Monthly Archives: January 2014

Federico Mompou

Federico Mompou is a Catalan Spanish composer who was born in 1893. Mompou spent most of his life in Barcelona and Paris. He was a quiet, shy man who studied as a pianist. He turned to composing as he did not enjoy giving public presentations. He married late in life at the age of 64. His wife, pianist Carmen Bravo, was 30 years younger and they spent the next 30 years together until Mompou’s death. Several more pieces of Mompou’s music were discovered after Bravo’s death in 2007.

During his 94 years, he composed many pieces of beautiful piano music. On February 11th, we will hear just one set of those pieces, Paisajes, when it is played by Benjamin Grosvenor. Paisajes translates as Landscapes. The word paisaje encompasses scenery and view in its translation. I found it interesting to know that “paisaje interior” means “state of mind”. Mompou’s Paisajes consists of 3 pieces written at different times. La fuente y la campana (The Fountain and the Bell) was written in 1942; El lago (The Lake) in 1946; and Carros de Galicia (Carts of Galicia) was done in 1960. Each is inspired by views known to Mompou but evoking different states of mind. Looking forward to hearing it played live!

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Benjamin Grosvenor

On February 11th, Benjamin Grosvenor takes to our stage for his Toronto debut! His program includes Andante & Rondo capriccioso, Op.14 by Mendelssohn; Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op.90, No.3 by Schubert; Humoreske, Op.20 by Schumann; Paisajas by Mompou; 2 Fairy Tales by Medtner; Valses nobles et sentimentales by Ravel; Valse de Faust by Gounod/Liszt.

Born in 1992, this young pianist started playing at the age of 6, taking lessons initially from his mother, a professional piano teacher. Since then he has taken lessons with several pianists including Stephen Hough and Arnaldo Cohen, both well-known on our stage and to our audiences. He has devoted many hours to his art over the years and the results can be seen in the many awards (winner of the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition, Gramophone’s ‘Young Artist of the Year and ‘Instrumental Award’ to name just a few), the many international performances as a soloist and with respected orchestras (such as London Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Tokyo Symphony), and an exclusive record deal with Decca signed in 2011 (the youngest British musician to sign to the label and the first British pianist in close to 60 years). For more information on Grosvenor, you can visit his website at http://www.benjamingrosvenor.co.uk/

Come and join us for this exciting evening! https://www.facebook.com/events/1455951134624985/?ref=5

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Count Razumovsky

Back at the beginning of the season, we heard one of the Prussian string quartets from Mozart played by the Jerusalem Quartet. On January 30th, we will be treated to another one of the Prussian string quartets with the Alcan Quartet, Quartet in F Major, K. 590. These pieces were originally commissioned by the King of Prussia. (https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/mozart-and-the-king-of-prussia/) On the 30th, we will also be treated to a piece from Beethoven that was commissioned by a Count. The String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, opus 59, no. 2 is one of three pieces written for Count Razumovsky.

Andrey Kirillovich Razumovsky was a Russian diplomat stationed in Vienna for many years. He was born in November of 1752 and married in 1788. His marriage was in Vienna to Countess Elisabeth Thun, sister to the wife of Prince Lichnowsky, a friend of Beethoven. Razumovsky was also the brother-in-law to Prince Joseph Lobkowitz, another of Beethoven’s main supporters. It is believed that Razumovsky met Beethoven fairly soon after Beethoven’s arrival in Vienna in 1792. This is the same year that Razumovsky was appointed as the diplomatic representative to the Habsburg court in Vienna. At this point, Razumovsky held the title of Count and eventually he would be elevated to Prince by Alexander I.

The Razumovsky quartets were commissioned and composed in 1806 and published in 1808. Each piece was to contain a Russian theme. In String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, opus 59, no. 2, Beethoven used a folk song called Slava in the fourth movement. Count Razumovsky was an amateur violin player, playing second violin at times with quartets. He was a patron of the arts, known for his art collection. In 1808, he established a house string quartet with Ignaz Schuppanzigh, Louis Sina, Franz Weiss, and Joseph Linke.

Patrons play a large part in classical music and we are grateful for all of them past, present, and future!

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The Alcan Quartet

The Alcan Quartet returns to our stage on January 30th. They were last here with us in 1998. On the 30th, they will bring us Quartet in F Major, K. 590 by Mozart, Quartet No. 1 Griko (2012) by Alessandro Annunziata (https://mtochambermusic.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/alessandro-annunziata/) and Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2, Razumovsky by Beethoven.

The Alcan Quartet was formed in 1989. Its current members are Laura Andriani (violin), Nathalie Camus (violin), Luc Beauchemin (viola), and David Ellis (cello). All of the quartet members are also connected with the Orchestre symphonique du Saguenay Lac St-Jean in Chicoutimi, Québec. They are performed across Canada as well as in the United States, Europe, and Asia. About to celebrate their 25th season, the quartet will release the complete cycle of 16 Beethoven string quartets in 2014. Along with their many CDs and concert performances, they have also presented over 100 live radio broadcasts to date.

