2006-Classical-Vienna_Piano_Trio.jpgThe Vienna Piano Trio’s previous Toronto appearances – with the Women’s Musical Club in November 2005 and three visits to Toronto Summer Music from 2010 to 2012 – were greeted with widespread acclaim. So it’s no surprise that they are highly anticipating their Mooredale Concerts recital March 8. That’s what the gregarious Stefan Mendl, the trio’s pianist and last remaining of its founding members, told me recently by phone from Vienna, the city where he has lived since his birth.

I asked him about the particular sensibility that typifies a chamber musician. “From scratch you must have the urge to find a special sound that is the group sound,” he answered. “You should not be so restrained that nobody can hear you but neither are you so predominant that you drown out the others. It must be your goal from the beginning that you find this sound; if you have a good ear and if you have the will to do this, then you are off to a good start.

“Then, of course there is experience, knowing when you can really play out and when you have to combine with the strings; when you have to give them more bass or less bass. You have to put aside your own ambitions and have the will to find a sound that blends.”

In his own case, right from his first experience on stage, chamber music felt better. “I discovered early on in my soloist days [born in 1966, he founded the trio in 1988] that I enjoyed playing concertos much more than recitals. I think that sometimes you get more ideas or better ideas when you have the chance to interact with others. At least for me that’s the case and I feel very, very comfortable with friends and with colleagues on stage. I don’t feel that comfortable when I’m on my own.

“And of course there is the wonderful music that is written for piano trio, piano quartet and piano quintet [he regularly performs with the Hagen Quartet]. Sometimes, all of our greatest composers put a lot of their inner feelings and emotions into their chamber music. I find it all very fascinating, still,” he said, with a laugh that underlined the hold the music still has on him.

The key thing to a trio’s success he believes is to have three people of equal musical and technical skill who have similar musical goals. “You need a rich palette of ideas and colour. Everybody needs their own opinion amidst the common goal.”

I wanted to know how he relates to the music the trio will be performing on the upcoming Sunday afternoon in Toronto. “Beethoven’s Kakadu Variations is really a fantastic piece of music,” he replied with palpable verve. “The very late opus number [Op.121a] is a bit misleading. No one hearing the very heavy introduction would expect it to turn into this funny theme, but there are hints, hidden in a minor key in a delicate, funny way. One slow variation before the finale is very deep and serious. Like all of Beethoven, the deepest and most serious is right next to the fun, almost grotesque or rude side. He was never shy, even in his greatest works to put little bits of his feelings right next to the really funny things. These variations are a really good way to experience that; in a very short amount of time he does all these turns and twists.”

This was a good opportunity to bring up the relationship between recording and live performance since the trio released the Kakadu variations along with Beethoven’s Trios Op.70, on their latest MDG Gold CD last year. “Recording something always affects your live playing because you get so close to it. You listen more to detail than you would otherwise ... sometimes you get things brought out that you probably wouldn’t have discovered before and then your performance is altered. Of course, your performance always changes over time,” he said.

Mendelssohn’s Trio No.1 Op.49 in D Minor, the concluding piece on the March 8 program, is the more famous of the composer’s two trios, but for Mendl, they are both on the same genius level. The trio plays them frequently and loves both of them. Mendl particularly enjoys the “gorgeous and brilliant and skillful piano writing which hardly any great composer has accomplished to that extent.

“It works so well for the medium of the piano trio because Mendelssohn had all these great melodies – mainly he wrote in the strings – and the texture for that is this incredibly bubbling piano part which makes a fantastic contrast. He does this in a very, very idiomatic way so that his piano trios will always be at the top of the list of the greatest trios both for performers and the audience. And a beautiful lyrical slow movement, a quicksilvery light scherzo – the type of scherzo so different from what anybody else wrote in those days ... The scherzo is perfect; there can’t be a more perfect scherzo imaginable.”

Mendl reminded me that Schumann had written a famous review raving about that D-Minor trio, calling it the role model of a piano trio. Very interesting in light of the preceding work on the Toronto recital, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke Op. 88. Despite its late opus number, it was written earlier than the composer’s piano trios but published later and less often performed. Schumann called them fantasy pieces because they didn’t conform to the trio form. The first and third pieces, the slow ones, are especially close to the pianist’s heart and “contain some of Schumann’s best piano trio writing ... they are in no way second rate.”

I was curious about the formidable list of mentors on the Vienna Piano Trio’s website, almost all of whom the trio met during a memorable two-week chamber music workshop in New York in 1993. “We’d never been to New York before so it was a double experience, really mind-blowing I would say, without exaggeration.” They got several lessons from Isaac Stern, the Guarneri Quartet (Arnold Steinhardt and Michael Tree), from Henry Meyer of the LaSalle Quartet and from the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio. Mendl still remembers the kindness of Jaime Laredo who brought them back to New York for a concert series.

Most important was the enormous impact the intense workshop had on the group’s musical goals. It brought a “kind of down-to-earth quality” to what had been the “very polished style of trio playing we had experienced with [earlier mentors] the Trio di Trieste.”

Finally, I wondered, did living in Vienna inspire him, since the City of Dreams had been a place where many composers lived and died.  “And died especially,” he laughed. “I personally live very, very close to where all these Beethoven memorial places are ... and although I don’t want to do this too consciously, sometimes I’m touched when I wander around in this area and I feel that Beethoven wrote so much music there and lived there for a great while.”

2006-Classical-Emanuel_Ax.jpgSeen and Heard:The RBC Piano Extravaganza – or “Ax-travaganza” as Mervon Mehta dubbed it – took the city by storm over an 11-day period attracting approximately 14,000 to events at RTH alone. In addition, 27 amateurs performed on the hall’s newly acquired New York Steinway during the Community Piano Showcase; including the Young People’s Concert programs, 20 pianists performed on the RTH stage during the festival; and 200 people played the five Steinways in the festival’s inaugural event, Pianos in the City, February 4 between 11am and 2pm.

