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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.

dedication and staying

dedication and staying power carry the day. May she always urge us to listen close and listen well, ever compelling our ears toward the future. Adam Sherkin Richard Danielpour – An American Mosaic Simone Dinnerstein Supertrain Records 025 SR (richard-danielpour.com) ! The everengaging American pianist, Simone Dinnerstein, has been rather active during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, in lockdowns last spring, she retreated into studio – inspired by nourishing walks through Brooklyn’s Green- Wood Cemetery – to lay down some favoured works by Schubert and Philip Glass. (See my review of the album A Character of Quiet, in the October 2020 issue of The WholeNote.) She has now embarked on an attractive new project with Grammy Award-winning composer, Richard Danielpour: an album of pieces written expressly for her. This is a sequence of 15 miniatures, each offering comfort and musical solace during the difficult pandemic months of 2020 and 2021. The disc is capped by three arrangements of Bach’s music by Danielpour, as a tribute to Dinnerstein. He was first inspired by Dinnerstein’s celebrated recordings of Bach and set pen to staff paper in a generous outpouring of sound portraits of American society (usually in slow tempi!) over the past months of crisis: parents, teachers, first responders, religious leaders and even politicians. This recipe makes for a rich and varied (albeit lethargic) musical feast, contemporaneously narrating an era of suffering in which we still find ourselves. But why not take stock at such a close vantage point, reflecting on recent traumas still evolving? As for Dinnerstein herself, how could she not record such music? This set was made especially for her quintessential artistry, quietly singing through at every corner. Here is the optimal example of performer-meetingcomposer-meeting-performer-again; the results are worthy of a two-eared listen in these fraught, often one-eared times. Adam Sherkin À Claude Benedetto Boccuzzi DiG Classic DCTT111 (naxosdirect.com/search/8054726141112) ! Twentiethcentury pianorepertoire specialist, Benedetto Boccuzzi (b. 1990), is not only a concert pianist but also a composer, improviser and teacher. He regularly performs in Italy and conducts workshops on contemporary piano repertoire, extended techniques and improvisation. À Claude, Boccuzzi’s debut album, is an eclectic keyboard feast, featuring works by Claude Debussy, George Crumb, Toru Takemitsu, Olivier Messiaen, Diana Rotaru and Boccuzzi himself. The programmatic conceit of the album pays homage to Debussy, before moving on to a selection of the French maître’s musical heirs. Beginning with three miniatures from Debussy’s Images: Cloches à travers les feuilles; Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut; and Poissons d’or (1907); the album sets a relaxed, impressionistic atmosphere inviting the listener to let imagination roam. Boccuzzi then very effectively renders six of American composer George Crumb’s textureand allusion-rich Makrokosmos I (1972-1973). This collection of aphoristic piano pieces describes the temperaments of the houses of the zodiac, famously using an encyclopedic range of colouristic effects including plucking the strings, producing massive tone clusters, coaxing overtones from depressed keys not played and directly quoting music of composers such as Chopin. Three pieces of the Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (1944) by French composer Messiaen receive a muscular performance here, though sections of Regard de la Vierge exude a poignant cantabile quality. Particularly admirable is Boccuzzi’s precise rendering of the demanding birdcall references throughout. Andrew Timar Blow – Wind Quintets by Donatoni, Salonen & Lash The City of Tomorrow New Focus Recordings FCR294 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! Part way through the sixth movement of Leander and Hero (2015) by Hannah Lash, a ghostly flute-like voice enters the texture. As the liner notes reveal, the sound is one player blowing across the open mouth of another. When it comes to unusual directions from composers, I apparently have neither seen nor heard it all. This new release, from the spectacularly capable woodwind quintet The City of Tomorrow, delights and amazes. Put aside that in the current circumstances this would simply be an unacceptable breach of personal safety for both performers, the intimacy of the act