RSS

Category Archives: Commentaries & Critiques

Concerts in Toronto – No. 3, October 28, 2015.

On October 28, a cabbie with too few miles in the driver’s seat and too little command of the English language, dropped me off in the dark of night on a street unfamiliar to me, somewhere in Toronto. With directions from individuals I met in an alley, I found my destination, the Australian New Zealand Club on Brunswick Avenue.  Commonly referred to as The Tranzac, the club is a bleak concrete rectangle that looks as if it could house illegal activities.

The corridor from the entrance to the main performance space is narrow. Jerry rigged curtains are only partially successful as sound barriers or as masks to hide staff and cases of beer. A few right angle turns add to the illusion that I’m in a carnival fun house or a Murray Schafer opera.

I like this place. Though the room is a bit seedy, it has a friendly feel and a rather large crowd has turned out to hear TorQ. TorQ audiences are made up of music professionals, students, friends, sponsors and the curious. They are always an important part of a TorQ  concert, providing a refreshing blend of  good humour and a bit of frisson.

TorQ member Dan Morphy greets and directs me to a chair along side his father Frank and Michelle Hwu, a former percussion student. Directly in front of us is Ray Dillard, percussionist, composer, recording engineer and producer and President of the local Musician’s Union. Further on is solo percussionist Beverley Johnston and her husband, composer Christos Hatzis. Rick Sacks, Artistic Director of Array Music is also in the house.

Tranzac’s bar is in almost every respect, in need of a serious upgrade; imagine no Campari on the rocks with a slice of orange, but then, Aussies reputed drink of choice is beer. I settle for a diet Coke and accept Ray Dillard’s offer to pay. Tranzac is a good place for small ensembles to proffer their wares and expect some return on their investment.

Judging from the number of  guest artists and the amount of equipment on stage, I doubt TorQ made anything much beyond a couple of beers each. The programme was titled OCTET, their guests being ARCHITEK a quartet of percussionist friends whose base of operations is Montreal. As usual, TorQ provided no printed programmes, preferring to announce everything from the stage. I must remember to bring a pad of paper and pen to their next concert. TorQ’s announcements have devolved upon Adam Campbell who is informative if at times loquacious.

The program consisted of a couple of very good works and a few not so good. The two bookend works were octets by Tim Brady and Michael Oesterle, both winners. Brady’s Spin (2012) was arranged from a large ensemble comprised of electric guitar, harpsichord, percussion, harp, electric piano, viola and bass clarinet. Rhytmically exuberant, it provided an exciting start to the concert. The Oesterle work took the grand prize. Titled California (2015) it was a mesmerizing stream of long tones and subtle harmonic progressions that never flagged. My question was whether or not this work could  be played as a quartet?  Funds for California were donated by Daniel Cooper who was in the audience and acknowledged.

Oesterie’s other work, Cepheid Variables for Quartet with Quarter Tone Glock soloist (2008), was not as successful. According to my source, a Cepheid Variable is a star that pulsates radially, varying in both temperature and diameter to produce brightness changes with a well-defined stable period and amplitude. It seemed to me that those brightness changes were the glockenspiel and its notes in quarter tones created startling moments when played with traditionally tuned notes.

Time Travels Light (2015) by Andrew Stanilan and Drum Dances (1993) for Piano and Drumset by John Psathas and arranged in 2015 by ARCHITEK member Ben Duinker, filled out the programme.

TorQ Percussion Quartet continues to thrive. Their collective imaginings create programmes and  performances which communicate directly with  audiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 12. KBS Concert and Hanyang University.

May 19 – 8:56 AM

I woke at 7  a.m. Still getting up early. Had breakfast for the first time since the tour started. Eggs and corned beef hash, toast, butter and jam. Today is one concert.

May 20 – 12:47 AM

Terrific concert. Good feeling from the time we step out on stage. Huge hall, 3200 people, Canadian ambassador there and his wife, all of Dong-Wook’s students and Salmunori, the Korean folk group. Standing ovation – lots of autographs. KBS televised the show. Great performance of Mather, Cage, Takemitsu,Improv, Drum line, Kobina –  two outbursts of applause in Birds and great Rags.

