8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 2 - October 2005

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mSinfqnia 1oronLo NURHAN

mSinfqnia 1oronLo NURHAN ARMAN MUSIC DIRECTOR Toronto's Premier Chamber Orchestra A BACH PREMIEREI ALINE KUTAN, Soprano ROBERT SILVERMAN, Pianist Saturday, Oct. 15, 8 pm Grace Church on-the-Hill 300 Lonsdale Rd , , Premiere of a newly-discovered Bach aria plus Mozart Piano Concerto #14, Biber's Battalia and Dvorak's 'American' Quartet in orchestral version HOLIDAY CONCERT GIUSEPPE LANZETTA, Conductor Saturday, Dec. 3, 8 pm Walmer Church, 188 Lowther Av. , , VIVALDI The Four Seasons MANFREDINI Christmas Cto ETSUKO KIMURA, Violinist Saturday, Nov. 12, 8 pm Grace Church on-the-Hill 300 Lonsdale Rd , , WIREN Serenade MOZART Violin Concerto No. 1 SHOSTAKOVICH Sinfonia Op. 110 Four Preludes 7-concert Masterpiece Series from 4-concert 'Mozart in Jeans' Series from A Viennese Masked Ball March 25 0 before Dec 25 Buy online or call 416.499.0403 COVER STORIES Harry Freedman Remembered lJy Daniel Foley WHEN Harry Freedman made the bold move of leaving his English Horn position in the Toronto Sym- ~-­ phony in 1970 to "' gain more time to write, composers in this city numbered in the few dozens. Remove the complacent academics and you might count the progressive, fully committed . \ ~'i""'""'"'~..,.,,..;._~~ '] 1 . t "')_ J This photo is the Harry I always knew. He laughed like a child that would not grow up. His heart was always young and.filled with stories. I often thought of Harry as ifhe was at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, celebrating his "unbirthday ". Now I know he is there. Andre Leduc composers on one hand, or possibly two if the other hand wasn't already engaged driving a cab or cramped from scribing other people's music for a living. This brave band of innovators formed a tight bond and, with the proactive encouragement of the state, accomplished many great things for this nation. Highly personable and thoroughly engaged in the world, Harry Freedman was an indispensable asset to the nascent professionalism of Toronto composers. He was an enthusiastic champion of the Canadian League of Composers and the Guild of Canadian Film Composers, among many others. His activism embraced political, environmental and educational concerns as well. He exuded a spirit of joyful optimism to all who knew him and will be sorely missed. HARRY WAS FOND of stressing the Jazz roots of his music, citing Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington as particular favourites, yet he was always mindful of circumventing the era-bound conventions of the classic big band Jazz he adored. He refined its elements to their essentials, an elegant blue arc of sound driven by propulsive, shifting rhythms, free from the tyranny of the drum-set. He was as schooled in art as he was in music. Drawing inspiration from contemporary painters and his own youthful art studies, he juxtaposed bold contrasts of colour fields with the most delicate gradations of texture to build the sonic architecture of his instrumental works. His catalogue of over 200 compositions involved every genre save opera. In his vocal works (Spirit Songs and Borealis are two splendid examples) he cultivated a distinctly Canadian resonance, inventing his own phonetic texts to evoke the enigmatic landscape of the True North and to express his solidarity with the indigenous people of this land. AN A YID CONCERT GOER, Harry disdained the cheap effects, pretensions and empty virtuosity he periodically encountered in the passing fashions of contemporary music. Today it seems there are well over a hundred composers living in Toronto, but are we any the richer for it? As I once heard him lament of a certain unduly hyped composer, "It just gets worse and worse!" Royalties are a fraction of what they were then, performance opportunities are few, and commissions come chiefly to the up-and coming. The social conscience, national pride and cohesive creative community that made Harry's career possible seems to have all but evaporated. We would do well to learn from our pioneers. THIS PAST JULY, I completed the computer engraving of the orchestral parts to Harry's final orchestration, Manipulating Mario. It was one of many scores I came to know intimately over the years as his music copyist. There was a certain notational question I asked him about that he couldn't quite answer. "Dan," he said, "you have to understand, this is mostly Harry's [the late Harry Somers] music. I' ll have to ask him when I see him! " It must be a great day in Heaven. 12 Back to Ad Index WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.CO M O CTOBER 1 - N OVEMBER 7 2005

