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Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Composer
  • Arts
  • Quartet
  • Festival
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  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • September
Vol 1 of our 25th season is now here! And speaking of 25, that's how many films in the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival editor Paul Ennis, in our Eighth Annual TIFF TIPS, has chosen to highlight for their particular musical interest. Also inside: Rob Harris looks through the Rear View Mirror at past and present prognostications about the imminent death of classical music; Mysterious Barricades and Systemic Barriers are Lydia Perović's preoccupations in Art of Song; Andrew Timar reflects on the evolving priorities of the Polaris Prize; and elsewhere, it's chocks away as yet another season creaks or roars (depending on the beat) into motion. Welcome back.

the Jasper String

the Jasper String Quartet’s “decade-long journey with Aaron Jay Kernis’ music for string quartet… [during which] we realized his special voice and our connection to his music’s ability to capture both the complexity of the world and the simplicity of the moment.” Having recorded Kernis’ first quartet, paired with Beethoven in 2011 and his second, paired with Schubert the following year, the Jaspers commissioned Kernis to write a third, which he subtitled “River” and completed in 2015. The American composer (b.1960) says it “is a significant departure from my earlier two quartets, which looked to the distant past for form and inspiration. Instead, this new work dispenses with classical structure and influences almost completely, touching continually on processes of change and flux.” That being said, it is an extended work lasting more than 35 minutes and showing the influence of both Beethoven’s Op.131, particularly in the sombre Cavatina fourth movement, and Bartók’s String Quartet No.4, with “night music” aspects in both the second movement Flow/Surge and third Mirrored Surface – Flux – Reflections, and from which it takes its five-movement form. I have mentioned the overlap of literature and music in my life, and I was intrigued to read in the program note to this quartet that it was influenced by two books that both had a profound effect on me: Jean- Christophe by Romain Rolland, and My Struggle (actually a series of six books) by Karl Ove Knausgaard. First read at an age when “3/4 of the [Rolland] book would’ve been incomprehensible to me,” Kernis says that the central image of the Rhine River and “its inexorable flow” were indelibly etched in his memory. “While the Romanticism of the book does not have any parallel in the music at all, its intense emotions do, and the River and its continual movement became central to the conceptualization of my work.” Regarding My Struggle, Kernis says it was “vitally influential for my musical processes… The book sets forward the trajectory of one man’s life, the flow of the quotidian along with meditations on the psychological underpinnings of the center of existence.” As with Schumann’s Carnaval, knowledge of the backstory is not essential to enjoyment of the work. I listened to this compelling piece a number of times before I read the liner notes and discovered the serendipitous connection to my own life interests. The companion piece is a beautifully nuanced performance of one of my favourite pieces of music, Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor Op.10. As an amateur cellist I’m proud of the fact that I’ve advanced to the stage where I can reasonably attempt, and obtain satisfaction from, performing with friends some of the great chamber works that influenced me in my formative years. This has included trios, quartets and quintets by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Borodin, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, and even a few movements from the modern canon by Ravel, Webern, Shostakovich and sometime WholeNote contributors Colin Eatock and Daniel Foley. One that I’ve not yet tried is this Debussy quartet, and I’d like to thank the Jaspers for inspiring me to rectify this situation in the near future. Incidentally, although I don’t see any mention of a Canadian connection in the members’ biographies, the group, which was formed at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, takes its name from Jasper National Park in Alberta. 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 much-anticipated second and final volume of the Beethoven String Quartets Op.18 (Nos.4-6) in groundbreaking performances on period instruments by Toronto’s Eybler Quartet is finally here, and it was well worth the wait (CORO Connections COR16174 eyblerquartet.com). Beethoven’s metronome markings, viewed by many as impossibly fast, have long been the subject of heated debate, and the Eybler’s decision to take them head-on and see what they revealed created quite a stir when the first volume was released last year (reviewed here in April 2018). The astonishing speed of some of the movements had some reviewers shaking their heads even while acknowledging the brilliant playing, Gramophone going so far as to call it – in a not entirely negative way, given the wit and humour the Eybler Quartet found in Beethoven’s writing – “straight-up hilarious.” The three works on this second volume don’t seem quite as radically fast, perhaps because our ears know what to expect this time, but the performance standard remains consistent – technique, clarity, intonation and ensemble playing are all stunning in performances full of depth and life. Violist Patrick Jordan’s intelligent and insightful booklet notes add a great deal to an understanding of the performance approach, in particular his illuminating comments on tactus, the sense of a relatively steady and consistent pulse within a movement. It’s not often that you encounter performances that challenge your preconceptions and radically and permanently change how you hear certain core repertoire works, but this indispensable set does exactly that. When he was a student in 1960s’ Moscow, Gidon Kremer frequently saw and heard the composer and pianist Mieczysław Weinberg in performance although, despite his interest in composers negatively affected by Soviet ideology, he never met him. Kremer has done more than most in recent years to promote Weinberg’s music, and now adds a personal contribution with his brilliantly successful arrangements for solo violin of Weinberg’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello Solo, Op.100 (Accentus Music ACC 30476 naxosdirect.com). The preludes, written in 1969 but only premiered in 1995, were dedicated to Rostropovich, who never played them. They are complex pieces full of quotations from works in Rostropovich’s repertoire as well as referencing other composers and folk songs. The transfer from cello to violin apparently presented few major challenges, Kremer noting that “only a few of the pieces needed to be put into a different tonality.” His superb performance befits such a towering achievement, one which is a monumental addition to the solo violin repertoire. The young Japanese violinist Moné Hattori was only 16 when she recorded her astonishing debut CD. Released in Japan in late 2016 it has now been given a world-wide release on International Classics 58 | September 2019 thewholenote.com

