Van Helm: International Intrigue

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There has been no lack of nostalgia as the VSO closes out its th Anniversary season. There was clearly a Japanese theme afoot — and many devoted Japanese patrons present — as his collaborator was violinist Mayuko Kamio, winner of the Yehudi Menuhin Competition and Gold Medalist in the Tchaikovsky Competition. Their collaboration in Bach and Mozart concertos yielded an abiding gentleness throughout, while Akiyama added more dramatic profile and thrust in Respighi and Mendelssohn… See more.

It is always an interesting occasion when a conductor comes back to conduct his previous orchestra. I used to work here. A possible disappointment was that the scheduled world premiere of his new Concerto for Orchestra had to be postponed. There are few artists that convey a greater sense of communication and discovery in the concert hall than Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud.

While there is a life-enhancing glow in his appearances, one surmises that his bountiful inspiration must come from somewhere — perhaps from a tradition that stresses experimentation and an almost Renaissance diversity in musical reach. A prime motivation for this this interview is to understand, first, where this freedom of spirit comes from — and the educational components that may have spawned it — and, second, its implications for a more innovative approach to concert performances and programming. The real star of the show was Maestro Jonathan Darlington, who elicited a sensitive, alert and disciplined reading of the score from the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and provided the singers with unflagging support.

Indeed, much of the color and rhythmic energy of this performance emanated from the orchestra pit. Mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh was well equipped for the lead role, possessing an attractive timbre and a natural-sounding resonance across her entire range. As Don Ramiro, tenor Charles Sy was the perfect vocal complement, thanks to his smooth legato, effortless command of his upper register, and sensitive control of phrasing and nuance. The audience favorite of this production was undoubtedly the Don Magnifico of Peter McGillvray, an actor with a phenomenal gift for physical comedy.

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Virtually all ensembles came across as clear and well balanced, and the orchestra seldom overpowered the voices. There are few finer pianists of his generation than Argentinian Nelson Goerner, and this concert gave another example of his unique elegance, insight and pianistic strength. The cellist displayed impressive technical variety and tonal beauty throughout, though he understandably has room to develop in both style and character. With an ensemble of around 40 players, and using a harpsichord and fortepiano as alternating continuos, there was an authentic hue to the performances, even though modern instruments were used.

In accord with recent thinking, speeds tended to be brisk, with strong rhythmic emphasis and, sometimes, brusque sforzandi and cutting brass. The approach was purposive and clear headed, though not without colour, yielding a consistency throughout. Well, he made it! Everyone was prepared for the worst, especially with the long and forbidding Diabelli Variations beckoning at the end of the programme.

The Brahms Intermezzi Op. December saw a concert North American tour, and they have moved forward with another concert expedition in February , of which this concert was part. They had won two Grammys previously, and it is with regret that one has to report that they did not secure a third this time. The orchestra performed the closing concerts. This was a terrific success, with more people than one could possibly imagine showing up and making a day of it — 14, in total. It certainly revealed how many different groups the VSO could reach if it had the resources. Before that, the symphony had a celebrity event with legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman, and a four-concert New Music Festival which was particularly accessible to the general public.

For all the Ehnes Quartet has played an integral role in the Seattle Chamber Music Society, it has taken the ensemble quite a while to cross the border and make their Vancouver debut. One could hardly be disappointed: led by the celebrated Canadian violinist James Ehnes, this is a magnificent collection of musicians who share a kindred spirit, provide enviable tonal address and variety, and see the line of the music very well.

Everything they attempted seemed interesting and fresh — suggesting a thirst for discovery and a real feeling for what the music is saying… See more.

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His early — and indeed enduring — contribution lay in bringing technically-challenging works of lesser known and often forgotten composers to public attention, placing them on the world stage in the best light for others to absorb and study. The first turning point in his career was winning the Carnegie Hall International Competition for American Music in Following on the momentum gained from hosting the ISCM World Music Days in , David Pay and Music on Main continue their 5-day Modulus Festival this year, featuring a rich diversity of artists and offering an excellent sampling of what is current in the world of new music.

Opportunities for mingling between performers and the audience was also an important aspect of the festival. Two of the most inspired concerts were by young British pianist Richard Uttley, and the Standing Wave Ensemble contributed their inimitable expertise at the end… See more. Vancouver chamber music and new music aficionados were recently treated to an extraordinary musical feast prepared by no less than seven string quartet ensembles: three from Canada, two from the US, and two from Italy.

Canadian, American, Italian, and Russian composers were all represented, including 2 compositions by Navajo composer Raven Chacon, and 5 by participants in his Native American Composer Apprentice Project. Kudos to all the composers and performers, and to Artistic Director Giorgio Magnanensi and the Vancouver New Music team for this unique enterprise… See more. What this has meant for Vancouver is that all our local reviews and interviews appear world-wide, and are featured alongside those of London, New York, and other music capitals.

