Although the CD is titled The Space Between Us, the profound musical connection established by Thiessen and Toninato confirms that this gap is minimal at best. — The WholeNote, Canada
Prix Opus 2017-18: Album de l’année — Finaliste
This duo music is an intimate, intense gaze between two contrasting characters., Listening to the opposing timbres and tendencies of our individual instruments, we, shape the space between us. In the circulation of our sound, we find common tones, and construct our music from this shared resonance and silence. This music is our, ongoing private conversation.
— Ida and Jennifer
- Composer(s): Ida Toninato, Jennifer Thiessen
- Performer(s): Ida Toninato, Jennifer Thiessen
- Cover image: Romuald Chéchin
- Graphic design: Fabrizio Gilardino
CD (AM 236)
- Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
- AM 236 / 2017
- UCC 771028123629
- Total duration: 67:01
- Sympathique case
- 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
- 35 g
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This baritone sax / viola duet is another 2018 release that blipped the radar then got unjustly buried under 100 subsequent albums. Nonetheless, The Space Between Us serves as a high point of that year’s recordings, and provides some superb listening.
Toninato’s baritone drones and growls, producing rough textures and a shifting foundation over which Thiessen improvises with drones of her own, motifs and brief solos. But that is not to say that Toninato remains in the background — both members of this duet contribute to the complex, ululating melodies.
Still, there is a rich ponderousness to their approach. Thiessen and Toninato are in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, as the journey seems more important than the destination. Along the way, they explore melancholy and thoughtful themes. While not overly dark, each is imbued with a sense of foreboding and a subtle intensity. The Space Between Us is not so much about creating space, but instead exploring a space that is filled with ideas and emotions.
Ida Toninato & Jennifer Thiessen are new to me. Thiessen is a violinist playing viola d’amore and viola on this duo effort. She performs classical and contemporary chamber music, as well as improvised music (Michel F Côté, Antoine Berthiaume, a.o.). With dance ensemble La La La Human Steps, she performed works by Gavin Bryars and Bang on a Can composer David Lang. Toninato is a saxophonist, composer and improviser, also from the Montréal scene, participating in Ensemble SuperMusique and Joker. She plays baritone saxophone on this album. Their duo effort is a work of intimate music focusing on the timbres and sound qualities of their instruments. They create beautiful deep resonating, spatial textures. The music develops slowly in a calm way, giving duration to the created interplay of sounds and timbres. Improvisation plays a big role here, but one could call it contemporary new music as well. They don’t just create a musical effect. But their investigation on sound and timbre is hold together by a strong musical vision. Because of the deep sonorities the music brings you in a reflective and meditative state. A very inspired and moving meeting by these two musicians and their instruments.
Sometimes we may move towards the fringes of jazz or free improv. This beautiful album is more avant-garde classical, yet nevertheless of posssible interest to the readers of this blog. The musicians are Ida Toninato on baritone sax, hailing from Strasbourg in France, and Jennifer Thiessen, playing viola d’amore, and hailing from Manitoba in Canada.
Thiessen is very active in modern classical music and in baroque music with the ensemble Cénacle, she even if she took some steps into pop music with her band Daily Alice.
Toninato comes from a more experimental background, exploring reverberant spaces with uncommon acoustics, with her solo debut album Strangeness Is Gratitude as a wonderful example of that approach. She also works with Ana Dall’Ara-Majek as Jane/KIN, creating performances that mix spatialisation and improvisation.
Their music is spacious, calm, intense, slowly and cautiously progressing, creating timbres and resonance and pursuing them further as they grow and change. In contrast to even modern classical music, there are no obvious patterns or melodies to discern, but a drone-like shimmering of solemn sounds that explore each other around a space of silence. Despite their differences in background and perspective, both musicians find each other perfectly in the deep and central register of their instruments, which are almost always played with a gentle traditional approach.
On the last track Toninato adds some wordless singing and even if I usually hate this, somehow it works here.
It’s great to hear two young musicians perform in a duo with unusual instruments and coming from different perspectives and continents, and find such a strong common ground and sound. The whole album is solid and with a clear central vision on their music: coherent, beautifully performed and with a unique sound. They find each other in the space between them, and they delight us. What more do you want?