Views
4 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 8 - July and August 2021

  • Text
  • Events
  • Listings
  • Opera
  • Jazz
  • Sound
  • Orchestra
  • Festivals
  • Reviews
  • Summer
  • Music
Last print issue for Volume 26. Back mid-September with Vol 27 no 1. And what a sixteen-month year it's been. Thanks for sticking around. Inside: looking back at what we are hoping is behind us, and ahead to what the summer has to offer; also inside, DISCoveries: 100 reviews to read, and a bunch of new tracks uploaded to the listening room. On stands, commencing Wednesday June 30.

Hans Rott – Orchestral

Hans Rott – Orchestral Works Vol.1 Gurzenich Orchester Köln; Christopher Ward Capriccio C5408 (naxosdirect.com/search/c5408) Hans Rott – Orchestral Works Vol.2 Gurzenich Orchester Köln; Christopher Ward Capriccio C5414 (naxosdirect.com/search/c5414) ! Languishing in total obscurity for over a century, the music of Hans Rott (1858- 1884) first came to light through Gerhard Samuel’s 1989 Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra recording of his Symphony in E Major. Rott’s surviving works date from his time as a student at the Vienna Conservatory, where his classmates included Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf. Mahler in particular treasured him, proclaiming “He and I seem to me like two fruits from the same tree, brought forth by the same soil, nourished by the same air.” Curiously, fugitive thematic references to Rott’s works are echoed in Mahler’s earlier symphonies. Alas, Rott’s fate was not a happy one. The aesthetics of his day were wracked by a cultural war between the progressive advocates of Wagner’s “music of the future” and the traditionalists, devotees of the absolute music of Brahms. Rott, as revealed in this comprehensive survey, would seem to fall between these two camps, but was rejected for his Wagnerian tendencies when submitting his works to competitions. In 1880 he brought his symphony to Brahms himself for his assessment and was rudely told he had no talent whatsoever. This sent him over the edge; not long after he boarded a train on his way to take up a demeaning provincial job as an organist when he spotted a man in the carriage about to light a cigar. He threatened him with a pistol, screaming that Brahms had packed the train with dynamite! Hauled off by the authorities, he spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum, where he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. The first volume of these recordings includes a number of Rott’s lesser-known works. There are two overtures, a Prelude to Julius Caesar and the premiere recording of a reconstruction of his Hamlet Overture, along with movements from two unfinished orchestral suites. Stylistically Rott covers a wide ground; yes, there are more than a few stentorian Wagnerian passages, but they are filtered through the lens of his organ teacher Anton Bruckner, his sole advocate amongst the notoriously reactionary Conservatory faculty. The most substantial work is the closing Pastorale Prelude, which ends, somewhat incongruously, with an elaborate fugue. The second volume saves the best for last. The E Major Symphony remains an astonishing achievement, falling just short of the mark due to its rambling finale, reminiscent of (wait for it…) Brahms! It is his most celebrated work, having been recorded a dozen times to date. A three-movement Symphony for String Orchestra in A-flat Major follows, the prim and proper serenades of a 16-year-old tyro aiming to please. The volume concludes with another premiere of sorts, the Symphonic Movement in E Major, an earlier version of the opening of the Symphony. These two volumes, impressively played by the