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Volume 27 Issue 7 | May 20 - July 12, 2022

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Schafer at Soundstreams; "Dixon Road" at High Park, Skydancers at Harbourfront; Music and art at the Wychwood Barns; PODIUM in town; festival season at hand; Listening Room at your fingertips; and listings galore.

e considered a festive

e considered a festive homecoming for a favourite son. Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is relatively compact in comparison to its gargantuan predecessors in the so-called “Wunderhorn” cycle of symphonies inspired by the 19th-century collection of folk-song texts known as The Youth’s Magic Horn, portions of which Mahler had previously set to music. Despite this economy of means, the symphony’s mischievous antics, ironic stance and complex structure confounded the critics of his time. Today it is regarded as one of his most accessible works. Mahler himself once observed, “The real art of conducting consists in transitions.” Mahler’s own constantly shape-shifting music teems with kaleidoscopic tempo fluctuations which not every conductor can interpret convincingly. Bychkov’s mastery in this regard marks him as a genuine Mahlerian. The finale of the symphony features Israeli soprano Chen Reiss in an ingenuous rendition of the song Das himmlische Leben from which this work was spawned. The distinctive sound of the Czech Philharmonic is gorgeously captured in this Pentatone production; the strings are lustrous, the winds and brass incisive and the dynamic range is vast. Recorded in August 2020 from the confines of a shuttered Dvořák Hall in Prague, this is a very auspicious start to what promises to be an exceptional Mahler cycle. Daniel Foley Ebenbild Juri Vallentin; Trio d’Iroise; Bernward Lohr; Caroline Junghanns PASCHEN Records PR 220072 (paschenrecords.de/katalog/pr220072/) ! Only to be described as unique and colourfully unconventional, the newly released album Ebenbild, featuring oboist Juri Vallentin and the Trio d’Iroise, is a blend of recited song text, choruses by J.S. Bach, as well as five pieces from various eras and styles all married together with one common theme: J.S Bach’s O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded). Originally derived from the madrigal Mein Gmüth ist mir verwirret (My mind’s confused within me) by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), this theme was repeatedly used by Bach throughout his life in many works, including the St. Matthew Passion and the Christmas Oratorio. Arranged for oboe quartet, the album begins with the original madrigal and then is followed by the recited text of the first stanza, a chorus using the theme from one of Bach’s works and then the Sonata da camera in G minor O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden by Johann Gottlieb Janitsch. The album continues in this format with four other recited stanzas, four choruses and four works: Frederick Kelly’s Romance from the String Trio in B Minor, Charles Bochsa’s middle movements from two of his oboe quartets, Four Preludes to Infinity by Theo Verbey and the unfinished final fugue written by J.S. Bach shortly before his death. The performances by Vallentin and Trio d’Iroise are virtuosic and thoughtful, showing a range of musical knowledge and sensitivity. A polished gem, this album is truly a heightened experience. Melissa Scott Undersong Simone Dinnerstein Orange Mountain Music OMM 0156 (orangemountainmusic.com) ! A lyrical rubato-laden, eminently shapely Les Barricades Mystérieuses by Couperin opens Simone Dinnerstein’s solo