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Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • August
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Quartet
  • Arts
  • September
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CBC Radio's Lost Horizon; Pinocchio as Po-Mo Operatic Poster Boy; Meet the Curators (Crow, Bernstein, Ridge); a Global Music Orchestra is born; and festivals, festivals, festivals in our 13th annual summer music Green Pages. All this and more in our three-month June-through August summer special issue, now available in flipthrough HERE and on the stands commencing Thursday June 1.

the work of composers

the work of composers now rarely heard, such as Joseph Leopold Edler von Eybler (after whom the quartet is named) and now Johann Baptist Vanhal. These are attractive works, and they are beautifully played. They are also unremittingly cheerful (they are all in major keys) and that constitutes both an asset and a limitation. It was well worth unearthing this music, but a comparison with, say, Mozart’s G Minor Quintet or any of the mature quartets by Haydn brings out that limitation. Hans de Groot Concert Notes: The Eybler Quartet performs at the Ottawa Chamberfest, August 4 at the National Gallery of Canada and at Hammer Baroque, September 4, in Hamilton. Lisboa 2016 – Excerpts from the 2016 TD Tour to Portugal National Youth Orchestra of Canada; Perry So Independent NYOC2016CD (nyoc.org) !! The National Youth Orchestra of Canada is an idea as much as it is an ensemble, a very grand idea whose premise is to bring together the finest students of orchestral performance from across the country and give them the invaluable experience of hearing themselves and one another perform the magic that is symphonic music. Hogwarts indeed. Full disclosure: I am a former member of the NYOC. Lisboa celebrates a tour the band made in summer 2016 to Portugal, and it serves as an example embedded in time of what the idea generates on a yearly basis. The players on this disc likely will be or currently are members of the professional musical community and, while concert reviewers consistently sum up their achievements with qualifications like “they make up in enthusiasm what they lack in polish,” reviewing an artifact like this prevents one from falling back on hackneyed faint praise. What the band lacks in terms of professional polish is entirely consistent with more mundane realities like string instruments that might not be acceptable in a truly professional ensemble, and newness to one another, much like any other all-star national team. The Overture to Tannhauser opens the collection. It is beautifully played, sculpted, committed to. Even if you avoid Wagner, as I do, stay and hear him out in this instance. Imagine how this piece drew these players together. Then prepare to get up and dance as they move on to Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony Op.100. If the Scherzo doesn’t knock you on your ass it’s because you weren’t standing. The Adagio movement is the only weak link: there are ensemble lapses towards the end. In the manner of any seasoned orchestral player, I blame the (clearly able) conductor, Perry So. The task of uniting the voices of this group when uniform phrasing is called for is on the conductor’s to-do list, daunting though it may be. The rest of the double disc presents two brief new pieces: Spacious Euphony, by Christopher Goddard (the NYO/RBC Composer in Residence), and Hope – The Gift of Youth by Chris Meyer (an NYO commission through the Canada Council). The former zigzags in and out of tonality. The latter develops from amorphous clouds of sound to anthem, with a lovely woodwind choir and a stormy tutti ruckus encountered on the journey. Fittingly, both composers are relative tyros with great chops. Max Christie Concert Note: This year’s NYOC tour begins in Ottawa on July 22 and continues through August 15 with stops in