La Scena Musicale

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fresh Spin on Bach Has it All

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

It was big-band swinging and hip-hop belly-dancing Bach, the very J.S. like you’ve never heard.

In a program titled Bach Re-Invented, the New York-based Absolute Ensemble made its Canadian debut at Toronto’s Koerner Hall Thursday night. Led by conductor Kristjan Järvi, the 18-piece electro-acoustic ensemble gave Bach’s keyboard inventions a contemporary makeover that is anything and everything goes. Jazz, funk, classical, rock, hip-hop, Latin, Middle Eastern, and whatever else you can identify, it was all there, with funky stage lighting to boot.

Son of conductor Neeme Järvi and brother to Paavo Järvi, Kristjan, who was married to Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz, co-founded Absolute with composer Charles Coleman in 1993. The group, comprised entirely of multitalented virtuosic players, has established itself as one of the most fascinating new music groups to watch.

Aside from Coleman’s Innovation J.S., loosely based on Bach’s 
Two-Part Inventions No. 5and No. 8, all of the works in this program were composed by current ensemble members.

Guitarist/rapper Gene Pritsker’s piano concerto 
Reinventions, featuring pianist Simone Dinnerstein, was a standout. Despite being a bit fragmented as a whole, the contrapuntal composition was Bach-laden and Pritsker’s turntable scratching on a Mac Book and hip-hop dancing were something Bach the inventor would have found interesting.

Pianist Matt Herskowitz’s piano concerto 
Undertow featured the composer himself on piano. Based on Bach’s Three-Part Invention No. 9 in F Minor, the piece built up a wave of energy that is both lyrical and neurotic.

Cellist Mike Block’s beautiful 
Raga on a Theme by Bach was a relatively laid-back excursion in comparison. It was followed by saxophonist Daniel Schnyder’s wailing and choppy concerto grosso, toopART Reinventions, which saw Dinnerstein return to the piano bench.

Overall, there were some dazzling and robust solo playing, especially from clarinetist Michiyo Suzuki, violinist Adam Taubic, trumpeter Wayne du Maine, trombonist Mike Seltzer, bassist Mat Fieldes, and drummer/percussionist Damien Bassman.

Dinnerstein, also making her Canadian debut, has been an unstoppable rising star ever since her debut recital at Carnegie Hall and recording of the 
Goldberg Variations. She displayed flawless techniques throughout and produced an unusually crisp sound from the keyboard. Her phrasings were concise, imaginative, and boundless.

Mervon Mehta, executive director of the Royal Conservatory of Music, announced before the concert that he is in talks with Dinnerstein to have her back for a 
Goldberg recital.

That day can’t come soon enough.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Cette semaine à Montréal (15 à 21 fév) / This Week in Montreal (Feb. 15 - 21)

Musique, théâtre, et danse à Montréal cette semaine
Music, theatre, and dance in Montreal this week

Orchestral Music: Kent Nagano leads the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in a varied programme on February 15 and 16 at Place des Arts. Austrian pianist Till Fellner (pictured here), a protégé of Alfred Brendel, will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1. Fellner is currently recording all five Beethoven Piano Concertos with Nagano and the OSM. Also on the programme is the world premiere of Gilles Tremblay’s L’Origine, featuring mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier. 514-842-2112, - Hannah Rahimi

Théâtre :
En février, le Théâtre du Rideau vert met à l’affiche Une musique inquiétante, de l’auteur américain Jon Marans, pièce finaliste en 1996 du Prix Pulitzer et lauréate du L.A. Drama Logue Award, reprise dans une douzaine de pays depuis sa création. Le jeune pianiste prodige Stephen Hoffman (Émile Proulx-Cloutier) débarque à Vienne en 1986 pour étudier avec le grand Schiller, mais il se retrouve plutôt dans la classe du déclinant Mashkan, professeur de chant sentimental (Jean Marchand). Il lui donne à travailler les Dichterliebe de Schumann, ce qui révolte d’abord le jeune pianiste. Ces deux hommes que tout semble opposer (âge, race, culture, façon d’aborder la vie) finiront pourtant par aller à la rencontre l’un de l’autre, non pas tant à travers leur dialogue qu’à travers la musique. Les 16-21 fév. - Lucie Renaud

