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Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018

  • Text
  • November
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Symphony
  • Bloor
Reluctant arranger! National Ballet Orchestra percussionist Kris Maddigan on creating the JUNO and BAFTA award-winning smash hit Cuphead video game soundtrack; Evergreen by name and by nature, quintessentially Canadian gamelan (Andrew Timar explains); violinist Angèle Dubeau on 20 years and 60 million streams; two children’s choirs where this month remembrance and living history must intersect. And much more, online in our kiosk now, and on the street commencing Thursday November 1.

out to be his last

out to be his last concert – he died just a few months later of cancer. The live CBC recording was released as an independent CD by New Music Concerts and later reissued by Naxos (8.572450). Needless to say I was pleased when I received a new CD by 12 Ensemble, one of the UK’s leading string orchestras, which features Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre. Composed in 1958 and dedicated to the memory of Béla Bartók, it was the last traditional work he composed before incorporating aleatoric principals into his writing, although it does employ 12-tone techniques. It is a moving work, suitably dark, and is here performed with distinction. The group, known for performing without a conductor, has a homogenous sound and an innate sense of ensemble. The Lutosławski is followed by Ulysses Awakes by John Woolrich, which seems to rise from the shadows of the Lutosławski, and perhaps gives rise to the album’s title Resurrection, released on the new Sancho Panza label (SPANCD 001 juno.co.uk/labels/Sancho+Panza). It grows gradually and with an almost medieval, plaintive solo melody fades again. This is followed by Kate Whitley’s Autumn Songs, with whirling glissandi and quiet tremolos in the ensemble once again, and a gentle, soaring melody rising above. The final work, by far the longest, takes us full circle with American rock guitarist Bryce Dressner’s Response Lutosławski, a moving homage commissioned by the National Audiovisual Institute of Poland. The five-movement work explores various thoughtful moods and shows a command of the string orchestra idiom, without a hint of Dressner’s pop-music roots. This perfect bookend completes a stunning debut for both this impeccable ensemble and a new label. I was skeptical when I first came across the disc The Scene of the Crime featuring Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger (Colin Currie Records CCR0002 colincurrie.com). I was not convinced that the combination of percussion and trumpet could sustain interest over the duration of an entire CD. But sustain it does, in many intriguing and satisfying ways. In the words of Currie, “The duo with Håkan Hardenberger is my musical safe space for maximum risk-taking. From my earliest point of connection with this most regal of musicians, what entranced me was the fearless audacity of the endeavour. Envelopes pushed, or simply reinvented, boundaries moved and canvasses recast.” They do this through interpretations of some striking repertoire, from André Jolivet’s 1971 Heptade with its unpitched percussion instruments, through Joe Duddell’s Catch (with Currie on marimba) and Tobias Broström’s use of gongs and vibraphone in Dream Variations, to Daniel Börtz’s mystical Dialogo 4 which begins in near silence, and the title track, Brett Dean’s 2017 composition ... the scene of the crime... written especially for the duo’s “skill and infectious drive, scored for trumpet, flugelhorn and drum kit.” The album never loses its grip on the listener’s attention. A resounding achievement! We invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS Hilary Hahn is one of the truly great violinists on the world stage, so it perhaps comes as something of a surprise to see that she has never issued a complete set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, despite her reputation for outstanding Bach playing. Her 1997 debut CD on Sony, Hilary Hahn plays Bach (Sonata 3, Partitas 2 & 3) when she was only 17 drew rave reviews. Now, 21 years later and with her first release on the Decca label, she completes the set with Hilary Hahn plays Bach Sonatas 1 & 2, Partita 1 (Decca Classics 4833954). What immediately strikes you is the smoothness of line, the warmth (with full vibrato), the full measure given to the inner notes in the multiple stopping and the brilliance of the definition in the numerous presto movements. Complete technical assurance is a given, of course, but the depth of her musical intelligence and insight is always equally evident. Hahn says that since the initial CD she has continually been asked when she would be recording the remaining works, and that she felt that “now was the moment” to do so. “What you hear in this completion of my solo Bach set,” she says, “is therefore the best recording that I feel I can offer at this point in my life.” It’s hard to imagine how she could ever improve on it. The Dreams & Fables I Fashion is the stunning debut recording by the American violinist Elicia Silverstein, considered by many to be a rising star on the European early music scene (Rubicon Classics RCD1031 rubiconclassics.com). Noted for playing music from the 17th to 21st centuries on historical and modern instruments, Silverstein demonstrates that extensive range here with music that spans 300 years. Two Biber works from around 1676 open the disc: the Crucifixion Sonata X from the Rosary or Mystery Sonatas; and the solo Passacaglia. The contemporary Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino’s Capriccio No.2 from his Sei Capricci dates from 1976, its technical challenges handled here with ease. Little is known about Giovanni Pandolfi Mealli (1630-c.1669/70), but his Sonata No.2 “La Cesta” from 6 Sonatas for Violin and Continuo Op.3 is really something, with some dazzling playing by Silverstein in the opening section. Another work from 1976, Luciano Berio’s Sequenza VIII provides yet another opportunity for the soloist to demonstrate her complete mastery of contemporary technique. A dazzling period-influenced performance of the Bach Chaconne from the Partita No.2 in D Minor ends an outstanding debut release that seamlessly combines period and contemporary styles. Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is in fine form on Mirror in Mirror, her 37th album (Avie AV 2386 avie-records.com). With the exception of Ravel, Meyers has collaborated with all of the composers or arrangers on the album, several of the works being either written or arranged for her. An arrangement of the Philip Glass Metamorphosis II by Glass collaborator 68 | November 2018 thewholenote.com

