01_petrowska_quilicoThe latest Centrediscs release, featuring works by Alexina Louie, Violet Archer and Larysa Kuzmenko, appropriately arrived on International Women’s Day. Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico is the soloist on 3 Concerti (CMCCD 15610), a disc which serves to remind us that there is a grand tradition of concerto writing in this country and begs the question – why are they so rarely played? According to the Encyclopaedia of Music in Canada, interest in the concertante form began in earnest in 1938 with Ballade for viola and strings by Godfrey Ridout and the following year with Violet Archer’s Concerto for the unusual combination of timpani and orchestra. Piano concertos came to the fore in the 1940s, with 13 premiered between 1944 (Healey Willan) and 1949 (Clermont Pépin’s second). The 1950s saw the focus turn to the violin concerto with particularly successful examples by Alexander Brott, Murray Adaskin and John Weinzweig, but as this disc attests interest in the piano never waned. We are presented with works spanning four decades, from 1956 (Archer) to 1996 (Kuzmenko). Of the three, Louie’s (1984) is the most exotic. Drawing on the composer’s oriental heritage both melodically and in some of the instrumentation in the percussion section, the work is a skilful and exuberant blending of East and West. Petrowska Quilico is in fine form with the National Arts Centre Orchestra under Alex Pauk. Interestingly, considering her first foray into the concerto form, Violet Archer’s Piano Concerto No. 1 opens with a flourish from the timpani before the piano enters in moto perpetuo mode. Recorded in 1981 by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra under John Eliot Gardiner, I am a bit disappointed with the audio quality of this transfer, but have no complaints about the performance. Somewhat reminiscent of Archer’s teacher Bela Bartok in its orchestration, melodically this is a bold and mature work reflective of its time. The final piece is the most recent but also the most old-fashioned. Kuzmenko is an unabashed Romantic whose model seems to be Rachmaninov, although here too I sense the influence of Bartok. The work is flamboyantly virtuosic and Petrowska Quilico takes full advantage of the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Recorded at the Massey Hall New Music Festival in 1996 with Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting the Toronto Symphony, I am left wondering why this would be programmed as new music. It is a well-crafted, dramatic work that would be well at home on any mainstream orchestral concert and, like the others on this disc, deserves to be heard more often.


02_piano_atlanticaAnother Centrediscs release, Piano Atlantica (CMCCD-15210) is a marvellous collection of music by composers from across the country who now make their home in the Atlantic provinces. Pianist Barbara Pritchard, herself a transplant from British Columbia via Toronto, where she was a member of Arraymusic and Continuum and performed with New Music Concerts on several memorable occasions, now lives in Halifax and teaches at Dalhousie. The first notes we hear, in Jerome Blais’ Con Stella, are pounded chords at the extreme reaches of the piano’s keyboard. In his short piece Blais, originally from Montreal, also ventures inside the piano for Aeolian harp-like strumming of the strings, knocking on the inside of the instrument and employing a number of percussive “preparations”. B.C. native Ian Crutchley contributes a set of Variations based on an 11-note pitch series which holds our attention throughout its 20 minute journey. Another West Coast transplant, Anthony Genge’s Four Quiet Preludes offer a welcome respite from the drama of the first two pieces and Pritchard lingers lovingly over the long decays, never rushing to the next note. Maritime-born Richard Gibson is well represented on this disc, with a selection from his 25 Preludes - highlights include Hommage à Erik and Ricercare à 3 – and Variation, a short work in which the composer limits himself to a two octave range corresponding to the compass of a toy piano. A founding member of Toronto’s Continuum collective, Venezuelan-born Clark Ross is now the artistic director of the Newfound Music Festival in St. John’s. Ross’ at times rollicking and at times contemplative Last Dance brings this fine disc to a close. Recorded at the St. Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax, both pianist and piano sound exceptional.


