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Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017

  • Text
  • September
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • October
  • Recording
  • Composer
  • Symphony
  • Theatre
In this issue: a look at why musicians experience stage fright, and how to combat it; an inside look at the second Kensington Market Jazz Festival, which zeros in on one of Toronto’s true ‘music villages’; an in-depth interview with Elisa Citterio, new music director of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; and The WholeNote’s guide to TIFF, with suggestions for the 20 most musical films at this year’s festival. These and other stories, in our September 2017 issue of the magazine!

Four Sabras, rarely

Four Sabras, rarely heard, are particularly entertaining for the colourful characters with which he imbues each one. Cooperstock excels in the piano arrangement of Aaron Copland’s El Salón México. Fully in control of the piece’s technical demands, he captures the work’s fiery spirit, bringing it to a powerful and frenzied conclusion. Cooperstock takes advantage of studio technology to play both piano parts of the Bridal Suite. It’s a collection of short, witty pieces that he performs with obvious relish and good humour. The Leonard Bernstein at 100 project is a timely and instructive look at a musical giant through his work at the keyboard. Nicolas Horvath has released the first volume in his latest project, Satie – Complete Piano Works 1 (Grand Piano GP 761). His project takes advantage of the newest and most extensively corrected edition of Satie’s piano music by Salabert (Milan). Horvath has also chosen to record the repertoire up to 1897 on Cosima Wagner’s 1881 Erard, in an effort to create the kind of piano sound that Satie would have known and expected. The CD program includes two world premiere recordings of short works and nine others from the newly revised edition. The notes to this CD contain some very fine historical autobiographical material that reminds the reader of how extraordinary Satie was. His music is never really contrapuntal or even impressionistic. He establishes an atmosphere of mysticism with pulsating chords against melodies that feel modal and something akin to Asian or Middle Eastern. Horvath does a splendid job in presenting this unusual repertoire. The four Ogives are almost entirely vertical and hymn-like in their replication of plainchant. Said to have been inspired by the Gothic arches of a neighbouring church, these are perhaps unlike most of Satie’s other music. There’s also a fascinating, if short, monodic piece titled Leit-Motiv du “Panthée”. Chanson hongroise is barely more than half a minute but contains curious and tantalizing touches of Bartók. With volumes two and three already designed and ready for release soon, Satie collectors will be eager to snap them from the shelves when they appear. VOCAL Lady of the Lake Maureen Batt; Jon-Paul Décosse; Simon Docking Leaf Music LM213 (leaf-music.ca) !! Canadian soprano Maureen Batt performs with clear diction and memorable musical nuances in this fascinating release of two contrasting song cycle versions of Sir Walter Scott’s 19th-century epic poem Lady of the Lake. Franz Schubert’s song cycle is rooted in the familiar German Romantic style. Mostly scored for voice and piano, it is a treat to listen to the complete version here. The Halifax Camerata Singers conducted by Jeff Joudrey with pianist Lynette Wahlstrom create luscious harmonies in a tight ensemble performance of Coronach, Op. 52, No. 4, while the TTBB version of Bootgesang Op.52, No.3 is rollicking. Bass-baritone Jon-Paul Décosse sings with colour, while Batt’s soaring rendition of the original Germanlanguage version of the familiar Ave Maria is great. Pianist Simon Docking supports the voices with rhythmic drive and melodic excitement. Canadian composer Fiona Ryan writes in the liner notes that she composed her Lady of the Lake in a more operatic/theatrical fashion. The folk-song flavoured A Warrior’s Farewell features a perfect rendition and closing a capella section by Décosse. The three recurring Battle Cries sections are driven by dramatic sung lines, spoken word sections, bent pitches and driving contrapuntal piano writing. The highlight is the more new-music flavoured closing Reconciliation/Mémoire. Batt and Décosse sing the dramatic tricky vocal lines with precision and emotion. Both Lady of the Lake cycles are well composed and held together by Batt’s shining voice. Tiina Kiik Songbird Layla Claire; Marie-Eve Scarfone ATMA ACD2 2754 L/R !! Canadian soprano Layla Claire`s impressive background includes concert performances with top international orchestras and roles in significant Handel and Mozart opera productions. She participated in the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, leading to return engagements. This disc demonstrates her recitalist side with 20 art songs in French, German and English. She has an attractive, agile voice with a light vibrato, sparkling top and rich middle-to-low register. Her choice of songs leans towards cheer, intimacy and (she writes) “music that I think is charming and cozy.” In impeccable collaboration with outstanding Quebec-based pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone, bright songs like the opening Viens! Les gazons sont verts! (Gounod), Chanson d’avril (Bizet) and Spring (Dominick Argento) communicate a definite sense of joy. But there is more. In Gounod’s Sérénade, Claire’s vocal agility is remarkable. Her wide registral and dynamic range show in Richard Strauss’ Epheu, where after a dive of nearly two octaves she continues with perfect control. Warm low notes aptly colour the beginning of Brahms’ great Unbewegte laue Luft. Both artists lead me mesmerized into Chausson’s symbolist Dans la forêt du charme et de l’enchantement; Scarfone contributes subtle colouring and pacing. As for small quibbles, one vocal climax note is cut off unusually and a couple are slightly under pitch. Also the package lacks song translations. Not to worry; I recommend Songbird highly and look forward eagerly to more music from Claire and Scarfone. Roger Knox Visions Véronique Gens; Münchner Rundfunkorchester; Hervé Niquet Alpha Classics ALPHA 279 (alpha-classics.com) !! There are many unique voices, but you know you are dealing with an extraordinary one when it is referred to as a category by the name of its owner – I am talking about the Falcon soprano. Cornélie Falcon, a 19th-century diva, possessed that voice, albeit for a tragically short time. She lost it, onstage, only five years into her career at the age of 23 while singing in Niedermeyer’s Stradella at the Palais Garnier in 1837. In her meteoric career, she was THE soprano of the Paris Opera, especially in Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer and La Juive by Halévy. So what is a Falcon soprano? Well, it is a voice of surprisingly small range, just two and a half octaves, but it sits in a soprano’s golden spot. No burnished copper notes of lower register, no silvery flourishes on the improbably high top. Instead, it’s all pure, unadulterated, shiny and resonant gold. You can hear it easily in this recording, for Véronique Gens is the real McCoy. In this collection of outtakes from French Romantic operas, Gens traces the roles sang by Falcon and some later material from Bizet, Franck, Massenet and Saint-Saëns. Pause if you will, at track number three, the very melody by Niedermeyer that permanently broke Falcon’s voice at its second performance. Robert Tomas 72 | September 2017 thewholenote.com

