VINCENT HO (b.1975): Arctic Symphony (w/Nunavut Sivuniksavut Performers), The Shaman - Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (Evelyn Glennie [percussion]).
Catalogue Number: 11T066
Reference: CMCCD 24317
Description: These two large works share themes of the environment and ancient rituals of the far north, and a tonal, neo-romantic idiom liberally spiced with spectacular sonic effects. The concerto balances two familiar percussion genres; the extravaganza of available sonic effects conjured by the soloist, here used to evoke the mystery and magic of shamanistic ritual, and the headlong propulsion of battering drums augmenting the momentum of fast orchestral music. The soloist enters in a free medley of percussion sounds, and draws the orchestra into a vigorously rhythmic ritual dance, the whole ensemble treated as a vast, frenzied percussion instrument. The slow movement begins with a free fantasia, which eventually turns into a 'big tune' for the vibraphone. Another 'conjuring' interlude finally whips the orchestra up into a frenzied dance, the apotheosis of the Ritual Fire Dance, Danse generale, Rite of Spring, Witches' Sabbath, Sabre Dance, and all its other orgiastic antecedents. The Symphony was inspired by a trip taken by the composer on an Arctic research vessel. Beginning and ending with an evocation of the indigenous peoples, the work is a vast landscape canvas depicting the awe-inspiring vastness of the endangered region. Sometimes, as in the glacial chords of the Meditation movement, the music's Romantic tone-painting recalls VW's Sinfonia Antartica, even though the works are poles apart (sorry!) in other respects - the abstract, powerfully evocative orchestral sound effects of cracking ice in the Nightfall movement, for instance. The three short middle movements illustrate personal recollections of the composer's, including the mechanical clanking of the research ship's equipment, vividly portrayed. The finale, O Glorious Arcticus, begins with the rolling swells of 'new spirituality' figuration, which introduce a massive dance, the gyrations of the ice massifs themselves, perhaps. A triumphant episode leads to an icy, reflective postlude, looking toward an uncertain future. Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Mickelthwaite.