The Shaman: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra*; Arctic Symphony**
*Evelyn Glennie (percussion); **The Nunavut Sivuniksavut Performers; Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Mickelthwate
Centrediscs CMCCD 24317
Inspired by a voyage round the North Pole on a scientific research vessel, Vincent Ho’s Arctic Symphony (2010) is a vivid evocation of both the seascape and the ecological turmoil of this most isolated of territories. In his lushly-orchestrated, often tonal score, Ho explores the furious winds of arctic nights, the sorrow of a region ravaged by human exploits, and the clattering machinery of the ship that carried him through these precarious waters. The work is bookended by two haunting songs sung by the wonderful Nunavut Sivuniksavut Performers which, combined with blisteringly good playing from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, make this an arresting recording.
The commendable cultural specificity that underpins Ho’s Arctic Symphony is oddly diluted in The Shaman: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (2011). Here Ho explores notions of ‘shamanism’, from the evocation of a shamanic ‘ritual’ to an explosive ‘Fire Dance’ finale. Ho’s score is itself complex and thrilling, and Evelyn Glennie’s performance is subtle and beautiful, particularly in the mesmeric vibraphone solo at the close of the elegiac second movement. However, the overall conceit of the work feels troublesome in its generalised ‘othering’ of shamanic practices, especially when placed alongside the careful construction of Arctic Symphony, making for a curiously mixed disc.