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Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019

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Something Old, Something New! The Ide(a)s of March are Upon Us! Rob Harris's Rear View Mirror looks forward to a tonal revival; Tafelmusik expands their chronological envelope in two directions, Esprit makes wave after wave; Pax Christi's new oratorio by Barbara Croall catches the attention of our choral and new music columnists; and summer music education is our special focus, right when warm days are once again possible to imagine. All this and more in our March 2019 edition, available in flipthrough here, and on the stands starting Thursday Feb 28.

y the Bach Choir of

y the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and issued in commemoration of the choir’s 120th anniversary and Greg Funfgeld’s 35th as its conductor. The 88-voice choir is a Pennsylvania institution along with its annual Bach Festival and Bach Festival Orchestra. It’s Handel on a relatively moderated but still grand scale, harkening back to 19th- and early 20th-century traditions. The orchestra is playing modern instruments, but there are only 27 of them, and that large choir provides depth and an impressive richness. Two fine Canadian singers appear as soloists, lending distinguished skills to the arias. Halifax-native, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, brings a brassy bravado to the drum and horn effusion of The trumpet’s loud clangor, while Edmonton-born Cassandra Lemoine’s refined soprano dovetails beautifully with Robin Kani’s flute on The soft complaining flute. Lemoine’s grace and clarity also highlight the full force of choir and orchestra in the sustained conclusion of As from the pow’r of sacred lays. Stuart Broomer In Meinem Himmel – The Mahler Song Cycles Kindra Scharich; Alexander String Quartet Foghorn Classics FCL 2019 ( !! This project comes from San Francisco and it is an experiment by the renowned Alexander String Quartet to transcribe three of Mahler’s orchestral song cycles, Songs of a Wayfarer, Rückert- Lieder and Kindertotenlieder for string quartet in order to experience this repertoire in an intimate chamber music setting and perhaps enrich and enhance its emotional world. I had some misgivings, because nowadays there is a definite trend to different versions of the great works, by ambitious musicians, that could harm and distort the composer’s original intent. To my mind, these are definitely orchestral songs and require the power and the colours of the full contingent of a symphony orchestra with Mahler’s unique orchestration for their musical and emotional impact. The sound of a string quartet is entirely different and hasn’t the pungent quality the wind instruments provide and it cannot possibly duplicate what Mahler had in mind, although the transcriber violinist Zakarias Grafilo, gave much thought and effort to preserve some of the aural colours and even the emotional innigkeit of the original, yet es ist kein Mahler as I imagine Leonard Bernstein would say. Nevertheless it’s a labour of love. Idiomatic and virtuoso string playing and the singing is simply gorgeous. Young American mezzo Kindra Scharich has a beautiful voice, total emotional commitment and musical imagination that certainly makes worthwhile listening. Her soulful, anguished tone when the rejected lover sings about the two beautiful blue eyes of his lost sweetheart (Die zwei blauen Augen) is simply heartbreaking and I just loved her voice so full of joy in exclaiming Heia! in Ging heut morgen. An interesting experiment, but not quite Mahler. Janos Gardonyi John Harbison – Requiem Soloists; Nashville Symphony Chorus and Orchestra; Giancarlo Guerrer Naxos 8.559841 ( !! John Harbison’s Requiem captures the nature of death with both metaphysical and aesthetic sophistication, firstly because of the authentic use of the Latin text in its scriptural context and secondly because of the utterly existential prescience of this choral performance. Despite the fact that the music eventually soars with the apposite release of Libera me, the shadowy solemnity of the preceding sequences makes the work both profoundly melancholic and breathtakingly beautiful. It is a monumental work – Harbison’s pièce de résistance – appropriate to the events of 9/11 which inspired it. Consequently the use of the Latin in the setting of a traditional requiem might commemorate a divine passion – such as in the Introit – yet the work commemorates abject human suffering. The musicians of the Nashville Symphony and Chorus convey the gravitas of Harbison’s epic work with a powerful sense of both sorrow and spontaneity. Chorus director Tucker Biddlecombe’s inspired choices of male and female voices – the powerful and incisive (solo) singing of Jessica Rivera (soprano), Michaela Martens (mezzosoprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor) and Kelly Markgraf (baritone) – and the ensemble performances, bring a passionate, soaring intensity to the antiphons, responsories and sequences, to produce an absorbing and inexorable service. Giancarlo Guerrero fixes his sights on the sheer drama of the proverbial solemn high mass and shepherds a program that swirls with sinewy energy heavy with the atmosphere of foreboding before its ultimate – even joyful – release of the final In paradisum. Raul da Gama Damask Roses – Art Songs by Mozart; Dvorak and Quilter Kira Braun; Peter Krochak Independent ( !! With Valentine’s Day approaching I enjoyed this lovethemed CD, the latest in a series of varied artsong programs by Canadian duo Kira Braun and Peter Krochak. A relative (niece/first cousin) of famed Canadian father-and-son baritones Victor and Russell Braun, soprano Kira demonstrates her own high standard. Here there are three song groups by different composers: Mozart (18th century, in German), Dvořák (19th century, in Czech), and Roger Quilter (early 20th century, in English). The opening three Mozart songs demonstrate the duo’s fine ensemble and Braun’s excellent diction and tone, though I would have liked to have heard even more charm and colour in both voice and piano. By contrast, the interpretations of four selections from Quilter’s Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op.12 are especially appealing, including the title song, Damask Roses. Braun’s pure soprano is attractive and she brings both restraint and conviction to Weep You No More and also to Quilter’s earlier Love’s Philosophy from Three Songs, Op.3. In both the Quilter lyrics and Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, Op.55 there are songs in a higher range, that she is quite equal to, adopting a fiery demeanor in Set the Fiddle Scraping that Krochak matches with lively piano accompaniment. Their version of the well-known Songs My Mother Taught Me is appropriately affectionate; they bring out Dvořák’s contrasts and distinctive touches in this set, making it one I’m pleased to be able to return to. Roger Knox I Carry Your Heart University of South Dakota Chamber Singers; David Holdhusen Navona Records nv6203 ( ! ! South Dakota? Isn’t this midwestern state most famous for its beautifully rugged landscape, including Mount Rushmore? Nevertheless, in light of this fine recording titled I Carry Your Heart, featuring the University of South Dakota Chamber Singers under the direction of David Holdhusen, it seems that South Dakota also has a vibrant choral scene. The USD Chamber Singers is the 80 | March 2019