Jewish Music & Poetry Project: Surviving Women’s Words Ensemble for These Times Centaur Records CRC 3490 (centaurrecords.com) !! With the release of this deeply moving and well-conceived project, the San Francisco-based Ensemble for These Times (E4TT) has put forth a superb and relevant spoken word and musical recording. Composer David Garner has created a song cycle that underscores powerful poetry written by four female, Jewish, Holocaust survivors: Mascha Kaléko (1907-1975), Rose Ausländer (1901- 1988), Elsa Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945) and Yala Korwin (1933-2014). Garner has also assembled a fine ensemble, including soprano (and E4TT founding member) Nanette McGuiness, pianist Dale Tsang and cellist Adaiha MacAdam-Somer. Opening the cycle is Chanson für Morgen (eight poems by Kaléko). On Lied zur Nacht, Garner is seemingly metaphysically connected to Kaléko, and has musically captured the nearly Arctic, lonely introspection and unsettling disconsolance of Kaléko’s poetry. Sophisticated voicings and sonic clusters define this work, and McGuiness’ dynamic soprano is the alchemical component that makes it all work. Also stirring are Nachts – a macabre, melancholy waltz that whirls the listener into the abyss – and the very contemporary Herbstanfang, which features a sonorous and complex cello counterpoint by MacAdam-Somer. The only section of the cycle to be sung in English is Song is a Monument (five poems by Yala Korwin). Korwin lived in the United States until the time of her recent passing, and her Yankee influence is clearly felt and complemented exquisitely by Garner. Now more than ever, as the U.S. experiences a déjà vu of hatred and is poised on the brink of societal unravelling, the potent and timeless messages of survival, love, tolerance and forgiveness contained on this brilliant presentation need to resonate throughout the world. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Donizetti – Rosmonda D’Inghilterra Pratt; Mei; Schmunck; Ulivieri; Lupinacci Dynamic 37757 !! Here is a fine example of how an opera can be presented effectively at relatively low cost with a dedicated, talented creative team, simple, minimalistic sets evoking the milieu, atmospheric lighting, colours and non-intrusive direction relying on the natural movement of the actors. Director Paola Rota should be congratulated for bringing Donizetti’s forgotten opera after 171 years’ slumber into shining focus at the Bergamo festival. The period is 12th-century England and the story is about an innocent young girl, Rosamunda Clifford, with whom Henry II fell in love, who in turn falls victim to the jealous rage of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. The underlying menace of this dismal story is well captured, and with Donizetti’s gorgeously melodic score it really hits home to an enthusiastic audience at Donizetti’s birthplace. Jessica Pratt is one of the best bel canto sopranos today, and she is the star in the title role with her glorious, strong high notes and lovely legato singing. In the complex role of the scheming, murderous Queen, famous Italian soprano Eva Mei’s brilliant performance brings lots of excitement. In the lesser parts of Arturo the rejected lover and Clifford the anguished father, mezzo Raffaella Lupinacci and baritone Nicola Ulivieri are also very effective. The only weakness is the King, high tenor Dario Schmunck, who has some difficulty keeping up with the strain of high tessitura of this very demanding role. My great delight and a major contributor to the success is young conductor Sebastiano Rolli. His innate grasp of the score (that he conducts from memory!), perfectly chosen tempi and deliciously accented pointing, are the mark of a great conductor in the making. Janos Gardonyi Rossini – Adelaide di Borgogna Sadovnikova; Gritskova; Anderzhanov; Vlad; Zubieta; Watanabe; Lewenberg; Camerata Bach Choir, Posnań; Virtuosi Brunensis; Luciano Acocella Naxos 8.660401-02 !! Here is a rarity of rarities, an opera by Rossini not only recorded for the first time, but one dating back to 1817 and staged scarcely more than a dozen times. Since it disappeared from the repertoire in 1825 (due in