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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.

mood, frolichkeit and

mood, frolichkeit and friendliness between the two artists, world-famous German heldentenor Jonas Kaufmann and his accompanist Helmut Deutsch, pianist, Liszt expert and aficionado. This good spirit translates into a happy collaboration shining throughout this record. Liszt wrote some 90 songs that are difficult to sing, as Liszt treated the voice as he treated the piano: mercilessly extending it to two octaves, sudden fortissimo outbursts, key changes and the like. Kaufmann selected 20 for this release with a coherent title – Freudvoll und Liedvoll meaning joyful and sorrowful – referring mainly to love, because love is indeed sometimes very happy and sometimes very sad as anyone who’s ever been in love knows. And indeed, the most beautiful song, I think, is O lieb, solang du lieben kannst (Love as long as you can) with the famous melody of Liebestraum No.3. Kaufmann’s voice is amazingly flexible to cope with mood changes: from heroic fortissimo to soft and sweet intonation, like the way he caresses the words Freudvoll und Leidvoll. The spirit of love is indeed manifest in the centrepiece of this collection, the three Petrarch Sonnets. These are written in Italian as opposed to all the other songs which are in German, with unparalleled melodic richness. A joyful moment for me, and a nice surprise, was the sudden outburst of a glorious Hungarian melody in the song: Die drei Zigeuner, played with gusto by Helmut Deutsch. He is marvellous throughout, playing with ease Liszt’s very difficult accompaniments. Janos Gardonyi Offenbach – Barbe-Bleue Soloists; Orchestra and Chorus of Opera de Lyon; Michele Spotti Opus Arte OA1336D (naxosdirect.com/ search/oa1336d) ! Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, the librettists of Bizet’s Carmen, also created the texts for ten Offenbach operettas, including this one. Their madcap take on the malevolent, much-married Bluebeard merrily mixed earthy peasants, young lovers with concealed identities, a bawdy rustic seductress, a nutty king, fawning courtiers, a duel and Bluebeard’s five ex-wives who, thanks to a resourceful alchemist, survived Bluebeard’s poisonous plots. It all ends joyfully – the young lovers are reunited, the ex-wives are paired off into happy matrimony with five newly escaped, previously condemned courtiers, all disguised as Gypsy singers, while Bluebeard receives his well-deserved comeuppance. The large contingent of vocally and physically invigorated soloists and choristers are led by soprano Jennifer Courcier (“Fleurette,” actually Princess Hermia), mezzo Héloïse Mas (the scene-stealing sexpot Boulotte) and tenors Carl Ghazarossian (Prince Saphir) and Yann Beuron (Barbe-bleue). Conductor Michele Spotti deftly propels the Opéra de Lyon Orchestra in its headlong whirl in this 2019 production, marred only by the pedestrian, modern-day sets and costumes, so at odds with the zany scenario and rollicking music. The two-hour operetta is augmented by an hour-long documentary, Tales of Offenbach, depicting the composer’s roots in Jewish klezmer and liturgical music, his embrace of libretti parodying political leaders and the upper classes while championing the powers of liberated women and, of course, his evereffervescent music that influenced Johann Strauss Jr., Lehár and, ultimately, Broadway. It’s a very worthwhile bonus to the very worthwhile main attraction. Michael Schulman Bizet – Carmen Anna Caterina Antonacci; Andrew Richards; Anne-Catherine Gillet; Nicolas Cavallier; Monteverdi Choir; Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique; Sir John Eliot Gardiner Naxos 2.110685-86 (naxosdirect.com/ search/2110685-86) ! Although Les pêcheurs de perles launched Georges Bizet’s memorable career as an operatic composer, it was Carmen, composed in 1875, which left his indelible stamp on the world. Its premiere so shocked the conservative audience of opéra comique of the day that it almost discontinued its run. Yet the seductive magic that worked through the charm of its melodies, Spanish exoticism of its score and strength of its characters has made it one of the greatest, most enduring operas of all time. This DVD, (of the 2009 film) could not have come at a better time, when most of the world’s opera houses still remain closed due to an unrelenting pandemic. What makes it all the more enduring is the fact that it is a production stage-directed by Adrian Noble, with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the Monteverdi Choir conducted by the great Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Of course, you couldn’t ask for a better cast than soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci as the rebellious cigarette girl, Carmen, and tenor Andrew Richards as the honourable corporal in the dragoons, Don José. Or for that matter soprano Anne- Catherine Gillet as the peasant girl Micaëla and bass-baritone Nicholas Cavallier as Escamillo. The rich colour of the choruses and orchestration plays a central role. But while Don José, Escamillo and Micaëla have fine arias, Antonacci’s Carmen is the diva of this opera, nowhere more brilliantly expressed than in her Act One Habanera. Raul da Gama Korngold – Der Tote Stadt Jonas Kaufmann; Marlis Petersen; Bayerische Staatsoper; Kirill Petrenko Bayerische Stattoper BSOREC1001 (naxosdirect.com/search/bsorec1001) ! This release from the Bavarian State Opera launches their new label for in-house video recordings in grand style. Erich Korngold was just 23 in 1920, when he wrote Die Tote Stadt – both the music, and, with his father, music critic Julius Korngold, the libretto (under the pen name Paul Schott). It’s based on a melancholy, dream-suffused novel, Bruges-la-Morte, written almost 30 years earlier by Georges Rodenbach. But there are significant changes, especially to the ending. Now Korngold’s opulent Vienna prevails over Rodenbach’s claustrophobic Bruges. The inventive staging by Simon Stone takes full advantage of Ralph Myers’ magically transforming, exquisitely detailed set. Kirill Petrenko leads the splendid BSO orchestra and chorus with a probing intensity that takes us directly to the emotional pulse of Korngold’s sumptuous, turbulent opera. Nostalgic romanticism confronts expressionist modernism. Tenor Jonas Kaufmann inhabits the role of volatile, tormented Paul as though it had been written for him. Soprano Marlis Peterson matches Kaufmann for gorgeous singing and convincing acting as Marietta, a free-spirited dancer who reminds Paul of his dead wife. Peterson’s rapport with Kaufmann in the exquisite duet, Glück, das mir verblieb (Joy, that near to me remained) is irresistible. Baritone Andrzej Filończyk serenades Marietta with a tender Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen (My yearning, my dreaming) as he leads her in a waltz. The whole time, he’s pushing her around in a shopping cart. It’s one of the many treasurable moments from this brilliant production that stay with me. Pamela Margles 38 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

