2013 was a milestone year in many ways, one being the 100th anniversary of the riotous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Further on in these pages you will find reviews of three new recordings which take very different approaches to this seminal work. But the year also marked the centenaries of a number of important composers, from Canadian pioneers John Weinzweig, Violet Archer and Henry Brant to iconic international figures including Benjamin Britten and Witold Lutosławski. I wish I could tell you that there were new recordings of works by the Canadians, but I am not aware of any. Both Britten and Lutosławski however have been very well served over the past year.

On the local scene this year Britten has been a recurring presence on TSO programs, the COC recently completed a successful run of Peter Grimes and as you will know from WholeNote reviews there has been a wealth of recordings of his concertante works and operas.

01 editor 01 britten quartetsWith a vast output in larger forms — more than a dozen operas and a plethora of orchestral, vocal and choral works — it is all too easy to overlook Britten as a composer of chamber music. There is however a substantial body of work encompassing innumerable combinations of solo instruments. Of particular note are the works for solo cello (three suites and a sonata with piano) written for Rostropovich and the nine for two violins, viola and cello including three numbered String Quartets. Hyperion has just released a new recording (CDA68004) of the latter featuring the celebrated Takács Quartet. String Quartet No.1 was written on commission from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge while Britten was living in the United States in the early years of World War Two. It is less conventional and somewhat harsher than his earlier works, showing the influence of Stravinsky and Copland. String Quartet No.2 was composed after his return to England and premiered just months after the triumphal staging of Peter Grimes at Saddler’s Wells, the work that brought Britten international stardom. Most notable in this quartet is the extended third movement, a “Chacony” in homage to Henry Purcell whose work he would further celebrate the following year in The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

Britten did not return to the string quartet form until 30 years later, in 1975, just one year before his death. String Quartet No.3 is related to his final opera Death in Venice, and was in fact partially composed in the Italian city. Following a spiky “Burleske” reminiscent of Shostakovich (who had died that year) the final movement’s “Recitative” incorporates a barcarole reminding us of the gondolas of Venice and its concluding “Passacaglia” is set in the key of E major so closely associated with Gustav von Auschenbach, the protagonist of the opera.

Bookending Britten’s early mature offerings and his final output, these quartets, insightfully and exquisitely played by the Takács, offer quiet commentary on the larger-than-life works through which we have come to best know this composer.

Concert note: Associates of the Toronto Symphony will perform Britten’s String Quartet No.2 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on January 20.

01 editor 02 lutoslawskiWitold Lutosławski has also been honoured through recordings this past year, though more in the form of re-issues than new releases. The Polish national label Polskie Nagrania released Witold Lutosławski – Centenary Edition an 8-CD set earlier this year (reviewed in the online version of Editor’s Corner in June) which featured historic recordings, many of which were conducted by Lutosławski himself. Now Naxos has collected its existing recordings and issued a 10-CD box Lutosławski – Symphonies; Concertos; Choral and Vocal Works (8.501066) featuring the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (and others) under the direction of Antoni Wit. Containing virtually all of the larger works it is a comprehensive set of thrilling performances in glorious sound. Originally issued as individual discs the collection gives the opportunity to listen to the complete oeuvre in any number of ways. As I write this I am enjoying exploring the symphonic works in chronological order: Symphony No.1 (1941–47); Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54); Symphony No.2 (1965–67); Symphony No.3 (1981–83); Symphony No.4 (1988–92), works which span the entirety of Lutosławski’s creative output. It is most interesting to hear not only the stylistic but also the formal developments from the mostly traditional first symphony (in four movements) through the Bartókian concerto (three movements) to the second symphony (two movements) and the final mature works both in a single movement. Another highlight is the Cello Concerto, written for Rostropovich but performed here by ARD- and Prague Spring Competition-winning Polish cellist Andrzej Bauer who, among other studies, worked with William Pleeth for two years in London on a scholarship funded by Lutosławski and who has obviously made this concerto a signature piece.

While the first nine discs are reissues of Wit’s definitive Naxos recordings, the final disc comprises the last concert that Lutosławski conducted in his lifetime. That took place at the Premiere Dance Theatre at Harbourfront in Toronto on October 24, 1993 and featured violinist Fujiko Imajishi, soprano Valdine Anderson and the New Music Concerts Ensemble. You can read NMC artistic director Robert Aitken’s reminiscences of the great Polish composer elsewhere in these pages.

