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Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

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orchestra programs in the 1980s. As a result, for many, he is associated with bagatelles and études instead of megaliths like Atmosphères. This Ensemble InterContemporain recording, better than merely reminding us of his orchestral roots, reaffirms his genius in both styles. This is especially true of the Piano Concerto, featuring Hidéki Nagano, which feels at times like orchestral Ligeti and intimate Ligeti happening simultaneously, the sound streams occasionally lining up in a happy coincidence akin to those moments when a car’s turn signal blinks in time with the radio. This mechanical analogy is particularly apt, as the perpetual motion piano part also conjures up Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano works. The second movement showcases Ligeti’s trademark cosmic orchestral writing; here he weaves slide whistles and ocarinas into the fabric of a soundscape reminiscent of his Lontano for orchestra, delicately toeing the line between the apocalyptic and the mawkish in a way only Ligeti can. Also featured are Ligeti’s concertos for violin and cello. Ligeti described his piano concerto as “music as frozen time, as an object in an imaginary space,” but these words might be yet better suited to his Cello Concerto, performed here by Pierre Strauch. The above are joined by two Bartók pieces, Contrasts and the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and appropriately enough – for no two composers offer a more compelling solution to the problems posed by a world where both trite tonality and humourless avant-gardism are equally exhausted. Elliot Wright Concert Note: Matthias Pintscher makes his Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut conducting Mahler’s Symphony No.1, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24 (with Inon Barnatan) and his own Towards Osiris on April 28 and April 30. Samuel Andreyev – Moving ensemble proton bern; Matthias Kuhn Klarthe K014 !! Paris-based Canadian composer Samuel Andreyev is deeply influenced by the plastic arts; he describes the first work on this disc, the Marcel Duchampinspired La Pendule de Profil, in terms of cubism, and his pieces tend toward an objectlike quality. A good analog for the entire decade of work represented here, however, might be abstract impressionism. The impressionists placed the immediacy of perception above all else, carefully modulating light and colour to reproduce the experience of motion and time. The abstract impressionists took it further, distilling the object until only motion and colour remained. Andreyev, too, reduces musical perception to its elementary components, exploiting attack and especially timbre for their visceral, immediate impressions. Where the abstract impressionism analogy fails, however, is in Andreyev’s meticulous structural clarity. An abstract impressionist painting overwhelms with its chaotic density. Andreyev’s music, although saturated with chromaticism, is not spatially dense, and as a result the listener perceives the music as both weighty but translucent, ordered but atemporal. The miracle material that enables this remarkable paradox is ensemble proton bern itself; the symbiosis between composer and the musicians is palpable throughout. As rare instrument specialists, the Swiss ensemble gives free rein to Andreyev’s timbral explorations. The best examples are PLP, which features the Lupophon, a bass oboe with a fibrous, tenor saxophone-like sound, and Bern Trio, an ethereal gossamer fog for quartertone-tuned harp, viola, and oboe d’amore. A moving disc in both senses of the word. Elliot Wright Simon Martin – Hommage à Leduc, Borduas, et Riopelle Quatuor Bozzini; Quasar quatuor de saxophones; Trio de guitares contemporain Ambiances Magnétiques Collection QB CQB 1616 ( !! The young composer Simon Martin has created three separate works here with highly distinct instrumentation in homage to a trinity of closely linked Québécois painters central to the history of Canadian art. The first piece L’heure mauve, inspired by the Ozias Leduc painting and the last of these works to be composed (2009), is performed by a trio of classical guitarists. Historically, Martin has arrived at the earliest of these painters last and he’s matched Leduc’s symbolist landscape with an extraordinary minimalism, organizing a piece that matches periods of silence with complex rhythmic patterns created on strummed flurries or plucked notes on open strings. Projections libérantes (2007), named for a text by Paul-Émile Borduas, was composed for Quasar saxophone quartet. The piece uses saxophone multiphonics created by alternate fingerings and shifting embouchures to mine the instruments’ sonic resources, drawing, for example, simultaneous low-frequency blasts and whistling highs from the baritone. That sonic creativity is matched by Martin’s handling