This welcome Centrediscs CD includes four chamber works by Canadian composer Omar Daniel performed by the Calgary-based Land’s End Ensemble. Daniel has risen steadily in the Canadian composition world with prestigious commissions, awards and university appointments. The music is rigorous, lively and imaginative; his program notes mention influences of Estonian folk music plus Northern and Eastern European composers, as in the exciting Duo for Violoncello and Piano (2018). Its finale’s title, Allegro barbaro, acknowledges Bartók’s piano work. The Jules Léger Prize-winning Zwei Lieder nach Rilke (1996) for voice and nine-instrument ensemble is another favourite; soprano Laura Hynes’ secure, rich voice handles high B splendidly. This note makes a thrilling climax for the setting of Rilke’s Die Engel, where angels spread their wings and “set winds in motion.”
Piano Trios Nos.1 (1999) and 2 (2015) were written for the outstanding Land’s End Ensemble core, consisting of John Lowry, violin; Beth Root Sandvoss, cello; and Susanne Ruberg-Gordon, piano. Daniel describes Trio No.1 as an “exploration of opposites.” I found it challenging; after a soft mysterious cello opening, the piano bursts in with truly threatening dissonant outbursts. The contrasts continue in alternation between instruments towards the second movement’s end, and in the distance travelled between the finale’s near-silent opening and loud strings plus upward-rushing piano scales later. In Trio No.2 the composer notes a change in direction involving, among other things, the presence of nostalgia, made explicit in the consonances of the last movement.