native orchestra is an impressive one, though one not inclined to play as romantically as they might in this repertoire.
Concert Note: Trombonist Alain Trudel is featured as both conductor and composer with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra on April 25 at Glenn Gould Studio
|Scarlatti - Sonatas
for clavecin, Vol.2
Analekta FL 2 3163
Relentless charm, wit that catches you off guard, subtlety - well every now and then, entertaining - always. Scarlatti was a remarkable composer for the keyboard. You would think that after the first 2 or 3 hundred sonatas, there would be a limit to what a composer could do that was not a re-hash. It’s like dim-sum for the harpsichord. An incredible variety and even when you’ve tried them all, there are other cooks who can make it the same, but different.
Luc Beauséjour is a great cook,
well, interpreter, when it comes to Scarlatti. He even has a kind of tongue-in-cheek
grin with the Sonatas that are “serious”. The raucous ones bounce along
without a care in the world.
What happy music! The wonderful keyboard technique is transparent. Yup, some of these are a real workout, but they just fly from his fingers. Beauséjour gets great sounds out of the Wm. P. Ross harpsichord, after Boffo, 1574. Rather an early design for Scarlatti, but quite successful for these sonatas.
You would think that all this excitement would wear one out - nope. I hope that Luc goes on to record many more (maybe all 555!). He’s certainly the man for it.
Theatre of Early Music
Atma ACD2 2288
This handsome disc features the brilliant Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor’s bold experiment called the “Theatre of Early Music”. The group has some high ideals, including “bringing back the sacredness” to the “creative” process of making music. The instrumentalists hail from Montreal and the singers are soprano Suzie LeBlanc, Taylor, tenor Ian Honeyman and the renowned English bass Stephen Varcoe.
With the Bach and Telemann cantatas recorded here an interesting question arises: does one need a conductor/leader to – if not explicitly conduct – at least synthesize and streamline the excellent musical ideas from all involved? I don’t have a definite answer, but it’s clear from these recordings that while Taylor is the founder of the Theatre of Early Music, he’s encouraging all of the musicians to express their own ideas and responses to the music. This works most of the time, but with the Actus Tragicus (BWV 106), one gets the sense from the outset that the performances are too self-indulgent. The tempo of the opening Sonatina is really too slow, though I readily admit that the harmonies and sonorities of the gambas and recorders are heartbreakingly beautiful. All of the vocalists sing beautifully, but it’s only Varcoe who seems to bring a refreshing forward-motion to his singing. He knows where and when to relax to great effect, but most of the time he keeps things moving and takes the listener’s breath away with his remarkable phrasing.
I can’t get enough of Daniel Taylor’s singing – it’s an absolute marvel – but I think he needs to take better control of this group. The raw material he has access to is extraordinary and the potential for memorable, profound music making is clearly there. Long live the Theatre of Early Music.
Editor’s Note: Taylor’s earlier disc of Bach Cantatas with the Theatre of Early Music has been nominated for a JUNO award. See “Discs of the Month” for full details.
|A Jazz Celebration
The Marsalis Family
Rounder Records/Marsalis Music 1166133022
The juggernaut that is the Marsalis family of New Orleans seems to dominate the ‘official’ jazz scene these days. Consider trumpeter Wynton’s considerable activities with the Lincoln Center in New York and Ken Burns’ Jazz on PBS; saxophonist Branford’s performances and productions; and the younger Delfeayo, a trombonist and producer. The youngest is the drummer Jason, thought of by the other family members as probably the best of the lot.
The paterfamilias is pianist Ellis Marsalis, until recently teaching at University of New Orleans, and always gigging. It was his retirement from that school that caused the clan to reassemble in the home town in the summer of 2001 for a concert taped for PBS, a DVD and this CD release. The bassist was Roland Guerin, and there are guest appearances by Harry Connick, Jr. and trombonist Lucien Barbarin, heard on the traditional Saint James Infirmary. (Connick also sits in at the piano with Ellis on another track.)
This release offers a nice wide range of easy-to-hear jazz, mostly in a middle-of-the-road contemporary style, with features for each of the players. Ellis himself sparkles on The Surrey With The Fringe On Top (featuring some tasty drum work by Jason), and contributes four original compositions.
