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Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020

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Welcome to our December/January issue as we turn the annual calendar page, halfway through our season for the 25th time, juggling as always, secular stuff, the spirit of the season, new year resolve and winter journeys! Why is Mozart's Handel's Messiah's trumpet a trombone? Why when Laurie Anderson offers to fly you to the moon you should take her up on the invitation. Why messing with Winterreisse can (sometimes) be a very good thing! And a bumper crop of record reviews for your reading (and sometimes listening) pleasure. Available in flipthrough here right now, and on stands commencing Thursday Nov 28. See you on the other side!


BEHIND THE SCENES The TSO trombone section - Gordon Wolfe, centre The Trombone Shall Sound? Mozart’s Handel’s Messiah An Orchestra Librarian’s Nightmare GARY CORRIN JAG GUNDU For many North American orchestras, playing in the pit for ballet performances of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is a common holiday tradition. This was my experience, first as a clarinetist and then as an orchestra librarian. My first encounter with Messiah as a professional, however, was during my interview for the librarian position of the Phoenix Symphony when I was asked, “What edition do you like for the Messiah?” It is an extraordinarily complex question – much more so than I would have known at the time. I managed to offer up something I’d learned from a couple of singalong Messiahs I had attended – the organizer cautioning the audience/performers about the different numbering systems in various publications. But over the succeeding 30 years I have learned that there is much more to it than that, as I hope to share with you in this article. The complexity begins with the fact that George Frideric Handel was a German who spent the last 49 years of his life in London and achieved his greatest successes there. He composed Messiah – in English – in 1742 and, over the next several years, conducted it 13 times. As might be expected, these performances featured varying casts of vocal soloists, so during those years Handel rewrote several of the solo pieces to better suit these different voices. With its extraordinary popularity (and copyright protection still in its infancy) came many publications of the music, each with its own system of organizing and numbering the content. Moreover, because of its timeless story and memorable tunes, Messiah became the object of updates by several composers (including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) who made new orchestrations to capture an expressive sonority more in keeping with their time. The TSO’s own Sir Andrew Davis is the most recent example of this. Let’s pause right here to consider the things that could go wrong at a first rehearsal. The conductor might ask for “No. 44,” at which the chorus (reading from the Watkins Shaw edition) would sing, “Hallelujah!” while the alto and tenor soloists (reading from the Bärenreiter edition of the Handel version) would launch into “O Death, Where is Thy Sting?” and the orchestra (reading from Bärenreiter parts of the Mozart version) would chime in, “We don’t have a number 44!” Even worse, the additional flutes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trombones, tuba and percussion (variously required for versions by Mozart, Prout, Beecham or Davis) might not even show up! There are, in fact, so many performance variables that it really is necessary for each conductor to have a set of parts marked to his or her specifications. I got that that first library job in Phoenix, and that fall was presented with a score of Messiah into which the conductor had entered thousands of performance indications, which I was obliged to transfer into the parts (first ensuring, of course, that the soloists, chorus and orchestra would all be performing from that same edition). It took a couple weeks of constant work, but I vividly 8 | December 2019 / January 2020

Long before there was a Toronto Symphony, choral music was the dominant force in this city’s musical life. The first performance of Handel’s Messiah in Toronto took place in February 1873 and the founding of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir predates that of the Toronto Symphony by some 28 years. In his history of the Toronto Symphony, Begins with the Oboe, Richard Warren suggests that it was the desire for a better orchestra to accompany oratorio performances that was partly responsible for the formation of a regular orchestra. The TSO and TMC collaborated to perform Messiah first in 1936, again in 1948 and have done so nearly every Christmas season since. remember the conductor’s delight when he came to the library, opened the second violin part to a particular page and found his performance instructions copied there. Messiah at the TSO When I arrived for my first day at the Toronto Symphony in January 1992, I was greeted by a menacingly sizable pile of eraser bits on a corner of my new workstation – the remains of the TSO’s most recent performance of Messiah. At the same time, I learned that we would be performing it every year. And only a few weeks later, while sorting through old files, I came across a newspaper article about one of my predecessors, John Van Vugt, Librarian for the Toronto Symphony from 1923 to 1967. The title, in large bold letters was, “Toronto Symphony Librarian Has Nightmares.” It made for a somewhat ominous beginning. I should say, however, that my experiences with Messiah at the TSO have not always been difficult. On several occasions, for instance, Elmer Iseler, director of the TMC, led our performances using a set of parts that had been marked and remained unchanged for many years. “Unchanged,” I should say, except for an accumulation of cartoons drawn in the first oboe part by our former principal oboe, Perry Bauman. Tuesday December 17 at 8 pm Jonathan Plowright Tuesday January 9 at 8 pm Miró Quartet Pre-concert talk at 7:15 pm Thursday January 30 at 8 pm St. Lawrence Quartet with Stephen Prutsman Pre-concert talk at 7:15 pm 27 Front Street East, Toronto Tickets: 416-366-7723 | A couple of Perry Bauman oboe score cartoons (from The Trumpet Shall Sound and For Unto Us a Child Is Born). You’ll have to use your imagination for He Was Cut Off. — GC December 2019 / January 2020 | 9

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