Montreal, Toronto, Charlottetown, Halifax, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Whitehorse, Nanaimo and Vancouver. The Toronto performance takes place at Koerner Hall on July 25 as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. You can find full details of the tour at nyoc.org. Gustav Holst – Kammermusik Ensemble Arabesques Farao Records B 108098 (farao-classics. de) !! Gustav Holst composed lots of orchestral and vocal music besides The Planets, but hardly any chamber music or solo piano pieces. This CD presents the bulk of Holst’s chamber music, ably performed by Hamburg’s Ensemble Arabesques. In the Quintet in A Minor, Op.3 for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (1896), the wind players are joined by pianist SooJin Anjou. This student composition boasts a lovely chorale melody for the horn in its first movement, and a striking, solemn, processional Adagio. The Sextet in E Minor for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola and cello (1900), only recently discovered in the British Library Archives, here receives its first recording. It comprises a sweetly sentimental Moderato, a graceful Scherzo, a mournful Adagio and a final set of variations in which Holst cleverly mixed and matched the six instruments, while giving each its turn in the spotlight. Both the Woodwind Quintet Op.14 (1903 but unpublished until 1983) and Three Pieces for oboe and string quartet (1910) reflect Holst’s fondness for Renaissance and Baroque dance forms, coloured by touches of English folksong. The two-movement Terzetto for flute, oboe and viola (1925), here played by flute, oboe and clarinet, is the most modernsounding of these works, with a melancholy Allegretto and sprightly Un poco vivace finale. These “vivace” performances of very ingratiating music showcase a seldom-heard but rewarding side of a composer still known mainly for his single “greatest hit.” Michael Schulman Mind Music – Music related to neurodegenerative conditions Northern Chamber Orchestra; Stephen Barlow Divine Art dda25138 (divineartrecords. com) !! Mind Music: Music related to neurodegenerative conditions began as a fundraiser for Parkinson’s UK. It honours musicians or relatives touched by brain diseases: Felix Mendelssohn (stroke); Richard Strauss (late-life depression following influenza); John Adams and Kevin Malone (fathers with Alzheimer’s); clarinetists Elizabeth Jordan and Lynsey Marsh (project initiators, who lost parents to Parkinson’s Disease). Yet these readings of clarinet music are upbeat, featuring Jordan, Marsh and conductor Stephen Barlow with the Manchester-based Northern Chamber Orchestra. In Richard Strauss’s Sonatina No.1: From an Invalid’s Workshop (1943), the wonderfully rich, well-tuned sound of 16 wind players suits the work’s melodic lyricism and harmonic suavity perfectly. Mendelssohn composed his short Concert Piece No.1 (1833) for clarinet, basset horn and orchestra in exchange for his clarinetist guests’ cooking of Bavarian dumplings and strudel. Here, Marsh and Jordan meld the solo instruments with orchestra into a cheerful, satisfying whole. Digital delay evokes memory in Kevin Malone’s The Last Memory (1996) for clarinet, the composer exploring events and feelings around his father’s illness. Composer John Adams honours his clarinetist father’s tutelage, American musical roots and final years in the intriguing Gnarly Buttons (clarinet and small orchestra). Agile solos by Jordan, and Stephen Barlow’s precise conducting, are complemented by jazz timbres, sampled sounds, and pert banjo or mandolin interjections. Amidst this bundle of surprises, the peaceful opening of the finale, Put Your Loving Arms Around Me, is extraordinally calming. Roger Knox MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Lou Harrison – Violin Concerto; Grand Duo; Double Music Tim Fain; Michael Boriskin; PostClassical Ensemble; Angel Gil-Ordóñez Naxos 8.559825 !! This splendid CD contains two 82 | June 1, 2017 - September 7, 2017 thewholenote.com

