6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

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  • April
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One such CD is

One such CD is Meanderings, the terrific new solo release from the Israeli violinist Yael Barolsky ( While Luciano Berio’s name will be familiar to most, the same may not be true for Dai Fujikura (b.1977), a Japanese composer now resident in the UK; the Boston-born Israeli composer Amos Elkana (b.1967); the soloist’s father, Lithuanian Michael Barolsky (1947-2009); and Italian Luca Francesconi (b.1956), although all five composers are represented here by strong, engrossing works. Berio’s Sequenza VIII from 1976 is at the heart of the album for Barolsky, who credits its character and technical demands as leading to, and influencing the selection of, the other works on the CD. The ease and comfort with which she negotiates a really challenging piece more than bear out her statement that it is a piece she has loved and performed for many years. Fujikura’s 2010 composition Fluid Calligraphy for violin and optional video (the latter obviously not included here, but viewable in a complete performance on is an attempt to recreate the principles of Japanese calligraphy by using the bow as the equivalent of the calligrapher’s brush. Although it encompasses a wide range of technical effects it remains a very accessible work. Elkana’s Reflections for violin and electronics was written for Barolsky in 2014 and is dedicated to her. A computer records the solo violin, but only at specific points in the solo part, and plays the recordings back through four speakers positioned beside the player. The result is a multi-layered collage of voices where distinguishing between the live and recorded playing becomes virtually impossible at times; only the first appearance of new material clearly identifies the live soloist. It’s extremely effective, with mixes of high and low registers, pizzicato and arco sections and fast and slow tempi, with a beautiful quasi-chordal section at the end. Michael Barolsky’s Prana (the Sanskrit word for life force) for violin and tape from 1977 fuses the composer’s melodic lines with fragments from the Bach D Minor Allemande (in slow tempo) against a background of electronic sounds invoking nature. Francesconi’s 1991 composition Riti neurali for violin and ensemble is a live recording with the Israel Contemporary Players under Ilan Volkov. Subtitled Third Study on Memory, it was inspired by the composer’s fascination with a particular theory on the function of memory. Barolsky’s playing is simply outstanding throughout a CD that is a significant addition to the contemporary solo violin discography. Lutenist Žak Ozmo explores the music of Vincenzo Galilei on The Well-Tempered Lute Tones I-IV, another excellent CD from Hyperion (CDA68017). Galilei was a respected member of the Camerata, an influential group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals active in Florence in the late 1500s. The music here is taken from his Il Primo Libro d’intavolatura di liuto (1584), written for a six-course lute and which Ozmo, in the outstanding booklet notes, calls the first substantial musical collection to champion the versatility of a well-tempered tuning system, demonstrating the lute’s ability to transpose pieces to any of the 12 degrees of an equally tempered scale. Ozmo explains in fascinating detail the philosophical, interpretational and technical challenges that the work presents – which he says push both the player and the instrument to their limits – as well as the questions that need to be answered in order to perform it. The technical challenges are clearly handled well, although the playing seems a bit dry and tight at times, no doubt due to the fact that in order to play the pieces on each step of the scale, the index finger of the left hand needs to be kept flat on the fingerboard after the first step. Anyone who has ever tried playing classical guitar with a permanent full barre chord will know what that entails! Still, this is a fascinating CD that will doubtless more than repay repeated listening. There’s another series of the Beethoven Complete String Quartets making its way through these remarkable works, this time by the Quartetto di Cremona on the audite label (92.684). The first volume was issued in March 2013. I haven’t heard any of the previous releases, but if the new Volume V Super Audio CD is anything to go by, then I’ve really been missing something. There’s only one quartet on this issue – No.15, the String Quartet in A Minor Op.132 – but the ensemble is joined by the outstanding Lawrence Dutton on viola for the early String Quintet in C Major Op.29. This Italian quartet has been around for ten years now, and much is made of their training with the Quartetto Italiano’s Piero Farulli and the Alban Berg Quartet’s Hatto Beyerle; the resulting mix of an intuitive, emotional approach to the music with the classical German- Austrian focus on form and structure. Their playing here certainly bears that out, with a fine sense of shape and form never compromising the warmth and spontaneity of the playing. Three further volumes are planned to complete the series of eight regular-priced CDs. How this set will fare in a fiercely competitive field where 2CD issues and box sets are the norm remains to be seen, but the performances themselves will more than hold their own, I’m sure. Visit the Listening Room Online. Enhanced reviews. Click to listen. Click to buy. What if you could listen in? Now you can! Previously uploaded to the Listening Room Fairouz has rapidly become one of the most highly regarded composers of his generation. The songs on 'No Orpheus' represent a decade of his writing for voice. ABENG is the 3rd album from electric bassist Rich Brown. The music has been described as highly charged, richly imaginative, and at times poignant. For more information Thom McKercher at Orbis is an album through which contemporary works are given a new and vibrant life. The harp like you’ve never heard it before! 72 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

