07 Rising The CrossingRising w/The Crossing
The Crossing; Donald Nally
New Focus Recordings FCR281 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue/?artist=11549)

Living in the throes of a raging global pandemic we all experience our “new normal” differently. If ever we could imagine a soundtrack that unites us through the silent roar of isolation it would be one that reflects both the hopelessness of it all as well as the uplifting energy of hope itself. With its soul-stirring music, Rising w/ The Crossing certainly qualifies to provide powerful anthems for our self-isolating sensibilities. 

The choral ensemble conducted by Donald Nally brings uniquely thoughtful and penetrating insight to music by Joby Talbot, Ēriks Ešenvalds, Dieterich Buxtehude, Paul Fowler, Alex Berko, Ted Hearne and Santa Ratniece; works that follow in the wake of David Lang’s powerfully prescient protect yourself from infection, the text of which was inspired by instructions that rose out of the last pandemic: the Spanish flu. 

The sense of awe and wonder which hovers over this entire recital is particularly close-focused in Lang’s work. It is echoed in the ever-shifting heartbeat of the wonderfully supple voices of the singers who make up The Crossing; voices that ceaselessly and eloquently trace the melodies of other stellar miniatures too. 

Much of the music is performed a cappella and this gives the works in question a wonderfully spectral quality. This is certainly true of Hearne’s 2016 work What it might say. But equally, it is Buxtehude’s Baroque-period works featuring the Quicksilver ensemble that enliven the elusive moments of this ethereal music’s whispered breath.

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08 Ruders 13 ChildPoul Ruders – The Thirteenth Child
Soloists; Odense Symfoniorkester; Bridge Academy Singers; David Starobin; Benjamin Shwartz
Bridge Records 9527 (bridgerecords.com)

The Thirteenth Child is an opera in two acts by Danish composer Poul Ruders (The Handmaid’s Tale) with a libretto by Becky and David Starobin. Performed by a large cast of excellent soloist singers, the Odense Symfoniorkester and the Bridge Academy Singers, the opera is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The Twelve Brothers.

The Thirteenth Child follows Princess Lyra’s quest to find her 12 exiled brothers and bring them home to save the kingdom. The singers are all excellent and their vocal abilities are displayed throughout the opera via the modern and challenging parts written for them, often covering extreme tessitura on both sides of their vocal range. This is especially evident in the several falsetto effects sung by the two bass-baritones. 

The opera is fast paced and action packed with spells and adventures of good versus evil mixed in with tragedy and triumph. The cast of principals is large and the opera runs a short 77 minutes. As a result, the characters are not as developed as they could be and this makes meaningful audience engagement challenging. It may be that adding a third act could not only resolve this but would also allow for the story to be modernized and for Ruders to showcase more of his capable writing as he does for Princess Lyra and her suitor Frederic.

Commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera and the Odense Symfoniorkester, The Thirteenth Child was recorded in Denmark and New York. It was premiered in Santa Fe, July 2019.

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09 CooperstownCooperstown – Jazz Opera in Nine Innings
Daniel Montenegro; Carin Gilfry; Rod Gilfry; Daniel Favela; Julie Adams; Band; Sasha Matson
Albany Records TROY1848 (albanyrecords.com)

Cooperstown: Jazz Opera in Nine Innings, is scored for a 1950s-style jazz quintet and five singers. The composer is Sasha Matson with libretto by Mark Miller, inspired by A. Bartlett Giamatti’s essay The Green Fields of the Mind. Although this story takes place at the ballpark, it features all of the elements of a great opera: Angel, from impoverished Santo Domingo and newly raised to the majors as a pitcher, falls in love with Lilly from the Upper East Side. Undermining their romance is Marvin, the aging pro catcher and Jan, the jealous sports agent in love with Angel. The dual love of baseball and romantic love stories unfolds as the team manager, Dutch, attempts to manage the relationship struggles to focus on winning games. 

