Lyricism comes easily to the pianist Amanda Tosoff. She is a true poet of the piano. There is no other way to describe such wondrous things she does on her instrument. It’s not like you needed proof. She provides this every time she performs in the studio or live. The young lady offers a refined performance, a cautious but polished record Words where the articulate meets the atmospheric and the percussive; where songs are played with immaculate poise and thoughtfulness. Moreover, on each and every song Tosoff cultivates a beautiful, poetic tone with an orchestral touch – especially on songs graced by the violin of Rebekah Wolkstein and the cello of Amy Laing.
This album is dedicated to the setting of poetry, of William Wordsworth and how he nestles cheek-by-jowl with poems by Carole Glasser Langille, Tim Bowling and Laura Lush. Of course Tosoff does not intend to be facetious. It’s simply that she is swept up by the romance and the metaphoric the beauty of the poems that she has set to music and Wordsworth brings as much musicality to the poetry of the Canadian poets on this record. In the hands of Amanda Tosoff – who just happens to be among the youngest Canadian pianists to grace the world stage, this music becomes white-hot volcanoes of intense expression; they present formidable technical challenges, all of which are surmounted almost with nonchalance, the pianist’s focus resolutely serving the score, not the mechanisms involved in performing it.
Amanda Tosoff has a particularly rewarding sense of rhythm, high sprung, light and incisive and entirely secure, which pays its way throughout the repertoire. But hearing her navigating through the massive improvisations and written parts as if they and their wondrous grandeur were the most natural thing in the world leaves no doubt that this is a young pianist to be watched, listened to and reckoned with.
Especially in ‘Daffodils’, Cool Embrace’ and ‘The First Day of Winter’ Tosoff’s playing is exhilarating, extrovert and effortlessly virtuosic. She balances no-holds-barred emotions with intelligent pacing and those same rock-solid musical instincts; and she seems an ideal match for the poetry of Carole Glasser Langille and Tim Bowling in operatically-honed identification with the progression of an unfolding musical narrative. Here she is ably aided and abetted by Felicity Williams’ beautiful vocals. And, of course, the utter mastery of the other musicians that she has brought on this date – bassist Jon Maharaj, guitarist Alex Goodman and drummer Morgan Childs.
If this album of poetry and music performance often feels more like a verismo opera than a delicate Mozartian ballet, it’s a powerful, fully defined interpretation (of the poetry) that pays dividends in the soaring aria-like quality of the melodies, some o so familiar yet here feeling as fresh as if we were hearing them as they are – truly virginal. To complete thie wonderfully vivid picture, the recorded sound is radiant, clear and detailed. Bravo Amanda Tosoff.
Track List: Daffodils; Cool Embrace; Simultaneous Windows; Too Late; Owl Pellet: Living in the Past; Down to the Water; The First Day of Winter; Little Bird.
Personnel: Felicity Williams: voice; Amanda Tosoff: piano; Alex Goodman: guitar (1 – 3, 5 – 9); Jon Maharaj: bass; Morgan Childs: drums; Rebekah Wolkstein: violin (1, 2, 5, 7); Amy Laing: cello (1, 2, 3, 5, 7).
Label: Oceans Beyond Records
Release date: March 2016
Running time: 40:21