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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.

y Marc Mellits, almost

y Marc Mellits, almost literally bops from the get-go. The piece is moon-themed – modern and ancient references abound – but mostly it all feels like a set list of a really good and interesting dance band. If rhythm is their strong suit, pitch is not. The second movement, Sea of Tranquility, opens with intonation issues so glaring one is left wondering whether it’s intentionally spectral, but I doubt it. It’s a flaw that could have been addressed prior to releasing the recording. Chords do not settle, unisons clash. But carping aside, the music itself is just so darned chipper. The finale, Moonwalk, scoots along; if this was the pace those first moonwalkers took, I’m an Olympic sprinter. Toe-tapping fun. Composer and percussionist Ivan Trevino joins the ensemble for his Song Book Vol.3, and the dancing just gets better. The titles refer to singer-songwriters: St. Annie (St. Vincent) is really sweet. Byrne (David) captures that enigmatic manchild’s spirit. Jónsi (Birgisson, of Sigur Rós from Iceland) is better than the original, and Thom (Yorke) is, of course, the coolest. Miguel del Aguila’s Wind Quintet No.2 matches the character of the rest of the disc, but it has less depth and seems more gimmicky. It’s nice to hear the voices of the instrumentalists chant alongside the flute melody in Back in Time, the first movement. (They sing in tune!) Max Christie Kārlis Lācis – Piano Concerto; Latvian Symphony Agnese Eglina; Artūrs Noviks; Liepāja Symphony Orchestra; Atvars Lakstīgala LMIC SKANI 133 (skani.lv) ! “Extreme emotions” and “maximalism” are well-chosen words that Latvian composer Kārlis Lācis (b.1977) uses to describe his 30-minute Piano Concerto (2013). The opening Allegro alternates fierce orchestral barrages with rapid, folk-dance-flavoured melodies played by pianist Agnese Eglina; both elements then merge, building to a motorized, nearcacophonous climax. In Crossroad, the piano’s slow walking pace over grey orchestral chords suggests a pensive stroll through a misty landscape. Despair mixes brutal, wildly syncopated polyrhythms, aggressive brass, percussion and musicians’ shouts. Lullaby quotes a traditional melody, but at an energized velocity and volume antithetical to sleep. The rustic romp finally subsides; the lullaby, now gentle and sweet, ends the concerto. Although lacking a stated program, Lācis’ 37-minute Latvian Symphony (2019) features compelling, evocative episodes reflecting the movements’ titles. Paraphrases of the “Fate” fanfares from Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony open The Night is Dark; a propulsive struggle ensues, ending peacefully. The Lake shimmers Impressionistically, framing a brass-heavy, grandiosely imposing central section. Of the rumbustious folk tunes in the Latvian Scherzo, amply spiked with dissonances, Lācis says, “I took all the songs that are still in my head from childhood and I threw them all together.” Hurry, Dear Sun is clearly Nature-music: throbbing “forest murmurs” slowly crescendo to a grand, climactic sunrise; a brief, violent storm bursts, followed by folk-song-based music of relief and thanksgiving, ending with the musicians’ unaccompanied, chant-like humming. Conductor Atvars Lakstīgala generates real excitement in these very colourful works. Enthusiastically recommended! Michael Schulman Thomas Larcher – Symphony No.2 “Kenotaph”; Die Nacht der Verlorenen Andrè Schuen; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Hannu Lintu Ondine ODE 1393-2 (naxosdirect.com/ search/ode+1393-2) ! The subtitle “Kenotaph” signals that the 36-minute Symphony No.2 (2016) by Austrian Thomas Larcher (b.1963) will not be easy listening. Commemorating the hordes of desperate refugees recently drowned in the Mediterranean, the music is dark, vehement and angry. Explosive percussion and sinister suspense dominate the opening Allegro, culminating in a catastrophic blast. The sombre Adagio growls mournfully with repeated, drooping brass notes, interrupted by fortissimo shrieks before the brass groans resume. In the Scherzo, snarling dissonances and scattershot rhythms lead to an accelerando of pounding brass and percussion, and another cataclysmic climax; gentle woodwinds, offering brief respite, end the movement. The Introduzione, Molto allegro is filled with yet even more highly violent cannonades until the symphony’s final two minutes, a slow, hymn-like dirge that fades into silence. The 28-minute song cycle Die Nacht der Verlorenen (2008) is one of three works Larcher has set to words by Austrian author-poet Ingeborg Bachmann (1926- 1973), a suicidal, alcoholic drug addict. Unsurprisingly, these songs are pained and depressive, beginning with Alles verloren – Everything’s