6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Theatre
In this issue: an interview with composer/vocalist Jeremy Dutcher, on his upcoming debut album and unique compositional voice; a conversation with Boston Symphony hornist James Sommerville, as as the BSO gets ready to come to his hometown; Stuart Hamilton, fondly remembered; and an inside look at Hugh’s Room, as it enters a complicated chapter in the story of its life in the complex fabric of our musical city. These and other stories, as we celebrate the past and look forward to the rest of 2016/17, the first glimpses of 2017/18, and beyond!

out with his remarkably

out with his remarkably light staccato on all the descending runs in the treble. The Moments Musicaux D780, too, are favourites and require something to make them distinctive. No.6 is often played with far more contrast than Vogt brings to this performance. Instead, he opts for a more wistful approach throughout and it works well. Overall, Vogt seems to raise the bar on everything without ever going too far. It’s an impressive process of balance and taste that has produced a very satisfying recording for Schubert collectors. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has completed his recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas with the release of Beethoven Piano Sonatas Vol. 3 (Chandos CHAN 10925(3)). Do we need another Beethoven Sonata cycle? Bavouzet occupied himself with this very question before committing to the project for Chandos. Those who know and cherish these works will each have favourite interpreters who have revealed new meaning in them. Bavouzet argues that projects like this are evolutionary and therefore benefit from all those that preceded them. As a mature artist in his mid-50s, Bavouzet indeed has something to say and he says it convincingly. His performance of the Sonata Op.57 “Appassionata” is surprisingly understated through most of the second movement. This heightens the impact of the final movement which follows very aggressively without a break. His speed and precision seem effortless. He shapes Beethoven’s phrases intelligently and manages to keep the composer’s impetuous nature teeming without boiling over. The Sonata Op.106 “Hammerklavier” is the towering, complex work after whose final measures, a sonata cycle like this either succeeds or crumbles. Bavouzet emerges in this performance as an artist fully capable of embracing the essence of what Beethoven had to say, and how to say it. Bavouzet’s revelation in this repertoire is that Beethoven was not a mad composer pouring magnificent anger from his pen. Rather, he was an impassioned genius crafting everything with an exacting science rooted in his soul. Bavouzet obviously “gets” Beethoven – in the profoundest way. In addition to his stature as a Liszt interpreter, Nicolas Horvath devotes a considerable amount of his career energy to contemporary music. The new release Glassworlds • 5: Enlightenment (Grand Piano GP745) continues his recordings of the piano music of Philip Glass. Two large, major works nearly fill this disc. Mad Rush, written in 1979 as a commissioned organ piece under a different title, has since been renamed and performed as dance accompaniment as well as a piano solo. Glass performed it himself several times and perhaps most interestingly as music for the entry of the 14th Dalai Lama into the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. 600 Lines is a 40-minute piece built on just five pitches played in varying rhythmic patterns constantly shifting emphasis on principal notes in those patterns. If you’re acquainted with the English bell ringing tradition of “ringing changes,” this piece will surprisingly make a lot of sense. Considerably shorter but no less engaging is Metamorphoses (5): No. 2. The work had never been published, so Horvath naturally takes some pride in performing its world premiere as a solo piano work. Horvath clearly has a deep affection for Glass’ music that goes far beyond the intellectual. His grasp of it is both passionate and revealing. In writing his own, excellent liner notes for this recording, Horvath closes by quoting the composer, “Music is a social activity…Music is a transaction; it passes between us.” The most exotic item in this month’s collection is Keiko Shichijo’s new release Komitas Vardapet – Six Dances (Makkum Records MR.17/ Pb006). It’s as unusual for its repertoire, as it is for its brevity, a mere eighteen minutes. The dances are based on Armenian folk melodies which the composer transcribed from original settings for folk instruments. Komitas is said to have notated some 3,000 Armenian folk tunes; only 1,200 survive. Although an ordained priest, his work as an ethnomusicologist has made him an icon in the history of Armenian culture. His exposure to Western European music came from his studies in Berlin at the end of the 19th century. Shichijo chose to record his solo piano work Six Dances after performing some of his other compositions with a chamber ensemble. She is remarkably persuasive in the