Volume 1, Issue 4 - December 1995 / January 1996Sometimes the way I can tell that things are going well around here is by noticing how small, in the overall scheme of things, the things I am fretting about actually are. Like two days ago when I found myself agonizing about whether it would be more accurate, on the cover, to describe this two-month issue as “combined” or “double.” “Double,” I told myself, is how I think we have usually done it. But with the concert scene being significantly put on hold in the latter part of December, for Festivus or whatever you choose to call it, and the first couple of weeks of January significantly dedicated to recovery, there isn’t double the amount of activity. “Combined” would be more accurate. I went searching for answers in our “rear view mirror” – the complete 23-year flip-through archive of this publication on our website – to see what we’ve done in the past, all the way back to Vol 1 No 4 in December 1995. (Click on Previous Issues under the “About” tab.)

The results: “double” takes the prize by a long way, with “nothing in particular” a respectable second (as in the cover of Vol 1 No 4 illustrated here). “Combined” is almost nowhere to be found, except this time last year. (Things must have been going well for even longer than I thought!)

There were three other things that I particularly noticed, as I flipped my way through the archive.

First was how often the subjects of the covers of past Dec/Jan issues, especially the early ones, still crop up in our current coverage: Tafelmusik’s Ivars Taurins in his “Herr Handel” Massey Hall “Sing-Along Messiah” outfit (Vol 2); Val Kuinka, who will be stage-directing Highlands Opera Studio’s production of Andrew Balfour’s new opera Mishaabooz’s Realm this December (Vol 3); the Toronto Children’s Chorus (Vol 5) and mezzo Krisztina Szabó (Vol 7) who will appear together in the TCC’s concert “The Fire Within” December 16 at Roy Thomson Hall; Barbara Hannigan (Vol 6), just here in November for a Koerner art song recital, who dropped into her hometown in December 1999, fresh off her Lincoln Center debut, to see in Y2K as the Merry Widow for Toronto Operetta Theatre, whose New Year’s Day-straddling productions of light opera and operettas are a time-honoured fixture of the holiday season … The list goes on. 

Second, amusingly, was noticing the different ways the cover copy on these various issues riffs on the contrast, performance-wise, between December and January: “The Holiday Season and Its (Not-So) Flip Side”; “December Glitter, January Gold”; “To the Holidays and Beyond!”; and (my favourite), “Mid-Season Blip.”

Third, and this is for you, whomever you may be: in analyzing the pattern of when we did and didn’t make an effort on the cover to call attention to the fact that it was a double issue, it seems that the years we made an extra effort (like the words DOUBLE ISSUE in 30-point type around a medallion of two-headed Janus) were right after years when we had made no effort at all. And that is because those were the years when you phoned me up to complain that it was already January 8 and your January WholeNote had still not arrived.

It won’t this year either!

The Rear View Mirror: The context for the headline on Vol 1 No 4, pictured here (still one of my favourites), is that it coincided with a time when funders of the arts (in particular the Ontario Arts Council) were reeling under the impact of the politics of the time. The “Common Sense Revolution” it was called. This year, for the first time in many years, we are seeing significant increases in funding to the OAC (increases that are being passed along). If it’s a sign that the value of the contribution that artists make to the wellbeing of Ontario, economically and in every other way, has been recognized, it’s a welcome sign indeed.

publisher@thewholenote.com

Nicole Lizée - Photo by Steve RaegaleEach year at the University of Toronto’s New Music Festival, a composer is invited to be the Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visitor in Composition. This year the festival, which runs from January 21 to 28, will host Canadian composer, sound artist and keyboardist Nicole Lizée. I’ve been fascinated by Lizée’s unique approach to working with technology and instruments, so this felt like a perfect opportunity to learn more.

One of the key features of her work is the use of what she calls “glitch.” In our recent interview she offered an inspiring description of her unique relationship to working with media-based technologies and what it is that fascinates her about malfunctioning machines.

