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Volume 20 Issue 8 - May 2015

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MICHAEL O’NEILLBeat by Beat | Classical & BeyondMusic’s UniversePAUL ENNISYo-Yo Ma, arguably the most famous cellist in the contemporaryclassical firmament, has risen from his early days as a sevenyear-oldimmigrant (born in Paris to Chinese parents, his firstteacher at four was his father). A student ofthe legendary Leonard Rose at Juilliard, hesubsequently sought a broader educationat Harvard. His wide-ranging interests andmusical gifts propelled him to great acclaimas a soloist, chamber musician and orchestralcollaborator, culminating in the formationof the Silk Road Ensemble in 1998. Ashis website puts it, the ensemble “mixesthe modern and the traditional, breakingboundaries of ethnicity and era ... [demonstrating]once again that there are nobarriers for those approaching music withan open mind.”In an interview with On Being’s KristaTippett last September, Ma invokes the greatcellist Pablo Casals, the scientist Carl Saganand the violinist Isaac Stern to illustratehow getting from one note to the next hascosmic resonance: “If you look at, to quoteCarl Sagan, ‘the billions and billions ofstars out there’ and what stirs the imaginationof a young child ... you start wondering where are we? How dowe fit into this vast universe? And [you look] to Casals saying thatwithin the notes that he plays, he’s looking for infinite variety … [and]to Isaac Stern saying, the music happens between the notes. OK, whatthen do you mean when you say music happens between the notes?Well, how do you get from A to B? Is it a smooth transfer: it’s automatic,it feels easy, you glide into the next note? Or you have to physicallyor mentally or effortfully reach to go from one note to another?Could the next note be part of the first note? Or could the next notebe a different universe? Have you just crossed into some amazingboundary and suddenly the second note is a revelation?“The realm of playing an instrument is pure engineering. But themental process, the emotional process, the psychic investment intrying to make something easy [is] infinitely hard.”Curiously, for a string player, in an interview with Elijah Ho for theSan Francisco Examiner in January 2013, Ma responded to a questionabout which of the instrumentalists of the Golden Age had made thegreatest impression on him by revealing his love for some of the finestpianists of the last century. His illuminating response was triggeredwhen the journalist asked him if he ever had the opportunity to hearVladimir Horowitz.“Yes, I heard him once in Toronto at Massey Hall. I got one ticketto one of his Sunday afternoon concerts and I was right up, last rowof the balcony. And it was just extraordinary. He played Scriabin,Rachmaninov, Scarlatti, etc. And the whole concert, he playedbetween pianissimo and mezzo forte, until he played the Stars andStripes encore. Then he just blew the roof off the hall [laughs]. Andit was extraordinary. I loved Horowitz, I love hearing Richter recordings.I have some great recordings of Richter playing the BeethovenSonatas. I also treasure my Schnabel Schubert recordings, I love DinuLipatti’s last concert in Switzerland and a lot of early Glenn Gould. Ihave great memories of great pianists. I never heard Rubinstein live,but I once watched the DVD of his concert in Moscow and it wasextraordinary, just extraordinary. These are the gold standards, and Istill hold on to them; lots of great people.”On May 29, Ma joins the celebration of Sir Andrew Davis’ 40th anniversarywith the TSO in a performance of Elgar’s intimate, passionateCello Concerto, along with Dvořák’s the most popular concerto in thecello repertoire. Ma will undoubtedly make it all appear effortless.James Ehnes: In 2008 James Ehnes won the Gramophone Awardfor Best Concerto Recording of the Year for Elgar’s Violin Concertowith the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.That same year Ehnes’ recording of the Barber, Korngold and Waltonconcertos with the Vancouver Symphony conducted by BramwellTovey won the JUNO for Best Classical Album of the Year: LargeEnsemble or Soloist(s) with Large Ensemble Accompaniment. Thatsame recording won the 2008 Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist(s)Performance with Orchestra. Shortly after that breakout awards yearEhnes sat down with Andrew Palmer for an interviewYo-Yo Ma for All Things Strings in May 2009.Palmer wondered how Ehnes keeps his performancesfresh while on tour. Is there anyone for whom, orto whom, he performs?“My wife [ballerina Kate Maloney, whom he marriedin 2004] is on the road with me a lot—she’s actuallyhere now—and she loves music, which is a good thingbecause she hears a lot of it! Every time I play I wantto make sure she doesn’t regret going to concertsthree times a week. And there’s something else in mypsychology, which may result from where I grew up:Brandon, Manitoba, in the centre of Canada. Althoughit has a lot of music for a city of its size, it was alwaysa big event when major stars performed there. Butthey only came once, so I was thrilled when they gaveit their all. On the other hand, I was left feeling verybitter if I got the impression that they played a lot ofconcerts and that some were important and someweren’t, and that this one wasn’t. Believe me, therewere a lot like that.“I never forget that at each of my concerts someone in the audienceis hearing me for the first time. Someone is also hearing the piece ofmusic for the first time. And it’s a point of pride that if I don’t playas close to my best as I can, there’ll be people who’ll tell their friendsAssociates of theToronto SymphonyOrchestraMonday, June 1, 20157:30 pmFrom Trio to TangoLudvig van BeethovenAstor PiazzollaUshio ShinoharaChristopher CaliendoGabriel FauréClaude DebussyOsvaldo GolijovSerenadeHistoire du TangoKassougaSinceritaAprès un rêveBeau soirMarielPERFORMERSCsaba Koczo, violin; Theresa Rudolph, viola;Kathleen Rudolph, flute; John Rudolph, percussionWatch for our exciting 2016 season of Five SmallConcerts in the November issue of The WholeNote.Five Small ConcertsTickets $20 / Trinity-St. Paul’ s Centre, 427 Bloor St. W.Box Office | May 1 - June 7, 2015

