Seymour Bernstein. Photo: Ramsey Fendall. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

“Music is a reminder of our own potential for perfection.”
-- Seymour Bernstein

In last September’s issue of The WholeNote, in my preview of the Toronto International Film Festival, I wrote that the film I was most looking forward to was Ethan Hawke’s Seymour: An Introduction. It had been Hawke’s explanation of Bernstein’s teaching mantra (responding to Hubert Vigilia’s question on flixist.com, two years ago just as the film was taking shape) that piqued my curiosity and made the film a must on my TIFF to-do list.

Said Hawke: “He’s a very deep guy. I was touched by him, and I thought he had a lot to teach me about acting, and then I slowly realized that the way he’s talking about the piano relates to every profession.”

I was touched, charmed and inspired by Hawke’s moving documentary when I saw it at TIFF and couldn’t wait to see it again. Six months later, it’s begun an exclusive engagement at the Cineplex Varsity Cinemas. The second time I was even more moved. Be prepared to be charmed and inspired when you see it. It’s unmissable.

Hawke (Boyhood, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) has given us a tender, warm portrait of the captivating pianist Seymour Bernstein. Among many things Hawke’s documentary does, it debunks the axiom that those who can, do and those who can’t, teach. And it does so with wall-to-wall piano music highlighted by Bernstein’s own playing of Chopin (Berceuse, Ballade No.1, Nocturne Op.37 No.2) and Beethoven (Bagatelles Op.126, Sonata Op.111, “Moonlight” Sonata) among others, as well as some of his own compositions. 

Author: Paul Ennis
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Feat_-_Cooper_Gay_-_2.jpg Ann Cooper Gay was born, raised and educated in Texas. There are two photographs that she digs out on cue to prove to disbelieving Canadians that she is truly a Texas girl. The first is a shot of her adolescent self in her backyard proudly carrying a rifle. The second confirms that she was a majorette in college, baton included. How this Texan became a prime mover and shaker in the Toronto music scene is an incredible journey.

Cooper Gay, 71, recently announced that she is stepping down as executive artistic director of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. In her life she has been a pianist, organist, flutist, opera singer, elementary school teacher, college instructor, instrumental conductor and choir director, not to mention social activist, master of languages and a talented tennis player. No one who knows her believes that Cooper Gay will actually settle into a life of quiet retirement. Somewhere she will find a place to make music.

Ancestors on Cooper Gay’s maternal side arrived in Texas by covered wagon before it was even a state. Her paternal ancestors guarded cattle trains headed for the military, which included supplying the command of George Armstrong Custer.

Feat_-_Davis_-_Davis_and_Lortie.jpg"I rather suspect you are going to be running into a bit of a ‘Sir Andrew Davis, this is your life’ ambush when you hit town this time” I say into the phone. The response is an amiable guffaw. It’s 8:05am Sunday morning, Melbourne time, for him; just after 6pm Saturday night here in Toronto for me. Davis is “waking up slowly” he says, after a performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the third of three towering programs over a four-week period.

Davis is Chief Conductor at Melbourne, Conductor Laureate of the BBC Orchestra, and, for the past 15 years Music Director and Chief Conductor of Lyric Opera of Chicago (an appointment recently extended through the 2020/21 season).

He is, of course, also Conductor Laureate of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position he assumed after being the TSO’s Music Director from 1975 till 1988. So, add the 27 years he’s been returning every year as Conductor Laureate to the 13 he spent as Music Director, and the stage is set for the “Forty Years on the TSO Podium” possible ambush I alluded to when he returns to town mid-May for a two-week, three-program stint commencing with the Verdi Requiem May 21, 22 and 23.

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2008_-_Feat_-_Glass_-_Wu_Man.jpgThe April 14 announcement of Philip Glass from the Koerner Hall stage as the 2015 winner of the $100,000 Glenn Gould Prize was perhaps more imbued with history for one of the jurors, pipa player Wu Man, than anyone else on the stage. Granted, she was just one of a distinguished international jury of ten (including jury chair Bob Ezrin). They convened in Toronto for a 48-hour period, charged with the near-impossible task in that short time of whittling down to one winner a briefing book of 80 nominees.

Where Wu Man stood out on the jury is that in her previous brush with the Glenn Gould Foundation, she was a winner herself – not of the Glenn Gould Prize, but as 1999 Gould laureate Yo-Yo Ma’s choice for the accompanying City of Toronto protégé prize, whom the laureate himself (yes so far the laureates have all been men) chooses.

Being chosen as Ma’s 1999 protégé was immensely significant for Wu Man. “When I received the protégé prize in 1999 I can say it changed my musical life,” she told me backstage at Koerner, after the announcement, “because in 1999 I was just landed in North America from China and the prize actually inspired me to think of larger musicianship and encouraged me to explore new ways to communicate with people through music. So this year I am back but since 1999 I have been working differently in music. It’s a great honour to be back and sitting in the jury side by side with all those highly respected individuals.”

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2008_-_Remembering_Glenn_Gould.jpgThe announcement of Phillip Glass as the 11th recipient the Glenn Gould Prize this past April 14 gives us an opportunity to remember that Glenn Gould was himself an artist who walked amongst us. Although he was someone who changed the world of music in a number of significant ways, the fact remains that he was a person who lived in Toronto, who had friends and colleagues here, myself included, and who was always just a phone call away. He was an indisputably extraordinary individual, but to those of us who were close to him he was just “Glenn.” 

The circumstances of our first meeting are typically Gouldian. There was no introduction, no “Hello, I’m David” or corresponding, “Hello, I’m Glenn.” Rather, it came through one of Glenn’s patented devices for getting to know and sizing up another person, namely The Guessing Game.

I was the junior producer of the CBC Radio Music Department, having joined the team in January of 1973. It was now early 1974, and although Glenn was never seen in the office during the working day, there were hearsay reports of his nocturnal visits via conversations with veterans of the department. Naturally, as the low man of the Radio Music team, I was keeping late hours, learning the job and just getting work finished.

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