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Volume 18 Issue 6 - March 2013

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  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • April
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  • Quartet
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Greensmith: I’ve

Greensmith: I’ve learned to be more straightforward. Wherever youcome from, in the end you have to come up with your own way of dealingwith every other member of the group. I think we’re pretty efficient.We have to be, because we have so little time to prepare.PM: As the sole North American, Martin, do you think you are themost direct of the group?Beaver: I probably am in some ways, but not necessarily. I wouldn’tdiscount my parents being British in my upbringing.Greensmith: I think people are themselves — you meet people in Japanthat are very direct, you meet people in England that Martin is verytypical of. I’ve met Martin’s parents and I can see that we had verysimilar upbringings.Beaver: It’s uncanny the similarities in our background. We hadancestors that knew one another in a small mining town outside ofNottingham. My grandmother actually remembered Clive’s family.PM: I’m wondering whether thesystem of education at the Saitoschool resembled the Suzuki methodwe are so familiar with here.Isomura: About the early training,yes — Saito believed in very earlybasic training.Ikeda: But there is a huge differenceto me. The Suzuki method is not to createprofessional musicians. The starting point was when we really didn’thave any western music in our lives in Japan, so Dr. Suzuki’s idea was tocreate more familiarity for children and parents. So the parents wouldbe involved. That’s very different from Professor Saito’s training. Hisidea was to create professionalsPM: Yet many professionals here started in Suzuki.Beaver: Yes, I started briefly in Suzuki method when I was youngIkeda: And I did too.Beaver: Kazu studied with the man!PM: With Dr. Suzuki?Isomura: Yes, not for too long. But that was my start, and I thought thatwas very good for me. Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy was that everybody hasenough musical gift to enjoy listening to and playing music. He reallywanted you to love music. My parents were not so musical, but it wasmy mother’s dream that her children would study European classicalmusic. She never had a real music education when she was younger. Soshe really enjoyed being involved in our music education with Suzuki.It was an easy, natural way to start for me.Ikeda: I think the Suzuki method served a great function in Japanesesociety. In those days it was desperately needed. Parents were workingso hard every day, they didn’t have time to spend with their children. Sothis involvement of parents in the Suzuki method was one way to createa relationship between children and parents through music. That,I think, helped a great deal in creating family happiness.Greensmith: It also helped to bring future audiences as well. If peopleweren’t all going to be players they still had memories of this cultureand they would still want to go and hear the music. We can’t be veryproud of what’s going on in our schools in America right now with thelack of music education.PM: What marks a Tokyo Quartet performance? What are youbringing to Haydn for instance?Beaver: A view that it’s not just a theme and accompaniment. Thereare ways to tie these things together as a whole. But if you’re not shapingthe music, you’ll have something that’s dry and frankly not veryinteresting.Greensmith: We definitely try to play Haydn with a fresh sense ofrediscovery, to make sure he gets his due. He was very good at sleightof hand and he had a wonderful, magical sense of humour. There’s thetypical thing where the audience thinks it’s time to clap, and then wefinish with a joke ending.PM: Why have you paired Haydn and Bartók in your Bartók cycle here?Greensmith: Two of our favourite composers, arguably two of thegreatest of their centuries.Beaver: And two pioneers of the string quartet. I think Haydn isunderestimated. I don’t know if it’s the way a lot of groups performHaydn — they don’t understand the complexity that’s there. It was the“We always tried tograsp the essence ofthe music rather thanshowing people whatwe could do with it”beginning of the string quartet form, but you hear his innovations andthese really quirky ideas that he comes up with. They come back laterin Beethoven and Bartók. Knowing what came after, you can reallyappreciate what he was getting at.Greensmith: A lot of times Haydn — and Mozart as well — are relegatedto cocktail music. Do you remember the film Trading Places with ... who?Ikeda: Eddie Murphy.Greensmith: Yes! There’s a very funny scene near the ending whenWinthorpe is having crêpes suzettes with his soon-to-be bride. Thebackground music is the slow movement of the Mozart “Dissonance”Quartet — as though it’s the ultimate in muzak. But there’s wildly experimentalsides to all this music.Isomura: Alfred Brendel came to one of our Haydn concerts in Milan ...Greensmith: ... with the score!Beaver: It wasn’t just any concert though — we did all of Op. 76 in oneevening, with two intermissions. He was so charming andfriendly and he really appreciated what we had done thatnight. It was a great affirmation of what we were doing.He said that in his retirement, the two composers he valuedthe most were Haydn and Handel.PM: What works in your repertoire are closest toyour hearts?Isomura: My answer would be very conventional —Beethoven’s Op. 131 in C-Sharp Minor.Beaver: Somehow I just have more personal attachment to Op. 132in A Minor.Greensmith: For me it’s hard to answer because the pieces that youmight love the most are actually the most difficult to play. So when youtalk about your love for a piece, with some of them, immediately youthink, ‘Oh it’s so great,’ but then you think, ‘Oh, it’s so hard.’ Rightnow — though I’m sure it will change — I have a harder time saying anyBeethoven quartet could be my favourite because I realize more andmore how difficult they all are. So I think the composer I’ll miss themost right now is Bartók. I didn’t know I would think that, and I maychange. For me No. 4 is absolutely extraordinary. It has everything. Inthe way that Beethoven is great, Bartók is great too. Once, a couple ofyears ago, we offered Bartók No.4 for a whole season and nobody tookit. What does that say?Beaver: It was astonishing. In the end we didn’t even end uppreparing it.PM: What about Russian music?Greensmith: Forget Shostakovich — we’ve never played his quartets.They never really clicked for us as a group.Isomura: When Micha Kopelman was with us naturally we did playShostakovich. But what he is saying is right.Beaver: Central European composers ...Greensmith: ... that’s what we’ve mostly lived and breathed. We’ve alsopremiered and played a lot of Japanese composers.Isomura: We were very close to Toru Takemitsu, so when we werecelebrating our tenth anniversary we commissioned him to composehis only string quartet piece for us (A Way A Lone).PM: The Kodály quartet that you’re doing at your final concerthere — that’s a work one doesn’t hear much.Greensmith: We had half a dozen performances in the fall, and it’sbeen a lovely experience. We’ve all enjoyed playing it — it’s a verycolourful piece.Beaver: Audiences love it.PM: Is it a new work for you?Greensmith: Even though we are hanging up our bows soon, we stilllike to learn new pieces.Isomura: Yes, absolutely.PM: What plans do you have in the works after the quartet’sfinal concert?Isomura: I’m still quite obsessed with the wonderful quartet repertoire,and the chamber music repertoire. So I’ll still be teaching chambermusic in Connecticut at the Yale School of Music. I will also teach parttime at the Manhattan School — chamber music and maybe some violastudents too. Then I’ll go to Japan a few times a year to give chambermusic masterclasses at the Toho School.continues on page 7814 thewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2013

