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Volume 19 Issue 6 - March 2014

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • April
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Bloor
  • Orchestra
  • Arts
  • Concerts
  • Choir

settings. Brahms’

settings. Brahms’ choral writing is almost unparalleled in its inventivenessand challenge. Like Bach and Mozart, it can actually benefitfrom stripped-down choral forces.On March 23 the Ukrainian Canadian Congress sponsors a galaconcert commemorating the 200th birthday anniversary of TarasShevchenko. Shevchenko (1814-1861) was a pivotal cultural figure inthe development of Ukrainian culture, as a writer, painter and politicalactor. The concert is a summit of Ukrainian-Canadian choirs,and features the Vesnivka Choir, Orion Men’s Choir, Levada Women’sChoir and the Toronto Ukrainian Male Chamber Choir.March 26: If there is an ultimate masterwork in the choral repertoire,it’s probably Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The challenge for any choir,as with the Brahms Requiem, is to forget that it is a masterwork andlook instead for the human qualities that bring it to life – exuberance,pathos and a questioning spirit. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choirperforms this work on March 26, with an excellent group of soloists.On April 7 Grace Church on-the-Hill, which boasts a lively andextensive choral program, hosts a workshop with special guests theOxford Christ Church Cathedral Choir. This choir is the newest versionof an ongoing tradition of choral cathedral music that stretches backfive hundred years. The workshop allows Toronto choral singers andconductors to work on repertoire with this ensemble, taking part in aperformance at the end of the day. It sounds like a fascinating event,especially for students and aficionados of the English cathedral sound.The choir also performs on April 8, and there are group rates availablefor groups who attend the workshop. (www.choirsontario.org/index.jsp)Benjamin Stein is a Toronto tenor and lutenist. He can be contactedat choralscene@thewholenote.com. Visit his website at benjaminstein.ca.Beat by Beat | Early MusicPlaylist MastersDAVID PODGORSKIThe writer Nick Hornby is, to the members of Generation Xand the millennials, the leading authority on the art of the mixtape, and in his novel High Fidelity, he defined the poetic frustrationof creating a playlist for someone, now rendered irrelevant in ourcurrent era of iTunes playlists and YouTube channels: “To me, makinga tape is like writing a letter— there’s a lot of erasing and rethinkingand starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hardto do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (Istarted with “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” but then realized that shemight not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered whatshe wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), andthen you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch...” Anyone who’sever made a mix tape knows this feeling. There’s a sense of curatorialomnipotence that making a mix tape confers on its maker: I may notplay in a band, I may not know how to write any songs, but damn it,I’ve got taste!If you thought mix tapes were a generational flash in the pan, you’dbe wrong. Long before the compact disc and cassette tape, musicnerds were compiling playlists of their favourite songs and sharingthem, except these geeks were either composers or performers ofmusic and were perfectly capable of making music of their own.There’s a substantial amount of evidence that Brahms, Beethoven andMendelssohn were passionate music collectors who wanted to sharetheir discoveries, but one composer stands above all other connoisseursand arbiters of good taste as an obsessive hoarder, cultural packrat, and literal all-out, all-time violator of copyright – none other thanJohann Sebastian Bach.Bach’s reputation for near-autistic complexity and perfect detail asa contrapuntalist is well-known and I won’t bore you by repeating ithere. Less appreciated, though, is the obsession he had with collectingmusic – either for personal consumption or to share with friends andcolleagues. In the last 40 or so years of Bach scholarship, scholarshave focused less on Bach the immortal master of counterpoint andmore on Bach the music collector, virtually to the point where everycomposition and theme of Bach was thought to be originally writtenby another composer or else was derivative of some other style ofmusic. It’s gotten a bit out of hand, and there isn’t a whole lot of directcause and effect linking Bach’s musical taste with what he composed.Bach’s St. Mark’s Mix: It’s for this reason that we