8 years ago

Volume 14 - Issue 5 - February 2009

Dresdenby Lord

Dresdenby Lord Bernersforward by Peter DickinsonTurtle Point Press & Helen Marx Books134 pages, paper; .95 USBritish composer Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt­Wilson was decidedly eccentric - even amonghis notoriously oddfellow British aristo- /C'\crats. He was famousfor dyeing the pigeonson his ancestral estatein bright colours(aided by the womanwho became Stravinsky's second wife)and keeping a clavichordin his chaufferdrivenRolls Royce .But in fact he devotedhis life to artisticactivity, especially after 1918, when he inheriteda title, money and estates from hisuncle and became the fourteenth Lord Berners.Berners was a fine and entertaining writer.His paintings sold well. Songs like Comeon Algernon were popular. His ballet scoreswere commissioned by Diaghilev and set byBalanchine and Ashton, and his chamberworks are still performed . He even shows upm novels, mcluding his own Far From theMadding War (included in Collected Talesand Fantasies (Turtle Point)), as Lord FitzCricket,and his friend Nancy Mitford'sThe Pursuit of Love as Lord Merlin.Dresden is the fourth installment of Berners' autobiography. Like his songs, thisvolume is short but eloquent. It covers aperiod starting in 1901 ,when he was eighteen, and went to Germany to study for diplomaticservice. He was a remarkably cultivated, observant and enthusiastic young man ."When first Richard Strauss swam in to myken,' he writes, 'I could think of little else.The sight of a Richard Strauss score in ashop window was like meeting the belovedone at a street corner." Although he thinksabout writing a play when trying to writemusic, and , when working on the play ,thinks about painting, he was by no means,even then , a mere dilettante . We see theformation of an imaginative and originalearly 20th century composer with a refreshinglymodernist outlook.What makes his memoir especially delightfulis Berners' highly evolved selfawareness.We get no hint of his flamboyanthomosexuality, which is hardly surprisinggiven the repressive laws in Britain whenthis was written, a few years before hisdeath in 1950. But we do get suggestions ofthe depression - which he here calls 'accidie' - which plagued him in later life andapparently contributed to his creativity.Book Shelfby Pamela MarglesMozart's Operas: A CompanionBy Mary HunterYale University Press280 pages, photos; .00 USThere's certainlyno dearth of bookson Mozart's operas,But Mary Hunter'scompanionstands out for its_ ability to appeal toboth aficionadosand those just startingto explore theoperas. True, herplot summaries caneasily be foundelsewhere. Andwhile she assumes that readers don't knowthe meaning of basic concepts like 'aria' and'recitative' , a frequently misused term like'rococo' is left unexplained. Indeed, some ofher definitions are not very helpful , such asdescribing 'castrati' as 'castrated men'.But when it comes to the history and meaningof the operas, Hunter offers informed andthought-provoking insights. Her thoroughknowledge of all things Mozartean - not justthe operas - illuminates this study. Her emphasisnot only on Mozart's setting of voicesbut also his use of the orchestra providesfruitful perspectives on Mozart's ability tobring the librettos to life.Opera-goers will especially appreciateHunter's examination of performance valuesas documented in historical accounts, recordings, film and video. She looks at the existingtheatres where Mozart's operas werefirst performed, as well as at audiences ofthe times, who would bring servants to cookand serve food during the performance.Needless to say, audiences tended towards'boisterous inattentiveness. 'Although Hunter has criticisms of director-centeredperformances, she emphasizesthe benefits of modernizing operas. 'If Mozartand his librettists' characters are madeto live and act in circumstances that the audiencedeeply recognizes , it makes Mozart anessentially modern man, ' she writes. Further,by updating Mozart's operas, 'everyage has found its own meaning in them .'The text is clearly laid out, with each operadiscussed in a separate chapter. On eachpage the chapter heading is placed clearly atthe top - an obvious but too-rare conveniencefor readers.Berlioz: Scenes From The Life And Workedited by Peter BloomUniversity of Rochester Press270 pages, musical examples; .00 USFor those of us whose passion for the musicof Berlioz is greater than his usual position inmusic history would warrant, this collectionof twelve essaysholds special appeal.For one thing, ratherthan merely offeringanalyses of individualworks, it examinesthe place of hismusic in his owntime and milieu. Theemphasis on hiswritings about musicthrows light on boththe music and the tman .Editor Peter Bloom has gathered essaysfrom the heavyweights of Berlioz scholarshipto pm down what makes Berlioz unique .Cultural historian Jacques Barzun, whosepioneering two volume biography Berliozand the Romantic Century revolutionized thestudy of Berlioz's music when it was publishedalmost sixty years ago, sets the tonefor this collection by linking Berlioz's musicwith his life and his writings. It's not, as isoften said, his use of descriptive titles, mostnotably in Symphonie fantastique , that makeshis music sound like no-one else' s. "Nobodybut the tone-deaf", writes Barzun, "couldbelieve a piece of music could tell a story ."Instead, for Barzun, it's his use of melody asa structural element that defines him .Gerard Conde, like Berlioz both a criticand composer, reveals Berlioz's "astonishingcapacity to find equivalents in speech to thesubjective effects produced by the music ." Inthis way he accentuates why something isdone in the music rather than how it's done.David Cairns, translator of Berlioz's Memoirsand author of his own biography ofBerlioz, recalls how he first encounteredBerlioz through the Memoirs. Cairns quotesBe_rlioz's dying words, "They are finallygomg to play my music," to show that henever lost his irrepressible playfulness. ButBloom, who has also written a biography ofBerlioz, underscores how crotchety andspiteful Berlioz could be as well. In fact, itwould seem, Berlioz needed enemies to stimulatehis writing. In his Memoirs he saysfarewell to his friends by writing "I curseyou and hope to forget you before I die ."Through their evident passion for Berlioz,the contributors to this book all communicatetheir conviction that Berlioz is, as Bloomputs it, "a contender, one of the B's, one ofthe best. "The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performsThe Damnation of Faust by Berlioz on February26 and 28 at 8.00 in Roy ThomsonHall.50WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COMFEBR UA RY 1 - M ARCH 7 2 009

