01 Linda SmithLinda Catlin Smith – Dark Flower
Thin Edge New Music Collective
Redshift Records TK543 (redshiftmusicsociety.bandcamp.com)

Toronto composer Linda Catlin Smith has enjoyed a long professional career attracting important commissions from soloists, ensembles, orchestras and choirs. Her strongly flavoured music has attracted increased international attention in recent years.

Founded in 2011, Thin Edge New Music Collective is dedicated to commissioning concert music and presenting the work on Toronto and international concert stages.

Dark Flower, TENMC’s freshman six-track CD, is a portrait album of Smith’s works, impeccably produced by contemporary music industry veteran David Jaeger. Seven outstanding Toronto musicians are featured: Cheryl Duvall (piano), Anthony Thompson, (clarinet), Nathan Petitpas (percussion), Ilana Waniuk (violin), Aysel Taghi-Zada (viola) and cellists Amahl Arulanandam and Dobrochna Zubek.

In a recent interview Smith reflected on her compositional process. “I often feel that the work emerges like the development of a photograph. Dark Flower [for piano, violin, viola, cello] for instance: I started with the idea of rolled low register piano arpeggiations in a bed of string chords – that was the starting point, just that one image. And that’s enough for me ….”

At 26 minutes, Dark Flower (2020) is the album’s largest work. Its contained emotion, often expressed through restrained, soft melodies, harmonies, textures and silence, achieves a delicate balance between the old – I hear Renaissance and 20th-century music echoes – and our age’s complexity. TENMC’s dedicated ensemble playing maintains an admirable equilibrium between the various musical threads throughout this masterful work’s substantial arc. 

Remarkably, the entire album sustains a sensuous, intimate mood which sometimes shades into an iciness. That may seem contradictory, yet it’s where Smith’s music ultimately flourishes.

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