5 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

  • Text
  • September
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • Sept
  • Quartet
  • Concerto
  • Orchestra
  • Symphony
  • Violin
Paul Ennis's annual TIFF TIPS (27 festival films of potential particular musical interest); Wu Man, Yo-Yo Ma and Jeffrey Beecher on the Silk Road; David Jaeger on CBC Radio Music in the days it was committed to commissioning; the LISTENING ROOM continues to grow on line; DISCoveries is back, bigger than ever; and Mary Lou Fallis says Trinity-St. Paul's is Just the Spot (especially this coming Sept 25!).

probably the biggest

probably the biggest name of the five. She always plays with fire and passion, and her technique is astonishing; nothing in these fiendishly difficult works seems to give her the slightest problem. It’s a truly marvellous disc. Montage, a collection of Canadian works, is the latest CD from New Brunswick’s Saint John String Quartet (SJSQ005 Vancouver’s Anthony Genge (b.1952) is represented by his atmospheric and somewhat minimalist String Quartet No.2, and the late Eldon Rathburn by the brief Subway Thoughts. There are three works by the New Brunswick-based Martin Kutnowski (b.1968): the strongly tonal and melodic six Selections from “Watercolours for Ten Fingers”; Peter Emberley’s Dream, built on a New Brunswick folk song; and Five Argentinian Folk Pieces, drawing on the composer’s native Argentinian heritage. Little Suite for String Quartet by Talivaldis Kenins (1919-2008) is a solid piece; the Fantasia on Themes of Beethoven by Michael R. Miller (b.1932) is quite fascinating and intriguing; and the Pastorale by Richard Kidd (b.1954) is a lovely final track. I have just one complaint: the gap between the works is ridiculously short – mostly less than three seconds. You can’t tell when one work has ended and the next one has begun, and the mood of one work doesn’t have a chance to subside before the new work arrives. One wonders why. It’s always a pleasure to receive a new CD by the English cellist Steven Isserlis, and his latest recital disc with pianist Stephen Hough of Cello Sonatas by Mendelssohn, Grieg and Hough (Hyperion CDA68079) is no exception. The Grieg is a lovely work that Isserlis says has always been popular with cellists, although not necessarily with music critics; the slow movement and the beautiful second themes from the two outer movements in particular are quintessential Grieg. Hough’s Sonata for Cello and Piano Left Hand “Les Adieux” is a quite remarkable work, not least for the range and fullness of the piano part. The Mendelssohn is the best-known sonata of the three, and the performance here is a pure delight. The Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky Violin Concertos are paired on the new CD from Arabella Steinbacher and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Charles Dutoit (PentaTone PTC 5186 504). Steinbacher has a really lovely tone and plays with undeniable intelligence and great accuracy, but she seems to linger occasionally in the first movements of both concertos, almost to the point of losing momentum at times. There are some lovely moments in the Mendelssohn slow movement and a nice bounce to the finale. The Tchaikovsky has some really thoughtful playing with no sign of stress or strain, but again seems to be held back somewhat in places; the codas, though, always pick up the pace. The always interesting Gidon Kremer is back with New Seasons, a CD featuring his own string ensemble the Kremerata Baltica in works by Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli and Shigeru Umebayashi (Deutsche Grammophon 4794817). Kremer notes that he has always been interested in the subject of seasons in music, and feels that the composers here are all “saying something about a better world, creating new seasons that will remain valid forever.” I’m not sure how much that relates to two of the works – Pärt’s Estonian Lullaby and Umebayashi’s Yumeji’s Theme from the 2000 movie In the Mood for Love are less than six minutes in combined length – but there’s no doubting the relevance of the main work here. Glass’s Violin Concerto No.2 “The American Four Seasons” is an attractive and accessible work in which the familiar repeated patterns and sequences, while still clearly Glass, seem to provide links to Vivaldi. Kancheli’s Ex contrario is a hauntingly beautiful work in which Kremer and the ensemble are joined by solo cello, keyboard (sampler), bass guitar and performance CD; there’s a clear harpsichord sound, but nothing else from the latter three seems to stand out. Which is just the way it should be. Violinist Sarah Plum and pianist Timothy Lovelace are the partners on Béla Bartók Works for Violin and Piano Volume 1 (Blue Griffin Recording BGR373), which features the Violin Sonata No.2, the two Rhapsodies, and the Romanian Folk Dances and Hungarian Folk Tunes, the latter two works transcribed for violin and piano from the original piano works by Zoltán Székely and Joseph Szigeti. There’s some fine playing here, but it seems a bit pedestrian at times, as if it needs more of a Hungarian bite to really take off. The Rhapsody No.2 is the most successful of the five works. The movie world was shocked by the sudden death of James Horner this past June. Known almost entirely for his numerous movie scores, Horner was classically trained, and Pas de Deux, the debut CD of Mari and Hakon Samuelsen, the Norwegian sister and brother violin and cello duo, marked Horner’s first work for the concert hall in over 30 years (Mercury Classics 481 1487). The title work is a double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra written specifically for the Samuelsens, and it clearly shows the two musical worlds that Horner could inhabit. I’m not sure how much development of material there is, but it’s a sweeping, rich and sonorous work, with strong themes and some beautiful orchestration. Perhaps inevitably, the movie world seems to predominate, although there are hints of classical influence – some Tchaikovsky-like wind writing, some string passages reminiscent of Vaughan Williams; in particular, the opening of the middle movement sounds for all the world like Henryk Górecki. Mari Samuelsen goes solo in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres for violin, string orchestra and percussion, and her brother is joined by cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Giovanni Silloma’s Violoncelles, Vibrez! Paul Bateman’s arrangement of Ludovico Einaudi’s Divenire completes the disc. I ruffled some feathers recently with my comments about Einaudi’s music, so let’s just say that this is the somewhat repetitive but oddly beguiling piece with the abrupt ending that you hear a great deal on Classical FM radio, and leave it at that. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Vasily Petrenko in Pas de Deux, and by Clark Rundell in the remaining three works. Performances by all concerned are excellent throughout. Rossini - La gazza ladra ‘The Thieving Magpie’ marked a culmination of the convergence of serious and comic elements in Rossini’s work: a tragic opera with a happy ending. Praised for her “impeccably pure and iridescent voice” soprano Adrianne Pieczonka is primarily known for her vocally opulent and interpretively intense Strauss and Wagner. 62 | Sept 1 - Oct 7, 2015

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