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2022/23 Season Concerts

TSO Holiday Pops

Steven Reineke, conductor (Dec 6 & 7)
Lucas Waldin, conductor (Dec 8)
Nikki Renée Daniels, vocalist
Paul Alexander Nolan, vocalist
Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus

Traditional/arr. Matthew Jackfert
“I Saw Three Ships”

Edward Pola & George Wyle/arr. Steven Reineke
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Irving Berlin/arr. Jim Gray
“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”

Vince Guaraldi/arr. Jim Gray
“Christmas Time Is Here”

Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne/arr. Matt Podd
“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Mel Tormé & Robert Wells/arr. Matt Podd
“The Christmas Song”

Ray Evans/arr. Steven Reineke
“Silver Bells”

Traditional/arr. David Chase
“The First Noël”

Felix Bernard/arr. Ralph Hermann
“Winter Wonderland”

Arr. Steven Reineke/orch. Sam Shoup 
Holiday Hits Medley
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” (Mariah Carey & Walter Afanasieff)
“Hard Candy Christmas” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Carol Hall) 
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (John Lennon & Yoko Ono)
“Feliz Navidad” (José Feliciano)

Intermission

Joseph Carleton Beal & James Ross Boothe/arr. Steven Reineke 
“Jingle Bell Rock”

Judith Clurman & David Chase
“Eight Days of Light”

Walter Kent/arr. Steven Reineke
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

Buddy Greene/arr. Jim Gray
“Mary, Did You Know?”

Mykola Leontovych/arr. David Hamilton 
Carol of the Bells

Irving Berlin/arr. Matt Cusson
“Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” from White Christmas

Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane/arr. Adam Podd
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Adolphe Adam & John Sullivan Dwight/arr. David T. Clydesdale
“O Holy Night”

Arr. Sam Shoup & Steven Reineke/orch. Sam Shoup 
The Jingle, Jangle Sing-Along
“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (Johnny Marks)
“Frosty the Snowman” (Walter “Jack” Rollins & Steve Nelson)
“Here Comes Santa Claus” (Gene Autry & Oakley Haldeman)
“Jingle Bells” (James Lord Pierpoint)

 

Steve Reineke, conductor

Steven Reineke has established himself as one of North America’s leading conductors of popular music.

Along with his role as Principal Pops Conductor of the TSO, Reineke is music director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. He is also principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and principal pops conductor of the Houston Symphony.

Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and his extensive North American conducting appearances include Atlanta, Cincinnati, Edmonton, and San Francisco. On stage, Reineke has created programs and collaborated with a range of leading artists from the worlds of hip-hop, Broadway, television, and rock, including Cynthia Erivo, Common, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Wayne Brady, Peter Frampton, and Ben Folds, among others. In 2017, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered featured Reineke leading the National Symphony Orchestra performing live music excerpts between news segments—a first in the show’s 45-year history. In 2018, Reineke led the National Symphony Orchestra with hip-hop legend Nas performing his seminal album Illmatic on PBS’s Great Performances.

As the creator of more than 100 orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Reineke’s work has been performed worldwide and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently. His Sun Valley Festival Fanfare was used to commemorate the Sun Valley Summer Symphony pavilion, and his Festival Te Deum and Swans Island Sojourn were débuted by the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops Orchestras. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands worldwide.

Nikki Renée Daniels, vocalist

Nikki Renée Daniels recently starred in the Tony Award–winning revival of Company on Broadway. Other recent credits include Hamilton (Angelica Schuyler) at the CIBC Center in Chicago and The Book of Mormon (Nabulungi) on Broadway. She has also been seen on Broadway as Clara in the 2012 Tony Award–winning revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Fantine in Les Miserablés, and in Nine; Aida; Little Shop of Horrors; The Look of Love; Promises, Promises; Anything Goes; and Lestat. She made her New York City Opera début as Clara in Porgy and Bess.

Daniels played the featured role of Tracy in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall. Other New York credits include playing Martha Jefferson in 1776 at City Center Encores! and Rose Lennox in The Secret Garden at David Geffen Hall. Regional theatre credits include Ray Charles Live! (Della B.) at Pasadena Playhouse; Anything Goes (Hope) at Williamstown Theatre Festival; and Aida (Aida) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Narrator) at ArtPark.

Daniels has performed as a soloist with many symphony orchestras across the US and Canada. She has also performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, and holds a BFA from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Her début CD, Home, is available on iTunes. For more information, please visit nikkireneedaniels.com.

Paul Alexander Nolan, vocalist 

Paul Alexander Nolan was most recently seen in Parade at New York City Center, directed by Michael Arden. As a proud Canadian, he has led seven Broadway productions including Jesus Christ Superstar, Once, Doctor Zhivago, Bright Star, Chicago, and Escape to Margaritaville, and he originated the role of Jim in Slave Play at NYTW, on Broadway, and at The Taper in LA. 

Earlier this year, he starred in the world première of the Ahrens & Flaherty musical Knoxville at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, FL, as well as fellow Canadian Britta Johnson’s musical Life After at The Goodman in Chicago. Nolan is credited with five original cast albums. TV credits include The Code, Madam Secretary, and Instinct for CBS. With the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Paul is in the final stages of producing a concept album about isolation, entitled T+L, with his lifelong friend Michael Tremblay. For more information, please visit paulalexandernolan.com.

Lucas Waldin, conductor 

Lucas Waldin has delighted audiences across North America with his dynamic and versatile conducting. He has collaborated with some of today’s most exciting artists including Carly Rae Jepsen, Ben Folds, the Canadian Brass, and Buffy Sainte-Marie, along with conducting presentations such as Disney in Concert, Blue Planet Live, Cirque de la Symphony, and the groundbreaking symphonic début of R&B duo Dvsn as part of the global Red Bull Music Festival.

Waldin has been a guest conductor throughout the US and Canada, including with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Grant Park Festival Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Vancouver Symphony, the Calgary Philharmonic, and the Toronto Symphony.

Resident Conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra since 2009, Waldin was subsequently appointed Artist-in-Residence and Community Ambassador—the first such position in North America. He appeared with the ESO over 150 times and conducted in Carnegie Hall during the orchestra’s participation in the 2012 Spring for Music festival. In recognition, he was awarded the Jean-Marie Beaudet Award in Orchestra Conducting, and a Citation Award from the City of Edmonton for outstanding achievements in arts and culture.

A native of Toronto, Canada, Waldin holds degrees in flute and conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus

David Ambrose & Patricia Warnock, conductors

The Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus made its TSO début in November 2008.

Soprano

Jace Grosbein Ainslie
Roxy Pearce Basman
Kidan Brusselers
Ciara Charles
Avni Chaturvedi
Farrah Collins
Rebecca Corbin
Emily Cram
Jordyn Crawford
Lucy Crow
Sabina Crow
Alexina Fedyshyn
Gaia Friedman
Taylor Gage
Isabel Gehres
Emily Harrington
Rachael Kennedy
Stella Kiloh
Jahlaya Lafortune-Spencer
Ela Lemieux
Gabriela Majewska
Amelia Miville-Dechene
Mad Morin
Penny Otis
Finn Reed
Marley Robinson-Shaw
Clara Scott
Isabel Rose Silva
Sofia Ventura
Kalashree Vyas
Chelsea Webster
Sophia Qureshi Wennekers
Kenna Wessingee
Ashton Wilkinson
Esther Wszelaki

Alto

Sofia Amelunxen
Rebekah Arseneau
Lucy Axbey
Dalila Bejar-Ali
Ella Chung
Mia Cirera-Hughes
Avalyn Cozzubbo
Ria Davda
Mia de Lasa
Melzee Diao
Allyson Farrell
Saskia Fowler
Shade Hansen
Lee Howden
Madeline Knapp
Sophia Kot
Brenna MacDonald
Sasha Middleton
Phoebe Onapajo
Lilith Otis
Casper Pressé
Aster Queale
Alexandra Smith
Kendra Tang
Ashley Thoprakan  
Teresa Topolski
Lily Westsmith
Ella Woo

Tenor

Nikki Battiston  
Zac Bolognone
RJ Cidadao-Ellis
Tyler Gibson
Caitlin Graham
Eleanor Guy
Luke Mathews
Marina McAleer
Alyx McCabe
Elan McMurray
Milan Miville-Dechene
Lexi Roth
Maya Thomas
Liam Tsuji
Thomas Winiker

Bass

William Bastianon
Nate Bernstein-Cord
Max Cohen
Lucas Drube
Noah Gurevitz
Ezequiel Igreja
Benjamin LeRoij
Rayn Mohamed
Callum Thompson
Bolan Walker

The Jingle-Jangle Sing-Along

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

You know Dasher and Dancer
and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Then how the reindeer loved him,
As they shouted out with glee:
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history.”

Here Comes Santa Claus

Here comes Santa Claus,
here comes Santa Claus, 
right down Santa Claus Lane,
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer
pullin’ on the reins.
Bells are ringin’, children singin’,
all is merry and bright,
So jump in bed and cover your head
’cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

Here comes Santa Claus,
here comes Santa Claus, 
right down Santa Claus Lane.
He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys
for boys and girls again.
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle,
oh what a beautiful sight.
So jump in bed, and cover your head,
’cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bob-tail ring
Making spirits bright.
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

Frosty the Snowman

Oh, Frosty the Snowman
Was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.

Frosty the Snowman
Is a fairytale, they say
He was made of snow
but the children know
How he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic
In that old silk hat they found,
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Oh, Frosty the Snowman
Was alive as he could be.
And the children say
He could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me.

Thumpity thump thump (2)
Look at Frosty go,
Thumpity thump thump (2)
Over the hills of snow.

Elf™ in Concert

John Debney, conductor

First Half

Intermission

Second Half

John Debney, composer/conductor

John Debney is the ultimate film music character actor. In equal demand for family films such as Jingle Jangle, Come Away, and Elf as he is for adventure films like Iron Man 2, the Oscar-nominated composer also scored the powerful and poignant The Passion of the Christ. Debney is an agile jack-of-all-genres—composing for sci-fi adventure (ORVILLE), comedies (Bruce Almighty), horror (Dream House), and romance (Valentine’s Day) with the same confidence and panache.

Debney is also known for his work in such films as Princess Diaries, Sin City, Liar Liar, Spy Kids, No Strings Attached, The Emperor’s New Groove, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Hocus Pocus. Debney’s work also includes Disney’s The Jungle Book directed by Jon Favreau, Fox’s Ice Age: Collision Course directed by Mike Thurmeier, and Twentieth Century Fox’s award-winning musical The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron. Debney’s most recent films include The Beach Bum starring Matthew McConaughey and directed by Harmony Korine, the Warner Bros. comedy feature Isn’t It Romantic starring Rebel Wilson, Paramount Pictures’ family adventure feature Dora and the Lost City of Gold, and Bleecker Street’s biopic Brian Banks. Upcoming for Debney is Come Away directed by Brenda Chapman and starring Angelina Jolie.

Born in Glendale, California, Debney’s professional life began after he studied composition at the California Institute of the Arts, when he went to work writing music and orchestrating for Disney Studios and various television series. He won his first Emmy in 1990 for the main theme for The Young Riders, and his career soon hit a gallop. Since then he has won three more Emmys (Sea Quest DSV), and been nominated for a total of six (most recently in 2012 for his work on the Kevin Costner western miniseries Hatfields & McCoys). His foray into video-game scoring—2007’s Lair—resulted in a BAFTA nomination and a Best Videogame Score award from the International Film Music Critics Association.

Debney has collaborated with acclaimed directors as diverse as Robert Rodriguez, Garry Marshall, Mel Gibson, the Farrelly Brothers, Jon Favreau, Jim Sheridan, Ivan Reitman, Peter Chelsom, Rob Cohen, Brian Robbins, Tom Shadyac, Sam Raimi, Adam Shankman, Howie Deutch, Renny Harlin, Peter Hyams, and Kenny Ortega. He was nominated by the Academy for his Passion of the Christ score. Inspired by that score, he then created The Passion Oratorio, performed in 2015 in the historic Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Spain, in front of 6,000 people during Holy Week. In 2005, Debney was the youngest recipient of ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Career Achievement Award.

“If I’m doing my job well,” says Debney, “I need to feel it. I really try to make sure that whatever I’m doing—even if it’s a comedy—that I’m feeling it and feeling either humor or the pathos or the dramatic impact of what I’m seeing. That’s the way I approach it.”

CineConcerts 

CineConcerts is one of the leading producers of live and digital music experiences performed with visual media, and continues to redefine entertainment. Founded by Producer/Conductor Justin Freer and Producer/Writer Brady Beaubien, CineConcerts will engage over 4.8 million people worldwide in concert presentations in over 1,749 performances in 48 countries through 2022, and recently launched CineConcerts +PLUS—a global digital network and app suite with hundreds of exclusive podcast episodes and produced content. 

CineConcerts continues to work with some of the most prestigious orchestras and venues in the world including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, and more. 

Recent and current live and digital concert experiences include Elf in Concert, The Pinball Concert (Digital), The Polar Express in Concert, Rudy in Concert, The Passion of the Christ in Concert, The Da Vinci Code in Concert, The Harry Potter Film Concert Series, Gladiator Live, The Godfather Live, It’s a Wonderful Life in Concert, DreamWorks Animation in Concert, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert Tour, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in Concert, and A Christmas Dream Live.

Justin Freer,
president/founder/producer

Brady Beaubien,
co-founder/producer

Andrew P. Alderete,
chief xr officer/head of
publicity and communications

Andrew McIntyre,
director of operations

Brittany Fonseca,
senior marketing manager

Si Peng,
senior social media manager

Opus 3,
worldwide representation

JoAnn Kane Music Service,
music preparation

Justin Moshkevich,
Igloo Music Studios,
sound remixing

Messiah

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor
Lauren Fagan, soprano
Stephanie Wake-Edwards, mezzo-soprano
Michael Colvin, tenor
Elliot Madore, baritone
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
Jean-Sébastien Vallée, Artistic Director 

George Frideric Handel
Messiah

Part One

Intermission

Part Two

Part Three

George Frideric Handel (1685–1759): Messiah

Composed 1741

The English oratorio, of which Messiah is arguably the greatest and certainly the most popular specimen, was a genre that Handel single-handedly invented when his fortunes as an operatic impresario declined in London through the 1730s. The new genre emerged fully formed with his 1732 London revival of Esther—which he had composed around 1718 as a short, masque-like entertainment—recast as a big, three-act concert work for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, blending elements of contemporary Italian opera with the choral style of his own English anthems. Beginning especially with Saul and Israel in Egypt in 1739, oratorio supplanted opera as Handel’s principal musical occupation, and remained so for the last 20 years of his life.

In 1741, the same year in which he presented his last Italian opera in London, Handel was invited to produce a season in Dublin, and, that summer, he composed Messiah. Its rapid composition, completed in a little over three weeks, has become the stuff of legend, though it was not really remarkable by Handel’s standards. The libretto was compiled by Charles Jennens, an eccentric but well-connected Englishman (and a fan of Handel’s since the 1720s) with a passion for literature and music. The première of Messiah was at a benefit concert, in collaboration with the Charitable Musical Society, for the “Relief of the Prisoners in the several Gaols, and for the Support of Mercer’s Hospital in Stephen’s-street, and of the Charitable Infirmary on the Inns Quay.”

Handel introduced Messiah to London in March 1743, though not before weathering some controversy—a musical setting of a religious subject intended for public entertainment outside the church was deemed by certain authorities to be an improper conflation of sacred and secular. Objections were short lived, however, and Messiah quickly assumed its familiar place (in the English-speaking world especially) as one of Handel’s most beloved works. From 1749, he performed it annually until his death, under his own auspices in the spring to close his theatrical season, then shortly thereafter for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital. (Given the popularity of performing Messiah at Christmas time, it is interesting to note that Handel’s own performances were invariably around Easter.)

After Handel’s death in 1759, the popularity of Messiah continued to spread. By the end of the 18th century—at a time when there was almost no market for “ancient music” (meaning any music not brand new)—Messiah was being performed and admired throughout Europe, and was also being adapted to accommodate changing tastes: with choruses and orchestras much larger than those used by Handel, in updated arrangements (Mozart reworked it for a classical orchestra in 1789), and, as amateur choirs became increasingly popular through the 19th century, in massed-choir performances. Since about 1950, there has been an effort to restore the more intimate performance practices of Handel’s day, but Messiah still retains an unrivalled position in mainstream choral repertoire and the popular imagination—one of few works that can claim a continuous performance history through to the present day.

The Handel oratorio, to quote one contemporary definition, is “a musical Drama, whose Subject must be Scriptural, and in which the Solemnity of Church-Musick is agreeably united with the most pleasing Airs of the Stage.” In many ways, Messiah is typical of the genre—in its reliance on operatic recitative and aria, for instance, and its basic structure of three large “acts” divided into smaller, quasi-operatic “scenes” usually culminating in a chorus. But Messiah also differs from Handel’s other oratorios in three significant ways. 

First, it deals directly with the life of Christ—not something audiences were accustomed to seeing in an English theatre. Second, the text includes no rhymed or metrical verse, only relatively short units of prose. Third, the text is a narrative, not a drama, told by a single narrative voice, though that voice is shared among solo and choral forces. The story is not dramatized but observed. Part One deals with Biblical prophecies of the Saviour, realized in the incarnation of Christ; Part Two deals with Christ’s Passion and the triumph of the Second Coming; and Part Three comments on Christ’s role as Saviour.

There is no one definitive Messiah; even the original Dublin Messiah counts as only one among many authentic versions. For years, beginning with the 1743 London performances, Handel tinkered with the score and fiddled with the orchestration, too. Originally scored for a relatively small, non-theatrical ensemble (trumpets, drums, strings, and continuo, with no horns or woodwinds), from at least 1745, he took to strengthening the orchestration, first with oboes and bassoons, later with horns. And so there are almost as many authentic versions of Messiah as there were Handel performances of it—a situation that has become even more  complicated over the succeeding centuries, in the hands of other performers, conductors, arrangers, and editors. In reality, any version of Messiah is merely one choice from among a plethora of legitimate options.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana

 

A CONTINUOUS PERFORMANCE HISTORY

April 13, 1742

Over 700 patrons showed up at Neal’s Musick Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin. Due to the expected crowding, men were asked to “leave their swords at home, and women to refrain from wearing hoop skirts.” In the words of one enthusiastic critic: “The sublime, the grand and the tender, adapted to the most elevated and moving words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished heart and ear.” Handel conducted from the organ.

December 17, 1857 

John Carter conducted the Sacred Harmonic Choir of Toronto, which he founded, in the first performance of the work in Upper Canada. Carter was the organist from 1856 to 78 at Cathedral Church of St. James. 

June 14, 1894

First concert in a five-concert festival to inaugurate the then 3,500-seat “Massey Music Hall”. The event featured Handel‘s Messiah performed by a 500-member chorus with the 70-member Grand Festival Orchestra conducted by Frederick Torrington.

December 1932

Start of a 90-year tradition: the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, first performed Handel’s Messiah, under the choir’s second conductor, Herbert A. Fricker, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

1952, 1987 & 2015

TMC and TSO recorded Messiah three times: In 1952, Sir Ernest MacMillan with soloists Lois Marshall, Mary Palmateer, John Vickers, and James Milligan; in 1987, Sir Andrew Davis with soloists Kathleen Battle, Florence Quivar, John Aler, and Samuel Ramey; and in 2015, Sir Andrew again, with soloists Erin Wall, Elizabeth DeShong, Andrew Staples, and John Relyea.

 

Lauren Fagan, soprano

Lauren Fagan has developed into one of today’s most accomplished sopranos, admired by international critics for her “glossy, commanding sound” and “magnificent dramatic power.” A former member of the prestigious Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Australian soprano represented her country in the 2019 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. In the 2022/23 season, Fagan makes her much anticipated Australian operatic début, singing her acclaimed interpretation of Violetta in La traviata for State Opera South Australia. She performs the role of Margarita Xirgu in Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar for Scottish Opera, and returns to Glyndebourne Festival to sing Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, conducted by Dalia Stasevska. 

In concert, Fagan reprises the role of Avis in Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Robin Ticciati, following performances this past season at Glyndebourne Festival, and makes her Canadian début as the soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah with Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. In recent seasons, Fagan débuted Beethoven’s “Ah! perfido” with Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Simone Young, followed by Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under Dane Lam, and has performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Symphoniker Hamburg under Eivind Gullberg Jensen and Oslo Philharmonic under Klaus Mäkelä.

Stephanie Wake-Edwards, mezzo-soprano

Stephanie Wake-Edwards was awarded a special recital in Marc Minkowski’s Concours Bordeaux Médoc Lyrique in 2018 and joined the Royal Opera House Covent Garden’s Jette Parker Young Artist Programme in 2019. Highlights there include her performance as Anna in the filmed production of Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins and Flora in Verdi’s La traviata.

She made her début as Third Noble Orphan in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Glyndebourne Festival, returning in 2023 to sing Ino in Handel’s Semele. She has recently sung Handel’s Messiah on the Glyndebourne Tour and Third Nymph in Dvořák’s Rusalka for Garsington Opera, made her début at the Grafenegg Festival performing Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater with Fabio Biondi, and given a recital at the Opéra National de Bordeaux.

2022/23 highlights include recitals at Wigmore Hall and Oxford Lieder Festival; Messiah with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires; and her début at both Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, and English National Opera.

Stephanie graduated from the University of York with a BA in sociology with social psychology, followed by a master’s degree in vocal studies at the Royal Academy of Music. She is an Associate of the RAM and represented England in the 2021 Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

Michael Colvin, tenor

Hailed in Opera News as possessing “one of the most beautiful lyric tenor instruments around,” Irish-Canadian tenor Michael Colvin has appeared to critical acclaim on some of the most prestigious opera and concert stages throughout Canada, the US, the UK, and Europe. His 2022/23 season sees returns to the Opéra National de Paris for a double appearance as Monostatos in Robert Carsen’s Die Zauberflöte and Spoleta (Tosca) under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel; the Salzburg Festival as Bardolfo (Falstaff); and the Canadian Opera Company for Le nozze di Figaro and Salome

Looking ahead to future seasons, Colvin makes an anticipated company début with Teatro alla Scala in one of his signature roles—Bob Boles in Robert Carsen’s new production of Peter Grimes, conducted by Simone Young—and a further début at the Teatro Real. Recent concert engagements include Oedipus Rex at the Edinburgh International Festival; Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde for Louisville Orchestra; Handel’s Messiah with National Arts Centre Orchestra and Seattle Symphony; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec; and Verdi’s Requiem for the Elora Festival. 

Elliot Madore, bass-baritone

Hailed by The New York Times for his “robust singing” and Opera News for his “exquisite vocal beauty,” GRAMMY® Award–winning Canadian baritone Elliot Madore has established himself as an international artist in demand at the leading opera houses and orchestras of the world. The 2022/23 season sees his return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic to sing Ramón in a semi-staged production of John Adam’s’ Girls of the Golden West, as well as his much anticipated début with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to sing Messiah under the direction of Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. 

Mr. Madore also sings the baritone soloist in Carmina Burana in a special co-presentation by the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Hong Kong Ballet, as well as with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä, the New World Symphony conducted by Patrick Dupré Quigley, and the Oregon Symphony conducted by Leo Hussain. Mr. Madore also makes his début with the Kalamazoo Symphony in Brahms’s A German Requiem. This season, Mr. Madore also continues his position as a performing Associate Professor of Voice with the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music faculty.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

Jean-Sébastien Vallée, Artistic Director

Named as TMC’s Artistic Director in May 2021 following an international search, Maestro Dr. Jean-Sébastien Vallée is an internationally recognized conductor, scholar, and pedagogue. In addition to his artistic leadership of the TMC, he is Associate Professor of Music, Director of Choral Studies, and Coordinator of the Ensembles & Conducting Area at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. Ensembles under his direction have toured throughout Europe and North America, and Maestro Vallée’s work has been broadcast internationally and can be heard on several recordings.

The Choir

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMChoir) is proud to be one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and best-known choral organizations. The Choir presented its first concert on January 15, 1895, as part of Massey Hall’s inaugural season, and has been a leader in choral music in Canada ever since, commissioning works by Canadian composers, and presenting world and Canadian premières. The Choir also regularly performs and records with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. In May 2021, Jean-Sébastien Vallée was named as Artistic Director, only the ninth conductor in TMChoir’s 128-year history.

Through its performances, educational programs, and community engagement, TMChoir aspires to introduce its audiences to choral masterworks from the past and present—making both renowned and lesser-known pieces available, accessible, and inspirational to all.

The TMChoir includes 24 professional singers and over 100 auditioned and experienced volunteer choristers and choral apprentices. Auditions for new members are held in the spring and fall.

Our smaller professional ensemble, the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers (TMSingers) was created to deliver more intimate, nimble repertoire in a variety of non-traditional venues, traversing the line between concert and experience, and showcasing the individual expression of professional soloists. 

TMChoir members for these performances

Soprano 

Catherine Alberti 
Tia Andriani 
Ann-Marie Barrett-Tandy
Jocelyn Belfer
Lesley Emma Bouza*
Louise Boyden 
Leslie Bradshaw 
Marlo Burks 
Hannah Carty 
Joanne Chapin* 
Amy Chen 
Laureen Choi 
Emily Dotzlaw 
Janet Eide 
Kim Finkelstein 
Leslie Finlay 
Louise Zacharias Friesen 
Marina Galeano 
Kaveri Gandhi 
Rebecca Genge* 
Pat M. Irwin 
Alysha Ladha 
Jisue Lee 
Claire Luc 
Marlene Lynds 
Teresa Mahon* 
Sachiko Marshall 
Cathy Minnaar 
Camila Mussa 
Emily Parker* 
Alison Price 
Olivia Pryce-Digby 
Mary Ridgley 
Heather Rowe 
Roxana Samson 
Alessia Signorella 
Jaclyn Siou 
Chong Tan
Joanne Tang 
Jennie Worden 
Sophya Yumakulov

Alto 

Jane Agossta 
Marlo Alcock 
Renée Ardiente 
Julia Barber* 
Frances Chan 
Rebecca Claborn* 
Kristin Crawford 
Avis Devine 
Adrienne Eastwood 
Kirsten Fielding* 
Ruxandra Filip 
Manda Fischer 
Gillian Grant 
Marilyn Isaac
Stewart Sue Kim
Claudia Lemcke*
Alison Massam 
Hilary McCrimmon 
Ryan McDonald* 
Heather McGrath 
Jennifer McGraw 
Bethany Jo Mikelait
Annie Odom 
Parnian Parvin 
Pamela Psarianos 
Alison Roy* 
Yara Rubb 
Namratha Sridevi 
Jan Szot 
Jennifer Ujimoto 
Kiley Venables 
Patti Vipond 
Emma Willemsma 
Tarquin Wongkee 
Susan Worthington 
Virginia Wright 
YuYang Wu 
Mitzi Wolfe Zohar 

Tenor 

Jacob Abrahamse* 
Mitch Aldrich* 
Rafael Avila Sam Broverman 
Thomas Burton* 
Karel Cantelar 
Ramos Michael Clipperton 
Peter DeRoche 
Omar Flores 
John Gladwell 
Nicholas Gough* 
Nathan Gritter* 
Alejandro Guerrero 
Jamie Hillman* 
Valdis Jevtejevs* 
Clement Kam 
Francis Lam 
Eric Lee 
Walter Mahabir* 
Michaelangelo Masangkay 
Timothy McPhail 
Daniel Meeks 
Nicholas Nicolaidis* 
Neil Payne 
Christopher Wenman

Bass 

Neil Aronoff* 
Jeffrey Baker 
Dan Bevan-Baker* 
Hernan Botero 
Tony Churchill 
Matthew Conte 
Scott Crocker 
Steven Foster 
Paul Genyk-Berezowsky* 
Kieran Kane* 
John Lemke 
Matt Lozinski 
Colin Mackey* 
Joseph McGowan IV 
Magnus Mee 
Paul Oros* 
David Peer 
David B. Powell 
Milovan Prelevic 
Seymour Stern 
Chia-An (Victor) Tung 
Sean van Wyk 
Jonah Wall 
Paul Winkelmans* 
Eric Yang 
Isaiah Yankech 
David Yung* 
Bruce Yungblut 

*TMSingers

Messiah

George Frideric Handel

Compiled by Charles Jennens from the Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible, published in 1611

Part One

SINFONIA (OVERTURE)

ACCOMPAGNATO (accompanied)—TENOR

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplish’d, that her iniquity is pardon’d. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:1–3)

AIR—TENOR

Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low,
the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. (Isaiah 40:4)

CHORUS

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:5)

ACCOMPAGNATO—BASS

Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of Hosts: Yet once, a little while, and 
I will shake the heav’ns and the earth, the sea and the dry land, and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come. (Haggai 2:6–7) The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, ev’n the messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight
in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

AIR—MEZZO-SOPRANO

But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire. (Malachi 3:2)

CHORUS

And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)

RECITATIVE—MEZZO-SOPRANO

Behold! A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, (Isaiah 7:14)
And shall call His name Emmanuel: “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

AIR—MEZZO-SOPRANO AND CHORUS

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: Behold your God! (Isaiah 40:9) Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1)

ACCOMPAGNATO—BASS

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness
the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall
be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and
kings to the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:2–3)

AIR—BASS

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. And
they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them
hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

CHORUS

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His Name shall be
called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting
Father, The Prince of Peace! (Isaiah 9:6)

PIFA (PASTORAL SYMPHONY)

RECITATIVE—SOPRANO

There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8)

ACCOMPAGNATO—SOPRANO

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone ’round about them, and they were sore afraid. (Luke 2:9) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heav’nly Host praising God, and saying: (Luke 2:13)

CHORUS

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men! (Luke 2:14)

AIR—SOPRANO

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen. (Zechariah 9:9–10)

RECITATIVE—MEZZO-SOPRANO

Then shall the eyes of the blind be open’d, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. (Isaiah 35:5–6)

DUET—SOPRANO/MEZZO-SOPRANO

He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11) Come unto Him all ye that labour, come unto Him that are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29)

CHORUS

His yoke is easy, and his burthen is light. (Matthew 11:30)

Intermission

CHORUS

Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

AIR—MEZZO-SOPRANO

He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

CHORUS

Surely, He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. (Isaiah 53:4–5)
And with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned ev’ry one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

ACCOMPAGNATO—TENOR

All they that see Him laugh Him to scorn, they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying: (Psalm 22:7)

CHORUS

He trusted in God that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him,
if He delight in Him. (Psalm 22:8)

ACCOMPAGNATO—TENOR

Thy rebuke hath broken His heart; He is full of heaviness. He looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man, neither found He any to comfort Him. (Psalm 69:20)

AIR—TENOR

Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto His sorrow. (Lamentations 1:12)

ACCOMPAGNATO—SOPRANO

He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of Thy people was He stricken. (Isaiah 53:8)

AIR—SOPRANO

But Thou didst not leave His soul in Hell; nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. (Psalm 16:10)

CHORUS

Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty in battle. The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:7–10)

AIR—SOPRANO

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15)

​​AIR—BASS

Why do the nations so furiously rage together, why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed. (Psalm 2:1–2)

​​CHORUS

Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us. (Psalm 2:3)

RECITATIVE—TENOR

He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalm 2:4)

AIR—TENOR

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Psalm 2:9)

CHORUS

Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6) The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and
of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15) King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)

Part Three

AIR—SOPRANO

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and tho’ worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 19:25–26) For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

CHORUS

Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)

ACCOMPAGNATO—BASS

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be chang’d, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)

AIR—BASS

The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be rais’d incorruptible, and we shall be chang’d. (1 Corinthians 15:52)

CHORUS

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and pow’r be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 5:9, 12–14)

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto & Pathétique

Dalia Stasevska, conductor
Sergei Babayan, piano

Andrea Tarrodi
Paradisfåglar II (Birds of Paradise II)

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23

I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso
II. Andantino semplice
III. Allegro con fuoco

Intermission

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 
Symphony No. 6 in B Minor,
Op. 74 “Pathétique”

I. Adagio – Allegro non troppo
II. Allegro con grazia
III. Allegro molto vivace
IV. Finale: Adagio lamentoso



Andrea Tarrodi (b. 1981): Paradisfåglar II (Birds of Paradise II) 

Composed 2013

8 min

In a 2019 interview for The Irish Times, Tarrodi noted that her idea of a “musical heaven” was to have “an orchestra of my own in a really large auditorium.” Indeed, she prefers writing for orchestra, because of the broad range of sounds and timbres that are available to her. Moreover, her compositions are shaped by her synesthesia, an ability to link various notes and chords with different colours. “I approach music from a visual perspective,” she explained in a 2020 Classical Music profile. “I do sketches and drawings of the shape of the music before I write it and then always do a painting or illustration on the scores when I complete them.” 

Tarrodi originally conceived Paradisfåglar (Birds of Paradise) for string orchestra in 2008, when it was premièred by Musica Vitae. In 2013, the Västerås Sinfonietta commissioned this full-orchestra version, and have since recorded it. The piece was inspired by the BBC Planet Earth series hosted by Sir David Attenborough, notably the “Jungles” episode, in which the birds of paradise, with their strikingly colourful plumage and elaborate mating rituals, are featured. 

It unfolds like a journey of discovery, opening with a quiet introduction evoking the sonic atmosphere of a tropical forest. Layers of orchestral timbre swell to a peak with boisterous calls, after which the music culminates on a grand chord. A warm, lyrical episode follows, conveying wonderment at the glorious colours of these birds. An extended section of bird calls follows, by various orchestral instruments using extended playing techniques. The shimmering introduction returns, and an expansive melody emerges. Bird calls echo overtop, then, gradually, the sounds recede into the distance and fade into silence.

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

Over the past decade, Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi has gained attention and renown for her orchestral works, which have been performed worldwide, including at Royal Albert Hall (for the BBC Proms in 2017), the Berliner Philharmonie, the Wiener Musikverein, and London’s Barbican Centre. Her music has also been represented several times at the Baltic Sea Festival. She was the Composer in Residence with Sveriges Radio (Radio Sweden) between 2011 and 2013, a residence that included commissions from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Swedish Radio Choir. The winner of many awards, she was the first female Swedish composer to have a work premièred at the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms in 2020.



Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893): Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 

Composed 1873

36 min

On Christmas Eve, 1874, Tchaikovsky played through his First Piano Concerto for a colleague on the staff of the Moscow Conservatory, Nikolay Rubinstein, who listened through all three movements, then pronounced the new work to be trite, vulgar, awkward, occasionally derivative, thoroughly unplayable, and, “save two or three pages,” worthless. Tchaikovsky was mortified and stormed out of the room in silence, but refused to change a note—and he was right. Since its première, in Boston, in October 1875, with Hans von Bülow at the piano, the concerto has been one of the most popular in the repertoire. Even Rubinstein was eventually won over to it.

Tchaikovsky’s First is a prime example of the Romantic concerto: the solo part is extravagantly virtuosic, at once lyric and heroic; and the interplay of solo and orchestral forces is colourful, dramatic, and sometimes confrontational. The orchestral part, too, is virtuosic: the scoring of the slow movement, especially, is of uncommon sensitivity and imagination. The sweet main theme is introduced in the flute on a delicate cushion of pizzicato strings and, as the movement unfolds, enchanting piano textures are set against vibrant, often unexpected orchestral sonorities reminiscent of the best ballet music. This from a man who claimed not to like the sound of piano with orchestra.

Like many popular works by Tchaikovsky, this concerto has met with its share of condescension, yet the music is often fresh and original. For instance, the soloist is introduced in an exciting and altogether exceptional way, in a grandiose opening Andante that is wholly self-contained, stands outside the main key of the piece, and features a big melody that is never heard again. Each movement includes one borrowed theme: the galloping first Allegro theme of the first movement and the fiery opening theme of the finale are both based on Ukrainian folk songs, while the whirling waltz in the middle of the slow movement (accompanied by a piano that seems to be chasing its own tail) quotes a popular French tune of the day, “Il faut s’amuser et rire”. Tchaikovsky contributes memorable tunes of his own, too, and in the outer movements, he forges powerful and richly variegated musical dramas.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana



Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893): Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathétique”

Composed 1893

50 min

Tchaikovsky fought a lifelong battle against his belief that he was the victim of a cold, implacable Fate, and the final three of his six symphonies depict intensely his struggle against these fears. He won some degree of victory in the Fourth and Fifth. But in the Sixth, his final and greatest work (which could be taken as his last will and testament), destiny reigns supreme. Nine days after the première, he was dead. 

According to his brother, Modest, on the day after the première, the composer was still searching for an appropriate title for the piece. Modest suggested “pathétique”, a French word of Greek origin that is commonly used in Russian. The composer inscribed this immediately on the score.

The symphony opens with a slow, mournful introduction, including a short motif—a descending scale—that recurs throughout the symphony, perhaps, without too great a stretch of the imagination, symbolic in its downward-moving nature, of the cold and implacable force that Tchaikovsky felt ruled his life. The expansive exposition section then contrasts a restless first subject with a consoling second, after which the explosive start of the development heralds many pages of mounting anguish, crowned by a passage of slow, stern grandeur, where the trombones and tuba sound like nothing so much as funeral orators. 

The next movement, a waltz, at first seems to promise a graceful contrast. But with five beats to the bar instead of the usual three, the mood is thrown off kilter, with disturbing, bittersweet results. 

The third movement begins as a dynamic, Mendelssohnian scherzo. Gathering momentum, it appears to become a blazing march of triumph, sweeping all before it, and, in Tchaikovsky’s own day, drawing cheers from his audience. Yet this is not the only possible way of looking at it. David Brown, the author of an authoritative biography of Tchaikovsky, comments: “This march is, in fact, a deeply ironic, bitter conception—a desperate bid for happiness so prolonged and vehement that it confirms not only the desperation of the search, but also its futility.”

The symphony’s slow, anguished Finale confirms this view. Despite repeated protests, resignation becomes complete. A quiet stroke on the tam-tam announces fate’s victory; the music sinks back into the dark depths of the orchestra where it began.

—Program note by Don Anderson

 

Dalia Stasevska, conductor

Dalia Stasevska’s charismatic and dynamic musicianship has established her as a conductor of exceptional versatility. Chief Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the International Sibelius Festival, she also holds the post of Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She has made several appearances at the BBC Proms and is set to make several high-profile débuts around Europe and North America, including this Toronto Symphony Orchestra appearance. 

