8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 2 - October 2014

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  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • November
  • Concerts
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Includes the 2014 Blue Pages Member Directory

Ihave not often

Ihave not often experienced epiphaniesin this life. The first I remember was asa teenager on a family holiday whichtook us to Washington, D.C. and includeda visit to the National Gallery of Art where,wandering off on my own, I turned a cornerand found myself face to face with SalvadorDali’s The Sacrament of the Last Supper.That was a profoundly moving moment andall at once I understood what was meantby the term masterpiece. That would havebeen in the late 1960s. The next came in1984 while attending the finals of the CBCNational Radio Competition for YoungComposers. That year the only prize awardedin the electronic music category went to PaulDolden for The Melting Voice Through MazesRunning. Although this extremely dense anddynamically intense work drove a numberof people from the hall with fingers pluggingtheir ears, I was enraptured by its visceralpower. It was that work which inspired meto commission radiophonic works for myprogram Transfigured Night (1984-1991) atCKLN-FM. With the assistance of the OntarioArts Council and later the Canada Council Iwas able to commission a dozen composers,beginning with Dolden who produced Caughtin an Octagon of Unaccustomed Light whichwent on to win the Third Prize of the LuigiRussolo International Competition (Varese,Italy 1988).Some 30 years later Dolden is still atit, honing his technique which involvesrecording and layering hundreds of tracksof instrumental and vocal sounds, and morerecently including field recordings – cicadas,grasshoppers and crickets in the currentinstance – to create works of vast soniccomplexity. The predominantly acousticnature of the sound sources – although thereis an extended electric guitar solo includedhere – is integral to his process which, whileusing technology to stack the layers, does notmanipulate the samples electronically therebyleaving the purity of sound intact. In essenceDolden, who plays most of the instrumentshimself, creates and conducts a vast orchestrawhich could not exist in the everyday world.Paul Dolden’s latest release, Who Has theBiggest Sound? (Starkland ST-220,includes two titles. The somewhattongue-in-cheek, or at least playfullyself-referential, title track which includesa narrator (Dolden) asking questions suchas “Who can play the fastest? Who has thedreamiest melodies? Who can talk faster:crickets or man?” was co-commissionedby Réseaux des arts médiatiques (Montreal)and Diapason Gallery (New York). Althoughthe narration seems a little condescendingand self-indulgent, the layered texturesDISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSthat constitute the bulk ofthe composition are incredibleto behold, or more accurately,behear.The companion piece, TheUn-Tempered Orchestra,commissioned by the SinusTon Festival (Germany), takesBach’s exploration of the equaltemperedtuning system in theWell-Tempered Klavier as itspoint of departure. WhereasBach demonstrated the viabilityof the then new symmetricaldivision of the octave into12 equal steps, Dolden’s intentionis to establish a “non-symmetricalbuilding which usesnon-tempered tuning systems,many of which have no octaves[…] to create a new musical spacewithin which Western and non-Western musical practices canco-exist […] a big modern multiculturalfamily.” He goes on to say“In order to construct this house, first I wrotesimple diatonic melodies and chord progressions.Then I recorded Eastern and Westernperformers reading these lines in their nativedialect or tuning system. With the aid ofnew technologies I edited all these performancesto fit under one symmetrical roof. […]Specifically