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Volume 28 Issue 4 | February - March 2023

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Volume 28 no.4, covering Feb, March and into early April '23! David Olds remembers composer John Beckwith; Andrew Timar reflects on the life and times of artistic polymath Michael Snow; Mezzo Emily Fons, in town for Figaro, on trouser roles, the life of a mezzo-soprano on the road and more; Colin Story on the Soft-Seat beat; tracks from 22 new recordings added to our Listening Room. All this and more.

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the University of Toronto. She has appeared with Orchestra Toronto and has taken part in the International Music Festival at Casalmaggiore, Italy. The disc opens with Mozart’s well-know variations on Ah vous dirai-je Maman! K265, completed around 1782. Chan’s approach is poised and elegant, and she easily handles the technical requirements of this deceptively challenging work. Four selections from Brahms’ Sixteen Waltzes Op.39 from 1865 – originally for piano four hands – are wonderfully spirited, while Debussy’s familiar Children’s Corner Suite from 1908, is an endearing depiction of childhood from a simpler time. Beginning with Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum, Chan’s playing is sensitively articulated, with just the right amount of tempo rubato. In Summer by Canadian composer Christine Donkin is less familiar, but this languorous essay artfully depicts a summer’s day in northern Alberta, while the fourmovement suite Music for Piano by Alexina Louie is an attractive study in contrasts, providing a fitting conclusion to a satisfying program. Richard Haskell Horizons – Gershwin; Piazzolla; Saint- Saëns Buzz Brass Analekta AN 2 8929 ( ! World-renowned Canadian quintet Buzz Brass was formed in 2002. Here eight tracks of genre-spanning compositions are arranged for their brass instrumentation and occasional special guest musicians. Buzz Brass’ own arrangement of Khachaturian’s Gayaneh: Sabre Dance showcases their tight clear ensemble work in performing the composer’s famous steady groove beat, descending melody sliding glissandos and contrasting higher-pitched section. Guest arrangers of the remaining tracks complement their brass sound. François Vallières’ arrangement of Saint- Saëns’ Danse macabre has guest harpist Valérie Milot adding colourful plucks against brass legato themes and detached notes. His intricate arrangement of Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, with guest pianist Philip Chiu, is a bouncy, uplifting and true to classic rendition. Arranger/friend Javier Sebastián Asencio provides a bras-only arrangement of Piazzolla’s dance Milonga del ángel. The melodies and rhythm sounds generated by the bandoneon bellows air movement translate successfully to breathing into brass instruments especially in held notes and loud volumes. His Montréal Hora Cero five-piece medley adds vibraphone with unexpected vibe and horn slides, drums, and slower brass tunes with vibe backdrop. His Claude Bolling swinging brass Toot Suite: Allègre arrangement opens with trumpet solo in a mix of Baroque and jazz ideas like fast horn lines, ringing vibraphone tones, electric bass and short drum solo/accompaniments. Paul Dukas and Lew Pollack composition arrangements by Enrico O. Dastous and Steve Cooper respectively are enticing too. So many clear brass sounds to listen to here as each Buzz Brass member is an aweinspiring passionate musician alone and in ensemble. Tiina Kiik LOOP – Ligeti’s Inspiration & Legacy Rose Wollman Acis APL30100 ( ! Some new classical releases are concept albums, finding meaning in underlining connections between pieces from different composers and periods. The pieces may relate to each other through style, gestures, compositional techniques, tonality or themes. Loop: Ligeti’s Inspiration & Legacy is brimming with such relations. The album is centred around György Ligeti’s Sonata for Viola Solo, written in the late 20th century and expressing distinct elements of the Baroque sonata, with six movements based on different tempi, rhythms and themes. Violist Rose Wollman’s ingenious concept is based on imaginative yet logical pairing of each of the six movements with a piece from the Baroque era and commissioning six contemporary composers to write a companion piece to the Ligeti/Baroque set. The result is remarkably insightful: pieces within each triptych segue beautifully, as if they had all been written at the same time. The companion pieces support and illuminate aspects of Ligeti’s movements, sometimes in unexpected ways. Featured Baroque composers include Bach, Tartini, Gabrielli, Corelli, Telemann and Biber, with their recognizable rhythmical and thematic elegance. Ligeti’s movements have Eastern European folk elements as well as jazz and Latin influences, but they are