7 years ago

Volume 7 Issue 4 - December 2001/January 2002

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • Theatre
  • January
  • Choir
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  • Jazz
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  • Wholenote
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epresented the lack of

epresented the lack of humanism in the industrialization and brutality of the wars fought through the Century. In his view, composers' search for innovation was cold and lacked the feeling and emotion that he felt the inhumanity of the time required. The two documentaries ::ire packed throughout with commentary that is essential for anyone desiring, insight on the thinking and imagin.ation that stands behind artistic genius. Darren Cqpeland . INDIE LIST Two Octaves Down Paul Bresciani, double bass; William Crawford, piano Phoenix Records PHX 16282 Paul Bresciani has be~n an influential bass player and pedagogue for at least the past ten years. Though it may1 seem to lack the bravura .and soloistic brightness of sound associated with the leading soloists of the day, there is no lack of .expression and musicality in Mr. Bresciani's playing. He is regarded as one of those rare musical talents that combines the discipline of maintaining a career as a Principal player in a professional orchestra and the creative drive it takes to continue to grow artistically. For those who are fans of the double bass and its repertoire this CD goes straight to it with some of the most popular works written for this instrument. One fine example is Bottesini's Reverie and Elegy which are separated here by Paul Bresdani's own Sequences, an interesting composition based on jazz and impr?visatio~al_ influences. There are also a few transcnptlons mixed in, such as Schumann'sAbendlied, which Mr. Bresciani plays with beauty and sensitivity. The final work on the CD is Bresciani's own transcription of Baal Shem: Three Pictures of 'Chassidic Life by Ernest Bloch._In my opinion, this is the.main event. The work was originally written for violin and piano but it seems to work especially well for double bass and piano. The dark, wailing sound of the bass capt~res t~e melancholy of the music and the listener 1s slightly haunted· by the wall of sound Bresciani produces. Bach: The Concerto Album Lara St. John, violin New York Bach Ensemble ANCALAGON AR 131 Troy Milleker / We are told many things about Lara St. John in the liner notes to her new Bach CD: she began playing the violin at the age of two, The Strad has dubbed her "something of a phenomenon" and she is a great fan of reptiles. We also see a lot of Lara St. John in the CD booklet: posing as Courtney Love on the cover and coming dangerously close to setting her 1779 "Salabue" Guadagnini violin on fire with a cigarette in the pop-out poster. Thus, it takes a long time to ~et to the actual recorded performance. And I wish 11 could, say it was worth the wait. The performances are thick and gooey, but technically brilliant and feature Lara's impeccable intonation, for which she is ren~wned . But they lack direction and interest. The "Double" concerto (performed with Lara's brother; University of Toronto violin professor Scott St. John) comes off the best, owing to the breakneck tempi of the outer movements and some genuinely poignant interplay between the solo violins in the famous slow movement. There must be dozens of recordings of the Bach concertos on the market, so the question is why make another? What about Biber, Corelli or Leclair? Here is a repertoire of top-notch, virtuosic baroque violin music that has rarely been recorded and is just waiting for "something of a phenomenon" to come along and reintroduce it to the world. In the meantime, Ms. St. John is being exploited for the short-term profits of a B­ grade record label., [Editor's note: Ancalagon is Lara St John's own label.] I Gonna Sing and Shout Echo Women's Choir 60 Wholenote DECEMBER 1, 2001 - JANUARY 31, 2002 Larry Beckwith Independent ( , EchoW.omen's Choir Gonae-:Slnt G_&d. Shottt. There is something to be said for everyday people singing everyday songs. Those of us with a classical education, when reviewing a performance, tend to base our judgments on the merits of accepted te_chnique within those proscibed circles. Even so, I have on occasion experienced some discomfort with the classical interpreta- tion of folk and popular song. That's why I find this CD refreshing. · Gonna Sing and Shout features songs of the people and their common concern for the environment, relationships and human rights. It is delivered not with artifice, but with a natural and joyful exuberance that is quite contagious. These folks obviously love to sing, and have a message to deliver to the inhabitants of this city. The choir performs repertoire that features a r~nge of styles from pieces with references umque to Toronto to songs from all around the world. Bravo to ' trained' musicians Alan Gasser and ·Becca Whitla, for providing direction and shaping of this raw and unbridled passion. The Echo Women's Choir concert with Marie Lynn Hammond on Sunday December 9th at Eastminster United might just provide you ·with the most fun you've had in a long time! The Toronto Jazz Orchestra Toronto Jaz:i Orchestra Independent TJO 001 Dianne Wells One of the problems in recording a big band is to capture the electricity that is generated in a live performance. Listening to The Toronto Jazz Orchestra's eponymous debut CD is a pkasure, since they've managed to accomplish that very thing. The disc's eleven tracks are drawn from the works of a number of big band composers from the latter part of the 20th century - no big band swing here ... just good solid postbop/modern jazz by the likes of Bill Holman, Thad Jones and Bob Brookmeyer. . . Four of the tracks on the TJO's CD were recorded live at the Montreal Bistro and Jazz Club in Toronto, including the challenging and lengthy work Crime Fiction by Toronto composer Paul Neufeld. Conductor Josh Grossman has also included ex-pat trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's Gentle Piece - an excellent feature for bassist Mike Smith.and saxophonist Gareth Lewis. The CD is produced by the TJO, so it's probably easiest to obtain it directly from the band. An excellent way to do this would be to catch their concert at the Brigantine Room at Harbourfront on Dec. 7. The band is presenting an evening of Afro-Cuban Big Band Music, including a performance of the Stan Kenton Orchestra's Cuban Fire Suite. The band's regular complement wi!I be augmented by percussionists Rodrigo Chavez and Chendy Leon, and members of the Toronto Youth Wind Orchest'ra . For further info on the concert and the CD, call 416-899-5299. Merlin Williams

