PREMIERES - Conrad Chow (Violin)

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PREMIERES - Conrad Chow (Violin) - Sinfonia Toronto - Ronald Royer (Conductor) - Bruce Broughton (Piano) - 021475012046 - Released: June 2012 - Cambria CD-1204

1} Bruce Broughton - Triptych (Violin and Chamber Orchestra)
2} Ronald Royer - Rhapsody (Violin and Chamber Orchestra)
3} Ronald Royer - In Memoriam J. S. Bach (Violin and Chamber Ensemble)
4} Kevin Lau - Joy (Violin and String Orchestra)
5} Bruce Broughton - Gold Rush Songs (Violin and Piano)
6} Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne in C-sharp minor (Violin and Piano)

As the title of this new CD implies, practically everything about it is a first. It's the debut recording by Canadian violinist Conrad Chow, presenting world première recordings of music by American film composer Bruce Broughton and Canadian composers Kevin Lau and Ronald Royer. The disparity of styles and sounds collected together here make for a varied and entertaining program. The only common denominator is the fact that all three composers have, to a different degree, written music for films and/or TV, which explains the immediacy and instant appeal of the music itself. From the quirky folk-inspired fun of the Gold Rush Songs to the earnestness of the Rhapsody and the stirring passion of Joy, different aspects of Conrad Chow's technique and temperament are called upon at any given moment, but it's in the more overtly impassioned pieces that his more committed execution shines through.

For me, the showstopper on this disc is Kevin Lau's Joy for violin and string orchestra, written in 2008. It exhibits, for such a young composer, masterful control over his idiom. It is so emotionally charged, that on a few occasions it feels like the whole thing will just go over the top, but Kevin Lau resists the temptation, and in the process delivers a piece that brings out the violin's expressive nature and demands truly heartfelt playing from the violinist. And Conrad Chow delivers. From warm and expressive melodies in the violin's lower register to the ecstatic cries of rapture on the highest notes, you can feel the passion emanating from his bow. Kevin Lau himself describes the essence of the work as follows: "The experience of loss is an awakening, and it is no surprise that joy and grief - both painfully acute experiences of overwhelming love - are expressed in such similar ways. Joy is a tribute to these sentiments, and a plea to cherish the precious things in our lives, while they remain." The string orchestra writing is warm and lush, and encourages the solo violin to either luxuriate in it, or at times soar high above it.

Although Conrad Chow already seems to be a veteran of the concert stage, this is his first encounter with a recording studio. Hopefully there will be more.

Jean-Yves Duperron - July 2012