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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.

heard but effectively

heard but effectively echoes the tenderness and also sets up the highspeed turbulence of the final movement. All seven sonatas in this set benefit from the same unerring performance quality that Scholz has made his hallmark in this project. Eliane Rodrigues has recorded nearly 30 CDs and shows no sign of easing up her pace. Her latest recording is Claude Debussy – Reflets (Navona NV6164 navonarecords.com). Rodrigues has chosen a program that supports her view of Debussy as a composer of more than just languid, dreamy, impressionistic music. Indeed, it’s as much her approach as it is the program that clinches her argument. The opening tracks, Suite Bergamasque, contain the famous Claire de lune, which is usually taken as a prime opportunity for creating the impressionistic atmosphere of Debussy’s fluid arpeggios and richly blended harmonies. Rodrigues, however, moves through the piece at a more determined pace, lingering less indulgently on the familiar emotional hotspots. Surprisingly, the work loses nothing in this approach and comes across with a new and rather different meaning – something perhaps more actively philosophical rather than deeply contemplative. Other tracks like Pour le piano, especially its Toccata movement, are highly energized and percussive, words not often used to describe this repertoire. Intriguingly, this performance does more to connect the composer to some of his contemporaries than a traditional interpretation would do. Ravel and Satie suddenly share a kinship with Debussy that has hitherto seemed more tenuous. Still, Rodrigues doesn’t entirely reject Debussy as the arch-impressionist of piano composition. Arabesques is as powerfully mystical as you’ll hear it played by anyone. So too are the slower movements of Images Books 1 & 2. Rodrigues knows exactly what she’s doing and her ideas are worth hearing. Mahan Esfahani has resumed his recording relationship with Hyperion Records with an early November release The Passinge Mesures – Music of the English Virginalists (Hyperion CDA68249 hyperion-records.co.uk). Having recorded a couple of discs in 2014 then moved to DG for a couple more in 2015 and 2016, Esfahani is back at Hyperion with his articulately unapologetic approach to harpsichord performance. Current plans include some pre-Baroque repertoire, plenty of J.S.Bach as well as contemporary works written for Esfahani himself. The current recording samples music from well-known composers of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods: Byrd, Farnaby, Bull, Gibbons and others. Esfahani’s liner notes offer a passionate argument about the limited usefulness of authentic performance approaches to early forms of music. Freed from the tightest interpretive and stylistic constraints, Esfahani explores emotional expression through tempo changes, rich ornamentation and an intensity of performance whose absence has made the instrument a tough sell to a wider audience. He plays with an enormous amount of energy. And in some inexplicable way, he brings out inner voices and countermelodies on an instrument where this is not supposed to be possible. Esfahani points to the humanity, beauty and complexity of Shakespeare’s work and asks why music of that period shouldn’t be considered in the same light. He may have single handedly begun the expansion of our thinking on issues of early music performance. He has, at least, shown us a credible alternative to what has been doctrine for several decades. VOCAL Adieu mes tres belles Poline Renou; Matthieu Donarier; Sylvain Lemêtre Yolk Records 3 2076 (yolkrecords.com) !! The vocalist Poline Renou and clarinetist Matthieu Donarier have been making ethereally beautiful music for more than a decade. Joined on this excursion Adieu Mes Tres Belles by the percussion colourist Sylvain Lemêtre, their music makes a magical rhythmic turn with Renou’s pristine, high-sprung voice being daubed by rhythmic paint, so to speak, while both musicians are embraced by Donarier’s nearmystical harmonics as he breathes into his various clarinets. This repertoire cuts a majestic swathe from early European monodies through the polyphonic music of the late Renaissance to the edge of the Baroque era. Despite this extraordinary range of music cutting through a myriad of modal frameworks, a magical gossamer-like thread sews it all together. This