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Volume 18 Issue 7 - April 2013

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  • April
  • Toronto
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Beat by Beat | Classical

Beat by Beat | Classical & BeyondA Britten Festival of SongFriday, April 26, 8 pmThe CAnTiClesDaniel Taylor countertenorBenjamin Butterfield tenorAlexander Dobson baritoneThe Choir of St. Thomas’s ChurchMy Beloved is Mine / Abrahamand Isaac / Journey of the Magi /Purcell realisationsTuesday, May 7, 8 pmThe song CyClesShannon Mercer sopranoSusan Platts mezzoOn This Island / A Charm of Lullabies /The Poet’s Echo / folksongsGlenn Gould StudioCanadian Broadcasting Centre250 Front Street WestTickets from Roy Thomson HallBox Office, 416.872.4255 orwww.roythomsonhall.comArtistic Directors: Stephen Rallsand Bruce Ubukatasunday, May 26, 2:30 pmA TiMe There WAsVirginia Hatfield sopranoScott Belluz countertenorColin Ainsworth tenorGeoffrey Sirett baritoneThe Canadian Children’sOpera CompanyA vocal tapestry to end ourfinal seasonWalter HallEdward Johnson Building80 Queen’s ParkTickets from the AldeburghConnection, 416.735.7982 orwww.aldeburghconnection.orgGenerously sponsored byMusical Makersand MarkersIt’s impossible, given thecopious concert-goingoptions available eachmonth, to note adequately allthose that fall within the scopeof this column. Each month,I take a deep breath and thenchoose a cluster of concerts, atheme, a genre, a group of artistsor composers, to fill the fewprecious pages allotted to theClassical & Beyond beat, knowingfull well that I will have leftout innumerable events equallydeserving of coverage. Such isthe nature of the beast.I’m aware, as well, thatmany concerts warrant moreSHARNA SEARLEJamesEhnes.than the scant lines I’m able to afford them. Sometimes though, whenthe date of a short-shrifted concert falls within the first seven daysof the month, thus overlapping two issues, I get to redeem myself.And while it means less space still for the newer listings, well ... I’veresigned myself to the fact that there will always be those irked andannoyed at me for the concerts I select to write about each month:such, too, is the nature of the beast.Redemption via Rachmaninoff: Hence my decision to revisit theEtobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming April 5 performance ofRachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with the distinguished pianist,Arthur Ozolins. In its 52-year history, the EPO has never performedthe Rachmaninoff Third. For its 50th anniversary gala, however,Ozolins played Rachmaninoff’s Second with the orchestra. SabatinoVacca, the EPO’s music director, tells what happened afterward:“As we were coming offstage I gently remarked that we really shoulddo the Third sometime. He politely declined, knowing how demandinga piece it is and how demanding he would be of himself to prepareit. I knew it was a lot to ask so I was not too disappointed. A fewmonths passed and Arthur then called us to see if in fact it were possibleto program the Third as he was considering playing it after all.You cannot imagine how delighted I was! I immediately began to seewhere it would best fit into our current season.”Vacca goes on to describe the thrill of rehearsing the concerto in thetwo-piano version with Ozolins; of getting a glimpse into ‘’just howthoroughly Mr. Ozolins prepares a concerto; no ‘note’ is left unturned!”And how Ozolins “often manages, somehow to play both [piano parts]at the same time!” Though Ozolins has played it throughout his longcareer, Vacca remarks on the “boyish curiosity” that comes throughOzolin’s preparation, “as if coming to it for the first time, always discoveringnew things.”Interestingly, in an audio interview with Paul Robinson (postedJuly 31, 2010 — date of conversation unknown; theartoftheconductor.podbean.com), Ozolins speaks endearingly of his early childhoodexposure to (and enduring affinity for) the music of Rachmaninoff:“I used to sit under my mother’s piano when she was practisingbefore she died. [Ozolins was only five and a half.] Then afterward mygrandmother kept playing because she was also a graduate from theSt. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia. And she knew Rachmaninoff;and she just almost constantly was practising the First and the Secondpiano concertos of Rachmaninoff. Maybe that’s why I have such an14 | April 1 – May 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

