La Scena Musicale

Monday, 27 February 2012

Un hommage à Brel du fond du cœur

Par Renée Banville

L’esprit de Brel flottait sur la scène de la Maison symphonique dimanche soir. Alternant avec des extraits d’entrevues qu’il a donnés, dix artistes ont chanté pour célébrer sa mémoire : Bïa, Pierre Flynn, Pierre Lapointe, Danielle Oderra, Luc De Larochellière, Bruno Pelletier, Paul Piché, Marie-Élaine Thibert, Diane Tell et Marc Hervieux.
            Tous ont chanté avec émotion et sincérité, dans une mise en scène dépouillée imaginée par Luc De Larochellière. Chacun entrait discrètement, pendant que l’auditoire était pendu aux lèvres de Brel sur écran géant. Seul devant son micro, l’interprète chantait ensuite deux chansons, accompagné au piano par Benoit Sarrasin qui en avait fait les arrangements. Seul Pierre Lapointe avait amené avec lui sa pianiste. Pour se donner du courage, peut-être, parce qu’il avait hérité du plus « casse-gueule » des succès : Ne me quitte pas. Des moments forts de cette soirée, on retiendra sa sobre interprétation de cette chanson magnifique qui a laissé un souvenir impérissable dans tous les cœurs et son amusant Au suivant qui l’a précédé.
            On retiendra aussi le passage émouvant de Danielle Oderra qui a su nous impressionner avec La valse à mille temps et nous a lu une lettre émouvante que Jacques Brel a écrite à sa sœur Clairette en 1977. Il y eut d’autres moments tristes, tendres ou drôles. Notons dans ce dernier registre Le moribond que Paul Piché a interprété avec tout l’humour que Brel y a insufflé. Marc Hervieux a terminé la ronde en comédien avec Les bonbons et en chanteur d’opéra avec La quête. Mais le mot de fin revenait à Brel avec sa chanson fétiche Ne me quitte pas. Une grande soirée qui termine Montréal en lumière avec brio.

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Saturday, 25 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 27 - Mar. 4)

Tenor Ian Bostridge (Photo: Simon Fowler)


















With the 2012 COC winter season now history, voice fans need not feel deprived as there are a number of very interesting concerts happening this week. Top on my list is the return of the consummate recitalist, British tenor Ian Bostridge. That crack by the late Anna Russell about tenors - that "they have resonance where their brains ought to be" - is proven patently false by Bostridge. This man is simply one of the smartest around - I ask you, how many singers in the history of classical music had studied theoretical physics, received a M. Phil in the history and philosophy of science, and a D. Phil from Oxford?! His book Witchcraft and its Transformations was published by Oxford in 1997. His most recent tome, A Singer's Notebook, was published by Faber and Faber last October. (I ordered it too late to read it before the concert! o well...) On Sunday March 4 3 p.m. at Koerner Hall, Bostridge will sing a program of Schumann in the first half, with Liederkreis Op. 24 as the centerpiece, followed by thirteen Brahms songs in the second half. He is partnered by the terrific collaborative pianist Julius Drake. This is a "do not miss" event for art song lovers. http://rcmusic.ca/

Once again, it's new music time at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with its New Creations Festival. The main attraction this year is the presence of Hungarian conductor and composer Peter Eotvos. Like Kaija Saariaho who was recently in town on occasion of the COC staging of her opera L'mour de loin, Eotvos is a prolific - though not exclusively by any means - opera composer. His Angels in America, based on the Tony Kushner play, received a highly acclaimed production in Paris and has since had productions in Fort Worth Opera in the US and its UK debut two years ago. I was hoping to catch his most recent opera, Die Tragodie des Teufels last year as I was in Munich at the time, but much to my regret, I missed it by a few days! I find Eotvos to be an absolutely fascinating composer and intellect. On Thursday March 1 at 8 p.m., in a concert called This Isn't Silence (which I wonder if it's a reference to John Cage's 4'33'?) Eotvos conducts his own composition, Seven, about the accident of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Also on the program is Canadian composer Claude Vivier's Lonel y Child, sung by the queen of contemporary music and the muse for many composers, Barbara Hannigan, who also happens to be Canadian! Works by Gyorgy Kurtag and Brian Current round out the evening. On Saturday March 3, Eotvos is joined by the Kronos Quartet for Derek Charke's Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, a TSO commissioned piece that is receiving its world premiere. The title of this evening's concert, Con Brio, is also the name of the work on the program by Jorg Widmann. TSO violist Teng Li plays the North American premiere of Eotvos' Replica for Viola and Orchestra. http://tso.ca/Home.aspx

Mooredale Concerts and the Ontario Philharmonic is presenting A Journey into Brahms, featuring Korean violinist Ye Eun Choi, with conductor Marco Parisotto. On the program is Brahms Violin concerto in D Op. 77 and Symphony No. 2 Op. 73. The Twenty-Something Ms. Choi has already garnered critical accolades from such musicians as Anne Sophie Mutter. So this is an opportunity to hear this young violinist. The concert takes place at the acoustically friendly Koerner Hall on Feb. 28, 8 p.m. http://www.mooredaleconcerts.com/Concert-Series.html

For those still needing more opera fix, there are many performances going on other than the COC. The ever-popular Die Fledermaus is put on by Opera York on Sunday Feb. 26, Mar. 1 and 3 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. Brussels-based Canadian baritone Matthew Zadow returns to Toronto to take on Eisenstein. He was very good as the Count in OY's Marriage of Figaro several years ago. Others in the cast include Ilona Karan (Rosalinda), Anna Bateman (Adele) and Ryan Harper (Alfred). Geoffrey Butler conducts. These are fully staged performances with sets and costumes. http://www.operayork.com/springseason.html

If you don't mind not having an orchestra, Toronto Opera Repertoire still has two performances left of Lucia di Lammermoor on Feb. 29 and Mar. 3, as well as two of Merry Widow on Mar. 2 and 4. Performances at the Bickford Centre near the Christie subway station. Details at http://www.toronto-opera.com/#!

Also on Sunday afternoon Mar. 4 is Oberto put on by Opera in Concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre. This very rarely heard early Verdi stars baritone Giles Tomkins, sopranos Joni Henson and Michele Bogdanowicz, as well as tenor Romulo Delgado. This is billed as a Canadian premiere. http://www.operainconcert.com/index.htm

York University's Faculty of Fine Arts is presenting Purcell's Dido and Aeneas for a two-performance run this week, on Thursday Mar. 1 and Friday Mar. 2 at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre on the York campus. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. York professor Canadian mezzo-soprano Catherine Robbin serves as both music director and producer of this production. Robbin was a baroque specialist during her active performing days, and she is nurturing many young voices at York. Professor Stephanie Martin conducts. Soprano Charlotte Gagnon is Dido and tenor Joseph Farahat is Aeneas. http://finearts.news.yorku.ca/2012/02/21/york-u-artists-re-imagine-purcells-opera-dido-and-aeneas/

