Chris Paul Harman’s La selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks) had its premier at the Four Seasons Centre at lunchtime today. It’s a setting of some very beautiful texts from Lorca’s Suites scored for mezzo, harp, piano/celeste, flute, clarinet, cello, percussion and tape. The tape consists of sections of the texts read by Martha de Francisco. Sometimes the text comes from the tape, sometimes it’s sung by mezzo, sometimes it’s spoken by the mezzo and at other times they overlap. The accompaniment is mostly very spare but occasionally becomes surprisingly dense with lots of work for tuned percussion. There are also some unconventional roles for the instruments, especially the flute, and there is a whistled passage for the singer near the end. All in all it’s very 21st century; decidedly modern but quite approachable. And did I say the texts are gorgeous?
The performers all are highly competent musicians and did the piece justice. Krisztina Szabó needs no introduction to Toronto audiences and she articulated beautifully in a setting that respected the words. She was most ably accompanied by Talisa Blackman on keyboards, Sanya Eng on the harp, Leslie Newman doing strange things to flute and piccolo, Michele Verheul on clarinet, Shawna Caspi operating the tape and Ryan Scott with a virtuoso percussion performance. Dáirine Ní Mheadhra conducted efficiently in her usual undemonstrative manner.
So, another new Canadian piece is launched by Queen of Puddings Music Theatre. Sadly it will be their last commission as the company is winding up after twenty years of bringing new music to Toronto, Canada and the world. I’ll be looking out to see what Dáirine and fellow director John Hess do next. I don’t imagine they are just going to fade away.