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Volume 14 - Issue 6 - March 2009

pretty or gritty. Not

pretty or gritty. Not conventionally "pretty"however, since the modus operandi involveschunky air blown through the horns' body tubes,echoing ghost notes, adagio pitch-sliding plusextended meditative and undulating textureswhere audible air intake alternates with fluttertonguing. Repetition of selected clusters or tonesare part of the strategy as are times whereBrenders seems to be playing two parallel reedlines - one consisting of puffing notes, the otherornamenting them with ghost tones.(www.aimtoronto.org)Another alumnus of the orchestra's Guelphforay is guitarist Ken Aldcroft, whose sologuitar lexicon on VoCaBuLaRy (Trio RecordsTRP-SSOl-008) is as variedas Brenders' is forsaxophone. Using diversetunings, the guitarist'sdistinctive flattish tonemakes full use of flangingand reverb. Some tracksbecome exercises in controlledfeedback, others are built around metallicmicro tones and snapping flat picking. Sometimeshis spiky runs reference Monkish licks;other times, loops, claw-hammer banjo tones orserrated rock-music extensions are present.Like Brenders he creates a call-and-responsepattern as if a guitar duo is present. Howeverhis repeated phrases often fade into silences ortransform themselves into patterns that form acombination of slack-key and microtonal slurs.These spidery, interlaced textures reverberatingback onto one another are most accessible onSterling Road Blues , which matches a nonshowyblues progression that emphasizes thebass, with hesitant string-clumping, finallydownshifting into ringing, but not reverberatingtimbres. (www.kenaldcroft.com)Bringing this game plan to group improv,Trolleys (Trio Records TRP-009) finds Aldcroft's Convergence Ensemble meanderingbetween group and solowork. Trombonist Thomson,alto saxophonist~ eysEvan Shaw, drummerJoe Sorbara and bassistWes Neal join Aldcrofthere for an outing wherepauses are as much apart of the sound as polyphony, though there arepoints at which disconnect is evident betweensoloists and band. Individually each playerimpresses, especially Sorbara with drum sticknerve beats, thick ruffs and distinct hi-hat bops;Shaw, who undulates accentuated lines with awide vibrato and snorting obbligatos; plusThomson's tongue-blurring plunger work andstaccato grace notes. At points the trombonist'sblustery braying corrals the others into a bluesystop-time amble which moves forward for aperiod until all the players disperse on individualpaths. A rubato near-ballad, Apples showcasesthe most co-operation, involving multilayeredcounterpoint from each player. Shaw's irregularlyshaped reed osculation makes commoncause with Aldcroft's rhythmically sophisticatedechoing fills, while walking bass propels theintersection of burbling trombone runs andringing guitar licks. Before the climax, SorbaraF EBRUARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2009gooses the tempo as the piece speedily doublethen triples in time, adding discursive riffs fromThomson and Shaw .Impressive as part of an orchestra, AIMTorontomembers are just as estimable individually.POT POURRI - Extended PlayWORLDS OF MUSIC IN TORONTOby Karen AgesThe Toronto area boasts some of the finesttalent representing non-Western and traditionalmusic, and four recently released CDs attest tothe rich diversity of the city's cultural fabric.The Georgian vocal ensemble Darbazi hasbeen around since 1995,performing music fromthe Caucasus region thatbridges Europe and Asia.While director ShalvaMakharashvilli hails fromthat region, the other nineor so members are primarilylocal , but you wouldn't know it, listening tothis CD entitled Vakhtanguri. This is folkmusic and vocal polyphony at its finest, and it'seasy to hear why Darbazi has been so wellreceived during visits to Georgia. The ensembleand soloists deliver each number with that wonderfulopen-throated vocal style characteristicof Georgian music, good diction, and outstandingharmonic intonation. The title song , describedas a table song, is one of the most intricate,and features yodelling from memberDavid Anderson (of Clay and Paper Theatrefame) . The dance song Kakhuri Satsekvaofeatures Makharashvilli as melismatic vocalsoloist. Some of the numbers are accompaniedby traditional instruments; both plucked andbowed, expertly played by ensemble members.All songs are traditional, and include "toasting"songs, dance, love, and work songs, liturgicaland epic poem settings, and songs about life ingeneral. The CD is dedicated to the memory