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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

Flute, mandolins and low

Flute, mandolins and low brass are spotlighted in Minuet, a parody reminiscent of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. Spanish Gallop’s rapid urgency builds to a clamorous climax, then ends gently with a lyrical cello solo, floating flute and hushed string pizzicati. The Owl and the Pussycat (1978), lasting 22 minutes, is filled with madcap, playfully pompous music, lots of heavy brass and percussion including a clavinet (electronically amplified clavichord). Aliana de la Guardia recites Edward Lear’s nonsensical poem, while conductor Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project animate all three scores to vivid theatrical life, even without their original visual accompaniments. Michael Schulman Danny Elfman – Violin Concerto “Eleven Eleven”; Adolphus Hailstork – Piano Concerto No.1 Sandy Cameron; Stewart Goodyear; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta Naxos 8.559925 ( featurePages/Details/?id=Danny_Elfman_ Adolphus_Hailstork) ! This significant release juxtaposes two diverse, American composers and also celebrates multiple Grammywinning conductor JoAnn Falletta and her 125th recording with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The two artists represented here could not be more diverse – Danny Elfman, known primarily as a film composer with an array of notable contemporary scores as well as creative relationships with brilliant writer/directors such as Tim Burton… and Adolphus Hailstork, who plumbs the depths of his potent African American heritage to manifest works embodying elements of jazz and blues, as well as motifs of indigenous West African musics. Lauded violinist Sandy Cameron is the featured performer in Elfman’s four-movement opus, while phenomenal pianist Stewart Goodyear propels Hailstork’s stirring concerto. Elfman’s Violin Concerto “Eleven Eleven” (2017) begins with a movement of stirring beauty, reflected in languid, dynamic bass lines and heart-stopping contrapuntal string work, all embraced in Cameron’s masterful, emotional and facile performance. The subsequent three movements, Spietato, Fantasma and Giocoso; Lacrimae also draw the listener into the miasmatic realm of the fantastic, manifested through the organism of the full orchestra. Hailstork’s three-movement Piano Concerto No.1 (1992) is magnificently performed by Goodyear. At once delicate and percussive, Hailstork’s writing seems both luminous and yet deeply imbedded in the tangible human experience. His use of brass is incomparable, and although Hailstork and Elfman are two generations apart by birth, the creative output of these two gifted artists is conjoined by American viscera, without becoming static within linear time. The Buffalo Philharmonic continues to thrill as they skillfully move through these difficult pieces, and under the baton of the redoubtable Falletta, the large ensemble moves as one creature – embracing every dynamic, subtlety and nuance. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Room to Breathe Joseph Swift; Calvin Hu Independent ( roomtobreathe) ! Given the bassoon’s concise solo repertoire, each recording of new music has the potential to contain a gem that becomes a lasting addition to the canon. Such might be the case with Room to Breathe, featuring American bassoonist Joseph Swift with pianist Calvin Hu. The five young composers on this disc have all created thoughtful, colourful works inspired by the tumult of 2020-2021. Swift leads off with Dueling Realities by Chris Evan Hass: well-written in a lyrical, modernist style with nice rhythmic grooves in the outer sections and some beautifully expressive writing in the middle. Gala Flagello’s Mother Time, Father Nature features some extended techniques like inside-piano damping and pitch slides, but the overall effect is lyrical and engaging. Indigo Bunting by Brad Balliett opens with dark, Bartók-like piano chords, the bassoon replying with fistfuls of cascading 16th notes, dealt with expertly by the soloist. At just over 13 minutes, this is the longest piece on the disc, disturbing in its frenetic energy but given ample relief in its more cinematic middle section. I only wish its oddly abrupt ending were more satisfying. Swift by Brian Nabors is written in a rhythmic, modernist style, with hints of Hindemith, perhaps. The gem on this disc, for me, is Karalyn Schubring’s i.C.u: an improvisatory, impressionistic duo full of delicate expression. Swift’s playing throughout is articulate and commanding: plenty of technical mastery, with a warm tone and expressive vibrato. Fraser Jackson Chicago Clarinet Classics John Bruce Yen; Patrick Godon; Teresa Reilly Cedille CDR 90000 218 ( ! Clarinetist John Bruce Yeh