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Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018

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  • September
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
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  • Symphony
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  • Orchestra
  • Festival
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  • Violin
In this issue: The WholeNote's 7th Annual TIFF TIPS guide to festival films with musical clout; soprano Erin Wall in conversation with Art of Song columnist Lydia Perovic, about more than the art of song; a summer's worth of recordings reviewed; Toronto Chamber Choir at 50 (is a few close friends all it takes?); and much more, as the 2018/19 season gets under way.


© MARCO GIUGLIARELLI FOR CIVITELLA RANIERI FOUNDATION, 2018 Chris Paul Harman composers played an enormous role in the creation of original content for our broadcasts. Norma Beecroft, Brian Cherney, Murray Schafer and John Weinzweig were among the first composers commissioned for Two New Hours. And I presented Cherney and Schafer at the IRC during my earliest years as CBC’s delegate. Harry Freedman, Harry Somers and Ann Southam also figured prominently in our program mix. Some of these composers’ most well-known, perhaps even iconic works, were commissions produced for our broadcasts. These include Beecroft’s Piece for Bob, Freedman’s Borealis, Schafer’s Third String Quartet and Dance of the Blind by Marjan Mozetich. Speaking about the commission of his String Trio, Cherney says: “I knew the piece had to be damn good and interesting but it sort of developed more sophistication and complexity as it went along in the creative process. I think that one could say that the commission itself made me feel that I had to be as creative and imaginative as possible, so I tried to be just that.” He then went one step further: “I should say that all of my CBC commissions inspired me to write what I consider to be my best pieces – the String Trio, the Third String Quartet, Illuminations, La Princesse lointaine.” Over the course of nearly 30 years of producing Two New Hours broadcasts, I commissioned about 250 new Canadian compositions. Several of these works served as vehicles for emerging young performers, like Alexina Louie’s Refuge, written for the young percussionist Beverley Johnston, or Ann Southam’s Qualities of Consonance for the emerging young piano soloist, Eve Egoyan. Mozetich’s Dance of the Blind was commissioned as a showcase for the emerging accordion virtuoso Joseph Petric. The last of these was seminal for Mozetich: with it came his decision to write in an accessible, tonal style, counter to the modernist trend at the time. This stylistic pivot made Mozetich one of the most successful of Canadian composers. Best of all, these sorts of radio commissions initiated collaborations between Canada’s best composing talent and the best performers. In the context of our nationwide network broadcasts, these collaborations helped to shape the musical community and the sound of Canada’s new music. 1991 saw the birth of another significant creative collaboration. Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey, composer-in-residence Glenn Buhr and the late executive director Max Tapper contacted me to ask whether Two New Hours would broadcast music from the contemporary music festival they were planning. I saw this as an exciting opportunity and immediately promised that, not only would we broadcast as many concerts from their festival as the Two New Hours budget could afford, but would also contribute an event which we would create, produce and broadcast live, to show our support for the WSO’s innovative programming approach. As a result, on Sunday night, January 19, 1992, Two New Hours presented a contemporary piano recital by Christina Petrowska Quilico, live on CBC Radio Two, from the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg. The recital included music by Canadians Omar Daniel, Steven Gellman, Peter Paul Koprowski, Sid Robinovitch and Ann Southam, plus acclaimed international composers Frederic Rzewski and Toru Takemitsu. The WSO’s production team, not sure how best to market a recitalist in their 2,500-seat hall, decided to put up risers on the stage, as the main seating area, in case the attendance was small. Those 700 riser seats filled quickly, and the WSO’s management team watched in amazement as another 1,000 people then took “overflow” seats in the main section of the hall. It was clear from that moment that the New Music Festival would be a great success. By the next year, the WSO’s New Music Festival could already call itself an international festival, thanks to the worldwide distribution of our CBC Radio broadcasts over the program exchange protocol managed by the European Broadcasting Union. The WSO’s New Music Festival was copied soon after by orchestras in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton and other communities, many of which were also heard on Two New Hours broadcasts. The success of these various new music festivals in turn helped to swell the audience numbers for Two New Hours. By the time the program was cancelled, in March of 2007, the show had grown to an audience share of four percent as measured by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM), an unthinkable figure for this sort of contemporary music show. To put the number in context, in 1980, when Two New Hours reached a one percent share, network senior managers had crowed about the achievement when defending the CBC Radio broadcast licence. The CBC/Radio-Canada National Competition for Young Composers ended in 2003, but was revived, briefly, as the Evolution Young Composers Competition in 2006. After that CBC/Radio-Canada withdrew from this sort of activity, despite its proven effectiveness to develop emerging Canadian composers. Best of all, these sorts of radio commissions initiated collaborations between Canada’s best composing talent and the best performers. In the context of our nationwide network broadcasts, these collaborations helped to shape the musical community and the sound of Canada’s new music. It was not the only area in which the CBC’s public radio mandate was drastically redefined. But that was, and remains, little consolation. Before his death in 2016, the late Graham Sommer, a distinguished Canadian radiologist and medical researcher who believed in the transformative power of music, chose to endow the Schulich School of Music at McGill University to create a national competition for young Canadian composers. I was asked to consult on the project, based on my experience with the CBC/Radio-Canada competition. The finals of the Inaugural Graham Sommer Competition for Young Composers will be held at Pollack Hall in the Schulich School of Music on Saturday, September 29, 2018. The performances of the works of five young Canadian composers will be heard in concert and webcast. The webcast will be available on the Schulich school’s YouTube page: The five young Canadian composers who have written piano quintets for the Graham Sommer competition are: Ashkan Behzadi, Taylor Brook, Christopher Goddard, Alison Yun-Fei Jiang and Thierry Tidrow. Prizes totalling ,000 will be determined by an international jury. Canada is as rich in composing talent, as it was in January 1978. Continuing to develop these young composers is an ongoing investment in the nation’s musical future. The question is, what exists today to fill the role CBC Radio played in supplying a context for this to happen? David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto. 16 | September 2018

