7 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017

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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!

The Musical Clock and

The Musical Clock and other Timeless Masterpieces Suzanne Shulman; Valerie Tryon Marquis Classics MAR 81471 ( !! Yes, a clever title for a most interesting programme of music, mostly for flute and piano but with two compositions for solo flute, impeccably performed by Camerata co-founder Suzanne Shulman and pianist, Valerie Tryon. From the opening Allegro vivace from Haydn’s The Musical Clock (the first of five) you can hear the great chemistry between the two, and it gets even better; by the fifth Tryon has proven that you can double tongue on the piano as she matches Shulman’s double-tonguing wizardry! The Sonata in B-flat Major K378 by Mozart is next. Originally composed for violin, it gives the performers something a little more substantial to work with. The Andantino second movement gives us an opportunity to hear Shulman’s dark low register. (Thank you, Suzanne Shulman, for playing this in the original key, not the transcribed for flute version!) Next up is an intoxicating dose of wistful fin-de-siècle melancholy, a sonata by the very accomplished but little known French composer, Mélanie Bonis, followed by Francis Poulenc’s wonderful – can I say iconic? – Sonata, in which Shulman was tutored by Jean-Pierre Rampal, for whom it was written. Need I say more! The two last pieces are Harry Somers’ Etching – The Vollard Suite and Milton Barnes’ Music for Solo Flute, to both of which Shulman brings such artistry that I am convinced that these two pieces by Canadian composers are truly timeless masterpieces. Allan Pulker Transcendental – Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt Daniil Trifonov Deutsche Grammophon 479 5529 L/R !! Deutsche Grammophon has struck gold again, this time with the young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov. This is his fourth recording for the Gesellschaft and what a recording it is! Liszt’s 12 Études d’execution transcendante is the Mount Everest of pianism. Very few have recorded them complete, because it is a titanic effort both physically and emotionally, but this fellow recorded them at one sitting, lasting well over an hour and got up at the end not showing any signs of fatigue. Here is Liszt as it should be played and how he must have looked: a handsome trim young man with flowing hair and a grand manner, with a rapt expression and total absorption, cascading octaves, making the piano thunder with superhuman energy. One can easily believe that women fainted hearing him and ran away from their husbands following him anywhere. Apart from this colossal physical effort Trifonov plays with imagination and intelligence, understanding the structure and capturing the different moods of each étude. Some are wild, like Mazeppa, depicting a man being dragged through the steppes by galloping horses, some are meditative (Paysage, Vision) or heroic (Eroica) or charmingly playful (Feux Follets) or culminate in an insane hunt (Wilde Jagd). At No.9, Ricordanza the mood changes into glorious, soft melodies, sublime moments only Liszt, “the magician of the keyboard.” could create. The 2-CD set actually has all the Concert Études of Liszt and Disc 2 features the wellknown favorites Un sospiro, La leggierezza, Gnomenreigen etc. and the complete Paganini Études also superlatively performed. You can see a preview and a glimpse of what went on in making the recording on YouTube. Janos Gardonyi The Tchaikovsky Project – Pathétique; Romeo & Juliet Czech Philharmonic; Semyon Bychkov Decca 483 0656 !! A formidable pairing of the great Symphony No.6 with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture featuring Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic launches The Tchaikovsky Project on the Decca label, a multi-year endeavour devoted to re-examining the composer’s greatest orchestral works. Was it really 26 years ago that Bychkov recorded the Pathétique with the Concertgebouw? How appropriate that the major work on the initial disc in this new series should contain an underlying theme of mortality! Completed in 1893, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6 takes the listener on a highly personal journey, and the Czech Philharmonic under Bychkov’s competent direction has no difficulty conveying the sense of tragic resignation. Well-articulated phrasing highlighted by the luxuriant strings and brilliant brass makes this performance a true odyssey. The four contrasting movements are all marked by a technical precision and warmly romantic sound that particularly befits one of the composer’s final works. The Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture from 1869 has long been a favourite with audiences for its interpretation of the familiar story of ill-fated love. Without overly sentimentalizing the score, Bychkov draws the full range of tonal colours from the orchestra – from the prophetic opening of the fight scenes, to the lyrical love theme and on to the cataclysmic finale. This is a fine beginning to a promising series. Bychkov wrote: “I’ve loved Tchaikovsky’s music ever since I can remember – and like all first loves, this one never died.” Richard Haskell Concert note: On January 28, the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony and works by Morawetz, Prokofiev and Shostakovich at MacMillan Theatre as part of the University of Toronto New Music Festival. Bruckner 2 Orchestre Métropolitain; Yannick Nézet- Séguin ATMA ACD2 2708 !! I heard Yannick Nézet-Séguin early in his career when he conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It was immediately clear that we had an outstanding conductor here. Since then he has become the music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Soon he will also be the music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In many of his recordings, however, he has stayed faithful to the orchestra where he started: Orchestre Métropolitain of Montreal. The record under review, Symphony No.2, is part of a Bruckner cycle which is now almost complete: only No.s1 and 5 (and perhaps No.0) are as yet unrecorded. I am a great admirer of Bruckner’s sacred music but I find his symphonies harder to come to terms with. Too often, it seems to me, a movement will begin beautifully but then fail to develop. I may be quite wrong here and I am willing to believe that a conversion is still possible. If that happens, this CD may well have taken its part. Nézet-Séguin shapes the music beautifully and gets wonderful playing from the Orchestre Métropolitain, particularly from the principal wind players. Hans de Groot Ravel Yuja Wang; Tonhalle-Orchester Zurich; Lionel Bringuie Deutsche Grammophon 479 4954 !! DG’s latest issue of Yuja Wang is the fifth in a row of the pianist’s bestselling discs. It has already earned Gramophone L/R 82 | December 1, 2016 - February 7, 2017

