My review of Philippe Jaroussky's Toronto début is on the Star's entertainment website this morning. You can check it out here.
To share the pleasure of last night's concert a little more, here is Jaourssky singing his encore aria, "Alto Giove" from the opera Polifemo, by Nicola Porpora, with Ensemble Artaserse in what looks a lot like the royal opera theatre at Versailles:
Like any commodity, the less you have, the more precious it becomes.
Since the music critic's job at the Star went the way of VHS, I've had little time to listen -- I mean listen, not hear -- to music, making the moments when I can have both particularly precious.
Koren-born Canadian pianist Minsoo Sohn's new recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations has been one that I keep returning to and, with each listen since the CD arrived in late August, I come to appreciate some new facet of what he has done here.
There's been a mini rush of Goldberg recordings in the last half-decade and, each time I hear a new interpretation in concert or on disc, it comes with a fresh appreciation of Bach's craft, as well as the tremendous amount of thinking that the pianist has to do about how to make each of the 30 variations sound.
Some performers find an inner lyricism. Others treat the Variations as technical exercises broken by slower passages that allow the pianist to catch their breath during this 80-minute marathon.
The beauty in Sohn's performance comes from its underlying clear-headedness, blended with a very strong grasp of the playful nature of Baroque dance forms Bach inserts.
The music shimmers with playful light. Bach's contrapuntal textures are as clear and sparkling as a Swarowski store window. Sohn also refrains from imposing too much Romantic sweetness on the slow sections, making this a refreshing, enlightening and very welcome addition to my reference collection.
Check out the details as well as track samples in the Multimedia section of the Honens music competition website (Honens, as a gesture of confidence in its laureates, has been issuing Sohn's recordings).
Music-loving American filmmaker Michael Lawrence sent me a note this afternoon about a tribute to Steve Jobs he has put together, in which Jobs calls the computer the greatest tool ever devised by humans, "a bicycle for our minds."
Here is Lawrence's note to me, followed by the video.
Like so many people around the world, I have been thinking of Steve Jobs since his passing. The outpouring has been almost surreal.
I could not have made BACH & friends without his computers and software.
In 1989, I filmed an interview with Steve for my Library of Congress film and what a special day that was. I remember very fondly every minute of the time I spent with him. I still have the NeXT coffee mug he gave me.
A few years back, I put up a clip from the interview on YouTube and it has been viewed over 400,000 times - 34,000 views just yesterday alone.
I didn't know Steve Jobs loved Bach until Mike Hawley asked me to send Steve and his wife Laurene a copy of BACH & friends. Mike shared that Steve was one of his closest personal friends. I found this quote of Steve talking of Bach:
"I had been listening to a lot of Bach. All of a sudden the wheat field was playing Bach. It was the most wonderful experience of my life up to that point. I felt like the conductor of this symphony with Bach coming through the wheat field.” Quote from "Return to the Little Kingdom: How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed the World" by Michael Moritz
There's been a flurry of fresh interest in Bach's Goldberg Variations since New Yorker Simone Dinnerstein stunned us with her Romantically flavoured recording four years ago. She made them as much her own as Glenn Gould had done a half-century before.
Being music written for harpsichord, the Goldergs leave a pianist open to a wide range of options when able to take advantage of the much, much larger tonal and dynamic palette offered by a modern piano.
Although I love Dinnerstein's interpretation, and have a lot of respect for Gould's original take, my personal gold standard is Russian pianist Evgeni Koroliov. I'm eagerly anticipating Canadian pianist David Jalbert's recently completed recording, which is being released in the fall (we can get a preview of his thinking at the Elora Festival on Jul. 30, when he presents the full Goldbergs in recital at St. John's Church, at 4 p.m.)
The gentle “Aria” that begins J.S. Bach’s legendary Goldberg Variations might fool you into thinking this is going to be a soft, seductive journey through a famous keyboard suite that marks the 270th anniversary of its publication this year.
