01-live_in_rio Live in Rio

Diana Krall

Eagle Vision EV 30273-9



When I first heard that Diana Krall had released a DVD of a concert in Rio de Janeiro, I marvelled at the chutzpah it takes for a girl from Nanaimo, B.C. to perform bossa nova for an audience in the country of its birth. Then I thought, if any non-Brazilian is qualified to sing the music known as "a whisper in the wind" it's Krall. With her laid-back, breathy delivery and ability to maintain energy and groove on very slow tempos, she seems born to bossa. And the Rio audience on the DVD apparently agrees, as it's the bossa standards like So Nice and Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado) that get the biggest response of the evening.


But "Live in Rio" is not all Brazilian beats, as it opens in full-on jazz mode with the quartet - long-time compatriots Anthony Wilson, guitar, John Clayton, bass, Jeff Hamilton, drums and Krall on piano and vocals - swinging hard through I Love Being Here With You. With so much attention paid to Krall's singing talents, it's great to see her stretch out on piano, since her first ambition was to be a jazz pianist, before she discovered she had a voice. A full orchestra conducted by Ruria Duprat joins the band on many of the down tempo numbers and with Claus Ogerman's arrangements the gorgeousness factor on those songs goes through the roof.


Masterfully shot and edited, the camera work allows long looks at Krall, mostly, but also frequently cuts to the rest of the band and lingers on the musicians' hands during solos. Footage of adoring glimpses of Rio - beaches, parks, mountains, with the grittiness and slums discreetly left out - are interspersed to break up the concert footage. At a little over two hours running time, with an extra of interviews with Krall and the band members talking about their affinity for bossa nova and Rio, this is a satisfying and intimate visit with one of the most deservedly popular and genuine jazz singers performing today.


Cathy Riches


02-gorman-brand new day Brand New Day

Kathleen Gorman

Independent KG0801



The self-produced debut CD by Torontonian Kathleen Gorman is a polished gem that offers solid songwriting, thoughtfully presented. Plenty of dedication is on display here, from the catchy songs to their tasteful arrangements to the leader's strong delivery on both vocals and keys. If forced to categorize it, this is a poppy-jazzy-bluesy-soulful collection of songs, most of them about hard-learned lessons in life and common concerns surrounding love. The blues-infused No More Room is a strong opener, the tender ballad Far Too Late a memorable standout, while the optimistic title track is especially radio friendly. Brand New Day would fit well on a "smooth" jazz radio program because it is easy on the ears, light on the heart and an excellent showcase of Canadian talent. Aside from composing accessible songs, singing them and playing the piano, Gorman has also written some great charts for top-drawer Canadian players including Colleen Allen, Henry Heillig, Alan Hetherington, Rob Piltch and many more. In addition to Gorman's piano and Rhodes, the instrumentation includes basses, guitars, saxophone, Hammond B organ, drums, percussion, flute, and cello. On the two instrumental pieces, Gorman's fingers do the singing, especially on the radiant Rialto. The songs on "Brand New Day" appear to come from a deep place; thankfully, Kathleen Gorman has succeeded in conveying their universality.


Ori Dagan


03_JoelMiller Tantramar

Joel Miller; Mandala

ArtistShare AS 0072



Montreal-based saxophonist Joel Miller, a native of Sackville, N.B., succeeds by translating into sound the relaxed feel of the Tantramar marsh near his home town as well as other images. Aiding him is a quintet of top-flight multi-instrumentalists and a trio of guests. Miller, who composed the 10 evocative tunes, deserves kudos for his arrangements that not only take full advantage of everyone's talents, but also avoid the trap of using Amelia McMahon as a "girl singer" - instead harmonizing her lilting voice with his own soprano saxophone lines or grace notes from Bill Maher's trumpet.

With many of the pieces written in cannon form with folk music intimations, the most notable back-up player is Kenny Bibace on acoustic and electric guitars. Throughout, his contributions range from super-charged near-rock licks to light-fingered chromatic runs. More concerned with evocative scene-setting than extended soloing, Miller and fellow reed player Bruno Lamarche impress by ignoring solipsism for call-and-response obbligatos and riffs. Furthermore, although concerned with inducing traditional aural images, "Tantramar" doesn't ignore modern techniques. Miller enlivens a few tracks with understated electronics including sampled fowl sounds on Chickadee's Other Song.

If the CD does have drawbacks, it's that everything is too laid-back. Even Boogie Gaudet, a quasi-blues with snapping guitar runs, flying tenor saxophone honks and plunger trumpet lines only flirts with emotion. When it seems as if the band has worked up a full head of steam, the tune solidifies into restrained pleasantness.


Ken Waxman


 EXTENDED PLAY - Columbia's LEGACY 50 years on

By Jim Galloway

Three of the most important contributors to jazz in the late ‘50s are highlighted in a series of recent double album re-issues on Columbia Legacy. This was a very fruitful era of recordings and the music presented here represents pivotal works by Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus.

01_mingus_ah_um Mingus Ah Um (Columbia/Legacy 8869748010 2) gave us at least three compositions which stamped him as one of the most expressive voices in jazz - Better Git It In Your Soul, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, a homage to Lester Young, and Fables Of Faubus. Jelly Roll, a rewrite of Mr. Jelly Roll Soul, recorded earlier for the "Blues and Roots" album, is a nod in the direction of a perhaps unlikely hero for Mingus, Jelly Roll Morton. Fables of Faubus is an example of the Mingus who was also known for his activism against racial injustice. It was written as a protest against governor Orval E. Faubus of Arkansas. If you have the original LP it is probably well worn by now and in addition this CD has three numbers not included on the LP. An important aspect of the music on this album is the use of group improvisation which was an essential ingredient at the start of jazz in New Orleans but which had largely disappeared when the emphasis later switched to individual soloists.

Mingus Dynasty, the 2nd disc of this Legacy Edition, acknowledges his debt to Duke Ellington with the inclusion of very personal interpretations of Things Ain't What They Used To Be and Mood Indigo. There is a blistering version of Gunslinging Bird, the original title of which was If Charlie Parker Were a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. The album as a whole has a more formal feel to it than the "Ah Um" collection but gives us further insight into the creative working of Mingus' mind. If you don't know this music, this is your opportunity to hear a great jazz original, one of the most important composers and performers of jazz, and if you do have the old LPs, there are enough alternate takes and unedited material (much of the original release was heavily edited) to make this a worthwhile purchase.

02_sketches_of_spain Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain (Columbia/Legacy 88697 43949 2) with the hauntingly beautiful arrangements of Gil Evans was almost like a new-found revelation for me. I have all the original LPs in this set of CDs but had not listened to the Miles album for years and from the opening bars of Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio) I was transfixed by the beauty of Gil Evans' orchestration. It sets the tone of an album which showcases Miles Davis at his creative best. There are very interesting and informative notes by Gunther Schuller in the accompanying booklet. The 2nd CD has eleven tracks consisting of alternate takes including a live performance of Concierto de Aranjuez (Adagio) from a 1961 Carnegie Hall concert which Schuller considers to be superior to the version on the original LP. An added bonus is a quintet recording of Teo, originally from the "Someday My Prince Will Come" album of 1961.

03_time_out The Dave Brubeck Quartet was formed in 1951 and had a long residency at the Black Hawk club in San Francisco. Paul Desmond was in the original group and Joe Morello joined in 1956 followed by Eugene Wright who became a regular member in 1959. It is this formation which is featured in the Legacy Edition reissue of Time Out (88697 39852 2) whichhas, in addition to 2 CDs, an accompanying DVD of an interview with Brubeck explaining how the album came about and giving his insight into how the compositions, all originals, evolved. It is an educational and entertaining look behind the scenes of the album that introduced Take Five, which of course was to become one of the biggest hits in jazz history. Blue Rondo a la Turk, Strange Meadow Lark and Kathy's Waltz are among the other treasures of this recording. The second CD is of previously unreleased music recorded by the quartet at the Newport Festival in 1961, 1963 and 1964 and has the group in full flight with some soaring playing by Paul Desmond in particular. In fact, the purity of sound made by the alto saxophone of Desmond is an absolute joy throughout the proceedings on both CDs. Dave Brubeck is the only member of that original quartet who remains active, but 50 years later he is still thrilling audiences - and still getting requests for Take Five.

 SPECIAL MENTION - Oscar Peterson's SONGBOOKS, 50 years on

By Bruce Surtees

01_petersonThe recordings by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck reviewed above are not the only seminal jazz releases to be celebrating their half century this year. 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of Oscar Peterson's second set of Songbooks, available ina new boxed set from Universal (VERW3933072), exclusive to Canada, at $39.95. Peterson's earliest recordings were made in Montreal by RCA from 1945 to 1949 with a trio, not including Ray Brown but with one Bert Brown on bass. In 1949, impresario Norman Granz, on his way to the airport in Montreal, heard a live broadcast of Peterson playing in a local club. The rest is jazz history: Carnegie Hall, Jazz at the Philharmonic, etc., etc. The first group of "Songbooks" was recorded during 1952/53/54 in Los Angeles with Ray Brown and Barney Kessel. Some have been re-issued on Verve but all of them are available on Mosaic Records, priced at US$ 119.00 plus shipping, and duties. This second set was recorded during July and August 1959 in Chicago with Peterson in his usual (usual for him that is, unusual and impossible for others) freewheeling style accompanied by Ray Brown and an energized Ed Thigpen on drums. There are 108 tracks on five discs with songs by Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin, Harry Warren, Vincent Youmans and Jimmy McHugh. The original tunes are never obscured so that even if the listener has not heard them that shouldn't diminish the impact. This set is a must-have for just about anyone with a CD player.

 EXTENDED PLAY - 40 Years of MEV

By Ken Waxman

01a_ElectrnicaVivaConsisting of a nucleus of academically trained composers who promoted free improvisation and group interaction, Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) was the sort of musical aggregation that could only have been born in the 1960s. MEV 40 (New World Records 89675-2 www.newworldrecords.org) is an absorbing four-CD set of MEV performances - from its beginning in 1967, to its 40th anniversary - which prove the group's triumphs are musically sophisticated as well as sociologically notable. Willingly subsuming the vaulted tradition of a single composer into group interaction, MEV's most notable pieces added the smarts of jazz improvisers and the sonic versatility of increasingly complex electronic instruments to the compositional stew. Furthermore, the group has survived all these years because it never allowed electronics to submerge its initial humanistic and populist approach.

01b_MEV1967Founded in Rome by three American composers studying in that city: Alvin Curran (b. 1938), Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) and Richard Teitelbaum (b. 1939), MEV members were at that time some of the few so-called serious musicians performing for young hippies and politicos in that city's coffee houses, universities, factories and open-air plazas. Audience participation in these free-form extravaganzas was a norm, although the first-class tracks on this set showcase only professionals. For more than 30 years, probably the most important MEV fellow traveler was expatiate American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004). Paris-based Lacy's experience in first Dixieland and then Free Jazz not only added a lyrical construct to the group's performances but replaced a reliance on electronics with masterful acoustic techniques. Another valuable associate was trombonist Garrett List (b. 1943). An American though Belgium-based, List is more affiliated with theatre pieces and New music than jazz, but his erudite instrumental control strengthens the performances still further on the pieces in which he's featured.

Ironically, Stop The War, recorded in 1972 without Lacy but with percussionist Gregory Reeves and Karl Berger on marimba as well as List, Curran, Rzewski and Teitelbaum, is the most jazz-like - as well as the most programmatic - track. Commenting on the Viet Nam war, the output from the synthesizers used by Curran and Teitelbaum is almost visually descriptive. There are fortissimo allusions to explosions, jagged beeps, watery whooshes and short-wave-like static. Meanwhile List honks and slurs, Berger whaps his wooden keys to produce full-force reverberation, Reeves taps out an intermittent marital beat and Curran's piccolo trumpet asides add to the contrapuntal timbres that underlie the performance. Among the broken octaves and split tones, Rzewski provides his own commentary with metronomic piano chording. Among the recognizable melodies he plays are a sardonic When Johnny Comes Marching Home and a concluding Taps.

Lacy, who appears on tracks recorded in 1982, 1989 and 2002, gives even more focus to the proceedings. By that point the core trio had graduated from using such jerry-built instruments as a home-made synthesizer, a thumb piano attached to a motor-oil can and an amplified glass plate with springs, to using poly Moogs, modular synthesizers and microcomputers. Yet during a more-than 87-minute performance from 1982, stretched over the first tracks on two discs, the soprano saxophonist's straightforward acoustic exposition encourages everyone to substitute shape for self-indulgence.

Tentatively and authoritatively affiliated staccato timbres from saxophone and trombone (List) not only provide obbligato reflections of one another, but are captured and processed by the electronics. Added to this is Rzewski's processional prepared-piano chording. Eventually the aggressive thumps, clanks and pulsated textures from the blurry synthesized flutters are pushed to one side and the trombonist's braying plunger work and the saxophonist's concentrated split tones join Curran's rowdy piccolo trumpet for a definite, raucous finale.

