8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 7 - April 2015

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

impressed me as quiet,

impressed me as quiet, unassuming, ratherreclusive and modest but very dedicatedto her art. Well, quiet waters run deep as Icertainly found out later in listening to herplay. It took her some ten years to completethis project and “time was her greatest gift”as she thoroughly researched each sonataand understood the compositional processfrom the inside out as her extensive notesdemonstrate. Kodama was virtually unknownwhen she started this project and so it wasdoubly difficult to make herself known aswell as make a new statement on this field.Comparisons are limitless as everyone hashis/her favorites they swear by, althoughit wouldn’t be fair to this relatively youngpianist and the enormity of her effort andaccomplishment.Her playing can be summed up as impeccable,painstakingly observing the composer’soriginal metronome markings, usually on thefast side of what we are used to with amazingtechnical brilliance and rhythmic precisionas well as a tremendous range of expressionand structural coherence. Her playingis essentially delicate, but this is advantageousfor the more light hearted, humorouspieces like the second movement of the HuntSonata, Op.31, No.3 and elsewhere where sheis distinctly delightful in making the pianoliterally “swing” (Op.31, No.1). Even morechallenging is the Pastoral Sonata Op.28,notoriously difficult to interpret, in which sheexcels. Her youthful joy of playing, especiallyher favourites, is infectious, which makes thisset extra special.But Kodama is certainly no lightweight.She makes an enormous impact with theHammerklavier, Op.106, more than 41minutes long, immensely difficult, an endurancetest even for the likes of Richter. Herbold attack with the magnificent fanfarelikechords immediately rouses the listener.The long Adagio, often a stumbling block forpianists, is held together well and the enormousfugue that requires almost superhumanendurance and stamina comes offwith such abundant energy that it’s simplybreathtaking.Nine CDs richly documented withKodama’s own analysis of each sonata, thePentaTone sound is state of the art withgorgeous piano tone as if it was in your ownliving room.Janos GardonyiConcert Note: Mari Kodama and KarinKei Nagano, her 15-year-old daughter(with her husband MSO conductor KentNagano), perform April 25 as part of BravoNiagara!’s second annual “Spring intoMusic @ Stratus festival, Stratus Vineyards,Niagara-on-the-Lake.Scriabin – Complete PoèmesGarrick OhlssonHyperion CDA67988!!Titling a piano piece a “poem” is not mereaffectation. Simon Nicholls’ disc notes arepacked with examplesof symbolist correspondencesbetweenthe arts in Scriabin’smusic. But on thisrecording of thecomplete Poèmes forpiano, filled out withbrief character pieces,the musical variety and originality of tonalstructure, articulation and texture are to memore interesting than extra-musical associations.Garrick Ohlsson’s stylistic masterymakes it so.A Chopinist among many other things,Ohlsson brings to the Chopin-influencedScriabin’s early Deux poèmes, Op.32 moodsof a sensuous nocturne (No.1) and anintense prelude (No.2). Ohlsson’s techniqueis clean and bass lines are well-organized.The exquisite Poème, Op.41 is melodicallydistinguished and full of pianistic colour inOhlsson’s reading. Scriabin’s tonal explorationswidened in his miniatures: the resultsrange from caprice and wit (Scherzo, Op.46)through yearning (Quasi valse, Op.47) tolanguor (Rêverie, Op.49, No.3), the latter aunique take on the hoary sequence of fifths.Through attentive pedalling Ohlsson managesto balance and shape Fragility, Op.51, No.1,a favourite of mine, floating right handchords over a left hand playing both melody(thumb) and accompaniment (fingers). Muchmore could be written about the remarkablelate Poème-Nocturne, Op.61 and Versla flame: poème, Op.72; it is in handlingvaried textures, fleeting motifs and nuanceddynamics within the overall nocturnal ambiencethat Ohlsson creates his magic.Roger KnoxTchaikovsky – Symphony No.6 in B Minor,PathétiqueVienna Symphony Orchestra;Philippe JordanWiener Symphoniker CD WS 006!!This CD was issuedlate last year and hasjust come my way.It is rather special.Philippe Jordanis a young Swissconductor, now 40,the son of conductorArmin Jordan. Heis presently music director of the OperaNational de Paris and conducts in operahouses around the world. Included in hisoperas on Opus Arte DVDs are the unforgettableCovent Garden Salome with NadjaMichael and the flamboyant GlyndebourneCarmen with Anne Sophie von Otter.As the new chief conductor of the ViennaSymphony Jordan turns in a meticulouslyprepared, articulate performance worthyof top honours among the legions of availablerecordings. Over the years conductorshave fallen into the inherited conventions ofdrawing out the maximum drama and pathosat many accepted points in the score. Andaudiences attending concerts or at home lookfor and expect these.Jordan does little more than make incrementalchanges in tempi which may be notedor not as we listen to the most refreshingperformance around. The orchestra’s sound iseasily distinguished from the Philharmonic,being not nearly as opulent but with impeccableensemble and polish, particularly inthe strings and winds. The listener may wishJordan would let the orchestra loose at certainplaces but that doesn’t happen until the lastmovement and the climax of the entire workcomes with the final outburst a few pagesfrom the close.In sum, all the conventional performancetraditions are gone and a clearer Tchaikovskyemerges. The dynamic range of the performanceis extraordinary, particularly in thefirst and last movements. Recorded in theMusikverein we are privy to every nuance, sowell-captured in every detail.Bruce SurteesMahler – Symphonies 1 & 2Camilla Tilling; Lilli Paasikivi; FrankfurtRSO; Paavo JärviCmajor 718008!!The genial PaavoJärvi, scion of hisubiquitous fatherNeeme’s musical clan,is evidently wellregardedin Frankfurtwhere he served asmusic director ofthe Frankfurt RadioSymphony Orchestrafrom 2002-2013.During his tenurethere he presenteda televised broadcast cycle of Mahlersymphonies for Hessian Radio which is onlynow reaching these shores on the C majorlabel. The First Symphony was filmed in thespa town of Wiesbaden in 2012. It is a curiouslyinconsistent performance, the highlightof which is a superbly paced third movement.I was quite taken aback to find Järvi’s takeon the Scherzo movement stealing a movefrom the 2009 playbook of Gustavo Dudamel,namely broadening the first four bars of thebass ostinato in an oafish manner then graduallyand elegantly leading into a lively dancetempo. Unlike Dudamel, in Järvi’s handsthe gesture is merely clumsy and inconsistent.The grand finale is well enough done butsuffers from incompetent video direction: aclear shot of the stunning coup de théâtre ofall seven horns standing for the triumphantfinal peroration of the movement is totallymissed! In sum this performance bringsto mind the saying attributed to SamuelJohnson: “The part that is good is not original,and the part that is original is not good.”The presentation of the Second Symphony70 | April 1 - May 7, 2015

