01 PommesRatamacue! is one of the exclamations that the percussionist is called upon to ejaculate during Chanter la pomme (to flirt/to seduce) for snare drum. This is the first of eight short pedagogical exercises in the collection Pommes by Robert Lemay recently recorded by Ryan Scott and released by the Canadian Music Centre’s digital arm Centretracks (CMCCT 11218 musiccentre.ca/node/154883). The digital EP is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the Sudbury-based composer and one of Toronto’s leading percussion soloists. Pommes is a series of études for solo percussion instruments, four for snare drum, one for temple blocks, one for toms, one for tam-tam and one for bass drum. The title refers to the percussion sound POM, but also to the apple (the fruit). Each piece has a title that includes the word “apple” in French (pomme). Only the exuberant first includes vocalizations by the performer, but all require dexterity, precision and control. One might wonder whether a solo percussionist using just one (non-pitched) instrument for each exercise could sustain interest over the cumulative duration of roughly 20 minutes. I’m pleased to say that it is indeed possible, and in fact the result is quite entertaining. Of particular note are the delicacy of Tomber dans les pommes (to pass out) for temple blocks, the deep gong’s resonance of Pomme d’Adam (Adam’s apple) for tam-tam and the intensity of La grosse pomme (The Big Apple) for bass drum, which juxtaposes the low rumble and “pomming” of the skin of the drum with rhythmic patterns of rim shots. All in all, an exuberant adventure leading me to believe, as I have always suspected, that being a drummer must be a lot of fun!

02 John PsathasSticking with a theme, John Psathas – Percussion Project Vol.1 (navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6204) is the culmination of another composer/percussionist collaboration that began in 2013 when Omar Carmenates arranged Psathas’ piano and gamelan piece Waiting: Still for percussion trio. Psathas is a Greek-New Zealand composer and in the past five years a number of his chamber works have been arranged for percussion ensemble by Carmenates, an American, who directs this project and is the featured soloist in a number of the works. There are 10 members of the nameless percussion ensemble involved throughout the disc, so there is no question of monophony in this instance – just about every sound imaginable from a percussion instrument turns up somewhere on the disc. But a few of the pieces employ fewer, similar instruments such as Musica scored for two players, Carmenates on vibraphone and a different partner on marimba in each of the three movements: Soledad, Chia and El Dorado.

The disc begins with the full ensemble work Corybas which started out in life as a traditional piano trio. It opens with a gentle ostinato of mallet instruments overlaid by a lovely vibraphone melody. This eventually gives way to a raucous section where unpitched instruments come to the fore before gradually subsiding into a calm finale with low marimba notes, bowed vibraphone drones and a high chiming melody. The second work, Piano Quintet, also began as a piece for the standard formation named in its title, but in this instance the piano (played by Daniel Koppelman) is retained in the transcription, and the strings are replaced by percussion instruments. Again there is a wealth of ostinati, but not in the minimalist sense of strict repetition with minor variations. The work is multilayered in the extreme with different voices rising out of the murky textures, often to beautiful effect. Drum Dances, commissioned by Dame Evelyn Glennie for drum kit and piano, features Justin Alexander in the starring role, with the piano accompaniment here transcribed for mallet instruments and a variety of other pitched and non-pitched beaters. Psathas says he was “greatly inspired by the drumming of Dave Weckl, the very different piano styles of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea, and the enormous energy in the music of guitarists like Steve Vai.” There is great energy and great beauty in these dances, and all throughout this disc.

John Psathas: Percussion Project is a good reminder that the modern percussion arsenal is vast and varied, and that although studies may begin with intriguing exercises like those devised by Robert Lemay as mentioned above, this merely scratches the surface of a wild and wonderful world that can include anything that can be struck, bowed or beaten, sometimes including the kitchen sink.

A good example of this will be seen at New Music Concerts’ April 28 presentation “Luminaries,” a tribute to two masters of 20th-century composition who passed away in recent years, Pierre Boulez and Gilles Tremblay. Ryan Scott will be one of three percussionists involved in the concert along with Rick Sacks and David Schotzko. Both Boulez’s Le Marteau sans maître (with mezzo Patricia Green) and Tremblay’s piano concerto Envoi (with soloist Louise Bessette) are scored for three percussionists, although in very different ways. In the Boulez, one player is assigned the rare xylorimba throughout (Scott), another vibraphone (Sacks), and only the third (Schotzko) plays on a variety of instruments from the percussionist’s “kitchen.” In the Tremblay all three have extensive set-ups. It should be quite a sight.

03 LourieAnd speaking of New Music Concerts as I am wont to do – I’ve been general manager there for the past 20 years – I am writing this the morning after a stunning performance at Gallery 345 by young German pianist Moritz Ernst. The evening was NMC’s annual benefit concert, in this instance a recital that included music of Sandeep Bhagwati (who was in attendance and gave an insightful introduction to his complex work Music of Crossings with examples provided by the pianist), Karlheinz Stockhausen, Michael Edward Edgerton (a piece written for Ernst), Miklós Maros and Arthur Lourié.

In 2016 Ernst’s recording of the complete Solo Piano Works of Arthur Lourié was released by Capriccio (3CDs C5281 naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=C5281). Lourié played an important role in the earliest stages of the organization of Soviet music after the 1917 Revolution but later went into exile, failing to return from an official visit to Berlin in 1921. His works were thereafter banned in the USSR. His music reflects his close connections with contemporary writers and artists associated with the Futurist movement. In 1922 he settled in Paris where he maintained a close relationship with Igor Stravinsky, and then fled to the USA in 1940 when the Germans occupied the city. He settled in New York and wrote some film scores but gained almost no performances for his more serious works.

Lourié wrote extensively for the piano, as these three discs attest, but although he lived until 1966, in the last 25 years of his life after fleeing Europe he did not compose any solo keyboard works. The collection includes his early Soviet period (in which his interests included Futurism, somewhat experimental forms, micro- and expanded- tonality, and even some work with 12-tone techniques, albeit not in the Schoenbergian manner) and the output of his two decades-long residency in France. Despite the long association with Stravinsky, Lourié’s piano writing does not involve the percussive aspects so prominent in that of his countryman. It is much more subdued and gentle, tinged by the Impressionist sensibilities so prominent in his adopted land. Nocturne, the work that Ernst performed here in Toronto, with its quiet left-hand clusters gradually building and then receding under the right-hand musings, is a prime example. Written in 1928, it is one of the last solo pieces Lourié would compose. Two short final solo works complete his piano oeuvre, the little Berceuse de la chevrette (1936) and the Phoenix Park Nocturne (1938), “to the memory of James Joyce.”

