01a_bamberger_sacreStravinsky - Le Sacre du Printemps

Bamberger Symphoniker; Jonathan Nott

Tudor 7145



01b_bamberger_mahlerMahler - Symphony No.4

Mojka Erdmann; Bamberger Symphoniker; Jonathan Nott

Tudor 7151



01c_bamberger_janacekJanáček - Sinfonietta; Taras Bulba

Bamberger Symphoniker; Jonathan Nott

Tudor 7135

Nestled near the remote eastern border of Bavaria, Bamberg is the home of an orchestra founded in 1946 from the post-war remnants of the former German Philharmonic of Prague. It was lead for many years by old school worthies including Joseph Keilberth, Eugen Jochum and Horst Stein. The English conductor Jonathan Nott, best known for his devotion to contemporary music through his work with Ensemble Modern and IRCAM's Ensemble Intercontemporain, assumed the directorship in 2000 and has since energized the orchestra, introducing more contemporary repertoire and touring with it throughout the world to critical acclaim. Recently the Swiss-based Tudor records, in conjunction with the Bavarian Radio network, began distributing recordings of the orchestra in the audiophile SACD format.

The orchestra ably demonstrates its prowess and keen rhythmic precision in a hard-driven performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, coupled with a surprisingly genial interpretation of that composer's Symphony in Three Movements. Nott seems to me to be less convincing in the Mahler disc (part of a projected complete cycle), where his use of rubato is not fully thought out, though otherwise quite engaging. The Janáček disc is the most problematic, largely due to the manipulation of the SACD soundstage by the producer of these albums, Bernhard Albrecht, whose stated intent is to produce a centred sound as heard from the conductor's perspective, with little sense of the ambience of the concert hall. Consequently the antiphonal effects of the eleven trumpets in the Sinfonietta, as well as the organ passages in Taras Bulba, fail to make much impact in conventional stereo. In addition, the close microphone placement and mixing-board manipulations consistently rob the performances of dynamic nuances. Fans of the SACD format (I'm not one of them) may be willing to trade these shortcomings for their surround-sound glories.

Daniel Foley


Harry Somers - The Fool; Death of Enkidu

Various artists

Centrediscs CMCCD14209


02b_somers_pianoHarry Somers - Piano Works

Darrett Zusko; Karen Quinton; Jacinthe Couture; Reginald Godden; Paul Helmer; Andre-Sebastien Savoie; John McKay; Antonin Kubalek

Centrediscs CMCCD 14509


Harry Somers is so often referred to as the leading composer of his generation in Canada that I have to wonder why his music is heard so rarely. But these new sets in the ongoing Somers Recording Project should help change that.

Somers was 28 when he wrote his opera The Fool in 1953. It is an eclectic work. But Somers was acutely sensitive to both the meaning and sounds of Michael Fram's text, so never let his various vocal techniques get in the way of the words. There's a great deal of earnest discussion about freedom, and the constraints placed on it by the rule of law. But for me the most effective passage occurs when the King and the Fool step aside from their conversation. Each admits to himself what he really wants to hear from the other about the Fool's plan to jump off a tower to his certain death. But they can't tell each other, and the results are tragic.

As the Fool, Darryl Edwards handles Somers' demanding vocal lines with charm and fluency. Gary Relyea brings much-needed warmth to his role as the King, his mellifluous bass-baritone managing to sound both authoritative and vulnerable. Tamara Hummel and Sandra Graham are terrific, and the instrumental ensemble under David Currie shines, with Roman Borys' cello a standout.

The Death of Enkidu was written twenty-four years later. Here Somers responds to the mythological story, based on the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, with colouristic effects. But Martin Kinch's libretto, set in both English and ancient Akkadian, fails to reveal the dramatic heart of the tale. In fact, Somers' score is at its most vital in the passages of wordless chant. David Pomeroy brings character to the role of Enkidu and Julie Nasrallah - familiar to CBC listeners as the host of Tempo - is a moving Old Woman. Les Dala leads the capable ensemble.

This series is being called "A Window on Somers", and indeed the collection of his solo piano music offers a view of the composer at his most personal. These nine works - even the grandiose Sonata no. 3, here stylishly played by André-Sébastien Savoie - all sound distinctly intimate.

