I’ve listened to it, and can report that the disc well produced and performed. As for the music itself, it’s often edgy and angular, and always has a strong sense of direction. As well, Ryan isn’t shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve: Stravinsky, Bartók, Messiaen and Lutosławski all make cameo appearances in his scores. And like all of those composers, Ryan is a master of orchestration.
One thing that strikes as remarkable about the series (beyond its mere existence, which is remarkable enough) is the virtual absence of Canada’s “Old Guard” composers, so far. Where are John Weinzweig, Serge Garant, Violet Archer, the Harrys (Somers and Freedman), etc., etc?
I decided to get in touch with Raymond Bisha at Naxos in New York. Bisha, a Canadian, is the company’s Director of Media Relations for North America, and the driving force behind this new project.
He began by assuring me that the Old Guard would be included in future releases. But to this he added a further thought: “I want the series to reflect on the living art-form It’s not an academic anthology – it’s about the excellence and vibrancy of the Canadian music that’s happening now.”
In other words, what Naxos is trying to do is offer a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, image of Canadian music. Partly, this approach is based on economic necessity: Bisha doesn’t have the budget to hire ensembles and tell them what he wants to record; rather, he has to work with what musicians are already doing. That, he explained, was how the first disc was made: the VSO was already in the process of recording Ryan’s music when Naxos picked it up.
Exigencies aside, it’s an intriguing idea. In Canada, our institutions sometimes take a prescriptive approach to defining which of our composers “count.” Let’s see what a descriptive approach turns up.
Bisha also tells me that he hopes to bring out six to eight Canadian Classics discs per year – and that he’d like to find a corporate sponsor for the series. Are any bank presidents reading these words?
© Colin Eatock 2011