7 months ago

Volume 27 Issue 3 - December 2021 / January 2022

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Many Happy Returns: the rebirth of Massey Hall -- from venue to hub; music theatre's re-emergence from postponement limbo; pianist Vikingur Ólafsson's return visit to to "Glenn Gould's hometown"; guest writer music librarian Gary Corrin is back from his post behind the scenes in the TSO library; Music for Change returns to 21C; and here we all are again! Welcome back. Fingers crossed, here we go.

Andrew Staniland –

Andrew Staniland – Reddened by Hammer (Earthquakes and Islands Remixed) Robin Richardson; Tyler Duncan; Martha Guth; Erika Switzer Centrediscs CMCCD 29121 ( ! Andrew Staniland is on the faculty of music at Memorial University where he teaches composition and electronic music. He is director of the Memorial ElectroAcoustic Research Lab which has produced the Mune digital instrument. Reddened by Hammer: Earthquakes and Islands Remixed is based on Staniland’s earlier song cycle for soprano, baritone and piano with the poetry of Robin Richardson. In fact “Side B” of this album features a selected set of recordings from that cycle (performed by soprano Martha Guth, baritone Tyler Duncan, pianist Erika Switzer) remastered for vinyl. “Side A” uses those recordings as a source, but overlays many electronic effects to both obscure and reinvent the original compositions. Meditations is contemplative and I am reminded of standing beside a river with trees creaking, wind blowing and a storm working its way closer Reddened by Hammer is more industrial sounding and the original recording with piano and singers is more immediate (as if someone is performing music in another room). The vocals, emerging from behind the electronics, bring a resonant, ethereal and sometimes spooky quality to the proceedings (particularly in All the Grey Areas are God). All five of the remixes are fascinating and their effects range from intense/ambient to edgy and percussive. Listening to the whole album allows us to first hear the reinventions which then inform our appreciation of the acoustic originals. The digital release is available now from the Canadian Music Centre, with a limited-edition vinyl pressing to come early in 2022. Ted Parkinson Chamber Works by Dmitri Klebanov ARC Ensemble Chandos CHAN 20231 ( arc-ensemble) ! After his Symphony No.1 (1947), “dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of Babi Yar,” was performed in his native Kharkiv and then in Kyiv (where, in 1941, Nazis had massacred over 30,000 Jews at the Babi Yar ravine), Jewish-Ukrainian composer Dmitri Klebanov (1907-1987) was vilified as “unpatriotic” for memorializing Jewish civilians rather than Soviet soldiers. The Union of Soviet Composers banned the symphony and Klebanov lost his posts as chairman of the Composers Union’s Kharkiv branch and head of the Kharkiv state conservatory’s composition department. He was eventually “rehabilitated.” This latest in the Music in Exile series by Toronto’s ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) presents violinists Erika Raum and Marie Bérard, violist Steven Dann and cellist Thomas Wiebe in Klebanov’s String Quartets Nos.4 and 5. The joyous No.4 (1946), filled with singable, folk-like tunes, is dedicated to the memory of composer Mykola Leontovych, a Ukrainian separatist murdered by the secret police in 1921. It includes two melodies by Leontovych familiar to Ukrainian listeners, one of them known in the West as the Christmassy Carol of the Bells. No.5 (1965) is more “serious,” its melodies tinged with dissonance and pessimism, with heavily accented rhythms – it’s strong, attention-riveting