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Volume 15 Issue 7 - April 2010

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Book ShelfPAMELA

Book ShelfPAMELA MARGLESTime and Anthony Braxtonby Stuart BroomerMercury Press240 pages, photos; .95The influential American performer, composerand writer Anthony Braxton is bestknown for his work in experimental jazz.He’s one of the most recorded jazz artistsaround, and he has receivedmany honours,including a MacArthurgenius award, which heused to create his operaTrillium R: Shala FearsFor The Poor. “Ultimately,we know more intenselyhow jazz worksas a result of how hismusic works,” writesToronto writer StuartBroomer in this thoughtful study of Braxton’smusic.“There’s far more time inside a Braxtonperformance,” he suggests, “than mightbe measured by a clock.” Braxton’s explorationsin the many applications of the conceptof musical time provide Broomer witha viewpoint on the workings of Braxton’scompositions and performances. But thisfocus doesn’t stop Broomer from rangingwidely. He even manages to work in a discussionof Braxton’s preference for wearingcardigan sweaters.In his performances on saxophone, clarinet,and piano, Braxton plays the standardjazz repertoire as powerfully as his owncompositions. While his mastery of jazztraditions keeps him in the continuum ofjazz, his creative imagination takes him waybeyond its outer limits.Broomer reveals Braxton to be both a visionarycomposer and an imaginative improviser.Braxton is an exciting performer whoplays as fast as – often faster than – anyoneelse around. Broomer describes Braxton’smusic as “unusual collocations of floatingtime and abrasive sounds”. What concernsBroomer is to show just how important avoice in both jazz and classical music heis, and how he transcends the barriers betweencomposed and non-composed music,working to keep both art forms evolving.Broomer goes a step further to make a casefor Braxton as a classical composer as well,whose music should be performed in concerthalls alongside composers he admires likeCage, Stockhausen and XenakisThere are extensive notes, an index, andphotos. I do wish there were samples ofBraxton’s innovative scores here, to complementthis fascinating perspective on Braxton’smusic.Parallel Play: Growing Up with UndiagnosedAsperger’sby Tim PageDoubleday208 pages, photos; .00When music critic Tim Page was forty-fiveyears old, he was diagnosed with Asperger’ssyndrome, a form ofhigh-functioning autism.Suddenly, problemsthat had plaguedhim since childhoodbecame understandable.“My pervasivechildhood memoryis an excruciatingawareness of my ownstrangeness,” he writesin this memoir. Page isan elegant writer, with a delightfully sardonicsense of humour. But it’s his probing honestythat makes Parallel Play so affecting.At the same time, his memoirs provideinsight into the relationship between talentand mental illness. As well as being difficultas a kid, Page had been precociouslytalented. He excelled as a pianist, composer,film-maker and writer, with a phenomenalmemory and a disconcerting wit. Role-modelslike his grand-mother’s tenant, the musiccritic Alan M. Kriegsman, steered him intowriting about music.Some of the most interesting passageshere deal with Page’s relationship withGlenn Gould, whose writings he collectedafter Gould’s death. He talks about theirfriendship. But he doesn’t discuss Gould’sown posthumous diagnosis of Asperger’s. Iwonder whether Page and Gould ever recognizedeach other as suffering from the samecondition.Page, who now teaches journalism, is anuncommonly sensitive music critic, and histwo volumes of criticism, Music from theRoad (Oxford) from 1992 and Tim Page onMusic (Amadeus) from 2002 are still worthreading. In sharing his experiences with Asperger’s,however retroactively, he opensthe question of how much this syndrome affectedhis reviews. Discussing Steve Reich’sMusic for 18 Musicians, he writes, “Today,I find myself wondering if I would have respondedso profoundly to this starkly reiterative,rigidly patterned music had I not hadAsperger’s syndrome.”In any case, the role of Asperger’s inmaking him who he is simply cannot be determined.He writes, “I wouldn’t wish thecondition on anybody - I’ve spent too muchof my life isolated, unhappy and conflicted– yet I am also convinced that many of thethings I’ve done were accomplished not despitemy Asperger’s syndrome but becauseof it.” This is a brave book. I am lookingforward to its sequel.Brunhilda and the Ringby Jorge LujanGroundwood Books96 pages illustrated; .95This month Toronto-area audiences have anopportunity to experience the world of Wagneronce again whenthe Canadian OperaCompany presents TheFlying Dutchman. LikeThe Flying Dutchman,Wagner’s four-operaRing Cycle, whichopened the COC’s newhall four years ago, isbased on ancient mythsand legends. But it involvesmany more characters. Jorge Lujánfocuses his retelling of Wagner’s libretto onBrunhilda, interpreting it as the betrayal ofa loving, loyal woman. He even switches thefinal sequence of events in the last opera ofthe cycle, The Twilight of the Gods, so thatthe ending belongs to Brunhilda instead ofthe triumphant Rhinemaidens ...To read the rest of this review, see “Bookshelf”on The WholeNote’s website, www.thewholenote.com. 52 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COMApril 1 - May 7, 2010

