6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Theatre
In this issue: an interview with composer/vocalist Jeremy Dutcher, on his upcoming debut album and unique compositional voice; a conversation with Boston Symphony hornist James Sommerville, as as the BSO gets ready to come to his hometown; Stuart Hamilton, fondly remembered; and an inside look at Hugh’s Room, as it enters a complicated chapter in the story of its life in the complex fabric of our musical city. These and other stories, as we celebrate the past and look forward to the rest of 2016/17, the first glimpses of 2017/18, and beyond!

Beat by Beat | Classical

Beat by Beat | Classical & Beyond HILARY SCOTT Andris Nelsons conducts Mahler’s Ninth at Tanglewood players together every year for tours and recording – we have a CD and streaming audio release set for this spring: music of Mussorgsky, Lizée, Lau, Lauridsen and Cable. The BSO/Nelsons DG recording of Shostakovich’s Symphonies 5, 8 and 9 was highly praised by The WholeNote in our September 2016 issue. Is there a difference in approach to making a recording vis-àvis performing a live concert? Well, the short answer is that those recordings are all edited from live concerts, so in that case, no difference at all! But in ideal circumstances, we can approach a studio recording with a little more freedom: when you know there is the possibility of another take, you can experiment a bit more, take a few more chances, technically and musically. Stretch a phrase a little longer, play a dynamic that’s a little riskier, that sort of thing. Is the March 5 concert the first time you’ve been back to Toronto since your Women’s Musical Club recital last November? I was back for the holidays, as usual; most of my immediate family still lives in Toronto. Do you recall the last time you played Roy Thomson Hall? How does it feel to be returning? I think the last time I played here was when I came back for a couple of weeks and played principal horn as a guest with the TSO – maybe this would be late 90s or early 00s. It’s going to be great to be back on that stage. We have a wonderful acoustic at Symphony Hall in Boston, but I have tremendous memories of my time in the TS, and listening to it when I was growing up. I do remember when the hall opened in 1982; in fact my mother was a sponsor before it opened, so my name and those of my siblings are on the back of one of the audience seats. What is it like to work with Emanuel Ax? Have you played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2 with him before? I haven’t played that work with him. We have played chamber music on a couple of occasions; doing the Schumann Adagio and Allegro [for Horn and Piano Op.70] as part of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players series was a highlight. He’s an incredibly warm and generous person, and of course a sublime and inspiring musician. In your BSO video, you mentioned owning a few French horns. How many do you have in your basement? How many do you use in performance? At the moment I have three or four in “rotation,” one of them is a “triple” horn, which comes in handy for music that is both very high and very low, very soft and very loud. I have a few other instruments that I use depending on the repertoire, to make a specific colour of sound easier to achieve. Some are warmer and darker, some clearer and brighter – just depends what the pieces require. The Boston Symphony conducted by Andris Nelsons with featured guest Emanuel Ax performs at Roy Thomson Hall on March 5. Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote. Transformative Meetings: Avital and Yang PAUL ENNIS Avi Avital: Israeli-born mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital (b. 1978) – who will appear at Koerner Hall with the zestful Dover Quartet on February 11 – once described his relationship with his instrument as “a bit like a rider and his horse.” “I know my mandolin very well,” he told “My hands remember blindly every curve and every fret of it. I have a deep understanding of how it works, but when I’m on stage it becomes part of me – I almost forget I’m holding it.” A relative of the lute, the mandolin has grown in popularity over the last 300 years. “Familiar and foreign, folkish and classical, the mandolin is both a musical chameleon and a seasoned traveller,” Avital wrote in his introduction to his eclectic Deutsche Grammophon CD Between Worlds (2014). Avital told Fifteen Questions about a transformative meeting he had in his mid-20s with the famed klezmer clarinetist Giora Feldman. After Avital played him a piece by Bloch, Feldman asked him to improvise. When Avital said he didn’t know how, Feldman insisted. “So I closed my eyes and for the first time in my life I started to play something that wasn’t written in notes. Giora took his clarinet and joined me, and we continued to improvise together for a little while that afternoon. That encounter opened the window to a new world and led me to play different genres of music.” Avital spoke with last year about his admiration for Menuhin, Heifetz and Rubinstein, about how he takes different things from different artists. And about how he was “really into rock ‘n’ roll” when he was 14. “I was the real grunger from Seattle; I remember making a lot of noise on the drums.” He still carries something of the rock band experience when he plays in a classical music hall. Describing his arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No.2 for solo violin, he talked about how the freshness for an audience of discovering a monumental piece of music played on a different instrument is like hearing it for the first time. And that you hear contemporary music differently after listening to Bach in a recital. “It’s like the ginger with the sushi or the lemon sorbet between the dishes in a very fancy restaurant.” So on February 11, after he plays the Chaconne, he and the Dovers will perform the Canadian premiere of David Bruce’s Cymbeline, for string quartet and mandolin, a piece written for him in 2013 and dedicated to Avital and his wife “in honour of their recent marriage.” The title is an old Celtic word meaning Lord of the Sun. “I think the idea of the piece being about the sun emerged out of the colours of the string quartet and the mandolin together,” Bruce wrote on his website. “The mandolin itself has always seemed to me to create a ‘golden’ sound, and when combined with the warmth of the strings it seems now obvious that I should be drawn towards something warm and golden.” The concert opens with Tsintsadze’s Six Miniatures for String Quartet and Mandolin; Tsintsadze, who died in 1991, invariably wove his Georgian homeland’s folk music into his works. Then the Dovers give Avital a break when they take on Smetana’s penetrating autobiographical tone picture, his String Quartet No. 1 in E Minor “From My Life.” I’ve been eagerly awaiting their return to town ever since their memorable Toronto Summer Music performance of Beethoven quartets last summer. The Dovers’ playing was empathetic, subtle, impeccably phrased, marked by forward motion, drive and energy, musically mature, vibrant and uncannily unified in purpose and execution. 16 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017

