Monthly Archives: December 2013

St. Lawrence String Quartet

The St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) is no stranger to MTO audiences!  This lively quartet first performed for our audiences in 1992 and has been performing yearly for us since 1995.   They will be back on our stage this season on January 9, 2014.

We will have the pleasure of being the first Canadian city to have the latest formation of the quartet play.   Mark Fewer (2nd violin) officially joins the SLSQ on January 1st.   MTO audiences have heard Mark play with the SLSQ previously as he has filled in for both Geoff and Scott at different points in the past.

The quartet is Ensemble in Residence at Stanford University.  There they teach masterclasses, play concerts, and enrich the musical lives of students through special projects.  One of these projects is the “Why Music Matters” classes offered by Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies.  Geared toward 14 to 17 year olds, it is an intensive program that explores music over time from several perspectives – culture, technology, history, theory.

Another staple for the SLSQ is their summer Chamber Music Seminar.   This is a 10 day program held at Stanford that combines students aiming for careers in chamber music performance and aspiring adult musicians.   It features daily sessions with members of the SLSQ along with guest instructors each summer.   The summer of 2014 features the members of the Gryphon Trio as some of the guest faculty members.   This year’s seminar takes place from June 20 to 29, 2014 and for more info or an application, visit

We look forward to having the members of the SLSQ – Geoff Nuttall (first violin), Mark Fewer (second violin), Lesley Robertson (viola), and Christopher Costanza (cello) – perform for our first concert of 2014!   Come join us!


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Hugo Wolf

Tonight we will hear Abendbilder by Hugo Wolf sung by Phillip Addis. Wolf was born on March 13, 1860 and died on February 22, 1903, shortly before he turned 43 years old. In his short life, he left us over 300 pieces of music.

His forte was lieder – art songs. And Abendbilder is a piece composed just before he turned 17! It is based on three poems by Nikolaus Lenau (the pen name for Nikolaus Franz Niembsch Edler von Strehlenau). Wolf was a child prodigy who started learning the piano and violin at the age of 4. He did not work well in a formal school setting as subjects other than music held no interest for him. He left 3 schools before attending the Vienna Conservatory. And even there, he had conflicts with his teachers and left (or was asked to leave depending on who tells the story) after less than 2 years. Despite his lack of formal education, he spent most of his life earning a living as a composer, with a brief stint as a critic.

Another composer who left us too soon and leaves us wondering what else he could have accomplished when he did so much in a short period of time!

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Waypoints, by Erik Ross – a world premiere!

Along with supporting Canadian artists, Music Toronto is often honoured with world premieres of new pieces. This coming Thursday, December 19th, Phillip Addis will sing the world premiere of Waypoints composed by Erik Ross, with text by Zachariah Wells.

Wells’ original poem was published in the summer 2012 edition of The Fiddlehead, a literary journal published at the University of New Brunswick. In existence for more than 65 years, The Fiddlehead has a mandate “to publish accomplished poetry, short fiction, and Canadian literature reviews; to discover and promote new writing talent; to represent the Atlantic region’s lively cultural and literary diversity; and to place the best of new and established Canadian writing in an international context.” (

Born in PEI, Zachariah Wells has lived and travelled across all of Canada. He currently resides in Halifax. To find out more about his writing, visit his website at

Composer Erik Ross completed his Doctor of Music degree at the University of Toronto back in 2002. He has composed commissioned pieces for several well known groups including The Gyphon Trio. His work has been performed across Canada, and in the U.S., Australia, England, and Japan. With a passion for education, he teaches piano and composition lessons, along with theory and improvisation. In the years 2000, 2004, and 2005, Ross was an instructor with the Gryphon Trio in their composition program at Earl Haig Secondary School. You can learn more about Dr. Ross and hear some of his previous works on his website at


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Benjamin Britten

2013 marks the 100th year of the birth of Benjamin Britten.   Celebrations started back in September and will continue until April of 2014.   You can find out about celebrations happening worldwide with this link

