La Scena Musicale

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 31 (del Mar)

1919 - Norman del Mar, London, England; conductor and biographer

Obituary (N.Y. Times, Feb. 8, 1994)

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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 30 (Louie, G. Moore)

1949 - Alexina Louie, Vancouver, Canada; composer

Biography (Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)

"Bringing the Tiger Down the Mountain II", played by Stéphane Tétrault (cello) and Sasha Guydukov (piano) (semi-finals of the Montreal Symphony Music Competition, 2007)

1899 - Gerald Moore, Penn (Watford), England; piano accompanist


Accompanied by Gerald Moore, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf sings Mozart's "Die kleine spinnerin"

"Not too loud but not too soft!" - Gerald Moore reminisces (clip from 1951 radio programme)

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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 29 (Schreier, Theodorakis)

1935 - Peter Schreier, Meissen, Germany; opera and concert tenor, conductor

Biography and pictures

Peter Schreier sings "Svegliatevi nel core" from Handel's Giulio Cesare (Munich Bach Orchestra, conducted by Karl Richter, 1969)

1925 - Mikis Theodorakis, Chios, Greece; composer


Excerpt from Zorbas, ballet-opera by Theodorakis (Arena di Verona, 1990)

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Monday, 28 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 28 (Muti)

1941 - Riccardo Muti, Naples, Italy; conductor


Riccardo Muti conducts the overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni (La Scala, 1987)

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 27 (del Monaco, Granados)

1915 - Mario del Monaco, Florence, Italy; opera tenor


Mario del Monaco sings "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's Tosca (1972)

1867 - Enrique Granados, Lérida, Spain; composer


Jacqueline du Pré plays "Intermezzo" from Goyescas by Granados (1962)

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Saturday, 26 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 26 (Hewitt, Koussevitzky)

1958 - Angela Hewitt, Ottawa, Canada; pianist

Biography (Encylopedia of Music in Canada)

Angela Hewitt plays Prelude and Fugue in f# minor, BWV883 from J.S. Bach's Well Tempered Clavier, Book 2.

1874 - Serge Koussevitzky, Vyshny Volochyok, Russia; conductor, double-bassist


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Friday, 25 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 25 (Forrester)

1930 - Maureen Forrester, Montreal, Canada; contralto, teacher, administrator

Biography (Enclycopedia of Music in Canada)
Je me souviens de Maureen Forrester (La Scena Musicale, February 2006)

Maureen Forrester sings:

"Urlicht" from Mahler's 2nd symphony, 4th mvt. (orchestra directed by Glenn Gould, 1957)

English folk song "Blow the wind southerly" with John Newmark at the piano (CBC broadcast, 1965)

"Che puro ciel" from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice (Charles Mackerras directs the orchestra)

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Thursday, 24 July 2008

Letters from Munich: Jonas Kaufmann liederabend

Photo credit: Wilfrid Hoesl
Greetings from beautiful Munich! I arrived Tuesday morning for a week of wonderful music. With the Munich Festival in full swing, summer time here is a feast for opera lovers. This year is even more special because it is the 850th birthday of the city. Among the celebrations is the re-opening of the exquisite Rococo Cuvillies Theatre. We Canadian journalists are fortunate to have scheduled a private tour of this theatre, so I will have more to say in a few days.

Our Munich sojourn got off to a terrific start, with a lieder recital by the fast-rising tenor Jonas Kaufmann. It sold out days in advance. By six o'clock, there were quite a number of desperate people milling about outside the Prinzregententheater, with “suche Karte” signs in hand, hoping to get lucky. Those in possession of a ticket were treated to a remarkable display by an artist in his vocal prime.

Kaufmann is that rare breed - a budding heldentenor with gorgeous tone and great technical facility, not the least of which is a completely secure top register. He has total command of his voice, from the tiniest pianissimo to full throat forte. Everything is executed with utmost taste and musicality. Being tall, dark and handsome doesn't hurt either. Born in Munich, Kaufmann mostly sings elsewhere – in Zurich where he lives, in Covent Garden where he is a big star, and in New York and Chicago where he has loyal fan bases. Munich is very proud of its native son and Kaufmann was vociferously applauded when he entered. The applause only grew throughout the two hour concert.

Kaufmann opened with Schubert's Die Burgschaft, D. 246, which showed off his story-telling skills. Only a native German speaker is capable of such clarity of diction, coupled with lively acting that comes with a full understanding of the text. The long aria is really a mini-opera, and he held the audience’s attention throughout.

He followed the Schubert piece with Sieben sonette nach Michaelangelo, Op. 22 by Benjamin Britten, written for the tenor Peter Pears, Bitten’s partner in life and in art. The tessitura is very high, designed to show off the best part of Pears' voice. From the words of the opening song, “Si come nella penna” Kaufmann's tone rang out, fully bringing out the dramatic nature of the text. His Italian may not have the incisiveness he had in the German songs, but it is still pretty darn good. His singing had great variety, with all the requisite chiaroscuro one could want. Kaufmann was unsparing with his high notes, particularly his remarkably secure pianissimi, but he never resorted to a falsetto like some dramatic tenors. The baritonal timbre of his sound recalls a young Jon Vickers, although unlike Vickers, Kaufmann never croons. He always incorporates the chest register into his head voice. Judging from his concert and his Don Jose from Covent Garden, he is the premier jugendlich dramatic tenor voice in front of the public today.

After a 30 minute intermission, Kaufmann returned for an all Strauss program, in keeping with the Festival theme. He began with a most expressive "All mein Gedanken" – what a joy to the ear! Similarly, his "Du meines Herzens Kronelein" had lots of lovely soft singing. He brought out the humour in "Ach weh mir ungluckhaftem Mann", and the audience responded with spontaneous applause - unusual in Germany where the ever respectful audience always waits until the end of a group to applaud. "Ich liebe dich" was sung in an unusually declamatory manner, a little unusual for a love song. The vocal line is very emphatic, and the piano accompaniment curiously echoes the introduction to the presentation of the rose in Die Rosenkavalier.
If there was a fly in the ointment, it was the over reverberant acoustics in the Prinzregententheater, accentuated by the fully opened piano lid. Sometimes Helmut Deutsh’s ever-excellent playing was a little loud. Deutsch was/is Kaufmann's teacher, and the two performed with great rapport, with much communication and mutual trust.

Of all the Strauss songs Kaufmann sang this evening, I have two favourites. One was "Heimliche Aufforderung". I know some women singers tackle this, but for me this is a man's song, and Kaufmann's singing here has a certain, full throated, 'let it rip' quality but also plenty of sensitivity. My other favourite was Sehnsucht: wonderfully sustained, high piano soft singing in the last verse. If I were to allow myself a third favourite, it would be Cacilie. This closed the formal concert, showing once again his thrilling top.

The evening ended in many, many shouts of bravo and the two were called back time and time again. The inevitable encores began with Breit uber mein haupt, delivered in a straight forward, honest fashion. I have a soft spot for Beverly Sills' singing of this with orchestra, in half voice only, and very, very slow. Not at all authentic, but still very beautiful. The name of the second encore escapes me, but the third was Nichts. Kaufmann even offered a fourth encore. He gave unstintingly and I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to hear a wonderful artist at the height of his powers. As if a two hour concert wasn't tiring enough, Kaufmann signed autographs after the show. I didn't stay but one of my Canadian friends, a huge Kaufmann fan, lined up for autographs and photo ops, and I am sure I will get choice pictures from him soon!

I will have more to report after the Ariadne tomorrow.

Joseph So

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Letters from Munich: Arabella

Marlis Petersen (Zdenka) and Pamela Armstrong (Arabella)
Photo credit: Wilfrid Hoesl

My operatic feast here in Munich began last night with a performance of Arabella. We arrived at the theatre and found a dreaded white strip of paper in the program, signaling a cancellation. Soprano Anja Harteros was indisposed and Pamela Armstrong, an American, replaced her. I was so looking forward to hearing the much celebrated Harteros, a German soprano of Greek parentage and a Cardiff Singer of the World winner a few years ago. She sung to great success at the Met in recent seasons but I have not managed to catch her live. As for Armstrong, I only knew her as the Nozze Contessa and Rosalinda from Fledermaus – a well schooled, stylish singer with a beautiful sound.

