03_fibonacci5 X 3

Trio Fibonacci

Centrediscs CMCCD 15710


“5 X 3” is a spectacular release on which Trio Fibonacci – violinist Julie-Anne Derome, cellist Gabriel Prynn and pianist Anna D'Errico – have chosen five works from their extensive repertoire of original Canadian compositions. This is Canadian music at its finest, from performance, compositional and production viewpoints.


Ana Sokolovic's Portrait parle is a shimmering soundscape of musical ideas based on an odd synoptic table of physiological traits from the French police circa 1900. Paul Frehner’s Quarks Tropes is a two movement work in which he superimposes violin and cello parts to his solo piano work Finnegans Quarks Revival. The brooding first movement with its mournful cello part is especially noteworthy. Analia Llugdar's haunting Tricycle explores resonance as a compositional tool with its sliding string lines and ringing piano part.


Trio Fibonacci is also known for its performance of classical repertoire. Fitting then that the other two works have the composers draw from it. Jean Lesage's The Mozart Project, subtitled “the author questions himself on the complexity of styles and the mixing of genres”, combines a bit of Mozart with a bit of Lesage to create a fascinating mix of musical styles. In Chris Paul Harman's Piano Trio, material from Bach's E Major Partita for solo violin is modified so that the three players play as one through the clever use of intervals, canons, rhythmic and pitch shuffling.


Trio Fibonacci plays with passion, accuracy and in-depth understanding of interpretation. “5 X 3” is a recording that should be heard by everyone.


02_feldman_babbittFeldman; Babbitt - Clarinet Quintets

Mark Lieb; Phoenix Ensemble

innova 746 (www.innova.mu)


Both Milton Babbitt and Morton Feldman have had a powerful impact on the music of our time. But these two American composers, born ten years and ninety miles apart, are rarely heard together, since their music comes from such different artistic worlds. This pairing of their clarinet quintets is revelatory.


Feldman’s soulful, tender and understated lyricism has a direct appeal. His Clarinet and String Quartet from 1983 still sounds audaciously visionary today, twenty-three years after his death.


Babbitt’s music is undoubtedly complicated by his use of serial techniques for all aspects of a piece, from the pitches to the rhythm and dynamics. But the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings from 1996 is warm, jazzy, and charming. This is not wholly surprising since Babbitt, who is now ninety-four years old, once wrote a Broadway musical, as the booklet notes tell us, and analyzed Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are in lessons, as former student Steven Sondheim once recalled.


Clarinettist Mark Lieb uses the chameleon qualities of his instrument to weave in and out of the four strings, whose immaculate and expressive playing responds to the clarinet’s wealth of colours.


This is an important and exciting disc, and it offers the first recording of Babbitt’s quintet. So it deserves better than the unattractive yellowy-brown cover art which spills onto each page of the booklet, making the notes and bios – welcome as they are – difficult to read.

01_gurdjieffGurdjieff/Hartmann - Music for Piano Definitive Edition, Vol. 1 - Asian Songs and Rythms

Patrice Lare



This is an intriguing CD set on several levels. First off, the very idea of co-composition, in this case the enigmatic G.I. Gurdjieff (1877? - 1949) and the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann (1885 - 1956), is rare in the Western classical tradition.


While Gurdjieff’s musical roots are vague, de Hartmann studied with three of Russia’s leading composers: Rimsky-Korsakov, Anton Arensky and Sergei Teneyev. The 22 year old de Hartmann first made a name for himself with his 1907 ballet The Pink Flower, produced by Diaghilev at the Russian Imperial Opera.


Gurdjieff on the other hand is known primarily as a mystic, philosopher and spiritualist, though his musical practice, informed by his theories on life and energy, did take centre stage at various times in his career. The very distinct paths of these two men overlapped when de Hartmann became a Gurdjieff disciple during the First World War. They co-penned some 200 short works for the piano – or at least it seems that Gurdjieff whistled or picked out melodies he imbibed during his 20 year peregrination, which de Hartmann then scored for piano.


Another fascinating spin on this collection of 49 brief piano pieces is that they were meant to accompany “sacred dances” choreographed by Gurdjieff. The 1979 Peter Brook movie Meetings with Remarkable Men shows a scene of such a dance. Another example can be viewed online: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3926028940560435071&hl=en#


How do these brief piano pieces work as listening music? A few have an innocent, evanescent charm. Much of it sounds like early 20th century parlour music with a Middle Eastern twist. The Montreal pianist Patrice Lare plays them with élan.


For seekers who wish to dive even deeper into the deep well of Gurdjieff’s music, there is a 19 hour compilation “Harmonic Development: The Complete Harmonium recordings 1948-1949” on the Basta Music label from The Netherlands.


