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Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017

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  • December
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In this issue: a conversation with pianist Stewart Goodyear, in advance of his upcoming show at Koerner Hall; a preview of the annual New Year’s phenomenon that is Bravissimo!/Salute to Vienna; an inside look at music performance in Toronto’s health-care centres; and a reflection on the incredible life and lasting influence of the late Pauline Oliveros. These and more, in a special December/January combined issue!

To say that Gawlick’s

To say that Gawlick’s compositional process was complicated is an understatement: seven pages of booklet notes outlining thoughts, choices, graphic charts, Memory Triangles and spaces, Memory Footprints and numerical integers taken from various combinations of the initial letters of the composer’s and his birth mother’s names are almost impenetrable at times. Still, all that matters is the music – and there’s a great deal of tender, sensitive, beautifully effective writing here. Of the 17 short sections in the main body of the work, played without a break, most fall between one and two minutes in length and none reaches four minutes. It’s mostly quiet and soft, not difficult to listen to, although not traditionally tonal, and clearly quite personal and intimate. The work was commissioned by the performers and was recorded shortly after its Carnegie Hall premiere in April of this year. Their outstanding performance here can be considered definitive. Contemporary string quartets are also featured on Green Ground (Dacapo 8.226153), five works from 2011 by the Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, who died just this past June at the age of 83. The works were written for and dedicated to the composer’s longtime collaborators the Kronos Quartet and also the vocal quartet Theatre of Voices under their director Paul Hillier. These world premiere recordings are of live concert performances in Copenhagen on December 4, 2012. The titles of the CD and the works are, at first sight, quite confusing: No Ground; Green; No Ground Green; New Ground and New Ground Green, but there is a clear logical progression here. Last Ground, the composer’s ninth string quartet from 2006, was supposed to be his last, but a tenth quartet, New Ground, and an eleventh, No Ground, were written in 2011 (three more were to follow in 2013). When PGH felt that the two new quartets needed to be connected, he wrote Green for four voices and wooden percussion, taking lines (“To the greenwood we must go”) from Desire, by the Renaissance English composer William Cornysh as his starting point. Green is then superimposed (a technique PGH had used before) on both New Ground and No Ground to produce, in effect, two new works. It’s certainly a fascinating soundscape, and quite difficult to describe. There are some extreme techniques employed and a basic lack of tonality, although there are beautiful moments in Green. Also, the New Ground quartet uses the ground from Pachelbel’s famous Canon, albeit with an extra bar and a chromatic twist thrown in for good measure. Don’t be fooled by the apparent easier access, though – things soon become more complicated. Again, a set of what must be definitive performances of some quite fascinating works. The German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann wrote his Sonatas 1 and 2 and Suites 1 and 2 for solo violin in 1927 when he was only 22, but despite destroying a great deal of his early works chose to preserve these, going as far as burying them in a metal box in a friend’s garden during the years of the Third Reich. Never performed during his lifetime, the two suites were first performed in Spokane, Washington in 1984 and 1986, and the two sonatas were premiered by Thomas Zehetmair in Munich in 1987. At the time, Zehetmair called them “among the best things written for unaccompanied