piano recital Undersong, brilliantly captured in the warmth of this recording by Orange Mountain Music. But arch-Romantic Robert Schumann’s Arabesque, Op.18, with its rippling arpeggios and translucent glissandi that follows will likely take your breath away. The pianism is impressively nuanced throughout the program. Dinnerstein displays her strong rhythmic backbone with the bubbling lilt of Philip Glass’ Mad Rush but it is, to my mind, at any rate, Schumann’s Kreisleriana Op.16 that is the apogee of this recording. Rarely has the restless romance of this work been captured with greater imagination. Its heavenly, mercurial luminescence is tempered by the pianist’s intellectual rigour through its eight dazzling vignettes. Dinnerstein has long been one of the most articulate pianists in the world, remaining technically sound and musically eloquent no matter what the repertoire. Her Satie and Glass is a case in point. On the latter’s Mad Rush she tames the composer’s abrupt changes in tempo and performs the piece with a strong sense of dance braving its knuckle-busting challenges with a kick in her step. Her interpretation of Satie’s Gnossienne No.3 is eloquent and direct, quite without impediment or undue idiosyncrasy, yet musical to the core. Meanwhile, she approaches Couperin and Schumann with uncommon refinement of colour and texture. All of this makes for a disc to die for. Raul da Gama MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Night Light Lara Deutsch; Phil Chiu Leaf Music LM249 (leaf-music.ca) ! Kudos to Leaf Music of Halifax for its confidence in these young musicians, flutist Lara Deutsch and pianist Philip Chiu. The program is built around the theme of dreams, which opens such possibilities, for example, including a work by Franz Schubert – Introduction and Variations on Trockne Blumen – in a program of music by contemporary composers. The disc opens with Takashi Yoshimatsu’s Digital Bird Suite, Op.15, the opening movement of which, Bird-phobia, described by Deutsch as “fiendishly challenging,” is at the nightmare end of the dream spectrum, but shows both consummate command of her instrument and her partner’s uncanny ability, despite the formidable challenges of his own part, always to be in sync with her. In the contrasting lyrical second movement, A Bird in the Twilight, their exquisite phrasing and consistent sensitivity to each other lift the notes off the page. The dreamlike atmosphere is perhaps most eloquently expressed in the first movement of Jocelyn Morlock’s I Conversed with You in a Dream, which traverses the gamut from lyrical reverie to reality-defying pyrotechnics. In the Schubert, Chiu reveals himself as a lieder collaborative pianist of stature, convincingly telling the story and revealing the atmosphere of the music. For example, his playing of the repeated quarter and two eighth note motif at the very beginning is full of eerie foreboding; you know at once that this is not going to end well! Individually and as a duo Deutsch and Chiu are consummate interpreters, who move with the music, so to speak, and reveal the meaning behind the notes. Allan Pulker Michael Oesterle – Quatuors Quatuor Bozzini Collection Quatuor Bozzini CQB2229 (actuellecd.com) Tom Johnson – Combinations Quatuor Bozzini Collection Quatuor Bozzini CQB 2230 (actuellecd.com) ! Quatuor Bozzini has energetically championed the newest in classical music since 1999 in their Montreal hometown, on tour and on outstanding albums. Their mission is to cultivate risk-taking music, evident in the creation of an impressive commissioning 52 | May 20 - July 12, 2022 thewholenote.com

