Over the past several years Toronto’s new music season had been starting later and later, sometimes pushing into November. Thankfully, several ensembles have since seen the benefit of getting a jump start. As a result, we have a handful of companies launching exciting series this September. In fact, 2009/2010 looks so exciting for new music that it’s next to impossible to pick out the highlights. Caught between Tapestry’s 30th anniversary season, Soundstreams’ international powerhouse programming and Esprit Orchestra’s stellar selection of soloists and repertoire, I already feel like a kid in a candy shop! So, I’ll keep my selections within the next several weeks. Even here, it’s a challenging calendar for those intrigued by new sounds.

New Pärt

13Stratton The Toronto Philharmonia gives the season’s first big event on September 24 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Conductor Kerry Stratton has programmed a new-music-heavy opener with the Canadian premiere of Arvo Pärt’s Symphony No. 4.

As a young composer in the 1960s, Pärt wrote three symphonies that chronicled his struggle with the musical language of his day, a struggle that would eventually help create his world-renowned style of spiritual minimalism. The orchestral and instrumental pieces that followed tend to be brief. But now, 38 years after the Third Symphony Pärt offers his fourth, subtitled “Los Angeles” (perhaps in recognition of the orchestra that premiered the work this year.) Pärt explained in the programme notes that he is reaching out in this work to “all those imprisoned without rights in Russia.” For the composer, the symphony is meant as “carrier pigeon” that he hopes might reach faraway Siberia one day. Its sparse textures for strings, harp and percussion, slow pace and lengthy duration (37 minutes) make for a long, open and what has been described as an “extremely beautiful” journey.

Also on the programme is the world premiere of Artemis, a symphonic overture by Kevin Lau. This Toronto-based composer seems to be quickly making his mark. Since the completion of Lau’s first professional composition in 1999 he has received commissions from the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Mississauga Symphony, the Esprit Orchestra, the Cecilia String Quartet and the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, among others. Lau is currently completing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto while he continues to attract other projects, including a 2010 commission from Via Salzburg. In discussing his most recent work, Lau describes it as a musical portrait of the Greek goddess of wilderness, inspired by Gustav Holst’s symphonic suite The Planets.

For more information about the Toronto Philharmonia’s 2009/2010 season, visit www.torontophil.on.ca.

New Hall

On September 25 – what would have been Glenn Gould’s 77th birthday – the Royal Conservatory of Music will open the doors to Koerner Hall and its long-awaited inaugural concert season. A special feature of the evening will be the world premiere of R. Murray Schafer’s Spirits of the House. The work has been commissioned by philanthropist Michael Koerner to showcase the hall’s acoustics. The programme will feature Royal Conservatory's very own ARC Ensemble, as well as the Royal Conservatory Orchestra with celebrated pianist Anton Kuerti, all conducted by Jean-Philippe Tremblay. This evening is just the start to Koerner Hall’s Grand Opening Weekend. Full details may be found at www.rcmusic.ca.

Marathon

14YongeDundasFor something completely different, head downtown to Yonge-Dundas Square on September 26 for the Toronto (new music) Marathon. This eight-hour endurance event, organized by Contact Contemporary Music, pulls together some of the best local performers and ensembles for a season-opening showcase of contemporary, experimental and improvisational music. This year’s marathon features music of Alan Bloor, Kyle Brenders, John Cage, Donnacha Dennehy, Philip Glass, Jim Harley, Brent Lee, Chad Martin, Stephen Montague, Jordan Nobles, Steven Reich, Ann Southam, Julia Wolfe and possibly even more, performed by Wallace Halladay, Jim Harley, JunctQin, Kyle Brender’s Large Ensemble, Rob McDonald, Christina Petrowska Quilico, Pholde, Quartetto Graphica, Allison Wiebe and the Contact Ensemble. The mix of established artists alongside emerging voices and new discoveries is bound to make this an exciting event. For more details, visit www.contactcontemporarymusic.ca.

