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Volume 8 Issue 8 - May 2003

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  • Toronto
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Virgin Classics 7243 S

Virgin Classics 7243 S 45549 2 6 It is rare to find a disc devoted entirely to the orchestral works of a Jiving composer on a major label, so kudos to Virgin Classics for taking a chance with a relative newcomer like Qigang Chen. This is not to say that Chen lacks credentials­ Olivier Messiaen;s final student, his works have been performed by such prestigious groups as the Ensemble Intercontemporain, l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the BBC Scottish and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. Chen's blending of Eastern and yv estem cultures is highlighted in the I have heard it said that a spirit enters ... music of Gavin Bryars Holly Cole; Gwen Hoebig; Gavin Bryars CBC Radio Orchestra; Owen Underhill CBC SMCD 5223 works included here. Iris devoilee Gavin Bryars' music is accessible, (Iris unveiled) is scored for 3 female interesting, and melodic while still voices, 3 traditional Chinese instru- presenting challenges to the ' ments and orchestra. The sketchy listener. He is sensitive to the nature program notes for this powerful, of the various instruments and voichaunting and somewhat disturbing es, and he does not strain the perwork tell us that it is intended as a former with making unpleasant noises depiction of "the eternal feminine and at the extreme limits of their instruits multiple facets". The texts are ment's range. He prefers Qeautiful given in translation, but unfortunately sounds. His music is subtle; a large without explanation. It is somehow orchestra becomes 'a collection of not enough to tell us "these words chamber ensembles. His music is have no real significance except. in complex without being academic. the particular language of the tradi- His output is substantial. tional Beijing opera. " The Philips set is a collection of Reflet d'un temps disparu (Reflec- previously reeorded works re-issuec.I tion ofa vanished time) for cello and as "a portrait" on the occasion of orchestra draws on an ancient song Bryar's 60th birthday. There is a by third century musician/philoso- good variety in these works, but I pher Huan Yi. We are not told what found it best to listen to them indithe song is about, but the music, vidually rather than play the CD performed by Yo-Yo Ma, is posi- straight through. The Celw Concerto tively riveting. is wonderful, sonorous, beautiful, These two live performances are calming, inspiring. In The Green Ray supplemented with a studio record- for saxophone and orchestra Bryars ing of Wu Xing (Five Elements). gets charm and grace from this often Here the intention is to depict not blatty instrument. Strangely, Bryars' "the traditional physical substances most (in)famous composition, Jesus but... the cyclical movements Blood Never Failed Me Yet, is repwhich ... constitute the Universe" - resented here in two short versions quite a lofty aspiration, but one which (about 4 minutes each). It is odd to I-must say is convincingly achieved. · hear this work, which also exists in Highly recommended. LP and CD-len~th performances, in David Olds such a truncated format. I prefer the longer versions of this "infinite loop". Gavin Bryars - A Portrait · (60th Birthday Celebration) Various artists Philips 2894732962 (2 CDs) There are nine works in all included in this "portrait". It is a really gooo way to get into contempo- • rary music if you are one who generally avoids "new music". If you . are already a fan of Bryars, it's a great collection of his recent wdrks, ritoires confirms the merits of each The CBC disc presents another as a concert piece. side of this multi-faceted composer. While intellectually Ferguson's It's hard to categorize. This music Apocryphal Graffiti exists within the challenges both the listener and any framework defined by the title, propi:e-conceived notions of "Classi- viding cleverly veiled, measured cal" and "Jazz." Bryars surprises references and borrowings bent like with I have heard it said that a spir- the letters ofa wall-painter's 'tag', it it enters, three songs written for the does so with subtlety, and not the Vancouver Jazz Festival sung by 'phat' rawness and colour implied Holly Cole, and another jazz com- by his graffiti inspiration. Plamonmission, By the Vaar featuring don's Post is a "poetical study on Bryars on the double-bass . The solo the notion of entropy", concerned part is very interesting in that it starts with artist Robert Smithson's relaout fully written down and gradual- tions between geology and the mind ly shifts to improvisation. I know - mental rivers, cliffs of thought, and know-of many remarkable dou- erosion. Plamondon traverses his ble-bass players, from Serge conceptual terrain with layered ref­ Koussevitsky to (here) . Gavin erences, in superposed, relatively Bryars. Is there something about an strict, jazz-ish rhythmic strata - proinstrument that you can stand up and gressive, but distinctly beathug all day that attracts interesting, oriented. Ristic's Catalogue des , complicated people? bombes occidentals employs a broad, I really appreciate the sense of heterogeneous approach to the enwhat-has-gone-before in Bryars' semble, with interjections from the music. The violin concerto The Bulls enchanting mezzo-soprano Marieo/ Basham, performed by Gwen Annick Beliveau. While idiosyncrat­ Hoebig, is a lyrical work for solo ically mapping out and treating lists - violin and string orchestra, which of musical objects "in the manner of alludes to Vivaldi's Four Seasons. · large department stores", Ristic con­ The Poraz.z.i Fragment uses an odd fidently balances his political, emobit ofunpublished Wagner as its point tional, and musical concerns in a With the second disc in their Nouveau.x Territoires series, the Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal solidify their place as a top-tier new music group. Led by conductor Veronique Lacroix, ECM delivers dynamic, spirited performances of music by Quebecers Sean Ferguson, Yannick Plamondon, and Andre Ristic. Each piece originated as part ofECM's multimedia·event Unions Libres - involving dance, film, and text, respectively. While in many cases, the autonomous presentation of multimedia components reveals their shortcomings, Nouveaux Ter- of departure. Bryars clearly under- glowingly diverse (yet unified), spestands and appreciates the thread of cial, and sometimes humorous commusical history. He adds his threads position. All three works are perto the great weave. formed with great commitment, ac- Den Ciul curacy, and energy from the ECM. · Paul Steenhuisen Nouv~aux Territoires Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal ATMA ACD2 2208 >Miw: « ~

