HO The Shaman. Arctic Symphony
Vincent Ho (b1975) is a native of Ottawa, though of Chinese heritage. During 2007 14 he was Composer-in-Residence with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, for whom both scores here were created. The Shaman (2010 11) was written for and commissioned by Evelyn Glennie (and an array of Canadian arts organisations), and is an exciting, highly imaginative percussion concerto in three movements; or four, as there is an Interlude, ‘Conjuring the Spirits’, between the central Fantasia ‘Nostalgia’ and concluding ‘Fire Dance’. As the title suggests, shamanism is the departure point for the work, vividly evoked in the opening ‘Rituals’ and exuberantly driving finale. ‘Nostalgia’ features a lovely, delicately scored tune about which John Corigliano writes effusively in the foreword.
Glennie is obviously much taken with the work (of which there is also an arrangement for Chinese orchestra) as her terrific performance confirms and she has played it several times around the globe. Arctic Symphony (2008 10) came about in the wake of a sponsored trip to the north of Canada and is a programmatic work in five movements documenting what Ho saw, felt and experienced there: the central scherzo, ‘Aboard the Amundsen’, even depicts his time on the polar exploration ship of that name. Taped Arctic ‘environmental sounds’ and an Inuit chorus feature at the start and close, highlighting Ho’s ecological concerns, though the symphony (in truth, more a tone poem in five movements) does not have the visceral impact of the concerto.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra give very decent accounts of both works though the violins are stretched and a little ragged in some of the difficult fast, high passages. Centrediscs’ recordings, made by CBC Radio, are warm with good depth of sound.