03_goodyear_beethovenBeethoven - The Late Sonatas

Stewart Goodyear

Marquis 81507 (www.marquisclassics.com)


Just as there’s more than one way to eat an Oreo cookie, there’s more than one way to listen to a recording of late Beethoven piano sonatas.

If I were you, and I’d just acquired Stewart Goodyear’s new 2-CD release of Sonatas 28-32, I’d start at the end, with the second movement of Sonata No. 32 (track 8 on disc 2). Here, you’ll hear Goodyear at his best: there’s a simple piety to the theme; a nice rocking lilt to the dotted passages, delightfully delicate pianissimos, trills to die for, and a sweeping arc that gives the movement a secure and convincing climax.


Next, I recommend listening to the final movement of Sonata No. 30, to enjoy Goodyear’s tender, almost dreamy, touch. Finally, I suggest the final movement of Sonata No. 29 – a tour-de-force of dexterity and contrapuntal clarity. After that, you’re on your own, with many more treasures to discover on these discs.


I wouldn’t say, however, that I agree with all of Goodyear’s interpretative ideas. Occasionally, when Beethoven calls for sudden forcefulness, Goodyear resorts to pounding on the keys. These moments – for instance, in the first movement of Sonata No. 29, or the third movement of Sonata No. 31 – sound heavy-handed and detract from the music’s architecture.


And speaking of the last movement of Sonata 31, there’s one flaw I can’t ignore: about one minute in, there’s a repeated A-natural that’s slightly out of tune. It’s a small point – but why wasn’t it caught and corrected?


Concert Note: Stewart Goodyear’s international touring schedule includes concerts at Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool and Barbican Theatre in London in January and a number of dates in the U.S. in the following months. Toronto audiences can hear this native son in an all-Beethoven program at Koerner Hall on November 28.

04_kuerti_schumannSchumann - Piano Sonata No. 2; Fantasie in C Major

Anton Kuerti

DOREMI DDR-6608 (www.doremi.com)


We are fortunate to have, living in Toronto, an internationally renowned pianist who is also a most respected Schumann interpreter, Anton Kuerti.


On July 20th we had the pleasure of attending the opening recital of the Toronto Summer Music Festival in Koerner Hall in which Kuerti mesmerized a sold-out house playing an all-Schumann program. This was a memorable event by any standards.


As a card-carrying Schumann zealot I have been collecting recordings of his music for half a century. As an admirer of Kuerti’s earlier recordings I was pleased that so many of the audience took advantage of the opportunity to acquire this new CD in a post-concert signing event, especially as the Fantasie, opus 17 had just been heard live. Or should I say experienced, as the influence of an admiring and appreciative audience inspired a more personal reading.


As with all great artists, no two performances can be exactly the same. Notwithstanding such vicissitudes, the recorded version of the Fantasie is outstanding and a fine souvenir of the live performance. The Sonata is presented by Kuerti in a rather sensible and novel way: he includes, as added movement, the original finale that Schumann had replaced because Clara declared that it was unplayable, being just too difficult. The movement was published posthumously simply as Presto für Pianoforte and Kuerti inserts it between the third and fourth movements. Well, Clara was wrong as Kuerti demonstrates in spectacular fashion in this five movement version of Schumann’s opus 22.


Recorded in the Willowdale United Church in August 2009, the sound is clear, appropriately dynamic, and well balanced.



EXTENDED PLAY – AK(A) Antonin Kubálek


Antonin Kubálek and his independent recording label AK were introduced in the July issue with Richard Haskell’s review of his Brahms set (AK 01) so I need not add anything further on Mr. Kubálek’s origins, career, performing history and credentials other than to say that he is a multifaceted virtuoso with the highest degree of technique, expression, subtlety and sensitivity. Although these recordings are all remastered from LP’s of the 1970s we are richly compensated by the quality and insight in these performances. Furthermore, his choice of repertoire is adventurous and full of surprises. Serendipity is the best word to describe them.


01_early_recordingsTo start with, there is the Mozart Rondo in A minor (Early recordings AK 06). This is a fairly late work, almost contemporaneous with the G minor symphony, No. 40. Minor keys are rare in Mozart and this piece is melancholic, played with a wonderfully gentle touch, well differentiated in its parts and in a nowadays sometimes frowned upon romantic manner. Be that as it may this is just right for me. This early disc is particularly rich and rewarding, also featuring works by Beethoven, Janáček and Hindemith. Janáček’s elegiac On an Overgrown Path is a long-time favorite of mine with its influences of nature, folk melodies and Czech language accents. It opens a new avenue in pianism. Each piece is a small masterpiece like “The Madonna of Frydeck” where the ruling minor key changes into major turning infinite pain into gentle sweetness that reminds me of Schubert. “Tears” has a typical Janáček kind of exquisite melody and “The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away!” is so charming with the flurry of wings grounded by two repeated descending notes. Needless to say this music belongs to Kubálek and very few others can play it as beautifully as he. Hindemith’s Suite “1922” is formidably difficult, dissonant, tongue in cheek, sometimes jazzy, syncopated and inspired, or rather horrified, by early 1920s dance crazes. Hindemith, however, brilliantly intersperses these with dark toned Nachtmusiks perhaps forecasting events to come. “Boston” with its hollow bells and echoes is a particularly strong and despondent uttering.


