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Volume 20 Issue 4 - December 2014

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time” in Flux and

time” in Flux and reflecting on the “hypotheticalsupercontinent that is expected toform over the next several hundred millionyears as the result of a merging of the Earth’slandmasses” in Pangaea Ultima. His soundworld involves extended instrumental techniquesand extra-musical effects – theelectronic processing and crystal glassesmentioned above and a prominent musicalsaw in Pangaea Ultima to name a few. Thelanguage is firmly based in the “hard core”school of contemporary composition with nohint of the neo-Romanticism so prominentamong many younger composers, withouthowever being particularly abrasive. There isa warmth and welcoming in the music thatbelies the fact that you won’t come awayfrom the listening experience humming anycatchy tunes.Like so much of what ECM+ takes on, thisis challenging repertoire and a brave undertaking.The ensemble proves itself once againwell up to the task with its virtuosity andfluency in contemporary idioms. This discis a testament to the vision and determination,not to mention the consummate musicianship,of Lacroix who has been at the helmsince founding the ensemble in 1987.If there’s one genreI like above all othersit is the string quartet,and it doesn’t getany better than lateBeethoven. This isnot to say it doesn’tget as good as that infor instance Bartókand Shostakovich, just that Beethoven ishard to beat. So it was with pleasant anticipationthat I took up the latest release fromthe Penderecki String Quartet – BeethovenString Quartets Opp.132 & 135 (MarquisMAR 81449).There is of course no shortage of recordingsof Beethoven’s quartets; a quick searchof the Atelier Grigorian website resulted in95 to choose from, including complete cyclesof all 16 by most of the major quartets of the20th and 21st century. In a strange way thisis why it is in a sense refreshing to have asingle release from one of Canada’s premiereensembles, encouraging focus on just acouple of great works rather than immersionin an entire oeuvre. These final two offerings(although as the liner note points outNo.15, Op.132 was in fact composed beforeNo.13, Op.130) stand alone in the canon andare surprisingly different from each other.Op.132 in A minor is extremely dark, butnever lugubrious, over most of its 45 minutes,with a central Molto Adagio-Andante movementlasting more than a quarter of an hour.A stately, but at times still mysterious AllaMarcia provides a bridge to the upliftingMolto appassionato; Presto finale providinglight at the end of the tunnel. The final quartetin F major, is relatively light-hearted with itsAllegretto opening and scherzo-like Vivacesecond movement in which, in the wordsof annotator Jan Narveson, “the lower threeinstruments play the same slightly mad figureover and over (48 times!) while the first violincavorts insanely above them.” A darker Lentoassai is then followed by a finale that startsout Grave with Beethoven’s own question“Must it be?” but soon resolves into a sunnyand ebullient response: “It must be!”The Penderecki Quartet is in fine formthroughout, with its nuanced inflectionscapturing the various moods of these mightyworks. This release confirms that the PSQ isas at home in the standard repertoire as it isin the realm of the modern and contemporarywhere they are most often found. Known fortheir interpretations of such modern mastersas Szymanowski, Bartók, Lutosławski andtheir namesake, the quartet also championsthe work of Canadian composers includingHarry Freedman, Alice Ho, Gilles Tremblay,Piotr Grella-Możejko, Glenn Buhr and MarjanMozetich to name a few. The PSQ website lists30 CD titles (some unfortunately out of print)including half a dozen on the Centrediscslabel, as testimony to its myriad activitiessince being founded in Poland in 1986 (whereit won the Penderecki Prize at the NationalChamber Music Competition in Lódz, andwith that the right to use the composer’sname). The PSQ has been in residenceat Wilfrid Laurier University since 1991 andan integral part of creative life in SouthernOntario throughout the past two decades.I began this article by saying that there wasjust too much of interest to actually cover inthe allotted space. A couple of other quartettitles that caught my attention but whichI will dutifully pass on to Terry Robbinsfor Strings Attached in the next issue, afterenjoying them for a while longer, werethe first installment of the Alcan Quartet’sBeethoven cycle (ATMA ACD2 2491) and theYing Quartet’s complete Schumann (SonoLuminus DSL-92184). I mention them asmore than worthy of note in case you don’twant to wait for Terry’s