Views
1 year ago

Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Performing
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
In this issue: composer Nicole Lizée talks about her love for analogue equipment, and the music that “glitching” evokes; Richard Rose, artistic director at the Tarragon Theatre, gives us insights into their a rock-and-roll Hamlet, now entering production; Toronto prepares for a mini-revival of Schoenberg’s music, with three upcoming shows at New Music Concerts; and the local music theatre community remembers and celebrates the life and work of Mi’kmaq playwright and performer Cathy Elliott . These and other stories, in our double-issue December/January edition of the magazine.

James Rolfe – Breathe

James Rolfe – Breathe Suzie LeBlanc; Alexander Dobson; Monica Whicher; Toronto Consort; David Fallis; Toronto Masque Theatre; Larry Beckwith Centrediscs CMCCD 24517 (musiccentre.ca) !! The title track, Breathe, in its performance here, is by far one of the most extraordinarily beautiful recordings experienced in recent memory. The blending of texts, ancient (Hildegard von Bingen, Antonio Scandello) and modern (Anna Chatterton), is mirrored by the use of period instruments for new music. Composer James Rolfe infuses the work with connections between human emotion and the natural world represented by the four elements – water, earth, air and fire – so exquisitely. For example, we enjoy the sensation of love overflowing (as water does) with undulating chordal textures and an abundance of cascading note sequences as Suzie LeBlanc, Katherine Hill and Laura Pudwell magically intertwine their voices. The two masques on the recording further demonstrate this Toronto composer’s exceptional gift for intermingling qualities of early music with contemporary techniques whilst coaxing subconscious elements to seep through in performance. In Europa, the roles of the title character (Suzie LeBlanc) and her long-searching fiancé Hiram (Alexander Dobson) are both composed and sung with an extraordinary measure of pathos as they submit themselves to the will of the gods. And a refreshing new interpretation of the mythical Aeneas and Dido provides a much more intimate view of the doomed romance. As Dido, Monica Whicher is both stately and vulnerable, Alexander Dobson both bold and conflicted as Aeneas, while characters such as the spritely Mercury (Teri Dunn) and the Goat (Vicki St. Pierre) provide comic relief, if somewhat malevolent. Kudos to Larry Beckwith and David Fallis for their direction of these performances. Dianne Wells Sing Me at Midnight - Songs by John Greer Tracy Dahl; Kevin McMillan; Delores Ziegler; John Greer Centrediscs CMCCD 24717 (musiccentre.ca) !! This Canadian Art Song Project CD features works for voice and piano by noted Canadian accompanist, conductor and pedagogue John Greer. Spanning the past 30 years, the four song cycles comprise 20 songs with a variety of genres, voice types and moods. I am particularly partial to the cycle Sing Me at Midnight (1993) sung by lyric baritone Kevin McMillan, whose rich sound and ringing top suits these dramatic settings of sonnets by Wilfred Owen. Adept chromatic harmony conveys the pain of How Do I Love Thee, while percussive clusters accentuate the Anthem for Doomed Youth’s white-hot anger. Greer offers effective settings of evocative, religiously based poetry by Marianne Bindig in the cycle The Red Red Heart (1995). Tracy Dahl’s agile soprano handles the high tessitura well and is also attractive at the lower end in the opening, dancing song The Beginning. The late Romantic style of The House of Tomorrow (1986) raised my eyebrows, till I tuned in to the evocation of childhood in these songs. The centrepiece, Midnight Prayer, a setting of the pensive poem by Aleksey Khomyakov in translation, is given a rich, expressive performance