While this is not the most challenging music you’ll listen to this year, it certainly bears repeated hearings, and offers a nice range of styles and groupings, giving the earlier jazz sounds of Saint James and Struttin’ With Some Barbecue the on-stage respect the music deserves.
Victo cd 085
Erosonic’s new release “Mystery Theatre”
illustrates that when two virtuoso instrumentalists combine their talents,
magic can happen.
Baritone saxophonist David Mott and accordionist Joseph Petric have created a musical journey ranging from quiet contemplation to feverish technical prowess to a plethora of musical colours.
Established in 1994, the duo’s CD features three works by David Mott, two by Mott and Joseph Petric, and an electro acoustic composition by David Keane. The compositions, which feature scored and/or improvisational elements with contemporary music, free improv and jazz leanings, reflect the composers’ solid understanding of the instrumentation. From the challenges each work presents, the interpreters create a fascinating world of sound. Worth noting is the title track Mystery Theatre by David Mott, which the liner notes explain is an exploration of “vast sonic spaces and deep emotional terrain”. The two instruments seem to melt together as phrases overlap, dynamics shift and effortless rapidly moving lines intertwine to display Erosonic at its best.
The high production values have only occasional mixing and intonation miscalculations while the extensive liner notes could be adjusted to allow listeners to make more of their own musical responses. Both seasoned and first time new music listeners will find Erosonic’s “Mystery Theatre” a worthwhile recording to check out.
Concert Note: Joseph Petric is featured in the Music Gallery's Composer Now series concert presented by Earshot! on April 26.
|The Soul of Pipa
This CD is a veritable feast of alluring sounds, ranging from the eloquent and lyrical to the flamboyant and percussive. The varied soundscape produced by one player and one instrument is quite dazzling. Liu Fang’s masterly technique (e.g. tremolo, delicate harmonics, lyrical tunes, and boisterous percussive effects), as well as the music itself -- which is based on short sections characterized by ever-changing tempos and dynamics -- all evoke an improvised and exciting quality.
The pipa has for a long time been one of the most popular instruments of Chinese classical and folk music. Dating back as far as the T’ang dynasty (618-907), it is a pear-shaped, fretted, short-necked lute with a bent neck which is both a solo and ensemble instrument. Liu Fang studied pipa from the age of six, and is a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory. She has been based in Montreal since 1996 and has clearly made great inroads in the Canadian and European market.
This CD is the second in a set of three featuring music for the solo pipa. Unfortunately, the liner notes give us no information about the music itself, other than titles and composers. Considering this is aimed at a general Canadian audience, some background would have enhanced most people’s understanding of the form, techniques, and programmatic song titles. The eight featured pieces range from traditional, e.g. The Ambush which depicts an ancient battle scene, to more recent works by composers of the late 19th/early 20th centuries such as Liu Tianhua and Hua Yanjun.
Definitely a CD to enrich anyone’s musical palette and provide a sample of China’s rich musical heritage, it is more readily available in Quebec stores but can always be found through www.philmultic.com.
Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Samuel Dolin
Alexander Tselyakov, piano
Golomb Records GLDC 5701-3
Russian-Canadian Alexander Tselyakov lives in the Toronto area, has a pedigree from the Moscow Conservatory, and is definitely someone worth hearing if you like Russian pianists playing traditional bravura Russian repertoire.
Here is a grab-bag of the familiar and less familiar, Romantic and modernist works that are now tender, now fiery, now diaphanous, now spiky. Tselyakov’s playing throughout this recital-flavoured release offers command and directness.
Great to be reminded of the impressionist flavours of Rachmaninoff, when so often we just put him in that has-been-virtuoso box. The Prelude in G Major Op.32, No.5 and famous G-sharp Minor Prelude, Op.32 No.12 shimmer with atmosphere. Tchaikovsky’s F-Major Variations are conservative yet quite wonderful: a simple yearning theme, followed by a clutch of Schumannesque portrayals. Prokofiev’s affable Fifth Sonata, and several short pieces by Scriabin round out the CD, recorded in Germany. In addition the disc includes the world-premiere performance of a driving Toccata by Canadian Samuel Dolin recorded live at the George Weston Recital Hall by CJRT-FM in 1999.
Philosophy professor and impresario Jan Narveson contributed the sweater-and-slippers informal liner notes. The self-produced CD doesn’t provide purchase/distribution information but there is a website: www.tselyakov.com.
