Views
2 months ago

Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Quartet
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • September
  • October
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.

Act One, or Ferrando’s

Act One, or Ferrando’s Un aura amorosa so beautiful that even Harnoncourt sings along. Dorabella’s È amore un ladroncello is tempestuous and Gugielmo’s Donne mie la fate tanti is a swaggering boast of male pride. The clever and worldly chambermaid, Despina (Elisabeth Kulman), the interlocutor who helps Don Alfonso carry out his scheme, also sings a lovely aria Una donna a quindici anni that delights Harnoncourt and garners big applause. “Something we had never heard before like this” says the Serbian newspaper Kurir, and that just about sums it up. Janos Gardonyi Malcolm Arnold – The Dancing Master Vocal Soloists; BBC Concert Orchestra; John Andrews Resonus Records RES10269 (resonusclassics.com) ! London, 1952: Malcolm Arnold, Oscar-winner-to-be for The Bridge on the River Kwai, is rapidly churning out one film score after another; his friend, filmmaker Joe Mendoza, has written a screenplay based on a 1671 comedy, The Gentleman Dancing Master. For years, they’ve discussed collaborating on an opera; now, Mendoza turns the screenplay into a made-for-television opera libretto. Only two weeks after receiving Mendoza’s draft, Arnold completes the score for a one-act, 75-minute opera. Deemed “too bawdy for family audiences” by BBC executives, The Dancing Master languishes until an amateur concert performance with piano in 1962; it finally receives its first full production in 2015 in London. Miranda faces an unwanted marriage to her Frenchified cousin, “Monsieur” Nathaniel, arranged by her pompous father and puritanical aunt. Supported by her maid Prue, Miranda attempts to pass off her ardent but maladroit admirer Gerard as her dance instructor. Comic complications inevitably ensue. Mendoza’s libretto (included in the booklet) boasts sharply drawn characters and abundant clever rhymes. It’s hardly “bawdy” – mildly risqué only when Prue tries to seduce Nathaniel. Arnold’s score is brightly orchestrated, poignant in Miranda’s lament, boisterous in the ensembles, unashamedly cinematic in the climax of Miranda and Gerard’s love duet, wickedly satiric in Nathaniel’s absurd serenade, clearly echoing Beckmesser’s hapless effort in Die Meistersinger’s song contest. The Dancing Master is a melodic, laughinducing romp. While a more distinguished cast might have been desirable, this CD promises guaranteed operatic entertainment. Michael Schulman CLASSICAL AND BEYOND J. G. Graun – Chamber Music from the Court of Frederick the Great Augusta McKay Lodge; Georgina McKay Lodge; Eva Lymenstull; David Schulenberg Brilliant Classics BRI96289 (naxosdirect.com/search/bri96289) ! Frederick the Great’s patronage of classical musicians is well known; Frederick was himself an accomplished player and composer. Surprisingly, several of these composers did not perform before the King and are therefore less well known than they should be. This CD seeks reversal of the situation. A comment is made in the CD notes that the pieces bridge a gap between Baroque and mainstream classical music. This is borne out in Janitsch’s Allegretto which possesses a liveliness worthy of Mozart or Haydn. When it comes to Johann Gottlieb, the slightly older Graun brother, we are treated to a highly spirited Allegro scherzando from violinist Augusta McKay Lodge, echoed literally by David Schulenberg’s harpsichord playing before all instruments proceed to a real virtuoso performance of which J. S. Bach would have been proud. It is Bach’s oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann who tutored one of the stars of this CD, Franz Benda. Benda’s Sonata for viola brings out the best of Georgina McKay Lodge’s playing. Listen, for example, to her stately and measured approach to the Adagio. Benda, in fact, moved in exalted circles, being a pupil of Wilhelm Friedemann but also having as patron one Sarah Levy, great-aunt of Felix Mendelssohn. And yet it is the Grauns who dominate the CD. Johann Gottlieb’s Trio sonata in A showcases the string playing of both McKay Lodges. All in all, this wellchosen collection demonstrates the tremendous array of talented composers Frederick the Great attracted – which paved the way for Haydn and Mozart. Michael Schwartz Bach; Beethoven Andrew Von Oeyen Warner Classics 0190295020514 (vonoeyen.com) ! After the silence descended over concert halls in 2020, many performing artists focused on exploring the possibilities of new sonic places through repertoire, musical approaches or unusual physical spaces. Intimate solo sessions offered these artists the opportunity for introspection and extended a salute to their audiences. According to Andrew Von Oeyen’s liner notes, his desire to turn to the repertoire that expressed the essence of current times and fortified noble feelings of resilience and perseverance resulted in this album. And what an album it is! Every piece carries a deeper meaning of our collective experiences in the times of the pandemic and Von Oeyen conveys it on both the intellectual and emotional level. The performance goes beyond his dazzling technique and splendid phrasing. It is as if he simply knows where the heart of each composition lies and he is unveiling it for the listener. Bach’s Overture in the French Style, a quest for order and clarity, is particularly well played. Not being a Bach specialist allows Von Oeyen to hear the interweaving voices in a slightly more juxtaposed – rather than contrasting – way. Beethoven’s piano sonatas (Nos.13 and 23), embodying vitality and determination, bring in the currents of energy. The choice to end the album with Kempff’s piano arrangements of the movements from Bach’s Flute Sonata No.2 and Harpsichord Concerto No.5 are surprising but welcomed. These solitary musings of one artist are well noted and well appreciated. Ivana Popovic Mozart – Piano Concerto No.20; Beethoven – Piano Concerto No.3 Rasa Vitkauskaite; Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra; Anima Musicae Chamber Orchestra; Jonathan Cohler Ongaku Records 024-129 (ongaku-records.com) ! Released in honour of Beethoven’s 250th birthday anniversary, this album also honours the long and beloved tradition of the classical piano concerto. The concept is cleverly simple: choosing to record the first concertos written in a minor key by both Mozart and Beethoven allows Lithuanian pianist Rasa Vitkauskaite to explore the multitude of interrelations in the ways both composers approached piano playing and piano writing. Furthermore, her extensive and thoughtful liner notes not only offer a wealth of historical information but also aid the listener’s aural comprehension of these two masterpieces. Vitkauskaite’s performance is buoyant and certainly does not lack fully fledged ideas. Whether it is the poetic opening of Mozart’s concerto or the relentless dancing bounce in the concluding movement of the Beethoven, Vitkauskaite has a strong presence and willful execution. Each composer 36 | September and October 2021 thewholenote.com

