There is more to valuable Canadian contemporary music - and more precisely: from Québec - than just Claude Vivier. Indeed, I first came across the three composers featured here - Denis Gougeon, John Rea and Michel Longtin - in collections which I had bought for the works of Vivier they included: Rea and Longtin on Orchestre Metropolitain, Gougeon and Longtin on Montreal Postmoderne. The Vivier pieces were fine, but the discs also afforded nice discoveries, and the works by these other composers were equally excellent - as a matter of fact, they were sometimes quite close in style to Vivier's music. So I decided to explore more, and this new catch yields more excellent stuff.
Gougeon's "Heureux qui comme Ulysse..." again has many stylistic traits evocative of the unique (or not quite so unique?) personality of Vivier: the mixture of the joyous and dancing exuberance and the more introspective and questing moods, the love of the soprano voice (here singing an endless, word-less vocalise; and that it should be sung by the excellent Marie-Danielle Parent, who first-performed many a composition of Vivier, of course reinforces the kinship). It sounds like the minimalist music of Glass, Adams or the repetitive Dance music of Torke or Martland but - thank God ! - without the repetition.
John Rea wasn't born in Québec (in Toronto, in fact) but he has been closely associated with the contemporary music scene there, being one of the founding members of the Montreal new music society Les Evénements du Neuf and a member of the programming committee of the Societé de Musique Contemporaine du Québec. His "Offenes Lied" for two sopranos and clarinet is written after a poem by Heinrich Heine, text not provided, even its title is not given. The two singers' German is French-accented and not always comprehensible, and Rea reorganizes the text and sometimes doctors it, but, ah, suffice to pick up a few words, and Google search! It is the poem "Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen", used by Schumann as the twelfth Diechterliebe opus 48. The 9-minute composition is witty and theatrical (the high-soprano assumes many a diferent voice), but it took me the text to really enjoy. If I hear well, Rea has changed the word "Garden" into "Camp" to change it from the sorrowful songs of the flowers to the poet, into some song of despair and doom in the concentration camp. Also, the last line sung seems out of Berg's/Büchner's Wozzeck: "how red is the ascending moon". That wasn't really necessary, and arguably it needlessly puts too much weight on what Rea had to express.
Am leuchtenden Sommer[Winter]morgen
Geh' ich im Garten [Lager] herum.
Es flüstern und sprechen [singen] die Blumen,
Ich aber, wandle stumm.
Es flüstern und sprechen die Blumen,
Und schaun mitleidig mich an:
Sei unserer Schwester nicht böse,
Du trauriger blasser Mann.
[wie der Mond rot aufgeht]
In the bright summer [winter] morning,
I walk around the garden [camp].
The flowers are whispering and speaking [singing]
But I wander silently.
The flowers are whispering and speaking
and they look at me with pity.
Don't be mad at our sister,
You sad, bleak man.
Michel Longtin seems to have a fascination with Sibelius. Already his orchestral piece Aniola, featured on the first disc mentioned above, was something like the fantasy of Sibelius' unfinished and lost 8th Symphony. Likewise, Pohjatuuli is a homage to Sibelius, with direct quotations (in different instrumental attire) of symphonies n° 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It is atmospheric, full of arresting touches, its language rooted in the non-serial avant-garde of the 1970s (the Poles come to mind), but maybe too long for its elusive structure, more a display of orchestral colors that a tightly-knight symphonic structure per se. Enjoyable, but not truly memorable.
Varèse had nothing to do with Québec but, more than 80 years on, his Intégrales remain as modern and young as ever. Like Hamlet, ir could have been written yesterday.
TT 58:41, scanty liner notes, but valuable disc.