Monthly Archives: February 2015

An evening of Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Stankovski

by guest contributor Julie Berridge

On March 10, Till Fellner plays for us the music of Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Alexander Stankovski.

The evening opens with Mozart’s Rondo No. 3 in A minor, K 511. The Rondo is a single movement with repeating varied themes.

Fellner then moves to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. This is how Bach introduced the work.

“… The Well-Tempered Clavier, or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones both as regards the tertia major or Ut Re Mi and as concerns the tertia minor or Re Mi Fa. For the Use and Profit of the Musical Youth Desirous of Learning as well as for the Pastime of those Already Skilled in this Study”.

WTC as it is sometimes referred to, has become much more than a learning tool or a pastime. It is now considered the foundation on which all Western classical music after Bach has been built. It’s a collection of preludes and fugues written in all 24 major and minor keys for a solo keyboard. The collection is made up of Book 1 written in 1722, and Book 2 written in 1742.

After Bach, Fellner performs another Mozart Sonata. The Sonata in E flat K 282 has three movements. The first is a slow and lyrical Adagio. The second is a lively minuet and the third is an Allegro.

Fellner then performs for us a composition by Viennese composer Alexander Stankovski, born in Munich in 1968 and living in Vienna since 1974. Stankovski is now senior lecturer at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz.

The evening concludes with Kreisleriana, Op. 16 written by Schumann in April 1938 in just four days. The composition was inspired by the character of Johannes Kreisleriana an orchestra conductor who appears in three of E.T.A Hoffman’s books. The character is eccentric, wild, mercurial and often colourful. Kreisleriana consists of eight short movements. Together they are the musical expression of myriad moods. Some passionately dramatic and some simple and serene. Some playful, and some solemn and tragic. In the first movement we are introduced to the animated and somewhat manic side of the character. In contrast, the longer second movement reveals the romantic and tender side of the fictional conductor. The third and fifth movements evoke feelings of agitation followed by the slow fourth and sixth movements. In the seventh movement, the conversation between agitation and peacefulness continues. The final movement is for the most part, playful.
In an April 1938 letter to his wife Clara, here is what Schubert said about Kreisleriana,

“But, Clara, I’m overflowing with music and beautiful melodies now—imagine, since my last letter I’ve finished another whole notebook of new pieces. I intend to call it Kreisleriana. You and one of your ideas play the main role in it, and I want to dedicate it to you—yes, to you and nobody else—and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in it—my music now seems to be so simply and wonderfully intricate in spite of all the simplicity, all the complications, so eloquent and from the heart; that’s the way it affects everyone for whom I play it, which I enjoy doing quite frequently”.

Join us on March 10, 2015 for this wonderful evening! http://www.music-toronto.com

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Gryphon Trio – February 26, 2015 concert

By guest contributor Julie Berridge

On February 26 the Gryphon Trio brings us music from a prolific composer of music’s classical period – Haydn, born in 1732; Franz Peter Schubert born in 1797; some very young composers from the Claude Watson program at Earl Haig Secondary School, and Dinuk Wijeratne, a Sri Lankan born, Dubai raised, Canadian based composer, conductor and pianist.

Haydn and Schubert lived in somewhat different worlds in the same country. Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family at their remote estates far from Vienna. Being far away from Vienna, Haydn did not often get to enjoy Vienna’s vibrant entertainment scene. The following excerpt is taken from a letter he wrote to his friend Maria Anna von Genzinger dated February 9, 1790

Well here I sit in my wilderness; forsaken, like some poor orphan, almost without human society; melancholy, dwelling on the memory of past glorious days. Yes; past, alas! And who can tell when these happy hours may return? Those charming meetings? Where the whole circle have but one heart and one soul–all those delightful musical evenings, which can only be remembered, and not described. Where are all those inspired moments? All gone–and gone for long.

In contrast, Schubert’s working life was filled with gaiety. He would compose in the morning, go to coffee shops in the afternoon and then to sing-alongs at the homes of friends in the evening. The delightful musical evenings that Haydn longed for were a regular feature of Schubert’s life.

Dinuk Wijeratne was born in Sri Lanka grew up in Dubai, and acquired his musical education in the UK, and in the US at the Juilliard school of music. He is now based in Canada where for the 9th season he is Director of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra.

So what do these composers and artistes have in common? Three words come immediately to mind: adventure, invention and evolution.

