Tag Archives: Dominion-Chalmers United Church

Brahms, Debussy and a Canadian Voyage

Posted by Liz

New music to start off Friday’s concert schedule with Canadian Voyage at midday, featuring various new works by Canadian composers. The last (and best) piece was Victor Herbiet’s Concerto de Chambre; the piece was written to show that new saxophone music need not be alienating! The sextet (saxophone, 2 violins, viola, cello and piano) was an interesting mix of romantic-style melodies and technique. A very interesting 2-movement work that ought to be played regularly. out of the other works, Soulmate from Chan Kai Nin (for solo cello) was excellent but I found Still Time by John Burge to be harder to fathom.

Moving swiftly to Dominion-Chalmers for an afternoon of entertainment from ‘Alexander Tselyakov and Friends’. True light-hearted entertainment, perfectly suited to 2pm. Tselyakov père et fils started the afternoon with a piano four-hands arrangement of Debussy’s Petite Suite. Subsequently Tselyakov, Arianna Warsaw-Fan and Julian Armour (the latter two, after a few days of sheet music blowing around, with clothes pegs on their music stands) performed the short but very expressive Piano Trio in G major, again by Debussy.

A change of composer to Milhaud, whom I don’t recall having heard in concert before. I thought his Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, Op 157b matched the Debussy trio in good-humoured beautiful music, but livelier. The odd discordant moment in the fourth movement added an extra twist. Finishing off with a flourish came courtesy of Saint-Saëns’ Septet for Trumpet, String Quintet and Piano, Op 65.

Later on I headed to Saint Brigid‘s. The heat kept me away from the first half of A Brahms Night Out, but I heard some of the DJ set in the interim and it brought to mind the image of dancing in a field with glow sticks. There was a reasonable audience for Orchestra de la francophonie’s (OF) performances of Brahms’ Third and Fourth Symphonies Opp 90 and 98, plus a new work by Julien Bilodeau. Bilodeau’s piece, Concerto du printemps pour piano et orchestre, had a varied mix including interesting piano parts, a full orchestral scream, lots of percussion and ended with a kind of slap. Totally different from Brahms, maybe almost too different in terms of programming.

Brahms’ Fourth Symphony was the more enjoyable of the two. The OF played well, but sadly not as well as the Zürich Academic Orchestra on Tuesday. It was again refreshing to see a group of young musicians on stage, though I did not envy them having to perform in jeans!

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Violin virtuoso part 2 – The Rivered Earth concludes

Posted by Liz

Continuing on from yesterday’s high quality performances, The Rivered Earth 3 was a spectacular, spine-tingling performance from Lawrence Wiliford, Philippe Honoré, Seventeen Voyces, Music and Beyond Festival Orchestra and the captivating young singers from Christ Church Cathedral Choir.

The Traveller tells the human story through transcriptions of sacred and secular Indian texts. The 4 ages of live – childhood, youth, adulthood and old age – were bracketed with Vikram Seth’s addition of the unborn and the dead. At the start of each chapter, a bell rang and Wiliford read a verse from the Rig Veda’s Hymn to Creation.

Right from the beginning the show was spellbinding, from the choristers and Honoré processing from the back of the church, to the children’s choir singing the nursery rhyme Ram Ram Shah – ‘woop’ glissandi included! Honoré had the treat of playing yet more excellent violin parts. The music mix was always interesting and varied from hot and angry to almost like a soundtrack; the tolling bell in ‘The Dead’ was very atmospheric.

The audience wasn’t the largest I’ve seen at Dominion-Chalmers but they were certainly amongst the loudest in applause and whooping!

The fourth and final instalment of The Rivered Earth was of a much more intimate nature. Two cycles based on the theme of The Seven Elements were performed in succession: the first, a song cycle for tenor and piano on the elements Earth, Air, Wood, Fire, Metal, Water and Space; the second a suite for violin and piano on the same elements but performed in a different order. All highly captivating and evocative; there were no introductions but the piano part (performed by Jean Desmarais) clearly brought to life each element, with excellent vocal performance by Isaiah Bell. The chord pattern in ‘Fire’ made me smile – in a small way it felt like an echo from a 1990s dance track!

The Seven Elements Suite for violin and piano, played by Desmarais and Honoré, was even more interesting and enchanting, conjuring up many mindscapes. According to my recollection, the Elements were performed in this order: Earth, Water, Wood, Air, Metal, Space, Fire. Again, I felt that this suite stepped almost into the indie-classical realm. The suite referenced the song cycle but with a different angle. For example ‘Water’ – in the song cycle the piano part sounded drippy and expansive, mimicking still water and the roar of a flood or waterfall. In the suite, ‘Water’ became smoother, more like a gurgling stream. Conversely, the themes for ‘Space’ were much more common across the two cycles. The violin parts were mostly simpler in sound than Ponticelli (Rivered Earth 2) but no less enthralling.

A short trio to finish – The Hermit on the Ice was fascinating and continued the mesmeric style of the concert, ending in a ‘repeat to fade’ motif on the piano.

