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Volume 26 Issue 5 - February 2021

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  • Toronto
  • Recordings
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  • Pianist
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  • Recording
  • February
So, How Much Ground WOULD a ground hog hog? community arts and the Dominion Foundries end run; the vagaries of the concert hall livestreaming ban; hymns to freedom; postsecondary auditions do the COVID shuffle; and reflections on some of the ways the music somehow keeps on being made - PLUS 81 (count them!) recordings we've been listening to. Also a page 2 ask of you. Available in flipthrough format here and in print February 10.

sincere exploring

sincere exploring different states of mind and his beloved nature e.g. Die Mainacht, O kühler Wald” (her words again). Garanča is most impressed by the beautiful harmonic writing that influences her interpretations. Very rewarding listening. Janos Gardonyi Donizetti – L’Ange de Nisida Soloists; Orchestra e Coro Donizetti Opera; Jean-Luc Tingaud Dynamic 37848 ( ! In Search of a “Lost” Opera is the title of musicologist Candida Mantica’s detailed account in the booklet describing how she solved “the jigsaw puzzle” of L’Ange de Nisida’s “dismembered” manuscript score and libretto. Commissioned by the Paris Théâtre de la Renaissance, Donizetti completed the opera in 1839. Its premiere was cancelled when the theatre went bankrupt, so the resourceful composer incorporated parts of the score into La Favorite for its December 1840 opening at the Paris Opéra. L’Ange de Nisida remained unheard until 2018 at a concert performance in London; this 2019 production at Bergamo’s Donizetti Opera Festival is its first-ever staged presentation. Leone, a fugitive after fighting a duel in 15th-century Naples, flees to the island of Nisida, unaware that his beloved Sylvia, called “the angel of Nisida” for her kindness, is King Fernand’s captive mistress. Spoiler alert: no happy ending. The unconventional, theatre-in-the-round production has the soloists in modern dress, Sylvia sometimes wearing angel wings, the stage illuminated with symbolic projections, strewn with lots of paper representing Mantica’s “jigsaw puzzle.” Musically, this two-DVD set is enthralling, Donizetti’s endlessly melodious score thrillingly sung by soprano Lidia Fridman (Sylvia), tenor Konu Kim (Leone), baritone Florian Sempey (Fernand), bass-baritone Roberto Lorenzi (Gaspar, Fernand’s chamberlain) and bass Federico Benetti (the Monk who denounces Fernand’s illicit affair). Conductor Jean-Luc Tingaud generates real excitement from the chorus and orchestra, adding to the unique pleasure of witnessing the longdelayed, world-premiere staging of a very entertaining Donizetti opera. Michael Schulman Massenet – Don Quichotte Gábor Bretz; David Stout; Anna Goryachova; Wiener Symphoniker; Daniel Cohen Cmajor 754008 ( ! If Jules Massenet was discouraged by the scorn that fellow French composers and musicians poured upon his work, he showed no sign of it in lyrical new works infused with emotion. And while it is true that all of his compositions seemed to eschew the Wagnerian sense of drama, his work – especially later pieces such as Don Quichotte – could explore and evoke strong emotions. It is somewhat curious that this late opera often hardly merits a mention in the scores of tomes dedicated to the dramatic art. Mariame Clément’s brilliant staging of it ought to alter this somewhat unfair historical narrative. This version of Don Quichotte, with Henri Cain’s libretto (after Jacques Le Lorrain’s Le chevalier de la longue figure) has been exquisitely recreated in this 2019 production and the Weiner Symphoniker directed by Daniel Cohen breathes new life into Massenet’s last opera. After briefly referencing the original finde-siècle setting, Clément resets the story in a meaningful contemporary manner. With stark yet innovative sets, dramatic lighting and of course, lyrical, beautifully paced and theatrical music, this melodious dramatic tragicomedy lives again. The masterstroke is the casting; delivered here with a dazzling performance by Anna Goryachova (Dulcinée). However, Gábor Bretz (Don Quichotte) and David Stout (Sancho) all but steal the show, especially in Ecoute mon ami and in the glorious dénouement of Act V, L’Étoile! Dulcinée! Le temps d’amour a fui which makes for an evocatively tragic end. Raul da Gama André Messager – Fortunio Cyrille Dubois; Anne-Catherine Gillet; Franck Legeurinel; Jean-Sebastien Bou; Philippe-Nicolas Martin; Choeur Les Elements; Orchestre des Champs-Élysées; Louis Langrée Naxos 2.110672 ( ! On June 5, 1907 André Messager, who had conducted the world premiere of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande five years earlier, led the first performance of his own operetta Fortunio at the Paris Opéra Comique, with two leading members of the original Pelléas cast singing principal roles, and Debussy himself in the audience. Fortunio was a great success, remaining in the Opéra Comique’s repertoire until 1948, then inexplicably shelved until its 21st-century revival. This 2019 Opéra Comique production delights both visually and musically. The attractive, fin-de-siècle sets and costumes are historically accurate, while Messager’s lovely, sentiment-laden score receives spirited performances from the excellent cast, led by the captivating lyric tenor Cyrille Dubois, wrenching emotions as Fortunio. Jacqueline, the sex-deprived young wife of the much-older local notary André, begins an affair with Clavaroche, a lecherous army captain newly arrived in town. Another newcomer is Fortunio, a timid fellow from the sticks whose uncle brings him to his cousin Landry, one of André’s clerks, hoping Fortunio will accept a similar position. Reluctant at first, Fortunio agrees after glimpsing the beauteous Jacqueline. To allay her husband’s suspicions of her infidelity, Jacqueline enlists the smitten Fortunio to pose as an innocuous, lovelorn “decoy,” but she eventually succumbs to his heartfelt adoration, declaring her own true love for him. How very French! Characteristically making light of adultery, with raunchy double entendres, erotic physical byplay, clandestine intrigues and endearing, charming music, Messager’s sugary confection Fortunio succeeds admirably in every way. Michael Schulman 38 | February 2021