fares far better. It was filmed at the formermonastery of Kloster Eberbach over thecourse of two afternoons in June 2010. Theextraneous studio lighting in daylight givesthe unexceptional 720x480 video a decidedlywashed-out look and the unfortunateJärvi sweats profusely, resembling an anxiousVladimir Putin caught under a searchlight.The performance of the first movement issolid though underwhelming, with Järviapplying an unusually broad tempo to thelyrical secondary theme and a rather too fasttempo in the coda. Matters improve considerablyin the following movements, with acoyly fetching Menuetto and a Scherzo à laBernstein being most impressive for the caretaken to deal with the abbey’s long echoes.The penultimate “Urlicht” movement featuresthe heartfelt mezzo solo of Lilli Paasikivi,who also excels in the subsequent movement.The performance catches fire in the Finalewith an impressively frightening and tightlyplayed “march of the dead” developmentsection. Sadly, the combined NDR/BavarianRadio choruses are set so far back in the apseof the cloister that their hushed entrance forthe movement’s grand apotheosis is barelyaudible; furthermore the voice of the sopranosoloist Camilla Tilling is intended to emergeimperceptibly from this choir but as she isplaced far to the front of the orchestra theeffect is ruined. Fortunately the dome abovethem serves as an effective resonator for theresounding passages later on. There is alsoan organ to be heard – though mysteriouslyunseen – in the closing pages. The DVD willcertainly be of interest to Järvi fans and theorchestra is quite a fine one but the mundanetelevision production values fail to approachthe superb videos of Claudio Abbado from theLucerne Festival.Daniel FoleyMODERN AND CONTEMPORARYNordic ConcertosMartin Fröst; Various OrchestrasBis BIS-2123 CD!!This disc is arepackaging ofprevious recordings,made between 1996and 2003. The fourperformances featurefour different orchestrasand conductors.Three of the worksare from modern or contemporary Nordiccomposers, the last from the early Romantic.They all demonstrate Fröst’s mastery ofthe clarinet.Fröst plays his strongest card at theoutset. Peacock Tales by Anders Hillborg isan exciting work tailored to Fröst’s outrageousabilities (which include dance). Afteran unaccompanied prologue the orchestraenters to provide the frame and backdropfor the peacock’s haunted cries. A TurkishMarch, Big Band Battle and Gallop Macabrefollow in harrowing sequence. A return to theopening material is accompanied this timeby Copland-sweetened harmonies, and aftersome super-fast pointillist boogie-woogie,the piano and clarinet join in a last melancholicduet.Concerto No.3, Op.21 by neo-classicist VagnHolmboe opens with a fanfare followed by amournful solo (must be a Nordic thing). Theexceedingly prolific Holmboe produced over400 works, including 13 symphonies and 21string quartets along with more than a dozenconcertos for varying instrumental combinations.Op.21 is listenable and satisfying, aclean spare aesthetic. It’s suit and tie music,comfortable and finely cut.Karin Rehnqvist’s tone poem On A DistantShore is the dourest of them all. Its fivesections are The Dark (another broodingsoliloquy!); The Light (blinding rather thanilluminating); The Wild (ferocious, carnivorousmusic); The Singing (more pavane thansong); and The Call (a call for…to…of… siren orseagull?). Understated and masterful writing.Barging in on the solemn proceedings,like a jolly elder relative drunk at a funeral,Bernard Henrik Crusell’s Introduction, Themeand Variations on a Swedish Air qualifies onaccount of its Nordic provenance. Why notinclude Nielsen’s