1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Quartet
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • September
  • October
Blue pages and orange shirts; R. Murray Schafer's complex legacy, stirrings of life on the live concert scene; and the Bookshelf is back. This and much more. Print to follow. Welcome back from endless summer, one and all.

Linda Catlin Smith –

Linda Catlin Smith – Ballad Apartment House Another Timbre at176 ( Barbara Monk Feldman – Verses GBSR Duo with Mira Benjamin Another Timbre at177 ( ! New discs from two Canadian composers – Linda Catlin Smith and Barbara Monk Feldman – and both are standouts. They are the latest releases in the invaluable Canadian Composers Series from Another Timbre. As we’ve come to expect from this innovative British label, the sound is stellar and the performances, by some of Britain’s top contemporary music specialists, are consistently terrific. As well, there are some significant recording premieres here. Like many composers on Another Timbre’s roster, Smith and Monk Feldman engage directly with 20th-century game-changers John Cage and Morton Feldman, so tempos are slow, dynamics are subdued and textures are spare. But Smith and Monk Feldman have distinctively personal voices. Smith, a dynamic presence on the Toronto new music scene, has developed an ardent international following, while Monk Feldman remains the only Canadian woman composer to have had an opera, Pyramus and Thisbe, staged in the Canadian Opera Company’s main hall (inexcusably rare for a Canadian, even rarer – so even more inexcusable – for a woman). It was a recording of Smith’s music, Drifter, which launched the Canadian Composers Series in 2017. Ballad is now her fourth album for Another Timbre. She wrote the two works here for her brother, cellist Andrew Smith. In Through The Low Hills, from 1994, cellist Anton Lukoszevieze and pianist Kerry Yong, both members of the much-fêted British ensemble, Apartment House, stylishly trace the twists and turns of Smith’s intriguing harmonic transformations. The title work, Ballad, is a lyrical, openhearted, gorgeous, and, at 46 minutes, expansive work. Lukoszevieze and Yong listen to each other so intently that every phrase communicates eloquently. Monk Feldman’s realm extends from the enchanted vistas of Duo for Piano and Percussion and the eerie mists of Verses for Vibraphone to the uplifting choralelike contours of Clear Edge for solo piano. The I And Thou, from 1988, is dedicated to Monk Feldman’s teacher and husband, Morton Feldman, who had died the previous year. Here she weaves a fabric of luminous stillness. Yet beneath the shimmering surface an uneasy presence stirs, unarticulated but palpable, especially with pianist Siwan Rhys’ sensitivity to the mood of longing that suffuses this moving work. Monk Feldman has written that The Northern Shore, a trio for percussion, piano, and violin, takes inspiration from the landscape of the Gaspé region of Quebec. Reflecting such an immense expanse, this work is the longest here. And it covers a vast expressive territory, from precisely shaped and positioned tones to an unexpectedly effulgent passage of delicate piano chords marked “freely”. The responsiveness of percussionist George Barton and pianist Rhys is beautifully matched by the imaginative palette of colours from Canadian violinist Mira Benjamin (a member of Apartment House). Pamela Margles Music of François Tousignant Myriam Leblanc; Catherine St-Arnaud; Vincent Ranallo; Ensemble Paramirabo Centrediscs CMCCD 28821 ( ! The varied career of François Tousignant (1955- 2019) included music critic for Le Devoir (1994-2005), Radio-Canada columnist, professor at Universities of Ottawa and Montreal, and composer of over 40 works. In commemoration of the second anniversary of his death, this double-disc release features a memorable tribute concert recording of Montreal-based instrumental Ensemble Paramirabo, with three guest vocalists, brilliantly performing eight of his chamber pieces from 1973 to 1987. The first disc features five earlier compositions. Lyrical colourful solo Conflits (1973) has artistic director/flutist Jeffrey Stonehouse musically perform the long meditative phrases with alternating high and lower pitches. It is also an introduction to Tousignant’s widespread compositional tool of attention-grabbing silent breaks between phrases. Quatre incantations (1974) is another easy-to-listen-to early work, with wide-ranging soprano Myriam Leblanc vocals set to Tousignant text answering pianist Pamela Reimer’s clear melodies and wellplaced occasional atonalities. La muse vénale (1975), set to a Charles Baudelaire text, is an intelligently contemplated atonal yet never dense work, featuring cello (Viviana Gosselin) and flute (Stonehouse) plucks, detached