Tag Archives: composing

Brett Dean

Australian Brett Dean is a contemporary composer. Born in Brisbane in 1961, he played violin from the age of eight and later moved to viola. He studied at the Queensland Conservatorium, graduating with the Conservatorium Medal for the highest achieving Student of the Year in 1982.

In 1985, he joined the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as a violist. He played with them until 1999.  He returned to Australia in 2000, deciding to work as a freelance artist. He started composing in 1988, originally for film and radio.

His list of compositions and awards has grown greatly over the years and includes pieces for ballet, opera, orchestra, chamber music, solo instruments, and choral. In 2016, Dean became the inaugural Artist in Residence with Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a position which will last for three years and includes conducting, performing, and collaborating with creative programming. The world premier of his latest opera, Hamlet, took place this past summer at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

We will hear his piano piece Hommage à Brahms played by Benjamin Grosvenor at our November 7, 2017 concert. While this three movement piece can be played on its own, it was intended to be performed as interludes between the Four Pieces of Op. 119 by Johannes Brahms – Engelsflügel 1 placed between Brahms’ B-minor and E-minor Intermezzos, Hafenkneipenmusik between the E-minor and C-major Intermezzos, and Engelsflügel 2 between the C-major Intermezzo and the E-flat-major Rhapsody. It will be played this way by Grosvenor at our concert.

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Marjan Mozetick

Marjan Mozetich is a Canadian composer of Slovenian heritage. Born in Italy, he emigrated to Hamilton, Ontario with his family at the age of 4. He started his music studies with theory and piano in Hamilton at 9 years old. He graduated in 1972 from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Music and with a diploma in piano performance as an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. He continued his studies abroad for the next two years, studying privately in Italy and the UK.

His new music works have been performed around the world by many prominent artists over the years. In 1971, he co-founded Arraymusic and he served as their artistic director from 1977 to 1979. He started teaching composition in 1991 at Queen’s University and continues to teach and reside in Kingston, Ontario.

Explore more about Marjan Mozetick and his music on his website at http://www.mozetich.com/

We will hear his piece Scales of Joy and Sorrow (2008) performed by the Gryphon Trio at our December 7, 2017 concert.

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Pavel Fischer

Over the past few weeks we have looked at a few different noted Czech composers. Today we take a brief look at a still living Czech composer!

Pavel Fischer was born in 1965 into a musical family. His mother sang in a sextet specializing in Moravian folk music. His father conducted. Fischer attended the Prague Conservatory and the Prague Academy of Music. He cofounded the Škampa Quartet in 1989 and performed as their first violinist until 2007.

In 2007, Fischer decided to devote more time to composing and teaching.  His first string quartet, Morava, premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2008. He was a visiting professor of chamber music at the Royal Academy in London. Since 2008 Fischer has been a tutor in violin at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Fischer has also added conducting to his interests. In December 2016, he led the National Youth String Orchestra in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can learn more about the South African National Youth Orchestra on their website http://www.sanyo.org.za/about-us/our-orchestras-and-ensembles/

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Josef Suk, composer

Josef Suk was born in 1874. He was immersed in music from a young age and his father was his first teacher of piano, organ, and violin. At the age of 11, he entered the Prague Conservatory. While he received his degree in 1891, Suk studied at the conservatory until 1892. Antonín Dvořák had become a professor at the conservatory and Suk stayed an additional year to study with him.

Dvořák and Suk had a close relationship. In 1898, Suk married Dvořák’s daughter, Otilie. In 1902, their son was born. This was a very happy time in Suk’s life. Unfortunately, in 1904 Dvořák passed away and 14 months later in 1905, Otilie passed away as well. Both the happy times in his life and the passing of his mentor and his wife had large impacts on the style of music he composed.

Suk was a composer, a teacher, and a performer, it was the latter two that were his main income over the years. He and his fellow students formed the Czech Quartet in 1893. He was their second violinist for 40 years, retiring in 1933.

