01_haimovitz_matteoThe latest release from cellist Matt Haimovitz whose Matteo (Oxingale OX2018) celebrates 300 years of Italian cello, his own cello that is, a Matteo Goffriller built in 1710. I have often realized that there is more of a common sensibility between so called early music and contemporary music than with the stylistic periods which fell between the two. Haimovitz seems to share this opinion. The disc intersperses some of the earliest pieces written for solo cello - six of the seven Ricercare composed by Domenico Gabrielli in 1689 – with works firmly rooted in the music of our time. I was quite surprised when the first track, Gabrielli’s Ricercare 7, began and what I heard was the opening phrase of Bach’s Solo Cello Suite No. 2. It turns out that the first three bars of the Gabrielli, whole notes D, A and F, may, according to the liner notes, be heard as accompaniment to “an imagined melody” and in this case Haimovitz imagined the opening of Bach’s suite and subsequently improvised on that before joining Gabrielli in the fourth bar. Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XIV (2002) takes pride of place as the first contemporary work on the disc. Dedicated to Rohan de Saram, it draws extensively on the Kandyan drumming tradition of the dedicatee’s Sri Lankan heritage. The most recent work is a 2010 contribution from Haimovitz’s McGill colleague Brian Cherney whose Capriccio references many great solo cello works in a true celebration of the instrument with signature nods (in nomenclature) to Bach, Haimovitz and Goffriller along the way. Works by Luigi Dallapiccola, Salvatore Sciarrino and Claudio Ambrosini complete the disc. The playing is heartfelt and convincing, with glorious sound throughout.

02_shed_toca_locaThe latest release from contemporary trio Toca Loca ­– Gregory Oh (Toronto) and Simon Docking (Halifax), pianos; Aiyun Huang (Montreal), percussion – entitled Shed (www.henceforthrecords.com) includes works from Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the USA all composed since 2002. Dai Fujikura’s Half-Remembered City for piano four-hands was written for a husband and wife piano duo and conceived as a depiction of intimacy in the way that the pianists have to manoeuvre and intertwine at the keyboard to realize the score, sometimes caressing adjoining notes and at others seemingly locked in territorial combat. At times comic in live performance, I am pleased to report that this disc proves you don’t have to see it played to be enthralled. All the works are strong and individual. Heinz Holliger’s Ma’Mounia for percussion solo and quintet of flute, clarinet, horn, cello and piano is kind of a signature tune for Huang who won the Geneva International Music Competition in 2002 where it was the required work. Frederic Rzewski’s Bring Them Home continues that composer’s political engagement in a set of variations on a 17th century Irish anti-war song Siuil A Run “that speaks of the past but turns our eyes to the present.” The highlight for me is Andrew Staniland’s Adventuremusic: Love Her Madly for two prepared pianos, five pieces of wood, five temple bowls and tape. It opens with driving rhythms somewhat reminiscent of Rzewski’s classic Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues but over 15 minutes develops into a disturbing portrait of climate change as we hear the sounds of processed voice and temple bowls juxtaposed with disintegrating polar ice sheets. “Shed” will be launched with a performance at the Open Ears Festival in Kitchener-Waterloo on April 30.

03_glass_housesOn March 17 at Glenn Gould Studio Christina Petrowska Quilico releases Music of Ann Southam - Glass Houses Revisited (Centrediscs CMCCD 16511), a re-working of the “fiendishly difficult etudes” the pianist was working on with the composer at the time of her death last November. (You can read Christina’s tribute to Ann elsewhere in these pages.) Originally composed in 1981, the title Glass Houses refers to minimalist composer Philip Glass, the best known proponent of this style at the time, and to choreographer Christopher House with whom Southam worked extensively. The mostly ebullient, busily joyful pieces were revised in 2009 for Petrowska Quilico and further edited by her with the composer’s permission for this recording in 2010. The disc features nine “favourite” selections from the set of 15, arranged with four lively pieces on either side of the solitary “broody and moody” track, Glass Houses No.13. Overall they are a weaving and embroidering of various melodic motifs that, in Southam’s words “reflect the nature of traditional women’s work – repetitive, life-sustaining, requiring time and patience.” One can only imagine the patience and diligence required of Petrowska Quilico to master these complex and exhilarating gems, and master them she has, as you can hear for yourself on March 17. There is a public memorial celebration of the life and music of Ann Southam being planned for April 21.