large part to the unfavourable reception of Roman critics – it was Rossini’s first opera written for Rome), there were only a few efforts to revive it. Why then history’s cold shoulder? Well, that is the ,000 question. Yes, Rossini was young, only 25, when he wrote it, but this is not juvenilia. It came right on the heels of Armida (with whom it shared a librettist) and La Cenerentola, both well-loved and oftenperformed operas. Adelaide di Borgogna is centred on the events in medieval Italy (circa 950 AD) that led to extending the Holy Roman Empire from Germany into the Apennine Peninsula. The action is, unusual for an opera, historically accurate, well-paced and intriguing. We cannot fault the music either – Rossini himself frequently reused passages from this work in his later operas to great effect. So, in the end, yet another great work killed off by negative reviews. Listening to this recording truly has made me more aware of my responsibility as a music critic. My only regret for this unique recording is the relative mediocrity of the assembled cast, with the notable exception of Margarita Gritskova in a splendid trouser role as the Emperor Otto the Great. Robert Tomas Wagner – Parsifal Marco-Burmester; Petrenko; Struckmann; Ventris; Lang; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Iván Fischer Challenge Classics CC72619 (challengerrecords.com) ! ! German Romantic opera reached its pinnacle under Wagner. Once he found his stride, Singspiels and Italianate number operas would be sidetracked in Germanspeaking opera houses. Wagner melded mythical stories to seamless, powerful symphonic music in masterpieces including his iconic Ring Cycle. Then Parsifal, Wagner’s final opera, broke that mould, when it was premiered at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882. The opera – an adaptation of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th-century epic poem Parzival – caused a stir with its depiction of religious fervour, purity of caste and women as sexually depraved heathens. Reactions were confused at first but by 1887 they turned vehement. Still, Wagner remained adamant and, in an era increasingly bereft of sacred experience, he was emphatic in his belief that music dramas should fully absorb audiences in mystical truths. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s performance of Parsifal, conducted by Iván Fischer is a considerably minimalist production directed by the Wagner expert and director of the Dutch National Opera, Pierre Audi. Produced for television and DVD in 2012, it may be short on the lavish density of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s acclaimed 1982 production. However, with a wooden strutlike framework depicting the castle that houses the suffering Amfortas drenched in his blood, and its preternatural stairway to heaven, an atmosphere of both horror and pity is superbly created. Such spare environs are perfect for the cavernous voices of Titurel, founder of the Knights of the Grail and his son Amfortas, sung by Mikhail Petrenko (bass, who also sings Klingsor) and Alejendro Marco-Buhrmester (baritone) respectively. Falk Struckmann (bass) as the veteran Knight of the Grail, Gurnemanz, rumbles on sublimely too. But the tenor Christopher Ventris’ Parsifal and soprano Petra Lang as thewholenote.com September 2017 | 73

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 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
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
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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
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Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
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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
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Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
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Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
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Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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