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Life Reflected reviewed by BBC Music Magazine

November 2, 2017

Life Reflected

Castri: Dear Life; Estacio: I Lost My Talk; Lizée: Bondarsphere; Morlock: My Name is Amanda Todd

Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra / Alexander Shelley

AnalektaAN28870 72:85 mins

 

Life Reflected is an artistic collaboration commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre. Blending new music, writing, dance and video, the work offers a powerful meditation on (female) experience and is by turns uplifting, unsettling, mischievous and deeply poignant, albeit with some contributions stronger than others.

Four different scores underpin the work. Strongest is the opening piece, Dear Life, setting extracts from Alice Munro’s semi-autobiographical short story of that name. Narrated with impeccable poise by Martha Henry, Munro’s text fizzes with humour and menace, while Zosha Di Castri’s orchestral score chimes and simmers below, erupting in wild, beautiful flurries (and also featuring a stellar performance by soprano Erin Wall).

Jocelyn Morlock’s My Name is Amanda Todd is an elegiac tribute to a brave young anti-bullying advocate, while Bondarsphere celebrates the life of neurologist Dr. Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space. Nicole Lizée’s playful, sweeping score evokes the thrill and danger of space travel, blending a soundtrack of spoken voice and electronica with live orchestra.

The disc concludes with I Lost My Talk which sets a poem by Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe and explores the systematic mistreatment of indigenous peoples. Joe’s redemptive text is spellbinding but John Estacio’s score (which admittedly accompanies a film, here unseen) feels saccharine in places, and the performance from the otherwise excellent National Arts Centre Orchestra seems patchy here.

 

Kate Wakeling

BBC Music Magazine, December 2017