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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Faculty
  • Musical
  • Performing
When is a trumpet like a motorcycle in a dressage event? How many Brunhilde's does it take to change an Elektra? Just two of the many questions you've been dying to ask, to which you will find answers in a 24th annual combined December/January issue – in which our 11 beat columnists sift through what's on offer in the upcoming holiday month, and what they're already circling in their calendars for 2019. Oh, and features too: a klezmer violinist breathing new life into a very old film; two New Music festivals in January, 200 metres apart; a Music & Health story on the restorative powers of a grassroots exercise in collective music-making; even a good reason to go to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. All this and more in Vol 24 No 4, now available in flipthrough format here.

The project, combining

The project, combining jazz with Jewish prayer chants, is meant as a tribute to Jacques’ father who died in 2006. “As soon as I started working on the arrangements, it became clear that these powerful ancient melodies lent themselves to impressionist harmonizations, and could be enhanced with infectious rhythms from the African diaspora.” He goes on to say “In The Morning Star my father describes a character who – just like me – is a jazz musician from Jewish and black descent. He refuses to be labelled half-Jewish and half-black and claims to be 200 percent: 100 percent Jewish and 100 percent black. I hope Hazzan will do justice to this conception of my Jewish identity as the blossoming fruit of universal cross pollination.” Thanks to the Toronto Public Library I am now immersed in that posthumous publication by Schwarz-Bart’s father and will shortly embark on a novel co-written by his mother and father (Un plat de porc aux bananes vertes). My own exposure to Jewish ritual is limited to attendance at funerals, memorial prayers said and candles lit for my in-laws, and participation in “second night Seder” dinners at the home of WholeNote publisher David Perlman. It was therefore a wonderful surprise to me to recognize one of the melodies from Hazzan as being Dayenu (“It would have been enough”), a song I myself have participated in during those Passover meals. The overall feel of the album is surprisingly upbeat and contagious. Schwarz-Bart has indeed managed to paint a “mystical and uplifting fresco” and his saxophone playing is truly cantorial. By the way, it is not only his Jewish heritage that has inspired him over the years. The product of a double diaspora, Schwarz-Bart fils is the founder of Gwoka Jazz, based on Guadeloupian traditions, and has worked extensively in Voodoo jazz with Haitian colleagues. Where will literary connections take me next I wonder? Next is a recording that features a work that has been a favourite for most of half a century – Messiaen’s Quatuor pour le fin du temps – and once again there is a New Music Concerts connection. Recently, when we presented the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, while the other musicians were out to dinner, Chloë Dominguez busied herself rehearsing the incredibly demanding cello part of the Quatuor which she would be performing with pianist Louise Bessette and other colleagues in Montreal in late November. I had a chance to chat with her after the concert and mentioned a new recording featuring clarinetist Raphaël Sévère and Trio Messiaen (Mirare MIR 334 mirare.fr) and the fact that the liner notes intrigued me with the mention of a piece I had never heard of before. I had always assumed that Messiaen, who had chosen the instruments for his quartet by what was available in the internment camp in Silesia where he was imprisoned during the Second World War (piano, clarinet, violin and a cello with just three strings), had invented that instrumental combination. But it turns out that Paul Hindemith had written a quartet for the same forces some three years earlier in 1938. This was news to me, and to Dominguez, and I have spent some time since listening to performances on YouTube. It is a very strong work and I found myself wishing that instead of just mentioning it in the notes, the recording had included the Hindemith instead of Thomas