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Volume 26 Issue 6 - March and April 2021

  • Text
  • Contemporary
  • Orchestra
  • Album
  • Toronto
  • Quartet
  • Ensemble
  • Jazz
  • Composer
  • April
  • Musical
96 recordings (count’em) reviewed in this issue – the most ever – with 25 new titles added to the DISCoveries Online Listening Room (also a new high). And up front: Women From Space deliver a festival by holograph; Morgan Paige Melbourne’s one-take pianism; New Orleans’ Music Box Village as inspiration for musical playground building; the “from limbo to grey zone” inconsistencies of live arts lockdowns; all this and more here and in print commencing March 19 2021.

emotional depth. The

emotional depth. The political situation in Hungary at the end of the Great War badly hindered Bartók’s folk music research and deeply affected him; he wrote very little until an outpouring of piano music in 1926. The following year saw his String Quartet No.3 Sz.85, the shortest of his six quartets but the one that heralded his mature style. Mozart’s String Quartet No.19 in C Major K465 “Dissonance” dates from 1785, and is the last of the six quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn, whose Op.33 quartets he had heard after arriving in Vienna in 1781. Study of the music of Bach and Handel at that time resulted in a more marked presence of counterpoint in Mozart’s music. There’s outstanding playing throughout the CD, but the Mozart, in particular, is absolutely beautiful, with clarity and warmth and a crystal-clear Allegro final movement. With Vagn Holmboe String Quartets Vol.1 Denmark’s Nightingale String Quartet embarks on what promises to be an outstanding set of quartets by the Danish composer who lived from 1909 to 1996 (Dacapo 8.226212 dacapo-records.dk/en). Holmboe wrote quartets throughout his life and completed over 30, 22 of which are in his official catalogue. Although his lasting role model was Haydn, Bartók’s quartets also became a big influence. Holmboe had already written ten unpublished quartets before his three-movement String Quartet No.1 Op.46 from 1949, subtitled In memoriam Béla Bartók. The other two works on this first volume are the five-movement String Quartet No.3 Op.48, also from 1949, and the four-movement String Quartet No.15 Op.135 from 1978, its third movement Funèbre very much of Shostakovich’s sound world. Interestingly – in 2010 – Dacapo, Denmark’s national record label, issued a 7CD box set of the complete 22 Holmboe quartets, apparently assembled from individual issues from the late 1990s and performed by the Kontra Quartet, who “enjoyed a close collaboration with the composer.” This new project promises “fresh, new performances that support the idea that the deeper you dig into Holmboe’s music, the more you find.” The terrific performances here certainly make a great start. The Oculi Ensemble is a flexible string ensemble comprised primarily of members of leading string quartets and dedicated to exploring string repertoire for two to seven players. Metamorphosen – Strauss Chamber Works is their debut CD as a stand-alone ensemble (Champs Hill Records CHRCD155 champshillrecords.co.uk). The Prelude to the opera Capriccio Op.85 from 1940-41 opens the disc, followed by two works for string quartet: the extremely brief fragment Quartettsatz in E-flat Major TRV85 from 1879 (recorded with the permission of the Strauss family) and the String Quartet in A Major from 1880. Three brief works for piano quartet follow: Ständchen from the early 1880s; Festmarsch AV178 from November 1886; and the Two Pieces AV182 – Arabischer Tanz and Liebesliedchen from 1893. The title track completes the CD. Commissioned for 23 solo strings, Metamorphosen wasn’t finished until after the February 1945 Allied bombing raid that destroyed Strauss’ beloved Dresden, Strauss completing a draft short-score for seven solo strings that March. That manuscript was rediscovered in Switzerland in 1990 and edited for performance by cellist Rudolf Leopold in 1994. Impassioned playing, recorded in the excellent acoustics of the Music Room at Champs Hill, West Sussex, ends a highly commendable CD. The excellent new CD by the Jupiter and Jasper String Quartets, music by Mendelssohn – Visconti – Golijov simply abounds with familial relationships, three Freivogel siblings (a brother and two sisters) and two spouses making for a remarkably close connection between the two ensembles (Marquis 81613 marquisclassics.com/ index.html). A luminous opening to the Mendelssohn Octet in E-flat Major Op.20 sets the tone for a simply thrilling performance – vibrant, pulsating and dynamic with a dancing Scherzo and a sweeping Presto finale. Dan Visconti’s quite beautiful Eternal Breath, envisioned as a work that would involve their four children and their musical spouses, was commissioned in 2011 by the Freivogel parents (who also funded the recording) for their 40th wedding anniversary. Originally for three violins, a viola, three cellos and a drone box, it is heard here in the later adaptation with a second viola replacing the third cello. Osvaldo Golijov’s two-movement Last Round from 1996 is a tribute to Astor Piazzolla, the octet being joined by a string bass in Last Round – Movido, urgente and Muertes del Angel, the whole work described by Golijov as “an idealized bandoneón.” What we're listening to this month: The Thirteenth Child Poul Ruders On a moment-by-moment basis, this is one of the most enjoyable new operas of the past two decades." - Opera News, Critics Choice Cooperstown Sasha Matson "Cooperstown" is scored for a cast of five, and a jazz quintet. The Othello story is embedded in MLB. Featuring Baritone Rod Gilfry. An audiophile recording. Jacques Hétu Musique pour vents Pentaèdre Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Jacques Hétu, Pentaèdre presents a recording devoted to works by this renowned Canadian composer. Chamber Symphonies Nos. 1&2 Jaap Nico Hamburger In honour of Remembrance Day & the 75th Anniversary of liberation of the Netherlands, Hamburger confronts serious themes with a sense of hope and optimism. 32 | March and April 2021 thewholenote.com

