5 years ago

Volume 7 Issue 2 - October 2001

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continued from page 4 Normandeau shows his range as a composer by weaving through an oceanic tapestry of moods and sentiments that journey far beyond contemporary or traditional conceptions of shakuhachi music with a subtlety and depth that confirm his maturity and artistry. The other works continue on a similar theme of playful interplay between recognition and departure. The powers of acousmatic art to push beyond common associations could never be more evident as they are with the music of Normandeau at his finest. Do not miss a rare Toronto performance of his music on October 26 presented by New Music Concerts at the Robert Gill Theatre. Darren Copeland TcJtaikovsky String Quartets 1 & 3 St. Lawrence String Quartet EMI 7243 5 57144 2 8 (full price) Despite the St. Lawrence Quartet's effort to cultivate a New-Yorkian image, Canada can take pride in this excellent ensemble. Since this group of young players - violinists Barry Shiffman and Geoff Nuttall, violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Marina Hoover - first banded together in Toronto in 1989, they've taken the musical world by storm. Their first EMI recording, a pair of Schumann quartets, was very well received, and now they've returned to the 19th-century canon to record two Tchaikovsky Quartets. The results are musically impressive, with the "Lawrences" (as they were recently called in. the New Yorker magazine) offering thoroughly romantic interpretations. The group's sound is large and lush, with a generous vibrato and at times generous tempi · that milk every drop of emotion from Tchaikovsky's tormented soul. Particularly impressive is the large, multifaceted first movement of the Quartet No. 3, which the ensemble fills with nuance and subtle changes in mood. And, remarkably, the St. Lawrence players even manage to inject freshness into the played-to-death second movement of the Quartet No. 1. Both these Tchaikovsky quartets have brilliant finales, which are played here with panache and daring. Unfortunately the balance on this disc is too bass-heavy - to the point, on 42 wholenote OcTOBER 1, 2001 - NovEMBER 7, 2001 occasion, of obscuring the upper parts. As well, in a few places there are distracting background noises that sound like heavy breathing. The St. Lawrence Quartet launches this new disc at Music Toronto's first concert of the season on October 4. They will also give a free noon-hour performance that day at Waiter Hall. Colin Eatock Debussy: Melodies de jeunesse Donna Brown I Stephane Lemelin ATMA ACD2 2209 (Full Price) These early settings of texts by Verlaine, Bo).lrget, Banville and others date from the early 1880s, when Debussy was still a student at the Paris Conservatoire. For the most part this is an elegant recital of twenty -one charming chansons. That there is a certain inconsistency to these performances is likely due to the year-long hiatus that separates the two recording sessions held at the Domaine Forget in Quebec. A certain brassy quality to the voice and a not entirely effortless rendition of the difficult vocalise passages in the opening selections of the disc are)argely absent in the second half of the recording. The performances of Beau Soir and the unaccompanied Berceuse that closes the recording are particularly striking. Stephane Lemelin contributes a refined and fluid accompaniment throughout. Donna Brown is featured with mezzo-soprano Catherine Robbin in songs & duets by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Berlioz, Debussy and Poulenc in the Aldeburgh Connection's season opener at Glenn Gould Studio on October 19. Daniel Foley Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: --The Magic Flute Rosa Mannion, Natalie Dessay, Hans Peter Blochwitz, Anton Scharinger. William Christie, conductor Les Arts Florissants Erato 0630-122705-2 (2 CDs, Full Price) --The Magic Flute Christiane Oelze, Cyndia Sieden, Michael Schade, Gerald Finley John Eliot Gardiner, conductor The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists Archiv 449 166-2 (2 CDs, Full Price) In recent years, two of the best recordings to appear ofWolfgang Amadeus Mozart's beloved opera The Magic Flute are based on period performance practices. Their conductors, William Christie and John Eliot Gardiner are both pioneering masters of a performance style that continues to gain mainstream acceptance. Both recordings feature lighter, more flexible voices than we usually hear in opera· houses, accompanied by smaller orchestras playing either instruments of Mozart's time, or accurate copies: violins and cellos with gut strings, wooden flutes and valveless horns. Vibrato is used more sparingly, and ornamentation more broadly. Tempos are faster, and rhythms more articulated. How close these recordings come to sounding like what Mozart would have heard is ultimately hard to say, but they certainly make for irresistibly enjoyable listening. Christie takes a more intimate approach, creating a theatrical, responsive ensemble. He is freer with ornamentation, even reviving, for his delightfully over-the-top Three Ladies, a cadenza that Mozart wrote but later eliminated. His Queen of the Night, Natalie Dessay, achieves intimacy in a role often weighted down by pyrotechnics. With no cost in dramatic heft, she is gloriously light and clear. Gardiner conducts a sleeker, grander, more serious production. Yet throughout he achieves , ., · ' ' · thrilling momentum. His equally outstanding cast includes two Canadians: Gerald Finley as a colourful, mellifluous Pappageno, and Michael Schade as an ardent Tamino, especially splendid in an extended recitative passage with the Speaker. These two beautifully produced recordings do not displace earlier versions by Bohm, with Fischer-Dieskau and Wunderlich, or Klemperer, with Janowitz and Gedda, but they certainly hold their own against such classic accounts. Opera Atelier performs a period production of Mozart's The Magic Flute with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra from October 25 to November 4 at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. Pamela Margles

Johann Sebastian Bach: Music for Unaccompanied Viola Riv.ka Golani CBC Records MVCD 1141-3 (Full Price) The distinguished Canadian violist Rivka Golani spent six days in the Glenn Gould Studio at the end of 1999 recording transcriptions of the Cello Suites (BWV 1007-1012), the Chromatic Fantasy (BWV 903, in an arrangement for viola by Zoltan Kodaly) and the celebrated Chaconne from the violin Partita in D minor (BWV 1004). two feet firmly on the ground. There are benchmark recordings of these pieces, of course: Casals' groundbreaking performances, two complete sets each from the brilliant Y o-Y o M a and Anner Bylsma and a glorious rendition by the former Tafelmusik cellist Sergei Istomin (on Analekta). Each of those performers, in their own unique way, recognized the perfect simplicity of this music. Golani seems to seek to make the music sound more complicated · than it really is . A great artist playing the wrong repertoire. Riv.ka Golani can be heard in The result of those sessions is this major 3-CD set from CBC Records. Golani is an intense musician with an obvious intellectual connection to the music of Bach. . Though she is known primarily for her championing of the 20th century viola repertoire - she has had nearly 200 pieces written for her - she has developed a passion for playing the solo repertoire of Bach. In listening to Golani's reverential and elegiac interpretations of the Cello Suites, I am full of admiration for her remarkable technique, golden tone and emotionai intensity. But, while I am not surprised that she rejects the considerable research that has been done in the field of Bach perform~nce practice over the pa~t 40 years, I am nonplussed at the lack of humour and playfulness in her renderings. Track after track, dance after elegant dance, Golani vibrates and plays profoundly as if her life depended on it. Each beat is· given the same heavy weight: the music has i_ts Thinking of recording? Uncover the possibilities at OCToBER 1, 2001 -NovEMBER 7, 2001 Wholenote

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