institution’s premier vocal ensemble, having earned a reputation for high performance standards with a focus on a cappella repertoire. The ensemble presents formal concerts on campus each semester and its annual tours have taken the group to various parts of the United States and to Europe. From the opening track of the CD – the rousing South African folk-tune, Tshotsholoza – it’s clearly evident that the ensemble loves what it’s doing – what a jubilant and joyful sound! Yet it is not only the exemplary performing throughout the disc that makes I Carry Your Heart so attractive, but the carefully-chosen program – indeed, there’ s something for everyone. In addition to the uplifting spirituals such as Sit Down Servant and Ain’t That A-Rockin’ are compositions of a more serene nature such as Jonny Priano’s motet Sicut Cervus and Kenneth Lampl’s Dirshu Adonai, the latter a sensitive meditation with layered harmonies and rich tonal clusters. It is in pieces such as these that the choir’s fine melding of vocal ranges comes across so clearly. Several numbers also make use of vocal and instrumental soloists, thereby showcasing the high musical standards even further. My only disappointment is the absence of program notes – it would have been nice to have the texts, or at least some background material on the pieces. Yet this is a minor quibble and in no way mars a splendid performance. For lovers of a cappella choral music, I Carry your Heart is a delight. Richard Haskell CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Immortal and Beloved Gryphon Trio Analekta AN 2 9522 ( !! Shortly after Beethoven’s death, three letters to “meine unsterbliche Geliebte” (my immortal beloved), dated July 6/7 (1812), were discovered among his effects. Speculation about her identity has since abounded, with numerous suggested candidates. A 1994 British movie, Immortal Beloved, even portrayed her, absurdly, as his sister-in-law! Recent attention has focused on Countess Josephine von Brunswick, the secret dedicatee of Beethoven’s piano piece Andante favori. Carleton University professor James Wright (b.1959) has rearranged excerpts from the letters to compose a moving, memorable 15-minute cycle of three songs, Briefe an die unsterbliche Geliebte (Letters to the Immortal Beloved) (2012), quoting the opening of the Andante favori near the end of the third song. Canadian baritone David John Pike, accompanied by the Gryphon Trio, effectively expresses the hyper-emotional words of Beethoven’s desperate longing. These beautiful, heartfelt songs should be welcomed into the lieder repertoire, perhaps in a version for voice and piano alone. Pike, accompanied by Gryphon pianist Jamie Parker, also contributes a sensitive performance of Beethoven’s song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the Distant Beloved), another outpouring of longing for an absent lover. Filling 40 of this CD’s 70 minutes is the Gryphon Trio’s exuberant 2008 recording of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, needlessly reissued while still available on Analekta AN 2 9858. Surely, music not yet in the discographies of Wright, Pike or the Gryphon Trio would have been preferable. Nonetheless, Wright’s fervent song cycle definitely deserves repeated hearings. Texts and translations are included. Michael Schulman Schubert – Symphonies 1 & 6 B’Rock Orchestra; René Jacobs Pentatone PCT 5185 707 ( !! This new recording of Schubert’s First and Sixth Symphonies is René Jacobs’ first foray into the music of this composer and it certainly promises to be an exciting new adventure. Thus far I have been acquainted with the Belgian maestro as a distinguished interpreter of Baroque repertoire, but as is usually the case with extraordinary musical minds, they soon branch into the classics or even the Romantics. Schubert was the first love of my life and I grew up with the lush and graceful interpretations of German conductors, beautifully rendered with modern instrument orchestras. Little did I know that Schubert’s original scores were augmented by Brahms, so Jacobs’ principal aim is to restore authenticity with the original, leaner orchestrations with period instruments using the B’Rock Orchestra, a group of young enthusiastic and energetic players famous for their original approach to the classics. Notwithstanding some critics’ complaints about harsh sounds, extreme dynamics and sonorities of period instruments, we are amply compensated with how even the First Symphony, written by a mere teenager, dashes forth with such verve, fire, joie de vivre, brilliance and humour at the hands What we're listening to this month: Settling Up Simone Morris Debuting at #1 on iTunes' jazz charts, “Settling Up”, is the stunning new original album of soulful, sultry jazz singer Simone Morris. Hear what warmth sounds like. Volume 2 John MacMurchy's Art of Breath John MacMurchy leads ART OF BREATH, a group of Torontobased jazz musicians on a musical journey that crosses borders and traditions - highly accessible, yet sophisticated. Clock Radio Michael Davidson & Dan Fortin Clock Radio: the new duo album from vibraphonist Michael Davidson & bassist Dan Fortin, out now on Elastic Recordings The Walls are Made of Song Ladom Ensemble Ladom Ensemble combines piano, cello, accordion, and percussion in a unique blend of chamber and world music that is passionate, sophisticated, and wild. March 2019 | 81

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