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Volume 29 Issue 1 | September 2023

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Bridges & intersections: Intersections of all kinds in the issue: the once and future Rex; philanthropy and music (Azrieli's AMPs); music and dance (TMChoir & Citadel + Compagnie); Baroque & Romantic (Tafelmusik's Beethoven). also Hugh's Room crosses the Don; DISCoveries looks at the first of fall's arrivals; this single-month September issue (Vol. 29, no.1) bridges summer & fall, and puts us on course for regular bimonthly issues (Oct/Nov; Dec/Jan; Feb/Mar, etc) for the rest of Volume 29. Welcome back.

Kazakh violinist Aiman

Kazakh violinist Aiman Mussakhajayeva is the superb soloist in world-premiere recordings of works for violin and orchestra on Lowell Liebermann Violin Concerto Op.74, with Tigran Shiganyan leading the debut recording of the Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra (Blue Griffin Records BGR645 The 2001 concerto is an expansive, emotionally engaging and immediately accessible work that should really become a mainstay in the repertoire. Liebermann made violin and string orchestra arrangements of his two chamber concertos from 1989 and 2006 especially for this recording, and is the pianist in the Chamber Concerto No.1 Op.28a. The gorgeous 2011 Air for Violin and Orchestra Op.18 ends a CD of finely crafted and attractive contemporary works for violin and orchestra, all brilliantly presented by Mussakhajayeva on her 1732 Stradivarius violin. Describing his new CD The Blue Album guitarist Pablo Sainz-Villegas says that blue stands for a particularly intimate mood, an atmosphere of reverie and relaxation (Sony Classical19658779092 There’s certainly nothing challenging in a recital of brief pieces by Weiss, Couperin, Domenico Scarlatti, Sor, Debussy, Satie and Brouwer, together with Tárrega’s arrangement of Iradier’s La Paloma, Stanley Myers’ Cavatina and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Bland snippets of Philip Glass and Max Richter seem completely out of place on an album supposedly featuring “some of the most beautiful and most heartfelt melodies ever written” – an enormous stretch – but no matter. There’s clean, efficient playing – perhaps somewhat lacking in character – all resonantly recorded. VOCAL Canciones de mi abuelito Antonio Figuero; La Familia Figueroa ATMA ACD2 2856 ( ! This recording is a master work, created in celebration of the paternal Figueroa Grandfather (Don José Figueroa), through the veil of the potent 1950s/1960s “Golden Age” of Mexican music composed by noted 20th-century Mexican composers. Featuring the vocal work of dynamic tenor Antonio Figueroa, the talented Figueroa family performs on a variety of instruments throughout and includes Anton Virquis on voice/violins; Esteban Duran on voice/violin and arrangements; Tomy Figueroa on voice/ trumpet; Manuel Figueroa on vihuela (he’s also artistic adviser); José-Luis Figueroa on voice/guitar; Alexandre Figueroa on voice/guitarron and José Figueroa on voice. Grandfather José first visited Canada as a performing mariachi during Expo 1967, and eventually emigrated to Montreal with his 11 children, beginning a thrilling cross-cultural relationship. It wasn’t long before Mariachi Figueroa became a family business. Mariachi music and particularly the “Cancion Ranchera” is an emotional genre by which Mexicans express the raw pain of a broken heart. The stirring opener, Paloma Querida (José Alfredo Jiménez) features Antonio’s