spired, if that is the right phrase, by the death of his mother, grief is realized in the Schnittke's postmodern language .. . stark and tender. A deeply felt and unusual work. The mood of the Shostakovich which follows does not break the · spell. This beautifully played and recorded disc should not be missed. ·Bruce Surtees Concert Note: Sinfonia Toronto's May 3 performance at. Glenn Gould Studio includes Schnittke 's Sonata No. I for violin and chamber orchestra with soloist Stepan Arman. WORTH REPEATING . Jazz At Massey Hall The Quintet· Debut DCD-124-2 There was only one time that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus and Max Roagi shared the .saine stage, and that was on May 15, 1953 at Toronto's Massey Hall. The event, extraordinary in every way, has become the stuff of legend. Not that everything went off without a hitch. , Scheduled the same night as a telec vised boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott, the concert drew a smali audience and the band members, as a result, were never paid in full. We can assume that they recouped their losses with the release of the recordings later · that year on Debut Records, but even here there were problems. The masters were poor. The bass was so under-recorded that Mingus ended up overdubbing his part in a . recording studio. There was fape hiss. The balance was bad. Nevertheless, the tapes were doctored up and any problems that remained paled when weighed against the music. The records became classics, frequently reissued. in North America, Europe and Japan. The band never rehearsed for the concert, and the evening has the loose feel of a jam session. At times it's white hot. Salt Peanuts, with Parker playing off Dizzy's wild shouting, is scintillating. Ditto Wee. Roach's propulsive drumming is perfection throughout, but.perhaps the big surprise is Bud Powell. III and in need of assistance to walk· to his instrument, he is inspired when seated at the piano and technically dazzling. With the concert's golden anniversary comes the latest reissue, a 20-bit remastering that invesl!i the recording with a'new clarify ~ndpresence. The horns are brassier; the cymbals more vibrant; the piano less muddy. The brilliance of this music has never shone brighter. · Stewart Hoffman Concert Noie: .On May 15 at 8:00 Massey Hall remembers "the greatest jazz concert ever" with The 50th Anniversary Jazz Quintetfeaturing modem-day jazz giants Herbie Hancock, piano, Roy Haynes, drums, Roy Hargrove, trumpet, Kenny Garrett, sax and Dave Holland, bass. While the CBC All-Stars opened for the quintet in 1953, this concert will open'with a local l7-piece big band, , 2003 Massey Hall All-Stars, featuring the top local players and members of the original 1953 ensemble. JAZZ IN PARIS: Modern Jazz Group Lucky Thompson Gitanes 159 823-2 May 1- June 7 2003 >VWW.thfwholenote.com ·

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