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Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020

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After some doubt that we would be allowed to go to press, in respect to wide-ranging Ontario business closures relating to COVID-19, The WholeNote magazine for April 2020 is now on press, and print distribution – modified to respect community-wide closures and the need for appropriate distancing – starts Monday March 30. Meanwhile the full magazine is right here, digitally, so if you value us PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN. It's the safest way for us to reach the widest possible audience at this time!

eminiscent of the stark

eminiscent of the stark and angular pathos of some of Shostakovich’s later quartets, especially in Górecki’s second, these works are more what you would expect from a member of the Polish postwar avant-garde. Even in the String Quartet No.3 “Songs are Sung” with its four extended sombre and quiet movements interrupted by one brief central upbeat interlude, the brooding character never finds the transcendence of the famous symphony. Quatuor Molinari bring their vast skill and dedication to this latest addition to an impressive discography, not only adding to our understanding of this undersung composer who died a decade ago, but also proving that Górecki was not just a one-trick pony. Highly recommended! Although I see that I’ve pretty much used up my allotment of words mostly talking about myself once again, (but heck, it’s my corner…) I did want to mention one more disc that I’ve been spending a lot of time with this month, Fred Lerdahl Volume Six (Bridge Records 9522 I must confess to a lack of familiarity with this American composer who was born in 1943 and is the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University. Lerdahl is known for his work on musical grammar and cognition, rhythmic theory, pitch space and cognitive constraints on compositional systems. For all that, I must say I find his music quite lyrical and not at all academic. The disc includes recent chamber works and one concerto, beginning and ending with pieces composed for Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen in 2010. There and Back Again for solo cello (Tom Kraines), was commissioned by Karttunen as part of the Mystery Variations, a series of solo works to commemorate his 50th birthday. As with all the variations, it takes as its point of departure, and in this case return, the Chiacona for solo cello by Giuseppe Colombi (1635-1694). In less than five minutes we are transported from the 17th century to the 21st and back again. This is followed by String Quartet No.4 from 2016, a onemovement work which sounds thoroughly modern without being atonal. Commissioned to celebrate the ensemble’s 15th anniversary, it is performed by the Daedalus Quartet. Fire and Ice is a setting of Robert Frost’s poem of the same name for the unusual combination of soprano (Elizabeth Fischborn) and double bass (Edwin Barker), based on one of Lerdahl’s theoretical papers The Sounds of Poetry Viewed as Music. The liner notes explain how the tenets of the 2001 paper were applied to the 2015 compositional process which culminates when “the soprano and double bass gradually fan out to their highest and lowest registers, symbolizing the antipodes of fire/desire and ice/hate around which Frost’s poem is organized.” The playful and at times jazz-tinged Three Bagatelles from 2016 was written for guitarist David Starobin who performs here with violinist Movses Pogossian. The programmatic arc of the disc, with its palindromic cycle of composition dates, is completed by Arches, a cello concerto which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2011. Performed masterfully here by Danish cellist Toke Møldrup with the Odense Symphony Orchestra under Andreas Delfs, the dramatic work itself is, not surprisingly, arch-like, beginning and ending quietly after a rollercoaster of a ride. I found this a great introduction to the music of a heretofore unknown composer and I’m glad to know there are five previous volumes in the series. We invite submissions. CDs, DVDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS Ivan Pochekin is the outstanding soloist on Dmitri Shostakovich Violin Concertos 1 & 2, with Valentin Uryupin conducting the Russian National Orchestra (Profil PH19073 The Concerto No.1 in A Minor Op.77 was written in the years following the end of the Second World War, but was withheld by the composer until 1955. The Concerto No.2 in C-sharp Minor Op.129 from 1967 was Shostakovich’s final concertante work. Pochekin has exactly the right sound for these works – a dark-hued, rich and velvety tone with a strong vibrato and a fine grasp of linear phrase. There may be more strident and abrasive readings of the ferocious cadenzas available, but none with more passion. The Russian National Orchestra, founded by Mikhail Pletnev in 1990, provides excellent support in two immensely satisfying performances. Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk (b.1938) wrote a cycle of nine violin concertos over a 45-year span, and the first four are presented on Myroslav Skoryk Violin Concertos 1, Nos.1-4. Andrej Bielow is the soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Volodymyr Sirenko (Naxos 8.574088 The four concertos here are from 1969, 1989, 2001 and 2003, and all are essentially single-movement works of similar length – from 13 to 16 minutes. No.1 is perhaps the most modern-sounding; No.2 is “infused with a lyrical mood” (the composer’s own booklet notes) with contrasting episodes that vary “from elegy to intense expressivity.” No.3 is dominated by the opening solo violin fugue, and again varies in tone “from lyrical to intensely dramatic.” No.4 is dominated by driving rhythmic patterns. Bielow is terrific in top-notch performances of works full of strong, idiomatic writing. Volume 2 should make this set a significant addition to the contemporary violin concerto discography. On Incantation, the French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft explores the range of connections for the word, from simple enchantment through religious contexts to demonic spells and charms. Jac van Steen conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Aparté AP234 There’s a fair amount of reworking of original sources here, and some tracks consequently fare better than others. Bruch’s Kol Nidrei Op.47 is quite beautiful although “remodelled” by Boutellis-Taft with the middle section omitted. The Chaconne in G Minor, attributed to Vitali, is reworked from the original violin and bass manuscript and comes across as a bit overblown. Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre Op.40 is newly orchestrated based on the composer’s own violin and piano arrangement. Bloch’s Nigun from Baal Shem, Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique Op.26 and Chausson’s lovely Poème Op.25 are handled beautifully. Shigeru Umebayashi’s Yumeji’s Theme, with its abrupt ending is an odd choice for the closing track. 50 | April 2020