Tapestry at 30

Running throughout much of the same weekend is Opera Briefs, the launch to Tapestry New Opera Work’s 30th Anniversary season. While every presentation of Opera Briefs yields great musical treats, this year’s crop of 5-minute operas will be especially intriguing as Tapestry will unveil the results of its first International Composer-Librettist Laboratory. Two composers and two writers from the UK will cross the pond to work with three returning LibLab alumni: composers Omar Daniel and Stephen Andrew Taylor, and writer Anna Chatterton. Add renowned playwright Judith Thompson to the mix and you have quite the team. Tapestry’s excellent New Works Studio Company will bring this ninth edition of Opera Briefs to life from September 25-27 in the intimacy of the Ernest Balmer Studio. For more information, visit www.tapestrynewopera.com

Nuit Blanche

Finally, starting at sundown on October 3, new music will resonate throughout Scotiabank Nuit Blanche – Toronto’s overwhelming, all-night contemporary art extravaganza.
Two projects will inhabit the Canadian Music Centre. Sky Harp: Ice Storm by Kingston-based Kristi Allik and Rob Mulder will occupy the CMC’s front garden. The Sky Harp series creates electronic soundscapes triggered by movements in the natural environment. For Ice Storm, video footage documents the effects of a 1998 disaster on Sky Harp’s star “performer” – a 90-year old elm tree. Recorded improvisations by dancer Holly Small, who interacts with the resulting soundscape, serve as a simultaneous artistic interpretation. Inside, Juliet Palmer and Josh Lacey’s Miasma offers a false haven from climate change. Overheard conversations reflect the unpredictability of our relationship to the elements. Is global warming a storm in a tea-cup? Can we divine the future in the dregs of a coffee cup? Music drifts in and out of the room, creating an alternately soothing and unsettling effect. Musicians perform within the installation at 10pm and midnight. Meanwhile, up the street at the the Telus Centre for Education and Performance, composer Brian Current directs the 12-hour installation In a large open space (Berlin 1994), based on a composition by James Tenney. The piece involves hundreds of singers and musicians positioned throughout the building, whose performances will envelop listeners in Tenney’s complex overtones. For full details, visit www.scotiabanknuitblanche.com.

2009/2010 is truly in with the new!

The Early Music scene isn’t called “early” for nothing; the season is barely under way, and already there are some very interesting presentations to tell you about.

Hildegard von Bingen and the Labyrinth

The ancient labyrinth has long been used as a pathway toward achieving a contemplative state. Music is an important accompaniment in the winding journey that one takes from circumference to centre and out again, providing a soundscape that can aid in shutting out the bustle of life. In recent times, composers such as John Burke have found the labyrinth an apt companion in their efforts to create music that touches the soul; and I well remember the haunting sounds of the traditional Japanese flute, the shakuhachi, helping me along as I walked a labyrinth, a decade ago.

But it is the exquisite music and poetry of the 12th-century mystic, abbess, philosopher, physician, scientist, Hildegard von Bingen, that will accompany you if you choose to walk the labyrinth on her feast day, September 17. Hildegard composed ecstatically soaring vocal lines to express her poetic visions, each composition of one melodic line designed for limited instrumental accompaniment which was not written down, but left to the performers to improvise. In the upcoming event, performers include soprano and Hildegard scholar Krystina Lewicki; Mike Franklin, woodwinds and voice; Ann-Marie Boudreau, voice, sitar, ngoni, harp; and others who contribute the sounds of diverse instruments. Walking the labyrinth is not mandatory but only for those moved to do so; otherwise, one can remain seated and enveloped in this exalted poetry and music.

The performance takes place inside the Church of the Holy Trinity behind the Eaton Centre, September 17 at 8pm, and is presented in collaboration with the Labyrinth Community Network of Toronto. The labyrinth itself is patterned on the medieval style of the one set into the floor of Chartres Cathedral, in the 13h century.

Primadonnas and The Colours of Music

10SuzieLeblancSoprano Suzie Leblanc is a completely delightful artist whose specialties range from baroque repertoire to lieder, to French mélodies and Acadian folk music, to modern music and improvisation. Her versatility made her a prime choice as the first Singer-in-Residence at Barrie’s Colours of Music Festival (as the Festival’s indefatigable artistic director, Bruce Owen, told me). In this role, her activities will include concert collaborations with several other Festival artists, as well as giving workshops to elementary and high school students in the area – something Owen is very enthusiastic about, as for many students these will be rare exposures to the joys of music-making.

