7 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 6 - March 2006

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y Pamela Margles Father

y Pamela Margles Father Owen Lee aptly titled one of his books about Richard Wagner The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art. Wagner's great-grandson, Gottfried Wagner, who as a kid after the war discovered the extent of his grandmother Winifred's never-repudiated Nazi involvement, claims that the music cannot be separated from the man. He, as have many, many others, has written his own book, Twilight of the Wagners. But Brigitte Hamann, in the first biography of Winifred, confirms that nothing is clear in the legacy of this complex man and his 'still warring' family. At the other extreme from Wagner is Olivier Messiaen, whose saintly aura masked only tenderness. I interviewed him, along with his wife, Yvonne Loriod, in 1982 for a magazine feature when they were in Toronto to jury the first Glenn Gould Prize. They had been napping when I showed up at their hotel for our appointment, yet they insisted that I come up nonetheless. They were both in their pyjamas, I remember - two of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. Messiaen left a legacy of joyful affirmation, which Loriod carries on today, not least in her generous contributions to Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone's ground-breaking book. Rounding out this month's report are Father Owen Lee's intriguing exploration of great classical instrumental repertoire, and a mystery novel involving a previously-undiscovered violin work by Beethoven. Messiaen by Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone Yale University Press 448 pages illustrated with examples and photographs; .95 French composer Olivier Messiaen dominated his own century in a way few musicians do. He was every bit as influential as a teacher, and through students like Boulez, Stockhausen, Xenakis and pianist Peter Hill, one of the authors of this luminous biography, that influence continues. But his most significant student, as this volume now reveals in detail, is Yvonne Loriod, the brilliant pianist and teacher who performed his music even better than he did, edited and copied it, chauffeured him on birdwatching expeditions, helped care for his very ill first wife and son, and finally became his wife in 1961. After Messiaen died in 1992, Loriod opened her private archive of Messiaen's diaries, letters 66 and photographs to the authors. With such a wealth of biographical material, Hill and Nigel Simeone nonetheless keep the music at the forefront, bringing to life its two most essential elements, his profound Catholic faith, and his love of nature, in particular, birdsong. Throughout, they show how these two elements shape what is at once the most colourfully sensual and most transcendentally sublime of twentieth century music. Messiaen is exquisitely produced, from the photos and quotations from Messiaen's writings and scores, to the layout, endpapers and cover. The Great Instrumental Works by M. Owen Lee Amadeus Press 280 pages plus two Naxos CDs of musical examples; paper .95 In the hands of a writer as passionate, insightful and witty as Father Owen Lee, what initially appears to be a rather mundane way to follow up his exquisite memoir, A Book of Hours, turns out to be a stimulating personal quest. Having retired from teaching classics at the University of Toronto, and completed his 23-year stint on the Met opera quiz, Lee sets out to explore the non-operatic classical repertoire through the eyes of an opera-lover. In fact this survey offers all kinds of pay-offs to the knowledgeable music-lover as well as the neophyte. Among his chosen fifty composers, he includes just one living composer, Arvo Part, who, like the author, happens to be deeply religious, and just four others from the twentieth century, Messiaen, Britten, Shostakovich and Barber. But, avoiding the obvious, he does make some refreshing choices of works to represent those composers, like Mozart's g minor String Quintet K. 516, and Beethoven's last Piano Sonata. He is unduly hard on former warhorses like Grieg's Piano Concerto, which has been rehab ii itated as the masterwork it is. His sole recommendations for recordings often ignore current performance practices, which can be fine - Bruno Walter's