8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 9 - June 2006

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  • Festival
  • Toronto
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  • Classical
  • Choir
  • Violin
  • Quartet

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Back to Ad Index The Tokaido - Choral Music of Harry Freedman Elmer Iseler Singers; Amadeus Chamber Singers; Toronto Children's Chorus; Lydia Adams Centrediscs CMCCD 11206 ------. ____ T ____________ _ '~ /' l This timely retrospective of Harry Freedman's choral music was recorded just a few months before his death last year. With repertoire covering the years from 1964- 2002, the disc is built around the earliest of these, a work commissioned for The Festival Singers. The Tokaido is a strict 12-tone setting of nineteen classical Japanese poems chosen from a book of woodblock prints Freedman was given at a time when he was studying Japanese sumi painting. The interplay between voices and wind ensemble perfectly mirrors what is described in the Canadian Encyclopedia of Music as 'ritualistic Japanese art that aims at a high degree of expression achieved with a strict economy of brushwork'. Some of the works featured on this CD highlight another of the composer's inclinations, and that is a fondness for inventing abstract language for works like Voices and Keewaydin. This creates an emphasis on expressive sound that allows the music a spacious freedom that speaks to the listener on another level of understanding beyond explicit meaning. Contrasting these are pieces written in plain English that, nonetheless, define Freedman as in the words of Lawrence Cherney, 'the ul~imate sound poet'. 1838 is a short but rollicking set of songs from Eastern Canada ending with a Dennis Lee poem on William Lyon Mackenzie. Many of the Songs from Shakespeare were written for Stratford Festival productions. The performances on this disc are exquisitely presented as a fitting tribute to this brilliant light of Canadian music heritage. Dianne Wells DISCS OF THE MONTH Choral music plays an enormous part in the lives of people residing in northern Europe. The involvement of the amateur singer in choirs is a fundamental part of everyday life in the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, resulting in a plethora of superb compositions geared to challenge, move and entertain both listeners and singers alike. "North" and "Forgotten Peoples" are important releases of a cappella choral works from important composers from these regions . If you were to own only one recording of choral music representing Scandinavia, "North" would be the one I would recommend. It is a comprehensive two CD compilation showcasing a cross section of important works performed with musical integrity by the Accentus choir under the direction of Eric Ericson. Here are my favourites. Though more famous for his orchestral works such as Finlandia, the choral output of Jean Sibelius showcases his romantic sensibilities combined with the lyric folk poetry of the region. Both Sydiimeni laulu (Song of My Heart, set to a poem by Aleksis Kivi) and Sortunut iiiini (The Voice Now Stilled, from a poem from the Kanteletar, a companion volume to the Finnish national epic Kalevala) are part of the standard Finnish repertoire. They are beautiful works, brief in duration, and captivating in their harmonic colours. Toivo Kuula's Siell' on kauanjo kukkineet omenapuut (Yonder the Apple Trees are Blooming) is the first choral fugue written to a Finnish text. Like Sibelius, Kuula's expressive and emotional music is stylistically Romantic . His compositional ability to cap- ture the essence of being Finnish is astounding and it is ironic to note that he died a few weeks before his 35th birthday, a casualty in the Civil War of Finland in 1918. Works from the Estonian composer Veljo Tormis comprise "Forgotten Peoples", the latest release from Vancouver based 12 member mixed professional choir Musica Intima. The choir prides itself on working without a conductor so that listening is of essence for each choir member, a technique that lends itself well to Tormis' music. Unlike the minimalist nature of fellow Estonian Arva Part, Tormis' music is more melodic in nature, and his harmonies and word painting are unique. This music may sound simple, but believe me it is not easy to execute. This is work from my own cultural background and its originality is refreshing. He uses "regilaul", ancient traditional Estonian forms of vocal chanting and singing, in their entirety as a basis for his compositional ideas for Jaanilaulud and Vastlalaulud (from the cycle "Estonian Calendar Songs"). In Sugismaastikud (Autumn Landscapes), one of two featured sets of miniatures from Looduspildid (Nature Pictures), Tormis takes the ecological themed text by poet Viivi Luik and creates aural magic. In the song Tuul konnumaa kohal (Wind Along the Heath), the swirling velocity of wind is musically depicted with awe-inspiring accuracy within a 1: 13 framework. The musicality and dedication of both Accentus and Musica Intima needs to be heartily applauded. Neither choir originates from these regions. The fact that the singers are able to execute the difficult language pronunciations is enough to make each disc a treasure. Factor in solid intonation, inspired musicality and an inherent love of this music, and the result is two very moving musical experiences. Tiina Kiik North Choeur Accentus; Eric Ericson Naive 5037 Tormis - Forgotten Peoples Muska Intima ATMA ACD2 2354 54 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM JUNE 1 - JULY 7 2006

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