very much written in Ligeti’s unique language and display clever compositional techniques. Contemporary composers – Garth Knox, Alexander Mansour, Rose Wollman, Atar Arad, Melia Watras and Natalie Williams – match and mix the colours, gestures, language and structure in the most imaginative ways. Wollman’s extensive liner notes give a detailed explanation of her creative and analytical process in finding common threads. Her playing is agile, intelligent, movingly expressive; her articulation superb. The intimate atmosphere makes this album even more appealing. Ivana Popovic MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY Bill Brennan – Kaleidoscope: Music for Mallet Instruments Bill Brennan; Rob Power; Étienne Gendron Centrediscs CMCCD 30822 ( ! Canadian percussionist, pianist and composer Bill Brennan has racked up an impressive 100 album credits to date. Kaleidoscope, however, is the first album featuring his keyboard percussion compositions. While Brennan’s career has focused on contemporary concert music and jazz genres, he has also long immersed himself in the music of other cultures. He gratefully acknowledges the deep influences of the music of Ghana, Brazil, Indonesia and India in his liner notes. Those international music influences are on display throughout the album. For 20 years a core musician with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, Brennan’s Shadows and Istana were originally scored for its eight-piece [gamelan] degung – though they get an instrumental makeover here. Yes, Istana and Shadows are cast in the five-tone gapped scale of the West Javanese degung mode. But the use of vibes, tam-tams, finger cymbals, and especially the glistening tones of the glass marimba in these effective arrangements give the music a gently shimmering effect, as though heard through a permeable cultural gauze. Brazilian influences are evident in several works. Brennan describes Belo Horizonte as a musical representation of a morning stroll in a park in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, enlivened with the sounds of breezes, bamboo, chirping birds and chattering monkeys. Scored for two vibes and marimbas, Brennan skillfully evokes that soundscape by layering syncopated Brazilian bell patterns, making judicious key changes, and shifting harmonies, textures and dynamics. Then there are the appealing Nostalgie and Vinyl Café Waltz, which lean toward the composer’s gentler, tonally unambiguous, melancholy side. I feel others will also pick up on the tinge of East Coast saudade in several sections. And that’s a good thing. Andrew Timar 58 | February & March, 2023

ILTA Stefanie Abderhalden; Kyle Flens Neuma 162 ( ! Chicagoarea musicians – flutist Stefanie Abderhalden and percussionist Kyle Flens – get top billing in this satisfying, yet also occasionally quirky, recital of modernist and postmodernist concert music. Despite the billing on the cover, the album’s repertoire is considerably more focused on percussion than flute: five of the seven titles are scored for percussion alone. In addition, percussionists Malika Green, Katie (Wiegman) Burdett and Thomas Loretto add their skills to works by American composers Robert Fleisher, Robert Honstein, David Maki, plus iconoclastic Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis. Live performances, studio recordings and electroacoustic elements can all be found on this eclectic album. Yet it all hangs together as a satisfying percussion-centric recital. The 2008 title track Ilta (“evening” in Finnish) by Maki opens with Thai gongs, the alto flute and vibraphone sounds emerging from their resonant tones. The middle section’s instrumentation shifts to the higher C flute and crotales, the soundscape returning in last section to gong long tones animated by flute melodies. The best-known work here is Rebonds A (1988) by Xenakis (1922-2001). This virtuoso work for multiple bongos, tom-toms and bass drums, played convincingly by Flens alone, grows ever more complex over its 6’33’’ duration. Exhibiting a kind of rhythmic accelerando or perhaps metric compression, it reflects the composer’s considerable interest in mathematics, specifically in the Golden Section, a numeric ratio associated with the Fibonacci sequence. I found Flens’ performance an architecturally taut and emotionally intense listen. Andrew Timar 20 for 2020 Inbal Segev Avie AV2561 ( ! While in the heart of the 2020 pandemic, Israeli- American cellist Inbal Segev commissioned 20 works from some of today’s leading composers – some with whom she has worked before – asking them to document their responses to the challenging times. With this collection of mostly new compositions it is nearly impossible to speak on every piece but suffice to say there was not a single track on this double CD set that I was not moved by. There is a richness to the selections that are innovative and