1 year ago

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 ....

The 17 songs comprise a

The 17 songs comprise a comprehensive, stylistically wide-ranging overview of American songs composed in the last century. Blythe and Burden both sing with clear pitch, articulation and musicality in all the diverse styles. Blier’s rock-solid technique, musicality, accompanying and humour is amazing. His arrangements are musically inspiring. This is a superb release from a live production that includes occasional audience applause. Bravo! Tiina Kiik CLASSICAL AND BEYOND On Early Music Francesco Tristano Sony Classical G0100045975984 ( ! Francisco Tristano studied at four conservatories before graduating from the Juilliard School. Here he turns every last facet of his immense talent as a pianist and composer to interpreting eight pieces of early music juxtaposed with as many of his own creations. Breathtaking does not begin to describe Tristano’s talents. After his own highly spirited Toccata we are treated to his version of a John Bull Galliard which combines the pianist’s exceptional skills with the taxing sequences one associates with Bull. Other tracks are as complex; what is more, it is difficult to remember that we are listening to a pianist when so much of this CD sounds as if it is being played on a harpsichord. Then there are the slower pieces, notably the surprisingly restrained Aria la folia and Pavan. Tristano also has a keen interest in the works of Orlando Gibbons, selecting four pieces, each with its own stately Elizabethan character. Above all, there is the longest track on the CD, Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Cento partite sopra passacaglie, with an intensity highly appropriate for Tristano’s vigorous technique. Which leaves us with Tristano’s surely unique pieces. Ritornello offers no respite to its composer/player, what with its inspiring opening and ever more intense later rhythms. Neither does the breathless Ciacona seconda. It is a brave pianist who would seek to emulate him. Standing ovations have graced many of Tristano’s performances. This reviewer adds one virtually. Michael Schwartz Mozart – Flute Quartets Sonora Slocum; Joel Link; Milena Pajarovan de Stadt; Brook Speltz Acis APL98573 ( ! “Recording these quartets was a dream we had as students at Curtis over 12 years ago....” writes flutist Sonora Slocum in her program notes. So it is no surprise that her warmth and depth of feeling also come out in her playing, not as an imposed emotionality but rather as a kind of transparency, through which the message of the music assigned to the flutist can be felt. This is true not only of the slow movements, the sublime Adagio of the D-Major Quartet or the Andante of the G Major, but also, for example, of the brilliant Allegro first movement of the D Major, where Slocum’s effortless virtuosity serves to convey an intensity of feeling no less than that of the slow movements. This recording, however, also raises the question: are these quartets flute solos with string trio accompaniment or string quartets with the first violin part given to the flutist? Unfortunately whoever mastered the recording chose the former, consistently putting the flute in the foreground and the strings in the background. As an example, in measures 26 and 27 of the G-Major Andante movement the flute and the cello have a brief duo in contrary motion, in which the flute dominates and the cello is in the background, when the sound from both instruments should be equal. So while Slocum’s playing is exemplary, the production values of the album do not, in my opinion, do justice to these wonderful works. Allan Pulker Paris 1847 – La Musique d’Eugène Jancourt Mathieu Lussier; Camille Roy-Paquette; Sylvain Bergeron; Valérie Milot ATMA ACD2 2834 ( ! Most classical music enthusiasts know that Johann Sebastian Bach was, during his lifetime, better known as a church organist and music educator than as the composer of some of the finest and most canonic pieces of Western Art Music. While the classical world has Felix Mendelssohn to thank for not only contributing his own fine work to the aforementioned canon, but for his rediscovery of Bach’s music. The circuitous path that at least some of Bach’s pieces took from dashed-off manuscript sketchings for the pedagogical purposes of instructing his many students, to sacrosanct artifacts of musical genius, says as much about what society values, collects and ordains as symbols of high culture, as it does of Bach’s considerable genius. Simply put, beauty and musical inspiration abound in exercise and method books, as well as in etudes composed for didactic and instructive purposes. And that is certainly the case here on this fine ATMA recording by Mathieu Lussier, Camille Roy-Paquette, Sylvain Bergeron and Valérie Milot. Collectively, they mine the beautiful repertoire of Eugène Jancourt, a 19th-century French bassoonist and educator, much of which originated in his 1847 method book. While Lussier, who remains a central figure in promulgating the solo bassoon as a concertizing instrument, acknowledges that this recording “may be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about historically informed wind playing in the 19th century,” Paris 1847 is no archival recording or historical exercise. Rather the pieces, presented here as the first recording entirely devoted to Jancourt’s music, leaps from the speakers with energy, effervescence and a joie de vivre, capturing this unique and beautiful music from such an intriguing place and time in music history. Andrew Scott Chopin Bruce Liu (Winner of the 2021 Chopin Competition) Deutsche Grammophon ( products/chopin-bruce-liu-12506) ! One of the few silver linings to arise out of this incessant pandemic has been the boundless, world-class music events made available (often for free) for livestreaming on a variety of platforms. Taking advantage of as many of these musical offerings as my Zoomed-out brain has allowed, one day last October I spent a few sublime hours on YouTube watching the livestream of the 2021 Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. I was enthralled, in particular, by Bruce Liu, who in fact, went on to become the first Canadian to win the prestigious competition! Shortly thereafter, Deutsche Grammophon (DG) released this CD featuring live highlights of Liu’s solo performances from the competition’s various rounds. According to Liu, DG chose the playlist: the entire round one recital of two Etudes (Op.10 No.4; Op.25 No.4), a Nocturne (Op.27 No.1) and the fourth Scherzo; the Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante, and a Waltz (Op.42) from the second round; the Op.33 Mazurkas and the Variations on “La ci darem la mano” from round three. 44 | March 4 – April 15, 2022

