8 years ago

Volume 16 Issue 2 - October 2010

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Concerts
  • Artistic
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Ensemble

The Xenakis show was on

The Xenakis show was on display (andstill is, until October 17) at the exquisiteCanadian Centre for Architecture. It was amuch more subdued affair. But this museuma musician, especially since Xenakis startedout as an architect. After he left his mentor,Le Corbusier, and devoted himself tocomposing, his architectural concepts con-entin the examples of his scores, sketchesand architectural drawings on display here.“Two interesting catalogues,and one question...”But the show itself was a disappointment,crowded with little imagination or style intotwo drab rooms. From this show, a visitorunfamiliar with Xenakis’s music would neverknow how exhilarating it is. There were earphoneson offer, but I didn’t try them out.Nor did the few people I saw in the exhibitrooms, since they were all on their way(which gave me the feeling that the exhibitionwas located in the washroom entrance).There were many fascinating items ondisplay, such as a letter from Le Corbusierwas provided). Wall labels were unilluminating.So you could easily leave this showknowing little more about Xenakis and hismusic than before. It turns out that this showworks much better as a book – the catalogue,Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect,Visionary, edited by co-curators SharonKanach and Carey Lovelace, is informativeand attractive. It was published by TheDrawing Center in New York, where theHow different, I wonder, would the visualexperience of Xenakis’s work have beenif he had been given the same treatment asMiles, with displays featuring maquettesof his buildings, video, large-scale photographs,and an example of a sixxen (themicrotonal percussion instrument he designed)on display – complemented by re-it were mounted in Toronto,such a show would makesoundaXis festival of Xenakis’swork that took placehere four years ago.Performing XenakisTranslated, compiled andedited by Sharon KanachPendragon Press436 pages, photos, scoreexcerpts;.00 USWhat the Montreal showdoesn’t accomplish for themusic of Xenakis, this collection of essaysdoes. Editor Sharon Kanach (who also cocuratedthe CCA show) worked closely withXenakis for a number of years. Since hisdeath in 2001, she has been editing his writingson architecture. Here Kanach providesthe vivid context for Xenakis’s music thatwas missing from the show by focusing onwhat’s involved in playing his music. All thecontributors here have profound ties to Xenakisin one way or another.Harpsichordist Elizabeth Chojnackadescribes one of the piecesXenakis wrote for her, Khoaï,saying that “never had theharpsichord sounded sograndiose and novel.” PianistMarie-Françoise Bucquetgives some idea of the demands Xenakismade on performers when she envisionsa “League of Xenakis Performers” formusicians who have “passed the Xenakisinitiation.” Canadian bass-clarinetist LoriFreedman talks about Xenakis’s “instinctiveunderstanding of the clarinet,” dispellingassumptions that his music is emotionallyunengaged. Pianist and conductor RogerWoodward reveals aspects of Xenakis’s personality,saying that he was so generous andmodest, “we gave him the best of ourselves.”Pianist Stephanos Thomopoulos throws lighton Xenakis’s various systems of notation,like his use of ten staves in Synaphai – oneAll these performers are passionateabout the rewards of mastering the challengesinvolved in performing Xenakis.Percussionist Steven Schick describes howhis own body has been moulded by “tensof thousands of hours learning, practicing,packing, carrying, touring and performing”the solo piece Psappha, with its colourfularray of percussion instruments. When hewrites, “One of the most stunning momentsin all of 20th century music is the circularacceleration at the end of Persephassa,” heleaves me wanting to listen to it.Czech novelist Milan Kundera gets thecludedin his own new collection of essays,Encounter (Harper)), he writes abouthow Xenakis’s music “reconciled me to thehere becomes not just how to perform Xenakis,but what makes it so powerful?The Sights and Sounds ofPerformance in Early Music: Essaysin Honour of Timothy J. McGeeEdited by Maureen Epp and Brian E PowerAshgate Publishing310 pages, illustrations, score excerpts;.95 USAnother welcome collection of essayscelebrates the versatile career of musicologistTimothy McGee. McGee taught formany years at the University of Toronto be-cantcontributions to the study of Canadianmusic. Toronto audiences with long memorieswill remember him singing bass in theToronto Consort, which he founded in 1972 .the middle ages and renaissance – and that’swhat editors Maureen Epp and Brian Powerhave focussed on.What I enjoyed most about this collectionis that each writer has approached a particulartopic not just with a scholar’s eye buta musician’s ear. The scope of each enquirygoes beyond investigating what’s written onthe page of a score to understanding how itwould have been, and could be, performed.John Haines describes his discovery ofwhat he believes to be the only recordedfrom a written score. It’s an exciting bit ofscholarly detective work. Randall Rosenfelddemonstrates how the results of researchmedieval music. Robert Toft shows that anearly motet of Monteverdi Baci soavi e cari(Sweet and tender kisses) is already a mature,masterful work, especially in the way heconveys the passionate language of the text.In “The Story of O,” Andrew Hughes pullsoff a scholarly tour de force by exploring adetail in a late 12th century chant, an extra“o” sound in the setting of the word “precio.”Something that he considers odd about theeight-note melisma on the second “o” – “itsrange, its uniqueness, its inappropriateemotional tone” – leads him to interestingconclusions.Even if, as Hughes readily acknowledges,“most modern performances for muchmedieval music could not possibly representeven closely an authentic performance,” bythis collection of essays builds up a pictureof how medieval and renaissance musicwould have been performed, and what itwould have sounded like. This worthy tributeto a valued colleague and teacher showshow much musicology can contribute to teperformance of early music. At the sametime, it provides a testament to the strengthof musicology in Canada.Address inquiries to bookshelf@thewholenote.com60 thewholenote.comOctober 1 - November 7, 2010

