Listening Quest April 2017: Silk Road Ensemble

Saturday, April 1, 2017 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

Time for something a little different! And there’s nothing quite like Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. Yo-Yo is well known as a classical cello player, and The Silk Road Ensemble is a group of musicians he formed that play music from the Silk Road region of the world – including China, India, and Arabia – using traditional instruments, but not necessarily from one country or tradition at a time. For this song, they also team up a couple of jazz vocalists, Gregory Porter and Lisa Fischer. Put a little classical, a little traditional eastern, and a little jazz all together, and you get a version of Heart and Soul that’s as fusion and crossover as you can get!

Extra Exploring: Try couple of other songs by The Silk Road Ensemble that are a little more eastern in flavour!

Listening Quest March 2017: Debussy's The Sunken Cathedral

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

If you were to ask me what my favourite piece of classical music is, this is probably it. I love the rich harmonies and big washes of sound that Claude Debussy creates, and this piece shows it off. The Sunken Cathedral, or La cathédraleengloutie as it was named in the original French, is based on an old legend that the beautiful city of Ys was that was submerged in the sea, perhaps as a punishment for its wickedness, depending on which version of the story that you read. In this piece, you can hear the bells of the church cathedral, which can be heard on clear mornings or as fabled, once a century, when it rises up out of the water and then sinks back down again. You can hear in this song how Debussy recreates the rising of the cathedral by building to a big climax in the middle of the song, by the bell sounds throughout, and by the sounds of what could be waves rippling in the left hand at the end.

This recording is by PavelKolesnikov, a young Russian performer who won the Honens Piano Competition (one of Canada’s biggest piano competitions, held in Calgary every three years) in 2012. He now lives in London, but he’s been to Edmonton a few times since then to play with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and to do a piano masterclass which I attended. He’s a nice guy and well worth listening to!
Extra exploring: The Sunken Cathedral is just one of twelve preludes written by Debussy. You can hear all of them here played by Claudio Arrau.  
Photo of Debussy by Nadar, Public Domain,
Photo of PavelKolesnikov by Colin Way,

Listening Quest February 2017: The Planets by Holst

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

Gustav Holst was an English composer and teacher who lived from 1874 to 1934. He was a quiet, shy man, who became famous for writing The Planets, written for orchestra and a little bit of choir with one movement written for each of the planets, not including Earth. Pluto wasn’t discovered until 1930, well after the piece was written in 1914-1916, and the work was already popular enough that Holst didn’t bother to add another movement for it. That’s probably good, given that Pluto has been demoted to a dwarf planet now! You may have heard some of this music in film scores before, and Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, is probably the best known, so here goes:
Extra Exploring: Watch all the planets!
Photo by Herbert Lambert (1881–1936) - National Portrait Gallery - Portrait NPGAx7745; Gustav Theodore Holst, Public Domain,