superb, limitless and communicative tenor. Every track here is a cultural and musical gem – rendered with authenticity and skill. Highlights include the lithesome Martha (Mosés Simóns), Dime Que Si (Alfonso Esparza Oteo) with supple trumpet and violin work, El Pastor (Los Cuates Castilla) with its gymnastic, stratospheric melodic line brilliantly negotiated by Antonio and Diez Años (Raphael Hernandez) a stunningly arranged gem of Musica Mexicana. The closer of this compelling collection, Ojos Tapatios (Jose F. Elizondo & F. Menendez) is an exceptional and deeply moving example of authentic Mexican music – performed to perfection by the entire ensemble. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Bach – Six Motets Ottawa Bach Choir; Lisette Canton ATMA ACD2 2836 ( ! Founded in 2002 by Dr. Lisette Canton, the Juno Award-winning Ottawa Bach Choir (OBC) is an ensemble which specializes in the performance of early music, with a particular emphasis on the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Their latest release, titled Six Motets, is a monumental effort featuring Bach’s choral motets, noted for their complexity, profundity and breathtaking beauty. This recording begins with a thrilling rendition of Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV225, which launches at breakneck speed through passages of virtuosic counterpoint and driving rhythmic patterns, eases into a luxurious aria and returns with fiery energy for the conclusion. Such focus on rhythm and clarity is a defining feature of this entire disc, which brings Bach’s music to life in an illuminative and vital way. Perhaps the most exceptional excerpt of OBC’s Six Motets is the monolithic Jesu, meine Freude BWV227, an 11-movement work for five-part chorus that spans a tremendous range of moods and affects. Here the choir offers a masterclass in precision and execution, but never at the expense of musicality. The opening chorale is well-paced, expertly phrased and subtly expressive, the devilish “Trotz dem alten Drachen” is one of the best this reviewer has encountered, and the lyrical “Gute Nacht, o Wesen” is hauntingly beautiful. In a market saturated with recordings of Bach’s famous motets, it could be challenging to rationalize yet another addition to the catalogue, yet this effort from the OBC holds its own as one of the finest on record. There is not a weak point present and, whether familiar or not with these legendary works, Six Motets is highly recommended listening for all. Matthew Whitfield A Left Coast (A Heartfelt Playlist from British Columbia) Tyler Duncan; Erika Switzer Bridge Records 9574 ( ! In their booklet notes, baritone Tyler Duncan and pianist Erika Switzer, both B.C.-born, call this CD “our heartfelt playlist for the place we will always call home: British Columbia.” The “playlist,” drawn from seven of their B.C. “friends and colleagues,” begins with two songs by Iman Habibi, set to Edward FitzGerald’s translations of two quatrains by Omar Khayyam. The vocal lines are earnest and emphatic, the piano parts flavoured with hints of Persian exoticism. Jean Coulthard’s Three Love Songs are appropriately edgy and irritable, as they’re set to poems from Louis MacKay’s collection, The Ill-Tempered Lover. In three highly dramatic songs, Jocelyn Morlock’s Involuntary Love Songs, with verses by Alan Ashton, traces the narrator’s development of love from repression through turmoiled denial to blissful, sensual ecstasy. Melancholy lyricism infuses Melissa Hui’s 40 | September 2023

