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Volume 18 Issue 6 - March 2013

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Electronic composer

Electronic composer David Jaeger was senior producer for CBC RadioMusic. When he inaugurated Two New Hours, the first piece he commissionedwas Weinzweig’s song cycle Private Collection for Soprano andPiano, with text by the composer (1975). Or to be more precise, Weinzweigcommissioned himself by coming to Jaeger with a proposal towrite something for the sparkling personality of soprano Mary Lou Fallis.“It’s a little known fact,” says Jaeger, “but John saw himself as primarilya vocal composer and a humourist. Just look at the hilarioussong “Hello Rico?” (from Private Collection) which depicts a teenager’sphone conversation. He put his observations of life into his music. I’dsay his signature is short stop modes of expression, those quirky littlemotifs that are unique to him.”Lawrence Cherney, artistic director of thenew music series Soundstreams, contributesdescriptive words such as austere, rhythmic,punchy, energetic, concise and succinct todescribe Weinzweig. Adds Cherney: “John’swork was not so much an evolution of styles,but a concentration of themes and interests.Things would catch his fancy and he’d pursuethem till he found something else. In themid 1980s, for example, his focus was choralmusic. He also liked to incorporate soundsfrom everyday life like popcorn popping. Histexts became more colloquial than poetic.”Cherney curated the Friday, March 8 concert.He and the advisory board were facedwith a huge and eclectic array of works to choose from. “It’s theusual mixture for a tribute concert,” explains Cherney. “There are workswell known, and not so well known. John’s composing career spanned70 years, so we tried to choose from different periods and genres.”The small stage at Walter Hall precluded any large symphonic work, sothe program contains three chamber pieces with the 13-member stringorchestra conducted by Feldbrill. Interlude in an Artist’s Life (1943) isan instrumental work with an ironic title. Weinzweig finished the scorejust before leaving his teaching job at the Royal Conservatory to join theRoyal Canadian Air Force as a band instructor, composer and arranger.Also included is the third movement of Divertimento No. 3 (1960)which features a solo bassoon. The piece is on the program because Uof T student and bassoonist Bianca Chambul is something of a musicalprodigy. Similarly, Refrains for Contrabass and Piano (1977) is a showcasefor American James VanDemark, a professor at the Eastman Schoolwho is considered one of the world’s great virtuosos of the double bass.Three choral works will be performed by the University of Guelph ChamberSingers including the brilliant Hockey Night in Canada (1985) withits hilarious refrain, “Body check, body check, body check.” The otherpieces are the more serious Prisoner of Conscience (1985), dedicatedto Amnesty International, and Am Yisrael Chai! = Israel Lives (1952),an ode to the resilience of the Jewish people.Acclaimed soloist Judy Loman will be playing excepts from 15 Piecesfor Harp (1983). There is an amusing story connected with this work.Loman commissioned the score and after Weinzweig had written severalpieces, he tried to get together with Loman, but she was alwaysbusy. As he explains in the Weinstein film, he couldn’t get the harpout of his mind and kept writing. When he got to 15 pieces, he calledLoman, telling her that he felt like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, beggingher to meet with him so he could stop composing. Weinzweig actuallytook harp lessons from Loman before he worked on the commission.Weinzweig’s most famous chamber work is Divertimento No. 1 (1946)which features flutist Robert Aitken. And here’s a curiosity. Weinzweigwas awarded the silver medal for Divertimento No. 1 at the 1948 LondonOlympiad (no gold medal was given out that year). As astonishing as itmay seem, from 1912 to 1948, the Olympic Games included medals forarchitecture, literature, sculpture, painting and graphic art and music.The practice was abandoned after 1948 because the arts competitors weredeemed “professional” and the Olympics was the domain of amateurs.Aitken is also joining soprano Shannon Mercer and pianist SeroujKradjian to perform Trialogue (1971). Weinzweig composed the workusing his own very idiosyncratic texts. “It’s a perfect example of thehumour that permeated John’s later works,” says Aitken. The flutist,in fact, delights in quoting some of Weinzweig’s eccentric lyrics. “Itoccurred to me that it never occurred to me.” “A sound has no leg tostand on.” “Your soul is showing.” “If it can be done, why do it?” “Holdon to your lives, here we go.”The big deal is the new work, Dear John, for harp and soprano, byAndrew Staniland, performed by Loman and Mercer. Staniland wasthe 2007 recipient of the 00 John Weinzweig Scholarship, awardedannually by U of T’s Faculty of Music to a graduating doctoral candidatein composition. He is currently an assistant professor of compositionat Memorial University in St. John’s.Says Staniland: “My two favourite Weinzweig works are 15 Piecesfor Harp and the song cycle Private Collection, so it was natural towrite something for harp and soprano. BecauseJohn wrote his own text for Private Collection, Idecided to write my own lyrics, although I counselmy students not to do it because it’s hard topull off. The work is a play on words: the DearJohn rejection letter, the John Deere tractor andof course, an homage to Dear John Weinzweig. It’swhimsical, ironic and funny. It is also thoughtful,elegant and sincere.”Robin Elliott, chair of Canadian music at U of T,organized both the symposium, which takes placeon Saturday, March 9, and the noon hour concertWeinzweig with on Weinzweig’s actual birthday, March 11. The latterfeatures the Cecilia String Quartet, first prizeson Paul, 1940.winner at the prestigious Banff International StringQuartet Competition in 2010. The program includesSonata for Violin and Piano (1941), Sonata “Israel” for Cello and Piano(1949), both with pianist James Parker, and String Quartet No.3 (1962).The violin sonata reflects Weinzweig’s new-found fascination with12-tone. This composition also was a welcome break from grinding outneverending background music for radio programs for the CBC. Theextended final cadenza for the violin reaches heights of virtuosity. Thecello sonata, quoting an old Yemenite melody, is dedicated to the newstate of Israel. While 12-tone in structure, Weinzweig loosens the serialismto allow expressions of joy and celebration. The elegiac quality ofQuartet No. 3 reflects Weinzweig’s grief over the death of his belovedmother. It is widely considered to be among his finest works.As for “Symposium: John Weinzweig, His Contemporaries and HisInfluence,” Elliott put out a call for papers and, as he quips, there was100% acceptance. Eight proposals came in and eight comprise the symposium.“Half are lecture/demos,” says Elliott, “which means a lot ofmusic. It’s not all talk.” The papers cover a wide range of topics includingthe string quartets, commissioning Weinzweig, the late piano works,a discourse on his 12 divertimenti, publishing a performing edition ofPrivate Collection, and the Jewish-Canadian heritage of Weinzweigand Saskatchewan-based composer David Kaplan (b.1923). There isalso a bit of nepotism. Diana Dumlavwalla is presenting a paper titledThe Pedagogical Piano Works, and Elliott’s daughters, age 9 and 11, areplaying these charming pieces.In the final analysis, the mission of the John Weinzweig CentenaryProject, as stated on the new website that Daniel set up (johnweinzweig.com), is not only to encourage performances of his father’s oeuvre, butto promote discussion about Weinzweig’s influence. The hope is thatthe specific focus on Weinzweig will, in turn, lead to greater audienceawareness and demand for Canadian new music in general.Even Daniel acknowledges that it is going to be a rough row to hoe.“CD sales are practically non-existent and music organizations areconservative in their programming,” he points out. “Contemporarycomposers can’t build up a reputation because their works don’t havea shelf life. The website will keep my father’s intellectual property alive.The future is the internet.”And one final note. Weinzweig was a devotee of the legendary HarbordBakery. It is, therefore, fitting that the bakery is catering the Mondaynight, March 11 reception at the Canadian Music Centre. (For a completelist of centenary events, visit johnweinzweig.com.)Paula Citron is a Toronto-based arts journalist. Her areas of specialinterest are dance, theatre, opera and arts commentary.10 thewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2013