demands trust and care, to say nothing of technical control of “embouchure” and/or “instrument.” It wouldn’t surprise me to learn the effect was overdubbed onto the track, but I’m willing to bet the players didn’t need to. Given how the rest of this disc is presented with complete assurance and musicality, a little thing like playing your colleague’s head like a jug in a jug band would hardly be beyond them. The title track, Franco Donatoni’s stutterstepping Blow (2000), provides the players an opportunity to show off more conventional contemporary skills. I love his music, it’s always full of swing and fire, and this is no exception. The group’s sound is crisp, tart and sweet, like a perfect fall apple. Esa-Pekka Salonen closes things with Memoria (2003), music reworked partly from unpublished material, composed over a period of 20 years, and compiled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, a group he co-founded. Angst-y Finnish melancholia suits the group to a tee. Max Christie Arnold Griller – Orchestral Music, Volume Three Kamila Bydlowska; Matilda Lloyd; Liepaja Symphony Orchestra; Paul Mann Toccata Classics TOCC0590 (naxosdirect.com/search/tocc0590) ! In 1955, while studying composition with Darius Milhaud, Arnold Griller (b.1937 in London, England) wrote his 13-minute, Coplandesque Concerto Grosso for strings, filled with longlined, brooding melodies. Griller’s father Sidney was first violin of the renowned Griller Quartet but, writes Douglas Finch, “Griller chose to withdraw from the musical maelstrom into which he was born and for most of his adult life has remained in relative seclusion.” Now living in a small Cornwall village, Griller even spent 25 years teaching ESL in Winnipeg! Three recent (2017-2018) works, each over 20 minutes, variously utilize what conductor Paul Mann calls “the Griller gamelan” – harp, xylophone, marimba, celesta, glockenspiel and harpsichord. Griller’s Violin Concerto memorializes Yodit Tekle, Toccata Classics founder/CEO Martin Anderson’s partner, cancer victim at 37. The dark-hued orchestra, lacking violins, growls 44 | September and October 2021 thewholenote.com

atonally while Kamila Budlowska’s agonized violin struggles, rallies briefly with a rising tonal sequence but succumbs to snarling brass. Now alone, it sustains a long-held single note, then vanishes. Dances under an Autumn Sky has no stated program, but its jagged rhythms, angry brass and percussion outbursts create an increasingly violent scenario, ending in tragedy. The Trumpet Concerto opens with soloist Matilda Lloyd busily meandering over fragmented, percussion-heavy, violin-less sonorities. A march past Dvořák’s house begins in high spirits, then darkens, the muted trumpet playing a dirge marked “with great sadness.” The concerto – and the CD – concludes with a motorized crescendo of celebratory fanfares and percussive fireworks. Finally, a happy ending! Michael Schulman Poul Ruders – Dream Catcher Bjarke Mogensen; Odense Symphoniorkester; Sebastian Lang- Lessing; Scott Yoo Bridge Records 9553 (bridgerecords.com/ collections/catalog-all) ! Danish composer Poul Ruders is renowned for his symphonies, and his operas like The Handmaid’s Tale based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name. Here, three Ruders instrumental works showcase his intriguing compositions. This world premiere recording of the sevenmovement Sound and Simplicity (2018) concerto is performed by Danish accordionist Bjarke Mogensen and the Odense Symfoniorkester conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing. I. Rain opens with high staccato accordion replicating the sound of surface-landing droplets, followed by an energetic full orchestra section. Love the percussion thunder-like rumbles. Calming sustained four-note II. Trance, presented over three octaves, makes for relaxing “simple” sounds. Mogensen’s accordion performance of IV. Smoke paints a smoky soundscape with steady held notes, wide pitch range, brief controlled bellow shake and contrapuntal melodies, supported by orchestral diverse floating pitches and dynamics. Rollicking VII. Wolf Moon bounces along with faster interchanges and dynamic swells between orchestra and accordion, to the penultimate ascending line and the final accordion chord. Dream Catcher is Mogensen’s arrangement for solo accordion of Ruders’ accordion and string quartet Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean. This diatonic work features musical, hypnotic held notes, a high-pitched slow tune and closing repeated soft notes, highlighting Mogensen’s