Views
1 year ago

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Concerts
  • Singers
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • Choir
What a range of stuff! A profile of Liz Upchurch, the COC ensemble studio's vocal mentor extraordinaire; a backgrounder on win-win faith/arts centre partnerships and ways of exploring the possibilities; an interview with St. Petersburg-based Eifman Ballet's Boris Eifman; Ana Sokolovic's violin concert Evta finally coming to town; a Love Letter to YouTube, and much more. Plus our 17th annual Canary Pages Choral directory if all you want to do is sing! sing! sing!

pair of hauntingly

pair of hauntingly beautiful melodies. Even with its gentle, non-virtuosic ending, it should have become “standard rep” by now. A warm-hearted performance of Ibert’s familiar, audience-pleasing Flute Concerto (1933) ends this extremely enjoyable, extremely recommendable CD. Michael Schulman Ana Sokolović – Sirènes Ensemble contemporain de Montréal; Véronique Lacroix; Ensemble vocal Queen of Puddings Music Theatre; Dáirine Ní Mheadhra ATMA ACD2 2762 (atmaclassique.com) !! 2019 JUNO Classical Composer of the Year Ana Sokolović composes with her highly identifiable tonal/ atonal soundscapes in four works here. Sirènes/Sirens (2000) is performed perfectly by six female voices of Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Vocal Ensemble. Inspired by ancient Balkan voices of the Sirens legend, high-pitched female voices, quasiwobbly, humorous yet haunting vocal effects, shrieks, quieter moments, and driving vocal rhythms are intense. The five-movement Tanzer Lieder (2005) is set to five German, French and English poems by Austrian poet Francisco Tanzer. A slightly more operatic work, soprano Florie Valiquette embraces Sokolović’s trademark loud high pitches and dramatic held notes above such instrumental accompaniment as reflective flute/piccolo, piano and cello plucks. Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó shines especially in her colourful lower pitches in the fivemovement/language Pesma (1996-2007) above the ECM+ instrumentalists under the direction of Véronique Lacroix. The title of the violin concerto Evta (2017) means “seven” in Serbian Roma. Seven joined movements are inspired by chakra colours and associated with each note of the scale as Sokolović now explores her characteristic sounds with only instruments. The ECM+ ensemble, with soloist Andréa Tyniec, performs with technical and musical greatness, executing more rapid ascending lines, held notes, pizzicatos and plucks, touches of Gypsy-flavoured sounds and the occasional more tonal sections in this less intense composition. One can only imagine how gratifying it must be to successfully perform and compose such complex contemporary works. Yes it is intense, but worth the time to listen to and understand Sokolović! Tiina Kiik Concert note: Andréa Tyniec is featured in the Toronto premiere of Ana Sokolović’s Evta with the New Music Concerts Ensemble on May 26 at Betty Oliphant Theatre. Sweet Apple Dawn Davi Independent (dawndavi.com) !! These subtly musical performances are a telling document of pianist Dawn Davi’s compelling, lifeaffirming compositional gift. The nine pieces on her second album Sweet Apple are also sufficiently exceptional to stand out in what is becoming a rather crowded field of young musicians who feel compelled to express themselves. Certainly the expressive way in which Davi’s music suggests quiet humanity also gives us a fine example of the self-effacing poetry that appears to be the hallmark of her style. Her use of synthesizer and sustaining pedal give this music a degree of harmonic blurring which in turn – when listened to in consonance with the brass and strings that are added to these songs – also conveys the ethereal effect that she intends