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Volume 24 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2019

  • Text
  • Orchestra
  • Listings
  • Concerts
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • August
  • Toronto
  • Festival
In this issue: The Toronto Brazilian bateria beat goes on; TD Jazz in Yorkville is three years young; Murray Schafer's earliest Wilderness forays revisited; cellist/composer Cris Derksen's Maada'ookkii Songlines to close Luminato (and it's free!); our 15th annual Green Pages summer music guide; all this and more in our combined June/July/August issue now available in flipthrough format here and on stands starting Thursday May 30.

and members of Les Six,

and members of Les Six, embracing the modernist styles of Paris as a welcome change from the conservative scene in his homeland. Evidently the young Polish virtuoso pianist and composer made quite an impression and forged a career in the neo-Classical style. The trio here, in its premiere recording, dates from 1938, the year before Tansman fled Europe to escape the Nazi invasion. He spent the war years in Los Angeles where he scored a number of Hollywood films and in 1946 he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, for Paris Underground. He returned to France after the war, and although some of his later works reflect his Polish and Jewish roots, he never moved back to his homeland. Andrzej Czajkowski (André Tchaikovsky) was born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer in 1935. He adopted his later name after escaping the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 with his grandmother and remained in hiding for the remainder of the war. After completing piano studies in Łódź, Warsaw and Brussels, in 1957 he gave a series of successful recitals in Paris and later went on to record with some of the who’s who of conductors of the day, including Böhm, Doráti, Giulini, Mitropoulos and Reiner. He also had some composition lessons with Nadia Boulanger and wrote a number of works that have begun to be acknowledged in the current century, including the opera The Merchant of Venice which was not produced until 2013, some three decades after his death. This is the world premiere of the two-movement Trio Notturno, Op.6 which dates from 1978. Also first performed posthumously, it is reminiscent of Viennese Expressionism, particularly the music of Alban Berg. The members of the Wajnberg Trio – Piotr Sałajczyk, piano, Szymon Kreszowiec, violin and Arkadiusz Dobrowolski, cello – share a passion for the life and music of their namesake and draw their repertoire primarily from 20th-century Polish composers. The trio made its debut at the 2016 edition of the Tansman Festival. This is their first recording and a very welcome addition to my understanding of the modern piano trio repertoire. The Shank-Hagedorn Duo – Leslie Shank, violin and viola; Joseph Hagedorn, guitar – is a Minneapolis-based wife-and-husband team for whom much of the music on At Home and Abroad (innova 021 innova.mu) was composed. Although innova is the label of the American Composers Forum, not all the composers represented on this disc are American. Among the most intriguing works presented are Three Pieces by Finnish free-bass accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, arranged by Hagerdorn. The first, Slingerdansin, is jig-like with many characteristic “hookings” in the violin part which does a convincing Hardanger fiddle impersonation. Tähdet Taivahalla is a mournful ballad. I enjoyed watching Kalaniemi perform the original version on YouTube, and I find this string transcription quite convincing. Sofias Flykt returns to the world of quirky fiddle rhythms. I