For reviews and interviews already published on Seen and Heard , go to:. The pianist received the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award in These are a most productive developments, and this brief interview attempts to give insight into them. What is apparent in talking with Blechacz is how considered and philosophical an artist he is — not surprising, since he is completing his doctorate in Philosophy.

Also, how much he has in common with his friend and celebrated countryman Krystian Zimerman in terms of thinking about piano performance… See more. Winner of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in , Barry Douglas has toured the world for the last three decades, bringing distinction and splendour to the wide range of concertos he plays, and taking on innumerable institutional responsibilities as well. The other notable happening for the pianist is his recording of the complete solo piano music of Brahms and in progress Schubert for Chandos.

He was awarded an OBE in See more. These maestros distinguished themselves by their natural insight into Czech rhythms and colour, and the lean, pointed and often pungent character of Czech orchestral sound. British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor has been in the spotlight for over half of his lifetime, having won the BBC Young Musician of the Year in at the age of He was already demonstrating profound maturity in his interpretations and command of the piano at that young age, and Grosvenor has continued to develop over the years. The first British pianist in 40 years to be signed to the Decca label, Grosvenor has now released four albums and continues to tour worldwide with solo recitals, chamber music collaborations, and concerto appearances.

Benjamin Grosvenor has now made three Vancouver appearances with the Vancouver Recital Society; his debut concert was April There are few more celebrated musicians in the world right now than Manitoba-born violinist James Ehnes, and few have failed to succumb to his wonderful tonal luster, silken lyrical lines, and insightful virtuosity.

The past decade has seen a remarkable flood of recordings: the Complete Works for Violin of both Bartok and Prokofiev for Chandos, and the Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Shostakovich and Britten concertos, plus a number of violin sonatas and the Paganini Caprices , for Onyx.

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Alongside the many duo recordings with long-time partner Andrew Armstrong, still more new releases come from the Seattle Chamber Music Society and from the Ehnes Quartet, bringing his total to almost 50 recordings as he approaches his 41st year. On the occasion of the Vancouver Symphony Spring Festival, the adventures continued: Ehnes appeared as conductor and violinist in one concert and the violist in the Walton Viola Concerto in another.

With such a bewildering array of talents and accomplishments, one can hardly run out of things to talk about! While her work rightly achieved strong and widespread appreciation during her lifetime, she is perhaps gaining even more reverence now. The BBC has been currently interested in showcasing female composers, but one must presume that it was the sheer scope and quality of her compositions that was ultimately persuasive.

Here was a 20th century woman from distant British Columbia who wrote in all the great classical genres, a composer who developed a unique if conservative voice, and whose best music has stood the test of time and critical scrutiny. The Canadian Music Centre CMC has been a most valuable resource for Canadian composers, musicians, and educators ever since it formed in The organization has also furthered educational initiatives and located another B. If one wanted a broad picture of the evolution of historical performance, with intriguing little nuances revealed along the way, there would be few better musicians to talk to than Monica Huggett.

She has been an unremitting force for four decades, well known early on from her associations with the Academy of Ancient Music and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and these days as Artistic Director of the Portland and Irish Baroque Orchestras, and Adviser to the Juilliard Historical Program. Most important are her insights about how historical performance has developed out of a number of contrasting approaches that have cross-fertilized each other. Equally interesting are her ideas on where historical scholarship and performance practice still have room to grow, what she wants to achieve from an orchestra in interpretation, and how she has maintained an undiminished inspiration all this time.

But when the end finally comes, it is often interesting to note the reevaluations that one makes of a formidable and enterprising musical life. Yet the consistency in performance and recording was disarming and, while one seldom received earth-shaking interpretations from Sir Neville, one always got musicality, balance, and judgement — and a refreshing degree of innovation in repertoire and style. As with most genres, any attempt to define the spy movie falls apart pretty quickly. Maybe more quickly than most, given that the term can encompass films featuring everything from evil supervillains plotting to take over the world with futuristic weapons to grounded-in-fact stories of those who trade secrets behind enemy lines.

At least Westerns take place in the Old West. See, genre definitions are hard! For this list of the best spy movies ever made, Vulture opted for a big-tent approach in an attempt to create a selection that captured the full breadth of the spy film. A few dominant types of spy movies do help provide a little definition, however.

Martini stories operate in a glamorous world where bad guys live in lairs, femmes fatales wait at every backgammon table, and our hero drives fast cars and seldom takes off a tuxedo. Stale-beer stories often tend to be informed by the actual practices of spying, and sometimes written by those with some experience in the world of espionage, e. Even these groupings are less firm categories than the two poles between which most spy movies fall.