Bach brings Helmuth Rilling back to U of T by Larry Beckwith HELMUTH RILLING is a man with a mission. I spoke with the world-renowned choral conductor recently, late one Saturday afternoon - well, it was afternoon in Stuttgart, mid-morning Toronto time. It was a pleasant, wide-ranging conversation, and I came away from it fascinated by his articulate, pointed views on education and music, especially the music of the subject of his life's work: J. S. Bach. Rilling comes to Toronto this month as the conductor of, and a lecturer for, the International Bach Festival, taking place from October 1-9 at the University of Toronto. These combinations of performances and education-based events are nothing new for Rilling. Outside of his own Bach-Akademie in Stuttgart, he has founded and/or participated in similar festivals over the years in Japan, Argentina, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Hungary . In addition, he sets himself up at the Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon every summer, conducting, teaching, and interacting with young singers and instrumentalists. WHAT IS IT about the subject of Bach that lends itself so well to these educational summits? "Well, quite simply, Bach was a teacher. It's woven into his music at every level." It strikes me, while listening to Rilling, that a hallmark of Bach's miraculous writing - as intellectually complicated as it is - is the need to be clear, more than the need to appear clever. "Yes, exactly. There is the communication of musical ideas, not to a select group, but to humanity." IT HAS BEEN OVER 50 years since Rilling founded his famed Gachinger Kantorei, with whom he recorded all of the Bach cantatas and large choral works. His soloists for these recordings read like a who's who of European stars of the recent past: Fischer-Dieskau, Arlene Auger, Andreas Schmidt, Edith Wiens, Helen Watts, Helene Donath to name a few. And Rilling has many good words for the singers he'll be working with in Toronto. "I work with the tenor Jimmy Taylor a great deal. He travels with me and we communicate very well. But because of the marvellous diversity of musical activity in your city, you have such good singers there. Daniel Taylor, for instance, is a wonderful musician and has such a good feeling for the style of Bach. " The focus of this year's International Bach Festival is the repertoire of early cantatas by Bach. The performance and discussion of a number of these will, according to Rilling, lay the foundation for the festival 's five-year plan. He will return to conduct late cantatas next year, then spend the following three years on the two Passions (John and Matthew) and finish with the great Mass in B Minor in 2009. It is a given that each of Bach's 215 or so cantatas is a little gem. The form itself is no innovation by the time it reaches Bach, growing as it did out of Luther's desire for a homegrown body of sacred music in the language of O CTO BER 1 - N OV EMBER 7 2005 Back to Ad Index the German-speaking regions. Bach's musical pedigree, combined with a deep knowledge and reverence of the ;, .. great 17th century German sacred composers - Schlitz, Buxtehude, Praetorius and others - firmly situates him as the carrier of the torch of older musical traditions and forms. (In fact, this was a criticism leveled at him near the end of his career, and one of the reasons a great deal of his music was ignored and unperformed for nearly a century after his death). Of course, if this respect for the great craft of his predecessors were his only gift, we would have forgotten Bach long ago. As Rilling points out, even in the early cantatas, one can point to tremendous innovation and creativity, both in form and content. "Yes, the development of Bach's style is present in these early works, especially in the clear attention to text at all times." IN THE LlITHERAN CHURCHES in which Bach worked - the "new church" in Arnstadt ( 1 703- 07), the St. Blasius Church in Muhlhausen (1707-08), the court in Weimar (1708-17), the court in Cothen (1717-23) and the Thomaskirche in Leipzig (1723-1750) - brevity was not a consideration. It was a regular occurrence for services to last hours, with hymnsinging, organ music, Biblical exegesis and a weekly cantata performance being at the heart of worship. In fact, these last two items went hand in hand. Bach's cantatas, on average, last 20 minutes and follow a general pattern, though there are many exceptions. A sinfonia or opening chorus sets the tone for the work, based as it is on the Biblical lectionary readings and lessons of the day. Combinations of arias, recitatives and small ensembles follow and the work concludes with a "chorale" which the congregation would join together to sing. Though this sounds like a formula, Bach managed to infuse his cantatas with invention, unique beauty and specific meaning. For instance, two of the cantatas Maestro Rilling will be discussing and performing at this year's Festival, BWV 106 - "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" - and BWV 4 - "Christ lag in Todesbanden" - are well-known early works with lots of individual personality. In the former work (106), the gentle message of patience and trust is personified by the mellow, undulating gambas and recorders and, even though written when he was barely 20 years old, features a breathtaking layering of a cantus firmus chorale tune. In the latter work (4), the turbulence of the Good Friday events is characterized by Italianate string writing and a virtuosic variation of the chorale on which WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM ---- the cantata was based in each of its movements. Rilling speaks easily about these pieces, as though they were old friends, yet with a refreshing sense of excitement and novelty -- still finding new ideas, fresh perspectives on these pieces he's known for over half a century. In reflecting on his initial confrontations with the works of Bach, all those years ago, Rilling characterizes his younger self as having been "curious and well-read". Indeed, he studied at seminaries as a boy in Wiirttemberg, before enrolling in Stuttgart College of Music as an organist. It was the keyboard works of Bach that initially hooked him, and he speaks fondly of his later studies with the organist Fernando Germani in Rome. Some time in the 1960s, he studied with Leonard Bernstein, whose catholic taste and eclecticism - let alone his ability to "think big" - must have also influenced Rilling at a deep level. Hl:s PARTICIPATION in the International Bach Festival comes after years of memorable visits to Toronto. There was a sensational Mass in B Minor in the 1989 Joy of Singing Festival, a return to conduct Handel's Israel in Egypt in 1993, plus many guest stints with the TSO about which he has much good to say. And he flew in specially, in June 2004, to conduct a Bach cantata (what else?) at the warm and elegant Roy Thomson Hall memorial for Nicholas Goldschmidt, who died earlier that year. In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find and sincerely celebrate deep meaning in great works of art, Rilling seems more committed than ever to spreading the Gospel of Bach: the profound combination of ideas and lessons on the one hand, and highly innovative and well-crafted music on the other. "Now there is something one can learn from! " , Mozart is supposed to have exclaimed upon hearing a Bach motet for the first time. Thanks to the industry and dedication of great musicians like Helmuth Rilling, we still are. The International Bach Festival takes place from October 1-9 at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music. For more infonnation, visit or call 416- 862-BACH. 13

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