An exception to the chronological order of the first two CDs, the third disc of the set concludes with a 1917 setting of an “absurdes dramolette” for piano and speaker entitled Der Irrtum der Frau Tod (Death’s Mistake), a half-hour-long monodrama by Velimir Chlébnikov. For this dramatic recitation Ernst is joined by Oskar Ansull. Although narrated in German, there is a full translation in the accompanying booklet. Ansull is also featured on CD2 in the peculiar Nash Marsh (Our March) from 1918 which is a strangely lilting “march” in 3 / 4 time.

This collection is an important addition to the discography, and to the awareness of an innovative and once-influential composer whose legacy virtually disappeared after falling out of favour with the Soviet regime. Congratulations to Moritz Ernst for embracing lesser-known repertoire. His discography also includes music of Walter Braunfels, Viktor Ullmann, Norbert von Hannenheim and Sir Malcolm Arnold. Also Joseph Haydn! As Ernst explains in an interview with composer Moritz Eggert in the notes for Volume One of a projected 11CD edition of the complete solo piano works of Haydn (Perfect Noise PN 1701), the keyboard music of Haydn remains surprisingly under-recorded with the exception of a very few sonatas.

Thanks also to Ernst for gracing a very appreciative audience at Gallery 345 with his insights and extraordinary skill. 

We invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor
discoveries@thewholenote.com

One of the most memorable moments while courting my wife Sharon was one evening visiting my friend Sheryl’s mom’s farm in Bowmanville on a warm August summer night back in 1979 or 80. The occasion was a birthday party for one of Sheryl’s brothers – a tradition carried on to this day, now with the most incredible live music gatherings in Sheryl and Brian’s backyard overlooking Musselman Lake. It has become a multigenerational affair and a great time is always had by young and old and everyone in between. But it is that first occasion which has stuck with me over all these years, specifically the visceral experience of hearing Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir blasting out from an incredible sound system set up across farm fields more than a quarter of a mile away. From then on Kashmir became an anthem of sorts for Sharon and me. Since that time I have heard a vast array of interpretations of that iconic work in any number of instrumental combinations. Some of the most effective have been cello ensemble performances, a formation close to my heart, but I must say as impressive as they have been, none hold a candle to the original.

01 Margaret MariaThese thoughts came to me when I put on the latest release from Canadian cellist Margaret MariaHeroines in Harmony (enchanten.com), which won a silver medal at the Global Music Awards in 2018 – not because it includes the Led Zeppelin classic – it doesn’t – but because of the sheer power of the opening track Stand Tall. As I listened in awe to Maria’s multi-layered cello – a virtual wall of sound – I had no idea of the context of the music. In fine print on the cardboard slip case it states “Each track is honouring a CANADIAN woman who inspires me.” I had to visit the website noted above to find out “Who they are and how the music embodies their legacy.” It turns out that the dedicatee of that most powerful first piece is Buffy Sainte-Marie whose authorized biography by Andrea Warren I had just finished reading (cf. the coincidences/connections I was talking about in December’s column!). Other tracks are inspired by such notables as astronaut Roberta Bondar, Snow Birds commander Maryse Carmichael, ballerina Evelyn Hart and civil-rights icon Viola Desmond, among many others. In an almost industrial setting, Chaos Reigns honours “the creative life force of novelist, poet, inventor and activist,” Margaret Atwood.

All but two of the 16 tracks are composed and performed by Maria in a brilliant display of virtuosity, both in her command of the cello in all its facets, from warm lyricism to growling grunge, and in her command of technology enabling almost orchestral realizations of her conceptions. The two exceptions are collaborations with flutist Ron Korb: the lush Dream Painting celebrating the unsung life of the painter and writer Emily Carr, and the moving To What End honouring the missing and murdered Indigenous women with its three sections subtitled Death, Darkness, and Spirits Awakening. All in all this is another exceptional outing from Margaret Maria. If she ever does decide to perform Kashmir, Sharon and I will be at the front of the line. Or perhaps across the field letting the waves of sound wash over us in the night.

Listen to 'Heroines in Harmony' Now in the Listening Room

02 Nordic AffectThe Icelandic chamber ensemble Nordic Affect presents a very different celebration of women, in this case Icelandic and Estonian women composers, on the disc H e (a) r (Sono Luminus DSL-92224 sonoluminus.nativedsd.com). Six mostly sparse sonic landscapes are framed and separated by the seven sections of the disc’s namesake, brief poetic statements by artistic director Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir. In her introductory statement Stefánsdóttir says “H e (a) r is an ode to hear, here, hér (Icelandic for here) and her. It springs from treasured collaborations that allowed us to ‘send sound and receive sound’ (Pauline Oliveros). We now extend it to you, this meditation on embodiment, acoustics and ecology.”

The award-winning Nordic Affect was founded in 2005 by a group of female period instrument musicians “united in their passion for viewing familiar musical forms from a different perspective and for daring to venture into new musical terrain […] From the group’s inception, [it has] combined new compositions with the music of the 17th and 18th centuries [and] has brought its music making to contemporary and rock audiences alike to critical acclaim.” The booklet is quite extensive, including complete texts for H e (a) r and program notes provided by the composers but contains no biographical information about them. I had to Google Mirjam Tally to find out she is Estonian.

Nordic Affect comprises violin, viola, cello and harpsichord and all four women also vocalize. I must say that in most of the atmospheric compositions included here, only the harpsichord is recognizable with any certainty, although Hildur Guodnadóttir’s Point of Departure uses the instruments in a fairly traditional way. The other works, including two by María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, are more mysterious and ethereal, ambient pastel washes depicting a mystical northern world. Having spent an enchanted ten days touring Iceland with my wife Sharon, Bob Aitken and his wife Marion about a decade ago, memories of that stark and magical landscape came flooding back as I listened to this enthralling disc. Highly recommended!

