21_adamsherkinIt feels awkwardly “new age” to admit, but now that we’ve passed the spring equinox – the days becoming warmer, fresher and lighter – there is a sense of celebration in the air. But it’s not the type of unrestrained revelry we see during hotter summer months. Rather, it’s a bittersweet levity, balanced between an urge to discover what’s new and the impulse to commemorate and meditate on important influences and inspirations. As always, our makers of new music are attuned to these needs, as we can see in April’s offerings.

We open the month on a festive note with “Ping!” CMC-Ontario’s celebration of new music for young musicians, on April 5. While I may be biased, given my role with the CMC, I can think of no better way to usher in spring than brand new works created to showcase the talents of a new generation. “Ping!” will feature special guest, harpist Judy Loman, in an all-Canadian program alongside world premieres from composers Dean Burry, Jim Harley, Chris Paul Harman, and Jan Jarvlepp, performed by harpist Gina Min, cellists Gabby Hankins and Bridie McBride and the Earl Haig/Claude Watson Strings conducted by Alan Torok. This fête supports New Music for Young Musicians – a program to create music and opportunities which develop the talents of Canada’s young string players. For more visit the CMC online events calendar. For tickets, visit www.rcmusic.ca.

Spring also heralds the homecoming of a fresh new voice in composer/pianist Adam Sherkin, barely back from studies at the Royal College of Music in London, England. Following an illustrious series of overseas premieres and performances at the likes of London’s National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Covent Garden and Royal Albert Hall, Sherkin has returned to Toronto with gusto, receiving premieres in prestigious places like the Luminato Festival, Nuit Blanche and Soundstreams’ Young Artists Overture Series. He closes his own self-crafted concert series on April 7 at the Jane Mallett Theatre in what he is calling a “debut recital.” The concert title – “As at First” – refers to a world premiere work that will close an ambitious program, ranging from Bach and Beethoven to Claude Vivier and Colin McPhee. Amongst the mix of classical lineage and modern origins are two “older” Sherkin works: 2008’s Sunderance, inspired by the words of Virginia Woolf, and 2009’s Daycurrents, which was written for the Haydn bicentenary. To learn more about Adam Sherkin, visit www.adamsherkin.com. To purchase tickets, visit www.stlc.com.

The bittersweet balance comes in reflecting on the loss, late last year, of composer, educator, innovator and great champion of Canadian music, Ann Southam. Southam is still very much present in the thoughts of many communities with which she shared her great enthusiasm, energy, optimism and bigheartedness. While we can expect numerous dedications to appear next season, there will be two upcoming opportunities to assemble and celebrate Southam’s music and the art it inspired, as well as to share in personal tributes that honour some of the many aspects of her rich life and legacy. The first of these falls on April 14 at the Music Gallery, when the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop will dedicate their “Composers Orchestra” concert to Ann Southam. Southam was always very encouraging of the next generation of Canadian composers, but was quiet about her generosity towards them. She took great responsibility for the family lineage she inherited, and shared widely the advantages that it could afford, including the ability to act as a constant source of support for the CCMW over its 25 year history. This tribute will include a performance of Southam’s intricate Waves for string orchestra, conducted by Gary Kulesha, alongside world premieres by emerging composers Adam Scime, Chris Thornborrow, Paola Santillan and Rob Teehan, and music by Colin Eatock. For more information about CCMW, visit www.ccmw.ca.

A fuller remembrance of Ann Southam will take place on April 21 at the MacMillan Theatre, U of T Faculty of Music. It’s a fitting location, given Southam’s many collaborations with modern dance which took place on that stage. Billed as an intimate event for family, friends, colleagues, and admirers of this pioneering Canadian composer, the “Ann Southam Tribute” will provide an opportunity for various communities blessed by the benefits of her best qualities to come together and celebrate her music, her life and her legacy. While the artists involved have asked to remain uncredited – the event is to truly focus on Ann – the calibre of her creative collaborators, including pianists Eve Egoyan and Christina Petrowska Quilico, as well as dancers/choreographers Patricia Beatty and Rachel Browne, should speak to the expected tone and quality of this occasion.

