6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Symphony
  • Theatre
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  • Orchestra
  • Quartet
From science fact in "Integral Man: Music and the Movies," to science fiction in the editor's opener; from World Fiddle Day at the Aga Khan Museum to three Canadians at the Cliburn; from wanting to sashay across the 401 to Chamberfest in Montreal to exploring the Continuum of Jumblies Theatre's 20-year commitment to the Community Play (there's a pun in there somewhere!).

Leonard Bernstein,

Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass and the producer of this set, Carol Rosenberger (who includes a touching booklet note) – Boulanger insisted her students build a solid technical foundation. She had little interest in experimentation. Simple textures and clear voicings were what she encouraged, though she valued a personal style. And these qualities are what you hear in her own music. It’s polished – overly, at times – warm, witty, disarmingly tender and unexpectedly charismatic. The 26 songs prove worthy of being in every recitalist’s repertoire, especially as performed by these fine singers – the thrillingly expressive soprano Nicole Cabell, the robust yet nuanced baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer and the versatile, characterful tenor Alek Shrader. The Trois pièces for cello and piano are Boulanger’s most frequently performed works. Amit Peled’s impassioned cello and Lucy Mauro’s elegant, sensitive piano provide the most engaging interpretation I’ve heard. But it’s organist François-Henri Houbart’s dramatic yet delicate performances of the Trois improvisations which I found most thrilling. Fittingly, he recorded on the Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Madeleine Church in Paris, which is the very one Boulanger used to play (a photo of this magnificent instrument is included in the booklet). After her beloved younger sister and fellow composer, Lili Boulanger, died in 1922, Boulanger stopped composing. This set contains most of the music she wrote. By offering the fine performances these pieces deserve, it provides a convincing argument for making her music heard more often. Pamela Margles Tango under the Stars Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel Cmajor 739608 !! There is so much toe-tapping enthusiastically performed music in this DVD of Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic live at the Hollywood Bowl on August 2, 2016. From the opening dramatic distance shot of the stage, orchestra and audience, to the final closing stage close-ups of rhythmic boisterous playing and swirling tango dancing, every visual complements the composers, conductor, musicians, soloists and dancers. Three great Argentinian composers are performed. Lalo Schifrin is best known for his film scores (especially Mission: Impossible). His Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra No.2 “Concierto de la Amistad” is a salute to his friend, guitar virtuoso Angel Romera, who performs his lyrical lines, faster strumming sections and closing guitar taps masterfully with the orchestra. Alberto Ginastera’s Four Dances from Estancia tells the story of life on the farm. The lyrical second movement aurally represents wheat swaying in the wind while the closing fourth movement is a fast alternating 3/4 and 6/8 time work. And what is tango music without Astor Piazzolla? His Tangazo opens with low strings leading to more rhythmic sections and flute, oboe and strings counterpoint. To close the show, a “Best of Astor Piazzolla,” four Tango Nuevo pieces are given rousing orchestral performances with master bandoneonist Seth Asarnow and the energetic spicy dancers from Tango Buenos Aires. Dudamel conducts with passion and precision. Sound quality is superb. Three bonus interviews are included. Listen, watch, dance and enjoy! Tiina Kiik MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Canadian Composers Series ( at105 - at109 Linda Catlin Smith – Drifter Apartment House; Bozzini Quartet Martin Arnold – The Spit Veleta Philip Thomas; Mira Benjamin Isaiah Ceccarelli – Bow Various Artists Chiyoko Szlavnics – During a Lifetime Konus Quartet; Apartment House Marc Sabat – Harmony Jack Quartet !! Tradition is a wonderful reality, but not understanding that the inner dynamic of tradition is to always innovate is a prison. This is eminently true in the case of music produced by the Canadian artists on the imprint Another Timbre. Beginning with Linda Catlin Smith, every one of the group under review has chiselled uniquely beautiful, but defiantly provocative works from out of the bedrock of contemporaneity. And although familiar forms such as the Piano Quintet (from Linda Catlin Smith) pop up in these performances, the music flies in the face of all conventions. Indeed, these artists force listeners to reconsider what tradition is. For example, Marc Sabat, on Euler Lattice Spirals Scenery, positions himself in creative conflict with age-old protocols about how a string quartet ought to work. Likewise with Chiyoko Szlavnics, whose Reservoir sends