3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020

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  • February
Visions of 2020! Sampling from back to front for a change: in Rearview Mirror, Robert Harris on the Beethoven he loves (and loves to hate!); Errol Gay, a most musical life remembered; Luna Pearl Woolf in focus in recordings editor David Olds' "Editor's Corner" and in Jenny Parr's preview of "Jacqueline"; Speranza Scappucci explains how not to reinvent Rossini; The Indigo Project, where "each piece of cloth tells a story"; and, leading it all off, Jully Black makes a giant leap in "Caroline, or Change." And as always, much more. Now online in flip-through format here and on stands starting Thurs Jan 30.

Aubade – Music by

Aubade – Music by Auguste Descarries Janelle Fung Centrediscs CMCCD 27519 ( !! The rarely performed and underrepresented Quebec composer, Auguste Descarries (1896-1958) is the focal point of a new solo disc by ambitious young pianist Janelle Fung. The composer’s piano sonata was only just given its premiere in 2017, 64 years after its composition! Fung has retrieved six of Descarries’ keyboard works from the proverbial dustbin of musical history, offering forthright and impressive attention to every last note on this recording. Descarries was an industrious pianist/composer, penning the Rhapsodie Canadienne for piano and orchestra in 1936. His style seems indebted to the Russian and French schools, further enhanced by an apparent meeting with Sergei Rachmaninoff and close relationship with Nicolai Medtner, (carried out during the 1920s). In the end, Descarries lived his latter days in Montreal, the city of his birth. Opening with the poetic, fantastical Serenitas, this album lures us into a seemingly familiar yet recondite soundworld. Romantic gesture and pastoral vignette meld in such offbeat North American pieces from a bygone age. Fung manoeuvres every turn and lyrical leap with virtuosic aplomb. Her eager, communicative style reveals a pianistic maturity. Such assuredness is most remarkable and one can only muse about Fung’s next projects and newfound devotions to unduly neglected keyboard works by Canadian composers. The sound quality itself is bright and vivid, the record expertly produced. The team behind the project runs an impressive list, complementing the fine liner notes and poignant artist statement from Fung. Adam Sherkin Poul Ruders Edition Vol.15 – Piano Concerto No.3; Cembal d’Amore, Second Book; Kafkapriccio Various Artists Bridge Records 9531 ( !! Illustrious Danish composer Poul Ruders seems to have been blessed with abiding compositional fluency. He pens work after work in a consistent outpouring of topnotch pieces, adding to a lifelong musical catalogue that is both communicative and compelling. A most recent album featuring his music for keyboard is no exception. With a rather eclectic mix of concerto, harpsichord/piano duo and operatic paraphrase, this record begins with Ruders’ newest piano concerto – the third – written in 2014. Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott tackles this demanding, mesmerizing single movement with her habitual panache. The dizzying acrobatics sound only a sheer delight under her steadfast command. Subtitled “Paganini Variations,” Ruders here takes a timeworn tune – long pillaged and mined by others – turning music afresh. Variation after variation offer up surprises, highlighting the mark of a true craftsman still at the height of his powers. Cembal d’Amore, Second Book (a duo for piano and harpsichord) from 2007 is perhaps more novel in its conception, at once celebrating the disparity and similarity between two keyboard instruments. Quattro Mani masters the blend and kinship of the diverse sound pallets throughout the eight movements. With the help of Ruders’ quicksilver, pugnacious score, this performance reaches an impressive benchmark, refined and exacting in its artistry. The work was commissioned by New York’s Speculum Musicae; it is feasible that not since Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto for piano and harpsichord (1961), has this unique instrumental combination been employed so successfully. Adam Sherkin Anna Höstman – Harbour Cheryl Duvall Redshift Records TK473 ( !! Composer Anna Höstman and Torontobased pianist Cheryl Duvall collaborate effectively on Harbour. Born in Bella Coola, British Columbia, now teaching at the University of Victoria, Höstman has earned significant residencies and performances. Her sense of the Pacific coastal environment is congenial, at least to my Vancouver-raised sensibilities. Also, I applaud her composing of the short, slow piano-left-hand piece, late winter (2019), for a musician whose right hand was temporarily disabled, having this condition myself and having done musical work with people with disabilities. In this composition, two recurring but long-separated high tones sound over a texture of arpeggiated chords. The note A becomes important, while one high E now recurs. Gradual change, peaceful though somewhat uneasy moods, and expertise with piano writing and sonority seem characteristic for this composer. There is much variety among other works: allemande (2013) begins sparely, reminding us of the voice. Subtle textural changes begin with two- or three-note sonorities, followed by register shifts and larger clusters. Harbour (2015) is full and more turbulent yet clearly layered – Duvall’s refined but powerful pianism brings sonorous appeal throughout this longer work. If we lose our way isn’t it enough to become attentive to sounds, allowing the piece to grow on us? darkness … pines (2010) begins with complex chords; later a few triads glint through. Yellow Bird (2019) moves fitfully, topped with high chirping; Adagio (2019) pulsates slowly. A disc to be experienced – gradually. Roger Knox Across the veiled distances – Music by Hope Lee Yumiko Meguri; Stefan Hussong Centrediscs CMCCD 27219 ( ! ! Canadian composer Hope Lee’s unique music with its self-described ancient Chinese influences is heard in four piano compositions and one piano/accordion duet from four decades (1979-2017). Brilliant Japanese pianist Yumiko Meguri performs Lee’s technically challenging, dramatic works perfectly. The four-section Across the veiled distances (1996) is part of a larger multimedia project inspired by a Marguerite Yourcenar short story based on Chinese legend. Played as one movement, the loud chordal opening leads to mystical musical conversations between the hands, with ringing string resonances, trills and contrasting driving and reflective repeated notes. The more atonal new-music-sounding Dindle (1979) opens with very soft percussive banging, followed by contrasting dynamic chords, pitches and single lines separated by silent spaces. These same ideas resurface in Lee’s later piano work in o som do desassossego (2015). In Entends le passé qui march (1992), recorded sound files add unique sound and exact time dimensions to the intense live piano part. In 2017’s Imaginary Garden V. (renewed at every glance) – part of a seven-section chamber piece for unusual instruments – superstar German free bass accordionist Stefan Hussong joins Meguri. Effective use of each instrument’s inherent qualities can be heard in such soundscapes as a piano percussive marching riff against longheld accordion tones, accordion held-note swells and vibratos against piano high note lines, accordion air button-created whispers and simultaneous two-instrument high pitches. Across the veiled distances provides a great, in-depth cross-section of Lee’s piano works. Tiina Kiik 68 | February 2020

