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Volume 27 Issue 4 - February 2022

Gould's Wall -- Philip Akin's "breadcrumb trail; orchestras buying into hope; silver linings to the music theatre lockdown blues; Charlotte Siegel's watershed moments; Deep Wireless at 20; and guess who is Back in Focus. All this and more, now online for your reading pleasure.

journey with Powell

journey with Powell asking his listeners to reflect not on the manmade geographical lines that divide us into nations, but to focus on what unites, what connects us and our shared humanity: “if listeners can hear the connections between countries represented perhaps they will appreciate that everything we do ripples across oceans and through time.” Why do the Nations offers a rich repertoire of art songs from well-known composers (Brahms, Schubert, Verdi) and composers to discover such as Xavier Montsalvatge (Spain), Cláudio Santoro (Brazil), Rentarō Taki (Japan) and Zhao Yuanren (China). Also of note, Terra e Mare, one of the few works Puccini wrote outside of opera, and a world premiere recording of Petits Enfants by Émile Paladilhe (France). Sophie Bisson CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Early Moderns, The (very) First Viennese School Quicksilver Independent ( quicksilver-early-moderns) ! Viennese music means Mozart and Haydn. Well, not according to Quicksilver. They have compiled a CD of music from the very familiar venue that is Vienna, but by mainly unfamiliar composers. Perhaps the strangest factor is Quicksilver’s frequent use of the dulcian, ultimately familiar to Mozart as its descendant the bassoon, here helping to reinforce this school of music’s claims to be recognized in its own right. Dominic Teresi’s vigorous dulcian playing in Giovanni Battista Buonamente’s Sonata prima à 3 is a real highlight. Throughout the CD, the trombone and dulcian are prominent. This is noteworthy in the Sonata à 3 attributed to Heinrich I. F. von Biber, where Greg Ingles’ dignified trombone-playing proves that Viennese Baroque does not consist exclusively of violin and cello chamber music. This is not to dismiss the stringed element. Johann Caspar Kerll’s Canzona à 3 in G Minor combines violins and viola da gamba with harpsichord/theorbo continuo. The result is a very lively and highly entertaining composition. One wonders how these pieces came to be so neglected. And yet, there is still room for solo compositions for more established instruments. Avi Stein’s harpsichord skills are tested more and more intensively as Kerll’s Passacaglia variata unfolds, making demands worthy of Bach or Couperin on the player. Kerll is perhaps the most overlooked composer on a CD of a certainly overlooked school of music. Michael Schwartz Bach – English Suites 1-3 Vladimir Ashkenazy Decca ( ! Musicians, most especially those who perform or record within a tradition that has a crowded and storied line of artistic interpreters of seminal performances, often stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. This can be in order to raise themselves to a heightened vantage point from which to spot new insights and perspectives. Or it can be in order to tramp down those who went before, in an attempt to assert their own dominance and singularity of artistic approach. And most certainly, when performing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach on solo piano it would be virtually impossible to avoid the supreme influence and shadow cast by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. For the Russian-born highly fêted pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, who has been performing and recording the music of Bach since 1965 (arguably living and working through the entire period of Gould’s dominance), his approach to Bach evidences, in his own words, a “different concept” than that of Gould. How lucky then are we to now have a newly released double CD on Decca Records that combines Ashkenazy’s latest recording of Bach’s English Suites 1-3 with his first recording from 1965 of Bach’s Concerto in D Minor. Not only does the music sparkle with a straightforward, didactic approach to the Baroque master that brings forth all of the beauty and detail of the original compositions without the idiosyncratic flourishes for which Gould was both reviled and revered, but there is bravery in this release as it shows just how much Ashkenazy’s own development as a Bach interpreter and world-class performer has matured, developed and even changed over the years. Andrew Scott Bach – Goldberg Variations Sarah Hagen Independent SH004CD ( ! Great expectation always precedes a new recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Glenn Gould’s benchmark recordings (1955 and 1981) may have thrown down the gauntlet to anyone recording this epic composition after him, but it was Bach who left the door of interpretation slyly ajar. Yet, playing these wonderfully varied and emotionally differentiated Goldberg Variations is one of the most daunting experiences a pianist could face. The chords of the “Fundamental Bass” are the first hurdle because the inspiration for the entire piece originates in the accumulation and release of tension by the harmonies of these chords. In composing the Goldberg Variations Bach was also probably thumbing his nose at Johann Adolph Scheibe who once criticized his compositions as being fraught with “a turgid and confused style.” Bach’s playful rebuttal came by way of the complexity of many voices collaborating to form the lofty harmonic beauty of the Goldbergs. Canadian pianist Sarah Hagen’s Goldberg Variations are dramatically different. Naysayers and refusniks beware: her approach combines unfettered joy, wide awake with wonder, requisite pedagogy and the ability to make the instrument bend to her will. The epic scope of the work is stated right out of the gate, with an extensive exploration of the Aria that opens the way to the variable tempi, harmonic adventure with unlimited changes in registration and emotion. Hagen’s performance combines vivid precision of touch with perfect articulation of line, making her Goldberg Variations something to absolutely die for. Raul da Gama Concert Note: Sarah Hagen has a very busy performing schedule planned over the next three months with two dozen concerts in six provinces across Canada (COVID-19 permitting). Please check her website for up-to-date listings: Bach – Goldberg Variations; Hanson – Romantic Symphony Cameron Carpenter Decca Gold ( ! J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations have become ubiquitous in the classical music world, brought to popularity primarily through Glenn Gould’s debut recording in 1955. Originally written for harpsichord and published in 1741, this virtuosic masterwork has since been adapted for a wide range of instruments and ensembles, from piano to full orchestra. This recording features renowned American organist Cameron Carpenter performing his own transcription on the International Touring Organ, the American digital concert organ designed by Carpenter that travels from country to country with him on his tours. What makes the organ such a unique 40 | February 2022

