07 Stephen PowellWhy do the Nations
Stephen Powell
Acis APL51200 (acisproductions.com)

American baritone Stephen Powell’s album Why do the Nations is a personal, vibrant and thoughtfully curated collection of 27 art songs from 11 nations in ten different languages, written between 1839 and 1965.  

Dictated by world pandemic isolation requirements and in part as a personal challenge, Powell takes on the musical task of both singing and accompanying himself on the piano. Powell’s artistry imprints the album and flows via his warm and capable voice. His skillful accompaniment is especially on display in the songs of de Falla, Ives and Rachmaninoff. Even more compelling is the album's depth of introspection, based equally on the minutiae of his research and his interpretation of text. 

Why do the Nations takes its title from a bass aria in Handel’s Messiah, Why do the Nations so furiously rage together? (Psalm 2). This question ultimately guides the album’s journey with Powell asking his listeners to reflect not on the manmade geographical lines that divide us into nations, but to focus on what unites, what connects us and our shared humanity: “if listeners can hear the connections between countries represented perhaps they will appreciate that everything we do ripples across oceans and through time.” 

Why do the Nations offers a rich repertoire of art songs from well-known composers (Brahms, Schubert, Verdi) and composers to discover such as Xavier Montsalvatge (Spain), Cláudio Santoro (Brazil), Rentarō Taki (Japan) and Zhao Yuanren (China). Also of note, Terra e Mare, one of the few works Puccini wrote outside of opera, and a world premiere recording of Petits Enfants by Émile Paladilhe (France).

01 QuicksilverEarly Moderns, The (very) First Viennese School
Independent (gemsny.org/online-store/quicksilver-early-moderns)

Viennese music means Mozart and Haydn. Well, not according to Quicksilver. They have compiled a CD of music from the very familiar venue that is Vienna, but by mainly unfamiliar composers. 

Perhaps the strangest factor is Quicksilver’s frequent use of the dulcian, ultimately familiar to Mozart as its descendant the bassoon, here helping to reinforce this school of music’s claims to be recognized in its own right. Dominic Teresi’s vigorous dulcian playing in Giovanni Battista Buonamente’s Sonata prima à 3 is a real highlight. 

Throughout the CD, the trombone and dulcian are prominent. This is noteworthy in the Sonata à 3 attributed to Heinrich I. F. von Biber, where Greg Ingles’ dignified trombone-playing proves that Viennese Baroque does not consist exclusively of violin and cello chamber music.

This is not to dismiss the stringed element. Johann Caspar Kerll’s Canzona à 3 in G Minor combines violins and viola da gamba with harpsichord/theorbo continuo. The result is a very lively and highly entertaining composition. One wonders how these pieces came to be so neglected.

And yet, there is still room for solo compositions for more established instruments. Avi Stein’s harpsichord skills are tested more and more intensively as Kerll’s Passacaglia variata unfolds, making demands worthy of Bach or Couperin on the player. Kerll is perhaps the most overlooked composer on a CD of a certainly overlooked school of music.

02 Ashkenazy Bach English Suites jpegBach – English Suites 1-3
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Decca (deccaclassics.com/en)

Musicians, most especially those who perform or record within a tradition that has a crowded and storied line of artistic interpreters of seminal performances, often stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. This can be in order to raise themselves to a heightened vantage point from which to spot new insights and perspectives. Or it can be in order to tramp down those who went before, in an attempt to assert their own dominance and singularity of artistic approach. And most certainly, when performing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach on solo piano it would be virtually impossible to avoid the supreme influence and shadow cast by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. 

For the Russian-born highly fêted pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, who has been performing and recording the music of Bach since 1965 (arguably living and working through the entire period of Gould’s dominance), his approach to Bach evidences, in his own words, a “different concept” than that of Gould. How lucky then are we to now have a newly released double CD on Decca Records that combines Ashkenazy’s latest recording of Bach’s English Suites 1-3 with his first recording from 1965 of Bach’s Concerto in D Minor. Not only does the music sparkle with a straightforward, didactic approach to the Baroque master that brings forth all of the beauty and detail of the original compositions without the idiosyncratic flourishes for which Gould was both reviled and revered, but there is bravery in this release as it shows just how much Ashkenazy’s own development as a Bach interpreter and world-class performer has matured, developed and even changed over the years.