For those who don’t know, Britten was a British twentieth century composer, conductor and pianist.  He was a major contributor to British opera and classical music and, in 1976 at the age of 63, he passed away leaving over 100 major works for us to enjoy.   As is true for many important composers, he left a legacy that includes more than just his music.   Britten, along with Peter Pears and Eric Crozier, founded the Aldeburgh Festival (now called Aldeburgh Music ) and he was instrumental in creating Snape Maltings Concert Hall (and in having it rebuilt in 1969 after it was destroyed by fire only 2 years after it was initially built).

On December 19, 2013, we will hear Phillip Addis sing Songs and Proverbs of William Blake by Benjamin Britten. With Addis’ wonderful voice and Britten’s amazing music, it is sure to be a memorable moment in the program.

To learn more about Britten’s music, visit

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Phillip Addis

On December 19th, Music Toronto will present Phillip Addis as the first concert of our Discovery Series, where we showcase upcoming and coming artists.

The award-winning Addis is a Canadian baritone who currently resides in Stratford.   He completed a Bachelor of Music at Queen’s University and received a diploma in operatic performance from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music.   He took part in the apprenticeship program at the Atelier Lyrique de L’Opéra de Montréal and studied at The Britten-Pears School and the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute.

Addis has performed across Canada and the US as well as in Europe and Japan, with such companies as Atlanta Opera, Opéra Français de New York, Calgary Opera, Opera Atelier, l’Opéra de Montréal, Amadeus Choir, Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec, Elora Festival Singers, Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Edmonton and New Brunswick symphonies, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, and Opera Carolina.

For more information on Phillip Addis, visit his website at The Britten-Pears School and the Canadian Vocal Arts Institute.

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Often music pieces are dedicated to someone by the composer.  Sometimes these dedications are to a family member, to a lover or love interest, to an honoured patron, or to the composer’s muse.  This practice has been in place for centuries!

Tonight we will hear Trio in D Major, Op 70, No. 1, Ghost by Beethoven.  This piece was written in 1808 in Heiligenstadt, Vienna and published in 1809.   Opus 70 consists of two piano trios and Beethoven dedicated them to Countess Anna Maria von Erdödy.

Born in 1779 and married at 17, Countess Anna Maria von Erdödy eventually separated from her husband and lived in Vienna.  A pianist herself, she held music soirées at her Vienna apartment.  She and Beethoven met in 1804, most likely through mutual musical friends.  By 1808, Beethoven was actively considering leaving Vienna. Countess von Erdödy was instrumental in establishing an alliance between Prince Lobkowitz, Prince Kinsk and Archduke Rudolph which resulted in Beethoven being given an annual salary of 4,000 florins if he agreed to reside permanently in Vienna.  Beethoven agreed and stayed in Vienna for the remainder of his life.  To express his gratitude for her part in this arrangement, Beethoven wrote and dedicated the two piano trios to the Countess.

What a wonderful gift to give someone!


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Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn is another child prodigy who lived a short life.  Born in 1809, he passed away in 1847 at the age of 38.

In that short time, he accomplished much with his life.  As we know he composed many beautiful pieces.  He also studied, travelled and performed throughout Europe, conducted, socialized with the elite, and performed concerts for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Aside from his music, one of his lasting legacies was founding the Leipzig Conservatory.  Now known as Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig (The University of Music and Theatre “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig), it was founded in 1843 and is one of the oldest music universities in Germany.

Mendelssohn was the music director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra when he founded the school, a position he held from 1835 until his death (with a one year interruption in 1843).  The members of the orchestra were required to teach in the school.  This practice remained in place until 1990.  There have been many notable students and teachers at the conservatory over the years.  Clara and Robert Schumann were both teachers there at one point during their careers.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of amazing things that can be accomplished during such a short life span. And always ponder what else could they have gone on to do?


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