The most acclaimed British pianist of his generation, the remarkable Stephen Hough, makes his Koerner Hall debut March 2, his first solo recital in Toronto since his Music Toronto appearance seven years ago. A few weeks earlier his 21-year-old countryman Benjamin Grosvenor, who’s been not so quietly building a burgeoning career of his own appears on Music Toronto’s Jane Mallet stage February 11, following that up February 14 and 15 as piano soloist with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.2 (which Grosvenor plays with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic on his latest Decca CD).

bbb - classical 2 - grosvenorGrosvenor: In one so young – he’s only 21 – we expect the notes and hope for the music; in this case there are good reasons to be hopeful. The Times said of Grosvenor’s first recording (which included Chopin’s Four Scherzi and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit) that “he jumps inside the music’s soul.”

Just who is this pianist upon whom the venerable magazine Gramophone bestowed its “Young Artist of the Year” and “Instrumental Award” in 2012?

At 11, Grosvenor’s exceptional talent was revealed 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 youngest of five brothers, his piano teacher mother shaped his early musical thinking. He divulged in a 2011 video that he decided at ten he would be a concert pianist and wasn’t fazed at all by playing on the BBC shortly thereafter. Only when he became more self-aware at 13 or 14 did he suffer some anxious moments. On the video, a piano excerpt from Leonard Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety follows, the musical core of which he expresses beautifully both literally and figuratively, before adding: “The pieces you play the best are the ones you respond to emotionally.”

In a May 2013 YouTube webcam chat in advance of a return engagement in Singapore, he spoke of his musical taste. From the beginning he was attracted to Chopin but over the years hearing Schnabel for the first time led to an attraction to Beethoven and hearing Samuel Feinberg opened his ears to Bach. He’s a bit of an old soul in that he has a great interest in recordings by pianists like Moriz Rosenthal, Ignaz Friedman, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Shura Cherkassky and Vladimir Horowitz made in the early half of the 20th century. “Their primary concern was in imitating the voice especially in romantic repertoire,” he explained. “Horowitz was obsessed with the voice. They were the masters of that asynchronization of the hands.”

In a profile in The Guardian three years ago when Grosvenor was 18, Tom Service wrote that he “talked of his early years as if he’s a seasoned professional looking back on the sins of his youth. But he’s talking about 2004.”

“Listening back to the Chopin D-Flat Major Nocturne I did when I was 12 -- I think it’s really interesting, some of the expressive things I do, like the asynchronization of the hands.” Asynchronization, Service went on to explain, is “a technique where the left hand plays a microsecond before the right, something associated with pianists of an earlier age ... and frowned on by today’s virtuosos.”

Grosvenor continued: “I don’t really know where that came from; I hadn’t heard any of those early 20th-century recordings by then ... If you compare the way people perform Mozart now with, say, Lili Kraus’ recordings, or Schnabel’s Beethoven with today’s players – today, things are so much blander and more boring. They were each so unique back then ... Maybe it’s because of recording and the pressure to make things note perfect, or the influence of competitions, but we’ve lost touch with that tradition of playing, with its imagination and expression.”

The Independent has described Grosvenor’s sound as “poetic and gently ironic, brilliant yet clear-minded, intelligent but not without humour, all translated through a beautifully clear and singing touch.” After his Wigmore Hall recital last fall, which contained much of what he will be playing in Toronto, International Piano compared Grosvenor to a young Krystian Zimerman. I’m looking forward to it.

bbb - classical 2 - houghHough: It had been eight years since Stephen Hough became the first classical musician to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “genius award,” so it was only fitting for him to be named by The Economist in 2009 as one of 20 polymaths the magazine determined to excel in diverse fields (in Hough’s case: pianist, poet, composer, writer on religion – this was before his first solo exhibit of paintings in the fall of 2012 at London’s Broadbent Gallery).

