5 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 8 - May 2015

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Festival
  • Singers
  • Concerts
  • Theatre

VOCALPoulenc – Mass in

VOCALPoulenc – Mass in G Major; Sept Chansons;MotetsElora Festival Singers; Noel EdisonNaxos 8.572978!!This disc features acappella choral worksof Poulenc, bothsacred and secular.Exquisite as they are,these works pose aconsiderable challengeto a choir, withsoprano lines that soarhigh into the ether, daring chromaticism andshifting, often-ambiguous harmonies with noinstrumental accompaniment to grasp on to.Though serious in nature, the Mass in GMajor, written in 1937 after the death ofPoulenc’s father and the composer’s returnto Catholicism, retains some of the playfulnessinherent in the Cocteau-esque SeptChansons from his more youthful yearswith Les Six. Each of the chansons referencesa body part: arms, face, breasts, eyes,hair and hands and textually and musicallyare as steeped in hedonism as in wit. Themost dramatic contrast with these, perhaps, isprovided in the Quatre motets pour un tempsde pénitence (1938-39), a sombre meditationon Holy Week while the Quatre motets pourle temps de Noël (1952) convey all the mysteryand joy of the season.Noel Edison leads the Elora Festival Singersadeptly through these varied and difficultranges of character and emotion with enviableaccuracy of pitch and perfectly nuancedexpression.Dianne WellsCharles Wuorinen – Brokeback MountainDaniel Okulitch; Tom Randle; Heather Buck;Hannah Esther Minutillo; Teatro Real deMadrid; Titus EngelBelAir Classics BAC111!!In 2005, when acclaimed Taiwanesedirector Ang Lee adapted a 1997 short storyby Annie Proulx, the film set off a firestorm– not just because it showcased a homosexualrelationship and exposed the ugly faceof rural homophobia, which it did admirably.The riveting performances by Jake Gyllenhaaland especially the late Heath Ledger, asmasculine, restrained “Marlboro men”cowboys were miles away from any stereotype.The manner of one character’s deathinvoked uncomfortably the tragic real-lifestory of Matthew Shepard.More so than anything else, BrokebackMountain is a story of a life unfulfilled outof fear of judgement. Proulx has frequentlycommented that she wishes she had neverwritten the story, as disappointed fanscontinue to pester her for a happy endingrewrite or at least a sequel. All this onlyconfirms the powerof the story here setto music by CharlesWuorinen. And soBrokeback Mountainbecame an opera.Wuorinen gets theforeboding nature ofthe story, as his musicis austere, dry andpowerful, just likethe mountain ridgethat is the backdrop to a human tragedy. Heillustrates the tragic tale with music filledwith longing and regret. What is missingperhaps, are the fleeting and rare, but still realmoments of pure pleasure and love that stubbornlypersist between the two men, despiteall the efforts to eradicate them.In the final scene of the opera, the moodlifts, though not enough to allow the gravitydefyingascension. The music remains oppressiveto the very end, smothering any buddinginner peace. A powerful production.Robert TomasEARLY, CLASSICAL AND BEYONDComedie et Tragedie Vol.1Tempesta di Mare Philadelphia BaroqueOrchestraChaconne CHAN 0805!!Louis XIV’s culturaloffensive involved thearrival of Giovanni-Battista Lulli, dulyconverted to Jean-Baptiste Lully. Lullythen became directorof the Petite Bandeof string musicians.Combine Lully’s genius for composition withMolière’s