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Volume 28 Issue 1 | September 20 - November 8, 2022

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  • Thewholenotecom
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Our 28th season in print! “And Now, Back to Live Action”; a symphonic-sized listings section, compared to last season; clubs “On the move” ; FuturesStops Festival and Nuit Blanche; “Pianistic high-wire acts”; Season announcements include full-sized choral works like Mendelssohn’s Elijah; “Icons, innovators and renegades” pulling out all the stops.

Samuel Adler – To

Samuel Adler – To Speak To Our TIme Gloriae Dei Cantores; Richard K. Pugsley Gloriae Die Cantores GDCD 066 (gdcrecordings.com/new-release-samueladler) ! With over 400 published works to his name, Samuel Adler is a composer who is difficult to fit into a single category or niche. This recording focuses specifically on Adler’s religious choral music and how the composer’s versatility and wide-ranging style take us on a journey blending contemporary musical techniques with the influence of his Jewish heritage. Adler was born in Mannheim, Germany, where his father was a highly respected synagogue cantor and liturgical composer. Within a year after the nationally orchestrated pogrom known as Kristallnacht, the Adler family emigrated to America, where the elder Adler obtained a position as a cantor in Massachusetts and Samuel began demonstrating his musical talents. He became his father’s choir director when he was only 13 and remained at that post until he began his university studies. During that early period, he began composing liturgical settings, at first under his father’s influence and soon developing his own style. From the very beginning of this recording, the opening A Hymn of Praise demonstrates this Jewish influence, setting the text to a traditional Yigdal melody commonly known as the hymn tune LEONI. The remaining texts, taken from the Psalms and Old Testament, recount God’s goodness on the journey of life and through the hills, valleys and mountaintop, and every emotion from pain to joy, disappointment to elation and sorrow to hope. The musical settings of these texts are a delight to the ears, wonderfully rich and robust, and brought to life with energy and joy by Gloriae Dei Cantores and their director Richard K. Pugsley. Matthew Whitfield Juris Ābols – Xeniae Latvian Radio Choir; Sigvards Klava LMIC SKANI 140 (skani.lv) ! When encountering a piece of music for the first time, the brain begins searching for general thematic similarities: is this like Bach or Black Sabbath; Monteverdi or Miles Davis? While this “compare and contrast” method works well for most music, occasionally a listener is confronted by a single work that contains such a vast synthesis of styles that it is both disorienting and astonishing; such is the case with Juris Ābols’ opera Xeniae. From the very first movement of this opera, we are introduced to a staggering tapestry of eras and references, including early-Baroque recitative accompanied by guitar and smooth jazz. As improbable as this may seem, the effect is both successful and addictive, for as we make our way through this staggering work, we can never guess what comes next, and this propels us forward with eager anticipation. There is, perhaps, no parallel to Xeniae in the world of classical music, for the breadth of material is simply too diverse, and it is rather similar in a number of ways to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. What cannot be overstated is just how impressive the performance of the Latvian Radio Choir and its director Sigvards Kļava is on this recording, especially considering that the entire opera was recorded in the basement of Kļava’s home. Although an unknown name to many, Ābols makes a tremendous impact with Xeniae, and proves that he is one of the 21st century’s most eclectic and exciting composers. This