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Volume 19 Issue 2 - October 2013

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • November
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • Symphony

ERIC PARKERBeat by Beat

ERIC PARKERBeat by Beat | Early MusicHave Harpsichord...Will TravelDAVID PODGORSKIIshould probably just come out and say, before I describethe concerts I’m looking forward to hearing this month,that I’m starting to have high hopes for the future of culturein Toronto; and the classical musicians I meet are givingme good reason to be an optimist. There are a few artistsperforming in Toronto this month who are giving this citya flavour that’s a little more cosmopolitan and a little lessconventional. We’re now an important enough destination thatat least a few lesser-known artists are performing in the cityhoping to make it big-time, while the musicians that currentlycall Toronto home are continually coming up with new ideasthat are every bit as innovative — if not more so — than concertsI’ve heard on the best European and American stages.One artist that Toronto audiences will be happy towelcome back is Hank Knox, one of the leading lights ofMontreal’s music scene and one of the founding members ofMontreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra. Knox has only occasionallyperformed in Toronto, in joint concerts with Arion andTafelmusik. Never content to be heard behind the orchestra,Knox has struck out on a cross-Canada tour that includes dates inThunder Bay, Ontario, and Flin Flon, The Pas and Balmoral, Manitoba,as well as a stop in Toronto. The whole trip will amount to some 3,600kilometres by car, which is impressive enough as a road trip withouteven factoring in the concerts after each drive. This sounds like a trulypunishing concert schedule, as Knox is making the trip halfway acrossCanada alone.Apparently he doesn’t mind. “It’s good, every so often, to blast yourmind out of the usual rut it’s been in,” Knox answers when I ask himhow he copes with the hours of driving. “I actually enjoy the solitudeof long drives, and it’s very peaceful to just sit back and focus on theroad for hours without any distractions.”Knox will be at the Canadian Opera Company for a free noonhourconcert on October 3, and will be playing a mixed programfor, as he puts it, “people who don’t know anything about the harpsichord,”which one can safely claim is well above 90 percent of theCanadian population. Knox’s program includes the trance-like TheBells by William Byrd, Frescobaldi’s gloriously perverse Fantasy onthe Cuckoo, transcriptions of Handel arias from Rinaldo, La Pouleby Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.What makes this appealing to a curious-but-ignorant-of-harpsichordsconcert-goer who doesn’t know what to expect? “Let’s put it this way,”Knox says, “if you don’t like what you hear, wait five minutes andsomething completely different will come along for you to listen to.”Sounds like a concert with something for everyone, and maybe even apossible ride to Montreal in it for you if you offer to pay for gas.One Toronto-based artist who’s ventured off the beaten path topursue her musical passions is Katherine Hill, who moved to theNetherlands and eventually Sweden to study medieval music. Hillis mainly known as a singer and viola da gambist, and is the proudholder of a master’s degree in medieval studies from the Universityof Toronto. Together with Ben Grossman and Alison Melville, Hill isalso a member of Ensemble Polaris, a group which specializes in thefolk music of circumpolar countries —Arctic fusion they call it. Hill’s deepand abiding love for the traditionalKatherineHill with thenyckelharpa.folk music of Sweden led her to spenda year studying Swedish folk music atthe Eric Sahlstrom Academy in Tobo,Sweden, and she came backwith a unique knowledge ofa relic from the the medievalera — a keyed fiddle knownas the nyckelharpa.“The nyckelharpa wasactually fairly commonHank Knox.throughout Europe in theMiddle Ages,” Hill says, “butit’s only been preserved in Sweden. It’s becoming more popular inGermany and France and there are makers producing instrumentsnow, but because no instruments have survived from the 14th centuryand the instrument kept changing, there’s no real way to tell what theoriginal instrument looked and sounded like.”Hill will be playing the nyckelharpa together with the TorontoConsort in a program of music from Sweden from the 16th tothe 19th centuries, but that doesn’t mean it will be all Swedishcomposers — 17th-century Sweden was still a very multiculturalcountry. “There was a huge international influence in Sweden in the16th and 17th centuries,” Hill explains. “The Swedish court heard andloved music from England, France, Italy and Poland, too, and wantedto import the best musicians from all over Europe.” So a cosmopolitanA Frosty Christmas EveIn Terra Pax – Gerald FinziThe Mystery of Bethlehem – Healey WillanLegend of the Bird – Stephanie MartinShannon Mercer, soprano & Trevor Bowes, baritoneNovember 30, 7:30pmDecember 1, 3:00pmGrace Church on-the-Hill, TorontoPaxChristiChorale.org416-491-854224 | October 1 – November 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

