1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 4 - February 2022

Gould's Wall -- Philip Akin's "breadcrumb trail; orchestras buying into hope; silver linings to the music theatre lockdown blues; Charlotte Siegel's watershed moments; Deep Wireless at 20; and guess who is Back in Focus. All this and more, now online for your reading pleasure.

Flute in the Wild Jaye

Flute in the Wild Jaye Marsh; Darren Hicks; Heidi Elise Bearcroft; Andrew Morris; John Rice; Christina Marie Faye; Richard Herriott Centrediscs CMCCD 28921 ( recordings/centrediscs) ! A solo flute in lofty, avian dialogue with recorded loon calls: this CD’s opener, Diane Berry’s five-minute Calling (2013), inspired Ontariobased flutist Jaye Marsh to ask three friends “to express their experience of our shared landscapes” for her debut disc, producing four works completed in 2021. Two are by the well-established Elizabeth Raum. In her 16-minute Northern Lights, flute, harp (Heidi Elise Bearcroft) and percussion (Andrew Morris) generate phosphorescent sonorities mirroring the aurora’s ephemeral, glittering pulsations before fading into afterimages. Bassoonist Darren Hicks joins Marsh and Bearcroft in the sweetly nostalgic, 17-minute Bridal Veil Falls, five movements illuminating sonic snapshots from Raum’s childhood visit to Manitoulin Island: A Walk along the Path, Morning Rain, Mist over the Falls, Porcupines (delightfully gawky music!) and Kagawong River. Narrator John Rice, a Wasauksing First Nation elder, tells of traditional harvests, songs and dances in Richard Mascall’s fivemovement, 23-minute Niibin (Summer) but the music, for flute and piano (Christina Marie Faye) seems bland and understated; I miss the character and energy which, by contrast, make Mascall's orchestral Manitoulin so powerfully stirring. Virtuoso pianist Richard Herriott accompanies Marsh’s alto flute in his fiveminute Twilight Song of Trinity Bay that “reveals,” writes Herriott, “a lonely church… at fog-ridden twilight.” The flute’s drifting, searching melodies, underlined by the piano’s bell-like tolling and rippling arpeggios, immediately transported me to a Newfoundland coastline, remote and shrouded. Kudos to fine flutist Jaye Marsh for this (mostly) enchanting CD! Michael Schulman Lost and Found Blackwood Leaf Music SCCD n006 ( ! The last piece on Lost and Found is titled Welcome, Peter-Anthony Togni’s attractive slow jazz number. But here, I’ll use that title to segue into comments: this disc of compositions by Togni and Jeff Reilly is indeed welcome; and as the debut release of the Blackwood Duo –Reilly, bass clarinet and Togni, piano – it is most welcome, one of the best things I heard in 2021. Ave Verum by Togni and Reilly is remarkable for the bass clarinetist’s rich sound in the low register, followed by wide registral leaps and dives, and soft non-vibrato tones fading into overt key clicks. Togni’s evocative piano joins the lower instrument with a chant passage in the male voice register. Recorded effectively at the reverberant Trinity St.-Stephen’s church in Amherst, Nova Scotia by engineer Rod Sneddon, it gives me an impression of unmeasured vastness. In Reilly’s much different title track, Lost and Found, his clarinet opens expressively, taking off with virtuosic runs, trills, sharp attacks and crescendos or diminuendos while the piano repeats chords suggestive of jazz. His humorous self-describing Suddenly, Snow begins with both instruments in a wild staccato passage, after which the piano’s running bass and comping coincide with an extremely agile bass clarinet; this piece reminds me that brevity is a feature in the pacing and texturing of this disc’s eight works. In contrast, Reilly’s To Dream of Silence opens with long tones in both instruments, including exquisitely controlled pianissimos. Bravo! Roger Knox Port of Call: Curaçao Louise Bessette Analekta AN 2 9845 ( ! Acclaimed Canadian pianist Louise Bessette launches her admirable new recording series of solo piano works, A Piano Around the World. Here, in Port of Call: Curaçao, she is the first to record these 22 pieces from Antillean Dances composed by Curaçao composer/pianist Wim Statius Muller (1930-2019), nicknamed the Chopin of Curaçao. After studies at Juilliard and teaching at Ohio State University, Muller worked over 30 years at security and counterespionage, returning to Curaçao and music after his retirement! Muller’s music resonates and combines influences of Caribbean folk music and Chopin, whose music was introduced to Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles in the 19th century. Opening track Tumba di Johan Op.2 No.1 is a mix of classical and popular as Bessette’s controlled playing with rubato, lefthand rhythms and right-hand melodies create a dance feeling. Piet Maal –Valse Op.2 No.13 is a more Chopin-like waltz performed with melodic subtle colour shifts, clear phrasing and balance between the hands, as is Muller’s renowned romantic Nostalgia – Valse Op.2 No.22. Bessette plays the more dance-along South American sounds with perfection, like in Kalin-Tumba Op.2 No.19, reminiscent of Piazzolla, and faster modern Chuchubi – À la rumba Op.4 No.5. Bessette must be commended for taking on such a complex illustrious solo project. Her world-class virtuosic playing and understanding of classical and folk styles, clear production values and order of tracks bring uplifting sonorities and lasting vitality to Muller’s wide-ranging piano works. Tiina Kiik Vintage Americana Christina Petrowska Quilico Navona Records nv6384 ( ! The towering Canadian piano virtuoso Christina Petrowska Quilico performs six works on her latest release, Vintage Americana. This absorbing display of musicianship leaves no doubt that she can interpret works from any compositional aesthetic with world-class execution. Lowell Liebermann’s Apparitions is an anguished work with abundant opportunity for expressive interpretation and Quilico brings a very personal touch to phrasing the work. The four Fantasy Pieces by David Del Tredici highlight her range on the instrument. The Turtle and the Crane composed by Frederic Rzewski is a whirling flurry of repeated notes and rising harmonic pillars that are continuously interrupted by tip-toeing islands of contrasting moods that seem to be menacingly at odds with the more mechanical material. In a work by the only Canadian on the disc, American ex-pat David Jaeger delivers a substantial tone poem of considerable expression and artistic depth. Utilizing electronics in the work, Jaeger produces highly compelling and dramatic atmospheres, drawing the listener into a dark sonic landscape. Titled Quivi Sospiri (taken from the third canto of Dante’s Inferno), Jaeger depicts a shadowy journey through a series of remarkably cogent moments of piano wizardry above deep and enigmatic electronic ambiences. 46 | February 2022

Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronism No.6 (also using electronics) is a brilliant work. The immediately arresting nature of artistic expression gives pause and it is no wonder this work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. Petrowska Quilico performs Davidovsky’s masterpiece with stunning mastery and her interpretation can easily be considered among the most significant among the many recordings of this important work. In her seemingly inexhaustible efforts toward releasing recordings of the highest quality, Petrowska Quilico delvers yet another gift for our ears. Adam Scime Dai Fujikura – Glorious Clouds Various Artists Minabel ( Dai Fujikura – Koto Concerto LEO Nippon Columbia ( ! Prolific Londonbased Japanese composer Dai Fujikura (b.1977) used to dream of composing music for the movies. His studies at Trinity College of Music of the scores of Pierre Boulez, Tōru Takemitsu and György Ligeti, however, propelled him decisively in another direction: toward the concert stage. Fujikura’s compositions have since been championed by musical notables including the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Boulez and many others. In Toronto, Arraymusic, Thin Edge New Music Collective and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music coproduced the Dai Fujikura: Mini Marathon concert in 2020, showcasing “one of the most active composers on the international stage.” At close to two and a half hours of music, Fujikura’s ambitious album Glorious Clouds comprises 15 substantial works for orchestra, ensembles and soloists, embracing concerti, chamber music, art song, instrumental solos and electronic genres. Sadly, I can only touch on a few samples of this rich musical horde here. The impressive orchestral Glorious Clouds, evocatively performed by the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, was inspired by the interconnected microbiomic networks found everywhere on Earth, rather than by the atmospheric phenomena suggested by the title. Recounts the composer: “I thought, Ah!!! Various small microorganisms make the survival of the whole world possible – just like processes within an orchestra.” Glorious Clouds maintains a dynamic tension between floating, swirling sonic textures and an overall harmonic structure and thematic progression. My ear was initially reminded of Debussyan orchestral sonorities and colours, yet soon enough Fujikura’s emerging strident effects, sonic shapes teetering on melody, plus novel orchestration and formal balances were reminders that we’re in another century entirely. Sparkling Orbit for electronics and electric guitar follows, incisively performed by Daniel Lippel. Opening with atmospheric passages, it turns abrasive and edgy, the guitar repeating in the last section a rhythmically complex distorted chime-like overtone pattern over electronic craquelure. Serene, derived from Fujikura’s Recorder Concerto, is quite distinct again. Its three solo movements are given a powerfully dramatic performance by recorder virtuoso Jeremias Schwarzer on three contrasting recorders. I found the middle movement opening, scored for the sopranino, evocative of the nohkan, the characteristically bracing, high-pitched Japanese transverse bamboo flute commonly played in Noh and Kabuki theatre. While a recent work, I can see Serene being widely adopted as a standard recital piece; it’s that good. Finally for this review, Motion Notions features Mari Kimura’s brilliant violin playing. In addition, she’s also strapped a motion sensor to her bow arm wrist. It sounds like it controls various types of synthesized sounds and perhaps also live processing. The result is an interactively polyphonic, slithery texture, an unusual, and very effective, musical dialogue between the violinist’s acoustic music and the electronic sounds directed by her motion sensor. It’s another album favourite of mine. Fujikura shares album credits on a second release with rising star LEO (Leo Konno b.1998 in Yokohama) who the label calls today’s “hottest koto artist.” The record features the premiere recording of the substantial single-movement Koto Concerto with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra conducted by Masato Suzuki, plus three related solo works for koto, all scored by Fujikura. While the 25’42” concerto is an impressive work judicially illustrated with the composer’s signature deft orchestration, the three solos make a strong case for the koto achieving its finest, most delicate, satisfying musical moments in a solo capacity. All the works here are rendered with sensitive bravura by LEO and vibrantly recorded by Nippon Columbia’s engineers. Bravos all around. Andrew Timar What we're listening to this month: Brahms String Quartets The Alexander String Quartet Declared “a stunning achievement,” this release marks the completion of the ASQ’s eightyear, six-album, collaborative compendium — The Brahms Project. As She Sings David Tanenbaum Luminary guitarist releases "As She Sings", a compilation of works written for him reflecting a rich trajectory of aesthetics on the instrument. confined.speak Ensemble Dal Niente A collection programmed in streaming performances during this past year, despite the formidable hurdles associated with ensemble playing during the lockdown, collaborating across vast distances Plays Well With Others loadbang This unique ensemble of baritone voice, trumpet, trombone, and bass clarinet pairs with a string orchestra for adventurous, challenging works that explore lush soundscapes. February 2022 | 47

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