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 ....

Old Wine, New Bottles

Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES At a time when we are not able to go out and see live ballet and indeed ballet companies are shuttered, I was fortunate enough to be asked to review The Royal Ballet Collection (Opus Arte OABD7210BD). This is truly an incomparable collection of both best-loved and several sensational new productions. I shared this experience with my granddaughters and if not quite like going to the ballet, it is in some ways better. While there is nothing quite like actually being at a live performance, the brilliant camera direction adds an element that is simply not available at the live event. The director chooses where to focus our attention at any given moment and this undoubtedly increases our appreciation ten-fold. The Royal Ballet has engaged experienced directors for each and every one of these productions. Simply called The Collection this is a compilation of 22 ballets on 15 Blu-ray discs. Many of the ballets include select scenes and bonus features after the ballet is over. Included is a beautiful book of notes and full plot synopses as well as pictures from each of the ballets. Whether you are a fan of the ballet, new to it, or interested in a brand-new experience, this box is the answer. As a music reviewer, the most important component for me is the musical performance. I listened with and without the video and found the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House’s contribution to be at all times engaging, animated, musical and frankly breathtaking in parts. Ballet is an example of one of the most perfect combinations of the visual and the audible. The Royal Ballet’s new box set is just that, the perfect combination. In truth, in many cases, the marriage of the visuals and the power of the orchestra are literally overwhelming Of course, this box includes classic 19th-century ballets with three Tchaikovsky favourites, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, as well as Giselle, La Bayadère and Don Quixote. This collection also includes 21st-century ballets with the unique Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, music by Joby Talbot and danced by the stunning Lauren Cuthbertson as Alice. Barry Wordsworth conducted this highly original work. Wheeldon also contributed the equally magical The Winter’s Tale, music also by Joby Talbot and danced by Edward Watson and Cuthbertson as Leontes and Hermione respectively. Chroma, music by Joby Talbot and Jack White III, Infra, music by Max Richter and Limen, music by Kaija Saariaho, all choreographed by Wayne McGregor, are completely new to me and a real revelation. These are minimalist works, both visually and musically. Choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballets, nine in all, are well represented with Sylvia, The Two Pigeons, La Valse and Monotones I and II among others, composed by Leo Delibes, André Messager, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie. I have to admit that my favourite is Marguerite and Armand, with music by Franz Liszt. I’m not sure if it’s because of the orchestral setting of Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor or Ashton’s beautifully romantic visualization, but I suspect it is the perfect combination of the two. Often considered Kenneth MacMillan’s finest work, Mayerling is included, along with his incomparable Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet. Liszt’s Faust Symphony was chosen for the dark and compelling Mayerling, and with Barry Wordsworth on the podium it is a must see and hear! The experience of reviewing these discs afforded the opportunity to view and listen to performances I would otherwise never have had. Karajan (C-major Entertainment,, is an unexpected but most welcome new Blu-ray video of two live concerts conducted by Herbert von Karajan, with soloists, from concerts in Berlin and Vienna. From the Philharmonie in Berlin we witness The 1988 New Year’s Eve Concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Evgeny Kissin playing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Major. The opening work from this concert is Prokofiev’s Symphony Op.25, aka The Classical Symphony. Prokofiev wrote this work in the style of music written in the time of Haydn and Mozart. It is in four movements which sound, under Karajan’s baton, as exactly that, except for the timbre of the modern instruments. Nevertheless, it is Prokofiev. In the Tchaikovsky we see and hear a 17-year-old wunderkind play. When the LP of this performance was originally issued by Deutsche Grammophon, the critics and the classical audience were mixed in their reviews. One of the features of this performance is the second movement, Andantino semplice – Prestissimo which critics felt Kissin played too slowly. After all, this is a romantic concerto and Kissin felt that playing more slowly was more suitable. (Karajan also recorded this concerto with Weissenberg and Richter with the usual tempo.) One has to wonder whether Karajan was indulging the young pianist or did he feel this slower tempo served the composer well? There is no doubt when you watch the performance that they are definitely of one mind. The New Year’s Day concert of 1987, with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Karajan, featured the music of the two Johann Strausses, father and son, and Josef Strauss. The concert of 15 pieces, including waltzes, polkas and overtures, was broadcast as usual from Vienna and was heard and seen around the world. The concert opened with the rousing Gypsy Baron Overture and ended as usual, with the Beautiful Blue Danube followed by the Radetzky March involving the audience clapping to the tempo at Karajan’s direction. After the opening bars of the Beloved Anna Polka the broadcast audience is treated to a special performance from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Also featured especially for the broadcast audience is the Ballet of the Vienna State Opera dancing to the majestic Emperor Waltz in the Schönbrunn Palace. Kathleen Battle in her prime sings the Voice of Spring. Little did we know at this joyous time, that Karajan was to pass away at his home in Anef a brief seven months later. We are so lucky to have this recording of Karajan at his best. We experience him as a happy and enthusiastic conductor showing his abiding love and affection for the music and the orchestra. The Royal Ballet Collection and Karajan are both available on Blu-ray Disc only. 60 | March 4 – April 15, 2022

