8 years ago

Volume 8 Issue 5 - February 2003

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  • Toronto
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Alexander Melik-Pashaev

Alexander Melik-Pashaev Sony S3K 52571 The number of Canadian opera singers who have made their mark in international opera surpasses what one would expect from the size of our population, and bass-baritone George London ranks among the greatest. "London" was actually George Burnstein, born in Montreal, 1919, to Russian-Jewish parents. He became the star bass-baritone of the Metropolitan Opera during the 1950's. Serious illness during the mid-l 960's ended his stage career, but London commenced two decades as a distinguished artistic director. London was THE Boris of his time, to the extent that the Bolshoi invited him to perform the star role of Russia's star opera in 1960. In 1963, London returned to perform Boris and also participate in an absolutely quirky recording project. The Soviet label Melodiya issued a fine performance of Boris in 1959, with sound quality equivalent to Russian cars and miking as subtle as Kruschev pounding his shoe at the U. N. The cast was a who's who of Russian opera. The Bolshoi decided to have London re-record all of Boris' parts, orchestra and chorus included. When the Party says go into the studio for a week, no overtime, you go! The new tapes were spliced into the 1959 masters with all the subtlety of a cop who wants to let you know that your phone is tapped. With such magnificent singing and conducting however, you forget about the quirky sound in no time flat. If the 11 yearold in my life, Nadja, was ready for opera, her evaluation would be unambiguously "awesome". Thank you Sony. Phil Ehrensaft INDIE LIST Flowers of Forgiveness Mernie! Independent (Festival Distribution 1-800-633-8282) When Toronto had less than a million people I was one of them, finding the Folkways label at the public library to satisfy the urge for scratchy rhythms and the thoughts of distant people. Rare delights like imperfect pitch, cross-generational voices, sounds that make the throat work like a canyon. Songs that last more than two minutes, from continents that dwelt in the imagination where Pygmies sang to the forest as if it were their deity. Songs from the solitary herdsman who would end up on the plains far from his homeland and wail. World music was a kind of intelligence shared either through indigenous performance or with the help of nerds and their tape recorders. Several spasms of world shrinking later, world music exists as a sorting system for various audio cargos. Enter Mernie, who are Maryem and Ernie Tollar and their talented entourage. Mystically, with the assistance of the Toronto and Ontario Arts Council, Flowers of Forgiveness, a new, charming CD presents itself. Therein is heard a world Sorrow that borrows William seven compositions penned by a Blake's verse and melds it with spectrum ranging from the Duke, to Arabic refrain. More like a self-help fellow bassist Steve Swallow. Overs' seminar is th~ title track but the mood economical, intense bass provides elsewhere has the feel of Rumi's the backbone for a wonderful poetry, a North African bizarre or a blowing session by Alex Dean. The Bulgarian wedding. Or you may be round, warm tone of Dean's soprano taken to the private world of new sax is knockdown gorgeous. Ditto parents whose joy explodes into for his not-too-heavy, not-too-light dance beats, on the three tracks tenor. The selected compositions are called Omneya. The little bundle of of moderate tempo, which, 1 think, joy herself makes hernew self heard places higher demands on the on the last track. quartet's improvisations than For The Record Kieran Overs; Alex Dean; Brian Dickinson; Ted Warren U/P Records (Page Publications) Page 1513CD Bass player Kieran Overs has backed a who's who of the jazz world as well as leading and composing for his own Toronto-based ensembles. The list includes Chet Baker, Kenny Barron, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Greenwich, Barry Harris, Junior Mance, Harold Maybern, Don Pullen, Dewey Redman, George Shearing, Zoot Simms, Sonny Stitt, Mel Torme and Kenny Wheeler. Not bad. For The Record was recorded right after a successful week by Over's quartet at the Senator in November 1998. Page Publications' U/P label has done us the favor of ominous by association with belly getting this session onto one of dancing - peaceful, but not without Toronto's first new jazz CD's in the lamentation, as in the tune Infant year 2003 . The quartet works on Deborah Rosen barreling ahead with the foot on the accelerator. Thoughtfulness and tight interaction provide the passion here. If you want to hear why Toronto has become a leading North American centre for jazz, this CD, Over's fourth, is a good start. Phil Ehrensaft I DISCS OF THE MONTH CREDO (R. Murray Schafer, Thomas Tallis) Robert Sund, twelve Canadian choirs Opening Day OD 9325 Soundstreams Canada and the CBC will long be remembered for their ambitious undertakings in the late 1990's, culminating in the Massey Hall New Music Festival. November 2000 saw perhaps the biggest project in that series: twelve university choirs from across the country MIKROKOSMOS 314 Churchill Ave Toronto. Ontario M2R t E7 Canada Tel: (1) 416-224-1956 Fax: (1) 416-224-2964 We buy your classical LP collection (classica l, such as Beethoven, Mozart. Stockhausen) we travel anywhere for good collection 54 February 1 - March 7 2003

gathered in Massey Mall to perform Schafer's Credo (from his 1978 Apocalypsis) and Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis. By all accounts, this was an unforgettable afternoon of music. Now, thanks to Opening Day, that not-to-be-repeated performance is on CD. I am reminded of old (CBC Radio announcer) Bob Kerr's words: "the hand of God was upon those people, when they made this record ... " Credo shows Schafer in his period of glorious excess. His subtle background of sonic manipulations is haunting, increasing in prominence towards the end. It is music into which you can and should completely submerge. Uncompromisingly good equipment is de rigeur for appreciation of the sound. And in that uncompromising spirit (producer) David Jaeger and (engineer) 'Stretch' Quinney captured every nuance of the performance. Thomas Tallis' forty-part motet Spem in alium, recently infamous for its deconstructivist arrangement in Ottawa's National Gallery, is here in the spectacular original version. Robert Sund deserves high praise for his deft marshalling of the vast forces. If only Opening Day hadn't edited out the thunderous applause at the end, and included a photograph of the event somewhere. Otherwise, a perfect recording. John S. Gray In Recital at Chautauqua New Arts Trio Fleur de Son Classics FDS 57957 As if his duties at the TSO didn't keep him busy enough, in 1999 concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch joined one of North America's most distinguished chamber groups, the New Arts Trio, founded in 1974 by pianist Rebecca Penneys. The third member of the group, cellist Arie Lipsky, is a long-time collaborator with lsraelievitch and was heard in Toronto during Israelievitch's tenure as artist in residence at the Gardiner Museum in the 1990s. Since 1978 the New Arts Trio itself has been in residence at the Chatauqua Institution, a 750-acre educational centre in southwestern New York State. What impresses me most about this recording is not the ensemble playing, which is impeccable, but the programming. Beethoven's familiar "Ghost" trio establishes the mood and confirms the trio's reputation as well deserved. This is followed by Arvo Part's haunting contemporary arrangement of the adagio movement from a Mozart piano sonata and Ernst Bloch's Three Nocturnes, written in 1924. These gentle pieces gradually build to a rollicking, if somewhat dark, finale that seems to lead us naturally to a brief tangoi ns pi red movement by Astor Piazzolla. While this last might have seemed just a novelty in a more traditional program, it works quite well in this context. The recital is brought to a marvelous conclusion with Brahms' later-life reworking of the youthful B Major trio. Israelievitch is well known for his affection for Brahms and in the New Arts Trio he has obviously found kindred spirits. Highly recommended! David Olds Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Jeanne Lamon Orchestral .Suites

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