The early music component of Leblanc’s performances in Barrie is a concert entitled “Primadonnas of the Renaissance,” in which she will be joined by the singers and musicians of The Toronto Consort. What could be more natural than to repeat this concert at the Toronto Consort’s own series? – and so, you can hear it in Barrie on October 1, and in Toronto on October 2 and 3.

And ah! the music is from the Italian Baroque, when opera was new; when a ground bass and a few colourful instrumental touches supporting a melody could express all the fire, all the tenderness, that any primadonna could hope for. Monteverdi, Castaldi, Frescobaldi, Strozzi and others will lead you into their world of love (requited and unrequited), laments, entreaties, smiles and tears.

An all-too-brief mention of several other upcoming performances:

September 3, 7pm: Toronto Music Garden presents “Bach at Dusk – with Claudia.” Cellist Winona Zelenka continues her annual exposé of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites in a performance of No. 4 in E flat, joined by dancer Claudia Moore.

September 13, 2:30pm: “Tartini meets Hagen”, virtuoso music of the 18th century for violin and lute, is presented by the newly-formed Beaches Baroque, with baroque violinist Genevieve Gilardeau and lutenist Lucas Harris.

September 23 to 27: In the first of their season’s concerts, Tafelmusik is joined by Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra to present “Handel: Royal Fireworks,” a programme that also includes music by J.C. Bach and Rameau.

September 26, 8pm: Toronto Masque Theatre reprises “Purcell: Dido and Aeneas / Aeneas and Dido,” a double-bill of Purcell’s masterpiece and TMT’s commission by James Rolfe and Andre Alexis.

October 3, 7:30: Cantemus, a newly formed choir whose focus is secular choral music of the Renaissance, presents “Fairest Isle – A Celebration of Early English Choral Music,” with music by Gibbons, Byrd, Taverner, Purcell and others.

And don’t forget the 25th annual Early Music Fair held on September 12 from noon to 5pm at Montgomery’s Inn, where you can encounter all sorts of early music performances, instruments, books and enthusiasts throughout the afternoon.

For details of these and many other upcoming events, see The WholeNote’s daily listings.

Purcell and the Hart House Viols

12_HartHse viol photo christine guestOn October 30 and 31, The Toronto Consort will present a very special pair of concerts – very special, in that the music presented is an iconic oeuvre in the history of music (Purcell’s complete Fantasias for viols); and in that they will be performed on a unique set of instruments – the Hart House viols.

More will be said about the Purcell Fantasias in the next Early Music column. But for now, it’s worth noting that Toronto is very fortunate to be called home to the six instruments known as the “Hart House viols.” Ranging in dates from c.1598(!) to 1781, they have recently been re-appraised and restored fully to playing condition, and are now recognized as a collected treasure of great historical and artistic value.

It’s a bit of a mystery how they turned up in Vancouver in the late 1920s, housed neatly in a large wooden chest thought to be a dowry chest. Around 1930, the Massey Foundation presented them as a gift to Hart House, where they have resided ever since.

Their public appearances have been relatively few. Local musicians Leo Smith and Wolfgang Grunsky played them during their early residency, and Peggie Sampson’s Hart House Consort used them in performance during the 1970s and 80s; more recently Joëlle Morton secured the loan of two of the viols for one of her innovative Scaramella concerts. Now we have the chance to hear all of them in The Toronto Consort’s October offering  – incomparable Purcell played by Les Voix Humaines – a musical experience to look forward to indeed.

With this column I take over the early music beat from my colleague, Frank Nakashima, who has faithfully researched and reported the early music scene over the past eight and a half seasons. I will try to follow in his able footsteps and will very much enjoy chronicling the fascinating spectrum of early music performance.

Most calendars say that the year officially commences on January 1 – but in the musical world, September is the time for beginnings. Brochures are printed, tickets are sold, and a new season takes its first steps. With this in mind, some of The WholeNote’s regular “beat” columnists have examined what the 2009/10 season has to offer. In the following pages you’ll find their thoughts on what looks promising.

 

I’ve also done some perusing of the coming season, and I’ve come up with a few events that might not receive the attention they deserve. No doubt, the big events with big publicity budgets will take care of themselves – but every year there are a handful of worthy performances that could use a little help. Here are ten “bumps” for ten concerts in the next ten months.

