2105-Classical.jpgTwo brilliant young European violinists make their local debuts in February. In winning the 2001 Queen Elizabeth Competition, Latvian violinist Baiba Skride joined such luminaries as Oistrakh, Kogan, Laredo and Repin in the fiddling firmament. The Guardian recently called Skride “a passionate heart-on-sleeve player.” Now 34, she will appear with the TSO in Brahms’ richly sonorous Violin ConcertoFebruary 17 and 18.

According to BBC Music Magazine, the 29-year-old Norwegian, Vilde Frang, “has the knack of breathing life into every note.” Frang will give a recital at Koerner Hall, March 2, with Michail Lifits on piano. Her program begins with Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major for Violin and Piano D934, another masterpiece from the last year of the composer’s life, and moves through Lutoslawski’s Partita, commissioned by Pinchas Zukerman in 1985, before concluding with Fauré’s ever-popular Violin Sonata No.1. Frang began her musical education at four, played Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mariss Jansons, when she was barely 13, and was thrust into the limelight when she was named Credit Suisse Young Artist of the Year in 2012. A recording contract and worldwide touring were the result.

It’s illuminating to hear both violinists talking about inspiration and interpretation in interviews readily available in cyberspace. Skride told Tobias Fischer (on Tokafi.com April 20, 2006) that interpretation “means giving my opinion to the audience, while at the same time respecting what the composer might have wanted. It’s a combination of my personal beliefs and the composer’s probable intent.” Her interpretive process, she continued, is “almost always emotional. Of course, there are certain things you have to know about and naturally you do get your facts straight while preparing. But 99 percent is intuition, absolutely.” Her approach to performing live is “simply giving everything you have in that very moment.”

In a YouTube video biography made shortly after her Credit Suisse honour, while soaring on her violin in rehearsal for Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 with Jakub Hrůša and the Philharmonia Orchestra, Frang spoke of the importance she places on trusting her instincts,  how it’s crucial to take in things and let yourself be inspired. “Inspiration is really the most important thing,” she said. “I use my instrument as a tool [to transform inspiration]. Whether you hear Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a wonderful horn solo or the sound of the sea, it’s something you can actually work with.”

Later that year, on August 1, 2012, Frang spoke with Laurie Niles of violinist.com about what brought her to the violin. “My father is a double bass player, and my sister is also a double bass player – my mother isn’t a musician, actually. But I watched my sister play in youth orchestras, when I was small, and obviously I thought I was the next one in line, in the double basses family! To me it was a natural thing, but then my father made this argument: our family had a Volkswagen, which was a very tiny car. He said, ‘Can you imagine, when we go on holiday, with three double basses? There is no chance the whole family will get space in the car!’

“So he made me a smaller instrument. It was made of cardboard – there were no strings on it. So I could put my Little Twin Star stickers on it, and Hello Kitty stickers – but the fact that it didn’t make any sound – I found this to be very frustrating! I had to ‘play’ on it for almost a year until I finally got a violin which was alive, which made sound.

“I remember the moment I got the violin that was real, that was really living and alive – I’ve never practised so inspired in all my life, as I did the first couple of days with that violin! I was in seventh heaven, I was so happy.”

Niles asked Frang, who began with the Suzuki method, how she  connected with Anne-Sophie Mutter (See my November 2014 column in The WholeNote for more on Mutter and her foundation): “I first played for Anne-Sophie Mutter when I was 11-years-old,” she said. “After that, she asked me to keep her updated, and she followed my development. I kept sending her recordings and tapes of my playing, and letters about how I was doing. It was obviously a very inspirational thing for me, because I knew that she was always there watching, somewhere. When I was 15, she invited me to Munich to audition for her again, and then I was taken into her foundation, her Freundeskreis Stiftung, or Circle of Friends Foundation, and I was also given this Vuillaume instrument.

“Ms. Mutter has also been a great, great mentor to me over all these years. I did a tour with her in 2008, and we played in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington. I played the Bach Double with her. Of course, I learned a lot from this experience, not only playing for her, but playing with her. I think the most important was that she encouraged me to always trust my own instincts and follow my own voice. That is her top priority, and that’s the message she wanted to give, which I think is a wonderful thing.

“But more than any other musician I know, she is extremely focused on exploring the musical score, in order to get as close as possible to the composer. Many people might consider her to be very free, but actually she has the most authentic and strictest approach that I know of. I think that is why she allows herself to have that amount of freedom. The more you know the piece and the better you know the score, the more freedom you actually have yourself.”

Hamelin past and future. Marc-André Hamelin’s Music Toronto recital on January 5 had a blissful component running through it from Liszt’s Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude to the Schubert Sonata in B-flat D960 and the well-chosen encore, Messiaen’s Prelude “The Dove.” For me, this emotional line reached its apex with the sublime second movement of the Schubert which had a profundity that reminded me of the last three Beethoven sonatas. There was a serenity to Hamelin’s playing that was more pronounced than when he played at Koerner Hall the previous March. At times he seemed to slow the music just enough that you could feel it palpably.

During the conversation I had with him in November (see my article in the December 2015-January 2016 issue of The WholeNote), Hamelin described his  relationship with Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.1, which he will perform with the TSO on February 25 and 27. “I learned it very early,” he told me. “I remember the first time I played it was with Skrowaczewski and the Montreal Symphony. I believe it was somewhere like 1990 or ’91. It’s certainly not the deepest piece ever written but it shows consummate craftsmanship. And it’s also very entertaining for audiences. And in some ways quite touching.” Louis Langrée, famous for his stewardship of the Mostly Mozart Festival, his career blossoming as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, will conduct.

