7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015

Vol 21 No 2 is now available for your viewing pleasure, and it's a bumper crop, right at the harvest moon. First ever Canadian opera on the Four Seasons Centre main stage gets double coverage with Wende Bartley interviewing Pyramus and Thisbe composer Barbara Monk Feldman and Chris Hoile connecting with director Christopher Alden; Paul Ennis digs into the musical mind of pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, and pianist Eve Egoyan is "On the Record" in conversation with publisher David Perlman ahead of the Oct release concert for her tenth recording. And at the heart of it all the 16th edition of our annual BLUE PAGES directory of presenters profile the season now well and truly under way.

Old Wine, New Bottles

Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES On July 13, 1955 an audience at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood heard the debut performance by the newly formed Beaux Arts Trio with their founding members Menahem Pressler, piano, Daniel Guilet, violin, and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. The personnel remained intact until 1960 when Guilet was replaced by Isidore Cohen and in 1987 Peter Wiley replaced Greenhouse. Since then there were other new faces including violinist Ida Kavafian in 1992. However, it was Pressler who was always at the helm and the mere mention of the Beaux Arts Trio immediately triggers images of Pressler at the keyboard scarcely ever taking his inspiring eyes from his colleagues. The trio disbanded in 2008. In 2013, Toronto’s favourite venue, Koerner Hall, proudly announced a concert to celebrate Pressler’s 90th birthday with Pressler himself playing with the New Orford Quartet in a program of Beethoven, Brahms and R. Murray Schafer. There have been other notable trios over the years: Cortot, Thibault and Casals; Edwin Fischer, Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Enrico Mainardi; and many others where prominent musicians who had solo careers occasionally came together for the pleasure of playing with each other. Particularly vital was the special combination of Isaac Stern, Leonard Rose and Eugene Istomin. None, however, had the longevity of the Beaux Arts, albeit with fresh faces in the strings but never without the omnipresent Menahem Pressler. Because of their impeccable musicianship and extensive repertoire, the Beaux Arts Trio – Complete Philips Recordings, all 137 of them, is a unique treasure house of hallmark performances of trios and some larger works (4788225, 60 CDs). Everything that they recorded for Philips is here, including the complete trios by Haydn, Mozart (2), Hummel, Beethoven (2), Mendelssohn (2), Schubert, Brahms (2), Dvorak and Schumann (2) plus those by Arensky, Chausson, Granados, Hummel, Korngold, Shostakovich and others. Add many more, in addition to works for larger chamber ensembles with assisting artists. There are two versions of the Beethoven Triple Concerto: in their 1977 recording with Bernard Haitink and the London Philharmonic, the Beaux Arts Trio meant Pressler, Cohen and Greenhouse but in 1992 with Masur and the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Beaux Arts Trio meant Pressler, Kavafian and Wiley. The Schumann Trio No.2 Op.80 in 1966 finds Pressler, Guilet and Greenhouse. In 1971 there are Pressler, Cohen and Greenhouse. By 1989 we hear Pressler, Cohen and Wiley. The few multiple versions are manna to keen listeners whose pleasure it is to pay close attention to interpretive differences over the years. In truth, regardless of the personnel, every single performance is arresting. One of the pitfalls of listening to a succession of different versions of the same works in a collection of this calibre is that they appear on different discs and with other works. If you