The Bond series, for instance, has a habit of inching toward the stale-beer end every time it gets too fixated on gadgets and world-destroying plots. Then there are categories within categories, like spy-fi, stories set at the intersection of espionage and cutting-edge technology. We tried to include a little from every corner of the spy-film world in this list without favoring one sort of spy movie over another. And, as for the latter, we tried to include some representative samples from each Bond era.

Unless your favorite Moore movie is Moonraker , because that one is terrible. Spy Kids The wild designs and not-exactly-state-of-the-art special effects are all part of the charm. Three sequels and an animated series followed, but the original remains the most memorable. Hopscotch If James Bond resides at one end of the spectrum when it comes to glamour, you can find Miles Kendig at the other. Played by Walter Matthau in this fun send-up of Cold War intrigue, he looks disheveled, acts impatient, and appears always on the verge of packing it all in and going home. Carano plays a former U. True Lies Damon brings a haunted intensity to the role, and Liman, who struggled with the studio throughout production, directs with style and grit.

Butterfly uses espionage as means to explore what we keep to ourselves, what we give away, and what we refuse to see when we fall in love.

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The Fourth Protocol Few Cold War betrayals stung as sharply as that of Kim Philby, a British intelligence officer who worked as a double agent for the Soviets for decades, then defected after being found out. Sneakers Robert Redford yes, him again heads an all-star cast in a fun, fleet thriller in which he plays a former radical whose activities in the s — as a Stone Age computer hacker — have forced him to reinvent himself under another name as an independent security expert.

Redford heads a team of eccentric misfits that includes a former CIA Agent Sidney Poitier , a conspiracy theorist Dan Aykroyd , an awkward geek River Phoenix , and a blind man David Strathairn who get in over their heads when tasked with finding a device capable of breaking any code. Yee Tony Leung , a cruel higher-up in the Japanese-run puppet government. Our Man Flint As with film noir, it sometimes seem like parodies of spy movies outnumber proper spy movies.

Coburn returned for the sequel In Like Flint the following year, and anyone who enjoys this nonsense would also do well to check out the Dean Martin—starring Matt Helm series, which kicked off with The Silencers the same year. But go deeper into the subgenre at your own peril. Undercover Brother An even richer and more rewarding parody, Undercover Brother folds some sharp commentary into a story of the eponymous Undercover Brother Eddie Griffin , a hero straight out of a blaxploitation movie who hooks up with the B.

The Man From U. Alicia Vikander holds her own nicely in the middle of their over-the-top machismo. The film stays light, but Ritchie brings excitement and flair to the action scenes. Duplicity Not all spies work for governments.

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Some decide to make real money in the private sector like the ex-spies played by Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in this clever thriller written and directed by Tony Gilroy. Why so few showed up to see it at the time remains a mystery, but it deserves to find a second life.

If that sounds a lot like another, even more famous Hitchcock film and there will be more about that one, and Hitchcock, below just chalk it up to further support for the auteur theory. Yet Saboteur never plays like a dry run for North by Northwest.

Its wartime atmosphere gives it a sense of dread all its own and its set pieces are all doozies, especially the Statue of Liberty climax. The Spy Who Loved Me Moore gets a bit of a bad rap. By , Moore had made the part his own. Gone were the early attempts to set himself apart by smoking cigars and drinking bourbon. On a hot streak, Predator and Die Hard director John McTiernan keeps ratcheting up the tension as his two leads get closer to each other, building to a climax that, at the time at least, played like a farewell to American and Russian enmity.

Like Casino Royale , it confirmed that, with the right tools, Craig could fully reinvent the venerable spy for contemporary times. Top Secret! His methods: charm everyone he meets and stab everyone who figures him out. An adaptation of a Ken Follett novel, the film follows the Needle on a bloody cross-country journey to escape back to Germany with some vital secrets in hand, then slows down the action when he washes up on a sparsely populated island and seduces the unsuspecting at first Lucy Kate Nelligan , a neglected wife. Mission: Impossible — Fallout The sixth entry in the Mission: Impossible series and the second in a row to be directed by Christopher McQuarrie , Fallout attempts to up the stakes in every way.

Munich Steven Spielberg explores the psychic toll of living in the moral murk of espionage via the story of a group of Mossad agents charged with finding and killing the Palestinian terrorists behind the massacre of members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics.

Spy Melissa McCarthy plays a desk-bound, overlooked CIA agent who unexpectedly gets the call-up after the apparent death of her flashy partner Jude Law. She also has help from a gifted supporting cast whose standouts include Rose Byrne and Jason Statham, in a pitiless spoof of the sort of macho tough-guy roles he normally takes.

Foreign Correspondent Though it eventually went all-in in supporting the war effort, Hollywood was shy about calling out Nazi Germany until the U.