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June 2017 Recent Reviews

  • Review of Seven Last Words by Michael John Trotta -- Choral Scholar

    In his famous Poetics of Music of 1939, Stravinsky observes, “A real tradition is not the relic of a past that is irretrievably gone; it is a living force that animates and informs the present.” Michael J. Trotta’s Seven Last Words is a work solidly grounded in tradition, yet incorporates a musical language that, in George Gershwin’s words, “informs the thoughts and aspirations of the people and the time.”

    Musical settings for the Seven Last Words date from at least the early 16th century, and composers of many style periods have contributed, including de Lassus (16th century), Schütz (1645), Haydn (1787), Frank (1859), Dubois (1867), and MacMillan (1993), and many others. (Although, as Trotta points out, settings in English are relatively rare.) Trotta adheres to the tradition, sometimes incorporating innovations in scoring or ordering of texts introduced by previous composers.

    Musically, Trotta presents a broad range of musical conventions and devices, allowing the Words to “expose a gamut of emotions…in a way that distills the most poignant moments of the human condition.” Additionally, the setting interpolates liturgical texts not contained within the traditional set, “further expanding the story and the reaction
    of those present and witness to the Passion.”...

    Seven Last Words... Trotta’s Seven Last Words is a composition that appeals on many levels. Te overall harmonic color is accessible, rich and varied, and one that is familiar to modern-day ears. It wouldn’t be a stretch to observe that several extended passages are reminiscent of what might be heard in a contemporary film score. At the same time, allusions to musical gestures and conventions drawn from the Western classical tradition are ubiquitous, and can only add to the appreciation of the work by those well steeped in the literature. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the work is highly integrated, with inner logic and connections that even the general listener can appreciate.

    It is important to note that the work was commissioned by churches for performance by church choirs consisting of non-professional performers with limited and varied resources. Trotta responded directly to his charge by producing a work that is appealing, adaptable, and within the capabilities of any competent ensemble. Seven Last Words is a significant achievement, a worthy participant in the choral tradition, and a welcome contribution to the literature.

    To read the entire analysis of the work, click here.

  • Opera Canada & Canadian Music Teacher Reviews: Music by Stephen Chatman

    Stephen Chatman's music has been the subject of review in recent Opera Canada and Canadian Music Teacher magazines.

    Opera Canada: Choir Practice by Stephen Chatman, CD Recording

    Choir Practice

    Choir Practice, a comic opera in one act composed by Chatman with libretto by Tara Wohlberg, was premiered and recorded by the University of British Columbia Opera Ensemble and Symphony. The album was released in 2016 on the Centrediscs label.

    Wayne Gooding, Editor, writes, "Rare it is for a live student performance to enjoy a commercial release, rare still when that performance is the world premiere of a new opera...With its musical and linguistic twists and turns, non sequiturs and sudden dead ends, it all unfolds in the manner of Ionesco's The Bald Prima Donna. Both composer and librettist seem to have enjoyed themselves enormously writing this piece, with Chatman drawing on a wide range of styles and influences to bring Wohlberg's absurdist text to life."

    To read this review in its entirety, click here.
    For more information about this CD recording, click here.
    For more information about Choir Practice, click here.

    Canadian Federation of Music Teachers Association: New Piano Music by Stephen Chatman

    Mix and Match for Older Beginners

    Mix and Match for Older Beginners

    Mix and Match is an imaginative and diverse supplementary album especially created for older piano students. It is designed as a rare, innovative mix-and-match complement to any standard piano method book. Through an array of stylistically varied pieces, all paired with harmonically rich, imaginative duets, the older beginning student will be musically engaged and challenged. Tara Wohlberg was the text author for this series.

    Jean Ritter of British Columbia writes, "My students and I had a great time playing through the thirty-six pieces. They all have complimentary duets that add depth and great colour and make for pleasant music making!...The book is pedagogically sound incorporating numerous terms and symbols our students learn in their theory books."

    To read the full length review, click here.
    For more information about the Mix & Match series, click here.                                       

    Etudes, Book 1

    Etudes Book 1As with Chopin's Etudes, this challenging set of five etudes can be used either for technique work or for concert performance. The music most assuredly allows for the pianist to demonstrate his or her technical and musical prowess.

    Joyce Janzen of British Columbia says, "Each of these advanced technical challenges are a minute to a minute and a half long. Dynamic and pedal markings are frequent and precise. Changing meter often accomplishes a ritardando or a pause between sections. These are dynamic material for an eager advanced performer!"

    To read the full length review, click here.
    For more information about Etudes, click here.

    Stephen Chatman

    Stephen Chatman, one of Canada's most prominent composers, is Professor of Composition at the University of British Columbia School of Music. He has received many commissions and composition awards, including 2005, 2006, and 2010 Western Canadian Music Awards “Classical Composition of the Year," 2010 and 2012 SOCAN Jan V. Matejcek New Classical Music Award, three BMI Awards (New York), multiple JUNO nominations, Dorothy Somerset Award, Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2001 BBC Masterprize short-list. In 2012, Dr. Chatman was appointed to the Order of Canada. Dr. Chatman’s choral pieces “are in wide demand in North America” (Historical Dictionary of Choral Music, 2010); his orchestral music has been commissioned by the CBC Radio Orchestra, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Madison, and Windsor symphonies and performed by the BBC Symphony, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Montreal, Sydney, Seoul, San Francisco, Winnipeg, Quebec, St. Louis, Calgary, Detroit, Dallas, and New World symphonies.


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