7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015

Vol 21 No 2 is now available for your viewing pleasure, and it's a bumper crop, right at the harvest moon. First ever Canadian opera on the Four Seasons Centre main stage gets double coverage with Wende Bartley interviewing Pyramus and Thisbe composer Barbara Monk Feldman and Chris Hoile connecting with director Christopher Alden; Paul Ennis digs into the musical mind of pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, and pianist Eve Egoyan is "On the Record" in conversation with publisher David Perlman ahead of the Oct release concert for her tenth recording. And at the heart of it all the 16th edition of our annual BLUE PAGES directory of presenters profile the season now well and truly under way.

Wei and pianist Angela

Wei and pianist Angela Park, perform String Theory (2011), composed as the test piece for the 2012 Eckhardt-Gramatté competition. It’s “a compendium of string effects,” writes Burge, designed to challenge the competitors’ techniques, yet it’s no hodge-podge of mere “effects,” thanks to its constant melodic and rhythmic forward motion. Three very engaging pieces, very engagingly performed. Michael Schulman Concert note: Ensemble Made in Canada performs John Burge’s Piano Quartet in Kingston at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on October 30. Tim Brady – The How and The Why of Memory Symphony Nova Scotia; Centrediscs CMCCD 21515 !! Montrealer Tim Brady is a fertilizing force on the Canadian new music scene. A composer, electric guitarist, improvising musician, concert and record producer, his active administrative engagement with the Canadian concert music community over the past few decades has been multifaceted and deep. On this album, as distinct from previous Brady albums I have reviewed in these pages, we hear his composer chops applied to orchestral forces: a symphony bookended by two string concertos, one for violin and one for viola. They are admirably rendered by Symphony Nova Scotia, conducted by Bernhard Gueller. Listening to The How and the Why of Memory: Symphony #4, (2010-2013), cast in a single continuously unfolding movement, I was repeatedly reminded of textures and rhythmic and harmonic ideas of composers active in the early- to mid-20th century. Perhaps those allusions are implied by the title. Brady however never allows such superficial affiliations to get in the way of musical momentum or dramatic gesture, characteristics embedded in his musical voice which engage listeners on an emotional level. Brady’s very confident Viola Concerto (2012-2013) is dominated by its violist Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot’s cocoa-coloured sound and brilliantly lyrical playing. It is also imbued with a heart-on-sleeve expressiveness, counterpointed by poised classicist melodic phrases and minimalist sequences. The multi-hued orchestration is endowed with plenty of rhythmic excitement and harmonic movement, relieved by mysterious moments of elegiac repose. The last section, marked “groove,” is particularly effective and texturally surprising. The Viola Concerto is my favourite work on the album and it makes a very valuable new addition to the international viola concerto repertoire. Andrew Timar Concert notes: Numus presents Tim Brady’s opera Ghost Tango with Janice Jackson, soprano and RL Thompson, baritone at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener on October 2. TorQ Percussion Quartet includes music of Brady in its program at the Tranzac Club on October 28. Stefan Wolpe Vol.7 – Music for Violin and Piano Movses Pogossian; Susan Grace; Varty Manouelian Bridge Records 9452 ( !! Armenian-born Movses Pogossian, first-prize winner of the 1985 USSR National Violin Competition and now based in California, is the featured soloist in the latest of Bridge Records’ landmark series devoted to German- Jewish/American