03_armenian_amiciArmenian Chamber Music is the 10th release from Toronto’s Amici Chamber Ensemble and their first for the ATMA label (ACD2 2609). Pianist Serouj Kradjian, who recently replaced founding member Patricia Parr, brings a wealth of repertoire from his homeland as well as his own compositional skills to the mix. The other core members, clarinettist Joaquin Valdepeñas and cellist David Hetherington, are joined by violinist Benjamin Bowman in various combinations for works by Arno Babadjanian, Aram Khachaturian and Alexander Arutiunian. An unexpected treat upon listening without first checking the liner notes, was the warm and compelling voice of Isabel Bayrakdarian in Oror, a lullaby for soprano, clarinet and four cellos by Parsegh Ganatchian. Guests for this track are Hetherington’s TSO colleagues Winona Zelenka, Roberta Janzen and freelancer Amy Laing. Following Kradjian’s haunting and dramatic Elegy for Restive Souls the lullaby has a magical quality that leaves us regretting its brief duration. Khachaturian’s Trio for clarinet, violin and piano with it unusual Andante con dolore opening movement leads gently out of the lullaby, but is lively, playful and lyrical in the movements that follow. Arutiunian's 1992 Suite for the same forces provides a rambunctious finale for Amici's new disc.


04_pieta_partAngèle Dubeau & La Pietà’s latest, Arvo Pärt: Portrait (Analekta AN 2 8731), is a strong collection of the Estonian master’s works. A leading proponent of so-called Mystic or Holy Minimalism (not the composer’s terms), Pärt employs a self-made lush but austere compositional style called tintinnabuli. Several of his best known works are here, including Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell, Tabula Rasa for 2 violins, string orchestra and prepared piano and Spiegel im Spiegel for violin and piano. Pärt is particularly noted for his choral writing, represented here by Wallfartslied (Pilgrim’s Song) for male choir and strings. First championed by Gidon Kremer, it is perhaps appropriate that Quebec’s own superstar violinist Angèle Dubeau should be bringing Pärt’s music to a new audience. If you are not already familiar, this would make a great introduction to his work.


We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4.


David Olds

DISCoveries Editor


01_karen_kieserOne of the most impressive discs to cross my desk this month is a private release featuring the first five works to win the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music. This prize was established in 2002 to honour the memory of one of the true, brave champions of the Western Art Music tradition in Canada. Karen Kieser’s long career at the CBC culminated in her appointment as Head of Radio Music, the first woman to ever hold that position. During her tenure she spearheaded programs for the commissioning and recording of Canadian concert music and later went on to become the first General Manager of Glenn Gould Studio. As a triple-graduate of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto it is fitting that the prize in her name, endowed by friends and colleagues following her untimely death, should honour a U of T graduate student in composition whose work is judged to be especially promising. As I mentioned, the CD includes the prize winning works from the first five years of the award’s existence: Abigail Richardson’s dissolve for harp, piano and percussion; Andrew Staniland’s Tapestry for clarinet, cello and tape; Craig Galbraith’s The Fenian Cycle for mezzo soprano, English horn and string quartet; Katarina Curcin’s …walking away from… for string quartet; and Christopher William Pierce’s Melody with Gesture for wind quintet, string quintet, celeste and percussion. I find the maturity of the works and the diversity of stylistic expression to be quite exceptional. The live performances were recorded during the Gala 5th Anniversary Concert of the Karen Kieser Prize at Glenn Gould Studio in January 2007 and feature distinguished artists including Gregory Oh (piano and direction), Norine Burgess (mezzo-soprano) and the Penderecki String Quartet, among a host of others. This limited edition disc, which provides an invaluable glimpse into the formative years of these aspiring composers on the brink of professional careers, is available by donation only.

The Karen Kieser Prize, which usually includes a $1,000 cash stipend and a CBC broadcast, is funded by the proceeds of an endowment fund which is normally sufficient for the purpose. Due to the exceptional market conditions of the past 18 months, the Faculty is seeking additional funding to ensure that this year’s prize can be awarded at its usual level. Once the prize amount is reached, any additional funds raised will be added to the endowment. I encourage you to support this worthy cause which fosters and rewards excellence in Canadian composition.

Contact Tyler Greenleaf at 416.946.3580 or tyler.greenleaf@utoronto.ca to make your donation and obtain your copy of this excellent disc.

Concert Note: On March 19 in Walter Hall this year’s Karen Kieser prize will be awarded to Constantine Caravassilis for his work Sappho De Mytilère for mezzo soprano, flute and piano which will be performed by members of the gamUT ensemble under the direction of Norbert Palej. The concert will also include Three Songs of Great Range by Igor Correia, last year’s prize winning work. The concert is at 7:30 and admission is free.

