Elements Eternal – Contemporary Canadian Classics

I’m not very familiar with Canadian composers, so I was very interested in auditioning Elements Eternal. The release features world premier recordings from four Canadian composers. The works were commissioned by the Gryphon Trio, who performs them on this release.

It’s a heady mix of music that I found appealing, intriguing, substantial and enjoyable. The Gryphon Trio gives each work its due; though the styles and approaches are different, the trio’s sure-footed performances bring a certain consistency to the album as a whole.

“Solstice Songs” (2011) by Andrew Staniland is a three-movement contemplation on the change of seasons. Skittering strings, rumbling low register piano, and non-tonal motifs make this the most avant-garde work on the disc. Yet the motifs are easy to follow and the work’s frenetic energy draw the listener in.

“Centennials” by Michael Oestrele provides musical portraits of three people who would have turned 100 in 2012: Julia Child, Conlon Nancarrow, and Jackson Pollock. Oestrele’s music seems to get at the essence of each person, and does so in a goo- natured fashion. I might not have identified the subjects without a program, but I definitely would have enjoyed the music nonetheless.

Brian Current’s “These Begin to Catch Fire” bustles and glistens like the sun-lit water that inspired the work.  The most conservative is “Letters to the Immortal Beloved,” James K. Wright’s 2012 work inspired by Beethoven’s love letters. The work is for mezzo-soprano and piano trio, and has an appealing elegiac quality.

I still don’t know much about Canadian composers. But I now know four I want to hear more of.

Elements Eternal
Brian Current: These Begin to Catch Fire; Andrew Staniland: Solstice Songs; Michael Oesterle: Centennials; James K. Wright: Letters to the Immortal Beloved

Gryphon Trio; Julie Nesrallah, mezzo-soprano

Naxos 8.57533

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