8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 6 - March 2015

  • Text
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • April
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Arts
  • Bloor
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Faculty


DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSOne of the first CDs I ever acquired wasa 1987 solo disc with Norwegian cellistTruls Mørk performing works by ArneNordheim, George Crumb, Ingvar Lidholm andZoltán Kodály. In his mid-20s at the time, Mørkwas playing a 1723 Montagnana cello, with ascroll made by Stradivari bought for his use bythe SR Bank. I’m not sure what impressed memost at the time, the young man’s incredible technique and musicality,the breadth of style in the contemporary repertoire presented,the gorgeous sound of the instrument or the fact that a Norwegianbank was so supportive of the arts. (It is perhaps an interestingparallel to note that the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank,now with ,000,000 in instrumental holdings, began at the initiativeof cellist Denis Brott who with the help of W.I.M. Turner, thenCEO of Consolidated Bathurst Inc., raised funds to acquire the 1706Turner-Brott Tecchler cello which is currently on a career loan to Mr.Brott. Instruments acquired by the Canada Council since that initialpurchase are loaned on a three-year cycle to deserving young artists asdetermined by competition.)Since my first exposure to Mørk I have continued to follow hiscareer with interest, through recordings of the Bach and Britten solosuites, Chopin, Grieg, Sibelius, Prokofiev and Shostakovich sonatas,but more particularly in a discography that includes almost the entireconcertante cello canon. Having pretty much exhausted the standardorchestral repertoire, his most recent release sees him performingGeorge Enescu’s Symphonie Concertante with the Finnish TamperePhilharmonic Orchestra under Hannu Lintu (Ondine ODE 1198-2).From the dark opening chord with its underlying kettle-drums we areassured of a rich and rewarding experience and we don’t have to waitlong for confirmation as the cello enters with a warm and powerfulmelody that carries us on throughout the first movement. Surprisinglythis slow movement is followed by another, also marked Assez lent,with the cello in lamentation over muted horns. The finale is labelledMajesteux and the performance lives up to this moniker with upliftingorchestral textures and soaring cello lines culminating with a kind ofmolto perpetuo cadenza once again accompanied by an undertoneof timpani. Although not mentioned in the liner notes, as far as I canfind out Mørk still plays the Montagnana cello. Certainly the instrumentused here is a treasure, whatever its provenance.The Romanian Enescu (1881-1955) was a prodigy, entering theVienna Conservatory at seven and graduating at 13 after which hewent on to Paris where he studied with Jules Massenet and GabrielFauré. A concert of his works was held in 1897, followed in quicksuccession by the composition of three orchestral works, PoèmeRoumain and two Romanian Rhapsodies. Although acclaimed asa violinist he was also an accomplished cellist and it was with theSymphonie Concertante (1901) described above that he first cameto international attention. This disc pairs the cello work with theSymphony No.1 (1905), a work which is firmly rooted in the lateRomantic style of the age, framed in a traditional three-movementfast-slow-fast form. It is a fully mature work that belies the age ofthe composer and I find it surprising that his music is not more oftenperformed and recorded. Ondine is doing what it can to rectify thisin an ongoing series, including two recent releases with these sameforces featuring subsequent symphonic works by Enescu.With the exception of the Enescu, my