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Volume 19 Issue 4 - December 2013

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  • December
  • Toronto
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SEEING ORANGE continued

SEEING ORANGE continued from previous pagethrives: “In the short term we are makingsure the program is addressing the needsand expectations of our members, so thatthe NHB remains an exciting and welcomingplace to make music. In the mid-term we areplanning a big trip to Europe for the summerof 2015 and the long-term goal is to stabilizethe program at seven bands. Perhaps,somehow, a fourth goal could be to make thepublic aware of the value of music as a part ofevery child’s education.Because while the evidence grows thatmusic has an important role to play in thedevelopment of the mind, music programsin our schools continue to be cut, with thesupport of an administration and populacewoefully out of touch with the facts. It looksas if you can either have music or “specialeducation,” and if you don’t have the formerthen you will need the latter.What, I asked, can be done to “stop the rot”in public school music education? The attitudethat needs to be changed, Dan observed,held both by parents and educational administrators,is that “it’s just music,” and it’s notimportant. He was once told that his weeklytime with his grade 7 and 8 music classes wasbeing rolled back because “they were gettingtoo much music.”Dan thinks the only thing that can stop theerosion of school music programs is parents.Only when they see that the lack of music inthe school system is hurting their kids in thelong term and only if they demand its restoration,will anything happen.The truth of Dan’s observation has alreadybeen noted in September’s “EducationWatch” when a June groundswell of communitymurmuring stopped the Toronto DistrictSchool Board from cutting funding for itinerantmusic teachers. One powerful voicewas that of the Coalition for Music Education.The article quotes from the Coalition’s publicstatement opposing the proposed cuts. (Readit online at thewholenote.com, or on page 57of the September issue).But there is much each of us can do tomake a difference to the state of music education.The coalition’s website (musicmakesus.ca) offers resources to support the cause.There’s an advocacy video, a message whichcan be printed in concert programs (or inmusic magazines), an order form for programinserts, a page where you can sign up as asupporter, an invitation to apply to serve onthe board of directors of the organization, andmuch more.So please, don’t just read this. Go to theCoalition’s website and get yourself up tospeed on the state of music in the publiceducation system.And while you’re at your computer votefor El Sistema Toronto’s bid for the AvivaCommunity Fund. And then vote every day,for 10 days. It takes minutes. Together we canmake a difference.Allan Pulker is chairman of theboard of The Wholenote.WE ARE ALL MUSIC’S CHILDRENNovember’s Child was Benjamin BrittenMJ BUELL[1913 – 1976} Britten with Pears, 1975.Benjamin Britten composed some of the most compelling, andwidely satisfying music of the 20th century. From huge works for big public occasions,operas, ballets, orchestral and choral works through to intimate chamber music bestsuited for almost private consumption, Britten’s music is variously (and sometimes simultaneously)for virtuosi, for amateurs, for sophisticates and school children, for reasons meritingmore ink than can be afforded here.On the heels of the Canadian Opera Company’s October production of Britten’s PeterGrimes (arguably the best opera of the 20th century) Britten was named 25 times in TheWholeNote’s November concert listings. International centenary celebrations of his life andwork are ongoing including November 22 which would have been his 100th birthday, at least200 concerts in 44 countries. Upwards of 100,000 children performed his song cycle FridayAfternoons in a live-streamed relay which started in Auckland and ended in Los Angeles.On May 26 2013 in Toronto the closing concert of Stephan Ralls and Bruce Ubukata’s“Britten Festival of Song” concluded The Aldeburgh Connection’s final season (of 31). Itincluded Friday Afternoons performed by young singers from The Canadian Children’s OperaCompany. Ralls and Ubukata’s musical and personal partnership began in 1977 when they metas musicians at Britten’s and Pears’ Aldeburgh Festival.Links to interesting online resources about the life and music of Benjamin Britten can befound with this article at thewholenote.com.CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS!Megan Piercy and Frances Giles: each win a pair of MusicToronto tickets (Dec 19) to hear baritone Phillip Addis sing aprogram which will include Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake.Burton Patkau and Phyllis Russell each win a pairof Associates of the TSO tickets for “Voices of Modernismmeet the Weber Clarinet Quintet” (Jan 20), which will includeBritten’s String Quartet No.2 in C major Op 36 reviewed thisyear in The WholeNote. Tiiu Klein wins Britten – LesIlluminations; Variatons; Serenade; Now Sleeps the CrimsonPetal — featuring Barbara Hannigan, James Gilchrist, Jasperde Wall and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta led by Candida Thompson (CHANNELCLASSICS CCS SA 32213). Mary-Ann Madarash wins Britten; Shostakovich – ViolinConcertos featuring James Ehnes with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra,and Kirill Karabits, conductor (ONYX 4113) Maga Primavera wins Britten – StringQuartets 1–3 played by the Takács Quartet (HYPERION CDA68004) — reviewed in this issue.We Are ALL Music’s Children would like to thank the family members and publicists who searchedfor childhood photos this year, and the artists who shared their personal stories.We’ll resume with a new contest in February.Meanwhile: please, please take a young person to hear or make music in these next few darkest weeks.CDs, headphones, iTunes cards and handsome retro-styled record players are nice holiday gifts, but thematchless feeling we get from being part of live music is the spark that ignites musical futures.68 | December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014 thewholenote.comVICTOR PARKER, BRITTEN IMAGES COURTESY OF BRITTEN100.ORG

