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.

Listen to 'Metamorphosen' Now in the Listening Room

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.

02 Soaring SpiritsSoaring Spirits
UBC Symphony Orchestra & Choirs; Jonathan Girard
Redshift Records TK492 (redshiftrecords.org)

Jonathan Girard conducts the UBC Symphony Orchestra and Choirs in a release of newly recorded orchestral music by three of Canada’s most visible composers. Stephen Chatman’s A Song of Joys alternates between boisterous pulsations and tender interludes throughout its seven movements. The text is based on fragments of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and Chatman intended the work to be a companion piece to Beethoven’s monumental ninth symphony. The last movement builds to a resounding climax using the full power of the orchestra and choir. 

In Dorothy Chang’s Flight, the listener is introduced to a delicate and mysterious dream world amid darkened melodic enchantment produced by the solo flutist and supporting strings. The piece quickly takes a turn for the dramatic with raucous jabs and swirling gestures. Chang’s brilliant writing for the flute (performed by Paolo Bortolussi) and command over novel orchestral colours produces a deep artistic statement and significant contribution to the Canadian orchestral repertoire. 

Keith Hamel’s Overdrive is a ten-minute ride of intense orchestral fireworks. Enduring piano trajectories reinforce accented cross play and shimmering fissures throughout. Hamel creates a sense of temporal multiplicity that could easily be extended in a work of considerably increased length. The orchestra performs the demanding passages with a confident musicality – bringing to life what is clearly a gifted compositional voice. 

Under Girard’s baton the university orchestra delivers a recording of rather challenging repertoire with impressive musicality and a professional level of performance prowess.

03 Light Through DarkLight Through Dark
Bill Gilliam; Bill McBirnie; Eugene Martynec
Independent (gilliammcbirniemartynec.bandcamp.com/releases)

It’s clear from the first of the seven tracks of Light Through Dark that the Toronto trio of pianist Bill Gilliam, flutist Bill McBirnie and Eugene Martynec on electroacoustics possesses big ears and hearts. Each, however, has different roots. One of the city’s top jazz and Latin flute specialists, McBirnie is renowned for his outstanding technique as much as for exceptional improvising chops in bebop, swing and Latin idioms. Gilliam has been active in town since the 1980s as a composer and pianist exploring in his words the “boundaries between new music, improvisation, electroacoustic music and contemporary jazz.” Martynec on the other hand has been on the scene as guitarist and record producer for even longer. He’s mostly focused today on performing live interactive electroacoustic music with other improvisers. Both Gilliam and Martynec are core members of the Toronto Improvisers Orchestra.

The moody and languid opener Time Floats – Japanese Suite, Part 1 centres on McBirnie’s low metal alto flute melodies in which he tastefully introduces shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) nuances into its warm breathy vibrato. Martynec chooses harp, koto and mbira-sounding timbres to weave around the flute throughline, while Gilliam complements with seamlessly effective keyboard work. 

The other two parts of the Japanese Suite, Icy Still and Crane Flight, continue the shakuhachi theme and sonic imagery. Collectively the trio’s music is inventive, technically adroit and elegant at the same time. Most of all, we can hear their “mutual fascination with the mystery of creating entirely spontaneous music,” as aptly stated in the liner notes.

04 Saman ShahiSaman Shahi – Microlocking
Various Artists
People Places Records (peopleplacesrecords.bandcamp.com)

Microlocking, a new release by the award-winning, Iranian-Canadian composer Saman Shahi, delves deeply into the world of microtonality. By locking in and interconnecting pitches, colours and layers of sound, he creates dialogues and open-ended statements that require an alert ear but inevitably include elements of beauty, even in the sometimes chaotic landscape.