Here is a brief mention of other discs that have piqued my interest this month:

02_violin_duosWhen approached by music publisher Erich Doflein, Bela Bartok embraced the idea of writing a graduated pedagogical series in which, in Bartok’s words, “students would play works which contained the natural simplicity of the music of the people, as well as its melodic and rhythmic peculiarities.” His 44 Duos for two violins could have been mere didactic exercises with little inherent musicality, but as evidenced in the fine and nuanced performances by Jonathan Crow and Yehonatan Berick on a new XXI recording (XXI-DC 2 1669), there is real music here, from the pieces for the most elementary performers to the most advanced. The 2 CD set also includes Luciano Berio’s Duetti per Due Violini, a set of teaching pieces inspired by Bartok’s duos but also intended for the concert stage.

03_schubertDo we really need another recording of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden or the C Major Quintet? After listening to these performances by the Belcea Quartet with Valentin Erben (EMI 9 67025 2) I am willing to answer in the affirmative. But another question is begging to be asked: Can there be too much of a good thing? I have often thought so after sitting through the almost hour-long string quintet or the forty-five minute quartet. But while listening to these warm and expressive performances I did not find myself checking my watch even once. Bravo to this fine British ensemble.

04_art_of_timeThe final disc I will mention is hard to categorize, although it is a logical extension of Andrew Burashko and the Art of Time Ensemble’s recent forays into the world of Art/Pop song. A Singer Must Die (Pheromone Recordings PHER CD 1013) features the iconic voice of Steven Page in “arty” arrangements of songs by Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, Leonard Cohen, Jane Siberry, Radiohead and, of course, Page’s own Barenaked Ladies (I’m Running Out of Ink). Among the distinguished arrangers are Gavin Bryars (Cohen’s A Singer Must Die), Jim McGrath, Cameron Wilson and Rob Carli, who is also featured on sax and clarinet.

Concert Note: Steven Page and the Art of Time Ensemble will be touring this eclectic repertoire with dates in Kingston (March 3), Toronto (March 4), St. Catharines (March 5), Kitchener (March 6), North Bay (March 7), Brampton (March 10), Belleville (March 11), Barrie (March 12) and Peterborough (March 13).

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website, www.thewholenote.com, where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, “buy buttons” for on-line shopping and additional, expanded and archival reviews.

David Olds

DISCoveries Editor


A wealth of material has accumulated over the holiday season as you will see from the bumper crop of reviews that follow. My own desk is stacked high with worthy offerings vying for attention. Here’s a selection of the cream that has risen to the top.

01_national_youth2009 was an ambitious year for the National Youth Orchestra under the direction of Alain Trudel, undertaking both Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps. And a busy year for Trudel himself as founding director of the National Broadcast Orchestra of Canada (incorporated in January 2009 “to carry on the spirit of the disbanded CBC Radio Orchestra”), Music director and conductor of l’Orchestre Symphonique de Laval and conductor of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, a position he’s held since 2004. This year’s adventure with the NYOC is documented in an attractive package that includes 2 CDs with the above mentioned works along with Dreams of Flying by the orchestra’s administrative assistant Rob Teehan and Renaissance choral works by Orlando di Lasso and Thomas Greaves – yes, it seems the young musicians must sing as well as play. These are supplemented by a DVD featuring exhilarating performances of Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Samy Moussa’s Cyclus and selections from Le Sacre du printemps. If the performances on this package are any indication, the future of orchestral music in Canada is in very good hands. Visit www.nyoc.org to view the podcast or purchase the discs.

02_taliskerThe Talisker Players (www.taliskerplayers.ca) have just released their first CD, Where Words & Music Meet. The disc features an eclectic program of vocal gems ranging from Beethoven’s setting of Scottish Folk Songs through Poulenc’s charming Bestiary and Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Four Poems by Rabindranath Tagore to contemporary settings by Toronto composers Stephanie Moore, Andrew Ager and Alexander Rapoport. A particular coup is the world premiere recording of Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov’s haunting Tenebrae with soprano Teri Dunn. Golijov will be a strong presence in Toronto this month as Composer-in-Residence at the TSO’s New Creations Festival February 25 – March 3 at Roy Thomson Hall. Teri Dunn is also featured in Moore’s moving setting of In Flanders Fields with baritone Alexander Dobson. Dobson is joined by Vicki St. Pierre in selections from Ager’s raucous interpretation of Rex Deverell’s texts in Ellis Portal and Doug MacNaughton is featured in Rapoport’s deft setting of Carl Sandberg poems in Chicago Portraits. Norine Burgess and Geoffrey Butler share the honours in the playful Beethoven, with Krisztina Szabó centre stage in Poulenc’s miniatures. All in all a very successful debut recording for this Toronto ensemble which specializes in vocal chamber music under the artistic direction of violist Mary McGeer. The attractive packaging includes a very thorough booklet complete with libretti, artist biographies and a message from John Fraser, Master of Massey College where the Talisker Players are Ensemble-In-Residence. Concert note: Talisker’s season continues at Trinity Saint Paul’s Centre with “To the Sea in Ships” February 9 & 10 featuring Vicki St. Pierre, Keith Klassen and Alexander Dobson in music by Ireland, Sculthorpe and Hoiby.

