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Volume 17 Issue 5 - February 2012

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Bloor
  • Quartet

Getting to Know …

Getting to Know … Henri-Paul Sicsic// ALLAN PULKER“At a very young age I felt that Schumann’s emotional musicallanguage really spoke to me and became very personal to me.The feeling of connection with Schumann’s music was alsoencouraged by my teacher, Juliette Audibert-Lambert, whoseteacher, Alfred Cortot, was a renowned interpreter of Schumann’sand Chopin’s music. Schumann’s music was so special to her thatshe would assign it as a treat, almost as a reward, for good work,as something for which a student had proven himself worthy!”In mid-january I chatted with pianist and University of Torontomusic professor, Henri-Paul Sicsic about, among other things, his2007 recording of Robert Schumann’s Kreisleriana and Fantasie.I was impressed by the CD: no matter how busy the music, andSchumann’s can be very busy, the narrative could always be heard.“I don’t consider Schumann’s music to be particularly difficult toplay, but one needs to open emotionally to it. It is not predominantlyaesthetic, unlike, for example, Chopin, whose music is much morefocused on the beauty of the sound and the culture of the piano. ForSchumann, the piano is a vehicle, a means to an end, through whichhis interior voice and poetry can speak.”It’s an interesting observation. “We think of Chopin’s music asromantic because it is so beautiful and poetic, but it is more abstractthan Schumann’s.”So if Schumann’s music comes easily to him, whose musicdoes not?“For me, Beethoven is at the opposite end of the spectrum toSchumann. I feel nurtured by Schumann’s music but challengedby Beethoven’s. Many people have said thatBeethoven struggled as a composer whereasMozart composed effortlessly and even hadthe music already conceived before he wrote itdown. Mozart was playing with already establishedforms to which he brought a wizardrythat no one else could even come close to.Beethoven was always working at redefiningthose forms, so he was always working fromthe ground up, not because he was not capableof writing effortlessly — I’m sure he couldhave if he had chosen to — but through musiche was facing his own challenges, questionsand struggles.”So Beethoven’s music, Sicsic says, “alwaysgives me something new, something of arevelation, to find or to overcome, to goempathetically through the same struggle thatI feel he was going through as he composed it,meeting forces somehow opposed to the humancondition, not going for the obvious.”Tension, Sicsic says, is a key to Beethoven’smusic, persisting through moments of conventionalmusical resolution. “As for examplethe chord on which a cadence resolves will bemarked ‘subito piano,’ producing a sense of asudden and unforeseen change in the tensionand the direction of the music. Even if we hearhis music over and over, it will always feel asif it is rubbing the wrong way. As we movethrough the development of his music we aregradually reaching a state or a way of beingthat elevates us beyond our daily struggles.”Sicsic is not yet well known in Toronto,but there is a chance that after his upcoming,February 27 recital (the first all-Beethoven programmeof his career), we will know him a bit better. Theprogramme will consist of the Bagatelles Op.29 and Op.119,the Eroica Variations and the Sonata Op.110. Speaking ofthe last three piano sonatas, of which Op.110 is the second,he said “The music has become almost dissolved to thepoint that the texture has been reduced to transparency, likebeing able to see the stars when there is no light.”The recital takes place at Walter Hall, increasinglyfamiliar surroundings for Sicsic who was appointed to afull-time teaching position at the U of T’s Faculty of Musicin 2007, leaving the University of British Columbia, wherehe had taught since 1994. Before that he had studied with John Perryat Rice University in Texas and had also been Perry’s assistant.In 2007, he told me, a new full-time position in piano was createdat the U of T Faculty of Music. At the time it was the only full-timeposition other than what had been William Aide’s position, which isnow occupied by Jamie Parker. “I really feel blessed to have beenselected for this new position, both because of the strong culturallife of Toronto and to be part of the strong programme we have atU of T and the high standards, which, I think, make it one of theleading programmes in North America.”Certainly the piano department’s staff bring a wide range of interestand focus to the task. “Jamie Parker is an extraordinary pianist,not only as a member of the Gryphon Trio but also as a soloist.Marietta Orlov, who brings such knowledge, experience and a depthof culture, devotes herself completely to teaching. I focus on performance.Stephen Philcox, who focuses on collaboration with singers,is an incredible talent, and not only as a collaborative pianist but14 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012

