5 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 8 - May 2015

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DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSLast month Bruce Surtees wrote thatDeutsche Grammophon had markedPierre Boulez’s 90th birthday year withthe release of a 44-CD box set of all his DGrecordings of music composed in the 20thcentury. Another project to honour the iconiccomposer is Pierre Boulez – Le DomaineMusical 1956-1967 (Accord/Universal 4811510,10CDs) which documents the dozen yearsduring which founder Boulez was at the helm of this seminal Frenchconcert society. This set has many personal resonances for me. It wasthe Domaine Musical recordings of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nachtand Pierrot lunaire (both included here) that originally sparked myinterest in the Second Viennese School of composition (and eventuallyled to naming my contemporary music program at CKLN-FMTransfigured Night). Other Domaine recordings provided my introductionto the music of such composers as Messiaen, Varèse,Stockhausen, Henze, Pousseur and lesser known names likes GilbertAmy and Jean-Claude Éloy.These new sound worlds were revelations to me and had a profoundeffect on my musical development. It was these recordings under thedirection of Boulez, and others that they led me to, which set the stagefor many of my subsequent life choices. The radio show, which airedfrom 1984 until 1991, provided the opportunity to meet some of themost important creators of the music of our time, many thanks to thegenerosity of New Music Concerts artistic director Robert Aitken. Thisin turn ultimately led to my accepting the position of general managerat New Music Concerts in 1999 – after stints at CJRT-FM and theCanadian Music Centre – a post which remains my day job. It was inthis capacity that I had the immense privilege to meet and assist PierreBoulez during his stay in Toronto to accept the Glenn Gould Prize in2002 and conduct a concert of his music which Aitken had preparedwith NMC musicians. I am tempted to say that brought my musicaldevelopment full circle, but it has in fact continued to grow thanks tothe ongoing opportunities to interact with great composers and musiciansprovided by NMC (and The WholeNote!). But enough about me…The Domaine Musical concert series began in Paris in 1954 andwas based on three tenets: the “references” (early musical figures likeDufay and Gesualdo and later pioneers like Bach); “great contemporaries”(composers of the first half of the 20th century that remainedvirtually un-performed in France like Bartók, Varèse, Schoenberg,Webern and Berg); and Boulez’ own generation (born around 1925).In addition to the ten CDs, the box includes a comprehensive morethan-100-pagebooklet (in French and English) with thoroughprogram notes, historical background and a transcription of ClaudeSamuel’s interview with Boulez from 2005 which appears on discten. In the interview Boulez discusses the philosophy and evolutionof the programming of the series, including a detailed look atthe very first concert presented: Bach’s Musical Offering, works byWebern, Stockhausen and Nono, culminating in Stravinsky’s Renard.While the bulk of the discs are arranged by subject – Les RéférencesFrançaises (Debussy, Varèse, Messiaen), Boulez the Composer, LesCompagnons de Route (Kagel, Nono, Henze, Pousseur, Stockhausen)– the set also includes an example of the original programmingidea, presenting the third concert of the 1956 season in its entirety:Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzone dalle “Sacrae Symphoniea” 5 and 3;Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments; Henze’s Concerto peril Marigny; Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques and Éloy’s Equivalences.The set opens with the Tenth Anniversary Concert featuring seminalworks by Stockhausen, Berio, Boulez (Le Marteau sans maître) andMessiaen and the final disc includes the first-ever recording of LeMarteau from 1956.Add to this a disc devoted toStravinsky and three exploringthe early, middle and matureworks of the New VienneseSchool and we are presentedwith an impressive introductionto the music of the firsthalf of the 20th century andthe seminal years of the postwargeneration of composerswho were to dominate WesternArt Music for a number ofdecades. The sound qualityof the recordings is varied,but as Bruce Surtees pointsout elsewhere in these pages“the brain soon adjusts” andthe importance of this as ahistoric document – not to mention a personally rewarding trip downmemory lane! – easily makes up for any sonic inconsistencies.Another CD of music composed around the general time of theDomaine Musical came my way this past month, but without anobvious context. The Kreutzer Quartet’s Unfold (Move Records MD3371 features works by four composers previouslyunknown to me (Don Banks, Nigel Butterley, Richard Meale and FelixWerder), as was for that matter, the string quartet itself. The backcover of the disc gives neither composer birth years nor compositiondates and I found myself thinking that, since I had not heard of them,this was likely a crop of young composersbeing championed by an equally youngensemble. I also thought that a group named“Kreutzer” would likely be most interested inthe music of Beethoven or perhaps Janáček. Iput on the disc without opening the bookletand was very surprised by what I heard. Wherewould they have found young composerswriting in such a distinctly old-fashioned way?By old-fashioned I do not mean music that sounds like it was writtenin the 18th or 19th century as is sometimes the case these days, butrather music written in the uncompromisingly “difficult” style of the50s and 60s. Eventually I decided I had better read what the booklethad to say and it seems I was wrong on all counts in the assumptions Ihad made judging the CD by its cover.Although I have not been able to determine when the quartet wasfounded, it has been around for at least 15 years and is the dedicateeof more than 200 works. Based in the UK, it is very active in Europeand its previous discography includes cycles of works by Gerhard,Finnissy, Birtwistle, Tippett and Hallgrimsson. I was also wrong aboutthe composers. Far from being young, they are all of the Boulez generation:Don Banks (Australia 1923-1980), Felix Werder (Germany/Australia 1922-2012), Nigel Butterley (Australia b. 1935) and RichardListen in!• Read the review• Click to listen• Click to buyNew this month tothe Listening more informationThom McKercher atthom@thewholenote.comRED CHAMBER’S GATHERINGAvailable & iTunes64 | May 1 - June 7, 2015

