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Volume 19 Issue 9 - June/July/August 2014

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ecognition and more

ecognition and more frequent performance.Ewer and Lamotte display an obvious fondnessfor this repertoire and take great careto bring out the expressiveness and line ineach of these delightful sonatas. My oneminor wish is that they might have occasionallymade a more extreme tempo choice,either on the fast or slow side of the equation.That being said, their performances arepoised, elegant and full of colour, contrastand life. It was a pleasant surprise to readthe informative program notes by Montreal’sMatthias Maute.Larry BeckwithTelemann – MiriwaysMarkus Volpert; Ulrika Hofbauer; L’OrfeoBarockorchester; Michi GaiggCPO 777 752-2The Opera Housein Hamburg, the firstpublic opera house inthe German-speakingworld, opened in 1678.The operas it stagedwere in German,although they sometimesincluded Italianarias. Initially the major composer wasReinhold Keiser; later younger composerslike Handel and Johann Mattheson gainedtheir start in Hamburg. Telemann settledin Hamburg in 1721. He soon became thedirector of the company and wrote manyoperas for it. Most Hamburg operas dealt withmythology or ancient history but occasionallymore topical subjects were introduced:Keiser wrote Masaniello Furioso in 1706; itssubject was the 1647 Neapolitan revolt againstthe Spanish rulers of the city. Matthesonwrote an opera about Boris Godunov in1710. Telemann’s 1728 Miriways was moretopical than either. Its main character is aPashtun emir from Kandahar, who, supposedly,defeated the Persians and conqueredIsfahan in 1709.Although the opera is in German, it is basedon the Italian opera seria pattern with elaborateda capo arias. There is some interestingexperimentation: in the first act the PersianNisibis sings an aria, in which she invokessleep, and appropriately falls asleep in themiddle, in the B section, on the dominant!An oriental colouring is provided by thebrilliant and taxing parts for the corni dacaccia. In this performance recorded live inTheatre Magdeburg the opera is well sungand well played. Magdeburg was Telemann’shome town and the Magdeburg theatre iscommitted to performing all his works.Telemann’s operas are not well known andthis lively (and live) performance can bewholeheartedly welcomed.Hans de GrootHandel – TamerlanoXavier Sabata; Max Emanuel Cenčić; JohnMark Ainsley; Karina Gauvin; RuxandraDonose; Pavel Kudinov; Il Pomo D’Oro;Riccardo MinasiNaïve V 5373The story of Tamerlano, or Timur the Lame,and his victory over the Ottoman sultanBajazet providedperfect fodder for theoperas of Baroque’sgreatest masters(Handel and Vivaldi),as well as a slew oflesser composers,Gasparini amongstthem. The peasant who rose to rule most ofAsia, from Anatolia to northern India, andclaimed to be a descendant of Genghis Khan,was essentially a 15th-century version ofAlexander the Great. His defeat of theOttoman Empire offered Europe a 50-yearbreather from a war on its eastern flank. Hisimprisonment and killing of Bajazet wasalready being used in Great Britain as a politicalmetaphor for the struggle against thehouse of Stuart and plays on the theme werestaged in early November of each year beforeHandel wrote his opera. In 1724, at itspremiere, Tamerlano was joined by two otherplays on the subject. It proved to be one ofHandel’s great successes, in no small partbecause of numerous, brilliant arias and thedramatic tension of Bajazet’s suicide. In thisrecording, as in most if not all Naïve productions(the label is famous for recording all ofthe works by Vivaldi), the playing is meticulousand the voices… The voices are, to befrank, fantastic! If we only had such anensemble in the recent COC production ofHercules! Karina Gauvin astounds with herongoing vocal development, and Sabata andCenčić are both delightful discoveries for thisreviewer. Bravi!Robert TomasBach – Six Partitas from Clavier-Übung I(1731)Rafael PuyanaSanCtuS SCS-027-028-029(sanctusrecordings.com)Lavish is an understatementwhen itcomes to describingthe cover and bookletfor this interpretationby the late RafaelPuyana of these sixpartitas. They are atribute to a breathtaking odyssey in whichhPuyana’s teacher Wanda Landowska firstsaw the three-manual harpsichord used inthis recording – back in 1900. The instrumentwas acquired and painstakingly restoredby Puyana, but not until 2013 was his 1985recording made public on these CDs.The very first Praeludium and Allemandeindicate the joy and pleasure that Bachdiscovered when composing the partitas.Indeed, the rural background of the allemandes,courantes and sarabandes found ineach of the partitas show how important