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Volume 20 Issue 8 - May 2015

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The wonderfulHilary Hahn

The wonderfulHilary Hahn has anew CD that featurestwo concertosthat have a strongpersonal resonancefor her. On ViolinConcertos: Mozart 5Vieuxtemps 4 (DeutscheGrammophon 4793956) Hahn plays twoconcertos that she first learned at the ageof 10. The Vieuxtemps Concerto No.4 in DMinor Op.31 was the last work she learnedwith Klara Berkovich, her first main teacher,and Mozart’s Concerto No.5 in A Major K219was the first work she learned with JaschaBrodsky when she moved to the CurtisInstitute of Music later the same year.Hahn notes that both works have beenpillars of her performance repertoire eversince, and her familiarity with and deepunderstanding of these works is evidentthroughout the CD, the Mozart in particularbenefitting from her usual crystal-clear toneand her immaculate and intelligent phrasing.The Vieuxtemps Concerto No.4 has alwayslived in the shadow of his Concerto No.5 inA Minor, and will probably be new to mostlisteners; I don’t recall having heard it before.It’s somewhat unusual in that it has fourmovements instead of the customary three,although Vieuxtemps did indicate that theScherzo third movement could be omitted inperformance. You can perhaps understandwhy: the Scherzo has a very strong endingthat sounds for all the world like the endof the concerto,while the Andante openingto the actual Finale feels more like the startof a completely new work. Still, it’s a fineconcerto, with a particularly effective slowmovement, and it’s difficult to imagine itreceiving a better performance.Hahn is accompanied by the DeutscheKammerphilharmonie Bremen under PaavoJärvi, whom she describes as “musical partnersfor a long time.” It certainly shows inthese terrific performances.The Bach Goldberg Variations have beenthe subject of many varied instrumentalarrangements over the years, with one of thebest being the transcription for string triothat the violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky madein 1985 to mark the 300th anniversary ofthe composer’s birth. The string trio versionserves the predominantly three-part keyboardwriting particularly well, and Sitkovetskylater expanded this into a transcription forstring orchestra; it is this version that is givena beautiful performance by England’s BrittenSinfonia, directed by their associate leaderThomas Gould, on a new harmonia mundiSuper Audio CD (HMU 807633).The larger forces involved (the stringstrength is 6-5-4-3-2) don’t ever seem toTERRY ROBBINSpresent a problemwith regard to theintimacy and natureof the music, partlybecause it’s not a caseof everybody playingall the time; there isa judicial use of soloinstruments, especiallyin the really tricky fast passages, and theplaying is always beautifully measured.The CD jewel case quotes a Guardian newspaperreview of a concert performance ofthis version of the Variations by the BrittenSinfonia, calling it “an astonishing performancethat preserved the delicate contrapuntalintricacy of Bach’s original.” The same canconfidently be said of this CD.There are more Bachtranscriptions availablein a 4 CD box setof the works for soloviolin and solo cello,Sonatas & Partitas,Suites, this time intranscriptions for luteand theorbo by theAmerican lutenist Hopkinson Smith (naïve8 22186 08939 2). The set is a reissue in boxform of Smith’s previous CDs; the ViolinSonatas & Partitas were recorded in 1999and the Cello Suites in 1980, 1992 and 2012. Atheorbo is used for the first three cello suitesand a 13-course baroque lute for the violinworks and the cello suites four to six.The two individual cello CDs were reviewedin this column in April 2013, but theseperformances of the violin works are new tome. They are naturally in much the same styleas the cello transcriptions, with a good dealof filling-in of harmony – although an underpinningof the implied harmonic structuremight be a more accurate description – anda softer sound and smaller dynamic rangethan the original. Multiple stopping is muchsmoother, making it easier to hold and bringout the melodic line. The English composerand guitarist John Duarte, in his July 2000Gramophone magazine review, called theseperformances “arguably the best you can buyof these works – on any instrument.”In the expansive and detailed booklet notes,Smith makes a strong case for transcribingthis music, pointing out that Bach himselfplayed the violin works on the harpsichordwith full accompaniment. These CD performances,however, make the strongest case youcould ever need. It’s a marvellous set.Another work presented in a transcribedversion on a new