chose specific minor keys (D minor for Mozart and C minor for Beethoven) as ideal canvases for expressing tempestuous feelings and darkness, and they continued to do so in their later works. Vitkauskaite understands that darkness perfectly. She is capable of bringing forth the intensity and tension while still retaining the lyricism of the melodies. She favours her own improvisations and embellishments in the cadenzas, which makes this performance exciting as we are able to hear something new and surprising. Jonathan Cohler is a perfect collaborator to Vitkauskaite, directing both orchestras with clarity and conviction. Ivana Popovic Mozart – Piano Concertos Vol.3 K449 & K595 Anne-Marie McDermott; Odense Symphoniorkester; Sebastian Lang- Lessing Bridge Records 9538 (bridge-records.com) ! This Bridge recording is the third in a series of Mozart piano concertos featuring American pianist Anne-Marie McDermott with the Odense Symphony conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, this time presenting Concertos No.14, K449 and No.27, K595. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, McDermott has earned a reputation as a consummate artist during the last 25 years, one who continues to appear in concert internationally both as a soloist and a chamber musician. Her first two recordings in this series were met with considerable critical acclaim and this one is equally impressive. Written in 1784, K449 is regarded as the first of Mozart’s mature works in the genre and was the first composition to be entered into a notebook of his music he retained for the next seven years. McDermott approaches the score with a thoughtful intelligence, her phrasing at all times carefully nuanced, while the Odense Symphony is a sensitive and formidable partner. The second movement andantino is all heartfelt lyricism while the optimistic and sprightly finale is carried out with great gusto. Concerto No.27, Mozart’s last contribution to the concerto form, his “swan song” so to speak, was probably written between 1788 and 1789, but the manuscript is dated January 5, 1791.Once again, McDermott’s performance is wonderfully expressive, the brisker passages marked by an adept precision. Throughout, the warm strings and woodwinds under Lang-Lessing’s skilfull baton further contribute to a most satisfying performance. While recordings of Mozart piano concertos continue to be plentiful, this one – by an exemplary soloist and orchestra, both of whom deserve greater recognition – is a welcome addition and we can look forward to further editions in the series. Richard Haskell MM 1785 – Mozart Momentum Leif Ove Andsnes; Mahler Chamber Orchestra Sony 19439742462 (naxosdirect.com/ search/194397424621) ! 1785 was a landmark year in Mozart’s all-toobrief existence. He had finally achieved a degree of financial security, he commenced a period of tremendous creative energy and he was beginning to “push the boundaries” with respect to his musical style. This Sony two-disc set titled Mozart Momentum, is an intriguing presentation of seven works all composed that year – three piano concertos, the Piano Quartet K478, the Fantasia K475 and the Masonic Funeral Music K477 performed by Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The Piano Concerto No.20 – the first of two Mozart wrote in a minor key – took some time to be fully accepted by Viennese audiences, but they ultimately embraced it wholeheartedly. The overall theme of “light triumphing over darkness” clearly foreshadows the 19th century, and Andsnes with the MCO are a formidable pairing, delivering a polished performance. Similarly, the Concertos No.21 and 22 (the latter the first to make use of clarinets) demonstrate a buoyant confidence – tempos in the outer movements are brisk but never rushed, the cadenzas are creative and there’s a solid connection between soloist and orchestra. For the G-Minor Quartet, Andsnes drew upon the principals from the ensemble and what a wonderfully intimate sound they produce! Here the listener is struck by the enthralling interplay of the musicians, particularly in the third movement scherzo where they engage in a true game of “cat and mouse” including a false ending before the jocular conclusion performed with great panache. Andsnes sits on the sidelines for the brief Masonic Funeral Music but returns for the Fantasia in C Minor, a score that clearly anticipates Beethoven. Kudos to all concerned – this set is a treasure, bound to be enjoyed for many years to come. Richard Haskell What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Now Pronouncing: Caity Gyorgy Caity Gyorgy An exciting and beautiful new release from one of Canada's up and coming jazz musicians where she serves as the vocalist, composer, lyricist, arranger, and bandleader! John MacMurchy and Dan Ionescu LIVE John MacMurchy Recorded live before a studio audience at Canterbury Music Company, Toronto. CDs and Digital Downloads available at johnmacmurchy.bandcamp.com. www.johnmacmurchy.com L'Impact du Silence François Bourassa When used wisely, silence is emotional, poetic. This musical adventure combines improvisation, lyricism, and abstraction and features integrity and emotion as the main themes. Dressed in Borrowed Light Clara Engel "A deeply immersive and rewarding experience" - LOUDER THAN WAR "Absolutely intoxicating, and full of soul" - THE SLEEPING SHAMAN thewholenote.com September and October 2021 | 37

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)