6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Orchestra
  • Concerto
  • Choir

(Decca 478 8079 DH2).

(Decca 478 8079 DH2). This two-disc set contains nine selections from The Hours and other films like Mishima and The Truman Show. Lisitsa also plays the Metamorphosis I-V and the half-hour long How Now. Conventionally, one imagines a performer mapping out thematic structure and development, and attending to such concerns as articulation and phrasing. But in Glass’ world these things can have far less significance and a performer may look elsewhere to prepare. Glass describes himself as a composer of “music with repeating structures” and it’s this device that predominates throughout the repertoire in this set. Lisitsa takes an approach that respects the important patterns of Glass’ work but leaves her enough expressive room to use speed and dynamics to shape the music. This is most evident in How Now and Wichita Vortex Sutra. The experience of playing this often hypnotic music is challenging. Lisitsa reaches successfully for the other worldliness of Glass’ minimalist voice. She never loses herself in it because she understands that the immersive experience of Glass’ music is best reserved for the listener. Concert Note: Valentina Lisitsa performs at Koerner Hall at 3pm on April 10. The program will include Scriabin, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Young pianist Nicolas Horvath has a very impressive reputation as a Liszt interpreter. It’s no surprise then, that his approach to Glass in Philip Glass – Glassworlds 3; Metamorphosis (Grand Piano GP691) is strikingly different. His own liner notes to this recording reveal his inclination toward analytical detail. At the keyboard he extracts thematic material from the rotating structures that Glass sets spinning like so many Buddhist prayer wheels. In doing so he compels the listener to experience the music more melodically than its hypnotic patterns might otherwise allow. This sets his performance of the Metamorphosis I-V apart from most others. The melodic imperative that seems to drive Horvath’s interpretation of Glass’ music is even more powerful in Einstein on the Beach and the Piano Sonatina No.2 (1959). There’s even a hint of programmatic interpretation in the piano version of The Olympian – Lighting of the Torch and Closing. By contrast, however, Horvath completely abandons all classical/ romantic sensibilities in Two Pages (1968), choosing instead to favour the dominant mechanical nature of the repeating figures, leaving only Glass’ subtle changes to play with the listener’s mind. This kind of versatility makes Horvath a compelling interpreter and presents the repertoire in a deeply engaging and listenable way. This disc is the third volume in his Glassworlds series. Kariné Poghosyan is an Armenian- American pianist teaching at the Manhattan School of Music. With a scholarly thesis on the piano music of Aram Khachaturian to her credit, her latest recording Khachaturian – Original Piano Works and Transcriptions (Grand Piano GP673) demonstrates the affinity she has for this composer’s work. The disc includes a new piano transcription of the Masquerade Suite with its familiar Waltz, and the Suite No.2 from the ballet Spartacus, in a new arrangement by Matthew Cameron. Both performances are world premieres but the latter is impressive for the way it presents the ballet’s well-known main theme, particularly in its wide, sweeping orchestral gestures. Also on the disc is Poem, a very early and somewhat troubled work that Poghosyan performs with conviction, finding great serenity in the quieter sections to balance the work’s darker passages. The recording’s finest piece is, however, the Piano Sonata from 1961, one of Khachaturian’s few formal efforts in larger forms. The opening movement is breathtaking for its relentless motion that only has a brief respite midway through. Poghosyan plays this brilliantly and brings it to an edge-of-your-seat close. The second movement is remarkable for its unfamiliar and sometimes experimental language. The final movement brings back the energy of the first but with more intensity. This must be an exhausting piece to perform live. It is excitement combined with mystery and Poghosyan plays it masterfully. We tend to have set notions of the personalities that shaped the music of most historical periods. While the names of those who dominate obscure the lesser, we sometimes find, in the shadows, new material that helps us understand an age in a richer way. And so it is with the music of Daniel Steibelt and a new recording by Howard Shelley that presents three of his piano concertos in Stiebelt (Hyperion CDA68104). Born to German/French parents, Steibelt was a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven. He built his career as a pianist and composer