On the recital front, former COC Ensemble mezzo Wallis Giunta - who is currently at the Met Lindemann Young Artists program - is in town to give an all-English song recital in the Music Toronto's Discovery Series. On her program is All Days are Nights/Songs for Lulu by Canadian songwriter Rufus Wainwright. I remember attending a concert given by Wainwright himself singing some of these songs at the Elgin Theatre during the Luminato Festival two years ago. Also on the program are works by Britten, Purcell, Musto, Coward, Vaughan Williams and Barber, among others. Steven Philcox is the collaborative pianist. March 1 8 p.m. at the Jane Mallett Theatre. http://music-toronto.com/

Another former COC Ensemble member, soprano Colleen Skull is giving a recital at Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Building on March 1 at noon. On the program are works of the 20th and 21st centuries. A former mezzo and now a dramatic soprano, Skull is going to sing Beethoven's formidable concert aria Ah! Perfido, plus selections of songs by Richard Strauss, Turina, and Alan Louis Smith. Susan Ball is the pianist. More information at http://www.music.utoronto.ca/events/calendar/tns0301.htm as well as the artist's website http://www.colleenskull.com/

An interesting piece of news is from baritone Peter McGillivray, yet another former COC Ensemble member. He is launching his new cabaret show at the Green Door Cabaret at the Lower Ossington Theatre. I have no information of the actual program, but it takes place on March 3 at 8 p.m. http://lowerossingtontheatre.com/cabaret




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Monday, 20 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 20 - 26)

Soprano Karina Gauvin


















Quebec soprano Karina Gauvin brings her exquisite voice to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week, in a highly unusual repertoire (for her) - Les Illuminations for Voice and String Orchestra. Guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni is at the helm. Also on the program is Brahms Symphony No. 4 and Pelleas et Melisande by Faure. Two performances, Wed. Feb. 22 and Thurs. Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. http://tso.ca/Home.aspx

The winter season of the Canadian Opera Company is winding down this week, but it's not too late! The one remaining performance of Love From Afar is on Wednesday Feb. 22, while there are three more performances of Tosca this week, all with the excellent Brandon Jovanovich as Caravadossi. This tenor is in such demand that in between performances here at the COC, he went to Deutsche Oper Berlin for several performances of Don Jose! Now he's back so catch him if you can. The Tosca is American soprano Julie Makerov a frequent guest of the Company. http://www.coc.ca/Home.aspx

Soprano and Saskatchewan native Ileana Montalbetti is give a farewell recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on Thurs. Feb. 23 at noon. She is finishing an unprecendented fourth year as a member of the COC Ensemble, the longest tenure of any singer in the history of the Ensemble. Montalbetti has the voice that in Germany is classified as a Jugenlische Dramatischer, a youthful dramatic soprano that is suitable in the lighter Wagnerian roles such as Elsa, Eva, Freia, Gutrune, Elisabeth, as well as Strauss roles such as Arabella, Chrysothemis, Kaiserin, and maybe Ariadne, Farberin and the Marschallin as the singer matures. Montalbetti's big voice was impressive as Elettra in a mainstage performances of Idomeneo two years ago. In her farewell concert, in addition to songs by Britten and Strauss, she is singing Eva's short aria, 'O Sachs, mein Freund', and the longer, very gorgeous 'Das war sehr Gut, Mandryka' at the end Arabella. This is a good chance to catch this singer one more time. Here is the link to her program http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert120223.pdf Rachel Andrist is the pianist. Be sure to show up at least 45 minutes in advance for a seat.

Russian violinist/conductor Vladimir Spivakov and pianist Olga Kern are embarking on their first North American tour as a duo with a stop at Toronto's Koerner Hall. They are of course no strangers to Toronto audiences, so it's good to have them back. (I just interviewed Kern for an article which you can read here: http://blog.scena.org/2012/02/olga-kern-celebrating-music.html ) In addition to the Koerner Hall duo recital, Kern is also giving a masterclass at the Robert Lowrey Piano Experts' European Gallery. Details at http://pianoexperts.com/ The recital is presented by Show One Productions http://www.showoneproductions.ca/ Ticket information at http://performance.rcmusic.ca/

Opera York is presenting Johann Strauss' ever-popular Die Fledermaus. Belgian-based Canadian baritone Matthew Zadow is Eisenstein. Other members of the cast are Ilona Karan (Rosalinda), Anna Bateman (Adele), Ryan Harper (Alfred) and Luisa Cowie (Orlovsky) Geoffrey Butler conducts. http://www.operayork.com/index.html

Other opera activities include Toronto Opera Repertoire's continuation with their spring productions of Lucia di Lammermoor and Merry Widow http://www.toronto-opera.com/ The Toronto Operetta Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Taptoo! a Canadian work by John Beckwith and James Reaney. http://www.torontooperetta.com/index.htm

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is putting on Virtuoso Vivaldi under the direction of Jeanne Lamon, on Feb. 21 (George Weston Hall), 23, 24, and 25 8 p.m. at the Trinity St. Paul's Centre. Guest artist is Dutch recorder virtuoso Marion Verbruggen. http://www.tafelmusik.org/


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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Remembering Elizabeth Connell (Oct. 22 1946 - Feb. 18 2012)


Elizabeth Connell (Oct. 22 1946 - Feb. 18 2012)

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With the passing of soprano Elizabeth Connell, the opera world has lost one of its most remarkable artists. In a career that lasted close to four decades, Connell left an indelible mark on the world of opera. Born on October 22 1946 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to Irish parents, Connell studied music at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg before going on to the London Opera Centre in 1970. She won the Maggie Teyte Award in 1972 and made her professional debut as a mezzo-soprano later that year at the Wexford Festival as Varvara in Janacek's Katya Kabanova. Highlights of her early career include Prokofiev's War and Peace at Opera Australia, the first opera production at the new Sydney Opera House. It marked the beginning of her long association with Opera Australia that lasted her whole career.

Connell was noted for her wide-ranging repertoire that included German, Italian, Russian, Czech and English works, with remarkable success in the operas of Wagner and Strauss, as well as Verdi and Puccini, this last one late in her career. She came into prominence as Ortrud in Bayreuth in 1982. Her career was focused in Europe and Australia, with occasional forays in North America. I first heard her as Kostelnicka at the COC Jenufa around 1982, and five years later as Ariadne. I also recall vividly her Lady Macbeth when I traveled to the Met to hear her around that time. (And who can forget that unfortunate incident on a Saturday broadcast of her Macbeth that same season when a man fell to his death and the last act had to be cancelled?) I also remember her Fidelio at San Francisco Opera in the 1990's. The last time I heard her live in a complete opera was a concert Elektra with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at Place des Arts about ten years ago. She wasn't glamorous on stage, but the moment she opened her mouth, one was struck by it's freshness and youthful timbre, without a hint of a wobble, truly remarkable for someone her age. I saw the telecast of her 2004 Fidelio Leonore, staged on Robben Island to mark the 10th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela. Though very heavy physically at the time, Connell triumphed through the sheer power and beauty of her singing and the sincerity of her acting. It was a most moving experience. A rather unexpected Indian Summer in her career occurred as a result of her stepping in for an ailing Irene Theorin as Turandot at Covent Garden in 2008, receiving critical accolades. That was her first return to the Royal Opera after an absence of many years. This was followed by her Mother in Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, a performance captured on video.

