5 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Performing
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
In this issue: composer Nicole Lizée talks about her love for analogue equipment, and the music that “glitching” evokes; Richard Rose, artistic director at the Tarragon Theatre, gives us insights into their a rock-and-roll Hamlet, now entering production; Toronto prepares for a mini-revival of Schoenberg’s music, with three upcoming shows at New Music Concerts; and the local music theatre community remembers and celebrates the life and work of Mi’kmaq playwright and performer Cathy Elliott . These and other stories, in our double-issue December/January edition of the magazine.

The earliest work, the

The earliest work, the Bucolic Suite of 1900, also known as the Pastoral Suite, is just that, euphoric thoughts of countryside life. In the Fen Country is no stranger to the catalogues and paints a picture of the lonely and desolate Fen country in the east of England. There are three movements – Explorer, Poet and Queen – arranged from the 1957 inspiring film, The England of Elizabeth. The five works add up to a novel and interesting collection, brilliantly played and recorded. The Elizabeth of Three Portraits from “The England of Elizabeth” refers to the Elizabeth of the 16th century. The Armada and all that. Bruce Surtees MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ConNotations Mei Yi Foo; Philipp Hutter; Bartosz Woroch; Ashley Wass; Britten Sinfonia Orchid Classics ORCH100065 ( !! ConNotations is a very impressive disc. It features pianist Mei Yi Foo with a trumpeter (Philipp Hutter), a violinist (Bartosz Woroch) and another pianist (Ashley Wass) together with the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Clement Power. The superlative recording owes much, first, to the choice of repertoire. The Shostakovich Piano Concerto in C Minor Op. 35 for strings, piano and solo trumpet is a combination as unusual as the concerto’s form, which consists of four through-flowing movements which sound like just one. Foo’s playing makes the music rise up like a ferocious beast and both Foo and Hutter are brilliant throughout. On Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto for piano and violin with 13 wind instruments there’s a fruitful tension between the soloist’s expansive Romanticism and the no-nonsense rigour of Power, a tension that matches the composer’s ideals. Berg restricts the concerto’s accompaniment to 13 wind instruments, yet he ingeniously produced some marvellously unusual colourings. Foo’s piano is given the solo duties in the first movement, Woroch’s violin in the second and then they finally combine together in a show of rousing, immediate expressiveness in the finale. While Camille Saint-Saëns may have written The Carnival of the Animals mainly for the amusement of his friends in 1886, its serious beauty should never be underestimated. In the hands of Foo and Wass there are moments of great magic, with the most beautiful and spectacular of all heard during the rippling arpeggios of the mysterious Aquarium (VII). Raul da Gama Concert note: New Music Concerts presents Berg’s Chamber Concerto and a new work by Michael Oesterle inspired by it, with soloists MingHuan Xu, violin and Winston Choi, piano (Duo Diorama) at Betty Oliphant Theatre on January 14. Encount3rs National Arts Centre Orchestra; Alexander Shelley Analekta AN 2 8871-2 ( !! This past April, three new abstract ballets (lacking storylines), each lasting about half an hour, premiered at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre. This 2CD set presents their scores, created by three Canadian composers already-prominent in their 30s and 40s. According to Phi, Caelestis choreographer Jean Grand-Maître, “Ten seemingly nude dancers” perform “a whirlwind of raw, emotional, primal and often erotic gestures before a backdrop of contrasting aesthetics.” The first movement of Andrew Staniland’s atmospheric score is steadily motoric; the next two are slow and solemn, creating the intended striking contrast between the dancing and the music. Nicole Lizée’s colourful orchestral score for Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming utilizes “archaic” electronic devices, including turntables and reel-to-reel machines. It’s a collage of many stylistically unrelated episodes, with bits of pop music and science-fiction sound effects. The audience members, if not the dancers, were probably kept on their toes, wondering what they would hear next. Dark Angels, writes choreographer Guillaume Coté, reflects “the resistance and struggle that one can experience living in new territory.” Kevin Lau says his score “resembles a symphony in scope and form,” beginning and ending with a “hammer” of six repeated notes. It’s surely more symphonic than balletic, in three connected sections – a powerful Allegro, a slow middle highlighting a heartfelt cello solo and a propulsive, percussion-heavy finale. Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra give these disparate, attention-grabbing-andholding scores the committed, high-energy performances they richly deserve. Michael Schulman Katana of Choice Ben Reimer Redshift Records TK456 ( !! Virtuoso Montreal percussionist Ben Reimer has made a name for himself as a leading drum soloist, shredding works by elder statesmen of the jazz drumset (Baby Dodds, Tony Williams), as well as works by leading art music composers such as Nicole Lizée and Lukas Ligeti. Reimer reinforces that reputation in Katana of Choice his inaugural album (available on vinyl and digital download). Reimer puts his cards on the table in Drum Dances by New Zealand composer John Psathas (b. 1966), the first four tracks on the album. Arranged by Ben Duinker, these sleekly crafted pieces, framed by the brilliant keyboard percussionism of Montreal’s Architek Percussion Quartet, are an apt frame for Reimer’s abundant technique and musicality. The intense Ringer by Nicole Lizée – found only on the digital version of the album – is a tour de force for drumset soloist. Vernacular drum references are handled with sensitivity by both composer and performer, notwithstanding the aggressive pairing of high-octave glockenspiel melodies and high-frequency, high-hat rhythms. The lengthy Katana of Choice, also by Lizée and featuring the accomplished TorQ Percussion Quartet, is perhaps the most ambitious work on the recording. Reimer’s drumming here is fully incorporated into the ensemble texture. The work is inspired by duel-based narrative video games and wuxia martial arts films, as the composer’s notes state. The music moves unrelentingly from one imaginary scene to another “with unexpected twists in which [musicians] trade off, pushing one another technically and sonically.” Katana of Choice is an exhilarating musical ride – as is the entire album. Andrew Timar Concert note: Ben Reimer and Architek Percussion perform the music of Nicole Lizée and Eliot Britton at Walter Hall on January 25 as part of the University of Toronto New Music Festival. (out of province) Ben Reimer and Vicky Chow perform music of Nicole Lizée including Katana of Choice with video accompaniment at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY on December 16. Poems and Dreams Rebecca Jeffreys; Alexander Timofeev Independent ( ! ! Flutist Rebecca Jeffreys, though not well known in this part of the world, has accomplished a great deal as a performer, teacher and music director. She was a founding director and member of Virginia’s Woodbridge Flute Choir, teaches privately in Peperell, Massachusetts near Boston and at 82 | December 2017 / January 2018