in France and England at the turn of the 19th century. He is reported to have famously challenged Beethoven to a piano duel and forever lived with the humiliation of that ill-conceived contest. Steibelt’s music shows his remarkable keyboard facility with extended runs and complex ornamentation. Although his work shows him to have been a fine tunesmith, he is judged to have been much less competent at thematic development. Pianist and conductor Howard Shelley performs the Piano Concertos Nos. 3, 5 and 7 with the Ulster Orchestra. Shelley’s playing is graceful and delivers the full value of Steibelt’s decorative tunes, many of them finely crafted and memorable, especially the Scottish folk melodies in the slow movements. The orchestra is superbly balanced with the piano, and while conducted from the keyboard, their performance is unerringly intimate with the soloist. The recording is a welcome document of a deserving, if lesser known, composer. Lauded by critics as the finest fortepiano performer of our time, Kristian Bezuidenhout has issued another installment in his ambitious Mozart recording project, Mozart Keyboard Music Vols. 8 & 9 (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907532.33). Bezuidenhout plays a fortepiano built in 2009, copied from a Viennese Walter & Sohn of 1805. The instrument is tuned to A 430 and set in unequal temperament. This has the effect of reducing the instrument’s resonance in keys not part of C Major’s harmonic overtone series, like D and F. This is hardly noticeable since the fortepiano has, overall, characteristically less resonance than our modern pianos. These two volumes are well programmed with plenty of contrasting pieces that make listening through their entirety highly enjoyable. The familiar Sonata in C Major K545 opens the set and is striking for the degree of clarity and articulation Bezuidenhout is able to express at this keyboard. He plays the Gigue in G Major K574 with an incisive angularity applied to both the rhythmic patterns and the intervallic leaps that must have delighted Mozart in writing them. He also includes three sets of variations and a couple of fragments completed by Mozart scholar Robert Levin. Bezuidenhout is a dynamic player not shy about digging into the instrument forcefully to generate a fortissimo. He’s equally adept at key touch so light that some notes seem to disappear on first hearing. A quick replay confirms their presence but only at the softest levels. The two-disc set contains selected works from 1774 to 1790 and, like the rest of the series, is not chronological. 74 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

VOCAL The Way of the Pilgrim Toronto Consort Marquis Classics MAR 81465 ( !! The Toronto Consort was founded in 1972. Since then it has been recognized as one of the finest ensembles in the world specializing in medieval, renaissance and early baroque music. This disc is a reissue, first released by Dorian in 2000. The ensemble is essentially the same as that performing now, with one exception: the recording was made before the soprano Michele DeBoer joined the group. Although the title of the CD emphasizes pilgrimage, the subtitle, “Medieval Songs of Travel,” shows that “travel” is taken in a wider sense: we have here songs about the Crusades, about the miracles performed by the Virgin Mary (linked to the Spanish pilgrimage Salas), about spring and love written by wandering monks (the Carmina Burana) and about the vicissitudes in one’s own life (the autobiographical poem by Oswald von Wolkenstein, one of the last minnesingers). Making these works ready for performance would have involved a considerable amount of work. While good modern editions are available, it must be remembered that the music has come down to us in the shape of monophonic songs. Everything added to the tune would have to be added by the performer. The performances on the CD are always enjoyable. I was particularly taken with the soprano Katherine Hill’s performances in the Cantiga Ben pode Santa Maria, mezzo Laura Pudwell’s rendering of Bonum est confidere from the Carmina Burana and with Pudwell’s unaccompanied performance Jerusalem se plaint, a lament written in response to the retreat of the Crusader army from Egypt in 1221. A lively and informative essay by David Fallis, the artistic director of the Toronto Consort, is a valuable supplement. Hans de Groot Concert Note: The Toronto Consort’s season concludes with performances of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with special guest British tenor Charles Daniels, joined by tenor Kevin Skelton and Montreal’s premier cornetto and sackbut ensemble La Rose des Vents on May 6, 7 and 8 at Trinity-St.Paul’s Centre. Monteverdi – Vespro Della Beata Vergine Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists; Sir John Eliot Gardiner