3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020

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  • February
Visions of 2020! Sampling from back to front for a change: in Rearview Mirror, Robert Harris on the Beethoven he loves (and loves to hate!); Errol Gay, a most musical life remembered; Luna Pearl Woolf in focus in recordings editor David Olds' "Editor's Corner" and in Jenny Parr's preview of "Jacqueline"; Speranza Scappucci explains how not to reinvent Rossini; The Indigo Project, where "each piece of cloth tells a story"; and, leading it all off, Jully Black makes a giant leap in "Caroline, or Change." And as always, much more. Now online in flip-through format here and on stands starting Thurs Jan 30.


LEGACIES COC Speranza Scappucci rehearsing The Barber of Seville. “Yes, I think Italy could do better in that respect. I worked a lot in Italy – Turin, Rome, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Parma, the Pesaro Festival – and always happily return. But calendars are planned differently in different countries; I was, for example, offered this Toronto Barber back in 2016, and many houses plan four years ahead. Italian statefunded theatres, with a few exceptions like La Scala, tend to plan in shorter time frames because the budgets need to be confirmed. There is a problem we have in Italy with funding and with support for the arts.” Even in Italy, one of the globally most recognizable cultures and languages? “When the country is in financial crisis like we are now, the first thing that goes is the arts. It’s a pity and we should be involved more with our musical heritage; we should teach music in school, bring up all our children to know what The Barber of Seville is.” What gives hope is that there is still ardent opera fandom all around Italy: the art form is very much alive among the populace. And so is the study of Italian poetry, mandatory in the public education system. Studying poetry and Latin language in school, says Scappucci, helped her later understand better how the libretto is constructed. “A lot of choices that I make in music are based on what’s in the libretto. What kind of rhyme do we have, what’s the metrics of the verses? If you’re doing Verdi Requiem, you ought to know how the Latin text of the messa di requiem is built. Where do the words of Stabat Mater come from? This is still part of general education in Italy – and it comes in handy in the conducting profession.” Lydia Perović is an arts journalist in Toronto. Send her your art-of-song news to SPREZZATURA! MUSIC OF THE FORGOTTEN GALANT Galuppi, Scarlatti, Leo, Handel & more Norma Beecroft FERTILE GROUND FOR THOUGHTS AND DREAMS NMC THEN AND NOW UOFTFACLTYOFMUSIC DAVID JAEGER Saturday March 7 th - 7:30 pm Rezonance Baroque Ensemble Musicians on the Edge Emily Klassen, soprano Now in its 49th season,Toronto’s New Music Concerts (NMC) remains one of the main presenters of contemporary concert music in Toronto, with a long and diverse legacy of bringing first performances of significant new works to Toronto audiences, covering compositions from a wide range of styles, written by living composers from around the world, including Canada. 18 | February 2020

UOFTFACLTYOFMUSIC DANIEL FOLEY Robert Aitken Brian Current BO HUANG NMC was founded in 1971 by composer-flutist Robert Aitken and composer Norma Beecroft. In her unpublished NMC Memoirs, Beecroft wrote, “Norma and Bob founded a baby. This was not your usual conception, but a brainchild which would revolutionize the city of Toronto’s musical public – we hoped. In fact, it was not our brainchild, but seeds that were planted by the Canada Council, which found fertile ground in the thoughts and dreams of both of us.” Aitken and Beecroft had previously collaborated, in the 1960s, with a larger group of composers and performers in a series called Ten Centuries Concerts. As its name suggested, this had been a series with an extremely broad range of potential repertoire. But for the newly created NMC, the main objects were both clear and ambitious: • To promote interest in the art of music and contemporary musical ideas; •To advance knowledge and appreciation of musical culture, with special emphasis on contemporary music; • To perform, preserve, publish, record and broadcast all forms of contemporary music; • To establish and maintain a series of concerts to compare, contrast and illuminate, by imaginative and experimental programming, music of the modern age; and so on.” The decades that followed: these objectives defined precisely what NMC did, ambitiously and with remarkable rigour. Aitken and Beecroft insisted that the composers on NMC concerts should come to Toronto and be present for the preparation of their works, to assure the authenticity of the performances. Aitken also insisted on a full schedule of rehearsals, so that all the music, regardless of its difficulty, was fully ready to be performed. This policy was costly, but it set an incredibly high standard for performance. Accordingly, dozens of the leading composers from around the world were invited to Toronto for definitive performances of their most recent and most challenging works, and the list of those who were drawn to Toronto for the NMC series reads like a who’s who of contemporary composition: John Adams, Lucian Berio, Pierre Boulez, Henry Brant, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Peter Maxwell Davies, Vinko Globokar, Helmut Lachenmann, Witold Lutoslawski, Krzysztof Penderecki, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Toru Takemitsu, Iannis Xenakis and many more. And the list of Canadian composers is every bit as comprehensive, including Aitken and Beecroft themselves, and also John Beckwith, Walter Buczynski, Brian Cherney, Harry Freedman, Serge Garant, Chris Paul Harman, Alexina Louie, Bruce Mather, Barbara Pentland, Murray Schafer, Harry Somers, Ann Southam, Gilles Tremblay, Claude Vivier, John Weinzweig and on and on...yet another who’s who list! On the record: an equally impressive third list can be found on the NMC website, a detailing of the 16 recordings featuring Aitken and the NMC Ensemble. Perhaps the most striking of these are the collections of chamber works by Elliott Carter (on the occasion of his 100th year), George Crumb and Toru Takemitsu, all on Naxos records. Also on Naxos is a historically important release, Lutoslawski’s Last Concert, made from the broadcast on CBC’s Two New Hours, of the live performance we recorded on October 24, 1993 at Jane Mallett Theatre. Lutoslowski conducted the NMC Ensemble with violin soloist Fujiko Imajishi and soprano Valdine Anderson. It was Lutoslawski’s final appearance as a conductor of his own works. O Bali: Colin McPhee and His Legacy, on CBC Records, is another highlight, a recording which features Aitken both as flute soloist, and as conductor of the NMC Ensemble. Murray Schafer’s opera, Loving/ Toi, is another unique release, on Centrediscs. To illuminate, by imaginative and experimental programming, music of the modern age. In fact, the history of NMC is reflected in recordings predating the items on this list, which are all CD releases. Before the advent of the CD, the NMC Ensemble appeared on an LP, in a recording (which I produced) of John Cage’s Sixteen Dances, for a boutique record label, CP2 (Composers Performance Squared) in 1981. The American violin virtuoso Paul Zukofsky conducted and Cage himself was present at the sessions – part of an ambitious NMC John Cage Weekend, filled with concerts of Cage’s music, including the first-ever concert performance of Cage’s epic work, Roaratorio. Another very important aspect of how NMC applied their operating philosophy was in the commissioning of original new works by the composers featured in their concerts – commissions that were offered to the international and the Canadian composers. NMC’s record of significant artistic achievements in the creation of important new works is an impressive one, forming another long list. Among the February 2020 | 19

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