Meale (Australia 1932-2009). So there are common threads, allAustralian by birth or naturalization, and all works composed in thedecade beginning in 1964. But what is the connection of the quartetto the repertoire? I’m left scratching my head. I see that the recording,on an Australian label, was funded by the Australia Council for theArts and so perhaps that is explanation enough, but I’m still curious.I see no mention of an Australian residency or even a “Down Under”connection in the biographies of the quartet that I can find, andcertainly no mention in the disc’s booklet. I think there must be aninteresting story behind the project that remains to be told.That being said I think the music speaks well enough for itself andI’m glad to have had the opportunity to get acquainted with it. PeterSculthorpe is the only contemporary Australian composer I’ve hadmuch exposure too and this music is very different from his, whichis so grounded in the landscape and aboriginal culture. This is not tosay that the composers represented here are four peas in a pod. Eachhas a distinctive voice – Werder’s the most abrasive and Butterley’sthe most atmospheric, with Banks and Meale each echoing aspects ofSchoenberg and his school, but in individual ways – and together theyprovide an intriguing insight into a lesser-known place and time.I find it curious that the thoughtfully presented program notes,which provide welcome background on the individual works (if notof the project itself), are arranged in a different order than the piecesare presented on the disc. On second listening I chose to program theworks as per the notes described and found it a very satisfying experience,one that I would recommend to anyone interested in discoveringsome unknown classics of the 20th century.The latest Centredisc to come my way is Piano Northwest – Musicof William Pura (CMCCD 20915) featuring pianist Sylvia Shadick-Taylor performing works spanning a quarter of a century by thesenior Winnipeg-based composer. Although a founding member ofthe Manitoba Composers Association and Winnipeg’s IZ Music, as wellas serving on regional councils of the Canadian Music Centre and theCanadian League of Composers, Pura’s academic training was in finearts and he taught at the University of Manitoba School of Art until hisretirement in 2010.Pura also studied piano extensively and hisidiomatic understanding of the instrumentserves him well in the compositions presentedhere, all of which draw on extra-musicalsubjects for their inspiration. Nemesis (2008)has two such points of departure, a poem ofthe same name by H.P. Lovecraft and JohannesKepler’s 17th-century calculation of the intervallicrelationships between the six knownplanets. It is a dense yet pointillistic work, which explores a variety ofmoods over its ten-minute duration.The Statue’s Desire once again draws on texts, in this case a prosepoem by the artist Giorgio de Chirico as well as a song by Charles Ives.Although the works are not settings per se, the texts are given in thecomposer’s program notes, allowing us the opportunity to search forparallels between the words and the music.The most substantial work on the program is SonataNorthwest 1985, written in 1990 (and revised in 2006) to commemoratethe centennial of Louis Riel’s 1885 Northwest Rebellion. (This isa theme Pura would return to a decade later in his hour-long musicaldrama Batoche for two singers, three dancers and small ensemble.)An extended Lento cantabile movement is followed by a brief Trioin which a harmonica and snare drum are added, hauntingly simpleparts which can be played by the pianist or, as in this case, by additionalmusicians (George Andrix and Jonathan Taylor respectively). Iimagine the slowly repeated snare drum taps as representing a marchto the gallows. The last movement Ballade is somewhat reminiscentof Ives’ Concord Sonata, with its polyrhythms and polytonalities andpassing references to familiar-sounding tunes.Shadick-Taylor’s biographical entry makes a point of noting herexploration of composers’ ideas and inspirations, musical buildingblocks, which in combination with her command of her instrument“transform a fine performance into a captivating story.” Pura’s prosaiccompositions benefit greatly from the understanding of this “brilliantstoryteller.”As usual, my month would not have been complete withoutsomething completely different. The Shoeless is the eponymous albumby a young Toronto string band ( with the somewhatunusual instrumentation of cello (Eli Bender), banjo (Frank Evans)and fiddle (Emilyn Stam), with occasional vocals by all. This debutrelease is a melange of mostly original tunes (with Stam penning thelion’s share) and traditional tunes, with a couple of outside offeringsby accordionist Stéphane Milleret and fiddler Gudrun Walther.Although the CD is bereft of any information beyond titles, composersand durations plus recording credits, a visitto the website, and the links beyond, providesevidence of a wealth of experience that beliesthe youth of the individual members. Selfdescribedas a “cross-cultural stew, combiningthe sounds of Klezmer, French, Celtic,Appalachian and English music,” this album isa breath of fresh air and another fine exampleof a new generation rejuvenating an old tradition. Concert note: TheShoeless can be heard in Hamilton on May 6 at the Artword Artbar, inKitchener on May 7 at Café Pyrus (with the Ever Lovin’ Jug Band) andhere in Toronto on May 13 at Musideum (with Soozi Schlanger).We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs andcomments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc.,The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ONM5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website where you can find added features including direct links toperformers, composers and record labels and additional, expandedand archival reviews.David Olds, DISCoveries Editordiscoveries@thewholenote.comPhilippe Lauzier (bass cl. / so. sax)Éric Normand (e-bass)Limited sandwich bag edition CD“This performance of “FourLast Songs” is beautifully andsensitively sung ... “Record Review / December2014Known for her daring concertocouplings, Hilary Hahn matchesMozart’s beloved Concerto in Awith the virtuosic romanticismof Vieuxtemp,s 4th.A celebration of the music ofBillie Holiday performed byrenowned Canadian multigenrechanteuse Molly Johnson!“Johnson infuses Because OfBillie with her idol’s spirit!” May 1 - June 7, 2015 | 65

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