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Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

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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.

Matthew Larkin Organist

Matthew Larkin Organist – Casavant Opus 550 Matthew Larkin ATMA ACD2 2857 (atmaclassique.com/en) ! Not only is the pipe organ one of the world’s oldest musical instruments, it is also one of the most complicated. Comprised of thousands of pipes ranging in size from that of a small pencil to 32 feet in length, as well as innumerable internal mechanisms and electronic controls all managed by one musician at an equally complex (and appropriately named) “console” containing up to five separate keyboards. It takes a significant amount of training and dexterity to successfully maneuver these marvels of musical engineering. When executed properly, the organist’s job is to make the technical operation of the instrument a behind-the-scenes process, secondary in nature to the music itself. The audience need not (and should not) be aware of every button that is pushed, every pipe that is activated, but rather these small adaptations should be incorporated into the whole in a subtle and organic way, a challenging objective that grows increasingly complex as the size of the instrument increases. The Casavant organ at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Bloor Street is one of largest such instruments in Canada, with over 7,500 pipes at the organist’s disposal; it is also one of the finest. Matthew Larkin Plays Casavant Opus 550 at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Toronto illustrates just how magnificent and convincing a superb instrument can be in the hands of an equally gifted performer. A fascinating collection of international works, including those by a number of notable Canadian composers, ensures that this double-disc offering has something for every listener. Whether it is Healey Willan’s Passacaglia and Fugue No. 2, Keith Jarrett’s Hymn of Remembrance, or César Franck’s legendary Chorale No.3, Larkin and the organ of St. Paul’s provide interpretations that rise above the technical challenges (both musical and material) presented by the pipe organ and enter the realm of the sublime. With expertly crafted material spanning continents and centuries, this recording is highly recommended to all who have an interest in the organ, its history, and its music. Matthew Whitfield Paris, La Belle Époque Robert Langevin; Margaret Kampmeier Bridge Records 9555 (bridge-records.com) ! Robert Langevin, a native of Sherbrooke, Quebec has served as associate principal flute of the Montreal Symphony and, since 2000, principal flute of the New York Philharmonic. In this CD, he and pianist Margaret Kampmeier scintillate in ten delectable works composed during France’s “Belle Époque” (1871-1914), when Paris, rebounding after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, again became a leader of European arts and culture. The luxuriantly liquid melodies of Charles- Marie Widor’s Suite, Op.34, offer a musical counterpart to the entrancing beauties of Monet’s celebrated, willow-draped lily pond in Giverny. Jules Mouquet’s three-movement La flûte de Pan, Op.15, depicts the nature-god cavorting with shepherds, birds and nymphs. The second movement, Pan et les oiseaux, is especially ravishing, as “ancient” modal melodies float over harp-like piano plinks and arpeggios. Gabriel Fauré’s Fantaisie, Op.79 and Morceau de concours, the latter a sightreading test-piece for students at the Paris