22_normabeecroftWe’re extremely fortunate to have at least one pioneering Canadian woman composer still with us, the remarkable Norma Beecroft, who at age 77 (as of April 11) seems to be making up for lost time. On her 75th birthday in 2009, Beecroft marked the occasion with a new piece for flautist Robert Aitken and harpist Erica Goodman. We’ll have the pleasure of hearing another new work for flute, harp and percussion at the Music Gallery on April 17, during a celebratory concert spanning Beecroft’s career. These are just two small credits in an active life as a composer, producer, broadcaster and administrator. Beecroft’s illustrious career is well noted for award-winning contributions to music broadcasting and production, but more so as a pioneer of electronic music. Her musical aesthetic was first influenced by the music of Debussy, then later by her teachers Weinzweig, Petrassi and Maderna, and furthermore by the music of Stockhausen. As an administrator, Beecroft is well known as founder, with Robert Aitken, of New Music Concerts. For all her efforts, she has been honoured twice with the Canada Council’s Lynch-Staunton Award, an honorary doctorate from York University and an Honorary Membership from the Canadian Electroacoustic Community. After a lengthy hiatus, Beecroft is back in the business of composing. We should all eagerly await the results. To learn more about the tribute concert, visit www.musicgallery.org.

This is just a small sampling of the newly sprung spring. From New Music Concert’s AMP showcase, to Array’s innovative Electrique concert, and from Talisker’s ongoing celebration of words in music, to the TSO’s emphasis on the music of the remarkable Kaija Saariaho, there is plenty of other inspiration to be found. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote concert listings here and online at www.thewholenote.com.

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at newmusic@thewholenote.com.

The effect of too many winter days indoors and the budding promise of spring seem to have inspired new music presenters to think of movement in March, and especially of the human desire to dance. Or perhaps it’s my own craving for unbundling weather – where we can move more freely – that’s making me see choreographic connections. Regardless, no fewer than six concerts this month touch on the subject openly or in more subtle ways.

New Music Concerts’ celebration of British composer Jonathan Harvey may be the most tangential to the theme, but I can’t go without mentioning it. Harvey’s remarkable training and unique opportunities for musical exploration have allowed him to gather influences from Berg, Messiaen and Britten to Babbitt and Boulez, which he then infuses with the power of Stockhausen and his own investigation of the mystical. Early successes have since opened doors for Harvey to compose for just about every classical genre, and for some of the world’s best soloists and ensembles. But his skill and imagination seem best applied to electroacoustics, which is the main feature of this March 6 concert at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.

Programme notes for works like The Riot (the only non-premiere here) read like descriptions of choreography. Musical themes bounce about sharply, join in polyphonic ensembles or re-combine in new configurations. Scena for solo violin and large ensemble develops just like a classical ballet. Be sure to arrive early for a pre-concert event, where U of T’s gamUT ensemble will deliver the world premiere of Harvey’s Vajra. Harvey is in constant demand for commissions, meaning his dance card is plenty full, so any chance to catch a new work of his is a special one. To learn more or buy tickets, visit  www.newmusicconcerts.com.

On March 17, pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico will unveil the results of her Glass Houses Revisited recording project in a live concert at the Glenn Gould Studio. The CD, released on Centrediscs, consists of extensive revisions to nine selections from the original 1981 Glass Houses by composer Ann Southam, and was Petrowksa Quilico’s last Southam collaboration before the composer’s sudden passing last November.

In her incomplete programme notes, Southam explained the genesis of the work: “I have called these pieces Glass Houses in order to identify them as minimalist music. The best known composer of this style of music at the time… The tunes in Glass Houses were inspired by… Canadian east coast fiddle music. Generally speaking, these tunes are spun out… until all tunes are present, at which point they wind back to the beginning.”