03 Saariaho KohI heard a stunning live performance of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s Cloud Trio last March when New Music Concerts presented Trio Arkel – Marie Bérard, Teng Li and Winona Zelenka – at Gallery 345. I was happy to find the string trio included in a new recording by violinist Jennifer Koh, Saariaho X Koh (Cedille CDR 90000 183 cedillerecords.org). Koh is joined by violist Hsin-Yun Huang and cellist Wilhelmina Smith in the four-movement work that begins in a meditative calm, then a Sempre dolce, ma energico movement followed by an energetic third before a tranquil and expressive finale. Next is a one-movement piano trio, Light and Matter, for which Koh is joined by cellist Anssi Karttunen and pianist Nicolas Hodges. This world-premiere recording starts quietly with both the piano and the cellist roiling darkly in their lower registers before the entry of the violin with harmonics and trills high above. Over its 13 minutes there is dramatic development, with furious arpeggiated passages interrupted by pounding piano chords, moments of angst juxtaposed with calm and lyrical intensity. A captivating performance.

The disc also includes a short violin and piano duo, Tocar, with Hodges, and the first recording of the violin and cello version of Aure, originally for violin and viola. The latter was written in honour of Henri Dutilleux’s 95th birthday and takes its material from a line of text from Anne Frank’s diary – “Why us, why the star?” – which Dutilleux set for a single child’s voice in his large orchestral work The Shadows of Time. The question is first asked by the cello alone and then passed back and forth with the violin, transforming according to instructions in the score to be “calm,” then “intense” and “fragile” until the end when there is just a memory of the motif, “just a breath or breeze – aure – now lost in time.”

The most substantial work on this intriguing disc is a chamber orchestra version of Saariaho’s violin concerto, Graal théâtre, a 28-minute work inspired by a novel of Jacques Roubaud of the same name. Saariaho says “I was interested in the combination of the words Graal (Grail) and theatre, thinking of an abstract search for the holy grail – whatever it would mean for each of us – and the concrete art form of the theatre. I imagined the violinist as the main character in a play.” The work was originally written for Gidon Kremer in 1994. Koh first performed it in 2006 with the LA Philharmonic and has played it many times since. This recording features the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble under the direction of Conner Gray Covington. It was recorded at the Curtis School of Music in 2016. The concerto complements the smaller chamber works to present a rewarding portrait of one of the most successful composers of the generation born after the Second World War. The playing is outstanding throughout.

04 Slience ProjectThe final disc, by Guelph’s Silence Collective, is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I found the premise intriguing enough to want to have a go at it myself, rather than assigning it to one of our more specialized reviewers. The Apprehension Engine is a unique all-acoustic instrument originally envisioned by Canadian composer Mark Korven for use in creating “an eerie film soundtrack.” It was realized by master luthier Tony Duggan-Smith and is a strange-looking contraption pictured on the cover of The Murmuring (barcodefreemusic.com). It is comprised of various strings, fret boards, a hurdy-gurdy-like rotator for sustained drones, metal teeth for banging and bowing, thinner wire extensions that act as flexitones, springs and a host of resonators, to mention just some of its potential sound making sources. To get a fuller understanding of this wondrous instrument, check it out on YouTube: Horror Musical Instrument - The Apprehension Engine. It’s hard to tell the scale of it from the image on the CD package, and I imagined the members of the Silence Collective all gathered around the “Engine” and each playing a different aspect of it. Before doing any further research I put on the disc and marvelled at all the different sounds that were seemingly coming out of this one source. It turns out my initial impression was mistaken and that it is just the right size for one performer, Korven himself. The other players – Matt Brubeck (cello), Gary Diggins (trumpet and too many other things to enumerate), Daniel Fischlin (guitar, also constructed by Duggan-Smith, and flutes), Lewis Melville (pedal steel and banjo) and Joe Sorbara (percussion) – all brought their own instruments to interact with Korven in three sets which took place at Silence – an independent, not-for-profit venue in Guelph – one evening in September 2017. The results are beyond my capacity to describe but not to enjoy, and I urge you to do the same. 

I am always intrigued by the connections I find, especially in the seemingly separate realms of literature and music, when something I am reading or listening to relates directly to experiences in my everyday life. I don’t mean when I’m reading about something because it relates, but rather when in unrelated materials there turns up an unmistakably fortuitous reference to something that has just happened to me. I have been aware of this phenomenon for many years, but the first instance which made me really pay attention to this synchronicity was one morning at a friend’s cottage when there was a thump on the window and we found a northern flicker lying, we thought lifelessly, on the deck. But moments later the bird shook itself and flew off. It was as if in a dream that I realized exactly this situation had been described in the Richard Powers novel I had been reading the evening before, right down to the breed of bird. Since then I have been aware, time and again, of how this in itself is, if not an everyday occurrence, at least something that happens regularly. (My wife Sharon says it could be because I read so much.)

01 Mathew RosenblumAt any rate, this month’s column is all about connections which might be construed as coincidences. The first relates directly to November’s column when I wrote about Wlad Marhulets’ Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet. Until that time I had not heard of the dedicatee David Krakauer, despite his prominence in both the worlds of klezmer and classical music. My ears pricked up immediately when I received another disc this month which features him: Mathew Rosenblum – Lament/Witches’ Sabbath (New Focus Recordings FCR219 newfocusrecordings.com). Rosenblum is an American composer (b.1954) of Ukrainian heritage, and the title track is an in-depth exploration of his roots. The composer says the work “involves the rewriting of my personal and family history through instrumental sound (klezmer-tinged clarinet with orchestra) and the sound and texture of the voice (field recordings of Ukrainian laments; sung and spoken Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish text by my grandmother). It is also about reconnecting with my high school friend and dear colleague, the amazing clarinetist/composer David Krakauer, for whom the piece was written. […] It is a tribute to my grandmother, Bella Liss.” He goes on to mention that it is loosely based on the last movement of Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique and also references his grandmother’s superstitious sensibility, which he says is grounded in Eastern European Jewish culture. It is a particularly moving work, with the haunting Ukrainian laments as prominent as the solo clarinet, soaring above the orchestral textures provided by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under the direction of Gil Rose.

