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Volume 11 Issue 2 - October 2005

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  • Toronto
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  • October
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~ · ": ~·;~:, ir,1 ~ ' . . - ' Bamboo, Silk and Stone - New Music for Asian Zithers Randy Raine-Reusch ZA Discs, N-11 This ambitious CD showcases just one of the many facets of the extraordinary Vancouver musician, band leader, composer, instrument collector, World Music activist and scholar, Randy Raine-Reusch. His 30-year career has taken him to many countries, where it seems he can't help himself from adding to his magnificent collection of more than 700 instruments. "Bamboo, Silk and Stone" contains eight compositions featuring Randy's masterful playing of six Asian zithers from his collection. These beautiful instruments are relatively little-known to most Canadian music-lovers and it was certainly a brilliant design coup to have each instrument pictured and described in the handsome CD booklet. While listening to the selections, I found myself often musing on the elaborate structural and decorative details on the zithers which helped bring the music made on these instruments to life in my mind's and ear's eye. Randy's zither playing is joined in several compositions by illustrious guest musicians, including free jazz pioneer William 0 . Smith (clarinet), trombonist Stuart Dempster and soprano sax great, Jon Gibson. Vancouver-based composer, Barry Truax contributes his evocative composition Bamboo, Silk and Stone, complete with his signature 'granular synthesis', a soundmorphing computer procedure. The highlight for me is the last track, October Moon . In it, Randy's skilled sh6 (Japanese mouth organ) and dynamic chan'go (Korean drum) playing sets the scene for his emotionally-inflected ichigenkin (single-string Japanese zither) solo. October Moon effectively bridges the sound-world of John Cage, the abandonment of free jazz and the focus on pure sound found in meditative traditions such as Tao and Zen Buddhism. This combination of elements perhaps best sums up the music on this remarkable CD . Andrew Timar 68 Back to Ad Index DISCS OF THE MONTH Bach - Cantatas 30; 7; 167 for the Feast of St. John the Baptist Leblanc; Taylor; Daniels; Macleod Montreal Baroque; Eric Milnes ATMA SACD2 2400 Bach - Cantatas 130; 19; 149 for the Feast of St. Michael Mauch; Lee; Kobow; MacLeod Montreal Baroque; Eric Milnes ATMA SACD2 2401 Bach - Cantatas Vol.1: City of London Cantatas 167; 7; 30; 75; 39; 20 Various Soloists Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists John Eliot Gardiner Soli Deo Gloria SDG 101 Bach Cantatas Vol.8: Bremen I Santiago Cantatas 138; 99; 51; 100; 161; 27;8;95 Various Soloists Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists John Eliot Gardiner Soli Deo Gloria SDG 104 Bach - Cantatas Vol.24: Alten-burg/Warwick Cantatas 12; 103; 146; 166; 108; 117 Various soloists Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists John Eliot Gardiner Soli Deo Gloria SDG 107 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM Because of his convenient birth and death dates, every five years is considered to be a "Bach year" by some part of the classical music community. This year is the 320th anniversary of his birth and therefore also the 255th anniversary of his death. The International Bach Festival is in full swing this month at the University of Toronto, featuring Canadian, German and Israeli musicians of very high calibre. To prepare for the endless days of cantatas to come, I listened to eight recordings of twenty-four of Bach's cantatas. "What's that?" you say. "Are you nuts?" Indeed I am. For not only did I listen to these, but I did so carefully, and more than once. The recordings in question are three double discs of John Eliot Gardiner's Cantata Pilgrimage, and two recent ATMA releases from the Montreal Baroque festival. These two species of recording cannot be compared in any fairness, since the Cantata Pilgrimage was recorded live on tour, with constantly changing soloists, repertoire, recording engineers and audiences. The ATMA recordings were made in the safety of an empty church with splicing, rehearsal and rest at the musicians' disposal. That said, I must admit to being partial to the Canadian recordings. The soloists include sopranos Suzie Leblanc and Monika Mauch, altos Daniel Taylor and David Lee, tenors Jan Kobow and Charles Daniels and bass Stephan MacLeod . Each and every one of these singers is a delight to hear. I was particularly struck by the sound of David Lee - a Korean counter-tenor whose timbre gave me hot flashes. I am too young for hot flashes, but you might find me heading up the "Campaign for More David Lee" here in Canada. The soloists in the ATMA recordings were also used as the chorus, and who doesn't want to hear Suzie Leblanc, Daniel Taylor, Charles Daniels and Stephan MacLeod sing a quartet? Impressive, too, was the ensemble Montreal Baroque, directed by Eric Milnes. The duet "Gottes Wort, das triiget nicht" (from cantata 167) features Matthew Jennejohn in a stunning oboe da caccia obbligato. The balance on the recordings creates a slightly too-present organ, however, and I just don't know whether that can be attributed to its being played by the director of the ensemble or not. The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage took place in 2000 - a somewhat more logical Bach year. John Eliot Gardiner took the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists and many vocalists to retrace Bach's footsteps all the while performing every surviving cantata within a single year. Obviously this was a feat to be seen, and the group was met with appreciative audiences wherever they went. The six discs I listened to included soloists Gillian Keith, Joanne Lunn, Malin Hartelius, Katharine Fuge, Wilke te Brummelstroete, William Towers, Robin Tyson, Mark Padmore, Paul Agnew, James Gilchrist, Thomas Guthrie, Peter Harvey and Dietrich Henschel. Many, if not most, of these soloists also featured as members of the choir on other discs. Each of the soloists is worth hearing in his or her own right, even if only to hear the flawless live performances. The sheer magnitude of the repertoire coupled with the professionalism in performance is astonishing. I did wonder, however, why anyone other than Robin Tyson was ever used as an alto soloist, given his obvious dominance among his peers. Likewise, although each of the soprano soloists is technically sound and beautifully talented, Joanne Lunn stood out as the soprano to heed on these particular recordings. The choir and orchestra are at their usual remarkable best. Every one of these recordings comes highly recommended by me. You might want to play them one at a time, however, or even a week apart. Too much of a good thing can make your ears bleed. Trust me. Gabrielle McLaughlin Concert Note: The International Bach Festival at the University of Toronto kicks off with at gala orchestral concert on October 1 . The five day Bach Cantata Series begins October 2, with Cantata BWV 4 "Christ lag in todensbonden" featuring Helene Couture, Daniel Taylor, James Taylor, and the International Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra under Helmuth Rilling's direction. O CTOBE R 1 - N OVEM BER 7 2005

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