Petrowska Quilico describes Glass Houses Revisited as “fiendishly difficult,” comparing the cycle to Ligeti’s etudes, Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes and to the complexity of Bach’s counterpoint – fleet, virtuosic dances around the keyboard. It’s interesting to note that Southam was a celebrated composer of music for dance, having written over 40 scores for the likes of Patricia Beatty and the New Dance Group of Canada (now the Toronto Dance Theatre) and for other companies and choreographers such as Danny Grossman, Dancemakers, Rachel Browne and Christopher House, including House’s acclaimed choreography set to Glass Houses. To learn more about Ann Southam and her work, visit www.musiccentre.ca. ickets,

Continuum returns to Toronto from the 2011 Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques Festival for a March 20 concert at the Music Gallery. Titled “Step, Turn, Kick,” the programming here is grounded in the idea of “dancing in the mind.” At its core is a quartet of new pieces by Canadian composers Cassandra Miller, Nicolas Gilbert, Linda C. Smith and Lori Freedman, that, taken together, can be imagined as a French baroque dance suite for the 21st century. Also featured is the Canadian premiere of Marc Sabat’s John Jenkins, a work inspired by the prolific 17th-century English composer and dance master. Rounding out the concert are solos and duos by UK’s Michel Finnissy and Holland’s Martijn Padding that express an impulse to move. To learn more about Continuum, visit www.continuummusic.org. Tickets will be available at the door.

23_deromeI’m very eager to hear Julie-Anne Derome in recital on March 24 at the Jane Mallett Theatre. This new music specialist presents an ambitious programme rich with Canadian content. She will open with the brief but intense Ivresses, songes, sourdes nuit by Québec composer Jean Lesage. Its percussive sonics and other dramatic effects make it ripe for use as a solo dance soundtrack. Chan Ka Nin’s very popular Soulmate, taken from his figure-skating-inspired Poetry on Ice, will offer a nice counterbalance. And closing the evening is Tracking for solo violin and live video by Laurie Radford. Radford defines “tracking” in the sense of the title as “the coordination of speed and gesture for two points locked in a reciprocal force and action.” Put simply, the act of both leading and following, as in a pas de deux. Radford further explains that tracking implies linked relationships between time, material and action, controlling energy and gravitational force. All very heady stuff, but it sounds very dance-like to me! More details are available through www.music-toronto.com.

The Scarborough Philharmonic carries through the dance theme to April 2 with a new work by their Composer-in-Residence, Alex Eddington. Entitled Dancing about Architecture, Eddington describes the work for nine wind instruments and percussion as “a new way to organize a dance suite”, inspired by Jean Cocteau’s phrase “Give me music I can live in like a house!” This concert at the St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church also features world premieres by Toronto’s Phil McConnell and American composer Bruce Broughton. For more details and to reserve tickets, visit www.spo.ca.

We end on a high-energy note on April 3 with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and their premiere of Brian Current’s Whirling Dervish for sufi whirling and orchestra. If you have never experienced Sufi whirling – a dynamic, dancing form of mystic meditation – then you’re in for a treat. It can be a mesmerizing experience, and I’m sure Current has come up with some excellent new music to make this an event that will spin us right into spring! For more details, visit www.kwsymphony.ca.

From dances of the mind to mystic motion, new music never ceases to move us. So be sure to get in with the new via the WholeNote concert listings here and online at www.thewholenote.com. ν

Jason Van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at newmusic@thewholenote.com.

