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Volume 28 Issue 5 | April & May 2023

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April and May is Canary Time in the world of WholeNote -- the time when choirs in larger than usual numbers refresh the info in our online "Who's Who" to inform prospective choristers and audiences what they have to offer. Also inside: There's a new New Wave to catch at Esprit; Toronto Bach Festival no 6 includes a Kafeehaus; another new small venue on the "Soft Seat Beat" (we assume the seats are soft!); an ever-so Musically Theatrical spring. And more.

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compact disc – especially without having seen the film(s) in question – comes with not insignificant challenges. This is something score composers and film directors think about; certainly directors Todd Field (Tár) and Sarah Polley (Women Talking), and Hildur Guđnadóttir (who is credited with composing both soundtracks). Why, even eager record labels think about this. Field knows this all too well and alludes to it in his booklet notes for Tár, positing that listening to the music for the film without having it seen it can, indeed, be an altogether unforgettable experience: “Simply sit back and listen to the wonderful artistry on these tracks” he beckons. For the record, Polley hasn’t offered an opinion on booklet notes to the disc relating to Women Talking, but it is highly unlikely that she would disagree. Moreover, it is difficult enough to compose music; to put together a truly great soundtrack for one film, let alone two. However, the inimitable Icelandic composer Guđnadóttir has done just that. Leonard Bernstein, who would know what composing for film was like, once used the words: “most awesome” to describe a celebrated effort by Igor Stravinsky for the film Oedipus Rex. He might have handed down the same judgement for Guđnadóttir’s too, for she has succeeded in conveying astute ideas and observations about humanity with exacting drama and in truth I, for one, would go further and suggest that this is exactly what Aristotle demanded of art and artists in his Poetics: he regarded this exact kind of artistic integrity as a model of formal dramatic perfection. Guđnadóttir’s soundtracks bring out that (Aristotelian) truth of both films with uncommon perfection. In the case of the soundtrack for Tár, riveting drama is maintained throughout, thanks to snippets of dialogue from the film that are interspersed with the music. This is enhanced by cutting into a musical sequence, or better still, taking Cate Blanchett’s dialogue relating to musical direction during rehearsals and overlaying it on the score – particularly poignant in the rehearsals of Mahler’s Symphony No.5 in C-sharp Minor. This device is also repeated to great effect in the recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor Op.85. The use of this during poignant bits of dallying, repeated phrases in the Largo movement of Tár is similarly affecting. Meanwhile, for ardent lovers of the cello, the genius of the young cellist, Sophie Kauer shines bright everywhere, suggesting that she could hold court with the finest – Misha Maisky, Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Isserlis and Jacqueline du Pré, notwithstanding the fact Du Pré’s high watermark recording of the Elgar occupies so prominent a place (in cello literature and) on this recording. Kauer’s dolorous lines in the performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 is further proof of her prodigious craft. And then there are the choice bits of Blanchett (as actor) during the Bach piece and Elisa Vargas Fernandez’s beautifully forlorn Cura Mente. I could go on ad infinitum. The ingenuity of Guđnadóttir’s score for Polley’s film Women Talking is of quite another kind. Here the composer uses a more contemporary musical vernacular – enhanced by a sweeping colour palette – to alternatively darken and brighten the despair contained within the film. For instance, Guđnadóttir makes particularly emotional use of the radiant sound of bells, contrasting this with the lonesome sound of pizzicato guitar lines. This music provides us with a sense of time and place, and setting for the unfolding drama, just as (once again) the use of a desolate sounding cello takes us to a place of loneliness and foreboding. Clearly the challenge here is not only to provide colour and context in cinematic proportions, but in two or three minutes – or sometimes in mere seconds – to express a nuanced mood or emotion and to do it in a manner that is almost symphonically