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Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Composer
  • Arts
  • Quartet
  • Festival
  • Symphony
  • 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.

composer who was himself

composer who was himself a world-class violist. They are often strident and dissonant, but there is more than enough lyrical and tonal writing to make them compelling listening. Rodolfo plays with a deep, rich tone and a commanding technique in performances that hold you from beginning to end. On Edge of Youth, her first recording for the Sono Luminus label, violinist Janet Sung presents a program of works that she feels were significant in her development of a more mature musical voice (DSL-92230 sono-luminus.squarespace.com). Two 20th-century masterpieces – George Enescu’s astonishingly original Impressions d’enfance Op.28 and Benjamin Britten’s early Suite for Violin and Piano Op.6 – are paired with three recent compositions: Missy Mazzoli’s Dissolve, O My Heart (2011) and Gabriel Prokofiev’s Sleeveless Scherzo (2007), both for solo violin; and Dan Visconti’s Rave-Up for violin and piano (2012). William Wolfram is the excellent pianist in the duo pieces. Sung’s technique and musicianship are quite superb, hardly surprising for someone who studied with both Josef Gingold and Dorothy DeLay. Four violin sonatas from the middle of Mozart’s canon are featured on Mozart sonates pour piano et violon, with violinist Mi-Sa Yang and pianist Jonas Vitaud (Mirare MIR420 mirare.fr). The two Sonatas in E Minor K304 and D Major K306 are from the six sonatas finished in Paris in 1778 and known as the Palatine Sonatas, while the two Sonatas in G Major K379 and E-flat Major K380 are also from a set of six, the Viennese sonatas of 1781. There’s a lovely balance here, with a clear, resonant sound. Yang’s tone is warm and sensitive with a judicious use of vibrato, and there is equally fine playing from Vitaud. The two Palatine sonatas feature particularly strong playing, with excellent articulation and intelligent nuance. The CD doesn’t appear to be intended as part of an ongoing series, but as a one-off with almost 80 minutes of music it’s certainly a very worthwhile release. Fini Henriques Works for Violin and Piano features 21 short pieces plus two multimovement collections from the period 1899-1923 by a composer who was one of the most popular Danish musical figures of his time. Violinist Johannes Søe Hansen and pianist Christina Bjørkøe are the performers on Denmark’s national record label (Dacapo 8.226151 naxos.com). Henriques enjoyed a stellar career as a virtuoso violinist, and clearly knew how to write for his instrument. He was at his most effective with short recital pieces, the excellent booklet notes describing him as “almost unrivalled in his ability to compose small pieces with a sharp characterisation – works with charm and warm-heartedness.” And they are exactly that – lovely works, light but never trivial, and beautifully played and recorded on an absolutely delightful CD. Joseph Haydn String Quartets Op.71 is the excellent new CD from Scotland’s Maxwell Quartet (LINN CKD 602 naxosdirect.com). The quartet’s perceptive booklet notes make it clear that they have a strong affinity for Haydn’s quartets, and it really shows in warm, sympathetic performances of the quartets No.1 in B-flat Major, No.2 in D Major and No.3 in E-flat Major. Each quartet is followed by a “Scottish epilogue” – Gaelic folk and fiddle tunes by the likes of James Scott Skinner and Niel Gow, arranged by the quartet members and with one written by Maxwell violinist George Smith. It’s an extremely effective addition, fully supporting the ensemble’s view that “just like Haydn’s quartets, this is music that is capable of speaking to everyone.” All in all, a lovely CD. The three string quartets of the Czech composer Karel Kovařovic (1862-1920) were never published, the source material for the world premiere recordings of The Complete String Quartets by the Czech Stamic Quartet being the manuscripts in the National Museum – Czech Museum of Music in Prague (Supraphon SU 4267-2 supraphon.com). There is much to remind you of Smetana and Dvořák here, so consequently much to enjoy, from the 17-year-old composer’s Quartet No.1 in D Major from 1879, through the substantial Quartet No.2 in A Minor from 1887 (dedicated to Dvořák and admired by him) to