masterworks by Lou Harrison. I’m a longtime fan of Harrison and his mentor Henry Cowell, who introduced Harrison to both world music and John Cage, with whom Harrison would co-compose Double Music. (I was privileged to meet all three.) In the first two movements of his Arabictinged Concerto for Violin and Percussion, the violin weaves sinuous melismas over punctuating percussion. They were composed in 1940 and revised in 1959, when Harrison added the finale, which offsets their fervent lyricism with a spirited belly-dance. Throughout much of the 20-minute concerto, Tim Fain has to play in the violin’s upper register; he does so, brilliantly. The five-movement, Indonesian-influenced Grand Duo for violin and piano (1988) lasts 35 minutes. New to me, I found every minute enthralling. The violin’s long lines suggest a suling flute floating over the gamelanlike piano accompaniment provided by Michael Boriskin. A long, misterioso Prelude is followed by the up-tempo Stampede and gentle A Round. Air, the longest movement at nearly 11 minutes, is deeply downcast, similar in mood and impact to a Shostakovich Adagio. The Duo ends with the brief Polka, a lighthearted Europe-Indonesia hybrid. A great piece! Double Music (1941), for which Harrison and Cage each independently wrote the music for two of the four players, is a long-standing percussion staple. Gil-Ordóñez’s meditative seven-minute interpretation takes over a minute longer than my swinging, Cageconducted LP version. Different, but effective. Heartily recommended! Michael Schulman Jennifer Higdon – All Things Majestic; Viola Concerto; Oboe Concerto Roberto Díaz; James Button; Nashville Symphony; Giancarlo Guerrero Naxos 8.559823 !! Celebrated American composer Jennifer Higdon’s music has a personal voice linking to major 20th-century American composers. Her complex but meticulously scored suite All Things Majestic (2011) is more than ably represented on this disc by the Nashville Symphony under renowned conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. Hiking in the Grand Teton Range gave rise to titles and musical realizations, according to the composer. The orchestra of Music City goes from strength to strength in this work: inducing a majestic effect in the polytonal parallel chord streams of the first movement; shimmering exquisitely in different registers from which solo string figurations emerge in the following String Lake. Snake River, the third movement, is short and effective with fast runs leading into the rapids, while the closing Cathedrals features pitched percussion and harp in ethereal splendour. Guest Chilean-American soloist Roberto Díaz’s full, well-rounded tone pervades the Viola Concerto (2014). The opening movement was to me unconvincing compositionally; its major-scale (pandiatonic) harmony seems too prevalent, as is the falling seventh interval in the viola. The second and third movements, though, are successful with witty and complex rhythms, including irregular subdivisions of the beat reminding me of today’s electronic dance music. In the pastoral opening of the one-movement Oboe Concerto (2005), Nashville principal oboist James Button’s rich timbre suffuses an extended melodic line. A contrasting motivic and rhythmic section gradually emerges with quirky orchestration, creating sparks that energize the rest of this convincing work. Roger Knox Piccolo Works Natalie Schwaabe; Jan Philip Schulze metier msv 28562 (divineartrecords.com) !! Shrill, raucous, vulgar, strident! All too easily these adjectives seem to attach themselves to, and prejudice us against, the hapless piccolo. Yet for Piccolo Works, Natalie Schwaabe’s excellent debut CD, these notions are utterly debunked. From the outset this outstanding piccoloist of the Bavarian Radio Symphony (a world’s top-ten orchestra) presents a challenging and varied program of 21st-century delights, delivered with impeccable intonation, rhythmic precision, sensitive musicianship and finesse. The opener, Levante Gyöngyösi’s Sonata for piccolo and piano (2007) (rapidly becoming a staple of the canon), shows ample clarity and energy of ensemble playing with collaborator Jan Philip Schulze. This sparkling, polished team has much to offer in interpretation and excitement. Amidst the other composers’ works are two originals composed for Schwaabe: Gert Wilden’s sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jazzy, always melodic two and a half piece and Kanefzky’s charming Pied Piper of Hamelin for flute/ piccolo and narrator. Here the piccolo appears only as the magical voice of the piper’s instrument while Schwaabe’s nuanced command of the flute belies any myth that piccoloists are somehow less accomplished flutists. Unfortunately for unilingual audiences, Schwaabe’s narration is in German. Mower’s Sonata, the perilous multiphonics of Donatoni’s NIDI Mikalsen’s starkly brutal Huit ilium where Schwaabe’s fluid control of even the highest notes is dazzling, and the Canadian Derek Charke’s wrenchingly sad Lacrymose round out this utterly brilliant CD. If this recording were to become essential listening, it would surely unfetter the piccolo from its enduring prison of prejudice. Nancy Nourse Time Sketches John Kameel Farah Neue Meister 03009045NM (johnfarah. com) John Kameel Farah is a composer, pianist and visual artist who these days makes his home in both Toronto and Berlin. His pianocentric compositions have long attracted attention. During his University of Toronto music student years he twice received the Glenn Gould Composition Award. Farah’s musical influences are extremely broad and cosmopolitan. They embrace the musics of Renaissance keyboard composers, J.S. Bach, Arabic maqam, Schoenberg and Ravel, as well as that of the minimalists, free improvisation and vernacular genres such as drum and bass. He performs all of them with precision and panache. Even more surprising, perhaps: in Farah’s live solo concerts he often deftly mixes many of these seemingly disparate elements, performing on piano, harpsichord, organ, synthesizer and computer. While his concerts primarily focus on his signature hybrid of composition, improvisation and electronic music, he often adds classical works, lending his programs a Euro-American historical perspective. There is much to listen to and savour in Time Sketches. The relatively contained Behold! for piano and pipe organ is the example I’ll choose to talk about today. Set in a 20-beat metric cycle, it echoes the musical vocabulary developed mid-century by the American minimalists. The effect of the music is somewhat counterintuitive; it’s lilting and soft-spoken. Ending on a single, surprisingly gentle, middle-octave B-flat on the piano, it reminds this listener of mid-career Terry Riley’s keyboard music. Farah had private lessons in 1999 with that pioneer minimalist master, and Behold! is a worthy miniature addition to the minimalist music canon. I recommend Time Sketches as a worthy addition to your quality listening time. Andrew Timar Concert note: John Kameel Farah launches Time Sketches in Toronto on June 11 at the Monarch Tavern, 12 Clinton St. at 8:00. thewholenote.com June 1, 2017 - September 7, 2017 | 83

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

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