Mozart retains its glow today. But Karajan for the Brandenburgs? Horowitz for Scarlatti? Cemetery of the Nameless by Rick Blechta Rendezvous Press 424 pages; paper .95 Toronto writer and musician Rick Blechta's latest mystery story held me right to the end. But that's not why it is discussed here. Blech- WWW, TH EWHOLENOTE,COM ta's clever storyline and characters directly involve the world of classical music. An elderly man discovers the manuscript of a previously unknown violin work by Beethoven. Soon he is dead ... and the narration is taken over by the two lead players, a virtuoso violinist and her husband, who provide different perspectives. Victoria Morgan is vulnerable and unstable - otherwise why would even a brilliant musician like her be daft enough to abandon an important concert and go off with a total stranger? Blechta obviously has first-hand experience with the pressures of performing, and understands the irresistible lure of 'the opportunity to plumb the depths of an unknown violin masterwork' by Beethoven. Blechta's main villain, a sadistic, dissolute music-lover who happens to be a baron, complete with castle, is something of a stock figure. But the gay accompanist, the loyal best friend, the fickle manager, the cultivated detective all contribute to terrifically enjoyable entertainment. I just wish Beethoven's Concert Rhapsody in F#- existed! Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth by Brigitte Hamann Granta Books 592 pages with photos and map; hardcover .00; paper .95 Wotan's famously dysfunctional family, as depicted in Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, doesn't begin to approach the composer's reallife progeny for discord. Austrian historian Brigitte Hamann focuses for the first time on Winifred, the English girl who married the composer's son Siegfried, produced four children to carry on the family legacy, and took over the Bayreuth Festival after Siegfried died in 1930. Hamann reveals the extent of Winifred's relationship with Hitler, 'Uncle Wolf to her children, and how he stepped in to keep the festival going right through to 1944, purged of Jews, of course. She shows how Bayreuth influenced his rise to power and became 'the symbol of the third Reich'. Winifred was infatuated not just with Hitler's beliefs, but with the man himself. Yet her deep anti-Semitism did not prevent her from trying to help a number of Jews during the war. Hamann has uncovered revealing correspondence between Winifred and family members, friends and associates from the opera world. Hamann's most sensational discovery could well be Winifred's son Wieland's Nazi activities, especially as civilian director of a Nazi 'work camp' near Bayreuth whose existence was not even known until 1989. This book was understandably a best-seller in Germany. It has been expertly translated and annotated. MARCH 1 - APRIL 7 2006

ecently in town CONTINUED FROM PAGE 16 #hk.ef !tfMiae/· #lf/E SOPRlf;tl() ever could do these roles. You would think there would be an explosion of desire in having a guy play a young man like Cherubino in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro or Siebel in Gounod's Faust, but actually that hasn't been the case. The resistance isn't from the audiences or the critics, it's from the company heads and artistic directors. 'Last year I had the chance to play Cherubino for Pittsburgh Opera, which was a dream come true. I'd been dying to sing that role forever. It was because of Christopher Hahn, the artistic director. He is a great modern artistic administrator because he takes risks, and truly trusts in the intelligence of his audiences. 'Cherubino is a perfect role for me. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't touch it. As an artist I'm not dumb enough to put myself forward for any role I don't think I can properly serve. So why shouldn't I do it? Especially since it was a huge success for the company. The audiences went insane - because they saw a boy playing a boy. There was no disconnect. I don't think most countertenors should be singing the role - it should be a case by case basis. But if your voice and style are appropriate, then why not? 'The argument that Mozart never intended a man to sing Cherubino doesn't make sense. ~ Handel never intended the title role of Julius Caesar to be sung by a woman - or a countertenor, for that matter. It was written for alto castrato. But when you hear Daniels or Scholl sing it, it's obvious that is exactly what they should be doing. 