03 Goldberg HagenBach – Goldberg Variations
Sarah Hagen
Independent SH004CD (sarahhagen.com)

Great expectation always precedes a new recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Glenn Gould’s benchmark recordings (1955 and 1981) may have thrown down the gauntlet to anyone recording this epic composition after him, but it was Bach who left the door of interpretation slyly ajar. Yet, playing these wonderfully varied and emotionally differentiated Goldberg Variations is one of the most daunting experiences a pianist could face. 

The chords of the “Fundamental Bass” are the first hurdle because the inspiration for the entire piece originates in the accumulation and release of tension by the harmonies of these chords. In composing the Goldberg Variations Bach was also probably thumbing his nose at Johann Adolph Scheibe who once criticized his compositions as being fraught with “a turgid and confused style.” Bach’s playful rebuttal came by way of the complexity of many voices collaborating to form the lofty harmonic beauty of the Goldbergs

Canadian pianist Sarah Hagen’s Goldberg Variations are dramatically different. Naysayers and refusniks beware: her approach combines unfettered joy, wide awake with wonder, requisite pedagogy and the ability to make the instrument bend to her will. The epic scope of the work is stated right out of the gate, with an extensive exploration of the Aria that opens the way to the variable tempi, harmonic adventure with unlimited changes in registration and emotion. Hagen’s performance combines vivid precision of touch with perfect articulation of line, making her Goldberg Variations something to absolutely die for.

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04 Cameron Carpenter Bach and Hanson jpegBach – Goldberg Variations; Hanson – Romantic Symphony
Cameron Carpenter
Decca Gold (deccarecordsus.com/labels/decca-gold)

J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations have become ubiquitous in the classical music world, brought to popularity primarily through Glenn Gould’s debut recording in 1955. Originally written for harpsichord and published in 1741, this virtuosic masterwork has since been adapted for a wide range of instruments and ensembles, from piano to full orchestra. This recording features renowned American organist Cameron Carpenter performing his own transcription on the International Touring Organ, the American digital concert organ designed by Carpenter that travels from country to country with him on his tours.

What makes the organ such a unique instrument for the performance of the Goldberg Variations is the number of sounds that can be contrasted and combined by a single player, resulting in clear contrasts that amplify the linear complexities of Bach’s counterpoint. Where other instruments are limited by timbral similarities, the organ is capable of producing strikingly different sounds simultaneously, with one set of pipes sounding like a flute and another like an oboe, for example, creating a textural clarity that is almost impossible on any other single-player instrument. 

But while the tonal variety of the organ is an indispensable asset, its lack of acoustic attack can be a challenging factor. The harpsichord is, perhaps, the most attack-heavy keyboard instrument in history, its sound almost entirely characterized by the plucking of a string and the sound’s subsequent, rapid decay. Conversely, the organ produces relatively little attack but can sustain pitches indefinitely, requiring deft use of articulation to produce the clarity required in Bach’s music.

As one of the world’s best orchestral organists, Carpenter manages both the pros and cons of the organ with an expert hand, applying his mastery of timbral variety and thoughtful articulation to bring the Goldberg Variations to life in a new and exciting way.

Carpenter reinforces his status as a master of orchestral performance with his own transcription of Howard Hanson’s Symphony No.2, the “Romantic,” demonstrating both his own stunning virtuosity and the capabilities of the International Touring Organ. This powerhouse performance is both unique and remarkable, and sheds light on a work that, while less well known than its recorded counterpart, is equally satisfying and impressive.

05 PentaedreAutour de Bach
ATMA ACD2 2841 (atmaclassique.com/en)

Pentaèdre is a compelling and refreshingly unique Quebec-based chamber ensemble that, since its founding in 1985, has been boldly working to expand the canon of classical music through the creation and dissemination of new work. One of the group’s missions is to introduce chamber music fans and classical listeners alike to new work that both draws inspiration from and moves beyond the body of established repertoire. Their latest release, Autour de Bach, couples transcriptions for wind quintet of J.S. Bach works with the Bach-inspired Quintet No.3 by the late American composer David Maslanka and succeeds on all fronts.  

