HARRY SOMERS (1925-1999): Stereophony (Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Jukka-Pekka Saraste), Piano Concerto No. 2 (Robert Silverman [piano], Toronto SO; Victor Feldbrill), Those Silent, Awe-Filled Spaces (Esprit Orchestra; Alex Pauk).
Catalogue Number: 05M102
Reference: CMCCD 15911
Description: Stereophony as the title suggests, is an essay in spatial techniques, with groups of instruments, chosen for their contrasting timbral characteristics, disposed throughout the performance space. A certain freedom in the precise co-ordination between gestures is permitted - similar to the principles of Segerstam's 'free-pulsative' method - though Somers' material is less intricate, more composed of discrete blocks of sound for maximum exploitation of their spatial identities. The concerto displays the composer's affinity with the piano - it was originally his instrument - in four contrasting movements (oddly, the notes only describe three), with a scherzo placed second, a slow movement and then a tense, conflicted finale that exploit a sense of uneasy dialogue between nervous, tense solo material and dense, abstract orchestral writing. The music is somewhat atonal, though Somers persistently provides anchoring tonal cadences. Fugal and imitative textures are also important. Awe-filled spaces is a response to landscape, especially as depicted by the painter Emily Carr. The work is a complex, multi-layered tone poem, dissonant but with a strong sense of arching melody, with layers of color and texture overlaid one on the other like the receding levels of landscape and light in a vast panorama stretching form horizon to horizon.