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Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017

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  • Toronto
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In this issue: conversations (of one kind or another) galore! Daniela Nardi on taking the reins at "best-kept secret" venue, 918 Bathurst; composer Jeff Ryan on his "Afghanistan" Requiem for a Generation" partnership with war poet, Susan Steele; lutenist Ben Stein on seventeenth century jazz; collaborative pianist Philip Chiu on going solo; Barbara Hannigan on her upcoming Viennese "Second School" recital at Koerner; Tina Pearson on Pauline Oliveros; and as always a whole lot more!

oat songs and

oat songs and traditional dance music. In addition, there are original compositions by two members of the quartet – three by cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin and one by violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen – as well as a polska by Swedish fiddler Eva Sæhter. Sjölin and Sørensen also add the occasional harmonium, piano and glockenspiel and double bass contributions to enrich the sound. It’s a really lovely collection, beautifully arranged and played. The quartet members say that they “gathered a bunch of amazing tunes and hope you will enjoy what we have done to them.” Well, consider it job done. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote four string quartets in the period 1946-56, years in which his standing with the Soviet regime was still uncertain, so I’m not sure I agree with the statement by the Altius Quartet, on their new CD of Shostakovich String Quartets 7, 8 & 9 (Navona Records NV6125) that these three works, from 1960-64, were written “directly after World War II when art was often oppressed.” By 1960 Stalin had been dead for seven years and the composer’s rehabilitation was well under way. There is, however, no doubting the quartet’s assertion that these three highly personal works form a triptych, dedicated as they are to the composer’s first (No.7) and third (No.9) wives and ostensibly to the victims of fascism (No.8) including Shostakovich – indeed, his daughter Galina claimed that he originally dedicated it to himself, with the published dedication imposed by Soviet authorities. There’s a lovely feel to the playing from the outset, from the String Quartet No.7 in F-sharp Minor Op.108 through to the highly positive ending of the String Quartet No.9 in E-flat Major Op.117, but it’s the String Quartet No.8 in C Minor Op.110 that is at the heart of this group, not merely physically but also emotionally. The opening four notes D, E-flat, C and B (or D, S, C, H in German notation) that form the composer’s musical signature reappear in every movement, and the autobiographical nature of the music is constantly underlined by numerous quotations from earlier works. It’s a committed and moving performance by the Altius, albeit perhaps with not quite the air of utter desolation and despair that some performances wring from the final pages. The American composer Martin Boykan, who turned 86 in April, may be a new name to a lot of people, but there is no doubting his pedigree: he studied with Copland, Piston and Hindemith. His output is predominantly in the chamber music realm, which probably makes the new CD Rites of Passage – Chamber Music 1993- 2012 (Bridge Records BRIDGE 9483) a fairly representative introduction to his works. A good deal of American classical music over the past 25 years or so has been unabashedly tonal, but Boykan is clearly not of this persuasion. There’s not a great deal of emotional warmth or purely melodic material, and the absence or ambiguity of tonality together with the often extreme dynamics means that it’s not always easy listening. Still, there’s no doubting that this is a strongly individual and skilled composer fully in control of his structures and material. The works, recorded between 2011 and 2015 by combinations of ten different players, are: Impromptu for Violin Solo (1993); Sonata #2 for Violin and Piano (2009); Piano Trio #3 “Rites of Passage” (2006); Sonata for Viola and Piano (2012); and Psalm 121 (1997) for mezzosoprano and string quartet. The violin and viola sonatas were written for the soloists here, Curtis Macomber and Mark Berger respectively. Keyed In ALEX BARAN Noriko Ogawa has just released the second volume of her project to record all the solo piano works of Erik Satie, Noriko Ogawa plays Erik Satie (BIS 2225 SACD). Both this disc and Volume I are performed on an 1890 Erard grand piano, an instrument from the period of Satie’s life (1866-1925). The piano maker Erard was noted for numerous innovations in piano design, especially the double escapement action which allowed for rapid note repetition, a feature ever more in demand by composers of the late 19th century. The instrument used in this recording is in remarkably fine condition, sounding well-voiced and mechanically capable of the frequent staccato touch, often at great volume, that Satie requires. Ogawa’s choice of repertoire for Volume II offers a more esoteric and quirky side of Satie’s personality, the two sets of preludes for flabby dogs, Préludes flasques (pour un chien) being a case in point. The Trois sarabandes are untitled early works, although the second of the three is dedicated to Ravel. These are surprisingly forward-looking, with a feel that occasionally evokes a modern jazz club. Sports et divertissements is a catalogue of 21 social pastimes, often quite comical, and each requiring less than a minute to play. Ogawa has a very credible understanding of French music of this period, although Satie admittedly sits comfortably outside the mainstream. Still, her previous recordings of the complete piano works of Claude Debussy reveal a studious and comprehensive approach that offers a convincingly genuine feel to her interpretation of Satie’s music. Emanuele Delucchi is a young Italian pianist with extraordinary technical ability. His recording Godowsky Studies on Chopin Op.10 (Piano Classics PCL0122) is a rare opportunity to hear this unusual repertoire. Godowsky claimed his studies were equally appropriate for public concert as well as private playing. The music is always immediately recognizable as Chopin, but Godowsky has taken the material and recomposed it as a series of studies for aspiring players. They are devilishly difficult and intentionally so. Many are written for left hand alone and just one is for a solo right hand. Godowsky takes Chopin’s main thematic material and moves it around, often from one hand to the other, meanwhile creating Chopin-style cascades of other figures around it. Some of these transcriptions are quite strict, others freer, and still others structured as cantus firmus and variation versions. It’s altogether quite an experiment and in its day would have sparked a debate about originality and legitimacy. Anticipating this, Godowsky was careful to include introductory remarks in his publication to clarify his aims. Essentially, he believed that pianists, composers and piano builders had more evolutionary potential to realize. Hence, the Herculean challenge. Despite all the muscle and stamina, Godowsky’s music is not without its beauty. Chopin’s genius remains intact, both musically and technically. Delucchi ensures that technique is never glorified at the expense of art. He plays a beautifully restored 1906 Steinway, from Godowsky’s day. Known as “Tony” to his friends, British pianist Anthony Goldstone passed away early this year (2017) and was unable to see his last CD 70 | November 2017 thewholenote.com