In autumn 2022, Stasevska embarked on a six-concert tour performing for BBC Proms Japan with soloists Sol Gabetta, Nicola Benedetti, and Roderick Williams. In spring 2023, she and the BBC Symphony Orchestra will collaborate on a project with Grégoire Pont at the Barbican Centre entitled “Our Precious Planet”. Performing works of living composers is a core part of her programming, and, with the Lahti Symphony, she has presented works by Missy Mazzoli, Andrew Norman, and Thomas Adès, among others. Recent highlights include appearances with the Baltimore and Seattle Symphonies, and Orchestre national de France, returns to the Oslo Philharmonic and NAC Orchestra, and the opening of the Tongyeong Festival. 

A passionate opera conductor, Stasevska débuts at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera this season with a revival of the iconic Peter Halls production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In previous seasons, she returned to the Finnish National Opera and Ballet to conduct a double bill of Poulenc’s La voix humaine and Weill’s songs with Karita Mattila, and to Norske Opera to conduct Madama Butterfly and Lucia di Lammermoor. Other appearances include Don Giovanni with Kungliga Operan in Stockholm, directed by Ole Anders Tandberg, Eugene Onegin at the Opéra de Toulon, The Cunning Little Vixen with Finnish National Opera, and Sebastian Fagerlund’s Höstsonaten at the 2018 Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm, featuring Anne Sofie von Otter.

Stasevska originally studied as a violinist and composer at the Tampere Conservatoire, and violin, viola, and conducting at the Sibelius Academy. As a conductor, her teachers include Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstam. She was bestowed the Order of Princess Olga, third class, by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in October 2020 for her significant personal contribution to the development of international cooperation, strengthening the prestige of Ukraine internationally, and the popularization of its historical and cultural heritage. In December 2018, she had the honour of conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic at the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Stockholm. Stasevska was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Conductor Award in 2020.

 

Sergei Babayan, piano

Sergei Babayan is one of the leading pianists of our time. Hailed for his emotional intensity, bold energy, and remarkable levels of colour, Sergei Babayan brings a deep understanding and insight to an exceptionally diverse repertoire. Le Figaro has praised his “unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity.” Le Devoir from Montreal put it simply: “Sergei Babayan is a genius. Period.”

Sergei Babayan has collaborated with such conductors as Sir Antonio Pappano, David Robertson, Neeme Järvi, Rafael Payare, Thomas Dausgaard, Tugan Sokhiev, and Dima Slobodeniouk. Over the years, Babayan has performed with Valery Gergiev numerous times to great critical acclaim, including appearances at the Barbican Centre with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Théâtre des Champs-Elyseés in Paris, the Salzburg Festival, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival, where Babayan was artist-in-residence.

In recent seasons, Mr. Babayan’s schedule has included concert performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, and Verbier Festival Orchestra, among others. Sergei Babayan regularly performs at many of the world’s most prestigious venues, including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Vienna Konzerthaus, Munich’s Prinzregententheater, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Maison de la Radio in Paris, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Alte Oper Frankfurt, and the Zurich Tonhalle. He has appeared at major festivals including La Roque d’Anthéron, Piano aux Jacobins in Toulouse, Gstaad Menuhin Festival, and Verbier Festival. At Konzerthaus Dortmund, Sergei Babayan was a Curating Artist. 

Sergei Babayan is a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive artist; his latest release, Rachmaninoff (DG 2020), was hailed by the international press as a groundbreaking recording and received numerous awards including BBC Recording of the Month and Choc Classica. His previous DG release of his own transcriptions, for two pianos, of works by Sergei Prokofiev, with Martha Argerich as his partner (Prokofiev for Two; DG 2018), was praised by reviewers as “the CD one has waited for” (Le Devoir), and an “electrifying duo that leaves the listener in consternation” (Pianiste). 

Born in Armenia into a musical family, Babayan began his studies there with Georgy Saradjev and continued at the Moscow Conservatory with Mikhail Pletnev, Vera Gornostayeva, and Lev Naumov. Following his first trip outside of the USSR in 1989, he won consecutive first prizes in several major international competitions including the Cleveland International Piano Competition, the Hamamatsu Piano Competition, and the Scottish International Piano Competition. An American citizen, he lives in New York City.

TSYO Fall Concert

Simon Rivard, TSYO Conductor

 

Johannes Brahms
Tragic Overture, Op. 81

María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir
Oceans

Paul Hindemith
Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes
by Carl Maria von Weber

I. Allegro
II. Turandot: Scherzo
III. Andantino
IV. Marsch

Intermission

Béla Bartók
Concerto for Orchestra

I. Introduzione. Andante non troppo – Allegro vivace
II. Presentando le coppie. Allegro scherzando
III. Elegia. Andante non troppo
IV. Intermezzo interrotto. Allegretto
V. Finale. Presto


Johannes Brahms (1833–1897): Tragic Overture, Op. 81

Composed 1880

15 min

Brahms composed his only two overtures in the same summer, at Bad Ischl, an Austrian resort. The Academic Festival Overture, written for the University of Breslau in gratitude for their offer of an honorary doctorate, was completed first, though the Tragic Overture, composed immediately afterward, was the first to be performed in public.

According to Brahms, composing the Academic Festival Overture “seduced” him into tackling a second one, and the two works form a neat, contrasting pair.

The former, as the biographer Jan Swafford writes, is “the most thoroughly unbuttoned of Brahms’s works,” a colourful, high-spirited potpourri of student songs. The Tragic Overture is dark, solemn, tense, and emotionally fraught. Its plentiful themes and motifs are intensively worked out to create an organic whole. 

The title Tragic Overture was generic enough that Brahms could avoid allying himself with the descriptive overtures and symphonic poems of more avant-garde contemporaries like Liszt. Still, the music is dramatic enough to suggest that he had some kind of programmatic idea in mind when he conceived it. Such an idea might help explain the overture’s unorthodox form, especially the slow march in the middle, where one would expect a conventional development.

The overture has, for instance, been interpreted as a portrait of human defiance in the face of destiny, and it does bear a family resemblance to Fate-themed works like Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Beethoven’s Fifth. The writer and critic Max Kalbeck, Brahms’s friend and biographer, believed that the Tragic Overture was once intended to be used in a Viennese production of Goethe’s Faust (which was planned but never mounted), and it is suggestive that Brahms drew, in the overture, on sketches he had made in the late 1860s while working on the Alto Rhapsody, a work inspired by Goethe.

In any event, Brahms denied that any particular narrative lay behind the Tragic Overture. And to be sure, there is more to this music than gloom and pathos and angst. There are moments of passionate, yearning lyricism, too; of determination; and perhaps even of pride—even if, admittedly, the closing pages offer nothing quite like hope.

—Program note by Don Anderson


María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (b.1980): Oceans

Composed 2018

11 min

Oceans is a gripping orchestral tone poem that seems to be more than just about evoking the myriad qualities of our planet’s most significant feature. As music writer Steve Smith described in the liner notes to the work’s recording: “Oceans, with its gently gliding movement and ravishing plays of light and colour, conjures visions of the natural world. But there’s also something ineffably human, emotional, and personal in its cinematic swells and haunting suspensions.” 

Emerging from a very quiet, ethereal introduction, Oceans builds gradually, with melodic fragments played by various instruments surfacing periodically from the sonic expanse created by the rest of the orchestra. It culminates in a climax, occurring about two-thirds into the piece, that seems heavy with emotional ambivalence. A strong mixture of awe, anger, and melancholy, it has the quality of a personal statement “in tones” on the work’s central inspiration: “the current state of the world’s oceans, particularly the discarded plastic items floating around, forming large, never-perishing islands of toys and household items of bygone times.”.

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir graduated as a violinist from the Reykjavik College of music in 2000, and with a Bachelor's degree in composition from the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2007. Since 1999, she has performed and recorded as a member of the band aniima, which has collaborated with various artists, including the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós from 2000 to 2008. Sigfúsdóttir has composed music for orchestras, ensembles of various sizes, choirs, choreography, and films. Many of her works have been performed internationally; several of them, including Clockworking, Sleeping Pendulum, Aequora, Spirals, Loom, and Oceans, have also been recorded and released internationally on the US label Sono Luminus. Loom was on the Top 25 list of best classical music tracks of 2018 in The New York Times. The GRAMMY®-nominated album Concurrencewhich includes Oceans, performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, was on the Top 25 list of best classical music albums of 2019 in The New York Times.


Paul Hindemith (1895–1963): Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

Composed 1940–1943

20 min

The young Hindemith stood at the forefront of the German avant-garde. The mature composer saw himself above all as a practical artist, as Bach and Handel had been two centuries before, creating, without apology, specific pieces for specific occasions, and for the pleasure of professional and amateur musicians alike.

In 1938, Hindemith and celebrated choreographer Léonide Massine had collaborated on a successful ballet, Nobilissima visione (Noblest of Visions)After Hindemith’s relocation from Germany to the US in February 1940, they pursued other ideas, among them a ballet to be adapted from little-known piano duets by German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826)—music that Hindemith and his wife, Gertrude, had played at home with great delight. 

Hindemith completed two movements of the Weber score by March 31, 1940, and passed them to Massine who dismissed them: what Hindemith was doing with the music was “too personal,” he said. Hindemith set the score aside until 1943, when he was asked by his publisher for a big, colourful orchestral work of the type that American audiences relished. 

Symphonic Metamorphosis remains one of Hindemith’s most frequently performed scores. Virtuoso orchestration and an injection of abundant good humour “metamorphose” the source material’s straightforward appeal into robust, mid-20th-century musical language. 

The first movement is a hearty Allegro, based on a movement, marked “in Hungarian style,” from Weber’s Eight Pieces for Piano Four Hands, Op. 60 (1818). Hindemith gives it an aptly flamboyant treatment, with numerous Romany-style flourishes in the strings, emphatically underpinned by brass and percussion; these are delicately reduced for the middle section, then reinstated in full heft in the coda. 

The point of departure for the imaginative Scherzo is a theme that Weber had used in 1809 in his incidental music for Turandot, Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi’s exotic drama set in China. Flute and piccolo take turns introducing the theme; an elaborately scored set of variations bedecked with trills follows, building to a grand, ringing climax; and a cheerfully clamorous fugal version of the theme follows in the brass, before a moment of inscrutable introspection brings the movement to an end. 

Next comes a gently melancholy, siciliano-like Andantino, inspired by a Romanze in Weber’s Six Easy Little Pieces for Piano Four Hands, Op. 3 (1809). Wind instruments take turns in the spotlight during the outer panels; the strings come warmly and expressively to the fore in the middle section.

The finale contains another major transformation. The Weber original is a sombre funeral march from the Op. 60 duet collection containing a brief appearance of a noble, major-key hunt theme. Hindemith gives both themes equal play, and the final word to the second, thus shifting the piece’s nature from tragic to triumphant.

—Program note by Don Anderson



Béla Bartók (1881–1945): Concerto for Orchestra

Composed 1944

35 min

In his American exile, Hungarian composer Béla Bartók was plagued by financial troubles, anxiety, and failing health, but was energized by a commission, in 1943, from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation. He composed the Concerto for Orchestra quickly, between August and October, at a private sanatorium in the Adirondacks, and, at its première in Boston, on December 1, 1944, it won considerable acclaim.

Though accessible and popular, the concerto is by no means reactionary or domesticated. Balancing tradition and experiment, tonality and atonality, art music and folk music, order and chaos, this pluralistic music summarizes Bartók’s whole creative development. It is shot through with the sounds and practices of the folk music (not just Hungarian, or even European) that Bartók had spent 40 years studying, but is also a veritable catalogue of early modernism, including neoclassicism. The Classical forms and outbursts of Baroque-like fugue in the outer movements are a good example. 

The overall structure is that of an arch: the first and fifth movements are in sonata form; the second and fourth are lighter, intermezzo–like; and the third, the Elegia, which Bartók called a “lugubrious death-song,” is the emotional core. Throughout, the scoring updates the 18th-century concerto grosso or symphonie concertante: pervasive interplay of temporarily deputized soloists (or small groups of soloists) with fuller orchestral textures.

In the middle movements, Bartók plays with episodic forms. The ironic second movement, Presentando le coppie (Game of Couples), offers a chain of five dances, each featuring a pair of instruments (bassoons, oboes, clarinets, flutes, and trumpets). After a short brass chorale, the chain is reprised, more elaborately scored. The dour Elegia (based on the opening of the Introduzione) is another “chain,” this time of emotionally troubled—at its climax, profoundly anguished—themes, the whole bracketed by misty, impressionistic “night music.” The fourth movement is a beautiful, poignant serenade briefly interrupted by shrill, shrieking, vulgar music from what sounds like a drunken street band, and may be a rare example of Bartókian program music—note the braying trombones and the caustic parody of a tune from Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony.

The Finale, with its horn calls, wild Rumanian dances, and bagpipe-like drones, is sometimes delirious and comic but ultimately rousing. Bartók saw it, in contrast to the “stern” Introduzione, as a “life-assertion.”

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana



Simon Rivard, TSYO Conductor

Simon Rivard is one of the most sought-after conductors on the Canadian music scene. Since 2018, he has been the conductor of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. In 2022/23, he will make his début with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre classique de Montréal. In addition, he will conduct the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke, and the Edmonton Opera in Puccini’s Tosca. 

Between 2018 and 2022, he held the title of RBC Resident Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. At the TSO, he was mentored by Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. In addition to leading concerts throughout the season, he has been assisting world-class conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis, Peter Oundjian, Donald Runnicles, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, John Storgårds, Barbara Hannigan, Xian Zhang, and Eun Sun Kim. Since 2019, he has been an Equilibrium Young Artist, as part of Canadian soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan’s internationally acclaimed mentorship program for early career professional musicians. 

Rivard is also an excellent choral conductor. Since 2020, he has been involved with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Canada’s largest choral organization, where he has served as Associate Conductor (2020–2022), and as Artistic Collaborator (2022–present). As a guest conductor, he has conducted orchestras in North America and Europe. He recently made his début with Orchestre symphonique de Québec, Orchestre symphonique Sherbrooke, and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. In February 2022, he made his début at the Edmonton Opera in Puccini’s La bohème. He also recently collaborated with the celebrated Toronto-based opera company Against the Grain Theatre in Holst’s Sāvitri.

In 2018, he was invited to participate in the first Conducting Mentorship Program at the Verbier Festival Academy (Switzerland), at the conclusion of which he was awarded a special prize. In 2022, he was invited by the Verbier Festival to be a coach of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra. In 2017/18, he served as Resident Conductor of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, he stepped in for Jean-Philippe Tremblay as Interim Music Director of the Orchestre de la francophonie.

 

Celebrate 100: A Gala Celebration with Yo-Yo Ma

Celebrate 100: A Gala Evening with Yo-Yo Ma

 

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Jeremy Dutcher, vocalist

 

Oskar Morawetz
Carnival Overture, Op. 2

Leonard Bernstein
Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
I. Prologue
II. “Somewhere”
III. Scherzo
IV. Mambo
V. Cha-Cha
VI. Meeting Scene
VII. “Cool” Fugue
VIII. Rumble
IX. Finale

Intermission

George Paul/arr. Jeremy Dutcher/orch. Owen Pallett
“Honour Song”

Antonín Dvořák
Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
I. Allegro
II. Adagio ma non troppo
III. Finale: Allegro moderato

 

Oskar Morawetz (1917–2007): Carnival Overture, Op. 2

Composed 1945

6 min

CARNIVAL OVERTURE is Oskar Morawetz’s earliest surviving orchestral work. Sir Ernest MacMillan conducted the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in its 1947 première; it was MacMillan who coined the title, reacting, in his words, to the music’s “tremendous rhythmic vitality and colourful orchestration.” The work was performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, under Peter Oundjian, in 2017—100 years after the composer’s birth—during the TSO tour of Israel and Europe, including a performance in Smetana Hall in Prague. Morawetz’s style absorbs, in his own distinctly personal way, several trends of the 20th century, but he was never attracted to serial music or to the latest avant-garde styles, such as the use of chance (aleatoric music) or electronic music. Musicologists and critics usually stress the melodic and rhythmic vitality of his music, his sincerity of expression, his sense for building up powerful, dramatic climaxes, and his colourful and imaginative orchestration. Stylistically, he was a self-avowed traditionalist: “Ever since I was a child, music has meant for me something terribly emotional, and I still believe there has to be some kind of melodic line,” he once said.

—Program note by Don Anderson

 

Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990): Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Composed 1957–1961

22 min

LEONARD BERNSTEIN COMPOSED the stage musical West Side Story in 1957. This orchestral suite, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, appeared in the wake of the 1961 film version, which won ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Music (best score for a motion picture), awarded to Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, and Irwin Kostal. The suite was premièred by conductor Lukas Foss and the New York Philharmonic on February 13, 1961, using the original Broadway orchestrations by Ramin and Kostal, expanded under Bernstein’s supervision to full symphony orchestra.

The virtually operatic West Side Story is Bernstein’s masterpiece of musical theatre, and marked the arrival on the music-theatre scene of Stephen Sondheim, then 27 years old, as librettist. It updates the spirit of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into contemporary times, placing the star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, on opposite sides of a battle, in 1957, between the Jets, a gang of white youths, and the Puerto Rican Sharks, for control of San Juan Hill on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

In the musical’s opening scene, Officer Krupke and Lieutenant Schrank break up a brief skirmish, telling the gangs that their conflict is pointless since the neighbourhood will be imminently demolished to make way for the Lincoln Center (which, ironically enough, opened in September 1962 with a performance by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra).

Dance—dramatic, even violent, in nature—plays a prominent role in the show, providing plentiful material for the suite’s symphonic synthesis, which links many of the musical’s most familiar themes in a sequence that follows the plot. Even if you aren’t familiar with the storyline, it provides grand entertainment and a banquet of memorable melodies.

Here is a synopsis as it appears in the published score:

I. Prologue: The growing rivalry between the teenage street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets.

II. Somewhere: In a visionary dance sequence, the two gangs are united in friendship.

III. Scherzo: In the same dream, they break through the city walls and suddenly find themselves in a world of space, air and sun.

IV. Mambo: Reality again; competitive dance between the gangs.

V. Cha-cha: The star-crossed lovers see each other for the first time and dance together.

VI. Meeting Scene: Music accompanies their first spoken words.

VII. “Cool” Fugue: An elaborate dance sequence in which the Jets practice controlling their hostility.

VIII. Rumble: Climactic gang battle during which the two gang leaders are killed.

IX. Finale: Love music developing into a procession, which recalls, in tragic reality, the vision of Somewhere.

—Program note by Don Anderson

 

George Paul (b.1961) arr. Jeremy Dutcher/orch. Owen Pallett: “Honour Song”

Composed 1983

5 min

THE COMPOSER WRITES: I travelled out west to Alberta in 1983 to visit a wise Elder (Spiritual
healer) named Buffalo Child, most commonly known as Albert Lightning. Albert had been conducting ceremonies for our people here in the East Coast a few years before; this time we were going to attend ceremonies out there.

Our first ceremony was a Sundance, conducted by Harold Cardinal and his family, which was being held at the Alexander Reserve, 40 miles north of Edmonton, in a wooded area. Above the Sundance Lodge, and hanging from a roughly constructed structure, were many different coloured cotton cloths hanging from the ceiling. This was my first experience in a ceremony of that type, but it was at this ceremony where I saw a vision. What I saw in this vision was a green rolling hill and dancing up and over this hill were thousands of Native people of all tribes. As they came closer into view I could see that it was the Mi’kmaq leading the dance. I didn’t tell too many people about this, because of ridicule.

Shortly after, we went to Kootenay Plains, somewhere near Two O‘Clock Creek. Albert Lightning was conducting ceremonies and there were many people from different parts of the world attending. There were people from my home area that had grown akin to Albert and his ceremonies. Around the campfire at night, the talk was about reviving our culture. I had a feeling in my heart—to fast for an understanding. To learn why my people lost so much, and the question: “What did we do s wrong, to have lost our songs, our ceremonies, our dances?” During my fast this feeling hit me and it weighed heavy on my heart. I couldn’t help but cry. I cried until the crying turned into a chant and it was this chant that gave the message of unity: My people, let us work together toward that unity, be proud of who you are, believe in the power of the creator, believe in yourself. Tahoe!

 

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904): Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104

Composed 1894–1895

40 min

“I HAVE ALSO WRITTEN a cello concerto, but am sorry to this day I did so, and I never intend to write another.” So said Dvořák in 1865, about his early A-major cello concerto. It is good that he relented. He began writing the B-minor concerto late in 1894, soon after the triumphant Carnegie Hall première, by the New York Philharmonic, of his “New World” Symphony. He completed the work in February 1895, in his Lower East Side New York apartment, just months before the end of his final term as head of the National Conservatory of Music of America. He was, he said, worn down by the pestering of compatriot virtuoso cellist Hanuš Wihan, to whom the work was dedicated. He was also likely inspired by the 1894 première of a cello concerto by Victor Herbert, a composer colleague at the National Conservatory.

Of the “New World” Symphony, a future New York Philharmonic conductor, Leonard Bernstein, observed in 1954 that Dvořák had arrived in New York filled with the spirit of new-found Czech nationalism, and applied that excitement to the American scene, “setting an example with his own ‘New World’ Symphony—and what a beautiful Old World symphony it turned out to be.”

If so, one could say that the Cello Concerto reapplies that American excitement back to the Old World, tempered by the loss of Dvořák’s beloved sister-in-law, Josefína Čermáková, who had written him a letter in November 1894 saying she was seriously ill, and who died in May 1895. The impassioned middle section of the Adagio, specifically the slow, wistful section before the triumphant ending, quotes his song “Kéž duch můj sám” (“Leave Me Alone”), a favourite of hers. Back in Bohemia, in June 1895, he made further revisions, including a new ending to the Adagio that he likened to “a sigh.”

Dvořák places his soloist before a large orchestra, yet he sidesteps problems of balance with great imagination. Passages for the full orchestra are relatively rare—they serve as punctuation—and episodes featuring the cello are generally scored with a subtlety and transparency akin to chamber music. There is little dazzle in the solo part: Dvořák vehemently rejected the idea of any cadenza (let alone the two that Wihan was asking for). Throughout, he tends to treat the soloist more as a singer than a virtuoso.

The concerto is a work of symphonic scope, in which each movement evolves organically, as Dvořák indulges his gift for thematic variation and development: like Brahms, his hero and champion, he was scarcely capable of repeating an idea without showing it in some surprising and profound new light.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana

 

Yo-Yo Ma, cello

“I’ve said before that Toronto is almost like a second home, a city of memories and connections around every corner, from Roy Thomson Hall to Massey Hall to the wonderful Music Garden. It is a joy to be back here and to celebrate this Gala evening with music by Dvořák, the composer who taught his students always to listen, not to him, but to the world around them. And it is an honour — and fitting — to be with my friend Jeremy Dutcher. His ability to sing songs of nature and human nature, to share meaning and understanding that stretches far across the generations, is a model for us all.” —YO-YO MA

Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding, whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, collaborating with communities and institutions to explore culture’s role in society, or engaging unexpected musical forms.

In 2018, Yo-Yo set out to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello in one sitting in 36 locations around the world that encompass cultural heritage, our current creativity, and the challenges of peace and understanding that will shape our future. And last year, he began a new journey to explore the many ways in which culture connects us to the natural world.

Both endeavours continue Yo-Yo’s lifelong commitment to stretching the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore how music not only expresses and creates meaning, but also helps us to imagine and build a stronger society and a better future. It was this belief that inspired Yo-Yo to establish Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the world who create music that engages their many traditions.

In addition to his work as a performing artist, Yo-Yo has partnered with communities and institutions from Chicago to Guangzhou to develop programs that advocate for a more human- centred world. Among his many roles, Yo-Yo is a UN Messenger of Peace, the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees, and a member of the board of Nia Tero, the US- based non-profit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide.

Yo-Yo was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age 4, and three years later moved with his family to New York City, where he continued his cello studies at The Juilliard School before pursuing a liberal arts education at Harvard. Yo-Yo and his wife have two children.

 

Jeremy Dutcher, vocalist

Jeremy Dutcher is a Two-Spirit, classically trained Canadian Indigenous vocalist, composer, musicologist, performer, and activist from New Brunswick who currently lives in Montreal, Quebec. A Wolastoqiyik member of the Tobique First Nation in Northwest New Brunswick, Jeremy is best known for his début album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (The Songs of the People of the Beautiful River), recorded following a research project on archival recordings of traditional Wolastoqiyik songs at the Canadian Museum of History. Jeremy transcribed songs sung by his ancestors in 1907 and recorded onto wax cylinders, transforming them into “collaborative” compositions. The album earned him the 2018 Polaris Music Prize and the 2019 JUNO Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year. His 2019 NPR Tiny Desk Concert has over 85,000 views.

Jeremy has toured the world, from Australia and Norway to Italy and the Philippines. He has worked with and performed for iconic artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who featured him on his 2021 album Notes for the Future with a reimagining of a traditional Mi’kmaq Honour song. Building upon Jeremy’s first EP in 2017, “Honour Song”, which fused Jeremy’s voice with strings, piano, hand drum, and electronics for a stirring and contemporary work, the 2021 collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma added a layer of gritty, solemn depth to the anthem. Jeremy is regularly sought out for his perspectives on queerness, Indigeneity, language revitalization, and fashion, including a 2022 appearance as a guest judge on Canada’s Drag Race.

Jeremy studied music and anthropology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After training as an operatic tenor in the Western classical tradition, he expanded his professional repertoire to include the traditional singing style and songs of his community. Jeremy’s music transcends boundaries: unapologetically playful in its incorporation of classical influences, full of reverence for the traditional songs of his home, and teeming with the urgency of modern-day resistance.

Hadelich Plays Sibelius

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor
Augustin Hadelich, violin

Anna S. Thorvaldsdottir
Aeriality

Jean Sibelius
Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47

I. Allegro moderato
II. Adagio di molto
III. Allegro, ma non tanto

Intermission

Richard Strauss 
Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59

Maurice Ravel 
La valse

 

Anna Thorvaldsdóttir (b.1977): Aeriality for orchestra

Composed 2010–2011

13 min

In the composer’s words: Aeriality refers to the state of gliding through the air with nothing or little to hold on to—as if flying—and the music both portrays the feeling of absolute freedom gained from the lack of attachment and the feeling of unease generated by the same circumstances. The title draws its essence from various aspects of the meaning of the word “aerial” and refers to the visual inspiration that such a view provides. “Aeriality” is also a play on words, combining the words “aerial” and “reality”, so as to suggest two different worlds; “reality”, the ground, and “aerial”, the sky or the untouchable.

Musically it is on the border of symphonic music and sound art, with sound-textures combined—and contrasted with—various forms of lyrical material. Parts of the work consist of thick clusters of sounds that form a unity as the instruments of the orchestra stream together to form a single force—a sound-mass. The sense of individual instruments is somewhat blurred, and the orchestra becomes a single moving body, albeit at times forming layers of streaming materials that flow between different instrumental groups. These chromatic layers of materials are extended by the use of quartertones to generate vast sonic textures. At what can perhaps be said to be the climax in the music, a massive, sustained ocean of quartertones slowly accumulates and is then released into a brief lyrical field that almost immediately fades out at the peak of its own urgency, only to remain a shadow.

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

Aeriality is Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s second work for large orchestra. Her “seemingly boundless textural imagination” (The New York Times) and striking sound world have made her “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music” (NPR). Her music is composed as much by sounds and nuances as by harmonies and lyrical material—an ecosystem of sounds, where materials grow in and out of each other, often significantly inspired by nature and its many qualities, particularly structural ones, like proportion and flow. 

Her highly atmospheric and texturally imaginative works have been performed internationally by leading ensembles and arts organizations. Notably, her “detailed and powerful” orchestral writing (The Guardian) has garnered her awards from the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, the Nordic Council, and the UK’s Ivors Academy, as well as commissions by many of the world’s top orchestras. Portrait albums with Thorvaldsdottir’s works have appeared on the Deutsche Grammophon, Sono Luminus, and Innova labels.


Jean Sibelius (1865–1957): Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47

Composed 1903, revised 1905

35 min

“Dreamt I was twelve years old and a virtuoso,” Sibelius confided to his diary, in 1915, at the age of 50; becoming a famous virtuoso violinist remained, even then, the great unfulfilled ambition of his life. No surprise, then, that his only concerto was for violin, even though virtuoso solo writing was not his most natural milieu.

It is an unusual concerto. There is little interplay between orchestra and soloist. There are solo cadenzas and orchestral tuttis, but of true dialogue there is almost none. In the monumental first movement—as long as the other two movements combined—the drama lies in the sequencing of many diverse ideas, rather than the intensive development of one or two ideas. 

The main theme—long, meditative, and hauntingly expressive—is introduced by the violin, against a trembling accompaniment in the high strings, then works up to a climax (with a mighty blast of brass). Next, a solo cadenza serves as a bridge to a whole series of secondary themes, all distinct. Most are introduced by the orchestra, with the violin contributing an important lyrical theme (Largamente, espressivo) in double stops in the high register. The main theme recapitulation begins in the bassoon; the violin adds counterpoint, then takes over midway. The secondary themes follow, all return, but with the violin now taking a leading role throughout.

The concise yet elegiac second movement starts with a short, bleak introduction in the woodwinds opening onto a highly expressive main theme, played at length in the violin’s low register. That introduction, developed in an anguished full-orchestra setting, forms a bridge to a second lyrical theme, also in the violin, now in double-stops and laced with cross-rhythms. The first theme returns, but in the orchestra this time; the violin contributes rich figuration as counterpoint. After an emotional orchestral climax, the violin draws the music to a hushed, moving close.

The finale, in a polonaise-like rhythm, is a bustling, strutting rondo, introduced by the violin, against an ostinato pattern in the strings and timpani. The second theme (more Sibelian cross-rhythms) is introduced by the orchestra, then extended by the violin in multiple-stops in the high register. A build-up of intensity seems to be heading toward a fortissimo reprise of the first theme; at the last minute, however, the violin offers a surprising variation, with a rarefied, pianissimo accompaniment. The second theme then also returns, with a new counterpoint in the violin. A clever combination of elements from both themes then signals a transition into a short but powerful coda, in which huge orchestral sonorities and sweeping violin figures seem to surge in great waves.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana


Richard Strauss (1864–1949): Suite from Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59 

Composed 1909–1910, arranged 1945

21 min

Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavlier was premièred in Dresden in 1911. Excerpts from the piece have been featured in concert virtually since its creation, although Strauss did not prepare many of them himself. This popular concert-suite version appeared in 1945, without crediting an arranger, although the most widespread theory is that it was created by the Polish-American conductor Artur Rodziński. 

The emotionally bruising operatic dramas Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) seem to have purged a taste for ghoulish material from Strauss’s system. For his next stage project, he pulled a complete about-face and produced, in close tandem with the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the delicious, supremely tuneful “comedy for music” Der Rosenkavalier. Admirers of the previous operas were taken aback by this startling shift in style, but audiences gave the new score a swift and eager embrace. 

Fifty sold-out performances followed before the year was out. Special “Rosenkavalier trains” departed daily from several cities to trundle eager listeners to Dresden, and additional productions were staged across Europe in short order. It remains, to this day, his most popular opera.

From the beginning, von Hofmannsthal’s libretto, based on two plays by Molière, included a “pants role” (Octavian) —a male role performed by a woman. The plot unfolds in Vienna during the 18th-century reign of Empress Maria Theresa. The Marschallin, a worldly woman in her thirties, is having an affair with a young nobleman, Octavian, and the opera’s opening scene finds them in bed together. When Octavian falls in love with Sophie, a more suitable match for him, the Marschallin graciously steps aside and lets true, young love take its course.

When Hofmannsthal sent Strauss the scene in the spring of 1909, the composer was reportedly delighted. “It will set itself to music like oil and melted butter,” he wrote back. “I’m hatching it already.”

The music combines Classical-period charm à la Mozart with 19th-century dance rhythms. (The latter included the waltz, which didn’t yet exist when the opera takes place, but who cares?) Strauss clothed all this in his ripe, late-Romantic orchestration. It presents an enchanting medley of the opera’s most glorious moments, including the surging prelude; the presentation of the silver rose; a luscious love duet between Sophie and Octavian; a teasing, languorous waltz associated with the lecherous Baron Ochs; the ecstatic final trio and duet; and another, quicker waltz to finish.

—Program note by Don Anderson

 

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937): La valse (choreographic poem for orchestra)

Composed 1919–1920

13 min

As early as 1906, Ravel had contemplated writing a waltz in homage to Johann Strauss II, and by 1914, he was mulling over a symphonic poem to be titled Wien (Vienna). But contemporary events were to intervene. A loyal Frenchman, shattered by service in World War I, he was no longer inclined, by 1919, to write an innocent, sunny homage—not when all Europe was reeling from the catastrophic consequences of Austro-Hungarian imperialism, of which the waltz was such a potent symbol. 

La valse, instead, became a savage danse macabre, in which clichés of the waltz idiom are introduced only to be ruthlessly parodied, and in which nostalgia for 19th-century imperial Vienna is undermined by premonitions of Europe’s dire future. But the darkness of La valse grew out of more personal feelings, too, for in 1916, Ravel’s beloved mother had died, and he never stopped mourning her. As he composed La valse, especially as the Christmas holidays loomed, he was, he said, haunted by her memory.

In the published score, Ravel added this descriptive preface: “Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be glimpsed. The clouds gradually dissipate: one sees…an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth.... An imperial court, about 1855.” 

“I had intended this work,” Ravel said, “to be a kind of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz, which was associated in my imagination with an impression of a fantastic and fatal whirling.” The key word here is “fatal”. When the end comes, it is noisy, violent, and crazed, more like the triumphant dance of mad Elektra at the end of Richard Strauss’s opera than a tribute to Johann Strauss II. After all, the culture that produced Vienna’s beloved “Waltz King” was by no means benign—and there was a world war to prove it.

Structurally, La valse falls into two large sections, both of which begin quietly, with a vague churning in the murky low register, out of which rhythm and melody gradually materialize, as though some dreamy, twisted vision of the waltz were emerging out of the ashes of war. In the first half, as in a typical Viennese waltz, separate little waltzes are strung together, one melody following another. In the second half, the same themes are reused freely, in more bizarre and ominous guises. (The piece as a whole, ironically enough, is about the same length as many Strauss waltzes.)

—Program note by Don Anderson

Augustin Hadelich, violin

Augustin Hadelich is one of the great violinists of our time. From Bach to Brahms, Bartók to Adès, he has mastered a wide-ranging and adventurous repertoire. He is often referred to by colleagues as a musician’s musician. Named Musical America’s 2018 “Instrumentalist of the Year”, he is consistently cited worldwide for his phenomenal technique, soulful approach, and insightful interpretations.

Hadelich’s 2020/21 season culminated in performances of the Brahms Violin Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. These were the first performances played by the full ensemble to a live audience in Davies Hall in 15 months. In the summer of 2021, he appeared at the Aspen, Colorado, Grant Park and Verbier Festivals, as well as at Bravo! Vail with the New York Philharmonic. His 2021/22 season started off with a stunning début with the Berlin Philharmonic (Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2) with Gustavo Gimeno on the podium. Shortly thereafter came the European première of a new violin concerto written for him by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy.

Hadelich has appeared with every major orchestra in North America, including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Toronto Symphony, as well as throughout Europe, the Far East, and further afield.

Hadelich was the winner of a 2016 GRAMMY® Award—“Best Classical Instrumental Solo”—for his recording of Dutilleux’s Violin Concerto, L’arbre des songes, with the Seattle Symphony under Ludovic Morlot (Seattle Symphony Media). A Warner Classics Artist, his most recent release is a GRAMMY®-nominated double CD of the Six Solo Sonatas and Partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach. One of Germany’s most prestigious newspapers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, boldly stated: “Augustin Hadelich is one of the most exciting violinists in the world. This album is a total success.” He also has a series of releases on the AVIE label, including a CD of the Violin Concertos by Jean Sibelius and Thomas Adès (Concentric Paths), with Hannu Lintu conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (2014).

Born in Italy, and the son of German parents, Augustin Hadelich is now an American citizen. He holds an Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School, where he was a student of Joel Smirnoff. He has recently been appointed to the violin faculty at Yale School of Music. He plays the violin “Leduc, ex-Szeryng” by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù of 1744, generously loaned by a patron through the Tarisio Trust.

Oundjian Conducts The Planets / Mozart's Jupiter

Oundjian Conducts The Planets 
(November 9, 10 & 12 only) 

Oundjian Conducts Mozart's Jupiter 
(November 13 only, George Weston Recital Hall) 

Peter Oundjian, conductor 
Eric Abramovitz, clarinet 
Miles Jaques, basset horn 
Toronto Children’s Chorus & Toronto Youth Choir 
(The TTC and TYC appear on November 9, 10 & 12 only) 

Gioacchino Rossini  
Overture to La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie

Felix Mendelssohn  
Concert Piece No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 114 

I. Presto 
II. Andante 
III. Allegretto grazioso 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor  
Ballade in A Minor, Op. 33  

Intermission 

Gustav Holst 
The Planets, Op. 32 
(November 9, 10 & 12 only) 

I. Mars, the Bringer of War 
II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace 
III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger 
IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity 
V. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age 
VI. Uranus, the Magician 
VII. Neptune, the Mystic 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter” 
(November 13 only, George Weston Hall) 

I. Allegro vivace 
II. Andante cantabile 
III. Menuetto: Allegretto 
IV. Molto allegro 

 

Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1868): Overture to La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) 

Composed 1817 

10 min  

ROSSINI’S OPERA The Thieving Magpie premièred at Italy’s famous La Scala, and it was a triumph—the latest of many for its composer, who was barely 25 years old. He was basking in a period of phenomenal productivity and public success that saw the creation of masterpieces like The Barber of Seville and Cinderella. The Thieving Magpie was Rossini’s seventh opera in two years, and it was popular, performed with remarkable frequency throughout Europe. Then, in the year before Rossini’s death, it largely disappeared from the repertoire until the 21st century. 

The Thieving Magpie is neither serious nor comic, but both—it is opera semiseria, a popular genre of the day, with roots in French opera from the mid-18th century. The plot is quintessential semiseria: highly dramatic, but with a happy ending, it revolves around an innocent girl saved from unjust execution by a ruthless persecutor. The story is rife with class conflicts, but also infused with comic and popular elements, and unfolds in a series of rustic settings—courtyard, prison, courtroom, village square. Its popular overture, like that of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is a microcosm of the opera’s particular blend of comedy and drama. The opening drum rolls and pompous, brassy march evoke a military atmosphere, perhaps recalling the French Revolution–era “rescue opera” that was one of the precursors of semiseria.  

