Looking at a forecast of dishearteningly subzero temperatures – and having only just left behind what was apparently one of the coldest winters on record – it’s admittedly a little hard to believe that summer is on the horizon. And yet, the summer months ahead are just where music presenters are beginning to focus their attention. Almost exactly midway through a busy concert season, it’s at this time of year that 2015/16 season announcements have started to surface and faculty positions for summer workshops are being finalized. At this point in the season, amidst their day-to-day workload, musicians are getting down to the business of filling in the blanks in their summer schedules.
The following story is based on a videotaped conversation at The WholeNote between Angela Hewitt and David Perlman on November 12, 2014 . Click the image below to view/hear the entire conversation.
As Pamela Margles notes in her review of of Angela Hewitt’s newly released Bach: Art of the Fugue in this issue of The WholeNote (page 77 of the print edition) “it was four years ago that Hyperion released all of Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt’s recordings of Bach’s solo keyboard works as a 15-disc boxed set. It was a huge project, but it didn’t include Bach’s monumental late work, The Art of the Fugue.”
“That is when everyone started writing to me of course,” says Hewitt. “You know, why haven’t you done The Art of the Fugue.” She hadn’t even performed it before then, she says, let alone contemplated recording it. “Growing up, it wasn’t even really considered a keyboard piece, or even anything you performed much. For one thing it had long been considered something of an academic work – Bach seeing what he could do with fugues, double fugues, triple fugues, mirror fugues. And there was the fact that in the first edition it was written as an open score, one voice per stave, like a string quartet.”
When it comes to our December issue, no topic it seems has the power to set the pigeon among the cats more effectively than the perennial popularity of Handel’s Messiah. Our choral columnist Ben Stein simply states that he is going to assume that the readers of this column need no urging from him to find a Messiah performance (and then goes on to talk about an admittedly interesting array of other choral events over the holidays and beyond. Our early music columnist Dave Podgorski is slightly less categorical proffering that from his vantage point, Tafelmusik’s sing-along Messiah and Aradia’s Dublin Messiah are the only two Messiahs in Toronto he thinks you need to see. (And like Stein goes on to talk about an equally interesting array of other musical options.) Even CD reviewer Hans De Groot, after singing the praises of a new CD of Messiah from the Boston Handel and Haydn Society (liberally laced with Canadian vocal and instrumental talent, I might add) feels it necessary to add the remark that when asked to review the recording, his first thought was: Another Messiah – who needs it? (Before going on to say that in this case, he couldn’t have been more wrong.)
Our experts notwithstanding, there’s something about Herr Handel’s 24-day opus that continues to captivate, year after year. This year we have scoured the listings and come up with 32 performances by 20 organizations. Five period-instrument groups account for ten performances. Nine modern instrument organizations offer a further 14. Two organizations serve up four performances accompanied by organ. And a further four give single performances that include excerpts from the work.
It was a dark and snowy afternoon Wednesday, November 19, 2014. The first significant snowfall of the year blanketed the city sidewalks and the air was decidedly crisp. I subwayed to Hugh’s Room on Dundas West for the launch of Toronto diva Measha Brueggergosman’s new album Christmas (Warner Music Canada) and its 19-date Canadian tour. It was a treat to witness the New Brunswick native, so at home in concert recitals and opera, in such an intimate dinner club concert setting. Though only in her 30s, she is that rare breed today: Canadian classical music royalty. Brueggergosman is a glittering diva combining superb vocal and acting chops, a bona fide classical celebrity in a country where the two words don’t usually crop up in the same sentence.
As thrilling as it was to witness the Grammy-nominated, JUNO-winning star deftly working the music – and her fans in the room – I was primarily there to see the singer’s musical director, arranger and pianist Aaron Davis at work. But first, full disclosure: my path crossed Davis’ at York University’s Music Department back in the mid-1970s. He was deeply immersed in jazz then and I in everything but. We did however share some common ground in the study of the music of several West African, Caribbean, and South Asian cultures.
Eric Paetkau, tall and lean, appeared confident, serious and enthusiastic on a mid-November visit to The WholeNote’s office as he described the program for group of 27’s January 30 concert “Journey.” He characterized it as “ a wonderful mix of music,” from Mozart’s beloved Symphony 35 “The Haffner” to the lyrical Dvorak Romance and Andrew Staniland’s Voyageur, with Beethoven’s rarely performed, delightful 12 Contredanses broken up and interspersed between the three works. Each piece is a kind of journey, he explained, “taking you to a different place.”
Jim Galloway was The WholeNote's longest standing columnist, tenacious to the last. We greet the news of his passing, yesterday, December 30 2014, with sadness. We have lost a blithe spirit, a true champion of live music. Here are the last words he wrote for us, just four weeks ago.
David Perlman, publisher
This being the 15th or 16th December/January edition of these Jazz Notes for The WholeNote, I thought that rather than essaying something completely new, I’d dip back through my little stack of back issues for things that, still being appropriate, I might appropriate. Take this, for one example:
This month’s column is a departure from the familiar concert listings of previous issues, reason being that the above mentioned departure was mine - for a month-long trip to Europe! As a result this article is coming to you from the waltz capital of the world, Vienna.
First of all, for the record, the Danube is not blue, but an industrial brown which would not inspire Johann were he to see it today. Also the Viennese waltz does not make up 3/4 of the music heard in Vienna, even though it is in 3/4, and since being here I have not heard a single zither play the theme from The Third Man.
Is there jazz in this stronghold of Strauss? – this fatherland of Freud? – this Mecca of Mozart? – this city where you can have your Vienna Phil? Yes there is and quite a lot of it at that, although, as anywhere else it is music for a small minority – and a minority that is broken into at least two camps. There are the obvious ones traditional and modern, and it would seem that never – or very seldom – the twain shall meet. (No, not you, Mark!)