We measure time in decades and centuries, and we like to take special note of the round numbers. In the musical world, these are often celebrated as "anniversary years." It's an arbitrary system (why not multiples of four or eleven?), but it can be used to bring focus to a particular composer.
I'll say more about the composers celebrating anniversaries a bit further on. But first, I'd like to point out that anniversary years can also apply to musical institutions. This summer, there are two Ontario music presenters - the Elora Festival and the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound - that are both tooting their horns to celebrate 30 years. And why not?
Both grew from humble beginnings, and have come a long way. Elora was founded by conductor Noel Edison, who has run it for three decades. (He was just awarded the Order of Ontario for this feat.) Advantageously, the festival was located in a pretty village just a few hours drive from Toronto and other cities. There's no real concert hall in Elora - so the festival has made imaginative use of some unlikely venues: the Gambrel Barn, pictured on our cover, and an abandoned quarry.
The Festival of the Sound is a little farther from Toronto, but in the midst of cottage country - and some of Ontario's most spectacular scenery. Founded by pianist Anton Kuerti but run for many years by clarinetist James Campbell, this festival took a different approach to its concert facilities. After years of lobbying, the Charles W. Stockey Centre - containing a state-of-the-art concert hall - opened in 2003.
The two festivals also took different approaches to programming. Elora, with its professional choir (also on our cover) has emphasized vocal music; whereas Parry Sound's strong suit is chamber music. Both are leading off with festive events: Berlioz's Requiem in Elora and the Canadian Brass at the Festival of the Sound. (See The WholeNote's Summer Festival listings, beginning on page 34, for more information.)
Now about those composers. Handel has an anniversary in 2009 - he died 250 years ago - but he doesn't seem to be getting much special attention at the summer festivals. On the other hand, the year 1809 looms large this summer, as it was the year of Haydn's death and Mendelssohn's birth. You can find lots of piano trios and string quartets from both of them.
However, anniversary celebrations are most useful when they bring attention to lesser-known composers or works. So this summer's Purcell performances - he was born 350 years ago - are especially welcome. Montreal Baroque focussed on him in a big way in June. In July Toronto Masque Theatre is taking their production of The Fairy Queen to Elora, and organist Andrew Grant is playing an all-Purcell recital for Stratford Summer Music. As well, Toronto Summer Music has taken an interest in the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, who died in Switzerland in 1959.
Next year, look for celebrations of Chopin and Schumann. They were both born in 1810.
Colin Eatock, Managing Editor