For many North American orchestras, playing in the pit for ballet performances of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is a common holiday tradition. This was my experience, first as a clarinetist and then as an orchestra librarian. My first encounter with Messiah as a professional, however, was during my interview for the librarian position of the Phoenix Symphony when I was asked, “What edition do you like for the Messiah?” It is an extraordinarily complex question – much more so than I would have known at the time. I managed to offer up something I’d learned from a couple of sing-along Messiahs I had attended – the organizer cautioning the audience/performers about the different numbering systems in various publications. But over the succeeding 30 years I have learned that there is much more to it than that, as I hope to share with you in this article.
Deep in the heart of Toronto’s upcoming winter, the poignant and idiosyncratic composer, violinist, singer, filmmaker, storyteller and electronics virtuoso, Laurie Anderson, will be appearing at the seventh edition of the Royal Conservatory’s 21C Music Festival. The Art of Falling is the title she is giving this sold-out performance happening on January 18 at Koerner Hall, and during a recent interview I had an opportunity to ask her about what to expect that evening. We also discussed other works that are being programmed as part of the festival: her film Heart of a Dog, her virtual reality piece To The Moon, and her string quartet Standing Island.
As to whether or not Anderson considers The Art of Falling a new work is something she herself questions: “I don’t know to what extent it will be a brand-new work or to what extent it will be a collection of things. So much of what I do looks back and forward at the same time, and so it will probably be something like that. And then again it might go another direction too.” However, one aspect of this performance she is unquestionably excited about is the opportunity to work with cellist Rubin Kodheli. “He’s just an amazing musician and it’s a huge amount of fun to improvise with him. I’m leaving a lot of accordion-like room in this piece for us to do things that go off the track a little bit and take their own time. I never used to have the nerve to do that, so I’m really happy to make things a little bit more luxurious in that way.”
On Sunday evening, December 8 at 8:30, pianist, impresario and all-around creative spark plug, Cheryl Duvall, is doing something at the Tranzac Club she’s never done before: launching her first full-length recording as a piano soloist. It’s not that she hasn’t been in the recording studio numerous times, but this time it’s a special project for her, one in which she’s invested her creativity on many levels. (It’s also been a special project for me.)
“Anyone can make aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?”
One of the most exciting shows coming up in December is a new production of Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical, the musical version of the beloved hit film by British South Asian filmmaker Gurinder Chadha. For anyone who loved the movie this is a must-see event that promises to be both thrilling and a lot of fun.
What was it about the movie Bend it Like Beckham that resonated so profoundly on both sides of the Atlantic when it came out in 2002? Was it the football (soccer)? Yes, in part, particularly in an exciting World Cup year when the whole world seemed to be mad about English star player David Beckham; but even more, it was the universal story of two girls fighting against all odds to follow their dreams that caught the imagination and hearts of audiences.
Lucas Debargue has already had a storied career. When he was 24, he finished fourth in the 2015 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition but, more importantly, the Moscow Music Critics Association bestowed their top honours on him as “the pianist whose performance at the Competition has become an event of genuine musical significance, and whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience.”
Immediately SONY signed him to a recording contract. Now he’s just released his fourth CD for the company – 52 sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti on four CDs – and he will play ten of them on January 16, 2020 in his fourth appearance in Toronto in less than four years. This, after sharing a Koerner Hall program with Lukas Geniušas (runner-up in that same 2015 competition) on April 30, 2016, a TSO debut in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.2 in April 2017, and a memorable chamber music concert with Janine Jansen, Torlief Thedeen and Martin Fröst, highlighted by Messiaen’s ineffable Quartet for the End of Time in December 2017. He will make his third Koerner Hall appearance – and Koerner Hall solo debut – in an impressive program headed by those ten Scarlatti sonatas. I caught up with him mid-November, via an email conversation, in Lausanne, Switzerland where he was on tour.