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Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019

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  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
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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.

hear Matthias Goerne’s

hear Matthias Goerne’s Wotan, Michelle DeYoung’s Fricka and Kim Begley as Loge. The 2016 Die Walküre adds Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Heidi Melton is Sieglinde and Falk Struckmann is Hunding. The Brünnhilde is Petra Lang. Siegfried in 2017 has Simon O’Neill as Siegfried and David Cangelosi as Mime. Heidi Melton is now Brünnhilde and Falk Struckmann is Fafner and the Forest Bird is sung by Valentina Farcas. Götterdämmerung, from 2018, adds choruses of the Bamberg Symphony, the Latvian State and the HK Philharmonic with Brünnhilde now sung by Gun-Brit Barkmin, Siegfried is Daniel Brenna, Michelle DeYoung is Waltraute, Gunther is Shenyang and Hagen, who gets the very last words, is Eric Halfvarson. For these performances, Van Zweden maintains very steady tempi and does not bury the usually unheard pulse in the music. This strengthens the continuity of events and goes far in holding our attention to the unfolding epic involving the foibles of the driven principals. The recording engineers have achieved a superb job with a wide dynamic range, no spotlighting of any instruments and maintaining a firm bass line, seating us in the concert hall for these live concert performances. The casting couldn’t be better, with impeccable, secure soloists before the Hong Kong Philharmonic that, by Götterdämmerung, has become a first class Wagner orchestra. Not quite the Vienna Philharmonic but they have only been professional since 1974. There are many spellbinding occasions on these performances that come readily to mind. Here are just a few: The last scene of Die Walküre from Wotan’s heartbreaking farewell to Brünnhilde and then his calling upon Loge to surround his sleeping daughter in an impassable ring of fire, the ethereal Magic Fire Music; in Siegfried, the Forest Bird telling Siegfried about a beautiful sleeping woman surrounded by a circle of flames and then leading him to her; the conversation between the sleeping Hagen and his dead father, Alberich in the second act of Götterdämmerung; the Immolation scene and the redeeming, all-is-well, short epilogue that follows a momentary pause. Altogether a brilliant achievement. The four operas are available separately but the boxed set contains the four plus a USB stick with the complete librettos in German alongside English translations, together with talks about the project with photos and interviews. This is the second Ring Cycle from Naxos, the first consisting of live performances of New York’s Metropolitan Opera productions from 1936 to 1941 (8.501106, 11 CDs). Luminaries of the era include Schorr, Varnay, Traubel, Melchior, Flagstad and Marjorie Lawrence who rides off on Grane on January 11, 1936. A collector’s collection. Noisy. Bruce Surtees Britten – Death in Venice Soloists; Teatro Real Chorus and Orchestra; Alejo Pérez Naxos 2.110577 ( !! Adapted from Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella, Death in Venice (1973) was 20th-century English composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten’s final opera. Its libretto has a stark, dark plotline: Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous but failing German novelist, travels to Venice for invigorating inspiration only to find disturbing mystery, a troubling infatuation with a boy called Tadzio, internal vacillation and melancholy, cholera – and as the title states, death. The spare narrative, however, allows librettist Myfanwy Piper and composer Britten room to meditate on a rich tapestry of grand themes, primarily through the voice of Aschenbach. These include reflections on dichotomous Apollonian vs Dionysian philosophies rooted in Nietzsche’s writing, Greek mythology and ideals, and the perilous dignity accorded even an acclaimed artist (as Britten was by this time in his career). Propelling the drama however is the doomed homoerotic May-December longing at the core of the story. It’s lent poignant authenticity by Mann and Britten’s own biographies, underscored by Britten’s dedication of the score to Peter Pears, his longtime professional and life partner, who premiered the role of Aschenbach. Musically, Britten’s score is a study in brilliant orchestration of refreshing invention, vigour and chamber music delicacy. Characters are deftly rendered in contrasting musical styles and genres. Italian opera buffa is parodied and Aschenbach’s vocals are supported by orchestral strings and winds. By way of contrast a five-piece percussion section provides a very adroit evocation of the timbre and texture of Balinese gamelan music – representing the “other” – underpinning all of the boy Tadzio’s stage appearances. John Daszak is exemplary as Aschenbach, and Willy Decker’s 2014 Teatro Real, Madrid production brilliantly supports the cumulative impact of the final tragic scene of Britten’s last, emotionally resonant, opera. Andrew Timar Golijov – Ayre: Live Against the Grain Theatre; Miriam Khalil Against the Grain Records ATG001CD ( !! After I heard Ayre: Live for the first time, I knew this recording was going to be one of my favourite albums of 2018. The immediacy of the live recording is always exciting and Osvaldo Golijov’s song cycle for soprano and a small chamber ensemble is beyond gorgeous – it is intimate yet powerful, piercing with emotion and mesmerizing in its tonal expression. Like the air we breathe (the album’s title means air in medieval Spanish), it transcends the boundaries between music traditions, languages and cultures. Based on the interweaving melodies, rhythms and poetry of Arab, Christian and Sephardic Jewish culture in Spain, Golijov also weaves in his own compositional language thus making Ayre an elaborate historical and emotional narrative. Eleven songs flow inherently from one to another while the energy rises and falls effortlessly with each one. Una madre comió asado and Nani are heavenly sounding, tranquil lullabies (though the texts are implying more complex emotions). Combinations of electronica and traditional melodies in Wa Habibi makes this song surprisingly fresh and captivating. Tancas serradas a muru, with its bewitching vocals and tribal rhythms, is a whirl of primal energies and, in contrast, Kun li-guitari wataran ayyuha al-maa’, a poem spoken in Arabic, creates a wonderful aural sparseness. The superb chamber ensemble of Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre has a wonderful synergy with the company’s co-founder, soprano Miriam Khalil, a true star of this recording. Her immense range of colours and fascinating vocal transformations made her performance on this album both spectacular and touching. Ivana Popovic CLASSICAL AND BEYOND 1717 – Memories of a Journey to Italy Scaramuccia Snakewood Editions SCD201801 ( ! ! Imagine a journey to Florence, Rome and Venice. In 1717. Imagine, too, that you could take home with you your choice of manuscripts by composers based in 72 | February 2019

