6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

  • Text
  • September
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • Sept
  • Quartet
  • Concerto
  • Orchestra
  • Symphony
  • Violin
Paul Ennis's annual TIFF TIPS (27 festival films of potential particular musical interest); Wu Man, Yo-Yo Ma and Jeffrey Beecher on the Silk Road; David Jaeger on CBC Radio Music in the days it was committed to commissioning; the LISTENING ROOM continues to grow on line; DISCoveries is back, bigger than ever; and Mary Lou Fallis says Trinity-St. Paul's is Just the Spot (especially this coming Sept 25!).

else will likely quibble

else will likely quibble with that and I can just suffer my envy of his slap tongue in silence. Max Christie Piano and Erhu Project Volume 2 Nicole Ge Li; Corey Hamm Redshift Records TK440 redshiftrecords. org !! In the February 2015 issue of The WholeNote I weighed in on the satisfying premiere album by the Vancouver Piano and Erhu Project (PEP). With the prompt release of PEP, Volume 2 the transcultural duo of pianist Corey Hamm and erhu virtuoso Nicole Ge Li have further raised the bar. The album offers substantial rewards for listeners. Among them: nine well-crafted compositions in the Western art music tradition for this not-quite-yet standard instrumental pairing by nine composers with strong Canadian ties. The album’s repertoire exhibits several high points including Keith Hamel’s emotionpacked, elegiac Homage to Liu Wenjin, nominated for Composition of the Year at the 2015 Western Canadian Music Awards. The other contributing composers are represented with works rich with glints of virtuosity, humour, nostalgia and dreamscape. It is Who Made the Inch of Grass composed by Aaron Gervais which haunted me the most, however, prompting repeated pleasurable listening. Gervais explores the erhu’s richly lyrical voice in his Debussy-daubed work, which in several passages is also subtly favoured with Messiaen-like chordal harmonies in the piano. The duo’s musically nuanced playing, combined with repertoire freshly commissioned in 2013 and 2014 – attractively captured in this recording – has caught the attention of critical ears. The album earned a nomination for Classical Recording of the Year at the 2015 Western Canadian Music Awards. Given the rewards on display here and PEP’s ever-growing repertoire and reputation, in what musical directions will Volume 3 take us? Andrew Timar Louis Babin – Saint-Exupéry: De Coeur, De Sable et D’Étoiles Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronsky Les Productions Louis Babin ODL-LB-002 ( !! Antoine de Saint- Exupéry is perhaps best remembered today as the creator of the famous children’s book Le Petit Prince. Yet he was not only an acclaimed French author of several important works and laureate of high French literary awards, but also a French Air Force pilot who lost his life during a reconnaissance mission in 1944. What a noble character to honour in music, and that’s exactly what Québec-born composer Louis Babin has undertaken here. The CD opens with Saint Exupéry: de coeur, de sable et d’étoiles, a three-movement work named for Saint Exupéry’s novel from 1939. The music pays homage not only to the author but to his whole life. Vol de vie, the first movement, is suitably bold and heroic, featuring an appealing array of tonal colours treated by the Moravian Philharmonic with great panache. The second movement, Les adieux au Petit Prince is moody and mysterious, making effective use of percussion, while La marche des Hommes with its stirring brass sections, is pure cinematography. Couleurs for string orchestra is a poignant reflection on the trials of adolescence while the Suite du promeneur is a musical depiction of life’s passage on earth. Also scored