Tag Archives: Schumann

Philharmonia Quartett Berlin

March 16, 2017 will be the 8th concert that the Philharmonia Quartett Berlin has played for us over the years.  Daniel Stabrawa (violin), Christian Stadelmann (violin), and Neithard Resa (viola) are all original members of the 32 year old quartet.  Dietmar Schwalke (cello) joined them in 2009 after the sudden passing of Jan Diesselhorst.

All four members of the quartet are part of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.  Daniel is the 1st Concertmaster and occasionally conducts the orchestra.  Christian is the Leader of the 2nd Violins.  Of the four, Neithard is the longest-serving member of the orchestra, originally becoming a member in 1978.  He served as Principal Violist until 2010.  Joining the orchestra in 1994, Dietmar is the ‘newest’ of the four.  In addition to the Quartet, he is involved in a number of chamber groups associated with the orchestra such as the 12 Cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic Capriccio.

Somehow with all of the demands on their schedules for performances and teaching, they have still managed to release a number of recordings over the years.  Their most recent ones are from 2014 (Beethoven) and 2015 (Brahms).

Join us on March 16th to hear Haydn’s Quartet in G major, Op. 64, No. 4, Beethoven’s Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6 and Schumann’s Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No. 1.   http://www.music-toronto.com/quartets/berlin.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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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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The Songs of Schumann, Poulenc and Ives

by guest contributor Julie Berridge

On March 26, baritone Elliot Madore sings the songs of Schumann, Poulenc, and Charles Ives. Madore who is Canadian, attended Humbercrest Public School and the Etobicoke School for the Arts before obtaining a bachelor’s degree in voice and a master’s in opera at the Curtis Institute of Music. In December, he performs the lead role of Figaro in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of the Barber of Seville in New York City.

Madore opens with Schumann whose relationship with art songs seems to have evolved over a relatively short period of time – less than a year.

This is what Schumann wrote in a letter to Clara, the woman who would later be his wife, in June 1839,

All my life I have regarded vocal music as inferior to instrumental music, and have never considered it great art

And this is what he wrote to Clara in February 1840,

Oh Clara, what bliss it is to write songs. I can’t tell you how easy it has become for me … it is music of an entirely different kind which doesn’t have to pass through the fingers—far more melodious and direct.

Belsatzar, Op. 57 is based on a short poem by Christian Johann Heinrich Heine. It tells the story of King Belshazzar of Babylonia, who after he desecrated the sacred vessels of Jehovah, saw an apparition consisting of writings on a wall that he could not understand.

Liederkreis, Opus 39, is a song cycle that Schumann composed in 1840. It sets to music Joseph Eichendorff’s collection of poetry entitled Intermezzo.

Poulenc’s Banalities are based on the work of Apollinaire. The five songs, Chanson d’Orkenise, Hôtel, Fagnes de Wallonie, Voyage à Paris and Sanglots, are said to be a balance between “cabaret style populism and Schubertian subtlety”.

Sanglots is moving and wistful. Chanson d’Orkenise is very much in the style of a folk song. Hôtel, brings to mind idle and languorous luxury. It consists of a few lines spoken by a character sitting in a hotel room who wants only to sit and smoke, as opposed to working. The last line reads, “Je ne veux pas travailler – je veux fumer” (I don’t want to work. I want to smoke). Voyage à Paris is a raucous nine line poem about a return to Paris after time spent in the “boring” provinces. The setting for Apollinaire’s Fagnes de Wallonie is a windswept plateau in Belgium. Poulenc ably captures the feeling of a landscape swept by gusting winds.

Madore brings the evening to a close with the compositions of Charles Ives. Ives was born in 1874. He was one of America’s first internationally renowned composers. Ives’ canon of songs has been described as a sort of receptacle or collection of his reaction to places, personalities and events. But he also set to music many classic European poems. Ives composed close to 200 songs before his death in 1954.

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An evening of Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Stankovski

by guest contributor Julie Berridge

On March 10, Till Fellner plays for us the music of Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Alexander Stankovski.

The evening opens with Mozart’s Rondo No. 3 in A minor, K 511. The Rondo is a single movement with repeating varied themes.

Fellner then moves to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. This is how Bach introduced the work.

“… The Well-Tempered Clavier, or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones both as regards the tertia major or Ut Re Mi and as concerns the tertia minor or Re Mi Fa. For the Use and Profit of the Musical Youth Desirous of Learning as well as for the Pastime of those Already Skilled in this Study”.

