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

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Violin
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  • October
  • November
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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.

Koschei’s subjects,

Koschei’s subjects, enhance the drama. The pairing with Stravinsky’s equally groundbreaking ballet Apollon Musagète, written 18 years later, works brilliantly. Like The Firebird, it draws on ancient tales. But these tales are from Greek mythology. In The Firebird, goodness must overcome evil to triumph. Here, goodness prevails unchallenged. Instead of conflict there’s serenity. Instead of mystery, there’s clarity. It’s all conjured up luminously by Gimeno and the exquisite strings of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg in gorgeous, sweeping brushstrokes. Pamela Margles Nazareno – Bernstein; Stravinsky; Golijov Chris Richards; Katia and Marielle Labèque; London Symphony Orchestra; Sir Simon Rattle LSO Live LSO 0836 (lso.co.uk) ! Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO have released, concurrent with their Stravinsky: Early Ballets collection, a record offering a brief survey of the Afro-Latin influence on “serious” music of the last century. It includes two curiosities for clarinet: Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949) by Leonard Bernstein, and Ebony Concerto (1945) by Stravinsky. Both were commissioned by Woody Herman, and each lasts under ten minutes. They remain somewhat overlooked, perhaps on account of their offhand treatment of the solo instrument, or the fact that they both feature big band, not full orchestra. The two works are given a lively ride by LSO lead clarinetist Chris Richards and the decidedly non-orchestral backup, mainly of brass and saxes. Most of the disc is taken up by Nazareno (2009) a beautifully rendered adaptation (by Venezuelan composer Gonzalo Grau) of Osvaldo Golijov’s scintillating La Pasión según San Marcos (2000); this new rendering omits the vocals of the original cantata. Commissioned by Katia and Mireille Labèque, it’s scored for two pianos, Latin percussion section, plus winds and cello. Without text, I still hear how the music conveys the story of the Christian sacrifice. Powerful rhythmic dances abound, but behind the upbeat samba movements lies a much more sombre tone, especially in the slow ballad Sur. I won’t be surprised if a choreographer selects this score for a new dance work. It might serve as an answer to Stravinsky’s pagan vision of the sacrifice, made roughly a century ago. The LSO, or the sections performing on this disc, give the selections punch and vigour. The soloists and percussionists are stars. Max Christie Mythes Ariane Brisson; Olivier Hébert-Bouchard ATMA ACD2 2842 (atmaclassique.com/en) ! The flute has had a long and illustrious history as far back as prehistoric times and its appeal is again showcased on this attractive ATMA recording featuring transcriptions of compositions performed by flutist Ariane Brisson and pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard. Brisson was selected as “Découverte de l’année” at the Prix Opus 2019-2020 Gala and Grand Prize winner of the Prix d’Europe competition in 2013, while award-winning pianist Hébert- Bouchard is a founding member of Trio Émerillon and Prisma. As the title implies, the disc partly pays homage to the worlds of fantasy and magic as seen through the eyes of five composers. It opens with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ haunting The Lark Ascending, music inspired by George Meredith’s 1881 poem of the same name. Here, the listener is immediately struck by Brisson’s warm and sonorous tone with Hébert-Bouchard providing a solid and sensitive partnership. Ravel’s Sonatine was completed around 1905, and although originally scored for solo piano, the combination of flute and piano is an appealing one, particularly in the vivacious finale animé. Both Janáček’s Pohádka (A Tale) from 1912 and Debussy’s renowned Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune clearly prove that skilful arrangements can be as convincing as the originals. The three-movement Mity (Myths) by Karol Szymanowski was inspired by Greek mythology and was originally scored for violin and piano. Here, Narcissus, Pan and the dryads all make an appearance in this highly impressionistic score. Once again, Brisson and Hébert-Bouchard prove a formidable pairing. These are challenging times, so Mythes just might be a perfect means of briefly escaping into a better place – a welcome addition to the catalogue. Richard Haskell Souvenirs d’Auguste Descarries Isabelle David Leaf Music LM250 (leaf-music.ca) ! The name Auguste Descarries is probably not a familiar one to Canadian music lovers outside Quebec, but during his lifetime he enjoyed a considerable reputation as a conductor, composer and pedagogue. Born in Lachine in1896, he studied piano and organ in his youth and began studying law at the Université de Montréal. Yet upon winning the Prix d’Europe from the Académie de musique du Québec in 1921, he set off to study music in Paris where he remained until 1929. Upon his return, he established himself in the local music scene, his endeavours included private teaching, choral conducting at the Église Ste. Viateur and helping to create the music faculty at the Université de Montréal in 1950. This recording on the Leaf Music label features 14 of his compositions written between 1918 and 1956 performed by Isabelle David whose grandmother had the good fortune of being one of his pupils. And who better to address this unfamiliar repertoire? David has devoted four years to the study of Descarries’ piano works. These are musical gems, very much in the manner of late-19th-century French piano music. Do I hear echoes of Fauré and a nod to César Franck? What strikes the listener almost immediately is the wide range of contrasting moods among them, from the introspection of Au gré de l’onde and the pathos of Nostalgie to the buoyancy of Étude en sol majeur. Throughout, David displays a natural affinity for this music, her performance poised and elegant. Her formidable technique is evident in such pieces as the virtuosic Rhapsodie canadienne (transcribed by David herself) – clearly, many of these compositions were not intended for amateurs. Souvenirs is a delight – a grand merci to David, not only for a fine performance, but for bringing to light a composer whose music most certainly deserves greater recognition. Richard Haskell MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Personal Noise Sarah Plum Blue Griffin BGR619 (bluegriffin.com) ! This fantastic new release by an ardent proponent of the contemporary violin repertoire, violinist Sarah Plum, is a musthave for everyone who loves meaningful sonic adventures. Personal Noise features works for violin and electronics, delivered via the imagination and composing pen of Kyong Mee Choi, Jeff Herriott, Mari Kimura, Eric Lyon, Eric Moe, Charles Nichols and Mari Takano. Works on this album came as a result of a personal connection between Plum and each composer and were either written for or commissioned by her. The exciting mixture of electronically processed sounds and extended contemporary violin techniques is further 56 | September 20 - November 8, 2022 thewholenote.com

