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Volume 18 Issue 4 - December 2012

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Remembering Glenn

Remembering Glenn Gould:Twenty Interviews with People WhoKnew Him, by Colin Eatock.Penumbra Press, 2012. 189pages. .95.The glenn gould boosterclub seldom sleeps.Toronto music journalistColin Eatock has gatheredtogether many of the familiarnames who were part ofthe Gould constellation at onetime or another — AndrewKazdin, Verne Edquist, WalterHomburger, Margaret Pacsu,Ray Roberts, Robert Fulford,etc. — asked them each a fewintelligent questions, then justhit the record button to letthem speak at length. Et voilà,a conversational-flavouredbiography of the famous Canadian pianist.One may well ask, why do this? Eatockasks it himself in an introductory essay — hisopening sentence is “Why another bookabout Glenn Gould?”— yet he seems unableto answer his own question. I’ll venturean answer for him. Because there are stillplenty of Gouldites out there, like me, whofor silly if obsessive reasons devour a booklike this, in our bid to further mythologizean oddball deceased Toronto classicalmusician who for a time captivated theworld through his concerts and records. Soyes, this book has a market, especially inEnglish Canada. Penumbrais an Ontario publisher thatcelebrates Canadian culture,and this paperback ishandsomely produced, onbeautiful paper, well bound,with a gracious type font.(Stan Bevington designed thebook, and deserves an ovationfor the old-fashioned artof bookmanship.)Though Gould fans haveencountered most of thesereminiscences before from thesame cast, Eatock poses gentlequestions to 20 articulatepeople and adds his own short preludes andpostludes. Here and there, insightful sentencestap a reader on the shoulder. VincentTovell, the CBC TV producer, muses: “[Gould]was ahead of his time. But he was alsobefore his time, reaching back to a simplerworld, before the modern age, in a searchfor serenity.” William Littler, distinguishedCanadian music critic, observes of Gould thewould-be philosopher: “He didn’t want a dialogue— he wanted an audience.” Americanviolinist Jaime Laredo states: “I’ve never, ever,in my life worked with anyone who playedthe piano better than he did.”Eatock snared an interview with CorneliaFoss, an American visual artist who first cameout of the shadows back in 2007 to speak ofher four years living in Toronto as Gould’ssemi-secret lover/companion. She tells usthat she found his much-admired Bach playingentirely wrongheaded, and explains why.The longest interview is accorded to CBCRadio’s John Roberts, an abiding friend ofGould’s and major keeper of the Gould flame.“I always found Glenn to be very kind, verythoughtful, extremely loyal — and he was thebest friend I ever had,” Roberts says fondly.Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti andCanadian composer John Beckwith expressserious reservations in their interviews, bothabout Glenn Gould the stylistically manneredmusician and the posthumous fan industryhe spawned. They probably won’t be buyingcopies of this book to give as gifts.But I will. Newcomers to the Gould sagawill enjoy it, at it’s a bargain, and itskeyboard hero remains a cipher.—Peter Kristian MoseBEHIND THE SCENES continued from page 12It wasn’t until he walked into the Founder’sDay concert in the middle of October, when heheard the boys singing the descants from MonsignorJohn Ronan’s timeless compositions, thathe thought to himself, “I’m in heaven. The hairwas standing at the back of my neck, listeningto those 300 voices, so poignant and profound.”