In the liner notes Matson describes in detail the recording process that allowed his team to capture sounds reminiscent of the original Blue Note recordings (microphone choices, specific recording and mixing equipment). The result is an outstanding listening experience: the sounds are rich and full but the music is as close and detailed as it would be in an intimate luscious jazz lounge. The classically trained voices are gorgeous and skillfully blend in with the jazz quintet. Each scene (inning) is bookended by a short and seamless transition in the form of an instrumental jazz chart played with impressive skills by musicians of the jazz quintet. Cooperstown might perhaps be more at home on a theatrical stage than at the opera house but it is a top-shelf musical experience.

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10 Amanda TosoffEarth Voices
Amanda Tosoff
Empress Music EMG702 (amandatosoff.com)

Toronto-based piano player and composer, Amanda Tosoff, has just released a stunning new collection of songs that blurs the lines between jazz and art song. Cleverly marrying texts by classic poets such as Pablo Neruda and Rumi, with her own and others’ compositions, plus drawing on the talents of seven different singers, a string quartet, two sax players and a jazz trio, Tosoff has given us a very rich body of work.

Opening with the powerful combination of Tosoff’s composition, Edgar Alan Poe’s words and Emilie-Claire Barlow’s singing, A Dream Within a Dream is one of the jazzier pieces on the album. With sax by Kelly Jefferson and Allison Au, and Jon Maharaj (bass) and Morgan Childs (drums) filling out the rhythm section, it’s lively, complex and thought-provoking. The middle part of the album is more in the art song vein and I found myself especially drawn to these songs with their interplay of piano and strings and voice. Birdwings, based on a Rumi poem and beautifully sung by Alex Samaras, also has Tosoff stretching out a bit with a lyrical piano solo. Oh, Life (written by Mike Ross), featuring cello (Beth Silver) and violin (Aline Homzy) plus Laila Biali’s and Samaras’ beautifully blended voices add to the poignancy of the lyrics. To a Stranger, written by Tosoff and based on a Walt Whitman poem, is spare and gorgeous with just a string quartet and Felicity Williams’ ethereal singing. A Canadian album devoted to poetry wouldn’t seem complete without a Joni Mitchell tune and her early anti-war song, Fiddle and the Drum gets a strong reworking centred around Lydia Persaud’s solid vocals.

11 Lara SolnickiThe One and the Other
Lara Solnicki
Outside In Music OiM 2013 (larasolnicki.com)

Multi-gifted vocalist, composer and poet, Lara Solnicki, has just released a compelling and kinesthetic recording project, utilizing her considerable gifts to manifest a cinematically framed collection of original post-modern art songs. Solnicki has said, “I call these songs ‘tone poems,’ because they are governed and held together by a ‘poetic logic.’” Produced by eminent multi-instrumentalist and film composer Jonathan Goldsmith, the CD also features performances by skilled musicians Peter Lutek (alto sax/electro-acoustic clarinet and bassoon); Hugh Marsh (electric violin); Rob Piltch (electric and acoustic guitar); Scott Peterson (acoustic and electric bass); Rich Brown (electric bass); and Davide DiRenzo on drums.

Well recorded by Jeff Wolpert, the first offing is Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street, where Solnicki’s poetic lyrics and her gorgeous, sonorous vocal tone evoke stark images that speak to diverse emotional reactions in a physical space of contrasts. This song seems to address the dense, urban zones where many of us live our lives, and that there can still be beauty, mystery and the deep presence of nature. Goldsmith’s acoustic piano work here is mesmerizing, as is Piltch’s masterful contribution on both electric and acoustic guitar. The Embrace is a composition of incredible beauty and Solnicki brings to mind the incomparable Norma Winstone as she wraps her warm voice around each intriguing musical nuance and syllable.

This inspired song cycle concludes with the three-movement The One and The Other, described as an allegory and tragic story in which a man ironically drowns in the image of love. 1) Pass a Glass, is a free-form tour-de-force for both Marsh and DiRenzo. 2) Awe of the Sea effectively incorporates pizzicato strings and the entire ensemble to evoke waves, motions, seagulls and unfathomable depths. 3) Hollow the Need, leaves the listener washed up on a paradisiacal shore, having passed through a vortex of emotions, images and the sublime glory of words and music.