of the string quartet in Icebergs et Soleil de minuit — Quatuor en blanc, which takes its inspiration from Jean-Paul Riopelle’s series of black and white paintings. It’s a series of brief vignettes, sometimes highly gestural, in which Quatuor Bozzini explores different textures often employing harmonics to create a kind of richly nuanced transparency, a contradictory dense thinness of sound resembling the texture of a painted surface, as clusters can gradually reduce to single attenuated pitches. What ties these works together is Martin’s fascination with the physical matter engaged by these painters and the power of brush or spatula strokes in their work, qualities transferred to his own dramatic exploration of individual instrumental timbres and subtly evolving sounds. The ultimate effect resembles the dynamic stillness and material transformation that links his three subjects’ work. It’s music of power, beauty and originality, worthy of its subjects. Stuart Broomer Mohammed Fairouz – No Orpheus Kate Lindsey; Kiera Duffy; Christopher Burchett Naxos 8.559783 !! The young American composer Mohammed Fairouz has quickly become a widely performed and recorded composer. Although barely into his 30s, Fairouz has been commissioned by many important American institutions and performers. In his latest Naxos release Fairouz has compiled a selection of art song spanning a ten-year range in his output. The disc is comprised of four works that incorporate texts by W.B. Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe and William Wordsworth, along with selections from the writings of Alma Mahler, the ancient Arabic poet Ibn Shuhayd and contemporary poets Wayne Koestenbaum and Lloyd Schwartz. This collection reinforces Fairouz’s command over his approach to musical expression. Those who are familiar with his musical language appreciate it for an immediate sense of accessibility, its strong link to popular music infused with light romanticism and a familiar lyricism. Fairouz writes well for the voice. There is clarity of intention in his vocal writing that leaves nothing beyond the surface for the listener. Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, soprano Kiera Duffy and baritone Christopher Burchett bring a strong sense of musicality and drama to this recording and are able to interpret this music with a calming sense of ease and intuitiveness. At times the music is bare. The instrumental writing for cello and piano make for a light accompaniment that – despite a sense of clarity – perhaps leaves the listener wanting a bit more. Where clarity of artistic voice elevates this music to certain successful neighbourhoods, a deeper level of expression is perhaps lacking throughout. This recording provides a light, pleasing listening experience 78 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

that doesn’t pin the listener down with any type of heavy material. Adam Scime Elena Langer – Landscape with Three People Anna Dennis; William Towers; Nicholas Daniel harmonia mundi HMU 907669 !! Elena Langer, a Russian-born composer who studied in London, writes in an idiom that recalls Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as orchestrated by Ravel; she combines a Russian folk sensibility with modern orchestral colours and a deep understanding of the resonances between text and music. This is especially true of the title piece, a work for soprano, countertenor, oboe, harpsichord and trio of strings. Here Langer casts the poetry of Lee Harwood, a 20th-century English poet best known for being John Ashbery’s lover during the 1960s, in a baroque-inspired musical mould. There is an uneasiness in the configuration, though – the poems, dealing as they do with urban love, threaten to struggle free from the old-fashioned harmonic conventions that constrain them. Langer, delighting in this tension, exploits it to very wry effect. This is especially true of the oboe part, which, ostensibly representing the third figure in a love triangle with the soprano and countertenor, frequently seems to make stage-whispered asides to the audience, offering commentary on the action in the way only wickedly good gossip can. “This is my first love scene,” sing the soprano and countertenor, but the oboe’s acidic obbligato implies mockingly that this is neither their first nor their last “first love scene” at all. Ultimately, the oboe is subsumed by the affair, and the three figures are left to swirl in the purgatorial ambiguity of their similar tessiture. Such nuances pervade the works of this vital composer. Elliot Wright JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Abeng Rich Brown Independent RDB03 (rinsethealgorithm. !! Rich Brown, one of Canada’s and the world’s preeminent bassists, has produced an impassioned reaction to, and path forward from, some of the darkest forces of human nature, specifically racism and divisiveness. He has chosen the abeng, an instrument originally fashioned by escaped Jamaican slaves, as a