Michael Riesman opens the disc, followed by two works by Arvo Pärt: Fratres; and the album’s title track Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror). There’s a quite different sound to the Ravel Tzigane. The original violin and piano version contained instructions for a luthéal, an optional piano attachment which could add a cimbalom-sounding effect to the keyboard. It’s essentially a museum piece now, and for this recording Jakub Ciupiński sampled the original instrument in a Brussels museum and produced a digital recreation of the sound for keyboard player Elizabeth Pridgen. The sound is not as strong as a regular piano, but does add a highly appropriate sound to this gypsy-inspired work. You can watch a video of the recording session on YouTube under Anne Akiko Meyers Records Ravel Tzigane with Luthéal. John Corigliano’s Lullaby for Natalie was written to mark the birth of Meyers’ first child in 2010. The pianist here and in the Glass and Pärt tracks is Akira Eguchi. Two works by Ciupiński are both for violin and electronics. Edo Lullaby is based on a Japanese folk song that Meyers’ mother used to sing. Wreck of the Cumbria from 2009 was commissioned by Meyers and was inspired by the composer’s exploration of an underwater wreck in Sudan in 2005. The final track is Morton Lauridsen’s own arrangement of his a cappella choral work O Magnum Mysterium, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Kristjan Järvi. It brings a thoughtful and thought-provoking CD to a beautiful close. All but the Ravel and Pärt works are premiere recordings. The two works by Arvo Pärt – Fratres and Spiegel im Spiegel – are also included on the new Onyx CD from the outstanding violinist Viktoria Mullova, simply titled Arvo Pärt (ONYX4201 onyxclassics.com). Paavo Järvi conducts the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Pärt’s tintinnabuli style, developed in the 1970s, produced one of the most distinctive compositional voices of the past 50 years. “I build with primitive materials – with the triad, with one specific tonality,” said the composer. “The three notes of a triad are like bells, and that is why I call it tintinnabulation.” Nearly all of the works here were first performed by Gidon Kremer. Tabula rasa and Fratres were both written in 1977, the latter heard here in a 1991 arrangement by Pärt for violin, string orchestra and percussion. Passacaglia, written in 2003 for violin and piano was arranged for violin and strings in 2007 in honor of Kremer’s 60th birthday. Darf ich . . . for violin, bells and strings was originally dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin in 1995 but revised for Kremer in 1999. Spiegel im Spiegel dates from 1978, its slow stepwise melody over gentle piano arpeggios the epitome of Pärt’s style. The English violinists Jameson Cooper and James Dickenson are the performers on Spohr Violin Duets 1, featuring the Three Duets Op.67 and the Duet in E-flat major WoO 21 No.3 by the 19th-century German violin virtuoso and composer Louis Spohr (Naxos 8.573763 naxos.com). The Op.67 duos were an attempt by Spohr to produce duets that were less demanding than his previous Op.3, Op.9 and Op.39 duos, which had not sold well due to their difficulty. They are really quite charming – fresh, melodic, inventive, and with a good deal of multiple stopping, which makes them sound more like string trios at times. The Duet No.2 in D Major has long been particularly popular. The WoO 21 duos are Spohr’s earliest surviving compositions, written when he was about 12 years old. Technical ability and musical sensitivity are already there, albeit in a framework lacking mastery of form and structure. The mature composer noted that they “may be childish and incorrect, but they do nevertheless have a form and a flowing melody line.” Indeed they do. Cooper and Dickenson provide warm and stylish playing throughout an absolutely delightful CD. The American String Quartet celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2019. Its latest CD, American Romantics, features works by Antonin Dvořák, Robert Sirota and Samuel Barber (americanstringquartet.com/ discography). Dvořák’s immensely popular String Quartet in F Major Op.96, “American” was written at Spillville, Iowa in 1893 during his first summer in the United States. It’s given a solid performance here. Sirota’s String Quartet No.2, “American Pilgrimage” was commissioned by the performers and was conceived as a companion piece to Sirota’s first quartet “Triptych,” written in response to the 9/11 tragedy. It celebrates American geography and culture, the source material for the four movements being Protestant hymnody, gospel, Native American song and Jazz. The Barber is the Adagio for Strings, here in its original form as the slow middle movement from the String Quartet Op.11. Recorded in 2011, six years before the rest of the disc, it’s an intensely lovely performance. The first release on the new Bear Machine Records label is Dissonance, a performance of Mozart’s String Quartet in C Major What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Adieu mes très belles Poline Renou (vocals), Matthieu Donarier (clarinets) and Sylvain Lemêtre (percussions) revisit old European music, from the earliest medieval monodies to the polyphonies of Renaissance. Go By Contraries Andrew Staniland Powerful contemporary art songs by Canadian composer Andrew Staniland in the world premiere recording by soprano Martha Guth, baritone Tyler Duncan, pianist Erika Switzer. Halibut Cheeks and Other Love Songs Leslie Fagan and Lorin Shalanko Be the first of your friends to discover some of Canada's most beautiful songs recorded by two great Canadian musicians. Impurity Chains Bekah Simms An album about influences and the joyful chaos of 21st-century listening, expressed in both acoustic and electroacoustic soundworlds. From Canadian composer Bekah Simms. thewholenote.com November 2018 | 69

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