01 Frey VandiniAntonio Vandini – Complete Works
Elinor Frey; Patxi Montero; Marc Vanscheeuwijck; Federica Bianchi
Passacaille 1079 (elinorfrey.com)

The prolific Canadian-American cellist Elinor Frey adds another impressive release to her discography. This new record features the complete works of the regrettably little-known Italian cellist and composer, Antonio Vandini. In mighty musical company with the likes of Tartini and Vivaldi, Vandini proved himself a virtuoso in his own right, touring Europe as a celebrated cellist; he also wrote music that has remained inexplicably neglected, even in the 21st century.

Six sonatas and one concerto adorn this attractive disc, exquisitely conceived, researched and recorded alongside Frey’s collaborators Patxi Montero, Marc Vanscheeuwijck and Frederica Bianchi. The collaborative voices of contrabass, viola da gamba and harpsichord complement these cello-centric works to salient effect. Vandini himself boasted top-drawer musical partners, the most famous of whom was Giuseppe Tartini. Vandini also taught at La Pietà in Venice, alongside Vivaldi. As mirror to the artistic comradery Vandini enjoyed in his own lifetime, Frey has assembled an expert group of musicians here – friends and colleagues – to help realize these colourful, inspired scores. Some highlights include: the duo Sonata in C Major, Van.2 and the sunny Concerto in D major, Van.5 which features the entire ensemble with two added violins and viola. The final work on the record, the Sonata in E Major, Van.7 has a particular depth of expression, exemplifying the verdant key of E Major. Frey’s flawless focus and confident musicality leads us through an 18th-century cave of wonders: a joyous, antique grotto where others fail to tread.

02 Orli Shaham Mozart 1Mozart – Complete Piano Sonatas, Volume 1
Orli Shaham
Canary Classics CC19 (canaryclassics.com)

Young Mozart, the proverbial wunderkind, was known primarily as a performer rather than a composer – one of the greatest exponents of the then, relatively new fortepiano. The antithesis of Franz Liszt, who rose to pianistic eminence almost a century later, Mozart encouraged simplicity and clarity over wizardry. This is perfectly reflected in his sonatas, which he only began writing in 1774. 

Strangely, virtually all 18 of Mozart’s piano sonatas are neglected by pianists and listeners although Mitsuko Uchida, Maria-João Pires and Glenn Gould (who famously disparaged Mozart in one of his CBC broadcasts) have recorded interpretations of the complete sonatas. And now the brilliant young Orli Shaham gives notice that she intends to follow suit with the first of her recordings Mozart – Complete Piano Sonatas (Vol.1).

In the wrong hands Mozart’s outwardly simple sonatas can, indeed, sound simplistic and uninteresting – even formulaic. But Shaham brings out all the delights of the sonatas in this recital that features one early and two late works. Her delicate phrasing creates a feeling of innocent melodiousness, yet each movement is intelligently worked out, and Shaham’s subtle manipulation of timing conveys a strong sense of Mozart’s puckish and quick-witted compositional approach. 

Shaham’s interpretation of the early Sonata in B-flat Major No.3 K281 is gritty. Meanwhile the B-flat Major No.13 K333 and B-flat Major No.17 K570 have been infused with great depth of colour, emotional range and well-tuned melodious elegance.

03 Lortie ChopinLouis Lortie Plays Chopin, Volume 6
Louis Lortie
Chandos CHAN 20117 (naxosdirect.com/search/chan+20117)

The music of Chopin is, for Louis Lortie, a vocational hallmark and the making of his career. Now, six records deep into the composer’s catalogue, Lortie includes a fantasy, an early set of variations and assorted Polish national dances on his latest release. For the dances, an objective, no-nonsense approach is favoured. His sense of rhythmic continuity betrays an aspiration to expose the inherent structures just as they are, without affectation or personalized dilution. The results seem born of the first half of the 20th century – Lortie never handles this music too preciously, with the essence of the dance always at the fore. 

