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Volume 28 Issue 6 | Summer 2023

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Fast start to the summer and it just keeps going: Luminato walks with Little Amal; the Historical Organ Society comes to town; composer Carmen Braden is keeping busy; Phil Nimmons turns 100; TSM's metamorphosis; and check out live links in ads, listings and our easy surfing directory of summer festivals. See you August 30 for Volume 29 no.1

strike the right balance

strike the right balance between characterisation and vocal beauty. Baritones like the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the Welshman Bryn Terfel and German-born Thomas Quasthoff mastered that and distilled the beauty of Schubert’s profound art with majesty. The pantheon of great Schubert lieder interpreters must also include Matthias Goerne. His performance is truly masterful on Schubert Revisited – Lieder arranged for baritone and orchestra. Together with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen Goerne gives a particularly atmospheric and powerful performance of songs set to the poetry of Goethe, Claudius, Mayrhofer and others. Highlights include the dramatic Grenzen der Menschheit, and the wonderfully fleet-footed and joyful Gesänge des Harfners. Raul da Gama Puccini – Messa di Gloria & Orchestral Works Charles Castronovo; Ludovic Tézier; Orfeo Catala; Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Gustavo Gimeno Harmonia Mundi HMM905367 ( ! We all know Puccini is one of the greatest opera composers, but little do we know that as a student in the conservatory he dabbled in orchestral and religious music. Three of his orchestral pieces are presented here and to my surprise, embedded in one of them, Capriccio sinfonico, I found the opening pages of his first breakthrough success and masterpiece: La Bohème. On this new Harmonia mundi recording, the chief conductor of our TSO Gustavo Gimeno with his fine Luxembourg orchestra perform these works, as well as a major choral work. The Messa di Gloria is a very ambitious youthful composition, a complete five-movement Catholic Mass for chorus and orchestra with tenor and baritone soloists. I was truly amazed at Puccini’s budding genius in the level of invention, evocative power and passion, but also as a future composer of opera. For example, near the beginning in the Gloria section a beautiful aria, Gratias agimus tibi (We give thanks to Thee), sung passionately by tenor soloist Charles Castronovo. Later Qui tollois peccata mundi, a march with alternating male and female choruses, is very effective, but Verdi’s influence is noticeable. (Puccini saw Aida at age 18 and was very impressed.) His great talent for the dramatic (shades of the later Tosca) emerges in the deep voices of the tragic Crucifixus but we soon are comforted by the Resurrection (Et resurrexit tertia die Secundum Scripturas) with a joyful chorus of the sopranos. The two concluding sections are radiantly beautiful. Benedictus is sung by Ludovic Tézier a master of Italian bel canto baritone, who then joins Castronovo for Agnus Dei, which in a gentle rollicking 3/4 time ends the Messa in heavenly peace. Janos Gardonyi Puccini – Turandot Sondra Radvanovsky; Ermonela Jaho; Jonas Kaufmann; Orchestra dell’ Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; Antonio Pappano Warner Classics 3394009 (warnerclassics. com/release/turandot) ! Where does Puccini’s genius lie? Apart from his exceptional melodic gifts it’s his tremendous versatility and ability to create atmosphere. No other composer has been capable of conjuring up a Paris waterfront, the American Wild West or contemporary Japan, all so different, with equal ease and with music that feels fully authentic. Such is the case in Turandot, Puccini’s last and sadly unfinished opera where the scene is ancient China. The music is oriental, brutal and dissonant, heavy in percussion for the inhumanly cruel despotic Imperial Court but intense, lyrical and beautifully melodic for the protagonists, two extreme elements resolved very successfully. In this new studio recording the obvious motivating force is Maestro Pappano, his unbridled enthusiasm, deep insight, overcoming COVID limitations yet creating an optimal sound world this opera demands. It’s beautiful to watch him on YouTube wildly gesticulating to inspire the singers who respond with equal enthusiasm, body and soul. Turandot, the ice princess, is Sondra Radvanovsky, an American-Canadian soprano of the highest calibre who copes wonderfully with this very strenuous role full of spectacular high notes in fortissimo. Her famous aria In questa Reggia is absolutely ravishing. Her hopeful lover who has to solve three riddles (shades of Oedipus Rex) otherwise he dies, is today’s leading helden tenor Jonas Kaufmann. His faultless Italian and intense bel canto is a worthy successor to the iconic, unforgettable Pavarotti who single-handedly turned the world’s attention to opera with his Nessun dorma, the opera’s most beautiful aria. The unfortunate servant girl Liu who sacrifices her life for love is Albanian mezzo soprano sensation Emanuela Jaho. Her totally engaged emotional singing is heartbreaking and a real asset to this extraordinary recording. Janos Gardonyi Man Up / Man Down Constellation Men’s Ensemble Sono Luminus DSL-92266 (sonoluminus. com) ! Everything about this recording is dramatic, even to the idiomatic cover, with a feather from which hangs a stone. The image and the imagery of the cover together with the quite bitterly sardonic repertoire has Promethean connotations and therein lies the ingenuity of the whole project. Not least, of course, is that the Constellation Men’s Ensemble is a truly fine all-male a cappella group, unafraid to allow the power of their voices to expose the myth of masculine power in the music of Man Up/Man Down. Three composers contribute to this extraordinary debut album. They are Jeffery Derus, whose composition HOME sets up the whole recording. Derus’ work takes its cue from a poem by Carl Sandberg who writes at night as he “listened… to a mother signing softly to a child restless and angry / in the darkness.” Perhaps unwittingly (or otherwise) this song sets up the Madonna and her unquiet child who grows into his uncomfortable manhood. This is the kind of man we encounter in Robert Maggio’s monumental, 11-part work Man Up/Man Down. Expectation and the harsh realities on man/woman inequity collide in Maggio’s work as the composer peals and chips away at the hollowness of male role modelling which – as the narrative prosody of the words tell us – has resulted in the near-destruction of contemporary body politic. The disc concludes with a work by David Lang. His song manifesto makes for an uplifting utopian dénouement after some brilliant, yet otherwise dark music. Raul da Gama CLASSICAL AND BEYOND J.S. Bach András Schiff (clavichord) ECM New Series ECM 2635/36 ( ! As the 2CD J.S. Bach – Clavichord release liner notes explain, the clavichord was Bach’s favoured domestic keyboard, its intimate sound nevertheless allowing for a wide range of expression unavailable to the harpsichord. Veteran Bach specialist, Hungarian-British pianist and conductor András Schiff, makes full use of the clavichord’s impressive nimble 60 | Summer 2023

