2 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020

  • Text
  • Classical
  • Artists
  • Choral
  • Concerts
  • Performances
  • Choir
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • October
Following the Goldberg trail from Gould to Lang Lang; Measha Brueggergosman and Edwin Huizinga on face to face collaboration in strange times; diggings into dance as FFDN keeps live alive; "Classical unicorn?" - Luke Welch reflects on life as a Black classical pianist; Debashis Sinha's adventures in sound art; choral lessons from Skagit Valley; and the 21st annual WholeNote Blue Pages (part 1 of 3) in print and online. Here now. And, yes, still in print, with distribution starting Thursday October 1.

Beethoven, Schumann,

Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Chopin. The sound throughout this valuable collection is utterly true, particularly the piano solos, a tribute to EMI’s people and whoever did the transfers to disc for Profil. This year the German label Orfeo is celebrating its 40th anniversary of issuing significant recordings of live performances given by various artists that were not made available elsewhere. Devout collectors who look beyond the well-known labels may well own, or know of, some of the treasures in the Orfeo catalogue. Orfeo has chosen a collection featuring 20 Soloists and Conductors and 20 Legendary Voices and issued them all on two CDs as Orfeo 40th Anniversary Edition – 40 Ultimate Recordings (Orfeo ORF-C200032 search/4011790200323). The soloists and conductors disc running just seconds short of 80 minutes contains Wolfgang Sawallisch in the overture to The Magic Flute, Otto Klemperer in Bach’s Overture No.3 in D Major; Carlos Kleiber in the Adagio from Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony; Wilhelm Furtwängler in the finale of the Haydn Symphony No.88; Rafael Kubelik conducts Rudolf Serkin in the Adagio from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2; etc. etc. The generous program continues with performances featuring Gerhard Oppitz, Andris Nelsons; Oleg Maisenberg, Neeme Järvi; Vaclav Neumann and the music goes on… Sir Thomas Beecham would have called this pleasing program not “lollipops” but “bonbons.” The accompanying 20 Legendary Voices belong to 20 males and females singing mostly arias from operas by Rossini, Spohr, Gluck, Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Wagner, Cilea, Bizet, Richard Strauss, Gounod, Moniuszko and the rest of the usual suspects. The voices belong to Agnes Baltsa, Jessye Norman, Kurt Moll, Julia Varady, Edita Gruberová, Carl Bergonzi, Lucia Popp, Michael Volle and others. Each of these discs is a perfect example of putting together an educated and harmonious, never-a-dull-moment program. The other offering for this Orfeo anniversary year is the ten-CD Orfeo 40th Anniversary Edition – Legendary Conductors (Orfeo ORF-C200011 search/4011790200118) featuring 11 maestros directing complete performances of 16 masterpieces, recorded live from 1961 through 1991. Rather than choosing a few examples which amounts to deciding what not to mention, here are the entries. Karl Bohm: Schubert Second and Ein Heldenleben. Wolfgang Sawallisch: Bruckner Fifth. Carlos Kleiber: Beethoven Fourth. Dimitri Mitropoulos: Prokofiev Fifth. Hans Knappertsbusch: Beethoven Coriolan Overture and Third Symphony. Otto Klemperer: Brahms Third and Beethoven Seventh . Ferenc Fricsay: Tchaikovsky Sixth. Herbert von Karajan: Beethoven Ninth (VSO, 1955). Sergiu Celibidache: Les Preludes (Liszt) and Brahms First. Sir John Barbirolli: Brahms Second and Vaughan Williams Sixth. Wilhelm Furtwängler: Bruckner Fourth. These live recordings of the SWS Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony Orchestras are full bodied and richly detailed and if there were such an absolute, the performances may be considered definitive. OTHER FINE VINTAGES Edward Cowie – Concerto for Orchestra; Clarinet Concert No.2 Alan Hacker; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Howard Williams Metier msv 92108 ( ! Hearing Edward Cowie’s Clarinet Concerto is like opening the door into a room where a glorious family tragedy is unfolding; one can observe the mayhem without interrupting it. Three abrupt fortissimo pitches in the low brass and timpani, from lower to higher, initiate the action with an interrogative accusation presupposing the worst possible answer. And the arguments devolve. Clarinetist Alan Hacker, with his excellent technique, portrays an articulate yet seemingly incoherent character. At the midpoint, the centre of this labyrinth, one encounters the motivation behind the arduous musical journey of the past century: nostalgia for tonality, and a sinking suspicion that we can’t get it back. Carl Nielsen described, in his own clarinet concerto, the disintegration of a personality; my sense is that Cowie is doing something similar in a more daring vein. In fact, the composer is inspired by natural settings, most especially the ocean. Perhaps the coda conveys the end of a storm, and not what I hear: dénouement following personal crisis. The second piece on the disc is the Concerto for Orchestra. As in the introduction of the other work, Cowie favours jangle and jolt, though here with somewhat less of the latter. Following the introductory passage is an extremely virtuosic section for all the woodwinds, then the brass interrupt to announce a matching answer from the strings. Cowie’s strokes are clear and precise, his expression of sound via the orchestra, confident. He reminds me of Alfred Schnittke in his exploitation of quasi-tuned percussion instruments to undermine the security of pitch to which we are so accustomed. The material lasts just under 45 minutes in total. The recording was made in 1983-84, by the excellent Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Howard Williams and was originally issued on LP by Hyperion. Max Christie 49th Parallel Neil Swainson Quintet Reel to Real RTRCD004 ( ! Bassist Neil Swainson has been a significant figure in Toronto jazz for over 40 years. During that time, he has released one recording under his own name, 49th Parallel, in 1988. The style is mid-60s Blue Note post-bop, announced immediately in a frontline made up of two of the style’s stars, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and trumpeter Woody Shaw, musicians with few peers even in New York. Swainson had toured with Shaw and appeared on two of his recordings, a source for the empathy evident here. Two Toronto musicians deserving of much wider recognition, pianist Gary Williamson and drummer Jerry Fuller, make up the rest of the band. Swainson crafted most of the compositions, solid idiomatic material that catches fire in the hands of this short-lived band. The session gives the Canadian contingent rare opportunities to shine at the highest levels. Swainson, as leader, gets to solo out of customary order, sometimes coming to the fore as first or second soloist, highlighting his inventive, articulate playing rather than leaving it a closing afterthought. Williamson was a fine soloist, and he also had a gift for multi-dimensional support. Port of Spain, a lyrical feature for Shaw, finds Williamson still adding energetic, expansive detail to the trumpeter’s final theme statement. Fuller gives and takes inspiration with Henderson, fuelling the saxophonist’s kinetic, bouncing lines on Southern Exposure. This is a distinguished session, one that definitely merits its reissue on both CD and LP. Stuart Broomer 68 | October 2020

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