eleased. A superb pianist equally appreciated as a soloist as well as half of the Goldstone and Clemmow Duo, his final recording, The Piano at the Ballet Volume II - The French Connection (Divine Art dda 25148) is dedicated to his memory. Goldstone delighted in transcriptions and recorded several featuring music from opera and ballet. This disc is the conclusion of the latter project and uses French composers as the thematic link. Most of the pieces are world premiere recordings, transcribed by various others, although the notes admit that Goldstone made a few improvements along the way. Goldstone’s playing at age 72 is simply incredible. Speed, reach, accuracy and, above all, unerring musicality mark every transcription he performs. The music tends, understandably, to be extremely athletic and Goldstone’s level of sustained energy is impressive. The finales of Poulenc’s Les Biches and Maurice Thiriet’s L’Oeuf à la coque are fine examples of this. He also captures the grandness of the orchestral score in these transcriptions. Claude Debussy’s Printemps (Suite Symphonique) is the best example of this, with its great washes of sound that conclude the second movement. Reicha Rediscovered Vol.1 (Chandos CHAN 10950) is the promising launch of a series that will see pianist Ivan Ilić record the largely unheard solo piano works of a composer better known for his wind ensemble pieces. A contemporary of Beethoven, Reicha was highly educated and musically intelligent. A number of his later theoretical and philosophical treatises were translated for major European music circles. The challenge for Ilić is to find and integrate the unique features of Reicha’s language into his playing. The modern ear hears Reicha and understandably recognizes some Haydn, some Mozart and occasional tempestuous bursts of a young firebrand named Beethoven. But the new ground Reicha was breaking was harmonic. The disc contains three pieces from Reicha’s collection titled Practische Beispiele. Ilić encounters each of the composer’s adventurous modulations and plays through them with confidence that pianists of Reicha’s day might well have lacked. Other tracks include a wonderful set of variations on a theme from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and a substantial mid-career Grande Sonate in C Major that reveals a composer struggling to be free of classical forms. The following volumes by Ilić look promising indeed. Brazilian pianist Eliane Rodrigues has recorded the 21 Nocturnes by Chopin on her newest disc Frédéric Chopin – Notturno (Navona Records NV6123). The two-disc set also includes the Ballades No.1 in G Mino, Op.23 and No.4 in F Minor, Op.52. Rodrigues teaches at the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp, performs frequently and has more than 25 recordings in her discography. She traces her Chopin connection to her earliest years at the keyboard playing the Waltzes and Mazurkas. But her affection for the Nocturnes is more than wistful nostalgia. A passing reference in her notes suggests a very deep and personal experience made the sadness and melancholy of the Nocturnes profoundly meaningful to her. As if to underscore this, she uses quotations from a fictitious Chopin diary to capture the mood of each Nocturne. The playing, however, is the proof of her ownership. Entirely consistent and sustained throughout both discs, her interpretations never stray from the beauty and tenderness that Chopin poured into these pieces. Rodrigues never rushes anything. Arching phrases, ornaments and grace notes are all critical to completing the composer’s every utterance, and she gives each one the time it needs to unfold. It’s an arresting and beautiful performance. Ketevan Kartvelishvili is a power pianist. The title of her new recording The Chase – Liszt, Bartók, Prokofviev (Blue Griffin BGR 437) says it all. Using the title of the final movement from Bartók’s Out of Doors Sz.81 BB89, Kartvelishvili establishes an ethos for this remarkable disc by demonstrating her formidable technique through this relentless onslaught of musical passion. It’s not surprising that Bartók used this piece in his rather dark ballet The Miraculous Mandarin. Kartvelishvili opens her CD with Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No.1 S514. She takes this at a blistering speed without ever losing momentum or intensity. Her performance of the Liszt Sonata in B Minor S178 is marvellous. By this point her technical skills are beyond question and what emerges is the tenderness Liszt requires to withdraw into his crucial moments of repose. Even at the sonata’s conclusion, those final measures are powerfully hesitant and highly effective. Prokofiev’s Sonata No.7 in B Flat Major, Op.83 concludes the disc. It’s the second of his three “War Sonatas” and is sometimes called the “Stalingrad.” The outer movements are violent and destructive and leave no doubt about the work’s origin in 1942 Soviet Russia. The L/R The WholeNote.com/Listening L/R Transcendencia Holly Blazina The debut album from Flamenco guitarist, Holly Blazina, features her original compositions with a traditional foundation, spiced with modern harmonies and instrumentation. Everything is a Translation Fiil Free Influences from free jazz, contemporary classical music and Scandinavian folk-songs blend together on this release by seven of the most interesting improvisers from Northern Europe. Root Structure Mike Downes Mike Downes (JUNO winner 2014) leads this group of four of Canada’s top jazz musicians, exploring lyrical compositions with a deep underlying structural integrity. Thoughtful Fun Heilig Manoeuvre The Heillig Manoeuvre repertoire is a songbook. It turns into jazz in the hands of these four musicians who share an exceptional rapport! thewholenote.com November 2017 | 71

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

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