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Volume 24 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2019

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  • Orchestra
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  • August
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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.

While such lofty

While such lofty platitudes are most often reserved for the more famous symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms, Schubert’s music can be equally inspiring, as evidenced here. Presented alongside his Romantic Italian Overture in D Major and captured in 2017 at the Concert Hall of the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen, this 2019 release is a welcome addition to the collections of Schubert fans everywhere wanting to expand their knowledge of his music beyond lieder. Andrew Scott Doppler Discoveries – Flute Compositions by Franz and Carl Doppler András Adorán; Emmanuel Pahud; Jan Philip Schulze; Arcis Hornquartett Farao Classics B 108104 (farao-classics.de) !! Brothers Franz (1821-1883) and Carl Doppler (1825-1900), their era’s leading flute virtuosi, worked chiefly in the urban centres of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Both were engaged as flutists in major orchestras, toured Europe as soloists, and were successful conductors and composers of recital repertoire, opera and ballet (mostly in Budapest). They hobnobbed with music celebrities of the day like Liszt and Brahms. Then, sadly, they were all but forgotten. Until well past the mid-20th century the Doppler name was virtually unknown save for classical flute players. Due to research begun in the 1970s by the Hungarian flutist András Adorján however, that neglect has begun to be remedied. Adorján’s discoveries challenged the longheld misconception that a Doppler flute composition consisted of hackneyed paraphrases and facile variations. But when he found Franz Doppler’s unpublished Double Concerto for two flutes, the work proved so attractive that it immediately became part of the standard repertoire. Seven such Doppler compositions, featuring one or two flutes, played by renowned flutists Adorján and Emmanuel Pahud, grace the Doppler Discoveries album. The works are delightful and the playing aptly brilliant. The biggest revelation for me is how convincing the three Hungarian-themed works are, reflecting the Dopplers’ deep engagement with Hungarian vernacular music and society of the mid-19th century. I typically choose a favourite track or two in my CD reviews. On this album that isn’t possible: they’re all terrific. Just try not to smile while listening to two of today’s crack flutists revive long-lost scores by those fascinating Dopplers. Andrew Timar Tchaikovsky; Dvořák – Serenades Archi di Santa Cecilia; Luigi Piovano Arcana A 457 (naxosdirect.com) !! Nice surprise, hearing again my two favourite Serenades for strings back to back on a single disc, the Dvořák E Major and the Tchaikovsky C Major. These two are probably the most beautiful of the genre that began with Mozart and later, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. Serenades are light symphonies, with less complex structures, written for entertainment like divertimentos with the emphasis on melody. I first heard the Dvořák at a concert with a very young István Kertész conducting in Budapest around 1954, but not even once ever since, so it comes back as an old friend, opening with a heavenly melody one hears and never forgets. The five movements vary in mood, tempo and dynamics, each bursting with gorgeous, fresh melodies and even a Czech folk tune in the presto Finale, ending in a festive spirit. The Tchaikovsky is a