Dong-Wook is ecstatic. “We did it, we did it!” he cries. Embraces all around. He has been a dim light in the forest preaching percussion in South Korea for 10 years and finally has been vindicated for all his preaching. We have done it for him. A lovely moment.

All his students help us pack up under the supervision of his former students who are now professionals. One of his former student’s wives presents us all with a rose. This morning we take a bus with his students to a Korean folk village. By taking this trip we miss the telecast of the fifth game of the Stanley Cup from Edmonton. The Oilers could win it with this one.

May 20 –  9 AM (watching television)

Obviously a modern piece for c’hung (c’hing) solo and traditional orchestra with conductor! Flutes with the pieces of bamboo from the inside joints posted over a hole below the blowhole thus producing a buzzing quality. An instrument that looks like the player is blowing into the stem end of a small pear. This is a gourd flute with finger holes around the surface.

Percussion includes a marktree (western) and a large Paiste tam tam. Here the c’hung are played with the with a wooden bow (traditional), a string bow (western) and plucked. One model of c’hung had individual bridges under each string and another type has violin like bridges which many strings pass over. Another technique is to play with a small stick in the right hand.

A not too good percussion quartet playing traditional instruments. A crane dance – costumed dancing chorus of women singers. Probably this is Sunday morning folk shlock but some of it is interesting – taped in the same hall as our concert. On the US channel is an interview with a rock star. The men’s comedy singing reminds me of scat. I had the thought at Korea House that Louis Armstrong would have fit right in.

I must remember to bring some Fisherman’s Friends with me on the European part of the tour. Three fifths of the group has developed a minor flu and sore throat.

4:30 PM

We’ve gone to the Korean Folk Village. A Pioneer Village but larger – very nice to walk in  – beautiful walls. Dong-Wook complains of the use of Western instruments in traditional orchestra. We have lunch in the market square – a large space under tents  supported by poles. The food is grown and prepared by the people who live and work in the village. Lots of people  – children, parents, grandparents – a very friendly atmosphere in the shade – delicious food. First course is a fritter – pancake thickness – with scallion greens in the batter.  Reminds me of Eleanor’s oyster fritter batter. A soya type sauce with seasoning for dipping the pieces.

Kimshi is a beautiful dish of pale radish cubes with some kind of orangish red hot liquid and pepper flakes. Very refreshing. Trays of brownish cubes of bean curd and made from chestnuts. Very good with the relish with which it is served.

A sweet rice liquid served cold with grains of white rice floating in it. The grains are the consistency of Rice Krispies and are white. Desserts for us are inedible. I tell Dong-Wook this is the first meal I had where the main courses were like desserts and the desserts were like medicine. Another aspect of the meal was that it was vegetarian. The entire meal was served by Dong-Wook’s students who otherwise sat in a group at the end of the table and showed that usual distance a student has from their master.

Before lunch, there was a performance of peasant village drumming and dancing. And oboist stood to one side and played a simple melody accompaniment. Very exciting stuff – some of the players wore hats with wands from which long ribbons flowed. They would move their heads around and the ribbons would twirl in large circles and undulate in various patterns. The leader of the group was an older fellow who would signal the changes with a small, handheld gong. The drums are shaped like large western military drums, suspended from a strap that is attached to either end of the drum and over the player’s shoulder.  One head is struck with a curved mallet, the other head is struck with a strip of bamboo. The drumheads are held over shell of the drum with a rope which is tensioned by pieces of leather, exactly like our rope-tensioned military drums in the west.

In one of the Village homes is shown two women kneeling on either side of a low table each with a small club, the size of our hammer handles but shaped like a long flat shoe horn. Dong-Wook collects these and uses them in his music. The women pound clothing that had been washed and dried in order to stretch and smooth the cloth. Similar to ironing. They would pound very fast and play highly intricate rhythms and variations, much like jazz.

A candy maker nest to a large tray of rice confections is playing the scissors he uses to cut the long strands. The blades are very loose and shaped similar to large tongue depressors and rattle easily against each other. Bill said he had heard these “scissors” in the city as far as a block away. The fellow played a few licks for us.

