Twenty-five year old cellist Brian Yoon is establishing himself as an exciting young artist in Canada. In May 2012, he was named the winner of the First Prize and the City of Brandon Prize for the best performance of the test piece at the 35 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition for Canadian and contemporary music. He was also awarded the prize for the best performance of a Canadian work at the 2012 Stepping Stone Competition for his reading of Vincent Ho’s .
String Theory (2012) – John Burge (b. 1961)
String Theory was composed as the test piece for the 2012 E‐Gré Music Competition. The title is a bit of a play on words in the way that it makes reference to the branch of particle physics given the same label, while on the music side it represents a systematic or theoretical approach to writing for string instruments. Indeed, the work is a compendium of string effects such as glissandos, tremolos, harmonics, multiple-stopped chords, pizzicato and different bowing techniques. While the composition is structured in a contrasting slow-fast-slow design, a high level of cohesion is obtained as the music repeatedly comes back to the opening four-note motive heard initially in the piano. John Burge currently teaches Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. A passionate advocate for Canadian music, he was a member of the Executive of the Canadian League of Composers from 1993‐2007, serving as President from 1998‐2006. He is currently a member of the SOCAN Foundation board of directors.
Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 143 (1948) – Francis Poulenc (1899‐1963)
Although woodwind pieces dominate Poulenc's chamber music oeuvre, the Sonata for Cello and Piano is a substantial work that finds the composer at the height of his powers. It was dedicated to the French cellist Pierre Fournier, who assisted the composer with some technical aspects of the cello. Cast in four movements, each of which is in a three-part form with a contrasting middle section, the sonata makes much use of Neo-Baroque and Neo-Classical styles. The first movement begins with a rude outburst from the piano, but lyricism quickly takes over, and the middle section is given over to playful treatments of the melodies. In the sublime Cavatine, the hymnlike piano opening creates an enchanted setting, which gradually builds to a passionate climax. The third movement is a Ballabile-a type of dance music often found in 19th century opera. It is marked ‘very lively and gay’ and one feels the vivacity of chatter amongst friends. The Finale begins with a stern cello recitative over striking piano chords; in a sudden burst of energy, the main Presto section scampers quickly through several episodes of short-breathed cello phrases and rippling piano passagework.
Prayer and Dance of Praise (1997) – Elizabeth Raum (b. 1945)
Elizabeth Raum is both principal oboist with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and a prolific composer who enjoys a reputation of being one of Canada’s most “accessible” composers, writing for varied mediums and in remarkably diverse styles. Prayer and Dance of Praise was written for the 1997 Eckhardt-Gramatté Music Competition and received a nomination for Classical Composition of the Year at the 2010 Western Canadian Music Awards. It starts with a serious solo statement by the cello, becoming more passionate before returning to the solemnity of the opening. A dreamlike transition throws performers into a spirited dance that eventually ends in an exultant coda.
Stigmata (2004) – Vincent Ho (b. 1975)
From Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “Stigmata―bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy.” Vincent Ho’s Stigmata for solo violoncello was written for cellist Jakub Omsky. The evocative title refers to the intense emotional content of the work, which was written after tragic events in the lives of both the composer and the dedicatee. In meetings with the composer over the internet, I learnt that his goal was to write something that would expose the performer’s soul, something that would allow the performer to convey his/her personal thoughts and emotions. In the end, he produced a dramatic work that drifts through moments of loneliness and desolation. Stigmata employs various pitch-bend techniques are organically built into the thematic material to convey expressive gestures (analogous to sighs, wails, etc). The piece concludes with a prayer-like section made up of artificial harmonic tremolos. Vincent Ho is currently the Composer-in-Residence to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
“…and dark time flowed by her like a river…” (1994) – Gary Kulesha (b. 1954)
The title of this work is taken from a novel by Thomas Wolfe called The Web and the Rock, written in 1939. This particular line is from a passage which describes the central character’s sudden deep recognition of the loss of each precious moment of time, an experience which happens to each of us at some point in our development. The piece is constructed in four sections, which flow into each other without interruption. The first section begins with a rhapsodic non-tonal statement of the basic idea that is immediately followed by the same idea “straightened out” into simple G minor. The language of the work flows between these two polarities, the clearly tonal centres tending to reflect a more philosophical point of view, and the atonal passages underlining the despair and passion of the work. A series of pizzicato chords lead to the second section, a violent, arpeggio-based scherzo. The tortured quarter-tones of this section lead to the glissandi which introduce the third section, a cadenza for the solo instrument. The main idea returns harmonized in simple triads, settling deceptively onto a G major cadence before erupting into the agitated and very rhythmic finale. A recipient of the NACO Composer Award, Gary Kulesha currently teaches on the music faculty at the University of Toronto and is the lead Composer Advisor to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.