At the same time they present a mystery. Why did Somers stop writing solo piano music when he was just thirty-two years old? Following the fifth sonata, there was nothing for forty years. Then two years before his death in 1999, Somers was enticed back by the young Canadian pianist Darrett Zusko, who gives a characterful performance of Somers' last piano work, Nothing Too Serious. Of the earlier pieces, Reginald Godden, who was Somers' own piano teacher, is represented here by an elegant performance of the virtuosic first sonata, Testament of Youth. Antonin Kubalek gives a memorable performance of the Sonata no. 5, conveying a keen sense of its dramatic momentum.

These two important new sets leave me hoping for the future release on CD of Somers' iconic opera Louis Riel - whether in a new performance, or even the original recording which has been unavailable for far too long.

Pamela Margles


01_langaardRued Langgaard - The Symphonies

Danish National Symphony Orchestra,

Vocal Ensemble and Choir;

Thomas Dausgaard

Dacapo 6.200001

At one time, many music lovers and record collectors, including myself, believed that the record companies were archivists who (I say who because we thought of them as people), from the beginning of the 20th century had recorded and preserved the art of both performer and composer for the present and for posterity. There were performers whose name on the label, regardless of repertoire, translated to money in the bank, particularly for EMI, RCA and Columbia who had just about everyone and everybody of significance under contract.

As CD sales diminish, the majors’ output is almost exclusively artist driven. Today, it is the smaller, lesser known companies that explore new repertoire played by musicians who know and illuminate the scores. Except for Naxos, Chandos, and some others who conscientiously record new repertoire, companies, by and large, are merely replacing familiar repertoire with new performances. To record and issue works by obscure composers amounts to artistic heroism, no matter how they are funded. Such an undertaking is this omnibus collection of orchestral works by Rued Langgaard assembled from performances recorded from 1998 to 2008.

The ninth edition of The International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians (1964, completely revised) has no entry for Rued Langgaard, the Danish composer who lived from 1893 to 1952. It does mention his father, Siegfried, a pianist and composer who had studied with Franz Liszt. Siegfried, it seems, was also immersed in Theosophy, a religious philosophy based on meditation and mysticism, which in turn was deeply embraced by Rued. His music attempts and, depending on the listener’s frame of mind, succeeds in conveying his belief in dimensional realities beyond empirical perceptions.

Langgaard was an ingenuously inventive and highly skilled composer and orchestrator. He was not a Stravinsky, a Schoenberg or a Shostakovich but his lack of originally is compensated by an ingenious and inspired invention within the established Late Romantic style.

His first symphony, written in 1911, was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Max Fiedler. This hour-long work is already indicative of his later symphonic development and his individual rhapsodic, drama driven output, sounding for all the world like epic film scores which clearly puts him ahead of his time. This is certainly not a deprecating characterisation but these are the impressions of today, not then. A group of five named orchestral pieces of special character, deeply moving in the Liszt-Wagner genre, round out the collection.

Will Rued Langgaard’s career now take off? Will his symphonies become standard repertoire? Will musical dictionaries now enlarge their coverage? Will we hear his tunes whistled in the subway? Not a chance.      But by the same token I commend the colossal and patient undertaking by DACAPO to bring Langgaard’s music to our attention in such superlative performances as these and their many other CDs and DVDs of the music of this undeservedly obscure composer.

This set is a generous appetiser. In addition to his symphonic scores, Langgaard wrote operas, music for the stage, chamber music including string quartets, etc.

I intend to explore his music further.

Bruce Surtees

02_ragomaniaRagomania - Music of William Bolcom

and Clare Fischer

Richard Stoltzman; Lancaster Festival Orchestra; Gary Sheldon

Marquis 81397


William Bolcom, the eclectic American composer, is an enigma for me. Either I love his work or I just cannot fathom it. He draws on a multitude of sonic styles to construct his pieces, resulting in the ever present threat that a huge aural surprise is patiently waiting around the corner.

