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Volume 28 Issue 1 | September 20 - November 8, 2022

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  • Thewholenotecom
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  • Violin
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Our 28th season in print! “And Now, Back to Live Action”; a symphonic-sized listings section, compared to last season; clubs “On the move” ; FuturesStops Festival and Nuit Blanche; “Pianistic high-wire acts”; Season announcements include full-sized choral works like Mendelssohn’s Elijah; “Icons, innovators and renegades” pulling out all the stops.

and fixed electronics

and fixed electronics dates from 2011. Haunting again comes to mind as an apt descriptor, as solo woodwinds rise above a dense texture of strings, gongs and cymbals. Perhaps it is the surface similarity to George Crumb’s A Haunted Landscape that suggests the term. At any rate, Andrew Cyr and the Metropolis Ensemble are stellar in this culminating work on an excellent portrait disc. Razaz is definitely a young composer to keep an eye (ear) on. Cellist Claire Bryant’s Whole Heart (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0178 brightshiny.ninja) represents both sides of her mandate as Assistant Professor of Cello and Coordinator for Community Engagement at the University of South Carolina. Bryant also directs the criminal justice initiative “Music for Transformation,” spearheaded by Carnegie Hall’s affiliate ensemble, Decoda, of which she is a co-founder. The seven works she has chosen, all by friends and colleagues, span 20 years of her career. Bryant says: “All these passionate works reflect love and the great human experience. Whole Heart is a reminder of the collective challenges we face and the resilience and strength that live inside each of us.” Andrea Casarrubios’ SEVEN was composed in 2020 and was inspired by the early pandemic ritual in New York City of citizens celebrating and encouraging frontline workers by banging pots and pans each evening at 7pm. Ayudame (2004) by Adam Schoenberg was the first piece that Bryant ever commissioned, back when she was a student at Juilliard. Schoenberg says the Spanish title translates as “’help me’ and refers, in part, to my struggle in composing the piece,” which also pushed the cellist with its juxtaposition of extreme virtuosity and high emotional output. They have both risen admirably to the challenge. Delta Sunrise by Jessica Meyer is a gentler, at times ethereal piece, inspired by the view from an early morning airplane journey after the composer’s inaugural trip to New Orleans. The other solo works are Varsha (Rain) by Reena Esmail, based on Hindustani ragas sung to beckon rain, and the playful And Even These Small Wonders by Tanner Porter which was “conceived in a trying time, but looks brightly towards the future.” Bryant is joined by violist Nadia Sirota for the quietly boisterous Limestone & Felt by her longtime friend Caroline Shaw. Shaw and Bryant met as young children as summer campers and Suzuki collaborators. There’s lots of pizzicato and some rolling unison passages in this piece which explores two “contrasting, common textures – resonant, gleaming limestone and muted, soft felt.” The final work on this excellent and intriguing disc, Duo for violin and cello by Jessie Montgomery, features Ari Streisfeld, another longtime friend and colleague. The opening and closing movements, – Meandering and Presto – are virtuosic and playful, while the contrasting middle Dirge is melancholy and contemplative. Montgomery says “the piece is meant as an ode to friendship with movements characterizing laughter, compassion, adventure, and sometimes silliness.” A perfect ending to an enticing disc. Violinist Johnny Gandelsman embarked on a similar, although more ambitious, voyage during the pandemic by commissioning works from a number of his colleagues that would “reflect in some way on the time we were all living through,” a time that was overshadowed not only by COVID-19, but also by escalating racism, police brutality and the ever-increasing effects of climate change. This is America – An Anthology 2020-2021 (In A Circle Records ICR023 inacircle-records.com/releases) is a 3CD set of works for mostly solo violin by some two dozen composers ranging from five to 24 minutes in length. I say mostly solo violin because some tracks involve voice(s) and/or electronics, and some call for Gandelsman to perform on alternative