The company has retired the 1977 production of Arabella, the one I was familiar with during the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau-Julia Varady era. The "new" 2001 production is more symbolic than representational, more in keeping with modern-day theatre design and direction sensibilities. Call me a traditionalist - while I found that it had its moments, it didn't touch the heart like the old production.

The curtain opened to what looked like an attic. The stage floor was severely raked and covered in papers (unpaid bills!). An auctioneer began appraising the furnishings and workmen took pieces off stage. A quirk in the direction: the Adelaide-Fortune Teller scene had Arabella onstage observing the proceedings, something I’d never seen before. The Fortune Teller was costumed more like a "lady of the evening" than your conventional gypsy fortune teller. I am sorry to report that as Arabella, Armstrong sounded underpowered in the middle and lower registers and tentative in her delivery. I was in the 10th row, but I had trouble hearing her middle and lower registers. But she got stronger as the evening went along, in the end delivering a beautiful last act aria. Physically she is not ideal as the heroine, especially in this production. She has gained weight since the last time I saw her, a bit plump and short, looking rather matronly, especially compared to the tall and willowy Harteros. Physically Armstrong and Marlis Petersen (Zdenka) aren't the best match. Armstrong's voice sounded smaller than the fabulous Marlis Peterson as Zdenka, resulting in a musically unbalanced Act One duet Aber der Richtige. The conductor (Stefan Soltesz) stopped the orchestra afterwards for applause but there was none.

I don't want to give the impression that Armstrong was a bad Arabella. She is a fine singer with a lovely voice perfect for Strauss in the Schwarzkopf mode. But at least on this occasion, it lacked impact in the theatre, and her overall portrayal was under-energized. To her credit, she got better and better, and her finest moment was Das war sehr gut at the end. She opened the aria with really lovely, pure tones which finally won me over. But perhaps for some of the more critical members of the audience, it was too little, too late.

To my eyes, the unit set did not work all that well for Act One and lacked grandeur for Act Two. A bed was left in stage center. I suppose in post-modern deconstructionist discourse, Arabella is all about sex, but do we really need a constant reminder? Mandryka was Bavarian evergreen Wolfgang Brendel. I first heard him in the 1980s at the Met; he was in possession of one of the most beautiful baritone voices at the time. Now well into his third decade of singing, the voice is still in good shape, but inevitably it has lost a certain amount of vocal sheen and richness. His technique didn't have quite the freedom of the past, and his vocal production is a little stentorian, lacking a full palette of tone colours. But given the nature of Mandryka's character, I thought Brendel did well. Unfortunately, the audience didn't agree with me, and he was greeted with some boos. More shocking was the persistent booing of Pamela Armstrong, who didn't deserve such boorish behaviour from a small segment of the audience. She is a lovely singer and there was much to enjoy in her performance. Perhaps an announcement before the show would have curbed some of the boo-birds - afterall, she stepped in with a couple of days' notice to save the performance, and Arabellas don't grow on trees!

The rest of the cast was exceptionally strong, notably Alfred Kuhn as a wonderfully dotty Graf Waldner. His voice is typical of a comprimario, but it is steady and without the wobble one often encounters in superannuated house singers. And what acting! He pretty much stole the show. Marlis Peterson made a totally believable boy, and her soubrette sound was ideal as Zdenka. A strange quirk in the direction by Andreas Homoki: in the first encounter between Zdenko (Zdenka) and Matteo, he/she has her hands all over Matteo's body and he doesn't bat an eye. Perhaps this is the director's way of introducing a homoerotic element to the story? As Matteo, Will Hartmann, whom I only know from his Tamino, hit all the high notes. He sang everything without having to yell in his ridiculous Strauss tenor role. The other suitors (Elemer, Dominik and Lamoral) were all fine, as was the silly role of Fiakermili, sung with great flair by Sine Bundgaard.

The best part of the performance was the wonderful orchestral sound under the firm direction of Stefan Soltesz. The overall performance, though not quite up to festival standards, was good and I am glad I saw it.

Joseph So

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Letter to the Editor: Classical Radio

Dear Mr. Wah Keung Chan,

Several years ago I wrote two articles that were published in your publication. Since then, I’ve witnessed the demise of classical music on both the CBC’s TV and Radio Networks. There is now precious little in the way of classical and jazz programming on the TV airwaves. Why aren’t there any live or recorded remotes from such events as the Montréal Jazz Festival and the Festival du Lanaudiere? I have read your articles concerning the CBC Radio Two in the May and June issues of your publication. I recall stating in one of my articles that in 1992, Ms. Margaret Lyons, then a manager of CBC Radio stated: “There is too much classical music on CBC Radio!” Her statement is rapidly becoming true, much to the chagrin of classical music lovers across this country. I confess that I am becoming annoyed at what is being executed by CBC Radio management. As a result I am tuning increasingly to WNED-FM at 94.5 MHX in Buffalo, New York, as well as the various classical and jazz channels on my XM satellite radio tuner. Additionally, I have re-discovered vinyl records. This January I started employment with a new CD re-issue company in Toronto, called Heritage Choice Records, founded by Marc Berstein. The company’s mandate is to re-issue cantoral, opera and classical 78 RPM recordings onto CDs, for sale to any interested parties.

While in Montréal for the Festival du Son et Image in April, I visited Le Colisée du Livre on rue Ste. Catherine E. Their second floor is a treasure trove of old LPs. In Kingston, there is a record shop called Brian’s Record Option at 382 Princess Street. They have more classical and soundtrack records than I’ve seen in a long time. I noticed that vinyl records and vacuum tube amplifiers are making a big comeback in Montreal. I counted no less than seven high-end audio retailers. Toronto electronics retailers seem more oriented to mass-market audio and home theatre installations. I like the warmer sound of vinyl and vacuum tubes, since they evoke memories of my childhood in Montréal. During that era, I started my serious listening habits with classical music. Even though I was bitten by the rock bug for a few years, I’m now returning to classical, jazz and blues music as much of the current popular roster has no interesting material (at least, not to me). Have you ever tried ‘returning’ to vinyl? If so, beware. It can become addictive.

Also, while in Montréal for this year’s Jazz Festival, I noted that Radio Couleur-Jazz had made tremendous improvement in its transmitter coverage. I can now receive a clear signal in Point Claire, about 15 miles from the transmitter on Mount Royal. I am also pleased the CJPX's sister station CJSQ-FM is on the air in Quebec City at 92.7. In Burlington, WVPR-FM 107.9 is now all news and talk programming from NPR and the BBC. This leaves Montrealers with no over-the-air access to NPR classical programming. NPR’s program, Music Through the Night, is always a welcome relief to nighttime listeners. Toronto readers can receive this program over WNED-FM 94.5 in Buffalo, New York. I would recommend that your readers investigate the XM Satellite Radio Service, as it really fills a void left by the demise of classical and jazz programming in CBC’s Radio Two and Espace Musique.

I still look forward to each new edition of your publication. It is still an important link in coverage of jazz and classical music events in Québec and Canada.

Dwight W. Pole
Toronto, Ontario

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Today's Birthdays in Music: July 24 (di Stefano, Bloch)

1921 - Giuseppe di Stefano, Motta Sant'Anastasia, Italy; opera tenor

Obituary (The Guardian, March 3, 2008)

Giuseppe di Stefano sings "La fleur que tu m'avais jetéefrom Bizet's Carmen (1956)

1880 - Ernest Bloch, Geneva, Switzerland; composer

Brief biography and pictures

Ernest Bloch's Concerto grosso No. 2, 3rd mvt., Allegro (Zuercher Akademie Kammerensemble, conductor Christopher Morris Whiting)

Violinist Yuri Beliavsky and pianist Daniel Beliavsky perform "Nigun" from Bloch's Baal Shem Suite (University of Wisconsin, 2004)

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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 23 (Berwald, Cilèa)

1796 - Franz Berwald, Stockholm, Sweden; composer


Berwald's Symphony No. 4 in E flat, 3rd mvt. (Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra)

1866 - Francesco Cilèa, Palmi, Italy; composer


Jan Peerce sings "È la solita storia del pastore" (Federico's Lament) from Cilèa's L'Arlesiana (Vienna Festival Orchestra, conducted by Franz Allers, 1965)

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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Borrmeo Quartet performs in Vancouver

Although the Bartók String Quartets are securely placed in the standard chamber repertoire, complete performances are something special. In a poignant homage to the Vancouver Recital Society's now defunct Chamber Music Festival, the Boston-based Borromeo Quartet played on July 20, in circumstances as untypical as the project.

