Hommage à Messiaen
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Deutsche Grammophon 477 7452


As Olivier Messiaen’s music cuts deeper and deeper into the mainstream classical canon, his name is becoming inextricably bound with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. As a student of both Messiaen and his wife Yvonne Loriod this interpreter has been groomed for the job of providing definitive renditions of all the composer’s pianistic material. This disc commemorates Messiaen’s centenary with early solo piano selections from 1928 to 1950.

The spacious breadth of Messiaen’s celestial brand of tonality was fully formed from the start – all of the material in this collection (Preludes pour piano, selections from Catalogue d’oiseaux, and Quatre Etudes de rythme) demonstrate a fully formed aural vision of rare genius. Hints of Satie and Debussy’s influences are evoked without undue emphasis. Aimard’s renditions are evocative and refined, an irrefutable argument for his A-List status as an interpreter. But his performances also have a selflessness that directs the ear past the player and into the scores themselves so that this recording is a testimony to the composer’s emerging status as the supreme French composer of the mid-20th century.

The aesthetic accuracy and comparative simplicity of early scores also serve to help Messiaen-resisters hear past their deficiency. It’s praise through faint damnation to say that no better performances of these scores may ever be available. Aimard may have won the race before it really started.

John Keillor

Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel
Deutsche Grammophon 4777457


When this year’s Glenn Gould Prize went to José Antonio Abreu, few in Canada had even heard of this remarkable conductor, teacher, economist and humanitarian. The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra is just one of the fruits of the sistema Abreu set up in his native Venezuela to teach music to hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged children. Its conductor for the past eight years has been his student and protégé, Gustavo Dudamel. Though just twenty-seven, Dudamel has just been made the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

After discs of weightier material - Mahler and Beethoven symphonies - they here offer showpieces from Latin American composers. These programmatic works all have roots in folk melodies and traditional dance rhythms. The most memorable pieces encompass the sultry moodiness of Silvestre Revueltas’ Sensemayá, the painterly vistas of Noon on the Plain by Antonio Estévez, the lilting evocations of Danzón No.2 by Márquez and the tempestuous drama of Ginastera’s many-layered dances from Estancia.

The flamboyant exuberance of these young musicians and their charismatic conductor wouldn’t be nearly so enjoyable if their ensemble-work wasn’t so focused and their rhythms so articulate. They take Leonard Bernstein’s Mambo from West Side Story, the only non-Latin -American piece on the program, much faster than Bernstein ever did. But they pull it off.

The booklet for this live recording includes an essay based on interviews with Dudamel, and a list of every one of the over two hundred members of this extraordinary orchestra.

Pamela Margles

Timothy Corlis - Notes Towards
Various Artists
Chestnut Hall Music CMH080523 (


Occasionally we find a CD that truly stands out from the rest, and here is one, certainly. Timothy Corlis is a composer of great depth and passion, not to mention a pristine, polished craft. The opening Prelude for the Night of the Lunar Eclipse, a post-impressionistic duet for cello and piano, draws you in compellingly.

The title track follows, for chorus and narrator with soloists; a shattering experience of Margaret Atwood’s nearly brutal poetry, linked with Corlis’ masterful writing. It is twenty-five of the most intense minutes of listening you are likely to experience. The DaCapo Chamber Choir is in top form. Gaps between the tracks are short on this disc, adding to the ambiguous suggestion that these works might be considered part of a diverse suite. Following the choral poem with the angst-filled chamber piece Western Projections seems the right step. Violinist Jerzy Kaplanek exhibits his glassy tone, notably.

Two musicians in this project contribute their own pieces to end the disc: Pianist Heather Dawn Taves’ As Through a Glass Darkly, for tenor (Brandon Leis) and piano, with words by poet G. Victor Toews. Conductor Leonard Enns has the last word with his Cello Sonata. Cellist Ben Bolt-Martin shines in this, a work written for him.

Engineers Earl McCluskie and Ed Marshall have brilliantly captured the sound of St. George’s Church, Guelph, and Maureen Forrester Hall in Waterloo. Warm acoustics bestow a rich benediction on the project.

John S. Gray

John Antill - Corroboree
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; James Judd
Naxos 8.570241


A corroboree is a ceremonial happening in which Australian Aborigines depict their origins, folklore and current events including the stylised mimicking of their revered fauna. Performed in the evening by firelight, it is enjoyed by performers and viewers alike. Unspoiled until after 1770, the Aborigines were, from a colonial perspective, the most primitive, naïve people in the world. They did not have the wheel. But they did have rhythm.

Antill witnessed a real corroboree as a youngster in 1913 which drove him to an in-depth study of Aboriginal music. He emulated the atmosphere and sounds of the originals in the music of his ballet completed in 1944. Consider the scoring which, in addition to the usual complement of strings, winds, brass and percussion, uniquely calls for this collection: xylophone, vibraphone, bass drum, thora sticks (two hardwood sticks struck together), 2 cymbals, 2 gongs, triangle, tambourine, snare drum, slap stick, ratchet, tom tom, woodblock, sleigh bells, castanets, sand blocks, Chinese temple blocks, thunder sheet, and, of course, a bullroarer. The bullroarer, as we all know, is a cigar shaped flat piece of wood attached at one end to a two stranded chord. It is whirled above the head which causes it to twist and make the deep, unnerving whirring sound clearly heard in the orgiastic finale of this extraordinary work.

A suite from Corroboree was first performed on August 17, 1946 at a free Sunday matinee concert by The Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by newly arrived Sir Eugene Goossens. Goossens introduced Le Sacre du Printemps to Australia in the same season. Corroboree was an immediate hit but it was not until December 1960 that a suite was recorded by Goossens and the Orchestra (now reissued on Dutton CDBP9779). Goossens took the score to Europe and made a recording of the suite for Everest, still available on CD (EVC9007 or DVDA1029).

This stunning new CD from Naxos, which also boasts the first recording of the exuberant Outback Overture, is the only complete performance of Corroboree available. EMI Australia’s 1977 CD of the ABC’s recording conducted by John Lanchbery is in the never-never. There are seven parts, opening with the Welcome Ceremony (Witchetty Grub men assisted by members of the Emu Totem) and closing with the propulsive Procession of Totems and Closing Fire Ceremony (in which representatives of the Lace Lizard, Cockatoo, Honey Ant, Wild Cat, and Small Fly Totems participate with much use of Boomerang, Spear and Fire Stick).

This unique and attractive work, exciting and accessible, is a natural for a collector seeking something beyond the usual repertoire. Audiophiles will certainly want it.

Bruce Surtees
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