CD is Haydn’s Seven LastWords of Christ on the Cross, performed bythe Attacca Quartet in a new arrangement bytheir cellist Andrew Yee (Azica ACD-71299).Although this is a work that is now mostcommonly performed by a string quartet itdoes exist in several versions, and Yee haschosen a new and creative approach with hisarrangement.Haydn wrote thework in 1786 on acommission fromCádiz Cathedral foran orchestral settingto be used in theirGood Friday service,in which the readingof – and shortsermon on – each of the seven quotes fromscripture was followed by a musical interludeappropriate in expression to the precedingreflections. The work proved to be extremelypopular, and Haydn clearly considered it validoutside of the liturgical framework, the publicationof the orchestral version in 1787 beingaccompanied by both a Haydn-approvedpiano four-hand reduction and a stringquartet version. The latter (which may nothave been entirely Haydn’s work) essentiallyfollowed the violin, viola and cello parts fromthe orchestral version and ignored the windparts. Haydn apparently wasn’t too happywith it, and although it probably wasn’tintended for anything other than amateurhome performance it is the version we usuallyhear today.In 1795 Haydn heard a performance of thework in a German choral version by JosephFriebert, and was sufficiently impressedto make his own oratorio arrangementfor soloists, choir and orchestra, a versionwhich incorporated significant changes tothe original work. All but one of the sevensections were preceded by a chorale setting ofthe relevant scripture passage, and the workwas split into two sections, with a new introductionto the second half.For this Attacca Quartet arrangement,Yee studied the original orchestral, stringquartet and oratorio settings, with many ofthe editorial decisions based on the oratorioversion; indeed, the jewel case blurb calls thisrecording “a new arrangement of the oratorioversion.” It’s certainly extremely effective,and is beautifully played by the quartet, witha sensitive and spare use of vibrato and a clearempathy for the nature and meaning of themusic. It’s easily the most satisfying stringversion of the work that I’ve heard.Autumn of theSoul is a charmingnew CD by the Italianguitarist LorenzoMicheli featuringworks by MarioCastelnuovo-Tedesco,Vicente Asencio,Angelo Gilardino,Alexandre Tansman and Pierre de Bréville(Contrastes Records CR9201409).Andrés Segovia is not directly representedon the CD, but his influence links all thepieces together. Tansman and de Bréville werecontinues on page 7068 | May 1 - June 7, 2015

conducted by David Alan Miller with AndrewRusso, piano, and James Ehnes, violin.Three Flavors initially began as a concertofor toy piano, but it was later adapted fora modern instrument. To say the least, thepiece is a study in contrasts. The first movementabounds in driving repetitive motivesand modal harmonies – do I hear a hintof Stravinsky and a nod to Indonesiangamelan? In total contrast, the second movement,Lullaby-Barcarolle, is all gentleness,containing a lyricism not dissimilar tothat found in works by Samuel Barber. BlueWhirl, the third movement finale, is clearlyinfluenced by jazz rhythms and blues thatAndrew Russo performs with great bravado,while the Albany Symphony provides a solidfoundation.It was in homage to his late father thatKernis composed Two Movements (withBells) in 2007, a BBC Proms commission forJames Ehnes. Scored for violin, piano andorchestra, the two movements each beginwistfully, but the mood soon becomes moreflamboyant. Together, Ehnes and Russoengage in an animated and lively discourse,adroitly handling the energetic angular lines.Russo returns for a solo in Ballad(e) out ofthe Blue(s) – Superstar Etude No.3. Althoughthe piece was inspired by Gershwin, there arealso echoes of Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum andErrol Garner through its jazz harmonies andimprovisational quality.Kudos to all the artists on this CD forshowcasing music by one of America’s mosteclectic contemporary composers.Richard HaskellMissy Mazzoli – Vespers for a New DarkAgeVictoire; Glenn Kotche; Lorna DuneNew Amsterdam Records NWAM062!!Missy Mazzoli isa young Americancomposer basedin New York whocontinues to receivecritical acclaim forher concert works.This release containsa new piece, Vespers for a New Dark Age,for female voices and instrumental ensemblethat was commissioned by Carnegie Hall forthe 2014 Ecstatic Music Festival. The musicis set to fragments of text by poet MatthewZapruder replacing the sacred vespertext. It is interesting to note that in traditionalCatholic liturgy, the Vespers are to besung as evening prayer at sunset. Further,Mazzoli