composer Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972). Wolpe’s four-movement, half-hour-long Violin Sonata (1949) is among his most enduring works, spanning an emotional gamut from playful and joyous to melancholy and anguished, and all the way back again. Pogossian and pianist Susan Grace provide all the intensity and flexibility required for its varied moods. Pogossian is joined by his wife, Varty Manouelian, in two pieces, Duo for Two Violins (1924), with motoric echoes of Bartók, and the short Two Studies for Two Violins and Piano (1933). The CD opens and closes with unaccompanied works, Second Piece for Violin Alone (1966), a three-minute quirky charmer that would make an effective recital encore, and the 15-minute Piece in Two Parts (1964), a thoughtful, thought-provoking series of brief, pithy phrases, influenced perhaps by Wolpe’s interest in Oriental meditation. The disc also includes a 29-bar fragment from an unfinished Second Violin Sonata (1959). The detailed booklet notes are by Toronto musicologist Austin Clarkson, who studied with Wolpe and became, in 1981, the first board chairman and general editor of the Stefan Wolpe Society. This is intriguing repertoire that deserves to be heard. Michael Schulman John Cage: Four Quatuor Bozzini Quatuor Bozzini CQB1414 ( !! Montreal’s Quatuor Bozzini has been together for 16 years and has recorded 15 CDs of the kind of challenging contemporary music that they specialize in, including works by Canadians Malcolm Goldstein, Tim Brady and Jean Derome and international figures like Steve Reich and James Tenney. The experience tells as they take on John Cage’s three works for string quartet, realizing distinctive versions in the process. The earliest of the compositions, String Quartet in Four Parts (1949-50), is a work descriptive of the four seasons with the composer’s notes encouraging light string contact and no vibrato. The work’s structure and minimal harmonies create an unlikely resemblance to the melodic purity of medieval music. Leaping ahead to 1983, Thirty Pieces for String Quartet presents the musicians with both demands and choices: each piece lasts about a minute, with each musician given a sequence of notes to be fitted into the “time bracket.” The musicians individually choose between microtonal, tonal and chromatic options, but the parts are not directly related to one another except for the coordination of segment lengths. The music that emerges within these configurations is rich in complexity and convergence, a kind of collaboration between composer, performer and listener. The final work, Four, from 1989, is the most radically reductive of these works, still employing time brackets but offering choices from its sparse materials to all the performers. The result is spacious but continuous with tonal structures that may gently evolve or appear transient. The cumulative work is a serene landscape in which mysterious elements emerge and disappear. Quatuor Bozzini assumes the substantial demand that this music makes on its performers: to at once realize the work in shaping its form while allowing the components to maintain their distinct, non-structural identities. If the Arditti Quartet’s recordings of these works (on Muse from the early 1990s) have long stood as masterful readings (they worked closely with Cage on Four), Quatuor Bozzini does a fine job of traversing this music, inevitably creating new works in the process. Stuart Broomer The Korngold Project Part One Daniel Rowland; Priya Mitchell; Julian Arp; Luis Magalhães TwoPianists Records TP1039282 ( !! Pianist Luis Magalhães, originally from Portugal and now living in South Africa, is co-founder of TwoPianists Records and its Korngold Project, which here makes an auspicious debut, daring to go head-to-head (in the Suite) against Sony’s recording (SK 48253) by the all-star cast of Joseph Silverstein, Jaime 68 | Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015

Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma and Leon Fleisher. To my very pleasant surprise, in a movement-by-movement comparison, Magalhães and the European-based string players outdo the famous foursome in every way, bringing much, much more punch and passion to this punchy, passionate work, one of three Korngold composed for pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost an arm in World War I. The balances here are much better, too, with the strings as closely miked as the piano, while on the Sony CD the strings seem muted, lacking focus and presence. (The flaccid Swedish performance on DG 459 631-2 isn’t worth considering.) The Piano Trio doesn’t sound at all like a composition by a 12-year-old – but it is! – and it’s filled with real music, late-romantic Viennese gemütlichkeit laced with many of the already-distinctive melodic and rhythmic gestures that would remain with Korngold all his life. It, too, receives a vigorous, upfront performance, recorded live, as was the Suite, with well-deserved applause at its conclusion. The Korngold Project will focus on the composer’s chamber music. This Korngold enthusiast, for one, looks forward to Part Two and beyond. Michael Schulman Nordic Sound – Tribute to Axel Borup- Jørgensen Michala Petri; Lapland Chamber Orchestra; Clemens Schuldt OUR Recordings ( Danish & Faroese Recorder Concertos Michala Petri; Aalborg Symphony; Henrik Vagn Christensen OUR Recordings ( !! August brought me two CDs of modern recorder concertos from Denmark, released on the Danish label OUR Recordings, and what a pleasant smörgåsbord they are (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). Nordic Sound is a special tribute to Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012), one of Denmark’s most influential modern-era composers, and four of the six works on the program are for recorder and strings. Inspired by the Danish landscape, Bent Sørensen creates a mystical and spacious atmosphere in Whispering, and the elegant pointillism and rhythmic complexity of the Faroese composer Sunleif Rasmussen’s Winter Echoes elicits wonderful and virtuosic playing from all parties. Mogens Christensen requests a panoply of flutters, pips, chirps and multiphonics from Michala Petri in his Nordic Summer Scherzo, all of which makes for a tour-de-force of bird imitation, and Thomas Clausen’s four-movement Concertino provides a tasteful shift to the neo-Baroque. Two pieces for strings, by Pelle Gudmundsen- Holmgreen and Borup-Jørgensen himself, are beautifully played by the members of the Lapland Chamber Orchestra under Clemens Schuldt. Danish and Faroese Recorder Concertos also features Petri as recorder soloist but this time with the excellent Aalborg Symphony Orchestra under Henrik Vagn Christensen. A novel by Italo Calvino was the inspiration for Rasmussen’s four-movement Territorial Songs, and his inventive, multi-faceted use of orchestral colour and depth of melodic expression is impressive. Chacun son son by Gudmundsen-Holmgreen begins with the whimsical combination of bass recorder, bass clarinet, clarinet and bassoon, and the various sections of the orchestra are pitted against one another, as one might expect given the piece’s title. The recorder is well incorporated into the woodwind section here, rather than being cast in a more typical soloist’s role, and the instrument, particularly the bass recorder, balances well with the others, something unlikely in an unplugged live performance. Thomas Koppel’s Moonchild’s Dream is the third contribution to the program and its lovely yet unmistakable film vibe is no surprise, considering that it was originally commissioned for a video. As always in this repertoire, Petri continues to show why she remains a leading inspirer of new repertoire for the instrument. I just wish that the excellent solo clarinetist from the Aalborg Orchestra had been credited, as the violinist was. Alison Melville JAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSIC For One to Love Cecile McLorin Salvant Justin Time JTR 8593-2 !! American singer Cecile McLorin Salvant put the jazz world on notice with her first major release in 2013. With a voice that is at once fresh and traditional, Salvant won numerous accolades such as Female Vocalist of the Year from the Jazz Journalists Association, Jazz Album of the Year by the Annual DownBeat International Critics Poll and a Grammy nomination. Still only in her mid-20s, the bar was set high for her sophomore release – and For One to Love is a continuation on the same fine musical path she set for herself. The impeccable pitch, diction and control are still there, as are top-notch band mates. The choice of material is similar to the first release – a few standards wrought in interesting new ways, such as The Trolley Song, made famous by Judy Garland and which includes a brief, amusing imitation of Garland. Also, in what’s becoming a bit of a trademark, Salvant takes a run at some low down dirty blues – like Growlin’ Dan. These aren’t my favourites, largely because Salvant’s classically trained voice just doesn’t suit the material, but they’re fun. And that’s true of a lot of Salvant’s delivery – theatrical and broad and a little flighty, never really landing on one style or sound. I imagine she’s very entertaining to see live. There’s also a sprinkling of original compositions and the opener Fog really exemplifies the whole album – artful, skilled and not entirely certain what it wants to be. Cathy Riches Cold Duck S4 MonotypeRec Mono 096 (monotyperecs. com) !! No relation to the sparkling wine of the same name, Cold Duck is instead a series of nine biting improvisations by S4, an ad-hoc, all-star quartet of soprano saxophone innovators – one British, John Butcher, and the others Swiss: Urs Leimgruber, Hans Koch and Christian Kobi, the last of whom is also a member of the all-saxophone Konus Quartett, which interprets notated music. Designated by Roman numerals, Cold Duck’s tracks, lasting from barely one minute to more than 12, could be the auditory sound track of an experimental ornithologist’s laboratory. But unlike such trial and error endeavours, the quartet deliberately creates timbres that range from policewhistle harshness to fipple-like songbird echoes, with a goodly collection of tongue slaps, tongue pops and snorts thrown in for good measure. At the same time its skill is such that III is harmonized as intimately as if by a bel canto choir, but open enough so that every strain, partial and split tone is audible as the four work through tonal variations. Severing and re-attaching with plasticinelike continuity on VII, tremolo whines and lip burbles maintain a shrill pitch until the final moment when one sharp tone pushes the other reeds into more comfortable interaction. Then on the extended IV, S4 members pump air bubbles through their horns with a velocity that resembles electronic processing. After the narrative is magnified enough, it’s squeezed like a balloon, slowly deflating as growls and yelps mix with puffs and squeaks. Subsequently, united circular breathing leads to an aural rainbow-like expansion of tonal colours involving all four. That climax may be one of the fundamental Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015 | 69

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