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Volume 20 Issue 4 - December 2014

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PETERHUNDERT.COMAngela

PETERHUNDERT.COMAngela Hewitt’s 2020 Vision ... continued from page 10carefully. I mark things carefully in myscores so if I haven’t looked at a piece for tenyears I pick up my score and it’s there, youknow, at least the markings are there to go by.I might change a lot of things but the basis isstill there.”And since we are talking about revisitingscores, I ask about whether she wouldlike to revisit some of the recordings in hernow complete canon of Bach. “Oh sure” shereplies. “I already have recorded the Well-Tempered Clavier twice.” She describeswhat she sees as the key differences in thetwo recordings. Things like elasticity and awider range of colour. “I had a piano teacherin Oregon write to me and say ‘I have mystudents listen to your earlier recordingbecause the later one is more free, andif they played it like that they would getmarked down in their exams.’ (laughs) ButI prefer the second. A lot of the new elasticityand colour comes from the fact that Istarted working on Fazioli pianos after myfirst recording of it. It expanded my imaginationfor colour. But you know, the older youget, I was just thinking this today, playingBeethoven, the older you get the morefreedom you can put into music. First of allI suppose you have more authority and soyou are not scared at all about what peopleare going to say. It doesn’t matter any more.You know, you can put on a metronometo see a tempo but you can’t play a wholeBeethoven sonata with a metronome going.You see how it really has to follow the linesand the breathing. So yeah, one has to beopen. It’s interesting to see how one developswith age.”It will be interesting to see, indeed. Shealready has, she confides, one booking for theyear 2020, although she is not at liberty rightnow to say what it is. So stay tuned. I will.for the full conversation,visit thewholenote.com/videosDISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSIt has been a hard choice this monthwinnowing down the plethora of new andexciting discs that have crossed my desk tothe few that will fit in my allotted space. Thetop of the pile is a recent release on the NaxosCanadian Classics label, When Music Sounds(9.70126), featuring cello and piano music bysome of this country’s most significant pioneers.I first heard rumours of this recording fiveyears ago when I was preparing the discography for John Weinzweig:Essays on His Life and Music edited by John Beckwith and BrianCherney (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011). Noted pianist andmusicologist Elaine Keillor notified us that she had just recordedWeinzweig’s Sonata for Cello and Piano “Israel” (1949) with cellistJoan Harrison and although the disc was not available in time to beincluded in the book I have been looking forward to its release eversince. Although I did not realize how much time would pass beforethe disc would be in hand, I must say that seeing it released by Naxoswith its global distribution has been worth the wait. Weinzweig’ssonata, dedicated to the newly established state of Israel, blends hisuse of 12-tone technique, which he had been developing over a decadeat that point, and Jewish-influenced melodies, with the cello acting asthe voice of a cantor.The disc is bookended by two works by Jean Coulthard, WhenMusic Sounds, a short and very lyrical, if somewhat contemplativework dating from 1970 making it by far the most recent compositionto be found here, and the Sonata for Cello and Piano (1946) which Imust confess is my favourite selection with its shades of Debussy andcascading melodies. Violet Archer is represented by another workin traditional form, the four-movement Sonata for Cello and Piano(1956, rev.1972). Again a lyrical work, but with an edge, especiallyin the driving toccata-like finale. There is one delightful surprise onthe disc, the charming Chants oubliés and Danse (1916) by someonewhose name is very familiar, but not as a composer. EvidentlyAlberto Guerrero (1886-1959), likely best known as Glenn Gould’smain (only?) piano teacher, was highly regarded as a composer,pianist and pedagogue in his native Chile before settling in Toronto.If this work is any indication we can only regret that he gave upcomposing, although we certainly have to be thankful that he did notabandon pedagogy since through nurturing the remarkable talentsof Gould, Guerrero left an indelible mark on this country and themusical world.Regarding the sound of the disc I do have a few qualms, mostly withthe sound of the cello. Recorded in City View Church in Ottawa byAnton Kwiatkowski’s Audio Masters I am surprised to find the celloquite harsh, a characteristic of the particular instrument itself ratherthan the playing I suspect. It works quite well in the Archer, but Iwould like a warmer sound in the more lyrical works. That thoughtnotwithstanding, this is still a significant release. The recordings ofthe title track and the Guerrero are world premieres, the Archer hasnot previously existed on compact disc as far as I can tell and theWeinzweig and Coulthard sonatas have had only one iteration eachon CD. Now, if we could have a recording of Barbara Pentland’s cellosonata from 1943 please…I grew up with the understanding that Weinzweig, Archer andCoulthard were the first generation of Canadian composers and theywere already in the late stages of their careers as I was coming tomusical consciousness. But the works presented by Harrisonand Keillor are the creations of young(ish) composers,the most senior being Archer at the ripeold age of 43 (although she did revisitthe work almost two decades later). Inanother Naxos Canadian Classics release,Sounds of Our Time (9.70212), we are giventhe opportunity to hear a new generation ofcomposers, ranging in age from 22 to 35 at thetime of composition. Again the works are forcello and piano, in this instance performed bythe Mercer-Park Duo (Rachel Mercer and AngelaPark), themselves emerging artists at the beginning of blossomingcareers, who perform together in a variety of contexts including thisduo, the Seiler Piano Trio, the Kang-Mercer-Park Trio and the pianoquartet Ensemble Made In Canada. They have each received innumerabledistinctions, perhaps most notably Mercer’s being awarded theloan of the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius cello from the Canada CouncilInstrument Bank from 2009 to 2012 which is heard in all its glory onthis recording. I said the works were for cello and piano, but in one72 | December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015 thewholenote.com

