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Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017

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  • March
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On our cover: Owen Pallett's musical palette on display at New Creations. Spring brings thoughts of summer music education! (It's never too late.). For Marc-Andre Hamelin the score is king. Ella at 100 has the tributes happening. All; this and more.

CBC Radio Two: The

CBC Radio Two: The Living Legacy Centrediscs: The Little Label That Could Canadian Classical Composition and the JUNOs DAVID JAEGER For the first time in the history of Centrediscs, the small but significant record label operated by the Canadian Music Centre (CMC), two of its recent recordings have current JUNO nominations in two different categories. Dark Star Requiem by composer Andrew Staniland and poet Jill Battson is nominated in both the Best Classical Recording, Vocal or Choral and in the Best Classical Composition categories. Christos Hatzis’ full-length ballet, Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation, is nominated in both the Best Classical Composition and Best Classical Recording, Large Ensemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble Accompaniment. This is a significant milestone for Centrediscs, a label created in 1983 by then CMC Executive Director John Miller. “The idea of Centrediscs was originally proposed by my predecessor, John Peter Lee Roberts,” Miller told me, “but it fell to me to make it work.” Miller certainly found ingenious ways to nurture the new recording label. He formed a working group, of which I was a member, to advise on the mechanics and technical aspects of running a label. Harold Redekopp was Head of CBC Radio Music at the time and he and Miller agreed that the Radio Music Department would, up to a practical limit, provide production and technical personnel to make the recordings. And, in return for doing so, CBC music programs would have the right of first broadcast. This arrangement provided Two New Hours, the national network new music program I had created in 1978, additional new productions of recent performances of Canadian music to blend with the concert recordings that were the core of our broadcasts. In those first few years of Centrediscs we recorded soloists and ensembles who specialized in contemporary repertoire, like the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, clarinetist James Campbell, the Purcell String Quartet, violist Rivka Golani and Anton Kubalek. We made LPs of these artists playing the works of CMC Associate Composers, and soon added the first records devoted entirely to the music of a single Canadian composer. These included titles such as Vivier, music of Claude Vivier; RA, with excerpts of Murray Schafer’s night-long ritual; Louis Riel, the opera by Harry Somers, recorded at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC; and Chalumeau, chamber music of Harry Freedman. Many of these were later reissued on CD, and those original LPs are, in fact, now highly valued collectibles. In 1986, Centrediscs released its first recording on CD, Impact, a production of performances by percussionist Beverley Johnston. In fact, Impact was manufactured in three media: CD, LP and audio cassette. The composers represented on it were Serge Arcuri, Gary Kulesha, Alexina Louie and Jean Piché, and the disc attracted rave reviews. In the Centrediscs catalogue, Impact is described as: “A tour de force of percussion and electroacoustic music, the disc has often been used by stereo component stores to demo new hi-fi lines, because of the high audiophile quality of the recording.” The performances were included more than a few times in Two New Hours programming and, on occasion, Jean Piché’s Steal the Thunder, the lead track in the album, served as the program’s opening theme. In 1989 the CMC decided to submit one of the tracks from Impact to the JUNOs in the recently created category of Best Classical Composition. It earned a nomination but didn’t win the JUNO. – Alexina Louie’s Songs of Paradise on CBC Records did. It was a remarkable statement as to how far the Centrediscs label had come in just a few years. The JUNO category, Best Classical Composition, introduced in 1987, came about when representatives of classical labels, who formed a separate classical committee within the Canadian Academy of continues to page 86 Sunday March 26, 2017 (Fundraising Event) Tony Arnold soprano | Movses Pogossian violin Gallery 345 | 345 Sorauren Ave. | RSVP 416.961.9594 Doors open @ 7:00 with complimentary refreshments; Performance @ 8:00 Friday April 28, 2017 Tony Arnold, György & Marta Kurtág, Movses Pogassian Benjamin Butterfield tenor | William Aide piano Accordes Quartet | NMC Ensemble | Robert Aitken direction Introduction @ 7:15 | Concert @ 8:00 | Trinity St. Paul’s Centre | 427 Bloor Street W. www.NewMusicConcerts.com Kurtág’s “Kafka Fragments” celebrating beckwith Photo: André Leduc 10 | March 1, 2017 - April 7, 2017 thewholenote.com

