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Canada enjoys a day of rest on Monday, 19 May as it celebrates Victoria Day, an annual holiday marking Queen Victoria’s birthday. We thought we would similarly take time out to acknowledge that the country not only has a number of well-known executants of popular and jazz music to its credit (including Leonard Cohen, Michael Bublé and Maynard Ferguson), but has also produced an extensive roster of outstanding classical musicians, from which we here present some notable examples.

From the Canadian Classics Series

Naxos 8.573009
FUNG, Vivian: Piano Concerto, "Dreamscapes" / Violin Concerto / Glimpses
Kristin Lee • Hanick • Metropolis Ensemble • Cyr

Vivian Fung’s work is influenced by Asian sources such as Balinese gamelan music. Violin Concerto soloist Kristin Lee’s shared experience of Bali with the composer resulted in an intensely lyrical and virtuoso work in which West and East collide to create music of remarkably fresh sophistication. Fung draws on John Cage’s ‘prepared’ piano techniques to create often eerie and otherworldly effects in Glimpses, ideas from which expand into the Piano Concerto. Subtitled ‘Dreamscapes’, this work explores contrasts ranging from hauntingly sustained calm to moments of brutal power.

Listen to an extract from Violin Concerto

Naxos 8.572765
RYAN, J.: Symphony No. 1, "Fugitive Colours" / The Linearity of Light / Equilateral
Gryphon Trio • Vancouver Symphony • Tovey

Jeffrey Ryan is one of Canada’s most outstanding composers. He evokes bright, vivid colours in his works which brim with imaginative sound worlds. The Linearity of Light is one such work and is concerned with imagining sound itself, brilliantly realised through different pitch combinations and their suggestions of the brightness of light. Equilateral is a triple concerto, and a spiritually complex meditation that fuses lament with joyful affirmation. Symphony No. 1: Fugitive Colours draws on the idea of colours that fade when exposed to light, and does so with masterly orchestral virtuosity.

Naxos 8.572812
Choral Music (Canadian) - CORLIS, T. / ENNS, L. / TIEFENBACH, P. / WATSON HENDERSON, R. (I Saw Eternity)
Elora Festival Singers • Edison

This recording brings together eleven leading composers whose origins in or strong associations with Canada are manifest in their central position in Canadian musical life. In a programme through which the power of tradition and faith flows strongly, themes are explored ranging from paradise and heavenly fulfilment to tragic loss; and from timeless hymn and psalm texts to an exploration of the brevity of human existence in the title work, I Saw Eternity. One of the finest chamber choirs in Canada and beyond, the Elora Festival Singers’ ‘must-have’ (Gramophone) programme of Eric Whitacre (8.559677) is just one of their many acclaimed recordings.

Naxos 8.573091
HATZIS, C.: Flute Concertos - Departures / Overscript
P. Gallois • Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra • Myrat

Christos Hatzis is recognised as ‘one of the most important composers writing today’. His music bears a number of influences—Christian spirituality, Byzantine music, as well as more popular idioms—and is marked by a strong identification with his source material. Two of his most prominent interpreters join forces on this recording to present two Flute Concertos. Departures is a memorial piece written at a time of personal loss and the 2011 tsunami at Fukushima, Japan and its aftermath. Its appeal is driven by the composer’s unique and eclectic style, which brings in elements of traditional Japanese folk music, blues and burlesque music. Overscript is a commentary on Bach’s Concerto in G minor for Flute, which is ingeniously quoted in full, but in fragmented form, within Hatzis’s own composition.

Aradia Ensemble

Lully: Ballet Music for the Sun King
“...delightfully spruce and
rhythmically alive playing.”

Handel: Concerti Grossi
“…this is an excellent recording of beautiful music that rewards both a casual listener and a serious devotee.”
Musical Toronto

Handel With Care: Kevin Mallon talks to Jeremy Siepmann

Amici Ensemble

Bruch, d’Indy: Chamber Works
“This performance is in all respects quite excellent. The sweep, the passion, the intensity are all present.”
American Record Guide

Messiaen: Quartet
for the End of Time

“This marvellous recording confirms Amici as on of the world’s
finest chamber ensembles.”
Daily Telegraph (Australia)

New Music Concerts Ensemble

Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works
“...this disc is a must for any fan of Lutosławski. The fact that it is his last concert, and one so well performed and recorded, is an added incentive.”
MusicWeb International

Elliott Carter: Chamber Works
“This is a fantastic product, with world class recordings of Carter’s music.”
MusicWeb International

Elora Festival Singers

Morten Lauridsen: Choral Works
“If I were Morten Lauridsen and my work was in the artistic care of a choir like the Elora Festival Singers I would feel that my creative vision was in exceptionally good hands.”

Eric Whitacre: Choral Works
“This stimulating and superb disc is a bargain and an absolute ‘must have’.”

Listen to Raymond Bisha's podcast about this release.

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Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group