Even more breath-taking is Lacy's final recorded appearance with MEV in 2002. By this time samplers and Max/MSP real-time digital manipulating programs were the norm for Curran and Teitelbaum. Yet the shimmering wave forms still don't dominate. The acoustic side, which includes Lacy's soprano, List's trombone and Rzewski's piano is further strengthened by the addition of George Lewis (b. 1952), equally proficient on trombone and computer. Meanwhile the other two use the electronic interface and programmed applications to create unique sampled and reprocessed sounds. At one point, dexterously harmonized horn parts share space with sampled snatches of cantorial chants and a loop of vernacular street phrases. Soon Lacy's discursive reed outlines the double-stopped theme as Rzewski kinetically vibrates cadenzas with sympathetic soundboard echoes. As the electronics shimmer in wave-modulated bursts, the pianist's burlesque arpeggios turn serious, backing up interaction among Curran's braying shofar tones, chirping soprano saxophone trills and arching trombone slurs. By the time the head is recapped at a slightly slower tempo, List has even movingly growled the lyrics of You Are My Sunshine.

Completing the set are a quiet, almost completely electronic track by the core trio from 2007 and a 30-minute free-for-all from 1967 that added a vocalist and tenor saxophone. Every track balances anarchy and formalism to create something more than improvised, electronic or so-called serious music. MEV performs sui generis modern music period.



01_il_pianto_di_mariaIl pianto di Maria - The Virgin's Lament

Bernarda Fink; Il Giardino Armonico; Giovanni Antonini

Editions de l'Oiseau-Lyre 478 1466

Bernarda Fink is a singer of extraordinary measure and a brilliant match for two rare settings of the Virgin Mary's lament: one originally attributed to Handel, but later discovered to be by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini, a composer in the court at Munich; the other by Monteverdi who took the music from his famous Lamento d'Arianna and inserted a sacred text. Rather than matching the impulsive fire of Il Giardino Armonico, Fink holds steady her natural grace and maturity, allowing the orchestra to express the undercurrents of torment and anger while she declares her sorrow with dignified acceptance. The effect is not diminished in any way, in fact, by maintaining her poise she resists all temptation to resort to showy hysterics; but at the same time there is an edge to her delivery that clearly informs us of the depth of her grief. Il Giardino Armonico performs with all the passion and vigour for which they are known, making for an exciting performance that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats during instrumental works by Vivaldi, Marini and Pisandel. In a world premiere recording of Francesco Bartolomeo Conti's Il martirio di San Lorenzo, Fink and the ensemble join together for a deeply moving aria that features a rarely-heard ancestor of the modern clarinet, the soprano chalumeau, which adds a most tender and plaintive note.

Dianne Wells

02_verdi_requiemVerdi - Messa da Requiem

Fantini; Smirnova; Meli; Siwek; Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Symphonica Toscanini; Lorin Maazel

Medici arts 2072438

In 2007 for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Toscanini's death Lorin Maazel, his erstwhile protégé, gave a series of concerts in Italy. The former child prodigy who at the age of 11 conducted Toscanini's own NBC Symphony and was blessed by the ‘gran Maestro' with a kiss on the forehead is now in his 70s and is himself a gran maestro and one of the foremost conductors of the latter half of the 20th century.

The highlight of these concerts was this memorable performance, captured on DVD, of Verdi's Requiem from the San Marco Basilica where it was first performed in 1874 under the baton of the composer. Under the golden domes, half domes and pendentives of the 1500 year old Byzantine masterpiece was gathered Maazel's own orchestra that he organized for this occasion, with a magnificent choir and soloists of the highest order. Maazel is like a wise owl with hooded eyes, almost immobile, but with the merest flicker of his finger he unleashes these forces into a tremendous whirlwind of sound while another slight flicker silences it in a split second. Without much visible effort he achieves a beautifully detailed, heartfelt, thoroughly understood and perfectly paced performance.

The quartet of soloists, upon which many a performance has crumbled, is a tremendous asset here. Norma Fantini is a highly accomplished soprano with a wide range and great emotional involvement in the final Libera me section. Young Russian mezzo Anna Smirnova is very impressive in her lower registers and her heartfelt solos and Francesco Meli is a strong tenor who shines in the Offertorium prayers. Rafal Siwek, a stentorian basso-profundo, has a perfect voice for Mors stupebit and Confutatis, some of the most impressive moments in the performance.

Janos Gardonyi

03_cunning_vixenJanáček - The Cunning Little Vixen

Tsallagova; Rasilainen; Lagrange; Minutillo; Kuebler; Bracht; Gay; Opera National de Paris; Dennis Russell Davies

Medici arts 3078388

A mere 30 years ago Leos Janáček's operas were virtually unknown in the West, but today there is hardly a reputable opera company that hasn't performed some of them. The Canadian Opera Company, for one, can be proud of having performed five of the operas here in Toronto. Although Paris is just beginning to discover his greatness, this live performance certainly makes up for any lack of appreciation in the past. Apart from an interesting, novel concept, there is abundant talent and wit in the stage direction, sets, colour and costume design, not to mention singers and musical direction.

According to director André Engel, the stage is set as a bright sunflower field, representing nature, but bisected by a railway that shows mankind's brutality. Where the two meet is where things are happening, where indeed anything can happen. There is tragedy, but in Janáček's optimistic outlook it is followed by rebirth and the cycle of nature continues indefinitely.

One of Janáček's most beautiful scores, the story was undoubtedly inspired by his love for a much younger woman at the age of 70. The opera simply throbs with love and affection towards his young female protagonist, the vixen, in this case the ebullient Russian high soprano Elena Tsailagova, who simply radiates and dominates the performance. The three rather pathetic male figures are all well characterized and sung by Jukka Rasilainen (forester), David Kubler (schoolmaster) and Roland Bracht (parson). There is also a charming choir of children dressed in hilarious costumes representing the little animals.

Music Director Dennis Russell Davies' flawless and beautifully flowing conducting brings out the beauty and lyricism of the score and deserves much of the credit for this delightful performance.

Janos Gardonyi



01_the_queen The Queen - Music for Elizabeth I

Toronto Consort

Marquis 81387 (www.marquisclassics.com)

At Grigorian.Com

 In light of the recent revival of popular interest in “The Tudors”, this is a most timely release for the Toronto Consort. Following on the heels of recent staging of this repertoire, the CD is beautifully performed with exquisite sound engineering by Ed Marshall. As ever, in the pursuit of historical authenticity, director David Fallis has been thorough in his research, to the point of engaging Professor David Klausner of the University of Toronto to assist with Elizabethan pronunciation, a feature that is most engaging in and of itself. The spirit of the Elizabethan court is recaptured with its love for music, dancing, playfulness and glorification of heroic exploits, realm and monarch, with selections by Dowland, Morley, Campion, Byrd and others interspersed with traditional English music in unique arrangements by Fallis and other members of the consort. Featuring a uniquely English combination of instruments called the “mixed consort”, consisting of lute, bandora, cittern, viola da gamba, flute and violin along with recorder and harpsichord, the accompaniments and instrumental selections are as hearty and multi-layered as the part-singing throughout. With too many wonderful solo performances to single out in these brief pages, let us simply praise the performance as being as glorious and as charming as Oriana herself!

Dianne Wells


01_schubert_death Schubert - Death and the Maiden;
Symphony No.8
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra;
JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.572051
At Grigorian.Com

 Naxos brings us two ‘new’ symphonic works by Schubert: a transcription of a major chamber work and another attempt to solve the enigma of the Unfinished Symphony.

 American musician Andy Stein’s full orchestration of the Death and the Maiden string quartet is quite striking and works extremely well, supporting his view that the quartet is arguably Schubert’s greatest large-scale composition, and successfully realizes his desire to create a late Classical/early Romantic symphony out of it. The instrumental scoring is idiomatic and highly effective, and there is excellent balance and contrast between the strings, brass and woodwind.

 Less successful - or, at least, less satisfying - is the completed version of the Unfinished Symphony, perhaps because our familiarity with the original makes it virtually impossible to listen objectively to any additions. Over the past 140 years there have been countless attempts to complete the work. This version has a reconstruction of the Scherzo - based on Schubert’s own sketches - by the English Schubert scholar Brian Newbould, together with a Finale assembled by the Swiss conductor Mario Venzago which combines extracts from Schubert’s Rosamunde incidental music with the same work’s Entr’acte, which some historians believe may have been intended as the original Finale for the symphony. It’s an impressive and credible attempt at doing the impossible perhaps, but fails to address the fundamental question with projects like this – “Why even try?”

 Apparently recorded live in concert, the BPO and Falletta deliver performances full of passion and conviction.

  Terry Robbins


02_yuja_wang Sonatas & Etudes

Yuja Wang

Deutsche Grammophon 477 8140
At Grigorian.Com

 Among those joining the line of gifted   young pianists emerging from China is Yuja Wang, a 22 year old from Beijing, now living in New York. A graduate of the Beijing Conservatory and the Curtis Institute, Wang made her debut at 16 with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich with David Zinman - and this new CD, the first of five to be recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, is ample evidence of her talents.

 An eclectic collection, it features music by Chopin, Ligeti, Scriabin and Liszt. From the beginning, it’s clear that Ms. Wang possesses a dazzling technique – little wonder she chose such demanding repertoire! Yet at the same time, fast fingers shouldn’t be an end unto themselves. For example, I found the opening movement of the Chopin piano sonata in B flat minor a little disconcerting – never have I heard it played so briskly. Surely, a musical depiction of a race-horse is not what Chopin had in mind! On the other hand, the lyrical and introspective opening movement of the Scriabin Piano Sonata #2 is approached with great sensitivity. Two etudes by Ligeti may seem an odd choice on a disc of Romantic repertoire, but it is their very nature of contrast (#4 even hinting at the style of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk) that Wang decided to include them. Rounding out the disc is the great Liszt B minor piano sonata, a true tour de force. Not surprisingly, she has full command of this most challenging work – those thundering octaves and arpeggios roll off her hands with apparent ease.

 This is indeed an impressive first disc by a young artist to watch out for in years to come. But for her next recording, may I suggest a little less bravura and a little more poetry?

Richard Haskell



03_ravel Ravel - L’Enfant et les Sortilèges;

Ma Mère L’Oye

Berliner Philharmoniker; Sir Simon Rattle

EMI Classics 2 64197 2
At Grigorian.Com

 The plot of Ravel’s “lyric fantasy” The Child and the Magic Spells involves a petulant boy who trashes his room, which then comes to life to haunt him. Chairs spring to life, teapots foxtrot, and cats come a-courtin’ in this beautifully orchestrated and endlessly imaginative work. Originally intended as a ballet, the scenario was first conceived in 1914 by the popular French novelist Colette following the birth of her only child. The vocal element only came into play later when she began to collaborate with Ravel in 1917. The score was completed in 1925. As it involves a large orchestra, 21 characters and extensive choreography and costuming, it is rarely heard despite Ravel’s otherwise solid presence in the standard repertoire. Sir Simon Rattle is fully in his element here (he first conducted this work at the age of 19) and the orchestra responds brilliantly. Magdalena Kožena as the Child leads an accomplished ensemble of singers ably backed by the outstanding contribution of the Berlin Radio Chorus. The recording is seamlessly patched together from live performances in September 2008 at Berlin’s Philharmonie Hall; an array of microphones suspended over the orchestra provides pin-point detail while sacrificing a degree of acoustic depth. The heightened sonic presence succeeds admirably in the accompanying Mother Goose, which features many gorgeous instrumental solos cushioned by the renowned deep velvet of the Berlin strings. Full texts and translations are provided in a 60-page booklet. An excellent release, not to be missed.

Daniel Foley




Band of the Royal Regiment of Canada and Guests

Royal Regiment of Canada RRC007


 As was the case with this band’s previous recording, this offering includes a potpourri of selections by the band and guests. In the limited space of a review it is not possible to discuss all of the selections included. For me, the highlight of this CD is the First Suite in E flat by Gustav Holst. Lamenting the dearth of major works for concert band, other than transcriptions from orchestral scores, officials of the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall commissioned Holst to write two major works in the early 1920’s. Under the baton of Major Paul Weston, formerly of the Royal Marines, this performance of the first of these suites captures all of the many nuances the music requires.

 Compositions by both conductors are also included. Promenade, the title number on this CD by Music Director, Lt. William Mighton leads the listener along a number of light-hearted musical pathways. In contrast Defence of the Realm by Associate Director, Major Paul Weston, is a “Fanfare March” with a much stronger and determined drive.

 Two other numbers which particularly appealed to me were the traditional arrangement of The Holy City with a stunning euphonium solo by Roman Yasinsky and the superb Sammy Nestico arrangement of All Through the Night.

 Also included are a medley of Songs of the Forties featuring vocalist Danielle Bourré, the Alford march The Vanished Army and a variety other British and Canadian traditional and contemporary selections.

Jack McQuarrie


04_argerichMartha  Argerich and Friends - Live from the Lugano Festival 2008

Martha Argerich and Friends

EMI Classics 2 67051 2
At Grigorian.Com


Ah, Martha! What an icon she has become ever since she burst onto the scene in 1965, her supreme musicality combining a flamboyant life both on and off the stage! (I well remember a Montreal Symphony Orchestra concert I attended years ago where she was soloist, appearing in a dress not in concert-hall black, but fire-truck red!)


