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Volume 26 Issue 4 - December 2020 / January 2021

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Composer
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Recording
  • Toronto
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • January
  • December
In this issue: Beautiful Exceptions, Sing-Alone Messiahs, Livingston’s Vocal Pleasures, Chamber Beethoven, Online Opera (Plexiglass & All), Playlist for the Winter of our Discontent, The Oud & the Fuzz, Who is Alex Trebek? All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Friday December 4.

on an album containing

on an album containing an entire Bach suite, and is simultaneously deeply serious and lighthearted, both darkly gritty and otherworldly shimmering. Pincombe dives deep and invests his whole being in this piece, exploring the depths of the complex instructional score and arriving with a presence also to be credited to the masterful miking of the performance, no doubt a complicated process. Here, he pushes his cello to the wall, and we are the grateful recipients of his dedication. The whole album is sensuous from start to finish but this performance stole my heart. Cheryl Ockrant The Messenger Hélène Grimaud; Camerata Salzburg Deutsche Grammophon 00028948378531 (deutschegrammophon.com/en/catalogue) ! Hélène Grimaud opened her recital at Koerner Hall on March 8 with a Bagatelle by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. It began so quietly that it took a few moments to realize Grimaud had started playing. On this new recording she plays five equally understated works by Silvestrov, patiently uncovering the layers of mystery which envelop these enchanting works. Yet even in the most restrained passages, she is so deeply expressive that these wistful, melancholy works resonate with life. Silvestrov wrote two versions of one of his most celebrated works, The Messenger for solo piano and for piano with chamber orchestra. It’s a treat to have both versions together here. Since The Messenger is infused with the spirit of Mozart, placing these two very different composers side by side – though hardly a reach – proves rich in possibilities. But, surprisingly, the Mozart works that Grimaud has selected, two Fantasias and the Concerto in D Minor, represent the composer at his most theatrical. In the Mozart (where she uses the cadenzas by Beethoven, since Mozart didn’t leave any), Grimaud is at her most exciting – dramatic, sensuous and virtuosic. In both Mozart and Silvestrov, the fluent Camerata Salzburg captures the most nuanced phrases with sensitive, buoyant support. Grimaud’s recital turned out to be the last live concert I heard before the lockdown. On this disc she dazzles once again, uncovering direct connections between Mozart at his most profound and the otherworldly music of Silvestrov, written more than 200 years later. Pamela Margles Tanbou Kache Diana Golden; Shawn Chang New Focus Recordings FCR279 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue) ! Haiti, impoverished by unrelenting disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes and depredating exploitation from within and abroad – has nevertheless maintained an extraordinarily rich artistic heritage; vibrant, joyous, unconquerable. I’ve been there and experienced it first-hand. So has New York-based cellist Diana Golden, teaching in the art-city of Jacmel. She’s also conducted research at Montreal’s