strings rippling against flute, accordion and percussion. It becomes clear, then, that having actively thrown overboard melodic, structural and harmonic hooks that have been expressively blunted through misuse, these artists seem to build from what might– or mightn’t-be left. Just as Frank Zappa once famously asked, “Does humour belong in music?” one feels compelled to also pose the question: “Does mathematics belong with art?” The answer in the architectural geometry of Smith’s Drifter is a most emphatic “Yes.” Its resident geometry, however, seems to have been informed by French curves rather than by set squares. As a result her spacy Piano Quintet seems to defy definitions of beauty, which although essential to Smith’s credo, is bereft of perfumed listener-ingratiating beauty and resplendent in the natural sounds of tuned percussion, bowed strings and plucked guitars. The emerging members of Apartment House and the Bozzini Quartet float effortlessly over Gondola and Far from Shore seemingly tracing their fingers delicately over the contours and hachures of the map of a priceless treasure without compromising the location of its secret world. In all of this and other music on the double disc Smith makes use of time and space as well as championing the cause of her singularly poetic approach to the all-important beauty of the melodic line. Meanwhile Martin Arnold’s music for Points and Waltzes, Slip Minuet and the title work of his album The Spit Veleta comes alive in the silvery tonal purity and exquisite subtlety of phrasing by its interpreters who bring fresh ears to these radiant gems. Similarly, Isaiah Ceccarelli’s seven pieces on Bow are designed to extract the maximum tonal depth from strings, reed organ, organetto and percussion; as does Chiyoko Szlavnics from strings and reeds and woodwinds, and the Jack Quartet with violin, viola and cello on the exquisite narratives on Marc Sabat’s Harmony. It all bodes rather well for the future of this Canadian Composers Series and for Sheffield, UK-based Another Timbre, a label whose presence in contemporary music is doing yeoman work to shine a brighter spotlight on new music that is being beamed by across the world. Raul da Gama Worlds Apart Christina Petrowska Quilico Centrediscs CMCCD 23717 !! Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico unleashes the eight works here with such immediacy that she creates a special kind of pianistic excitement. Her technique is brilliant, and her imagination boundless. But it’s not just the thrill of the keyboard that drives her – above all you feel the fierce conviction that 74 | May 1, 2017 - June 7, 2017

underlies her vision of each composer’s score. This is the latest release in Petrowska Quilico’s ongoing recording project covering works from the Canadian piano repertoire. It’s as though she’s out to singlehandedly show just how rich it is. These works were written during a period of just over 20 years, from 1969 to 1992. They all, more or less directly, invoke historical sources – musical, literary or visual. Peter Paul Koprowski’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Brahms and Steven Gellman’s Fantasia on a Theme of Robert Schumann take full advantage of Petrowska Quilico’s virtuosity. Koprowski gives the elements of Brahms’ Lullaby a Chopinesque treatment, only gradually revealing the familiar theme, while Gellman introduces his theme, from the slow movement of Schumann’s Piano Quintet, then lavishes embellishments. In Las Meninas, John Rea follows the structure of his source, Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood. But he filters it through his viewing of Velázquez’s iconic, complex painting, Las Meninas by recasting Schumann’s 13 movements in various composers’ styles – Romanticism, impressionism, minimalism, jazz, and so on. Petrowska Quilico has a field day. Her energy infuses Patrick Cardy’s mythologically based The Masks of Astarte with narrative force. In contrast, her incisive control allows a sense of space to envelop Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux’s lyrical yet monumental Assemblages like a multidimensional sculpture (I thought of Anthony Caro’s works currently on display at the AGO). In Quivi Sospiri by David Jaeger (who produced this set, and whose writings appear in this magazine), Petrowska Quilico is joined by computer-generated sounds. The rhapsodic yearnings of the piano confront the ominous electronics, then blend in a moving evocation of the sounds that swirl around the hopeless souls condemned to darkness in Dante’s Inferno. Diana McIntosh’s atmospheric Worlds Apart, which gives this collection its title, weaves a shimmering fabric of intricate patterns. But it’s Geste by Michel-Georges Brégent, Petrowska Quilico’s first husband, who died in 1993, that forms the spiritual heart of this set – especially in the way he invites the performer’s interventions in shaping what happens and when. Brégent’s own description likens his score, mounted on a scroll, to a Calder mobile. In PQ’s hands the sense of urgency never lets up, even in the contemplative passages. This