When considering Chopin, contrast between dark and light is essential. Lortie excels at the conveyance of Slavic expression through the lens of extreme sentiment, often using fine-tuned pacing, silence and varied dynamics to admirable effect. Of unexpected delight is the “Military” Polonaise, Op.40 No 1. Not such a fashionable thing to record these days, Lortie offers it up with unabashed affection and aristocratic poise. Arguably saving best for last, the Fantasy in F Minor, Op.49 concludes the album, highlighting the attributes for which Lortie is celebrated. Lucid and buoyant, it is music sculpted with chiselled lines and acute structural sense. At moments on this disc, a seasoned sort of beauty takes hold of our ears, wherein a keyboard’s conjuring casts an airy, aural spell. In the battle of dark and light, Lortie’s own brand of luminescence wins out every time.

04 Melda ChopinChopin
Lara Melda
Champs Hill Records CHRCD153 (laramelda.co.uk)

Chopin – the poet of the piano! What more can be said about this composer – born in Żelazowa Wola to a French father and a Polish mother – who embodied the spirit and soul of Poland, but lived his all-too-brief life in France? 170 years after his passing, his music continues to enthrall connoisseurs and amateurs alike; this disc on the Champs Hill label, presenting a new artist in her debut recording, is bound to be welcome.

Lara Melda was born in England of Turkish parentage. She studied at the Royal Academy, winning the BBC Young Musician competition in 2010 and since then, has continued to appear in recital throughout Europe and in other parts of the world.

The thoughtfully chosen program comprising seven nocturnes and the four ballades is a delight.  Melda approaches the music with an elegant sensitivity, her warm tone coupled with just the right degree of tempo rubato. The technical challenges inherent in these pieces, particularly the ballades, are daunting enough for any pianist, but she conquers them with apparent ease. There are times when her tempos – such as in the Nocturnes Op.9 No.3 or Op.48 No.1 – may seem a little brisk, but this is a minor issue and certainly doesn’t mar her fine performance.

Of the 11 tracks, among the highlights is surely the glorious fourth Ballade Op.52, considered by many to be one of Chopin’s greatest compositions, and also one of his most difficult. Melda does it full justice, from the lyrical and delicate opening measures to the frenetic coda which brings the disc to a satisfying conclusion. If this recording is any evidence of her musical stature, we can surely hope to hear from Lara Melda again in the near future.

05 Babayan RachmaniniffRachmaninoff
Sergei Babayan
Deutsche Grammophon (deutschegrammophon.com/en/artists/sergei-babayan)

“The heat of Rachmaninoff’s music is like the heat of dry ice, it’s so cold that it burns you.” – Leon Fleisher

Like the memory of an enkindled winter’s kiss, Rachmaninoff can clutch you by the throat, not to mention the heart. The music transfixes our soul, engendering lifelong adoration for such immutable layers of melody, harmony and ebullient Slavic passion, penned only as the singular Sergei R could have.

Who of us, though, can truly know Rachmaninoff? From the 21st century’s vantage point – more than 75 years on from the composer-pianist’s death – his music is perpetrated the world over, arguably by far too many interpreters with far too little to say. Performing Rachmaninoff’s music has never been an easy feat but rarely does one encounter a quintessence, a spirit of truth from his espousers. To appropriate a quote from the composer himself, “but do they exalt?” 

With so much performance practice swirling around Sergei (R) and his catalogue, richly gifted and rare, sympathetic interpreters such as Sergei (B), tend to twinkle and gleam atop the pianistic flotsam we hear all too often from – those self-indulgent, over-wrought bloviators Rachmaninoff’s music seems perennially entrapped by. In the hands of Babayan, the listener finally beholds an inheritance: a musical – cultural – inheritance that is fierce yet fragile, at moments comprised only of single, radiating strands. Transmuting this elusive, quintessential expression, Babayan fully fathoms this coveted lineage and his own recent contribution to it.

06 Elmas Piano ConcertosThe Romantic Piano Concerto Vol.82: Stéphan Elmas – Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2
Howard Shelley; Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Hyperion CDA68319
(hyperion-records.co.uk/ dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68319)

Stéphan Elmas? Who? One could be forgiven if the name seems unfamiliar, but during his lifetime, this Armenian pianist-turned-composer was a respected musician and pedagogue. Born into a well-to-do family in Smyrna (now Izmir) in 1862, he showed musical promise at an early age and later studied in Vienna, making his debut in 1885 to great acclaim. Elmas ultimately turned to composition, writing in a conservative style not dissimilar to that of Anton Rubinstein – and with more than a passing nod to Chopin.   His style is perhaps nowhere better represented than in the two piano concertos featured on this Hyperion disc with Howard Shelley performing and also directing the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the latest in the Romantic Piano Concerto series.