The venue was a large home on the edge of Vancouver's sprawling northeast suburbs. Most of the audience traveled an hour from the downtown core, listening to a pre-concert lecture aboard a motor coach. This almost rural setting and the perfect summer day held all hundred participants in a shared intimacy.

The music was impressive. The Quartet played in Tokyo last month and plans to record the works in the near future. First violinist Nicholas Kitchen followed the full score on a laptop but the rest of the ensemble opted for traditional parts. The Borromeo Quartet produced a suave, blended sound, which made the First Quartet sound all the more Romantic. By the time Bartók found his idiom, the players had adjusted to accommodate the raw energy and rhythmic drive of the composer.

Hearing all six quartets in six hours was demanding; such intense music packs an emotional wallop. The integral approach made Bartók's ideas and connections all the more powerful. The charm of the setting played its part as well. In the ‘night music’ movements of unsentimental evocations of nature sounds, it seemed like the Fraser Valley birds and bugs were counting bars and entering on cue.

David Gordon Duke
Vancouver, BC


Today's Birthday in Music: July 22 (Albanese)

1913 - Licia Albanese, Bari, Italy; opera soprano

Profile (San Francisco Chronicle, 2004)

Licia Albanese sings:

The Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (1951, Leopold Stokowski conducting)

"Stridono lassù" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (1951)

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Monday, 21 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 21 (Kuerti, Stern)

1938 - Anton Kuerti, Vienna, Austria; pianist, teacher, composer

Interview (La Scena Musicale, April 2008)

1920 - Isaac Stern, Kremenetz, Ukraine; violinist

Obituary (NY Times, Sept. 2001)

Isaac Stern plays and conducts Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, 3rd mvt. (1984)

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 20 (Paik)

1932 - Nam June Paik, Seoul, South Korea; avant-garde composer and video artist


Unprotected music: Nam June Paik - "Solo for Violin" (Donaufestival, Krems, 2007)

Nam June Paik at the piano with Charlotte Moorman playing the cello

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Saturday, 19 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 19 (Neel, Braun, Glennie)

1905 - Boyd Neel, Blackheath, England; conductor, administrator, educator


1965 - Russell Braun, Frankfurt, Germany; opera and concert baritone


David Pomeroy and Russel Braun sing "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de perles (Ottawa Under the Stars, 2007)

1965 - Evelyn Glennie, Aberdeen, Scotland; percussionist


Segment from Evelyn Glennie documentary

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Friday, 18 July 2008

In a critical condition (3)

A friend in Charlotte, North Carolina, reports that their newspaper, the Observer, has shed two critics, music and movies. With the Los Angeles Times heaving bodies overboard and the Wall Street Journal on the verge of a cull, it looks like open season on the endangered critical species across the US print media.

And while I have no idea what Robert Thomson has in mind for Rupert Murdoch's WSJ, his editorship at the Times in London showed no understanding or personal sympathy for arts. If an editor doesn;t care about arts, the cost-cutters see a green light.

A surviving Charlotte staffer, Lawrence Toppman, says his paper will rely on 'wire-service reviews for movies', which is better than nothing - but not much. If a city paper cannot address events within its boundaries from a local angle, why should local people bother to read it?

What earthly point is there is agreeing or disagreeing with the artistic sensibility of an agency desk jockey who lives in another state, and maybe in another country? Newspapers that lose their resident critical faculty are effectively signing their own death certificate.

When the prolific Alan Brien died last month at the age of 83, it was reported that he was the first writer to be hired at the creation of the Sunday Telegraph, the editor taking the judicious view that once he had a theatre critic in place all else would sort itself out. And so it did.

Critics give a newspaper character. Sack 'em and you might as well publish press releases.

source: Artsjournal


In a critical condition (2)

Last night, I went to see Kurt Weill's Street Scene at the Young Vic, its first UK staging in 20 years which drew chief theatre critics from almost every national daily.

This morning, I addressed a dozen students, year 10-11, at corporate HQ on the prospects for arts careers in the media. Which would you think was the more excitable audience?

The students were terrific, sharp as buttons and receptive to early-morning stimulation (they laughed at my jokes). They were also media savvy, fully informed about the impact of internet usage on the print and record industries. They were not going to be fobbed off with bromides. What they wanted to hear was a range of fresh solutions to a familiar crisis. I did my best to give them hope.

The critics were in Thursday-night mood, worn out after too many late nights filing reviews for the last editions. But by the interval, the ones I chatted to were hopping and popping with the impact of the work. And by the end they (and I) were on a Weill high, totally blown away by the sensational mutations of 'Lonely House' leitmotiv with which the composer drives the piece.

Someone said this sort of excitement reminded him why he became a critic in the first place. I was struck more by the vital social function that performing arts critics perform, wading night after night through dullness and mire in the hope that something will light their fire, as Weill did ours last night.

That is why newspapers need critics - to protect readers from the routinely awful and the meretricious rubbish that masquerades as novelty, and to excite them with the blood-rush of the real thing. This is also why people read newspapers - to find a voice they can trust to lead them through the barren wilderness to a kind of promised land. Kurt Weill knew that, even as old man Kaplan ranted about 'the capitalist press'.

Every newspaper that sheds its critics, as so many are doing, loses a powerful reader magnet.

Source: Artsjournal


Today's Birthdays in Music: July 18 (Schafer, Viardot, Masur)

1933 - R. Murray Schafer, Sarnia, Canada; composer


1821 - Pauline Viardot, Paris, France; concert and opera mezzo-soprano; composer


Cecilia Bartoli sings Pauline Viardot's "Havanaise"

1927 - Kurt Masur, Brieg, Germany; conductor

Official website

Kurt Masur conducting the NY Philharmonic in Schumann's Rhenish Symphony, 4th mvt. (1995)

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Thursday, 17 July 2008

In a critical condition (1)

There are two reasons why newspapers are getting rid of established critics. The obvious one is that newspaper revenues are caught in a double arm-lock by the internet and the credit crunch, neither of which is likely to ease in the forseeable future.

Less obvious is the internal perception, right or wrong, that certain forms of commentary and opinion forming are no longer central to what editors want and readers expect. As a sometime editorial executive, I have been party to some these discussions and that leaves me more than a little puzzled at the hysteria aroused by the recent layoffs. Nobody likes to see job losses but newspapers are a dynamic industry, quick to adapt to changes in public demand.

Take the role of television critic. Ten years ago, it was a high-profile spot in most papers, the generator of many water-cooler moments in the workplace. But television is not what it was. With hundreds of channels, there is not much likelihood that four people around the cooler will have watched the same programme the night before and, if they did, that they will want to read intelligent comment in the morning about dumb reality shows and talent contests.

If television is a mindless thing on the wall, why bother to write about it? Newspapers that have abolished TV reviews suffered no backlash from readers. The function had become redundant, except in the case of a few doyens - Nancy Banks-Smith in the Guardian, for instance - who developed a voice over many years that loyal readers would miss.

Radio criticism is a different matter. Radio has a distinct community, or set of communities. It is listened to by long-distance drivers, nursing mothers, menial workers and the elderly, among others. Many of them listent intently since, on a great many stations, content has been upheld at high level.

Radio columnists such as Gillian Reynolds in the Daily Telegraph provide a stimulating collage of inside information, listener guidance and incisive artistic criticism that serves, in turn, to keep producers on their toes and maintain original output. A loss of the radio signal would provoke outrage among the readership.

Neither of these forms of criticism has a direct bearing on arts reviews, which is where many of the cuts have lately been falling. It is, of course, impossible to generalise about critics. There are good arts critics and bad, as well as once-good critics who run out of things to say or hate everything in sight. But what is happening at the moment is that the axe is falling indiscriminately on critics good and bad - Lawrence Johnson in Miami is one of the best - and the tendency is growing in newspapers to regard arts criticism as peripheral to their purpose.

