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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

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  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
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When is a trumpet like a motorcycle in a dressage event? How many Brunhilde's does it take to change an Elektra? Just two of the many questions you've been dying to ask, to which you will find answers in a 24th annual combined December/January issue – in which our 11 beat columnists sift through what's on offer in the upcoming holiday month, and what they're already circling in their calendars for 2019. Oh, and features too: a klezmer violinist breathing new life into a very old film; two New Music festivals in January, 200 metres apart; a Music & Health story on the restorative powers of a grassroots exercise in collective music-making; even a good reason to go to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. All this and more in Vol 24 No 4, now available in flipthrough format here.

Age 11, at Watford Boys

Age 11, at Watford Boys Grammar School December & January’s Child Sir Andrew Davis MJ BUELL Sir Andrew Davis is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s conductor laureate and was the orchestra’s music director from 1975- 1988. He stepped in while the TSO’s music director search led to Peter Oundjian, and has been subsequently their regular and beloved guest. He was then named the TSO’s interim artistic director for 2018-2020 during the transition from Oundjian’s leadership to that of the newly appointed music director Gustavo Gimeno. An organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, before taking up conducting, the young Andrew Davis had in fact been to Toronto in 1967 for an organ convention, and taken second prize in an improvisation competition at Grace Church on-the- Hill, long before May 1975 when he first conducted the TSO. With a face familiar to generations of Canadians, and a Toronto laneway named in his honour, Sir Andrew has probably conducted all of the world’s major orchestras, opera companies and international festivals over the past 45 years. Today he is also music director and principal conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; also conductor laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conductor emeritus of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; and former music director of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. A substantial award-winning discography documents his remarkable career. Where did you live as a child? I was born SIR ANDREW DAVIS CONDUCTS WAGNER: Thurs Jan 31, 8pm / Sat Feb 2, 8pm. “I am particularly excited about the concert that I am doing on my birthday, February 2. I am conducting Wagner and my favourite 20th-century composer Alban Berg.” The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is joined by Lise Davidsen, soprano; Simon O’Neill, tenor; Brindley Sherratt, bass. “The Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre and Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra are followed by Act I of Die Walküre. A pair of tickets for this very special concert is awarded to STEPHANIE TANNIS. WE ARE ALL MUSIC’S CHILDREN in a temporary wartime hospital in Ashridge, in the country of Hertfordshire, in 1944. But until I was seven we lived in Chesham, which is in Buckinghamshire. What did your parents do to earn a living? My father Robert (Bob) worked at a printer’s as a compositor (i.e. he set type). He also played in the local football team and was a bell ringer at St. Mary’s Church. My mother Joyce worked as a clerk in a grocery store before I came along, thereafter she was a full-time mother. Who lived in your childhood home? Any musicians? My parents, my sister Jill, and my brothers Martin and Tim. My mother had studied the piano when she was a girl but she didn’t play anymore. My father sang in the church choir. They loved music but they weren’t professional musicians. Your absolute earliest memory of hearing music? My mother singing me lullabies. And making music yourself? I started to play the piano when I was five because my parents figured that I had some musical talent. Then from the age of 11, I not only did music at my grammar school, but on Saturday mornings I would take the Tube to the Royal Academy of Music for four hours of music lessons (piano, ear training). I did that for about six years. And when I was about 12 I started playing regularly with a cellist classmate. I was also a boy soprano and sang in the local church choir. I particularly remember singing Hear My Prayer by Mendelssohn. There was one night I sang the solo in church on Sunday evening. I came out afterwards and CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS! PINES OF ROME: Fri May 24, 7:30pm / Sat May 25, 8pm. The TSO, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, take us on Respighi’s tone-poem tour of that famous city; pianist Louis Lortie is featured in Saint- Saëns’ virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 4; the premiere of a new work by Canadian composer Jordan Pal. A pair of tickets each is awarded to ALEXANDER MUTH, KARIN GOEGGINGER, and MICHAEL KASHUL TS Toronto Symphony Orchestra DARIO ACOSTA “December’s child is Sir Andrew Davis. And Sir Andrew Davis Lane in Toronto owes its name to John Sharpe, Archival & Research Assistant with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who sent an application for changing the lane name. Best regards, Pablo Fernandez.” (WholeNote reader) someone had stolen my bicycle. I remember saying to my parents, “The godless have come fast and stolen my bicycle!” Suppose a friendly child asks what work you do? As a matter of fact, I have a story where this happened to me. I was about to conduct Last Night of the Proms in Royal Albert Hall and was staying in a flat at an apartment of a friend of mine. I went to go get something to eat at a fish and chips restaurant. They basically had lots of big tables and benches. This mother and child came up to sit next to me – the kid must have been 12 or something – and he said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I’m a musician.” And he said, “Well, what do you play?” And I said, “I’m the guy with the stick that conducts the orchestra and tonight I’m conducting Last Night of the Proms in Royal Albert Hall.” And the boy said, “Well, you must not be very famous…” And I laughed and said, “What makes you say that?” And he said, “Well if you were famous you wouldn’t be eating fish and chips!” What would you say to young parents hoping their young children will grow up to love and make music? I would say to them, “Give them as much exposure to classical music as you can, especially by taking them to live concerts and opera performances. You can’t start them too young.” For Sir Andrew Davis’ full interview visit HANDEL – MESSIAH: this Grammy-nominated recording of Sir Andrew Davis’ concert edition was recorded live with a spellbound audience at Roy Thomson Hall in December 2015 and released in November 2016. The TSO is joined by soprano Erin Wall, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, tenor Andrew Staples, bass John Relyea, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (CHANDOS 5176). Just in time for the holiday season, this CD is sure to delight PABLO FERNANDEZ, LISA PAPPERMAN, RHODA SION and LIDA HAVRIANT 80 | December 2018 - January 2019 EMMA BADAME

DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWED DAVID OLDS I am always intrigued by the connections I find, especially in the seemingly separate realms of literature and music, when something I am reading or listening to relates directly to experiences in my everyday life. I don’t mean when I’m reading about something because it relates, but rather when in unrelated materials there turns up an unmistakably fortuitous reference to something that has just happened to me. I have been aware of this phenomenon for many years, but the first instance which made me really pay attention to this synchronicity was one morning at a friend’s cottage when there was a thump on the window and we found a northern flicker lying, we thought lifelessly, on the deck. But moments later the bird shook itself and flew off. It was as if in a dream that I realized exactly this situation had been described in the Richard Powers novel I had been reading the evening before, right down to the breed of bird. Since then I have been aware, time and again, of how this in itself is, if not an everyday occurrence, at least something that happens regularly. (My wife Sharon says it could be because I read so much.) At any rate, this month’s column is all about connections which might be construed as coincidences. The first relates directly to November’s column when I wrote about Wlad Marhulets’ Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet. Until that time I had not heard of the dedicatee David Krakauer, despite his prominence in both the worlds of klezmer and classical music. My ears pricked up immediately when I received another disc this month which features him: Mathew Rosenblum – Lament/Witches’ Sabbath (New Focus Recordings FCR219 Rosenblum is an American composer (b.1954) of Ukrainian heritage, and the title track is an in-depth exploration of his roots. The composer says the work “involves the rewriting of my personal and family history through instrumental sound (klezmer-tinged clarinet with orchestra) and the sound and texture of the voice (field recordings of Ukrainian laments; sung and spoken Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish text by my grandmother). It is also about reconnecting with my high school friend and dear colleague, the amazing clarinetist/composer David Krakauer, for whom the piece was written. […] It is a tribute to my grandmother, Bella Liss.” He goes on to mention that it is loosely based on the last movement of Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique and also references his grandmother’s superstitious sensibility, which he says is grounded in Eastern European Jewish culture. It is a particularly moving work, with the haunting Ukrainian laments as prominent as the solo clarinet, soaring above the orchestral textures provided by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under the direction of Gil Rose. It seems I can’t write this column without some mention of my day job at New Music Concerts. It was there that I was first exposed to the characteristic keening of Ukrainian lamentation when young Ukrainian-Canadian composer Anna Pidgorna wrote Weeping for our 2015 Ukrainian-Canadian Connection concert. For this piece the members of a sextet were provided recordings of traditional laments in order to better understand how to approach their instrumental parts, which were based on that tradition. This initial exposure made the laments included in Rosenblum’s work hauntingly familiar. I feel obliged to mention another coincidence related to my appreciation of Rosenblum’s disc. The second work is called Northern Flicker, which is something I had not remembered when I wrote my introduction. The world works in mysterious ways indeed. Northern Flicker is for a solo percussionist who mimics and extrapolates on the distinctive sounds of this woodpecker in the wild. Lisa Pegher holds our attention throughout the witty and inventive piece. Soprano Lindsay Kesselman and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble under Kevin Noe then lead us through Falling, a dramatic work about the true tale of an Allegheny Airlines stewardess who was sucked out of a plane’s emergency exit and fell to her death in October, 1962. Based on a poem by James Dickey, the piece incorporates a recording of the poet’s recitation of his text which is then further expanded by the soprano. The composer’s use of microtonality – Falling is dedicated to the memory of Dean Drummond, composer and co-artistic director of Newband who championed the microtonal work of Harry Partch among others – adds to the otherworldly and at times eerie homage. This composer portrait disc concludes with the at times raucous – recalling that woodpecker again – Last Round for amplified string quartet (FLUX) and the six members of Mantra Percussion. Another welcome and effective offering from New Focus Recordings. The next connection encompasses both literature and music again. My wife, a secular and mostly non-observant Jew, does however spend Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, each year contemplating and reading something that relates to her heritage. Most years it is a book of history or theory or at any rate non-fiction, but this year, with nothing more appropriate at hand, she took my suggestion to spend the day with a novel. The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart, a French Jew of Polish extraction whose parents were killed by the Nazis, tells the story of the family of Rabbi Yom Tov Levy, the only survivor of a pogrom in 12th century England. As legend has it, God blessed Levy as one of the Lamed-Vov, the 36 Just Men of Jewish tradition, a blessing which extended to one Levy of each succeeding generation. The story takes place over the next 800 years, through the Spanish Inquisition, to expulsions from England, France, Portugal, Germany and Russia, and to the small Polish village of Zemyock, where the Levys settle for two centuries in relative peace. It is in the 20th century that Ernie Levy, the title character, emerges in 1920s Germany, as Hitler’s sinister star is on the rise and the agonies of Auschwitz loom on the horizon. Gilbert Highet, a Book-of-the-Month Club judge, called it, “the saddest novel I have ever read, almost as sad as history.” I don’t think Sharon thanks me for the recommendation. It’s been 20 years since I last read the book – that time in the original French – but it has always stayed with me, and so it was with curiousity that I recently picked up a CD by a Black jazz musician with the same last name as the author. I didn’t really expect that it was anything other than a coincidence until I read the note inside and found that Jacques Schwarz-Bart is indeed the son of André. A bit of Googling turned up the information that during WWII Schwarz-Bart fought with the French resistance and was captured by and escaped the Germans. After the war he went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, where he met and eventually married a woman from Guadeloupe named Simone, (who incidentally also went on to become a novelist and playwright). The disc is called Hazzan (enja yellowbird YEB-7789). A hazzan or chazzan is a Jewish musician or precentor who helps lead the congregation in songful prayer, in English often referred to as cantor. December 2018 / January 2019 | 81

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