In 1922, Suk became a professor in composition at the Prague Conservatory. He was appointed the head of the conservatory from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1933 until 1935.

Suk died in 1935 and is the grandfather of famed violinist Josef Suk.

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Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Leopold Dvořák was born in 1841 to František and Anna Dvořák.  František was an innkeeper, butcher, and professional zither player.  Antonín was their eldest child and showed an aptitude for music at a young age.  At the age of six, he was learning to play the violin.  He went on to study the organ and piano as well as music theory.

In his late teens, Dvořák lived in Prague and studied at the Organ School.  After graduating second in his class, he applied for an organist position but was unsuccessful in securing the job.  He remained in Prague and performed with the orchestras there during his twenties.  At this time, he also started composing and was teaching on the side to supplement his income.

He married Anna Čermáková in 1873.  Shortly after his marriage, Dvořák became the organist at St. Vojtěch Church in Prague.

In 1874, he won the Austrian State Prize for composition.  This prize was intended to give some additional financial support to composers in need.  Dvořák applied again in 1877 and was once again awarded the prize.  Brahms was on both juries that awarded the prize and he was much impressed by the talent and volume of Dvořák compositions.  So much so that Brahms recommended Dvořák to his own publisher, Simrock.  After the successful publication of Dvořák’s Moravian Duets, Simrock commissioned him for a series of dance pieces, published as the Slavonic Dances.  This helped launch his international career.

Tonight the Prazak Quartet will bring us one of Dvořák’s better known chamber music pieces.  Join us to hear Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, “American”.  http://music-toronto.com/quartets/prazak.htm

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Samuel Feinberg

March 23, 2017 brings Marc-André Hamelin to our stage once again.  He will be playing a selection of piano sonatas including works by Beethoven, Haydn, Scriabin, and Chopin.  The evening will also include two sonatas by Samuel Feinberg.

Feinberg was a Russian composer and pianist.  Born in 1890, he was raised in Moscow and studied at the Moscow Conservatory.  He graduated in 1911 and started performing as a solo pianist.  However, WWI was soon upon us and he was sent to fight for Russia.  He became ill, was discharged, and spent a long period of time recovering in Moscow.

He became a faculty member at the Moscow Conservatory in 1922.  With his piano career revived, he performed in Russia and toured parts of Europe in the 1920s.  However, by the 1930s, under Stalin’s rule, Feinberg, a Jew, was no longer allowed to leave the country with the exception of two brief trips (1936 and 1938) to be a competition jury member.  This time period also meant a return to a more conservative composition style for Feinberg.  He felt it unwise to publish some of his progressive works written in the 1920s.  For example, his Seventh Sonata was written in 1924/25 but not in print until the 1970s.

In 1951, he became ill and by 1956 he had stopped performing in public.  He continued to compose and to play up until his death and made a number of recordings, especially when he could no longer perform in public.  Feinberg was a respected member of the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory until his death in 1962 at the age of 72.

Marc-André Hamelin will perform Feinberg’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor, Op. 2 and Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 1 at his Toronto recital on March 23rdhttp://music-toronto.com/piano/Hamelin.htm

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Franz Asplmayr

Franz Asplmayr was born in 1728 and lived to be 58 years old.  Born in Linz, Austria, he studied violin with his father initially and was mainly self-taught in composition.  He was a prolific composer of ballets, symphonies, chamber music.  Influenced by composers of the Mannheim School, Asplmayer combined techniques with the developing Viennese style.  During his life time he met both Haydn (in 1760) and Mozart (in the 1780s).

He moved to Vienna in the late 1740s.  In 1759 he started serving in the Imperial court.  He started as a secretary and violinist and eventually took over the duties of Christoph Willibald Gluck, the ballet composer for the Kärntnertortheater.  When this position finished, Asplmayr composed for Jean Georges Noverre’s ballet troupe.

