03_double_portraitDouble Portrait

Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes

Blue Note 509996 27560 2 0


Successful piano duets call for the ability to listen to each other bend a little, give up some ego and converse with each other. Oscar Peterson and Count Basie, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Don Ewell, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Dick Wellstood and Dick Hyman all demonstrated the art of duet playing.


Add to the list the team of Charlap and Rosnes. This is the first duet recording by these two outstanding pianists. It is a sensitive, beautifully played, beautifully recorded set of superior compositions which demonstrate just how well this husband and wife team blend their talents with an intuitive understanding of each other.


There is one original by Rosnes, The Saros Cycle and the eight additional tracks include the seldom heard Little Glory by Gerry Mulligan, Inner Urge by Joe Henderson, Double Rainbow, by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Howard Dietz, and the Arthur Schwartz standard Dancing In The Dark.


Musical magic happened when this album was recorded December 27-29, 2009 at the Kaufmann Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y, New York City. The playing throughout is flawless and it is to be hoped that it will be only the first from this enjoyable and satisfying collaboration.

04_LoeschelInnocenceSongs of Innocence
Hannes Loeschel
Col Legno WWW 1CD 20903

British mystical poet William Blake’s 1794 cycle Songs of Innocence and Experience has inspired many composers including Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Yet this treatment of the unconventional poet’s masterwork is notable for more than full-color illustrations for each of the 18 songs included in the session’s the lavishly produced booklet. The top-flight and ever changing arrangements here were created by Viennese composer/keyboardist Hannes Loeschel, and performed by him plus an Austrian combo of guitars, electric pianos, bass, drums and trumpet.


Loeschel’s compositions echo his familiarity with Continental jazz, improv, notated and theatre music. How then does he retain the intrinsic English nature of Blake’s work? By having the verses sung by British vocalist Phil Minton. Minton, whose usual performances involve wordless vocalese of yowls, retches and cries, rises to the occasion. His parlando respectfully reflects Blake’s singular, quasi-religious beliefs, while his lilting and passionate musicality makes it appear as if singing the poet’s words is an everyday occurrence.


Meanwhile the highly syncopated and heavily rhythmic backing could impress pop fans with its beat, and jazzers with its supple sophistication. Intelligent jazz-rock, the music is driven by drummer Mathias Koch’s backbeat and illuminated by rough-hewn twangs and distorted snaps and echoes from guitarists Michael Bruckner-Weinhuber and Burkhard Stangl plus trumpeter Thomas Berghammer flashing grace notes. Redefining and extending Blake’s 18th Century visions with modernistic, but not alienating sounds is a momentous achievement. Loeschel, Minton and the others should be lustily applauded.

05_gary_grantDon’t Hold Your Breath
Gary Grant
Independent GG-2010

You may not be familiar with his name, but you’ve heard him on a host of recordings with, for example, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra and Natalie Cole and movie and TV sound tracks such as First Wives Club, Eraser, Forest Gump, Grumpier Old Men II, The Simpsons and Tales From the Crypt, to name only a few.

This CD of original jazz/Latin jazz compositions is his second album under his own name and it’s a good one.


I must confess that when I see a programme of all original compositions it sometimes raises a little red flag, but in this instance the compositions are interesting, full of imagination and beautifully played. He has with him an assortment of hugely talented musicians including Dan Higgins, alto and tenor saxophones, Vinnie Colaiuta, drums, Wally Minko, piano/keyboards, Wayne Bergeron, trumpet, Brian Bromberg, bass and Johnny Friday, drums.


If you are into Latin flavoured jazz this release will be an addition to your collection which will stand up to repeated listening. There is an informative booklet describing each track. One of my favourites is a beautiful ballad by pianist Wally Minko, I Still Hear You, featuring Grant’s flugelhorn playing, but there is plenty of high energy playing throughout the album as in Get It Straight and American Native.


“Don’t Hold Your Breath” can be purchased online at CDBaby.

01_kelly_jeffersonKelly Jefferson is a top flight saxophonist and cements his reputation on Kelly Jefferson Quartet “Next Exit” (Cellar Live CL033110 www.cellarlive.com), a bracing eight-track outing. Add his forceful leadership to pianist David Braid, who also tackles Fender Rhodes and synths, bass Marc Rogers and drummer Mark McLean and it’s a truly gifted combo. Group cohesion may be showcased and Jefferson’s relentless drive tempered by sleek tones but his adroit negotiation of the labyrinthine complexity of much of this music is admirable - he penned five tunes, including the joyfully creative title piece, on which Braid’s keyboard work also excels. There’s crafted unison playing, special horn effects and much sophisticated jazz of emotional depth. Unconditional’s attractive lines are almost romantic but on the ensuing Give Away, Take Away there’s daunting time shifts plus breezily confident sax and Rhodes offerings over a thick harmonic palette. Jefferson’s playing on his ballad Glass is splendid. The pulse team is strong, notably on upbeat romps. *Jefferson leaves for Thailand and South Korea with the Shuffle Demons on Oct. 12.


02_van_huffelOne-time Torontonian Peter Van Huffel, who toured his band through Canada this summer, now performs in Berlin after a New York stint. Pity if you missed him - this group is terrific. The alto saxist wrote all 10 tunes on Peter Van Huffel Quartet “Like the Rusted Key” (Fresh Sound/New Talent FSNT361 www.petervanhuffel.com) and they’re an invigorating blast of originality in an era when many struggle to find a singular voice. The ingenious material, mostly out of left field, is well executed by lively colleagues – American pianist Jesse Stacken, Canadian bassist Miles Perkin and Swiss drummer Samuel Rohrer – so that at times it sounds like four soloists in action. Pugnacious opener Drift precedes the dark, disquieting Tangent, while other tracks build and release tension, create a multihued sonic tapestry and properly judge climactic accents – all evident on Enghavevej. Three pieces with Beast in the title are free jazz assaults, while elsewhere Van Huffel’s mercurial, vibrant tones excite. Havens of calm exist but even on Atonement the music’s charged with extreme shifts of mood and velocity.