My immersion in the Extravaganza began on its second day, Thursday February 5, with festival curator Emanuel Ax’s introduction of two young pianists at a COC free noontime concert. Siberian-born Pavel Kolesnikov, the 2012 Honens Competition winner now studying with Maria JoãoPires in Brussels, learned three Liszt transcriptions of Wagner operas, including the “Pilgrim’s Chorus” from Tannhäuser, especially for the event. Impressive. American pianist Orion Weiss, who left his native Cleveland for Juilliard, specifically to study with Ax for his integrity and revelatory playing, brought a singing touch to a pair of Granados Goyescas. Several hours later they played a dynamically well-matched Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances for two pianos that preceded a TSO concert that included the orchestral version of the same piece.

Ax began that program with an agreeable, self-effacing rendition of a Schubert impromptu followed by Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 14 K449. Round tones of limpid liquidity gave the impression that the pianist was opening a musical jewel box.

The four-hour and twenty-minute Pianopalooza Sunday afternoon included 16 disparate performers selected by the RCM in a musical cavalcade that came close to filling Koerner Hall and concluded with a show-stopping, two-piano-eight-hands version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture complete with recorded cannon shots. The event featured two bona fide highlights: Robi Botos’ jazz set was an uninterrupted 20-minute piece of spontaneous joy; Ax’s melodic, technically assured performance of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 was piano playing at its best.

Three days later, Ax joined Jan Lisiecki for Mozart’s heavenly Concerto for Two Pianos K316a/365 and Saint-Saëns’ delightfully entertaining The Carnival of the Animals.

The next day in a pre-concert performance, Ax displayed his chamber music skill set in an immensely satisfying reading of Schumann’s Piano Quintet Op. 44. The string parts were taken by the first chair TSO players, concertmaster Jonathan Crow, principal second violinist Paul Mayer, prinicipal violist Teng Li and principal cellist Joseph Johnson. The players faced the choir loft, which overflowed into the adjacent sections of the hall. No one who heard them will forget the strings’ strength, the way Ax was able to emerge from the background to point out the melody and the assured playing of this propitious gathering.

Later that evening Ax demonstrated a deft curatorial touch in an adventurous program pairing a two-piano piece with its orchestral equivalent. Ax and Stewart Goodyear, more or less balanced in selected pieces of Carl Maria von Weber, returned for an exciting performance of Ravel’s La Valse. In between Anagnoson & Kinton proved to be very well-matched in an apparently seamless gambol through Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn. As in the previous week’s Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, the orchestral colour was more varied than the keyboards’ but the unique opportunity to hear the difference was welcome.

Ax spoke of his love of the word “metamorphosis” when he introduced that program. The next morning he became its agent at a master class for Glenn Gould School students. He was his usual combination of self-effacing and endearing as his analysis and advice transformed a student’s performance of Chopin’s Barcarolle, a piece he called “ecstatic” and which he linked forward to Wagner and back to Bach. He continued his delicate balance of dispensing compliments, ever careful that his suggestions would not be construed as outright criticism.

He recalled an encounter he had as a young man with Pablo Casals when the cellist was 96 and spending his last summer at Marlboro. “[When] the music goes up, [play] loud; music goes down, soft,” Casals instructed. “We all thought he was out to lunch,” Ax said. “But the older I get, the more I see how right he was.”

Quick Picks:

Mar 6 Siberian-born violinist Vadim Repin, the interview subject of my last month’s column, makes his eagerly awaited Toronto recital debut at Koerner Hall in a diverse program of Bartók, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.

Mar 8 at Koerner Hall KahaneSwensonBey, who re-formed in 2012 after a 25-year hiatus, perform piano trios by Mozart, Schumann, Ravel and Schoenfield. In an unfortunate scheduling conflict their afternoon concert occurs at the same time as the Vienna Piano Trio’s Mooredale recital in Walter Hall just minutes away.

On the evening of Mar 8 violinist Moshe Hammer and pianist Angela Park perform works by Brahms, Franck and Sarasate at the Aurora Cultural Centre.

Mar 11, 12 and 14 Gianandrea Noseda conducts the TSO in a program featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which is all you need to know to make plans to attend. The program also includes Adrianne Pieczonka performing Wagner’s Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and Richard Strauss’ divine Four Last Songs, which further certifies it as a must-see. Rising star Krzysztof Urbanski and the TSO are joined Mar 27 and 28 by the captivating Sol Gabetta in Dvořák’s masterpiece, his Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, a work they have played together many times. Then Urbanski leads the orchestra in Stravinsky’s rhythmic revelry, The Rite of Spring. Another must-see.

 TSO associate principal clarinetist Yao Guang Zhai is joined by pianist Jeanie Chung for Luigi Bassi’s Concert Fantasy on themes from Verdi’s Rigoletto in a free COC concert also featuring Gershwin, Brahms and three solo pieces by Stravinsky at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Mar 12.

Mar 14 is crystal ball gazing time when students from the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists give a free concert in Mazzoleni Hall. On Mar 31 another Mazzoleni Hall free concert (ticket required) features solo and chamber works performed by Rebanks Fellows from the Glenn Gould School. Apr 2 three of the Rebanks Fellows perform Brahms’ gorgeous Trio for horn, violin and piano in a free noontime COC concert.

Mar 15 Trio Arkel with guests, cellist Amanda Forsyth and violinist Aaron Schwebel, perform Schubert’s sublime String Quintet in C in the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Mar 16 group of 27 presents Payadora Tango Ensemble and g27 violinist Rebekah Wolkstein in a recital at Heliconian Hall.

Don’t miss your chance Mar 19 to hear the Elias String Quartet, the “excellent” (New York Times), “exuberant” (The Guardian) young British ensemble making their local debut presented by Music Toronto, in works by Haydn, Mozart and Mendelssohn.

Mar 22 Alliance Française presents Stravinsky’s tuneful fable The Soldier’s Tale featuring Jacques Israelievich, violin, with Uri Mayer conducting.

Mar 27 Violinist Lisa Batiashvili, Till Fellner’s trio partner (along with Alfred Brendel’s son Adrian) is joined by pianist Paul Lewis in his first Toronto appearance since his remarkable debut opening the Women’s Musical Club’s 115th season in the fall of 2012. Their program includes Schubert’s “Grand Duo” and “Rondeau brilliant,” Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.10, Op.96, Telemann’s Fantasia No.4 for Solo Violin and Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Nun komm’ der Heiden Helland” for solo piano.