That would be both a disaster for newspapers and a danger to a free society, matters which I will attempt to reflect upon in a future comment. Your responses are, as ever, essential to the process.

Source: Artsjournal


Today's Birthdays in Music: July 17 (Upshaw, Steber)

1960 - Dawn Upshaw, Nashville, U.S.A.; opera and concert soprano

Biography & pictures

Dawn Upshaw sings "Gently, Little Boat" from Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (with Gerry Hadley). Opéra de Lyon, 1996.

1914 - Eleanor Steber, Wheeling, U.S.A.; opera soprano

Biography & pictures

Elanor Steber sings "Ist mein Liebster dahin?" from Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten (Carnegie Hall, 1958)

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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 16 (Zukerman, Ysaÿe)

1948 - Pinchas Zukerman, Tel Aviv, Israel; violinist, violist, conductor

A Gift for Music (La Scene Musicale, March 2002)

Schubert's "Trout Quintet", 4th mvt., played by Itzhak Perlman (violin), Daniel Barenboim (piano), Jacqueline Du Pré (cello), Zubin Mehta (bass) and Pinchas Zukerman  (viola) (1969)

1858 - Eugène Ysaÿe, Liège, Belgium; violinist, composer, conductor


Ysaÿe plays "Mazurka" by Wieniawski (1912 recording)

Valeriy Sokolov plays Ysaÿe's Sonata No. 3 for solo violin (filmed by Bruno Monsaingeon at the Yehudi Menuhin School, 2003)

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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Letter to the Editor - Classical 96


As a 15 year veteran of the radio station Classical 96.3, I read David Podgorski's article Classical Radio News (La Scena Musicale June 2008) with great interest. Yet at the same time, I take strong exception to the statement "the station was bleeding cash when Znaimer took over". The station was profitable long before Mr. Znaimer came along in 2006.

True enough, Classical 96 lost a lot of money during the early years in Cobourg, but with the arrival of Peter Webb as general manager in the mid '90s, all that changed. Not only did Webb alter the programming, but he also invested more heavily in advertising, and most importantly, moved the entire operation into Toronto where it became a major player in a very tough market. Almost from the beginning, we enjoyed far higher ratings then those of CBC Radio 2, and before long, we were solidly in the black.

Richard Haskell

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Today's Birthdays in Music: July 15 (Margison, Bream, Birtwistle)

1953 - Richard Margison, Victoria, Canada; opera tenor

Biography and pictures
Richard Margison - In Constant Motion (La Scena Musicale, 2002)

Richard Margison sings "Cielo e mar!" from Ponchielli's La Gioconda (Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 2005)

1933 - Julian Bream, London, England; guitarest and lutenist

Guitare Diffusion Biography

Julian Bream (self-duet) plays "Fandango" by Luigi Boccherini

1933 - Harrison Birtwistle, Accrington, England; composer

New York Times on Harrison Birtwistle

Scenes from Punch and Judy, Act I, by Harrison Birtwistle (Rupert Bergmann as Punch, Hamburg 2001)

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Monday, 14 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 14 (Finzi)

1901 - Gerald Finzi, London, England; composer

Biography and more

"Fear no more the heat o' the sun" - song by Gerald Finzi

Finzi's "Eclogue" for Piano and String Orchestra (Chamber Ensemble Muenster, conductor & piano: Gregor Oechtering.  Rheine, Germany, 1994)

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Sunday, 13 July 2008

New kids on the blog

The Observer, a British Sunday newspaper, set up one of those self-fullling propositions today by asking: Critic vs Blog - is the art of criticism under threat from the web?

The article that explores these tensions is, so far as I can judge, fair, balanced and, insofar as it quotes my views, pretty accurate and to the point.

What skews it are the photographs which show the critics to be bursting with middle-age, while the bloggers portrayed are uniformly young, hip and street-wise.

The pictures, I can reveal, were posed. The critics were specifically asked to dress up in suits, while the bloggers are seen in gear that is generically casual. The meaning conveyed is simple. Critics = old and square, bloggers = young and cool.

That 's the sort of thing that gives journalism a bad name, the more so when it is palpably untrue, as it is here. Many of the bloggers I come across on-line are of pensionable age and crusty disposition. Many of the critics I meet in pursuit of my trade are young, unwaged and astonishingly open-eared and minded.

Nor are the two worlds mutually exclusive. Most arts bloggers get their juices flowing by what they in newspapers, print or on-line. More and more professional critics are alert to what airs on-line and, from time to time, assimilate and respond to it.

There are no hard and fast borders. Some bloggers strive for an impartiality worthy of the New York Times at its dullest. Some critics make polemic their passion, the rage at bad art increasing with the passing of years. That makes essential reading.

Some - I am not alone in this - inhabit both sides of the tracks. We write in newspapers for a living and feed a blog like this one with material we either can't or don't want to put in print - stuff that, in our judgement, has its most appropriate place out here, sparking instant responses and cutting more quickly than a newspaper page can with its cumbersome furniture and - in the Observer article - occasionally distorted view of the world.

One of the first laws of journalism is never make the facts fit the story. In the Observer, the story looks as if it has been commissioned to fit a fake picture.

Source: Artsjournal

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 13 (Bergonzi)

1924 - Carlo Bergonzi, Vidalenzo, Italy; opera tenor


Carlo Bergonzi sings:

(at age 65) "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore (Newark. N.J., 1989)

"Ah si ben mio" from Verdi's Il Trovatore (Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, 1969)

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Today's Birthdays in Music: July 12 (Cliburn, Flagstad)

1934 - Van Cliburn, Shreveport, U.S.A.; pianist

Dallas Morning News article (2008)

Van Cliburn plays Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, 2nd mvt., Kirill Kondrashin conducting (Moscow, 1962)

1895 - Kirsten Flagstad, Hamar, Norway; opera soprano

Short biography and pictures

Kirsten Flagstad sings "Liebestod" from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (her debut performance at Covent Garden, 1936; Fritz Reiner conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra)

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Friday, 11 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 11 (Boyd, Gedda, Prey)

1949 - Liona Boyd, London, England; guitarist

Official website

Liona Boyd in concert

1925 - Nicolai Gedda, Stockholm, Sweden; opera tenor

Short biography and pictures

Nicolai Gedda as Chapelau (singing in German) in Adolph Adam's Le postillon de Lonjumeau

1929 - Hermann Prey, Berlin, Germany; opera bass-baritone

Short biography and pictures

Hermann Prey as Don Carlo singing in German "Son Pereda" from Verdi's La Forza del Destino

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Thursday, 10 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 10 (Orff, Welitsch)

1895 - Carl Orff, Munich, Germany; composer

Orff-Zentrum München website

John van Kesteren sings "Und Sie Brachten" from Orff's opera Der Mond (Munich, 1965)

"O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana (BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, Cardiff, 1994)

1913 - Ljuba Welitsch, Borissovo, Bulgaria; opera soprano


Ljuba Welitsch sings "Wie nahte mir der Schlummer ... Leise, leise ..." from Weber's Der Freischütz

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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: July 9 (Respighi)

1879 - Ottorino Respighi, Bologna, Italy; composer, violinist

Short biography & pictures
Various articles

The Pines of Rome (1. "Pines of the Villa Borghese"; 2." Pines near a Catacomb"); Orchestra dell'Accademia nazionale di Santa Cecilia, conductor Antonio Pappano.  Rome, January 2007)

Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 3 ("Italiana" and "Siciliana") - paintings by Caravaggio

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 8 (Grainger, Antheil)

1882 - Percy Grainger, Melbourne, Australia; composer, pianist

Official website

Percy Grainger plays his own composition Country Gardens (piano roll)

1900 - George Antheil, Trenton, U.S.A.; composer, pianist

Wikipedia (mis-states birthdate as June 8)

Ballet Mécanique (all-robotic version), played at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006

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Monday, 7 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 7 (Mahler, Menotti)

1860 - Gustav Mahler, Kaliště, Bohemia (Czech Republic); composer, conductor

Wik entry
Gustav Mahler Society
Biography and more

Thomas Hampson sings "Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz", No. 4 from Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) (Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein)

Symphony No. 5, 1st mvt. "Trauermarsch" (Cologne Philharmonic, conducted by James Conlon)

1911 - Gian Carlo Menotti, Cadegliano, Italy; composer, librettist

Wiki entry

Gian Carlo Menotti - A Composer's Life in Two Worlds

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Sunday, 6 July 2008

All that glitters is not Gelb

A statement by Peter Gelb to the Economist has set alarm bells ringing.

