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Volume 20 Issue 7 - April 2015

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  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
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classical pianist Alain

classical pianist Alain Lefèvre who is knownfor his recordings of Chopin, Liszt and Mozartand also for his championing of the music ofCanadian wunderkind André Mathieu (1929-1968). Rive Gauche (Analekta AN 2 9295) isa collection of Lefèvre’s own compositions,in his words “films for the ear, images forthe piano” so it is likely no coincidence thatthe disc begins with a piece entitled CinemaLumière. There is an overall sense of nostalgia in these warm, melodicpieces that range from swinging solo piano miniatures to chamberjazz tunes with the addition of bass (Michel Donato) and drums (PaulBrochu). Violinist Angèle Dubeau makes a cameo appearance on thetune Paris de mes souvenirs, a lovely ballad full of longing, and LéaneLabrêche-Dor adds her pleasing jazz-infected voice to the closingtrack Au bout de mes rêves.When we think of Camille Saint-Saëns(1835-1921) such works as the Carnival of theAnimals, Danse macabre and the magnificentOrgan Symphony come most readily to mind,but he also left some chamber gems behind,including a number of sonatas for variousinstruments, a piano quintet, a piano quartetand two piano trios. It is the Piano Trios whichare featured on a new disc by Trio Latitude 41(Eloquentia EL 1547 eloquentia.fr). The curious name of the triostems from the geographical placement of both their first engagementin Rhode Island and the city of Rome, where the Italian cellist LuigiPiovano lives. The other members are American violinist Livia Sohnand Canadian-born pianist Bernadene Blaha, who for the past twodecades has made her home in Los Angeles where she teaches at theUniversity of Southern California.While far from unknown, these trios are quite underrepresentedin the catalogue – only three other recordings of the two together,including one by the Vienna Piano Trio who appeared in Torontorecently courtesy of Mooredale Concerts, turned up on a quick searchat Grigorian.com – and these sensitive and nuanced performancesare a welcome addition. The trios were composed three decadesapart, the first having been written in 1863 and the second not until1892. The disc opens with the latter, with rumbling bass from thepiano’s left hand and a welcoming melody from the strings accompaniedby ebullient passages from pianist’s right hand. Although nota work we hear very often it sounds familiar in wonderful way, withhints of Mendelssohn’s A Minor Trio without seeming derivative.At 35 minutes it is an exhilarating and at times intense journey. Thecharming earlier trio, itself nearly half an hour long, is lighter andmore playful, perhaps indicative of the youth of the composer, butbalanced and well crafted. Both receive compelling performancesin this rewarding release. I thank Trio Latitude 41 for bringing theseworks (back) to my attention.And in closing, something completelydifferent – the latest from Mr. “ExtremeFlute” Bill McBirnie. On Grain of Sand (EF07extremeflute.com) McBirnie once again teamsup with Latin multi-instrumentalist BruceJones, revisiting a partnership which resultedin the 1998 album Desvio. Jones wrote allthe music, some of the tunes in collaborationwith McBirnie, and the results are predominantly Brazilian-inspiredsamba and bossa nova style with plenty of Jones’ distinctive nylonstringguitar and vocals. Although only the two musicians are involvedthey have used the recording studio to good advantage, creating amulti-layered offering that is especially effective in the flute duet overguitar and ambient drone in Lembrando Paul Horn (RememberingPaul Horn). Other influences include hip-hop and funk and the endresult is a diverse mosaic ranging from the mellow Vai Bem Devagar(Proceed with Caution) to the bouncing Cê Tá Com Tudo (You AreEverything), while maintaining an integral continuity. McBirnie’sflute, although not particularly “extreme” in this instance, is lively andlilting as it soars over the bed tracks laid down by Jones, in the forefrontin the instrumental tunes where it has the dominant melodyand tastefully in the background or heard in duet with Jones’ voicein the songs with lyrics. I only wish they had included the wordsand translations in the package. This is good time music, well playedand obviously enjoyed by McBirnie and Jones. It takes me back tomy introduction to this genre back in the 1970s when I first heardBrazilian icon Jorge Ben (Jor). Thanks for the memories!We 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. TorontoON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website thewholenote.comwhere you can find added features