Société de recherche et de diffusion de la musique haïtienne. Golden explains that the CD’s title, meaning “hidden drums,” refers to the Vodou drums accompanying traditional folk songs. The eight pieces, each lasting between five and 13 minutes, vary stylistically from the neo-Baroque Petite Suite for solo cello by Werner Jaegerhuber (1900-1953) to the minimalist meditations of Femiel, part of an 80-minute work for electronic instruments by Daniel Bernard Roumain (b.1970). I particularly enjoyed the distinctively Haitian compositions. The bittersweet Légende créole by Justin Élie (1883-1931) incorporates a children’s song about hideand-seek. Affecting, soulful, folkloric melodies fill the Suite haïtienne by Frantz Casséus (1915-1993), originally for guitar, here arranged by Julio Racine (b.1945). In Racine’s own Sonate à Cynthia (2014), two rhythmic Allegros bracket the pentatonic motifs of the lyrical Cantilena. Carmen Brouard (1909-2005) spent her last 29 years in Montreal where she helped found the Société mentioned above. Her Duo Sentimental pits Haitian pentatonics against a twelve-tone row, ending in a harmonious Amoroso. Golden’s closely-miked, dark-hued tone and expressive phrasing, aided by Taiwanese- Canadian pianist Shawn Chang, make a strong case for the unfairly neglected music of this unfairly neglected country. Michael Schulman MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Land’s End Ensemble performs chamber music of Omar Daniel Laura Hynes; Land’s End Ensemble; Karl Hirzer Centrediscs CMCCD 28120 (cmccanada.org) ! This welcome Centrediscs CD includes four chamber works by Canadian composer Omar Daniel performed by the Calgarybased Land’s End Ensemble. Daniel has risen steadily in the Canadian composition world with prestigious commissions, awards and university appointments. The music is rigorous, lively and imaginative; his program notes mention influences of Estonian folk music plus Northern and Eastern European composers, as in the exciting Duo for Violoncello and Piano (2018). Its finale’s title, Allegro barbaro, acknowledges Bartók’s piano work. The Jules Léger Prize-winning Zwei Lieder nach Rilke (1996) for voice and nine-instrument ensemble is another favourite; soprano Laura Hynes’ secure, rich voice handles high B splendidly. This note makes a thrilling climax for the setting of Rilke’s Die Engel, where angels spread their wings and “set winds in motion.” Piano Trios Nos.1 (1999) and 2 (2015) were written for the outstanding Land’s End Ensemble core, consisting of John Lowry, violin; Beth Root Sandvoss, cello; and Susanne Ruberg-Gordon, piano. Daniel describes Trio No.1 as an “exploration of opposites.” I found it challenging; after a soft mysterious cello opening, the piano bursts in with truly threatening dissonant outbursts. The contrasts continue in alternation between instruments towards the second movement’s end, and in the distance travelled between the finale’s near-silent opening and loud strings plus upward-rushing piano scales later. In Trio No.2 the composer notes a change in direction involving, among other things, the presence of nostalgia, made explicit in the consonances of the last movement. Roger Knox Going North Luciane Cardassi Redshift Records TK480 (lucianecardassi.com/going-north) ! The eight pieces that comprise pianist Luciane Cardassi’s latest release, Going North, are an impressive array of works by Canadian 52 | December 2020 / January 2021 thewholenote.com