03_rockit88bancTwenty years ago jazzman Bill King was big on singing and he’s returned to it with the latest release from his entertaining outfit, Rockit 88 Band. “Sweet Sugar Cane” (7 Arts 7 Arts 0020 www.reverbnation.com/rockit88band) is a dozen-track session mindful of the intimate relationship between jazz and blues, with the heavy lifting done by King’s piano and organ and Neil Chapman’s guitar. Also aboard are violinist Anne Lindsay, bass Lionel Williams, drummer Jim Casson and vocalists, with the big surprise on this sounds-of-the-south tribute that the songs are original - eight by King, Chapman the rest. The groove is heavy and heady, no harmonic clutter or too-dense charts, while passionate lyrics with contemporary clout predominate, King taking singing and composing honours. Tracks to note are the fluent, sensuous titler, the gospel-drenched I Can’t Live Without You, Independence Day and the Delta blues blast Mississippi Grind.


04_steve_kovenGroup recordings are frequently one-offs, but often better are units that stay together, like pianist Steve Koven’s team that’s been an item for almost two decades. Experience is well demonstrated on the 10 tracks of Steve Koven Trio “Alone Together” (Bungalow Records SKT008 www.stevekoven.com). Seven are standards, with each band member – the leader plus imaginative bassist Rob Clutton and drummer Anthony Michelli – contributing an original. The players weave with ease and precision through material robust and delicate, the pianist’s motifs refreshing the title tune on a relaxed, intimate session. There’s space for Clutton’s impressive bass, while Koven is a cooler version of Jackie Terrasson on classics like Indiana and Ain’t Misbehavin’ as well as a boogified Bye Bye Blackbird. Also pleasing is Clutton’s catchy Snowy Maple. *The CD release is Nov.6 at Crescent School Theatre, 2375 Bayview Ave.


05_richard_whitemanPiainist Richard Whiteman is a familiar face around town, always versatile and resourceful. Adding the skills of bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer Sly Juhas works well on Richard Whiteman Trio “Slow Night” (Tapas Records TPRD003 www.richardwhiteman.com). The session’s 11 tunes include vintage jazz and songbook items as well as two Whiteman tracks, the medium-paced title piece illuminating his finely-wrought single note runs and the perky Lush Jays. Overall the music’s tethered by too tight a rein despite the leader’s adroit way with ballads and bop. There’s nicely-judged detail on Love For Sale, a tasteful Night Mist Blues and a wistfully contemplative The Night Has A Thousand Eyes. *Whiteman is at Gate 403 with vocalist Shannon Gunn Oct. 6 and plays every Friday at The Rex with the Hogtown Syncopators.

01_HowardDrumLoreConstantly the brunt of other musicians’ jokes for their supposed fixation on rhythm, over the years drummers have actually proven themselves as organized band leaders and sophisticated tunesmiths. Edmonton-born, Brooklyn-based percussionist Owen Howard strikes a blow for his stick-wielding brethren with Drum Lore (BJU Records BJUR 017 www.bjurecords.com), as he leads a sextet through compositions by 11 different drummers, including himself. His notable CD, along with others by drummer/leaders, demonstrates these players’ overall improvisational and compositional smarts. Howard proves his percussion adaptability with strategies ranging from understated paradiddles and pops backing muted trombone and slurry bass clarinet on Shelly Manne’s Flip, to cross pounded bounces and clattering opposite sticking that adds an undercurrent of gravitas to Alan Ferber’s trombone ostinato and call-and-response patterns from the three saxophonists on Ed Blackwell’s Togo. He’s even more impressive guiding the slinky polyrhythms of Jack DeJohnette’s Zoot Suite, as clattering cymbals and popping bass drum subtly shifts tempos from andante to moderato as the layered horn riffs expand in scrappy, cascading counterpoint. The drummer’s own Roundabout vibrates with shifting pulses as alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher’s refracting flutter-tonguing alters the melody already trilled by soprano saxophonist Adam Kolker. Howard’s blunt rebounds and splashing cymbals keep things moving until pianist Frank Carlberg’s wide-spaced comping signals the finale.


02_WoodblockHoward’s CD shows jazz percussionists’ compositional versatility, while the six compositions on Woodblock Prints (No Business NBLP 18 www.nobusinessrecords.com) presents a singular vision by another drummer, Toronto native-turned Brooklynite Harris Eisenstadt. Program music based on celebrating the art of Japanese wood bock prints, this chamber-improv is played by a brass-heavy nonet. What isn’t expected is that Mark Taylor’s French horn and Jay Rozen’s tuba are frequently lead voices, with the burbling timbre crepuscule of Sara Schoenbeck’s bassoon often used for its unique tincture. Most demonstrative of Eisenstadt’s skills as a colourist is Hokusai, energized by his bell-tree shaking and tambourine smacks. Meanwhile hoarse, stuttering, bassoon patterns deconstruct the slow-gliding theme alongside Jonathan Goldberger’s guitar licks. Following Michael McGinnis’ squealing clarinet trills backed by the drummer’s ruffs and drags, Rozen’s extended tremolo line shepherds the variants towards Eisenstadt’s conclusive cymbal shimmies. Similarly on The Floating World, the narrative is defined as much by waddling tuba slurps plus diffuse French horn brays as liquid clarinet runs and pumping unison horns. The tubaist’s penultimate snort dissolves into pitch-sliding polytones as the drummer outlays shuffles, ruffs and bell-pings.


03_KobberlingLess upfront as a performer, but responsible for all compositions on Sonnenschirm (Jazz Werkstatt JW 093 www.records-cd.com) is Heinrich Köbberling, a professor of percussion at Germany’s Leipzig University. He’s content using his cross strokes, opposite sticking, drags and rebounds to keep the session moderato, but with infectious, flowing rhythms. Rather than taking solos, Köbberling’s compositions and accompaniment give full reign to bassist Paul Imm, piano/accordionist Tino Derado and especially bass clarinettist Rudi Mahall. An unflappable tone explorer, Mahall adds sonic vitality to the often-jaunty tunes. Zahlen Bitte is a particular example of the reedman’s skills. Here his coloratura slides and tongue-stuttering face chiming piano lines. Circling around one another, all the textures then join to complete the melody. Meanwhile the drummer rolls and pumps in the background. Built on light-fingered piano harmonies, Konbanwa is another standout as the repeated theme variants are expressed sequentially by lyrical reed voicing and cascading piano chords.


