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Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
  • Concerts
  • Musicians
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • November
Alanis Obomsawin's art of life; fifteen Exquisite Departures; UnCovered re(dis)covered; jazz in the kitchen; three takes on managing record releases in times of plague; baroque for babies; presenter directory (blue pages) part two; and, here at the WholeNote, work in progress on four brick walls (or is it five?). All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Tuesday Nov 3.

orchestral masterpiece A

orchestral masterpiece A Haunted Landscape. I came to know the latter from a New World Records vinyl release featuring Arthur Weisberg and the New York Philharmonic – who commissioned it and gave the premiere performance. There is also a fine CD recording available from Bridge Records featuring the Warsaw Philharmonic under the direction of Thomas Conlin. It is an ethereal, mysterious and at times bombastic work in which a low B-flat drone by two scordatura double basses, sustained throughout the work, adds to the eerie ambiance. The composer tells us A Haunted Landscape “is not programmatic in any sense. The title reflects my feeling that certain places on the planet Earth are imbued with an aura of mystery…” He goes on to say “contemplation of a landscape can induce complex psychological states, and perhaps music is an ideal medium for delineating the subtle nuances […] that hover between the subliminal and the conscious.” Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death is the fourth in a cycle of eight chamber settings of poetry by Federico García Lorca which Crumb composed between 1963 and 1970. Although I do know the four books of Madrigals that make up half of the series, and the 1986 postscript, Federico’s Little Songs for Children, I was not previously familiar with this work and I would like to thank Bridge Records for graciously providing me with a recording to facilitate this article (bridgerecords.com /products/9028). Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death is scored for baritone (in this case Sanford Sylvan), electric guitar, electric contrabass, electric piano/harpsichord and two percussion, performed by members of Speculum Musicae. As with many of Crumb’s works the dynamic range extends from barely audible to ferocious explosions of sound, and the vocal lines are often angst ridden, reflecting the nature of the texts. As William K. Bland tells us in his program note, “Throughout the entire range of Crumb’s compositions symbology has been a central aspect of his communicative language. [Here] several musical and philosophical symbologies are present. These range from the overt musical ‘illustrations’ of the text […] to the cycle-spanning metaphysical implications of the Death Drone. […] Like many of Mahler’s works, Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death has its beginning in the contemplation of Death, and its ending in the affirmation of the promise of a peace-filled transfiguration.” Incidentally, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with George Crumb and his family during the preparations for a New Music Concerts performance which included the Canadian premiere of Federico’s Little Songs for Children with soprano Teri Dunn, Robert Aitken (flute) and Erica Goodman (harp) at Glenn Gould Studio in 2003. That already seems like a lot of listening to come out of the reading of a single book, one not ostensibly about music, but I will add a couple of footnotes before I move on from this nearly month-long journey. The first involves Bartók’s 44 Duos for Two Violins, written in 1931 just after completion of the Cantata Profana and four years after String Quartet No.3. When Kirk travels to Hungary in Avoid the Day his translator is “Bob,” originally from Teaneck, New Jersey via the Bronx, but who has lived in Budapest for 30 years. Kirk tells us that Bob’s “main thing is klezmer. Not the honky-wonky clarinet-heavy wedding band American klezmer. His specific niche: Carpathian klezmer. He spent years tracking down the sacred-original stuff in Transylvania.” After learning what he can at Béla Bartók Memorial House in Budapest, Kirk is dragged off into the wilds of Transylvania by Bob to experience some of the authentic music that Bartók spent several years collecting on wax cylinders a century ago, research that would profoundly affect his own music and ultimately the art music of the 20th century. Although he assimilated the influences of these hundreds-of-years-old folk songs seamlessly into his own concert works, many of the peasant melodies and rhythms can be found in a more unadulterated form in Bartók’s pedagogical works, especially the Mikrokosmos collection for piano(s) and the violin duos. It was a real pleasure to discover on my shelf a recording that I had forgotten about of these duos. In 2008 violinists Yehonatan Berick and Jonathan Crow recorded the Bartók along with Luciano Berio’s Duetti per due violini for the XXI label (yehonatanberick.com/recordings). I knew the Bartók on vinyl from the Hungaroton Bartók Béla Complete Edition but was unfamiliar with the Berio until this release came my way a decade ago. While Bartók organized his duets in order of difficulty as a primer for violin students, culminating in the challenging Pizzicato, Allegretto, reminiscent of the fourth movement of the String Quartet No.4 and Transylvanian Dance (Ardeliana), Berio’s set (1979-1983) is arranged chronologically by date of composition. Each brief piece is named for a friend or colleague and the set begins appropriately with Béla (Bartók). Other names I recognize are Vinko (Globokar), Pierre (Boulez), Mauricio (Kagel), all of whom I had the pleasure of meeting during my years at New Music Concerts, Henri (Pousseur), Bruno (Maderna) and Igor (Stravinsky). As with the Bartók, the pieces are at various levels of difficulty, but rather than being performed progressively Berio envisioned a stage performance by at least a dozen pairs of violinists of varying degrees of skill. The rousing final piece, Edoardo (Sanguineti), is conceived for violin choir where all of the performers join in on the two lines of the duet. Currently concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, at the time of this recording Crow was teaching at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University where he had previously obtained a Bachelor of Music in Honours Performance studying with Berick. In this performance of Edoardo the two are joined by a host of violinists who (I assume) are their colleagues and students from McGill. The final note is about an anachronism that stuck out in Avoid the Day, when Kirk was musing while on the eco-cruise ship about the last minutes of the Titanic. Legend has it that the resident string quartet was playing Nearer My God to Thee as the ship sank, but he wonders if they wouldn’t have played something “more important, like Berg’s Lyric Suite.” I realize that this is just wishful speculation and he does not suggest that they actually could have played that piece, but it struck me as a strange choice since Alban Berg would not write his suite until more than a dozen years after that maritime disaster. Nevertheless, it sent me back to the library to dig out my Lasalle Quartet recording of the string quartets of the Second Viennese School to find another old friend in the Lyric Suite. Once again I have the Deutsche Grammophon set on vinyl, but for convenience sake I chose the CD reissue. To put closure to all this, I also revisited my vinyl collection to find Gavin Bryars’ chilling The Sinking of the Titanic with the Cockpit Ensemble on Brian Eno’s Obscure label. That haunting performance can now be heard on YouTube (youtube.com/ watch?v=2oVMRADOq5s). 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 discoveries@thewholenote.com 30 | November 2020 thewholenote.com

STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS The English label Biddulph Recordings (altocd.com/ biddulphrecords) was founded in 1989 by the violin dealer Peter Biddulph and the violinist and writer Eric Wen, the former editor of The Musical Times and The Strad. It specializes in new and historic recordings, especially of string instruments, and three recent issues are welcome reminders of three great 20th-century violin talents. Aaron Rosand plays Bruch (LAB 1024 ) features the most recent recordings: the Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor Op.26 and the Scottish Fantasy Op.46 in 2000 recordings with the NDR Radio-Philharmonie Hannover under Christoph Wyneken and the Violin Concerto No.2 in D Minor Op.44 in a 1970 performance with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Peter Richter Rangenier. They were originally licensed to Vox on two discs by the Rosand estate but since Vox was acquired by Naxos they were recompiled and licensed to Biddulph for their 10CD box set Ten More Great Violinists of the Century (LAB 8102) and for individual release. Rosand, who died in 2019 at the age of 92, enjoyed an astonishing 77-year performing career. He had a simply lovely tone, with a fairly constant but always tasteful vibrato, and was particularly noted for his performances of the Romantic repertoire, a view clearly supported by his playing here. There’s no hint of any decline in technique in the 30-year gap between recordings, which feature first-class orchestral support in really lovely performances. The other two CDs also resulted from the creation of masters for the LAB 8102 set. Bronisław Huberman Columbia and Brunswick Masters (LAB 1025) comprises tracks from two previous issues plus new material featuring the Polish virtuoso who died aged 64 in 1947. There’s nowhere near the amount of portamento that you might expect from someone who was performing in the 1890s, but there is real individuality in his phrasing and style. Recording years aren’t given, but the only Brunswick master is an American acoustic recording, with piano, of Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy on Bizet’s music; the remaining works – a fiery Kreutzer Sonata and ten short pieces by Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Elgar, Sarasate and Zarzycki – are apparently electrical Columbia performances with piano, although Ignacy Friedman in the Beethoven sonata is the only pianist identified. Huberman’s mellow tone, described in the booklet notes as far darker in the Columbia recordings than on the Brunswicks, is quite distinctive, and his technical command outstanding, especially the double stops in Sarasate’s Romanza Andaluza and the dazzling playing in Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.1 in G Minor and Zarzycki’s brilliant Mazurka in G. The real revelation in these three CDs, though, is Toscha Seidel the RCA Victor Recordings & Franck Sonata (LAB 138), a straight reissue after 20 years unavailability. The Russian Seidel, who died in California two days before his 63rd birthday in 1962, was in Leopold Auer’s legendary violin class in St. Petersburg with the young Jascha Heifetz. He made his American debut in April 1918, one year after Heifetz’s sensational debut there, and consequently always seemed to be in the latter’s shadow, moving to California in the 1930s and making a career in Hollywood and studio orchestras. Seidel’s tone is very bright, clear and warm, his vibrato fairly fast and consistent, and his technique absolutely brilliant and effortless. Add his sweeping phrasing and captivating musicality (“Heifetz with heart” say my notes – guaranteed to start an argument somewhere) and you end up wondering why Seidel isn’t remembered as the violinist of the first half of the 20th century. Six short pieces by Mozart, Wagner, Brahms (the Hungarian Dance No.1 in G Minor again in another terrific performance), Bakaleinikoff and Provost are from December 1938 and February 1941. Korngold’s previously unissued Much Ado About Nothing Suite from July 1941 sees Seidel joined by the composer at the piano in a memorable performance. Three songs from the movie, The Great Waltz, feature Seidel’s obbligato (well, in two of them at least) for soprano Miliza Korjus (“rhymes with gorgeous” – unfortunately, unlike her vocal talents on this showing), and a private studio recording from the early 1950s of the Franck Sonata in A Major, in which Seidel and pianist Harry Kaufmann seem completely unable to agree on tempo or rhythm in the first movement, complete a revelatory disc. If you don’t know Seidel’s playing, you owe it to yourself to put that right. What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Mobili: Music for Viola and Piano from Chile Georgina Isabel Rossi and Silvie Cheng Violist Georgina Rossi and Pianist Silvie Cheng release “MOBILI: Music for Viola and Piano from Chile” on New Focus Recordings Stabat Mater: Choral Works by Arvo Pärt Gloriae Dei Cantores The expressive beauty of Arvo Pärt performed by Gloriæ Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God), under the direction of Richard K. Pugsley. Sea Dreams Luminous Voices A reflection of the relationship between ocean and sea as a life metaphor, with its implicit suggestion of journeying, inward emotions and uncertainties Venom of Love Alice Ping Yee Ho A tale of serpent-demons and mortals entwined in forbidden romance based on the Chinese tale "Legend of the White and Green Snakes". thewholenote.com November 2020 | 31

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020
Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 2020
Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)