“Ragomania” features three works by Bolcom. The opening track of the same name is an interesting documentation of Bolcom’s musical experiments. Bolcom discusses his decision on a “heavy percussion part” in the liner notes. Buried in volume and sudden dynamic shifts, his music charm is sadly lost in the noise, in this first recording of the work. His Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra is a three movement, well constructed work played with passion by soloist Richard Stoltzman and the Lancaster Festival Orchestra under the direction of Gary Sheldon. Undoubtedly, Bolcom’s Commedia for (almost) 18th-century orchestra is the highlight here. Drawing on commedia dell’arte, the orchestration was limited by the quasi 18th century type ensemble of the work’s 1971 commissioner, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The snippets of ideas are fun and intriguing; there is never a dull musical moment here. No wonder Bolcom writes that is “by far my most-played orchestral work”.

The release is rounded out by Clare Fischer’s The Duke, Swee’Pea and Me. Using a number of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn tunes as a basis, clarinettist Stoltzman gives a stellar rendition, whether playing his part or even more surprisingly, improvising.

Just like trying a new dish at your favourite restaurant, “Ragomania” is worth the effort of sampling the unique music of William Bolcom.

Tiina Kiik

01_southamAnn Southam - Pond Life

Christina Petrowska Quilico

Centrediscs CMCCD 14109


This disc features piano music by Ann Southam, one of Canada’s most important - and most interesting - composers. The titles of the works on this disc refer to natural bodies of water, not just ponds but rivers and creeks as well. So, while the ten movements of Soundstill capture the calm surface of a windless pond, Noisy River, Fidget Creek, and Commotion Creek ripple and dance along. But whether these exquisite compositions are smooth or turbulent on the surface, underneath they teem with life.

The distinctiveness of Southam’s sound world lies in her ability to create a sense of space around the notes. A simple motif can emerge from the layers of sound, and, with a rhythmic or harmonic twist change the course of the music. It’s moving, and it encourages contemplation of what lies beyond the sounds.

Most of these works were written for Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, who in 2005 recorded Southam’s Rivers (also on Centrediscs). Her virtuosic command of the keyboard brings these works to life. With theatrical flair she balances the fine gradations in pitch and rhythm to create subtle shifts in mood, from nostalgic contemplation to irrepressible joy.

The cover art is lovely. But a reproduction of the painting by Aiko Suzuki which inspired Southam to write Spatial View of Pond I and II would also have been meaningful. The recorded sound is clear yet resonant, helping to make this disc such a delight.

Pamela Margles

Concert Note: Christina Petrowska Quilico will launch this CD on Tuesday, May 12 in Glenn Gould Studio with performances of the music of Ann Southam.

02_sayFazil Say - 1001 Nights in the Harem

Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Luzerner

Sinfonieorchester; John Axelrod

Naïve V5147 (www.naiveclassique.com)

At Grigorian.com

The Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say has achieved great success in both classical and jazz fields, with frequent concert hall and jazz festival appearances and a discography ranging from Bach to Stravinsky. As an accompanist, he toured with Maxim Vengerov in 2004, and in 2006 formed a duo partnership with the Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

His violin concerto was written for Kopatchinskaja, and this CD is a live recording of the world premiere performance in Lucerne in February 2008. It is a very accessible and extremely satisfying four-movement work, the title of which suggests that in this particular meeting of East and West the ‘East’ is going to be the dominant partner, as indeed it is. Turkish percussion instruments add colour to a rich and warm orchestral score full of sensuous oriental sonorities that reaches its peak in a wonderfully lyrical third movement.

Kopatchinskaja interprets the music superbly, with great support from Axelrod and the LSO. This is one concerto I’ll be playing over and over again.

Three other works by Say complete the disc. Patara, a quartet for soprano, ney flute, piano and percussion that was originally a ballet, and Alla turca Jazz, for piano, are both built on material from Mozart’s A major Piano Sonata K331, while Summertime Variations is Say’s third arrangement of the Gershwin song, here conceived as a dazzling solo piece suitable for use in both his classical and jazz appearances.

Terry Robbins

Welcome to the Modern and Contemporary section of our DISCoveries reviews. To skip ahead to a review, simply click the album screenshot below of the review you'd like to read.

Shostakovich with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko

Symphony No. 11

Naxos 8.572082


Francois Houle; Turning Point Ensemble; Owen Underhill


ATMA ACD2 2394


Gaito; Ginastera; Piazzolla

Quatuor Abysse

XXI XXI-CD 2 1589


James Tenney - Arbor Vitae

Quatuor Bozzini

Quatour Bozzini CQB 0806



Gallery Players of Niagara

Canadian Oboe Quartets

Gallery Players GPN09001



01_shostakovichShostakovich - Symphony No. 11

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Vasily Petrenko

Naxos 8.572082

At Grigorian.com

This is remarkably fine performance, superbly recorded.