Why is it that the winter months attract new music festivals? Is it because Canadian artistic directors feel that we contemporary music lovers are a highly dedicated lot, determined to weather the cold, the snow or any storm to experience the latest premiere or discover that new composer? Or is it simply now a matter of tradition? One of our hallmarks – the Winnipeg New Music Festival – celebrates 20 years of new music making this season. Whatever the case, we must all be attending these festivals with enough verve and volume that our country’s music institutions are encouraged to keep offering us more. For, just as Winnipeg, Halifax’s Open Water Festival and the U of T New Music Festival are all wrapping up in the first days of February, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra is gearing up for the sophomore edition of its What Next? Festival.

p16_17_parmela_attariwala_and_shawn_mativetskyIn 2011, What Next? expands upon its successful inaugural celebration by placing an emphasis on the multidisciplinary. From February 3 to 6, HPO-invited creators will cross-pollinate, taking to various locations throughout the city to present intriguing collaborations across different genres. Among them are numerous champions of Canadian composers’ music, such as violinist Parmela Attariwala and tablaplayer Shawn Mativetsky, who perform together as the Attar Project, and who often also incorporate South Asian influenced dance. Pianist Eve Egoyan and artist David Rokeby will present their mesmerizing Surface Tension project for disklavier and interactive video at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, where the McMaster Cybernetic Laptop Orchestra and Percussion Ensemble (led by composer DavidOgborn) will also unleash cutting edge sounds. In addition to these collaboration concerts and their related panel discussions, What Next? will also feature three chamber music concerts by HPO musicians. Friday’s “Rain Coming” will celebrate Canadian women composers Abigail Richardson and Nicole Lizée; Saturday’s “Buzz and Hum” will feature chamber music for brass by Jacques Hétu, Jeffrey Ryan, Scott Good and Michael Horwood; and Sunday’s “Kiss On Wood” showcases string music from Kotoka Suzuki, Toru Takemitsu and others inspired by nature, pop and cartoons. For complete details on the 2011 What Next? Festival visit www.whatnextfestival.com.

If you can’t make it to Hamilton for What Next? then there’s a nice duo of concerts in Kitchener-Waterloo that you may want to catch. On February 9, mezzo-soprano Ramona Carmelly will resume the role of famous Canadian painter Emily Carr for a reduced remount of Jana Skarecky’s Emily, the Way You Are at Conrad Grebel University. This one-woman opera, based on a libretto by poet Di Brandt, was premiered by Carmelly and the Talisker Players at the McMichael Gallery in 2008, as part of the New Music in New Places series. An excerpt of this performance, along with programme notes, can be found in Skarecky’s profile as part of the Canadian Music Centre’s Influence of Many Musics online project at http://musiccentre.ca/influences/. Then, on February 12 at Centre in the Square, the Grand Philharmonic Choir, the KW Symphony and violist Rivka Golani, all under the baton of conductor Mark Vuorinen, will premiere Kingston-based John Burge’s latest large-scale work. Entitled Declaration, the score takes its inspiration from the text of the United National Declaration of Human Rights, which was drafted by a Canadian – John Humphreys – during his tenure as the UN’s first Director of the Human Rights Division, and was globally adopted over 60 years ago.

If Hamilton and KW are too far away for you, especially in this winter weather, then there’s a trio of Toronto concerts to consider. First is Trio Voce’s February 17 appearance in the Music Toronto series. Alongside works by Shostakovich and Beethoven, this accomplished, all-female and Canadian piano trio will give the Toronto premiere of American composer Jonathan Berger’s Memory Slips. A Professor of Music at Stanford University, Berger is also an active researcher in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology. He’ll be present for this concert at the Jane Mallett Theatre to explain, amongst the music making, his current research and personal experiences with music, memory and aging. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit the St. Lawrence Centre box office at www.stlc.com.

