Views
3 months ago

Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020

  • Text
  • Faculty
  • Performing
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • December
  • January
  • Toronto
Welcome to our December/January issue as we turn the annual calendar page, halfway through our season for the 25th time, juggling as always, secular stuff, the spirit of the season, new year resolve and winter journeys! Why is Mozart's Handel's Messiah's trumpet a trombone? Why when Laurie Anderson offers to fly you to the moon you should take her up on the invitation. Why messing with Winterreisse can (sometimes) be a very good thing! And a bumper crop of record reviews for your reading (and sometimes listening) pleasure. Available in flipthrough here right now, and on stands commencing Thursday Nov 28. See you on the other side!

Old Souls Gili

Old Souls Gili Schwarzman; Guy Braunstein; Susanna Yoko Henkel; Amihai Grosz; Alisa Weilerstein Pentatone PTC 5186 815 (naxosdirect.com) !! This recording of four works, transcriptions of two solo violin pieces and of two string quartets, in which flutist Gili Schwarzman plays the solo part in the solo pieces and the first violin part in the quartets, presents the reviewer with the double challenge of considering both the arrangements and the performances. The arranger is Guy Braunstein, a former concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and now a soloist, conductor and arranger. He is also Schwarzman’s husband. His skill as an arranger, deeply informed by his knowledge of the violin, is formidable. The first composition on the disc, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.4, is a masterful orchestration for flute and string quartet. Braunstein did not merely assign the notes of the piano part, according to their pitch, to the corresponding instruments, but rewrote it for string quartet. One could be forgiven for assuming that it was an original composition by Beethoven himself. The performances are energetic and nuanced, models of musical artistry. My favourite moment in the entire CD is the second movement of Dvořák’s String Quartet Op.96, which sounds absolutely natural played on the flute. The long, languorous melodic line, as played by Schwarzman, is never rushed and at the same time, never loses energy. So it is great having this recorded new take on some well-known chamber music. Now let us hope that Braunstein’s arrangements will be published. Allan Pulker Antonin Dvořák – Locale Alexander String Quartet; Joyce Yang Foghorn Classics FCL 2020 (foghornclassics.com) !! If I was asked to describe Dvořák’s chamber music, I would say it has the characteristics of an abundant ball of energy, the one that brings joy no matter what and is enriched by the occasional touch of Slavic melancholy. The Alexander Quartet and Joyce Yang seem to be particularly attuned to that joy – here is a recording of exuberant energy and vitality that never crosses the line of being too much. The “American” quartet is probably one of the most beloved pieces in the chamber music repertoire and it shares a number of similar elements with the Piano Quintet Op.81, thus making it a perfect pairing for this album. Although they were written some years apart and on different continents, both pieces are wonderful creations of a showcase of rhythms, dramatic gestures and, above all, memorable melodies, all of which are tastefully presented by the artists on this album. What I find the most pleasurable is the intricate tapestry of textures created by the Alexander Quartet. Their playing brings forth the elegance and lavishness of 19th-century Europe yet it does have a slight contemporary edge in terms of expression. Joyce Yang is on fire here – she displays a perfect interpretational balance between virtuosic agility and grandiose statements so typical for piano music