The first performance one hears is often imprinted as the way to perform a certain work. I first heard the Shostakovich 11th symphony on an EMI recording by André Cluytens and the ORTF orchestra. Made in the presence of the composer on May 15, 1958, it is, by definition, unerringly faithful to Shostakovich’s wishes and is my ideal (available in stereo on Testament SBT1099). 1958 was a good year for the work as Stokowski made his celebrated recording for Capitol in Houston exactly 51 years ago this month and another Russian performance under Stokowski from 1958 was issued. Since then there have been a score or more versions that have been listened to and filed away.

Titled “The Year 1905”, this symphony depicts the events of Bloody Sunday when more than 200 peaceful demonstrators were massacred by Czarist soldiers outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. From the very opening bars, Petrenko perfectly shapes and balances the composer’s mood picture of the inanition of the multitude leading to the second movement during which the pregnant stillness is devastatingly broken by the deadly attack. All is quiet again and pain and sorrow lead to bitter resolution, presaging the revolution to follow 12 years later.

Petrenko does far more than get it right. From manifest compassion to total brutality, he conducts from the inside, exposing the composer’s sources of inspiration, his Muse.

The state-of-the-art recording is the best yet, making this CD a must-have for audiophiles and the composer’s following.

This is the first instalment of Naxos’s announced complete cycle with Petrenko and his orchestra, presaging an exciting project.

Bruce Surtees



Francois Houle; Turning Point Ensemble; Owen Underhill

ATMA ACD2 2394

At Grigorian.com

Canada has produced a vibrant cohort of clarinettists who specialize in new music; a short list should include Robert W. Stevenson, Lori Freedman, James Campbell, Joaquin Valdepeñas, André Moisan, Jean-Guy Boisvert and François Houle – the featured soloist on this recent disc by the Turning Point Ensemble, conducted by Owen Underhill.

First up is Vancouver composer John Korsrud’s Liquid. Houle’s virtuosic technique is highlighted throughout, from the opening highly rhythmic figuration, which gradually disperses into a more fragmented ensemble texture. It resembles a concerto grosso, with an extended slow section featuring a sparsely-accompanied solo clarinet - replete with the seemingly obligatory multiphonics - gradually returning to the opening rhythmic figurations.

Next is Schrift, by Quebec composer Yannick Plamondon. The liner notes inform us that Plamondon, like Eric Satie, has placed enigmatic texts throughout the score, such as “The mechanistic noise of a language that seeks itself.” Plamondon’s inventive use of percussion sounded “mechanistic” I suppose, but the piece ended before I finished puzzling over that one.

The third work on the disc – Concerto – features Houle as both soloist and composer. The title is in keeping with the original 18th-century convention of an opening section, or ritornello, introducing the soloist. Like Korsrud’s piece, Concerto is a three-part single movement: a slow meditative section framed by more vigorous opening and closing movements.

Kya (1959) by Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, is the earliest work on the disc, and one of the most intriguing, using texture and timbre as compositional determinants. Scelsi, an Italian aristocrat, lived in Rome, yet the piece seems more acquainted with John Cage, Harry Partch, Indian or even Nepalese classical music than the stylistic tendencies of Scelsi’s European contemporaries.

Overall, the sound is crisp, clean, and well-engineered. Underhill has done well guiding the Turning Point Ensemble – a highly skilled group of players on a par with Houle’s virtuosity - through some very complex instrumental textures.

Tim Buell


03_quatuor_abysseGaito; Ginastera; Piazzolla

Quatuor Abysse

XXI XXI-CD 2 1589

This is a fabulous recording showcasing the breathtaking emerging Quebec string quartet Quatuor Abysse. Simon Boivin (violin), Melanie Charlebois (Violin 2), Jean-Francois Gagne (viola) and Sebastien Lepine (cello) are four young string players who play with a sensitivity and maturity beyond their collective years and musical experience.