On February 24 Soundstreams invites Les Percussions de Strasbourg to Koerner Hall as part of the ensemble’s 50th anniversary tour. Co-founded in 1962, this sextet is the first known Western percussion group. Their exceptional longevity, artistry and commitment to new music have inspired the creation of hundreds of works. Their anniversary program cradles a world premiere from Canadian composer Andrew Staniland, who has a strong command of percussion writing, between contemporary classics by Xenakis (his iconic Persephassa) and John Cage (Credo in US.) For more details and to purchase tickets visit www.soundstreams.ca.

p16_17_vincent_ho_portrait_photo_by_hans_arnoldThe Array Ensemble will take to the Music Gallery on February 27 to perform a collection of Canadian works drawn from their extensive score archive. This program of pieces from Martin Arnold, Scott Godin, Michael Oesterle and Rodney Sharman will be complemented by a newer work for the ensemble from past Array Artistic Director Linda Catlin Smith, which was premiered last season as part of the Contemporary Classics concert. Array has been very diligent in cataloguing their extensive score library, which includes over 250 commissioned works. Thankfully, they’ve made this catalogue publicly available online at www.arraymusic.com. It’s a useful tool for new music geeks like me. More information about the upcoming concert and how to buy tickets is also available at the Array website.

As I mentioned, February is bookended by yet another new music festival. This time it’s the TSO’s seventh New Creations, which will focus on cross-border exchanges, with music by guest American composers John Adams and Jennifer Higdon. Canada is represented here not only by TSO Composer Advisor Gary Kulesha, who will have his Torque performed on March 5, but also by Winnipeg-based Vincent Ho, in the form of his percussion concerto, The Shaman, which was premiered by remarkable Dame Evelyn Glennie during this year’s Winnipeg New Music Festival and will be repeated here on March 2. The work’s title is inspired by Ho’s impression of Glennie as a musical shaman, bridging human and spiritual worlds with her spellbinding performances. Adams is well represented with his now classic Short Ride in a Fast Machine and other works, and also with a TSO co-commission, City Noir. However, I’m particularly looking forward to the festival finale concert on March 10 with guest artists eighth blackbird. This dynamic ensemble will join the orchestra in a freshly commissioned chamber concerto from Higdon, which will sit alongside the world premiere of our own R. Murray Schafer’s latest symphonic work, simply titled Symphony No. 1. For more info about the 2011 New Creations Festival and to buy tickets visit www.tso.ca.

From the multidisciplinary to the simply symphonic, new music never ceases to seduce us. So be sure to get in with the new via our concert listings here and online at www.thewholenote.com/listings.

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at newmusic@thewholenote.com.

This time of year and the ensuing holiday cheer inevitably result in a rash of Messiahs, Nutcrackers, and other ubiquitous advent events. But those with a taste for the new shouldn’t fear. There’s still plenty to satisfy now and into the new year. In fact, Toronto music presenters have produced such a rich arrangement that curious ears will be challenged in deciding what to hear.

p16December 3 is a good case in point, when the calendar is triple booked with new music. Wind enthusiasts will want to make their way to MacMillan Theatre to hear the U of T Wind Ensemble perform Christos Hatzis’ Tongues of Fire. This eclectic percussion concerto was originally commissioned by the Scotia Festival in 2007 for full orchestra and soloists Beverley Johnston and Dame Evelyn Glennie. The work caught the ear of conductor Glenn Price, who commissioned Toronto composer Kevin Lau to arrange a wind ensemble version for an international assortment of eleven ensembles. Beverley Johnston serves as soloist for this Toronto premiere, part of an all-contemporary programme, with works by Americans Joseph Schwanter and Morten Lauridsen, and Canadian John Estacio. Call 416-978-3744 for more info.

Those with a taste for French music should visit the Alliance Française, where pianist Adam Sherkin, soprano Jennifer Taverner, flautist Tristan Durie and toy pianist Stéphanie Chua perform a sonic architecture of music by Iannis Xenakis and Philippe Leroux. Details are available by phone at 416-922-2014. Meanwhile, those seeking the latest sounds from New York City can shuttle over to Gallery 345 to hear Canadian pianist Vicky Chow. An internationally accomplished soloist and new-music collaborator, Ms. Chow has worked with top-tier composers such as John Adams and Louis Andriessen. In addition to being a member of the illustrious Bang On A Can All-Stars, she is the pianist for the Chicago-based avant-garde Opera Cabal and NYC’s ai ensemble. For her visit to Toronto, Ms. Chow performs an assemblage of world and Canadian premieres by the likes of Bang on a Can colleagues David Lang and Evan Ziporyn, as well as works by early-career composers Ryan Anthony Francis, Daniel Wohl, Eliot Britton and Andy Jakub Ciupinski. For more info visit www.gallery345.com or call 416-822-9781.

