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Volume 27 Issue 3 - December 2021 / January 2022

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Many Happy Returns: the rebirth of Massey Hall -- from venue to hub; music theatre's re-emergence from postponement limbo; pianist Vikingur Ólafsson's return visit to to "Glenn Gould's hometown"; guest writer music librarian Gary Corrin is back from his post behind the scenes in the TSO library; Music for Change returns to 21C; and here we all are again! Welcome back. Fingers crossed, here we go.

works are of particular

works are of particular note in this regard – their contrapuntal dexterity and complexity are conveyed particularly well on the organ, as demonstrated by renowned Danish organist Jens E. Christensen. Performing Schumann’s Six Fugues on B-A-C-H, Op.60 and the Six Canonic Studies, Op.56, Christensen shows Schumann at his most cerebral, writing that is rigid in its structure yet fluid in its harmonic style. Indeed, the choice of the famous B-flat - A - C - B natural motif (B-A-C-H in German note names) is a not-too-subtle homage to Schumann’s idol. His choice to use this theme as the source of six independent fugues is a demonstration of Schumann’s devotion to his craft, a flexing of musical muscles that demonstrate his ability to exist within a defined structure while simultaneously expanding and manipulating these structures to their limits. One of the great challenges with performing this music on the organ is the registration, or stops and pipes, that the organist must choose to best convey the composer’s intentions. Christensen is heard here on the organ in Copenhagen’s Von Frelser Church, an instrument that is historical both in age and temperament, best suited to the works of Bach and earlier composers. Despite the apparent temporal discrepancy, this sound is exceedingly effective: while Christensen may occasionally incorporate one too many Baroque phrasings into his interpretations, the combination gives Schumann’s chromatic material the backwards-looking realization it requires, reinforcing the direct references to Bach and his own contrapuntal genius. Matthew Whitfield Sibelius – Symphony No.3 Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal; Yannick Nézet-Séguin ATMA ACD2 4033 (atmaclassique.com/en) ! After gaining world fame and plaudits too numerous to mention, Yannick Nézet Séguin is back in Canada with his first orchestra, the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal and, with ATMA Classique, is in the process of recording the seven symphonies of Jean Sibelius. This new release is part of this ambitious series. The seven symphonies of Sibelius are certainly music the world had never heard before; music of the North, inspired by Finnish myths and sagas and a landscape with elemental forces of nature. Interestingly, there is a stylistic evolution from the first to the seventh symphony. Despite their wildly different characteristics, all progress towards the same purpose, a condensation, a telescoping of elements that comes into full fruition in the Seventh Symphony where all four movements fuse into a single one. Nearly the shortest of the seven and in the key of C Major, the Third has almost a Mozartian clarity with transparent textures and straightforward momentum. Mysteriously however, somewhere in the first movement suddenly everything quiets down with a perpetual, nearly inaudible rustle of strings as if we would disappear into a misty thicket with only an occasional shriek of a bird (on the clarinet) breaking the silence. A combination of the third and fourth movements, the Finale is magnificent: as the rhythmically pulsating, suspenseful Scherzo gradually dies down, a new march-like theme emerges almost imperceptibly; pianissimo on the cellos and gaining momentum, and before we know it we are in the midst of the Finale. Soon, all the strings and the woodwinds join in louder and louder. Finally the