are very fortunateto have actual evidence of a real playlist of songs that Bach collected,assembled into a concert program and had performed for a liveaudience. A particular version of the St. Mark Passion was one ofa few concerts that Bach had performed while employed as theThomaskantor in Leipzig; Bach not only thought highly enough ofthe music to have performed it three different times in his career,but reworked the concert order, cut arias and added new pieces bydifferent composers, with just as much care (and possibly frustration)as Nick Hornby described as being part of the process of makinga good mix tape. The final cut, completed just three years beforehe died, included songs by Handel (the leading composer of Bach’sday) and a composer lost to history but whom Bach evidently liked –known only as Kaiser.The man responsible for bringing this mix of Bach’s to the Canadianconcert stage is none other than Kenneth Hull, the director of theSpiritus Ensemble, and he will be leading a performance of the Bachcompilation at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Kitcheneron March 30. When I ask him about some of the great composer’sfavourites, Hull is able to provide me with some clues. “Up tonow we’ve known very little of what Bach had actually performedbesides his own music,” Hull explains. “We know for sure that J.S.Bach performed music by his second cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach,and music composed by his relatives. Bach came from a very musical24 | March 1 – April 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Nick Hornby andJ.S. Bachfamily and he had inheriteda lot of familyconnections to goodcomposers.” Besides theadvantage of promotingfamily members, Bachhad to select composersthat were easier than hisown music for the musiciansat his church toperform, and playing the“Kaiser” St. Mark Passionis certainly easier thanplaying Bach, Hull admits.Hull is also quick tomention that he is in factgiving this Passion itsCanadian premiere – andthat this is just the secondtime this St. Mark is beingperformed in North America.“The Bach Society ofHouston was able to obtain acopy of the St. Mark Passionbecause they are the sister city of Leipzig,” he says. “I’m fortunateenough to have a close connection with the Bach Society and was ableto hear about this discovery.”I Furiosi, Biber, Lent: If you aren’t interested in Bach’s favouritecomposers, or if you can’t make it to Kitchener for a concert, considerchecking out a few Toronto-based ensembles instead. I Furiosi, stillthe best classical band you can hear for ten dollars (if you’re a student,senior or just plain broke), will be joined by organist Stephanie Martinand mezzo-soprano Vicki St. Pierre to perform Giovanni Battista’Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater on March 22 at Windermere United Church.It will be well worth it to hear this work be performed by an ensemblethat can play with verve, and well, fury.This is your last chance to catch Chris Verrette and Musicians inOrdinary play Biber’s Mystery Sonatas on March 14 at St. Michael’sCollege’s Madden Hall. They’ll be playing the sonatas based on theSorrowful Mysteries, so if you’re an observant Christian, this is anexcellent program for Lent – if not, be prepared to hear something sad.Speaking of Lent, on March 1 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, theToronto Consort will perform music leading up to the 40 days’ fastwith a program devoted to the Venetian Carnival represented byItalian composers Monteverdi, Banchieri and Vecchi.Finally, Tafelmusik has a couple of programs well worth hearing:Alison McKay’s audience favourite “The Four Seasons: A Cycle ofthe Sun,” featuring music by Antonio Vivaldi and Mychael Danna,at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on March 6 to 9, 11 and 12. Tafelmusikwill be doing another program later in March –“A Night in Paris” –on March 27 to 30 also at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. This concert willfeature superb music by Telemann and Leclair as well as Vivaldi’sviolin concerto “Tempeste di Mare.”David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacherand a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted atearlymusic@thewholenote.com.AN OPERA IN CONCERTThe single most popular opera of the 17 th century,Cavalli’s Giasone is an irreverent telling of the storyof Jason and the Golden Fleece.FRIDAY, APRIL 4 & SATURDAY, APRIL 5, 8PMSUNDAY, APRIL 6, 3:30PMTrinity-St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor St. WestTICKETS - • CALL 416-964-6337ONLINE AT TORONTOCONSORT.ORGGenerously supported by Vivian Pilarthewholenote.com March 1 – April 7, 2014 | 25

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