us to hear in her music. Davi takes a decidedly elegiac view of life in the expressive music of this disc. In doing so she offers a performance of mellowness and beauty. On Eyes of a Tree (for instance) she coaxes the strings into gentle harmonic enjoinders to her stoic melody which she essentially plays pianissimo, but with exquisite dynamics throughout. This is typical of Davi’s eloquence and her ability to create a hauntingly beautiful soundscape evocative of a bard contemplating the natural world and the glories that lie within it. With Sweet Apple, clearly Davi has succeeded in celebrating the mysteries of life with music of exceptional stoicism and beauty. Raul da Gama Sergio Cervetti – Parallel Realms: XXI Century Works for Orchestra Moravian Philhjarmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronsky Navona Records nv6217 (navonarecords.com) !! The Uruguayan- American composer Sergio Cervetti has long enjoyed a celebrated career as composer and educator (a former professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University), and has clearly cultivated an impressive work ethic in his life, creating and releasing challenging and provocative new music at an impressive rate. Realized here by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under the skillful direction of conductor Petr Vronský and captured beautifully in the sonically satisfying Reduta Hall in the Czech Republic, Parallel Realms is comprised of three single-movement symphonic works, Et in Arcadia ego, Consolamentum and Plexus, in which Cervetti uses religious and scientific themes to musically confront childhood memories that have remained with him throughout his life. The selections contained on this 2019 recording combine new music with a reimaging of a 1970 semi-graphic score (Plexus) that thread together the composer’s desire to bridge the deeply religious and spiritual with the metaphysical. Vacillating between the tumultuous swirl of the orchestra and quiet minimalism, Cervetti uses the ensemble to its fullest, finding beauty in opposite extremes of the group’s dynamic range. Clearly this is modern music, but anchored as it is to the strong narrative of biography and religious themes (as captured in the accompanying liner notes), the recording presents here as timeless, capable of tapping into universal human emotions and feelings. The eighth Cervetti recording to be released on the Navona Records label, Parallel Realms comes recommended for fans of symphonic music who hope to be challenged in their listening and satisfied in their quest for exciting and beautiful new music. Andrew Scott Frédéric D’Haene – Music with Silent Aitake’s Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble; Ensemble Modern; Kasper De Roo Ravello Records rr8008 (ravellorecords.com) ! ! Frédéric D’Haene is a Belgian avant-garde composer who studied with several renowned European and American composers. But it was his 1986 discovery of gagaku (court music of Japan) which dramatically changed the direction of his musical worldview. D’Haene’s study of gagaku – a musical genre a world apart from his own – and its incorporation in his scores, ultimately resulted in what the composer calls “paradoxophony” or “paradoxical coexistence.” This transcultural approach has informed his compositions ever since. Music with Silent Aitake’s – performed by the esteemed Reigakusha ensemble joined by the premier group Ensemble Modern, both conducted by Kasper De Roo – is a banner example of that approach. Scored for gagaku and chamber orchestra, the five-part work exemplifies D’Haene’s ideal of the coexistence of Western and Japanese instrumental worlds. The liner notes underscore the composer’s key aim: pluralism. It’s an aesthetic and social vision of coexistence which does not favour 76 | May 2019 thewholenote.com