(Ronan, who founded the St. Michael’s ChoirSchool in 1937 and was its principal until hisdeath in 1962, was also a composer of sacredmusic. While his work has continued to be sungas part of the repertoire of the choir, Ronan’saccomplishment as a composer has been sadlyoverlooked, Handrigan says, pointing to the factthat many of Ronan’s 400 compositions sat inthe school’s archives, unpublished for 50 years.As part of a busy year ahead, Handrigan will bediscussing with doctoral candidate Robin Williams,who is cataloguing Ronan’s work, howto bring this sacred music to a wider audience.)For the choir school, things are alreadybusy! First up, and continuing its Christmastradition, in its 73rd annual concert, theSt. Michael’s Choir School will be featured intwo performances, on Saturday, December 15,2012 and Sunday, December 16, 2012 at MasseyHall. Conducted by Dr. Jerzy Cichocki, the270-strong choir will be joined by Teri Dunn,Charissa Bagan and Jakub Martinec, and specialguests the True North Brass quintet.Then, on January 2, 2013, to mark its 75thyear, the St. Michael’s Choir School will performa benefit concert, called simply, “A Gift ofMusic,” at Roy Thomson Hall. The proceeds fromthe benefit concert will be used to support bursariesand scholarships so that no student hasto be turned away solely for financial reasons.Directed by alumnus Andrew Craig, “A Gift ofMusic” will feature a dazzling cast of alumni thatincludes, among others, jazz vocalist Matt Dusk,Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies, bass baritoneStephen Hegedus, Celtic musician JamesMcKie and operatic superstar Michael Schade.The two co-hosts that evening will be actorand alumnus Jim Codrington and jazz vocalistHeather Bambrick. (Bambrick never wentto the choir school, but has a Newfoundlandconnection. Handrigan remembers teachingthe young Bambrick, who played the clarinetin school, years before she launched both hersinging career and her morning radio program.)But the busy times don’t stop there: As oneof only six choir schools in the world affiliatedwith the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Musicin Rome, St. Michael’s Choir School providessacred music for St. Michael’s Cathedral of sucha calibre that the choir has performed for primeministers, monarchs and popes. The first timethe choir school went to Rome for a papal audiencewas 42 years ago, and it’s been 16 yearssince it last appeared at the Vatican. That’s whytheir upcoming tour to Italy in April 2013 is sucha momentous undertaking.“I never dreamt I’d be sitting in Cardinal Collins’soffice talking about a tour to Italy,” saysHandrigan, who will be leading an entourageof 350, including 180 choir boys. They will singhigh mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome withhis Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins, theArchbishop of Toronto, on April 7, 2013. Then,to mark the 25th anniversary of the CanadianPontifical College, where Canadian Catholicpriests go to study in Rome, there will also bea command performance the next day.This is the time of the year when we all stopboth to take stock and to celebrate. December 15,when he hears again the first unforgettable barsof “O Holy Night,” Stephen Handrigan will notbe the first — and certainly not the last — to marvelat the many twists and turns it has taken forhim to finally join the choir.Rebecca Chua is a Toronto-based journalistwho writes on culture and the arts.72 thewholenote.com December 1 – February 7, 2013

