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 ....

“kill three birds with

“kill three birds with one stone.” Using his trademark mix of Stravinskian neo-classicism, Coplandesque Americana, Hollywood and jazz, Kubik drew from his 1949 score for C-Man, a crime-caper B-movie, for the 1952 Pulitzer Prize-winning Symphony Concertante for Trumpet, Viola, Piano and Orchestra. The brightly orchestrated first movement is filled with fragmented melodies and snappy syncopations. In the middle movement, uncomfortably shifting tonal centres reinforce the viola and muted trumpet’s long-lined desperation over thumping piano chords. A jazzy rondo features the solo instruments taking turns in the spotlight before the work ends with a raucous orchestral blast. Gerald McBoing Boing (1950), based on Dr. Seuss’ story about a boy who “couldn’t speak but made noises instead,” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. Unusually, Kubik composed his 13-minute, percussionheavy score before the visuals were created to fit the music and narration, here provided by Frank Kelley. Both Kubik’s five-movement, 15-minute Divertimento No.1 (1959), scored for 13 players, and his six-movement, ten-minute Divertimento No.2 (1958), requiring only eight players, are predominantly perky, with movements including Humoresque, Burlesque, Dance Toccata and Scherzino (Puppet Show). Seascape (in No.1) and Dialogue (in No.2) offer some pleasing breathing space. It’s all persuasively performed by conductor Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Entertaining throughout! Michael Schulman Slatkin conducts Slatkin Various Artists and Orchestras; Leonard Slatkin Naxos 8574352 ( search/8574352) ! “Not many know that I have been active as a composer,” writes Leonard Slatkin, who here conducts three of his orchestral works. Slatkin’s 13-minute Kinah (2015) pays tribute to his distinguished parents, violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller. In 1963, two days after they had rehearsed Brahms’ Double Concerto, Felix suddenly died. Kinah (Hebrew for elegy) features metallic chiming and a noble, long-lined string melody, ending with hushed, haunting, incomplete phrases from Brahms’ concerto. In this recording of its world premiere, Leonard’s brother Fred plays the solo part on their mother’s cello. Slatkin says that his 12-minute Endgames (2014) “celebrates the unsung instruments of the orchestra whose players sit at the far ends of the woodwind section.” Scored for piccolo, alto flute, English horn, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabassoon and strings, it includes a cheerful, vigorous dance and a sweetly serene middle section, finishing with familiar quotations for each solo instrument, guaranteeing smiles of recognition from the audience. In the 26-minute The Raven (1971), atmospheric, cinematic background music accompanies Alec Baldwin’s recitation of five poems by Edgar Allan Poe. This CD includes In Fields (2018), a nostalgic four-minute piece by Leonard’s son Daniel (b.1994), archival recordings of Felix playing arrangements of Brahms, Dvořák and Bizet, and a soundtrack excerpt from the 1946 film Deception, in which Aller, who premiered Korngold’s Cello Concerto, plays a bit of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D Major, with Korngold conducting his newly composed cadenza for it! Michael Schulman Matthew Schreibeis – Sandburg Songs Tony Arnold; Various Artists Albany Records TROY1856 ( ! Hong Kongbased American composer Matthew Schreibeis’ elegantly urbane music seems eminently suited to capturing the pastoral imagery of Carl Sandburg’s poetry, which forms the second half (or so) of the repertoire of this album, Sandburg Songs. Schreibeis’ voice is unique. His songs appear to come from a pen dipped in the ink of Erik Satie and Alfred Schnittke. However, being his authentic self in all of this music, Schreibeis’ notes leap in divergent directions into a mysteriously poignant realm completely of his own creation. He is also stoically authentic to melodic and harmonic flights made in a spectral dimension not unlike Gérard Grisey. The composer’s sound world seems to unfold in a series of moist landscapes that dissolve one into the other. His conceptions are extraordinarily vivid though, and he can conjure the reality of an extremely complex landscape with relatively spare noted phrases written for the piano or guitar as he does on the piece, Inner Truth and the cycle, They Say. The considerable range of his compositional palette is revealed twice on this recording. The curtain rises on the clarinet-violin duet Noticing and on In Search of