02_chausson_faureThe original LP of AK 02 was recorded in the 1970s by the CBC in the now defunct Eaton Auditorium with wonderful acoustics, where I heard such legends as Wilhelm Kempff and Annie Fischer (but alas not Rachmaninov, Kreisler and Gould who also performed there!). For the Chausson Concert for violin, piano and strings, Op.21, the Orford Quartet is augmented by Otto Armin so that first violinist Andrew Dawes can join Kubálek in the title role. Here is a performance that truly pushes to the limits; powerful, complex, passionate and rhapsodic. The same can be said for the César Franck Piano Quintet played here with the Vaghy String Quartet. The Quintet caused some uproar upon its debut, and the story goes that Marcel Proust, the notably eccentric French author, hired a group of musicians to play the Quintet for him incessantly day in, day out.


03_paderewski04_souzaSkipping Paderewski (AK 04), who in spite of being a legendary virtuoso and a great statesman – the prime minister of Poland at one time - never was much of a composer no matter how well Kubálek plays his incredibly difficult pieces, I will proceed to Sousa Arrangements (AK 05). This is a most enjoyable disc where Kubálek shows a completely different side of his talent. I can just see him in a bar playing these marches, waltzes and polkas with flying fingers and great delicacy as an entertainer par excellence. The great Arthur Fiedler would be pleased, for this is not “music of the boring kind”.


Editor’s Note: Antonin Kubálek’s recordings are available in Toronto at L’Atelier Grigorian and online at www.grigorian.com and www.cdbaby.com

01_henderson-kolkBach; Ravel; Castelnuovo-Tedesco; Lhoyer

Henderson-Kolk Duo

Independent (www.hkguitarduo.com)


The British rock star Sting is quoted as having once said, “An uncle of mine emigrated to Canada and couldn't take his guitar with him. When I found it in the attic, I'd found a friend for life.” Guitarists are a breed apart, frequently forming a deep personal bond between themselves and their instrument. Indeed, they often seem happiest when performing either alone, or else in tandem, as in this fine new recording by the Henderson-Kolk Duo. Formed in Toronto in 2004, the duo, guitarists Drew Henderson and Michael Kolk, is quickly establishing itself as one of Canada’s finest, regularly appearing throughout Canada and the US, and having made its European debut at the Mediterranean Guitar Festival in Cervo, Italy in 2006.


This recording, their second, is a delight, and features their own arrangements of keyboard pieces by Bach and Ravel in addition to original compositions for guitar by Antoine de Lhoyer and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. What a warm and intimate sound they achieve! This is evident not only in the tasteful arrangements of Bach’s Italian Concerto and selections from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, but also in such pieces as the Lhoyer’s Duo Concertante in D minor. The reconstructions are particularly convincing, and sound as idiomatic for the guitar as they do for the keyboard.


I also find appealing the skilful sense of programming, which focuses on strictly classical and neo-classical repertoire – not a fandango to be heard! The excerpts from Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Les Guitares Bien Tempérées are a study in contrasts, requiring a particular precision and virtuosity which the duo brings off with apparent ease. In all, this disc is a welcome addition to the guitar catalogue, featuring music both familiar and less than familiar. Well done, gentlemen - let’s hear from you again!


02_ebony_bandPolish Masterpieces

Barbara Hannigan; Ebony Band; Werner Herbers

Channel Classics CCS 31010 (www.channelclassics.com)


I have to admit that this recording started for me as an enigma. Having been born, and for the most part, educated in Poland, I consider myself relatively well versed in my homeland’s musical heritage. Alas, the names of Jozef Koffler and Konstanty Regamey were completely unknown to me. Much to my relief, I found out I was in good company. The manuscripts of Jozef Koffler, including his haunting Die Liebe – Cantata Op. 14, sung beautifully here by the Canadian soprano, Barbara Hannigan, were gathering dust in the archives of the Music Library of the University of Warsaw. It is a revelation to hear music composed according to Schoenberg’s principles infused with both Jewish and Polish culture. Why this national extension of dodecaphony is not wider known - now, that’s a true enigma. The works by Regamey, although apparently better known, are also restricted in their circulation – due mostly to the fact, that after the war, the composer left Poland for Switzerland.


Kudos to the Ebony Band (players from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) for bringing these composers to our attention. One could argue, albeit not very successfully, that the technical demands of their music prevent its frequent inclusion in concert programs. Here, in a live recording, Werner Herbers and friends bring it with great panache to an enraptured audience. You don’t have to consider yourself an aficionado of the modern musical idiom to experience the wonder and the gratitude at discovering these unknown, true masterpieces.


