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Volume 17 Issue 7 - April 2012

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  • April
  • Toronto
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Beat by Beat / Classical

Beat by Beat / Classical & BeyondProdigy, Pianist,and the MastersSHARNA SEARLEBefore i launch into April’s offerings, a few bits of follow-upfrom last month’s column are in order: Nathan Brock, theconductor who made his “homecoming” debut with the TSOon March 24 — and what a splendid evening it was! — was presentedfrom the stage that same evening with the Heinz Unger Award, an,000 prize established to encourage and highlight the career ofa “young to mid-career Canadian conductor.” It was a big night forBrock as it was also announced that he has been promoted fromassistant conductor to resident conductor of the Orchestre symphoniquede Montréal, and will begin that post in September 2012.Bravo Maestro Brock!Also last month, my online search failed to come up with theJuilliard String Quartet’s last Toronto performance. Music Toronto’sJennifer Taylor has since informed me that the JSQ played for MusicToronto 11 times between 1973 and 2000, and that 2000 may wellhave been the JSQ’s last year here. Thank you, Jennifer, for fillingin the blanks.Connect the Dots: And now to the month at hand. In preparingthe column, I found myself connecting some “musical dots” amongthose performers on whom I was focussing. One is a violin prodigy,Mercedes Cheung, making her orchestral debut — she played for(and was praised by) Itzhak Perlman who was on her JuilliardSchool entry jury. Perlman, of course, is in town this month for anextended visit with the TSO — he’ll be performing with his formerJuilliard student, the TSO’s Peter Oundjian.And then there’s pianist Ishay Shaer, making his Toronto debut inearly April. Shaer, like Perlman, was born in Israel and studied musicat Tel Aviv University. In 2009, Shaer performed with acclaimedcellist Mischa Maisky. Guess what? Maisky (who also happens tohold Israeli citizenship) makes his first appearance in Toronto in 34years, in early May.And now, from the dots to the details.The Prodigy: Something rather special is happening in RichmondHill on April 8. That’s the night violinist Mercedes Cheung performs“Winter” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, in her debut withthe Markham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of her father,Ephraim Cheung, MSO’s music director. Father and daughter willshare the stage at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.Did I mention that Mercedes is ten years old?I asked the young guest soloist (and Markham resident) to sharesome of her thoughts on the upcoming debut with her father. Wasshe excited? Nervous? Here’s what she wrote:“It’s so exciting to perform with my Daddy. Nervous? Never!Excited? Ye….s! It will be another kind of feeling … Fresh!!!! Hehas been teaching me violin since I was a baby, and he continuesto teach me together with Mr. Weilerstein at the Juilliard School.I’m so happy that I will have achance to watch him rehearsewith me & the orchestra … I havebeen waiting & looking forwardto this chance … He is my violinteacher, father and best friendand … my conductor!”Cheung is no stranger to thestage, having given her recital debutat age six and performed numeroustimes since. The dizzyinglist of her achievements, awards,performances and media spots takesup almost two letter-sized piecesof paper (single-spaced and smallprint). Mercedes’ mother, NancyTye, (herself a pianist, pedagogueand Royal Conservatory examiner)Mercedes Cheung.informed me that Mercedes is currently enrolled in Juilliard’s Pre-College Division – Young Talented Program and travels to New Yorkevery weekend to take classes. She sees her teacher, noted violinistDonald Weilerstein every other weekend in Boston, en route toJuilliard. (Weilerstein is on faculty at both Juilliard, where he holdsthe Dorothy Richard Starling Chair, previously held by Perlman —yet more dots — and the New England Conservatory of Music.)From that aforementioned mind-boggling list, I gleanedthat Mercedes was seven years old when she passed the RoyalConservatory’s Grade 10 violin exam, eight when she passed theGrade 9 piano exam — uh huh, piano, too — and nine when she completedher ARCT in violin performance — all with distinction. AndI would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Grade 5 Sir WilfridLaurier Public School student (French immersion, of course) willmake her Carnegie Hall debut at Weill Hall on November 3, 2012,in a performance of Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin. (Phew!)Photo Island PhotographyCHOREOGRAPHYMUSICLIVE PERFORMANCESETLIGHTINGfleck dance theatre harbourfront centre 207 QUEENS QUAY WESTbox office 416-973-4000 TICKETS TO www.tdt.orgphoto: pulga muchochoma in RIVERS by guntar kravismade possible withthe support of the estateof david pitblado14 April 1 – May 7, 2012