was a milestone year in many2013 ways, one being the 100thanniversary of the riotous premiere ofStravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Further on inthese pages you will find reviews of threenew recordings which take very differentapproaches to this seminal work. But the yearalso marked the centenaries of a number ofimportant composers, from Canadian pioneersJohn Weinzweig, Violet Archer andHenry Brant to iconic international figuresincluding Benjamin Britten and WitoldLutosławski. I wish I could tell you thatthere were new recordings of works by theCanadians, but I am not aware of any. BothBritten and Lutosławski however have beenvery well served over the past year.On the local scene this year Britten hasbeen a recurring presence on TSO programs,the COC recently completed a successfulrun of Peter Grimes and as you will knowfrom WholeNote reviews there has been awealth of recordings of his concertante worksand operas.With a vast output in larger forms — morethan a dozen operas and a plethora of orchestral,vocal and choral works — it is all too easyto overlook Britten as a composer of chambermusic. There is however a substantial body ofwork encompassing innumerable combinationsof solo instruments. Of particular noteare the works for solo cello (three suites anda sonata with piano) written for Rostropovichand the nine for two violins, viola and celloincluding three numbered String Quartets.Hyperion has just released a new recording(CDA68004) of the latter featuring the celebratedTakács Quartet. String Quartet No.1was written on commission from ElizabethSprague Coolidge while Britten was living inthe United States in the early years of WorldWar Two. It is less conventional and somewhatharsher than his earlier works, showingthe influence of Stravinsky and Copland.String Quartet No.2 was composed after hisreturn to England and premiered just monthsafter the triumphal staging of Peter Grimesat Saddler’s Wells, the work that broughtBritten international stardom. Most notable inthis quartet is the extended third movement,a “Chacony” in homage to Henry Purcellwhose work he would further celebrate thefollowing year in The Young Person’s Guide tothe Orchestra.Britten did not return to the string quartetform until 30 years later, in 1975, just oneyear before his death. String Quartet No.3 isrelated to his final opera Death in Venice, andwas in fact partially composed in the Italiancity. Following a spiky “Burleske” reminiscentof Shostakovich (who had died that year) thefinal movement’s “Recitative” incorporatesDISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWEDDAVID OLDSa barcarole reminding us of the gondolas ofVenice and its concluding “Passacaglia” is setin the key of E major so closely associatedwith Gustav von Auschenbach, the protagonistof the opera.Bookending Britten’s early mature offeringsand his final output, these quartets, insightfullyand exquisitely played by the Takács,offer quiet commentary on thelarger-than-life works throughwhich we have come to best knowthis composer.Concert note: Associatesof the Toronto Symphony willperform Britten’s String QuartetNo.2 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre onJanuary 20.Witold Lutosławski has alsobeen honoured through recordingsthis past year, thoughmore in the form of re-issuesthan new releases. The Polishnational label Polskie Nagraniareleased Witold Lutosławski –Centenary Edition an 8-CDset earlier this year (reviewedin the online version of Editor’sCorner in June) which featuredhistoric recordings, many of whichwere conducted by Lutosławskihimself. Now Naxos has collectedits existing recordings and issueda 10-CD box Lutosławski –Symphonies; Concertos; Choraland Vocal Works (8.501066)featuring