01_NOJO_ExploresTheDarkSideOfheMoon_largeExplores The Dark Side Of The Moon


True North Records TNE5032 (www.truenorthrecords.com)


NOJO, the enterprising Toronto-based improvising orchestra, tackles a classic in its latest efforts to examine the jazz potential of great rock tunes. They’re examining the work of groups like Led Zeppelin and Rush, but here, in their first digital only release, it’s a seminal album from 1973, Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side Of The Moon”. That was one of the best-selling discs of all time, a concept album that used advanced technology of its era such as multi-track recording, plus sound effects, continuous music and songs satirizing contemporary English society. NOJO can’t supply the quartet’s vocals by Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Richard Wright (though drummer Barry Romberg is far better than the Pink’s Nick Mason), but it has taken nine of the 10 pieces on the original and made them work with new arrangements, excellent section work and some fierce soloing from its 16 musicians. There’s no information as to who solos, though co-leaders Michael Occhipinti and keyboardist Paul Neufeld are prominent, but the overall teamwork is exemplary, with pleasing melody amid the complex harmonies. Sometimes the sound’s so smooth that it echoes Duke Ellington, at others free jazz, circus music and reggae rhythms reign. Money, Us And Them and Breathe are best. Recorded before a live Lula Lounge audience, the show lasts 86 minutes, twice the length of the original album.



Bern, Brody & Rodach

Jazz Werkstatt JW 071 (www.recoprds-cd.com)


Putting your stamp on traditional material is one goal for musicians; composing tunes that fit with it is another. This trio excels in both.


Consisting of accordionist/pianist Alan Bern and trumpeter Paul Brody, respectively the musical director and one soloist of The Other Europeans – a Klezmer/Lautari band performing at the Ashkenaz festival September 4 – plus guitarist Michael Rodach, the three not only play Yiddish and Roma music, but create it. “Triophilia” is notable since the smaller group allows the three to celebrate more musical currents.


Take Rodach’s Tango Valeska. Positioning the Argentinean theme song within Eastern Europe, the three emphasize its Old Country roots by the means of expansive polyphonic slurs from the trumpeter, quivering accordion licks and the expected clinking guitar rhythms. It the same story with Bern’s Angel Blue and Brody’s Heschel. On the latter, sharp, downwards guitar strums that could have emigrated from Bessarabia come up against moderato, formalist trumpet cadenzas, creating a melody that is both melancholy and charming. On the former the rhythm is more sway than swing, but Bern’s expanded glissandi still contrapuntally play off against Brody’s grace note sluices and blues lick suggestions from Rodach.


Brody’s Bartoki, saluting the Hungarian composer whose study of his country’s musical history affected his compositions, is the crowning achievement. Putting a modernist cast on Magyar-Roma roots, jazzy, rhythmic guitar frails and harsh syncopated piano runs are added to Brody’s mellow theme. Emerging repeatedly from the mix of strained string fills and slinky keyboard rebounds, the narrative attains its climax with high-pitched trumpet tones.


01_underhillHere’s another winner from the Richard Underhill stable, a sure candidate for assorted end-of-year awards and, for once, a CD and DVD package that works. It’s a studio session so passionate you could believe it’s live, plus a DVD recorded at Lula Lounge last October that entertains for more than 90 minutes, plus a bonus segment containing the leader’s incisive jazz opinions. Make sure you experience Free Spirit (Stubby Records SRCD-7734 www.richardunderhill.com). The CD line-up’s interesting with Underhill’s alto and the trombone of Ron Westray, late of the Lincoln Center Orchestra and now at York. Their companions are pianist Dave Restivo, who plays with marked intensity, plus hardworking bassist Artie Roth and all-action drummer Larnell Lewis. All nine tunes are by Underhill, whose snarling horn sound on This House and Hustle Up might raise your neck hairs. Westray’s speed is remarkable and skittish, both horns swinging hard, dabbling in exhilarating free jazz outbursts. Great inventions are the clever Positive Spin and the anthemic Be Strong, Be Strong. The DVD session allows more solo room and also brings in edgy, rock-influenced guitarist Eric St. Laurent and for three tunes djembe (hand drum) exponent Michel DeQuevedo. Consistently sharp and engaging, the groove’s ever-present with delightful forays on Blakey’s Bounce and Bike Lane. This is challenging, complex and robust music, ranging from lyrical to incendiary, yet still communicating with pleasing ease.


Concert Note: Underhill performs at the Southside Shuffle in Port Credit on Sept. 11.


02_lerouxQuebec jazzman André Leroux is known primarily for his solid tenor sax but on Corpus Callosum (Effendi FND089 www.effendirecords.com) he’s into soprano, flute and bass clarinet, performing with long-term associates Normand Deveault (piano), Frederic Alarie (bass) and Christian Lajoie (drums on eight cuts). Astonishingly it’s Leroux’s first album as leader but clearly he’s comfortable directing musical traffic in what he calls “a group therapy session” recreating the spirit of Coltrane through his band’s own compositions. This he does with warm tones and technical aplomb, kicking off with earnest tenor and outside playing on Speed Machine followed by penetrating, fluent soprano on the stern Sa Ka Vin, followed by a hard-charging Elvin’s Mood that’s both earthy and eloquent. The resourceful Ode A John has unconventional chord voicings, while mournful solo tenor on Cadenza For Nationz precedes a return to exotica with the lengthy Offertoire, somewhat spoiled by overdubbing.


03_kaldestadThe West Coast scene remains active, despite an apparent divide between avant-gardists and hard boppers. Hear the latter with Steve Kaldestad on Blow-Up (Cellar Live CL053109 www.cellarlive.com). He’s recruited local pulse heavies Judi Proznick and Jesse Cahill and the Montreal pair of trumpeter Kevin Dean and pianist André White – all with McGill U connections. The leader penned four of seven long pieces that also include a tension-breaker in A Flower Is A Lonesome Thing. Kaldestad’s Shimmy!, an offspring of Honeysuckle Rose, shows strong influences from the 60s ‘Blue Note’ years and the music, live at Vancouver’s Cellar Club, breaks no new ground though it’s executed efficiently enough, the standout player without doubt Dean, who regularly delivers surprise in emotional solos. His rambunctious blues So Long Cerulean is the highlight of this no-frills set.


