1 month ago

Volume 26 Issue 4 - December 2020 / January 2021

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Composer
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Recording
  • Toronto
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • January
  • December
In this issue: Beautiful Exceptions, Sing-Alone Messiahs, Livingston’s Vocal Pleasures, Chamber Beethoven, Online Opera (Plexiglass & All), Playlist for the Winter of our Discontent, The Oud & the Fuzz, Who is Alex Trebek? All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Friday December 4.

Le Nouvel Ensemble

Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne performing the premiere of Devaux’s Arras, live-streamed by the Azrieli Foundation on October 22, 2020. a constantly shifting and captivating work. Named after the term for an elaborate French tapestry or wall hanging, the composition weaves the different sections of the chamber orchestra together in exciting and evocative ways. Devaux said the pandemic emphasized how important it is to her compositional process to experience a new piece with other people. “I leaned into the positive elements of it,” she explained. “It’s nice to be at home. I dressed up just to make it feel special, but I was holding my cat and drinking champagne while listening to my piece. That was kind of special and amazing, and I don’t know when that would ever happen, but you have this sense of ‘I don’t know who’s listening to this’. (...) It was like, I could be listening to this in a void. I’m sure there’s other people listening, but you know, it made me let go a bit more about what other people might think and just enjoy it for myself.” While aspects of the Oct. 22 gala concert, such as the welcoming remarks and the composer portrait segments were pre-recorded, the performances themselves were live-to-air; Devaux attended all of the rehearsals, but she was not able to be present at the performance due to the venue’s space limitations. The live-streamed gala will be available on until January 23 2011. And the audio recording sessions for the Analekta release are slated for spring 2021. In the meantime, Devaux will be reviewing the debut performance’s recording to make sure the final outcome is exactly what she wants. Outside of the commission, Arras is a significant piece for Devaux because it is the first piece in which she actively explored her Japanese Canadian heritage. “I feel like, if you don’t look like ‘a typical composer’, you end up getting a lot of questions about who you are and not about what you’re doing,” Devaux explained. “I feared, being a woman composer of half Japanese Canadian heritage, that my profile as a composer would be more focused on my identity rather than my explorations and voice as a composer. This tendency had always bothered me so I made a point of not writing pieces inspired by my heritage, not because it wasn’t important to me, but to avoid being perceived and packaged in a certain way. “As times change, and as I get more confident about embracing and understanding who I am and how it integrates into my artistic practice, I thought, these are important elements, and it was impossible to separate identity from artistic voice. I realized it was important to represent who you are.” In the application process for the Azrieli commission, applicants were asked to respond to the prompt, “What is Canadian music?” For Devaux, the prompt became an exercise in examining her own feelings around personal and national identity, in a way she hadn’t written about before. “I gave a very honest answer, which is why I was very surprised, amongst other reasons, that I got it, because I was hard-hitting in my answer in a way I think is respectful, but also ‘let’s be real!’ about what being Canadian means. You can’t talk about ‘Canadian Music’ You can’t talk about ‘Canadian Music’ without talking about what the word Canadian means. without talking about what the word Canadian means,” Devaux said. “It forced me to think about that and the only way I felt I could respond responsibly is to speak about who I am. I can talk about other people, but I can’t represent other people. It was really just about sitting in my history for a while and thinking about my life.” “It’s a personal response not just to skirt larger answers, but also because it’s not for me to answer,” she added. “I don’t know if it’s really for anybody, in my opinion, to answer that question, because the moment you start to answer that question in a way that tries to represent a group of people, then you are excluding people. I think that’s the gist of what I said in my application: the way I think that this prize could be really interesting, amazing really, is that if every time somebody applies and gets it, it’s somebody with a very different background, and very different approach and very different voice. (...) Having a canon of works that sound aesthetically the same, historically the same, is not interesting to me. It’s dangerous. It’s boring. So I’m just one brush stroke.” Keiko Devaux is currently a composer-in-residence at the National Arts Centre until 2022. She recently released a recording from the opera Echoic Memories, completed in 2019 as part of a commission from the music@villaromana festival in Florence, which is available on her SoundCloud. The Azrieli Foundation live-streamed the 2020 Azrieli Music Prize Gala Concert on October 22 at 8pm, and this story appeared first in our blog at, November 26 2020; updated November 30 2020. Camille Kiku Belair is a Toronto-based classical guitarist, composer and writer. They are currently pursuing an MFA in Composition and Experimental Sound Practices at California Institute of the Arts. MARIE ISABELLE ROCHON 18 | December 2020 - January 2021

CLASSICAL AND BEYOND Chamber Beethoven As His Birthday Beckons PAUL ENNIS James Ehnes BEN EALOVEGA As Beethoven’s 250th birthday approaches – thought to have been born on December 15 or 16 he was baptized on December 17, 1770 – there are several notable chamber music concerts being livestreamed from December 5 to December 13, the last remnants of what was to have been a year-long celebration that was curtailed by the pandemic. Goodyear and Ehnes Internationally acclaimed superstar and Canada’s preeminent violinist, James Ehnes, will be joined by virtuoso pianist Stewart Goodyear for a complete traversal of the ten sonatas for violin and piano in three recitals – to be livestreamed from Koerner Hall December 11, 12 and 13. Goodyear is celebrated for prodigious pianistic feats like performing all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas on the same day. Despite the marathons and the prodigious technique and memory that they require, the basis for Goodyear’s appeal is his empathetic relationship with the music he performs and his ability to communicate that to an audience. Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano were spread over much of his lifetime, falling into the early and middle periods of his compositional career. The December 11 recital features the first four sonatas: the delightful Op.12, Nos.1-3 filled with grace – written in the last years of the 18th century – and Op.23 from 1801. The December 12 concert begins with the freshness of Sonata No.5, Op.24 “Spring” followed by Op.30 Nos.1 & 2, from 1803. December 13 at 3pm features Op.30 No.3, the virtuosic, justly popular Sonata No.9 Op.47 “Kreutzer” and the intimate Op.96 “The Cockcrow” that sits on the precipice of Beethoven’s visionary late period. Interestingly, Ehnes and Goodyear have performed together only once before – the afternoon of December 6, 2007 at the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto – but these Koerner Hall concerts will be the first time they will play Beethoven together. I asked each of them to respond to two simple questions about their relationship to the music of Beethoven. December 2020 - January 2021 | 19

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020
Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020
Volume 26 Issue 4 - December 2020 / January 2021

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 2020
Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)