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Volume 27 Issue 2 - November 2021

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Live events on the up and up while creative live-and livestreamed hybrids continue to shine. October All-star Sondheim's Follies at Koerner Hall headlines the resurgence; Zoprana Sadiq brings MixTape to Crow's Theatre; Stewart Goodyear and Jan Lisiecki bring piano virtuosity back indoors; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's J-S Vallee in action; TSO finds itself looking at 60 percent capacities ahead of schedule. All this and more as we we complete our COVID-13 -- a baker's dozen of issues since March 2020. Available here in flipthrough, and on stands commencing this weekend.

CANARY PAGES

CANARY PAGES 2021/2022 DISCOVERIES | RECORDINGS REVIEWED Directory of Choirs ● Achill Choral Society www.achill.ca ● Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto www.amadeuschoir.com ● Annex Singers www.annexsingers.com ● Bel Canto Singers www.belcantosingers.ca ● Canadian Celtic Choir www.celticchoir.ca ● Cantabile Chamber Singers www.cantabilechambersingers.com ● Chorus Niagara www.chorusniagara.org ● Chorus York www.chorusyork.ca ● City Choir www.citychoir.ca ● Cummer Avenue United Church Choir www.cummeravenueuc.ca ● Echo Women’s Choir www.echowomenschoir.ca ● Ensemble vocal Les voix du coeur www.lesvoixducoeur.com ● Etobicoke Centennial Choir www.etobicokecentennialchoir.ca ● Exultate Chamber Singers www.exultate.net ● Georgetown Choral Society www.georgetownchoral.ca ● Harbourfront Chorus www.facebook.com/ harbourfrontchorus ● Jubilate Singers www.jubilatesingers.ca ● King Edward Choir www.kingedwardchoir.ca ● Leaside United Church Choirs www.leasideunited.org ● Men of Note www.menofnote.com ● Milton Choristers www.miltonchoristers.com ● Mississauga Chamber Singers www.mississaugachambersingers.ca ● Novi Singers Toronto www.novisingerstoronto.ca ● Oasis Vocal Jazz www.oasisvocaljazz.com ● Oriana Choir www.orianachoir.com ● Pax Christi Chorale www.paxchristichorale.org ● Peterborough Singers www.peterboroughsingers.com ● Serenata Singers www.serenatasingers.ca ● Society of Singers www.societyofsingers.ca ● Tempus Choral Society www.tempuschoralsociety.com ● Toronto Chamber Choir www.torontochamberchoir.ca ● Toronto Children’s Chorus www.torontochildrenschorus.com ● Toronto Classical Singers www.torontoclassicalsingers.ca ● Toronto Concert Choir www.torontoconcertchoir.ca ● Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir www.welshchoir.ca ● Upper Canada Choristers www.uppercanadachoristers.org ● Vesnivka Choir www.vesnivka.com ● Village Voices Community Choir www.villagevoices.ca ● VIVA Singers Toronto www.vivayouthsingers.com ● VOCA Chorus of Toronto www.vocachorus.ca ● West Toronto Community Choir www.facebook.com/groups/ westtorontocommunitychoir ● Windsor Classic Chorale www.windsorclassicchorale.org COUNT YOURSELVES IN … so our readers don’t miss a beat MUSIC PRESENTERS AND ENSEMBLES! The Blue Pages promotes your up-to-date plans for the 2021/22 season! CHOIRS! A Canary Pages profile helps you sing out to prospective choristers and audiences alike! CONTACT: MEMBERS@thewholenote.com DAVID OLDS Back in February I mentioned what a joy it was to read the latest from Welsh novelist, musicologist and librettist Paul Griffiths titled Mr. Beethoven. In it, Griffiths imagines Beethoven’s life beyond his purported death in 1827, his visit to Boston and the oratorio he wrote on commission from the Handel and Haydn Society in 1833. I had received an inscribed copy of the small press UK edition (pictured here in red, the small black circle with the gold star declaring it a Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses “Book of the Month”) sent just before Christmas by the author. At his request I deferred writing about the book until the North American publication date this past month. Mr. Beethoven is now available in Canada published by The New York Review of Books (ISBN 9781681375809) and I have taken the occasion to revisit this marvellous novel. In a season when many of my favourite authors have published new books (Richard Powers, Wayne Johnston, Tomson Highway, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Jonathan Franzen and David Grossman, to name a few) it might have seemed an imposition to have to put them off for a book so recently enjoyed, but I’m pleased to report that, if anything, Mr. Beethoven is even more satisfying the second time around and I know those other books will wait patiently on my To Read shelf. As is my wont, I made a point of listening to the music mentioned in the book, at least as far as I was able. The challenge of course was that much of the music discussed, and particularly Job: The Oratorio which is featured so prominently, is imaginary, dating from Beethoven’s fanciful “fourth” (i.e. posthumous) period. Various chamber works are described, including a “Quincy” string quartet, a “Fifths” piano sonata, a clarinet quintet, and even plans for an “Indian Operetta” on indigenous themes using early poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But there are actual works included as well, such as the antepenultimate – now there’s a word that was new to me – Piano Sonata No.30 in E Major Op.109 and the String Quartet No.15 in A Minor Op.132. But more curiously, other works which would foreshadow the mythical oratorio are mentioned because they would not yet have been performed in Boston at the time, such as the Missa Solemnis Op.123 and the “Choral” Symphony No.9 Op.125 and were therefore unknown to the characters in the novel. Griffiths has drawn on his skills as a researcher, as well as his imagination and his command of the German language, to produce a hybrid work of pseudo-scholarly biographical/speculative fiction. His conceit that Beethoven, deaf for many years at this point, would have been able to communicate using sign language with the aid of a young amanuensis from Martha’s Vineyard is based on the fact that there was indeed a community there that had developed a system that predated and was later subsumed by American Sign Language. Thankful, the young woman who becomes Beethoven’s voice, interprets for him discretely, leaving out much of the bluster and non-essential verbiage of his interlocutors, enabling him to communicate with those whom he could neither hear nor understand their language. Beethoven’s speech is stilted as a result of this translation process, but Griffiths has ingeniously crafted his dialogue from excerpts of letters and other documents actually written by the composer, as documented in the copious end notes. The characters Beethoven interacts with are fictitious, but also predominantly historical figures, culled from censuses and directories of the time and from the archives of the Handel and Haydn Society. These include the grand landholder John Quincy with whose family the composer spends a summer vacation, and members 32 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