04_RaineyPoolCompletely antithetical to the preceding discs is Pool School (Clean Feed CF 185 CD www.cleanfeedrecords.com), the first disc under the leadership of busy New York percussionist Tom Rainey. Consisting of 12 instant compositions, the CD depends as much on the inventiveness of guitarist Mary Halvorson and tenor and soprano saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock as Rainey’s drum dexterity. Yet as low-key and unforced as Rainey’s rhythms are, it’s their unruffled surge which keeps the dozen tracks moving. More Mesa for instance is taken agitato and moderato, with Laubrock’s pressurized vibrations as intense as the angled crunching runs from Halvorson. Yet the piece’s atmospheric identity is maintained through Rainey’s rim shot accents, hi-hat strokes and cymbal slaps. The drummer’s swirling cauldron of broken-octave rebounds and solid ruffs also create a subversive swing rhythm by the finale of Semi Bozo. Earlier, his ratcheting clicks and drum-top pops, the guitarist’s disconnected chording and slurred fingering plus the saxophonist’s rasping, low-pitched warbles appear to evolve in parallel rather than connective lines, until Rainey’s inverted sticking pushes them into harmonic concordance.


As these sessions prove, giving a sophisticated drummer freedom to innovate, results in much more than a rhythmic free-for-all.

01_kleiber_cdThe late Carlos Kleiber was one of the most esteemed and enigmatic conductors during the last quarter of the last century. He was an uncompromising perfectionist who demanded accuracy in even to the smallest details that might have passed unnoticed by others. Every one of his recordings bears witness to his preoccupation with perfection. He worked only when he needed money, demanded and was given extra rehearsal time and like his father, the illustrious Erich, was easily offended and would walk out of costly recording sessions. Not surprising then that he made comparatively few recordings. It was DG that issued more of his performances than any other label and the each and every one remains a top choice in a crowded market. To celebrate his 80th anniversary DG has issued two sets, a complete collection of CDs and a package of his complete Unitel videos. The CD set (4778826, 12 CDs) contains Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh, Schubert’s Third and Eighth, and Brahms’ Fourth Symphony all with The Vienna Philharmonic. The remarkable perfection of these blazing performances has never been bettered. I recall listening with a colleague to the LP of the Brahms Fourth when it was first issued trying, unsuccessfully, to find one wrong note, one wrong entry. There are also four complete operas: Die Fledermaus, La Traviata, Tristan und Isolde, and Der Freischutz. Featured singers include Hermann Prey, Lucia Popp, Rene Kollo, Julia Varady and Ivan Rebroff  (Fledermaus); Ilena  Cotrubas, Domingo and Milnes (Traviata); Kollo, Kurt Moll, Margaret Price, Fischer-Dieskau,  and Anton Dermota (Tristan); Peter Schreier, Gundula Janowitz, and Theo Adam (Freischutz). These classic versions, very well reviewed at the time, retain their freshness and each would be a prime choice.


02_kleiber_dvdThe Kleiber videos (Unitel 0734605, 10 DVDs) have the memorable New Years Concerts from 1989 and 1992 with the Vienna Philharmonic playing in the Musikverein to an elegant audience and, in fact, to the world by satellite. Always a must see, these two were especially important as they had Kleiber on the podium. We next find him in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in front of their orchestra in two Beethoven Symphonies, the Fourth and the Seventh, and then back to Vienna for the Mozart 36 and the Brahms Second with the Philharmonic. In Munich he leads the Bavarian State Orchestra in the Coriolan Overture, Mozart 33, and the Brahms Fourth. Moving into the National Theatre in Munich there is an outstanding production of Der Rosenkavalier staged and directed by Otto Schenk. Heard and seen are Gwyneth Jones, Manfred Jungwirth, Brigitte Fassbaender, Benno Kusche, Lucia Popp and others. This was 1979 and the voices were in their prime. A second production from March 1994 with The Vienna State Opera was based on Schenk’s Munich production. Here are Felicity Lott, Kurt Moll, Anne Sophie von Otter, Gottfried Hornik, Barbara Bonney and others. Same conductor, different orchestra and soloists. Aficionados will have a great time rating the singers. Finally back to Munich for Die Fledermaus in a sparkling, high spirited, irresistible production with sets by Günter Schneider-Siemssen. Perfectly cast with Eberhard Wächter, Pamela Coburn, Benno Kusche, Brigitte Fassbaender (Orlofsky), Wolfgang Brendel, and others. This is an irresistible Viennese pastry to close out the programme. I was somewhat familiar with some of these videos but I had not anticipated being so captivated by them to the extent that to start any one meant to watch it through. Time consuming but rewarding.


03_gitlisAbout 20 years ago I was in the audience in Massey Hall when violinist Ivry Gitlis played the Tchaikovsky with the Toronto Philharmonic. This was a special occasion, an opportunity to hear one of the very last survivors of the school, or era of creative, subjective performers whose performances were always a personal statement, revealing new aspects of the score. I have enjoyed Gitlis’ recordings since the 1950s, especially his Sibelius Concerto with Jascha Horenstein which remains a favourite version. At about the same time he played that concerto with the New York Philharmonic under George Szell and that performance has just been released by DOREMI on a rather impressive collection of live performances (DRH-7981-3, 2 CDs plus 1 DVD). The set features Gitlis in virtuoso works from the late romantics plus 20th century repertoire. There is a Brahms Double featuring the impeccable artistry of the highly esteemed French cellist Maurice Gendron. Also the Paganini #2, Hindemith’s concerto and the violin concerto by René Liebowitz. The DVD is a treasure chest of eclectic selections from the concerto and sonata repertoire. Each piece re-affirms his individuality and virtuosity effecting a silvery, sensuous sound with new insights into the scores. Drawn from French and German television the DVD is very fine in clean and clear 1966-1992 colour.