clarinets, flutes and horns raise their instruments high and the trumpets and trombones bring everything to a final glory. Nézet-Séguin manages this giant crescendo masterfully. Janos Gardonyi A Net of Gems Suzanne Shulman; Erica Goodman Wolftone WM21061 (shulmangoodman. bandcamp.com) ! The CD opens with flutist Franz Doppler’s and harpist Antonio Zamara’s co-composed Casilda Fantaisie, based on the opera, Casilda, by Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (and Queen Victoria’s brother-in-law). Erica Goodman and Suzanne Shulman navigate this mix of lyricism and virtuosity admirably, offering virtuosic lyricism and lyric virtuosity! Next comes Bernard Andrès’ Narthex followed by David Occhipinti’s Net of Gems, which gives the disc its name. Though composed 49 years apart, they have much in common, both inspired by religious themes, the first by Romanesque church architecture, the second by Hinduism’s net of Indra. Melodic, through composed and episodic, both have the surreal quality of a metaphorical journey through a variety of distinctive and contrasting neighbourhoods. The performers’ sensitivity to the contrast between episodes is what really helped me to navigate this difficult musical structure. Next on the program was Camille Saint- Saëns’ Fantaisie, Op. 124, originally composed for violin and harp but so well adapted for the flute by Hidio Kamioka and Shulman that you would never guess that Saint-Saëns ever had any other instrument in mind. To me this was the highlight of the CD: both players seemed so comfortably at home both with the music and with each other. In Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No.5, which might be translated as “the unknowable part of the known,” Shulman and Goodman play without expression, perfectly conveying this miniature’s implicit irony. John Keats’ words come to mind: “Heard melodies are sweet … therefore, ye soft pipes, play on….” An afterthought: A case could be made that wars, floods, fires, famines and pandemics, laying waste to the complacency that seems to come with peace, and destroying trust in formerly trusted institutions – governments, medicine, the judiciary, the media, universities and more – give rise to creation and the search for beauty. A friend quoted this recently: “When fishermen cannot go to sea, they stay home and mend their nets”; one might add, “When coming together to listen to music is prohibited, musicians compose, learn new repertoire and record!” Allan Pulker Florence Price – Symphonies 1 & 3 The Philadelphia Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin Deutsche Grammophon (deutschegrammophon.com/en/catalogue/ products/price-symphonies-nos-1-3-nezetseguin-12476) Florence Price – Symphony No.3; Mississippi River; Ethiopia’s Shadow in America Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien; John Jeter Naxos 8.559897 (naxosdirect.com/ search/8559897) Who Is Florence Price? Students of the Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center, NYC Schirmer Trade Books ISBN-13: 978-1- 7365334-0-6 (chapters. indigo.ca) ! The so-called classical canon, capturing a list of composers and compositions deemed worthy of study, multiple performances and recordings, has been expanding. It now represents a more fulsome group of individuals from a wider swath of identities – mainly seeing growth in the areas of nationality, gender, race and sexual orientation – than has traditionally been characterized. Said broadening is but one important step taken to cultivate a culture of inclusion within classical music and present a more representative snapshot of what constitutes historical significance. Further, it has been shown to be important that burgeoning performers and composers both hear and see themselves represented in the canon so that, for example, female African-American composers can locate others who perhaps have an intersectional identity not totally unlike their own. 40 | December 2021 thewholenote.com

