4 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016

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  • Toronto
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From 30 camp profiles to spark thoughts of being your summer musical best, to testing LUDWIG as you while away the rest of so-called winter; from Scottish Opera and the Danish Midtvest, to a first Toronto recital appearance by violin superstar Maxim Vengerov; from musings on New Creations and new creation, to the boy who made a habit of crying Beowulf; it's a month of merry meetings and rousing recordings reviewed, all here to discover in The WholeNote.

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same thing in trusting this revival of Il Signor Bruschino to a young theatre group, Teatro Sotteraneo, with no previous experience in opera. The directors of the group are all in their 20s and full of ideas, energy and fun. The scene for this one-act farsa giocosa is a modern-day theme park complete with Coke machines, popcorn, balloons and silly hats. Tourists of all ages wander in and out snapping photos and are invited to join in the even sillier plot where everyone lies except the poor put-upon protagonist, Bruschino. In fact they confuse him so much that he ends up wondering who he is and there is typical Rossinian mayhem, except for the wonderful music and the singing. The polished cast are mainly young people such as the soprano, Maria Aleida, spectacular in her high register, and her suitor, David Algret, a fine tenor. The principal baritones: Roberto de Candia (Signor Bruschino) and Carlo Lepore, the guardian of the bride, who arrives on a Segway, singing his cavatina riding on it up and down the stage, are a bit older and undoubtedly best in show. In charge of it all is the conductor Daniele Rustioni who is barely out of his teens, just like the composer. Janos Gardonyi Verdi – Macbeth Zeljko Lucic; Anna Netrebko; René Pape; Joseph Calleja; Metropolitan Opera; Fabio Luisi Deutsche Grammophon 073 5222 !! For me the most sublime moment in Macbeth is the Gran concertato just after the murder of King Duncan when out of the anguished a cappella chorus the orchestra finally joins in with a melody direct from heaven (and how beautifully did Sinopoli do it!), but that was nothing compared to the intense joy and outburst of the Met audience following Vieni! T’affretta, Anna Netrebko’s first salvo as Lady Macbeth. And that Sleepwalking Scene! Oh my! It was an inspired decision to revive Macbeth for the 2014 season with Netrebko as the lead soprano. The woman had never sung the role before, her voice more suited to the lyrical and coloratura repertory or so people thought. But they didn’t know Netrebko! After 2007, when she sang a few bel canto roles at the Met, she went back to Europe scoring triumph upon triumph in the most challenging prima donna roles: Manon in Berlin, Anna Bolena in Vienna, Donna Anna at La Scala. Nevertheless, here she is, Lady Macbeth in New York, seductive in her silk chiffon dress, packing the house again to capacity, her voice extending to a high D flat and also extending the Met’s sagging profits. Fortunately, the rest of the cast is not outclassed by Netrebko’s radiance. The great basso René Pape (Banquo) is a distinguished credit to a rather short role (as he gets killed quickly) and so is the tenor, Joseph Calleja (Macduff), but at least he survives. Serbian baritone Zeljko Lucic (Macbeth) is a fine character actor with a strong voice, but no match for the great Italian baritones (e.g. Leo Nucci or Renato Bruson) of yesteryear. Exciting yet sensitively refined conducting by new Met principal conductor Fabio Luisi amply compensates for the still unsurpassed legendary Sinopoli reading. Janos Gardonyi Szymanowski – Król Roger Kwiecień; Jarman; Pirgu; Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Antonio Pappano Opus Arte OA 1151 D !! It took almost a