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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

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  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Jazz
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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.

naturalized Mexican

naturalized Mexican citizen, which he did in 1946. In 1943 he was asked to head the string department of the National University of Mexico, and he assumed that post in 1945. Artur Rubinstein, a fellow Jewish refugee from Poland, gave a recital in Mexico City in 1954, after which Szeryng visited him back-stage where Rubinstein invited him to his room to play for him. Szeryng played some unaccompanied J. S. Bach and deeply moved Rubinstein who recalled that the playing “reduced me to tears… Real music lovers want emotion… great moments… which Szeryng’s playing gives them.” Rubinstein and Szeryng played music together for the rest of their careers. Szeryng began concertizing around the world and his recordings were honoured with many coveted awards. In addition to many other honours he was made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris in 1963. In 1960 he was named Mexican Cultural Ambassador, an honour that he took very seriously. During a trip to Toronto some years later, he came to the Classical Record Shop accompanied by the PR person from Polygram, Lori Bruner, who made it clear that he should be addressed as Ambassador. We did, of course. Henryk Szeryng died on March 3, 1988 in Kassel, Germany. The performances in this new collection include the Bach unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas BWV1001 to 1006, the six sonatas with harpsichord, BWV1012 to 1019 with Helmut Walcha, three Brandenburgs 2,4 and 5 with Rampal (Flute), George Malcolm (harpsichord) and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Neville Marriner. All sublime. He is soloist and conductor of Bach’s three violin concertos with the Collegium Musicum Winterthur. There are Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Triple Concerto (Arrau and Starker) and the two Romances; Brahms’ Violin Concerto, Double Concerto (Starker, Haitink); 13 pieces by Fritz Kreisler and Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico and The Four Seasons in which he is both soloist and conductor. Other concertos include those of Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Tchaikovsky, Wieniawski, Szymanowski, Paganini, Lalo, Bartók and Saint-Saëns. There are four essential sets of four CDs: The complete Beethoven trios with Wilhelm Kempff and Pierre Fournier; the complete Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano with the impeccable Ingrid Haebler; the Mozart 16 great sonatas and Variations K359 & K560 for piano and violin, also with Haebler, and finally Mozart’s complete works for violin and orchestra with the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson. Add works by Handel, Schubert, de Falla and a host of encore-type pieces by a miscellany of composers including those from Central and South America, some familiar, some not. We have here a collection that, beyond the obligatory warhorses, reflects his eclectic repertoire. Well done, Ambassador. The WholeNote Listening Room • Read the review • Click to listen • Click to buy Scan the code or visit to hear what we're listening to this month! Rudolf Nureyev’s choreography of three favourite ballets, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker plus Minkus’ Don Quixote, have been released in a boxed set of Blu-ray video discs by Cmajor: Nureyev (707104, 3 Blu-ray video discs The Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the Vienna State Ballet are common threads and each ballet has its individual music director. The dancers for Swan Lake (recorded in 2012) are headed by Vladimir Shishov as Prince Siegfried, Olga Esina as Odette and Eno Peci as Rothbart, the Magician, with Dagmar Kronberger as the Queen, the Prince’s mother. The set – there’s only one – and costumes are by Luisa Spinatelli; the conductor, Alexander Ingram. Frankly, if I weren’t aware of the plot I would be lost. Using Nureyev’s stage directions, the 2012 performance of The Nutcracker is another story. It is a delight from curtain-up and danced most exquisitely by Liudmila Konovalova as Clara and Vladimir Shishov as Drosselmeyer and the whole corps with specialty dances for the Arabian, Chinese, the Flutes, etc. Entirely satisfying, the performances are quite delightful, the costumes from whimsical to luxurious. The third ballet in this box is Don Quixote (2016), set to the music of Ludwig Minkus orchestrated and adapted by John Lanchbery. The ballet by Marius Petipa has a prologue and three acts. Petipa was the co-deviser of the above Swan Lake. Once again drawing on Nureyev’s stage directions, the Spanish milieu was all he needed to create gorgeous solos, pas de deux and ensemble scenes. The sets, devised by the set and costume designer Nicholas Georgiadis, are minimal and clearly place the events. The conductor is Kevin Rhodes; Kamil Pavelka is Don Quixote, Christoph Wenzel is Sancho Panza, Maria Yakovleva is Kitri/Dulcinea. The sound and the Blu-ray video is state of the art. The Verbier Festival, held in the Swiss Alps each year, is celebrating its 25th anniversary and earlier this year Deutsche Grammophon issued a smart little set of four CDs containing eight memorable live performances: Verbier Festival 25 Years of Excellence (DG4835143, 4CDs bound together, From a performance on July 23, 2015 Valery Gergiev conducts the Verbier Festival Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. From July 30, 2005 mezzo-soprano Malena Ernman sings 11 Folk Songs set by Luciano Berio supported by the Festival orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, and from July 31, 2009 Yuja Wang plays the Mendelssohn First Piano Concerto under Kurt Masur. July 22, 2009 found Martha Argerich playing the Beethoven Second Piano Concerto with conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy. July 31, 2015 featured Daniil Trifonov, piano; Ilya Gringolts, violin; and Truls Mørk, cello, playing Brahms Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8. On July 30, 2004 Evgeny Kissin, piano; Vadim Repin, violin 1; Laurent Korcia, violin 2; Yuri Bashmet, viola; and Alexander Kniazev, cello, got together for Dvořák’s Quintet No.2 in A Major, Op.81. The fourth CD contains the complete third act of Die Walküre from July 25, 2013, conducted by Gergiev with a complete complement of Walküren and Bryn Terfel as Wotan, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde and Iréne Theorin as Brunnhilde. The whole act comes through splendidly, culminating with an unexpectedly heartfelt Leb wohl from Terfel. This is a set of great music-making, all truly inspired performances as live festival performances always are. There is, in addition, music by a composer that is new to me: Alexander Tsfasman (1906-1971), a Soviet jazz pianist, composer, arranger and publisher. He flourished from the mid-1920s until the late 1960s, during which time he was an important figure in Soviet jazz. Around 1945 he wrote a Suite for Piano and Orchestra. We hear it from August 4, 2013 with pianist Mikhail Pletnev and Kent Nagano conducting a reduced festival orchestra. It is a short work, 16 minutes, but it’s immediately captivating, polite and whimsical. In four movements: Snowflakes; Lyrical Waltz; Polka; Presto. 98 | December 2018 / January 2019