The Progetto Martha Argerich (Martha Argerich Project) is an annual event now in its eighth consecutive year which runs for three weeks every June as part of the festival held in Lugano, Switzerland. As artistic director, Argerich gathers together some of the finest artists in the world for three weeks of superb chamber-music and what better way than to capture the magic from 2008 than on this 3-disc EMI recording? Indeed, the wonderfully wide range of material contained within is a treat! It includes piano duos, chamber trios, quartets, a concertino for 7 instruments, and even a short suite for two pianos and chamber orchestra by pianist Mikhail Pletnev. Composers range from Arensky (the Piano Quintet Op.81), and Dvorak (a set of 4 Slavonic Dances) to Ravel (an arrangement of his Introduction and Allegro for two pianos) and Piazzolla (two suites). Many of the performers involved are well-known musicians with whom Argerich has had long-standing professional relationships, such as cellist Misha Maisky and violinist Renaud Capuçon. Others are less familiar, such as clarinettist Corrado Giufreddi and bassoonist Vincent Godel. Not surprisingly, the level of performance is consistently high throughout, and despite these being live performances, audience noises are kept to a minimum.


In all, these three discs comprise some very fine music-making, featuring a worthy blend of well-known pieces with those which are decidedly less familiar. It’s almost as good as being there! Recommended.


Richard Haskell



01_bach_von_otter Bach

Anne Sophie von Otter; Concerto Copenhagen; Lars Ulrik Mortensen

Archiv Produktion 447 7467
At Grigorian.Com


First loves are hard to live down – the memories linger and grow more beautiful with time, yet when confronted with reality they often seem puzzling. Such is the case with this recording. J. S. Bach’s music was the first love and first repertoire tackled by the young and promising and at that time completely unknown Swedish soprano, Anna Sofie von Otter. Now, years later, the promise borne out by a great career and international fame, von Otter returns to Bach – with mixed results. To be sure, Bach has not changed (beautifully played here by Concerto Copenhagen) – von Otter has. This extremely talented and versatile mezzo has travelled very different musical grounds over the years. So different, in fact, that the precise and unyielding music of the Baroque master, especially in the excerpts from the cantatas, presents an unexpected hurdle for von Otter. Her phrasing betrays her many years spent not singing the music of the Baroque. And yet, even in this suddenly unfamiliar territory, the beauty of her voice shines in the Magnificat, the Mass in B minor and the St. Matthew Passion. That last one was the music of her original breakthrough, a solo concert in Stockholm years ago. Listening to these parts of the album, one easily understands and appreciates the allure of the first love.


Robert Tomas 



02a_bach_goldberg Bach - Goldberg Variations

Chiara Massini (harpsichord)

Symphonia SY 06222 (www.chiaramassini.com)




02b_gould_tributeA Tribute to Glenn Gould

Magdalena Baczewska

holoPhon LC9112 (www.magdalenabaczewska.com)


Chiara Massini’s 2007 recording of the Goldberg Variations on harpsichord is a triumph on many levels. On the surface, the bravado of her playing surprises and delights at every turn, especially impressive in the strong drive of the left hand and exciting forward motion of each variation. Digging a little deeper, the care taken to present each variation as a unique entity reveals a great deal of thought and understanding of rhythmic and harmonic structure. Happily, she repeats each “A” and “B” section - I always wondered if Glenn Gould’s decision to play the aria and each variation “AAB” was in order to keep the length of the performance to within one LP (i.e. the market dictated). On the deepest level, her playing is disciplined, controlled and unromantic which is such a breath of fresh air. Her interpretation, as it were, is to present the piece as written, with exquisite ornamentation, brilliant sense of line and a deep understanding of the way the piece is put together.


In the liner notes to her tribute to Glenn Gould the gifted pianist Magdalena Baczewska makes clear her indebtedness to the recordings of the Canadian icon. She dedicates the recording to this “extraordinary musician and thinker” and urges the listener to “spend an hour with some of the most beautiful music ever written”. Her program – the Goldberg Variations and the Strauss Sonata op. 5 – leaves the listener no option but to compare her playing to Gould’s yet, not surprisingly, they are worlds apart. Gould described the Goldbergs as “unity through intuitive perception, unity born of craft and scrutiny, mellowed by mastery achieved, and revealed to us here, as so rarely in art, in the vision of subconscious design exulting upon a pinnacle of potency”. Baczewska plays it all very beautifully, but with little regard for the structure, hierarchy or counterpoint of the piece, begging the question of what she learned, if anything, from Gould's playing. Her Strauss is lyrical, at times majestic, at others intimate and delicate. It comes off much more successfully than the Bach and redeems the “tribute”.


Larry Beckwith



05_spanish_brass The Best of Spanish Brass

Spanish Brass

Marquis 81505 (www.marquisclassics.com)

At Grigorian.Com


Toronto record label Marquis has made a welcome addition to their fledgling brass repertoire offerings with this 2 CD compilation of tracks from the discography of The Spanish Brass, better known in Spain as Luur Metalls. Formed in 1989 and touring internationally ever since, they have released some nine albums on private labels over their busy career, assembled here for their 20th anniversary. A brass quintet of great virtuosity and a keen sense of ensemble, their repertoire features many arrangements of Spanish classics by the likes of Albeniz, Turina and de Falla along with original compositions by lesser known composers, represented here by the intriguing polystylism of the Suite Americana by the Uruguayan-American Enrique Crespo (who, incidentally, is the founder of the German Brass ensemble). The album gets off to a rather bland start with the inclusion of two lengthy Bach arrangements and ends quite disappointingly with a series of hackneyed Christmas medleys involving the Orfeo Valencia Navarro Reverter chorus, but fortunately the bulk of the program is quite invigorating and the performances throughout are excellent. I would have preferred to hear a few samples of the less commercial works in their repertoire, which according to their web site (www.spanishbrass.com) includes works by Berio and Lutoslawski. No information is provided for the sources or producers of the various tracks, though solid production values are quite consistent throughout.


Daniel Foley




01_langaardRued Langgaard - The Symphonies

Danish National Symphony Orchestra,

Vocal Ensemble and Choir;

Thomas Dausgaard

Dacapo 6.200001

At one time, many music lovers and record collectors, including myself, believed that the record companies were archivists who (I say who because we thought of them as people), from the beginning of the 20th century had recorded and preserved the art of both performer and composer for the present and for posterity. There were performers whose name on the label, regardless of repertoire, translated to money in the bank, particularly for EMI, RCA and Columbia who had just about everyone and everybody of significance under contract.

As CD sales diminish, the majors’ output is almost exclusively artist driven. Today, it is the smaller, lesser known companies that explore new repertoire played by musicians who know and illuminate the scores. Except for Naxos, Chandos, and some others who conscientiously record new repertoire, companies, by and large, are merely replacing familiar repertoire with new performances. To record and issue works by obscure composers amounts to artistic heroism, no matter how they are funded. Such an undertaking is this omnibus collection of orchestral works by Rued Langgaard assembled from performances recorded from 1998 to 2008.

The ninth edition of The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians (1964, completely revised) has no entry for Rued Langgaard, the Danish composer who lived from 1893 to 1952. It does mention his father, Siegfried, a pianist and composer who had studied with Franz Liszt. Siegfried, it seems, was also immersed in Theosophy, a religious philosophy based on meditation and mysticism, which in turn was deeply embraced by Rued. His music attempts and, depending on the listener’s frame of mind, succeeds in conveying his belief in dimensional realities beyond empirical perceptions.

Langgaard was an ingenuously inventive and highly skilled composer and orchestrator. He was not a Stravinsky, a Schoenberg or a Shostakovich but his lack of originally is compensated by an ingenious and inspired invention within the established Late Romantic style.

His first symphony, written in 1911, was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Max Fiedler. This hour-long work is already indicative of his later symphonic development and his individual rhapsodic, drama driven output, sounding for all the world like epic film scores which clearly puts him ahead of his time. This is certainly not a deprecating characterisation but these are the impressions of today, not then. A group of five named orchestral pieces of special character, deeply moving in the Liszt-Wagner genre, round out the collection.

Will Rued Langgaard’s career now take off? Will his symphonies become standard repertoire? Will musical dictionaries now enlarge their coverage? Will we hear his tunes whistled in the subway? Not a chance.      But by the same token I commend the colossal and patient undertaking by DACAPO to bring Langgaard’s music to our attention in such superlative performances as these and their many other CDs and DVDs of the music of this undeservedly obscure composer.

This set is a generous appetiser. In addition to his symphonic scores, Langgaard wrote operas, music for the stage, chamber music including string quartets, etc.

I intend to explore his music further.

Bruce Surtees

02_ragomaniaRagomania - Music of William Bolcom

and Clare Fischer

Richard Stoltzman; Lancaster Festival Orchestra; Gary Sheldon

Marquis 81397


William Bolcom, the eclectic American composer, is an enigma for me. Either I love his work or I just cannot fathom it. He draws on a multitude of sonic styles to construct his pieces, resulting in the ever present threat that a huge aural surprise is patiently waiting around the corner.

“Ragomania” features three works by Bolcom. The opening track of the same name is an interesting documentation of Bolcom’s musical experiments. Bolcom discusses his decision on a “heavy percussion part” in the liner notes. Buried in volume and sudden dynamic shifts, his music charm is sadly lost in the noise, in this first recording of the work. His Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra is a three movement, well constructed work played with passion by soloist Richard Stoltzman and the Lancaster Festival Orchestra under the direction of Gary Sheldon. Undoubtedly, Bolcom’s Commedia for (almost) 18th-century orchestra is the highlight here. Drawing on commedia dell’arte, the orchestration was limited by the quasi 18th century type ensemble of the work’s 1971 commissioner, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The snippets of ideas are fun and intriguing; there is never a dull musical moment here. No wonder Bolcom writes that is “by far my most-played orchestral work”.

The release is rounded out by Clare Fischer’s The Duke, Swee’Pea and Me. Using a number of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn tunes as a basis, clarinettist Stoltzman gives a stellar rendition, whether playing his part or even more surprisingly, improvising.

Just like trying a new dish at your favourite restaurant, “Ragomania” is worth the effort of sampling the unique music of William Bolcom.

Tiina Kiik


Coco Love Alcorn

SOP SOP2009001


“Joyful”, the latest disc by singer-songwriter Coco Love Alcorn is a fun, eclectic party. The record opens with the preachy funkiness of Compassion, switches gears to the cute pop of I Got a Bicycle — complete with the instrument du jour of many young singer-songwriters these days, glockenspiel — then ventures into an ode to science nerds everywhere with Intellectual Boys. All of the songs are written by Alcorn who on her My Space page cites some of her influences as “dark organic fair trade chocolate, robots and shade provided by trees” but from the sounds of this record I’m guessing Feist, Corinne Bailey Rae and the Andrews Sisters had a hand, too. Alcorn guides her pretty voice easily from a girlie whisper on the quirky pop tunes to a big, soulful sound on the funkier numbers. Producer, programmer and keyboard player Chris Gestrin is a strong presence on the album providing Wurlitzer, Moog and various synthesized sounds as the mood requires. Alcorn plays acoustic guitar, bass, trumpet and “high fives.”

Cathy Riches

Concert Note: Alcorn is touring Canada and lands in Toronto on June 14 for the CD release party at Hugh’s Room.


Kiran Ahluwalia

Four Quarters Entertainment

FQT-CD-1802 (www.kiranmusic.com)

Vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia is no newcomer to the world music scene. Born in India and raised in Toronto (now living in New York), she has made an international career for herself singing and developing the art form of ghazal (love songs generally depicting unfulfilled desires) and Punjabi folk songs. I first became aware of her while listening to Toronto violinist Parmela Attariwala’s first CD – “Beauty Enthralled” has one track featuring Ahluwalia, and I was totally hooked! “Wanderlust” is Ahluwalia’s fourth CD, featuring her own musical settings of poems from various sources. (Her second CD, “Beyond Boundaries” won the Juno award for best world music album of the year in 2004). You don’t need to understand Punjabi to appreciate this album – in fact, I dare you not to love this CD! The music itself is gorgeous, and somewhat beyond categorization – while certain traditional elements are present, for example the highly melismatic vocal style, use of tabla, sarangi and harmonium accompaniment, this is “modernish” music, but not to be pigeonholed as any one style or “fusion”. The use of other instruments not normally associated with Indian music, such as the Portuguese guitarra, adds a particularly nice touch on some of the tracks. The main attraction though is Ahluwalia’s voice itself – and here, words are not enough – velvety smooth, flowing like honey, impeccable intonation – but don’t take my word for it; buy the CD (or all of them) and hear for yourself!

Karen Ag


Les Disques Audiogram ADCD 10222 (www.lhasadesela.com)

Lhasa de Sela fans have had a bit of a wait since 2003’s “The Living Road” and though “Lhasa” is a departure from her last, highly-praised disc, there is plenty here to enjoy. Lhasa’s gorgeous, plaintive voice and distinctive songwriting are the bedrocks and as usual she’s surrounded herself with skilled, sensitive musicians who bring a lot to the overall atmosphere. Recorded live off the floor, “Lhasa” is a much more stripped down recording – if you can call a record with harp, violin and several types of guitars, stripped down. Compared to “Living Road’s” multi-layered arrangements and inventive production, “Lhasa” is positively sparse. But it’s apt given the inspiration for the songs, the majority of which are fuelled by heartbreak and emotionally raw. The inventive musicians make the most of the spare arrangements, coaxing expressive sounds out of their instruments to bring appropriate mood to the material, such as Andrew Barr’s mallet drumming on The Lonely Spider or Joe Grass’s resonator guitar work on What Kind of Heart. The other major difference is that all the lyrics are in English, which is a bit of a shame since Lhasa writes beautifully in Spanish and French, growing up as she did in Mexico before settling in Montreal. But the songs don’t lose anything with the absence of a romance language. Lhasa still taps into her deeply poetic side, as in Where Do You Go with “Where do you go / when your tides are low / in the summer dress / of your drunkenness.”