including direct linksto performers, composers and record labels, expanded and archivalreviews.David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comVOCALHandel – AriodanteAnn Murray; Joan Rodgers; EnglishNational Opera Orchestra and Chorus;Ivor BoltonArtHaus Musik 100065!!Ariodante is a lateopera by Handel. It isalso one of his finest.It broke new groundin a number of ways:there are importantballet scenes; thereis a real chorus; andthere are substantialparts for the tenorand for the bass. ThisDVD is a record ofthe English National Opera production of thework, first mounted in 1993, then revived in1996. Like all ENO productions it is sung inEnglish. I think there is some point in translatinga libretto into the language of mostpeople in the audience in the case of comicoperas or works with spoken dialogue. I don’tthink it helps with an opera seria by Handel.The production is by David Alden, whohas in recent years given us several controversialproductions for the Canadian OperaCompany. There are a number of directorialexcesses such as the quite gratuitous dreamsequences, while the ballets that concludeboth the second and third act are abominable.Moreover, the artists whom we see andhear are singers, not film stars. Several of thewomen are heavily made up and would nodoubt look splendid from the second balcony.They do not in close-up and yet close-ups arewhat we get much of the time.The conductor, Ivor Bolton, is very good andthere is some fine singing from Ann Murrayand Joan Rodgers, from Lesley Garrett andGwynne Howell. But if your main interest isin the music you are better off listening to oneof the CD sets available such as the versionconducted by Raymond Leppard on Philips(with Janet Baker and Norma Burrowes) orthat conducted by Alan Curtis on Virgin (withKarina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux).Hans de GrootMozart – Die ZauberflöteSchmitt; Landshamer; Oliemans;Lejderman; Dutch National Opera;Netherlands Chamber Orchestra;Marc AlbrechtOpus Arte OA 1122 D!!Die Zauberflöte isnot an easy opera topull off, as it needs adirector who is ableto present the farcicalelements such as theserpent that threatensTamino at the beginningof the opera andthe antics of Papageno,but is also in tune66 | April 1 - May 7, 2015 thewholenote.com

with the sense of ritual needed for the sceneswith Sarastro and his initiates. This production,directed by Simon McBurney, is on thewhole quite successful. I did not like everything:I could have done without the crowdsof actors running on the stage, waving piecesof paper and pretending to be birds. I thoughtthe initiates in their suits and with theirneckties looked too much like the personnelof an insurance company. I don’t understandwhy the Queen of the Night was in a wheelchairor why the Three Spirits (very well sungby three boy sopranos) were made to look likewizened old men or why the Speaker was sogrim and unsympathetic.But there are marvellous moments. Pamina(the wonderful Christina Landshamer) andPapageno (Thomas Oliemans, a fine actorand a fine singer) set up a great relationshipin their first scene together which thenleads to a beautiful performance of the duet:Bei Männer welche Liebe fühlen. In severalscenes Tamino plays his (magic) flute. Clearlyunless the tenor is also a flutist he will mimethese scenes while the flute is played by anorchestral musician. McBurney has taken theconventional presentation a stage further byeither having the flutist join Tamino on stageor moving Tamino down into the orchestrapit. This is an inventive production set on abare stage without any emphasis on theatricalillusion. Michael Levine’s set designs complementthe production very well. The wholeopera is well sung and there is no weak linkin the cast.Hans de GrootLove Blows as the Wind BlowsEtienne Dupuis; Quatuor Claudel-CanimexATMA ACD2 2701!!Etienne Dupuisdeveloped for himselfa reputation of beinga clown – first withhis classmates atthe Schulich Schoolof Music at McGillUniversity and thenwith the attendeesof his concerts. In this recording, Dupuis isall (most) business, as the mood called forin the songs of British composers is sombre.Loss of faith, end of life ruminations andsuch are only occasionally relieved by thewonders of nature (“O, the month of May,the merry month of May”). His voice is fulland robust, and yet Dupuis uses vibrato, notvery often associated with the baritone, to aninteresting result in Barber’s Dover Beach.The accompaniment of Quatuor Claudel-Canimex, whose members are the mainstaysof the Orchestra of Lanaudière – Canada’sbest-loved classical music festival – harmonizesbeautifully with his voice. The moodcontinues with the Adagio for string quartetby Barber – a piece no doubt demonstratingthe Quatour Claudel-Canimex’s abilities, butin my opinion, unnecessarily omnipresent.Speaking