endorsement. Alsoreceived too late for assignment this month,an intriguing DVD and CD release fromCentrediscs, Bookburners – Music by NicoleLizée (CMCCD 20514). The DVD includesthe multi-media works Hitchcock Études(a re-mix of Hitchcock scores replete withimages from his films) and the title track forturntables and solo cello (featuring StéphaneTétreault). Stay tuned for full reviews inFebruary.We 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.David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALHandel – MessiahGillian Keith; Daniel Taylor; Tom Randle;Summer Thompson; Handel and HaydnSociety; Harry ChristophersCORO COR16125The Boston Handeland Haydn Society hashad a long and distinguishedhistory. Itwas founded in 1815(these recordingsmark its 200th anniversary),at a timewhen Handel representedthe old and Haydn the new. Messiahhas been important for many years: theSociety performed excerpts in 1815, gave thefirst American performance of the completework in 1818 and began its annual performancesin 1854.On this recording the soprano (GillianKeith) and the alto (Daniel Taylor), bothCanadians, are superb. I also liked the baritone,Summer Thompson, who is imposingin exactly the right way. I have reservationsabout the tenor, Tom Randle, who sings withgreat involvement but also with a great deal ofvibrato. The very good orchestra of the Societyis now led by “our own” Aisslinn Nosky, whoin the past has given us so much pleasure asa member of Tafelmusik, I Furiosi and theEybler Quartet. Harry Christophers conductswith real momentum and the choir is terrific(just sample them in All we like sheep).High points: there are many, but I especiallyenjoyed the soprano’s precision in Rejoicegreatly, the alto’s He was despised (beautifullydecorated in the return of the openingsection in a way that never obscures the vocalline) as well as the alto-soprano duet Heshall feed his flock. Handel originally wrotethe duet as a soprano aria and his revisionwas well judged: the entry of the sopranois magical. When I was asked to reviewthese discs, my first thought was: anotherMessiah – who needs it? I couldn’t have beenmore wrong.Hans de GrootConcert Note: There is a plethora of liveperformances of Messiah to be found in ourDecember listings elsewhere in these pages.St. PetersburgCecilia Bartoli; I Barocchisti; Diego FasolisDecca 478 6767With celebritycomes responsibility,at least it should in thearts. That is why manycelebrated soloists,once having establishedthemselves withthe standard repertoire,seek new or forgotten gems to create74 | December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015

their legacy. After all, Maria Callas openedour ears anew to the music of Cherubiniand Bellini.Cecilia Bartoli, a mezzo, whose impact onthe musical scene was in my opinion at timesoverestimated, has researched and recorded afascinating disc of largely forgotten music. Instark contrast to 2014, Russians of the 1700sdesperately tried to emulate and get closerto Western Europe. Peter the Great, he ofSt. Petersburg and the infamous “beard tax,”started a cultural trend that continued untilthe outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution. Alarge part of this Europeanization of Russiawas a musical development, encouragedand supervised by three Tsaritsas – Anna,Elizabeth and Catherine the Great. The coursechosen by those powerful women was toimport Italian opera wholesale, includingItalian composers and Italian musical sensibilities.Famously, Porpora refused to beseduced by the “Third Rome” (as the Tsarsreferred to their capitol, suggesting that theyhad continued with the Byzantine tradition).This opened the way for lesser talents suchas Francesco Domenico Araia and VinzencoManfredini. Alas, even Cimarosa contributedto this “Russian renaissance,” which cameto an abrupt halt when Catherine the Greatturned her attention to the stage plays ofVoltaire and Diderot.Found in the archives of the MariinskyTheatre, the works recorded here are restoredto life in a lavishly illustrated edition, playedwith great sensitivity by I Barocchisti. Kudosto Bartoli for this find, although the ariasthemselves at times tax her stubbornlysmall mezzo.Robert TomasStrauss – ArabellaRenée Fleming; Thomas Hampson; DresdenState Opera; Christian ThielemannCmajor 717208Fleming – Hampson– Thielemann.Salzburg EasterFestival certainlydid well by gettingthis team for a newArabella for theStrauss anniversaryseason. DirectorFlorentine Klepperovercame the challengefor somethingnew and differentyet in immaculate taste by traversing thescene into the 20th century, the Art Decoperiod with a gorgeous, panoramic set fittingnicely onto the wide stage of the GrossesFestpielhaus. Being a woman, she had