virtuosic bellow control. Previously released by Bridge, Symphony No.3 “Dream Catcher” is a two-movement orchestral extravaganza conducted by Scott Yoo. The loud percussive start transforms into a tonal, sweet-dream string section. In the second movement, faster birdlike horn trilling leads to full-steam-ahead virtuosic orchestral multi-rhythmic chase music. Catch this great Ruders sound release!! Tiina Kiik Piazzolla Cien Años (100 Years 1921-2021) Juanjo Mosalini; Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston; Gisèle Ben-Dor Centaur Records CRC 3844 (giseleben-dor.com) ! This is another memorable release celebrating the centenary of Argentine composer/bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla (1921- 1992) as conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor leads the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston and bandoneon soloist Juanjo Mosalini. The recording opens with a Piazzolla original Aconcagua, Concerto for Bandoneon (1979) a three-movement, true-to-his-style work, featuring rhythmic symphonic grooves, lyrical bandoneon solos with fast trills and virtuosic lines, and tight soloist and orchestra interchanges creating a danceable yet concerthall classical-flavoured rendition performed perfectly by all concerned. Four world premiere recordings scored for bandoneon and orchestra follow. Two Mosalini single-movement original compositions incorporate Piazzolla influences with popular/classical touches in his own soundscapes. Tomá, Tocá (Take It, Play It) is faster with repeated notes and virtuosic flourishes. Cien Años (One Hundred Years) combines tango elements with nostalgic bandoneon melodies, long phrases and bright high pitches. Two Piazzolla works arranged by Mosalini follow. Originally in four movements, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires is presented as one long, connected work. Piazzolla purists will respect this for its true-to-style playing. Shifts in tempos, grooves and moods, the deep cello lines, florid fast bandoneon and orchestra accompaniments are amazing, ranging from danceable and fun to serious and slow. In the closer, Piazzolla’s popular Libertango, technically challenging solos now alternate with colourful orchestra lead lines above bandoneon rhythmic accents. Fantastic performances and great music, what more could we want? Tiina Kiik JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Now Pronouncing Caity Gyorgy Independent (caitygyorgy.bandcamp.com) ! Full disclosure: I know Caity Gyorgy from her time in Toronto when she was a college student. That said, whether you are previously familiar with Gyorgy and her marvellous vocal and musical abilities or you are new to her considerable talents, time listening to Now Pronouncing is indeed time well spent for jazz and vocal fans alike. This short recording, five songs in length, may be a manifestation of her degree-end capstone school project, but it is anything but an academic student affair. Leading a top-shelf, large-sized professional musical ensemble through a program of original compositions and arrangements, Gyorgy states a melody and lyric with aplomb and, as on Secret Safe, trades improvisatory lines with the assembled and stacked roster of horn players, demonstrating her clear mastery of the bebop and jazz language. And while I have no doubt that she is capable of singing just about anything, regardless of style or genre, how refreshing it is to hear a jazz singer be a jazz singer, foregrounding scat singing, swing, ornamented bebop vocal lines and total band leadership from out front on this fine recording. Backed capably by a great Toronto rhythm section of Felix Fox-Pappas (piano), Thomas Hainbuch (bass) and Jacob Wutzke (drums), Gyorgy, who has since relocated and is now showcasing her talents on the Montreal jazz scene, demonstrates why this Calgary-born singer is a talent worth watching regardless of the city in which she takes up residence. Andrew Scott Flicker Down Waxwing Songlines SGL1633-2 (songlines.com) ! Formed in 2007, Waxwing is a co-led trio created by three veterans of the Vancouver music scene: Tony Wilson on guitar, Peggy Lee on cello and Jon Bentley on saxophones. Flicker Down is the third album from this energetic group: not just veterans of the busy Vancouver scene where they are based, individually these three players collaborate in dozens of other musical combinations from folk to jazz to classical around North America thewholenote.com September and October 2021 | 45

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