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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!

Kang and the cor anglais

Kang and the cor anglais of Charles Huang as we traverse the interior landscape of Salathé’s vivid imagination. Along the way we are also joined by cello, piano, celesta, harp and guitar to explore the mysterious depths and wondrous heights of birds in their wondrous habitat. We find ourselves coming under the spell of a composer who is a master of mood and atmosphere and who has the ability to coordinate colour and structure to a rare degree. The bird repertoire – Mandarin Ducks and Imaginary Birds of the Frozen North – swirls amid equally atmospheric pieces such as The Heart that Loves But Once and The Wood Between the Worlds as well as Expecting the Spring Breeze (composed by Teng Yu-Hsien and arranged by Salathé). The sometimes diabolical difficulty of this music is expertly navigated by Kang and Huang as well as by the other musicians. Each piece is given a lively reading and is played with buoyant, aristocratic grace and almost insolent virtuosity. Equally important is the fact that a delightfully spare atmosphere is maintained throughout. Raul da Gama Julius Eastman – Femenine Apartment House Another Timbre at137 (anothertimbre.com) !! Julius Eastman (1940-1990) is as fascinating to read about as he is to listen to. This performance of his breathtaking, hour-long work, Femenine takes us to one of the most eloquent members of the 20th-century avantgarde. The performance of this austere work by the ensemble Apartment House is replete with all the virtues that Eastman embodied: unfailing clarity, innate elegance, an unerring sense of proportion, a finely honed mastery of style, melodic finesse and unobtrusive grasp of harmonic rhythm, not to mention a matchless sense of aural geometry. The work is layered with subtle colours. Each layer – with each hypnotic and intensifying repeat – is daubed with minutely thickening textured music that seems to ebb and flow like a gentle tide that swells steadily from silence before gently building into a soft whoosh of the keyboard, vibraphone, violin, cello and two flutes. Throughout, the uniquely Eastman-like tension between harmonically loaded melody and the essentially neutral, often near-static nature of the metre, has its sense of symmetry quietly disturbed by minute figures played by each instrument as the players recreate the composer’s prevailing tonal palette through appropriately lean, but always beautifully focused, orchestration. The result proves well worth seeking out. Eastman’s was a diverse style with firm roots in John Cage-like stasis; but there is more heart-on-sleeve Romantic post-avant-gardism than one would expect. Either way the music has an emotional power that Apartment House articulates ever so eloquently. Raul da Gama Alexander Moyzes – Symphonies Nos.9 and 10 Slovak RSO; Ladislav Slovák Naxos 8.573654 (naxos.com) !! One in a Naxos re-release series of Slovak composer Alexander Moyzes’ (1906- 1984) complete symphonies, this Marco Polo recording was previously issued in the early 2000s. A master of 20th-century techniques and expression, Moyzes developed a style clear in texture, dramatic, and influenced by both his own nation’s and Shostakovich’s music. The three-movement Ninth Symphony (1971) is spare and dissonant; grotesque marches intrude and build to climaxes. In the third movement, solo violin cadenzalike passages cry out. Density, tempo and volume increase till the work ends with a now-subdued violin. Program notes mention the composer’s despair following the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, yet I found the work a continuously involving artistic triumph. The Slovak RSO under conductor Ladislav Slovák plays with commitment; woodwinds, including a spectacular piccolo, excel in both lyrical and virtuosic passages. The Tenth Symphony (1977-78) is more upbeat, though with pensive moments. The opening movement begins slowly and is like the Ninth Symphony in its powerful overture-like dotted rhythms. There are triads and added-note chords now, and fewer bare dyads. A scherzo-type movement is contrapuntal and lively, its trio section featuring realistic woodwind bird calls over hushed strings. Then the long Larghetto caps the work with idyllic, lyrical beauty, but an early slight smear in the strings foreshadows surprising rich and complex polychords. The radiant folk-like finale features colourful orchestration including tinkling percussion; it’s a lot of fun leading to a boisterous close. Roger Knox The Other Side University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble; Matthew George Innova innova 007 (innova.mu) !! We hear string orchestras in concert halls, backing pop artists and even in the supermarket. Alternatively, we may only have heard concert bands at high school performances or marching in parades. The Minnesota-based University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Matthew George, conductor) is a highly skilled ensemble of brass, woodwind and percussion that presents a welcome change in timbre and material. They have a long history of commissioning works and this is their seventh album in that series. One of the album’s highlights is the opening B-Side Concerto – For Rock Band and Wind Ensemble by Spanish composer Luis Serrano Alarcón. This 16-minute work showcases both the wind orchestra and the rock band and contains great rhythmic riffing sections, some odd metre segments and excellent wailing guitar solos. It is a tour de force which manages to incorporate the rock band within the wind ensemble so their distinctive sounds blend to achieve an edgy and exciting effect. Another highlight, Mysteries of the Horizon (After Four René Magritte Surrealist Paintings) by Nigel Clarke features the virtuoso Belgium cornet player Harmen Vanhoorne. Part 1, The Menaced Assassin, begins with a solo cornet playing a short fanfare and then works into a back-and-forth duel with the wind ensemble containing several angular and sophisticated harmonies and rhythms. Kit Turnbull’s three-movement Everything starts from a dot (based on a quote from Kandinsky) and a second piece by Alarcón, Symphony No. 2 for Wind Orchestra, are the additional works on this engaging CD. Ted Parkinson Gernot Wolfgang – Vienna and the West, Groove-Oriented Chamber Music, Vol. 4 Various Artists Albany Records TROY1760 (gernotwolfgang.com) ! ! If you are searching for a fresh and distinct fusion of styles, something classically based yet different, this is the album you might want to consider. Gernot Wolfgang, an Austrian-born composer now based in Los Angeles, masters 78 | May 2019 thewholenote.com