century from its premiere in Warsaw in 1926 for Król Roger (King Roger) to reach the stage of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London. Belated though it is, this debut is nothing short of a triumph. It is by far the finest production of this modernist opera that I have seen. The great strength of Szymanowski’s music is its exuberant, ecstatic orchestral colour, making it more neo-romantic than modernist. Mariusz Kwiecień, whose portrayal of King Roger may be a careerdefining moment, put it like this: “To compose this music, you must be either on drugs or mad.” Think Ravel, Scriabin, Bartók, but also Górecki. In the past, infrequent as they were, many productions of the opera faltered on stage because of its halting rhythms. The work jumps from bacchanal celebration to a standstill oratorio within its slim, 90-minute timeframe. Director Kasper Holten brilliantly unites the two polar opposites, with some help from the gorgeous set designed by Steffen Aarfing. Among the many charms of this work are wonderful choral passages and showcase arias for the female protagonist, Queen Roxana, masterfully delivered by Georgia Jarman. Saimir Pirgu as the Shepherd is beguiling and free. All the cast benefit from having a native Polish speaker (Kwiecień) on hand – the language coaching is well beyond the typical, cringe-inducing sound imitation that plagues the productions of many Czech, Polish and Russian operas in the West. Antonio Pappano not only conducts the work, he breathes Szymanowski’s music. This production will likely propel King Roger into the sphere of interest of the major opera houses in the world. Bravi! Robert Tomas Cloud Light – Songs of Norbert Palej Bogdanowicz; McGillivray; Wiliford; Woodley; Philcox Centrediscs CMCCD 22315 !! The song or chanson or lied died with Benjamin Britten – or that is the impression you might have gotten by visiting your neighbourhood record store or any concert hall. While Brahms, Strauss, Schubert and Mahler song cycles are everywhere, very little in that genre seems to have originated since the middle of the 20th century. It is more that the song itself has changed, rather than disappeared. Pianist Steven Philcox and tenor Lawrence Wiliford, directors of the Canadian Art Song Project, summed it up succinctly in the liner notes to this recording: “…the experimentation of the 20th century avant-garde rejected the intimacy that is inherent to the genre…” Enter Norbert Palej (Pah-Lay), a Polishborn composer, still in his 30s, currently teaching at the University of Toronto. He restores to the song what for centuries was its golden measure: the intricate relationship between poetry and music, the latter being an emotional outgrowth of the former. All cycles included on this disc evoke an earlier era, with respect for the text and an intimacy of interpretation. Cloud Light, not written for any specific voice, invites comparisons with les nuits d’été by Berlioz. Most surprisingly, despite being an homage to the 19thand early 20th-century tradition of song, the work sounds utterly contemporary and modern. It is as if after 50 years in the wilderness, the genre is coming back into its own. A welcome return! Robert Tomas Sacred Reflections of Canada – A Canadian Mass Canadian Chamber Choir; Julia Davids Independent ( !! The working style of the Canadian Chamber Choir is unique; with members spread across the country, they convene at least twice a year for short projects after learning their parts at home. A rehearsal period of a few days is hosted by a school, choir or community and the choir then returns the favour by providing workshops before they embark on tour. Their mandate, therefore, is not just to perform, but to build community by educating and engaging as many singers as possible on each tour while introducing the works of established as well as emerging Canadian composers. 68 | March 1, 2016 - April 7, 2016

