6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 3 - November 2016

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L/R Zukerman became

L/R Zukerman became music director of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra? Although he stepped down in 2015, the renowned and affable conductor and violinist hardly seems ready to slip into retirement any time soon. He remains the orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus and among numerous other endeavours also starts his eighth season as principal guest conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic and his second as artist-inassociation with the Adelaide Symphony. We should all be so active at 68! The NACO’s most recent recording, Baroque Treasury, featuring oboist Charles Hamann, cellist Amanda Forsyth and Zukerman as both conductor and soloist, is a delight, and is proof indeed that Baroque repertoire need not always be performed on period instruments in order to sound convincing. The disc presents a number of compositions, opening with the rousing Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s Solomon. Bach’s familiar Concerto for Oboe and Violin BWV 1060 is given a spirited and sensitive performance by Zukerman and Hamann while Zukerman returns for the less-familiar Pastorale for violin and string orchestra by Giuseppe Tartini as arranged by Ottorino Respighi. He and his wife (Forsyth) then join forces in Vivaldi’s Double Concerto RV547, the pairing a rarity amongst Baroque concertos. Equally rare is Telemann’s Concerto for Viola, one of few concertos for the instrument. Throughout, the NACO’ s solid performance demonstrates a particular affinity for the Baroque style. The final work is Bach’s familiar Orchestral Suite No.3 and here the orchestra approaches the score with much aplomb. There is a clear sense of joy in this music making, from the grandeur of the Ouverture to the final rollicking Gigue which brings the suite and the disc to a most satisfying conclusion. While our 21st-century ears may by now be more accustomed to hearing Baroque music performed with thinner, more transparent textures, Zukerman and the NACO demonstrate that a modern ensemble and gifted soloists can also do it full justice. Richard Haskell The Postcard Sessions Harrington/Loewen Duo Ravello Records RR7934 ( !! Classical saxophone is, of course, a misnomer: there was no saxophone in the Classical period proper. This statement isn’t meant to ruffle any feathers, and in any case it’s hardly news to practitioners of the art. In fact, it’s been something of a boon: with no stuffy tradition to weigh it down, the instrument has been received by modern composers with open arms. As it happens, though, the saxophone does have a Western art music heritage. Debussy composed for the instrument, albeit reluctantly; Berlioz admired its “majestic character.” In fact, there is a wealth of accessible and finely crafted music originating from the instrument’s adolescent years, before its reputation had been gilded by its association with jazz and the hypermodern. Postcard Sessions, the new CD by the Winnipeg-based Allen Harrington (saxophone) and Laura Loewen (piano), focuses on this core canon of saxophone works. By presenting them with great clarity and sensitivity, the Duo help to cement these works’ status as the bulwark upon which the modern saxophone tradition rests. Of particular note is the clock-like precision of master miniaturist Jean Françaix’s Cinque dances exotiques, but even the pieces here which weren’t written for the saxophone originally feel as though they might have been. On Schumann’s Drei Romanzen, Harrington’s saxophone masquerades as an instrument much older than it actually is. Harrington’s tone, always dark and warm, casts upon these seminal works a rich patina commensurate with their age and stature in the canon of saxophone music. Elliot Wright From Sea to Shining Sea 7th Toronto Regiment Band Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery 7RCA-003 ( !! As the title indicate, this CD takes the listener on a musical journey to many parts of the world, if not actually from coast to coast in Canada. It begins with a modernized version of the traditional Post Horn Galop. With the new title of Gunner Galop, arranger Bobby Herriot has mixed the traditional sound of this work to challenge trumpeter George McCormick with sections of modern swing on the valveless post horn. From that the band moves to two prize-winning marches from the 1990 competition to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Canadian Military Institute. From such more serious works as Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Johan De Meij’s Loch Ness, the band shifts to the lively upbeat Bobby’s Blues, written for former band director Bobby Herriot by Paul Yoder. The majority of the selections are