of omnipresent, the imp inDupuis raises its head, with the hammed-uprendition of Danny Boy – though I cannotdeny the beauty of the last note! The truegem of the album hides at the very end:Réjean Coallier’s setting of poems by SylvainGarneau. Garneau died at the age of 23,leaving behind a small body of lyrical works.Coallier, a Montreal-based pianist, composerand teacher, offers a loving treatment of thepoetry, with beautiful melodies lining thewords with silky gentleness. Again, Dupuissounds great – which he does whenever heovercomes his inner clown.Robert TomasNicholas Marshall – Songs and ChamberMusicJames Gilchrist; Various Artists;Manchester Chamber EnsembleMetier msv 28552 divineartrecords.com!!This CD showcasessongs andinstrumental musicby British composerNicholas Marshall,born in the 1940s andstill busily at worktoday. Marshall’smusical influencesand talents are many and varied, and whilecertainly having his own inventive voice hefollows in the musical footsteps of Warlock,Delius, Vaughan Williams and Sir LennoxBerkeley, with whom he also studied. The discopens with The Birds, a song cycle of poetryby Hardy, Belloc, Yeats and others set beautifullyfor tenor voice, recorder and piano. Abrief but evocative Plaint for cello and pianoprecedes The Falling of the Leaves, anothercycle set for tenor voice, alto recorder, celloand harpsichord on six poems by Yeats. Thebalance between all three voices is delicatelywell struck, in the writing as well asin performance; tenor James Gilchrist singsexquisitely, and Harvey Davies sounds equallyat home on both harpsichord and piano.Other songs on the program feature thepoetry of James Reeves (Music in the Wood)and G.K. Chesterton (Three Short Songs),very deftly matched in character and spirit byMarshall’s writing. Two pieces for recorderand string quartet round out the program:Marshall’s Recorder Concerto, of which theslow movement is particularly beautiful, andThe Nightingale, a short and sweet fantasiaon a Welsh folk song. These are played withattentive affection and deserve more attentionfrom other recorder players out there!Alison MelvilleAaron Jensen: From Sea to Sea – Vocalworks featuring Canadian PoetryVarious ArtistsCentrediscs CMCCD 20815!!In an interview with The WholeNote’sDavid Perlman, composer/singer/impresarioAaron Jensen stated that “vocal musicis flourishing in Toronto, and we plan onleading the singing revolution.” And he wenton to do just that as artistic director of theHarbourfront SING!Festival. That andmore so, representingall of Canada withthe 2013 debut of hissong cycle From Sea toSea. It was eight yearsin the making, withJensen first choosing poetry from each provinceand territory. Then came the arduoustask of obtaining rights from each poet(or poet’s estate), and then the craft ofhonouring each poem with its own uniquemusical treatment. The result is a delightfuland most interesting variety of styles withinthe one work, perfectly matching Jensen’sdescription of the “abundance of wit, craft,and poignancy” of the texts. In addition toexpressing through the genres of folk, classicaland jazz, he invokes overtones of Inuitthroat singing (Uvavnuk Dreams), pointillistnotation mirroring the Braille alphabet(Poems in Braille), bodhrán rhythms (Rainin the Country), as well as many morehighly effective musical sketches and characterizations.Most of the vocal groups whoperformed the work at SING! appear on therecording and deliver exquisite performances:The Elmer Isleler Singers, The SING! Singers,Countermeasure, Cawthra Park ChamberChoir, KAJAK Collective and the CanadianMen’s Chorus.Dianne WellsEARLY, CLASSICAL AND BEYONDAugust Kuhnel – Sei Sonate O PartiteLes Voix humainesATMA ACD2 2644!!Solo, rather thanconsort performancesof the bassviol increased inpopularity – notto say melodic andharmonic potential –in Europe in the mid-17th century. Franceemerged as a key centre for bass viol solomusic but Germany was not so far behind.August 1645 saw the birth of August Kühnelin Saxony. Kühnel’s father Samuel, himself acomposer and viol player, trained him to theextent that he was appointed viola da gambistto the court orchestra of Maurice, Duke ofSaxe-Zeitz.Only Kühnel‘s six sonatas or partitas werepublished; the rest of his music survives asmanuscripts. In fact, the partitas deserve awider audience. They start with a preludewhich features rich embellishments andfollow with rigorous allegros and adagios.Susie Napper, Margaret Little and MélisandeCorriveau tackle these movements withgusto. Their playing is reminiscent of whatwas called stylus phantasticus, a demandinginterpretation which tests the bass viol playerwith its rigorous scoring.Sonata I sets the pace in this respect eventhewholenote.com April 1 - May 7, 2015 | 67

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