It seems I can’t write this column without some mention of my day job at New Music Concerts. It was there that I was first exposed to the characteristic keening of Ukrainian lamentation when young Ukrainian-Canadian composer Anna Pidgorna wrote Weeping for our 2015 Ukrainian-Canadian Connection concert. For this piece the members of a sextet were provided recordings of traditional laments in order to better understand how to approach their instrumental parts, which were based on that tradition. This initial exposure made the laments included in Rosenblum’s work hauntingly familiar.

I feel obliged to mention another coincidence related to my appreciation of Rosenblum’s disc. The second work is called Northern Flicker, which is something I had not remembered when I wrote my introduction. The world works in mysterious ways indeed. Northern Flicker is for a solo percussionist who mimics and extrapolates on the distinctive sounds of this woodpecker in the wild. Lisa Pegher holds our attention throughout the witty and inventive piece. Soprano Lindsay Kesselman and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble under Kevin Noe then lead us through Falling, a dramatic work about the true tale of an Allegheny Airlines stewardess who was sucked out of a plane’s emergency exit and fell to her death in October, 1962. Based on a poem by James Dickey, the piece incorporates a recording of the poet’s recitation of his text which is then further expanded by the soprano. The composer’s use of microtonality – Falling is dedicated to the memory of Dean Drummond, composer and co-artistic director of Newband who championed the microtonal work of Harry Partch among others – adds to the otherworldly and at times eerie homage. This composer portrait disc concludes with the at times raucous – recalling that woodpecker again – Last Round for amplified string quartet (FLUX) and the six members of Mantra Percussion. Another welcome and effective offering from New Focus Recordings.

Listen to 'Lament/Witches’ Sabbath' Now in the Listening Room

The next connection encompasses both literature and music again. My wife, a secular and mostly non-observant Jew, does however spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, each year contemplating and reading something that relates to her heritage. Most years it is a book of history or theory or at any rate non-fiction, but this year, with nothing more appropriate at hand, she took my suggestion to spend the day with a novel. The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, a French Jew of Polish extraction whose parents were killed by the Nazis, tells the story of the family of Rabbi Yom Tov Levy, the only survivor of a pogrom in 12th century England. As legend has it, God blessed Levy as one of the Lamed-Vov, the 36 Just Men of Jewish tradition, a blessing which extended to one Levy of each succeeding generation. The story takes place over the next 800 years, through the Spanish Inquisition, to expulsions from England, France, Portugal, Germany and Russia, and to the small Polish village of Zemyock, where the Levys settle for two centuries in relative peace. It is in the 20th century that Ernie Levy, the title character, emerges in 1920s Germany, as Hitler’s sinister star is on the rise and the agonies of Auschwitz loom on the horizon. Gilbert Highet, a Book-of-the-Month Club judge, called it, “the saddest novel I have ever read, almost as sad as history.” I don’t think Sharon thanks me for the recommendation.

It’s been 20 years since I last read the book – that time in the original French – but it has always stayed with me, and so it was with curiousity that I recently picked up a CD by a Black jazz musician with the same last name as the author. I didn’t really expect that it was anything other than a coincidence until I read the note inside and found that Jacques Schwarz-Bart is indeed the son of André. A bit of Googling turned up the information that during WWII Schwarz-Bart fought with the French resistance and was captured by and escaped the Germans. After the war he went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, where he met and eventually married a woman from Guadeloupe named Simone, (who incidentally also went on to become a novelist and playwright).

02 HazzanThe disc is called Hazzan (enja yellowbird YEB-7789 naxosdirect.com/items/hazzan-468735). A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish musician or precentor who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer, in English often referred to as cantor. The project, combining jazz with Jewish prayer chants, is meant as a tribute to Jacques’ father who died in 2006. “As soon as I started working on the arrangements, it became clear that these powerful ancient melodies lent themselves to impressionist harmonizations, and could be enhanced with infectious rhythms from the African diaspora.” He goes on to say “In The Morning Star my father describes a character who – just like me – is a jazz musician from Jewish and black descent. He refuses to be labelled half-Jewish and half-black and claims to be 200 percent: 100 percent Jewish and 100 percent black. I hope Hazzan will do justice to this conception of my Jewish identity as the blossoming fruit of universal cross pollination.” Thanks to the Toronto Public Library I am now immersed in that posthumous publication by Schwarz-Bart’s father and will shortly embark on a novel co-written by his mother and father (Un plat de porc aux bananes vertes).

My own exposure to Jewish ritual is limited to attendance at funerals, memorial prayers said and candles lit for my in-laws, and participation in “second night Seder” dinners at the home of WholeNote publisher David Perlman. It was therefore a wonderful surprise to me to recognize one of the melodies from Hazzan as being Dayenu (“It would have been enough”), a song I myself have participated in during those Passover meals. The overall feel of the album is surprisingly upbeat and contagious. Schwarz-Bart has indeed managed to paint a “mystical and uplifting fresco” and his saxophone playing is truly cantorial. By the way, it is not only his Jewish heritage that has inspired him over the years. The product of a double diaspora, Schwarz-Bart fils is the founder of Gwoka Jazz, based on Guadeloupian traditions, and has worked extensively in Voodoo jazz with Haitian colleagues. Where will literary connections take me next I wonder?

03 MessiaenNext is a recording that features a work that has been a favourite for most of half a century – Messiaen’s Quatuor pour le fin du temps – and once again there is a New Music Concerts connection. Recently, when we presented the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, while the other musicians were out to dinner, Chloë Dominguez busied herself rehearsing the incredibly demanding cello part of the Quatuor which she would be performing with pianist Louise Bessette and other colleagues in Montreal in late November. I had a chance to chat with her after the concert and mentioned a new recording featuring clarinetist Raphaël Sévère and Trio Messiaen (Mirare MIR 334 mirare.fr) and the fact that the liner notes intrigued me with the mention of a piece I had never heard of before. I had always assumed that Messiaen, who had chosen the instruments for his quartet by what was available in the internment camp in Silesia where he was imprisoned during the Second World War (piano, clarinet, violin and a cello with just three strings), had invented that instrumental combination. But it turns out that Paul Hindemith had written a quartet for the same forces some three years earlier in 1938. This was news to me, and to Dominguez, and I have spent some time since listening to performances on YouTube. It is a very strong work and I found myself wishing that instead of just mentioning it in the notes, the recording had included the Hindemith instead of Thomas Adès’ Court Studies, a chamber arrangement of some of the incidental music he wrote for The Tempest. I find the Adès, mostly light and indeed courtly, a strange pairing with the Messiaen quartet with its powerful, mystical mix of sombreness and ecstasy.

