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Volume 27 Issue 2 - November 2021

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  • November
  • Toronto
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  • Jazz
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Live events on the up and up while creative live-and livestreamed hybrids continue to shine. October All-star Sondheim's Follies at Koerner Hall headlines the resurgence; Zoprana Sadiq brings MixTape to Crow's Theatre; Stewart Goodyear and Jan Lisiecki bring piano virtuosity back indoors; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's J-S Vallee in action; TSO finds itself looking at 60 percent capacities ahead of schedule. All this and more as we we complete our COVID-13 -- a baker's dozen of issues since March 2020. Available here in flipthrough, and on stands commencing this weekend.

instrument twitters,

instrument twitters, faster 6/8 section flute duet, and happy rhythmic repeated melodies building to an unexpected silent pause. Behemoth, in five short movements (1976) by Alexandra Pierce is a unique modern tone poem inspired by the Book of Job from the Old Testament, and by humanity’s struggle with existence. The opening more-atonal, full-orchestral scary movement repeats snare “pops/clicks” throughout. The second movement is bouncy and delicate with contrasting temple blocks. Colour change in the fourth, mainly featuring the percussion section, which leads to a fun final movement with a jazz-tinged full orchestra build with closing horns. Blundell leads the orchestra to top-notch performances. Short (30’22” minutes in length) but sweet! Tiina Kiik Joan Tower – Strike Zones Evelyn Glennie; Blair McMillen; Albany Symphony; David Alan Miller Naxos 8.559902 (naxosdirect.com/ search/8559902) ! Joan Tower is considered one of the most prominent living American composers. In this Naxos release we hear three world premiere recordings featuring the eminent percussion virtuoso Evelyn Glennie, pianist Blair McMillen and the Albany Symphony Orchestra. The title track, Strike Zones, is a concerto for percussion and orchestra where Glennie’s masterful technique is able to come alive with a dazzling display of fireworks. Whether it is an impressive solo on the high hats or a dramatic build-up on the drums, Glennie’s performance is able to shine above the enchanting accompaniment in the orchestra. The piece SmalI, for solo percussion, is a meditative, almost ritualistic work that evokes a misty woodland scene at dusk. Next, the piano concerto, Still/Rapids, is aptly titled as its two movements depict the dramatic duality inherent in water for its ability to achieve both calm and violent characteristics. Lastly, the solo piano work, Ivory and Ebony, is a high-energy yet elegant piece with moods shifting from agitated to triumphant. The performances on this release are top notch, and Tower seems to know the abilities of her performers in a profound way. For a vibrant and exciting display of technical wizardry, give this disc a listen. Adam Scime Trios from The City of Big Shoulders Lincoln Trio Cedille CDR 90000 203 (cedillerecords.org) ! This CD’s press release calls them “revered Chicago composers,” although Chicagoborn Ernst Bacon (1898-1990) lived nearly all his life composing and teaching elsewhere. Conversely, Michigan-native Leo Sowerby (1895-1968) spent most of his life as an organist-choirmaster in the “City of the Big Shoulders” (a line from Carl Sandburg’s poem Chicago). Bacon’s 31-minute Piano Trio No.2 (1987) begins with a gloomy, wandering Lento. In Deliberate March Time sounds like an oldfashioned hiking song. The sauntering strings and shimmering piano runs of In an easy walk are briefly interrupted by sudden, stormy dissonances. Gravely expressive is a rumination