8 years ago

Volume 17 Issue 6 - March 2012

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Beat by Beat / Classical

Beat by Beat / Classical & BeyondSize Does MatterSHARNA SEARLE“ORCHESTRA MONTH” in SOUTHERN ONTARIO?If April is “opera month” in Southern Ontario, perhaps Marchshould be proclaimed “orchestra month” given the wealth, diversityand richness of orchestral music being offered this month.From no less than four predominantly Russian programmes, threemostly-French programmes and two mostly-Italian programmes, toseveral concerts featuring a significant choral component, what wehave this month is a veritable orchestral feast, bordering on an (enviable)embarrassment of riches.LOCAL boy makES goodStarting with a much anticipated homecoming, on March 24 conductorNathan Brock will “return home” for his much-anticipateddebut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Toronto-born Brock(also a U of T Faculty of Music grad), who has held the post of assistantconductor of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal sinceJuly 2009, will conduct the TSO in an all-Russian programme, withguest cellist Joshua Roman; the programme will be repeated on the25th. I had an opportunity to ask Brock a few questions regardinghis upcoming “homecoming.” This is what he says goes through hishead (and heart) when he thinks about his imminent TSO debut:“Conducting at home is a particular thrill and also a particularchallenge. I haven’t been part of the Toronto music scene for almostten years (I left in 2002) and obviously a lot has changed in mylife … When I left I was still really just a kid. Since then I’ve putseveral degrees, many countries, contact with many of the world’sgreatest conductors, a marriage and two kidsunder my proverbial belt. A number of theplayers in the symphony are old friends, an evengreater number are old teachers, mentors andfrankly, idols from my musical upbringing inToronto. I’m thrilled to be given the chance toshow them what I can do!”… it’s a strange mix ofnerves and excitement being in front of the homecrowd. These emotions are also tempered by agreat sadness at the thought of experiencing thismoment without some of the people who haveinfluenced my musical life the most.”I wondered about his thoughts on Russian music,too, given that he’ll be conducting an all-Russianprogramme. “Russian music is wonderful. It’svisceral. The spirit of this people is incomparableand leaps from every page of the great Russianclassics whether it’s Pushkin, Dostoyevsky,Tchaikovsky or Shostakovich. You simply can’tescape its potent affect. It is music that grabs youand changes you — no questions asked (Russiansaren’t ones to stand on ceremony!).”When I asked Brock, himself a cellist, aboutthe dynamic of conducting a fellow cellist hesaid that “there is definitely a simpatico,” adding,with a wink, “We’re such easy people.” He alsofigured, given their relative closeness in age andthe music being performed, that he and Romanwill “get along just great!”Brock also appears to “get along just great”with the younger set, the 6 to 16 year olds. Inhis role as assistant conductor with the OSM, hewas recently awarded a Prix Opus for the youthconcert project he led, ingeniously titled, “YouCan Never Be Too Classical.” Brock thinks that“kids, especially as they get older, can appreciatewhen they are being fed ‘for kids’ material as opposed to getting thereal thing.” The programme for the concert that won him the Opus?“We started with some Vivaldi, progressed through Debussy, Adams,even some Gougeon, to Stravinsky. We finished the last 20 minutesby playing the Firebird Suite!”Brock will conduct (some more of) that powerful Russianrepertoire including Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila,Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov’sCapriccio espagnol and Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a RococoTheme, (with cellist Roman), March 24 (7:30pm) and 25 (3pm), atRoy Thomson Hall.Kuerti at KitchenerCoincidentally, another Toronto-born conductor, Julian Kuerti, willbe performing with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony over thesame weekend that Brock conducts the TSO; actually, Kuerti andthe KWS perform on March 23 and 24, so, in theory, you can catchboth Kuerti and Brock at the podium with a bit of advance planning.Kuerti, who completed a two-year post a few years ago as assistantconductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, made his TSO debut in2007. He is now a freelance conductor with a full concert schedule inNorth America and Europe. In fact, during the same weekend I washoping to reach him for this column, it turned out he was busy guestconducting the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. When he comes toKitchener, Kuerti will lead the KWS and the young pianist, NarehArghamanyan, in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5, the “Emperor,”a piece he is intimately familiar with, not surprisingly, given that he isthe son of renowned Beethoven expert, pianist Anton Kuerti. (He alsoconducted his father in the “Emperor” in a “legendary, last minute”event, in March, 2008, in Boston. Worth googling!)Ms. Arghamanyan and Kuerti will no doubt provide two grandevenings of music making with the KWS, at the Centre in TheSquare, at 8pm. Also on the programme is Gary Kulesha’s Torqueand Schumann’s Symphony No.2.14 March 1 – April 7, 2012

“STRING QUARTET MONTH” inSOUTHERN ONTARIO?I started by saying March might well be dubbedOrchestra Month, but there is an equally strong casefor calling it String Quartet Month. Why? Becausethis month there are — count them — ten quartetsperforming throughout Toronto, the GTA and beyond.The Juilliard String Quartet (more about them later),for example, is performing both in Markham and atBrock University; the Vogler is first at the HamiltonConductor Nathan Brock.Conservatory and then, about two weeks later, at theRoyal Conservatory. And here are the other eight:Bozzini, Cecilia, Penderecki, Silver Birch, SimonBolivar, Takács, Ton Beau and Tokyo (more of themlater, too).So, from the splendour of a 90-piece orchestra,let’s turn, now, to the intimacy, and dare I say it,relative complexity, of the string quartet. Of the tenperforming in around the GTA this month, I thoughtI might attempt a “compare and contrast” with twoof them: the Juilliard String Quartet (JSQ) and the Tokyo StringAND much moreQuartet (TSQ).In what is shaping up to be a very busy weekend in March, the Both are quartets of long standing, the JSQ having been establishedin 1949, the TSQ, in 1969. Each is “quartet in-residence” at a23rd and 24th will also see Masterworks of Oakville Chorus andOrchestra mount Mahler’s Symphony No.2, “Resurrection,” one prestigious music school: the JSQ at … yes, the eponymous Juilliardof its “most ambitious concerts yet,” according to a backgrounder School; the TSQ — whose founding members (all former music studentsof Tokyo’s famed string teacher Hideo Saito) met while study-we received from conductor Charles Demuynck. Soprano MarianSjolander and alto Kyle Engler will join an orchestra of 90 and a ing at Juilliard and who were trained by members of the JSQ — atchorus of 80 for the 8pm event at St. Matthews Roman Catholic Yale. Robert Mann, founding member of the Juilliard, spent 52 yearsChurch in Oakville. And as is often — no, make that always — the as first violin, leaving in 1997, and their newest member, first violincase with this column, the month’s offerings present yet another “so Joseph Lin, started in 2011; the Tokyo’s violist, Kazuhide Isomura,many concerts, so little room” quandary. For more on the month’s a member of the group since its inception, will be retiring in 2013orchestral riches, please refer to what is fast becoming a regular (along with second violin Kikuei Ikeda, a member since 1974), after“Quick Picks” feature, at the end.44 years. (“Our very own” Peter Oundjian played first violin withArts. Culture. Heritage.Powered bywww.kofflerarts.orgMarch 1 – April 7, 15

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