3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020

  • Text
  • Composer
  • Performing
  • Arts
  • Faculty
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
FEATURED: Music & Health writer Vivien Fellegi explores music, blindness & the plasticity of perception; David Jaeger digs into Gustavo Gimeno's plans for new music in his upcoming first season as music director at TSO; pianist James Rhodes, here for an early March recital, speaks his mind in a Q&A with Paul Ennis; and Lydia Perovic talks music and more with rising Turkish-Canadian mezzo Beste Kalender. Also, among our columns, Peggy Baker Dance Projects headlines Wende Bartley's In with the New; Steve Wallace's Jazz Notes rushes in definitionally where many fear to tread; ... and more.

Keyed In CPE Bach –

Keyed In CPE Bach – The Solo Keyboard Music Vol.39 Miklós Spányi BIS BIS-2370 ( !! Verschiedener (varied) is perhaps an understatement for the sheer variety of compositions on this CD. The 22 movements break down into forms as intense and individual as Fantasias lasting less than two minutes and as structured as a 23-minute conventional three-movement Concerto. Miklós Spányi has thus set himself a challenge. In fact, regardless of the type of movement, throughout the whole of this CD he has to draw on the tremendous expertise normally required for compositions by the (i.e. JS) Bach. The aforementioned Concerto in its Allegretto and Allegro movements bear this out. As if the compositions themselves were not sufficiently testing, Spányi discusses at great length the problems posed by the harpsichords of the day. There was a trend at the court of CPE Bach’s employer (Frederick the Great), to commission harpsichords from one highly fashionable centre, London. These instruments often incorporated specialized attachments not usually found on other harpsichords, something reflected in CPE Bach’s work – and adding to Spányi’s task. While it is difficult to single out the most attractive tracks on this highly varied and attractive CD, the measured Allegro ma non troppo from the Sonata in D Minor is highly enjoyable, as are the demandingSinfonia in G Major and Fugue in G Minor. Spányi has taken on so much to bring us this particular demonstration of CPE Bach’s skills and ingenuity. His interpretations deserve a wide audience. Michael Schwartz Mozart – Piano Sonatas Vol.2 Jean Muller Hänssler Classics HC19074 ( !! In a 21st-century sonic sea, awash with dozens of recordings of Mozart sonatas released each year, the savvy listener must scrutinize attributes from one such disc over another, divining the hallmarks of Mozartian keyboard perfection simply via one’s own tastes. In the case of Luxembourgian pianist Jean Muller’s newest release on the Hänssler Classic label, the listening experience is immediately amicable: we deeply appreciate Muller’s gifts at delivering this repertoire with expertise and humbled reverence. Opening with Mozart’s inspired D Major Sonata, K311 – written in Mannheim in December 1777 – this record gently sets two oftplayed works against two more heard infrequently; this programming is subtle and perfectly balanced. As bookends to the disc, the two sonatas in D stand as points of departure and return, closing with the earlier work of the two, K284, sometimes nicknamed the “Dürnitz” Sonata. (It was written in 1775 for a Baron von Dürnitz – a bassoonist – who infamously withheld payment for the sonata!). Incidentally, it is the longest of Mozart’s 19 solo piano sonatas. Muller brings utter neoclassical eloquence to all four sonatas on the album, charming with cajoling melodies and playful ornamentation. The imaginative – even boyish – spirit of Mozart’s keyboard is fully on display here. Every interpretive decision Muller makes is of the highest order, historically informed and beautiful to behold. He has produced an engaging, aesthetically satisfying album, sure to make any savvy Mozart listener smile with delight. Adam Sherkin Games Melissa Galosi Col legno CL3 1CD 15001 ( !! Italian pianist Melissa Galosi makes a strong case for the common wellsprings of both play and music on her debut album Games. She presents an argument for her thesis in piano music by master European composers of the 18th (W. A. Mozart) and 20th (György Kurtág) centuries. Kurtág rediscovered his compositional creativity in the 1970s through his observations of “…children who were spontaneously playing an instrument … who still saw the piano simply as a toy. They try to touch it, to caress it; they attack it and let their fingers run along the keyboard […] pure pleasure in the act of playing, joy of daring…” These experiences inspired his Játékok (“Games” in Hungarian), a substantial collection of piano works imbued with the creativity and wit of youthful games. On the other hand Mozart never had a true childhood. Driven by his musician father, by the age of three he was hard at work practising the piano. His father kept him constantly practising, performing and touring: the very model of the prototypical child prodigy. Yet W.A. maintained a childlike sense of play for his entire life. Galosi has chosen 17 aphoristic works from Játékok, interspersed with excerpts from three works by Mozart: variations on the famous Ah vous dirai-je maman (“Twinkle, Twinkle…”) and two other variation suites. I found the “mixed tape” across two centuries that Galosi presents convincing, musically delightful. Her playing is direct, unaffected, yet energetic and incisive when the music calls for it. Andrew Timar Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 23; 18; 6 Young-Ah Tak Steinway & Sons 30106 ( ! ! With his 250th birthday approaching, the popularity of Ludwig van Beethoven continues unabated for classical music audiences and performers alike. Captured here in her debut recording for the Steinway label, South Korean-born, now Americaresiding pianist, educator (on the faculty at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music) and academic, Young-Ah Tak, performs the late composer’s piano sonatas with a deft touch, a stylistically appropriate grand Romantic gesture and a level of familiarity with LvB’s work that is unsurprising, given the fact that her first solo recital, at age nine no less, included some of the very pieces captured here. Recorded live at New York City’s Steinway Hall, this CD has an appropriately intimate quality to it and, as such, the engaged listener can identify, and, perhaps, even relate to the artistic struggle that occurs when an ambitious and deservedly feted pianist takes on a repertoire of well-trodden (and perhaps overly familiar) material – think Sonata No.23 in F Minor, “Appassionata” – yet desires to reify the expectations of an audience who demand that she make this material her own. Not an easy task, to be sure, but in Tak’s capable hands, new and effervescent subtleties of this music are introduced, exposed and played with to the satisfaction of both the performer and audience (and one would hope composer too). Nowhere is this more evident than in Tak’s dramatic interpretation of the clarion call “The Hunt,” (Piano Sonata No.18 in E-flat Major, Op.31, No.3). A recommended addition for piano enthusiasts and LvB collectors alike. Andrew Scott 76 | March 2020

