10 months ago

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...

symphonic, jazz/rock,

symphonic, jazz/rock, Persian, world, improvisational and contemporary inspired composing makes this music for all ages. Tiina Kiik Bekah Simms – Bestiaries Various Artists Centrediscs CMCCD 30022 ( ! Canadian composer Bekah Simms is no stranger to the concert stage having been the recipient of over 30 composition awards, but her latest work Bestiaries takes us into a new realm of height and depth. This album comprises three chamber works, and highlights Simms’ fine orchestral colouring, as well as exacting leadership from Brian Current’s Cryptid Ensemble and Véronique Lacroix’s Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, the former being created for the express purpose of this album. At times feeling chaotic, the work never loses a finely crafted sensibility of every note being exactly where the composer wants it to be. The opening of Foreverdark has us awakening in what could be described as a subway tunnel and very quickly drags us through underwater culverts and dark machinery. Led by amplified cello, this is stunning work from Toronto’s Amahl Arulanandam, with whom Simms enjoys a close relationship. This is an incredibly exciting piece I would love to see performed live. From Void is a chilling and aggressive piece, after which we welcome Bestiary l+ll, a cinematic journey broadcasting a depth and width of oceanic proportions. We are floating over landscapes of rock, darkly shrouded shipwrecks and elegant sea creatures. Simms pulls us in, taking us along on her deep dives into her personal Neverworld like a school of fish following in her journey to the oceanic underworld, led by the brilliant waves of vocal elasticity from Charlotte Mundy’s beckoning Siren call and pulling us up for air with bird calls and what Simms describes as her “sonic ecosystem.” Simms crafts a tapestry of strict essentials that are tensile without being harsh, like finely knit silk crochets transforming to steel mesh. Is there such a description as densely translucent? This would be it. Cheryl Ockrant Yang Chen – longing for _ Various Artists Independent (peopleplacesrecords. ! Longing for _ is, at its core, a beautiful story about possibilities of friendships, creative collaborations and music in between, in a world affected by pandemic restrictions. This album by Toronto-based percussionist Yang Chen threads a delicate line between pushing boundaries and maintaining a state of serenity throughout. Each of the eight compositions is done in collaboration with a different artist and is a testament to a creativity generated through friendship. As a result, the album is a curious mixture of musical styles and individual personalities – here we have elements of electronic, experimental, modern composition, pop, R&B and free improvisation. Worth noting is that all compositions are accompanied by a video, a visual representation of textures and narratives we hear. Chen is innovative and experimental in their approach and gently unapologetic about their ideas. They masterfully employ an array of percussion instruments on this album, the most innovative being using a bicycle to create sounds, textures and movement (Stephanie Orlando’s crank/set ). The energy ranges from grungy and provocative (Andrew Noseworthy’s All Good Pieces Have Two Things) to a contemplative solo vibraphone triptych (Charles Lutvak’s rest/stop). With violinists/composers Yaz Lancaster and Connie Li, Chen explores dreamy and psychedelic worlds, respectively, in EUPHORIC and Nighttime renewals toward more friendship, more love, like snowfall, I want to sing with you. Sara Constant’s silt and Jason Doell’s through intimate, swims, are big textural adventures. The surprising switch comes in the form of Sarian Sankoh’s till the dam breaks, an R&B track with warm vocals and gentle steel pan. This is an adventurous, probing, charming debut album. Ivana Popovic John Luther Adams – Sila: the breath of the world JACK Quartet; The Crossing Cantaloupe Music ( albums/sila-breath-of-world) ! When Schoenberg abandoned the chromatic Wagnerian tonality of Verklärte Nacht one critic described his work as sounding as though “someone had smeared the score of Tristan whilst the ink was still wet.” Debussy took an evolutionary approach to this 12-tone system, gradually dissolving traditional scales and harmony in a beguiling, evocative sound world. The Inuit of Canada’s Arctic have known about this seamless harmonic experience long before Schoenberg and Debussy; and honestly, long before John Luther Adams. But Adams appears to have found a way to re-invent the concept like no one else, except, perhaps the Inuit. Sila: The Breath of the World is Adams’ monumental re-creation of that breath of the world in the concert hall. It is recreated in a continuous score “written” as it were, when the breath that comes from the very air around us is profoundly transformed by dozens of percussionists, woodwinds, brass, strings and the inimitable voices of The Crossing complemented by the JACK Quartet Adams’ Sila begins with the rolling thunder of percussion imitating the rumbling of the earth awakening, its breath a singular inhalation of the teeming humanity who inhabit it. Voices and instruments join the majestic harmonics of the low B flat and wend their way into what seems like a single note encompassing all 12-tones seamlessly; music morphing into a prolonged inhalation and exhalation of Sila: The Breath of the World, before falling into silence. Art imitating the single note of life’s breath. Raul da Gama As We Are Julian Velasco; Winston Choi Cedille CDR 90000 213 ( ! Julian Velasco is a saxophonist, collaborative artist and educator raised in Los Angeles and now based in Chicago; Winston Choi is a pianist with a huge list of performances around the world who grew up in Toronto. As We Are features Velasco on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones in a series of dramatic and engaging works. Come As You Are was written by Stephen 58 | December 2022 - January 2023