Cathy Riches


Marie-Nicole Lemieux; Daniel Blumenthal

Naïve V5159

At Grigorian.Com

What a treat to listen to a goodly measure of Schumann’s vocal music sung in full, rich and womanly contralto. Marie-Nicole Lemieux, though still in her early thirties, displays the maturity of tone and dramatic sensitivity demanded by this quintessential Romantic genre. Whether playing the young betrothed made breathless by the excitement of her approaching nuptials or evoking the first stirrings of motherly instinct or the grief of widowhood, Lemieux delivers a stunning and credible execution. And accompaniment by Daniel Blumenthal is most expressive whilst never overreaching the support role and yet is quite unique in its tone and pacing compared with other performances of this repertoire. In addition to Frauenliebe und-Leben, Lemieux and Blumenthal perform another of Schumann’s song cycles, Liederkreis, as well as five other Schumann lieder: Die Löwenbraut, Der Nussbaum, Er Ist’s, Lorelei, and Widmung. While Frauenliebe und-Leben and Die Löwenbraut work within a narrative framework, Liederkreis and other selections simply evoke the atmospheric qualities of Romanticism: nature, sentimentality and longing, alongside a most seductive fear of the dark and the unknown. The obsessive spirit of Schumann’s total immersion in lieder in 1840 along with his idealized perception of womanhood which drove his pursuit of Clara is well realized by these two exceptional performers.

Dianne Wells

03_handel_semeleHandel - Semele

Cecilia Bartoli; Orchestra La Scintilla; William Christie

Decca 074 3323

At Grigorian.Com

Suspension of disbelief is one of the most important elements to possess when watching opera. You know what I mean - the middle-aged soprano singing of celebrating her 16th birthday (Madama Butterfly); the less-than youthful and not so slender Ophelia in Hamlet; the numerous “in trousers” roles…. That is the primary reason why for centuries now there is a tension between singers gifted with an incredible voice and not looking the part and those who only look, but don’t sound the part. Some of the greatest operatic careers were built mostly on the looks (Renée Fleming, take a bow!). Then there is Cecilia Bartoli. Years ago, her beautiful, but not very powerful voice was upstaged by her stunning looks. But as her voice has matured, no suspension of disbelief is necessary. Her performance as Semele is a case in point. The grasping, foolish Semele instead has a problem not of her own making - the minimalist production by Robert Carsen. The modern, Royal House of Belgium-like set and costumes do not convince as a dwelling of Jupiter and his favourite mortal. And yet, in the third act, both Bartoli and Charles Workman as Jupiter deliver a gripping, powerful interplay of love and misunderstanding. The human and divine emotions shine in their voices as they do in the voices of the other principals and the precise, if not very period-inspired playing of the familiar music of Handel. Although not a complete triumph, this is one DVD worth keeping – if you can suspend disbelief

Robert Tomas

04_puccini_butterflyPuccini - Madama Butterfly
Angela Gheorghiu; Jonas Kaufmann;
Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; Antonio Pappano
EMI Classics 2 64187 2 8

At Grigorian.Com

In the DVD era it comes as quite a surprise that EMI is investing in a brand new CD set of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Especially Butterfly, an opera recorded umpteen times and favoured by some of the greatest conductors, most notably Karajan who probed the depths and unearthed so much beauty in this score much to the chagrin of its detractors who ridiculed it as shallow and sentimental. Favoured also by the great sopranos, Callas, Tebaldi, the unforgettable Scotto, Freni etc. who made the principal role their own over the years.

Yet it is still important to hear new artists tackling the score and this handsomely presented new set with demonstration sound does just that. From the first bar onwards we are instantly aware of the excitement and electricity of Antonio Pappano’s brilliant, empathetic conducting, turning the orchestra into a major dramatic role in an almost Wagnerian fashion. His feeling for detail is uncanny. Feel how he creates an almost unbearable and horrifying near silence just before final tragedy.

Jonas Kaufmann as Pinkerton is a strong ‘heldentenor’, singing out the notes, but I am missing the Italianate charm that I am sure Puccini intended. In the supporting roles, Fabio Capitanucci (Sharpless) and Enkelejda Shkosa (Suzuki) are not comparable to such past greats as Christa Ludwig and Giuseppe de Luca. However, the second major factor that makes this recording so extraordinary is famed Puccini heroine Angela Gheorghiu in the title role. It requires a singer-actress of the highest caliber to portray the development of a 15 year old geisha into a lover, a proud mother and later a tragic heroine. She accomplishes this daunting task beautifully with a memorable performance.

Janos Gardonyi

01a_mozart_magicTDK has issued a reasonably priced DVD package of Mozart operas recorded live at the Salzburg Festival, all with The Vienna Philharmonic, featuring distinguished soloists of the time (DVWW-GOLDBOX5, 6 DVDs). These were all recorded by the ORF and licensed by them and issued with the official Salzburger Festspiele Dokumente logo.

At Grigorian.Com


We begin with Die Zauberflõte from 21 August 1982 conducted by James Levine with an all-star cast including Martti Talvela, Peter Schreier, Walter Berry, Edita Gruberova, Ileana Cotrubas, Edda Moser, Ann Murray, and Horst Hiestermann. From the very first bars of the Overture, there can be no doubt that this will be a towering performance... which it is. The sets, costumes, and stage direction are by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle who did not load the stage with Zeffirelli opulence but created striking and original sets that were ahead of their time with costumes to match. Mozart is well served and there no question as to the choice of singers who, even in the spoken dialogue are naturally convincing.


Cosí fan Tutti, Mozart’s delightful comic masterpiece is conducted here by Ricardo Muti who maintains the giocoso spirit throughout. The pseudo-tragic moments are also depicted musically to good effect. This 1983 production has, as usual in Salzburg, an international cast with Margaret Marshall (Fiordiligi), Ann Murray (Dorabella), James Morris (Guglielmo), Francisco Araiza (Ferrando), Kathleen Battle (Despina), Sesto Bruscantini (Don Alfonso), and Gerhard Paul (a landlord). These seasoned and experienced Mozart singers who are veterans of the Festival for many years assume their roles with confidence. The staging of this opera is very critical in maintaining the comic aura but here it is rather two dimensional and surprisingly unimaginative. The acting is sometimes static, lacking vibrant direction in comparison with other productions. It is, however, useful and enlightening for listeners who have not seen this opera live. In spite these small reservations I am pleased to see this performance released.

At Grigorian.Com

The production of La Clemenza di Tito from August 2003 moves Mozart’s last opera into the 21st Century. And it works to perfection. La Clemenza was completed in 1791 shortly before Mozart’s death and history has eclipsed the event with the stories of the commissioning of the unfinished Requiem. The opera was written for the coronation of Ludwig II of Bavaria and has always been controversial, deemed unperformable by many. I don’t believe this opera is mentioned, even in passing, in the movie Amadeus that so painstakingly dwells on Mozart’s last year. All misgivings have been removed since this spectacular staging in 2003 here presented in wide screen and surround sound. The cast will be familiar: Michael Schade brings Tito to life; Vesselina Kasarova, Sesto; Dorothea Röschmann, Vitellia; Elina Garanča, Annio; Barbara Bonney, Servilia; and Luca Pisaroni, Publio. None of these singers is less than astonishing and all are beyond criticism. Canadian Michael Schade needs no introduction and those of us who saw Le Cenerentola live from the Met recently will well remember Elina Garanča, here cast in a most unusual role. Nikolaus Harnoncourt keeps a steady pulse and succeeds in turning in a performance that, together with every aspect of this production, makes La Clemenza di Tito the most captivating of the three in this package.
At Grigorian.Com


The first Mahler I owned on record, in fact the first Mahler I ever heard was Das Lied von der Erde. That was the still exemplary performance recorded live by EMI on May 1936 with Bruno Walter conducting The Vienna Philharmonic with Kerstin Thorborg and Charles Kullman. When it was first issued on 14 78rpm sides it was considered a risky proposition but this performance remains as a lasting monument to Bruno Walter at his most inspired. Recently I came across a CD in my collection conducted by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (ORFEO C494001B). The performance is the most meaningful and expressive I have heard. The music breathes. It discloses Fischer-Dieskau’s deep understanding of what the verses really mean. Both soloists, Yvi Janicke and Christian Elsner (who studied with Fischer-Dieskau), although not best in class, are in accord with the conductor. Beautifully recorded, with every nuance audible, I was taken aback when, many moments after the last notes fell away, there was applause. This was a live performance! It took place on 22 June 1996 at the Schubertiade in Feldkirch, Austria. Mahler lovers owe it to themselves to hear this unique performance. It’s a must.

Several important David Oistrakh editions were released over the last few months to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of his birth, mostly reissues of his studio recordings. A few were offering never-released-before performances and particularly notable of this group is the new DOREMI, the 13th in their ongoing series of Oistrakh Rarities (DHR-7950). This is the complete recital from January 1959 given in Paris with his long time accompanist Vladimir Yampolsky. Oistrakh was clearly at the top of his powers and this repertoire cannot be imagined in better performances, musically or technically. They played the Franck Violin Sonata, Ravel’s Tzigane, the glowing sonata in G minor by Tartini, and the Schumann Fantasia in C major, op.131. Collectors will know that Oistrakh never recorded the Schumann commercially, so that this is a real treasure. They will also know the significance of a bonus track on this CD. Oistrakh rarely performed any of Bach’s famous six unaccompanied sonatas and partitas, and recorded only the first, BWV1001. At the end of a Gala with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1965 he played the Andante from the second sonata BWV1003. A genuine rarity. Good sound.







02_tjoThe  Path

Toronto Jazz Orchestra

Independent TJO003 (www.thetjo.com)

The Toronto Jazz Orchestra’s third release coincides with the 10th anniversary of its existence. Founding Artistic Director and Conductor Josh Grossman’s baby initially began as a rehearsal band of friends and peers from U of T, Humber College and York University; the grown TJO has gone on to perform with numerous high-profile jazz artists including Phil Nimmons, Seamus Blake and Kurt Elling. While they have performed various tributes to big band heroes of American yesteryear, a great deal of the Canadian big band’s appeal lies in its decidedly modern arrangements, compositions and interpretations. One such example is the funky, futuristic Cereal Blocks by Finnish composer Johan Pyykkö; otherwise, “The Path” abounds with mostly home-grown compositions. The meticulously scored i love you on the microphone by Montreal-based composer Moiya Callahan is an intriguing, challenging commission.

Another outstanding track is The Call, an inspired composition by David Braid arranged by Andrew Jones. Grossman contributes three of his own, including the adventuresome title track, the sparkling Chazz and the comical TJO. The director’s intelligent arrangements of Amazing Grace and Vince Mendoza’s Esperanto are commendable for balancing freshness and accessibility; the latter is one of two tracks featuring immensely talented vocalist, Sophia Perlman. There are more than a few memorable solos, including wonderful reed work by Mark Laver and Terry Quinney and pianist Ali Berkok. The eighteen-piece ensemble breathes as one throughout. All in all, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra is on an admirable path.


Ori Dagan

01_borbely Hommage à Kodály

Mihály Borbély Quartet

Budapest Music Center Records BMC CD 155 (www.bmcrecords.hu)


Perhaps only Hungarians can capture the nuances implicit in the compositions of their countryman Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967). At least Budapest-based multi-reedist Mihály Borbély demonstrates that on this CD where he integrates Kodály’s themes with his own jazz compositions. Borbély, who also plays in the Magyar folk tradition that influenced Kodály, doesn’t imitate the composer. Instead the quintet which plays his themes extends the folkloric style while staying within the parameters of improvised music.

For instance, Balázs Kántor’s reading of Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello with double-stopping plucks and Roma romanticism foreshadows the contrapuntal Borbély composition which follows it. Tilinkós, Kodály’s own, features the reedman’s buoyant and lyrical soloing on tilinkós or shepherd’s pipe mixed with tremolo slides from Kántor, tough drum beats from Istávan Baló, high-frequency modal runs from pianist Dániel Szabó, and conclusive Orientalized trills from Borbély’s saxophone – which recall that the Turks ruled Hungary for centuries.

Similarly, the dramatic equal temperament Szabó brings to his playing on Kodály’s Sonatina is as kinetic as the cascading note choruses he displays on the saxophonist’s The Shepherd of Hope. Although Baláczs Horvath’s walking bass line plus the supple tongue-fluttering and aviary chirps from Borbély’s soprano saxophone may have disconcerted Kodály, he would have appreciated the lullaby-like finale here that reflects his own work.

With the band sounding like a swinging jazz combo at times – albeit one where Borbély’s strident extensions are sometimes also expressed on tárogato – and a sympathetic chamber ensemble elsewhere, this homage to Kodály impresses with originality as well as empathy.