instrument for the performance of the Goldberg Variations is the number of sounds that can be contrasted and combined by a single player, resulting in clear contrasts that amplify the linear complexities of Bach’s counterpoint. Where other instruments are limited by timbral similarities, the organ is capable of producing strikingly different sounds simultaneously, with one set of pipes sounding like a flute and another like an oboe, for example, creating a textural clarity that is almost impossible on any other singleplayer instrument. But while the tonal variety of the organ is an indispensable asset, its lack of acoustic attack can be a challenging factor. The harpsichord is, perhaps, the most attack-heavy keyboard instrument in history, its sound almost entirely characterized by the plucking of a string and the sound’s subsequent, rapid decay. Conversely, the organ produces relatively little attack but can sustain pitches indefinitely, requiring deft use of articulation to produce the clarity required in Bach’s music. As one of the world’s best orchestral organists, Carpenter manages both the pros and cons of the organ with an expert hand, applying his mastery of timbral variety and thoughtful articulation to bring the Goldberg Variations to life in a new and exciting way. Carpenter reinforces his status as a master of orchestral performance with his own transcription of Howard Hanson’s Symphony No.2, the “Romantic,” demonstrating both his own stunning virtuosity and the capabilities of the International Touring Organ. This powerhouse performance is both unique and remarkable, and sheds light on a work that, while less well known than its recorded counterpart, is equally satisfying and impressive. Matthew Whitfield Autour de Bach Pentaèdre ATMA ACD2 2841 ( ! Pentaèdre is a compelling and refreshingly unique Quebecbased chamber ensemble that, since its founding in 1985, has been boldly working to expand the canon of classical music through the creation and dissemination of new work. One of the group’s missions is to introduce chamber music fans and classical listeners alike to new work that both draws inspiration from and moves beyond the body of established repertoire. Their latest release, Autour de Bach, couples transcriptions for wind quintet of J.S. Bach works with the Bachinspired Quintet No.3 by the late American composer David Maslanka and succeeds on all fronts. Bach’s music, with its weaving and intersecting lines that have the strength of purpose to stand alone but coalesce with a beautiful and logical precision, is the perfect foil for this egalitarian and cooperative ensemble that knows exactly when to put forward individual lines with a clarity of purpose and when to abdicate one’s individual agency for the overarching blend and good of the ensemble. While some of the pieces contained on this fine album will, no doubt, be familiar to listeners (Fugue in G Minor BWV565), the three-part developmental Maslanka contribution – which offers the group an opportunity to explore tempo, dynamic range and expressivity – slots neatly alongside Bach’s music, producing a congruent and compelling artistic presentation by this fine ensemble deserving of wider recognition. Andrew Scott Vivaldi – The Four Seasons; Piazzolla – The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires Nikki Chooi; Tessa Lark; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta Beau Fleuve Records 605996-998562 ( ! This CD’s two works based on the “four seasons” idea is intriguing, since Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires makes references to Vivaldi’s familiar The Four Seasons violin concertos. Canadian violinist and Buffalo Philharmonic concertmaster Nikki Chooi and the JoAnn Falletta-led Buffalo Philharmonic play the latter with vitality, colour and precision. For example, in the concerto La primavera Chooi brings clean intonation and articulation, the orchestra adding fine dynamics and lots of bounce. Slow movements of concertos evoke night in different ways. Outstanding is L’autunno with soft chromatically connected string chords sounding over a steady harpsichord. Given our present frightful winter, the first movement of L’ivorno seems especially effective: shivering string tremolos; raw cold of a harsh violin bow stroke; a fateful mood in the steady bass tread and relentless harmonic sequence of fifths. In the finale Chooi takes advantage of opportunities for free-tempo playing that come often in this concerto cycle – here because the solo protagonist is walking on ice! Piazzolla’s tango-based The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (1965-70), written for a cabaret group, became a four-piece suite for violin and strings arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov in 1998. Soloist Tessa Lark has plenty of technique and temperament for rapid mood changes in each piece. Summer begins in a chugging offbeat-accented rhythm, followed by a violin solo with occasional references to Vivaldi’s work. Languid playing with What we're listening to this month: Brian Field - Vocal Works Brian Field A stunning array of diverse vocal music featuring post-romantic works with poetry from Pablo Neruda and E.E. Cummings, among others. Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations Sarah Hagen “…a heartfelt performance worth adding to the collection.” - La Scena Musicale. A luxurious double-CD album, nominated for four 2022 Music PEI Awards. Mozart. Post Scriptum Sergei Kvitko “Explosion of creativity. This man is simply incredible. It is Mozart after Mozart” - EarRelevant. “refreshed, beautifully etched performance” – Audiophile Audition. “new cadenzas are spectacular” – Pizzicato Metamorphosen Maiburg Ensemble Their new album explores transformations, reflected in the fascinating life and art of many cultures - through classical, jazz, folk and world music. February 2022 | 41

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