listening has been more “potpourri” than usual in the past month, with offerings running thegamut of musical styles and a time frame beginning in the MiddleAges, if liner notes are to be believed. I’ll begin with the most eclecticof all, Widdershins (, a project conceived bymulti-instrumentalist Kirk Elliott whichpurports to explore “The Legend of TristanShoute,” a mythical composer, or at least oneof mythical proportions. Puns abound in theextensive album notes which include a quotationfrom “musicologist Winchurch Stonhill”describing Shoute as “a fiddle, inside a misery,wrapped in an echidna.” This latter it seems isan Australian mammal also known as a spiny anteater… I learn somethingnew every day!We are told that although there is no factual evidence for the existenceof Tristan Shoute, “stories have persisted throughout the agesof a talented, yet dissolute musician who curiously pops up time andagain, in different locations, even different time periods, the MiddleAges, the Renaissance, colonial America…” If the repertoire includedhere is any indication his influence (and influences) stretch evenfurther, reflecting a plethora of musickes and instruments includingthose of the present day (vibraphone, electric bass and electricguitar). A virtual one-man band, Elliott performs here on lute, vielles,citern, assorted bagpipes, rebek, bouzouki, Celtic harp and much,much more, but is also abetted in his mischief by the Orchestra ofUnmitigated Gaul comprised of such familiar baroque specialists asAlison Melville, Colin Savage, Margaret Gay and Ben Grossman plusvocalists including Rebecca Campbell, David Fallis and John Pepper toname but a few.The disc opens with Elliott’s arrangement – almost all the tracks areElliott originals or arrangements – of the anonymous 14th century InVino Blabitas familiar from the original Carmina Burana collection.Widdershins is a 17th-century gavotte featuring bagpipes, a rhythmsection of bass and drum kit and nasal vocalise by Katherine Hill. Thisis followed by Stone Cold Pilgrims, a roots-style instrumental balladintroduced by a wolf call and featuring slide guitar, harmonica andbird sounds among other folksy turns. Venus Transit with its bagpipe,nyckleharpa, hurdy-gurdy and dumbek is particularly effective indepicting a time long gone, and the medley of a 16th-century ronde/salterelle by T. Susato and the traditional fiddle-tune Cripple Creek is astandout, as is Yolanda Marrakesh with its haunting sitar melody.Elliott’s clever parody (in all senses of the word) offers wonderfulentertainment and suggests that Peter Schickele’s PDQ Bach has along-lost brother in arms, now found in a character fondly known asWiddershins.En Trois Couleurs (ATMA ACD2 2709) isanother eclectic disc, although one morefirmly rooted in the 20th and 21st centuries,featuring music for two pianos and percussionperformed, and in many cases composedby, François Bourassa, Yves Léveillé and Marie-Josée Simard. The overall feel of the disc isjazz-ish, with the opening Pantomime reminiscentof the French chamber-jazz style ofClaude Bolling, but Alberto Ginastera’s In the First Pentatonic MajorMode, Keiko, the group’s collective tribute to Japanese marimbavirtuoso Keiko Abé and Léveillé’s Zone Indigène provide contrast withtheir explorations of other sonic worlds. Diapasons (tuning forks)is a contemplative group composition with a variety of chime andbell-like sounds complemented by sparse piano textures whereasMike Mainieri’s Self Portrait for vibes and pianos is quite straightaheadmainstream, almost smooth, jazz. The disc concludes withthe title track, perhaps the most adventurous in its sparsenesswhile combining a wide range of timbres, juxtaposing the myriadtextures available through the vast array of percussion instruments64 | March 1 - April 7, 2015