Ken Waxman



03_mingus_epitaphCharles  Mingus - Epitaph

Orchestra; Gunther Schuller

Eagle Eye Media EE-39171-9

On June 3rd, 1989 New York’s Alice Tully Hall was the scene of a monumental tribute to the late, great Charles Mingus, who had died a decade earlier. 30 musicians, including the cream of New York’s jazz community directed by Gunther Schuller, gave the first performance of Epitaph, an 18 movement work composed over a number of years by Mingus which had never seen the light of day. Some sections, “Better Get It In Your Soul” and “Freedom” for example, are known in other versions performed by smaller groups, while some pieces were composed for a legendary disastrous concert at New York’s Town Hall in 1962. There hadn’t been a chance to rehearse it properly and the copyists were, indeed, even still copying some of the music – it wasn’t even fully ready and so eventually the concert was aborted when the union stage crew said, ‘It’s midnight, we’ve gotta stop this.’ The other pieces on this recording would seem to have been written for the full orchestra.

It can certainly be described as Mingus’ magnum opus and runs well over two hours. If you’re a fan this is not to be missed, but if you are not familiar with his music I would suggest that you listen to some of his albums – “Mingus Ah Um” or “Blues and Roots” - before plunging in at the deep end with this ambitious undertaking.

Composer and arranger Andrew Homzy who discovered the 500 page score, some of it in very poor condition, while cataloguing Mingus’ work, deserves a vote of thanks for his restoration of this significant aspect of the creative spirit that was Charles Mingus.

An interesting footnote is that the composition had no finale and according to Schuller he and the band improvised one, using Mingus as an inspiration.

Jim Galloway



04_sophie_milmanTake  Love Easy
Sophie Milman
Linus 2 7010 8

At Grigorian.Com

Following closely on the success of her Juno-winning “Make Someone Happy”, Russian-born Toronto resident Sophie Milman has released her third studio recording. In contrast to her previous albums that were mostly older standards, “Take Love Easy” is an inviting mix of covers by modern songwriting icons such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon combined with tunes by the likes of Cole Porter and Duke Ellington. Milman has a warm, sultry delivery that is best on the moody down tempo numbers while on the few faster tempo tunes that call for more precision, she gets left in the dust somewhat. But the killer band is in complete control throughout, nimbly navigating through the various styles here. The rhythm section - Paul Shrofel, keys, Rob Piltch, guitar, Kieran Overs, bass and Mark McLean, drums – swings gently on the title track, stretches out on That Is Love, then eases their way through the bossa nova-tinged My One and Only Love, with sublime accordion playing by Tom Szczesniak. The whole ensemble, including lush horns, does a gorgeous rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me.

Cathy Riches

Concert Note: Milman performs at the Montreal and Vancouver TD Canada Trust jazz fests in July.



05_terra_hazeltonGimme Whatcha Got
Terra Hazelton

Best-known for singing with Jeff Healey’s Jazz Wizards for 6 years, Terra Hazelton can today be found singing with Toronto bands such as The Hogtown Syncopators, The Jivebombers, and Jaymz Bee’s Royal Jelly Orchestra. Her sophomore release is a departure from the Healey-produced debut “Anybody’s Baby” which was recorded live-off-the-floor. “Gimme Whatcha Got” is a musical metamorphosis from cocoon to butterfly, a product of Hazelton’s own musical vision guided by producer/pianist John Sheard and supported by a collection of this country’s finest jazz musicians. The benevolent rhythm section features Sheard on piano, George Koller on bass, Jesse Barksdale on guitar and Mark Mariash on drums. A welcome abundance of special guests include William Sperandei on trumpet, Shawn Nykwist on tenor, Ross Wooldridge on clarinet and Danny Douglas on trombone. Chris Gale’s spine-tingling solo on Julia Lee’s Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got is the kind that beckons to be transcribed; same goes for the five tracks graced by vivacious violin virtuoso Drew Jurecka. Tasteful duets with Alex Pangman (Don’t Let Your Love Go Wrong) and Russell DeCarle (Two Sleepy People) plus a trio with Jason and Sheldon Valieau (I’m an Old Cowhand) add some spice. Hazelton’s compelling delivery captures the essence of every song, whether it’s romantic (I Like it ‘Cause I Love it), naughty (Gotta Gimme Whatcha Got), droll (Ev’rything I’ve Got Belongs to You) or tragic (Smoking My Sad Cigarette). This radiant singer has never shone brighter.

Ori Dagan


 Extended Play:

Alexander Von Schlippenbach

and his band mates

By Ken Waxman


01_VonSchlippenbach A European jazz pacesetter since the late 1960s, German pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s groups showcase different aspects of his broad interests. Together for over 35 years, his trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens features improvisers attuned to each other’s thinking. Predating that, The Globe Unity Orchestra herds outstanding Continental soloists into cooperative big band arrangements. His Monk’s Casino quintet – filled out by German players about 25 years younger than Schlippenbach, 71 – offers a unique take on Thelonious Monk’s oeuvre. Its members also score on individual projects, like these CDs.

Able to display the quirky kernel of Monk’s moods elsewhere, on Friulian Sketches (psi 08.07; www.emanemdisc.com/psi.html), Von Schlippenbach personalizes jazz chamber music, seconded by American cellist Tristan Honsinger and Italian clarinettist Daniele D’Agaro. The 20 inventions are airy and pleasant, and never do the bel canto flourishes trump innate creativity. For example on Capriccio skewed Monkian tropes give way to broken-octave chording and strummed cadenzas from the pianist – both formalist and funky. In contrast the cellist’s tremolo squeaks open up into multi-string exhibitionism, while D’Agaro’s reed quivers with lyrical currents. Moderato throughout, tunes are frequently jolted by the clarinettist’s high-pitched glissandi or liquid portamento. Take Antifonia where D’Agaro’s tones are matched by the pianist’s organic patterning plus a stop-time interlude from Honsinger. Altering their instruments’ tessitura as they play, the three keep the restrained sounds from becoming simplistic by including rhythmic plunks from cello strings and key fanning from the piano.

02_Toot Simplicity doesn’t enter the equation on TOOT’s Two (Another Timbre At14; www.anothertimbre.com). Here the Bebop chops trumpeter Axel Dörner exhibits in Monk’s Casino are transmogrified into disembodied brass sound pulses, the better to meld with the quivering wave forms and undercurrents from Thomas Lehn’s synthesizer and the cries, retches and mumbles which make up the unconventional oralization of British vocalist Phil Minton. Minton’s style of anti-singing, which encompasses duck quacks, yodeling, basso growls and strangled yelps, reduces vocal expression to its most basic. So does the trumpeter, whose expression mostly consists of flat-line air forced through the horn’s body tube, reductionist breaths and circumscribed grace notes. Abstract on their own, Lehn’s sound envelopes hold the improvisations together with pulsating signals and electric-piano-like sprinkles. Evolving chromatically or contrapuntally, Toot’s soundworld is pointillist, but not cynosure. Despite Minton’s strident throat extensions, his gibberish spouting is put into context when mated with the others’ outpourings. Purring timbres and ring modulator-like whooshes from the synthesizer create a connective undercurrent, while Dörner’s excursions into muted grace notes confirm the in-the-moment status of the improvisations.

03_GoodBoys Even more instantaneous is Aki and The Good Boys’ Live at Willisau Jazz Festival (Jazz Werkstatt JW 049; www.records-cd.com). One “good boy” prominent on this CD by Aki Takase – the Japanese-born, Berlin-based pianist – is bass clarinettist Rudi Mahall, who shares the front line in Monk’s Casino with Dörner. Serendipitously enough, Takase is Von Schlippenbach’s wife. Looser than the other CDs’ programs, “Live” cannily subverts American jazz and German folksongs. Takase’s compositions are harmonically and melodically sophisticated. They also have sufficient space for her keyboard forays ranging from high-frequency tinkling, to metronomic pulsing. Added are flutter-tongued, altissimo and vamping exchanges between Mahall and Amsterdam-based reedist Tobias Delius.              Scattered among the tunes are four Mahall-composed miniatures which lighten the mood and extend the color palate. Dreimal Durch for instance, conflates an uneven pulse, spidery piano arpeggios and unison horn trills. The bass clarinettist’s reed bites, spetrofluctuation and tongue slaps help define Takase compositions such as Today’s Ulysses, which also showcases her metronomic patterning and contrasting dynamics. Here Mahall scooping concentric notes from his horn’s bottom causes Delius to unleash responsive honks and slurs.

04_JanRoder In contrast to these exercises in group interaction, bassist Jan Roder – whose solid rhythm is the rock on which Monk’s Casino rests – goes it alone on Double Bass (jazzwerkstatt JW 037; www.records-cd.com), unveiling multiple strategies as his modulated plucks alternate with metronomic inventions plus abrasive bow scratches. Nau captures slaps, pulls and thumps. Ses deals with staccato, strident and subterranean double-stopping – one texture resembles pooch barks, another is airily melodic. Then there’s Kvar, which uses crumpled paper placed among the strings to create rattling noises that upticks to sul ponticello creaks. The piece concludes with adagio note clusters executed with guitar-like facility.


Concert Note: Each musician excels as a stylist on his own. Toronto can experience them together as Monk’s Casino at the Church of the Redeemer as part of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival on June 26.



01_bach_bminor Marc Minkowski first came to the attention of Toronto concert-goers through his highly successful collaboration with Opera Atelier of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas back in 1995. But he has been an important force on the “period performance” scene for much longer than that, having founded Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble at the age of 20 in 1982. With dozens of recordings under his belt it seems strange that Minkowski has waited more than 25 years to tackle any of the major works of J. S. Bach. With the recent release of the Mass in B-minor (Naïve V 5145) all that has changed and Minkowski has embarked on a long-term projected “Bach cycle”. In the Mass Minkowski uses sparse forces which he feels reflect those which would have been available to Bach, had the work seen the light of day during his lifetime. Instrumentally there are just thirteen strings, pairs of winds and trumpets, solo horn for the famous duet with the bass voice in the Quoniam tu solus sanctus, timpani and continuo alternating between organ and harpsichord. The ten vocal soloists do double duty as one-voice-per-part choristers as required, and we are presented with an intimate, crystalline performance lasting one hour and forty-one minutes. Recorded last July during the fledgling Via Stellae Festival (Festival of Music of Compostela and its Ways of Pilgrimage) in the gothic San Domingos de Bonaval Church, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the reverberant acoustic belies the small ensemble and we are treated to a glorious full sound without losing any of the intimacy of the performance. The predominantly young vocal soloists are all outstanding, with highlights for me being alto (and former soprano soloist in the Vienna Boys’ Choir) Terry Wey in the Qui sedes ad dextram patris with oboe d’amore provided by Emmanuel Laporte and in the duet Et in unum Dominum with soprano Lucy Crowe; and Canadian tenor Colin Balzer’s Benedictus with flute soloist Florian Cousin. Beginning the cycle with what has been called the culmination of Bach’s life’s work will prove to be a tough act for Minkowski to follow, but on the evidence of this maiden voyage there are future treasures in store. Packaged as a one hundred page, trilingual hardcover book (thankfully with CD-case dimensions for easy filing) including program notes, an interview with Minkowski, texts with translations and full artist biographies, this handsome set is a welcome addition the catalogue and to my collection.

Bach: B Minor 'Mass
At Grigorian.Com

02_national_youth-orch Last month the National Youth Orchestra of Canada announced the 100 members of the 2009 edition of the orchestra selected from some 550 applicants across the county. If Selections from the 2008 National Tour (NYOC2008CD www.nyoc.org) is any indication, audiences have a treat in store in August when this year’s orchestra, under the direction of Alain Trudel, tours Ontario and Quebec with stops including the National Arts Centre and Roy Thomson Hall. Last year the baton was held by Trois-Rivières native Jacques Lacombe, who is currently making his mark on the opera stages of Europe and will make his debut at Covent Garden this summer. Lacombe leads the 2008 NYOC in very strong performances of late 19th, 20th and 21st century works. The two disc set begins with Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Through the Unknown, Unremembered Gate, a work which, as I suspected but is not attributed as such in the disc’s liner notes, was commissioned by the NYOC in which orchestra members are required to vocalize as well as play their instruments. It is quite an effective, dramatic work and Toronto audiences will have a chance to hear the TSO perform it during the New Creations Festival in February 2010. Murphy’s piece is followed by convincing performances of Mahler’s First Symphony “The Titan” (with my compliments to the excellent horn section) and Prokofiev’s “Scythian Suite”, but where the orchestra truly shines is in Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben. Concertmasters Aysel Taghi-Zada and Kenny Wong turn in stellar performances in the solo roles, but the work, which leaves each section of the orchestra exposed in turn, is testament to the fact that there are simply no weak links in this well-oiled machine. These discs make it easy to see why a third of all the players in professional Canadian orchestras are alumni of the NYOC which next season will celebrate 50 years since its founding by Walter Susskind back in 1960.

A couple of months ago in this column I noted the 20th anniversary release by Catherine Wilson’s Ensemble Vivant. Not content to rest on their laurels, the ensemble has just released Fête 03_ensemble_vivantFrançaise (Opening Day ODR 9379 www.openingday.com). Over the years I must confess that I have tended to ignore the group’s recordings simply as bomboniere, collections of lighter fare, all dessert and no main course. I am very pleased to find their latest release contains a much more substantial menu, with little known works by familiar composers to which we have not been overexposed in the past. Of particular note for me is the Debussy Piano Trio in G Major, an early work which was suppressed by the composer and only came to light in 1980. Having had a go at this one with my own amateur trio I was very happy to find a wonderful performance of it on this new recording. Although Debussy decided that this was not something he wanted to send out into the world to represent him, it does provide a pivotal glimpse into his development and the world he was leaving behind with the new ideas that would lead him to Impressionism. The CD also includes two other rarities, a charming collection of Alsatian folk melodies set for piano, violin and cello by Charles-Marie Widor, a composer known to most only for his organ works, and a Septet by Camille Saint-Saëns. This latter is a backward-looking work which had it been composed 50 years later – in 1930 instead of 1880 – would have been called neo-classical, or more accurately neo-baroque. Scored for the unusual combination of string quintet (with double bass), piano and trumpet, it was commissioned by the organizer of a society of wind players called La Trompette, and consists of a suite of dance movements including a menuet and gavotte. Congratulations to Ensemble Vivante for uncovering these works and presenting them with their usual flare.