BENJAMIN EALOVEGAJames Ehnisafterwards, ‘James Ehnes wasn’tvery good,’ and I’d have to agreewith them. Which would reallyhurt! So mostly I feel a responsibilityto myself to take advantageof every opportunity tomake people love the piece ofmusic. I don’t get nerves aboutperforming, but five minutesbefore going onstage I feel a hugeresponsibility that this had betterbe good, because if anything goeswrong, everyone will know. AndI don’t think this psychologicalmechanism is such a bad thing. Itkeeps me on my toes.”Six years later, the 39-yearoldvirtuoso returns to KoernerHall on May 15, having just wona tenth JUNO, this time for his Chandos CD of Bartók chamber works.The Toronto recital includes Debussy’s final composition, the deeplyemotional Violin Sonata in G Minor, Bach’s demanding Sonata forsolo violin No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005, Elgar’s much-loved ViolinSonata in E Minor and the Toronto premiere of Alexina Louie’sBeyond Time, commissioned by and dedicated to Ehnes. Louie pointsout in the program note that she began by writing the last movement,Perpetual, first, setting out to compose a highly charged movementthat would showcase the violinist’s prodigious technique, whichseems to her to be superhuman. Knowing how the piece ended, Louieaimed to write an opening movement, Celestial, which would be asvirtuosic as the finale. Since she wanted that movement to sparkle, shewrote extended passages of string harmonics to achieve this goal. Shewrites that the second movement, Eternal, “can be thought of as aninternalized, quiet, lyrical interlude between the two fast outer movements... The title, Beyond Time, suggests that the piece stands outsideof time, in an infinite sound world — Celestial, Eternal, Perpetual.”Seen and Heard: April 8 at Koerner Hall, the Chamber MusicSociety of Lincoln Centre gave one of the most satisfying concertsof the season. The program was comprised of music written withina 35-year span of the mid-19th century: Mahler’s youthful PianoQuartet Movement in A Minor, Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flatMajor Op.47 and Brahms’ Piano Quartet No.1 in G Minor Op.25.Co-directors of the Society (and married to each other), pianist WuHan and cellist David Finckel (who spent 34 years as a member ofthe Emerson String Quartet) were joined by violist Paul Neubauer(formerly principal violist of the New York Philharmonic) and Britishvirtuoso violinist Daniel Hope.Seating was fairly close with the violin and viola crowded togetherjust beside the keyboard. The intimacy carried over into the performancewhich seemed the ultimate in musical sophistication. Hope sangeternal in the gem of beauty composed by the 16-year-old Mahler.Exquisite string playing throughout was finely supported by Wu’sunruffled piano; impeccable ensemble playing with great expressivenessthat was never showy or gauche.The piano was more of a factor in the Schumann, its joyful firstmovement anchored by Finckel’s sublime cello. The mad dance of theScherzo was led by the cello with the piano particularly sensitive inthe many quick and delicate staccato passages that had to be navigated.The Andante cantabile which followed is one of Schumann’smost beautiful creations; a real treat. The Brahms was thick withmelody as various instrumental combinations came to the fore duringthe opening movement’s development. A beautiful theme emergedfrom the ethos with great delicacy on the violin as the piece continuedthrough to the Andante con moto, its violin and cello parts reminiscentof the composer’s Double Concerto. The Gypsy tune at the centreof the Rondo alla Zingarese broadened out led by the piano to anexquisite duet between cello and viola before the violin picked up thetune, the DNA of which Brahms found (happily) impossible to shake.It was a night where the Romantic melodists reigned May 1 - June 7, 2015 | 17

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