Last night the Happenstancers presented a short but extremely enjoyable Pierrot themed concert at 918 Bathurst. The major work, unsurprisingly, was Schoenberg’s melodrama Pierrot lunaire for voice and chamber ensemble. It was presented in two parts. The first fourteen poems formed the first half of the programme which closed out with the concluding seven. It was extremely well done. Danika Lorèn was an excellent choice as the voice. She has the technique for Schoenberg’s tricky sprechstimme as well as the innate musicality and sense of drama the piece needs. The standard “Pierrot ensemble” is perfectly suited for the Happenstancers typically eclectic mixing of instruments. Here we had Brad Cherwin on clarinets, Rebecca Maranis on flutes, Hee-See Yoon on violin and viola, Sarah Gans on cello and Alexander Malikov on piano. Simon Rivard conducted. Skilful playing and well timed interplay between instruments and voice made for a most satisfactory experience. Continue reading
Last night saw the third and final concert in the inaugural West End Micro Music Festival. Sadly we had missed number two because of TTC snarl ups but we got there fine last night. The first half of the programme was Mozart and Stravinsky but presented in an unconventional and very effective way. The movements of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet and Three Pieces for String Quartet were alternated with an arrangement for clarinet and string trio of Mozart’s adagio from K370 and two of the fragments from K516. It was really cool; one each of the Stravinsky clarinet and string pieces, followed by some Mozart. Rinse and repeat! There were a couple of fairly dark pieces but mostly this is quite playful music and the musicians; Emily Kruspe and Eric Kim-Fujita (violins), Maxime Despax (viola), Sebastian Ostertag (cello) and Brad Cherwin (clarinets) were obviously having a lot of fun.
Last night the first of three concerts at Lutheran Redeemer Church in the West End Micro Music Festival took place. It was an exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet and proved most interesting in that regard. The use of extended technique has long been part of the string quartet repertoire but in the first part of last night’s programme two works by Nicole Lizée explored much further than that using additional “instruments”; whirly/whizzy things, strange blue/purple contraptions that made their own sounds and were also used as bows and sheets of paper rustled in front of fans. Norma Beecroft’s Amplified Quartet with Tape augmented the four instruments with recorded electronics. Whether this was all pre-recorded or processed as the performance proceeded (or both) I couldn’t say. One has to admire the versatility of the interro quartet (Steve Sang Koh and Eric Kim-Fujita – vilolins, Maxime Despax -viola and Sebastian Ostertag – cello) in handling all the requirements. It also really made me glad to be back listening “live”. This kind of music demands a kind of distraction free attention that’s really hard to conjure up in one’s own living room.
As live music slowly rises from the tomb in Toronto we greet any new initiative with enthusiasm. When it comes from the fertile creative imagination of Brad Cherwin and friends we get even more excited. Mozart is DEAD aka the West End Micro Music Festival is a series of three concerts at the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1691 Bloor Street West (close to Keele subway). The concerts are at 7.30pm on three successive Fridays; November 26th, December 3rd and 10th. In the first the Interro Quartet reinvent the string quartet, in the second we are promised “thickets of cables” transforming “single voices into otherwordly and ethereal choruses” and in the last we get a fresh take on music by Mozart, Stravinsky and Francaix.
More details and tickets are available here. It’s free for students and about $20 per or $50 for all three for grown ups.
Muse 9 Production’s new show Bon Appétit: A Musical Tasting Menu couples three short operas about food and was, appropriately enough, presented at Merchants of Green Coffee on Matilda Street. Perhaps “opera” isn’t the right term as, although each piece was fully staged, they featured only one singer each. “Opera” or “staged song”? I don’t really care as they were fun.
The third concert in the Heliconian Hall series from Adanya Dunn, Brad Cherwin and Alice Hwang was titled Intersections and was designed to explore “the sphinx like mind of Robert Schumann” through his own music and music inspired by him. First up was Kurtàg’s Hommage à Robert Schumann featuring Alice and Brad and guest violist Laila Zakzook. This is a complex and difficult piece. Some sections consist of short fragments of “conversation” between the instruments. At other times there is a more obvious line and it varies in mood from extremely violent to almost lyrical. It’s an interesting exploration of Schumann’s various musical personalities through a completely different sound world.
There are a few things I didn’t mention in my back half of April post. Century Song opened a couple of nights ago at Crow’s Theatre. It’s a live performance hybrid, inspired in part by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Soprano Neema Bickersteth melds classical song (music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Oliver Messiaen, John Cage, Georges Aperghis and Reza Jacobs) and movement to inhabit a century of women whose identities are contained within a single performer. Details here.
Lineage, performed last night at the Heliconian Club, is the latest show from Adanya Dunn, Brad Cherwin and Alice Hwang who brought us Evolving Symmetry in September. Lineage featured German music from Schubert to Rihm so much more in my sweet spot than the French theme of the earlier show. It was intriguingly constructed with three sets each of a pieces from Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Worte and a Rihm song setting. In between we got first Berg and then Webern, Schoenberg and Schubert. It sounds bizarrely eclectic but the contrast between quite experimental pieces and more obviously accessible fare was very satisfying. Also the sense that there is both a thematic unity and a tendency to experiment in a lot of German music regardless of period.
Evolving Symmetry is the first of a promised series of collaborations by soprano Adanya Dunn, clarinetist Brad Cherwin and pianist Alice Gi-Yong Hwang. The focus will be on “modern” chamber and vocal works (for some value of “modern”) and last night at Heliconian Hall they presented French works ranging from the 189os to the 1960s.
The program was bookended by two late Poulenc works; the song cycle La courte paille to nonsense verse by Maurice Carème and the clarinet sonata. These works were composed at the same time and share some musical material though the sonata seems a weightier work. The songs are fun and playful and they were interpreted by Ms. Dunn with excellent French diction and lots of humour. The sonata is seems much sadder and more reflective though its final movement is manic enough. Fine playing from both musicians here.
Time to revive the “upcoming week” post I think. There are two items of interest in the next week. Evolving Symmetry at the Heliconian Club on Wednesday 7th at 7pm features soprano Adanya Dunn, clarinetist Brad Cherwin and pianist clarinet Alice Gi-Young Hwang in a program of music by Debussy, Françaix, Milhaud, and Poulenc. Then on Saturday 10th at Opera Bob’s at 5pm MYOpera have their season launch party. Last year’s was fun.