VOCAL Vivaldi – Musica sacra per alto Delphine Galou; Accademia Bizantina; Ottavio Dantone Naïve Vivaldi Edition Vol.59 ( !! Unlike Bach and Handel, Vivaldi’s instrumental works continue to be better known and more frequently performed than his vocal and choral music, though this imbalance is slowly being rectified. History is partly to blame for this, as even the renowned Gloria was only reintroduced in 1939; but Vivaldi is now considered a versatile and highly innovative composer of vocal music, a reflection of his ambition to become a universal composer who excelled in every aspect of his art. One significant contributor to the propagation of Vivaldi’s vocal music is the Vivaldi Edition, an ambitious project to record 450 of the Italian composer’s works, many of them unknown. Musica sacra per alto is volume 59 in their collection and features four sacred pieces for alto with orchestral accompaniment, ranging in size from small-scale mass segments lasting only a few minutes (such as the two introdutioni, which resemble solo motets in a form unique to Vivaldi) to the fivemovement Salve Regina. Contralto Delphine Galou and the Accademia Bizantina give convincing performances of each work on this disc, whether a languid aria or compelling allegro, uncovering the distinctly Vivaldian characteristics on the page and translating them into spectacular sounds. Although the material may be unfamiliar to many listeners, the style is unmistakable and this disc provides a fine example of why Vivaldi’s reputation as a composer of vocal music is continuing to grow, due in large part to the work of organizations such as the Vivaldi Edition. Matthew Whitfield Mozart – Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail Soloists; Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala; Zubin Mehta Cmajor 752008 ( !! This production is a replica of a 1965 Salzburg performance designed by famous Italian director Giorgio Strehler which was so successful that the audience refused to leave the theatre. Since then it has been revived periodically and now again to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the director’s death. A young firebrand, Zubin Mehta, conducted then and now, at age 80, is conducting it again. It certainly lives up to expectations: an impressive, monumental and symmetrical set bathed in sunlight suggests an atmosphere of dreaminess. The singers are lit alternately from the front and the back creating silhouettes as if we are watching a shadow play such as was fashionable in the Vienna of 1782 when this singspiel, Mozart’s first breakthrough success, was premiered. There is strong artistic control over all elements, e.g. costumes, colours, carefully choreographed movements and gesticulations, all coming together beautifully; the mark of a great director’s work. The crowning achievement however is the singers and they all are of the highest quality. First and foremost, Dutch soprano Lenneke Ruiten, as Konstanze, is simply unbelievable in the three concert arias that follow one another and culminate in the magisterial, defiant and very difficult Martern aller Arten, sung with sustained, powerful high notes and without any trace of vibrato. This is a focal point of the opera, photographed from every possible angle, conductor’s included; it’s worth buying the video for this one aria alone. Swiss tenor Mauro Peter as Belmonte, her lover, is a revelation. He is referred to as a ”real discovery, a classic Mozartian tenor with warmth and style.” And there is Osmin, the basso profundo malevolent palace guard portrayed hilariously by Tobias Kehrer. An eye candy of a production. Janos Gardonyi Rossini – Ricciardo e Zoraide Soloists; Coro del Ventido Basso; Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Della Rai; Giacomo Sagripanti Cmajor 752608 ( !! The Barber of Seville, La Cenerentola, La Gazza Ladra – familiar Rossini titles, but La Gazzetta? Ermione? Bianca e Faliero? All these, along with Ricciardo e Zoraide, were among the 14 operas emerging from Rossini’s conveyor belt during his busiest four years, 1816-1819. Most were soon forgotten amid this superabundance; Ricciardo e Zoraide, here making its DVD debut, was unperformed for almost 150 years until its revival at the 1990 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Rossini’s birthplace. Agorante and Ircano are warring kings in medieval Nubia. Agorante lusts after his captive, Zoraide, Ircano’s daughter, who What we're listening to this month: across the veiled distances Hope Lee A new album of Hope Lee’s compositions from the past four decades (1979-2017) and featuring pianist Yumiko Meguri, and accordionist Stefan Hussong – contemporary music interpreters extraordinaire. La mince ligne Tertio "With its eloquent, lyrical and well-though-out jazz, Tertio is a revelation to be shared." Ariane Cipriani, ICI Musique, CBC Resonance Stick and Bow The Canadian cello-marimba duo Stick & Bow presents their debut album, offering 21 refreshing and unexpected original arrangements of Bach, Radiohead, and more. Sonia Johnson Chrysalis “...listening to this music feels like opening an ornate box to reveal hidden gems.” Raul da Gama, The Whole Note, Concert: Hugh’s Room, Toronto, Feb. 2nd February 2020 | 69

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