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Volume 7 Issue 7 - April 2002

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Bloor
  • Musical
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  • Choral
  • Gould

Freedman's 1966 song

Freedman's 1966 song cycle, Anerca, is an acknowledged landmark of Canadian vocal writing. It is given an aptly edgy rendition by soprano Wendy Nielsen. The.upper register of Ms Nielsen's versatile voice is also heard to good effect in the Trois poemes de Jacques Prevert for voice and string guartet from 1962, with the superb Accordes quartet. The title track of this album, Spirit Song, is to my mind Freedman's greatest achievement in the vocal genre. Here his use of phonemes, formed from "an abstraction, of various aboriginal languages combined with some actual aboriginal place names in the Americas," serves a profound structural purpose. The performance by Valdine Anderson and the Penderecki String Quartet is stunning, and the atmosphere of the work is enhanced by a subtle manipulation of the resonance of the hall by a veteran production team from CBC's Two New Hours. Daniel Foley INDIE LIST (Small and Independent Labels) Who's Playing Lee Pui Ming, piano DAME/ ACTUELLE CD AM 098 http://www.actuellecd.com In the sparse text adorning the inside. cover of her new CD, Lee Pui Ming writes "when one is completely present in the moment - playing, or listening - who, then, in that moment, is playing; and who, is listening." This statement propagates subtle questions of communication, transference, projection, osm9sis, intuition, and collectivity, establishing a soundscape-building process inclusive. of critical extra-temporal reflection. Not only is she questioning what is happening, but how, and the multifarious contributions of time, moment, and influence. Having lived and studied in then-British Hong Kong, Minnesota, and Washington prior to settling in Toronto, diversity of influence is a key (though jagged and unkempt) factor in her work, revealing the acknowledged involvement with the music of McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Prokofiev; Bartok, and · Chinese traditional and pop musics . Interestingly, the success of the improvisations documented on this recording directly corresponds with Lee's distance from the piano keyboard (her primary instrument). The most keyboard-centric pieces display rigidity and reliance on perpetual motion that primarily focuses attention. onto the permeating square rhyJhmic grid negatively imprinted with syntheses of Webern, Nancarrow, and Sorabji. With distance from the lh.\COVERIES keyboard, and movement onto the strings and wood of the instrument, using the body and voice as sound sources, comes a liberation of expression. The de-emphasis of pitch allows for the successful confluence of further-reaching, expressive, organic and magnetic, timbre~based gestures that. display a. playful and exploratory approach to sound. Overall, the weaknesses are mildly diffused by the sensitive ordering of the whole, but not dissolved by the otherwise inventive diversity. Paul Steenhuisen Concert Note: lee Pui Ming's music is featured ·in Hundun, a multidisciplinary music and dance event at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre beginning April 25. . Thoughts and Fancies Voyces Past VPTF 2001 (www. voycespast:com) Immediately, the voices ofYoyces Past (Karen Elkin, Penny Sparling, Michele DeBoer, Suba Sankaran) capture the listener's ear with their winning, youthful, stunrting, almost-genetic blend. Focusing primarily on the a cappella repertoire of secular and sacred music of the European Renaissance, they opt for modern pronunciation of English, French, church-style Latin. Pastim.e with Gude Companye, The Silver Swan, Come again! Sweet love doth now invite, Mon coeur se recommende a vous and The Nightingale are some of the more familiar selections, all sung with requisite clarity and momentum. My favourites, despite a few technical difficulties and vocal challenges, Some Men Desire Spouses (Thomas Weelkes), fl est bet et bon (Passereau) and Hof Who Comes Here? (Thomas Morley) offer more spontaneous, vibrant and colourful performances. It is interesting to hear several Canadian compositions by Keith Bissell, Godfrey Ridout, Eleanor Daley, Nancy Telfer and Ruth Watson. Henderson, espeeially .in the .\context of this recording. The tonal and rhythmic contrast of these modern works, particularly Bissell's 0 by the by, Henderson's The lamb, and Telfer's High Flight offered some relief from an encroaching fatigue caused by an interpretive complacency in the early repertoire. One might have wished for a wider range of voca1 expression and dynamic even in the course of a very modest 41 :41 total time. However, I would still recommend this CD for an opportunity to hear a rather remarkable vocal ensemble. Frank T. Nakashima Twin Souls Text-based Electroacoustic Music by Barry Truax Cambridge Street Records CSR-CD0102 With Song of Songs, Barry Truax made a departure in his music. He was previously identified strongly with the cerebral world of North American computer n1usic in the 19SO's. Song of S9ngs opened his Pillette up to 1p vorid of lushness and sensuou s ne~s -·a welcoriied change for those growing tired of the clinical inwardness of contemporary music before the' celebrated success of composers like Gubaidu.lina, Goree~, and Part.. " Song of Songs is not on this disc, but it surfaces through the subtext of many of the works on Twi1t Souls, which is a CD devoted .to works with love poetry and texts on sexual identity. Le?~ing Twill Souls off with a gentle touch is Wings of fire with cellist Frances Marie lJitti softly guiding the lyricism of the piece and responding to the precise measured words of BC poet Joy Kirsti11 read by Ellie Epp. Another highlight is Androgyne, Mon Anwur for double bassist Robert Black. This piece is a setting of six poems by Tennessee Williams read by Douglas Huffman . The poems dictate the music. Even when the words are placed in the background, their rhythms and vocal nuances invite the instrument and tape part to fuse sympathetically into one body and. voice. Eerie and sparse, the final synthesis embodies the terrible loneliness endured by Tennessee Wili'iams in his later years. ' Darren Copeland The Nearness Of You - A Tribute To The Music Of H.oagy Carmichael Cindy Church; George Koller; Joe Sealy Seajam Recordings Inc. SJ1007-2 So you take one of the great song writers and 15 of his best compositions played by pianist Joe Sealy and bassist George Koller, add singer Cindy Church; let the men sing some too, be syµ1pathetic to the genre, et voila, you have the recipe for close to an hour's worth of enjoyable listening. The CD was recorded from a concert at Glenn Gould Studio· a little over .a year ago and has a sense of intimacy to it as well as that mix of the sophisticated and folksy that is so evident in the music of Hoagy Carmichael. Cindy Church, although a well-established singer, is not particularly well known as a jazz performer, but on this outing she lends the songs a great deal of chartn and understanding, mak,ing her voice a fitting third instrument. Much lessknown for their singing abilities, and although maybe not a challenge to Bing Crosby or Nat ;'King" Cole, George and Joe nevertheles~ carry off their vocal chores admirably and with wit and warmth. New Orle'ans is the only instrumental- even although it too has a great lyric. All the others - and they include some bf Carmichael's classic hits such as Stardust, Skylark and The Nearness Of You as well as a few lesser-known but wonderful songs like Ole Buttermilk Sky (nicely interpreted by George) and f'Get Along Without You - make good use of the talents of great lyricists like Johnny Mercer, Mitchell Parish, Frank Laesser and , of course, Hoagland Howard Carmichael himself. This may not be a groundbreaking album, but it certairily serves to remind us that good music 52 ·www.thewholenote.com April -1 -- May 7 2002