for cello, marked “as if quietly singing,” over piquant piano chords, followed by Allegro, a syncopated foot-stomper with country fiddling and bar-room piano strides and riffs. Commodo provides a gentle interlude before the final Vivace, ma non presto based on the folksong Green Mountain. It’s really quite a trip! Sowerby’s three-movement, 37-minute Piano Trio (1953) is made of much sterner stuff. Slow and Solemn is granitically ponderous, despite a not-“slow,” not- “solemn” middle section. Quiet and serene paints a misty cityscape with a daydreaming piano and tender violin until the movement’s title is belied by markedly increasing tension and volume. Fast; with broad sweep lives up to its name – it’s a perpetuum mobile of heavily rhythmic melodies culminating in a powerful, final accelerando. The internationally acclaimed, Chicagobased Lincoln Trio delivers everything these disparate works could ask for, including vivid colours, dramatic expressivity and sensational virtuosity. Michael Schulman Leo Sowerby – The Paul Whiteman Commissions & Other Early Works Andy Baker Orchestra; Avalon String Quartet Cedille CDR 90000 205 (cedillerecords.org) ! In 1946, Leo Sowerby, dubbed “Dean of American Church Music,” received the Pulitzer Prize for his oratorio The Canticle of the Sun, one of his large body of religious-themed compositions. He also composed many secular orchestral and chamber works. While still in his 20s, Sowerby, already a much-performed composer, created two jazz-infused works for bandleader Paul Whiteman’s Revolutionary Concerts. The 11-minute Synconata premiered in New York in December 1924, just one month after the debut of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, another Whiteman commission. The enthusiastically received, colourfully scored music – downbeat, upbeat and raucous – prompted Whiteman to commission Sowerby for a second, much more ambitious work. The grin-inducing music of the fourmovement, 25-minute Symphony for Jazz Orchestra “Monotony” (1925) depicts the eponymous status seeker of Sinclair Lewis’ satirical novel Babbitt at the theatre (Nights Out), an illegal Prohibition-era cocktail party (Fridays at Five), church (Sermons) and a concert (Critics). It’s great fun, tuneful and rhythmically vivacious. Yet both works, awkward fits for standard symphony orchestras, disappeared. (Rhapsody in Blue required re-orchestration for symphonic performances.) For these world-premiere recordings, Chicago music-theatre and classical instrumentalists were recruited to form the Andy Baker Orchestra, with Baker conducting. The Illinois-based Avalon String Quartet contributes three works imbued with the ingratiating spirit of folk music: the nineminute Serenade for String Quartet (1917), the 29-minute String Quartet in D Minor (1923) and, with Canadian pianist Winston Choi and bassist Alexander Hanna, the brief Tramping Tune (1917). A thoroughly delightful disc! Michael Schulman Pēteris Vasks – Oboe Concerto; Vestijums; Lauda Albrecht Mayer; Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Andris Poga Ondine ODE 1355-2 (naxosdirect.com/ search/ode+1355-2) ! The newly released album of music by Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks features the first recording of his oboe concerto written for the centenary celebrations of Latvia’s independence in 2018 and performed by one of the today’s leading oboe soloists, Albrecht Mayer. Accompanied by the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andris Poga, Mayer dazzles with his technical facility as well as his beautiful interpretive phrasing, bringing this programmatic work to life. With a familiar feel akin to the rhapsodic Vaughan Williams concerto for oboe and string orchestra, this pastoral concerto 46 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

