Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

This recently published Musicor album is pulled from the Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil’s “Les Balcons symphoniques” tour, during which they played well-known music outside medical centers at the height of the pandemic to deliver moments of peace and emotional release to residents and personnel; a form of “spiritual medicine and vaccination,” according to the orchestra. To appreciate the disc, it’s important to keep in mind this human gesture undertaken by the orchestra during such a crisis. The disc is comprised of instrumental versions of well-known, magnificent works loved by the public. Some featured Quebecois songs include J’t’aime comme un fou,…

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When did John Adams become John Adams? Around 1995, according to his own narrative, when he broke with repetitive minimalism and found a more variegated expression. The turning point was an orchestral work called Slonimsky’s Earbox, written soon after the contentious opera The Death of Klinghoffer and paying homage to one of the quirkiest characters ever seen in a concert hall. Nicolas Slonimsky was a Russian-Jewish polymath who made himself useful to Serge Koussevitsky and Leonard Bernstein by re-barring complex scores that they could not beat unaided. The Rite of Spring, on their recordings, is taken from Slonimsky’s score. Among…

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When John Cage came to Moscow in the summer of 1988 it was not so much a convergence of opposites as a validation of the prophecy of cultural deconstruction which the American iconoclast had long foretold. Cage made music by breaking it down, causing records to stick in a groove, telling performers to chance it, making silence instead of sound. The Soviet Union, in its final disintegration year, was the perfect place to preach his kooky doctrines. Cage met a young pianist, Alexei Lyubimov, who became an instant apostle. ‘We drank vodka and ate dandelions,’ Lyubimov recalls. He was transfixed…

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I dithered for weeks over whether or not to review this release, for reasons that will soon become clear. In the course of my indecision I listened to it at least ten times, so much so that it became a signifier of the state of our world in the war-torn, climate-seared summer of 2022. It is now a candidate for record of the year. Matangi are a Dutch string quartet, enterprising in its choice of unheard and little-heard music. The album consists of works by Alfred Schnittke, Valentin Silvestrov and Dmitri Shostakovich, none of whom can be considered obscure or,…

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Vienna 1840: Romantic Viennese Music Pascal Valois, guitar Analekta, 2022 Johann Kaspar Mertz, for whom no exploration of Viennese Romantic music would be complete without his compositions, dominates the album Vienna 1840: Romantic Viennese Music. Guitarist Pascal Valois tackles Mertz’s Barden-Klänge, Op. 13 in a series of five highly expressive and technically demanding tempo rubato works. Valois’s virtuosic talent is on full display in the latter half of Tarentelle: Più Allegro, and in the entirety of Fingals-Hohle: Maestoso—the transitions between chord-playing and fingerpicking are made imperceptible through careful arpeggiation, and his ostinato is never dull. In line with the Romantic…

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Elle Angèle Dubeau, solo violin; Valérie Milot and Antoine Mallette-Chénier, harp; Lydia Etok and Nina Segalowitz, throat singing; La Pietà Analekta, 2022 Angèle Dubeau, solo violinist and conductor for the string ensemble La Pietà, has decided to use the ensemble’s 25th anniversary album, Elle, to showcase a variety of contemporary female composers. The result? A thrilling experience where the listeners never gets too comfortable with one style. Just as they come to understand the cool and brooding nature of Rebecca Dale’s Winter, for example, they’re surprised by the fiery Inuit throat singing of Katia Makdissi-Warren’s Mémoire. The album is filled with…

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À ses derniers pas, entrant dans la boue Aleks Schürmer, piano; Grégoire Blanc, theremin Centrediscs, 2022 There’s something to the theremin, a no-contact electromagnetic instrument invented in the early 20th century, that makes it impossible not to smile upon hearing one, and composer Aleks Schürmer is acutely aware of this in his album À ses derniers pas, entrant dans la boue. By contrasting the goofiness of the theremin against a grim piano performance, Schürmer squares 20th-century peoples’ visions of a utopic technological future against our dystopic 21st-century reality. In Ils se sont trouvés sur Tinder, Blanc reaches into the depths…

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Body in motion Daniel Janke, piano and composition; Adele Armin, Mark Fewer, Aaron Schwebel, violin; Rory McLeod, alto; Amahl Arulanandam, Richard Armin, cello; Alan Hetherington, percussion Centrediscs, 2022 “Body in Motion is an homage to choreographers and dancers of the world. They are the hardest workers in the peforming arts. They are an inspiration.” This is what Canadian composer Daniel Janke had to say about his new Centredisques album. After Songs of Small Resistance in 2021, he has returned with three chamber music works and a solo piano work. We can only recommend this album. Listeners are charmed in the…

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Glass: Complete String Quartets – String Quartets Nos. 1-4 (Vol. 1) Olga Ranzenhofer and Antoine Bareil, violin; Frédéric Lambert, alto; Pierre-Alain Bouvrette, cello ATMA Classique, 2022 This four-work album is an excellent start to Quatuor Molinari’s series on the string ensemble compositions of Philip Glass. Mishima, originally composed as the soundtrack for a film by the same name, is the most well-known of the works on the album, and the only one that tells a story. Quatuor Molinari’s violinists effortlessly transition between different melodies in Award Montage, which makes the listener feel like a storyteller is interweaving several narratives. After…

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Je me souviens Orchestre symphonique de Longueuil; Alexandre Da Costa, violin, conductor Musicor Québécor Média, 2022 The new album by the Orchestre sympho- nique de Longueuil (OSDL), conducted by Alexandre Da Costa, sets out to celebrate those small musical pleasures we enjoyed before the pandemic. It’s also a way of reminding us how well the orchestra served audiences during COVID via its series of socially distanced concerts entitled Balcons symphoniques, launched on April 14, 2020. Well, it’s all that you could desire. Listeners will discover or rediscover the music of these unusual concerts: French—especially Québécois songs—as well as anglophone hits…

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