metaphor for a call to unity. This message comes at a perilous time in world affairs. He has assembled a cast of some of Canada’s top musicians to interpret Abeng’s compositions and the result is great depth and complexity. The rhythm section team of Brown and drummer Larnell Lewis establishes a broad, open canvas on which everything seems possible. Mahishmatish opens the recording with a melody that incorporates a long held note, perhaps the sound of the abeng. Saxophonists Luis Deniz on alto and Kelly Jefferson on tenor trade phrases that rise in intensity with the incredible feel and interplay provided by Brown and Lewis. Pianist Robi Botos solos effortlessly over Window Seat’s across-thebar-lines groove. Chant of the Exiled (Abeng) is a perfect miniature, featuring trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and percussionist Rosendo Chendy Leon in its mournful exploration. Brown holds off until track four, Promessa, before treating us to his remarkably lyrical bass soloing. Chris Donnelly, who shares keyboard duties with Botos, plays a beautifully evocative intro to This Lotus Ascension and continues on to improvise over the doubled bass/alto sax melody. Abeng is a masterful recording that confirms Rich Brown’s position as one of our country’s most important musicians. Ted Quinlan Concert Note: Rich Brown and the Abeng Quintet open for the Ernie Watts Quintet on May 21 at the George Weston Recital Hall. Fulfillment Michael Blake Songlines SGL1615-2 ( !! Michael Blake is among New York’s most esteemed saxophonists, but he frequently returns to Vancouver where he works with some key members of the city’s jazz community. Fulfillment is a very special Vancouver project that uses up to ten musicians in an extended suite devoted to a dark episode in the city’s history: in 1914 several hundred Sikh immigrants on board the Komagata Maru were refused entry to Canada by means of laws designed specifically to exclude Asians. In subsequent events, advocates for the passengers were murdered in Vancouver and 19 were killed in an altercation with British officials on their return to India. Blake’s suite abounds in complex emotions and original textures, gradually developing a cumulative impact. The theme of the opening Sea Shanty intertwines his soprano saxophone with Emma Postl’s voice to create an effect that’s at once dissonant and ethereal; there’s a coiling improvised duet between Blake’s soprano and Chris Gestrin’s synthesizer on Perimeters in which the two instruments are almost indistinguishable; a series of duets among the string players on Arrivals is highlighted by the unlikely combination of Peggy Lee’s cello and Ron Samworth’s banjo. Exaltation is an extended jam that adds Neelamjit Dhillon’s tabla drums to the densely textured rhythms created by drummer Dylan van der Schyff, bassist André Lachance and the rest of the group. At the core of Blake’s music there’s the consistent legacy of modern jazz, from the extended use of blues structure and compositional inspirations from Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Oliver Nelson to the overarching expressive power of his tenor saxophone, best embodied here on the evocative Battle at Baj Baj, directly inspired by John Coltrane’s elegiac Alabama. Stuart Broomer Songs and Dances from The Muted Note The Disguises Ambiences Magnetiques AM 227 ( !! Trombonist/ composer Scott Thomson crafted this series of song settings for poems by the late British Columbian poet P.K. Page in 2012-2013, first recording them in a series of spare and artful duets with the singer Susanna Hood (The Muted Note, & Records, ET20). The project later expanded to include Hood’s choreography for four dancers and a quintet called The Disguises, adding alto saxophonist Yves Charuest, bassist Nicolas Caloia and drummer Pierre Tanguay to the original duo. The result is remarkable, sacrificing some intimacy but gaining greater resilience and highlighting the strength of Thomson’s melodies, like the vibrant Picking Daffodils. The Disguises represent some of Montreal’s finest improvisers and Thomson has achieved a fine balance in the writing, creating arrangements that frame and expand Page’s luminous language without drowning it out, sometimes employing understated dissonance to suggest ambiguity. Thomson has studied with the veteran trombonist Roswell Rudd, and at times The Disguises strongly suggests the clarity and interplay of the New York Art Quartet, the brilliant band that Rudd co-led in the mid-60s: Charuest’s solo on The Understatement consists of brief elliptical phrases with shifting timbres, recalling the subtle work of NYAQ saxophonist John Tchicai. While it’s the wedding of poem and sound that unites these works, moments of spontaneous musical creation abound, like the energy and precision that Caloia and Tanguay bring to The Disguises/The Masks, or the April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 79

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