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Volume 20 Issue 2 - October 2014

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • November
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
Includes the 2014 Blue Pages Member Directory

Old Wine, New Bottles |

Old Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedBRUCE SURTEESIt seems that every record company ofstanding is issuing packages of discsselected from their vaults of worthwhile,saleable performances. Of the omnibuseditions, the RCA Toscanini Edition on 100LPs was surely the first. Soon after Karajan’sdeath, EMI gathered every one of their recordingsand issued them in two compact boxes.DG has been assiduously re-mastering theirtreasured recordings includingKarajan’s and issuing them inimpressive, well documentededitions: Karajan 1960s thenKarajan 1970s (Karajan 1980swill appear before Christmas);also Karajan complete analoguerecordings of Richard Strauss andKarajan – The Beethoven DigitalRecordings. Two unexpectedboxes are now on the shelves:Karajan Symphony Editionand from 1963 Beethoven TheSymphonies.The Karajan SymphonyEdition (4778005) is an extraordinaryoffering: 38 CDs forno more than retail! Here are thecomplete Beethoven symphonies(1972 version) + overtures; thefour Brahms symphonies + HaydnVariations and Tragic Overture,the nine Bruckner symphonies,Haydn’s Paris and LondonSymphonies; Mendelssohn’sfive symphonies; Mozart’slate symphonies; Schumann’sfour symphonies and Tchaikovsky’s sixsymphonies, etc. All the discs reflect the latestremasterings. How is this giveaway pricepossible? There are a few factors to consider:DG owns the masters; the recording sessionsare long ago paid for and DG is making a lotof copies for worldwide distribution. It still ishard to figure out, but who’s complaining?Beethoven The Symphonies – Karajan’s1963 performances are widely considered tobe not only the onductor’s best but the best.DG has completely re-mastered the analoguetapes at 24 bit/96 kHz and has also produceda “Pure Audio Blu-ray disc” of the nine plusa rehearsal of the Ninth that is included ina limited edition, smartly bound as a hardcover book (94793442, 6 discs). Karajanwas a longtime admirer of Toscanini andpreparing for this important cycle, he studiedToscanini’s recordings. Both conductors’cycles remain in print.On December 18, 1962 defying admonitionsfrom Premier Khrushchev and theSoviet Presidium, the first performance ofShostakovich’s Thirteenth Symphony wasgiven in Moscow and dutifully ignored by thepress. The composer had set five of YevgenyYevtushenko’s poems, including the recentlypublished Babi Yar, the subject of whichwas anti-Semitism andthe well documented,wholesale massacreof Jews in Kiev bythe Nazis in WWII.Further performanceswere banned untilYevtushenko alteredthe text, which hedid, but not beforeDecember 20 when there wasa repeat performancewith theoriginal text. Pragahas issued a hybridSACD of that eventwith Kirill Kondrashinconducting the MoscowPhilharmonic, two choirsand Vitaly Gromadsky,tenor and speaker (PRD/DSD 350089, texts andtranslations included). This isthe same performance heard onthe complete 12CD Russian set(CDVE04241) but now deliveredin a more impressive, open andpersuasive sound. More than aperformance, this is a declamation. I know ofno other recorded performance to come evenremotely close to the intensity and impact ofthis significant and valuable document.The hybrid SACD includes excerpts fromProkofiev’s Cantata for the 20th Anniversaryof the October Revolution Op.74. Thiscommemorative work was inexplicablyunpublished and unperformed during thecomposer’s lifetime. Altogether, this is anoutstanding release.His Decca Ring Cycle was years away inOctober of 1961 when Georg Solti conducteda new Die Walküre at Covent Garden. AsI recall, it was Hans Knappertsbusch thatDecca originally had in mind for their project.Testament brings us that live performanceof October 2nd as recorded by the BBC inappropriately dynamic mono sound (SBT4-1495, 4 CDs). Upon the persuasive urgingof Bruno Walter, Solti had just accepted thepost of music director of the Covent GardenOpera Company and this performance presagesthe discipline and vitality of productionsto follow, as his many recordings attest.Hearing the voice of the not quite 35-year-oldJon Vickers as the unfortunate Siegmund inthe first act and into the second is still, to thisday, an electrifying experience. Claire Watsonturns in a believable Sieglinde,the only character to appearin all three acts. Brünnhilde isthe Finnish Wagnerian sopranoAnita Välkki and Wotan is HansHotter, in whom I was slightlydisappointed in the final scenewhere he initially seems to bepushing his voice. Perhaps heneeded a broader tempo butas the opera runs its course he isback on top. The whole productionis very satisfying with splendidorchestral sound and no offmikevoices.The late Claudio Abbadoenjoyed a career that spannedmore than 50 years, duringwhich he conducted theworld’s finest orchestras.His last recorded concerts, those ofAugust 16 and 17, 2013 were with the LucerneFestival Orchestra. Accentus has issued asplendid DVD of the complete program of thatopening concert of the season, comprisingBrahms’ Tragic Overture, Schoenberg’s Songof the Wood Dove from Gurrelieder andBeethoven’s Eroica Symphony (ACC20282).I doubt that there could ever be a nobler andmore flowing version of the Tragic Overturethan heard here. Gurrelieder, Schoenberg’sgreat ultra-Romantic post-Wagnerianmasterpiece has been a special favouriteof mine since I first heard the Stokowski/Philadelphia recording. For me it is a headyexperience. The Song of the Wood Dove thatbrings the news of the death of Tove to KingWaldemar stands well on its own, magnificentlyconveying the enormity of the awfulnews. The immense augmented orchestrasupports the outstanding mezzo-sopranoMihoko Fujimura as the Wood Dove. Thevery fine Eroica is played with total commitment,immaculate in detail and dynamicsand enormous authority. A well balanced,albeit unusual program played with effortlessvirtuosity and a fine showcase for the lateconductor.There’s always more at thewholenote.com. Additional reviews include: Strauss: Elektra; Fauré: Requiem;Birtwistle: Gawain; Mahler: Symphony No.5; Saint-Saëns: Cello Concertos 1&2; Stravinsky: Le Sacre duPrintemps; Edward Gregson: Dream Song and other works; Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything.72 | October 1 - November 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

GREAT WALL OF CHINAThe new album from THE CANADIAN BRASS breaks into new territory both musicallyand culturally. Great Wall of China is the new album from the world’s most popularclassical ensembles, The Canadian Brass. In 1977, as China emerged from the CulturalRevolution, Canadian Brass arrived in Beijing for a concert tour that was part of a culturalexchange.They were the first Western musicians to visit the country since Western music & artwere banned in May 1966. The experience was the inspiration for this album that features theworld famous ensemble performing arrangements of some of China’s most popular songs.LIVE PERFORMANCEDecember 5 Recital Concert – Koerner HallTicket information - 416.408.0208 www.rcmusic.cacanadianbrass.comlinusentertainment.com“A hugely original musicalmind at work” -Toronto StarElizabeth Shepherd bringsa whole new meaning tothe term “jazz vocalist”. TheSignal is an experimentalsonic journey aroundoriginal songs with a verypersonal feminist manifesto.Includes collaborationswith Lionel Loueke (HerbieHancock, Angelique Kidjo)Featuring “This”, “Willow”& “What’s Happening”Available Nowwww.elizabethshepherd.com // www.linusentertainment.com

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