The allegro that follows, in fast waltz rhythm, opens with a nervous theme in E minor, which is later reused in the prison scene. But the theme is almost immediately recast in E major, and the tone of the music shifts definitively to the comic. The overture ends with a patented Rossini crescendo: for dozens of bars, the music grows noisier and more animated, closing in a burst of high spirits that anticipates a happy ending several hours away. 

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana 

 

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847): Concert Piece No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 114 

Composed 1833; orch. Carl Baermann 

8 min  

IN 1829, Felix Mendelssohn embarked on a grand musical tour of Europe, which included stops in England, Scotland, Italy, Switzerland, and France. During his extensive travels that spanned several years, he continued to compose and perform as a pianist in private and public concerts. In June 1830, he travelled to Munich where he met and became friends with the virtuoso clarinetist Heinrich Baermann, who played in the city’s court orchestra. Two years later, in late December, Baermann and his son Carl, also a clarinetist and a basset horn player, paid Mendelssohn a visit in Berlin, requesting a new work from him that they could perform in their upcoming concerts in Russia. As compensation, the duo promised the composer they would cook him Dampfnudeln (steamed dumplings) and Rahmstrudel (sweet-cheese strudel), two Austro-Bavarian specialty dishes. 

Mendelssohn agreed to the task and, as relayed in Carl Baermann’s memoir, completed his Konzertstück (Concert Piece) No. 1 in F minor for clarinet, basset horn (a form of alto clarinet), and piano, in a single day on December 30. On January 5, 1833, the Baermanns performed it, and it was so successful that they immediately asked Mendelssohn to write another work. He finished his Second Konzertstück in D minor on January 19. The piano part was later orchestrated by Carl Baermann. 

Both pieces, popular with clarinetists and basset horn players, are witty and sparkling examples of the refined elegance and dramatic flair of Mendelssohn’s musical style. The opening Presto of Konzertstück No. 2 starts with a lively orchestral introduction, after which the soloists play a melody of agitated energy. As clarinet and basset horn continue to trade phrases, the tension relaxes, and, eventually, the “conversation” culminates in short individual cadenzas. The agitated atmosphere then returns briefly and leads into a brilliant unison passage for the soloists to close the movement with a flourish. 

Pulsating chords in the horns and bassoons launch the second movement, to which the soloists respond with tentative, sigh-like motifs. A tender serenade follows, with the clarinet singing the main melody, while the basset horn burbles underneath. Near the end, the clarinet is given the opportunity to improvise a cadenza, before the Andante draws to a serene conclusion.  

The Allegro grazioso has all the gaiety of a comic opera finale, featuring the soloists as the protagonists. They revel on tuneful phrases separately, then come together for dazzling passages. Quicksilver exchanges then lead to a climactic moment of suspense (marked Adagio), after which the duo blazes through a passage to the curtain-closing chords of the orchestra. 

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD 

 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912): Ballade in A Minor, Op. 33 

Composed 1898 

12 min  

I AM SORRY I am too busy to do so. I wish, wish, wish you would ask Coleridge-Taylor to do it. He still wants recognition, and he is far and away the cleverest fellow going amongst the young men. Please don’t let your committee throw away the chance of doing a good act.” 

We underestimate how many truly impressive works of art owe their existence primarily to a scheduling conflict. That short letter, written in April 1898 by English composer Edward Elgar in response to a request by the Three Choirs Festival, was the beginning of the Ballade in A Minor, deflecting a great opportunity in the direction of a very young Black composer who needed a big break to establish himself.  

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was the son of a doctor from Sierra Leone and a British mother. With their joint efforts, he was enrolled in the Royal College of Music in London at the age of 15. Initially trained as a violinist, he idolized Brahms and Dvořák, and his early works reflect these composers’ vibrant hues for the string section. The Ballade in A Minor was one of his first attempts to take a cautious step out of their shadow (though “caution” is the last thing suggested by the Ballade’s rhapsodic flourishes). The work premièred just five months after Elgar’s letter, with Coleridge-Taylor conducting, and helped announce his arrival as a pre-eminent composer of his generation. 

The work itself reflects the composer’s roots as a violinist. His scoring for the string section was lauded for its “alternations of barbaric gaiety with languid swaying melody.” It is Brahmsian in structure, with more than a hint of Dvořák in its melodic overtones. Brahms’s use of hemiola—a technique of shifting between triple and duple metre—features prominently. The 6/8 metre of the first two themes is contrasted by the 2/4 of the third fragrant theme. The second half of this work’s single movement then jumps between these three themes, before an orchestral tutti and successive changes in tempo drive the work to a cliff-hanging crescendo. 

Away from the podium, Coleridge-Taylor was fiercely devoted to his support of the Black experience on both sides of the Atlantic, making fast friends with the likes of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Booker T. Washington. The composer suffered no illusions regarding the vicious racism that was mixed in with the warm reception in America. Writing defiantly to a friend ahead of a visit, he asserted, “As for the prejudice, I am well prepared for it. That which you and many others have lived in for so many years will not quite kill me. I am a believer in my race.” It would be pneumonia at the age of 37, not prejudice, that quenched the flame of a composer that still had so much more music in him. 

—Program note by Michael Zarathus-Cook 

 

Gustav Holst (1874–1934): The Planets, Op. 32 

Composed 1914–1916 

53 min  

BORN IN CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND, Gustav Holst composed The Planets during the first two years of WWI. The first performance, a private rehearsal, was given in London by the New Queen’s Hall Orchestra under Adrian Boult (later Sir Adrian) on September 29, 1918. Albert Coates conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in the public première on November 15, 1920.  

On a tour of Spain in 1912, a fellow traveller had introduced Holst to astrology. The curiosity thus aroused in him sowed the seeds of this spectacular orchestral suite, his most popular (if not most representative) creation. It portrays the astrological, rather than the mythological, characters of seven planets in our solar system. 

“Mars, the Bringer of War” presents a harrowing portrait of cold, inhuman power. The brass section takes centre stage, hammering forth harsh blocks of sound over an implacable, motor-like rhythmic tread. Early audiences were convinced that Holst had intended this music as a portrait of the world war that had recently ended. In fact, he had completed the sketches before it broke out.  

“Venus, the Bringer of Peace” offers total contrast—a calm, tranquil reverie, set far from the scene of any conflict and shot through with gorgeous instrumental solos. Holst associated “Mercury, the Winged Messenger” with the process of human thought. It flits by with appropriate speed and delicacy. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” has both its jovial feet planted firmly on the ground. Hearty tunes steeped in Holst’s study of English folk dances drive the opening and closing sections. In between rests a hymn-like theme evoking a more ceremonial type of rejoicing. 

In the miniature tone poem “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age”, Holst sets forth his views on the stages of human life: the uncertain beginning, the struggles and heartbreaks of maturation, and, finally, the emergence in late years of wisdom, with its serene acceptance of imperfection and mortality.  

Next comes the dynamic conjuring act of “Uranus, the Magician”. Holst puts the orchestra through many spectacular paces, dramatic and grotesquely humorous alike. The suite concludes with the cool, disembodied meditations of “Neptune, the Mystic”. They arrive as if having travelled across vast distances of outer and inner space.  

—Program note by Don Anderson  

 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791): Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 “Jupiter” 

Composed 1788 

29 min  

MOZART COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN that the three symphonies he composed between June 26 and August 10, 1788, would be his last. It is fitting, however, that his career as a symphonist should end with three such masterpieces. They are quite different from each other: No. 39 in E-flat major is one of his most elegant creations, its successor in G minor is perhaps his most pathos-filled, and, appropriately, No. 41 is the grandest and most joyous of all his symphonies. 

Uncertainty also exists regarding their performance during Mozart’s lifetime. Circumstantial evidence points to one or more of them being played on several occasions—at a series of subscription concerts at the Vienna Casino later in 1788; during Mozart’s tours of Germany in 1788 and 1789; or in Vienna, conducted by Antonio Salieri in April 1791 (for which performance Mozart may have prepared the second version of Symphony No. 40, with added clarinets). In addition, Symphonies 40 and 41 were rapidly circulated, suggesting that they were performed during his lifetime.  

“Jupiter” was not his title; the nickname is apparently of English origin, coined in the early 1800s by the violinist Johann Peter Salomon. The earliest surviving published reference to it as such dates from the Edinburgh Festival of 1819. This subtitle, linking it with the most powerful of the gods of ancient Rome, seems altogether appropriate. 

The “Jupiter” mirrors No. 40 in dispensing with a slow introduction. Mozart plunges us immediately into the joyous energy with which the opening movement abounds. For all its trumpet-and-drums brilliance, it still retains an unforced elegance. He then drops the trumpets and drums for the slow second movement. His tempo indication, cantabile (singing), describes this restful idyll perfectly. The third movement is truly symphonic in scale and bearing, with a quieter trio section at its heart. The finale looks not only to the future—through its increased expressive weight—but also the past, specifically to the Baroque world of Bach and Handel, by incorporating elements of fugal writing. Learnedness and joy here join hands to conclude Mozart’s career as a symphonist in a burst of creative brilliance.  

—Program note by Don Anderson 

 

Peter Oundjian, conductor 

Recognized as a masterful and dynamic presence in the conducting world, Peter Oundjian has developed a multi-faceted portfolio as a conductor, violinist, professor, and artistic advisor. He has been celebrated for his musicality, his engaging personality, and having an eye toward collaboration, innovative programming, leadership, and training with students. Strengthening his ties to Colorado, Oundjian is now Principal Conductor of the Colorado Symphony in addition to Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival, which successfully pivoted to a virtual format during the pandemic summers of 2020 and 2021. 

Now carrying the title Conductor Emeritus, Oundjian spent 14 years as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony, serving as a major creative force for the City of Toronto. His tenure was marked by a reimagining of the TSO’s programming, international stature, audience development, touring, and a number of outstanding recordings, garnering a GRAMMY® nomination in 2018 and a JUNO Award for Vaughan Williams’s orchestral works in 2019. He led the Orchestra on several international tours to Europe and the US, conducting the first performance by a North American orchestra at Reykjavik’s Harpa Hall in 2014.  

From 2012 to 2018, Oundjian served as Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, during which time he implemented the kind of collaborative programming that has become a staple of his directorship. Oundjian led the RSNO on several international tours, including to North America and China, and on a European festival tour with performances at the Bregenz Festival and the Dresden Festival as well as in Innsbruck, Bergamo, Ljubljana, and other cities. His final appearance with the orchestra as their Music Director was at the 2018 BBC Proms where he conducted Britten’s epic War Requiem

Highlights of past seasons include appearances with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; the Iceland Symphony; and the Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, Baltimore, Dallas, Seattle, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. With the onset of worldwide concert cancellations, support for students at Yale and Juilliard became a priority. In the 2022/23 season, Oundjian conducts the opening weekend of the Atlanta Symphony, followed by return engagements with the Baltimore, Indianapolis, Dallas, Colorado, and Toronto Symphonies, as well as a visit to the New World Symphony.  

Oundjian has been a visiting professor at Yale University’s School of Music since 1981, and, in 2013, was awarded the school’s Sanford Medal for Distinguished Service to Music. A dedicated educator, Oundjian regularly conducts the Yale, Juilliard, Curtis, and New World Symphony Orchestras. 

An outstanding violinist, Oundjian spent 14 years as the first violinist for the renowned Tokyo String Quartet before he turned his energy toward conducting. 

 

Eric Abramovitz, clarinet 

Eric Abramovitz joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2018 as Associate Principal & E-flat Clarinet, and was appointed Principal Clarinet in 2021. He was named the Vandoren Emerging Artist of the year in 2017, and a CBC Next! artist in 2013. A first-prize winner at the OSM Standard Life Competition in 2011, Abramovitz has been featured as a soloist with numerous orchestras including the McGill and USC Symphonies, l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. He was a Sylva Gelber Career Grant recipient in 2016, and toured throughout Japan with the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble. 

A Montreal native, Abramovitz obtained his bachelor’s degree at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, and pursued graduate studies at the University of Southern California. His teachers include Zaven Zakarian, Alain Desgagné, Robert Crowley, Simon Aldrich, Jean-François Normand, Kimball Sykes, and Yehuda Gilad. In his free time, Eric enjoys eating, spending time with his family and cats, shooting pool, playing hockey, and cheering for the Montreal Canadiens. 

 

Miles Jaques, basset horn  

Miles Jaques has been serving as clarinetist and solo bass clarinetist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since the 2017 season, and as Acting Associate Principal Clarinet since the 2016/17 season. Before moving to Canada, Jaques was a member of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. 

An accomplished orchestral musician, Jaques has performed and toured across North America in many ensembles, including The Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Santa Fe Opera, Florida Orchestra, and Florida Grand Opera.   

As a chamber musician, Jaques regularly performs as a part of The TSO Chamber Soloists and has appeared in numerous festivals and societies throughout the US and Canada, including Toronto Summer Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Amici Chamber Ensemble, ChamberFest Dubuque, Baltimore Chamber Music Society, and others. 

A committed educator, Jaques serves on the clarinet faculty of the University of Toronto and as the Woodwind Coach for the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. Additionally, he has presented master classes at The Royal Conservatory of Music, Iberacademy, University of Antioquia, and University of South Dakota.   

Jaques is a Buffet Crampon Artist, playing exclusively on Buffet Crampon instruments, and a D’Addario Woodwinds Performing Artist. 

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Presents Elijah

The program notes are written by Rena Roussin, Musicologist-in-Residence.

A resounding success at both its 1846 premiere in Birmingham, England, and at its revised London premiere in 1847, Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah has remained a beloved staple of English-language choral repertoire ever since. Having experienced earlier success with his 1836 oratorio Paulus, which depicted the life of St. Paul, Mendelssohn was eager to next explore an Old Testament topic, and chose to focus on the life of the prophet Elijah. The oratorio’s libretto, by Julius Schubring (with English translation by William Bartholomew), fuses direct Biblical quotations together with paraphrases and free text that expand upon events from numerous sections of the Old Testament, particularly the 1 and 2 Book of Kings.

Mendelssohn was deeply hesitant to publicly discuss his personal religious beliefs, yet given the centrality and influence of the prophet Elijah’s story to both Jewish and Christian traditions, Mendelssohn’s choice of oratorio topic seems especially fitting. The grandson of Jewish Enlightenment philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and originally raised areligious, Felix was baptized a Protestant at the age of 7 with the rest of his siblings. While the composer practiced Christianity throughout his life, he nevertheless remained demonstrably proud of his Jewish heritage and of his grandfather’s intellectual legacy. While Mendelssohn’s exact beliefs and intentions surrounding his choice of topic cannot be known, it is worth noting that he took an active role in collaborating with Schubring about how Elijah’s story ought to be told. He openly rejected Schubring’s suggestion that the final chorus invoke Christ and the teachings of the New Testament, and frequently requested that the librettist prioritize dramatic action over excessive moments of stasis, contemplation, and moral reflection.

A keen student of music history, Mendelssohn was enamored with sacred music of the Baroque period, particularly the well-known oratorios of Handel and the sacred choral works of a then-obscure Baroque composer from Leipzig named Johann Sebastian Bach. Indeed, Mendelssohn was partly responsible for the nineteenth-century revival of German interest in Bach’s work, as Mendelssohn organized and conducted an 1829 performance of the Saint Matthew Passion in Berlin – the first performance of the work to have occurred after Bach’s death. Yet beyond mere interest, both Bach’s and Handel’s work in sacred choral music demonstrably influenced Mendelssohn’s work on the oratorio, Bach’s influence looming large in Mendelssohn’s earlier Paulus, while the influence of Handel’s choruses is heard more readily in Elijah. In many ways, Mendelssohn fused tradition and innovation into his oratorios, firmly grounding his musical work in the musical lyricism and harmonic language of the Romantic Era, while also invoking the larger history of German sacred choral music. In its bringing together of tradition and innovation, Elijah encapsulates – in some ways, is perhaps even in some ways about –  musical history and highlights of the oratorio as a genre, which may well be a factor in its enduring popularity among audiences and musicians alike.

Elijah is also a work that reflects critically on and poses challenges to the history and conventions of the oratorio. Originally sung in churches to replace operas during the Lenten season, oratorios have always balanced a thin line between the world of opera and sacred music. While Elijah certainly features stunning chorales and arias that provide the moments of reflection and divine contemplation the oratorio is meant to foster, the work is equally invested in – even foregrounds – dramatic action. Oratorio historian Howard E. Smither has suggested that Elijah, with its minimal narration, abundant musical-dramatic dialogue between characters, , and prioritizing of action over stasis and moralizing, functions as the opera that Mendelssohn never got to write.

However, for all its musical and dramatic choices that suggest the stuff of opera – shouting crowds, a vengeful Queen, and a flaming chariot among them – Elijah is grounded in a profoundly spiritual, devotional ethos. Mendelssohn’s musical characterizes Elijah, as nineteenth-century critic Otto Jahn observed, to humanize and make tangible the prophet’s faith. Gone, Jahn notes, is the Old Testament “man of iron who, with unwavering courage, challenges the king…with flaming words, knowing no danger.” Instead, Mendelssohn depicts the prophet as a man of piety, capable of righteous anger, yet most predominantly characterized by “firmness in his faith that God hears him when he prays to him.” Mendelssohn’s score takes care to embed Elijah’s traits of “warm and deep feeling, of a sincere and powerful heart.”* At the same time, the work as a whole, through its choruses and words, professes timeless spiritual values, stressing the worth of endurance and perseverance, the importance of hope amid despair.

In these challenging times, what a profoundly necessary story.

*The English translation of Jahn’s remarks on Elijah belongs to Susan Gillespie, and is published in Mendelssohn and His World.

100 Years of Epic Film Scores

Steven Reineke, conductor 

 

Richard A. Whiting & Johnny Mercer/arr. Robert Wendel  
“Hooray for Hollywood” from Hollywood Hotel (1937) 

Hans Erdmann & T. R. Leuschner/arr. Berndt Heller  
Overture from Nosferatu (1922) 

Max Steiner  
Main Theme from King Kong (1933) 

Erich Wolfgang Korngold/arr. Jerry Brubaker 
Suite from The Sea Hawk (1940) 

Miklós Rózsa  
“Parade of the Charioteers” from Ben-Hur (1959) 

Bernard Herrmann/arr. Alex Johansson  
Suite from Psycho (1960) 

Elmer Bernstein/ed. Patrick Russ 
Main Theme from The Magnificent Seven (1960) 

Maurice Jarre/orch. Nic Raine  
Overture from Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 

Intermission 

Nino Rota  
Love Theme from The Godfather (1972) 

Jerry Goldsmith  
End Title from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) 

Ennio Morricone/arr. Robert Longfield  
“Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission (1986) 

Rachel Portman  
End Titles from Emma (1996) 

Hans Zimmer/arr. John Wasson  
Music from Gladiator (2000) 

Klaus Badelt/arr. Ted Ricketts  
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) 

Alan Silvestri  
Theme from The Avengers (2012) 

Michael Giacchino  
Main Theme from The Batman (2022) 

 

Music & Film: Inextricably Intertwined 

THE FIRST ORIGINAL SCORE written specifically for film goes all the way back to 1908, 6,000 miles from Hollywood—to Paris. Eminent stage actors Charles le Bargy and André Calmettes managed to persuade France’s most famous living composer, Camille Saint-Saëns, to write the score for their 15-minute L’Assassinat du duc de Guise, a 1588 historical drama in which King Henry III has his most prominent rival brutally murdered. Saint-Saëns composed the music scene by scene, in front of a movie screen. Sixteen years later, another eminent French composer, Erik Satie, got into the act, as the first composer of a score synced to specific frames of a film—a 22-minute Dadaist silent film titled Entr’acte.  

“With the advent of ‘talkies,’ Hollywood turned to Europe for expert composers,” writes Ransom Wilson, conductor of the Redlands Symphony (an hour’s drive from Hollywood). “Max Steiner, for King Kong in 1933, the first full-length original score; Erich Wolfgang Korngold (The Sea Hawk, Of Human Bondage); Miklós Rósza (Double Indemnity, Ben-Hur); Dmitri Tiomkin (Lost Horizon, It’s a Wonderful Life), and Franz Waxman (The Bride of Frankenstein, Rebecca). The arrival on the scene [in 1941] of New York born, Juilliard-trained, Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Psycho) ushered in a new era for American born composers…Alfred Newman, Nino Rota, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre, and John Williams.” 

And all through this time, top-flight classical composers felt the lure of film: Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Corigliano, and Philip Glass, to name only a few. 

 

Film with Live Orchestra 

It took a lot longer for film to be welcomed into the concert hall than for orchestral music and composers to be welcomed to film. It was not until well into the first decade of the 21st century that we saw the onset of the kind of film-with-live-orchestra events that are now a regular part of every TSO season. Curiously, the way forward was paved by one of the early classical composers turning his hand to writing music for film—Sergei Prokofiev. 

Prokofiev had been commissioned by the great Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein to compose a score for Eisenstein’s 1938 historical drama, Alexander Nevsky, the first of Eisenstein’s dramatic films to use sound. It was a groundbreaking collaboration: some of the film was shot to Prokofiev’s music and some of Prokofiev’s music was composed to Eisenstein’s footage; Prokofiev viewed the film’s rough cut as the first step in composing its inimitable score.  

He then later reworked the score into a concert cantata, and it was that cantata that ultimately ushered film into the TSO’s concert world. The first performance of the concert cantata minus film was under Karel Ančerl in May 1971, then, in May 1979 under Sir Andrew Davis. Ten years later, Russian composer Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducted it here, in June 1989, followed just five months later by Hartford Symphony conductor Michael Lankester, who had already started touring performances of the film with live orchestra. It would be another ten years before Lankester would return, ushering in a new era, conducting two triumphant TSO performances of the film with orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall on September 15 and 16, 2000, as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. 

—Program note by David S. Perlman 

 

Steve Reineke, conductor 

Steven Reineke has established himself as one of North America’s leading conductors of popular music. 

Along with his role as Principal Pops Conductor of the TSO, Reineke is music director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. He is also principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and principal pops conductor of the Houston Symphony. 

Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and his extensive North American conducting appearances include Atlanta, Cincinnati, Edmonton, and San Francisco. On stage, Reineke has created programs and collaborated with a range of leading artists from the worlds of hip-hop, Broadway, television, and rock, including Cynthia Erivo, Common, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Wayne Brady, Peter Frampton, and Ben Folds, among others. In 2017, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered featured Reineke leading the National Symphony Orchestra performing live music excerpts between news segments—a first in the show’s 45-year history. In 2018, Reineke led the National Symphony Orchestra with hip-hop legend Nas performing his seminal album Illmatic on PBS’s Great Performances

As the creator of more than 100 orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Reineke’s work has been performed worldwide and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently. His Sun Valley Festival Fanfare was used to commemorate the Sun Valley Summer Symphony pavilion, and his Festival Te Deum and Swans Island Sojourn were débuted by the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops Orchestras. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands worldwide. 

Yuja Wang + Gimeno Conducts Bruckner

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor 
Yuja Wang, piano 

Janet Sit 
Omega-Threes <*)))< Celebration Prelude 
TSO100 Commission/World Première 

Magnus Lindberg  
Piano Concerto No. 3 
Canadian Première/TSO Co-commission* 

I.
II.
III.

Intermission 

Anton Bruckner  
Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major “Romantic” 
(1878/80 version) 

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell (Animated, not too fast) 
II. Andante, quasi allegretto 
III. Scherzo: Bewegt (Animated) 
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell  
(Animated, but still not too fast) 

 

Janet Sit (b. 1981): Omega-Threes <*)))< Celebration Prelude 

World Première/TSO100 Commission 
Composed 2022
 

3 min 

THE COMPOSER WRITES: Omega-Threes <*)))< is a sonic exploration of thoughts and emotions that swam across my mind on this water-oriented work. While growing up in Toronto, my favourite places to walk were often near the lake, such as Cherry Beach, Tommy Thompson Park, Scarborough Bluffs, and the downtown waterfront paths. On a recent aquarium trip, I found myself watching schools of fishes move through very large tanks. When bigger animals would swim through these large fish-gatherings, the school of fish would transform their overall shape to let the other animals pass through. Afterwards, the school would coalesce into one large shape again and continue. Every so often, the sunlight would reflect from their silvery bodies and the fishes would shimmer and sparkle from afar. This work is dedicated to the wonderful lake and ocean life that I have observed, and to all the TSO members, past and present, whose performances have had a different kind of wonderful transformative effect on their listeners. 

Janet Sit is a third-year PhD composition student at the University of California San Diego. Her compositions have premièred in Beijing, Berlin, San Diego, Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria. She holds a BSc in zoology and a BMus, both from the University of Toronto, and an MMus from University of Victoria, where she began developing her installation practice. Sit has been commissioned by Caution Tape Sound Collective, the Gray/Constant Duo, Dave Riedstra for his cross-Canada tour Topography: new music for solo bass, and The Art Song Collaborative Project. She was one of the founding members of the Victoria Composers Collective and was on the organizing team of the Toronto Creative Music Lab (TCML) for three years.  

Her recent forays into electronic music have been featured in King Britt’s The Buddy System Project’s A Re-Discovery (Remix Project) on Bandcamp, and she is currently working on an electroacoustic project with harpist Parker Ramsay. Her research interests include combining her zoology and music backgrounds in areas of acoustics and spatial sound art. She attends classes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to furtherher studies as they relate to ocean ecologies. When not at her desk, she can be found hiking on trails or walking along beaches looking out for whales. 

 

Magnus Lindberg (b. 1958): Piano Concerto No. 3 

Canadian Première/TSO Co-commission 
Composed 2022 

25 min 

Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg is considered to be one of contemporary music’s major voices and is especially admired for his orchestral scores. During his compositional studies at the Sibelius Academy, Lindberg was encouraged by Paavo Heininen to explore the music of the European avant-garde. This led to Lindberg’s initial phase of composition, bound up with his founding of the Toimii Ensemble with Esa-Pekka Salonen. Their collaboration resulted in works, such as Kraft (1983–85), that are highly experimental and complex, featuring strong rhythmic elements and the “extremes” of musical material. Lindberg himself played piano and percussion in the ensemble, which became a kind of laboratory through which he shaped aspects of his sound.  

By the late 1980s, Lindberg’s compositional style shifted to a “new classical modernism,” the hallmarks of which include colourful harmonies, dense textures, and vigorous, kinetic energy—as one commentator put it, “a juicy sound world, teeming with life.”  

WITH THE WORLD PREMIÈRE of his Third Piano Concerto having only been given, in San Francisco, seven days before this Canadian Première, this note focuses on his two other concertos for piano and orchestra as an introduction to his style. 

For his Piano Concerto No. 1, composed in 1994, Lindberg revealed that the starting point for this piece was Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto, and he was interested in highlighting the piano’s natural sound rather than treating it as a percussive instrument.  

For his Second Piano Concerto, composed in 2012 for Yefim Bronfman (who gave the Canadian Première with the TSO in 2014), Lindberg created an eclectic blend of styles absorbed from earlier piano works. He cited Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand as a key inspiration; one can hear Ravel’s voluptuous sonorities throughout. In moments of dramatic sweep, Rachmaninoff comes to mind, while jazzy rhythms and motifs seem to reference Gershwin, along with more brutal elements, reminiscent of Kraft, created with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Toimi Ensemble).  

So what might we expect from Lindberg’s Third Piano Concerto? 

 “I wanted to tailor the music for Yuja’s personality,” Lindberg said in a recent conversation with Carol Ann Cheung of music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. “It’s very active, very vivid in terms of texture. It is Classical in the sense of dialogue, yet modern in the way the soloist injects material into the orchestra, and the orchestra injects the soloist with ideas.”  

“My first piano concerto…was a ‘contemporary’ concerto, very conceptual. I wanted to reinvent the concerto. With my second concerto…I tried to jump on ‘big tradition’—it is a very bold work. For my third piano concerto, I freed myself of these ideas. I wanted to write the kind of music I wanted to write. This concerto is in three distinct movements, but I would almost call it three concertos in one piece based on the same material, but each presents it in different ways.… I have a chart of eight different characters that I’ve arranged like a William Faulkner novel: There are many stories going on at the same time—you present one, move on to the next one, then return to another one. Every time a story returns, it has something new to say.” 

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD 

 

Anton Bruckner (1824–1896): Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major “Romantic” 

(1878/80 version)  
Composed 1874 

65 min 

BETWEEN 1871 AND 1876, Austrian composer Josef Anton Bruckner completed his Second through Fifth Symphonies—the Fourth between January and November 1874. Yet, he was plagued by morbid self-doubts, and the Fourth, like all of his symphonies, went through various stages of sometimes prolonged and drastic revision. At the première, in Vienna, on February 20, 1881, the public was enthusiastic but musicians and critics were divided; further revision followed, as late as 1888. Bruckner was so insecure that he allowed the Fourth to be published, in 1889, in a version edited by one of his students. 

He did not explain his subtitle, “Romantic”, but hinted that the Fourth was programmatic, that is, portraying a scene or narrative of some sort. The quiet, fanfare-like motif (horn) in the opening bars, he wrote, “announces daybreak”; a later theme alludes to the “song of the titmouse”; the Scherzo “portrays the hunt.” And for the psychologically and emotionally complex Andante, he provided only the most telegraphic program: “song, prayer, serenade.”  

These comments have been dismissed as simplistic, after-the-fact attempts to make the music more approachable, yet Bruckner wrote the word “Jagdthema” (hunt theme) on the first page of the Scherzo, the musical profile of which (6/8 metre, horn sonorities) does conjure up traditional hunting music. He evokes Nature at various points throughout the Fourth Symphony—in particular, the dark, primeval, central-European forests that inspired so many Romantic artists—and sometimes country life, as in the Scherzo’s amiable Trio, a deliciously stylized ländler (a moderately paced Austrian country dance) that is among his most charming concoctions. 

Monumental and solemn, Bruckner’s symphonies often strike a metaphysical or religious note that allies them with his sacred choral music, and that is underscored by his orchestration, which tends to be massive and organ-like. The Fourth is typical. It has an outwardly Classical form but is infused, in original and potent ways, with the avant-garde idiom of Wagner’s music dramas. Beethoven’s Ninth is a particular influence—a spacious and highly dramatic first movement that moves at a determined, leisurely pace; a long, intense slow movement based on two main themes; a fiercely energetic scherzo; and a “cumulative” finale that sums up the previous movements and, in a magnificent coda, achieves a kind of transcendence. Throughout, there is a wealth of incident, and the time scale is vast. While it unfolds organically, the music tends to fall into large, clearly articulated blocks, with long episodes of steadily mounting tension leading to explosive climaxes followed by plains of repose. 

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana 

 

Yuja Wang, piano 

Pianist Yuja Wang is celebrated for her charismatic artistry, emotional honesty, and captivating stage presence, described recently by Seen and Heard International as combining “barnstorming virtuosity with tenderness, lyricism and sheer beauty.” She has performed with the world’s most venerated conductors, musicians, and ensembles, and is renowned not only for her virtuosity, but also for her spontaneous and lively performances, famously telling The New York Times, “I firmly believe every program should have its own life, and be a representation of how I feel at the moment.” This skill and charisma was memorably demonstrated in her performance of Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 at Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night Gala in October 2021, following its historic 572 days of closure. 

Wang was born into a musical family in Beijing. After childhood piano studies in China, she received advanced training in Canada and at the Curtis Institute of Music under Gary Graffman. Her international breakthrough came in 2007, when she replaced Martha Argerich as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, she signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, and has since established her place among the world’s leading artists, with a succession of critically acclaimed performances and recordings. She was named Musical America’s Artist of the Year in 2017, and, in 2021, received an Opus Klassik Award for her world-première recording of John Adams’s Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. 

As a chamber musician, Wang has developed long-lasting partnerships with several leading artists, notably violinist Leonidas Kavakos, with whom she has recorded the complete Brahms violin sonatas and will be performing duo recitals in Luxembourg, Vienna, Paris, and London this fall, including Brahms’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and violin sonatas by Janáček and Robert Schumann. Last season, she embarked on a highly anticipated international solo recital tour, performing in world-class venues across North America and Europe, astounding audiences once more with her flair, technical ability, and exceptional artistry in a wide-ranging program including Beethoven, Ligeti, and Schoenberg. 

Yuja Wang is a TSO 22/23 Spotlight Artist. She made her first appearance in a TSO season in 2007, performing Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Pinchas Zukerman conducting the National Arts Centre Orchestra. She returned in 2009, performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Long Yu, on their first North American tour.  

Her Toronto Symphony Orchestra début followed in June 2011, with Peter Oundjian conducting, performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3—a work she will reprise with Gustavo Gimeno and the TSO in June 2023. 

Bronfman Plays Beethoven

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor 
Yefim Bronfman
, piano 

Bronfman Plays Beethoven

Christina Volpini
deep field: Celebration Prelude 
TSO100 Commission/World Première

György Ligeti
Atmosphères 

Richard Wagner
Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin

Franz Joseph Haydn
Symphony No. 39 in G Minor, Hob. I.39
 “Tempesta di mare” 

I. Allegro assai 
II. Andante 
III. Menuet and Trio 
IV. Finale: Allegro di molto

Intermission

Unsuk Chin
subito con forza 
(Canadian Première)

Ludwig van Beethoven 
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37

I. Allegro con brio 
II. Largo 
III. Rondo: Allegro

 

Christina Volpini (b. 1992): deep field: Celebration Prelude 

TSO100 Commission/World Première
Composed 2022

The composer writes: As I was composing this work, NASA released the first images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. The first JWST deep field photograph, captured over 12.5 hours of exposure time, covers an area of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. Within this sliver of sky, thousands of galaxies are visible. While the JWST images are stunning upon first viewing, I find them astounding as I try (and fail) to comprehend the scale of what is pictured—for example, the Cosmic Cliffs of the Carina Nebula, which are seven light-years tall, or light of galaxies 13 billion years away. In addition to marking the 100th season of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, this work marks the release of the first JWST images. For me, these photographs disrupt from the day-to-day and imbue a sense of wonder that I may take in structures that exist on such a vast and unknowable scale.

Christina Volpini is a Hamilton/Toronto-based composer whose work focuses on gradually unfolding harmonies and timbral spaces. Described as “very nuanced, rustling and whispering” (Neomemoire) and “focused intently on the subtle sounds that fall between the cracks” (Ludwig Van Toronto), her music explores subtle variation in intonation, found objects, instrumental textures, and ephemerality. She frequently develops pieces through a process of creative discovery with other artists, crafting works for specific spaces and performers. Commissioned projects include works for Continuum Contemporary Music, Jumblies Theatre, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Esprit Orchestra, Arraymusic, percussionist Ryan Scott, Duo AIRS, and Ensemble Bakalari, among others. Her work has been presented by the Music Gallery, Le Vivier, and Soundstreams, and she has participated in artistic residencies with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and nyMusikk Norway via Quatuor Bozzini’s Composers’ Kitchen.

An avid capacity-builder in arts spaces, Christina was a core organizer of both the Montreal Contemporary Music Lab and the Toronto Creative Music Lab, important community-driven workshops for early-career artists with an emphasis on peer mentorship and collaboration. She is originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario.

 

György Ligeti (1923–2006): Atmosphères

Composed 1961

In the context of the 20th century, Atmosphères is a groundbreaking composition, and one of Transylvania-born György Ligeti’s best-known works. Commissioned by Southwest German Radio (SWF), it cemented the composer’s reputation internationally as being at the forefront of Western art music’s avant-garde at the time. The piece gained even more popularity when director Stanley Kubrick used it as the opening to the soundtrack of his 1968 epic science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, where it functions as an overture to the film, playing for a full three minutes in blackness, before the studio credits appear. 

Atmosphères is Ligeti’s pioneering achievement in creating a static music through novel orchestration techniques—by having each instrument play different rhythmic and pitch patterns at varying speeds and dynamic levels, all of which, through meticulous balance and coordination, are blended together to create a sound mass of what he called “fluctuating colour” (Bewegungsfarbe). He described the effect as follows: “The formal characteristic of this music is that it seems static. The music appears to stand still, but that is merely an illusion: within this standing still, this static quality, there are gradual changes: I would think here of a surface of water in which an image is reflected; then this surface of water is gradually disturbed, and the image disappears, but very, very gradually. Subsequently the water calms down again, and we see a different image.”

For the first couple of minutes in the piece, a static surface is disturbed by variations in dynamics. A massive chromatic cluster sounds at the opening, then dies away. Voices re-enter, swelling and abating, after which clusters shift from chromatic to diatonic (think white keys on a piano) in the strings, to pentatonic (black keys) in the woodwinds, and back to chromatic (all keys) in the strings. Then, for another minute, the static surface is disrupted by changes in internal motion—each instrument enters in sequence, playing an oscillating figure that gets quicker through increasing divisions of the beat. As the texture becomes denser, it sounds like a cloud of noise. After it clears, the registral expanse gradually opens up, as families of instruments introduce clusters that push out to ever higher and lower pitches. Violins and piccolos reach their topmost notes, which are then transferred way down into the double basses’ lower strings. 

About halfway through the piece, the strings present what Ligeti referred to as a micropolyphonic canon, during which each instrument enters closely offset from the others, on a different note of the melody. To the ear, melodic fragments seem to emerge and recede into the sonic fabric. Later, the composer introduces “mosaic” texture, created through overlapping entries and exits of instruments; the effect is of a sound mass animated by fluctuating densities. New timbres—such as blowing through brass instruments, playing harmonics on strings, or with the wood of the bow, or on the bridge—become part of the mass. The “noise” gradually dissipates and, finally, with brushed piano strings, disappears into the ether.

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

 

Richard Wagner (1813–1883): Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin

Composed 1846–1848

The character of Lohengrin, the pure-hearted knight, first shows up in Germanic legend in the early 1300s, as Loherangrin, child of Parzival and Condwiramurs, in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic poem Parzival. Wolfram’s story is a variation of the Knight of the Swan tale, previously attached to the Crusade cycle of medieval literature, mixed in with Arthurian legend. In Wolfram’s account, Loherangrin and his twin brother, Kardeiz, join their parents in Munsalväsche (the castle of the Grail King) after Parzival becomes King. Kardeiz later inherits their father’s secular lands; and Loherangrin remains in Munsalväsche as a Grail Knight, standing by to be sent out in secret to provide assistance to kingdoms that have lost their protectors. 

