Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 1 Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3. Forsyth: Piano Concerto. Jane Coop, piano. Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra/Mario Bernardi. Skylark Music Sky1703. Total Time: 67:01. Born in New Brunswick and raised in Calgary, Jane Coop studied with Anton Kuerti in Toronto and went on to teach at the University of British Columbia from 1980 to 2012. In an era of limited recording, Coop has done the next best thing in re-issuing recordings from the 1980s, originally produced by the now defunct CBC Records. Her collaborations with the late Mario Bernardi (1930-2013) invariably produced excellent results. Short at 16 minutes,…

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CRAZY GIRL CRAZY Berio: Sequenza III. Berg: Lulu Suite. Gershwin: Girl Crazy Suite (arr. Bill Elliott & Barbara Hannigan). Barbara Hannigan, soprano and conductor. Ludwig Orchestra. Alpha Classics 293. Total Time: 57:23. At 47, the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan has emerged as an international star, praised for her work in such operas as Berg’s Lulu, George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten, Louis Andriessen’s Writing to Vermeer and, notably, an excerpt from Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, which she both sang and conducted. Here she sings and conducts Berio, Berg and Gershwin. Arguably less about music than all…

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Inspired by Canada Notre Pays Music by Seitz, Léveillée, Joni Mitchell, etc. Amici Chamber Ensemble. Mireille Asselin, soprano; Joaquin Valdepeñas, clarinet; David Hetherington, cello and Serouj Kradjian, piano. Marquis 774718148520. Total time: 62:00. The Amici Chamber Ensemble recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. It is amazing that the group (clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas, cellist David Hetherington and pianist Serouj Kradjian, who has succeeded the retired Patricia Parr) has endured for so long considering that apart from trios by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, there is little important repertoire for this configuration of instruments. Amici gets around this problem by performing duos (for clarinet…

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Schubert: Winterreise (Harmonia Mundi) Mark Padmore, tenor Kristian Bezuidenhout, piano At the 15th song of the Winter’s Journey, a piano melody that seems to come from the nursery turns into a bleak anticipation of death. ‘The crow has come with me…. Flying ceaselessly above my head.’ Anyone listening will know that Franz Schubert will be dead within a year. But Schubert does not know he is going to die. He is thirty years old and feeling a bit low from various ailments, but he has no idea that he is writing his own requiem. Our knowing against his unknowing heightens the…

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Haydn: Symphonies No. 26 & 86 Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 Coro Harry Christophers, conductor Handel and Haydn Society Aisslinn Nosky, violin The British conductor Harry Christophers has his own record label, Coro, which turns out a stream of fine performances, mostly with his own group The Sixteen, and mostly unnoticed outside the shrinking pages of record magazines. Which is a pity, since some of them are very fine performances indeed. The latest release is with Christophers’ other group, the venerable Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, America’s oldest performing arts organization. It presents two Haydn works written 20 years…

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Tribute to Telemann (Lukos Records) Never sampled Georg Philipp Telemann? It’s like Vivaldi with added carbs, or Bach at a gentle walking pace. That Telemann (1681-1767) was a significant composer is indisputable. Handel held him in high esteem and Bach named his son Carl Philipp Emanuel after his good friend. Both were happy to receive his scores and both expressed concern for his irregular personal life. Telemann’s music is well written, sits easily beneath the fingers and does not last too long. So why do I find it so hard to thrill to? Perhaps because the others had so much…

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Stravinsky: Chant funèbre &c (Decca) Beware the lost leavings of great composers. Time and again we get hyped up about a long-forsaken missing score, only to be cruelly awakened by the reality of its insignificance. In some case, the composer mislaid the score with good reason. In others, it adds nothing to the sum of our knowledge. Anyone care to remember a few bars of Beethoven’s 10th symphony? Or Schubert’s? The present premiere release is an exception to that ignominious rule. Here’s the back story. In 1908 Igor Stravinsky, unknown and in his mid-20s, wrote a funeral ode for his…

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It just got a whole load tougher out there for young cellists. The first release batch of the New Year contains no fewer than four cello-piano recitals, all of them estimable. In a shrinking media environment, none will get the full-length attention they deserve. The best I can do here is short Schrift. A performance of the Brahms cello sonatas by Jean-Guihen Qeueyras and Alexandre Tharaud (Erato **) is rather too Aimez-vous Brahms for my liking. The French accent is extremely pronounced. The Swiss cellist Lionel Cottet, principal with Bavarian Radio SO, has what appears to be a debut album…

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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel (Chandos) James Gilchrist, tenor; Anna Tilbrook, piano; Philip Dukes, viola At the turn of the 20th century, the world was wide open to young men of means. Ships were getting faster, trains more frequent and motor cars were appearing on the roads. Faced with these exciting possibilities, the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams decided to stay home, collecting the remains of a musical civilisation that was being trampled by the march of technology. Together with his pal Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams recorded people singing in pubs and fields. Then he wrote Songs of Travel. The…

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Shostakovich, Auerbach: Piano Trios Delta Piano Trio As the last releases of the year drop through the door, this is an instant ear grabber. Debate has raged for three decades as to whether Dmitri Shostakovich was a limp Soviet puppet or a secret resistant. The first view was advanced by US musicologists, who would not be satisfied until they had a signed document saying ‘I hate Stalin.’ Russian friends and fans of the composer heard his dissidence expressed in the music. Thankfully, the dispute is being resolved by a new generation of musicians who come fresh to the music. The…

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