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Volume 27 Issue 2 - November 2021

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  • November
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Live events on the up and up while creative live-and livestreamed hybrids continue to shine. October All-star Sondheim's Follies at Koerner Hall headlines the resurgence; Zoprana Sadiq brings MixTape to Crow's Theatre; Stewart Goodyear and Jan Lisiecki bring piano virtuosity back indoors; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's J-S Vallee in action; TSO finds itself looking at 60 percent capacities ahead of schedule. All this and more as we we complete our COVID-13 -- a baker's dozen of issues since March 2020. Available here in flipthrough, and on stands commencing this weekend.

Aimard and Jonas Vitaud.

Aimard and Jonas Vitaud. Aimard, perhaps best known for his interpretations of contemporary repertoire – especially Messiaen and Ligeti whose Piano Concerto he performed with New Music Concerts here in Toronto early in his career in 1990 – marked the anniversary year with Beethoven: Hammerklavier Sonata and Eroica Variations (PentaTone PTC 5186 724 naxosdirect.com/search/ptc5186724). He is obviously as at home with 200-year-old repertoire as with the music of his own time. The Eroica Variations date from the year 1802 and Vitaud has chosen to centre his disc around that year in which Beethoven realized he was becoming irreversibly deaf, contemplated suicide and wrote the “Heiligenstadt Testament” to his brothers Carl and Johann. He would overcome his depression and go on to write some of his most powerful works. 1802 – Beethoven Testament de Heiligenstadt (Mirare MIR562 mirare.fr/catalogue) begins with those flamboyant variations and includes Seven Bagatelles Op.33 and Six Variations Op.34 bookending the Piano Sonata Op.31/2 “Tempest” with its undying despair. Vitaud suggests this arc as a depiction of Beethoven’s journey toward hope. Griffiths mentions that although the first performance in the US of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was not until 1846, some there might have been aware of the work in Czerny’s piano duet arrangement of 1829. Liszt published solo piano arrangements of the nine symphonies in 1865. As I am writing this, a new two-piano version has just arrived on my desk, Götterfunken (gods’ gleam, or divine spark) featuring the mother-and-daughter team of Eliane Rodrigues and Nina Smeets (navonarecords.com/catalog/ nv6382). In the liner notes Rodrigues says; “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen so much sadness and pain that I wanted to share a moment of joy, love, and friendship. The only thing that came to mind and heart was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in a version for two pianos with my daughter, Nina. My arrangement is not a literal transcription of the orchestral score. Rather, it’s based on what I hear and feel when listening to the orchestral music and Franz Liszt’s arrangement. The main goal was to follow in Beethoven’s footsteps and connect his work to the present day; to achieve what he would have wanted: to unite all people with just one simple melody.” I believe that STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS Jack Liebeck Ysaÿe sees the outstanding English violinist finally recording Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin Op.27, works which have long fascinated him (Orchid Classics ORC100179 jackliebeck.com). “I always knew I would have to climb this mountain,” says Liebeck, and the recent COVID lockdowns provided the right moment. He describes Ysaÿe’s style as monumental, with gothic themes, drama and poignancy, and the music as the pinnacle of harmonic and technical challenge, which nevertheless fits a violinist’s hand like a glove. Liebeck is joined by pianist Daniel Grimwood in the rhapsodic Poème élégiaque in D Minor Op.12, and as always draws a sumptuous tone from his 1785 J. B. Guadagnini violin in superlative performances. In March 2020 violinist Elena Urioste and pianist Tom Poster decided to record and share one music video for every day spent in isolation. The expected two to three weeks of their #UriPosteJukeBox project turned into 88 days – one for each piano key. The resulting studio CD The Jukebox Album is simply one of the most heartmelting and breathtakingly beautiful discs you could imagine (Orchid Classics ORC100173 orchidclassics.com/ releases/jukebox). From the opening Look for the Silver Lining through a program including standards like La vie en rose, Begin the Beguine, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and Send in the Clowns, all in superb arrangements by Poster and with occasional sumptuous multitracking by Urioste, to Kreisler arrangements, pieces by Carlos Gardel, Lili Boulanger, Fauré and six new pieces commissioned for the project, the standard never drops for a moment. “This is the music we’ve loved our whole lives,” says Poster, and it shows in every note of an absolutely gorgeous CD. Cellist Daniel Müller-Schott is in superb form on Four Visions of France – French Cello Concertos with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Alexandre Bloch (Orfeo C988211 naxosdirect.com/search/c988211). Saint-Saëns is represented by his 1872 Cello Concerto No.1 in A Minor Op.33 and the Romance in F Major Op.36. Honegger’s fascinating 1929 Cello Concerto and Lalo’s 1877 Cello Concerto in D Minor are the other two major works, with Fauré’s Élégie in C Minor Op.24 in the 1901 orchestral version completing the disc. A lovely recorded ambience captures the luminous textures and sensual orchestral colours typical of French music, on an outstanding CD. British Solo Cello Music features the alwayswonderful Steven Isserlis (Hyperion CDA68373 hyperion-records.co.uk/ dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68373). Britten’s Tema ‘Sacher’ and Cello Suite No.3 Op.87 open the disc, with Isserlis being joined by pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen for the three Tchaikovsky settings of the folk-song themes used in the Suite. Other works are Walton’s Theme for a Prince and Passacaglia, John Gardner’s Coranto pizzicato, Frank Merrick’s Suite in the eighteenthcentury style and the brief Sola by Thomas Adès. As always, Isserlis’ booklet essay is erudite and fascinating, with its personal reminiscences of John Gardner (1917-2011) and – in particular – the astonishing Frank Merrick (1886-1981) an absolute delight. Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and cellist Sol Gabetta celebrate 20 years of friendship on Sol & Pat, a recital of duos for violin and cello built around two 20th-century masterpieces (ALPHA757 34 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