Bach’s music, with its weaving and intersecting lines that have the strength of purpose to stand alone but coalesce with a beautiful and logical precision, is the perfect foil for this egalitarian and cooperative ensemble that knows exactly when to put forward individual lines with a clarity of purpose and when to abdicate one’s individual agency for the overarching blend and good of the ensemble. While some of the pieces contained on this fine album will, no doubt, be familiar to listeners (Fugue in G Minor BWV565), the three-part developmental Maslanka contribution – which offers the group an opportunity to explore tempo, dynamic range and expressivity – slots neatly alongside Bach’s music, producing a congruent and compelling artistic presentation by this fine ensemble deserving of wider recognition. 

06 Vivaldi.PiazzollaVivaldi – The Four Seasons; Piazzolla – The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires
Nikki Chooi; Tessa Lark; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta
Beau Fleuve Records 605996-998562 (joannfalletta.com/discography.html)

This CD’s two works based on the “four seasons” idea is intriguing, since Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires makes references to Vivaldi’s familiar The Four Seasons violin concertos. Canadian violinist and Buffalo Philharmonic concertmaster Nikki Chooi and the JoAnn Falletta-led Buffalo Philharmonic play the latter with vitality, colour and precision. For example, in the concerto La primavera Chooi brings clean intonation and articulation, the orchestra adding fine dynamics and lots of bounce. Slow movements of concertos evoke night in different ways. Outstanding is L’autunno with soft chromatically connected string chords sounding over a steady harpsichord. Given our present frightful winter, the first movement of L’ivorno seems especially effective: shivering string tremolos; raw cold of a harsh violin bow stroke; a fateful mood in the steady bass tread and relentless harmonic sequence of fifths. In the finale Chooi takes advantage of opportunities for free-tempo playing that come often in this concerto cycle – here because the solo protagonist is walking on ice!

Piazzolla’s tango-based The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (1965-70), written for a cabaret group, became a four-piece suite for violin and strings arranged by Leonid Desyatnikov in 1998. Soloist Tessa Lark has plenty of technique and temperament for rapid mood changes in each piece. Summer begins in a chugging offbeat-accented rhythm, followed by a violin solo with occasional references to Vivaldi’s work. Languid playing with frequent slides alternates with faster jazzy passages. The following enticing pieces show similar variety.

07 Mozart Post ScriptumMozart – Post Scriptum (Rondos K382/386; Concerto No.20)
Sergei Kvitko; Madrid Soloists Chamber Orchestra; Tigran Shiganyan
Blue Griffin BGR597 (bluegriffin.com)

Sergei Kvitko explained that he wanted this disc to be “full of surprises.” The Russian-born artist is not only an accomplished pianist, but also an arranger, producer and sound engineer who founded the Blue Griffin label in 2000 while completing his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan. Who better then to inject new life into this brief all-Mozart program where he partners with the Madrid Soloists conducted by Tigran Shiganyan? As for the surprises, they involve reconfigurations of the two Rondos, K382 and K386, with respect to orchestration, ornamentation and dynamic markings, with new cadenzas composed by Kvitko himself.

The two rondos – the first a set of variations – were written as possible alternate finales for piano concertos. Kvitko and the 29-member ensemble deliver a polished performance displaying solid musicianship, with alternative orchestral ornaments and cadenzas at times foreshadowing Beethoven.

Starkly contrasting in mood is the Concerto in D Minor K466 from 1785. Again, the pairing of Kvitko and the Madrid Soloists is a formidable one. But as for the cadenzas, this writer has never heard such musical excursions in a Mozart concerto before. Not only are they lengthier than the average, but stylistically, Kvitko jumps ahead some decades to the Romantic period. Here are modulations to remote keys (including E-flat Major and F Minor) and dazzling bravura passage work. Do I hear echoes of Franz Liszt and is that a quotation from Saint-Saëns? Indeed, the listener may have cause to wonder if soloist and ensemble will ever reunite!

Nevertheless, this is an exemplary performance and whether the enhancements should be viewed as creativity on the part of the soloist or mere musical indulgences, it should be up to the listener to decide. Surely Mozart would have approved – this disc is definitely worth investigating.

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08 Schubert WarmthSchubert – Chaleur/Warmth
Mathieu Gaudet
Analekta AN 2 9185 (analekta.com/en)

This classy album hits all the right marks in its pursuit of excellence – beautiful music, engaging performance and a meaningful message to the world. Volume 5 in a series of 15 projected albums covering the wealth of Schubert’s piano music, this album is filled with warmth and artistry, perfect for a season of solitude, contemplation and discovery. 