Mar 27 and 28 the incomparable Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents concerts 13, 14, 15 and 16 in the Attacca Quartet’s ongoing series performing all 68 of Haydn’s quartets. Each concert features quartets drawn from the early, middle and later period of the composer’s life.

YouTube star Valentina Lisitsa’s piano playing has struck quite a few chords based on upwards of 80 million views. Before her Royal Albert Hall recital in front of an audience of 8000 in June 2012 her fans had the chance to vote online for their preferred program – a form of audience participation that has become one of Lisitsa’s trademarks. Will the contents of her BravoNiagara! solo concert Apr 4 be similarly chosen?

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

2005_-_Beat_-_Classical_-_Vadim_Repin.pngRussian-born Vadim Repin may just be the best violinist you’ve never heard of. Unless you happened to catch his TSO appearance in 2007 playing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 with guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard, his only exposure here has been through recordings (most recently with Deutsche Grammophon) and YouTube clips. The clips span almost 30 years of an acclaimed career that took international flight after he won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1989 when he was only 17.

In a recent telephone conversation the warm and gracious violinist described how he felt at that time: “The competition itself was really tough, very difficult psychologically and [physically]. It goes forever [one month]. For the next four years it put me in the spotlight of the music world but then there was a new winner, so forget about it. You have to do other things to get noticed and get the spotlight.”

This virtuoso, for whom technique is always a means to a musical end, never an end in itself, began violin lessons at five by “pure chance.” His mother, who had been encouraging her son to play with musical toys since he was three, took him to school intending to sign him up for accordion studies. Only violin places were available so he took up the violin. By age seven, chance took him under its wing again; his teacher advised studying with Zakhar Bron (who later taught Maxim Vengerov and Daniel Hope), a relationship which would continue for 13 years.

Classical 19Seen and Heard: After each standing ovation that followed his performances of three Beethoven piano concertos with the TSO in November, 19-year-old budding superstar Jan Lisiecki would take a seat at the piano and confidently greet the RTH capacity crowd with the words “Good evening.” He added at the last of his six concerts, “As has become traditional, I will now play some Chopin.” The Nocturne No. 20 in C Sharp Minor, Op. Posth. followed, flowing as naturally as the encores in the first two programs, the Prelude Op.28 No.1 and the Etude Op.25 No.1. Like putting on a comfortable shirt.

Lisiecki’s playing of the first movement of the Fourth Piano Concerto on November 12 had an almost fortepiano quality; the melancholy second movement had a conversational tone until it time-travelled into the future before meeting up with the impetuous Rondo. At intermission TSO composer advisor Gary Kulesha asked Lisiecki to compare Beethoven to Mozart and Chopin, the latter two composers having supplied the contents of the pianist’s two Deutsche Grammophon CDs.

“In Mozart you’re completey exposed – elegant; in Chopin you can play the concerto without the orchestra; in Beethoven you’re a member of the orchestra,” he responded.

“My modus operandi is to make the piano sing,” Lisiecki said. Along with a wonderful tone, that’s his approach to every piece he plays.

Kulesha wondered how Lisiecki would characterize the three Beethovens. The Third “has a similar ferocity and darkness as the D minor Mozart K.466 which it parallels”; the Fourth “pushes the boundaries . . .  [it] begins from the soul of the piano”; the Fifth “broadens what can be done in a concerto.”

Three days later came a first-rate performance of the Third. It had great cohesion, its architecture proceeding organically from the propulsive Allegro con brio and delicacy of the Largo to the pure joy of the inverted theme after the Rondo’s cadenza. You could feel the composer’s notes straining against classical convention but revelling in it. In the Chopin etude, Lisiecki demonstrated the beauty of tone over technique.

Lisiecki’s playing of the “Emperor” the following Saturday was dynamically diverse yet always controlled, from the wondrously hushed non-cadenza of the Allegro and the magical Adagio which felt as though the piano’s notes were walking on air, to the radical contrasts of the Rondo.

In a conversation with William Littler during intermission, Lisiecki divulged that a teacher in pre-school had suggested that the five-year-old child be given piano lessons. It took most of that year and a generous gift of a 100-year-old upright from a family friend before his parents agreed. Curiously, the Third Piano Concerto was the first piece by Beethoven he can remember as a child. Lisiecki also revealed that if he doesn’t practise he doesn’t feel right: “You don’t want to be around me.”

Talking about his instrument and the fact that every pianist is at the mercy of the venue where he performs, he raved about the piano at Koerner Hall, declined to comment on those at RTH and gushed over the one he played in Hamburg. “Not knowing what to expect forces us to create art in the moment,” he said.

Lisiecki’s Beethoven coincided with a series of three symphonies by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, all under the enthusiastic baton of Neilsen’s countryman Thomas Dausgaard. Judging by the orchestra’s generous applause and responsive playing, their connection to the guest conductor was genuine. For his part, Dausgaard exudes joy on the podium, which manifests itself occasionally as open-mouthed. And he often lowers his arms and lets the orchestra play on their own, trusting them for bars at a time. He turned away from the audience in his introduction to the final concert and spoke directly to the players: “Can I say to you Toronto Symphony – you own this music.”

Lisiecki too fell under his spell as the two musicians intently locked eyes at the beginning of the finale of the “Emperor,” the young Canadian drawing on the Dane’s energy.

Classical 21

Trifonov Trifecta: Daniil Trifonov, only 23, the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition multi-award-winner, having already proved his technical prowess at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition earlier that year, seemed intent on establishing his artistic reputation with three programs available to Toronto audiences this season. The first, a dazzling performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini with the TSO took place in September. An ambitious solo recital December 9 at Carnegie Hall will be live streamed on medici.tv (and available free for 90 days thereafter). Consisting of Bach’s Fantasy and Fugue for Organ in G Minor, BWV 542 (transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt, S. 463), Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 and Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, it will likely add to his burgeoning reputation.