On the concert stage, thanks to her large voice with its brilliant top, her most frequently performed work was Magna Peccatrix in Mahler's Symphony No. 8 and Beethoven's Ninth, two works that she sang all over the world. Though she made relatively few recordings, her Carlotta in Schreker's Die Gezeichneten on the Decca Entartete Musik Series is much admired; the same can be said of her Mahler Eighth under the baton of Klaus Tennstedt. Also noteworthy is her Schubert disc with pianist Graham Johnson on the Hyperion label. On video, her Ortrud, one of her best roles as a mezzo was captured in a 1982 Bayreuth performance with Peter Hofmann and Karan Armstrong under the baton of Woldemar Nelsson.

Despite her illness, she continued to sing. Her last performance was a recital in Hastings in November 2011, much of which can been seen on Youtube. Her very last song was Ernest Charles' "When I have Sung My Songs" - a most poignant moment. For those interested in her art, a great deal of material can be seen and heard on www.youtube.com or at the website of her manager, Helmut Fischer - http://www.fischerartists.com/elizabeth-connell.html

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Olga Kern : Celebrating The Music


Russian pianist Olga Kern (photo: Dario Acosta)












Olga Kern : Celebrating The Music
The Dynamic Russian Pianist Talks about her Art

by Joseph K. So


Now into the second decade of an international career, Russian pianist Olga Kern continues to receive rapturous accolades from audience and critics alike. Praised for her virtuoso technique, innate musicality, singing tone, communicative power, not to mention a magnetic stage presence, one can say Kern has that undefinable something best described as star power. Since her 2001 win at the Van Cliburn Competition, incidentally the first woman in over thirty years to be bestowed that honour, Kern's career took off on a meteoric trajectory that has taken her to many important concert venues around the world. An exclusive Yamaha artist, Kern's last appearance in Toronto was in November 2010 when she came for the unveiling of the hot new Yamaha CFX concert grand. At her Koerner Hall concert, the incandescent Russian figuratively burned up the stage with a program of Haydn, Schumann, Rachmaninoff and Balakirev. This time around, Kern is teaming up with fellow countryman violinist Vladimir Spivakov in an evening of eclectic music-making, in a program of Brahms, Stravinsky, Arvo Part and Cesar Franck. An interesting twist is that Kern will be playing on the Bosendorfer Imperial Grand, courtesy of Robert Lowrey Piano Experts. (Since Yamaha owns Bosendorfer, it's all in the family, so to speak!) Kern will be using this rare instrument at the Koerner Hall concert as well as in the masterclass a day before, to take place at Robert Lowrey's European Gallery. Participating in the masterclass are two youngsters: the 11-year old Coco Ma and 15-year old Amadeusz Kazubowski Houston, both with impressive credentials already under their belts; plus the thirty-something Ricker Choi, Second Prize winner at the Berlin International Amateur Piano Competition. More details at http://pianoexperts.com/

Earlier this week, I managed to reach Olga Kern for a phone interview. No, it wasn't easy finding a suitable time as she was in the thick of final rehearsals in New York for her upcoming North American tour with Vladimir Spivakov. (In fact, the day after our conversation, the tour started in Princeton, New Jersey, followed by Boston, Carnegie Hall, Chicago before coming to Toronto on Feb. 23) My appointment with her had to be changed four times to accommodate her hectic schedule, but thanks to the good work of seasoned publicists Liz Parker and Linda Litwack, we eventually connected in the evening. Despite being at the end of an exhausting day, Kern exuded energy in our forty-minute conversation, gamely fielding all my questions with candid and thoughtful answers:

LSM: When you were a young student studying the piano, who was your idol? Your role model?

OK: Oh I had so many! I must say the most memorable, the most inspirational concert that I attended as a child was when (Vladimir) Horowitz came back to Moscow to play at the Conservatory. It was impossible to get tickets, but somehow my grandfather got a ticket for me. I was very little at that time, but I remember how incredible it was, the energy coming from that incredible musician. And all those encores - he played like 20 encores...it was unforgettable! Another memorable moment was when (Sviatoslav) Richter came to my school. He was already old - he used the score and didn't want big lights on stage, so it was by candle light. It was such an intimate atmosphere. My mother, when she heard that Richter was coming to my school, she said "we are not going back home - you'll just wait until the performance in the evening." Actually not many people knew that he was coming, so the little concert hall was half empty. I was in the first row. He played Brahms' Variations on a theme by Paganini, and I'll never forget that sound. I said to myself "one day I'll learn this piece and play it!" He was my inspiration. I learned it and played it at the Van Cliburn competition and I won. My third inspiration was of course Van Cliburn. My parents were pianists and they had recordings at home with Cliburn at the Tchaikovsky Competition. I grew up on that recording of Tchaikovsky 1 and Rachmaninoff 3. It was incredible, to hear an American musician with such feeling for Russian music. Those were the most memorable, but as I said, I had many others, like Glenn Gould, Claudio Arrau, and later on Martha Argerich.

LSM: You've been extremely successful in competitions. Tell us what's your secret...

OK: Ah! I must say that I never liked competitions. I don't think anybody likes competitions. But for young pianists, it's very important to do competitions because people will hear you and it's an opportunity to get management, recordings. In my case, this was what I was looking for. I was looking for something to get my career to a different step. (In a competition), I felt I was just performing a regular concert, I wanted to have that joy, that freedom, not thinking there are judges there to judge you. You have to be happy, to celebrate the music, to see it as another opportunity to give a concert to an audience - that was the most important feeling I had.

LSM: Do you encourage young people to enter competitions?

OK: As I said, for young people, competitions mean they have more opportunities to be heard, to get management, to succeed in life. Yes, I think competition is an important step in life right now. If you really want to be a soloist and a concert musician, to concertize, you need to enter competitions.

LSM: Do you serve as a judge in competitions?

OK: I did it a couple of times. I did it in Paris once, and in Russia I did a Van Cliburn Amateur Competition. I must say judging is so stressful for me! I feel so much for the people coming onstage to perform. I actually would prefer to be on the other side, to perform myself! It's such a big responsibility...

LSM: Yes, but when you are a judge, what qualities are you looking for in a competitor? What makes that pianist stand out among the rest?

OK: The most important thing is whether the person really understands and feels the music, to be inside the music. If the girl or boy really grabs your attention, you can't stop listening...

LSM: Besides giving masterclasses, do you also teach?

OK: You know, it's the biggest responsibility....the personal teacher is so important in our lives. To have this responsibility you need a 100% free time to do this. I know I love to teach, and I love masterclasses... it's the biggest pleasure when I have a chance. I like to share what I know with the young musicians. But I can't possibly give more free time because I'm concertizing so much... I feel I am not 100% toward this or that student. To teach, you need to dedicate your life to this. Either you are a teacher or you are a performer. You can share what you love at the masterclass when you can inspire young people. I remember when I was a young student in Accademia Pianistica in Imola Italy, I remember when great teachers like Leon Fleisher came, incredible musicians who were giving masterclasses. They were so inspiring to me as a student. It gave me such a great energy to do something better, give opportunity to my brain and my heart to do something differently. That was very important in my life. I am sure if I can help others in this way in the masterclasses, even for a short time, the talented musicians will listen to me and do something great. I have a couple of pianists where I feel I am a mentor in a way. I know these children from a young age. One girl just went to London and she's in the Royal Academy now. Another one is in Colorado. I remember hearing the talent in these kids, and I encouraged them to practice, to do something more. I wanted them to continue in music and I am glad they are doing so well. If I had more time, I'd dedicate my life to teaching, but unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - I love what I do. I love to be on stage performing. Maybe in my other life!

