St. Lawrence String Quartet 2017

The St. Lawrence Quartet is back on our stage on January 26, 2017!  They have been performing on our stage since 1992 and are known world-wide as a very respected quartet.

Geoff Nuttall (violin), Owen Dalby (violin), Lesley Robertson (viola), and Christopher Costanza (cello) all return to perform the following programme this year for our audience:

Haydn – Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 20, No. 1

Jonathan Berger – “Swallow” (2014), written for the SLSQ

Leos Janacek – String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata”

Haydn – Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5

 

The SLSQ is the quartet in residence at Stanford University.  For several years the quartet has been involved in a summer Chamber Music Seminar held there.  The dates for 2017 are from June 24 to July 2 and applications are being accepted until February 1, 2017.  This seminar gives attendees the opportunity to focus on chamber music by working with the SLSQ and special guest teachers.  For more information, visit this link https://music.stanford.edu/ensembles-lessons/ensemble-in-residence-slsq/slsq-stanford/seminar

We have a few previous blog postings on the SLSQ here on this site so feel free to do a quick search and read some of our past thoughts.  If you would like more information on the quartet or its members, you can find all of that on their website at http://www.slsq.com/   And to hear them in person in Toronto, come and join us on January 26, 2017 http://music-toronto.com/

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Jonathan Berger

Jonathan Berger is an American composer born in New York in 1954.  He obtained a Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts and a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Composition from Stanford University.  He currently holds the position of Denning Family Provostial Professorship in Music at Stanford University in California.

The founding co-director of Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA, now the Stanford Arts Institute) and founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology, Berger composes for a wide variety of styles – opera, chamber, orchestral, vocal, to name a few.  His work has been performed world-wide and he has been commissioned by several music foundations and ensembles over the years.

Along with composing and teaching, Berger is a researcher in areas related to music, science, and technology with over 60 publications.

Read more about Berger and his works on his website at http://jonathanberger.net/bio/.  You can listen to some of his pieces on his site as well.  This link will take you directly to his music page – http://jonathanberger.net/all-music/

Join us with the St. Lawrence String Quartet on January 26th to hear his piece “Swallow”, written in 2014 for the SLSQ.  http://music-toronto.com/quartets/STLQ.htm

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Sean Chen

We will start off 2017 with the Toronto debut of pianist Sean Chen.

Still under 30, Chen has toured much America simply as a citizen.  He was born in Florida, grew up in California, went to school at Yale and Juilliard, and currently lives in Kansas City.  Betty, his wife, plays violin with the Kansas City Symphony.

As a performer, Chen has performed with many US orchestras and given recitals around the world.  He is the third prize winner at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.  2015 saw him named a fellow of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts.  He was the only one in 2015 to receive 2 years of funding and planned to put some of that towards purchasing his own piano.

A Steinway artist, he has recorded for their Spirio system.  Read more about Steinway’s Spirio player piano system here – http://www.steinway.com/news/press-releases/steinway-sons-announces-steinway-spirio-a-new-high-resolution-player-piano-system

Read more about him on his website – http://seanchenpiano.com/about.  Join us on January 10, 2017 to hear Sean Chen perform live.  http://music-toronto.com/piano/seanchen.htm

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The musical compositions of Schoenberg, Kelly Ann Murphy, Brahms and young locals. (Or, lovely stories as told by the Gryphon Trio)

by guest blogger Julie Berridge

Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), was composed in 1899. Schoenberg composed it as a sextet and Eduard Steuermann later arranged it for a trio.

Verklärte Nacht was inspired by a poem of the same name written by German poet Richard Fedor Leopold Dehmel. The poem tells a lovely story of a night transfigured by a revelation of a woman who has found her true love around the time she discovers that she has become pregnant by another man. As the new lovers walk through the forest, the woman reveals her sadness and regret. The man’s response is beautiful and totally unexpected.

Below is an English translation of the poem. The composition matches the moods of the poem. Come hear the Gryphon Trio tonight, and see if you agree.

Two people are walking through a bare, cold wood;
the moon keeps pace with them and draws their gaze.
The moon moves along above tall oak trees,
there is no wisp of cloud to obscure the radiance
to which the black, jagged tips reach up.
A woman’s voice speaks:
“I am carrying a child, and not by you.
I am walking here with you in a state of sin.
I have offended grievously against myself.
I despaired of happiness,
and yet I still felt a grievous longing
for life’s fullness, for a mother’s joys
and duties; and so I sinned,
and so I yielded, shuddering, my sex
to the embrace of a stranger,
and even thought myself blessed.
Now life has taken its revenge,
and I have met you, met you.”
She walks on, stumbling.
She looks up; the moon keeps pace.
Her dark gaze drowns in light.
A man’s voice speaks:
“Do not let the child you have conceived
be a burden on your soul.
Look, how brightly the universe shines!
Splendour falls on everything around,
you are voyaging with me on a cold sea,
but there is the glow of an inner warmth
from you in me, from me in you.
That warmth will transfigure the stranger’s child,
and you bear it me, begot by me.
You have transfused me with splendour,
you have made a child of me.”
He puts an arm about her strong hips.
Their breath embraces in the air.
Two people walk on through the high, bright night.
Give me Phoenix Wing to Fly is a composition by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy, Commissioned by the Gryphon Quartet in 1997. Murphy has noted that the words of John Keats inspired the work.

