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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

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  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Jazz
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When is a trumpet like a motorcycle in a dressage event? How many Brunhilde's does it take to change an Elektra? Just two of the many questions you've been dying to ask, to which you will find answers in a 24th annual combined December/January issue – in which our 11 beat columnists sift through what's on offer in the upcoming holiday month, and what they're already circling in their calendars for 2019. Oh, and features too: a klezmer violinist breathing new life into a very old film; two New Music festivals in January, 200 metres apart; a Music & Health story on the restorative powers of a grassroots exercise in collective music-making; even a good reason to go to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. All this and more in Vol 24 No 4, now available in flipthrough format here.

MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY

MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Toshio Hosokawa – Orchestral Works 3 Basque National Orchestra; Jun Markl Naxos 8.573733 (naxos.com) !! Multiple awardwinning Japanese contemporary classical composer Toshio Hosokawa (b.1955) has built an illustrious career rooted in both his Japanese birthplace and in European, particularly German, musical culture. Those bicultural influences, drawing on Schubertian lyricism and Webernian tone colouring, are seamlessly integrated with intrinsically Japanese musical, theatrical, aesthetic and spiritual elements. Hosokawa has stated his philosophical goal was to give “musical expression to the notion of a beauty that has grown from transience. … We hear the individual notes and appreciate at the same time the process of how the notes are born and die: a sound landscape of continual ‘becoming’ that is animated in itself.” His orchestral triptych Meditation, Nach dem Sturm, and Klage forms the heart of this album. It is Hosokawa’s personal and theatrical – in some places near cinematic – response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. While Meditation mourns the many victims of that tragedy, Nach dem Sturm invokes oceanic turbulent darkness. I find Klage the most moving and musically convincing. Based on a poem and fragments of letters by Austrian poet Georg Trakl (1887- 1914), Klage rages against human life taken by the ocean. Haunting images in the lyrics – a shattered body, lamenting dark voices, a lonely boat sinking in stormy seas under “unblinking stars” – are reflected in the music. Hosokawa masterfully unleashes the full power of the contemporary symphony orchestra in Klage. It’s underscored by the emotional power of the female voice, here eloquently rendered by mezzo-soprano Mihoko Fujimura, which serves as the work’s consoling mother figure. Andrew Timar Concert Notes: Toshio Hosokawa is the Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visiting Composer during the University of Toronto Faculty of Music’s New Music Festival this January. His works are featured throughout the festival, culminating with New Music Concerts’ Portrait of Toshio Hosokawa on January 25 at Walter Hall. Hosokawa is also featured in the RCM’s 21C Festival with U of T Opera presenting a double bill of his The Raven featuring Krisztina Szabó, mezzo-soprano, and The Maiden from the Sea (Futari Shizuka) featuring Xin Wang, soprano and Ryoko Aoki, Noh singer/dancer, also in Walter Hall on January 17. On January 20 Esprit Orchestra presents the Canadian premiere of Hosokawa’s Concerto for Saxophone (with Wallace Halladay as soloist) at Koerner Hall. Global Sirens Christina Petrowska Quilico Fleur de Son FDS58046 (naxosdirect.com) !! The last Classical & Beyond beat column I wrote for The WholeNote (October 2013 issue) was titled “Let’s Hear It for the Women!” Now, five years later, I am pleased to be reviewing Global Sirens, released last month by the exceptional (and exceptionally busy) Canadian pianist and educator, Christina Petrowska Quilico, and