REAR VIEW MIRROR TSO: Crises Weathered, Challenges Ahead ROBERT HARRIS It’s been less than two years since the then-chair of the board of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Richard Phillips, and eight of his senior colleagues, including Sonia Baxendale, stunningly and abruptly resigned from the organization one December afternoon. It remains a mystery to this day why they left. Had this kind of thing happened at other similar organizations – the New York Philharmonic, or the Metropolitan Opera, let’s say – it would have been front-page news. Here, it barely caused a stir, and since then, Richard Phillips and Sonia Baxendale seem to have been more or less expunged from the history of the TSO. Which is a pity. Because what’s interesting about Phillips and Baxendale is that without them, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra may well have gone bankrupt in the spring and summer of 2016. Today, as the TSO is finally achieving some desperately needed organizational stability, it’s hard to imagine how different things were not that long ago. But in March of 2016, after the now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t departure of short-lived TSO president and CEO Jeff Melanson, the TSO was within a few thousand dollars of insolvency. Senior financial officers were approaching department heads to inquire whether there was anything that could be sold to keep the organization afloat. In a situation streaked red with emergency, Phillips and especially Baxendale (who became the organization’s acting CEO, for an agreed six-month term, after Melanson’s departure) steered the TSO ship rockily but successfully to a small surplus in fiscal 2015/16. They accomplished this by applying the appraised value of a valuable TSO viola against the organization’s accumulated deficit (reducing that deficit by four million dollars), convincing the Toronto Symphony Foundation to double its annual contribution to the TSO, and one assumes, by writing some generous cheques of their own. For thanks, within eight months they had disappeared from the organization. Perhaps Phillips’ and Baxendale’s departure was karma for the sin they had committed of hiring Jeff Melanson to be the orchestra’s president and chief executive officer in the first place. We shall never know the full extent of Melanson’s toxic influence on the TSO, but it can be effectively argued that the organization is just now recovering from it. Before Melanson, the Toronto Symphony had had one CEO for 12 years, Andrew Shaw. In contrast, there have been four changes of leadership since – four administrative regimes in four years. A year and a half of Melanson, six months of Phillips and Baxendale, two years of Gary Hanson as interim CEO, and now a few months of Matthew Loden, the TSO’s just recently appointed CEO. It is a tribute to the TSO that it has not only survived these ongoing challenges, but has seemed to emerge from them with momentum. The latest annual report showed an operating surplus for fiscal 2017-18 of over two million dollars (although that surplus was buoyed by a .2 million grant from Canadian Heritage that will not be repeated next year). Matthew Loden, the new CEO, comes with a fine track record with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The appointment of a new Music Director, Gustavo Gimeno, was announced this fall, to replace the recently retired Peter Oundjian, although Gimeno won’t actually take over until the fall of 2020. Throughout all the organization’s troubles and travails, the staying power and continuity of the true heroes of the Toronto Symphony, Loie Fallis, vice-president of artistic planning and Roberta Smith, vice-president and chief of staff, can’t be over-estimated. I’m guessing that the organization’s outgoing and highly popular former music director should also be included on that list. The TSO seems to have weathered the existential crises of the past five years, bending without breaking. All arts organizations these days, worldwide, are perched on very delicate financial precipices, the distance between success and catastrophe very short indeed. The real challenge for the Symphony is that the organizational turmoil of the past few years has prevented the orchestra from effectively redefining its artistic mandate and raison d’être in the post-Oundjian era. Andrew Davis has stepped in as the organization’s titular head as the TSO awaits Gimeno, but all of Oundjian’s signature programming initiatives of the past few years have been erased. There will be no Mozart Festival this year, no Decades projects, most distressingly, no New Creations Festival. A city’s symphony orchestra should be the primary musical institution in any metropolis, if only by dint of its size and budget and prestige. But programming counts for something too, and here the TSO is losing that primacy. Tafelmusik is playing these days with greater assurance and selfknowledge, under the inspired new leadership of Elisa Citterio. The Royal Conservatory is outflanking the TSO in terms of New Music, having just moved its successful 21C Festival to January, to fill the gap in the winter calendar where the TSO’s New Creations Festival used to be. The Canadian Opera Company, although not really a TSO competitor, has come to dominate the musical public relations scene in the past few years. December 2018 - January 2019 | 99

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