2012 – Czech Serenades
With this new record labeled Fidelio, Appassionata continues its interpretation of the Czech romantic repertoire. This disc brings the Serenade in E major Dvorák, intimate, poetic and rich in melodic invention, and the Serenade in E flat major by Josef Suk, luminous and lively. Dvorak’s Nocturne is evoking as much Wagner through its dark colors as Beethoven and Brahms, concluding this new record.
2010 – Magnum Opus - 21st Century Trumpet Concerto
Appassionata accompanies the American trumpeter Rex Richardson in the creation Dana Wilson’s concerto: A Meditation on Yeats.
In Magnum Opus we are privy to the meeting of minds, ideas and styles. Three composers, three compositions and a multitude of images are hung together in this dynamic release. It truly is a 21st Century approach to Trumpet Concertos. Magnum Opus opens with a concerto featuring Rex Richardson and the Ensemble Instrumental Appassionata under the direction of Daniel Myssyk: A Meditation on Yeats. With movement titles from Yeats’ poetry this meditation is a poignant torture that has many profits. One of which is a timeless emotionality. With expert patience in its revelation, Wilson’s composition offers a tireless Richardson a freedom to unleash a resolute and velvet approach to his instrument.
Richardson’s stylistic playfulness, strategic articulation and virile delivery work to the benefit of Wilson’s incredible rendering of a Yeats-ian world. A place that is expressive of the tension that lies between love and war, oppression and liberation. The concerto has the makings of an epic romance and Richardson’s approach has all the secrecy and testimony of a human voice. Impressive amounts of discretion and conflict resolve themselves nicely in the third movement Had they but courage equal to desire which is a complete stand out. Richardson’s work in the movement’s improvised cadenza shows an attention to this self indictment and a human pulse that is too good to be true.
2008 – Idyla
2010 Prix OPUS Finalist
Works by Leos Janáček,
Guillaume Lekeu, Edvard Grieg
and W.A. Mozart
FIDELIO classic (FACD020)
“I cannot give this CD (Idyla) a stronger recommendation. Its over an hour worth of pure bliss.” FANFARE MAGAZINE (USA)
“L’ensemble est impeccable à tous égards” CLAUDE GINGRAS (LA PRESSE)
MARCH 2010 – If one were competing to put together the most unusual program of diverse works to showcase a string orchestra, I would expect this one to take first prize. It kind of reminded me of some of the creations one encounters on California cuisine menus, like sardines sautéed in suet and wrapped in seaweed.
That was pretty much my initial reaction at surveying the list of ingredients represented by the composers on this disc. But that was before I listened to it. Two of the works with which I was totally unfamiliar—Janáček’s Idyla and Lekeu’s Adagio for String Orchestra—turned out to be some of the most gorgeous music to caress these jaded ears in quite some time.
I’m not sure whether to call Idyla (Idyll) a suite or a serenade, as it subscribes to the formal layout of neither yet contains elements of both. The piece is in seven movements, and either Smetana or Dvořák would have been proud to claim it as his own. Written in 1878 when Janáček was 24 (he was a fairly late bloomer when it came to developing his personal modernistic style), the piece is ripe Romanticism at its best. I’m a little embarrassed at not having heard it before—or for not remembering it if I had—for there are a number of prominent conductors and ensembles that have recorded it: Iona Brown and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra for Chandos, Frantisek Jilek and the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra for Supraphon, and Ross Pople and the London Festival Orchestra for Arte Nova, among them. In any case, I’m glad to have discovered (or rediscovered) it in this exceptionally fine account by the French Canadian, Montreal based Ensemble Instrumental Appassionata.
When it comes to Lekeu’s Adagio for Strings, I know for certain that I’d never heard it before, and I find no other current recordings of it listed. Guillaume Lekeu (1870–1894) belongs near the very top of the list of shortest-lived composers, dying of typhoid fever at the age of 24. Off the top of my head, I think only Arriaga (1806–1826) died younger. Belgian by birth, Lekeu, like a number of the Franco-Belgian school of composers, ended up in Paris, where he became a student of César Franck and, upon Franck’s death, of Vincent d’Indy. Of Lekeu’s approximately 50 works, the only one that has retained some currency is a violin sonata he was commissioned to write by the great violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe. Menuhin took it up and gave the piece its first outing on record in 1938
with sister Hephzibah at the piano, a recording re-mastered and available on Naxos’s “Great Violinists” series.
Written in 1891 when Lekeu was 21—barely an adult by normal standards, but with only three years left to live) the Adagio for Strings is shocking in its uncanny pre-echoing of Schoenberg’s 1899 Transfigured Night. Did Schoenberg know Lekeu’s piece? Who knows? But premonitions of the Schoenberg at certain points in Lekeu’s 11-minute work seem almost too strong to be accidental or coincidental. Again, as is the case with Janáček’s Idyla, Lekeu’s Adagio is an exquisitely beautiful piece.
Little needs to be said about the Grieg and Mozart numbers on the disc. They’ve both been done to death by countless ensembles and on countless recordings. So, buying this release for either the Two Elegiac Melodies or the Serenata Notturna, superbly as they are played here by the Ensemble Instrumental Appassionata, will probably make for redundant additions to your collections. But for the Janáček and the Lekeu, I cannot give this CD a stronger recommendation. It’s over an hour’s worth of pure bliss. The ensemble’s official website lists this as their sole recording. Based on the sheer beauty and sheen of their playing, I hope there will be many more to come.
Founded eight years ago by its current conductor Daniel Myssyk, the Ensemble Instrumental Appassionata is the least well-known of our chamber orchestras. However, it just launched its very first CD, recorded last December. The program is the same one the little orchestra presented at the Centre Pierre-Charbonneau in July, with one exception: the concert included one more piece. This program seemed a bit serious for these summer concerts offered to the public with a light snack. But it stands up much better if you listen to it at home, in a context where you can concentrate on the music.
To me, this program seemed a little serious for these public concerts accompanied by a bite to eat. But it’s better when you listen to it at home in a context that allows you to concentrate. Heard this way, the nuances that the conductor brings to Janacek’s unique Idyla suite lend a lovely intimacy to the seven movements. The title of this rarely recorded suite is also the title of this 62-minute CD.
The ensemble is impeccable in every way – coordination, balance, accuracy and musicality – and the beauty of its sound is perfectly reproduced here. As in the concert, Myssyk elicits from his Appassionata the maximum of expression to be found in the serious pages of Guillaume Lekeu’s Adagio and Grieg’s Two Elegiac Melodies. The order of the pieces on the CD is the complete reverse of the concert’s order. Mozart’s Serenata notturna, which began the concert, concludes the CD in brilliant fashion. Myssyk directs with elegance and humour and includes all the repetitions. He slightly varies the second theme and allows the concertmaster and even the double bass and tympani to improvise small, amusing rhythms. Olivier Thouin, now with the MSO, was concertmaster.