But when I am consumed in the fire,
Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire

Those are lines from Keats’ sonnet “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again”. Keats wrote that sonnet in 1818, but those words are perhaps even more relevant today.

Murphy has noted,

“I’ve always been intrigued by the myth of the Phoenix – a bird that immolates in fire and then rises up again from its own ashes. It is such a powerful image, and one which is relevant to contemporary life, as we find ourselves balanced somewhat precariously on the brink of disaster. No matter how devastating any single event might be, you can still recover and begin again: a do-over. The success in the attempt and the belief that it is possible to move forward”.

Give Me Phoenix Wings To Fly: A shouted demand to the heavens, or a whispered prayer? Struggle, angst, chaos, exploration, tenuous grasps of the thing we most want that eludes us. Freedom caught but can it be held? Come, listen and decide. Tonight.

It’s only fitting that a theme so apt to contemporary society be followed by compositions of very young contemporary composers in the 2016 Gryphon Trio Young Composers Program from the Claude Watson program at Earl Haig Secondary School. This program was initiated by the Gryphon Trio in 1996, to provide mentorship to students as they create original works. What moods and emotions will you hear in these compositions? Come and find out.

Brahms’ Trio in B-sharp Major brings the evening to a close. It develops through four movements. The work opens with a pensive but sweet piano solo, followed by an engaging cello solo. The second movement starts with a whispered skip followed by increased exuberance. Then comes the Adagio third movement. Mysterious, serene and meditative. The final movement approaches symphonic proportions. The scope and sound of this work is enormous. Warm, sentimental, lyrical, rich and intense.

All in all, an evening not to be missed.

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Blue Engine String Quartet and Robert Kortgaard

December 1, 2016 brings us a concert called Pocket of Time, a musical tribute to Pulitzer Prize poet Elizabeth Bishop.  Soprano Suzie LeBlanc will be accompanied through out the evening by pianist Robert Kortgaard and the Blue Engine String Quartet.

For this concert, the Blue Engine String Quartet will feature Anne Simons (violin), Jennifer Jones (violin), Kerry Kavalo (viola), Hilary Brown (cello).  Formed in 1997, the members of the quartet are all members of Symphony Nova Scotia.  When not performing with the symphony or as the quartet, they are often sharing their knowledge through teaching.  You can read more about the quartet here – http://www.blueenginestringquartet.com/about.php

Pianist Robert Kortgaard was born in Regina and grew up in Calgary.  He studied at the Juilliard School, obtaining both his bachelor and his master’s degrees there.  He continued his studies in England and Italy thanks to awards from the Canada Council.  Today he is based in Toronto and travels the world to perform.  He is also the Artistic Director of the Leigh Summer Festival.  Find out more about the festival here – http://www.leithfestival.ca/

Join us on December 1st to hear these great artists live! http://music-toronto.com/quartets/suzi_leblanc.htm

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Suzie LeBlanc

Suzie LeBlanc will take to our stage on December 1, 2016 with a musical tribute to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop.  She will be joined by pianist Robert Kortgaard and the Blue Engine String Quartet.

LeBlanc was born in Edmunston, New Brunswick and has performed around the world.  In addition to performing and recording, she is the co-artistic director of Le Nouvel Opéra (www.lenouvelopera.com) in Montreal.

While generally known for her baroque singing, her concert on December 1st will be focused on another one of her passions – Elizabeth Bishop.  She is the honorary patron of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia.  LeBlanc was involved in the creation of the Centenary Festival, which took place in 2011, and the Elizabeth Bishop Legacy Recording, which was released in 2012.  Find our more about Bishop on this website – http://elizabethbishopns.org/

Learn more about Suzie on her website at http://suzieleblanc.com/site/

The December 1st concert in titled “A Pocket of Time” and includes the following pieces:

The silken water is weaving and weaving by Alasdair MacLean

Sunday 4am (Elizabeth Bishop) by John Plant

String Quartet No 1, Mvts I – III; Serra Da Piedade de Belo Horizonte (piano solo); Cançao do Poeta do Seculo XVIII, W. 486 (Alfredo Ferreira Rodrigues) by Heitor Villa Lobos

Paris 7am (Elizabeth Bishop) by Ivan Moody

A short slow life (Elizabeth Bishop) by Emily Doolittle

6 Songs, Op. 107 by Robert Schumann

Lullaby for the cat (Elizabeth Bishop) by Peter Togni

 

Tickets can be booked from our website at http://music-toronto.com/quartets/suzi_leblanc.htm

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Bach, Schumann, Balakirev, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev

By guest blog writer Julie Berridge

On November 15, Danny Driver plays the compositions of Bach, Schumann, Balakirev, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.