The case for DVDs Time for Opera Fans to Switch? by Phil Ehrensaft PR1cEs FOR DVD PLAYERS and the availability of opera titles on DVD are now at the point where I think it is time for devotees of the genre to switch over from CDs. Opera on VHS already brought one closer to the live experience. DVD brings the experience even closer. Markedly increased resolution and color quality brings out the details of acting, costuming and scenery beyond what is possible on VHS. And sound is, of course, CD-quality. The medium also offers a whole new range of possibilities well illustrated l7y Cecilia Bartoli 's wondrous new DVD, Viva Vivaldi for the Naxos!ArtHaus label. Consider the pleasure, for example, of being able to bring up the score as a choice in a menu that also includes English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish subtitles! The amount of information that can be burned into a DVD compared to a CD also presents economies of production that are already being passed on to the consumer and should get even better. GLYNDEBOURNE'S excellent Porgy and Bess for EMI, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, is a good example, synchronizing BBC's television production of Porgy with original CD tracks, with the film production. Originally a 3-cd set, all of the sound tracks, plus the film and subtitles in multiple languages fit on one DVD the same size as a standard CD. And the expense of printing the libretto is eliminated. Surfing the Internet, the lowest price that I found for the DVD was US compared with US for the CD set. More typically, opera DVD's range a few dollars below or above CD versions. My rule of thumb nowadays is to restrict purchases of opera CDs to historical performances and truly outstanding contemporary recordings. As far as hardware is concerned, the prices of DVD players with respectable sound are not much different than equivalent CD decks, and they play standard CDs as well. I suggest following the British magazine What HiFi? Choose modestly priced decks with high-quality sound chips. (I should add the proviso that you need a TV with an SVHS cable input to realize the video potential of DVD. A 27" TV with this input is now an entry-level purchase at discount electronic stores.) As to the material available on DVD, Naxos is emerging as a major player in the classical DVD field, via its ArtHaus label. Their strategy is to organize production at the many excellent German and Swiss opera companies outside of Berlin, or to make arrangements with European broadcasters, including the BBC. The pre-Christmas package that Naxo sent me for review had two operas that were on my priority list: Monteverdi's L 'incoronazione di Poppea, and Von Weber's Der Freischutz. The former is from the Schwetzinger Festspiele and is very much in the vein of postmodern productions at Bayreuth. I frankly expected to hate it, since this is not my cup of tea. (If I were German, I would fly to New York to see Wagner at the Met) Instead I was captivated. Original instrumentation; costuming that somehow blends riot cop Praetorian guards with a 17.'h century version of ancient Rome; a superb counter-tenor clothed in hip black leather. It sounds a heavy-handed way of making the point that L'incoronazione's themes are timeless, but the performance is so good that it works. German romantic opera starts with Der Freischutz in 1821 --a magnificent use of persistently rich orchestral colors and solo instruments to develop drama and psychological mood. Wagner made a rare generous gesture of acknowledging his debt to the composer by arranging the return of von Weber's body from London to Dresden. This Hamburgische Staatsoper production is, again, semi-traditional, mostly a nineteenth century view, except for scenes with the evil Samiel in a modem suit or the sinister Kaspar's soul trapped in a 1950's television. It is a fine, fine performance Claudio Monteverdi. L'lncoronazione di Poppea. Concerto Koln: Rene Jacobs, conductor; Patricia Schumann, Richard Croft. ArtHaus 100 109 Carl Maria von Weber. Der Freischutz. Hamburgische Staatsoper: lndo Metzmacher, conductor; Jarman Silvasti, Charlotte Margiono, Albert Dormen, Sabine Ritterbusch. ArtHaus 100 107 Cecilia Bartoli and II Giardino Armonico (Giavani Antonini, conductor). Viva Vivaldi! ArtHaus 100 229 George Gershwin. Porgy and Bess. Glyndebourne: Sir Simon Rattle, conductor; Willard White, Gregg Baker. EMI 724349249790 DECEMBER 1, 2001 - JANUARY 31, 2002 Wholenote 61

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