6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Choir
  • Musical
In this issue: Our podcast ramps up with interviews in March with fight director Jenny Parr, countertenor Daniel Taylor, and baritone Russell Braun; two views of composer John Beckwith at 90; how music’s connection to memory can assist with the care of patients with Alzheimer’s; musical celebrations in film and jazz, at National Canadian Film Day and Jazz Day; and a preview of Louis Riel, which opens this month at the COC. These and other stories, in our April 2017 issue of the magazine!

and flawless performance

and flawless performance in this collection of heavenly works. Dianne Wells CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Le Mozart Noir Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; Jeanne Lamon Tafelmusik Media TMK 1031 DVDCD ( L/R !! This is a welcome re-release from 2002, featuring an hourlong DVD docudrama on the life of the significant 18th-century Parisian composer Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who was the son of a slave. There is also a full-length CD recording of several of Saint- Georges’ compositions, as well as a movement of a Leclair violin concerto and a symphony by Gossec. The docudrama is well-researched and engaging, despite rather stilted dramatic performances in period costume. What is most interesting is R.H. Thomson’s narrated story of Boulogne’s life, the lively Tafelmusik performances, the interviews with his biographer and with Tafelmusik director Jeanne Lamon and soloist Linda Melsted. Together they make a good case for the complexity, grace and beauty of Saint-Georges’ music. One clip of Lamon explaining in detail the beauty of a particular theme and accompaniment is wonderfully articulate and a powerful insider’s explanation of how music is put together. The DVD is entertaining, educational and quite moving in its presentation of the life of this remarkable and unique musician, athlete and military leader. The accompanying booklet includes a beautifully written essay on Saint-Georges by Charlotte Nediger. As Tafelmusik heads into a new era with the recent appointment of Elisa Citterio as their music director, this recording is a poignant reminder of what a powerhouse the orchestra has been over the years under Lamon’s direction. The recorded sound is excellent and the performances are first-rate, most notably the solo playing of Melsted and Geneviève Gilardeau. Larry Beckwith Concert notes: Tafelmusik presents “Bach: Keeping It in the Family” featuring Alfredo Bernardini, oboe, and Cecilia Bernardini, violin, April 5 through 8 plus a matinee on April 9 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. A chamber offering, “Close Encounters…of the German Kind” will be presented on April 22 at the Temerty Theatre (sold out) and at Heliconian Hall on April 28 (11am). On April 2 the Windermere String Quartet presents “Mozart by Any Other Name” including Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Quartet in C Minor at St. Olave’s Anglican Church. New Era – Stamitz; Danzi; Mozart Andreas Ottensamer; Kammerakademie Potsdam; Emmanuel Pahud; Albrecht Mayer Decca 481 4711 L/R !! Andreas Ottensamer, principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic, has released a delightful assortment of tracks on a disc designed to educate and entertain. New Era refers to the period in Mannheim from the mid- to late- 18th century, an epoch in which composers and performers consorted, collaborated and so consolidated what we now call the Classical Style. Most wind players encounter Johann (père) and Carl (fils) Stamitz, as well as Franz Danzi, en route through undergraduate performance courses. Seldom are these composers heard outside of