LSM: How many performances do you give a year?

OK: The count is about 130 a year. It's like that every year. I can't start doing less, people love what I do and keep inviting me back! I can't say no... I just keep going!

LSM: Since you play concerts all over the world - and pianists are not like singers who take their instruments with them - you're dependent on the instruments the concert organizers provide for you. How do you make adjustments to different pianos and concert halls?

OK: Sometimes it's not easy because the piano may not be in great condition. We need to have rehearsals before the concert, at least two hours to feel the acoustics and to feel the piano. You know, even not the greatest piano, I can turn it my way, to get the piano to like me! I feel I always have a conversation with the piano. It's not just an instrument - it has a soul. Just like a Stradivarius violin or cello, this instrument has a soul. Every piano, even when it's not in great condition because of the weather, or maybe not a great piano technician or something else... Anyway, you can always talk to a piano. You just have to take more time, maybe longer in the rehearsal, but it'll always respond to you. This is how I'm doing it!

LSM: How many pianos do you own?
OK: I have one piano in Moscow in my parent's apartment. They had two baby grands but they sold one and now we have one piano. And I have two Clavinova electronic pianos...they are great for practicing at night if I have to practice and not bother anybody. And then I have a piano in New York, both are Yamaha pianos and I love them!

LSM: You are known as a soloist, but you've also accompanied singers, like Renee Fleming. Can you give us your thoughts on accompaniment?

OK: I accompanied Renee Fleming and Kathleen Battle. I must say that when you work with the voice, it really give you the opportunity to learn so much. Piano in general is a percussion instrument, and you need to make it sing. To do this you need to know how singers use their voice. When you have opportunity to work with such a great singer like Renee Fleming for example, afterwards I understood how much I can change the sound on the piano, to sing more with the piano. I also work with chamber musicians, like now with Vladimir Spivakov. It's so much more intimate than a piano solo. You have a person next to you, and you are in a conversation all the time between violin and piano, back and forth. It's such a joy to have rehearsals and to listen to the sound of the violin or cello... it gives you the opportunity to learn something new... It's great.

LSM: What pieces of music are you working on right now?

OK: I have an interesting project - I want to do both Brahms No. 1 and 2. I hope I'll do the first concert in South Africa, with my brother. We always try to do something interesting, for example, we did all the Rachmaninoff concerti together for the first time in Cape Town where he is first guest conductor. Then I'm working on Prokofiev No. 1, and some Beethoven Sonatas because I want to give a recital of Beethoven "the teacher" and Liszt "the pupil." I'm so busy, I just hope I'll find the time. With my concert schedule, it's so hard to find the time, but I am hoping in the summer -even though I have summer festivals - it's always a good opportunity for me to learn something new.

LSM: Your repertoire is mostly the great masters of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Do you play contemporary pieces at all?

OK: I love contemporary music! I like the idea in competitions that you always have an obligatory piece by living composers. It's a great opportunity to see how young musicians understand contemporary music. I am trying to find the right piece by a composer living today. It's hard - it's either I don't like the piece, or it's something I like to play but would like to change something. It's good to meet the composer first beforehand. Actually I met some beautiful composers the last couple of years. Some of them wanted to dedicate some pieces to me - I'll see how it'll go. I really want to show my public that I love contemporary music. First of all, my father is a great composer. He's not composing anymore, but he was composing chamber music, piano sonatas concertos, pieces for the voice. He gave me the love and understanding of contemporary music. When I was in the conservatory, I studied the music of Olivier Messiaen and I wrote a kind of dissertation on him. His 12-tone system is so interesting to me. When you get inside it, you can understand that it's very mathematical. I learned some of his compositions - his works are so hard that nobody plays; they are so incredibly rhythmical. I really hope very soon I will be able to play it in a recital program. Not all contemporary, but at least one half of the program.

LSM: What advice would you give to a young person who is studying to be a concert pianist?

OK: You know, I have a son who is twelve. He started playing the piano when he was three. He started at the central music school in Moscow and now he is in his first year at Juilliard. I always give him the most important advice - it's to "practice right." A lot of students are not practicing correctly. They can practice six or seven hours without any success...

LSM: When you say "practicing right" - are you talking about technique?

OK: Mostly you need to understand what you do. When you are practicing, you need to concentrate on the music, nothing else matters. You can't think about - oh, I didn't do my homework, I didn't do this or do that... No! Rachmaninoff said you can make anything possible just in two hours if you practice correctly. You need to know what you are doing when you are working on a piece. When you start, you need to warm up our muscles. I would recommend everybody to start with a bit of scales, it doesn't need to be hours of scales, but at least a little bit, and of course, Bach. Bach is so important! When you play Bach, you concentrate, you make your brain work, (to be) in control of everything. After Bach, it's so easy to concentrate on your piece. You'll be so disciplined and in control...you hear everything. This is what I always say to my son, and thank God he loves Bach! He plays it everyday... Preludes and Fugues. It's so important.

LSM: Do you program Bach in your recitals?

OK: No, I usually keep it to myself in my practice. Maybe when I am older, I'll find the courage to actually perform Bach. Bach is so intimate to me, it is so personal. you really need to have the right public and the right place for Bach. It is not easy. You need to have a special occasion. You need to be ready for it. I must say I keep Bach to myself!

LSM: Well, maybe one day we'll get to hear your Bach! Maybe for now, a recording?

OK: Actually a recording can be an interesting idea because like what Glenn Gould did, it was so personal and so incredible...

LSM: I want to thank you for your time. I know you're very busy...

OK: My biggest pleasure! Thank you for calling me.