and extended piano techniques employed. In some ways this is asurprising disc for what is not present. With piano and percussion wemight well have expected forays into minimalist ostinati and/or wall ofsound banging. Instead we are treated to a thoughtful and often delicateperformance offering another side of “struck” instruments.Tintomara (Channel Classics CCS SA 36315)is an eclectic disc involving trumpet and trombonein various combinations; trumpeterWim Van Hasselt and trombonist Jörgen vanRijen are featured in solos and duets, accompaniedby basso continuo, piano and even abrass choir. The disc opens with three Baroqueworks by Henry Purcell including the famousSound the Trumpet. My initial reaction wassurprise at how mellow these brass instruments sound in the context,especially in Hark, how the songsters of the grove where they manageto blend into the texture of an ensemble that includes two recorders.The title track, by Swede Folke Rabe (b. 1935), is a duet where onceagain, except for an occasional raucous blat from the trombone, theoverall impression is subdued; not a mood I normally relate to thetrumpet. Jean-Michel Damase (1928-2013) was a composer rooted inthe music of Debussy and Ravel, although he includes the complexrhythms and harmonies we’ve come to associate with the Frenchschool of the mid-20th century. His Trio for trumpet, trombone andpiano reflects this in its lushness and integration of contrasting voices,with idiomatic and at times playful writing for the two horns. MartijnPadding’s One Trumpet and Florian Magnus Maier’s Slipstream fortrombone solo and “loop station” are showpieces that allow eachsoloist to shine, albeit in very different ways. The concluding Eastwindby Jean-François Michel pits the soloists against an ensemble of fourtrumpets and four trombones and provides a rousing, at times Flightof the Bumblebee-like conclusion to this disc. Concert note: Jörgenvan Rijen gives trombone masterclasses on March 9 and 11 at theRoyal Conservatory and a free public recital at 7pm on March 10 inMazzoleni Hall.The final disc I will mention this month is one that takes me backto the music of my formative years when I first discovered acousticblues. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that Michael Jerome Browne,who has evidently been a fixture on the blues circuit for somethinglike three decades, is a new name to me, but in my defense it’sbeen almost half a century since I had myown aspirations in that regard. Indiana-bornBrowne was raised in Montreal where fromthe age of nine he accompanied his Englishprofessorparents to the jazz, blues and folkclubs of their adopted city. Enthralled by theroots music of Sonny Terry, Brownie McGheeand Lightnin’ Hopkins, he took up guitar,harmonica, and later mandolin, fiddle and banjo. In his teenageyears he embarked on a solo career and toured Europe and NorthAmerica as a one-man band. Returning to Canada he joined theStephen Barry Blues Band as singer and guitarist and stayed with thatstoried group long enough to record four albums before returningto a solo career in 1999. Since that time he has recorded six albumsof which the latest, Sliding Delta (Borealis Records BCD233,features a wealth of traditional material from suchartists as Mississippi John Hurt, Memphis Minnie, Fred McDowell andBlind Lemon Jefferson performed in authentic and utterly convincingrenditions. The liner notes give extensive credit and context tothe origins of the songs and there is a full-page “Guitar Nerd’s Corner”which gives exhaustive details of the instruments used and tuningsadopted. For the uninitiated I’ll just mention that Browne accompanieshis distinctive voice and harmonica playing on various vintage12- and 6-string acoustic and National “steel” guitars, mandolin andbanjo, the pedigree of each of which is thoroughly documented forthe cognoscenti. If, like me until now, you are unaware of MichaelJerome Browne and have any interest at all in acoustic roots music, Iurge you to check out this disc. You can sample it at welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs andcomments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc.,The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ONM5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website where you can find added features including direct links toperformers, composers and record labels, and additional, expandedand archival reviews.David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALBach – Cantatas Vol.1 (182; 81; 129)J.S. Bach-Stiftung; Rudolf LutzBach-Stiftung A909!!The J.S. Bach-Stiftung, a Swissenterprise, iscommitted toperforming all ofJ.S. Bach’s vocalmusic. Many of theseperformances (weare not told how many) will also find theirway to CDs. This is the first installment;recorded in 2007 and 2008 and published in2011 but only now released in North America(the project has now reached volume 12).It contains recordings of three cantatas:the early Himmelskönig, sei willkommen(BWV182), written for Weimar in 1714, andtwo cantatas which belong to Bach’s firstLeipzig cycle: Jesus schläft, was soll ichhoffen? (BWV81) and Gelobet sei der Herr,mein Gott (BWV129).The conductor, Rudolf Lutz, uses a smallchamber orchestra and a small chamberchoir. The size is in between the strictlyone-to-a-part approach of Joshua Rifkinand the slightly larger ensembles employedby conductors like John Eliot Gardiner orPhilippe Herreweghe. The singing is strong(I especially liked Claude Eichenberger, oneof the alto soloists) but the real glory of theperformances is in the instrumental work.There is a wonderful duet between violin(Renate Steinmann) and recorder (ArmellePlantier) at the opening of the first cantataand an equally fine oboe d’amore obbligatopart (Esther Fluor) in the alto aria of thefinal work.Of the three cantatas on this disc only thesecond is at all well known (it is describedin great detail in John Eliot Gardiner’s recentbiography). I was glad to make the acquaintanceof the other two.Hans de GrootMozart – Desperate HeroinesSandrine Piau; Mozarteum Orchestra,Salzburg; Ivor BoltonNaïve V5366!!Sandrine Piau has not recorded the musicof Mozart since her Mozart Opera Arias in2001. The latest album on the progressivelabel Naïve (knownfor its recordings ofthe complete works ofVivaldi) is dedicatedto Mozart heroines,but not necessarily thebest-known ones. Thedisc is certainly filledwith arias that rarelyreceive recording treatment. This speaks toPiau’s in-depth knowledge of the composer’soutput and her security in the belief that asa soprano in demand all over the world, shehas arrived and does not have to cater to morecommon tastes.The former harpist is particularly celebratedfor her vocal performances of theBaroque repertoire – the music she discoveredafter an encounter with William Christie,the period performance guru. It was Christiewho encouraged her to forgo the harp andstart singing. Piau’s voice seems uniquelysuited to Baroque music, with its singularclarity and purity of line. This is a voice witha lean, almost austere tone. There is no velvethere, no softness and padding – just a simplestrand of gold. That is why some, includingthis writer, may find her interpretations ofMozart’s music somewhat lacking. March 1 - April 7, 2015 | 65

Copied successfully!

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)