uses contrasting textures ranging from long lyrical phrases to light and sparkling gestures, inducing a symphonic dialogue between the solo oboe and woodwinds in the orchestra. Modelled after the experience of human life, the first movement morning pastorale depicts the bright, fresh naïveté of youth before gradually maturing through the scherzando second movement and finally evolving with the inevitable celestial ascent in the evening pastorale. Also on this album are two earlier nationalistic orchestral works from the 1980s; Vēstījums (The Message) for two pianos, strings and percussion and Lauda, originally written for the 150th anniversary of Latvian folklorist Krišjānis Barons. These works manifested the final years of the Soviet Union and Latvia’s struggle to regain its independence. Melissa Scott Michael Harrison – Seven Sacred Names Various Artists Cantaloupe Music CA21157 (naxosdirect.com/search/ca21157) ! American composer/pianist Michael Harrison was an early protégé of the minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young and is a winner of many prizes including a 2018/19 Guggenheim Fellowship. His creations include not only a long series of compositions and recordings, but also innovative piano tunings and the Harmonic Piano, a grand piano with 24 keys per octave. The new CD Seven Sacred Names is a companion to the book Nature’s Hidden Dimension by W.H.S. Gebel. Based in Sufi mysticism, it strikes me as a crossroads of music and spirituality created by Harrison and associates, where the Seven Names denote stages of an awakening self. The Prologue – simple and triadic, reminiscent of Philip Glass – comes back much varied in the Epilogue (Name No.7). The Names then proceed as titles to the music. Referring to existence, self-awareness and will, each one has more complex music: No.1: piano and overtone series; No.2: addition of melody along with vocal, violin and electronic tanpura (tamboura) drones; No.3: rhythms and cross-rhythms, polyphony, and tabla – associated with “will,” this last one seems stiff and too long. From here are Names that I appreciate more: No.4 (“desire”), whose piano and expressive violin reminds me of certain lucid French compositions; No.5, the delightful syllabic vocal/electronic piece “The Acoustic Constellation” sung by Roomful of Teeth; and No.6 featuring the sustained, constantly transforming tones of Harrison’s Harmonic Piano. A unique, enriching experience. Roger Knox The Space in Which to See Borderlands Ensemble New Focus Recordings FCR299 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! The Tucson, Arizona-based Borderlands Ensemble is oriented towards diverse communities. This CD explores Arizona- Mexico musical connections, featuring four premieres from 2019. Participants include artistic director-hornist Johanna Lundy, violinist Ellen Chamberlain and other string chamber musicians, plus cross-disciplinary collaborators. Performances are excellent: Lundy’s versatile mastery and the able string players (with guitar sometimes) produce a unique, compelling recording. Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s title composition carries expressive power. Its four sections explore aspects of Indigenous identity and place. Especially striking are opening string drones with crescendos and silences, and percussive or pitched strings plus vocal breathing around clarion horn notes in the following part. Charles Daniels’ Dream Machine gathers diverse material into a convincing, well-timed three-part work. Perpetual motion sections, the second having more complex rhythms, frame a pensive centre. Still chords close this beautiful work. The longer Ometéotl – named for the Aztec creation god – by Mexican Alejandro Vera brings a variety of musical material both more ancient and more modern than this disc’s other works. Passing Ships by Jay Vosk is intended to represent the experience of migration, often setting the horn (i.e. ship) against the string quartet. The piece made me compare land migration experiences in the Borderlands to those by sea of my own ancestors. Songs and Arias by noted American composer Vivian Fine (1913- 2000) is clever but I found it dated. Attractive arrangements of three well-known Mexican songs complete the recording. Roger Knox Echos Dahveed Behroozi; Thomas Morgan; Billy Mintz Sunnyside Communications SSC 1618 (dahveedbehroozi.com) ! Pianist Dahveed Behroozi is a San Francisco Bay Areabased jazz/classical/ new music musician/composer/ improviser/teacher. In this, his second release, he joins forces with New York improvisers, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Billy Mintz, to record at Mount Vernon, New York’s Oktaven Audio. The full resonating audio sound reflects their playing on the studio floor with no isolation. We the listeners hear what musicians hear when playing! Behroozi explains he composed the tracks out of improvising at home but took only sketches to the session which the others sight read/played for the first time. This adds to the free-flowing ambiance of the music. Imagery has an almost Romantic classical feel with calm piano opening, drum entry washes and bass melodic colours. Two takes of Chimes are included on separate tracks. The first has an atonal contemporary sound while the second features intense, fuller, wellcontrolled instrumentals combining new music and new jazz styles. Cymbal crashes add colour to the lower-pitched sections. Royal Star is a slow and moody piano jazz tune showcasing the musicians’ close concentrated listening with contrasting silent spaces and well-chosen minimalistic sounds. Loud percussion crashing opens and closes Sendoff. Subsequent piano entry crash and chords are more jazz influenced as the bass keeps the “beat.” Closing track TDB has a relaxing piano “singing” a sweet emotional sad reflective tune with carefully articulated piano tones ringing against lower bass sounds. Outstanding performances by all three musicians raise Behroozi’s music to new heights. Tiina Kiik Unsnared Drum Michael Compitello New Focus Recordings FRC310 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! All my musical doubts and questionings about the snare drum’s credibility as a solo instrument immediately vanished with a crash as I listened to American percussionist/ teacher Michael Compitello perform the compositions he commissioned for his solo snare drum project. Compitello provided each invited composer a snare drum, sticks, mallets and “other implements” to explore the instrument’s extended musical capabilities while working in close collaboration with him. Nina C. Young’s Heart.throb (2019) opens with an attention-grabbing roll and crescendo. Young’s added transducers feature electronic tonal/dynamic held notes against constant snare and brush hits which emulate heart throbs until a final “classic” loud snare drum build to a closing solo electronic held note. Hannah Lash’s Start (2018) is scored for snare only and various stick types. Fascinating diverse sounds from loud to soft and short/ crisp to quieter vibrating, tell a moodchanging, pulsating story. Amy Beth Kirsten’s Ghost in the Machine (2019) is hypnotic, with thewholenote.com November 2021 | 47

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

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Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)