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Volume 19 Issue 7 - April 2014

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a clear Canadian Brass

a clear Canadian Brass identity to them. Well, it’s little like hoarding,but we were the only brass quintet, maybe to this day almost, that’sbeen on all the networks; we’ve had major television shows. CBC,back in the day when CBC was making shows they actually hadthe Canadian Brass show; these would be major productions withcostuming and guest artists, and all this sort of thing. We’ve been veryfortunate to be part of that medium. I think growing up in Toronto,growing up in Canada, in the early 70s was an amazing time. Thegovernments were right, we had the right people in the right placesto support arts. The CBC was invaluable. By the time we got to NewYork in 75 we had so much training in studios and so forth that a radioappearance was just second nature. ... Very early on, I guess what setus apart from a lot of other groups is that we did spend a lot of timetalking about and thinking about all the possibilities in the musicworld. I mean, now they have courses for it in colleges, they didn’tback then. It’s really taking charge, shaping your own destiny. ...Wealways thought, people would ask us about competition, aren’t youworried about competition if people start playing your music, and wesaid, well our competition is really Hockey Night in Canada. If you’relooking at other brass groups you’d be looking way too low. What wefelt we needed was a bit of an explosion of brass just so that you wouldhave a place in a hierarchy.***How long are you entitled to say it’s the same group? Becauseyou’ve had by my count 20 players in the Brass, at this point. I’m notcounting returns, if you count people who have gone and returnedit’s probably closer to 27 or 28, because there are people who didmore than one stint, but I think 20 different individuals. We don’tlet anybody get away too far, we keep them on a very short leash. LikeRonnie Romm, our original trumpet player. We’re going to be at theUniversity of Illinois doing a brass symposium and we invited Ronnieto join us. And Gene of course just lives down the road here, we’re inconstant touch, …more and more, we take on a mentoring role as wellbecause we’re taking a concept and sharing that with these youngplayers, putting them into this.Did [Gene] say, “40 years, it’s enough,” or how did that go?Absolutely. He just figured that he’d been on the road enough. In factwe just had coffee yesterday and he was saying, you know I’m justgetting over jetlag.What’s your touring schedule that you keep up these days?Because I mean when we talked a couple of days ago you were in LosAngeles. We’d just played Palm Desert. Well, we have a nice concertyear. We’ve been very fortunate, even from the beginning we neverhad to do the rock and roll tours on a bus or that sort of thing. We’vebeen very blessed with nice touring. And at this point it is kind of aworldwide reach. We do very little south of the Equator, I think we’vebeen in Brazil once, Venezuela, Australia once, but other than that it’sgenerally …we do a lot in Germany, a lot in Europe. This past season,we were in Asia twice and we were in Germany, we’re going back toGermany in September; we were in Korea just before Christmas and itwas for a very short run, just a couple of concerts ... So we have a nicetouring schedule, I’d say we do about 60 or 70 concerts a year.And you still do a university/college circuit? We’re ensemble inresidence at the University of Toronto here, so that means during theyear we’ll be there three or four times during that year. And our hornplayer is actually at the University of Illinois and he has involved usthere as well. So that’s becoming more present. And then it’s quitewell-known amongst the presenters that Canadian Brass is a goodtarget for workshops and clinics so invariably we’ll be in a town andwe’ll have a workshop or two, to work with kids, and we actuallyencourage that. So that’s something we think is, more than anything,especially with the younger players, and talking about succession ofplayers. It’s pretty interesting to show up at a college or universitywhere the average age is 20 to 23, 19 to 23, something like that, andour trumpet player [Caleb Hudson] is 26. So they can identify froman age standpoint but then to hear this guy play, they think ... it sortof suggests that maybe it is possible, if I did put that time and attentionin, maybe I could do this. ... It is fascinating now, both Gene andI have mused about this a great deal…what we faced as young playerswas a totally