The performance of the Messiaen lives up to expectations heightened by countless other recordings over the years. From the opening movement for full quartet, growing out of silence with the awakening of birds at dawn, through the strident proclamations of the Angel announcing the end of time, the respite of the solo clarinet movement, again depicting birds, and the calm of the cello and piano Louange, to the furious dance of the seven trumpets (quartet) and final movement of Praise for the Immortality of Jesus, a quiet meditation for violin and piano, we are led on a wondrous journey, impeccably balanced and full of nuance. The booklet, in three languages, provides a thorough history of the genesis of Messiaen’s iconic composition, along with historical and biographical context and some analysis. There are notes on the very accomplished young musicians as well, but I wish they had included some explanation for the name of the trio. With the addition of the clarinet the connection to Messiaen is clear, but as he never wrote a piece for piano trio (and almost no other chamber music), the name Messiaen Trio leaves me scratching my head. 

04 Mike BlockWith well over a dozen recordings of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites in my collection, plus transcriptions for 11 string “alto” guitar and for alto recorder (by Göran Söllscher and Marion Verbruggen respectively, both highly recommended), I find myself wondering, what does a new interpretation have to offer? This must be a daunting question for any young musician looking to make his mark in a world replete with existing renditions by virtually all of the greatest cellists of the past century, including Pablo Casals himself, who unearthed these masterworks that had languished in obscurity for nearly 200 years. One young man has answered the question by not tackling the canon in its entirety, but rather by selecting individual movements and juxtaposing them with contemporary works. On Echoes of Bach (Bright Shiny Things BSTC-0124 brightshiny.ninja) featuring Mike Block, an alumnus of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, we hear alternately the Prelude from the first suite, the Allemande from the second and the Courante from the third separated by the two very different movements of György Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello in what is a brilliant stroke of programming. Later on we find movements from the other suites interspersed with music by Ahmed Adnan Saygun, a composer who pioneered Western classical music in Turkey; Giovanni Sollima, one of the composers associated with Silk Road (it’s worth checking out the YouTube video of this piece Citarruni); and, strangely, Domenico Gabrielli, born a generation before Bach. Gabrielli was a virtuoso cellist and had the distinction of publishing the first works for solo cello and so has every right to be included here, but as the other non-Bach offerings are all contemporary the choice is somewhat surprising. Another surprise is the final track, the Sarabande from first suite played entirely without a bow. This seems quite a liberty to take, but I must say the pizzicato interpretation really works.

Mike Block is not only an accomplished cellist, but also an inventor. His “Block Strap” allows a cellist to harness the instrument to his or her body and play while standing, and even walking around. He has become quite adept at this, to the extent that even in this studio recording I get the impression from the occasion sound of footsteps that he is in motion. As one final nod to New Music Concerts I will mention that the first time I saw such a thing was when NMC presented Quatuor Molinari performing eight string quartets (at that time the complete cycle) of R. Murray Schafer at Glenn Gould Studio in 2003. For String Quartet No.7 Julie Trudeau had to construct a sling for the instrument to facilitate the movements that Schafer required of the cellist. 

We invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor
discoveries@thewholenote.com

As I sit down to write this column in Toronto, there is a gala performance taking place in Montreal celebrating the winners of this year’s Azrieli Foundation music composition prizes. Kelly-Marie Murphy is the winner of the 2018 Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music. This is the second time that the Foundation has awarded the $50,000 prize – the largest of its kind in Canada – which is granted to a Canadian composer based on a proposal for a new work which expresses an aspect of the Jewish experience with “the utmost creativity, artistry and musical excellence.” Established by the Azrieli Foundation in 2015, the biennial Azrieli Music Prizes (AMP) also include a $50,000 international prize, granted to the composer of the best new major work of Jewish Music written in the last ten years.

Murphy’s new work, a double concerto for cello and harp, explores Sephardic music and how it impacted other cultures as the diaspora settled in Morocco, Tunisia and parts of Europe. “What fascinates me is how music travels, and how it can subtly influence cultures throughout its journey,” says Murphy, who drew from Sephardic folk and liturgical melodies for the new concerto. Murphy adds: “The Azrieli Foundation has created a wonderful opportunity to encourage Canadian composers to write significant works on a grand scale.” 

01 New Jewish MusicThis is certainly true for Brian Current, winner of the inaugural AMP in 2016, whose proposal was to write an extended cantata based on the Zohar (Book of Enlightenment), “the most central book of the Kabbalah and the most mysterious of Jewish mystical texts.” I am sure that it is no coincidence that Analekta has just released New Jewish Music Vol.1 (AN 2 9261 analekta.com) featuring that commission, Seven Heavenly Halls, and the Klezmer Clarinet Concerto by young Belarus-born Wlad Marhulets, winner of the international prize that year.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must declare that I know Brian well, and he has served on the board of New Music Concerts, where I have been general manager for many years. He is an integral part of the re-visioning of the organization as it embarks on its second half-century of activity and in the coming years will share artistic direction duties with founder Robert Aitken. Current says that he became interested in the Zohar, particularly its reference to “Seven Heavenly Halls,” while researching texts for The River of Light, a large-scale oratorio in six parts that will explore the subject of transcendence in a variety of religious and cultural traditions. Seven Heavenly Halls is a dramatic work, almost operatic in scope, for solo tenor (Richard Troxell), (unnamed) chorus and orchestra (Czech National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Steven Mercurio). It is an exceptionally well-crafted work, with impeccable balance between soloist – busy throughout – chorus and orchestra, with a wealth of well-chosen colours which support the vocal writing, never masking the texts so carefully prepared by Current’s librettist Anton Piatigorsky from translations by Yehoshua Rosenthal. I find the concept of a prize rewarding an outline rather than a finished work to be intriguing, especially considering this it the largest composition prize in Canada. Congratulations to both Sharon Azrieli of the Azrieli Foundation for conceiving the award, and to Current for bringing the proposed work to such dazzling fruition.