masterwork of the first order with an all-pervasive melancholy and one of Tchaikovsky’s bestloved waltzes as its second movement. The virtuoso strings amazed me particularly in the first movement’s polyphonic intricacy and the third movement Elegy, so heartrending one could cry. The boisterous Russian dance Finale bounces along with energy and excitement. This superb new recording by Archi di Santa Cecilia, formed from the best string players of Rome’s famous Santa Cecilia Orchestra and led by an equally talented conductor, Luigi Piovano – and how! He delves into the music with body and soul and I imagine the orchestra moves with him and his every gesture. A tremendous rapport, like hypnosis, that only a Gergiev, Ozawa, Solti or the great Karajan could muster. Highly recommended. Janos Gardonyi Bruckner – Symphony No.4 “Romantic” Philharmonia Zurich; Fabio Luisi Philharmonia Records PHR 0110 (opernhaus.ch) !! Great Bruckner conductor Sergiu Celibidache once put a question to his conducting class: “Why is the second scherzo different from the first scherzo?” Only one student knew the answer: “Because we already heard the first scherzo.” Well, Fabio Luisi certainly kept this in mind in his new recording of Bruckner’s Fourth as the scherzo repeat brings many surprising, previously unheard details like birdcalls, strange little chirpings on the woodwinds and other bells and whistles.The famous “Hunt” Scherzo, rarely sounded better. The Zurich brass is gorgeous, the Ländler Trio graciously shaped. A real auditory adventure. I first came across Fabio Luisi as principal conductor of the Met when he bravely took over their revolutionary Ring project in 2011 after James Levine became ill. So it’s not surprising, being also an outstanding interpreter of Italian opera, that his approach to Bruckner is essentially melodic. This becomes immediately apparent in the secondary theme of the first movement which is lovingly handled and sings so beautifully. Right at the outset the emerging horn theme from the near inaudible tremolo of strings creates a mystical atmosphere, and the crescendo at the end of the movement is carefully paced to a resounding Brucknerian brass peroration. This is a very relaxed reading; the tempo is slow, which helps to uncover all the wonderful details the conductor brings to attention, such as after the tremendous climax in the second movement when everything calms down, all is quiet with only the tympani pounding softly like a heartbeat and the horn quietly answering. It’s pure magic. Beautifully detailed, gorgeous modern sound, eloquent and gracious Bruckner. Janos Gardonyi Camille Saint-Saëns – Symphony No.2; Danse macabre; Symphony in F Utah Symphony; Thierry Fischer Hyperion CDA68212 (hyperion-records.co.uk) ! ! Is Camille Saint-Saëns an undervalued or unjustifiably obscure composer? An answer is proposed in the recording and accompanying liner notes released by the Utah Symphony under Thierry Fischer. The argument presented suggests both are true, with the second being attributed to the fact that his later compatriots such as Fauré (student of the master) and Debussy gathered more attention while his own material was overlooked by conductors and thus by the musical public. His elder, Berlioz, famously summed up the young composer thus: “He knows everything, he lacks inexperience.” Two symphonies form substantial brackets to a rousing rendition of Danse macabre (with violin soloist Madeline Adkins). Symphony No.2 in A Minor, Op.55 opens the disc. At just under 23 minutes, the work is modest, beautifully structured and completely delightful. The scherzo movement is what Saint-Saëns should be known for, wit and agility. 92 | June | July | August 2019 thewholenote.com