04_jane_coopCelebrated Vancouver pianist Jane Coop will make a rare Toronto appearance at Mooredale Concerts on March 20 performing works by Beethoven and Scriabin. We somehow overlooked her most recent CD - A Century of Piano Classics (www.skylark-music.com) - when it was released in 2009 so I’m pleased to have this opportunity to bring it to your attention. The disc includes an early Beethoven sonata from 1797, Chopin’s Ballade No.4 (1842) and four late works by Brahms from 1893. The century in question was an important one in the history of the piano, seeing it expand from a five octave instrument to its current 88 keys thanks in great part to the vision and virtuosic demands of the composers mentioned above and others such as Schumann and Liszt. Coop excels at this repertoire as this welcome disc attests. Recorded at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC, the sound is clear and resonant.

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

As we enter the New Year you’ll notice a couple of new aspects to DISCoveries. “Strings Attached” is a column in which Terry Robbins will “round-up” recent releases featuring the violin family – concertos, sonatas and chamber music offerings from the international catalogue on a monthly basis. We also welcome Jason van Eyk, long familiar for his “In With The New” column in these pages, to our roster of reviewers. You’ll find his take on a new piano disc by Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa in the Modern and Contemporary reviews. As for my own column, as the snow piled up outside my window over the past two months, so have the mounds of CDs on my desk. I’ve had lots of listening time to explore innumerable new releases which only makes the task of selecting what to include here that much more difficult. Some of the highlights from my hibernation are included below.

01_oliver_schnellerIn my other life as general manager of New Music Concerts I have had the pleasure of being exposed to the music of some of the world’s most exciting compositional talents over the past decade. Last May, in a concert curated by Brian Current, Canadians Nicole Lizée and Analia Llugdar were featured alongside Frenchman Fabien Levy and Germans Enno Poppe and Oliver Schneller. Schneller’s delicate Trio (1998) for accordion, cello and piano was featured on that Toronto concert and I was pleased to find it on a new Wergo recording along with five more recent Schneller compositions (WER 6579-2). Trio and Aqua Vit (1999) for eight instruments are the only purely acoustic compositions on the disc, with all of the more recent works involving live electronics. Schneller’s fascination with the nature of sound itself is evident even in the instrumental compositions, as he examines textures and timbres as if through a microscope. This concern is taken further with his use of technology in the later works, most notably Stratigraphie I (2006) and II (2010), both for six instruments and live electronics. Also of note is his alluring addition to the two pianos/two percussion repertoire with Resonant Space, a compelling work which adds live sound manipulation to the mix.

02_larcherThe most recent New Music Concert featured Quatuor Diotima, a Paris-based ensemble whose repertoire spans three centuries with a particular interest and expertise in the work of living composers. Of the works they performed in Toronto, by far the most intriguing was Madhares, the third string quartet by Thomas Larcher, who was born in Austria in 1963. This extended work called upon the musicians to employ a number of extended techniques, including tapping on the strings with wooden mutes to make eerie pointillistic glissandi up the neck of their instruments. The dynamic range varied from sub-audible to shriekingly loud in moments reminiscent of the shower scene from Psycho. But the piece was also imbued with beautiful melodies harkening back to pre-classical times and moments of languid calm. You can hear the work for yourself performed by Diotima on an ECM New Series release (ECM 2111) which also includes Larcher’s Böse Zelten for piano and orchestra and Still for viola and chamber orchestra with soloists Till Fellner and Kim Kashkashian and the Munich Chamber Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies. Both of the concerted works have the intimacy of chamber music while exploiting the full resources of the orchestra. As with Oliver Schneller, the exploration of sound itself is paramount. The prepared piano is particularly effective in Böse Zelten whose title translates as Malign Cells.

03_berg_webern_schoenberg_diotimaOn the most recent release by Quatuor Diotima the group is joined by soprano Sandrine Piau and Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux in works by Berg, Webern and Schoenberg (Naïve V 5240). Piau’s impeccable vocals are expected in Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2 where the third and fourth movements are settings of texts by Stefan George, but an unexpected treat is the sixth movement of Berg’s Lyric Suite where Lemieux sings the text inscribed by the composer in a miniature copy of the score sent to his “beloved” Hanna Fuchs. That only came to light thanks to Fuchs’ daughter after the death of Berg’s widow in 1976. I’m not sure if this is the first recording to include the sung text, but it is the first to come to my attention and Lemieux makes a convincing case for it. The quartet is impeccable in their interpretations of all the works, including the purely instrumental Sechs Bagatelles of Anton Webern.

04_inscape_trio_voceMieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996) and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1974) share a remarkably similar voice and seem to have influenced each other profoundly. It is thought that much of Shostakovich’s interest in Jewish music stemmed from his friendship with the younger Pole. Weinberg’s Piano Trio was composed in 1945, two years before the masterpiece in the same genre by Shostakovich. I am very pleased to find both works featured on a new recording by Trio Voce, an ensemble which includes American violinist Jasmine Lin and Canadians Marina Hoover, founding cellist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and Alberta pianist Patricia Tao. The disc, entitled Inscapes (Con Brio CBR21045, www.conbriorecordings.com), includes not only the Weinberg trio Op.24 and Shostakovich’s familiar Op.67, but also a rare performance of the latter’s early first trio Op.8. The performances are sensitively nuanced and dynamic and the recording, done at WFMT Studios in Chicago last May, is immaculate.

