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Volume 28 Issue 4 | February - March 2023

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Volume 28 no.4, covering Feb, March and into early April '23! David Olds remembers composer John Beckwith; Andrew Timar reflects on the life and times of artistic polymath Michael Snow; Mezzo Emily Fons, in town for Figaro, on trouser roles, the life of a mezzo-soprano on the road and more; Colin Story on the Soft-Seat beat; tracks from 22 new recordings added to our Listening Room. All this and more.

form. Each of the CDs

form. Each of the CDs features marqueeworthy stars including the great Canadian coloratura Karina Gauvin (cue L’Inquiétude and Le soir from CD 2). Of course Gauvin is not the only celebrity soprano featured here. Others include the quite brilliant Magali Simard-Galdès (Voix de femmes, CD 9). Still others include: mezzo Julie Boulianne (Avant la bataille, CD 10), contralto Florence Bourget (Le Noël des humbles, CD 5). Tenors include Eric Laporte (Napolitana, CD 2), while baritones feature Jean-François Lapointe (Amoureaux d’une étoile, CD 12), and among the narrators is Jean Marchand (Le vision de Loti, CD 12). While the vocalists are indubitably the stars on these discs the accompanists also deserve special mention. The cast of musicians includes violinist Antoine Bareil, cellist Stéphane Tétreault, guitarist David Jacques, harpist Valérie Milot and Olivier Godin who plays a radiant 1854 Sébastien Érard piano, harmonium and harpsichord. All the accompanists play with sublime idiomatic grace and must be recognised for their restrained artistry, which allows the vocalists to shine through the poesy of these works. Rarely has any box of CDs offered the kind of thrill-aminute listening as this one. Raul da Gama Artur Schnabel – Complete Vocal Works Sara Couden; Jenny Lin Steinway & Sons 30208 ( music-and-artists/label) ! In his book The Great Pianists, music critic Harold Schonberg devoted an entire chapter to Austrian Artur Schnabel (1882- 1951), the first to record all 32 Beethoven sonatas. (I especially cherish his soul-searching Schubert recordings.) Yet now almost forgotten is that Schnabel also composed – a lot! – including three symphonies and five string quartets. This first complete collection of his vocal music memorializes Schnabel’s relationship with contralto Therese Behr, who brought her young accompanist (she was six years older) to public attention. The visually odd couple – Behr six feet tall, Schnabel five-four – married in 1905. Schnabel composed 22 songs for Behr between 1899 and 1906, influenced by Brahms’ warm lyricism, rather than the febrile emotionalism of Mahler or Richard Strauss. Making her CD debut, American contralto Sara Couden, with her dark sepia timbre, perfectly suits the songs’ restrained, autumnal moods, prevalent even when the texts rhapsodize about the beauties of nature or love’s joys and sorrows. Pianist Jenny Lin admirably provides pianist-composer Schnabel’s often elaborate accompaniments. Schnabel wasn’t immune, however, to the stylistic revolutions of Schoenberg and Stravinsky preceding World War I. His 22-minute Notturno, Op.16 (1914), written for Behr, marked a significant departure from his previous compositions. In Richard Dehmel’s lengthy poem, the narrator recounts an agonized dream about a dead friend. Dispensing with bar-lines, Schnabel’s music creates metric ambiguity along with discordant touches of the atonality he later firmly embraced. It’s a compelling musical psychodrama. Texts and translations are included. Michael Schulman Milton Babbit – Works for Treble Voice and Piano Nina Berman; Steve Beck; Eric Huebner New Focus Recordings FCR349 ( ! Milton Babbitt (1916-2011) was one of the 20th century’s most significant composers and music theorists, whose analytical work on the music of the Second Viennese School continues to influence theory seminars throughout the world. Babbitt gained notoriety from his 1958 article Who cares if you listen? in which a strong case for the avant-garde composer is made, whether conventional audiences appreciate their efforts or not. As a composer, Babbitt wrote both electronic and serial works, including the songs contained on this album which span throughout his career. Performed by soprano Nina Berman and pianists Steve Beck and Eric Huebner, this recording provides a window into Babbitt’s inherently complex, yet surprisingly tuneful style of composition. Unlike Schoenberg and other proponents of the Second Viennese School, whose 12-tone methods permit some semblance of almost-tonality, the serialist approach employed by Babbitt strips away any reference to earlier systems of melody and harmony. Although the scores themselves are incredibly dense and challenging to execute and the music is undoubtedly atonal, there is much for listeners to focus on, for even the most random and aleatoric method of composition still results in some semblance of both melody and harmony, albeit far removed from the music of earlier times. Performing and recording music of this complexity is no small feat and Berman, Beck and Huebner deserve double praise: first, for masterfully presenting this collection of 20th-century art song; secondly, for bringing greater awareness to one of the greatest “musician’s musicians” to ever live. While Babbitt publicly eschewed easy accessibility and immediate audience gratification, his music continues to stimulate, challenge and reward musicians brave enough to engage with his masterful body of work. Matthew Whitfield CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Pachelbel – Magnificat Fugues Space Time Continuo Analekta AN 2 8911 ( ! This recording is fascinating, both in conception and execution. Comprised entirely of Baroque continuo instruments (i.e. cello, lute and organ), typically heard as the bassline foundation of early music ensembles, Montreal-based Space Time Continuo presents a variety of Johann Pachelbel’s pipe organ works arranged and performed for their unique makeup. As indicated by the album title, this recording features a number of Pachelbel’s fugues based on the Magnificat, a canticle often known as the Song of Mary. Perhaps best known for its multi-movement setting by J.S. Bach and the many smaller-scale versions written by English Cathedral tradition- composers for use in the Evensong liturgy, Pachelbel’s Magnificat arrangements are purely instrumental, with no expression of the text itself. Pachelbel wrote a great number of these little fugues: 95 in all and, while there is some debate on whether these organ works were composed for intonation or alternation, there is no doubt that they were used in the context of the sung text, either before, during or after. For this performance, director and cellist Amanda Keesmaat arranged 13 of these fugues, along with the well-known Chaconne in F Minor – one of Pachelbel’s largest-scale organ works – resulting in music that, although contrapuntally identical to its original, is strikingly different both in timbre and texture. Known largely for his Canon in D and little else, this recording demonstrates that there is much music by Pachelbel that deserves to be rediscovered. From the serious and solemn to buoyant and joyful, there is much here for everyone to enjoy and the uniqueness of having this terrific music performed by an equally magnificent bass-instrument ensemble makes this sophomore release from Space Time Continuo worthwhile listening for all. Matthew Whitfield 54 | February & March, 2023