“I was born into that world. My father is an electronics repairman, salesman and collector who was always repairing or beta testing new technologies and devices. During the 1960s, 70s and 80s there was a lot of experimentation, and many of the machines didn’t always work at first. I grew to love these machines – the way they looked and smelled, as well as the sounds and visuals they would produce.”

Lizée’s parents were huge fans of music, including classical, soundtracks and easy listening, and had an extensive LP collection. Old films were also a favourite, and she grew up watching films on video by Hitchcock, Kubrick and Bergman. “We would watch on repeat, repeat, repeat, and inevitably the tapes would melt or malfunction. This is when those movies became the most interesting to me. The version of The Sound of Music that I know is not the version most people know.”

Nicole Lizée - Photo by Murray LightburnLizée’s passion for both music and film led to a desire to merge these worlds. This, in combination with her strong emotional connection to the malfunctioning analogue technologies of her childhood, inspired her vision to bring this world into the concert hall and to mix it with live instrumental performers.

The main source of fascination was the glitch – machines malfunctioning and not behaving as planned. “Analogue devices have a life beyond what they’re intended to do. They continue to live. The tapes would become chewed or worn down, but would still play back. Their material would then become altered and new rhythms would emerge.” She gives the example of a video game machine that would play, “but if you pushed a certain button in a particular way, something else that wasn’t supposed to happen would start happening. It was crazy – and like going into a portal. I wanted to capture those sounds and those visuals, and compose with that in mind. Capturing glitch means capturing the malfunction, the stuttering, the rhythms and sounds that would be produced.”

Many of her works also use video, but not as accompaniment to the music – rather, the video becomes an instrument itself that the performer engages with in a synced-up dialogue. Even the glitches themselves become instruments.

On the stage, Lizée uses both malfunctioning technologies such as reel to reel tape recorders and old synths, as well as “behaving ones” – usually performed on by others. The glitching devices are unpredictable, so she needs to perform with that in mind and often she has no idea what will happen with them. It requires keeping an open mind and working with whatever happens. Using such devices gives new colours such as hums and hisses, and even when they don’t work properly, other things will be present. Despite the glitches, the analogue machines will always offer her something to work with. They won’t shut off or fail to function – unlike digital devices. “I have never come across an analogue device that completely shuts down. It may go crazy and be unpredictable in a concert, and sometimes there will be a malfunctioning cable, but it will never shut down. It just keeps going.”

Nicole Lizée - Photo by Chris HutchesonWhat enables Lizée to use these glitch features in the composing process is the notation system she has devised. And she doesn’t just approximate the sound, but rather employs great precision to accurately translate what is occurring within the glitch. Using changing time signatures for example, rather than adjusting everything to regular 4/4 time, is one outcome of her approach. Spending years developing her transcription process was essential to developing her perspective on composing music.

And yes, she admits, it is labour intensive, but “ultimately it has pushed me in many ways, and performers tell me repeatedly how it has made them play differently. They all have their stories and it’s extremely interesting to hear how their relationship to this element has pushed them. It taps into different emotions and requires a spot-on precision. The stops and starts, changing tempos, metres, volume extremes, this all requires a player to completely commit to delving into this world.”

Working with glitch brings up emotions in players that are of a different order than usual. The glitch often creates a “forlorn and plaintive sound which gets into the ears and head of the player. People tell me how they’ve gone through shock, fear and sadness, and that’s because of the source material and the way it is dealt with. It is being torn apart, hacked and taken into a different direction than originally intended.”

At the U of T New Music Festival, Montreal’s Architek Percussion will be joining forces with Lizée’s ensemble SaskPwr on the evening of January 25 to perform selections from Lizée’s The Criterion Collection. These short works are an homage to both glitch and to her favourite film directors, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. While watching these films growing up, “I was getting into the language and techniques of the director, but also while watching it, the tape was deteriorating and this whole other world was being created by the glitch and malfunction. The sound and image are completely synonymous and intertwined. When the glitch happens, it happens to both. The performance will be one hour long, nonstop. Everything will be live and synced, with heavily glitched scenes.”

