My six chosen composers.
Today, over in the “Writing About Music” section of my website, I posted an article called “Six Canadian Composers You Should Know.” (You’ll find it here.) It was originally published this summer in Queen’s Quarterly, from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
My six chosen composers are Jean Coulthard, Jacques Hétu, Colin McPhee, Ann Southam, Claude Vivier and Healey Willan. The astute reader will notice that they all have one thing in common: they are deceased. This was a deliberate decision on my part. The living can fend for themselves; but composers who have passed on must be championed, if their music is to survive beyond them. As well, anyone who tried to publish a list of the six “best” living Canadian composers would surely be challenged to pistols at dawn by someone who didn’t make the cut.
© Colin Eatock 2011
The CBC's new Glenn Gould website: www.cbc.ca/gould.
Last night I attended a launch for a new 10-disc DVD collection at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation headquarters in Toronto. The boxed set is called “Glenn Gould on Television: the Complete CBC Broadcasts,” and it’s just been released by Sony Classical.
As launches go, this was quite an affair. Music critic (and friend of Gould) Tim Page flew in from Los Angeles to talk about his memories of Gould, and the young Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki was on hand to play some movements from the Goldbergs.
Plumbing the depths of Shakespeare.
Here’s my review, from the weekend edition of Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert.
In the tradition-bound world of classical music, there are conventions that dictate how a symphony orchestra should begin a new season. Typically, an orchestra will ride into the hall on war-horse repertoire: a major symphony, or a big concerto with a prominent soloist.
Ofra Harnoy, back in the day.
For many classical music fans, the name “Ofra Harnoy” will be quite familiar. But anyone under the age of 30 can be excused for not knowing this Israeli-born Canadian cellist.
It’s been a while Harnoy’s rise in the 1980s – which was followed by her withdrawal from the concert stage about two decades later. Also a prolific recording artist during her heyday, she hasn’t recorded a new CD since 2000.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein.
Impressive news travels fast – and word that cellist Alisa Weilerstein just won a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award has been splashed around in many places. (Here's one such report.) As a MacArthur Fellow, she receives $500,000, to do with as she pleases.
I have a question about this: “Why?”
In asking, I intend no disrespect to Weilerstein. Her talents and accomplishments are clearly outstanding. And when I interviewed her a few months ago for the Houston Chronicle, she struck me as an unusually articulate and intelligent person. (You can read the interview here.) I wish her well.
Liberty, equality, chamber music.
The Classical Revolution has been happening in Toronto for more than a year now – but it was just last night that I attended my first CR event.
For those not in the loop, Classical Revolution is an initiative to bring chamber-music concerts into bars, cafés, restaurants and art galleries. The name “Classical Revolution” is derived from the Revolution Café in San Francisco, where it all began with informal classical jam nights by professional musicians.
Glass has mellowed.
The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra paid Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio a visit last night, at the end of a mini-tour of Ontario, organized by the Numus concert society. And for the occasion, the MCO brought the music of just one composer. The program was billed as “The Film Music of Philip Glass” – and although it wasn’t quite all film music, it was certainly all Glass.
The composer himself wasn’t present, but pianist and longtime Glass collaborator Michael Riesman was. He played in the Suite from Dracula and the Suite from the Hours. (Both works were arranged by him.) Sandwiched in between these was Glass’s Symphony No. 3.
There’s a drought in Texas right now. But in Houston it’s raining Canadian violinists. Last week the Tokyo Quartet, fronted by Martin Beaver (from Hamilton, Ontario), played there. This week it’s James Ehnes, with the Houston Symphony. Here’s a chat with the remarkable Canadian violinist that I wrote up for the Houston Chronicle.
Many classical musicians have built successful careers by narrowly focusing in one area: maybe baroque music, or contemporary works. But not violinist James Ehnes – his wide-ranging repertoire includes not only Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but also Barber, Bartók, Berg, Berlioz, Bernstein, Britten and Bruch. That’s just the Bs.
Naxos launches Canadian Classics.
I received a CD in the mail yesterday, from Naxos Records. It’s called Fugitive Colours, and it’s a recording by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, under Bramwell Tovey, of music by the Canadian composer Jeffrey Ryan. The disc contains The Linearity of Light (a single-movement work), Equilateral (a triple concerto, with the Gryphon Piano Trio), and Ryan’s Symphony No. 1: Fugitive Colours (in four movements.)
I’ve listened to it, and can report that the disc well produced and performed. As for the music itself, it’s often edgy and angular, and always has a strong sense of direction. As well, Ryan isn’t shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve: Stravinsky, Bartók, Messiaen and Lutosławski all make cameo appearances in his scores. And like all of those composers, Ryan is a master of orchestration.
The Tokyo String Quartet.
Last Thursday, the Tokyo String Quartet played its 38th concert for Houston Friends of Chamber Music. This coming Thursday, they’ll give their 42nd concert for Music Toronto (with pianist Markus Groh).
If the secret to a successful career in music is being asked back, the Tokyos are doing brilliantly. Here’s an interview I conducted with first violinist Martin Beaver, for the Houston Chronicle, originally published on September 8.