7 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 9 - Summer 2015

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  • Flute
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atonal music is,

atonal music is, however, so well suited to his subject and so well integrated with it that the power of the play reverberates even stronger than in the prose version. At the head of the young, energetic and dedicated cast Danish baritone Bo Skovhus is one of today’s most exciting and original artists who simply towers over this production, but Andrew Watts’ heartrending portrayal of “poor boy Tom” Edgar cannot easily be forgotten. With conductor Simone Young’s supreme command over the score (especially in the haunting Intermezzo with its bass flute solo) this awesome set is much recommended. Janos Gardonyi Aulis Sallinen – King Lear Matti Salminen; Finnish National Opera; Okko Kamu Ondine ODV 4010 !! King Lear is, for me, the most tragic of Shakespeare’s tragedies – which obviously, makes it a perfect opera libretto. Erroneous judgement, betrayal, devious plots, poison, enucleation… all the raw elements of an opera are here. Yet Verdi struggled for most of his composing career with Il Re Lear and finally gave up without completing the opera. It was up to the contemporary Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen to give us a full musical account of the cursed king’s story. Just as the dramatic King Lear comes to us in many versions, Sallinen, who also wrote the libretto, chose to blind the Earl of Gloucester, leaving King Lear with his eyesight intact, yet emotionally blinded to the true nature of each of his three daughters. Sallinen, who himself eschewed opera as not a “pure” musical form (until 1973), changed his mind when he created his first opera The Horseman, which is still performed. Despite his highly modern compositional idiom, he reached for a much more melodic approach for Lear. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a long-forgotten verismo opera sung in Finnish, not a composition created in the year 2000. Says Sallinen: “An opera must be a servant to its libretto.” That is how this postmodern composer arrived at an almost conventional opera, with arias and duets and leitmotifs lyrically representing the characters. Somewhere up there, Giuseppe Verdi is smiling. Robert Tomas EARLY, CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Pieces from the Gdańsk Lute Tablature 4022 Magdalena Tomsińska Dux DUX 1150 ( !! The collapse of the Berlin Wall led to the discovery of a lute tablature of Gdańsk dated 1620. It emerged in the East Berlin library service, having been believed lost for 45 years. Some of the 222 pieces in the tablature had their titles and composers literally trimmed off by zealous officials; their attribution has, however, been deduced by Magdalena Tomsińska herself, who scoured many more lute collections to identify several of the pieces played here. The key composer is Frenchman Robert Ballard; some of his courantes and balletti are featured on the CD. And so to Tomsińska’s choices (32 tracks in 58 minutes). Her balletti are played with a skill and clarity worthy of any concert hall recital. Note, indeed, Balletto Polachos 3, 4 and 30 both for their vigour and the pleasure which the performer imparts. By far the majority of Tomsińska’s choices are anonymous and one gets the impression they were taken from street fairs and theatres and transcribed directly for lute. This must surely be true of the boisterous Ungaro and Be Merry, which Tomsińska takes in her stride. Her choice also extends to the English dancing tune Nutmegs and Ginger – reflecting the pan-European nature of the original tablature. By contrast, there are eight pieces for whom composers are attributed, five to Robert Ballard and one each to Alessandro Piccinini, John Sturt and Gregory Huwet. These are played with a certain solemnity compared to the more popular anonymous pieces but Tomsińska puts her heart into all of them, as she does with the longest piece, Monycha. This is demanding but, once again, Tomsińska shows with her inspired playing why her anthology deserves to be bought – and not just by early-music enthusiasts. Buy it if it is the only lute recital you buy this year. Michael Schwartz Mozart – Piano Sonatas Marc-André Hamelin Hyperion CDA68029 !! Following his acclaimed Haydn piano sonata recordings, prolific pianist Marc-André Hamelin outperforms even himself in this twodisc release featuring eight Mozart piano sonatas along with some other Mozart solo piano treats. Hamelin is thorough in his attention to detail, rhythm and separation of lines in both hands