Then on January 20 at Koerner Hall, Trifonov turns to chamber music with the great Gidon Kremer. Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 33 in E-flat Major, K. 481. Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major, D. 760 and Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 9 comprise a program that will certainly reveal yet another side of this talented Russian-born phenom.

A Trio of Quartets: Music Toronto presents the latest incarnation of the Juilliard String Quartet January 8 in a program headed by Webern’s shimmering Five Movements, Op.5. Three weeks later the mighty St. Lawrence String Quartet returns for its annual visit to its first home. The exuberant Geoff Nuttall will lead us in a “Haydn Discovery” followed by the father of the string quartet’s Op. 33, No.2 “The Joke.” A major new work by John Adams fills the concert’s second half. On January 6 the New Orford String Quartet treats us to Beethoven’s Op. 95 and Brahms’ Op. 51, No.1 before premiering a new work by Gary Kulesha. The New Orford then teams up with Amici February 1 for one of the most interesting programs of the new year, “Bohemian Contrasts.” They join cellist David Hetherington and violist Teng Li in a performance of Schulhoff’s String Sextet and Joaquin Valdepeñas in Brahms’ unforgettable Clarinet Quintet in B-minor, Op.115. Pianist Serouj Kradjian fills out the rest of the program with piano works by Liszt and Janáček.

KWCMS’s 40th: The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society has designated the week of November 28 to December 7 to mark its considerable achievement. Over the years the cumulative volume of talented performers who have made their way to Jan and Jean Narveson’s home is astonishing enough, but it is the KWCMS’ penchant for programming complete cycle concerts that really makes one sit up and take notice. [For a glimpse into how they do it, see my October 2013 Classical and Beyond column.] Two cycles over the December-January period caught my eye: Trio Celeste’s complete traversal of Beethoven’s Piano Trios December 12, 14 and 16; and the scintillating Duo Concertante performing Schubert’s complete music for violin and piano January 29 and 31. It promises to be  an even more musically satisfying event than the Beethoven. Schubert’s music in this case is consistently of the highest order, charming and melodious; the opportunity to hear all of it should not be missed.

Quick Picks

Dec 6 the prodigious Stewart Goodyear performs Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker entirely on the piano joined by dancers from the National Ballet School of Canada and Ballet Creole, and singers from the Toronto Children’s Chorus.

Dec 7 two recent Glenn Gould School appointees, celebrated pianist John O’Conor and former first cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, Desmond Hoebig, team up for Beethoven’s serene Cello Sonata No.3 in A Major, Op.69. O’Conor will play a selection of Nocturnes by his Irish countryman John Field and by Chopin; Yehonatan Berick, Cordelia Paw and Barry Shiffman join them for Schumann’s masterful Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op.44.

Dec 7 two admirable pianists make their Toronto debut in Mooredale Concerts’ “Piano Dialogue.” Wonny Song will play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and David Jalbert Poulenc’s Les soirées de Nazelles before coming together for duets by Ravel and Schubert and Rachmaninoff’s Suite No.2 in C Major, Op.17 for two pianos.

Dec 12 Anastasia Rizikov brings her already considerable 15-year-old experience to Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.1 accompanied by Sinfonia Toronto before performing a staggering KWCMS solo concert Jan 24. Bach, Chopin and Liszt lead in to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; then after intermission Chopin and Mozart precede Balakirev’s fiendishly difficult Islamey.

Jan 9 Angela Hewitt, the subject of this month’s cover story, is joined by mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter in a program rich in songs by Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy and Chaminade. Interspersed between them Hewitt will play piano music by Schubert, Brahms and Chabrier.

Jan 14, 15, 17 and 18 mark the beginning of the TSO’s Mozart@259 festival curated by Les Violons du Roy’s Bernard Labadie. The impressive young British conductor and keyboardist Matthew Halls leads the orchestra in three varied programs showing Mozart’s range as an instrumental composer.

Jan 22 to 25 will see the Montreal Symphony’s Kent Nagano make a rare foray into the forest of period instruments as he leads Tafelmusik in performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 in C Minor, Op. 67 and his Mass in C Major, Op.67. It will be fascinating to compare this performance of the symphony to that in Nagano’s recent recording [reviewed by Richard Haskell in this issue of The WholeNote].

Feb 7 Pinchas Zukerman makes his final Toronto appearance as music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in an RTH program with two of Brahms’ most beloved concertos. Zukerman is joined by NAC principal cellist Amanda Forsyth for the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor, Op.102; Yefim Bronfman is the soloist in the Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat Major Op. 83, the epitome of 19th century romanticism.

Paul Ennis is managing editor of The WholeNote. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

beat - classicalAnne-Sophie Mutter was only 22 years old when she started her first foundation in aid of young string players; it was limited to the area of Germany at the foot of the Black Forest where she was born. As a teenager if had become clear to her – she told me in a recent telephone conversation – that “we string players sooner or later run through the same circle of problems mainly to do with finding the right teacher but also with finding an instrument which can be a musical partner for life, and hopefully financially obtainable as well. So my first foundation was sort of a tryout, how I could help younger colleagues.”

Now in its 16th or 17th year, the Circle of Friends of the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation provides instruments for the foundation’s chosen scholars as one attempt to help. Another is commissioning new works. The Toronto program of Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Mutter Virtuosi in Roy Thomson Hall on November 21 opens with a commission by the Circle of Friends for double bass -- Ringtones by the American Sebastian Currier.

“Obviously throughout history the double bass has been one of the important pillars of the orchestra but there have been very few solo performers,” she said. “Roman Patkoló was one of my first scholars and I was totally blown away by his talent, by his artistry and great passion,” she continued. So even though her original plan had not included the double bass that much, it became “really a main focus of my foundation” with four pieces commissioned for Patkoló starting with “a beautiful double concerto” written and recorded by André Previn, “a very pizzazz-y solo piece by Penderecki,” as well as “a very intellectual spherical piece” by Wolfgang Rihm.