Alpha 705 !! Sir John Eliot Gardiner has conducted Monteverdi’s Vespers many times. In the booklet that comes with this DVD he relates how he first conducted the work in 1964 when he was still an undergraduate at Cambridge. He also mentions that he received a great deal of cooperation from various academics. His tutor even arranged for him to have a year off from his work for the History Tripos so that he could concentrate on the Monteverdi. The performance was in the splendid late Gothic chapel at King’s College, Cambridge. Recently Gardiner was invited to conduct the work again in King’s College Chapel and the essay in the DVD booklet is clearly the program note for that performance. Gardiner has conducted the work several times on CD and also once on an earlier DVD where the venue was the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice. The venue on this recording is yet another space, the late 17th century Chapelle Royale de Versailles. That church is not as spectacular as the Chapel at King’s College or St. Mark’s Basilica but the architectural space works well. The cinematographer has also made good use of the frescos in the church to heighten the baroque ambiance in which the work is performed. In his introductory essay, Gardiner writes that already in 1964, he found “the smooth, polite euphony of the collegiate choral style of the early 60s” unsuitable for this work. He has not changed his mind: this performance is dramatic and vigorous. Apart from some rather ungainly entrances by the solo tenors in the concluding Magnificat, it is also beautifully sung and played. Hans de Groot Concert Note: As mentioned above, the Toronto Consort presents Monteverdi’s Vespers at Trinity-St. Paul’s on May 6, 7 and 8. Rossini – Mosè Raimondi; Kabatu; Ganci; Mihai; Polinelli; Veneranca Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano; Francesco Quattrocchi Cmajor 735308 !! This was one of the events specially created for the Milan Expo 2015 that coincided with the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification and what better way to celebrate than to perform an opera in the magnificent Gothic cathedral, Duomo di Milano, that took 600 years to build. The majestic interior became awash in cascading multicoloured curtains of light giving an impressive backdrop to the action. The original opera, well over three hours long, Mosè in Egitto by the 24-year-old Rossini, was written for Naples. He later revised it for Paris and turned it into French (Moise et Pharaon) thereby losing a lot of the originality and freshness of the original. The creators of this particular event in their wisdom used this second version (translated back into Italian) and condensed it into a oneand-a-half-hour “semi-staged sacred melodrama” of overblown and repetitive religious scenes of divine miracles, dispensing with much of the love story, the human drama and the wonderful music that made this opera a success and caused it to survive for nearly 200 years. Fortunately, the immortal Prayer Scene at the banks of the Red Sea was kept, ending the show on a positive note. This being in Italy and especially Milan, the mostly young singers are all excellent, their voices gloriously resounding in the spacious acoustics of the cathedral. Isabelle Kabatu as Queen Sinaide is especially memorable in her highly emotionally charged scene, and in the title role the venerable Ruggero Raimondi at 74, amazingly enough can still sing the role although his voice is somewhat compromised by now. The young Italian conductor Francesco Quattrocchi, well attuned to the Rossini idiom, brings out beautiful sounds and sonorities. All in all the opera is severely truncated, but still an impressive, visually resplendent show for this special occasion. Janos Gardonyi Wagner – Tannhäuser Seiffert; Petersen; Mattei; Pape; Prudenskaya; Sonn; Staatskapelle Berlin; Daniel Barenboim Bel Air Classiques BAC122 !! The exiled and penniless Wagner’s first real international break came in 1860 when Emperor Napoleon III invited him to perform his Tannhäuser in Paris, an event that became the biggest scandal in the history of opera. Riots broke out, people were beating each other up, screaming, yelling and throwing things at the singers while the Emperor and his Empress were sitting in the royal box unable do a thing. Wagner quickly withdrew the score and hurriedly left Paris. Tannhäuser, Wagner’s tortured dilemma between physical and spiritual love, however, not only survived 150 years but is triumphantly vindicated here in Berlin. The big problem facing directors today is how to make opera relevant in the 21st century; there have been many failures, stupidly conceived updated concepts by second-rate April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 75

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)