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Volume 26 Issue 7 - May and June 2021

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Meet some makers (of musical things) - a live filmed operatic premiere of a Handel oratorio?; 20 years of Summer Music in the Garden, short documentary film A Concerto is a Conversation; choirs Zooming in to keep connection live; a watershed moment for bridging the opera/musical theatre divide; and more than 100 recordings listened to and reviewed since the last time.

The Tower

The Tower and the Garden The Crossing; Donald Nally Navona Records NV6303 (crossingchoir.org) Gavin Bryars – A Native Hill The Crossing; Donald Nally Navona Records NV6347 (crossingchoir.org) ! American professional chamber choir The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally, is a multi-Grammywinning ensemble dedicated to new music, collaboration and modern day social, spiritual, environmental and cultural issues. In these two recordings, they perform recent works with in-depth understanding of the music and issues the composers explore. The Crossing commissioned three composers on The Tower and the Garden. Estonian Toivo Tulev set Walt Whitman’s words in the slow new musicflavoured, haunting A child said, what is the grass? (2015). Almost shrill attention-grabbing opening vocals lead to contrasting high female and low men’s interval patterns and drones in fluctuating tonal/atonal segments to the final hopeful long note. The Tower and the Garden (2018) for choir and string quartet by Gregory Spears, is a more tonal four-movement setting of poems by Keith Garebian, Denise Levertov and Thomas Merton exploring religion, technology and conservation. Highlight is the tonal third movement Dungeness Documentary. Set to Garebian’s text which pays homage to the late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s final days, its slower, slight dissonant strings opening, and subsequent emotional tight choral vocalizations with strings, is breathtaking listening. Composer Joel Puckett’s I enter the earth (2015) sets words, spoken by shaman Kxao =Oah of northwestern Botswana in 1971, in a meditative work connecting body and soul with vocal swells, wide-pitched lead lines and static reflective held notes. A Native Hill (first complete performance 2019) is a 12-movement work for 24-member a cappella choir with minimal keyboard parts, composed by Gavin Bryars as a gift to The Crossing. A follow-up to his Grammy Award-winning work composed for them, it is based on the 1968 essay of the same name by American author and activist/environmentalist Wendell Berry about his rural life existence. Bryars’ understanding of The Crossing’s talents makes this over-one-hour monumental composition amazing in content, musicality and choral sounds. Mostly tonal, each movement has a nature-based name. Highlights include Sea Level where the wave motion can be heard in longer, full harmonic notes and dynamic swells. More water music in The Music of Streams with slower occasional sudden swells and subtle atonalities. The shorter The Hill has answering between vocal groups and a suspenseful drone. Clever use of choral whistles and hums in Animals and Birds. At Peace is a dramatic change in sonic pace with the opening featuring each choir member singing their own note to create a 24-voice cluster followed by touches of romanticism, atonalities and tonal harmonies building dramatically to close the work. Conductor Donald Nally is brilliant leading The Crossing from musical subtleties to complexities. The Crossing’s performances illuminate their expansive musical artistry. Production is clear and detailed. Both these discs are highly recommended! Tiina Kiik CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Au Monde Daniel Zapico Alborada editions ALB001 (alborada-editions.com) ! Daniel Zapico explains that, as soon as he picked it up, the theorbo was to be his instrument. Such is his dedication to it that he takes manuscripts of compositions for inter alia harpsichord, viola da gamba and guitar and transcribes them for theorbo. Taking inspiration from the Vaudry de Saizenay manuscript of 1699, Zapico performs pieces from six composers in Au Monde. From the start, the theorbo demonstrates capabilities in excess of its younger sister the lute, in the shape of a more resonant, mellow and deeper tone, the instrument being perfectly suited to Zapico’s interpretations. Robert de Visée’s Prélude brings out this very deep and resounding sonority. Then there are the longer and more demanding compositions. Zapico selects Couperin’s Les Bergeries and de Visée’s Pastoralle to demonstrate his forceful technique. Contrast these with the sensitivity of Monsieur du Buisson’s Plainte sur la mort de Monsieur Lambert (one of the other composers featured on this CD). This piece is complex and makes real demands on Zapico’s technique. Of course, there is always the Bourée by de Visée for a lighter enjoyment of this CD, which is sufficiently varied to show Zapico’s mastery of an instrument overshadowed by the lute in popularity and ultimately by the harpsichord. Zapico’s love for the theorbo is brought home by the highly complex tablature he works from – printed in coppercoloured ink to grace even further this very sumptuously presented CD. Michael Schwartz Telemann – Polonoise Holland Baroque; Aisslinn Nosky PentaTone PTC5186878 (naxosdirect.com/ search/827949087868) One walks a fine balance when performing early music. Often, musicians and audiences who perform, record and appreciate early music are, and I say this kindly, authenticity fetishists who value the period veracity of everything from the repertoire, tempo and interpretation of the music to, in some cases, the lineage and pedigree of the instruments played, to the ensemble dress. Holland Baroque, led by Judith and Tineke Steenbrink (who supply new arrangements of Georg Philipp Telemann’s familiar music for the recording here), manages to thread the difficult needle of adhering to the purity and concretized tradition of Germanic Baroque performance while imbuing a flair for innovation that places this musical style in a contemporary setting that includes elements of improvisation and innovative collaboration. It is little wonder then that the ensemble has won fans worldwide. Here, on their second strong release for PentaTone Records, the group is sure to earn even more accolades and listeners. Joined by Canadian early music violinist Aisslinn Nosky, the group explores Telemann’s Danses d’Polonié (TWV 45), which the composer wrote during his Polish travels, and which had a lasting impact upon his compositional style and artistic output. Cinematic and rich in its thematic mining of the imagery, landscape and nature of Poland and its surroundings, this recording is a winner. Sure to delight connoisseurs of early music while making fans out of other listeners too. Andrew Scott 36 | May and June 2021 thewholenote.com

