7 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 10 - July 2006

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"In sum, a true

"In sum, a true audience": reoort on the soundaXis festival by David Olds Thanks to Daniel Cooper's idea, almost five years ago, of centering a festival on the multi-disciplinary vision of the late lannis Xenakis, the soundaXis festival of music, architecture and acoustics was born in Toronto this June. More than two years of planning and development culminated in eleven days of intense activity - concerts, symposia, installations, street performances and the like - involving some 30 organizations from contemporary music presenters to architecture faculties, galleries, museums and educational institutions. Perhaps the best tribute to the success of soundaXis is a letter Cooper received from distinguished international guest, Franc,:oise Xenakis, widow of the celebrated composer. To see, hear a bouquet "I was able to see, hear a bouquet of flowers that gathered together all the stems of Xenakis' thinking and its ramifications that intermingle into a new composition. His music, his architecture, his mathematical thinking, his philosophy ... Thanks to your festival, where any/all snobbishness was excluded not to say forbidden, you were able to call upon young individual talents and groups not yet spoiled by success and who, therefore, still know how to and love to work. Never have I heard a Tetras as I heard in Toronto [performed by the Penderecki String Quartet];Dikthas - that young couple [Duo Diorama] who played it is worthy of any formally recognized group here. The same goes for Echange [soloist Lori Freedman and the New Music Concerts Ensemble under Robert Aitken's direction] ... I was also amazed by the audiences, which also showed talent. No comparison with the stillborn halls full of ghosts, more often than not deaf - who occupy the best seats in Parisian concert halls. In your festival, I met artists, university professors, students, people of all ages who had never before heard (of) Xenakis. And youth. Lots of young people. In sum, a true audience. I hope[ ... ] that you will have the courage to re-ignite the flames of such a festival, by honoring at every opportunity the thinking and music of Xenakis, because, to [be] entirely honest, you have realized one of his most cherished dreams." Fram;oise Xenakis b (From left) Xenakis biographer Nouritza Matossian, Franroise Xenakis and £change bass-clarinet soloist Lori Freedman in the lobby of Glenn Gould Studio following New Music Concerts' June 9 soundaXis performance. On June 21 twenty-five members of the Toronto Coalition of New Music Presenters (the umbrella organization out of which the festival had grown), met to begin to assess the success of soundaXis and make preliminary plans for the future. Daniel Cooper noted that while it's difficult to say by what criteria one might judge such an event, it was clear that presenters had drawn substantially larger and more diversified audiences. Significant segments of the audience were spotted attending multiple events and there was a notable international presence. Although among government agencies only the Toronto Arts Council had offered official support to this initial venture, significant private funding was obtained - more than ,000 in donations from private sources - and only a very modest deficit resulted from the undertaking. Each of the organizations contributed substantially by including the events in their regular concert seasons and absorbing the costs into their operating budgets as no additional funding was granted for these "extraordinary" activities. Members of the Coalition at the June 21 meeting offered unanimously positive comments regarding the festival and several noted the beneficial effect the festival had in bringing the Toronto new music community together to an unprecedented degree. While there was a concentrated theme to the festival, minimal curatorial strictures enabled a wide ranging interpretation of the guidelines. Performances at a variety of previously unutilized venues and street level improvisations proved particularly striking to several observers. Architect David Lieberman's only regret was the low level of participation from the local architectural community; however it WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM was clear that the interdisciplinary aspect of the festival had drawn a more diverse audience to new music. There was a consensus among the participants to work together to insure that the momentum generated by the activities would lead to future collaborations, but all agreed that to try to mount a festival in the coming season would be premature. WholeNote editor David Perlman pointed out that in discussions with Berislav Sipus, the director of the Zagreb Biennale festival who had attended soundaXis at the invitation of Les Amis director Michael Pepa, Sipus had said that al­ though the Zagreb festival is a bi-annual affair, it uses the in-between year as a period of gestation and promotion. The local Zagreb organizations involved in the festival - chamber groups, symphony orchestras and even the National Theatre - program music in the "fallow" year that relates to the theme of the upcoming Biennale. Les Amis has been invited to present a concert of Canadian music on the final day of the 2007 festival, with the intention that Canada will be a "Partner Country" with a number of Canadian groups featured in the 25th Biennale in 2009. Sipus told WholeNote that his Cantus Ensemble - a large chamber group devoted exclusively to contemporary music that has performed more than 100 new works since its founding in 2001 - and other groups through the Croatian Composers Society, will perform Canadian works during 2007 and 2008 to build toward the April 2009 festival. Perlman suggested that Coalition members could easily use this as a model to keep the momentum building between Toronto festivals. The Toronto Coalition of New Music Presenters has blossomed from an ad hoc round table discussion group founded just six years ago, to a vibrant and viable partnership that has successfully "gone public" in a big way with the soundaXis festival which captivated the city's imagination in early June . May this be the first of many such joint ventures. David Olds, general manager of New Music Concerts, has served as the convenor of the Toronto Coalition of New Music Presenters since its beginnings in September JULY 1 - '.:>EP TE MBER 7 lUUb Back to Ad Index

