ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
JEFFREY RYAN - Orchestral Works

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JEFFREY RYAN - Orchestral Works - Bramwell Tovey (Conductor) - Vancouver Symphony Orchestra - Gryphon Trio - 747313276578 - Released: September 2011 - Naxos 8.572765

The Linearity of Light
Equilateral: Triple Concerto for Piano Trio and Orchestra
Symphony No 1: Fugitive Colours

O Canada! Here is the first issue in the Naxos Canadian Classics collection. Series producers Charles Barber and Raymond Bisha have embarked on a recorded anthology of the serious art music created in our home and native land and promise to deliver six to eight albums yearly. This disc is the musical equivalent of an ice hockey hat trick scored on elegant breakaways (with assists from the Canada Music Fund and Canada Council for the Arts). Jeffrey Ryan (b 1962) is an established Canadian composer who has held the posts of Composer-in-Residence and Composer Laureate with the Vancouver Symphony. The association makes the present production very much a family affair and these 21st century pieces receive committed and affectionate performances from the orchestra and Bramwell Tovey. The triple concerto was commissioned to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Gryphon Trio. Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin), Roman Borys (cello) and Jamie Parker (piano) are world-class chamber musicians who mount the large platform with aplomb and enthusiasm for Ryan's challenging score. Jeffrey Ryan is fond of conceptual ideas and titles for works and the movements within them. These serve as background to the composer's inspiration but the music can be appreciated with neither programme nor inference. It works very well in absolute terms, intricate and invigorating in the outstanding performances here.

Sound World. Linearity of Light is a spritely and concise curtain raiser eleven minutes in length. For most collectors this will be a pleasing introduction to the composer. Originality and quality is obvious yet the spirit of the piece recalls Stravinskian wit and use of an orchestral piano is redolent of Martinu's symphonic muse. Equilateral seems to flow out of the first number seamlessly. It opens with energetic thrust and momentum. This is one concert recording that no admirer of the Gryphons can possibly live without. A first symphony is a landmark for any composer and with Fugitive Colours, Ryan has created a memorable addition to the form. His four-movement layout places a slow nocturne second. As an exhibition of, "The large-scale integration of contrasts," as Hans Keller would have put it, the symphony is utterly convincing. Imagery may have been a primary influence but the work packs an emotional wallop. Passages sinister and joyous seem to transit directly to the listener's subconscious. This first symphony is a monumental achievement and music lovers everywhere are the beneficiaries.

The Idea of North. This was the title of a sound documentary by Glenn Gould broadcast by the CBC in 1967. Gould wove a tapestry of time, infinite space, climate and communication leading up to a concluding intervention of the Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius. At this moment, Gould's investigation is apt to the subject in hand. This is because Ryan's symphony not only reverberates from coast to coast to coast in Canada but also vaults the North Pole to land in the midst of the modern Nordics. There is among the current generation Peteris Vasks of Estonia and the Finns Kalevi Aho and Jouni Kaipainen who give every indication that they have picked up the torch which fell from the hands of Gustav Allan Pettersson in 1980. Pettersson was the odd man out in Swedish music but still wields striking audible influence on the best of the Nordic successors. Such is powerful and prolific company for Jeffrey Ryan. Naxos has taken great Canadian music of our day and given it global reach.

Coming Attractions. Next up in the Naxos Canadian Classics series will be the Elora Festival Singers presenting music by Ruth Watson Henderson, Derek Holman, Marjan Mozetich, Glenn Buhr, Peter Tiefenbach and Tim Corliss. The Metropolis Ensemble of New York under conductor Andrew Cyr will perform music by Edmonton-born composer Vivian Fung with Kristin Lee (violin) and Conor Hanick as soloists.

Stephen Habington - September 2011