featuring works by 15 women composers, some known, most essentially neglected. Several were born around the turn of the last century; a few are still composing today. As the title suggests, the 15 composers – I’m about to give them their due and name them all – hail from all over the globe: Germany (Ilse Fromm-Michaels, Else Schmitz-Gohr, Lotte Backes, Barbara Heller, Susanne Erding); France (Lili Boulanger, Cécile Chaminade, Germaine Tailleferre); Italy (Ada Gentile); Canada (Larysa Kuzmenko); USA (Meredith Monk, Adaline Shepherd); Australia (Peggy Glanville-Hicks); South Africa (Priaulx Rainer); and Russia (Sophie- Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté, who lived in Winnipeg the last 20 years of her life). Some had fathers who forbade or discouraged their musical pursuits; others were expected to give up composing once married. And because her husband was Jewish, the Nazis banned performances of works by Fromm-Michaels. Petrowska Quilico covers a lot of ground over the CD’s 19 tracks, from Chaminade’s rich and romantic Méditation and Schmitz- Gohr’s lovely Elegie for the Left Hand to Backes’ jazzy, Debussyesque Slow and Kuzmenko’s haunting and evocative Mysterious Summer Night. And then there’s Shepherd’s delightful Wireless Rag, yup, an honest-to-goodness rag. Let’s hear it for Christina Petrowska Quilico, champion of women composers! Sharna Searle Frank Horvat – For Those Who Died Trying Mivos Quartet ATMA ACD2 2788 (atmaclassique.com) !! It is impossible to escape Frank Horvat’s mystical hypothesis that music is somehow part of all human DNA. It is also a testament to the genius of Horvat that he is able to craft this into each segment of this unique 35-movement string quartet so that each so comes poignantly alive with the personality of 35 Thai environmentalists and human rights warriors who died in the act of defending the truth. The magical experience magnifies exponentially as one is struck by the fact that the inspiration for all of this is, further, inspired by a visual essay created by photographer Luke Duggleby titled For Those Who Died Trying. Both Horvat and Duggleby have been transformed by the senseless murders of the 35 Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). The portraits of the HRDs made by the photographer are starkly unglamorous images of each defender. The musical resurrections are Horvat’s as he melds the story of each life and death, using a unique melodic language in which the poignant sense of humanity and tragic loss is never far from the surface of each piece. The Mivos Quartet, a unique string ensemble, responds brilliantly to this music. There’s a strong sense, in each of the 35 sections, of the quartet functioning like actors in some powerful tragedy. Each musician, solo and in ensemble, controls his forces with an unfailing sense of the right emphasis and the right moment together to deliver performances of affecting power. Raul da Gama Weinberg – Symphony No.13; Serenade for Orchestra Siberian State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande Naxos 8.573879 (naxos.com) ! ! Starkly contrasting works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg fill this disc of worldpremiere recordings, part of Naxos’ projected 17-CD compilation of Weinberg’s orchestral music conducted by Vladimir Lande. The 13th of Weinberg’s 22 symphonies, dating from 1976, is dedicated to the memory of his mother, killed in the Holocaust along with his father and sister. (In 1939, after Germany invaded, the 19-year-old Weinberg fled from Poland to live in the USSR.) Weinberg’s sombre Symphony No.13 begins with a downcast melody for strings that seems to wander, as if lost in a fog, for more than three minutes. Scored for a large orchestra (triple woodwinds, six horns), the one-movement, 38-minute Symphony contains other such long, gloomy, sparsely textured passages, separated by agitated, anguished tutti climaxes. It closes as bleakly as it begins, with a few plucked harp notes quietly fading away. Significantly, Weinberg quotes from the opera he considered his finest creation, The Passenger, set mostly 90 | December 2018 / January 2019 thewholenote.com