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSThrough my association with NewMusic Concerts I had the pleasure andprivilege of meeting the iconic Americancomposer Elliott Carter on a number of occasions,most recently in May 2006when we presented two concertsunder the banner “Elliott Carter,Double Portrait.” It was thereforewith personal sadness that I notedMr. Carter’s death last month,just weeks before his 104th birthday.While of course his passingwas inevitable, we had somehowcome to think that he just mightgo on composing forever — hewas active right up until the lastmonth of his life.I’m sure it was a coincidence,but nevertheless it came assome consolation to receive a newrecording of Carter’s 2000 CelloConcerto just days after the sad news.Elgar, Carter: Cello Concertosmarks the Decca debut for AlisaWeilerstein, recorded here withthe Staatskapelle Berlin underDaniel Barenboim (B0017592-02).Weilerstein was one of the recipientsof the so-called “Genius”award, worth 0,000 overfive years, from the MacArthurFoundation in 2011, one of veryfew musicians to have everbeen so honoured. The extensiveliner notes by Helen Wallacedraw on Weilerstein’s personalimpressions of the pieces and herrelationship with them, which inthe case of the Elgar stretches backto the age of seven or eight whenshe first heard Jacqueline du Pré’shistoric recording. Her performance is wonderfullyrobust and in some ways charminglyold-fashioned with an occasional swoopingportamento and large romantic sound.Barenboim initiated this project and we canonly wonder about his mixed feelings as werealize that this young woman may well haveinherited the mantle of the late du Pré whowas his wife for the last 20 years of her life.Weilerstein’s approach to the CarterConcerto is thoroughly modern, with spotonintonation and crisp attacks. Evidentlyshe “played and discussed with the vivacious104-(sic) year-old composer” and I believe itshows in her interpretation. The piece wascommissioned by the Chicago Symphony forcellist Yo-Yo Ma who premiered the work in2001 but has yet to record it. There is one previousrecording featuring frequent Cartercollaborator Fred Sherry on the Bridge label(9184) but it is great to have this new performancein a more mainstream context thatwill bring the work much well-deservedattention. Carter shows his brilliance as anorchestrator throughout with a transparencythat never overshadows the cello,dynamic tutti interjections notwithstanding.Of particular noteare passages with the bass clarinetand (contra?) bassoon accompanyingthe cello in its singing upperregister. In a day and age whensome composers request the soloistbe amplified to better hold theirown against the forces of the modernsymphony orchestra, Cartershows there is no need for thiswhen the balance is skilfullymanaged. The disc is rounded outby a very moving performanceof Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei.In recent months I have mentioneda number of recordings of musicby Elliott Carter’s coeval OlivierMessiaen (born one day beforeCarter on December 10, 1908)and I’m pleased to say there is anew local release that is a welcomeaddition to the catalogue.For the End of Time (Analekta AN2 9861) features the Gryphon Trioand clarinettist James Campbellperforming, as might be expected,Messiaen’s famous Quatuor pourla fin du temps. What is surprisingis the context in which it ispresented. The disc opens withEchoes of Time, a ten-minutework by Alexina Louie inspiredby the Messiaen which she calls“the greatest piece for chamber ensemblethat’s possibly ever been written.” It isintended as an introduction to an evening’sentertainment that will include a 40-minuteplay about Messiaen’s creation of the workas a German prisoner of war (it was first performedin a prison camp in Silesia in 1941)by London-based playwright MieczysławaWazacz with incidental music by Louie andwill culminate with a performance of theQuatuor. Evidently the production willeventually become part of the trio’s touringrepertoire. I hope that Toronto audienceswill have an opportunity to experience whatpromises to be an enlightening and movingperformance in the near future.But back to the recording at hand. Louie’spiece does indeed include echoes from itsprogenitor, but not in an imitative way.There are textures and timbres that arereminiscent of the original, but Louie hasobviously absorbed the music thoroughlyand it re-emerges in her own voice. Here andthroughout the Messiaen, from the quietestentries to the ebullient birdcalls, Campbell’sclarinet melds seamlessly with AnnaleePatipatanakoon’s sweet violin, Roman Borys’rich cello and the tintinnabulations of JamieParker’s piano.There is no shortage of great recordings ofthe Quatuor pour la fin du temps, includinganother fabulous local contender on theNaxos label (8.554824) featuring the AmiciEnsemble and Scott St. John, but as far as I’mconcerned, the more the merrier. To paraphraseDaniel Foley from his “Too MuchMahler?” article further on in these pages,there can never be enough Messiaen for me.Another thing that I can’t seem to getenough of is good cello discs. Full Spectrum(CMCCD 18112) is one of a recent spate of newrecordings on the Centrediscs label and it featurescellist Vernon Regehr. The Winnipegnative did his undergraduate work in Torontoat the Royal Conservatory, went on to obtainmasters and doctoral degrees at Stony Brookand now teaches at Memorial University.He has obviously cultivated an interest incontemporary and specifically Canadianrepertoire and this solo disc is a real gem.Beginning with Larysa Kuzmenko’s extendedFantasy for Solo Cello from 2009 we areimmediately drawn in to a lush and emotionallycharged landscape with soaring linesand rich bass passages. As the work unfoldsDecember 1 – February 7, 2013 thewholenote.com 73

Volume 26 (2020- )

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