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Volume 27 Issue 6 | April 15 - May 27, 2022

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Violin
  • Theatre
  • Sonata
  • Recording
  • Concerto
  • Symphony
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • April
Vol 27 No. 6. Here’s some of it: “Growing up in a house full of riches” – the Kanneh-Masons; “As if the music knows what it is doing” – J.S. Bach; “Better experienced than described” – Women from Space; “Stories set in prehistoric times are notoriously difficult to pull off without invoking nervous laughter” – Orphan Song; “To this day when I look at an audience, there’s some part of me that sees a whole bunch of friendly teddy bears wearing bow-ties” – Boris Brott. …. etc

and Worthington,

and Worthington, separated by centuries of musical legacy, treat the violin as the most precious voice and there is a deep sonority running throughout, a shared melancholy that underlies the subtle tension underneath the beautiful melodies. Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Sonata for Two Violins in B-flat Major and Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, on the other hand, offer a juxtaposition of lightness and darkness in a way that emphasizes the heart of each composition. Wright, who plays both violin parts in the sonata, is equally good in brilliant passages and lightheartedness of Bologne’s music as she is in conveying the power of Fratres. Capturing the fleeting line between a moment and eternity, and opposing forces within oneself, the violin/piano version of Fratres is further enhanced by the beautiful acoustics on this recording. Beethoven’s Sonata No.10 in G Major ties all the pieces together in an elegant sway of music ideas. Ivana Popovic Light in a Time of Darkness Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta Beau Fleuve Records 605996-998579 (bpo.org) ! When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, arts organizations throughout the world demonstrated their extraordinary determination and resilience as they found ways to continue practising their craft and bringing music to their audiences, even if in a different format than before. Light in a Time of Darkness features works recorded live in Buffalo in 2020 and 2021 as part of the BPO OnDemand series, streamed to audiences during the height of the pandemic. This disc is a journey through countries, eras and styles, as its contents encompass everything from Bach to the premiere of a new work by composer Ulysses Kay. There is a risk, in this time of hyper-specialization, that such a broad approach might result in everything sounding too similar, with not enough period-appropriate precision to pacify everyone. For those who prefer the lean, agile, period-instrument approach, for example, the Bach and Haydn selections will likely come across as rather big and bulky, lacking the finesse afforded by earlier instruments. Where Light In A Time Of Darkness is most convincing is in the lush, broad textures afforded by Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and the Kay Pietà, a work of richness and depth that features some beautiful moments for the strings and a striking solo for English horn. A testament to the resiliency and innovativeness found in so many organizations over the past two years, Light in a Time of Darkness is an eclectic and worthwhile release demonstrating the excellence of the Buffalo Philharmonic and conductor JoAnn Falletta. Matthew Whitfield Poulenc – Complete Chamber Music Various Artists Naxos 8.505258 (naxosdirect.com/ search/8505258) ! Having recently received a treasure, in the form of digital sound files, I am compelled to offer the following advice: buy this collection. An epochal recording, The Complete Chamber Works of Francis Poulenc is performed by a cadre of young and insanely able French musicians; nowhere else will you ever need to turn for inspiration or solace, nor for useful historic information about Poulenc, his thoughts and the context of the pieces. The performances, grouped onto