04_davisProlific pianist Ron Davis has released his seventh trio album – My Mother’s Father’s Song (Minerva Road/Davinor Records 600977 www.rondavismusic.com). The title family reference recalls his grandfather’s 1930s Warsaw restaurant and is commemorated three times here – by trio, bass and piano – among the 13 tunes including four originals plus rarefied standards such as La Mer and My Shining Hour plus covers of hits by Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and Coldplay (the opening Viva la Vida ). Davis and ace colleagues bass Mike Downes and drummer Ted Warren skip through the genres yet ensure his compositions hold up well, like The Climb with strident chords and the boogified insistence of Sergio’s Shuffle. There are occasional surfeits of notes and too-heavy touches. Davis can’t remake La Mer but he tears up My Shining Hour and his own Tumba Ron Rumba with his percussive attack.


05_duranThe tight threesome led by Hilario Duran is in sparkling mode (with one horrible exception) in the up-tempo, eight-tune collection comprising Motion (Alma ACD11102 www.almarecords.com). The boss, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Mark Kelso are totally in sync here, matching intricate lines with spontaneous playing of the highest order. Duran has musical chops to spare but though we enjoy occasional guests he should have stood firm against the vocal and, worse still, the syrupy strings on Havana City. Fortunately there’s compensation with the bouncy For Emiliano, the flying title track, the lively Tango Moreno and the speedy version of Timba en Trampa.

Characteristically adventurous, the 17th annual Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) September 8 to 12 presents respected sound explorers in novel musical situations.


Probably the most notable GJF visitor this year is American trombonist/composer George Lewis. On September 11 he’s part of a trio with pianist Muhal Richard Abrams and multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell on a double bill at the River Run Centre with the Sangam ensemble. Additionally throughout the festival, the MacDonald-Stewart Arts Centre hosts Ikons, which integrates computer software, created by Lewis, with Eric Metcalfe’s sculptures that reflect visitors’ movements. Sour Mash, with Lewis and sound designer Marina Rosenfeld on duelling laptops, is an example of Lewis’ software programming, while More News For Lulu exhibits his trombone skill with guitarist Bill Frisell and alto saxophonist John Zorn.


01_sour_mashSimilar to Ikons, Sour Mash (Innova 228 www.innova.mu) features looped textures which alter each time the composition is performed. On this version there’s no separation between the two creators’ input(s). Interspaced with episodes of sampled footfalls, mumbling voices and slide-whistle-like vibrations, the piece’s focus is on the sonic contrasts produced as both programs evolve simultaneously and languidly. Simmering and shimmying, buzzing sequences, blurry crackles and speedy whooshes share space with wind-chime-like pealing, watery bubbling and abrasive rustles. Defined with flanges and granulation, the processes evolve so that linkage is apparent, but with enough unexpected pauses, drones and beeps to keep the ever-shifting texture fascinating.


02_more_newsEqually fascinating is More News For Lulu (hatOLOGY 655 www.hathut.com). Here the trio provides an explicitly POMO take on 14 Hard Bop classics. Kenny Dorham’s Lotus Blossom for instance is reconstituted as Frisell’s gentle picking finally succumbs to the pressure from Zorn’s screeching altissimo runs and tongue slaps to introduce guitar neck-hand-tapping and amplifier buzzes. Meanwhile Lewis concentrates on a tremolo retelling of the head, which is eventually recapped by all three. Similarly Hank Mobley’s Peckin’ Time evolves in triple counterpoint with the saxophonist’s agitated lines mated with the trombonist’s moderato vibrations while the guitarist’s steady chording propels the narrative. Lewis’ strategy on other tunes such as John Patton’s Minor Swing consists of providing a huffing contrapuntal ostinato over which Zorn’s screeches thrust intensely. Braying upwards the trombonist eventually corners Frisell’s double-timed licks and the saxophonist’s split tones so that all three lines converge.


03_crispellThe pianism missing from the aforementioned CD is present on One Dark Night I Left My Silent House (ECM 2089 www.ecmrecords.com), which matches pianist Marilyn Crispell with clarinettist David Rothenberg. Crispell plays solo in Co-operators Hall September 11. Here she tries various sonic strategies to partner Rothenberg, a philosopher/naturalist interested in bird songs. While no tone is wholeheartedly onomatopoeic, aviary allusions abound. On Still Life with Woodpeckers for example, Crispell strokes the piano’s inner strings and hits the instrument’s backboard and bottom frame with percussive taps as the clarinettist flutter-tongues and chirps daintily. In contrast, on The Hawk and the Mouse, she sweeps across, plucks and strikes the strings as Rothenberg circles her cadences with growling obbligatos, snorts, honks and tongue slaps. Committed for the most part to parallel improvising, the two emphasize tonal connections. That’s why the moderato and andante Evocation references Impressionism, with the low-pitched reed line and the low-key octave patterning create what could be a neo-classical étude.