But American pianist, and occasional Toronto Symphony guest, Nicholas Angelich has exaggerated each variation’s character, creating an 80-minute marathon punctuated by dynamic and stylistic contrasts: Slow variations are slower than usual; fast ones are dizzyingly fleet.
You can marvel at this man’s phenomenal control and technique, but this is one of those journeys that doesn’t improve with each return visit.
Here are four clips: 1. Angelich (Aria), 2. Koroliov (Var. III-VII, 2009) 3. Gould (Var. XII-XIX, 1955), 4. Dinnerstein (Var. XXV):
An all-Italian cast and orchestra (period-performace La Venexiana, which started out as a madrigal group) led by Claudio Cavina, presented a fantastic interpretation of Claudio Monteverdi's 1640 "musical drama" Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Ulysses is Back and There's Going to Be Laundry) at the Cité de la musique in Paris last Wednesday, closing the centre's 5th Biennale of Vocal Arts. It is streaming on the web for free at medici.tv, and is well worth a peek and listen.
(La Venexiana presents this touring show again at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on Sunday, and at the Stuttgart Baroque Festival on Sept. 14.)
It's a semi-staged effort, with a split orchestra sharing the stage with the singers as a few sheets of fabric. Yet it has all the emotional and musical power of a fully staged performance.
Here is a strangely compelling blend of old and new by La Venexiana, recorded in 2009: Monteverdi's "Il lamento della ninfa:"
The annual Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute offers several opportunities for the public to hear fine, free, period performances. The whole thing culminates in a Grand Finale concert at Grace Church-on-the-Hill, where all the students and all the teachers get to make a big, glorious noise.
It usually happens on the hottest day in June. We'll see if that's the case this year on the 15th -- the concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and is so popular that you have to reserve your free ticket well ahead of time.
Today, at noon, is something a bit smaller-scale, featuring a stage full of faculty members. Here's Tafelmusik's brief drescription:
A casual noon-hour concert of baroque chamber music by members of the TBSI faculty with works by Piccinini, Telemann, Bach, Handel and Rameau.
Peter Harvey, baritone Claire Guimond, flute, John Abberger & Marco Cera, oboes, Dominic Teresi, bassoon, Geneviève Gilardeau & Chris Verrette, violins, Christina Mahler, cello, David Sinclair, double bass, Lucas Harris, theorbo, Olivier Fortin, Borys Medicky & Charlotte Nediger, harpsichord & organ
For more details on the public concerts offerd in conjunction with the summer music school, click here.
Tafelmusik has posted exceprts from its fabulous Galileo Project show on its YouTube channel. Here is the "Allegro" movement from Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins in A Major, Op. 3 No. 5:
NOTTURNA Johann Gottlieb Janitsch, Sonate da camera, Vol. II (ATMA) ****
Montreal period-performance oboist Christopher Palameta (who spent three seasons with Tafelmusik in the mid-2000s) and his wind-focused chamber ensemble Notturna are back with a second volume of Chamber Sonatas by German Baroque composer Johanan Gottlieb Janitsch.
As was the case for the first album, in 2009, this outing is a pleasure in the choice of music as well as the interpretations. (For full details of the album and audio samples, visit ATMA's website by clicking on the group's name at the top of this review.)
This may be Vol. II, but the musical material sounds like the pick of the crop. Four of the five pieces on the disc are world-premiere recordings.
Palameta and his consort perform with breathtaking elegance. One of the hallmarks of this music, most of which dates from Janitsch's later years (he lived from 1708 to 1763), is that the instruments need to blend with each other seamlessly -- which is not easy to achieve when you have the very different timbres of transverse flute, oboe d'amore, cello and harpsichord to combine.
All five of the sonatas collected here feature a mix of transverse flute, oboe and oboe d'amore over continuo. The three Sonate da camera were most likely written to be performed at the composer's weekly Friday salons at his home in Berlin, where he worked as one of the musicians in the Prussian court of Frederick the Great.