ALLAN PULKERalso as a soloist … I remember his wonderfulplaying and phenomenal sight-readingwhen he was an undergraduate at UBC …”He continues, describing the particularstrengths of all department members, BorisLysenko, Midori Koga, Lydia Wong … Hisenthusiasm is manifest. “We may be theonly pedagogy programme which is complementingand not undermining the performanceside of things … Probably the onlycomparable programme on the continent isat Michigan State University, where Midoriwas on the faculty before coming here.”Sicsic’s pedagogical approach has evolvedover time. Born in Algeria of Frenchparents, they moved to Nice, France, in1962, at the time of Algerian independence.In Nice, as already mentioned, he studied with Juliette Audibert-Lambert. But for a number of years after that he studied on hisown. “I tried to contain all that I could remember and experience ofmy former teachers. This was a very important part of my training,because it enabled me to stand on my own feet, as it were.”He talks about how important it is for students to “come to theirown way,” to learn an entire composition completely on their own,to break “the need, almost an addiction to always asking ‘Am Idoing this right?’, to always wanting validation or confirmation thatthings are ok.”It’s an ethos built on rising to challenges rather than countingon classical contexts, not dissimilar to the all-Beethoven challengeSicsic has set for himself February 27 at Walter Hall.Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote,who currently serves as chairman of the company’s board ofdirectors. He can be contacted at allan@thewholenote.com.Beat by Beat / Classical & BeyondThe ABC of ItSHARNA SEARLEWhen writing a monthly column that involves regularlyworking your way through over 500 detailed listings, youlook for ways to inject a little bit of silliness into a task that,at times can be, shall we say, a tad dryish. So, I keep my eyes openfor quirks and curiosities. This month, for example, I noticed thatseveral of Canada’s finest pianists performing “classical and beyond”repertoire have first names starting with the letter “A.” Granted,there are also many (close to 30) whose names do not. Nonetheless,the “A list” struck me as, well, quirky; as good a place as any to start.Another quirky thing: the proliferation of concerts (22 to beexact) featuring works by Brahms: orchestral, chamber, piano solo,piano and orchestra, violin and orchestra, piano and violin duo, solosingers, full choirs (with and without orchestra). Was there a specialBrahms birthday or anniversary? Let’s see. Born May 1833, diedApril 1897. Nope, that’s not it. Must simply be a case of wanting to“Beat the February Blahs with Brahms.” So let’s begin.A IS FOR ANDRÉ, ARTHUR (X2), ANTON, ANGELA AND AARONAndré Laplante, Arthur Ozolins, Arthur Rowe, Anton Kuerti (performingthree concerts), Angela Park and Aaron Chow (performingin the same concert) will all be gracing stages, both in and beyondthe GTA, in February. (So will Adam Sherkin, Feb 19, and AngusSinclair, March 6, but their repertoire falls outside my beat.)Anton Kuerti is synonymous with great Beethoven playing, so itcomes as no surprise that he will be performing works by Beethovenin all three of his concerts. First up is the majestic Piano ConcertoAngèle Dubeau et La PietàMarch 8 at 8PMMichaelKaeshammerMarch 7 at 8PMCanada’s boogie woogie king presentshis singular brand of pop-tinged jazz,with a set of original songs that are asplayful as they are contagious.Angèle Dubeauand a dazzling all-female string ensembleplay the works of Gershwin, Williams,Bernstein and more,along with some of the best scoresfrom 20th century cinema.Tickets from Tickets from Follow us on Twitter @RoseTheatreBramBecome a fan facebook.com/RoseTheatreBramptonCONTACT THE BOX OFFICE AT905.874.2800www.rosetheatre.caFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012Rose Theatre WU Ad Jan12.indd 1thewholenote.com 1512-01-24 2:05 PM

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