7 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 2 - October 2013

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Beat by Beat | Classical

Beat by Beat | Classical & BeyondLet’s Hear It forthe Women!SHARNA SEARLEAquick glance at last month’s column could lead a person toconclude (erroneously) that there were only men making musicon the “classical and beyond” scene. If, as the old adage goes,a picture — in this case more than one — is worth a thousand words,then, indeed, we (inadvertently) told a skewed story.So, dear readers, I intend to rectify the picture with this, my lastinstallment, after two years on the Classical & Beyond beat.Of saints and season starters: And what better way to do sothan to start things off with concerts featuring the Cecilia StringQuartet (CSQ)— four formidably talented women whose namesakeis none other than that patroness of musicians, herself, Saint Cecilia.Apparently it was the group’s coach at the time, Terry Helmer, whosuggested “Cecilia” and the name stuck. While the quartet’s cellist,Rachel Desoer, “confesses” that the saint connection isn’t all thatimportant to them, she does admit that “it is a fun bit of trivia.”Asked about when the group gelled, founding violist, Caitlin Boyle,says that “at the very first rehearsal [in 2004, when the original CSQmembers met as classmates in the University of Toronto’s Faculty ofMusic chamber music program] there was a sense that there was avery dynamic chemistry to our group, and it felt like we just ‘clicked.’After that, many things just fell into place, and we were fortunate thatthe many opportunities that came our way led us down this magicalquartet path.”Currently ensemble-in-residence at U of T, the much-lauded CSQlaunches Mooredale Concerts’ 25th season — Bravo, Mooredale! — onOctober 6, with two concerts at Walter Hall. The first, Mooredale’salways entertaining and educational series, Music & Truffles, offers anearly afternoon interactive concert for young audiences ages 6 to 15.The second, starting two hours later at 3:15pm, is the extended concertMooredale presents to its more adult patrons. These concerts will alsomark the CSQ’s first Mooredale Concerts appearance, though violinistMin-Jeong Koh tells me that both she and fellow CSQ violinist, SarahNematallah, have played on the series several times over the years andthat Koh also played in the Mooredale Youth Orchestra.For the 3:15pmconcert, the quartetwill performTchaikovsky’s StringQuartet No.1 in D MajorOp.11 and Haydn’sQuartet No.4 in DMajor Op.20. And thensparks will fly withdouble the fun, whenspecial guest, theAfiara String Quartet(ASQ) joins the CSQ inMendelssohn’s splendidand iridescent Octet inE-Flat Major. (For theearlier Music & Trufflesconcert, the two willperform excerpts fromthe Octet.)The two quartetsappear to be connectedby only two degreesof separation, if that.For starters, the CSQ’sCecilia String Quartet.Koh is married to theASQ’s cellist, AdrianFung, and the two groups have performed together a number oftimes. In 2010, the CSQ won first prize at the Banff InternationalString Quartet Competition, with the ASQ coming in second. Closerto home, the CSQ was the first recipient of the Royal Conservatory’sGlenn Gould School Quartet Residency Fellowship in 2010, and theASQ the second in 2012. They performed the Mendelssohn Octet atthe Festival of the Sound this summer and, earlier in the spring, atStanford University’s Bing Concert Hall during its inaugural season.Interestingly, both quartets were first introduced to the Stanfordcampus by the university’s resident ensemble, “our” St. LawrenceString Quartet, who, just last month, awarded the CSQ the 2013 JohnLad Prize (now in its third year), named in honour of the SLSQ’s dearfriend John Lad (Stanford ’74), a violist and ardent chamber musiclover who died in 2007.In presenting the prize, the SLSQ’s violist and co-founder, LesleyRobertson, stated: “This award recognizes the Cecilia Quartet not onlyfor the extraordinary impact this young ensemble has made alreadyon the world’s concert stages but perhaps more significantly for theimpact off stage — for their dedication and generous contributions as18 | October 1 – November 7, 2013

chamber music ambassadors in the greater community.” Nicely done,CSQ! (I figure the ASQ’s got to be the shoo-in for next year.)All speculation aside, you can be sure that Mooredale’s 25th anniversaryseason openers will be a winning combination with these twoexceptional quartets!From Saint to St. and ST: Continuing with this business of “saints”and season launches, powerhouse Canadian-born violinist LaraSt. John has been invited by Sinfonia Toronto (ST) to open the ensemble’s15th season, the evening of October 26, at the George WestonRecital Hall.Somethings neverchange,and sometimesthat’sa good thing.St. John’s first(and only)concert withST was fiveyears ago,almost exactlyto the day(October 23,Lara St. John.2009). JohnTerauds,former musiccritic for the Toronto Star and now Toronto’s best-known classicalmusic blogger, interviewed St. John for the Star in 2009, reportingthat the program allowed her to “show off her wide-ranging repertoire.”Well, ST music director, Nurhan Arman, has done it again, witha wonderfully varied program that we’re told “dances from Bach tothe vivid melodies of Nino Rota,” affording the six-foot-tall St. Johnsignificant opportunity to strut her stuff.A skilled, prolific and thoughtful interpreter of Bach, St. John willperform Bach’s exhilarating and beloved Violin Concerto in E Majorand then skip a few centuries to play the North American premiereof Australian composer Matthew Hindson’s evocative Maralinga forviolin and string orchestra, which St. John co-commissioned andpremiered in 2011. St. John has high praise for Hindson and this work,which she calls an “about-to-be” classic piece: “It was pretty amazingto play a piece called Maralinga in South Australia, for sure ... Everypart of the world with such a story [think secret, nasty, nucleartesting] should be so lucky as to have Matthew write a piece about it.”The program also includes Grieg’s Holberg Suite for string orchestraand Rota’s Concerto for Strings. I asked if she might join the ST inthe Rota and her answer was classic St. John: “I think I’ll be leavingthe Rota to the fabulous Sinfonia, seeing as I wouldn’t be there forenough rehearsals. Also, I am a terrible sight reader (everyone thinks Iam joking until they actually see/hear this, at which point they try toleave the room).”Other examples of her refreshing candour, humour, energy, passionand intelligence: in July, 2010, St. John was interviewed for an NPRspecial series titled, “Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today,”during which a few of her earliest CD covers, deemed by some to be“sexually suggestive,” ended up being the main topic of discussion.Somewhere in the middle, she said, teasingly, “I suppose I could havehad a picture of a babbling brook on the front, but what would havebeen the point?” And toward the end, she simply told it like it was,and is: “Music is all about life and passion and love and death ... Andif it takes sexuality to exude that visually, then so be it. It makes moresense for us, as women musicians, to express ourselves any damnway we want.”St. John also expresses herself, exuberantly, through the recordcompany she founded in 1999, where she gets to call all the shots (anydamn way she wants), including naming the company Ancalagon,which I learned (and she confirmed) was in memory of her petiguana. “Ancalagon, who I named after a dragon from Tolkien’sCathedral BluffsSYMPHONY ORCHESTRANorman ReintammArtistic Director/Principal ConductorSaturday Nov. 9 at 8 pmwith internationally-acclaimed pianistARTHUR OZOLINSRACHMANINOVPiano Concerto no. 3 in D minorBEETHOVEN Symphony no. 8P.C. Ho Theatre 5183 Sheppard Avenue East, ScarboroughRegular adult, st/sr (under 12 free) | Premium adult, st/sr (under 12 free)The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agencyof the Government of | October 1 – November 7, 2013 | 19

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