Juilliard Quartet

On October 13, 2017, we will open our 45th season!  The Juilliard Quartet will start off our season, joining us once again.  With a 70 year history of excellence, they have delighted our audiences several times over the years.  This time they return with new cellist, Astrid Schween.  Previously, she was a member of the Lark Quartet and had an active career as a chamber player, soloist, and teacher.

In addition to performing, all of the members of the quartet are dedicated teachers.  The JSQ is the String Quartet in Residence at the Juilliard School and all of the quartet members are faculty members devoting time to teaching string and chamber music.  Each May, the school hosts the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar where quartets receive intensive coaching from the JSQ.  To find out more about the application process, check out this link – http://www.juilliard.edu/youth-adult-programs/summer-programs/juilliard-string-quartet-seminar   It looks like applications are not yet open for the 2017 session but bookmark it and check back soon if you are interested.

Giving the average person an in-depth experience of quartet playing, in 2015, the quartet released the app “Juilliard String Quartet – An Exploration of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden”.  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/juilliard-string-quartet-exploration/id958257688?mt=8

You can find out more about the Juilliard by reading our previous blog entry from when they were on our stage in December of 2014 – https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/the-juilliard-quartet/ – or by going to their website – http://www.juilliardquartet.org/

Join us on October 13, 2016 to hear them live in Toronto with an evening of Beethoven and Bartok – http://music-toronto.com/

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Elizabeth Bishop

On December 1, 2016 Suzie LeBlanc, Robert Kortgaard, and the Blue Engine String Quartet will bring a musical tribute to Elizabeth Bishop to our stage, entitled “A Pocket of Time”.

Born in 1911 in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Bishop spent 68 years on this earth and had a large impact on American poetry.  Her childhood was one of upheaval.  Her father died when she was less than a year old.  Her mother was mentally ill and eventually institutionalized.  Elizabeth went to live in Nova Scotia with her maternal grandparents at first but was later taken by her paternal grandparents to live with them in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Unhappy there, she was eventually sent to live with her aunt in Revere, Massachusetts.  It was her aunt Maud who introduced her to the works of many Victorian poets.

As a young woman, she came into her inheritance from her father.  It was enough to allow her to travel cheaply without worrying about regular employment.

Elizabeth Bishop did not have what is considered a large output of poetry.  She was honoured with many literary awards during her life time, including a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

As with many artists, her life experiences were part of her art.  However, she wrote from a more objective and distant point of view and often you would not know she was writing about something personally connected to her.  Her poetry was influenced in part by her childhood experiences, her mentors and friends in college, her life and relationship in Brazil – where she went for a two-week trip and ended up staying 14 years.

You can find out much more about Elizabeth Bishop on this website – http://elizabethbishopcentenary.blogspot.ca/

Join us on December 1, 2016 for the musical tribute “A Pocket of Time” – http://music-toronto.com/quartets/suzi_leblanc.htm

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Balakirev, part two

By 1856, Balakirev was performing his own pieces and others at public concert.  Balakirev’s two main patrons died in 1857 and 1858 respectively leaving him without the support that comes with influential patrons.  He had 12 compositions published in 1859.  However, his main source of support still came from teaching piano (sometimes up to nine lessons in one day!) and from performing at private events.

He felt strongly that Russia should have its own school of music, free from other European influences.  In the late 1850s and early 1860s, he gathered a small following of like-minded musicians.  They eventually became known simply as The Five.  1862 found him helping to form the Free School of Music and he became the principal concert conductor there.

Balakirev is known for his tyrannical nature.  He felt that formal academic schooling for music was a hindrance to composing music.  His uncompromising personality did not gain him many friends and caused many issues with his co-workers and employers over the years.

After a bout of brain fever at the age of 21, he struggled with depression over the years.  By the early 1870’s, Balakirev had suffered a complete breakdown.  He withdrew more and more from music.  Friends found him lacking in his usual energy and drive.  In 1872, he took on a job as a clerk with the Warsaw railroad in order to make ends meet.