an idiosyncratic fusion of the elements of the Second Viennese School with contemporary jazz in this selection of chamber music pieces featuring various combinations of instruments. In a way, these pieces take inventory of the stylistic as well as geographical influences on Wolfgang’s compositional style. Music on this album has a firm and clear classical music foundation but what makes it interesting is the interweaving of the rhythmical jazz grooves, occasional country western music motives (especially in strings) and the cinematic quality of some sections. Passage to Vienna for piano trio, the second piece on the album, is a story told in fragments, and exemplifies why this unique fusion works so well. It opens with a beautifully flowing, seductive melody in the piano and repeated unison in the strings. Groovy rhythms precede a jazzy violin solo, done with flair and style. We are then transported to Vienna at the turn of the century, and non-linearity takes over along with strong cinematic colours. The mood shifts back to America toward the end and the opening theme comes back but this time it is coloured with dissonance. Another jazzy violin solo, with added country-style motives and propelling rhythms in the piano bring this piece to a conclusion. The textures are simply divine. All the compositions on this album are engaging and atmospheric and a strong cast of musicians adds individual flavours to Wolfgang’s music. Ivana Popovic JAZZ AND IMPROVISED All There Is Sheila Soares Independent (sheilasoaresmusic.com) !! Gifted vocalist and composer Sheila Soares’ new recording is one of the freshest, most engaging and thoroughly musical CDs to be released this year. Although Soares is no unseasoned debutante, her debut offering is rife with new, intriguing, genreblurring original material and fine musicianship. Deftly produced by talented guitarist Eric St-Laurent, Soares’ excellent collaborators also include Jeff McLeod on piano and organ, Jordan O’Connor on acoustic bass and Chris Wallace on drums. At first blush, there is an obvious sonic similarity between the vocal timbre of Soares and the late Blossom Dearie; however, Dearie (with her quirky, narcissistic performances) never came near Soares’ interpretive sensitivity and jaunty songwriting style. It may be that good tunesmiths (such as Soares) are just “born” when the creative stars align, and they can enter our consciousness at any point along their journey – it’s inevitable… and as Soares says, “Music is like breathing to me.” Highlights include the lovely title track, as well as the stunning Les Fraises Sur La Lune (Strawberries on the Moon), which displays Soares’ skilled, pitch-pure vocal instrument and considerable ability to swing. The romantic Constellation boasts not only beautiful chord changes, but also a lilting melody and a gentle, rhythmic jazz sensibility that make this gorgeous track a total standout. Jazz has many faces and expressions, and happily for all of us, Soares will no doubt be delighting us with her jazz eclecticism and irresistible perspective for a very long time to come. