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Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020

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FEATURED: Music & Health writer Vivien Fellegi explores music, blindness & the plasticity of perception; David Jaeger digs into Gustavo Gimeno's plans for new music in his upcoming first season as music director at TSO; pianist James Rhodes, here for an early March recital, speaks his mind in a Q&A with Paul Ennis; and Lydia Perovic talks music and more with rising Turkish-Canadian mezzo Beste Kalender. Also, among our columns, Peggy Baker Dance Projects headlines Wende Bartley's In with the New; Steve Wallace's Jazz Notes rushes in definitionally where many fear to tread; ... and more.


LOOKING FORWARD Gustavo Gimeno MAKING ROOM FOR THE NEW AT GIMENO’S TSO DAVID JAEGER MARCO BORGGREVE The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), made a bold and exciting statement about new music in announcing its 2020/2021 season, the first under new music director Gustavo Gimeno. On their website, maestro Gimeno is quoted as saying, “I believe that orchestral music is at its most exciting when we create contrasts and diversity. We bring together our most cherished musical masterpieces alongside less familiar but equally brilliant works by contemporary composers who are evolving orchestral music for new generations.” Gimeno’s perception that Toronto’s vibrancy and diversity are qualities on which he feels he can build his tenure as TSO music director is reason for Toronto’s music creators to take heart! MOUSSA, CHIN, AND CROALL Gimeno and his artistic team have expressed this initiative of blending the new with the old in several ways. For example, in his opening concert next season, Gimeno has programmed Crimson for large orchestra by Montreal-born composer and conductor Samy Moussa, along with Mahler’s Symphony No.1 and selections from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. Moussa has been appointed the TSO’s first annual artist in residence and as such he will both conduct the orchestra (a concert including his Violin Concerto, with the brilliant Canadian soloist Kerson Leong) and compose for it (his new Symphony No.2.) Other works by Moussa will also be heard in various contexts throughout the season. I spoke to Moussa at his home in Berlin recently, and he told me he is “thrilled to take on this honour” of serving as the TSO’s first artist in residence. His Symphony No.2 is a work he was eager to propose to the TSO. It’s a work, he told me, “with a special ambition, a purely musical entity with a personal artistic goal.” Another approach to blending new repertoire with the classics can be seen in the TSO’s celebration of Beethoven @250: interpolating PRISKA KETTERER RICHARD MOORE L to R: Samy Moussa, Unsuk Chin, Barbara Croall 16 | March 2020

contemporary works by Odawa First Nation composer Barbara Croall and by Korean-German composer, Unsuk Chin, both inspired by Beethoven. “The Toronto Symphony’s efforts for new music are much to be lauded,” Chin told me. “It is a good thing if new works are being placed alongside key works from the orchestral canon, by placing them in a more ‘classical’ context one learns that there is no need to be afraid of contemporary music. My new work freely relates to the conversation books by Beethoven which he created when he increasingly struggled to communicate, due to his deafness. The loss of hearing frequently resulted in an inner rage and frustration which may have found its reflection in the extreme range of his musical language, the whole gamut of emotions from volcano-like eruptions to utmost serenity. It tells very profoundly and poignantly something indispensable about the human condition. Beethoven was, so to say, the first modernist composer: he constantly stretched the boundaries of musical language, and his quest for originality completely changed the course of music history. He is a composer for one’s whole life, someone whose music can be constantly rediscovered and redefined.” In the case of Croall’s work, titled alternatively in German and Odawa, Innenohr/ Biinjii’ii Tawgaang (Inner Ear), she was invited to use Beethoven’s Second Symphony as a basis for inspiration. “I imagined Beethoven outdoors on one of his many excursions of ‘walking the music through his mind’” Croall writes, “when suddenly a winged insect flies into his ear and becomes the source of the idea (and new obsession) and cause of Beethoven’s reawakening – about how much the nature around him envelops him with creative inspiration, and is always there to also help him with his own healing from a childhood of trauma and the increasing loss of his hearing (which became clearly apparent while he embarked on composing his second symphony). This insect trapped inside his ear opens up his ‘gift’ of tapping into the nature around him – the sensations of winds in the branches of trees, the shape of the hilly landscape he is walking through the woods, the strident calls of birds and sounds of their wings beating, the dense fog after a rain, (und so weiter) – and to confront his own darkness and ‘monsters within’ that have been the underlying source of his frustration and torment.” Croall’s work was co-commissioned by the TSO with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Croall and Moussa will also both have compositions included in the TSO Chamber Soloists presentations, preceding selected concerts. In the case of Croall it’s her Lullaby for Pipigwan and String Quartet, and for Moussa it’s his Frammenti dolorosi et amorosi for voice and piano, on texts by Michelangelo. Croall added, “I was really very surprised when approached about maestro Gustavo Gimeno programming my work. He has a special interest to understand new works by composers of many cultural backgrounds which is so exciting. He truly is committed to knowing more and more about what shapes the ideas of music that comes from this land. His own special ear for colour, gestural expression, and seeking to find the true heartbeat of a piece of music and its soulfulness makes him a unique conductor of this era.” Throughout the 2020/2021 season, there are contemporary works of various styles and origins included in Gimeno’s programming. These include the Canadian premieres of Steve Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra, in collaboration with Soundstreams Canada; Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s Horn Concerto; Grammy Award-winning Jennifer Higdon’s Loco; and Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with soloist Nicola Benedetti. North American premieres include Unsuk Chin’s tribute to Beethoven, mentioned earlier, as well as Nadia Boulanger’s (1887–1979) rarely heard Allegro, and an example of imaginative contemporary scoring, Aqua Cinerea, by the rising young Spanish composer Francisco Coll. KUZMENKO, LIZÉE, AND LEBEL In addition to the works by Moussa and Croall to be performed during the TSO’s upcoming season, there are more Canadian composers featured in Gimeno’s programming. Larysa Kuzmenko’s Behold the Night for children’s choir and orchestra is an earlier TSO commission, and is included in a concert with Gustave Holst’s The MURRAY LIGHBURN REMENYI HOUSE OF MUSIC AN UNMATCHED SELECTION OF QUALITY INSTRUMENTS IN EVERY PRICE RANGE THE NEWEST CASES, STRINGS, & ACCESSORIES RESTORATIONS, REPAIRS, & APPRAISALS OVER ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PRINT MUSIC TITLES 210 BLOOR STREET WEST, TORONTO. (416) 961 - 3111 L to R: Larysa Kuzmenko, Nicole Lizée, Emilie LeBel PHILLIPA C PHOTOGRAPHY March 2020 | 17

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