3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020

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FEATURED: Music & Health writer Vivien Fellegi explores music, blindness & the plasticity of perception; David Jaeger digs into Gustavo Gimeno's plans for new music in his upcoming first season as music director at TSO; pianist James Rhodes, here for an early March recital, speaks his mind in a Q&A with Paul Ennis; and Lydia Perovic talks music and more with rising Turkish-Canadian mezzo Beste Kalender. Also, among our columns, Peggy Baker Dance Projects headlines Wende Bartley's In with the New; Steve Wallace's Jazz Notes rushes in definitionally where many fear to tread; ... and more.

Q & A “Inhaling Music

Q & A “Inhaling Music for All of My Life” JAMES RHODES PAUL ENNIS RICHARD ANSETT JOSE GUTIÉRREZ Since the 2008/2009 season when his star began its rise, celebrated pianist, author and media personality James Rhodes has released seven chart-topping classical albums, written four books James Rhodes and appeared in and made several television programs for British broadcasting. According to his website, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin offered comfort for the “suffering that dogged his childhood and early adult life.” Classical music offered “solace” and was key to his survival. Now in his mid-40s, Rhodes’ unfettered passion for classical music is at the core of his approach to concertizing; he communicates directly with audiences, interweaving anecdotes of composers’ lives with his own experiences as they relate to the music being performed. March 5, 2020, in Koerner Hall, the Glenn Gould Foundation is presenting Rhodes’ Canadian debut, in an all-Beethoven recital, as part of the Foundation’s “continuing commitment to celebrating excellence and exploring the indelible impact of the arts on the human condition.” The following Q & A took place via email in early February. WN: Your love of Glenn Gould is well known so it’s appropriate that the Glenn Gould Foundation is presenting your March 5 Toronto debut. You said in Geeking Glenn Gould, your 2017 BBC documentary, that when you were “a kid,” Gould was really your best friend, “during a time that was very bleak and he made things feel so much better and so much more exciting.” Please elaborate on that friendship and on how classical music saved your life then. JR: There were a lot of bad things happening when I was a kid. Things that shouldn’t happen to any child but, sadly, happen to far too many. When a child is raped it shatters their idea of trust. By some miracle (and I don’t use the word lightly), I discovered classical music at around that time and it was the only thing I could trust. It is that weird, schizophrenic thing of living most of my life in a dull monochrome, barely sleeping, bleeding from weird places, twitching all the time and unable to talk properly, and then listening to this incredible music and having a multicoloured, transcendental escape at my disposal. And of course you cannot experience classical music without Gould. He was such a revolutionary, the very opposite of the safe, academic performers that were so commonplace. He embodied the thrill of music for me. He did things with a piano that I would literally dream about doing. How does Glenn Gould inspire you? He reminds me of Beethoven, who wrote that immortal line, ‘There will be many emperors and princes. There will only ever be one Beethoven.’ He [Gould] just didn’t give a fuck. He was the closest thing classical music had to a rock star. He believed in playing music in a way that no one had the bravery or insight to play it. I mean listen to his cadenza to the last movement of Beethoven’s first piano concerto. Or the prelude of the fifth partita. Or the Meistersinger Overture. Man alive, the guy just punched you in the face and didn’t even apologize. This is what music-making should be about. 10 | March 2020

What was the first piece of Bach’s that changed your life? The Chaconne in D Minor from his Violin Partita No.2. A musical cathedral that he built to the memory of his dead wife. I love the fact that it keeps trying to end. But he always has one more thing to add. Like saying goodbye to the woman you love. Leaving the hospital room. And then returning to say that ‘one more thing.’ For me it was a kind of key to my mini, seven-year-old fucked-up soul that just fit right and made everything seem shinier. When did you begin to play the piano? Play, in the loosest sense of the word, when I was a kid. But I didn’t get my first proper teacher until I was 14. and then I stopped for ten years, aged 18, and restarted at 28. I wouldn’t recommend that. According to your website you had no formal academic musical education or dedicated mentoring until age 14 when you studied for four years under Colin Stone. Then, in your early 30s, you had a brief tutelage with Edoardo Strabbioli in Verona. Was that the extent of your training? Yep. But I like to think that dreaming, breathing, thinking about, listening, talking and inhaling music for all of my life was training too. That’s the magic trick with music. You can be at your most desperate and abandoned and suddenly there is a hand reaching out from 300 years ago giving you a hug and telling you it’s all going to be ok. Who were your musical heroes in your youth? Sokolov, Gilels, Bernstein, Ashkenazy. Tuesday March 10 at 8 pm André Laplante, pianist Thursday March 19 at 8 pm Pavel Haas Quartet I love the story you told Tom Power on CBC’s q about the time a dozen years ago when you were in a locked psychiatric ward and not allowed anything, but a friend smuggled in an iPod filled with Gould and Bach and you heard Bach’s transcription of the slow movement of Marcello’s oboe concerto. “Something this profoundly beautiful – the fact that this exists in the world – means that it’s not necessarily a completely hostile place,” you said. It’s an example of the extraordinary power of music. There’s nothing like it. Please expand. Nah. Listen to the piece and it’s easy to get. That’s the magic trick with music. You can be at your most desperate and abandoned and suddenly there is a hand reaching out from 300 years ago giving you a hug and telling you it’s all going to be ok. And that piece is a perfect example. When did you first fall in love with Beethoven? As a very young boy, listening to the Emperor Concerto. Holy shit what a piece to fall in love with! It’s everything my tiny, geeky little mind adored – virtuosity, thrills, beauty and lots of big fucking drums. How did you choose the pieces for your Toronto recital? I wanted to find three sonatas that told a bit of a story and covered the basic arc of his life. You recorded all three sonatas [No.15 in D Minor, Op.28 “Pastoral”; No.27 in E Minor, Op.90; No.21 in C Major, Op.53 “Waldstein”] seven to ten years ago. Please describe your relationship with each of the sonatas and how your approach to them has evolved over the years. You know I think it was Arrau (or maybe Bolet) who said something really brave – along the lines of ‘LVB wrote the sonata and moved onto the next one. I’ve been studying these sonatas for 30, 40, 50 years. I know them inside out. Have performed, memorized, Tuesday March 31 at 8 pm Benjamin Grosvenor, pianist Tickets: 416-366-7723 option 2 27 Front Street East, Toronto | March 2020 | 11

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