6 years ago

Volume 4 Issue 2 - October 1998

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1 1 a r •so P' HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA OCTOBER 8-11, 1998 The Great Romantics Revisited BY ROBERT BRUCE You are cordially invited. Come and check out what has become, in only a few years, arguably the most vibrant, in-depth and authentic Romantic music festival in the world- Hamilton's now-annual Great Romantics Festival. Demonstrating yet again that our local Hamiltonian culture extends beyond the Ti-Cats and the blessed sacrament of Tim Horton's, this year more than forty-two gifted, polished and dedicated artists, lecturers and scholars, renowned and emerging, will make the pilgrimage, some for the fourth time, to share in and celebrate in an international festival which provides an unparalleled opportunity to experience the rich musical forms and expressions of the Romantic era (1811 - 1911). This festival began when, in the autumn of 1994, the American Liszt Society held its annual festival in Hamilton for the first time. No doubt the reason it gravitated here at that particular time had much to do with the presence here of one of its prized members, the prominent author, musicologist and ·professor, Dr. Alan Walker of McMaster University. Dr. Walker was then just completing his definitive three-volume biography of Franz Liszt, a 25-year project and the crowning achievement of a literary, critical and biographical output dating back to the early 60s and concentrating exclusively on the Great Romantic composers. A curious observer that year, I remember that the '94 festival brought many new faces into town - dignitaries, artists and speakers from all over North America and Europe, many of them Dr. Walker's associates from both before and after his move to Canada from England in 1971. They all had in common a love of and dedication to music from the Romantic era. What resulted was four days at the highest level of professionalism, craftsmanship and artistic expression, consistently high in quality, rich in content and extremely generous in quantity. The music, ideas and ideals of Liszt stood revealed, not just in historical but in their emotional and spiritual content. The event offered so much more to participants than a typical music festival that most were eager to return, which they did in 1996. Only this time• the scope and content of the festival was expanded to include most of the Great Romantic composers, while maintaining a special focus on Liszt. By the end of the 1996 festival, it was clear to Dr. Walker and his colleagues that this particular gathering was takirig .on a life of its own. So in 1997, in conjunction with the City of Hamilton and the American Liszt Society, the now-annual festival in Hamilton became the Great Romantics. Last year, again as a local concert-goer, I took enthusiastic part. A typical afternoon concert-presentation I took in during the festival consisted of a complete performance of Robert Schumann's Davidsbiindler-tiinze, a lecture (with slide presentation) re-evaluating the joint efforts of Robert and Clara Schumann punctuated with illustrative performances of additional pieces by each of them and readings of Robert Schumann. Then, after a 10 minute break, an entire organ recital by the amazing Ian Sadler, playing seldom heard works for organ by Schumann, Liszt and Max Reger: all this for a .00 ticket! And this is typical of the varied and imaginative thematic programming that takes place throughout the 4- Below: Nadejda Vlaeva; Dr. Alan Walker, above day festival's 11 morning, afternoon and evening sessions. (Numerous receptions, an extra banquet and luncheon are also part of the festivities, adding to the collegiality of the event.) Here are some highlights of this year's programme. , A close associate of Dr. Walker and herself a specialist in Romantic music, our local world-treasure, pianist Valerie Tryon is featured this year in a concluding Sunday evening concert recital, playing a program of Liszt, Schumann, Chopin and Brahms. For her first visit to Canada, Bulgarian pianist Nadejda Vlaeva will be playing an elaborate all-Liszt program including "Three Concert Studies," "Sonata: (Apres une lecture du Dante)," "Mephisto Waltz no. 1," "Hungarian Rhapsody no.9," and some Liszt . transcriptions of Schubert and Schumann. Ms. Vlaeva was a finalist in the 1996 International Liszt Competition in Budapest, has won many awards including a Gold Medal in the Franz Liszt competition in Lucca, Italy, and has toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States. Returning are organist Ian Sadler, with a program of TORONTO'S ONLY COMPREHENSIVE MONTHLY CLASSICAL & CONTEMPORARY CONCERT LISTING SOURCE

Reger, Mendelssohn and Franck, and German conductor Horst Forster, conducting the New Hamilton Orchestra in a program of Weber, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. As demonstrated in past years, both these extremely fine musicians have the capacity to catch an audience off guard: conjuring musical colours and textures with the warmth, subtlety, clarity and authority that have become the touchstones of this extraordinary event. Always a highlight of the festival is the piano gala in . which a constellation of pianists perform Romantic piano literature in a single program. Last year 6 pianists performed the complete Opus 10 and 25 Chopin Etudes, and this year pianists Joseph Banowetz, Ian Hobson, Nelita True, Janice Weber and William Aide will play a mixed program of "Ballades, Legends, Novellettes and Cradle Songs," hosted by CJRT's Alex Baran. One returning pilgrim I can't resist mentioning is one of my favourite Brits, John Amis (of the BBC's "My , Music" and "My Word" fame), who will be the orator in performances of Richard Strauss's melodrama "Enoch Arden" and Liszt's "Der Traurige Monch". As architect of the festival, ·Dr. Walker has displayed a remarkable ability for getting the very best out of the available resources: whether they be facilities, artists, media, volunteers, or pianos! He is always enthusiastically willing to discuss the composers, performing artists and scholars who help bring his annual festival-dream to life. ' Regarding his own abilities and achievements, he is more reticent, unless you take a frontal-assault approach and engage him at the level of the ideas and ideals in the work. Then he becomes, shall we say, a true Romantic-- a little dreamy, very focused, a traveller in a world into which he has clearly earned his way, possessed of sharp lucidity, deep understanding and penetrating insight, easily able to shift from small details to large pictures without loss of warmth and spirit. Perhaps his greatest achievement in this festival is that all of the participants, from the most famous and long-established to the emerging, take part in this spirit. This year's edition is not so much "bigger and better" as one year more evolved and fine-tuned, demonstrating the same comprehensive and creative planning and mixing of elements that has helped to make it such a fulfilling musical experience 3 times previously. The festival itself is a work of art. So again, consider yourself cordially invited. Given that many are travelling thousands of kilometres to attend or take part, the hour drive from Toronto seems luxuriously convenient. And, rest assured, r,ou can grab a Tim's both coming on and off the 403. A weekend in paradise. For more information on The Great Romantics. · Revisited, 1998, visit calfestival98/GRform. HTM or call (905) 525-9140 ext. 23674 WORLD CLASS DIGITAL RECORDING CD MASTERING & MA~UFACTURING :... the very essence of fidelity." · Alan Lofft, Sound and Vision 0 mire ! ~Vi~ (Between Chesler ~ & 8ro3dview) (416) 406·1641 IC ,217 Danforth Ave. Specializing in the Sale of New and Used Compact Discs Featuring Classical and Jazz Demo COs & ta,res! LfaJJicaf & r:/azz Digitally recorded on location. Classically trained audio engineer. Reasonable rates! a"dition lapeJ jmJin

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