Quick Picks

2105-Classical2.jpgFeb 4 The last time I heard the Annex Quartet, they showed their sensitive musicianship supporting Jan Lisiecki in the chamber versions of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 4. Their solid Music Toronto recital includes string quartets by Janáček, R. Murray Schafer and Mendelssohn. Feb 18 The irrepressible St. Lawrence String Quartet makes its annual visit to Music Toronto with works by Haydn, Samuel Adams and Schumann. Mar 1 The distinguished British pianist Steven Osborne performs two Schubert Impromptus D935 (fresh from his sparkling new Schubert CD) and a selection of Debussy and Rachmaninoff, in his Music Toronto return.

Feb 5 Conductor Eric Paetkau’s contagious energy and musicianship guide the eclectic group of 27 in Finzi’s bucolic A Severn Rhapsody and a trio of French works including Dubois’ Cavatine for Horn featuring the TSO’s Gabe Radford. The dynamic Nadina Mackie Jackson is the bassoon soloist in the world premiere of Paul Frehner’s Apollo X.

Feb 11 An ingenious piece of animation, The Triplets of Belleville is filled with cultural references that fly by with terrific panache, Sylvain Chomet’s 2003 film has rightly become a classic. Composer Benoît Charest leads Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville and special guest Nellie McKay in the live performance of his infectious, original score for the film (rooted in 1930s vaudeville/jazz) accompanying this special screening at Roy Thomson Hall.

Feb 12 Cellist Rachel Mercer follows up her well-received CD of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites with an exciting concert of music for solo cello at Gallery 345, beginning with one of those Bach suites. Mercer then moves from Cassadó’s early 20th century suite to contemporary pieces by Andrew Downing and the world premiere of Darren Sigesmund’s Solo Suite.

Feb 13 Celebrate the Year of the Monkey with the TSO as the great violinist Maxim Vengerov is the soloist in the Butterfly Lovers Concerto. Long Yu, artistic director of the China Philharmonic Orchestra and music director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, conducts. Feb 22 The Associates of the TSO present works by Françaix, Janáček and Brahms for various combinations of flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and two clarinets. Mar 2 Seven soloists from the TSO’s ranks (including the ubiquitous Teng Li) showcase their talents when the TSO presents music by Paganini, Vivaldi and Haydn (his elegant and tuneful Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat Major for the unusual combination of soloists, violin, cello, oboe and bassoon).

Feb 17 The hip, Brooklyn-based orchestral collective, The Knights, make their Koerner Hall debut, joined by violinist Gil Shaham, whose warm playing should illuminate Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2, in all its angularity and dark beauty. Feb 26 Koerner Hall gives us the rare gift of hearing violinist Christian Tetzlaff, his sister, cellist Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt performing piano trios by Schumann, Dvořák and Brahms. Richard Haskell praised them in these pages last September for their “conducive music-making in the three Brahms piano trios.” Andras Schiff’s monumental Feb 28 recital in Koerner Hall is sold out. Those lucky enough to have tickets (myself included) can look forward to a program memorable for its inclusion of the final piano sonatas by Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. Mar 4 Much-in-demand (especially since she received the Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2008) Canadian violinist, Karen Gomyo, teams up with well-regarded cellist, Christian Poltéra, and talented young Finnish pianist, Juho Pohjonen, to perform trios and sonatas by Haydn, Janáček and Dvořák. All four of these events are presented by the Royal Conservatory.

Feb 19 The charming Trio Arkel (TSO members violist Teng Li and cellist Winona Zelenka, COC concertmaster Marie Bérard) move into their new venue, Jeanne Lamon Hall at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, with a program including Gubaidulina’s exhilarating String Trio, Kodály’s Serenade for Two Violins and Viola and Beethoven’s glorious Quintet for Strings, Op.29 “The Storm.” Joining them for this and a repeat concert in London, Feb 29, presented by the UWO Don Wright Faculty of Music, will be violinist Scott St. John and violist Sharon Wei.

Feb 20 Also in London, Jeffery Concerts presents the award-winning cellist Yegor Dyachkov and longtime chamber music partner, pianist Jean Saulnier, in works by Brahms, Schumann and Janáček.

Feb 23 Charles Richard-Hamelin, who finished second in last year’s prestigious Chopin competition in Warsaw, will give a COC free noon-hour concert of a selection of Chopin’s last piano works at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Based on his thrilling performance of Chopin’s Sonata No.3 at Mazzoleni Hall on January 15, I urge you not to miss it.

Mar 3 The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto’s talent-laden season continues with the widely acclaimed Daedalus String Quartet performing Sibelius’ String Quartet in D Minor “Voces Intimae” Op.56. Montreal native, clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, joins them in James MacMillan’s powerful lament, Tuireadh, and Brahms’ sublime Clarinet Quintet in B Minor Op.115

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.


Classical 1Daniel Hope has built a substantial international career as an acclaimed violin soloist, chamber musician and music festival curator. A champion of contemporary music and an advocate of the classical canon, his musical curiosity cannot be pigeon-holed. He was the violinist with the legendary Beaux Arts Trio for six years and is currently associate artistic director of the Savannah Music Festival. He is a prolific writer (with three German-language books to his credit) who has devoted much of his time over the last 15 years to the study and preservation of music by composers murdered by the Nazis. He has worked with the brilliant, Oscar-winning German actor, Klaus Maria Brandauer, on  projects combining music and the spoken word, including a look at Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale through the prism of war and peace.