song Snowflakes (poem by Longfellow) and Leslie Uyeda’s Plato’s Angel, four songs set to what Uyeda calls “some of the most introspective” poems by Lorna Crozier but, writes Uyeda, “I do not mean them to be depressing!” (They’re not.) For real depression, listen to Jeffrey Ryan’s Everything Already Lost, commissioned by Duncan and Switzer. Ryan’s sombre music matches the gloomy moods of four poems by Jan Zwicky, with repeated references to “night” and “darkness.” Stephen Chatman’s very pretty Something like that, one of a set of Eight Love Songs written for Duncan, injects some welcome, warm sunshine into this CD’s ever-looming storm clouds. Is B.C. weather always like this? Michael Schulman CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Basta parlane! Les Barocudas ATMA ACD2 2824 ( ! The names and compositions of 17th-century Italian composers Dario Castello, Giovanni Legrenzi, Giovanni Battista Grillo, Tarquinio Merula, Biagio Marini and Francesco Rognini Taeggio may be unfamiliar, yet their music, spiritedly performed by the Montreal-based Les Barocudas, provides the most purely entertaining CD of Baroque works I’ve heard in years. These composers didn’t always specify the exact instrumentation to be employed in their pieces, and all may not have had the recorder in mind, but the indisputable star of this CD is recorder virtuoso Vincent Lauzer, whose brightly coloured, near-non-stop cheerful chirpings invigorate most of the action. He’s joined by Marie Nadeau-Tremblay (Baroque violin), Tristan Best (viola da gamba), Antoine Malette-Chénier (Baroque harp), Hank Knox (harpsichord), Nathan Mondry (organ) and Matthias Soly-Letarte (percussion). The CD begins and ends with Sonatas by Castello (a third is included in the disc), each about seven minutes long, featuring alternating brief passages of rapid sprightliness and measured solemnity. At just over ten minutes, the CD’s longest selection is Marini’s plaintive Sonata Quarta, in which Nadeau- Tremblay is accompanied by Malette-Chénier and Mordry. (It’s the only piece where Lauzer’s recorder is absent.) Among the other seven pieces, each lasting three or four minutes, three especially stand out: Marini’s Trio Sonata (variations on the French folk tune La Monica) and Merula’s Canzon No.19 “La Pasterla,” both stately dances; Rognini-Taeggio’s Diminutions after Palestrina’s “Vestiva i colli” is a churchly processional, rendered somewhat irreverent by Lauzer’s flamboyantly festive recorder! Michael Schulman James Oswald – Airs for the Seasons Rezonance Baroque Ensemble Leaf Music LM266 ( ! As with many 18th-century Scottish composers, much of James Oswald’s music can be heard as art music or as traditional. On this recording of selections from his Airs for the Seasons, a set of 48 chamber suites named for seasonal flowers, Rezonance Baroque Ensemble plays within the stylistic expectations of Baroque music but brings a sparkling playfulness suggesting Oswald’s connection to the traditional music and dance of his day. The dynamic Oswald was composer to King George III, but previously a cellist and dancing master and then publisher of the 12-volume Caledonian Pocket Companion. It’s from this collection of “Scotch” airs that many traditional musicians know him. Oswald is mistakenly given credit for some of the tunes in his Caledonian, but when you hear his own music you can understand why. Having played and sung with violinist and fiddler David Greenberg in his 1990s project Puirt a Baroque, which pushed the genre boundaries of this repertoire, I recognize the movements in his Seasons which might be based on or inspired by traditional tunes. For example, Cowslip: III would make a fine reel if you added a bit more swing and stress on the backbeats; and with some swagger, Daisy: II could be a square dance jig. This repertoire is rich with possibilities for colour and mood changes, and Rezonance explores these deftly with a lovely sense of ensemble and some beautiful expressiveness. The recording has a lot of reverb but it complements the timbres of their historical instruments. Stephanie Conn Calcutta 1789 – À la croisée de l’Europe et de l’Inde Notturna; Christopher Palameta ATMA ACD2 2831 ( ! If colonialism is the conquest and control of other people’s land and goods, music articulates the disparities it creates between races, classes and individuals. As current scholars, curators and musicians are working to decolonize Western art music’s academies and organizations, this revisiting of 18th-century works inspired by music from India, or performed there, is most timely and welcome. “Hindustani airs” were popular with What we're listening to this month: Za Klavir: For the Piano Nina Platiša The Za Klavir: For the Piano digital album, silk-screened posters and e-book are available for purchase through Nina Platiša's website. Recesses Lee Weisert Composer Lee Weisert’s second album on New Focus follows his 2014 release, Wild Arc. Weisert is heard on piano, guitar, percussion, and electronics. The Toronto Project The Composers Collective Big Band What is the sound of a city? Come explore the streets and neighbourhoods of Toronto through the eyes of its top jazz composers! Nowhere Girl Nicky Schrire Blurring the lines between jazz, folk and singer-songwriter genres, Nicky Schrire’s “Nowhere Girl” is a celebration of Canadian collaboration September 2023 | 41

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