violin during the 20th century.” They are featured on a new CD by the German violinist Renate Eggebrecht on the Troubadisc label that she founded in 1991 (TRO-CD 01447). They are uncompromisingly tough pieces, and the 72-year-old Eggebrecht’s somewhat dry tone and slow vibrato tend to make her playing sound a bit unsure at times. As the booklet essay points out, these works place enormous demands on both the technique and especially the musicality of the performer. At times, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the sheer effort to get through them limits the interpretation here, and a check of the audio samples of Ingolf Turban’s excellent and smoother recordings on the Claves label would seem to confirm this. If that wasn’t enough, the brilliant Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova included these unaccompanied works on her debut recital CD in 2007, and you can hear audio samples of her recordings on the Hyperion Records website. What’s really interesting, though, is that this CD is actually Volume 8 in a Violin Solo series that Eggebrecht has compiled, and the range of composers – Reger, Skalkottas, Honegger, Bacewicz, Milhaud, Bartók, Hindemith, Bloch, Stravinsky, Schnittke, Rodrigo among others – is quite astonishing. It sounds like a highly significant series that should be much more widely known. The music of the Uzbekistan composer Dilorom Saidaminova is performed by her son, the violinist Tigran Shiganyan and friends on a new Blue Griffin Recording CD (BGR414). It’s the first commercial recording of her works. The music here is essentially tonal and very pleasant. Saraton for solo violin, soprano and traditional instruments is a lovely, meditative piece; the two Sonatas for violin and piano are strong works; Umid for violin and piano and the two trios Where there is no time…for violin, clarinet and piano and Sabo for violin, cello and piano are all well-written and effective. The CD comes with a short DVD featuring Saidaminova talking about the works on the CD and a rather strange and pointless outdoor “performance” of Saraton which is poorly filmed and quite obviously mimed to a pre-recorded track. Keyed In ALEX BARAN Louis Lortie has added another recording to his list of more than 30 on the Chandos label. In Après un rêve: A Fauré Recital, Volume 1 (Chandos CHAN 10919) Lortie programs works from different periods in Fauré’s life. In the first volume of what will be a series, Lortie offers some of the early works that have easy and familiar appeal. He plays his own transcription of Pavane Op.50, originally for chorus and orchestra. It’s a clever treatment with the piano doing remarkably well at being a pizzicato string section at the same time as being a choir. He also includes a couple of nocturnes, barcarolles and the nostalgic Après un rêve Op.7 No.1 using Percy Grainger’s 1939 arrangement. Fauré’s Suite from Pelléas et Mélisande Op.80 brings the recital to the threshold of the 20th century. Its opening Prélude is exquisite as is Sicilienne. In both these sections as well as the closing La mort de Mélisande, Lortie astonishes with a frequent bell-like touch. Similarly he captures the modern flavour of the Nine Préludes Op.103 (1910) by emphasizing the angular rhythms and chordal patterns of the three very fast Préludes. The balance of the set is true to Fauré’s slightly wistful and lifelong melancholic nature. Lortie knows his composer’s voice and uses it as beautifully as ever. !! Divine Art’s growing Russian Piano Music Series has a new addition in Russian Piano Music Vol.12 – Sergei Bortkiewicz (dda 25142). It features Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano playing the music of Bortkiewicz (1877-1952), who produced a substantial body of works, both large and small scale. The majority was for piano but he also wrote for violin, cello and piano trio. He opposed modernism and evolved his musical language using the vocabulary of the late 19th 76 | December 1, 2016 - February 7, 2017 thewholenote.com

