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Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Choir
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Bach
INSIDE: The Canaries Are Here! 116 choirs to choose from, so take the plunge! The Nylons hit the road after one last SING! Fling. Jazz writer Steve Wallace wonders "Watts Goode" rather than "what's new?" Paul Ennis has the musical picks of the HotDocs crop. David Jaeger's CBC Radio continues golden for a little while yet. Douglas McNabney is Music's Child. Leipzig meets Damascus in Alison Mackay's fertile imagination. And "C" is for KRONOS in Wende Bartley's koverage of the third annual 21C Festival. All this and as usual much much more. Enjoy.

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take many of these tutti passages at blazing speeds, making them truly exciting. But all this would be nothing if Trifonov couldn’t retreat, as he does so effectively, into the concerto’s introspective moments. The second movement offers a generous sanctuary for this repose, where Trifonov shifts between wistfulness and playfulness. But it’s the two outer movements that really underscore the contrasts of Tchaikovsky’s large-scale vocabulary. The whole concerto frequently has a balletic feel, which is no surprise with Gergiev conducting. While the concerto gave us all the muscle of this young pianist, the rest of the disc is a moving testament to his gift for tenderness. The Chopin Barcarolle, and the Shubert/Liszt Frühlingsglaube are played with great vulnerability. Die Forelle, similarly moves with great care, but impressive technique, through Liszt’s rapid and skittish portrayals of the legendary trout. The final track is wisely given to Liebeslied (Widmung) wherein Liszt speaks to Schubert’s original idea in broader more embellished keyboard style and creates a grand final impact by building the simple musical idea into a great edifice. Trifonov really shines in these smaller scale works with flawless technique, intelligent and deeply believable interpretations. Korean-American pianist Soyeon Kate Lee has a modest discography but a talent that deserves more exposure. Her newest recording Scriabin – Piano Music (Naxos 8.573527) is a deliberate choice of the composer’s lesser known works, and as such, a wonderful find. Scriabin’s language for the piano has its wellknown Chopinesque accent. Much of it is late 19th-century but a few pieces are from the early 20th. The Two Pieces, Op.57 (1908) are the most contemporary of the set and Lee delights in all the gentle angularities of Scriabin’s melodies. She is always completely certain of where the most important material lies and highlights it artfully, even if only a passing note. Lee is very generous with her rubato, taking all the time to exploit hesitant moments for their greatest effect. Her consistently fluid technique is a pleasure to experience, especially in the Nocturne in D-Flat Major Op.9 No.2, written for the left hand alone. While Scriabin made little of the dance nature of his Mazurkas and Polonaises, Lee nevertheless chooses to underscore this with a subtle pulse on the beat of certain measures as if to remind us of the missing choreography. She closes her recording with a remarkable piece Scriabin wrote at age 11. This Canon in D Minor already bears the distinctive melancholy of its Russian composer. This is a very engaging recording for its fine repertoire choice and thoughtful playing. Not many pianists can boast of having performed all the Beethoven concertos in a single season. Paul Lewis can. When one considers this, his 15 recordings, and sees his discography is mostly Schubert and Beethoven, we begin to understand this artist. While such specialization early in a career may be unusual, one can’t argue with the results. Lewis in Schubert – Piano Sonata D.845 (Harmonia Mundi HMC 902136.37) leaves no doubt that he is a master of Schubert’s musical language. His grasp of the large forms like the Wanderer Fantasy in C Major Op.15 D760 and the Sonata No.16 in A Minor Op.42 D845 is often orchestral in conception. The smaller forms like the Four Impromptus Op.Posth.142 D935 are wonderfully fresh and credible. The Impromptu No.2 in A-Flat Major is moving in its simplicity and fluid middle section. No.4 in F Minor is often Listzian in its delivery, suggesting that Schubert was a finer pianist than history might have allowed. Lewis plays the Six Moments Musicaux Op.94 D780 in a beautifully contemplative posture, especially the final Allegretto. It’s a memorable performance. Italian pianist Luca Buratto is the 2015 Laureate of the Honens Piano Competition. His two-disc set Live at Honens 2015 (Honens 201601CD) of performances at the competition is a reminder of how wellrounded the judges expect the winner to be. The latest “Complete Pianist” has assembled a live performance program of impressive variety to demonstrate his abilities as soloist, accompanist and ensemble player. The standard repertoire items for solo piano reveal Buratto’s unerring grasp of the genre. His inspired approach to the final movement of Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major Op.17 moves it to a new level of dark and rich solemnity. He delivers Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse with a rare sparkle and remarkable firepower for the ending. Etudes 15 and 16 for Piano by György Ligeti are breathtaking in their closing measures, restating at maniacal speed, the opening ideas originally heard at a meditative pace. This is brilliant interpretation and performance. Buratto’s recording includes songs by Viardot and Obradors, sung by Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio K498 for piano, viola and clarinet and other works variously combining the voice with the wind and string instruments. The true highlight of the set is, however, the Hindemith Sonata for viola and piano in F Major Op.11 No.4. Buratto and violist Hsin-Yun Huang understand this music at the deepest level, capturing all the melodic beauty in Hindemith’s writing. This is especially effective in the second and third movements where the theme and variation format offer seemingly endless opportunity for restatement. The 2015 Honens recording is a must-have. Now in his early 70s, Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire has recorded most of the classical and romantic repertoire. His latest recording Bach Piano Works (Decca 478 8449) is a reminder of how universal an artist he is. While not regarded as a specialist in the historical performance practice of baroque keyboard repertoire, he is nevertheless highly credible because of his interpretive maturity. All the Bach on this recording is clean and unpedalled, as it should be. The wild sweeps of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor BWV903 are beautifully conceived, using only a minimum of the piano’s natural resonance. By contrast, Freire steeps himself in all the available tonal richness of the Andante from the Concerto in D Minor BWV974. The unidentified instrument used in the recording surrenders a lovely mellow ring to Freire’s touch. His remarkable technique is at once light and fluid. He’s masterful in knowing how to culminate the hammer strike through each keystroke to achieve the precise colour he wants. The Allemande of the Partita No.4 in D Major BWV828 is an arresting example of this keyboard caress. The closing Gigue is a rapid cascade of crisp articulated notes impeccably phrased. Equally impressive is his shift to the modern transcriptions of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Myra Hess and two chorales by Ferruccio Busoni. The stylistic shift is flawless while preserving the Germanic baroque discipline of Bach’s melodies and modulations. This is a performance of exceptional beauty. All performance art benefits from the companionship of passion and intellect. When a highly intelligent artist with impressive academic credentials undertakes a quest to know a composer at the most essential level, we have to listen. In her new recording Liszt – Sonata in B Minor, Petrarch Sonnets, Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen (Malachite Cu20301), Maria Razumovskaya informs her pianistic virtuosity with a profound understanding of Liszt and the nature of his music. 66 | May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 thewholenote.com

The Three Petrarch Sonnets are exquisitely cast in a pictorial yet spiritual way. Razumovskaya fully grasps the pilgrimage Liszt undertook both physically and creatively. The Sonnets have a simple and ethereal quality in their performance that is quite remarkable. It’s an approach that’s very similar to her treatment of the Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen. So much of this piece is played introspectively. It ends with very a moving statement of the Bach chorale. The anchor of Razumovskaya’s program is, of course, the B Minor Sonata S178. This may possibly be the least tormented and most contemplative performance I have heard. There is a confidence of statement found throughout even the darkest and most troubled passages which seem to point naturally to all the moments of modal and emotional resolution. It’s an effective interpretation based on a direct inquiry of Liszt’s intention at every moment and constantly reconciled with the person Razumovskaya knows him to be. It’s a very satisfying approach, the companionship of passion and intellect. VOCAL Rosanna Scalfi Marcello – Complete Solo Cantatas Darryl Taylor; Jory Vinikour; Ann Marie Morgan; Deborah Fox Naxos 9.70246-47 !! Rosanna Scalfi was an initially self-taught singer with a strong voice and an exceptionally wide range. Her social background was quite humble. Benedetto Marcello, the Venetian nobleman and composer, heard her and she became first his pupil, then his (secret) wife. These cantatas used to be attributed to Benedetto Marcello and have only recently been assigned to Rosanna Scalfi Marcello. They are her only known compositions. The cantatas are very much in the style of Alessandro Scarlatti and the young George Frideric Handel earlier in the 18th century. Each cantata has two arias, separated by a recitative; in many cases a