8 years ago

Volume 10 Issue 2 - October 2004

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COVER STORY (Still) Off Centre BY DA YID PERLMAN D igr ssing bef re starting is lousy storywnung technique, but permit me. Faithful WholeNote readers know that October is "BluePages" month - our annual treasury of profiles contributed by most of the presenters who bring us the music that will fill our halls for the next nine months or so. So since October is our homage to "the whole picture" we have had a tradition of making the October cover story one that reflects the whole scene rather than singling out one or another preseter from the mix. This year, perhaps with the recent Olympics as our inspiration, a change in thinking: rather than a "team portrait" cover, we've chosen, as every team must, a "worthy standard bearer" - one presenter to carry the flag into this, our tenth season. For one thing, Off Centre Music Salon is heading into their tenth year, same as us. For another, they're ... well, this is where the story gets back on track. Meet Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis. TRYING TO RECONSTRUCT exactly who said what in an interview with Inna and Boris is a bit like trying to keep track of which hands are which in the bravura four-handed piano works that have become their salon signature. You can do it, but you risk losing the thread. WholeNote: Why Off Centre? Boris: Well, we started in Markham so you could say that was definitely off centre - Inna: Definitely! Boris: .. but of course also in the sense of not usual, so therefore room to experiment. Inna: Exactly. The moment we become fully "in the square" and proper we will have failed. Boris: So ten years ago we were in Markham, the first three salons were there. lnna: It was the hall of a music store Boris: Euromusic. After that the audience was already too big and we moved to the Arts and Letters Club for three, or was it four ... ? Inna: It was three. Boris: ... seasons. Inna: And then to the Glenn Gould Boris: Which is where we are still. Inna: For the next twenty years. (Both laugh.) EURoMUs1c ON JoHN STREET in Markham is both store and school with a recital hall holding a hundred to a hundred and twenty. Grace Lin was organizing recitals there a decade ago when Boris and Inna arrived on the scene. "They were looking for a hall to get started. This was it. We were friends. The first series we called 'Vitoris' for 'Vienna Toronto Paris.' Alan Walker from Great Romantics Festival in Hamilton was a speaker at one of the very first. William Littler at the Star had reviewed Boris well, playing Liszt at Great Romantics in 1994, which is maybe why Littler took an ear- ly interest in Off Centre. His coverage (along with two wonderful Russian ladies making fantastic pastries), and the hall decorated beautifully as a salon, meant it was packed from day one. They had to move to Arts and Letters Club on Elm Street after the first series. I still go when I can, several teachers here are more involved than I am, but Sunday is a busy day at the school." (Grace still runs recitals at Euromusic; this year for example starting in December, Karl Lo, a Cleveland grad, will do an eightconcert Beethoven sonata cycle.) As IMPORTANT FOR Boris and Inna as the notion of being "Off Centre" is the fact of being a Salon. It's a vision that has been with them since the transitional year they spent in Vienna after emigrating from Russia in 1978. "For Russian Jews at that time your exit visa said Israel. That was where you were officially going. But we knew this was where we wanted. In that Vienna year, we found so many house concerts, and we played at the Bi:isendorfer factory. It was so different from the formal concert the mix of people all bringing their backgrod disciplines, medicine or philosophy or art or whatever, to it. Right from then the inspiration was there: how can we, someday, bring this energy back to the concert form." It was a year during which Schubert's Vienna came to inhabit Boris as much as he it. "You could put him in dark glasses at black midnight there and he would find his way" says Inna. The years between leaving Russia in '78 and the birth of Off Centre were years of "two young children, and as immigrants no grandparents in the picture, so picking our spots to perform"-there was one big recital for Boris at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena in '94, two TSO recitals under Gunther Herbig, and engagements in Vancouver, Syracuse and elsewhere. But it was "mostly teaching, some tours, some recording, nothing sustained. We were waiting for the right time." Right e, right place, right media support, . nght pastnes; a hall packed from day one. "Mr. Littler called it a new approach to the concert form" says Inna . The move from the Arts and Letters Club to the Glenn Gould Studio, like the move from Euromusic, was a challenge dictated by their outgrowing the space. "It was a bit of a loss, in terms of intimacy. But we are still able to bring to it details of the drawing room, the candelabras and screens (and pastries). The space has great things. Lots of air, a very gentle rake to the seats, so people still feel right in there. Even at the back you are face-to face with the stage. "You only have to listen to our machine messages, twenty or thirty after a show" says Inna "to hear that the intimacy is still there. Every concert is for someone the best they have ever been to. We have people on the phone in tears." "One listener said it for me" says Boris. "She said I love how you are so easy to listen to and so difficult to forget." THE SALON in Off Centre's hands is a mix of people "from different strata of the arts" creating a seamless blend of thematically interwoven song, readings, virtuosic musicianship and commentary. To take just one example, last January's event was built on the connection between doctors and music: Mozart and Mesmer ' Brahms and Billroth, Rachmaninov and Dr Dahl. "It so happens that Brahms' Piano Trio opus 101 was dedicated to, and first performed in the salon of, one Dr Billroth, a talented musician and friend of the composer's. We went from there." One of the speakers that night was Dr. David G ? ldbloom, professor of psychiatry at U of , himself a talented amateur pianist, and longtime member of the board of the Glenn Gould Foundation. He also now, vigorously, chairs the Off Cne board. "There's something about music m the afternoon that is different in terms of receptivity and enjoyment" he says. ' "And _ ther's something very invigorating about working with them. I love particularly seeing how each Salon in its firiaJ form emerges from th maelstrom behind the scenes. So many things can go wrong when you are pulling together so many different threads. Yet the outcome is always so satisfying. It is an immensely stimulating association." CONTINUES 8 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM OCTOBER 1 - NOVEMBER 7 2004

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