04_oliverosA so-called classical composer of the electro-acoustic variety, accordionist Pauline Oliveros plays twice at the GJF. On September 8, in Rozanski Hall, she and trio of Guelph musicians perform simultaneously via a telematic link with other improvisers in Bogotá, Colombia and Troy, N.Y. Then on September 11 at a yoga centre, Oliveros’ accordion timbres are transformed by using Expanded Instrument System (EIS) computer software. Examples of both her musical cooperation and programming skills show up on Music in the Air (Deep Listening DL 43-2010 www.deeplistening.org). Here EIS and signal processing mutate the sounds from Oliveros’ conch shell, percussion and accordion plus Chris Brown’s piano. Recorded in real-time without overdubs, tracks such as Trohosphere demonstrate how granular synthesis comments on and alters the piano’s speedy glissandi plus slippery accordion smears. Spread across the audio surface, processed signals contrapuntally change the piano’s dynamics as well as adjust accordion timbres to staccato and dissonant. When auxiliary bellow pumps enter the mix alongside a flat-line conch drone, Brown almost replicates a formal composition, so intent is he on maintaining harmonic patterns without raising the volume. With the modifications sometimes depicting variants of previously sampled timbres, sharp string slaps and key pumps provide live tonal additions. Eventually the dense interface is resolved as quivering voltage ramps slide downwards, introducing octave jumps and pressure from both keyboards.

01_neemaWatching You Think


NEeMAste (www.NEeMA.ca)


Very few people would say they listen to Leonard Cohen’s music for his singing. Most of us put up with his half-spoken rumblings in order to get to his songwriting, in particular his lyrics. The same can be said about NEeMA. Granted her singing is much prettier than Cohen's – who is one of the producers of “Watching You Think” – but that's not why you should get this album. You should get this album – immediately – for the really, really good songs.


Lyric writing is NEeMA's strongest suit and for the most part she's not telling us anything we don't already know and would say ourselves if only we were half as clever. “Some things are better left unspoken, better left unsaid. Some stories better left unwritten, letters left unread.” We understand that and all the other 11 songs NEeMA has written. (The twelfth track is a cover of Mark Knopler's heartbreaker, Romeo and Juliet). Bone To Pick With Time cleverly expresses what we all feel about our “very little window to do what we must do” and “a twisted little jack-in-the-box” is the evocative image in Jealousy.


Sensitively produced, the songs are enhanced but not overwhelmed by the arrangements: a cello here, a tabla there and, mercifully, nary a ping from that overused darling of the modern female singer-songwriter, the glockenspiel. Borrowed from a cross-section of Montreal scenes the musicians include Arcade Fire's Howard Bilerman and Tim Kingsbury, and Joe Grass and Miles Perkin who played with the late Lhasa de Sela. Check neema.ca for tour dates.



Lenka Lichtenberg

Independent SR265 (www.lenkalichtenberg.com)


With “Fray” (Free), her fourth solo CD, the Czech born Toronto-based singer-songwriter Lenka Lichtenberg has embraced Toronto’s World Music aesthetic. Singing expressive Yiddish and English lyrics with an intimate soprano over well-wrought arrangements that bridge Eastern European, Middle-Eastern, Egyptian, South Asian, North and South American styles, Lenka takes us on a lilting musical journey replete with global echoes.


The songs on “Fray” gently blend musical boundaries, accomplished with the aid of a selection of Toronto’s world and jazz musician who’s who. Contributions shine from the quanun master George Sawa, Ravi Naimpally on tabla and dumbek, percussionist Alan Hetherington, bassist extraordinaire George Koller, woodwind expert Ernie Tollar and John Gzowski on guitars and oud. Those listeners who expect to hear standard Klezmer instruments such as piano, violin, clarinet and cornet on such an album are also rewarded.


Notwithstanding the delightful blend of word music arrangements here, Lenka Lichtenberg’s work is foremost a product of her passion and dedication to international Yiddish culture and to the development of what is sometimes called New Jewish Music. Her practice of cantorial singing within the Jewish liturgy “fills me with light and total happiness” she has said. It clearly illuminates “Fray” with a luminous energy, making the cumulative experience of listening to this album a joy.


[Editor’s note: Although for environmental reasons there is no program booklet included with the CD Ms Lichtenberg assures us all lyrics and translations will be available on her website lenkalichtenberg.com.]

Concert Note: Lenka Lichtenberg and special guests including Maryem Tollar will launch “Fray” at the Ashkenaz Festival on September 4 at 6:00 at the Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront.