we see our current Western [style]of playing reflected back to us and distortedby ancient musical tuning systems. Bycombining different musical languages andstyles we invert time: what is old becomesnew and vice versa. Please enjoy thesemoments of musical transcendence.” I knowI did, but buyer beware. These sounds are big,bold, brash and often abrasive, and listeningis not recommended for the timid.In brief:In 2012 renowned countertenor DanielTaylor, head of the Early Music departmentat the University of Toronto, founded theSchola Cantorum. In its first two seasonsthis ensemble has already achieved remarkablesuccess, appearing with the likes of theTallis Scholars (2012-2013) and the GabrieliConsort (2013-2014). The Heart’s Refuge,a recent Analekta recording (AN 2 9143),features both this choir and Taylor’s longestablishedTheatre of Early Music in vocalworks of Buxtehude, J.C. Bach, Kuhnau andBruhns as well as a short instrumental selectionby Schmelzer. Recorded at HumbercrestUnited in April 2013, the sound of the fivevocal soloists, 20-voice choir, strings andcontinuo is superb, with none of the purityand clarity of the period performance lost inthe natural resonance of the church’s gloriousacoustic. Concert note: On November 9 thechoir and orchestra of the Schola Cantorumand the Theatre of Early Music present “TheCoronation of King George II” under DanielTaylor’s direction at Trinity College Chapel.Beyond Shadows, the latest release fromVancouver’s Redshift Records (, features The Nu:BCCollective, an ensemble-in-residenceat the University of BritishColumbia comprised of flutistPaolo Bortolussi, cellist EricWilson and pianist Corey Hamm.The group is often supplementedby guest artists, including clarinetistCris Inguanti and percussionistBrian Nesselroad on thisrecording. The disc features existingworks by two Americans, DorothyChang (who currently teaches atUBC) and Marc Mellits, and piecescomposed specifically for theensemble by two Ontario-borncomposers who both now makeMontreal their home and teach atMcGill University, Brian Cherneyand Chris Paul Harman. Chang’stitle work, written in 2008 forthe Stoney Brook ContemporaryChamber Players, is for clarinet(s),cello, percussion and piano (withBortolussi conducting), is a busypiece which takes place predominantlyin the lower registers of the instrumentswith interesting textures and juxtapositions.Harman’s Doubling from 2007 adds clarinetto the core ensemble and as the title suggestsincorporates a lot of unison work in a playfulgame of tag. Mellits’ 11 Pieces for Flute andPiano (1992) explores a variety of moods asthe individual movement titles indicate: i.e.Persistent; Distraught; Languid, Frantic etc.The most recent work, and also the only oneto feature just flute, cello and piano, BrianCherney’s Twenty-Two Arguments for theSuspension of Disbelief (2010) is to my earthe most satisfying. Dark and probing, it goesbeyond the level of the other works which,accomplished though they are, lack the depthand introspection of Cherney’s polished gem.Moses Pergament – The Jewish Song(Caprice Reissue Series CAP 21834) wasrecorded live at the Stockholm Concert Hallin 1974 and originally issued on LP in 1976. Itfeatures vocal soloists Brigit Nordin and Sven-Olof Eliasson, the Stockholm PhilharmonicChoir and Royal Stockholm PhilharmonicOrchestra under the direction of JamesDePriest (who served as music director ofthe Orchestre Symphonique de Québec from1976 until 1983 and was Director Emeritusof Conducting and Orchestral Studies at theJuilliard School and Laureate Music Directorof the Oregon Symphony at the time of hisdeath last year). Pergament (1893-1977) wasborn in Finland of Lithuanian Jewish stock(the name Pergament, or vellum, came fromhis great-grandfather’s occupation, Torahscribe). He studied composition and violinin St. Petersburg and settled in Sweden in64 | October 1 - November 7, 2014