Hope’s father, author Christopher Hope, was an outspoken critic of apartheid. Those beliefs forced the whole family to leave South Africa in 1974 when Daniel was six months old. They moved to London, where his mother took a job as Yehudi Menuhin’s secretary, later becoming his manager.

January 28 Hope returns to Koerner Hall for his third Toronto concert in 16 months following memorable appearances September 30, 2014 as soloist in Max Richter’s Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed, and April 8, 2015 when his singing tone contributed greatly to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s performance of Mahler and Brahms piano quartets. His upcoming recital “Yehudi Menuhin @ 100” with pianist Sebastian Knauer is a tribute to the man in whose house he grew up and with whom he performed many times during Menuhin’s last ten years.

The program consists of music dear to Menuhin’s heart. He and Glenn Gould famously recorded J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, BWV 1017. The next piece on the program, George Enescu’s Impromptu concertant reflects the fact that Menuhin studied with Enescu from the age of 11, a mentorship that led to the two becoming lifelong friends. Menuhin speaks about him on YouTube: “Enescu will always be my guiding light as a man, as a musician.” Menuhin also had great affection for the next piece on the program, Mendelssohn’s Sonata in F Major, which Menuhin was instrumental in publishing for the first time in 1953.

The Walton Violin Sonata was commissioned by Menuhin in the late 1940s. It’s followed by Ravel’s “Kaddisch” from Deux mélodies hébraïques. Hearing Menuhin play it on YouTube from a recording he made when he was 20 is a very moving experience. He lets the music speak for itself; his playing is serene yet paradoxically forceful. Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, which conclude the program, acknowledge Menuhin’s devotion to the Hungarian composer (Menuhin commissioned the Sonata for Solo Violin from Bartók). All in all, a splendid way to evoke Menuhin’s spirit.

Hope and Menuhin: I spoke briefly with Hope backstage after his  Soundstreams concert last year and he told me a little about growing up in Yehudi Menuhin’s house and what an extraordinary influence it was on his life, how it was absolutely incredible in so many ways.

“That it happened completely by accident, that was the thing. My parents are not musicians at all; they have no musical training. But we were kind of thrown into this musical environment and then Menuhin himself, of course, but also the people who came to that house, who played with him, who came to work with him. The amalgamation of musical styles in that house was something out of this world. You would have on the same day Rostropovich and Ravi Shankar. Or Wilhelm Kempff and Oscar Peterson.

“So you had great, great music, the essence of music. And as a result, it took me until I was 10 or 11 to actually realize there were different categories of music. I didn’t understand that. I heard amazing music and this music amazed my ears. And the fact that it happened to be Indian music or it happened to be a Beethoven sonata didn’t make a difference to me. It was just fascinating.”

When Hope was four he announced that he was  going to become a violinist. I asked how he came to that decision.

“It came about,” he said,” because of absorption. It was hearing the violin, it was seeing the violin. There were violins everywhere; there were real violins, there were images of violins. He had the most incredible collection of Paganini original concert posters. He had sketches and drawings of Paganini everywhere. Hundreds of them. So, wherever you looked you saw an image of a violin or a violinist.

“Plus you had him always with a violin, you had violinists who came in there. So I heard this sound all the time so it wasn’t perhaps so much of a surprise when I announced that this is what I wanted to do but it did throw my parents slightly a curve because they didn’t really know how to deal with that. And it was out of the question to go to my mom’s boss.

“Because I could have said the next day, ‘I want to be a fireman or an astronaut or something.’ So ... four-year-old child, whatever. So they decided instead to find a teacher who lived around the corner. And that was the next bit of great luck. This lady happened to be one of the great, great pedagogues of children. We didn’t know that. We just asked a few people who said, ‘This lady’s pretty good with kids.’ Sheila Nelson was a groundbreaking teacher. And she was the one who made this happen actually.

“Menuhin, much later in life, took a real interest, but only when I was 16 or something. So I had to make my way and I had to learn how to practise and meet the teachers that defined the way I played and the way I worked. And it was through my last teacher, Zakhar Bron, the great, great teacher, that Menuhin became quite interested because [Bron] had great success with Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin, at the time, 15-, 16-year-old kids. And I think he was curious to see what could Bron have done. And that’s when I went to play for him when I was 16 and it was a mixture of shock and delight because [I was] the little kid who always ran around the house, who was very close to him (he was like a family member to us). Suddenly it changed and we became kind of teacher-student, mentor, colleague.”

That was the beginning of 60 concerts Hope performed with him.

“Starting from that moment on, until his death, his last concert. That was a period of about ten years; going on the road with him, studying with him, then playing in the evening, playing the concerts. That was the ultimate because you could learn so much in a lesson but nothing actually prepares you for that moment when you go out and play, when you perform.

“And do the great concertos with him, you know, the Elgar, and the Bartóks – the things that he had, you know, he’d met the composers and he’d worked with them – was just incredible.”