Banks as a four-movement suite dedicated to members of his family; it contains references to “African-American sacred music” which adds a poignancy to each piece. Amanda Harberg’s Court Dances which reference “16th and 17th-century court dances, were initially influenced by the “syncopated bounce of a squash ball.” The intricate interplay between Choi’s piano and Velasco’s light and precise soprano saxophone in the first movement, Courante, is exciting in a delightfully frenzied manner. Animus (Elijah Daniel Smith) combines some multi-phonics with tape accompaniment; Velasco’s performance is sensitive and controlled. Liminal Highway was premiered in 2016 for flute and electronics but composer Christopher Cerrone revised it for saxophone and, after hearing Velasco perform, decided he was the artist to play it. The sections with percussive pad work are particularly intense and magnificent. As We Are is an exciting album of contemporary music for the saxophone performed with passion and precision. Ted Parkinson Richard Danielpour – 12 Etudes for Piano Stefano Greco Naxos 8.559922 ( ordSearchResults/?q=8.559922) ! Outside of certain musical circles, Richard Danielpour may not exactly be a household name, but the credentials of this 66-yearold American composer are impressive indeed. Born in New York of Iranian-Jewish descent, he studied at Oberlin, the New England Conservatory and ultimately, the Juilliard School. Since 1997, he has been on the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles. Like many composers of his generation, Danielpour began writing in a serial style, but later adapted a more accessible “quasi-tonal” idiom. Among his enormous output are a number of pieces for solo piano including a set of 12 Etudes, the Piano Fantasy and two transcriptions from an opera currently in progress, all of which are premiered on this Naxos CD by the Italian-born pianist Stefano Greco. The Etudes are miniature gems (each never more than six minutes in length) and what strikes the listener most immediately is the appealing range of contrasting moods – from the perpetuum mobile of the first, the stridency of the fifth (do I hear echoes of Prokofiev?) and the languor of the sixth and ninth. Throughout, Greco demonstrates full command of this unfamiliar repertoire. The Piano Fantasy is based on the final chorus of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and is a true fantasy with its abruptly contrasting tempos and dynamics. The piece demands considerable virtuosity at times, but again, Greco meets the challenges with formidable technique. Rounding out the program are the Lullaby and Song Without Words which show yet another side of Danielpour’s compositional style. Gentle and unassuming, these short pieces provide a fitting conclusion. Kudos to both Naxos and Greco for bringing to light some music that definitely warrants greater investigation. Richard Haskell Subtractions Greg Stuart New Focus Recordings FCR348 ( ! American percussionist Greg Stuart’s practice embraces improvisation, electronics and the classical experimental music tradition. At the same time he actively bucks conventional solo percussionism by cultivating an anti-virtuoso performance mission, a stance related to his focal dystonia which limits his motor function in one hand. This seeming limitation has, however, served as a springboard, inspiring Stuart to explore alternative soloist paths, specifically in developing meaningful collaborations with several composers. Subtractions reflects Stuart’s personalized mastery of the contemporary percussion idiom in works by composers Pisaro-Liu (side by side) and Sarah Hennies (Border Loss). The album highlights a particular sonic focus: the magnification of intimate sounds through layered recording. Electronic sounds and field recordings also make appearances. Hennies’ 22-minute Border Loss explores irregular percussive textures, granular, swarm-like sounds and slowly shifting arrays of timbral categories. Sometimes the music evokes the crackling of a fire. Other times high-pitched bells and wind chimes add pitch elements, though waves of sonic continuity are always the focus here. Pisaro-Liu’s side by side is in two parts, the first scored for bass drum and cymbals, the second for vibraphone and glockenspiel. There is a kind of aural alchemy at work here. Part I is characterized by the sounds coaxed from the skin of the bass drum and a deliciously slow crescendo on a rolled cymbal, morphing into rich near-orchestral static textures. To this listener, Part II’s aphoristic melodic phrases on the two sustaining metallophones conjure a peacefully contemplative atmosphere. It’s a welcome respite during these challenging early days of winter. Andrew Timar Hommage à Kurtág Movses Pogossian New Focus Recordings FCR347B ( ! Nonagenarian György Kurtág is ranked among today’s foremost composers by many. Despite its often enigmatic qualities, his music falls squarely in the European classical music lineage, particularly the branch represented by his illustrious 20th-century Hungarian composer-predecessors Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. Kurtág’s individual movements are typically quite brief, yet despite compression, expressively complex. His style is gestural and at the same time lyrical. Though his music is never overtly sentimental, he systematically indulges in homages in his titles. On Hommage à Kurtág, American violin virtuoso Movses Pogossian, a Kurtág specialist, presents a brilliantly played recital featuring the composer’s Signs, Games and Messages for solo violin. The substantial 16-movement work is a masterwork of exuberance and subtlety, displaying the enigmatic qualities that distinguish the composer’s unique voice. As music critic Alex Ross once insightfully observed, it is “dark but not dismal, quiet but not calm.” Honouring the concept of homage in Kurtág’s music, Pogossian commissioned Californian women composers Aida Shirazi, Gabriela Lena Frank, Kay Rhie and Jungyoon Wie. They contributed terse works of considerable poise to the album, proving that Kurtág’s aesthetic spirit is alive and well among younger composers. Bringing his program back to Kurtág’s deep Hungarian roots, Pogossian gives a committed reading of the Melodia movement of Bartók’s autumnal Sonata for Solo Violin. He concludes with a very satisfying, passionate, live rendering of Kodály’s expansive Duo for Violin and Cello with cellist Rohan de Saram. Andrew Timar Stephen Barber – Earth Eric Huebner New Focus Recordings FCR340 ( ! Stephen Barber is a composer who splits his time between New York City and Austin, Texas. He composes music for TV and film and has extensive roots in pop music, but he is also a serious composer of art music and this disc is a collection of 13 of his short character December 2022 - January 2023 | 59

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