St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, and performs with guitarist, Mike Loce. On this CD she premieres the work of five contemporary composers, ably accompanied by pianist, Alexander Timofeev. The notes make it clear that Jeffreys has a personal connection with most if not all of the composers. For example, composer Kevin Walker is the owner of the recording studio where the recording was made, and was co-executive producer of the CD with Jeffreys. The CD also makes it apparent that Jeffreys is part of a lively and creative musical circle, from which, I hope, there will be more to come. Of the five, the works which stood out for me were the second movement of Jeffrey Hoover’s Romantic Sonata – Poems of Light, with its lyrical writing for both instruments, and Walker’s Flute Suite in D Major, a very accomplished piece of work. Adrienne Albert’s Acadian Dreams utilized Cajun music and was a tribute to Jeffreys’ father’s Acadian ancestry. It is encouraging to see evidence like this of a vibrant music culture hidden from view in the United States. May it continue to prosper. Allan Pulker JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Dog’s Breakfast Barry Elmes Quintet Cornerstone Records CRST CD 147 ( !! Drummer Barry Elmes first formed his quintet in 1991, and through the years it’s been a showcase for Canada’s finest proponents of mainstream modern jazz as well as the leader’s engaging compositions. Through the years, the group has had few personnel changes, adding to its sense of a collective personality. The latest incarnation establishes its authority immediately with a performance of Freddie Hubbard’s Little Sunflower, a modal anthem of the 60s imbued here with new vigour, from bassist Steve Wallace’s pulsing ostinato through a string of sharply focused solos from trumpeter Brian O’Kane, guitarist Lorne Lofsky and tenor saxophonist Mike Murley, all of it carried along by Elmes’ secure and lively drumming which comes to the fore at the conclusion. The material is divided between Elmes’ recent compositions and jazz standards. The former includes the witty title track, a subtle cool jazz episode that could readily substitute for a Mancini movie theme, while the floating Terminal 2 and the funky Pierre Berton’s Pig bring distinctly Toronto inspirations to the proceedings. The absolute highlights, though, are two standards. Murley brings a fine balance of silk, grit and lyricism to Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most, while Lofsky’s touch is unerring, compounding a glassy electric guitar sound with a striking melodic conception on Beautiful Love, a sustained trio performance with Wallace and Elmes that makes one hope for a CD devoted to the three. Stuart Broomer Conert note: The Barry Elmes Quintet performs at the Home Smith Bar in The Old Mill on December 16. solstice/equinox Diana Panton Independent ( !! solstice/equinox by Diana Panton is another gorgeously perfect recording that the Hamilton jazz singer makes a nearly annual habit of releasing with ease. Multiple albums into her discographic career at this point – and in the exceptional company of multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson and guitarist Reg Schwager – the trio (fleshed out here with Guido Basso and Phil Dwyer) sounds not like a collection of hired musicians, but rather like a working jazz group that exhibits simpatico and a shared investment in the music heard here. Panton sings effortlessly throughout and swings with a bubbly buoyancy that reminds this listener of not only Blossom Dearie, but trumpeter Art Farmer, who also prefigured a relaxed and swinging time feel. Further, Thompson’s always beautiful musical arrangements and the thoughtful repertoire choice create the perfect casting for Panton’s voice and delivery to shine. With the theme of seasonal change threading through the recording and tying the repertoire together, Panton and band offer up a true jazz vocal recording that captures all involved at their musical finest. The recording quality is also of note, and helps to create a sonic space that is intimate and revealing. Nearly a decade into this group’s affiliation, here’s hoping that theirs is a musical relationship that continues for many more. Andrew Scott REV Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop Anzic Records ANZ-0089-2 ( !! In 2015, entrepreneur, composer and drummer Ernesto Cervini introduced his North American Sextet, Turboprop, featuring a crosssection of noted contemporary jazz musicians, including Tara Davidson on alto and soprano sax, Joel Frahm on tenor, William Carn on trombone, Adrean Farrugia on piano and Dan Loomis on bass. Their debut self-titled CD was a huge success. What we're listening to this month: Meter Autorickshaw Autorickshaw's 5th studio album 'Meter' is a journey through cultural cuttingedge Indo-fusion: mixing traditional south and north Indian music with other contemporary art forms. Misuzu Tanaka in Concert. Music of Janácek and Bach Misuzu Tanaka Debut live album. Structural perfection and the display of raw uninhibited emotions from the two masters create an unexpected yet perfect pairing. Moderne Frau Adi Braun Adi Braun - Moderne Frau! Women of Weimar Berlin were the first pantsuit nation. Experience the music of Weill, Spoliansky, Grothe and Braun! Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole Ori Dagan Visit Ori Dagan's YouTube channel to see "Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole," the first visual album in the jazz genre! December 2017 / January 2018 | 83

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