4 years ago

Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019

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  • February
  • Toronto
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In this issue: A prize that brings lustre to its laureates (and a laureate who brings lustre to the prize); Edwin Huizinga on the journey of Opera Atelier's "The Angel Speaks" from Versailles to the ROM; Danny Driver on playing piano in the moment; Remembering Neil Crory (a different kind of genius)' Year of the Boar, Indigeneity and Opera; all this and more in Volume 24 #5. Online in flip through, HERE and on the stands commencing Thursday Jan 31.

is powerful,

is powerful, spellbinding and reflects a mature understanding of the composer’s intentions. Ballade No.2 in B Minor is a fine example of this device but the bonus track, Sonetto del Petrarca 123 is the most memorable, because of its artful application. Lisztomania is less manic than its title might suggest, and it offers far more than a recital of “favourites” can usually manage. There’s some arrestingly beautiful playing on this disc. Peter Schaaf has released a third recording following his return to the keyboard after a lengthy hiatus pursuing other creative ventures. Chopin: 17 Waltzes (Schaaf Records SR 103; is a collection of waltzes divided between those published during Chopin’s lifetime and those published posthumously. Schaaf’s approach is relaxed and the tempos reflect this, often being a touch slower than is commonly heard. His playing is wonderfully clear and articulate. The allimportant ornaments that give Chopin’s writing its identifying signature are unerringly executed with impressive consistency. Waltzes Op.34, No.3 and Op.69, No.2 are terrific examples of this splendid technique. Schaaf also brings a welcome degree of introspection to this music that is especially poignant in the minor keys. He creates a feeling of heightened mystery that, combined with a slower tempo, make pieces like the Waltz in C Sharp Minor Op.64 No.2 an entirely new experience. Shoshana Telner’s latest release is a 2CD set titled Johann Sebastian Bach – The Six Partitas BWV825-830 (Centaur CRC 3642/3643; The joy of playing or hearing Bach lies in the search for melody. Regardless of how familiar a work may be, chances are that a hidden fragment of melody will reveal itself, making the already beautiful impossibly better. This is how Telner plays. From her first phrase she declares her intention to mine every treasured nugget in Bach’s motherlode of counterpoint. These French dance suites are replete with ideas great and small lying in every range of the keyboard voice. Telner’s technique unfolds each one carefully. The versatility of the nine-foot Fazioli she plays allows for rich dynamic contrasts and subtle touch variations to highlight each new idea she encounters, as if to coax them out of hiding. It’s a mindful, disciplined and loving way to handle this music and the result is a breadth of beauty difficult to describe. Steven Beck and Susan Grace are the second incarnation of the piano duo Quattro Mani. Their new recording Re-Structures (Bridge 9496; products/9496) is a wonderfully programmed disc of contemporary works for two pianos plus a variety of other instruments. Poul Ruders’ Cembal D’Amore for piano and harpsichord places the piano mostly on the left audio channel while the harpsichord occupies the centre and right of the audio spectrum. Not only is the stereo effect immediately engaging but the writing too grabs the attention with very clever keyboard combinations and colouristic effects. György Kurtág’s Életút Lebenslauf Op.32 uses a normally tuned piano in combination with another tuned a quarter tone lower and also calls for a pair of basset horns. The title track Re-Structures by Tod Machover is written for two pianos and live electronics. It’s dedicated to Pierre Boulez for his 90th birthday and is inspired by Boulez’s own works for two pianos Structures. The opening and closing tracks are for the duo alone. The final one is particularly intriguing for its relentless adherence to a Latin beat. Ofer Ben-Amots’ Tango for the Road provides a memorable finish to this excellent production. David McGrory’s new release Remember the Fallen ( marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, 1914-1918. He’s chosen three works to represent the responses of composers affected by the conflict. Le Tombeau de Couperin is Maurice Ravel’s memorial to people he knew who had lost their lives in military service. Each of the work’s movements is dedicated to them. It’s not a directly programmatic piece and doesn’t set out to capture the mood of the period. It’s simply a contemporary expression inspired by Couperin’s 17th-century keyboard suites. McGrory has an impressive facility with the speed Ravel requires to execute the Prelude, Rigaudon and Toccata but he makes his greatest impact with the very tender and heartfelt Minuet. There’s a tremendous feeling of suspended melancholy that hangs over the entire movement. Gorgeous. Frank Bridge’s Piano Sonata gives McGrory a similar opportunity. Its second movement is an extended calm between the work’s violent outer movements and his performance of it is profoundly moving. Concert note: David McGrory performs at the Newton Free Library in Massachusetts on March 3. Duncan Honeybourne performs an entire disc full of world premieres in his recent recording A Hundred Years of British Piano Miniatures (Grand Piano GP 789; Eleven composers’ works arranged chronologically give an illuminating view of the piano miniature’s evolution. English composers seem to have a deep and abiding affection for a sense of place, and they allow this to spark their creativity. Whether city streets or countryside, experiences had there are the prime resource for these miniatures. The disc is full of these very short tracks, beautifully selected for their contribution to the program and historical relevance. Those from the first half of the last century seem to share a common language despite the great upheavals that changed the world in which they were conceived. The more contemporary ones are somewhat less tied to the charm of a place and are more outward-looking in concept. There is a remarkable degree of originality throughout all these works that makes this disc an engaging listen from start to finish. Lorenzo Materazzo takes a freely modern approach in his newest recording of Baroque repertoire Lorenzo Materazzo Plays Scarlatti & Bach (Austrian Gramophone AG 0010; He’s an active performer, composer and musicologist bringing a thorough rationale to his performance decisions. Materazzo extracts the greatest amount of emotional content possible from every phrase and thematic idea. His tempos are unconstrained by conventional practice and his dynamics are unashamedly romantic. He argues that both composers would have spoken this musical language had they lived today and points to the way his interpretation realizes more fully the potential of each work. Scarlatti’s familiar Sonata in E Major K.380 proves an instructive comparison with almost any other version. Like all the other tracks, it’s an intimate recording with the mics very near the strings. Materazzo’s effort is persuasive, credible and very much worth hearing. Zuzana Šimurdová introduces the music of a hitherto unrecorded composer in her new world premiere recording release Fišer 70 | February 2019

