This will be a bit of an “odds and sods” round up. First off, check out Natalya Gennadi and Catherine Carew’s latest offering on Natalya’s Youtube channel. The music is very good but the animated effects are amazing. Over at Against the Grain you can see Joel Ivany interviewing HE Adrienne Clarkson who is always interesting to talk to.
Over the next few months Tapestry will be offering three new shows recorded in the Ernest Balmer Studio and streamed via Youtube. The line up is:
A Joke Before the Gallows: Pianist Adam Sherkin performs a musical story celebrating the dramatic music of Chopin, directed by Tom Diamond, with text by David James Brock, in co-production with The Piano Lunaire. That premiers on January 30th.
Our Song D’Hiver: Soprano Mireille Asselin explores her connection to the shared and unique elements of English-speaking and French-speaking culture. Premiers February 27th.
Where Do I Go?: Pianist Morgan-Paige Melbourne offers up a unique multidisciplinary performance combining piano with dance. That goes live on March 27th.
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.
Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured mezzo Marion Newman with pianist Adam Sherkin and violinist Kathleen Kajioka in a programme of contemporary Canadian works (all the composers were in the room!) mostly connected in some way with Canada’s First Nations and Inuit peoples. First up was Ian Cusson’s setting of E. Pauline Johnson‘s A Cry from an Indian Wife. It’s a long, highly emotional but not, I think, especially well crafted, text about an Indian woman sending her husband off to war (the language reflects the usage of its day) and the words are not easy to set or sing. Cusson’s setting is appropriately intense with a blistering piano part and a tough vocal line. It’s deeply affecting but hardly comfortable especially when sung in a manner that clearly (and rightly) privileged text and emotion over beauty of sound.
Well the holidays are over and the music scene is coming back to life from its seasonal diet of musical plum pudding. There’s not a lot on this week but there is the first vocal concert of the year in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Mezzo-soprano Marion Newman will be joined by Kathleen Kajioka (violin) and Adam Sherkin (piano)in a programme of Canadian works exploring First Nations themes. It includes Dustin Peters’ song cycle, Echo|Sap’a, which explores the journey of The Echo (or Sap’a in Kwakwala), a para-natural entity that mimics the sounds and movements she encounters throughout the woods and waters, as well as Kinanu, a lullaby composed by Newman for her baby sister. Noon, of course, and free.
Later on Thursday, at 9pm to be precise, there’s AtG’s first Opera Pub Night of the year featuring beer, singers and a Craig’s list piano. It’s at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club on the Esplanade and I strongly recommend arriving early.
The AGO has a new initiative; AGO Friday Nights. For the price of admission to the gallery one also gets to hear a one hour concert of music programmed by Tapestry’s Michael Mori to reflect something going on at the the gallery. Right now the big exhibition is JMW Turner: Painting Set Free. It’s a decent sized exhibition of works mainly drawn from the later stages of Turner’s career and it’s well worth seeing. The music; half piano, half works for mezzo and piano reflects aspects of the exhibition.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is starting a new Friday night music initiative. Each Friday night in November (6th, 13th, 20th, 27th), the inaugural month of AGO Friday Nights, will celebrate the opening of J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free, a major exhibition featuring the works of Joseph Mallord William Turner. The AGO is partnering with Tapestry to present Music Set Free, a special performance featuring pianist/composer Adam Sherkinand mezzo-soprano Marion Newman. Capturing a selection of music from Turner’s time in addition to pieces inspired by his influences, subjects and artistic practice, the concert will feature works ranging from Beethoven to Britten, as well as a special world premiere of an original work by Adam Sherkin, commissioned by Tapestry for the occasion. Music Set Free is curated by Michael Mori, Artistic Director of Tapestry Opera. The performances will be from 7.30pm to 8.30 pm and are included in the admission price to the exhibition. There will be a bar and food and stuff too.
This year’s new work from the Canadian Art Song Project, Marjan Mozetich’s Enchantments of Gwendolyn, was premiered yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. It’s a setting of four really interesting poems by Gwendolyn MacEwen for mezzo-soprano and piano. The first and last pieces; Sunday Morning Sermon and A Coin for the Ferryman are rather beautifulmeditative pieces and frame the two inner songs nicely. These inner two, for me, was where much of the interest really lay. Waiting for You was a blues inflected number of considerable interest, in some ways recalling Michael Tippett but in others entirely original. The third piece; The Tao of Physics, is a setting of a piece linking sub-atomic physics with the cosmology of The Vedas. That’s not exactly an original idea but it’s always an interesting one to explore and, by accident or design, Mozetich does so in a manner that somewhat recall John Adams’ treatment of the same basic ideas. We get a long, impassioned, vocal line floating over an arpeggiated piano accompaniment. It’s impressive and effective. All four pieces were beautifully performed by Allyson McHardy and Adam Sherkin. McHardy’s warm. dark mezzo seemed perfect for the material and listening was like wallowing in hot chocolate (more lurid similes did suggest themselves but this is a family blog). She can sing the blues too. Who would have thought it.
Today’s lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was of a series of works by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho whose opera L’Amour de Loin opens on Thursday at the Four Seasons Centre. The composer was in attendance and introduced each of the pieces.
First up were four songs for soprano and piano on texts by the Finnish poet Leino. These were performed by Carla Huhtanen and Adam Sherkin. We were told that the texts were essentially untranslatable but the English versions we got were good enough to see how the mood of the music fit the piece, if not to make any real judgement of the relationship between words and music. I found the music evocative and quite complex but not difficult to listen to. It’s certainly well beyond being mere mood music. They are quite intense pieces and place pretty heavy demands on both pianist and singer. In particular the soprano has many loud, sustained high notes to cope with and some awkward intervals. Huhtanen managed this with comfort. I can’t comment on her Finnish though I guess I can say, given that the last time I heard her sing was in Serbian, that odd languages don’t seem to worry her. Sherkin seemed well in control at the keyboard.
Next up were two contrasting piano pieces played by Sherkin. Both demanded some rather athletic playing. The first, Prelude, I found the more meditative of the two. I zoned out at times (but in a good way). The second piece, Ballade, I found myself getting more analytical about. The composer explained that it was a more narratively structured piece and I did get that sense. Sherkin was really good on both pieces.
The final contribution was Tag des Jahrs for choir and electronics. It’s a setting of four poems by Hölderlin on the theme of the seasons. This was performed by the Elmer Iseler Singers who, besides the electronic tape, got “help” from a concrete saw on University Avenue. For me this was the least successful piece. The music was quite evocative but occasionally seemed to be slipping into mood music territory. It probably wasn’t helped by the performance. I thought the German diction was distinctly sub-standard. They might as well have been singing in Finnish.
I’m glad to have heard some of Saariaho’s music ahead of seeing L’Amour de Loin next week and it’s always good to hear the composer’s thoughts on works of this type. There’s another concert of vocal works by Saariaho on Thursday. Here’s the programme. I shall try to be there.