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Volume 28 Issue 3 | December 2022 - January 2023

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Creative Collisions offer land-use hope for community and arts space; "Take Dec 10 for Example" -- Orchestral Explosion; Landmark novel finds music theatre form; Behind the scenes at Salute to Vienna; Collaborative serendipity on the joint-concert front; Amnesia and the alternative: QSYO's take on "Comfort and Joy". A bumber crop of record reviews (and not a Holiday compilation among them)! All this and more...

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWED DAVID OLDS You may have read Max Christie’s article “John Beckwith Musician” two issues ago (The WholeNote Volume 28/1) about the launch of Beckwith’s latest book Music Annals: Research and Critical Writings by a Canada Composer 1973-2014, and Christie’s sequel “Meanwhile back at Chalmers House” in the following issue. The evening of the launch at the Canadian Music Centre included a live performance by SHHH!! Ensemble and provided my first exposure to this duo from Ottawa: Zac Pulak (percussion) and Edana Higham (piano). Dedicated to performing and commissioning new works, their debut CD Meanwhile has recently been released by Analekta (AN 2 9139 analekta.com/en). Comprising works by five mid-career Canadian composers including Monica Pearce (whose leather was also included on that composer’s portrait disc Textile Fantasies reviewed in this column last month), Jocelyn Morlock, Kelly-Marie Murphy, Micheline Roi and John Gordon Armstrong, plus one relative newcomer on the scene, Iranian-Canadian Noora Nakhaie, and the current grand old man of Canadian music, Beckwith himself. All of the works were written for the pair, with the exception of Murphy’s Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine which was Pulak’s first commission back in 2016 “fresh out of school and out of my depth.” Murphy, who had never written for solo percussion, eagerly took on the project and created a dynamic and almost relentless work for unpitched drums with only a brief respite in metal and bell sounds. This is followed by Roi’s Grieving the Doubts of Angels, a motoric, minimal and mostly melodic work which ends dramatically with a pounding pulse. A highlight for me is Nakhaie’s Echoes of the Past, inspired by Sister Language, a moving book by Martha and Christina Baillie. This testament to the triumphs and struggles experienced by a family dealing with profound mental illness and to the bond between siblings is sensitively interpreted by the composer. Meanwhile concludes with the title piece, the duo’s first commission, a 2018 work for marimba and piano (both inside and out) by Beckwith in which the then 91-year-old shows no signs of compromise in his approach. There are echoes of earlier works – Keyboard Practice comes to mind – yet we are left with the impression that the composer is looking forward as much as back. Forward is definitely the direction of SHHH!! Ensemble and we’re glad to be along for the ride. Kelly-Marie Murphy reappears on the next disc, de mille feux (a million lights) featuring the Andara Quartet (leaf music LM262 leaf-music.ca). Murphy’s Dark Energy was commissioned by the Banff Centre and the CBC as the required work in the 2007 Banff International String Quartet Competition, won that year by Australia’s Tinalley String Quartet although the prize for best performance of the Canadian commission was awarded to the Koryo String Quartet (USA). The Andara Quartet would not be formed until seven years later when the members met at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. They have subsequently gone on to residencies at the Banff Centre, the Ottawa Chamberfest and the University of Montreal. The quartet’s debut disc opens with Benjamin Britten’s all too rarely heard String Quartet No.1 with its angelic opening high-string chorale over pizzicato cello before transitioning into a caccia-like Allegro vivo. The extended Andante calmo third movement eventually leads to a playful finale in which the strings seem to be playing tag. This is contrasted with Samuel Barber’s gorgeous Molto Adagio extracted from his String Quartet in B Minor Op.11. Of course we are familiar with this “Adagio for Strings” in its standalone string orchestra and a cappella choral versions, but I must admit to have mixed feelings about having it cherry-picked in the context of a string quartet recording. Generous as the disc’s 65-minute duration is, there was ample space available to have included the quartet’s outer movements as well (less than ten minutes between them), but that is a minor quibble. Murphy’s single-movement work is next up, opening forebodingly, as many of her works do, before changing mood abruptly to a rhythmic and roiling second half featuring abrasive chordal passages and Doppler-like effects. The final work, producer James K. Wright’s String Quartet No.1 “Ellen at Scattergood” is in four somewhat anachronistic movements. It could have been written a century ago, but is none the worse for that. A pastoral depiction of life at the cottage of a couple of friends, it was commissioned by the husband as a gift for wife Ellen. This maiden voyage for the Andara Quartet with its warm and convincing performances bodes well for their future, and for chamber music in this country. I also note that the triennial Banff Competition is still going strong 30 years after its inauguration – the first prize winner in 2022 was the Isidore Quartet (USA) and the Canadian Commission Prize went to Quatuor Agate (France). This year’s required work was by Dinuk Wijeratne and it’s great to realize that all nine of the competing quartets from around the world have taken that new Canadian work into their repertoires. Even more exciting is when a young quartet like the Andara takes on an earlier competition’s work and gives it new life as they have done with Dark Energy. Blue and Green Music features two string quartets by American composer Victoria Bond performed by the Cassatt String Quartet along with the song cycle From an Antique Land and the standalone song Art and Science, both featuring baritone Michael Kelly with Bradley Moore, piano (Albany Music TROY1905 albanyrecords.com). The title work takes its inspiration from a painting of the same name by Georgia O’Keeffe, in the words of the composer an “abstract study in motion, color and form, with the interplay of those two colors that dance with each other in graceful, sensuous patterns.” The four movements endeavour to represent that interplay, and to these ears succeed gracefully and gleefully in the final movement Dancing Colors. Art and Science takes its text from a letter which Albert Einstein wrote to the editor of a German magazine that the composer says “even though it was written as a letter, the organization of thoughts was startling. There was such logic […] and such a sense of form that it was as though Einstein had composed a poem….” More traditionally, From an Antique Land does use poetry, with Recuerdo and On Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven by Edna St. Vincent Millay bookending 46 | December 2022 - January 2023 thewholenote.com

poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Gerard Manley Hopkins. The accompaniment in the final song cleverly incorporates echoes of the third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Although texts are not provided in the booklet, there are synopses, and frankly, Kelly’s lyric baritone voicing is so well articulated that the words are clearly understandable. Dreams of Flying was commissioned by the Audubon Quartet and Bond took the name of the ensemble as inspiration to create a piece about birds. The opening movements, Resisting Gravity and Floating are as their titles describe and set the stage for the playful and boisterous The Caged Bird Dreams of the Jungle, which, after a gentle opening becomes truly joyous, replete with chirps, whistles and cries as the birds of the jungle awake. The work and the CD end exuberantly with Flight, featuring rising motifs, high glissandi and repeating rhythmic patterns. Here, as throughout this entertaining disc, all the performers shine. After 20 years working alongside Robert Aitken you might be forgiven for thinking I’d have heard enough flute music to last a lifetime and indeed there are times when I have said that a little flute goes a long way. That sentiment notwithstanding I encountered a lovely disc this month that put the lie to that. Through Broken Time features Jennifer Grim in contemporary works for solo and multiple flutes, some with piano accompaniment provided by Michael Sheppard (New Focus Recordings FCR346 newfocusrecordings.com). I had put the disc on while cataloguing recent arrivals without paying undo attention until the bird-like sounds and Latin rhythms of Tania León’s Alma leapt out at me. I had just finished listening to Victoria Bond’s disc, and it was as if I were back in the jungle dreamed of by the caged bird mentioned above. I suppose it was inevitable that I would find Julia Wolfe’s Oxygen for 12 flutes (2021) reminiscent of Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint for flute and tape or 11 flutes, which I first heard in Ransom Wilson’s multi-tracked recording some four decades ago I don’t mean to say that Wolfe’s work is derivative of that classic, but that the orchestra of flutes, in this case involving all the regular members of the flute family rather than Reich’s piccolos, C and alto flutes, and especially the consistency of sound from part to part as a result of them all being played by one flutist, has a familiarity, especially in the context of Wolfe’s post-minimalist style. The addition of bass flute to the mix fills out the wall of sound, the density of which can at times be mistaken for a pipe organ. The liner notes also liken the piece to Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments but whatever the forebears, Wolfe has made this flute choir her own and Grim rises to the occasion in spades. What we're listening to this month: David Sanford is represented by two jazz inspired works, Klatka Still from 2007, and Offertory (2021), the first a homage to trumpeters Tony Klatka and Tomasz Stanko, and the second inspired by the extended improvisations of John Coltrane and Dave Liebman. The disc also includes solo works by Alvin Singleton and Allison Loggins-Hull – this latter a haunting work that meditates on the devastation wreaked by hurricane Maria, social, political and racial turmoil in the United States, and the Syrian civil war – and Wish Sonatine by Valerie Coleman, a dramatic work that conveys brutality and resistance and which incorporates djembe rhythms symbolizing enslaved Africans. Grim proves herself not only comfortable but fluent in all the diverse idioms and the result is a very satisfying disc. If Jennifer Grim’s CD can be considered diverse within the context of contemporary composition, Origins, featuring rising super-star recorder virtuoso Lucie Horsch, takes musical diversity to a whole ‘nother level (Decca 485 3192 luciehorsch.com). Most of the works are arrangements, opening with Coltrane’s classic Ornithology followed by Piazzolla’s Libertango. The accompaniments vary, ranging from orchestra and chamber ensemble to bandoneon, guitar, kora and, in Horsch’s own arrangement of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances Sz.56, cimbalom (Dani Luca). There is an effective interpretation of Debussy’s solo flute masterpiece Syrinx and more Horsch arrangements of works by Stravinsky. Traditional material includes Simple Gifts and the Irish tunes She Moved Through the Fair and Londonderry Air. Like Grim with flutes, Horsch plays all the members of the recorder family and although I don’t see a bass there, she is pictured with five different instruments in the extensive booklet. At home in seemingly all forms of music, including such unexpected treats as improvisations on traditional Senegalese songs (with kora master Bao Sissoko) and one of contemporary composer Isang Yun’s demanding unaccompanied works, Horsch is definitely a young artist to watch. The final disc I will mention is the EP Water Hollows Stone, a compelling work for two pianos by American composer Alex Weiser (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0176 brightshiny.ninja), which takes its title from a quotation by Ovid that the composer saw inscribed in Latin on the wall of a subway station in NYC. Performed by Hocket (pianists Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff) the three movements are Waves, a quietly roiling texture from which “phrase, melody and harmony” eventually emerge, Cascade, a series of rising and falling arpeggios based on “a misquotation” of one of thewholenote.com/listening De mille feux Andara Quartet The Andara Quartet bring to life four luminous compositions through incredible interplay and dynamism. Available now on all streaming platforms! Blue and Green Music String Quartets and Vocal Works Victoria Bond World premiere recordings of works by Victoria Bond, with performances by Cassatt Quartet and baritone Michael Kelly Through Broken Time Jennifer Grim Flutist Jennifer Grim releases a collection of works at the intersection of Afro-Modernism and post-minimalism. Vivaldi:Concerti per violino X ‘Intorno a Pisendel’ Julien Chauvin and his Concert de la Loge A return to Naïve Classiques’ Vivaldi Edition: works focusing on Johann Georg Pisendel, konzertmeister at the Dresden Court chapel, pupil and friend of Vivaldi. thewholenote.com December 2022 - January 2023 | 47

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