Eatock, Colin – Chamber Music02-Eatock
Various Artists
Centrediscs CMCCD 17812

Toronto-based renaissance artist Colin Eatock is successful and thought provoking at whatever he attempts. As a writer and critic, he is thorough and relentless at unearthing the truth. As a composer, he is justified in his acknowledgement of such musical influences as Shostakovich, Messiaen and Crumb, as he experiments and develops the truth of his own sound.

The six works featured here were composed from 1987 to 2010, and are colourful examples of his favourite musical worlds. Eatock is strongest in the three vocal works. Especially noteworthy is the final movement of Three Songs from Blake’s “America” (1987). The transparent piano part exposes the bass-baritone (Andrew Tees) in a haunting hummable melody. This ethereal sparse quality again surfaces in the “Elegy” movement of the Suite for Piano (1995) performed by Timothy Minthorn. The stillness of this movement is a welcome rest after the previous jaunty Toccata with its movie music chase lines.

Eatock’s compositions are carefully written works that accommodate the performer while pushing them to enter his harmonic nuances. All the musicians on this studio release recorded at various times since 1999 are superb in their interpretations. Recording quality is of an equally high standard.

 

Premieres: Music by Bruce Broughton, Ronald Royer and Kevin Lau
Conrad Chow; Sinfonia Toronto;
Ronald Royer; Bruce Boughton
Cambria Master RecordingsCD-1204
www.cambriamus.com

The concept of this project is new works that are inspired by earlier musical styles. Bruce Broughton’s Triptych: Three Incongruities for violin and chamber orchestra (in this case 15 solo instruments) is essentially a type of concerto, with each movement written in a different style. Thus, we hear influences of J.S. Bach’s violin music in the first movement, Prokofiev and more romantic expressions in the second and rhythmic, dance-like elements of Scottish fiddle music in the third. Another composition by Broughton, Gold Rush Songs, is based on three American songs associated with the California Gold Rush.

Ronald Royer’s Rhapsody displays influences of French impressionism and Spanish violin music, among others, with mysterious elements in the first movement and more rhythmic expressions in the second. Royer’s In Memoriam J.S. Bach is based on different motifs from Bach’s works. Sarabande is expressive, even romantic at times, while Capriccio carries playfulness coupled with recognizable Bach rhythms.

Joy for solo violin and string orchestra by Kevin Lau is a lyrical, meditative piece that lets the soloist explore different colours and textures. Conrad Chow’s tone has a wonderful quality of sweetness, which is most prominent in Chopin’s Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor, No.20 Op. posth., the encore piece on the album. His playing is rhythmical and precise, and he easily traverses the variety and depth of expression in each piece.

Some may argue that contemporary classical music should be forward-looking and not an evocation of the styles and musical tastes of the past. This, however, should not limit the scope of creativity and inspiration, which can spring from all objects and times. If your musical tastes enjoy revisiting compositional styles of the previous centuries while using contemporary expressions and techniques, this recording is a wonderful opportunity to hear Toronto composers in collaboration with Toronto musicians.

 

Pasión
Beatriz Boizán
Galano Records
GLO–2813 
www.beatrizboizan.com

Latin American piano music is not commonly found on record. Even the Brazilian master, Hector Villa-Lobos, only sometimes gets acknowledged for his piano output. How refreshing then, that the Cuban-born Canadian pianist Beatriz Boizán has decided to change this on her debut disc. Oh, sure, there is an occasional Soler and Albeniz here, but the spirit of this album is an unbridled fiesta. The pianist has a light, precise touch that serves her well in the break-neck pace of some of the pieces, and infuses the whole with a sense of fun.

Most of the pieces will be both unfamiliar and very familiar at the same time, as they reflect the region’s tradition of rhythmic dance. Whether filled with carnival fervor or moments of whimsy, the music of Lecuona, Cervantes and Ginastera shimmers with light and colour — and of course, the “Passion” of the title. This delightful disc is a musical equivalent of sangria— a perfect accompaniment to a hot summer evening. Muy caliente!