Of Haydn, American musicologist Barbara Russano Hanning has noted, “His compositions had broad appeal because they combined the familiar with the unexpected”.

Of Wijeratne, The New York Times says he can “transform his instrument [the piano] into a drum, a zither and a scampering melodic partner”. The Halifax Chronicle Herald states that “Dinuk Wijeratne’s boundary-crossing work sees him equally at home in collaborations with symphony orchestras and string quartets, tabla players and DJs…”

Schubert’s work has been cited as the source of the modern pop song. The Emmy award winning British composer Howard Goodall in drawing links between the songs of British pop singer Adele and Schubert, has said, “Strip away the cultural differences, the clothes and anything that dates them, and there is a strong connection”.

The Young Composer Project at the Claude Watson Arts program at Earl Haig Secondary School will bring to us the music of young high school composers. Again: adventure, invention and evolution.

The evening promises a musical exploration of all of these concepts. Not to mention, delight.

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Alexander Glazunov

Tonight we will hear Le Chant du Menestrel, Op. 71, composed by Alexander Glazunov. A Russian composer, he was born in St. Petersburg 150 years ago in August of 1865.

Glazunov started studying piano at the age of 9 and started composing in his pre-teen years. When Glazunov was in his mid teens, his work was shown to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who took Glazunov on as a student. This and the support of wealthy timber merchant, Mitrofan Belyayev, started Glazunov on a path to international success.

In addition to his compositions, Glazunov spent many years at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. In 1899 he became a professor there. He was appointed to Director in 1905 and held that position until 1928. Glazunov was a key figure in reorganizing the Conservatory into the Leningrad Conservatory following the revolution. Shostakovich was a student at the Conservatory during Glazunov’s tenure.

Like many Russian musicians, Glazunov went into exile in 1928. He toured the US and Europe and maintained that his reasons for not returning to Russia were health related. In this way, he maintained a good standing with the Russian government that other musicians did not. He eventually settled in France, married at the age of 64, and died at the age of 70, leaving a large body of great works to be enjoyed!

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Dénes Várjon

by guest contributor Julie Berridge

Dénes Várjon opens with Beethoven’s Sonata in G Major, Op. 14, No. 2 composed in 1798 and 1799. It’s a lyrical, lively and often humorous Sonata.

Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 is a set of eight pieces, the title of which was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Fantasiestücke in Callots Manie. The composition was also inspired by fictional lives that Schumann created based on the real lives of his friends and enemies. For years Schumman developed these fictional characters in his diaries and letters to friends. He then began using these characters in his work as a music critic. In 1837, these characters became the inspiration for Fantasiestucke, Op. 12.

The composition is both passionate and dreamy. It begins with “Des Abends” (In the Evening). It is a “gentle picture of dusk” followed by followed by a parley between passion and dreams. It ends with what Schumann described as the combining of wedding and funeral bells. In a letter to his wife Clara he wrote, “At the time, I thought: well in the end it all resolves itself into a jolly wedding. But at the close, my painful anxiety about you returned”.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is Surreal and hallucinatory. It is based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand which features a mermaid a monster and a corpse.
Gaspard de la Nuit is comprised of 3 movements. The first movement Odine, is the tale of a mermaid who is trying to seduce a man by singing to him about her magical and fantastic would. The man tells Odin that he is married and he rejects her. Odin’s reaction is at first stormy, followed by quiet acceptance and then laughter. All of this is delightfully conveyed by Ravel.

In the second movement Le Gibet, Ravel paints a musical picture of a solitary corpse. The sounding of a B flat throughout the movement sustains the lonely and desolate musical landscape of this piece.

The third movement Scarbo conveys grandeur as much as it conveys horror. In the poem, Scarbo is an evil dwarf who makes frenzied appearances at night, sometimes hiding – waiting to pounce and scare. Ravel captures all of this.

Bartok’s Out of Doors is a set of five pieces, each of which are a depiction of Hungarian peasant life. In these five pieces we hear rocking melodies, drumbeats, and the nocturnal sounds of crickets and frogs.

Bartok fell in love with folk songs when he heard a peasant girl singing a Transylvanian tune in 1904. After hearing the girl, he said to his sister, “I now have a plan. I will collect the most beautiful Hungarian folksongs and raise them to the level of art songs”.

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