In the last two years Hough has been profiled and/or interviewed in Le Monde, Classical Music, the Houston Chronicle, Sunday Times, New York Times and London Evening Standard, all of which are available on his well-ordered website. There you can also link to the blog he writes for The Telegraph, where you may read his highly literate, well-argued thoughts, insights and reminiscences on everything from religion (he’s a sceptical Catholic) to the death of Lou Reed:

“In my teenage bedroom – dark purple ceiling, light purple walls, joss sticks a-burning – I used to listen to Lou Reed: ‘Take a walk on the wild side’ he suggested with that ironic, sing-song, cooler-than-cool voice. I didn’t take his advice in the end and went back to Beethoven, despite years of neglecting the piano and neglecting to do my homework. But in those voice-breaking years as I lounged around in my flared jeans covering my (purple) platform shoes, and as the LP, scratched and coarse, spun lazy circles in the smoke, I did feel a certain coming of age. I felt maturity arriving as if a shoot in a plant pot pushing out of the brown soil (no, not that plant). I was wrong; I was still a kid; it was a false Spring. But writing this in night-time New York, realizing that such a force of nature as Lou Reed is now a dead leaf beyond the Autumn of life, is strange and poignant.”

And he tweets, which is where you’ll find him showing his cheeky side, diaristically sharing choice words on whatever catches his fanciful fancy, revealing his peccadilloes (he loves shoes) or offering insights on the news of the day. An example, this tweet from the day  Claudio Abbado died:

“I did a German tour w/@londonsymphony & #Abbado in the mid 80s. ‘I’m Claudio’: my youthful nerves instantly removed RIP”

Or these:

“My weird, wonderful life: solo on stage for 2000 people ... then 20 mins later solo slice of pizza @UnionStation_DC”

“Frank Sinatra on the speakers in the restaurant: comforting sounds before comforting food. That masterly swoop with its agogic accent. [continued] I think piano students can learn more from Frank Sinatra about phrasing and rubato than from most classical instrumentalists.”

Indeed. By the nature of the medium, the musical insights on twitter may outnumber those onstage or in recordings. In any case, they’re a most welcome way to keep up with this uncommon musician whose live appearances here are all too rare a gift. On March 3, Hough will give a masterclass at RCM. I was fortunate to attend a similar event at RCM’s temporary home in 2007. It buoyed me for weeks while providing invaluable insights into my own modest world of piano playing. I’m looking forward to being reinvigorated.

The Year of the Horse: Celebrate the Chinese New Year February 3 with the TSO and an all-star lineup of guests including conductor Long Lu, the scintillating pianist Yuja Wang (playing Rachmaninov), the soulful violinist Cho-Liang Lin (in a Dvorak Romance) and Deutsche Grammophon recording artist Yian Wang (performing Tchaikovsky’s delightful Variations on a Rococo Theme) plus popstar Song Zuying (a household name in China) and a new work by Tan Dun (incorporating music from his best-known film scores).

Double Duty: Cellist Winona Zelenka brings her singing tone to Bach, Haydn and Beethoven in the Associates of the TSO concert February 10 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and then wears her Trio Arkel hat as part of Chamber Music Mississauga’s Belated Valentine concert February 22 in The Great Hall of The Unitarian Congregation of Mississauga.

Not To Be Missed: The Attacca Quartet’s foray into the complete string quartets of Haydn presented by the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society continues February 7, 8 and 9 in Waterloo with four concerts, each one including an early, middle and late quartet, and two introduced by a talk by violist Luke Fleming. For more information on the Haydn 68 series see my article in WholeNote’s November 2013 issue.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

1904 classical - hamelinThree pianists, Quebec-born and internationally celebrated, will all find themselves on stages in Toronto and vicinity over the course of six days in January 2014. The last time such a confluence of singular dexterity occurred was during the Glenn Gould 75th anniversary celebrations in late September and early October of 2007. Then, in homage to Gould’s love of the genre, Louis Lortie’s entire recital consisted of piano transcriptions by Bach, Grieg, Gould and Lortie; André LaPlante saluted the 50th anniversary of Gould’s Russian debut with music by Prokofiev and Shostakovich that curiously also included Mozart’s Piano Sonata K282; Marc-André Hamelin’s program comprised works championed and recorded by Gould, including Jacques Hétu’s Variations for Piano Op.8 and surprisingly Mozart’s Sonata in C, K545.

