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Volume 27 Issue 6 | April 15 - May 27, 2022

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  • Thewholenotecom
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Vol 27 No. 6. Here’s some of it: “Growing up in a house full of riches” – the Kanneh-Masons; “As if the music knows what it is doing” – J.S. Bach; “Better experienced than described” – Women from Space; “Stories set in prehistoric times are notoriously difficult to pull off without invoking nervous laughter” – Orphan Song; “To this day when I look at an audience, there’s some part of me that sees a whole bunch of friendly teddy bears wearing bow-ties” – Boris Brott. …. etc

for cellist Yo-Yo Ma to

for cellist Yo-Yo Ma to whom it is dedicated. Altstaedt, who was in London at the time of the British premiere, attended the rehearsal and performance by Yo-Yo Ma and was later invited to give the Finnish premiere under the composer’s direction at the Helsinki Festival. He says “Performing with the composer himself is always a special moment. Burning full of questions you have always wanted to ask, there is also a magic space of nonverbal communication that needs to take place. Not to mention I was a bit starstruck in this situation, Esa-Pekka made it extremely easy for me; the week of rehearsals and the performance were pure joy. Joking about his quotation of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony’s Scherzo ‘I should [only] compose when I am sober,’ gave me a glimpse into a composer’s life as well as his description of the beginning of the piece: ‘I always wanted to compose something like the opening of Alban Berg’s Altenberg Lieder.’” In his own notes, Salonen tells us “Some of the ideas for my Cello Concerto can be traced back at least three decades, but the actual material for the piece was mostly developed in the summer of 2015 when I decided to spend a few months researching for new kinds of textures without a concrete plan how to use them. I decided to use some phrases from my 2010 solo cello work ...knock, breathe, shine... in the second and third movements as I always felt that the music of the solo piece was almost orchestral in its scope and character, and would function well within an orchestral environment. […] I happen to like the concept of a virtuoso operating at the very limits of what is physically (and sometimes mentally) possible. I have learnt, however, that virtuosity doesn’t limit itself to the mechanics of playing an instrument. A true virtuoso can also capture the beauty and expression in the quietest moments, to fill nearstasis with life through a musician’s imagination and ability to communicate.” Altstaedt rises to all the challenges thrown at him throughout the 36-minute work, holding his own against incredibly dense orchestral textures, sensitively realizing the most quiet passages, which include seagull-like glissandi, and a flamboyant extended cadenza shared with bongo drums and woodblocks. The result is exhilarating. The recording includes a striking performance of Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello with Pekka Kuusisto. I spoke earlier about the denseness of the string writing in Brahms and Strauss. Ravel’s Duo (its original name) is so dense it would be easy to think you were hearing a string quartet. So dense in fact that Roland Manuel once joked about making a “reduced version for orchestra.” Altstaedt states “Working with [Kuusisto] on this piece felt like coming home, although differently — it felt like a place that I knew but never visited before. […] Pekka had fresh ideas each time we picked up the piece, connecting every gesture in the music to an experience from real life. He never repeated himself; rehearsing with him was not only infinitely inspiring but also very entertaining. ‘Let’s create the sound of a vacuum cleaner’ might sound criminal to some musicians, but Ravel’s own description of the theme of the last movement as ‘like a mechanical rabbit’ or ‘clowneske improvisation’ in the second movement, puts other ideas firmly in their place. What we're listening to this month: Random accidents became virtues, (at least from our perspective) and led us to discover the character that we had actually sought.” Evidently Ravel expressed fears of “being assassinated by amateurs.” He need not have worried in this instance. Altstaedt and Kuusisto are consummate professionals, fearless of risk taking, who ask us to open our ears to a new approach to this familiar music, one which Ravel would have evidently approved. And this just in: As I was up against the deadline writing this column, I found in my inbox a very timely release from recorder virtuoso Michala Petri that I simply must share with you: Galina Grigorjeva – Lament (Our Recordings 9.70894 ourrecordings.com). I will let the press release speak for itself. “As we all know the world has changed since February the 24th. What is going on with Putin’s atrocities against the free people of an independent nation is beyond our imagination. War is the antithesis of art and music and anathema to everything we represent and hold sacred – and it is difficult to find a way to respond to such a disaster. Everyone involved suffers on both sides – and the consequences affect the whole world – especially the most vulnerable. Since that tragic day Michala Petri has featured a very special work on all her concerts, Lament for recorder solo by the Ukrainian-born composer Galina Grigorjeva – and for the duration of this atrocity, she will continue to do so! “Born in Crimea, Ukraine, Grigorjeva (b.1962) is one of the most original composers on the contemporary soundscape, creating timeless, ethereal music whose roots lay deep within Slavonic and Western sacred music traditions. Lament, for solo tenor recorder (2000), is a remarkable work, wonderfully engaging with a definite Slavic quality evoking the sounds of the Ukrainian overtone flute, the kalyuka. Beginning with an octave-and-a-half cry of anguish, wisps of melody become increasingly passionate and frantic [...] before retreating in resignation and acceptance.” I encourage you to seek out this stunning work, and to support artistic contributions to Ukraine’s struggle wherever you encounter them. All involved in the recording worked for free; no expenses were incurred producing this moving digital release and all proceeds from the sale of Lament will be donated to the Kyiv Contemporary Music Days Foundation. We invite submissions. CDs, DVDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com thewholenote.com/listening Rêves Enclos Louis Dominique Roy, Louis- Philippe Marsolais, Olivier Laquerre, Sébastien Lépine Pianist-composer Roy’s original songs are set to poems by some of Québec’s greatest poets. A first airing in this new recording with baritone Olivier Laquerre. Gabriel Pierné, Feuillet d'album Antoine Laporte A double album of works for piano by Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937), a contemporary of Debussy and Fauré. Some world premieres. English and French booklets with notes lumena The Topaz Duo Harpist Angela Schwarzkopf and flutist Kaili Maimets release an album of four works by living North American composers. Conversations with Myself Alicia Lee A dynamic collection of works for solo clarinet with and without electronics, chronicling a year of artistic activity in isolation. 40 | April 15 - May 27, 2022 thewholenote.com

STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS On Viola Borealis the outstanding violist Marina Thibeault explores musical links between several northern cultures. Nicolas Ellis conducts Montreal’s Orchestre de l’Agora (ATMA Classique ACD2 2811 atmaclassique.com/en). The main work here is the striking 2016 Viola Concerto by Lithuanian composer Pēteris Vasks. Thibeault gave the North American premiere in 2019, Vasks calling her playing “truly excellent – she has captured my message.” High praise indeed, and fully warranted. Reckoning was originally a series of six improvisations for violin with pedal effects by the Anishinaabe composer Melody McKiver. Two brief sections from a transcription for solo viola are included here, with harmonics and bowing techniques replacing the electronic effects. A spirited performance of Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G Major, generally considered to be the first ever written for the instrument, completes a fine CD. On Inspirations: New Music for Solo Guitar the Toronto-based classical guitarist Daniel Ramjattan presents a recital of works by composers based in Canada, played on a seven-string left-handed guitar (danielramjattan.bandcamp.com). Patrick Roux’s lovely Valse Vertigo is from 1994, but the other five works were all written between 2012 and 2020. John Gordon Armstrong’s Five Inspirations from 2018 opens the disc, and is one of three premiere recordings here, the others being Stephanie Orlando’s Soon (2020) and Luis Ramirez’s Singularity (for guitar and audio) from 2019. The Gamelan Suite was written by Ramjattan’s wife Naoko Tsujita in 2019; the CD closes with the really attractive four-movement Catharsis, written by cellist/ composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne in 2012. There’s beautifully clean playing from Ramjattan, perfectly captured at The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, by guitarist Drew Henderson, whose recording, mixing and mastering is, as always, simply as good as it gets. boyd meets girl: Songs of Love & Despair is the second duo album from the husbandand-wife team of American cellist Laura Metcalf and Australian guitarist Rupert Boyd; the first was reviewed here in September 2017 (Sono Luminus DSL-92255 sonoluminus.com). It’s another project born in the COVID-19 lockdown, and includes five of their own arrangements: Debussy’s Arabesque No.1; Florence Price’s The Deserted Garden; Beyoncé’s Pray You Catch Me (with vocalise); Radiohead’s Daydreaming (with extended techniques); and Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. Eleanor Rigby is here too, as are Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade (with lovely guitar work) and Boccherini’s Sonata in A Major. Robert Beaser’s Mountain Songs features four of his set of eight Appalachian folk tunes, and there are world-premiere recordings of two terrific new works – Marián Budoš’ A New York Minute and Paul Brantley’s Filles de l’Élysée. Messiaen’s Praise to the Eternity of Jesus, from his Quatuor de la fin du temps, completes another delightful disc, full of warmth and top-notch playing. The electrifying duo of violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien is back with another superb recital on Mendelssohn Violin Sonatas (Hyperion CDA68322 hyperion-records.co.uk/ dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68322). While only the Beethoven-influenced Sonata in F Minor Op.4 from 1823 was published, three others remained in manuscript: the Sonata in F Major MWV Q7 from 1820; the single-movement fragment Sonata in D MWV Q18 from the late 1820s; and the substantial Sonata in F Major MWV Q26 from 1838, intended for Ferdinand David. Mendelssohn left an unfinished revision of the first movement of the latter work, with the 2009 bicentenary published edition containing both versions; the original is used here. Mendelssohn was an excellent violinist, so it is no surprise that these are much more than merely competent works. Ibragimova and Tiberghien are as good as ever, with terrific ensemble playing and technical brilliance, especially in the typically dazzling scherzolike finales. What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Celestial Forms and Stories John Aylward & Klangforum Inspired by the stories of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, composer John Aylward’s five-piece suite of atmospheric chamber music features the acclaimed Viennese ensemble Klangforum Wien. The Next Step Roberto Occipinti The award-winning bassist’s new trio recording - with pianist Adrean Farrugia and drummer Larnell Lewis - blends his many musical interests in a tight ninetrack jazz format. Of Glow & Abandon Radia CBC Music’s 30 Under 30 violist Ryan Davis aka Radia releases debut EP of original compositions, Of Glow & Abandon, now available on all platforms. Tasty Tunes Quartetto Gelato Tasty Tunes is fun, refreshing and brand new. Enjoy all the different flavours today! thewholenote.com April 15 - May 27, 2022 | 41

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