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Volume 27 Issue 7 | May 20 - July 12, 2022

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Schafer at Soundstreams; "Dixon Road" at High Park, Skydancers at Harbourfront; Music and art at the Wychwood Barns; PODIUM in town; festival season at hand; Listening Room at your fingertips; and listings galore.

well, with its range of

well, with its range of colours and a degree of masculinity. Watson’s voice is dark and expressive, adding a layer of intensity to the words. The piano, having an equal role to the voice, paints the winter imagery of the harsh natural elements such as storms and wind, and McMahon does it exuberantly. On the other hand, he parallels the emotional unrest expressed in the voice with a wonderful restraint. Not for the faint of heart, this album is a heartfelt addition to the music libraries of contemplative listeners. Ivana Popovic Amour et Fantaisie – Melodies de Lionel Daunais Dominique Côté; Esther Gonthier ATMA ACD2 2839 (atmaclassique.com/en) ! Canadian baritone Dominique Côté is world renowned for his opera and concert performances. Here Côté demonstrates his talented musicianship by singing his favourite songs by multi-talented Quebecer Lionel Daunais (1901-1982). Côté’s illustrious singing is accompanied with passion by Quebec pianist Esther Gonthier. Daunais’ popular, accessible songs are as wide-ranging as his career as a composer, singer/songwriter, performer, author, artistic director and radio host. Daunais sets his own lyrics brilliantly. Highlights include the opening track L’amour de moi with slightly atonal short piano intro, low-range-touching vocals, faster mid-section and “très” dramatic build to piano flourish and held note vocal closing. Four humourous Folklore songs include folksy, happy À Montréal, a city tribute with rhythms, a slower alternating section and entertaining spelling out of the letters Montréal closing. What Montreal food to eat drives Les patates, with operatic rhythmical lyrics mentioning potatoes, chips and even a federal election! Famous La tourtière is about its flavourful wonders, highlighted by back-and-forth answering of Côté’s clear lead vocals by Ensemble Vocal Charlevoix, under musical director Julie Desmeules. Daunais’ songs with texts by writers including Paul Fort, Paul Eluard and Éloi De Grandmont are equally entertaining. Côté writes in his liner notes, “his music speaks to me and moves me,” which comes across in his Daunais homage, understandable even with my working knowledge of French. He loves these songs, and so should listeners! Tiina Kiik Lux Aeterna – Choral works by György Ligeti and Zoltán Kodály Danish National Vocal Ensemble; Marcus Creed Our Recordings 6.220676 (naxosdirect. com/search/6220676) ! At first glance, the pairing of Kodály and Ligeti might seem strange, given the disparate nature of their musical works. While Kodály composed in a largely conventional yet extended tonal idiom, Ligeti is a renowned master of the avantgarde, famous for his introduction of micropolyphony and the use of his atmospheric music in the films of Stanley Kubrick. Despite this musical disconnect, both composers share close personal connections, including their Hungarian nationality. Four decades older than Ligeti, Kodály appointed his younger countryman as a teacher of theory and counterpoint at the Liszt Academy in Budapest before Soviet troops entered Hungary in 1956 and Ligeti fled to Vienna. One of the fundamental elements underpinning this disc is the importance of folk music in Hungarian musical traditions, which was the basis of their institutional training methodologies. Indeed, it