'I' - 0 - Musi caJ n i an,· by Colin Eatock What's Wrong with this Picture? June 16, 2006: I arrived at Queen and University for the second of three inaugural concerts at the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Yes, it's true: Toronto now has an opera house, thanks to the Canadian Opera Company's determination. It's been a long time in coming - and there were times when many people (myself included) thought it would never happen. Understandably, the COC is in a festive mood. And to celebrate, the company brought out a parade of Canadian singers, along with the COC Orchestra and Chorus, all led by COC general director Richard Bradshaw. Taking my seat, I perused the programme, which was filled with favourite arias by Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Wagner, plus a few lesser-known selections. In the hall's clear and intimate acoustic, it all sounded glorious - and, judging by the sustained applause, a good time was had by all. But something was missing: beyond the obligatory performance of O Canada, there wasn't a note composed in Canada. At intermission, I made inquiries and discovered that there wasn't any Canadian music on the first concert, either. June 17, 2006: I stopped in once again at the FSCPA, and asked an usher for a programme for the third, and final, inaugural performance. My fears were confirmed. Over three concerts - about four-and-a-half hours of music - the COC did not touch on our operatic repertoire. There are numerous Canadian opera excerpts that the COC could have performed - and no one knows this better than Bradshaw. He led the world premiere of Mario and the Magician by the late Harry Somers, back in 1992. The opera's big aria, "Hills of Palm Trees," would have lent a sombre tone to the festivities - but not more so, surely, than the death scene from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (movingly sung by bass Robert Pomakov). Or how's about The Golden Ass by Randolph Peters, with a libretto by Robertson Davies, premiered by the COC in 1999? Composed in an overtly melodic, crowd-pleasing style, it contains some serviceable numbers, such as "Money and Gold," and "Gramarye." And there may well be other Canadian gems gathering dust in the COC's own music library on Front Street. So why didn't the COC perform any Canadian music? It's a puzzling question because none of the usual arguments for avoiding home-grown repertoire applied on this occasion. To be sure, staging a whole Canadian opera is a huge and risky undertaking. Yet for these concerts, the COC could have easily brought out one short, tried-andtrue, Canadian excerpt. And Canadian music is often shunned as boxoffice death - but these three performances were sold out before the public knew what was on the programme. Whether accidental or deliberate, the exclusion of Canadian music from these concerts may offer some hints about the company's core values and aspirations. It looks to me as if the COC, in its desire to convince Torontonians that they do at long last have a real opera house, chose to perform only "real" opera music - which, almost by definition, is music by dead Europeans. If the folks at the COC expected that few people in the audience would notice the lack of Canadian music - much less care - they were probably right. But by fa lling in with this Realpolitik, Canada's national opera company missed an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that some Canadian music can stand alongside works by the celebrated masters. That's what the COC proudly proclaims whenever it does stage a Canadian opera. And I expect that, one of these years, the company will once again "get around" to producing another work by one of our composers. But given the company's apparent priorities at this time, it comes as no surprise to see that there won't be any Canadian operas in the COC's upcoming 2006/07 season. Colin Eatock is a Toronto based composer and freelance writer who frequently contributes to the Globe and Mail , and other publications. He returns to the WholeNote, after a year's absence, with his monthly "T. 0. Musical Diary" column. YOUR FAVOURITE TCHAIKOVSKY SEPTE M BER 3 0 , 2 006 7:30 pm Ca lv a r y Bap ti st C h u r ch Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto and 4th Symphony. Guest: Alexander Markovich THE PAS SI ON O F ITALY OCTOBER 28, 2006 7: 30 pm Calvary Baptist Chu r ch The best of Italian Opera: Traviata, Tosca, Mada ma Butterfly, Otelia -With rising stars Marie-Josee Lord & Guillermo Ruiz. ME SS IA H DECEMBER 17, 2006 4 : 00 pm Community Pen t ecostal Church A beloved tradition: Handel's Messiah. Guests: Tenor Jose G. Reyes and othe rs, Bel'Arte Singers (Choir) ORIENTA L FA NTASY JANUARY 27 , 2007 7: 30 pm Calvary Bapt ist Church Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin and Stravinsky's The Firebird. Guest: Canadian-Chinese Pop Artist, Dadawa MAGN I FIC ENT M AHL ER MARCH 3 , 2007 7:30 pm Toronto Centre for t he Arts Mahler's 5th in full force, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts! Guest Orchestra: Kingston Symphony joined with the 0050 ODE TO JOY APRIL 21, 2007 7: 3 0 pm Calvary Bapt i s t Church Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante & Beethoven's superb 9th Symphony. Guests: l

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