dramatic and trance-like. Guđnadóttir’s compositional style does all these things in both scores. Finally, both films are unmissable and so experiencing these soundtracks whilst watching them would almost certainly take you into whole new worlds. But that is quite another story. Raul da Gama Maxime Goulet – Symphonie de la tempête de verglas (Ice Storm Symphony) Orchestre Classique de Montréal; Jacques Lacombe ATMA ACD2 2866 ( ! January 1998 – a meteorological disaster leaves millions across eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia without power, many for weeks. It’s recalled now in the 40-minute Ice Storm Symphony by Maxime Goulet (b. Montreal 1980). (Titles appear in French and English; I’ll give the English.) Turmoil describes the storm with icy crackles, surging rhythms, crescendoing dissonances and pounding percussion. In Warmth, a raucous Quebec folk dance represents people finding refuge with others having access to fireplaces or electricity. Goulet wants the lights off during performances of the sombre, spookily pulsating music of Darkness to evoke “the feeling of ultimate vulnerability that seized us during those dark nights.” Returning lights, fanfares and tolling bells in Light celebrate the restoration of “normal life,” a happy ending to this vivid, colourful symphony. Two shorter works by Goulet employ theatrical visual effects, described in the booklet. The cinematically scored, 13-minute What a Day, using ticking clocks, conflates one day with an entire lifetime, from Joyful Morning (birth) to Long Day at Work, Têteà-Tête Evening and Serene Night (death). The nine-minute Fishing Story for clarinet (here, Kornel Wolak) and strings, inspired by Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, veers from moody waves and seagull cries to repeated slapstick splashes. These works, all commissioned by Orchestre classique de Montrėal, are spiritedly conducted by Jacques Lacombe. Goulet dedicates this CD to the late Boris Brott, who conducted the premieres of What a Day and Fishing Story. Michael Schulman Steve Reich – The String Quartets Mivos Quartet Deutsche Grammophon 486 3385 (store. p51-i0028948633852) ! Influential American composer Steve Reich’s portfolio contains three string quartets – Different Trains, Triple Quartet and WTC 9/11 – completed between 1988 and 2010. Reich recently suggested the Mivos Quartet revisit them for this album. Working in close collaboration with the composer, they make a powerful case for fresh interpretation of these quartets, bringing admirable clarity and taut precision to their performance. The masterful Different Trains is a deeply biographical work. The title refers both to the American trains the young Reich took shuttling between separated parents, before the USA entered World War II and also the “different trains” destined for European death camps. The fast, motoric first movement effectively captures the exciting, abruptly shifting energy of Reich’s train rides. Judiciously interspersed with recordings of voices (porters, his governess), and of train horn blasts, they imbue the string quartet with a compelling narrative and sense of geography and time. A key feature of this quartet, as well as of WTC 9/11, is Reich’s “speech melody” technique. In it he crafts melodic phrases and metric structures mimicking the tonal contours and rhythms of sampled voices, turning them into instrumental motives, then superimposing them on the spoken word 66 | April & May, 2023

passages. In movement II, train horns transform into a polyphonic shriek of sirens. Human voices here are survivors of the Holocaust describing their train trips to the death camps. The final movement, set after the War, interweaves European and American voices aiming to recap previous stories and musical elements, valiantly trying to make sense of what happened – as many of us also are. Andrew Timar Éliane Radigue – Occam Delta XV Quatuor Bozzini Collection Quatuor Bozzini CQB 2331 ( ! French composer Éliane Radigue has for much of her long career made electronic music, but 2004 marked a turning point. She has dedicated herself since then to composing for acoustic instruments, resulting most notably in over 80 (!) works for various forces in her extended Occam cycle. These compositions were inspired by William of Ockham’s (c.1287-1347) Occam’s razor principle, which in its most succinct form states that the simplest proposition is very likely the best. Premiered by Montréal’s Quatuor Bozzini in 2018, Delta XV for string quartet is among the latest in Radigue’s Occam series. For over two decades Bozzini