instruments including acoustic and electric tenor guitars and five-string violin. Clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, one might expect the set to grow tiresome after a while; but I must say there is more than enough diversity to command and hold attention, at least when consumed one disc at a time. There are far too many tracks to enumerate here, but some of the highlights for me include the following. Disc one opens with O for overdubbed voices and violin by Clarice Assad. It is a hauntingly lyrical meditation on oxygen (“O”) referencing not only the respiratory distress and failure brought on by COVID-19 but also George Floyd’s last words “I can’t breathe.” Layale Chaker’s Sinekemān, in which the solo violin evokes the spirit of the Ottoman ancestor of the violin (sinekemān) characterized by its seven sympathetic strings, is a study on solitude, “an ongoing flux of moments of self-sufficiency and struggle, lucidity and confusion, power and despair, already depicted by the aloneness of the solo instrument.” Nick Dunston’s percussive and scratchy Tardigrades was inspired by the phylum of eight-legged segmented micro-animals that can survive lack of food or water for up to three decades, withstand extreme temperatures and have even been reported to be able to survive the vacuum of outer space (although those on board Israel’s Beresheet mission, which crash-landed on the moon in 2019, are thought not to have survived). Disc two begins gently with Gandelsman singing and whistling while strumming a tenor guitar on Marika Hughes’ With Love From J, commemorating the life of Jewlia Eisenberg with the lyric “…The sky above us / the ground below / 360 support around us / cut discursive thought. Can you hear / What we’ve learned / Through the years? That love, sweet love / Reminds us / What to listen for.” Angélica Negrón’s A través del manto luminoso (Through the luminous mantle) takes its inspiration from dark-sky photographs of the heavens taken in Puerto Rico. It juxtaposes the acoustic violin with synthetic sounds meant to replicate audio recordings of ancient stars made using data from NASA’s Keppler/K2 missions. The eerie sounds and the “lonely” violin suggest the depths of space and the wonder of the universe. The minimalist pioneer Terry Riley is one of the few composers on this anthology with whose music I would have said I am familiar. But I must say that Barbary Coast 1955 for five-string violin is unlike anything else of his that I have heard. Riley gives a blow-by-blow description of the genesis and development of the work in his 11-part program note, including a number of false starts and rejected ideas. What we are left with is a kind of tango-tinged South American melody “that might have found itself drifting into the weed-scented room of a Beat poet” in North Beach (San Francisco’s “Barbary Coast” section) in the 1950s. This slowly morphs into a rollicking Bach-like quasi-contrapuntal section before gradually winding down. Quite a striking work. Disc three begins with the brief Stitched by Matana Roberts that seems to pick up right where Riley’s piece left off, opening very quietly with a longing melody that develops gently over its four-anda-half-minute length before fading. With a seamless segué, Aeryn Santillan’s Withdraw is a work “reflecting on the state of society in 2020 through an intimate lens.” These two relatively short works are followed by more extended pieces by Tyshawn Sorey – For Courtney Bryan, strangely the only piece to not have a contextual program note in the otherwise quite detailed booklet – Anjna Swaminathan, Conrad Tao and Akshaya Tucker. The disc concludes with Breathe by Kojiro Umezaki, another meditation on the “world being brought to its knees by an inconspicuous peril replicating exponentially (and paradoxically) through the life-giving/sustaining act of breathing.” Throughout this impressive undertaking Gandelsman rises to all the myriad challenges, be they technical, stylistic or emotional. This is a compelling snapshot, or rather compendium, of America in the depths of a very troubled time, expressing anger, remorse, anguish and, most importantly, hope. Kudos to all concerned, especially Gandelsman who conceived the project and brought it to glorious fruition. We invite submissions. CDs, DVDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. David Olds, DISCoveries Editor discoveries@thewholenote.com 48 | September 20 - November 8, 2022 thewholenote.com