those cities. This was the opportunity granted to Johann Georg Pisendel, in his own journey to Italy that same year. As if being allowed to take home manuscripts of contemporary Italian composers was not enough, Pisendel joined with some of them in composing. These joint efforts make up two tracks on this highly imaginative CD – there are even two CD world premieres. Scaramuccia itself comprises just violinist, cellist and harpsichordist. From the start, a vigorous performance of the first Allegro from Tomaso Albinoni’s Sonata for violin and continuo proves this is no handicap. Scaramuccia’s detailed notes are more than helpful in finding out how Pisendel fared. In the case of the Sonata for violin and continuo in D Major by Giuseppe Maria Fanfani, which here receives its world premiere, one wonders why this is so. Javier Lupiáñez’s enthusiastic violin playing in the Largo, Allegro and Tempo Giusto is first class. Giuseppe Valentini’s Sonata for violin and continuo in A Major starts imposingly before a really fervent Allegro, Minuet and Giga – at last, someone has discovered that a giga does not have to last less than two minutes! And then two pieces by Antonio Maria Montanari, the second in cooperation with Pisendel. Both opening Largos give us the chance to appreciate sensitive harpsichord playing and, once again, the passionate playing of Lupiáñez (Scaramuccia’s musicologist founder) in both Allegro movements. This imaginatively created CD ends with its best-known composer working with Pisendel: the result a Sonata for violin and continuo which reminds us of everything that Vivaldi could create. Michael Schwartz Forgotten chamber works with oboe from the Court of Prussia Christopher Palameta; Notturna Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 19075821552 ( !! The Montrealborn, Parisbased musician Christopher Palameta is widely fêted for oboe performances that are suffused with equal amounts of aesthetic beauty and historical rigour. Working since 2007 to broaden world understanding and appreciation for the music of German Baroque composer Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, Palameta has mined Janitsch’s repertoire, finding rarely heard chamber pieces that are now welcome additions to the canon of Baroque works. Collaborating on record here with the chamber music collective Notturna – which Palameta directs – Janitsch’s music, along with selections by Johann Gottlieb Graun and the little-known Christian Gottfried Krause, are captured beautifully on this 2018 release. The recording is certain to expand Palameta’s reputation as a singular musician dedicated to 18thand 19th-century period piece work that showcases the oboe, and should be greeted enthusiastically by fans of early music. Although music from this era could certainly be opulent and regal – the decorative ornamentations of the melodic line mirroring the exaggerated royal lifestyle, dress and mannerisms –Janitsch plumbs a galant style that fetishizes authenticity and aims for a return to more simple music-making practices. In fact, blurring the lines between the professional and amateur, Janitsch led community-wide sessions for musicians at a variety of levels to perform together called “Freitagsakademien” (Friday academies). Like many composers of the Baroque era, Janitsch was indentured to royalty (in this case Frederick the Great, King of Prussia) and while his compositional style reflected the changing aesthetics of this time period, his considerable output was well supported by Frederick’s strong patronage of the arts and music. Thanks to Palameta, Jan Van den Borre, Catherine Martin, Emily Robinson and Brice Sailly, this important and underrepresented music lives on for future audiences. Andrew Scott Kreüsser – 6 Quintettos Opus 10 Infusion Baroque Leaf Music LM223 ( !! Thanks to the Montreal-based ensemble Infusion Baroque, Georg Anton Kreüsser (1746-1810) joins the list of composers whose works were lost to us until diligent research brought them to light. Kreüsser himself did not deserve to be lost – his music flourished in Mainz while he was konzertmeister of its Kapelle. His musical education took in Bologna and Amsterdam and it was there that he met Wolfgang, Leopold and Marianne Mozart – and the admiration was mutual as Leopold noted, which makes Kreüsser’s disappearance even more surprising. The Quintettos feature flute and the four instruments of a traditional string quartet, a rare combination as most similar works follow the flute, violin, viola, cello model of Mozart’s flute quartets. It is Alexa Raine- Wright’s flute-playing that dominates this CD: listen in particular to the Tempo di menuetto of the Quintetto in C Major and the lively Allegro moderato of the G Major. Strings do, for all that, enjoy considerable prominence. For example, the violin and viola playing of the Allegro moderato and Allegretto in D What we're listening to this month: Celebrating Piazzolla Neave Trio The Neave Trio captures Piazzolla’s rich legacy through arrangements of The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and select songs, featuring mezzo-soprano Carla Jablonski. Cgambery Fie Schouten The quality of Klein’s compositions suit Fie Schouten’s supple and subtle virtuoso use of Jazz traditions while trained as a classical musician. Electroclarinet Jean-Francois Charles This dreamlike blend of acoustic performance and live electronics showcases the complete clarinet family, from Mozart's cherished basset horn to the exuberant contrabass clarinet. The UncertaintyPrinciple - Live at The Rex Andrew Boniwell Jazz compositions for uncertain times. Embrace the Uncertainty. February 2019 | 73

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