challenging, but still beautifully accessible. The complete work is an exploration of dark and light, of despair and joy, not only documenting the many layered issues around the pandemic and isolation, but also world events in general. With two CDs of chamber-style compositions, it is worth noting that Segev’s choice in composers represents a diversity of time and cultures. With the youngest (Sophia Bass, b.1996) to the most established (“the most obscure great composter of our time”) Gloria Coates (b.1938) this album is essential listening for any lover of contemporary classical music, not just the cello. I was hooked from the first track, Room to Move by Viet Cuong, a cathartic, sweeping work written for octet played entirely by Segev, splitting the eight parts between two cellos, her 1673 Ruggieri and her modern 1957 Becker, to add nuance and colour to the different parts. This piece had me dreaming of being a circus hoop performer. From here, Fernando Otero’s first movement of a Cello Concerto revised here for cello, string quartet and bass is a challenging work “infused with tango and jazz.” James Lee III’s Ekah, a heartbreaking lament on how there can be so much hate in the world, ends with a stunning prayer. The whole piece is surely destined to be a recital feature. Complex pizzicato work in Timo Andres’ Agita is followed by Sophia Bass’ mesmerizing piece Taal-Naad Naman for cello, tabla and tanpura. Bruce Wolosoff’s Lacrymae for cello choir was again overdubbed solely by Segev, in true pandemic fashion. Jazz pianist Vijay Iyer’s The Window exposes the powerful complexities of hope while avoiding sentimentality. Christopher Cerrone’s The Pleasure at Being the Cause is a minimalist play on simultaneously holding and moving, as was the constant during the pandemic. The first CD ends with Puerto Rican composer Angélica Negrón’s Ruta Panorámica, a delightful road trip complete with traffic and road sounds for cello, bandoneon and electronics. The second CD is just as varied, again each composition is uniquely noteworthy. Though there is simply ot space to recognize the beauty of every track, standouts for me included composer and environmental activist John Luther Adams’ A Weeping of Doves, Molly Joyce’s It Has Not Taken Long, Immanuel Wilkins’ Exhale, a speeding, breathtaking saxophone-style solo that is so relentless one can only wonder how Segev manages to pull it off, and Stewart Goodyear’s wonderous Kapok, which packs a powerful ending to the project. The bonus encore of Segev’s own composition Behold, for cello quartet, adds yet another work to the cello ensemble repertoire. Segev’s tone throughout this challenging project manages to be every colour imaginable, while both clear and vibrant, and warm and dark. The entire double album encompasses a stunning display of fireworks and gentleness. That so many of these works will surely be iconic mainstays of the contemporary cello repertoire, for those who dare to take them on, is a testament to the leadership and investment in the cello repertoire from this great artist. Cheryl Ockrant Kate Read – After Kate Read Leaf Music LM258 ( ! A curious mixture of contemporary solo viola compositions and Baroque pieces, this debut album by Kate Read is engaging and explorative, as well as enterprising. Although not a theme, the music on this album indirectly depicts the natural elements of Newfoundland, where Read currently resides – beauty amidst ruggedness, vastness of (sonic) space, wildness of possibilities. Read is a powerful performer, fully present in every phrase and turn, adventurous, always aware of the structure and direction. Her sound is imposing yet gentle, with an array of colours and expressions. All contemporary pieces on the album involve electronics but don’t venture into the avant-garde, entailing structural symmetry and classical aesthetics. Two are new commissions by Kate Read: Evennight by Benton Roark, a neverending joyful cascade of 16th notes using amplified viola with analogue electronics, and Blackwood Sketches by Andrew Staniland. The latter is a visceral, expressive take on an acclaimed etching by David Blackwood, Fire Down on the Labrador, and involves synth tones and low notes to depict the whale, ice and wood underneath and in between the viola’s segments. Keep in Touch by Nico Muhly features an unusual, pre-recorded track that blends with the viola exquisitely. The album closes with Aftermath, a collaborative improvisation on two of Bach’s pieces with Michelle LaCour, featuring synthesized and found sounds, pedals and layering. Baroque pieces by Biber (Passacaglia from Mystery Sonata No.16) and Bach (movements from Violin Sonata No.3) are arranged for viola by Read and played with passion. The unusual programming gives a spark to this album. Ivana Popovic February & March, 2023 | 59

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