Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Walter Carsen Prize

The Gryphon Trio will be presented with the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in Performing Arts prior to their performance on Thursday December 5, 2013.  At that performance, they will play a piece to celebrate their 20th anniversary commissioned from R. Murray Schafer, a recipient of the Walter Carsen Prize in 2005.

So what is the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in Performing Arts?  It “recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievement by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance.” (  The prize is awarded annually, cycling through the various mediums, with music being the category of choice once every four years.  Nominees are put forward by a fellow peer and often the prize is awarded to an individual.  It can, as it has been this year, be awarded to a small ensemble provided that each artist meet the guidelines. The award is administered by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Walter Carsen passed away last year at the age of 100.  He was a very successful businessman and an amazing supporter of the arts in general.  He had a long and supportive association with the National Ballet of Canada, helping to fund the Walter Carsen Centre and underwriting a number of productions.  He supported the Shaw Festival and the Art Gallery of Ontario.  In 2001, he donated over $1 million to create the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in Performing Arts in order to recognize outstanding arts professionals.   His generous spirit shall live on with the many projects he has helped create.

Music Toronto’s audiences have always known how special the Trio is and it is always a pleasure to have them perform on our stage.  It will be extra special this year as we watch them receive well deserved national recognition.  Congratulations to the Gryphon Trio!


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The Gryphon Trio and Education

The Gryphon Trio is well-known to our regular Music Toronto audiences!  We have heard them perform many times over the years and are delighted that they are celebrating their 20th year as an ensemble this season.

Talented and award winning, they are also passionate about education.  Education of music students and of music lovers.  The three members of the trio – Annalee Patipatanakoon (violin), Roman Borys (cello), and James Parker (piano) – all teach at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music.  They also give master classes and workshops when on tour.  If teaching, touring, and recording Juno award winning CDs wasn’t enough to keep them busy, they also have a couple of student composition projects.  As part of their December 5th concert, we will hear a piece composed for the Gryphon by a student composer.  This piece will come from the Young Composers Program at Toronto’s Claude Watson Arts High School.

Listen Up! is a project started by the Gryphon in 2011.  This year long endeavour allows students to experience the process of composition from a view point that is meaningful and personal to them as children.  They chose the theme; they create poems (later to be used as potential lyrics); they learn the basics of composition.  The end result is a compilation for chorus and the Gryphon Trio put together by the master composer of the project.  While the initial focus may start with a particular grade, the end result of this project involves the entire school and much of the community, with a final performance being given that has the entire audience participate.  To find out more about Listen Up!, visit

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Antonio Stradivari

Stradivarius is a well known name, especially in the world of classical music. Antonio Stradivari was most likely an apprentice of Nicolo Amati.  A little while back, I wrote about Nicolo’s grandfather, Andrea Amati.

Stradivari was born in 1644 and lived until December of 1737 – 93 years.  Over 70 of those years were spent crafting instruments.  His apprenticeship most likely started when he was between the ages of 12 and 14.  His oldest surviving violin dates back to 1666 when he was 22 years old.  At the age of 23, he married his first wife, Francesca Feraboschi.  They had 5 surviving children and were married for 31 years, until her death in 1698.  At the age of 55, he married for a second time.  He and Zambelli Costa had 5 children as well.  At the time of his death, two of his sons were working with him and his business passed on to Francesco, who only survived for another 6 years.

Like many good craftsmen, he honed his skills over time, experimented with changes to his instruments, and created a variety of final products that would stand the test of time.  While known by many for his violins, Stradivari also made lutes, guitars, and harps.  Estimates place the number of instruments he made between 1,000 and 1,100. 650 of those are still in existence today with at least 450 of them being violins.  He has given us a lasting legacy of excellence.

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Linda C. Smith and Michael Finnissy

As mentioned in a previous post, our first Contemporary Classics concert of the season takes place on Tuesday, November 26th.  Eve Egoyan will play several pieces including The Underfolding by Linda C. Smith, and Folklore 2 by Michael Finnissy.

