Review: Esprit Visits Bali

Sunday night’s Esprit concert had its ups and downs, but thankfully, there was more good than bad about it. The concert theme was a tribute to gamelan, a traditional music ensemble from the Indonesian islands. Esprit conductor Alex Pauk presented a work of his that had been re-tooled for orchestra Echo Spirit Isle (1983), as well as works by Canadian composers Chan Ka Nin, Andre Ristic, Claude Vivier, and Spanish composer Jose Evangelista.

Despite the impressive line up, I found more than a few of the works on the programme wanting. The highlight of the night, surprisingly, was presented by traditional Balinese dancer Putu Evie Suyadnyani, who performed a complex and entrancing dance accompanied by a recording of the music. Wearing a traditional dancers outfit, the dance consisted of hundreds of subtle movements that made up a larger picture. Think of a painter, whose individual brushstrokes may not look like much, but when you step back, you can see the whole picture as it’s intended.

Echo Spirit Isle suffered from the same problem as Chan Ka Nin’s Eveil aux oiseaux (2005) and Vivier’s Pulau Dewata (1977), which is that they dragged a bit in the middle. I actually liked Ka Nin’s piece most of all the pieces on this concert, but it still had some small issues. Pulau Dewata, originally intended for any combination of instruments that can fit the scoring, was arranged by composer Scott Good for this concert, and I must say, he did an impressive job. Using an orchestra to its full potential is a difficult thing for many composers, but Good managed to do that, with bright and interesting sounds, as well new textures and colours that kept everyone’s attention fixed on the stage.

The title piece of the night, Jose Evangelista’s O Gamelan (2013) was a pleasant piece that made some interesting (and ultimately positive) choices in its use of the orchestra, however I found that there wasn’t too much going on below the surface. I still enjoyed it, so there’s that I suppose.

American composer Lou Harrison’s Threnody for Carlos Chavez (1978), was a piece that I’d have to listen again in order to really come up with an opinion. I can say though, that the melodies that Harrison produced were quite lovely, and the often static background gamelan (provided by the Evergreen Contemporary Gamelan from Toronto) against the moving viola was a pleasure to listen to. It also wasn’t too long (a problem with many new works). So yes, I think I’d have to give it another listen before I cast my stone in one direction or the other.

Overall, I enjoyed the concert. The Esprit musicians played the programme with their usual expert touch, and Esprit certainly reminded us again why it is a leader in the world of Canadian new music.

Also, if you get the chance, do look up some Balinese dance on the internet. It really was spectacular.

– Paolo Griffin.

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Preview: Weekend of November 15th

I’m quite excited for this weekend’s music. There are two concerts happening, one on Saturday evening, and one on Sunday evening.

Saturday November 16th: 

Adam Sherkin - Pianist & Composer

Adam Sherkin – Pianist & Composer

Britten’s America: Toronto composer and pianist Adam Sherkin opens the first of a three concert series exploring the music of 20th century composer Benjamin Britten. An all-piano program, consisting of some of Britten’s early music, two works by Sherkin himself, including a world premiere. Also on the program are Aaron Copland’s Piano Sonata (1941) and Canadian composer (and ethnomusicologist) Colin McPhee’s Balinese Transcriptions (1934).

The concert begins at 8 PM at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, with a 7:15 pre-concert chat.

Sunday November 17th:

Esprit puts on their second concert of the season alongside the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan. Music by Alex Pauk, Lou Harrison, Chan Ka Nin, Andre Ristic, and Claude Vivier are on the program, as well as a premiere by Spanish-born, Canadian composer Jose Evanglista.

The concert begins at 8:00 PM in Koerner Hall, with a 7:15 PM pre-concert chat.

What are you waiting for? Go see some music!