Another of her works, Malfunctionlieder, will be performed during the festival’s noon concert on January 25. This piece was commissioned as a test piece for voice and piano for the 2017 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, which is designed to encourage the performance of Canadian and contemporary music. Lizée’s piece includes an accompanying soundtrack and video and represents the first time in the history of the competition (which began in 1976) that the repertoire has included the worlds of both acoustic music and technology. This work also represents a more recent direction for Lizée – to write works for voice. Writing for the voice “opens up the possibility of a whole other world where the live human voice engages with the glitched characters on the screen as well as with the audience.”

And finally, her work Isabella Blow at Somerset House will be performed on January 24 by the Cecilia String Quartet, who played the work earlier this year at the 21C Festival in May. Lizée wrote the piece as an acoustic representation of fashion designer Isabella Blow and what her impact on the fashion industry might sound like. If you are intrigued to experience more of Lizée’s fascinating work, I encourage you to attend not only the concerts, but also her composition masterclasses on January 24 and 26, and the composers’ forum on January 23.

The festival will also feature concerts from the Faculty of Music’s opera, chamber music and orchestra series, a night of improvising music from the jazz department and a concert devoted to electroacoustic music. In addition to Lizée’s Isabella Blow, the Karen Kieser Prize Concert on January 24 features Tyler Versluis’ 2017 prizewinning work 3 Unuttered Miracles for accordion and percussion, along with past prize winner Riho Maimets’ Three Movements for Marimba.

Nicole Lizée - Photo by Steve RaegaleWhat's New? In the New Year (and Previously Mentioned)

On January 26 in the Array Space on Walnut Ave., The Array Ensemble performs four new works by four Canadian composers: Rebecca Bruton (Calgary), Marielle Groven (Montréal), Stephen Parkinson (Toronto) and Holger Schoorl (Toronto). Bruton’s work happens in the intervening spaces between avant-pop, experimental chamber music and noise, and one of her current projects is co-creative producer of Tidal ~ Signal, a Vancouver-based festival dedicated to increasing representation of women and transgender artists within the fields of sound art and experimental music. Groven’s work draws on raw and emotionally charged sounds, with attention to connections between evocative human and instrumental sounds. Parkinson is a composer and performer with the Drystone Orchestra. His work, Desires Are Already Memories, is part of Arraymusic’s New World CD. Schoorl is a guitarist who is an active participant in Toronto’s improvisation community. The day following the concert, all four composers will re-gather and spontaneously compose together in various combinations.

Many of early December’s events of new music were mentioned in my November column, including the “Urgent Voices” concert presented by Continuum Contemporary Music on December 8 and 9 at the Daniels Spectrum Aki Studio, ...as well as New Music Concerts’ “Concertos” on December 3 at the National Ballet School’s Betty Oliphant Theatre.

Upcoming New Music Concerts productions in the new year include “Kammerkonzert” on January 14 at the same venue, with a focus on music by the primary composers of the Second Viennese School, Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg. Michael Oesterle’s Chamber Concerto will also receive its world premiere there. Then on February 4, NMC presents Calgary’s Land’s End Ensemble at Gallery 345 on Sorauren Ave., performing compositions by Canadians Hope Lee, Sean Clarke and Matthew Ricketts. Anton Webern’s 1922 chamber arrangement of Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie Op.9 will round out the program.

And finally, the Music Gallery presents their first Emergents Concert of the season on December 7 at the the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media and Education, with four contemporary song cycles created as part of the Sounds Of Silence Initiative. After just one year, this initiative has brought together over 50 composers, poets and musicians to create new Canadian art song that tells the story of a diverse Canadian cultural identity, and supports, in particular, artists from Indigenous, immigrant, black, refugee and LGBT communities.

