The 21C Afterhours concert in Temerty Theatre last night featured a candle lit performance by a varied ensemble of conservatory students conducted by Brian Current. Brian did a great job of introducing the music; contextualizing it and suggesting what the audience might listen for. That could maybe be done more often with complex contemporary music.
The first piece was Bekah Simms’ Foreverdark. It’s a ten minute concertino for amplified cello, ensemble and electronics playing homage to heavy metal. It’s scored for a quite a large group including strings, brass, woodwinds and lots of percussion including a drum kit. It starts out very abrasively then becomes somewhat more lyrical and the then the texture lightens up but it’s still pretty complex. David Liam Roberts was the soloist and did an excellent job.
The line up for this year’s (and a bit of next’s) 21C at the Royal Conservatory has been announced. The full line up is here.
I’m particularly interested in the Kronos Quartet concerts on December 8th and 9th; especially the latter which features “Music for Change” including a world premiere of a piece by Tanya Tagaq.
I’ll also want to see three of the concerts in the new year. On January 21st at 5pm there’s a Cinq à Sept concert in Temerty Hall which, among other things, features a new song cycle by Lembit Beecher and Lisa Balkan. The following day at 3pm in Koerner Hall there’s a concert of new works by Ian Cusson and Stewart Goodyear. Finally, on January 28th at 10pm in Temerty Hall Brian Current and the GGS New Music Ensemble have a candlelit concert of night related works including music by Bekkah Simms and R. Murray Schafer.
Continuing the contemporary CanCon theme I’ve been listening to Bestiaries; a CD of music by Bekah Simms. I first heard her music at the TSO in June and liked it enough to want to explore further. There are three pieces on the CD; each a little over ten minutes long. The first, Foreverdark, is a 2018 piece for solo cello, chamber orchestra and live electronics. It’s inspired by the compose and cellist Amahl Arulanandam shared love for metal and quotes from iconic metal albums. I’m not a metal fan but I am intrigued to hear younger composers using ideas drawn from more popular genres. Think Missy Mazzoli and electronic dance music. It’s no different really from Ralph Vaughan Williams using folk songs or Michael Tippett aking ideas from blues music. The result here is heavy textured, weird and chaotic with Arulanandam using all parts of the cello and acoustic instruments of the orchestra (the Cryptid Ensemble conducted by Brian Current) made to sound like electric, amplified ones with all the effects one usually gets from electronic manipulation generated acoustically. Continue reading →
Last night’s TSO program, conducted by Gustavo Gimeno, kicked off with three short pieces by Canadian composers. All were impressive. The first two; Adam Scime’s A Dream of Refuge and Bekah Simms’ Bite are reflections (to some at extent at least) on the pandemic. The Scime piece is lighter and brighter. There is uncertainty there but ultimately it seems to speak of hope. The Simms piece wis much darker with heavy percussion and blaring brass. A sense of uncertainty permeates the string writing. It’s quite disturbing. Roydon Tse’s Unrelenting Sorrow was written for those who have lost loved ones. It’s quite melodic and has strong contrasts between dramatic and more lyrical passages. Sorrowful perhaps but not unrelentingly so.
The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music opened a two performance run of Viardot’s Cendrillon last night at Mazzoleni Hall. The conceit was that we and the performers were all guests in Mme, Viardot’s salon and to this end we were all given a slip of paper with our character name on it but I promptly lost mine and it wasn’t actually needed for anything, Cute idea though. It also allowed for a production that fitted with the acutely limited staging resources of Mazzoleni. The piece is heavy on dialogue and it was presented in English, in an updated translation that had its moments. I doubt the Viardot household had ever heard of “organic, non GMO, fair trade” coffee.
Pauline Viardot is one of those names that crops up quite a bit when one is researching the opera of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She was a mezzo-soprano of some note, friend (at the least) of both Turgenev and Chopin, hosted a notable Parisian salon and composed; though, being female, she was not taken entirely seriously by the musical establishment of the time. Among her compositions is a “chamber operetta”, Cendrillon, designed for performance at her salon and written when Viardot was already in her eighties. It’s going to be performed again this fall in Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory and I sat down yesterday with director Joel Ivany to talk about the issues involved in staging such an unusual piece in a venue that’s not entirely opera friendly.
Encounters was a one hour programme of short opera scenes by student composers to libretti by Michael Albano. It’s the latest in a series of fully staged shows by student composers from the UoT Faculty of Music’s composition programme which has been running since 1997 and has included, for example Rob Ford, the opera. It’s quite shocking that when that showed two years ago, as Dean Don McLean reminded us, the big Rob Ford story was about library closures. Anyway, only one of yesterday’s five pieces featured Mr. Ford.