was Kodály’s study and use of folksong in his compositions, which formed a new basis for musical life in Hungary. It is no surprise, then, to find that much of the material on Lux Aeterna is arrangements and adaptations of folk songs. While Ligeti’s music is often synonymous with the avant-garde, many of his folk songs are surprisingly conventional, particularly the 1955 collections written while he was still in Hungary. These songs pair exceedingly well with Kodály’s more traditional fare, while the inclusion of Lux Aeterna consists of the 1982 Drei Phantasien nach Friedrich Hölderlin give listeners seeking the modernistic Ligeti repertoire something to look forward to. The Danish National Vocal Ensemble is in fine form on this disc, embracing and showcasing the extraordinary complexity of Ligeti’s modern works, the brilliant wordpainting of his earlier folk songs and the late-Romantic sumptuousness of Kodály’s musical settings. Matthew Whitfield Martins Vilums Latvian Radio Choir; Kaspars Putnins LMIC SKANI 131 (skani.lv) ! The musical heritage of the Baltic countries is rich and unique, offering a wide range of composers and works which are unlike those of any other tradition. This disc features the music of Martins Vilums (b.1974), a Latvian composer and accordionist whose material is characterized by fascinating titles and rich textures, all expertly performed by the Latvian Radio Choir and their director Kaspar Putnins. Perhaps the most traditional piece on this disc is Vilums’ Lux Aeterna, inspired by the traditional requiem text and portrayed through a wide range of timbres and layers. The use of melodies resembling Gregorian chant and Eastern Orthodox psalmodic declamation which emerge through luminescent choral textures make this work immediately appealing, especially for those familiar with Ligeti’s setting of the same text. Other works range greatly in instrumentation and theme, from the Zoroastrian cosmological text On the conflict waged with the primeval ox which features extended vocal techniques including overtones and microintervals, to the expansive Aalomgon for percussion, trombone, horn and 12 voices. This latter piece is perhaps the most fascinating, a mini-oratorio over 30 minutes in length and comprised of a “libretto” of syllables, arranged in a particular system by the composer, intended to resemble words of demonic conjuring and godly cursing. Aalomgon is a dense yet utterly fascinating experience, and a unique sonic expression of deeply spiritual themes. If there is one word to best describe this disc, it may well be “abstract.” While Vilums’ music can certainly be experienced without guidance, the composer’s words and insights are vital to achieving complete comprehension of many of these pieces. From the systemically syllabic Aalomgon to the overarching spirituality of Lux Aeterna and On the conflict waged with the primeval ox, there is much on this disc worthy of appreciation, not least of which is the monumental effort put forth by the Latvian Radio Choir. Matthew Whitfield Heidi Breyer – Amor Aeternus: A Requiem for the Common Man Various Artists Winterhall Records WRC006 (heidibreyer.com) ! Composer/ pianist Heidi Breyer composed this tenmovement contemporary Requiem for chorus, vocal soloists, piano, strings, harp and horn over almost a decade. As Breyer writes, “Amor is a musical anthology of our times…” It is another musical pandemic project for the listener, this one recorded during the first year of COVID lockdowns. Sung in Latin, Breyer composes with moving vocal and instrumental combinations. Introit opens with low-pitched 48 | May 20 - July 12, 2022 thewholenote.com

