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Volume 27 Issue 5 | March 4 - April 15, 2022

"Hard to watch and impossible to ignore"--on the Russian invasion of Ukraine; Tafelmusik goes live again in a tribute to Jeanne Lamon; TSO MD reunion as Centennial Countdown kicks off; PASS=Performing Arts Sunday Series at the Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts ...; crosstown to the TRANZAC, Matthew Fava on the move; all this and more ....

Sonata, and some assured

Sonata, and some assured playing in the Heifetz transcriptions of Poulenc’s Mouvements perpétuels and Presto in B-flat Major. Restless Nation – The Music of Andy Teirstein features works that were inspired by world music traditions (Navona NV6397 navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6397). The Cassatt String Quartet performs the title work, its impressions of a yearlong family expedition evoking “the fierce energy” of American fiddling. On Secrets of the North the Mivos String Quartet is joined by Marco Ambrosini on the nyckelharpa, the traditional Swedish keyed fiddle, in a work that incorporates elements inherent in Swedish folk music. Azazme Songs, Suite for String Quartet, Oud and Dulcimer was composed after a four-day trek with Azazme Bedouins across the Aravah desert. They are not direct transcriptions but rather impressions gleaned, the dulcimer representing the sound of the Bedouin sumsumia, a strummed psaltery-type instrument. The Mivos String Quartet performs again, with the composer playing dulcimer and Yair Dala on the oud. Teirstein plays a brief harmonica solo to open Letter From Woody with the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra under Jirí Petrdlík. Inspired by one of the letters that Woody Guthrie wrote to his future wife, it “draws on traditional American folk string bowings and energies.” VOCAL Messiah Karina Gauvin; Ensemble Caprice; Ensemble Vocal Arts-Quéébec; Matthias Maute Leaf Music LM247 (leaf-music.ca) ! Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin, Germanborn Matthias Maute and the ensembles he conducts, Ensemble Caprice and Ensemble Vocal Arts-Québec, present a new recording with highlights from Handel’s Messiah. Although it would be easy to dismiss the recording as “another Messiah,” this interpretation is a unique and valuable contribution to the large number of recorded offerings of Messiah. Dictated by COVID restrictions in place at the time of recording, the chorus includes only 12 voices. Although, unlike the large choruses of contemporary times, this reading does somewhat align with musicological research that estimates the original performances of Messiah comprised only 16 men and/or 16 boy choristers. More controversial for Messiah and Baroque music purists are the many chorus sections with notable faster tempi than what modern ears are used to as well as unusual and sometimes chopped phrasing as in the opening of the “Hallelujah” chorus. Artistic choices notwithstanding, this Messiah offers an intimate experience that never feels underpowered because of its smaller effective. Both ensembles offer solid musicianship and musicality; Gauvin, renowned for her performances of Baroque repertoire, is at ease and delivers her usual abilities with elegance, depth and conviction. The album also offers two new choral works Hope and Belief by Jaap Nico Hamburger on a text from Polish Jewish writer Isaac Leib Peretz (1852-1915) and O Magnum Mysterium by conductor Maute based on the sacred Latin text of the same name. Both works featured prominently in the Mini-Concerts Santé, a Maute initiative that provided uplifting concerts to thousands during the 2020 lockdown. Sophie Bisson Amata Dalle Tenebre Anna Netrebko; Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala; Riccardo Chailly Deutsche Grammophon B0034484-02 (deutschegrammophon.com) ! The great soprano, Anna Netrebko, is the epitome of the larger-than-life opera star; a diva who ought to be credited with perpetuating the mysterious appeal of the genre. She has the prodigious gift not only of reaching extraordinarily high notes – her high C is sung with electrifying charisma – but she also graces the roles she brings to life with a tragic grandeur. There can also be no doubt that she is Riccardo Chailly’s operatic muse. The repertoire on Amata Dalle Tenebre certainly suggests that she has been so anointed – literally and figuratively – with the ink-black heartbreak of these arias. Netrebko can easily lay claim to being the diva assoluta of our time. The disc is kicked off by the dark honeyed voicing of Richard Strauss’ Es Gibt ein Reich, moulding the lyric from Ariadne auf Naxos as if with molten lava. Then she proceeds to unveil – from her palpitating heart – the elemental ache of her very being with her touching evocations of Verdi’s Aida, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Manon Lescaut. Netrebko’s Dido from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is a deeply cathartic evocation of grief. Her Wagner is perfectly judged. Both arias: Dich, Teure Halle (Tannhäuser’s Elisabeth) and Einsam in Trüben Tagen (Lohengrin’s Elsa) are shaped in majesty and eloquence, transcending the pitch blackness of operatic emotions. Her Cilea is gorgeous, but the apogee of the disc is Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame in which Netrebko plays Lisa with unbuttoned authority and anguished poetic brilliance. Raul da Gama Henze – Nachtstücke und Arien; Los Caprichos; Englische Liebeslieder Narek Hakhnazaryan; Juliane Banse; Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien; Marin Alsop Naxos 8574181 (naxosdirect.com/ search/747313418176) ! Right from the start of Hans Werner Henze’s long and productive career, performers and audiences have connected viscerally with his music – some of the most lyrical, complex, passionate, committed, literate, uncompromising, provocative, confrontational and powerful of its time. Today, ten years after his death, it speaks to us just as directly as ever. The works on this recording were never among Henze’s best-known pieces, compelling though all three are. The one I find most moving is Englische Liebeslieder. This collection of love songs is based on poems by Shakespeare, the Earl of Rochester, Joyce and Graves. But the texts are never actually heard. Instead, they are interpreted by a solo cello. With cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan’s openhearted lyricism, and the responsiveness of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony under chief conductor Marin Alsop, the effect is uncannily intimate – and utterly ravishing. In Nachtstücke und Arien, the arias are sung, to exquisite poems by Ingeborg Bachmann. But here the three dreamy instrumental movements work better than the two wistful arias. Soprano Juliane Banse captures the essential theatricality of Henze’s style. But her shrillness and pronounced vibrato dampen the mystery and magic for me. Los Caprichos transports us to the world of foolishness and folly depicted in Goya’s series of 80 etchings of the same name. Under Alsop’s insightful direction the orchestra 42 | March 4 – April 15, 2022 thewholenote.com