Johann Georg Pisendel – Neue Sonaten Scaramuccia Snakewood Editions SCD202001 (snakewoodeditions.com) ! The name Johann Georg Pisendel is perhaps not all that familiar today, but during his lifetime he was highly acclaimed as a violinist and concertmaster. Born near Nuremberg in 1687, Pisendel studied at the Royal Chapel at Ansbach where among his teachers was Giuseppe Torelli. He continued his studies in Leipzig and ultimately enjoyed a long and successful career in Dresden as leader of the Dresdner Hofkapelle, an ensemble that won the praise of no less a figure than J.S. Bach. Pisendel’s own output was small, but among his compositions are four chamber sonatas scored for violin, cello and continuo, discovered in the immense assemblage of scores that he amassed during his lifetime and which now comprises the esteemed Schrank II collection in the library of Dresden University. These Neue Sonaten are presented here for the first time ever on this splendid Snakewood label disc performed by the ensemble Scaramuccia. Under the leadership of director/violinist Javier Lupiáñez (performing on a 1682 instrument), the four-movement miniatures truly come alive – what a joyful sound these musicians produce! Lupiáñez’s skilful playing – his phrasing always carefully articulated and artfully nuanced – is complemented by the solid performances of cellist Inés Salinas and harpsichordist Patricia Vintém. Many of the ornamentations in the form of cadenzas and passagework were added by the musicians themselves, based on a thorough study of Pisendel’s performance practices. Indeed, the melding of Pisendel’s solid compositional style exemplified in these recently discovered works with Scaramuccia’s careful and intelligent approach is a fortuitous one. An added bonus is a charming but anonymous harpsichord sonata in D Major that Vintém performs with much flair. The attractive slipcase and artwork further enhance an already appealing disc. Richard Haskell Cavatine DUO Stephanie and Saar New Focus Recordings FCR274 (stephsaarduo.com) ! This piano duo disc by Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia (DUO) has expressive virtuosity written all over it. It’s not simply fourhands piano that has been captured on disc, but repertoire as poignant as it is rare. Its late Beethoven is paired with late Schubert. And its music is evocative of the unrequited love both men lived with. In Schubert’s case, it was also a life lived in the permanent and towering shadow of the master, so much so that he – in an almost Shakespearean kind of twist – was even buried next to Beethoven. All of this spills over into the highly charged program on Cavatine. DUO Stephanie and Saar has completely subsumed every emotive aspect of this music. There is even an extraordinarily eerie seamlessness of how Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major Op.130 slides into the Cavatine, then into the Grosse Fuge Op.134, before ending up in Schubert’s Fantasie in F Minor D940. This is a made-for-each partnership. The amazing rapport between Ho and Ahuvia and their impeccable style unite to produce winning results. The warmth and tangible empathy on display here bring out all of the music’s emotive aspects – especially in the intensely lyrical movements of the Quartet in B-flat and the Cavatine, which gives way to the chromatic boldness of the Grosse Fuge and finally in the rhapsodic features of Schubert’s Fantasie. All of this makes a disc to absolutely die for. Raul da Gama Schubert: Explorations Mathieu Gaudet Analekta AN 2 9184 (analekta.com/en) ! One year ago, in May 2020, this reviewer wrote of a new release from pianist Mathieu Gaudet. Late Inspirations was the second installment of an ambitious project to record the entirety of Franz Schubert’s sonatas and major works for piano. Since then, Gaudet has added another two discs to the anthology: The Power of Fate in October 2020 and Explorations in March 2021. What a thrill it has been to discover each of these records in an alimentative journey comprised of attentive listening. From its wondrous, heights to its simplest of gifts, Schubert’s art is a way of life for Gaudet. As a fulltime emergency physician, Gaudet has persevered through a harrowing year for human beings on our planet, combatting a health crisis on a magnitude not seen for a century. The compassion, care and healing that Gaudet surely delivers to his patients is transfused – enviably – to his musical artistry. As listeners around Gaudet’s keyboard, we are in safe hands. His deeply empathic connection with Schubert is genially revealed, phrase by phrase, piece by piece, as we are led through a lifelong tended garden, everwatered with a sublime Schubertian prowess. A consistent feature of each disc thus far is a blending of the known with the unknown. Explorations opens with the familiar Moments Musicaux, D780. What comes next What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Borne By A Wind Sid Richardson Boston-born composer Sid Richardson releases his debut recording, shaping the program around literary influences that have had a strong impact on his work. No Bounds Caity Gyorgy A swingin’ new release of jazz standards and original compositions from one of Canada’s exciting new rising stars in vocal jazz! Dream Logic Sarah Jerrom Adventurous and exciting, showcasing Jerrom’s formidable skills as a vocalist and songwriter/ composer. Featuring Harley Card (guitar, vocals), bassist Rob McBride and drummer Jeff Luciani Entering Utopia TuneTown NEW! From Three Pines Records: "Fun stuff for anyone that knows how to let their non-linear freak flag fly." Chris Spector – The Midwest Record thewholenote.com May and June 2021 | 37

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