Conservatoire, are in Fauré’s familiar ambulatory, lyrically captivating style. George Enescu’s Cantabile et presto and Philippe Gaubert’s Nocturne et allegro scherzando were also composed for Conservatoire competitions. Both are very Fauré-like in character, as is Gaubert’s lovely Madrigal. Gaubert’s charming Fantaisie suggests the influence of Debussy, who closes this CD with two treasures of the flute repertoire, Prélude à l’aprésmidi d’un faune (arranged for flute and piano) and Syrinx for solo flute. Throughout, Langevin’s flute seems a living thing, a “magic flute” with a mellifluous voice and amazing acrobatic agility, yet always exquisitely graceful. Bravissimo! Michael Schulman Ink Merz Trio Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0148 (brightshiny.ninja) ! Subtlety is the overarching quality that violinist Brigid Coleridge, cellist Julia Yang and pianist Lee Dionne – the Merz Trio – convey so luminously in the works of Vincent Scotto, Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy interspersed between spoken words from Anna de Noailles, Jean Cocteau, Guillaume Apollinaire and other writers. All of this comes together seamlessly in the trio’s extraordinary debut disc, Ink. The recitation often doesn’t raise its voice much above a whisper, and even when it does, the narratives and music are skilfully and intricately interwoven to maintain a certain expressive decorum. The trio alters spoken word, harmonies and structural elements with impressive restraint, heading in directions that surprise and captivate the ear. Most of the movements in the pieces presented here have a somewhat programmatic basis, though it isn’t always necessary to know the storyline to appreciate the result. Moreover, both written word and musical notes spring off the page and rise in graceful, elliptical arcs pirouetting in balletic movement. Just when you think that things couldn’t get any better than Lili Boulanger’s D’un vieux jardin, it is Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor that unfolds in a series of ethereal gestures, emerging in a panoply of colours and harmonic implications. Throughout, the Merz perform with consummate artistry, blending superior control and tonal lucidity with a breathtaking sense of line and motion. Raul da Gama Piano Protagonists – Music for Piano & Orchestra Orion Weiss; The Orchestra Now; Leon Botstein Bridge Records 9547 (bridgerecords.com/ collections/catalog-all) ! All of the Piano Protagonists works are “firsts.” Erich Korngold’s Piano Concerto in C-sharp Major for One Hand (premiered 1924) was the first Paul Wittgensteincommissioned left-handed piano concerto. It has one dramatic movement in the style of Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt, more complex than his later Violin Concerto. Its tough-minded, ceremonial character was appropriate for the commisioner/pianist Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I. There are also tender-minded and mysterious moments in the middle section, Reigen (Round Dance – used ironically). Pianist Orion Weiss conveys these subtleties well. His technical mastery of massive octaves and chords, and of the lightning-fast burlesk section, never falters. Chopin’s Variations on “La ci darem la mano” (from Mozart’s Don Giovanni) for piano and orchestra first brought him to public attention. The variations’ intensity and freedom of piano ornamentation and passagework were striking, prefiguring his piano concertos. I particularly like the runs with double notes in Variation I, and the 40 | September and October 2021 thewholenote.com