magazine’s prestigious Editor’s Choice Award, probably the best recommendation today. The young Chinese virtuoso has cut through the music world like a hurricane, an elemental force, in a few years her fame skyrocketing her to the very top. I was lucky to see her at Koerner Hall a few years ago when I literally staggered out of the concert totally astounded. The record definitely lives up to its stellar reputation. Dashing through the Ravel Concerto in G Major with her customary bravura she is totally in her element, youthful and impetuous, having the time of her life with this somewhat jazzy, very entertaining and exciting concerto. The phenomenal technical skill notwithstanding, she is also a mature pianist. This is well-demonstrated in the lyrical second movement where she creates a gorgeous sound painting with her extraordinary touch and colouring. I have heard this piece many times and it is always dazzling, but here the overall compositional structure truly shines, as both the pianist and the conductor (Lionel Bringuier) clearly understand it and have tremendous chemistry working towards a common goal. The completely different Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is considerably more difficult, with a mysterious opening of a theme slowly emerging from darkness; as the piano enters we witness an almost titanic power in Wang’s left hand. As the pace quickens in the march-like mid-section there is dazzling showmanship, exhilarating to listen to in a recording of demonstration quality with full frequency and wide dynamic range. Top recommendation. Janos Gardonyi MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Milhaud & Ginastera Andrée-Ann Deschênes Independent ( !! Los Angeles-based Canadian pianist Andrée-Ann Deschênes has a thing for Latin American piano music. Her first CD was a collection of piano music from Cuba and Brazil. And in August, the Humber College grad – presently a doctoral music student at California’s Claremont Graduate University (CGU), with a teaching gig at Cal State LA – released Milhaud & Ginastera. Her second indie effort – in a recent interview with CGU’s magazine, The Flame, Deschênes calls herself an “indie pianist” (followed by, “if there’s such a thing!”) – offers two sets of dances for solo piano: one largely inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s neighbourhoods; the other, a well-known trio of Argentinian dances. After a two-year stay in Rio (1917-18), French composer Darius Milhaud composed his 12-dance suite, Saudades do Brazil. Untranslatable, “saudade” suggests a feeling of longing, melancholy or nostalgia, a fixture in the music and literature of Brazil. In that same Flame interview, Deschênes says she chose these pieces “because they are such unique little gems of music.” And they are, each one its own, self-contained iteration of saudade, some poignant and dark, others more playful with driving rhythms. All tonally interesting, harmonically colourful and utterly charming. Deschênes captures the essence of saudade, tapping into an emotional connection to the material – you sense she’s both moved by it, yet at the same time, focused on the task at hand, technique crisp and clean. Alberto Ginastera’s Danza Argentinas are also gorgeous gems, and Deschênes executes them deftly and sensitively; the middle, an achingly beautiful invocation. Deschênes’ disc is a gem. ¡Fantástico! Sharna Searle Charles Wuorinen – Eighth Symphony; Fourth Piano Concerto Peter Serkin; Boston Symphony Orchestra; James Levine Bridge Records 9474 ( !! In his heyday, conductor James Levine was known as a staunch advocate of the American high modern school of practitioners of Arnold Schoenberg’s serial method, commissioning new works from Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt and Charles Wuorinen during his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony. Bridge Records, with considerable philanthropic support, has now issued a commemorative disc of two major works from the last man standing of that compositional triumvirate. The first of these, Wuorinen’s Eighth Symphony, bears the arcane subtitle, Theologoumena, defined by the composer as “a private non-dogmatic theological opinion.” Make of that what you will. Formally it is cast in a conventional order of three fast-slow-fast movements, expressed in a no-compromise, often abrasive, language. That language is nevertheless in many ways a very traditional and approachable one; there are no extended instrumental techniques or a smidgen of spectralism to be found in his highly contrapuntal style. The first movement of the symphony is a wild ride of unbridled energy, dense and frenetic; the second movement is marginally more restrained, while the finale brings the percussion and piano to the fore for a thunderous conclusion. The ensemble of the Boston musicians is pushed to the edge in this high tension recording of the 2007 premiere performance. The performance of Wuorinen’s compelling Fourth Piano Concerto from 2005 is considerably more assured, in large part due to Peter Serkin’s admirable mastery of the demanding solo piano part and the composer’s more L/R Like the review? Listen to some tracks from all the recordings in the ads below at The L/R duoJalal Parallels Close your eyes and embark on a musical joyride as Vandana’s silky voice glissades you through uncharted territories blending World genres with Indian music! Inspired by their namesake, 13th century poet and mystic Jalal al-din Rumi, duoJalal present an original new recording that bridges cultural and musical genres. Shakespeare: The Complete Works Available exclusively from Classical 96 FM. Full details at Mozart 225: The New Complete Edition Available at L’Atelier Grigorian, 70 Yorkville Ave., Toronto & Full details December 1, 2016 - February 7, 2017 | 83

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