For details on all these and other performances of interest, consult our comprehensive concert listings in this December-January double issue of the magazine, or online at thewholenote.com/just_ask, where you can filter the listings by genre to simplify your search.

Wendalyn Bartley is a Toronto-based composer and electro-vocal sound artist. sounddreaming@gmail.com.

Richard Rose - Courtesy of Tarragon Theatre"Music Theatre” as we use the term in The WholeNote is a large tent, covering a wide range of productions and performances in which music pervades the drama rather than simply decorating it. It’s this interweaving that I will be hoping for in a new version of a Shakespearean classic opening at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto on January 2. Artistic director Richard Rose is making a foray into new and uncharted (pun intended) territory with a rock and roll Hamlet, with music and music direction by his longtime collaborator Thomas Ryder Payne.

As a longtime devotee of both Shakespeare and musicals, with a particular fascination for when the two become blended into one, I contacted Rose to find out more about the inspiration behind this idea and what we might expect.

The show isn’t even in rehearsal yet, so it is early for the director to speak about what we will see in January – but in some ways it was even more interesting to have that conversation now, as the concept and its development are currently still in flux. Here is some of what we spoke about (edited for length):

WN: What was the initial inspiration to turn Hamlet into a rock and roll musical?
RR: I’ve always wanted to do Hamlet, and you want to find a great time to do it. It’s not really a rock and roll musical. It’s part concert, part radio play, part performance. I’m not sure where it will eventually land. I had an idea that it would be interesting to do Hamlet accompanied by a rock and roll concert. I didn’t really know what that would lead to except that the play always seemed to be about a young person’s despair and rage against the system, about trying to find out who they are. Hamlet is struggling between being a hero who can take action and his conscience: how do you act in the world when the world is actually politically corrupt?

But why rock and roll particularly?
Because of the rage. Marshall McLuhan talks about how young people have turned to rock and roll to push out all this information of the electronic age that is coming at them, and they’re shrieking, trying to express their identity – and that’s why it is so loud – to somehow express their anger – and that’s Hamlet, isn’t it? He is asking “Am I man of action or conscience? Can I kill someone, can I commit an act of revenge knowing that the society and the world around me is filled with lies? I have to do absolutely the right thing, but I don’t know what the right thing is.”

If we have a world full of lies it is very hard to know who we are; here the music, the rock and roll, will be a fundamental way of showing the anger at the hypocrisy of the world and it goes further than that.

You and Thomas Ryder Payne are longtime collaborators. But every show is different. How did it work this time?
He was part of the project from the beginning and we both felt that Hamlet was the right fit for a rock and roll take, and rock and roll was the way to connect to young audiences today. In a preliminary workshop a rough concept emerged, of speaking the text against a musical background. Hamlet’s soliloquies, for example, got bashed against the progression of a rock and roll guitar accompaniment [capturing] a feeling of what Hamlet is going through as he speaks. Then we started to find and develop a sonic experience.

Sonic experience?
An environmental mood creating the overall time and space of the play, as well as for specific scenes and effects such as the appearance of the ghost – or the chaos of the Danish Court through a mashup of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with jazz and martial music. So, while this is not at all a traditional rock musical, music is essential and dictated the working method. We would jam like a rock band: someone comes up with a riff, someone starts to work with that riff, someone starts to sing a song to that riff or we speak to that riff.

Where do the actors fit into the process?
Call it ongoing experimentation – the company is not yet officially in rehearsal at this point. It’s things like the actors taking a different approach to the text, looking at the words as song lyrics from different genres such as punk, or from the points of view of singers as different as Mick Jagger, Frank Sinatra or Peggy Lee, to see what effect this has on the speaking or thinking of the lines.