Rodrigues has succeeded admirably. The semi-improvised sections are not at all jarring, and the result is very satisfying. The overall effect is uplifting, in spite of the absence of Schiller’s anthemic words. Just what we need in these troubled times. Well that’s a lot of piano indeed, but I’m none the worse for wear. I did add cello to the mix with Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax’s Hope Amid Tears – Beethoven Cello Sonatas (sonyclassical.com/releases), a three- CD set that includes the five sonatas and the three sets of variations. I found my personal favourites, Sonata No.3 in A Major, Op.69 and the Variations on Handel’s “Hail the Conquering Hero” to be particularly satisfying. For the record I also listened to the penultimate string quartet, and full orchestral versions of the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis. For String Quartet No.15 in A Minor Op.132, I chose two recordings from my archives, one by the Tokyo String Quartet recorded when Canadian Peter Oundjian was a member of the group (RCA Red Seal Masters 88691975782), and the other by Canada’s Alcan Quartet (ATMA ACD2 2493). Both are taken from complete cycles of all 16 quartets and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite. For Symphony No.9 it was Mariss Jansons conducting a live performance for Bavarian Radio in 2007 whose soloists included Canadian tenor Michael Schade (BRK90015 naxosdirect.com/search/brk90015), and for the Missa Solemnis, it was Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic with the Westminster Choir and soloists Eileen Farrell, Carol Smith, Richard Lewis and Kim Borg from 1961, reissued on Leonard Bernstein The Royal Edition in 1992 (Sony Classical SM2K 47522). I must say I found Borg’s performance put me in mind of the description of the wonderful bass who sang the lead role in the imaginary Job: The Oratorio. It’s a shame it was all in Griffiths’ mind, and of course, in the pages of his marvellous book! Although Beethoven did not write an oratorio, he did compose one opera, Fidelio. You may read Pamela Margles’ review of the latest recording further on in these pages, and Raul da Gama’s take on the original 1805 version, Leonore, in Volume 26 No.6 of The WholeNote published in March this year. (Full disclosure, I did not put all of my other reading on hold for the sake of this article. I actually read Grossman’s More Than I Love My Life before starting this column and will read the final 15 pages of Powers’ Bewilderment as soon I finish.) We invite submissions. CDs, DVDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com naxosdirect.com/search/alpha757). Ravel’s Sonata and, in particular, Kodaly’s Duo Op.7 draw terrific playing from the duo, with shorter pieces ranging from the dazzling opening gypsy dance of Leclair’s Tambourin: Presto through a pizzicato C.P.E. Bach Presto to the J. S. Bach keyboard Prelude No.15 in G Major, with brief contemporary works by Jörg Widmann, Francisco Coll, Marcin Markowicz, Xenakis and Ligeti. An unexpected gem, though, is La Fête au village Op.9, a 1947 affectionate depiction of Swiss National Day by Swiss composer Julien- François Zbinden, who was still alive and emailing the performers in 2018 aged 101. On his new CD Hope violinist Daniel Hope presents a personal collection of classics featuring music largely based on songs or sung melodies that he describes as “an attempt to send out a ray of hope and to provide people with a sense of support and perhaps even consolation” (DGG 28948605415 deutschegrammophon.com/en/ artists/danielhope). He is joined by an array of artists including the Zürcher Kammerorchester, the vocal ensemble Amarcord and baritone Thomas Hampson in a program that opens with Ariel Ramírez’s beautiful Misa Criolla and travels through pieces by Dowland, Schubert, Giazotto, El-Khoury, Pärt, Elgar and Stephen Foster to Danny Boy, Dream a Little Dream and Amazing Grace. As always with Hope and friends, the standard of arrangements and performances is of the highest level. Baroque, the new CD from violinist Nicola Benedetti marks her first Baroque recording with period set-up and gut strings. She is joined by the Benedetti Baroque Orchestra, a new ensemble of freelance Baroque musicians that she assembled and directs (Decca Classics B0034187-2 nicolabenedetti.co.uk). Geminiani’s Concerto grosso in D Minor H143 “La Folia”, a transcription of Corelli’s What we're listening to this month: The WholeNote Listening Room Hear tracks from any of the recordings displayed in this section: Plus Watch Videos Click to Buy thewholenote.com/listening "Stimme aus der Ferne" - A Voice From the Distance Andrea Botticelli Her debut album: works for piano by Schubert, Czerny, Clara Schumann, and Robert Schumann on a replica 1830’s Viennese fortepiano, owned by the Banff Centre. Sound Visionaries Christina Petrowska Quilico Unearthing modernity, impressionism, and mysticism, Petrowska Quilico proves that despite all difficulties, finding common ground between Debussy, Messiaen, and Boulez can be done spectacularly. Retro Americana Christina Petrowska Quilico Petrowska Quilico embarks on a journey through time, splendidly showcasing the gamut of North American piano music, a longneglected genre seldom heard in such magnificence. thewholenote.com November 2021 | 35

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