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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 20, No. 7 June 2015

Summer Listening

by René-François Auclair, Éric Champagne & Caroline Rodgers / June 1, 2015

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Saint John String Quartet
SJSQ005. 2015. 61 minutes, 9 seconds


This New Brunswick-based ensemble provides an insightful overview on various influences of six composers that made Canada their home. Through this contemporary music, the string quartet found a surprising vehicle for allowing us to travel in time and space. Cultural diversity plays a part in Anthony Genge’s Asian minimalism and Kutnowski’s spellbinding sensory experiences and image-filled memories of Argentina. Richard Kipp’s folkloric pastoral ends peacefully on the east coast. Musicians pay close attention to sounds they produce in order to depict colours of original watercolours. The music is always recognizable and easily accessible, and helps the quartet break through traditional structures. A nice acoustic surrounds the four musicians in this remarkable discovery of lesser-known Canadian repertoire. A valuable addition. RFA

Brian Current: Airline Icarus
Carla Huhtanen, soprano; Krisztina Szabó, mezzo-soprano; Graham Thomson, tenor; Alexander Dobson & Geoffrey Sirett, baritones; chamber choir and instrumental ensemble conducted by Brian Current
Naxos 8,660356 (43 minutes, 46 seconds)
It’s funny how many contemporary works in the opera world take place in an airport. To jog your memory, think of Philippe Manoury’s 60e Parallèle (1997), Jonathan Dove’s Flight (1998), and Simon Bertrand’s Prochain départ (2005). Canadian composer and conductor Brian Current propels us into the air! All the action takes place aboard an airplane, from takeoff to the dramatic fall. This assorted microcosm behind closed doors brings about several melodic introspections and a few interesting theatrical interactions. The short opera benefits from Current’s skillful and intelligent writing, as well as a brilliant and well-constructed libretto. Emotion is also part of the work, as the pilot’s final aria, sung by a masterful Alexander Dobson, is dramatically touching. This opera is clearly a great success and deserves to appear in Naxos’s Canadian Classics collection. To our disappointment, the work was not made available on DVD, particularly since there is a video recording of this opera on YouTube. The opera was performed at the 2011 Premio Fedora Italian Festival.

Les Vents français: Winds & Piano
Les Vents français, Éric Le Sage, piano
Warner Classics 0325646231850 3 CDs (179 minutes, 27 seconds)
The Vents Français quintet gathers the world’s foremost woodwind soloists, including flutist Emmanuel Pahud and clarinettist Paul Meyer. These soloists have joined forces in this triple album with pianist Éric Le Sage to perform a promising program of chamber music with piano. The first disc draws on French repertoire, beginning with Poulenc’s popular Sextuor—played with a smile, of course! The Sextuor composed by Louise Ferrenc, a contemporary of Berlioz, is a magnificent discovery. It’s a wonderful and cheerful work. Roussel’s short Divertissement makes a great impression; André Caplet’s Quintette (minus French horn) shines through with its balance and inspired colours. The second disc includes famous quintets by Mozart and Beethoven, performed with clarity and gracefulness. The third disc presents Ludwig Thuille’s mighty and symphonically ambitious Sextuor, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet (without oboe) described as lively and light, passionate and impish. Woodwind enthusiasts will enjoy this great program! CR

Translation: Dwain Richardson

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