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Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

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  • Thewholenotecom
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Blue pages and orange shirts; R. Murray Schafer's complex legacy, stirrings of life on the live concert scene; and the Bookshelf is back. This and much more. Print to follow. Welcome back from endless summer, one and all.

is lost with today’s

is lost with today’s equal temperament, where the subtly varying interval sizes are smoothed out. The Lautenwerk was a Baroque keyboard instrument, essentially a lute-harpsichord with gut strings that could be plucked with different quill materials at different points along their length. On aufs Lautenwerk, Lippel performs two works for the instrument – the Suite in E Minor BWV996 and the Sonata in C Minor BWV997 – along with the Prelude, Fuga & Allegro in E-flat Major BWV998, written for lute or harpsichord (New Focus Recordings FCR920/MicroFest Records MF 18 microfestrecords.com). On MAK/Bach Grgic presents a simply beautiful recital of solo masterworks and chorales: the Flute Partita in A Minor BWV1013; the Solo Violin Sonata in G Minor BWV1001; and the Cello Suite in D Major BWV1012. Four brief chorales fill out the disc (MicroFest Records MF19 microfestrecords.com). To be honest, it will probably take a very good ear to fully distinguish the nuances in the tuning here, but there’s no denying the beauty of the sound or the beauty of the playing, with both performers displaying faultless technique – no easy task given the variations in individual fret placements – and an unerring feel for the period style. The Grgic CD, especially his own transcriptions of the Violin Sonata and the Cello Suite is perhaps the more satisfying program of the two, but with music and playing of this remarkable quality there’s no need to choose between them. The guitar works of Ludovico Roncalli have long been popular in modern transcriptions, but on Roncalli Complete Guitar Music they are performed by Bernhard Hofstötter on a Baroque guitar attributed to Matteo Sellas of Venice, c.1640 (Brilliant Classics 2CD 95856 brilliantclassics.com). The five-course Baroque guitar had five pairs of gut strings (the first course often single-strung, as here) with the fourth and fifth sometimes octavestrung (here with a low octave on the fourth course only). Roncalli’s 1692 Capricci armonici sopra la chitarra spagnola consists of nine sonate (suites), with eight paired in major and relative minor keys, an opening Preludio and Alemanda being followed by various dance forms. Movements are really short – mostly under two minutes. There’s no indication of pitch or tuning, but the actual pitch heard is down a minor third from the listed keys. Monica Hall’s excellent booklet essay notes that Roncalli’s “exquisite melodic lines and elegant counterpoint are seamlessly combined with the strummed five-part chords which were still a defining feature of guitar music at the time.” Hofstötter’s masterful playing is an absolute delight throughout. The addition of a sixth string (the low E) in the 1790s established the guitar form that would flourish throughout the 19th century. In his second volume of Histoires de guitares Quebec guitarist David Jacques features 15 historical guitars from his astonishing private collection, all but one from the period 1800-1880, and each one illustrated in colour in the excellent booklet (ATMA Classique ACD2 2821 atmaclassique.com/en). The 28 short, charming pieces by Giuliani, Sor, Carulli, Paganini and 13 lesser-known composers were chosen specifically to showcase each instrument’s individual qualities and character, and they include some real gems – the three pieces by the English composer Ernest Shand, for instance. They’re all beautifully played too, with clean technique, sensitivity and a nice range of tonal colour. Drifting, Volume 3 of the New Lullaby Project is the latest CD from guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan in his excellent series of specially commissioned guitar solos which began in 2007 (Six String Sound 888-03 stonerecords.co.uk). The 15 short pieces here were written between 2010 and 2020 by 15 different composers, and while they’re not intended to help children get to sleep there’s nothing strident or challenging to the ears. “The compositional language leans tonal and the tuning remains mostly standard,” says Larget-Caplan, “but don’t worry, harmonics still abound.” Indeed they do, in another captivating addition to a significant series that continues to add miniature gems to the contemporary guitar repertoire. You can find my review of Nights Transfigured – Volume 2 of the New Lullaby Project in the May/June 2021 edition of Strings Attached. VOCAL On the Wings of Song Kira Braun; Peter Krochak Independent (kirabraunsoprano.com) ! The soprano Kira Braun has been a performing soloist since just 2014. Yet she has already released six recordings – five with pianist Peter Krochak – the latest of which is, very possibly her best. Picking up from where their last album The Echoing Air left off, On the Wings of Song – with more art songs by Poulenc, together with works by Mendelssohn and Obradors – is a ravishing duet between a singer who excels at being both a lyric and dramatic soprano and a pianist who springs and leaps with much agility and nuance. All the songs receive terrific performances and although the program is weighted slightly in favour of Poulenc and Obradors, Mendelssohn’s Wanderlied is particularly radiant – perhaps predictably so, given Braun’s German heritage. She strikes an ideal balance between a certain compassion and sophistication, something that makes Mendelssohn seem quite ideally suited for Braun as she delivers his songs with affectionate communication of the poetry. Her command of Poulenc is unrivalled and she proves this with her airy sculpting of Les chemins de l’amour. She also grows into the characters of Obradors’ songs with great feeling and intensity. Krochak’s contribution to the unique musicality of this disc cannot be overestimated. Being a singer himself seems to give him an added edge over others who might have accompanied Braun. This is what gives his playing a beguiling refinement, enabling him to traverse this repertoire with judicious melodiousness and delicacy. Raul da Gama A Sanctuary in Song Daniel Cabena; Stephen Runge Chestnut Hall Music (chestnuthallmusic.com) ! A Sanctuary in Song is a collaboration between countertenor Daniel Cabena and pianist Stephen Runge. The album follows a man’s journey via the stages of life, love, loss and death. We follow him first in a prelude, and then, in his wanderings and sanctuary explorations interspersed with instrumental commentaries. Although the repertoire is mostly curated from the English art songs of composers born in the 19th century (York Bowen, John Ireland, Roger Quilter, Charles Villiers Stanford, Peter Warlock and Ralph Vaughan Williams), other more contemporary composers are also featured 34 | September and October 2021 thewholenote.com