Avi Avital UWE ARENS Their collaboration with the larger-than-life Avital promises much joyous music making. In Mo Yang was 19 when he became the youngest winner of the Paganini International Violin Competition in 2015. Now 21, he makes his Canadian recital debut March 5 (with pianist Renana Gutman) presented by Mooredale Concerts. Born in Indonesia, Yang moved to Korea at two and began playing violin at five. He currently studies with Miriam Fried on a scholarship to the New England Conservatory. Yang told me in an email exchange that he first met Fried in Korea when he was about 14 and played the Mendelssohn concerto for her. “I was struck by how drastically my sound improved with her methods of sound production.” In 2012, when it was time to find his next teacher, he wanted to have another lesson with her. “She was about to come to Korea to attend a festival in Seoul. I went to her hotel room and played the Tchaikovsky concerto. I was again struck and determined that she had to be my teacher.” It’s striking as well that Yang’s Paganini success came 47 years after Fried herself won the same competition. I asked if she had passed on any insights to him. “She told me her story of winning the competition and encouraged me [saying] that I had a good chance of winning. During the competition, I was dissatisfied with one of the rehearsals and frustrated. I called her and she told me how to deal with the situation, which relieved me. It was also very insightful of her to recommend that I eat pesto.” Yang’s Toronto program begins with Bach’s unaccompanied Violin Sonata No.1 in G Minor BWV 1001. Bach has only recently been included in his recital programs. “Bach’s music is endlessly imaginative and has such communicative power,” he said. “I would like to share this with the audience, not just with jurors [because these pieces are always required repertoire at auditions and competitions].” He loves the rhapsodic aspect of Ysaÿe’s music and thinks the Sonata No.3 in D Minor for Solo Violin Op.27 No.3 “Ballade” highlights that rhapsodic aspect more than any of the other sonatas. “Despite its obscurity, the beauty of Schumann’s Violin Sonata No.3 in A minor is evident throughout,” he told me. “I want to show that this is not a piece by a madman but a person who has extraordinary imagination and introspection.” Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.7 in C Minor Op.30 No.2 is new for him; he started learning it only a month ago. ”I am especially working on the overall architecture of the sonata, because it is understanding the structure and living through the whole piece with a sense of inevitability that heighten the incredible drama of the piece,” he said. His answer to my question about what musicians may have influenced him surprised me: “I am more influenced by non-musicians,” he said. “Plato’s Theory of Forms greatly inspired me; the idea that the most accurate reality exists in a non-physical world, and what we sense is a mere reflection of Idea, made me rethink the relation between composer, composition and performer. The audience is often an influential figure in my musical career; I got to play in a senior centre once and the smile of five patients who listened to me taught me an important lesson about the societal role of a musician.” That’s quite a revealing comment, especially from a musician LAND OF THE SILVER BIRCH 150 years: songs of Canada’s first European settlers MARCH 28 & 29, 2017, 8 PM Whitney O’Hearn, mezzo soprano | Joel Allison, baritone | John Fraser, reader Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor Street West tickets: 416-978-8849 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017 | 17

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