music. Pianist Kevin Ahfat joins Bérard and Wiebe in the highly Romantic Piano Trio No.2 (1958). Here, warm, tender lyricism alternates with splurges of invigorated celebration, ending as sweetly as it began. There’s real beauty on this disc, all beautifully played. Michael Schulman Mountains Move Like Clouds Noam Bierstone No Hay Discos NHD 001 ( ! Noam Beirstone is a Canadian percussionist and curator dedicated to modern artistic performance whose main projects include his saxophone and percussion duo, scapegoat, the Montreal performance series NO HAY BANDA, and Architek percussion quartet. Bierstone’s debut album, mountains move like clouds, features three works for solo percussionist by composers Hanna Hartman, Pierluigi Billone and Zeynep Toraman. This album could best be described as “long listening;” the three pieces on the album are extended discoveries of very slow arcs of scrapes, buzzes and ripples of percussion, allowed to vibrate and feedback and cycle over themselves, giving the listener time to reflect on the generation and degradation of the sounds. The three works are unique, and feature alternate sound sources; flower pots, bricks, knives and drum initiate the first set of sounds, metal on metal the second, and the third is best described by the artist himself: “The work captures fleeting hums, resonances, and noises – the buzzing of snares, the emerging ripples and vibrations of the skin – and feeds them back into the bodies of the instruments….” All three are interesting soundscapes in themselves, and as a collection they work well. (A word of note however, if headphones are being used: the album contains some higher resonances, but the third track in particular involves extremely high pitches that may warrant cautionary volume levels.) Cheryl Ockrant Allen Ravenstine – The Tyranny of Fiction: Electron Music; Shore Leave; Nautilus; Rue du Poisson Noir Allen Ravenstine; Various Artists Waveshaper Media WSM-05/06/07/08 ( ! A quartet of EP discs frame an artistic effort by Pere Ubu founder Allen Ravenstine, which together bear the cryptic title The Tyranny of Fiction. Each one is about a half-hour’s worth of sonic content; attractive covers reference the respective disc titles, and on each, a micro-fiction. These shorter-thanshort stories, which may or may not link to the music (I’d call it likely, with not much to go on), provoke the imagination and more than satisfy a narrative arc. Each is a slice of a longer story, a tile stolen from a mosaic. And why not allow mosaic to describe how the music and fictions interact? Maybe here I’m closing in on the essential tyranny. Listening to these while bearing in mind their story, see if you don’t feel compelled to write your own novel. Does the story demand attention while the music rolls by? Do words determine the music? My favourite is the fourth disc, Rue du Poisson Noir, which features tracks with titles like Rear Window, Brothers Grimm, Open Season, complete with a menacing beast snarling at the end of a mysterious hunt through the dusk of a musical forest, with rattles and shrieks punctuating a bass ostinato. Who’s doing the hunting, on whom is the season open? Maybe there’s a clue in the text: “I was here when the dinosaurs lumbered… and I will be here when the time comes and the bell tolls…” This is film noir without dialogue or visuals. The title track combines snippets of spoken words, street noise, rainfall and Tom Waits-style clarinet lines (sampled? There’s no clarinet credit!); an intro for a monologue that never begins. Delightful nonsense verse accompanies the first track, Doff Downie Woot, more James Joyce than Ogden Nash or Edward Lear. 42 | December 2021