He is eventually called to this duty in Brabant, where the duke has died without a male heir. His daughter Elsa fears the kingdom will be lost, but Loherangrin arrives in a boat pulled by a swan and offers to defend her, though he warns her she must never ask his name. She does (of course), tricked by an enemy, and Loherangrin steps back onto his swan boat, never to return.

Wagner immersed himself in Wolfram’s epic during the winter of 1841–1842, leading to a lifelong fascination with stories of the Holy Grail—the cup from which Jesus is said to have drunk at the Last Supper—and with the knights who sought and then guarded it. Wolfram himself shows up as a character in Wagner’s very next opera, Tannhauser (1845); and Lohengrin follows hard on its heels. Wagner completed the libretto in 1845, and the first draft of the music in July 1846. The full score was finished in April 1848. Later on, following completion of his Ring Cycle, Wagner returned to the Grail legend, tangentially in Tristan und Isolde (1865) and, coming full circle, in Parsifal (1882). 

As in Wolfram’s account, the action takes place near Antwerp, Belgium, during the first half of the 10th century. Lohengrin appears in answer to a prayer from Elsa, daughter of the King of Brabant, for a champion to defend her against a rival claim to the throne. He agrees to do so on condition that she not ask his name. Once again, Elsa is tricked into posing the forbidden question, and he reveals his identity. Under the rules of his sacred knightly order, this means that he must return immediately to his domain, and, as he departs, she falls lifeless to the ground.

The Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin is, however, four-and-a half hours removed from the opera’s grim denouement, offering a gentle and luminous beginning that grows in ardour and volume to present at its centrepoint a radiant depiction of the Holy Grail.

—Program note by Don Anderson

 

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) Symphony No. 39 in G Minor, Hob. I.39 “Tempesta di mare” 

Composed 1766

The year is 1766 and a 34-year-old Joseph Haydn has just been named Kapellmeister by Prince Anton Esterházy, thereby proving that Prince Anton had even more of an ear for music than his predecessor who had only appointed Haydn assistant conductor of the Esterházy Court. In the unparalleled freedom to experiment within this Hungarian courtly cocoon, the bulk of Haydn’s 107 symphonies were composed: “Cut off from the world,” as Haydn wrote, “there was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” 

Shielded from the torments of the external world, he had free rein to fabricate internal tempests of his own, particularly as the Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”) Romantic movement was taking aim at the Enlightenment cult of Rationalism that had gripped Europe in the latter half of the 18th century. His Symphony No. 45 and this Symphony No. 39—aptly nicknamed “Tempesta di mare” (“storm at sea”)—are often referenced as early gems of this aesthetic of fancy turbulence. Composed in Haydn’s first year as Kapellmeister, this symphony contains all the boisterous energy and tireless optimism of one’s first weeks at a new gig—a tireless drive that, for Haydn, would last for almost the next four decades at the helm of one of the era’s premier orchestras. 

Brief as it is, the symphony is nevertheless composed of sharply contrasting seascapes, beginning in the first movement with the stern wallop of the sturm, then colourful respite in the next two movements, and ending with the full-mast drang of the Finale. The first movement begins gently with a swiftly gliding figure on strings. After a brief bout of self-conscious hesitation, the horns join in to deliver the ballistic force for the confident theme that dominates the movement’s entirety. The whole symphony wraps around a foursome of horns—the first and second of which are in B flat and the third and fourth in G minor. This symmetry is also reflected in the overall structure, with the movements scored in a palindromic sequence of minor-major-minor-major-minor. 

The horns are mum for the whole second movement, as the strings weigh in. As if repenting for the excesses of the first movement, this one is a courtly Mozartian dance of light and grace. As the movement travels seamlessly into the Menuet of the third movement, the G minor horns return with leisurely phrases echoed on oboes and bassoon, paced by a light trot on continuo. The Menuet then gives way to a Trio, where it is the two B-flat horns that provide the delicate embroidery.

And then this orderly procession sails, slap-bang, into the tempest of the Finale. The electricity of tremolo on high strings mixes violently with scales and counterpoint between wind and low strings. It’s an almost textbook snapshot of the panache that animated Haydn’s proto–Sturm und Drang style, cloaked throughout, as befitted the Esterházy Kapellmeister, by the symmetrical Enlightenment orderliness that storm and stress sought to dislodge. 

—Program note by Michael Zarathus-Cook



Unsuk Chin (b. 1961): subito con forza

(Canadian Première)
Composed 2020

Korean composer Unsuk Chin is one of contemporary music’s significant figures. A former student of György Ligeti, she feels her compositional style isn’t easily pigeonholed into any specific aesthetic type or tradition. “Personally, I have the feeling that I don’t belong to any school or movement,” she has noted, “but I do try to write music that is ‘modern’. In the sense of starting from our time, making reflective and critical use of the compositional possibilities available today.” 

Written for the Beethoven 250th birthday celebrations in 2020, subito con forza (“suddenly with force”) takes inspiration from a line in the composer’s conversation books: “Dur und Moll. Ich bin ein Gewinner.” (“Major and minor. I am a winner.”) Chin was also inspired by Beethoven’s drive to seek inventive solutions with each piece he wrote, an aspect that makes him one of her favourite composers. The compact work contains several references to his music, and features, as she describes, “enormous contrasts: from volcanic eruptions to extreme serenity.” It captures the composer’s volatile personality as well as defining characteristics of his music.

subito con forza moves swiftly through a series of highly contrasting episodes. It begins with the octave Cs from the start of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, after which the music loudly shatters, then is suddenly very soft. First violins sustain a very high note with tremolo and a wandering passage begins low in the double basses; the rest of the strings fill in the texture. There’s a brief pause, then strings restart and get louder, faster, raspier (they play sul ponticello—on the bridge). They relentlessly drive toward an extremely loud climax; after another pause, there are jarring full-orchestra stabs of dissonant chords. Suddenly, the piano enters with the opening flourish of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, but it’s derailed by the orchestra. A transitional passage follows, mysterious at first, then becoming more decisive; it leads into an extended section, with woodwinds, piano, vibraphone, marimba, and plucked strings, and culminates in a very loud cluster chord. 

Playing softly and sul ponticello, violins and violas take up a wandering line, the eerie timbre of which is punctuated by aggressive accents. In the next episode, instrumental sections—woodwinds, piano, and strings—simultaneously play material in different subdivisions of the beat—two, three, and four, respectively—and eventually climax with a loud flurry of string scales. After a moment of silence, the French horns and trumpets in alternation proclaim the famous short-short-short-long motif from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony like a fanfare. It disintegrates into a mysterious dialogue of tones and clusters, which, initiated by the tubular bell, picks up pace and develops into increasingly louder swells. It lands on a dense cluster of sound, which then stunningly resolves into a C-minor chord to close the piece. 

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827): Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37

Composed 1800

As a young composer in his twenties, Beethoven was staking his claim, almost systematically, to one classical genre after another: piano sonata, variations, chamber music, aria, concerto, symphony. At the same time, he was also confronting the intimidating legacies of his great predecessors Haydn and Mozart. 

If Haydn’s influence can be heard most clearly in the early sonatas, string quartets, and symphonies, the spirit of Mozart hovers over the early concertos. Beethoven particularly admired two Mozart piano concertos in minor keys: K. 466 in D Minor and K. 491 in C Minor, both forerunners of the 19th-century Romantic style. Upon hearing K. 491 performed in 1799, he exclaimed to a friend: “Cramer! Cramer! We shall never be able to do anything like that!” But in fact he was already trying—labouring for several years on his own Piano Concerto in C Minor, which would reach its final form sometime in the early 1800s, and he gave the first performance in 1803. 

The influence of K. 491 is audible in the details as well as the conception—in the opening theme, for instance, and at the end of the first movement, where (as in K. 491 but contrary to convention) the pianist continues to play along with the orchestra a series of mysterious arpeggios after the cadenza.

With its symphonic proportions, grand orchestration, and stormy, Romantic rhetoric (there are cadenzas in all three movements), Beethoven’s C-Minor concerto was an important precursor of his “heroic” middle-period style; its solo part demanded unprecedented power and virtuosity, and an unprecedented range of colour and expression from the pianist. As Beethoven biographer Maynard Solomon wrote, this was the first concerto to “record something far beyond merely exterior wit or refinement, and to move toward dramatic oratory.”

The slow movement is luminous, and Beethoven writes “sempre con gran espressione” (“always with great expression”) at the little cadenza near the end (he never included such instructions lightly). One hears an incipient Romanticism in his beautiful piano writing: textures that span the whole range of the keyboard; sonorous, wide-spaced chords and lush arpeggios; evocative tremolos in the left hand; rich ornamentation and intricate melodic filigree. Beethoven is generous with pedal markings, too, some of which serve to blur harmonies into an impressionistic haze.

The closing rondo at first renews the blustery rhetoric of the first movement but, increasingly, the drama lightens. Pleasant, lyrical, even flippant melodic ideas appear, along with tender and tranquil episodes (one of which recalls the slow movement), bringing a new note of comedy with them, and it is the spirit of comedy that ultimately prevails. Just when the finale seems at an end, a short cadenza leads into a coda that is pure opera buffa, featuring a trivial little motif from earlier in the movement, reinterpreted in jaunty 6/8 time. With light-footed orchestral writing and brilliant cascades from the piano, Beethoven finishes the most passionate of his early concertos in a hail of raucous laughter.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana

 

Yefim Bronfman, piano

Internationally recognized as one of today’s most acclaimed and admired pianists, Yefim Bronfman stands among a handful of artists regularly sought by festivals, orchestras, conductors, and recital series. His commanding technique, power, and exceptional lyrical gifts are consistently acknowledged by the press and audiences alike.

Following summer festival appearances in Verbier and Salzburg, and on tour with mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, Mr. Bronfman’s 2022/23 season begins with the opening week of the Chicago Symphony, followed by return visits to New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh, Houston, Philadelphia, New World, Pacific, Madison, New Jersey, Toronto, and Montreal symphonies. In Europe, he will tour with Rotterdam Philharmonic and can also be heard with Berlin Philharmonic, Bayerischer Rundfunk (Munich), Bamberg, Staatskapelle Dresden, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and Zurich Opera orchestras. 

Always keen to explore chamber music repertoire, he has partnered with Pinchas Zukerman, Martha Argerich, Magdalena Kožená, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Emmanuel Pahud, and many others. In 1991, he gave a series of joint recitals with Isaac Stern in Russia, marking Mr. Bronfman’s first public performances there since his immigration to Israel at age 15.

Widely praised for his solo, chamber, and orchestral recordings, Mr. Bronfman has been nominated for six GRAMMY® Awards, winning in 1997 with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for their recording of the three Bartók Piano Concerti. His prolific catalogue of recordings includes works for two pianos by Rachmaninoff and Brahms with Emanuel Ax, the complete Prokofiev concerti with the Israel Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, a Schubert/Mozart disc with the Zukerman Chamber Players, the soundtrack to Disney’s Fantasia 2000, and the 2014 GRAMMY®-nominated Magnus Lindberg Piano Concerto No. 2, commissioned for him and performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert on the Dacapo label. 

Born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union, Yefim Bronfman immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973, where he studied with pianist Arie Vardi, head of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. In the US, he studied at The Juilliard School, Marlboro School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music, under Rudolf Firkušný, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. A recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize, one of the highest honours given to American instrumentalists, in 2010, he was further honoured as the recipient of the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from Northwestern University, and, in 2015, with an honorary doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music.

Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

Gemma New, conductor 
Kerson Leong, violin 
Jean-Willy Kunz, organ

Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

Felix Mendelssohn
The Hebrides, Op. 26
(“Fingal’s Cave”)

Samy Moussa
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra “Adrano”

I. circa 48 – Più mosso  circa 58
II. Cadenza: senza misura
III. . circa 96
IV. Epilogue: circa 48

Intermission

Ernest Chausson
Poème for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25 

Camille Saint-Saëns
Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78
“Organ Symphony” 

I. Adagio – Allegro moderato – Poco adagio 
II. Allegro moderato – Presto – Maestoso – Allegro 

 

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847): The Hebrides, Op. 26 (“Fingal’s Cave”)

Composed 1830

Mendelssohn conceived and first sketched The Hebrides in August 1829, during a walking tour of Scotland that included the Inner Hebrides islands off Scotland’s west coast, and Fingal’s Cave, on the Isle of Staffa. He completed the overture late in 1830, in Rome, but continued to revise it: after its well-received first performance, in London (May 1832); after its first publication as a piano duet (1833); and following its publication in orchestral parts (1834).

There was, by the way, no unanimity of title among the various manuscript and early published sources, which bore headings including The Hebrides, Fingal’s Cave, Ossian in Fingal’s Cave, Overture to the Isles of Fingal, and Overture to the Lonely Isle. Unlike such works as the overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it does not set a particular poem, play, or other literary source, although Mendelssohn was probably influenced by Scottish literature of the day (namely, Ossian and Scott). 

It seems to have been based largely on visual impressions (a fine draftsman, Mendelssohn made many drawings in Scotland). One can also perhaps detect in it certain naturalistic musical influences, like Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, and traces of traditional Scottish music (though Mendelssohn, admittedly, was never much interested in folk music). It is also tempting to suggest tone-painting here and there—winds and waves, caves and crags. But even though the music is undeniably vivid, full of drama and mystery and rough-hewn grandeur, it has no explicit program. The music is really more impressionistic than programmatic. 

Mendelssohn seems to have been primarily interested in conveying the textures of the desolation of these Scottish islands; a few storms notwithstanding, they are mostly quiet. Set in a recognizable sonata form (the recapitulation is much truncated), the music unfolds organically, through transformations of a few interrelated ideas—particularly the famous motif with which it opens.

“Mendelssohn was not the first to create independent concert overtures,” the musicologist R. Larry Todd writes, “but he was arguably the first major composer to probe extensively the ability of the autonomous overture to treat in purely musical terms programmatic ideas, whether of a dramatic, poetic, or pictorial nature.” Mendelssohn’s achievement was to separate the overture “from its traditional role on the stage, and to free orchestral music from the conventions of the symphony.” The influence of his free-standing overtures on later dramatic and program music was incalculable.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana

 

Samy Moussa (b. 1984): Concerto for Violin and Orchestra “Adrano”

Composed 2019

The orchestral works of Montreal-born composer Samy Moussa, who was most recently the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s 2021/22 Spotlight Artist, are highly regarded for their vibrant sound worlds, with descriptions of his pieces often vividly citing his bold approaches to harmony and orchestral timbre. His Violin Concerto (“Adrano”) from 2019 is an authoritative example of his compositional craft. Since the work’s première, it has been recorded by Andrew Wan and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under Kent Nagano (Analekta) and won the 2021 JUNO Award for Classical Composition of the Year. 

The work’s name refers to the Sicilian city where Moussa had spent substantial time and was inspired by the views, including Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe. In ancient times, the population there had worshipped Adrano or Adranos, a fire god who was said to have lived under the volcano. The concerto’s four movements, which proceed without break, evoke the sublime beauty of the region’s landscapes as well as the volatility of the volcano and the precariousness of life at the foot of it. 

The concerto opens with an introduction of sustained notes intoned by flutes, after which the solo violin sings a gradually climbing melody. It reaches a high D, underneath which lower instruments (including contrabassoon) finally sound, as if from the depths. The registral gap widens further as the violin soars higher over slow-shifting harmonies below. Other instruments fill in the texture while the violin responds with arcing lyrical phrases. The opening melody returns, this time with the orchestra moving more assertively. It ultimately builds to a grand climax with somewhat menacing low notes resounding from the deep. The threat dissipates, returning to calm as the orchestra steadily advances a progression of chords, the outlines of which the violin plucks. 

The chords continue into the second movement, accompanying the solo violin’s rhapsodic cadenza featuring quicksilver arpeggios of harmonics. At moments, dissonances resolve into consonances, like something coming into focus through the “mist.” A decisive chord marks the beginning of the fiery third movement, and the orchestra emerges playing vigorously churning figures, with loud accents punctuating the roiling texture. Later, solo violin erupts into virtuosic ascending flourishes, with the orchestra interjecting with stabbing chords. Then, unleashed in a relentless perpetuum mobile, the violin drives forward with rapid arpeggios as the orchestra surges underneath; they finally culminate with triumphant chords. The fourth movement follows—an “Epilogue” that is a varied reprisal of the music from the first movement. After reaching its peak, the solo violin remains in the heights as a trumpet intones a mellow fanfare to draw the concerto to a serene close.

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

 

Ernest Chausson (1855–1899): Poème for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 25

Composed 1896

Born in Paris, France, Ernest Chausson produced a regrettably small catalogue. He came late to music, after first following his family’s wishes and studying law; he composed slowly and carefully; and he died in a bicycling accident at 44. 

After deciding that composition was his true calling, he entered the Paris Conservatoire at 25, evolving a highly personal style blending the mystical approach of Richard Wagner and Chausson’s teacher, César Franck, with the impressionist style of his friend Claude Debussy. The resulting combination was greeted with great hostility by a Parisian press that despised both Wagner and Debussy. But Chausson pressed on. 

Along the way, the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe offered him a commission for a work with orchestral accompaniment. Chausson demurred at taking on a concerto, “but...a single movement for violin and orchestra,” he noted, “would be much more likely. It would be very free in form, with many passages where the violin would play alone.” 

In the fall of 1896, while in Spain to take part in a series of concerts featuring French music, Chausson and Ysaÿe were invited to the home of painter Santiago Rusiñol, where they and other musicians performed chamber music for ten solid hours, including the first performance of the Poème, which Ysaÿe played without a rehearsal. The Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz, to whom Chausson had shown great generosity when Albéniz arrived friendless in Paris, likely heard Poème during that visit. Albéniz then persuaded renowned Hungarian conductor Arthur Nikisch to include music by Chausson at upcoming Paris concerts. The Paris première followed in April 1897, only secured by the fact that the much-admired Ysaÿe would appear as soloist. The composer stood backstage during a performance greeted with tremendous applause. 

Poème gave Chausson the least difficulty of any major work, and it shows in its confident, free-flowing form and contents. Debussy spoke of how Poème contained all its composer’s best qualities. “The freedom of its form never hinders harmonious proportion. Nothing touches more with dreamy sweetness than its conclusion, where the music becomes the very feeling which inspired its emotion.”

The solo violin emerges out of the dark, misty orchestral opening, playing in an intimate, free-flowing manner; the emotional tempo and temperature rise soon afterward, in an extended principal section during which the violin offers wave after wave of amorous expression, supported by lush orchestration. Once the work’s climax has at last been attained, the music gradually dissipates. 

A week after Chausson’s untimely death, Ysaÿe played the Poème in London, a performance the composer had planned to attend. Ysaÿe then wrote to Chausson’s children: “I was today…moved at the thought that I was the first after his death to place humbly all my artistic strength at the service of one of his works, whose pure beauty will reflect itself on all of you.”

—Program note by Don Anderson

 

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921): Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 “Organ Symphony”

Composed 1886

The organ was an instrument Saint-Saëns knew intimately: for two decades he was organist at the Madeleine in Paris (Liszt called him the greatest organist in the world). The organ gives unmatchable depth and grandeur to this symphonic work, as it accompanies a series of broad, expressive themes. 

Structurally, the work adheres to the four-movement plan of the Classical symphony, condensed by Saint-Saëns into two movements with three distinct sections each. Seeking “to avoid the endless resumptions and repetitions” of the Classical style, Saint-Saëns sought inspiration in the innovative forms of Liszt’s later instrumental music, and in Liszt’s technique of thematic transformation. 

In the opening Adagio, for example, after a short, mournful introduction, he introduces a nervous, trembling motif (violins) that not only becomes the main theme of the Allegro moderato that follows, but also serves as a motto throughout the symphony, its profile changing to suit the musical context. The beginning of the Poco adagio, which concludes the first movement, marks the entrance of the organ, and has three distinct sections within it. The middle one of these, featuring woodwind and brass choirs, is darker, but the outer two, which favour the strings, sound like continuous outpourings of melody. The third, in particular is a tense, driving, fantastical scherzo, with a faster, brighter episode in the middle that is glitteringly orchestrated, like ballet music.

The second movement, which opens with a mighty blast from the organ, has its own new themes, the most important of which alludes to the famous four-note motif that begins the finale of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony. The motto from the first movement’s Allegro moderato returns here as well, in fresh guises—with hymn-like majesty in the slow introduction, and as the subject of a brief, pompous fugue. The “hymn” and fugue versions of the motto, and the new themes of the finale, are developed at considerable length in a noisy, theatrical orchestral setting, before the work finally achieves its triumphant resolution, with the organ prominently on display to the very end.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana

 

Gemma New, conductor

Sought after for her insightful interpretations and dynamic presence, New Zealand–born Gemma New is the newly appointed Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. She also holds the titles of Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. New is the recipient of the prestigious 2021 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award.

In New’s inaugural season with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, she led the 2022 Winter Festival with Hilary Hahn and Paul Lewis, Mozart’s Requiem with Voices New Zealand, and contemporary works by New Zealand composers John Psathas, John Rimmer, Tabea Squire, and Anthony Ritchie in the orchestra’s 75th-anniversary season. The 2022/23 season also marks New’s eighth season as Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

In the 2022/23 season, New leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Royal Northern Sinfonia. Increasingly in demand in Europe, she leads the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, Berner Symphonieorchester, Gävle Symphony, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Orchestra della Toscana, and the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg in the final concert of Mozartwoche 2023. New makes her débuts with the Houston Symphony and Melbourne Symphony in Australia, and returns to lead the New Jersey Symphony, Toronto Symphony, and New World Symphony. In June 2023, she returns to St. Louis to lead Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s production of Susannah.

New’s work as Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic has been committed to deepening the artistic level of the orchestra and expanding its reach into the community. New launched the HPO’s first “Intimate and Immersive” concert series, a Family Series, and regular side-by-sides with the HPO Youth Orchestra. Her programs present works by core masters such as Beethoven and Mahler, as well as works by today’s most active composers from Canada and New Zealand such as Zosha di Castri, José Evangelista, Salina Fisher, and Kevin Lau.

New previously served as Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and as Associate Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony. A former Dudamel Conducting Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gemma New was a 2018 Conducting Fellow at Tanglewood Music Center and Conducting Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival. She studied conducting at the Peabody Institute with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. More information on Gemma New can be found at www.gemmanew.com.

Kerson Leong, violin

Canadian violinist Kerson Leong is quickly emerging as one of the finest musicians and instrumentalists of his generation. He continues to win over both colleagues and audiences alike not only with his “supreme mastery” (Le Devoir) of his instrument or his unmistakable tone, but also his ability to combine an honest, intellectual approach with raw intensity and spontaneity. He first gained international attention by winning Junior First Prize at the Menuhin Competition 2010 in Oslo. He has since emerged as a powerful, individual musical voice, in such venues as Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, Wigmore Hall, the Auditorium du Louvre, and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

Hand-picked by Yannick Nézet-Séguin as artist-in-residence with the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal during the 2018/19 season, Leong has performed with such ensembles as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra. Another recent highlight was recording John Rutter’s Visions, a piece written especially for Leong, with the composer himself and the Aurora Chamber Orchestra.

Music outreach and pedagogy are growing passions for Leong. Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and the Sibelius Academy have both invited him to teach and lecture, enabling him to cement his significant role in reaching young people and potential music lovers with his art.

Jean-Willy Kunz, organ

Jean-Willy Kunz, Organist in Residence of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, plays with the Orchestra and in recital, and sees to the development and showcasing of Casavant’s Opus l3900 installed in 2014 at the Maison symphonique in Montreal.

Kunz has premièred numerous pieces for organ and orchestra, and for solo organ, by Tod Machover, John Rea, Maxime Goulet, and others. Among many highlights was a 2017 recital in collaboration with NASA, during which a live audio-video duplex with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station allowed for the first-ever Earth-space organ duet.

His stylistic versatility is reflected in various projects over the years, including jazz music in duo with Branford Marsalis, pop music with Rufus Wainwright, and stage music with Cirque du Soleil. His discography includes 15 recordings reflecting the broad range of his musical influences: a solo organ album, Impressions with the jazz ensemble InSpirations, a 2016 JUNO Award–winning album with the MSO, and many more.

Jean-Willy Kunz studied with Louis Robilliard and with Mireille Lagacé, before completing a doctorate in organ performance at McGill University with John Grew. He is organ professor at the Conservatory of Music in Montreal, titular organist at the church of St-Jean-Baptiste, and artistic director of the Canadian International Organ Competition.

Gimeno Conducts Chopin & Scheherazade

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor
Bruce Liu, piano

Gimeno Conducts Chopin & Scheherazade

Kevin Lau 
The Story of the Dragon Gate:
Celebration Prelude 

TSO100 Commission/World Première

Lera Auerbach
Icarus

Frédéric Chopin
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21 

I. Maestoso
II. Larghetto
III. Allegro vivace

Intermission

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Scheherazade, Op. 35

Jonathan Crow, violin

I.
The Sea and Sindbad’s Ship: Largo e maestoso – Allegro non troppo

II.
The Tale of Prince Kalendar: Lento – Allegro molto

III.
The Young Prince and the Princess: Andantino quasi allegretto

IV.
The Festival at Baghdad – The Sea – The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock: Allegro molto

 

Kevin Lau (b. 1982): The Story of the Dragon Gate: Celebration Prelude 

TSO100 Commission/World Première
Composed 2022

The composer writes: In Chinese mythology, there is a waterfall so immense it seems to pour forth from a hole in the heavens. Perched above the waterfall is an ancient entrance to the sky, held up by stone columns and by arches the colour of mist. Fish swim upward against the water’s fierce current toward this Dragon Gate; the few that succeed and pass through the gate are transformed into flying dragons. 

I discovered this fable only recently while reading the work of American author Grace Lin, whose children’s novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon cleverly weaves traditional fairy tales into its main narrative. The striking imagery of this particular tale, along with its brevity, made it an ideal source of inspiration for this three-minute celebratory overture, whose surging, splashy textures and overflowing lyricism are an attempt to reflect the story’s themes and visual splendour. 

To open the TSO’s 100th anniversary season is both a great honour and a daunting task. It is not always easy to find the celebratory impulse, especially in recent years. But then, the artist must not only reflect on difficult times, but seek to transcend them; to delight, inspire, and, yes, entertain. I am immeasurably grateful for this opportunity to attempt all these things in celebration of an orchestra that I consider family.

Born in Hong Kong, Kevin Lau moved to Toronto at age 7. At the time, he was the youngest person to be appointed Affiliate Composer of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (from 2012 to 2015). Shortly after, he was commissioned to write two ballets with choreographer Guillaume Côté: a full-length ballet (Le Petit Prince) for the National Ballet of Canada and a half-hour ballet (Dark Angels) for the National Arts Centre Orchestra. 

One of Canada’s most prolific and sought-after composers, Lau is known for his large-scale orchestral creations, chamber music, ballets, and film scores. His music, frequently performed in Canada, the US, and Europe, has been recorded on multiple JUNO Award–winning albums, and is unified by the search for deep connections amidst surface diversity. His most recent large-scale work was an opera-film hybrid (Bound) commissioned by Against the Grain Theatre and recorded by the TSO. He currently serves as composer in residence of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra.

 

Lera Auerbach (b. 1973): Icarus

Composed 2006

Born in Chelyabinsk, USSR, Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach is widely known for the strong communicative and emotional power of her music. Grounded in traditional Western tonality though inflected with sharp dissonances, her distinctive style employs extreme contrasts in dynamics, instrumental colour and texture, as well as forceful gestures, to gripping effect. She composes with vivid metaphors and stories in mind, and her work is often tinged with a striking sense of irony. 

These aspects are evident in her symphonic poem Icarus, a title that Auerbach says was attached between the time the piece was completed in 2006 and its world première by the Verbier Festival Orchestra in July 2011. “Icarus is what came to my mind, listening to this work at that time.” As she has described it, she finds the myth—about the winged boy who dared to fly too close to the sun—deeply moving for its beauty and tragedy: 

“What makes this myth so touching is Icarus’s impatience of heart, his wish to reach the unreachable, the intensity of the ecstatic brevity of his flight and the inevitability of his fall…. His tragic death is beautiful. It also poses a question—from Daedalus’s point of view—how can one distinguish success from failure? His greatest invention, the wings which allowed a man to fly, was also his greatest failure as they caused the death of his son.”

According to Auerbach, the piece’s title is meant to invite listeners “to feel free to imagine, to access their own memories and associations.” Icarus begins with alternating episodes between two distinct “sound worlds”: The first, to this listener, perhaps suggests Icarus’ fixation on flying as his concerned father warns him of the dangers of getting too close to the sun or the ocean; the second represents Icarus’ fantasies of flight and freedom. 

The work opens with a burst; cellos play with “obsessive energy,” punctuated by thwacks of aggressively plucked strings. An arrival point is reached, after which the music becomes otherworldly—Icarus in fantasyland. A solo violin rhapsodizes against a shimmering backdrop of celesta, harps, tam-tam, vibraphone, and piano. The obsessive music returns, the strings now more vigorous, and the brass making a thunderous warning statement, which is, however, ignored for another dreamy reverie. Once again, the rigorous warning music comes back, this time building to a big climax.

After a brief pause, there’s swirling music—quarter-tone trills in the lower strings with ominous sustained tones in the trombones. It dissolves to solo violin and flute, to which is added the uncanny timbre of the theremin. Upper strings (with theremin) then ascend to even greater heights. The orchestra reaches a huge climax, triggering a long glissando descent—Icarus’ fall—after which the music wallows in the depths of the catastrophe. This then transitions into an ethereal epilogue, closing the piece with a musical encapsulation of the myth’s tragic beauty.

—Program note by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD

 

Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849): Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21

Composed 1829–1830

By the time he was 19, Chopin had already found a unique voice as a pianist and composer. Pursuing his interest in Polish folk music, he was doing promising work in forms like the polonaise and mazurka, and his musical horizons were also expanding: in August 1829, he made his Viennese début, impressing audiences with his pianistic brilliance and his novelty as a nationalist composer. Upon his return to Warsaw, he gave some successful concerts, found love, and enjoyed the creative stimulation of political and artistic ferment. He was starting to codify his radical ideas about piano technique, and beginning his great set of Op. 10 Études at this time. He also wrote two piano concertos and, with the première of his Op. 21 in Warsaw on March 21, 1830, he scored another, less likely, triumph. 

Chopin’s concertos—indeed, all of the larger classical forms he had studied at the Warsaw Conservatory—were widely regarded as incompatible with his imagination. As Liszt remarked in 1852, “Chopin did violence to his genius every time he sought to fetter it by rules.” But in this case, he was not even trying to reinterpret the classical concerto. He was working in a different tradition called stile brillante [showy and sparkly], made fashionable by such virtuoso pianist-composers as Carl Maria von Weber and Johann Nepomuk Hummel, from whom Chopin borrowed a conception of the concerto as a loosely organized soloist showcase.

What makes Chopin’s Op. 21 work is the dominance of the piano part. After introducing the first movement, the orchestra cedes all responsibility for musical development to the piano. There is none of the classical concerto’s true interplay of forces. But to call Chopin a poor orchestrator—“nothing but a cold and useless accompaniment” is how Berlioz described it—is moot. If Chopin treated the orchestra merely as a platter on which to serve the piano, that was the whole point.

In the same way the first movement bears the stamp of the stile brillante, the second shows the influence of Italian opera, owing much to the bel canto operas of composers like Rossini and Bellini. The delicate melodic embroidery in the outer section is unmistakably operatic; so, too, is the arioso-like piano writing, over trembling strings, in the middle section. (Chopin confessed in a letter dated October 3, 1929, that the second movement had been directly inspired by his secret passion for a younger singer at the Warsaw Conservatory.) Then, in the third movement, yet another unmistakable influence can be heard—the rhythm of the Polish mazurka, in a brilliantly stylized setting. Once again, the piano dominates, with the orchestra largely relegated to the roles of cushion and punctuation mark.

As one observer wrote, these piano concertos “linger in the memory for the poetry of their detail rather than the strength of their structures.” So imaginative and personal, they have become the only large-scale early works of Chopin to retain a place in the repertoire.

—Program note by Kevin Bazzana

 

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908): Scheherazade, Op. 35

Composed 1888

Early on, Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov seemed destined for a naval career, like others in his family. He was 27 when he decided on music as his life’s work. Having somehow been offered the post of professor of composition and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, he only kept ahead of his students by quickly digesting the books he was teaching. Major talent won through: he became a master of the art of colourful orchestration, nowhere more so than in this piece.

It was virtually inevitable that he would turn his attention to one of the world’s best-known collections of folklore, the Arabian Nights (or 1001 Nights). In his autobiography, he describes his intentions in composing Scheherazade: “I had in view the creation of an orchestral suite in four movements, closely knit by the unity of its themes and motives, yet presenting, as it were, a kaleidoscope of fairy tale images.... I meant the hinted titles of the movements to direct but slightly the hearer’s fancy on the path which my own fancy had travelled.” 

He also attached the following introduction to the score: “The Sultan Shakriar, convinced of the falsehood and inconstancy of all women, had sworn an oath to put to death each of his wives after the first night. However, the Sultana Scheherazade saved her life by arousing his interest in the tales which she told during the 1001 nights. Driven by curiosity, the Sultan postponed her execution from day to day, and at last abandoned his bloodthirsty design.”

 The first movement of the suite opens with a stern brass theme that likely represents the bloodthirsty sultan. Answering it is the most important recurring motif, a bewitching melody sung by the solo violin—the voice of Scheherazade. From early on, Rimsky-Korsakov also begins to dot the score with featured passages for solo instruments—flute, clarinet, cello, and horn—that make the entire suite a marvellous orchestral showpiece.

 The second movement is indeed kaleidoscopic, as he described it in his autobiography. It has the character of a scherzo, with the solo bassoon launching the tale in a sinuous manner. Throughout, solo winds rhapsodize in flexible rhythm over a throbbing string accompaniment, and a war-like fanfare introduced by trombones and tuba plays an important role in the fantastic proceedings.

 The third movement offers a luscious romantic reverie; a dance, tinged with light percussion, appears at the core. The sumptuous finale is a boisterous carnival, where themes heard earlier in the suite jostle for attention. It is ultimately crowned by a colossal climax, after which the “Scheherazade” theme returns one last time. Keening softly in the heights, it gently rocks the theme of the Sultan, its bullying tone now soothed, cradled in a tender lullaby.

—Program note by Don Anderson 

 

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor

Gustavo Gimeno’s tenure as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra began in 2020/21. He has also held the position of Music Director with Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg (OPL) since 2015, and will assume it in 2025/26 with Teatro Real Madrid, where he is currently Music Director Designate. 

Continuing their 100-year anniversary, Gimeno and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra celebrate with major symphonic works including Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. He will share the stage with, among other soloists, Yo-Yo Ma, Yuja Wang, Yefim Bronfman, and Jean-Guihen Queyras. The Orchestra will also embark on its first tour with him in winter 2023, including a return visit to Carnegie Hall, the TSO’s annual orchestra exchange with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, and the Orchestra’s début at Chicago’s Symphony Center.

With Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Gimeno explores repertoire including Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 “Tragic”, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. In 2022/23, he tours with the OPL to Switzerland, Austria, and Hungary, and together they make their first-ever tour to Korea. 

This season, Gimeno and the TSO will record, for Harmonia Mundi, Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie, with pianist Marc-André Hamelin and ondes Martenot player Nathalie Forget. This builds on Gimeno’s new relationship, since April 2022, with the HM label, which commenced with a recording of Rossini’s Stabat Mater, featuring OPL with Maria Agresta (soprano), Daniela Barcellona (mezzo-soprano), René Barbera (tenor), Carlo Lepore (bass), and the Wiener Singverein. In August 2022, the OPL’s second album for HM was devoted to two ballets by Stravinsky (The Firebird and Apollon musagète). 

Gimeno and OPL also have an extensive discography with Pentatone. Releases include a Francisco Coll monography featuring the Violin Concerto with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1, Ravel’s complete ballet music to Daphnis et Chloé, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Rossini’s Petite Messe solennelle, and César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor. 

As an opera conductor, he is invited for major titles at great houses such as the Liceu Opera Barcelona; Opernhaus Zürich; Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia; and Teatro Real, Madrid. He is also much sought-after as a symphonic guest conductor worldwide: débuts in 2022/23 include Staatskapelle Berlin and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Gimeno is also regularly reinvited to the Royal Concertgebouworkest, and touring projects have included concerts as far afield as Japan and Taiwan. 

Bruce Liu, piano

Canadian pianist Bruce Liu was brought to the world’s attention in 2021, when he won the First Prize at the 18th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Since then, he has toured the world, appearing at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Wiener Konzerthaus, Bozar Brussels, Tokyo Opera City, Sala São Paulo, and the Royal Festival Hall with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Orchestral appearances also include the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Additional past highlights include performances with ensembles such as The Cleveland Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a North American tour with the China NCPA Orchestra.

In addition to this début appearance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Liu’s 2022/23 season includes a recital on the main stage of Carnegie Hall. His orchestral appearances include performances with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Wiener Symphoniker at the Musikverein. His festival appearances include la Roque d’Anthéron, Klavier-Festival Ruhr, Rheingau, Edinburgh, Chopin and his Europe, Duszniki, and Gstaad Menuhin. 

An exclusive recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon, Mr. Liu’s first album, featuring his winning performances from the Chopin Competition, won a Fryderyk Award and received international acclaim including both the Critics’ Choice and Editor’s Choice in Gramophone magazine. “Forget the Chopin Competition element of this release,” Gramophone says. “Listen to it simply as one of the most distinguished Chopin recitals of recent years, full of maturity, character and purpose.” They also included it in their list of Best Classical Albums of 2021, describing Mr. Liu’s playing as “evoking Shura Cherkassky and Georges Cziffra in a single breath.”

“What we all have in common is our difference,” the young pianist likes to say. Born in Paris to Chinese parents, he grew up in Montreal—a life that has been steeped in a cultural diversity that has shaped his own difference: in attitude, personality, and character. He draws on various sources of inspiration for his art: European refinement, Chinese long tradition, and North American dynamism and openness. Mr. Liu follows his artist path with optimism and a smile, and his teachers include Montreal-based Richard Raymond and Dang Thai Son.