One of the country gentleman’s home complex has an interesting heating and ventilation system.  All the smoke from the various fire in the complex is vented under the floors for heat and the excess smoke from all the fires is vented underground to a smoke stack in a corner of the compound.

Carl Rustrum mentioned a similar technique on the much smaller scale which he learned from an Indian tribe in northern Canada. When snowbound, and their tent is closed, the Indians would dig a tunnel under the floor to the outside and the smoke was invented down and out rather than the opposite.

At Korea House, the floors were heated with hot water run through pipes. I did not learn the system for moving the water but it was continuously re-cycled and reheated. Mr. Li said that this would heat the entire room and the only inconvenience of having to be careful not to step on the floor with bare feet.

Also at Korea House, we tasted the Korean rice wine – milder then Japanese sake and slightly thicker in consistency. We were introduced to the Korean dry white wine –”Majuang””. This wine is certainly competitive and could be imported with good chances of being popular. It reminded me  of the Greek wine Appelia – woody flavor, very smooth with a reasonable body. The grape from which it is made is the Seibel. It is almost twice the price of an imported white Burgundy. 5800 won as opposed to 3400 for the burgundy. In fact, it is more than twice the price because the 5800 is for a half bottle. A little over eight dollars US.

May 21

Another practically full day of the guys spending money and having lunch with hosts. We leave in a few minutes to give our concert clinic. Early day tomorrow with a 10 AM flight to Tokyo.

Salmunori gave us lunch at a fine restaurant on a very tiny street near the traditional music shop where we purchased instruments. The street and the restaurants reminded me of Tokyo. I began to get a rather severe headache soon after lunch began – perhaps an MSG rush. Salmunori is starting to get jobs in the West and will make their first trip to Europe this summer.

After our drum shop experience one of the members presented each of us with an autographed hand-drum of the type used by the farmers in the dance we saw at the Korean folk Village.

Back at the hotel, I ran into one of the embassy staff who teaches English to the staff of the Hilton Hotel.

One thing that has become abundantly clear, is the tradition of ensemble music performance without music and non-playing conductor. We have heard incredibly complex and lengthy compositions involving 2- 20 players, all memorized and played without conductor.

The first thing that struck me about the composition for c’hung which I heard on TV the other day was the tentative and stilted way in which it was played. The close up shots of some of the ensemble performers gave further proof to this.

The level of ensemble playing here and in China is far superior to most of our symphony orchestras and chamber groups. Usually, when we get a piece together in terms of intonation and rhythm, the performance lacks the final quality of spontaneity. Only with the finest orchestras and conductors do we have a chance of hearing a really convincing performance and even then, only once in a while.

Seoul is very hilly and Hanyang University is on top of one of those hills. The lecture concert is given before a full house and is very well received. We played music for” Pieces of Wood”, Cage “3rd Construction and three rags and “Imbira”  There are questions from the audience – music students,Dean of Music, composers and various teachers.

After the performance there is beer, soda pop, and nibbles in the lobby with a couple of hundred students and faculty. Many autographs and questions. A girl approaches and wants to question me about the Cage. I call over our lecture’s translator and the girl wants to know what the title “3rd Construction” means. That one’s easy enough, but then she asks how she, as a Korean, should react to the piece. Both the translator and I smile at this one and the translator explained that Orientals – she is oriental – must know first before they can react. whereas Westerners feel first and then react. I tell her of my conversation with Kwang Chao in Shanghai concerning friendship and Kwang’s reaction to that as being abstract. The translator relates this story about our improvisation and the girl says also that friendship is abstract. In China, I was told that audiences required the music to have a story, be programatic, and know the story before a performance.

As we’re talking, a young girl who plays percussion in the Pusun Symphony asks if there is anything I can tell her – any advice I can give her – a student of percussion. I tell her to trust herself and concentrate on sound. She asks if there is a different between European and North American percussionists. I say that generally European percussionist are concerned with percision.