are not careful, you can start the wrong track and be drawn into a different work. In listening to this second Schumann trio I mistakenly started the two Mendelssohn trios and absolutely cannot leave them (that’s what I’m doing now). A recent batch of Blu-ray discs from Arthaus Musik includes a 1983 production of Turandot from the Vienna State Opera. The conductor is Lorin Maazel, Eva Marton is Turandot, José Carreras is Calaf, Katia Ricciarelli is Liu, John-Paul Bogart is Timur, the dethroned King of the Tartars and Waldemar Kmentt is Altoum, Emperor of China. Only the long stairway is depicted in this set. The bejewelled costumes and masks reflect the opulence of this mythical place. From its first moment this production seems to be on fire with passion and conviction. The singers have all been caught at the peak of their careers. The 37-year-old Carreras’ blazing performance shows what supreme powers he had. Maazel, absolutely inspired and focused, has the orchestra playing at the top of its form. The unfettered, audiophile-quality sound combined with an elemental, totally assured Eva Marton in the role make for a gripping, compelling Turandot, one I would not want to be without (Arthaus 109095). One hundred years have passed since the birth of Sviatoslav Richter and collectors around the world still seek out his recordings and await new releases of live concerts. Doremi continues to release these recordings, reaching Volume 24 (DHR-8043), with a program of Bach and Beethoven. All but one work were recorded in Moscow in 1948, a dozen years before Richter was permitted to travel to the West and here is an indication that there was a serious Bach performance tradition in Russia in the earlier part of the 20th century. Richter went beyond the popular keyboard works and included the Sonata in D Major, BWV963, an early work rarely performed and seldom recorded. Apparently he gave several such recitals with significant Bach content. Russian radio recorded some of them with what appears to have been an advanced technology for the time, providing us with high quality sound. In the years after he was free to travel he included Bach on a regular basis including the French Suite, BWV813 from Dublin in 1968. The 1948 performances of the Capriccio in B Major, BWV992, Fantasia in C Minor, BWV906, English Suite, BWV808, concluding with Beethoven’s Sonata No.22 Op.54, enjoy the same high quality sound. Conductor Ferenc Fricsay was born in Budapest in 1914 and died in Switzerland in 1963. He studied under Bartók, Kodaly, Dohnányi and Leo Weiner. His instruments were piano, violin, clarinet and trombone. He was acclaimed throughout Europe, the United States and elsewhere, conducting all or most of the prominent orchestras and in many opera houses including Vienna, Berlin, London, New York, etc. Fricsay signed with Deutsches Grammophon in 1948, recording core classical repertoire and 20th century works. His 1958 Beethoven Ninth with the Berlin Philharmonic, Irmgard Seefried, Maureen Forrester, Ernst Haefliger and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was the first Ninth in stereo and has never left the catalog. Last year DG issued a box of all his symphonic recordings, a collection, I might add, that has provided endless pleasure. Ferenc Fricsay – Complete DG Recordings Volume 2, Operas and Choral Works is now available (4794641, 37 discs including rehearsal DVD and Ferenc Fricsay – A Self Portrait) with six Mozart operas, Carmen, Bluebeard’s Castle, Oedipus Rex, Flying Dutchman, Mahler Rückert-Lieder (Forrester), Haydn’s The Seasons, the Verdi Requiem and more. The listener will hear the young Fischer-Dieskau and many others whose names will or should resonate. This set will satisfy many wants. Complete contents are on the DG site, 74 | Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015

