3 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 5 - February 2018

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  • Toronto
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A palette of sounds that

A palette of sounds that evoke amazing things – the popping of the trees in deep cold, the wind over the land, the sounds of birds in the pitch black of night. DMITRY MOKEYEV Northern Lights in Latvia and mythologized. Latvian skies rarely see the lights, but they are not unknown. Folklore tells stories of fallen warriors continuing their fights across the sky. To some, it is a giant fox jumping around, throwing the lights up into the sky along with the snow. For others, it is spirits playing soccer. Some of the stories are more sinister: if you whistle at the lights, they’ll chop your head off. Robert Cooper, conductor of Orpheus, is a strong supporter of Ešenvalds. In 2011, one of Cooper’s singers returned from a trip to Latvia with a pile of Ešenvalds’ music, a name that was virtually unknown at the time outside of Latvia. “I was so intrigued by his music,” says Cooper, “especially his longer piece Passion and Resurrection, unlike his other smaller works. I’m always looking for extended works for Orpheus and this was dramatic and theatric with semi-chorus and a demanding soprano line.” Cooper performed the Passion in 2011 and again in 2013, with Ešenvalds visiting the second time as his popularity increased. Cooper recalls: “Ēriks started telling me about this story, about all the stories around Nordic Light and I was very intrigued.” Orpheus joined with the Pacific Lutheran University Choral Union, the State Choir of Latvia, the Berlin Radio Choir, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and chorus, and the City of London Sinfonia to commission the Symphony. With Ešenvalds himself coming, many choral educators and groups across the region became interested in having him workshop. The program has evolved to incorporate various regions, multiple choirs and several Canadian cities, all made possible by the incredible support of Latvian Canadians, but also as part of Latvia’s international celebrations of 100 years of independence. As Ešenvalds’ popularity has grown, so too has that of Riga-based music publisher Musica Baltica. Distributed internationally under Edition Peters, Musica Baltica will be touring with Ešenvalds as a lead in the centenary celebrations and were a key partner in this tour. Ešenvalds is particularly excited about his visits to universities along the trip. He will be visiting Mark Vuorinen, at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo (February 26); Jean- Sébastien Vallée, at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University (February 27); and John Armstrong at the University of Ottawa (February 28). Ešenvalds himself is an educator, having studied at the Latvian Academy of Music where he now teaches, since completing his Cambridge University residency. In Toronto, the Orpheus Choir and That Choir are joined by their music directors – Bob Cooper and Craig Pike, respectively – for the Nordic Light Gala performance. Pike says: “Rehearsing Ešenvalds works, apart from being incredibly fulfilling, challenges us spiritually, musically and existentially.” Both ensembles are enjoying the experience. “He writes with a great deal of depth. There’s a quiet inner spirit,” shares Cooper. “You know that something is happening behind his notes that he has really considered.” Prior to the performance, there will be the Canadian premiere of the documentary Nordic Light: A Composer’s Diary followed by a one-on-one with Ešenvalds. Over the course of the visit, Ešenvalds will engage with audiences and musicians from Kitchener to Toronto, Ottawa to Montreal. He’ll be back in Canada for Podium 2018 in St John’s, Newfoundland. Composers of Ešenvalds’ calibre are rare finds; evocative storytellers at heart who listen to the world a little differently than the rest of us. And in listening, they can create a palette of sounds that evoke amazing things – the popping of the trees in deep cold, the wind over the land, the sounds of birds in the pitch black of night, and the especially powerful sound of hearing whales breathing in the fjords of Iceland – things heard and recreated in music by Ešenvalds. In many ways, Nordic Light is an act of listening, translated through Ešenvalds’ unique way of hearing the world. TORONTO EVENTS A Choral Encounter with Ēriks Ešenvalds A seminar and singer’s workshop for choirs, conductors and fans of choral music. Wednesday February 21, 2018, 7pm. St John’s Evangelical Latvian Lutheran Church, Toronto. Canadian Premiere of Nordic Light: A Composer’s Diary and One-on-One with Ēriks Ešenvalds. Saturday February 24, 2018, 3pm. Metropolitan United Church, Toronto. Nordic Light Gala Concert featuring the Canadian Premiere of the Nordic Light Symphony. Saturday February 24, 2018, 7:30pm. Metropolitan United Church, Toronto. KITCHENER-WATERLOO: A Choral Encounter with Ēriks Ešenvalds A seminar and singer’s workshop for choirs, conductors and fans of choral music. Monday February 26, 2018, 7pm. Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo. MONTREAL: A Choral Encounter with Ēriks Ešenvalds A seminar and singer’s workshop for choirs, conductors and fans of choral music. Tuesday February 27, 2018, 7:30pm. Schulich School of Music, McGill University, Montreal. OTTAWA: A Choral Encounter with Ēriks Ešenvalds A seminar and singer’s workshop for choirs, conductors and fans of choral music. Wednesday February 28, 2018, 7pm. St Joseph’s Church, Ottawa. Follow Brian on Twitter @bfchang Send info/media/tips to 14 | February 2018