04_katchenIn the good old days of the late 1950s and 1960s when we were ravenous (well, some of us) for new Decca/London FFSS LPs the name of Julius Katchen emerged as one of the elite of the classical repertoire with a complete Beethoven Concertos, complete Brahms piano music, a multitude of works from Mozart to Bartok and Gershwin plus trios with Joseph Suk and Janos Starker. Had he lived beyond his 42 years we may have heard his Bach. DOREMI has released a live performance of Bach’s second Partita BWV826 (DHR-7936), a magical performance by virtue of transparency and a beautiful singing style, arguing an excellent case for Bach on piano. Also heard are the Beethoven 43 Variations in C minor and a newly discovered performance from 1960 of Beethoven’s Fifth cello sonata with Pablo Casals. Then in his eighties, Casals was not as technically perfect as before but offers a deeply moving performance, supported by Katchen as an equal partner.

01_joykillssorrowThe recording to which I have returned time and again in the past six weeks, more often than to any disc in recent memory, is entitled Darkness Sure Becomes This City by an American string band based in Boston called Joy Kills Sorrow (www.joykillssorrow.com). A collection of fine young musicians from both coasts of the USA, the band is fronted by BC native Emma Beaton who was the recipient of the Canadian Folk Music Award for Best New Artist for her debut album Pretty Fair Maid several years ago. Although an accomplished cellist and pictured frailing a banjo on her own website, Beaton’s contribution to this “new grass” band is strictly vocal with her distinctive high soprano giving the band its signature sound. The other members bring a wonderful virtuosity to the mix with banjo (Wesley Corbett), guitar (national flat-picking champion, Matthew Arcara), mandolin (Jacob Jolliff, the first to ever receive a full mandolin scholarship to the Berklee School of Music) and double bass (Bridget Kearney). Corbett and Kearney provide the harmony vocals that are such an integral part of the bluegrass tradition, and Kearney, a past winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, contributes most of the original songs and arrangements which are the group’s mainstay. Named after the old-time radio show which featured Bill Munroe and his Blue Grass Boys, Joy Kills Sorrow’s music is a compelling mix of traditional breakneck-paced picking and soulful ballads tinged with wry humour. Favourites include the Zydeco-flavoured New Shoes, the dense and rocking Send Me A Letter, Kearney’s sardonic Thinking of You and Such (“I miss you, but not that much – it’s not like I sleep in your clothes; I’m just thinking of you and such”), and Beaton’s quirky You Make Me Feel Drunk. Discovering this disc in my in-box and then spending an evening with Bruce Surtees hearing Joy Kills Sorrow play live at Hugh’s Room last month were distinct highlights of my summer. According to their blog, they traveled 8,726 miles and “killed 15,965 kg of sorrow” on the tour that brought them to Toronto and the Shelter Valley Folk Festival in Grafton. They certainly provided me with some Joy and I hope they will pass this way again soon.


02_britten_illuminationsAnother very different sort of string band that I greatly enjoy is Les Violons du Roy (or as one CBC Radio Two host was wont to say in years gone by – Les Violons Doo Wah), Bernard Labadie’s Quebec City-based baroque chamber orchestra that has been broadening its repertoire to include the 20th century in recent years under the direction of Jean-Marie Zeitouni. For their latest venture into the modern era they are joined by soprano Karina Gauvin in a crystalline performance of Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations (ATMA ACD2 2601). Britten’s setting of the poetry and prose of Arthur Rimbaud with its dynamic contrasts and dramatic range is fully realized by this outstanding soloist, sensitively accompanied by the strings. The disc includes convincing, full-bodied performances of the Prelude and Fugue for 18-part String Orchestra, Op.29 and Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, Op.10. Gauvin rejoins the ensemble for the final track, the rarely heard Now sleeps the crimson petal, a movement Britten originally intended for the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op.31 but discarded before that work’s first performance. The words by Alfred Lord Tennyson are set as a gentle barcarole with the voice in duet with the horn effectively provided by Louis-Philippe Marsolais. This is a timely release for Toronto audiences who will have the opportunity to experience Britten’s Death in Venice in Canadian Opera Company performances from October 16 to November 6.


03_mozart_quintetsMy first experience playing chamber music in an organized fashion goes back almost two decades when I packed up my cello and headed off to CAMMAC’s summer courses at Lake MacDonald in Quebec. There I had the great pleasure of playing in a string quintet under the tutelage of one of the members of Les Violons du Roy, Michelle Seto. That week at music camp was a life changing experience for me and I have rarely felt the power of music as strongly as on that first evening when I was concentrating so hard on playing the repeated pedal note of the opening of Bach’s St. John Passion when the chorus suddenly entered with the haunting “Herr, Herr, Herr unser Herrscher” sending shivers down my spine. To this day the St. John Passion and Mozart’s String Quintet in B-Flat Major K174 remain among my most vivid musical memories. It is evidently thanks to Mozart’s friend Michael Haydn, Papa Joseph’s younger brother, that we have the legacy of the six string quintets. Mozart was always drawn to the dark sonority of the viola and was inspired by Haydn’s Notturno for two violins, two violas and cello - previous string quintets, notably those of Boccherini, had employed a second cello rather than viola. Mozart’s first foray into the form was the aforementioned B-flat major quintet composed in 1773, a spacious divertimento-like work. It was more than a dozen years before he would return to the genre with the contrasting pair of quintets K515 and K516 in C major and G minor respectively. Composed after the celebrated six “Haydn” string quartets and the success of The Marriage of Figaro, these are fully developed mature works. Mozart completed the set with a transcription of the C minor wind serenade originally for pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns, and two original works in D major and E-flat major composed in the final months of his life. A new recording of the complete Mozart String Quintets features members of the renowned Nash Ensemble with violist Philip Dukes (Hyperion CDA67861/3). These sensitive performances bring out the contrasting moods of the quintets from the playfulness of the early B-flat major to the darker colours of minor key offerings. It was a treat to revisit these works in this new recording from the lush acoustic of St. Paul’s Church, Depford, London. For me however these performances won’t replace the 1973 recordings featuring Arthur Grumiaux and friends which I got to know and love when they were reissued as part of the Complete Mozart Edition by Philips back in 1991. They are currently available on the budget Philips Duo series spread over four CDs encompassing “Mozart – The Complete Quintets Volumes 1 & 2” (2PM2456-055 & -058).