notes, and trills and slides, magnetic tape effects (Tousignant) and baritone Vincent Ranallo’s low mysterious singing and closing shining laughter. More atonality and large silent breaks in the alternating crashing and reflective piece Anatole, sans paroles (1982) for cello and piano. Reimer’s virtuosic solo performance Sonate pour clavecin (1983) features a multitude of contemporary harpsichord effects. The second album features three later works. Virtuosic contemporary Histoire (1984) opens with Reimer’s contemplative piano detached notes and Charlotte Layec’s held, reflective, clarinet notes. Shifts in mood, like loud piano ringing notes and clarinet swells and changes in articulation, create a slow, sad and occasional explosive mood. Étude pour Shayol No.3 (1986) is set to a Rainer Maria Rilke poem. Violinist Hubert Brizard and soprano Catherine St-Arnaud perform this very contemporary piece with atonalities, string vibrations, vocal high held notes and spoken words, and more Tousignant compelling “what’s next” silences between phrases. The closing Trois paysages proustiens (1987) is considered Tousignant’s most famous work – set to words by Marcel Proust. Reimer and St-Arnaud are joined by percussionist David Therrien Brongo. Longer abstract percussion and piano atonalities, spoken/sung vocals, shorter mood section and silent breaks abound. Understandably, Tousignant did not compose during his years as the music critic. His output reflects a composer with modern atonal technique, clear delicate lyrical scoring and respect for the written word. Tiina Kiik Robert Lemay – Cinq Études for Alto Saxophone Jean-François Guay Centrestream CMCCT 11621 ( ! Our world of streaming media has a few benefits including how the creation and distribution of music projects is less expensive and simpler than a decade or two ago. This ease of production makes niche products more accessible and an excellent example is Cinq études for alto saxophone by Robert Lemay (commissioned and exquisitely performed by Jean- François Guay). The five movements total just 18 minutes and Cinq études is released as a stand-alone digital offering. While Cinq études works as a concert piece, its unique purpose is to demonstrate different playing techniques, including double and triple tonguing, multiphonics, altissimo, rapid register changes and subtones. These techniques are heard in most contemporary saxophone works, but can pass by so quickly we may miss identifying them. Doublez ou triplez la mise is a great demonstration of double and triple tonguing which Guay performs cleanly and with verve, while Additions & 42 | September and October 2021

multiplications has some subtle and quiet melodic lines leading into some excellent multiphonic work. The liner notes state: “Each piece is a tribute to a great saxophonist/pedagogue: Marcel Mule, Jean-Marie Londeix, Eugene Rousseau, Frederick Hemke and Daniel Deffayet.” I am surprised the altissimo section is not dedicated to Sigurd M. Rascher whose Top Tones for the Saxophone (which I purchased decades ago) is a standard in saxophone literature. This small quibble aside, Cinq études is worth a listen for its inventive and musical demonstration of multiple techniques. Ted Parkinson Steve Reich Nexus; Sō Percussion Nexus 11042 ( ! A collaboration between two leading percussion groups, veteran Torontobased Nexus and younger-generation New York-based Sō Percussion, this album features four percussion-centred scores by American composer Steve Reich. Reich’s music is generally characterized by repetition, canons, slow harmonic changes and, for a time, the adoption of selected musical notions from West Africa and Indonesia. By the mid-1960s Reich sought to create music in which his compositional process was clearly discernible by the audience in the music itself. From 1965 to 1971, his style was dominated by a process called “phasing,” a kind of Escher-like perceptual magic where incremental changes to the music being performed are revealed to the listener in real time. All those compositional and performative approaches deeply colour the brilliantly performed music on this album: Clapping Music (1972), Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ (1973), Mallet Phase (2016, based on Piano Phase 1967), and Quartet (2013). The first three, controversial in their day, have become contemporary standards. Quartet, a jazz-inflected work scored for two vibraphones and two pianos, is an outlier in this program. Reich called it “one of the more complex [pieces] I have composed.” While frequently shifting key and continuity by restlessly changing metres, the outer sections maintain a pulsed momentum, a recognizable link to Reich’s earlier compositions. In stark contrast, the middle slow movement introduces chordal