when tackling the complex technical and musical intricacies in Mozart’s solo piano compositions. Here are some highlights. Not all the works are technically challenging. His performance of the famous student “little sonata for beginners” Piano Sonata in C Major K545 raises the musical bar for any student of any aptitude. Hamelin is lyrical in the infamous opening Allegro first movement. And his concluding chords of the third movement Rondo are loud yet not banged, resulting in a formidable sensitive ending to an inspirational performance. In contrast, Piano Sonata in F Major K332 is a challenging work. The first movement Allegro is performed with tonal What if you could listen in? Now you can! Previously uploaded to the Listening Room For more information Thom McKercher at Known for her daring concerto couplings, Hilary Hahn matches Mozart’s beloved Concerto in A with the virtuosic romanticism of Vieuxtemp,s 4th. A celebration of the music of Billie Holiday performed by renowned Canadian multigenre chanteuse Molly Johnson! “Johnson infuses Because Of Billie with her idol’s spirit!” Literal Lateral is the latest release from Halifax’s Crofts/ Adams/Pearse Trio with special guest Gerry Hemingway. Music from the deep wells and frayed edges. 82 | June | July | August, 2015

y the pianist Julien Quentin, who joins her for the rest of the CD. Myths, from 1915, was also written for Kochański, and has a distinctly Impressionist feel to it. Other Szymanowski works presented here are the beautiful Chant de Roxane (an arrangement of an aria from the opera Krol Roger), and the Nocturne and Tarantella Op.28, also from 1915. Again, Philippens displays a brilliant tone and flawless technique in some really difficult music. Szymanowski was influenced by the music of Igor Stravinsky, who was exerting his own influence on the musical world in the years before the Great War, and three short works by the latter complete the CD. Stravinsky’s Firebird was a particular favourite of Szymanowski, and Philippens extends the “Myth” concept to include the Berceuse and Scherzo from the ballet, as well as the later Chanson Russe. This really is an outstanding CD, full of dazzling playing from a violinist with a strong musical intellect. If you haven’t heard Rosanne Philippens yet, don’t worry – it won’t be long before you do. The Romanian George Enescu, who died in 1955, was arguably the last of the great violinist/composers. Volume 2 of his Complete Works for Violin and Piano has just been released by Naxos (8.572692), and like Volume 1 (Naxos 8.572691) features the terrific German violinist Axel Strauss and the Russian pianist Ilya Poletaev, both of whom are currently on the faculty at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. The Violin Sonata No.1 was written in 1897 when Enescu was only 16 years old, and although it leans heavily on the German sonata tradition – especially Brahms – it is a very strong work that draws some outstanding playing from both performers. Two shorter pieces pre-date the sonata: the Ballade Op.4a was originally for violin and orchestra; and the unpublished Tarantella provides ample evidence of Enescu’s technical ability in his teenage years. The Aubade is a 1903 violin and piano version of a short piece written for string trio in 1899. The Hora Unirii from 1917 and the relatively late Andantino malinconico from 1951 complete the selection of effective and attractive shorter pieces. But the real gem on this CD is the Impressions d’enfance Op.28 from 1940, an astonishing suite-like work of ten short movements, played mostly without a break, which traces the day in the life of a child. There’s a folk fiddler, a stream in the garden, a caged bird and a cuckoo clock, a chirping cricket, the moon shining through the window, the howling of the wind in the chimney (a ghostly 23 seconds of scratchy violin solo) and a distant thunder storm at night. In the booklet notes, Poletaev calls the work “…a stupendous compositional tour-de-force… a musical fabric of extraordinary sophistication and richness.” It certainly is, and it’s worth the price of an exceptional CD on its own. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Partita for Solo Violin: Tim Fain Plays Philip Glass (Orange Mountain Music OMM 0050), but what I heard was a revelation. Glass, recently named as laureate of the Glenn Gould Prize, has been a prolific and immensely influential composer for the past 50 years or so, with a far greater range of compositions than the familiar description of him as a “minimalist” would suggest; Glass himself has always disliked that term, feeling that he moved away from the style years ago, and now considers himself a “classicist.” Even so, I wasn’t prepared for such an incredibly strong, idiomatic solo violin work in a very traditional style (Opening; Morning Song; Dance 1; Chaconne Part 1; Dance 2; Evening Song; Chaconne Part 2) which quite clearly pays homage to the Bach Sonatas & Partitas; it’s a towering and powerful composition, strongly tonal and with a wide emotional, technical and dynamic range. Tim Fain’s outstanding performance is definitive; the Partita is the central work in the recitals that Fain and Glass regularly perform together. There is no CD booklet, so no information on the work’s genesis, but Fain has been collaborating closely with Glass since 2008, when he had a short featured solo in the Book of Longing, Glass’s setting of poems by Leonard Cohen; their enjoying working together led to the writing of the Partita for Fain in 2011. Three short works complete the CD. Knee 2 from the opera Einstein on the Beach is more what you might expect from Glass – a helterskelter perpetuum mobile with slight shifts and changes in the patterns and accents. Book of Longing is the solo mentioned above; the contemplative Interludes from the Violin Concerto No.2 bring a marvellous CD to a close. Fratres is the new CD from ATMA celebrating 30 years of the Quebec chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy, founded in 1984 by conductor Bernard Labadie (ACD2 3015). Over the years the group has released close to 30 CDs, mostly on the Dorian, Virgin Classics, Naïve, Hyperion, Erato and Analekta labels; since 2004 there have been eight CDs on the Quebec ATMA label, and it is from that catalogue that this self-styled compilation sampler has been put together. Sampler CDs, with their mixture of single extracted movements and short complete pieces, can tend to be less than satisfying in some respects, but the very high performance standards here together with the lovely recording quality and the choice of titles makes this a very attractive release. The title track is a previously unreleased 2008 recording of the Arvo Pärt composition, featuring violinist Pascale Giguère. There’s a beautiful performance of the Mozart concert aria Chi’ omi scordi di te? by soprano Karina Gauvin, who is also featured in a performance of Britten’s Now sleeps the crimson petal and – along with countertenor Daniel Taylor – in an extract from Bach’s Tilge, Hochster, meine Sünden. There’s a movement from Bartók’s Divertimento, Gluck’s Ballet des Ombres heureuses, Mozart’s Overture to Lucio Silla, Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, a brief Rameau piece and Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel. Oh – and the Pachelbel Canon. Bet you weren’t expecting that. Labadie conducts most of the tracks; Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts all but one of the remaining five. Also from ATMA, the third and final volume of the outstanding complete cycle of the Beethoven String Quartets by the Quatuor Alcan has just been released (ATMA ACD2 2493). It’s another 3CD set, and features the wonderful late quartets: Opp.127, 130, 131, 132, 133 (Grosse Fuge) and 135. The entire cycle was recorded between May 2008 and December 2012 but, as noted earlier, the fact that all the recordings were made in the excellent acoustics of the Salle Françoys-Bernier at Le Domaine Forget in Saint-Irénée, Quebec means that there is no discernable difference in the recorded sound. There is also no discernable difference in the uniformly high standard of the performances. It really is a terrific set from a terrific ensemble, and a fitting celebration of their 25th anniversary. Stradivari’s Gift, for Narrator, Violin and String Orchestra, is one of two story-andmusic CDs (Amati’s Dream is the other) that will take young listeners on a journey to the violin workshops of 17th-century Cremona (Atlantic Crossing Records ACR 0001). The story and music are by the American author and composer Kim Maerkl, who founded Atlantic Crossing Records, and the violin soloist is her husband Key-Thomas Maerkl; the English actor Sir Roger Moore is the narrator. The Maerkls hope that the CDs will inspire children to further explore classical music, and their creation here is first class, in much the same style as the well-known Classical Kids series of storyand-music CDs and DVDs. The story is simple, the music clear and uncomplicated but quite beautiful, and the performance of the violin solo part is simply stunning. Readers wanting to know more about this disc can find a slightly expanded version of this column online. June | July | August, 2015 | 83

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