Shahi keeps making surprising turns in his compositional career. His musical trajectory is firmly based in classical music but has included explorations of world music, rock and electronics, all featured on this album. The compositions are vibrant and compelling, especially in the way Shahi treats the solo instruments. Microlocking I, II and III have a distinct character, progressing from spacious to denser textures. Microlocking I, written for six digital pianos (three of which are tuned a quarter-tone sharp) mesmerizes with the constant ripples of ostinato sounds. The colours resulting from uneven pitches bring in the sense of the past, nostalgia. Microlocking II, on the other hand, is very much rooted in the present immediacy of the sound. Written for solo electric guitar, it is a dreamland of techniques and effects, and soloist Andrew Noseworthy pulls it off with flair. Microlocking III for solo accordion (Matti Pulkki) and electronics (Shahi) pushes the boundaries of the sound even further, as if imagining the sound of the future. The surprising but fitting conclusion comes in the form of a remix of Microlocking I by electronic music producer Behrooz Zandi, binding together the aspects of Shahi’s music – the expressiveness and probing sonority, wrapped up in minimalism.

05 Flute in the WildFlute in the Wild
Jaye Marsh; Darren Hicks; Heidi Elise Bearcroft; Andrew Morris; John Rice; Christina Marie Faye; Richard Herriott
Centrediscs CMCCD 28921 (cmccanada.org/product-category/recordings/centrediscs)

A solo flute in lofty, avian dialogue with recorded loon calls: this CD’s opener, Diane Berry’s five-minute Calling (2013), inspired Ontario-based flutist Jaye Marsh to ask three friends “to express their experience of our shared landscapes” for her debut disc, producing four works completed in 2021.

Two are by the well-established Elizabeth Raum. In her 16-minute Northern Lights, flute, harp (Heidi Elise Bearcroft) and percussion (Andrew Morris) generate phosphorescent sonorities mirroring the aurora’s ephemeral, glittering pulsations before fading into afterimages. Bassoonist Darren Hicks joins Marsh and Bearcroft in the sweetly nostalgic, 17-minute Bridal Veil Falls, five movements illuminating sonic snapshots from Raum’s childhood visit to Manitoulin Island: A Walk along the Path, Morning Rain, Mist over the Falls, Porcupines (delightfully gawky music!) and Kagawong River.

Narrator John Rice, a Wasauksing First Nation elder, tells of traditional harvests, songs and dances in Richard Mascall’s five-movement, 23-minute Niibin (Summer) but the music, for flute and piano (Christina Marie Faye) seems bland and understated; I miss the character and energy that made Mascall’s earlier Georgian Bay Symphony commission Manitoulin, which also incorporated Indigenous melodies and rhythms, so powerfully stirring.

Virtuoso pianist Richard Herriott accompanies Marsh’s alto flute in his five-minute Twilight Song of Trinity Bay that “reveals,” writes Herriott, “a lonely church…at fog-ridden twilight.” The flute’s drifting, searching melodies, underlined by the piano’s bell-like tolling and rippling arpeggios, immediately transported me to a Newfoundland coastline, remote and shrouded. 

Kudos to fine flutist Jaye Marsh for this (mostly) enchanting CD!

06 BlackwoodLost and Found
Leaf Music SCCD n006 (leaf-music.ca)

The last piece on Lost and Found is titled Welcome, Peter-Anthony Togni’s attractive slow jazz number. But here, I’ll use that title to segue into comments: this disc of compositions by Togni and Jeff Reilly is indeed welcome; and as the debut release of the Blackwood Duo –Reilly, bass clarinet and Togni, piano – it is most welcome, one of the best things I heard in 2021. Ave Verum by Togni and Reilly is remarkable for the bass clarinetist’s rich sound in the low register, followed by wide registral leaps and dives, and soft non-vibrato tones fading into overt key clicks. Togni’s evocative piano joins the lower instrument with a chant passage in the male voice register. Recorded effectively at the reverberant Trinity St.-Stephen’s church in Amherst, Nova Scotia by engineer Rod Sneddon, it gives me an impression of unmeasured vastness. 