the discs in no immediately discernible order, remind us of how often Poulenc would reuse similar tropes, thrown into relief against such remarkable harmonic language. The three solo woodwind sonatas sound strangely similar, as sibling pieces perhaps, yet still strike their individual poses and stand distinct. Disc one opens with an old friend, the Sextuor for Piano and Woodwind Quintet. Nothing wrong with leading from strength, and this is such a strong performance by all. Absolutely fearless in their tempo choices, as technically clean as French wind players are known to be, these six bring the notes leaping off the page. Poulenc, in his secular heaven, must be pleased to know he still speaks to and through young guns like these. The eloquence of phrasing in this one piece alone is reason enough to acquire the collection. But wait! There’s more. Of course there’s more! Included are the early works, when Poulenc was 19 or 20 years old, at the end of WWI. Having tried to tackle two of these (Duo for Two Clarinets, and Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon) when I was a similar age, I now forgive the youngster his early austerity. You hear evidence of his admiration for Stravinsky more than his love of the music hall. He seemed to celebrate jagged lines and impossibly long phrases. But at least he published these! He discarded two earlier versions of his violin sonata before allowing the one played here by Graf Mourja. It’s pointless to select a favourite piece or performer; there is beyond enough to please every ear. The flute playing of Philippe Bernold is bright and crisp, and I forgive his tendency to reach just above the piano pitch. He also performs on recorder in the charming Villanelle. Hervé Joulain makes short work of the devilishly tough French horn writing in the Sextuor. All of the wind playing is exceptionally good. The project owes much to consistently excellent piano playing by Alexandre Tharaud, who performs on no fewer than 15 of the selections, if my count is correct. That’s just beyond imagining. In fact there are only six pieces scattered across the five discs that do not feature Tharaud. These are the song cycles and theatre pieces that use voice accompanied by small instrumental ensembles. Among these is the charming Story of Babar, offered in both the original French and the translated English text. Both narrators are children, (12-year-old François Mouzaya, and 13-year-old Natasha Emerson), who seem equally professional. For choral fans, there is disc four. Poulenc’s poetry settings themselves are every bit as divergent as the switches in mood I find so beguiling. La Balle Masqué, Cantate Profane sur les poèmes de Max Jacob, makes merry Dadaist hay. Baritone Franck Leguérinel clearly propels the absurdist texts with a powerful controlled voice. He shares the disc with tenor Jean Delescluse. Oh, one needn’t carp, but the recording values are uneven. One wonders with the size of the project how many different venues were used, and how many different engineers and producers worked on it. Max Christie MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Ecology of Being Duo Concertante Marquis Classics MAR 81625 (duoconcertante.com) ! The fundamental task of finding one’s way in the world and locating true measures of meaning can be elusive as we attempt to understand how purpose relates to quality of existence. To create a successful recording, perhaps one way to begin understanding the immense implications of being is to commission a collection of new works for violin and piano. With six brilliant new works performed with world-class expressiveness and musicality, Newfoundland’s Duo Concertante has released a powerful and deeply moving album. The Canadian composers were asked to respond to earth’s climate emergency and to consider our interconnectedness with respect to the rapidly changing environment and the future implications of our current decisions to act or to not act. Ian Cusson delivers an utterly tragic response 48 | April 15 - May 27, 2022 thewholenote.com