We will be treated to one of his quartets with the Eybler Quartet on February 16, 2017 in Toronto.  Join us to hear Quartet in D Major, Op.2 No.2 by Franz Asplmayr.

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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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Beethoven and Bartok

by guest blogger Julie Berridge

On Thursday, October 13 2016, The Juilliard Quartet performs Beethoven and Bartok.

The evening opens with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Op.95, written in 1810.

The quartet was written soon after Napoleon invaded Vienna for the second time in 1809, occupying and bombarding the city for one night. Beethoven reportedly hid in the cellar, and covered his head with pillows, during that night.

The first 8 bars of Opus 95 include tempestuous and dotted rhythms, and a chorale.  In the first movement, instruments are assigned highly changeable roles.  The second movement provides a hymn like lyrical pause between movements, and the third and fourth movements are a return to the hectic tumultuous mood of the first.

Bartok – Quartet No. 1

This quartet which actually consists of three movements has been described as one of Bartok’s “tamest” string quartets.  He composed the piece for Stefi Geyer, a violinist with whom he fell in love.  Around the same time, Bartok had rejected the Catholicism he was brought up in, and declared himself an atheist.  The opening movement is slow and somewhat subdued at the start, and then it rises to a grand climax and then ends quietly.  The second movement is energetic, though at times ethereal.  It, also ends quietly.  Not so the third movement which is fiery, even to its ending.

 

Ludwig van Beethoven

String Quartet No. 7 in F major (“Rasumovsky No. 1”), Op. 59/1

Beethoven wrote these quartets in 1806 for Count Rasumovsky.  Initially, they were not well received.

The quartet begins in an amiable manner but soon fragments into sudden shifts of mood and colour. When first written, they were described by violinist Felix Radicati as “not music”.  The cellist Bernhard Romberg is said to have thrown the music on the ground and stomped on it.

In February 27, 1807, a piece in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung was a bit kinder.  It read,

“Three new, very long and difficult Beethoven string quartets … are attracting the attention of all connoisseurs. The conception is profound and the construction excellent, but they are not easily comprehended.”

Of the quartets, Beethoven presciently said to his critics, “They are not for you, but for a later age”.  For us, they may be perfect.

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Balakirev, part two

By 1856, Balakirev was performing his own pieces and others at public concert.  Balakirev’s two main patrons died in 1857 and 1858 respectively leaving him without the support that comes with influential patrons.  He had 12 compositions published in 1859.  However, his main source of support still came from teaching piano (sometimes up to nine lessons in one day!) and from performing at private events.

He felt strongly that Russia should have its own school of music, free from other European influences.  In the late 1850s and early 1860s, he gathered a small following of like-minded musicians.  They eventually became known simply as The Five.  1862 found him helping to form the Free School of Music and he became the principal concert conductor there.

Balakirev is known for his tyrannical nature.  He felt that formal academic schooling for music was a hindrance to composing music.  His uncompromising personality did not gain him many friends and caused many issues with his co-workers and employers over the years.

After a bout of brain fever at the age of 21, he struggled with depression over the years.  By the early 1870’s, Balakirev had suffered a complete breakdown.  He withdrew more and more from music.  Friends found him lacking in his usual energy and drive.  In 1872, he took on a job as a clerk with the Warsaw railroad in order to make ends meet.

By 1876, he started to return to his music and went back to the Free School of Music in 1877.  However, many of his early unpleasant traits were even stronger now.  He resumed a series of musical Tuesday evenings at his house in the 1880’s.  And in 1883 he became the director of the Imperial Chapel.  He continued to compose throughout but worked more in isolation now as the younger generation of Russian composers found his style too old-fashioned.

He retired in 1895 and turned his focus more to composition in the final years of his life.  He passed away in 1910 at the age of 73.

We will hear one of Balakirev’s piano pieces (Nocturne No. 2 in B Minor) on November 15, 2016 when Danny Driver takes to our stage! http://music-toronto.com/piano/driver.htm

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