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



Secret Agent: The Selected Journals and Letters of Harry Somers

edited by William Scoular

352 pages, photos; $30.00

available from the Canadian Music Centre

Three weeks before Harry Somers died, he wrote in his journal, "I list my occupation as secret agent. Whenever I've been caught & it's been frequently, I confess to anything & everything. ‘Yes, yes,' I confess, escaping all torture. ‘You are a traditional conservative composer?' ‘YES.' ‘You are an eclectic?' ‘Oh YES.' ‘You have been at times an avant garde composer?' ‘I'll sign the paper!' ‘You're old hat?!' ‘Yes. Yes. A beat up old hat.'"

No-one except Somers himself could have come up with this. That's what makes these journals and letters so remarkable. Somers always stood out for his elegance, wit, charm, forthrightness and passionate dedication. We now have a whole new dimension on him - his thoughts, his feelings, his worries, and even what he read and listened to.

Somers' wife Barbara Chilcott and the editor William Scoular have done a Herculean job of assembling and editing the diaries and letters, written on scraps of paper over a period of 30 years. Their importance makes it all the more desirable that the next step be taken to have them fully annotated and indexed.

Certain situations need explaining, such as what happened in 1965 that would provoke Somers to curse ‘the commonwealth', ‘the Queen', ‘Ozawa', ‘Walter Hamburger' (sic), ‘Bright's champagne', ‘the government' and ‘Irving Glick', all in one breath? Important figures like E. Robert Schmitz need to be identified. Names like ‘gord rainor', ‘Milhoud', and ‘Crumm', misspelled by Somers - whether inadvertently or on purpose - should have their proper spelling noted. What annotations there are, given in square brackets in the text, are not always accurate. The published journal reads, "I remember Krenek [president of the USSR's composers' union] referring to Copland as superficial." But here Somers is surely referring to the Austrian composer Ernst Krenek, not the Soviet composer Tikhon Khrennikov, who was Somers' dinner companion when he visited the USSR in 1976.

Somers' speculations about writing an autobiography come up constantly in these pages. "There are many sides of many things I've not spoken of," he wrote in 1995. Fortunately he left this candid, fascinating journal, and along with his letters, it makes an essential contribution to the cultural life of this country. A terrific collection of photos and a DVD containing clips of TV and documentary interviews give readers a sense of his physical presence.

The People's Artist: Prokofiev's Soviet Years

by Simon Morrison

Oxford University Press

504 pages, photos; $32.95

If the secret agent who figures in Harry Somers' journal was a romanticized fantasy, the secret agents in Prokofiev's life were real, nasty, and dangerous - from the Russian émigré cellist in Hollywood who made sure Prokofiev returned to the Soviet Union, to the malicious head of the Union of Soviet Composers, Tikhon Khrennikov, who Somers had found to be "terribly kind" when he met him in Moscow.

This brilliant chronicle of Prokofiev's final years focuses on why he returned to what was now the Soviet Union, and how that irrevocable move affected his life and music. "He thought to influence Soviet cultural policy," writes Morrison, "but instead it influenced him."

Morrison explores how Prokofiev's ambition, vanity, and naiveté led him to his fateful decision. It's clear from his diaries (now being published in English) that he missed his homeland. But he was lured by offers of performances and money. Morrison considers the influence of his fervent Christian Science spiritualism, which likely prevented him from seeing the repression, incarcerations and murders of artists that were occurring regularly in the Soviet Union under Stalin.Yet he shows that Prokofiev in fact had some sense of the personal and artistic freedom he would be sacrificing. In any case, as soon as he had moved his wife Lina and their two sons from Paris to Moscow, he could only travel abroad with Lina if he left his two sons behind. By 1938, neither he nor Lina was allowed to leave at all.

But as difficult as things gradually became for Prokofiev, they were far worse for Lina, who was not even Russian. First, Prokofiev left her for a young admirer, and then, when she tried to leave the USSR, she ended up spending years in Soviet camps on fabricated charges of treason.

Morrison is a Canadian scholar now teaching at Princeton. He has made full use of his unprecedented access to unpublished documents and scores now in the Russian State Archives. Morrison's meticulous endnotes and index makes this detailed biography accessible, and his elegant writing style makes it thoroughly engrossing to read.



Leonard Bernstein: American Original

edited by Burton Bernstein and Barbara B. Haws


240 pages, photos; $31.95

For years, Leonard Bernstein's father Sam pressured his musically precocious eldest son to go into the family beauty-supplies business. Later he defended himself by saying, "How could I know he would grow up to be a Leonard Bernstein?" As his father had finally figured out, Leonard Bernstein was an original. But no-one could live up to the title of this book and be a "modern renaissance man" who "transformed music and the world" - not even this charismatic conductor, composer, writer and educator. Fortunately the ten essays in this book are less starry-eyed and more incisive than the title would suggest. Together, they offer a well-balanced portrait of a complex figure.

There's an eloquent memoir by music critic Alan Rich, who admits to often being hard on Bernstein, mostly for ignoring contemporary music. Historian Paul Boyer discusses how Bernstein added a political dimension to his role as conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Like Prokofiev, he believed that art not only reflects but influences social reality. His outspoken support for issues such as civil liberties, environmental protection and world peace was considered so audacious at the time that he ended up with an FBI file almost 700 pages long.

Unlike the Soviet composer, he did achieve some influence. But, as his younger brother Burton Bernstein writes in one of his memorable chapter-by-chapter commentaries, he paid a price - in the press at least - for what his brother considers his naiveté. American composer John Adams offers the perspective of a young man first discovering Bernstein. "I thought I'd found the model for what the future of classical music in America would be," he writes.

The splendid photos and documents enrich the texts. My favorite photo, from 1970, shows Bernstein in leisure clothes coaching his baseball team, the Philharmonic Penguins. Beside him, watching intently in his baseball uniform and cap, is his protégé Seiji Ozawa, who would have just finished his stint as conductor of the Toronto Symphony.

The Toronto Symphony performs two works by Bernstein, Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, and Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, on May 13 at 8:00 and May 14 at 2:00.

Bernstein's West Side Story is on stage at the Stratford Festival from June 5 until October 31.


 Dowland - The Queen’s Galliard

(Lute Music Vol. 4)

Nigel North

Naxos 8.570284

At Grigorian.com

The fourth and final CD of a series devoted to John Dowland’s lute music, this disc’s program of galliards, corants and Elizabethan song tunes offers an affectionate and intriguing glimpse into the musical development of this brilliant composer. Though Dowland’s familiar pensive spirit is rarely out of sight, its reflection through the prism of dance and song makes for delightful listening of a more lively kind, especially in the expert musical hands of Nigel North.

This CD is replete with great tunes expertly played. Several of the composer’s earlier and less familiar galliards can be heard here, of which John Dowland’s Galliard is a particular gem; also included are some of his most famous, such as the Frog Galliard, which receives an elegantly spry performance. Also offered are various lute song and broadside ballad tunes set for lute alone, including Can she excuse, Lord Willoughby’s welcome home, Fortune my foe, Goe from my window and other Shakespeare-era chart-toppers. North also performs his own particularly beautiful version of Francis Cutting’s Awake sweet love.

Besides his exemplary playing, North’s readable notes provide much helpful and interesting information. And the recorded sound on this disc is beautiful.

Congrats to Naxos for their support of Dowland’s remarkable music, as played by one of his most excellent champions. 

Alison Melville





Twelve Fantasies for Solo Violin

Augustin Hadelich

Naxos 8.570563

At Grigorian.com

Like a musical wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Telemann Fantasies lie in wait for the competent but unsuspecting amateur violinist searching for solo Baroque works less challenging than the Bach Sonatas and Partitas.

I’ve been trying to play these things for over 35 years - which probably says more about my reluctance to practise and the relative balance of “competent” and “amateur” in my technique than anything else - and while Telemann clearly intended them for amateurs and students the deceptively straightforward writing is often quite angular and strewn with technical pitfalls.

Composed in 1735, the Fantasies display elements of the Baroque sonata, concerto and suite, with limited two-part writing and less multiple stopping than the Bach; the 1968 Barenreiter edition, however - and with classic understatement - remarked that “the double stopping and chordal work can only be tackled by a competent player.”

Augustin Hadelich’s playing goes far beyond merely competent, making everything sound easy and natural without ever being trivial. The short, slow chordal passages could perhaps be embellished more - comparison with the solo Asseggai of Telemann's Swedish contemporary Johan Helmich Roman would certainly suggest this - but Hadelich's ornamentation is clean and unobtrusive.

These are not the Bach solo works in any respect, leaning more towards Corelli than to Telemann's German contemporary, but they still have much to recommend them.

Recorded in Newmarket by the regular Naxos team of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver the sound quality is, as always, impeccable.

Terry Robbins


 Haydn – La Passione

(Symphonies 41; 44; 49)

Arion; Gary Cooper

early-music.com EMCCD-7769


Montreal’s Arion orchestra is joined in this recent CD by the English harpsichordist Gary Cooper in a program of three remarkable symphonies from Haydn’s so-called “Storm and Stress” period. What makes this recording unusual, aside from the highly contentious inclusion of a harpsichord continuo part, is the modest size of the 17 member orchestra, ostensibly modelled after the forces available to Haydn at the Esterhazy palace where these works were first heard. This recording claims to be a premiere of sorts, in that the performance of the Symphony No. 41 is presented, as Cooper explains in the booklet notes, “without the pomp and clatter of additional trumpets and timpani”. An admirable intent to be sure, but regrettably there’s clatter galore from the over-miked horns and an often relentless harpsichord part which contributes a considerable din of acrid overtones of its own. Though the virtuosity of the ensemble is quite evident, particularly in the hell-for-leather tempos of the 44th and 49th symphonies, Anton Kwiatkowski’s over-the-top sound engineering (or to be fair, perhaps it’s a distorted pressing of the album that’s at fault) inflates the modest ensemble to gargantuan proportions, undermining the very intimacy that was the stated intent of this small-scale performance. If heavy-metal Haydn is your thing you may enjoy these bristly, bracing interpretations.

Daniel Foley






 Beethoven - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Mari Kodama; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestre Berlin; Kent Nagano

Analekta AN 2 9955

At Grigorian.com

I looked forward to hearing these concertos after Nagano’s Beethoven Fifth Symphony recorded with the Montreal Symphony (AN2 9942-3). That performance was a wave of fresh air in dynamics, phrasing and tempi and a welcome addition to the catalogue, holding one’s attention to the last bar.

Mari Kodama is endowed with astonishing virtuosity, self assurance and control. This reminded me of Glenn Gould when his limitless ability, boarding on arrogance, could stand in the way the music. As these performances unfold I was persuaded that she is offering genuine musical insights with a personal touch that is quite appealing.

About eight minutes into the first movement of the first concerto, Beethoven’s genius is manifested using simple means for the unfolding drama of the music. Descending scales, played 3 times, remind me of similar scales in Mozart’s Don Giovanni which portend the demise of the Don. How these simple passages are played is one of the critical measures of artistic insight. No reservations here nor with the inner world of the slow movement. The third movement, taken at a brisk pace, is exhilarating.

Kodama’s style is perfectly akin to the second concerto. Her no nonsense, clear approach suits this work perfectly. Sparkling throughout and as stylistically satisfying as any I know of.

The orchestra is just the right size for these works and Nagano, as expected, provides illuminating support, fresh and pointed beyond merely impeccable. The spacious recording is clean and well projected with a pleasing ambience.

It will be quite interesting to hear the other three concertos as they may require less of the sparkling pianism and more heavyweight musicianship. Odds are she’ll make it brilliantly.

Bruce Surtees



André Laplante

Analekta AN 2 9964

At Grigorian.com

We can only wonder why it took Andre Laplante – a pianist long renowned for his interpretations of late-romantic repertoire – until now to record an all-Chopin disc. But in light of the well-balanced program and superb playing, it was well worth the wait! Included on this Analekta recording are 2 major works, the Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35 and the Fantaisie Op.49, in addition to two early Nocturnes, (Op. Post. in C sharp minor, and Op.15 No.1), and the three Mazurkas Op.63.

The Sonata, the second of Chopin’s efforts in the form, raised more than a few eyebrows when first published in 1840. Schumann even went so far as to refer to it as a binding together of “four of his maddest children.” No matter, Laplante approaches the music with aplomb – this is powerful and noble playing, and my only quibble - and a minor one at that - would be the overly brisk pace he takes in the opening movement. Yet the familiar third movement “Funeral March” is treated with the solemnity it deserves, and the finale, with those fleeting octaves once described as “wind over church-yard graves” embodies a spirit that surely would have pleased Edgar Allan Poe.

