1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 5 | March 4 - April 15, 2022

"Hard to watch and impossible to ignore"--on the Russian invasion of Ukraine; Tafelmusik goes live again in a tribute to Jeanne Lamon; TSO MD reunion as Centennial Countdown kicks off; PASS=Performing Arts Sunday Series at the Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts ...; crosstown to the TRANZAC, Matthew Fava on the move; all this and more ....

impressive is that both

impressive is that both artists found a way to add another dimension to Einfelde’s music – joyful, triumphant moments between the waves of darkness. And this is the way that magic happens. Ivana Popovic Shostakovich – Symphony No.7 London Symphony Orchestra; Gianandrea Noseda LSO Live ( ! As I remember, this symphony was performed in Toronto in the 1980s, Gunther Herbig conducting, and I was there and cherish the memory. Today, however, in the 21st century it comes to us in state-of-the-art high resolution technology, live and conducted by a onetime frequent visitor to Toronto, Gianandrea Noseda. His career is currently sky high and this projected complete series of Shostakovich symphonies is very promising. The Seventh and the Eighth are the so-called War symphonies written during the Second World War. Symphony No.7 was written in 1941 during the Siege of Leningrad where the composer lived and suffered through the starvation, unable to escape. The score was microfilmed, smuggled out to America, conducted by Toscanini and became an international sensation. Briefly, the symphony begins optimistically on a high note on the strings and the winds with astringent, unusual harmonies. What follows is the most important part of the symphony, a steady crescendo of a single theme repeated endlessly from nearly inaudible ppp step by step, layer upon layer. First, strings and flute, adding bassoon, then full woodwinds, the entire string section and finally the brass culminating in a shattering fortissimo (that could blow your speakers!). This is the so-called war theme with the snare drums beating constantly like soldiers marching. (Ironically the theme is partially lifted from Lehar’s Merry Widow). Peace is restored temporarily in the quiet second movement, followed by a beautiful Adagio third that leads into the Finale without interruption. The ending is magnificent with the brass triumphant, no doubt in reference to the Soviet victory at Stalingrad. This is a highly inspired, exciting and monumental work heard here in a most worthy performance. Janos Gardonyi …and nothing remains the same… Eight Strings & a Whistle Ravello rr8061 ( catalog/rr8061) ! With the their latest musical salvo, the noted trio Eight Strings and a Whistle has yet again established themselves as one of the most compelling Baroque/ classical/Romantic trios on the scene today. Since 1998, this superb, acoustic, international coterie (featuring Suzanne Gilchrest on flute, Ina Litera on viola and Matt Goeke on cello) has collaborated with some of the world’s most significant contemporary chamber music composers and performing artists. Included in this new offering are intriguing, multi-movement works, with contributions from Mark Winges, Paul Théberge, Jorge Amado, Péter Köszeghym, Pamela Sklar and the transplendent John Newell. First up is Winges’ Loki’s Lair and as the title would suggest, it is a haunting, mystical, mischievous and unpredictable work, to which the spare trio format lends itself magnificently. Litera and Goeke merge into a sinuous dance, punctuated by their dynamic arco and pizzicato skills – almost as if their human bodies had merged with the warm, wooden instruments themselves; and Gilchrest’s stirring flute work is resonant, contextual and a celebration of perfect pitch. Théberge’s six-movement Maqām brazenly dips into our ancient engrams, seemingly exploring our proto-human awe, reverence and also fear of the natural world. The trio effortlessly bobs and weaves through complex modalities on this stunning musical odyssey. Sklar’s Two Journeys is an intimate, soul voyage in two movements: Third Eye and The Inward Journey, both of heartrending beauty… manifested by Gilchrest’s rich flute artistry. The dissonant and challenging title track was born out of the mind of American contemporary composer Newell, and is a glorious standout on this thought provoking, brilliantly conceived and thrillingly performed recording. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Marģeris Zariņš – Orchestral Works Ieva Parsă; Aigars Reinis; Kremerata Baltica; Andris Veismanis LMIC SKANI 128 ( ! While comprising only a small portion of the European geographical landscape, the Baltic countries have contributed a disproportionately significant number of composers whose works are truly remarkable and impactful. Such is the case with Marģeris Zariņš, the 20th-century Latvian composer and author who wrote a wide range of musical material for an equally diverse range of instruments and ensembles. The two largest-scale works on this disc are both organ concertos, composed for organ and chamber orchestra and augmented with two electric guitars, a jazz percussion set and harpsichord. While the use of such instruments might sound eccentric, the results are undeniably spectacular, successfully blending genres and producing an utterly unique sonic effect. Both concertos, Concerto Innocente and Concerto Triptichon, cross numerous stylistic boundaries: Innocente begins with a forceful and driving first movement and ends with a playful, carnival-esque finale; Triptichon, although less childlike, is no less energetic, and the first movement’s classical/jazz hybridization is inexplicable through prose – it must be heard to be believed! While these two concertos form the bulk of this disc’s material, Zariņš’ compositional virtuosity is displayed and reinforced through three additional works: Four Japanese Miniatures, which combine 20th-century Orientalism with atonality to great effect; the Partita in Baroque Style, which is amusingly “Baroque” the same way that Prokofiev’s First Symphony is “Classical”; and Carmina Antica, which takes ancient themes, both musical and topical, and reveals them in a modernized vernacular. From electric guitars and jazz to atonality, Zariņš wrote it all, and there really is something here for everyone. But even the most ingenious music cannot exist without interpreters, and Zariņš’ works receive expert treatment from the renowned international orchestra Kremerata Baltica, their conductor Andris Veismanis and soloists Ieva Parša and Aigars Reinis. Matthew Whitfield Descended Maria Finkelmeier; Jean Laurenz; Greg Jukes; Buzz Kemper Bright Shiny Things BSTD-0157 ( ! A suite of pieces that features blended electronics, vocals, acoustic percussion and trumpet, Descended is a project that warrants close listening. It’s not an easy collection to categorize. Jean Laurenz covers trumpet, vocals and percussion; Maria Finkelmeier, the composer, performs percussion and vocals as well. Laurenz is the great niece of Lafcadio Hearn, a 19th-century writer whose work explored Japanese culture, particularly ghost stories 50 | March 4 – April 15, 2022