one musical world over another. D’Haene’s principle of paradoxophony penetrates his combinations of perceived dual opposites in Music with Silent Aitake’s. We hear modality, atonality and spectral music techniques, stasis and dynamism, sound mass and silence, as well as simplicity and complexity coexisting within both random and organized forms. Deliberately avoiding Eurocentricity, exoticism or easy melody-with-accompaniment tropes D’Haene has indeed fostered a kind of musical common ground between his chosen two groups in this work. That he’s done so maintaining the integrity of their identities and performing traditions, while expressing his own forceful vision, is indeed an impressive achievement. Andrew Timar Greek Wind Quintets Aeolos Woodwind Quintet Naxos 8.579037 (naxos.com) !! Pop quiz: name three contemporary Greek composers whose names don’t begin with an “X.” I am not the only one who would fail this test. The aptly named Aeolos Woodwind Quintet has undertaken a project to improve their compatriots’ international profile, and so released a CD of nothing but works for that ensemble: small forces to accomplish a large mission; but the effort is to be applauded. Aeolos has included just over one hour of material by seven composers, some deceased, some fairly advanced in years. No one born after the 1960s is included, leaving one to wonder if younger composers are ignoring the form or if the group chose to focus only on more established names. The players acquit themselves well, but much of the earlier material sounds a good deal as though the composers all admired Carl Nielsen; the music is folkloric, charming, tuneful and tonally fresh, but not very exploratory. The more recent works, towards the end of the disc, are the most interesting. Giorgos Koumendakis’ A Blackbird in the Cricket’s Gorge (2013) is a lot of title for a brief, tonally fluid bit of sound painting (including bird calls) originally written for three pianos. Theodore Antoniou’s Woodwind Quintet No.2 (2014), dedicated to Aeolos, is in turns mysteriously searching about and madly dancing in place, a challenging piece rhythmically and tonally, played with confident flair. Woodwind Quintet (1995) by Andreas Makris, closes out the disc with the players passing a rhythmic motif back and forth against a lyric counter argument, ideas which play around for an interesting ten minutes (the longest cut on the disc). Max Christie Beneath the Tide – A Collection of Concertos Soloists; Croatian Chamber Orchestra; Miran Vaupotic Navona Records nv6216 (navonarecords.com) !! Don’t be misled by the CD’s title or the accompanying notes that liken its contents to “ocean currents… uncovering what was previously hidden.” Rather than exposing murky, below-the-surface secrets, all five pieces, by four Americans and one Taiwanese composer, display immediately accessible clarity of expression. Nor is this disc “a collection of concertos,” as stated on its cover. Although all the works are scored for instrumental soloists and chamber orchestra, only three are genuine concertos and are so titled. Restless dissonances in the outer movements of Michael G. Cunningham’s 15-minute Clarinet Concerto Op.186 bracket the middle movement’s brooding lyricism. Virtuoso runs from bottom to top of the clarinet’s range help make this a brilliant showpiece for the instrument. Rain Worthington’s ten-minute In Passages for violin and string orchestra is a sustained, moody beauty, imbued with Middle Eastern melodic melismas and glissandi. It would make a superb slow movement for a fulllength violin concerto. In her 15-minute Guitar Concerto No.1, subtitled Remembrance of Hometown, Ssu-Yu Huang draws upon musical traditions of her Chinese forebears to create an impressionistic series of atmospheric brush paintings in sound. At just under six minutes, Bruce Reiprich’s Lullaby features a long-lined violin solo, more intense than gently calming. Perhaps it just needs another title. The CD concludes with Beth Mehocic’s cheerful 18-minute Piano Concerto, music that suggested, to me at least, playful leprechauns, the final Allegretto a rousing Irish jig. An entertaining end to an entertaining disc. Michael Schulman Carl Vollrath – Souls in Transitions Summa Trio Navona Records nv6212 (navonarecords.com) !!“When I first wrote these pieces,” says Carl Vollrath (b. New York City, 1931), “I had no set concept of what they ‘meant.’” Vollrath’s titles for the three trios and their umbrella title Souls in Transitions were added only after a colleague at Alabama’s Troy University, where Vollrath taught for 40 years, said that the first trio reminded him of prehistoric cave paintings. Vollrath’s colleague was undoubtedly responding to the sense of primitive mystery created by Vollrath’s use pf pentatonic and modal scales, ostinato piano bassnote “drum-beats” and repeated melodic and rhythmic motifs typical of religious rituals. Vollrath’s title for the first trio, The Secrets of the Magdalenian Caves, references those prehistoric paintings. Tombs of Ancient Times, writes Vollrath, evokes “traditions surrounding passing in ancient Egypt,” in which “community members would bring food to the tomb” for use by the departed in the afterlife. Finally, Buddha of the Future reflects “how the image of Buddha has changed over time.” While all three trios share many stylistic characteristics, there is a subtle increase in lyrical warmth over the cycle, their titles perhaps suggesting the growing sophistication of their metaphysical world views. Vollrath’s sure-handed scoring for violin, cello and piano creates effects almost orchestral in nature, ably performed by the Summa Trio, Los Angeles-based contemporary music specialists. The entire disc could easily serve as the soundtrack for a TV documentary about archaeological sacred sites; CD listeners will have to rely on their own imaginations. Michael Schulman Phil Salathé – Imaginary Birds Ling-Fei Kang; Charles Huang Ravello Records rr8006 (ravellorecords.com) ! ! To join Phil Salathé on Imaginary Birds, his magical adventure, the listener must allow oneself to be led by the clear and penetrating soprano voice of the oboe and the more covered, tenor timbre of the pear-shaped bell of the cor anglais, into the wonderful imaginary sound world of the composer. Here we are quite easily seduced by the oboe of Ling-Fei thewholenote.com May 2019 | 77

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 2020
Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)