enhanced by imaginative and dynamic performance by Plum. And if you think there are no beautiful melodies on this album, you are wrong; distinct melodies and elements of beauty are present throughout. Layers upon layers of textures and colours make the music rich, dreamy, sometimes unpredictable, sometimes probing. Each composition features the explorative element of some kind, be it the notion of serendipity in music (Herriot’s after time: a resolution), paraphrasing of the melody from Bach’s Violin Sonata in B-Minor (Choi’s Flowering Dandelion), or articulation of the musical cryptogram spelling Sarah’s name (Lyon’s Personal Noise with Accelerants). Interactive electronics in Kimura’s Sarahal, along with violin trills, pizzicatos, arpeggiatos and harmonics, create colours to die for and a full sonorous sound. Sarah Plum offers complex yet conceptually clear interpretations of these works. Her distinct style of playing allows for passion and lyricism in one bow stroke, a perfect personal noise. Ivana Popovic Calques: Morton Feldman; Karl Naegelen Quatuor Umlaut; Joris Rüůhl Umlaut Records UMFR-CD 37 (umlautrecords.com) ! Connecting the common threads between French composer Karl Naegelen’s Calques and US composer Morton Feldman’s Clarinet and string quartet, Paris-based Quatuor Umlaut and clarinetist Joris Rühl emphasize indeterminacy but add enough variations to counter shifts towards the soporific. Together violinists Amaryllis Billet and Anna Jalving, violist Fanny Paccoud and cellist Sarah Ledoux project a unison sound. Yet with shaded glissandi plus expanding and compressing textures, their harmonies can crackle like electronics or vibrate like a single long string. This serves as perfect counterpoint to the split tones, near inaudible whistles, hollow puffs and clarion peeps from Rühl, who is equally involved with free improvisation. The resulting shaded drone adds a warmer thrust to Naegelen’s composition, especially when it’s completed with a concentrated pipe-organ-like throb from all five. Feldman’s piece often cushions woody clarinet tones within luminous coordinated string harmonies for a warmer and gentler exposition. While this gentling motif reappears frequently, other sequences have the layered strings shimmering upwards or the clarinetist moving from mid-range acquiescence to project tongue slaps and higherpitched trilling arabesques. Sliding among the unison string coordination, these timbral reed variations create a darker interface as low-pitched cello strokes are contrasted with pizzicato plucks from the others’ elevated tones. Return to the initial indeterminate but repeated introductory passage confirms both the underlying malleability of what could be a static form and the urbanity of the musicians’ interpretation and linkage to a more contemporary composition. Ken Waxman William Bolcom – Trio for Horn; Solo Violin Suite No.2 Steven Gross; Philip Ficsor; Constantine Finehouse Naxos 8.579102 (naxos.com/catalogue/ item.asp?item_code=8.579102) William Bolcom – The Complete Rags Marc-André Hamelin Hyperion CDA68391/2 (hyperion-records. co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68391%2F2) ! William Bolcom (b.1938) is a renowned American composer whose works are wideranging, genrebending and utterly fascinating. While Bolcom’s compositions from around 1960 employed a modified serial technique, under the influence of Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio whose music he particularly admired, in the 1960s he gradually began to embrace an eclectic use of a wider variety of musical styles. In addition to four