in wartime Auschwitz. This symphony, so similar in mood and intensity to a grief-laden adagio by Shostakovich (Weinberg’s friend and stylistic inspiration), is a truly haunting, powerful statement of personal pain and heartbreaking loss. Nothing could be more different than the four-movement, 18-minute Serenade (1952) – bright, cheerful, playful, with charming dance-like melodies. The finale is even titled Allegro giocoso – nothing giocoso, of course, in the Symphony. Conductor Lande is clearly committed to Weinberg’s music, these vibrant performances helping to make this CD utterly unforgettable. Michael Schulman Morton Feldman – For John Cage Aisha Orazbayeva; Mark Knoop all that dust ATD 1 Matthew Shlomowitz – Avant Muzak Asamisimasa; Håkon Stene all that dust ATD 2 Séverine Ballon – Inconnaissance Séverine Ballon all that dust ADT 3 !! The new label all that dust (allthatdust.com) has been established by the outstanding pedigree of its founders – composers, performers, instrument-builders and forthright musical creators and innovators – who have cut their teeth on the most demanding concert halls across the world of contemporary music. Now from founders, soprano Juliet Fraser, Newton Armstrong and Mark Knoop come these three of the first five releases on their exciting imprint. The tongue-in-cheek title of this label, All That Dust, and the bold statements of the music under review, will probably not be lost on the listener. Morton Feldman’s For John Cage – literally the premiere release, which also features label co-founder and pianist Mark Knoop, together with brilliant violinist Aisha Orazbayeva – heralds something of a reborn American avant-garde, primarily concerned with the sensual qualities of sounds themselves, rather than the shaping and ordering of those sounds. Always typical of this tendency, Feldman’s sound-world here consists of small, soft and unhurried musical gestures which emphasise the physical detail of instrumental timbre. The work in question seems a conscious attempt at formalizing a disorientation of memory. The effect is of a hallucinatory stasis, not dissimilar to the canvases of Mark Rothko, where little happens – very beautifully. Matthew Shlomowitz’s music is characterized by its bizarre theatricality and biting irony couched in subversive and surreal quantum miniatures. The disc begins with four segments titled Popular Contexts 7: Public Domain Music, all of which are almost immediately recognizable since the segments are reminiscent of elevator and mall music upon which they are based. The next five segments feature variations with similar public-music settings, this time featuring the percussionist Håkon Stene who augments Asamisimasa, a kind of Lewis Caroll-like equivalent of a jazz quintet. Avant Muzak – five sketches regarding tempi and locale – brings this entertainingly satirical disc to a close. The effect of Séverine Ballon’s musical odyssey Inconnaissance is best elaborated as a masterpiece of music whose microscopic elements of tone, pitch and tempi are conflations of musical ideas miraculously welded together: new, alert and alive. Ballon’s transparent, lyrical cello resides in an opulent sound world. Raul da Gama Hands and Lips of Wind Diagenesis Duo Independent (diagenesisduo.com) !! You know that you’re already in for something special when you read that the Diagenesis Duo comprises a soprano – Heather Barnes – and a cellist – Jennifer Bewerse. That Barnes turns out to be decidedly bel canto with an ability for breathtaking coloratura and that Bewerse draws from her instrument every possible sound short of a human voice is the seductively beckoning cherry on the proverbial cake. The two settings of Mischa Salkind-Pearl’s profoundly ethereal Hands and Lips of Wind are intensely dramatic. This work, together with con mortuis in lingua mortua, Stephen Lewis’ powerfully elegiac piece, and a fresh arrangement of the constantly shifting Travels by Adam Scott Neal were commissioned by the duo. The album also includes the viscerally sprung Nine Settings of Lorine Niedecker, a series of miniatures by Harrison Birtwistle; all of which is music made in the realm of heaven. Bewerse is not the only one who pushes the envelope, vaulting and diving up and down the registers of the cello – no easy task given its tuning in perfect fifths an octave beneath the viola and an octave above the contrabass – but swathed in the leaping melisma and daring coloratura of Barnes, the duo sculpts this diabolically complex music with impossible precision. It is music seemingly in the twilight of tonality but it is utterly seductive, with the cerebral clarity and the stunning instinctiveness with which both musicians approach the five gems in this repertoire. Raul da Gama JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Meaning To Tell Ya Molly Johnson Universal Music Canada/Belle Productions BMM101 (mollyjohnson.com) ! ! Every now and then, a recording comes along that makes you sit up and take notice, literally stop what you are doing, and just listen. This is one such album, a personal, soulful set of originals and covers sung by one of Canada’s finest ladies of song, Molly Johnson. Johnson sings her life experience into these songs, and the results are riveting, moving and celebratory. Of course it helps to be in great company, and she has handpicked the best to join her on this musical journey: drummer Davide DiRenzo, guitarist Justin Abedin, keyboardist Robi Botos, bassist Mike Downes, organist Pete Kuzma and guest saxophonist Bob Sheppard. The band provides beautiful, funky and understated accompaniment throughout. It also doesn’t hurt to have renowned producer Larry Klein sitting in the recording booth. As a master storyteller, Johnson mixes in playfulness, memorable melodic hooks and great grooves, along with many things to ponder. The aptly named Stop, a lifeaffirming antidote to despair, is simply stunning. Co-writers Johnson, Klein and David Baerwald deserve a place in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame for this one. The Gil Scott-Heron tune, Lady Day and John Coltrane, will get you up dancing and singing, and will “wash your troubles away.” Toronto composer Steve MacKinnon also deserves special mention for his collaborative efforts on the title tune and Better Than This. Meaning To Tell Ya has many important things to say. And we’re listenin’. Barry Livingston thewholenote.com December 2018 / January 2019 | 91

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)