Jaromír Weinberger – Frühlingsstürme Soloists; Orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin; Jordan de Souza Naxos 2.110677-78 ( ! When Frühlingsstürme opened in Berlin on January 20, 1933 it seemed to be another success for its celebrated composer, Jaromír Weinberger. But ten days later the Nazis took power, crushing the creative spirit of the Weimar Republic; Frühlingsstürme was shut down. This staging from January 2020 at the Komische Oper Berlin was the first since that precarious time. It too was shut down – by COVID-19. Fortunately, it was filmed. Frühlingsstürme is a dramatic spy story with a doomed love affair between a Russian widow and a Japanese general at its heart. The music is sophisticated and delightful. Gorgeous melodies draw on Weinberger’s Czech and Jewish heritage, and complex rhythms recall popular styles of the day like jazz, foxtrot and tango. Barrie Kosky, the provocative Australian director who leads the Komische Oper, presents Weinberger’s operetta as an imaginative sequence of scenes taking place in and around an oversized, constantly transforming box. So an intimate duet like Traumversunken, liebestrunken can turn into a campy burlesque spectacle complete with a Busby Berkeley-style staircase and dancers wielding quivering ostrich feather fans. The cast is effective enough, with soprano Vera-Lotte Boecker a charismatic presence. Tansel Akzeybek’s well-placed tenor is lovely, if restrained. But soprano Alma Sadé as a sexually precocious teenager too often turns exuberance into shrieking, especially in the overlong passages of dialogue. The terrific orchestra under Canadian conductor Jordan de Souza, who is wellknown to Toronto audiences for his work with Tapestry Opera and the COC, balances the frivolous and the poignant with versatility and stylishness. Their much-needed momentum reinforces the pleasures of this valuable, if uneven, addition to the operetta repertoire. Pamela Margles CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Bach – Six Suites for Solo Cello, transcribed for piano Eleonor Bindman Grand Piano GP847-48 ( ! For New Yorkbased pianist Eleonor Bindman, Bach became her beacon at age ten, when she snuck a peek at her teacher’s notebook and saw the words “plays Bach well” under her name. Since then she’s never wavered. Bindman’s intimate connection to, and study of, the music of J.S. Bach deepened over the decades. This lead to her 2018, onepiano/four-hands, transcription of all six Brandenburg Concertos, followed by several other Bach transcription projects, ultimately resulting in this transcription and recording of the six unaccompanied Cello Suites BWV 1007-1012. Interestingly, in addition to the piano, the Cello Suites have been transcribed for numerous solo instruments including, among others, the mandolin, marimba, classical guitar, electric bass, flute, saxophone, trombone, tuba and ukulele. I can’t vouch for how successful each of these efforts has been, but I reckon it’s not an easy task, regardless of the instrument. (Even Robert Schumann, who wrote a piano accompaniment for all six Suites, had his arrangements rejected by his publisher.) I can, however, vouch for the success of Bindman’s piano transcription, which is superb, embodying the true essence of the Suites, something she aspired to. As she states in her excellent liner notes, the “Suites didn’t need any improvement.” Bindman maintains the majesty of Bach’s music, via both her transcription and her convincing command of the keyboard. Whether you’re a purist or a Bach devotee, this satisfying 2-CD set is worthy of a thoughtful listen. Sharna Searle Luigi Boccherini – Une nuit à Madrid Les Ombres Mirare MIR524 ( ! If Boccherini had never moved to Spain – ultimately regarding it as his native country – the world might have been denied much of his fine chamber music composed for the brother of King Charles III, the infante Don Luis. His move wasn’t entirely smooth – he referred to local musicians as “inveterate barbarians” – but the Spanish influence on his musical style was not an insignificant one, evident in such pieces as the renowned “Fandango” quintet, one of five quintets presented on this splendid Mirare recording performed by the Basel-trained ensemble, Les Ombres. Of those featured here, three are for flute and strings – Nos.2, 4 and 5 from the set of six quintets Op.19. These are remarkable not only for their brevity (each comprises only two movements and is less than ten minutes in length) but for their diversity. The second What we're listening to this month: Today Will Be a Good Day Red Hot Ramble Happy Mardi Gras from Red Hot Ramble! See you live and lively next Carnival Time! Arcade Griffith Hiltz Trio ARCADE borrows soundscapes from classic 80s video games and movie themes, blending them with GHT’s unmistakeable genrebending style New Life Peter Leitch and the New Life Orchestra The former guitarist from Montreal created his 14-piece orchestra when nerve damage left him "freed from the tyranny of the jazz guitar." This 2-CD set of his compositions and orchestrations is the wonderful result. James Campbell Clarinet James Campbell, with John York, piano Works by Arnold, Debussy, Pierne, Lutoslawski, Jeanjean, Weber. This multiple award-winning clarinetist, also educator and artistic director, has made more than 40 acclaimed recordings. February 2021 | 39

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