and expressive capabilities in this recording of six Bach works. On display is his use of shaded dynamic tiers to distinguish contrapuntal voices in the music, as well as his subtle finger vibrato produced by vertically pressing the key after sounding the note. He also sometimes introduces a nuanced rubato along with the finger vibrato, heightening the drama in the music. Playing a 2003 replica of a 1743 Specken clavichord, which in certain passages leans toward a pleasant lute-like timbre, Schiff gives us a convincing Bach clavichord recital comparing favourably with Menno van Delft’s recording of the keyboard partitas. Bach’s two-part Inventions and three-part Sinfonias are particularly well represented. Each of the 15 movements in a different key, these pedagogic works were originally intended for students and amateurs, yet they number among the composer’s most original and expressive keyboard compositions. ECM’s evocatively realistic sound engineering presents the clavichord as the modest living room instrument it was designed to be, designed for private study and enjoyment. Schiff knows the clavichord and this repertoire inside out, playing with musical poise and unaffected élan. Andrew Timar Beethoven – The Late Sonatas Maurizio Pollini Deutsche Grammophon 486 3014 ( products/beethoven-the-late-sonataspollini-12858) ! Having completed the recording of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas in 2014, renowned Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini revisits the last five with the intense yet simple approach of an artist who understands life. It is astounding that Pollini undertook the recording of such technically challenging works at the age of 80 and it is precisely this fact that makes the recording precious. Here we have an artist at the full height of life experience sharing deep mastery of his instrument via some of the most complex pieces of the piano repertoire. Piano Sonata Op.101 marks the beginning of the late period of Beethoven’s compositional trajectory, and it is nothing like the composer’s previous works. The essence of this sonata is freedom – freedom of form, harmony and expression. Pollini understands it well and conveys it with gusto. Piano Sonata Op.106 “Hammerklavier” remains underperformed on the concert stage even today due to the technical challenges it presents. It requires a performer with great emotional maturity, as Beethoven seems to have conjoined centuries of writing tradition with magnificent innovations of genius in this piece. Both Beethoven and Pollini, each in their own masterful way, are unapologetic of who they are as artists – vulnerable in their stance yet afraid of nothing. Pollini’s occasional faint singing in the background makes the recording come alive with immediate intimacy – this, simply, is life. Ivana Popovic Clara Robert Johannes – Atmosphere and Mastery Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra; Alexander Shelley Analekta AN 2 8882-3 ( ! Perhaps, as classical music fans, we like to think of our enjoyment of this music in a priori terms. Music for music’s sake and all that. As an extension of the better-known maxim, “l’art pour l’art,” (Art for Art’s Sake), this 19th-century declaration that art is most “true” when decoupled from extra-musical meaning or purposes (social, utilitarian etc.), provides a sort of tautological framework for our 21st-century tastes: classical music is good, because it is good music. Unlike such artifacts of mainstream culture as so-called “pop” music, whose raison d’être is a kind of didactic utilitarianism (music for dancing, music for escapism etc.), classical music, rightly or wrongly, has come to be seen as more other-worldly and elevated (some might say hifalutin). But, as we learn with Clara- Robert-Johannes, the third of a four-part recording cycle from Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra that mines both the Schumann/Brahms canon and their relationship, what could be more salaciously human than a potential relationship triangle marked by the entanglements of marriage, death and unrequited love? Performed skillfully under the direction of Alexander Shelley, this 2023 recording features some lesser-known pieces by the compositional triumvirate of Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms that, none-the-less, represent the high-water mark of Romantic-era beauty and sophistication. With greater compositional representation given here to Clara, not simply as muse to both Robert and Brahms, but rightly acknowledging and platforming her as a compositional force of equal magnitude and import, Clara-Robert-Johannes captures the complexities of both their music and of the human condition in this gorgeously captured and fine recording. Andrew Scott Chopin Recital 4 Janina Fialkowska ATMA ACD2 2803 ( ! Canada can be proud of having many world class pianists. The confluence of diverse cultures is a happy breeding ground putting What we're listening to this month: Hearing Landscapes/ Hearing Icescapes Lei Liang A multidisciplinary diptych that marries diverse areas of inquiry into Chinese landscape painting and folk song, oceanography, software development, earth science, and underwater acoustics. Underdog Redline Trio From the depths of history, five fearless musicians bring forth a record filled with the relics and attitudes of a bygone era: Underdog. HUSH Le Boeuf Brothers HUSH explores the extremes of quiet. Like a gentle whispered conversation, the twins' music creates an atmosphere of warmth and airy intimacy. Uptown on Mardi Gras Day Delfeayo Marsalis and Uptown Jazz Orchestra Joyous, dynamic and funky from the first note to the last, it’s a party you don’t wanna miss! Summer 2023 | 61

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