CONVERSATIONS AT THE WHOLENOTESteadily GrowingWhat do 20-something mezzo Wallis Giunta and not-yet 20-yearoldpiano phenom Jan Lisiecki have in common, other thanproviding further confirmation that when it comes to providingmusical inspiration and opportunity for young Canadians, somebodyup here must be doing something right? Well, for one thing, both havebeen guests of Conversations The WholeNote, a still-evolving seriesof informal conversations videotaped in casual surroundings at 720Bathurst Street, our Toronto home base.Mezzo Wallis Giuntain conversation withDavid Perlman.Bryson WinchesterGiunta was among our first guests, in December 2011, right at the startof a previous flurry of Toronto-related activity: an appearance at theNew Year’s Eve “Bravissimo” gala at Roy Thomson Hall; an announcementby the Canadian Opera Company that she would be appearingas Annio in the COC spring 2013 production of Clemenza di Tito; andan intriguing recital at Music Toronto in spring 2012, during which shepremiered, as a solo song cycle, Rufus Wainwright’s Songs for Lulu. (Thegood news is that the interview in question, along with dozens more,can be accessed via The WholeNote’s website or, more easily still, viaour YouTube channel.)The better news is that during February this year Giunta has beenback with us for a follow-up interview, this time just before the end ofthe previously mentioned COC run of Clemenza.The current production of Clemenza; pants roles in general; nextyear’s return to the COC as Dorabella in Così fan tutte; a comparisonbetween her experiences in the COC Ensemble Studio and the Met LindemannYoung Artist Development Program; thoughts on how wellmusic schools prepare artists for life as self-employed entrepreneurs — allthese topics and more are part of this latest interview.Most topical was her description of her upcoming March 24 recital atGlenn Gould Studio in the RTH/Massey Canadian Voices series. In therecital she will use Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins as a kind of emotional“clothesline” upon which she, and accompanist Ken Noda, willhang a dozen or so other songs, from Monteverdi to Cole Porter, thataccord with the nine songs in the Weill work.At time of writing this latest conversation had not yet been posted,but should be, well ahead of the aforementioned March 24 recital. “Like”us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and we’ll let you know.In the meanwhile, why not look in on our conversation with JanLisiecki. We connected with the then 16-year-old Lisiecki early lastspring, ahead of an upcoming Stratford Summer Music mini-residency.It was just before the Canadian release of his first Deutsche GrammophonCD (the first of four recordings for which he is contracted to DG.)At the time, I tried to draw him out on what the next DG recording wasgoing to be, but he refused to rise to the bait! Time, however reveals all,as those lucky enough to have a ticket to his upcoming March 3 KoernerHall all-Chopin recital (Études Op.10 and Op.25) will shortly discover.Viva la musica! And happy viewing.—David PerlmanMarch 1 – April 7, 2013 thewholenote.com 15

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