large-scale operas and numerous concertos, Bolcom has also written nine symphonies, twelve string quartets, four violin sonatas, numerous piano rags, four volumes of gospel preludes for organ, four volumes of cabaret songs, three musical theatre works and a one-act chamber opera. Chamber Works features two pieces, the Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano (2017) and the Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin (2011). The Trio showcases each instrument to its fullest in both soloistic and ensemble capacities and, while mostly atonal, the work incorporates brief moments of tonality that reorient the listener’s ears and provide a grounding element, especially in the more tumultuous movements. The Suite, conversely, is exquisitely tuneful and is clearly structured around the dance forms of Baroque solo violin suites, especially those of J.S. Bach. Rhythmic vitality and instrumental virtuosity reign supreme here, and the performance given by violinist Philip Ficsor is both admirable and noteworthy. The piano rag, (i.e. ragtime), is a musical style that reached its peak popularity between 1895 and 1919. A precursor to the development of jazz, ragtime is characterized by its syncopated or “ragged” rhythm and was popularized during the early 20th century by composer Scott Joplin and his school of classical ragtime. Although it fell out of favour in the 1920s, composers and performers alike have revived the styles and forms of the genre in the decades since, including Bolcom. His collection of rags is among the finest adaptations of ragtime within contemporary music, achieving a blend of stylistic familiarity and artistic creativity that is unique while avoiding appearing derivative or gauche. And who better to handle Bolcom’s ingenious rags than Marc-André Hamelin, perhaps Canada’s premier interpreter of contemporary music? As someone who successfully handled the seemingly insurmountable piano works of Kaikhosru Sorabji and Charles-Valentin Alkan, Hamelin’s name is synonymous with “unplayable” scores that transcend the conventional understanding of virtuosity. Here, however, he lends his deft touch to material that is considerably less demanding from a technical perspective yet has certain stylistic requirements, the challenges of which he meets with precision and sensitivity. For those familiar with the music of Bolcom, both of these recordings are guaranteed to be a delight; they also serve as fine starting points for those who are unfamiliar. The Complete Rags adapts an old yet familiar style through a master performer’s touch, while Chamber Works provides a glimpse into Bolcom’s more modern approach, a perfect pairing for anyone interested in this icon of American modernism. Matthew Whitfield Concert Note: Marc-André Hamelin gives a recital in Koerner Hall on October 16 (3pm). Derek Bermel – Intonations – Music for Clarinet and Strings Derek Bermel; Christopher Otto; Wiek Hijmans; JACK Quartet Naxos 8.559912 (naxos.com/ CatalogueDetail/?id=8.559912) ! What amazing art evolves from decaying empires! Consider this new release by Derek Bermel. Widely travelled, juxtaposing American styles like twangy folk and wrenching blues, adding elements from farther afield (South American, African, Thracian), Bermel fashions wonderful curiosities from this mittful of influences. Intonations, played with surly strut by the JACK Quartet, is all bending pitches and grinding gears, although the second movement, Hymn/Homily is poignant and sweet. thewholenote.com September 20 - November 8, 2022 | 57

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