The cohesiveness and tonal magic they create in interpreting the works of Argentineans Constantino Gaito, Alberto Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla culminate in an unimaginable musical truthfulness. All three composers draw on both their European classical traditions and Argentinean folk music at different degrees. Gaito is more of the romantic stylist, though his String Quartet No. 2, op.33 draws heavily on the pentatonic scale. In contrast, Ginastera's String Quartet No. 1, op. 20 is more chromatic and rhythmic in nature. Piazzolla's work needs no introduction – L'Histoire du Tango is a string quartet arrangement by Jean-Francoise Gagne of the original flute and guitar duet. The four part work chronologically and musically outlines the transformation of both the tango as an art form, and Piazzolla as a composer.

If you listen to only one recording this year, let it be this one. I hope Quatuor Abysse continues to develop musically. Their astute musicality combined with an uncanny sense of respect for the compositions, the composers and themselves as performers makes for unequivocal and unforgettable listening.

Tiina Kiik


04_tenney_bozziniJames Tenney - Arbor Vitae

Quatuor Bozzini

Quatour Bozzini CQB 0806


This recording by the Quatuor Bozzini of the American–Canadian composer James Tenney is essential for anyone interested in experimental music of the 20th century. Superbly recorded at Radio Frankfurt by tonmeisters Christoph Classen and Udo Wustendorfer with the assistance of sound engineer Thomas Eschlen, the two CD set brings together all of Tenney’s music for string quartet, as well as works for string quartet and additional instrument.

James Tenney composed for string quartet throughout his life, and so this release provides an excellent overview of his compositional interests throughout his diversely productive career. From his lifelong interest in just intonation and other tunings, to his use of electronics and computers, his systems of stochastic development, his constant desire to engage in an exchange of ideas with other members of both the music community and the wider society of artists from all disciplines, this collection brings forward all of these interests with great clarity and passion. The playing is both accurate (and I can tell you that as a performer who worked with Jim for over twenty-five years, this is no small accomplishment), and sensitive to the sensuality of Tenney’s music. The Bozzinis are ably assisted by percussionist Rick Sacks, pianist Eve Egoyan and contrabassist Miriam Shalinsky.

Robert W. Stevenson


05_oboe_quartetsCanadian Oboe Quartets

Gallery Players of Niagara

Gallery Players GPN09001

James Mason, principal oboe of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony for the past twenty years, is joined by his distinguished colleagues Julie Baumgartel on violin, Patrick Jordan on viola and Margaret Gay on cello in this intriguing recording by The Gallery Players. The ensemble’s original concept for this project was to commission Canadian composers to create works derived from Mozart’s Oboe Quartet in F major K370 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the divine Amadeus. Of the composers on this disc only Peter Hatch fully accepted this challenge, albeit in quite a perverse way. His Wiki Mozart superimposes a distracting tape collage upon what seems to be a quite sensitive performance of Mozart’s work, with the droning voice of Gertrude Stein thrown in for no good measure. You can replicate the effect quite easily in your own home by turning your television, CD, DVD and radio on all at once. James Rolfe’s Oboe Quartet, while not in the least bit derivative, echoes Mozart’s refined style in its carefully wrought artistry and exceptional architectural balance. Michael Oesterle’s Sunspot Letters finds its inspiration in the solar observations of Galileo Galilei, juxtaposing frenetic, highly ornamented oboe passages upon the inexorable cosmic pulsation of the string trio to great effect. The studied monotony of John Abram’s Oboe Quartet is derived from an earlier operatic project and while agreeably melodic is the least relevant and most woefully over-extended part of the program. The excellent acoustic of Toronto’s Humbercrest United Church is vividly captured in these exceptionally sensitive performances.

Daniel Foley


01_shostakovich 02_carter

Click above Thumbnails to jump to review below.




Shostakovich; Weinberg; Ichmouratov

I Musici de Montreal; Yuli Turovsky

Analekta AN 2 9899

At Grigorian.com

Though the name of Shostakovich is printed in the largest typeface on this engaging release from the ever-reliable I Musici ensemble, in truth his music serves as bookends for some lesser-known works, most importantly the Chamber Symphony No. 1 by the Polish-Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996). Weinberg (sometimes spelled as Vaynberg) fled to Russia in 1939 during the Nazi decimation of Warsaw; the remainder of his family would later perish in the Trawinki concentration camp. During his evacuation in Tashkent he met Dmitri Shostakovich. Impressed by his talent, Shostakovich later encouraged the younger man to move to his Moscow neighbourhood in 1943. They subsequently became very close friends, and while Weinberg was never formally a student of Shostakovich his own music was closely modelled on that of his mentor, though in the case of his Chamber Symphony (a late work from from 1987) evidencing a more neo-classical and abstract approach betraying little evidence of his harrowing life experiences.

