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Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • Jazz
  • Orchestra
  • Symphony
  • Concerts
  • Arts
  • November
  • Musical
In this issue: David Jaeger and Alex Pauk’s most memorable R. Murray Schafer collabs, in this month’s installment of Jaeger’s CBC Radio Two: The Living Legacy; an interview with flutist Claire Chase, who brings new music and mindset to Toronto this month; an investigation into the strange coincidence of three simultaneous Mendelssohn Elijahs this Nov 5; and of course, our annual Blue Pages, a who’s who of southern Ontario’s live music scene- a community as prolific and multifaceted as ever. These and more, as we move full-force into the 2016/17 concert season- all aboard!

Britten – The Rape of

Britten – The Rape of Lucretia (Glyndebourne) Rice; Clayton; Royal; Rock; Rose; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Leo Hussain Opus Arte OA 11219 D !! Around 510 BC, Tarquinius, son of the Etruscan king of Rome, raped the Roman aristocrat Lucretia. The rape, and Lucretia’s honour-driven suicide, precipitated the rebellion that toppled the monarchy, launching the Roman Republic. So goes the legend, perhaps historically based, recorded in much later Roman annals and subsequently re-interpreted in poetry, paintings, plays and, in 1946, Britten’s first chamber opera, with eight vocalists and only 13 instrumentalists. This 2015 Glyndebourne production won rave reviews from the British press, and no wonder. The singers are all vocally and dramatically terrific and the staging stark, powerful and moving. The innovative staging by director Fiona Shaw and set designer Michael Levine presents a military tent and archaeological site, darkly lit, in which the ancient events take place. Shaw introduces two silent extras: Lucretia’s young daughter and a warcamp slave-prostitute. Most surprisingly, she has the Male and Female Chorus, as modern archaeologists, not only comment about the action, but in time-warp fashion, actually get physically involved with it! I usually deplore such deviations but here, they respect the spirit of Ronald Duncan’s libretto, while enhancing the very visceral dramatic impact. Duncan’s libretto provides the opera’s only weakness, an epilogue sung by the Male and Female Chorus, replete with Christian religiosity, quite extraneous to the tragedy that has just unfolded. Extras include commentary by director Shaw, a brief documentary about the opera’s 1946 Glyndebourne premiere and a cast gallery. Intensely gripping, strongly recommended. Michael Schulman Andrew Staniland; Jill Battson – Dark Star Requiem Neema Bickersteth; Krisztina Szabó; Peter McGillivray; Marcus Nance; Elmer Iseler Singers; Gryphon Trio; Ryan Scott; Mark Duggan; Wayne Strongman Centrediscs CMCCD 22716 (musiccentre.ca) !! In a 2010 review of a Luminato performance of Dark Star Requiem, Joseph K. So said “the text would have benefited from surtitles.” I’m afraid that a lack of libretto for this recording left me with a similar reaction. This is a shame, as I’m a huge McGillivray and Szabó fan. Also, when I interviewed librettist Jill Battson in 2010, I was intrigued by what she was doing with the 19 poems comprising the piece. These days, even English performances carry same-language surtitles, and perhaps this production would have been more accessible as a DVD release. Despite excellent enunciation by the soloists and Elmer Iseler Singers, the words are often overwhelmed by the music and miking from different distances, and I was only able to catch snippets of much of the text; even the parts of the Mass used in the libretto were lost to this Latinist, as was my concentration: it was too hard to hear this work holistically, trying to follow the sung and spoken words. The music, however, is intriguing. Track 1, Zero Six One, is a chilling introduction to the work by highlighting the assigned numbers for HIV-1 and HIV-2 from the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and it brought to mind the song Three-Five-Zero- Zero, from the musical Hair. There’s something very affecting about using enumeration to humanize huge horrors. Unfortunately, the percussion seems to be competing with the singers throughout the CD; however, the Gryphon Trio’s strings play empathetically. Vanessa Wells Editor’s Note: Two of the 19 poems which comprise the libretto of Dark Star Requiem can be found on the Canadian Music Centre website (musiccentre.ca/node/138842). The published book of poems can be purchased from Jill Battson at jillbattson.bandcamp. com/merch/dark-star-requiem. CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Beethoven – Symphony No.9 Plundrich; Nesi; Balzer; Tischler; Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra & Chamber Choir; Bruno Weil Tafelmusik Media TMK1030CD (tafelmusik.org) !! With his Symphony No.9, Beethoven introduced a whole new compositional territory into the musical world of Vienna. From its 1824 premiere, this work not only influenced several generations of symphonic composers but also became the symbol of victory for humanity. The struggle and rise of man (on both personal and