As mentioned, the CD also includes the other 2016 winning work, Marhulets’ Klezmer Clarinet Concerto composed in 2009. The composer says “Klezmer music came crashing into my life when, as a 16-year-old living in Gdansk, my brother Damian brought home a CD by a band called Klezmer Madness, featuring clarinetist David Krakauer [the soloist here]. This was music that was so boldly Jewish, so full of wild energy that a kind of madness enveloped my senses as I listened to it… I decided to become a musician on the spot.” Five years later, having moved to New York, Marhulets met Krakauer and the result was this whirlwind work that draws on not only the Klezmer tradition, but also jazz, funk and hip-hop. This dazzling album is completed with a touch of history, Lukas Foss’ Song of Songs (1947) sung by Sharon Azrieli. All in all, a fine addition to the Analekta catalog.

This just in: At the recent gala it was announced that the Azrieli Foundation will add a third $50,000 prize to its roster for the next round in 2020. The Azrieli Canadian Prize, open to Canadian composers only, will be based on proposals for a new large-scale work exploring specifically Canadian themes. With added performance guarantees, recording and residency benefits, the prize will be worth some $200,000 in all. Applications begin in February 2019.

02 NACOAnother Analekta disc, The Bounds of Our Dreams (AN 2 8874-75) is the latest from Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra and director Alexander Shelley. It also includes a significant recent Canadian work, Concerto de l’asile (Asylum Concerto), by Walter Boudreau. Composed at the request of pianist Alain Lefèvre, the work pays homage to Québec poet, playwright and co-signer of the seminal Refus global manifesto that played such a large part in the Quiet Revolution, Claude Gauvreau. Boudreau is best known as the conductor and artistic director of the Société de musique contemporain du Québec (since 1988), but is a significant composer in his own right with more than 60 concert works and 15 film scores to his credit. The award-winning Lefèvre has devoted his energies to promoting the music of child-prodigy André Mathieu (1929-1968), known as Québec’s “Mozart” (although his virtuosic music had more in common with that of Rachmaninoff than with the Classical era). There are touches of this Romantic sensibility in Boudreau’s expansive (45-minute) concerto, perhaps surprising from such a champion of contemporary music, no stranger to the extremes of the avant-garde. The work is in the traditional three-movement form, here referring to different aspects of Gauvreau’s troubled life. The first, Les oranges sont vertes (The Oranges are Green), refers to Gauvreau’s final work, published posthumously in 1972. It starts with a flourish that sets the stage for an extended movement where the soloist and orchestra are seemingly at odds throughout, and ends with a cadenza representing the poet’s descent into madness. The gentle second movement, St-Jean-de-Dieu, depicts a time of heavy sedation (and shock therapy) spent in the asylum of St-Jean. The final movement was inspired by Gauvreau’s chef-d’oeuvre, La charge de l’orignal épormyable (The Charge of the Expormidable Moose) which received its English language premiere by One Little Goat Theatre at Taragon Theatre in May 2013. Like the play, Boudreau’s concerto is formidable, and Lefèvre, clearly in his element, is in perfect form.

The 2-CD set opens in a welcoming fashion with a sparkling performance Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte in which the orchestra shines. The second disc is devoted to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Shéhérazade with impeccable solo work from concertmaster Yosuke Kawasaki. I see that the orchestra has grown over the years from its classical model of 50-some players to a current total of 80, big enough to tackle these large Romantic works, which it does with convincing agility and aplomb under Shelley’s direction. This is their fourth recording for Analekta with Shelley at the helm, each of which has included new significant Canadian repertoire. Finally, or perhaps once again after an extended hiatus, we can celebrate the (C)NACO as a truly national orchestra. Accolades all around!

05 Paul LanskyBeginning in the mid-1960s, Paul Lansky was among the first to experiment with the computer for sound synthesis. Until the mid-1990s, the bulk of Lansky’s work was in computer music, for which he was honoured in 2002 with a lifetime achievement award by SEAMUS (the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States). The first time I heard his music was thanks to my WholeNote colleague and former CBC radio producer David Jaeger, sometime in 1985 on his program Two New Hours. It was a brilliant piece titled Idle Chatter, in which the composer had used computer synthesis to mimic the sound of the human voice, or actually a room full of human voices, and created the babble of a crowd in which you could swear you heard actual words and syntax. It’s available on YouTube and if you’ve not heard it, it’s well worth the search.

Since 2004 Lansky has concentrated on instrumental composition without any electronic involvement, as witnessed by the latest of some two dozen recordings on the Bridge label, The Long and Short of It (BRIDGE 9495 bridgerecords.com). In the notes Lansky states that the music contained here, although recently composed, relates to his earliest musical experiences at the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan, playing folk guitar (with some classical studies) and later the French horn. He achieved quite a high performance level with the latter and for a time was a member of the Dorian Wind Quintet. It is with a wind quintet that this disc begins, the title work performed by Windscape. It is an extended work inspired by the third-movement Adagio of Mozart’s Serenade for Winds K.361, passing through a number of moods and colours, at some moments reminiscent of the busy chatter of the electronic piece I mentioned above. Talking Guitars uses the metaphor of a conversation to characterize a dialogue between the two instrumentalists, although it is much more lyrical than the busy computer chatter I keep mentioning. It is performed by the brilliant young guitarists, Jiyeon Kim and Hao Yang. Pieces of Advice for horn and piano was written for William Purvis and Mihae Lee. The suite consists of “character studies,” with the following performance instructions for the five movements: “Be Mysterious,” “Be Proud,” “Be Patient,” “Be Annoying” and “Be Insistent.” It quite effectively depicts all these moods and is beautifully realized by its dedicatees. It seems whatever the genre, Lansky’s music continues to attract and satisfy.