05_avant_garde_favouritesI’m not sure why, but it seems like kind of a “guilty pleasure” to revisit some of the masterworks of the past century upon which I “cut my teeth.” I tend to find it deplorable that so many of my generation never seem to get beyond the pop music they heard in their formative years, yet I also realize that the music which informed my own artistic development still remains my favourite. So it is with a grain of salt that I recommend Avantgarde Favourites of the 20th Century (Scandinavian Classics 220571-205) performed by the Arthuis Sinfonietta. But hearing Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto for Thirteen Instruments, Webern’s Concerto, Varèse’ Octandre, Lutoslawski’s Chain I and Takemitsu’s Rain Coming again after all these years was a real life affirming experience. To hear these seminal works so well performed in a new context was invigorating. And the addition of Harrison Birtwistle’s Ritual Fragment which I was not previously aware of was a real treat.

06_dudamel_riteAnother wonderful revisitation was an exuberant new recording of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring by Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (Deutsche Grammophon 477 8775). Although appointed Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009, Dudamel continues to work with the outstanding young players of his homeland as these thrilling live recordings from Caracas in February 2010 attest. As always Dudamel brings the best out in the youngsters and one would not likely guess this is anything other than a fully professional orchestra just by listening. The Stravinsky is paired with La noche de los mayas (Night of the Maya) by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. Completed a year before the composer’s death in 1940 La noche had to wait twenty years for its first performance. Although not likely to replace Rite of Spring in the repertoire anytime soon, this is a dramatic, lyrical, colourful and powerful work that deserves to be much more widely heard. With Dudamel as its champion we can rest assured that it will be.

07_seeligOne of my finest musical experiences of the past several months was not a piece of music at all, but rather a book written by Toronto playwright and director of One Little Goat Theatre, Adam Seelig. Every Day in the Morning (slow) (New Star Books) is a novella crafted like a musical composition and typeset in a very graphic way – its very sparse text spread over the page like poetry, with far more white space than print. This affects, and effects, the way we read this monologue, with pauses built in as an inherent part of the process. Told alternately in third and first person, we are presented with the inner thoughts of a writer’s-block-ridden composer, railing against himself, the world, the classical music business, Steve Reich and the minimalists, his father and his childless marriage. It is effective and compelling. After my first reading I went back almost immediately and read the book again, aloud this time, and found it even more satisfying.

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


Let me begin by thanking David Schreiber for his feedback on Janos Gardonyi’s guest editorial about on-line shopping and digital downloads last month. Mr. Schreiber rightly suggests caveat emptor in regards to MP3s, which are compressed files with resulting loss of information. MP3 technology provides convenience and portability, but compromises sound quality, much the same way that cassette tapes did versus LPs, and will not likely satisfy the audiophile. A quick check with Wikipedia tells us that there are three basic kinds of audio file formats: uncompressed files such as WAV, AIFF and PCM; formats with “lossless” compression such as FLAC, MPEG-4, Apple Lossless and Windows Media Player Lossless; and formats with “lossy” compression such as MP3, Vorbis and Musepack. As always, the onus is on the consumer to do the research and decide to what extent to accept compromise for the sake of convenience and economy.

As the year end approaches and the holiday season along with it, rather than focus on just a few discs here I want to briefly mention a number of seasonal titles and other special gems which I think will be of interest. I expect you will see full reviews of the latter items in coming issues, but let’s begin with the seasonal releases. Top of the list is In Midnight's Stillness - St. Michael's Choir School (www.smcs.on.ca). This wonderful collection of Christmas fare is conducted by Jerzy Cichocki, Caron Daley and Teri Dunn and features guest performances by the True North Brass. The choirs are in fine and festive voice as I’m sure they will be at the annual Christmas Fantasy performances at Massey Hall on December 10 and 11.

On Noèl - Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà (Analekta) Dubeau and her wonderful baroque string ensemble provide a musical tour and celebration of the Nativity which covers three centuries and takes us to Finland, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Russia, the USA, Mexico and Canada. Of special note is Kelly Marie Murphy’s lush and haunting impression of the Huron Carol.

On a completely different note, jazz pianist Oliver Jones, singer Ranee Lee and the Montreal Jubilation Choir provide a joyous and exuberant take on the season with A Celebration in Time (Justin Time). A highlight for me is the island rhythms of Gras Bondye/Seigneur J’élève Ton Nom featuring the Daphnée Louis Singers.

