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Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020

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July/August issue is now available in flipthrough HERE, bringing to a close 25 seasons of doing what we do (and plan to continue doing), and on stands early in the week of July 5. Not the usual bucolic parade of music in the summer sun, but lots, we hope, to pass the time: links to online and virtual music; a full slate of record reviews; plenty new in the Listening Room; and a full slate of stories – the future of opera, the plight of small venues, the challenge facing orchestras, the barriers to resumption of choral life, the challenges of isolation for real-time music; the steps some festivals are taking to keep the spirit and substance of what they do alive. And intersecting with all of it, responses to the urgent call for anti-racist action and systemic change.

young, energetic,

young, energetic, brilliant Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado who is very much in demand these days. Both of these scores pulsate with fiery flamenco rhythms and melodies, so Heras-Casado is in his element and enjoying himself thoroughly. El sombrero de tres picos (The Three- Cornered Hat) is the more elaborate of the two. It is a comedy ballet/pantomime, a morality tale with the message “love belongs to the young and old fogeys should not chase young women.” The old fogey in this case is the village magistrate (El Corregidor) with a three-cornered hat who is after the Miller’s pretty young wife. She flirts with him for a while, but in trying to catch her he keeps stumbling and falling on his face to the ridicule of the village folk. Simple enough story, but full of delightful dances one after another, each different and each assigned to a different soloist – the Fandango (Miller’s wife), the Minuet (Corregidor), the Farruca (Miller) or the gentle rollicking Seguidilla for the neighbours celebrating St. John’s night, the night of love. At the end is a real apotheosis where it all comes together in the Final Dance, the Jota, with everyone dancing and all is forgiven. As a contrast El amor brujo (Love the Magician) is much more serious although also a ballet. It tells of a young woman trying to exorcise the ghost of her unfaithful husband and be ready for a new love. It’s a dark score, full of mystery and black magic with dances like the Dance of Terror or the famous Ritual Fire Dance, but the story has a happy ending in a major key (Dance of the Game of Love) and all the bells are ringing. Excellent sound, great entertainment. Janos Gardonyi Exiles in Paradise – Émigré Composers in Hollywood Brinton Averil Smith; Evelyn Chen Naxos 8.579055 ( ! By the early 20th century, Los Angeles had become the centre of the nascent film industry, although at the time, the city was little more than orange groves punctuated with the Hollywood Dream Factory that would pull the world out of the Great Depression and through WW ll. With the evil rise of Eastern European anti-Semitism, numbers of brilliant, classical musical artists began flocking to La La Land with the idea of bringing their skills to the movies that were being churned out on a daily basis. These brave musicians planted their roots into the thin, sandy soil and began the painstaking process of bringing artistic culture to the Wild West. With this exquisite release, magnificent pianist Evelyn Chen and equally magnificent cellist Brinton Averil Smith have created a project that celebrates these wonderful artists – many of whom directly contributed to the film industry. Included on the recording are interpretations of works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Miklós Rózsa, Franz Waxman and George Gershwin (born Jacob Gershowitz). Stravinsky’s hauntingly beautiful Berceuse (from The Firebird) is presented here by Chen and Smith with a deep, emotional undercurrent that informs their sumptuous performances, perfectly enhanced by their contemporary sensibilities. One of the most thrilling tracks is Night Owls – Fantastic Variations by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who, after fleeing Mussolini’s Italy, scored over 200 films for MGM and taught a string of future film composers such as André Previn, Henry Mancini and John Williams. One can almost feel the kinesthetic, evocative, nighttime Florence that the composer has created. Familiar to the listener will be Waxman’s Carmen Fantasie (drawn from Bizet’s opera) as well as Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So from his controversial, 1935 “Folk Opera” Porgy and Bess. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke LA Phil 100 Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel; Zubin Mehta; Esa-Pekka Salonen Cmajor ( ! The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1919 by the millionaire and amateur musician William Andrews Clark Jr. who had the ambition and the funds to create best orchestra in the United States. One can only imagine the general excitement of the population at that time. Their first principal conductor was British-born Walter Henry Rothwell. Rothwell, a member of the musical elite, had connections, having been a member of the Vienna State Opera and had served as assistant to Gustav Mahler. Following Rothwell’s death in 1927 he was succeeded by these eminent conductors: Georg Schnéevoigt 1927-29; Artur Rodzinski 1929-33; Otto Klemperer 1933- 39; Alfred Wallenstein 1943-56; Eduard van Beinum 1956-59; Zubin Mehta 1962- 78; Carlo Maria Giulini 1978-84; André Previn 1985-89; Essa-Pekka Salonen,1992- 2009 and thence Gustavo Dudamel, who is the current music and artistic director. Mehta is the conductor emeritus and Salonen is the conductor laureate. There are two DVDs. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Centennial Birthday Gala Concert was recorded live in the unique Walt Disney Concert Hall in October 2019. Zubin Mehta conducted the Prelude to Die Meistersinger and Ravel’s La Valse. Essa Pekka-Salonen conducted Lutoslawski’s Symphony No.4, and Dudamel offered a thrilling suite from The Firebird. Finally, a commissioned work by Daniel Bjarnason titled From Space I saw the Earth. For this atmospheric, mysterious, “outer-space” work the orchestra was divided into three, each with its own conductor, namely Dudamel, Salonen and Mehta. The second disc is an informative documentary, with lots of interesting interviews and commentaries about the founding and the growth of the orchestra. The New York Times in 2017, just before the 100th Anniversary, headlined that “Los Angeles Has America’s Most Important Orchestra. Period.” This unique and most interesting package is testament to that. Bruce Surtees MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY The Spirit and the Dust Beverley Johnston; Mark Djokic; Amici Ensemble Centrediscs CMCCD 27920 ( ! Dubbed, “a champion of new, genre-busting works” (DRUM! Magazine), Canadian percussionist Beverley Johnston is a rara avis in this country: a percussion soloist with an international career. Over four decades Johnston has built an enviable reputation for her musically intelligent performances, her deft classical transcriptions sharing the stage with contemporary compositions and dramatic presentations. Her career highlights and honours have been too many to list here. In 1986 Johnston released her first solo album Impact (Centrediscs, JUNO Award nominee), followed by seven more, as well having appeared on numerous other recordings. Her newest, The Spirit and the Dust, features her signature instruments, marimba and vibraphone. She is joined by violin virtuoso Mark Djokic and the illustrious Amici Chamber Ensemble in six works by four prominent Canadian composers, Christos Hatzis, Richard Mascall, Norbert Palej and Dinuk Wijeratne. The Spirit and the Dust for solo marimba by Wijeratne is a dual musical meditation, skillfully reflecting on themes of life and death inspired by world literature, as well as on the richly varied tonal palette of the marimba itself. Johnston reveals her vulnerable side in Palej’s dramatic yet intimate ser con Él (be 50 | July and August 2020