Boutellis-Taft plays with his heart firmly on his sleeve on a CD that has some truly lovely moments. The virtuoso violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini left over 100 concertos for violin, as well as a large number of sonatas for various string combinations, so any single CD is only going to scratch the surface of his output. Tartini Violin Concertos & Sonatas features two Sonatas a Quattro in D Major together with first recordings of two unpublished Concertos for violin and strings, in A Minor and B-flat Major. Laura Marzadori is the violin soloist in the concertos, with Massimo Belli conducting the Nuova Orchestra da Camera “Ferrucio Busoni” (Brilliant Classics 957690 In the solo violin sections Tartini reduced the accompaniment to just orchestral first and second violins, which allows Marzadori’s sweet, pure tone to be even more effective. There’s a pleasing lightness of touch in the orchestral performances throughout a pleasant but fairly lightweight (at 47 minutes) CD of finely crafted and genteel 18th-century works. Three works written relatively late in their composers’ lives are featured on French Violin Sonatas played by the Hungarian duo of violinist Kristóf Baráti and pianist Klára Würtz (Brilliant Classics 95576 Debussy wrote his Violin Sonata in financial straits following the third winter of the Great War, and in great pain from the cancer that would kill him the following year, all of which makes its warmth and clarity all the more remarkable. There’s a lovely dynamic range and freedom of phrasing from both performers. Ravel’s Violin Sonata No.2 in G Major dates from 1927, its jazz-influenced Blues middle movement and Perpetuum mobile finale again drawing fine playing from the duo. Franck’s Sonata in A Major was one of a small handful of works that finally won the composer some public acclaim in the closing years of his life. There’s big playing from both performers here, with terrific piano work from Würtz in the Allegro second movement in particular, and with Baráti drawing a huge tone and sound from his 1703 “Lady Harmsworth” Stradivarius violin. The Italian violinist Liliana Bernardi is excellent in music by Johann Joseph Vilsmaÿr and Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber on Austrian Baroque for Solo Violin (Stradivarius STR 37147 Vilsmaÿr (1663-1722) was a member of the Archbishopric chapel in Salzburg where Biber (1644-1704) was Chapel Master. His Partitas I and VI in A Major and V in G Minor are from the Artificiosus concentus pro camera distributes in sex partes, a set of six partitas in a collection of Vilsmaÿr’s solo violin music in the British Museum. The movements are very short – 24 of the 29 are under two minutes – but their multiple-stopping and arpeggio passages, while perhaps more reminiscent of Telemann’s 12 Fantasias, clearly point towards the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. Biber’s influence is clear in the scordatura (retuning of the strings) in the Partita V. His own work here, preceded by an extremely short Preludio in D is the challenging Passacaglia in G Minor (The Guardian Angel), the last of his remarkable Rosary Sonatas. The Constanze Quartet makes its label debut with Felix Draeseke String Quartets Vol.1, the first volume in the complete recordings of the quartets by the German Romantic contemporary of Liszt, Wagner and Brahms (cpo 555 281-2 Early in his career Draeseke (1835-1913), was considered an extremist, but later in life he was repelled by what he felt was the exaggerated unnaturalness of the late 19th century, responding to the 1905 premiere of Strauss’ Salome with a pamphlet on Confusion in Music. His three string quartets postdate those of Brahms, with no equivalent works by Liszt or Wagner to act as models. The two quartets here – No.1 in C Minor Op.27 from 1880 and No.2 in E Minor Op.35 from 1886 – are described as viewing the classical quartets of the Romantic era through a Wagnerian lens, especially in the way that long, melodic threads serve to hold the music together. They’re certainly substantial and engrossing works, given fine performances by the Constanze ensemble. The American string quintet Sybarite5 is back with its fourth album, Live from New York, It’s Sybarite5, recorded live at their regular performance space in Chelsea’s The Cell (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0131 Silkroad percussionist Shane Shanahan joins the group for William Brittelle’s Future Shock and John Coltrane’s Alabama. Ehsan Matoori and his santoor (Persian dulcimer) are front and centre in two of his own works: Tehran When Lonely and Naqsh-e Jahan. Mezzosoprano Blythe Gaissert sings Michael Dellaira’s Star Globe, based on a poem by Nancy Manocharian. Other works are Brandon Ridenour’s NuPac Kanon & Jig (Pachelbel meets Tupac Shakur!), Marc Mellits’ driving Groove Machine, Steven Snowden’sTraveler No.65 and Aleksandra Vrebalov’s My Dearest, My Rose. An unlisted bonus track is a lovely arrangement of Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone. There’s not a dull moment on an album brimming with the quintet’s trademark energy and drive. In much the same way as his orchestral serenades preceded – and perhaps acted as preparation for – his symphonies and thus avoided direct comparison with Beethoven, Brahms wrote his two String Sextets Nos.1 in B-flat Major Op.18 and 2 in G Major Op.36 before his three string quartets. They’re available on Brahms String Sextets in performances by the WDR Chamber Players, instrumentalists drawn from the WDR Symphony Orchestra of Cologne (Pentatone PTC 5186 807 The string sextet was not a firmly established form at the time, but Music from the APNM Vols. 1 & 2 Association for the Promotion of New Music This double release captures electro-acoustic and acoustic music from the member composers of the admirable NYC based composers organization, APNM. Tetrahedron Ernesto Cervini Adventurous and riveting improvisational risk-taking from the quartet is topped with gifted writing and the unit’s seemingly effortless technical wizardry, affirming that this bandleader is an artist on the rise. 4 Stars! Kerilie McDowall (Downbeat Magazine) April 2020 | 51

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