Hope’s January 28 concert precedes the international release of his new CD, My Tribute To Yehudi Menuhin, by just a few days. There are many parallels between its contents and the program of the Koerner Hall recital. The CD includes Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D Minor which Menuhin resurrected after one of the composer’s relatives presented it to him in 1951. There are works by Bartók and Enescu. There is an homage, Unfinished Journey, by Bechara El-Khoury, written ten years after Menuhin’s death. There are three tributes to Menuhin, by John Tavener, Steve Reich and Hans Werner Henze, part of the Compassion project that Menuhin undertook with violinist  Edna Michell.

Quick Picks

Dec 2 The Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society presents pianist Alexander Tselyakov and the Canadian Sinfonia Chamber Musicians in Hummel’s Piano Quintet Op.87 and an intimate setting of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2Dec 9 Duo Concertante’s pianist Timothy Steeves goes it alone in a performance of four diverse Haydn sonatas. Dec 16 K-WCMS celebrates Beethoven’s birthday with the Penderecki String Quartet’s program of two of the composer’s most riveting quartets, Op.59 No.3 and Op.132Jan 27 Mozart’s birthday is acknowledged in a diverting program by Trio+ that includes the piano Sonata K457, two trios (K502 and K542) and the poignant Sonata for violin and piano K304, reputedly Albert Einstein’s favourite piece to play. Jan 30 André Laplante studied with Yvonne Hubert in Montreal and no doubt had the same experience as all of Hubert’s students; she would sit on her student’s right and, with her left hand, play all the right-hand passages flawlessly. Laplante’s K-WCMS program consists of crowd-pleasing jewels by Schubert, Ravel, Liszt and Chopin.

Dec 10 The iconic Gryphon Trio begins the third decade of its annual Music Toronto association with a program that includes an early Beethoven trio (Op.1 No.3), a world premiere by Vincent Ho (Gryphon Realms) and Arno Babajanian’s Piano Trio in F-Sharp MinorJan 14 The compelling JACK Quartet brings their contemporary focus to works by John Luther Adams, John Zorn and Iannis Xenakis. Feb 4 Music Toronto’s season continues with the Toronto-based Annex Quartet, whose program includes Janáček’s powerful Quartet No.1 “Kreutzer Sonata”, R. Murray Schafer’s Quartet No.5 “Rosalind” and Mendelssohn’s Quartet No.2

Jan 17 A period ensemble that plays on gut strings with classical bows, the London Haydn Quartet brings a quintessential classical program to Mooredale Concerts’ first event of the new year.  Their performance of the same program – Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K581 (with guest clarinetist Eric Hoeprich), Haydn’s String Quartet in Bb Major, Op. 50, No.1, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3 – was called “revelatory” by the New York Times last year. The review went on to praise “the earthy, warm sounds of the gut strings [that] blended beautifully throughout” and the “myriad details of shading and contrast, and beautifully calibrated phrasing.”

Jan 18 Pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico heads a stellar group of chamber musicians in this Associates of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert with the intriguing title “Colours in Music: Composers with Synaesthaesia.” The sensation of experiencing sounds as colours manifests itself in a wide-ranging program of works by Liszt, Ellington, Sibelius and Caravassilis.

Jan 1617 The TSO’s “Mozart @ 260” features a representative sampling of the great composer’s creative output: the overture and two arias from Don Giovanni, his “Jeunehomme” piano concerto (with French pianist Alexandre Tharaud) and his final symphony, all conducted by Bernard Labadie. Jan 2728 The musical treasure that is Barbara Hannigan returns to the TSO in a performance of Dutilleux’s Correspondances. Hannigan and Dutilleux had a very close artistic relationship which the singer touched upon in CBC RADIO 2’s This Is My Music recently. Peter Oundjian also leads the orchestra in Berlioz’s ever-fresh Symphonie fantastique, which will share the stage with Richard Strauss’ buoyant Horn Concerto No.1 on Jan 30. The TSO’s principal horn, golden-toned Neil Deland, is the soloist.

Jan 30 Winner of the 1998 Tchaikovsky Competition, 40-year-old Russian pianist Denis Matsuev puts his poetic and virtuosic talent on display in a program that begins with Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Kreisleriana before concluding with Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux Ops.3,6 and 9  and Sonata No.2. As we go to press the Koerner Hall concert is almost sold out. Act quickly.

Daniel Hope performs “Menuhin @ 100” at Koerner Hall, January 28. 

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.


Dang Thai Son and Yike (Tony) Yang at the end of the 2015 Chopin CompetitionToronto and Canada have been abuzz recently with the announcement of pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin’s second-place finish in the 17th Fryderyk Chopin Competition in Warsaw. It’s the first time a Canadian has won a prize in that prestigious event. In addition Richard-Hamelin won the Krystian Zimerman Prize for best performance of a sonata for Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58. The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto was justly proud. It was the same sonata that won him their Career Development Award last April. In fact at the initial concert of their 148th season October 15, the WMCT announced that Richard-Hamelin had just made the finals.

Even mainstream media picked up on the historic nature of the award, the story made sweeter by the (perhaps) more unexpected news that 16-year-old Toronto high school student Yike (Tony) Yang, who finished fifth, became the youngest prizewinner in the history of the gruelling competition. One of Yang’s teachers, former Chopin Competition winner (1980) Dang Thai Son (the subject of The WholeNote’s February 2000 cover story), was one of 17 jury members. Martha Argerich (whose final vote mirrored the top two finishers -- Seong-Jin Cho of South Korea was awarded first place), Garrick Ohlsson, Yundi and Adam Harasiewicz were other former winners among the jurors. Richard-Hamelin’s second place puts him in the distinguished company of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mitsuko Uchida and Ingrid Fliter.