Up Close with Marc-André Hamelin Inspirational and Aspirational Marc-André Hamelin sometimes thinks that music should have its own semantics. “Deep down I would like the public to be affected by music and respond to music as they would respond to something which has a narrative structure and a message to deliver,” he told me in a February 10, 2017 phone conversation. “And I’ve always said that a performer should be able to express almost any adjective in the dictionary through their playing. Even though it’s kind of a fantasy, it’s a nice goal, a good aspiration.” We were chatting in advance of Hamelin’s appearance March 23 in a recital presented by Music Toronto. The occasion was a follow-up to my profile of the master pianist that appeared in the December 2015 WholeNote. Hamelin was his usual affable, thoughtful and convivial self. We spoke about his ambitious all-sonata program for the concert – a late Haydn, the first two sonatas by the little-known Russian pianist-composer Samuel Feinberg, Beethoven’s Appassionata, Scriabin’s White Mass and Chopin’s Second which is built around a funeral march. Hamelin was describing his connection to the Chopin sonata on the program, which he had recorded for Hyperion in 2008, prompting my question about how his relationship with that particular work has evolved over the years. “You know, it’s something that I’ve known literally all my life,” he said. “We’ve talked about this before I’m sure. Because of my dad, listening to these things all the time, recordings were playing all around the house. I think he probably played it a little bit himself although it’s a very difficult piece. It’s been in my ear since I was a boy so I came to it already sort of knowing it. I didn’t have to explore the score to find out about it. I already knew it. Although when I started to play it of course, there were many things that the score revealed to me that had not been apparent to me when I heard the piece through recordings.” Indeed the importance of his father to Hamelin’s musical aesthetic and his reputation, right from the start, as an ambassador for late 19th and early-20th-century pianist-composers, many of whom had been formerly unfamiliar to a wider audience, was a key component of my earlier article. “But as far as the evolution [of his relationship to the Chopin sonata], my God, what to tell you, I don’t know. I’ve always considered it one of the towering masterpieces of the repertoire, one which curiously enough I think is open to a variety of views, a variety of different interpretations, a variety of ways of expressing it. But it’s always appeared to me, perhaps even more now, as one of the darkest and most disturbing statements ever written for the piano.” I asked for an elaboration. “Well, you know Schumann’s quote saying that Chopin put four of his maddest children under one umbrella and published this sonata. The four movements are – if you consider the [third movement] Funeral March the heart of it – you could perhaps consider the first two movements as sort of working towards the funeral march and the fourth being sort of an illustration, an afterthought or a consequence of it, as much of a dark mood as the third movement but also expressed completely differently with different means. “It’s very hard to talk about because it’s something that I’ve known PAUL ENNIS for so long that it’s hard to take some steps back,” he said, laughing. When he plays it, he said, it’s like he’s reciting a poem. A case in point in terms of his aspirational fantasy: “a narrative structure and a message to deliver.” Our conversation soon turned the topic of the importance of the score in his pianistic approach. (“The score is still my ideal,” he had told me back in the fall of 2015.) This time, we were discussing Samuel Feinberg as pianist. (“Give a listen to his Well-Tempered Clavier,” he said. “It’s the best that’s ever been produced. It was reissued on CD at least three times and I’m sure you can hear all of it on YouTube if you look hard enough.”) I then commented on Feinberg’s playing of the Appassionata, and then asked what Hamelin’s approach was. He paused before saying with a slight sigh that he plays it and he’s probed it but that his main thrust has been to discount and ignore all outside influences including performing tradition and recordings. “My arbiter, my one guiding spirit is always and will always remain, the score,” Hamelin said. “Because, especially when I tackle repertoire that everyone knows, I want a fresh perspective. And being a composer yourself gets you to appreciate a lot more the letter itself and what the composer directly tries to communicate. And that kind of thing, the act of communication of your intentions as a composer is a very arduous process and you never know if you’re going to be understood or not. And of course you have to worry about your intentions being disregarded as often happens, because sometimes performers think they know better,” he laughed generously. “I’ve been guilty of that a few times myself. But composing really teaches you respect of the score and that’s where I go to first and foremost.” When I pointed out that sometimes it takes years or generations for composers to be understood he mentioned Feinberg as an example of someone who will never be a household name or really enter the standard repertoire but that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t hear him. In fact, Hamelin has a long-term project to remedy the shortage of recordings of Feinberg’s work. “Right now I’m concentrating on the first six sonatas which are a fascinating corpus,” he said. “I’ve already played the first two quite a number of times. And people have actually responded to them with great delight. Which I’m happy to hear.” Hamelin is playing those sonatas in Toronto in March. I asked when he first discovered the composer’s music. “Oh, I’ve had his scores since the 80s,” he said. “When you’re interested in out-of-the-way repertoire as I’ve always been, his name inevitably comes up. The problem was at the time, indeed for the entire 20th century, scores had been impossible to get in the West, so we just didn’t know what the music looked like. The only two things that were published in the West as far as I’m aware were his Sixth Sonata and a set of preludes. And that was because Universal Edition in Vienna put them out. And I think they’re still available. But he wrote 12 sonatas and a host of other pieces – three piano concerti, a violin sonata and some songs. “Now it’s almost all available through IMSLP so it’s not a problem,” he said. “But what is also a stumbling block perhaps for anybody who’s taken the trouble to look at the music, is his style itself which is really very complex and very, very chromatic. In a way, in a certain sense, it could be said that he takes his point of departure from SIM CANETTY-CLARKE thewholenote.com March 1, 2017 - April 7, 2017 | 11

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