the unfinished Quartet No.3 in G Major from 1894 – there is no fourth movement and the third remains incomplete but performable. The Stamic Quartet was formed in 1985 – the second violin and viola are original members – and is clearly in its element here on a generous (at over 80 minutes) and beautifully played and recorded CD. Poland’s Ãtma Quartet chose relatively brief but engrossing works by three 20th-century Polish composers for their debut CD, Penderecki Szymanowski Panufnik String Quartets (CD Accord ACD 252-2 naxosdirect.com). Karol Szymanowski’s Quartet No.2 Op.56, written in 1927 for a Philadelphia competition (it lost out to quartets by Bartók and Casella) was actually the first he completed. Its three movements total less than 18 minutes, but it’s a very attractive work amply demonstrating the composer’s distinctive style and sound. Andrzej Panufnik’s Quartet No.3 Paper-Cuts from 1990 is even shorter at less than 11 minutes despite having five sections which explore various aspects of string playing. Krzysztof Penderecki’s Quartet No.3 Leaves of an Unwritten Diary is a single-movement but episodic work lasting 18 minutes. The performances of these fascinating works are top-notch on a very impressive debut album. Classical guitarist Raphaël Feuillâtre, the winner of the 2018 Guitar Foundation of America Competition, is simply outstanding in a recital of transcriptions and original works on the Naxos Laureate Series (8.574127 naxos.com). The transcriptions are of works by Ariel Ramírez, Rameau, Scriabin and Rachmaninov, with Feuillâtre’s own transcription of the Granados 8 Valses poéticos particularly dazzling, while the original works are by Agustín Barrios Mangoré, Heitor Villa-Lobos and – a particularly virtuosic showpiece – Miguel Llobet Solés’ Variations on a Theme of Sor, Op.15. Feuillâtre’s playing is technically superb – clean, sensitive and nuanced, and with a sense of style and phrase to match the virtuosity. There’s a complete absence of left-hand noise in the resonant recording, engineered and produced by the always reliable Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver in Florida. 60 | September 2019 thewholenote.com

Keyed In Beethoven & Liszt Piano Concerti No.1 Jae-Hyuck Cho; Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Adrien Perruchon Sony Classical S80403C (amazon.com) !! The most recent collaboration on disc between pianist Jae-Hyuck Cho and conductor Adrien Perruchon directing the Royal Scottish National Orchestra offers first piano concertos by both Liszt and Beethoven. This recording exhibits poise, candour and marked esteem for the wellworn music at hand. Cho approaches Beethoven’s youthful first piano concerto with a Haydnesque profile, achieving this with his own earnest brand of pianism, both tactile and circumspect. The lighter side of Beethoven’s early period is revealed here, as is the German composer’s debt to neoclassical attributes such as a Mozartian savvy for crafting melodic lines. Cho’s faithful – at times predictable – reading of the score contains just enough bravura to affirm that we are experiencing a concerto. With conductor Perruchon’s background as both percussionist and bassoonist, one hears vividly planned out orchestral accompaniments, laser-precise and metrically refined. This kind of rhythmic cultivation is what Leon Fleisher so often refers to as performative “irresistibility,” and Perruchon’s orchestra and Cho’s keyboard both seem to have it in ample measure. Crisp and carefully wrought woodwind lines squint through the textures in classical and Romantic scoring alike, with Perruchon’s prizing of oboe and bassoon parts enhancing this effect. With affectionate, palpable exchange between soloist and conductor, (especially in the Liszt concerto), this disc is also aided by a notably high standard of audio recording. Producer Michael Fine and engineer Jin Choi are to be applauded for such a balanced and crystalline achievement. Adam Sherkin Liszt – 12 Etudes d’exécution transcendante; 2 Etudes de concert Sheng Cai ATMA ACD2 2783 (atmaclassique.com) ! ! Sheng Cai is a Canadian pianist with a growing international reputation. The playing on this disc is remarkable. In Franz Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes (1852), what stand out are clear voicing, fine control of dynamics and a sense of expressive freedom. For example, in Paysage (No.3) pacing is flexible