In Reilly’s much different title track, Lost and Found, his clarinet opens expressively, taking off with virtuosic runs, trills, sharp attacks and crescendos or diminuendos while the piano repeats chords suggestive of jazz. His humorous self-describing Suddenly, Snow begins with both instruments in a wild staccato passage, after which the piano’s running bass and comping coincide with an extremely agile bass clarinet; this piece reminds me that brevity is a feature in the pacing and texturing of this disc’s eight works. In contrast, Reilly’s To Dream of Silence opens with long tones in both instruments, including exquisitely controlled pianissimos. Bravo!

07 Louise BessettePort of Call: Curaçao
Louise Bessette
Analekta AN 2 9845 (analekta.com/en)

Acclaimed Canadian pianist Louise Bessette launches her admirable new recording series of solo piano works, A Piano Around the World. Here, in Port of Call: Curaçao, she is the first to record these 22 pieces from Antillean Dances composed by Curaçao composer/pianist Wim Statius Muller (1930-2019), nicknamed the Chopin of Curaçao. After studies at Juilliard and teaching at Ohio State University, Muller worked over 30 years at security and counterespionage, returning to Curaçao and music after his retirement!

Muller’s music resonates and combines influences of Caribbean folk music and Chopin, whose music was introduced to Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles in the 19th century. Opening track Tumba di Johan Op.2 No.1 is a mix of classical and popular as Bessette’s controlled playing with rubato, left-hand rhythms and right-hand melodies create a dance feeling. Piet Maal –Valse Op.2 No.13 is a more Chopin-like waltz performed with melodic subtle colour shifts, clear phrasing and balance between the hands, as is Muller’s renowned romantic Nostalgia – Valse Op.2 No.22. Bessette plays the more dance-along South American sounds with perfection, like in Kalin-Tumba Op.2 No.19, reminiscent of Piazzolla, and faster modern Chuchubi – À la rumba Op.4 No.5.

Bessette must be commended for taking on such a complex illustrious solo project. Her world-class virtuosic playing and understanding of classical and folk styles, clear production values and order of tracks bring uplifting sonorities and lasting vitality to Muller’s wide-ranging piano works.

08 Vintage AmericanaVintage Americana
Christina Petrowska Quilico
Navona Records nv6384 (navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6384)

The towering Canadian piano virtuoso Christina Petrowska Quilico performs six works on her latest release, Vintage Americana. This absorbing display of musicianship leaves no doubt that she can interpret works from any compositional aesthetic with world-class execution. Lowell Liebermann’s Apparitions is an anguished work with abundant opportunity for expressive interpretation and Quilico brings a very personal touch to phrasing the work. The four Fantasy Pieces by David Del Tredici highlight her range on the instrument. The Turtle and the Crane composed by Frederic Rzewski is a whirling flurry of repeated notes and rising harmonic pillars that are continuously interrupted by tip-toeing islands of contrasting moods that seem to be menacingly at odds with the more mechanical material.  

In a work by the only Canadian on the disc, American ex-pat David Jaeger delivers a substantial tone poem of considerable expression and artistic depth. Utilizing electronics in the work, Jaeger produces highly compelling and dramatic atmospheres, drawing the listener into a dark sonic landscape. Titled Quivi Sospiri (taken from the third canto of Dante’s Inferno), Jaeger depicts a shadowy journey through a series of remarkably cogent moments of piano wizardry above deep and enigmatic electronic ambiences. 

Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronism No.6 (also using electronics) is a brilliant work. The immediately arresting nature of artistic expression gives pause and it is no wonder this work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. Petrowska Quilico performs Davidovsky’s masterpiece with stunning mastery and her interpretation can easily be considered among the most significant among the many recordings of this important work. In her seemingly inexhaustible efforts toward releasing recordings of the highest quality, Petrowska Quilico delvers yet another gift for our ears.

Listen to 'Vintage Americana' Now in the Listening Room

09a Dai Fujikura Glorious Clouds jpegDai Fujikura – Glorious Clouds
Various Artists
Minabel (daifujikura.com/#discography)

Dai Fujikura – Koto Concerto
Nippon Columbia (daifujikura.com/#discography)

Prolific London-based Japanese composer Dai Fujikura (b.1977) used to dream of composing music for the movies. His studies at Trinity College of Music of the scores of Pierre Boulez, Tōru Takemitsu and György Ligeti, however, propelled him decisively in another direction: toward the concert stage. Fujikura’s compositions have since been championed by musical notables including the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Boulez and many others. In Toronto, Arraymusic, Thin Edge New Music Collective and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music coproduced the Dai Fujikura: Mini Marathon concert in 2020, showcasing “one of the most active composers on the international stage.” 