Although Lutosławski wrote almost exclusively for large ensembles there is one very important transitional work that it is a shame not to have included here, the String Quartet from 1964 in which the composer takes his aleatoric approach to composition to new levels. The Polskie Nagrania set mentioned above includes a performance by the LaSalle Quartet who premiered the work, recorded at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1965. A 2013 Hyperion recording by the Royal Quartet (reviewed in this column last May) is also highly recommended.

01 editor 03 isabel bayrakdarianI’m often taken by the frequencies of coincidence in my life. One such occurrence relates to discs received in the past two months. Trobairitz, the feminine form of troubadour, was not a word in my vocabulary until the release of an ATMA CD by that name reviewed by Hans de Groot in last month’s WholeNote. De Groot mentioned that the only trobairitz song to have survived in both melody and words is A Chantar by the Contessa de Día and that it is not included in the recording by Shannon Mercer and La Nef. I have just received a new disc featuring Isabel Bayrakdarian entitled Troubadour & the Nightingale with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra under Anne Manson’s direction (MCO 013001 themco.ca). Lo and behold this recording of arrangements and original compositions by Serouj Kradjian includes the suite Trobairitz Ysabella in which the ancient song A Chantar is featured ...

In Kradjian’s illuminating introductory essay he explains the project originated in a discussion with conductor Manson about the book The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal, which explores the golden age when the arts, literature and science flourished for 500 years in an atmosphere of tolerance. This eventually led him to the lives, poetry and music of the trobairitz of Occitania in the south of France bordering Spain, who were active for a brief 60 years in the 12th and 13th centuries during the Crusades. Evidently when the men returned from the wars social values once again regressed to the point where women were no longer allowed creative expression. Kradjian was inspired by his readings to compose the song cycle about Ysabella for his wife Bayrakdarian and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. For this attractive and evocative work the basic strings of the MCO are complemented by clarinet, oud, guitar and percussion.

In keeping with the theme, Kradjian arranged and orchestrated four songs by latter-day Armenian troubadour Sayat-Nova, born Haroutiun Sayatian in 1712, who served for a time at the court of Heracle II, King of Georgia, until his attraction for the king’s daughter led to expulsion. To complete the set Kradjian also arranged the beautiful Greek songs of Maurice Ravel and that composer’s setting of Kaddish, a Jewish prayer in Aramaic magnifying and glorifying God. Throughout the disc Bayrakdarian is in fine form and full voice, often sending shivers down the listener’s spine.

01 editor 04 ensemble made in canadaIn brief: Rachel Mercer is a cellist whose career I’ve been following since her university days when as a broadcaster at CJRT I had the opportunity to record the brilliant young Metro Quartet. Mercer went on to an international chamber career with Israel’s Aviv Quartet (2002-10) and since returning to Toronto has been a member of the Mayumi Seiler Trio (with pianist Angela Park), the Mercer-Park Duo and Ensemble Made In Canada. This latter is a piano quartet in which Mercer and Park are joined by other local young lionesses Elissa Lee (violin) and Sharon Wei (viola). The EMIC’s debut CD (ensemblemadeincanada.com) features the second piano quartet of Mozart and the third of Brahms in dramatic, nuanced and, where appropriate, playful performances. Produced by Scott St. John and EMIC and recorded at Glenn Gould Studio in August 2012, the sound is everything you would hope for (and expect). Incidentally, as the winner of the 2009 Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank Competition, Mercer was awarded the use of the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius cello from 2009 to 2012 and it can be heard on this fine recording.

Concert note: Ensemble Made In Canada performs at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society on December 3.

01 editor 05 adagioAnalekta recently released a disc which I must confess I was sceptical about when I first came across it. I was afraid that Adagio (AN 2 9848) featuring Ensemble Caprice under Matthias Maute would turn out to be another compilation of “the world’s most beautiful melodies” or some such saccharine fare. I’m glad that I gave it a chance though; it turned out to be a thoughtful collection with some surprising inclusions. Although overall a baroque offering — Zelenka, Albinoni, Carissimi, Allegri and Bach are all present — Maute explains the premise of the project in his program note as having been inspired by Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question and its subtitle A Consideration of a Serious Matter. He says “This wonderful title soon became the programmatic idea behind our recording of adagios throughout the centuries. [...] all meditations on the fundamental questions of life and death [expressing] something impossible to communicate through words.” It is an interesting concept and one which works very well for the most part with its balance of instrumental and choral works and Shannon Mercer’s wonderful rendering of Bach’s Ich habe genug. Maute has contributed an original prelude, used as a bridge to his arrangement of Satie’s lovely Gymnopédie No.1 and also an arrangement of Chopin’s Prélude Op.28, No.4. I only have two reservations about the disc: I would rather have heard the string version of Barber’s famous Adagio rather than the later choral setting of Agnus Dei using the same melody; I found the inclusion of Allegri’s Miserere, lovely as it is, to be too much in the context — too long in relation to the other selections, and simply too liturgical.