different world. Now the young players are all growingup playing in our books. We have a set of books called CanadianBrass Book Of ... and then we have easy quintets, intermediate quintets,advanced quintets and there are something like, we’ve passed the500,000 mark on those several years ago, on these books out aroundthe world. So kids are growing up playing our music, and our philosophyand our concept. So by the time we audition now someoneto play in our group…when Caleb came to play for us, he was playingfrom memory. He knew our music backwards and forwards.Interesting. So there’s not a steep learning curve for some of theseplayers. Our trombonist Achilles [Liarmakopoulos] is from Greece,and he’s our resident historian. We had made a big collage, a giantposter of all of our recordings and we had it standing against the wall.When he came in, I said, Achilles you’ve got to take a look at this!And he stood there for about four or five minutes and said, three aremissing. It’s amazing, he’ll often say things like, we’ll be talking, let’ssay Toccata and Fugue, and he’d say, well, when you recorded that ...in 77 you played it quite a bit slower than in the 91 version. He’s a totalhistorian. When we had him come and play he thought he was in casewe needed a substitute trombonist and Gene was at the audition, sohe just thought he was making himself known as a potential sub. Sohe had a few pieces of music we’d sent him in advance, and we playedthrough those and it went pretty quickly. We should have broughtmore music. Have you ever played Blackbird, the trombone solo? Hesaid, well, I’ve never really played it, he said, I’ve heard it I could try.He played the whole thing from memory, he’d never performed itwith an ensemble or anything and he just played it.World’s full of a lot of good players. Oh, totally different. I’m justglad these guys weren’t around when I was young!Behind the Scenes 3Coming in April.An in-depth interview withClemens Hellsberg,player/chairmanVienna Philharmonic OrchestraWhen the invitation to The Arts in Vienna:A Proud History, a Painful Past arrived, I wassurprised to see that one of the five scheduledpanelists at this March 17 Glenn GouldStudio panel discussion/chamber concert,(organized by the Calgary-based ChumirFoundation for Ethics in Leadership) was tobe the Mayor of Sarajevo. Surprised, becausewhat I had expected was a discussion ofthe recently revealed extent of the ViennaPhilharmonic Orchestra’s active or passivecollaboration with the Nazis during the years Clemens Hellsbergafter 1933, and particularly from 1938 to 1945.The panel discussion on the Monday was wide-ranging andinformative. While the Mayor of Sarajevo, Ivo Komsic, did notattend, the panelists who did (Clemens Hellsberg, chairman of theVienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Oliver Rathkolb of the Institutefor Contemporary History, University of Vienna; Valentin Inzko,High Representative for Bosnia Herzegovina; and Randall Hansen,Director of the Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies,Munk School of Global Affairs) did much to place the seven years atthe heart of the discussion in a broader context.Fascinating as the Monday discussion was, infinitely more so wasthe hour and a half we spent the following day with the amiable andgently charismatic Hellsberg in his hotel room. Mainly, we talkedabout the inner workings of the orchestra, its history and relationshipto the Vienna State Opera. He also spoke at some length on thebroader and specific aspects of the breakdown of Austrian society.A most agreeable and satisfying encounter. And, yes, we left with aclear answer to why Sarajevo in 1914 (and 100 years later in 2014)might be considered important to the topic at hand.A fascinating encounter. Stay tuned.Bruce Surtees14 | April 1 – May 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

Beat by Beat | On Opera365 Years In OneOperatic MonthCHRISTOPHER HOILEApril has become the month in the year with the single highestconcentration of opera presentations. The past few years Torontonianshave been so spoiled that they have had examples from every periodof opera available in April alone. And this April is no exception. Whatmakes this April unusual is the unusual number of baroque operasand brand new works on offer. Here, by year of first public performance,are this April’s offerings.1649: Giasone by Francesco Cavalli on April 4, 5 and 6. The TorontoConsort (torontoconsort.org) continues its successful series of concertproductions of early operatic masterpieces with Giasone, whichholds the record as the most popular opera of the 17th