The recording towhich I have returnedtime and again in thepast six weeks, moreoften than to any discin recent memory,is titled Darkness Sure Becomes This Cityby an American string band based in Bostoncalled Joy Kills Sorrow ( both coasts of the USA, the band isfronted by BC native Emma Beaton who wasthe recipient of the Canadian Folk MusicAward for Best New Artist for her debut album“Pretty Fair Maid” several years ago.Although an accomplished cellist and picturedfrailing a banjo on her own website,Beaton’s contribution to this “new grass”band is strictly vocal with her distinctive highsoprano giving the band its signature sound.The other members bring a wonderfulvirtuosity to the mix with banjo (Wesleychampion, Matthew Arcara), mandolinmandolin scholarship to the Berklee Schoolof Music) and double bass (Bridget Kearney).Corbett and Kearney provide the harmonyvocals that are such an integral part of thebluegrass tradition, and Kearney, a pastwinner of the John Lennon SongwritingContest, contributes most of the originalsongs and arrangements which are thegroup’s mainstay. Named after the old-timeradio show which featured Bill Munroe andhis Blue Grass Boys, Joy Kills Sorrow’smusic is a compelling mix of traditionalbreakneck-paced picking and soulful balladstinged with wry humour. Favourites includeNew Shoes, the denseand rocking Send Me A Letter, Kearney’ssardonic Thinking of You and Such (“I missyou, but not that much – it’s not like I sleepin your clothes; I’m just thinking of you andEditor’s CornerDAVID OLDSsuch”), and Beaton’s quirky You Make MeFeel Drunk.Discovering this disc in my in-box andthen spending an evening with Bruce Surteeshearing Joy Kills Sorrow play live at Hugh’sRoom last month were distinct highlights ofmy summer. According to their blog, theytravelled 8,726 miles and “killed 15,965 kgof sorrow” on the tour that brought them toToronto and the Shelter Valley Folk Festivalin Grafton. They certainly provided me withsome Joy and I hope they will pass this wayagain soon.Another very different sort of string bandthat I greatly enjoy is Les Violons du Roy(or as one CBC Radio Two host was wontto say in years gone by – Les Violons DooWah), Bernard Labadie’s Quebec City-basedbaroque chamber orchestra that has beenbroadening its repertoire to include the 20thcentury in recent years under the directionof Jean-Marie Zeitouni. For their latestventure into the modern era they are joinedby soprano Karina Gauvin in a crystallineperformance of Benjamin Britten’s LesIlluminations (ATMA ACD2 2601). Britten’ssetting of the poetry and prose of ArthurRimbaud with its dynamic contrasts anddramatic range is fully realized by thisoutstanding soloist, sensitively accompaniedby the strings. The disc includes convincing,full-bodied performances of the Prelude andFugue for 18-part String Orchestra, Op.29and Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge,Op.10. Gauvin rejoins the ensemble for theNow sleeps thecrimson petal, a movement Britten originallyintended for the Serenade for Tenor, Hornand Strings, Op.31 but discarded beforeby Alfred Lord Tennyson are set as a gentlebarcarole with the voice in duet with thehorn effectively provided by Louis-PhilippeMarsolais. This is a timely release for Torontoaudiences who will have the opportunityto experience Britten’s Death in Venicein Canadian Opera Company performancesfrom October 16 to November 6. music in an organized fashion goes backalmost two decades when I packed up mycello and headed off to CAMMAC’s summercourses at Lake MacDonald in Quebec.There I had the life-changing pleasure ofa week of playing in a string quintet underthe tutelage of one of the members of LesViolons du Roy, Michelle Seto. I have rarelyfelt the power of music as strongly as on thaton playing the repeated pedal note of theopening of Bach’s St. John Passion when thechorus suddenly entered with the haunting“Herr, Herr, Herr unser Herrscher” sendingshivers down my spine. To this day the St.John Passion and Mozart’s String Quintet inB-Flat Major K174 remain among my mostvivid musical memories.It is evidently thanks to Mozart’s friendcontinued on page 68Canada’s best classical & jazz onlinegrigorian.comOctober 1 - November 7, 2010 61

Copied successfully!

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)