7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016

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  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Quartet
  • August
  • Orchestra
  • September
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
It's combined June/July/August summer issue time with, we hope, enough between the covers to keep you dipping into it all through the coming lazy, hazy days. From Jazz Vans racing round "The Island" delivering pop-up brass breakouts at the roadside, to Bach flute ambushes strolling "The Grove, " to dozens of reasons to stay in the city. May yours be a summer where you find undiscovered musical treasures, and, better still, when, unexpectedly, the music finds you.

group improv that’s

group improv that’s Who Eats Who. As his guitar picking creates time dislocation alongside Gray’s clattering fills, the piece reaches its zenith as keyboard swabbing gives away to fluid squirms from Carlberg, making the finale as dramatic as it is didactic. Piloting a mid-course between freedom and formalism are the seven compositions on Life After Life (Allos Documents 012 allosmusica. org), written and performed by percussionist Eric Platz. Platz, a music professor at Brandon University (BU) in Manitoba, is joined by cellist Leanne Zacharias who also teaches at BU, local electric bassist Don Benedictson, who recorded the disc, and Chicagoan James Falzone, who plays clarinet and adds a shruti box drone to some tracks. Three successive variants on the title track are chamber music-like duos, the last confirming the near-identical timbres of cello and clarinet; the first two demonstrating that Falzone and Platz can produce enlightened textures with the organization of synchronized swimmers plus the improvisational smarts that could imagine Jimmy Giuffre playing with Max Roach. Elsewhere, Zacharias, equally capable of plucking a swing line, emphasizes the innate woodiness of her instrument which joins with moderato clarinet tones and the timbered parts of Platz’s kit to form an appropriately tree-spanning confluence that delineates the composer’s mystical vision of Redwood Vesper. These inferences, plus sonic seasoning that bring in rock music-like rhythms via Platz’s back beat plus an exotic shruti box buzzing, are part of the CD’s 21-minute chef-d’oeuvre Blood Meridian. More closely related to the integration of separated impulses than blood, the sectional piece begins with droning undulations that sound electronic as well as acoustic, then introduce a rhythmic undertow that shares space with wheezing clarinet puffs, marimba pops and cello riffs. Like a radio shunting from one station to another, additional sequences include a duet with dreamy cello strokes and whimsical clarinet yelps; maracas shakes, bell pealing, wood-block echoes; and human-sounding panting and breathing. Ultimately the composition memorably resolves itself as the wave form oscillations cease and an overlay of clarinet trills signal a triumphant resolution. Conclusively, the drummer’s echoing pop puts an onomatopoeic period on the program. Musically, Luminosity (Origin Records 82706 may be the most straight ahead of the sessions here, but it’s also the one with the most varied cast. The program is eight compositions by Germanborn-and-raised pianist Florian Hoefner, who after a long period in New York, now teaches at Memorial University in St. John’s. The quartet is completed by American bassist Sam Anning, Austrian drummer Peter Kronreif and Vancouver-raised, Manhattan-based tenor and soprano saxophonist Seamus Blake. Obviously attracted to his new surroundings, Hoefner penned two fluid ballads The Narrows and North Country, which flow like the clear water in a Newfoundland harbour, and more obviously Newfound Jig. A frolicking piece that manages to bring in the tenth province’s old country musical history, Newfound Jig swings and swirls as Blake outputs John Coltrane-like slurs and slides and the pianist builds up intense modal chording. Ebullient, Blake adds the necessary crunch to the bossa-nova-like In Circles, working up a piston-driven head of steam without ever lapsing into screech mode. Dipping into the tenor’s lowest registers on Elements, Blake doubles the jazz-rock feel engendered by Kronreif’s scrambling thrusts. Overall though, Hoefner’s linear comping keeps the piece moving like a veteran sailor righting a scow in an ocean storm. Perhaps the key to the session is appropriately expressed on The Bottom Line. Pushed by tremolo piano chords and rattling drums, the melody expresses toughness without discontent. Those sentiments would seem to be the perfect way to adapt to the sometimes rugged life in Newfoundland – as well as describing the skills needed to be both a patient teacher and an innovating musician. Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES Prior to the 1950s, when the name of Béla Bartók was mentioned it was only the Concerto for Orchestra that came to mind. Commissioned in 1943 by Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, at the urging of violinist Joseph Szigeti and conductor Fritz Reiner, the work was a phenomenal success and was featured in performances around the world and enjoyed some prestigious recordings. RCA Victor documented the second evening of the world premiere under Koussevitzky on December 30, 1944. There is something unusual about this score: Bartók wrote two endings for the last movement. In addition to the more elaborate ending he wrote a shorter, less difficult one, suitable for less virtuosic ensembles. Bartók’s early works for orchestra belong to the late Romantic era as heard in the two Suites for Orchestra (Op.3 & 4) in which the composer introduced a tangy Hungarian flavour for his Viennese audiences. An even earlier work, Kossuth, Op.1, was written in the shadow of another Hungarian. Kossuth, a redblooded late-Romantic orchestral tone poem, is just the sort of conservative composition that we do not associate with Bartók the innovator. It is a frankly Lisztian tone poem in a lush romantic sense that Bartók was to put behind him as he forged his dissonant new style. One of the many strengths of Béla Bartók Complete Works (Decca 4789311, 32 CDs plus booklets) is finally having all his early works in stunning performances. For the first time we can handily trace Bartók’s development through the tonal phases of his compositions that were long suppressed by music critics and pundits alike who had sought to support the modernist agenda throughout the 20th century. Bartók never ever considered embracing the Second Viennese School, nevertheless his music became ever more difficult after his exhaustive ethno-musicological absorption, through which he embraced an evolving dissonant style that enabled him to completely sidestep the 12-tone idiom. His late masterpiece, the Concerto for Orchestra is the prime example, heard in this collection by the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer who are also responsible for a brilliant performance of Kossuth. Other conductors on the ten orchestral and stage works discs and elsewhere are György Lehel, Antal Doráti, Pierre Boulez, Georg Solti, Christoph von Dohnányi, Essa-Pekka Salonen, David Zinman and István Kertész. Six CDs contain the complete chamber works including the six string quartets played by the Takács Quartet. Four CDs hold the complete vocal and choral music, while the nine discs of piano works are dominated by Zoltán Kocsis who also joins mezzo Martá Lukin in the Mikrokosmos. Finally, three CDs of celebrated performances from an earlier time include the three piano concertos with Géza Anda conducted by Ferenc Fricsay; 28 tracks of piano music played by Andor Foldes, Julius Katchen, Stephen Kovacevich and Sviatoslav Richter; and the Violin Concerto No.2 played by Zoltán Székely with Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta conducted by Fricsay and the suite from The Miraculous Mandarin under Dorati. All three are very listenable with allowances made for the 1939 Szekely/Mengelberg. As Bartók devotees know already, here, for the others, is the evidence that there is a wealth of listener-friendly music beyond the usual repertoire pieces, the violin and the piano concertos, the Dance Suites, the volumes of piano works, the stage works and choral music. The first of the two fine booklets gives complete details of the recordings and a biography with timelines of Bartók’s compositions with lots of glossy photos of the artists. The second contains translations, Hungarian into English, of all the sung texts. 88 | June 1, 2016 - September 7, 2016

