7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016

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What's a vinyl renaissance? What happens when Handel's Messiah runs afoul of the rumba rhythm setting on a (gasp!) Hammond organ? What work does Marc-Andre Hamelin say he would be content to have on every recital program he plays? What are Steve Wallace's favourite fifty Christmas recordings? Why is violinist Daniel Hope celebrating Yehudi Menuhin's 100th birthday at Koerner Hall January 28? Answers to all these questions (and a whole lot more) in the Dec/Jan issue of The WholeNote.

word for Middle Earth

word for Middle Earth and although I’m not convinced that this is what the music of that time and place would have sounded like, I must say I have enjoyed the conceit, and the music. Speaking of eclectic, I’m not sure anything better suits that description than Black Market featuring Erin Cooper Gay and Contraband ( It is a stunning release on which Cooper Gay’s pure, crystalline soprano voice is featured in convincing renditions of Renaissance settings by John Dowland, José Marin, Tarquinio Merula and Claudio Monteverdi accompanied by period instruments, juxtaposed with clever arrangements by Drew Jurecka of contemporary songs by Jill Barber, Radiohead, Kishi Bashi and Punch Brothers. Somehow Cooper Gay and her cohorts – whose instruments range from harpsichord and lute and all manner of violin family instruments, French horn and clarinets, to qanun (Middle Eastern zither) and Juno (Roland synthesizer) – make what might have seemed like oil and water, into a very palatable mixture indeed. Compelling listening! The next disc came in a couple of months ago, but I decided to save it for December as I felt it would make a perfect stocking stuffer for the little ones. I Believe in Little Things is the latest from jazz singer Diana Panton ( who in this instance presents her own take on some great songs written for young people. The spare and gentle arrangements feature Reg Schwager on guitar, Don Thompson on bass, piano and vibes and some memorable cello solos by Coenraad Bloemendal. Sesame Street’s Joe Raposo is amply represented – although I’m sorry Bein’ Green is not found here – including the title track, Imagination, Sing and Everybody Sleeps among others. Another Sesame Street standard, The Rainbow Connection, and the Disney classic, When You Wish Upon a Star, are among the most familiar tunes and highlights for me. Panton’s own Sleep is a Precious Thing leads to Richard and Robert Sherman’s Hushabye Mountain with an extended cello intro. The disc concludes with Stephen Foster’s Slumber My Darling. A perfect good night! Last issue I talked about symphonic works with organ recorded in the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s new home and mentioned that the current resident organist is Jean- Willy Kunz. This month I find him in another capacity as harpsichordist on André Gagnon Baroque (ATMA ACD2 2719). Gagnon, the popular Québec pianist and composer, wrote a couple of quasi-baroque suites for piano and orchestra – Mes quatre saisons and Les Turluteries – back in 1969 and 1972 respectively that were great successes when released by Columbia Records. Some four decades later Gagnon has revisited the clever works and given the solo duties to the harpsichord. Kunz shines in these playfully convincing pastiches and the Orchestre symphonique de la Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent under Daniel Constantineau’s direction embraces the project with enthusiasm. Although producing a larger sound than period orchestras, they capture the spirit of the music and play with surprising lightness. The latter-day Four Seasons takes iconic music from Québec by Pierre Ferland, Félix Leclerc, Claude Léveillée and Gilles Vigneault – you guessed, Winter begins with the classic Mon Pays – all reworked à la Vivaldi. Les Turluteries takes inspiration from songs written or sung by Mary Travers – better known as La Bolduc – in two suites in the style of Bach and Handel. Tongue in cheek, or respectful homage – more likely a bit of both – the project comes off in flying colours. It really is a hoot! Of course for the real thing it’s hard to beat Toronto’s own Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. They have just released two sampler CDs on Tafelmusik Media which combine recent recordings from Humbercrest United and the Banff Centre with previously released material from CBC Records. Best of German Baroque (TMK1028CD) is actually comprised only of music by JS Bach, but I guess it does indeed not get any better than that. We are presented with various instrumental movements in new arrangements by Alison Mackay along with the full Brandenburg Concerto No.3 with a new cadenza by Julia Wedman. Jeanne Lamon and Aisslinn Nosky are the featured soloists in movements from a sonata and a concerto for two violins, and Ivars Taurins lead the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir in the Gloria in Excelsis Deo BWV191. Best of French Baroque (TMK 1029CD) takes a different approach, presenting suites by Marin Marais (from Alcyone), Rameau (Dardanus) and Lully (Phaëton). Once again the Chamber Choir is featured in an extended work, Grand Motet “Dominus regnavit” by Jean-Joseph de Mondonville. Great music, great performances, great sound – great stocking stuffers! 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 䰀 攀 挀 漀 洀 戀 氀 攀 搀 攀 氀 愀 搀 椀 猀 琀 椀 渀 挀 琀 椀 漀 渀 䐀 愀 瘀 椀 搀 䨀 愀 氀 戀 攀 爀 琀 Ekanayaka's deeply autobiographical piano compositions introduce a novel and hybrid musical genre that blends Sri Lankan melodies with the language of classical-era composers. The 24 Etudes by Chopin have been with me all my life. This book contains poems about and performances of a baker's dozen – includes CD Evju’s 'Piano Concerto' is based on incomplete fragments by Grieg of a proposed second piano concerto, creating a beautiful companion concerto full of noble passion. 68 | December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016