Yulianna Ardeeva: This month’s listings are brimming with young talent. In a coincidence of rare serendipity, Yulianna Ardeeva, who placed first in the previous Chopin competition in 2010, is the guest soloist with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) at Roy Thomson Hall on November 25. On her website you can get a sense of the crisp articulation that will undoubtedly serve her well here in Stravinsky’s elegant Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. Kent Nagano will also lead the orchestra in Shostakovich’s profound Symphony No.10.

Alexander Seredenko, who won first prize in the Canadian Chopin Piano Competition in 2014 is the soloist in the latest instalment of Rob Kapilow’s ongoing TSO series “What Makes It Great?” Rachmaninoff’s justly popular Piano Concerto No.2 will be explored by the engaging Kapilow and the up-and-coming Seredenko.

Anastasia Rizikov, another gifted prodigy, now 16, gives a recital at Glenn Gould Studio, November 28. It will be interesting to see if she performs Albéniz’ Triana, which earned her first place at the Jaén International Piano Competition in Spain earlier this year, as well as a special prize in the Obligatory Spanish Work category. This piece is scheduled for inclusion on her upcoming Naxos CD, to be released next March, 2016.

Phil and Eli Taylor Academy: Speaking of prodigies, the COC is featuring three young pianists from the RCM’s Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists, in a noontime free concert, November 26: 11-year-old Leonid Nediak, who won the Canadian Music Competition (age 7 to10) in 2013 and made his OSM debut in 2014; 12-year-old Raymond Huang; and Richard Chao Gao, who appeared at RTH in the Emanuel Ax-curated “Pianorama” last February. The fall edition of the Taylor Academy Showcase Concert November 21 at Mazzoleni Hall is already sold out, so this is an opportune moment to get a sense of the young talent on the rise in our city without having to wait for the Taylor Academy’s next showcase in the winter of 2016.

Jan Lisiecki: No reference to prodigies would be complete without noting the sublime Jan Lisiecki, now 20, whose December 6 Koerner Hall recital is sold out. I’m happy to say I already have my ticket and I’m looking forward to hearing Lisiecki (and his pellucid, singing tone) perform, among other works, Chopin’s Preludes Op.28, Mozart’s Sonata No.11 in A Major K331 and Mendelssohn’s Variations sérieuses in D Minor, Op. 54.

Peter Jablonski, now 44, who makes his Toronto debut at the Jane Mallett Theatre November 10, began studying drums at five and piano at six. He played the Village Vanguard with Buddy Rich and Thad Jones when he was nine, earning praise from Miles Davis. He then made his solo recital and orchestral piano debut at eleven in Sweden before establishing a distinguished professional career in the U.S. and U.K. in the early 1990s. His Music Toronto program is unusually rich and varied, moving from Szymanowski and Chopin to Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Leonard Bernstein’s transcription of Copland’s El Salón Mexico.

Schulich School. Richard-Hamelin, currently studying with André Laplante, received his master’s degree from the Yale School of Music in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in performance from McGill’s Schulich School of Music in 2011. Another Schulich tie-in: celebrating the Schulich School’s tenth anniversary, the McGill Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Alexis Hauser, makes its Koerner Hall debut November 17.

Highlighting the evening will be Brahms’ resplendent Double Concerto in A minor, Op.102 with violinist Axel Strauss and cellist Matt Haimovitz as soloists. Strauss’ Naxos recording of Volume 2 of Enescu’s violin and piano music caught the attention of Terry Robbins in last June’s WholeNote. He called the CD “exceptional” and Strauss “terrific”in his Strings Attached column. The opportunity to hear the internationally acclaimed Haimovitz is always welcome. All three artists are on the Schulich School faculty. The evening begins with John Rea’s Over Time. Rea, a two-time recipient of the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, will attend the concert. Closing out the program is Shostakovich’s forceful Symphony No.5, with its contagious rhythms that careen from sarcasm to triumph.

And speaking of student orchestras, ten days later, Tania Miller, music director of the Victoria Symphony, leads the Royal Conservatory Orchestra (the RCM’s own student orchestra) in its fall Koerner Hall concert. Their program opens with Traffic Jam, by the Banff Centre’s “emerging composer” and composer-in-residence of the Victoria Symphony, Jared Miller. Concertmaster Heidi Hatch, a Glenn Gould School scholarship recipient, is the soloist in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, a delightful mashup of Scottish folk songs and German Romanticism. Mahler’s memorable Symphony No.5 completes the evening.

Grosvenor’s ReturnLast month I profiled the extraordinarily talented young British pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor. His return visit to the Jane Mallett stage October13 exceeded all my expectations. For a report on the concert, please read my blog on thewholenote.com.

Charles Richard-HamelinQUICK PICKS

November 5 The Cecilia String Quartet’s Music Toronto concert includes Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op.44, No.2 which is featured on their newly released Analekta CD. The quartet series continues November 26 with the Toronto debut of the young Polish ensemble, the Apollon Musagète Quartet, playing Dvořák and Schubert.

November 6 Beethoven’s under-appreciated Symphony No.4 is the featured work in a diverse program by the energetic group of 27 under the direction of the effervescent Eric Paetkau that also includes works by Purcell, Burge and Glazunov.