Keyed In ALEX BARAN Janina Fialkowska’s new recording of Schubert – Piano Sonata No.7; Four Impromptus (ATMA ACD2 2699) is an example of familiar repertoire rethought, reconsidered and reinvented. Nothing has been turned on its head nor has Schubert been over-examined for missed content. The genius of his ideas lies in both their lyric value and in the exquisite nature of his supporting accompaniments. What Fialkowska has done is to redraw the emotional map that guides her playing through Schubert’s straightforward material. She plays the Impromptu No.2 in A-flat Major Op.142 D935 as if it were something sacred. The opening idea is delivered in utter simplicity and the middle section rises to a speed and intensity not often heard. This pulls the work’s emotional poles further apart and gives greater impact to the quiet ending. The other three impromptus, too, are wonderfully recast. The Piano Sonata No.7 in E -flat Major Op.122 D568 benefits from a release of tempo strictures in the second and third movements. Fialkowska gives Schubert’s simple ideas an airy freedom that feels so completely right. She is, as ever, the mature interpreter we have come to admire. Concert Note: On April 1 and 2 Janina Fialkowska performs Chopin’s Concerto in F Minor with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony at the Centre in the Square. It’s always a pleasure to hear a new recording from Angela Hewitt, regardless of the repertoire. Early 2016 saw the release of Domenico Scarlatti – Sonatas (Hyperion CDA67613), her first project with this material and one which she hopes to pursue more. In her liner notes, Hewitt makes reference to the scholarly debate over whether the sonatas were originally intended to be paired or not. She has, nevertheless, chosen to devise her own groupings, to the sonatas’ best advantage. Playing her long-favoured Fazioli, Hewitt delivers a flawless technical performance with clarity never sacrificed to speed. Scarlatti’s sonata structures are simple enough to navigate and one might expect that in the course of 16 such works a certain amount of predictability would set in. But this never happens as Hewitt gives the main idea of each sonata a completely fresh approach. She also never misses a contrapuntal opportunity, and plenty abound throughout. Her ornaments and figures are perfect. She is also completely at ease using whatever technical advantage the modern piano offers to this older repertoire, whether dynamic or colouristic. The Sonata in G Minor Kk8 is an excellent example of this as is the Sonata in F Minor Kk69. The final track is a bit of surprise as Hewitt’s choice of tempo is notably slower than most often heard. This turns the Sonata in E Major Kk380 into a far more thoughtful and even slightly melancholy utterance than we expect. We look forward to her next set of Scarlatti sonatas. Concert Note: On April 13, 14 and 16, Angela Hewitt performs two piano concertos by Bach with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The program also features Symphony No.8 by Shostakovich, conducted by Peter Oundjian. In her latest disc Hélène Grimaud – Water (Deutsche Grammophon CD 00289 479 3426), pianist Hélène Grimaud draws from the well of repertoire using water as its inspiration. Nearly every composer has written something depicting an aspect of water whether vast or minute. Her choices of works were guided by a live performance project incorporating art, music and architecture. Set in a New York armoury drill hall carefully flooded for added effect, the performance reflected her environmental concerns around the treatment of water as one of humanity’s most precious resources. Grimaud immerses herself completely in the nature of the water theme. Aided by the cavernous acoustic of the armoury, she captures all the fluidness and sparkling images created by her chosen composers. Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este is among the best tracks for its articulate shimmer in the upper registers. The Takemitsu Rain Tree Sketch II is beautiful for its deeply haunting reserve and Fauré’s Barcarolle flows with unbound rhythmic freedom throughout. The best track is, however, Debussy’s La Cathédrale engloutie. Here Grimaud evokes an architectural grandness and solemnity so appropriate to the composer’s image for the piece. The recording produced at the art installation is combined with seven electro-acoustic compositions by Nitin Sawhney that act as transitions between her eight piano pieces. The contemporary works serve effectively as transitions between the traditional repertoire and are, in fact, titled as such, Transition 1, 2, etc. They alternate seamlessly from one track to the next and make for a truly fascinating listen. It’s hard to imagine the mindset that a pianist must adopt to undertake an extensive project like Valentina Lisitsa plays Philip Glass You can find enhanced reviews of all discs below the yellow line at "This dazzling debut album features pure, emotionally eloquent vocals, refreshingly eclectic selections and stylistic arrangements that are sure to leave you smiling." Jan Lisiecki performs the complete works of Robert Schumann for piano and orchestra with Antonio Pappano leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di S. Cecilia Saffo is full of surprising & striking elements, with a strong musical realisation of the text, supportive string and woodwind writing and vivid choral effects. Critically acclaimed world-jazz group AVATAAR explores rhythmic hypnotism, cinematic sonic landscapes and soaring melody through a seamless marriage of ancient and modern musical sounds. April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 73

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