Peter Kristian Mose
Note: The Chrylark Arts and Music Series presents Alexander
Tselyakov at Heliconian Hall
on May 4 at 3 pm.
No.5; Schubert: Symphony No.8; Wagner: Die Meistersinger: selections; Debussy:
Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Leopold Stokowski; London Philharmonic/London Symphony
EMI Classic Archive DVD-V 72434 928439-5
One of the first recordings I owned was the Schubert “Unfinished” with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, recorded in April 1927 and a staple in the Victor catalogue for 20 years. No one could have known that 42 years later he would be conducting the same work for a medium not yet invented, television.
The London Philharmonic concert was filmed at a public concert in the Fairfield Hall, Croydon on 8 September 1969. It came as no real surprise to hear two dynamic performances and to see baton-less Stokowski carving the music out of the air, often outlining or shaping rather than simply beating time and cuing in instruments. His mannerisms were unique and the gestures often quite extravagant but he got exactly what he wanted and we can now see how it was done. The video image is superb and the colour true.
The two London Symphony pieces date from a concert of 14 June 1972 in London’s Royal Festival Hall. The Wagner is suitably noble and the Debussy, always a Stokowski show-piece, shows that he had not lost his touch. As a “tasty bonus”, the DVD includes a B&W recording from 1961 with Pierre Monteux conducting the LSO in Dukas’ L’Apprenti Sorcier. Interesting, but offering barely a hint of that conductor’s exceptional interpretive skills. Still, better to have it than not.
Other DVD-Vs in the same release were the Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Rostropovich and Richter; Menuhin playing concertos by Beethoven, Mozart and Bruch; and a recital by Regine Crespin with bonus tracks by Denise Duval.
Wagner, Humperdinck, Richard Strauss and Mahler
Concertgebouw and New York Philharmonic-Symphony
NAXOS Historical 8.110855
For examples of pure orchestral power, which doesn’t necessarily mean volume, you must listen to this exemplary new release from Naxos Historical. The Preludes to Tan-nhauser and Lohengrin, recorded by English Columbia in 1932 and 1927 respectively, define ‘powerhouse’! Mengelberg habitually took a lot of extra time tuning and balancing an orchestra with clearly heard results. Mark Obert-Thorn’s restoration of the seven tracks is outstanding!
|Jazz at the College
of the Pacific, Vol. 2
Dave Brubeck Quartet
Creative jazz and popular success can go together and Dave Brubeck is living proof - an artist who never watered down or altered his music in order to gain a wide audience. Creative booking - he had one of the first groups to play regularly on college campuses - and the necessary spot of luck here and there, resulted in one of the few jazz groups to achieve great popularity and to this day it is one of the few household names in jazz.
This album of previously unreleased performances
is from one of those early campus concerts, recorded at the College Of
The Pacific in December of 1953, the same concert that produced the original
Jazz at the College of the Pacific (Fantasy 3223/0JCCD-047-2). It wears
well and is, I believe, one of the best-recorded performances by his long-time
musical companion, Paul Desmond. His delicate, introspective playing on
Stardust, is a thing of beauty.
Desmond’s phrasing is full of unexpected delights, twists and turns. His harmonic sense is unmatched by any other horn player I can think of, but there is no simple running the changes here; this is a melodically inventive mind running on all cylinders. And bassist Ron Crotty and drummer Joe Dodge propel things along very nicely, thank you.
Brubeck’s classical training is evident in Let’s Fall in Love. He studied at Mills College with Darius Milhaud and like his teacher, the use of polyrhythms and polytonality (playing in two keys at once) are a hallmark of Brubeck’s music. There are those who find his approach too “scholarly” and even unswinging, but the musical joys of this CD far outweigh any of that criticism. It is clear from their obvious rapport that he and Desmond were two musical minds destined to find each other. This was one of the great musical marriages in jazz.
Ben Webster Quintet
Verve 314 521 449-2
Was there ever a more lyrical-sounding
tenor saxophone in all of jazz?
The Webster trademarks are all there on this CD - the big, full-sounding tone with the underlying fire and passion, the breathy notes and distilled phrases, all the stuff of which the Ben Webster legend is made. The quintet recordings were originally issued on Lp and no doubt aficionados already have them, but this really is worth adding to the CD collection.