By 1876, he started to return to his music and went back to the Free School of Music in 1877.  However, many of his early unpleasant traits were even stronger now.  He resumed a series of musical Tuesday evenings at his house in the 1880’s.  And in 1883 he became the director of the Imperial Chapel.  He continued to compose throughout but worked more in isolation now as the younger generation of Russian composers found his style too old-fashioned.

He retired in 1895 and turned his focus more to composition in the final years of his life.  He passed away in 1910 at the age of 73.

We will hear one of Balakirev’s piano pieces (Nocturne No. 2 in B Minor) on November 15, 2016 when Danny Driver takes to our stage! http://music-toronto.com/piano/driver.htm

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Balakirev, part one

Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev was born in 1837 to a poor family.  He started learning the piano very early in life from his mother at home.  He started school at the Nizhny Novgorod Gymnasium.  When he was 10, his mother travelled with him to Moscow for a series of piano lessons during his summer vacation.

Upon the death of his mother, he was boarded, and continued his schooling, at the Alexandrovsky Institute.  Here his musical talents were noted by Alexander Ulybyshev.  He became Balakirev’s patron and Balakirev continued his musical studies with pianist Karl Eisrach at this point in his life.  With Eisrach, Balakirev’s music background was greatly expanded.  In addition to playing and reading music, he was allowed to lead the count’s personal orchestra in rehearsals and eventually in performance.

Balakirev started university in 1853 as a mathematics student.  He taught piano lessons to help bring in some extra money.  His school holidays were spent back in his home town or on the Ulybyshev estates playing the piano.  When he finished school in 1855, he was introduced to Glinka and encouraged to make music his career.

Come back next week to read our post on the rest of Balakirev’s life in music!

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Johann Baptist Wanhal (or Vanhal)

Johann Baptist Wanhal (or sometimes written as Vanhal) was born in 1739 and lived until 1813.  Born in Nechanice, Bohemia, he became a Czech composer of importance.  He was born into a peasant family and first learned violin and organ from local musicians.  He was eventually able to earn a living as a young man as a village choirmaster and organist.

Under the patronage of Countess Schaffgotsch, he left for Vienna in 1760.  Here he became a teacher of voice, violin, and piano to the nobility, and was invited to conduct symphonies for wealthy patrons as well.

From Vienna, he travelled to Italy in 1769, sponsored by Baron Riesch.  After his trip, Wanhal was to become the Baron’s Kapellmeister in Dresden.  In Italy, he met up with composers Gluck and Gassmann, visiting both Venice and Rome.  He was supposed to visit Naples as well but it seems like he never quite made it.  And he never made it to Dresden either.  He returned to Vienna instead after touring Italy.

Wanhal continued to compose and perform in Vienna.  He eventually shifted away from composing symphonies and string quartets to composing for piano, small ensembles, and more church music.  Writing music for the growing middle class, he was able to live independently.  While his lifestyle would have been modest on the income he made himself, he was able to stopping working for any patron for the last 30 years of his life.  He stopped performing publicly around 1787 but continued to compose until close to his death in 1813.

The Eybler Quartet will perform Vanhal’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 6, No. 3 on our stage on February 16, 2017.  http://music-toronto.com/

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Anton Bruckner

Austrian composer Anton Bruckner was born in 1824 in Ansfelden.  His family had been there for a number of years with his grandfather holding the position of schoolmaster and his father inheriting the same position the year before Anton was born.

Anton’s first music teacher was his father.  Music was taught as part of the school curriculum and Anton was a good student in all areas.  At the age of 9, he was sent by his father to another school to complete his education and continue his music studies.  Unfortunately, his father passed away when Anton was only 13.  The schoolmaster position was given to another successor and Anton was sent to the monastery in Sankt Florian to be a choir boy and continue on with his studies in violin and organ.

