A Play of Passion

playofpassionThis review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.

The latest CD release from the Canadian Art Song Project features four works by Derek Holman. Three song cycles are performed by tenor Colin Ainsworth with Stephen Ralls at the piano. This team presented all three works in a very fine concert at the Four Seasons Centre in October 2014. For the CD Ralls is joined by Bruce Ubukata for the piano duet, Variations on a Melody by Dr. Arne.

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A Play of Passion

Colin_Ainsworth_Headshot2Tenor Colin Ainsworth and pianist Stephen Ralls today presented three song cycles written for them by Derek Holman.  The first, The Death of Orpheus (2004) sets two translations of Ovid by Arthur Golding; on the subject of Orpheus in the underworld sandwiching Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII.  The parts form an interesting contrast.  In the Ovid, Golding chose to write in rhyming iambic heptameters but Holman’s setting completely ignores that, breaking and reshaping the lines very freely.  The piano line too is spare and more a commentary on the vocal line than a support.  In contrast the Shakespeare is set much more “faithfully”; piano and vocal line both reflecting more closely the metre of the verse.  Holman also rarely repeats a phrase of the text) it happens maybe five times in the eleven songs in today’s programme) which puts quite a burden on the listener given the allusive complexity of Ovid/Golding’s verse. Continue reading

Moving into October

October is the month things usually really get going again in Toronto and this year is no exception.  The calendar for the first third of the month is very busy.  Highlights include three free concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the opening of two productions at the Canadian Opera Company and Nuit Blanche events at the Canadian Music Centre and the UoT Music Department.

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MonicaWhicherThe third Canadian Art Song Project annual concert was given yesterday lunchtime in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  We were given four works; all by Canadian composers, and in a sufficient variety of musical idiom to make for a most interesting concert.  Soprano Monica Whicher and pianist Kathryn Tremills gave us Dissidence (trois poèmes de Gabriel Charpentier) by Pierre Mercure.  This 1955 work sounds rather like Ravel or perhaps early Poulenc with its symbolist poetry and rather literal musical setting.  It sits very nicely for Monica’s voice though and she sang very beautifully.  It seems not all modern composers hate sopranos.

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Ash Roses release concert

mireille The Ash Roses CD that I referred to a few days ago was officially launched at the Canadian Music Centre last night.  Lawrence Wiliford, Mireille Asselin, Sanya Eng and Liz Upchurch performed all the music on the album in the presence of the composer and his wife, assorted Toronto music glitterati and even more assorted others, like me.  It’s a very intimate setting and well suited for small scale art song recitals; especially when the complimentary wine and beer (Black Oak Chocolate Cherry Stout – recommended) is rather good.

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Ash Roses

ashrosesThere’s some pretty exciting news from the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP).  It’s their first commercial CD release featuring Ash Roses; songs for Soprano and Tenor by Derek Holman. The artists are soprano Mireille Asselin, tenor Lawrence Wiliford, pianist Liz Upchurch and harpist Sanya Eng. This is the first recording entirely dedicated to the songs of Canadian composer Derek Holman; one of the very few who have made art songs an important component of their output.

There is a CD release party on March 7th at the Canadian Music Centre (20 St. Joseph St., Toronto) and the program for the evening will include The Four Seasons, Ash Roses, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal and Three Songs for High Voice and Harp.  Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 on the door, $20 students. More details can be found about the CD and the release party at www.canadianartsongproject.ca