Tag Archives: piano

Bedřich Smetana, part two

When we left Bedřich last week it was the fall of 1843 and he was on his way to Prague to pursue a career in music.

While at school in Plzeň, he had reconnected with Kateřina Kolářová and her family.  Kateřina’s mother introduced him to the head of the Prague Music Institute, where Kateřina was studying.  By January of 1844, Bedřich was a pupil of Josef Proksch, the head of the music institute, and had a position as a music teacher for the family of Count Thun.

For three years he studied and taught.  In 1847, Bedřich decided to try to establish himself as a concert pianist.  He resigned from teaching the children of Count Thun, recommending Kateřina to take on the position.  And he left to tour Western Bohemia.  The tour was not a success and Bedřich cut it short and returned to Prague.  He taught private students and worked on his compositions.

In 1848, Bedřich contacted Liszt for the first time.  Bedřich asked Liszt to accept a dedication of Bedřich’s latest piano piece and to help him find a publisher.  Liszt accepted.  Bedřich had also asked for some financial assistance to start a school which Liszt did not do.  Bedřich was able to start his Piano Institue anyway and it gained popularity.  In 1849, the school was relocated to the home of Kateřina’s parents and Liszt made regular visits.

With some financial security and stability now established, Bedřich and Kateřina were able to get married in 1849.  As girls seem to be dominant in the Smetana family tree, Bedřich and Kateřina had four daughters between 1851 and 1855.

While his professional career was fairly stable, the next few years were difficult personally.  In 1854 his second oldest daughter died of tuberculosis.  1855 saw the death of his eldest daughter from scarlet fever. And while their fourth daughter was born shortly after their eldest daughter’s death, she too only survived briefly, dying in the summer of 1856.  At this point, Kateřina had also been diagnosed with tuberculosis.  All in all, a difficult several years.

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Our 46th season!

On February 16, 2017 we announced our 46th season!

Season subscription for our 2017-2018 season are now on sale.  Existing subscribers – you should have received your renewal information in late February.  You have until May 31st to renew and keep your existing seats.  Contact the box office at 416-366-7723 if you have not received your renewal information.

Quatuor Mosaïques open our season and our string series on October 19th with their Toronto debut.  Celebrating their 30th season, they will perform Mozart and Haydn on their period instruments.

November 7th will be the opening of our piano series with Benjamin Grosvenor.  This will be Grosvenor’s 3rd recital for us and we look forward to his return.

Another Toronto debut!  The Škampa Quartet perform on November 16th.  This outstanding Czech string quartet has released 15 award-winning recordings and now is your chance to hear them live in Toronto.

Montreal pianist Philip Chiu makes his Toronto recital debut with us on November 28th.

Our annual Gryphon Trio concert will finish out the 2017 calendar year for us on December 7th.

We start 2018 with the Brentano Quartet and soprano Dawn Upshaw performing together on January 11th.

Stephen Hough returns to our stage on January 23rd for our first piano recital of 2018.  He will be playing a number of pieces by Debussy in honour of the 100th year anniversary of Debussy’s death.

The exuberant St. Lawrence Quartet return for their annual visit on February 1st.

Esteemed pianist, Alexei Lubimov will make his Toronto recital debut, at the age of 74, with our February 6th concert.

The Apollon Musagète Quartet return on February 22nd

The Penderecki Quartet join us on March 15th.  This 31 year old quartet has been the Quartet-in-Residence down the road in Waterloo at Wilfrid Laurier University for the past 20 years.

Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon closes our Piano Series for the 2017-2018 season on March 27th.

And the final concert of our 46th season will be the Toronto debut of the award-winning Schumann Quartet on April 12th.

We look forward to having you join us!  For more information on the individual concerts, please visit our website here http://music-toronto.com/season.htm

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Marc-André Hamelin

Once again we have the great pleasure of presenting Marc-André Hamelin on our stage!  He will join us on Thursday, March 23rd for an evening of sonatas including the great Beethoven “Appassionata” and Chopin’s Sonata No 2 in B-flat minor, Op 35.

The entire evening looks like this:

Haydn – Sonata in C major, Hob. XVI: 48
Samuel Feinberg – Sonata No 2 in A minor, Op 2
Samuel Feinberg – Sonata No 1 in A major, Op 1
Beethoven – Sonata in F minor, Op 57, “Appassionata”
—————–
Scriabin – Sonata No 7, Op 64, “White Mass”
Chopin – Sonata No 2 in B-flat minor, Op 35

With a busy performance schedule and over 70 recordings already released, somehow Hamelin still finds time to record even more with Hyperion!  In June 2015, he was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame, recognizing this amazing work.  Since he was last on our stage in 2015, Hyperion released a recording of the Franck Piano Quintet in F Minor with Hamelin and the Takacs Quartet (May 2016).  And you can pre-order Hamelin’s next album on iTunes which will include Medtner’s Piano Concerto 2  and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto 3  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/medtner-rachmaninoff-piano/id1184264860?app=iTunes

To learn more about Marc-André Hamelin, visit his website at http://www.marcandrehamelin.com/index.php, or search our blog site for previous posts!

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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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Ilya Poletaev

Ilya Poletaev is no stranger to Toronto.  He has performed on our stage in the past and has played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

At the age of six, he started studying in Moscow.  He moved to Israel and eventually came to Canada when he was 14.  He obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and then went on to complete his Masters and Doctorate at Yale.  He is an accomplished and award-winning pianist and harpsichordist.

He was part of the faculty at Yale between 2005 and 2010 as a lecturer in Early Music.  In 2011, he became the Assistant Professor of Piano at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montréal, a position he still holds today.

Join us on February 7, 2017 when Ilya Poletaev takes to our stage to play Bach, Enescu, and Schumann.  http://music-toronto.com/piano/poletaev.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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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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