that is interrupted by a joyous dance, a contrast that is jarring and disturbing, in a work titled The Garden of Earthly Delights. Carmen Braden’s dusty The Seed Knows, is distant ephemera beneath shocking pillars of scratchy sonic behemoths. In Randolph Peters’ Frisson, dramatic gestures struggle toward several climactic regions that are surrounded by tender lyricism. Dawn Avery’s Onekha’shòn:a,Yakón:kwe (The Waters, the Women) is a deeply moving three-movement work that speaks to the Indigenous understanding of the symbiotic and spiritual connections between women and water. Using the ecopoetry of Shannon Webb-Campbell throughout the piece as spoken word, Melissa Hui’s Ecology of Being produces a solitary barren enchantment – carefully designed thin and empty landscapes surround the spoken text like precious gems, creating warmth through scarcity. Lastly, Bekah Simms’ shedding, as if sloughed scatters darkness amid the burning vivid augmentation of sound and noise. This work is deeply expressive, producing rich manifolds of purging smoke and sunken ash. Simms’ innovative sonic images hover like shadowforms as if to suggest that everything comes from fire and returns to it. This release is a stunning collection of highly personal works wonderfully performed by the duo. Adam Scime A Quinary – Canadian Concerti Soloists; Vancouver Island Symphony; Pierre Simard Redshift Records TK475 (redshiftrecords.org) ! This Redshift release of five new concerti represents the culmination of a five-year commissioning project that paired five Canadian composers with principal players of the Vancouver Island Symphony. Jocelyn Morlock’s Ornithomancy, written for flute soloist Paolo Bortolussi, opens with sombre and mysterious interwoven sonorities below searching bright gestures in the solo flute part. The piece unfolds organically toward more excited materials where Bortolussi’s virtuosity soars with wonderful clarity of tone. The three movements of Dorothy Chang’s Invisible Distance take the listener through moods of lyrical melancholy, excited drama and deep enchantment. Chang’s highly imaginative orchestral scenes provide a brilliant tapestry over which cellist Ariel Barnes dazzles with soloistic fireworks. Edward Top’s Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra is a shimmering fantasy embedded with rich bellows and sunken tones masterfully produced by soloist Scott MacInnes. Undulating repetitive spirals, delicate resonances and playful offerings comprise the three movements of Emily Doolittle’s Sapling where violin soloist Calvin Dyck handles the varied material with a welcomed expressiveness. Last on the disc is Stephen Chatman’s Concertino for Horn and String Orchestra. This work is joyous and full of life. The dancelike structures, and soloist Andrew Clark’s confident performance, create excitement and ever-forward momentum. With five successful new works and five brilliant soloist performances, this release is invigorating from start to finish. Five stars. Adam Scime Eldritch Priest – Omphaloskepsis Eldritch Priest Halocline Trance (haloclinetrance.bandcamp.com) ! If you’re going for your debut release, a small bit of self-contemplation is cool. Although be careful, you might see yourself and like it. These are the sediments my eyes smelled when listening to Omphaloskepsis by Eldritch Priest: Puzzling that an ever-changing guitar melody doesn’t mind existing above happily lumbering distorted harrumphs; Sometimes there aren’t screeches; A double bass, sturdy as an oak, creeps along the ground as though swallowing a whale; The frothy harmonies are so eager!; You could start a band with the amount of effects pedals used; That band name should be Cluster Gardens; I averted my emotions just in time for the fizzy notes that are like eating an orange while making love; Every time there is an interruption in the melodic material, a sonata dies. I’m not sure if Priest will perform this music live, but if he does, I do hope the audience is supplied with enough pogo sticks. Bravo For Now. Adam Scime (channelling Eldritch Priest) Lumena Topaz Duo Redshift Records (thetopazduo.ca) ! Based in Toronto, in-demand flutist Kaili Maimets and Juno Award-winning harpist Angela Schwarzkopf founded Topaz Duo over a dozen years ago. In addition to playing the classics, they have increasingly been curating repertoire by living composers. Their sparkling, assured new album illustrates their focus on new works for the flute and harp with an emphasis on Canadian content. The program begins with prominent younger-generation Estonian Canadian composer Riho Esko Maimets’ five-and-ahalf-minute Lumena. Composed in Toronto, the work unusually combines the qualities of yearning (the composer says it’s for the beauty of the peaceful Baltic landscape) and meditative stillness. Prominent Canadian composer Kevin Lau’s four-movement Little Feng Huang is the next track, extensively inspired by one of his own works of fiction. Written expressly for the album, the “combination of flute and harp – delicate and wondrous – was an ideal vehicle for this particular story,” writes Lau. The virtuosic three-movement Sonata for Harp and Flute by Kingston Ontario composer Marjan Mozetich is my album favourite. Recorded for the BIS label by the eminent earlier Toronto duo, Robert Aitkin, flute and Erica Goodman, harp in 1985, it has since become among the most played Canadian works for these instruments. On full display is Mozetich’s mature post-modern Romantic compositional style blending the traditional, popular and modern, filled with lyricism, Romantic harmonies and spirited moto perpetuo-like rhythms. This tightly structured piece avoids lapsing into banal diatonic clichés: the ideal closer for Topaz Duo’s debut record. Andrew Timar Song and Call The Smudges Crypto Gramophone CG149 (cryptogramophone.com) ! Innovative and insightful, Song and Call is an album that will grow on you each time you hear it. Featuring a chamber ensemble consisting of violin and cello, the sonic landscape on this album is somewhat symphonic and often experimental in nature. Add to that the Smudges creative use of samples and electronics on top of the classical foundation and form, and we get to hear many wonderful, intense and sometimes surprising layers of textures throughout. Violinist Jeff Gauthier and cellist Maggie Parkins have such a strong synergy and cohesiveness of sound that it often feels as if we are hearing one instrument. Their background in new music and improvisation is at the forefront of the Smudges’ performance. The album opens with Music of Chants, a melodiously lush composition by Guy Klucevsek and closes with the symphonic Release by Tom Flaherty. In between are pieces by Gauthier and ensemble improvisations, playfully varying in genres, expressions and length, and always maintaining a unique ensemble sound. thewholenote.com April 15 - May 27, 2022 | 49

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