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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company in Montreal March 1-3



March offers a highlight of Danse Danse’s 2011-2012 season with the return of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, one of the most exciting contemporary dance troupes on the international scene. The company will perform Hora, a recent piece by artistic director and world-renowned choreographer Ohad Naharin, who is known for his innovative and textured vocabulary of movement. Hailed by the Jerusalem Post as a “sheer marvel at the diversity and beauty embedded in the human body,” Hora showcases eleven dancers against a unique backdrop of music arranged and performed by electronic composer Isao Tomito, including striking synthesized adaptations of Debussy, Mussorgsky and Richard Strauss. Hora runs from March 1-3 at the Théâtre Maisonneuve. www.dansedanse.net

—Hannah Rahimi

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Monday, 13 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 13 -19)




















Soprano Julie Makerov (photo: Kristin Hoebermann)

To coincide with Valentine's Day, American soprano Julie Makerov is giving an interesting noon hour recital, Ponderings on the Subject of Love, at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Makerov is of course our alternate Tosca, and a frequent guest of the COC, having sung Rusalka and Donna Elvira in previous seasons. On the program are songs by Quilter, Britten, Barber, Jean Berger and Jake Heggie. COC resident coach Anne Larlee is at the piano. On Thursday, be sure to attend Russell Braun and Friends, a noon hour concert of more songs of love including Brahms' famous Liebeslieder Walzer, Schumann's Spanische Liebeslieder, and a cycle by Canadian composer John Greer. Joining Russell Braun will be the rest of the cast of Love From Afar, soprano Erin Wall and mezzo Krisztina Szabo. Carolyn Maule and Johannes Debus are the collaborative pianists. These two concerts will be packed, so be sure to show up an hour early for a seat. Tosca and Love From Afar continue this week on Feb. 13 and 16 with Adrianne Pieczonka and Carlo Ventre as the lovers. You can catch Love From Afar on Feb. 14 and 18. http://coc.ca/Home.aspx

The venerable and high respected Alderburgh Connection is presenting its 30th Anniversary Gala at Koerner Hall on Sunday, Feb. 19th with a stellar lineup of 16 Canadian singers. Among them are Gerald Finley, Brett Polegato, Nathalie Paulin, Colin Ainsworth, Susan Platts, Lauren Segal, Monica Whicher, Ben Butterfield, Tyler Duncan, and Lawrence Wiliford. Catherine Robbin and Christopher Newton are co-presenters. As usual, Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata at the piano. I don't have program details except the final piece is Vaughan Williams Serenade To Music, written for - you guessed it - 16 soloists! http://aldeburghconnection.org/

If not having an orchestra doesn't bother you, then check out the Toronto Opera Repertoire. TOR is putting on Lucia di Lammermoor (Feb. 15 and 18) and Merry Widow (Feb. 17) this week, both at the Bickford Centre. The singers are a combination of young professionals and amateurs. The operas are fully staged with sets and costumes. http://www.toronto-opera.com/
Opera By Request is presenting a single performance of The Abduction from the Seraglio on Friday Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the College Street United Church. There's no mention if it's in English (given that they are using the English title) but it's more likely to be sung in German. Brahm Goldhamer is the guest music director and pianist. http://www.operabyrequest.ca/about/index.htm


The Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers a very attractive program of the ever-popular Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 and Sibelius' The Swan of Tuonela. Sarah Chang is the violinist and guest conductor John Storgards on the podium. Two performances, on Feb. 16 and 18 at 8 p.m. http://tso.ca/Home.aspx

Famed pianist, conductor and pedagogue Leon Fleisher is appearing with the the Royal Conservatory Orchestra this week in a program of Ravel, Beethoven and Prokofiev. Fleisher plays the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand, a great work - assuming you like Prokofiev - not performed nearly as often as it should and well worth catching. Uri Mayer conducts. http://rcmusic.ca/

Aradia Ensemble is presenting an eclectic program of Venetian baroque with comtemporary works, Capriccio Stravagante on Feb. 18 at the Glenn Gould Studio. The new pieces are by Rose Bolton and Christ Meyer. The soloist is mezzo Marion Newman. http://www.aradia.ca/Aradia_Ensemble_-_Fresh_Baroque/Home.html













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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

COC Ensemble & OdeM Atelier Lyrique showcase New Talent







































All Photos: Chris Hutcheson < http://chrishutcheson.com/ >
# 1: Group bow (l. to r.) Philip Kalmanovitch, Jenna Douglas, Timothy Cheung, Philippe Sly, Aidan Ferguson, Jacqueline Woodley, Isaiah Bell, Emma Parkinson, Ileana Montalbetti, Mireille Asselin
# 2: Isaiah Bell and Philippe Sly in The Rake's Progress
# 3: Emma Parkinson, Philippe Sly and Ileana Montalbetti in Cosi fan tutte
# 4: Mireille Asselin and Aidan Ferguson in Presentation of the Rose, Der Rosenkavalier




Collaborations: COC Ensemble & OdeM Atelier Lyrique showcase New Talent

by Joseph So

Feb. 7 2012, 12 p.m. Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

Largo al factotum / Philip Kalmanovitch, bar.
Come ti piace, imponi / Ileana Montalbetti, sop., Emma Parkinson mezzo
Unis des la plus tendre enfance /Isaiah Bell, ten.
Va! Laisse couler mes larmes / Aidan Ferguson, mezzo
La ci darem la mano / Jacqueline Woodley, sop., Philip Kalmanovitch, bar.
Parto, parto / Emma Parkinson, mezzo
My Tale Shall be Told / Isaiah Bell, ten., Philippe Sly, b-bar.
Soave sia il vento / Ileana Montalbetti, sop., Emma Parkinson, mezzo, Philippe Sly, b-bar.
Composer's Aria / Aidan Ferguson, mezzo
Mein Sehnen, mein Wahnen / Philip Kalmanowitch, bar.
Presentation of the Rose / Mireille Asselin, sop., Aidan Ferguson, mezzo
Si, ritrovarla io giuro / Isaiah Bell, ten.
Barcarolle / Jacqueline Woodley, sop., Aidan Ferguson, mezzo

Jenna Douglas and Timothy Cheung, piano

Today's Collaborations at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was the third time the Atelier Lyrique of Opera de Montreal and the COC Ensemble Studio have come together for a joint recital at the opera house. To Toronto voice fans, these concerts represent a nice opportunity to hear the up and coming voices, especially the visitors from OdeM. Today, eight singers plus two pianists showed their collective talent to a packed house. Some are more ready for prime time than others whose voices are more works in progress. To be sure, all of them possess youthful, fresh voices, abundant musicality, ingratiating stage presence and the desire and ability to communicate through music, all important ingredients for a future career. They were accompanied by two Ensemble pianists, Jenna Douglas and Timothy Cheung - regrettably their names were left out of the program. Other than a few errant tempi and notes here and there, the two young collaborative pianists acquitted themselves well. Midway during the concert, the Atelier lyrique singers individually went up to the podium for a brief introduction before their solos, all delivered with grace, poise and good humour.

It's amazing how much can be packed into a one-hour concert! The audience heard a mix of solo arias, duets, and trios, all well known pieces. I enjoyed all the singers, but if I were to single out one soloist, it would have to be mezzo Emma Parkinson, who possesses an outstanding voice. It's hall-filling, supple, rich, dark-tinged, with a golden sheen backed by an excellent technique. With her slim figure and long legs, she would make an ideal Sesto, Nicklausse, Siebel, Cherubino, and maybe even Octavian a few years down the road. Her "Parto, parto" was a tour de force. Among other highlights, I very much enjoyed the Presentation of the Rose with Quebec soprano (now COC Ensemble member) Mireille Asselin. A lovely Sophie, Asselin sang with crystalline tone and a firm high C. Her excellent Octavian was Aidan Ferguson, who also impressed as the Komponist in "Sein wir wieder gut" which she sang with just the right combination of ecstasy and ardour. Also of note was her Nicklausse in the Barcarolle from Hoffmann. The Giulietta was Jacqueline Woodley, whose light soprano isn't what one would normally think of as Giulietta, but she did well, her voice blending nicely with Ferguson's. Saskatchewan native Ileana Montalbetti is familiar to Toronto audiences, as this represents her unprecedented fourth year in the Ensemble. Her's is a budding dramatic soprano with plenty of volume and a steely edge, ideal as Elettra and Vitellia, roles that she has sung at the COC. On this occasion, she teamed up with Emma Parkinson for a duet in Tito, and with Parkinson and Philippe Sly in the famous trio "Soave sia il veno" from Cosi fan tutte.

