7 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 9 - Summer 2015

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lead role, opposite

lead role, opposite Barabara Hannigan, in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s recent opera-in-concert production of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin during this spring’s New Creations Festival.) “So you saw that show?” I ask. “I did,” he says. “I did and I loved it. And I didn’t expect to love it. My experience with new music has been mixed, and I’ve done some of those premieres ... I thought it was an amazing evening, across the board. And I have one fellow [in the show] who worked with me, Isaiah Bell, the tenor, and I was just so pleased; he’s making a name for himself. He was at Tanglewood, he’s recorded with Nagano ... it’s all beginning to happen for him.” “So, back to Kirkby,” I prompt. “We were talking about musical storytelling and you said last week you brought her in ...” “The thing about Emma,” he says, “Everything about what Emma does (and I’ve sung with Emma for about ten years, we tour together every year, we do recitals together and I’ve been very lucky, I mean in the last 15 years she refers to me as being her duet partner which is an honour from someone who has been so important not only to early music but to music today) ... the thing about Emma is that when she sings, it’s all about honesty, really, and text. She comes in and she’s not interested really in what noise is happening, it’s all about truth.” “Ultimately though,” I suggest “Technique still comes into play when you have to trust your instrument to deliver the truth you’ve discovered.” “Yes,” he replies. “And if you haven’t done the hard work at that point then you’re in trouble.” Taylor’s co-Canadian at Bethlehem this year is Agnes Zsigovics. I hear them together first on the Friday afternoon in duets from Cantata BWV 78 – Jesu, der du meine Seele and then Cantata BWV 23 – Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn. Their rapport is striking and their voices together are pellucid, meshing with a harmonic precision reminiscent, I suggest to him, of what one hears in his duet work with his great collaborators – Suzie LeBlanc, Kirkby and Nancy Argenta. “I have to say,” he replies, “For the work I do, the duet projects when I go around, I’ve got a few voices, yes, ... you develop a preference for colours.” “And Agnes has that?” “She’s a very special singer” he says. “She is doing her doctorate now at U of T, but actually I met her at U. Of T. Years ago, when I was a visiting artist. We were doing some Bach with Helmut Rilling.” “I was thinking about those encounters with Rilling earlier,” I remark, “When we were talking about the storytelling aspect. I remember one Rilling masterclass you were in, with a student, a soprano, doing a duet – maybe it was even one of these two duets.” “Yes,” he replies. “That’s Rilling’s teaching model [pairing guest artist and student]. It’s a wonderful model.” (In the encounter in question, Rilling had stopped the student to ask her if she knew who her character was speaking to. After the penny dropped that the two singers were not singing to an audience but to each other, the entire performance had transformed in a flash to something unforgettably compelling.) “I was lucky,” Taylor says. “Rilling never worked with countertenors before. He’s now hired me for many years, mostly for Handel. But I love that recently in an interview someone said ‘but you don’t like countertenors, right?’ and he said I used not to like countertenors.” Our conversation drifts on and on, for 45 minutes or so: “I feel I am now in the middle of my career as a countertenor, and I’m aware of it, and so I don’t have the advantage of being new ...”. “I haven’t sung at the Canadian Opera Company now since Richard Bradshaw passed away.” “You did Caesar for them I remember, with Ewa Podles?” “Yes, that was amazing, and in that one I did play ‘the bad guy.’ Richard had asked if I would do Sesto and I said ‘well you know Richard, Tolomeo is really fun, and I had sung it at Rome ...” And much more: about male and female alto voices; about Bach on modern and period instruments; about James Bowman and Michael Chance and recording for Sony. And fittingly much more about Funfgeld and the Bethlehem Bach Festival. All I can do is to promise you “more on the web,” and to promise myself a return visit next spring, slouching down Bathurst Street to Bethlehem, once again to be uplifted and amazed. A Taste of Toronto Summer Music Douglas McNabney, artistic director of Toronto Summer Music When Douglas McNabney dropped by The WholeNote office a week or two ago, it was mainly just to set up a time to sit down later in June and have a conversation – a filmed Conversation@TheWholeNote, for our YouTube series, to be exact – about his vision for this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival. However, as often happens in these kinds of situations, one thing led to another and before we were aware of it, our conversation had already begun. In this particular case, it was especially easy to get carried away – this is the tenth anniversary year of Toronto Summer Music and McNabney’s fifth year of his tenure as the festival’s artistic director. From the look of the programming in place, this festival will have a presence in Toronto’s musical landscape this summer that will be tough to ignore. Think of what follows as a taste of a “Conversation” to come, where McNabney will be catching up with WholeNote publisher David Perlman to talk about the business of curating a city’s music, brandnew opportunities for amateurs to get involved in the festival scene, and how to cope – or even take advantage of – the coming Panamania. Until the time comes, however, here is a little of what has been on McNabney’s mind, and on ours, as festival season swings into full gear. WN: For now, let’s get a sense of the festival, and of the shape of it. DM: The one thing that struck me about putting together this year’s program – because it’s huge – is that the amount of music that I wanted to include is totally unmanageable. Usually we’re dealing with the same body of literature, standard 19th-century chamber music literature and a little bit of excursions outside of that, and then I take a focus point in on one particular aspect or country or something like that. This year because of the Pan Am Games, we said, okay, we have to do music of the Americas. And instead of focusing in, it’s gone completely way out of our traditional literature, which has been really fun. But when you start down that road, it’s a little bit frightening how far and how many different branches there are. There are a lot of musicologists at McGill and I think even with the musicologists nowadays, for the 19th century their minds are exhausted. Everybody’s done that, it’s as if there’s not much left to dig for there, and so everyone’s gone on to thinking about what’s happening in America in the 20th century. Of course there are people like Taruskin leading this charge that 1,000 years of western music have actually come to an end and what we have is American popular culture, and that’s what’s ahead of us now. I don’t necessarily believe that, but certainly there are aspects of that idea that reach this project. BO HUANG 10 | June | July | August, 2015

2015.16 CONCERT Terence Blanchard SEASON More than 85 classical, jazz, pop, world music, and family concerts to choose from! Koerner Hall / Mazzoleni Concert Hall / Conservatory Theatre Igudesman & Joo Daniel Hope Vilde Frang Jan Lisiecki SUBSCRIPTIONS ON SALE 10AM FRIDAY JUNE 12 SINGLE TICKETS ON SALE 10AM FRIDAY JUNE 19 416.408.0208 273 BLOOR STREET WEST (BLOOR ST. & AVENUE RD.) TORONTO

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