WTC as it is sometimes referred to, has become much more than a learning tool or a pastime. It is now considered the foundation on which all Western classical music after Bach has been built. It’s a collection of preludes and fugues written in all 24 major and minor keys for a solo keyboard. The collection is made up of Book 1 written in 1722, and Book 2 written in 1742.

After Bach, Fellner performs another Mozart Sonata. The Sonata in E flat K 282 has three movements. The first is a slow and lyrical Adagio. The second is a lively minuet and the third is an Allegro.

Fellner then performs for us a composition by Viennese composer Alexander Stankovski, born in Munich in 1968 and living in Vienna since 1974. Stankovski is now senior lecturer at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz.

The evening concludes with Kreisleriana, Op. 16 written by Schumann in April 1938 in just four days. The composition was inspired by the character of Johannes Kreisleriana an orchestra conductor who appears in three of E.T.A Hoffman’s books. The character is eccentric, wild, mercurial and often colourful. Kreisleriana consists of eight short movements. Together they are the musical expression of myriad moods. Some passionately dramatic and some simple and serene. Some playful, and some solemn and tragic. In the first movement we are introduced to the animated and somewhat manic side of the character. In contrast, the longer second movement reveals the romantic and tender side of the fictional conductor. The third and fifth movements evoke feelings of agitation followed by the slow fourth and sixth movements. In the seventh movement, the conversation between agitation and peacefulness continues. The final movement is for the most part, playful.
In an April 1938 letter to his wife Clara, here is what Schubert said about Kreisleriana,

“But, Clara, I’m overflowing with music and beautiful melodies now—imagine, since my last letter I’ve finished another whole notebook of new pieces. I intend to call it Kreisleriana. You and one of your ideas play the main role in it, and I want to dedicate it to you—yes, to you and nobody else—and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in it—my music now seems to be so simply and wonderfully intricate in spite of all the simplicity, all the complications, so eloquent and from the heart; that’s the way it affects everyone for whom I play it, which I enjoy doing quite frequently”.

Join us on March 10, 2015 for this wonderful evening! http://www.music-toronto.com

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Dénes Várjon

by guest contributor Julie Berridge

Dénes Várjon opens with Beethoven’s Sonata in G Major, Op. 14, No. 2 composed in 1798 and 1799. It’s a lyrical, lively and often humorous Sonata.

Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 12 is a set of eight pieces, the title of which was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Fantasiestücke in Callots Manie. The composition was also inspired by fictional lives that Schumann created based on the real lives of his friends and enemies. For years Schumman developed these fictional characters in his diaries and letters to friends. He then began using these characters in his work as a music critic. In 1837, these characters became the inspiration for Fantasiestucke, Op. 12.

The composition is both passionate and dreamy. It begins with “Des Abends” (In the Evening). It is a “gentle picture of dusk” followed by followed by a parley between passion and dreams. It ends with what Schumann described as the combining of wedding and funeral bells. In a letter to his wife Clara he wrote, “At the time, I thought: well in the end it all resolves itself into a jolly wedding. But at the close, my painful anxiety about you returned”.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is Surreal and hallucinatory. It is based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand which features a mermaid a monster and a corpse.
Gaspard de la Nuit is comprised of 3 movements. The first movement Odine, is the tale of a mermaid who is trying to seduce a man by singing to him about her magical and fantastic would. The man tells Odin that he is married and he rejects her. Odin’s reaction is at first stormy, followed by quiet acceptance and then laughter. All of this is delightfully conveyed by Ravel.

In the second movement Le Gibet, Ravel paints a musical picture of a solitary corpse. The sounding of a B flat throughout the movement sustains the lonely and desolate musical landscape of this piece.

The third movement Scarbo conveys grandeur as much as it conveys horror. In the poem, Scarbo is an evil dwarf who makes frenzied appearances at night, sometimes hiding – waiting to pounce and scare. Ravel captures all of this.

Bartok’s Out of Doors is a set of five pieces, each of which are a depiction of Hungarian peasant life. In these five pieces we hear rocking melodies, drumbeats, and the nocturnal sounds of crickets and frogs.

Bartok fell in love with folk songs when he heard a peasant girl singing a Transylvanian tune in 1904. After hearing the girl, he said to his sister, “I now have a plan. I will collect the most beautiful Hungarian folksongs and raise them to the level of art songs”.

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Clara Schumann

We continue our look at the Schumann’s by shifting over to Clara. Clara was born in 1819 in Leipzig and was both an accomplished pianist and a composer. Her parents were Friedrich Wieck and Marianne Tromlitz. Marianne was a well known singer in Leipzig. Friedrich was a music teacher, instrument seller, and had a music lending library.