At his former job, as head of Sony Classical, Gelb used to deliver hour-long harangues about how his genius would rescue the label and the recording industry as a whole. By the time he quit, Sony was a shambles and the industry near-dead. For the detail, see here.

Now read Gelb in The Economist: 'When I took over, the Met was on a declining slope toward extermination...' He does not finish the sentence, but the implication is that golden man has once more revived a dying goose.

This is pure fantasy. The Met, with an endowment running into hundreds of millions of dollars, was never at death's door, let alone an emotive threat of 'extermination'. It just needed a blast of fresh air after a decade of stagnation.

What Gelb has done - introducing new repertoire, new directors, opera at the movies and in the open air - has been highly effective and long overdue, but no more than the start of what needs to be a coherent strategy to make opera meaningful to a wider American public. Let's hope the strategy is in place, because without it Gelb's reforms will soon go stale and in a couple of years the Met will be right back in the state he found it.

I, for one, very much hope that there is depth and breadth to the Gelb plan because I like to see success in the arts more than I enjoy criticising failure. But this latest boast, echoing the hollow claims of his Sony years, has me worried.

Hubris is a sign that a leader has peaked. What follows is nemesis. Peter Gelb needs to take care that he does not let himself believe a myth of his own making.

Source: Artsjournal


Today's Birthdays in Music: July 6 (Ashkenazy, H. Eisler)

1937 - Vladimir Ashkenazy, Gorky, Russia; pianist, conductor

Wiki entry
Biography and more

Ashkenazy plays  Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, 3rd mvt. (Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carlo Maria Giulini conducting)

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12, 3rd mvt.; Vladimiar Ashkenazy, pianist, conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from the keyboard

1898 - Hanns Eisler, Leipzig, Germany; composer

Wiki entry

"An den kleinen Radioapparat", music by Hanns Eisler, lyrics by Berthold Brecht.  Sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Aribert Reimann, piano (Berlin, 1987)

Hanns Eisler, Nonett No.1, Variationen (1939), played by Quadrivium Ensemble, Dan Rapoport conducting (Venice, 2005)

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Saturday, 5 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 5 (Starker, Landowska)

1924 - János Starker, Budapest, Hungary; cellist

Wiki entry

János Starker plays Cassadó's Suite for Solo Cello, 1st mvt. (1989 recital, Tokyo)

1879 - Wanda Landowska, Warsaw, Poland; harpsichordist

Wiki entry

Wanda Landowska plays:

Bach, Prelude & Fugue no. 21 from The Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1 (recorded 1949-51)

Folk Dance

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Friday, 4 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 4 (Daquin, Foster)

1694 - Louis-Claude Daquin, Paris, France; composer, organist, harpsichordist

Wiki entry

Alejandro Reyes-Valdés plays "Le Coucou" (Festival Artistico Coahuila, Mexico, 2007)

Sergei Rachmaninoff plays "Le Coucou" (1920 recording)

1826 - Stephen Foster, Lawrenceville, U.S.A.; songwriter

Wiki entry

John McCormack sings "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" (Edwin Schneider, piano)

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Thursday, 3 July 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: July 3 (Janáček, Fassbaender)

1854 - Leoš Janáček, Hukvaldy, Moravia (Czech Republic); composer

Wiki entry

From the House of the Dead - final scene (Aix en Province Festival 2007, Pierre Boulez conducting)

1939 - Brigitte Faessbender, Berlin, Germany; opera mezzo-soprano


Brigitte Fassbaender as Prince Orlofsky in Strauss's Die Fledermaus (Bavarian State Opera, led by Carlos Kleiber, whose birthday is also July 3)

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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada, Including 16 Artists