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David Olds

DISCoveries Editor


52_At My Sweet Recall-COVER At My Sweet Recall: The Letters of Edward Johnson and Beatriz d’Arneiro (1906 – 1908)

edited by Gloria Dent

572 pages, photos; $45.00


This extraordinary volume of letters was given a dramatic debut when Canadian tenor Ben Heppner and actress Barbara Budd read from it at the recital Heppner gave for Stratford Summer Music this past July. Heppner’s recital, a tribute to the legendary Canadian tenor Edward Johnson, was called Edward and Beatriz: A Love Story, and the letters were written between Johnson and his wife-to-be, Beatriz d’Arneiro.

When they met, Johnson was a twenty-eight year-old singer from Guelph, Ontario making his first visit to Paris. D’Arneiro was an aristocratic Portuguese pianist, seven years older, who was living there. After Johnson returned to North America to pursue his career, their already intense relationship continued to develop through these letters.

In her letters, d’Arneiro writes things like, “To live like I am living, it is better to die.” She constantly demands greater emotional commitment – and more frequent letters. “Why should I count on hearing from you regularly? Why should I count on anything at all in life?” But she never forgets her new role as his vocal coach, writing, “Remember all my instructions about your voice.” She even calls herself his “spiritual mother.”

Johnson does bristle. He writes, “You have “roasted” me, my work, the music, the public, the company I am associated with, everything! Why?” But he nonetheless thrives on her rigorous musical regime, writing, “You were a God-send to me this summer. What I have accomplished!... And you were at the bottom of it.” Her devotion also seems to work its charms. Just three weeks after they meet, he writes, “It makes me feel badly that you are unhappy and I would so love to see you happy.” And later, “You are my main stay and strength.”

Dent, a historian and musician, sets the stage for each step in their relationship with brief commentaries. She identifies the many notable characters who appear in these pages, like tenor Enrico Caruso, composer Franco Alfano, Guelph poet John McCrae, who wrote “In Flanders Fields, and pianist Artur Schnabel, who d’Arneiro inexplicably calls “a piece of inflated conceit”. In an epilogue, Dent tells how d’Arneiro died just ten years after they married. Johnson never remarried. Right up until his death in 1959 he continued to credit her with his many successes.

Since being quoted in Ruby Mercer’s 1976 biography of Johnson, The Tenor of His Time, these letters had lain in the archives of the Edward Johnson Foundation in Guelph until Dent discovered them. She has done a remarkable job of compiling and editing them, though I did find the eccentrically organized index confusing to use. Not only do these letters make compelling reading, but they can now claim their rightful place as a significant chapter in the history of Canadian music.

52_Music and SentimentMusic and Sentiment

by Charles Rosen

Yale University Press

156 pages, score excerpts; $24.00 US


Many performers write well, and a number of writers on music play an instrument well. But I can’t think of a musician as accomplished as pianist Charles Rosen who writes about music as brilliantly as he does.

In Music and Sentiment, Rosen takes an exhilarating look at the ways composers represent feelings, and how what they do can both move us – and delight us – so deeply.

This book started life as a series of lectures. I don’t know whether it’s Rosen’s oratorical skills, his special insights as a virtuoso performer, or simply his way with words, but he manages to conjure up a story-line as absorbing as that of a powerful novel, with the hint of a resolution in the end. Not that he would – or even could – offer a “special code” for relating a composer’s score to specific sentiments. “Any theme,” he writes, “can be given whatever emotional significance the composer chooses if he knows how to go about it.” In one of his many examples, he points out that “Liszt, in his Sonata for piano, can make any one of his motifs sound successively diabolical, amorous, religioso, majestic, transcendent, or what you will.”

Rosen is a passionate advocate for modern music. But by the time he reaches the end of the 20th century, he sees various dogmatisms competing against each other. “A representation of sentiment,” he observes, “is not equally efficient in all of these rival trends.” Among those trends he considers less efficient, he targets in particular neo-tonal music. Because of its “understandable delight in using perfect triads”, he finds, “all large-scale richness of expressive tension has been drained away.”

Despite his disclaimer at the beginning that “understanding music in the most basic sense simply means enjoying it when you hear it,” Rosen makes a persuasive case for learning more about the basic materials of music. The more we understand how music works, the more we appreciate it – and the more moved and delighted we can be by it.

52_Gann, No Such Thing as Silence No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”

by Kyle Gann

Yale University Press

268 pages, photos; $24.00 US


At the premiere of John Cage’s controversial 4’33” at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York, pianist David Tudor sat at a piano with the piano lid closed for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. He touched the instrument only to open and close the lid between each of the three moments. The performance created an uproar. Two years later, at the first New York performance in 1954, Cage’s own mother asked composer Earle Brown, whose work was also on the program, “Don’t you think that John has gone too far this time?” But today, as Kyle Gann shows in his thoughtful look at the backround of this ground-breaking work, it has become not just a repertoire staple but a cultural emblem. It has even been recorded numerous times.

Gann quotes a letter Cage wrote to publisher Helen Wolff, whose son, composer Christian Wolff, also had a piece on the Woodstock program. Cage writes, “The piece is not actually silent ... it is full of sounds, but sounds which I did not think of beforehand.” Audience members – through the incidental noises they make in response to the piece – become part of the composition.

By examining the ideas that influenced Cage in 4’33”, not just from music but also from the visual arts, dance, philosophy and religion, Gann shows how Cage came to write this work. Gann emphasizes that it put Cage ‘in on the ground floor as an innovator”. But in fact, when Cage wrote this piece, he was already well-known as the inventor of the prepared piano – though he hadn’t yet developed his chance techniques.

