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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.

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(Paladino Music pmr 0062). He reveals the strong core of western classical discipline on which uniquely Spanish sensibilities rest. We hear this rhythmically and in small characteristic turns of phrase. Rodriguez also plays de Falla’s homages to Paul Dukas and Claude Debussy with the subtle hint of French impressionism the composer intended. Rodriguez approaches the Cuatro Piezas Españolas as the most culturally inward looking to reveal what may be the most Spanish of de Falla’s piano works. Franz Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz has another reincarnation on Waltzing Mephisto...by the Danube (Estonian Record Productions ERP 8115) with pianist Hando Nahkur. The title track is brilliantly played with remarkable clarity through all the maniacal passages. The approach is disciplined and calculated but not lacking in any of the incendiary energy needed for this piece. The disc also includes Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op.15 from which the dangerously familiar Träumerei is played with gratifying freshness. Nahkur also manages the same feat with the Schumann/ Liszt Widmung S.566 where he keeps the apogees of the main idea suspended with satisfying length before the descent to their phrase endings. Arabesques on An der schönen blauen Donau is a 1900 paraphrase by Adolf Schulz-Evler of the well-known Strauss waltz. It’s rarely heard and is very Lisztian even to the point of sounding a bit like La Campanella for a few measures. It demands a lot from the pianist but Nahkur plays it with impressive ease. Occasionally composers will write music so perfectly that all the colour, dynamics and nuances seem to be built in. While this doesn’t make it easier to perform it does create the pitfall of over interpretation. Wise performers recognize this and learn to surf the wave. Carlo Grante does this beautifully in Ravel: Mirroirs; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Gaspard de la nuit (Music & Arts CD-1289). In the Miroirs set, La vallée des cloches is especially lovely for Grante’s superb touch and tonal manipulation. The Bösendorfer Imperial responds with bell-like sonority. Curious, however, is Grante’s opening of the Pavane pour une infant défunte. He observes the staccato in the lower treble very sharply as marked in the piano score. This is unusual and quite arresting because some publishers show sustained pedal through these opening bars to more closely approximate Ravel’s actual orchestration where these short eighths are played pizzicato in the strings while horns and bassoon hold longer supporting phrases. What’s really interesting is that Ravel’s own 1922 piano roll recording of this does neither. Ravel plays it slightly sustained (pedalled) and not nearly as short as Grante. Once past the opening idea, however, Grante moves into the sustained legato that makes this piece flow so beautifully to its ending. The three piano poems that comprise Gaspard de la nuit are superb. Ondine moves liquidly as it should, Le Gibet rings under the same bell-like touch of the early La vallée des cloches and Scarbo is suitably menacing. Reconstructions from fragments appeal to our curiosity by suggesting to us what might have been. It’s what drives people like Melani Mestre to record the recent addition to Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series Albéniz; Granados – Piano Concertos (CDA67918). A pianist, composer, conductor and academic, he has constructed a concerto from two fragments of a Piano Concerto in C Minor ‘Patético’ by Granados. Speculatively dated around 1910, there is no evidence to indicate whether this was intended as a single-movement work or something of larger scale but Mestre believes the latter. For the middle and final movements he has used two other Granados solo piano works and adapted them for piano and orchestra. These are much more colourfully orchestrated than the first movement with plenty of percussion effects to highlight their Spanish and dance-like feel. Mestre is a skilled orchestrator and has plenty of fun playing his own adaptations. Some will argue about the validity of such efforts, but those who undertake them skillfully produce intriguing works that fuel many entertaining debates. The Albeniz Concierto fantástico, Op.78 is a mid-career work and is decidedly un-Spanish in its feel. Still, it’s truly beautiful and not often performed or recorded. Admirers generally cite its