01 editor 06a brian katz
Two excellent and quite different acoustic guitar discs came my way this month. The first is by local stalwart of the jazz and independent music scenes, Brian Katz and the second features Newfoundland Django-style jazz guitarist Duane Andrews joined by country picker Craig Young. Leaves Will Speak (briankatz.com) is theresult of two years in the studio although more accurately it has been more than three decades in the making since that day in 1980 when Brian Katz decided that the nylon-string guitar would be his instrument of choice. Listening to this disc I was not surprised to find that Katz studied with Ralph Towner whose recordings with Oregon and the Paul Winter Consort were an integral part of the soundtrack to my formative years. But his influences and inspirations extend to many forms including jazz standards, free improvisation, klezmer, world, classical and new music. The 18 solo tracks on the album showcase the full range of Katz’ diverse musical world. With only one exception, an arrangement of an anonymous Italian Renaissance Danza, the tracks are original, most through-composed but some improvised in the recording studio. The sound is crisp and warm with a minimum of finger noise and the booklet is comprehensive with an informative essay about Katz’ background and approaches, and descriptive notes for each piece.

01 editor 06b charlies boogieCharlie’s Boogie (charliesboogie.com) brings together a number of styles of steel-string guitar picking, with Duane Andrews and Craig Young each bringing their own distinctive influences to the mix. From traditional North American country music and fiddle tunes, rags and reels through the blues (via Bill Monroe) and of course “Hot Club of France” style jazz, there’s even one singer-songwriter type offering, Jerry Faires’ homage to his guitar, “The D-18 Song.” Andrews has created a unique blend of Newfoundland traditional music and jazz guitar (he graduated with honours from jazz studies at St. Francis-Xavier University in Nova Scotia and went on to composition studies in Paris and Marseilles). Young, also a native of Newfoundland, left home for Alberta in 1993 and later relocated to Nashville, Tennessee as a member of the Terri Clark band, playing at the Grand Ole Opry and the like. Some four Canadian Country Music Awards later he’s back home in Newfoundland teaching and pickin’ up a storm with Andrews. Although both are composers in their own right, the album features only one track by each with the rest devoted to cover versions of the stuff they enjoy most. Man, these guys are hot!

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

—David Olds, DISCoveries Editor


discoveries - editors cornerThis month brevity will have to be the soul of wit as I try to do justice to some of the many interesting CDs to land on my desk in recent weeks. To begin, a marvellous discovery from northern Ontario. I have long known and enjoyed the music of Sudbury-based Robert Lemay but I had not previously heard his music for string quartet nor for that matter did I know there even was a string quartet in that city. L’errance …, another in the wealth of recent releases on the Centrediscs label (CMCCD 19513) has opened my ears on both accounts. The Silver Birch String Quartet is an excellent ensemble of young players currently in residence at Laurentian University with a string of accomplishments, including a previous recording with Montreal jazz pianist John Roney that garnered a JUNO nomination in 2010 and two Felix Awards, which makes me wonder why they weren’t already on my radar. This disc spans two decades of the Lemay’s output, beginning with L’errance ... hommage à Wim Wenders composed over a two-year period in Montreal, Quebec City and Buffalo, completed in 1990. It takes its inspiration from Wenders’ film Wings of Desire and is the first of a series of works paying tribute to different film directors. Although written long before the group’s formation, Silver Birch have toured this work extensively and feel it to be a signature piece in their repertoire. Opening with an extended cello solo and ending with solo violin, in this it is reminiscent of the third quartet of Canadian icon R. Murray Schafer, although Lemay’s language is quite distinct. The other works are more recent and reflect the mature voice of this composer. Structure/paysage ... hommage à Eli Bornstein (2008) is one of a series of works honouring abstract painters, in this case the leader of the Canadian structuralist abstract school. For the final and most developed work on the CD, Territoires intérieurs (hommage à Bernard Émond) (2010), the quartet is joined by pianist Yoko Hirota. This captivating piece was commissioned by the quartet and developed over the period of a residency at the Banff Centre which they say “was among the most artistically fulfilling projects for us as a quartet.” Certainly that camaraderie is conveyed in this performance which was captured in all its intimate glory in this Glenn Gould Studio recording by engineer Dennis Patterson and producer David Jaeger. This is one of the most satisfying chamber discs to come my way in a long time.