Among the men, I was intrigued by BC tenor Isaiah Bell, who sang two solos and a duet. His is a light, sweet sound, with very good agility and a well supported upper range, making him ideal in Rossini. He sang Ramiro's aria from La cenerentola - a fiendishly difficult piece not for the faint of heart. He sang fearlessly and quite well, with all the money notes, only a hint of unevenness of tone in his passaggio notwithstanding. His duet with Philippe Sly in The Rake's Progress may not be the most catchy music for a recital program, but these two singers made it work. Baritone Philip Kalmanovitch, who opened the proceedings with an exuberant Largo al factotum, a piece that suits his irrepressible personality. He was also good in the very familiar "La ci darem la mano" with Jacqueline Woodley as a soubrette Zerlina. His Pierrot's aria "Mein sehnen, mein Wahnen" from Die tote Stadt is more a work in progress as it requires a steadier tone and firmer legato. There was no encore, but the singers were all well cheered by the appreciative audience, who can look forward to next year's Collaborations.

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Sunday, 5 February 2012

This Week in Toronto (Feb. 6 - 12)

Russell Braun (Jaufre Rudel) and Krisztina Szabo (The Pilgrim) in Kaija Saariaho's Love From Afar (Photo: Michael Cooper)









The Canadian Opera Company winter opera season is in full swing, with Tosca and Love From Afar alternating at the Four Seasons Centre. Both have been well received by audience and critics alike. I caught the second performance of the Saariaho opera on Saturday. I admit to some preconceived notions about this piece, having seen it ten years ago at the Santa Fe Opera. Back then, it had fabulous singing from a great cast (Gerald Finley, Dawn Upshaw, Monica Groop) but the production itself was static and aesthetically icy, affecting my enjoyment of the music. This time around, I was bracing myself for a boring afternoon. Boy, was I ever wrong! This production, originally from ENO and Antwerp, is one of the most visually dazzling and creative shows I've seen in memory. Kudos to stage director Daniele Finzi Pasca. The video projections in Part 2 (Acts 4 & 5) are stunning. This production is on the level of the fabulous Robert Lepage Nightingale two seasons ago - in fact, I can think of stylistic similarities. The singers at the COC are equally fine, with Russell Braun an intense and moving Jaufre Rudel, and Erin Wall floating the most heavenly pianissimos as Clemence. COC Music Director Johannes Debus is at his very best in contemporary music and the orchestra played divinely. Three performances, on Wed. Feb. 8, Fri. Feb. 10, and Sunday (matinee) Feb. 10. Meanwhile, I went back to Tosca for a second go, with the alternate cast. The excellent tenor Brandon Jovanovich is the other Cavaradossi. Have heard his wonderful Pinkerton in Santa Fe and just last June his Siegmund in San Francisco. I have to say I prefer his Cavaradossi over the Uruguayan Carlo Ventre. Julie Makerov is less dramatic than Adrianne Pieczonka but still a very fine Tosca. You can catch the Puccini on Feb. 7, 9, and 11. http://coc.ca/Home.aspx Also don't forget to check out the joint recital of the COC Ensemble Studio and the OdeM Atelier Lyrique. This will be the third year of Collaborations, showcasing young artists from the two opera companies. Do show up early for a seat. Details at Here is a link to the program http://files.coc.ca/pdfs/concert120207.pdf

Worth catching is the innovative programming at Tafelmusik this week - House of Dreams, a multimedia presentation of music and the visual arts. Conceived and scripted by Alison Mackay, this show combines the music of Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Marais against a backdrop of the projected images of Vermeer, Canaletto and Watteau. Blair Williams is the narrator and Marshall Pynkoski of Opera Atelier is the director. Performances Feb. 6 to 12 at the Trinity - St. Paul Centre. http://www.tafelmusik.org/index.php

Toronto Summer Musical Festival is presenting a benefit event, aptly called Toronto Summer Music In Winter, on Feb. 8 7:30 p.m., at Walter Hall, in the Edward Johnson Building, University of Toronto. The newly formed New Orford String Quartet will perform Beethoven's last String Quartet, Op. 135, and Shauna Rolston then joins the group for Schubert's String Quintet Op. 163 for two cellos. There will be a post-performance champagne reception with the artists. More information and tickets at http://www.tsmaf.ca/

Following its recent presentation of Lohengrin, Opera by Request is back with another major work in the operatic canon, Beethoven's Fidelio. No, there won't be an orchestra in this performance, but the music remains sublime. Soloists include soprano Dolores Catherine Trart (Leonore), Lenard Whiting (Florestan), Jennifer Rasor (Marzelline), Anthony Faure (Jacquino), Frank de Jong (Rocco) and Michael Robert-Broder (Pizarro), under the direction of William Shookhoff. Friday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m. at the College St. United Church, 452 College Street in downtown Toronto. http://www.operabyrequest.ca/index.htm

Finally, I know this is not exclusively a Toronto event as the Met in HD is worldwide in reach, but the final installment of the Wagner's Ring Cycle, Goetterdammerung, is going to be shown at select Cineplex cinemas this Saturday Feb. 11 at noon. It is going to be a looooong one, so be prepared with food and drink! The show will end shortly before 6 p.m. The Robert Lepage Ring has received mixed reviews from audience and the press, so find out for yourself! Deborah Voigt is Brunnhilde and Jay Hunter Morris is Siegfried. Fabio Luisi is replacing an ailing James Levine at the podium. I do believe all tickets have been sold in the more popular venues such as Sheppard Grande, Silver City and Scotiabank downtown, but do check with the theatres for returns, or if they are opening up an extra cinemas. http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx



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Thursday, 2 February 2012

A Miraculous Musical Pilgrimage With Conspirare's Company of Voices




Talbot: Path of Miracles
Conspirare: Company of Voices/Craig Hella Johnson, conductor

St. Martin’s Lutheran Church
Austin, Texas
Friday, January 20, 2012

Now in the middle of its 19th season, Conspirare's 24-member Company of Voices continues to be innovative and inspiring. Its latest presentation was the regional premiere of Path of Miracles, a 70-minute work by British composer Joby Talbot; a beautiful work, it was given a superb performance on this occasion by Craig Hella Johnson & Company.

Path of Miracles depicts the famous medieval Christian pilgrims’ walk from France to Santiago, in homage to St. James, one of Jesus’ disciples, and the patron saint of Spain. Legend has it that James evangelized in Spain, was martyred in Jerusalem, and his body then miraculously ended up Spain. His tomb was rediscovered there 800 years later and his remains were taken to their final resting place near Santiago.