by American mezzo-soprano Dolores Zeigler. Finally, A Sarah Binks Songbook (1988) brings us mock-serious ditties wittily set by Greer, with allusions to various vocal genres. Tracy Dahl becomes the Canadian “prairie songstress,” her operatic persona elevating the work with perfect diction and much humour. John Greer’s collaborative pianism is exemplary throughout. Roger Knox Crazy - Songs by T. Patrick Carrabré Naomi Forman; Mary Jo Carrabré Winter Wind Records WWR 2017-01 (tpatrickcarrabre.com) !! In his song cycle Crazy, T. Patrick Carrabré, dean of music at Brandon University, explores “border territory… mental illness or other demons” afflicting “composers who have lost their grounding in the ecstasy and anguish that is creativity.” The first three songs – Death, Murder and Lust – reveal Carrabré having something powerful to say and not at all timid about saying it. His wife, pianist Mary Jo Carrabré, inhabits the keyboard’s left half, reinforcing the songs’ darkness while supporting the passionate vocalism of soprano Naomi Forman. Composer Carrabré adds what I consider unnecessarily intrusive electronics and percussion; the bass-heavy piano alone would have been more appropriate for the songs’ stark beauty. The sombre mood changes with the fourth song, Burnt, evoking Spanish guitar music. Things go much further afield in the final song, Pain, a wailing rock song over the relentless loud thump of electronic dance music. An additional, speakers-bursting EDM “Audiation Remix” of Pain ends the CD, which also includes a stand-alone song, The Garden, for soprano and piano, thankfully sans electronics. I’m mystified by Carrabré’s jolting venture into rock; the other songs display a genuine expressive talent that belongs in the concert hall, not the rock-concert arena. At only 32 minutes, this CD left me wanting to hear more of Carrabré’s “classical” works (I’d previously heard only one), but glad to have heard the five non-rock songs. The texts, by Rilke, Tasso, Goethe, García Lorca and Marvell, are available, with translations, on the composer’s website. Michael Schulman CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Altri canti d’amor - 17th Century Instrumental Works L’Estro d’Orfeo; Leonor de Lera Challenge Classics CC72760 (lestrodorfeo.com) ! ! This is a CD with two pleasant surprises. One is a track from undervalued Renaissance composer, Barbara Strozzi. The other is a contemporary set of divisions on a Renaissance theme composed by the presentday artistic director of the CD, Leonor de Lera. Instrumental this collection may be, but the traditional description of the cornetto as being the closest instrument to the human voice is borne out by Josué Meléndez’s playing of Monteverdi’s Sinfonia; it is as if an ethereal choir is in attendance. Meléndez’s cornetto returns in L’Eraclito Amoroso by Strozzi, here as an example of diminuzioni, or extemporixed ornamentations. The contribution from de Lera is her own diminuzioni on Apollo’s Lament, originally by Francesco Cavalli. De Lera’s playing probes the qualities of her Taningard violin built in Rome in 1739. She is admirably complemented by the plucked instrument playing of Josep Maria Martí. The selection on this CD is enhanced by the inclusion of variations on popular tunes from the Renaissance. Fuggi dolente core is one such set, again played on Baroque violin; while this piece is often scored for voice, listeners to this particular variation will not miss that human aspect. L’Estro d’Orfeo’s choices are centred on Venice’s prolific output and yet there is still room for pieces by Marco Uccellini of Modena. Listen once again to the brilliance in every sense of the word of the Baroque violin and basso continuo in Uccellini’s Ninth Sonata. And in his Aria Quarta sopra la “Ciaccona.” Michael Schwartz 80 | December 2017 / January 2018 thewholenote.com