Mathieu Gaudet has an undeniable connection with Schubert’s music. Being an exuberant and lavish piano player, he is capable of grand gestures that bring out the magnificence of Schubert’s form and architecture. On the other hand, listening to Gaudet makes me feel like he is playing this music just for me, such is the intimacy of his lyrical sound and phrasing. Most appreciated is how intensely this artist conveys the subtlety and the meaning behind all the magnificence. 

Sonata No. 5 in A-flat Major opens the album with the traditionally noble atmosphere of the post-classical mode, continuing with four smaller pieces in the form of dances and Thirteen Variations on a Theme by Schubert’s contemporary Anselm Hüttenbrenner. Although placed last, the Sonata No.16 in D Major is the central work of this album. The monumental composition offers a compressed experience of all the Schubertian characteristics – exultation, passion, memorable melodies and grace.

As for its gentle message, this album shows that despite all the unsettledness in the world one can always find a way to connect to what matters.

09a Brahms ClarinetBrahms – 3 Sonatas
Michael Collins; Stephen Hough
BIS BIS-2557 (bis.se)

Here with You – The Brahms Sonatas; Weber – Grand Duo; Montgomery – Peace
Anthony McGill; Gloria Chien
Cedille CDR 900000 207 (cedillerecords.org)

No longer, it seems, is it enough for clarinetists to throw down their hottest take on Brahms’ majestic Opus 120 Sonatas for Piano and Clarinet on its own. If recent examples are anything to go by, something more is now called for, a sidecar offering some alternate musical perspective. Last year, for example, the recording released by Jörg Widman and Andras Schiff included Widman’s own Brahmsian Intermezzi for piano. This month, two more collaborations do something similar: Anthony McGill and Gloria Chien perform Opus 120 and then add Weber’s Grand Duo Concertant, Opus 48, and Peace, by Jessie Montgomery; meanwhile Michael Collins and Stephen Hough open with a transcription (at pitch!) of Brahms’ Opus 100 Violin Sonata in A Major and then move on to Opus 120

I’m never fond of poached repertoire, but I admit the violin sonata feels like it could easily have been written for the clarinetist, Richard Muehlfeld, as the Opus 120 were. Only when Collins extends the range to the higher reaches do I think Brahms wouldn’t have offered Muehlfeld that opportunity to suffer. Not that there’s anything wrong with Collins’ technique; he deals quite beautifully with the higher tessitura of the violin piece. It’s just uncharacteristic, un-Brahmsian per his treatment of the clarinet elsewhere.

09b Brahms Clarinet McGillMcGill and Chien, presenting the late Classical/early Romantic Carl Maria von Weber’s tour-de-force, arguably made the more conservative decision, but I prefer it because it proposes an unexpected comparison of the two composers. Brahms can be a tad wordy, like some reviewers I might name. Weber is seriously underappreciated, and deserves a good deal more respect than he’s been afforded in the past century.

McGill sounds fabulous; Chien wrings, and rings, out the mittfuls of Brahms’ piano writing. In the Weber, avoided by some pianists on account of its dastardly technical demands, she bats no eyes and crosses no fingers; in short, she kicks the piece into gear and roars away. We should all be so lucky to play the piece with her! The Grand Duo is a dessert, which leavens out the weighty Brahms, and is so much more Romantic: more fun and, I’ll admit it, entertaining. The slow movement is an arioso without words, beautifully rendered by the tandem. The presto playout of the Rondo movement is a rousing display of music hall bravura; see if you don’t rise at the end to give them a standing ovation.

Collins plays a somewhat brighter set-up than McGill, and sounds great. Then there’s Stephen Hough, who is already in the pantheon. His work on the three sonatas is impeccable, considered and moving. Collins and Hough hew to a steadier, faster pulse than the Americans, whose fluid flexibility appeals to me but might bother some. McGill and Chien are too indulgent during the Sostenuto section of the Second Sonata’s second movement, which plods. Collins and Hough have more the right idea. And in Hough’s hands the Andante un poco adagio from the F-Minor Sonata receives more lingering affection than Chien seems willing to spend. Both clarinetists’ pitch is immaculate throughout. There is so much to appreciate in both offerings, choosing between them is not recommended. 

Last month I proposed a new artistic genre: Responses to the Pandemic. Montgomery’s Peace is exactly such a work. The mood is pensive, opening with augmented, searching harmonies, insistent but not harsh dissonance that hints at kindness or obscured joy. McGill has an incredible range of colour and depth in his low register, which Montgomery exploits with heart and soul.