November 8 Marquis Classics recording artist, flutist Susan Hoeppner, and TSO principal oboist, Sarah Jeffrey, are joined by pianist Jeanie Chung in a program of works by Ginastera, W.F. Bach, Ibert and others in Mazzoleni Hall.

November 8 The superb string trio, Trio Arkel, includes Haydn and Beethoven in its Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (K-WCMS) recital. November 9 finds the Arkel in Heliconian Hall playing a similar program.  November 12 the COC free noontime concert series features them again in the Beethoven Trio Op.9, No.3 as well as Michael Oesterle’s Warhol Dervish.

November 10 Legendary musicians flutist Suzanne Shulman and harpist Erica Goodman perform “An English Midday Serenade” at McMaster University in a free lunchtime concert that includes music by Vaughan Williams, Handel and Elgar, among others.

November 11 Nocturnes in the City presents the celebrated Zemlinsky String Quartet in a program of works by Dvořák, Janáček, Suk and Shostakovich

November 12 The K-WCMS series continues with the Zemlinsky String Quartet. The esteemed Czech musicians include the first of Beethoven’s late string quartets, his Op.127, in their program. November 18 rising star violinist Francesca Anderegg gives a solo recital featuring Bach, Ysaÿe and Kreisler. November 21 the versatile Ottawa-based pianist, David Jalbert, mixes and matches Satie, Poulenc and Stravinsky in his “Soirée Parisienne.”

November 12 and 14 Michael Sanderling, of the musical Sanderlings (father Kurt, brothers Thomas and Stefan) and conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic, leads the TSO in Mahler’s Symphony No.4, perhaps the composer’s most popular symphony. November 18 and 19 Peter Oundjian takes back the baton for Rimsky-Korsakov’s crowd-pleasing Scheherazade, with concertmaster Jonathan Crow as violin soloist. Principal clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas brings his gorgeous, full tone to Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No.1. Dec 2, 3 and 5 Crow returns to the spotlight for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, that enduring romantic icon, while Oundjian conducts another of the composer’s masterpieces, his Symphony No.6 “Pathétique.”

November 14 The Dover Quartet caught everyone’s attention when they won the Grand Prize and all three Special Prizes at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition. Their concert in Kingston’s Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts should be worth the trip.

November 15 The Windermere String Quartet performs Russian works by Alabiev and Glinka as well as Beethoven’s great “Razumovsky” Quartet Op.59, No.2.

November 25 André Laplante brings his secure pianistic sense to Schubert’s Moments Musicaux (Nos.1,2 and 6) and Three Petrarch Sonnets by Liszt as part of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s “German Romantics” program.

November 29 Canadian superstar violinist, James Ehnes, is the soloist in Lalo’s virtuosic Symphonie Espagnole with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra. 

 Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.


Benjamin GrosvenorJennifer Taylor has a knack for programming. Music Toronto’s artistic producer and general manager admitted in a recent chat that while she has “a tiny reputation for piano recital debuts,  just say that I am lucky.” We met in her office in an older building high above the city’s downtown core. Glancing at the list of pianists who have made their local debuts under Taylor’s watch over the last 25 years, many of the names jump out: Pascal Rogé, Misha Dichter, Nikolai Lugansky, Markus Groh, Andreas Haefliger, Simon Trpčeski, Piotr Anderszewski, Steven Osborne, Arnaldo Cohen, Alexandre Tharaud, Till Fellner, Peter Jablonski and Benjamin Grosvenor, who returns to the stage of the Jane Mallett Theatre on October 13, a mere 19 months after his memorable debut there in 2014. Conceding that she doesn’t usually gamble on pianists as young as Grosvenor, she said: “He was the real thing.”

Grosvenor’s exceptional talent was widely revealed at 11 when he won the keyboard section of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. At 19, shortly after becoming the first British pianist since the legendary Clifford Curzon to be signed by Decca, he became the youngest soloist to perform at the First Night of the Proms. The venerable magazine Gramophone bestowed its “Young Artist of the Year” on him in 2012.


Classical_and_Beyond_1_-_Goodyear.jpg"There are so many composers and so many projects,” Stewart Goodyear said recently to WholeNote editor David Perlman. “What makes this life so exciting is that the discovery is endless; the road doesn’t end and there’s discovery galore.”

The two men were wrapping up the latest edition of Conversations <at>The WholeNote for the magazine’s YouTube channel, a conversation prompted by Goodyear’s upcoming appearance as soloist in the first concert of Mooredale Concerts 2015/16 season, September 27. Billed as “Legendary Piano Variations,” it’s the coupling of two major works, Bach’s joyful Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (the essence of which, according to Alfred Brendel and others, is humour).

Goodyear talked about the similarities in the two pieces: “They both centre around dances. There is humour in both (of course used very differently), voices, innovative harmonies – one in each set almost sounds like a 21st-century work, the harmonies are so advanced it still shocks the listener. Even if the listener has heard it around 10,000 times – like yours truly – it always makes a huge impression and I’m bowled over by what I hear.”

That’s the boyish pianistic explorer talking, the 37-year-old pianist who is famous for the Beethoven “Sonatathon” in which he has played all 32 sonatas in chronological order at one sitting, who calls himself a “music gourmet” with an appetite for big programs (such as performing all five of the Beethoven piano concertos with the Niagara Symphony Orchestra on Hallowe’en night, repeating the marathon the following Sunday afternoon, November 1). Or, on the same weekend as the Mooredale date, performing all five Beethoven concertos in a slightly more traditional setting with Edwin Outwater and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony: One and Four on Friday evening; Three (and Symphony No.8) on Saturday afternoon; Two and Five Saturday evening.