Artists (ICAC 5156 naxos.com). It features outstanding performances of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 in A Minor Op.77 and Franz Waxman’s Carmen- Fantasie with the Deutsches Symphonie- Orchester Berlin under Alan Buribayev. Hattori is dazzling in the Waxman and is quite superb in a commanding performance of the Shostakovich. She has a sumptuous tone, flawless technique, emotional depth and physical strength, and wrings every drop of emotion from this deeply personal work. Hattori has been active mostly in Japan and Asia, although she is making inroads in Europe this year. She is clearly one to watch. duo 526, the pairing of Canadian violinist Kerry DuWors and Japanese pianist Futaba Niekawa, is in fine form on Duo Fantasy, a CD featuring works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Arnold Bax and William Bolcom (Navona NV6231 navonarecords.com). Villa-Lobos’ Sonata Fantasia No.2 was completed in 1914 although not published until the early 1950s. It’s a lovely work that reflects many of the musical influences of the period. The English Bax is represented by the substantial four-movement Violin Sonata No.2, completed in 1915 and revised in 1920. It’s another very attractive and compelling work, full of contrast and with much writing of great beauty. Bolcom’s Duo Fantasy from 1973 is exactly what you would expect from this wonderfully eclectic American musician – a kaleidoscope of popular styles leading to a quite unexpected ending. DuWors plays with a commanding combination of strength, sweetness and brightness, fully supported by Niekawa’s rich, expansive piano playing. On Hindemith Complete Works for Violin & Piano violinist Roman Mints and pianist Alexander Kobrin give quite superb performances of the four violin sonatas – in E-flat Op.11 No.1 and in D Op.11 No.2 (1918), in E (1935) and in C (1938) – together with the Trauermusik from 1936, the Meditation from the ballet Nobilissima Visione (1938) and the Sonata for Viola d’amore and Piano, “Kleine Sonate” Op.25 No.2 from 1922 (Quartz QTZ 2132 quartzmusic.com) Mints in particular plays with tremendous strength, power and brilliance in music that clearly has special meaning for him. The Sonata in D was “the first window into contemporary music” for the 13-year-old Mints; later Hindemith was his ”window into Romantic music” and the composer continues to hold a special place in Mints’ heart. It’s certainly difficult to imagine better performances of these fascinating works. There’s more terrific Hindemith playing on Hindemith Sonatas for Viola Solo by the Spanish violist Jesus Rodolfo (IBS Classical IBS52019 naxosdirect.com) The three numbered Sonatas for Viola Solo – Op.11 No.5 (1919), Op.25 No.1 (1922) and Op.31 No.4 (1924) – together with the Sonata for Viola Solo from 1937 are challenging and extremely difficult works by a LUDOVICO EINAUDI SEVEN DAYS WALKING THE COMPLETE COLLECTION September 27 th thewholenote.com September 2019 | 59

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
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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