2021/22 Season Concerts

Gimeno + Beethoven's Ode to Joy

ADAM SCIME (b. 1982): A Dream Of Refuge 

TSONextGen Commission/World Première

composed 2020 | 5 min

Composer’s note: “As I wrote this piece during an intense period of quarantine throughout the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, I couldn't help but feel the effects of isolation when putting pen to page. It was somewhat unavoidable to think about how this totally withdrawn sensation might be expressed, and possibly reconciled, in my artistic practice so that I could create a place of refuge in an otherwise  desolate surrounding. A need for refuge suggests the need for some kind of sanctuary for the self. Spiritually, this can indicate that we are trying to escape from some anxiety or terror or from some authority greater than ourselves. If in dreams we are conscious of a place being a refuge, we can assume that we are temporarily emotionally secure. This rollercoaster, of feeling both secure and threatened throughout the pandemic, is the main poetic intention that drives the musical material in this piece.

Composer bio: As a young composer and performer living in Toronto, Adam Scime has been praised as “a fantastic success" (CBC) and "astounding, the musical result was remarkable" (icareifyoulisten.com). Adam's work is widely known for its colouristic exploration and innovative sonic experimentation. His work has received many awards including the 2015 CMC Toronto Emerging Composer Award, The Socan Young Composer Competition, The Karen Keiser Prize in Canadian Music, The Esprit Young Composer Competition, and first prize in the 2018 Land’s End Composer Competition.

Adam was recently selected for the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal (ECM+) 2016 Generations Project during which his piece Liminal Pathways was toured across nine Canadian cities. In 2019 Adam was selected by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as one of the NextGen Composers where he has been commissioned to write a new work for the orchestra. Additionally, Adam’s music continues to be performed and commissioned by many renowned ensembles and soloists including The Penderecki String Quartet, Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne, The Esprit Orchestra, Array Music, The National Arts Centre Orchestra, The Thin Edge New Music Collective, The Hamilton Philharmonic, l'Orchestre de la Francophonie The Gryphon Trio, New Music Concerts, Soundstreams, The Bicycle Opera Project, Véronique Mathieu, Nadina Mackie Jackson, and Carla Huhtanen, among others.

 As a regular collaborator with Canada’s orchestras, including the Esprit Orchestra, Adam has produced many large orchestral works such as his pieces Rise (2014), Surfacing (2017), and Afterglow (2019). Recently, violinist Véronique Mathieu and pianist Stephanie Chua recorded Adam's piece Gradual Erasures and released it on their True North Centrediscs recording. Adam has been selected for numerous composer workshops including Domaine Forget, The Soundstreams Emerging Composer Workshop, The Vocalypse Opera from Scratch Workshop, The National Arts Centre composer training program, The Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop and the Chrysalis Workshop with the Continuum Contemporary Ensemble, among others. 

In addition to his activities as a composer, Adam also performs regularly as a conductor and a double bassist. Interesting recent performances on double bass include Juliet Palmer's massive theatre creation Like an Old Tale, the Ontario Festival Orchestra’s tour to China, the Luminato presentation of R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis, and the North American première of Louis Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin as part of the inaugural 21C New Music Festival hosted by the Royal Conservatory.

As the Music Director of FAWN Chamber Creative—an innovative and daring Toronto-based opera company—Adam has workshopped and conducted the premières of many new Canadian operatic works. In 2015 FAWN also produced Adam's first full-length opera l'homme et le ciel, a production that was co-produced with the Music Gallery and met with critical praise. He has acted as Music Director and Sound Designer of Soundstreams Canada’s innovative Electric Messiah project since 2015. As one who is passionate about collaboration and education, Adam continues to work with many organizations as a mentor and educator in a variety of contexts involving young and promising artists.  

BEKAH SIMMS (b. 1990): Bite

TSONextGen Commission/World Première

composed 2020–21 | 5 min

Composer’s note: Bite was written during a time of self-isolation in Toronto during COVID-19. I was forced to return from a residency in Berlin, and for the first time in many years spent four consecutive months in my home since all professional and personal events had been cancelled. It's from this space that the musical material from “Bite” was born: a period of interruption, with the sounds of my own home being most present in my ear. 

I had a lot of trouble sleeping while I was in Berlin, with constant night terrors and nightmares. This was remedied immediately when I returned home to Toronto, and one night in particular I marvelled at the “room noise” in my bedroom. It sounded unbelievably beautiful to me (despite being, I'm sure, very ordinary.) I recorded the sound of the room noise, with my fan whirring in the background. I analyzed a tiny microcosm of this “home sound,” and found a whirring and slithery set of notes and noises. This microcosm forms the basis of the sounds in “Bite”: the inharmonic pitches of noise, glissandi, unexpected and recurring rhythmic unisons, and tone infused with air. It is rhythmic and fast but largely unsettled, with interruptions appearing both as large outbursts of sound as well as silence. 

Bite is not a piece about self-isolation, but it was certainly born from it; ideally, it contains a little more excitement (and a similar tension) than the actual stay-at-home experience. 

Composer bio: The varied output of JUNO and Gaudeamus Award-nominated composer Bekah Simms has been heralded as “cacophonous, jarring, oppressive — and totally engrossing!” (CBC Music), “tough, even gutsy...with a sure sense of original and vibrant colours” (Vancouver Sun), and lauded for its "sheer range of ingenious material, expressive range and sonic complexity" (The Journal of Music.) Propelled equally by fascination and terror toward the universe, her work is often filtered through the personal lens of her anxiety, resulting in nervous, messy, and frequently heavy musical landscapes. Foremost among her current compositional interests is quotation and the friction between recognizability and complete obfuscation.

Bekah hails from St. John's, Newfoundland and is currently Toronto-based. Her music has been widely performed across Canada, in over a dozen American states, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Lithuania, the UK, and Russia. Commissioning ensembles include some of the top interpreters of contemporary music in both Canada and internationally, such as Crash Ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, l’Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Thin Edge New Music Collective, Esprit Orchestra, Continuum Contemporary Music, Ensemble Télémaque, Ensemble Paramirabo, and Duo Concertante. Upcoming commissions include new works for Crash, But What About?, New Music Concerts, and more.

In addition to commission and recording funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council, Bekah has been the recipient of over 30 awards and prizes, including the 2019 Barlow Prize, two SOCAN Foundation Young Composer Awards, and the 2017 Toronto Emerging Composer Award. Works from her debut album “impurity chains” were nominated in both 2019 and 2020 for the JUNO Award for Classical Composition of the Year. Her music has thrice been included in the Canadian Section's official submission to World Music Days (2016, 2019, & 2021), and in 2016 the CBC included her among their annual 30 hot classical musicians under 30.

For the 2021-22 academic year, Bekah will hold positions as Assistant Professor and Sessional Teaching Staff at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto respectively. She holds a D.M.A. and M.Mus in music composition from the University of Toronto, and a B.Mus.Ed. and B.Mus in theory/composition from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her principal teachers during academic studies were Gary Kulesha and Andrew Staniland, alongside significant private study with Clara Iannotta and Martin Bédard.

ROYDON TSE (b. 1991): Unrelenting Sorrow

TSONextGen Commission/World Première

composed 2020 | 5 min

Composer’s note: Unrelenting Sorrow is dedicated to those who have lost loved ones during war, and in recent times, the pandemic. This piece captures the overwhelming sense of sorrow that lingers when a loved one passes. One feels many things: anger, frustration, nostalgia, resignation. The pain can seem unceasing and unrelenting. We are numbed from feeling, surrounded by despair and desolation. This piece is my take on the experience of sorrow that is both individually and globally felt. While sorrow is the overriding feeling, there is also room for hope, and a glimpse of transformation that comes afterwards. The piece closes with otherworldly chords (3/4 flat) which represent the passing into a new realm of life, and a departure from past sufferings.

My sincerest gratitude for the staff and musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Gimeno for commissioning Unrelenting Sorrow for his inaugural season as Music Director. 

Composer bio: Dr. Roydon Tse is an award-winning Canadian-Chinese composer, pianist and educator. He is passionate about communicating to audiences from all backgrounds and his works for orchestra, chamber and vocal forces are inspired by the fusion of Eastern and Western elements, the visual arts and the environment. 

Roydon has collaborated with ensembles and musicians across Canada, Europe and Asia. They include the Brussels, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Brno Philharmonic Orchestras, the Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Suzhou, Niagara, and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphonies, National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Austin Civic Orchestra, Vancouver Bach Choir, China National Orchestra Chorus, Piano and Erhu Project, Locrian Chamber Players, the Cecilia, Delgani and Bozzini String Quartets, and members of the Paris Opera & Teatro Alla Scala Orchestra. His works have been performed in 16 countries, in venues such as De Doelen (Rotterdam), Melbourne’s Recital Hall, Shanghai’s Symphony Hall, Schonbrunn Palace (Vienna), and the Kennedy Center. Recent commissions include works for the Atlanta Opera, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Esprit Orchestra, and the Verona Quartet, among others.

Roydon has won several awards, including five SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers, the Washington International Composition Prize, CMC Prairies Emerging Composer Prize, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award, and the Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Protégé Prize.  He was named to CBC music’s top “30 under 30” Canadian Classical Musicians list and received the Weinzweig Award from the University of Toronto for exceptional potential in composition. Additionally, he has received support for commissioning from the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, SOCAN Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts.

A passionate educator, Roydon has taught composition to students of all levels and lectured at the University of Toronto, East Carolina University, Shanghai Conservatory and the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance.  As a musical ambassador in the community, he has worked for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Regent Park School of Music, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto, BC’s Health Arts Society, and the Canadian Opera Company, to mentor and bring music to youth.

Born in Hong Kong, Roydon studied piano and violin in the U.K. as a teenager and earned composition degrees from the University of British Columbia (B.Mus) and the University of Toronto (M.Mus, D.M.A). He is based in Toronto, Canada.

Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 "Choral"

composed 1822–1824 | 65 min

The Ninth is like no other Beethoven Symphony—12 years separated it from the Eighth, as many as separated the Eighth from the First. But it is not without precedents. Its basic theme of  joy over adversity recalls the dramatic trajectory of another quintessential, finale-heavy Beethoven Symphony, the Fifth, and indeed many formal, rhetorical, and instrumental features of the so-called "heroic" middle-period style linger on in the Ninth. 

The literary source for the Ninth Symphony had long been on Beethoven's mind. Schiller’s ode An die Freude (To Joy) was written in 1785 and published a year later, when Beethoven was just sixteen. It quickly became a popular subject for German composers; by about 1790 Beethoven himself was interested in setting it to music, and he thought about it, off and on, for the next thirty years.

The respect and admiration with which the Ninth was received at its première on May 7, 1824, were meant more for the aging composer than for the music; in fact, most listeners of the day were puzzled and disturbed by this enormous, idiosyncratic, demanding new work, with its dizzying extremes of expression and style. The Ninth is a universe unto itself, a great synthesis of  tragedy and parody, tenderness and violence, the religious and the mundane. There is something in it for every taste, and it became Beethoven's most influential work. For musicians in the Romantic era, the Ninth was proof that symphonic music need no longer be bound by old rules of “good taste” but could instead tackle the weightiest philosophical, psychological, and emotional issues.

The sequence of events in the Ninth Symphony has the heightened drama of a tone poem. In the first movement, a hushed, expectant opening leads into a stormy development, a terrifying recapitulation, and, finally, a coda that strikes an authentic note of tragedy and resignation. The second movement is a scherzo, but unprecedented in its dimensions, momentum, strength, and irony—not to mention its strikingly soloistic use of the timpani. The contrasting trio seems to offer a glimpse of some distant Elysium, and hints at the Joy theme. (Each of the first three movements incorporates some embryonic version of the theme; indeed, recent research has shown that Beethoven composed these movements only after he had settled on the Joy theme for the finale.) The meditative slow movement draws on one of Haydn’s favourite forms—two themes varied alternately—but it finds new depths of expression in that form, a new kind of drama; the brass fanfares near the end seem to herald the mighty finale.

In the opening bars of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven strikingly conveyed the image of a cosmic void solidifying into a mass. That mysterious beginning in medias res, a beginning “before the beginning,” opened up Classical form in a way that proved inspiring to generations of later composers. The finale, likewise, does not open with its principal subject, the Joy theme; rather, it finds its way to that subject. It begins with a cry that Wagner dubbed a Schreckensfanfare (“terror fanfare”), reviews and rejects themes from the previous movements, then hits upon the Joy theme, which it takes up enthusiastically and briefly develops; then, it seems to begin all over again, with the addition of voices and text. In the opening sequence of the finale, Beethoven used purely instrumental means to convey narrative implications—in his early drafts, he had actually written text under the famous “recitatives” for cellos and basses.

The overall form of the finale is an astonishing mix of principles (sonata, concerto, variations, cantata), and can be heard as a kind of miniature symphony with an introduction and four linked movements: fast (Joy theme), scherzo (“Turkish” march music), slow (sacred music), and fast (return of Joy theme). This four-movements-in-one scheme influenced some of the most characteristic productions of nineteenth-century Romanticism. But it was the addition of the human voice to a symphony that was Beethoven’s most startling innovation, one which inspired later symphonists like Berlioz, Liszt, and Mahler. Even Wagner, who wrote not a single symphony, read the Ninth as proof that purely instrumental music was inadequate to the task of musical Romanticism, and considered his own music dramas to be the aesthetic offspring of Beethoven. 

To this day, there is no work more central to our classical-music tradition—central chronologically, stylistically, philosophically, socially. It looms so large in our musical life that it is sometimes difficult to get past its reputation and hear it with fresh ears, yet it is so unquestionably great that no amount of overexposure or abuse can sap its power. The “Ode to Joy” will doubtless continue to pop up in movies and TV commercials, but in its original, complete form, the Ninth Symphony will always startle, impress and move us.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Angela Meade, soprano

American soprano Angela Meade was the winner of both the Metropolitan Opera’s 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the 2011 Richard Tucker Award, and in 2008 joined an elite group of singers when, as Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani, she made her professional operatic début on the Met stage. Since then, she has fast become recognized as one of today’s outstanding vocalists, excelling as the most demanding heroines of the 19th-century bel canto repertoire as well as in the operas of Verdi and Mozart. The 2019-20 season began with Ms. Meade’s role début as Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Palacio de la Opera in A Coruña, and Verdi’s Aida in Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu in a production designed by Josep Mestres Cabanes and conducted by Gustavo Gimeno. A surprise return to the Los Angeles Opera brought her portrayal of Queen Elizebeth in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux conducted by Eun Sun Kim. A return to Europe saw her portrayals of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena with Spain’s Asociación Bilbaína de Amigos de la Ópera (ABAO Bilbao), Imogene in Bellini’s I Pirata for her debut at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo, and her debut as Aida at the Arena di Verona. Her concert work included a debut with Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie for Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Alan Gilbert and a recital for Opera Las Vegas.

A native of Washington State and an alumna of the Academy of Vocal Arts, Ms. Meade has triumphed in an astounding number of vocal competitions: 57 in all, including many of the opera world’s most important prizes. In addition to being a winner at the 2007 Met National Council Auditions, as documented in The Audition, a film that was subsequently released on DVD by Decca, she was also the first singer to take first prize in both the opera and operetta categories of the prestigious Belvedere Competition.

Rihab Chaieb, mezzo-soprano

Tunisian/Canadian Rihab Chaieb is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program where she appeared in numerous productions, including L’italiana in Algeri (Zulma), Luisa Miller (Laura), Cavalleria Rusticana (Lola) and Hänsel und Gretel (Sandmännchen). She has since returned as a guest in Don Giovanni (Zerlina) under Cornelius Meister, and she appeared there again this season as Nefertiti in Phelim McDermott’s unforgettable production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, conducted by Karen Kamensek.

Demonstrating strong repertoire versatility in recent seasons, Rihab Chaieb debuted as Charlotte in Werther at Opera Vlaanderen under Giedrė Šlekytė, at Houston Grand Opera in the world première of Tarik O’Regan’s The Phoenix, as Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia) at Cincinnati Opera and as Offenbach’s Fantasio at Opéra de Montpellier. For Dutch National Opera, Chaieb sang Lola in Robert Carsen’s new staging under Lorenzo Viotti, Dorabella at Teatro Santiago de Chile, Kasturbai in Philip Glass’ Satyagraha at Opera Vlaanderen, and received unanimous acclaim for her first Carmen in Lydia Steier’s intense new production for Oper Köln.

On the concert stage, Chaieb has performed Mahler and Rossini with Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under Johannes Debus and Kent Nagano respectively, and in the current season joined Les Violons du Roy and Bernard Labadie for Mozart Requiem, as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin for Beethoven Symphony No. 9 at Carnegie Hall. This summer, she joins tenors Michael Spyres and Lawrence Brownlee in a concert of Rossini with Orchestre Métropolitain, conducted by Ariane Matiakh at Festival de Lanaudière.

Last season, Rihab Chaieb joined Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s line-up of soloists for an audiovisual recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with Orchestre Métropolitain for broadcast on DG Stage, Deutsche Grammophon’s new online platform.

Issachah Savage, tenor

Dramatic tenor Issachah Savage is garnering acclaim as a “heldentenor par excellence” (San Francisco Examiner). Savage is the winner of the Seattle International Wagner Competition earning the main prize, audience favorite prize, orchestra favorite prize, and a special honour by Speight Jenkins. Formerly a member of San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Program, Issachah performed a varied repertoire including scenes from Samson et Dalila, Lohengrin, Die Walküre and Parsifal. His performance of the last act of Verdi’s Otello, inspired the San Francisco Chronicle to write ​“From his opening notes—impeccably shaded and coiled with repressed fury—to the opera’s final explosion of grief and shame, Savage sang with a combination of power and finesse that is rare to observe.”

Operatic milestones of Issachah Savage’s recent seasons include his debut as Bacchus in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos at Seattle Opera under Lawrence Renes, his Metropolitan Opera debut as Don Riccardo in Verdi’s Ernani conducted by James Levine, his Los Angeles Opera debut as Narraboth in Salome conducted by James Conlon and his first Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Canadian Opera Company under Music Director, Johannes Debus. 

In the 21/22 season Mr. Savage will return to LA Opera to sing the title role in Tannhäuser. On the concert stage he will sing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (Fabio Luisi), Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Gustavo Gimeno) and Los Angeles Philharmonic (Gustavo Dudamel), return to Cathedral Choral Society for Smyth's March of the Women, and join the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (Yannick Nézet-Séguin) in a European tour of Das Rheingold.

Equally at home on the concert platform, Issachah Savage has a wide repertoire that includes mainstay works such as Beethoven, Symphony No.9, Verdi, Messa da Requiem and Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde alongside less-frequently performed pieces like Stravinsky, Pulcinella, Weill, Lost in the Stars and Gershwin, Blue Monday. Savage sang the world premières of Wynton Marsalis’s All Rise under the late Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic, and of Leslie Savoy Burr’s Egypt’s Night with Philadelphia’s Opera North. A much in demand concert soloist, Savage has performed under Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at both the Hollywood Bowl and New York’s David Geffen Hall, under Paul Daniel with the Orchestre National de Bordeaux-Aquitaine, under Stephane Deneve and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, under Lawrence Renes and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and under Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to name but a few. He most recently joined Marin Alsop and the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston for Beethoven Symphony No.9 and returned to Bordeaux for Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Paul Daniel. 

Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone

A native of Suffolk, Virginia, Grammy Award-winning bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green has has quickly garnered an international reputation as a “breakthrough star”, appearing at many of the world’s most important opera houses and music festivals. Amongst his many other awards, he was one of the 2021 recipients of the Met’s prestigious Beverly Sills Award. Roles for the Wiener Staatsoper have included Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Banquo in Macbeth, Titurel in Parsifal, Der Einarmige in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Lodovico in Otello, and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Other recent highlights include Jake in Porgy & Bess at the Theater an der Wien and at the Metropolitan Opera. Other recent successes at the Met have included Colline La boheme and Uncle Paul in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones.

In 2016, Little, Brown & Company published Sing for Your Life, by New York Times journalist Daniel Bergner, telling the story of Mr Green’s personal and artistic journey to the Met stage. Sing for Your Life has been honoured with a number of accolades, including the New York Times bestseller and editor’s choice, a Washington Post Notable Book, and a Publishers Weekly Book of the Year.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

Artistic Director: Jean-Sébastien Vallée
Executive Director: Anna Kajtár

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is proud to be one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and best-known choral organizations. The Choir includes a core of 20 professional singers and 100 auditioned and experienced volunteer choristers. Led by Artistic Director Jean-Sébastien Vallée, the Choir is planning an exciting and inspirational 2022/23 season, including performances with the TSO.

Through its performances, educational programs, and community engagement, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir aspires to introduce its audiences to choral masterworks from the past and present—making both renowned and lesser-known pieces available, accessible, and inspirational to all. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir made its TSO début in April 1935.

Internationally recognized conductor, scholar, and pedagogue Jean-Sébastien Vallée was named as the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s new Artistic Director on May 31, 2021 following an international search. In addition to his work as Artistic Director of the TMC, Jean-Sébastien is Associate Professor of Music, Director of Choral Studies, and Coordinator of the Ensembles & Conducting Area at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University, and Director of the renowned choir of the Church of St. Andrew & St. Paul in Montreal. Maestro Vallée will conclude his tenure as Music Director of the Ottawa Choral Society with the 2021-22 season. Prior to his return to Canada, Jean-Sebastien served as Director of Choral Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and was on the choral faculty of the University of Redlands.

In addition to his interest in choral, operatic, and orchestral music, Jean-Sébastien is an advocate for contemporary music, making one of his priorities to premiere and commission works by young composers and program rarely performed repertoire. He has recorded extensively with the Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul.

The Music of ABBA

Steven Reineke, conductor
Steven Reineke has established himself as one of North America’s leading conductors of popular music and is in his second decade as Music Director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. Additionally, he is Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Principal Pops Conductor of the Houston and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and his extensive North American conducting appearances include Dallas, Detroit and the Ravinia Music Festival.

Rajaton
The Finnish word Rajaton translates as “boundless”—accurately describing the way this six-voice a cappella ensemble approaches music. Rajaton regularly performs around 100 concerts and workshops each year, exposing their audiences to a diversity of repertoire, singing style, and stage presentation. Whether performing at concert halls, churches, or jazz and choral festivals, this distinctive group approaches all styles of music with the same level of commitment and integrity. 

In their native Finland, Rajaton is a bona fide pop phenomenon. In 2022 they celebrate 25 years of music-making, continuing to seek new artistic challenges through collaborations with other a cappella artists, including The King’s Singers and The Real Group. Their generosity of spirit and sheer enjoyment of singing has won the hearts of audiences and critics everywhere. Their energy—infectious; their ability to entertain and inspire—rajaton!

Pops Concerts in TSO History
The first documented Pop concert in TSO history took place at 5pm, November 30, 1923, at Massey Hall. Conducted by the Orchestra’s first Music Director, Luigi von Kunits, the all-classical seven-work program included audience favourites such as the Largo from Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, and Johann Strauss’s On the Beautiful Blue Danube.

Guest conductor Arthur Fiedler (of Boston Pops fame), was a mainstay of post-WW2 TSO Pops programming, making 17 appearances here between Jan 18, 1946 and August 1976. The immediate postwar period also saw the first Christmas Pops concert, on December 21, 1945, with Orchestra members in costume, a Christmas Carol singalong, and an appearance by Santa Claus. Notably, Ethel Stark, who was the TSO’s first woman conductor, led a Pops concert on February 18, 1946.

However, it was with the arrival of celebrated pops conductor Erich Kunzel on the scene in 1976 that TSO Pops programming really took off. Between July 19, 1976, (at Ontario Place) and June 24, 2009, Kunzel made a remarkable 300 appearances with the orchestra, beginning to mix in such contemporary popular music as The Beatles, film music, and Broadway standards into what had been almost exclusively light classical fare. 

Steven Reineke, TSO Principal Pops Conductor since the 2012-2013 season, made his first of nearly 150 appearances to date in October 1997. It was Reineke who conducted the first TSO Pops concert to feature the music of a single pop/rock band—The Music of ABBA on June 20, 2009, also featuring Rajaton! Steven Reineke’s tenure has ushered in an era which has seen a wide range of popular music, including Hollywood film scores, Broadway shows, rock musicians, and jazz favourites, become standard TSO Pops fare.

Research by John Sharpe, TSO Archivist

Gimeno Conducts Grieg + Mahler

Iman Habibi (b. 1985): The Drastic Irony:  Celebration Prelude

TSO100 Commission/World Première
composed 2022, 3 min

“Drastic”, “alarmist”, “extreme”, “doomsayer”, “unrealistic”… these are a few of the labels I have been called since I delved into climate justice activism in my life and music. While a sizable majority of people believe the science on climate change, not many recognize its urgency, nor are they willing to take meaningful action. There is nothing drastic about culturally communicating the message of science; rather, choosing to ignore it is drastic. I find it comically ironic for us to be sawing  away at the branch we are sitting on, and this is the setting for this music. This piece develops quickly out of control. There is humour in it, and a short-sighted false ending about a minute through. It is quickly interrupted, and after a late awakening, the planet’s tipping points are reached. 

Program note by the composer

About the Composer 

Iman Habibi, D.M.A. (Michigan), is an Iranian-Canadian composer and pianist, and a founding member of the piano duo ensemble, Piano Pinnacle. Hailed as “a giant in talent” (the Penticton Herald), "whose technical mastery is matched by his musical and cultural literacy" (Hudson-Housatonic Arts), Dr. Habibi has been commissioned by the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and The Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, and has been programmed by Carnegie Hall, The Tanglewood Music Festival, and the Canadian Opera Company, among others.  

He is a 2022 laureate of the Azrieli Music Prizes, and has received multiple SOCAN Foundation Awards, The International  Composers’ Award at the Esoterics’ POLYPHONOS (2012), The Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Awards for Emerging Artist in Music (2011), the Brehm Prize in Choral Music (2016), and has been the recipient of numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia and Ontario Arts Councils. 

As a pianist, Iman’s recent appearances included a performance of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as well as the première of Iman’s concerto for two pianos and orchestra, Amesha Spenta, with Ann Arbor Camerata. He has performed his own Piano Concerto with the Atlantic Music Festival and The Prince George Symphony Orchestras, and has also performed with Dearborn Symphony, and Dexter Community Orchestras, among others. Iman was a finalist at the Inaugural Knigge National Piano Competition, and is well-known for his collaborations with his wife, pianist Deborah Grimmett. The two pianists formed a duo in 2010, Piano Pinnacle, which won first prize at the United States International Duo Piano Competition, and second prize at the North West International Piano Ensemble Competition, and has twice attained the audience choice award at the latter.

For more, please visit ImanHabibi.com

Francisco Coll (b. 1985): Elysian

TSO100 & Orquesta de València Commission/World Première
composed 2020–2021, 13–14 min

I have long been fascinated by the phenomenon of the hypermodern city, and from the very beginning of my work on this orchestral piece—back in the early days of 2020—I conceived of it as a portrait of such a place. I had in mind what the French philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky calls the World-City; a metropolis that could be Toronto or Valencia, with all its dynamism, the angular layout of its streets and the spectacle of its citizens. A very explosive and intense way of living.

Then the pandemic came and the lockdown drastically changed this vision. Probably never in history has isolation been experienced with such strength. Elysian is not a piece ‘about’ COVID-19, but perhaps in reaction to this lost intensity, passages of music emerged imbued with a different energy: a kind of inner contemplation, as if portraying the psyche of the city in meditation, its secret life. From a purely structural perspective, what has emerged is a kind of Rondeau, which alternates two faces of the same subject.

The title Elysian stems from the idea of the city as a world-in-itself, a refuge for its citizens.

Program note by the composer

Composer biography: The Spanish composer-conductor Francisco Coll has received the advocacy of some of the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles, including the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, LA Philharmonic New Music Group, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, and Ensemble Modern. His music has been heard at festivals from Aldeburgh, Aix, and Aspen, to the BBC Proms, Verbier and Tanglewood.

 Born in Valencia in 1985, Coll studied at the Valencia and Madrid Conservatoires before moving to London to work privately with Thomas Adès (as his only pupil to-date) and with Richard Baker at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 2019 he became the first composer to receive an International Classical Music Award (ICMA).

 Coll’s short orchestral work Hidd’n Blue (2012) was premièred by the London Symphony Orchestra and has since been taken up by over nine others, including the SWR Sinfonieorchester, Münchner Philharmoniker, and the Cincinnati Symphony. His 2014 chamber opera Café Kafka, to a text by Meredith Oakes, was premièred by Aldeburgh Music, Opera North and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and has since been staged at Valencia’s Palau de les Arts. 

 In 2016 Coll made his BBC Proms composer debut with his Four Iberian Miniatures for violin and chamber orchestra, with Augustin Hadelich and the Britten Sinfonia conducted by Thomas Adès. That year also saw the première of Mural by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg conducted by Gustavo Gimeno, who has become one of Coll’s strongest supporters. Cuarteto Casals premiered two works in 2017: a Concerto Grosso with the Orquesta Nacional de España and David Afkham, and the quartet movement Cantos. Turia, a concerto for guitar and seven players was premièred in 2017 by Jacob Kellermann and Norrbotten NEO conducted by Christian Karlsen and recorded on BIS.

Coll has been Composer-in-Residence to both the Orquestra de València (2018-20) and Camerata Bern (2018-19), conducting the première of his Les Plaisirs Illuminés with the latter together with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Sol Gabetta as soloists. The Double Concerto was later released on Alpha records. A Violin Concerto for Kopatchinskaja, commissioned by the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, London Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, the NTR ZaterdagMatinee, and Bamberger Symphoniker, was premièred in February 2020 and features on an orchestral portrait disc from Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, and Gustavo Gimeno, released on Pentatone. 

Since 2012, Coll has made his home in Lucerne. Future projects include a Cello Concerto for Sol Gabetta, and an opera.

Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16

composed 1868, 30 min

Grieg was just 25 when he wrote his only Piano Concerto, and the work became his passport to international fame. This one brilliant foray into the virtuoso Romantic concerto became perhaps his most enduringly popular work, and remains one of the cornerstones of the concerto repertoire to this day.

Ten years prior, the 15-year-old Grieg, a student at the Leipzig Conservatory, heard Clara Schumann play her husband’s Piano Concerto. The work made an indelible impression upon him, and it showed, ten years later, in his own concerto. Particularly in the first movement, there are elements straight out of the Schumann work: the key of A minor; the heroic introduction with its downward-cascading piano part; and several of the works developmental strategies. But there are debts to others too: to Liszt in the style and virtuosity of the piano writing; to Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto in the structure of the gorgeous slow movement; and to Chopin’s pianism. Beyond all these, though, it is stamped indelibly with his own, brashly confident, distinctive musical personality.

Above all, the Norwegian character of the concerto marks it as unmistakably Grieg’s. It contains no authentic folk tunes but it does contain countless melodic and harmonic details, dance-inspired rhythms and orchestral colours evocative of Norwegian tradition. Pedal points, open-fifth drone effects, modal inflections, biting dissonances, accented repeated notes and the like conjure up folk melodies and the sound of traditional instruments. The main theme of the first movement is followed by an animated “humoresque” episode with the rhythmic character of a vigorous Norwegian dance called the halling, and also by piano figuration suggesting the Hardanger fiddle, which was usually played to accompany the halling.

The work faced its share of critical fire. It became a commonplace view that Grieg was a Romantic miniaturist ill at ease with larger classical forms. However, his classical works remain of interest precisely because of how his fertile, idiosyncratic imagination challenges  our expectations of those traditional forms, almost bursting them from within by the sheer abundance of attractive musical ideas – new harmonies and melodic variants, new moods and textures and instrumental colours. One example of this: there is a tender lyrical theme in the finale that is introduced, in F major, by the flute, then developed by the piano; later, as the concerto draws to a close, Grieg takes the theme and re-casts it majestically in A major, with a brilliant twist: he flattens its third note, the leading tone – that is, he changes the crucial G-sharp to a G.

This semitone change led to one of music history’s memorable encounters, between Grieg and Franz Liszt, in Rome in April 1870. Liszt admired his younger colleague and when the two met in Rome in April 1870, Liszt consented to play Grieg’s new concerto (reportedly brilliantly, even though he was sight-reading from the manuscript.) According to Grieg, when Liszt reached that majestic, fortissimo rendering of the theme at the very end, he leapt up from the piano, strode about with his arms outstretched “like an emperor,” bellowing the tune and shouting: “G, G, not G-sharp! Wonderful!” 

Grieg made a half-hearted attempt at a second piano concerto in 1882, but in the end he never wrote another work on this scale. Still, he retained a great affection for the A-Minor Concerto, enough to continue tinkering with the score until the very end of his life. Shortly before his death in September 1907, Grieg submitted a final list of revisions to his publisher, which were incorporated into the definitive 1917 edition—the one generally used today. Clearly, even as an old man, he was no more immune than anyone else to the musical charms that have drawn performers and audiences to this concerto for more than a century.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major

composed 1899-1901, 54 min

“My time will come,” Mahler stated, commenting on his music’s lack of widespread acceptance during his lifetime. How right he was! His combination of optimism and neurosis has made him one of the most popular Classical composers of our time. The optimism speaks to the enduring need for a reminder that life can be beautiful; the neurosis reflects the actual state of western society, to a remarkably accurate degree for a composer who died nearly 90 years ago. 

Even many of those among Mahler’s contemporaries who reviled his music as the ramblings of an egomaniac acknowledged his brilliant conducting skills. Brahms, for example, felt that Mahler’s performances of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni were the finest he had ever heard. In fact, some of his own music’s variable success during his lifetime can be traced to Mahler the conductor. His brusque conducting style and quality-first administrative decisions alienated scores of singers, orchestral players, managers and journalists. Those who saw past his difficult exterior found a warm heart; the rest heaped abuse upon him whenever possible. His later years brought growing appreciation of his music, climaxing in the triumphant 1910 première of his mammoth Symphony No. 8. Time ran out before he could capitalize on it personally, however; he died just eight months later.

In the decades following his death, his reputation benefitted significantly from the development of the long-playing album, the first recording medium capable of presenting his expansive works effectively. A further breakthrough came in 1960, his centenary year, when his old orchestra, the New York Philharmonic presented a complete cycle of the symphonies, with Music Director Leonard Bernstein, a fiery composer/conductor cast in Mahler’s own mould, leading the concerts.  

“A symphony should be like the world,” Mahler told Jean Sibelius in 1907, “it must contain everything.” Each of Mahler’s major compositions, in its own way, seeks to express a world’s worth of emotion and experience. The same symphony, or even the same movement of a symphony, may contain any or all of the following: heroism and tragedy, nobility and satire, simplicity and sophistication, despair and contentment. Massive blocks of orchestral sound dissolve into passages scored with the delicacy of chamber music (and vice-versa). Raucous marching bands and whirling, stamping country dancers rub shoulders with angelic, heavenly choirs. This is the unique sound-world of Gustav Mahler.

Reactions to his First Symphony reflect a century’s worth of change in musical taste. What struck so many ears as shapeless and vulgar in 1889 has become loveable, even quaint. This robust score bursts with the boldness and fire of youth, proudly displays a burgeoning mastery of orchestration, and flirts cheekily with traditional ideas of good taste. Echoes of Weber, Wagner, Liszt and Berlioz can be detected, but they are already well-digested. Its assurance is so astonishing, given Mahler was just 28 when he completed it, that doubts have been raised whether it really is his first symphony, or merely the first he considered worthy of release.

Mahler conducted the symphony’s première himself, during his tenure as Director of the Royal Budapest Opera. It was the first time one of his orchestral works was heard in public. Given that the audience was accustomed to little save mainstream Italian opera, its indifferent, if not hostile response came as no surprise. Press reaction was almost unanimously negative. One critic claimed that only Mahler’s friends had applauded the “incomprehensible and disagreeable cacophony,” the “succession of formless, impersonal, atmospheric tableaux.”

The first movement builds a crescendo of sound and emotional awakening. It grows from a quiet beginning dotted with bird calls, through a warmly flowing melody for cellos, drawn from the second of the “Wayfarer” songs, to a jubilant conclusion. Mahler next offers a hearty “peasant” scherzo. Its strong accents and rustic themes, with their echoes of yodeling, recall the mid-European country dances he had known and loved as a youth. Timpani set the pace for the following ironic funeral march. The solo double bass introduces a minor-key version of the old French children’s round song Frère Jacques, or Bruder Martin, as Mahler knew it. A witty, klezmer-like parody of military band music intrudes, then a tender interlude based on the fourth “Wayfarer” song. The march resumes, only to fade away into silence.

The Finale bursts in abruptly with an explosion of heated emotion. Romantic yearning wages battle with darker sentiments, but positive feelings win the day. Mahler reprises materials from the symphony’s opening movement, adds a passing quote from Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus (“And He Shall Reign For Ever and Ever”), and crowns the symphony with a lengthy, triumphant coda (with the tiniest of winks in its very tail).

Program note by Don Anderson

Gimeno Conducts "Emperor"

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor

With the opening of the 2022/23 season Gustavo Gimeno celebrates with live audiences on both sides of the Atlantic: as Music Director with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg – a title he has held since 2015, and with Toronto Symphony Orchestra where his tenure began in 2020/21. During his second season in Toronto, Gimeno and the TSO celebrate the orchestra’s 100 year anniversary with soloists such as Jan Lisiecki, Stefan Dohr, Barbara Hannigan, Daniil Trifonov and Javier Perianes, as well as visiting audiences on tour in North America and Asia. 

Afarin Mansouri (born 1974): Mithrā: Celebration Prelude

TSO100 Commission/World Première
composed 2022, 3 min

In Persian mythology Mithrœ is known as the goddess of love and affection, and the  preserver of law and order who punishes those who lie or betray. Dated back to 3000 BC, it’s said  that she is a watcher and a companion to all natural beings and was born on the winter solstice. She  is the light that conquers the darkness. Persians still celebrate the winter solstice known as “Yalda  Night.”  

The Sun God ordered Mithrœ (ray of light) to kill the bull (symbol of darkness), and despite  that she was not happy to do this, she surrendered. This sacrifice resulted in the existence and the  creation of the materialistic world: galaxies, all creatures, seasons, and time were born, and the bull  turned into the moon. After this event the Sun God gave his chariot, which had 4 horses (four elements: Water, Air, Earth and Fire) to Mithrœ so she could travel to the end of the world. Horses  are highly respected animals in Persian culture, known to be able to see and hear sharply even in  darkness–just like an aware soul. It is believed that Mithrœ is invincible, assists all who believe in  her and she will return as a promised savior on resurrection day.  