September 14 8:00: Gallery 345. The Art of the Piano: Dan Tepfer. Tepfer is a jazz pianist who will interpret Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This sounds intriguing.

October 26 8:00: Glenn Gould Foundation. Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. This huge event, at the Four Seasons Centre, has received astonishingly little publicity so far. Let’s hope it gets some.

November 5 7:30: University of Toronto. Il Mondo della Luna. When was the last time you saw a Haydn opera?

December 4 8:00: Art of Time Ensemble. Brasil. This programme of Brazilian music by Villa Lobos and others, could easily get lost in the Christmas rush. But Brazilian music in December sounds like a good idea to me.

January 17 2:00: Royal Conservatory of Music. Bryan Epperson, cello, with Dianne Werner, piano. With so much attention focussed on the new Koerner Hall, let’s hope that concerts like this one, in the RCM’s smaller Mazzoleni Hall, aren’t forgotten.

February 4 12:10: University of Toronto. Brahms Piano Quintet. Pianist Henri-Paul Sicsic and a quartet of string teachers from U of T will give this performance. Again, this is the sort of concert that could easily be overlooked, but shouldn’t be.

March 20 8:00: I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble. The Noiseless Foot of Time. Furiosi’s guest on this occasion is Lucas Harris, who plays the lute and theorbo. Personally, I think the theorbo is a fascinating instrument.

April 29 8:00: Soundstreams Canada. Cool Drummings: Steve Reich. Maybe this concert, at Koerner Hall, doesn’t need a bump – but I’m giving it one anyway.

May 16 8:00: Esprit Orchestra. No Reason to Panic. I don’t know much about the works by Andriessen, Schmidt and Nas on this programme. What I do know is that the final work, R. Murray Schafer’s Gitanjali, is well worth the price of admission.

June 20 3:00: Hannaford Street Silver Band. Brass Belles. This concert is the grand finale of the International Women’s Brass Conference, and features an all-female cast of soloists and composers. Despite the silly title, this is an idea whose time has come.

Finally, I should note that The WholeNote’s publisher, David Perlman, got into the spirit of things as well. You’ll find his two cents worth on this topic in “Counterpoint – the Publisher’s Perch,” on page 29.

6_colin eatock
Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

 

 

8_agnes grossmann
Agnes Grossmann has served as artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Orford Festival and Montreal’s Orchestre Métropoltain, among other organizations.

For four years Agnes Grossmann has been artistic director of the Toronto Summer Academy and Festival. Born into a musical family – her father was director of the famous Vienna Boys’ Choir – she was a gifted pianist who enjoyed the benefits of an excellent musical education in Austria. However, she is no stranger to adversity: an injury to her right hand brought an end to her pianistic career. She then took up conducting – in a country where women are given few opportunities to enter this profession.

In 1981 she accepted an invitation to teach and conduct in Canada. Today she lives in Toronto, with her husband, the conductor Raffi Armenian. In June, she spoke about her musical career, and the festival that’s been described as “a virtual oasis in the desert of the Toronto summer.”

 

Colin Eatock: I understand that you began your musical career as a pianist, but were forced to abandon the piano because of an accident. Today, would you rather be a conductor or a pianist?

 

Agnes Grossman: Of course my real dream was to be a pianist. I certainly would have loved to do that all my life. Already as a child I wanted to be a pianist – and my father, who was my first teacher, discovered  that I had absolute pitch. I went to the Academy, and developed very fast.

But because of my accident I discovered a new palette of musical expression. I’m grateful today to have experienced all this: it gave me new possibilities to learn how one can influence sound through movement. Through the orchestral and vocal repertoire I found a new musical world.

 

CE: Why did you move to Canada?

 

AG: Cynthia Floyd – who is a pianist at the University of Ottawa and who was a colleague of mine at the Academy of Music in Vienna – phoned me and asked if I would be interested in coming to Ottawa as an artist in residence, to take over the university’s orchestra and choir. Cynthia knew I had become a conductor, and I occasionally conducted concerts with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Chorus. I came to Ottawa and stayed for two years.