– Complete Piano Sonatas (Grand Piano GP 770; Luboš Fišer was a 20th-century Czech composer whose works are becoming better known through their publication by Barenreiter. His eight piano sonatas span the period from 1955 to 1995. He discarded the second sonata of which he was highly critical and the work was never recovered. Sonatas No.1 and No.3 are in three and two movements respectively while all the rest are single movements only. Šimurdová is a powerful performer completely capable of the turmoil that is central to Fišer’s writing. Her ability to retreat into more tender moments of his music is what makes it truly human. Kudos to her for championing this voice. Anna Shelest delivers a powerhouse performance in the new release Anton Rubinstein Piano Concerto No.4 (Sorel Classics SC CD 013 She shares the stage at the Lincoln Center with The Orchestra Now (TON as they like to be called). This ensemble comprises specially chosen musicians from leading conservatories around the world. Their youthful approach breaks the mould of traditional orchestral players with their avid participation in pre-concert talks, onstage introductions and other forms of audience engagement. The Rubinstein Concerto No.4 is gargantuan and Shelest is simply brilliant in her navigation of this iconic 19th-century Russian’s work. She captures the rich beauty of all Rubinstein’s melodies, both broad orchestral statements and intimate piano utterances. Conductor Neeme Järvi brings his extraordinary skill to the podium to direct the energies released by the music. The CD also includes Rubenstein’s Caprice Russe Op.102 whose strong national folk content stands in contrast to the more European flavour of the concerto. It’s a thrilling live recording. VOCAL Monteverdi – Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists; John Eliot Gardiner Soli Deo Gloria SDG730 ( !! Few musicians have devoted themselves to the Baroque repertoire with the sustained passion of John Eliot Gardiner; and his relationship with Claudio Monteverdi’s music is unique. Gardiner launched the Monteverdi Choir in 1966 and the Monteverdi Orchestra in 1968, renaming it the English Baroque Soloists in 1976 with the switch to period instruments. This recording of one of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas was recorded in Wrocław during a 2017 tour celebrating the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth. Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (1640), is based on the conclusion of Homer’s Odyssey, as Ulysses reaches home to find his wife Penelope and his lands besieged by suitors. It was composed more than 30 years after Orfeo, when the 73-year-old composer was convinced to write again for the stage at the end of a career devoted largely to composing for the church. This is a masterful realization of the work, with Gardiner, his choir and orchestra attuned to its pageantry, drama and sheer beauty, as well as Monteverdi’s sudden shifts through a broad emotional range. In the first act, the orchestra caresses and supports the sorrowful Penelope; the second concludes with rising battle music; and in the third the choirs of Heaven and Sea are graced with the elemental clarity and grace of Monteverdi’s madrigals. Il ritorno is a key document in opera’s early history, with an increasing shift from intoned text to dramatic song: Gardiner and company’s performance is both vigorous and authentic. Stuart Broomer Wagner – Der Ring des Nibelungen Soloists; Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra; Jaap van Zweden Naxos 8.501403 (14 CDs + USB card; ! ! The conductor of this new audio recording, Jaap van Zweden, has now taken over the New York Philharmonic after being the music director of the Dallas Symphony since 2009. TV audiences recently saw him conducting the New Year’s Eve concert with the Philharmonic featuring Renée Fleming. He is also active in Europe and Asia, including Hong Kong where he has been their Philharmonic’s conductor since 2012. This new Ring Cycle was recorded in concert performances in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre each January from 2015 to 2018. In Das Rheingold from 2015 we What we're listening to this month: AYRE: LIVE Miriam Khalil and Against the Grain Theatre Ensemble A lush fusion of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian, and Sephardic folk melodies and texts; Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre is a brilliant example of 21stcentury cultural counterpoint. 1717. Memories of a Journey to Italy Scaramuccia Ensemble In 1717 Pisendel returns from his trip through Italy with a suitcase full of music and the memories of a personal and intimate journey. No Time for Chamber Music collectif9 "Brilliant arrangements, exuberantly performed ... collectif9’s next visit to Toronto cannot come too soon." - The WholeNote Isang Yun: Sunrise Falling Matt Haimovitz A centennial commemoration of the Korean composer’s life and music. “Energetic virtuosity and great expressiveness … an impressive and moving masterpiece.” - Süddeutsche Zeitung February 2019 | 71

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