is that rare member of the profession: a veteran enthusiast. Having played in one or another capacity as a member of the Chicago Symphony clarinet section since 1977, many of those years as assistant principal, he still found motivation to curate this entertaining and interesting collection of modern to contemporary works for clarinet: with piano, unaccompanied, and in one delightful segment, a duet. All the composers are or were, at one point in their lives, situated in Chicago. Best known, most often performed, and possibly the most well-crafted work presented is Time Pieces Op.43 by Robert Muczynski, which is the closing bookend on the disc; the opener is Alexander Tcherepnin’s Sonata in one movement, as obscure as the Muczynski is familiar. The material in between is of varied interest. Pride of place is occupied by neo-Romantic Leo Sowerby’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano H240a (1938). The piece lasts even longer than the title might suggest. It’s how Healey Willan might have written had he lived in Chicago instead of Toronto. Beautiful, if long-winded. In these three, Patrick Godon works wonders at the piano and has effortless musical rapport with Yeh. Most interesting are the shorter contemporary works: Phoenix Rising by Stacy Garrop, Spirit by Shulamit Ran, both unaccompanied; and especially The Forgiveness Train for two clarinets by Teresa Reilly. Reilly supplies the other voice in her piece, which when it isn’t busy doing very cool things with bends and microtonal slides could almost be an homage to Francis Poulenc’s youthful duet from a century before; I can’t tell whether Reilly wrote one part for B-flat and the other for A clarinet, as Poulenc did. Her notes in the liner make no mention of the earlier work, so I may be imagining things. Anyway, it’s a confident work from someone who by her own admission received no formal training as a composer. Max Christie Shostakovich – Symphonies 12 & 15 BBC Philharmonic; John Storgårds Chandos CHSA5334 ( products/catalogue/CHAN%205334) ! Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 “The Year 1917” is dedicated to the memory of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. His intention, as he 66 | Summer 2023

described it, was to write a symphony depicting the life of Lenin, from youth to member of the new Soviet Society. In the first movement the cellos introduce the distinctive Lenin theme we hear running throughout the symphony in one form or another. Titled Revolutionary Petrograd, it begins with the lowest strings of cello and double bass and evolves into a triumph including tympani and bass drum. Very exciting indeed! The second movement is intended to portray Razliv, Lenin’s “hideout” near St. Petersburg and we hear very sombre music underpinned with a little menace. Typical of Shostakovich. The brief third movement, Aurora, is named after the Russian battle cruiser that began the October Revolution in 1917 by firing a single blank shot at the Winter Palace. The final movement, The Dawn of Humanity, depicting life after the revolution under the guidance of Lenin, its allusions to at least a dozen other well-known works making it a complex puzzle to decipher. As expected, it ends on an exultant note. The second work is the Symphony No.15 in A Major, Op.141. Written in 1971, in many ways this lighthearted work is his most enjoyable in my opinion. As the old saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This final symphony opens with quotes from the theme of The Lone Ranger (from Rossini’s William Tell) which he develops through the rest of the first movement. Many other quotes throughout the work are further orchestrated and developed by Shostakovich making this a most amusing 45 minutes. The BBC Philharmonic is in fine form under the direction of John Storgårds, who is firmly at home in this repertoire. The SACD sound is outstanding. Bruce Surtees Bernd Alois Zimmermann – Recomposed WDR Sinfonieorchester; Heinz Holliger Wergo WER73872 ( B0BD2CQLGT?ref_=cb_interstitial_us_ca_ desktop_unrec_referrer_google_dp_dp) ! In the context of German postwar avant-garde composition, B.A. Zimmermann was an outlier. Rising out of the chaos of the Second World War, there formed in Darmstadt a radical circle of composers who sought a total break with tradition. Zimmermann reflected these influences at times, notably so in his epic opera Die Soldaten, but stubbornly left himself open to a myriad of influences throughout his career. Consequently, he was viewed with considerable suspicion by the aesthetic hard-liners. As Heinz Holliger explains in the superb program notes accompanying these recordings, “Zimmermann had no aesthetic prejudices. This was of course born of necessity, since he had chosen to earn his money as a house composer for WDR [West German Radio], and not