REENA ESMAIL Tuttarana for brass quintet
ANDREW STANILAND Allusions for oboe and clarinet
KELLY-MARIE MURPHY Glacial Ablations for oboe and piano
JACOB TER VELDHUIS Garden of Love for oboe and soundtrack
SIMON BOURGET Élégie and Toccata from Trio pour cor, violoncelle et piano, Op. 7
Indian American composer Reena Esmail (b. 1983) works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. She is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020–2023 Swan Family Artist-in-Residence, and Seattle Symphony’s 2020–2021 Composer-in-Residence. Her work has been commissioned by ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, Imani Winds, Chicago Sinfonietta, and The Elora Festival, among many others, with new work for Seattle Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Santa Fe Pro Musica in upcoming seasons. Esmail holds degrees in composition from The Juilliard School and Yale School of Music; her doctoral thesis, entitled Finding Common Ground: Uniting Practices in Hindustani and Western Art Musicians, explores the methods and challenges of the collaborative process between Hindustani musicians and Western composers. Currently based in Los Angeles, Esmail is Artistic Director of Shastra, a non-profit organization that promotes cross-cultural music connecting music traditions of India and the West.
Tutturana was originally a piece for women’s choir, composed in 2014, which Esmail then arranged for brass quintet, by commission of The Brass Project, as the final movement of a three-movement suite entitled Khirkiyaan. As she explains:
The title of this movement is a conglomeration of two words: the Italian word “tutti”, means “all” or “everyone”, and the term “tarana” designates a specific Hindustani (North Indian) musical form, whose closest Western counterpart is the “scat” in jazz. Made up of rhythmic syllables, a tarana is the singer’s chance to display agility and dexterity. While the brass version of this piece doesn’t have the actual syllables that the vocal version does, it does aim to showcase the brilliant virtuosity of the ensemble.
II. as one
III. precision vs accuracy
IV. as one, higher
V. accuracy vs precision
VI as one, lower
Described by the National Arts Centre as a “new music visionary”, composer Andrew Staniland (b. 1977) has established himself as one of Canada’s most important and innovative musical voices. His music is performed and broadcast internationally and has been described by Alex Ross in The New Yorker magazine as “alternately beautiful and terrifying”. Among his many awards and honours, he has been recognized by election to the Inaugural Cohort (2014) of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. Staniland was an Affiliate Composer to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2006–2009) and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (2002–2004). He is currently on faculty at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he founded MEARL (Memorial ElectroAcoustic Research Lab).
Co-commissioned by Ottawa Chamberfest, NACO, clarinetist Sean Rice, and oboist Anna Petersen, Allusions (2021) is a collection of virtuosic movements for clarinet and oboe. As Staniland further describes:
It is written for and dedicated to my friends Sean Rice and Anna Petersen.
Introit features Sean’s penchant for circular breathing and overblowing on the bass clarinet, with Anna’s oboe highlighting tones and harmonics that are both present and imagined in the rich bass clarinet tones.
As One is an angular and acrobatic piece that creates the illusion of a single unbroken line shared by two people, exploring the similarities and differences in timbre between the two instruments. In the melody, there is a veiled nod (or allusion) to the main theme in Phi Caelestis, my ballet score for NACO’s Encounters project (Sean and Anna both played on the premiere and subsequent JUNO-nominated recording).
Precision vs Accuracy is about rhythmic and textural counterpoint. It features a mercurial chromatic bass clarinet line that cycles over nine notes, complemented by a counterpoint of a rich, dark English horn melody moving steadily.
As One, Higher revisits the unison material in As One, this time in the higher reaches of the instruments. The longer melodies from As One reappear like shards and fragments.
Accuracy vs Precision retells the story of the third movement, but with a reversed complexity. The bass clarinet’s chromatic cycle is transformed into dark tonal arpeggios, while the oboe traces a slower, precise melodic line.
As One, Lower features the English horn and bass clarinet together. Here, all the musical material is brought back and developed into a virtuosic finale.
I. Crystalline Elements
With music described as “breathtaking” (Kitchener-Waterloo Record), “imaginative and expressive” (The National Post), “a pulse-pounding barrage on the senses” (The Globe and Mail), and “Bartok on steroids” (Birmingham News), Kelly-Marie Murphy’s voice is well known on the Canadian music scene. She has created a number of memorable works for some of Canada’s leading performers and ensembles, including the Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, The Gryphon Trio, James Campbell, Shauna Rolston, the Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets, and Judy Loman. Born in 1964 on a NATO base in Sardegna, Italy, Murphy studied composition at the University of Calgary and later received a PhD in composition at the University of Leeds in England. She is now based in Ottawa, from where she pursues a career as a freelance composer.