Those who want to avoid selection stress should wait until December 4, when the San Agustin Duo appears at Gallery 345 in an all-Canadian programme of music by women composers. Violinist Emma Banfield and pianist Diana Dumlavwalla perform a gamut of Canadian violin literature, from pioneer Gena Branscombe through to contemporary classics from Kelly Marie Murphy and Alice Ho.

On December 10, there’s a mixed double bill to challenge your choice-making skills. Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz appears at Koerner Hall with a programme including Stravinsky and Shostakovich, but more notably a recent work by world-famous Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. Tüür’s music isn’t often heard in Toronto, and I can’t really describe it well myself, but this Conversio for violin and piano has been compared to a cross between Steve Reich and Messiaen. Sounds intriguing. Meanwhile, over at the Isabel Bader Theatre, New Music Concerts continues its decades-long relationship with the long-lived American composer Elliott Carter, who continues to create at a remarkable rate. This concert features the Canadian premieres of several new works written within the last two years, among them the long-awaited Flute Concerto. Carter gets his tribute concert on the eve of his 102nd birthday no less! More details are available at www.newmusicconcerts.com.

p18We arrive at mid-month with a simple selection of demanding but mesmerizing music by Hungarian composer György Kurtág. On December 16, mezzo Krisztina Szabó and pianist John Hess offer a programme of vocal and chamber works in tribute to this most important Hungarian composer. The noon-hour concert at the Richard Bradshaw Theatre will feature Kurtág’s harrowing Attila József Fragments for solo voice, Three Old Inscriptions for voice and piano, as well as works for solo piano and piano four hands. More details are available at www.coc.ca.

Then you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the holiday season and rest up before the New Year. And I assure that you will want to recharge your batteries, because the January new-music schedule is jam-packed with not-to-be-missed events.

We start with the spectacular, Victoria-based Aventa Ensemble, which returns to Toronto on January 4 to launch their 2011 Canadian tour at the Music Gallery. The programme includes a word premiere from Vancouver-based Jordan Nobles for spatialized ensemble, alongside works by Quebec’s quirky André Ristic and a contemporary classic from Pierre Boulez.

New Music Concerts opens the second half of their season on January 14 at the Music Gallery, with the renowned Diotima Quartet in a programme of recent works by 21st century, heavy-hitting composers like James Dillon, Emmanuel Nunes, Roger Reynolds and Thomas Larcher. This music selection – all Canadian premieres – has been carefully curated in co-operation with NMC to represent the range of international composers that both groups have worked closely with over the years.

On January 16, Mooredale Concerts pairs trombonist Alain Trudel and organist Peter Webb for an unique afternoon concert. The programme includes works by well-known 20th century composers Holst, Schnittke, Messiaen and others, but also features the world premiere of Flow for trombone and organ by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Scott Good. More details are available at www.mooredaleconcerts.com and 416-587-9411.

The following day, Continuum launches its season with a one-two punch. On January 17, soprano Carla Huhtanen joins Continuum’s ensemble to release Raw, the Centrediscs CD of James Rolfe’s chamber music, marking in the process a 20-year partnership between the presenter and one of Canada’s most accomplished composers. A scant week later, on January 24, Continuum collaborates with students from OCADU to explore associations between visual and musical arts. Choosing from some of Continuum’s best repertoire – including thirteen works by the most adventurous Canadian and international composers – students filter music through the visual in various curatorial fashions. For more info visit www.continuummusic.org or call 416-924-4945.