FEATURE VOCAL MILESTONES Giving Voice to New Musical Ideas DAVID JAEGER Contemporary music is acknowledged as a means of introducing fresh ideas. And contemporary vocal music offers a powerful artistic medium for the delivery of meaningful and profound messages. I have witnessed this often throughout my career in broadcasting and music production. Before my professional life, one of the earliest and most indicative examples of this occurred when I met the Polish/ French composer and conductor René Leibowitz (1913–1972) while I was an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Music in 1967. Leibowitz was a strong advocate of the music of Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951), the Second Viennese School and new music in general, after World War II. He had been invited to UW as a guest lecturer in 1967, thanks to the efforts of Austrian/ American violinist Rudolf Kolisch (1896–1978), leader of the Pro René Leibowitz Arte String Quartet which was the quartet in residence at UW. Both Leibowitz and Kolisch had close ties with Schoenberg. Kolisch had been a student of Schoenberg since 1919, and in fact, after the death of his first wife in 1923, Schoenberg married Gertrude Kolisch, Rudolf’s sister. In Leibowitz’s case, it was hearing Schoenberg’s work Pierrot Lunaire that inspired him to become a composer himself. During this, for me, momentous year at UW, Leibowitz and Kolisch collaborated in overseeing performances of several of Schoenberg’s works, including Pierrot Lunaire, the Violin Concerto and, especially significant for me as a student, the choral work, Friede auf Erden (or Peace on Earth,) a work premiered in 1911. I was a member of the UW Concert Choir that year, and over the course of many rehearsals, we prepared Friede auf Erden under Leibowitz’s baton. The process of preparing this intense and passionate cry for humanity was itself a memorable experience, focusing on achieving clarity through the intricate counterpoint and frequently fluctuating tempi of the score. But I will never forget the look on Leibowitz’s face as we performed the work in concert. It was, for me, a young student, the first time I had witnessed a genuine, undiluted expression of pure ecstasy on the countenance of a conductor. This was a work whose message carried especially deep meaning for Leibowitz, and in turn, for all of us in the choir and the audience. Land’s End Ensemble Sunday Feb. 04, 2018 Hope Lee Imaginary Garden VII v Sean Clarke Delirium Nocturnum v Matthew Ricketts Graffiti Songs Arnold Schoenberg (arr. A. Webern) Kammersymphonie Op.9 v Toronto Premiere Land’s End Ensemble with guest artists Robert Aitken and James Campbell Gallery 345 | 345 Sorauren Ave. Webern with Schoenberg, Berlin 1927 Trio Arkel Sunday Feb. 25, 2018 Kaija Saariaho Cloud Trio Krzysztof Penderecki String Trio James Rolfe And Then Grace Arnold Schoenberg String Trio Op.45 Marie Berard violin Teng Li viola Winona Zelenka cello Gallery 345 | 345 Sorauren Ave. Concerts at 8:00 • Special film screening “Schoenberg: My War Years” February 25 at 6:30 ( 416.961.9594 February 2018 | 15

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