I happened to be in the audience at the Glenn Gould Studio when Hamelin began the second half of his concert by introducing the Mozart, saying that it was his least favourite of any Gould recording he heard growing up.

Hamelin began playing the piano at five. His pharmacist father was an amateur pianist enamoured of the pianists of the Golden Age — Vladimir de Pachmann, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Leopold Godowsky — and sufficiently proficient at the instrument to be able to play difficult pieces like César Franck’s Symphonic Variations and some of the Chopin Études. In a recent interview with Colin Eatock for the summer 2013 issue of Queen’s Quarterly Hamelin spoke candidly about his father’s early influence:

“Listening to these pianists [in his father’s record collection] taught me to view music with a great sense of freedom. Perhaps this wasn’t too healthy, from the perspective of today’s musicological advances, because I grew up with a disregard for the letter of the score. This is something I acquired later on. I believe it’s the combination of these two elements that make me who I am today, and make me do what I do the way I do it.”

From the age of 11 to 17 he studied with Yvonne Hubert at L’école de musique Vincent-d’Indy. Hubert taught LaPlante and Lortie among many others — Janina Fialkowska tells a wonderful story on CBC Radio 2’s This Is My Music about hearing LaPlante practicing Liszt when they were both students at the school in Montreal, she nine, and he two years older.

Hamelin has literally brought to light many works by 19th and 20th century composers whose compositions were rarely played in the last several decades. There’s an especially revealing response to Eatock’s question about Hamelin’s recorded music and whether he has followed “certain definable tendencies”:

“If you look at my discography, I don’t think you’ll find anything like it anywhere else. I’ve always had a taste for the unfamiliar, and a desire to bring it to the forefront — in the hope of enlarging awareness of the repertoire, and helping other pianists by offering them a greater diversity of things to choose from. And I’ve pretty much always been able to do what I wanted.”

Responding to a question about whether it’s his virtuosity that appeals to his fans, Hamelin answered:

“For many people, difficulty has an attraction all its own. But I don’t enjoy playing difficult music for its own sake — and I wish people understood this. If I do it, it’s because I believe in the music, and I’ll do whatever it takes to play it. But I want people to transcend virtuosity, and I’m a little less into that sort of thing now. I’ve found joy in simpler repertoire.

“And there’s a lot of the standard repertoire that I still haven’t done. For next year, I’ve programmed Schubert’s Sonata in A Major D.959 and his Impromptus — and I’ll be playing the Impromptus for the first time. But I’ll also revisit Nikolai Medtner’s Night Wind Sonata, which I think is an unsung masterpiece. It would benefit any young composer to study it very closely.”

Hamelin’s international career has maintained its lofty status. He’s currently artist-in-residence at London’s prestigious Wigmore Hall (where he made a memorable live recording slmost 20 years ago). He recently gave the first of five recitals there; the program’s first half was identical to the one he will be performing in Toronto January 21 and repeating in Lindsay the next evening. London blogger Frances Wilson summed it up: “The program traced a darkly lit narrative from the brooding opening bars of Hamelin’s atmospheric Barcarolle, through the sprawling musical landscapes of Medtner’s Night Wind piano sonata.” Here, he’ll be playing the last four Schubert Impromptus after intermission.

Hamelin is a pianist whose mastery of the mechanical aspects of music making has always been in support of his artistic vision, a means of fulfilling the music’s emotional content. Mark the date.

