5 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 3 - November 2016

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unifying premise for his

unifying premise for his vagabond auditory adventures, or append extra significance to compositional procedures such as varied repetition, imitation and augmentation. The first three pieces form a triptych that “imagine[s] the sounding bodies of instruments as resonant spaces.” They contain crisp, natural and remodelled recordings of passages through remote instrumental spaces, and at times it feels as though the listener is situated inside the instrument. From the rim to the spine of a piano (Objects-Interiors), an acoustic guitar and toy piano (Bodies- Soundings), or the surfaces and recesses of instruments in a string quartet (Empties- Impetus), each piece celebrates the percussions and resonances of a similar, colourful palette of instrumental and digital treatments. O’Callaghan demonstrates fluency with standard techniques of electroacoustic music, but it’s the impetus of the philosophical aspects that takes the pieces to their most compelling territories. The last piece, Isomorphic, is a particularly captivating jaunt through protractions of carefully ordered squealing, chattering textures. While the work shifts from one archetype to another, it’s coherently driven by consecutive, playful morphological relationships that extend from one sound to the next, despite differences of sound source and context. By virtue of the gesture, contour, pitch and timbral coherence of his materials, O’Callaghan proposes contrasting ways to consider the ornithological chirps, industrial doors and ambient environments. They can be heard as a perpetual flow, in which all sounds are related as one, or as a duality in which the listener simultaneously compares the ongoing profile similarities of the sounds with their wildly differing origins. Paul Steenhuisen Concert note: James O’Callaghan, recently nominated for the Gaudeamus Prize, is one of the composers featured in Continuum Contemporary Music’s season opener “RavAGE” at the Music Gallery on November 13. Christopher Rouse – Odna Zhizn; Symphonies 3 & 4; Prospero’s Rooms New York Philharmonic; Alan Gilbert Dacapo 8.22611 ( !! Rouse is the most recent to hold the composer-in-residence position at the New York Philharmonic, and this new disc is his capstone project. It is actually the latest chapter in a decades-long relationship between composer and orchestra; the Phil premiered, along with many other of his works, Rouse’s Pulitzer Prize-winning trombone concerto in 1993. Owing to these years of collaboration, this disc achieves an all-too-uncommon thing: music born from an understanding shared equally by conductor, orchestra and living composer. Just as these three have found common ground, so has Rouse found common ground between the conceptual and the visceral. The harmonic language of Odna Zhizn, for instance, is tightly controlled and generated using a “code.” If these words conjure up frightening images of angular serialist lines, however, fear not: “code” here refers not to forbidding pre-compositional matrices, but to the age-old tradition of encoding a loved one’s name into the score by way of note names. “Odna Zhizn” means “life” in Russian and Russian influences loom large here. Symphony No.3 is heavily indebted to Prokofiev’s Symphony No.2, his symphony of “iron and steel.” If Prokofiev’s was the churning foundry, then Rouse’s is its smoldering remains, brooding and charred. As for his Symphony No.4’s “code,” Rouse cites Tchaikovsky: “Asked whether listeners would devise the…meaning of his Pathétique Symphony, Tchaikovsky famously replied, ‘Let them guess.’” This disc’s grand and unified vision is not to be missed. Elliot Wright György Kurtág – String Quartets Quatuor Molinari ATMA ACD2 2706 L/R !! Founded 19 years ago, Montreal’s Quatuor Molinari has become one of Canada’s pre-eminent interpreters of 20thand 21st-century classical compositions, including those by Canadians. In this album however, they venture deep into the string quartet’s European-home geographic and aesthetic landscape. Like his composer friend and colleague György Ligeti, the multiple-award-winning Hungarian composer György Kurtág (b. 1926) fled his home country following the October 1956 Hungarian uprising. Part of an exodus of a wave of some 200,000 Hungarians, Kurtág used his exile productively as an opportunity to study composition in Paris with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud. There he also discovered the modernist compositions of Anton Webern and plays of Samuel Beckett. These influences proved decisive in his chosen career. On returning to Budapest, Kurtág composed his first String Quartet (1959). Dedicated to his psychotherapist Marianne Stein, the