Planet X, where a piano makes it a trio. Schreibeis’ power is unveiled on the fully orchestrated Sandburg Songs cycle, replete with piano, strings, reeds, woodwinds and percussion from the Zohn Collective conducted by Timothy Weiss. Carl Sandburg’s breathtaking verse soars in the keening soprano of Tony Arnold. Raul da Gama Editor’s note: Matthew Schreibeis was originally scheduled for a composer residency at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto in this month but that has been postponed due to the Omicron variant. A new work for violin and vibraphone written for faculty members Mark Fewer and Aiyun Huang is now scheduled to have its premiere at the soundSCAPE Festival in Italy this July ( where Fewer, Huang and Tony Arnold will be among the featured musicians. Schreibeis’ Toronto residency is tentatively planned to take place this fall. Krists Auznieks – Coiled Horizon Auziņš, Čudars, Arutyunyan Trio; JIJI Guitar; Sinfonietta Riga; Normunds Šnē LMIC SKANI 091 ( ! The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unrest worldwide, with no country handling it the same. Canada has tended to err on the safer side, while the United States has largely thrown caution to the wind. Right in between these approaches, Europe has found a fascinating middle ground when it comes to maintaining arts and culture during turbulent times. The Sinfonietta Riga Chamber Orchestra of Latvia found themselves amidst this turmoil when attempting several times since 2020 to record exciting new guitar music by Krists Auznieks. Once the music was finally able to be performed live in 2021, the results became the album Coiled Horizons. It features two different approaches to the guitar: music for trio, performed by saxophonist Kārlis Auziņš, guitarist Matīss Čudars and the drumming/ percussion of Ivars Arutyunyan, followed by an orchestral work that features the aforementioned Sinfonietta Riga Chamber Orchestra and classical virtuoso JIJI playing electric guitar. The album begins slow and ambient but draws the listener in immediately with a generous soundscape. Despite sounding like an adventurous jazz trio at first, Auziņš, Čudars and Arutyunyan wait until close to 20 minutes into the disc before providing something close to a “groove.” This makes for a beautiful transition into the album’s more classical sounding second half. The orchestral finale to this recording is a specimen to behold, fusing dense 20th-century composition with virtuosic guitar playing. No matter how ambient the first half gets, and however dense the second, this is a treat to listen to as foreground or background music. Sam Dickinson 52 | March 4 – April 15, 2022

Kranenburg Tree Florian Wittenburg Edition Wandelweiser Records EWR2104 ( ! German composer/musician Florian Wittenburg was musically inspired by a small tree at the former Kranenburg train station. He took a photograph of it and then used it as a template for sketches in the Metasynth software program, with which one can draw/ paint music. The four resulting tree/branch drawings are the basis for this four-part ambient electronic music composition. Each kranenburg tree part is just over six minutes in length, and includes a calming connective drone sound Wittenburg describes as a “branch.” Part 1 opens with a long held colourful note that resonates throughout the part. A subsequent pulse, build in volume, additional notes and higher pitch is very engaging. More intense drone with pulse in Part 2, which builds with many held notes, until a totally unexpected sudden slide downwards to a single pulsing tone fade. Part 3 is dramatic as higher and lower drone pitches, washes and “crashing” drone cymbal-like sounds add texture until the closing sweeter drone fade. Part 4 opens with another held note from nowhere. Love the very high pitch drone above it and spacious sound effects, which disperse to a single note fade. Each part is separated by a one-minute track of reflective spacious silence. I understand Wittenburg’s musical inspiration here – since childhood I have loved sitting under trees and listening to them grow. This release is a great tree-listening addition. At under 30 minutes, it is short in length but multiple listenings will illuminate countless sweet electronic music moments. Tiina Kiik O Mistress Moon – Canadian Edition Jennifer King Leaf Music LM245 ( ! The moon is an ever-popular musical inspiration. Canadian pianist Jennifer King chose 12 solo piano works by six Canadian composers for their environmental relationship to the moon, night and outer space in this “Canadian version” sequel to her earlier recording. Each was released as a single to a monthly full-moon cycle related to folk and Mi’kmaq symbolism. Together, King’s self-described “musical meditative journey” takes off! Opening track, In the Falling Dark 1 by Derek Charke, sets the musical twilight moon stage with chorale opening, repeated notes, calming sparse parts and improvisations. Kevin Lau’s The Dreamer is an accessible mystical dreamworld soundscape held together by repeated E flat “heartbeat” notes. Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté’s Nocturne shows off King’s expertise in playing an expressive Chopin/Schumann influenced work. Sandy Moore’s three Nocturnes combine classical and modern music. Nocturne 3’s lyrical opening makes for relaxing moon watching until lower pitches and fast lines build dramatic tension before returning to a hopeful reflective closing. Three Richard Gibson works include Espaces in which I love the outer space tranquility created silences interspersed by few notes, ringing strings and atonal moments. Emily Doolittle’s Gliese 581c looks at a planet from outer space with faster high and contrasting dark sounds. Short, crisp, sudden flash-freeze chords and slower frost forming overlapping patterns in Amy Brandon’s brilliant Frost Moon. Jean Coulthard’s Image Astrale is dramatic out of this world sonic listening featuring contrasting harmonic textures. King’s sensitive performances make for moving moonlight listening. Tiina Kiik JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Bones Millerd Meyers Dream Tower Records ( bones) ! Piano and trumpet player Simon Millerd (of Nomad fame) and guitar player Andy Meyers were ships in passing for many years. Though Millerd had done time with drummer Buff Allen and guitar legend Derek Bailey, the two had never managed to work together until finally having a chance to hang out and do some improv in 2019. What was captured is nothing short of beautifully quirky “art punk Euro jazz” (Meyers). Delightful improvisations (reminiscent of many lost nights at The Tranzac) unfold, and we are treated to rich and responsive listening. Spontaneous compositions are both tight and loose, organically stretching out over time and space in a free but equally orderly capsule. Tuneful but unrestrained, textured but melodic, the music holds shape and never loses interest. The four collage art cards included with the CD, created by Meyers and Susheela Dawne, are representative of the delightfully retro, fun miniature films included in the Bandcamp release which lent a vintage feel to the whole experience. The cards make a lovely souvenir of my journey. With only three compositions on the menu, coming in under 55 minutes the album is over too fast. Hopefully it is an appetizer for more releases in the future. Cheryl Ockrant Bell Tolls Variations; Fleur Revisited Philippe Côté; Marc Copland; Quatuor Saguenay Odd Sound ODS-21 ( ! In this release we have two different albums packaged together with the players themselves as the common theme; Philipe Côté, on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, Marc Copland, piano, and the Quatuor Saguenay. The string quartet is the central anchor throughout both albums, with several tracks written for only the quartet, adding an interesting element to the material and keeping it fresh and varied. The double release is written as two suites. With an opening sounding very much like a certain Arvo Pärt piece, we are gently led through the first album. Reed player Côté infuses his warm and melodic soprano sax sonorities throughout the album, keeping it just shy of contemporary classical with Copland’s deeply harmonic piano adding a jazz sensibility to the project. This is an album that is already so varied, it could be experienced either start to finish or popping up as surprises; most of the tracks are quite short and would be enjoyable sorbets in any playlist. The second suite, Fleur Revisited (“revisited” as this is the second incarnation of this piece), follows a slightly darker, more adventurous path, with sonorities leading us through images of “a flower, growing on a rock in a very harsh environment” (Côté) and is an apt image for the times. Still edging between contemporary classical and jazz, this suite is more thematic and flows as one. A booklet of poetry by Lee Tsang is included with the CD, and the timing to take a moment to read poetry written to infuse the music could not have been better, giving me the opportunity to sink in and take a break from the isolation and too much news. Cheryl Ockrant March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 53

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)