strings, followed by slow choir entry. Love its haunting dark strings under the high female voices and accessible contrapuntal tonality. Breyer’s virtuosic piano solo opening in Kyrie Eleison leads to a solo baritone and then full choir sorrowful lament. Another piano introduction starts Domine Jesu Christe with emotional full choral singing and colourful strings, which also are featured in the slightly faster Sanctus. Lacrimosa is especially unique with a dramatic piano part now in the forefront throughout from the opening solo introduction, orchestral lower pitch support entry, sudden faster tempo with vocals, and return to slower closing with higher vocals supporting the piano. Calming, reflective and beautiful Lux Aeterna, with its angelic vocal legato melody, piano ostinato sections and mellow instrumentals, could stand as a fully independent top-ten piece all on its own! The closing faster movement, In Paradisum, has a jubilant vocal chorus creating a hopeful closing to the entire work. This masterpiece is surprisingly Breyers’ first large-scale choral work. It is powerful, musical and brilliantly composed, performed and produced. Tiina Kiik Jóhann Jóhannsson – Drone Mass ACME; Theatre of Voices; Paul Hillier Deutsche Grammophon (johannjohannsson.com) ! Jóhann Gunnar Jóhannsson (1969- 2018) was an Icelandic composer who wrote music for a wide array of media including theatre, dance, television and films. His music blends traditional instruments and orchestrations with contemporary and electronic components, resulting in a unique and characteristic soundscape. At once meditative, mystifying and minimalistic, there are clear similarities between the Drone Mass and the music of 20th-century Eastern European spiritualists such as Pärt and Gorecki, but with notable deviations such as the integration of electronic techniques and the use of texts taken from the “Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians,” part of the Nag Hammadi library discovered in 1945. For those expecting a Catholic-based Mass in the style of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, the incorporation of a hymn described by Jóhannsson himself as “a seemingly meaningless series of vowels” will mark a radical deviation from the norm, and yet the characterization of this work as a “Mass” is nonetheless fitting, as there is an interconnectedness and weaving of meaning between movements which provide structure and form to Jóhannsson’s large-scale work. This world-premiere recording of the Drone Mass by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Theatre of Voices and conductor Paul Hillier is a revelatory look into the musical mind of Jóhannsson as represented in his art music, rather than his film scores, and is an extraordinary musical achievement. The demanding score is executed flawlessly and both singers and instrumentalists deserve commendation for their impeccable intonation. Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass is highly recommended, not only to those fond of Pärt, Gorecki and Tavener, but to all who enjoy contemporary music performed at the highest levels of excellence. Matthew Whitfield Heinz Holliger – Lunea Christian Gerhaher; Juliane Banse; Ivan Ludlow; Sarah Maria Sun; Annette Schönmüller; Philharmonic Zürich; Basler Madrigalisten; Heinz Holliger ECM New Series ECM 2622/23 (ecmrecords.com/shop) ! Swiss virtuoso oboist, composer and conductor Heinz Holliger is among the most prominent oboists of his generation. Also a prominent modernist composer, his work includes the 1998 opera Schneewittchen. Fascinated by artists living on the edge, his music often interrogates their lives and the texts they left. His opera Lunea (2017) is no exception. Unfolding in 23 scenes Lunea is built on as many aphoristic visions, based on the biography and work of the celebrated Biedermeier poet Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850). Suffering a suspected midlife stroke and exhibiting unmistakable signs of mental illness, Lenau was confined to a mental institution for the rest of his life. Art imitating life, Lunea protagonists distort and rearrange words just as Lenau did after his stroke. The score employs a compositional procedure in which material is stated in reverse order, paralleling the narrative’s shuttle back and forth in time. Händl Klaus’ spare libretto reflects the outlines of the poet’s biography, retaining the flavour of Lenau’s near-Dadaist statements such as, “Man is a sandpiper by the sea of eternity.” Holliger’s music reflects the poet’s turmoil, despair and insights with surprising, effective sounds. For example, his skillful, prominent use of the cimbalom is perhaps a sly reference to Lenau’s birthplace in the Kingdom of Hungary and early career in Budapest. Reflecting the concentrated emotion characteristic of the Romantic period, Holliger’s brilliant orchestration underscores the disjointed libretto with impressively expressive instrumental and vocal writing. Juliane Banse’s achingly soaring soprano aria in Scene 12, and the violin solos sprinkled throughout, are memorable for their atonal yet emotional lyricism. Andrew Timar What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening Cherished Possessions Steve Boudreau Ottawa pianist Steve Boudreau enlists top Montreal talent for an album of new original music for jazz piano trio. The Alberta Lounge Deanne Matley Inspired by Canadian Legend Oscar Peterson, Matley shines as a vocal stylist in this contemporary vocal jazz album with standards and original music. De la cour de Louis XIV à Shippagan! Suzie Leblanc, Ellen Torrie, Marie Nadeau-Tremblay, Sylvain Bergeron, Vincent Lauzer Acadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc returns with a fascinating album that pairs French airs de cour with traditional Acadian songs featuring baroque violin, recorder; and archlute. Emigre and Exile Arcomusical Unique new works for berimbau ensemble including premiere recordings of music by Matt Ulery, Alexandre Lunsqui, Jeremy Muller, and Gregory Beyer. thewholenote.com May 20 - July 12, 2022 | 49

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