LaPlante and Lortie: LaPlante’s recital at the Narvesons’ Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Series, in Waterloo January 18, harks back to that autumn week in 2007. Included in a program of the kind of virtuosic romantic music for which the pianist is known — Chopin, Liszt and a Busoni arrangement of the Bach Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C — is the Mozart Sonata in E-flat K282 he played six years ago. Coincidentally he’s also performing the Jacques Hétu Variations Hamelin played during that same anniversary celebration.

Lortie will be leading the TSO from the keyboard in a performance January 22 and 23 of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22, K482 with its haunting middle “Andante” and elegant cantabile slow menuet that hijacks its “Allegro” third movement. “The important thing about a soloist being able to conduct,” Lortie says on his website, “is that he is a master of time in all senses.” He believes that it’s the time involved in rehearsal (“which ideally is as much time as needed”) that is essential. Since he believes that the Mozart concertos are true chamber music and that every player brings his own input to the playing of them, “you must have time to discuss phrasings with people.” People who play a Mozart trio or quartet will take hours to discuss their approach; he wants to bring those same values to the concertos.

Bezuidenhout: On the subject of Mozart, fortepiano specialist Kristian Bezuidenhout conducts the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra from the keyboard December 5 to 8 in Mozart’s Concertos Nos. 9 & 11, K271 and K413. Like Hamelin’s, Bezuidenhout’s boyhood home had a massive record collection and by the age of 9 or 10 he was intimately familiar with Mozart’s music. He discovered his fascination with historic keyboards as student at the Eastman School of Music. “The scale of the piano went just far enough that one could recapture the sense of sturm and drang and tempestuousness that is present in Mozart’s music,” he observes in a video available on the Tafelmusik website.

Finally, a third pianist-conductor, Ignat Solzhenitsyn (son of the iconic Soviet writer and dissident), will, like Lortie, bring his talents to Roy Thomson Hall as part of the TSO “Mozart @258 Festival.” On January 11 he will perform the Concerto No.18, K456 with its second movement “Andante” exhibiting a pathos rare for the composer.


Two in Waterloo: Highly touted American pianist Andrew Von Oeyen’s December 2 concert ranges from Bach’s Partita No.1 to Ravel’s La Valse; the gifted French pianist Jean-Philippe Collard’s eye-opening program January 15 consists of Debussy’s Preludes, Book I and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Both at the Perimeter Institute.

Koerner Hall Debut: Russian-born pianist Kirill Gerstein who divides his time between America and Germany is that rare classical pianist with a jazz degree from the Berklee College of Music. His December 8 program includes two Ligeti Etudes, two Virtuoso Etudes by Earl Wild from songs by Gershwin and Pictures at an Exhibition.

COC Piano Virtuoso Series: RCM Rebanks Fellowship-winner Stefan Chaplikov takes on Beethoven’s massive masterpiece, the Hammerklavier Sonata December 10; fellow RCM Rebanks Fellowship-winner (and one of the few Arabs performing Western classical music), Algerian-born Mehdi Ghazi looks to reveal the passion in works by Rachmaninov, de Falla, Prokofiev and Messiaen January 7; young American Christopher Goodpasture plays Fantasies by Schumann and Hétu and Etudes by Chopin and Debussy January 16. All concerts are free and at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium.) 

Paul Ennis is The WholeNote’s managing editor.

bbb - classical and beyond - haydn - in the narvesons chamber 1Haydn was a composer known for surprises but it’s likely that even he would have been amazed to find a complete cycle of his 68 string quartets being undertaken in Waterloo over the next three and a half years. Anyone familiar with the breadth and enterprising programming of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (KWCMS), however, won’t be so surprised.

