Cheryl Duvall / Anna Höstman – Harbour

Cheryl Duvall/Anna Höstman – Harbour

This spellbinding partnership between Toronto pianist Cheryl Duvall and Victoria-based composer Anna Höstman has been earning praise in a number of notable publications for its singular approach to a daunting and oversaturated medium—solo piano. Both embodying and hovering outside of many polar impulses, its paradoxical  amalgam of languages has been praised by everyone from Alex Ross (author of The Rest Is Noise) to I Care If You Listen, who enthuses that it “affirms what levels of expression quiet music is capable of when it is not forced to shout, but rather allowed to unfold on its own terms.”

There’s a very particular and special synergy that can emerge from the composer-performer relationship. This reciprocal momentum doesn’t just feed the artists involved, it’s something sensed by listeners as well. Harbour, the debut full-length of both composer Anna Höstman and pianist Cheryl Duvall, channels the close kinship they’ve cultivated together, and documents Höstman’s ever-evolving relationship with the piano.

Cheryl Duvall – piano

Anna Höstman

1 allemande (2012)

2 harbour (2015)
3 late winter (for the left hand) (2019)
4 yellow bird (2019)
5 darkness… pines (2010)
6 adagio (2019)

harbour (2015) and adagio (2019) were commissioned and premiered by Cheryl Duvall.
late winter (2019) was commissioned and premiered by Adam Scime for the Canadian Piano Left Hand Commissioning Project.

Duvall’s touch is sublime, articulating melodic fragments that unspool, repeat (in a Morton Feldman-esque manner), dissolve, or tumble into dissonance” — Peter Margasak, Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical

…affirms what levels of expression quiet music is capable of when it is not forced to shout, but rather allowed to unfold on its own terms.” — Kathleen McGowan, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN

Höstman’s landscapes […] play like maps of the mind distilled into sonic form.” — Ron Schepper, Textura

Harbour is an album of piano solos, played with great finesse and concentration by Cheryl Duvall. I emphasise concentration, because Höstman’s music demands a combination of intense mindfulness and extremely long-range thought.” — Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Albums to Look Out For In 2020, Johnson’s Rambler.

Höstman’s pieces reveal an intensely atmospheric, richly rewarding sound world, beautifully interpreted by Duvall.” —Andy Hamilton, International Piano

“unforced yet compelling music, finding its own bearings while negotiating sonic swirls and eddies” — Julian Cowley, Musicworks

Harbour is available from:

Recorded, produced & mastered by David Jaeger at the Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto.
Recording Engineer: Dennis Patterson
Assistant Recording Engineer: Paul Hodge
Graphic Design: Kristin Messin
Liner notes by Nick Storring
Photography: Shayne Gray
Hair and Makeup: Becky Grimman
Recorded at Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto – May 28 and 31, 2019.

This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters. Ce projet est financé en partie par FACTOR, le gouvernement du Canada et les radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.

TK473 © 2020 Redshift Records Jan.11, 2020

Anna Höstman (left) with Cheryl Duvall (right) — Photo by Shayne Gray

Over the past decade, Toronto-based Cheryl Duvall has risen to prominence as one of Canada’s strongest and most prescient advocates for contemporary music. With Ilana Waniuk, she’s one of the co-artistic directors of acclaimed ensemble Thin Edge New Music Collective, who, since 2012, have commissioned and premiered more than 70 new works, spearheaded a number of innovative collaborations (spanning circus performers to leading composers such as Sarah Hennies and Linda Catlin Smith), and have been featured on the cover of Musicworks Magazine. Duvall’s solo pursuits have demonstrated exceptional adeptness at harmonizing different musical dispositions. Her imagination, dexterity, and sensitivity as a player is matched by sharp curatorial instincts. She recently commissioned seven new works from Canadian composers spanning the radically open, delicate music of Wandelweiser composer Daniel Brandes, to James O’Callaghan, whose practice embraces nimble ensemble angularity and acousmatic environments.

Victoria resident Anna Höstman was also among these composers. In her own words her work—which has been presented worldwide—seeks “out tactile encounters with the world while also extending into history, memory, and landscape.” The deeply personal and paradoxical blend of pure abstraction and evocative sonic imagery she describes above has earned her the prestigious K.M. Hunter Award, the Toronto Emerging Composer Award, and numerous exciting collaborations. In addition to high-profle partnerships with the likes of Quatuor Bozzini, Arraymusic, Mira Benjamin, Carla Huhtanen, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, during her three year tenure as Composer-In-Residence with the Victoria Symphony she worked with lauded writer P.K. Page to create the 2006 opera What Time is it Now? Höstman currently teaches at the University of Victoria, an institution synonymous with bold individualist voices such as Linda Catlin Smith, Martin Arnold, eldritch Priest, and Cassandra Miller. She herself completed her first two degrees there, and thus can be regarded as both an extension of, and active participant in the school’s idiosyncratic legacy.

Captured vividly at the Glenn Gould Studio by David Jaeger, founder of the cherished CBC Radio program Two New Hours, Harbour’s six pieces offer several vantages on a unique and potent pianistic intimacy. Höstman’s private and peculiar landscapes unfurl across a deceptively vast scope, anchored by her penchant for thin, single-voice textures. Her keen sense of harmonic hue juxtaposes these stark melodic lines as they waft and twitch between a digressive conversational mode and introverted song-like lyricism. As a long-time, trusted collaborator of the composer (three of Höstman’s seven piano works are dedicated to her), Duvall is well-versed in the unpredictable contours and pivotal shifts of sonic weight that characterize this music. She’s just the person to conjure the contradictory performative impulses it embodies — exacting lucidity on one hand, and gentle, bleary-eyed abandon on the other.