a light, pastoral character. Therhythmic energy of the closing movementgrants a boisterous mood to the fugal subject.The String Quintet in G Major, Op.111, openswith a grand, densely scored first movement,followed by two middle movements withmore alluring, dreamy melodies. The finalmovement follows the thread of different andat times surprising tonalities.The members of the Takács Quartet andLawrence Power present cohesive andthoughtful performances. They are equally atease expressing melancholy and introspectionas they are at bringing out the complexity ofBrahms’ writing. Their vibrato is so exquisitethat it makes every note meaningful. If youfind yourself in a mood for contemplation,this is a perfect recording for such moments.Ivana PopovicDvořák – Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op.104Alisa Weilerstein; Czech PhilharmonicOrchestra; Jirí BělohlávekDecca B0019765-02When we think of great cello concertosonly a handful come readily to mind, namelythose from the Romantic composers; Dvořák,Elgar, Schumann, Saint-Saëns, plus Prokofievand the two from Shostakovich. Of course,there are also these popular named works:Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, RichardStrauss’s Don Quixote,Bloch’s magnificentSchelomo. For theaverage music lover,the Dvořák and theElgar are most likelyto come to mind.Neither of the twowants for excellentrecorded performances from past and presentluminaries, but today’s artist to listen for isAlisa Weilerstein and she has recorded both(her EuroArts DVD and Decca CD recordingsof the Elgar were reviewed in these pagesin October 2011 and December 2012 respectively).From the moment of her entry in thefirst movement of the Dvořák we are awareJames Ehnes is back with a programof Russian music on his latest CD,Khachaturian/Shostakovich(ONYX 4121). Ehnes is joinedby the Melbourne SymphonyOrchestra under MarkWigglesworth in a solid performanceof the Khachaturian ViolinConcerto. The slow middlemovement is particularly lovelyhere, and the “Allegro vivace”final movement really sparkles.Recorded in the orchestra’sMelbourne concert hall, theviolin seems to be a bit far backin the balance at times, but theoverall sound is full and resonant.Shostakovich is represented bytwo works from his series of 15string quartets – the Quartet No.7in F Sharp Minor, Op.108 and theQuartet No.8 in C Minor, Op.110 –played here by the Ehnes Quartet,an ensemble formed in 2010 inwhich Ehnes himself is joined byviolinist Amy Schwarz Moretti,violist Richard O’Neill and cellistRobert deMaine. The quartets,both written in 1960, are highlypersonal in nature, with theOp.110 in particular being essentially autobiographical.Dedicated “To the Victimsof Fascism and War,” it quotes from six ofShostakovich’s earlier works and is dominatedby his signature monogram D-S-C-H, theGerman designation for the notes D, E flat, Cand B natural. It is a work that consistentlyreduced Shostakovich to tears, both in itscomposition and in performance. The playinghere is dynamic and thoughtful, althoughperhaps a bit too polished at times; theaching, yearning sense of melancholy, desolationand despair so essential to the Op.110 inTERRY ROBBINSparticular doesn’t always come through.Shostakovich’s influence is clearlyaudible in an outstanding 2-CDset of the music of MieczysławWeinberg (1919-1996), the Polish/Soviet composer who, withShostakovich’s help, settled inMoscow in the early 1940s. Thetwo composers shared a closefriendship and clearly influencedeach other. For manyyears Weinberg’s music has beenunjustly neglected, but that hasgradually been changing, withan ever-increasing number ofCDs exploring his extensive andhugely impressive output. Thislatest issue on the German ECMRecords label (ECM 2368/69)featuring Gidon Kremer and theKremerata Baltica makes a massive contributionto the growing appreciationof Weinberg’s music.Three of the works – theConcertino Op.42 for Violin andString Orchestra, the SonatinaOp.46 for Violin and Piano andthe String Trio Op.48 – are fromthe period 1948-50, when toeingthe Party line was more thanjust a sensible idea; Reading between themusical lines, the excellent booklet essay onWeinberg, refers to his being “under suspicionand shadowed day and night for fiveyears from 1948 to 1953.” Like so much Sovietmusic of the time, these works are immediatelyaccessible, but always with the sense ofadded meaning lurking beneath the surface.The two other works – the monumentaland towering Sonata No.3 Op.126 for SoloViolin from 1978, which Kremer rightlyputs on the same level as the Bartók sonata,and the Symphony No.10 Op.98 for StringOrchestra from 1968 – are from a periodwhen the mature composer clearly enjoyed agreater sense of freedom, both politically andmusically.It’s a quite stunning set, with theperformers outstanding in all respects.Kremer is as good as I’ve ever heard him, andthis is clearly music very close to his heart.Hyperion’s The Romantic ViolinConcerto Volume 15 features the music ofPolish composers Emil Młynarski (1870-1935) and Aleksander Zarzycki (1834-1895)(CDA67790). Młynarski enjoyed a hugelysuccessful international career as a violinist,conductor and composer, and is representedhere by his two violin concertos, No.1in D Minor Op.11 from 1897 and No.2 in DMajor Op.16 from 1916. The style is typicallylate Romantic, with echoes of Wieniawskiand Dvořák. The first concerto virtuallydisappeared after its initial success, andapparently remained unplayed until 2011. Thesecond concerto is clearly a more confidentand individual work that has stayed in therepertoire.Zarzycki was primarily a virtuoso pianistbefore concentrating on composition andteaching. His Introduction et Cracoviennein D Major Op.35 and Mazurka in G MajorOp.26 are both delightful virtuosic pieces.Violinist Eugene Ugorski is terrific, with a bigtone and a large and constant vibrato whichis perfectly suited to the style of these works.The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestraunder Michał Dworzyński provides excellentsupport.Strings Attached continuesat thewholenote.comwith Kreisler Violin Musicfeaturing British violinistJack Liebeck.thewholenote.com May 1, 2014 – June 7, 2014 | 79

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