Saint-Saëns no doubt felt that seriousness and long-windedness were the province of the Germans, or maybe he was atoning for the heavy-handedness of his previous effort: Symphony in F Major “Urbs Roma” (the subtitle was the pseudonym required by the terms of the competition in which it was entered). This is a more ponderous work, nearly double the length of Symphony No.2 and lacking the inspired brevity of the latter. One almost hears the composer ticking the boxes beside all the elements he knew would sway a jury on Bordeaux, and he was right; the piece took the prize, but remains on the shelf today. Max Christie Sibelius 1 Orchestre Metropolitain; Yannick Nézet- Séguin ATMA ACD2 2452 (atmaclassique.com/En) !! Jean Sibelius was still under the influence of Tchaikovsky when he wrote his Symphony No.1 in E Minor Op.39, but these Russian overtones coexist with assuredly individualistic orchestral textures and themes. At the very opening, for example, in a highly original stroke, a clarinet over a gentle timpani roll introduces the main theme, which achieves its apotheosis at the climax of the finale. In the second movement the debt to Tchaikovsky is clearly revealed in the way the languidly mournful opening theme is developed prior to the stormy climax. An emphatically rhythmic Scherzo reveals another influence: Bruckner, a composer whose music Sibelius had first encountered in Vienna in 1890. The finale, marked quasi una fantasia, veers between frenzied agitation and a grandly refulgent big tune in which the strings predominate. As this disc reveals, in the right hands the First Symphony can be an extremely exciting work. Yannick Nézet-Séguin seems to give notice that he is one of the great Sibelians of the contemporary era, as he finds just the right level of energy. His control of the mood and poetics of the work – its gradations of bleakness and majesty – is affecting. As the symphony unfolds the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, for its part, responds with a brilliance that is never forced. Raul da Gama Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1; Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony Elina Vähälä; Johanna Winkel; Michael Nagy; Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Liebreich Accentus Music ACC 30470 (accentus.com) !! Many recordings that include the Violin Concerto No.1 by Karel Szymanowski (1882-1937) or the Lyric Symphony by Alexander Zemlinsky (1871- 1942) are now available. This Polish CD features idiomatic orchestral playing of the Szymanowski; also, its particular pairing points up what the two composers have in common. French-Impressionism-influenced exoticism, romance and fantasy figure in their works, and both set Rabindranath Tagore poems from the same translation (Szymanowski in Four Songs, op. 41). Violinist Pawel Kochański’s 1915-16 collaboration gave Szymanowski great confidence; here, the resulting concerto’s fiery virtuosity and sensual melodies receive nuanced, secure treament from Elina Vähälä. By contrast, Anne Akiko Meyers’ 2017 Avie recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra features more assertive bowing and tone, with a broader sweep to lyrical passages and the cadenza. Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony (1923) includes seven Tagore settings, presenting a love affair’s successive moods. In the central fourth movement (“Speak to me...”), Johanna Winkel’s soprano is magical, its long tones suspended over a soft ostinato plus harp and celeste glissandi. Michael Nagy brings a powerful, attractive baritone to the following riposte, “Free me ...,” whose swagger fails to mask underlying despair. I find the Polish National RSO orchestra led by Alexander Liebreich excellent; the recorded sound, however, needs more instrumental definition, as in the Orchestra de Paris version (Capriccio, 2007) conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. Still, for those whose collection lacks these two works, this Accentus disc would be a valuable addition. Roger Knox MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Francis Poulenc – Kammermusik Ensemble Arabesques; Paul Rivinius Farao Classics B 108103 (farao-classics.de) !! Certain composers of the 20th century were determined to complete cycles of works for all of the orchestral wind instruments. Paul Hindemith largely succeeded, Carl Nielsen fell short of his intention to write a concerto for each member of the Danish Winds, and Francis Poulenc gave the world a wealth of pieces for all of them. His contributions are given a representative sampling on this disc featuring the wind quintet Ensemble Arabesques, joined by the excellent Paul Rivinius on piano. The largest work (from 1932, revised 1939) is the Sextet for Winds and Piano. In it you’ll hear echoes and precursors of material Poulenc used in all of his smaller ensembles, notably of his final three wind sonatas: for Flute (1956), Clarinet (1962), and Oboe (1962). He intended to add a sonata for bassoon, but died shortly after completing the oboe work. The sextet is full of fun, played with sparkle and élan, but also with the disguised melancholy found in the three later works. Like Matisse’s paper cutouts, Poulenc’s pieces can seem like collages of recurrent musical gestures and tropes, and his forms repeat through most of these pieces. For my money, naturally, the clarinet sonata is the most beautiful, played here by Gaspare Buonomano. The second movement is heartbreaking and so simple. Buonomano’s rendition is understated, elegant and respectful of the music, though sadly not without the clarinet’s most vexing pitch peccadilloes. Eva Marie Thiébaud’s flute sonata is utterly fine; likewise Nicolas Thiébaud on oboe. Max Christie The Happiness Handbook Instruments of Happiness Starkland ST-232 (starkland.com) ! ! Tim Brady is internationally recognized as a leading experimental guitarist and a prolific composer of chamber, orchestral and music theatre works. He writes, “For over 30 years I have been exploring a new approach to the electric guitar, a vision as both a composer and a guitarist. Instruments of Happiness [IOH] is … the next step in this evolution.” Leader of IOH groups, Brady considers the guitar an “instrument of happiness,” and he gave that title to the electric guitar ensembles he formed as a platform for his wide-ranging music projects. IOH performs in three formats: as a 100-piece electric guitar orchestra rendering site-specific new works; as a 20-piece ensemble; and as a quartet performing new compositions. It’s the last configuration we hear on The Happiness Handbook in premiere recordings of works by six Canadian composers: Brady, Jordan Nobles, Scott Godin, Maxime McKinley, Gordon Fitzell and Emily Hall. The music on the album reflects many of Brady’s own musical interests. These include contemporary classical, experimental and thewholenote.com June | July | August 2019 | 93

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
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