This recording, nominated for the 2016 JUNO Awards Classical Album of the Year, is organized into the format of a mass, incorporating 19 works by 17 Canadian composers. Amongst the five movements of the Mass Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) are interspersed a number of other reflective sacred pieces in exquisite a cappella renderings. For example, composerin-residence Jeff Enns’ O magnum mysterium begins with the purist soprano solo by Megan Chartrand; Robert Ingari’s beautiful and rich setting of Ave Maria is contrasted by another, mysterious and dissonant, by James Fogarty. Director Julia Davids has chosen the pieces well, and woven the parts into a flowing and cohesive whole, whilst directing the itinerant choir in a stunning performance. Dianne Wells Voices of Earth Amadeus Choir; Lydia Adams; Bach Children’s Chorus; Linda Beaupré Centrediscs CMCCD 21915 !! Lydia Adams’ Amadeus Choir has produced its eighth CD, featuring the music of four Canadian composers, two of whom perform on the recording. The title piece is composed and played by pianist Ruth Watson Henderson, joined by a percussion ensemble along with another featured composer, Eleanor Daley, playing the celeste. This, and others on the recording, afford another opportunity for the choir to partner with the Bach Children’s Chorus, celebrating 28 years of collaboration. Voices of Earth is a multi-movement work with a great variety of harmonic colour and everchanging rhythms which mirror the dynamic character of nature and creation. Similarly, the next piece, Of Heart and Tide by Sid Robinovitch, portrays another force of nature, the sea, with musical undercurrents evoking the awesome power therein. Eleanor Daley’s pieces are of a different character altogether and contrast nicely; her Salutation of the Dawn and Prayer for Peace are essentially quiet, heartfelt devotionals. I Will Sing Unto the Lord by Imant Raminsh is joyful and jubilant, rounding out the program nicely. It is, as always, truly wonderful to experience the convergence of excellent singers, instrumentalists, conductor and composers who are unequivocally passionate about choral music. Dianne Wells CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Schubert & Beethoven Grigory Sokolov Deutsche Grammophon 479 5426 !! Although not the most recognized figure by the record buying public, to pianophiles Sokolov is an icon on the same short list that would include Richter, Argerich and few others. A first prize winner of the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition, it was Emil Gilels, who headed the jury that unanimously awarded him the Gold Medal. This new release is his second on DG, following the sensational Salzburg Recital issued last year which included an unequalled performance of the 24 Chopin Preludes (DG 4784342, 2 CDs). As he does in that first set, he transforms each and every track into a listener’s instantaneous personal favourite. Sokolov is capable of making the piano sing in a very particular way. He demonstrates breathtaking sensitivity, a seamless pianistic style and a low key projection that sweeps the listener away. Sokolov’s Schubert Impromptus Op.90 D899 are quite different from the same music in other hands. If one listens without any distractions there are feelings of the realization of his mortality and his struggles against it. Simple but profound in spirit. Similarly the Three Piano Pieces D946 convey the same story. These performances were recorded in concert in Warsaw on May 12, 2013. All Sokolov’s unique qualities make his performance of the Hammerklavier a breathtaking event, and I am curious to hear him in the other 31 sonatas of Beethoven. This performance and the Rameau and Brahms encores were recorded at the Salzburg Festival on August 23, 2013. The Rameau encores are very interesting as Sokolov maintains a quasi-Romantic approach that happens to work very well. A splendid choice exposing his versatility. The Brahms Intermezzo Op.117 No.3 takes us home. Mention must be made of the astonishing dynamic sound from both concerts. Although the engineers are different the sound is remarkably similar. As realistic as I’ve ever heard. Bruce Surtees Schumann Jan Lisiecki; Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; Antonio Pappano Deutsche Grammophon 4795327 !! There are so many recorded versions available of the Piano Concerto in A Minor Op.54 that any newcomer has to be extraordinary to justify itself. This enticing performance is just that. Jan Lisiecki, the 20-year-old born in Calgary, came into prominence as a child prodigy, making his orchestral debut aged nine. Today he is internationally acclaimed and is one of the most respected pianists of this generation. The first hearing was most disappointing. Lisiecki seemed to be uninvolved and Visit Surkalén is returning to the stage to present a new album, "Ethno- Charango". An original creation. A journey to the confines of the world. Special limited edition 35 CD set celebrating Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Incl. Holst, Ravel, Debussy and much more. Brahms String Quartets, Op. 51 Nos. 1 & 2 New Orford String Quartet "A flawless interpretation." Classical Music Sentinel The complete piano works of African-descent composer Nathaniel Dett recorded for the first time. Enjoy Dett’s wonderful melodies, harmonic colours, and narratives. March 1, 2016 - April 7, 2016 | 69

Volume 26 (2020- )

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