thisprovenance was for Bach. This light qualityis shared by the writer of the sleeve notesregarding the allemande: “If it is treated asbeing in quadruple time, the player is obligedto take it more slowly, the end result beingfrankly soporific. Many contemporary harpsichordistshave bored us to death throughover-literal interpretations…” No suchanxieties here; listen to the gushing quality ofthe Giga or the Sinfonia which opens PartitaII, not to mention the heavenly quality of thelatter’s Sarabande. Its concluding Capriccio is“technically fiendish to master.”Partita III demonstrates both the speedof the Corrente [sic] and the slow, statelySarabande which immediately follows itin total contrast. The three last movements(Burlesca, Scherzo, Gigue) return the listenerto the demanding complexity of Bach’scomposition.Particularly testing (even in comparisonwith other partitas) is the overture toPartita IV, with its almost glissando effects.Everything else is sedate by comparison untilthe concluding Gigue places its own demandson Puyana’s skills. Partita V is far morespirited, as Praeludium, Gigue and Correntecontrast with the slower Sarabande.And finally Partita VI, starting with theonly Toccata in the collection, which culminatesin a complex and varied set of sequences.The subsequent movements are light butexpressive. All in all, the comment in thenotes is absolutely correct: Bach’s six partitaswere unprecedented in their virtuosity, lengthand intensity. They amazed contemporaryharpsichordists.Soporific and bored to death? Not withRafael Puyana’s interpretations.Michael SchwartzIn Translation – Selections from JS Bach’sCello SuitesAmy PorterEquilibrium EQ 124 (equilibri.com)What an audaciousundertaking, torecord J.S. Bach’s cellosuites played on theflute. Despite all wehear about composersof the Baroque eraencouraging musiciansto play their works oninstruments other than the ones for whichthey were written, these suites seem made forthe cello, and are indelibly associated withit, particularly because of their introductionto mainstream music-making in the 20thcentury by the legendary cellist, Pablo Casals.Since Casals, every cellist able to play them,including Rostropovich, Yo-Yo Ma and a hostof others have performed and recorded them.Outrageous as the undertaking may seem,Amy Porter almost pulls it off: she plays thePrelude of Suite 1, the Sarabande of Suite 2and the Prelude and Sarabande of Suite 4with an effortless, ethereal and contemplativeserenity, which to me works as well as76 | June 4, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

any number of interpretations by cellists. Hertechnical brilliance in the Prelude of Suite 6is striking, especially because she carries hervirtuosity lightly; it’s just what she does –no big deal.Where things don’t go so well is in thedances – the allemandes, courantes andgigues. Rostropovich plays these like dances,with great energy, vitality and forwardmotion. This is what Porter doesn’t do. Shestays in a contemplative frame of mind: whenthe music is crying out for dynamic physicalityit becomes static. While the morecontemplative movements are often exquisite,the rest is dragged down by dances thatdon’t dance.Allan PulkerCLASSICAL AND BEYONDBeethoven – Symphonies 1-4 & OverturesTafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; Bruno WeilTafelmusik TMK1023CD2 (tafelmusik.org)Toronto’sTafelmusik ensembleis nearing completionof their long-termBeethoven SymphonyProject with thisrelease of the firstfour symphonies ofBeethoven on their own independent d label,lwith only the Ninth yet to appear on disc.Tafelmusik, nominally considered a Baroqueensemble, is here expanded to roughly 40players with a larger string section, thoughthis added strength is attenuated by the useof gut strings and the total suppression ofvibrato. Bruno Weil, a longtime collaboratorwith the orchestra, draws a finely articulatedand transparent response from the rarely seenTafelmusik podium.The performances of the first twosymphonies (programmed on separate discs),though rich in detail, seem to take their timeto fully blossom. Surprisingly, the strikinglysubversive series of dominant chordsthat launches the First Symphony are tossedoff quite nonchalantly, though it graduallybecomes evident that Weil is a master of theslow burn. The subsequent Andante movementsof both works, though fleetly paced inaccordance with Beethoven’s after-the-factmetronome marks, in my opinion have a tediouslyconventional character that is difficultfor any conductor to overcome. All is put righthowever with a pair of powerful and scintillatingfinales.The renderings of the Third and FourthSymphonies can be recommended withoutqualification; both are superb