Lost in Venice Infirmi d’Amore; Vadym Makarenko Eudora Records EUD SACD-2206 ( ! No less a figure than Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote “When I seek another word for ‘music,’ I never find any other word than ‘Venice’.” Over the years, many have written glowingly about this magical city and this Eudora recording is a fitting musical homage, featuring works by Vivaldi, Marcello and Veracini performed by the Baroque ensemble Infermi d’Amore led by Vadym Makarenko. The six-member group draws musicians from the entire world, all of whom studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland. Of the six pieces by Vivaldi – four concertos, a single movement and a sinfonia – three are the result of reconstructions by musicologist Olivier Fourés, and four of them are world-premiere recordings. Similarly, the scores by Veracini and Marcello were unearthed in Venetian libraries, thus making the disc very much one of “undiscovered treasures.” Clearly this small ensemble derives great enjoyment from playing together – what a fresh and robust sound they produce! And this vibrancy is further enhanced by a technical excellence evident throughout. As an example, the final movement from the Vivaldi Concerto in E Major RV263 presented here on its own was the original finale for another concerto, RV263a from the collection La Cetra. Nevertheless, Fourés points out that it was originally deemed “unplayable” for the average violinist of the time and was substituted at the request of the publisher. Here, soloist Makarenko easily meets the technical challenges, delivering a virtuosic performance. The Overture No.6 by Veracini and the Violin Concerto Op.1 No.9 by Marcello are both worthy inclusions and their respective discoveries were truly fortuitous. A fine recording of some unfamiliar repertoire from the Baroque period – we should all be so fortunate to be lost in Venice with such wonderful music accompanying our meanderings! Richard Haskell Bach – The Art of Life Daniil Trifonov Deutsche Grammophon 073 6270 ( daniil-trifonov/daniil-trifonov-bach-the-artof-life-2062) ! While the term ambitious is perhaps an overused descriptor for musical recordings (or anything else artistic for that matter), the adjective most certainly rings true for Daniil Trifonov’s 2022 Deutsche Grammophon release: Bach: The Art of Life. Spanning two CDS with liner notes by Oscar Alan, plus an extensive live concert Blu-ray disc, the recording provides a welcome window into comprehensive, sublime and historically accurate Baroque solo piano playing (in as much as anything originally written for the harpsichord or organ but played on the piano could be historically accurate)! That aside, this recording beautifully mines the music of the family Bach (J.S., of course, but also W.F., C.P.E. and J.C.) proving, at least musically, E.O. Wilson’s famous aphorism: “genes hold culture on a leash.” If, as the German musicologist Carl Dahlhaus pronounced, the 19th century belonged to Beethoven and Rossini (so much so that Johannes Brahms equated composing post-Beethoven to hearing “the tread of a giant behind him”), how then must it have felt to be a composer (not to mention, “son of”) following the supreme legacy left by patriarch Bach? And although this recording is centred around the elder’s Art of the Fugue, all the pieces featured here, father or sons notwithstanding, are given equal heft and import, and are dealt with rigorously by Trifonov (who up to this point has not necessarily been known for his Bach playing) in a manner that is egalitarian, rather than lesser than, and with a keyboard touch that one hopes will bring these deserving works more in line with the ever-expanding canon of Western art music. Andrew Scott Mozart – The Piano Sonatas Robert Levin ECM New Series 2710-16 ( ! Although it is not uncommon to find one or two of Mozart’s piano sonatas on recital programs, it is much less common – and much more Herculean a task – to present all 18 of his sonatas in one marathon session. Fortepianist Robert Levin embraces this challenge wholeheartedly with this remarkable six-and-a-half-hour release, featuring not only all of Mozart’s fully finished piano sonatas, but also a number of miscellaneous sonata-form movements, all performed on Mozart’s fortepiano. This reference to “Mozart’s fortepiano” requires some clarification, as his first six sonatas were most likely written not for the fortepiano, but rather the harpsichord or clavichord. Invented in 1698 by the Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori, Mozart first encountered the fortepiano as developed by Johann Andreas Stein in 1777 What we're listening to this month: Album for Astor Bjarke Mogensen Accordionist Bjarke Mogensen, percussionist Johan Bridger, harmonica star Mathias Heise, and The Danish Chamber Players bring Piazzolla’s sultry music to life! Suite Tango Denis Plante & Stéphane Tétreault Original tango-flavoured album inspired by the unaccompanied cello suites of J.S. Bach. Featuring Caity Gyorgy The debut LP from jazz vocalist Caity Gyorgy featuring special guests including Christine Jensen, Allison Au, Virginia MacDonald, Pat LaBarbera, Jocelyn Gould and more! Lush Life Heather Ferguson This is a very accomplished and warmly recommended debut album by a singer whose reputation must surely spread internationally. - Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal UK February & March, 2023 | 55

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