The Concerto in G Minor from 1882 is very much a product of its time. Encompassing a large canvas – the first movement is 19 minutes alone – the work allows the soloist plenty of opportunity to display their technical prowess, juxtaposed with sections which are quietly introspective. The formidable technical demands should come as no surprise – after all, the composer was also a virtuoso pianist.  Throughout, Shelley performs with a solid conviction at all times demonstrating carefully nuanced phrasing and a flawless technique, while the TSO proves to be a solid and sensitive partner.

The second concerto, written five years later, contains the same degree of attractive interplay between piano and orchestra. Once again, Elmas’ profound gift for melody shines through brightly – particularly in the second movement Andante – and more than makes up for any shortcomings the piece may have with respect to form and thematic development.

While these concertos aren’t in the same league as those of Brahms or Rachmaninoff, they’re worthy examples worth investigating. Thanks to Shelley and the TSO, they’ll be prevented from languishing in undeserved obscurity.

07 Florent SchmittFlorent Schmitt – The Tragédie de Salomé
Susan Platts; Nikki Chooi; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8574138 (naxosdirect.com/search/8574138)

JoAnn Falletta’s conducting career goes from strength to strength: music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic; myriad recordings for Naxos; a 2019 Grammy Award. The four works on this disc by Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) demonstrate Falletta’s ability to attain expressive, assured results with complex scores for large orchestra. The composer’s style extends the scope of French Impressionism, with rich and fluid sonorities but also with passages that feature more dissonant writing. 

Musique sur l’eau (1898) is sung by mezzo Susan Platts with a full and seamless tone that goes well with Schmitt’s lush, colourful setting. The symphonic poem La Tragédie de Salomé (1910, revised from the earlier ballet) opens with an evocative prelude out of which a wonderfully played English horn solo takes the lead. In the succeeding dances, menacing strings and violent brass interpolations prefigure a horrific ending. Another ballet-based work is the Suite – Oriane et le Prince d’Amour (1934-37). In this later work, Schmitt’s harmonic language has advanced considerably, with lush and complex chords and figurations that Falletta and the excellent Buffalo players navigate with well-paced clarity. The dance in 5/4 time in this work is a motivic and rhythmic tour de force. Finally, the violin-orchestra version of Légende, Op.66 (1918) receives its recording premiere here. Légende is a staple of the alto saxophone repertoire, but with the well-modulated, expressive tone of Canadian violinist Nikki Chooi it also comes across exceedingly well in this version.

05 Entente MusicaleEntente Musicale – Music for Violin and Piano
Simon Callaghan; Clare Howick
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0625 (naxosdirect.com/search/sommcd+0625)

Entente translates as a friendly understanding or informal alliance between two people or states. SOMM has titled a new CD Entente Musicale, which qualifies appropriately the collaboration of violinist Clare Howick and pianist Simon Callaghan and indirectly, the English and French repertoire included. Howick is acknowledged as being in the forefront of a generation of inspired violinists. The Strad is not stinting in their praise, finding her “playing with beguiling warmth and affection.” The American Record Guide qualifies her as “simply spectacular.” Callaghan has been commended in The Strad for his “velvet-gloved pianism of ravishing sensitivity.” Together they give shining performances of these well-chosen works:  Delius – Violin Sonata in B Major; Cyril Scott – Cherry Ripe and Valse Caprice; Debussy – Violin Sonata in G Minor; John Ireland – Violin Sonata No.1 in D Minor; Ravel – Pièce en forme de Habañera; Bax – Mediterranean

Some of the works may be familiar and others will surely find new fans. New to me is the Delius sonata, published after his death. Delius, born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1862 but preferring to live in France, had three violin sonatas published, but this one, written in 1892-93 in Paris where he had taken up residence in 1888, was turned down by his publisher. Perhaps it was because of the unusual key of B Major, muses the author of the comprehensive booklet. Delius held on to it and here it is. The first movement, Allegro con brio, is dramatically optimistic. The second movement, Andante moto tranquillo, is typical Delius and exquisite beyond words, resolving in the third movement, Allegro con moto. The duo plays the Jascha Heifetz arrangements of the Ravel Pièce and the joyful Bax Mediterranean.