of the Romantic period. Together they make this recording unapologetically exciting. Ivana Popovich Mahler – Symphony No.10 Lapland Chamber Orchestra; John Storgårds BIS BIS-2376 SACD (bis.se) !! When Gustav Mahler died in 1911 at the age of 50 he left behind sketches for his tenth and final symphony. Of the five movements, we have Mahler’s full scores of the first and third movements with the remainder in an abbreviated short score format. These preliminary sketches, skeletal though they may be, define the entire melodic structure of the work. In this sense Mahler’s final testament is less unfinished than unrealized. It was not until the mid-1920s that efforts were made to bring the symphony to light with the publication of Ernst Krenek’s edition of the first and third movements and the release of a facsimile edition of the sketches. Numerous subsequent efforts have been made to refine the other three movements; the most successful of these has proved to be the “performing version” by Deryck Cooke first heard in 1960. Over 30 recordings of the complete work in various versions have been issued since. This new chamber orchestra arrangement, by the Maltese conductor and musicologist Michelle Castelletti, is an exceptional accomplishment, quite brilliantly executed by the phenomenal John Storgårds and his Lapland Chamber Orchestra. I was initially quite skeptical that an orchestra of a mere 24 players (single woodwinds, a lone trumpet and horn, 14 strings, piano, harmonium, harp and percussion) would prove adequate to convey the impact of the 100 musicians Mahler normally employed. I was mistaken; even in these reduced circumstances the pathos of Mahler’s message still shines through in Storgårds sublime interpretation. This ranks as one of the most exciting and accomplished performances I have heard in my lifetime of terminal Mahleria. Daniel Foley Inspirations Buzz Brass Analekta AN 2 8776 (analekta.com/en) !! Canada’s renowned Buzz Brass ensemble presents “brand new transcriptions of major works” from celebrated composers Antonín Dvořák, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie. Victor Ewald’s Quintet No.3 in D-flat Major (Op.7) is the only work on this disc originally intended for brass. Inspirations is an attractive recital with each of four gems in this repertoire being polished to a glittering sparkle. This is the work of two Québécois arrangers, François Vallières and Hugo Bégin who – judging by these inspired re-imaginings – certainly ought to be better known than they might be in Québec. The imaginative arrangement of Satie’s Gymnopédies ought to be proof enough. But if there needs to be further evidence of highly original musical transcriptions, there is also proof in the transformations of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major (Op.35) and Dvořák’s String Quartet No.12 in F Major “American” (B.179). All are highly creative re-arrangements; wholly satisfying both structurally and expressively. The Buzz Brass parley with the familiarity of old friends, yet their playing always retains the sense of gracious etiquette associated with noble academies for which this music was no doubt originally intended. Nothing is forced, exaggerated or overly mannered; tempi, ensemble and balance all seem effortlessly and intuitively right. The brass sound is lucid. These are, in sum, sincere and poised accounts, a fitting tribute to the faultless character of the original music of the composers. Raul da Gama MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY New Jewish Music Vol.2 Lara St. John; Sharon Azrieli; Couloir; Orchestre classique de Montreal; Boris Brott Analekta AN 2 9262 (analekta.com) ! ! This Analekta release of new orchestral works features the powerful musical abilities of the Orchestre Classique de Montréal under 90 | December 2019January 2020 thewholenote.com

