3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020

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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.

the extroverted

the extroverted trumpeter producing bugle call-like vamps, ferocious yelps and an entire section on the concluding title track where her inner Bubber Miley is revealed via plunger mute snarls. But Branch generally mutes her output to match the others’ horizontal pitches. Meanwhile La Berge often concentrates on affiliating peeping and keening trills as Henneman’s spiccato string slices alternate between disruptive angled pings and flowing ostinato pulses. Although enough echoes within the trumpet’s body tube, narrow flute whines and dissected string drags are featured, a perverse lyricism sometimes peeks through. Branch’s arching brassiness is effective in meeting the pseudo-romanticism of Henneman’s sluicing buzzes on Gigging, while unexpected, though quickly cut off, trio elation characterizes Canal Rounds. However the defining track is the extended When bells stop ringing. Melding the violist’s sul ponticello swells with the trumpeter’s propelling triplets and smears at Flight of the Bumblebee speeds, flute peeps create the connective continuum. Finally harmonized whistles from the horn players match Henneman’s protracted string sawing for a downshifting conclusion. Also in the realm of close-knit tripartite improvisation, but intensified with programming, is Hangkerum (Clean Feed CF 533 CD involving trumpeter Tom Arthurs and electronic musician Isambard Khroustaliov both from the UK and Swiss percussionist Julian Sartorius. Vibrant and balanced, the disc consists of five tracks, which purposely reveal the distinct aspects of each instrument through separation and interaction until the trio’s parallel strategies cinch. Beginning with rounded trumpet notes, Arthurs’ pitches are held and framed by galloping pulsations from Khroustaliov’s electronics and Sartorius’ intermittent beats until the brass player’s muted lyricism, highlighted with note flurries, meets knob-twisting oscillations and sharp, unexpected peeps. By the time Herrgöttli is elaborated, midpoint digression has Arthurs timbre-stretching to piccolo trumpet-like pitches or fluttering growls, but without weakening the narrative thread which was advanced at the outset. While the electronic undulating continues in building tension, there’s a sudden realization that live processing has created a secondary brass line, whizzing alongside the first. Timed chimes echoes plus power ratamacues from the percussionist concentrate the textures of the subsequent Duch even further, until halfway through a nuanced melodic line from the trumpeter unexpectedly floats over the sound miasma, leading to Reréaux, the extended finale. Picking up on each of the sound properties propelled by the trio members, the piece is buzzy, bellicose and breezy in equal measures. While the programmer’s synthesized outer-space-like whooshes and juddering oscillations are audible, so are the drummer’s doorbell-like tolling, churning bass drum pumps and ascending cymbal pings. Yet as much as the percussion and electronics vibrate irregularly beside him, Arthurs not only excavates the nooks and crannies of his horn for unusual textures, but uses muted puffs to confirm the alluring beauty of the suite. Stripped down even further in concept and execution is the duo of French bassist Benoit Cancoin and German trumpeter Birgit Ulher, who uses a radio, speakers and objects to further splinter her brass sound during Electric Green (Blumlein edition Interestingly enough, despite the obvious differences between their instruments there are points at which the bassist’s arco string sweeps and the trumpeter’s sounding of wide projected textures make differentiation nearly impossible. Most of the time though, Cancoin propels his low-pitched stops and rubs to create an ongoing continuum, while Ulher manipulates her horn and add-ons to source unique vibrations. One second she can output firedrill-like elevated pitches, while on the next inflate balloon-like blows from deep inside her horn or latterly produce gentle flute-like tones. In fact, the extended Seladon is one of the date’s most low-key tracks with brief sniffs and watery gurgles from the trumpet’s innards brushing up against the bassist’s string stretching and wood banging until her aviary bleats and his col legno string slaps move their strategies closer. Establishing individual real estate they can be discordant, as on Aureolin, contrasting jet-plane-like brass propulsion and powerful purported string shredding from the bassist. But overall the aim is to stretch expected timbres in the course of affiliation. By the brief, final Signal Blue, they establish an unshakable rapport so that the trumpeter’s note burbling and mouthpiece French kisses snugly align beside the closest Cancoin comes to pumping out a swing beat on the date. Something completely different is Possible Worlds (SOFA 575, a single track, 66-minute program of mesmerizing avant-ambient sound by Norwegian duo Pip. Consisting of Torstein Lavik Larsen on trumpet, sampler and synthesizer plus Fredrik Rasten who plays fretless electric and acoustic guitars, chimes and electronics in varied combinations, here the brass is used sparingly to infuse accents onto constantly repeated microtonal hooks propelled by Rasten’s slurred fingering. Subtly, the sequences gradually intensify as the track progresses while synthesized granular motifs including brass vibrations and organ-like sweeps inflate and take up more aural space. A defining diversion arrives at the three-quarter mark as the finger-picked guitar pulse is strengthened and turns upwards to meet synthesizer drones and percussive slaps. Meanwhile, inside horn growls from Larsen wash over the interaction. After fuzz tones, chime echoes and dripping water-like sound samples are introduced into the mix, the continuous guitar strums are reintroduced to slide through harsher drones and bond with the exposition. Each of these trumpeters chose to blow his or her horn in a unique fashion and all the strategies are equally valid. The WholeNote Listening Room • Read the review • Click to listen • Click to buy Scan the code or visit to hear what we're listening to this month! 90 | March 2020

Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES How fondly remembered are Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic as seen on CBS Sunday afternoons from 1958 to 1972 and held in the new Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center. Years later the videos were first issued by Sony on VHS but those are long gone. We now have some of them on a four Blu-ray video disc set from Cmajor as Volume Two of these concerts (Unitel Edition 800504 For these readers who may not be aware of these still-memorable concerts, the intention was to introduce younger people, and anyone else, and help them appreciate and hopefully understand classical music, new and old. Bernstein explained in easily understood language, with examples conducting the orchestra, what the music is all about and what the composer intended. Bernstein himself wrote all his scripts, over which he devoted enormous time and care. What we see and hear appears completely spontaneous, sharing information and never talking down to his audience. In this collection there are 14 programs on subjects of interest upon which he elaborates and illustrates, each of which turn out to hold our attention even when presenting familiar works. For instance, Two Ballet Birds, aired on September 14, 1969, tells us that there are basically two kinds of ballet, one that tells a story and the other which does not. Les Sylphides is a perfect example of the latter. Bernstein illustrates a combination of both with music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. All very beautiful Romantic music, but with an abundance of simply abstract dancing for our pleasure, choreographed to show what the dancers can do and not to advance the story. On the other hand, in Stravinsky’s thrilling ballet, The Firebird, what is unfolding on the stage is precisely described and reinforced by the orchestra in the pit. Bernstein treats the audience in the hall with Stravinsky’s own suite from the ballet. The set includes a tribute to Shostakovich on the great composer’s 60th birthday, January 5, 1966, including a very interesting analysis and complete performance of the compact Symphony No.9. There is also a tribute to Sibelius with a discussion and performance of Finlandia on the composer’s 100th anniversary, February 19, 1965. I found What is a Mode? most fascinating and somewhat of a revelation concerning popular music of the time, including an appreciation of the Beatles. The last example in this concert illustrating modes is a smashing performance of Debussy’s Fêtes. In Berlioz Takes a Trip, we are treated to an examination of the idée fixe in the Symphonie fantastique all with the aid of the Philharmonic. Bernstein is very positive about the “flawed masterpiece” Fidelio, the opera that Beethoven wrote and rewrote. He explains the ins and outs of the whole opera with the plot and sub-plots which attract critical attention. In truth, according to Bernstein, the blame lies with the author who saddled the composer with a problematic libretto. Bernstein introduced four young voices to perform some “charming excerpts.” The last of the 14 individual programs in this set is the Aaron Copland Birthday Party, celebrating his 60th on the evening of February 12, 1961, which ended with Copland conducting his wellknown El Salón México. But there is more, much more! Plus, there are three episodes of “Young Performers” introducing, among so many of outstanding talents, pianist André Watts, violinist James Oliver Buswell IV and the 30-year-old Claudio Abbado. This is a unique, engaging collection; a pleasure to watch and listen to the articulate Lenny talk about music and music-making. Volume Three on Blu-ray has been announced and is imminent. Hans Rosbaud was one of the few great conductors of his time who rarely performed beyond Germany, Switzerland and France. Undoubtedly, he would have been internationally recognized had he been active in the outside world. However, his name was somewhat familiar as the conductor in many records by Wilhelm Backhaus, Walter Gieseking, Pierre Fournier and various singers. DG issued their complete catalogue of Rosbaud recordings in 2004 but it is on SWR Classic CDs that he is now best represented. In addition to single CDs they have numerous composerdedicated sets: Bruckner, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin and now a Schumann collection (SWR19085CD, 3 CDs naxos. com). Disc One has the First and Fourth Symphonies and an overture to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Op.128. Disc two has the Cello Concerto, Op.129 with Pierre Fournier and the Violin Concerto, WoO23 with Henryk Szeryng. The Third CD finds Annie Fischer playing the Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.54. Schumann, as some readers may know by now, is my most cherished composer and I am critical of any performer, live or recorded, who skews the score by straying too far from what is written. Here are perfectly balanced performances, meticulously prepared but not for a moment sounding over-rehearsed or uninspired. Were it not that I have a copy, I would want this set. On the other hand, Austrian conductor Karl Böhm (1894-1981) was recognized across the music world, emerging, in the 1930s with his superb recordings from Dresden with the then Saxon State Orchestra. After WWII he was a major maestro worldwide until his death in 1981. From the late 1930s on just about any station in the world that played any classical music even for only a few hours on the weekend, most probably would have a 78 rpm record or two of light classics by the Saxon State Orchestra. Conducted by Böhm, a part of their recorded repertoire consisted of overtures and entertaining concert pieces, the genre of music that Sir Thomas Beecham would refer to as “lollypops.” Their 78s were sold in stores around the world. Today it is interesting to see some of the repertoire that did so well for Electrola, HMV, et al. being reissued by Profil as Edition Staatskapelle Dresden, Vol. 43: Karl Böhm (PH18035, 2 CDs The performances are absolutely first rate and the recordings full bodied and dynamic. Do they have the same attraction all these years later? Here is the list of just the overtures: Die Fledermaus, Abduction from the Seraglio, Marriage of Figaro, Egmont, Leonore 3, Der Freischütz, Oberon and The Bartered Bride. That’s only CD1 of two. More overtures to follow plus the Rákóczy March, the Emperor Waltz, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Capriccio Italien, and more to a total of 24 complete little showpieces. Two and a half hours of “never-a-dull-moment.” A lot of contagious energy here. March 2020 | 91

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