And there is one last Christmas disc to mention, which was not yet in hand at the time of writing, but I am going to go out on a limb and recommend it anyway, because how could you go wrong with Monica Whicher and Judy Loman? Lullabies and Carols for Christmas (Naxos) features Loman’s arrangements for soprano and harp of such traditional favourites as the Coventry Carol, In the Bleak Mid-Winter; Bulalow, In Dulce Jubilo, and the Wexford Carol along with seasonal solo harp pieces by Britten and Tournier.

We have recently received several boxed sets featuring Canadian artists that are particularly worthy of mention. The first is a six CD collection of the art songs of the late 19th century Ukrainian composer Mykola Lysenko. This is the second instalment of the Ukrainian Art Song Project (www.uasp.ca) following on the 2006 release of the songs of Kyrylo Stetsenko. The idea for the project dates back to 2004 when bass baritone Pavlo Hunka came to Toronto for the lead role in the COC’s production of Falstaff and was adopted as a native son by the Toronto Ukrainian community. Lysenko (1842-1912) is considered the father modern Ukrainian classical music and this impressive set, accompanied by a 200 page book of libretti, translations, biographies and notes, includes 124 of his 133 known art songs (the other nine have been lost). Recorded in Glenn Gould Studio the other singers involved in the project are all well known on the Canadian opera scene including Elizabeth Turnbull, Benjamin Butterfield, Michael Colvin and Robert Gleadow, with pianists Albert Krywolt, Mia Bach and Serouj Kradjian, flutist Doug Stewart and cellist Roman Borys. Mykola Lysenko’s Art Songs will enjoy a gala launch at Koerner Hall on December 5 for which Pavlo Hunka will be joined by Monica Whicher, Kristina Szabó and Russell Braun.

Robert Silverman’s most recent recording project is a seven CD set of the complete Mozart Piano Sonatas for the audiophile isoMike label (www.isomike.com). These hybrid discs include CD stereo, SACD stereo and four channel surround sound capability. We’ll have a full review of this set in the February issue but I wanted to bring it to your attention in time for holiday shopping

The last set I will mention is a 15 CD collection of Angela Hewitt’s complete Hyperion recordings of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. With almost 18 hours of music by this renowned Bach interpreter priced at about $100, this would make a great addition to anyone’s collection.

I have also elicited the help of several of my colleagues to bring to your attention a number of items we missed this year which had we unlimited space and resources would certainly have found their way into these pages. Geoff Chapman tells us that although his mandate is Canadian jazz, there’s a plethora of great jazz created elsewhere. Here’s a few titles that really caught his attention: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green - Apex (www.pirecordings.com) - A brilliant alto sax collaboration between a hot newcomer and a hardy veteran with stellar band. Vijay Iyer - Solo (www.vijay-iyer.com) – An ace pianist pays extraordinary contemporary tribute to his inspirations. Jason Moran - Ten (Blue Note) – The best piano trio outing for eons in a crowded field. Wadada Leo Smith – Spiritual Dimensions (www.cuneiformrecords.com) – This double-CD illuminates the avant-garde trumpeter’s mastery of free jazz. Yehudi Menuhin & Stephane Grappelli - Friends In Music (EMI) – A delightful 4-CD reissue of virtuoso violinists covering the musical waterfront.

Terry Robbins found three titles of particular note: Beethoven String Quartets Vol.4 (Virgin Classics) - A mixture of early, mid and late quartets, including the profound C sharp minor Op.131, superbly played by the Artemis Quartet. Rodion Shchedrin - Chamber Music (ARS MUSICI) - Works by the contemporary Russian composer (who plays piano for two of them), highlighted by Dmitry Sitkovetsky's tremendous performance of the Bach-inspired Echo-Sonata for solo violin. John Corigliano - The Red Violin Concerto (Naxos) - Another superb disc in the Naxos American Classics series, with the terrific Michael Ludwig, concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the BPO itself under JoAnn Falletta recorded in their Kleinhans Music Hall home.

Richard Haskell took particular delight in a new recording of Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos Nos.3 & 4 (EMI Classics) - The pairing of Leif Ove Andsnes with the London Symphony under the direction of Antonio Pappano is sublime. Andsnes’ performance is bold, expansive, and technically brilliant, while Pappano coaxes a warm and lyrical sound from the orchestra. And Daniel Foley found in Messiaen: Livre du Saint-Sacrement (Naxos) exceptional performances by Paul Jacobs of Messiaen's towering final contribution to the organ literature; a massive work that demands close attention to fully absorb its theological and programmatic intent.

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

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor, discoveries@thewholenote.com

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