Musique de chambre : Le mercredi 17 février à 20 h, on entendra la soprano Maryse Innis, accompagnée de sa fidèle collaboratrice, la pianiste suisse Catherine Courvoisier, dans un répertoire de musique française et espagnole du XXe siècle. Au programme, des œuvres de Fauré, de Falla, Poulenc, Debussy et Granados. Native de Montréal, la soprano Maryse Innis s’est forgé une solide réputation en France et en Suisse, où elle réside maintenant. Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur. 514-872-5338. - Renée Banville

Musique de chambre : Dans la série Musique sur un plateau, les JMC présentent le mercredi 17 le Cecilia String Quartet, considéré comme l’une des meilleures jeunes formations de chambre en Amérique du Nord. L’altiste Jean-Philippe Tremblay se joindra au quatuor pour interpréter un programme Bruckner. On y entendra l’Intermezzo en ré mineur pour quintette à cordes et le Quintette à cordes en fa majeur. Un grand moment de musique pour réchauffer l’air froid de février. Les concerts de cette série, d’une durée d’environ une heure, sont précédés d’un apéritif dès 17 h. Maison JMC, 305, avenue du Mont-Royal Est, 514-845-4108, - Renée Banville

Danse : Séverine Lombardo et Anne Thériaultsont à Tangente du 18 au 21.  Pour les amateurs de classique, le Ballet de Guangzou danse La Sylphide du 18 au 20 à la salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.

Early Music: The Montréal en Lumière Festival presents Emma Kirkby and Daniel Taylor with the Theatre of Early Music in two concerts at the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. On February 19, they perform Bach’s setting of Pergolesi’s exquisite Stabat Mater, as well as Bach’s Psaume 51 "Tilge, Höchster, Meine Sünden”. On February 20, Taylor leads the ensemble back to the 16th century, exploring the sacred and beautiful music of Palestrina, Tallis, and Hildegard von Bingen. 514-982-2535, - Hannah Rahimi

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This Week in Toronto (Feb. 15 - 21)

Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen
Photo: Teatro della Scala, Milano

The big news for Toronto opera fans this week is the arrival of Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili to sing the last four performances of Carmen at the Canadian Opera Company (Feb. 17, 20, 23, 27). Only 25 years old, Rachvelishvili was plucked out of the La Scala young artists program by conductor Daniel Barenboim to sing the title role of Carmen that opened the La Scala season last December 7. Despite the incredible pressure, Rachvelishvili received favourable notices and a well deserved ovation from a highly critical opening night audience. While the loggionisti heckled stage director Emma Dante, they only had cheers for Rachvelishvili. In addition to this important cast change, American tenor Garrett Sorenson takes over the last two performances as Don Jose (Feb. 23, 27) The COC run of Otello continues, with performances on Tuesday Feb. 16 7:30 pm and Friday Feb. 19 7:30 pm.

Another piece of big news this week is the Verdi Requiem at Roy Thomson Hall, starring Michele Crider, Daniela Barcellona, Maxim Aksenov and Roberto Scandiuzzi as the quartet of soloists, together with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir under the direction of conductor Gianandrea Noseda. This is part of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra season, with a big name international cast. Michele Crider's big dramatic soprano is ideal in "Libera me" - the last time I heard her several years ago, her high pianissimo B flat was exquisite. Any performance of the magnificent Verdi Requiem is an occasion, but with a stellar cast like this, the event is not to be missed - Feb. 18 and 20, 8 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

Tafelmusik offers Mostly Mozart with conductor Bruno Weil at their usual venue of Trinity-St. Paul's Centre on Wednesday Feb. 17, 7 pm. On the program are Serenade K 525 "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik", Piano concerto. No. 20 K466, and Haydn Symphony No. 97. The program is repeated on Feb. 18, 19, 20, and 21.

Toronto Operetta Theatre under the direction of Guillermo Silva Marin presents Leo The Royal Cabet by Oscar Telgmann on Feb. 17 (preview), `9 (opening), 20 and 21m, at the St. Lawrence Centre. Among the soloists are husband-wife team of Gabriella Prata and Robert Longo. For details and ticket information, call (416) 366-7723 or 1-800-708-6754. The Toronto Opera Repertoire, which I reported on last week, continues with Nozze di Figaro (Feb. 19 and 21) and Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci (Feb. 17)

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