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Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Listings
  • August
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Concerts
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
PLANTING NOT PAVING! In this JUNE / JULY /AUGUST combined issue: Farewell interviews with TSO's Peter Oundjian and Stratford Summer Music's John Miller, along with "going places" chats with Luminato's Josephine Ridge, TD Jazz's Josh Grossman and Charm of Finches' Terry Lim. ) Plus a summer's worth of fruitful festival inquiry, in the city and on the road, in a feast of stories and our annual GREEN PAGES summer Directory.

VOCAL Beethoven –

VOCAL Beethoven – Missa Solemnis Ann-Helen Moen; Roxana Constantinescu; James Gilchrist; Benjamin Bevan; Bach Collegium Japan; Masaaki Suzuki Bis BIS-2321 SACD (bis.se) !! Masaaki Suzuki has made a large number of recordings, both as a keyboard player and as the conductor of the Bach Collegium Japan. Many of these are of works by J.S. Bach (they include a complete set of the cantatas) but Suzuki has ranged further and has recorded Handel’s Messiah, Monteverdi’s Vespers and, more recently, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. Beethoven wrote two masses: the Missa Solemnis Op.123 and the Mass in C, Opus 86. In the past I have much preferred the latter since the Missa Solemnis seemed to me pompous and overblown. Well, one of the advantages of being a CD reviewer is that it forces one to re-examine what is often no more than a prejudice. This is a passionate, full-blooded performance leading up to a beautiful Agnus Dei. Hans de Groot Schubert – Winterreise Randall Scarlata; Gilbert Kalish Bridge Records 9494 (bridgerecords.com) !! It was the great lieder exponent and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who put possibly the most indelible stamp on one of Schubert’s most famous song cycles. Over the course of Wilhelm Müller’s 24 poems Winterreise describes grief over lost love which progressively gives way to more general existential despair and resignation. The beloved is directly mentioned only halfway into the work and the literal winter’s journey is arguably in part allegorical for this psychological and spiritual one. Wintry imagery of cold, darkness and barrenness consistently serve to mirror the feelings of the isolated wanderer. With wonderful control, Randall Scarlata’s big dramatic voice clearly grasps every subtlety of the various shades of gray and black described by Müller’s dark poetry. Scarlata breathes life into the rejected lover on the verge of madness, as we follow his lonely peregrinations through the snowbound landscape. Several tenors have played the role, and some believe the contrast between vocal tone and meaning has enhanced the drama. But Scarlata’s dark-chocolate-like baritone epitomizes the darkness in the work perfectly. Pianist Gilbert Kalish is no shrinking violet either. Although one does not have to wait very long to experience his fulsome participation in the cycle, the Einsamkeit vignette is a superb example of the perfect partnership he strikes with Scarlata as Kalish emerges from the shadows cast by the baritone to dramatize the cruel and unsympathetic fate with forceful emotional veracity. Raul da Gama Confidences Caroline Gélinas; Olivier Godin ATMA ACD2 2781 (atmaclassique.com) !! Mezzo-soprano Caroline Gélinas, having recently received the honour of Révélation Radio- Canada in the classical category, is, as an alumna of Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, already known for her “magnetic stage presence, rich timbre and authentic and moving interpretations.” And listening to the emotively complex repertoire chosen for this debut solo recording, one couldn’t agree more. Having chosen to sing the roles of strong women acting ingeniously in difficult situations and tragic circumstances, Gélinas demonstrates an enormous dramatic range whilst maintaining exquisite vocal tone. As the three songs of Ravel’s Shéhérazade progress, the singer increases the intensity to portray the storyteller’s ingenious effort to prolong her life. For Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis, her voice floats freely as if in a dream over a more structured accompaniment, beautifully executed by pianist Olivier Godin. Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart by Robert Schumann is a song cycle which spans 26 years of Mary Stuart’s life, from young girl to mother to imprisoned queen. Gélinas demonstrates a poignantly exquisite tenderness in the last movement as Mary prays while awaiting execution. As a final offering on this recording, Gélinas tackles, and does great justice to, one of Maureen Forrester’s favourite cycles, The Confession Stone by Robert Fleming, based on poems by playwright and teacher Owen Dobson. Gélinas deftly changes character with each segment, portraying Mary, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, Jesus, Judas and God. Dianne Wells Sacred and Profane: Benjamin Britten; William Cornysh The Sixteen; Harry Christophers CORO COR16159 (thesixteen.com) !! The music on this disc by The Sixteen, the United Kingdom-based choir and period instrument orchestra founded by Harry Christophers, includes work from various recordings that date back to 1991. Guided by Christophers, The Sixteen displays a technical command of polyphony and counterpoint matched only by the eloquence of their singers, memorably arrayed in this sacred and secular music from William Cornysh and Benjamin Britten. Sacred and Profane is a sublime exaltation of the human voice in formal and more adventurous settings. The work of Cornysh (father and son) and Britten takes flight in these voices. Christophers and The Sixteen bring new renown to the Cornysh music marked by their more old-fashioned florid melodic style and Christophers and The Sixteen bring new renown to the Cornysh music, marked by their more old-fashioned melodic style and proto-madrigalian manner, as revealed in lucid and dynamic performances of Salve Regina and the celebrated Ave Regina, Mater Dei. Britten’s choral music – the dark elements are rarely far from the surface, especially in the Sacred and Profane sequence – is superbly cast and performed. The Hymn to St Cecilia is quintessential Britten, with text by W.H. Auden and a setting that emphasizes not just the emotional and aesthetic power of music, but its eroticism as well. Britten’s music, like Auden’s poem, combines a classical tightness of form with a complexity of ideas about the role of the artist in the face of a disintegrating civilization. The Sixteen’s voices are clear and pure, and this acoustic gives the music the right amount of bloom. Raul da Gama CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Vivaldi – Concertos pour flûte à bec Vincent Lauzer; Arion Baroque Orchestra; Alexander Weimann ATMA ACD2 2760 (atmaclassique.com) ! ! Vivaldi’s recorder concertos have long been respected – and enjoyed. Enter soloist Vincent Lauzer, who comes with a whole slate of achievement awards. Lauzer tackles his first soprano concerto with relish, meeting the challenge of a demandingly fast Allegro and Allegro molto; in between these two he charms us with a soothing Largo, testing the full gamut of the soprano recorder. Turn now to the five movements of the treble recorder concerto from the La Notte suite. Once again, a Largo breathes intensity 78 | June | July | August 2018 thewholenote.com

into Vivaldi’s music. Lauzer conducts us through a somewhat sinister composition; as La Notte implies there is indeed something of the night about it. Of course, this pattern of serious Largos should not be taken as typical, as there is a lightness and pleasure in the Largo movement of Lauzer’s choice of another soprano concerto. This time, too, an Allegro draws on all the soloist’s expertise – it is breathless for both performer and listener. Lauzer absolutely sails through this repertoire, although we should not forget the strings and basso continuo. Listen indeed to the Largo e cantabile of Lauzer’s final choice for treble recorder. It is as though with anything Vivaldi composed, no matter how complex Vivaldi intended it to be, Lauzer performs it with a passion. He enjoys total mastery of his recorders. And we are the highly fortunate listeners. Michael Schwartz Kuhlau – Grandes Sonates Opus 71 & 83 Mika Putterman; Erin Helyard Analekta AN 2 9530 (analekta.com) !! Born in Hamburg and later based in Copenhagen, Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) was encountered by my generation mainly as a piano sonatina composer. In his time, however, he succeeded best with music for the flute. Montreal-based specialist Mika Putterman here provides an exemplary demonstration of the Romantic flute’s beauties, in collaboration with Australian fortepianist, conductor and musicologist Erin Helyard. In Kuhlau’s Grand Sonata for Fortepiano and Flute Obbligato, Op. 71 in E Minor (1825) and the similarly named Op. 83, No. 1 in G Major (1827) the duo also practises tempo modification, i.e. speeding up or slowing down beyond what is specified in the score. It takes time to get used to this, as is usual with unfamiliar historically informed performance practices. I particularly enjoyed the E-minor sonata for its instrumental interplay, florid display and melodic attractiveness. Putterman plays with pure, nonvibrato