When it comes to looking at the ways 4’33” influenced the culture of our time, Gann discusses the work of composers like Canadian R. Murray Schafer, whom he calls “the so-called father of acoustic ecology.” But he could have expanded his discussion to include all the creative arts and philosophy, since Cage’s influence ranges widely.

I enjoyed the way Gann, a composer and critic, considers his own experiences with Cage’s music, which started when he performed 4’33” in his high school piano recital. Part of the charm of this elegant book lies in his ability to show how Cage’s landmark work blurred the distinction between art and life, opening up new worlds of sound for him as well as for so many listeners.




01_quarringtonAs I prepare to write this month’s column I find myself engrossed in re-reading a book I want to tell you about – Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life by Paul Quarrington, published posthumously under the Greystone Books imprint of D & M Publishers Inc. (ISBN 978-I-55365-438-4). In May 2009 Quarrington was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. For the next eight months he channelled his creative energy into a number of artistic endeavours, including his first solo CD release “Paul Quarrington: The Songs” (Cordova Bay Records CBR-0822), the documentary film “Paul Quarrington: Life in Music”, the third CD release with the band Porkbelly Futures, and this book. It is an enthralling read, a wonderful mingling of musicological musing and personal memoire, made more poignant as we aware of the ending before we begin. Although best known for his novels, Quarrington had an interest in music and an urge to perform from an early age. “Cigar Box Banjo” leads us through not only his own musical development, but also that of many popular music forms of the 20th century. Woody Guthrie, Bill Munroe and his Blue Grass Boys, Leadbelly, The New Lost City Ramblers, the Kingston Trio, Bo Diddley, the Beatles and Ed Thigpen all have cameos in the early pages, along with Quarrington’s paternal grandfather Joe, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who played violin in the Ottawa Symphony. We follow Paul from his first instrument (mandolin) and his first band – PQ’s People with his brother Joel (later to serve as principal bass in both the TSO and the NACO) - through a juvenile songwriting partnership with Dan Hill, a lifelong musical association with Martin Worthy, an extended stint as bass player and background vocalist with Joe Hall’s Continental Drift (with older brother Tony on guitar), a collaboration with The Rheostatics on the soundtrack of the film “Whale Music” (for which he adapted the screenplay from his Governor General’s Award-winning novel) and the latter day adventures of Porkbelly Futures - a “thinking man’s bar band” - in which he sang and played rhythm guitar right up to the last days of his life. We are also treated to PQ’s warm and humourous memories of (misspent) youth, (failed) marriage and (mostly successful) parenting. Some of the most compelling stories are those of friendship. His capacity for sharing shines throughout this book and even those of us who did not have the privilege of knowing him personally are left feeling that we did. “Cigar Box Banjo” includes a CD/DVD-ROM with three of his final songs and two short videos. Make sure to check inside the back cover for the disc, and listen to Are You Ready?, an amazing testament to a life well-lived: “No one can tell me where I’m gonna be / When I sail into that mystery / I know I’m falling, don’t know where I’m gonna land / Are you ready? Are you ready? I believe I am.” (www.paulquarrington.com)


02_schroerOliver Schroer is another Toronto artist who took the opportunity of impending death, in this case from leukemia, to focus on creation and to return to an unfinished project. Freedom Row (Borealis Records BCD201 www.borealisrecords.com) was begun a dozen years ago as Schroer’s second album with The Stewed Tomatoes when the initial tracks were laid down. In Schroer’s words, “I whittled away at it since then. It moved with the speed of glacier…” When he returned to it a decade later “at that point the album just finished itself. It was a breeze. The last overdubs were a joy, and mixing was a pleasure.” Some of the final recordings were done in Schroer’s hospital room at Princess Margaret during his last days in 2008. His distinctive fiddling is complemented by core members of the Stewed Tomatoes Rich Greenspoon (drums), Ben Grossman (various and sundry), Rich Pell (guitar), David Woodhead (bass) and David Travers-Smith (trumpet), with a vast array of accomplished guests. Basically an instrumental album, “Freedom Row” has occasional forays into the vocal realm, notably with the exuberant chorus in All the Little Children in the World, and vocalizations by Schroer, Christine Duncan, Tanya Tagaq and Michele George on several other tracks. The music itself is mostly upbeat, combining Schroer’s lilting country and Celtic fiddling with a variety of other influences and often featuring jazzy horn arrangements by Colleen Allen. In his introductory note Schroer says “This album is a party. It is a bouncy look back and a joyful look forward. We remain ‘stewed but not subdued!’” It’s a party we’re invited to join, perhaps in the spirit of a New Orleans funeral procession – a joyous send off for an artist who will be remembered fondly. (www.oliverschroer.org)


03_grievous_angelOne of the most pleasant evenings I spent in recent months was at Hugh’s Room for a show from Ottawa entitled Grievous Angel – The Legend of Gram Parsons. Billed as “A theatrical concert about the original cosmic cowboy--he lived fast, died young and left a charred corpse” it featured very convincing performances by Anders Drerup as Gram Parsons and Kelly Prescott as Parsons’ young protégé Emmylou Harris. Similar in concept to the 1977 production “Hank Williams – the Show He Never Gave” which also originated in Ottawa, “Grievous Angel” was inspired by Michael Bate's March 1973 interview with the doomed singer in Boston - Parsons' last recorded conversation. The theatrical concert is produced and directed by Michael Bate, written by Michael Bate with David McDonald. A mixture of song and monologue, the well crafted production manages to convey the tragic story of Parsons’ life while presenting dynamic (and true to the original) versions of the songs which have become his lasting legacy. The excellent five-piece backup band provides a rhythm section that just doesn’t quit. Although this summer’s Hugh’s Room date was the only scheduled Toronto performance of the show, it will be performed at Montreal’s La Sala Rossa on September 17, the National Arts Centre’s Stage 4 on September 25 and Rideau Vista Public School in Westport ON October 2 before heading off on a tour which includes stops in California, Oregon and Washington this fall. A CD, optimistically subtitled “Music from the Hit Show”, is available at www.legendofgramparsons.com.


