Shattered Night, Shivering Stars: Music of Alexina Louie
This commentator was shocked to hear (in the fall of 2000) Canadian actor Mike Meyers tell David Letterman that Canada was a land "with no classical music of its own." With outstanding discs like this one, CBC Records proves on a monthly basis the falsity of such statements.
Louie, a Vancouver native, is an outstandingly talented, technically polished, imaginative and distinctive composer, who (like many of her Canadian colleagues) seems to have an attraction to musical environments of vastness with an underlying gentleness.
Each of the five works presented here is for a different performing force. All the performances are wholly convincing and the sound by producer Randall Barnard and engineer Anton Kwaitkowski is always attractive, if studio-like.
"Obsessions" (Their Own Words) is a fifteen-minute solo cantata for baritone & orchestra, on words from letters of Monet and Van Gogh, written for a museum opening and performed well by Russell Braun, with Mario Bernardi and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. "Arc" is a short and intense violin concerto, with an able performance by Martin Beaver (though I would like to hear a powerhouse fiddler like Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg take it up). Beaver also plays (and very well, giving the writer no occasion to wonder if another violinist would do better) the solo part on "Thunder Gate," written as a test piece for a music competition and thus very difficult.
The other two works are (in this writer's estimation) the most characteristic of Louie's work in general: carefully applied musical color painting scenes of infinity. They are the orchestral work "Shattered Night, Shivering Stars" (also the overall title of the album) and the choral "Love Songs for a Small Planet" in its version with string orchestra accompaniment. The Camerata Singers of Ottawa show great ability. A strongly recommended disc.