the academic recital hall, perhaps owing to the tendency in our own era to reduce and highlight, so that we use Mozart as a stand-in for an entire range of musical peaks, as we might with Everest for the Himalayas. These four composers are represented here. For once Mozart’s sublime Concerto K622 is left off the menu in favour of two transcribed arias (from Mitridate and Don Giovanni), and a fantasy on the beloved La ci darem la mano, written by Danzi. For substance, there is a concerto from each Stamitz, and a delightful Concertino by Danzi for clarinet and bassoon (transcribed to great effect for cor anglais). Danzi’s Fantasy is an early iteration of the virtuosic form where a technical tour de force is derived from the music of a popular opera. Ottensamer plays with fluid precision and a surprisingly bright tone that suits the material; perhaps long gone are the days when to be a member of the Berlin Philharmonic meant using the darkest possible set-up. His articulation is crisp, his intonation trustworthy, and his improvisational cadenzas in the concerti are like rifts in the time-space continuum, somehow joining that New Era with our own. Collaborators include flutist Emmanuel Pahud (on both of Stephan Koncz’ transcriptions of the arias) and Albrecht Mayer on cor anglais, both colleagues of Ottensamer in Berlin, and like him brilliant instrumental musicians. The back-up band, Kammerakademie Potsdam, is equally brilliant under the clarinetist’s direction. Max Christie Haydn – Symphonies 8 & 84; Violin Concerto in A Major Aisslinn Nosky; Handel and Haydn Society; Harry Christophers Coro COR16148 !! This is the latest in a series of recordings of the symphonies and concertos of Haydn by the Boston-based Handel and Haydn Society, under the dynamic direction of Harry Christophers. The Toronto connection is the orchestra’s concertmaster – and violin soloist on this disc - Aisslinn Nosky, a former member of Tafelmusik and one of the driving forces behind I Furiosi. Haydn’s eighth symphony – nicknamed “Le soir” – is a sinfonia concertante, meaning it features solo passages from several of the orchestra’s principals, including Nosky. It’s a great pleasure to hear the freedom, humour and tenderness each soloist brings to their playing and the whole performance has a tremendous buoyancy and elegance to it. The A-Major concerto is difficult to bring off the page because of its rather pedestrian themes and somewhat predictable turns, but Nosky and Christophers give it a convincing and lively reading. It’s exciting to hear Nosky let loose in the cadenzas, unencumbered by the regular phrasing and symmetry of the main body of each of the movements. The disc finishes with a glorious performance of Symphony No.84, one of Haydn’s Paris symphonies. Christophers coaxes clean, balanced performances from his charges without sacrificing drama and expressiveness. The second movement goes to some dark places, which are enhanced and deepened by a wonderful attention to dynamics and accents. It’s clear that Christophers and Nosky are a powerful team. We will await the next Haydn disc with great anticipation. Larry Beckwith Strauss – Ariadne auf Naxos; Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Suites) Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta Naxos 8.57346 !! Now here is a real gem I wouldn’t mind listening to over and over again. This brand new release from Naxos comes from Buffalo, NY, by an orchestra, one of the best in North America, whose skills were honed by such names as Josef Krips, Lucas Foss, Semyon Bychkov and now led most ably by JoAnn Falletta. If you’ve never heard of or cared for her, you certainly 70 | April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017