“It humbles me as an interpreter,” Goodyear continued, discussing his Toronto recital. “I always want to bring an intimacy to both of those works…to get into the marrow.”

Playing these two monumental works on the same recital is “like a Canadian program for me,” he says. His introduction to the Goldberg Variations was Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of the piece “and then immediately after, I heard [Gould’s] second [recording].” The first recording of the Diabelli Variations he heard was Anton Kuerti’s. Goodyear's own CD of the Diabellis was released last fall by Marquis and very favourably reviewed, by among others Christina Petrowska Quilico in our November 2014 issue.

Goodyear had lived with the Goldbergs all his life before finally performing them in public for the first time on Gould’s own piano at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa last spring, surrounded by portraits of Gould. “I was face to face with Glenn Gould,” he said. “It gave me another excuse to connect with the audience.”

Gould’s piano felt custom made to him, he says. He found playing it “challenging” with its “brilliant sound and lots of colours. Just being a part of that history inspired me a lot,” he continued. “I felt that there was something spiritual going on.”

The Mooredale recital will be Goodyear’s fourth performance of the Bach this year. “Every time I do it, it’s different,” he said. The notational text is sacrosanct, the basis for all Goodyear’s formal preparatory work until it feels “like it’s in every pore.”

“So that whatever happens, it feels like I’m improvising,” he elaborated. “I know it 500 percent that whatever comes out it’s not like I’m reciting something or reiterating something; it’s just coming out.”

Part of his practising method is delving into a piece’s history and its qualities. In the case of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony which he’s playing again with Paavo Järvi, later this season with the Orchestre de Paris, it’s trying to “find the seed to this masterpiece.” Listening to him talk about its character reveals the way he relates to a musical work: “It’s very theatrical; there are sweeping gestures, extremely lyrical, very colourful, with fermatas, rallentandos. There are moments when you see the lovers running to each other just like Hollywood; there are slow-motion moments when they finally embrace. It’s a technicolor extravaganza. It’s a beautiful work, 80 minutes long. It’s decadent, it’s pure, it’s everything. It’s romantic.”

It’s a telling insight into Goodyear’s approach. Despite the marathons, despite the prodigious technique and memory that they require, the basis for Goodyear’s appeal is his empathetic relationship with the music he performs and his ability to communicate that to an audience – qualities that will undoubtedly be evident to all who hear him in Walter Hall on the last Sunday afternoon of September.

Summer Pleasures. A completely different traversal of the Beethoven piano concertos took place in Stratford August 27 to 29 when Stratford Summer Music presented Jan Lisiecki and the Annex Quartet with Roberto Occhipinti, bass, in three programs encompassing all five of the concertos in transcriptions by the German composer and conductor, Vinzenz Lachner’s (1811-1893). It was Lisiecki’s first time performing all five piano concertos. In the days leading up to our September production deadline, I was fortunate to find time to attend the middle concert which paired the Second and the Fourth.

The 20-year-old wunderkind was his usual gracious and charming self as he introduced the concert. “We can’t give you all the drama,” he said. “But we can give you intimacy and the beauty of this music.”

St. Andrew’s Church is a bright room acoustically but Lisiecki met its challenge (and that of the Yamaha grand) in the Piano Concerto No.2, Op.19, begun when Beethoven was still a teenager and only published after his first six string quartets (Op.18). Lisiecki’s touch was even-handed, very classical, marvellous. He made every note count. The Allegro con brio was Mozartean in its passagework, Haydn-like in its succession of swells but intimations of the composer-to-be were clearly present. The Largo that followed is not one of Beethoven’s best but Occhipinti’s rich, sonorous sound stood out. The lively Rondo, however, is a delight, presaging the more mature symphonist, and the performers seemed to relish playing it, bringing out the joy that flows from the return of the opening theme in its inverted form.

The six played like cohesive, well-balanced chamber musicians in the Rondo, and the piano part especially stood out since it didn’t have to compete with a full orchestra. This transparency continued in the Op. 58 concerto, a piece composed in that luminous time just after the Triple Concerto, the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” Sonatas and the “Eroica” Symphony and immediately before the “Razumovsky” String Quartets. Lisiecki often played with a sound big enough to match an orchestra which made for a less balanced whole, though given the somewhat rough-hewn sound of the violins, it was not unwelcome. Intimations of beauty leading into the cadenza were dashed by a hurried approach until a surfeit of melody righted the course on the way to a thundering climax.

The second movement conversation between the dark and dissonant strings and the gorgeous lyricism of the keyboard set up the magical, rhapsodic piano cadenza. The spirited third movement Rondo, seemed to outrun its musical sense. But all was right in the encore, the Rondo of the “Emperor” Concerto, in which Lisiecki seemed re-engaged if not re-energized. It was a generous gift to an appreciative audience who greeted the conclusion of each of the three pieces with a standing ovation.

(All of which makes me look forward to Lisiecki’s December 6 recital in Koerner Hall when his program will include Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Mendelssohn’s Variations sérieuses and Mozart’s marvellous Piano Sonata, K331 among other works.)