was dancing in my seat until I was confounded by its complexity. American David Lang composed gift as a belated wedding present to “one of his oldest friends, Leslie.” It’s a lovely, gentle and contemplative tribute. Alf Houkom says there is “no program for Serenade, neither narrative, emotional or theoretical. Serenade is simply acknowledgement of the pleasure evinced by Leslie and Joe when making music together.” Born in 1935, David Hahn is a generation older than the rest of the composers here. His playful W Is for Weasel dates from 2003 and is in four movements, including an Estampie in alternating seven-eight and five-eight time inspired by the early medieval dance form, and a set of variations on Pop! Goes the Weasel. Chilean guitarist/composer Javier Contreras contributes Suite for Violin and Guitar in six movements, each embodying a different Latin American dance rhythm. For the opening track, Music in Four Sharps by Ian Krouse, the guitar and violin are joined by Stephanie Arado, violin, Tom Turner, viola, and Laura Sewell, cello, to complete the string quartet required for an extended exploration of John Dowland’s Frog Galliard. Like in the original, Krouse uses no accidentals, sticking with the seven notes of the E-Major scale; hence the title. Personally I found the 15-minute duration longer than I wanted to devote to those seven notes, but I must commend him for staying in the character of the piece. We invite submissions. CDs, DVDs 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 STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS The UK’s Benyounes Quartet members celebrate ten years of performing together with Innovators: Bartók-Beethoven- Debussy, a CD featuring three quartets that they feel were both innovative and influential (Champs Hill Records CHRCD147 champshillrecords.co.uk). Bartók’s String Quartet No.2 was written between 1915 and 1917 and clearly shows the direction in which his folk music studies were leading him. In this case it was not only his research in Hungary but in particular a 1913 visit to North Africa to record Arab and Berber music that was clearly a major influence. Beethoven’s String Quartet No.11 in F Minor Op.95 “Serioso” is from 1810; the shortest of his quartets, the sense of struggle and drama is enhanced by the unusually condensed and tense nature of the musical argument. Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor Op.10 is from 1893 when he was first starting to become known in Paris, and already serves notice on how his harmonic colouring would transform French music and set a new path for the 20th century. There’s impassioned playing throughout, with electrifying pacing, outstanding dynamics and superb individual and ensemble playing. All six Bartók quartets are available on Bartók Complete String Quartets in performances by the Romanian Arcadia Quartet (Chandos CHAN 10992(2) naxosdirect.com). The quartet members, who live in Transylvania, a region that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the Great War and proved a fertile ground in Bartók’s folk music research, feel that the folk music influence goes beyond merely providing compositional material here, citing even the most abstract moments in the quartets as ones when the listener is “carried away into a world of mysticism, magic and philosophical reflection.” Their playing is consequently more contemplative and perhaps less abrasive than that of the Benyounes, but is no less committed for that. It’s clearly music that has a deep significance for this ensemble. The four extant string quartets of the Swedish composer Dag Wirén (No.1 was withdrawn) are presented on Wirén String Quartets 86 | June | July | August 2019 thewholenote.com