'I would love to do Richard Strauss's Octavian. That would be an even greater leap of faith for people - but why not? For the curtain to come up at the top of Der Rosenkavalier to show an actual man in bed with the Marschallin would be dramatically so interesting. I can create a wholly believable character. 'It's been more challenging than I thought it would be to convince companies to give me opportunities ..... ' Here Maniaci becomes upset, and his voice breaks up. When he first started his career, he was concerned about the mild facial palsy that affects one side of his face, but it has motivated him to hone his dramatic delivery. In fact, his lopsided smile just adds to his charm and attractiveness. 'The exciting thing for me is the response I get from audiences. That's how I know what I'm doing is valid, and that's when companies figure out it's valid. I just made my debut with Boston Baroque playing Nerone in Handel's Agrippina. When I first auditioned for them about four years ago they felt Boston wasn't ready for a male soprano. This is a city steeped in a brilliant baroque tradition - you have countertenors singing there all the time. Finally they thought, "Okay, Nerone, he's crazy, evil and , Great classical music in a perfect small ~ TORONTO concert hall downtown weird, so maybe it's all right to hire this guy." I did it, the audiences went insane, the critics were wonderfully supportive, and they instantly asked me back. 'There are baroque conductors and directors in Europe who still refuse to grant me an audition. When they hear "male soprano" they expect a terrible falsettist who forces his voice very high because he can't make it as a countertenor. The biggest challenge is convincing them that I'm valid. They get it when they hear me, but often times it's challenging just to get heard.' Last year he sang Nireno in Handel's Julius Caesar with the Royal Danish Opera. Scholl was Caesar. 'Andreas was unbelievable - you listen to that man make music and your entire body goes to putty. He's a brilliant human being - one of the sweetest people you could meet. After he heard me do my aria, he said, "O, mein Gott! You really are a soprano! But you have a hard road ahead of you, because everyone thinks male sopranos are these terrible countertenors that cannot sing. You are the real thing. But, oh, it's going to be hard." 'And that perfectly summarizes my experiences in convincing people that what I do is valid, and that there can be a good, legitimate male soprano. If Mozart were sitting here right now and I sang these arias to him, I'm convinced he would put me up on stage.' Maniaci sings Speranza in Monteverdi's Orfeo with Opera Atelier from April 15 to April 23 at the Elgin Theatre. 2006-07 SEASON+ CHAMBER MUSIC DOWNTOWN QUARTETS 3,9 ENSEMBLES-IN-RESIDENCE 9,7 Th. Sept. 28 Emerson Quartet Tu. Oct. 10 Gryphon Trio Th. Oct. 19 Lafayette Quartet Tu. Nov. 28 St. Lawrence Quartet with Th. Nov. 9 Belcea Quartet cellist David Finckel, pianist Wu Han Th. Dec. 7 Vermeer Quartet Tu. Feb. 27 Gryphon Trio Th. Jan 18 Tokyo Quartet Tu. Mar. 27 St. Lawrence Quartet with Th.Feb. 8 Fine Arts Quartet cellist David Finckel, pianist Wu Han Th. Apr. 12 David Owen Norris, DISCO VERY young artists Monica Huggett & Sonnerie Th. Feb. 1 Peter Barrett, baritone Th. May 10 Tokyo Quartet Th. Mar. 22 Cecilia Quartet Th. May 3 David Jalbert, pianist PIANO 5,0 Tu. Oct. 31 Simon Trpceski CONTEMPORARY CLASSICS 1, Tu. Dec. 12 Anagnoson & Kinton Tu. Dec. 12 Anagnoson & Kinton Tu. Jan. 23 Roberto Prosseda Tu.Feb.27 Gryphon Trio Tu. Feb. 20 Stephen Hough Tu. Mar. 27 St. Lawrence Quartet with cellist David Finckel, pianist Wu Han Tu. Mar. 13 Steven Osborne Th. May 3 David Jalbert, pianist AFFORDABLE + ACCESSIBLE + INTIMATE + EXHILARATING c#fef% TORONTO MARCH 1 - APRIL 7 2006 at ) ane Mallett Theatre St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts 416-366-7723 • 1-800-708-6754 order online at taro ntdartsbou n c i I Anarm"1 long1~ bgdyo!l~o C,oyollo«mlo BfB Canada Council Consell des Arts © for the Arts du Canada WWW, THEWHOLENOTE.COM Subscription combos and series from for Discovery to 4 for the whole season! 67

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