7 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 9 - Summer 2015

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Also coming next spring,

Also coming next spring, Soundstreams is celebrating Steve Reich’s 80th birthday with a concert featuring three of his seminal works. Clapping Music, Tehillim and the iconic Music for 18 Musicians will be performed at Massey Hall on April 14, 2016. There is a new recording of Music for 18 Musicians featuring New York’s Ensemble Signal under the direction of Brad Lubman (Harmonia Mundi 907608) and if you are not familiar with this classic minimalist work for four pianos, three marimbas, two xylophones, vibraphone, two clarinets, violin, cello and four voices, I would recommend this recording. As Steve Reich himself says, “Signal has made an extraordinary recording of Music for 18 Musicians. Fast moving, spot on and emotionally charged.” With top rank Toronto musicians engaged for the Massey Hall performance I am sure we can expect nothing less from Soundstreams. Speaking of iconic works of contemporary music, the London Philharmonic Orchestra has just released Des Canyons Aux Étoiles by Olivier Messiaen under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach (LPO – 0083). At 100 minutes in length, From the Canyons to the Stars (1971-74) draws extensively on Messiaen’s signature birdsong transcriptions for much of its musical material. As always it is also a paean to the glory of God, this time in the context of the natural beauty of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, which Messiaen visited in 1972 in conjunction with this commission from an American philanthropist. The full forces of the modern symphony orchestra are supplemented with four soloists: Tzimon Barto (piano), John Ryan (horn), Andrew Barclay (xylorimba) and Erika Öhman (glockenspiel), all of whom rise to the occasion. Highly recommended. Canada’s triple threat Triple Forte – Jasper Wood, violin; Yegor Dyachov, cello; David Jalbert, piano – have a new recording of Dvořák Piano Trios (ATMA ACD2 2691) and as one would expect it is a treasure. Founded in 2003 this trio comprises three top soloists who work together as a finely oiled machine. Their debut disc in 2012 of music by Ravel, Shostakovich and Ives showed them to be at home in 20th-century idioms. This proves no less true of the preceding century with these captivating performances of two of the pinnacles of Romantic chamber repertoire, the Trio in F Minor, Op.65 and the “Dumky” Trio in E Minor, Op.90, Dvořák’s third and fourth ventures into this genre. Although the opus numbers suggest a larger gap, the two works were written within a span of seven years, in 1883 and 1890. The first is set in the usual four-movement form, opening with a majestic and expansive Allegro ma non troppo replete with melodies reminiscent of Schumann and Mendelssohn. The “Dumky,” dating from the height of the composer’s Slavic period, is a set of six contrasting movements all based on the Ukrainian Dumka folksong form. In both works the strength (i.e. forte) of each of the players is allowed to shine while goading the others on to new heights in performances that exemplify the group’s name. Berlin Sonatas (Passacaille 1006 features 18th-century works by Abel, J.C.F. and C.P.E. Bach, Benda, Kirnberger and Graun performed by Elinor Frey on five-string cello and Lorenzo Ghielmi on a Silbermann fortepiano (known at the time as a “Cembalo con il forte e piano” due to its ability to produce sounds both loudly and softly, unlike the harpsichord with its limited dynamic range). Frey provides an extended essay to explain why she feels a five-string cello is appropriate, and likely originally intended, for this repertoire. She makes a strong case for the instrument, not only in her writing but more particularly in her performance, especially in two violin solo works by Benda, here heard one octave below their intended pitch. One intriguing aspect of the keyboard used here is a “stop” heard in the final movement of Carl Friedrich Abel’s Sonata in G Major which makes it sound like a hackbrett (hammereddulcimer). I had understood that the prepared piano had been invented by American Henry Cowell in the early 20th century and further developed by John Cage in the 40s, but it seems that pianomaker Gottfried Silbermann (1783-1853) beat them to the punch a century earlier. He developed a technique for replicating the sound on his keyboard instruments with a device he called the pantaleone in honour of the hackbrett virtuoso Pantaleone Hebenstreit. Catching up The first of the discs overlooked at the time of their release that I want to bring to your attention is a 2014 realization of The Rite of Spring in a surprising orchestration for piano, string bass and drum kit by the jazz combo The Bad Plus (Sony Masterworks 88843 02405 2), primarily known for their avant-garde approach to jazz, tinged with hints of rock and pop. I was particularly impressed with their convincing recreation of Stravinsky’s score using only the minimal tools of their trio. Comprised of Ethan Iverson (piano), Reid Anderson (bass and electronics, mostly involving treatments and layerings of the piano part in the introductory section of the piece) and David King (drums), the group developed this project during a year-long residency at Duke University in 2010-2011. The result has to be heard to be believed. With the exception of the addition of a brief and unnecessary percussive coda following Stravinsky’s final chord, the trio stays true to the original score and gives a remarkable performance using only limited resources. Highly recommended! Streamlined Stravinsky is also a feature of a disc by the Zodiac Trio (Blue Griffin BGR257 although in this instance the reduction is the work of the composer himself. L’Histoire du Soldat was originally written as a theatrical piece for three speakers – soldier, devil and narrator – dancer and seven instruments based on a Russian folk tale. The sponsor of the piece, Werner Reinhart, was an excellent amateur clarinetist and the year after its 1918 theatrical debut in Lausanne Stravinsky made a suite of five movements for clarinet, violin and piano. Stripped to the bare bones, this already skeletal work – said to be a reflection of the depleted supply of musicians as a result of the Great War – is still very effective, as Zodiac’s dedicated performance proves. The group – Kliment Krylovsky (clarinet), Vanessa Mollard (violin) and Riko Higuma (piano) – was formed at the Manhattan School of Music in 2006 and its goal is “to etch this instrumentation into the ranks of chamber music’s dominant combinations.” To this end they commission works and tour extensively. Their 2010 debut recording featured original works but this latest draws on existing repertoire. The Stravinsky Suite notwithstanding it is Bartók’s Contrasts, written for Benny Goodman and Joseph Szigeti, which is generally considered to have launched this genre. Zodiac gives Contrasts an exuberant and idiomatic performance, confirming its place at the head of the table. The disc also includes the world premiere recording of the somewhat anachronistic A Smiling Suite by French composer Nicolas Bacri, and a moving (and haunting) early work by Shostakovich protégé Galina Ustvolskaya. We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for online shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor 78 | June | July | August, 2015