Listen to 'The Long and Short of It' Now in the Listening Room

03 12 EnsembleI cannot remember when I first heard the music of Polish composer Witold Lutosławski, but I do know that I was thoroughly enthralled by the time I had the great pleasure of meeting him thanks to New Music Concerts back in 1993, before I was directly involved with the organization. On that occasion he was in Toronto to conduct what would turn out to be his last concert – he died just a few months later of cancer. The live CBC recording was released as an independent CD by New Music Concerts and later reissued by Naxos (8.572450). Needless to say I was pleased when I received a new CD by 12 Ensemble, one of the UK’s leading string orchestras, which features Lutosławski’s Musique funèbre. Composed in 1958 and dedicated to the memory of Béla Bartók, it was the last traditional work he composed before incorporating aleatoric principals into his writing, although it does employ 12-tone techniques. It is a moving work, suitably dark, and is here performed with distinction. The group, known for performing without a conductor, has a homogenous sound and an innate sense of ensemble. The Lutosławski is followed by Ulysses Awakes by John Woolrich, which seems to rise from the shadows of the Lutosławski, and perhaps gives rise to the album’s title Resurrection, released on the new Sancho Panza label (SPANCD 001 juno.co.uk/labels/Sancho+Panza). It grows gradually and with an almost medieval, plaintive solo melody fades again. This is followed by Kate Whitley’s Autumn Songs, with whirling glissandi and quiet tremolos in the ensemble once again, and a gentle, soaring melody rising above. The final work, by far the longest, takes us full circle with American rock guitarist Bryce Dressner’s Response Lutosławski, a moving homage commissioned by the National Audiovisual Institute of Poland. The five-movement work explores various thoughtful moods and shows a command of the string orchestra idiom, without a hint of Dressner’s pop-music roots. This perfect bookend completes a stunning debut for both this impeccable ensemble and a new label.

04 The Scene of the CrimeI was skeptical when I first came across the disc The Scene of the Crime featuring Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger (Colin Currie Records CCR0002 colincurrie.com). I was not convinced that the combination of percussion and trumpet could sustain interest over the duration of an entire CD. But sustain it does, in many intriguing and satisfying ways. In the words of Currie, “The duo with Håkan Hardenberger is my musical safe space for maximum risk-taking. From my earliest point of connection with this most regal of musicians, what entranced me was the fearless audacity of the endeavour. Envelopes pushed, or simply reinvented, boundaries moved and canvasses recast.” They do this through interpretations of some striking repertoire, from André Jolivet’s 1971 Heptade with its unpitched percussion instruments, through Joe Duddell’s Catch (with Currie on marimba) and Tobias Broström’s use of gongs and vibraphone in Dream Variations, to Daniel Börtz’s mystical Dialogo 4 which begins in near silence, and the title track, Brett Dean’s 2017 composition ... the scene of the crime... written especially for the duo’s “skill and infectious drive, scored for trumpet, flugelhorn and drum kit.” The album never loses its grip on the listener’s attention. A resounding achievement! 

We invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor
discoveries@thewholenote.com

01 Marc DjokicI begin this month with a hot-off-the-press solo violin release on the ATMA label. Solo Seven (ACD2 2748 atmaclassique.com) features works by seven Canadian composers including several written for the soloist, young scion of one of Atlantic Canada’s most respected musical families. After initial studies with his father, renowned violinist Philippe, Marc Djokic continued his studies in the United States at the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Young Artist Program, the New England Conservatory, and with Jaime Laredo at Indiana University. Winner of the 2017-2018 Prix Goyer, a Prix Opus and a former Instrument Bank recipient from the Canada Council, Djokic is currently artist-in-residence at CAMMAC (the Canadian Amateur Musicians association) and was recently named principal violin of the McGill Chamber Orchestra. Solo Seven marks his recording debut.

The disc begins with two virtuosic, moto perpetuo movements from Richard Mascall’s Sonata for solo violin & Digital FX. The first movement, Labyrinth for amplified violin and digital reverb, which Mascall wrote in 1992 at the age of 19 while a first year undergraduate student, went on to success at the CBC Young Composers’ Competition. In 1993 it was chosen to represent Canada at the International Rostrum of Composers and that same year Mascall completed the five-movement sonata. At The Corner House, a reference to a chic Toronto restaurant where the composer worked for a time, is the final movement and it culminates with a blazing cadenza-like “guitar solo,” actually a transcription of an infamous passage from Eddie Van Halen’s iconic Eruption. I must say that it translates effectively to violin, especially in the hands of this young master.

We are also presented with selections from Noncerto RR3, Noncerto Notre-Dame-de-Grace by Matthias Maute. I was familiar with Maute as the director of Ensemble Caprice and as a flute and recorder soloist, but this was my introduction to his work as a composer. The opening Sparkle – Andantino is a warm and gentle movement where the sparkle is more reflective than effervescent. Chopin – A tempo giusto juxtaposes ebullient arpeggiated sections with contemplative melodic moments. Casareccia – Chaconne Prestissimo, is as you would suspect, primarily boisterous although not without some elongated double-stopped melodic passages, providing an exciting finale.

Vincent Ho’s brief Morning Song, evidently begun and finished while watching a single sunrise, gives respite from the whirlwinds that precede it, somewhat reminiscent of The Lark Ascending. Serbian-born Ana Sokolovic is also represented by excerpts, in this case two movements from Five Dances for Violin Solo which the composer tells us, although modelled on the Baroque suite are actually imaginary dances based on the rhythmic improvisations that are characteristic of the folk music of the Balkans. There are echoes of the Baroque in Kevin Lau’s Tears as well, which he says draws inspiration from Bach’s Chaconne in D minor, “whose dramatic three-part arc influenced the architecture and tonal centre of my own piece”; but also from Berio’s Sequenza VIII, “whose searing narrative made a stunning impression on me as a student.” Lau wrote the piece while a student at U of T in 2006, but revised it in 2017 for the purpose of this recording.

Murray Adaskin’s Vocalise No.1 was composed for clarinet solo in 1989 and adapted three years later for violin and dedicated to Andrew Dawes, founding first violinist of the Orford Quartet. Throughout this work, the composer uses a melody which reoccurs in undulating variations, gradually rising in pitch and giving the impression of moving from darkness to light. Incidentally, it was Andrew Dawes who performed Mascall’s Labyrinth during the CBC Young Composers Competition.

This in effect brings the disc full circle, but wait, there’s more, in the form of an “encore” piece Dystopia by Christos Hatzis. Hatzis tells us that, “Hidden behind the hyper-virtuosity and relative brevity,

this piece is a meditation on the causes of religious intransigence, disenchantment and, ultimately, jihad. The literal meaning of the title (a ‘terrible plac’) refers to the current conflict between narrowly defined religious creeds, particularly the conflict between the Moslem world, and the so-called Western civilization, or modernity.” It provides a timely and fitting coda to this fine recording.

I look forward to further releases from Marc Djokic, and to hearing the other movements of Mascall’s, Maute’s and Sokolovic’s suites on some future occasion.

