Somers: Live From Toronto, Orchestral Works

Album cover art for upc 773811159112
Catalog: CMCCD 15910
Format: CD


Wholenote Discoveries - April 2011
Harry Somers; Live from Toronto; Toronto Symphony; Esprit Orchestra; Centrediscs CMCCD 15911; Any addition to the Harry Somers catalogue is most welcome and Live from Toronto features previously unavailable recordings by the Toronto Symphony and Esprit Orchestra. The disc opens with a 1997 recording of Stereophony, a work performed to great effect in the Barbara Frum Atrium of the CBC Broadcast Centre by the TSO under the direction of Jukka-Pekka Saraste. The liner notes tell us this unique spatial composition was commissioned by the TSO in 1963 and that the composer specified “a careful arrangement of the orchestra on the stage and […] at various positions around the auditorium” which at that time was Massey Hall. It would have been interesting to know how this was translated to the very different architecture of the CBC Atrium. We next hear the TSO under the direction of Victor Feldbrill in a 1978 performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring Robert Silverman. This wonderfully dramatic extended work – 45 minutes and four movements despite what the liner notes say – dates from 1956 and shows 31 year old Somers in mature voice with fully developed command of both keyboard and orchestra. The final track is a majestic work dating from 1978. Those Silent, Awe Filled Spaces was inspired by an entry from Emily Carr’s journal. The 2004 performance by Esprit brings life to the angular writing, especially the juxtaposition of brass fanfares and strident strings, which gradually gives way to an unearthly calm. All in all this is an important document which would provide a lucid introduction to the orchestral works of one of Canada’s most important creators were it not for the lack of biographical information; a major disservice and an oversight unusual for the Centrediscs label. David Olds

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