is largely due to the wraith-like presence of Renou, whose chaste, slender voice creates a sense of rapt spirituality throughout the proceedings. Her vocals are bathed in the voluptuous, round sound of Donarier’s clarinets, aptly suggesting a warm and resonant music from ninth-century anonymous works to those of Gilles Binchois, Michelangelo Rossi and Vicente Lusitano from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Lemêtre’s drums create contemporary drama around the moments of Renou’s vivid word paintings and Donarier’s expressive chromaticisms and dissonance, of which Heu Me Domine is a splendid example. Overall the disc is a rapturous unveiling of sacred and secular works – a happy marriage of astute scholarship and daringly rigorous, idiomatic performance. Raul da Gama Mozart: Lucio Silla Kurt Streit; Patricia Petibon; Teatro Real, Madrid; Ivor Bolton; Claus Guth BelAir Classiques BAC 150 (belairclassIques.com) !! Lucio Silla is Mozart’s fifth opera, written when he was a 16-year-old. Lucio Silla was a Roman dictator and as one might expect, was surrounded by endless found love, lost love, intrigue, threats, dire punishments, etc. Mozart’s early operas are characterized by concertante arias – that is to say the vocal line is like an instrumental concerto (duet, trio, quartet, etc.). Such vocal writing is extremely demanding of the singers. These early works of Mozart bare no signs of being composed by a teenager. The stories, and Lucia Silla is no exception, have complex plots and lyrical texts that are dealing with human feelings and troubled souls. Another characteristic of these early works was the employment of castrati in the leading roles. In Lucio Silla, as in other works, for the most part Mozart wrote for singers that he knew and the writing was customized to suit their virtuosity. Whereas today there are no castrati, there are countertenors who specialize in Baroque and early classical composers: Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Handel et al. In all Mozart operas, however, today’s practice is to use female vocalists. The best example is the role of Cherubino, a male character written to be sung by a castrato in Le nozze de Figaro, where today only female vocalists are heard. In Lucio Silla, two of the main male characters are stunningly sung by women, in particular, soprano Silvia Tro Santafé in the role of Cecilio. She is truly outstanding with a magical voice and a true Mozart technique and affinity, in the company of a cast not far behind. This production attempts to recreate the story into a later time. I am not taken by the staging, truly abstract and not of 72 | November 2018 thewholenote.com

anything to do with the plot. Hence, there is nothing else but the superb singing to occupy our attention. In that way the staging issue is unimportant, thanks to the greatness of Mozart’s incomparable score. The orchestra and conductor are first-class in every respect. Others in the cast are Kurt Streit (Lucio) Patricia Petibon (Giunia), Inga Kalna (Cinna), Maria José Moreno (Celia) and Kenneth Tarver (Aufidio). Bruce Surtees Andrew Staniland – Go By Contraries Tyler Duncan; Martha Guth; Erika Switzer Centrediscs CMCCD 25918 (musiccentre.ca) !! Three dramatic song cycles by Canadian composer Andrew Staniland comprise this exciting, intense, rewarding release performed with respect, musicality and technical prowess by soprano Martha Guth, baritone Tyler Duncan and pianist Erika Switzer. Each showcases the composer’s innate ability to combine words and sound to create thoughtprovoking, quasi-programmatic works. Earthquakes and Islands, a setting of Robin Richardson’s poetry, is a tour de force, an eight-movement work exploring the emotional aftermath of a relationship gone wrong. This is high intensity, contrasting music verging on the disturbing. The first section’s opening dramatic piano trill and soprano held notes, subsequent almost-overthe-top low piano crash and low pitched chords contrasting the soprano line set the stage for the entire work. The almost-spoken baritone part in Future Perfect’s third section has the piano atonal lines double the vocals to the calming ending. In My Voice, In My Mouth, dramatic piano low chords, distressed soprano vocals, huge loud and reflective quieter sections support the cancer patient’s feelings of panic/calm. The closing Go By Contraries is just that, as piano string glissandos set up the vocal duet to the closing ascending buildup and