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Volume 18 Issue 6 - March 2013

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Beat by Beat | Art of

Beat by Beat | Art of SongThe UnashamedAccompanistHANS DE GROOTOne of the most accomplished accompanists (or, as we nowprefer to say, collaborative pianists) of the late 19th and early20th centuries was Coenraad V. Bos. It was Bos who playedthe piano in the first performance of Brahms’ Vier Ernste Gesänge in1896. In his autobiography, The Well-Tempered Accompanist (1949),Bos wrote about his long association with singers like Helen Traubeland Elena Gerhardt but he also mentionedan unfortunate experience withthe Wagnerian tenor Ernest van Dyck.In a London recital van Dyck and Boswere performing Schumann’s song “Ichgrolle nicht,” a song which ends with apiano postlude. Bos was disconcerted tofind that people started clapping beforehe had had a chance to play that postlude.He was even more disconcertedwhen he found out why. Van Dyck hadbowed as he sang his last note and leftthe stage. Bos insisted on playing thepostlude and managed to silence theapplause. Van Dyck was furious.A central figure in Bos’ autobiographyis the tenor Raimund von zur-Mühlen.While von zur-Mühlen was initially verycritical of Bos’ playing, he became moreappreciative later. At one point, aftera recital in Berlin, he sent Bos a noteGerald Moore withDietrick Fischer-Dieskau, 1959.which read: “Last night you must have played well, because I was notconscious of your playing throughout the recital.” When Gerald Moorecame to write his autobiography, the ironically titled Am I Too Loud?(1962), he quoted that passage and expressed his dissent, somethingthat would not surprise anyone who had read Moore’s earlier book,The Unashamed Accompanist (1943). Throughout the autobiographyMoore expressed his appreciation for the singers and instrumentalistswith whom he had worked, but like Bos he too had some unfortunateexperiences. One of these was with the soprano Frieda Hempel.A recital she was giving with Moore included two songs by Hugo Wolfwith substantial postludes. Hempel told Moore: “Just play a chordwhen the voice part ends — else my applause will be spoiled.” Moorewanted none of this — as one would expect.Moore, more than anyone else, raised the profile of the accompanistthrough his recitals, his recordings and his books. He had along career: when he was quite young (“my voice still unbroken”),he became the organist of St. Thomas’s Church on Huron Street inToronto. His career ended with a farewell recital in 1967. The otherperformers were Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Angeles andDietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Moore had the last word — the concert endedwith a piano transcription of Schubert’s song “An die Musik.”We are fortunate that in Toronto we have many accomplished collaborativepianists: in recent months we have been able to hear SandraHorst (with David Pomeroy), Steven Philcox and Rachel Andrist(in the COC Ensemble Studio competition), Jennifer Tung, BrahmGoldhamer and Peter Tiefenbach (with the artists of the Glenn GouldSchool at the Royal Conservatory) and Stephen Ralls and BruceUbukata (in the concerts of the Aldeburgh Connection).On March 7 at the Jane Mallett Theatre at 8pm, John Hess is thepianist in a recital with the soprano Erin Wall. The program willinclude works by Schubert, Korngold, Strauss and Ricky Ian Gordon.Hess is especially known as an authority on contemporary opera andsong in Canada. He has worked with many singers, including ValdineAnderson, Jane Archibald, Ben Heppner and Wendy Nielsen. Heteaches in the Faculty of Music at Western University.On March 10 at 2:30pm at Walter Hall, Stephen Ralls and BruceUbukata present the Aldeburgh Connection’s annual “Schubertiad.”The singers are Monica Whicher, soprano, Isaiah Bell, tenor andGordon Bintner, bass-baritone.Also on March 10 Peter Longworth will be the pianist in a concertwith Melanie Conly, soprano, and Anita Krause, mezzo, in worksby Fleming, Chausson, Raum, Schubert, Barber and Delibes in theHeliconian Hall at 3pm.The Canadian Voices concert at 2pm on March 24 in the GlennGould Studio features New York-based pianist Ken Noda with mezzoWallis Giunta. Noda has worked with many distinguished soloistsincluding Jessye Norman, Kurt Moll and the late Hildegard Behrens.The main work on the program is Kurt Weill’s Die sieben Todsünden, awork originally produced as a sung ballet in 1933. The text is by BertoltBrecht. As the work’s full English title, The SevenDeadly Sins of the Bourgeoisie, makes explicit,the emphasis is on what sin means in a capitalistsociety. Giunta is a former member of the COCOpera Studio Ensemble and is at present a memberof the Lindemann Young Artist DevelopmentProgram at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.We recently saw her as Annio in the COC productionof Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito — atomboy Annio because that is how the director,Christopher Alden, saw the part. She will returnto the COC next January as Dorabella in Mozart’sCosì fan tutte, a role she sang in an acclaimedLindemann/Juilliard production in New Yorklast fall.Other events: On March 5 and 6, 8pm atTrinity-St. Paul’s Centre, the Talisker Players presentsa program of musical settings (by Buczynski,Finzi, Good and Toch) of poems by de Pizan,Hardy and others on the changes that time willbring. The soloists are Carla Huhtanen, soprano,and Peter McGillivray, baritone; Stewart Arnott is the reader.On March 9 at Metropolitan United Church at 7:30pm there will bea concert of music from the French baroque including the achinglybeautiful Leçons des Ténèbres by Couperin. The soloists are ArielHarwood-Jones, soprano, and Christina Stelmacovich, mezzo. Anotherconcert at Metropolitan will present music by Gilles, Duruflé and LiliBoulanger on Good Friday, March 29, at 7:30pm.March 12, in a 7pm free concert at University of Toronto’sScarborough campus, AA303 Arts and Administration Building, tenorLenard Whiting will sing Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin with thepianist Brett Kingsbury.On March 16 at 7:30pm in the Bloor Street United Church, CapellaIntima performs the anonymous 1650 oratorio Giuseppe. The soloistsare Lesley Bouza and Emily Klassen, soprano, Laura McAlpine, alto,Bud Roach, tenor, and James Baldwin, bass. The same program willtake place at McNeill Baptist Church in Hamilton on March 16 at 2pmand at Kingston Road United Church in Toronto on March 17 at 2pm.On March 26 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, there willbe a free concert at noon of art songs and poetry by the artists of theUniversity of Toronto’s Voice and Collaborative Piano departments.The conductors are Darryl Edwards and Steven Philcox.On April 3 the Toronto Latvian Concert Association presentsVestard Shimkus, piano, and Elina Shimkus, soprano, in works byWagner, Vasks, Shimkus, Mozart and Rossini at 7:30pm at the GlennGould Studio.And beyond the GTA: on March 10 at 3pm Primavera Concertspresents Shannon Mercer, soprano, and Andrew Ager, organ, in a concertof works by Bach, Ager and others at St. Barnabas Church inSt. Catharines.Hans de Groot is a concertgoer and active listener.He also sings and plays the recorder. He canbe contacted at March 1 – April 7, 2013