In between, on January 22, Tapestry New Opera Works delves back into its library of contemporary stage works to pick the most memorable arias for “The Tapestry Songbook.” The selections have been carefully made by long-time Tapestry collaborator Chris Foley and will be performed by members of the Tapestry New Work Studio Company alongside recent workshop participants. For more info, visit www.tapestrynewopera.com or call 416-537-6066.

Spanning the last week of January is the ever-expanding University of Toronto New Music Festival, which this year hubs around distinguished visiting composer Chen Yi. Now based in the USA, Chen is a prolific and highly awarded Chinese composer who blends musical traditions from the East and West, thus transcending cultural boundaries. The ten events that cover the January 23-29 festival dates include composer talks, student recitals, faculty concerts and multimedia events, and feature no less than six concerts of Chen’s music. For full details visit www.music.utoronto.ca/events/nmf.htm.

Once again, on January 25 we arrive at a choice challenge. At noon, wind and string ensembles from the Glenn Gould School fill the Richard Bradshaw Theatre with a celebration of the Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. In addition to select Golijov works – Lullaby and Doina for mixed chamber ensemble and a new work for violin and piano – the programme includes pieces by Ginastera and Prokofiev that reflect Golijov’s rich cultural heritage. And while Chen Yi gives a talk at Walter Hall, Soundstreams will be presenting works by other Chinese composers at Koerner Hall, most notably fellow American Tan Dun and his Ghost Opera. This chamber work for string quartet and pipa explores ancient Chinese shamanism. Surrounding Ghost Opera are a premiere from Canadian composer Dorothy Chang and works by Chen Xiaoyong. You can find details at www.soundstreams.ca.

The month closes out without conflict (but perhaps very full ears) on January 30 at Koerner Hall, where Esprit Orchestra will partner with the Elmer Iseler Singers for a powerful programme hinging on Giya Kancheli’s Styx for orchestra, chorus and viola. Haled as a 21st- century choral masterpiece, Styx is dedicated to departed composer colleagues Schnittke and Terterian. The masterful violist Teng Li joins Esprit as soloist. The programme is completed with a counterbalance of works from Ligeti and Canadians Douglas Schmidt and José Evangelista. More details are available at www.espritorchestra.com.

From cheer to lament, new expressions through music never cease. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote’s concert listings, here and online at www.thewholenote.com.

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at newmusic@thewholenote.com.

Emerging and early career composers are making their mark all over the November concert calendar. No less than half a dozen upcoming Toronto events feature fresh and fascinating works by new, international and increasingly noticeable local names – sometimes in showcase formats, but just as often tucked into more traditional programming.

p22bOne of those more noticeable locals is composer Kevin Lau, who will have his symphonic work Artemis performed by the Sneak Peek Orchestra on November 6 at the Calvin Presbyterian Church. Lau is a remarkably prolific young composer, gifted with a strong control of his craft and an easily approachable musical voice. As a result, he already holds to his credit commissions and premieres from the likes of the Esprit Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Toronto Philharmonia and the Cecilia String Quartet. He’s also co-founder with conductor Victor Cheng of Sneak Peek, one of Toronto’s fastest-rising symphonic ensembles, and one that specifically showcases the talents of this city’s emerging professionals.

Lau describes Artemis as “a musical portrait of the Greek goddess in the manner of Holst’s The Planets, whose seven movements are based on the Greek deities’ Roman counterparts. The movement “Mars, the Bringer of War” was particularly influential in the conception of this piece. At the same time, I sought to emphasize qualities which I thought would befit a more feminine warrior: speed and swiftness, lightness, agility.” Artemis will sit alongside Glenn Buhr’s slow and spacious symphonic miniature Akasha, and more classical fare from Brahms and Berlioz. For more info visit www.sneakpeekorchestra.com.

The following afternoon marks the beginning of Alain Trudel’s appointment as the Hannaford Street Silver Band’s principal guest conductor. Oddly enough, the programme will include a brass band arrangement of Holst’s The Planets and a new work from another of our local emerging talent, composer Rob Teehan. We heard a lot about Teehan last month during his residency at the Colours of Music Festival in Barrie, where he had no less than three world premieres, including two for major choral and orchestral forces.