OTHER FINE VINTAGES New to the Listening Room Don’t Look Back Bernie Senensky Quartet/Quintet w/Bob Mover; Sam Noto Cellar Music CM040321 ( ! During the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fluctuating lockdowns and closures that have accompanied it, musicians have gotten creative at navigating this difficult artistic landscape. Some have done remote recordings, others are on hiatus and a handful of musicians like Toronto stalwart Bernie Senensky have dug into the archives to release pre-pandemic music. In a time when many of us are nostalgic about the past, Don’t Look Back brings the listener back to some of Toronto’s heydays, featuring an exciting repertoire choice and hard-grooving band. Trumpeter Sam Noto and saxophonist Bob Mover have since left the GTA, while bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Barry Elmes are still on the scene. Originally recorded in 1989, this album encapsulates this time period perfectly. The opening track and several others share a 1960s’ Blue Note aesthetic, but more 80s- and 90s-inspired offerings like Senensky’s rhythmically complex arrangement of I Hear a Rhapsody are no less at home. The versatile band closes out the recording with a rousing version of Gershwin’s Who Cares, which this band tackles in a manner that pays tribute to jazz greats of the past without ever sounding dated or clichéd. This album is a true time capsule that sounds right at home today, which is a testament to not only the musicians playing, but to Jeremy Darby’s mixing job and Peter Letros’ mastering, which has brought this Unity Records tape back to life on CD and throughout the streaming world. Sam Dickinson Peter Maxwell Davies – Eight Songs for a Mad King Psappha Ensemble (Dov Goldberg; Benedict Holland; Tim Williams; Kelvin Thomas; Richard Casey; Jennifer Langridge; Conrad Marshall) Psappha PSA1007 ( ! Music can depict madness, but can’t derive from the mind of the insane person, at least not according to Jonathan Miller. As if in defiance of that outlook, Eight Songs for a Mad King, by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016), with a libretto by Randolph Stow, even cribs some of the writing (musical as well as literary) of King George III, the lone protagonist in this musical drama. It’s heartbreaking to listen to. I wonder, can it be relevant or worthwhile committing the attention, time and even anguish the piece demands? While he ruled England, George III suffered from a severe mental disorder, at times lucid and at others not. Davies and Stow depict the suffering of a terrified, befuddled and sad man, using his own words. Even without staging, the humanity and horror come through. The work picks up where its arguable predecessor, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, left off. There’s a good deal of extended techniques shared among the six instrumentalists, while shrieks and guttural growls challenge the soloist’s larynx. Musical events alternate between synchronous and the opposite. The ensemble, as caged birds in the monarch’s aviary, whistle and call in response to the music box George is said to have used to try to teach them to sing. Originally released on limited edition vinyl to celebrate the 80th birthday of its patron Davies in 2014, the Psappha ensemble has re-issued this 2012 recording on vinyl and digital formats in conjunction with the NMC Recordings label. Their assurance and familiarity with the dense and difficult material (they worked closely with Davies for years), make this as close as one could want to a definitive performance. Max Christie Reviewed in this issue 39 Golden Dolden Box Set Paul Dolden 40 SYLVIUS LEOPOLD WEISS Alan Rinehart 40 HERITAGE Aisha Syed Castro 41 Lennox in Paris Emmanuel Bach 42 Restless Nation Andy Teirstein 42 Messiah Ensemble Caprice 43 From Rags to Riches New York Festival of Song, Stephanie Blythe, William Burden, Steven Blier 46 Popov • Schulhoff Quartet Berlin-Tokyo 47 Marimba Collage Nicholas Papador and the University of Windsor Percussion Ensemble 50 … AND NOTHING REMAINS THE SAME… Eight Strings & a Whistle 51 Gail Kubik: Symphony Concertante Boston Modern Orchestra Project 52 Sandburg Songs Matthew Schreibeis 53 O Mistress Moon (Canadian Edition) Jennifer King Previously reviewed, in Volume 27 no. 4 53 Bones Millerd Meyers 53 Fleur Revisited Philippe Côté 54 Were We Where We Were Michael Formanek Drome Trio 55 Love for Connoisseurs Angela Verbrugge 56 LOGUSLABUSMUZIKUS JAZZLAB ORCHESTRA 42 Home Suite Home Fraser Jackson & Monique de Margerie 47 Dai Fujikura: Koto Concerto LEO Read the reviews here, then visit March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 61

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