harmonies unusual in his music, evoking a peaceful, pensive mood. This is Nexus’ 31st commercial album release – and a resounding way to celebrate both its 50th anniversary and its deep and enduring relationship with Reich. Andrew Timar Ofer Pelz – Trinité Meitar Ensemble; Quatuor Ardeo New Focus Recordings FCR303 ( ! Intricate prepared-piano ricochets and barbed ensemble alchemy converge to permeate the Meitar Ensemble’s latest release – a portrait of music by Montreal-based Israeli composer Ofer Pelz. The five pieces on the disc represent an eightyear collaboration between the composer and the virtuosic ensemble. Pelz’s clear and punctuated sound world is well suited for the bravura and precision of intent capable by the Meitar musicians. The first work, Backward inductions, for augmented piano, evokes a process whereby reverse reasoning achieves a sequence of optimal actions. This dynamic music produces fluidity through compartmentalized yet spinning lines and tempestuous interruptions. A piece titled Convergence for alto flute and electronics is a wondrous barrage of granulated tinctures that envelopes the ear and the mind. The chamber work, marchons, marchons, performed in Toronto when New Music Concerts presented Meitar at the Music Gallery in 2017, offers delicate and distant conversations spoken in metallic whispers. Finally, a piece written in two movements for flute, prepared piano and amplified string quartet titled Blanc sur Blanc begins with a dance-like mysteriousness followed by windswept panorama. The confident nature of Pelz’s music is propelled forward by what is clearly a process-oriented approach – yet this attribute also contains a wealth of originality and expression. The music and performances on this release are as compelling as they are refreshing. Bravo to all. Adam Scime Peter Gilbert – Burned into the Orange Arditti Quartet; Iridium Quartet; Various Artists New Focus Recordings FCR300 ( ! Composer Peter Gilbert’s second full-length album – Burned into the Orange – is a collection of chamber works that explore rich and sensuous textures performed by the Arditti Quartet, Camilla Hoitenga, Magdalena Meitzner, Jeremias Schwarzer, Richard White, Michael Veit, Emanuele Arciuli and the Iridium Quartet. The seemingly ever-rising pulsation of the voice opens wide to forget that which you are singing produces an ephemeral hypnosis. The title track, scored for saxophone quartet, evokes sonic tendrils creeping among the sinuousness of a liquid cathedral. The almost violent gestures of Channelling the Waters produces a musical energy that tunnels through unknown timbral pathways. A piece titled By the Lonely Traveller’s Call, for tuba and amplified mute, transduces extreme guttural bellows into resonant sonic clouds. The lingering harmonic canopies of Soon as the Sun Forsook the Eastern Main evaporate monumental piano sonorities into monoliths of aural brilliance. This album is saturated with aural enchantment – each piece seems to be on a journey from unaltered impetus to transcendent harmoniousness. Burned into the Orange will surely burn into memory for those who listen. Adam Scime Fantasy – Oppens plays Kaminsky Ursula Oppens; Jerome Lowenthal; Cassatt String Quartet; Arizona State University Orchestra; Jeffrey Meyer Cedille CDR 90000 202 ( ! Titan of the contemporary keyboard, Ursula Oppens is a rarity among artists living today. She is the stalwart bearer of a mid-century musical torch that apparently burns eternal. How fortunate we are to have such musicians as Oppens still making music with fortitude, passion and tireless faith. A most recent episode for Oppens has been a record made with the Cassatt Quartet and Arizona State University Orchestra showcasing music of American composer Laura Kaminsky. This disc, themed “Oppens Plays Kaminsky” seems a testament of friendship (these two impressive musicians have been longtime pals). Presently, they come together in a variety of idioms to demonstrate Kaminsky’s portfolio in a traversal of quintet, fantasy and concerto. Despite evocative titles such as Maelstrom, and…, or Hurtling. Still. the music isn’t always convincingly first rate. Nevertheless, there are moments of tunefulness and poetry. The affinity between Oppens and Kaminsky radiates throughout, leaving a palpable sense of fellowship and mutual joy amongst colleagues. Oppens wields her piano at the album’s centre, steering a varied vessel with consistent skill and surety. Even in brief piano passages, as she peeks out from dense ensemble material, Oppens’ artistry sings unmistakably. The 20-minute solo Fantasy (2010) should be considered a tour de force in and of itself. When it comes to a career such as Oppens’, September and October 2021 | 43

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)