ofensemble member John Martin, who passedaway in 2007. (www.darbazi.com)Having celebrated its tenth anniversary,Nagata Shachu (formerlythe Kiyoshi NagataEnsemble) recentlyreleased its sixth CD,Tsuzure (Tapestry).Toronto's best knownJapanese Taiko ensembledelivers polishedperformances of eleven works, composed byfounder and director Kiyoshi Nagata and ensemblemember Aki Takahashi. These compositionsare very much rooted in Japanese tradition,however with what Nagata, a formerKodo Drummers protege, refers to as "lookingwithin the box". What distinguishes this ensembleis its use of instruments in addition to Taikodrums. The title piece of this CD is a goodexample of this, employing the zither-like koto,shinobue (transverse flute) and ankle bellsalongside the drums, weaving a delicate textureof sound. Other instruments used include shakuhachi(end blown flute) , and shamisen (lute) ,with various others added for the final piece,WWW . TH EWHOLENOTE. COMMamagoto, literally "child's play" . Koe Narashiis purely vocal. Percussion lovers won't bedisappointed though ; this is primarily a drummingensemble, featuring Taiko drums of allshapes and sizes generously donated by theirdrum-manufacturing sponsors in Japan. Expertlyengineered, this CD is dedicated to the memoryof Nagata's teacher Oguchi Daihachi (1924-2008). (www.nagatashachu.com)Husband and wife team Maryem and ErnieTollar need no introduction here; Maryem isprobably this country's best known Arabicvocalist, while Ernie is a multi-instrumentalwind player and composer. Cairo to Toronto(ROM 09) is their thirdCD together, and is to acertain extent an autobiographicalaccount ofMary em's own journey,exploring themes fromalienation and longing tofreedom and hope for abetter future. The title also refers to the twoguest artists on this recording, Dr. Alfred Gamil(violin) and Mohamed Aly (violin and oud),who came here from Egypt to work and performwith Maryem and her ensemble this pastyear. This is a stunning recording all around - amelding of traditional Arabic-rooted melodicstyle with jazz and pop nuances.The vocal selectionsare sung and primarily composed byMaryem, with some of the lyrics by her uncleEhab Lotayef. Some of my favourite trackshowever are among the five purely instrumentalnumbers, three of which are composed by ErnieTollar, the other two by Alfred Garnil. Thesesound the most authentically traditional Arabic,though are not quite. The track Duetto Nahawand,a violin duet featuring Gamil and Alycloses the CD. The other musicians are familiarto Toronto audiences: Levon Ichkhanian(guitar) , Andrew Stewart and Rich Brown(bass) , Deb Sinha (various percussion), AlanHetherington and Daniel Barnes (drums).(www.cdbaby.com/cd/maryemernietollar)When we think of sitar and tabla, the vasttradition of Indian classical music comes tomind. But United Voices departs from thispath. Described as "An Inda-Canadian ventureof world Christian hymns" , produced by Hamilton-basedsitarist Neeraj Prem, this is gospelwith an Indian twist.While the overall sound isdecidedly Indian, the textsand musical settings areindicative of another Eastmeets West endeavour.The recording opens witha lively rendition of TheLord's Prayer (composed by Manick DeepMasih) , and includes settings of other Christianhymns arranged Prem. Two songs (My Heartand My Offering) written by Prem, were inspiredby ancient Hindi hymns. The "band"includes sarangi (bowed lute), shehnai (Indianoboe), keyboards, saxophone, guitar, percussion, and several fine vocalists. The closingnumber, Amazing Grace, is a seventeen minutemeditation (Prem and Margaret Bardos vocals) ,retaining the melody that we 're all familiar withbut employing Indian vocal/melodic techniques61

and instrumental accompaniment that remindsme of the arrhythmic "alap" section ofsome Indian classical pieces. This CD isdedicated to the memory of Prem's parents.