Even with his obvious musical abilities, Anton’s mother sent him to train as a teacher when he was 17.  Achieving excellent marks in his training, he was giving a teaching assistant position in Windhaag.  He was to spend the next 2 years there quietly putting up with terrible living conditions, low pay, and teaching subjects that had no connection to music.

He was finally transferred to a school back near Sankt Florian.  Here he was also able to continue his own training and advance his teaching career.  He was also able to play the organ again at the monastery.  He remained in Sankt Florian for the next 10 years teaching and taking on the regular position of organist.

In 1855, Anton was accepted to study with music theorist Simon Sechter.  Anton divided his time between Sankt Florian and Vienna as he pursued his own studies for a little more than a decade.  In 1868, he accepted the position of teacher of music theory at the Vienna Conservatory after the passing of Sechter who had previously held the post.  Eventually he accepted a teaching post at the Vienna University and stayed at the University until he was around 68 years old.

In addition to teaching, Anton continued to compose and perform.  While he did not compose for organ, he was a well-known and respected organist in his time and gave several successful concerts in England and France.  He died at the age of 72 in Vienna.

On March 2, 2017, the Prazak Quartet will play his string quartet on our stage.  Subscriptions are currently on sale.  Single tickets go on sale in September. http://www.music-toronto.com/

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Maria Olszewska

As we approach Mother’s Day here in North America, today we take a brief look at Maria Olszewska, mother of composer Witold Lutoslawski. Born in the summer of 1882, she lived to be 85 years old.

Maria studied medicine as a young woman. She met her future husband while at school in Zurich. Jozef, her husband to be, was the brother of one of her fellow students.

Her family had a large estate in Podolia. Her father was a mathematician who taught in the neighbouring schools and, being a forward thinker, sent his daughters to school abroad. In 1904, she obtained her medical degree.

In 1915, the Lutoslawski family started their journey to flee Poland from the oncoming Prussian forces. It would eventually lead them to Moscow where Jozef was imprisoned for his political activities. In 1918, Jozef and his brother were killed (https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/390/) and Maria was left with a family to raise.

Finally able to return home after the war, she attempted to run the family estate in Drozdowo for a few years before settling in Warsaw. Maria returned to medicine and continued working as a physician. In addition, she worked at translating books from English, mainly books for children. She also served as a City Councilor for the City of Warsaw.

While the suffering and hardship of WWI should be enough for anyone to have to live through, Maria then had to endure the capture and death of one of her sons during WWII.

She lived with her son, Witold, and his wife, Danuta, in Warsaw until she passed in 1967.

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Our 2016-2017 season!

As with most arts organizations, we are already looking to next season! Season subscriptions are already on sale for our 2016-2017 season. Existing subscribers – you should have received your renewal information in late February. You have until May to renew and keep your existing seats. Contact the box office at 416-366-7723 if you have not received your renewal information. Subscriptions done before the end of April will get the bonus of an additional ticket!

This will be our 45th season and it is an exciting one!

We open our season on October 13, 2016 with the Juilliard Quartet. Last fall, cellist Joel Krosnick announced his retirement from the quartet after 42 years. We will have the pleasure of welcoming the quartet back to our stage with their new member, cellist Astrid Schween.

Our piano series starts with Janina Fialkowska on October 25, 2016. This concert is part of her year long “Birthday Celebration Tour” as she celebrates turning 65 years young.

November brings us Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc on November 10, 2016. Quartet-in-residence at the Université Laval, they were our ensemble-in-residence in 2007-2008. A few short days later, UK pianist Danny Driver joins us on November 15, 2016 for his Toronto debut.

Soprano Suzie LeBlanc and the Blue Engine String Quartet join together for a concert on December 1, 2016. Entitled A Pocket of Time, the evening is a musical tribute to Elizabeth Bishop.

Before we take a break for the holidays, we will enjoy the talented Gryphon Trio on our stage once again! Join us on December 15, 2016 for an evening of great music.