tone that can be sweet or sad, and is very affecting in the slow movement’s melody. Helyard is a confident fortepianist, though sometimes his solid chords are over-prominent. Both are excellent technically and their ensemble is tight. The G-major sonata’s middle movement is a set of variations, where each player impresses with the ability to play fast passages with convincing expressive touches. Of the outer movements I preferred the first, and must mention Helyard’s fluent double-thirds here and elsewhere. Along with specialists, I think this disc would appeal to those open to new challenges for performers and listeners alike. Roger Knox Beethoven – Works For Flute 1 Kazunori Seo; Patrick Gallois; Mitsuo Kodama; Asuka Sezaki; Koichi Komine Naxos 8.573569 (naxos.com) !! Japanese flutist Kazunori Seo takes centre stage in this recording of Beethoven’s windfocused chamber music. First up on the program are three duos for flute and bassoon, transcribed by Seo to substitute a flute for the clarinet originally called for on the upper part. It’s not certain that these duos are really Beethoven’s, and they don’t display the complexity of the other two pieces which follow them here – but their transparent simplicity is charming. Seo and bassoonist Mitsuo Kodama play with grace and attentiveness here, but are perhaps a little too cautious in their interpretation. That said, Seo’s sound on his wooden modern flute is lovely, his use of vibrato as a decorative choice is exemplary, and the instrumental blend is top-notch. Much less reserve can be heard in the Duo in G Major for two flutes, played by Seo and Patrick Gallois with strongly shaped phrasing, dramatic shifts of dynamic range, and expressive use of articulation and ornament. The conversation’s saltier and the results are definitely fun! The interpretive thoughtfulness continues with Serenade in D Major for flute, violin and viola, Op.25, which receives a nuanced and intrepid performance in its original scoring. This is a wonderful piece of chamber music and it’s good to hear it played with such thewholenote.com/listening Pardes Amos Hoffman & Noam Lemish Pardes offers an inspired blend of jazz and Jewish folk melodies. Joyous, uplifting, texturally rich music, filled with groove, lyrical melodies and outstanding solos. Rosewood Café Margaret Herlehy Fusion lovers will enjoy the Big Round Records debut of oboist Margaret Herlehy in this fresh, new collection of Latin-inspired jazz. polish and spirited engagement. Alison Melville Schubert – Piano Trios Trio Vitruvi Bridge Records 9510 (bridgerecords.com) !! Hailing from Denmark, Trio Vitruvi had both their Carnegie Hall debut performance and the official release of their debut album with Bridge Records in April this year. After winning two chamber music competitions and several awards in 2014, the ensemble began touring and found its unique voice in the process – their playing is polished and noble, sophisticated, astute and spirited, open to improvising in the moment yet respectful of musical traditions. The trio’s name comes from Roman architect and philosopher Vitruvius, whose concepts regarding beauty, structure and proportions the trio adopted and applied to their understanding of music and interpretations. Niklas Walentin (violin), Jacob la Cour (cello) and Alexander McKenzie (piano) are not only talented but also highly attuned to Schubert’s music. Schubert’s final piano trio (D.929) is rich, monumental, ingenious, surprisingly intimate at times, a masterpiece of structural and harmonic genius, and one of my favourite pieces of music. I cannot help but note the parallel between the Vitruvian Triad (as written in De Architectura) and the trio’s interpretation of Schubert’s music: it seems that both Vitruvius and Vitruvi aspired to make their creations solid, useful and beautiful. Vitruvi takes it one step further – they infuse Schubert’s music with a sense of adventure and limitless colours. Here we are treated to the original, longer version of the fourth movement, which makes this recording even more precious. Notturno, written in the same year, makes for the lush, lyrical conclusion of this album. Ivana Popovic Wagner – Orchestral music from Der Ring des Nibelungen Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta Naxos 8.573839 (naxos.com) ! ! Apart from having a great sense of theatre, Wagner was also a tremendous orchestrator, much of it self-taught. He increased the size of the orchestra, invented new instruments (e.g. Wagner tuba), and like Debussy later, created a new sound, new orchestral colours, and had definite ideas thewholenote.com June | July | August 2018 | 79

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