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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.


JEREMY SALE PHOTOGRAPHY Vocal collective Phth (Sarah Albu, fourth from left) the piece. She decided to bring it to Phth. “It really struck me,” she said. “There was something non-classical about it and it was quite different from his other pieces.” When she did research into the piece, she discovered that it had been originally written for an experimental dance company, Le Groupe de la Place Royale, that was founded in 1966 by Jeanne Renaud in Montreal. Vivier wanted non-trained voices or differently trained voices to perform the piece. Even though the score is very notated, Albu says, it’s again different than his usual scores, and in fact it is Vivier’s introductory program note to the work that has given Phth the performance guidance that they’ve most relied on. Love Songs for 4 women, 3 men. To be staged or not/ To be felt not understood/ Let tones from the others inspire your own/ Let the music flow out of you as if you were a kid/ Notation is only a reminder for certain states/ Never follow the signs but only their spirit/ In this score you do what is appropriate for you to do and let the rest to the others/ Always be in love. – Claude Vivier. The score indicates many specific gestures and motifs, and there are some areas of the piece that for Albu are structured in a similar way to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s vocal sextet work, Stimmung, composed in 1968. Different groups of people are doing things in sync with each other, but the choice of when things enter in time is left up to the performers, she explained. Albu has added the element of staging to the performance and this is having an impact on how they approach the interpretation of the score. “Relationships that we hadn’t figured out sonically are starting to become apparent by even doing minimal movements, such as placing two people in a part of the space together. All of a sudden this relationship is revealed and the way the voice is being used changes, because you’re not reading a score off a page but you’re looking at a person.” The overall approach is to let the relationships and the bodies in the space define the sound and intention. Because Vivier used a lot of invented language and quotations from poetic texts, it makes it difficult at times to know what the narrative is. Should the singer be delivering a love poem to the audience or to the person standing in front of you? Another aspect of their interpretation of the piece comes in the way the roles of the main couple are portrayed. “It’s not always performed by the same two singers, and it’s not a given that this couple is one male-one female as written. Male/ female voice assignment isn’t always respected, and all of us switch and have several characters/archetypes throughout the piece.” One aspect of the history of this work that sparked both my own and Albu’s curiosity was the fact that the Array Ensemble performed this work three times shortly after it was composed. According to Bob Gilmore who wrote a biography of Vivier titled A Composer’s Life, the composer also authorized a concert version of the piece. The first performance Array gave was in the fall of 1978 at the Heliconian Hall and during a recent conversation with one of the performers from that concert, composer and flautist Tina Pearson shared some of her memories. "It was wonderful and wacky and inspiring. The piece is a collage of vocal utterances, including invented languages, German, Latin, whispers, whistles, shouts, hums and nursery rhymes, all telling a love story of a main duo with a chorus of unruly commentators.” She performed in all three concerts and in the second and third shows performed the role of the lead female soloist. Array performed the piece again in 1980 at the AGO and a third time after Vivier’s death in October 1983 at the Winchester Street Theatre. Other elements of Phth’s March 14 program will include group improvisations and other pieces coming from members of the group. As well, they will be collaborating on a piece with xLq, a local emerging pop-art duo who will also perform their own set as part of the evening’s activities. Later on in March, Phth will be performing a full program, including Love Songs, at a New Music Edmonton concert, and four members of the collective, including Gabriel Dharmoo who performed his Anthropologies imaginaires at the Music Gallery in January, will be travelling to Winnipeg’s Cluster Festival to perform a concert of two scored pieces and two structured improvisations. [Correction: This story has been modified from that which appeared in print: a consistent number of vocalists appeared in the various Array performances of Vivier's Love Songs, and in all cases no instruments other than voice were employed in the piece.] IN WITH THE NEW QUICK PICKS !! MAR 5 TO 8: Women from Space 2020 Festival. A full and diverse lineup of musicians to celebrate International Women’s Day weekend, including Anne Bourne, Susan Alcorn playing pedal steel, pianist Kris Davis, free jazz bassist William Barker, percussionist Germaine Liu, noise sculptor Mira Marti-Gray, and Lieke Van Der Voort leading a trio featuring Olivia Shortt and Naomi McCarroll-Butler. March 5 to 7 at Burdock and March 8 at the 918 Bathurst Centre. !! MAR 22 8PM: Esprit Orchestra. A program titled “Taiko Returns” featuring Mijidwewinan (Messages) by Barbara Croall for Anishinaabekwe soloist and orchestra; Piano Concerto by Christopher Goddard; A Still Life for soprano and orchestra by Eugene Astapov; and Mono-Prism for taiko drumming group and orchestra by Maki Ishii. !! MAR 25 TO 27, 7:30PM; MAR 28, 7PM; MAR 29, 2:30PM: Array Space. “Earth Hour Music: An Introspective Piano Experience in the Dark” performed by Frank Horvat on piano. !! MAR 26, 8PM: New Music Concerts. Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. A concert titled “Piano Erhu Project” with works written for the PEP ensemble; Corey Hamm on piano and Nicole Ge Li playing the erhu. Features works by Canadian composers Dorothy Chang, Alice Ho, Terri Hron, Jocelyn Morlock, Serra Hwang, Angelique Po and Roydon Tse, as well as Ping Gao Frank Horvat (China) and Michael Finnissy (UK). Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electrovocal sound artist. 24 | March 2020