instance this is not the case and we get tohear the Strad in duet with itself as Mercerplays both parts in Ex Animo for Two Cellos,a 2010 composition by 22-year-old HunterCoblentz. Producer Norbert Kraft says theprocess of overdubbing was a new one forhim as a classical recording engineer, wherethe norm is one player per instrument, butthe end result is entirely convincing with nohint of prestidigitation in the warm and wellbalancedperformance.Coblentz is just one of the names new to mehere. The disc starts with William Rowson’s(b.1977) Sonata for Cello and Piano (2012)and finishes with I Thirst (2008) by MarkNerenberg (b.1973), both composers I wasunaware of. Rowson’s opens with bellingchords in the piano and a lilting melody inthe cello which is later traded back and forthbetween the players. Like all the works on thedisc, chosen by the duo for their immediateappeal, there is strong lyricism and fairlytraditional tonality combined with a senseof drama. Inspired by the Seven Last Words(of Christ on the Cross), I Thirst is a bit of anexception with its mood of quiet contemplationproviding a gentle and effective end to amarvellous journey.In between we encounter the work of acouple of more established composers, KevinLau and Abigail Richardson-Schulte, bothlaureates of the Karen Keiser Prize at theUniversity of Toronto. Lau is currently anaffiliate composer of the Toronto SymphonyOrchestra, a post that Richardson-Schulteheld from 2006 to 2009. She continuesas the coordinator of the TSO’s annualNew Creations Festival and is currentlyComposer-in-Residence with the HamiltonPhilharmonic. Lau’s one movement workStarsail (2008) represents, in the composer’swords, “one individual’s journey intothe great unknown, both beautiful and terrifyingin its infinitude and mystery.” As thecello sails through the oft-stormy textures ofthe piano we are taken along for a wild ridewith a transcendental ending. Richardson-Schulte’s Crossings (2011), although couchedin a traditional four-movement chamberform, employs some interesting contemporaryalternatives to standard practiceswhich the composer outlines in the programnote. Of particular interest to my ears is thequietly playful second movement in whichthe pianist explores the inside of the instrumentwith the aid of a ping-pong ballresulting in some unusual sounds. This workwas commissioned by the Mercer-Park Duoand, like the rest of the pieces included here,is a world premiere recording. Throughoutthe performances are brilliant and the sound,recorded in Glenn Gould Studio, is flawless.At the launch for this new “disc” I wassurprised to learn that it is one of Naxos’digital only releases. I wondered how thiscould be as I looked down at the hard-copyin my hand and was told that the duo hadrequested some physical product to sell atperformances. Evidently this is the way ofthe immediate future. Naxos (and othercompanies) are quickly moving away fromthe production of discs and in many instancesdownloads will be the only way to obtain newreleases other than from the artists themselves.As a staunch believer in full frequencylistening (not possible with mp3s) I aminitially skeptical about this new development.I have been assured however that “lossless”formats do exist and that Naxos will beoffering “high definition” downloads thatexceed the audio standards of the compactdisc. I am not yet convinced, but will try tokeep an open mind (and ear) as we explorethe various options and possibilities inWholeNote articles in the coming months.Lest you begin to suspect that all thecomposers of the new generation are imbuedwith romantic tendencies and write onlyin traditional styles, or for that matter thatNaxos is the only source for contemporaryCanadian music, I want to disabuse you ofboth notions. The Canadian Music Centrecontinues to release a wealth of materialon its Centrediscs label in a wide range ofartistic styles and there are a number ofindependent sources as well. A case in pointis young composer Nick Storring, recipient ofthe 2011 Toronto Emerging Composer Awardadministered by the CMC and supported byMichael M. Koerner and Roger D. Moore. Theannual award “supports the creation of a newmusical work or the completion of an existingmusic-based project. It will be offered to thecandidate who best demonstrates artisticexcellence matched by innovation, experimentationand a willingness to take risks.”Incidentally, the deadline for proposals for thenext award is January 23, 2015.Gardens (nickstorring.ca) is a 45-minutesuite inspired bycomposer/arrangerCharles Stepneyand more specifically,pop iconMinnie Ripperton’sdebut album ComeTo My Garden which Stepney produceda decade before Storring was born. Whilethis may seem a surprising point of departurefor a (post)classical composition, theresult is an intriguing melange of sound thatthe composer says, contains no borrowedmaterial. Storring also points out that there isno special effects processing involved in theproduction of the somewhat otherworldlysounds which all have their origins in liveinstrumental performance. The list of instrumentsis extensive, some four dozen in all,ranging from violin, cello, banjo and autoharpthrough a variety of electric stringsand keyboards to percussion instruments,recorders, flutes, pan pipes and kazoo, plus anumber of exotic sounding things the natureof which I can only imagine. All are played byStorring himself. The overall effect is vaguelydreamlike, at times reminiscent of BrianEno’s ambient experiments with touches ofIndonesian gamelan textures, Ry Cooder orperhaps Bill Frisell guitar slides, bagpipe-likedrones (although I don’t see pipes listed) andbell-chime melodies suggesting Ripperton’shaunting soprano voice. All in all it mustbe heard to be believed. Certainly the seedmoney provided by the emerging composeraward has come to fullblossom on this disc.I first heard themusic of GordonFitzell when NewMusic Concerts (ofwhich, in the spiritof full disclosure, Iwill admit to beingthe general manager)presented Generation 2000, thefirst of what would become a bi-annualcross country tour by the Ensemble contemporainde Montréal (now ECM+) as part ofthe second Massey Hall New Music Festival.In the intervening years New Music Concertsand the Music Gallery have been the Torontohosts for each of the subsequent tours, whichfeature four young composers selected by juryfrom across Canada, most recently this pastNovember with Generation 2014. That occasionwas also the launch of Magister Ludi– Music of Gordon Fitzell, the latest CD byECM+ and their first on the Centrediscs label(CMCCD 20414).Manitoba-born Fitzell studied at theUniversities of Brandon and Alberta beforecompleting his doctorate at UBC, and nowteaches at the University of Manitoba. Asmentioned, his relationship with ECM+ datesback a decade and a half and as directorVéronique Lacroix relates in the liner notes,it has been something of an ongoing affairand a rewarding one at that. In addition toFlux, written for that first “Generation” tour,ECM+ commissioned the title track – a workfor flute octet and solo cello – and premieredPangaea Ultima, for bass clarinet, percussion,piano, electric guitar, violin and doublebass. All of these are featured on this disc,along with violence, a work commissionedand previously recorded by the renownedAmerican contemporary sextet eighth blackbird,and Evanescence for small ensemble(doubling on crystal glasses and ceramicbowl) with interactive electronics. This latteris actually based on the former work andwas premiered by eighth blackbird at TheKitchen in New York in 2007. Since thattime Evanescence has received nearly 100performances (including one in Toronto bythe New Music Concerts ensemble under thedirection of Robert Aitken in 2011) and wasthe centrepiece of an ECM+ concert of thesame name in 2014.Fitzell’s work is often inspired by extramusicalideas – Hermann Hesse’s GlassBead Game being the basis of “an audaciousexpression of the fundamental and seeminglyethereal presence of the universe” inMagister Ludi, “exploring the phenomenon ofperceived variances in the flow of experientialthewholenote.com December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015 | 73

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

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