Photo Joey COHenClearly, this is a little girl with big plans who appears to have thenecessary drive, discipline and diligence to succeed; that, and anextraordinary musical gift.The Pianist: Tel Aviv-based Ishay Shaer is considered one of theleading young Israeli pianists, “young” being a relative term at thispoint: after all, he’s almost three times Cheung’s age! When he arrivesin Toronto to perform two sets of Beethoven bagatelles (Op.126and Op.119), Chopin’s Twelve Études Op. 25 and Harry Somers’Piano Sonata No.1, it will be, he tells me, his “first performance inCanada, and moreover my first visit to the country.” Syrinx SundaySalons is presenting Shaer at the Heliconian Hall on April 8 at 3pm(giving you time to head over to Richmond Hill that evening to catchIshay Shaer.the Cheungs).One of Syrinx’ main objectives isto promote the music of Canadianclassical composers, hence theSomers on the program. Shaerprovides these comments about hischoice to perform the esteemed,late Canadian composer’s sonata:“I was given a number of suggestionsfor a Canadian work byMs. Dorothy Sandler-Glick fromthe Syrinx Sunday Salons. It wasan opportunity for me to do someresearch, as I had never playedany Canadian music before. Assoon as I heard Somers’ first pianosonata it became quite clear to methat I wanted to study and performit. I usually find it fascinating to examine different approaches tocomposition of 20th century music, and especially of those innovatorsembedded in more conservative environments. To me Somers’particular case seems a very interesting one.”Shaer has won numerous prizes and has performed in the UK,Poland, Puerto Rico, the USA, all over South America and, ofcourse, Israel, to name but a few countries. And he keeps someserious musical company. As alluded to earlier, Shaer, for his prizewinningefforts at the 2009 International Beethoven Competition inBonn, also won the privilege of playing Beethoven’s Cello SonataNo.1 in F Major with Maisky; he consults, when the opportunityarises, with Daniel Barenboim; he attended a masterclass withMurray Perahia; and was recently invited by Shlomo Mintz toperform at the prestigious Sion Festival in Switzerland this comingSeptember. I was very curious about (and envious of) the masterclasswith Perahia (a favourite pianist I have long-admired). So Iasked Shaer about it:“That master class with Murray Perahia took place in 2007 in theJerusalem Music Centre … I recall having performed Chopin’s thirdpiano sonata there for the first time … He shed light on [its] structure… and his demonstrations on the piano were a true revelation forme …”I wonder if we’ll hear traces of Perahia’s “revelations” when Shaertackles the Chopin études. He strikes me as a sensitive, intelligentartist who deeply absorbs the wisdom of his musical elders.The Masters: So much has been written about Mischa Maiskythat his story is storied. Many of you probably know that he has thedistinction of being the only cellist in the world to have studied withboth Rostropovich and Piatigorsky; that despite being a prizewinnerat the Tchaikovsky Competition (1966) he was later imprisoned in alabour camp near Gorky for 18 months (1970); and that throughouthis celebrated career he has collaborated often with the likes ofpianists Martha Argerich and Radu Lupu. But did you know thathe started to play the cello the same year that he quit smoking … atage eight? In 2007, Maisky gave a wonderfully candid and colourfulinterview to the Internet Cello Society’s Tim Janof. It’s a fascinatingread, during which you’ll learn, among other things, about his shortlivedsmoking habit. for his long-overdue return to Toronto, Maisky will be guest115 T HA N N I V E R S A R Y S E A S O N1213MUSIC IN THEAFT E R NOONW O M E N ’ S M U S I C A L C L U B O F T O R O N T OOCTOBER 18, 2012 | 1.30 PM | TORONTO DEBUTPAU LLEWISpianoWalter Hall, Edward Johnson Building, Museum SubwayNOVEMBER 29, 2012 | 1.30 PMD U OCONCERTANTENancy Dahn, violin; Timothy Steeves, pianoFEBRUARY 14, 2013 | 1.30 PMT H E D U K EPIANO TRIOMark Fewer, violin; Thomas Wiebe, cello;Peter Longworth, pianoMARCH 28, 2013 | 1.30 PM | CANADIAN DEBUTT I P P E T TQUARTETJohn Mills, violin; Jeremy Isaac, violin;Julia O’Riordan, viola; Bozidar Vukotic, celloMAY 2, 2013 | 1.30 PM 115TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT AT KOERNER HALLJAMES RUSSELL CAROLYNEHNES BRAUN MAULEviolin baritone pianoKoerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and LearningThe Royal Conservatory of Music, 273 Bloor Street West, TorontoCommission sponsor of new workby John Estacio: Roger D. MooreConcert Sponsor:WMCT FoundationFive Concerts for 5. Early-bird price available May 1 – 31, 2012 – 0Limited subscriptions available – don’t be disappointed – subscribe nowExtra tickets for May 2, 2013, concert available for special price of each withsubscription (Single tickets for this concert will be on sale through RCM box officeafter September 1, 2012, 416-408-0208. Prices will vary.)For information and to subscribe call 416-923-7052All artists, dates, and programmes are subject to change without notice.Support of the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Toronto through the Toronto ArtsCouncil is gratefully acknowledged.PRESENTED 416-923-7052April 1 – May 7, 15

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