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Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Musical
  • Violin
  • Quartet
2016 is off to a flying start! We chronicle the Artful Times of Andrew Burashko, the violistic versatility of Teng Li, the ageless ebullience of jazz pianist Gene DiNovi and the ninetieth birthday of trumpeter Johnny Cowell. Jaeger remembers Boulez; Waxman recalls Bley's influence, and Olds finds Bowie haunting Editor's Corner. Oh, and did we mention there's all that music? Hello (and goodbye) to the February blues, and here's to swinging through the musical vines of the Year of the Monkey.

No Second Fiddle: Teng

No Second Fiddle: Teng Li A brave little girl is wakened on a sweaty night in Nanjing by her father around 10pm. They ride double on his bike to the train station, about an hour through the city. They get on a midnight train and she sleeps a little – maybe on a luggage pile, or on some newspapers on the floor under a seat. They arrive in Shanghai at 6am and have a little breakfast. She has an 8am violin lesson. Then they travel all the way home again. And they do this every weekend. Young Teng Li devoted much MJ BUELL Teng Li, viola of her childhood to the violin. She was not yet a teenager when an important instructor at the Beijing Central Conservatory, who also taught viola, complained about the calibre of viola students in general and demanded that she switch because he wanted “the best.” It was a bigger instrument, the articulation more difficult, the sound projection different. Li accepted the challenge and so began her visceral bond with an instrument that sings with an almost human voice. At 16, speaking very little English, she auditioned for, and earned a place at, the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Her new teacher, the renowned Michael Tree, offered this new challenge: he said he had no worries about her playing, but that she must also become the best human being she could. She was embarking on a journey during which competition and being “’the best” can push aside the physical and mental health of young artists, and the isolation of rigorous practice and study can turn out emotional and social misfits. Tree’s admonition hit the right note, and resonated – what she understood was that if you are not a good person it will show in your music. Li was still a student when she was invited by Peter Oundjian to audition for the first viola chair of the TSO. She returned to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Oundjian’s direction and found herself hooked on the symphony. At the start of the 2004/05 season she became the TSO’s youngest player at the age of 21 and the orchestra’s first chair viola, a position she retains today. She rose to this new challenge with the same combination of grit and grace that saw her through the earlier ones: the sheer volume of repertoire; the numbers of rehearsals and engagements; earning the trust of the other players whom she is quick to credit for helping her learn on the job. The outcome has, according to all accounts, been mutually rewarding. Alongside her vigorous TSO schedule, including appearances as featured soloist she’s been establishing herself as a violist internationally, with regular engagements as soloist. She is busy as a chamber musician and collaborator, appearing in major international festivals and competitions. She is one-third of Trio Arkel, along with violinist Marie Bérard and cellist Winona Zelenka. She teaches at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music and the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal. Last summer she released her debut recording, 1939, with collaborators Meng-Chieh Liu (piano), and Benjamin Bowman (violin). The CD is an extraordinary collection of chamber works by Jongen, Ullmann, Hindemith, Hua and Klein. In the liner notes Li says “I wanted to showcase the works of different composers at that point in history to express how human beings from all walks of life can be affected during such horrific times.” (See Pamela Margles’ review in The WholeNote’s DISCoveries, September 2015.) Please see Interview, We Are All Music’s Children, page 49. PRICELESS! Vol 21 No 5 FEBRUARY 1 – MARCH 7, 2016 LISTINGS | FEATURES | RECORD REVIEWS Teng Li No Second Fiddle Andrew Burashko’s Artful Times Legacies: Bley & Boulez Remembered The Artful Times of Andrew Burashko PAUL ENNIS The Art of Time Ensemble has been a fixture on Toronto’s cultural landscape for many years, committed to redefining the experience of music performance and exploring the juxtaposition of high art and popular culture. I’ve long been fascinated by founder and artistic director Andrew Burashko’s programming acumen and his ability to attract a coterie of top-notch musicians to perform with him. Two days before Art of Time’s Sgt. Pepper Canadian Tour began with a concert at the Sony Centre, January 21, I spoke to Burashko on the phone about the origins of Art of Time and Burashko’s own musical training. Perhaps fittingly for a conversation about the Art of Time, our chat proceeded chronologically. Burashko had a typical classical music training for a serious young piano student. At nine and a half, he began studying with Marina Geringas “the best teacher in the city for young, gifted kids – she produced a lot of professional pianists” – in 1975, about two years after he and his family arrived in Canada from Russia via Israel. “She gave me an incredible physical foundation,” he says. “I was being groomed to be a concert pianist.” ... His break came when he attracted the attention of Walter Homburger and Andrew Davis. “I was 17; I made my debut with the Toronto Symphony. I performed with them well into my career. I think I did ten seasons with them. Ten different concerti. I was supposed to go to Manhattan School of Music to study with Nina Svetlanova. Because my whole life I was made to practise, I guess I rebelled as I was finishing high school. And I quit music [pause]. So I spent a year at U of T doing sciences and then towards the end of that year, Roman Borys, who was the cellist of the Gryphon Trio, talked me into going to Banff – I hadn’t touched the piano in a year – as a duo. Which I did, to the chamber music program. It was my first time in Banff and there I met a lot of people who are friends to this day. As well as one of my most important mentors, Marek Jablonski.” While in Banff, he realized that his “heart was in music, but I wanted to do it in my terms.” That meant going to Vancouver to study with Lee Kum-Sing for two years. (One of the people Burashko had met in Banff was Jamie Parker and Parker and his brother Jackie had studied with Lee.) Then Jablonski came to Toronto in 1987 and Burashko followed him to what is now the Glenn Gould School. “Those were the four most formative years of my life,” he said, “because I had at least one lesson a week with Marek and I played every month with Leon Fleisher.” I reacted positively to Burashko’s comment about his link to Fleisher (I am a great admirer of Fleisher’s work); Burashko responded in kind: “You know, most of my ideas about pianism and interpretation come from Fleisher …. He is incredible. Truly.” After those four years with Jablonski, Burashko studied with Bella Davidovich in New York for two more. “And things began to happen for me.” He worked with new music groups, chamber music groups like Amici, even toured with the Gryphon Trio before Jamie Parker joined. And taught. Which he considers a crucial part of his life until recently. Classical music ... has the potential to speak to anyone if they’re exposed to it just at the right time at the right place in the right way. Turning points: A key part of the Burashko narrative involves modern dancer Peggy Baker, who returned to Canada from New York in 1991. “Working with her I gained access to a whole other world. The world of the theatre, really. Where things are, for lack of a better word, a helluva lot more theatrical than in a concert hall. Lighting is important. Staging. All those things. And creating a dramatic environment. And also, after all those years I got to know a lot of incredible 8 | February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016