10 Brahms Piano Sonata 3Brahms – Piano Sonata No.3
Alexandre Kantorow
BIS BIS-2600 (bis.se)

Despite his youth, French pianist Alexandre Kantorow is already heralded as a considerable talent with an ongoing and upcoming concertizing career to be examined with interest. And, with this marvellous 2021 recording of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 3, Kantorow contributes mightily to this well-established blue-chip reputation, initiated by winning the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition at age 22. 

While Brahms is famously listed as a progenitor of so-called Absolute Music, do not think for a moment that there is no program to be unpacked here or extra musical meaning to be ferreted out from these wonderfully Germanic compositions as interpretation, richness and new possibilities are brought to the fore for over 85 minutes during this thoughtful and evocative performance. 

Finally, Kantorow brings the recording to a close with Bach’s playful Chaconne, arranged from the original violin to the left-hand piano. With a forceful pianistic dynamism that enables Kantorow to both thunder loudly and sparkle with fragile insight, this is a recording that will go a good distance to solidifying Kantorow as a Brahms and Bach interpreter of the highest order, while encouraging us all to stop, even momentarily, genuflecting towards the catastrophizing media and lean in to the beauty of these melodies as performed with deft touch and aplomb.

11 Angeta HewittLove Songs
Angela Hewitt
Hyperion Records CDA68431 (hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68341)

We can certainly declare Angela Hewitt by now a national treasure. Graduating from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto and winning the 1985 Toronto International Bach Competition, she has had a stellar career with concerts all over the world and a wide-ranging discography. She has even been inducted into the Gramophone magazine Hall of Fame (!) and has received many other honours and accolades.

Unfortunately this beautiful career came to an abrupt and brutal halt with COVID-19 and all her concert engagements disappeared overnight. For a two-year period she was forced into idleness, retiring to her home in Italy with her Fazioli piano. To fill her time she had the idea of making this recording, a collection of love songs spanning the entire piano literature.

Since these are love songs written for the human voice they had to be transposed to piano solo, mostly done by other composers or pianists, like Liszt, a master of love songs himself. The vocal line of the original song must be emphasized and the pianist has to express the ebb and flow of emotion of the beautiful poetry with bravura embellishments, modulations and variations.

Hewitt gives us a nice collection and a musical journey from the Baroque (Gluck and Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel) to the Romantics (Schumann, Schubert, Grieg) then the post-Romantics (Fauré, Richard Strauss, Mahler) through the Spanish flamenco of de Falla and even popular music of Gershwin and Percy Grainger.

There are many beauties close to my heart such as the wonderful Schubert Ständchen and An die Musik, Strauss’ opulent Cäcilie, the lovely Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, arranged by Hewitt herself, and Gershwin’s Love walked in so lovingly played. A recording to treasure.

12 Fraser JacksonHome Suite Home
Fraser Jackson; Monique de Margerie
Galley Records GRCD02 (galleyrecords.com)

Co-created in the spring of 2020 by bassoonist Fraser Jackson and pianist Monique de Margerie, Home Suite Home was directly inspired by the weekly concerts held on the front porch of their Toronto home during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

These concerts, intended to brighten the mood of their neighbours and community, resulted in an album of short and varied pieces for bassoon and piano as well as a few special musical guests, Winona Zelenka on cello, Marie Bérard on violin and Dominic Desautels on clarinet. Not all originally written for bassoon, this collection highlights Jackson’s gift of masterful arrangement and features several rare and delightful pieces for contrabassoon, his specialty.

Moving and uplifting, the smooth expressive playing of Jackson’s performance coupled with de Margerie’s elegant interpretation must have been a delightful and unique experience for their neighbours; and now for the rest of us too.

Listen to 'Home Suite Home' Now in the Listening Room

13 Maiburg Metamorphosen CoverMetamorphosen
Maiburg Ensemble
Ars Produktion Ars 38 328 (proclassics.de/aktuelle-cd-news)

Annette Maiburg, artistic director of the Maiburg Ensemble, aspired in this CD to engage in a “dialogue” in which the music of disparate cultural traditions fuse, so to speak, to produce a music which is new and which did not exist before. Maiburg, a highly accomplished classically trained flutist, is joined in the project by pianist Pascal Schweren and double bass player Matthias Hacker, both also classically trained but with strong educational backgrounds in jazz, and percussionist, Fethi Ak, a renowned German-Turkish darbuka player.