brilliant social satire Le BourgeoisGentilhomme and you have a magnificentcomédie-ballet.Tempesta di Mare’s interpretation of theoverture to the comedy gives a flavour ofwhat to expect; a rather clumsy and pompousnature admirably reflects Molière’s socialclimber Monsieur Jourdain. By contrast, thereal dancers enjoy Lully’s graceful countrydances in their 17th-century French heyday.Add to this the slightly oriental quality of theCérémonie des Turcs and you realize howsuited to each other Molière’s words andLully’s music truly were.On to Les Éléments by Jean-Féry Rebel(a pupil of Lully) who won great respect forhis dance music. Le Chaos started life as aninstrumental piece but was incorporated intothe ballet. It is not what one expects from abaroque entertainment. Parts for bass, flutes,piccolos and violins represent respectivelyearthly tremors, the flow of water, air andfire. All attempt to impose themselves vigorouslyon the ballet and to be distinctive fromone another. More soothing is the followingLoure-Chaconne; earth and water are reconciledbefore we hear Rebel’s sprightly interpretationsof traditional dance movements.Marin Marais is best known as a bassviol composer, his prowess enabling him tocome to the attention of, yes, Lully. Alcyoneis a classically themed opera comprising anoverture and five acts. The dramatic plotsin each act would unfold until interruptedby a divertissement (entertainment). The 13suites performed by Tempesta di Mare reflectthis accurately whether with the statelyprologue: ouverture or the relaxed airs fora whole sequence of characters such assailors, magicians and priestesses of Juno.Enjoy above all the sarabande, tempest andconcluding chaconne.After listening to both Lully and Marais,listeners will have received a textbook introductionto the French baroque music whichenhanced comedy and tragedy alike.Michael SchwartzSchumann – Violin Concerto; Piano TrioNo.3Isabelle Faust; Jean-Guihen Queyras;Alexander Melnikov; FreiburgerBarockorchester; Pablo Heras-Casadoharmonia mundi HMC 902196!!Among the violinconcertos by the greatmasters of the middleRomantic era, Brahms,Bruch, Mendelssohnand even Sibelius,Schumann’s is leastpopular and is infrequentlyperformed. Also, it is considered oflesser value and impact among the composer’sown concertos. Both the piano Op.54and the cello Op.129 are each at the summitof their genre and favourites for well over acentury. Was the violin concerto inconsistentwith his output and indicative of lesseningmusical genius? Written in 1853, the concerto,his last major work, remained withoutopus number and was secreted for 80 yearsuntil November 26, 1937 when it receivedits debut played by Georg Kulenkampff inBerlin with Böhm and the Philharmonic. OnDecember 20 that year Telefunken recordedit there with Kulenkampff and Schmidt-Isserstedt conducting. Yehudi Menuhinchampioned the work in concert and in1938 he recorded it in New York with thePhilharmonic under Barbirolli. The value ofthe work however remains in controversy.Isabelle Faust and the Freiburg Baroquemake a convincing case for it in which theclarity and texture of the period instrumentspresent a refreshingly different palette.The bonus DVD in this release containsthe concert performance in the BerlinPhilharmonie, revealing unexplored contoursand textures characteristic of a baroqueorchestra. From the very first bar this is echtSchumann! There are pros and cons of suchtreatments and while this concerto may not66 | May 1 - June 7, 2015

