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New Music Notebook: Ilkim Tongur

© Photography by Jae Im

In this inaugural instalment of New Music Notebook, a semi-regular column that examines new compositions by Calgary composers and reviews new music concerts featuring composers whose works are presented in the Calgary performing arts scene, I look at two pieces heard in January during Forum 2014. Both works were part of the first half of a wonderful Land’s End Ensemble concert whose highlight was the remarkable song cycle by Peter Maxwell Davies “Eight Songs for a Mad King.”

Ms. Tongur is a composer already in possession of tremendous confidence and shows astute use of her instrumentaiton. For example, to represent the Sea Sparkles’ habitat within two directionally opposing water confluences, she has represented the rivers with two contrasting themes. Before her piece was debuted, Ms. Tongur stepped forward to the microphone and announced that the themes “don’t always fit well together, although sometimes they do.” The phosphorous sea creatures were made to sparkle beautifully in Susanne Ruberg-Gordon’s piano playing. This was a first-rate performance and a very busy evening for the diverse pianist. Here was only one work of many in which Ms. Ruberg-Gordon achieved the finest balance, acting as both the core sound and the very glue of Land’s End Ensemble – absolutely ideal playing all night. Moreover, she kept the brightness of her unwieldy instrument to a minimum, ensuring that the acoustical combination of hall and piano was continually striking the perfect balance.

There were equally beautiful moments from violinist John Lowrey and cellist Beth Sandvoss. Ms. Sandvoss’ eerie sul ponticello passages created the perfect atmospheric dive into the two opposing currents, ably painting the mysterioso effect. With a nuanced lyricism, Ms. Ruberg-Gordon’s playing was at its subtlest throughout these chordal passages, navigating a perfect flow through the opposing rivers, entirely played in a contrapuntal manner in both string lines, culminating in the apex of the work – a perfectly fluorescent after-thought. Whether the motives crash together in the B section, or the sparkles are ethologically portrayed in a winsome high solo from Mr. Lowrey’s violin, this work presents an endless variety of beautiful images. Lovely piano tremolos fluoresce before our senses, the work dissolves, and a completely successful work comes to a close. Ms. Tongur has made a remarkable splash with this lovely work.

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