compositions by Canadian composers or special band arrangements by Canadians. These include Herriot, David Allen Jacob, Jack McGuire, Ron McAnespie and above all Howard Cable. Cable gets special recognition here with no fewer than six compositions portraying musically different parts of Canada. The band takes the listener from McIntyre Ranch Country to Scene in Iqaluit, Cape Breton Moments and Point Pelee to mention some. Jack MacQuarrie MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Shostakovich – Complete Symphonies and Concertos Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre; Valery Gergiev ArtHaus Musik/Mariinsky Theatre 107552 (4 Blu-Ray video discs, 100-page Hardcover book, etc.) !! These performances took place in the Salle Pleyel, Paris in 2013 and 2014 where they were recorded in concert by a co-production of the Mariinsky Theatre, Mezzo, Euro Media France and France Télévisions. It seems to me that music of Shostakovich is more popular now than in past decades. I wonder why. Conductor Arturo Toscanini was asked why he didn’t conduct the music of Bruckner. ”It doesn’t beat with my heart,” was his reported answer. I understand that and I wonder if Shostakovich’s popularity now is the corollary. Perhaps the music of Shostakovich is in tune with us more now than in generations gone by. It really doesn’t matter why, but today more people are attracted to the late composer and want to hear more of his music…symphonies, concertos and sonatas. The above set was released last year and a couple of weeks ago I relented and got myself a copy. I am more than delighted with the whole production, performances, camera work and audio. One thing about the audio: there is a choice of playback, PCM or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0. The PCM sound is rather disappointingly compressed, clearly for broadcast. The DTS-HD format offers the highest resolution and dynamics, most audible in the percussion. Gergiev prefaces each performance with a short talk on the work. There is also a film A Man of Many Faces, a documentary that explores the composer’s life and work, his triumphs and travails, with much archival footage and an interview with Gergiev. As for the performances themselves, both symphonies and concertos, there was no “listen to us” impression; they were there for Shostakovich. In the Eighth, my favourite symphony, the earnest perfection of ensemble proves that this orchestra, in this repertoire with this conductor, is probably untouchable. 76 | November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016

Gergiev was immobilized after the music evaporated. The audience felt it too, as the applause burst out a long 38 seconds after the last note had died away. An extremely moving experience for all. The answer to the usual question about the tempi in the last movement of the Fifth is that he wastes no time. The exuberant performances of the six concertos are a generous bonus, with Gautier Capuçon and Mario Brunello (cello), Daniil Trifonov and Denis Matsuev (piano), Timur Martynov (trumpet), Vadim Repin and Alena Baeva (violin). The outstanding vocal soloists in the Fourteenth Symphony are Veronika Dzhioeva (soprano) and Mikhail Petrenko (bass). As a footnote to these performances, there is a synergy between an orchestra working with its resident conductor (unless they hate him or her, as sometimes happens). They are of one mind, so to speak. Audiences try to decode Gergiev’s unusual gestures… the fluttering fingers, for example. The orchestra knows. We have no need to figure it out, although the fluttering fingers is pretty obvious. Bruce Surtees Selected Piano Works by Robert Casadesus and Henri Dutilleux Cicilia Yudha Navona Records NV6053 ( !! On this disc young Indonesian pianist Cicilia Yudha, now based in the United States, spotlights the familiar names of Robert Casadesus (1899-1972) and Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013). Best known as a virtuoso pianist, Casadesus was also a prolific composer represented here by the Sonata No.3 Op.44 and the Toccata Op.40. These deft works are somewhat reminiscent of Ravel and Milhaud. The Sonata’s slow movement is both craftsmanly and touching, but in the outer movements as well as in the sparkly perpetual-motion Toccata there is too much piano-exercise and white-noteonly writing. Cicilia Yudha certainly demonstrates fleet fingers, variety of articulation and an ear for clarity suited to the French school of Casadesus. The early Blackbird and Along the Waves: Six Little Pieces of Dutilleux are also finely rendered. Dutilleux’s great Sonata for Piano (1947/48) is a different case, one of mastery of harmony and large-scale form with expressive ideas realized in depth. It seems to me that Yudha is too careful with tempo and accentuation in the opening Allegro con moto. Anne Queffélec’s more