 

English Recorder Concertos
Michala Petri; City Chamber Orchestra Hong Kong; Jean Thorel
OUR Recordings6.220606

Of the many works written for the recorder over the last century, few of the neo-classical or neo-impressionist examples ever make it onto concert programs or CDs, so it’s good to see the release of this recording. Opening the program is Richard Harvey’s Concerto Incantato, written for soloist Michala Petri in 2009. Using a variety of sizes of recorder over five movements, Harvey writes beautifully for the instrument and the piece also sweetly reflects his sensibilities as a composer for film and television. Here’s hoping that the piece receives more performances by recorder players around the world!

Following the Harvey is Malcolm Arnold’s diminutive Concerto Op.133, written for Petri in 1988, and his inclusion of winds in the orchestration makes for a welcome colour change. Gordon Jacob’s exemplary seven-movement Concerto for alto (and sopranino) recorder and strings closes the program. Written in 1957 for Carl Dolmetsch, it blends the strengths of both string and recorder worlds and is given a definitive and expressive reading here.

Conducted by Jean Thorel, the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong is superlative throughout, and Michala Petri, one of the recorder’s leading figures of the past 40 years, is completely at home in this repertoire.

 

Accordion Concertos
Bjarke Mogensen;
Danish Chamber Orchestra; Rolf Gupta
Dacapo6.220592

Danish accordionist Bjarke Mogensen is the rising young star in the accordion world. Here he performs concerto works representing four decades of composition. This is really is a “coming of age” release for both the performer and the instrument. Mogensen and the colourful Danish National Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Rolf Gupta are brilliant both in their interpretations and tight ensemble nuances.

Any serious student/performer of accordion will have tackled the accordion works of the late Ole Schmidt. Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro, Op.20 is a very early work for classical accordion. The 1958 piece draws its inspiration from Bartók and Stravinsky. Its rhythmic pulse cries out for a modern dance interpretation. Per Nørgård’s Recall (1968/1977) is a happy rhapsodic work with its many popular music harmonic and groove references.

The remaining two concertos were composed for Mogensen. The underlying “tick tock” idea in Anders Koppel’s Concerto Piccolo (2009) sets the mood in a work clearly rooted in the film score idiom. Martin Lohse’s In Liquid (2008/2010) is one of the most original works for accordion I have ever heard. Mogensen makes his brutal technical part sound so easy in this quasi minimalistic exercise in shifting fluid breathtaking sounds.

Mogensen’s strength lies in his great independence of line in the contrapuntal sections. Occasionally the higher pitches could use some added bellows support to create a fuller colour but this is a moot point. Mogensen is an artist to experience!

 

Games and Improvisations
Katharina Weber; Barry Guy; Balts Nill
IntaktCD 203
www.intakrec.ch

More than mere child’s play, this significant CD expands some of Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s performance pieces to evocative chamber improvisations. Taking 11 miniatures for solo piano from his eight-volume Játékok series, which translates as “Games” in English, the trio’s intuitive skills create nine exciting tracks that refer both to Kurtág (born 1926) and the wider musical world.

The high quality shouldn’t come as a surprise. Besides a career as an improviser, Bern-based pianist Katharina Weber has won many awards for interpreting notated music by contemporary composers. Swiss percussionist Balts Nill moves easily among improvised, notated and even pop music, while British bassist Barry Guy has been exploring the relationship between instantly composed and composed music for years, most notably with his London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra.

Throughout this CD, Weber outlines the minute-or-so composed lines in appropriately intense, solemn or staccato fashion. Immediately following are group improvisations which, without losing the underlying sentiment, stretch the motifs with techniques encompassing hypnotic glissandi or methodical isolated key strokes from Weber, rim shot pop and woody reverb from Nill and Guy’s rapid string rappelling or percussive stops.

A prime instance of this occurs with Kurtág’s Playing with Infinity that’s followed by Improvisation VI. The former is built around a descending line that radiates overtone coloration as it fades away. The latter evolves at a speedy clip as the pianist’s hunt-and-peck variations evolve into a bouncy line that almost spirals out of control until steadied by Guy’s thumps and Nill’s clanks and clatter. Finally the percussionist’s metallic rim shots and the bassist’s staccato rubs presage a finale of linked arpeggios from the keyboard. Elsewhere these contrapuntal musical salutes evolve in different ways, as flapping cymbals meet intense low-pitched piano reverb; or a tremolo build up of passing piano chords is balanced with squeaking bass lines or hard objects reverberating on drum tops.

All and all the three manage to honour an underappreciated composer’s music while simultaneously creating noteworthy sound statements on their own.

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