Decca has chosen to list the repertoire in the index by DD numbers, 1 through 128 and identifies the disc where the work is to be found. As identified above, the 32 CDs are in five easily seen groups; Orchestral and Stage Works, Chamber Works, Choral and Vocal Works, Piano Works and a fifth group of Celebrated Performances. Bartók was one of the very greatest composers of the 20th century, a unique figure. Listening to his Complete Works has been and continues to be a constant pleasure. Except as noted, the sound throughout is exemplary. I haven’t seen it memorialized but in the 1950s and 60s the hippest members of the Beat Generation “dug the Bartók scene” and their enthusiasm may have got the ball rolling. Link to contents: There is no doubt that Leonard Bernstein’s later years were his very best, confirmed by all his recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, including those with the Vienna Philharmonic which had not played any Mahler for a long, long time until Bernstein stood before them. Volume One of The Leonard Bernstein Collection on DG (4791047, 59 CDs) covered composers from Beethoven to Liszt; completing his legacy on DG CDs, Volume Two (4795553, 64 CDs) takes us from Mahler to Wagner plus the earlier American Decca recordings. Orchestras in this second volume are the Vienna Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonic (arguably the very best Mahler Ninth on record), the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, Orchestre National de France, the Israel Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony and the Accademia Nazionale del Santa Cecilia. Collectors will be very happy to have the following assured performances, each followed by a spoken informative analysis, as recorded by American Decca in 1953 by Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall: Beethoven’s Eroica, Dvořák’s New World, Schumann’s Second, Brahms Fourth and the Tchaikovsky Sixth. If you have a chance, compare this confident 1953 Pathétique to the searching 1986 version – two very different worlds. The care and attention lavished on the two editions, including the illustrated enclosures, honours the late maestro. Link to contents: The art of the late conductor Hans Knappertsbusch is to be heard on countless performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle from Bayreuth as well as other Wagner music dramas and in performances of the orchestral works of the Romantic composers – all audio discs, with only four works on video. They are Beethoven’s Leonora Overture No.3 and the Fourth Piano Concerto with Wilhelm Backhaus together with the Vorspiel und Isoldes Liebestod from Tristan sung by Birgit Nilsson, all from the Wiener Festwochen in 1962. From 1963, only one item: Act One of Die Walküre in a concert performance sung by Claire Watson (Sieglinde), Fritz Uhl (Siegmund) and Josef Greindl (Hunding). The orchestra throughout is the Vienna Philharmonic. Arthaus Musik has issued them on a single Blu-ray disc, A Tribute to Hans Knappertsbusch (109213) in a video quality typical of the time or maybe a little better, supplied by the ORF. Filmed in black and white in 4:3 format. Watching Knappertsbusch in action it is easy to see how he achieves those long lines with such ease. He seems to draw the orchestra out rather than imposing on them. Hard to explain but I believe it is there to see. The veteran Backhaus, still well in command of his instrument, and Knappertsbusch are of one mind in this elegant, patrician performance. Nilsson is Nilsson. The Walküre first act is sung flawlessly but today we have been spoiled by so many videos of the actual opera that it is very hard to visualize what they are singing about or to empathize with any confrontation when they are simply standing there awaiting their turn. I think that the disc is still desirable if only to see and hear Knappertsbusch, Backhaus and Nilsson. Summer Vocations continued from page 11 How you might know him: Organist and music director at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church; executive producer of ORGANIX CONCERTS Summer Vocation: “I recharge by pushing my musical limits, by going to Europe to perform organ concerts in massive medieval cathedrals. The tour this coming August will be the result of my third invitation to perform in Poland (2012, 2015, 2016)...I am often the only Canadian in a festival of European organists and of course, it is an honour that I do not take for granted. I am energized by learning and preparing new music for my concerts. Gordon Mansell For me, it is not a rest at all but a change and an opportunity to experience baroque instruments and the occasional example of the continuing vibrancy of the North German organ-building craft first-hand. By the end of this coming tour, I will have performed concerts on 11 different organs, including one museum organ dating back to 1653 in its original state. Overall, these concert tours are exhilarating opportunities for musical and personal growth. My itinerary for this summer includes the first concert in Słupsk (August 11) followed by a very special performance as part of the Fiftieth International Organ Music Festival at St. Mary’s Cathedral (August 12 – Koszalin) and the Cathedral Basilica of St. James the Apostle (August 13 – Szczecin). After these concerts, my wife and I will then vacation in Germany and plan to visit Bach’s hometown and church, and play the famous Bach organ.” Hear him this summer: Before Mansell departs for his tour, he plays a noontime organ recital on July 20, at All Saints Kingsway. Details in our GTA listings and at Name: Aimée Butcher Instrument: Jazz vocalist How you might know her: Performer at The Rex and Jazz Bistro; Singer-songwriter on debut 2015 CD The World Is Alright Summer Vocation: “What I am looking forward to most about my summer vacation is a chance to create new musical memories. I have my first festival gig ever on July 31 at the TD Newmarket Jazz+ Festival, which I am very excited about, and plan to schedule a few house concerts up in northern Ontario around that date. I also plan to do a little bit of recording with a couple of bands that I am a part of, which is something that we had to wait to do until summer because all of us have been very busy throughout 2016. In addition to singing for some enjoyable gigs, I am looking forward to a reduced teaching schedule so that I may enjoy some time with family and friends over the summer, as well as taking some time to myself so that I may do some songwriting and planning for 2017.” Hear her this summer: Butcher’s performs at the TD Newmarket Jazz+ Festival as part of the Sunday, July 31 lineup, at 3:30pm, in a set featuring songs from her debut album. Flip to our Green Pages (pages G1 to G10) in this issue to read up on what this festival, as well as 40 others, have planned for the summer ahead. continues to page 90 June 1, 2016 - September 7, 2016 | 89

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