Ringtones is a very serious piece but also leaves room for fun,” she continued, explaining that it’s a way to build a case for the virtuosity of the bass. Showing off her sense of humour, she dead-panned: “Ringtones are for the very first time in a concert welcome!”

As to what it’s like to perform with her students and former students -- who comprise the Mutter Virtuosi with whom she’s sharing the RTH stage – she recounts how when she was 13, Karajan treated her as an adult, addressing her with the German equivalent of “vous,” not “tu,” which would be normal in speaking to a 13-year-old. She points this out to indicate that experience and age are irrelevant to the “all-embracing strength of musical language.”

“No matter how young we are,” she went on. “At the end of the day it’s really your personal viewpoint, and of course, a certain skillfulness, that we only have to share.

“Of course I’m looking with great love and devotion into the lives of the ones I’ve been a small part of for 10 or 15 years and it’s beautiful to see how all of them have found their place in music... it is really the Olympic ideal to make the best out of what you have that is the driving force behind the [foundation’s] selection process.”

Mendelssohn’s great Octet is on the program in Toronto, so I asked Ms. Mutter why she admires the composer so much. Her answer was especially revealing. She began by saying that it was only eight or ten years ago she re-started learning the Violin Concerto:

“My wonderful teacher Aida Stucki never seemed to be quite taken by what I did with the piece and I never felt quite free with what my vision was. So it wasn’t one of the pieces I felt comfortable with and when it was up to me to decide what repertoire I would delve into I thought, ‘Well if no one likes my Mendelssohn playing, I’ll just stop playing it.’

“Then many years ago, I think around Kurt Masur’s 75th or 80th birthday [80th in fact, in 2007] he said ‘I want a gift from you: Restudy the Mendelssohn and let’s do it together.’ Of course, when Kurt Masur wishes something I’ll go to the end of the world for him, so the least I could do was restudy the piece and come to different conclusions. And he gave me wonderful insights.

“I came to admire Mendelssohn as the humanist he was and actually today he’s for me a perfect example of what I expect a musician to be, also [what I expect] of the younger generation: someone who is socially engaged and open-minded and goes with open eyes through life.”

She explained that Mendelssohn built the first music school in Germany for “students of all cultural and financial backgrounds,” and of course, “he resurrected Johann Sebastian Bach.” She summed up her feelings: “Somehow I seem to admire an artist in general even more if he also turns out to be a useful member of human society, apart from being very skillful at what he’s doing.

“Obviously the Octet stands for all these qualities. There’s such a beautiful quote from Mendelssohn who used to say, particularly about the Octet, that when he is writing or making chamber music he hopes that it is ‘like a conversation between very well-educated and interesting friends.’

beat - classical 2“And this is pretty much how I feel when I am playing with my young colleagues. We all bring our own viewpoints to it and there’s a lot of freshness and passion in the air, which is the main ingredient really of rediscovering what we think we know.”

I had read that Ms. Mutter had recently begun using a baroque bow to perform Bach, so I asked her if she would be using one in the Toronto performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, only to discover that new regulations involving animal materials made it difficult to bring even copies to North America. She told me that she will continue to play Bach with it wherever she is able mainly “because the original phrasing in the Bach scores is only to be obtained by bows which are much lighter in the frog [the bottom part of the bow that is nearest to the hand] which was the case in Baroque times.”

While they don’t use baroque bows in their playing of the Vivaldi, it’s nevertheless much less dense and more transparent playing today than what she thought was proper in the 1980s. In Toronto she and her Virtuosi would be keeping that “transparent and very airy sound in mind, for sure.”

I was quite curious about what led Ms. Mutter to take up the violin as a child since I knew that she didn’t come from a family of musicians. She spoke of growing up “kind of a tomboy” with two older brothers in a house with a lot of classical music and literature. Her father was a journalist who later became a newspaper editor. As engagement presents her parents gave each other recordings by Furtwängler and by Menuhin. “That shows how much that was part of their life and how much that became part of our life at home.”

“We listened to a lot of classical music as well as jazz,” she continued. “And that is probably the reason for my deep-rooted love of jazz because I felt so comfortable and basically soaked it up like mother’s milk.

“So for my fifth birthday – it must have been the constant presence of that violin sound which made me want to try it for myself. And I’m still trying it,” she added, almost seriously.

I asked her about the violinists who made an impression on her in her youth and the depth of her answer was quite telling: “The great, unforgettable David Oistrakh definitely left the deepest impression: his presence on stage, the warmth of his personality. I remember there were students sitting literally at his feet ... Yes, I was six years old and he played the three Brahms sonatas.

“A few years later I was fortunate enough to hear Nathan Milstein who became another of my [favourites]; I obviously also played with Menuhin at a later stage of his life; I heard Isaac Stern in person; I was rather close to Henryk Szeryng. I was really very fortunate to hear all of these icons of violin playing at a still fabulous age and in great shape.”

As to what makes a great violinist great, Ms. Mutter responded that “we’re all trying to be a well-rounded musican.” She finds the idea of being a specialist rather boring, caught up with technical details and perfecting them without really having the scope to see the bigger picture. She thinks it’s wonderful that the violin is “an instrument which is best in company with someone else, with another musical partner.” At the same as she extols the virtues of “just being a useful part of the whole” she says, “Of course you have to find – as violinist, pianist or conductor – you have to find an angle where music is newly or freshly or whatever ... it has to bring a spark to something.”

She spoke of shattering the illusion of the listener who might think he knows what you’re playing already and may feel slightly tired of it. “Of course that illusion has to be taken away the moment that the particular artist goes on stage,” she explained. ”Then it really has to be totally fascinating.” When I enthusiastically agree, she responds, “Hopefully.”

Her extensive discography which began when she was just 15 – Deutsche Grammophon celebrated her 35-year recording career with a 40-CD box set last year and her 25-year collaborative partnership with pianist Lambert Orkis was marked with The Silver Album, a 2-CD compilation this year – prompted a question about what, if anything in the violin repertoire she looks forward to recording.