When I asked him about his latest work, titled Wildfire, he explained “It’s very fast, very rhythmic, aggressive, somewhat dark, and it will push the players to their limit. I think I wrote it because I spent the summer writing beautiful, slow music and I needed a change of pace. It was nice to get back to brass writing, since that’s my original background, as a tuba player.” This is Teehan’s second time working with Trudel. The first was for his orchestral work Dream of Flying, which was premiered and recorded by the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and subsequently nominated for a 2010 Juno. For more info about the concert and to get tickets, visit
www.hssb.ca.

p24aOn November 10 and 11, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra brings back the distinctive voice of early-career composer Krystof Maratka. We first heard of Maratka in 2004 with the world premiere of his Otisk, a TSO commission that came only two years after this Czech-born, Paris-based composer started making a significant mark in Europe. Now 38 years old – still an early age in any composer’s creative development cycle – Maratka has amassed commissions, premieres and residencies with some of the world’s leading cultural institutions, not to mention two CDs dedicated to his music. He returns to Toronto with his 2002 viola concerto Astrophonia, which has been described as a “poetic voyage on the origins of the cosmos.” The two-movement work is dedicated to his wife, violist Karine Lethiec, whose strong interest in the alliance between music and the universe has clearly inspired the concerto’s theme. At 23 minutes in length, it’s a substantial work around which Peter Oundjian has built this Slavic Celebration concert, including works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Janáček. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit www.tso.ca.

The centerpiece of this month’s emerging composer theme falls on November 14, when New Music Concerts plays host to Ensemble contemporain de Montréal +, and their biennial “Generation” tour. Building on its mandate to encourage and support musical creativity, ECM+’s project offers a unique and extensive professional development platform for composers under the age of 35. Since 1994, it has been discovering and nurturing the next generation of Canadian music creators, most of whom go on to make significant marks on the national and international music scene. The only project of its kind in Canada, Generation encourages musical research through live experimentation. Over the course of two years, four carefully selected young composers explore their musical voices by developing new works in collaboration with the ECM+ ensemble and their remarkable director Véronique Lacroix. The results are then presented in a cross-Canada tour, which – in addition to creating major exposure – builds new professional networks for these emerging talents.

The 2010 Generation composers are Simon Martin (Montreal), Christopher Mayo (Toronto/London, UK), Cassandra Miller (Victoria) and Gordon Williamson (Toronto/Bloomington, Indiana). Despite their young age, all of them are Associate Composers of the Canadian Music Centre, and many carry a cache of international experience and high-level accolades. For example, Gordon Williamson was a finalist in the CBC’s recent “Evolution” Young Composers Competition and Simon Martin has been a finalist in the prestigious Jules Léger Prize for Chamber Music. Chris Mayo and Cassandra Miller both already have international careers, most notably in the UK and the Netherlands respectively. Consequently, the Generation tour is a rare chance to hear some of the absolute best up-and-coming Canadian voices. For more info about the Generation program visit www.ecm.qc.ca. To purchase tickets for the November 14 concert at the Music Gallery visit www.musicgallery.org.

p24bBut the discovery of new musical voices doesn’t stop there. Both York University and the University of Toronto showcase new music by their student composers on November 16 and 30 respectively. On November 18, 32-year-old Polish-American (and now Canadian) composer Norbert Palej – a recent addition to the U of T faculty – joins clarinetist Peter Stoll on stage at Walter Hall in a free lunchtime concert of his works for clarinet. That same evening, the Gryphon Trio performs selections from their Young Composers Program alongside core repertoire by Ives, Beethoven and Dvorak for the Music Toronto series. So be sure to get in with the new via The WholeNote’s concert listings here.

 

Jason van Eyk is the Ontario Regional Director of the Canadian Music Centre. He can be contacted at newmusic@thewholenote.com.

Back to top