I used these symbols to create my melodic and rhythmic musical motifs (for example the  galloping of horses), portraying the battle of light against the darkness, insight and awareness  against ignorance and superstition, or of soul and ego.

Composer Bio

Dr. Afarin Mansouri is an award-winning composer and musicologist whose works have been performed nationally and internationally.  She is the recipient of many awards including the prestigious Canada 150 Medal for her artistic contributions. Afarin's music acts as a bridge between her Iranian cultural heritage and the world. By breaking down familiar boundaries and norms, her music invites the world to step into a  valley of the unknown, paving the way for commonalities between cultures, and creating a language for dialogue on different topics including  historical events, social issues and spiritual meanings.  

In the past few years Afarin has devoted her compositional career to producing operas: In 2018, her first opera Forbidden gained  national and international attention as she made a new approach to combine Eastern music with opera. Her Audio Opera Little Heart published  by Centredisc and her online opera AITCH ARR performed by Queen’s University School of Drama in 2020 are one of the first operas produced  during the pandemic in Canada. Afarin grew up in Iran where women are not permitted to sing and opera is banned, so to be a female composer writing an opera is an exceptional act of defiance and courage. Her first Farsi language spiritual opera Zulrykha was performed at Kingston’s  Watershed Festival in 2021 and will be fully produced and performed by Loose Tea Theatre in summer 2022. Afarin is the founder of Cultureland  Opera, an organization co-producing new operas celebrating diversity, which reflect on themes of belonging, identity, freedom of choice as well as  social issues about equity and justice.  

Dr. Mansouri’s PhD research is on the topic of Children’s opera, its history and its effect on developing children’s intellectual skills. (https://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/38324).

Banned from singing in her own homeland, Afarin enjoys singing whenever she gets the chance and she is working on producing her  first vocal album Asheghanehaye Arefane, a song cycle including 11 spiritual love songs in collaboration with Thin Edge Music Ensemble.  

An advocate of social and artists equity, Afarin has been working as a member of diversity, equity and inclusivity committee member at  Canadian Opera Company (COC), and has been a national councillor of the Canadian League of Composers, and co-founder and Artistic Director  of Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto (ICOT).  

www.afarinmansouri.com

Anatoli Liadov (1855–1914): The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62

composed 1908–09, 7 min

Anatoli Liadov belonged to the generation of Russian musicians who began composing at the end of the 19th century. He was born into a family of professional musicians and was extremely gifted but also, most unfortunately, possessed an indolent nature, something which led to his expulsion from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1876 (although he later became a professor of harmony and composition there). He composed infrequently, but it was the quality of his works that led his contemporary Russian musicians to regard him as one of their leading composers in the early years of the 20th century. Indeed, Stravinsky called him “the most progressive of the musicians of his generation.”

Liadov is best remembered for his orchestral tone poems which rely upon a program as the basis of their structure. His research into Russian folk music—no doubt a result of his studies with Rimsky-Korsakov—and his love of nature and fairy tales are the materials he draws on for themes. It was with these ideas in mind that he began to compose The Enchanted Lake in 1908. The inspiration for this work came from Lake Ilmen, located close to his country estate of Polynowka in the region of Novgorod, south of St. Petersburg. About the lake Liadov wrote, “How purely picturesque it is—with bountiful stars over the mysteries in the depths!  But most importantly it is uninhabited, without entreaties and complaints; only nature—cold, malevolent, but fantastic as a fairy tale.” 

The world of enchantment in this piece is conveyed in much the same manner as is found in contemporary French impressionistic music. The orchestration consists mainly of woodwinds and strings that play in a quiet and unhurried manner. The static quality of the music is achieved through very slow changes in harmony. Liadov is more interested in the sound qualities that he invokes from his instruments, than in the melodic materials that they convey. His use of short, repeated motives and slow trills produces a shimmering quality that perfectly illustrates stars over deep waters. 

Rosanne King 

Samy Moussa: Symphony No. 2
TSO100 Commission/World Première

composed 2021–2022, 20 min

Had the current season unfolded as planned for Samy Moussa, the TSO’s first Spotlight Artist, in January this year he would have conducted his own Concerto for Violin and Orchestra “Adrano”, along with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Dvořák’s Symphony No.7, in the first of five concerts featuring his work between January 2022 and June. (The Violin Concerto has been rescheduled to the 2022/23 season.) The work on this program, Symphony No. 2, is not the final Moussa work of the season but, as one of the first “100 Year Celebration” works commissioned by the TSO, it is definitely a high point. 

“One interesting thing is the instrumentation,” Moussa says. “The TSO allowed me anything I wanted, which was really wonderful of them, both for things I wanted to do and wanted not to do.” Not having a large woodwind section was one of them, and no trombones was another. “I did not want trombones for two reasonsone as a kind of self-imposed discipline to break the habit of relying on certain instruments or effects for a certain kind of power. And second because I am working on a trombone concerto next, so psychologically I wanted to allow myself to crave the trombone, so I would be motivated for that next piece.” 

Another tweak to the instrumentation—the absence of trumpets and the introduction of the euphonium. “I wanted flugelhorns instead, because once the trombones were gone, I had the opportunity to create a new kind of homogeneity to the brass section sound. Unlike trumpets and trombones, flugelhorns have a conical bore; so that led me to use flugelhorn, euphonium and tuba because they are all conical bore instruments, and I played euphonium when I was younger, so it was nice to use it for the first time in an orchestral composition.” 

Also worth noting: the percussion section. “I wanted a sound without any unpitched percussion—no bass drum, castanets, cymbals and gongsso I have marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, crotales, and glockenspiel. That was very important for me, for my aesthetic of the piece.” 

The 20-minute score is technically divided into three movements, but it is really a one-movement piece. “In terms of unifying material, listen for the chorale in the brass at the start. This material will come back in the piece frequently, and of course at the end. But the music never stops, except for a very small moment in what is a kind of double ending.”

Moussa’s Symphony No. 1 was commissioned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.  “If you look at the score for that first symphony it says Symphony No. 1 not just ‘Symphony’, because I was already certain there would be more. So when the TSO asked what I wanted to write, there was no doubt in my mind.” He was surprised at how much more difficult the second turned out to be “although it’s shorter. Much shorter. It was a very big challenge. I did not want to write another piece full of effects. I wanted to work on musical ideas that do not rely so much purely on orchestration.” 

Seeing the piece performed live adds another dimension, he says. “People see the music moving in space. The euphonium is a beautiful instrument, in sound and in shape, and I am looking forward to seeing this on stage, the little tuba and the big tuba side by side, part of a chorus of eight instruments from the same family–all conical. So strings and brass become like a double chorus. That’s one of the beautiful things about live music. It’s aural but also visual, which can be very beautiful and of course also informative.”

https://www.samymoussa.com/

David Perlman

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770–1827): Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor"

composed 1809, 38 mins

Beethoven’s last piano concerto is probably the defining example of the period known as his “heroic style.” It was composed early in 1809, in part while the French army under Napoleon laid siege to Vienna. That conflict perhaps influenced the concerto’s often militaristic bearing (especially in the long first movement), though the nickname “Emperor” did not originate with the composer. The concerto was first performed in Leipzig in November 1811; Beethoven himself, by this time nearly deaf, never played it in public.

It begins with a brilliant piano cadenza—a defiance of convention, but a fitting introduction to a work grand in scale and elevated in rhetoric, with a technically demanding solo part that looks ahead to the bravura and glitter of the early-Romantic virtuoso concerto. The first movement has two main themes, both marches (one swaggering, one gentle), which Beethoven recasts in ever-new, colourful, often Romantic guises, bringing in new motifs along the way. Near the end, just where one expects a cadenza, he writes, “Do not play a cadenza, but instead proceed immediately to the following”—namely, a briefly cadenza-like passage that further develops the main themes.

The second movement is a lyrical, deeply Romantic meditation, dreamy rather than dramatic and of sometimes heartbreaking beauty. (Carl Czerny claimed that “the religious songs of devout pilgrims” were in Beethoven’s mind when he wrote the hymn-like main theme.) The second and third movements are linked, with the pianist musing over a motif that foreshadows the finale, which has a joyous, fanfare-like main theme and the rhythmic profile of traditional “hunt” music. This finale is nominally a rondo, though in the middle Beethoven forgets all about contrasting episodes and instead muses for several minutes over his main theme, offering ever more rarefied and ornately decorated variations on it. Near the end, we are left with the piano accompanied only by quiet timpani taps, until whirling piano scales and the orchestra’s last nod to the main theme bring the concerto rousingly to a close.

Kevin Bazzana

Garrick Ohlsson, Piano

Garrick Ohlsson has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Although long regarded as one of the world’s leading exponents of the music of Chopin, Mr. Ohlsson commands an enormous repertoire ranging over the entire piano literature and he has come to be noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire. To date he has at his command more than 80 concertos, ranging from Haydn and Mozart to works of the 21st century.

In the 2018/19 season he launched an ambitious project spread over multiple seasons exploring the complete solo piano works of Brahms in four programs to be heard in New York, San Francisco,Montreal, Los Angeles, London and a number of cities across North America. A frequent guest with the orchestras in Australia, Mr. Ohlsson has recently visited Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Hobart as well as the New Zealand Symphony in Wellington andAuckland. In February 2020, he accomplished a seven city recital tour across Australia just prior to the closure of the concert world due to Covid-19.Since that time and as a faculty member of San Francisco Conservatory of Music he has been able to contribute to keeping music alive for a number of organizations with live or recorded recital streams including a duo program with Kirill Gerstein with whom he will tour the US in winter 2022. With the re-opening of concert activity in the US in summer 2021 he appeared with the Indianapolis and Cleveland orchestras, in recital in San Francisco, Brevard Festival and 4 Brahms recitals at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. The 21/22 season began with the KBS orchestra, Seoul followed by Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle symphonies, BBC Glasgow and European orchestras in Prague, Hamburg, Lyon and St. Petersburg. In recital he can be heard in Los Angeles, Houston, Kansas City as well as Poland,Germany and England.

Oundjian Conducts Brahms

Samy Moussa (b. 1984): Nocturne for Orchestra

composed 2014, 12.5 min

One of today’s leading composers, Montreal-born, Berlin-based Samy Moussa last year commenced his residency as the TSO’s first Spotlight Artist, an initiative designed to showcase and explore the virtuosity and versatility of select guest artists. “As one of the world’s leading Orchestras, I believe the TSO has a responsibility and the privilege, of highlighting artists of exceptional talent,” Music Director Gustavo Gimeno said at the time of his appointment. “In addition to the fact that Samy Moussa is one of today’s leading composers, he is also a Canadian, and for those reasons, I felt he was the perfect artist to begin this initiative. I am proud of the work we have already performed with him, and greatly look forward to his next works both here and abroad!”

Hard on the heels of last month’s electrifying World Première of Moussa’s Symphony No. 2, this performance of Nocturne, one of Moussa’s most frequently performed orchestral works, brings that five-work residency to a close.

“A journey from darkness to light, Samy Moussa’s Nocturne evokes the sea at night under a moody half-moon,” is how the work was poetically described in a recent writeup for a performance at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Moussa himself prefers to describe the ideas behind the work in more purely musical terms. As he put it in a short website interview with the Houston Symphony, prior to a performance there in 2021, “I was interested in creating a piece where the centre of gravity would be pitched in the lower registers. It allowed the few moments of brightness to be—hopefully—more extraordinary.”

Later in the same interview, asked about extended techniques in the piece, he said this: There are very few… The last two minutes use a combination of sounds creating a ghostly atmosphere—spettrale in the score. The recipe is a selection of harmonics from the violins and the double basses, a bowed cymbal and glockenspiel, very quiet trumpet tremolos with the ‘wah-wah’ mute, and the use of harmonic tremolos from the flutes which are achieved by alternating two different fingerings for the same note. It all happens simultaneously. I would not try to listen for any of those isolated sounds particularly, but to listen to the combination, the music.”

Critical response to the work has been consistently positive. Michael Johnson (ConcertoNet.com) described it as moody with an underlying sense of threat that rises to the surface in a sort of strangled outburst… avoiding the pitfall of over-busyness that so many short works succumb to.” And David Gordon Duke (Classical Voice North America) described it as “an orchestral adagio that inescapably suggested a twenty-first century Wagner, replete with astonishingly intense low register sonorities.”

Program note by David Perlman

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819–1896): Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor, Opus 7

composed 1833–35 22 min

By any standard, Clara Schumann must be ranked as one of the most remarkable women in the history of music. In an age and land (mid-19th-century Germany) so inhospitable to the creative ambitions of women, she mustered the courage and determination to be both a composer and a traveling virtuoso. In the latter capacity she was the woman pianist of the century.

Taught by her father, she joined Mozart, Mendelssohn and a handful of others in the ranks of child prodigies, giving her first public performance at the age of nine in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, and two years later her first complete recital in the same hall (complete recitals by a single artist were still rare events). Already as a teenager she had begun her lifetime career of touring the length and breadth of Europe. Her admirers included Goethe, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Paganini, and Berlioz.

Clara Schumann’s technical abilities were matched by depth of interpretive insight, poetic feeling and respect for the composer's performance directions. She was also a champion of new music, and gave the first performances in Germany of many works by Chopin, Brahms and especially her husband Robert, whom she married in 1840.
But her career as a pianist was only one aspect of Clara Schumann’s life. She also achieved renown as a composer, with her first works appearing at the age of 11. As testimony to her precocity, the concerto we hear tonight was written while she was between 13 and 15 years old. Her catalogue includes 23 opus numbers plus another 30 or so unnumbered works. Like Chopin, everything she wrote was either for or with piano. Clara Wieck gave the first complete performance of her Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 7 on November 9, 1835 in the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Mendelssohn conducting.

The Piano Concerto was a strikingly bold statement from the young pianist-composer. Its third movement (Allegro non troppo) was composed first and was initially conceived as a standalone work, a Conzertsatz allowing the 14-year-old Clara Wieck to display both her virtuosity and her mastery of large-scale form. She enlisted Robert Schumann—her father’s former piano student, an emerging composer, and as yet only a good family friend—to orchestrate the Conzertsatz, though she later orchestrated herself the other two movements. The Allegro non troppo features energetic themes relieved by lyrical cascading gestures in the piano solo, and includes the many virtuosic episodes that an audience hungry for pianistic pyrotechnics demanded from Europe’s favourite Wunderkind.

When she decided to use the Concertsatz as the last movement of a fully-fledged concerto, Clara Wieck tackled the challenge of integrating a self-contained work into a coherent large-scale design. She did so not only through subtle thematic connections – the first movement sounds indeed as though it had been the original source for melodic ideas across the work—but also through a unique overarching design. Perhaps inspired by Mendelssohn’s G-minor Concerto, there are no breaks between movements; unlike Mendelssohn, however, the opening Allegro Maestoso is an abbreviated sonata form that dispenses with a recapitulation and defers any sense of closure to the end of the Finale.

The evocative, lyrical middle movement is scored for piano and solo cello, an intimate duet between the heftier outer movements. Its title, Romanze, was closely linked to a vocal genre, perhaps a nod to one of her father’s favourite pedagogical principles, namely that the art of singing was a necessary foundation for piano-playing—and indeed the Romanze foregrounds tone and touch rather than fiery virtuosity.

Unbeknownst to her, with this concerto, Clara Wieck was at the forefront of many innovative techniques which later Romantic composers continued to develop. She attempted only one other piano concerto in 1847, which remained unfinished.

Program note by Robert Markow and Julie Pedneault-Deslauriers

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

composed 1884, 45 min

Brahms completed the first two movements of his Fourth Symphony in the summer of 1884, the last two only the following summer. His own insecurity was to blame; he worried that his creative powers were declining, feared that he could not surpass his popular and acclaimed Third Symphony of 1883, and approached the performance and publication of the Fourth with dread. The première, which he conducted, on October 25, 1885, was a triumph, as were subsequent performances.

Long both admired and reviled as a champion of Classical forms, Brahms saw himself as the “last-ditch embodiment of the great Germanic tradition, believing that when he died, that lineage would die” writes his biographer Jan Swafford. Yet, in his own way, the “academic” Brahms was among the most progressive musical thinkers of his day: for instance, his ability to unify a composition through the perpetual metamorphosis of small, germinal motifs anticipated (and influenced) much modern music of a formalist orientation, including twelve-tone music. In the Fourth Symphony, the elegiac, lilting opening theme is founded on a chain of rising and falling intervals of a third, and that interval goes on to play a crucial constructive role throughout the movement—indeed, in later movements, too. Some of Brahms’s contemporaries (like Tchaikovsky) derided this approach to composition, and even some of his supporters (like the critic Eduard Hanslick) found the Fourth too abstract, too intellectual; Brahms himself worried that it was too cerebral—he had been accused of that before.

Yet, though concentrated and logical, the Fourth is powerfully expressive and Romantic, searching and dramatic, and at once lofty and deeply personal, though more austere than sensuously beautiful. Both outer movements, which offer little relief from minor keys, are tragic. Both end with a stormy coda in which one can hear a musical metaphor for the inexorability of fate. Yet, these outer movements are also the most rigorous and archaic in their construction, as though Brahms had sought to tame the music’s passion by imposing a strictness of form.

The inner movements are less severe. The second movement is a leisurely and moving pastorale, with an antique flavour enhanced by modal inflections and several important melodies, all scored in rich, autumnal colours. A motif introduced by a solo clarinet near the beginning, and reprised, in a dream-like setting, near the end, sounds like the march-like theme from the slow movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, rent from time to time by clangorous eruptions of the full orchestra. The third movement, which substitutes for a scherzo, is a bright, noisy, swaggering march with a Dionysian energy and swiftness that are rare in Brahms. A piccolo, a contrabassoon, and a triangle contribute to the militaristic tone of the music, though the secondary themes are quiet, gracious, dance-like, and (surely intentionally) a little banal. As in Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, the march ends on a note of joyful triumph that is at on contradicted by a grim finale.

The finale is set in one of the strictest and most venerable of all musical forms: the chaconne—that is, a set of variations, in triple time, based not on a melody but on a ground-bass borrowed from the closing chorus of a Bach cantata, and he drew inspiration from other Baroque sources, too, and from the variation finale of Beethoven’s Eroica. The movement is an exhaustive catalogue of variation techniques; testimony to Brahms’s extraordinary craftsmanship and imagination he remains stubbornly loyal to the eight-bar structure of his ground-bass. The variations fall into three large groups; those at the beginning and end remain in the opening tempo, but Vars. 12-16 form a central “slow movement” featuring the flute and—in two solemn, chorale-like variations—the trombone, two instruments that had ancient tragic, liturgical, funereal, and supernatural associations. The conductor Felix Weingartner called the furious closing pages “a veritable orgy of destruction.” Brahms makes no concession to the beloved Romantic archetype of turmoil leading to triumph; at the end he intensifies the tragedy with which he began.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Peter Oundjian, conductor

Recognized as a masterful and dynamic presence in the conducting world, Peter Oundjian has developed a multi-faceted portfolio as a conductor, violinist, professor and artistic advisor. He has been celebrated for his musicality, an eye towards collaboration, innovative programming, leadership and training with students and an engaging personality. Strengthening his ties to Colorado, Oundjian is now Principal Conductor of the Colorado Symphony in addition to Music Director of the Colorado Music Festival, which successfully pivoted to a virtual format during the pandemic summers of 2020 and 2021.

Now carrying the title Conductor Emeritus, Oundjian’s fourteen-year tenure as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony served as a major creative force for the city of Toronto and was marked by a reimagining of the TSO’s programming, international stature, audience development, touring and a number of outstanding recordings, garnering a Grammy nomination in 2018 and a Juno award for Vaughan Williams’ Orchestral Works in 2019. He led the orchestra on several international tours to Europe and the USA, conducting the first performance by a North American orchestra at Reykjavik’s Harpa Hall in 2014.

From 2012-2018, Oundjian served as Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra during which time he implemented the kind of collaborative programming that has become a staple of his directorship. Oundjian led the RSNO on several international tours, including North America, China, and a European festival tour with performances at the Bregenz Festival, the Dresden Festival as well as in Innsbruck, Bergamo, Ljubljana, and others. His final appearance with the orchestra as their Music Director was at the 2018 BBC Proms where he conducted Britten’s epic War Requiem.

Highlights of past seasons include appearances with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Iceland Symphony, the Detroit, Atlanta, Saint Louis, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. With the onset of world-wide concert cancellations, support for students at Yale and Juilliard became a priority. Winter 2021 saw the resumption of some orchestral activity with streamed events with Atlanta, Colorado, Indianapolis and Dallas symphonies. The 21/22 season sees return visits to Toronto, Kansas City, Seattle, Colorado, Detroit, Baltimore and Indianapolis.

Oundjian has been a visiting professor at Yale University’s School of Music since 1981, and in 2013 was awarded the school’s Sanford Medal for Distinguished Service to Music. A dedicated educator, Oundjian regularly conducts the Yale, Juilliard, Curtis and New World symphony orchestras.

An outstanding violinist, Oundjian spent fourteen years as the first violinist for the renowned Tokyo String Quartet before he turned his energy towards conducting.

Tony Siqi Yun, piano

The Canadian-born pianist Tony Siqi Yun won First Prize and a Gold Medal at the inaugural China International Music Competition in 2019. In the final round of the competition, he performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and he collaborated with Maestro Nézet-Séguin again in 2021 when he made his début with the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal.

Recent and future highlights include his solo recital débuts at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Luxembourg, Hannover, Stanford University (US), and the Vancouver Recital Society. In North America, he has also played with The Cleveland Orchestra, as part of the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition, where he won First Prize. This performance of the Clara Schumann Piano Concerto with Peter Oundjian conducting marks Tony Siqi Yun’s TSO début.

Gimeno + Hannigan

 Julia Mermelstein: in moments, into bloom for orchestra: Celebration Prelude
(born Halifax, 1991), composed 2021–2022, 3 mins

Composer and interdisciplinary artist, Julia Mermelstein blends electronic soundscapes and choreography into performances that create a space for introspection and the surreal. About in moments, into bloom the composer says: “[Because the work]  was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the orchestra’s 100th season, in moments, into bloom explores a movement of expansion following a slow dissolve—continually  building and evolving, like new growth forming after the thaw. The piece takes inspiration from the legacy of Canadian music commissioned by the TSO over its one  hundred seasons, steeping in the past and exploring it in new ways. I think we’re moving into a new  kind of growth this year, and I wanted to play with this shifting movement—capturing a glimpse of this continual cycle.”

Julia Mermelstein

Originally from Halifax, Julia Mermelstein currently lives and works in Toronto as a freelance composer and designer at Human Collective. Her music has also been performed, across Canada and in the USA, by ensembles and musicians such as  Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, North/South Chamber Ensemble, Barbara Pritchard, and Blue Rider Ensemble. Recent projects include commissions from Joseph Petric, Arraymusic, Esprit Orchestra, Ilana Waniuk, and  interdisciplinary collaborations with Leslie Ting, Din of Shadows, and Angela Blumberg Dance. Her music has also been featured at Vancouver New Music, NottNOISE New Music Festival (UK), Open Waters Experimental Music Festival (Halifax), CEMIcircles Intermedia Festival (Texas), OUA  Electronic Music Festival (Osaka, Japan), and Festival of Original Theatre and The Music  Gallery (Toronto). She was recently  awarded the Trudi Le Caine Award in GroundSwell’s 2020 Emerging Composers Competition and awarded third-place in Musicworks' 2017 International Electronic Music Competition. Originally from Halifax, Julia currently lives and works in Toronto as a freelance composer and designer at Human Collective. She studied with Georges Dimitrov earning her BFA from Concordia University and independent post-graduate studies with Linda Catlin Smith, Brian Harman, and Juliet Palmer. 

Igor Stravinsky: Scherzo fantastique, Op. 3
1882–1971, composed 1907–8, 11 mins

Stravinsky at 26 was still an apprentice composer in the circle of Rimsky-Korsakov, who had been his composition tutor—and surrogate father—for six years. In the Scherzo fantastique, he paid homage to his mentor: with its exotic scales and harmonies and sensuous, prismatic orchestration, it tapped into the vein of the “fantastic” that had been a staple of Russian Romanticism as far back as Glinka and culminated in Rimsky-Korsakov’s late fairy-tale operas; moreover, the very genre of the piquant, evocative orchestral scherzo was a Russian cliché, especially for young composers. (French music, except for Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, had not yet had much impact on Stravinsky’s music.)

The Scherzo was inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s book The Life of the Bee (1901); Stravinsky was “very much moved” by the bees’ “extraordinary world,” and found there “the vital energy and the ferocious lyricism” for a short symphonic poem. His preface to the published score sets out the ternary song structure (A–B–A) of this “fantastical portrait.” The first and third parts depict life in the hive, with mechanistic, perpetual-motion “buzzing” music and recitative-like solos that suggest bees communicating. (The opening trumpet lick calls to mind Maeterlinck’s comparison of the queen’s “war-song” to “a distant trumpet of silver.”) The central “slow movement”—a detour into more Wagner-like love music—depicts the rising of the sun, the queen’s nuptial flight, her “love struggle” with her chosen mate, and his subsequent death. (It has been suggested that the third part depicts the workers’ massacre of the idle and  superfluous remaining male drones.)

Early reviewers of the Scherzo were impressed more by its sound than its substance—“not much music and a lot of orchestra,” one wrote. Stravinsky’s brash, glittering orchestration is certainly the main attraction here. It is dense and complex, yet also light and fleet-footed—the bright colours of winds, celesta, and harps, but no heavy brass or percussion.

“A promising Op. 3,” Stravinsky said, and he was right. The Scherzo won him the Glinka Prize (and 500 rubles) in 1909, and caught the attention of the impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who invited him to join the Ballets Russes, in Paris. The result, in 1910, was The Firebird—and international fame. 

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Zosha Di Castri: In the half-light for Soprano and Orchestra
(born 1985), 20 mins

In the half-light explores the subjects of displacement, belonging, and home. It reflects on the meaning and simultaneously unsettling and exhilarating sensations of moving from one physical space to another. This seven movement song cycle for orchestra and soprano was born from a close collaboration between composer Zosha Di Castri, soprano Barbara Hannigan, and author Tash Aw. Aw’s moving libretto evokes not only the experience of human migration (which the current Ukrainian refugee crisis renders all the more relevant), but also a more universal questioning: what happens to our sense of being, and of self, when we move from a place we know, to a place we don’t, then back again? How do we recalibrate feelings of attachment; how do we fit into a landscape (both cultural and physical), and how do we appear to others and ourselves?

The music takes shape on the threshold between darkness and light, the moment before dawn. Hovering on the cusp of change, it opens up spaces where everything that has seemed impossible can suddenly be realized, just for a moment, before we pass into another world. As Hannigan has stated, “It is mystery and love and heimweh (homesickness) and solitude and sehnsucht (wistful longing).”

During the collaborative process, Tash prompted Barbara for a photo or a few lines of description of a place that was meaningful to her. He said it could be, “Where you grew up, or where you live now, or a place that troubles or unsettles you. Anywhere that provides a strong emotional resonance.” Barbara in turn shared the story of her move from Holland to France, when she put all her belongings in a Shurgard Storage unit in Paris. She would go there occasionally to get a dress or a pair of shoes, living otherwise out of a few suitcases in various Airbnbs while on tour. But, she realized with a jolt that the neighboring storage unit had people in it, cooking, living, breathing. She described how only their feet were visible from the bottom of the storage unit door–two transient existences, connected by a shared physical space, yet both living very different experiences, with no one ever fully meeting. She also spoke of a close supportive relationship she built over the past three years with a teenage refugee who traveled from Afghanistan to Europe, and the evolution of his story as a “sans papiers” "(without papers)" in France.

Tash also discussed his own experiences moving from Malaysia to the UK as a young person, then later to France. Themes of migration and displacement run through several of his novels (Five Star Billionaire and We, The Survivors), including his latest book Strangers on a Pier: A Portrait of a Family, which unpacks his own complicated family story of migration and adaptation. Two works which have underpinned his thinking on the subject as well as the writing of this libretto are Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, and Paul Celan’s Atemwende — very different texts, but both linked by a furious sense of displacement. He was drawn to how these works probe that moment when we are on the cusp of change, when everything is on the turn—when light is about to break, when the in breath comes to the out breath, when we are not fully one thing or another—not fully awake or fully asleep; a place of possibility. It is those in-between spaces that the music of In the half-light hopes to tap into, those contrasting transitions from one moment to another that don’t last, but which are somehow crucial to our sense of self.

Tash’s spare but emotionally rich text provides an ideal framework for Di Castri’s imaginative and atmospheric orchestral writing. At times, the music evokes sounds of nature, nostalgia, travel, and time passing, as well as more complex, abstract textures, contrasted with naked lyrical vocal lines. Ultimately, her music seeks to express this search for belonging and a yearning to connect. In an effort to capture that which cannot be fully expressed through words, there are also passages where the voice sings non-semantic utterances, touching at something otherworldly, or a “half-light of language,” if you will. A haunting loon-like lullaby returns at various moments in the piece, calling out, listening for a response within the orchestra. This eerie wail, a sound associated with night or dusk, is a strong childhood memory for both Barbara and Zosha. The “contact calls”—ways for the loon to reach out and make sure their mate or offspring is there, to connect across the expanse of the landscape—is a powerful and lonely sound that one never forgets.

Finally, Zosha dedicates this piece to the memory of her late uncle, Matthew Di Castri, who unexpectedly passed away last summer. As one of the only other artists in her family, his death took on a special significance for the composer. Though he lived a hermit-like, off-the-grid existence in British Columbia and did not often publicly share his artistic work, he was a prolific painter and powerful creator. His works are beautiful, raw, and haunting, unsettling, at times angry and restless. Zosha chose a reference painting for each song to serve as an emotional canvas for the music, posting his artwork on her studio wall while composing the piece. It is not essential to know these images to appreciate the work; rather, they served as an impetus to achieve each movement’s affect and emotional resonances. This piece at once mourns Matthew’s crossing of the threshold from life to death and all the unknown this provokes, and also celebrates his electric use of colour, dancing brush strokes, gentle soul, and ability to revel in the joy and freedom of being a radical outsider.

Interweaving the personal experiences of the contributing artists—their movings about the world, loves and losses, reflections on rootedness, transience, and death—In the Half-light thus hopes to resonate in this highly unique and shared moment we are living, when so many are grappling with the liminal spaces we all inhabit.

Zosha Di Castri
Tash Aw libretto

In the Half-Light by Tash Aw 

1.

In the half-light of this moment, 

still dark, but not quite,

we might meet, 

for the iron wall is 

not yet down.

You give me food, 

I offer a dress: 

our skins, our souls—

fragments of a shared earth

in this time 

before dawn.

2.

This strange life:

You and I, 

so close 

yet still divided. 

We should know all, 

but we know nothing.

3.

You look at me, 

and I at you. Two lives at sea, floating, 

not yet moored. 

Crates, a stove, nos passés

We could say, come in,  

entrez s’il vous plaît,  

but we don’t.  

Le gouffre entre nous  

Two worlds,  

before dawn.  

4.

What’s this? 

Un bruit. 

The threat of dawn, 

of metal: closing.  

And now, we must part.  

Only our feet remain, 

unfixed, still,  

to this earth. 

5.

In the half-light, 

blinds drawn, always, 

against other lives— 

past lives— 

like your own

before dawn. 

6.

This is the moment you long for, 

the shadows protect from the day 

that is not yet yours. 

Here, you belong. 

For now, at least. 

Le petit matin

You wish it were not so small,  

That it could last forever 

7.

We share this space 

But not our lives. 

Maybe someday we 

will understand

In this time

before dawn.

About Zosha Di Castri

Zosha Di Castri, a Canadian “composer of riotously inventive works” (The New Yorker), currently lives in New York. Her music has been performed across Canada, the United States, South America, Asia, and Europe and extends far beyond purely concert music, including projects with electronics, sound arts, and collaborations with video and dance that encourage audiences to feel “compelled to return for repeated doses” (The Arts Desk). She is currently the Francis Goelet Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University and a 2021 Guggenheim fellow. 

Zosha’s current projects include a Koussevitzky commission from the Library of Congress for percussionist Steve Schick and International Contemporary Ensemble; a commission for the Grossman Ensemble in Chicago; and a new work for Ekmeles vocal ensemble. She recently completed a commission titled Hunger for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra with improvised drummer, which is designed to accompany Peter Foldes’ 1973 silent film by the same name. In July 2019, Long Is the Journey, Short Is the Memory for orchestra and chorus opened the first night of the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall, featuring the BBC Symphony, the BBC Singers, and conductor Karina Canellakis. Other large-scale projects include a 25-min piece for soprano, recorded narrator and orchestra entitled Dear Life, based on a short-story by Alice Munro, and an evening-length new music theater piece, Phonobellow, co-written with David Adamcyk for the International Contemporary Ensemble with performances in New York and Montreal. Phonobellow features five musicians, a large kinetic sound sculpture, electronics, and video in a reflection on the influence of photography and phonography on human perception. 

Zosha’s orchestral compositions have been commissioned by John Adams, the San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony, Esprit Orchestra, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and the BBC, and have been featured by the Tokyo Symphony, Amazonas Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra among others. She has made appearances with the Chicago Symphony, the LA Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in their chamber music series and has worked with many leading new music groups including Talea Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, Ekmeles, Yarn/Wire, the NEM, Ensemble Cairn, and JACK Quartet. She was the recipient of the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music for her work Cortège in 2012, and participated in Ircam's Manifeste Festival in Paris, writing an interactive electronic work for Thomas Hauert's dance company, ZOO

Other recent projects include a string quartet for the Banff International String Quartet Competition, a piece for Yarn/Wire for two pianists, two percussionists, and electronics that premiered at her Miller Theatre Composer Portrait concert, a solo piano work for Julia Den Boer commissioned by the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust Fund, a piano/violin duo with violinist Jennifer Koh, and a string octet premiered by JACK Quartet and Parker Quartet at the Banff Centre. 

Zosha’s debut album Tachitipo was released on New Focus Recordings in November 2019 to critical acclaim and the title track was nominated for The JUNO Awards’ 2021 Classical Composition of the Year. Tachitipo was named in the Best of 2019 lists by The New Yorker, I Care if You Listen, AnEarful, Sequenza21, and New York Music Daily, and praised as “a formidable statement. It is so comprehensively realized, institutionally ratified, and sensitive to the creative exigencies of the 21st century that one wants to send a copy of it to the publishers of textbooks for music history survey courses in the hope that it will be included in a last chapter or two.” (I Care if You Listen)

Zosha completed her Bachelors of Music in Piano Performance and Composition at McGill University, and has a doctorate from Columbia University in Composition. She was also an inaugural fellow at the Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris in 2018-19. Zosha was born in St. Albert in Alberta, Canada and currently lives with her family in New York City. Learn more at www.zoshadicastri.com.

About Tash Aw

Tash Aw was born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents and grew up in Kuala Lumpur. He moved to England in his teens, and studied Law at the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick. He moved to London and undertook various jobs, including working as a lawyer for four years. He then studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. His first novel, The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), won the 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific Region Best First Book). It juxtaposes three accounts of the life of Johnny Lim, a Chinese peasant in rural Malay. His subsequent novels are Map of the Invisible World (2009), set in Indonesia and Malaysia in the mid-1960s, and Five Star Billionaire (2013). In 2019 he published We, the Survivors, with Fourth Estate. His work of short fiction Sail won the O. Henry Prize in 2013 and he has had pieces published in A Public Space and the landmark Granta 100, amongst others. His essays and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Magazine littéraire, The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and The New York Times.

Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird (original 1910 complete ballet version) 
(1882–1971), composed 1909–10, 44 min

The 1910 première of The Firebird was the triumph that launched Stravinsky’s long and glittering international career (so much so that in later years, he came to resent this early work’s enduring popularity.)  Magical birds were already a commonplace in European folklore and in nineteenth-century art and music; in Russia, there was, by 1910, already a veritable Firebird cult. This ballet’s scenario conflates various tales, surrounding the Firebird by other recognizable characters: hero, love interest, and villain. 

The result: a fairy tale for grown-ups, rife with allegories: Following an introduction (part 1), in Tableau 1, Ivan Tsarevich, a prince, strays at night into the garden of an evil sorcerer-king, Kashchei the Immortal, sees the Firebird and captures her, then agrees to let her go in exchange for a magic feather (parts 2-6). Thirteen beautiful princesses appear, under Kashchei’s spell, Ivan falls in love with one of them, follows them back to Kashchei’s palace at dawn, and is seized by Kashchei’s monster guards (parts 7-10). Kaschei enters, and Ivan asks to marry his beloved. The conversation does not go well, despite the princesses' attempts to intercede. Just in time, Ivan remembers the magic feather and waves it three times. The Firebird reappears, makes Kashchei and his monsters dance until they collapse (parts 11-12), then shows Ivan an egg containing the life and death of Kashchei. Ivan breaks the egg, Kashchei dies, and the princesses, along with Kashchei’s other human subjects, is freed. In Tableau 2, the reunited lovers celebrate their betrothal followed by “General Rejoicing” (part 14).

The centrepiece of The Firebird is the virile, virtuosic “Infernal Dance”, with its brutal energy and powerful rhythmic drive, but no less impressive are the various moving and enchanting melodies—in the “Lullaby,” the final “General Rejoicing,” and especially the gentle, pastoral “Princesses’ Round.” Stravinsky’s own favourite number, “Dance of the Firebird,” is an imaginative study in orchestral texture, gesture, and colour, altogether devoid of melody. Throughout, the orchestration, influenced by French as well as Russian models, is vibrant and picturesque, deploying a massive late-Romantic orchestra with fantastic ingenuity and discrimination.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Gimeno + Dvořák’s “New World”

Luis Ramirez: Mi Piñata: Celebration Prelude (World Première/TSO Commission)
composed 2022, 3 min

To celebrate the Orchestra’s relationship with Toronto, the TSO has commissioned a series of three-minute “Celebration Preludes” from composers across the GTA, to reflect the diversity of musical voices in our community. Luis Ramirez’s Mi Piñata is the second of five this season; five more will follow in 2022/23. Here are the composer’s notes: 

This piece is about the empowerment, jubilance, and catharsis in meticulously crafting something whose ultimate purpose is to be destroyed ferociously. There is something viscerally powerful in the destruction of a beautiful, meticulously crafted creation. While the history and symbolism of the piñata are interesting, this piece is not about that. This piece is about its deeply meaningful presence as a child, focusing on the excitement and anticipation of breaking Mi Piñata.