VOCAL Michelangelo’s Madrigal Kate Macoboy; Robert Meunier Etcetera KTC 1623 (etcetera-records.com) ! Through this CD, Australian Kate Macoboy and Canadian Robert Meunier, who now reside in London, England attempt to restore Italian madrigal composers to their true position as some of the leading exponents of the medium. They even find time for some sensuous lute solos from the same group of composers. In a CD of 19 tracks, it is difficult to single out the most emotive compositions, but Macoboy’s interpretation of Pesenti’s Aime, ch’io moro has a languorous, almost haunting, quality to it which is reminiscent of the greatest Italian madrigalists of the later stages of the Renaissance. It is difficult from this CD to imagine that these Italian composers were somehow overshadowed by their colleagues elsewhere in Europe. Poignantly, Ben mi credea passar mio tempo homai is not only pensive and moving because of its music but it benefits from the poetry of a certain Petrarch – and was still overlooked by contemporary audiences! Then there is the lute playing. While it is once again difficult to select a personal favourite from these pieces, Da Milano’s Fantasia 42 has a soothing and intricate quality ably brought out by Meunier. But this CD is really about its soprano. For the full range and power of Macoboy’s singing skills, listen to Bartolomeo Tromboncino’s Per dolor me bagno il viso, with its plaintive demands on both singer and instrumentalist. Michael Schwartz Beethoven – Leonore (original 1805 version) Nathalie Paulin; Jean-Michel Richer; Opera Lafayette; Ryan Brown Naxos 2.110674 (naxosdirect.com/ search/2110674) ! Staging the very first (1805) version of Beethoven’s only opera, then still referred to as Leonore, begs some questions: Why now, in its threeact format, when the maestro himself revised it and reduced it to twoacts, when Leonore failed twice before finally getting the recognition it deserved in 1814 and that as a considerably revamped Fidelio? You will find several answers in the meticulously detailed booklet notes by Nizam Kettaneh, co-executive producer of this performance. A more compelling historical reason comes from Beethoven himself who, while forever wrestling with a political-philosophical credo, quite fittingly continued to refer to the opera using its full, preferred, name: Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe. The original production may also have been shortened for political and commercial rather than purely artistic reasons; after all, it first played to a French audience which reportedly didn’t care much for German opera. Thus Beethoven may have reacted by making the 19th-century version of what composers today might call a “radiofriendly edit.” And then there’s this compelling performance itself. At the hands of Opera Lafayette, Leonore flares to life as if for the first time. Ryan Brown conducts the opera with a muscular fervour to proclaim the youthfulness of Beethoven’s masterpiece. Jean-Michel Richer’s Florestan is splendid and Nathalie Paulin’s Leonore/Fidelio is breathtaking. The prisoner’s chorus is soul-stirring. Best of all, the themes of unselfish love, loyalty, courage, sacrifice and heroic endurance all shine brilliantly throughout. Raul da Gama Schubert’s Women Klaudia Tandl; Gabriele Jacoby; Niall Kinsella Gramola 99223 (gramola.at) ! In his songs, Schubert reveals uncanny empathy for women – not just for the Romantic ideal of the eternal feminine, but for authentic, individual women. Irish pianist Niall Kinsella has put together this program of songs to feature some of those complex women Schubert was drawn to, from Goethe’s Gretchen and Mignon to Kosegarten’s Louisa and Schiller’s Thekla. Austrian mezzo-soprano Klaudia Tandl voices their thoughts and feelings with both tenderness and drama. Austrian actor Gabriele Jacoby’s recitations of texts are rich with colour and insight, though it can be jarring to encounter them interspersed among the songs. In the narrative songs, Tandl uses her considerable expressive powers to convey the vivid atmosphere Schubert evokes. Goethe’s ballad Der Fischer tells of a seductive water nymph who lures a fisherman into her deadly waters. Tandl captures the jaunty but chilling atmosphere, while Kinsella delves into Schubert’s endlessly inventive images of swelling, surging water. But Tandl is at her most moving when Schubert is directly describing the characters’ own suffering and joys in the first person. In Die junge Nonne, a young nun thewholenote.com/listening Lineage Julia Den Boer Performed “with a sensitive touch vibrating with many colors” these contemporary piano works by Cherney, Ricketts, Yamada and Harman show their “evanescent poetry”. HAPPINESS in a TROUBLED WORLD Frank Horvat Inspired by the words of The Dalai Lama, this surprise new release by composer Frank Horvat brings us soothing and meditative sounds. Saturation Velocity MC Maguire ... lucid textures and a variety of tonal colour, that certainly occurs in this bold and compelling music. True Stories & Rational Numbers Chris P. Thompson "A futuristic blend of Aphex Twin, Roger Eno, and Erik Satie" (an Earful). Available now on CD and 12" Vinyl. thewholenote.com March and April 2021 | 33

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