Beat by Beat | Classical & Beyond Fourth Grosvenor Recital Tops an Intriguing List PAUL ENNIS Benjamin Grosvenor first came to prominence when he won the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition at the age of 11. He was invited to perform with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the First Night of the 2011 BBC Proms at 19. In the same year he became the youngest British musician ever, and the first British pianist in almost 60 years, to sign with Decca Classics. Gramophone named him Young Artist of the Year in 2012. A riveting performer with keen musical insights, many inspired by pianists of the past, Grosvenor’s Music Toronto recital on March 31 marks his fourth appearance here since 2014, a testament to his prodigious talent. In the following email Q & A, which took place in mid-February, Grosvenor spoke about his latest CD and the program for his upcoming Toronto concert. WN: I very much enjoyed your new recording of the Chopin piano concertos which I found to be highly contemporary yet informed by a sensibility reaching back into the last century. I interviewed you in the fall of 2017 and remember your response to my question “Who was the first composer you fell in love with as a child?” being Chopin. How did you decide to select his piano concertos as your first recording since Homages in 2016? How long have the concertos been part of your repertoire? BG: I’ve been playing the works since I was very young. I learned the second when I was 12, and the first when I was 14 or so. My CDs to date have always included a mix of composers, and so I felt it was time to devote a disc to one single composer. Once I had decided with Decca on making a concerto recording, it felt quite natural for this to be of these pieces, since they had been in my repertoire for so long and given my long-term connection to this composer in particular. How did your experience playing the chamber music version of the first concerto inform the recording? I enjoyed playing the chamber versions of both works with the Doric Quartet last year. In the version made by Kevin Kenner (including double bass, which is I think is very important in this enterprise to give an orchestral sound to the strings) they are very effective and one hears lines in the orchestral writing with more clarity than in live performances of the works with orchestra. One principal ‘problem’ with the orchestration is that there are a number of undoubled wind lines (particularly in the sections of the opening movements where the piano has churning semiquavers) that in a live performance with orchestra can get lost. It is possible on a recording though to change the focus so that these come through, and we all felt that this should be a priority. I think that with these pieces, as with any concerto, it is important to study also the orchestral parts, and playing the chamber versions heightened my knowledge of these. Did you draw inspiration from any Chopin recordings from the past? I find that when preparing a work it is important to listen widely, to artists who approach it from different directions in terms of aesthetics. There are fascinating recordings for example by Noel Mewton-Wood, where he has a very Mozartian way with the music. Some recordings that have been particularly influential over the years though, in one concerto or the other, have been Cortot, Hofmann, Lipatti and, of the modern era, Martha Argerich. Benjamin Grosvenor What conductor or other musician of the past would you have liked to work with? One name that immediately springs to mind from the recording era is Wilhelm Furtwängler. I have always found his interpretations fascinating, and his flexible organic approach with Beethoven in particular to be incredibly moving and inspired. Turning to your Music Toronto recital on March 31, what considerations went into devising the program? I thought that in this year of Beethoven celebrations, I should include one of his sonatas in my program. I have always enjoyed Op.7, which I would say is neglected relative to its merits and charms. PATRICK ALLEN March 2020 | 25

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