program of over 400 pieces. Frequent collaborations with other musicians and cross-disciplinary projects have been another career feature. An example of an unusual collaboration, one that I took part in, happened in 2012 with the development of new concert repertoire with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, performed live and subsequently released on the album Higgs’ Ocean. The title track, scored for string quartet and gamelan degung, was by prolific mid-career Canadian composer Michael Oesterle. Oesterle’s mature compositional style balances two late-20th- and early-21st-century streams: American minimalism and European postmodernism. The latter comes through in his exploitation of sonorities, formal, timbral and harmonic sophistication, allusions to historical Euro musics and an identifiable Oesterlean lyricism. This album’s four substantial string quartets offer an appealing balance between musical straightforwardness and complexity. Oesterle often generates drama from the friction between the idiomatic and the completely unexpected. Daydream Mechanics (2001), which evokes the “awkward adventures of childhood when the backyard seemed as full of disturbing possibilities as any uncharted territory,” offers an example of Oesterle’s use of extra-musical inspiration. On the other hand the composer describes his Three Pieces for String Quartet as “three short pieces [composed with] modules drawn from a system of triangular numerical sequences….” I however hear surprisingly Renaissance- and Baroque-infused character homages to the three animals Oesterle titles each movement after: kingfisher, orangutan and orb weaver. American-born composer and longtime French resident, Tom Johnson (b.1939), served as The Village Voice’s influential music critic from 1971 to 1983 covering the era’s exciting new classical music scene. The first to apply the term “minimalist music,” Johnson’s personal compositional style leans toward minimalist formalism. Quatuor Bozzini has collected his complete works for string quartet covering four compositions from 1994 to 2009 on this album. Dwelling on mathematic sequences and permutations of a limited core musical material, in Johnson’s hands the musical whole emerges satisfyingly greater than the sum of its lean components and intellectual procedures. Each relatively brief movement vibrates like a sonic poem. For example, the opening six-note motif of Johnson’s Tilework for String Quartet (2003) is transformed through his exploration of the myriad ways in which lines are “tiled using six-note rhythms,” relying on a computerized list of rhythmic canons. The composer helpfully adds, “Of course, composers, performers, and listeners don’t have to know all of this, just as we don’t need to master counterpoint to appreciate a Bach fugue… [because] music allows us to directly perceive things that we could never grasp intellectually.” Performed senza vibrato, Quatuor Bozzini renders these scores with virtuoso precision along with warmth and a subtle lyricism, a winning combination I grew to appreciate after repeated listening. Andrew Timar to you through India Gailey Redshift Records (indiayeshe.com) ! Halifax-based cellist India Gailey’s first album includes a diverse mixture of contemporary composers, including a McGill colleague and a work of her own. Though sometimes sounding improvised, each piece is fully scored for cello, some with voice and occasionally multitracked with electronics. Gailey’s album flows like poetry, and she includes in her CD booklet descriptions of each track as a collection of thoughts and photographs that reads more like a journal, giving the collection almost a gallery setting, as if you could walk room by room to experience each work. Gailey’s writing includes personal reflections on her own feelings of place, being uprooted by the pandemic, emotions of disconnection and loneliness, the difference between a material home and feeling at home, and letting go of the perpetual search for a place to land. While the album is an excellent introduction to Gailey’s breadth of skill as a cellist, the most outstanding tracks for me were the more recent works: compositions by Fjóla Evans, Yaz Lancaster and Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti. Gailey’s own 2020 composition Ghost, for acoustic cello and voice, is a delicate lament for the destruction of the Earth inspired by the Australian bush fires. Michael Gordon’s 2004 Light is Calling, written after the destruction of 9/11, is outstanding. Making use of stereo panning and seven layers of electronics plus cello, it encapsulates the climate of moving somewhere while staying rooted in place, much like our recent years, and ends with a sublimely organic deconstruction. If I could have a soundtrack playing the next time I am surfing a standing wave in a canoe, this would be it. Cheryl Ockrant Mark Ellestad – Discreet Angel Cristián Alvear; Mark Ellestad; Apartment House Another Timbre at185 (anothertimbre.com) ! Hesitancy, or possibly abstract detachment, might describe the communicative mode of Mark Ellestad’s Discreet Angel. Instead of passages, we are presented with spaces between notes, plucked one or two at a time by guitarist Cristián Alvear. At just over 20 minutes in length, this is the second longest work presented. I’m reminded of Linda C. Smith’s music, or Martin Arnold’s. A more active middle section buoys one along on something more like a quiet brookside walk in a treed ravine, following the sleepy spring dawn. Sigrid features Ellestad performing this short work on Hardanger fiddle and pump organ. Disagreement between pitches seems almost to be the point of the thing, the reed organ tuned one way and the fiddle strings another. Underlying the plain chorale is the ceaseless counter rhythm of the foot pedals, pumping the organ’s bellows full. Imagine Ellestad bowing and pedalling simultaneously while elbowing the organ keys (or more likely overdubbing). It’s pretty and quirky. In the Mirror of this Night, a duet for violin and cello, weighs in at nearly 46 minutes. Opening in a misterioso unison (well, in octaves) passage, the chant-like melody spins beautifully in tune, senza vibrato, then begins to refract into parallel pitches, sounding sometimes almost like the pump organ. It’s a workout for the attention span, or a soundtrack for meditation. Canadian Ellestad (b.1954) abandoned composing for nearly 20 years; he wrote these pieces in the 1980s and 90s but never recorded them to his satisfaction. He’s now brought them to light, encouraged by the quality of performance of his collaborators. Kudos especially to Mira Benjamin (violin) and Anton Lukoszevieze (cello, as well as the cover art). Max Christie All Worlds, All Times Windsync Bright Shiny Things BST-0167 (brightshiny.ninja) ! It’s not every day woodwind quintet music will make you want to get up and dance. Seize this disc and the day, says me. Opening things, Theia from Apollo thewholenote.com May 20 - July 12, 2022 | 53

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