If someone were to quiz you on the three leading concert presenters in the greater Toronto region, the TSO and RCM’s Koerner Hall, would come to mind immediately. Yet the KWCMS, with more than 70 concerts this season is barely behind The Royal Conservatory’s 80+ and the TSO’s 109. It’s incredible really, that one dedicated couple’s love affair with music would rival the accomplishments of two such prestigious institutions. At The WholeNote we’ve been well aware of the bountifulness of the KWCMS programming since their concerts have been filling our listings pages (and the 85-seat Music Room in Jan and Jean Narveson’s home) for as long as we’ve been in existence.

Over the years the cumulative volume of talented performers who made their way to the Narvesons is astonishing enough, but it is the KWCMS’ penchant for programming complete cycle concerts that really made one sit up and take notice. Over the years, they’ve presented all the Bartók, Beethoven, Shostakovitch and even the second Viennese School quartets, three cycles of the Beethoven piano sonatas, four of the Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano, three of the Beethoven cello and piano sonatas, the complete Ravel piano works and all 49 of the Haydn piano trios.

Read more: Haydn in the Narvesons’ Chamber

attaca quartetNow in their 11th year, the Attacca Quartet -- comprised of violinists Amy Schroeder and Keiko Tokunaga, violist Luke Fleming and cellist Andrew Yee -- met at Juilliard where they spent 2011-13 as the school’s graduate resident string quartet.

Why did you decide to do this project (which began the year after the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death)? Was there a particular impetus behind this decision?

Oddly enough, I was not aware until having been asked your question that we began this project right on the heels of such a milestone!  In fact, the year of the conception of “The

68” was 2009, the 200th anniversary, but it took many things coming together to realize this ambitious idea before the first concert in October 2010.  The story actually begins before I was a member of the quartet (I joined in November 2009).  Andrew, our cellist, was out walking his dog, Chopper, one cold evening.  As usual, he had his noise-

cancelling headphones on to shield him from the noise of the Manhattan streets, and on his iPod came the slow movement of a Haydn quartet he had never heard.  As the movement went on, he was overcome by its beauty and started to cry, right in the middle

of the Upper West Side.  After returning home, he called everyone in the quartet and said,

“Guys, let’s do this.”  And when I auditioned for the quartet a few months later, it was made very clear that I needed to be on board with this (in fact, reading through a more obscure Haydn quartet was part of the audition process).  I needed very little convincing.

Read more: Q & A with Luke Fleming of the Attacca Quartet

A quick glance at last month’s column could lead a person to conclude (erroneously) that there were only men making music on the “classical and beyond” scene. If, as the old adage goes, a picture — in this case more than one — is worth a thousand words, then, indeed, we (inadvertently) told a skewed story.

So, dear readers, I intend to rectify the picture with this, my last installment, after two years on the Classical & Beyond beat.

classicalOf saints and season starters: And what better way to do so than to start things off with concerts featuring the Cecilia String Quartet (CSQ) — four formidably talented women whose namesake is none other than that patroness of musicians, herself, Saint Cecilia. Apparently it was the group’s coach at the time, Terry Helmer, who suggested “Cecilia” and the name stuck. While the quartet’s cellist, Rachel Desoer, “confesses” that the saint connection isn’t all that important to them, she does admit that “it is a fun bit of trivia.”

Asked about when the group gelled, founding violist, Caitlin Boyle, says that “at the very first rehearsal [in 2004, when the original CSQ members met as classmates in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music chamber music program] there was a sense that there was a very dynamic chemistry to our group, and it felt like we just ‘clicked.’ After that, many things just fell into place, and we were fortunate that the many opportunities that came our way led us down this magical quartet path.”

Currently ensemble-in-residence at U of T, the much-lauded CSQ launches Mooredale Concerts’ 25th season — Bravo, Mooredale! — on October 6, with two concerts at Walter Hall. The first, Mooredale’s always entertaining and educational series, Music & Truffles, offers an early afternoon interactive concert for young audiences ages 6 to 15. The second, starting two hours later at 3:15pm, is the extended concert Mooredale presents to its more adult patrons. These concerts will also mark the CSQ’s first Mooredale Concerts appearance, though violinist Min-Jeong Koh tells me that both she and fellow CSQ violinist, Sarah Nematallah, have played on the series several times over the years and that Koh also played in the Mooredale Youth Orchestra.