Paul Lewis. Still on the subject of Stratford Summer Music, on the last Thursday afternoon of July in a warm St. Andrew’s Church (hand-held fans were provided) British pianist Paul Lewis spoke to his congregation, as it were, those of us privileged to hear this supreme interpreter of Beethoven and Schubert, describing how he saw the pieces he was about to play – what he called “true peaks of the piano repertoire” – Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas. 

The concert turned out to be the highlight of my summer. You can read more about it in my blog on thewholenote.com. (Lewis will also be giving a recital, of Brahms, Schubert and Liszt, in Koerner Hall March 20, 2016. I already have a ticket.)

Botos and BartókMeanwhile, the tenth anniversary season of Toronto Summer Music reached a significant climax August 6 with separate concerts late in the afternoon and into the evening. Robi Botos and Béla Bartók, two Hungarian-born émigrés to the New World, were appropriate poster boys for the well-conceived and multi-layered 2015 TSM festival.

With its extensive schedule built around a foundation of TSM Academy fellows and mentors, the concerts, masterclasses, lectures, films and open rehearsals flowed organically, buttressed by a number of additional concerts featuring special guests such as soprano Measha Brueggergosman, pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Ingrid Fliter and Danilo Pérez and the Danish String Quartet. They provided ample evidence for artistic director’s Douglas McNabney’s contention at the opening concert that TSM provides “a significant contribution to the cultural life of this city in the summer.” Not to mention a significant contribution to the life of the Academy fellows.

I took in six concerts, one dress rehearsal, two masterclasses and a lecture over the 25 days of the festival and barely scratched the surface. Highlights included the well-devised “American Avant-Garde” program devoted to Cage, Feldman, Ives and Zorn with the personable pianist Pedja Muzijevic and the irrepressible Afiara String Quartet; Ohlsson’s Scriabin; the Danish String Quartet’s playing of Adès’ audacious Arcadiana; the Borromeo String Quartet’s complete Bartók cycle in one evening, preceded the day before by first violinist Nicholas Kitchen’s illuminating lecture on the week he once spent exploring Bartók’s original manuscripts in Budapest; Finnish lyric soprano Soile Isokoski’s memorable masterclass; Botos’ exuberant tribute to Oscar Peterson in the presence of Peterson family members at a rollicking, jam-packed Heliconian Hall; Brueggergosman’s touching and extraordinarily beautiful Summertime. Further details on TSM 2015 can be found on thewholenote.com.

Classical_and_Beyond_2_-_Gerstein.jpgSeptember is here. The TSO begins its 2015/2016 season with a crowd-pleasing program headed by guest soloist Itzhak Perlman in Bruch’s dazzling Violin Concerto No.1. With its gorgeous melodic lines and virtuoso passages seamlessly integrated, it’s one of the most popular concertos in the violin canon. Having just turned 70, Perlman will celebrate that milestone as well as his ongoing relationship with the TSO (which goes back to 1966) in Roy Thomson Hall, beginning at 7pm September 24. The orchestra then jumps into the deep end with a rousing program featuring the legendary Three B’s. Following Leopold Stokowski’s arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor the TSO moves on to the rich and melodious Double Concerto of Brahms with TSO concertmaster Jonathan Crow and principal cellist Joseph Johnson as soloists. Post-intermission comes Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No.5. If you have never heard this piece live, get yourself down to RTH September 25 or 26 or experience it September 27 in the glorious acoustics of the George Weston Recital Hall. If you haven’t heard it recently, now’s the time. A live reacquaintance with this music is essential at least once every decade. September 30, Shostakovich’s jaunty Suite for Variety Orchestra (which may be familiar to some readers for its use in Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut) is joined on the program with Gershwin’s challenging Concerto in F. The mulit-faceted Russian-born, American Kirill Gerstein is the piano soloist and the guest conductor is the gifted American James Gaffigan. October 1 and 3 Prokofiev’s indispensable Symphony No.5 augments the program, making for a full musical evening indeed.

QUICK PICKS

Sept 13: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. South African pianist Petronel Malan’s program includes Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata.

Sept 16: KWCMS. The New Orford String Quartet opens its program with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 3, Op.18No.3 before moving on to the seminal Op.130 and its original ending, the Grosse Fugue, Op. 133.

Sept 18: Prince Edward County Music Festival (PECMF). The New Orford String Quartet performs Brahms’ String Quartet No.2, Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue Op.133 and Gary Kulesha’s String Quartet at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

Sept 19: PECMF. The Gryphon Trio’s concert includes Beethoven’s Archduke Trio at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

Sept 19, 20, 21: KWCMS. Georgy Valtechev, violin, and Lora Tchekoratova, piano, perform all ten of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano in a series of three concerts.

Sept 20: RCM. Glenn Gould School faculty-member, 80-year-old John Perry’s big program for a Sunday afternoon includes Mozart’s divine Piano Sonata K.333, three Brahms IntermezziOp.117, Beethoven’s penultimate piano sonata, Op.110 and Schubert’s melodic masterpiece, his final sonata, D960.

Sept 25: PECMF. “Inspired by Clara” – chamber music by Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann and Brahms at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.

Sept 26: RCM. The ARC Ensemble’s ambitious program includes the sublime clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet K581, Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet Op.57 and Weinberg’s Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano Op.12. You’ll need a ticket, but it’s FREE, part of Culture Days.

Sept 26: PECMF. An evening of German and French cabaret songs with Patricia O’Callaghan at the Regent Theatre.  

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.`


Back to top