And actual songs?
There will be at least some songs as well as the underscoring and background music. Hamlet will have a song of his own, though most of the soliloquies are spoken. The Gravedigger has a song as he actually does in the play. Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship will be explored through music with Ophelia possibly singing snatches of her later “mad songs” as happy innocent pop songs early in the play, then distorted versions of those songs after the death of her father… And we’re seeing the play within the play, when Hamlet tries to prove Claudius’ guilt, as a kind of mini-operetta, a heightened moment of performance for the other characters to watch…. Most of it though will be spoken against music rather than sung – [and while] there will be some elements of staging the performers will mostly be acting the play at microphones like a radio play, but supported by the sound behind that evokes the world, the inner life, and works with them.

And the musicians?
The actors themselves. Only two will not be singing or playing instruments: Nigel Shawn Williams as Claudius, and Tantoo Cardinal as Gertrude. All the others will be singing and playing instruments, with no additional musicians to back them up other than [composer and music director] Thomas Ryder Payne as live mixer and sound man.

As Rose went on to explain, the company is comprised of actors who are almost all musicians as well. Noah Reid, whose album Songs from a Broken Chair is available on iTunes, stars as Hamlet. Brandon McGibbon of the ElastoCitizens, and many musical theatre credits including Once and The Producers, will play Laertes as a teenager so obsessed with his guitar that he never puts it down until his world falls apart with the death of his father and madness of his sister. Jack Nicholsen, Greg Gale, Jesse LaVercombe, Beau Dixon, Cliff Saunders, Rachel Cairns (the one piece of cross-gender casting as Rosencrantz) all have strong musical backgrounds, and Tiffany Ayalik, who plays Ophelia, has special vocal techniques from the discipline of throat singing “to go to places other people don’t go.”

“To go to places other people don’t go” sounds like a fitting mission statement for this latest outing by an always adventurous theatrical team.

Hamlet runs January 2 to February 11 in the Tarragon Main Space at 30 Bridgman Ave., Toronto.

GouldSchoenberg BannerGlenn Gould recording Schoenberg’s songs with Helen Vanni, 1964 - Photo by Don HunsteinLate in 1974, CBC Radio, in collaboration with writer/host Glenn Gould (1932-1982) and with me as producer, presented Arnold Schoenberg: The Man Who Changed Music, ten one-hour-long broadcasts honouring the centennial of the birth of composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951).

It was a comprehensive series of programs, and in the course of those ten episodes a great deal of Schoenberg’s music was heard, including the early Romantic works, the middle period, freely atonal pieces and the serial, 12-tone works of his late period. The inclusion of much of the Austrian/American composer’s piano music, as recorded by Gould himself, was a unique feature of the series. Gould’s script was written carefully and in a conversational style, for shared delivery between the CBC Radio staff announcer (or “sidekick,” as Gould at times called him), Ken Haslam (1930-2016) and Gould, the series host. The writing was clear, precise, with typical Gouldian exactitude. Every word was meant to count, even those words that appeared to express the personal opinions of Haslam, but which had clearly been placed in the script by Gould. And the point of all these words and music was to share as much of the Schoenberg legacy with CBC listeners as was possible within the allotted air time, and along the way, to demonstrate Gould’s devotion to it.

In the tenth and final chapter of that series of broadcasts, and at precisely the right moment for summative comments about the ten programs, Gould says, “Even now, 23 years after his death, it’s extraordinarily difficult to effect any really balanced judgment about Schoenberg’s contribution. Though it’s not particularly difficult to find an axe to grind and with which one can whack away with.” And despite Gould’s own personal admiration for Schoenberg’s music, he doubted that the composer would ever become, as he termed it, “a household word.”

Notwithstanding this assessment of the prospects for a wider acceptance of the music of Schoenberg and his students and disciples – the so-called Second Viennese School – people like flutist/composer Robert Aitken, the founder and artistic director of Toronto’s New Music Concerts (NMC), value it as an essential foundation of today’s music. And in fact, within the first eight weeks of 2018, New Music Concerts’ programming will include Schoenberg’s Phantasy Op.47; his String Trio Op.45; the Chamber Symphony Op.9, in a quintet setting by Anton Webern (1883-1945); and Alban Berg’s (1885-1935) Chamber Concerto. A newly commissioned Chamber Concerto by Montreal composer Michael Oesterle (b. 1968), which uses the identical chamber orchestra as Berg’s concerto, will reflect the entire collection in the light of the present.