identification with Rachmaninoff. I just adore Rachmaninoff so much;I’ve heard it ever since a child.”Vacca clearly appreciates Ozolins’ deep connection to Rachmaninoff’smusic, acknowledging that “it will be a great experience and privilegefor us to perform [the Third Concerto] with someone who counts it asone of his signature pieces. “It will be,” he enthuses, “a rare opportunityfor the Etobicoke community and beyond to hear Mr. Ozolins performthis concerto, one of the pinnacles of ultra-Romantic bravura pianism.”It seems rather fitting that this exceptional concert, which getsunder way at 8pm, is being performed at Martingrove Collegiate,home to the gifted program in Etobicoke. There certainly will be noshortage of musical gifts emanating from the stage that night.115 years young: The EPO may be in its 52nd year, but it’s a meretot compared to the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, now in its115th season — yes, 115, and going strong — it announced season 116last month! And of course,the wonderful women — andmen — of the WMCT are celebratingthe organization’s115th anniversary in grandstyle. On May 2 at 1:30pm, thestage of Koerner Hall will begraced by Canadian musicalluminaries, violinist JamesEhnes and baritone RussellBraun. Collaborative pianistCarolyn Maule, who happensto be married to Braun,accompanies.How do you get two of theRussell Braun.busiest classical musicianson the planet to performtogether? How does the programget chosen? How long does it take to nail down the details? Andthe venue? Last week I put these questions to WMCT’s artistic director,Simon Fryer (concurrently principal cello with the Regina Symphony,head of strings at the Regina Conservatory and active chamber musician),and here’s what he told me:“The idea for this project came forward in the course of a discussionwith Russell in Parry Sound at the 2009 Festival of the Sound. Bothartists have been long-time favorites of the WMCT so when Russellmentioned that they had been talking about collaborating it was a nobrainerto grab the idea and run with it. The details of programmingtook longer to pin down but Russell had clear and wonderful ideasto build around and once the skeleton was in place James was able tofit appropriate works into it. These are both major artists with verybusy schedules, but once we had a good handle on the program directionit fell into place nicely. With such possibilities the project was anobvious choice to present at a major event in Koerner Hall.”Simple, eh? But it took a lot more than just being at the right placeat the right time. Fryer’s background, experience and personality allcontributed to his being at that “right place.” In asking what drew himto the WMCT position, which he assumed in 2005/6 — planning wasthen under way for the 110th season — he shed some light on all three:“I had left the Toronto Symphony to join the Penderecki StringQuartet in 2003. My sheepdog personality enjoys collecting artists andaudiences together with great music, so bringing ideas for musicalevents and collaborations to reality had always been an interest forme. With many such events behind me, the opportunity to consolidatefrom random events to a coherent season was something I beganto search for.“The opportunity presented itself in the form of the WMCT. Herewas an organization in strong financial shape, with a loyal and knowledgeableaudience, looking for artistic direction from the professionalarena for the first time ... I had known of the WMCT ever since I arrivedin Toronto and was impressed by the people I met with and their clearsense of purpose.”To what does he attribute the WMCT’s unparalleled success andhow does he plan to sustain it?“The success of the series over 115 years is a result of careful management,strong understanding of the tastes of the members and alarge and enthusiastic resource of volunteers. It is my job to maintainand build that understanding so that tastes are developed and newhorizons approached. Continuing the tradition of bringing a spectrumof Canadian and international artists to the WMCT stage, is afascinating and rewarding task. I do not work alone either — I have awonderful artists selection committee that provides both an expertsounding board for ideas and a superb resource of knowledge.”It sounds like the WMCT is in very savvy and capable hands underFryer’s artistic leadership.And now back to the big event. While it won’t be the first timeEhnes and Braun will be sharing the stage for a WMCT concert — thathappened in 1998 at the WMCT’s centennial celebration concert– itwill be their first time actually playing together. (A further “fun fact”:in 1992 both Ehnes and Braun made their Toronto debuts with theWMCT in season 95, within a month of each other.)The afternoon will begin with works by Bach (the first for voice andviolin; the second for solo violin) and will end with settings of Englishsongs based on poet A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, by VaughanWilliams, Butterworth and Barber, for the combinations of voice andviolin, voice and piano, and voice, violin and piano. In between you’llget to marvel at Ehnes’ virtuosity with three Paganini caprices, andluxuriate in Braun’s rich tones in Beethoven’s only song cycle. A newwork for voice, violin and piano by John Estacio, commissioned by theWMCT for the occasion, will complete the outstanding program — onefit for this most exciting and monumental occasion!In addition to these two magnificent evenings of music making,there are probably another 115 listings to consider for April and earlyMay. It’s spring — time to step out and take in the season’s multitude ofmusical offerings. Enjoy!Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised alot more piano than law and is listings editor at The WholeNote.She can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.thewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2013 | 15

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