Mus.Ed MusingsSumbemer& yondcompiled and edited by Nick TortiFebruary may be the month of love, but its glum weather is not themost affectionate. To entertain with the thought of warmer times,we 've quizzed a handful of musicians on summer flings with theirlove, including advice based on their many experiences.Featured below are summer musings from four musicians ofvarying ages, and at different stages in their musical lives - tidbitsof their summers, what it is they look forward to, and what keepsthem coming back year after year.Rozalyn Chok(studying atJuilliard Conservatoryin NewYork with MattiRaekallio)."I got a relative! ylate start-bytoday's standards,"Rozalynsays of hersummer musicinvolvement,which only stretches back to '07. " .. . it was not until my first summerprogram that I realized how exciting and energizing it is to be in anenvironment where everyone shares common interests and experiences."Unhindered by the late start, she seems headed in the right direction-inrecent years winning top prizes in the TSO Bosendorfer andthe IIYM (International Institute for Young Musicians) pianocompetitions. But if she could start all over again, she'd send herselfright back where she started, to IIYM, only "at a much earlierage ... I was one of the older students. "Rozalyn appreciates the benefits of a solo performance program, butsummer has brought home to her the value of the company of othermusicians. "[My opinion of music has] changed from being asomewhat isolating, solitary pursuit to an invigorating dynamicchoice. My interactions with other musicians through summerprograms have led me to a deeper understanding of the relevanceand importance of classical music."And while the musical environment is of great importance, thenatural environment itself isn't to be forgotten . " ... the combinationof quiet and the beauty of nature is extremely conducive to productive,inspiring practice," she says, recalling an experience at theAdamant Summer School in Vermont. "Located in the tiny town ofMontpelier, Adamant is nestled amongst thickets of trees, wildflowers, and even running brooks. There are thirty practice cottagesscattered throughout the forest, each with a Steinway grand pianoand a uniquely decorated interior, complete with art on the walls andrustic furniture . Almost all of the participants agreed that wepracticed more at Adamant than anywhere else, because the settingwas so tranquil and idyllic. "F EB RUARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2009MusEd Musings continues next page;J IITORONTOSUMMER MUSICJULY 20 - AUGUST 162009ACADEMYPROGRAMFOR MUSICIANS AT THE THRESHOLD OF THEIR PROFESSIONAL CAREERSMASTER CLASSESPIANO WOODWINDSCHAMBER MUSIC OPERACOMPOSITION STRINGSANTON KUERTl,pianoANDRE LAPLANTE, pianoMARIETTA ORLOV, pianoMENAHEM PRESSLER, pianoLEE KUM SING, pianoDENIS BROTT, violoncelloPATRICK GALLOIS, fluteCHRISTOS HATZIS, compositionITERENCE HELMER, violaNorthAmerican Premiere!KARL LEISTER, clarinetANTONIO LYSY, violoncelloMAYUMI SEILER, violinIAN SWENSEN, violinANDRE ROY, violaJANOS STARKER, violoncelloTSUYOSHI TSUTSUMI, violoncelloLEIPZIG STRING QUARTETPENDERECKI STRING QUARTETJOHANN STRAUSS'S~u!'!.!'!.!!!un!!J.,m':!NICEAGNES GROSSMANN musical directionALSO THIS YEAR:String Quartet Workshop & Composition Workshop(artists subject to change)WWW , THEWHOLENOTE,COMAPPLY NOW ATWWW.TORONTOSUMMERMUSIC.COMCheeses from around the world,meats, groceries, dry goodsgift baskets ...Everything you needfor reception planning.416-364-7397www.pasqualebros.com16 Goodrich Rd., Etobicoke(south of Bloor, west off Islington)'

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