for strings, the suite comprises four miniature movements, each a study in contrasts, from the wistfulness of Le Curieux to the steadfast defiance of La morale de cette. Despite its French roots, this music seems to have a Scandinavian feel to it, the sprightly rhythms and angular lines akin to those of Dag Wirén or Carl Nielsen. The warm and resonant sound from the Moravian strings further enhances a solid performance. The premise behind this CD is an intriguing one and it’s resulted in some fine music by a composer we should be hearing more from – bravo to Babin and the musicians from Moravia. Richard Haskell Torus Yotam Haber – Chamber Music 2007-2014 Contemporaneous; Mivos Quartet; Max Mandel; Eric Huebner Roven RR10015 !! In this release of chamber music selections by renowned composer Yotam Haber, creative influences range from modernist sculpture to Jewish chant. Each piece on the disc provides a sonorous glimpse into Haber’s compositional world; it is rich and full of haunting expression. The diversity of style on display throughout each piece is a testament to his range of influence. While there remains a close tie to a rigid brand of modernism, Haber is not afraid to explore passages filled with lavish lyricism and broad melodic contour. We Were All and On Leaving Brooklyn are pieces that exemplify a careful and unique deliberation paid to vocal timbre and text setting. Reichian bursts of post-minimalism are interspersed with clever passages infused with driving rhythmic exuberance. A compelling sense of pacing and harmonic inventiveness in Last Skin (a piece for eight micro-tuned violins in two parts) is perhaps the most captivating example of why Haber’s voice is distinctly his own. Microtonal eeriness and waves of colourful harmony culminate to reach a powerful set of gestures all within the confines of limited materials. The string quartet Torus evokes a threedimensional listening space around which tremendous and threatening forces rustle and drive at breakneck speeds. In From the Book of Maintenance and Sustenance, Haber uses Jewish liturgical melodies that echo touching historical associations and a haunting nostalgia. The musical environment on this disc is abundant and boundless. Each work is an indication that Haber’s ear is tuned in to the surrounding world. These influences make their way into the music and are married with a truly distinctive creative voice. The result is a riveting set of chamber compositions that make for a rewarding listening experience. Adam Scime Iannis Xenakis – the piano works Stephanos Thomopoulos Timpani Records 1C1232 Xenakis: IX – Pleiades; Rebonds Kuniko Linn Records CKD 495 !! The music of iconoclast modern composer Iannis Xenakis has by now been mostly released on disc. There are a few firsts, though, in these two new discs. Stéphanos Thomopoulos, a Greek pianist now living in France who did a doctorate on Xenakis’ piano music, has delved into the archives to dig out some early pieces completed while the composer was studying composition in the years 1949-52: Six chansons pour piano, and Trois pièces inédites. There is very little “Xenakis” in these pieces, but they are interesting and quite well written for the piano. The collection is eclectic, not traditional but not avant-garde. Thomopoulos adds the early trio, Zyia, for soprano, flute and piano, to his exploration of Xenakis’ juvenilia. This has been recorded before, and is quite a substantial work, a rather strange mixture of simple modal melodies, virtuosic flurries, low clusters and mathematical (Fibonacci) ostinato patterns. There is nothing here to be heard of Xenakis’ groundbreaking works Metastaseis and Pithoprakta, even though they appeared just a few years later. On the rest of the disc 70 |Sept 1 - Oct 7, 2015