the internationally respected Canadian conductor Boris Brott. The disc centres around the Azrieli Foundation’s prizes for newly created works. Two prizes are awarded: The Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music – recognizing an existing work – and the Azrieli commission for Jewish music, an initiative created to encourage composers to critically engage with the question of “What is Jewish music?” The first piece on the disc – the premiere performance of En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All is One) by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy – is a tour de force of orchestral imagination. Murphy is clearly a confident orchestral writer and it shows in this piece. The work is scored for solo harp, cello and orchestra, and Murphy expertly delivers a fine example of the concertante idiom. This piece represents the results of the 2018 Azrieli Commission Prize and features B.C. duo Couloir, Heidi Krutzen (harp) and Ariel Barnes (cello), as soloists. The 2018 Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music was awarded to the Israeli-born composer Avner Dorman for Nigunim – a violin concerto in four movements. Dorman writes highly idiomatic and playful passages for the soloist answered by equally light dances and trifles in the orchestra. This work makes for an excellent showpiece for the soloist, Lara St. John in this instance, while not being overly dramatic in the virtuosic sense. Last on the disc is a new recording of Seven Tableaux from the Song of Songs by the late Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick. This music is lyrical and melancholy. Glick had a particular affinity for creating an emotional painting with his music without being overtly sentimental. Soprano soloist Sharon Azrieli performs this work with stunning colour and musical prowess. Adam Scime James O’Callaghan – Alone and Unalone Ensemble Paramirabo Ravello Records rr8020 (ravellorecords.com) !! While listening to music one might consider, “I like these sounds” or “I like how this music moves forward.” While neither of these thoughts can provide an adequate basis for the judgement of artistic value, the latter says more than the former and also comes closer to being such a basis. One might say that “I like how it goes” captures a feature fundamental to music’s being good at a level less abstract than that of the experience of it being intrinsically rewarding. When listening to the highly personal, compelling and frankly compulsory environments created by Canadian composer James O’Callaghan, one invariably approves of how it sounds and how it goes. In this release of works written especially for the Montrealbased Ensemble Paramirabo, the “I like how it goes” nature of the music connects the listener with the absolutely crucial notion of following music with anticipation – but also with harmonious and welcomed disassociation. With titles such as subject/object and Alone and unalone, there is a certain amount of obfuscation – delivered on an abstract level – but also literally, as admitted by the composer himself in an effort to provide a conceptual motivation of the “transference of concrete sound into abstraction, returned to the conditions from which they were derived.” While the musico-philosophical liminality of this music would make for interesting discussion, one can’t help but simply appreciate the raw and unfettered imagination produced by O’Callaghan’s manner of putting pen to page, and with the electronic aspects of the works, world to speaker. The ensemble brings a high amount of musical excellence and an intimate bravura to this recording – a testament to their ongoing commitment to O’Callaghan’s music. Bravo to all. Adam Scime Origins Duo Kalysta Leaf Music LM226 (duokalysta.com) !! Flutist Lara Deutsch and harpist Emily Belvedere first met when collaborating in 2012 at McGill University. Since then Duo Kalysta has been playing chamber music to artistic acclaim, as demonstrated by this clearsounding release recorded in Montreal. TSO harpist Judy Loman’s colourful flute and harp arrangement of Claude Debussy’s Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune opens the CD. The flute beginning catches the listener’s attention, with sparkling arpeggiated harp, dreamy flute and astounding tight ensemble playing in the more rubato sections. Two Canadian compositions follow. R. Murray Schafer’s three-movement Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp (2011) has violist Marina Thibeault joining them. Freely, flowing has melodic lines with changing volumes, tempi and note lengths creating the soundscape. The sonic space of Slowly, calmly is highlighted by long atmospheric viola notes doubled by the flute underneath. Dance-like Rhythmic is like listening to a musical story with viola plucks, high-pitched flute, harp flourishes and abrupt stops in a race to the end. Composer Jocelyn Morlock notes that her two-movement Vespertine (2005) refers to night-blossoming plants and nocturnal animals. Twilight presents musically darker colours with longer phrases and more independent parts. Verdigris is performed with sweetly delicate harp staccato lines and contemplative flute notes, bird-like trills and higher notes. Violinist Alexander Read, violist Thibeault and cellist Carmen Bruno add an orchestral feel to André Jolivet’s Chant de Linos (1944), an intense, dramatic composition highlighted by impressive flute playing. Here’s to a promising musical future! Tiina Kiik Finding Your Own Voice Gidon Kremer Accentus Music ACC20414 (naxosdirect.com) ! ! In the September WholeNote, Terry Robbins reviewed the CD of Gidon Kremer’s recording of the late Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 24 Preludes to a Lost Time, Op. 100. Written for solo cello, Kremer plays his own transcription for solo violin. Robbins concluded that “His superb performance befits such a towering achievement, one which is a monumental addition to the solo violin repertoire.” Accentus Music has since issued a DVD of that unique performance and we now see Kremer spotlit alone on the dark stage in the Gogol Centre in Moscow. Behind him in the darkness is a theatre-size, rear-projection screen on which, at appropriate times, are seen original images from the 1960s taken by photographer Antanas Sutkus. Each selected photograph illuminates the mood of the particular prelude being played, often stark, sometimes sad, sometimes amusing but so appropriate. Genius. The documentary, Finding Your own Voice, is a film by Paul Smaczny that is a totally engrossing biography of Kremer and his world of music. It revolves about music that embraces Kremer’s life and we hear and see him with musicians including conductors and composers whose music touches him. Listen in as he discusses passages in rehearsals with the likes of Arvo Pärt and others. There are so many thought-provoking observations and philosophical reflections that one may be immediately prompted to watch it again in case you missed something. Whether or not you are a Kremer fan, you will get a lot out of this unusual and illuminating film. Bruce Surtees thewholenote.com December 2019January 2020 | 91

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 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

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)