Murphy composed Glacial Ablations in 2022 for NACO Principal Oboe Charles “Chip” Hamann, who tonight, with pianist Frédéric Lacroix, performs the work’s world premiere. She describes the piece as follows:
Chip Hamann invited me to create a new piece for oboe and piano for a recital and recording project featuring a number of Canadian composers. The theme for the project was nature in Canada—things to do with our climate or landscapes. As my subject-matter, I chose glaciers, specifically, how we are losing our glacial ice and permafrost due to climate change.
For my piece, I chose three terms from the field of glaciology and tried to create music that responds to them. The title Glacial Ablations refers to the loss of ice and snow in a glacial system. The first movement, Crystalline Elements, is slow, and features not only delicate structures in the piano, but also space and drama, in which translucence and opaqueness mingle with the human response.
The second movement, Ice-Sizzle, is very fast, powerful, and urgent. The term refers to the sound glaciers can make, which is like carbonated water. The final movement, Runoff, has to do with evaporation and deterioration of the glacier. It begins with cadenza-like moments in the oboe and piano and features upward moving lines. The runoff intensifies as the forces of moving water grow in ferocity and urgency.
Dutch “avant pop” composer JacobTV (Jacob ter Veldhuis, b. 1951) started as a rock musician and studied composition and electronic music at the Groningen Conservatoire. He received the Composition Prize of the Netherlands in 1980 and became a full-time composer, who soon made a name for himself with melodious compositions. He’s been called by the press “the Jeff Koons of new music” and an “outlaw” in new music, whose work “makes many a hip-hop artist look sedate” (The Wall Street Journal). His music is packed with slick sounds and quirky news samples—“I pepper my music with sugar,” he says; other stylistic hallmarks include bright timbres, energy and drive, as well as quiet intensity.
Composed in March 2002 for oboist Bart Schneemann, Garden of Love is one of JacobTV’s “boombox” works, created for live solo instruments with a grooving soundtrack based on speech melody. The text sampled on this piece’s audio track is William Blake’s poem “The Garden of Love” from his 1794 collection Songs of Experience. Other sounds on the track include oboes, harpsichord, birdsongs the composer took from recordings or collected himself from the Dutch countryside, and various electronic sounds.
Garden of Love unfolds in three large sections and follows the poem’s text (provided below). It opens with an introduction featuring the oboe with birdsong and harpsichord samples, which then leads into the narration of the opening line of the poem, amidst staccato articulation, ostinatos, and syncopations. After relaxing briefly on the word “Love”, the material is further developed. The second section, beginning with “A chapel was built”, is characterized by sudden changes of articulation (clipped versus smooth) and grooving mixed meters. On “…Love, that so many sweet flowers bore”, the piece transitions into the third section, initially resting on sustained chords and bird song, followed by a pulsating episode. It melts on “gowns” and the final line, “binding with briars, my joys and desires,” is given a sensuous, lush setting, after which the oboe skips off with birdsong to the work’s conclusion.
THE GARDEN OF LOVE
I went to the Garden of Love.
and saw what I never had seen:
A chapel was built in the midst,
where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this chapel were shut,
and ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
that so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
and tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
and binding with briars, my joys and desires.
Hailing from Dieppe, New Brunswick, French horn player and composer Simon Bourget has been second horn with Orchestre Métropolitan (OM) since 2017 and principal horn with Orchestre symphonique de l’Estuaire (Rimouski, Québec) since 2016. His career has led him to perform with many notable Canadian ensembles, including Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Opéra de Montréal, Les Violons du Roy, Sinfonia Nova Scotia, the Katcor horn quartet, and the baroque orchestra Ensemble Caprice, among many others. He holds degrees from the University of Moncton, McGill University, and Université de Montréal. Bourget began composing from a young age; among his recently completed works include a horn concerto for his OM colleague Louis-Philippe Marsolais, and a Trio for horn, cello, and piano—two movements of which you’ll hear tonight. Élégie was originally commissioned by Ottawa Chamberfest and was premiered in August 2021. The complete Trio will have its first performance in October 2022.
Bourget shares the following description for his Trio:
The Trio for Horn, Cello and Piano, known as the “Pathétique,” uses musical language inspired by the composers of the first half of the 20th century. Polytonality, dissonance, syncopated and uneven rhythms, sudden mood changes—these are all writing techniques of which I am particularly fond, and that open up an aestheticism that I like to describe as Machiavellian. As a professional musician by training, I’m drawn to an instrumental writing style that is as idiomatic as it is effective. It’s important to me that each part can be played with natural ease.
The first movement, Élégie, whose variable form has a plaintive tone, is in sonata form. The lyrical theme of the exposition is introduced by the cello, then reintroduced by the horn in the recapitulation. The development is more mysterious and uncertain, with a lighter theme. The end of this movement hints at a rather dream-like motif that will be picked up in the trio’s third and fourth movements.
The second movement, Toccata, is a free-form movement characterized by brilliant figures, virtuosity and rhythmic energy. The theme, which recurs quite often, becomes more and more impetuous, with an increasingly powerful sound due mainly to the nature of the horn.