This is gorgeously crafted music, following a slow-fast-fast, three-movement form that was popular in Germany at the time. Notturno's careful work only serves to make the music more beautiful. Janitsch's craft becomes more impressive the more one listens.
The final two pieces are titled Sonate de chiesa, but were not meant to be performed in church. Unlike the typical Baroque Sonata de chiesa, which has four movements, these have three, with the middle movement a delicately executed fugue.
And if you're not really in a listening mood, the pieces make a fine, breezy backdrop for a summer's day.
CBC Radio 2 has been piling on the offerings in its Concerts on Demand site.
The biggest of the recent treats is Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir's recent performance of the Mass in B Minor by J.S. Bach. The performance was one of the finest and most moving I have ever heard. (And I still marvel at the celestial justice that this was the final concert Canadian music instsitution Ken Winters got to review before he died.)
Find a quiet moment sometime soon, and give it a listen here.
Another treat among the archive on concerts is a programme devoted to the chamber music of Healey Willan (1880-1968) given by the Chamber Players of Canada at Dominion-Chalmers United Church in Ottawa, in April.
The whole recital is a study in small-is-beautiful. The style of writing is very similar to his choral compositions and organ preludes, relying a carefully crafted thematic development and counterpoint. There are no big surprises -- other than my suprise that we don't hear these pieces more often, mixed in with the European chamber music canon.
There's a sweet Melody for Cello and Piano that has such a long melodic line that it left me mentally gasping for breath. The most substantial piece of the concert is a three-movement Piano Trio in B Minor. The drama of the key really comes to life in the Finale. I think the trio understates its performance a bit, but, otherwise, it's a satisfying listen.
This week's Tafelmusik concerts, which begin Wednesday at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, should close the season with a high-voltage, violin-focused programme led by Italian violinist Stefano Montanari. Unfortunately, the visitor has injured himself, so he will be conducting, not leading on his instrument, but it should still make for a great concert experience. Montanari has been increasing the number of concerts he conducts, and will lead the orchestra in Opera Atelier's new production of Mozart's Don Giovanni next fall.
Because we won't see him play, I thought I'd share some music of Henry Purcell he performed last year with Montanari's regular ensemble, Accademia Bizantina, and countertenor Andreas Scholl. Here are a Sonata (No. 8, in G Major) and Chaconne, followed by Scholl singing "Here the Deities Approve" with continuo.
(This concert was a prelude to the making of Scholl's recent all-Purcell album, O Solitude, just as this week's Tafelmusik's concerts are a prelude to the recording of a new album here.)
SAVALL’s performance this sunday, may 8, 2011 at koerner hall
has already been re-scheduled for thursday, march 1, 2012
Following an injury he sustained while on a European tour, and on the advice of doctors, one of the most celebrated viol (viola da gamba) players,Jordi Savall, has cancelled his North American concerts. Mr. Savall and his ensembleHespèrion XXI, 2011 Grammy Award winners for Best Small Ensemble Performance, were slated to make theirKoerner Hall debut this Sunday, May 8, 2011, at 8:00pm.
Mervon Mehta, Executive Director, Performing Arts, has been able to re-book Mr. Savall for the recently announced 2011-12 concert season, for Thursday, March 1, 2012, at 8:00pm.
The Royal Conservatory regrets the inconvenience and ticket buyers have the option of keeping their existing tickets, which will be valid for the new date, exchanging into a concert during our 2011-12 season, or obtaining a refund.
Ticket exchanges and refunds are available by calling 416.408.0208
John Terauds started at the Toronto Star as a freelance writer in 1988, and has been on staff since 1997. He began writing on classical music in 2001, and has been the full-time classical music critic since 2005.
He is also the organist and choir director at St. Peter's Anglican Church, a parish founded in 1863 in downtown Toronto.
If he's not listening to, writing about or playing music, it means he's either asleep, unconscious, walking his dog -- or all of the above.
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