universal levels), so powerful in this symphony and unlike anything heard before it, has produced a wide array of interpretations and recordings. Many argue passionately which one is the best. A few of the notable ones definitely include Karajan’s version from 1962, Bernstein’s from 1989 and the recording by Gardiner in 1994 on period instruments. So it is in this good company that Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra offers its own dynamic interpretation under the direction of Bruno Weil. Recorded at live concerts at Koerner Hall in Toronto in February 2016, the album holds the animated energy of a live performance. I enjoyed the precise and light articulation of the period instruments in the second movement and slightly subdued colours and the beautiful swelling of the third movement phrases. But make no mistake – Tafelmusik sounds just as powerful as any contemporary symphony orchestra. It builds the momentum of the emotional narrative with conviction, starting from the solemn D Minor theme of the first movement all the way to the jubilant ending of the fourth in D Major. Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and soloists – Sigrid Plundrich, Mary-Ellen Nesi, Colin Balzer and Simon Tischler – are all superb in bringing out the purity and drama of Beethoven’s music. Ivana Popovic French Connections Music of Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev, Uebayashi Chatterton-McCright Duo Proper Canary (lindachatterton.com; matthewmccright.org) !! This flute-piano debut recording features Minnesotabased recitalists Linda Chatterton and Matthew McCright in a Paris-themed program. The disc is a timely tribute to the City of Light in these terrorist-plagued times. Flutist Linda Chatterton has ably transcribed and performed Saint-Saëns’ four-movement Sonata in D Minor for Violin and Piano (1885). I am captivated by her variations of colour and mood and her brilliant technique. Pianist Matthew McCright is right with her in ensemble and in creating appealing textures, as in the contrast-filled opening movement. I like the duo’s melodic interplay in the second movement and their light, spiky texture in the waltz-like third. In the hair-raising finale, dynamics are balanced beautifully. Yuko Uebayashi was born in Japan; her Paris residency is apparent in Sonate (2003), stylistically reminiscent of early-20th-century French music. She has integrated influences from Japan convincingly, for example, in the slow third movement’s pentatonic passages and melodic fourths and fifths. The piece displays exquisite tone colours and textures, idiomatic and expressive instrumental writing, and a sure sense of style. The Chatterton-McCright Duo’s reading of Prokofiev’s Sonata in D Major (1943; later transcribed for violin and piano) is notable for lightness and clarity suggesting the work’s playful, perhaps toy-like aspects. I appreciate 64 | October 1, 2016 - November 7, 2016 thewholenote.com

their avoidance of over-interpretation and of the vulgar, aggressive sound some duos bring to the finale. Overall a fine, thoughtful program and a duo I hope to hear from again! Roger Knox Perfect Landing Canadian Brass Opening Day ODR 7450 (openingday.com) !! Any time that I hear of a new release from the Canadian Brass I wonder what about this CD will set it apart from any other release of theirs. Every time there is something new and different. I could say that this CD is perhaps their biggest step yet. When they first hit the local scene over 40 years ago, brass quintets were almost an oddity and didn’t have the respect that string or woodwind chamber groups enjoyed. How that has changed. The Canadian Brass is now one of the world’s preeminent chamber music ensembles. This CD, Perfect Landing, establishes their versatility in a wide variety of genres. For this project they are joined by their former trumpet player, Brandon Ridenour, on harpsichord. What better way to start than with Bach. The CD opens with a short harpsichord cadenza based on Brandenburg Concerto No.5 and then shifts into the fiendishly difficult third movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No.2 featuring the piccolo trumpet of Caleb Hudson. Then it’s Mozart’s “Spring” Quartet K387 where all members of the ensemble have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills. Having demonstrated their skills in that genre, with the help of arrangements by Luther Henderson, they demonstrate that Bach’s music still has a place in this era with Dixie Bach, Cool Bach and Bebop Bach. There are also a few fine Latin numbers. Perhaps the most outstanding of these is El Relicario which takes the listener through an amazing range of musical skills and emotions. This CD truly has made a Perfect Landing. It will certainly continue to entertain and amaze me in the days and months ahead. Jack MacQuarrie MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring; Bartók – Concerto for Orchestra Park Avenue Chamber Symphony; David Bernard Recursive Records RC2057001 !! Did Bugs Bunny ruin The Barber of Seville for you? How about Merrie Melodies’ The Three Little Pigs with Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.5? I