The two nocturnes and three mazurkas which follow are miniature jewels, but to my mind, Laplante saves his best for last with the magnificent F minor Fantaisie, hailed by many as Chopin’s greatest work. I have heard many versions over the years, but I can honestly say this is among the finest I have encountered. His treatment is nothing less than sublime, from the ominous opening march, to the thrice-heard secondary theme, a veritable love-song. There is a world of contrasting moods in this piece, and Laplante effortlessly captures them all, thus bringing this most satisfying disc to a close.

Richard Haskell



 Brahms; Korngold - Violin Concertos

Nikolaj Znaider; Wiener Philharmoniker; Valery Gergiev

RCA Red Seal 88697103362

At Grigorian.com

The young Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider appears in the august company of the mighty Vienna Philharmonic in this live recording from December 2006. The notoriously volatile Valery Gergiev provides an unusually restrained interpretation of the Brahms Concerto, well in tune with the beautifully honeyed tone Znaider draws from the Guarneri “del Gesu” violin once owned by Fritz Kreisler and now on loan to Znaider thanks to a Dutch foundation. It is a performance of striking intimacy, long on beauty though a bit short on the drama that other artists have found in this celebrated work. Though Znaider gives it his all, it seems Gergiev’s reticence in such familiar repertoire makes for just another day at the office as far as the orchestra is concerned. Gergiev and the Philharmonic seem much more engaged in Erich Korngold’s 1945 Violin Concerto, a work which is derived in large part from the composer’s Hollywood film scores composed during his decade of exile from his native Vienna. Attractively scored and direct in expression, it was premiered by Jascha Heifetz in 1947 and though it found little favour in European circles of the time it has never fallen out of the repertoire. All in all, a superb addition to Znaider’s discography.

Daniel Foley




 Michael Rabin Collection, Volume 2

Live Performances

Michael Rabin


Not only violin fans but all music lovers will be delighted with this set of performances by the legendary Michael Rabin, a violin virtuoso and fine musician who, in his short life (1936-1972), generated explosive excitement and had, and still has, one of the most evident cult followings in classical music.

The three CDs, each of a little over 80 minutes duration, are fully loaded with live performances, all previously un-issued in any format, of concertos, solos and real showpieces for violin and orchestra. These were taken down at various stages of Rabin’s meteoric career, from his precocious teen-age years when he was a frequent and popular guest on The Bell Telephone Hour broadcast nationally on the NBC Network, to the fully mature, seasoned master delivering astounding performances of the Brahms, Bruch’s 1st, and Prokofiev’s 2nd violin concertos. We hear also his earliest known live performances of the Wieniawski first concerto, a work that to this day only Rabin plays with such finesse. He later recorded it for EMI, as authoritatively as if he owned it. Both Perlman and Shaham have recorded the concerto but neither approaches Rabin’s supremacy in this repertoire. Also included in this set are two ‘contemporary’ concertos apparently played only by Rabin: those by Richard Mohaupt (German-American 1904-1957) heard here with the Philharmonic-Symphony conducted by Mitropoulos (1954) and American Paul Creston’s Concerto no.2, commissioned by Rabin (1962).

A 1952 collaboration between the young Rabin and the mature and celebrated Zino Francescatti is heard in a scintillating performance of the first movement of Bach’s Double Concerto BWV1042, Rabin playing primo! Six of Paganini’s Solos Caprices (Berlin 1961) are wondrous.

Most of the repertoire presented here does not exist in Rabin’s commercial discography or in previously issued live performances. The informative and authoritative liner notes were written by Doctor Anthony Feinstein, author of “Michael Rabin: America’s Virtuoso Violinist” (Amadeus Press, 2005), the only biography of the late musician.

It is known that Michael Rabin wished to record the Brahms Violin Concerto. This set honours that wish with a breathtaking performance from 1967 with Rafael Kubelik in Chicago. The sound is of studio quality as are all the tracks except for the Mohaupt and Creston concertos which were rescued from contemporary acetates. The set helps to fill significant omissions in the catalogue.

Bruce Surtees








Beethoven - Fidelio

Kennedy; Sherratt; Coleman-Wright; Kampe; Milne; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Mark Elder

Glyndebourne GFOCD 004-06

At Grigorian.com



Debussy - Pelléas et Mélisande

Roux; Duval; Reynolds; Hoekman;

Wilbrink; Bredy; Shirley-Quirk;

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Vittoria Gui

Glyndebourne GFOCD 003-63

At Grigorian.com

This year the Glyndebourne Festival in Sussex, England celebrates its 75th year. This is no mean achievement considering its survival depends entirely on private funds and donations. For any artist it has always been a great honour to be invited to be the guest of the Christie family, the founders and owners of this event. There have been many improvements over the years not the least of which is the magnificent new auditorium built in 1994. Glyndebourne has always been in the forefront of recording opera. As early as the 1930’s they were doing Mozart operas on EMI like the famous Don Giovanni with Fritz Busch. This year they have begun issuing recordings under their own label and this month we are presented with two of these: an inspired Fidelio from 2006 and from the archives, a 1963 performance of Pelléas et Mélisande.

Beethoven’s only opera embodies his innermost philosophy of life, the triumph of good against evil and the journey from darkness to light. This is what the Leonore Overture #3 does by compressing the journey into perhaps the most glorious 15 minutes of music ever written. With an emphasis on the symphonic nature of the opera, Mark Elder and his London Philharmonic, with excellent pacing and throbbing energy propel the music forward and yet illuminate all the nuances. Similar to the 9th Symphony the finale is truly an explosion and a culmination of joy.

The almost faultless cast deserves much credit. Soprano Anja Kampe as the heroine sings with heartfelt passion and tenderness and occasional outbursts of sincere indignation; Tornsten Kerl, the wrongfully convicted Florestan, has a shorter but no less gruelling role and his strong heroic tenor overcomes all the difficulties. The Glyndebourne Choir also makes a tremendous contribution.

At the end of the 19th century French music was under the heavy influence of Wagner and Brahms. A fervent desire for change was in the air and the young Debussy was the right man at the right time to bring it about. With new harmonies and translucent textures he brought in a breath of fresh air with a completely new approach, l’impressionisme. His sole opera Pelléas et Mélisande is a sublime masterpiece and a pinnacle of French art. It is totally different from anything written before yet, to be honest, still owes homage to Tristan and Parsifal which Debussy admired. Its long score is delicate but of the highest inspiration and every phrase is meaningful. It moves in the atmosphere of shadows, in and out of silence, generally quiet, rarely reaching a fortissimo.

This performance from 1963 is an inspired one from the beautifully poetic impressionistic sets by Beni Montresor, through the incisive and sympathetic conducting of Vittorio Gui to the faultless, impressive cast. French soprano Denise Duval is exceptional as the fragile, semi wild creature Mélisande. Dutch baritone Hans Wilbrink with his slow awareness to love and ardent declaration is most memorable. A worthwhile listening experience.

Last but not least, an A+ for presentation of these discs: elegantly designed hardcover books, with complete quattro lingual libretto. They will be a treasure for any collector.

Janos Gardonyi


Wales - The Land of Song

Shannon Mercer; Skye Consort

Analekta AN 2 9965

At Grigorian.com

In her fourth CD for Analekta, once again the lovely soprano voice of Shannon Mercer rings clear and true, this time in a most warm and heartfelt performance of Welsh songs. As the daughter of a long-time member of the Ottawa Welsh Society, Mercer well understands music and language as the cultural glue that binds people of Welsh descent. And what fond melodies they are. In fact, Mercer attributes her choice of career to the influence Welsh song had in her young life. The imagery inherent in the poetic language along with the sweet lyrical melodies chosen for this recording have quite an emotive impact on the listener, despite the fact that no translations are provided in the liner notes. Best-known pieces on this album are the well-loved lullaby Suo Gan, as well as the poignant Dafydd a Gareg Wen (David of the White Rock) and the unrequited Bugeillo’r Gwenith Gwyn.

In arranging the accompaniments and instrumental pieces, Sean Dagher has done a marvellous job of preserving traditional elements while melding them to a more contemporary aesthetic. The Skye Consort which includes flute, violins, cello, bass, cittern, accordion and percussion adds a 17th-century Italian harp similar to the Welsh triple-harp. Beautifully played, beautifully sung.

Dianne Wells




My first encounter with minimalist music was a recording of Terry Riley’s In C – 53 short motifs, each to be repeated an indefinite number of times, as desired, by any number of performers until eventually everyone has worked through all the motifs in order. When I brought it home and put it on the record player it took my mother less than a minute to call out from the kitchen “The record’s stuck”. My first live exposure to the concept was a couple of years later at an Arraymusic concert in the late ’70s. There was a piece by Marjan Mozetich and as its patterns kept on repeating I found myself wondering if the instructions in the score were to keep hammering out the same phrase until everyone in the audience had given up and left the hall. Of course it soon became clear in both cases that the patterns were subtly changing and that there was indeed a musical progression under way. I grew enamoured of the form and although I seem to now have grown out of that phase I still consider works like Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach, and for that matter, Laurie Anderson’s O Superman to be important and rewarding works. Over the decades Marjan Mozetich too has grown away from minimalism, at least in its more relentless forms, and has developed a style that can best be described as Lush.

01_mozetichA new Centrediscs release, Lament in the Trampled Garden (CMCCD 14009), presents a beautiful cross section of chamber works spanning two decades. The Penderecki String Quartet is joined by Erica Goodman, Nora Shulman and Shalom Bard (harp, flute and clarinet) for Angels in Flight, a 1987 triptych inspired by an Italian Renaissance Annunciation scene by Fra Filippo Lippi, and by Christopher Dawes (harmonium) for the contemplative Hymn of Ascension (1998). The title track was written as the mandatory piece for the 1992 Banff International String Quartet competition and as such entered the repertoire of 10 outstanding young ensembles, including that year’s grand prize winning St. Lawrence Quartet. In the intervening years Lament has enjoyed countless performances but I believe this is the first commercially available recording. It is a brilliant work that 17 years later is still fresh and exhilarating, especially in the hands of the consummate musicians of the PSQ. The final work dates from just 2 years ago and was commissioned by the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival for the Gryphon Trio. Scales of Joy and Sorrow is another triptych, with outer movements that respectively build from slow and expressive to fast and exhilarating and vice versa, surrounding a gentle and lilting Arabesque, making an effective A-B-C-B-A arc. The Gryphon Trio is in fine form as always, working together like a well-oiled machine.

02_leif_andsnesWhile Mozetich’s music is generally painted in pastel shades, that of Marc-André Dalbavie, while still concerned with colour, uses a broader palate. Since first hearing the music of this French “spectral” composer at a Continuum concert in 2005 I have encountered a number of his intriguing works, always with great appreciation. The most recent to come my way is a brilliant Piano Concerto commissioned and performed by Leif Ove Andsnes on a new EMI recording (2 64182 2) with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst. While it seems to be central to the thesis of the recording, this disc is not devoted to music of Dalbavie. It also includes the powerful concerto of Witold Lutoslawski, whose music was in many ways a precursor to the spectral pioneers Grisey and Dufourt. While I would not recommend this performance over the 1992 DG recording (431 664-2) with dedicatee Krystian Zimerman as soloist and the composer conducting the BBC Symphony, I welcome this “second opinion” and am happy to be reminded what a striking work it is. These two entrées are book-ended by contemplative works for solo piano by Bent Sorensen and separated by selections from György Kurtág’s playful Játékok (Games). All in all a very well balanced and thoroughly contemporary disc.
Leif Ove Andsnes - Shadows Of Silence
At Grigorian.com

03_franck_lekeuWhile quite familiar with the career of Québec pianist Alain Lefèvre, I was not aware of his brother, violinist David Lefèvre, who has spent most of his career in Europe in the first chair at the Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse, and later the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, and as Guest concertmaster with the Lisbon Gulbenkian Orchestra. David returned to Montreal last summer, at least long enough to record a CD with brother Alain. The Analekta disc (AN 2 9982) features the familiar (and always welcome) Sonata in A by César Franck, along with a lesser-known G Major Sonata by Franck’s Belgian protégé Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) and the Ballade-Fantaisie by André Mathieu. Lekeu lived a tragically short life and composed his sonata at 22, just two years before his death. The work was commissioned by Eugene Ysaÿe and thanks to him it “traveled the world” and was picked up by some of the greatest violinists of the first half of the 20th century. The dramatic, if somewhat melancholy, work has not stayed in the repertoire however and so we come upon it here as something of a hidden treasure. I expect this fine performance will bring some well-deserved attention to the near-forgotten gem. Alain Lefèvre has been instrumental in reconstructing and promoting the works of Québec child prodigy André Mathieu (1929-1968) whose European career was cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War. Written at the age of 13, the same year Mathieu won first prize in the New York Philharmonic’s centenary young composers’ competition, this charming, if somewhat anachronistic, lyric piece is a perfect Canadian companion for the sonatas of these earlier European masters.