The tracks range from two to six or seven minutes: mosaic fragments, or vignettes, like the stories; they mostly heel to a prog-pop aesthetic: interesting harmonic language but never jarringly dissonant. The first disc, Electron Music, features almost exclusively electronic sounds, with some acoustic piano in there as well. Its final track, 5@28, at nearly ten minutes’ length, extends itself beyond its welcome. Otherwise, the array of newer and older synthetic-sound instruments (theremin and ondes martenot, as well as prepared piano and guitar) are deployed in many ways: at times rhythmic, others lyric and still others wandering about or staying in place, always evocative, distinctive. The accompanying story is deeply sad, and then terrifying. The other two discs are related by a maritime theme, although not by their fictions. The story on Shore Leave captures envy and regret; Nautilus is a ghost story told in detached first person. The individual tracks of Shore Leave are gorgeous brief musical scenes. Nautilus is more unsettled and angsty. Titles like Ninety Miles to the Spanish Harbor, Fog (Devil’s Island Mix) and Red Skies at Night suggest Ravenstine is a sailor as well as a musician and fabulist. For those cool enough to have been Pere Ubu fans, maybe the material will sound familiar; to my ear it’s all more listenable and more fun. Max Christie Kermès Julia Den Boer New Focus Recordings FCR311 ( julia-den-boer-kermes) ! Julia Den Boer’s latest release is an invitation and a gift. The listener is drawn into a series of towering resonances and rewarded with a listening experience that redefines our acquaintance with the piano. Each of the four works on the disc extends what is sonically capable for the instrument and Den Boer’s expressive interpretations are world-class in their execution. It is through such superb performances that we are able to fully grasp the deeper communicative qualities each piece is offering the listener. First, Giulia Lorusso’s Déserts begins with hyper-colouristic and excited brush strokes that evolve into lonesome pinpricks of brilliant colour and imagination. Linda Catlin Smith’s The Underfolding is a harmonic wonderscape. Smith’s sound world reveals itself as one of the most compelling artistic voices one can encounter: wonderfully layered sonorities create a veil of undiscovered colours in an ideal trance haven. The distant hollowness of Anna Thorvaldsdóttir’s Reminiscence produces a cerebral experience that evokes forlorn beauty. Rebecca Saunders’ Crimson uses prickly clusters and obtrusive deep interruptions that create unsettling exchanges. Den Boer’s attention to detail and expressive capabilities makes Kermes a must-listen. Adam Scime A Love So Fierce – Complete Solo Organ Works of David Ashley White Daryl Robinson; Sarah Mesko; Jesús Pacheco Mánuel; Floyd Robinson; Grace Tice Acis APL61020 ( ! A renowned composer of both secular and sacred works, David Ashley White is perhaps best known for his contributions to the world of church music. Using influences drawn from a variety of sources, both ancient and modern, White’s musical lexicon is diverse and ranges from simple hymn tunes to challenging vocal and instrumental pieces; it is the organ works that are put in full focus on this disc. The state of Texas plays a pivotal role in the identity of A Love So Fierce: White is a seventh-generation Texan, the organ used for the recording is located at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, and the disc begins with Fanfare for St. Anthony, an homage to San Antonio. Organist Daryl Robinson is also Texas-based, serving as Cathedral organist at Christ Church and director of Organ Studies at the University of Houston. Although not always as overt as in the opening Fanfare, there is a strong sense of Americana in many of White’s works, with use of modality and extended harmonies in a manner reminiscent of Leo Sowerby, who himself was a significant contributor to liturgical music in the 20th century. It is often challenging to separate the efforts of the performer from those of the instrument itself, so entwined is the organist with the manipulation of stops and keyboards in addition to the notes and rhythms themselves. In this instance, both Robinson and the 1938 Aeolian-Skinner organ are in top form, executing White’s often demanding scores in a fluid and seamless manner. Though not a household name, White’s contributions to the organ repertory are not to be overlooked, and this is recommended listening for all who enjoy the majestic sounds of what none other than Mozart considered the King of Instruments. Matthew Whitfield Lou Harrison – Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan Sarah Cahill; Gamelan Galak Tika; Evan Ziporyn; Jody Diamond Cleveland Museum of Art n/a (clevelandart. org/events/music-and-performances/ cma-recorded-archive-editions/louharrison) ! American composer Lou Harrison (1917- 2003) had an exuberant and searching spirit which extended beyond music to the graphic and literary arts and social activism. Today he is perhaps best known for incorporating in his mature scores non-mainstream tunings and other musical elements from several cultures outside Western classical music. Although he was nearing 60 at the time, Harrison nevertheless launched with considerable passion into an in-depth study of the gamelan musics of North, South and West Java. Each region possesses its own kind of music. No mere dilettante, he went on to compose several dozen works for various kinds of gamelan, and was among the first composers to incorporate standard Western concert instruments in his gamelan scores. He even built complete gamelans (orchestras) from scratch with his partner William Colvig. Harrison’s Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan (1986) is a good example of all these influences at work. In it he aimed not only for a musical synthesis of East and West, but also to bring the piano into what he fancied as just intonation’s “paradise garden of delights.” In that transcultural musical playground a pianist could experience the rare pleasure of performing with a complete gamelan. Sarah Cahill, the brilliant pianist on this album, reflects on her first encounter with Harrison’s retuned piano. She found it, “disorienting at first, since the keys typically associated with corresponding pitches now ring out with a completely different result. The disorientation, however, provokes more intense listening.” Jody Diamond and Evan Ziporyn, both longtime champions of Harrison’s music, directed this outstanding recording of the concerto with members of Boston’s Gamelan Galak Tika. Andrew Timar December 2021 | 43

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