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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (December 2013)

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For those unfamiliar with our monthly recordings review - If Sound Quality (SQ) and Overall Impression (OI) grades need further context, feel free to visit earlier posts in this series.

My acquisitions for December - All Canadian selections

Vivaldi Complete cello concertos Ofra Harnoy Toronto Chamber Orchestra

Ofra Harnoy’s excellent recordings of the complete cello concertos (including a pair of concertos for violin and cello where she is accompanied by Igor Oistrakh) was re-issued in a box set in 2005, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them this month. These are not HIP performances, but rather in a style still in vogue 20 plus tears ago, with a modestly sized chamber orchestra (for the most part under the baton of Canadian conductor and Toronto radio personality Paul Evans Robinson, with whom Ms. Harnoy had collaborated in the past). I am not quite sure oif HIPsters will enjoy this as much as I did, but the commitment of soloist and conductor in this recording shines through. SQ = A, OI = A.

Singer Portrait - Maureen Forrester, Vol. 2

I remember hearing the story of a project that had been planned by an aging Bruno Walter and a then-rising star singer from Montreal, Maureen Forrester. They had planned to record Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer and the Kindertottenlieder together, and even had scheduled concerts in New-York to set-up the recording. Either because of scheduling conflicts, or a contractual impasse between the RCA and Columbia labels, the two artists did not end up recording the works – Walter will do so with American Mezzo-Soprano Mildrid Miller and Forrester will do the same with the Boston Symphony under Charles Munch. This disc features this recording session, along with other Mahler filler (with Walter and Fritz Reiner). For my money, nobody sings a better Mahler: the voice is beautiful and dark, and the accompaniment (yes, even Munch’s!) is spot-on. The last track on this disc, a song by Delius, is tarnished by some computer foreground sounds – too bad! I will provide my grade ignoring that last track. SQ = A, OI = A+.

Canadian Modern Premiere Recordings: Morel, Somers, McPhee, Weinzweig, Hétu, Healey

The Louisville Orchestra isn’t a household name (please, Kentuckians, don’t take this as a diss…) but in 1947 the Orchestra launched First Edition Recordings, becoming the first American orchestra to own a recording label. In so doing, the orchestra was a good 50 years ahead of the curve, as now many international orchestras mint their own recordings… In 1953, the Orchestra received a Rockefeller grant of $500,000 to commission, record and premiere 20th century music by living composers, placing the Louisville Orchestra on the international circuit and earning nineteen ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music in the process. Not surprising then that the orchestra featured a number of premier recordings of works by Canadian composers, conducted by orchestra music directors (Robert Whitney and Jorge Mester) as well as by Canadian conductor Pierre Hétu. The repertoire includes a first recording pof Jacques Hétu’s first piano concerto, Jacques Morel’s Antiphonie (a Canadian classic if there ever was one) and other works. The orchestra gives these spirited performances, that would put many Canadian orchestras (who commission these works almost by obligation) to shame. Great stuff, though the technology has its limits. SQ = B+, OI = A-.

Gougeon, D.: A L'Aventure / Jeux De Cordes / Heureux Qui, Comme / Clere Venus

Speaking of recordings of contemporary Canadian music, conductor Walter Boudreau and his Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec has made his fair share, for the CBC and for the Canadian Music Centre’s Centerdiscs label. This Centrediscs record focuses on Québec contemporary composer Denis Gougeon, who has received commissions from several orchestras. The opening poece (A l'aventure) was an MSO commission, and is a very accessible piece of music. I especially liked Jeux de Cordes, a brilliant tour de force for string quartet. These people were “all in”, and it shows. Worth discovering. SQ = A, OI = A.

Frenergy - The Music of John Esacio

John Estacio, like Denis Gougeon, is another active contemporary composer whio answers the bell with commissions – his coming mainly from orchestras from Western Canada. The music is, again, very lyrical and accessible. Of the lot, I gravitated around The Bootlegger;’s tarantella, a piece Estacioo wrote as a “teaser” for an opera project he worked on about 10 years ago, Filumena . The title piece Frenergy is a contraction meaning Frenetic Energy, and the piece is full of both! The late great Mario Bernardi leads the Edmonton Symphony in this musical escapade with his usual exacting style and passion. SQ = A, OI = A.

Happy New Year!

January 3rd, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Theme and Variations: The Paganini Edition" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more January 3rd on our blogs in English and in French.

Updated Dec-31-2013 at 18:23 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music