I had never been in Canada before. But I had a good friend, Raffi Armenian, here. We knew each other already when I was 17 and he was 19, when he came to study at the Hochschule für Musik. Raffi and I have known each other since Vienna, and that was an important connection to Canada.

 

CE: How did your career unfold after you came to this country?

 

AG: From 1981 to 1983 I had a lot of guest appearances with the Chamber Players of Toronto, and was asked to become artistic director, starting in 1984. But I was also asked to return to Vienna to become the conductor of the Wiener Singakademie, the choir of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. So there were three years when I was in Vienna at the Singakademie, but also the conductor of the Chamber Players of Toronto, so I came to Toronto six times a year. In 1990 the Chamber Players toured to Germany and Austria. But this was the last year of this ensemble: there was not enough money.

In 1986 I received an offer to become director of the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal. At that time I was with the Singakademie, but also teaching ear training and choral conducting at Vienna’s Hochschule. I gave all that up, because I was mainly interested in performance, and I didn’t have enough opportunities in Austria. That’s when I permanently moved to Canada – and I have not regretted it. For nine years I was with the Orchestre Métropolitain. It had been in existence for two years, and had a small, mainly contemporary, repertoire. I decided to build this orchestra with German repertoire, because the Montreal Symphony under Charles Duotit concentrated on Russian and French music. Dutoit rehearsed his orchestra in English – but I rehearsed the Orchestre Métropolitain in French. It helped that I had learned French when I was a student in Paris.

I was asked to take over the Orford Arts Centre in 1989. Lots had to be done, because under Gilles Lefebrve it was wonderful, but after him it had come down a bit in artistic quality. I built it up with the greatest joy: I brought in pianists, vocalists, string and wind players from all over the world. And with the chamber orchestra I could do some important festival concerts in Orford.

In 1995 I was asked if I would be interested in taking over the Vienna Boys’ Choir. That was the time when I left my positions in Canada. I went back to Vienna in 1996 and began to prepare for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the choir. As you know, my father was for many years artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. He established the vocal quality for which they are so famous.

I did a lot. I created a much larger repertoire, but I also reduced the number of concerts. At that time every boy sang 100 concerts per year: these concerts were necessary to keep this institution running, because it was self-financing. My idea was to slowly integrate some sponsors and government funding, and at the beginning that idea was applauded with enthusiasm. The quality rose considerably, and we did a celebration concert in 1998 with Haydn’s Seasons, where I conducted not only the Choirboys, but also the Chorus Viennensis, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and soloists. This was very important because all the concert managers in the world came to this celebration, and realized that the Vienna Boys’ Choir was back on track. We also did tours, including one to the United States and Canada.

 

CE: What was it like to be the only woman who has ever served as artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir?

 

AG: I think it was a breakthrough for a woman to be asked to become artistic director. There was enthusiastic support – even from the board, who are all former Choir Boys. But of course I also felt that it was very new to them, and a learning process. Austria is a Catholic country, where I was not allowed to conduct in the Royal Chapel: only men may conduct there. That gives you a picture of the situation. On the other hand, all my suggestions and plans were openly accepted in the beginning, and it was agreed that something had to be done to reduce the workload for the children: they had school in the morning, a one-hour break, two hours of rehearsal, another break, then supper, and then homework in the evening. There were also two concerts per week.

After the American tour in 1998 I came to a board meeting and was told they had decided to go back to the old way, which meant no sponsors or government money. That was the moment when I said I wouldn’t stay, because I don’t believe in this way of doing things. I came back to Canada, and Orford invited me to return as artistic director

 

CE: Let’s talk about the Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival. Was it  your idea?

 

AG: The form of the festival as it is today was certainly my idea. But in 2003 David Beach, who was dean of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, had organized some summer workshops, for professional and amateur musicians. It was called Silver Creek. We talked about the workshops, and I said I was astonished that Ontario doesn’t have an institution like Orford or Banff. I said it would be interesting to build something similar. He said maybe you come to our board meeting and present your plan. That was at the end of 2005.

My idea met with a very enthusiastic reaction. I planned a four-week summer festival and academy for 2006, with three concerts per week, including concerts by the young musicians. I also planned for an opera: we started with Don Giovanni, and had auditions across the country. We also brought some very important musicians to Toronto, including pianist Richard Goode, who gave a wonderful recital.