Robert Aitken - Photo by Daniel FoleyI asked Aitken what prompted him to create, in effect, a mini-revival of the Second Viennese School in New Music Concerts’ programming for 2018. He told me that the desire to include this repertoire is always a factor in his thinking, and that it has been so ever since he studied composition with John Weinzweig in the early 1960s. Weinzweig taught the 12-tone, or serial, technique of composing that Schoenberg had devised and introduced in 1921. Aitken told me that one of the aspects of Schoenberg’s music he admires is that, even given the frequent complexity of the counterpoint, the clarity of the music is never an issue. Aitken says that clarity and attention to every minute detail are also important values in his own compositions, musing that such attention to detail is a Virgo trait. (He and Schoenberg are both Virgos, as was Schoenberg’s student, John Cage (1912-1992).)

New Music Concerts’ three-concert Schoenbergian revival kicks off at the Betty Oliphant Theatre at 8pm on Sunday, January 14, with a program featuring the Chicago-based Duo Diorama, violinist MingHuan Xu and Winston Choi, piano, performing the Schoenberg Phantasy Op. 47, and as the soloists in the chamber concertos of Alban Berg and Michael Oesterle. In that tenth and final centennial broadcast in the CBC’s 1974 Gould/Schoenberg series, Gould said of the Phantasy, composed in 1949, and one of Schoenberg’s last completed works: “I still think it’s full of uneasy mixtures of Brahms and Wagner: you know, expressionistic violin lines, soaring, diving, equally expressionistic harmonics within a relatively four-squarish sentence structure.” Gould himself recorded the Phantasy with violinist Israel Baker in 1964 for Columbia Records.

Michael OesterleThe idea to commission the Chamber Concerto by Oesterle sprang from the shared enthusiasm by Aitken, Oesterle and Daniel Cooper, an enthusiastic NMC supporter, for the Berg Chamber Concerto for piano, violin and 13 winds (1923-1925). Oesterle’s concerto has the same instrumental forces as the Berg, and it will receive its world premiere on the January 14 concert. The Berg Chamber Concerto will complete the program. Aitken will conduct the NMC ensemble, with Duo Diorama as soloists.

Three weeks later, on February 4, at Gallery 345, NMC will present a 1923 Anton Webern arrangement of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 Op. 9 (1906). The Calgary-based Land’s End Ensemble will be joined by Aitken on flute and clarinetist James Campbell for this quintet version of one of Schoenberg’s more frequently arranged works. Schoenberg himself arranged the piece twice, for both smaller and larger forces. Berg made an arrangement for two pianos, and Webern’s arrangement itself exists in two versions. Land’s End Ensemble will also perform trios by Canadians Sean Clarke (b. 1983), Hope Lee (b. 1953) and Matthew Ricketts (b. 1986).

Finally, three weeks later on February 25, at 8pm at Gallery 345, NMC will present another late work by Schoenberg: his String Trio Op. 45 (1946), in a performance by Trio Arkel, along with a program of trios by Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933), Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) and James Rolfe (b. 1961). The concert will be preceded at 6:30pm by a screening of the Larry Weinstein film, My War Years: Arnold Schoenberg.

Perhaps by the end of this sequence of three concerts, it will be revealed that any doubts about the value of Schoenberg’s contribution have, by now, diminished or even vanished altogether – and that, if not yet in Gould’s phrase “a household word,” Schoenberg is at very least a welcome and engaging house guest.

David Jaeger is a composer, producer and broadcaster based in Toronto.