captures Henze’s brilliant characterizations, shapely phrases and delightfully clear textures, making this a disc well worth seeking out. Pamela Margles how do I find you Sasha Cooke; Kirill Kuzmin Pentatone PTC 5186961 (pentatonemusic. com/product/how-do-i-find-you) ! American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke is a two-time Grammy Award winner. Her most recent album, how do I find you, features songs composed by numerous living American composers (Missy Mazzoli, Rene Orth, Frances Pollock, Hilary Purrington, Kamala Sankaram and Caroline Shaw) and written by many living American and Canadian poets and lyricists (Liza Balkan, Mark Campbell, David Henry Hwang and Colleen Murphy). howdDo I find you is a digital only release in which Cooke partners up with collaborative pianist and Houston Grand Opera principal coach Kirill Kuzmin. Together, they perform 17 newly composed songs commissioned and curated by Cooke during the COVID-19 pandemic. Composers were given the opportunity to write about topics that spoke to them most during the pandemic and this resulted in a wide variety of themes related to the use of social media, social injustice, immigration and environmental concerns, as well as the familiar pandemic themes of working from home, work insecurity, pandemic parenting, general struggles and personal sacrifices. Although Cooke’s voice would gain from light text setting revisions and her interpretation of raw and unhinged feelings is, at times, too measured (Dear Colleagues), how do I find you is a compelling album. With music firmly situated in the contemporary American art-song style and up to date lyrics, Cooke and Kuzmin’s interpretations successfully portray the intricacies of pandemic life with relatable depth, seriousness, sarcasm and humour. Sophie Bisson EDEN Joyce DiDonato; Il Pomo D’Oro; Maxim Emelyanychev Erato (joycedidonato.com/2021/12/07/eden) ! Joyce DiDonato’s Eden invites us to examine our relationships and connections to the natural world by exploring themes of identity and belonging as well as our role and purpose in the healing of our planet, ourselves and one another. The repertoire offered crosses musical genres and eras, from classical Baroque songs from the 17th century to the modern contemporary and jazzy sounds of the 21st. The songs showcase themes of nature that have fascinated numerous composers, from Handel, Gluck and Mysliveček to Mahler, Ives and Copland. Eden also includes a world premiere recording of The First Morning of the World by Rachel Portman and Gene Scheer, commissioned for the album. DiDonato is a well-established versatile singer and little can be added to praise the quality of her voice, her technique, her creativity and her artistry, all equally displayed on Eden. Perhaps most notable is the care in curation which results in a cohesive product offering both vocal and instrumental works that efficiently cross the boundaries of musical genres and eras. DiDonato’s partners, Ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro and the conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, are historical performance practice specialists and this is reflected throughout the album. Gluck’s instrumental piece Danza degli spettri e delle furie is especially delightful. Sophie Bisson Concert note: The release of Eden will be followed by a 45-city global tour that includes a Toronto stop at Koerner Hall on April 19. From Rags to Riches – 100 Years of American Song Stephanie Blythe; William Burden; Steven Blier NYFOS Records n/a (nyfos.org) ! This debut album from the New York Festival of Song’s new in-house label NYFOS Records features mezzosoprano Stephanie Blythe and tenor William Burden accompanied on piano by NYFOS artistic director/co-founder Steven Blier, who also arranged some of the songs. It is taken from a March 2000 live concert recording at Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York celebrating 20th-century American songs including art song, musical theatre, jazz and opera. The opening track has happy, energetic Blythe solo vocals in a dance-along rendition of Joplin’s Pineapple Rag, arranged by Blier. Blier’s arrangement of Cook’s vaudeville My Lady Frog is amazing, with opening piano leaping frog line, Burden’s musical singing to higher tenor closing pitches and closing ragtime piano riff. Bernstein’s Broadway song Wrong Note Rag provides a fun change of pace with piano “wrong note chords” hilarious under the vocalists. Nice to hear a more classical piece in the mix here with Samuel Barber’s Nocturne for tenor and piano. Other songs include works by Gershwin, Monk, Weill, Rodgers, Sondheim and Bolcom What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Marimba Collage: Open Score Works by Jordan Nobles Nicholas Papador and the University of Windsor Percussion Ensemble Gorgeously immersive sonic marimba landscapes. Available on CD and digitally from Redshift Records. … AND NOTHING REMAINS THE SAME… Eight Strings & a Whistle Explore evocative transformation cycles through rife sound, stark dissonance, and rich harmony in these works for cello, viola, and flute. Gail Kubik: Symphony Concertante Boston Modern Orchestra Project Grammy Award-Winning BMOP/ sound Releases a New Orchestral Recording of Gail Kubik's Film- Inspired Music Sandburg Songs Matthew Schreibeis The premiere release of Schreibeis' vivid, captivating song cycle on Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems, featuring superstar soprano Tony Arnold. thewholenote.com March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 43

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