Tales of Two Cities Trio Arabica; Alon Nashman; Jeanne Lamon; Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Tafelmusik Media TMK 1035 DVDCD (tafelmusik.org) !! Tales of Two Cities is an enchanting musical journey through the palatial worlds of two prominent 18th-century cities – Leipzig and Damascus. Although separated by 3,000 kilometres, these cities shared a surprising number of common threads; both were located at the intersections of major trade and travelling routes, both were known as cultural and learning centres, and both nurtured a tradition of coffee houses in which music performances were flowing. Cleverly conceived, programmed and scripted by the creative mind of Tafelmusik’s own Alison Mackay, and narrated by the charming Alon Nashman, Tales of Two Cities comes as a DVD/CD combo, featuring the music portion of the concert on CD. The DVD includes a filmed live performance at the Aga Khan Museum, a video on restoration of the Dresden Damascus Room, behind-thescenes footage from rehearsals and a splitscreen video of the orchestra performing Bach’s Sinfonia. I absolutely loved Tales of Two Cities. The inventive combination of music and literary selections coupled with stunning images and historically informed narration was only transcended by the excellence of all the musicians involved. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra presents a fresh, vibrant, theatrical interpretation of music by Telemann, Handel and Bach (all onetime residents of the city of Leipzig). The virtuosity of Dominic Teresi (bassoon), Patrick Jordan (viola) and Aisslinn Nosky (violin) is just as entertaining as it is admirable. Trio Arabica, featuring Maryem Tollar (voice, quanun), Naghmeh Farahmand (percussion) and Demetri Petsalakis (oud), evokes the longing, beauty and delicacy of Damascus of the past with gorgeous performances of the traditional melodies. The final number, an intriguing combination of Telemann and traditional Arabic music, unites all the performers and brings the narrative to a conclusion by telling the story of young, present-day Syrian scholars working alongside German mentors on restoring the Damascus Room in Dresden. Highly recommended. Ivana Popovic Concert note: A free screening of Tales of Two Cities will be presented at the Aga Khan Museum on December 10 at 2pm. Brahms - The Piano Trios Emanuel Ax; Leonidas Kavakos; Yo-Yo Ma Sony Classical 88985 40729 2 !! The Piano Trios form a critical, if less well-known feature of Brahms’ creativity within the world of chamber music. To an extent, Brahms picked up the torch at the point at which Beethoven had laid it down, but although he used Beethoven’s music, along with that of Schubert, as a point of departure, these trios are highly singular creations, with a sound world that is altogether unique. Each of the three instruments is stretched to its limits as if Brahms wanted to create orchestral depth and colour using just three players. Another fascinating aspect of The Piano Trios – particularly in Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor Op.101 – is Brahms’ treatment of the string players as soloists, giving both the violin and cello some sonorous passages that are ideally suited to their respective characteristics. Also noteworthy is the fact that Brahms’ wealth of powerfully sculpted ideas amply rewards attentive listening. These performances of The Piano Trios by Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos and Yo-Yo Ma are without question the most authoritative and distinguished accounts of the works. Ax, Kavakos and Ma play with unique breadth of insight and a feeling of spontaneous inspiration, a quality that comes all too infrequently to studio recordings like these. The Sony recorded sound is at once brilliant and truthful, but it also has exceptional spaciousness. Raul da Gama Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes and other works Martin Rummel; Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz; Karl-Heinz Steffens Capriccio CD C5314 !! This collection of shorter delights, lollipops so to say, opens with the jaunty overture to the comic opera, The Poisoned Kiss, a “romantic extravaganza.” The most interesting work is the Fantasia on Sussex Folk Tunes for cello and orchestra. Vaughan Williams was a collector of folk music and as Bartók did with Hungarian tunes, he incorporated them into his compositions. Vaughan Williams was quite familiar with Sussex County and had been collecting material there since his school days in the village of Rottingdean in East Sussex. His Fantasia, a work new to me, was premiered in 1930 with Pablo Casals as soloist. Instantly recognizable as Vaughan Williams, there are five folk tunes incorporated in a conversation between soloist and orchestra, making this a compelling and interesting workout for cellist and orchestra. It deserves to be popular. What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening J.S. Bach: Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord Mark Fewer & Hank Knox Internationally acclaimed violinist Mark Fewer and harpsichordist Hank Knox perform six treasured violin Sonatas by J.S. Bach Johann Mattheson - 12 Suites for Harpsichord (1714) Gilbert Rowland Following the successful three-volume series of Handel’s harpsichord suites, Rowland turns to the lesser known but very skilled German composer. Katana of Choice: Music for Drumset Soloist Ben Reimer Called a “virtuosic, genre-bending wiz”, Reimer plays composed works for drumset, ranging in influence from electronica, jazz fusion, film noir and martial arts. Lux The Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul The Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul presents Lux, a collection of sacred songs associated with the Nativity. thewholenote.com December 2017 / January 2018 | 81

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
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
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)