and mystical terror. The music is upbeat, yet distinctly scary. There’s a pop aesthetic to the beat-y sections, and the folk idiom I associate with Onibaba, a Japanese horror film. Sometimes cool and occasionally extremely hot, the collection shows a broad swath of influences. Much of the disc features percussion, alongside spoken, wailing, or sung vocals (Yoko Ono in the recent Beatles documentary comes to mind more than once). Laurenz’s trumpet playing is melodic and assured, as heard on several tracks: Orbs of Ghostliness (muted, in a beautiful duet with Greg Jukes on accordion), and Mirror in Matsuyama, another duet with Finkelmeier on marimba. Mujina’s Arrival bops along on a drum kit, marimba and various electronic synthesized beats. A female voice (sorceress, hag?) croons and croaks. Deep basso readings by Buzz Kemper on tracks three and six deepify the creepifying. The title might refer to Laurenz’ relationship (grandniece) to Hearn whose texts show up on three of the tracks. Her own texts are featured in two other tracks, Mujina’s Arrival and the Caribbean-infused Moon Song, whose childlike character (simple strophic sing-song with toy piano) slowly gives way to horror-movie sound effects; macabre, hairraising stuff. Max Christie Sean Friar – Before and After NOW Ensemble New Amsterdam ( ! Maybe all art has ever been able to offer is solace. NOW Ensemble’s newest release, Before and After, is the compositional work of Sean Friar. His big ideas concern the rise and fall of human civilization, the tininess of our individual lives, perhaps the meaninglessness of it all? And yet, here are these beautifully crafted pieces that we can immerse our ears into and forget – or release – our grief. Tracks one and two run together: Chant establishing a kind of jangling consonance, and Frontier fracturing it before subsiding into unison resignation. Spread repeats a manic cadential figure plucked on electric guitar? or inside the piano?: an ostinato that underlies the spread of melodic efforts to find a home. This extemporal description is in keeping with the creative impetus of the work. Developed from improvised fragments, Friar sent his ideas as sketches to the performers in 2017; they each fleshed them out and over the intervening period performed various versions. The process culminated in this recording, made pre-pandemic (lest anyone think Spread is a reference to COVID). These first three tracks are followed by five more. Sweetly keening, Cradle links with Artifact in a way reminiscent of the first two tracks, although Artifact is much shorter; in turn it segues directly into the pop-happy Rally. Solo is, oddly a work for several voices, but perhaps it’s about the loneliness of facing certain existential truths. Not to be a downer, but the final haunting track is called Done Deal. Max Christie Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed Tasha Warren; Dave Eggar Bright Shiny Things ( ! A line from the ever-elliptic Emily Dickinson’s poetry provides the title for this new release of various works commissioned by clarinetist Tasha Warren and composer/cellist Dave Eggar. It’s hard to give this disc its due, on account of the similarly dark and perhaps overlong nature of the opening selections. The producers might’ve done better to reorder the tracks. The latter three are the strongest: not so deadly in earnest, more concise and jaunty. Maybe I’m worn out by the entire “responses to the pandemic” genre I’ve been touting lately, or by moroseness in general. Lalin (Haitian