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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.

Susan Fancher) to

Susan Fancher) to Partita No.3, BMV1006 and Sonata No.3 BMV1005. The players’ bright sound and clean articulation show how wellsuited the saxophone is for Baroque music. Camwell shows his mastery of many forms with the other pieces, including Robert Muczynski’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, Op.29. Throughout the two movements, Andante Maestoso and Allegro Energico, he combines a muscular technique with a light and effervescent sound through the entire range of the instrument, including altissimo passages. Three larger works round out the album, one with wind ensemble, another with chorale and the final work, Russell Peterson’s Concerto for Flute, Alto Saxophone and Symphonic Band. The variety of music from different centuries, and with such diverse instrumentation, makes this album a real saxophone tour de force! Ted Parkinson Hommage to Women Composers The Piano Duo of Iris Graffman Wenglin & Ruth Lomon Navona Records nv6254 (navonarecords.com) !! The duo of pianist/lecturer Iris Graffman Wenglin and composer/ pianist Ruth Lomon had been performing traditional two-piano programs when they came up with the idea of playing works by women composers, music that was usually difficult to find and seldom performed. When Lomon was in London, she began to research works, and this project took off. Recorded in 1976 and 1978, and remastered in 2017, this fruit of the duo’s labours features pieces by 11 women composers from the Romantic era to the late 20th century. Two Clara Wieck Schumann piano solos played by Graffman Wenglin set the stage for future tracks. Highlights include Barbara Pentland’s Three Piano Duets After Pictures by Paul Klee (1958) featuring spaces and rhythmic attacks interspersed with lyric sections. I love Lomon’s composition Soundings for Piano Four Hands (1975) which lives up to its title with wide-ranging atonal piano effects like low ringing lines against higher tones, virtuosic chords and leaps. Thea Musgrave’s Excursions (1965) has eight under-one-minute car-driving movements like the bumpy rhythmic The Drunken Driver, the lyrical relaxing The Sunday Driver and the accented heavy chord Backseat Driver. Compositions by Tailleferre, Talma, Gideon, Richter, Fontyn, Ptaszynska and Ran complete the collection. Graffman Wenglin and Lomon are spectacular musicians, both individually and as a duo. They completely respect and understand the diverse styles, technique, ensemble playing and compositional intricacies of each piece and of each other’s musicianship. This timeless recording is a wonderful memorial to Lomon who died in 2017. Tiina Kiik MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY George Antheil – Symphony No.1; Suite from Capital of the World etc. BBC Philharmonic; John Storgårds Chandos CHAN 20080 (chandos.net) !! This is the third in a series of invaluable volumes devoted to the orchestral works of the notorious “Bad Boy of Music,” the pistol-packing composer, pianist, inventor, author and occasional glandular advice columnist, George Antheil (1900- 1959). A protégé of Ernest Bloch, he left America in 1920 in hot pursuit of his then girlfriend whose mother had banished to Paris, in an attempt to discourage their relationship. It proved a lucky break for him, for upon his arrival his piano recitals were soon lionized by the intellectual elite of the capital. He cemented his European reputation in 1926 with the literally riotous premiere of what will always remain his best known work, the sensational Ballet Mécanique for multiple pianos and percussion. Alas, the clouds of war gradually intervened and he returned to a less-than-impressed America, ending up in Hollywood scoring obscure movies. Of the shorter pieces on this disc the opening McKonkey’s Ferry Overture of 1948 is a boisterous depiction of George Washington’s celebrated crossing of the Delaware River at a site not far from Antheil’s birthplace of Trenton, New Jersey. The Golden Bird is a delicately scored fragment of chinoiserie, derived from a 1922 piano piece. The waltzing Nocturne in Skyrockets dates from 1951, while the Capital of the World suite is a vividly coloured, Latin-tinged anthology from Antheil’s 1952 ballet score. The most ambitious work on offer is Antheil’s First Symphony from 1922, an impressive declaration of patriotic American nostalgia which received only a partial premiere by the Berlin Philharmonic but was not heard again until the beginning of this century. It’s quite a winning work, polystylistic in the extreme with a little something for everyone to enjoy. Antheil was an expert and innovative orchestrator whose timbral flair