At close to two and a half hours of music, Fujikura’s ambitious album Glorious Clouds comprises 15 substantial works for orchestra, ensembles and soloists, embracing concerti, chamber music, art song, instrumental solos and electronic genres. Sadly, I can only touch on a few samples of this rich musical horde here.

The impressive orchestral Glorious Clouds, evocatively performed by the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, was inspired by the interconnected microbiomic networks found everywhere on Earth, rather than by the atmospheric phenomena suggested by the title. Recounts the composer: “I thought, Ah!!! Various small microorganisms make the survival of the whole world possible – just like processes within an orchestra.” Glorious Clouds maintains a dynamic tension between floating, swirling sonic textures and an overall harmonic structure and thematic progression. My ear was initially reminded of Debussyan orchestral sonorities and colours, yet soon enough Fujikura’s emerging strident effects, sonic shapes teetering on melody, plus novel orchestration and formal balances were reminders that we’re in another century entirely.

Sparkling Orbit for electronics and electric guitar follows, incisively performed by Daniel Lippel. Opening with atmospheric passages, it turns abrasive and edgy, the guitar repeating in the last section a rhythmically complex distorted chime-like overtone pattern over electronic craquelure. Serene, derived from Fujikura’s Recorder Concerto, is quite distinct again. Its three solo movements are given a powerfully dramatic performance by recorder virtuoso Jeremias Schwarzer on three contrasting recorders. I found the middle movement opening, scored for the sopranino, evocative of the nohkan, the characteristically bracing, high-pitched Japanese transverse bamboo flute commonly played in Noh and Kabuki theatre. While a recent work, I can see Serene being widely adopted as a standard recital piece; it’s that good. 

Finally for this review, Motion Notions features Mari Kimura’s brilliant violin playing. In addition, she’s also strapped a motion sensor to her bow arm wrist. It sounds like it controls various types of synthesized sounds and perhaps also live processing. The result is an interactively polyphonic, slithery texture, an unusual, and very effective, musical dialogue between the violinist’s acoustic music and the electronic sounds directed by her motion sensor. It’s another album favourite of mine.

Listen to 'Dai Fujikura: Glorious Clouds' Now in the Listening Room

09b Dai Fujikura Koto ConcertoFujikura shares album credits on a second release with rising star LEO (Leo Konno b.1998 in Yokohama) who the label calls today’s “hottest koto artist.” The record features the premiere recording of the substantial single-movement Koto Concerto with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra conducted by Masato Suzuki, plus three related solo works for koto, all scored by Fujikura. 

While the 25’42” concerto is an impressive work judicially illustrated with the composer’s signature deft orchestration, the three solos make a strong case for the koto achieving its finest, most delicate, satisfying musical moments in a solo capacity. 

All the works here are rendered with sensitive bravura by LEO and vibrantly recorded by Nippon Columbia’s engineers. Bravos all around.

10 Adam RobertsAdam Roberts – Bell Threads
andPlay; Hannah Lash; Bearthoven; Erik Behr; JACK Quartet
New Focus Recordings FCR312 (newfocusrecordings.com)

American composer Adam Roberts delivers a selection of his chamber music demonstrating an expressive compositional voice and creating engaging instrumental spaces. Roberts’ approach is focused with a brave sense of acoustic adventurousness and, using top-notch ensembles and soloists, this release enraptures ear and mind. Whether through timbral exploration or enchanting stasis, Roberts has a propensity to secure his structures with a continuous and recognizable motif while shifting focus toward other musical narratives. The result is one of clever design and intent: the music unfolds with an initial sense of random moments, but is grounded by carefully constructed and recognizable gestural frameworks. 