Alain & David Lefevre: Violin Sonatas Of Franck, L
At Grigorian.com

04_duo_concertanteThe final disc this month is also one of violin and piano duos, but this time more eclectic and somewhat lighter fare. Violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves, hail from Newfoundland where they are professors at Memorial University. They have shown a strong commitment to Canadian composers during the twelve years they have been playing together as Duo Concertante and a previous CD included works written for them by Chan Ka Nin, Kelly-Marie Murphy and Omar Daniel. In June they will record their fifth CD at Glenn Gould Studio, another all-Canadian disc, featuring a work by R. Murray Schafer which they premiered last year. Their current offering, It Takes Two (Marquis Classics 81401), is meant as more of a crowd pleaser, an album of encore-type pieces. With repertoire ranging from a medley of Gershwin tunes through Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia and de Abreu’s Tico Tico to classical show-stoppers like Rondo alla Turka and Sabre Dance and more melancholy fare such as Solveig’s Song and Valse triste, there is literally something for everybody. While thoroughly international in scope, even this project has a strong Canadian component. All the works were arranged for Duo Concertante by Clifford Crawley, a British-born Canadian who is Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University and now makes his home in St. John’s. In the words of the Duo, the title of this disc might more accurately be “It Takes Three”.

Duo Concertante: It Takes Two
At Grigorian.com

Concert Note: Duo Concertante will perform a free noon-hour concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre on May 5.

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 and “buy buttons” for on-line shopping.

David Olds

DISCoveries Editor



Heidi Lange

Independent (www.heidilange.ca)

Singer-songwriter Heidi Lange has flown in under the radar to drop her debut CD, “Later”. While Lange has spent most of her musical career teaching and directing musicals, her own solo performing career hasn’t been high on her list of priorities. But as a songwriter she felt compelled – by personal loss, as is so often the case with songwriters – to get these songs out. The disc has two handfuls of tunes, only a few of which are covers, and nary a done-to-death standard in sight. The genre is hard to pinpoint – cabaret and soul with a touch of jazz - seem to be the biggest influences. The original tunes have a certain comforting familiarity to them. Any Time Soon is an old school R&B lament for a lost love, with appropriately yearning sax work by Pat Carey, and My Own is a gospel-inspired anthem to female independence, with stately accompaniment by brilliant pianist Robi Botos.

Lange has a warm and expressive voice that is at its best on the quieter, more controlled pieces which are predominant here. So her cover of Stevie Wonder’s Tuesday Heartbreak, which calls for more freedom and funkiness, sounds strained and out of the comfort zone for her and some of the band – with the exception of Colin Barrett’s relaxed, solid bass work, which holds it together. While the other covers, Gloomy Sunday – complete with Hammond organ by keyboardist Peter Kadar – and Snuggled on Your Shoulder fit like a glove.

Cathy Riches


Jaffa Road

Independent JR0001


March 25 saw Toronto’s Lula Lounge at overflow capacity, a lively party atmosphere on the occasion of the release of Jaffa Road's first CD. While this band is relatively new on the world music scene, its musicians are not. Jaffa Road, a Jewish-pop band rooted in tradition, not only takes its place alongside the likes of Toronto’s other fusion groups, such as the Arabic–Greek ensemble Maza Mezé, and Indian–Jazz ensembles Autorickshaw and Tasa, it also shares some of their musicians. “Sunplace” opens with a tabla riff delivered by Ravi Naimpally, and the CD features other well-known guest artists or regulars, Dr. George Sawa (qanoon), Ernie Tollar (eastern flutes), Chris McKhool (violin), Chris Gartner (bass, guitar), Sundar Viswanathan (sax), Jeff Wilson (percussion, kalimba, etc.), and co-producer/composer Aaron Lightstone (oud, guitars, saz, synthesizers).

The star of this recording is however vocalist Aviva Chernick, who sings in Hebrew, English and Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). Also no stranger to Toronto's music scene, Chernick has previously released a CD with The Huppah Project, as well as her solo recording, “In the Sea” (see www.avivachernick.com). “Sunplace” is a collection of songs, either newly composed to traditional texts, or arrangements of traditional songs, and a couple of entirely new ones. The opening number is a call to peace, based on the phrase from Isaiah “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more”. The CD’s title track Makom Shemesh (sun place) evokes a desert landscape. Be’er Besade is a lively tune from 1950’s Israel. Im Ninalu, a traditional Yemenite melody, was first made popular (to my knowledge) by the late Yemenite-Israeli pop singer Ofra Haza; the version here opens with an introduction by Cantor Aaron Bensoussan. Love songs include the traditional Ladino Una Ora en la Ventana, and a new composition based on the Hebrew Song of Songs,

(open the night for me) which closes this recording. Chernick and the band give polished performances throughout.

Karen Ages

01_southamAnn Southam - Pond Life

Christina Petrowska Quilico

Centrediscs CMCCD 14109


This disc features piano music by Ann Southam, one of Canada’s most important - and most interesting - composers. The titles of the works on this disc refer to natural bodies of water, not just ponds but rivers and creeks as well. So, while the ten movements of Soundstill capture the calm surface of a windless pond, Noisy River, Fidget Creek, and Commotion Creek ripple and dance along. But whether these exquisite compositions are smooth or turbulent on the surface, underneath they teem with life.

The distinctiveness of Southam’s sound world lies in her ability to create a sense of space around the notes. A simple motif can emerge from the layers of sound, and, with a rhythmic or harmonic twist change the course of the music. It’s moving, and it encourages contemplation of what lies beyond the sounds.

Most of these works were written for Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, who in 2005 recorded Southam’s Rivers (also on Centrediscs). Her virtuosic command of the keyboard brings these works to life. With theatrical flair she balances the fine gradations in pitch and rhythm to create subtle shifts in mood, from nostalgic contemplation to irrepressible joy.

The cover art is lovely. But a reproduction of the painting by Aiko Suzuki which inspired Southam to write Spatial View of Pond I and II would also have been meaningful. The recorded sound is clear yet resonant, helping to make this disc such a delight.

Pamela Margles

Concert Note: Christina Petrowska Quilico will launch this CD on Tuesday, May 12 in Glenn Gould Studio with performances of the music of Ann Southam.

02_sayFazil Say - 1001 Nights in the Harem

Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Luzerner

Sinfonieorchester; John Axelrod

Naïve V5147 (www.naiveclassique.com)

At Grigorian.com

The Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say has achieved great success in both classical and jazz fields, with frequent concert hall and jazz festival appearances and a discography ranging from Bach to Stravinsky. As an accompanist, he toured with Maxim Vengerov in 2004, and in 2006 formed a duo partnership with the Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

His violin concerto was written for Kopatchinskaja, and this CD is a live recording of the world premiere performance in Lucerne in February 2008. It is a very accessible and extremely satisfying four-movement work, the title of which suggests that in this particular meeting of East and West the ‘East’ is going to be the dominant partner, as indeed it is. Turkish percussion instruments add colour to a rich and warm orchestral score full of sensuous oriental sonorities that reaches its peak in a wonderfully lyrical third movement.

Kopatchinskaja interprets the music superbly, with great support from Axelrod and the LSO. This is one concerto I’ll be playing over and over again.

Three other works by Say complete the disc. Patara, a quartet for soprano, ney flute, piano and percussion that was originally a ballet, and Alla turca Jazz, for piano, are both built on material from Mozart’s A major Piano Sonata K331, while Summertime Variations is Say’s third arrangement of the Gershwin song, here conceived as a dazzling solo piece suitable for use in both his classical and jazz appearances.

Terry Robbins

sarah_vaughanSarah Vaughan Live in Japan:

The Complete Edition

Sarah Vaughan

Jazz Lips JL758

Sarah Lois Vaughan (1924-1990) branded a singular singing style that will never go out of style. Whether the song was traditional or modern, dramatic or humorous, at the core of each performance was an exquisitely controlled, astonishing voice that spanned over four octaves. For her operatic instrument she was called “The Divine One” whereas “Sassy” was a moniker for her personality before, during and especially after the gig. “Live in Japan” is a worthy re-issue which finds the Divine One in heavenly form, backed by her swinging trio: Carl Schroeder on piano, John Gianelli on bass and Jimmy Cobb at the drums. Pushing fifty, she was in supreme voice and apparently a jovial mood to boot. At the Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo in September of ’73, the audience ate it all up and craved more. The Nearness of You is a rare 7-minute treat with Vaughan accompanying herself on the piano, while Summertime is treated like a true aria and the last note of Over the Rainbow inhabits 17 seconds. Similarly, the ballad renditions of ‘Round Midnight, I Remember You and My Funny Valentine show off Sassy’s masterful approach to vibrato. Musically very savvy, Vaughan was a smart improviser: There is No Greater Love begins with three separate scat duets with drums, bass and piano; memorable wordless choruses make up I’ll Remember April, All of Me and The Blues which showcase the rhythm section. The requested encore Bye Bye Blackbird is a surprisingly joyous, swingin’ blast. In 2006, the Library of Congress honoured this album by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry. Formerly a costly ebay item, the complete edition retails for $40 including good liner notes, an interview, photographs and a bonus track. Alternately, one can find this concert on iTunes, issued under Mainstream Records.

Ori Dagan

Extended Play

Sampling Soundscapes

by Ken Waxman

Creating musical sounds without instruments has become widespread ever since the availability of first the portable tape recorder and then the lap top computer. Melding oscillations created with software plus amplifications of so-called found sounds, often re-mixed, these soundscapes are notable for their subtle mixture of foreground and background.

02_VictoSonoreCanadians – especially Québécois – have been particularly proficient in this sort of composing, as these CDs demonstrate. So have Europeans, which is why Habitat (Creative Sources CS 105 CD), by the German dis.playce duo provides an interesting contrast to the Canadians’ work. For comparison, both that CD and Victoriaville Matière Sonore (Victo cd 0113) created by eight sound designers – Francisco López, Louis Dufort, Chantal Dumas, A_Dontigny, Steve Heimbecker, Mathieu Lévesque, Hélène Prévost and Tomas Phillips – are audio portraits of specific places.

01_bagagesGeographical reflection is also involved in Bill Gilonis’ and Chantale Laplante’s Zürich-Bamberg (AD HOC 22) and Éric Normand’s Vente de Bagages - Volume Un (Tour de Bras TDB 3001), but these collaborations expose another electronic music variant. Montrealer Laplante and Londoner Gilonis, then living in cities which give the disc its title, collaborate on sound collages by tweaking individual audio files sent to one another. Rimouski-based Normand follows the collaborative pattern, although the found sounds he alters originated in different European cities and in Montreal.

Hélène Prévost, one of Normand’s audio pen-pals, is the only person represented on two CDs; and that’s appropriate. One of the doyennes of auditory creation, her contributions fit individual situations in which they are placed. Matière Sonore’s VSM for instance, suggest a story line with muffled male and female voices, a ticking clock and sirens intermingling with rumbling hisses, blurry rustles and reverberated intonation traceable back to computer programming.

On Vente de Bagages however (www.tourdebras.com), the bed track of static intonation and hiss from her side is reconfigured with audio effects and stutters created and equalized by the noises produced with a microphone held in Normand’s mouth. This overt physicality and evident sonic building blocks is what distinguishes Normand’s sound postcards from the other discs. On another track, his circular cackles, cries and cock-a-doodle-doos expand the quicksilver squeaks and tremolo flutters produced by the brass mouthpiece and valves manipulation of Toulouse-resident Sébastien Cirotteau.

Organized by Spanish sound artist Francisco López to create an audio portrait of Victoriaville, Quebec, Matière Sonore’s soundscape is more anonymous and selfless (www.victo.qc.ca). Sequentially panning across the aural landscape of the city which hosts an annual experimental music festival, private and public spaces are exposed and transformed. Particular starting points are mixed electronically and are simultaneously linked and divorced from sources. Louis Dufort’s materio _***, for example, features snatches of gull caws and dog yelps, followed by slithery organ-like riffs and otherworldly shrills, and preceded by ring modulator echoes, plus swelling blurry thumps. Meanwhile Chantal Dumas tells her story on s/t w/t 2 with intonation from spectral railway-crossing peals, thunder claps and people shouting, plus radio dial twisting that locates and loses snatches of recorded music. She ends with door slamming sounds.

03_zurichCoincidentally Zürich-Bamberg (www.chantalelaplante.com) begins with the sounds of a door opening, follow by quivering piano strings. Completed by a couple of tracks of solo Laplante that alternate prolonged silences with fortissimo, stop-time abrasions and echoes, the CD’s key manipulated collages are These 12 Minutes and the title track. Undulating, intermittent oral gasps top an undercurrent of foot steps on the former. Eventually the textures are redirected together as backwards-running beats. Slivers of English, French and German phrases stud the title track as these disembodied voices philosophize, hector and promote. Also audible are intercut disconnected waves of melodic, hard-rock and Arab music that occasionally reveal simple guitar licks or drum patterns. Surmounting this are further processed sounds which originate in falling rain, whistling birds, draining sinks and idling engines. The result is both descriptive and disconcerting.

04_habitatSo too is Habitat (www.creativesourcresrec.com). Created by German electronics manipulators Maximilian Marcoll and Hannes Galette Seidl to be site-specific, the tracks rely on recordings made in Frankfurt or Karlsruhe of the scratches, yowls, squeaks and cries that reflect those cities’ passing streetscapes. Panning across the sonic panorama, found sounds are captured at close range or at a distance, sometimes drawing away from the mikes as definition is established. As electronics distort the actualities with soothing watery squishes, flanged woodpecker-like clatter or rumbling cheeps and buzzes, the process becomes nearly hypnotic in its regularity.

Very much of its own place and style, this European CD confirms Canadians’ invention and pre-eminence in this particular version of sonic art.

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