Adès’ Court Studies, a chamber arrangement of some of the incidental music he wrote for The Tempest. I find the Adès, mostly light and indeed courtly, a strange pairing with the Messiaen quartet with its powerful, mystical mix of sombreness and ecstasy. The performance of the Messiaen lives up to expectations heightened by countless other recordings over the years. From the opening movement for full quartet, growing out of silence with the awakening of birds at dawn, through the strident proclamations of the Angel announcing the end of time, the respite of the solo clarinet movement, again depicting birds, and the calm of the cello and piano Louange, to the furious dance of the seven trumpets (quartet) and final movement of Praise for the Immortality of Jesus, a quiet meditation for violin and piano, we are led on a wondrous journey, impeccably balanced and full of nuance. The booklet, in three languages, provides a thorough history of the genesis of Messiaen’s iconic composition, along with historical and biographical context and some analysis. There are notes on the very accomplished young musicians as well, but I wish they had included some explanation for the name of the trio. With the addition of the clarinet the connection to Messiaen is clear, but as he never wrote a piece for piano trio (and almost no other chamber music), the name Messiaen Trio leaves me scratching my head. With well over a dozen recordings of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites in my collection, plus transcriptions for 11 string “alto” guitar and for alto recorder (by Göran Söllscher and Marion Verbruggen respectively, both highly recommended), I find myself wondering, what does a new interpretation have to offer? This must be a daunting question for any young musician looking to make his mark in a world replete with existing renditions by virtually all of the greatest cellists of the past century, including Pablo Casals himself, who unearthed these masterworks that had languished in obscurity for nearly 200 years. One young man has answered the question by not tackling the canon in its entirety, but rather by selecting individual movements and juxtaposing them with contemporary works. On Echoes of Bach (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0124 brightshiny.ninja) featuring Mike Block, an alumnus of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, we hear alternately the Prelude from the first suite, the Allemande from the second and the Courante from the third separated by the two very different movements of György Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello in what is a brilliant stroke of programming. Later on we find movements from the other suites interspersed with music by Ahmed Adnan Saygun, a composer who pioneered Western classical music in Turkey; Giovanni Sollima, one of the composers associated with Silk Road (it’s worth checking out the YouTube video of this piece Citarruni); and, strangely, Domenico Gabrielli, born a generation before Bach. Gabrielli was a virtuoso cellist and had the distinction of publishing the first works for solo cello and so has every right to be included here, but as the other non-Bach offerings are all contemporary the choice is somewhat surprising. Another surprise is the final track, the Sarabande from first suite played entirely without a bow. This seems quite a liberty to take, but I must say the pizzicato interpretation really works. Mike Block is not only an accomplished cellist, but also an inventor. His “Block Strap” allows a cellist to harness the instrument to his or her body and play while standing, and even walking around. He has become quite adept at this, to the extent that even in this studio recording I get the impression from the occasion sound of footsteps that he is in motion. As one final nod to New Music Concerts I will mention that the first time I saw such a thing was when NMC presented Quatuor Molinari performing eight string quartets (at that time the complete cycle) of R. Murray Schafer at Glenn Gould Studio in 2003. For String Quartet No.7 Julie Trudeau had to construct a sling for the instrument to facilitate the movements that Schafer required of the cellist. 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 82 | December 2018 / January 2019 thewholenote.com

STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS Violinist Andrew Wan was named concertmaster of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in 2008. A Juilliard graduate, he is currently assistant professor of violin at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. He is paired with Quebec pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin in Beethoven Violin Sonatas Nos. 6, 7 & 8 (Analekta AN 2 8794 analekta.com) There’s a lovely warmth and sensitivity to the opening of the Sonata in A Major Op.30 No.1, with Wan’s beautifully clear tone immediately making you feel that this is the start of something special – and so it proves to be. Richard-Hamelin is an outstanding partner, especially in the turbulent opening of the tempestuous Sonata in C Minor Op.30 No.2, a work in which Beethoven’s growing use of increasingly intense textures is evident. A dazzling performance of the Sonata in G Major Op.31 No.3 completes a terrific CD that is the first volume in a projected series of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas. It promises to be a set to treasure and one – if this first volume is anything to go by – that will hold its own against any competition. Concert note: Charles Richard-Hamelin performs music of Schumann and Chopin at Koerner Hall on February 3. The Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing is the soloist in three Czech works on Dvořák: Violin Concerto; Suk: Fantasy with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra under Alan Buribayev (BIS-2246 bis.se). Hemsing displays brilliance of tone in a performance of the Dvořák Violin Concerto in A Minor Op.53 that is bright, energetic, rhythmic and full of life. It’s a work that still doesn’t have quite the prominence it deserves. The violinist and composer Josef Suk was Dvořák’s son-in-law. His Fantasy in G Minor Op.24 is the only concert work he wrote for his own instrument, and while quite different than the Dvořák in its episodic form is still clearly Czech through and through. Suk’s Liebeslied Op.7 No.1 is one of his best-known single pieces; the first of a suite of six piano pieces, it is heard here in a very effective transcription for violin and orchestra by Stephan Koncz. Buribayev draws really strong support from the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra players on a highly enjoyable CD. The Italian-American violinist Francesca Dego follows her hugely successful CD of violin concertos by Paganini and Wolf-Ferrari with Suite Italienne, a recital with her longtime collaborator the Italian pianist Francesca Leonardi of works by Ottorino Respighi, Igor Stravinsky and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Deutsche Grammophon DG481 7297 universalmusic.it). Respighi was himself a fine violinist, and his Sonata in B Minor Op.110 from 1917 is a striking work, written when he was struggling to overcome the depression brought on by the loss of his mother the previous year. A strong opening movement is followed by a particularly lovely and melodic Andante espressivo middle movement. And what a tone Dego possesses! It’s lustrous, warm, rich and strong, and is more than balanced here by a lovely piano sound. Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne from his ballet Pulcinella is the central work on the disc, with the dance elements nicely realized, the Tarantella Vivace in particular. Castelnuovo-Tedesco is represented by four works. His Ballade Op.107 was written for Tossy Spivakovsky and premiered by him at Carnegie Hall in 1940, after which it seems to have been overlooked and forgotten until Dego recovered it for this recording earlier this year with the help of the composer’s granddaughter Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco. It’s a lovely work that hopefully will stay in the repertoire. Three of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s short operatic transcriptions complete the recital: the rather-Paganinilike Rosina and the playful and virtuosic Figaro from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia; and Violetta from Verdi’s La Traviata. All but the latter of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco works are world premiere recordings. Georg Philipp Telemann was not only one of the most prolific composers in musical history but also one of the most cosmopolitan. Some idea of the wide range of national styles and idioms he incorporated in his music can be discerned from Telemann Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, a new CD featuring Baroque violinist Dorian Komanoff Bandy and harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa (Whaling City Sound WCS 108 whalingcitysound.com). The six sonatas from 1715 were written specifically for violin and harpsichord – no cello continuo here, as in some recordings – and although they all have the same slow/fast/slow/fast four-movement format they are wideranging in idiom and expression. In addition there is a world premiere recording of the unpublished Sonata in F-sharp Minor, a fascinating piece described by Bandy as “a strange convention-defying work” that “seems more an unfinished experiment than a polished piece of music.” His excellent and insightful booklet notes refer to these sonatas as truly distinct, each one unique, daring and extraordinary in its own way. Bandy plays with a minimum of vibrato, which allows his excellent definition, clarity and agility to be displayed to best advantage. Cienniwa’s playing provides a stylish accompaniment, the harpsichord never too percussive or prominent. American Souvenirs is the debut recording by the Chicago-based Blue Violet Duo of American violinist Kate Carter and Canadian pianist Louise Chan. Described as an album of jazz, blues and dance-influenced classical works from the mid-to-late 20th century, it features works by Norman Dello Joio, William Bolcom, John Adams and Paul Schoenfeld (bluevioletduo.com). Dello Joio’s Variations and Capriccio from 1948 and Bolcom’s four-movement 1978 Second Sonata for Violin and Piano are really attractive works, the Bolcom offering a dreamy and surprisingly atonal violin line over a slow blues piano in the opening movement, a “Brutal, Fast” second movement and a finale In Memory of Joe Venuti. Adams’ three-movement Road Movies from 1995 is in his minimalist style but highly entertaining, with a Relaxed Groove opening movement and a terrific third movement. Schoenfeld’s 1990 Four Souvenirs for Violin and Piano are titled Samba, Tango, Tin Pan Alley and Square Dance, with Carter supplying some simply gorgeous violin playing in the Tango. Some virtuosic playing from both performers in the final Square Dance makes for a great ending to an immensely enjoyable CD. The duo says that they love performing lesser-known works that are fun and playful yet virtuosic, and that those here are among their favourites by American composers. It’s abundantly clear that they are in their element here, fully at ease and seamlessly blending classical performing standards with the freer popular styles. There are two excellent cello and piano recital CDs this month: Beethoven Sonatas Op.102 with cellist Natasha Brofsky and pianist Seth Knopp (independent store.cdbaby.com/cd/natashabrofskyandsethknopp); and Brahms Cello Sonatas with the husband-and-wife Fischer Duo of cellist Norman Fischer and pianist Jeanne Kierman (Centaur CRC 3648 arkivmusic.com). thewholenote.com December 2018 / January 2019 | 83

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

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)