robust, occasionally almost frantic version on Virgin Classics is preferable; it is surprising that even at fast tempos Dutilleux’s complex harmonies sound and proceed well. Things improve greatly in the second movement, where Yudha’s command of sonority comes to the fore and she projects a mysterious sense of unseen presence. In the final variations she rises to the occasion with power and virtuosity. Roger Knox Ginastera One Hundred Gil Shaham; Yolanda Kondonassis; Jason Vieaux; Orli Shaham; Oberlin Orchestra; Raphael Jiménez Oberlin Music OC 16-04 ( !! This disc’s highcalibre performances and production make it a fitting tribute to Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis’ introductory notes state that his Harp Concerto (1956, rev. 1968) “pushed the harp out of its box and gave us the kind of indelible, substantive composition that makes or breaks a solo career like mine.” In broken-chord dance rhythms of the first movement, resonant glissandi of the second and tuneful melodies of the third, the Argentinean composer consistently finds striking, effective gestures for the instrument. Soloist Kondonassis plays with confidence: her rhythms have bite and liveliness, her flourishes atmosphere and grandeur, all in effective partnership with the Raphael Jiménez-led Oberlin Orchestra. Pampeana No.1 (1947) for violin and piano dates from a period when Ginastera was influenced by Aaron Copland to integrate folk and modernist elements. Violinist Gil Shaham plays the opening soliloquy with intensity and virtuosity, in alternation with pianist Orli Shaham’s lower-pitched chords emulating guitar strumming; the whole suggests the Argentinean pampas’ wide open spaces. In later exciting dance sections, ensemble between violin and piano is ideal. Shaham is equally effective in the more familiar Danzas Argentinas (1937) for piano. The Sonata for Guitar (1976), the most advanced work included, comes after the composer’s move to Switzerland. Ginastera allows the guitar to resonate with well-chosen tonal material and a variety of percussive effects. Challenging to play yet mastered convincingly by guitarist Jason Vieaux, I enjoyed this work thoroughly. Roger Knox Morton Subotnick – Music for the Double Life of Amphibians (Landmark Recordings) Various Artists Wergo WER 7312 2 !! For most of his notable career American composer and electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick (b. 1933) has employed his signature methodology of live electronically processed scored acoustic instrumental and/or vocal parts, and later, interactive computer music systems. Subotnick has also been an important actor in many of the significant technological milestones in the commercialization of electroacoustic music. A prime example is his early Silver Apples of the Moon (Nonesuch LP 1967). Produced using the Electric Music Box, Don Buchla’s analogue modular voltagecontrolled synthesizer and tape-manipulated sounds, it is considered the first electronic work commissioned by a record company. In it, the composer challenged academic avant-gardists by including sections with metric, regular rhythms. More significantly, he aimed to render a musical composition for which the performance was the recording, reflecting the spirit of Marshall McLuhan’s 1964 phrase “the medium is the message.” The album sold very well internationally and was highly influential: it was a touchstone of my own first experiments in tape and electronic music. Recorded in a studio between 1981 and 1985 the music for Subotnick’s Music for the Double Life of Amphibians continued his fruitful commercial relationship with the Nonesuch label. This skillfully remastered current Wergo CD is part of a series dedicated to Subotnick’s recorded oeuvre. Each of the seven movements form part of a larger symphonic poem, and the resulting dramatically compelling music successfully treads over several genre lines. It seamlessly combines modernist chamber music – superbly performed by cellist Joel Krosnick in the outstanding Axolotl, as well as by the Juilliard Quartet and by the soprano Joan La Barbara – with (1980s) state-of-the-art studio electronics. The album strongly affirms the composer’s modernist lineage. It also reminds us of his street cred in the development of 20th-century electroacoustic music’s creation, performance, studio recording and commercial release. Andrew Timar Espaces tautologiques James O’Callaghan empreintes DIGITALes IMED 16140 ( !! On his recent electroacoustic CD Espaces tautologiques, composer James O’Callaghan takes us down the rabbit hole into a visceral, endogenous acousmatic wonderland. Although tautologies can be defined as needless repetitions, for O’Callaghan, they instead may be an ironic November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016 | 77

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