middle movement as the gem and rightly so. The Reverie et Scherzo opens with a lovely piano line against a backdrop of broad orchestral harmonies. The final movement’s closing pages have some enchanting waltz-like episodes where Mestre’s hesitations are seductively placed to enhance the dance-like feel. Pianist Angelina Gadeliya cites a profound, spiritual affinity for the music of Alfred Schnittke. Born in Soviet Georgia and trained in Ukraine, she now lives in the U.S. Her enduring commitment to Schnittke’s music was deepened by an encounter with the composer’s wife and biographer a year after his death in 1998. Schnittke and his Ghosts (Labor Records Lab 7093) is an expression of that experience. Gadeliya plays two of his works and adds others to reflect the impact on Schnittke of influences including his time in Give Us a Day - and We’ll Give You a Lifetime of Great Music. Iranian composer Afshin Jaberi’s powerful music combines 19th-century western piano traditions with eastern melodic influences, connecting with his message of equality and peaceful unity. 䴀 愀 搀 攀 氀 攀 椀 渀 攀 匀 栀 愀 瀀 椀 爀 漀 匀 漀 甀 渀 搀 猀 一 愀 琀 甀 爀 攀 㨀 眀 漀 爀 欀 猀 昀 漀 爀 挀 攀 氀 氀 漀 愀 渀 搀 攀 氀 攀 挀 琀 爀 漀 渀 椀 挀 猀 The twin series of symphonies and string quartets stand at the centre of Meyer’s achievement as one of the most renowned composers of our time. 70 | December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 thewholenote.com

Vienna where he received much of his formative musical education – hence, his “Ghosts.” She gives a very personal performance of the Sonata No.2, a darker work of Schnittke’s later years. The middle movement is unusually tonal with numerous harmonically rich clusters and the final movement contains an ad libitum that calls for tumultuous improvisation. Variations on a Chord uses contemporary devices for sustained notes, sharp attacks and sympathetically vibrating strings. Gadeliya is perfectly adept at all these techniques and captures the harsh yet playful duality of Schnittke’s six variations. The Mozart Adagio in B Minor K540 may seem an odd inclusion until one recalls the numerous cadenzas Schnittke wrote for Mozart piano concertos and his orchestral tribute Moz-Art à la Haydn. The Shostakovich Variations on a theme by Glinka and Scriabin’s Sonata No.4 connect us to Schnittke’s Russian roots. But in an odd way the far earlier work by Scriabin (1903) takes us much closer to the mysticism we experience in Schnittke’s music. Gadeliya has programmed a fascinating, stimulating recording and performed it masterfully. Reinventions – Rhapsodies for Piano (Grand Piano/Overtone GP693) is an unusual CD and difficult to describe. Composed and performed by Tanya Ekanayaka, these works are in part improvisational and in part more formally crafted. The main inspiration for them comes from pieces preceding them in live performance. Key relationships, tonal centres and thematic fragments all serve as points of creative departure for this Sri Lankan pianist and composer. Her keyboard technique is formidable. Massive arpeggios seem completely effortless as she weaves together traditional Sri Lankan melodies with inspirations taken from composers like Bach, Debussy and Chopin. She is capable of both the smallest nuance as well as the grandest gesture the keyboard can afford. Her works carry evocative titles such as In Lotus, Labyrinth and Dhaivaya. Her descriptions and rationales for the content of the Rhapsodies is highly detailed and musically rich. Even the most fanciful works, e.g., Of Scottish Walks, Vannam & Sri Lanka’s Bugs Bunny require more than one listening. One begins to wonder if she is perhaps the Keith Jarrett of the subcontinent. With 25,000 Syrian refugees coming to Canada, the Middle East is never very far from the daily headlines and our attention. The cultures of that region have, in their encounter with ours, produced many fascinating cross fertilizations of artistic expression. Each offers a portal for better understanding of a region that often seems so distant in many ways. Iranian pianist and composer Afshin Jaberi has recorded THE BÁB – Piano Sonatas and Ballades (Grand Piano/Overtone GP694). Born in Bahrain and raised in Qatar, Jaberi received his musical education at the Franz Liszt Academy in Hungary and his doctorate from the Almaty Conservatory in Kazakhstan. His language is solidly Western and his discipline solidly Russian. One immediately hears the influences of the major 19th-century European composers on his keyboard language. There is however, a distinctively Eastern modality and shape to his musical