work is strongly redolent of the music of the Second Viennese School, while still expressing a personal compositional voice. Webern and Schoenberg can be heard throughout its disjunct dodecaphonic tonal language, its expressive extremes. The work’s tense, dramatic yet aphoristic six movements are riddled with enigmatic, destabilizing silences. It remains a very satisfying – emotional even – listen today. The composer dubbed it his Opus 1, its success launching his career internationally. Quatuor Molinari gives it a precise, clear rendering filled with a light-handed virtuosity, evident commitment and soul. Kurtág followed his String Quartet with a number of works for these forces. Like his first opus, almost all reference composers, musicians and friends he admired. All are represented here. We hear an aesthetic continuity, certainly, but also one of technique and tone, though in later works hints of tonality peak through the skittering introspection. Kurtág’s music is superbly represented on this CD by Quatuor Molinari. Andrew Timar Traffic Quintet plays Alexandre Desplat Traffic Quintet Deutsche Grammophon 4812172 !! Shutting one’s eyes while listening to the music of Traffic Quintet plays Alexandre Desplat might actually be the best way to approach a collection of Desplat’s celebrated film scores. The act most certainly provides one with the opportunity to enter the dreamscapes for which they were intended. The profound air of these works triggers special journeys to the world of the cameo images from the films for which they were intended. The music is superb with its performers combining Desplat’s unique pictorialdramatic and reflective approach that always leads to an intensity that has become the hallmark of the composer’s musical signature. Reducing the music’s essence into the quintet format has taken a special ingenuity; one that distills their aural content into the equivalent of a small frame. For me, the real ace in the hands of Dominique “Solrey” Lemonnier’s Traffic Quintet is the haunting voice of Alexandre Desplat. It is heard most effectively on the more familiar themes: The King’s Speech, Girl With A Pearl Earring and Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. Most human in their resonance and directness, folk-like in timbre and gesture, classical in lyrical construction, Desplat’s voice and his music defy categorization. Production values – and this is all due to the unique genius of Lemonnier and her Traffic Quintet – are excellent because of her animated, filmic orchestrations. The yearning brooding music of this disc may be somewhat desolate for some, but nevertheless yields rich and seductive soundscapes. Raul da Gama 78 | November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016

JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Accomplice Amy McConnell; William Sperandei Femme Cachee Productions FCP0002 ( !! The second CD from the team of trumpeter William Sperandei and singer Amy McConnell takes us on a journey to a time when songs were carefully crafted and lyrics actually said something. Focused mainly on songwriters from the 60s and 70s, such as Jacques Brel, Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand, Accomplice has a sophisticated Euro feel to it. Sperandei’s bright trumpet sound and McConnell’s rich, emotive vocals are a nice foil for each other and with the arrangements by Sperandei managing to be both jazzy and poppy at the same time, the album feels fresh. Keyboard player Robi Botos and guitarist Rob Piltch are both masters of various styles and sounds, and effects are used liberally by them and Sperandei. Add Davide Direnzo on drums and percussion and Marc Rogers on bass and you’ve got a whole lot of sonic ingenuity to choose from. The results are some indefinable styles such as Dance Me to the End of Love which has a tinge of 90s electronic dance music to it and Ne me quitte pas, which sounds like what would happen if Edith Piaf and Gino Vanelli had a love child. I Wish You Love morphs from a lovely mid-tempo ballad into a funky get down. Quite a trip. Cathy Riches No Filter Michael Kaeshammer Independent KA2-CD-5970 ( L/R !! When Michael Kaeshammer first broke on the scene in the 90s, he was a young boogie-woogie piano phenom. Since then, the British Columbiabased musician has added singing and songwriting to his arsenal of skills, and they’ve been honed over the last several years. All the songs on No Filter have been written or co-written by Kaeshammer (along with, primarily, Nashville-based songwriter John Goodwin) and many, such as the rousing opener Letter from the Road, stay true to his signature, exuberant New Orleans style. But there are other stylistic gems too. Late Night Train, is a poignant lament to a lost love made more gorgeous by the velvety vocals of guest