set certainly showcases Petrowska Quilico’s talents, including her talent as a painter. The painting by her on the booklet cover, called Other Worlds – Light and Dark, beautifully sets the tone for this terrific collection. Pamela Margles Concert note: Christina Petrowska Quilico will be performing Claude Champagne’s Piano Concerto with the Toronto Symphony on October 21 and 22 at Roy Thomson Hall. Golijov – Azul Yo-Yo Ma; The Knights; Eric Jacobsen Warner Classics O190295875213 ( !! The Knights is a collective of younger generation New York-area musicians specializing in programs that encompass received classics of Western music as well as embracing vernacular and world-music genres. The orchestra is led by artistic directors and brothers, Colin and Eric Jacobsen. This CD begins with Ascending Bird, a reimagining of a Persian instrumental folk tune by Iranian musician Siamak Aghaei and The Knights’ principal violinist Colin Jacobsen. Jacobsen’s initial solo evocatively imitates the Persian kamancheh’s ornaments and melodic gestures in a languid rubato before the drum section kicks in. The second half of Ascending Bird is marked by straightforward harmonic changes elaborated by swooping melodic fragments and highly saturated orchestration. The title track of the CD is Osvaldo Golijov’s Concerto for Cello “Azul” (2006), composed for and performed by master cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Partly inspired by a poem by Pablo Neruda, it’s a major statement extending over four movements lasting over 26 minutes. The first movement Paz Sulfúrica evolves from a falling minor second interval in the strings, elaborated by Ma’s beautifully rendered sustained cantabile tonal cello melody, flecked with instrumental birdsong. The work’s last movement Yrushalem, initially recaps the first movement, but eventually explodes in two brass-heavy climaxes, twin codas titled Pulsar and Shooting Stars. The second coda is perhaps the most cosmicsounding and impressive moment of the work, in which the eerie denatured music very slowly disappears into the sonic ether. Andrew Timar Rory Boyle – Music for clarinet Fraser Langton; James Willshire; Trio Dramatis Delphian DCD43172 !! Composer Rory Boyle should be a better-known quantity than he is. Music for Clarinet, presented by Fraser Langton on clarinet, (with pianist James Willshire and violist Rosalind Ventris) on the Delphian label, frames Boyle as creative and crafty, thoroughly versed in the capacities of the instruments, free to generate an easy and broad spectrum of mood and character. Boyle’s modest bio in the liner notes hints at what his music makes explicit: he is a musician who became a composer by thorough study and application, with commendable results. Listen to the aptly named Burble (2012), a brief and hilarious bit of nonsense for solo clarinet. Part mad dramatic monologue, part exploration of the extremes of range, volume and articulation, loaded with fascinating extended techniques, not a single second of these seven-plus minutes is wasted. Tatty’s Dance (2010) is a lyrical and loving ode to the composer’s wife, reworked as a duet from the original for solo piano. Dramatis Personae (2012) gives a compelling psychological triptych portrait in sound, in a three-movement sonata form. Earlier works (the Sonatina and Bagatelles both date from 1979) show the composer influenced by structural classicists like Paul Hindemith. Arthur Honegger is evoked in the final work, Di Tre Re e io (2015), a challenging and substantial trio that draws reference to that composer’s Fifth Symphony. Throughout, the performances are rewarding and equal to the composer’s musical demands. For the most part I felt the sound engineering was perfect, but on my system the mic placement for the trio seemed to put the voices into distinct rooms rather than enhance the blend. Max Christie Lexical Music Charles Amirkhanian Other Minds OM 1023-2 ( !! Composer Charles Amirkhanian’s Lexical Music, originally released as an LP in 1980, was quickly recognized as a milestone in the emerging American text-sound poetry scene. Its roots can be traced to the European Futurist and Dadaist movements whose participants first pioneered several forms of sound poetry after World War I. In the late 1960s and 1970s this work was further developed in electronic music studios across Europe, especially in the well-equipped Swedish public-radio studios. The performance genre trolling the borders between music and poetry also had a few key early American practitioners. William S. Burroughs’ audio cut-ups and the early tape loop experiments of Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros come to mind. California-native Amirkhanian was also an early adopter. He participated in the 1972 Text-Sound Festival in Stockholm where he was introduced to the European sound-poetry scene. He soon adopted the moniker “soundtext composer.” Amirkhanian’s support of the genre through his position as music director of Berkeley’s KPFA-FM Radio helped enrich May 1, 2017 - June 7, 2017 | 75

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