and Brazilian composers. The album is made up of several unique journeys – each piece providing a place where Cardassi’s panorama of expression, and mastery of unusual playing techniques, shine with a world-class radiance. The varied colours and vocal interjections in Terri Hron’s AhojAhoj create a clever collection of sonic cross-play. In a piece titled Wonder, Emilie Lebel gives us exactly that: a complexity of engaging musical events that bewilder and enchant. Chantale Laplante’s Estudio de um piano inhabits a world of distant creaks and whispers where a sorrowful beauty permeates a hollowed atmosphere. Punchy dissonances and prickly gestures pierce through rugged landscapes in Darren Miller’s For Will Robbins. The hypnotic aura produced in Converse (a piece credited to several composers) offers a gentle pathway amid the turf of more abrasive expanses heard on the album. Last on the release, we are left with the mysterious whimsy in Fernando Mattos’ The Boat Sings, a work that creates an organic time domain of rubbery substances. The highly skilled interpretive prowess of Cardassi leaves no doubt as to why this pianist has established herself as one of Canada’s most important champions of contemporary music. With such an enticing set of performances, I’ll be listening many more times, and looking out, eagerly, for the next release from Cardassi. Adam Scime Alexina Louie – Take the Dog Sled Evie Mark; Akinisie Sivuarapik; Esprit Orchestra; Alex Pauk Centrediscs CMCCD 28320 (cmccanada.org) ! Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik practice and work to preserve traditional Inuit culture in northern Quebec’s Nunavik region; they have performed as throat singers around the world. Alexina Louie is one of Canada’s most distinguished composers, and the Toronto-based Esprit Orchestra, conducted by Alex Pauk, champions contemporary music and innovative approaches. As the Centrediscs program notes state: “Take the Dog Sled is a celebration of life in the Inuit communities in Canada’s far north.” Composed for Montreal Symphony musicians in 2008, it consists of eight musical numbers, five of which feature traditional Inuit songs. In throat singing, two women interact closely, facing each other. Louie’s scoring for the seven-member instrumental ensemble is lean and transparent, minimalist at times, supporting and adding musical variety to the singing. Sharpening the Runners on the Dog Sled is the first song, appealing and rhythmic as the activity suggests. Cradle Song is instrumental, a mother’s love for her child expressed simply then becoming more complex with crossrhythms and parallel lines. The Mosquito is another traditional song, with added staccato, pizzicato, and a buzzing double bass tone; the instrumental Bug Music carries forth the humourous possibilities. I especially like the throat singing in The River, combining suggestions of flow and fear. The work has succeeded with audiences in many parts of the world, and is suitable for listeners of all ages. It is an achievement for which the contributors indeed deserve congratulations! Roger Knox Music for English Horn Alone Jacqueline Leclair New Focus Recordings FCR272 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue) ! Jacqueline Leclair’s latest album Music for English Horn Alone features seven works for solo English horn, four of which – by Hannah Kendall, Faye-Ellen Silverman, Karola Obermüller and Cecilia Arditto – are spectacular premieres. Leclair, known in the music community as a contemporary music specialist on oboe, brilliantly showcases her flair for new music techniques on the oboe’s darker cousin with equally stunning results, making these works an invaluable addition to the repertoire. From the outset, Leclair’s playing is exceptional; the richness of tone and beautiful, subtle articulations are displayed over the entire range. From multiphonics, fluttertonguing, note-bending and the exploration of the extreme soft dynamic, Leclair charms with her mastery of the English horn. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this thoughtful assortment is its ability to captivate and give rise to autonomic responsiveness to touch and visual and auditory stimulation through its exploration and depiction of the instrument’s possibilities and range, whisking the listener from one culture and destination to another without the need to traverse the physical. If one had to describe this collection in a single word, it would be “borderless.” Melissa Scott Right Now, In a Second Transient Canvas New Focus Recordings FCR267 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue) ! The ephemeral nature of sound is exquisitely captured in the poetry of this new music performed by bass clarinettist Amy Advocat and Matt Sharrock, a percussion colourist heard here on marimba. Experimental music, made with incongruous instrumental pairings, often begs the question: Can sound be toyed with if only to fill the heart and mind with a sense of wonder? Advocat and Sharrock answer in the affirmative, and emphatically at that. The bass clarinet – among the whole family of single-reed woodwinds – is probably the most diabolically difficult to master. Advocat makes light work of it all with her extraordinary virtuosity, her application of soft dynamics to create atmospheric effect, and by this I don’t mean such effects that suggest the lugubrious (something she does on Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Rebounds), but also something resembling a beautiful gravitas (which is evoked on resonance imaging by Crystal Pascucci). Sharrock’s radiant marimba is the perfect foil for the rumblings of the bass clarinet. His crystalline sculpting of notes informs Stefanie Lubowski’s composition Right now, in a second. Meanwhile he turns his instrument into a kind of living, breathing being, as with glancing blows of mallets on wood he conjures a close dance with the bass clarinettist. The masterful centrepiece is Clifton Ingram’s Cold column, calving. This music seems to bow in reverence to the earth’s ancient permafrost. As it unfolds, you get a sense of how expressively the musicians tease out the geographical metaphor of this piece with profound grandeur. Raul da Gama JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Alex Moxon Quartet Alex Moxon Quartet Independent (alexmoxon.com) ! The Ottawabased guitarist, Alex Moxon, is a musical omnivore, his very personal style of playing clearly informed by an early diet of many styles and idioms of music. Best of all, Moxon is a shining example of what true musicality means and how it is meant to devolve from composition to performance. This 2020 recording is an exquisite example, from its unassuming title and the whimsical honesty of the cover photograph, the absence of liner notes to explain any gratuitous raison d’être for the music and, of course, the music itself. Not for Moxon are flurries of notes, dramatically rising and falling arpeggios, cerebrally dazzling runs up and down the fretboard. He strips bare the melody of each song that he has interiorized, distills the intended harmonic conception to the essential chords thewholenote.com December 2020 / January 2021 | 53

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