FEATURE ART OF SONG Soprano Erin Wall In Conversation LYDIA PEROVIĆ Erin Wall as Arabella in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Arabella, 2017 MICHAEL COOPER ALEXANDER VASILJEV Erin Wall What is a thriving artist to do if serious illness strikes while everything else in life is going gloriously? Erin Wall, an elegant Straussian soprano in demand on both sides of the Atlantic, who defined Arabella and Kaija Saariaho’s Clémence for Torontonians and redefined Mozart’s Countess in a recent COC Figaro, had an extraordinarily difficult December last year. That winter, amidst all that bloom, professional and familial – she is happily partnered and a mother of two – she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While looking at the treatment options, she also had to decide how to redraw the dense schedule of her professional engagements. She was going to have to invent for herself a new way of being in the world for some time to come: a much-travelled soprano who’s also in cancer treatment. It’s crucial not to abandon everything – and to continue with life as you know it as much as possible, she tells me when we meet on a mild weekend afternoon in mid-August. Her hair, growing back after chemotherapy, is in a short boyish cut, which gives her a touch of punk. We met to talk about her upcoming song recital with Carolyn Maule at Prince Edward County Chamber Music Festival, but soon enough move on to the much bigger issue: how to go on living and working while healing. “Generally the week after the chemotherapy is not easy – you feel sick and don’t want to go out – but the second week I would start to feel better and by the third I felt normal. Luckily a lot of the gigs fell on those second and third weeks. I only had to cancel, like, two jobs.” A few dates had to be negotiated. “Staff at Princess Margaret Hospital at first thought I was crazy. They’re used to saying to the patients, ‘This is when your surgery will be, just show up, and this is when your appointment will be, and you show up.’ They’re used to sort of everybody abandoning everything, and I’d go, ‘That date is not going to work for me, I need it to be next week so I can go to Cleveland and record Beethoven’s Ninth.’ And they worked with me.” Meanwhile, with her manager she let all the symphonies know that she may not feel okay the day of the concert. “He told them, if you’d like Erin to back out now, she will, and most of them said: ‘No, we’ll hire a cover and we’ll play it by ear.’ People were wonderful about it.” This summer, she’s keeping her two engagements at the British Proms: the first concert was on July 21, four weeks after her surgery, and the next one is coming up on September 6, Britten’s War Requiem with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian. September 2018 | 17

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