For the 3:15pm concert, the quartet will perform Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No.1 in D Major Op.11 and Haydn’s Quartet No.4 in D Major Op.20. And then sparks will fly with double the fun, when special guest, the Afiara String Quartet (ASQ) joins the CSQ in Mendelssohn’s splendid and iridescent Octet in E-Flat Major. (For the earlier Music & Truffles concert, the two will perform excerpts from the Octet.)

The two quartets appear to be connected by only two degrees of separation, if that. For starters, the CSQ’s Koh is married to the ASQ’s cellist, Adrian Fung, and the two groups have performed together a number of times. In 2010, the CSQ won first prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition, with the ASQ coming in second. Closer to home, the CSQ was the first recipient of the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School Quartet Residency Fellowship in 2010, and the ASQ the second in 2012. They performed the Mendelssohn Octet at the Festival of the Sound this summer and, earlier in the spring, at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall during its inaugural season. Interestingly, both quartets were first introduced to the Stanford campus by the university’s resident ensemble, “our” St. Lawrence String Quartet, who, just last month, awarded the CSQ the 2013 John Lad Prize (now in its third year), named in honour of the SLSQ’s dear friend John Lad (Stanford ’74), a violist and ardent chamber music lover who died in 2007.

In presenting the prize, the SLSQ’s violist and co-founder, Lesley Robertson, stated: “This award recognizes the Cecilia Quartet not only for the extraordinary impact this young ensemble has made already on the world’s concert stages but perhaps more significantly for the impact off stage — for their dedication and generous contributions as chamber music ambassadors in the greater community.” Nicely done, CSQ! (I figure the ASQ’s got to be the shoo-in for next year.)

All speculation aside, you can be sure that Mooredale’s 25th anniversary season openers will be a winning combination with these two exceptional quartets!

From Saint to St. and ST: Continuing with this business of “saints” and season launches, powerhouse Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John has been invited by Sinfonia Toronto (ST) to open the ensemble’s 15th season, the evening of October 26, at the George Weston Recital Hall.

Some things never change, and sometimes that’s a good thing. St. John’s first (and only) concert with ST was four years ago, almost exactly to the day (October 23, 2009). John Terauds, former music critic for the Toronto Star and now Toronto’s best-known classical music blogger, interviewed St. John for the Star in 2009, reporting that the program allowed her to “show off her wide-ranging repertoire.” Well, ST music director, Nurhan Arman, has done it again, with a wonderfully varied program that we’re told “dances from Bach to the vivid melodies of Nino Rota,” affording the six-foot-tall St. John significant opportunity to strut her stuff.

A skilled, prolific and thoughtful interpreter of Bach, St. John will perform Bach’s exhilarating and beloved Violin Concerto in E Major and then skip a few centuries to play the North American premiere of Australian composer Matthew Hindson’s evocative Maralinga for violin and string orchestra, which St. John co-commissioned and premiered in 2011. St. John has high praise for Hindson and this work, which she calls an “about-to-be” classic piece: “It was pretty amazing to play a piece called Maralinga in South Australia, for sure ... Every part of the world with such a story [think secret, nasty, nuclear testing] should be so lucky as to have Matthew write a piece about it.”

The program also includes Grieg’s Holberg Suite for string orchestra and Rota’s Concerto for Strings. I asked if she might join the ST in the Rota and her answer was classic St. John: “I think I’ll be leaving the Rota to the fabulous Sinfonia, seeing as I wouldn’t be there for enough rehearsals. Also, I am a terrible sight reader (everyone thinks I am joking until they actually see/hear this, at which point they try to leave the room).”

