8 years ago

Volume 8 Issue 1 - September 2002

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  • Toronto
  • September
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  • Classical

NAXOS Classics ... great

NAXOS Classics ... great selection at outstanding prices filfi . VIVAL1)l ,, ~!!:~ · Co111pltlt' Rtronl

Draperies L'histoire du chapeau (sic), The silt's Red Whistle, and The Guayaveras), Treacle Wall is a collection of pieces by the Marmots' fulcrum, Martin Arnold. Recorded live at Toronto's Mercer Union, Treacle Wall displays an Arte Povera approach to instrumentation and recording while evoking the disparate worlds of the Shags, Robert Johnson, composers Morton Feldman and Jose Evangelista, painter Agnes Martin, and potter George Ohr. Exuding joy in apparent juniper-soaked sloppiness, they revel in the languid and austere melodies that slide about in a bendable, crust-laden heterophony. With titles and associated terms recalling knives and extended lingo - sheath and knife, shank, shank's pony (slang for "we will have to walk", and shank-also a cut of beef), a marmot being a rabbit-sized rodent-like animal, treacle (sap-like substances), and loose warp (a term from tapestry for the ends of long threads on a loom), Arnold reveals himself as not just a lover of words, but ideas based in the fragile origins and workings of life's small, crucial goings-on. Through this, despite its necessarily cosmopolitan creative and performance context, Treacle Wall maintains a rustic nature that is rare at this point in time. While in its weakest moments displaying a slight self-consciousness, as with each of the Rat-drifting CDs, I admire Treacle Wall; but only given a temporary cessation of the Heisenberg principle - while we look at and listen to these recordings, we don't want their having been heard to change them, or to compromise their independent and unbridled qualities. Paul Steenhuisen Edward Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius UBC Choral Union and Symphony Orchestra; Bruce Pullan Orpheum Masters KSP 840 What an annoyance, that a CD can hold but a mere 79 minutes of music. So many masterworks of the late 19'h Century clock just a little over that figure, and must reach today's market as a two-disc set. Elgar's /J/SCOVERIES huge 1899-1900 oratorio falls into that category. This lavish Canadian production of the work, recorded at a live performance in late 2001, is well worth the extra disc. Orpheum has packaged it in a slim-line two-CD case, which takes up no more space than a standard single CD case. The University of British Columbia gathered huge forces on the stage of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on 30 November 2001, including the UBC Symphony Orchestra, the UBC Choral Union, tenor Philippe Castagner, mezzosoprano Sandra Stringer and bassbaritone Justin Welsh. All were under the expert direction of Bruce Pullan. The engineering, thanks in part to Karen Wilson's CBC Radio experience, is nothing short of spectacular. Clear bass tones in the orchestral climaxes almost knock you out of your chair. The wellbalanced choral passages seem to spread beyond the speakers. (This in contrast to virtually every recording of the Mahler #8 out there, where the voices seem squashed into too small a box.) The soloists all give us their utmost, but Phillipe Castagner in particular gives the performance of his young career. Highly recommended. John S. Gray Editor's note: The inventor of the compact disc format used Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as his measure for duration. Perhaps if he had been a fan of Elgar he would have chosen 90 minutes instead of 75. On the other hand, if old Ludwig could "say it all" in an hour and a quaner ... 53

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