03_flying_bulgarsUnlike the Talisker package, Tumbling Into Light - the latest offering from local Jewish roots band the Flying Bulgars - does not come with much in the way of liner notes. Even to find out what instruments the band members play you have to visit the website www.theflyingbulgars.com. Of course fans of the band, which is now in its third decade of performing in Toronto with five previous recordings to its credit, know that current membership includes founder David Buchbinder on trumpet and flugelhorn, co-leader Dave Wall vocals, Peter Lutek various reed instruments, Victor Bateman bass, Max Senitt drums and Tania Gill piano. They are joined on this exuberant release by drummer Frank Botos, percussionist Rick Shadrach Lazar, multi-instrumentalist Tim Postgate and producer Dave Newfeld. Originally called the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, the ensemble has expanded its mandate over the decades to specialize in “original music that is rooted in the soul of the Jews… chart[ing] a course between the calm waters of tradition and exciting, uncertain seas of innovation.” This CD is a strong testament to that. Concert note: Those of you who picked up this February issue as it hit the street may have time to catch what is being billed as a multi-media, multi-disciplinary performance of “Tumbling Into Light” featuring the Flying Bulgars with Andrea Mann (dance), Bruce MacDonald (film) and Lorenzo Savoini (design) in two performances at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts on January 31.

04_in_c_remixedAnother release which requires you to visit a website (www.in-c-remixed.com) for full information features performances by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble. In C Remixed is a two disc tribute to Terry Riley and features 18 different takes on the seminal minimalist work “In C” by artists “representing a true cross-section of musical genres… classical, pop, electronica, jazz, trip-hop, dance, techno, industrial, disco, ambient, and more” according to director Bill Ryan. It’s hard to imagine that it has been 45 years since Riley composed this masterwork in which any number of musicians using any combination of instruments work their way through 53 short phrases ingeniously designed to overlay effectively, each at their own pace, until all have arrived at the end in their own good time. This is a piece which is guaranteed to be different in each performance, yet always recognizable and always new. I must confess that I don’t think all of the artists involved in this project added significantly to the concept, but it is intriguing that musicians from such a broad spectrum have been influenced by this work and have wanted to make it their own. Among the notables are Jack Dangers, Masonic (Mason Bates), DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Michael Lowenstein, Glenn Kotche and David Lang. The performance they are remixing was recorded at River City Studios, Grand Rapids, Michigan last year and is included as the final track on the second disc of this set.

05_melbyAt a recent New Music Concerts event local contemporary music aficionado and patron of the arts Roger D. Moore said he was surprised that some of the pieces using sound files actually seemed to pre-date the common use of computers in music. We agreed that in the case of the 1993 composition in question that originally it would have been designated for “voice and tape” but currently the pre-recorded sounds are on digital files cued on the computer. But computer music does have a longer history than we might suspect, with composers working in the Bell Laboratories affiliated with Princeton University as early as the 1950s. One composer who has been involved with computer generated sounds for many decades is John Melby, an American who taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign until retiring Emeritus in 1997. Last January Melby’s 2008 Concerto for Violin, Piano and Computer was performed by Duo Diorama – Minghuan Xu, violin, and Winston Choi, piano – at the Music Gallery. A new Albany Records release (TROY1124) includes this work along with Choi’s performance of the 2006 Concerto No.2 for Piano and Computer and a much earlier Concerto for Computer and Orchestra from 1987 performed by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Joel Eric Suben. It is intriguing to hear not only the changes in computer sounds over the two decades separating the works, but also the continuity. Also interesting is the role shift from computer as soloist in the earlier work, to computer as orchestra in the recent concertos. This is not to say that Melby is simply mimicking orchestral instruments, far from it. The distinctive timbres of the invented sounds in the accompaniment leave us in no doubt that these are works for the future, not simple reflections of the past.

We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: The WholeNote, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website, www.thewholenote.com, where you can find added features including direct links to performers, composers and record labels, and additional, expanded and archival reviews.

David Olds

DISCoveries Editor


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