Other examples of her refreshing candour, humour, energy, passion and intelligence: in July, 2010, St. John was interviewed for an NPR special series titled, “Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today,” during which a few of her earliest CD covers, deemed by some to be “sexually suggestive,” ended up being the main topic of discussion. Somewhere in the middle, she said, teasingly, “I suppose I could have had a picture of a babbling brook on the front, but what would have been the point?” And toward the end, she simply told it like it was, and is: “Music is all about life and passion and love and death ... And if it takes sexuality to exude that visually, then so be it. It makes more sense for us, as women musicians, to express ourselves any damn way we want.”

St. John also expresses herself, exuberantly, through the record company she founded in 1999, where she gets to call all the shots (any damn way she wants), including naming the company Ancalagon, which I learned (and she confirmed) was in memory of her pet iguana. “Ancalagon, who I named after a dragon from Tolkien’s Silmarillion, died right before I began my company, and I was devastated. So I decided to keep him alive in a way. Now, I have another iguana ... named Cain.”

The woman definitely has a thing for reptiles. Which brings us marching full circle, back to the saints. Turns out, St. John has maintained an online WordPress page for years, under the name “sauriansaint.” And guess what? Saurian, in case you missed that evolutionary biology class, is defined as being “any of a suborder (Sauria) of reptiles including the lizards.”

Here’s a wee taste of some of the titles to her entertaining blog entries: from January 19, 2013, “Variations on ‘Is That a Violin???’”; from October 17, 2011, “Tricks For Getting Your Violin On a Plane”; and from June 7, 2003, “The Grey Plastic Laundry Tubs at Airport Security.” All cheeky and hilarious! (

Who wouldn’t want to invite Lara St. John to their gala — with or without her pet iguana? It will be thrilling to see and hear her, as Sinfonia Toronto ushers in its 15th year with grand gusto!

I’d love to fill several more pages with stories of successful women musicians but, unlike St. John, I don’t get to call the shots. For one final time, though, I can leave you with these:


More women (and a few good men) to watch for this month:

Women's Musical Club of Toronto

Oct 17, 1:30: Music in the Afternoon: Bax & Chung, piano duo.

Gallery 345

Oct 18, 8:00: The Art of the Piano: Beatriz Boizan.

Nov 2, 8:00: Leslie Ting, violin, and Sarah Hagen, piano.

University of Toronto Faculty of Music

Oct 26, 7:30: University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Bianca Chambul, bassoon.

Oct 31, 12:10: Thursdays at Noon: Debussy and Ravel. Shauna Rolston, cello; Erika Raum, violin; Lydia Wong, piano.

Royal Conservatory

classical 2Oct 27, 3:00: Yuja Wang, piano.

Nov 3, 2:00: András Schiff, piano.

Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society

Oct 18, 8:00: Triple Forte Trio. Jasper Wood, violin; David Jalbert, piano; Yegor Dyachkov, cello.

Oct 23, 8:00: Ang Li, piano.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Oct 10 and 12, 8:00: Masterworks: James Ehnes, Violin, Plays Britten.

Oct 19, 7:30: Light Classics: From Dvořák to Tchaikovsky. Vilde Frang, violin. Also Oct 20, 3:00.

University of Waterloo Department of Music

Oct 23, 12:30: Noon Hour Concerts: New Canadian Duos.
Stephanie Chua, piano; Véronique Mathieu, violin.

York Symphony Orchestra

Oct 19, 8:00: Heroic Exploits. Vivian Chon, violin. Also Oct 20 (Richmond Hill).

These last two years as Classical & Beyond columnist have been rich and rewarding. I don’t know that I’m any closer to answering that always-niggling question, “Beyond what?” and that’s okay. Above and beyond all else, the journey toward trying to figure it all out has been a true joy. To the music! 

Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised a lot more piano than law and has just wrapped up a three-year stint as listings editor at The WholeNote. Comments on and items of interest for the column should continue to be sent to

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