disc is highly recommended, not only to those who favour classical music, but to those who appreciate any music, for there truly is something here for everyone. Matthew Whitfield La Zingarella: Through Romany Songland Isabel Bayrakdarian; Gryphon Trio; Juan-Miguel Hernandez; Mark Fewer Avie Records AV2506 (avie-records.com/ releases/la-zingarella-through-romanysongland) ! Gypsies, Romanies, Zigeuner, Gitans – however they were named, the peripatetic people from north India who entered and traversed Europe in medieval times were everywhere scorned as mountebanks, maligned as thieves. Nevertheless, the wanderers’ music, with its exotic timbres, vibrant rhythms and soulful melodies, has been an enduring source of inspiration for innumerable composers, including the 11 on this CD. Multi-Juno-winning soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, singing here in German, Czech, Spanish, French and English, is joined by violinist Mark Fewer, violist Juan- Miguel Hernandez and the Gryphon Trio performing vigorous, freshly created instrumental arrangements by Peter Tiefenbach and John Greer. Accounting for 15 of the disc’s 27 tracks are two song-cycle masterworks known in English as “Gypsy Songs” – Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder, Op.103 and Dvořák’s Cigánské melodie, Op.55 (including the much-loved Když mne stará matka – “Songs My Mother Taught Me”). Three sassy, saucy Spanish songs by Sebastián Iradier are especially ingratiating; the third, El arreglito (Canción habanera), was the tune Georges Bizet borrowed and slightly modified for the CD’s following track – the Habanera from Carmen! Bayrakdarian is in fine voice and exuberant high spirits for these mostly high-spirited selections, yet poignant or sensuous when appropriate. Songs by Franz Liszt, Joaquín Valverde and Henry F.B. Gilbert, plus arias from operettas by Maurice Yvain, Franz Lehár, Emmerich Kálmán and Victor Herbert, all reflect these composers’ admiration (not “appropriation”) of a marginalized ethnic minority’s distinctively spicy, rhapsodic music. This exhilarating cross-cultural excursion is enthusiastically recommended! Michael Schulman James Kallembach – Antigone Lorelei Ensemble; Beth Willer New Focus Recordings FCR331 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! James Kallembach’s Antigone relocates Sophocles’ seminal Athenian tragedy to the landscape of Nazi Germany. His libretto draws inspiration from the tragic poetry found in Sophie Scholl’s diary. Scholl, a member of the non-violent student White Rose Movement was arrested and later guillotined – along with her brother Hans – by the Nazis in 1943. Kallembach’s Antigone unfolds in the impassioned struggle of the title character, a woman determined to fight for the truth amid tyranny. The struggle features Antigone and Ismene locking proverbial horns with their dictatorial uncle Creon. Kallembach’s narrative seamlessly weaves the characters’ lives in and out of Athens into the warp and weft of Nazi Germany. Members of the Lorelei Ensemble create a shimmering luminosity as they delicately vocalize the sisters and the powerful voice of Creon. In particular, Christina English, Sarah Brailey and Rebecca Myers Hoke sing with enormous sensitivity, superbly characterizing everyone from the sensitive Ismene to the powerful Creon and the tragic Antigone who is none other than Scholl. The Ensemble delivers this outstanding libretto, directed by the sensitive yet firm hand of Beth Willer. In particular the encounters between Scholl and Lisa Remppis, with words from the former’s diary entries, have a pared-down style, particularly effective in the vignettes from late March, 1942. The reading of Scholl’s pamphlets is expertly melded into the disturbing backdrop created by moaning cellos. Something elegant and different emerges after each hearing of this disc. Raul da Gama 52 | September 20 - November 8, 2022 thewholenote.com