Russell now has our flu. Bob and I are very flushed – sore throats, headaches. John, Jean and Bill go to dinner with Dong-Wook and some faculty and we returned to the hotel. I just had seafood gumbo, tenderloin steak with noodles carrots, zucchini. Perfectly prepared, very rare.

I’m all packed except for my shaving kit. 7:40 AM bus to airport. Despite my touch of flu, I’ve been fortunate in the main concern of travel. Good bowel movements. I’m still waking up at 6:30 AM. Christ, I wish I could sleep late just once. Speaking of Christ, Dong-Wook Park is a devout Catholic. He gave a long speech after one concert. I think he was making as much political hay as possible for the percussion department. He went down the line shaking our hands and giving each of us a big hug. I felt a little uncomfortable with that kind of display under such public circumstances but, what the hell he’s the one who has to stay behind.

PS – Students wearing masks and holding hands over face as we drove on campus. Yesterday a student demonstration was tear gassed. 15 hours later, the smell still hangs in the air.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Articles, Commentaries & Critiques, History

 

Tags: ,

Concerts in Toronto – No. 2, October 27, 2015.

Some years ago a concert presented by New Music Concerts in Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre featured the music of the German clarinettist Jörg Widmann. Hearing his music was a déja vu experience for me. Widmann’s compositions used many, if not all of the instrumental dtechniques my colleagues and I had struggled with in the 60s and 70s. Yet that night they were comfortably played and sounded fresh and natural. In a few rehearsals, Widmann had taught a group of Toronto ‘pickup’ musicians to play his works with authority. The techniques demanded by Widman had not been played regulalry in Toronto for nore than 50 years, but had been if you will in the air, allowing succeeding generations to absorb them as if by osmosis. Perhaps this transference defines Array Music’s programme title, Redefining the 20th Century.

ARRAY MUSIC Artistic Director Rick Sacks, stepped forward to welcome the audience and introduce the concert. He was dressed in slacks, dress shirt, tie and jacket, clothes which for him, seemed almost formal.  This attire, however, proved to be appropriate given the gravitas of the evening, its music, its performers, guest artist violist Vincent Royer, cellist Émilie Gerard-Charest,* and Toronto’s perennial new music pianist, Stephen Clarke, and the acoustically superb venue of Saint Andrew’s Church, built in 1876 in the Romanesque Revival style, on the corner of King and Simcoe streets in downtown Toronto.

Royer began the concert with Canto del capricorno l and Il by Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88).  Playing moderately loud and irregular strokes on a small gong, he entered from just off stage, that is to say, via an open door located mid chancel. After a brief procession, Royer put aside the gong and began a kind of sprechstimme consisting of multi syllabic nonsense constructions.  I first experienced these ceremonial or ritualistic devices in the latter third of the 20th century, though at that time, the notation was sometimes of equal or more importance to composers than the effect. There were no programme notes attending, so I am not sure exactly what Royer was vocalizing.

However, I had recorded in Paris some of Scelsi’s songs with my former Nexus colleague, Russell Hartenberger and Japanese soprano, Michiko Hirayama.  She had sung Scelsi’s “Capricorno” with 2 percussion, saxophone and electronics at Walter Hall, Toronto in 1981 and had asked us to record with her the next year after a lengthy NEXUS tour of England.  As I recall, similar speech sounds dominated the Scelsi songs as sung by Michiko.

As a concert opener, Scelsi’s music and Royer’s rendition were moving and completely convincing. The sprechstimme, was delivered unselfconsciously  and without undue labour.

Following were individual works by Royer – a solo titled O Souffle and the duet S’offrir by Gerard-Charest. Played without a pause between them and lasting about one half hour, they were similar in style and content. With the exception of col legno (wood of the bow), these works showcased many traditional bowing techniques.** The works also proved to be subtle tests in ear training. Within the sustainations were sometimes delicate and slow strisciata, up or down slides in pitch. These, among other devices, maintained one’s attention which might otherwise have drifted, so simple the works seemed to be.