Beat by Beat | On OperaQoP AdieuCHRISTOPHER HOILEQueen of puddings Music Theatre announced on February 8that it would conclude operations at the end of August of thisyear. For many it comes as a shock that Toronto should belosing a company that for the past 20 years has brought an uncompromisingvision to the development and production of new Canadianchamber opera. Their legacy is a series of works, acclaimed by criticsand audiences alike, which have redefined not only what a Canadianopera can be but also what opera itself can be. Beatrice Chancy(1998–1999) by James Rolfe and GeorgeElliott Clarke was the first opera aboutblack slavery in Canada and launched thecareer of soprano Measha Brueggergosman.The Midnight Court (2005–2007) byAna Sokolović and Paul Bentley was thefirst Canadian opera — and QoP the firstCanadian company — invited to the LinburyStudio at England’s Royal Opera House,Covent Garden.In contrast to these narrative-basedworks, QoP also explored the boundariesof opera. Love Songs (2008–2011) by AnaSokolović, a solo opera that set various lovepoems and the words “I love you” in morethan 100 languages, was declared the bestproduction at the Zagreb Biennale and wassubsequently presented at the prestigiousHolland Festival. Beauty Dissolves in a BriefHour (2010) by Pierre Klanac, John Rea and Fuhong Shi, presentedthree poems in medieval French, English and Mandarin in the formof a ritual that was hailed by EYE Weekly as “an exquisite piece ofmusic theatre.” In 2012, co-founder and co-artistic director Dáirine NíMheadhra was awarded the Canada Council Molson Prize in the arts inrecognition of her lifetime achievements and ongoing contributions tothe cultural and intellectual life of Canada.Why should Ní Mheadhra and co-founder and co-artistic directorJohn Hess choose to end such an enterprise when it has reached the peakof its success? In some ways the question answers itself. The co-foundershave decided that Queen of Puddings should end on a high note.In an email interview near the end of last month, Ní Mheadhraagreed that she and Hess would answer a number of questions aboutQoP, its legacy and the future. Here it is:Why did you decide that QoP should cease operations? Do youfeel that QoP has achieved all the goals it was set up to achieve?Dáirine Ní Mheadhra inMontreal at a rehearsalof Beauty Dissolves ina Brief Hour, 2010.We decided that QoP should cease operations because after nearly20 years we feel we’ve achieved what we set out to do, which was tocommission and produce original Canadian opera to a high artisticstandard and to develop an international profile for this work. In thiscurrent season the company is thriving, with the great success andcritical acclaim for our production of Ana Sokolović’s opera Svadba-Wedding, now touring nationally and internationally. Coming up onApril 30th we are presenting the premiere of a new vocal chamberwork, Inspired by Lorca, by composer Chris Paul Harman, sungby Krisztina Szabó with our ensemble at the Richard BradshawAmphitheatre.We’ve been considering our decision for some months, and whilewe realize that it’s unusual to cease operations when an organizationis extremely healthy, it felt like the right decision for us both in thisphase of our lives and in the life cycle of QoP. The end of our season inAugust 2013 feels like a very natural artistic ebbing point, and it alsocoincides with the end of our current three-year operational funding,and thus feels like the right moment to close the company. We wantto conclude in a year like this, which is full of artistic highlights andthe fulfilment of our goals — with continued financial stability due to adeficit-free track record.What do you feel are QoP’s greatest achievements over its existence?Probably our greatest achievement has been never to accept“received wisdom” about the state of new music/opera in Canada, butto have furrowed our own path with our individual beliefs. Just oneexample: when Dáirine arrived in Toronto from Ireland in 1994 wewere told that there were only two singers in Toronto who could possiblysing new opera. We thought that was a load of old rubbish. Itwould never have occurred to us to segregate new opera from middleopera or old opera. For us it’s all a continuum — Monteverdi, Mozart,Puccini, Strauss, Shostakovich, Andriessen, Sokolović, Rolfe ... andthe singers who sing those operas also sing contemporary Canadianopera — there’s no difference.March 1 – April 7, 2013 17

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