is vividly brought to life by the enthusiastic ministrations of John Storgårds and his expert BBC ensemble. Daniel Foley Messiaen – L’Ascension; Le Tombeau Resplendissant; Les Offrandes Oubliees; Un Sourire Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich; Paavo Järvi Alpha-Classics.com ALPHA 548 (naxosdirect.com) !! To celebrate Paavo Järvi’s appointment as their new music director, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich has released this admirable collection of early orchestral works by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), a composer demonstrably dear to Järvi’s heart. The disc begins with Le Tombeau resplendissant (1931), a lesser-known work that reflects a crucial time in Messiaen’s life; it bears an unsettling autobiographical program note that begins, “My youth is dead: it was I who killed it.” Perhaps feeling it was too personally revealing, he withdrew the work from his catalogue for decades. It was eventually published in 1997. This is followed by the transcendent “symphonic meditation” Les Offrandes oubliées (1930), one of his most successful works in this genre. Notably absent in the works of the 1930s, Messiaen’s preoccupation with birdsong is front and centre, alternating with retrospective hymnal passages reminiscent of his earlier style, in the late Un sourire (1989), which premiered December 5, 1991, as Messiaen’s exquisite contribution to the bicentenary of Mozart’s death. The recording concludes with the original orchestral version of the lengthy, supremely Catholic devotional tone poem L’Ascension – Quatre méditations symphoniques (1932/33); the later 1934 version, with a different third movement, is a well-known crown jewel of the organ repertoire. Järvi maintains an excellent command of the orchestra throughout. The dense harmonies projected by the Zürich strings are sublime and expertly balanced, the percussion section is impressively resonant and solo passages are outstanding. A very fine job indeed by the recording team, sourced from live performances from January and April 2019. Daniel Foley Ginastera – Harp Concerto Op.25 Sidsel Walstad; Norwegian Radio Orchestra; Miguel Harth-Bedoya LAWO LWC1182 (naxosdirect.com/) ! ! Astor Piazzolla may be more celebrated a musical figure in contemporary Argentina, but Alberto Ginastera is perhaps its most exalted 74 | February 2020 thewholenote.com

composer. His career spanned almost 50 years (1934-1983). Through all three phases – objective nationalism, subjective nationalism and neo-expressionism – Ginastera remained the greatest exponent of the Argentinean gauchesco tradition which holds that the gaucho – a native, landless horseman – is the icon of Argentina. In the last decade or so of his life, the composer’s appeal was so great, his influence stretched into many musical styles including jazz and so-called progressive rock. The selections on this disc, featuring harpist Sidsel Walstad and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Miguel Harth- Bedoya, are emblematic of Ginastera’s great gift for creating epic compositions that evoke Argentinean music and dance traditions. These he skillfully integrated into classical forms contemporaneous with the 20th century. Romanticism is never very far away, of course, and this is clear from both Harp Concerto, Opus 25 and the 12 Variaciones concertantes, Op.23. Both Walstad and the orchestra deliver fine performances of two of Ginastera’s eminently paradigmatic works. Walstad’s playing is eloquently dreamy and distinctively ripe in tone. Her performance, based on the 1968 revision (also performed by Nicanor Zabaleta), is scintillating. The orchestra, under Harth-Bedoya’s baton is stunning. What musicians across the board deliver is startlingly fresh and alive. Raul da Gama Heitor Villa-Lobos – Guitar Concerto; Harmonica Concerto Manuel Barrueco; José Staneck; OSESP Ensemble; São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Giancarlo Guerrero Naxos 8.574018 (naxos.com) !! The composer Heitor Villa-Lobos is to Brazil what Bach and Beethoven are to Germany, Liszt is to Hungary and Chopin to Poland. Uniquely, Villa-Lobos also became the cellist who played many other instruments, including guitar, on which he achieved a remarkable facility. Virtuosity across many instruments also became one of Villa-Lobos’ strong suits. Burle Marx, the conductor and close friend once asked Villa- Lobos if there was anything he did not play. “Only oboe,” was the reply; but when the two met shortly afterwards, Villa-Lobos was well on his way to mastering that instrument too. Villa-Lobos’ Guitar Concerto was commissioned by Andrés Segovia in 1951; (performed in February 1956). It is different from the bright colours and seductive melodies of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. But it is highly virtuosic, emotional, and explores a range of techniques including glissandi, arpeggiation and harmonics. The Harmonica Concerto is emblematic of Villa-Lobos’ cross-instrument virtuosity. The appropriately numinous Sexteto místico is imaginatively poetic and the rhapsodic and sensual Quinteto instrumental is typical of the composer’s ability to communicate with feverish Brazilian passion. