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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