Tag Archives: Rachmaninoff

Philip Chiu

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 bring pianist Philip Chiu to our stage.  While Chiu has performed in Toronto many times, this will be his Toronto solo recital debut.  The evening will include Ravel – Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite), John Burge – Studies in Poetry No. 4: Loop (2009), Rachmaninoff – Preludes (Five Selections from Op. 23, Op. 32), Schubert/Liszt – Fantasy in C Major, “Der Wanderer”, D. 760, and Liszt – Legends, S.175.

Current residing in Montreal, Chiu was born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto and London, ON.  In Montreal, he can be found working at McGill University as an accompanist and coach, at the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal as an invited professor and accompanist, and at l’Universite de Montreal as an accompanist.

He frequently tours as an accompanist for competitions, and does a lot of chamber music and collaborative playing. In 2015, he was the inaugural recipient of the Prix Goyer (Extreme Emerging Artist Award). The $125,000 prize is one of the largest in the world for a collaborative emerging artist.

This recent Q&A in WholeNote magazine will give you some insight into Chiu


You can find out more about him on his own website www.philipchiu.ca and here him live at our concert on November 28thhttp://music-toronto.com/piano/Chiu.html



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Steven Osborne

We start the month of March with a piano concert! Steven Osborne returns to our stage on March 1, 2016. He made his Toronto debut with us in 2007. Born in Scotland in 1971, Osborne studied at St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

In 1998, he released his first recording with Hyperion. He was signed shortly after winning first prize in the 1997 Naumburg International Competition in New York City. Since then he has recorded exclusively with them, releasing 22 recordings to date.

His career has taken him all over the world to perform with major orchestras and in recitals. Osborne performs frequently with major orchestras in the UK and has performed at the Proms a dozen times. He is the recipient of several awards including The Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist of the Year in 2013 and two Gramophone Awards.  You can find out more about Steven Osborne on his website http://www.stevenosborne.co.uk/

On March 1, 2016, we will be treated to Osborne performing Schubert (Impromptus D. 935, Nos. 1 & 4), Debussy (Masques; Images, Book 2; L’ile joyeuse) and Rachmaninoff (Etudes tableaux – various selections from Op. 33 and Op. 39). Join us! http://music-toronto.com/

Steven Osborne’s performances up and down the country have confirmed his pre-eminence among British pianists. His un-showy brilliance, integrity, and very wide repertoire have long marked him out, but what now emerges most strongly is the unique magic of his sound combined with a profound musical intelligenceRPS Instrumentalist of the Year May 2013

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Peter Jablonski concert November 10, 2015

by guest writer Julie Berridge

On November 10, Peter Jablonski features in his performance, musical expressions of nationalism and culture: Mazurkas and a polonaise from Poland, and Mexican folk songs.

The polonaise is one of the five historic national dances of Poland. It started as a peasant dance and then later gained popularity with the nobility and townspeople. Chopin’s Polonaise Opus 25 No. 1 is often thought to be an expression of the love for his country Poland, and in his later polonaises, what has been interpreted as anger over the political fate of Poland, is a prominently heard. Robert Schumann referred to Chopin’s polonaises as “cannons buried in flowers”.

The mazurka is another historic national dance of Poland and Jablonski performs mazurkas from Chopin and Szymanowski. Chopin lived from 1810 to 1849 and Szymanowski, from 1882 to 1937. Szymanowski continued the nationalism in the twentieth century that Chopin had given musical expression to in the 19th century. Syzmanowski‘s mazurkas were directly influenced by Polish Highland folk music. Of the highlands, Syzmanowski wrote, “My discovery of the essential beauty of Goral (Polish Highlander) music, dance and architecture is a very personal one; much of this beauty I have absorbed into my innermost soul

Aaron Copland based El Salon Mexico on four Mexican folk songs that he had obtained while visiting Mexico in 1932: “El palo verde,” “La Jesusita,” “El mosco,” and “El malacate.” Copland quickly developed an affinity with its culture. Of El Salon Mexico, Copland noted “From the beginning it was associated in my mind with a dance hall in Mexico City called Salon Mexico, a real ‘hot spot’ where one somehow felt a close contact with the Mexican people…Bands played a kind of music that was harsh, flavorsome, screechy and potentially violent. El Salon Mexico is, I suppose, a sort of musical souvenir.” Composed originally as an orchestral piece, Bernstein later arranged it for solo piano and then for two pianos.

Jablonski also plays Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin

Grieg’s Ballade in G Minor followed the death of his parents and young daughter. In the Ballade can be heard angry and melancholy moments as well as moments of grandeur and beauty. Grieg said that it was written “with my life’s blood in days of sorrow and despair.

Rachmaninoff never elaborated on what inspired his Études tableaux. Instead, he said that he wanted listeners and performers to “paint for themselves what it most suggests”.

Scriabin and a nocturne born of necessity – In the summer of 1891, Scriabin was unable to use his right hand. So he composed Nocturne for the Left Hand which became a huge hit in America, after his New York publisher reprinted and sold thousands of copies of the piece.

Join us on Tuesday to hear Peter Jablonski perform the pieces above!  http://music-toronto.com/

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Final thoughts on Rachmaninov

Artists often experience an extreme of emotions. Amazing performances can bring feelings of great joy. Great disappointments can trigger great despair. And great despair can trigger great moments.