final piano fade. Peter Quince at the Clavier, using a Wallace Stevens text for baritone, and Execution Songs for soprano, feature more of the same intense soaring vocals, piano textures and wide ranging dynamics. Maybe a bit too melodramatic, but these great compositions, production and performances must be heard! Tiina Kiik Two Cells in Sevilla: Don Quixote Is Hungry Sonja Bruzauskas; Todd R Miller; Octavio Moreno; Benjamin Leclair; Greenbriar Consortium; David Kirk Navona Records NV6174 (navonarecords.com) !! Two cells in adjacent buildings overlook a square in 16th-century Seville. Gabriel Téllez (baritone Octavio Moreno), a monk who wrote under the name Tirso de Molina, is in his cloister; Miguel de Cervantes (tenor Todd R. Miller), along with his Servant (bass Benjamin LeClair), is in prison, accused of embezzlement. Gabriel and Miguel lament over their “watery broth” and plead with the Cook (mezzo Sonja Bruzauskas) for better food, but she rebuffs them, lost in her dreams of romance. Trying to charm her, Gabriel and Miguel begin creating their now-classic tales of Don Juan and Don Quixote, respectively, until they’re interrupted by a letter signed “John Falstaff.” Marec Béla Steffens’ clever, fanciful libretto is set to music by his father, German composer Walter Steffens (b.1934). The 38-minute opera, scored for oboe/English horn, clarinet, saxophone, cello and piano, in addition to the four singers, was premiered in Houston in 2016. The text is sung in parlando style, the vocal and instrumental lines lively and engaging. Given its economical forces and inherent entertainment value, with many familiar musical and literary references, this comical chamber opera is a natural audiencepleaser for conservatories and small opera companies everywhere. The CD also includes Walter Steffens’ pensive, 12-minute song cycle, Five Songs on Hölderlin (2008), performed by Bruzauskas and pianist Tali Morgulis. No texts are provided, but the opera libretto and Hölderlin’s German verses, without translation, are downloadable from Navona’s website. Michael Schulman What we're listening to this month: And So It Goes – Song of Folk and Lore Elora Singers; Noel Edison Naxos 8.573661 (naxos.com) !! This superb recording literally cuts a choral swath through Canada, the United States and the British Isles, by including musical material that literally helped shape the cultural identity of those nations. Britain is represented here by compositions from Ivor Novello, Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Several traditional airs are also present, as is the work of two Canadian composers: Jimmy Rankin’s JUNO-winning Fare Thee Well My Love and Eric Whitacre’s Go, Lovely Rose. From the US comes Billy Joel’s melancholy And So It Goes. With Joel’s poetry reframed in a fresh and almost hymnlike arrangement, the song takes on a whole new emotional life. Recorded by Nobert Kraft at St. John the Redeemer in Elora, this ambitious recording was produced by Kraft and Bonnie Silver; the two gifted pianists featured are Leslie De’Ath and James Bourne. The award-winning Elora Singers is an all-professional vocal ensemble founded in 1980, that has thrilled the world with many memorable performances, as well as bringing Canadian vocal chamber repertoire to the international stage. The choir is, of course, the linchpin of the noted Elora Festival. There are 21 pieces on this CD, each one a perfectly cut diamond – all refracting light in their own uniquely beautiful way. Of special note are Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs. The choir, expertly conducted by founding director Noel Edison, uses dynamics, sibilant consonants, control of vibrato and impeccable intonation to wend its way through the complex arrangements; it almost seems as if they can morph into a fantastically intricate one-celled being, displaying precision, inspiration and unfailing musicality in equal parts. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke A QSF Journey Quartet San Francisco On this new release QSF invite you to join in their journey into the chamber music of the 21st century. It's Time Tanya Wills Quartet Tanya Wills is a Toronto based Jazz singer. With the TANYA WILLS QUARTET she brings her sensual and evocative sound to this recording with three of her favourite gentlemen – master musicians, Bill Bridges, Jordan Klapman and Ron Johnston. thewholenote.com November 2018 | 73

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