Monthly Archives: September 2013

Arnaldo Cohen

On Tuesday, October 8th, Arnaldo Cohen will open our 2013-2014 piano series. He made his Toronto debut on our stage in 2007 and we last heard him in the Jane Mallett Theatre in 2009. I enjoyed meeting him in 2009 and I’m looking forward to hearing him play again!

He has had a busy few years since we last heard him. In addition to performing, he was married in March 2012, became a grandfather, and was appointed Artistic Director of Portland Piano International in October 2012. He takes over from Harold Gray who retired at the end of last season. PPI showcases talented international solo pianists and Cohen’s 2013-2014 season looks great and is already selling out.

Arnaldo Cohen has been involved in the world of music since the age of 5, beginning with his studies in violin and piano. Born in Brazil, he studied both violin and piano, graduating with honors in both. At the same time, he was studying engineering. He taught physics and math. And became a professional violinist with the Rio de Janeiro Opera House Orchestra while continuing his piano studies. As a pianist, he has played around the world both as a soloist and with several orchestras.

One last fun fact taken from his PPI bio page (, he has also written Brazilian TV scripts and a movie screenplay! Such a diverse range of talents!


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Jerusalem Quartet

The Jerusalem Quartet will open our 2013-2014 season on Thursday, October 3rd! They performed for MTO in 2011, making their Toronto debut.

Founded back in 1993, they quickly became an award winning quartet. As early as 1996, they were awarded first prize by the Jerusalem Academy. In the years that have followed they have received several awards and many accolades including most recently being nominated for Gramophone Artist of the Year 2013. It is not hard to understand why once you have heard them play. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to the Jerusalem Quartet before, you can find some clips on their YouTube channel.

This talented quartet features Alexander Pavlovsky (first violin), Sergei Bresler (second violin), Ori Kam (viola), and Kyril Ziotnikov (cello). Individually they are each accomplished soloists, having played with several internationally acclaimed orchestras. They have taught students around the world and recorded numerous CDs, individually and as a quartet. When you add to all of this the very busy world wide touring performance schedule of the quartet, you can only be amazed and wonder if they ever sleep!

You can read a bit more about the quartet and its members by visiting their website at

Their program for October 3rd includes Mozart, Shostakovich, and Dvorak. Full details can be found here

Come and join us for an amazing opening night!

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A Luthier and the violin

String instruments are obviously an important part of chamber music. But where do the instruments come from? Who makes them?

As early as the 9th century in Europe, there was the lira – a small bowed instrument that was held upright to be played. Over time, two different classes of lira developed. The lira da gamba (viol for the leg) was held upright between the legs when played and the lira da braccio (viol for the arm) was held in the arms. This further developed into the family of the violin of today.

Luthier is the occupation of someone who makes lutes and string instruments. In the 16th century, Andrea Amati was a respected luthier making lutes and rebecs. He was born in 1505 and died in 1577, residing in Cremona, Italy. Many credit him with developing the violin in the form we know today. There is some debate about that as Brescia has earlier records for the formation of their school. We do know that the oldest surviving violin was made by Amati for Charles IX of France.

Whether or not he was the first one to create the violin as we know it, Amati’s great contributions to the development of the violin cannot be denied. Aside from the physical developments made to the instrument, he was also the father of Antonio and Hieronymus and the grandfather of Nicolo. Antonio and Hieronymus became respected instrument makers in their own right. Nicolo is the member of the family who rises above the rest for the quality of his instruments. He also took on apprentices – among them Antonio Stradivari and Andrea Guarneri.

All in all the Amati family started us off on an amazing journey with amazing instruments!

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A Story in the Music

In music class many years ago, we did a group exercise with the entire class.  A piece of classical music was played and students had to tell the story that they felt the music was conveying.  We did this with several pieces during the class.  We weren’t told anything about the pieces in advance – so we could not be influenced by the composer or the time period.  Different pieces brought out similar stories from many of us.  Everyone had a slightly different connection to each piece but there was often a common thread between the various stories.

This took place over 25 years ago.  While I do not remember the exact pieces of music, I do remember the exercise and the realization that a piece of music could tell an actual story without using words.  I had been playing music for at least 6 years at this point in my life but this one exercise was a light bulb moment for me.  It gave me an entirely new understanding and appreciation of music.  And it taught me just how much of an artist a composer was – to be able to paint such a vivid picture in your mind by using sound was definitely an amazing talent.

Do you have a favourite piece of music that evokes a story for you?