recitative also comes before the first aria. Each aria is structured as a da capo: the initial section establishes the key of the piece, a middle section gives us a contrasting key or keys, while the conclusion goes back to the key originally established. John Glenn Paton, in an informative essay that comes with these discs, points out that there is considerable experimentation within the conventional framework. The second recitative in the cantata Ecco il momento, for instance, begins in F-sharp minor, then works its way towards the remote key of F Minor before moving back to the original key. It is a pity texts are not available, not even on the Internet. There is, however, a recent edition of the score by Paton and Deborah Hayes, published by ClarNan Editions (clarnan.com). Hans de Groot Luigi and Federico Ricci – Crispino e la Comare Colaianni; Bonfadelli; Boscolo; Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia; Chorus of Teatro Petruzzelli; Jader Bignamini Dynamic 37675 !! The operas by the brothers Luigi and Federico Ricci were popular in their day which was the middle of the 19th century. Now they are rarely performed, although there was a recent staging of Federico’s La prigione d’Edimburgo in Edinburgh, an apt choice since that opera is based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian. There have been a few modern revivals of Crispino e la Comare, beginning with that in Wexford in 1974. The production on this DVD was filmed at the Valle d’Itria Festival in Marina Franca, in Puglia, in 2013. Although the librettist is Francesco Maria Piave, now largely known for his work with Verdi, and although the Riccis called the work Melodramma fantastico giocoso, this is really old-fashioned opera buffa, with little of the seriousness which Goldoni and Galuppi had introduced in the late 1740s, let alone the way da Ponte and Mozart transformed the genre in the 1780s. Conductor and director are good at keeping the action moving. Some of the acting, however, is diabolical. The best performance comes from the baritone Domenico Colaianni as the much-put-upon cobbler Crispino, while the soprano Stefania Bonfadelli as Crispino’s wife Annetta copes well with her technically demanding part. A cute little dog comes close to stealing the show. I suppose that is inevitable once you introduce animals! Hans de Groot Mozart – Don Giovanni D’Arcangelo; Pisaroni; Damrau; DiDonato; Villazón; Erdmann; Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin Deutsche Grammophon 477 9878 !! Deutsche Grammophon has always been at the cutting edge of recording technology and marketing strategy. Today, when we are inundated with DVDs of live performances, they decided to go back to basics and re-record all seven of Mozart’s greatest operas in state-of-the-art digital sound, superb acoustics and with the best modern casts available. To launch the series at the Baden- Baden festival, summer home of the Berlin Philharmonic, Don Giovanni was performed in concert form with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (Claudio Abbado’s orchestra), taken over by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the young firebrand Canadian maestro who has risen to astronomical heights in recent years. His intuition into Mozart is uncanny, tempi on the brisk side, and his control, concentration and intensity never flag. The demonic drive of the first act finale has a Furtwänglerian mastery and moves like a steamroller. The cast is headed by Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, an incarnation of the Don Juan legend whose performance I’ve seen, admired and reviewed (The WholeNote, November 2014), a magnificent presence. (He sings the Champagne Aria in 70 seconds!) Exciting new basso Luca Pisaroni’s Leporello is a fascinating character with Italian charm and elegance. The two noble ladies are highly accomplished spectacular voices – Diana Damrau’s Donna Anna has superb musicianship and perfect vocal accuracy, Joyce DiDonato as Donna Elvira is an indignant and anguished powerhouse – but for me the most impressive was Mojca Erdmann’s (Zerlina) voice of heavenly beauty, soft and demure, with an edge of steel when necessary. Rolando Villazón, who rediscovers himself as a Mozart tenor, adds a new refreshing dimension, an erotic, Latin sentimentality to Don Ottavio. Vitalij Kowaljow’s Commendatore’s thunderbolts will chill your blood as he drags poor Don Juan into the fires of hell. Janos Gardonyi Concert Note: Luca Pisaroni is featured in the title role of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Rossini’s Maometto Secondo until May 14. Verdi – Giovanna d’Arco Jessica Pratt; Jean-François Borras; Julian Kim; Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia; Riccardo Frizza Dynamic 37676 !! Jeanne d’Arc, a.k.a. St. Joan, was a martyr, sold out by her own people after saving them and France from sure defeat by the British in 1430, but the young Verdi’s richly melodic, thewholenote.com May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 | 67

Volume 26 (2020- )

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