polonaise variation and finale demonstrating the composer’s celebrated style achieved in his teens. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto in C-sharp Minor (1882-3) was a first for the non-pianist composer. An expert orchestrator, Rimsky-Korsakov plays to his strength in emphasizing piano-orchestra interplay over virtuosity. The wealth of musical invention applied to a simple Russian theme is what sustains this compact concerto. Weiss and The Orchestra Now under Leon Botstein convey the lively work’s spirit and its intricacies well. Roger Knox History of the Russian Piano Trio Vol.1 (Alyabiev; Glinka; Rubinstein); Vol. 2 (Tchaikovsky; Pabst); Vol. 3 (Rimsky- Korsakov; Cui; Borodin); Vol. 4 (Arensky; Taneyev); Vol. 5 (Dyck; Sternberg; Youferov) The Brahms Trio Naxos 8.574112-6 (naxosdirect.com/ search/8574112-6) ! This History of the Russian Piano Trio is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly it brings together piano trios, some of which were rarely performed (if at all). Secondly it features works by composers such as Alexander Alyabiev who is all but forgotten, and Vladimir Dyck, who was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz; and by others – Rimsky- Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Borodin – better known for large-scale works. Moreover, the trios by Dyck, Sternberg and Youferov are world premieres. Most significantly these five discs (the first releases in a proposed series of 15 CDs) are a magnificent attempt to resurrect the nobility of classicism that is uniquely Russian and that came into being as the country itself was in the throes of defining its own nationalism. All of these reasons make the undertaking of such a musical task uniquely challenging, but judging by the sublime performances throughout it is an uncommonly successful one. Most histories of Russian music are either written from a European perspective or with a Eurocentric bias in documenting events and achievements; something that you could hardly fault as the overarching influence – political and cultural – on Russian music came from outside its Western borders. But if the emancipation of the serfs was a political tipping point in Russian history and culture, it was the power of the so-called Big Five (Balakirev, Glinka, Cui, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov) that initiated the painting and sculpting of the significant landscape of a unique Russian musical character, quite apart from Western Europe; one which was later altered by the Russian Revolution, the horrors of Nazism, as well as the dénouement of Communism. The character of Russian music may be influenced by, but is unlike anything in, Western Europe. It is music significantly “younger” than that of Europe, phenomenally Eurasian in its cultural construct, and echoes with elegant and sometimes rustic flavours that are special to Slavic and Russian literary and other (folk) cultural traditions. All of this, though ancient in many respects, came into being just over 200 or so years ago. And so, just as Russia adopted its unique script late in history, so did the music reflect these momentous changes, as if to bring to life its singular cultural topography. This is not only captured by the composers represented here by their work, but in large measure by this stellar ensemble: The Brahms Trio of Moscow. Violinist Nikolai Sachenko, cellist Kirill Rodin and pianist Natalia Rubinstein bring Alyabiev’s lost work magically alive before turning to Glinka’s Trio pathétique in D Minor and Anton Rubinstein’s Piano Trio in G Minor with orchestral intensity, playing white-hot in ensemble and soli. Tchaikovsky’s piano trio in A minor and Paul Pabst’s in A major, are delivered with power and uncommon élan. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Trio in C Minor, Cui’s À Argenteau, Op.40, No.2 and Borodin’s Piano Trio in D Major are all superbly textured and delivered with delicate instrumental colouring and balance. Arensky’s beautiful Piano Trio No.1 in D Minor and Taneyev’s masterful Trio in D Major are played with shimmering delicacy. The Brahms Trio imparts a power and tragic stature to the monumental architecture of Dyck’s turbulent Piano Trio in C Minor. Sternberg’s Trio No.3 in C Major is played with effortless distinction and Youferov’s Piano Trio in C Minor, with debonair virtuosity and aristocratic grace. It is not only thrilling to listen to these five discs one after the other, but also seems poetic justice that such characterful music should be literally brought to life by this spectacular contemporary Russian trio. MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Raul da Gama Clifford Crawley – Moods and Miniatures Maureen Volk; Christine Carter; Michelle Cheramy; Beverley Diamond Centrediscs CMCCD 28621 (centrediscs.ca) ! “Cliff was a master of the miniature,” writes pianist Maureen Volk, Memorial University professor emeritus. This CD presents 39 of them, most under two minutes, one only 17 seconds! It begins, though, with the three-movement, 13-minute iPieces, composed for Volk in 2010. iOpener and iDeal feature Gershwinesque bluesiness and dreamy nostalgia; iDears is a perky succession of different dance rhythms and a Gershwinesque finishing flourish. England-born Clifford Crawley (1929- 2016) came to Canada in 1973 and taught at Queen’s University for 20 years. In 2002, he moved to St. John’s where his wife, pianistethnomusicologist Beverley Diamond, joined the Memorial University faculty. Volk writes, “My colleagues” – including this CD’s flutist Michelle Cheramy and clarinetist Christine Carter – “and I met a soft-spoken and generous man with a ready smile and a sly sense of humour who soon became a good friend. We also discovered a composer who had written a trove of wonderful music that deserves to be more widely known.” Listening to Toccatas and Twelve Preludes for solo piano, Ten a Penny Pieces for clarinet and piano, pieces-of-eight for flute, clarinet and piano and Kalamalka for piano-duet (Volk and Diamond), I was often reminded of Poulenc who, like Crawley, enjoyed juxtaposing dancehall and circus music with poignant, melancholic lyricism. Crawley’s playful waltz, tango, polka and foxtrot rhythms, combined with his innate melodic gift, created music that was surely gladdening to compose and, for this listener, definitely gladdening to hear. Michael Schulman thewholenote.com September and October 2021 | 41

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