“Sadly, sadly, of course life is too short,” she responded. She is fascinated, she went on to say, with the great encores that Jascha Heifetz used to play, “a repertoire that is sadly, frowned upon in German-speaking countries.” Listening to two CDs over the course of an evening recently, she remarked how struck she was by the “nobility of this great violinist,” and that for the next few months she would be exploring this repertoire. Beyond that? “The repertoire is endless – you can go in this direction or that, ...Walton, ... Barber, more contemporary music ... the Beethoven string quartets.”

“Yes, Paul, it’s kind of [a mock scream over the phone, as if saying it’s all too much to contemplate]” I counter that it’s something to look forward to; “One after the other,” she replies.

There is so much to do. Even as she takes the Mutter Virtuosi on their first North American tour, their New York appearance is just one part of Carnegie Hall’s Anne-Sophie Mutter Perspectives in which all facets of her musicianship will be on display, from her recent appearance in the Bruch Violin Concerto No.1 with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle at the beginning of October, to the Annual Isaac Stern Memorial Concert November 11 (with Orkis on piano for Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” sonata, and a performance of Currier’s Ringtones with Patkoló), to a concert next spring with Yefim Bronfman and Lynn Harrell (including Beethoven’s “Archduke” trio). Playing Sibelius, Berg and Moret with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony completes the six-concert series.

WholeNote readers will be interested in the fact that the Mutter Virtuosi Carnegie Hall concert on November 18 will be live-streamed and available on medici.tv for view for 90 days thereafter. Like the concert in Toronto three days later,  the program includes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons but instead of Mendelssohn and Currier the Carnegie program features Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins BWV 1043 and André Previn’s.

What does she think about the live streaming, I ask. “It’s not downloadable but you can look at it and get horrified from another angle,” she jests, before adding more seriously: “I feel very honoured [because very few concerts are being streamed].”

So anyone going to the November 21 Roy Thomson Hall concert (or contemplating it) will be able to get a sneak preview in the few days before, or more likely cement a memory of parts of the Toronto concert any time through mid-February.

beat - classical 3Jan Lisiecki: Like Mutter, Calgary-born pianist Jan Lisiecki began music lessons at five and started recording for Deutsche Grammophon as a teenager (he was 17). He will bring his musical sensibilities to Beethoven’s third, fourth and fifth piano concertos in a series of concerts with the TSO November 12 to 22. I was fortunate several summers ago to hear Alfred Brendel play all five of the concertos with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood and I can’t overstress what a pleasure such concentrated exposure can be. Guest conducting the TSO will be Thomas Dausgaard who has paired each concerto with a symphony by his Danish countryman, Carl Nielsen. Nielsen, a contemporary of Sibelius, is known for his energetic post-romanticism, and he was quite explicit about the life force music represented to him. Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable” is particularly expressive in this vein, having been composed during the first half of the First World War. It’s paired with Beethoven’s most lyrical piano concerto, the Fourth, November 12 and 13.

beat - classical 4Itzhak Perlman: Like Mutter, Izhak Perlman is a towering figure on the world violin stage and occupied as well with music education. His upcoming RTH recital December 1 with pianist Rohan De Silva crosses three centuries with music by Vivaldi, Schumann, Beethoven and Ravel. At his concert here two years ago with collaborator De Silva, he introduced the entire post-intermission part of the program from the stage, with the joyful aplomb of a Borscht Belt kibitzer. Any opportunity to hear what he cals his “fiddle playing” should not be missed.

Leon Fleisher: For many years this city has been fortunate to have Leon Fleisher in its midst. As the occupant of the inaugural Ihnatowycz Chair in Piano at the Royal Conservatory, his presence has been felt in teaching, conducting, performing, examining and giving masterclasses. On November 25 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, he will appear on stage in a Q & A after the screening of the fully packed 17-minute film, Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story, which documents his battle to overcome focal dystonia, a movement disorder that affected the use of the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand. Watching him rise from the depths of despair at the peak of his concert career to remake his life as a musician is thrilling to behold. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet him in person.

beat - classical 5Three days later on November 28, Fleisher conducts the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in a program that includes Mozart’s Symphony No.39 and Brahms’ Symphony No.3. On the mornings and afternoons of November 29 and 30 he will give masterclasses in Mazzoleni Hall. He will share a musical legacy traceable back to Beethoven directly through his teacher Artur Schnabel and Schnabel’s teacher Theodor Leschetizky who studied with Carl Czerny who studied with Beethoven. Anton Kuerti can claim a similiar connection through another pupil of Leschetizky, Mieczysław Horszowski, who taught Kuerti.

The evening at the Bloor also includes the feature-length, documentary Horowitz: The Last Romantic, a true curiosity by the noted filmmakers Albert and David Maysles (best know for Salesman, Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter). The impish pianist and his shrewd wife Wanda (Toscanini’s daughter) are filmed in their apartment where Horowitz is recording an album at the age of 81. The up-close camerawork devoted to his fingers is just one of the attractions of this fascinating film.

Bavouzet and the LPO: Coincidentally, pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, who recently played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at RTH October 17 with an energetic London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski, suffered from functional dystonia that affected his right hand from 1989 to 1993. In the Prokofiev Bavouzet moved confidently from wistful calm to devilish passagework, from idiosyncratic note picking to mysterious pianissimos as he revealed the composer’s Russian soulfulness. In the evening’s other major work, Shostakovich’s Symphony No.8, the LPO displayed great clarity and airiness including wonderful sound clashes, vibrant searing melodies in the strings, terrific brass work and yeoman flute playing that set up the intermittently febrile march of the second movement  and the sardonic third before the gratifying, sombre conclusion.

And So Much More: MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship-winner Jeremy Denk leads a parade of world-class pianists into November’s concert halls. He’s followed by the inimitable Richard Goode, the dynamic aestheticism of Simon Trpčeski, the elegance of Angela Hewitt (in a program that ranges far and wide from Bach and Scarlatti through Beethoven’s Op.110 to Albéniz and Liszt), to Mooredale Concerts’ “Piano Dialogue” between David Jalbert & Wonny Song and the adventuresome Christina Petrowska Quilico whose name is often found in the pages of TheWholeNote’s CD section.