09 Villa Lobos SymphoniesVilla-Lobos – Complete Symphonies
São Paulo Symphony; Isaac Karabtchevsky
Naxos 8506039 (naxosdirect.com/search/8506039)

Among the amazingly prolific Heitor Villa-Lobos’ 2,000-plus works are 11 audacious, spellbinding yet little-known symphonies, composed at opposite ends of his career. Except for the epic Symphony No.10, they sort themselves into pairs, stylistically and by date of composition. 

As a boy, Villa-Lobos learned to play clarinet and cello from his father. Adding guitar to his skills, he performed Brazilian popular and folkloric music with salon ensembles, and symphonic and operatic repertoire as an orchestral cellist. Slighting institutional composition study, Villa-Lobos absorbed Vincent d’Indy’s pedagogical Cours de Composition Musicale, leading to his trademark mix of European late-Romanticism with Brazilian melodic and rhythmic exoticism. 

Symphonies No.1 “Unforeseen” (1916) and No.2 “Ascension” (1917, revised 1944), with their lush sonorities, gorgeous, broadly flowing string melodies, chattering woodwinds suggestive of an active Brazilian rain forest, brass fanfares and throbbing percussion, find the young Villa-Lobos effectively creating a stereotypical “Hollywood sound” well before sound’s arrival in Hollywood.

After World War I ended, Villa-Lobos was commissioned by Brazil’s National Institute of Music to compose three celebratory symphonies: No.3 “War,” No.4 “Victory” and the now-lost, never-performed No.5 “Peace,” perhaps unfinished. Requiring huge forces, “War” and “Victory” (both 1919) contain martial fanfares, anguished dirges and percussion-heavy, explosive battle music, “Victory” ending in a triumphal fortississimo.

Villa-Lobos wouldn’t produce another symphony for 24 years, while composing many other orchestral, chamber and vocal works, eight of his nine Bachianas Brasileiras, all 17 Chôros and dozens of piano pieces, also serving as director of music education for Brazilian public schools.

The angular themes of Symphony No.6 “On the Outlines of the Mountains” (1944) were derived by tracing the contours of photographed mountaintops. The opening movements conjure foreboding, rugged, desolate vistas; the Allegretto and final Allegro bathe the vast panoramas in bright sunlight. The four movements of Symphony No.7 “Odyssey of Peace” (1945) closely mirror those of No.6, with similar tempo markings, timings and moods. Here, turbulence and slowly drifting tonal centres precede two buoyantly joyous movements, the closing seconds echoing the bombast of the “Victory” finale after World War I. 

The unsubtitled Symphonies No. 8 (1950) and No.9 (1952) are Villa-Lobos’ most concise – No.9, just under 22 minutes, is the shortest of all. Both are infused with confident, upbeat melodies, mechanized urban rhythms and dense metallic textures, reflecting the revitalized post-war sense of optimism and material progress.

After these two succinct symphonies evoking modern technology, Villa-Lobos about-faced with the grandiloquent, hour-long Symphony No.10 “Ameríndia” for large orchestra, tenor, baritone and bass soloists and chorus singing in Portuguese, Latin and indigenous language Tupi. (In this performance, the entire tenor section sings the tenor solo.) Commissioned for São Paulo’s 1954 quadricentennial, “Ameríndia” also bears the designation Oratorio and a second subtitle, “Sumé, Father of Fathers.” Sumé, the mythical bringer of knowledge to pre-Columbian Brazil, is here conflated with the 16th-century Jesuit missionary St. José de Anchiera. The music for this sonic extravaganza creates a blazingly coloured tapestry weaving paganism, Christianity, mystical lamentation, ecstasy and exultation. It’s totally thrilling!

