5 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 3 - November 2014

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Ready Set ... continued from page 13Asked for a favourite NYOC moment, Vanessa reminisces abouta far-from-average group of concertgoers. “I remember on severaloccasions when the orchestra was playing in Grant Hall at Queen’sUniversity, that bats would frequently appear in the hall. They seemedin particular to like the sound of the flute as they would tend to showup when the flutes were playing and would swoop around over theirheads!” she recalls.There’s no doubt that Vanessa’s memorable youth orchestra experiencerubs off on her current role with Jeunesses Musicales: “In theNYOC, the level was extremely high and no matter how much fun wewere having off the stage, when we were rehearsing or performing,we were all after one thing – to be the best we could and to play greatmusic. I think the same is true of artists working with JeunessesMusicales and it is wonderful to be able to support such creativity.”“I have always enjoyed working with young and emerging artists,as they have such energy and drive and are not afraid to experiment,”Vanessa continues. “Nothing is more satisfying than watching youngartists flourish and develop successful careers.”The NYOC’s 2015 repertoire list, though subject to change, is fullof opportunities for orchestra members to exercise that energyand inclination to experiment. In addition to the Holst and Straussworks, the season’s repertoire, likely to be spread across two alternatingprograms, tentatively includes Bartók’s Dance Suite Sz 77,Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Prokofiev’s Classical Symphonyand a second Strauss offering, his tone poem Don Quixote. Theorchestra will also premiere a newly commissioned work, written bythis year’s winner – not yet announced – of NYOC’s annual EmergingComposer-in-Residence position.For those interested in applying for this year’s NYOC program,applications will still be accepted until December 28; and submittingone before the end of November means a cheaper applicationfee. The program itself is essentially tuition-free, with all membersreceiving a 00 award after completion of the program in the fall.Opportunities also exist to apply for additional awards, including theprestigious Michael Measures Prize, the winner of which receives a,000 award plus a solo concerto performance with the orchestra.All the details for auditions and the orchestra’s student awardsprogram are available on the NYOC website, at orchestra’s coordinators have not yet announced its officialtour itinerary for this summer, but some venues, Koerner Hall amongthem, are perennial favourites and can likely be counted on againfor the coming year. In the meantime, the orchestra is due to releasethe recording from its 2014 session on November 7. Keep an eye outfor this disc, and for the announcement of the group’s upcomingtour dates. From the looks of this year’s repertoire and the organization’sreputation, the NYOC’s local concert this summer will be oneto watch.Sara Constant is social media editor at TheWholeNote and studies music at U of T. She can becontacted at the RecordUnderstanding the process of being recorded is an often-necessaryaspect of life as a performing musician, and something that isthreaded through the NYOC experience from start to finish. Fromthe video auditions used to determine each summer’s membersto the CD the orchestra releases each year, the ways in which liveperformance can be transferred to a recorded medium play animportant part, not just in facilitating the orchestra’s operations butin the pedagogical nature of the group’s work.Past documentation of the NYOC’s summer musical journeyshas come in the form of a 2-CD set, available for on the group’swebsite. The discs were recorded during the orchestra’s annualstudio session at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, with the CDsets released for public sale each fall. With a November 7 releasedate set for this years edition, the coming weeks will provide agood opportunity to revisit the orchestra’s most recent tour and,for concertgoers and applicants alike, to prepare for the musicalyear ahead.DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSThe latest release in the Naxos CanadianClassics line is an important additionto our recorded legacy. JacquesHétu – Complete Chamber Music for Strings(8.573395) with the New Orford StringQuartet and guests features significantworks spanning the career of the late Quebeccomposer who died in 2010 at the age of 71.The Adagio and Rondo, his first work in thestring quartet medium, dates from 1960 at thetime of his graduation from the Montreal Conservatory and is really aforeshadowing of things to come; as pointed out in the program notes,“motivic and thematic elements from this work can be seen in all ofhis subsequent chamber works for strings.” For this reason I wishthat it had been placed first on the disc to give context to the overallprogram. Instead, the recording begins with the first of his two namedquartets, String Quartet No.1, Op.19 from 1972, which “combines20th-century techniques with neo-romantic harmonic language” –a combination that would be Hétu’s signature throughout his distinguishedcareer. A conservative voice that some would consideranachronistic, his music is expressive and extremely well-crafted.While the first quartet is in the traditional four movement form – fast,slow, slow/fast and fast (although it ends in a peaceful calm) – StringQuartet No.2, Op.50 (1991) consists of a Vivace somewhat reminiscentof Bartók’s “night music” writing framed by two slow movements. TheAndante finale is particularly lush in its Romantic sensibility and themembers of the New Orford capture the sense of wistful longing withacuity as the music fades in a quiet cello solo.Written the following year, and placed directly after the secondquartet, the Scherzo Op.54 with its re-use of the solo cello theme atfirst appears to act as an upbeat afterthought to the foregoing work,but this sense is dispelled with the inclusion of a quotation from,and later a pizzicato reworking of, a fragment from Bach’s GoldbergVariations. For the Sérénade Op.45 (1988) the members of the quartet– violinists Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan, violist Eric Nowlinand cellist Brian Manker, themselves principals of the Toronto andMontreal Symphony Orchestras – are joined by MSO principal flutistTimothy Hutchins. Written on commission as an anniversary gift, thework was inspired by Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. After a gentlePrélude a lyrical, if somewhat melancholy, Nocturne is followed by aboisterous Danse bringing the charming bonbon to a close.The disc ends with Hétu’s final work for strings, the Sextet, Op.71written in 2004, for which the quartet is joined by former TSO principalviolist Steven Dann and cellist Colin Carr. After an upbeatopening the work once again slips into Hétu’s familiar sombre lyricism,this time with the texture darkened by the doubled lowerstrings. This is followed by some playful cat-and-mouse activity withunison voices that alternates with slow, thoughtful passages untilfinishing in a flurry some 12 minutes later.The New Orford String Quartet, like its namesake half a centuryearlier, was founded at the Orford Arts Centre in Quebec in 2009, 18years after the original quartet disbanded following a distinguishedinternational career that spanned nearly three decades. Despite thefact that their only previous release included Schubert and Beethoven(on Bridge Records, a label otherwise known for contemporaryrecordings), according to its Naxos bio “the New Orford String Quartetis dedicated to promoting Canadian works, both new commissionsand works from the past 100 years.” With the quality of their playing– amply showcased here – this is good news indeed for Canadiancomposers. I look forward to future recordings of repertoire from thecurrent century.In August the distinguished Australian composer Peter Sculthorpedied at the age of 85. Named a National Living Treasure in 1997 by72 | November 1 - December 7, 2014