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Giancarlo Guerrero is in exquisite form throughout as is the OSESP Ensemble. The warmth of guitarist Manuel Barrueco’s playing – like his tone and touch – is eminently suited to Villa-Lobos’ work. Harmonica wizard José Staneck’s performance is utterly unforgettable for his ability to communicate Brazilian saudade on so tiny, albeit exquisitely chromatic, an instrument. Raul da Gama Christopher Tyler Nickel – Music for Woodwind Choirs Various Artists Centrediscs CMCCD 27019 (cmccanada.org) !! The two large works on this CD, both composed in 2017, are Suite for Two Oboes and Two English Horns and Symphony for Flute Choir. Each is performed by a group of superb Canadian musicians, conducted by Clyde Mitchell, music director of the Lions Gate Sinfonia and former associate principal horn in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. The performances are, to my ears, flawless and vital. Nickel’s music is full of life: imagination, invention, variation – a deep understanding of the craft of composition. The artistry, for example, of the opening movement of the Suite, is evident from the first notes: the same note played three times on the English horns, to which the oboes reply with a five-note motif on three pitches. This is just the beginning of a journey, which leads us through an episode of melodic development and several contrapuntal episodes – in the complexities of which we never feel lost – and then back to a satisfying recapitulation. This is composition at its best – arresting and masterful. The Symphony for Flute Choir brings comparable invention: in the first movement Nickel develops what sounds like an atonal theme – an engaging one – into 12 minutes of music, always interesting and all derived from this one short theme. In the second movement I was struck by Nickel’s extraordinary melodic flair, a satisfying blend of repetition and variation. I hope there will be live performances of these wonderful works in the not-toodistant future! Allan Pulker Detach Angela Schwarzkopf Redshift Records TK472 (redshiftrecords.org) !! Often, new music, as much as that term is understood within the worlds of jazz or art music, is put forward to provoke, to be forward thinking, or to be purposefully progressive. Among the many adjectives most frequently used to describe this interesting genre, beautiful and serene are, arguably, not often heard. That is, however, not the case with Detach, the debut recording from Toronto-based harpist Angela Schwarzkopf on Redshift Records. Her sublime instrumental touch and skillful manipulation of dynamics successfully draw in and activate listenership. With the extremely capable accompaniment featuring vibraphonists Michelle Colton and Étienne Levesque, Schwarzkopf highlights and bring to life a number of compositions by new and notable contemporary Canadian composers Monica Pearce, Cecilia Livingston, Patrick Arteaga, Mark Nerenberg, Elisha Denburg and Kevin Lau. There is an intriguing programmatic arc to this recording. After an initial bold musical statement, Detach moves slowly and gently through the rest of Pearce’s attach/detach before traversing a tremendous terrain of harmonic and rhythmic complexity. Compositional nuance and sophistication abound, as well as wide-ranging dynamics, before ending, after a 15-minute tour de force reading of Lau’s Castles in the Sand, with an arpeggiated cascading melodic line on solo harp. This recording is indeed progressive, forward thinking and modern, but it is simultaneously engagingly listenable, melodic and beautiful. Congratulations to the Ontario Arts Council for having the good sense to support these important voices in contemporary Canadian music, and to Schwarzkopf and the vibraphonists for creating such a fine recording. Picking up on the hopeful success of this debut, I trust there will be more to come. Andrew Scott Zosha Di Castri – Tachitipo Various Artists New Focus Recordings FCR 227 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! ! Right from the beginning of her career, Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri has been stirring up great enthusiasm – and some controversy. thewholenote.com February 2020 | 75

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)