wonderful concerto instead?Perhaps it would have been one too manymelancholic flights through madness.Max ChristieStravinsky – Concerto for Piano and Winds;Capriccio; Movements; PetrouchkaJean-Efflam Bavouzet; São Paulo SymphonyOrchestra; Yan Pascal TortelierChandos CHSA 5147!!In addition to hisfrequent appearancesas a conductor of hisown music, the illustriousgenius knownas Igor Stravinskycomposed a numberof concertos for hisexclusive use as apianist, ready alternatives to the all-toofamiliarrequests for yet another performanceof the Firebird Suite. A stunning newStravinsky recording by the esteemed pianistJean-Efflam Bavouzet brings together theseconcertos and then some.Stravinsky’s 1924 Concerto for pianoand wind instruments opens this excellentdisc, followed by the Capriccio for pianoand orchestra from 1929. Both works aredelightful concoctions from the composer’scarefree French epoch, teeming withbonhomie and sparkling wit and recorded inflatteringly crystalline sound. Movements forpiano and orchestra (1959) is late Stravinskyand represents the culmination of a growinginterest in the serial techniques advocated byhis arch-nemesis Arnold Schoenberg after thelatter’s death in 1951. This is an intentionallyesoteric work that may puzzle some listenersthough connoisseurs will recognize here avery fine and scrupulous reading. The discconcludes with a fiery performance of the1947 version of the ballet score Pétrouchka, awork that was originally conceived as a pianoconcerto. An audibly grunting Yan PascalTortelier elicits an electric response from theexcellent São Paulo musicians while Bavouzetdelights in playing the prominent piano partfrom inside the orchestra. The recording ofthis densely orchestrated work suffers attimes from congested orchestral balances(notably so in The Shrove Tide Fair section)that pale in comparison with Stravinsky’sown 1960 recording, brilliantly mixed bythe late John McClure and still my personalfavourite.Daniel FoleyPoints of DepartureNicholas PapadorCentrediscs CMCCD 20715!!University ofWindsor AssociateProfessor ofPercussion NicholasPapador is a powerhouseperformer withwide-ranging subtletiesin his playing asshowcased in thisnew release.Papador’s own A Very Welcome written forhis wife and newborn son employs extendedintervals in each hand using four mallets.Subtle dynamic and colour shifts are especiallybreathtaking in the sections with simultaneousvery high and very low pitches.Isabelle Panneton’s Les petites reprises is aharmonically rooted marimba work exploringFrench and Japanese chromatic expressionismwhich perhaps requires more intenselistening to be fully appreciated. In NicholasGilbert’s quasi-programmatic Arianeendormie, an exhausted dreaming Ariane’sfitful sleep is recreated with vibraphonemodulating chords, motor and silent or subtleswelling phrase changes.Inspired by South Indian drumming,François Rose’s Points d’emergence is scoredfor three each of metals, drums and woodinstruments sharing three pitches. Papador’srhythmic precision avoids a counting trainwreck in the tricky opening three minuteswhere Rose gradually shortens each of thesection’s seven phrases to create an impressiveaccelerando feel. Back to more vibraphonewith Linda C. Smith’s lyrical andcalming Invisible Cities. Smith’s explorationof the instrument’s sonic textures andcapabilities results in a work of lush sonoritiesand splashes of shifting moods performedwith virtuosic attention. Night Chill formarimba and electronics has composerChristien Ledroit drawing on punk and worldmusic influences to evoke the rustling April 1 - May 7, 2015 | 71

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)