Creole for La Lune) by Nathalie Joachim, opens with a nocturne, then continues into a pointillist dancing depiction of the composer’s Haitian home. Phantasmagoria by Meg Okura (who joins the ensemble on violin) and Snapshots by Pascal Le Boeuf (joining on piano) also get the blood moving through the veins, with some decidedly upbeat character; I detect some Joni Mitchell in Snapshots. The duo benefits greatly by both composers’ energetic performances. Paquito D’Rivera’s African Tales opens proceedings. Purporting to move through musical landscapes of that vast continent, Rivera avoids overt references and recognizable styles. A soliloquy for bass clarinet leads to Eggar’s first entry; the two travel in tandem before dividing tasks. I hear influences of Donatoni and Messiaen. Cornelius Boots’ Crow Cavern, and Black Mountain Calling by Martha Redbone, come next. By turns angry and sombre, and at nine minutes each (similar in length to African Tales), they stretch one’s patience. Interesting pieces, but the D’Rivera is a tough act to follow. Close miking provides lots of key noise, reed hiss, bow hair, finger pluck. The two principals seem to focus on extremes of expression, not on getting everything pristine, which is refreshing. Max Christie Jānis Ivanovs – Symphonies 15 & 16 Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Guntis Kuzma LMIC SKANI 126 ( ! I’d never heard any of the 21 symphonies by Latvian composer Jānis Ivanovs (1906-1983) before listening to the two on this CD, each lasting about half an hour, both filled with dark sonorities, propulsive energy and clamorous dissonances. Violence and disaster dominate Ivanovs’ Symphony No.15 in B-flat Minor (1972), subtitled “Symphonia Ipsa.” In the opening Moderato, quiet, tentative apprehension is suddenly shattered by brutal explosions. Heated struggle ensues in the Molto allegro’s agitated, snarling rhythms and desperate pleading. The grim, mournful Molto andante (Adagio) conjures, for me, a desolate battlefield strewn with bodies; brief, snide, sardonic phrases seemingly comment on the absurd futility of the preceding bloodshed. Nevertheless, martial mayhem returns in the Moderato. Allegro with cacophonous fanfares and pounding percussion before the symphony ends in a slow, ghostly procession. Restless, fluctuating moods pervade Ivanovs’ Symphony No.16 in E-flat Major (1974), perhaps memorializing the victims of No.15. In the Moderato. Allegro moderato, gloomy, throbbing despair, sinister foreboding and dissonant shrieks are intermittently relieved by unexpected, hymn-like concordances and even touches of Sibelius. The Allegro busily churns with mechanized rhythms leading to the distressed Andante. Pesante. Here, dispirited resignation turns into anger and determined resistance until a gentle bassoon solo intones consolation. The Allegro moderato drives relentlessly to a strident triumphal chorale, ending in a simple major chord, the first happy moment on this CD. Powerful music powerfully performed by conductor Guntis Kuzma and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. Michael Schulman Gail Kubik – Symphony Concertante Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose BMOP Sound 1085 ( ! Three members of the Little Orchestra Society of New York were pestering conductor Thomas Scherman for solo opportunities, so Scherman commissioned Oklahoma-born Gail Kubik (1914-1984) for a work that would March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 51

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)