throughout.The Third in particular (previously pairedwith Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphonyin an earlier release) has a rare sense ofurgency and spontaneity and offers manyoutstanding solo contributions; I was particularlyenchanted by the deliciously tangy pairof oboes and the brassy stopped tones of theViolinist Lynn Kuoand pianist MariannaHumetska have beenplaying as a duo since 2006,but Love: Innocence, Passion,Obsession is their self-issueddebut CD (LKCD0001lynnkuo.com). It’s promoted as“a musical exploration of love,from the sparks of passionto the throes of jealousy andheartbreak,” but I’m not sureif the recital program reallylives up to it.The main work on the CD isthe always-popular César FranckSonata in A Major, which isgiven a solid performance highlightedby Humetska’s expansiveand passionate keyboardwork. Astor Piazzolla’s Milongaen re is a short, hauntingpiece given a sensitive, tenderreading here. Michael Pepa’sFantaisie bohémienne lives upto its title, giving Kuo the opportunity toshine and to display a wide range of technicalskills in a bravura, almost improvisatorygypsy-flavoured fantasia. Nino Rota’sImprovviso en re minore is another short butpassionate offering.The final track is the Concert Fantasy onThemes from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess,Op.19 by the Russian violin virtuoso IgorFrolov, who died just last summer. It’s acolourful portrait that captures the range andpassion of one of Gershwin’s most popularworks, and gives Humetska in particular thechance once again to display the full power ofher technical and interpretive skills. Recordedin CBC Studio 211 in Toronto, the balance andsound quality are excellent.Unfortunately, there is no accompanyingbooklet: full notes are promised by visitingKuo’s web site, but at the moment there’snothing there about the works on the CD.The Montreal-born violinist FrédéricBednarz is joined by his wife, pianist NatsukiHiratsuka, in a CD of Sonatas for violin andpiano by Szymanowski and Shostakovich(Metis Islands Music MIM-0004 metisislands.com).Karol Szymanowski’s Sonatain D Minor, Op.9, is an early work from1904; it’s a traditional late-Romantic piecewith more than a passing reference to theFranck sonata, and is given a clear, thoughtfulreading by both players.The Shostakovich Sonata Op.134 is, bycontrast, a late work, written in 1968 forDavid Oistrakh’s 60th birthday; as with somuch late Shostakovich, it never seems toshake that all-pervasive sense of nervousapprehension, desolation and loss of hope.Again, the playing is sensitive and clear, withTERRY ROBBINSa particularly effective Largo, thethird and final movement whichis almost as long as the first twomovements put together. Therecould perhaps be a bit biggeremotional range in places – maybemore of a raw edge at times – butthese are beautifully balanced andsatisfying performances.The CD was recorded in McGillUniversity’s Music MultimediaRoom in Montreal, whereBednarz is a member of theMolinari String Quartet, thequartet in residence at theMontreal Conservatory.The English violinist SaraTrickey Tiis joined by her regularduo partner Daniel Tong in anoutstanding recital of SchubertSonatinas for violin and pianoon her latest Champs Hill CD(CHRCD080). The Callino Quartetaccompanies her in the Rondo in AMajor for Violin and Strings, D438.The sonatinas – D Major D384, A MinorD385 and G Minor D408 – are actually thefirst three of Schubert’s violin sonatas, andwere written in early 1816 when he was 19.They weren’t published until 1836, eightyears after Schubert’s death, when AntonDiabelli, who had purchased a large part ofSchubert’s musical estate from Schubert’sbrother Ferdinand, issued them as Sonatinasby Diabelli, their true identity remainingunknown for many years.Trickey has known these works for sometime – she says they have been “under myskin” ever since she first encountered them atthe age of 14 – and it shows. Her foreword tothe booklet makes clear that she understandsexactly what these sonatas are: she refers to“the joy mixed with frailty, the poignancy anddarkness which never quite subsumes a senseof hope” and to the “passing hints of almosteverything that is to come.”Trickey has a beautiful tone; it’s sweet,clear and pure, but never lacks a steely underlyingstrength when needed. Tong is an equalpartner in every respect.The Rondo, a more challenging workfrom 1816 presented here in its original formwith string quartet, rounds out a simplystunning CD.Strings Attached continues at thewholenote.comwith new releases by violinistsJennifer Koh (with Jaime Laredo) andViktoria Mullova.thewholenote.com June 4, 2014 – Sept 7, 2014 | 77

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