The pilgrims’ path, known as the “Way of St. James” or “Camino de Santiago,” is a 780 km. walk and thousands of pilgrims still make the trip today, stopping along the way to have their official church passports stamped. While there are several different routes for pilgrims to take to Santiago, the one from France known as “Camino Frances” is the most popular. It is marked with yellow signs to keep walkers from getting lost and there are dozens of hostels along the way catering exclusively to pilgrims.

Musical Pilgrimage in Four Movements
Path of Miracles is in four movements, which represent the starting point, two stops along the way and the destination of the pilgrimage, Santiago. The composer takes the city of Roncesvalles as his starting point and this is the name of his first movement; for the record, however, the actual starting point of the Camino Frances is St. Jean Pied de Port, leading to a grueling 23 km walk over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles.

The text of this piece is by Robert Dickinson, with quotations from the Bible and from medieval sources. There are passages in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Basque, French, English and German, and this is entirely appropriate in a rite of passage involving pilgrims from many different cultures.

The opening of Path of Miracles is remarkable - a hymn of praise to St. James. The men of the choir begin on very low notes and gradually ascend by means of a vocal glissando, increasing in volume at the same time. Upon reaching their highest pitch, they are met by a huge wave of sound from the female voices of the choir; the combination is thrilling and rather frightening in its power. The movement then proceeds to tell the story of St. James.

Musically, Path of Miracles is difficult to describe. It is eclectic, to be sure, in its use of sounds and styles from the entire history of music. There is plainchant and polyphony. There are hymns, droning bass notes from Russian liturgical music and bouncy rhythms that seem entirely modern, yet never did I feel that the composer was simply parading his virtuosity or showing off the virtuosity of the choir performing the music; rather, I was convinced that he had simply found the perfect musical expression of his religious conviction and the text.

Path of Miracles is almost entirely a cappella, except for episodes in the first and last movements when high-pitched cymbals or crotales are used. It does have optional stage directions which were employed very effectively in this performance. From time to time members of the choir walked up the aisles of the church while singing and this had the effect of bringing the audience – literally – inside the music. At the very end of the piece, the male singers walked slowly out the doors at the front of the church and the female singers did the same at the rear. They sang as they moved and gradually the music died away into silence with the words “Holy St. James, great St. James. God help us now and evermore.”

While I have said that this piece was not about virtuosity, I must say that it makes extraordinary demands on the voice – difficult intervals, extremes of register, notes sustained over many bars, tricky rhythms, etc. – all of which the members of the Company of Voices executed with astonishing precision.

Composer Joby Talbot’s singular vision has found its ideal interpreters in conductor Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare’s Company of Voices.

For Those Wanting More…
Readers interested in learning more about the "Way of St. James" may find the following websites useful: www.caminodesantiago.me.uk; www.en.wikipedia.org/Way_of_St._James.

Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar, and Sir Georg Solti: His Life and Music. For friends: The Art of the Conductor podcast, Classical Airs.


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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Toronto Symphony Orchestra Announces its 2012-13 Season


TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian











Highlights of Toronto Symphony Orchestra's 2012-13 Season

At a press conference this morning, Toronto Symphony Orchestra announced its 2012-13 season. As stated in the TSO press release, the new season is "one of new faces and new possibilities, alongside treasured and timeless masterworks." Its programming is certainly living up to that claim - the opening night combines old masters (Brahms Violin Concerto) with contemporary works (John Adams' Harmonielehre.) A number of great artists are returning after an absence of some years, as well as artists new to TSO and the city. There are also new appointments and new initiatives, underscoring the vitality and energy of this great symphony orchestra.

Conductors: A very strong roster of visiting conductors, among them Thomas Dausgaard, Jiri Belohlavek, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Kent Nagano, Bernard Labadie, Sir Andrew Davis, Nicholas McGegan, Johannes Debus, Robert Spano, James Gaffigan, Pinchas Zukerman, Stephane Deneve, Christoph Koenig, Bramwell Tovey, and Giancarlo Guerrero. It's especially exciting to have the Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek back after a long absence to conduct Beethoven Ninth (Feb. 2013). (He's of course going to be in town for the COC Tristan und Isolde a couple of blocks away at Queen and University Avenues.) Kent Nagano, much loved in Munich and Montreal, is bringing his MSO for a program of Haydn and Stravinsky (Nov.) And of course the TSO Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis figures prominently next season.

Pianists: It's a very strong lineup focusing on youth, among them Yuja Wang, Ingrid Fliter, Kirill Gerstein, Jan Lisiecki, Lise de la Salle; Joyce Yang, Alon Goldstein, Jeremy Denk, Jamie Parker, Jon Kimura Parker, and Charles Richard Hamelin (winner of the 2011 TSO National Piano Competition.)

Violinists: A tremendous lineup of Maxim Vengerov, Anne-Sophie Mutter, James Ehnes, Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, and our own concertmaster Jonathan Crow!

Vocalists: Baritones Gerald Finley (finally!) and Russell Braun, the huge-voiced Chinese bass-baritone Shenyang (a Cardiff winner), sopranos Erin Wall, Klara Ek, Layla Claire, and Measha Brueggergosman; mezzo Kelly O'Connor, tenors Michael Schade and Joseph Kaiser; and countertenor Daniel Taylor. Also a concert performance of La via breve brings a host of soloists including mezzo Nancy Fabiola Herrera.

TSO Goes Multimedia: Photographer James Westwater will photo-choreograph Smetana's Ma Vlast. Another natural choice for photographic treatment is Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition; similarly, West Side Story will combine Bernstein's score with the newly remastered Robert Wise film featuring Jerome Robbins' choreography.

Canadian Content: During the New Creations Festival, a number of Canadian composers will have their works featured, among them Andrew Staniland, whose Dark Star Requiem made a powerful impression two seasons ago; Owen Pallett will contribute a new Violin Concerto.

New Positions/New Initiatives: Two newly formed positions, Resident Conductor and Affiliate Composer will be created, and the candidates will be named at a later date. The new appointees will work closely with TSO music director Peter Oundjian, Composer Advisor Gary Kulesha, the artistic staff and the TSO musicians. Perhaps one of the most novel and exciting initiatives is the commission of A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City, a work for, by and about Toronto. This new work will premiere on March 9, 2013 during the New Creations Festival.

All in all, a very exciting season ahead!