And then there’s the Dover Quartet, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Cecilia String Quartet, the Windermere String Quartet, the Zuckerman Chamber Players, the Canadian Brass, Leonidas Kavakos & Yuja Wang, Dmitri Levkovich ... It goes on and on. Like Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye’s famous tongue-twister of a patter song, name after name, concert after concert. What riches there are to be found in this issue’s listings.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

BBB-Classical1When Rafal Blechacz (pronounced BLEH-hatch) won the Chopin competition in Warsaw nine years ago, becoming the first Polish-born competitor to do so in 30 years, the jury saw fit to give no award for second place. Such was the dominance of Blechacz’s performance. The venerable contest, celebrating the Pole with arguably the highest worldwide name recognition, began in 1927 when Lev Oborin (best remembered today as a chamber music partner of David Oistrakh) came out on top. Held every five years since 1955 (when Vladimir Ashkenazy finished second and Fou Ts’ong finished third), the list of winners reads like a who’s who of pianists of the last half century: Maurizio Pollini (1960); Martha Argerich (1965); Garrick Ohlsson (1970, with Mitsuko Uchida second); Krystian Zimerman (1975); Yundi Li (2000, with Ingrid Fliter second).

Twice in recent history (1990 and 1995), the competition declined to award a first prize, saying no one played well enough. Blechacz, by contrast, won every possible prize in 2005: first prizes for Polonaises, Concertos, Mazurkas and Sonatas in addition to the overall First Prize.

Blechacz, whose highly anticipated Koerner Hall debut October 19 is part of the Canadian Chopin Society’s Canadian Chopin Festival, is the seventh and most recent recipient of the Gilmore Artist Award. This $300,000 award recognizes extraordinary piano artistry with some of the most generous financial support given in the musical arts and is conferred every four years to an international pianist of any age and nationality following a rigorous and confidential selection process.

Sometimes referred to as music’s answer to the MacArthur Foundation “genius grants,” the Gilmore is bestowed through a non-competitive process. Pianists are nominated by a large and diverse group of international music professionals. An anonymous, six-member artistic advisory committee appraises the nominees over a period of time and assesses their musicianship and performing abilities through numerous performances under varying conditions. Throughout the four-year process, candidates for the award are unaware they are under consideration.

Blechacz, who is 28, joins such previous winners as Leif Ove Andsnes, Piotr Anderszewski, Ingrid Fliter and Kirill Gerstein.

According to a New York Times story from January 8, 2014, Blechacz is writing a book about musical interpretation. He told Michael Cooper about a performance of Chopin’s Mazurkas that he gave in Hamburg that has stayed in his mind.

“After the last chord, it was extremely silent in the hall. The audience did not applaud. And I felt that there was something unique – it was the greatest reward for me from the audience, because I knew that they were completely in my musical world.

Sometimes, it happens.”

For his Toronto recital, Blechacz has included 3 Mazurkas, Op.56 as well as 3 Waltzes, Op.64, a polonaise and a nocturne by Chopin plus Bach’s Italian Concerto and Beethoven’s “Pathétique.”

“I’ve always enjoyed imagining the timbre of various other instruments when I play certain passages in Classical sonatas,” the pianist has written. “While working on Haydn, Beethoven or Mozart, I’ve often attempted mentally to ‘orchestrate’ the work, or part of it, whenever I had doubts as to articulation, pedalling or timbre. After performing this ‘instrumentation in the mind,’ those doubts about interpretation would disappear ... it would be wrong to suppose that Classical composers felt a different kind of joy, sadness, hope or despair than the Romantics. The fundamental nature of emotion is always the same; only its expression changes. When playing works from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic or even Impressionist repertoire, I often feel that these composers always convey the same substance, feelings and emotions, even though the style and approach of each is unique.”

The Canadian Chopin Festival begins its celebration of the beloved composer October 17, with a Mississauga concert featuring former winners Leonard Gilbert, Anastasia Rizikov and Li Wang, and concludes with the winners of this year’s competition performing in Koerner Hall October 26. In addition to three days each of senior and junior competitors vying for honours, the festival will feature a masterclass with pianist and pedagogue James Anagnoson, the dean of the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, a lecture by Dr. Alan Walker, a workshop and demonstration of Polish dances as well as an event October 24 that promises a modicum of intrigue. “Chopin and Friends: 19th Century Salon Recital” features the competition’s jury, pianists Krzysztof Jablonski, William Aide, Bernadene Blaha, Kent McWilliams and Lisa Yui.

Everybody loves Chopin, including Ira Sachs, director of the lovely new film Love Is Strange. “We wanted to use Chopin not unlike how Simon & Garfunkel are used in The Graduate, to create a whole world for the movie while at the same time maintaining the integrity and beauty of the original.” For more see my Music and the Movies blog on thewholenote.com.

BBB-Classical2Janina Fialkowska’s entrée onto the world’s stage was launched in 1974 by Arthur Rubinstein after her prize-winning performance at his inaugural Master Piano Competition in Israel. She plays Chopin with a clarity and rigour that is formidable. Music Toronto hosts her October 28 and the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society does likewise October 30 in an identical program that includes three mazurkas and a ballade by Chopin among works by Grieg, Schubert and Ravel.

In her story in People magazine almost 40 years ago, Barbara Rowes told it like it was: “In January 1975 Fialkowska was summoned by Rubinstein to a series of auditions at Manhattan’s Drake Hotel. ‘I was the dessert after his elegant lunches,’ she smiles. He would puff on a cigar and request ‘sonatas and études I hadn’t touched in years.’ Janina would then rush home and practice through the night for the next day’s recital. Mornings, her stomach knotted and her palms turned clammy. The pace was exhausting, and the exacting master showed no mercy as he tested her range, touch and determination. After six days her prowess and endurance were proved, and Rubinstein became her mentor. Lest anyone leer, Janina insists that Rubinstein, an avowed womanizer, never made non-musical overtures to her. But he helped swing a record deal with RCA’s high-toned Red Seal classical series and then helped set up her first series of concerts through his management. ‘For me, he said after one of her performances, ‘Janina was a revelation. I have never heard any pianist play the great Liszt sonata with the power, temperament, understanding, beauty of tone and, above all, the emotion and complete technical command she has shown.’”