lost; the title song – in translation The Night of the Lost – declares, “Now, all is dark.” Powerfully dramatic, whether crooning or shouting, Andrè Schuen’s burnished-bronze baritone superbly expresses all the texts’ tortured angst, while the orchestra, including accordion and prepared piano, glitters, drones and surges. Both works, emphatically performed by conductor Hannu Lintu and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, grabbed and held me with their incandescent sonorities and unremitting, ferocious intensity. Michael Schulman Elles Angèle Dubeau; La Pietà Analekta AN 2 8754 (analekta.com/en) ! With the debonair virtuosity and unmatched passion of her playing, Angèle Dubeau is at the peak of her powers today. She is the consummate master of mood and atmosphere, with the ability to coordinate colour and structure to a rare degree. On her 2022 recording, Elle, Dubeau leads her celebrated ensemble – La Pietà – in interpreting repertoire by 13 women-composers spanning the 12th century of Hildegard von Bingen to the 21st century of Rachel Portman, Dalal and Isobel Waller-Bridge. Every past performance by Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà was immersed not simply in the harmonious combination of musical sounds but in the divine harmony of the cosmos. The performance on this disc is no exception. By the time you traverse its music and get to Mémoire by Katia Makdissi-Warren you will realize that it is indeed something special, as the piece features Inuit throat singers Lydia Etok and Nina Segalowitz. There’s fire in virtually every phrase as the instruments of La Pietà and the Inuit voices meld and breathe almost audibly as if immersed in the very mysteries and wonders of music. Deeply meditative performances on O Virtus Sapientiae by von Bingen and the solemn Libera Me of Rebecca Dale bring expressive insight into those works. La Pietà also mesmerise with the minimalism of Waller-Bridge’s Arise. The beguiling performances conclude with Ana Sokolović’s Danse No.3. A champagne disc – its fizz and finesse grabs you by the ears. Raul da Gama Andrew Paul MacDonald – Music of the City and the Stars Andrew Paul MacDonald; Quatuor Saguenay Centrediscs CMCCD 29622 (cmccanada.org/shop/cd-cmccd-29622) ! Andrew Paul MacDonald is a composer and guitarist who taught music at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, QC from 1987 to 2021. His compositions have been performed around the world and he has released dozens of works for chorus, brass quintet, opera and 54 | May 20 - July 12, 2022 thewholenote.com

orchestra. Music of the City and Stars is his 20th album and has MacDonald on archtop guitar paired with the Quatuor Saguenay string quartet (formerly the Alcan Quartet). There are two multimovement works on the album, Lyra and Restless City. Lyra is played in seven short movements with no breaks and tells the story of the god Hermes’ invention of the lyre. The titles (including Orpheus and the Argonauts, Orpheus and Hades, The Death of Eurydice) are suggestive of the moods the movements work through. MacDonald’s electric guitar is distanced sonically from the quartet by his use of chorus and delay throughout this piece. String quartet and jazz guitar is an unusual and intriguing combination which MacDonald has the composition skills and guitar chops to bring off very well. Restless City is jazz inspired and his archtop guitar often blends in with the quartet. The three movements – Bird Talk, Dameronics and Monkin’ Around – refer to the jazz legends Charlie Parker, Tadd Dameron and Thelonious Monk. Bird Talk’s guitar lines are a bit boppy while the quartet plays angular lines with a staccato edge. Dameronics is slower with some beautiful harmonies reminiscent of the jazz composer›s style. Monkin’ Around contains much lively interplay between the guitar and quartet parts which are sometimes lighthearted and at other times intense. Music of the City and Stars is a thoughtful and entrancing collaboration. Ted Parkinson Bekah Simms – Ghost Songs Thomas Morris; Amanda Lowry; Kalun Leung; Joseph Petric people | places | records PPR 031 (peopleplacesrecords.bandcamp.com/ album/ghost-songs) ! Bekah Simms’ most recent release, Ghost Songs, continues to explore her expert electronic music compositional ideas in four works for solo instrumentalists. The first three tracks are part of her mind-boggling Skinscape series, featuring the interaction of a soloist playing traditional/ extended techniques live, with an electronically disembodied version of themselves. Skinscape II (2019), with soloist Thomas Morris (oboe), combines contrasting oboe and electronic sounds which at times melt together, or contrast like the high-pitched oboe notes above a softer electronic background. In Skinscape I (2017), flutist Amanda Lowry’s superb