The disc begins with Shift Differential, an excited and energetic duet for violin and viola performed by andPlay. Roberts experiments with many successful timbral spaces that create momentum through constantly evolving, almost improvisatory, passages. Next, the Oboe Quartet performed by soloist Erik Behr and the JACK Quartet, shows Roberts’ more lyrical side in a work that is decidedly classical in its fast-slow-fast form. 

The gem on the disc is a piece titled Rounds for solo harp, performed by Hannah Lash. Cascading apparitions of sound permeate amid gentle clusters and multi-layered auras. Lash’s performance is stunning, with a musicality that is rare and captivating. Happy/Angry Music, a trio performed by Bearthoven, draws upon polystylistic material and utilizes repetition to propel the music forward. Lastly, Bell Threads, a work for solo viola performed by Hannah Levinson, produces a sinuous and mysterious soundworld that is unique on the disc. This haunting work is the perfect bookend to a truly impressive collection of chamber works.

Listen to 'Adam Roberts: Bell Threads' Now in the Listening Room

11 Amanda GookinForward Music Project 2.0 – in this skin
Amanda Gookin
Bright Shiny Things BSTC 0156 (brightshiny.ninja)

Having enjoyed the first release of cellist Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 1.0, I was richly rewarded by its sequel. From the front cover, with a photo of Gookin perilously close to cutting her own tongue with a pair of scissors, we know this CD means business. “… in this visceral journey towards radical expression… This flesh is where we live… We are powerful in this skin.” 

In this second installment of FMP, four more composers are invited, not as guests, but as the key tellers of the layers and complexities of women’s stories, each in their own way. Gookin takes each one as a precious gift, playing them with perfection and ferocity that makes clear her undeniable belief and dedication to every word. Translated sonically through her cello and her own vocals, with occasional added voices and electronics, there is simply no track to be missed. Paola Perstini’s To Tell A Story was in itself a fascinating journey of how the power of storytelling can be misused and appropriated, with sound artist Sxip Shirey’s backdrop of an 1983 interview with Susan Sontag creating brilliant sonic graffiti. 

Not only executed with stunning prowess, Gookin’s dedication to each composer’s voice channels the direct, hard-hitting messages of the compositions, her virtuosity powerfully propelling them even further, reminding us that these are all our stories to be told. She delivers them with authenticity, never taking over. This is not an ego project. This is cello playing at its height; delivering art.

Forward Music Project is an undertaking that continues to leave me breathless.

12 Wild at HeartWild At Heart
Pauline Kim Harris
Sono Luminus DSL-92253 (sonoluminus.com)

The second release in Pauline Harris’ Chaconne Project, this album explores interconnections between time, individual worlds and music. According to Harris, each commissioned composition is a reincarnation of J.S. Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin and each composer has expressed their unique individual connection to this piece. 

The music on this album is wild in the best sense of the word – an uninhibited violin wonderland of extended techniques, powerful, ingenious and enterprising. There are no memorable melodies here but instead a universe made of fragments, textures and gestures, all centered around Chaconne. The depth of sound is astonishing and Harris’ violin is so sonorous that one feels an incredible sense of expansion listening to this album. Harris has impeccable command of her instrument. She is an artist with a wild imagination, great stamina and extraordinary control. 

The opening piece, Yoon-Ji Lee’s Shakonn, is a volcano of sound and energy built over a held bass note, pulling Chaconne apart and transforming it. Morsels by Elizabeth Hoffman follows, a web of lovely harmonics that create both the rhythms and textures. Sequences of single gestures are juxtaposed with empty spaces, forming delicate balances. Annie Gosfield’s Long Waves and Random Pulses has a powerful energy and occasional Gypsy flavour. Using extensive research of jammed radio signals as a foundation, Gosfield alternates whirls of notes with a ghostly noise to build the mystery. 

The album closes with a grand C-H-A-C-O-N-N-E, John King’s composition that explores the form to the extreme through sequences that move from complex to simple. An imaginative and highly recommended album.

Back to top