During an extended cello ‘coda’ , Royer, who had been seated attentively and directly in front of Gerard-Charest, moved to a group of music stands in order to play the final work on the first half, Manto for solo viola, also by Scelsi. In this 12 minute work, a brief, but startling series of pizzicati, their first appearance on the program, provided a surprising and delightful contrast to the evening’s long tones. A memorable and evocative first half.

After intermission, an exploration of the church catacombs was needed to unearth soloist Stephen Clarke who finally appeared, unruffled and took his seat at the helm of a giant Bosendorfer concert grand – its extra keys provocatively uncovered. With composer Linda Smith as page turner, Clarke prepared himself to play the Horatiu Radulescu (1942-08) 29 minute Piano Sonata 6, Op. 110,Return to the Source of Light”, whose title was taken from The Tao te Ching of Lao-tzu.

This Sonata could well be a case history for exploring compulsive angst syndrome. The moderately paced, pounding chords of the beginning were sure to end I thought, but no, they went on and on until relieved by what may have been a Romanian folk song. Unfortunately the song, very catchy, was too short lived. It was also written for both hands playing canonicaly o’er top each other. The tempo was extraordinarily fast and when the tune first appeared, even Clarke whose artistic skills reliably re-create some of the most difficult 20th and 21st century piano repertoire, found his fingers interfering with each other, creating an unintended “Here’s the Church, there’s the steeple, open the doors and Ooops”, phalangial faux pas. That part of the work went much better the second time around.

Return to the Source of Light” is the first work by Radulescu I’ve heard. I hope his journey was a success, either before or after death.

The evening’s remarkably stimulating programme resolved with Scelsi’s Elegia per Ty. This was written for his wife who had deserted him in the 40’s and was never heard from again. Royer played beautifully. The concert with Royer and Charest’s performances greatly improved my appreciation for Scelsi’s music.

Excepting the bio of Stephen Clarke, those by the other performers seemed to run on like Ole Ma Bell’s Yellow Pages. When one is young, one wants to write down everything because everything is important. But there does come a time for thoughtful culling and I think the time has come for them. At any rate they are artists on the go and have done and are doing many positive things. They are both very, very good players.

Notes;

*  Violist Vincent Royer, Cellist Émilie Gerard-Charest occasionally play together, but are not a formally constituted duo. Charest was born in Montreal, Quebec and is presently participating in a month long composer/performer colloquy in Lyon, France. This colloquy will then move to three other European cities.

Born in Strasbourg, Royer studied in Freiburg and Cologne. He is now professor of chamber rmusic at the Conservetoire Royal de Liège in Belgium.

**  sulla tastiera (over the finger board), strisciata (slides between notes), strozzata (strangled, choking), sur la chevalet (on the bridge), harmonics and chords in extreme pianissimos or fortissimos. The sounds emanating from these techniques proved a helpful tool for remembering the music. I had to look up all of the bowings in a dictionary.

*** Their compositional devices; glissandi, harmonics, multi-phonics and slowly evolving chords, were frequently used by mid-20th century composers. I cannot now remember who said “good composers borrow, great composers steal”. Thus, restoring old techniques and devices once again proves useful.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What the F–K is This?

Freshly shucked Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Freshly shucked Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Hooper’s Island is located halfway down the Chesapeake Bay just off the eastern shore of Maryland.  In1668, a major portion of the island, actually three virtually contiguous islands, was surveyed and given to Henry Hooper, the progenitor of my wife’s family on her mother’s side. When her mother and father retired, they built a home on the shore about 10 miles east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the property touching the Wye River, a Bay tributary.  During frequent visits to their home, I enjoyed soft and hard shelled crabs, fish and oysters all fresh from the bay.

When my wife and I were dating, she worked one summer in one of her uncle’s restaurants, a Hooper’s of course.*  We visited her grandfather’s oyster stall in Baltimore’s North Market and spent many moments together enjoying freshly shucked oysters. (See photo above.)  Later, world travels introduced me to perhaps 20 or more varieties of oysters. I mention all of this to establish my bona fides as an oyster aficionado.