You can find out more about the quartet on their website at http://quatuoralcan.com/en

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Alessandro Annunziata

Alessandro Annunziata is an Italian composer, born in 1968. He has been involved with music for most of his life, having started playing and composing when he was quite young. Along with being a composer, Annunziata has also been a musicologist, journalist, teacher, and lecturer. To learn more about him, visit his website at http://www.alessandroannunziata.com/

A great influence on his artistic development was his connection with Dimitri Nicolau, a Greek composer who became an Italian citizen. In his piece entitled String Quartet No. 1, Griko, he draws on folk material from Salento, an area in southern Italy with a Greek history. Salento was once known as Messapia and inhabited by Messapii who came from Crete. The Griko dialect is still spoken by some residents of Apulia, a small region in Salento. On January 30th, we will hear the Alcan Quartet play String Quartet No. 1, Griko. Here’s a clip to wet your appetite! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E8kugxJEcIc

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Marc-André Hamelin

No stranger to our stage, Marc-André Hamelin will be back on Tuesday, January 21st! He first performed for Music Toronto during our 1986/87 season and has played a total of 8 concerts for our patrons.

He is known for his brilliance in playing the standard classical repertoire as well as being a champion of works by amazing but not as well-known composers. We will have a chance to hear both in the upcoming concert as he will play a piece by Nikolai Medtner (Sonata in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 2, Night Wind) and a piece by Schubert (4 Impromptus, D935). Hamelin also composes and this season we will again be treated to one of his own pieces – Barcarolle (2012). It is sure to be an amazing evening!

Hamelin is French Canadian, born in Montreal, where he initially studied. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec (National Order of Quebec). He currently lives in Boston and has toured and played world-wide. His distinguished award-winning career has included many solo recitals along with being a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Montréal Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the London Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony to name a few. He has recorded over 50 CDs with Hyperion Records, including his Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano which won the 2008 Juno for Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber Ensemble.

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Bows

A violin without a bow gives a very different sound! As important as the actual stringed instruments are, the bows are just as important.

In the most basic sense, a bow is a long piece of shaped wood with some type of material stretched from end to end to form a ribbon. In the case of bows used with classical musical instruments, generally the ‘stick’ is a formed piece of wood (pernambuco being the most sought after) that is carefully shaped and the ‘ribbon’ to join the ends is made from horsehair. Pernambuco is an endangered species and other woods and synthetic materials are being used more often now when making new bows. Some success is being had with carbon fibre bows.

A bow maker, known as an archetier, makes, repairs, and restores bows for instruments such as the violin, viola, or cello. Much time can be spent to get the correct shape (called the camber) of the stick. And up to 200 horse tail hairs can be used for a violin bow, more for larger instruments that normally have a wider ribbon.

As the bow is moved across the strings, it causes vibrations which the instrument puts out as a sound. The same instrument can give different sounds depending on the bow used. Thus the choice of bow is a very important and personal decision for each musician.

Do you play a stringed instrument with a bow? Do you have a bow story to share?

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Bohuslav Martinu

Bohuslav Martinu is another composer whose life was filled with many changes. He was born on December 8, 1890 in Policka, a small town in Bohemia. His father was the town’s fire watcher and bell ringer and they lived in the tower of one of the local churches. He spent much of the early years of his life in the tower looking out upon the world as he was too weak to climb the 193 step staircase and had to be carried.

He played the violin and did concerts in his town at a young age. With financial help from the townsfolk, he attended the Prague Conservatory starting in 1906. School life did not agree with him and he was eventually dismissed in 1910. Martinu went back to Policka for a while, teaching, playing, and composing. In 1920, he started as a second violinist in the Czech Philharmonic.

1923 brought another major shift in Martinu’s life. He moved to Paris. This brought about many changes for him. Here he studied composition with Albert Roussel until Roussel’s death in 1937. He met and married a French seamstress. And it is also here in Paris that Martinu composed many pieces including his String Quartet No. 5 in 1938. We will have the pleasure of hearing this quartet performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet at their concert on January 9th. It was the last string quartet Martinu composed in Paris and was inspired by a trip back to Czechoslovakia.

Blacklisted due to his connections with the Czech resistance, he fled Paris in 1940 when the Germany army approached France. Eventually he made his way to America in 1941. He stayed in the U.S. until 1953, writing numerous pieces including his 6 symphonies. In 1953, Martinu returned to France and spent most of his remaining years in Europe. He passed away in 1959 in Switzerland.

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Nikolai Medtner

Nikolai Medtner was a Russian composer and pianist. Based on the Gregorian calendar, his birthday is listed as January 5, 1880. When he was born in Moscow, the Julien calendar was still in use and his birthday fell on December 24, 1879. Either way we look at it I guess he was a holiday baby. He passed away in November of 1951.

Taking piano lessons from family members at a young age, he started at the Moscow Conservatory at the age of 10 and graduated at the age of 20. Originally looking at becoming a professional pianist, he was drawn as well to composing and made that his focus. All of his published work includes the piano. His friend and contemporary, Sergei Rachmaninoff, was a big fan of Medtner’s work. Rachmaninoff arranged a US/Canada tour for Medtner in 1924. Medtner wasn’t enthralled with the commercial side of touring and eventually settled in London, England to teach, play, and compose.

Marc-André Hamelin has helped increase the popularity of Nikolai Medtner with his well received recordings of Medtner’s piano sonatas. Later in January we will have the pleasure of hearing Hamelin perform the Sonata in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 2, Night Wind on our stage, known as one of Medtner’s more difficult pieces.

On the other side of Medtner’s work are his 38 Skazki or Fairy Tales as they are called in English. Skazki means tale or legend and the inspiration for them is the Russian tradition of telling folk tales. Medtner is a musical storyteller. We will also get to experience this side of Medtner’s work this season when pianist Benjamin Grosvenor joins us in February and performs a couple of the Fairy Tales.

To learn more about Nikolai Medtner, visit http://www.medtner.org.uk.

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