ST. LAWRENCE QUARTET JOHN LAUENER Andrew Burashko conducts “War of the Worlds” (2011) at the Enwave Theatre people like Karen Kain, James Kudelka, Margie Gillis.” Then comes a surprisingly candid admission: “I guess that, along with the fact that it was a real grind and struggle in the classical music world, I never got to the point where I could dictate my terms. So if ever an orchestra called that I hadn’t worked with before and asked me ‘Do you know, whatever, Rach 2?’ I would say yes. Between travelling and working I was at the piano all the time cramming, some years learning three or four new concerti a year. And it’s no fun playing stuff for the first time, all the time. It’s a huge pressure. Blah-blahblah-blah. So all those things kind of converged. And the main thing was that I was disheartened by the fact that all the classical audiences were so old and nobody was really doing anything about turning people on to classical music. I always believed, as I still do, that it was incredibly compelling and exciting and has the potential to speak to anyone if they’re exposed to it just at the right time at the right place in the right way. And so that’s how Art of Time began. “The general idea – I’m oversimplifying – was to create programs which would also include the involvement of either actors or dancers. Because of Peggy I had access to the dance world. I had many friends, still do, who are actors. So actors, dancers, pop musicians, jazz musicians – with the idea that they would hopefully attract their audience and once they were in the theatre then they would be disarmed by the familiar and open to the unfamiliar. And that’s how it began and it’s evolved from there.” Disarmed by the familiar and open to the unfamiliar. Juxtaposition as the catalyst for gaining and growing an audience. And doing it on his terms. The impetus for his first concert production came from an agent he shared with Scott St. John. St. John was running a series at the time called “Millennium” but he “got sick of doing it.” The agent asked if Burashko would be interested in starting something in its stead. He’d been dreaming of doing something like that for years, even tried to organize similar projects but unable to follow through because of lack of time or know-how. “Even in the first few years of Art of Time, I was so busy with my own career it was completely haphazard. I invested my own money in it. I would write grants. I would just basically have enough money to rent the Glenn Gould Studio three nights a year and present three different chamber music programs. And by then I had really long-standing musical partnerships with Steven Dann and Joel Quarrington and Amanda Forsyth, Pinchas Zukerman. It’s such a small world. I knew all these people, they were my friends, colleagues. And they were excited about doing something new and different. And musicians are always excited or drawn to working with other good musicians.” The concert he produced in 1998, “a very eclectic program of Russian music – from Glinka to Schnittke,” is one he’s presented frequently since. “It was Stravinsky, Glinka, this big sprawling, cheesy, beautiful kind of bel canto mini-concerto for piano and string quintet, the Schnittke quintet and Prokofiev Overture on Hebrew Themes. And I opened with a Brodsky poem. I’m also a very big fan of Joseph Thursday, February 18 at 8 pm STEVEN OSBORNE brash and brilliant at Pianist insight and expressivity Tuesday March 1 at 8 pm Canadian Heritage Patrimoine canadien 416-366-7723 1-800-708-6754 order online at February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016 | 9

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