04_madawaskaI did not spend the whole summer in the realm of popular music (or dead people for that matter). One of the most interesting contemporary art music discs to arrive in recent months is Prefab featuring Toronto’s Madawaska String Quartet (Artifact Music ART-039). The predominantly contemporary repertoire is complemented by Fantasia No.7 for Four Viols by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). This anachronistic inclusion may seem a strange choice, but the very forward looking Baroque piece blends deceptively well with the works that surround it. Musically the transitions are almost seamless, but I am left scratching my head as to how the Madawaska achieve the ethereal sound of viols on their modern instruments. Purcell is preceded by British composer Anthony Gilbert (b.1934) who based his String Quartet No.3 on a double hocket by Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300–1377) which in turn was an elaboration on an organum written by Perotin sometime around 1200. Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) was known for his eclectic polystylistic approach and his String Quartet No.3, which follows Purcell’s Fantasia, begins with a quotation from the Stabat Mater of Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594). At eighteen minutes the Schnittke is the most substantial work on the disc. It is followed by Spanish Garland, a homophonic setting of twelve folk melodies from Spain by Montreal-based composer José Evangelista. These unadorned folk tunes also harken back to much earlier times. Although the works of Mike Kane and Bruce Russell which open and close the disc do not show any obvious connection to centuries before the 20th, Kane’s Three Short Seasons and Russell’s Madra somehow seem like perfect companion pieces to complete this very well programmed disc. The personnel of the Madawaska Quartet has recently changed, with Mary-Elizabeth Brown replacing founding violinist Rebecca van der Post, but this 2009 recording features the original line-up: van der Post and Sarah Fraser Raff, violins, Anna Redekop, viola and Amber Ghent, cello. “Prefab” is available from the Canadian Music Centre www.musiccentre.ca. Toronto audiences will have to wait until February 16 to hear the new line up in performance at the Arts and Letters Club (there will be performances in London in December and Kitchener-Waterloo in January), but in the interim the quartet continues its practice of supporting young and emerging composers, with readings of their works on September 27 and November 1.


05_BuczynskiFurther on in these pages you will find Janos Gardonyi’s extended article on Antonin Kubálek’s recent spate of CD releases. Mr. Kubálek has been mining the archives and has come up with some real gems for his private CD label. One that I held back for my own collection is Buczynski – Sonatas 1, 2, 3, 4 (AK03). Walter Buczynski (b.1933) has been a fixture on the Toronto scene throughout his career, first as a pianist, debuting with the TSO in 1955 with a Chopin concerto, later as a teacher at both the RCMT and U of T, and as a composer. Since 1975 Buczynski has rarely performed in public, choosing to focus on composing and teaching, and has let others, most notably Kubálek, champion his contributions to the piano repertoire. This 2-CD set includes live CBC broadcast recordings of the four sonatas from 1979, 1983, 1991 and 1993 respectively, the last three being the world premiere performances. Each work creates its own sound world and taken together they provide a broad picture of piano writing in the latter years of the 20th century and demonstrate Buczynski’s breadth of artistic vision. From the percussive “Sonata de Cameron” to the dark and mysterious “Textures”, Kubálek is obviously at home in this repertoire. His performances are fluid, thoughtful and exuberant as required, and as the enthusiastic applause attests, thoroughly engaging.


06a_bob_variations06b_godfrey_2Over the summer I was contacted by Patrick Godfrey, a multi-talented musician and record producer who I first met about 25 years ago when his Apparition Records label released a disc of piano music of Tim Brady performed by Marc Widner. At that time Patrick had a studio in Cabbagetown, but he has since moved his operations out to Vancouver Island where he works primarily as a film animation composer (most notably the soundtrack to the Academy Award winning NFB animation “Bob’s Birthday” back in 1993). Patrick sent along three recent releases, each presenting a very different side of his musical personality.06c_thats_why The Bob Variations is a 2010 set of piano re-interpretations of the playful “Bob Theme” in a variety of styles. Amos and the House of Stones is harder to describe. Harpsichord is front and centre in most of the mixes, but the instrumentation is varied and deceiving - surprisingly convincing synthesized string sounds, organ (sometimes masquerading as a calliope) and mallet percussion lines are mixed with sounds that make no effort to hide their electronic origins. It is an eclectic mix of pop, jazz and new age influences. That’s Why is a straight-ahead singer-songwriter mix of ballads, blues and the occasional rocker with vocals, keyboards, drums, bass and synthetic orchestrations all composed and performed by Godfrey. You can find the offerings of this true “Renaissance Man” at www.patrickgodfrey.com – it’s well worth the visit.


We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4.


David Olds

DISCoveries Editor


01_bach_requiemBach Requiem

Les Agréments de Montréal; François Panneton

XXI XXI-CD 2 1679 (www.XXI-21.com)


The sheer volume and inventiveness of Bach's work is astounding to us all. Yet we often ask the question: what else would J.S. Bach have accomplished given a different set of circumstances in his life? Those exploring the same question have interpreted Bach on modern instruments, jazzed up his rhythms, and substituted new lyrics. But what would Bach have created given a wider audience than his humble life in Leipzig as organist and schoolmaster provided? What if he were granted commissions beyond the scope of the Lutheran Church? We already have a hint of this with his Mass in B minor in Latin which he composed with the intention of widening his prospects.


It seems that scholar and conductor François Panneton has mused long and deliberately on this very question. The result is a Requiem that Bach could have written, given the opportunity. It is indeed his music; seamlessly patch-worked together are a number of movements from cantatas, keyboard works and the St. Matthew Passion organized into the standard requiem structure. As we know from Bach's cantatas, meditations on the agony and ecstasy of death appear frequently, and every chorus, aria and duet appearing in this work is chosen for its poetic similarity to the Latin section of the Requiem that replaces it, thus preserving the character. Thoughtfully crafted, beautifully performed, this recording provides a refreshing new perspective without compromising the integrity of the original sources.