Webster staked his claim to greatness with the Ellington band between 1939 and 1943, but these small group performances from 1957 provide the ideal intimate setting, with Oscar Peterson proving yet again what a great accompanist he is; Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar make their usual magic, and Stan Levey adds just the right touch on drums. A straight-ahead swinger like Webster couldn’t ask for any better.
It is difficult to choose favourites, but Time On My Hands and Where Are You? are stand-outs for me, perfect late night soft lights listening. (Beulah, peel me a grape.) The CD has an added bonus in that there are three extra tracks in addition to the original LP selections, and they feature Ben Webster on piano! As a young musician it was his first instrument and he demonstrates that he was no slouch as a stride piano player. Try it - you’ll like it.
|The Three C’s
Benny Carter, Bill Coleman, Henri Chaix
Genuine small group swing music is a too-rare commodity these days, and the release of some new material by master musicians is welcome.
Visiting American jazz giant Benny Carter, and the expatriate under-recognized great Bill Coleman, each share the stage with Swiss pianist/bandleader Henri Chaix (pronounced ‘shecks’) on “The Three C’s”.
Altoist/composer Benny Carter was 61 years old, re-establishing himself as a performer, rather than as a composer/orchestrator which had occupied him for decades. Concert producer Arild Wideroe signed him for concerts with Chaix’s octet in Lausanne, Geneva and Baden.
This last event on November 9, 1968 was taped in stereo by Swiss radio, and the results are finally out of the vaults, offering 43 minutes of swing sounds.
Four of the seven selections are delightful
Benny Carter originals, and he is featured with just the rhythm section
on two standards, I Can’t Get Started and Body and Soul. The other standard,
‘S Wonderful, uses the whole band.
While the visitor is of course centre stage, Henri Chaix, a formidable musician, shines as both soloist and accompanist: his Basie-like support work with bassist Alain Du Bois and drummer Romano Cavicchiolo are world class. Tenor man Michel Pilet is solid, too.
Trumpeter Bill Coleman was twice a member of Benny Carter’s big band, in the mid-’30s and again in the early ’40s, but he preferred life in Europe, living in France in the last half of the 1930s and again from 1948 until his death in 1981. As a result, he is less well known on this side of the Atlantic than he should be.
The thirty minutes of his Geneva studio recordings for Swiss radio included here should gain some attention for his elegant, yet swinging trumpet, and his comfortable vocals (one in French!). On these ’57 and ’58 mono recordings Chaix’s quintet is heard.
With a four-piece rhythm section, and Michel Pilet’s big tenor, Coleman’s light tone, often with mute, smoothly glides along.
Tunes featured include Wrap Your Troubles
In Dreams, Blue Turning Grey…, When My Sugar Walks Down The Street and
the French blues! N’Embrassez Pas Ma Femme.
DISCS OF THE MONTH
COMPLETING OUR JUNO ROUNDUP
Almost certainly lost from view on the CTV JUNO Awards special, Sunday April 6, will be the classical and post-classical nominations – twenty in all – most relevant to our readers. DISCoveries is proud to note that, including the five CDs reviewed below, we have covered all nineteen commercially available nominees this year. We invite you to visit our website at www.thewholenote.com for a complete list of the classical nominations, along with quick links to all our previously published reviews.
Reviewed This Month
of the Year, Solo or Chamber Ensemble:
Liszt: Paganini Studies & Schubert Transcriptions, Marc-André Hamelin (Hyperion)
of the Year, Large Ensemble or soloist(s) with large ensemble accompaniment:
Bruch: Concertos Vol.II, James Ehnes/Mario Bernardi/OSM (CBC):
of the Year, Vocal or Choral Performance:
Of Ladies and Love, Michael Schade (Hyperion): DISCoveries April 2003
Bach Cantatas, Daniel Taylor/Theatre of Early Music (ATMA)
of the Year:
Concerto for Cello, Heather Schmidt (This is the Colour of My Dreams - CBC)
Complete WholeNote reviews of JUNO nominees
The WholeNote welcomes your participation and looks forward to your cooperation in making DISCOVERIES a lively addition to our magazine and to our website.
Catalogues and review
copies of CDs should be sent to:
The WholeNote, 60 Bellevue Avenue, Toronto ON M5T 2N4
For more information
contact David Olds at email@example.com