OTTAWA (July 1, 2008) — Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, announced today 75 new appointments to the Order of Canada. The new appointees include five Companions (C.C.), 26 Officers (O.C.), and 43 Members (C.M.), as well as one Honorary Officer. These appointments were made on the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Order of Canada.
Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.
Awarded for the first time in 1967, during Canada’s Centennial Year, the Order of Canada launched the creation of our country’s own system of honours. For more information on the Canadian honours system, please consult
Listed below are the sixteen artists who were awarded the Order of Canada this year.
Jocelyne Alloucherie, O.C., Montréal, Quebec, Officer of the Order of Canada
For her contributions to the visual arts as an internationally renowned sculptor.
Born in 1947 in Québec City, Jocelyne Alloucherie lives and works in Montréal. Since 1973, her numerous Canadian exhibitions have included shows at the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée du Québec and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, as well as at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. She acquired international recognition in the early 1990s with exhibitions at the Centre canadien d'art contemporain in New York, the Centre culturel canadien in Paris, and with the exhibitions Anninovanta in Bologna, Différentes Natures in Paris, and most recently, Cadres, Fenêtres, Lieux held in Bar-le-Duc in France.
Over the last 30 years Jocelyne Alloucherie's work has played an increasingly significant role in Canadian sculpture and installation art. Her work is rooted in intellectual rigor and clarity and defined by a very personal visual vocabulary and definition of space. Her exceptional body of work, often integrating drawing and photography into installations, has established Alloucherie as a seminal artist of her generation and has attracted important critical attention across Canada and abroad.
Randolph C. (Randy) Bachman, O.C., Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as an iconic Canadian rock musician and for his support of Canadian music as a producer of emerging Canadian artists.
Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Randy Bachman has become a legendary figure in the rock and roll world through his talents as a guitarist, songwriter, performer and producer. He has earned over 120 Gold and Platinum album/singles awards around the world for performing and producing. His songwriting has garnered him the coveted #1 spot on radio play lists in over 20 countries and he has amassed over 40 million records sold. His songs have been recorded by numerous other artists and placed in dozens of television, movie and commercial soundtracks. His music has provided a veritable soundtrack of the last thirty years of popular music.
Randy's career has been built upon his unstoppable drive to work at creating music. He has released numerous solo albums throughout his career, and has simultaneously worked at producing for other artists. His production/writing work with Canadian rock band Trooper generated gold and platinum record in the 1970's.
His love of guitar music and a desire to support some unsung and legendary guitar greats including his early mentor Lenny Breau, led him to found the jazz guitar record label Guitarchives which rescues and releases otherwise lost archival guitar music. As well he founded Ranbach Music, a label which releases archival Guess Who recordings, and other material which never made it to CD.
Randy Bachman continues to be in much demand as a songwriter, session player and solo artist. Though his music industry awards include dozens of coveted acknowledgments of legendary achievements, when asked which award is his most prized, he responds, "The one I haven't got yet."
He has played an integral role in the evolution and growth of the Canadian Music industry and continues to serve as both an inspiration and impetus for others to succeed.
AA Bronson, O.C., New York, N.Y., U.S.A. and Toronto, Ontario, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a solo artist and a member of General Idea who has influenced and inspired generations of his peers.
Born in Vancouver on June 16, 1946, AA Bronson lives and works in Toronto and New York. He lived and worked as part of the artists' group General Idea from 1969 until the deaths of his two partners in 1994. Since 1999, he has been responsible for numerous exhibitions, and has won at least seven awards, including the Governor General’s award for Visual and Media Arts.
Maria Campbell, O.C., S.O.M., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Officer of the Order of Canada
For her contributions to Canadian literature and media as a writer, playwright, filmmaker and educator, as well as for her advocacy of Métis and Aboriginal issues.
Born in northern Saskatchewan in 1940, Campbell is a fluent speaker of four languages: Cree, Michif, Saulteaux, and English.
With her searing 1973 novel Half-Breed, Maria Campbell exposed the brutal realities of life for Aboriginal women in Canada. It also revealed the angst, anguish, dislocation, and desperation of a nation impoverished economically and spiritually. People worldwide were shocked and saddened by the plight of Canada’s Métis. The novel became a catalyst for change. The Métis Nation saw a resurgence of cultural pride and awareness, Aboriginal women organised and reclaimed themselves, governments affirmed Métis political rights, and Aboriginal literature in Canada was born. Many Canadian Aboriginal authors have followed the path first blazed by Maria Campbell. The Métis grandmother is now the author of seven books and is an award-winning playwright. She has conducted writing workshops in community halls, friendship centres, libraries, tents, and cabins. Her writers’ camp at Gabriel’s Crossing – the old Gabriel Dumont homestead near Batoche, Saskatchewan – resulted in the 1991 anthology Achimoona, a collection of stories which showcased emerging Aboriginal authors. A noted lecturer and workshop facilitator, Ms. Campbell continues to work in the areas of community development, race relations, and creative writing. She was honoured with an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from the University of Regina and taught Native Studies at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Maria Campbell received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for bringing the story of her people to the eyes and ears of the world.
George Elliott Clarke, O.C., O.N.S., Toronto, Ontario and Windsor, Nova Scotia, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a poet, professor and volunteer who has brought his original voice and his perspective on the Black experience to contemporary Canadian literature, and who has generously shared his time and talents with young and emerging writers.
George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1960, a seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq Amerindian heritage. Before joining the academic profession Clarke was employed in a variety of jobs: parliamentary aide, newspaper editor in Halifax and then Waterloo, social worker in Halifax, and legislative researcher. He still writes a column for the Halifax Herald and is a freelance contributor to numerous publications.
As a writer George Elliott Clarke has published in a variety of genres: verse collections, Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues, and Lush Dreams, Blue Exile, a verse-novel, Whylah Falls, two verse plays, Whylah Falls: The Play, and Beatrice Chancy. His opera Beatrice Chancy, with music by James Rolfe, has had four stage productions and a broadcast on CBC television. This powerful opera about slavery in the Nova Scotia of the early 1800s won great reviews and enthusiastic audiences. He wrote the screenplay for the feature film, One Heart Broken Into Song. The verse play, Whylah Falls, was staged in Venice in Italian. Clarke continues to publish poetry with Provençal Songs, Gold Indigoes, Blue and Illuminated Verse. His Execution Poems won the Governor General's Award for Poetry.
Clarke has been instrumental in promoting the work of writers of African descent, especially those of Nova Scotia. In 2002 he published, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature. In addition to being a poet, playwright and literary critic Clarke is the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto.
John N. Smith, O.C., Montréal, Quebec, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the Canadian film industry as a filmmaker whose works, such as The Boys of St. Vincent, Dieppe and Welcome to Canada, have touched audiences across Canada and around the world.
This earnest, socially conscious Canadian filmmaker gained international attention as the helmer and co-writer of the admirably controlled, intelligent yet ultimately devastating TV miniseries "The Boys of St. Vincent" (Canadian Broadcasting Company, 1993; shown in limited theatrical release in the US in 1994; aired on A&E cable network in 1995). A courageous investigation into the abuse of power, the film told the fact-inspired story of a orphanage in Newfoundland wherein young boys were physically and sexually assaulted by the Catholic brothers who administered the institution. Set in 1975, Part One chronicled the abuse and the collusion between the forces of Church, State and commerce that motivated a cover-up. Set 15 years later, Part Two depicted the emotional aftermath and long delayed legal process. Smith elicited strong naturalistic performances from the young boys and showcased a powerhouse portrayal of the driven and terrifying head of the orphanage by Canadian stage actor Henry Czerny. Though brooding and thoughtful, the film served as an effective Hollywood calling card for both director and star.
After earning his undergraduate degree in political philosophy, the Montreal native joined the CBC as a researcher in 1968, soon working his way up to become the producer of a public affairs program "The Way It Is" the following year. Leaving CBC, Smith began producing independent TV series including the Emmy-winning public affairs program, "The 51st State", for NYC's public TV station. He joined the National Film Board of Canada as a staff director in 1972, where he became known for his work in "alternative drama" which DAILY VARIETY described as "seemingly derived from the school of dramatized documentary popular in Hungary [in which the filmmakers] take non-professional actors and have them play roles very close to their own experiences." Improvisation and documentary techniques also characterized this style.
Often producing, scripting and editing the films he directed, Smith's Canadian output included the dance documentary "Gala" (1982), which showcased performances by seven leading dance companies, both modern and classical; the docudrama "The Masculine Mystique" (1984), which applied some of the stylistic conventions of women's movement agitprop to the then nascent men's movement (e.g., individual oral histories, group consciousness-raising and role-playing); the drama "Sitting in Limbo" (1986), about immature Black English-speaking teens coping with the new realities of encroaching adulthood in primarily French-speaking Montreal; and the crime docudrama "Train of Dreams" (1987), which told the disheartening story of a young repeat offender.