January starts off with young pianist Sean Chen making his Toronto debut on January 10, 2017 and wraps up with long time MTO performers, the St. Lawrence Quartet on January 26, 2017.

Ilya Poletaev takes to our stage on February 7, 2017 with some Bach and Schumann. The Eybler Quartet will play us some Haydn and Beethoven on February 16, 2017.

We finish off our season in March next year with two long standing internationally renowned quartets – the Prazak Quartet on March 2, 2017 and the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin on March 16, 2017.

Bookmark our website at http://music-toronto.com/ and you can find us all season long!

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Wrapping up our 44th season!

Tonight we finish our 44th season with a performance by the Artemis Quartet.  This world-class quartet will give their Toronto debut on our stage. An exciting finish to a great season!

We started the season what feels like a lifetime ago but was really only six short months ago!  October started us off with the return of Benjamin Grosvenor (Oct. 13) and then the Toronto debut of Cuarteto Casals (Oct. 22).  Both concerts were amazing evenings to start off our piano series and quartet series respectively for the season!

Our past season featured several Toronto debuts.  In addition to Cuarteto Casals, we presented the Toronto debuts of Peter Jablonski (Nov. 10), the Apollon Musagète Quartett (Nov. 25), and the Artemis Quartet (Apr. 14).  All stunning performances!

The fall also saw the world premiere of a new composition by Nicole Lizée – Isabella Blow at Somerset House (2015) performed by the Cecilia Quartet (Nov. 5).

We ended 2015 with another world premiere!  We were treated to Gryphon Realms by Vincent Ho written for and played by the Gryphon Trio (Dec. 10).

We rang in the new year with the familiar and enchanting sounds of Marc-André Hamelin at the piano (Jan. 5).  We covered all our main areas in January!  We presented the popular and talented JACK Quartet (Jan. 14) as part of our strings and Contemporary Classics series.  And we finished off the month with a Discovery series vocal recital by Canadian opera star Andriana Chuchman (Jan. 21) accompanied by pianist Craig Terry.

February was a month of strings with the Annex Quartet coming to our main stage for the first time (Feb. 4) and a return of the ever popular St. Lawrence Quartet (Feb. 18).

The busy month of March kept us on our toes.  With a snow storm at the door, Stephen Osborne (Mar. 1) gave a wonderful piano recital to the crowd who had braved the weather.  Collectif9 (Mar. 10) brought a nonet to our stage with a light show to back up their innovative sound.  And on St. Patrick’s Day we all forgot about green beer for a few hours and listened to the extraordinary performance of Quatuor Ebène (Mar. 17).

Last week we had the final performance of our piano series this season with Duo Turgeon (Apr. 5).  As this concert was part of our Contemporary Classics series, we were also treated to conversation from the stage with Jeffrey Ryan, our composer advisor.  It was a lovely way to end the piano series for another season!

Join us tonight for our final string performance of this season – the Toronto debut of the Artemis Quartet!  http://music-toronto.com/

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Artemis Quartett

On April 14, 2016 we will close our 44th season with the Toronto debut performance of the renowned Artemis Quartett. We have tried to bring them in the past but scheduling conflicts have meant we were unable to have them as part of our series until now.

Currently comprised of Vineta Sareika (violin), Anthea Kreston (violin), Gregor Sigl (viola), and Eckart Runge (cello), the quartet was originally formed in 1989 by four students at the Musikhochschule in Lübeck and has seen a few changes in personnel over the years. Eckart Runge is the remaining founding member.

All four of the performers teach at University of the Arts Berlin and Chapelle Musicale Reine Elisabeth in Brussels. As with many prominent string quartets, they maintain a busy schedule of performances in addition to teaching. And somehow managed to squeeze in time to record and release 18 CDs in the past 10 years with Virgin Classics/EMI.

To read more about the quartet or to listen to some excerpts, visit their website at http://artemisquartett.de/

To hear them live, join us on April 14th for some Wolf, Shostakovich, and Beethoven with the Artemis Quartett! http://music-toronto.com/

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