Keyed In ALEX BARAN The 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition boasted Canada’s Charles Richard-Hamelin as the second-place prizewinner, the first time a Canadian had won a prize in that prestigious event. His May 2015 recording was timed perfectly for this victory. Charles Richard-Hamelin – Chopin (Analekta An 2 9127) presents a very powerful player who can push the instrument right to its limits without losing or distorting the sound. It’s clear that Richard-Hamelin understands the colouristic capabilities of the piano. He is able to recede to the softest pianissimos and able to shape notes through the mechanics of the keyboard. He is also very comfortable using wide variations in tempo without interrupting the flow of the musical idea. This is evident in the Largo of the Sonata No.3 in B minor, Op.58 where one encounters the impressive interpretive depth of this player after being dazzled by his performance of the preceding Scherzo. The disc also includes the Polonaise-Fantasie in A-Flat Major Op.61 and two Nocturnes from Op.62 played with an especially haunting beauty. The Canadian International Organ Competition is a fairly new horse race as these things go. Launched in 2008 it has brought considerable visibility and prestige to the performance discipline. The 2014 Grand Laureate is celebrated on David Baskeyfield – Concours international d’orgue du Canada (ATMA Classique ACD2 2719). Familiar composers line the program notes: Willan, MacMillan, Howells and Vierne. But organists know that they always share the spotlight with the actual instrument they play as much as the music itself. In this case, it’s one of Canada’s largest organs, the Casavant Opus 550 at St. Paul’s Bloor Street, Toronto. Originally built in 1914 and restored in 1955, it has had many enhancements over the years. It’s a versatile instrument with an enormous orchestral palette. Baskeyfield is an impressive performer and notable for his skillful registrations. His choice of tonal colours is masterful. He is Englishtrained and completely at home with Howells, Hollins and Willan. He also does a terrific job with the works of the French school, Vierne’s Naïades, Saint-Saëns’ Prélude et Fugue en si majeur. But the disc’s real gem is the Willan Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue. The disc is a fabulous recording and an important document for this historic instrument now more than a century old. Another fortepiano recording has recently worked its way to the shelves and will be a treasure to many. Christoph Berner plays an 1847 Streicher on Ludwig van Beethoven Lieder & Bagatellen (harmonia mundi HMC 902217). The instrument is in remarkable condition. It’s clear, wonderfully tuned and voiced. Its tone is consistent throughout and surprisingly resonant in the upper register. Each of the six Bagatelles Op.126 is a joy to hear on this fortepiano. Berner’s playing is clean and lightly pedalled. The best feature of this performance is that he understands what these little pieces are and so doesn’t fall prey to overthinking them. As terrific as the Bagatelles are, the other half of the disc is the real surprise. Tenor Werner Güra, whose clear, light voice is well-suited to this repertoire, sings a number of Beethoven songs and one short cycle in a performance that is heart-stopping. He’s a very dramatic singer with great control over straight tone and vibrato. He connects directly to the poets’ emotions and shapes phrasing and dynamics to powerful effect. Two tracks in particular are profoundly moving: Zärtliche Liebe WoO 123 and the cycle An die ferne Geliebte Op.98. The combination of Güra’s interpretation accompanied by this extraordinary instrument make this disc a valuable find for those who enjoy authentic performance practice. Pianist Pier Paolo Vincenzi has undertaken an ambitious project with his recording of the Complete variations on a Waltz by Diabelli by 51 composers (Brilliant Classics 2CD 94836) on which he also performs the Beethoven 33 Variations on a waltz by Diabelli Op.120. The compilation of the works by the 51 composers who responded to Diabelli’s 1819 variation challenge is rich for its variety. Among the contributors are familiar composers like Hummel, Czerny, Liszt and Schubert. The others are of lesser historical standing and include a few dabbling aristocrats. Vincenzi, however, treats each variation as though it were, in fact, a masterpiece. Whether he’s ripping through Liszt’s arpeggiated hurricane or pecking through Baron von Lannoy’s 45-second effort, Vincenzi creates a fascinating snapshot of 51 early 19th-century psychomusical profiles. But when he performs the Beethoven variations, he changes his interpretive posture significantly. No longer dealing with 51 different iterations, he now probes the depths of a single creative mind. What Beethoven can say uniquely in 33 differently ways is obvious on the page but only the performer can really convey that. He never loses sight of Diabelli’s thematic kernel. Whether dealing with Beethoven’s fugal architecture or delighting in his Mozart impersonation, he keeps the central idea from being lost in the Byzantine workings of Beethoven’s mind. The producer of this recording has chosen to record the piano dry with absolutely no acoustic space around the instrument at all. The ear does adjust to this and the Steinway D, despite its size, quickly becomes a very intimate instrument. The recording Grieg; Evju – Piano Concertos (Grand Piano GP689) offers a performance of Grieg’s familiar work but based on subsequent changes to the manuscript made by the composer and his friend Percy Grainger. The casual listener may not detect the revisions but they are occasionally evident in the piano part where familiar chordal structures appear to have been changed. The recording is remarkably clear. The Prague Radio Symphony under Canadian Kerry Stratton is not especially large but always sounds full and balanced. Pianist Carl Petersson performs beautifully and seems especially committed to this revised edition. The other work on the disc is a concerto based on a thematic fragment by Grieg. It’s a bit of an oddity but warrants several hearings before moving into the concerto that Helge Evju has crafted from it. Although in five movements, the work’s performance time is only 20 minutes. It contains many strong allusions to the A-Minor concerto. That work is said to have been one of Rachmaninov’s favourites and curiously, one also hears a few passages that are obviously reminiscent of his piano concertos. Overall it’s a wonderful and unusual recording. The orchestra and pianist are excellent. It’s unusual to find the complete piano works of Manuel de Falla recorded on a single disc. The feature of this disc is the ability to follow the evolution of the composer’s work chronologically from 1896 to 1935. A few of these works had remained unknown or unpublished until much later in the twentieth century. Pianist Juan Carlos Rodriguez captures de Falla’s Spanish view of the world around him on Manuel de Falla – Complete Piano Music December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 | 69

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