will after listening to this rock-bottom, bargain-priced disc, a deal not to be missed. Strauss’ love of the music of Lully inspired this absolute jewel of incidental music for Molière’s comedy Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, first performed at Chateau Chambord for Louis XIV in 1670. Strauss’ Suite (1912/1920) is written for a small but virtuoso orchestra, difficult and intricate but played here with flair, charm, delicacy and humour one rarely encounters even from the very best conductors. The violin solo by concertmaster William Preucil is an unforgettable delight. The Suite from Ariadne auf Naxos is quite new (and a world premiere) by a young American, D. Wilson Ochoa, who put it together from the highlights of the opera of the same name. He certainly knew what he was doing and the suite now enriches the concert repertoire like a new symphonic poem by Strauss and surely will be so welcomed. Strauss said once that “melody strikes him like a bolt of lightning from the clear blue sky” and that’s well proven by the exquisite finale when the god Bacchus appears in his radiance curing Ariadne’s sorrows by falling in love with her and we hear wave upon wave of radiant music pouring forth from Falletta’s magic baton. Janos Gardonyi Anton Bruckner – The Complete Symphonies Staatskapelle Berlin; Daniel Barenboim Deutsche Grammophon 479 6985 L/R !! There is a story about Karajan that once when he got sick and had to cancel a few concerts, the Philharmoniker decided on Daniel Barenboim to substitute. As soon as he heard this, Karajan exclaimed “OMG not HIM!!” and sick no longer, he jumped out of bed and ran back to conduct. Barenboim’s approach to Bruckner is different from the holier-than-thou centuryold Germanic tradition, trademark of many venerable conductors, mostly dead by now. I remember the great Celibidache stopping the orchestra (the BPO) 15 times before reaching the end of the first bar of the Seventh Symphony to get the opening tremolando just right, his tempo so slow, the symphony ended up a half-hour longer than anybody else’s. Now Barenboim, a consummate musician, does not revere anything but the music, making it as enjoyable, interesting, even exciting as possible and his tempi in Bruckner have always been faster, but never rushed. This is true for this new, beautifully recorded set of the nine numbered symphonies, already the third such cycle in his career, but now on his own label Peral Music, under the aegis of Deutsche Grammophon. The orchestra this time is the Berlin Staatskapelle, one of the oldest in the world, once upon a time the Prussian Court orchestra which the maestro, being its director for the last 20 years, had moulded it into perfection. It even gives the famous Berlin Philharmoniker a run for its money. There is a unified approach, a remarkable consistency, and the orchestral playing is incredibly precise. Most of the players are young, highly skilled, enthusiastic, very devoted to each other and simply revere their conductor. I have watched some of the performances (televised by and Mezzo) and his conducting style avoids all histrionics and, being past 70, he budgets his strength and gets maximum effect with very little effort. All performances are solid, high-quality and the symphonies throb with life, infused with rhythmic vitality. One will discover previously unheard details in the tremendously rich orchestral palette and the conductor’s stamp is always felt. The fff outburst in the Largo of the Seventh Symphony has never been more impressive on record and made even me jump out of my seat practically hyperventilating. Incidentally this had been the moment of my own conversion to Bruckner some 40 years ago. If you want to enjoy Bruckner rather than worship it, this is the set for you. Janos Gardonyi MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Adam Schoenberg – American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies Kansas City Symphony; Michael Stern Reference Recordings RR-139 SACD ( !! Another Schoenberg? Anyone who thinks even one is too many can relax, as Adam Schoenberg (b.1980) bears no relation to Arnold, genealogically or musically. Currently teaching at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he’s a rising star, his tonal, tuneful, colourfully scored music performed by orchestras across the US. Schoenberg composed Finding Rothko (2006), depictions of four Rothko paintings, while a doctoral student at Juilliard, mentored by John Corigliano. The music successfully mirrors Rothko’s art – atmospheric, meditative and imposing, with shimmering colours that effectively play against each other in unexpected ways. Schoenberg’s five-movement American Symphony (2011) begins and ends with buoyant optimism, powered by quasiminimalist ostinatos. Two solemn, slow movements, built on sustained Coplandesque pastoral harmonies, frame the jazzy, syncopated middle movement. Schoenberg says, “I set out to write a modern American symphony that paid homage to our past and looked forward to a brighter future.” Indeed, it all sounds very “American.” In 2011, the Kansas City Symphony and the city’s Nelson-Atkins Museum commissioned Schoenberg to compose “a 21st-century Pictures at an Exhibition,” based on pieces in the museum’s collection. Picture Studies (2012) depicts paintings by van Gogh, Kandinsky, Miró and Albert Bloch, a Calder sculpture and three photographs. The brilliantly orchestrated music is variously perky, sentimental, vehement and exultant. Conductor Michael Stern elicits playing with rhythmic brio, precision and wide dynamics in these audience-pleasing works. Whether Schoenberg can create music that digs deeper than “audience-pleasing” still remains to be heard. Michael Schulman Scavenger Amy Brandon Independent ( !! The first sounds to greet the listener on Amy Brandon’s debut CD are electronic swirls and squiggles, likely guitar-based and clearly running backwards. Within seconds, however, one is in for a surprise, as the very pure sound of her acoustic, nylon-string guitar emerges. Brandon is a Nova Scotia-based musician whose work here regularly combines contrasting elements: her musical identity is a composite, arising in the gap between the electroacoustic elements and acoustic melodies and improvisations. On Scavenger, most tracks include these pre-recorded sounds, some of them clearly reworked from her own guitar tapes, others likely using other elements, whether the sound source of the War Games backing tape is thunder, actual combat, a reverb unit or the resonant bass strings of a piano. The results are fascinating, in part because of Brandon’s instrumental approach: it’s a model of classical guitar clarity in the tradition of Segovia, Yepes and Bream, with lyricism and triadic harmony that can suggest idiomatic composers like Villa-Lobos and Rodrigo. Along the way, Brandon invites others into her musical world. VL is a duet with the distinguished Montreal jazz guitarist Mike Rud, his glassy sound contrasting with Brandon’s warmth between otherwise similar approaches; in contrast, her duet with Ottawa-based acoustic guitarist Roddy Ellias on Ecoando is a clear mirroring of sound. This is a fascinating debut, and one looks forward to Brandon’s further explorations. Stuart Broomer April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017 | 71

Copied successfully!

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)