century. Ofthe 41 operas Cavalli (1602-76) wrote, 27 still survive. Written for theCarnival season in Venice, they are characterized by their irreverenttake on classical subjects. Thus, this version of the story of Jason andMedea has a happy ending and is more concerned with Giasone’slover Isifile’s attempts to woo him away from his wife Medea than it iswith Medea’s vengeance on her husband. Laura Pudwell sings the titlerole with Vicki St. Pierre as Delfa, Kevin Skelton as Aegeus, Bud Roachas Demo and Consort members Michelle DeBoer as Medea, KatherineHill as Isifile and John Pepper as Besso. Artistic Director David Fallisconducts a period orchestra including strings, recorders, theorbo,baroque harp, organ, harpsichord and viola da gamba.1682: Persée by Jean-Baptiste Lully from April 26 to May 3. OperaAtelier (operatatelier.com) remounts Lully’s masterpiece for thesecond time. It was first seen in 2000, then again in 2004. ChrisEnns, in his first haute-contre role sings Persée, Mireille Asselin ishis beloved Andromède, Peggy Kriha Dye is Mérope, Olivier Laquerresings both Céphée and Méduse, Carla Huhtanen is Cassiope and VasilGarvanliev is Phinée. David Fallis conducts the Tafelmusik BaroqueOrchestra and Marshall Pynkoski directs. From May 23 to 25 theproduction travels to Versailles where it has not been staged sinceit inaugurated the Royal Opera House on May 16, 1770, during thewedding celebrations of the future King Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette.1726: Alessandro by George Frideric Handel. On April 9, 10, 12and 13, Isabel Bayrakdarian gives a recital with the TafelmusikBaroque Orchestra called “The Rival Queens” where she exploresthe rivalry between the two superstars of the age, Faustina Bordoniand Francesca Cuzzoni. Bayrakdarian will sing arias associated withthe two sopranos from Handel’s Alessandro as well as arias fromGiovanni Bononcini’s Astianatte (1727) and Johann Adolf Hasse’s CajoFabrizio (1732).1745: Hercules by George Frideric Handel from April 5 to 30.The COC’s first staging of Handel’s oratorio is a co-production withLyric Opera of Chicago directed by Peter Sellars. When Hercules firstappeared, Handel was accused of writing an opera disguised as anoratorio, so it is not a great leap for the work to be presented as anopera. Sellars updates the mythological tale of Hercules and othersreturning home from war to the present. Eric Owens sings the titlerole, Alice Coote is Hercules’ jealous wife Dejanira, David Daniels isHercules’ servant Lichas, Lucy Crowe is Hercules’ captive Iole andRichard Croft is Hercules’ son Hyllus. Baroque music expert HarryBickett conducts.1837: Roberto Devereux by Gaetano Donizetti from April 25 toMay 21. In 2010 the COC gave us Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda in aproduction from Dallas Opera. This year it gives us another helpingof what some call Donizetti’s “Three Queens” trilogy with the story ofElizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the second earl of Essex (1565-1601),an ambitious favourite of Elizabeth’s who led a coup d’état againsther. Giuseppe Filianoti sings the title role, Sondra Radvanovsky makesColin Ainsworth (above), Cyril Auvity and Marie Lenormand in Persée (2004)her role debut as Elisabetta, Russell Braun is the Duke of Nottinghamand Allyson McHardy is the Duchess of Nottingham. Corrado Rovarisconducts and Stephen Lawless, as with Maria Stuarda, is again thestage director.1853: Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi on April 26. Opera by Request(operabyrequest.ca) presents Verdi’s classic about love and fate inconcert with Paul Williamson as Manrico, Olga Tylman as Leonora,Wayne Line as the Count di Luna, Julia Clarke as Azucena andDomenico Sanfilippo as Ferrando. William Shookhoff conducts fromthe piano.1855: Ba-ta-clan by Jacques Offenbach on May 1 to 3. Opera 5 (facebook.com/OperaFive)presents a double bill of French rarities atAlliance Française, 24 Spadina Rd. The first is Ba-ta-clan, the one-actoperetta set in China, that was Offenbach’s first major success. In thisfanciful tale, two Chinese conspirators against the Chinese Emperorrealize they are both French. Aria Umezawa and Jasmine Chen directand Maika’i Nash conducts.1875:Carmen by Georges Bizet on April 17 and 19. Now in its ninthseason, Opera Belcanto of York (rhcentre.ca) will present a fullystaged production of Bizet’s opera at the Richmond Hill Centre abouta seductive gypsy and the hapless soldier who falls in love with her.BRUCE ZINGERthewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2014 | 15

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