Each musician makes great and unique contributions to the project. For example, Schweren’s solo, which brings Bartók’s Pê Loc to a surprise ending, is a delight; Ak has several wonderful solos in compositions as diverse as Bartók’s Mâruntel and Buciumeana and Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Hacker, to my ears anyway, brings the most convincingly idiomatic jazz contribution throughout, connects beautifully with Ak’s solo in Mâruntel and plays a very effective bowed passage in Mahler’s Adagietto. Maiburg not only plays the challenging flute part from Mendelssohn’s Scherzo flawlessly but also brings wonderful lyricism to her solos in Ravel’s Kaddisch and Bartók’s Buciumeana

The cultural fusion, however, just doesn’t seem to happen, despite the good intentions, until the last track on the CD, Hov Arek, an Armenian folk melody notated by the great Armenian composer and ethnomusicologist, Komitas. Here magic happens, musicians and music become one, and the dream becomes reality.

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14 Hindemith Marin AlsopHindemith – Mathis der Maler; Nusch-Nuschi-Tänze; Sancta Susanna
Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien; Wiener Singakademie; Marin Alsop
Naxos 8574283 (naxosdirect.com/search/8574283)

The title work on this terrific all-Hindemith release, Symphony ‘Mathis der Maler’, gets a probing, gutsy performance from Marin Alsop and the superb ORF Vienna Radio Symphony. For 27 dramatic minutes, we’re swept into the harsh, visionary world depicted by the German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald in his magnificent Isenheim altarpiece. This symphony is rightly one of Hindemith’s best-known works. Yet the related opera, Mathis der Maler – for me, his greatest work – is rarely done. 

Hindemith arranged Nusch-Nuschi-Tänze from an earlier opera, Das Nusch-Nuschi. But unlike Mathis der Maler, it’s no masterpiece. And the dance suite remains forgettable, despite Hindemith’s imaginative orchestrations and Alsop’s lively performance. 

Hindemith’s daring Sancta Susanna is the standout here. Alsop’s recording of this youthful one-act opera is so gripping, it belongs among the outstanding recordings of his works, along with Roxolana Roslak and Glenn Gould’s sublime Das Marienleben and Sviatoslav Richter’s wonder-filled Ludus Tonalis.    

The tension builds relentlessly – an organ pipe whistles, heavily scented lilac blossoms rustle, nightingales sing joyfully, a couple makes love right outside the church window, a giant spider leaps into Susanna’s hair. August Stramm’s expressionist libretto is truly shocking, especially when Susanna, finally unhinged, strips off her nun’s habit and embraces a sculpted image of Christ naked on the cross.

Ausrine Stundyte conveys the devastating impact of Susanna’s defiance with ravishing expressiveness, while Renée Morloc’s Klementia sets the stage for the horrific ending with harrowing dramatic power. This is opera at its most explosive – and delectable.

01 Aiyun HuangResonances
Aiyun Huang
Sideband Records 06 (sidebandrecords.com)

Virtuoso percussionist Aiyun Huang has recorded a selection of new works that challenge the performer in different ways. In each, the listener is immersed in varying intimate and unique sound worlds. In a piece titled Désastre, Inouk Demers produces a dreamy landscape that evokes slowly descending sonic blankets upon the watershed resonance of gongs and cymbals. This homogenous and enchanting piece creates a wondrous metallic stasis – fittingly so, as the work’s title suggests something falling from the stars. Chris Mercer’s Concerto Chamber places an acoustic guitar into the percussion setup and asks the percussionist to strike it with mallets, slides, rubber balls and a triangle beater. Mercer cleverly infuses his piece with these novel percussive guitar sounds amid a flurry of spellbinding auras that are highly impressive and otherworldly in their creative expanse. In Valerio Sannicandro’s Disentio (translated as “extension”), Huang exhibits her world-class command over the vibraphone in a piece full of expression and angular melodic leaps. Canadian composer Chris Paul Harman creates hypnotic intricacies in Verve – an evocative piece that spans the entire range and resonant capabilities of the marimba. The soloist must use their voice to execute percussive utterances that alternate with tambourine and drum punchiness. With each piece, Huang delivers a performance of the highest quality – a testament toward why she is among the leading percussion soloists of our time.

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