Smith's first Hollywood assignment was directing the Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer production, "Dangerous Minds" (1995). Based on Louanne Johnson's nonfiction account, "My Posse Don't Do Homework", the film told the story of a white, female former Marine (Michelle Pfeiffer) teaching high school English to largely minority students in an inner-city high school. Though the subject matter seemed well-attuned to Smith's interests and previous work, he had little part in the screenplay. So, while the film offered strong performances from a predominantly inexperienced cast, it lacked the subtlety and sophistication of "The Boys of St. Vincent". Behavioral pathologies were not contextualized within the larger social fabric, situations were simplified and the project took on the air of a "tough" liberal fairy tale. Nonetheless, due to canny marketing, a hit theme song and the glamorous Pfeiffer, "Dangerous Minds" was a surprising success that established its director in Hollywood. Smith subsequently helmed the made-for-cable movie "Sugartime" (HBO, 1995), which purportedly told the story of the romance of Mafia don Sam Giancana and nightclub singer Phyllis Maguire. While the film featured strong performances and boasted atmospheric sets, costumes and cinematography, it was derided by Maguire as pure fiction and met with a mixed critical reception.
Audrey Thomas, O.C., Galiano Island, British Columbia, Officer of the Order of Canada
For her contributions as one of our nation's most accomplished fiction writers, notably as a master of the short story, and as a revered teacher and mentor.
Short-story writer and novelist, Audrey Thomas (née Callahan) was born in Binghampton, New York in 1935. She received a B.A. from Smith College in 1957 and a M.A. in English from the University of British Columbia in 1963 where she worked towards a Ph.D. in Anglo-Saxon language and literature. Thomas married sculptor and art teacher, Ian Thomas whom she met during a year abroad at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. They immigrated to Canada in 1959, settled in British Columbia, and had three daughters. The Thomases lived for two years in Ghana where Ian Thomas taught from 1964 to 1966. Following her return to Vancouver, Audrey Thomas published her first collection of stories, Ten Green Bottles (1967), and then several novels: Mrs. Blood (1970), Songs My Mother Taught Me (1973), Latakia (1979), and Real Mothers (1981), a collection of stories. In her work, Thomas experiments with narrative method and use of language to depict women’s sense of emotional alienation, struggling with the dark side of the self, or hovering on the verge of disintegration. Thomas received the Marian Engel Award in 1987 and the Canada-Australia Literary Prize in 1990. She has won the B.C. Book Prize for fiction three times: for her novel Intertidal Life (1985), the short story collection Wild Blue Yonder (1991), and most recently for the novel Coming down from Wa (1995). She was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award and Commonwealth Literature Prize in 1996. Thomas has taught creative writing at the University of Victoria and at the University of British Columbia and has been writer-in-residence at Concordia University, at Simon Fraser University, among others. Thomas lives on Galiano Island, British Columbia.
W. Paul Thompson, O.C., Toronto, Ontario, Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to Canadian theatre, notably for bringing the stories of ordinary Canadians to the stage, and for bringing theatre to the people through performances held in rural communities, as well as large cities, across the country.
Playwright/director born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island , in 1940, and from 1971-82 artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille, Paul Thompson worked and studied in France (1965-67) before returning to Canada and throwing himself into the process known as collective creation.
He has participated in several celebrated productions including: Doukhobors (1971), The Farm Show (1972), 1837: The Farmers' Revolt (1973), Les Maudits Anglais (1978), Maggie and Pierre (1979) as well as directing at Centaur Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects , Blyth Festival and Native Earth Performing Arts among many others.
From 1987 to 1991 he was director general of the National Theatre School and was involved with the renovations of the Monument National and initiating a playwrights' and directors' program there. He has also taught at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre.
He once said, "Once upon a time people said that you needed fifty thousand dollars to make something work, to build up a theatre, to do this, to do that - but we've found you can take eight actors and a designer to a community that doesn't know us...and spend six thousand dollars and come up with a show including a week of performances for those people."
His mark on Canadian theatrical history is indelible.
He now lives in Toronto.
Paul Bley, C.M., Cherry Valley, New York, U.S.A. and Montréal, Quebec, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a pioneering figure in avant-garde and free jazz, and for his influence on younger jazz pianists.
Bley gave violin recitals at age five. By age seven he was studying piano. He went through numerous classical teachers - including one Frenchman that had him play, balancing filled water glasses on the tops of his hands. At age 11 he graduated from the McGill Conservatory - having taken on their musical curriculum in addition to his public school education. Bley, who was known as "Buzzy" in his early adolescence, formed a band and played clubs and summer hotel jobs in the Laurentian Mountains at age 13. Four years later he replaced Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge. Bley founded the Montreal Jazz Workshop and brought Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Brew Moore and Alan Eager to Montreal inorder to perform with them.
In 1950 Bley left for New York City. He studied at the Julliard School of Music from 1950-54. While at Julliard, Bley had a band with Jackie MacLean, Donald Byrd, Arthur Taylor, Doug Watkins. In this period he toured with Lester Young, Ben Webster, Roy Eldridge and Bill Harris. He was a frequent visitor at the famed Saturday night sessions at Lenny Tristano's studio. Bley served as president of the Associated Jazz Societies of New York in 1952, which led to Charlie Mingus hiring Bley to conduct his ensemble. Mingus also recorded Bley's debut album, along with himself and Art Blakey, on his label, Debut Records.
In 1957, Bley went to California where his bands included: Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgens, Bobby Hutchinson, Scotty LaFaro, Lawrence Marable, and Dave Pike. In 1959 Bley returned to New York, where he played with Roland Kirk, Oliver Nelson, and Jimmy Giuffre at the Five Spot Cafe. This group evolved into the Jimmy Giuffre 3, including Bley and Steve Swallow, which brought Bley to Europe for the first time in 1961. They recorded for Verve and CBS.
In 1963 Bley and Herbie Hancock were invited to play with the bands of Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, who were performing on a double bill on a Monday night at Birdland. Both pianists were offered both jobs. Hancock gave Bley first choice. Bley chose to join the Rollins quartet for a year to record and go to tour Japan. Bley's own trio with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian of the 1960's became the standard by which other trios would be measured.
In 1964, Bill Dixon invited Bley to become a member of the Jazz Composer's Guild, which included: Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins, John Tchicai, Roswell Rudd, Carla Bley, Mike Mantle, Cecil Taylor, and Burton Greene. By 1968 Bley was working with audio synthesis. He gave the first live performance to date on synthesizer at Philarmonic Hall in New York City. He released several synthesizer albums recorded on the original Arp 2500.
In 1972, Bley made his first solo piano recording for ECM records. In 1973 Bley met video artist, Carol Goss, and together they created Improvising Artists (IAI). In 1978 a Billboard Magazine cover story credited IAI for creating the first "music video", as a result of the recorded and live performance collaborations it produced between jazz musicians and video artists.
Bley continued his work with electric quartets. In 1974, IAI brought Jaco Pastorious to New York for his debut recording. Mysteriously, these sessions, produced Pat Metheney's debut recording as well. Though Metheney had never been hired to play with the band, he sat in at a gig prior to the recording date and then stayed with Bley's quartet, which also included drummer, Bruce Ditmas.
Bley has released close to 100 CD's. Some of the artists he's recorded with include: Ben Webster, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Giuffre, John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Bill Frisell, Chet Baker, Bill Connors, Steve Swallow, Gary Peacock, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Red Mitchell, Marc Johnson, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, Arild Andersen, Kent Carter, Barre Phillips, Paul Motian, Barry Altschul, Han Benninck, Billy Hart, Tony Oxley, Bruce Ditmas, Cecil McBee, Gary Burton, Marion Brown, Jane Bunnet, Hans Koch, John Surman, John Gilmore, Evan Parker, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, Herbie Spanier, and Bill Evans.
Peter Boneham, C.M., Gatineau, Quebec, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a leader and innovator in dance, notably as a choreographer, artistic director and creator of Le Groupe Dance Lab, a unique centre for research and development of contemporary dance.
In a career spanning over five decades, Peter Boneham has won international acclaim as the choreographer of over 40 works, inspired teacher of generations of dance artists, and co-founder of Le Groupe de la Place Royale, Canada's foremost modern experimental dance company. His most innovative and ongoing impact on the contemporary dance milieu has been as the visionary creator and director of Le Groupe Dance Lab, a unique choreographic research and development centre. After 16 years, the Dance Lab remains at the forefront of provincial, national and international choreographic centres, maintaining the highest integrity and artistic standards, allowing new dance to thrive, and nurturing some of the brightest talents in Canada and around the world.
Born in 1934 in Rochester, New York, Mr. Boneham became the lead dancer of the Mercury Ballet Company, one of the first civic ballet companies in the States. After working with several distinguished New York City companies, he moved to Canada in the early 1960s to join Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. In 1966, Jeanne Renaud formed Le Groupe de la Place Royale, with Mr. Boneham as Assistant Director. He assumed artistic directorship in 1971 and has remained at the helm since.
Dominic Champagne, C.M., Montréal, Quebec, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the performing arts as an author, director, producer, comedian and performing arts educator.
Author, stage director and artistic director of the Théâtre Il va sans dire, Dominic Champagne has written and staged more than ten productions, including Vacarme, Cabaret perdu (as past of a writing team), La caverne, L'asile, Don Quichotte (written in collaboration with Wajdi Mouawad), Korsakov, Lolita and Cabaret neiges noires (as part of a writing team). He earned great kudos for his sensational staging of L'Odyssée which he and Alexis Martin adapted from Homer's epic. For television, he has contributed to the series Les grands procès, collaborated in the creation of variety shows such as Les Jeux de la Francophonie, La Soirée des Masques and Le Spectacle de la Fête Nationale. He was also co-creator and artistic director of Le plaisir croît avec l'usage, and stage directed the magnificent Cirque du Soleil show, Varekai whose North American tour has thrilled audiences and earned excellent reviews. He partnered with René Richard Cyr to conceive and stage Zumanity before taking on the conception and staging of the Cirque de Soleil's universally acclaimed and most recent Las Vegas show, Love.
