Artist: The GGS New Music Ensemble
Songs: Gran Turismo [composer: Andrew Norman] + Dérive II [excerpt] [composer: Pierre Boulez]
Recorded at The Royal Conservatory of Music's Conservatory Theatre, May 5, 2016.
Under the leadership of Brian Current, the Glenn Gould School's New Music Ensemble continues to thrive, challenging young musicians to tackle intricate works. That was especially evident in the presentation of the sprawling "Derive II", which took up more than half of the programme. "The elementary phenomena of pulsation and repetition are often blurred," the notes mentioned — they seemed to be at a pain to find fancy ways of saying "this has a lot of notes". That fact made this fully satisfying as a technical exercise, in watching the students (plus the inestimable Wesley Shen on piano) hang on to the raft as they shot the rapids, so to speak.
Things were somewhat less frenzied earlier on with Ana Sokolović's Carl Stalling-meets-John Cage "…and I need a room to receive five thousand people with raised glasses", which included some fun extra-musical dramatic flourishes like a twirling conductor and a series of players popping up in their chairs like figures in a Whac-A-Mole game. Andrew Norman's videogame-inspired opener saw eight violin players arranged in a crescent in a piece which spacialized the sound quite nicely in the room, with musical phrases being passed down the line in a musical car chase.