extended techniques, fast trills and melodic lines are coupled by such gratifying electronic effects as spooky growling, pitch-bending tones and airy background sounds. Skinscape III (2021) features loud attention-grabbing electronic wailing effects, trombonist Kalun Leung’s held notes and the almost painful gritty sounding electronics, which subside with the calm closing trombone. In an acousmatic version of Jubilant Phantoms (2021), Simms combines fragments from accordionist Joseph Petric’s recordings with electronic echoing chordal drones. The combination of higher pitched accordion sounds and lower electronic pitches creates an especially beautiful effect. Recording and production are fantastic! Simms’ compositions range from disconcerting and perhaps troubling sounds to calming breathy sound environments. Her electro and acoustic instrumental sound combinations open the door to a new world of music all her own. The Canadian Music Centre has just announced Simms as the winner of the 2022 Harry Freedman Recording Award for Metamold, a work for large ensemble and electronics. Metamold was a triple commission from Crash Ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, and NYNME as a result of Simms winning the prestigious 2019 Barlow Prize. Tiina Kiik JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Jewlia Eisenberg – The Ginzburg Geography Charming Hostess Tzadik (tzadik.com) ! Acknowledging that labels and classifications of music are inelegant and confusing at the best of times, I cannot, for the life of me, begin to properly describe or compartmentalize this curious, extremely musical and compelling album: The Ginzburg Geography by Charming Hostess, a trio comprised of Jewlia Eisenberg, Cynthia Taylor and Marika Hughes. Not only is this programmatic recording interesting in its theme – exploring the lives and work of Natalia and Leone Ginzburg, Jewish anti-fascist political activists who played central roles in the Italian resistance movement – but the narrative of how this recording came to be, following the untimely death of singer and principal performer Eisenberg in 2021 at age 49, is equal parts tragic and captivating. Both storylines coalesce here on this fine 2022 Tzadik release that is both historical in its mining of a fascinating story of activism (combining research, creative reportage and original content creation) and historic in that it represents the final creative project of Eisenberg, a longtime respected contributor to the creative music scenes of New York and San Francisco’s Bay area. Further, as Eisenberg’s passing occurred prior to the album’s completion, it took the efforts of longtime collaborator Hughes to complete this recording consistent with Eisenberg’s original vision. This would be, I imagine, a difficult process not only personally, but providing a sort of musicological challenge where information on composer and creative intentions were gleaned from notes and past performances before being willed to fruition on the recording here. Classifications be damned, there is much to learn from and to like with this provocative and thoughtful new release. Andrew Scott Ryan Oliver With Strings Ryan Oliver; Bernie Senensky; Neil Swainson; Terry Clarke Cellar Music CM102021 (cellarlive.com) ! Juno-nominated, Victoria-based saxophonist, Ryan Oliver, has collaborated with a fantastic group of musicians on his latest release, making for a captivating musical voyage that any listener will want to join. The album features a group of famed musicians, with Bernie Senensky on piano, Terry Clarke on drums and rounded out by Neil Swainson on bass. What makes this album a truly unique endeavour is the string accompaniment that is present throughout each track, adding a wonderfully melodious and classy flavour to the record. Most songs were written by Oliver himself and arranged by Mark Crawford. A soaring and sonorous string melody along with Oliver’s mellow saxophone solo lead into the first piece, The Ballad of Buffalo Bill. A slightly mysterious yet positively groovy song, this will get any listener’s toe tapping and body moving. Tango for Astor, one of the pieces not penned by Oliver, features a rhythmic, fittingly tango-esque groove from Clarke and a beautiful, pizzicato bass line played by Swainson. Eddie is an up-tempo tune with a scintillating riff in the strings underpinning a masterful saxophone line and piano solo showcasing Senensky’s talent perfectly. To close out the album, Walk Up on the Road has a bluesy and gospel flavour to it, perhaps a fitting melancholic yet positive end to this record. For anyone looking to add touch of “James Bond-esque” class and style to their night in, this is the album for you. Kati Kiilaspea thewholenote.com May 20 - July 12, 2022 | 55

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