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Both Sides Marc Jordan Linus 270389 (marcjordan.com) !! Listing all of Marc Jordan’s songwriting credits, awards and accolades would take up the whole word count of this review, so let me simply say that the man knows his way around a song. And since this album is mostly covers – only two of the tracks are originals – his mighty interpretative skills are a key component here. The other key component of Both Sides is Lou Pomanti, who produced, arranged and orchestrated all the tracks. These two men are at the top of their games and we are the beneficiaries. The album is rich with instrumentation courtesy of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and guest appearances by international heavies like Randy Brecker and Tommy Emmanuel, and local luminaries like Kevin Breit and Larnell Lewis. Although he covers a couple of standards from the Great American Songbook, it’s the reinterpretations of classic folk/rock songs that are standouts for me. In particular, Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side shines with its many layers and gorgeous woodwinds, courtesy of Toronto’s own, John Johnson. Although the soft, groovy treatment of the tune is antithetical to its subject matter, it works. Beautifully. Jordan’s thoughtful handling of the title tune also caused me to hear these familiar lyrics with fresh ears and I was struck by how mature Joni Mitchell’s writing was for one so young. (She was in her early 20s when she wrote Both Sides Now.) Overall, the album reflects a full-grown artist who has lived completely, and well. Cathy Riches Concert notes: Marc Jordan will be appearing in a number of venues around Ontario this month: May 2, in Ottawa (Meridian Theatre); 4, in Kingston (Grand Theatre); 5, in Collingwood (Gayety Theatre); 6, in Owen Sound (Roxy Theatre); 8, in Peterborough (Market Hall); 9, in Guelph (River Run Centre); 10, in Oshawa (Regent Theatre); and on June 22 in Hamilton (Artsfest). This Could Be The One Karin Plato Independent KP0418 (karinplato.com) ! ! Released worldwide on April 12 through Stikjazz Music, This Could Be The One is Vancouver-based vocalist Karin Plato’s eighth studio album, and the culmination of ten years of work with her quintet, which includes herself, clarinetist James Danderfer, pianist Chris Gestrin, bassist Laurence Mollerup and drummer Joe Poole. This Could Be The One also features three special guests: blues musician Jim Byrnes, singer Rebecca Shoichet and trombonist Rod Murray. Recorded live off the floor by Sheldon Zaharko in Vancouver at Warehouse Studio, the album has a warm, inviting vibe, emulating, to a certain degree, the experience of hearing acoustic jazz from a good seat in a well-appointed venue. This Could Be The One is largely made up of Plato’s original material, with a few re-arranged exceptions: the Lennon/ McCartney-penned I’ve Just Seen A Face, Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and the ubiquitous Heart And Soul. Byrnes joins Plato on What Came Before, Plato’s loping, 3/4 ode to empathy; though they represent different vocal traditions, the two singers’ voices blend well, with Byrnes’ big, woolly voice complementing Plato’s controlled clarity. Shoichet and Plato sing together on Sorrow, another Plato original, a bittersweet, straight-eighths song that serves as the album’s final entry. With an overall mood that tends toward the calm and communicative, even during its more bombastic moments, This Could Be The One is a worthy addition to the canon of modern Canadian vocal jazz. Colin Story thewholenote.com May 2019 | 79

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
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Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

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Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)