1915 where he became well knownas a music critic before establishinghimself as a composer. Themammoth cantata The Jewish Songfor vocal soloists, chorus and largeorchestra was composed in 1944on poems by Ragnar Josephsonin which “the skald (poet) singsof the Jewish people’s devotion to God, itspiety, its past, its heroism, its bravery,its trust and thankfulness forthe protection of the Lord.” Thestunning 75-minute work openswith Prelude: In Memoriam – adramatic wordless lament for thesix million Jews “who fell victim tothe cruelty of the Third Reich” andcontinues with settings of a dozenpoems culminating in a moving We ThankYou Lord. Pergament is sadly underrepresentedby recordings and this importantre-issue of the dramatic, uplifting and exhilaratinglyperformed work is a welcome additionto the catalogue.Through Time featuring bassoonist RuiLopes and the English Chamber Orchestra(Solo Musica SM 211 presentslittle-known works from thefirst half of the 20th centuryjuxtaposed with more familiarfare by Mozart and Vivaldi.Lopes is an acknowledgedmaster of the baroque andmodern bassoon and bothare heard to advantage here.The disc opens with a charmingPortuguese folk-based work byHeitor Villa-Lobos followed bythe playful Divertissement byJean Françaix originally scoredfor bassoon and string quintet,heard here in the worldpremiere of a string orchestraversion. The Bassoon Concerto in B-FlatK191 was composed at the age of 18 and wasMozart’s first concerto for a wind instrument.Written shortly after the Symphony No.29,like that work it represents an early exampleof the composer’s mature orchestral sound.Lopes contributes his own virtuosic cadenzas.The Vivaldi C-Major concerto is also virtuosic,ebullient and wonderfully melodic. Thedisc ends with Edward Elgar’s Romance forBassoon and Orchestra, Op.62, a lush workwhich brings me to my only criticism of thisotherwise flawless disc. In a way the Elgarbrings us full circle back into the early 20thcentury, but despite its warm and lyricalnature, on each listening I found it jarringafter the flamboyant Vivaldi. Perhaps it wouldwork better as an encore after a rousinground of applause to clear the palette, but inthe context of the disc I would have preferredthe journey “through time” to be linear ratherthan circular.David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comWe welcome your feedback and invitesubmissions. CDs and comments shouldbe sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote MediaInc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503– 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4.We also encourage you to visit our where you can find addedfeatures including direct links to performers,composers and record labels, and additional,expanded and archival reviews.VOCALVerdi & Wagner – The Odeonsplatz ConcertRolando Villazón; Thomas Hampson;Bayerischen RSO; Yannick Nézet-SéguinCmajor 716708Last July to celebratethe bicentennialsof Verdi and Wagner, ahuge outdoor concerttook place in Munich,the Bavarian capitalwith obvious connectionsto Wagner andhis royal patron,Ludwig II. The showwas held in Munich’sepicentre, the vastquasi-RenaissanceOdeonsplatz, under an arcaded loggia largeenough to house a full symphony orchestraand chorus. The loggia, full of allegoricalsymbols of German glory and guardedby two fierce-looking stone lions, was lit inglorious colours to suit the mood of each itemperformed.Curiously enough the two singing stars,tenor Rolando Villazón and baritone ThomasHampson, apart from some Massenet, sangmostly unknown and second rate Verdi (Iwould seriously question the inclusion of anaria from Il Corsaro, Verdi’s worst opera thateven the Maestro himself hated outright) andonly one Wagner, the Ode to the EveningStar from Tannhäuser beautifully sung byHampson and timed perfectly to coincidewith the evening shadows descending overthe square. In Verdi I felt the only majorsuccess for the soloists was the “Liberty” duetfrom Don Carlo. Even Massenet was betterrepresented.Fortunately the most resounding hits werethe orchestra and chorus with some of Verdi’sand Wagner’s finest choruses and overtures,led with aplomb by Montrealer andnow world-renowned conductor, YannickNézet-Séguin. His youthful exuberance wasinfectious and he brought out idiomaticand superbly pointed performances like therousing Entry of the Guests amplified by thewonderful natural acoustics so that it musthave been heard all over Munich. Electricitywas in the air and everybody noticeably sat upand listened, except perhaps for those morosestone lions.Janos GardonyiAndré Tchaikowsky – The Merchant ofVeniceAinslie; Bridges; Eröd; Gunz; Hofmann;Lewek; Stout; Workman; WienerSymphoniker; Erik NielsenUnitel Classica 2072708Re-discovery ofa forgotten operausually happens toobscure Baroque orBel Canto masterpieces,which forunfathomable reasonshave been gatheringdust in some mustyold library. Moreoften than not, theyenter standard repertoirefor a brief periodof revival, only to be forgotten again. Let’shope that fate will not befall The Merchantof Venice – an opera 30 years out of its time.Nearly produced by the English NationalOpera in 1984 two years after the composer’sdeath, this opera finally received its due at the2013 Bregenz Festival. The Festival’s artisticdirector, David Pountney, is a champion offorgotten composers and André Tchaikowsky,born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer inPoland, is definitely well deserving of suchre-discovery.Survivor of the Warsaw ghetto (which heescaped with an assumed “Christian” nameof Andrzej Czajkowski on his fake papers)and the communist rule, Tchaikowsky wasan acclaimed pianist. He placed amongstthe finalists of the 1955 Chopin PianoCompetition and 1956 Queen Elisabeth ofBelgium Competition. Despite those earlyaccolades, he decided to dedicate himselfto composition. His output, if not huge,is thoroughly engrossing; alas Merchantis the only opera. And what an opera –there is no doubting its dramatic bonafides:Tchaikowsky makes his own mark byimbuing Antonio with gay yearnings, absentin Shakespeare, and scoring the role for acountertenor. The Bregenz production castsChristopher Ainslie in that role, against theremarkable Adrian Eröd as Shylock.As a final irony, the composer got to centrestage before his work did – he willed his skullto the Royal Shakespeare Company to be usedin Hamlet as a prop. That acclaimed 2008production, filmed by the BBC, featured DavidTennant as the brooding prince and AndréTchaikowsky’s skull as Yorick.Robert TomasKenneth Fuchs – Falling ManRoderick Williams; London SymphonyOrchestra; JoAnn FallettaNaxos 8.559753It was through an accident of timing, ratherthan by design, that I got to hear the October 1 - November 7, 2014 | 65

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