All in all a wonderful concert cycle. The two CDs that currently exist would be excellent choices and I hope someone somewhere records The Traveller and The Seven Elements. Certainly with a bit of skillful marketing, Ponticelli and The Seven Elements Suite could easily appeal to fans of Amiina or Ólafur Arnalds.

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Violin virtuosi part 1 – The Rivered Earth and Earthen Grave

Posted by Liz

Today saw the start of the much-anticipated The Rivered Earth series of concerts featuring music by Alec Roth and libretti by Vikram Seth. Part 1, introduced by Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld and Seth, was a performance of Songs In Time Of War, written by Seth after the Chinese Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu. Lawrence Wiliford‘s voice was elegantly restrained and fitted with the violin, harp and guitar accompaniment of Philippe Honoré, Michelle Gott and Daniel Bolshoy. The set of 12 songs transported the spellbound audience to far away worlds. In particular I enjoyed the 4th and 8th songs, ‘A Fine Lady’ and ‘ The Old Cypress Tree at the Temple of Zhu-ge Liang’. Meanwhile, number 11 ‘Ballad of the Army Carts’ conjured up images from epic films such as Red Cliff. Roth’s music narrated along with the libretti, with effects such as ‘scratch’ violin to match the story.

Rivered Earth Part 2 featured Shared Ground and Ponticelli, each inspired by the Stuart poet George Herbert and for unaccompanied chorus and solo violin respectively. In the Ex Cathedra/Philippe Honoré recording, each work is played through, though it is possible to perform them as an interlocking sequence, which we heard today.

Seventeen Voyces, Larkin Singers and soloist Isaiah Bell provided a stellar performance, but in my mind the greatest plaudits go to Honoré for his performances. Heard alternately, each part of Ponticelli at least in some way referenced the preceding Shared Ground song. Ponticelli 1 ‘Flat Bridge’ and 3 ‘Arched Bridge’ had to my ears a fleeting similarity to some of the works of Icelandic indie-classical artist Ólafur Arnalds. The vocal settings had an almost song-like structure, with most verses having the title as a bridge/chorus.

From one super violinist to another, this time with a radically different sound: Rachel Barton Pine and her band Earthen Grave. Also a rather different setting – a metal band playing a church, albeit de-consecrated. Playing a set list predominantly from their current self-titled album, Earthen Grave executed a very professional performance and managed to engage the audience (which was mostly Music and Beyond passholders), although it did take a while mainly due to the type of venue and the relatively small crowd. There were a few of us up at the front, but compared to a more typical rock live music venue, it must have been weird for the 6 performers (including excellent stand-in drummer Chad Walls) to see people sat in pews! Some more concertgoers were standing for the final track, a rendition of Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave. The special violin Viper definitely added an extra timbre to their sound. Based on this performance, the band and album are highly recommended!

Both Honoré and Pine are performing tomorrow in The Rivered Earth Parts 3 and 4 and Paganini: The Complete Caprices.

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Orchestral excellence – Denise Djokic, Zürich Academic Orchestra; Moscow String Quartet

Posted by Liz

Something of a step away from chamber concerts to something larger this afternoon. Concert-goers at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts were treated to a wonderful afternoon concert by Denise Djokic and the Zürich Academic Orchestra (AOZ). The AOZ, founded 1897, is an 80-odd strong orchestra comprising students from Universität Zürich and ETH Zürich. A fellow concert-goer noted later the smart attire of the AOZ in comparison to the occasionally less-than smart NAC Orchestra. It was refreshing to see a stage full of young people (with a good gender balance too) playing high quality music and enjoying themselves immensely in the process.

First up was an intense new work  – according to the Swiss Ambassador to Canada, Ulrich Lehner, I believe comissioned for the AOZ – by Éric Champagne, entitled Mouvement symphonique no 1. Starting with a chromatic brass element, the short piece was full of contrasts and a good amount of percussion. I thought it a shame to end so soon – the end snuck up almost unexpected.

After this invigorating opener, Denise Djokic joined the AOZ for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op 104. The crowd was spellbound by Djokic’s expressive playing and stage presence as well as excellent playing from the AOC. Whilst the final work, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5, was of equal quality, for me it felt like a slight anticlimax after the Dvořák.

A quick venue change to Dominion-Chalmers for the Moscow String Quartet. I could only stay for the first half, but Borodin’s String Quartet No 2 was supreme and Three Pieces for String Quartet by Stravinsky excellent and unusual! These short pieces were a striking difference to the Borodin piece, but included glissandi and some spiky cello parts. The second work had something of the character of a cartoon chase!

Anyone still without a ticket for Ben Heppner on 15th July should head over to iPricedit.com. The final block of reserved seating tickets are available as a ‘set your own price’ bid.

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Friday Celebrations – Pressler and NAC Winds, Jewish Composers Party

Posted by Liz

Day 3 and if anything, the quality of concerts has gone up, as has the size of the audience. Today’s daytime concerts at Dominion-Chalmers were about 75% and 85% full. First up, the ever-popular Menahem Pressler, today with the Principal Winds of the NAC Orchestra. It’s good to hear a slightly different take on chamber repertoire, although the program (Mozart and Beethoven) remained very much ‘core’. Each piece – Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds and Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and Winds – was performed excellently, with Messrs Hamann, Sykes, Vine and Millard (and Pressler!) making the performance look easy. Both pieces seemed to me to be characteristic of each composer. I preferred the Beethoven, especially the 2nd movement, but really there wasn’t a bad moment.