In the Mexican tradition, the breaking of the piñata is the highlight of any major communal celebration. During the celebration, all the children line up and take turns to strike the piñata, and the moment you receive the stick you are immediately empowered. The anticipation of landing the final blow can feel more meaningful and enjoyable than the delectable reward inside. The moment of destruction is a glorious one - a cathartic experience and an incredible way to release deeply-rooted emotions we otherwise might not know how to address. Piñatas are a certainty in any party or celebration, and this ritual of physical and psychological release leaves an indelible imprint on those who grow up experiencing it.

Mi Piñata captures this powerful sensory and emotional experience from the perspective of a child, for whom it constitutes a kind of focused excitement and exhilaration like no other. The piñata artisans put painstaking work and immense craftsmanship into their products, transforming scraps of cardboard and paper into an exciting shape to be destroyed. I represent this in the music by constructing the entire piece around a single idea, a tiny melodic fragment evoking the folk songs chanted during the breaking of the piñata. The small fragments build up one after another, as the full piñata gradually emerges accompanied by a childlike spirit of anticipation and excitement. Once assembled, the music is festive and jubilant up until the first strike of the stick. Each “hit” that lands increasingly distorts the musical content, morphing into joyous cacophony until there is nothing left but a kaleidoscopic display of colour, candy, and cheers.

The premise of creating something beautiful only to destroy it is counter to the human instinct to preserve and cherish. At the same time, it is an empowering and liberating act akin to what occurs in nature and life: the certainty of the impermanence in all things, even the most beautifully and meticulously crafted. What matters in the end is the community and the joy of being with each other.

Mi Piñata was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to celebrate their 100th season. The piñata is an icon of Mexican folklore and, for me, a most fitting way to celebrate this incredible achievement.

Born and raised in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Luis Ramirez (b.1992) is a Mexican-Canadian composer with an affinity towards rhythmically colorful textures and visually-evocative sonic worlds, which often incorporate elements of Mexican folklore and a cinematographic approach to musical story-telling. He is currently pursuing doctoral studies in Composition at York University in Toronto with Randolph Peters, in which he is exploring the digital landscape for music-making and humanity’s often pernicious dynamics with the internet.

Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959): The Rock
composed 1957, 11 min

By 1957, Martinů was considered to be the greatest living Czech composer, and was as greatly admired in Cleveland, which then had the fourth largest Czech population in the world, as he was throughout midcentury America, praised for his “synthesis of lush, Romantic orchestrations with rhythmic, Bartókian Modernism.” Commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra for its 40th anniversary, The Rock was titled after Plymouth Rock, Martinů explained, in recognition of the freedoms and opportunities that America had provided him. (The Czech composer lived in New York from 1941 to 1953, and maintained major ties with the US until his death.) He went on to say the title was also a play on other “rocks” in American culture, including Rock ’n’ Roll and Little Rock, Arkansas—the turmoil surrounding the integration of Little Rock Central High School was also in the fall of 1957. 

The Rock, his third Cleveland première, received a mixed reception, though. The Plain Dealer described it as “beginning promisingly with severity of mood suggesting Puritanical restraint, and it has hymnal and religious allusions characteristic of the subject and a little reminiscent of Hanson’s opera, ‘Merry Mount.’ Before it is finished, however, it spreads thin in a sort of Hollywood atmosphere, which is no esthetic sin, except that one would like to see the picture for which it might well provide background.”

The Cleveland News was less severe, described it as “abounding in spiritual and melodic graces [with] no angularities, nothing blatant or disturbing, yet is fresh, original and evocative. It brings to mind the optimism and courage of the founding fathers in the traditional musical language so proper for it.”

Note compiled by David Perlman

Hans Abrahamsen (born 1952): Horn Concerto
composed 2019, 18 min 

Hans Abrahamsen’s Horn Concerto was commissioned specifically for tonight’s soloist, Berlin Philharmonic Principal Horn Stefan Dohr. It is Abrahamsen’s fourth Berlin Philharmonic commission. His second, in 2013, was let me tell you, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra, dedicated to and premièred by Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, who went on to perform it worldwide around 40 times over the next six years, including at the TSO as part of the 2015 New Creations Festival. In 2019, The Guardian named it the best classical work of the 21st century (so far), calling it “one of the most spellbindingly beautiful vocal-orchestral works of recent years.” 

The Horn Concerto, in Dohr’s hands, is on a similar trajectory, with Abrahamsen being hailed as one of the most intriguingly personal compositional voices of our time, with a style rooted in refined expression, with eloquent musical lines superimposed to create rhythmically complex textures.  “A deliberate disorientation that has something sophisticatedly mysterious about it,” wrote Andreas Göbel, following the concerto’s January 2020 Berlin première. 

The Horn concerto subverts the traditional fast-slow-fast pattern of Classical concerto form. The first movement, Sehr langsam und mit viel Ruhe [Very slowly and with a lot of quiet] is a peaceful sonic vista, “summoning images of vast open spaces, clad in mists and seen from a distance, and the airy solo part floating through overlapping cycles of sustained orchestral lines, with sublime kinetic energy,” as described in a review of Dohr’s performance of the work by the Tampere Philharmonic in Finland. 

Stürmisch und unruhig [Stormy and turbulent] is the composer’s instruction for the second movement, in which, as ther Tampere review describes it,  “the virtuoso horn line becomes entangled in a stormy orchestral labyrinth, resulting in instrumental drama par excellence. Sehr langsam, ohne zeit [Very slowly, outside time] is the instruction that ushers in the final movement, with the music slowly taking shape in a call and response between horn and orchestra supported by bass and timpani, before “an upbeat second section in double tempo, with dexterous solo passages and orchestral parts clad in ravishing colour.” A final instruction precedes the coda: Immer mehr und mehr schwer, aber im tempo (nicht schleppern) [Always more and more difficult, but in time (no forcing)]. The challenge is set for a mesmerizingly nuanced close.

Note compiled by David Perlman

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904): Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 “From the New World”
composed 1893, 43 min

In 1891, Jeanette Thurber, the philanthropist wife of a New York grocery millionaire, was seeking a front-rank European composer to be the new director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, which she had founded in 1885. She set her sights on Dvořák, whose fame had already spread to America, and the composer, though cautious at first, was tempted by her generous terms, and eventually excited at the prospect. He signed a contract at the end of the year, and duly arrived in New York on September 27, 1892.

One of Dvořák’s duties as the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America (1892–95) was to instill a passion for musical nationalism in his students, to which end he began exploring America’s indigenous music. Dvořák put his ideas into practice in an explicitly American work: his Ninth Symphony, to which he gave the title “From the New World”. He began sketching themes as early as December 1892, completed the whole symphony on May 24, 1893, and attended the public première on December 16. Highly publicized, the première was the most sensational success of Dvořák’s career; each movement was applauded, and he had to rise to acknowledge especially tumultuous cheers after the Largo. Soon the symphony was being performed elsewhere in the United States and all over Europe.

The emotional centrepiece of the “New World” Symphony is certainly the Largo, which, despite its fame, still sounds fresh and original. Its pastoral and elegiac tone and almost heartbreaking poignancy evoke unforgettably America’s vast, desolate prairies, in which Dvořák found not only beauty but also sadness, even despair. Throughout the Largo, Dvořák’s orchestration offers one extraordinary texture and sonority after another—right up to the very last chord, which is scored, to astonishing effect, for divided double basses alone.

The four movements of the “New World” Symphony are tied together by cyclical recurrences of themes. The two main themes of the first movement—the upward-thrusting theme (horns) that begins the Allegro molto and the later, spiritual-like melody (solo flute)—are recalled in the movements that follow. In the second movement, both themes are placed in counterpoint with the Largo’s own theme in a striking fortissimo climax; in the third movement, the themes from the first movement appear in the transition between sections and, most notably, in the coda. In the stormy finale, which develops its own severe new theme (horns and trumpets), melodies from all three previous movements are recalled at the end of the development section and saturate the coda, to the point that the finale becomes a kind of synthesis or grand summation of the whole symphony.

Kevin Bazzana

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor

With the opening of the 2022/23 season Gustavo Gimeno celebrates with live audiences on both sides of the Atlantic: as Music Director with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg – a title he has held since 2015, and with Toronto Symphony Orchestra where his tenure began in 2020/21. During his second season in Toronto, Gimeno and the TSO celebrate the orchestra’s 100 year anniversary with soloists such as Jan Lisiecki, Stefan Dohr, Barbara Hannigan, Daniil Trifonov and Javier Perianes, as well as visiting audiences on tour in North America and Asia.

Stefan Dohr, Horn

Proclaimed by the New York Chronicle as the “king of his instrument”, Stefan Dohr is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest horn players. 

In addition to being Principal Horn of the Berlin Philharmonic, Stefan has collaborated as a soloist with the world’s leading conductors, including Sir Simon Rattle, Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Bernard Haitink, Christian Thielemann, Daniel Harding, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Dima Slobodeniuk, Gustavo Gimeno, John Storgårds, and Marc Albrecht. He has performed with orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orquesta Nacional de España, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra and Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra. As well as performing the great Classical and Romantic works for horn, Stefan Dohr is continually expanding his instrument’s repertoire – commissioning and premiering new pieces by today’s foremost composers. In recent years, these included works by Herbert Willi, Jorge E. López, Johannes Wallmann, Dai Bo, Toshio Hosokawa and Wolfgang Rihm. Most recently, Grawemeyer Award winning composer Hans Abrahamsen wrote a horn concerto for Stefan Dohr, which received its world premiere in Berlin in January 2020 as a joint commission from the Berlin Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Seattle Symphony Orchestra. In the 2021/22 season, Dohr will perform with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, Cyprus Symphony Orchestra, Athens State Orchestra, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker and Gürzenichorchester Köln under the baton of conductors such as Dima Slobodeniouk, Kazushi Ono, Karina Canellakis, Eva Ollikainen, Giordano Bellincampi and Frank Beermann. 

A prolific chamber musician, Stefan is a permanent member of the Ensemble Wien-Berlin, Berliner Philharmoniker Chamber Music Society, and the Philharmonisches Oktett Berlin. He has appeared at the Lucerne, Salzburg, Rheingau and Baden-Baden Festivals, and has performed alongside prominent artists such as Maurizio Pollini, Ian Bostridge, Lars Vogt, Kolja Blacher, Markus Becker, Guy Braunstein, Mark Padmore, and Kirill Gerstein. Stefan’s extensive discography includes ‘The Yellow Shark’ with Ensemble Modern and Frank Zappa (Barking Pumpkin Records); Schumann’s ‘Konzertstück’ for Four Horns and Orchestra with Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (RCA Red Label); Toshio Hosokawa’s horn concerto ‘Moment of Blossoming’ with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (Naxos); Music for horn and piano by Franz and Richard Strauss with Markus Becker (Campanella Musica); the Complete Mozart Horn Concertos with Camerata Schulz; and Weber’s Concertino for Horn and Orchestra with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester (both on the Camerata label). Stefan studied in Essen and Cologne, starting his professional career at the age of 19 as Principal Horn of the Frankfurt Opera, during which time he also frequently appeared as a guest artist with Ensemble Modern. He held the position of Principal Horn in Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Festival Orchestras of Bayreuth and Lucerne before taking up his current post in 1993. A passionate teacher, Stefan is a Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music, the Sibelius Academy, and a permanent faculty member at the Herbert von Karajan Academy and the Hochschule für Musik ‘Hanns Eisler’ in Berlin.

Gimeno, Lisiecki & Tchaikovsky 5

 

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975): Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Themes, Op. 115
composed 1963, 10 min

For Dmitri Dmitryevich Shostakovich the year 1963 was one of relative compositional inactivity. The previous year had seen perhaps his most overtly dissident work, the Thirteenth Symphony (`Babi Yar'), premièred, and the resurrection of his infamous opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District under the new title Katerina Ismailova. The Fourth Symphony (composed in 1935-36), another work whose fate was directly affected by the scathing 1936 article in Pravda `Muddle instead of Music', had been premiered a year earlier in 1961. Together with the composer's marriage to his third wife, Irina Supinskaya, in December 1962, 1963 may well have been embarked upon with a feeling of rejuvenation and hope. Yet, apart from the re- orchestration of the Schumann Cello Concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich and the orchestration of his song cycle of 1948, From Jewish Folk Poetry, Shostakovich's only original composition of that year was the Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Themes.

On a recent visit to the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic to commemorate the centenary of the republic's “voluntary incorporation into Russia”, Shostakovich had promised to write a work to celebrate the occasion. During his visit the composer witnessed at first hand the artistry of at least one of Kirghizstan's distinguished folk musicians, and later recalled that the Kirghiz S.S.R. was a place “where everyone sings.” The experience of the folk music tradition of Kirghizstan appears to have inspired Shostakovich to employ Kirghiz folk melodies in this overture. That he also used a Russian theme perhaps represents, musically, Kirghistan's integration with Russia. Despite his personal interaction with Kirghiz folk musicians, Shostakovich was no ethnomusicologist and took both the Russian and Kirghiz themes from published collections; the main Russian theme had been recently collected from the Omsk region of Siberia.

The overture was completed in early October 1963 and received its premiere in the Frunze Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Frunze is the capital of Kirghiz S.S.R.) on 2nd November. The Moscow premiere followed eight days later.

Kristian Hibberd, for the London Shostakovich Society

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953): Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16
composed 1913, 31 min

At the première of the Piano Concerto No. 2 on August 23, 1913, at the imperial palace at Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg, Prokofiev provoked a scandal — for he had written nothing before that was so massive, serious, difficult, and idiosyncratic, or so aggressively modern. His conservative audience, relaxing on manicured lawns sipping champagne in the sun, expected pleasant diversion and was outraged at his impertinence.  Most critics were abusive, accusing the brash youngster — still a conservatory student — of cacophony, capriciousness, even insanity. When he fled post-Revolutionary Russia in 1918, he left the manuscript of the Concerto behind, but in 1923, resettled in Paris, he reconstructed (and thoroughly revised) the score and reintroduced it on May 8, 1924. The blasé Parisians were neither shocked nor impressed, however, they considered the music not modern enough. A few years later, he was heard to disparage it himself: “It’s too many notes, and I don’t like it myself.”

It is an ambitious work, brimming with ideas. The music is bold, rugged, astringent, and intensely expressive, sometimes tortured and desperate.  The piano writing and orchestral sonorities are often hard and abrasive; only occasionally does a lyrical impulse emerge. The piano writing is mostly crisp, steely, grasping. (Prokofiev’s own playing was noted more for incisiveness, brilliance, and rhythmic tension than for lyricism or colour.) The piano is almost always in command and the solo part is exhaustingly athletic — there is a thrilling propulsiveness to the music that is both joyous and a little dangerous.

Prokofiev’s forms are highly original. The core of the first movement, for instance, is a monumental piano cadenza that becomes freer, more massive and dissonant, and more sweepingly virtuosic as it works over the movement’s main theme. The concise scherzo is a wild dance in which the pianist plays running figuration at top speed without a moment’s rest. The third movement is the strangest of the four.  Its main theme is a grotesque, heavy-footed march, and later melodies are (respectively) morbid and exotic. In the finale, Prokofiev intensifies the rhetoric of the first movement, unleashing a veritable storm that two lyrical episodes and a cadenza cannot quell. The Concerto closes with an awesome assertion of power that left listeners at the première “frozen with fright, hair standing on end.”

Kevin Bazzana

Cris Derksen: Parkdale: Celebration Prelude 
(World Première/TSO Commission)

composed 2022, 3 min

To celebrate the Orchestra’s relationship with Toronto, the TSO has commissioned a series of three-minute “Celebration Preludes” from composers across the GTA, to reflect the diversity of musical voices in our community. Cris Derksen’s Parkdale is the first of five this season; five more will follow in 2022/23. Here are Cris Derksen’s notes.

“Parkdale is an honouring of the neighbourhood I’ve called home for the past 5 years. Parkdale is a neighbourhood poor in capital and rich in everything else. It is diverse, colourful, beautiful, sensitive, harsh, stinky, and most of all … it is a neighbourhood that has got your back. The piece starts in the peaceful morning with my Tibetan neighbours singing chants in the backyard with the birds, we go out the front door to the wilds of King and Jameson, it’s busy, you can see the lake, but you gotta look both ways before crossing the street. There is great sorrow in the history of colonisation and displacement, but it’s a neighbourhood that is willing to give a helping hand to those in need, or at least send money to the front of the No Frills line-up to make sure whoever is short can go home with their goods.”

Juno nominated Cris Derksen is an Internationally respected Indigenous Cellist and Composer. Originally from Northern Alberta she comes from a line of chiefs from North Tallcree Reserve on her father’s side and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s. Derksen braids the traditional and contemporary, weaving her classical back ground and her Indigenous ancestry together with new school electronics to create genre defying music. 2021 commissions include pieces for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Ottawa’s Chamberfest, the City of Toronto, Edmonton New Music, the Edmon ton Symphony with support from the National Arts Centre, Vancouver's Blueridge Chamber Festival, Indigenous fashion week TO, The Canadian Expo Pavilion in Dubai, and a 4-part docuseries for the Knowledge Network. A new album of Derksen’s works will be released in 2022.

www.crisderksen.com

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893): Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64
composed 1888, 46 min               

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia on May 7, 1840 and died in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 6, 1893. He composed Symphony No. 5 between May and August 1888, and conducted the première himself in St. Petersburg on November 17, 1888. 

Tchaikovsky saw himself as the victim of a cold, heartless fate. In Symphony No. 4 (1878), he used a recurring theme, a harsh brass fanfare, to represent this concept. Ten years passed before he composed his next symphony. The international successes that his music had won in the interim placed him in a more positive frame of mind. The idea of fate still dogged him, but according to a sketch of the programmatic content of the Fifth Symphony, fate had evolved into providence, a less hostile governor of life.

He conducted the Fifth Symphony’s first two performances himself, then another in Prague shortly thereafter. Audiences loved it, but the press reacted with hostility. The critical barbs devastated him, but a further performance in Hamburg firmly erased his pessimistic feelings. 

Once again, he constructed a symphony upon a recurring melody representative of his current philosophical outlook. Reflecting his lightening in attitude, the new “providence” theme is less intimidating than its counterpart in Symphony No. 4. It undergoes a gradual, increasingly positive transformation, as well. He introduces it quietly in the clarinets. The opening movement contrasts restlessness with yearning. 

A passionate love-idyll follows. Its raptures are twice interrupted by the “providence” theme, the second time with particularly devastating impact. Next comes a typically elegant Tchaikovsky waltz. He based it on a popular song he heard being sung by a boy in the street during a visit to Florence, Italy. The sole blemish on its courtly surface comes in a brief, almost casual appearance of “providence,” just before the end. 

“Providence” appears fully transformed in the slow introduction to the Finale, where it is heard in a major key for the first time. After much folk-flavoured rambunctiousness in the Finale itself, “providence” stands radiantly transfigured into a sturdy processional, before a whirlwind coda brings the Symphony home.

Don Anderson

Gustavo Gimeno, conductor

With the opening of the 2022/23 season Gustavo Gimeno celebrates with live audiences on both sides of the Atlantic: as Music Director with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg – a title he has held since 2015, and with Toronto Symphony Orchestra where his tenure began in 2020/21. During his second season in Toronto, Gimeno and the TSO celebrate the orchestra’s 100 year anniversary with soloists such as Jan Lisiecki, Stefan Dohr, Barbara Hannigan, Daniil Trifonov and Javier Perianes, as well as visiting audiences on tour in North America and Asia. 

Jan Lisiecki, piano

Jan Lisiecki’s interpretations and technique speak to a maturity beyond his age. At 27, the Canadian performs over a hundred yearly concerts worldwide, and has worked closely with conductors such as Antonio Pappano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin,Daniel Harding, Manfred Honeck, and Claudio Abbado. In 2021/2022, Lisiecki presents a new recital programme featuring Chopin's Nocturnes and Études in more than 30 cities all around the globe. Recent return invitations include Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for performances at Carnegie Hall and Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. Lisiecki recently performed a Beethoven Lieder cycle with baritone Matthias Goerne, among others at the Salzburg Festival, and has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Staatskapelle Dresden, Orchestre de Paris, Bavarian Radio Symphony and London Symphony Orchestra.

Celebrate 100: Maestros' Special Homecoming

TIMELINE: Meet the Maestros

Performers

Sir Andrew Davis, conductor
Günther Herbig, conductor
Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor
Peter Oundjian, conductor
Gustavo Gimeno, conductor
Marion Newman, host

Program

Land Acknowledgement and “O Canada” (Marion Newman, mezzo-soprano)
Hector Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9
Frederick Delius/arr. Thomas Beecham: “The Walk to the Paradise Garden”
Richard Wagner: Overture to Tannhäuser (Dresden version)
Intermission
Jean Sibelius: ”Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island”, No. 1 from Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22 (Revised 1897 & 1939)
Alexina Louie: The Ringing Earth
Bedřich Smetana: “Šárka”, No. 3 from Má vlast
Maurice Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole

Marion Newman, host

A critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano of Kwagiulth and Stó:lō First Nations, English, Irish, and Scottish heritage, Marion Newman is recognized as one of Canada’s most accomplished singers in works ranging from Vivaldi to Vivier, and operatic roles including Carmen, and Rosina in The Barber of Seville. She was nominated for a Dora Award for her leading role in the world première of Shanawdithit (Nolan/Burry) with Toronto’s Tapestry Opera. She also portrayed Dr. Wilson in the première of Missing (Clements/Current) with Vancouver City Opera/Pacific Opera Victoria, which gives voice, in English and Gitxsan, to the story of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, and starred as Tsianina Redfeather in Jani Lauzon’s music-drama I Call Myself Princess at Regina’s Globe Theatre.

Most recently, Marion curated and performed in What is classical Indigenous music? with Toronto’s Confluence Concerts and débuted with Rhode Island Symphony in Handel’s Messiah. In 2022, she creates the role of Dawn with Welsh National Opera in the upcoming world première of Migrations, with stories by five writers based on their personal experiences of migrations and working with refugees.

In addition to her extensive performing career, she is a co-founder of Amplified Opera and has worked in many facets of the performing arts as a curator, arts administrator, speaker, and teacher. She is the host of CBC Radio’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera.
Message from Seiji Ozawa

The TSO’s only other living Music Director, Seiji Ozawa, while not able to join us on April 9, should be recognized for his prodigious gifts and groundbreaking foray into TSO recordings, which elevated the TSO to international levels. He sent this short letter.

Dear TSO Music Family,

On the occasion of your celebrations of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s 100th season, I am pleased to send greetings from my home here in Japan. Although I cannot be with you in person, my thoughts and warm memories of my years in Toronto will be with you, the musicians, patrons, and former Music Directors of the TSO.

It is hard to believe that I began as your Music Director 57 years ago in 1965. One of my fondest memories of that first year is a special outdoor concert celebrating the opening of Toronto’s “New” City Hall. Also close to my heart was the tour to Japan in the 1968/69 season. I am especially proud of having introduced the Orchestra and Toronto audiences to such contemporary music as Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie and the works of Tōru Takemitsu both in Toronto and on tour.

Congratulations and Arigato Toronto!

Seiji


ABOUT THE MUSIC AND THE MAESTROS

Sir Andrew Davis

TSO Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis begins the evening with a short work by Hector Berlioz that has been conducted by seven of the TSO’s ten Music Directors, most notably in this context by Sir Andrew Davis himself, as part of the TSO’s seminal “Canadian Odyssey” tour of the North in 1987. Sir Andrew continues on the podium this evening with the evocative “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” by Frederick Delius, a nod to his own British roots and those of the TSO’s second and longest-serving Music Director, Sir Ernest MacMillan.

Hector Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
Born: La Cote-Saint-André, France, December 11, 1803
Died: Paris, France, March 08, 1869
Composed: 1844
8 min

In September 1843, short of new works for his upcoming Paris concert season, Berlioz took two themes from his failed opera Benvenuto Cellini, given five years before, and fashioned them into Le carnaval romain, a brilliant orchestral showpiece to which he gave the title Ouverture caractéristique. (The Overture Le Corsaire was also written around the same time, for the same purpose.) The Roman Carnival Overture (as we know it) became a cornerstone of his concert repertoire for the next 20 years; in 1852, it was even adopted as a “second overture” for Benvenuto Cellini, performed before Act II in productions of the opera in Weimar and London.

The first of the Cellini themes is briefly announced at the very beginning: a saltarello—a furious, rhythmically propulsive Italian folk dance featuring leaping and violent arm movements. The frenzy subsides, and the English horn sings out the second principal theme: a long-breathed, languorous melody borrowed from a trio in Act I of the opera. The presentation of these two themes forms the overture’s introduction; with the return of the opening saltarello rhythm, the long exposition begins. In the brief development section, the English-horn theme returns, now in the bassoons, in the saltarello rhythm accompanied by repeated notes in the second violins. This leads to a frenzied, brassy conclusion, in which themes, rhythms and motifs from throughout the overture are all brought climactically together.

When he wrote Le carnaval romain, Berlioz was just completing work on his influential Treatise on Instrumentation, and clearly he poured everything he had learned about orchestration into the new piece. The overture is a technically difficult but enormously rewarding vehicle for showing off an orchestra, not just because it offers such a kaleidoscope of instrumental sonorities, but because it whips by at such breathtaking speed that the listener’s ear is almost overwhelmed by the ever-changing tone colours. At its première in February 1844, Le carnaval romain was given without the benefit of a proper general rehearsal, but by some miracle the performance was a success.

Kevin Bazzana

Frederick Delius (1862–1934)/arr. Thomas Beecham: “The Walk to the Paradise Garden”
Born: Bradford, United Kingdom, January 29, 1862
Died: Gez-Sur-Loing, France, June 10, 1934
Composed: 1906
10–11 min

Frederick Delius aspired to opera in the wake of Wagnerism, but the British composer is most frequently remembered for his small impressionistic orchestral pieces, often describing scenes from nature. “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” is among the most famous of these, and it is actually an orchestral intermezzo taken from his most successful opera, A Village Romeo and Juliet.

Based on a short story by the 19th-century Swiss author Gottfried Keller, who is sometimes described as an exponent of a literary movement called “poetic realism, the opera tells of the lovers Sali and Vreli, children of neighbouring farmers who have quarrelled their lives away in a dispute over a piece of land separating their farms. Realizing their romance can never find acceptance among their warring families or others in the village, they wander along the river to an abandoned inn called The Paradise Garden, where they consummate their love. Then they board a barge full of hay, which they scuttle so that they drown together in a suicide pact at the end of the opera.

A Village Romeo and Juliet was composed between 1900 and 1901, but “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” was only composed five years later, shortly before the opera received its première at the Berlin Comic Opera in 1907. The original opera was opulently scored; Sir Thomas Beecham reduced the instrumental forces for the standard orchestral version.

The intermezzo is based on themes from the opera, loosely arranging themselves into a sort of five-part form (ABABA), preceded by a short introduction. The lower strings take up the first main theme, while the second is stated initially by the clarinets several measures later. The music comes to its climax in a full-orchestra section toward the end, then falls back gently in the closing measures.

Carl Cunningham

One of today’s most recognized and acclaimed conductors, Sir Andrew Davis’s career spans over 50 years during which he has been the artistic leader at several of the world’s most distinguished opera and symphonic institutions, including Lyric Opera of Chicago (Music Director and Principal Conductor, 2000–2021), the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Conductor Laureate and Chief Conductor, 1991–2004, the longest tenure since that of its founder, Sir Adrian Boult), Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Music Director, 1988–2000), Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Conductor Laureate and Chief Conductor, 2013–2019), and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Conductor Laureate and Principal Conductor, 1975–1988), where he also served as Interim Artistic Director (2018–2020).
Günther Herbig

Günther Herbig, who recently turned 90, conducts the Overture to Tannhäuser, first performed in 1924, under Luigi von Kunits. It has been presented at least 51 times since then, under eight of the TSO’s ten Music Directors, including Herbig himself. Fellow Maestros Sir Andrew Davis and Walter Susskind performed it with the TSO in Toronto, and took it on tour, and Peter Oundjian performed it most recently in the opening concert of the TSO’s 2013/14 season.

Richard Wagner (1813–1883): Overture to Tannhäuser (Dresden version)
composed 1845
14 min

The overture to Tannhäuser is itself a self-contained musical drama—a miniature tone poem on the principal themes and situations of the close-to-six-hour opera. The plot is a conflation of two stories. First is the title character’s dalliance on Venusberg, the Mountain of Venus, followed by his pilgrimage to Rome. The second is a singers’ contest. These two legends had not traditionally been linked, but Wagner grafted them into a three-act opera structure, incorporating a major subplot of his own invention: Tannhäuser’s troubled but ultimately redeeming relationship with the saintly Elisabeth. His central conflict between the sensual and the spiritual is represented musically by the seductive music of the Venusberg and the pure, chant-like music of the pilgrims.

Clarinets, bassoons, and horns play a quiet rendition of the famous Pilgrims’ March theme to open the overture. The strings add a yearning second phrase, then the first phrase is played again, fortissimo, by the trombones, with a violin accompaniment that, in Wagner’s words, represents “the pulse of life.” Night falls, the tempo quickens, and the orchestration becomes filmy and quicksilver. “At nightfall,” wrote Wagner, “enchanting apparitions come out. A roseate twilight mist is diffused, voluptuous songs of joy assail our ears, movements of a wild and sinister dance are heard. These are the evil enchantments of the Venusberg, which appear at night to those whose heart burns with a bold, sensual fire.” Tannhäuser approaches, “drawn by the seductive vision.” A new theme bursts out in a heavy, full-orchestra setting: Tannhäuser’s “Song to Venus.” After a brief lull, the song is repeated, “answered by savage cries of joy” underscored by the first entry of the cymbals, triangle and tambourine. Now the music represents Tannhäuser drawn into the arms of Venus, “who embraces him with passion and sweeps him away, drunk with voluptuousness, to a faraway and unattainable land – the land of oblivion.” The music reaches a Bacchanalian fury, then subsides.

Dawn breaks. The song of the approaching pilgrims is heard again, quietly, in the clarinets, bassoons, and horns, with busy accompaniment figures in the violins, then bursting forth, fortissimo, in the trumpets and trombones, accompanied by the full orchestra. “A rustling and whispering in the air,” as Wagner describes it, “that first sounds like the terrible wails of the damned, but…finally, in the resplendent sunrise…becomes an intoxicating paean of sublime joy.” Near the end, a brief but prominent new counter-theme emerges in the horns.This, according to Wagner, “is the shout of joy from the Venusberg, redeemed from the curse of sin; we hear it as a kind of holy chant. The pulsing of life itself is in this song of redemption, and the two opposing elements of spirit and of life itself is in this song of redemption, and the two opposing elements of spirit and matter, God and Nature, here embrace each other and melt in a holy kiss of love.” So the Tannhäuser overture ends, having done the work of three acts in less than 15 minutes.

Kevin Bazzana

Born November 30, 1931, in what is now known as Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic, Günther Herbig left behind the challenging political environment of East Germany and moved to the United States in 1984, where he has since conducted all of the top-tier orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco symphony orchestras. Posts Herbig has held, in addition to Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, include Music Director of the Detroit Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and general music director of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra and Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Former Artistic Advisor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, he is now their Conductor Laureate.
Jukka-Pekka Saraste

Jukka-Pekka Saraste takes to the stage with a piece by his Finnish compatriot Jean Sibelius: “Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island”, the first movement from the composer’s epic symphonic poem Lemminkäissarja, Op. 22. Saraste introduced the work to Toronto patrons on September 19, 1998, followed by a performance as part of the TSO’s tour to Carnegie Hall later that year. It was subsequently recorded by the TSO and Saraste in 2000.

Jean Sibelius (1865–1957): “Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island”, No. 1 from Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22
composed 1895–1896
revised 1897 & 1939
7 min

Jean Sibelius’s suite of Four Legends is based on the exploits of Lemminkäinen, a legendary hero kept alive in Finland in a grand poetic work called the Kalevala, assembled by the scholar Elias Lönnrot from folk songs he collected on more than 15 years’ worth of research trips, from the 1820s to the 1840s. The importance of the Kalevala to the Finnish people cannot be over-emphasized. It is really an artistic conflation of narratives, wedding lays, curses, recipes and magic spells that were sung to him by different Nordic peasants in the course of these travels. First published in 1835, the Kalevala soon became a cultural touchstone of the country’s artistic and political movements, which eventually resulted in Finland’s independence from Russia. The epic takes place in a mythic, iron-age Finland with hints of a Viking presence.

Of the three main figures who tend to travel and fight alone, relying heavily on magic, and ruled by love, lust, loyalty, and revenge, Lemminkäinen is the youngest, most virile, and least governed by a sense of duty. In “Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island”, our hero, who needs to stay out of sight for a while, travels to a remote island, discovers that the island is inhabited by many beautiful women, sings charms to drive the men away, and then “has his pleasure” with all but one of the women who displeased at being spurned and insulted by Lemminkäinen, vows to take revenge by causing his ship to run onto a rock. There is no need, as it turns out. , for the men of the island suddenly return and burn Lemminkäinen’s boat, but, by singing a magic spell, he is able to make a timely escape by assembling a whole new boat “from a very tiny plank, five little bits of a distaff [and] six small fragments of a spindle.”

The music begins with a sustained, heroic chord played by the French horns, bringing to mind the image of Lemminkäinen standing on the bow of his tippy little boat and catching his first view of the lovely island. The violins rock gently and the upper winds call to each other. As the vessel comes ashore with a distinct “bump” in the lower strings, the scene’s promise of pleasure becomes evident in the sprightly dancing tune played by the upper woodwinds. Solo and tutti cellos play an especially important part in the fluid movement that ensues; they are heard frequently through rents in the orchestral fabric, singing slowly-winding phrases in the manner of Karelia’s folk singers. When the environment becomes too boisterous for the cellos, these phrases are also sounded by combinations of wind instruments, and they run through the weave of ideas in this piece like luminous threads.

What we hear though is not a chronological acting-out of the story, but the emotions stirred up by the tale. Around the latter third of the piece, undulating, tremulous figures in the strings prompt visions, but of what? The men returning to menace Lemminkäinen, or crashing waves, or the gathering of magic to assemble the boat? The magic in the story is matched by the enchantment of the music, and in this there is a wonderful symmetry.

William Westcott

An artist of exceptional versatility and breadth, Jukka-Pekka Saraste has established himself as one of today’s outstanding conductors, demonstrating remarkable musical depth and integrity. He served as Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne from 2010 until 2019. Earlier, he served as Music Director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and as Principal Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Most recently, he created the LEAD! Foundation, a mentorship program for young conductors and soloists. Guest engagements have taken him to major orchestras worldwide.
Peter Oundjian

Conductor Emeritus Peter Oundjian’s tenure as Music Director was marked by his championship of contemporary (and particularly Canadian contemporary) music, as well as energetic touring. Alexina Louie’s The Ringing Earth was part of the TSO’s Northern Residency in 2005. And Smetana’s Má vlast was performed as part of a 2014 European tour, which included a two-day residency at the Prague Spring Festival. The inclusion of Smetana on the program also pays tribute to two of the TSO’s Czech-born Music Directors, Karel Ančerl and Walter Susskind.

Alexina Louie (born 1949): The Ringing Earth
composed 1986
5 min

“It’s not every day that a composer is asked to write a festive overture for the city of her birth. As a proud Vancouverite, I was thrilled,” says Alexina Louie. The Ringing Earth began the Expo 86 Opening Gala concert in the presence of many international dignitaries including Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Along with the orchestral overture, she was asked to compose three fanfares based on the same thematic material: a brass outdoor fanfare to greet Their Royal Highnesses at the Orpheum Theatre, a fanfare to accompany them up the grand staircase, and a call-back fanfare to signal the end of intermission.

“I decided to reach out to the world with a big, buoyant welcoming piece that relied on brass fanfare calls which percolate through the strings and woodwinds. The joyful exposition makes a transition into a lyrical, introspective second section where the tempo and orchestral colours change. I wrote an arcing melodic line for the centre of the piece to be played by the harp and vibraphone over harmonies in the strings. The slow section builds to a reprise of the fanfare material which is presented in diminution, as a stretto (overlapping of musical material), and makes a last appearance in the final cadence.”

The Ringing Earth has featured at other special occasions since then including a performance by the Montreal Symphony in the United Nations General Assembly on United Nations Day in 1989. “Happily I was there,” she says. “Now, 35 years later, as a proud Torontonian, I get to hear the piece once again, woven into another momentous occasion.”

David Perlman

Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884): “Šárka”, No. 3 from Má vlast
composed 1874–1879
11 min

Austrian-ruled Bohemia was, during Smetana’s youth, not the place to try to establish, as Smetana did, a Czech school of composition. Official hostility and his own frustration led him to accept a position abroad, in Göteborg, Sweden, where he stayed until Italian victories over Austria in 1859 led to a loosening of the political situation in Bohemia, and to Smetana’s return to Prague. He threw all of his energies into revitalizing Czech musical life: he organized performing societies, led the drive to build a new opera house where Czech operas could be staged, and composed music with a distinctively Czech flavour – not only operas and symphonic poems, but piano and chamber works. Smetana became conductor at the new theatre and composed his operas (including the comic gem The Bartered Bride) to be performed on its stage.

He also composed a wide range of music with a distinctively Czech flavour, of which Má Vlast (My Homeland) is his most important orchestral work. It consists of a cycle of six thematically interrelated symphonic poems surveying the history, folklore, legends, and landscapes of Bohemia.

The piece “Šárka” is a legend. As Smetana described it: “It begins with a portrayal of the enraged girl swearing vengeance on the whole male race for the infidelity of her lover. From afar is heard the arrival of armed men led by Ctirad who has come to punish Šárka and her rebel maidens. In the distance Ctirad hears the feigned cries of a girl (Šárka) bound to a tree. On seeing her he is overcome by her beauty and so inflamed with love that he is moved to free her. By means of a previously prepared potion, she intoxicates him and his men, who finally fall asleep. As she blows her horn in a pre-arranged signal, the rebel maidens, hidden behind the nearby rocks, rush to the spot and commit the bloody deed. The horror of general slaughter and the passion and fury of Šárka’s revenge form the end of the composition.”