L/R century. He demonstrated unwavering adherence to melody, harmony and structure. His piano writing reveals an affinity for Chopin and Liszt, yet there are occasional, if brief, references to 20th-century harmonies and resolutions of popular nature. Pianist Alfonso Soldano takes on this music for what it plainly is, a form that refused to budge with the changing currents of its time. What emerges is not an apology for the music but an argument for its credibility. Soldano argues from the keyboard, that Bortkiewicz had a voice of his own, that subtly reshaped the familiar late Romantic sound. Bortkiewicz placed great importance on how his inner voices moved to create a richness of colour too often lost to virtuosic imperatives. While this is evident in the short pieces on this disc, the Sonata No.2 in C-sharp Minor Op.60 is where the composer truly shows his respect for structure, applying his unique subtleties to show us that the late Romantics may have given up too soon. !! Nicholas Phillips is an energetic promoter of new music, specifically piano works of the last decade by American composers. He finds new works that have already been recorded and contributes to their longevity by giving them a second recording, hence, Impressions (Blue Griffin Records BGR409). The one exception, Keyboard of the Winds (2015) is by composer Stacey Garrop. She builds an impressive sonic picture of a Colorado mountain range using massive chordal patterns and angular melodies to evoke the jagged rock formations. Equally angular is Jonathan Pieslak’s Shards (2008). Phillips embraces the duality of this work shifting adeptly between its spikey opening and the quieter, extended moments of repose. Carter Pann’s White Moon Over Water (2011) draws inspiration from nocturnal kayaking on a wide river in Maine. Its central section depicting the expanse of starry sky is breathtaking with Phillips deeply in his element. Hommage à Trois (2005) by Mark Olivieri is a brilliant collection of three stylistic tributes to composers particularly meaningful to him. The tributes to Aaron Copland and James Brown, especially, are beautifully crafted and immediately evoke their dedicatee’s memories. This recording’s most effective work is Pann’s She Steals Me, a short Appalachian style waltz that lingers harmonically on many passing notes and unresolved progressions. The effect is profoundly touching and Phillips does a masterful job in leveraging its emotional potential. !! Originally recorded in 1978 and released in 1980, Edvard Grieg – Slåtter Op.72, Stimmungen Op.73 (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0154) is a reissue that offers a glimpse of a remarkably gifted English musician in his early 40s. John McCabe (1939- 2015) was a prolific composer and performer. His wife recounts McCabe’s abiding affection for the piano works of Grieg, Slåtter (Norwegian Peasant Dances) Op.72 in particular. Numerous searches in the late 1970s for the published score proved fruitless until he one day came upon a worn copy in an obscure secondhand book shop. It proved sufficient for the recording project with RCA. Stimmungen (Moods) Op.73 and Slåtter were Grieg’s final two works for solo piano. The latter is a collection of folk tunes and dances originally heard as regional fiddle melodies passed down through generations. Grieg first published these compositions along with their original fiddle scoring. McCabe’s playing captures Grieg’s rhythmically raw elements and gives the dances a characteristic fiddle drone while bringing forward the very brief melodic ideas of the folk material. There’s a very wide range of expression in McCabe’s playing. Stimmungen, especially, demonstrates his ability to probe the moody and introspective side of the composer’s writing. Folk Tune from Valders is an exquisite example of just how much mysticism McCabe can evoke at the keyboard. Studie (Hommage à Chopin) is also remarkable for its stylistic references so unerringly discerned and conveyed. !! Grieg’s mystical introspection is also pursued in a new recording by Alice Sara Ott, Wonderland – Grieg Piano Concerto; Lyric Pieces (Deutsche Grammophon 479 4631). By the time Ott made this recording, she’d had the Grieg Concerto in A Minor Op.16 in her repertoire for ten years. That’s enough time to come to own the music and weave its threads into the fabric of her own artistic being. Her personal stamp on this work shapes it in unique ways. Phrasings are often quite unusual and the pace of the work is slower than often heard. She very deliberately lets us know that she is exploring something of natural mysticism. She calls it Grieg’s “wonderland.” The orchestra too, under Essa-Pekka Salonen, is in full agreement with this approach. Nothing, absolutely nothing is hurried in this performance. Only the final movement is near the traditional tempo. The effect of this on the concerto is to take an already monumental piece to an even grander scale. Ott’s quest for Grieg the mystic continues through her playing of selections from the Lyric Pieces and Peer Gynt where Notturno and L/R L/R Like the review? Listen to some tracks from all the recordings in the ads below at The WholeNote.com/Listening L/R Benjamin Grosvenor / Homages Available at L’Atelier Grigorian, 70 Yorkville Ave., Toronto & grigorian.com Murray Perahia / Bach: French Suites Available at L’Atelier Grigorian, 70 Yorkville Ave., Toronto & grigorian.com Sas Agapo With fervor and passion, the great pianist and composer Alain Lefèvre unveils Sas Agapo, an album inspired by the songs, moods and colors of Greece. Fascinating, picturesque and gorgeous music. Mahan Esfahani / Bach: Goldberg Variations Available at L’Atelier Grigorian, 70 Yorkville Ave., Toronto & grigorian.com thewholenote.com December 1, 2016 - February 7, 2017 | 77

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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