singer, Denzal Sinclaire. Regret is the theme of the ballady/gospel-tinged Back into the Pen while West Coast Spirit is a sprightly little solo piano number that acts as a palate cleanser between meatier pieces. The production on the record is top-notch with the various keyboards, horns (William Sperandei, trumpet; Chris Gale, sax; William Carn, trombone) and percussion (Roger Travassos) subtly enriching the tracks and making No Filter a fine, satisfying listen from beginning to end. Cathy Riches Danses Danzas Dances Lorraine Desmarais Big Band Les Disques Scherzo SCHCD-1512 ( !! A fierce energy leaps out of the opening chords of Lorraine Desmarais’ Ultra Triple Swing. It is an immensely exciting start to Danses Danzas Dances, a recording that has you on the edge of your proverbial seat. Primary colours abound in the orchestral texture, and the fast nature of the piece keeps the music on a tight rein, with angular rhythms and phrasing precise and alert. Of course you should expect nothing less from Desmarais, whose mastery of the big band idiom is quite beyond reproach. Conducting from behind her concert grand piano, Desmarais brings the fabulous orchestrations of her most recent music to life with spectacular effect. The spirited and finely nuanced readings of these charts that literally sweep the listener off his or her feet, and across the dance floors of the Americas, is articulated by vivid performances by members of this wonderful big band. Adopting a spacious, and a feisty, artful approach to navigate the idiosyncrasies of Desmarais’ luscious arrangements, the musicians display unbridled virtuosity as well as unusual musical instinct as they bring cohesion to the many disparate elements of the music and generate tremendous highvoltage tension and hair-raising orchestral ingenuity to this music from beginning to end of this exquisite disc. Raul da Gama Elevation Parker Abbott Trio Independent ( !! The content of the Parker Abbott Trio concept album on the idea of ascending to a rarefied realm transcends even the image on its package. Somewhere in the swirling ascension of the Alpine Swift in flight lies some very classy piano (and a battery of other keyboards) playing. Indeed both Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott have developed something of an edge-of-the-seat virtuoso risk taking. On Elevation this pays off handsomely. The CD is a selection of short pieces evoking the giddy atmospheric fantasy arising from meditations on odysseys of music and mind. But philosophy aside there is much to enjoy, discover and identify with. Parker and Abbott’s playing – as well as that of drummer and percussionist Mark Segger – is eloquent indeed. The pianists’ voicing is expertly balanced in the edifying transcription of the title track and their phrasing sings wonderfully in the near-mystical Night Song and the scintillating Zinnia. The otherworldly music of Maybe makes for a fitting, openended conclusion. The trio’s enigmatic studies are not the easiest nuts to crack, but Parker, Abbott and Segger’s insightful colours have the measure of their limpid introspection and fantasy. Remarkably, this music – despite the originating imagery – is not as cerebral as one would imagine, but pre-eminently heart driven. Exchanging the intellectual for the emotional may be what makes this exceptionally polished recording get under the skin as well. Raul da Gama Flux Quinsin Nachoff; David Binney; Matt Mitchell; Kenny Wollesen Mythology Records MR0012 ( !! Toronto-born tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has been exploring unusual textures since combining a jazz trio and a string quartet on Magic Numbers, his 2006 debut. The elements in his music have grown more tightly interwoven since then, so it’s difficult to separate out the sources and genres that contribute to his work, music that bears the name “flux” appropriately. Nachoff’s current compositions are alive with subtle underpinnings and a sometimes jarring surface, all of it brilliantly executed, interpreted and extended by his current quartet of prominent New Yorkers. He’s paired with alto saxophonist Dave Binney, the two supported by the virtually orchestral combination of keyboard player Matt Mitchell (piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Moog Rogue and organ) and drummer Kenny Wollesen (drums, timpani, tubular bells and handcrafted percussion). Together they develop a rare yet consistent combination of complexity and vitality, evident from the opening Tightrope, a tense piece in which Nachoff, the composer, introduces different thematic materials throughout, ranging from short, irregular rhythmic figures that set the initial mood to smooth rapid figures and a ballad, each November 1, 2016 - December 7, 2016 | 79

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