Víkingur Ólafsson, Iceland’s award-winning rising star pianist and host of the Icelandic TV series Útúrdúr (roughly translated as OutofTune), makes his Toronto debut October 27 at Remenyi House of Music and October 28 at the Richard Bradshaw Ampitheatre, performing Nordic music while also paying tribute to one of his greatest inspirations, Glenn Gould, in a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

“I got the idea to do a TV series on music as early as in 2008, when I played the opening phrases from Beethoven’s Sonata Op.101 in an Icelandic TV interview, demonstrating how their impact can change drastically, depending on how one shapes them – you know, direction of line, balance between the voices, dynamics, pedal etc … The reaction I got took me by surprise, quite a few people told me that they really had no idea there was so much involved in playing a seemingly simple phrase, that they had a really vague idea about the elements which we interpreters spend our lives on refining.

“I kept this idea at the back of my mind for a few years (studying among other things the great stuff that Bernstein and Glenn Gould did on TV), and then started working seriously on the project in late 2011.”

Also appearing in a COC noontime concert (October 15) is award-winning 15-year-old Canadian pianist Anastasia Rizikov who, as mentioned earlier, helps launch the Canadian Chopin festival October 17. In this COC concert she showcases her virtuosity and passion in a demanding program of Russian repertoire: Tchaikovsky’s Romance in F Minor, a selection of Rachmaninoff preludes, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Balakirev’s knuckle-busting Islamey.

BBB-Classical3Bavouzet with the London Phil: French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet joins Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra October 17 in Roy Thomson Hall for Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3. Bavouzet’s Chandos recording of all five of Prokofiev’s piano concertos with the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda was recently named the Gramophone award-winner in the concerto category. Toronto audiences are fortunate to be able to hear the most popular of these concertos. Rob Cowan wrote in the magazine that Bavouzet’s “superb cycle of the concertos promotes a combination of lyricism and chutzpah that lies at the very heart of these endlessly fascinating works” and that Bavouzet’s “way with the Third is chipper and cool.”

The Moscow-born Jurowski will undoubtedly connect with the emotional core of the major work on the program, Shostakovich’s Symphony No.8, which was composed at the height of WWII in 1943 and confronts the catastrophic violence and suffering Russians were being forced to witness daily in chilling, tragic and mysterious ways.

TSO: Shostakovich’s formidable Violin Concerto No.1 alternates profound melancholy with searing sarcasm; it highlights the TSO program October 22 and 23 conducted by Stéphane Denève. Scottish-born and Sistema Scotland-raised Nicola Benedetti will tackle this complex work that David Oistrakh premiered in 1955 – written in 1948, the composer wisely deemed it too dangerous to play in public until after Stalin’s death. Oistrakh reportedly begged Shostakovich to give the opening of the finale to the orchestra so that “at least I can wipe the sweat off my brow” after the daunting solo cadenza that concludes the third movement.

Earlier in the month, October 8, 9 and 11, another violinist, Tokyo-born and Montreal-raised Karen Gomyo, will play Sibelius’ shimmering, sensuous Violin Concerto and string quartets. Guest conductor Jakub Hrůša will lead the TSO in Dvořák’s tuneful audience favourite, Symphony No.9 “From the New World.”

A Sextet of Quartets: Music Toronto is bringing two world-class string quartets to the St. Lawrence Centre this month. The St. Petersburg String Quartet was formed in 1985 by graduates of the Leningrad Conservatory under the guidance of Vladimir Ovcharek, the first violinist of the Taneyev String Quartet.  As glasnost settled in and the Cold War thawed, their fame grew and their name changed from Leningrad to St. Petersburg just as the city’s did. Their complete Shostakovich string quartet recordings were greeted glowingly – Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.8 Op.110 from 1960 is included in their October 9 Toronto program. That program concludes with Tchaikovsky’s exquisite String Quartet in D Major Op.11, the composer’s first chamber work, a masterpiece by the 30-year-old Russian, noteworthy as the first work of Russian chamber music. Its second movement contains one of classical music’s greatest hits and, according to Tchaikovsky’s own diary, it moved Tolstoy to tears.

The Belcea (pronounced BEL-chah) are musicians of diverse cultural backgrounds, a characteristic that may account in part for their dynamic and free interpretative style. Founded at the Royal College of Music in London in 1994, the Belcea Quartet is based in Great Britain. However, Romanian violinist Corina Belcea and Polish violist Krzysztof Chorzelski, the two founding members, bring a very different artistic provenenance to the ensemble while drawing from the best traditions of string quartet playing received from the quartet’s mentors: the members of the Alban Berg and Amadeus Quartets. Their October 23 Toronto recital includes Beethoven’s Third Quartet as well as the First by Brahms and Schubert.

On October 9, the U of T Faculty of Music’s ensemble-in-residence, the Cecilia Quartet, is joined by the Gryphon Trio for an exploration of humour, play and games through the lens of chamber music in a free noontime concert at Walter Hall.

The Attacca Quartet continues its historic traversal of all of Haydn’s 68 string quartets October 24 to 26 under the auspices of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society.

The legendary Talich Quartet, recognized since 1964 as one of Europe’s finest, is evolving as a more youthful ensemble under the leadership of Jan Talich, Jr., who took over the first violin post from his father. Chamber Music Hamilton presents them October 26 in a characteristic program that includes Dvořák’s String Quartet No.13 animated by its Czech dance rhythms and Smetana’s moving String Quartet No.1 “From My Life.”

Finally, Mooredale Concerts presents the New Orford String Quartet November 2 in a program that includes Ravel’s ravishing String Quartet in F Major. Violinists Jonathan Crow and AndrewWan are concertmasters of the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras, Brian Manker is principal cellist in Montreal and Eric Nowlin is assistant principal viola of the TSO. They will be joined by TSO principal violist Teng Li for Mozart’s String Quintet No.4 in G Minor K516. The program will be repeated at The Isabel in Kingston November 4.

Paul Ennis is managing editor of The WholeNote. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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