Infinity VOCES8 Decca Classics B0034074-02 (voces8.com) ! Trailblazing comforting online choral video performances at the outset of the current pandemic, VOCES8 presents Infinity, a new disc with a soothing, meditative space-inspired theme. Evocatively dubbed “the Rolls-Royce of British a-cappella ensembles,” this eight-voice choir with a 15-year international career enjoys transcending genres. On this record they render the scores of composers of alternative, film, electronic and contemporary classical music. The 15-track program includes arranged excerpts from film scores interspersed with a medieval song and eight commissioned works. Collectively, the music admirably showcases VOCES8’s clean, well-controlled, precision English vocal ensemble sound, yet one with character, personality and not without warmth. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s A Pile of Dust is an example of what one can expect on the album. Driven by the ensemble’s vocal pacing, its climactic middle section miraculously builds relentlessly higher and higher before just as relentlessly slowly resolving, settling down in quiet half notes. Other highlights include In the Shining Blackness (2016), London composer Benjamin Rimmer’s searching, challenging-to-sing double-SATB score. In keeping with the outer space theme, Nainita Desai’s tonal My Mind is Still, for voices, solo violin, piano and bowed vibraphone, is apparently sprinkled with fragments of recorded sound from Sputnik, humanity’s first satellite. I found singer-songwriter and electronic producer Kelly Lee Owens and Sebastian Plano’s Find Our Way, skillfully arranged by Jim Clements, particularly moving. Exquisitely sung by VOCES8, it was so reassuring after a rough day that it required a third listen. Andrew Timar Duo della Luna: Mangetsu Susan Botti; Airi Yoshioka New Focus Recordings FCR 305 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! A rare ensemble combination of voice and violin, Duo della Luna presents an album that is sonically beautiful and contextually adventurous. Mangetsu is dreamy and poetic yet cutting edge and experimental. The thread that connects a variety of compositions on this album is the unique ensemble sound throughout: deep, eloquent, potent. Susan Botti (voice/composer) and Airi Yoshioka (violin) venture into themes of life and creation, imagination, female power and love with a magical artistic rapport. The album opens with Botti’s dreamlike multi-movement title work. The wordless sections (“mangetsu”) are nested in between the movements with poems describing the moon and the ethereal world of childhood (Shikibu, Yeats, de Saint-Exupéry). The result is music that is willowy and sensual, a luring mystery. Botti explores the possibilities of voice and violin interactions to a great degree but always in the service of the poetry. Yoshioka’s violin playing is simply gorgeous, the colours and the precision equally alluring. The rest of the album consists of Botti’s innovative arrangements of selected Bartók Duos for Two Violins, followed by Kaija Saariaho’s intimate Changing Light. Linda Dusman’s Triptych of Gossips, incorporating a fancifully rhythmical poem by Serena Hilsinger, is a chamber of curiosities of extended techniques and a great sonic adventure. There is a certain kind of magic that happens when the music is expressed in so few voices. The sound becomes unadorned and pure, and these two performers take full advantage of it. Ivana Popovic CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint- Georges – Symphonies Concertantes, Opp.9, 10 & Op.11, No.1 Pavla Honsová; Michael Halász; Yury Revich; Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Libor Ježek Naxos 8574306 (naxosdirect.com/ search/+8574306) ! An émigré to France, he was a brilliant swordsman, an accomplished musician and reputedly handsome – how could the French music-loving public not embrace such a well-rounded individual? Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges was born in Guadeloupe in 1739, the son of a wealthy French landowner and a Black servant. He was taken to Paris at the age of ten where he studied with Gossec and by age 30, he was leader of the musical organization Le Concert des Amateurs. Saint-Georges was also a fine composer, and among his prolific output are several symphonies concertantes – concertos for more than one instrument. Four of them, Opp.9 and 10 scored for two violins (plus a viola in the Op.10) and orchestra are presented on this splendid Naxos recording featuring the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra Pardubice conducted by Michael Halász. In style, this music owes much to Haydn and typically, these works have only two movements – a spirited allegro followed What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening 17 Days in December Jacqueline Kerrod “Anything but a collection of soothing pastoral harp settings” Textura “ … fearless improviser and experimentalist” Avant Music News “virtuosic and sensitive harpist” Classical Source Baked Cafe Glenn Chatten The Whitehorse, Yukon based singer-songwriter and guitarist has crafted a heartfelt seventh album of folk songs, blues, and masterfully finger-picked acoustic guitar instrumentals On My Way to You Shirley Eikhard A riveting highly intimate CD of songs from one of Canada's finest singer/songwriters. SUBA Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita SUBA is the second album from the collaboration between Cuba’s Jazz Artists, pianist Omar Sosa, and Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita. Available at Grigorian.com thewholenote.com November 2021 | 39

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