as a piano or composition teacher.” Following the reform of the radio network in 1947, he completed approximately 100 arrangements for live broadcasts from Cologne which until now have languished in obscurity. Now at last, his finest examples in this genre are brought back to life, interspersed with selections of his own symphonic music in performances of the highest quality. Disc One delights with a predominantly Latin disposition, opening with Zimmerman’s major ballet work from the 1950s, Alagoana. The polytonality and overt Brazilian references à la Milhaud also bring to mind the music of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s folkloristic ballets of the 1940s, though Zimmermann’s chromaticism is considerably more advanced. Lavishly orchestrated arrangements of piano pieces by Milhaud, Villa-Lobos and Casella along with Zimmermann’s own contributions in this genre maintain the bucolic mood. We return to Europe for the closing selections, concluding with Zimmermann’s hilariously parodistic suite of Rhineland Carnival Dances. Disc Two features Zimmermann’s affinity for Eastern European music in the form of arrangements of works by Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. Two substantial Liszt selections feature the dramatic delivery of soprano Sarah Wegener. Zimmermann’s own works include Kontraste (1953), an unashamedly tonal suite of poly-stylistic dances for an imaginary ballet, a brief and breezy Concertino (1950) for piano and orchestra on a theme of Rachmaninoff, and the revised version of his substantial orchestral Konzert (1946/49) in four movements which demonstrates at this early stage of his career the lingering influence of Hindemith. Disc Three features a grab-bag of arrangements of pleasant tunes by Smetana, Dvořák and Kodály among others. Vater and Sohn (1938), after Paul Haletski, and Edmund Nick’s Blues (1929) in particular are graced with sophisticated orchestrations. Zimmermann’s own music again bookends the disc, pairing the 1953 version of his one movement Symphony, an expressionistic work culminating in a cataclysmic march that evokes the horrors of war (he was drafted into the Wehrmacht from 1940 to 1942), and concludes with his last work for orchestra, the brooding, blues-influenced Stille und Umkehr. This ritualistic work, obsessively centred on a recurring middle D, was composed in 1970 during his stay at a psychiatric hospital. Plagued by recurring depression and rapidly deteriorating eyesight, he committed suicide later that year at the age of 52. Daniel Foley Charles Ives – Concord Phillip Bush Neuma 169 ( ! More than a century ago, a reviewer writing in Musical America described Charles Ives’ second piano sonata, Concord, as “without any doubt the most startling conglomeration of meaningless notes that we have ever seen engraved on white paper.” Completed in 1915, the piece has since come to be regarded as a remarkable example of Ives’ mature style, with each of the four movements representing American literary figures with ties to Concord, Massachusetts. Through its size, technical challenges and overall breadth it’s a far from easy composition to bring off convincingly, but American pianist Philip Bush does so admirably in this Neuma recording. The difficult and lengthy first two movements Emerson and Hawthorne are performed with a particular bravado, while the gentler third movement The Alcotts – an homage to the literary sisters – evokes a true sense of nostalgia. The finale, Thoreau, is the slowest movement and the use of a flute in the opening section greatly enhances the wistful, hymn-like mood. The movement ultimately builds in intensity before leading to a surprisingly serene conclusion. Once again, Bush demonstrates an impressive command of this most daunting material. Coupled with the Concord Sonata is the set of Six Preludes for Piano Op.15 by American composer Marion Bauer written in 1922. Composed in a post-impressionist style, they form an attractive study in contrasts and are a worthy pairing with the Ives. Music by an established American composer and by another who perhaps deserves greater recognition – this disc should be a staple in the catalogue. Richard Haskell John Cage – Sonatas & Interludes Agnese Toniutti Neuma 172 ( ! On first hearing John Cage’s prepared piano, his close friend and colleague Lou Harrison is reputed to have exclaimed, “Oh dammit, I wish I’d thought of that!” With his invention Cage had created an instrument that opened the door to a new piano sound world via temporarily altering – preparing – some of the strings by strategically placing bolts, screws, rubber erasers or other objects between them. This gives each prepared string its own characteristic timbre and sound envelope, dramatically Summer 2023 | 67

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