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This month, under the direction of Anne Manson, The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra has released a brand new CD Mirage? Concertos for Percussion featuring the music of Hatzis, Oesterle, Vivaldi and Corelli. Classic 107 hosts Michael Wolch, Chris Wolf and Simeon Rusnak share their throughts on the album.

Winnipeg’s JUNO award winning chamber orchestra has teamed up with GRAMMY winner and one of the most prodigious percussionists working today-- Dame Evelyn Glennie. She’s celebrated the world over, and boasts one of the most consistently surprising recording catalogues of any classically trained musician today. Take, for example, her improvised lullabies and dirges with Björk. Or her Celtic album with Mark Knopfler. Not to mention her drumming album and her highly acclaimed recording of classical masterworks.

Glennie is no stranger to Winnipeg’s musical institutions. In 2014 she appeared on the stage of Carnegie Hall with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra-- in a performance of Vincent Ho’s The Shaman: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra. She is also a favourite at the WSO’s Winnipeg New Music Festival.

For this collaboration with the MCO, Glennie trades in her drumsticks for mallets, performing on melodic percussion instruments, adding a jazz quality to an album that’s already unusually eclectic. 



For Chris Wolf, Classic 107 Music Director and host of Intermezzo, this album is “... an interesting mix of the accessible and cerebral.” And, he says, “a new and noteworthy item for any listener’s CD collection.

Morning Light and The Wide World of Classical Music host Michael Wolch sees this recording as “Stretching the boundaries of baroque and beyond. From Vivaldi & Corelli to Hatzis & Osterle, the combination of the solid and capable MCO with the ethereal and dynamic percussion of Glennie sparks the imagination.”

The album’s titular piece Mirage? was composed for Glennie by beloved Canadian-Greek composer Christos Hatzis in 2008, when he was feeling particularly bleak about the world financial situation. For Wolf, this is important context for the listener.

Hatzis asks the question; ‘Is wealth built off the backs of developing nations and the poor really a reality or seductive kind of mirage?’ There is a sense of searching and sadness that runs throughout this piece. The vibraphone interjects and weaves between the strings of the orchestra; sometimes a solo voice and sometimes just part of the texture. It’s as if Hatzis is trying to paint a picture viewed through some sort of twisted crystal prism. There are movements of melody in “Mirage,” that veer off into a wandering contrapuntal moments.

Simeon Rusnak, host of the Diamond Lane here at Classic 107, describes this work as “blissful ignorance permeated by moments of musical truths. The illusion is one of a Gatsbyesque character being confronted with social realism.

Canadian Michael Oesterle’s Kaluza Klein, features Glennie on vibraphone. It harkens back to the 1920s, when physicists Kaluza and Klein introduced their famous theory about the fifth dimension.

The premise behind this piece,” says Wolf, “is that the violins produce an initial pitch and the vibraphone presents alternate ideas. It is as if the orchestra and the vibraphonist are constantly searching for the right, perfect pitch; or the fifth dimension in music. The piece “Kaluza Klein” is a cerebral kaleidoscope of textures that centers around this constant push and pull between the vibraphone soloist and the strings of the orchestra. As I sat listening to the piece I could not help but be reminded of the Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis; a composer also inspired by mathematics.

There are also two special arrangements of Baroque works on the disc. The Vivaldi Concerto RV 443 and Corelli’s Op. 5 No.12 sing movement sonata, nicknamed “La Folia,”.

Chris Wolf:

“It’s arranged here for marimba, vibraphone and string by the Welsh composer and conductor Karl Jenkins. This is music that was originally written for violin and continuo. Jenkins has done a wonderful re-imagining of this chaconne using some 20th century orchestral textures.

For Simeon Rusnak, Jenkin’s arrangement and the thoughtful playing by both the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and Dame Evelyn Glennie, “make this recording of one of the oldest melodies new. Don’t be afraid to turn up the volume in the headphones. I did.”

Simeon saves his best comment for the Vivaldi arrangement. Originally written for piccolo, it’s re-worked here for vibraphone.

Simeon says:

Vibraphone with Vivaldi is akin to peanut butter on a hamburger; the combination, though not common, is completely delicious. The exotic sound of the vibes played with tact by Evelyn Glennie compliments the crisp, precise playing of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra offering a fresh musical perspective on the Piccolo Concerto in C Major, RV 443.”

Chris Wolf goes further and asks the question...“if Vivaldi had a vibraphone handy, you have to wonder if he would not have written concertos for the instrument?

Final thoughts . . .

Chris writes “The playing on the CD “Mirage” is beautifully performed by Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The MCO succeeded in creating the atmospheric mood required in the Hatzis and the Oesterle, and the playing on the Corelli and Vivaldi is clear and precise. A word must also be mentioned about the recording quality on this CD. The engineers have successfully recorded a CD that sounds like you are sitting on stage with the musicians minus the pesky extraneous sounds of page turns, feet shuffling etc. I look forward to hearing more recordings on the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra’s label MCO Records."

Mirage? Concertos for Percussion is available locally (Winnipeg) at McNally Robinson and at Into the Music.

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