VOCAL Emilio de Cavalieri – Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo Soloists; Staatsopernchor Berlin; Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin; René Jacobs harmonia mundi 902200.01 !! Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo (1600) dramatizes how the Body and the Soul both reject the blandishments of Pleasure and of Worldly Life and choose Eternal Life over Damnation. Such a summary makes the work seem very dreary but it can hold the attention of a modern audience, as was demonstrated by the Canadian Opera Company in its 1983/84 season. Although the Rappresentatione is not, in my view, an opera, it undoubtedly influenced that newly emerging genre through its staging and through its use of solo singing with chordal accompaniment. Both the singing and the instrumental playing on this CD are very fine. The performance is based on that of a production at the Schiller Theater in Berlin in 2012. Although the work’s first publication provided the melody and the bass line, a performance can only be realized by enriching the chords needed and by adding further melodic and contrapuntal lines. There is a great deal of instrumental variety on this recording. Of particular interest is the arch-cittern or ceterone (which bears a similar relationship to the cittern as the theorbo does to the lute). The instrument used here was built for the Musée de la Musique in Paris on the basis of an original preserved in Florence. Hans de Groot Purcell – Dido & Aeneas Le Poème Harmonique; Vincent Dumestre; Choeur Accentus; Opera de Rouen Haute-Normandie; Alpha 706 Listen in! • Read the review • Click to listen • Click to buy New this month to the Listening Room !! An opera by a composer described as the English Orpheus and selected by a French music company? And one which has never paid homage to an English composer before? Musical director Vincent Dumestre gives his reasons. First, there is Purcell’s pure genius – he could not have been more than 25 when he composed Dido and Aeneas. What is more, he combined the melancholy of composers such as Dowland with the vitality of earlier English masques and the genius of contemporary composer Lully. Purcell’s operas did not stint on the elaborate nature of their stage productions, although this production differs in terms of its ingenuity in stage construction, its lack of complexity and certain demands on the performers. Marc Mauillon’s sorceress/sailor roles exploit his gymnastic and trapeze skills, and the first witch and other sorceresses perform with agility on ropes – when they are not scaring the audience! Vivica Genaux is a magnificent Dido, fully conveying the anguish of her isolation. Her rendition of When I am laid in earth, always a test for singers of all ranges and backgrounds, is accomplished with a haunting quality of which Purcell would no doubt be proud. In addition, Caroline Meng’s first witch leaves no doubt as to the character’s evil intent. All in all, a highly original performance but one that still brings home Purcell’s compassionate treatment of a tragic love story. Michael Schwartz Gluck – Alceste Angela Denoke; Paul Groves; Willard White; Teatro Real; Ivor Bolton EuroArts 3074978 !! Gluck’s Alceste was first performed, in Italian, in 1767; a French version followed in 1776. It is the French version that we see and hear on this DVD. The source for the opera is a play by Euripides, in which it has been decreed that Admetus, King of Pherae, must die unless another is willing to take his place. Euripides makes a great deal of the cowardice of the king’s subjects, especially that of his aging parents, who do not have that long to live anyway. Admetus’ wife, Alcestis, then offers herself up and the most interesting issue in the play is why the King is willing to accept her sacrifice. The Admète in the opera is made of sterner stuff. When he is told that someone has been found who is willing to take his place, it takes him a long time to realize that the someone is his own wife. Once he has realized it, he refuses to accept the offer. Alceste did not think life was worth living without her husband; he does not think life is worth living without his wife. It is Hercule, who resolves the impasse by descending into the Underworld and rescuing Alceste. This DVD gives us a production of the opera from the Teatro Real in Madrid, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, who has chosen to superimpose the story of Princess Diana. Here Alceste chooses death not because she loves her husband so much but because it offers her a way out of a loveless marriage. When Hercule snatches her from the Underworld, she is deprived of what she most wishes. One of the dangers with Gluck is that his music may sound marmoreal. That is certainly not the case with this production, which is full-blooded and passionate. There is fine singing from Angela Denoke (Alceste), Paul Groves (Admète) and Willard White (in the twin roles of the High Priest of Apollon and Thanatos). It is clear, however, that the whole point of the opera has been subverted. Hans de Groot Rossini in Wildbad – Guillaume Tell Festival Wildbad: Various Vocalists; Camerata Bach Choir; Virtuosi Brunensis; Antonino Fogliani Bongiovani AB 20029 For more information Thom McKercher at Tim Berne’s dynamic band Sankeoil, adds guitarist Ryan Ferreira, adding textural allure. With Made in Chicago, Jack DeJohnette celebrates a reunion with old friends. With Call Me A Fool, young Toronto songstress Eliza Pope arrives on the scene with an astonishingly assured (and anything but foolish) debut record. June | July | August, 2015 | 79

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