My hometown of Toronto has a large Canadian Chinese population with its own daily newspapers, schools, and one of the largest Chinatown’s in the world. As such, any Chinese cultural group on tour makes Toronto an important stop.

I’ve noticed a full symphony orchestra for the past few years on tour here and getting raves for its performances of western and Chinese music. A cross pollination of musical styles is always difficult, especially when the harmony and melodies are so different from one another. Yet, the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra continues to garner enthusiastic notices wherever it performs.

The Shen Yun site describes itself as …’accentuating the beauty of ancient Chinese instruments amidst the grandeur of a Western symphony, the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra draws on cherished ancient melodies and delightful musical styles to create a brand new, yet wonderfully familiar, experience. Part of Shen Yun Performing Arts, the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is rooted in 5,000 years of civilization. It shares in Shen Yun’s mission to revive five millennia of divinely inspired culture.’

If this sounds like something you’d like to experience (and their videos suggest a spectacular experience), the Shen Yun website has details on all the stops on the upcoming tour. Toronto gets first dibs on Sat October 3rd @ 1:30 at Roy Thomson Hall.


Charles Chaplin: Modern Times
Complete film score

NDR Radiophilharmonie / Timothy Brock

CPO 777 286-2 [75:49]

A friend and colleague, the late violinist James Richmond, once told me a lovely story from his days playing at the Savoy Hotel. One evening a note arrived with a bottle of Champagne asking if the musicians would like to join two gentlemen dining privately. The two gentlemen were Charles Chaplin and Pierre Monteux, who were good friends and enjoyed dining together. Richmond told me that they had a great evening during the course of which Chaplin quizzed him about violin technique and reminisced about his days in vaudeville at the turn of the 20th Century.

Chaplin was a keen left handed violinist who played with some skill even though he was mainly self taught. Richmond enjoyed telling me that he gave Chaplin a fiddle lesson and helped him with some background for the film Limelight which came out a year or so later.

The reason I tell this story is to illustrate that Chaplin was not just a great comic actor but also a keen musician who oversaw the music scores to many of his films. Although not formally able to compose the music, he realized his musical ideas through the help of the studio arrangers.

This recording of the 1935 film, which contained only a few lines of dialogue, amply shows what Chaplin was able to achieve. The NDR Radiophilharmonie under Timothy Brock realise the score with relish and a fine degree of style. A fascinating glimpse into a long lost world thankfully captured in wonderful sound.


Brahms and Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos

Boston Symphony / Monteux; Paris Conservatoire / Silvestri
Recorded: 1958-1959

Melodiya MEL CD 1002328 [75:50]

I first came across Kogan when I was a boy and I bought his Beethoven concerto with Silvestri and the Paris band on EMI. It was a fine recording which I still cherish. Now Melodiya have dusted off further recordings from the 1950s which confirm what a great player he was.

The Brahms was recorded live in Boston in 1958 and the audience can’t contain themselves with appreciation applauding each movement warmly. Don’t be put off, for the applause is justified and well worth the slight inconvenience.

The recording itself places Kogan forward of the orchestra and he keeps Monteux on his toes with searing tempos and little or no heed paid to the difficulty of the passage work.

The Tchaikovsky was possibly recorded in the Salle Wagram (I’m guessing by the very resonant acoustic) and is in stereo. This time the orchestra loses some detail in a rather roomy sound but Kogan gives a high voltage account that it well worth hearing.

He died aged fifty eight and the world lost one of the great violinists. It was a shame that in later life his ill health and Russian politics kept him away from the world. These live performances give us a good idea of his artistry.


Is streaming quickly becoming of age?

My friend Robert Silverman alerted me to this new software. He has it, and other than being one of Canada’s finest concert pianists, he is an avid audiophile. He knows of what he speaks and from every angle. He loves Roon. He tells me that it basically installs the software from the ultra high end $10,000 Meridian Sooloos music server on your computer for $100 a year. It loads all your files in all formats and resolutions and integrates seamlessly with Tidal Hi. And Bob says ‘it looks amazing!’.

Meridian has unleashed Roon as a standalone software company and the scuttlebutt is that the software will only get more refined and powerful in time. We have a request for a review download and will publish our findings. If you can’t wait, there is a two week free trial.

Roon says: ‘Between users and across devices you have downloads, ripped CDs, and streaming services. Roon weaves it all into a single music experience connected by rich images and a host of information. Music isn’t files and streams. It’s the work of passionate people who compose, collaborate, and perform live. Stop looking at lists and start experiencing a multi-dimensional world of music. Roon runs on your Mac or PC, and can be controlled from another computer (tablets coming soon!). From earbuds to Hi-Fi DACs to network players, listen in one room or around the house with AirPlay, with more streaming formats to come.’


{ 1 comment }