way she portrays the percussive, and otherwise non-Western, stylings of this music. It’s nearly all monodic, just a single melody line, sometimes in octaves, against the barest of accompaniments. There’s a definite feel of Debussy’s exoticism about Komitas’ music. While it’s a modest recording effort, it’s a beautiful fusion of worlds that creates the temptation to hear more of this composer’s repertoire. American composer Jack Gallagher claims the piano is not his principal instrument, but his apology evaporates as soon as you hear his music. In Jack Gallagher Piano Music (Centaur CRC 3522) pianist Frank Huang captures the colour and imagination of Gallagher’s writing whether in works lighthearted or those more cerebral. Gallagher writes with a great care for structure. Form and planning are important to him. This makes his works easy to navigate for both listener and performer while he evolves his more complex musical material. Huang plays this repertoire with ease and familiarity. Works like the Sonata for Piano are very technically demanding as is Malambo Nouveau. Others like Six Bagatelles and Sonatina for Piano, less so. Still, works like Six Pieces for Kelly, written specifically for young performers, never lack for a mature and profoundly musical touch. Every so often a Gershwin-like harmony slips by, leaving an echo of Broadway and a reminder of how American this music is. Huang’s performance is confident, bold and celebratory; Gallagher’s writing seems to induce those qualities. This recording is a perfect match between composer and performer. Harpsichordist Jory Vinikour has released Partitas BWV 825-830 J.S. Bach (Sono Luminus DSL-92209), a wonderful example of how varied and engaging Bach can be at the harpsichord. If you need an introduction to Bach, then his 1731 self-published Opus 1 is a good place to start. Using a two-manual instrument built in 1995 on the scheme of a 1738 German harpsichord, Vinikour takes very deliberate time to play through the six Partitas in this three-disc set. While most items in the Partitas are labelled as dance movements, some offer a very different character and Vinikour is careful to find and exploit the essence of each piece. The Toccata of Partita No.6 in E Minor BWV830 opens and closes with waves of fantasia-like arpeggios that are a sharp contrast to the highly ordered material between them. The Overture of Partita No.4 in D Major BWV 828 begins with an extended statement that offers all the drama of an opera before moving into the discipline of a fugue. The following Allemande is a beautiful and languorous melodic wander through Bach’s harmonic world. Vinikour knows this territory well, using every technical and interpretive device to maximum effect. He knows how far to push the limits of free Baroque forms as well as complying with the rigours of Bach’s fugal treatments. On a technical note, the recording uses terrific stereo separation that’s very effective. 70 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017

VOCAL♦ Bach – Magnificat BWV243; Kuhnau – Cantate “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” Winkel; Zomer; Laing; Wilder; Brock; Arion Orchestre Baroque; Alexander Weimann ATMA ACD2 2727 ( L/R !! Bach composed the Magnificat for Christmas 1723. The work was originally in E-flat Major but revised to the lower tonality of D Major. Like most recordings this CD presents the revised version but with two differences. The first version included four interpolations. These have been included (transposed in accordance with the D-Major tonality) on the present recording. A more substantial difference with most performances lies in the handling of the choral sections. Most performances observe a marked difference between the solo and the choral sections but Weimann’s interpretation follows the views of Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott that the choral sections should also be sung one to a part. The gain in clarity in movements like Fecit Potentiam and Sicut locutus is unmistakable. There is an odd error in the Table of Contents which states that Suscepit Israel is a duet between the two soprano voices. It is actually a trio with the alto taking the lowest part. The performance is very successful and several moments stand out: the virtuoso trumpets in the opening and closing movements, the soprano solo (Johanna Winkel) and oboe d’amore obbligato (Matthew Jennejohn) in Quia respexit, the alto and tenor duet (James Laing and Zachary Wilder) in Et misericordia and the alto solo and the flutes’ obbligato (Claire Guimond and Alexa Raine-Wright) in Esurientes implevit bonis. The CD also contains Johann Kuhnau’s Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, also for five voices and also performed one to a part. It is an imaginative coupling: Kuhnau is best known as Bach’s predecessor as cantor of Saint Thomas’ in Leipzig, but he is clearly an important composer, whose works are worth listening to for their own sake. Hans de Groot Rossini Franco Fagioli; Armonia Atenea Choir and Period Orchestra; George