8 years ago

Volume 9 Issue 4 - December 2003

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  • Toronto
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1 sonata Larry Beckwith:

1 sonata Larry Beckwith: - I'm not generally a fan of Tavener's music, but here are three of his strongest works given absolutely first-rate performances: "John Tavener: Ikon of Light/Funeral Ikos/ The Lamb" (The Tallis Scholars; Chillingrian String Quartet, Gimell Records CDGIM 005). - Thrilling, committed, emotionally charged, intelligent interpretations by a great cellist: Anner Bylsma "J.S. Bach: Suites for Violoncello Solo" (SONY Vivarte S2K 48047) - Light a candle, turn off the phone and listen for the voice of God. - OK, I'm abusing my privilege slightly here, but "John Beckwith: Selected Works" (Centrediscs CMC­ CD 5897) is a terrific CD, with firstrate performances of some of my father's most significant and challenging works, including the String Quartet, which is a Canadian classic!! Performers include William Aide, Jane Coop, Patrick Wedd and the Orford Quartet. Bruce Surlees: - Although I already had a few of the single releases, when Stephen Kovacevich's complete set of Beethoven piano sonatas (EMI 72435 62700-2) arrived I took it with me in the car to dip into some discs at random to get a general impression. A miscalculation. I found it impossible to leave a complete sonata, never mind a single movement, until the end. Returning home, the second movement of the Pathetique had just started. I sat in the garage to hear all three movements. Indoors, with each it was the same story. One does not need to endlessly compare this or that passage in countless recordings to know that Kovacevich has completely absorbed the Beethoven behind the notes and is very able to pass it on. A desert island choice. - The dilemma remains at DG as how to fill the void left by von Karajan who was responsible for more than 50% of the company's sales. Christian Thielemann might turn out to be that man and DG is recording him with various orchestras around the world in solid German repertoire. In 2001, Richard Strauss' s Alpine Symphony, recorded live with the Vienna Philharmonic offered unequalled orchestral playing in state of the art sound. The more familiar Ein Heldenleben (DG 474192-2), again live with the Vienna Philharmonic is at least the equal of the earlier disc in every aspect. One cannot conceive of better playing. The 22-minute Symphonic Fantasy from "Die Frau ohne Schatten" is a generous and attractive bonus. The sound borders on staggering. If you want to really hear the Vienna Philharmonic this is your best chance. An audiophile's Nirvana. - A claim that the Modern Jazz Quartet was the most highly esteemed jazz quartet of its time may be moot but there is no question that they were the sovereigns of their genre. They were internationally recognized and those who appreciated their always pristine renditions will be delighted with this well documented set: "The Complete Prestige and Pablo Recordings" (Prestige 4PRCD4438-2). The 55 jazz ballads and original tunes included all sound improvised, which they were to some extent, but played as one man with the precision of a Swiss watch. Sarah B. Hood: - Canadian folk label Borealis ( has released some great discs this year, and I have three recent favourites. "Six Strings North of the Border" (Volume 2) is an eclectic sampling of Canadian guitar talent in idioms ranging from ragtime to swing to flamenco. Mose Scarlett's "Precious Seconds" is a lively and upbeat collection of material like Darktown Strutters Ball and Somebody Stole My Gal sung by Scarlett somewhat after the manner of Leon Redbone, with a sensational roster of guitar collaborators like Jeff Healey, David Wilcox and Ken Whiteley. Best of all is "Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot", the compilation of familiar Lightfoot tunes covered by the likes of The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies, Connie Kaldor and Bruce Cockburn. It's great to be able to savour the lifetime work of such a prolific songwriter while he's still with us. Merlin Williams: - If you've been lucky enough to get tickets to see "The Producers", treat yourself to a warmup by getting the DVD of the original Mel Brooks film that the show is based on. - The "All Music Guide to Jazz" is one of the best overviews I've seen of jazz on record. It's a great reference book to have around. Ted O'Reilly: - My first suggestion as a Stocking Stuffer might very well fill one of Santa's boots: it's a book with nearly a thousand pages. The softcover version of Alyn Shipton's "A New History of Jazz" (Continuum, ISBN 0-8264-6338-X) will find a welcome place on any jazz fan's shelf, and provide a year's worth of information for less than a buck a week. - For free, there are websites that offer some fine jazz content. Try musician Mel Martin's for his own content as well as some great links: There's also interesting research by Michael Fitzgerald, including biographies and free discographies, at http:// -fitzgera - If you've been searching for jazz recordings, especially from Europe, your best source is could be John Norris' mail service. Fax your requests to 416 .465. 9093. Ask for his catalogue, too. Phil Ehrensaft: - The Glimmerglass Opera Company's wonderful production of Robert Kurka's The Good Soldier Schweik (Cedille Records CDR 90000 062) underlined contemporary opera's terrible loss when Kurka died prematurely from leukemia in 1957. Jaroslav Hasek's novel was a landmark for literary modernism. Kurka's music lived up to this high standard, as did the libretto by Abel Meeropol (who penned the antilynching song Strange Fruit), forced to write under the psuedonym Lewis Allen because of McCarthy's witchhunt. - The latest installment of Bridge's complete edition of George Crumb's works (Vol. 6, Bridge 9127) includes the first digital recording of the orchestral piece, Echoes of Time and the River, which earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1968. There's also a remastering of mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani' s performance of Crumb's important vocal work, Lux Aeterna, and Pastoral Drone, which pushes the organ beyond known boundaries. Not to be missed. - "The Music of Elliott Carter", Volume 5 (Bridge 9128) shows Elliot Carter continuing to push the envelope as he moves from his 86th to 94th birthdays. This volume includes five premieres and would be worth purchasing just to have Charles Rosen's perfonnances of Two Diversions ( 1999) and Retrouvailles (2000). Pamela Margles: - Gyorgy Ligeti is surely one of the greatest living composers, and the latest release in the ongoing project to record his complete works (The Ligeti Project III, Teldec - 8573876312) contains four of his most engaging compositions: Cello Concerto; Clocks and Clouds; Violin Concerto; Sippal, Dobbal, Nddihegedq'vel. The superb perfonners include the Asko and Schonberg Ensembles under Reinbert de Leeuw, and one of the quiet heroes of modern music, the great German cellist Siegfried Palm, to whom the Cello Concerto was originally dedicated 36 years ago. - Dutch soprano Elly Ameling has always been one of my favorite singers. "The Artistry of Elly Ameling" (Philips 473 451-2) is a generous 5- CD set that covers the full range of her repertoire, including stylish Bach and Vivaldi and luminous Haydn. Her unforgettable voice, enticingly but deceptively pure and sweet, manages to suggest worlds of meaning, making her an ideal lieder singer. But the big surprise here is how gloriously natural she sounds in Gershwin and Porter. - Several years after the demise of the fruitful partnership between Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony, a recording from 1995 of Berlioz's early version of La Damnation de Faust ("Huit Scenes de Faust", Decca 475 097-2) has finally been released. Susan Graham is magnificent in one of the most thrilling arias ever written, the Romance de Marguerite. Among the delectable fillers is the debonair Fran~oix Le Roux singing Berlioz's arrangement of Martini's Plaisir d'amour. Performance Notes: Susan Graham is featured in Berlioz's Les Nuits d'ete with the Toronto Symphony on February 11 and 12 at Roy Thomson Hall. Elly Ameling is giving a series of Master Classes in Walter Hall at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, March 9 and 10. 78 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM DECEMBER 1 2003 - FEBRUARY 7 2004

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