KOERNER HALL IS:“A beautiful space for music ”THE GLOBE AND MAILTUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2013 7:30PMMAZZOLENI CONCERT HALLARC EnsembleThe twice Grammy nominatedARC Ensemble (Artists of The RoyalConservatory) performs with“passion, polish and vitality.”(The New York Times) Hear themplay works by Weinberg, Laks,Mendelssohn, and Ben-Haimbefore the Ensemble presentsthe same program in their debutperformance at London’s prestigiousWigmore Hall.SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2013 7:30PMMAZZOLENI CONCERT HALLCecilia StringQuartet withGeorgy TchaidzeThe top prizewinners of the Calgary’sHonens International Piano Competitionand the Banff International StringQuartet Competition perform soloand chamber music, includingCésar Franck’s Piano Quintet.SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013 3PMKOERNER HALLJonathan BissBiss matches two of Schumann’stwo great cycles for solopiano Fantasiestücke andDavidsbündlertänze to 20thcentury works by Janáĉek andBerg, which are all deeplyconnected. Mr. Biss will alsopresent a post-concert talkfollowing the performance.SUNDAY, APRIL 7, 2013 3PMKOERNER HALLCameronCarpenterAt Carpenter’s performances“flamboyant presentation goeshand in hand with unquestionedvirtuosity.” (The New York Times)He will perform his Scandal fororgan and orchestra with theKitchener-Waterloo Symphony,as well as solo pieces andspontaneous improvisationswith audience participation.FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2013 8PM KOERNER HALLRoyal ConservatoryOrchestraconducted byTito MuñozHear the RCO perform Stewart Goodyear’sCount Up, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastiqueand Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianosoloist Rudin Lengo, winner of the annualGlenn Gould School Concerto Competition.THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2013 7:30PMMAZZOLENI CONCERT HALLThe Glenn GouldSchool New MusicEnsembleBrian Current curates and directs a programof cutting-edge contemporary music,including Steve Mackey’s Deal, GyorgyLigeti’s Kammerkonzert, and Alexina Louie’sImaginary Opera.TICKETS START AT ONLY ! 416.408.0208 www.performance.rcmusic.ca273 BLOOR STREET WEST (BLOOR & AVENUE RD.) TORONTOMarch 1 – April 7, 2013 thewholenote.com 11

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