the National Trust of Australia, Sculthorpe stated that in his music hesought to “find the spirit of the land and the landscape – the sacred, ifyou like – in nature.” A true exponent of the Pacific Rim, he was influencedby Japanese and Balinese culture, but more significantly by theAboriginal music of his homeland. This is heard throughout his oftenbrooding works; of specific note are the libretto to his 1974 operaRites of Passage, which is partly in the Aranda dialect of NorthernAustralia, the orchestral work Earth Cry (1985), Requiem (2004) andfour of his late string quartets which include a prominent role fordidjeridu.Sculthorpe – The Complete String Quartets with Didjeridu (SonoLuminus DSL-92181) features Stephen Kent and the DelSol Quartet. The 2-CD set (with additionalBlu-ray audio disc) is prefaced by anextended quote from the composer: “Ibegan to lose interest in the comfortingvistas that surrounded me in Tasmania.I found myself drawn, more and more, tothe harsher landscapes that I’d left behindin mainland Australia. I was drawn to desertand wilderness places that I’d not thenvisited. Eventually, the Australian landscapesbecame one of the major concerns of my music. I set out to give life tothe landscape through the sun, and a human dimension to it throughloneliness, resignation and death.”Sculthorpe composed extensively for the string quartet medium,his output exceeding even that of Beethoven, Shostakovich and, closerto home, Schafer. String Quartets Nos.12, 14, 16 and 18 all include thedidjeridu, a wooden drone instrument indigenous to the far north ofAustralia. Made out of termite-hollowed branches of large eucalyptustrees, it is thought to have been in use by native cultures for some1,000 years. The natural drone effect is varied by overblowing whichproduces a broad spectrum of haunting, growling sounds.Originally requested to write a work for string quartet and didjeriduby the Kronos Quartet as early as 1991, it was not until Sculthorpebegan working closely with the young indigenous musician WilliamBarton ten years later that he accepted the idea. Barton, now widelyrecognised as one of Australia’s finest traditional didjeridu mastersand a leading player in the classical world, gave the first performanceof a revised version of String Quartet No.12 “From Ubirr” in 2001. Thequartet, which was essentially a reworking of the aforementionedEarth Cry, was arranged for strings alone in 1994. First conceived as“quick and joyous music,” while working on the piece Sculthorpecame to the conclusion that it would be “dishonest of me to writemusic that is altogether quick and joyous. The lack of common causeand the self-interest of many have drained Australians of much of ourenergy. […] Perhaps we need now to attune ourselves to this continent,to listen to the cry of the earth, as its Indigenous inhabitants havedone for many thousands of years.” Sculthorpe continued to incorporateawareness and concern for Australia’s natives in much of hislater work. String Quartet No.14 “Quamby” or “Help Me” in the locallanguage, refers to the slaughter which colonial troops inflicted onAboriginals at a place later named Quamby Bluff. It was composed in1998 with didjeridu added in 2004.Although in the preceding works the didjeridu is well integratedwith the strings it was not until 2005 with String Quartet No.16 thatthe indigenous instrument was an integral part of the score fromthe outset. The opening movement Loneliness combines dronesand animal-like cries with plaintiff string melodies and seagull-likeharmonic effects. The subsequent movements – Anger, Yearning,Trauma and Freedom – are fairly self-explanatory. String QuartetNo.18 (2010), Sculthorpe’s last, is also in five movements – Prelude,A Land Singing, A Dying Land, A Lost Land and Postlude. In thisinstance the work is intended as “a heartfelt expression of my concernabout climate change, about the future of our fragile planet.” He usesAustralia as a metaphor for the whole planet and includes his characteristicbird and animal sounds and didjeridu effects, both in thatinstrument itself and in the strings.The San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet got its start at theBanff Centre in 1992, but if the convincing performances November 1 - December 7, 2014 | 73

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