(www .ragamusicschool. corn)OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLESFine old recordings re-releasedby Bruce SurteesThe Hidden Heart is a DVD of aCJ2001 TV documentary by JakeMartin concerning BenjaminBritten, his compositions and hisrelationship with Peter Pears(EMI 50999 21657191). Followingthe immediate success of PeterGrimes in 1945, Britten was acclaimed andmusic lovers around the world waited for hisnext opera. Then came The Rape of Lucretia in1946, Albert Herring in 1947 and The Beggar'sOpera in 1948. The relationship between thecomposer and his tenor was no secret but it wasagainst the law in Britain in those days. "TheHidden Heart" leads us through their lives tothe last opera, Death in Venice. Some of theirprivate correspondence is read and it is theirlast words which close this exceptionally wellfashioned appreciation of their special relationship.Film clips of Britten, the operas, rehearsals,and many new and archival videos aroundThe War Requiem are featured in this memorablepresentation. Get It.SCHUBERT:A recent Britten-Pears DVDfrom the BBC archives (DECCA0743257) contains a formal Win­WI NTER terreise produced by JohnRE IS E Culshaw in 1970 with Britten"""" , .... ..,..., accompanying off-stage and alsothree of the songs filmed in rehearsalsat home. Many of Britten's arrangementsof folk songs are heard in a recital beforea select audience in 1946. For me, these littlesongs were worth the price of the disc ... TheFoggy Foggy Dew; The Ploughboy; 0 Waly,Waly; Oliver Cromwell; and many others. Oh,by the way .. . Decca has assembled their Brittenrecordings into several packages: Operas,volume 1 on 8CDs (4756020): Operas, volume2 on lOCDs (4756029): Choral works on lOCDs(4656040); and a mainly instrumental collectionof7CDs (4756051). Check out the contents withyour dealer or on the Decca site at http://www . deccaclassics. corn.Last year's MET production of Peter Grimes,as seen live in high definition onmovie screens around the world,is available on an EMI DVDexactly as seen live, plus interviewsand behind the scenes activities(EMI 509921 741494, 2DVDs). Donald Runnicles conductswith Anthony Dean Giffey perfectly castas the unfortunate Grimes. Watching at home isquite an experience, arguably better than sittingin the opera house, especially with the (optional)English subtitles to clarify the text.Among the foremost violin exponents of the 20thCentury, Christian Ferras (France 1933-1982)62holds a special place. He had a d 'rather short career but while €.·his playing was well in theleague of the superstars of theera, Heifetz, Oistrakh andFrancescatti, he suffered fromsevere depression which eventually led him toend his life. His achievements from an earlyage were so sensational that EMI placed him intheir top line-up along with Menuhin and Oistrakh.His success was such that the powerhouseDGG picked him to assume the top position ontheir roster. In short time he recorded the fourmost popular concertos of the repertoire,Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Beethoven and Sibeliuswith Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic.These marvellous recordings remained in theactive catalogue for over forty years. OORE­MI's 2cd set of four live concerto performancesfrom Paris confirms his place in the violinists'pantheon (DHR-7880/1). The MendelssohnE minor (1965) is beautifully communicative;Tchaikovsky (1968) impassioned;Mozart K.219 (1955) pure and stylistic whileJean Martinon's intriguing, post-Berg 2ndconcerto (1968) is brilliant. Derived from recentlydiscovered pristine radio archives, this isan attractive collection.The illustrious Zino Francescatti (France 1902-1981) had a totally different kind of career andpersonal life. For more than half a century hewas a frequent and favourite guest of almostevery important orchestra in the world. Weknow him from his many Columbia recordingsWWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COMwith the New York, Philadelphiaand Cleveland orchestrasbut none with Boston, withwhom he often performed.OOREMI has corrected thisin Volume 3 of their Francescattidiscs (DHR-7888) with Charles Munchconducting the Tchaikovsky (1958, stereo) andBrahms Double (1956) with first chair cellistSamuel Mayes. Hear Francescatti in his primeand his distinctive sonority and characteristicartistry. I have reservations about the sound butthe three bonus tracks from The Bell TelephoneHour of 1952 are very good.Silvia Marcovici (Romania b.1952) had a sparklingcareer during the last three decades of thecentury. Lesser known than the above, judgingfrom these live performances she well deservedprime billing on a major label but was onlyheard on a number of lesser ones, except forthe Sibelius on BIS and the Glazunov withStokowski on Decca. Marcovici's completemastery of the instrument is amply conveyedplaying seven concertos in the new OOREMIset (DHR-7942-4) containing 2 CDs and aDVD. Her characteristic sensitivity andwarmth illuminate the Tchaikovsky, Brahms,Beethoven, and Saint-SaensNo.3 on the CD. On the DVDshe plays Lalo, the Bruch no. land the Bartok 2nd to perfection,made all the more enjoyableby her striking, charismaticstage presence.

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