R. Gordon M. Macpherson, C.M., Burlington, Ontario, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions in the field of heraldry in Canada, and for his leadership in establishing Canada's international reputation in this field.
Gordon Macpherson is Canada's most well known and respected heraldic artist. Fascinated by heraldry since his student days, Macpherson has since designed and painted the coats of arms granted to many prominent Canadians. He was honoured by the Governor General with the title Niagara Herald Extraordinary in 1999. Gordon was also one of the founding founders of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and continues to remain active within the Society.
Ian W. McDougall, C.M., Victoria, British Columbia, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to classical and jazz music as a renowned trombonist and composer and as an innovative educator and mentor.
Ian McDougall was born in Calgary, Canada, and grew up in Victoria, leaving there in 1960 to tour in Great Britain with the John Dankworth Band. He returned to Canada in 1962 and began a lengthy career as a freelance player, composer and arranger in Vancouver and in Toronto where, until 1991, he was also the lead and solo trombonist with Rob McConnell's Juno and Grammy award-winning Boss Brass.
Two suites composed by Ian have been recorded by that group - The Pellet Suite, and The Blue Serge Suit(e) . Ian also was lead trombone and composer/arranger for The Brass Connection, who won the Juno award for best Jazz album in 1982. Since the early 1980's McDougall has become even more involved in composition, and his works have been performed by the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Lafayette String Quartet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Rob McConnell Tentet, and the Toronto Cantata Chorus, among others.
Ian now resides in Victoria, where he continues to play, compose, and teach. He taught trombone, composition, and jazz studies at the University of Victoria, leaving there in 2003 as Professor Emeritus. Ian was awarded the University of Victoria's "Distinguished Alumni" award in 2004.The past decade has included tours in Canada and abroad, both as a soloist and with his groups, to Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Denmark, Holland, the USA, Germany, and England, where Ian was music director for two BBC Big Band broadcasts.
Over the years, Ian has been invited to be a performer and clinician at three International Trombone Association conventions, in Nashville, Rochester, and in Las Vegas. Also, in the past decade, Ian has been featured as leader on six CDs. His latest double CD is entitled "In a Sentimental Mood", and features the music of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington with Ian joined by his quartet.
Ian McDougall is a Yamaha artist/clinician, and he plays a 697Z model trombone.
T. Clayton Shields, C.M, Stratford, Ontario, Member of the Order of Canada
For more than three decades of service as the wigmaster to the Stratford Festival of Canada, where he developed innovative techniques and mentored new generations of artists.
José Verstappen, C.M., Surrey, British Columbia, Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the promotion and vitality of early-period music in British Columbia, and for showcasing Canada within the international early music community.
José Verstappen, the executive director of Early Music Vancouver, is the coolest man around. Rain or shine, winter or summer, the man wears socked Birkenstocks. I swear I once saw him walking on 7th Avenue (near EMV's headquarters on Hodson Manor)in shoes because it was raining. Mr. Verstappen refutes my version categorically.
Verstappen, a Renaissance man (he does the web site design, the publicity, the typography, probably vacuums, too) with the help of that other Rennaissance man, Ray Nurse (baritone, lutenist, lute maker, etc) has steered the organization (for 26 years since its founding) into the success that it is today. EMV has brought the best baroque groups from around the world and employed local baroque musicians as teachers and performers in UBC's Vancouver Early Music Programme & Festival. Starting in smaller venues as the much maligned (I loved it!) Metropolitan Tabernacle, EMV can now routinely fill the Chan Centre.
But for me, Verstappen has pushed what many consider the normal boundary of the baroque period (the 18th Century) so that through groups like Ray Nurse's La Cetra we are now exploring Bach's early cantatas and listening to composers of the fantastic period of the 17th Century. With the help of local virtuoso violinist Marc Destrubé EMV is also exploring the period immediately after the baroque with performances of Mozart, Hayd, and Beethoven in period instruments.
Verstappen, the cool man, has brought us downloadable concert programs with extensive information on what you are going to listen to. His beautiful Early Music Vancouver Calendar (particularly useful as it runs from July of one year to June of he next) graces our fridge with the help of one stout Lee Valley magnet. But best of all EMV promotes the idea that young people should attend concerts. Any adult can bring a youth for free. I wish such organizations as Ballet BC and the VSO adopted similar plans.
The paradox, the wonderful paradox, is that thanks to José Verstappen and his EMV when I go to one of their concerts I am magically transported back to the time when this music was exciting and new and had never ever been played before.
Late happening adendum courtesy of José Verstappen: I need to indeed refute your comment on me wearing shoes because it was raining; the only occasion I sometimes forget my Birckenstock loyalty is when there is slush after a heavy snowfall.
- Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Charles Aznavour, O.C., Geneva, Switzerland, Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the Francophone culture as a singer, composer and actor and for his work which has helped establish important cultural ties between Canada and the rest of the French-speaking world.
Beloved French chanson entertainer Charles Aznavour, who wrote more than 800 songs, recorded more than 1,000 of them in French, English, German and Spanish and sold over 100 million records in all, was born Chahnour Varinag Aznavourian on May 22, 1924, in Paris, the younger of two children born to Armenian immigrants who fled to France following the Turkish massacre. His mother was a seamstress as well as an actress and his father was a baritone who sang in restaurants. Both Charles and his sister waited on tables where he performed. He delivered his first poetic recital while just a toddler. Within a few years later he had developed such a passion for singing/dancing, that he sold newspapers to earn money for lessons.
He took his first theatrical bow in the play "Emil and the Detectives" at age 9 and within a few years was working as a movie extra. He eventually quit school and toured France and Belgium as a boy singer/dancer with a traveling theatrical troupe while living the bohemian lifestyle. A popular performer at the Paris' Club de la Chanson, it was there that he was introduced in 1941 to the songwriter Pierre Roche. Together they developed names for themselves as a singing/writing cabaret and concert duo ("Roche and Aznamour"). A Parisian favorite, they became developed successful tours outside of France, including Canada. In the post WWII years Charles began appearing in films again, one of them as a singing croupier in Adieu chérie (1946).
Eventually Aznavour earned a sturdy reputation composing street-styled songs for other established musicians and singers, notably Édith Piaf, for whom he wrote the French version of the American hit "Jezebel". Heavily encouraged by her, he toured with her as both an opening act and lighting man. He lived with Piaf out of need for a time not as one of her many paramours. His mentor eventually persuaded him to perform solo (sans Roche) and he made several successful tours while scoring breakaway hits with the somber chanson songs "Sur ma vie" and "Parce que" and the notable and controversial "Après l'amour." In 1950, he gave the bittersweet song "Je Hais Les Dimanches" ["I Hate Sundays"] to chanteuse Juliette Gréco, which became a huge hit for her.
In the late 50s, Aznavour began to infiltrate films with more relish. Short and stubby in stature and excessively brash and brooding in nature, he was hardly leading man material but embraced his shortcomings nevertheless. Unwilling to let these faults deter him, he made a strong impressions with the comedy Une gosse sensass' (1957) and with Paris Music Hall (1957). He was also deeply affecting as the benevolent but despondent and ill-fated mental patient Heurtevent in Tête contre les murs, La (1959). A year later, Aznavour starred as piano player Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan in 'Francois Truffaut''s adaptation of the David Goodis' novel Tirez sur le pianiste (1960) [Shoot the Piano Player], which earned box-office kudos both in France and the United States. This sudden notoriety sparked an extensive tour abroad in the 1960s. Dubbed the "Frank Sinatra of France" and singing in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese), his touring would include sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall (1964) and London's Albert Hall (1967).
Aznavour served as actor and composer/music arranger for many films, including Gosse de Paris (1961), which he also co-wrote with director Marcel Martin, and the dramas Quatre vérités, Les (1962) [Three Fables of Love") and Caroline chérie (1968) [Dear Caroline]. The actor also embraced the title role in the TV series "Les Fables de la Fontaine" (1964), then starred in the popular musical "Monsieur Carnaval" (1965), in which he performed his hit song "La bohême."
His continental star continued to shine and Aznavour acted in films outside of France with more dubious results. While the sexy satire Candy (1968), with an international cast that included Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Ringo Starr, and epic adventure The Adventurers (1970) were considered huge misfires upon release, it still showed Aznavour off as a world-wide attraction. While he was also seen in the English drama _Games, The (1970), _Blockhouse, The (1973) and an umpteenth film version of Agatha Christie's Unbekannter rechnet ab, Ein (1974) [And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians], it was his music that kept him in the international limelight. Later films included Yiddish Connection (1986), which he co-wrote and provided music, and Maestro, Il (1989) with Malcolm McDowell; more recently he received kudos for his participation in the Canadian-French production Ararat (2002).
Films aside, hus chart-busting single "She" (1972-1974) went platinum in Britain. He also received thirty-seven gold albums in all. His most popular song in America, "Yesterday When I Was Young" has had renditions covered by everyone from Shirley Bassey to Julio Iglesias. In 1997, Aznavour received an honorary César Award. He has written three books, the memoirs "Aznavour By Aznavour" (1972), the song lyrics collection "Des mots à l'affiche" (1991) and a second memoir "Le temps des avants" (2003). A "Farewell Tour" was instigated in 2006 at age 82 and, health permitting, could last to 2010.
Married at least three times (some claim five) to Micheline Rugel, Evelyne Plessis and Ulla Thorsell, he is the father of six children (daughters Katia, Patricia and Seda Aznavour, and sons Misha, Nicholas and Patrick Aznavour).

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