can also be good fun . . Jim Gallflwav Concert Note: Bassist George K'ouer accompanies singer Julie Michels at Mezzetta on April 10. The Niagara Brass Ensemble Brass Feast Echiquier Records ECD 007 This CD, the second by the Niagara Brass, is a welcome addition to my listening library. The recording is a selection of new Canadian music for brass. Not just for quintet either - out of the total track time Gust under 64 minutes) just under half is devoted to works for solo horn or trumpet with piano accompaniment. I was immediately transfixed by the sound of the quintet on the opening cut, Ceremonial Fanfare by J. Scott Irvine. The blend and balance of the players is excellent. The group has a wonderful big warm sound with just enough edge to it. I particularly enjoyed Morley Calvert's Three Dance Impressions. The titles of the movements - With Dignity, With Elegance and With Humour were perfectly matched to the music. My favourite composition on this CD has to be Shannon Thomson's Sketches for Brass Quintet. Thomson's jazz influences shine through clearly in the second movement, while the first is a wonderful bit of neo-Baroque DISCOVERIES counterpoint. In addition to the composers already mentioned, Brass Feast includes works by Alexander Rapoport, Michael Horwood, Penelope Walcott, Colin Eatock and Michael Hynes. I highly recommend this CD - the writing and playing are first rate. Merlin Williams DISCS OF THE MONTH Berlioz: Les Troyens Ben Heppner; Michelle De Young; London Symphony Orchesta and Chorus; Colin Davis LSO LIVE 0010 (4 CDsf ls the major attraction of this package the presence of Ben Heppner? To find out how many people are willing to acquire a four CD set of French Opera of this magnitude, I checked with Universal who recorded Les Troyens under Du to it in 1993. The net sales were quite surprising, far more than I had imagined. This new set was assembled from public performances given on four evenings in December 2000 in London's Barbican Centre. The luminaries were Heppner as Ern~e (Aeneas) and soprano Michelle De Young as Didon (Dido). There are 16 other sung roles and a hearty chorus. The sound is first class, natural, suitably dynamic and spacious. This was Heppner's last major role before his vocal troubles began. He is well cast, his voice lyrical and ringing where called for. He never overpowers the lines, always singing from within the character he portrays. I first heard De Young in Houston some years ago in an overwhelming Gurrelieder and have been a fan since. This is Davis's second complete recording of Les Troyens. His Philips set was recorded in 1969 with a cast from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden featuring another Canadian, Jon Vickers, the premier helden-tenor of his day. This earlier set remains in the catalogue, so those who wish to compare the two may do so. This new set clearly conveys the tension of the drama unfolding in the real time of the mounted

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