Don Anderson

Peter Oundjian has been privileged to share his love of music with audiences for over five decades. 2017/18 marked Oundjian’s 14th and final season as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His appointment in 2004 reinvigorated the Orchestra with recordings, tours, and acclaimed innovative programming, as well as extensive audience growth. Under his leadership, the ensemble underwent a transformation that significantly strengthened its presence in the world. In 2017, he led the Orchestra on a major tour of Israel and Europe, which included a residency at the Prague Spring International Music Festival and a performance at the famed Wiener Konzerthaus. In 2008 and 2011, the TSO played sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall. Oundjian is now honoured by the TSO with the title of Conductor Emeritus.
Gustavo Gimeno

Current Music Director Gustavo Gimeno takes the stage to present Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, a work that five of the ten Music Directors have conducted. There is an obvious connection in the choice of piece to Gimeno’s own Spanish roots. And as richly gestural music, it calls forth the same qualities from conductor and orchestra. “From our very first encounter,” Gimeno says, “I connected with the Orchestra’s sound, their cultivated playing and flexibility, and immediately felt at home, both musically and personally.”

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937): Rapsodie espagnole
composed 1907–1908
15 min

The music of Spain echoes through Ravel’s output, and he comes by it rightly, born in Basque France, close to the Spanish border, to a Spanish-speaking mother. Its primary antecedents can be traced to two pieces that Ravel adored: fellow Frenchman Emanuel Chabrier’s boisterous rhapsody España (1883), and Rimsky-Korsakov’s glittering Capriccio espagnol (1888). Both make use of traditional folk melodies, while Ravel’s work does not. It shows us Spain through insightful French eyes.

Eminent Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, with whom Ravel became good friends during the years Falla spent in Paris, marveled at Ravel’s deep understanding of Spanish music. “(Rapsodie espagnole) surprised me because of its Spanish character,” he wrote in an article published in the magazine La Revue musicale in 1939. “But how was I to account for the subtly genuine Spanishness of Ravel, knowing, because he had told me so, that the only link he had with my country was to have been born near the border? The mystery was soon explained: Ravel’s was a Spain he had felt in an idealized way through his mother. She was a lady of exquisite conversation. She spoke fluent Spanish, which I enjoyed so much when she evoked the years of her youth, spent in Madrid, an epoch certainly earlier than mine, but traces of its habits that were familiar to me still remained. Then I understood with what fascination her son must have listened to those memories that were undoubtedly intensified by the additional force all reminiscence gets from the song and dance theme inseparably connected with it”

The music of Spain echoes through Ravel’s output. It colours the chamber opera L’Heure espagnole; the wordless song Vocalise-etude en forme de habanera; the piano piece Alborada de gracioso; and the orchestral works Rapsodie espagnole and Bolero. Securing a première for Rapsodie at the fashionable Sunday afternoon Concerts Colonne reflected Ravel’s growing, if still controversial reputation.

It appeared midway through the sort of long, varied programme that was typical of the period. The bill included music by Lalo, Schubert, Rimsky-Korsakov, Fauré, Franck and Wagner, and, according to eyewitness accounts, the reception divided along predictable lines. Some of the wealthy, conservative patrons seated in the boxes and on the ground floor endured it in hostile silence; others booed or hissed. The less monied, more free-thinking students occupying the balconies cheered and applauded without restraint. After hissing greeted the second section, Malagueña, a voice (possibly that of youthful composer Florent Schmitt) boomed out from the balcony: “Once more, for the public downstairs who didn’t understand!” Conductor Edouard Colonne dutifully obliged by encoring the movement immediately. The same voice continued, “Tell them it’s Wagner and they’ll find it good.” Comments weren’t confined to the upper reaches. The string glissandi in the concluding section, Feria, were greeted with a call from downstairs enquiring, “Where is the cat?” The press reaction displayed a matching gulf. Some critics praised the freshness and subtlety of the orchestration; others damned the entire piece as “slender, inconsistent and fugitive.”

Rapsodie espagnole is a four-movement dance suite strongly suggestive of various times of day. The opening section, Prélude à la Nuit (Prelude to Night), paints a misty, sensuous portrait of a warm, star-filled night, with muted strings throughout. A brief, scherzo-like example of the Malagueña, a flamenco-style Spanish dance, comes next, inhabiting a world where the sun has risen and the day’s activities are beginning.

The third section, Habanera, is a largely quiet interlude that moves languorously forward on a slow, sinuous dance rhythm, evoking midday, near siesta time, under intense heat and diamond-bright sunlight. The concluding section, Feria, is the longest and most spectacular of the four. In this riotous portrait of a Spanish folk fair, wrapped around a restrained middle panel that recalls something of the habanera’s brooding sultriness, Ravel finally unleashes the energy that has remained largely pent-up during the preceding movements.

Don Anderson

In the 2021/22 season, Gustavo Gimeno celebrates with live audiences on both sides of the Atlantic: as Music Director with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg—a title he has held since 2015—and with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where his tenure began in 2020/21. During his first season in Toronto, Gimeno and the TSO took the opportunity to record and stream a range of digital performances, and in 2021/22, they celebrate doubly, as this also marks the TSO’s centenary season.

Ehnes Plays Beethoven

Emilie LeBel: the sediments

In August 2018, TSO Interim Artistic Director Sir Andrew Davis announced composer Emilie LeBel had been selected as our new RBC Affiliate Composer, saying her work “reflects her intelligence and audaciousness." The Affiliate Composer position provides an opportunity to compose three works for the TSO while working closely with artistic staff.

Lebel’s first Affiliate Composer commission, Unsheltered, was written in Spring 2019, while fires raged in the forests north of Edmonton where she lives. LeBel has said her work is “a contemplation of the surrounding landscapes that I inhabit, reflecting on these sites, smells, shapes, and sounds that are constantly in flux.”

Of her second Affiliate Composer piece, the sediments, Lebel says: “At the beginning of things, before it ever rained, there were clouds. Clouds so heavy, no light could penetrate to the earth. Any rain that did fall was instantly converted back into steam. At some point when the temperature of the earth dropped enough, the rain fell. Every surface on the planet filled up, and the continuing rain dissolved the land above, washing away and dissolving things. As I listen now to the rain, water surrounds me. I think about the weight of sediment, and our history. Water flows on, whether I am here or not. Everything that ever was is still here.”

Lebel took inspiration from conservationist Rachel Carson who wrote: “The sediments are a sort of epic poem of the earth. When we are wise enough, perhaps we can read in them all of past history. For all is written here. In the nature of the materials that compose them and in the arrangement of their successive layers the sediments reflect all that has happened in the waters above them and on the surrounding lands.”

Program note by Leah Borts-Kuperman

Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28

Born: Munich, Germany June 11, 1864
Died: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany September 08, 1949
Composed: 1894-95
Duration: 17 minutes

In the wake of the complete failure of his first opera, Guntram, in 1893, Strauss settled on the irreverent, quick-witted prankster Till Eulenspiegel as his next musical subject. Till Owlglass appears to have been a real person, a German of the peasant class who died about 1350. The earliest published account of his exploits appeared in 1515 and quickly became known across Europe. A new, illustrated edition of the Till stories caught Strauss’s attention. At first he considered writing an opera on the subject, but a wish not to repeat the critical attack that Guntram had received led him to create a purely orchestral portrait instead.

The full title is Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, after the Old Rogue’s Tale, Set for Large Orchestra in Rondo form—the traditional rondo, where the principal themes keep recurring, being well suited to his subject matter,

At first Strauss declined to provide details of the episodes described in the music, but he later relented. The music begins with a dreamy “once upon a time” introduction; the solo horn then announces Till’s principal theme—a delight to hear but exceedingly difficult to play! The specific escapades depicted include Till’s riding on horseback through the marketplace, scattering townsfolk and creating havoc as he goes; posing as a priest and delivering a sermon mocking religious pomposity; trading flattering chit-chat with young ladies but suffering rejection; confounding learned academics with questions they cannot answer; and finally his capture, trial and execution by hanging. The sweet introduction returns, only to be swept rudely away as the seemingly imperishable Till re-appears, thumb firmly to nose, to deliver one final jeer.

Program note by Don Anderson

Ludwig Van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61

Born: Bonn, Germany December 15, 1770
Died: Vienna, Austria March 26, 1827
Composed: 1806
Duration: 48 minutes

Beethoven studied the violin in childhood, and though he was never more than mediocre player—his performances of his own violin sonatas, according to his accompanist, were “dreadful”—he came to know the instrument’s resources intimately. He composed his only violin concerto for a leading Viennese virtuoso, Franz Clement, whose playing was admired not so much for power and bravura as for beauty, elegance, and delicacy. Beethoven obviously kept this in mind: witness the insistent lyricism and high tessitura of the solo part in the first movement, and the gracious ornamentation in the second. (Clement may have collaborated on the solo part, with which Beethoven struggled.) The concerto was written in haste, apparently in just four or five weeks (the manuscript is a mess), and finished just in time for the première on December 23, 1806, at which Clement was virtually sight-reading.

The first movement, long and crowded with incident, has the heroic, occasionally militaristic tone of many of Beethoven’s middle-period works, but it is also leisurely, lyrical, and quiet to a degree unusual in a fast movement of a concerto. Beethoven was thinking symphonically; note, for instance, how the motif of five repeated notes, quietly introduced by the timpani in the opening bars, pervades the movement. Indeed, the soloist often seems incidental, embellishing and commenting on ideas that are introduced and primarily developed by the orchestra.

The slow movement, its solemn, hymnlike theme quietly introduced by muted strings, unfolds at first as a conventional set of variations, but changes course midway, becoming something altogether more remarkable and profound. A second theme is introduced among the variations, then a third; the original theme seems all but forgotten; the movement evolves as a kind of rhapsodic fantasy. The music is deeply expressive, dreamy, poetic, and the pastoral mood and picturesque solo-orchestra dialogues hint that Beethoven may have been composing with some private program in mind.

The finale, which follows without a break, is also pastoral: it has the rhythm of traditional “hunting” music. The wit, playfulness, and studied naïveté of the music nicely balance the grandeur of the first movement, though there is also a sweetly melancholy episode in the middle. The long, jubilant coda is founded on transformations of the main theme, and the violin gets one last, charming solo—pianissimo!—just before the final chords.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

The TSO Chamber Soloists

Thu, April 7th, 2022 at 6:45 pm

James Ehnes, violin
Jonathan Crow, violin
Rémi Pelletier, viola
Theresa Rudolph, viola
Joseph Johnson, cello

Ludwig Van Beethoven: String Quintet in C Major, Op. 29, “Storm”

Born: 1770
Composed: 1801

With Beethoven’s String Quintet in C major Op 29, his sole work originally conceived for the medium, we move to 1801 and the final phase of his so-called ‘first period’. This strangely neglected masterpiece is Janus-headed, at once retrospective and prophetic. Although Beethoven did not model the work directly on any of Mozart’s string quintets, he never wrote a more voluptuously Mozartian slow movement than the Adagio molto espressivo. On the other hand, the tranquil expansiveness and harmonic breadth of the quintet’s first movement prefigure later masterpieces like the first ‘Razumovsky’ String Quartet, Op. 59 No. 1, and the ‘Archduke’ Piano Trio.

With its explosive pianissimo tremolos (a foretaste here of Schubert’s C minor Quartettsatz), and fragmentary, combustible main theme, enhanced by ‘lightning flashes’ on its restatement by the cello, the 6/8 finale has been nicknamed ‘The Storm’ in German-speaking countries. A childlike contrasting theme, almost a nursery tune, appears in A flat, a key as unorthodox as the A major of the first movement. In the development the ‘storm’ atmosphere returns with a vengeance, with snatches of the main theme contrapuntally combined with a pair of new ideas in 2/4 time. Then, with the tension barely dispelled, the tempo changes to Andante con moto e scherzoso, the key, significantly, to A major (the main secondary key of the first movement), for an exaggeratedly courtly minuet, its mincing gait comically punctuated by sudden forte chords. The storm then returns, leading quickly to a more-or-less orthodox recapitulation. But Beethoven has two more surprises up his sleeve: a repeat of the Andante, now in C major (and with the forte interruptions exaggerated to fortissimo), and a coda that plunges into A flat, the key of the innocent second subject, confirming yet again that the relationship of keys a third apart is a prime preoccupation of this marvellously inventive work.

Program Note by Richard Wigmore courtesy Hyperion

The TSO Chamber Soloists

Founded in 2014, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Chamber Soloists came together with a mission to create programming featuring a diverse and varied range of instruments. Acclaimed as an ensemble of distinguished virtuosi, The TSO Chamber Soloists’ unique combination of winds, strings, keyboard, and percussion gives it the flexibility to present a wide range of unusual and infrequently performed repertoire, along with some of the best-loved works in the chamber music literature. Comprising principal players from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, The TSO Chamber Soloists have already performed around the world, from Roy Thomson Hall to the iconic Harpa Hall in Iceland, with such distinguished guest artists as Emanuel Ax, James Ehnes, Barbara Hannigan, and John Storgårds.

Curated by TSO Concertmaster Jonathan Crow, The TSO Chamber Soloists seek to bring audiences closer to the musicians of the Orchestra—personally and musically. As the chamber ensemble could be seen as a microcosm of the symphony orchestra, the intimate nature of chamber music invites the audience to a close encounter with the distinct personalities and talents of the TSO’s individual musicians, while the works performed offer a different perspective into a particular composer’s craft.

Rachmaninoff’s Second

Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492

Born: Salzburg, Austria, January 27, 1756
Died: Vienna, Austria December 05, 1791
Composed: 1785–1786
4 min

The Marriage of Figaro, a famous and scandalous play by the colourful French writer Beaumarchais—a sequel to his popular Barber of Seville—was first performed in Paris in 1784, but, even though it was published in German, Viennese theatres were banned from performing it. So it was with considerable audacity that Mozart and the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte began work on an operatic version in the fall of 1785. True, they excised most of the politics, but they were still working with controversial and inflammatory material widely considered subversive—if not revolutionary—both morally and politically, and some powerful forces in the Viennese court (including the composer Antonio Salieri) conspired to undermine the opera. Nevertheless, the première took place in Vienna on May 1, 1786. There were many encores, but the box-office receipts were disappointing and its success in Vienna was short-lived. By contrast, it was a huge hit in Prague, where it opened that December, and it was revived in Vienna (somewhat revised) in August 1789, after which its fame spread widely.

Figaro was Mozart’s breakthrough work in the genre that meant the most to him as a composer. It is long and ambitious, uncommonly nuanced and sophisticated, with characters more finely drawn and profoundly human than in any previous opera buffa; it is also very funny. As was usual, the overture was written last, just days before the première. The one-movement overture, by this time, had replaced the old three-movement sinfonia (the prototype of the concert symphony), though it was not until 1787, in Don Giovanni, that Mozart would write his first overture that actually quotes from the opera itself. In some earlier overtures, including those for Idomeneo and The Abduction from the Seraglio and this one, he sought at least to encapsulate the basic mood of the opera.

Beaumarchais’s original title was La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro, because the whole bewildering and hilarious plot unfolds over the course of a single “crazy day,” summed up perfectly in this bustling overture. (The score is marked Presto, a term Mozart used only when he wanted something played as fast as possible.) The main themes, all of them introduced quietly, convey stealth, aptly so for an opera laced with intrigue and disguise: the first theme scurries (strings and bassoons); the second darts and feints (strings, with commentary from flutes and oboes). The overture is set in an easygoing sonata form with no development section: a handful of themes is presented, then, after a quick transition back to the home key, the whole sequence is repeated. A brief coda featuring noisily chattering woodwinds follows, and the overture comes to a joyous close.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216

Born: Salzburg, Austria, January 27, 1756
Died: Vienna, Austria, December 05, 1791
Composed: 1775
24 min

Of the five violin concertos written by the 19-year-old Mozart in an astonishing nine-month burst of creativity in 1775, No. 3 in G Major, K. 216, remained one of Mozart’s own favourite pieces. In it, H. C. Robbins Landon wrote, “melody is piled upon melody and new ideas succeed each other in blissful insouciance of each other and of any strict formal pattern.”

Of the three later violin concertos, K. 216 was pivotal, as Mozart’s forms became increasingly original, adventurous, and irregular, full of strange and surprising digressions, yet always seeming coherent, logical, even inevitable, perfectly balancing freedom and order. It was also a definitive example of the Arcadian serenade style of Mozart’s later Salzburg works. Maynard Solomon describes the multi-movement serenade as having “originated as an amorous musical offering, an open-air work sung by a lover to his beloved.” Mozart imitated this style in much of his instrumental music, often giving a “vocal” part to a violin; but, in K. 216, he made the connection explicit, borrowing the opening theme of the first movement from the shepherd-king Aminta’s noble aria “Aer tranquillo e dì sereni” from Act I of Il rè pastore, a “serenata”—a short pastoral opera—that he had composed in Salzburg in April of 1775, the very month in which he began writing violin concertos.

The aria speaks of “tranquil air and serene days,” “fresh springs and green fields,” and Mozart translated this mood of idyllic pastorale, of amorous lyricism tinged with melancholy, into instrumental terms, transforming the violin concerto from a pleasant entertainment into a more poetic form of expression. The recapitulation in the first movement is preceded by a violin “recitative” also borrowed from Il rè pastore. There is a new world of sonority and sentiment in the dreamy, operatic Adagio, too. Mozart calls for flutes rather than oboes here (18th-century woodwind players often knew both instruments), and writes delicate melodic fioratura for the violin, supported by a serenade-like accompaniment of murmuring muted strings and pizzicato basses.

In the experimental finales of all three of the later violin concertos, Mozart plays fast and loose with the Classical rondo form by introducing the most unexpected contrasting episodes, yet, as stated earlier, he never loses control of his material. In K. 216, the jig-like Allegro unfolds as a perfectly conventional rondo, but just where we would expect the form to draw to a close, Mozart interpolates two delightful episodes. The first is a galant—a seductive French gavotte—in G minor, with dainty trills and a light, pizzicato accompaniment. (“It sounds as if a French dandy, with handkerchief to nose, had stepped in to reprove the boisterous dance of the Allegro,” wrote the musicologist Daniel Heartz.) The second interpolated episode is a jolly contredanse in G major, based on a popular tune of the day known as the “Strassburger” (hence the nickname “Strassburg” Concerto). Having thus indulged himself, to comic effect, Mozart brings back the jig, resolves the original rondo, and allows the concerto to close quietly, with a little curtsey from the oboes and horns.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

Born: Semyonovo, Russia, April 01, 1873
Died: Beverly Hills, United States of America, March 28, 1943
Composed: 1906–1907
60 min

In 1897, the première of Rachmaninoff’s ambitious and intensely dramatic First Symphony proved such an unmitigated disaster that it plunged the 24-year-old composer into a depression so profound that he was virtually unable to compose. He needed three years and the help of a psychiatrist to revitalize his creative muse. By the autumn of 1906, he came to feel that his activities as pianist and conductor were leaving too little time for his first love: composition. Seeking a retreat, he chose Dresden, Germany. He leased a villa there, where he would spend several months during each of the next two-and-a-half years. In that idyllic setting, he was free to relax, to ponder, and to allow his inherently expansive creative impulses to define their limits.

During this period, he composed several important scores, including Piano Sonata No. 1 and the symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead. Having finally exorcised the demon of his First Symphony’s failure, he was able to consider the creation of a successor. He took great care with it, sincerely wishing it to succeed. His efforts won total vindication when the first performance, which he conducted himself in St. Petersburg on February 8, 1908, scored a resounding triumph.

Many of Rachmaninoff’s works, including two of his three symphonies, are bound together by a simple four-note recurring theme or “motto” based on a 13th century Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) plainchant, reflecting a life-long morbid preoccupation with the theme of death in the composer’s work. In the Second Symphony the motif appears, played by the double basses, right at the beginning of the first movement’s slow, brooding introduction, then recurs in one form or another in each of the remaining three movements. The Allegro second movement offers a balance of restless, dramatic, and yearning elements. In its urgency and rhythmic drive the movement leans toward the tart style of Prokofiev, but only Rachmaninoff (or perhaps his idol, Tchaikovsky) could have written the soaring second theme.

The third movement Adagio is the symphony’s beating heart, contextualizing the motto in an outpouring of passionate lyricism virtually unsurpassed in all music. The principal theme is a long, glowing melody introduced by solo clarinet. As the movement develops, it touches repeated heights of rapture, before dying away into contented stillness. The symphony then concludes with a surging, joyful rondo fourth movement in which fleeting reminiscences of previous movements crop up, en route to an exhilarating conclusion.

Program note by Don Anderson

Truth in Our Time with NACO

Program

Nicole Lizée: Zeiss After Dark

Canadian Nicole Lizée (b. 1973) is an award-winning composer and video artist who creates new music from an eclectic mix of influences, including the earliest MTV videos, turntablism, rave culture, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Alexander McQueen, thrash metal, early video game culture, 1960s psychedelia, and 1960s modernism. Hailed by the CBC as a “brilliant musical scientist”, she is fascinated by the glitches made by outmoded and well-worn technology and captures these glitches, notates them, and integrates them into live performance. Lizée’s compositions range from works for orchestra and solo turntablist featuring DJ techniques fully notated and integrated into a concert music setting, to other unorthodox instrument combinations that include the Atari 2600 video game console, omnichords, stylophones, Simon™, vintage board games, and karaoke tapes. In the broad scope of her evolving oeuvre, she explores such themes as malfunction, reviving the obsolete, and the harnessing of imperfection and glitch to create a new kind of precision. Her commission list to date is comprised of over 50 works for numerous distinguished artists and ensembles.

Zeiss After Dark was a co-commission of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as one of 40 co-commissioned “Sesquies”—two-minute concert openers—to celebrate Canada’s Sesquicentennial in 2017. Premiered by the NAC Orchestra in Ottawa on February 23, 2017, it has since been performed by other ensembles. Lizée provides this description of her “Sesquie”:

Stanley Kubrick and cinematographer John Alcott filmed the unprecedented “candlelight scene” in Barry Lyndon using three-wick candles as the only light source. The resulting scene was unlike any other in cinema history for its look—gauzy and akin to a moving oil painting. The creativity and technical ingenuity required to capture this decidedly organic effect was considerable. Cameras with custom-mounted Zeiss lenses designed for NASA were Kubrick’s solution to an almost insurmountable problem of light. In writing this piece, I imagined a sonic equivalent: a musical work that brings sound into focus through techniques that emulate the conditions involved in ultra lowlight—glow, flicker, bokeh—reimagined for orchestra.

Scored for woodwind, brass, timpani, and percussion, Lizée draws on their distinctive timbres (as well as requiring the musicians to hand clap) to musically capture this cinematic low light technique.

Dmitry Shostakovich: Symphony No. 9 in E-flat major, Op. 70

After Dmitry Shostakovich’s (1906–1975) Ninth Symphony premiered on November 3, 1945, by the Leningrad Philharmonic conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky, it was clear by critical reaction that what was heard was not what had been expected. To be sure, the composer initially projected a kind of “heroic victory symphony”, one that could effectively memorialize the contributions of the Soviet people in the war effort against Nazism. In the end, the Ninth seemed to fall short; its comparatively lighthearted character was deemed to be an inappropriate response to—and reflection of—the post-war mood. The Soviet cultural authorities appeared to have felt this, and in 1948, they barred the Ninth Symphony (and other works by Shostakovich) from further performance. Only after Stalin’s death in 1953 was the ban lifted; the work was featured in concerts again beginning in 1955.

It’s possible that it was thought the Ninth Symphony would display, for example, a clearly defined emotional arc of victory over suffering. However, even such tropes are never just what they are at face value in Shostakovich’s music. There is frequently embedded a subtext of dark irony, which the composer honed from years of writing music under the deep scrutiny of Stalin and his Party. It’s worth considering that Shostakovich was aware that writing a “heroic victory symphony” would mean celebrating Stalin and his Party, who had previously murdered thousands, and whose oppressive regime, under which the composer had already suffered a very public denunciation in 1936, would resume after the war. Thus, it seemed impossible to create such a work while providing an authentic emotional outlet for what the Soviet people had been through. Perhaps, then, the bitter irony of this situation can only be expressed by the darkly humorous music of the Ninth.

The opening Allegro is a comic affair with two main themes: a jaunty motif introduced by the first violins, and later, a cheeky tune piped by the piccolo, announced boisterously by the trombone with timpani and snare drum. (One can’t help but hear circus music in the latter.) Tension builds as the themes develop, becoming caricatures of themselves as they reach a frenzied climax. The key melodies are reprised but given new instrumentation and context, the movement’s darker edge becomes more evident.

Solo clarinet begins the second movement with a kind of melancholy, off-kilter waltz melody, which is then taken up by the flute, along with the bassoon. The strings lumber in with an anxious ascending passage, over which oboe and clarinet rise in lament. Solo flute brings back the main theme, after which the strings’ lumbering passage also returns, but at a higher register; they break through to an ethereal peak. The piccolo closes the movement with a plaintive final rendition of the opening melody.

The last three movements are played through without pause. The Presto is a highly theatrical Scherzo of mercurial brilliance. Solo clarinet takes the lead again, this time with a sparkling theme, which is then played by woodwinds, and later, strings. In the trio, the trumpet blasts a lampoon of a song tune. After the Scherzo’s return, the pace slows and the mood takes a solemn turn, leading into the fourth movement, which begins with a stentorian passage of menacing dotted rhythms played by trombones and tuba. This ominous “announcement” alternates with a meditative bassoon solo of elegiac quality. Is this music looking back at the war or forward, as a portent of things to come? Whatever it is, it doesn’t dwell here for long. As if shaking off bad memories or future concerns, the bassoon starts the finale with a charming tune, which is reprised throughout in various guises. The strings later present a robust theme. Gradually, the orchestra advances with the main melody; the pace suddenly quickens, eventually reaching a climax—the light-stepping tune now a military march. (Whether this is an authentic or forced celebration is open to interpretation). The tempo picks up again, and the orchestra scampers to the symphony’s end.

Erich Korngold: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35

Erich Korngold (1897–1957) composed his Violin Concerto during the summer of 1945. At the time, he was living in Hollywood with his family, in exile from his native Vienna since 1938, away from the Second World War being fought in Europe. He dedicated the work to Alma Mahler-Werfel, a friend, and also a recent émigré to Los Angeles with her husband, the writer Franz Werfel. The Concerto was premiered on February 15, 1947 by soloist Jascha Heifetz with the St. Louis Symphony directed by Vladimir Golschmann.

After a childhood as a celebrated musical prodigy and a burgeoning career as a leading composer of opera and concert music in Europe, since 1935, Korngold had been writing almost exclusively film scores for Hollywood. While this was a career move that ultimately helped save him (he was Jewish), his family, and his music from Nazi persecution, he intended to return to what he was doing before, back in Vienna, once the war was over. The Violin Concerto was intended to facilitate his “comeback”. He finally returned in 1949 (following a major heart attack in 1947) but soon found himself an outsider: the younger generation seemed to not know of him, and he was dismissed for being “merely” a film composer. Furthermore, his post-war concert works, including his Violin Concerto, were criticized for being “old fashioned”—their sumptuous harmonies and passionate melodies characteristic of late Romantic, fin-de-siècle style were felt to be out of touch with more modern idioms and the traumas of the Second World War. He died thinking he’d be largely forgotten, but in the 1970s, interest his film scores sparked renewed attention to his concert works. Today, his Violin Concerto is now an established work in the concert hall and on recordings, beloved by violinists and enjoyed by audiences everywhere.

In his own introductory note to the Violin Concerto, Korngold wrote, in 1947, “I have always remained true to my own beliefs; that music should be melodic, and as an old Viennese master used to preach and teach to me—‘wohllautend’ (well sounding).” It suggests that Korngold strongly felt that even after the horrors of war, there is still a place for music that is beautiful and hopeful, full of adventure and fantasy, like his symphonic film scores. In fact, the Concerto itself draws on music he composed for four movies in the late 1930s. The first movement’s noble opening theme, introduced by the solo violin, is from Another Dawn (1936). It becomes a refrain throughout, structurally delineating key sections: a quicksilver transition, followed by a tenderly passionate second theme, this one from the score to Juarez (1939); then another fast section, including the solo violinist’s cadenza, after which the main themes are reprised, inventively rescored. The movement closes with a flourish.

The Romance is a dreamy, rhapsodic song for violin on a melody from Korngold’s score to Anthony Adverse (1936), which had earned him an Oscar. It bookends an atmospheric contrasting section evocative of night. A vigorous dance of a finale follows. Based on music from another film score, The Prince and the Pauper (1937), this is a virtuosic tour-de-force for the soloist, giving this Concerto a dazzling finish. 

Philip Glass: Symphony No. 13

Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen to David Bowie, American composer Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times. He is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film, and in popular music—simultaneously. Over the last 25 years, he has completed over 25 operas, 12 symphonies, 13 concertos, film soundtracks, nine string quartets, and a growing body of work for solo piano and organ.

Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 13 was commissioned for Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra by the Jennings family as a tribute to the late Toronto-born Canadian journalist Peter Jennings. A highly respected news anchor for ABC News, Jennings was also a trustee of Carnegie Hall during his years in New York City, the founding director of the American chapter of the Friends of the NAC Orchestra, and served as a lifelong champion of Canadian artists generally. The world premiere of the work was given by the NAC Orchestra in Toronto on March 30, 2022; tonight’s performance is the Symphony’s US premiere.

Philip Glass provides the following introduction to his new work:

I started to compose Symphony No. 13 in the summer of 2020 in New York City. My life as a “symphonist” began 30 years ago in 1992, when, at the suggestion of conductor Dennis Russell Davies, I was commissioned to write my First Symphony. While I always thought of myself as a theatre composer—which has the virtue of being true—it was Dennis that “didn’t want me to be one of those opera composers who never wrote a symphony.”

So, while I have spent the majority of my creative life in theatre in one form or another, through friendly coercion and also with great joy, I have written a number of symphonies which were purely instrumental, as well as another group which included vocal materials or were based on outside material: poetry, wisdom traditions, and even popular music. 

I first heard the National Arts Centre Orchestra live in 2016 at the Glenn Gould Prize concert when they performed my Symphony No. 8. I have had a home in Nova Scotia for over 50 years and come here every year. And a number of my pieces have premiered in Canada over the years. When invited by the NAC Orchestra to compose a new work, I began to think of a new full-scale instrumental symphony to be part of their program “Truth in Our Time.”  The piece is part of the kind of music which I view to be a new body of work that started with Symphony No. 11 from five years ago. The journey continues to explore my own ideas about the language of music as it has evolved for me in the form of these symphonies. 

What can a piece of music express about the idea of truth? When we consider a figure like Peter Jennings, a Canadian by birth, an immigrant, a journalist, an American by choice, rather than making a proclamation about “what is truth,” for the composer we are on much better ground when we talk about “This is the music that I listen to, this is the music that I like, and this is the music that I write.”

Program notes by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley

**Commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in honour of Canadian journalist Peter Jennings, thanks to the Jennings Family.

Saraste + Sibelius

Program

Samy Moussa: Crimson for large orchestra

Appointed Artist-in-Residence at the TSO in 2020—the first such appointment in TSO history—Montreal-born Samy Moussa’s music features in four contrasting programs between now and the end of the TSO season in June, including, in the last week of May, his Symphony No. 2, a TSO-commissioned world premiere. On Crismon for large orchestra, Moussa writes:

“I always start a composition from the beginning. This is essential, otherwise invention is impossible. Crimson was no exception: it took 62 different overtures before finally obtaining something that I considered satisfactory. Each of these openings was a plausible option, but I was looking for something else. One might think that I have absolute control over the music that I write, but that’s not true. Music is a living matter and very often has its own will. I only knew that it had to be resolute, loud, metallic, homophonic and equivocal.”

Program note by Durand Salabert Eschig

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 105

composed 1918 to 1924, 24 min

Symphonic writing did not come easily to Sibelius. He was already four years into the writing of his Symphony No.5, which concludes this concert, when he began making notes for his Symphony No. 6 and No. 7 (although whether to even call them symphonies was one of the things that plagued the composer). No. 7 was in fact premiered in 1924 under the title In the early notes for No. 7, he envisioned a symphonic composition in three movements, planning to make the last one “a Hellenic rondo.” By the early ’20s the work had assumed a more conventional four-movement symphonic shape, and it was only in the summer of 1923 that it began to take on its final, one-movement form.

Under the title Fantasia sinfonica (Symphonic Fantasy), it was premièred in Stockholm on March 24, 1924. Sibelius conducted six further performances before the year was out, none of them, surprisingly, in Finland. Its debut in his homeland was delayed until April 1927. It was only when it was published in 1925 that Sibelius settled on calling it Symphony No. 7.

Yet within its single-movement span occur different sections that can be parsed as aspects of the three-movement symphony he envisioned in 1918. A long, slow Adagio leads to a skittering Scherzo of dizzying pace. This in turn gives way to a substantial Allegro, followed by a powerful epilogue.

The effect, though, is not one of collage. Sibelius constructs a convincing unity from this variety. The classical ideal of unity involves a kind of architectural structure, while the romantic vision suggests organic transformation of motifs. The composer repeatedly reconsiders his thrifty economy of musical material, shifting the perspectives of time and space from which he views it.

Sibelius begins with a roll on the timpani that will have great significance. A rising scale ensues, ending on a startling, eccentric harmony. Pastoral fragments from the winds add new material, leading to the thrillingly noble call of a solo trombone—the first of three times the trombone motif makes its shining appearance, becoming a kind of axis along which the Symphony spins. Each time, it seems to summon a clarity from amid Sibelius’s varied orchestral textures, tempi, and rhythmic figurations.

The epilogue is grippingly beautiful. It averts the impending sense of crisis, reaffirming the home we have never really left—a kind of primal C major—in a way that would seem impossible to so many modernist contemporaries of Sibelius. The last dissonance we hear is literally a step into the blazing affirmation of the final chord. Sibelius has somehow made C major seem new and unfamiliar—even frightening. With this chord and the silence following, he caps his entire symphonic cycle.

After creating two more major works, an incidental score for Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, and the symphonic poem Tapiola, Sibelius lived out the remaining three decades of his life without releasing any significant new music – despite working on an Eighth Symphony for several years. His ever-increasing sense of self-criticism would not permit him to release it, nor possibly even complete it.

Program note by Thomas May (with additional notes by Don Anderson)

In TSO history: Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 105 was last performed on November 11, 2016 – Peter Oundjian, conductor

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82

composed 1914 to 1919, 32 min

The Fifth Symphony was a pivotal work in Sibelius’s career. He had come to realize that he could not keep pace with the revolutionary experiments of composers like Schoenberg and Stravinsky, who rejected traditional melody, harmony and form. The Fifth, the first important product of this aesthetic crisis, was Sibelius’s reply to musical modernism, and he knew that such an overtly Romantic and accessible work would damage his reputation among champions of “progressive” music. Sure enough, it was viewed as a throwback, as a retreat from the forward-looking tendencies of his leaner, more dissonant Fourth Symphony of 1911.

But Sibelius himself must have thought the Fifth a watershed, for he worked long and hard at it —“struggled with God,” as he put it. He produced two versions of it, in 1915 and 1916, and at one point all but recomposed it, before he completed it, in 1919. Even then, he briefly considered publishing the first movement alone as a “symphonic fantasia.”

Today, the Fifth seems less “reactionary” than one of a kind — a unique and highly idiosyncratic rethinking of symphonic form. It owes so little to formulas drawn from classical or Romantic models that Sibelius considered replacing the title “symphony” with “fantasia,” and yet the music still has the generous proportions, the structural solidity, and the seriousness of purpose that we associate with the symphony genre. With its three movements forming a continuous, coherent drama, the Fifth was a way-station en route to the Seventh, which is in a single long movement.

The first movement is powerful and organic, with a compelling logic. The opening is tentative: the tempo is slow, the home key (E-flat major), is only weakly established and immediately undermined, and the “theme” consists of fragmentary motifs. Yet these motifs are clearly related, and as the movement unfolds they are recast and developed in such a way that the music seems to gradually cohere, as though evolving toward some sort of resolution. At the height of this process, the music suddenly begins to dance, shifting into the tempo and meter of a scherzo. In this driving scherzo section, all the tension of the first part gradually dissipates. Motifs are further developed, the tempo progressively quickens, and in its blazing, breathless final bars the movement achieves that unequivocal assertion of the home key so noticeably wanting at the beginning.

The second movement is naïve and pastoral in character, and its genial theme (pizzicato strings and staccato woodwinds) is varied and transformed throughout, at times in richly expressive settings. But beneath the theme-and-variations form something else is going on; in the opening bars, woodwind-and-horn chords introduce a note of tension, which persists throughout the movement. As the music unfolds, motifs from the first movement are recalled, and there are foreshadowings of themes from the finale. This seemingly innocent intermezzo is in fact a crucial pivot between the more dramatic outer movements, and by the end it has generated all of the musical material out of which the finale—and the resolution of the whole symphony—will be forged.

Like the first movement, the finale is a goal-directed conception, in which the second half functions as an intensification of the first. The bustling opening theme, “piled up” through most of the orchestra, opens onto a broad, swinging new idea in the horns, which is repeated until it acquires a timeless quality that suggests a goal attained. After a brief, dark interlude, the whole process is repeated, this time at greater length, and laced with new dissonance, tension, and ambiguity, so that the final statements of the horn theme, in an unsullied E-flat major, are all the more triumphant — more powerful because more hard-won. (Even from his earliest sketches, Sibelius knew that this theme would provide the climax for the whole symphony.)

And at the end of it all is one of the strangest and most awesome final pages in all music: six stark chords, torn apart by long pauses, whose only function is to make a grand, definitive cadence. This final assertion of E-flat major seems almost polemical, as though Sibelius meant to assert the continuing validity of key-centred tonality in the face of a, for him, cripplingly hostile modernism; his own historical situation becomes part of the very subject-matter of his symphony.

Sibelius’ distinctive melodies and musical style —the famously “Nordic” quality of his orchestrations —were deeply influenced by his experiences of nature in the Finnish woods where he made his home. In this symphony, the work’s final triumphant horn theme was inspired by the image of swans flying over the lake that adjoined his property. He came to think of this theme as the “Swan Hymn” (perhaps contradicting one popular notion that it conjures up the swinging of Thor’s hammer). In 1919, just after putting his pen to the score of the Fifth Symphony for the last time, Sibelius saw twelve white swans settle on the lake, then take off and circle his home three times before flying away. It seemed like a good omen.

Program note by Kevin Bazzana

In TSO history: Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 82 was last performed on April 8, 2018 – Sir Andrew Davis, conductor