01_flagstadFollowing the Second World War the music world awaited the return of Kirsten Flagstad to the stage and recording studio. In the 1930s when the Metropolitan Opera had severe financial shortfalls, for six seasons Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior`s collaboration in various Wagner music dramas guaranteed SRO houses, contributing significantly to the Met`s survival. She came back in 1947 and in 1948 EMI began recording her in Wagner and others. In 1952 she recorded Tristan und Isolde with Wilhelm Furtwangler, produced by Walter Legge. Legge let it be known that his soon-to-be wife, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf had to sing some of the high notes - indiscrete and undiplomatic to say the least. On a new CD derived from Deutschlandradio tapes (Audite 23.416, 2 CDs) we hear Flagstad live in concert in Berlin on May 9 & 11 1952... exactly one month before the Tristan sessions began in London. In the autumn of her career, her voice was still characteristically rich, flexible, well focused and, yes, thrilling. The repertoire is Wagner and Richard Strauss, composers with whom she was associated throughout her long career: The Wesendonck-Lieder; Prelude, Isolde’s Narrative and Curse, and Liebestod from Tristan; and the Immolation scene from Gotterdammerung. Also three of The Four Last Songs (she omits “Im Frühling”) and Elektra’s monologue. The repertoire is taxing but she shows no fatigue or stress. While her delivery is not quite up to her glory days, the old artistry is still there, holding the listener’s attention in a satisfying matter. Admittedly she is favoured by the engineers, being closely miked and slightly prominent. In truth it is not a natural balance as one would hear in a live concert but certainly more pleasing to our ears. A rather small penalty is that the orchestra is sometimes too far in the background. Georges Sebastian conducts The Orchestra of the Municipal Opera, Berlin in the Titania Palace. A treasure if there ever was one.


02_gilelsThe legend of Emil Gilels seems to intensify as the years go by even though he has now been gone for fifteen years. His recordings continue to emerge from time to time to the delight of his devotees around the world. However, it is the documents of concert performances that are most exciting to collectors. DOREMI, which has already released seven discs of predominantly rare live concerts performances, has an eighth CD devoted to early such live material from the 1950s and early 1960s (DHR-7920). In top shape, he is heard in spirited performances. A rarity among them is the Khachaturian Piano Sonata alongside the familiar Chopin Ballade no.1 which receives one of, if not the most moving performance in memory... a real find. I should mention the effervescent Polkas by Smetana and a sparkling Etude by Mendelssohn plus works by Pancho Vladigerov, Bartok, and Ravel. Good sound.


03_mahler_deccaThe emotional resonance of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony makes it one of the most familiar pieces in the 20th century repertoire, thanks in no small way to its importance on the soundtrack of Visconti’s 1971 masterpiece, Death in Venice. The general public responded to the serenity of the Adagietto and were offered similarly calming pieces such as the Pachelbel Canon and Albinoni’s Adagio. A new compilation, Mahler Adagios (Decca 4782342, 2 CDs) contains adagios from Mahler’s symphonies three, four, five, six and nine in addition to - now these are master-stokes - Urlicht from the Second Symphony (Mira Zakai), “Der Abschied” from Das Lied von der Erde (Yvonne Minton), and “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” from the Rückert-Lieder. Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony are responsible for all but the Rückert-Lieder which has Brigitte Fassbaender accompanied by the Deutsches Symphonie, Berlin under Riccardo Chailly. Highly recommended to those new to the repertoire and those who are not.


04_mahler_discographyThe proportion of Mahler lovers among classical music fans has been steadily on the increase both in the concert halls and on recordings. Some avid collectors attempt to acquire every recorded version of every opus. There is no such thing as too many. They will no doubt be surprised to discover the enormous number of recordings documented in the second edition of the authoritative, absolutely comprehensive Mahler discography published by Mikrokosmos (ISBN 723721 481353). This hard cover, 568 page book is printed on glossy stock with many colour plates, and it is fully indexed by work, artist and ensemble and gives timings for every movement or section of every work. The editor, Pèter Fülöp has devoted over forty years to extensive research and detective work in order to acquire, successfully, every Mahler recording ever made. By far the most comprehensive book every published on the subject, this is a reference work, not a critique but an invaluable tool for the really serious collector. Recording dates, venues, and subsequent incarnations are included. The purchaser will find a CD restoration of the most elusive of all Mahler recordings of which only one copy is known to exist, the Fourth Symphony played by the Hilversum Radio Orchestra conducted by Paul van Kempen on December 28, 1949. For the moment, the book is available only from www.mikrokosmos.com.


05_ozawa_anniversarySeiji Ozawa celebrates his 75th birthday this month and Decca has issued an anniversary package containing outstanding performances of 14 works that show him at his best (4782358), 11 CDs in slimline box, specially priced. Although I am not an admirer of his way with Beethoven, Brahms and others, this set is pretty well devoted to works he does very well: Bartok, Berlioz, Ravel, Takemitsu, Mahler, Bach, Poulenc, Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Prokofiev and Bernstein. The orchestras are the Saito Kinen Orchestra, The San Francisco Symphony, The Boston Symphony, The Vienna Philharmonic, The Berlin Philharmonic and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Incidentally, all the Saito Kinen recordings, Bartok, Berlioz, Ravel, Takemitsu, are stunning, both in performance and for demonstration quality sound. The timpanist is the unmistakeable Everett Firth, recruited by Ozawa from Boston.