 

CE: Other people have tried to launch summer festivals in Toronto, without much success. Why has it been so hard to attract audiences in Toronto during the summer? And why have you succeeded where others have not?

 

AG: I do think that the “cottage effect” is one of the reasons why this has been a problem. Many people leave the city in the summer. And I know that others have tried to start festivals, but perhaps there was not enough money to do something important. We had a good board to raise the money, thanks to Jane Smith, who’s a real go-getter. The whole board is really supportive. After every concert there’s a reception, either at one of the homes, or in a club. It’s really wonderful how they are working for this event.

Also, I’m connected with many important institutions in Canada. I had a network, and I could ask people if they were interested in coming. Well, of course they were interested. My experience has allowed me to invite musicians who would come for a very friendly price:  people who were with the Chamber Players or the Orchestre Métropolitain, or whom I know from Europe and Japan. They strongly believe in my musical vision. I could ask people like Menahem Pressler and Janos Starker, and great musicians from Canada: André Laplante, Shauna Rolston, the Gryphon Trio, and all the artists who have participated.

And the Faculty of Music building was empty in the summer time. It’s a perfect place for chamber concerts and opera.

 

CE: Did some people say you were crazy?

 

AG: People said, “You can try, but I’ll tell you right away that it would be most astonishing if it works. There’s already Stratford, Shaw, Parry Sound, Elora, Niagara, and other festivals. How will it work in Toronto?” But it worked.

 

CE: In the last three years, what have you learned about running a summer festival in Toronto?

 

AG: I think what I learned was that there is a public that is most attentive. When the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet came, they said, “Wow, there’s a public that listens with a remarkable attentiveness.” And they were absolutely right. One aspect of attraction is coming to the masterclasses, to listen to teachers teaching young students and witnessing the transformation that can happen within one hour. This enhances the experience.

I have also learned that chamber music and opera need new kinds of publicity – creative ways of publicizing classical music. It’s a never ending process to explain to people the beauty of classical music. And the idea of thematic programming is also very important.

 

CE: How did you select the programming for this summer’s festival?

 

AG: As you know, we have our theme of “Eternal Stars.” This year is an accumulation of important composer anniversaries: Haydn and Mendelssohn, and also the 50th anniversary of Martinů’s death. This year these composers will be performed – but certainly not exclusively. “Eternal Stars” also refers to the performers  who will give us sparkling performances. On Tuesdays we’ll have duos. We’ll start with violinist James Ehnes and pianist Jon Kimura Parker who will play together for the first time. And on Thursdays we will demonstrate the beauties of quartets, starting with Pressler’s quartet and then the Leipzig quartet. On Saturdays we have stellar artists from around the globe, whether Japan or Canada or France.

We have no fully staged opera this year, but we have an opera gala concert. We plan to have a staged opera again next year.

 

CE: You are running both a summer festival and an academy. Why the academy? And what is the relationship between the two?

 

AG: Most of the performers are also giving masterclasses. It is very important for the young musicians to experience their teachers on stage: that’s how they understand fully what their teachers are talking about. Twice a week the young musicians will perform at the Church of the Redeemer, and we’ll also have student concerts at the Royal Ontario Museum for the first time.

And thanks Bill Waters’ support, we are able to give scholarships. Many of the American summer schools give out full scholarships, and we are competing with them. This allows us to bring in the best young musicians.

 

CE: I notice there are no Dixieland bands, Celtic harpists or pop singers on your festival. It’s just classical music – and this is rather unusual these days. Why have you chosen to only present classical repertoire?

 

AG: There is already lots of jazz and world music in Toronto, at Harbourfront and in other places. And the mission of Toronto Summer Music is classical music. But jazz is definitely something that’s important for classical musicians because of the improvisation skills required. We plan to integrate that in the future.

 

CE: We live in difficult economic times. Do things look good for your festival this year?

 

AG: We have no fully staged opera, and this is a reaction to the financial difficulties. But we see that ticket sales are better than ever. This is astonishing – and it could be that people are staying closer to home. Also, we’re well established, and not very expensive. We offer a very reasonable way of experiencing great music and artists.

 

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

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