Thomopoulos presents excellent readings of Xenakis’ four mature piano works: Herma, Evryali, Mists and À R. I thought I heard a piano string snapping at a climactic point in Herma, but there are a few other snaps, pointing to hot levels during the recording. The sound is otherwise clear and full. The quality of sound is one of the main features of the Kuniko disc, presenting two of Xenakis’ important works for percussion, Pléïades and Rebonds. They have both been recorded before, but never has Pléïades, a 40-minute opus for six percussionists, been done by one player! (It is multi-tracked, of course.) The label, Linn Records, is connected to the high-end audio company based in Scotland. This hybrid disc lets you listen in pristine surround sound (requiring SACD capacity) or in stereo. If you get the chance, listen to the surround version: it is amazing – the intricate layers of rhythms and instruments coming at you from all round. Kuniko is a fine percussionist, and she clearly has taken much care with this recording. I especially enjoyed the sound of her Sixxens, metallic instruments specially fabricated for this piece. In concert, the sound can be quite harsh, but here we get all the details, the sound a cross between Indonesian gamelan and Harry Partch microtonal percussion. The disc closes with the solo work, Rebonds, for drums and woodblocks. She plays well, the one surprise being the substitution of a marimba-like instrument for the woodblocks. James Harley Michael Hersch – Last Autumn Jamie Hersch; Daniel Gaisford Innova 907 ( !! Michael Hersch is a composer who has experienced considerable success from an early age. He won first prize in the Concordia American Composers Awards, one of the youngest composers to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in music, and a Rome Prize recipient, all in his 20s. Due to this early success, many orchestras began to regularly commission Hersch which led to an impressive catalogue of large ensemble words. In recent years however, the composer has shifted to compositions for smaller forces that are comprised of increasingly expansive forms. The music of Last Autumn is no exception. Scored for cello and horn, the piece consists of 41 movements lasting nearly two hours. While this seems like an impossible instrumental combination to maintain a level of interest necessary over two hours, Hersch, on the contrary, has composed an endlessly impressive collection of moods and textures for the two instruments. Inspired by classical dance forms and the poetry of W.G. Sebald, each movement occupies a unique sound world ranging from the pungent and monumental to the beautifully stagnant and fragile. Many of the movements are violent entryways into small forms with unified gestures. Various solo interludes are wonderful examples of how the composer is able to successfully transfer the essence of the chosen poetry into impressive sonic journeys. Much of the music in the piece is violent and extreme while maintaining a mysterious clarity. The careful interplay between the horn and cello begins to fashion a connective tissue that stabilizes the miniature sound worlds throughout each movement. Perhaps the most impressive writing is for the cello, a feature of the piece that is undoubtedly aided by the fact that the cellist is the composer’s brother, Jamie Hersch. This impressive set of miniatures is an ideal listening experience for those seeking truly novel sonic experiments within a modernist approach. Adam Scime JAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSIC Movin’ Forward Robi Botos A440 Entertainment A440 010 (robibotos. com) !! Robi Botos, the highly respected jazz piano player, has released a fourth CD as leader. Since arriving in Canada in 1998 from his native Hungary he has become one of the most in-demand piano players in Toronto for both recordings and live gigs. His mentoring by the great Oscar Peterson shows in his prodigious but not overly showy technique. Movin’ Forward is mostly originals – with the exception of Close to You by Bacharach/David and the standard Softly as in a Morning Sunrise – and, like his mentor, Botos’ songwriting style is melodic and swinging. There are influences of funk and Eastern European music and some tracks edge over into modern, but the style is mostly mainstream and accessible. The album opens with the New Orleansstyle EurOrleans then goes more hard-driving with CapTAIN KirkLAND, a tribute to Kenny Kirkland, a friend of Jeff “Tain” Watts who is featured on the track. Botos’ bandmates for Movin’ Forward are among the American jazz elite – in addition to Watts on drums, Robert Leslie Hurst III is on bass and Seamus Blake plays saxes and EWI. These multiple Grammy Award-winning players bring authority and facility to the tracks as they are given ample room to stretch, both on the lovely ballads such as Violet (a tribute to Botos’ wife) and the hard-driving Heisenberg which I can only assume is a tribute to the TV drama Breaking Bad. Which shows that inspiration can come from just about anywhere. Cathy Riches Touchstone Ariel Pocock Justin Time JTR 8592-2 ( !! For her debut CD, young, fresh and talented keyboardist/ vocalist/composer/ arranger Ariel Pocock has assembled a team of skilled colleagues – beginning with veteran Producer Matt Pierson, who, during his tenure at Warner Bros. Records, discovered and successfully produced an array of today’s top jazz luminaries, including Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau. Pocock’s instrumental colleagues include some of our finest contemporary jazz artists, including Larry Grenadier on bass, Julian Lage on guitar, Eric Harland on drums and percussion and Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone. Indeed, Pierson and Pocock’s indisputable and intuitive good taste has informed every track of this fine opening salvo. Like many emerging artists, Pocock feels free to incorporate a plethora of musical styles, and although firmly rooted in jazz, she seems to reject categorization – freely drawing upon the musical influences of Cuban and Brazilian folk music, standards from The Great American Songbook, iconic jazz composers such as Keith Jarrett and Thelonious Monk, and the contributions of meta-genre pop artists Tom Waits, Randy Newman and James Taylor. Whether Pocock is scat singing, rendering a powerful lyric or exercising her considerable keyboard chops, her innate musicality shines through. There is so much “right” about this recording, that it is a challenge to distill it into comments about just a few of the exceptional tracks… but clear triumphs include Bob Dorough’s Devil May Care, Randy Newman’s Real Emotional Girl, Charles Mingus’ Ugly Beauty/Still We Dream and Kate Bush’s Mother Stands for Comfort. No doubt, this auspicious debut bodes well for Pocock’s forthcoming long and relevant artistic career. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke No U Turn Bobby Bradford & John Carter Quintet Dark Tree DT (RS) 05 (darktree-records. com) !! Two of his earliest associates demonstrate how thoroughly Ornette Coleman’s concepts of freedom had penetrated the music’s lingua franca, in this 1975 never-before-released concert from Pasadena. Profoundly analytical, yet with an animated pulse, cornetist Bobby Sept 1 - Oct 7, 2015 | 71

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)