02_handel_bereniceHandel - Berenice

Il Complesso Barocco; Alan Curtis

Virgin Classics 6 28536 2


Berenice may not be as gripping as Handel’s greatest operas, such as Julius Caesar, Ariodante and Rodelinda. But by any standard it is a magnificent work, melodically rich and psychologically insightful. Yet since the rather unsuccessful premiere in 1737, it is rarely performed or recorded. So this splendid new recording by Alan Curtis and his Venice-based Il Complesso Barocco is welcome – all the more so since Curtis restores the music Handel cut in an attempt to improve the opera’s fortunes.


This is a lively, energetic, elegant, spontaneous yet unmannered performance, with Curtis leading from the harpsichord. Curtis has been a talent-spotter right from his ground-breaking 1977 recording of Handel’s Admeto, which was the first recording of a complete Handel opera on period instruments. Here he once again manages to offer a relatively unknown but terrific cast of young singers.


Klara Ek is lovely in the title role of Berenice, Queen of Egypt. Her clear, animated voice is delightful in the moving dialogue with oboist Patrick Beaugiraud, “Chi t’intende”, though her “Traditore, traditore!” doesn’t convey the delicious ferocity of Handel’s more dramatic writing. Soprano Ingela Bohlin, bass Vito Priante, and especially countertenor Franco Fagioli are all standouts. But the most exciting singer here is Romina Basso, whose passionate characterization of Berenice’s sister Selene is riveting.


The booklet is generous, especially by today’s standards. It contains the full libretto with English translation, informative notes, and photos of the singers as well as the superb orchestra.


03_canadian_song_cyclesTo Music - Canadian Song Cycles

Wanda Procyshyn; Elaine Keillor

Carleton Sound CSCD-1013 (www.carleton.ca/carletonsound)


The previously unrecorded song cycles from nine of Canada's finest composers are performed with intelligence and sensitivity by soprano Wanda Procyshyn and pianist Elaine Keillor in this new recording.


A song cycle is comprised of a number of songs interconnected thematically by the lyrics and/or music. The form was very popular in Europe during the 19th century. “To Music” showcases the evolution of the form in Canada over the course of the 20th century. With an eclectic mix of composers - Healy Willan, Gena Branscombe, Edward Manning, Robert Fleming, John Weinzweig, Jeanne Landry, Euphrosyne Keefer, Patrick Cardy and Deirdre Piper - comes an eclectic mix of topics and compositional choices.


My initial trepidation quickly dissipated upon hearing the interpretations. From Willan's lush To Music to Weinzweig's 12-tone Of Time and the World to the rhythmically challenging Autumn by Patrick Cardy, there does not seem to be anything that Procyshyn and Keillor cannot do. There is the occasional high pitch vocal discrepancy, and the piano may be a little too forward in the mix at times, but these little faux-pas are overshadowed by the sincere performances.


Most striking is the intricate love of detail that surfaces in every song cycle. “To Music” is a recording that demands careful and studied listening to be truly enjoyed and appreciated, but the rewards are well worth the effort.


01_mercadti_di_veneziaI Mercanti di Venezia

Bande Montreal Baroque; Eric Milnes

ATMA ACD2 2598


Venice’s ghetto was designed to isolate Jews but unintentionally allowed Jews from all over Europe and the Middle East to live together and share their expertise and pride in their heritage; they created renaissance masterpieces.


Salamone Rossi, from that very ghetto, makes his mark here with a setting of the eternally-popular Eyn Keloheinu - if ever one wanted this hymn scored for renaissance woodwind and organ this would be the definitive item. Several of Rossi’s sonatas grace this recording and yet perhaps most impressive of all is his Sonata in dialogo detta la Viena. The cornetto makes its clear mellow presence felt via Matthew Jennejohn’s sensual interpretations of Rossi’s demanding writing.


Next, a composer and virtuoso cornetto player who also lived in the Venice ghetto: Giovanni Bassano, Rossi’s contemporary and neighbour, pioneered baroque improvisation as early as 1585. Margaret Little (Recercata Ottava, treble viol), Francis Colpron (Recercare Terza, recorder) and Jennejohn (Dimunitions sur Ung Gay Bergier, cornetto) more than meet the challenges set by this virtuoso improviser. Enjoy, too, the last two selections on the CD from Bassano’s 1591 Variations which bring together the full plethora of instruments listed above.


Rossi and Bassano were highly respected by Venetians in or out of the ghetto. This recording opens the door to their music - ajar but open enough for us to want more.


Lastly, music composed by Jews in a country where they were not supposed to exist but did so by concealing their identity. From 1550 to 1604, Augustine Bassano, very probably Jewish, served as a Musician in Ordinary for Recorders at four very different English courts. His Pavan & Galliard, enhanced by some fine recorder playing, stand with anything native English composers could offer.


02_stjohns_mozartMozart - Sinfonia Concertante; Violin Concertos 1 & 3

Scott & Lara St. John

Ancalagon ANC 136 (www.larastjohn.com)


Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola has long been a favourite concerto of mine, and right from the opening bars of this wonderful recording it was clear that here was something very special. The St. Johns (with Scott on viola) have been performing this work in public since they were 12 and 10, and it shows in their sensitive interpretation; they understand every nuance and clearly think and feel as one, both when playing together and in the dialogue passages. Just as critical is the superb contribution of the New York ensemble The Knights under conductor Eric Jacobsen. The accompaniment is beautifully balanced, warm, articulate and refined, and Jacobsen’s choice of tempo is perfect. From the majestic opening Allegro, through the achingly beautiful Andante, to the joyous Presto, this is a breathtakingly fine performance. The ‘romantic’ element in this concerto is often over-played, but the performers here never fall into that trap, keeping things moving and striking exactly the right mood with warm, expansive, but never overstated playing. I simply can’t imagine a more satisfying recording of this glorious work.


Scott and Lara share the two solo violin concertos included here, Scott playing No.1, and Lara playing the more popular No.3, The latter features a long and interesting cadenza in the slow movement that almost seems to look back to the solo works of Bach. Again, top-notch playing from both soloists, with excellent accompaniment. The sound quality is superb throughout. An absolutely outstanding disc.


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