STRINGS ATTACHED TERRY ROBBINS Every now and then a CD comes along of such stunning quality that it almost leaves you speechless. Such is the case with Avant l’orage – French String Trios 1926-1939, a 2CD set priced as a single disc, featuring seven beautifully crafted works, mostly by composers who aren’t household names, in simply superb performances by the Chicago-based Black Oak Ensemble of violinist Desirée Ruhstrat, violist Aurélien Fort Pederzoli and cellist David Cunliffe (Cedille CDR90000 212 cedillerecords.org). The trios by Henri Tomasi, Robert Casadesus and Gustave Samazeuilh are world-premiere recordings; these three works, along with the trios by Jean Françaix and Gabriel Pierné were all written for and dedicated to the renowned Trio Pasquier. The other two trios here are by Jean Cras and Émile Goué. All seven works are high quality and extremely attractive, and it’s hard to imagine their ever being played better – or with better recorded sound, for that matter. The Madrid-based violist Wenting Kang, ably supported by pianist Sergei Kvitko makes her album debut with Mosaic, a CD celebrating an era in which Spanish and French composers were frequently friends and collaborators (Blue Griffin Records BGR609 bluegriffin.com). Nearly all the tracks were adapted by Kang from violin or cello arrangement scores, to great effect – in fact, Kang sounds like a violin or cello in many of the pieces; her beautifully clear tone and dazzling technical perfection resulting in a wide range of tonal colour. There are two pieces by Debussy, two by Ravel and four by Fauré, with Spain represented by the Tárrega Recuerdos de la Alhambra in the challenging Ruggiero Ricci solo transcription, the Albéniz Tango and the da Falla Seven Popular Spanish Songs. Casals’ Song of the Birds and a solo Fantasia on the same song by the Japanese composer Akira Nishimura round out a superlative disc. There’s more outstanding viola playing on Charm, Passion, and Acrobatics – Music for Viola and Piano featuring violist Misha Galaganov and pianist John Owings (Navona NV6434 navonarecords.com/ catalog/nv6434). The CD resulted from Galaganov’s purchase of a collection of music scores from the library of Armand Pushman, who died in 1999 aged 98, and who studied viola at the Paris Conservatory in his youth. Among the long-forgotten works were five featured here: the Nocturne (1905), the charming Prelude et Saltarelle (1907) and the short but intense Impromptu from 1922 by the French composer and conductor Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht (1880-1965), and the 1921 Sonata and 1939 Rhapsodie by the French composer and organist Pierre Kunc (1865-1941), whose manuscripts remained available only to copyright holders until 2021. All are premiere recordings. Chausson’s final work, the 1897 Piece for Cello (Violin or Viola) Op.39 completes an impressive CD. Solus et una (“Alone and together”) is a reflection on cellist Amit Peled`s journey during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he spent a lot of time playing the Bach cello suites in his home studio. The two that attracted him the most were the Suite No.4 in E-flat Major BWV1010 and the Suite No.5 in C Minor BWV1011, both presented on this deeply felt and immensely satisfying CD (CTM Classics 95269 15090 ctmclassics.com). The cello is a Giovanni Grancino from c.1695, and Peled uses its deep, warm tone to maximum effect, creating smooth, flowing lines in beautifully judged readings that mine the emotional depths of these exceptional works. An encore track is the one piece Peled was able to record with his students during the lockdown: an arrangement for eight cellos and piano of the Andante from Brahms` Symphony No.3. It`s a lovely end to a quite beautiful disc. When the Danish cellist Jonathan Swensen won the 2019 Windsor Festival International String Competition part of the prize was a debut recording with Champs Hill Records; his CD Fantasia – works for solo cello is the result (chandos.net/products/ reviews/HR_168). Swensen says that he wanted the studio recording to have “exactly the same energy that comes from a live concert,” and he certainly succeeds with a What we're listening to this month The WholeNote Listening Room Hear tracks from any of the recordings displayed in this section: Plus Watch Videos Click to Buy thewholenote.com/listening In the Brink Bergamot Quartet "In the Brink" demonstrates an ensemble that is evolving the string quartet idiom from a strong grounding in its well established performance practice. Robert Paterson String Quartets 1-3 The Indianapolis Quartet Listeners will experience a wide range of emotions in this debut album, featuring word premiere recordings of quartets by award-winning composer Robert Paterson. thewholenote.com September 20 - November 8, 2022 | 49

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