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Mozart and the King of Prussia

Mozart is one of the most well-known classical composers.  Most everyone recognizes his name at least and everyone has probably heard a Mozart composition, even if they didn’t realize it.  Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 and died on December 5, 1791.  Like many composers of the time, Mozart was often commissioned to write pieces.  One of his brief patrons later in his life was King Friedrich Wilhelm II.

Friedrich Wilhelm II (Frederick William II) was the nephew of Frederick the Great and ascended to the throne in 1786.  Frederick the Great had no children and his brother, Augustus William (Frederick William II’s father), had died in 1758.  In 1786 the crown became his.  Unfortunately Friedrich Wilhelm II was not an effective ruler.  He handed over his authority in several areas to his trusted court officials.  He did reform the tax collection and, while this made him loved by the masses, it led to a substantial debt load for the country.

He was, however, a great patron of the arts in general.  With music specifically, he had his own orchestra and he himself played the cello.  He collected music for the cello specifically.  He commissioned works by Haydn, Beethoven, and others.  In May 1789, Mozart was introduced to the King of Prussia.  King Friedrich Wilhelm II commissioned 6 string quartets for himself and 6 piano sonatas for his daughter.

On October 3rd, we will have the pleasure of hearing the Jerusalem Quartet play Quartet in B-flat Major, K589, composed by Mozart.  This is one of the three pieces that he composed for the King of Prussia.  In fact they were the final quartets that Mozart ever wrote.  Mozart never finished the remaining 3 quartets.  Nor did he compose any of the 6 piano sonatas.  Mozart struggled financially and personally and died just 2 years after receiving the initial commission.  The three Prussian quartets were not even published until after his death and at that point no mention was made of the original intention of them being written for King Friedrich Wilhelm II.

It does make you wonder if the King ever did get a chance to play the cello parts that were written for him or to even hear the wonderful quartets that were written because of him.


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Chamber Music – What is it?

As we start our new blog, one of the first questions to ask is what is chamber music? What makes it different enough from other forms of music to give it its own designation? In the simplest terms, it is music composed for a small group of instruments to be played in a room. Chamber music (musique da camera) was composed for domestic purposes which differentiated it from church music (da chiesa).

Initially that ‘room’ was in a palace or in a specifically built music room of a wealthy patron. As times change, that ‘room’ has grown to include concert halls and even pubs! But the essence of the music remains the same – a balance between instruments with each one having an important part to play and none of them being more important than the others. It is a conversation with instruments, including the performers and the audience.

As we progress though this season, we’ll explore more of what makes chamber music different from other forms. We will look at some of the history of chamber music along with some of the various instrument combinations (both old and new), composers, and the instruments themselves.

Come and join us for a conversation!

Remember as is printed in our MTO brochure:

Chamber music is simply classical music composed for small groups of instruments. A conversation among equals, chamber music requires players to listen to each other – attention, respect, give and take, balance. It is thus intimate and accessible for audiences, who are active listeners.

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A new season and a new venture!

Our 42nd season is starting!

We have an exciting line up for this coming season:
Th. Oct. 3 Jerusalem Quartet
Tu. Oct. 8 Arnaldo Cohen
Th. Oct. 31 Academy Ensemble

Th. Nov. 21 Miró Quartet
Tu. Nov. 26 Eve Egoyan

Th. Dec. 5 Gryphon Trio
Th. Dec. 19 Phillip Addis, baritone, with Emily Hamper, pianist

Th. Jan 9 St. Lawrence Quartet
Tu. Jan. 21 Marc-André Hamelin, pianist
Th. Jan. 30 Alcan Quartet

Tu. Feb. 11 Benjamin Grosvenor, pianist
Th. Feb. 27 Stephanie Chua, pianist

Tu. Mar. 11 David Jalbert, pianist
Th. Mar. 20 Arditti Quartet

Th. Apr. 3 Alexandre Da Costa, violinist, with Hélène Mercier, pianist
Th. Apr. 10 Parker Quartet with Kikuei Ikeda, violist

And we are kicking things off with a new venture. MTO will be delving further into the world of social media! We will be increasing our facebook visibility ( ) and you can now find us on Twitter (@Music_Toronto). And we are adding in this blog!

Over the years, Music Toronto has evolved with the times and needs of our audiences. Of course there have always been performances, but those have changed over the years adding in the Contemporary Classics to showcase contemporary chamber music, and a Discovery series to highlight up and coming talent in the classical music field. As the 42nd season is about to start, we are evolving once again and adding this blog to our repertoire. Here we hope to start discussions about chamber music and all that it encompasses. Over the season, we’ll look at artists, composers, history, instruments, and anything else we can from a chamber music angle.

Welcome to our newest venture – Notes and Stuff! We hope you enjoy our postings and that you’ll join us in our musical conversations!

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