A break for lunch before the even more popular Jewish Composers through the Ages concert. Sponsored by longtime friends of chamber music Teena and Walter Hendelman to celebrate their golden wedding, the atmosphere was part gala, part party. The selection of works (each introduced by Julian Armour) included big names (Gershwin, Copland) to relatively obscure composers (Rossi, Meyerbeer). I particularly enjoyed the suite of cello and piano works performed by Paul Marleyn and Dina Namer: Bloch’s ‘Prayer’ from From Jewish Life; Stutschewsky’s Kihan; and Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody. Lovely melodies and a dance edge to the Popper.

After the interval the excerpt ‘Lied’ from Korngold’s very romantic Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Op 23 proved very popular, as did Gershwin’s Two Preludes performed by Namer. The closing piece, Glick’s Old Toronto Klezmer Suite, was a very fun and fitting end to the show. All 4 movements were fun in their own ways; ‘The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul’ announced the after-concert reception with its party ending.

I am off to see The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings in concert this evening, but for string quartet fans tonight is the first of the Borodin Quartet’s Brahms and Tchaikovsky cycle.

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Day 2 Part 2 – Dance and Rachmaninoff

Posted by Liz

A complete evening of high quality performances – I heard from attendees of A Lover And His Lass that the evening was wonderful (for more detail, read Richard Todd’s review in the Ottawa Citizen).

The auditorium at the former Ottawa Technical High School was at least three-quarters full for last night’s Music and Dance spectacular. I can’t remember the last time I went to a dance program, but the evening was very entertaining and highly informative. Having just a few musicians to accompany the dancers introduced a more intimate element to the performances.

It was very interesting to see the Baroque dance sequences by Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière and Mikael Bouffart: wonderfully ornate costumes and excellent acting, especially in La Verdinguette (Jacques Champion de Charbonnières). Harpsichord accompanist Marie Bouchard received almost equal acclaim; her performance of Froberger’s ‘Lamento sopra…’ from Partita VI in C Major FbWV 612 was superb. Bouchard described the piece as an ‘unmeasured prelude’ and there was certainly a familiarity with some of the piano prelude repertoire.

Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stancyzk were clearly the stars of the evening, keeping the audience spellbound. Their performance of the pas de deux from Swan Lake was extremely well received, but the subsequent Lady of the Camelias (set to excerpts from the quintet arrangement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1) performance was even more superb.

At this point the scheduled program was somewhat mixed up, but this didn’t detract from some excellent instrumental performances by Wonny Song, Paul Marleyn and Yehonatan Berick.

Another excellent concert followed – Arianna Warsaw-Fan, Julian Armour, Matthew Larkin and Andrew Tunis playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Trios, featuring performances of the Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor and Trio élégiaque No. 2, the latter in the original arrangement with harmonium. Both performances had the reasonably sized audience rapt. Trio élégiaque No. 1 was incredibly atmospheric: beautiful melodies and great variation between flowing and gritty elements. Trio élégiaque No. 2 (written in homage to Tchaikovsky) was more difficult. The 2nd movement (quazi variazone) with the harmonium was very interesting and the violent piano passages were impressive, but I found the piece overall rather exhausting. A very full-on concert for a late night slot, but it was a good experience and I hope the two Fauré nocturnes concerts have as good attendance.

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Day 2 Part 1 – Fine Arts Quartet

Posted by Liz

The first full day of Music and Beyond started very early with Pre-Concert Yoga at Dominion-Chalmers United Church. Thanks to Sofia for a good stretch! After a quick refresh I returned to Dominion-Chalmers for the Fine Arts Quartet concert at midday.

Fresh from their Gala performance, the Quartet appeared to be in fine fettle, in front of a good-sized audience (my impression was that the church was pretty full for a midday concert). Of the three string quartets performed today, Dohnányi’s String Quartet No 2 in D flat, Op 15, was my favourite. The piece was rich and full of energy, especially the 2nd movement, with all 3 movements featuring many mood changes. Going by the level of applause, the Dohnányi was a definite hit!

The first quartet, Haydn’s String Quartet in F, Op 74 No 2, was extremely well-played and on that level I did enjoy it, although I am generally not really a Haydn fan. After the interval, Zimabalist’s String Quartet in E minor (1931/1959) created a very different atmosphere: lots of drama, variations between lighter and darker, grittier sections and a (to me) film-like feeling in the third movement. That said, I found the Zimbalist piece overall less engrossing than the Dohnányi.

All three quartets were performed superbly; in particular I noticed a fair few brilliantly executed viola and cello ‘solo’ phrases.

A few fellow concert-goers have mentioned tonight’s dilemma – Wallis Guinta in A Lover And His Lass or Music and Dance?! I’ve opted for Music and Dance followed by Rachmaninoff Piano Trios.

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