of the Chickering and Mason households whose descendants would become famous piano manufacturers. Perhaps most impressive is the description of the mythical oratorio itself, based on the biblical story of Job, and the libretto that is included on facing pages in the final chapters of the book. The details are almost mind-boggling, including notes on orchestration, vocal ranges, staging and interpretation. There is even an authentic notated melody for the boy soprano’s aria, which originated in a sketchbook of Beethoven’s dated 1810. First published, and first read by me, in 2020 the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth – here are two more words that were new to me (and my spell checker): semiquincentennial and sestercentennial – it seems especially fitting that while reading Mr. Beethoven I immersed myself in the music of that master. Some of it was mentioned in the book, but other works came as a result of new recordings released to coincide with the auspicious year. For Op.109 there were numerous choices. Young pianists eager to make their mark with this fabled work included Haiou Zhang and Uriel Pascucci. Zhang’s My 2020 (Hänssler Classic HC20079 naxosdirect. com/search/hc20079) begins with Piano Sonata No.30 followed by the final Sonata No.32 and also includes Bach transcriptions by Feinberg and Lipatti, with two bonus tracks: a cadenza from Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto and the familiar bagatelle Für Elise. In the booklet, Zhang explains the meaning of the disc’s title, referencing COVID-19 and reflecting on having made his Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.3 debut in Wuhan, and giving masterclasses there, shortly before the outbreak. He goes on to speak about why the Beethoven sonatas have meant so much to him for so long and says that every Sunday morning the Bach transcriptions are part of his “confession.” The performances are equally moving. While Zhang has already recorded a number of discs for Hänssler in his young career, Pascucci’s Solo Piano – Beethoven; Pascucci; Mussorgsky (IMD-Classics urielpascucci.com/copy-of-discografía) appears to be his recording debut. Pascucci has chosen to bookend his own Prelude, Tango and Fugue with Beethoven’s Sonata Op.109 and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. I am a bit discomfited by a couple of abrupt transitions in the third movement of the Beethoven which I attribute to unfortunate edits, but otherwise it is a thoughtful and sensitive performance. The Mussorgsky is powerful and well-balanced, occasional surprises in the use of rubato and syncopation notwithstanding. His own composition shows him at his most comfortable, its contrasting movements each bringing a different mood to the fore. The rhythmic tango, with its pounding chords growing to a near perpetuo mobile ostinato climax is a highlight. My go-to reference for Beethoven sonatas is Toronto’s own Anton Kuerti. My basement is currently under renovation and the bulk of my vinyl collection is inaccessible at the moment, so I was unable to pull out his original recordings of the entire cycle of 32 on Aquitaine from 1977. Fortunately Kuerti recorded the final five sonatas for Analekta in 2004, released on two CDs: Nos.28, Op.101 and 29, Op.106 (FL 2 3187) and The Final Sonatas, Nos.30, 31 and 32 (FL 2 3182 analekta.com/en). It was to the latter I turned for comparison’s sake, and I must say, to my ears Kuerti just cannot be beat when it comes to this repertoire. That being said, my piano explorations did not end there. Two midcareer artists also released Beethoven discs recently, Pierre-Laurent thewholenote.com November 2021 | 33

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