Tag Archives: Rachmaninov

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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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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Marleyn Bertoli Duo

by guest contributor Julie Berridge

On February 12, the Marleyn Bertoli duo comprised of Pianist Mauro Bertoli and Cellist Paul Marleyn will perform the compositions of Beethoven, the Russian Composers Alexander Glazunov and Rachmaninov and Canadian composer Chan Ka Nin.


The performance opens with A Le Chant du Ménéstrel, a tender lyrical piece by Alexander Glazunov who at the age of 11, produced his first composition. At the age of 14, he began studying with Rimsky-Korsakov, at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and by 16, he had completed his Symphony No. 1 which debuted in March 1882. At the age of 34, he became a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Glazunov’s friend and mentor Rimsky-Korsakov was fired from the conservatory because of his liberal views after the revolution of February 1905, following which Glazunov resigned in support. However, after the October Manifesto of Nicholas II, new rights were granted to the conservatory and Glazunov was invited back.

In the years after the 1917 revolution professors appointed under the Bolshevik regime are said to have constantly disagreed with Glazunov, taking issue with his style of composition which they thought to be outdated.

Glazunov left the Soviet Union in 1928 for the Schubert centenary celebrations in Vienna and never returned. After touring Europe, he settled in Paris.


Beethoven composed his Sonata for cello & piano in A Major, Op. 69 between 1806 and 1808. This sonata is a melodic, joyful and sensuous tale told by a cello and piano in three movements. Here, both the cello and piano play an equal role. The piece opens with the cello’s lyrical melody, answered by the piano and throughout the three movements, this musical conversation between the two is played out with spirit, joy, passion and sensuality.

Beethoven published his first composition at age 11. Born in Bonn, he moved to Vienna in 1792 when he was 22 years old and made his public debut there in 1795. Around this time he published, Opus 1, Opus 2, three piano trios and three piano sonatas.

In 1801 Beethoven composed the Moonlight Sonata. In 1802, he started to lose his hearing. When he began writing Op. 69 in 1806, he was almost completely deaf. Between the time that he started to lose his hearing, and the time he had little or no hearing left, Beethoven composed the opera Fidelio, five string quartets, seven piano sonatas, six string sonatas and 72 songs. His Ninth Symphony was composed in 1824.


Chan Ka Nin is a Canadian composer whose compositions have been described as sensuous,” “haunting,” and “intricate”, reflecting both an eastern and western aesthetic.

Born in Hong Kong, he moved with his family to Vancouver in 1965. He studied composition with Jean Coulthard while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. After graduating from UBC, he studied composition with Bernhard Heiden at Indiana University and subsequently obtained his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in music. He has taught theory and composition at the University of Toronto since 1982.

Professor Chan has won numerous awards for his compositions including two JUNO awards, the Jean A. Chalmers Award, the Béla Bartók International Composers’ Competition in Hungary, and the Barlow International Competition in the United States. In 2001 he won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Musical for his opera Iron Road, which he co-wrote with librettist Mark Brownell.

On Soulmate, the piece performed by Marleyn and Bertoli, the program notes from Professor Chan’s site say,

Soulmate is taken from the composer’s Ontario Arts Council commissioned work for the Guelph Spring Festival in 1995, Poetry On Ice, which is music written for figure skating. The piece describes two people who accept each other beyond love and affection. Their understanding is subtle, mutual, and wordless, like a pair of dancers on ice. The unending melody depicts their graceful florid movement as well as their voices from their heart.


Sergei Rachmaninov was a composer, pianist, and conductor. Born in Russia in 1873, he died in Beverley Hills, California in 1943. His music is thought of by many as the last link between 19th century romanticism and 20th century modernism.

Rachmaninov was influenced and encouraged by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov (Glazunov’s teacher) as well as by Russia’s folklore and the music of the Russian Orthodox Church. His music is noble and rigorous.

Rachmaninov graduated from the Moscow conservatory in 1891. At the age of 19, prior to graduating, he had completed one of his best known works, the “Prelude in C Sharp Minor.

Rachmaninov enjoyed not only artistic but financial success in the years before the 1917 revolution. After the 1917 revolution, he fled to America with his family, and began an extremely lucrative career as a concert pianist.

Rachmaninov completed Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19 in 1901. The work has four movements. Rachmaninov thought that the name of the piece did not do it justice since it was a work that gave equal voice to the cello and piano. The piece was therefore often referred to as “Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano”.

Join us for the concert on February 12, 2015 http://www.music-toronto.com/discovery/Bertoli_Marleyn.htm

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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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