01_beethoven_trio_projectThis month I had the pleasure of receiving a disc which contains two world premiere recordings of works by Beethoven. It’s not often that a new work by that Master comes to light and so my curiousity was piqued, especially since as an amateur cellist I have enjoyed working on several of his piano trios, and both of the “new” works are in that genre. The very thorough liner notes accompanying The Beethoven Project Trio CD (Çedille CDR 90000 118) explain in detail the pedigree of the pieces and why they have remained unperformed all this time. The Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Hess 47 is Beethoven’s own transcription of the first movement of his Opus 3 String Trio of 1794, thought to have been done sometime after 1800. The two-movement Piano Trio in D Major, Kinsky/Hahm Anhang 3 was originally thought to be by Mozart and catalogued by Ludwig Ritter von Köchel as Anhang 52a and thus has the distinction of being the only work by Beethoven with a Köchel number. By the 20th century however it had been recognized by scholars as an original piano trio by Beethoven dating from 1799, although its genesis is still unknown. Part of the complication of authenticating the trio is the fact that the existing manuscript is not in Beethoven’s hand, but rather in that of his younger brother Kaspar Karl who served as copyist and manager for Ludwig in his early years in Vienna. There are two pages – 33 measures – missing from that manuscript which have been re-constructed by Robert McConnell, who provides the rationale behind his choices in the notes. Undertaken in conjunction with the American Beethoven Society, the Association Beethoven France and the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, The International Beethoven Project musicians are European-trained pianist George Lepauw who is now based in Chicago, and Americans Sang Mee Lee, violin and Wendy Warner, cello. Although the concert of American premieres took place in Chicago, this excellent recording was done at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City last September. The concert (and the CD) also include the American premiere of another little-known Beethoven work, the Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, Op. 63. Although it has since been acknowledged as authentic Beethoven there has been some controversy since its original publication in 1806 (according to the notes, 1807 according to my Grove’s Dictionary). It is an arrangement of the String Quintet Op. 4 of 1795, which is itself a re-working of an earlier wind octet written as dinner music for the Bishop of Bonn in 1792 before Beethoven’s move to Vienna (published posthumously in 1830). Isn’t scholarship wonderful? Suffice it to say that even though none of this is Beethoven at his best, these are welcome additions to the repertoire, immaculately performed and recorded. I look forward to the publication of the performance edition of the scores currently in production by The International Beethoven Project and promised by the end of the year. Now there’s a project for my trio to undertake next summer!

02_shostakovich_7I was pleased by the thoroughness of the program notes included in the latest addition the TSO Live series (TSO-1108). Heather Slater gives us a detailed history of the origins of Symphony No.7 “Leningrad” by Dmitri Shostakovich including the original “party line” programmatic description for each of the movements and apocryphal speculation about Shostakovich’s subtexts. The booklet includes a complete list (including guest musicians) of the personnel of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra – something rarely seen in orchestral releases – in addition to the expected biography of conductor Peter Oundjian and a blurb about the orchestra. The performance, recorded in March 2008, is suitably dramatic. The signature first movement March over the snare drum ostinato begins in near silence and builds ever so gradually over the next thirteen minutes to deafening bombast before subsiding into the gentle strains of solo clarinet, bassoon and lush strings. Shostakovich we are told was aware of this section’s similarity to Ravel’s Bolero but asked to be forgiven as “this is how I hear the war”. As in Bolero the careful combination of individual instruments is like a guide to the orchestra as the tension grows and grows. The orchestra shines collectively and individually in this showcase. The thunderous applause when we reach the end of our mammoth journey nearly seventy-eight minutes later confirms this feeling as unanimous. Concert note: The Toronto Symphony will perform Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony along with the Sibelius Violin Concerto (Henning Kraggerud, violin) and Stravinsky’s Fireworks under Jukka-Pekka Saraste October 14 & 16.

03_from_the_heartlandFrom the Heartland, the most recent addition to the Centrediscs catalogue, features works written for and performed by Toronto violinist Erika Raum, accompanied by pianist David Moroz. The disc (CMC-CD 15410) includes works by three prairie-based composers, Sid Robinovitch, David McIntyre and the violinist’s mother Elizabeth Raum. We are presented with two full fledged sonatas written for Raum very early in her career. Her mother’s sonata was composed in 1994 and premiered at Walter Hall the following year with accompanist Lydia Wong. McIntyre’s 1996 second sonata was written for Erika’s debut at the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto with pianist Francine Kay, also at Walter Hall. Both are substantial works which exploit the full range of the instruments. McIntyre’s is the lighter of the two, with a finale that begins not far from Tin Pan Alley and swings through a number of styles including a few bars reminiscent of a raucous barn dance. Elizabeth Raum is also represented by an even earlier work which Erika premiered in 1989 with the co-dedicatee Rachel Andrist. It was later revised in 1996. Robinovitch’s contribution, Dance Set #2, is a set of mostly playful dance movements – the exceptions being the Gymnopedie-like Waltz and the Processional. This is the only work presented here that was composed specifically for Raum and Moroz, for their 2003 Prairie Debut concert tour. Recorded at the Banff Centre in June 2008, around the same time that she conceived triplets with her husband composer Omar Daniel, the disc showcases Erika Raum at the top of her game. Her recent performance of Daniel’s Violin Concerto with Esprit Orchestra assures us that the burden of motherhood has not dampened her control or musical passion.