ideas. Titles like The Seeker, The Bedouin and Eroica offer some idea of Jaberi’s personal quest in his music. Much of it is programmatically linked to historical episodes of the Baha’i faith but all of it is delivered through the keyboard vocabulary of Liszt, Chopin and Schumann. Jaberi is a gifted player and composer. His work offers a rare glimpse in an unusual direction. TERRY ROBBINS When you listen to the simply astonishing opening track of Shiksa, the new CD from violinist Lara St. John and pianist/composer Matt Herskowitz on St. John’s own Ancalagon label (ANC 143 larastjohn.com/ancalagon) you could be forgiven for thinking that the rest of the CD couldn’t possibly match up – but you would be wrong! The Czardashian Rhapsody is Martin Kennedy’s fiendishly difficult take on the traditional Czardas, with hints of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 thrown in for good measure. It’s stunning, but there’s much more to come in this program of predominantly Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. All 14 tracks are based on traditional material and feature creative arrangements by Milica Paranosic, John Kameel Farah, Yuri Boguinia, Serouj Kradjian, David Ludwig, Gene Pritsker, John Psathas, Michael P. Atkinson and the two performers themselves. Herskowitz’s Nagilara, his own take on Hava Nagila, is another showstopper, as is St. John’s Oltenian Hora, a dazzling display of what she calls “a bunch of improvised Romanian violin tricks, twists and turns.” These are all much more than just mere showpieces though, and in many instances they clearly have personal resonance for both the composers and performers. What is truly remarkable is the way in which St. John effortlessly and completely captures the sound, style, mood and flavour of these evocative works; Shiksa may be a Yiddish term for a non-Jewish woman, but there’s no hint here of St. John’s being an outsider or anything other than totally and genuinely immersed in this music – you get the feeling that she’s playing these pieces from the inside out. The recorded sound, especially for the piano, is superb – hardly surprising, given that the recording was made in the beautiful acoustics of Le Domaine Forget de Charlevoix in Saint-Irénée, Québec. I’ve noted before that it’s almost impossible to do comparative reviews of Bach’s unaccompanied violin and cello works; all you can do is look at the performer’s approach and the creative process and report on the result. Luckily, cellist Matt Haimovitz has virtually done this for us in his new 2-CD set of J. S. Bach: The Cello Suites According to Anna Magdalena (PentaTone Oxingale Series PTC 5186 555). In the extensive booklet essay Haimovitz details his journey so far with these wonderful and challenging works, starting with his hearing the legendary 1930s Casals recordings when he was nine, having a teacher at the time who had been a pupil of Casals and who required Haimovitz to play two movements of Bach each day as part of his regular practice routine, and having the privilege in his mid-teens of playing the Goffriller cello used by Casals. The year 2000 saw Haimovitz perform all six suites in Germany, relying primarily on the Bärenreiter edition and the manuscript copy by Anna Magdalena Bach, the composer’s wife – Bach’s original manuscript has never been found. On his return, he launched the new Oxingale Records label with a 3-CD set of the suites, only to find that within a few years he could no longer agree with his interpretations. Since then he has turned increasingly to the Anna Magdalena manuscript, which he feels is closest in spirit to the original and provides many keys to the playing style and interpretation. He discusses these in detail in the essay. The performances here, needless to say, are an absolute delight. The cello used is a Matteo Goffriller made in Venice in 1710, with a cello piccolo by the 18th-century maker Georg Nicol. Köllmer used for the Suite V; the bow is a baroque replica made by David Hawthorne. Tuning is A=415 and not the current A=440, so the suites are all down thewholenote.com December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 | 71

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
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Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
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Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
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Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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