have a particular eye/earworm of The Rite of Spring: I can never unsee the gorgeous choreography of Pina Bausch when I hear this piece. The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s recording is bright and clear and complements the rather dark storyline of the ballet. The First Part is a vital description of nature and leads with some urgency to the undeniable corporeality of the Second Part. The backbone of the piece, however, is Track 2, although I prefer my Augurs of Spring to be a little more heavyhanded than David Bernard’s version, such as the Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez take on it; I think this reflects Bernard’s interpretation, though, and does not make Stravinsky an inappropriate choice for this orchestra. (The Augurs of Spring always strikes me as a misplaced climax, though.) The Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, known as a soloistic piece, also has a pure sound, which emanates from the musicians themselves and is perhaps also enhanced by the fine recording engineering. Again, the chamber symphony easily handles the piece’s gravitas with aplomb. Apparently, the movements’ tempi listed on the back cover differ from their historical provenance and this made me curious to hear it live under another baton: fortuitously, this will be possible when the TSO performs it on May 4, 2017, in a matinee led by Peter Oundjian. This CD offers two excellent examples of early-20th-century Eastern-European composers who still captivate us technophiles with these elemental pieces that were based on European folk song. Vanessa Wells Magnus Lindberg – Al Largo; Cello Concerto No.2; Era Anssi Karttunen; Finnish RSO; Hannu Lintu Ondine ODE 12815 !! Magnus Lindberg’s recently released disc makes it clear why he is among the elite of current composers. Qualities in the music on this CD evoke huge structures or panoramic landscapes. One is drawn along past remarkable and startling shapes. He underpins contained bursts of lightning virtuosity (electric, never frantic) with tectonic brass chorale movement. As an orchestrator, it is fair to compare him with Strauss, Ravel and his compatriot Sibelius. He quotes or references each of them. An Italian term meaning “out of sight of land,” Al Largo subverts expectations. Lindberg (as paraphrased in the liner notes) contends this is the fastest music he has ever written, but I was more impressed with the sheer speed in some of the writing elsewhere, especially in Era. Both pieces are wonderful workouts for the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu. Everything seems so sensibly written, I’m willing to bet the musicians love to play it no matter the difficulty. The writing is starkly sectional with bracing shifts of tempo and character. Cloudy swatches of spectral writing are blown clear by woodwind flourishes and massive brass chords. The other work, the Cello Concerto No.2, follows a three-movement format with no breaks between. Gorgeously played by Anssi Karttunen, the serious and substantial first movement imperceptibly slides into a serious, substantial-but-shorter second movement with cadenza followed by the obligatory tutti response and coda, into a Presto to begin and a Romanza to conclude the Finale. Max Christie Concert Note: Reviewer Max Christie can be heard in a solo performance featuring clarinet works by Stravinsky, Martino, Poulenc and Françaix on October 22 as part of a new series presented by the TO.U Collective at St. Andrew’s Church, 73 Simcoe St. Horizon 7 – George Benjamin; Magnus Lindberg; Richard Rijnvos; Tan Dun Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Mariss Jansons RCO Live RCO 16003 (rcolive.com) !! Horizon 7 features significant, contrasting works by established composers. With texts by two 11th-century Hebrew poets and Federico García Lorca, set for countertenor, women’s choir, and orchestra, George Benjamin’s Dream of the Song evokes reflections on voice and mood. A sultry Andalusian atmosphere is created not by lush harmony, but by an advanced idiom with hints of ancient and modern scales, delicate orchestration and astonishing vocal sound and imagery. Bejun Mehta’s singing is outstanding and the Concertgebouw strings and winds are especially notable. The burning down of Venetian opera house La Fenice in 1996 inspired fuoco e fuma (fire and smoke) by Richard Rijnvos. The sonic representation of licking flames and the relentlessness and unpredictability of the fire’s progression are extraordinary. In Magnus Lindberg’s Era, the Finnish composer builds on a compositional process from Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony and other developments in 20th-century music. The Concertgebouw brass and percussion shine in Lindberg’s masterful orchestration. Era opens brilliantly; later, I feel a lack of original, memorable ideas that would make the sense equal to the marvellous sound. Concertgebouw principal double bassist Dominic Seldis has a rare solo opportunity in Tan Dun’s The Wolf. Open strings, harmonics thewholenote.com October 1, 2016 - November 7, 2016 | 65

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