04_fringe_percFringe Percussion

Fringe Percussion

Independent FP2009


From the first ten seconds of the first track of “Fringe Percussion”, I was held spellbound. The Vancouver group of the same name is able to hold their own in the diverse and talented pool of Canadian percussionists and percussion ensembles by performing an interesting program with consistent precision and musicality.

John Cage’s Dance Music for Elfrid Ide was an unknown work until its 2005 discovery in the Mills College archives. Composed for dancer/student Elfrid Ide, it is a charming three movement work. The performers capture Cage’s nuances with elegance, especially in the softer sections. Jocelyn Morlock’s Darwin’s Walken Fish Quartet is all musical fun and games, with a splashy percussive ending that contemplates what life would be like if fish were four-legged creatures. The Fringe Percussion recording of John Wyre’s Marubatoo is based upon the work’s unrecorded trio version. Composer Colin MacDonald’s contribution is Enginuity. This feels more like a work in progress, with the clever idea of having the vibraphone and marimba supporting the drumming really coming to fruition in the final third of the work. The energetic Latin flavoured Los Forwards by Graham Boyle completes the release.

What strikes me in listening to Fringe Percussion is the meticulous rhythmic ensemble playing which is overshadowed only by a formidable musical sense. Jonathan Bernard, Martin Fisk, Brian Nesselroad and Daniel Tones play together like lifelong friends. Here’s hoping that they continue drumming together for a long time!

03_creating_landscapeCreating A Landscape

Réa Beaumont

Shrinking Planet Productions SPP 0089 (www.creatingalandscape.com)

Sometimes the planets align, and fortune favours the bold. These sayings only partially do justice to Réa Beaumont, who takes command of the stage of Glenn Gould Studio with a stunning set of contemporary piano works.

Opening with Arvo Pärt’s groundbreaking tintinnabular work
Für Alina, the dynamic continues to remain below mezzo piano for an astonishing 13 minutes. Cage’s very early In a Landscape, played as it was written with no prepared piano devices, rounds out this episode. As you proceed through the works, the material grows gradually denser and more adventurous. Beaumont chose another early work, Colin McPhee’s Op. 1 Piano Sketches from 1916, showing the composer in great form before his exposure to the gamelan. Barbara Pentland’s relatively late (1983) Vincula is an adventurous bit of polyphony, and sensitively played. Chan Ka Nin cascades arpeggiated lines in Vast. Brent Lee’s Subjective Geometries restores the tranquility. The surprise ending is Anton Kuerti’s 6-movement Six Arrows (1974) in a thoroughly 20th century idiom, far removed from anything remotely related to Beethoven.

Beaumont handles all this repertoire with enviable ease. Glenn Gould Studio’s hand-picked Steinway D274 is sensitively recorded by the legendary team of Jaeger and Quinney, with help from Dennis Patterson. The recorded sound is not “in your face”, but nonetheless you can clearly hear subtle nuances of pedalling. You absolutely must hear this.

02_villa-lobos_symphoniesVilla-Lobos - Complete Symphonies

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra WDR; Carl St. Clair

CPO 777 516-2

The eminent Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) took as his model for symphonic compositions the cyclic approach endorsed by Vincent d’Indy, regarded in the conservative Brazilian musical circles of his day as quite innovative. Though Villa-Lobos was to discover on first visiting France in 1923 that he was a generation behind contemporary trends in this regard, he doggedly held on to this model for the remainder of his works in this genre. The 12 symphonies are almost entirely cast in four often quite lengthy movements with very few traces of the indigenous Brazilian characteristics for which he is best known. His symphonies have never been as popular as his celebrated Bachianas Brasilieras and Chôros cycles and the majority of them have not previously been available in recordings. Fortunately the American conductor Carl St. Clair began the project of documenting these works in Stuttgart in 1997 for the innovative CPO label and we now have the complete works in an attractively priced box set.

The early symphonies date from 1917 to 1920; symphonies 2-5 are part of a cycle documenting the course of the First World War (the score of the fifth symphony however is lost). The French influence is prominent, including Debussian whole tone passages, lush harmonies and programmatic quotations of La Marseillaise. The Stuttgart forces cope admirably with the often cruel string writing and congested scoring. The later symphonies date from 1944 to 1957 and were commissions from various orchestras; the most impressive of these, the grandiose “Amerindia” choral Symphony No. 10, was written for the 400th Anniversary of the City of São Paulo. The harmonic language of these later works is considerably more interesting and the orchestration marginally more concise, though there is sometimes a surfeit of counterpoint that suggests mere note-spinning.

Carl St. Clair is to be commended for his patience in deciphering the error-ridden manuscripts and contributing the essential interpretive decisions this notoriously prolific composer neglected to indicate. Though these self-consciously cosmopolitan symphonies may lack the charm of his overtly nationalist works they are typically impassioned, energetic, and well worth listening to. This is a well-recorded landmark set and a must-have item for aficionados of Latin America’s greatest composer.

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