e the very best of Schumann, this sit-upand-take-noticeperformance could change afew minds.The Trio Op.110 in G Minor is anothermatter. While it may be thought of as the leastof Schumann’s three trios, listening to it herechallenges that opinion. It is assuredly worthyof a fine performance which it certainlyreceives. Faust and her colleagues radiateardour and optimism, performing withsensitivity, sincere musicality and flawlessensemble that hold the listener’s attention. Agenuine must-have.This is the first of three albums by Faustand her colleagues (all passionate aboutSchumann – me too!), of all the concertos andtrios using a historic piano and instrumentswith gut strings.Bruce SurteesStrauss – Four Last Songs; Ein HeldenlebenAnna Netrebko; Staatskapelle Berlin;Daniel BarenboimDeutsche Grammophon 4793964!!If, as they say,Verdi murderedsopranos then RichardStrauss simplyadored them. Hisoperas are all aboutwomen, the sopranobeing the heroine,their very essence.(Rosenkavalier has no less than three ofthem!) Interestingly the great Anna Netrebko,who became a shining star in the Italian,French and Russian repertoire, had neversung Strauss, but even so DG chose her tocelebrate his anniversary. Netrebko, alwaysup for new challenges, once again surprisedeveryone with a rapt, luminous account of theelegiac Vier Letzte Lieder (1948), Strauss’ lastand greatest contribution to this genre. Hervoice of unique colour, sumptuous beauty,lovely intonation and musical intelligencemakes her interpretation stand up favourablyto the formidable competition of greatGerman sopranos of the past, not to mentionthe tremendous contribution of Barenboim’slush and luxurious orchestral support thatwill silence all snobbish prejudice onceand for all.Barenboim was 11 when he was introducedto Furtwängler, who premiered the Four LastSongs, and now some 60 odd years later the“boy” is taking over. And how! He was firstnoticed as a young pianist, but now the celebratedmusic director of two most venerableopera houses (Milan and Berlin), with somerecent, simply earth-shaking performancesof musical genius, here gives his account ofEin Heldenleben, a problematic score that’snotoriously given headaches to Strauss apologists.Even Karajan’s stellar version descendssometimes into cacophony and bombast, butBarenboim instead chooses understatement,clarification of orchestral detail and, witheach part subservient to the whole, emphasizingcompositional strengths (rather thanweaknesses). Unquestionably first choice.Janos GardonyiMODERN AND CONTEMPORARYProkofiev; Shostakovich – Cello ConcertosSteven Isserlis; Frankfurt Radio SymphnyOrchestra; Paavo JärviHyperion CDA68037!!Prokofiev beganthis concerto in Parisin 1934, where he wasurged by fellow émigréGregor Piatigorsky towrite such a work.Piatigorsky wasenthusiastic over thefirst movement andthe opening of the second but at that pointProkofiev returned to Russia. The work waiteduntil 1938 to be completed in Moscow whereit debuted to resounding indifference. Thecellist had played it, against the composer’swishes, as a sentimental piece and theconductor had no opinion. In 1940 its debutin the United States by Koussevitzky andPiatigorsky in Boston was hardly a triumph.The 1956 recording of the concerto byJános Starker and the Philharmonia underWalter Susskind is a polite affair and whilebeautifully played the overall mood missesthe pungency that Prokofiev must haveintended. The 1972 performance by ChristineWalevska conducted by Eliahu Inbal is a farcry from the Starker, animated and alert andwell recorded by Philips.Recorded in concert in 2013, Steven Isserlisand Paavo Järvi together have set the recordstraight with new eyes on the score, deliveringa fresh, vital interpretation. The firstpages of the first movement announce thatthis is to be a compelling performance. Thethird movement, a set of theme and variations,is totally engaging, more rhythmic andinteresting than previously revealed.Their Shostakovich, too, is outstanding.One would believe that in his several recordingsRostropovich, the dedicatee, had the fieldcovered. Easygoing tempo and high-spiritedplaying provide a most attractive alternative,especially with the tidy yet dynamicorchestral collaboration. The sound andwide range of the recording are state of theart. The Prokofiev solo March, arranged byPiatigorsky, is a jaunty little encore.Bruce SurteesAaron Jay Kernis – Three Flavors; TwoMovements; Superstar Etude No.3Andrew Russo; James Ehnes; AlbanySymphony Orchestra; David Alan MillerNaxos 8.559711!!Aaron Jay Kerniswas all of 23 back inthe early 1980s whenhe first attracted attentionwith the premiereof his compositionDream of the MorningSky by the New YorkPhilharmonic. Sincethen, the Pennsylvania-born composer hasearned a reputation as one of the most distinguishedof his generation – a winner of notonly a Pulitzer Prize, but also the Prix deRome and the Grawemeyer Award. His largeoutput is characterized by an affable andeclectic style, clearly evident on this Naxosrecording which features three of his compositionsperformed by the Albany Symphony,What if you couldlisten in?Now you can!Previously uploaded tothe Listening more informationThom McKercher atthom@thewholenote.comLiteral Lateral is the latestrelease from Halifax’s Crofts/Adams/Pearse Trio withspecial guest Gerry Hemingway.Music from the deep wells andfrayed edges.Monk Work features 11compositions by Monk,including the seldom performedDreamland and Two Timer. Atrue monk working!“Griffith plays from his heart,not head. The result is—rarityof rarities—an album of originalcompositions that swings fromstart to finish” May 1 - June 7, 2015 | 67

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)