The Chesapeake Bay. A natural confluence of salt and fresh water producing the world’s most succulent oysters. This once lush and abundant land is movingly described in the opening chapters of James A. Michener’s novel Chesapeake. Any food loving conservationist would be well rewarded by reading Michener’s poignant description of the bay and its abundant aquatic wild life just before Henry Hooper arrived –  hard and soft shelled crabs, ducks, geese, turtles, fish and of course, oysters. A gastronomic heritage now mostly relegated to memory.

Oysters from the east and west coasts of Canada have become popular appetizers in some Toronto restaurants. In a restaurant one Canadian grown oyster on the half shell can range in price from $3.00 to $5.00. With another couple, my wife and I have been gradually taste testing restaurant oysters hoping to find acceptable sizes and qualities. The results have been so so. At this time, Oyster Boy on west Queen in Toronto is the winner. He supplies a shucker and baskets of oysters for my daughter’s yearly office party.

And there’s the rub. If I order a steak rare and it arrives well done, I can send it back. It’s the kitchen’s fault and my only penalty is waiting for another steak. But what about oysters? If I complain about size, I may be on a slippery slope with an overbearing maître d’ who will lecture me about the vagaries of oysters, and their sizes which cannot be predicted. In other words, you sniveling uncouth amateur, it’s nature’s way, not the fault of this kitchen.

I have a reputation in my family for being too critical, argumentative, even hostile when I feel a restaurant has abused or ignored common standards of quality, preparation or service. I had a good teacher – a former colleague in Nexus.  Bob Becker said to a waitress in the boon docks, “Take this pat of butter back, it’s rancid”. If he ordered the perfect wine for his meal and was later told it was out  of stock, I’d cringe and want to be somewhere else, fast. On the other hand, Bob could be a blissanthropic gourmet. We were about to enter the Great Smokey Mountain National Park when he spied a log framed roadside restaurant. We looked at the menu and he said with real anticipation, “Ah, a ham steak. This is gonna be good”. And so good it was, I heard nary a word from him till he let out another “Ahh”.

So, this is what I’m gonna say to my maître d’. “How was it possible your shucker didn’t toss these aside? Who put them on a tray and who allowed them to leave the kitchen?  Pope Francis wouldn’t call any of these drops of snot a foetus, much less an oyster. I want these deducted from my tab. I’m not paying 3 to 5 bucks a piece for these insults. So, you sniveling bloviated bombastic bag of bullshit, What the F–k Is This”?

‘Tis up to us folks. If we don’t complain, the capitalist Bottom Line will not feed us. Join hands for a moment. Take another look at the picture above, bow your heads and dream along with me.

* In June of 1960, Dunbar High School students staged a sit in at this restaurant, located at 33rd and Charles Streets in Baltimore, thus provoking one of the very first Civil Rights cases to go to court. The charges were dismissed.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Articles, Commentaries & Critiques, History

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Concerts in Toronto – No. 1, October 16, 2015.

Art of Time opened with two concerts – October 16th repeated on 17th, masterfully played and for the most part refreshingly new, at least to my ears and eyes and all based on the  concert theme,TZIGANE.

Tzigane began with performances I’ll not soon, if ever forget. Guest violinist Yehonatan Berick and Burashko opened with three Brahms Hungarian Dances, numbers 1, 4 and 5. From the first note Berick took off. I felt as though he would crash and burn somewhere. But no, he had it all together, including padded shoes which allowed him to stamp his feet in time when the heat got hotter. Anyone who didn’t appreciate that touch must have the emotional range of a dead jelly fish. Yehonatan Berick is a Naumburg Prize winner and teaches at the University of  Ottawa and the Glenn Gould School whilst maintaining an international solo and chamber music career.  His performance with Burashko of Zigeunerweisen by Pablo de Sarasate put a genuine stamp of authenticity on the evening’s Gypsy theme.

I can think of violinists with the technique to play these works, but only one who played them with Berick’s innate understanding and willingness to take chances, that is, to bring the listener with him, exploring the music as if for the first time. Michael Rabin (1936-72) was the only violinist who compares and I urge readers to find the treacly titled CD Strings by Starlight, with Felix Slatkin conducting the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra. The CD is superp in every respect and contains Zigeunerweisen as well as other one-movement masterpieces for orchestra and solo violin with orchestra. [ EMI Studio,CDM 7 63660 2 ]* If you can find this collection, grab it. Then you will know. Yehonatan Berick now abides side by side with Rabin in my exclusive music vault.