Listen to 'Solo Seven' Now in the Listening Room

02 Telegraph QuartetOne of the first works I ever heard that integrated electronics with live performance was American composer Leon Kirchner’s 1966 String Quartet No.3 with electronic tape. It was an epiphany for me and an introduction to a brave new world. On Into the Light (Centaur CRC 3651 centaurrecords.com), the Telegraph Quartet performs an earlier work by Kirchner, the String Quartet No.1 from 1949, a gnarly modernistic composition, that while lacking any electronic extensions of the sound world manages to push the envelope in its own ways. The third movement Divertimento seems to foreshadow the world of Schnittke’s “ghost waltz” and the Adagio final movement anticipates late Shostakovich. Another revelation to me, or more accurately a reminder, as I know I have this piece in my vinyl collection and first heard it nearly half a century ago, of how forward-looking Kirchner was in those early postwar years.

This new disc pairs the Kirchner with Anton Webern’s Funf Satze (Five Movements) for String Quartet, Op.5 from 1909 and Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimenti (1936). I will borrow from Kai Christiansen’s note about the Webern because “I couldn’t have said it better myself!” He tells us in part that the music is “atonal, exquisitely colourful, shockingly brief and so mysteriously evocative. Like five epigrammatic character pieces from outer space, they conjure eerie landscapes, fantastic atmospheres as well as ineffable inner spaces.” The Telegraph Quartet’s realization of these “jewels” (Stravinsky) is crystalline and thoroughly engrossing. The Britten miniatures – although relatively epic when compared to Webern’s haikus – provide a dramatic contrast: an angular and majestic March, lilting Waltz and playful presto Burlesque. All in all, a welcome addition to my string quartet collection (with apologies to Terry Robbins).

03 Douglas BoyceSome Consequences of Four Incapacities (new focus recordings FCR205 newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue/douglas-boyce-some-consequences-of-four-incapacities) features extremely esoteric – I would say old school new music – chamber compositions by American composer Douglas Boyce. The disc opens with 102nd & Amsterdam, performed by members of the Aeolus Quartet. The work honours the composer’s father and his love of New York City. It begins in near silence with nervous scratching and harmonics in the high strings. Ever so gradually, melodies emerge and a cello solo comes to the fore. Later the violin and viola join in a furious round of glissandi and dense choppy rhythms. Eventually the eerie atmosphere of the opening returns as “this portrait of an urban crossing beautifully captures how one spot in a city can contain an entire universe.” Members of counter)induction perform the brief but intense Piano Quartet No.1 which is a splendidly raucous homage to Boyce’s youthful love of Bartók and King Crimson.

The final work, filling more than half of the disc, is the intriguing Fortuitous Variations, in four movements performed by Trio Cavatina. There are literally pages of program notes about this piece in the covering letter I received from Boyce, on the one-sheet press release and in the extended notes on the new focus website (the disc itself has none). Boyce writes “The CD’s title is borrowed from an essay of C.S. Peirce, the inaugurator of philosophical Pragmatism and its particularly ferocious rethinking of the potential of thought in comparison to practice. […] There is a darkness here, as there is in so much of Peirce – a seeming submission to human finitude, to limits both cognitive and biological. And, I think, that gothic and mournful mood carries across all the works on the disc.” The movement titles – every deduction involves the observation of a diagram; the vastness hitherto spoken of is as great in one direction as in another; so it is rather the whole river that is place, because as a whole it is motionless and the dawn and the gloaming most invite one to musement – presumably refer further to Peirce and his development of “America’s great contribution to philosophy.” The web notes tell us (in part): “Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) is a fascinating figure philosophically, historically, and biographically. [...] founder of an intellectual enterprise committed to disrupting all foundations. His most inventive work addressed language, communication, and symbology; the pure volume of his output on pretty much everything is quite belittling to one’s own sense of capacity – mathematics, mathematical logic, physics, geodesy, spectroscopy, astronomy, psychology, anthropology, history, and economics.” How this actually relates to the music and its composition is beyond me, but Boyce, who is associate professor of music at George Washington University, has found in it inspiration to create a compelling cycle of works. Recommended for those who are not concerned with finding hummable tunes in their craggy contemporary music. The performances are all outstanding.

04 Gaite ParisienneThe final disc this month provides a bit of a “guilty pleasure” or at least a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I believe I first heard Offenbach’s Gaîté parisienne in my early teenage years on my mother’s Reader’s Digest collection of great classical favourites (I don’t remember the exact title, but it was about ten LPs and had more or less what you’d expect in a sampler). A new ATMA release by the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec under the direction of Fabien GabelGaîté Parisienne (ACD2 2757 atmaclassique.com) – features that cancan-filled work along with Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales and Poulenc’s suite from Les Biches in spirited performances. Paris-born Gabel, director of the OSQ since 2012, brings with him an innate love and understanding of French repertoire as witnessed in this, OSQ’s fifth ATMA, and 25th overall release, recorded live in Salle Louis-Frèchette, Grand Théâtre de Québec in May of this year.

Ravel’s love of the waltz, “You know my great liking for these wonderful rhythms,” resulted in a set of eight piano pieces in 1911, titled in homage to Schubert who had published two collections, Valses nobles and Valses sentimentales. Ravel orchestrated his set and in 1914 it was premiered under the direction of the legendary Pierre Monteux (who incidentally conducted the OSQ in 1962). Less well known is Poulenc’s ballet suite, but it provides an appropriate bridge to the final work that is the icing on the cake, Offenbach’s Gaîté parisienne, created in 1938 for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo with choreography from Léonide Massine, one of the leading lights of the former Ballet Russes. We are here presented with a half-hour long suite arranged at Massine’s request, by Manuel Rosenthal drawing on the best of Offenbach’s operettas, although primarily La vie parisienne. It ends with the gorgeous Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann, and a good time is had by all!

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We welcome your feedback and invite submissions. CDs and comments should be sent to: DISCoveries, WholeNote Media Inc., The Centre for Social Innovation, 503 – 720 Bathurst St. Toronto ON M5S 2R4. We also encourage you to visit our website, thewholenote.com, where you can find enhanced reviews in the Listening Room with audio samples, upcoming performance details and direct links to performers, composers and record labels.

David Olds, DISCoveries Editor
discoveries@thewholenote.com

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