The young composer, clarinettist and conductor Airat Ichmouratov was born in 1973 in Kazan, Tatarstan and now enjoys a busy concert life in Montréal. His Fantastic Dances for piano trio (his own Muczynski trio) and strings was commissioned by I Musici in 2007. It is an affectionate tribute to both Shostakovich and Weinberg incorporating klezmer elements and includes a recasting the second movement of Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony as part of a demented waltz. The ghost of Gustav Mahler also makes a perplexing cameo appearance in the Ravel-derived grand finale.

The Shostakovich works include the youthful Prelude and Scherzo Op. 11, notable for its hard-driven second movement, as well as string orchestra arrangements of the Elegy from the opera Lady Macbeth of Mzensk and the sardonic Polka from the ballet The Age of Gold. Excellent sound and intriguing programming make this one a winner.

Daniel Foley





Elliott Carter - 100th Anniversary Release

New Music Concerts; Robert Aitken

Naxos 8.559614

At Grigorian.com

Elliott Carter’s one hundredth birthday is being celebrated this year on a scale previously unthinkable for a living composer - especially a composer whose music was for long considered excessively complicated and difficult. Carter is now recognized as America’s greatest composer - and not just because he has been around the longest. Amazingly, he is still composing.

This CD/DVD set of late works is a standout. It was recorded live in Toronto in 2006 at two concerts given by New Music Concerts. The most significant works are the two beautifully performed ensemble pieces, Dialogues and Mosaic, both presented in audio and video formats. But what particularly draw me on this disc are the virtuosic pieces for solo instruments, especially the exquisite wind pieces. The jazzy, playful Steep Steps is performed with remarkable versatility by the lone non-Canadian performer, American bass-clarinettist Virgil Blackwell, the dedicatee of the piece. In Gra clarinettist Max Christie shapes contrasting layers into a single eloquent voice. Scrivo in Vento, written for New Music Concerts artistic director, flutist Robert Aitken, provides an intense, expressive exploration of the instrument.

I especially enjoyed Aitken’s pre-concert interview with Carter on the DVD. You can feel the affectionate relationship between these two long-time friends. Carter is genial, witty, and brilliant - and quite mischievous. Aitken handles him deftly, but Carter doesn’t make his job easy. Asked about the genesis of a piece, he says, “I’m interested in the music – I’m not interested in where it came from.”

Superb recorded sound, exemplary booklet notes, and snazzy camera work contribute to a terrific set, not just for Carter aficionados but for those wanting to know more about the music of our time.

Pamela Margles


01_el_dorado 02_kodaly 03_remembered_voices 04_manhattan_music



Click above thumbnails to jump to reviews below.

El Dorado

Caroline Leonardelli

Centaur Classics CEN1021

Ottawa-based harpist Caroline Léonardelli’s fourth album to date offers an enticing mix of old and new: a program of beloved French standards by Debussy, Tournier and Damase book-ended by compositions by Canada’s leading composer for the harp.

Devising convincing music for the so-called “naked piano” involves technical and conceptual challenges exasperating enough to discourage many a composer. Marjan Mozetich, however, composes in a style ideally suited for the instrument and has contributed greatly to its repertoire. His El Dorado was commissioned in 1981 for harpist Erica Goodman by Toronto’s New Music Concerts and was followed by several further works for the instrument. There is a pronounced minimalist influence detectable in the evocative oscillations of Mozetich’s early works which have since given way to a more supple and idyllic approach. Originally scored with string orchestra and formerly available on a now deleted CBC recording of the premiere performance, El Dorado is admirably revived here in a budget-conscious arrangement featuring the Penderecki String Quartet and double bassist Joel Quarrington. The album also features the third (!) recording of Mozetich’s 1988 cycle of four solo pieces, Song of Nymphs, in an exceptionally scintillating performance. Among the French solo pieces placed between these Canadian works Marcel Tournier’s Féerie stands out for its rhapsodic and dramatic sweep, a welcome antidote to the comparative bucolic placidity of its neighbours. The recording boasts outstanding sound engineered by celebrity tonmeister Anton Kwiatkowski.

