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Volume 27 Issue 2 - November 2021

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  • November
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • December
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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.

Violin Sonata Op.5

Violin Sonata Op.5 No.12, opens an otherwise all-Vivaldi program of the Violin Concertos in D Major RV211, E-flat Major RV257, B Minor RV386 and the Andante middle movement from the Concerto in B-flat Major RV583. The 1717 Gariel Stradivarius that Benedetti has played since 2012 sounds warm and bright, with top-notch performances from all concerned, contributing to a lovely CD. With violinist Tianwa Yang you can always count on a mixture of dazzling technique, colour, tone and musical intelligence, and so it proves again on Prokofiev Violin Concertos Nos.1 and 2, her latest release on the Naxos Classics label with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Jun Märkl (8.574107 naxosdirect.com/ search/8574107). Performances of the Concertos No.1 in D Major Op.19 and No.2 in G Minor Op.63 are both particularly strong on the lyrical aspects of the works, with some beautifully expansive playing. The Sonata for Solo Violin in D Major Op.115 completes an excellent disc. Violinist Renaud Capuçon recently became artistic director of the Orchestre de chambre de Lausanne, and Arvo Pärt Tabula Rasa is his first recording as soloist and conductor of the ensemble (Erato 9029502957 warnerclassics.com/release/tabula-rasa). The seven works here are: the double concerto Tabula Rasa; the 1992 version of Fratres for violin, string orchestra and percussion; Summa and Silouan’s Song, both for string orchestra; Darf ich… (May I); Spiegel im Spiegel (with piano); and For Lennart in memoriam. Capuçon says that the music takes us from darkness to light, but there’s very little change of mood across the CD. Still, the playing is first class, and if you love Pärt’s music you’ll love this disc. Andreas Brantelid is the cellist on Times of Transition, a CD of three cello concertos from the second half of the 18th century, when Baroque polyphony and fugue were giving way to the early classical galant style of melody with accompaniment. Lars Ulrik Mortensen conducts the Concerto Copenhagen (Naxos Denmark 8.574365 naxosdirect.com/search/8574365). C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto in A Major Wq.172 with its familiar finale dates from 1753. Haydn’s Concertos in C Major Hob.VIIb:1 from 1761-65 and the purely classical D Major Hob.VIIb:2 from 1783 are the only two indisputably by him, the finale of the C major work drawing particularly fine playing from Brantelid, who for this disc plays an Emil Hjort, Copenhagen cello from 1887 with gut strings. He’s not a composer you readily associate with violin sonatas, but on Heitor Villa- Lobos Complete Violin Sonatas, the new CD from Naxos Classics in their Music of Brazil series violinist Emmanuele Baldini and pianist Pablo Rossi present three delightful pieces which should be much better known (8.574310 naxosdirect.com/ search/8574310). The works – the single-movement Sonata No.1 Fantasia “Désespérance” and the three-movement Sonatas No.2 Fantasia and No.3 – were written between 1912 and 1920, a key period in Villa- Lobos’ career in which he was maturing as a composer, establishing a personal style and achieving his first professional successes. There’s influence of French late-Romanticism here (especially Debussy in No.3) and a wealth of melodic invention, with excellent performances making for a delightful disc. Jurgis Karnavičius String Quartets Nos.3 & 4 is the final volume in the complete string quartets by the Lithuanian composer, in world-premiere recordings by the Vilnius String Quartet (Ondine ODE1387-2 naxosdirect.com/search/761195138724). These quartets are more expressive and modern in nature than Nos.1 & 2, warmly reviewed here in May/June of this year, and were composed in St. Petersburg in 1922 and 1925 before Karnavičius returned to Lithuania in 1927. After their premieres they were not heard again until 1969 and the 1980s respectively, with No.4 still unpublished. It’s hard to understand why – described as a stylistic link between the quartets of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich and as a “chromatically saturated musical fabric” they’re outstanding works given wonderfully rich and empathetic performances by the Lithuanian ensemble. The string quartets of Samuel Barber and Charles Ives are featured on Barber – Ives in excellent performances by the Escher String Quartet (BIS-2360 bis.se). Barber’s String Quartet Op.11 features the original inception of his Adagio for Strings as its central movement, beautifully played here. The original third movement, discarded by Barber in favour of a shorter ending, is also included for reference. Ives’ two quartets have various composition and revision dates from 1897 to 1915. His String Quartet No.1 “From the Salvation Army” (A Revival Service) is played with the reinstated first movement, discarded by Ives but re-attached – and not to everyone’s approval – by Ives scholar John Kirkpatrick after the composer’s death. His String Quartet No.2 is more dissonant and atonal, but makes similar use of American hymns and folk tunes. The spiky Scherzo: Holding Your Own from 1903-04 completes a terrific disc. Joseph Haydn The Last Three String Quartets Op.77 & Op.103 is the new CD from the Czech Pražák Quartet (Praga PRD250420 pragadigitals.com). In 1799 Haydn started a projected set of six quartets dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz but completed only two – Op.77 Nos.1 and 2. In 1802/03 he wrote two middle movements for an unfinished third quartet; these are now known as Op.103. The Op.77 quartets in particular, described here as “bold and full of wit” make a fitting farewell to a musical form that Haydn had almost single-handedly established and developed. The performances are full-blooded but insightful and sensitive, putting one – if you are old enough – in mind of the great Czech quartet ensembles of the 1960s Supraphon LP recordings. Ciaconna is Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts’ first solo recording of music of his own time with a tribute to its inspiration – Johann Sebastian Bach (BIS-2525 bis.se). Heinz Holliger’s brief Drei kleine Szenen intertwines Gringolts’ voice in the Ciacconina first movement. Roberto Gerhard’s Chaconne, inspired by Bach’s D-Minor Chaconne is a 12-tone work of 12 short movements, but with highly individual use and adaptation of the basic tone row. The major work here is Kontrapartita by the French composer Brice Pauset, its seven movements – Preludio, Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande, Loure, Giga and Ciaccona – interspersed with the seven Bach movements from the three Partitas that inspired them. The D-Minor Chaconne also turns up on Bartók, J. S. Bach, Schneeberger, a recital CD from the Russian violinist Dmitry Smirnov 36 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

