2011 – 2 012
così fan tutte Sept. 24 – Oct. 2, 2011
silent night Nov. 12 – 20, 2011
werther Jan. 28 – Feb. 5, 2012
World Premiere A Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative production. William Burden (pictured) stars as the soldier whose voice inspired peace among adversaries – if only for a day.
lucia di lammermoor Mar. 3 – 11, 2012
madame butterfly Apr. 14 – 22, 2012
The 2011 – 2012 season is sponsored by:
Photo by Steve M Reviews Sounds of America
Reviews The Planets in Toronto • Corigliano for keyboard • JFK remembered in music
Bolcom . C Fischer Bolcom Ragomania – A Classic Festival Overture. Clarinet Concerto a . Commedia for (almost) 18th-century orchestra C Fischer The Duke, Swee’Pea and Me a a Richard Stoltzman cl Lancaster Festival Orchestra / Gary Sheldon Marquis F 81397 (52’ • DDD) Musical magpie William Bolcom o fers music to keep one’s attention
Pity any composer placed on a programme with William Bolcom, whose sheer exuberance and shameless pilfering of popular music and dance forms of the past century would threaten to lose any competing voice in the, ahem, shuffle. Clare Fischer’s The Duke, Swee’Pea and Me, a fantasy tone-poem for clarinet and orchestra, succeeds by being as different from Bolcom as possible. Instead of a virtuoso surfing of various vernacular styles, Fischer digs deeply into one (namely the collaborations of Ellington and Strayhorn); rather than recreate the spirit of improvisation on an immaculately composed page, Fischer leaves room for soloist Richard Stoltzman to depart from the score on his own.
Rest assured, though, this remains a Bolcom recording. His raucous Ragomania opens the programme with crashing contrasts of volume and dynamics (the percussion-heavy scoring intended to top the crowd noise of its commissioner, the Boston Pops, Bolcom claims in the liner-notes). His three-movement Clarinet Concerto, also featuring Stoltzman, channels the spirit of Benny Goodman, who took the opposite of Bolcom’s musical route, venturing from jazz to symphonic music (and for whom Bolcom had been itching to write).
After nearly 12 minutes of Fischer – a musical fan letter of sorts to his sources – Bolcom wrests back the recording with Commedia for (almost) 18th-century orchestra, a bravura display of attention deficit that has become the composer’s most performed piece. Under conductor Gary Sheldon, the Lancaster (Ohio) Festival Orchestra flits through a wide array of styles, offering a sure touch for whatever requirements the music demands at any given time. Ken Smith
C Brubeck . Foss . Gandol i C Brubeck Danza del soul a
Foss Central Park Reel Gandol i Line Drawings b ab Thomas Martin cl Wendy Putnam vn a Owen Young vc a Lawrence Wolfe db a Daniel Bauch perc Vytas Baksys pf Reference Recordings M RR122 (64’ • DDD) Nuanced and authoritative playing of intense new chamber works
The first movement of Chris Brubeck’s Danza del soul opens with a tuneful unaccompanied clarinet solo. A violin rejoinder sneaks in from offstage and gradually comes into focus, while the cellist and double-bass player similarly enter. When the percussion kicks in, you hear fluid, witty and jazzy counterpoint not unlike the kind that made the composer’s father Dave’s early 1950s octet famous. In contrast to the lyrical, long-lined middle movement, the finale (“Celebraçion de vida”) is a good example of rhythmically inventive “chamber jazz” in which all the participants get a chance to solo.
Michael Gandolfi’s skilfully crafted and compositionally varied five-part Line Drawings for violin, clarinet and piano also holds appeal. I especially enjoyed the first section’s gentle kaleidoscopic canonic interplay and the third’s scampering dotted rhythms that assiduously pass back and forth from instrument to instrument. Lukas Foss’s Central Park Reel is a 10-minute hoedown that sustains attention by way of subtle bi-tonal touches, unexpected silences and accentuations, strategically placed piano-string scrapings and an effective “tape delay” at the end where the performers replicate themselves in canon. The Concord Chamber Music Society members play all three works with tremendous style and authority, abetted by gorgeously spacious and clean engineering. In short, this disc is highly recommended to those seeking new chamber works that are accessible, clear and consistently interesting. Jed Distler
Corigliano Fantasia on an Ostinato. Etude Fantasy. Kaleidoscope a . Chiaroscuro a . Winging It Jerome Lowenthal, Ursula Oppens pfs Cedille F CDR90000 123 (60’ • DDD)
A desirable disc of Corigliano’s communicative piano music
John Corigliano’s relatively small yet deeply rewarding piano output is skilfully wrought, thoroughly idiomatic, inventive and communicative on every level, and it is not surprising that these works have found favour with pianists and audiences alike. Moreover, the music’s variety of mood, conception and time scale add up to a well-contrasted one-hour programme that, for whatever it’s worth in the age of digital downloads, ideally suits the compact-disc format.
Fortunately, longtime new music advocate Ursula Oppens is a seasoned, technically commanding and musically insightful virtuoso who goes beyond merely playing the notes. In the premiere recording of Winging It – essentially three notated improvisations – Oppens captures both the music’s extemporaneous sensibility and sudden dramatic peaks; listen to her crisp yet full-bodied staccato chords and giddy build-up of rapid alternating notes between hands in the final piece. In the composer’s more familiar Fantasia on an Ostinato (based on the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony), Oppens gives the cloudier textures a sharper melody/accompaniment than Emanuel Ax in his slightly faster yet more generalised account (Sony). The Etude Fantasy’s five continuous movements stand out for Oppens’s superb tonal control and unified tempo relationships, although I prefer Stephen Hough’s lither, suppler handling of Etude No 2’s multi-register legato textures (Hyperion, 8/98).
Jerome Lowenthal joins Oppens in the two piano works. It’s fun to hear the pair’s upbeat romp through Corigliano’s early student work Kaleidoscope, where the seeds of his mature style energetically intertwine with neo-classical Stravinsky-isms. The mature Corigliano’s colouristic palette particularly comes alive in Chiaroscuro, where two pianos are tuned a quarter-tone apart. The dissonant effects are meticulously gauged and balanced, not just in the score but also in the pianists’ caring performance. Perhaps they come off a tad heavy in comparison to the delicacy that Blair McMillen and Sachiko Kato evoke www.gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE OCTOBER 2011 IX