George Li - Photo by Simon FowlerThe 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition produced a motherlode of talent, sparking concert careers by each of its top four prizewinners. This past March, Show One Productions brought gold medallist Dmitry Masleev to Koerner Hall; on February 4 they will complete the Koerner circle with George Li’s recital there. Boston-born Li – the son of Chinese immigrants – shared second place with Lithuanian-Russian pianist Lukas Geniušas, whom Show One presented in a memorable 2016 Koerner Hall concert with fourth-place winner Lucas Debargue of France.

A student of English Literature at Harvard now in his fourth year, Li explained in an email exchange with me in mid-November that his non-musical studies have affected his approach and led to a deeper understanding of the music he plays, echoing what he told the Harvard Gazette in September 2016: “With music, there’s a balancing of different qualities and you have to have control and finesse and technique. There’s always a fine line between too much control and technique with being overly emotional, overindulgent. With literature, it’s not always an outpouring of emotion. It never goes overboard. It’s on the cusp of going overboard, but it never does.”

Elsewhere in this issue in his Editor’s Corner, DISCoveries editor David Olds calls Li a “fabulous young performer” in his review of Li’s debut CD, Live at the Mariinsky.  

WN: How important a role did music play in your home growing up?
GL: It was definitely a big part of my life ever since I was little. I was always surrounded by music, whether it be listening to the classical radio station, going to concerts to hear the BSO, or recitals in Boston, or listening to my sister practise.

How did you come to start playing the piano? How old were you?
I started when I was about four years old, and much of how and why I started was due to the things that I mentioned above. Because music played such a big part in my life from a young age, it almost became inevitable that I would try it out, and I haven’t stopped since!

Who was the first composer you fell in love with as a child?
I remember becoming obsessed with the Moonlight Sonata for a period of time, as well as Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3, so I suppose Beethoven and Prokofiev.

Who were your musical heroes in your formative years?
When I was in my teens, I listened quite a bit to pianists in the Golden Age of playing, so I really idolized Cortot, Horowitz, Gilels and Richter. I also started listening to a lot of orchestral music, so conductors like Abbado and Kleiber gave me great inspiration as well.

Do you feel a particular kinship to any pianist (or musician) living or dead?
I connect especially with Horowitz, because of his magical abilities with the piano; the amount of colour and character in his playing is astounding, and he’s also unafraid of taking risks.

When did you feel that you would devote your life to music?
I think I started realizing that I would fully immerse myself in music when I was 12 or 13. It was actually at a concert I was playing then when I realized how powerful music is, and what a transformative experience it was to be able to perform onstage. Since that concert, I decided I would fully dedicate myself to music.

Your upcoming Toronto recital mirrors your first CD, Live at the Mariinsky. What went into choosing the repertoire for it?
There were several reasons, but the most important for me was that I felt that there was a strong arc throughout the program. Although each piece is of a totally different style and from a different period, there is also a fluidity throughout; each piece flows naturally into the next in terms of tone and character. For example, in the first half of the CD, the Haydn sonata – which contains a nuanced tinge of darkness and tragedy – flows quite naturally into the turbulent, dramatic tragedy that is the Chopin Sonata No.2.

You concluded the program of your Toronto debut with Music Toronto in December 2012 with the Liszt Consolation No.3 and Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, both of which also conclude your first CD and Koerner Hall concert. What is the attraction these pieces have for you and how has your approach to them evolved over the years?
Liszt has been a favourite composer of mine throughout the years, and these two pieces especially have been a part of me for a long time. I especially appreciate that Wagnerian drama and the operatic references that he often implements, and while we don’t exactly hear Wagner in the Rhapsody, I nonetheless try to highlight the drama and the variety of colours that I do hear throughout the piece.

Are there any particular pieces, orchestral or chamber, that never grow stale for you?
Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Mahler’s Second Symphony and quite recently Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune have been a few of the orchestral pieces that I’ve been listening to incessantly.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

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