with Him). She whispers and sings words of yearning for someone unnamed while simultaneously playing vibraphone. Two fragmentary Chilean texts are separated by five centuries, one by an anonymous Inca poet, the other by Gabriela Mistral. While the absence these poets suggest may only be an illusion, the musical and emotional landscapes Johnston evokes on this album feel only too real. Andrew Timar PEP (Piano and Erhu Project) Volume 3 Redshift Records ( ! The duo of erhu virtuosa Nicole Ge Li and contemporary music specialist, pianist Corey Hamm, known as PEP (Piano and Erhu Project), issued its first CD release in 2015, the second following soon on its heels. I reviewed both for The WholeNote, commenting that PEP’s core repertoire exemplifies a “fluid interplay between these two instruments, each an icon of its respective culture. Rather than an intercultural vanity project, their collective music-making focuses on polished, musically engaged readings of recently commissioned scores.” PEP’s Volume 3 extends that project to nine richly varied compositions. The carefully curated collection includes international composers working in many of today’s classical music streams. In addition to two Canadian works by Lucas Oickle and Stephen Chatman, new compositions by Michael Finnissy (UK), Gao Ping (China), plus existing works by Sergei Prokofiev (Russia/USSR), his grandson Gabriel Prokofiev (UK), Somei Satoh (Japan) and Marc Mellits (USA) are on this rich smorgasbord. The album gets off to a rollicking start with the percussive first movement of Chineseborn composer Gao Ping’s Hu Yan (2017). The work’s six sections are each characterized by contrasting techniques and moods. Pizzicato passages in both piano and erhu in the third movement are certainly arresting, as are the eerie finale’s final moments: bass piano clusters thud while the erhu holds a still, high vibrato-less tone. The album concludes with an arrangement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Scherzo from his Flute Sonata (1943), later arranged for violin and piano by the composer. Hamm energetically nails down the two-fisted piano accompaniment while Li handles her difficult erhu part with panache. She makes it sounds like the 77-year old work was written for her. It’s an espresso nightcap to PEP’s exhilarating program. Andrew Timar Jordan Nobles – Chiaroscuro Various Artists Redshift Records TK477 ( ! Gentle pulse, deep echo, and the alluring heat of mirage; this is the mysterious sonic imagery evoked throughout the enchanting music of Chiaroscuro – a new release by Canadian composer Jordan Nobles. Chiaroscuro is a term used in visual art referring to the careful use of light and dark to create the illusion of three-dimensional volume on a flat surface. Nobles’ brilliant use of instrumental colour does exactly that: the artifice of tone painting creating multi-aural brush strokes of vast hyper-chroma. Although the music seems to provide a static environment on the surface, a masterful and beautiful complexity unfolds beneath. It is a space propelled forward by shimmering strings, luminous harp flourishes, fluttering winds and vocal wisps – messages from another world that travel by wind to ear. Nobles treats the large instrumental forces with such care that one seems to forget that there are separate voices: the resultant amalgam presented as unified iridescence. The two pieces on the disc offer oceans of spiritual radiances for the listener – make the time and dive in. Adam Scime Ludovico Einaudi – Chamber Music Cameron Crozman; Quatuor Molinari; Pentaèdre ATMA ACD2 2805 ( ! Considered by many to be the world’s most popular classical composer, Italian Ludovico Einaudi’s vast collection of compositions has appeared in films, television series and on countless albums recorded by soloists, ensembles and the composer himself. Musique de chambre features four of Einaudi’s extended works, written for both soloists and chamber ensemble, performed by prominent Quebec musicians. Each of the pieces on this album demonstrates Einaudi’s ability to create an atmospheric soundscape using harmony and rhythm, incorporating minimalist elements to great effect. This is not classical music in the style of Mozart and Beethoven: rather than being foundational material, melodic lines are the exception to the rule; throbbing, pulsing rhythms and large-scale harmonic shifts bring Philip Glass and Michael Nyman to mind, but with the striking contrasts of dynamic and character that are indicative of Einaudi’s unique compositional voice. Corale, for example, juxtaposes vital and exuberant string passages with soft and subdued statements, the “choral” sung amidst the outbursts. Zoom (aptly titled, given our current reliance on the eponymous technology) combines a lengthy, slow opening with a speedy and chaotic conclusion – what begins as a seemingly ironic subversion of the title erupts into a virtuosic reflection of what it means to “zoom.” Canto and Ai margini dell’aria are, in both title and sound, reflective of vocal music, featuring prominent lines, sometimes many at once, over discordant accompaniment. For those who appreciate Einaudi’s style and want to look beyond the keyboard works, Musique de chambre is a fine place to start. Matthew Whitfield CLASSICS from the Rascali Klepitoire (teaser) EP John Oswald fony ( ! This Toronto composer/saxophonist/improviser/ electronics/artistic genius John Oswald release is an exciting cross section of masterfully created old and new projects illuminating Oswald’s unique talents in electronic and live sound creation, something this reviewer can attest from decades playing free improvised music with him in various settings. Oswald recently revised an earlier dance piano/ensemble soundtrack to disklavier for from exquisite lune. Linda Caitlin Smith’s score is one that Oswald subcontracted for his suite based on Debussy’s Clair de Lune, and here her slow reflective piece with wide spaces is breathtaking to the final highpitched piano sounds. The Oswald and James Rolfe co-composition bird, based on Leonard Cohen, is fascinating with the opening solo female voice warbling, high notes, pace change, spoken words and final almost folk oompah groove backdrop. Plunderphonics galore in a sum of distractions* (concerto for conductor and orchestra), as the conductor/soloist is wired for sound, and fingertip triggers set off musical quotes against flute melody, intermittent orchestral crashes and superimposed familiar lines for new listening experiences. sounds of sigh… opens with a Simon and Garfunkel Sounds of Silence -sounding riff as overlapping symphonic held notes, groove patterns, intense sustained horn and atonal effects abound. Also included are lontanofaune, and ariature & panorama. But the biggest thrill is the “silly bonus track” 5th. Beethoven’s classic symphony now contains such treats as electronically produced sounds, squeaks, July and August 2020 | 51

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