distinguished Gürzenich orchestra, sensitively interpreted by the young English conductor Christopher Ward, and expertly recorded by the Capriccio team, are a musthave item for all enthusiasts of this unjustly neglected composer. Daniel Foley Vaughan Williams – Symphonies 4 & 6 London Symphony Orchestra; Sir Antonio Pappano LSO Live LSO0867D (lsolive.lso.co.uk) Vaughan Williams – Symphony No.5 BBC Symphony Orchestra; Martyn Brabbins Hyperion CDA68325 (hyperion-records.co.uk) ! The latest release on the LSO Live label, recordings where the orchestra is the major stakeholder, features two symphonies by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Many diehard fans of the Fourth Symphony will point to the 1937 recording, conducted with relentless fury by the composer himself, as the gold standard, but for me, the benchmark recording of this symphony (and, indeed, all of the others) is that of Sir Adrian Boult, who worked closely with RVW for several decades. Pappano’s interpretation equals and at times surpasses these, bringing an appropriate anger and relentlessness to this groundbreaking work. The same can be said of Pappano’s interpretation of the Sixth Symphony. Composed in four distinct movements without pause, from its opening notes to its life-changing sempre pianissimo finale, you get the feeling that you are hearing a monumental and important symphony from the 20th century. And you are! The London Symphony Orchestra is no stranger to the works of Vaughan Williams, having recorded the entire cycle of nine symphonies on more than one occasion – the 1970s cycle by André Previn being the most celebrated. And as these are live performances, there is a resulting excitement to the playing that can’t be matched in studio recordings. I have one small quibble with the otherwise excellent booklet notes: the alternating triads that close the epilogue of the Sixth Symphony are E Minor and E-flat Major sonorities, not E Minor and E Major as noted. The release of the Fifth Symphony is part of a projected complete cycle of Vaughan Williams symphonies by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the Hyperion label. Brabbins clearly loves this piece and under his baton the themes seem to unfold in a natural, organic way – unhurried, yet with a careful eye on the overall structure of the entire work. The orchestra’s winds sparkle in the second movement and its strings luxuriate in the beauty of the third movement Romanza. Brabbins deftly handles the architecture of the finale, making the cyclical return of the opening seem inevitable and treating the work’s closing pages more like a benediction than a mere coda. Since the Fifth Symphony contains themes originally composed for RVW’s thenunfinished opera, The Pilgrim’s Progress, it seems appropriate to include music from that on this release. The scenes are mostly incidental music, and they don’t hold together as a concert work for me, but as a RVW enthusiast, I am very glad to get to hear music from a work that preoccupied him for over 40 years of his long life. Scott Irvine Hindemith – Chamber Music for Horn Louis-Philippe Marsolais; David Jalbert; Pentaèdre ATMA ACD2 2822 (atmaclassique.com/en) ! Paul Hindemith was a fascinating figure in 20th-century music, a prolific composer, conductor and theorist whose writings are still used to teach students in conservatories and universities around the world. A gifted violinist and violist, Hindemith was able to play almost every instrument in the orchestra, as well as the organ and piano, as he attempted to learn an instrument and its workings through practice before composing for it. Much of Hindemith’s work is written in a non-tonal style in which 44 | July and August 2021 thewholenote.com