PIERRE CHARBONNEAUSwede could possibly have heard, besides music from his own country,the music of the English composer Tobias Hume (a soldier in theSwedish army), tunes from John Playford’s The Dancing Master (ahit in 17th-century Sweden), compositions by Heinrich Isaac, andtraditional Lutheran chorales — and that’s exactly what the TorontoConsort will be playing at Trinity-St. Paul’s on October 18 and 19.Incidentally, Hill will also be playing along in Toronto MasqueTheatre’s production “Brief Lives: Songs and Stories of Old London,”based on the collected biographies by John Aubrey. Aubrey’s BriefLives is a who’s who of famous Londoners from the 17th century, andincludes William Shakespeare, Thomas Hobbes, John Dee, Ben Jonsonand Sir Walter Raleigh as its subjects. Even more interesting than thehistory lesson is the gossip:Aubrey dished the kind of dirton his subjects that would geta modern biographer sued forlibel if he published that kindof information today. TorontoMasque Theatre’s productionfeatures William Webster ofSoulpepper and includesballads and popular musicfrom Aubrey’s London ofIl Giardino d’Amore.the 17th century. The showwill be at the Young Centrefor the Performing Arts from October 25 to 27.If you’re looking for more conventional concert-going fare (oryou’re just an opera fan or Italophile) be sure to welcome a groupof young players who are making their Toronto debut for MooredaleConcerts on Sunday October 20. Il Giardino d’Amore will beperforming a concert of Italian baroque music in Walter Hall at 3:15pm. The founders, Polish violinist Stefan Plewniak and Italian harpsichordistMarco Vitale, met when they joined Le Concert des Nations,the orchestra led by gambist and early-music superstar Jordi Savall,and decided to form their own band — since only the best playersin Europe get to play with Savall it’s a safe bet these are some topnotchplayers. Their concert features Italian cantatas sung by thePolish soprano Natalia Kawalek, and compositions by Scarlatti, Corelli,Locatelli, Geminiani and Vivaldi. Il Giardino d’Amore will also beperforming an interactive concert aimed at children ages 6 to 15 at 1:15at Walter Hall. It’s a pared-down version of the same concert meant tolast only an hour; tickets for the early performance are only .I’m glad to see that Toronto is becoming a destination for foreignartists like Il Giardino d’Amore, and I’m always grateful for a chanceto hear something new from familiar artists on the Toronto musicscene. Be sure to check The WholeNote blog to see what I have to sayabout the early music concerts I actually manage to get out to in theweeks ahead.David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, musicteacher and a founding member of Rezonance.He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.Beat by Beat | In With the NewUrbanAbstractionsWENDALYN BARTLEYBack in my June column, I was suggesting that with theupcoming warm weather of summer and the ending of theconcert season, this more casual atmosphere was the perfectscenario for concerts that offered a blurring of boundary linesbetween musical genres and art forms. Now just two months into thefall season, I’m already seeing that something else of an overall directionis unfolding in the world of “the new,” and it’s not because ofwarm weather. In September, the Guelph Jazz Festival went beyondthe jazz borders to include improvisation from a variety of musicaltraditions, including composed/notated music. Now, in October, thereis an entire festival produced by Toronto’s Music Gallery that is allabout this blurring of genres. The theme of this year’s X Avant NewMusic Festival — This Is Our Music — is a reference to Ornette Coleman’s1960 album of the same name. Running from October 11 to 20, thefestival celebrates all streams of experimentation, and the innovationsthat Coleman introduced certainly would fit right in. Organizers haveidentified their mix of experimental genres and traditions as “urbanabstract music.” And adding to this boiling hothouse of innovation,they are presenting two works that in the past had been the cause ofboth a riot and a mini-scandal.Let’s begin with Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a ballet scorethat premiered on May 29, 1913, in Paris. These days it’s becomea well-loved work, but 100 years ago, its asymmetric rhythms andclashing dissonances caused such an uproar that the police werecalled in to calm the audience. But the rioting continued and got sointense that Stravinsky himself left before the performance was over.Wow ... passionate audiences who know what they do and don’t like! Acentury later in the city of Toronto, this work has already received oneperformance I can remember (by Esprit Orchestra in January) and willbe featured in the Mariinsky Orchestra’s Roy Thomson Hall all-Stravinskyprogram on October 6.But things will definitely take a different turn on October 11 at the XAvant Festival when the Montreal-based group Quartetski reinterpretsthis classic using unusual orchestration and free improvisation tobring out what they feel is implicit in the original. And that’s just whatthis exceptional group is dedicated to: a revisionist approach to classicworks of the “great” composers achieved by mixing various traditionsand techniques to discover new possibilities, ultimately creatinga new type of chamber music. I suspect there won’t be a riot this timearound, but rather enthusiastic ears welcoming the daring move into“Hank Knox reveals virtuosity, imaginationand a keen sense of rhythm.” — Musica Sett, Italy(Frescobaldi – EMCCD7767)Hank Knox, harpsichordistearly-music.com presents aNEW RELEASE of Hank Knoxperforming the music of J. S. Bachfeatured works includeThe Chromatic Fantasy & Fugueand Overture in the French StyleThurs. October 3, 201312 — 1 pmHank Knox, harpsichordCanadian Opera CompanyFree lunchtime series145 Queen. St. W.TorontoTel: +1 514 276 2694◆ www.latitude45arts.comthewholenote.com October 1 – November 7, 2013 | 25

Volume 26 (2020- )

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