has been a staunch advocate for contemporary string quartet music. They’re known for cultivating experimentation and collaboration, fearlessly nurturing an impressively large and diverse repertoire including those on the 2015 album Higgs Ocean with Toronto’s Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan. Fascinatingly, Radigue developed Occam Delta XV through a collaborative “oral composition process” with the quartet. Dispensing with a fully notated score and relying on its oral transmission may well have been the most straightforward approach here – in the spirit of Occam’s razor – especially for a composer steeped in synthesizer music. This premiere recording of Occam Delta XV offers two distinct Bozzini interpretations. Seemingly a slowly unfolding series of stacked chords sustained throughout, the music tests the four musicians’ skills in ensemble intonation, microtonal beating, string harmonics and group dynamics. Bozzini’s deeply attentive performance reaches through the recording, touching this listener. As for Radigue’s work, it effectively challenges expectations of music creation, performance and listening. Andrew Timar Ascenso Santiago Cañón Valencia Sono Luminus SLE-70028 ( ! Cellist Santiago Cañón-Valencia is no stranger to the world stage, being an awardwinning performer beyond his native Colombia. This is an artist from whom sound and texture flow with ease and authenticity. Ascenso is a fantastical album filled with scenic tours through countrysides, congested cities, mountain regions and flightpaths of monarch butterflies. The album is solo cello but feels full and rich, due in part to the compositions themselves, but mainly in response to Cañón-Valencia’s chameleon-like ability to inhabit the culture and place of each piece and execute them with stunning skill. La ruta de la Mariposa, commissioned from Damián Ponce de León, is a piece in three movements describing a reverence for the flight of the butterfly, the murder of an environmentalist devoted to protection of monarch butterflies in Mexico and the discovery of the shape of the thyroid gland. Mesonoxian (relating to midnight) is a melodic study of dark and light, commissioned by the cellist from Jorge Humberto Pinzón Malagón, followed by the only “vintage” composition on the album, Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, originally written for piano and transcribed for cello by the artist. Urban Rhapsody, inspired by the city of Bogota (which the composer Leonardo Frederic Hoyos describes as “Heaven and Hell”) is simply stunning. Using a scordatura tuning, meaning the cello is retuned in this case to A, D, F, B-flat, this already difficult piece brings new challenges but rewards us with an openness to the sonority of the cello and new possibilities for chord structures. The result is a breathless account of a single day within this major city, a closeup of microcultures full of contrasts between classes, social structures and people. The final track Ascenso Hacia Lo Profundo, composed by Cañón-Valencia, has an improvisatory feel, with energetic, cascading rhythmic flow, rounding out a beautiful and accessible album and letting us down gently. Cheryl Ockrant [in]verse Arlen Hlusko; Fall for Dance North Bright Shiny Things ( ! How does one create a singularly audio dance project in isolation? [in] verse, by Grammyaward winning and current Bang on a Can Canadian cellist Arlen Hlusko, was conceived in lockdown and produced by Toronto’s Fall for Dance North dance festival. Hlusko’s dream collaboration delivers an album beautifully paired between dance artists, poetry and compositions. The texts were chosen and thoughtfully delivered by Canadian and international dance artists, What we're listening to this month: Carols after a Plague The Crossing A collection of works that responds to our experience navigating the pandemic, as well as grappling with the fraught issues of our time. Harmonies patriotiques et religieuses Éva Polgár Éva Polgár’s delivers Franz Liszt’s piano music with passion and authenticity on her new album including spiritual and patriotic works in character. Consolations Antoine Malette-Chénier This debut solo recording introduces original and transcribed works for harp in a program concerned with all that can console and enhance human experience. Things Lived and Dreamt Francine Kay Francine Kay featured on RadioFrance, Album of the week in Ireland; Gramophone writes, ‘ardent lyricism…idiomatic and imaginative…impassioned …highly recommendable’. April & May, 2023 | 67

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