there is nonetheless a clearly defined central pitch; this is not atonal music by any means, but rather a modernist modality that is unique and immediately distinguishable as Hindemith’s own musical language. Chamber Music for Horn features five unique works and a range of instrumentations, each featuring at least one horn, including the remarkable Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, admirably arranged for horn (Louis-Philippe Marsolais), wind ensemble (Pentaèdre) and piano (David Jalbert) by Simon Bourget; and the strikingly beautiful Sonata for Four Horns. This latter work is a masterful example of Hindemith’s ingenious skill, using the four horn “voices” to create different moods and characters in exceedingly successful ways. The intricacies of Hindemith’s writing require constant precise tuning and rhythmic precision, and this disc abounds with both. Timbres are robust throughout and always impeccably tuned, allowing the resonance of each instrument to reach its full potential, while rhythms are crisp and accurate. Whether a Hindemith neophyte or a seasoned listener, this recording is highly recommended as an exploration of Hindemith’s musical style, even if it contains only a small portion of this master’s many works. Matthew Whitfield MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Alain Lefèvre – Opus 7 Préludes Alain Lefèvre Warner Classics 9029540078 (alainlefevre.com/composer) ! Charismatic Alain Lefèvre is a perfect composer and pianist in his seventh release featuring seven piano preludes, six of which were recorded in spring 2019 in his native Quebec. Composing and then performing one’s own works must be exceedingly gratifying. Lefèvre started his career as a pianist, reaching international acclaim. The liner notes state he started composing in the late 1970s and first recorded his compositions in 1999. He accurately describes himself compositionally as a storyteller. No.1 Force fragile is reminiscent of Romantic-style music with a waltz opening, sparkling high notes, contrasting lower pitches, runs against melodic held notes and loud, percussive, yet surprisingly, neverbanging notes building to a happy story finale. No.3 Amour fou utilizes subtle touches of contemporary harmonic shifts, shorter repeated melodic phrases, rubato, and an unexpected triple-time faster programmatic section with staccato chords and melodies with turns, all recounting the search for true (not crazy/fou) love. No.5 Aux portes du destin, composed for a Syrian friend with cancer, is a dramatic grief-laden major/ minor tonality piece enveloped by melodic high single notes, and at the ending creating a tinkle of hope. No.7 Mati, for piano and bouzouki (Thanasis Polykandriotis), was composed after a tragic 2018 fire in Mati, Greece. Recorded in Athens, the bouzouki’s plucked strings and piano-hammered keys create a unique sound, especially during quasi-unison duets, melodic conversations with bouzouki high notes. Lefèvre’s Opus 7 Préludes are colourful, multi-character “best-selling” piano stories! Tiina Kiik The Lost Clock Rose Bolton Important Records/Cassauna (imprec.com/cassauna) ! The undulating hypnotica of Canadian composer Rose Bolton’s latest release demonstrates mastery of colour and form as filtered through the electronic realm. In the four tracks that comprise the album, titled The Lost Clock, the listener is captivated throughout introspective drones and pulses all layered in a foundation of sonic alchemy. The first piece, Unsettled Souls, is a short gem infused with mysterious bells that somehow haunt and comfort simultaneously. The almost 13-minute title work has a mood of wonderful anguish much like hidden corrosion under a brilliant surface. The third piece, Starless Night, is comprised of a warm blanket of electronic molasses over which jagged and unknown sound sources create a liminal experience of otherworldliness and real-world mechanics. The Heaven Mirror, the concluding work, is as evocative as the title suggests. This music is serene and calm, but not without deep and profound poetic intention. The Lost Clock is a digital release also available on cassette on the Caussana imprint from Important Records. Adam Scime Ri Ra Dustin White Mon Hills Records (dustinwhiteflute.com) ! Early-career West Virginia flutist Dustin White has made a name exploring flutecentred intersections of Western contemporary art and Middle Eastern musics. His debut solo album, Ri Ra, treads that path; featuring seven solo works from the last 18 years for C, alto and bass flutes by composers primarily of Iranian or Lebanese lineage. The inclusion of Montreal’s Katia Makdissi-Warren is however no mere coincidence. She is the founding artistic director of Oktoécho, an ensemble specializing in the fusion of Middle Eastern and Western musical idioms, right in line with the album’s theme. Most of the works chosen for Ri Ra were winners of a 2020 open call for scores which sought compositions by composers of Middle-Eastern descent, or music inspired by Middle-Eastern themes. White’s masterful command of the Western concert metal flute enables him to evoke the sounds of the reed nay and shabbaba, modes outside diatonic scales and Middle-Eastern forms such as taqasim, found in Arabic improvisation. Makdissi-Warren’s beautifully wrought flute solo Dialogue du silence is a standout. Inspired by taqasim, she eloquently highlights silence in the score. It serves to punctuate melodic phrases, as portmanteaux of transition and as echoes of preceding phrases. Dialogue du silence is both compelling as an emotional statement, as well as a rare example of an effective marriage of extended flute techniques pioneered by 20th-century Western composers and received Arabic flute and vocal performance practices. The score is eminently worthy of joining the roster of solo flute concert standards. Andrew Timar Remote Together Catherine Lee Redshift Records TK489 (redshiftrecords.org) ! During the worldwide pandemic, Canadian oboist Catherine Lee turned this experience into a creative solo album, Remote Together. The compositions are put in a specific order to recreate the transformative experience during social isolation; loneliness to overcoming seclusion, with a new perspective on life as we know it. The album features works by Canadian and American composers thewholenote.com July and August 2021 | 45

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)