theright feeling and empathy for the female characters;so important in this opera.Not that she had a difficult time. Forthe title role, Renée Fleming has been thereigning diva of Straussian heroines. Heruncanny ability to delve her entire self intothe character has been legendary and hersoprano voice has all the delicacy and nuancefor this very demanding role. Arabella is inthe midst of a difficult decision of choosing ahusband from a trio of rich, bumbling suitorsand hopes for the right man to miraculouslyappear, and he does.The right man, American baritone ThomasHampson (Mandryka) is having some difficultyin becoming this gauche, shy provincialfellow, but his handsome physique, staminaand vocal power amply compensate. Thetwo fall into each other’s arms and the operawould be over, but unfortunately that’s whereall the trouble begins, caused by the youngersister and her lover, who provide a lot ofsparkle to the story.Highest praise goes for Thielemann whoconducts with beautifully sustained broadtempi, relishing in the beauties of the score,keeping it as an undercurrent, but comingto the fore just at the right moments andtowards a ravishing finale.Janos GardonyiVienna at the Turn of the Century – ARecital with Renée FlemingRenée Fleming; Maciej PikulskiArtHaus Musik 102 196In an age of instantgratification and overnight(YouTube)success, enduringartists like RenéeFleming are a rarebreed. The singer,currently in hermid-50s, epitomizesthe slow-burn. Atthe age when manysopranos are consideringretirement, Fleming is in peak form,defying any tarnishing of the upper register aswell as the visual impact of middle age. I wasnot always a fan. In fact, some two decadesago I dismissed her as a lightweight. WhatI did not recognize then was that this wasa singer on her way to greatness. The proofcame a few seasons ago, at the Met, whereshe conquered the role of Marschallin in DerRosenkavalier. Immediately inviting (andchallenging) comparisons with ElisabethSchwarzkopf, her erstwhile teacher, Fleminghas firmly established herself as the preeminentsoprano of our times.This glittering concert at the acousticallyperfect Golden Hall of the Musikverein hallVienna is a virtual compendium of lieder overalmost 50 years. From Mahler and Zemlinskyto Korngold and Strauss, Fleming’s recitaltells in music the story of the Golden Age ofthe great city on the Danube. Polish pianistMaciej Pikulski offers sensitive, Gerald Moorelikepiano support. This beautiful disc mayprompt listeners to get dressed in theirSunday best before pressing the start button.Robert TomasMilhaud – L’Orestie d’EschyleSoloists; University of Michigan SymphonyOrchestra, Chorus and PercussionEnsemble; Kenneth KieslerNaxos 8.660349-51Aeschylus’ Orestiatrilogy was transformedby PaulClaudel and DariusMilhaud into twoplays with musicand one opera. ForL’Agamemnon (1913),Milhaud created onenotable imitative chorus with dramatic interpolationsby Clytemnestra, who had justmurdered her husband. From her enteringhigh B onward, soprano Lori Phillips singsClytemnestra splendidly. Modal harmonyover long pedal notes, repetitive elements andinsistent rhythm become an early manifestationof minimalism.In Les Choéphores (1915-16) Orestesreturns to avenge his father Agamemnon’sdeath. Milhaud’s choral magic continuesin the funeral chorus underpinned by hischaracteristic orchestral parallel chords indifferent keys, and in the weeping Libationchorus “Go away my tears, drop by drop.”Dan Kempson’s baritone is lustrous in hiscompelling portrayal of Orestes. As the slavewomen’s leader Sophie Delphis is thrilling inher rhythmically spoken solo (spoken wordpoetry is not new!), amply propelled with noless than 15 percussionists in the “kitchen.”Completing the trilogy is the threeactopera Les Euménides (1917-23) whereOrestes is on trial. Presiding goddess Athenaemerges as complex, awe-inspiring and threevoiced!Her hair-raising trios sung magnificentlyby Brenda Rae, Tamara Mumford andJennifer Lane contain some of Milhaud’s mostadventurous vocal writing. Throughout, theMichigan choirs and orchestra set a professionalstandard in this tremendous projectinitiated by Milhaud-taught composerWilliam Bolcom. There’s much more to say,about the choruses and orchestra, aboutMilhaud’s Brazilian influences … a discrecommended for the intrigued.Roger KnoxGalicians 1: The Art SongsPavlo Hunka et al.Ukrainian Art Song Project( the past decadethe British-born bassbaritonePavlo Hunkahas made it his life’swork to share the artsongs of his Ukrainianheritage with theentire world. In partnershipwith RomanHurko, composer,opera director December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015 | 75

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