Friedrich and Marianne were married for 8 years and had 5 children. They divorced when Clara was 5 years old. Clara and her brothers all stayed with their father and were raised by him.

Friedrich knew his daughter was talented and capitalized on that talent from the beginning. She took lessons in piano, violin, theory, and composition. Clara started playing at a young age and was giving small concerts quite early in her life. It was at one of these early concerts that she and Robert met, both being guests at the same function.

Robert would become a pupil of her father and even lived in their house for a year. The bond between Clara and Robert started early and would grow into a life long commitment. Clara supported her husband through years of illness. Robert encouraged her composing and toured with her for performances. After Robert’s death, Clara devoted herself to performing and promoting her husband’s music. She lived for 61 years and spent pretty much all of it playing music, surrounded by family.

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Some thoughts on Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann was a German composer of the Romantic era. He was born in June of 1810 and was the youngest of 5 children. Encouraged by his father, he began music studies at a young age. After his father’s passing, he pursued legal studies in school from about age sixteen to nineteen. However, his passion for music won out and he returned to his music studies and eventually made it his full time profession. He aspired to become a renowned pianist and was talented enough to have been able to achieve this. Unfortunately a hand injury stopped that career path. He then focused more on composing, a benefit for all of us.

Robert’s father had been a book seller and publisher. Along with music, he introduced Robert to the world of literature, writing, and publishing. Robert had started writing essays for publication while his father was still alive. In 1834, Robert started the New Journal for Music (Die Neue Zeitschrift für Musik). Here he published many articles on a variety of music subjects – composers, performers, and his views on music in general.

He was much loved by his family. He and his wife, Clara, fought a legal battle in order to be able to marry which to me signifies a great commitment to each other. Yet Robert had a troubled life. Like some great artists he was not an emotionally stable man. He suffered from extreme bouts of depression and euphoria. In 1854, he requested to be committed to an asylum after an attempted suicide. His youngest child was born shortly after he entered the asylum. He would not get a chance to see his son grow up as Robert never recovered and died at the age of 46 in 1856.

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Johanna Schumann

Robert Schumann was the youngest child in his family, born to Johanna Christine and August Schumann in 1810. Much of his young life was spent surrounded by literature and music thanks to his parents.

Friedrich August Gottlob Schumann was born in 1773. He was a German bookseller and publisher and the literature influence in Robert’s young life. August passed away in 1826 at the age of 53, when Robert was only 16 years old.

Robert’s mother, Johanna Christina (Iohanne Christiane) Schnabel, was one of his main influences in his early life. She was nearing or over 40 when Robert was born. Raising the children fell completely on her shoulders. She loved to sing and had imparted a love of music to all of her children. The older children played piano. Robert and his mother sang together from when he was very young. They had a very strong relationship and she was supportive and encouraging of her son throughout. With her husband’s passing, determining Robert’s future fell to her. For a time, he studied law as she wanted to ensure that he had a prosperous future. However, there came a time when he knew he wanted to pursue music as a career. Concerned she spoke with Professor Frederick Wieck, his future father-in-law and after being reassured that he had the talent, she gave Robert her blessing to pursue his dreams. She lived until Robert was 26 years old and he was heartbroken when she passed.

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Benjamin Grosvenor

On February 11th, Benjamin Grosvenor takes to our stage for his Toronto debut! His program includes Andante & Rondo capriccioso, Op.14 by Mendelssohn; Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op.90, No.3 by Schubert; Humoreske, Op.20 by Schumann; Paisajas by Mompou; 2 Fairy Tales by Medtner; Valses nobles et sentimentales by Ravel; Valse de Faust by Gounod/Liszt.

Born in 1992, this young pianist started playing at the age of 6, taking lessons initially from his mother, a professional piano teacher. Since then he has taken lessons with several pianists including Stephen Hough and Arnaldo Cohen, both well-known on our stage and to our audiences. He has devoted many hours to his art over the years and the results can be seen in the many awards (winner of the Keyboard Final of the 2004 BBC Young Musician Competition, Gramophone’s ‘Young Artist of the Year and ‘Instrumental Award’ to name just a few), the many international performances as a soloist and with respected orchestras (such as London Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Tokyo Symphony), and an exclusive record deal with Decca signed in 2011 (the youngest British musician to sign to the label and the first British pianist in close to 60 years). For more information on Grosvenor, you can visit his website at http://www.benjamingrosvenor.co.uk/

Come and join us for this exciting evening! https://www.facebook.com/events/1455951134624985/?ref=5


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