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CD booklet
Eldon RATHBURN: Works

The Gazette
December 26, 2006

Albums of the year - Top 10
Arthur Kaptainis reveals his top 10 classical CD favourites
Works by Eldon Rathburn: Chamber players or Canada
This 90-year-old New Brunswick-born film composer has written some good stuff. Amazingly enough, most of the selections on this disc date from the last seven years.

La Scena Musicale
November 1, 2006

★★★★

Eldon Rathburn n'est pas très connu ici. Il a pourtant écrit les partitions musicales de plusieurs centaines de films de l'ONF (qui a d'ailleurs réalisé un documentaire biographique sur sa carrière), reçu l'Ordre du Canada et a même droit à SA journée officielle (le 21 avril) à Ottawa! La musique de Rathburn est simple, mais bourrée de clins d'oeil musicaux au répertoire classique, et surtout largement imprégnée d'un humour fin et intelligent, parfois sarcastique, qui nous permet d'apprécier la grande sophistication de cet artiste en apparence très humble. Prenez par exemple sa Ottawa Suite, dans laquelle il simule avec des «gazoos» les ronflements ds sénateurs («The Senate Sleeps»), et où il utilise avec un évident plaisir les accents résignés de la mélodie de la Marche Slave de Tchaïkovsky pour illustrer la marche des fonctionnaires vers leur travail («The Civil Servants»). Je n'ai pu réprimer un éclat de rire! Un Concertino pour banjo, un Scherzo cartoonesque pour quatuor, mais aussi une évocation debussyste d'un décor néo-brunswickois (magnifique Harbour Nocturne) et une peinture sensible des rêveries d'un voyageur solitaire (Subway Thoughts), finissent de compléter ce portrait surprenant d'un compositeur qui mérite toutes ses distinctions.

Frédéric Cardin - La Scena Musicale

The WholeNote
September 7, 2006

While Elliott Carter continues a regular composing output at 97, here are CDs of new works by two other vigorous, if more junior, seniors. Henry Brant was born in Montreal 93 years ago and Eldon Rathburn in Queenstown New Brunswick three years later. The major Brant offering, dated 2004, features the forces of the Milwaukee premiere -three women's choirs, a children's choir, ensembles of violins and trumpets, other solo winds, percussion, piano, harpsi-chord, harp, dispersed around the performance space under tive con-ductors, with the composer adding improvisations on organ and xylophone from a balcony. In this amazing 35-minute "extraplanetary environmental oratorio" the choruses, separated in the hall, sing texts from the notebooks of Leonardo on the four topics of the title -one text assigned to each chorus -simultaneously and independently. Given the texts' emphasis, the entire score is pitched in the upper registers, middle-C and higher.

Brant's long specialization in spatial treatment of large ensembles dates from his teaching years at Bennington College in Vermont. In a converted barn, he developed precision in placement of high or low, weak or strong timbres, as described in his essay "Space as an essential element in musical composition" (1965). For decades his works were unavailable on disc, considered unrecordable. The spatial qualities of Wind, Water, Clouds & Fire, now superbly captured by Innova, nonetheless have to be imagined: like most Brant, this is music intended for live performance.

The companion works, from 1983 and 1978 respectively, are no less overwhelming and original. The Lit-any ofTides, a cycle of "spatial an-tiphonies," evokes a wide variety of tidal actions: loud surges of energy in low brass and percussion alternate with delicate wave pat-terns featuring a peripatetic solo violin and, in the distance, four solo sopranos. In the wildest of the double-orchestra upheavals, the sopranos are still audible. Brant co-conducts both here and in Trinity of Spheres.

Eldon Rathburn's career is cel-ebrated in a retrospective CD featuring the core musicians of the Ot-tawa International Chamber Music Festival where the disc was launched this past summer. The earliest of the dozen pieces was written in 1933, the latest in 2002. They represent what the English call "light music" (Coates, Hoffnung), a category reflected in North Americans such as Leroy Anderson and Spike Jones. Touches of satire, even slapstick, are balanced by a sensitive lyricism; it all suggests long and expert instrumental experience. Among many enjoyable items is a short show-piece for banjo and strings.

John Beckwith - The WholeNote