(Australian-Canadian Barrie Cabena – the singer’s father – as well as British-born Gerald Finzi and Edmund Rubbra). The influence of, training in, or adherence to musical practices associated with Romantic music are felt throughout the album. Runge’s playing is sophisticated and elegant, all the while creating both intimate and grand pianistic expressive soundscapes for Cabena to soar above. Cabena’s commitment to the texts gives life to the various layers of emotional meaning that one can find in nature, love, beauty, solitude or spirituality. With 26 pieces of music and over 70 minutes of repertoire A Sanctuary in Song is a generous offering and a thoughtfully curated story that showcases a great number of composers and poets to (re)discover. Kudos to the Canadian duo for also featuring two compositions by Canadian composer Cabena. A Sanctuary in Song was recorded December 12 &13, 2017 at the Maureen Forrester Recital Hall, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario. Sophie Bisson Artem Vedel – Twelve Sacred Choral Concerti Luminous Voices; Spiritus Chamber Choir Leaf Music LM244 (leaf-music.ca) ! The choral concerto is a uniquely Eastern European form, arising in the Russian Empire in the 17th century and continuing to be written well into the 19th. In general terms, the choral concerto was defined by its multi-movement form and psalm-based texts, written for unaccompanied chorus and containing passages for full ensemble as well as soloists. While parallels can certainly be drawn between the choral concerto’s form and that of the Western instrumental concerto, this similarity is more coincidence than correlation, as the developments of these like-minded styles occurred largely contemporaneously. The most renowned and oft-performed composer of choral concertos is Dimitri Bortniansky, an Italian-trained, Russian- Ukrainian musician whose 45 concertos are considered by many to be the pinnacle of the form. At the same time as Bortniansky was putting pen to paper, another Ukrainian composer was authoring his own essays in the choral concerto style, and it is these works by Artem Vedel that are the focus of Vedel: Choir Concertos Nos.1-12 & Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While a relatively unknown composer in modern times, Vedel was widely respected in his homeland during his lifetime and was one of the “Golden Three” composers, along with Maxim Berezovsky and Bortniansky. Vedel’s concertos are strikingly expressive yet deceptively simple, many of them written for threeor four-part chorus, and often set anguished texts from the psalms: nine of the eleven intact concertos are written in minor keys and are of a pleading, mournful nature. Far from being pessimistic and despite Vedel’s angsty outlook, there are moments of great beauty and striking optimism contained within each work, particularly as the texts turn to the goodness and saving power of God; these cadences are arguably some of the most delightful and satisfying in the oeuvre and are magnificently executed by the performers. This double-disc collection is immense, containing over 150 minutes of material, all of it performed by the Calgary-based ensemble Luminous Voices. A seven-year project, this recording is a testament both to the compositional capabilities of Vedel and the musical skill of Luminous Voices and its director, Timothy Shantz. Matthew Whitfield Mozart – Cosi Fan Tutte Eriksmoen; Dragojevic; Schuen; Peter; Kulman; Werba; Concentus Musicus Wien; Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Nikolaus Harnoncourt Unitel Edition 804108 (naxosdirect.com/ search/804108) ! Collaborations between composer and librettist always create happy results, often the composer’s best operas, e.g. between Verdi/ Boito, R. Strauss/ Hoffmanstahl or Wagner/Wagner (as he wrote his own librettos). This is the case with Lorenzo Da Ponte with whom Mozart produced three of his masterworks: Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan Tutte. Nicholas Harnoncourt’s long-cherished dream has been to conduct all three of them, one after the other, as authentically as possible, in an intimate setting with close collaboration with singers while still maintaining complete control. This is a concert performance, with bare stage, no sets or costumes. Singers sing from scores, but act and move freely, interact with each other and the emphasis is entirely on the music; the most beautiful music of the three operas according to connoisseurs. Cosi fan Tutte means all women are fickle, deceitful (even Verdi’s Duke of Mantua sings it: La donna è mobile), a thesis proven by the philosopher Don Alfonso (Markus Werba, baritone) with an experiment on two sets of lovers Fiordiligi (Mari Ericksmoen, soprano) and Dorabella (Katija Dragojevic, mezzo) vs. Ferrando (Mauro Peter, tenor) and Guglielmo (André Schuen, baritone) in this hilarious comedy. And in the music, one beautiful piece after another. Like Fiordiligi’s angry outburst: Come scoglio immoto resta in What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Trinité Ofer Pelz A celebration of an eight year collaboration with Israeli based Meitar Ensemble, Trinité features five works that highlight Pelz' intricate hybrid ensemble textures Burned into the Orange Peter Gilbert Gilbert's music explores rich, sensual ensemble textures that highlight the uniqueness of individual timbres and the ephemerality of the crystalline moments that contain them. À Claude Benedetto Boccuzzi Boccuzzi's debut album aims to be a family reunion, an ancestral tree starting with Claude Debussy and branching out into all the subsequent generations Blow The City of Tomorrow The centerpiece on Blow is an ambitious new work by Hannah Lash, bookended by riveting pieces by Franco Donatoni and Esa-Pekka Salonen. thewholenote.com September and October 2021 | 35

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