Saturday, January 31, 2009

Twelve Dances, One Voice, Two Etudes: Playlist for Beethoven's Breakfast, January 26, 2009, Mondays 6:30 am PST

1. Norbert Kraft and the Razumovsky Sinfonia directed by Peter Breiner: Granados-- Spanish Dances 1-6, from Twelve Spanish Dances (Naxos)

In 1916, when Enrique Granados was returning to Europe after performing for President Woodrow Wilson, the ship on which he was travelling was torpedoed by the German navy and sank. Granados and his wife were drowned.

Granados was a Spanish composer and virtuoso pianist sometimes referred to as the Spanish Chopin. He lived in Spain and Paris, and was acquainted with many French composers of that time including Faure, Debussy, Ravel, and Saint-Saëns.

His two best-known works are Goyescas, a series of pieces inspired by the paintings of Goya, and Twelve Spanish Dances. Many of his works originally written for piano have been transcribed for the classical guitar including Peter Breiner's transcription of Twelve Spanish Dances on this recording. Breiner also created the lovely orchestral arrangements on this CD.

Norbert Kraft is a leading Canadian classical guitarist.

2. The Wailin' Jennys: Glory Bound, Swallow, Apocalypse Lullaby, One Voice, and Firecracker from Firecracker (Red House)

We're at the final performance of the Nelson B.C. 50-voice vocal group Corazón in May, 2008. "This song," director Allison Girvan tells us as we near the end of the performance, "is sung by three young women who have been in Corazón for as long as it is possible to be in it. They are all leaving us this year, and I don't know what I am going to do without them. This is One Voice by the Wailin' Jennys."

My daughter Laura moves forward on the stage and starts to sing, solo.

This is the sound of one voice
One spirit, one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice.

As Laura sings, Anneke McGivern, Laura's friend, walks slowly up to join her and the two of them sing…

This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you

Helping each other to make it through….

Malaika Horswill, a close friend of both of my daughters since all three were small children, joins them and adds her soprano to the harmony for the third verse.

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony….

Eventually the whole group, 50 people, joins them.

This is the sound of all of us…

And fifty voices become one voice.

Now whenever I hear the Wailin' Jennys, I think of that inspired evening. My other daughter, Rosie, was in Corazon during that performance as well.

Noel Lee: Etudes 1 and 2 from Claude Debussy: Piano Works 3 (Philips)

As I told my listeners when I played this music on the air: "Debussy's Etudes were written in France in 1915, put on this recording in Copenhagen in 1962, found their way in vinyl form by a donation to the CJLY music library in 2007 and to your ears this cold winter morning before dawn in the beginnings of 2009. Strange (and wonderful) how these things happen."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gryphon, Shakti, Bayrakdarian: playlist for Beethoven's Breakfast January 19, 2008, Mondays at 6:30 am PST

1. Gryphon Trio: Trio in C Minor K. 548 from Mozart, the Complete Piano Trios (Analekta)

"The gryphon, a Greek mythological creature that was the guardian of treasure and symbolized the joining of cosmic energy and psychic force, reflects the group's interest in many genres of music" (from the liner notes). The Toronto-based Gryphon Trio plays contemporary and classical works.

2. Remember Shakti: Bell' Aria from Saturday Night in Bombay (Verve)

Remember Shakti is a group of Indian musicians led by tabla player Zakir Hussain and British guitarist John McLaughlin. In the early 1970's they formed the acoustic group Shakti and pioneered a fusion of jazz and Indian classical music. John McLaughlin, in the years before that, was a member of the Miles Davis bands that made the shocking Bitches Brew and the sublime In a Silent Way. Shakti broke up in the 1980's. McLaughlin and Hussain have worked creatively together and apart ever since to acquaint western and Indian music with each other. In fact they are among the founders of what we call "world music."

The group Remember Shakti was formed in 1997 with some of the original players and some new ones including the respected elder Hariprasad Chaurasia on flute. Here is a video of a small version of the group: .

3. Isabel Bayrakdarian : Spring, Mount Alakyaz, Striding Beaming, and Lullaby, from Gomidas Songs (Nonesuch)

Gomidas Vartabed (1869-1935) is known as the father of Armenian classical music. He was a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915, and in an attempt to save Armenian musical culture he took songs and dances of the Armenian peasantry and recreated them in a European classical format. The singer Isabel Bayrakdarian is an Armenian-Canadian who, in addition to being an up-and-coming opera star, holds a degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto and was featured on the movie soundtrack for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and Atom Egoyan's "Ararat." For a stunning cultural experience watch her perform one of the songs from this CD, accompanied by four players of the duduk (an Armenian woodwind instrument of ancient origins), outdoors in an ancient ruin in Armenia, at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bagatelles, Blues, and Bansuri: Playlist for January 12, 2009, Mondays, 6:30 am PST

1. Alfred Brendel: Six Bagatelles, from Beethoven: Fur Elise, Eroica Variations, and Bagatelles (Philips)

A bagatelle is a short lively piece, and Beethoven wrote many of those. But he told his publisher that these were "quite the best pieces of their kind that I have written" (from the liner notes).

The great concert pianist Alfred Brendel, with a distinguished career of performing and recording the classics, was born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1931 and now lives in London. He has a website:

Brendel recently retired. Read a review of his final concert, performed in Vienna in December, 2008, just before his 78th birthday, here:

2. Oliver Nelson: Stolen Moments from The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse)

In the 1960's my friends and I all listened to the new stuff like the Beatles and Dylan, but I had a parallel track: I was into the new jazz: Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Ornette, etc. One of the musicians who shone brightest for me in those days was trumpet player Freddie Hubbard. He died recently in his seventies.

He was at the top of his game in the 1960's, when he led his own groups and played with every other great jazz musician you can think of from that period. Later in his life he ran into a number of health problems and personal problems which detracted from his playing and he never matched his wonderful work from his younger years.

Every solo he played in the 60's was creative, unpredictable, and uplifting. Good examples are his work on Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth, and Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage.

When Freddie Hubbard died recently, Wynton Marsalis, who is a generation younger, said, "Certainly I listened to him a lot.… We all listened to him. He has a big sound and a great sense of rhythm and time and really, the hallmark of his playing is an exuberance. His playing is exuberant."

And to Marsalis' comment I would add that it is dramatic, because the exuberance comes in bursts. His solos often consist of a few phrases that are calm and thoughtful, then the exuberance will burst out for a few bars, then back to being thoughtful, then erupting again, never with clichés or standard licks, never coasting, always fresh. You can hear that in his solo on Stolen Moments.

Think of the astounding personnel on this record: Roy Haynes, drums; Paul Chambers, bass; Bill Evans, piano; Oliver Nelson, tenor saxophone; Eric Dolphy, alto sax and flute; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet.

3. Rakesh Chaurasia and Talvin Singh: Vira from Vira (Times Music)

I was in New Delhi a few years ago, and in one of the CD shops the proprietor told me the only customers who were interested in buying classical Indian music were the westerners. I bought this CD there.

Rakesh Chaurasia is the nephew of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the eminent player of the classical Indian bamboo flute, or bansuri. The nephew is continuing the uncle's tradition and experimenting with it. The tabla player Talvin Singh is also a classical musician who likes to experiment—in this case by using electronics to produce the traditional drone that you find behind much Indian music.