Rather than parse out bits and pieces from those performances, I wish to say this about Bruce Liu: the to-be-expected and breathtaking technical prowess aside, what sets Liu apart from the others is his risk-taking spontaneity. His interpretations are revelatory; his joy in playing, palpable. He is a sparkling, elegant and original virtuoso. A true sensation! Bruce Liu will continue to enchant a worldwide audience. This keepsake CD will continue to remind us why. Sharna Searle Clara Robert Johannes – Lyrical Echoes Adrianne Pieczonka; Liz Upchurch; Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra; Alexander Shelley Analekta AN 2 8880-1 ( ! Is it by accident that the lead-in to the album title Lyrical Echoes begins with the name of Clara Schumann – ahead of her more celebrated peers, husband Robert and Johannes Brahms? Even if the avowed aim of the proposed four-part series is to show how “closely intertwined personal and artistic connections between the three musical giants” were, I prefer to think it as poetic justice. Clara Schumann (nee Wieck) was one of the world’s leading pianists of her day, admired by Goethe, Mendelssohn, Paganini and others. As a young woman she was known for her inclination to melancholy. She was proclaimed wundermädchen by the Emperor of Austria and praised by Liszt for her “complete technical mastery, depth and sincerity of feeling.” Indeed her songs here highlight the ravishing daintiness and poetic feeling of her work. Her skilful use of rhythm, harmony and pianistic colours raises these miniatures to the divine, with the lustrous soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and masterful pianist Liz Upchurch performing them with such a whispered intimacy that you feel almost like an eavesdropper throughout. Robert Schumann was a genius in his own right, albeit feeling himself a failure throughout his life. The Symphony No.2 is the darkest work he ever wrote. In each section of this poetic work the National Arts Centre Orchestra soars under Alexander Shelley. The orchestra’s Brahms Symphony No.2 is refined and lustrous, capturing the composer’s epic vision as Shelley maintains its flow and noble grandeur. Raul da Gama ARC I: Granados; Janáček; Scriabin Orion Weiss First Hand Records FHR127 ( ! American pianist Orion Weiss delivers a powerful musical statement with his new album, ARC I: Granados, Janáček, Scriabin. Please note that I am using the term album, rather than recording. This is purposeful. Without generalizing, or hopefully sounding overly pedantic, much of what exists in both classical (and jazz) discographies are recordings; a sound capture of what, essentially, is a live musical event documented in such a way as to preserve and remember a concertizing moment in time. An album, conversely, has, at the very least, an extra musical purpose to it, cognizant of track order, narrative arc and overall presentation. What Weiss has created, by connecting music written by Enrique Granados, Leoš Janáček and Alexander Scriabin (historically congruent, but stylistically and nationalistically disparate composers), through their zeitgeist-appropriate shared aesthetic of writing bleak, self-referential and globally aware music shortly before the world plunged into a devastating and worldwide war, is creative, programmatic and most definitely, album worthy. As the first of three recordings in a projected ARC trilogy, Weiss here finds the commonalities of modernism, despair and haunting beauty that unites Granados’ Goyescas, Janáček’s In the Mists and Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No.9 “Black Mass,” mining historically prescient meaning from these pieces, as our world watches what seems likely to be an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine. Weiss’ album is beautifully played, captured with sonic elegance and presents an eerie programmatic message in musical form of what creatively was in the air between 1911 and 1913. The world should listen. Not only for the beauty of this recording, but for the message therein. Andrew Scott Bruckner – Symphony No.2 in C Minor Wiener Philharmoniker; Christian Thielemann Sony Classical G010004595494F ( ! Bruckner is not everybody’s cup of tea. Some worship him and some outright despise him. And he is so easy to ridicule. He was a country bumpkin, a peasant. The funny story goes that he even gave a thaler to Hans Richter, his conductor, as a reward to buy himself a beer. His reputation was also hampered by the British critics calling his symphonies “boa constrictors” and so he had difficulties gaining acceptance in England or North America. Today however, What we're listening to this month: O Mistress Moon (Canadian Edition) Jennifer King Go on a meditative and introspective journey with twelve contemporary Canadian piano works related to the moon, outer space, and the night. Bones Millerd Meyers Not jazz, nor a wild blowing session. Two composers, minimalists (more Booker T or Ahmad Jamal than Phillip Glass), creating extended spontaneous compositions through improv. Fleur Revisited Philippe Côté Fleur Revisited features an ambitious blend of a string quartet with a jazz duo of multi-reedist Philippe Côté and New-York-based pianist Marc Copland. Were We Where We Were Michael Formanek Drome Trio The Drome Trio of Michael Formanek, Chet Doxas, and Vinnie Sperrazza take an improvisational deep dive into these intriguing compositions based on musical palindromes. March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 45

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