Daniel Foley



Quos Ego - Complete Piano Works of

Zoltán Kodaly

Mary Kenedi

Echiquier Records ECD009 (www.marykenedi.com)

Zoltán Kodaly, Hungary’s Composer Laureate of the latter half of the 20th century, is mostly known by his orchestral, chamber and choral works. His piano music was mostly neglected, so this collection performed by acclaimed Toronto pianist of Hungarian origin, Mary Kenedi, is welcome. Although by no means complete, it is still rewarding to follow the composer’s evolution from his youthful attempts towards his mature style.

The 9 Pieces for Piano, Op.3 date back to 1907, when the 25 year old Kodaly in Paris fell under the spell of Debussy. The talented, somewhat rebellious young fellow experimented by mingling impressionism with radical new rhythms and original harmonies of the pentatonic scale, which is the basis of Hungarian folk idiom. His predominantly serious mood is sometimes relieved with humorous pieces showing Kodaly’s lighter side that later became so irresistible in his famous Hary Janos singspiel.

In the 7 pieces, Op.11 one can see how much Kodaly developed in less than 10 years. Themes are more meaningful, full of feeling and the ideas previously experimented with have become integrated into the music’s message. Some of the pieces are based on haunting, lamenting melodies of Transylvania, that foreboding, mysterious region of the Carpathians where much of Kodaly’s research took place. Ms Kenedi’s firm, authoritative hands are most impressive in No.18 Rubato where she carries the assertive, long melodic line with wonderful atmosphere. The pièce de resistance is the well known Dances of Marosszek (1927) in its original version, a formidably difficult, colourful bravura piece that reminds me of Liszt’s piano transcriptions. Here Kenedi pulls out all the stops and brings this disc to an exciting close.

Perhaps due to the recording, some harsh tones are noticeable that detract from the otherwise very fine performances.

Janos Gardonyi

Remembered Voices

Ralitsa Tcholakova; Elaine Keillor

Carleton Sound CSCD-1012

As a violin and piano recording, this one is immediately evident as being at the top of the genre. Performers are first rate, and playing with a passion. Audio production is unusually well done, with none of the bizarre qualities one finds so often nowadays, either of the violinist sounding as if she is larger than the accompanist, or the listener being right inside the piano.

Excellent choices were made for the music on this CD, with special emphasis on Bulgarian iconic figure Pantcho Vladiguerov, who is represented by the Chant from his larger Bulgarian Suite, the widely-known Rhapsody Vardar, a Humoreske, plus an encore arrangement of Dinicu’s Hora Staccato.

Tcholakova and Keillor show an admirable commitment to Canadian repertoire, beginning with Gena Branscombe’s unjustly neglected A minor Sonata, well represented in this performance. Violet Archer’s Fantasy and Prelude and the Prelude and Allegro are equally well served. But the best is saved for last: we get to hear the violin version of the late Patrick Cardy’s Liessel, Suse, Ilze, and Gerda, and Mary Gardiner’s monumental Remembered Voices, here finally blossoming in a hall vastly superior to the Heliconian Club.

The Glenn Gould Studio’s hand-picked Steinway is on its best behaviour. No fewer than three sound engineers did the microphone wizardry. All photos are posed, with none showing the actual recording sessions.

An excellent CD.

John S. Gray



Manhattan Music

Canadian Brass; Eastman Wind Ensemble

Opening Day Records OD 7368

The Eastman Wind Ensemble (EWE) is a celebrated student ensemble at the University of Rochester with a tradition of very high standards honed through extensive rehearsals. Tuba player Chuck Dallenbach of the Canadian Brass was a student at the Eastman School of Music in the 1960s, where he shared lodgings with the producer of this recent souvenir album, fellow tubist Dixon van Winkle.