Florence Price (1887-1953), a native of Little Rock, Arkansas and a graduate of Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, was a pianist and composer who, despite enjoying a modicum of recognition during her lifetime (including having her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor premiered in 1933 by Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a first for an African- American woman) was a composer whose work was almost lost to history. As the charming illustrated children’s book Who is Florence Price?, written by students of the Special Music School at New York’s Kaufman Music Center recounts, a box of Price’s dogeared and yellowed manuscripts of original compositions and symphonic works was found (and thankfully not discarded) in 2009 in a dilapidated attic of the Chicago-area summer home in St. Anne, Illinois in which Price wrote. This discovery has led to what could be described as a Price renaissance, with multiple recordings, premieres, the dissemination power of the Schirmer publishing house (that acquired worldwide rights to Price’s catalogue in 2018), and, most recently, two excellent discs that capture the American composer’s elegant music in its full glory. Rooted in the European Romantic compositional tradition that was her training, but blended with the sounds of American urbanization, the African-American church, as well as being imbued with elements of a folkloric vernacular blues style, Price’s Symphonies 1 & 3 (on Deutsche Grammophon) and the never before recorded Ethiopia’s Shadow in America (Naxos American Classics) come to life with tremendous splendor and historical gravitas in the capable hands of Yannick Nézet- Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra respectively. Of note is Price’s under-recorded The Mississippi River, that ORF conductor John Jeter suggests captures “the depth of the American experience… like no other composer.” Articulating in sound the experience of the Great Migration, the large-scale movement and relocation of African- Americans from the Southern United States to such Northern locales of employment, urbanization and distance from “Jim Crow” laws as Chicago, Detroit and New York, that was both compositional fodder for Price and her own lived experience. The book and two discs represent tremendous strides towards greater inclusion and representation within the canon and, at least for this reviewer, facilitated the discovery of a creative and exceptional new musical voice. Andrew Scott Americascapes Basque National Orchestra; Robert Trevino Ondine ODE 1396-2 (naxosdirect.com/ search/ode+1396-2+) ! Alsace-born Charles Martin Loeffler (1861-1935) moved to the U.S. in 1881. His 25-minute “Poème dramatique,” La Mort de Tintagiles, Op.6 (1897), based on a play for marionettes by Maurice Maeterlinck about a murderous queen, is definitely “dramatique.” Between its stormy opening and mournful close, Loeffler’s lushly scored, ravishing music conjures a scenario of sensuous longing and dangerous conflict, with long-lined, arching melodies and vibrant orchestral colours redolent of French late-Romanticism-Impressionism. I loved it; why isn’t it better known? Carl Ruggles (1876-1971) depicted his wife and three friends, including Charles Ives, in his four-movement, ten-minute Evocations (1943), orchestrated from earlier piano pieces. Hardly affectionate music, it’s austere and perturbed. To me, Ruggles’ very name embodies what I hear in all his music, including Evocations – rugged struggles. The cinematically rhapsodic Before the Dawn, Op.17 (1920), anticipates the many beauties that would be heard in the symphonies of Howard Hanson (1896-1981), his first appearing just two years later. The brief (under seven minutes) tone poem here receives its long overdue, first-ever recording. Henry Cowell (1897-1965) spent the winter of 1956-1957 in Iran, part of a tour jointly subsidized by agencies of the U.S. and Iranian governments. Three works resulted: Persian Set, Homage to Iran and the 19-minute Variations for Orchestra (1956) recorded here. It’s filled with exotic sonorities hinting at arcane magic and nocturnal mysteries. Thanks to conductor Robert Trevino and the Basque National Orchestra for these revelatory performances of four almost-forgotten American works. Michael Schulman MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY New Jewish Music Vol.3 Sharon Azrieli; Krisztina Szabó; Nouvel Ensemble Moderne; Lorraine Vaillancourt Analekta AN 2 9263 (analekta.com/en) ! The Azrieli Foundation has released their recording of this year’s composition prize for new Jewish music, along with recordings of commissioned works in the categories of Canadian Composition and Jewish Music: Yotam Haber’s Estro Poetico-armonico III in the latter, Keiko Devaux’s instrumental work Arras in the Canadian category. Yitzhak Yedid’s Kadosh Kadosh and Cursed won the prize for an existing work of Jewish Music. Dissidence, a concise and somewhat anachronistic work for small orchestra and soprano (Sharon Azrieli, a fine soprano and founder of the prize) by the late Pierre Mercure, rounds out the disc. Kadosh… is concerned with Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the place shared as sacred by three major religions. Embattled chattering and shouts introduce Yedid’s work, followed by brassy bombast and unison modal melody in alternation, depicting conflict, even violence. A middle section provides relief, insofar as mourning relieves cataclysm. The individual players of Montreal’s excellent Nouvel Ensemble Moderne get a brief chance to sing before hostilities recommence, devolve into a nasty Hora, returning tragically to increasing strife. By the end of the movement, we’re hoping, nay praying for peace. Hope deferred, the heart is sick. A chant melody in the piano calls through maddened violin scratches and braying brass. Yedid seems pessimistic; in spite (or because) of the spiritual importance of the Temple Mount, hostilities persist. The formidable mezzo Kristina Szabó joins the ensemble for Haber’s work, a complex piece with so much historical/textual weight it deserves a review unto itself. Highly effective writing. Arras is a woven tableau, relying on breath and bow effects, microtonal vibrato and dissonances, and shifting background textures to frame lush, even lurid melody. A single movement of nearly 25 minutes’ length, it makes a patient argument for beauty. Max Christie thewholenote.com December 2021 and January 2022 | 41

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