Beethoven – Sonatas Opp.26 & 90 Victor Rosenbaum Bridge Records 9517 ( !! Victor Rosenbaum’s third recording for Bridge Records underlines his affinity for classical-era composers. Here we have a selection of Beethoven’s piano pieces ranging from early to late works and including two sonatas, variations, rondo and bagatelles. The chronological progression of pieces on this album is a wonderful treatise on the evolution of Beethoven’s compositional style and techniques. It is especially enjoyable listening to the two sonatas on this album. Sonata in A-flat Major Op.26 is charming and unconventionally structured, opening with a relatively slow movement in the form of a theme with variations. Rosenbaum is delightfully playful in the Scherzo and introspective in his interpretation of the striking Funeral March (third movement). Written some 14 years later, Sonata in E Major Op.90 contains only two movements but they are vastly different in character. The first movement, written in E Minor, is dramatic, depicting the loneliness and anguish that will later become even more prominent in Beethoven’s music. The second movement, written in E Major is, in contrast, gentle and more Romantic in character. Rosenbaum navigates between the two worlds so naturally; his interpretation is powerful in the first movement and exquisitely nuanced in the second. The naturalness and the candour of Beethoven’s language is very much suited to Rosenbaum, who has no difficulty communicating his musical ideas with conviction. It is as if the acumen acquired in his long performing career has been poured into every phrase, thus making this recording special. Ivana Popovic Schumann – Complete Music for Piano 4-Hands Roberto Plano; Paola Del Negro Brilliant Classics 95675 ( !! There is something deeply satisfying about playing piano duets. Perhaps it is the synergy one might feel with his fellow player or the shared delight in casual music making. The jubilant sense of teamwork is undeniable in this recording. Pianists Roberto Plano and Paola Del Negro are an unyielding force together, beautifully attuned to each other’s ideas and expressions, and clearly ardent about Schumann’s music. Here we hear it all: passion, precision, style, energy and, above all, joy. Schumann himself loved playing piano duets and wrote an extensive collection of pieces that ranged from his beginning years as a composer to the late Op.130. This 2CD album includes the whole scope of his piano four-hands music: eight early Polonaises (homage to Schubert); 12 Vierhändige Klavierstücke fur Kleine and große Kinder (which became well-known and loved pieces of the piano repertoire); Bilder aus Osten (influenced by Eastern poetry and philosophy); and two late collections of dance pieces, Ballszenen and Kinderball. Some of these compositions are quite complex and many became quite popular, inspiring various arrangements. Here they are played with a combination of gusto and lyricism and an evident sense of style. With this album Plano and Del Negro pay tribute to all the intricacies and wonders of Schumann’s piano music while bringing forward their own artistic perspectives. Ivana Popovic Variations Mishka Rushdie Momen Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0603 ( !! The bright, young pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen has released a new recording that features works in variation form by assorted composers: Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Nico Muhly and Vijay Iyer. Rushdie Momen’s thoughtful liner notes offer a rationale for her recording choices, explaining the “variation” thread that connects each piece on the disc. In some cases, there are direct quotes and reorganization of materials from an older piece to a newer one (Vijay Iyer’s Hallucination Party, After R. Schumann’s Op.99 is one such example). In other instances, works are referenced by thematic origin: Robert Schumann wrote variations on a theme by Clara and vice-versa; Brahms wrote variations on a theme by Robert Schumann, and so on. Throughout the disc, one is struck by Rushdie Momen’s tonal command and wide-ranging technique as she wields the instrument in a quest for beauty of sound. This is a rare phenomenon today, particularly from a performer so young. Warmth and perfection of pianism seem at the forefront of Rushdie Momen’s musicianship; her attention to detail and technical confidence is on par with the artistry of such old master pianists as Clara Haskil, Sviatoslav Richter and Myra Hess. Rushdie Momen can evidently manage any musical era with aplomb and the premiere recordings of works by Muhy and Iyer offer promise of exciting things yet to come from this gifted young artist. Composers – along with the rest of us – should flock to her keyboard side! Adam Sherkin Grammy-nominated composer Michael Hoppe presents his newest album: the inspirational voices of the Sedona Academy Chamber Singers and the Tetra Quartet, conducted by Ryan Holder. March 2020 | 77

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)