Then came something different. An exciting display of Spanish dancing by Esmerelda Enrique and Ilse Gudiño of the Esmerelda Enrique Spanish Dance Company. They performed De Los Buenos Mountainiales, a set of Fandangos de Huelva accompanied by two guitarists and a percussionist. The arrogant poses and gestures and aggressive foot tapping of Spanish dancing remind me somewhat of the opening poses, upright presentation and sheer physicality of Highland dancing. Featured too was the poignant and powerful singing of Fernando Gallego who was born in Cadiz and is known as “El Reale”. With the greatest respect, whenever I hear this singing, I feel a need to be hammered.

After intermission Andrew and Berick Performed Tzigane, Rhapsodie de Concert by Maurice Ravel. I’ve rarely heard it played more expressively.

Next was Van Django, a quartet from Vancouver, B.C. whose speciality is music of Jean “Django” Reinhardt and its genre. Reinhart (1910-53) was a famous Jazz guitarist, composer and recording artist during the first half of the Twentieth Century. I have a modest, but comprehensive collection of Reinhardt’s recordings and can testify to the honesty of Van Django’s arrangements within which they’ve left room for their imaginative improvisations. Van Django is Cameron Wilson, Violin; Budge Schachte and Finn Manniche, Guitar; and Brent Gubbels, Double Bass.

Van Django are composers as well as arrangers and performers of sensitivity. Beside the music of Rheinhardt, they played other complimentary works from the era. This music genre deserves to be heard. As with so much of our music heritage, it has been shunted aside by the Pop Music behemoth, but deserves to be remembered. Van Django is one ensemble keeping this creative tradition alive with skill and respect.

The Brahms Quartet No. 1 for Piano and Strings, Op. 25, iv. Rondo alla Zingarese (Gypsy style) Presto, concluded the evening of  Tzigane explorations. Berick and Burashko were supported by the fervent cello playing of Rachel Mercer** and violist Carolyn Blackwell.  I am familiar with the Brahms Hungarian Dances in their orchestral versions, but had never heard the piano trios. I was therefore delightfully surprised by the Romani verve Brahms had captured in his chamber work.  A spectacular concert.

Andrew Burashko, Art of Time’s indefatigable artistic director, continues to invigorate Toronto’s traditionally nonchalant audiences with thoughtful programmes imbued with style and excitement. Whatever the music, whoever the players, one always recieves highest quality.

*Originally released as an LP titled In Memorium this CD also contains a  rendition of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings that rivals in every way Leopold Stokowski’s brilliant 1957 recording on the Capital LPs, The Orchestra

** Rachel Mercer is cellist with the Ensemble Made in Canada String Quartet. They have recorded on compact disc the music of Canadian composer John Burge.   If you do not know about them, look them up on Google. Besides their fetching publicity photos, you may be surprised by their accomplishments to date.

 

 

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Commentaries & Critiques, Composers

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Television Greets John Boehner and Pope Francis.

As I sat comfortably in front of my television set waiting for the Pope to appear, I heard in the voices of the network announcer’s, particularly those charged with describing the scene outside the Capital building, unusually high levels of tension. As these poor wretches attempted to fill time between telling us when the Fiat would arrive on The Hill and the crowd size awaiting it, their voices would attain Mel Brooksian levels of anxiety, at times reaching level 9 or 10. Occasionally a frozen moment would strike when they realized there could be and probably would be, an eleventh.

As blunders and bloopers cascaded unwittingly into their microphones, I found a note pad and began writing down some of their more memorable pronouncements.

CNN  reporter describing the crowd waiting for the Pope: “They are composed of all colours, Black, blue, white”.  . ( befuddled pause.)

FOX news reporter announcing Congressman Paul Gosar’s boycott of Pope Francis’ visit to the Hill:“Who would boycott the Pope, for God’s sake?”

CNN announcer: “Camera men are walking on their legs trying to keep up”.