Editor’s CornerThe latest Centrediscs release, featuringworks by Alexina Louie, Violet Archer andLarysa Kuzmenko, appropriately arrivedon International Women’s Day. PianistChristina Petrowska Quilico is the soloiston 3 Concerti (CMCCD 15610), a discwhich serves toremind us thatthere is a grandtradition ofconcerto writingin this country andbegs the question– why are they sorarely played?According to theEncyclopaedia of Music in Canada, interestin the concertante form began in earnest in1938 with Ballade for viola and strings byGodfrey Ridout and the following year withViolet Archer’s Concerto for the unusualcombination of timpani and orchestra. Pianoconcertos came to the fore in the 1940s, with13 premiered between 1944 (Healey Willan)and 1949 (Clermont Pépin’s second). The’50s saw the focus turn to the violin concertowith particularly successful examples byAlexander Brott, Murray Adaskin andJohn Weinzweig, but as this disc attestsinterest in the piano never waned. We arepresented with works spanning four decades,from 1956 (Archer) to 1996 (Kuzmenko).Of the three, Louie’s (1984) is the mostexotic. Drawing on the composer’s orientalheritage both melodically and in some of theinstrumentation in the percussion section, thework is a skilful and exuberant blending ofEast and West. Petrowska Quilico is in fineform with the National Arts Centre Orchestraunder Alex Pauk. Interestingly, consideringher first foray into the concerto form, VioletArcher’s Piano Concerto No. 1 opens witha flourish from the timpani before the pianoenters in moto perpetuo mode. Recorded in1981 by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra underJohn Eliot Gardiner, I am a bit disappointedwith the audio quality of this transfer, buthave no complaints about the performance.Somewhat reminiscent of Archer’s teacherBela Bartok in its orchestration, melodicallythis is a bold and mature work reflective ofits time. The final piece is the most recentbut also the most old-fashioned. Kuzmenkois an unabashed Romantic whose modelseems to be Rachmaninov, although here tooI sense the influence of Bartok. The work isflamboyantly virtuosic and Petrowska Quilicotakes full advantage of the opportunity torise to the occasion. Recorded at the MasseyHall New Music Festival in 1996 withJukka-Pekka Saraste conducting the TorontoSymphony, I am left wondering why thiswould be programmed as new music. It isa well-crafted, dramatic work that would bewell at home on any mainstream orchestralconcert and, like the others on this disc,deserves to be heard more often.Another Centrediscs release, PianoAtlantica (CMCCD-15210) is a marvellouscollection of musicby composers fromacross the countrywho now maketheir home in theAtlantic provinces.Pianist BarbaraPritchard, herselfa transplantfrom BritishColumbia via Toronto, where she was amember of Arraymusic and Continuum andperformed with New Music Concerts onseveral memorable occasions, now livesin Halifax and teaches at Dalhousie. Thefirst notes we hear, in Jerome Blais’ ConStella, are pounded chords at the extremereaches of the piano’s keyboard. In his shortpiece Blais, originally from Montreal, alsoventures inside the piano for Aeolian harplikestrumming of the strings, knocking onthe inside of the instrument and employinga number of percussive “preparations”.B.C. native Ian Crutchley contributes a setof Variations based on an 11-note pitchseries which holds our attention throughoutits 20 minute journey. Another West Coasttransplant, Anthony Genge’s Four QuietPreludes offer a welcome respite from thedrama of the first two pieces and Pritchardlingers lovingly over the long decays, neverrushing to the next note. Maritime-bornRichard Gibson is well represented on thisdisc, with a selection from his 25 Preludes- highlights include Hommage à Erik andRicercare à 3 – and Variation, a short workin which the composer limits himself to a twooctave range corresponding to the compass ofa toy piano. A founding member of Toronto’sContinuum collective, Venezuelan-bornClark Ross is now the artistic director of theNewfound Music Festival in St. John’s. Ross’at times rollicking and at times contemplativeLast Dance brings this fine disc to a close.Recorded at the St. Mary’s University ArtGallery in Halifax, both pianist and pianosound exceptional.Armenian Chamber Music is the 10threlease from Toronto’s Amici ChamberEnsemble and their first for the ATMA label(ACD2 2609). Pianist Serouj Kradjian, whorecently replacedfounding memberPatricia Parr,brings a wealth ofrepertoire fromhis homeland aswell as his owncompositionalskills to themix. Theother core members, clarinettist JoaquinValdepeñas and cellist David Hetherington,are joined by violinist Benjamin Bowmanin various combinations for works by ArnoBabadjanian, Aram Khachaturian andAlexander Arutiunian. An unexpected treatupon listening without first checking theliner notes, was the warm and compellingvoice of Isabel Bayrakdarian in Oror, alullaby for soprano, clarinet and four cellosby Parsegh Ganatchian. Guests for this trackare Hetherington’s TSO colleagues WinonaZelenka, Roberta Janzen and freelancer AmyLaing. Following Kradjian’s haunting anddramatic Elegy for Restive Souls the lullabyhas a magical quality that leaves us regrettingits brief duration. Khachaturian’s Trio forclarinet, violin and piano with it unusualAndante con dolore opening movement leadsgently out of the lullaby, but is lively, playfuland lyrical in the movements that follow.Arutiunian’s 1992 Suite for the same forcesprovides a rambunctious finale for Amici’snew disc.Publicity, press kits & image consultingfor performers416.544.1803 www.lizpr.comApril 1 - May 7, 2010 www.thewholenote.com 53

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