Sergei started with career success at the end of his schooling. He finished at the Conservatory with honours and the final piece he composed there, Aleko, ended up being produced by the Bolshoi Theatre and won him the Great Gold Medal. This was followed by other smaller successes and published pieces that pleased the public. In 1897, his First Symphony (Op. 13, 1896) premiered and was not well received. Compounded with an engagement to Natalia Satina that was not accepted by her parents or the church, 3 years of depression followed. He wrote nothing during this time and eventually started some autosuggestive therapy with psychologist Nikolai Dahl to help bring him out of his depression. He and Natalia were also finally able to marry – a union that lasted until Sergei death.

There are two moments in particular that I enjoy that came from grief for Rachmaninov. One is Trio élégiaque No. 2. Sergei was deeply saddened when he heard of Tchaikovsky’s death and he wrote this piece right away. The second grief inspired moment comes from the death of Alexander Scriabin in 1915. They had met at the Moscow Conservatory as boys and been good friends since then. When his friend passed away, Sergei went on tour giving piano recitals where he only played Scriabin’s compositions. Both touching ways to honour someone, I think.

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Rachmaninov and Russia’s influence

Sergei’s homeland, Russia, had an impact on his musical life throughout his lifetime. He graduated at the age of 19 from the Moscow Conservatory and embarked upon his career as a composer, pianist, and conductor. He had many successes and some failures as most talented people do. Over the years he established himself as a known figure in the music world of the day. While there were ups and downs, for the most part it was a good life – being paid to do what he loved, socializing with friends and colleagues – one I think most of us could enjoy.

Things changed for him in 1917 with the Russian Revolution. He, his wife, and their two little girls left Russia with very little. As part of the Russian aristocracy, he had lost his estate and his livelihood. They spent a year in Scandinavia before deciding to come to America. He had done a successful tour in 1909 and though he had declined invitations to return and turned down job offers that included the position of conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he felt it might be the best place to start over financially. In late 1918, they came to New York. Sergei continued his career in music, primarily as a pianist, until his death in 1943. He only composed 6 pieces after leaving Russia. The last time he conducted in Russia was in early 1917 and he did not conduct again until 1939 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Much of his time was spent performing in order to support his family and rebuild the life his was accustomed to. This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his life in America. By all accounts, he did. He had a good life, built upon his talent and skill. He had many friends and helped many of them financially. He did not become a U.S. citizen until 1943, just before his death. It seems that a portion of his heart was always in Russia.

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Rachmaninov – early family influences

The women in Sergei Rachmaninov’s family were a great influence in the early part of his life and career. As mentioned in last week’s post, his mother, Lyubov Petrovna Butakova, gave him is first piano lessons. She also became the main family care giver shortly after the family moved to St. Petersburg. Her mother was also an important part of young Sergei’s life. He was the doted upon favourite of his grandmother Butakova. She took him to Russian Orthodox church services on a regular basis, exposing him to chants and church bells – the impact of which can be heard in several of his pieces. Sergei was able to play anything that he heard and he often played for his grandmother after their trips to church – earning a coin in return.

Grandmother Butakova is the one who defended Sergei when he got into trouble. She took him away on restorative vacations to the countryside. When he failed his academic exams and was in danger of losing his scholarship at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, she convinced her daughter to find another way. His mother consulted with her nephew, Alexander Siloti, who suggested Sergei study at the Moscow Conservatory under Nikolai Zverev, a strict disciplinarian.

His sister Yelena also had a small influence in his music career. Another artistic person in the family, she was involved with the Bolshoi Theater. She was about to join the company when she fell ill and passed away at the young age of 18. The Bolshoi Theater would perform some of his pieces over the years. And from 1904 to early 1906, he was their conductor. Sergei left for political reasons and we’ll examine some of the political and broader societal influences in his life next time!

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Sergei Rachmaninov (Rachmaninoff)

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov (also found as Rachmaninoff) was born in 1873. A well known Russian pianist and composer, he immigrated to the United States in 1917 and did eventually become a full US citizen, weeks before his death in March of 1943, just shy of his 70th birthday.

Since the 16th century, his family had been in the service of the Russian tsars. Music and military figured largely in the family. His father, Vasili, was an army officer and an amateur pianist. Vasili married into more wealth with a dowry of 5 estates from the family of his wife, Lyubov Petrovna Butakova. They had 6 children and, unfortunately, Vasili was not a good provider. Over the years he managed to lose all of estates, selling them off to pay for debts and eventually the family was forced to move to a small flat in St. Petersburg. Divorce was not an option and Vasili did finally leave the family and go to Moscow. This left the children in his wife’s care. Sergei spent some time living with relatives who offered to help the family once they were in St. Petersburg.

Throughout it all Sergei’s musical talent was able to be fostered and developed. His family life had a large influence in his music from an early age. As a very young child, his mother gave him some piano lessons. Eventually his grandfather (on his father’s side), insisted that a proper teacher be found as he recognized the talent in his grandson. Anna Ornatzkaya came to the family to teach Sergei when they were still living on the family estate of Oneg. She was a graduate of St. Petersburg Conservatory. When the family had to move to St. Petersburg and she left her position, she arranged for Sergei to attend there as well. His studies would later continue at the Moscow Conservatory.

Sergei had a very full life with many interesting influences and happenings so we will continue to look at his life over the next few weeks!

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