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Les incontournables du printemps : OTTAWA

Par Hélène Boucher
 
Centre national des arts
C’est une œuvre magistrale de Carl Orff qui annonce la saison printanière du Centre national des Arts d’Ottawa. La cantate scénique Carmina Burana, alliant chœur et orchestre autour des élans poétiques sensuels et satiriques du 13e siècle, permettra d’apprécier la maîtrise du nouveau maestro d’origine vénézuélienne, Diego Matheuz, au pupitre de l’Orchestre du CNA. On entendra les voix de la soprano Erin Wall, du contre-ténor Daniel Taylor et du baryton Russell Braun. Les Danses de Galánta du Hongrois Kodály et Danzon No. 2 pour orchestre du compositeur mexicain Arturo Márquez complètent le programme. Deux représentations sont prévues, les 8 et 9 mars.
La Série Bravo Bostonian réserve un événement majeur, les 19 et 20 avril, avec les Concertos brandebourgeois de Bach. Sous la direction de Pinchas Zukerman, les musiciens de l’Orchestre du CNA accueilleront des invités spéciaux pour cet hommage à l’époque baroque.
Les amateurs de comédies musicales seront ravis d’assister à l’une des trois représentations du spectacle Les Misérables et autres succès. Du 10 au 12 mai, rendez-vous avec des chanteurs inspirés de la pure tradition de Broadway qui interprèteront des classiques de Claude-Michel Schönberg et Alain Boublil tirés des Misérables et de Miss Saigon. Avec l’ensemble vocal Ewashko Singers et l’Orchestre du CNA sous la direction de Jack Everly.
Ottawa accueillera plus de 500 artistes de la Saskatchewan et du Manitoba lors de l’édition 2012 du festival national Scène des Prairies. Du 26 avril au 8 mai, musiciens, comédiens, chorégraphes, cinéastes et autres créateurs se réuniront dans différents lieux de la capitale nationale pour exprimer leur art. À signaler, notamment, la visite de l’Orchestre symphonique de Winnipeg avec le violoniste James Ehnes, pour une soirée Tchaïkovski avec son Concerto pour violon et la Symphonie no 5. Une création du compositeur canadien Randolph Peters complétera le programme. Une présentation du Centre national des Arts. www.prairiescene.ca
L’ORCHESTRE symphonique d'Ottawa
Une Soirée symphonique printanière se déroulera le 21 avril afin de renouveler l’apport de l’Orchestre dans la communauté et de récolter des fonds. Rendez-vous convivial et élégant par excellence, l’activité comporte un dîner, un concert et un encan, dans l’environnement enchanteur de l’hôtel Fairmont Château Laurier. Les billets sont disponibles dès maintenant, au coût de 140 $ par personne.
Une autre raison de célébrer l’orchestre du chef David Currie : la saison 2011-2012 marque ses 20 ans d’engagement à titre de directeur musical. Et pour le fêter comme il se doit, la programmation permettra d’apprécier les grandes œuvres interprétées par l’OSO à travers le temps. Le 5 mars, un concert spécial se déclinera avec un double programme : Le Mandarin merveilleux de Bartók et Les Planètes de Holst. Ce sera l’occasion d’un rendez-vous entre les musiciens de l’OSO et ceux de l’Orchestre des jeunes d’Ottawa, qui célèbre pour sa part ses trois décennies d’existence. www.ottawasymphony.com
 Le Chœur Bach d'Ottawa
Dix ans déjà pour le Chœur Bach d’Ottawa, qui propose un concert 10e anniversaire. Un hommage au maître du baroque, avec orchestre et chanteurs tels que Suzie Leblanc, Agnes Zsigovics, Daniel Taylor, Charles Daniels, Jacques-Olivier Chartier, Stephan McLeod and Daniel Lichti. Le 10 mars à 19 h, en l’église unie Dominion-Chalmers d’Ottawa. www.ottawabachchoir.ca
l’Orchestre symphonique de Gatineau
La 5e saison de l’Orchestre symphonique de Gatineau et de son directeur artistique Yves Léveillé se clôturera le 31 mars prochain avec la 5e Symphonie de Mahler. Une soirée majestueuse, à la salle Odyssée de la Maison de la culture de Gatineau, réalisée en collaboration avec le Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Gatineau. www.osgatineau.ca

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Spring Highlights: Quebec City

By Michèle-Andrée Lanoue

Erreur de type 27
The ensemble Erreur de type 27, the “presence of contemporary music” in Quebec City incarnate, is collaborating with Oktoécho for a reading where theatre and music collide for the presentation of Chants du prophète. Part improvised and part written, the performance draws on the philosophical/poetic anthology Le Prophète by Khalil Gibran. This premiere from composer Katia Makdissi-Warren and playwright-director Hanna Abd El Nour will be performed at the Palais Montcalm on March 31 at 8 p.m. www.erreurdetype27.com

Orchestre symphonique de Québec
Two orchestras, from the Conservatoire de musique de Québec and the music faculty of Université Laval, will join the OSQ on March 7 at the Grand Théâtre de Québec. Under the baton of maestro Jean-François Rivest, the three orchestras will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”, along with Richard Strauss’s Metamorphoses and Thus spoke Zarathustra.

After worldwide success, a multimedia production designed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be presented in Quebec City on March 21. The centrepiece of the multidisciplinary composition is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. Actor Jack Robitaille, along with Jacques Leblanc as narrator, will stage a dramatization of the symphony’s composition. The piece will then be performed in its entirety, directed by maestro Jean-Michaël Lavoie.

The OSQ is presenting its four-part Mozart festival from April 1 to 4. Four concerts, featuring violinist Mayumi Seller and pianist Anton Kuerti, will evoke distinctive places and atmospheres. The festival will draw to a close with two key works of the Austrian composer’s repertoire: Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter,” and the Requiem.

The vitality of gypsy music is at the heart of the OSQ’s April 25 concert directed by Jean-Marie Zeitouni. Montreal violinist Alexandre Da Costa will play Ravel’s Tzigane and Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. Also on the programme are Manuel de Falla’s Suite No. 1, The Three-Cornered Hat, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8.

The OSQ will perform Carl Orff’s Carmina burana on May 30 at the Grand Théâtre de Québec. Conductor Jacques Lacombe and soloists Nathalie Paulin, Matthew White and Philip Addis offer a presentation enhanced with special effects for a reinvention of this classic. Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms is also on the programme. The audience is invited to Salle Louis-Fréchette an hour before the concert begins to learn about the historical context of the evening’s pieces.

Opéra de Québec
Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff (1893) will be performed in Quebec City on May 12 (7 p.m.), 15, 17 and 19 (8pm). In this Shakespeare-based comedy, directed by Jacques Leblanc with musical director Giuseppe Graziloli, intrigue abounds and vengeance, jealousy and humour all have their say.

Les Violons du Roy
One of Bach’s greatest masterpieces, the St John Passion, will be performed on March 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. in Salle Raoul-Jobin of Palais Montcalm. For the occasion, Bernard Labadie has brought together La Chapelle de Québec and a spectacular cast. Particularly of note are tenor Ian Bostridge and soprano Karina Gauvin. The same concert will be performed on March 25 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Bernard Labadie and les Violons du Roy will perform Mozart’s three last symphonies on June 1 in salle Raoul-Jobin of Palais Montcalm. Symphony No. 39 in E flat major, K. 543, Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550 and Symphony No. 41 in C major, “Jupiter,” K. 551 — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s symphonic last will and testament.

The OSM visits Quebec City
On March 28 at 7:30 p.m., the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Kent Nagano will visit the old capital to give a concert in Salle Louis-Fréchette of the Grand Théâtre de Québec. On the programme: the overture of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with soloist Vadim Repin.

Club Musical de Québec
New York pianist Murray Perahia, a student of Vladimir Horwitz, is one of the great pianists of our time. He will be at the Grand Théâtre de Québec on March 20. Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert are on the programme.

Translation: Ariadne Lih

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