French Suite No. 5 in G Major, BWV 816 was written by Johan Sebastian Bach between the years of 1722 and 1725. It consists of 7 movements: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gavotte, Bourrée, Loure and Gigue. Allemande in 4/4 time opens with a gentle interweaving of notes, and then becomes more lively. The Courante is light and quick and the Sarabande, is more stately. (The Sarabande dance started in Spain and as a somewhat lively dance and became more stately when it spread to France.) The Gavotte, a ballroom dance is followed by a country dance. The Loure is a soaring melody and the closing Gigue is a fugue in three voices.

Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 consists of 12 etudes and was written in 1834. It’s been called one of the greatest musical achievements of the 19th century. In these 12 etudes, the piano is made to sound like an orchestra. From the one instrument, we hear woodwinds and brass, drum beats; horns and trombones, and violin and cello.

The second half of the evening features three Russian composers: Balakirev born in 1837, Rachmaninov born in 1873 and Sergei Prokofiev born in 1891. In Balakirev’s Nocturne No 2 in B minor (1901) Chopin’s grand nocturnes can be heard. Rachmaninov is said to have been inspired by the feelings conjured up by images when composing his etudes. Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B♭ major, Op. 83 (1942) was one of his “war sonatas”. It is said that in these sonatas, Prokofiev unfavourable feelings about Stalin were revealed. Ironically though, this Sonata received a Stalin prize.

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Danny Driver

Pianist Danny Driver will be making his Toronto debut on our stage on November 15th.

Born in London in 1977, Driver speaks Hebrew as well as English and is a descendant of Baal Shem Tov.  He has gained an international reputation as an outstanding British pianist in recent years.

He originally started his studies with Natural Science but eventually changed to study music at the Royal College of Music.  Driver was appointed the Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music starting this past September.  He also performs world-wide with orchestras, in recital, and as a chamber musician.

Recording with Hyperion, Driver has several acclaimed recordings and is known for championing less well-known or neglected composers like York Bowen and Mily Balakirev.  He has recently recorded another CD in Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto Series which should be released soon.

Join us to hear him live in Toronto – http://music-toronto.com/piano/driver.htm

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Hayden, Bartok and Beethoven

By guest writer Julie Berridge

On November 10, we will be enriched by the music of Hayden, Bartok and Beethoven, played by The Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc.  Read more about the concert here – http://music-toronto.com/quartets/arthur_Leblanc.htm

Hayden

The evening opens with Haydn’s Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No.1.  Commissioned by Prince Joseph Lobkowitz and composed in 1799, it is one of Haydn’s most modern quartets.  It’s a relaxed and light-hearted work. Sometimes unadorned. Sometimes embellished.  And from start to finish, catchy and playful.

 

Bartok

Like Many of Bartok’s pieces, Quartet No. 4 has an archlike structure.  The first and fifth movements share related themes, as do the second and fourth.  The third movement stands alone.  Movements I, III and V are approximately six minutes long, and movements II and IV are about 3 minutes long.  The first movement transitions from clusters of notes to full cords.  The second movement is quick.  Full of trills, fast scales, and vibrato.  In the third movement, we hear elements of the folk and night music that Bartok is so well-known for.  Bartok’s pizzicato, the slapping sounds of the strings against the fingerboard, resulting from the aggressive plucking of the strings can be heard in the fourth movement.  The final movement features a recast of many of the themes in the first movement.

 

Beethoven

Beethoven’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3, “Rasumovsky”, opens in the first movement with an aura of mystery but soon transitions into what has been described as “party music accompanied by fireworks”.  A playground frolic with notes tossing back and forth.  The second movement is composed in the style of a Venetian boat song.  The third is delicate and beautifully intertwined, leading us to the final movement, a fast and vigorous fugue.

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Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc

Since the fall of 2005, Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc has been the quartet-in-residence at the Université Laval in Quebec City.  The four members of the quartet – Hibiki Kobayashi (violin), Brett Molzan (violin), Jean-Luc Plourde (viola) and Ryan Molzan (cello) – all teach the art of string quartets and chamber music at the university as well.

The quartet is named after Arthur LeBlanc who was born near Moncton in 1906 and died in Quebec City in 1985.  He was a violinist and composer who spent most of his youth in Moncton and then studied and lived in Quebec.  He attended the School of Music at Université Laval in 1922, one of the first to enrol in the school.  Later in life he would also teach at Université Laval.

He had a very busy career performing concerts and teaching.  He performed overseas, in the US, and in Canada – at one point performing 26 concerts in 6 weeks.  Health reasons dictated less touring after 1953 but he continued to perform for programs on radio and television.  Some of those programs included pieces he had composed as well.

You can hear this quartet named in his honour perform live on November 10th as part of our String Series!  The evening will include pieces by Haydn, Bartok, and Beethoven.  http://music-toronto.com/quartets/arthur_Leblanc.htm

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