CNN news flash: “No aisle seats were assigned to members of Congress who cannot control themselves. Congressmen known to be troublemakers were given seats in the middle of the house as far away from the Pope as possible”.

The House Sergeant at Arms, ” Mr. Speaker, the Pope of the Holy Sea.”This in a voice that could bind a buzz saw  and awaken the dead of Cannae.

Just as the Pope was about to speak, John Kerry peeked at his watch.

When the Pope says the words,”Land of the Free, Home of the Brave”, John Boehner, already crying, begins to weep.

(My theory on Boehner’s resignation, sitiing behind the Pope, he realized he could no longer be a Catholic and a Congressman.)

Both speeches by the Pope were spot on. I loved the clarity of his English language, its nuanced diction and pace. It is to be hoped that some, if not all of the wisdom he professed, will coalesce and make the world a better place.

 

 

Tags: , , ,

Golf and the Papal We.

Tiger Woods was expected to win every tournament he entered and looking back on his career, it seems he did. Then his wife attacked him with a nine iron and he sought refuge in his SUV. We may never know exactly what happened that night. To date, El Tigre has never been the same. Two years ago he won five tournaments, a career for most professional golfers, but Tiger feeds on the four majors, those tournaments so coveted by golfing super staars like Jack Nicklaus.

He’s still got game, somewhere. In last week’s tournament he played three and two thirds rounds with his old brilliance. He then shanked a chip shot to the opposite side of the green, flubbed the return and then putted thirty yards past the cup, putted twice more for an easy seven and blew himself out of contention.

Still, he changed the game. Soon after losing his baby fat and turning pro, he was the hallmark of buff. No golfer had ever donned a glove who looked anything like Tiger. Word got around about his training schedule and an entire generation of young golfers followed his lead. Now there are a dozen twenty somethings that can hit a ball hitherto unimaginable distances whilst curving it high or low or this-a-way or that-a-way.

These freshmen have  been around for a few years – Bubba Watson comes to mind, but 2015 is a “What Has God Wrought” kinda year. The Professional Golfers Association now has a plethora of young stars who in a single season rejuvenated the game by regularly putting blankets over Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker and alas,Tiger.

With the older generation flailing about, the PGA and the media jumped all over Jordan Spieth, touting him as the next Tiger, only better. He possesses many sterling features. He is very nice looking, short hair and no five day beard. He speaks clearly and employs lots of people. Besides the obligatory caddie, his payroll sports a professional support team consisting of a trainer, physiotherapist, sport psychologist, golf swing guru, accountant, public relation specialist, dietician, agent, a lawyer and manager. He doesn’t have a wife and his Mom and Dad appear to be nice folks.

The media and the PGA got excited when Spieth won his first major at the 2015 Masters Tournament, becoming the second youngest to win the Masters, behind Woods. He won the U.S. Open, the youngest since Bobby Jones in 1923. The Open (British Open) was next and if he won that, he’d be a Grand Slam winner, depending on your criteria, something only Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nickus and Tiger Woods had accomplished.

He lost the Open and the PGA, but he was already a household name with as many endorsements as his Nike shirt could possibly hold. The media began to concentrate on his sportsmanship and humility. Humility was the winner. The reason? Everytime he was interviewed, he used the Papal or omniscient we. “We won, we worked hard, we had a plan, we had a strategy, we’re happy the way we played”. Television people interpreted this as humility. I don’t think I heard him once say “I”.

Golf has changed indeed. As Spieth walked off one of the final teeing grounds, he was followed by a group of about 20 people, portable cameras, the usual score keepers and sign carriers, a couple of rules officials and a dozen or so hangers on. What the hell is going on, I thought. Anyway,  I wonder who suggested to Jordan Spieth that he use the omniscient we. I don’t expect  him to know anything about the Papal we, but I do thinnk someone should tell him how this sounds on national television.

Golf is and has always been an individual game and should remain an individual game. Jordan Spieth looks and speaks as if he’s on a corporate outing. Perhaps he is. Perhaps they all are.

 

 

 

 

 
 

Tags: , , , ,