Jonathan Berger; Harriet Scott Chessman – Mỹ Lai Kronos Quartet; Vân-Áhn Vanessa Vo; Rinde Eckert Folkways SFW CD 40251 (folkways.si.edu) ! Every once and a while the invisible cosmic forces align in such a manner as to create art that is spectacularly dark and forbidding, yet utterly irresistible and monumental. For the operetta Mỹ Lai those forces fuelled its composers, the musician Jonathan Berger and the librettist Harriet Scott Chessman, who conspired to bring Mỹ Lai back to life with the great Kronos Quartet, traditional Vietnamese instrumentalist Vân Ánh Vanessa Võ and the ineffably brilliant vocalist Rinde Eckert. Ordinarily you would credit any operetta as having a fairly linear narrative line. But Mỹ Lai is no ordinary operetta. It is a revelation of an open wound in the history of the Vietnam War, one in which US soldiers’ massacred 504 South Vietnamese civilians in Mỹ Lai village. On this recording the terrifying narrative is woven into the howl of the Kronos strings and the roar of Eckert’s singing – voicing several characters who were involved in or witnessed the event. Meanwhile the evocative percussion colours of Võ’s instruments add an eerie contrapuntal voice, redolent of delicate tintinnabulation and ghostly echoes of mallets on metal keys, Highly charged performances by the Kronos and Võ, employing the soundmass textures of Berger’s orchestral work and the unearthing of the naked horror in Chessman’s libretto by Eckert, together make Mỹ Lai an unforgettable work of art. It is the most powerfully moving anti-war palimpsest since Picasso painted Guernica. Raul da Gama Global Wagner: From Bayreuth to the World A Film by Axel Brüggemann Naxos 2.110708 (naxos.com/catalogue/ item.asp?item_code=2.110708) ! German director/scriptwriter/filmmaker Axel Brüggemann made this documentary film almost 140 years after composer Richard Wagner’s death. Brüggemann offers a look at and listen to Wagner’s life, music and his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, by exploring and filming backstage at rehearsals and performances, and including countless Wagnerite fans, international Wagner societies around the world today and individual viewpoints about the enigmatic, controversial composer. Mostly in German with no voiceovers, the subtitles in English (among other languages) are legible. Brüggemann’s journalistic documentary approach, with colourful scenic visuals throughout, is to be commended. The film opens in Venice, where Wagner lived, loving the city’s calmness, with breathtaking city clips, including fascinating emotional footage from the room where he died in 1883. Then to Bayreuth with astounding aerial views. Other worldwide sites include Newark New Jersey, Riga Latvia, Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv and Tokyo, with these city visuals complementing interviews, concerts and fans, making this a “never leave your home” trip around the world. And the background Wagner music performances are perfect! Lots to learn from the interviews with such Wagnerites as Bayreuth artistic director /business manager Katharina Wagner, conductor Christian Thielemann, operatic bass-baritone Kevin Maynor and American music critic Alex Ross, among others. Especially fun are day-to-day commentaries from Ulrike and Georg Rauch who own a butcher shop near the festival theatre. Emotional contrasting footage is of Jerusalem-based Jewish lawyer and chairman/founder of the Israel Wagner Society, Jonathan Livny, who is quoted in the liner notes as saying “Wagner was a terrible person but he wrote heavenly music.” And viewers get up-close looks at rehearsals and performances. We see the Bayreuth orchestra musicians rehearse and set volume and dynamic levels, we watch stage hands move and place sets and hear director commentaries during sung/acted rehearsals and subsequent performance footage in the acoustically unique theatre. All are eye-opening. Lots of packed crowds of well-dressed fans of (surprisingly) all ages to see entering the theatre. Short fragmented music, visuals and interview cuts are joined seamlessly together, making this an easy group of stories for all to follow about the world’s fascination for Wagner today. Tiina Kiik CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Beethoven: The Symphonies Chamber Orchestra of Europe; Yannick Nézet-Séguin Deutsche Grammophon (deutschegrammophon.com/en/catalogue/ products/beethoven-the-symphoniesnezet-seguin-12724) ! The summer of 2021 was not an easy one so it isn’t hard to imagine the excitement the Chamber Orchestra of Europe must have felt when it came together to What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Mythes Ariane Brisson et Olivier Hébert- Bouchard Original transcriptions for flute and piano by Brisson, music from the ethereal to the magical inspired by the world of sprites and fairies Souvenirs D'Auguste Descarries Isabelle David Montréal pianist Isabelle David’s debut solo album includes 14 works from pianist and composer Auguste Descarries. Two of these are previously unreleased contributions to Quebec piano literature. Calques Quatuor Umlaut 'Calques' explores the relationship between the clarinet sound and that of the string quartet through two pieces by Morton Feldman and Karl Naegelen. World Premiere Album: Carl Vine Complete Piano Sonatas Xiaoya Liu Pianist Xiaoya Liu released World Premiere Album - Carl Vine Complete Piano Sonatas thewholenote.com September 20 - November 8, 2022 | 53

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