The opening fanfares, lush melodies and exotic colours of Symphony No.11 (1955) recall Villa-Lobos’ cinematic early symphonies, now with even greater rhythmic, harmonic and textural complexity. No.12 (1957), completed on Villa-Lobos’ 70th birthday, features more fanfares, vibrant rhythms and colours, a mystery-shrouded, near-atonal Adagio and a final, multi-thematic, kaleidoscopic display of orchestral fireworks. 

Further enriching this six-CD treasure-trove are two folklore-inspired works depicting mythical jungle spirits: the tone-poem Uirapuru (1917) and the choral cantata Mandu-Çarará (1940), sung in indigenous language Nheengatu. (Texts and translations for this and “Ameríndia” are provided.)

With definitive, super-charged performances by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Brazilian-born Isaac Kabatchevsky, this set is most enthusiastically recommended!

02 Piazzolla GallianoPiazzolla & Galliano – Concertos
Jovica Ivanović; Ukrainian Chamber Orchestra; Vitaliy Prostasov
Navona Records nv6317 (navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6317)

Serbian-Austrian classical accordionist Jovica Ivanović and his colleagues, concertmaster/violinist Valeriy Sokolov and the Ukrainian Chamber Orchestra under conductor Vitaliy Protasov, shine in their collaborative performances of concertos by prominent composers Astor Piazzolla and Richard Galliano. Each three-movement, fast/slow/fast, thoughtful, detailed concerto illuminates Ivanović’s talents and the tight ensemble playing of all the musicians.

Piazzolla’s Aconcagua, a concerto for bandoneón, percussion and string orchestra, was a favourite of Piazzolla himself and it encompasses his characteristic rhythmical tango nuevo melodies and orchestral sonorities. The bandoneón part translates well onto accordion as Ivanović’s intuitive musical performance is highlighted by his detached notes, florid ornamentations and clear fast runs. The orchestral balance is perfect, especially during the ringing, low-pitched string-bass accompaniments.

French composer/accordionist Galliano’s Opale Concerto for accordion and string orchestra is a mix of French, American and Balkan styles. The first movement is slightly more atonal, with such accordion specialities as bellows shakes, accented chords and wide-pitched lines alternating with string solos. The slower second movement starts with a lyrical solo, until the orchestral entry creates a “merry-go-round” reminiscent soundscape. The faster third movement builds excitement with conversational shorter accented melodies until the final ascending accordion glissando ends it with a decisive bang.

Ivanović is a superb accordionist, well-matched to the string players’ collective musicianship. Their interpretations make the Piazzolla and Galliano compositions resonate with permanent eloquence.

03 Godfrey RidoutGodfrey Ridout – The Concert Recordings
Various Artists
Centrediscs CMCCD 28220 (cmccanada.org/shop/cmccd-28220)

Godfrey Ridout (1918-1984) was “an old-school gentleman,” conservative in deportment, attire (three-piece suits) and compositional style. I knew him also to be very accessible, forthright and warm-hearted – just like his music! This welcome CD presents concert performances from 1975-1993, drawn from the CBC archives.

Cantiones Mysticae No.2 – The Ascension (1962) is set to a sixth-century hymn sung in English by sunny-voiced soprano Janet Smith, Brian Law conducting Ottawa’s Thirteen Strings. As the text proclaims, it opens “with a merry noise and… the sound of the trumpet” (played by Stuart Douglas Sturdevant). One line in the serene second section – “Rescue, recall into life those who are rushing to death” – was, wrote Ridout, his son critically ill during its composition, “a cri de coeur… that really struck home.”

The darkly dramatic Two Etudes for string orchestra (1946) comprise the sepulchral No.1 (Andante con malinconia) and the chugging freight train of No.2, briefly stalled by a misterioso passage. Mario Bernardi conducts the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. Violinist Victor Martin, pianist George Brough and the Chamber Players of Toronto perform Ridout’s period-jostling Concerto Grosso (1974), the jaunty neo-Baroque Allegro and sprightly Vivace straddling the extended Mahlerian Adagio. Commissioned to honour the U.S. Bicentennial, the melodic, extroverted George III His Lament – Variations on a Well-known Tune (1975) finds “avowed monarchist” Ridout playfully employing a theme from “the losing side.” Simon Streatfeild conducts the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

Gratifying listening for all who remember Godfrey Ridout – and all who don’t!

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