The title track, British composer and conductor Bramwell Tovey’s Manhattan Music, is a brash and bountiful set of seven variations which somehow manages to hang together quite nicely. Originally commissioned for the Canadian Brass, Tovey has recast the work for wind ensemble since leading the premiere with the Vancouver Symphony in 2005. A subsequent suite carved from Leonard Bernstein’s controversial Mass wrests the most attractive sections of music from this sadly dated 1971 work, while sparing us the cringe-worthy theatrical scenario. The arrangement by Michael Sweeney highlights the quintet most effectively. Rayburn Wright’s Shaker Suite tills the familiar ground appropriated long ago by Aaron Copland but falls short of Copland’s level of inspiration. Jeff Tyck’s eclectic, over-the-top New York Cityscape suite brings the proceedings to an appropriately rambunctious close. Mark Scatterday conducts the fine-sounding, slightly slap-happy ensemble with vigour.

The perplexing liner notes include a pleonastic encomium touting the virtues of the 1950s Mercury record label (marketer of some two dozen EWE Frederick Fennell albums back in their glory days) and a stint of shameless pimping for the founders of ArkivMusic, who, it seems, will burn you a copy of this disc for a fee should you happen to hear of it.

Daniel Foley

Oppens plays Carter - Elliott Carter at 100 The Complete Piano Music

Ursula Oppens

Cedille CDR 90000108

In 1997 Charles Rosen recorded all of Elliott Carter’s piano music for a disc called “The Complete Music for Piano”. At that time, the composer was over ninety years old. Now, some ten years later, Ursula Oppens offers “The Complete Piano Music”, with six new works. All shorter than the earlier pieces, none is a masterwork like Night Fantasies. But what they lack in monumentality, they compensate for in warmth and charm, especially the lovely Matribute and the ebulliently virtuosic Caténaires. Both are recorded here for the first time.

Oppens has long been recognized as a singularly eloquent interpreter of contemporary music. She has worked closely with Carter for many years, and was one of the four pianists responsible for commissioning Night Fantasies, along with Rosen, Paul Jacobs and Gilbert Kalish. In fact, she gave the premiere performance at the Bath Festival in 1980.

Oppens’ luminous performances of Mozart piano concertos with Mark Morris’ dance troupe during last summer’s Luminato Festival in Toronto attested to the breadth of her musical scope. This stands her in good stead here as she illuminates Carter’s complex textures with musical insight, revealing the poetry in this expressive music. This is a disc to treasure, and would serve as a fine introduction to a seminal composer of our time.

Carter just turned one hundred, and is still composing brilliantly - a miracle of creative activity surely unmatched in the history of music. I hope the next complete piano recording offers even more new works.

Pamela Margles




Nicole Lizée - This Will Not Be Televised

Various artists

Centrediscs CMCCD 13508

Not all CDs were created equal. This CD wipes a smile across my beard. After listening to it over and over, it’s apparent: Nicole Lizée knows the good stuff. I began doing anthropological studies by having this recording playing in the background and watching people’s reactions. What I deduced is that “This is not background music” could have been an easy alternate title to “This Will Not be Televised”.

The title composition is a wonderfully creepy musical adventure. The music goes in so many interesting directions. In the liner notes of this 2008 Centrediscs release, it’s mentioned that this piece was named a Top 10 recommended work at the 2008 International Rostrum of Composers. I would agree that this piece sets the bar for great contemporary music!

The piece RPM blends turntables with a larger orchestra. I love this sound, and I think the symphony orchestras of the future should make it standard to include an entire turntable section. It’s very difficult to describe the magical combination of turntables and ensemble that Lizée has achieved. It is obvious that every sample she uses is carefully chosen and appropriately placed. I love the sense of play in this music, from the live mimicking of skipping records, to the nostalgic use of cheesy 1980s heavy metal albums. When I close my eyes, a lot of this music is the soundtrack to the cartoon in my mind.

Girl You’re Living a Life of Crime is a pop-based piece, reminding the listener that the composer is also a multi-instrumentalist in the successful Montreal pop outfit Besnard Lakes. This piece certainly is not a standard pop tune though as it messes with the idea of tape-splicing and in the end the musicians create a shaky ostinato and eventually drive it off a cliff.

This CD does such a genuine job in celebrating jazz music, improvisation, pop music, contemporary music and everything in between. Lizée’s music clearly reflects the many identities of Canadians, and the next generation of its composers. Her fearless approach is engaging and I highly recommend raising children on this music…

Richard Marsella



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