Petrou Deutsche Grammophon 479 5681 !! The best ever? In the early 1960s I was fortunate to hear and meet Alfred Deller and Russell Oberlin, pioneers who created the standard for countertenors well before their voice type entered the musical mainstream. They were models for those who L/R followed and eventually surpassed them, such as the splendid David Daniels. But when I watched the DVD of Vinci’s Artaserse (Erato 46323234) I felt a new level of countertenor brilliance had been achieved. The DVD of Hasse’s Artaserse and the CD Arias for Caffarelli (Naive V5333) convinced me that Franco Fagioli’s phenomenal coloratura technique and uniquely dark timbre make him the greatest of all countertenors. This, Fagioli’s first CD as an exclusive DG artist, focuses on Rossinian trouser roles, male characters written for and traditionally sung by mezzo-sopranos. Other than arias from Tancredi and Semiramide, four rarities are represented: Demetrio e Polibio, Matilde di Shabran, Adelaide di Borgogna and Eduardo e Cristina. Though unfamiliar, the music is high quality, showcasing Fagioli through emotions from anguish to joy, fearfulness to triumph. I especially enjoyed the two scenes from Adelaide featuring martial choruses and Fagioli as the heroic Otto singing, of course, heroically. In the scene from Eduardo e Cristina, he spins a breathless, lyrical line before launching into the spectacular coloratura finale, also the CD’s thrilling conclusion. Special credit to George Petrou’s crackling period-instrument orchestra and chorus. Texts and translations are included. A super disc by a super singer. Michael Schulman Verdi – Aida Lewis; Rachvelishvili; Berti; Doss; Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio Torino; Gianandrea Noseda Cmajor 736908 !! Aida was composed to celebrate the opening of the Cairo Opera House; this production marks the reopening of the Egyptian Museum in Turin. The director is William Friedkin, mainly known as the director of The Exorcist, who has become interested in directing opera in recent years: Wozzeck and Rigoletto in Florence, Salome in Munich and Tales of Hoffmann in Vienna. His production of Aida is not particularly innovative but it is to his credit that he does not try to impose a counternarrative on the opera as so many directors now do. The balance between solemnity and intimacy is well conveyed. Of the singers I did not particularly like the Radames, Marco Berti. He has a strong voice but tends to be unremittingly loud. If one turns to Jon Vickers’ rendition of the role (with its wonderful tenderness in Celeste Aida) one has a clear sense of how that part could be performed. The female singers are much finer: Kristin Lewis as Aida is particularly fine in O patria mia (Act III) and in O terra addio (final scene). The mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili (we recently heard her as Carmen in Toronto) as Amneris and the baritone Mark S. Doss as Amonasro are also very good. A particular mention should be made of the very fine choreography by Marc Ribaud. Hans de Groot Donizetti – Roberto Devereux Marilla Devia; Kunde; Tro Santafé; Caria; Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Real de Madrid; Bruno Campanella BelAir Classics BAC130 !! English speaking audiences will rejoice hearing God Save the Queen in the overture, but curb your enthusiasm because this opera is just about the most gruesome and appalling tragedy, made even more gruesome by the dark and menacing but very effective staging in red (for blood) and black (for death) and dominated by a huge mechanical spider. Gaetano Donizetti wrote three successful operas about the ill-fated Tudor Queens as the topic seemed to have fascinated Italians. Not for long though, as all three disappeared from public consciousness for over a century. Roberto Devereux, being the least popular, didn’t see the light until the 1960s’ bel canto resurgence when the great American soprano Beverly Sills reinstated it into mainstream repertoire. This 2015 revival by Teatro Real of Madrid was a huge success and its main attribute was the magnificent Italian soprano Mariella Devia, who literally inhabited the role of Queen Elizabeth I, and even late in her spectacular career created such a sensation in New York that people camped out overnight to get tickets, something they hadn’t done since Callas. Now at age 68 she made history with her wonderful control and vocal fireworks and a terrifying yet pitiful portrayal of a woman betrayed and crying out for revenge. American lyric tenor Gregory Kunde as Robert, Second Earl of Essex the unlucky object of royal fury, whose voice grew more powerful recently, was a good match for Devia, passionate, heroic yet tender in the love scenes. The high vocal standard was carried even further by Spanish mezzo Sylvia Tro Santafé and principal baritone Marco Caria’s heartrendingly anguished performances. A glorious night for bel canto! Janos Gardonyi February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017 | 71

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