CBC Collaborations with the New Music Community DAVID JAEGER The recent funeral service for Marion Aitken (1935 - 2015), the late wife of New Music Concerts’ artistic director Robert Aitken, brought back sharply into my mind the world premiere performance of Harry Somers’ Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson, which I recorded with New Music Concerts in 1975 for broadcast on the CBC Radio program Music of Today (1966–1977). Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson was one of the earliest works commissioned by New Music Concerts and the new work featured Marion, as a member of the Lyric Arts Trio, together with husband Robert and soprano Mary Morrison. The Aitken family chose to play Marion’s extended piano solo from this work among the many pieces shared at her funeral service, and hearing her brought back a flood of memories from the 1970s and 1980s. Zen, Yeats and Emily Dickinson was one of my first occasions producing a concert recording for broadcast, having joined the CBC Radio Music department in 1973. I remember how surprised I was when I arrived at the dress rehearsal and was promptly handed a copy of the score by Harry himself. I sat down and read through the many score pages and he kindly asked me if I needed any explanation. “No, it’s all perfectly clear,” I said, because the score was actually crystal clear, and the shape of the work I was about to record became immediately evident. In retrospect, my remark may have struck Harry as somewhat arrogant, but my focus was on the task at hand, which was to accurately represent Somers’ work in an audio recording that would be shared with the nation via network radio. It was a time when both the composition and performance of new Canadian music was growing rapidly and the number of organizations encouraging this creative upsurge was increasing right across the country. New Music Concerts, the Vancouver New Music Society and the SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec) had been founded in the early 1970s. By 1976 there were several more such groups: Nova Music in Halifax, Espace Musique in Ottawa, Music Inter Alia in Winnipeg, Arraymusic and the Canadian Electronic Ensemble in Toronto, etc. At CBC Radio Music, we took this as an indication that there was also a growing audience for new Canadian music, and I was asked to develop a proposal for a national network radio program focusing on this burgeoning community. The resulting proposal led to the creation of Two New Hours (1978–2007), the first CBC network program to focus entirely on the creation and broadcasting of new Canadian concert music. CBC executives who appeared at the CBC’s broadcast license renewal hearings in 1978 made the case that, in its first year on-air, Two New Hours had already developed an audience for contemporary Canadian music that was more than ten times the total number of people who attended all the concerts of contemporary concert music across the country. It’s clear that the creation of a national network program such as Two New Hours was crucial to the expansion of new music creation in Canada. By broadcasting world premieres of Canadian compositions regularly to a national audience, more and more listeners became aware that there was such a thing as original Canadian concert music, and that it was a marvellously diverse and fascinating genre. It also made for great radio, which is a medium that thrives on spontaneity, surprise, and discovery. Harry Somers It also became clear that by combining the broadcasts of our contemporary music concerts with parallel activities such as the CBC/ Radio-Canada National Radio Competition for Young Composers (1973–2002) and CBC commissions, CBC Radio had positioned itself at the very centre of contemporary musical creation in Canada. One of the most potent and useful consequences of this was that it enabled creative collaborations with the musical community. The commissioning of new works for performance and broadcast on Two New Hours grew out of my conversations with composers, conductors, musicians and artistic directors as we co-created programming. This is exactly what happened with R. Murray Schafer’s Third String Quartet. In 1980 the Orford String Quartet asked if we would commission a new Schafer quartet. This was on the heels of the success they had with his Second String Quartet, a work which won Schafer the very first Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music in 1978. The Third String Quartet became his most iconic, featuring a middle movement in which the string players perform all manner of un-string-like sounds. They shout, growl, stomp their feet and generally carry on in an unhinged and bellicose manner. Needless to say, this kind of innovative writing worked beautifully both on stage and on the radio! It was immediately picked up and broadcast around the world, and remains one of the most performed Canadian string quartets in the repertoire. In 1990 Chris Paul Harman became the only teenaged Grand Prize winner of the CBC/Radio-Canada National Radio Competition for Young Composers. I suggested his winning work, Iridescence for string orchestra, to Esprit Orchestra founder and music director Alex Pauk, who immediately programmed the work with Esprit. The work was recorded and heard on Two New Hours. I submitted that Esprit Orchestra broadcast as the CBC entry in the 1991 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. The delegates at the IRC voted Iridescence the best work by a young composer that year, and it was subsequently broadcast in 35 countries around the world. On the strength of this success, Bramwell Tovey added Iridescence to the lineup of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival, where it was once again broadcast in a fresh context. In a period of about 18 months, the collaboration of broadcasters and the music community enabled this young emerging composer to progress from a little-known teenager to a rising star in Canada, and a recognized composer around the world. If the objective of public broadcasting, as defined by the Broadcasting Act, is “to encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, and artistic creativity,” these initiatives were a few of the possible ways to realize that noble scheme. David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto. PHOTO COURTESY CANADIAN MUSIC CENTRE Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015 | 75

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