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.

Preview: October 21st – 24th

This week is no different from most other weeks during the Toronto concert season. That is to say, there are a number of events for you to see and listen to. I’ll cover the weekend later on, but here’s what is going on this week.

Wednesday: Composer Sammy Bayefsky and vocalist Bryanna Petrie present “We Will Be the Ones”. A two day, independent concert series with a focus on crossing genre barriers. The program will consist of five original pieces Bayefsky and others, as well as five arrangements of popular songs by Arcade Fire, Joni Mitchell, Metric, Hey Rosetta, and Neil Young. Bayefsky is a talented young composer, and I encourage you to go and show your support for not only his work, but the independent concert scene across the city.

The concert is being held at Array Space at 7 PM.

Thursday: “We Will Be the Ones” presents the second of two concerts starting at 7 PM.

Also on the docket is Esprit Orchestra’s first concert of the season ‘New Era Launch’. I’m not quite sure what the new era is, but the programme for the night is impressive and bound to be entertaining.

Under the baton of conductor and founder Alex Pauk, Esprit will play Alfred Schnittke’s great Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1985) with soloist Teng Li, as well as works by Claude Vivier, R. Murray Schafer, and a new work by Samy Moussa: Gegenschein and Zodiakallicht (2013). If you have the time, get out to Koerner Hall and enjoy Esprit’s new season.

You can find details at http://www.espritorchestra.com/index.html