A close second is the latest from the ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory), a Chandos recording featuring Chamber Works by Paul Ben-Haim (CHAN 10769). Ben-Haim, born Paul Frankenburger in 1897, was a German Jew who immigrated to Palestine shortly after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. The bulk of this disc is devoted to works written in the decade after arrival in Palestine, including works for viola and piano and violin and piano from 1939 and a piano piece from 1944. It is obvious from the use of Middle Eastern themes and references to the local landscape that Ben-Haim was quick to embrace his new land. The most substantial of these is a clarinet quintet from 1941 about which the composer says “I was very satisfied because I felt that I had at last succeeded in consolidating a new style.” This lush and lyrical work is beautifully performed by Joachim Valdepeñas and a string quartet comprised of Marie Bérard, Erika Raum, Steven Dann (also featured in the haunting viola pieces) and Bryan Epperson. It was revised in 1965 and I wish the liner notes mentioned what sort of revisions the composer made more than two decades after writing the work. The disc opens with an early venture, the Piano Quartet Op.4 from 1920-21 (violinist Benjamin Bowman and pianist David Louie join Dann and Epperson) which shows the influence of Germanic forebears Brahms and Strauss but also French nuances of Fauré and to my ear, Debussy. Evidently the composer suppressed his pre-immigration works and until unearthed in the Ben-Haim archives and performed by the ARC Ensemble in 2012 this quartet had not been heard since a radio broadcast in 1932 before the composer left Germany. As with their three previous releases (on RCA Red Seal) of music by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Julius Röntgen, Walter Braunfels and Adolf Busch the ARC Ensemble continues to bring to light some repertoire unjustly neglected due to political suppression or shifts in musical fashion, in stunning performances through its Music in Exile series under the artistic direction of Simon Wynberg.

I Am in Need of Music is the title of another new Centrediscs release featuring songs on poems of Nova Scotian Elizabeth Bishop (CMCCD 19413) composed by Alasdair MacLean (NS), John Plant (QC), Emily Doolittle (NB) and Christos Hatzis (ON). Best known for her extensive work in the field of early music, soprano Suzie LeBlanc brings her signature vocal purity to this project which she conceived and developed between 2007 and 2011, Bishop’s centenary year, in conjunction with poet and Bishop scholar Sandra Barry. Together they decided to commission settings of Bishop’s poems in honour of the anniversary and it was Barry who told LeBlanc about a walking trip that Bishop had undertaken in 1932 in rural Newfoundland. LeBlanc, a walker in her own right, decided to recreate this journey as well as could be done some 75 years of development later, and invited filmmaker Linda Dornan to join her. The results were two-fold, both documented in this combined CD and DVD release from the Canadian Music Centre: more than an hour’s worth of music wonderfully performed by LeBlanc accompanied by the Blue Engine String Quartet (MacLean) and the Elizabeth Bishop Players under the direction of Dinuk Wijeratne (Plant, Doolittle and Hatzis); and a half-hour video of LeBlanc and Dornan’s adventure in the outports of Newfoundland. The music, although consistently lyrical and tonally based, is quite eclectic in the different musical languages of these composers. Most surprising to me was to hear yet another side of chameleon-like composer Hatzis whose charming settings show him to be as at home in the idiom of musical theatre as in the diverse and multi-ethnic worlds of his previous compositions. Congratulations to Suzie LeBlanc on the success of her vision and to all concerned in this endeavour.

Concert note: Suzie LeBlanc is featured with tenor Charles Daniels in Tafelmusik’s “Purcell and Carissimi: Music from London and Rome” at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre November 6 through 10. She also joins Les Voix Humaines Consort of Viols for a Women’s Musical Club of Toronto recital November 21 at Walter Hall.