describes the piece as, “…distorted,wild, blasphemous...” However, despitebrief moments in the text that only occasionallyreveal mildly blasphemous suggestions,the music, on the contrary, is full oflight and optimism, a mood that remainsrelatively unvaried throughout the piece.While the work is divided into nine movements,the listener is treated to a continuousunfolding of broad and lyrical vocal weavingsfloating above punchy percussion rhythmsand edgy folk-like violin gestures. At times,we hear passages containing obvious reminiscencesof 1970s progressive rock akin tobands like Yes or Genesis. Any abrasivenessin the music is quickly balanced with soaringvocal washes that shimmer and infuse themusic with a crystalline sheen. Perhaps thestrongest section of the piece occurs in theseventh movement, providing the listenerwith a striking contrast to the rest of the piecestylistically. In this movement, the dramaticharmonies in the vocal part seem to occupy adifferent sonic environment than previouslyheard. This piece is a strong statement from acomposer who is comfortable writing to thestrengths of the performers she is workingwith. This music is perfect for those seekinga moment of respite and release withina contemplative and reflective listeningexperience.Adam ScimeJAZZ AND IMPROVISEDThe ThroneOchs-Robinson DuoNotTwo MW 918-2 (!!Eschewing all regaltrappings, this gameof throne strips interactiveimprovisation toits bare bones, demonstratinghow expansivea duet betweenone saxophonist andone drummer can be.Rova member, soprano and tenor saxophonistLarry Ochs, doesn’t need other reed backupon these nine tracks, carving out strategiesinvolving sharpened abstraction plus anunderlying swing, which at points is surprisinglyharmonious. Responsive rather thanconfrontational, Donald Robinson uses allparts of his kit from cymbals to bass drum topush, promote or punctuate the interface.Tarter tunes such as Red Tail and Breakoutgive Ochs a Sonny Rollins-like showcase toextract all possible tonal consideration from atheme, abandoning it like a dog with a boneonly when maximum improvisational nourishmenthas been extracted; other lines aremore sympathetic. Push Hands for instance,one of two memorials to departed musicians,is a study in pinched chromatics. HereRobinson bends his beats with an Africanizedlilt, in order to accompany Ochs’ gravellythrenody. Song 2 is another revelation.What starts off as an essay in modulated reedslides and smears wedded to a rumpled pulsebecomes a vibrant, coherent narrative thatassumes song form.Near-human vocalized cries which Ochspulls from both his horns throughout arerefined from stacks of timbral smears to agrowly renal-like exposition that definesthe concluding title track. At the same timeOchs’ thematic exposition relates back toOpen to the Light, the first track, memorializinganother musician. UltimatelyRobinson’s emphasized ruff marks a distinctending both to the final piece and this wellbalancedprogram.Ken WaxmanConcert Note: Larry Ochs is in concert withDave Rempis and Darren Johnston presentedby Zula at the Pearl Company Theatre, Galleryand Arts Centre, 16 Steven St., Hamilton onMay 20.Because of BillieMolly JohnsonIndependent 253787133( Forth By DayCassandra WilsonLegacy 888750636225To Lady With LoveAnnie Ross; Bucky Pizzarelli; JohnPizzarelliRed Anchor Records CAP1047!!Known for herconversationalapproach to singingand a voice both raspyand authoritative,Molly Johnson hasbeen aptly comparedto Billie Holiday;Because of Billie is her response to thatcompliment. On this heartfelt tribute, theToronto native recalls Holiday in her heyday,swinging with sparkling intelligence anddigging deeply into every lyric. Fans of theoriginal versions will likely enjoy thisstraight-ahead set, exquisitely arranged bybassist Mike Downes and featuring some ofCanada’s finest jazz players, including pianistRobi Botos, whose solo on What a LittleMoonlight Can Do invites repeated listening.Johnson and the band have some fun on anextended version of Them There Eyes, managea memorable take on the iconic Strange Fruitand take some exciting liberties with LadySings the Blues and Now or Never, both tunesco-penned by Lady Day herself. Proceedsfrom the album go to the Boys and Girls Clubsacross Canada.Reminiscent inscope of Holiday’spenultimate Lady inSatin, Coming ForthBy Day was producedby Nick Launay ofpost-punk experimentalrock outfitthe Bad Seeds. Whileardent swing-era traditionalists might beless than impressed, loyal fans of CassandraWilson will not be surprised by this audaciousproject, especially since it was madepossible by a triumphant May 1 - June 7, 2015 | 69

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