The Underfolding by Linda C. Smith is a 2001 piece for Stephen Clarke, through a Canada Council commission.  Linda was born in New York City in 1957.  She currently lives in Toronto, having moved here in 1981.  She studied both in New York and at the University of Victoria in BC.  From 1988 to 1993, she was the Artistic Director of Arraymusic.  Currently she is a member of URGE, a performance collective whose mandate is “to co-create original musically-driven performance works, which use the variety of skills, techniques and sound worlds of the members of the ensemble”     To read more about Linda C. Smith’s works, you can visit her website at

From Michael Finnissy, we have the work Folklore 2 from 1993/94.  Born in London in March of 1946, Michael started to play the piano around the age of 4 and a half.  Without very much formal music teaching, he was awarded a Foundation Scholarship, allowing him to study at the Royal College of Music. Later he was able to travel to Italy and study with Roman Vlad on an RMC Octavia Travelling Scholarship.  Additional money for his studies came from playing piano for dance classes.  This led to an association with the London School of Contemporary Dance, where he founded their music department.  Currently he is the Chair of Composition at the University of Southampton.  To read more about Michael Finnissy, visit his website at

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Bartolomeo Cristofori

Three of our next four concerts will involve the piano in some form – Eve Egoyan in a solo piano concert; the Gryphon Trio; and baritone Phillip Addis accompanied by pianist Emily Hamper. It started me wondering – who invented this marvelous instrument?

Bartolomeo Cristofori is considered the inventor of the modern piano. Born in 1655 in Padua, he lived until 1731. In 1688, he was employed by Ferdinando de Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany. Ferdinando was a lover of music and patron of the arts, played the harpsichord, and had an extensive instrument collection (84 at the time of his death in 1713). Cristofori became his keeper of the instruments and along with maintaining the growing collection, added to it with his own musical instrument inventions – a spinettone, an oval spinet, and a clavicytherium (an upright harpsichord). Around 1700, Cristofori built what he called an Arpicembalo. It could be played to produce sounds both soft (piano) and loud (forte) and eventually the name became the more familiar pianoforte. While the current piano has changed slightly since then with additional inventions from others, Cristofori’s arpicembalo contained all of the elements (hammers, strings, soundboard, etc.) that are found in modern day pianos, with only 4 octaves. Three of his original pianos from 1720 still exist today along with a spinettone, two oval spinets, and a few of his harpsichord. Several of these instruments are at the Museum of Musical Instruments of the University of Leipzig, Germany.

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Eve Egoyan

Eve Egoyan will grace our stage on Thursday November 26th for the third time, previously performing for us in 2000 and 2008. Eve will be performing works by James Tenney, Piers Hellawell, Linda C. Smith, and Michael Finnissy.

She grew up in Victoria, BC and studied at the University of Victoria, Hochschule der Künste in West Berlin, the Royal Academy of Music in London, England, and finished her formal studies with an M.Mus. at the University of Toronto.

Well respected by composers, Eve is the recipient of several awards and commissions. She has spent much of the past 20 years working with new music and has performed in Canada, Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Her 9 CDs have received great reviews and three of them have ended up on Top Ten lists, including “thethingsinbetween” (1999), which was chosen by the Globe and Mail as a top ten of any genre.

She is currently working on composing her own piece with a Chalmers Arts Fellowship – sure to be a success from such a talented musician. To read more about Eve, visit her website at

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A bit about Piers Hellawell

On November 26th, we will have our first Contemporary Classics concert of the season. Eve Egoyan will play pieces by James Tenney, Piers Hellawell, Linda C. Smith, and Michael Finnissy.

The piece by Piers Hellawell is called Piani, Latebre. A lover of languages, in his title he has combined a variation of the Italian word piano, meaning layers, with the word latebra, meaning hiding place.

Piers Hellawell was born in 1956 in England. He is the Professor of Composition at Queen’s University of Belfast. His professional association there started at the age of 24 as the composer-in-residence. He composes both chamber and orchestral pieces and has been commissioned for a wide variety of work over the years. His pieces have been performed world wide.

Outside of composing and teaching, he plays the saxophone and does photography. To read more about Piers Hellawell, see portions of his scores, or hear clips of his music, visit his website at

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Miró Quartet

In a couple of weeks, the Miró Quartet will perform on our stage for the third time. They performed for us in 2001 and 2005. This time we will be treated to an all Schubert evening.

The Miró was formed in 1995 and as is true for so many of our quartet performers, they were award winning fairly quickly. 1996 saw them awarded first prize in the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition, and first and grand prize at Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

They have had an extensive performance schedule, touring world wide over the years. In addition to performances as a quartet, they have collaborated with several artists and orchestras on a variety of projects. Coming up in December, the Miró with the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra will premiere a new piece for string quartet and chamber orchestra by Kevin Puts.

The Miró Quartet is the Faculty String Quartet-in-Residence at the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin. There each of the members (Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer – violinists, John Largess – violist, and Joshua Gindele – cellist) mentor and teach with the Young Professional String Quartet Program as well as teaching private lessons and coaching ensembles.

We look forward to hearing this very talented and busy quartet again on November 21st and to seeing their Master Class on November 22nd Join us!

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