featuring Bartók’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Bach’s Partita No.2 in D Minor and the 1942 Sonata for Solo Violin by the Swiss violinist Hansheinz Schneeberger, who died two years ago at the age of 93 (First Hand Recordings FHR117 firsthandrecords.com). There are some interesting ornamentation choices in the Bach (especially in the Sarabande), but the Bartók and – in particular – the Schneeberger are given convincing performances. VOCAL Handel – Rodelinda Lucy Crowe; Iestyn Davies; Joshua Ellicott; Tim Mead; Brandon Cedel; Jess Dandy; The English Concert; Harry Bicket Linn Records CKD 658 (naxosdirect.com/ search/ckd658) ! Success is a funny thing – sometimes it finds you, and sometimes you create it for yourself. This latter circumstance is the one in which Handel found himself in 1711 after bringing Italian opera to London with his Rinaldo and achieving tremendous success as a result. Over a decade later, Handel would revisit Italian opera in London through three separate works: Giulio Caesare, Tamerlano and Rodelinda. Regarded as one of Handel’s greatest works, Rodelinda was first performed in London in 1725 but did not receive a permanent place in the modern opera repertoire until the Baroque revival movement in the 1960s. Since then, it has been staged in major opera houses across the globe and featured on numerous recordings, not the least of which is this stellar essay featuring the English Concert led by Harry Bicket. From the opening notes, it is apparent that this performance of Handel’s masterpiece is well worth the time spent listening. The French overture has the requisite gravitas and agility, delightfully shaped and exquisitely performed, and it only gets better from there. Throughout this two-disc set it is immensely satisfying to hear such well-paced and thoughtfully performed interpretations, never ranging to extremes either in tempo or dynamic, always feeling that the singer and orchestra are collaborating comfortably, and allowing the singers themselves to express the dramatic intricacies of Handel’s vocal writing in a measured yet fluid manner. Whether unfamiliar with Handel’s operas or a seasoned expert, this recording is a magnificent addition to any collection and an utter delight to listen to from beginning to end. Matthew Whitfield Beethoven – Fidelio Lise Davidsen; Christian Elsner; Georg Zeppenfeld; Dresdner Philharmonie; Marek Janowski Pentatone PTC 5186 880 (naxosdirect.com/ search/ptc5186880) ! Beethoven named his only opera after a young man who doesn’t actually exist, even in the opera. He’s a character that the heroic Leonore uses as a disguise to rescue her husband Florestan from prison. Leonore is a complex role, as challenging dramatically as vocally. Yet it often gets less attention than the role of Florestan, who doesn’t even appear until well over halfway through. Here, a commanding performance from the young Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen puts the spotlight unquestionably on Leonore. Davidsen’s combination of power, virtuosity and beauty, which makes her Act I aria, Absheulicher! (You monster!) so moving, is rare and wonderful. Davidsen is supported by a largely terrific cast. In particular, I love how Georg Zeppenfeld brings out Rocco’s humanity, compromised though he may be. Johannes Kränzle makes a satisfyingly nasty Pizarro, and Christina Landshamer is an affecting Marzelline. But Christian Elsner’s ragged, effortful Florestan is a letdown. The exquisite Dresden Philharmonic plays with the agility of a chamber ensemble, while the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir is inspired, soaring in the rapturous O welche Lust (Oh what joy). Conductor Marek Janowski propels things forward with buoyant vitality. Fortunately, the dialogue has been retained, though it has been judiciously pared down. The singers speak their own lines – no actors or narrators are brought in, as is done too often. Unsurprisingly, this makes for natural, seamless transitions between dialogue and music. Special kudos to Pentatone for including the full text and English translation in the booklet. Pamela Margles Liszt – Freudvoll und Leidvoll Jonas Kaufmann Sony Classical (jonaskaufmann.com/en) ! Just looking at the photography in the booklet that comes with this wonderful new release from Sony Classical, I was immediately struck by the jolly good What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening With Malice Toward None Apollo Chamber Players Multicultural new music by Kimo Williams, Pamela Z, Christopher Theofanidis and Eve Beglarian inspired by Beethoven, Lincoln, Joni Mitchell, Armenia and the poetry of Samuel Beckett. The Planets & Humanity Piano Reflections Tanya Ekanayaka Eight new works for piano also inspired by traditional musics of Earth’s six continents composed & performed by Sri Lankan-British virtuoso composer-pianist Tanya Ekanayaka Off the Carousel June Garber Some of June’s very favourite compositions that reflect upon her life's ride thus far, on roads both rough and smooth. A Prayer For Lester Bowie David Sanford Big Band The composer's 20-piece band performs six kaleidoscopic originals, an arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Dizzy Atmosphere,” and the moving title composition by trumpeter Hugh Ragin. thewholenote.com November 2021 | 37

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