Nos.2-5 in performances by the Wirén Quartet (Naxos 8.573588 naxos.com). String Quartets No.2, Op.9 from 1935 and No.3, Op.18, completed in 1945, both support the composer’s stated aim to write music “which appealed directly to rather than challenging the listener,” although No.3 reflects Wirén’s extensive revision of his compositional technique. String Quartet No.4, Op.28 from 1953 is a darker work with shades of Shostakovich and Sibelius, while No.5, Op.41 from 1970 was written only a few years before Wirén’s retirement as a composer, its three short movements ending with an air more of resignation than celebration. The German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann was 28 when Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 but, unlike many artists, stayed in Germany, refusing all cooperation with the Nazis and virtually guaranteeing his exclusion from official German musical life. The two string quartets which bookended his life in this period, String Quartet No.1 “Carillon” from 1933 and String Quartet No.2 from 1945-48 are featured on Hartmann with Poland’s Airis String Quartet (Accord ACD 245-2 naxosdirect.com). Replete with allusions to a variety of influences (jazz elements, Jewish melodies and Hungarian folk music, especially that of Bartók) the music is essentially tonal but so strongly chromatic that a key centre rarely seems established. They’re quite different and strikingly individual works, redolent of stress and anxiety in time of conflict. In 1942 Hartmann studied with Anton Webern, and the latter’s quite lovely Langsamer Satz from 1905 completes the CD. In 1938 Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the first page of what turned into his String Quartet No.1 in C Major Op.49 as an exercise with no intention of finishing it. Captivated by the process, however, he completed the full quartet in less than two months. It’s included on Shostakovich String Quartets Nos.1, 2 & 7, the latest CD from the UK-based Carducci String Quartet (Signum Classics SIGCD559 naxosdirect.com). The String Quartet No.2 in A Major Op.68 from 1944 is a much larger and more ambitious work, but it’s the terse String Quartet No.7 in F-sharp Minor Op.108 from 1960 that despite its brevity (just over 12 minutes) has the most typical Shostakovich quartet sound. The Carducci Quartet has performed complete cycles of the Shostakovich quartets and has previously recorded quartets numbers 4, 8 and 11 for Signum Classics. It’s not clear if this new release is part of an ongoing complete recording of the cycle, but such a set would be warmly welcomed. If you only know the music of Henryk Górecki from the astonishingly successful Dawn Upshaw recording of his Symphony No.3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs then the music on Górecki Complete String Quartets 1 (Naxos 8.573919 naxos.com) may come as something of a shock. Górecki wrote three quartets for the Kronos Quartet: No.1 Op.62 “Already it is Dusk” in 1988; No.2 Op.64 “Quasi una fantasia” in 1991 and No.3 Op.67 . . . songs to be sung in the mid-1990s. The first two, along with the early string trio Genesis I: Elementi Op.19, No.1 from 1962 are performed with full-blooded commitment by the UK’s Tippett Quartet. The single-movement first quartet and – in particular – the string trio are a tough listen, the booklet notes referencing extended playing techniques, assaultive gestures, note clusters, chord sequences of real vehemence and writing that exploits the timbral extremes of the ensemble. The four-movement Quartet No.2 is more accessible, with clear influences of Beethoven and Shostakovich, but the familiar juxtaposition of consonance and dissonance is still present. The Nordic String Quartet is the ensemble in Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen Complete String Quartets Vol.1 (Dacapo 8.226217 naxosdirect.com), world premiere recordings of the first six of the Danish composer’s 14 quartets written between 1959 and 2013. The works are predominantly quite brief. The first three are all from 1959: String Quartet No.1 is a single-movement Andante of less than nine minutes; the four movements of No.2 “Quartetto Facile” total less than 12 minutes; No.3 “Five Small Studies” doesn’t reach five minutes – small studies indeed! String Quartets No.4 (1967), No.5 “Step by Step” (1982-86 revised 2003) and No.6 “Parting” (1983) are all single movements ranging from six to 19 minutes in length. The music is difficult to describe, but touches on a wide range of influences – Bartók, Stravinsky, serialism, minimalism, Ligeti – while always maintaining an individual character. It will be interesting to hear what the later quartets are like. Volume 2 of Apotheosis: Mozart, the Alexander String Quartet series of the late chamber works and featuring the Piano Quartets, was reviewed here last October, but Volume 1 The Final Quartets has only just been released (Foghorn Classics FCL2016 foghornclassics.com). The four works on the two-CD set are the String Quartet in D Major K499 “Hoffmeister” and the three Prussian Quartets in D Major K575, B-flat Major K589 and F Major K590. The quartet’s violist Paul Yarbrough describes the works as having “beauty, clarity, communication of the highest order, and – above all – balance.” It’s also an excellent description of the simply lovely playing here. Volume 3 – the Clarinet Quintet and the String Quintets – promises to be a terrific conclusion to an outstanding series. In the meantime, Germany’s Klenke Quartett is joined by violist Harald Schoneweg on Mozart The String Quintets, a quite beautiful three-CD issue that sets a very high standard (Accentus Music ACC80467 accentus.com). Having already recorded the complete Mozart string quartets, the Klenke Quartett saw the recording of the six quintets – No.1 in B-flat Major K174, No.2 in C Minor K406, No.3 in C Major K515, No.4 in G Minor K516, No.5 in D Major K593 and No.6 in E-flat Major K614 – as a logical continuation. Phrasing, the use of vibrato, and articulation are based on historically informed performance techniques, and contribute to the ensemble’s superb clarity, sensitivity and an innate understanding of the richness and wide-ranging emotional moods of these wonderful works. The New Zealand String Quartet is joined by violist Maria Lambros in Brahms String Quintets Nos.1 and 2, a recording that completes their three albums of Brahms chamber music for Naxos (8.573455 naxos.com). The quintets, No.1 in F Major Op.88 from 1882 and No.2 in G major Op.111 from 1890, thewholenote.com June | July | August 2019 | 87

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
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Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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