discoveries - editors corner 2In brief: Analekta has released a CD/DVD combination featuring one of the celebrated historical voices of Canadian opera, bass Joseph Rouleau. Now 84, Rouleau is a Companion of the Order of Canada and Grand Officer of the Order of Quebec. I was first introduced to the splendour of his voice in a CBC recording of the extended orchestral song cycle he commissioned from Jacques Hétu in 1984, Les Abîmes du rêve based on the poetry of Émile, and I was hooked. Although particularly associated with French and Italian repertoire, Russian Operas Russes (AN 2 9223-4) makes it clear that Rouleau was also at home in the role of basso profundo as displayed in selected arias from the operas of Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. The recording, dating from the height of his career, originated in 1972 from the concert Soirée de musique russe avec Joseph Rouleau produced for Les Beaux Dimanches at Radio Canada. The bonus DVD features Rouleau in the title role of Boris Godunov’s Death Scene (Act Four, Scene Two of Mussorgsky’s opera) filmed in 1983. This is a welcome testament to one of the great voices of our country and although the sound is not as pristine as might be hoped, it is still sufficient to send chills down the spine.

The next disc made me laugh out loud on first hearing. I really didn’t know what to expect from Nutcracker Nouveau – The Russian Expedition from the wacky eclectic local Ensemble Polaris (ensemblepolaris.com). I had been told by core member Alison Melville that this was the closest they would ever come to a Christmas disc, so we’re perhaps rushing the season a bit (as I write this Halloween is still a couple of weeks away) but as they will be launching the disc on November 29 at the Edward Day Gallery at 952 Queen St. W. and as I’m told the disc will be in stores by the time this issue of WholeNote hits the streets (and because as you will see shortly there are other connections afoot) I thought I’d slip it in now. The opening track, Kirk Elliott’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Trepak” from The Nutcracker, begins with what sounds like Duelling Banjos followed by the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies before settling into the familiar melody from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. This sets the stage for a hilarious homage to the Russian master. The instrumentation ranges from guitars, mandolins and banjos through violin, accordion, bagpipes, bazouki, flutes, recorders and clarinets to a host of multi-cultural percussion instruments. Particularly effective is the guzheng and the violin convincingly impersonating an erhu in Melville and Elliott’s arrangement/medley of the traditional Chinese melody Picking Tea and Tchaikovsky’s “Danse Chinoise” which also features descant recorder and musical saw among other oddities. The suite is a clever and entertaining blend of new takes on the familiar ballet themes intertwined with other Slavic favourites. Perhaps due to my personal preference for the instrument I must mention the gorgeous sound of Margaret Gay’s cello which was captured in all its glory by Jeremy Darby at Canterbury Sound.

The Polaris ensemble is of course not the first to make original arrangements of this most “Christmas” of all ballets. Another instance arrived recently from Harmonia Mundi featuring Tchaikovsky’s original Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a in a straight ahead and wonderfully lush performance by the Harmonie Ensemble New York under Steven Richman paired with a 1960 arrangement by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn (HMU 907493). For this iconic jazz rendition the Harmonie is joined by Lew Tabackin tenor sax, Lew Soloff trumpet, Bill Easley clarinet, Victor Lewis drums and George Cables piano. If you are not already familiar with this wonderful example of “third stream” music you owe it to yourself to check it out. Rarely has there been such a successful fusion of traditional classical music and big band jazz.

discoveries - editors corner 3Classical/jazz fusion continues to inspire artists and a recent local example is (primarily) jazz pianist Ron Davis who makes a strong case for it in the liner notes to his new CD SymphRonica with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra and John Morris Russell (rondavismusic.com). The disc includes six Davis compositions arranged by Timothy Berens and Jason Nett along with two traditional tunes and a variation on J.S. Bach’s Mache Dich Mein Herze Rein. Davis is joined by bassist Mike Downes and drummer Ted Warren for the jazz treatments with orchestral soloists Sasha Boychouk clarinet and Lillian Scheirich violin. While SymphRonica is certainly not in the same league as the Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker arrangements it is obvious that it is a labour of love and that a good time was had by all, classical and jazz participants alike.

Concert note: Ron Davis launches SymphRonica with events at the Lula Lounge on November 3 and 10.

Another disc that expands the scope of the classical orchestra is Symphony!, the latest offering from Toronto’s many-influenced Sultans of String (sultansofstring.com).Violinist Chris McKhool and his colleagues, guitarists Kevin Laliberte and Eddie Paton, bass player Drew Birston and percussionist Rosendo “Chendy” Leòn, are joined by some very special guests including Bassam Bishara on oud, James Hill ukulele, Larry Larson trumpet and Paddy Maloney of The Chieftains on pennywhistle and pipes. Add to this 55 of Toronto’s top orchestral players under the direction of Jamie Hopkings and some very effective orchestrations by Rebecca Pellett and we are presented with a wonderfully playful disc of mostly original material penned by McKhool and Laliberte ranging from gypsy style and flamenco to Middle Eastern influences. Of course there is a good measure of swing in the mix, along with some lush soundtrack-like pieces and the pop song proposal Will You Marry Me with backing vocals by Dala.