and there are several grades of softness. Ricordanza (No.9) opens with comparable expressiveness in movement and dynamics but on an expanding scale, meeting this longer work’s more dramatic and extreme demands. In other words, Cai is fully up to the Etudes’ diverse challenges! We haven’t yet considered that he successfully matches such technical demands as the fearsome leaps in Mazeppa (No.4), the colouristic intricacies of Feux follets (No.5), or the tremendous approaching storm tremolos in Chasseneige (No.12). Throughout the disc, effective groupings of pedalled notes and precise phrase cut-offs are among the ways this pianist has avoided the banging and noisiness I have heard in some well-known artists’ Liszt renderings. Through the artist we meet the composer, and I have enjoyed Liszt’s humour in the characterization of the Eroica (No. 7) and the composer’s artistry with what seem like painters’ brush strokes in Waldesrauschen (Forest Murmurs), one of the Two Concert Etudes (1862-63) also included on this recording. Do not fear for lack of variety among all of these etudes, no two are alike and Cai makes the listening experience a distinct pleasure. Roger Knox Donna Voce (Fanny Mendelssohn; Amy Beach; Clara Schumann; Cecile Chaminade; Lili Boulanger; Chia-Yu Hsu) Anna Shelest Sorel Classics n/a (sorelmusic.org) !! It is unfortunate that to record an entire album featuring beautiful and stylistically diverse music from a well-chosen program of women composers is still, in 2019, an inherently political statement, but here we are. Unlike both piano playing and pedagogy which have long been gendered activities coded as “safe” or “acceptable” entrees into the music business for women, historically composition was seen as the realm of men. Upon occasion, as featured on the recording, some who are related to better known male figures (i.e. Fanny Mendelssohn’s brother Felix and Clara Schumann’s husband Robert) were allowed to “dabble” in the form, but not encouraged, nor taken particularly seriously. Anna Shelest, a Ukraine-born pianist who graduated from Juilliard and who currently lives in New York City, is a wonderfully expressive and talented musician who unites these composers, some of whom are separated by multiple centuries, with her deft touch and clear lyricism on this Sorel Classics release. Partially, this is exploration of lost histories, in the sense that some of this music has not been given its rightful place in canon of Western art music due, undoubtedly, to antiquated views on what constituted “acceptable” activities for married women (in the case of American composer Amy Beach); patriarchally established family responsibilities that curtailed artistic practice and output (Clara Schumann) and outright sexism masquerading as musical criticism (Cécile Chaminade, who was undermined in a New York Post review of her 1908 Carnegie Hall recital that stated, in part, “on the whole this concert confirmed the conviction held by many that while women may someday vote, they will never learn to compose anything worthwhile,” this recording is no mere historical exercise. Through Shelest’s clear musicality and performance prowess, Donna Voce is an extremely musical and satisfying contemporary classical release that will hopefully (and deservedly) present this collection of music, as well as Shelest’s many talents, to a wide audience of listeners around the world. Andrew Scott Artur Schnabel – Complete Works for Solo Piano Jenny Lin Steinway & Sons 30074 (steinway.com) !! Some wonders will never cease, as evidenced by the latest Steinway & Sons disc of Artur Schnabel’s Complete Works for Solo Piano with pianist Jenny Lin. That’s right: Artur Schnabel, composer. Amongst the great 20th-century pianists, Schnabel was the first to record the entire cycle of Beethoven sonatas, a practice now well-entrenched – and a yardstick oft’ attained – by numerous keyboardists on a regular basis. But the legacy of Schnabel’s pianism remains sacrosanct, as does his pedagogical lineage. So then, how well-perceived is his compositional output? Not well, it would seem. Consequently, Steinway & Sons and intrepid pianist Jenny Lin “aim to correct this imbalance of perception.” thewholenote.com September 2019 | 61

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
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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