the Polish National RadioSymphony Orchestra (and others) under thedirection of Antoni Wit. Containing virtuallyall of the larger works it is a comprehensiveset of thrilling performances in glorioussound. Originally issued as individual discsthe collection gives the opportunity to listento the complete oeuvre in any number ofways. As I write this I am enjoying exploringthe symphonic works in chronological order:Symphony No.1 (1941–47); Concerto forOrchestra (1950-54); Symphony No.2 (1965–67); Symphony No.3 (1981–83); SymphonyNo.4 (1988–92), works which span theentirety of Lutosławski’s creative output. Itis most interesting to hear not only the stylisticbut also the formal developments fromthe mostly traditional first symphony (in fourmovements) through the Bartókian concerto(three movements) to the second symphony(two movements) and the final matureworks both in a single movement. Anotherhighlight is the Cello Concerto, written forRostropovich but performed here by ARDandPrague Spring Competition-winningPolish cellist Andrzej Bauer who, amongother studies, worked with William Pleeth fortwo years in London on a scholarship fundedby Lutosławski and who has obviously madethis concerto a signature piece.While the first nine discs are reissuesof Wit’s definitive Naxos recordings, thefinal disc comprises the last concert thatLutosławski conducted in his lifetime. Thattook place at the Premiere Dance Theatreat Harbourfront in Toronto on October 24,1993 and featured violinist Fujiko Imajishi,soprano Valdine Anderson and the NewMusic Concerts Ensemble. You can read NMCartistic director Robert Aitken’s reminiscencesof the great Polish composer elsewherein these pages.Although Lutosławski wrotealmost exclusively for largeensembles there is one veryimportant transitional workthat it is a shame not to haveincluded here, the StringQuartet from 1964 in which thecomposer takes his aleatoricapproach to composition tonew levels. The Polskie Nagrania setmentioned above includes a performanceby the LaSalle Quartet whopremiered the work, recorded atthe Warsaw Autumn Festival in1965. A 2013 Hyperion recordingby the Royal Quartet (reviewedin this column last May) is alsohighly recommended.I’m often taken by the frequenciesof coincidence in my life. Onesuch occurrence relates to discsreceived in the past two months.Trobairitz, the feminine form oftroubadour, was not a word inmy vocabulary until the releaseof an ATMA CD by that namereviewed by Hans de Groot in lastmonth’s WholeNote. De Grootmentioned that the only trobairitz song tohave survived in both melody and words isA Chantar by the Contessa de Día and that itis not included in the recording by ShannonMercer and La Nef. I have just received a newdisc featuring Isabel Bayrakdarian entitledTroubadour & the Nightingale with theManitoba Chamber Orchestra under AnneManson’s direction (MCO 013001 themco.ca). Lo and behold this recording of arrangementsand original compositions by SeroujKradjian includes the suite TrobairitzYsabella in which the ancient song AChantar is featured ...In Kradjian’s illuminating introductoryessay he explains the project originatedin a discussion with conductor Mansonabout the book The Ornament of the World:How Muslims, Jews and Christians Createda Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spainby Maria Rosa Menocal, which explores thegolden age when the arts, literature andscience flourished for 500 years in an atmosphereof tolerance. This eventually led him tothe lives, poetry and music of the trobairitzof Occitania in the south of France borderingSpain, who were active for a brief 60 yearsthewholenote.com December 1, 2013 – February 7, 2014 | 69

Volume 26 (2020- )

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