Concert note: You can catch a live version of this “roots-worldbeat-symphony mash-up” at Koerner Hall on December 1 when the Sultans of String will be joined by the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra.

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

—David Olds, DISCoveries Editor





In Memoriam Richard Truhlar
(February 14, 1950 – September 17, 2013)

editors cornerRichard Truhlar was a man of broad horizons. When I first met him I was still in high school and he, four years my senior, quickly became my mentor in both literature and music. It was through him that I discovered the vast riches of contemporary fiction; my first exposure to the labyrinthine works of Thomas Pynchon, Kobo Abe, Julio Cortázar and Alain Robbe-Grillet. In music Richard had very catholic tastes and a vast knowledge of the classical repertoire. But more important to me was his interest in the work of 20th century composers. It was through him that I first encountered the music of Takemitsu, Penderecki, Messiaen and the world(s) of electronic music. But Richard’s world extended to earlier times as well and I remember his fascination with Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius and his affection for the music of Delius. His interests also reached well beyond the classical realm, with a wealth of knowledge of the alternative rock scene. I remember when I was house-bound with a broken leg in 1985 Richard made me a wonderful compilation tape of music by Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, David Sylvian and others which kept me in good company in those claustrophobic days of confinement and opened my ears to new worlds. Our relationship spanned a number of technologies, from the LPs we spent late nights listening to, through the cassette age of self-produced recordings and compilations, into the digital age. It was Richard who gave me my first compact disc — a recording of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht performed by the Ensemble InterContemporain under Pierre Boulez.

Richard Truhlar was a poet, writer of fictions, visual artist, text/sound/musical composer and performer, editor and publisher; a true renaissance man. His main contribution to the artistic community, beyond his own writings and compositions, was as a publisher. This is true in both the literary and musical worlds. In the early years he published chapbooks under his own imprints of Teksteditions and Underwhich Editions. This latter also had an audio arm producing cassette tapes of electronic and text-based music and sound poetry in the Audiographics series. While admittedly featuring much of his own creative output, I would emphasize that this was not vanity publishing but rather a fully professional enterprise featuring the work of a variety of artists from around the country and even across the world. It was Richard’s experience in producing and successfully distributing this esoteric music that led me to recommend him for a position at the Canadian Music Centre when I learned that the coordinator of the Centrediscs label was leaving. Richard had previously told me that he never stayed at a job for more than seven years so neither of us suspected that this would turn out to be such a good fit that he would stay at the CMC for two and a half decades.

During that time he oversaw the production of more than 120 compact discs running the gamut of art music in this country. Some of the highlights were the then Complete String Quartets (i.e. the first five) of R. Murray Schafer with the Orford Quartet in its final recording; the Canadian Composer Portraits series, surely one of the most important documents of Canadian musical history; A Window on Somers celebrating the life and music of Harry Somers, and a number of discs devoted to the work of Ann Southam. Talivaldis Kenins and Gilles Tremblay were also particular favourites, but Richard’s efforts were not restricted to the senior generation of composers. Among the many projects realized under his direction were discs devoted to mid-career composers Alice Ho, Christos Hatzis, Alexina Louie and James Rolfe to name just a few, and younger composers such as Chris Paul Harman, Melissa Hui, Jeffrey Ryan and Nicole Lizée had their first commercial releases on Centrediscs. There were also discs too many to innumerate of choral, chamber, orchestral, instrumental and electronic music by Canada’s most creative artists.

While the mandate of the Centrediscs label is restricted to promoting the work of the Canadian Music Centre’s associate composers, Richard’s vision was again much broader. Concurrent with his activities as the Centrediscs coordinator, he expanded the Canadian Music Centre Distribution Service, providing global access to an extended catalogue of Canadian alternative and art music encompassing many genres not otherwise represented by the CMC.

Although very private and somewhat reclusive in his personal life, Richard was a man of vision and creative energy who touched the lives of many. As testified by a host of friends and colleagues from across the arts community at his memorial service, Richard Truhlar was highly respected, greatly loved and will be sorely missed.

You can read more about Richard’s life and work at richardtruhlar.com and his most recent publishing activities at teksteditions.com. 

—David Olds, DISCoveries Editor


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