Unbelievable as it may seem to those of us who remember it as if it were yesterday, the Beatles’ Abbey Road came out 40 years ago. Wasn’t it just last week that we were sitting in a friend’s basement having our little minds blown by “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Oh! Darling”?
Pianist Dan Tepfer was at Gallery 345 on September 14 – as were about 60 musical cognoscenti, who came out to hear Bach’s Goldberg Variations. And perhaps there was someone else present, at least in spirit.
If Glenn Gould were looking down on the event he’d have immediately recognized his own stage mannerisms: Tepfer likes to hum along while leaning precariously into the keyboard. But Gould’s ghost would have been surprised by Tepfer’s take on the Goldbergs. At 27, this French-born American is both a classical and jazz musician – and his performance was a mixture of movements played “straight” and his own improvised interpretations.
Much has been written about how classical music has taken to the internet like a fish to water. That may be true – but it seems that some of the fish are better swimmers than others.
I know this because I spent an entire afternoon looking up prominent Canadian performers, to see who's got a website and who's got a good website. The first thing I found when I started Googling our nation's foremost classical soloists and chamber groups is that most of these artists are well promoted on their managers' websites. That sort of initiative has its place, to be sure – but what I was really looking for were websites created by (or at least apparently created by) the musicians themselves.
The following paragraph appeared in The New York Times on August 16.
“In his Magic Songs (1988), the Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer did away with literal meaning, giving his singers strings of phonemes instead of words and creating a ritualistic drama partly through movement and partly through the way the vocal sounds were ordered and shaped. Chants, declarations, call and response and communal celebration were all suggested in turn, indicating that the magic of a ritual can have more to do with the physicality of its enactment than with its text.”
I’m pleased to say that I was in the audience at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall for this performance. I was in New York, attending a music critics’ conference (yes, there are such things), and so I went with a group of critics to hear the Scuola Cantorum Venezuela.
For a few months, rumours have been swirling that Toronto would receive a visit from the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, from Caracas. This is one of the foremost youth orchestras in the world – a professional group, really, in terms of the quality of their performances.
The orchestra is also famous for its social mandate in Venezuela, offering poor kids around the country free instruments and music lessons. As well, it was the training-ground for the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who was appointed conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic a couple of years ago, at the tender age of 26.
The simultaneous projection of orchestral concerts on big screens is gradually creeping into the classical music world.
The idea hasn’t caught on with the wildfire appeal of opera titles, which stormed the world following their introduction by the Canadian Opera Company in 1983. Part of the problem is that big-screen projections are more expensive and elaborate to produce than surtitles. But there’s also a strong aesthetic resistance to the idea.
Although founded only three years ago by oboist Christopher Palameta, the Montreal-based ensemble Notturna is quickly making its mark on the early music scene. Just recently, their first recording in a series of five compact discs of the complete (27) "quadro sonatas" of Johann Gottlieb Janitsch (1708-1763) was released on the ATMA Classique label. These progressive sonatas are sometimes referred to as "continuo quartets" because of the 4-voice style in which they are written, like a string quartet.
About a month ago, when I first perused the brochure for Toronto Summer Music, it suddenly struck me that this is quite an unusual festival. In it, I found an array of prominent pianists, string quartets, and other ensembles – all playing classical music. What's up with that? Where are the Dixieland bands, the Celtic harpers and the guitar-wielding singer-songwriters that a summer festival is "supposed" to have? (To read what artistic director Agnes Grossmann has to say about her approach to programming, see my interview with her in the July-August issue of The WholeNote.)
I'd like to say "brava" to Grossmann's programming. I’m pleased that in the year 2009 there’s at least one festival out there that isn’t ashamed to be just classical.
Melody Gardot completely captivated the audience Monday night with her one-and-a-half-hour set as part of the Jazz by the Lake series in the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival. Every now and then a performer comes along who has a quality that goes beyond their singing and playing ability to make an extraordinary stage presence. They say Judy Garland and Edith Piaf had that kind of quality, and Gardot has joined those ranks.
Growing up, I didn't have much musical influence on my life. My father didn't listen to music when he drove. My mother did, but she almost never drove anywhere. Never was music playing in my home, either – so I was forced into finding my musical tastes through my peers.
I started with Weird Al Yankovic as many 10-year-old boys do. Then in my teens I favoured the grunge rock, and bad rap of the early 90s, which I carried with me until I found classic rock: Pink Floyd to be exact. Now, I know you are asking yourself "Pink Floyd in The WholeNote? What is going on here?" Don't worry, I do have a point to all this.
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