04_urban_meadowComing Soon is a sample of what we can expect from a new local “alt jazz” label Urban Meadow. Founded by trumpeter-singer Michael Louis Johnson and clarinettist Bob Stevenson the label will provide a home for some “old timey” jazz if this collection is an accurate indication. Songs that were “a hit before your mother was born”, or at least sound like they might have been, dominate this sampler, with the exception of two more ambient, experimental tracks from composer and string wizard Monteith McCallum. Other featured artists include swing band Michael Louis Johnson and the Red Rhythm, the a cappella duo MooCow, clarinet-centric The Bob Standard, guitarist Chris Bezant, and the ensembles BIG IDEA, Safety in Numbers and RAMBUNCTIOUS. There’s no information booklet with the CD and the website (www.unbanmeadow.ca) is skeletal at the present time, but the good-time feel of the performances, variety of musical vision and good production values bode well for the future of this little label. Note: You can read Jim Galloway’s impression of Urban Meadow’s first full release “Saturday Matinee” (um201001) by Michael Louis Johnson and The Red Rhythm in this month’s Jazz reviews.

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website, www.thewholenote.com, where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for on-line shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews.

David Olds
DISCoveries Editor

01_beatae_mariaIn Nativitate Beatae Mariae Virginis
Schola Sanctae Sunnivae; Anne Kleivset
Lindberg Lyd AS 2L-069

Norway’s Reformation of 1537 was harsh on liturgical codices; very few survived. Ten folios from a choir book from Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim did survive (having been cut into strips for ledger covers!) and they are the basis of this celebration of the Nativity.

In fact, thirteen sung antiphona are interlaced with five interludia for melodic percussion by the Norwegian composer Henning Sommerro. Under the title Maria, the work as a whole was performed for the 800th anniversary of Our Lady Church, Trondheim. A transcription for melodic percussion was then made especially for this recording.

Twelve female voices and their conductor explore the nativity in the greatest detail on this CD. As no individual singers are singled out, the entire ensemble may claim collective success in an uplifting rendition of this collection of simply-written but richly spiritual pieces.

There is, it must be said, a contrast, perhaps a void, between the chanted antiphonae and the instrumental interludia, which are modern in their style. This can not distract from the purity of the voices of Schola Sanctae Sunnivae.

One criticism. The final interludium unfortunately does not blend in with the remaining pieces - its own style is out of place, not least as in the preceding track, the last sung piece, singers and percussionists join in a celestial plea to observe the birthday of Mary.

02_stabat_mater_jarousyStabat Mater - Motets to the Virgin Mary
Philippe Jaroussky; Marie-Nicole Lemieux; Ensemble Artaserse
Virgin Classics 693907 2

The beauty of the countertenor voice has always had its sway over me. The same can be said for contralto. These are extraordinary voices, pushing the limits of human singing ability and delivering rewarding, sometimes unexpected results. When you add to these inherent voice attributes the individual gifts of Philippe Jaroussky and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, the resulting disc should be stunning to listen to. And yet, it isn’t. Oh, it is very good, meticulously produced, well played and very well sung. Unfortunately, the freshness and youth of Jaroussky’s voice, which is usually an attribute, renders the material too light and airy, as if this Stabat Mater Dolorosa did not suffer at all. Where you would hope for some audible anguish and sorrow, there is instead the solid, new-knife steely shine of the young artist’s voice, unperturbed by the matters at hand. Lemieux, usually a dark and mysterious voice, joins in this light-music making and allows herself to be carried towards almost a celebration – not exactly the mood called for. There are so many better recordings of the two, especially in the celebrated Vivaldi series on the naïve label; it would not do justice to the artists to recommend this particular disc.

03_verdi_otelloVerdi - Otello
Aleksandrs Antonenko; Marina Poplavskaya; Carlos Alvarez; Wiener Staatsopenchor and Philhamoniker; Riccardo Muti
Unitel Classics 701408

With the first ff shrieking chords of the orchestra Verdi forcefully draws us into the world of Shakespeare’s horrifying tragedy, one of fullest embodiments of evil ever created. Each of the characters is widely different from one another: Otello the accomplished fearless hero, but insecure and gullible; Desdemona full of love, but naïve; and Jago congenitally and relentlessly evil. Their interaction is the stuff of drama and of one of the greatest in Verdi’s oeuvre.

Salzburg hasn’t seen a production of Otello since 1970 when Karajan conducted it in a noble, unforgettable performance with our Jon Vickers in the title role. Now it’s Riccardo Muti’s turn. Muti today has become a conductor of stature and a true master of Italian opera repertoire since his early years as a young firebrand when I saw him a few times here in Toronto. His usual forceful style helps ‘shine a light on Otello’s violence’ and turns the orchestra into a snarling monster when required. His orchestra is well balanced throughout, swift moving yet he finds time to bring out much of the richness, hidden meaning and delicacy of the score.

The extraordinary width of the stage of Grosses Festpielhaus has always been difficult to handle for stage designers and directors. Director Stephen Langridge with George Souglides solved the problem by subdividing it into multiple elements: galleries, stairs, projection screen and a fragile transparent platform that shatters at the end of act 3, symbolizing Otello’s descent into insane jealousy.

The cast is international, nearly all young, very talented singers with spectacular voices. Latvian Aleksandrs Antonenko is a powerful, clear heldentenor whose ‘ringing’ entry ‘Esultate!’ sets the tone for his performance. Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya brings much richness to the part of Desdemona not just with her voice but her wonderful acting. Famous Spanish baritone Carlos Alvarez’s turncoat portrayal of Jago, alternately evil and suave, is skilfully acted and brilliantly sung. His shattering ‘Credo’ is one of the best I ever heard. This is a performance worthy of Verdi and Shakespeare, highly recommended.

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