Bach’s Magnificent Magnificat

In May 1723 Bach was appointed Kantor of St Thomas, Leipzig – we would probably call him the Director of Music – where he remained until his death in 1750. It was a hugely demanding post, involving teaching at the church school, playing the organ, training the choir and composing the music for the city’s two principal Lutheran churches as well as supervising and training the musicians at three others. Despite this enormous workload and recurrent disputes with the city authorities, Bach composed some of his greatest music during this period. His choral compositions alone include such towering masterpieces as the St John and St Matthew Passions, the Magnificat and the Mass in B minor, as well as the Christmas Oratorio and some 250 church cantatas.

The Magnificat – the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke I: 46-55) – traditionally formed part of the ancient Roman Catholic service of Vespers. After the Reformation it was incorporated into the evening services of the Lutheran and Anglican churches, in which it was linked with the Nunc Dimittis. The Magnificat has been set to music more often than any liturgical text other than the Mass itself, in settings that vary enormously in style, from the purity of Palestrina’s exquisite four-part unaccompanied compositions to Monteverdi’s grand, dramatic settings written for St Mark’s, Venice, and later the almost symphonic conception of Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, of which the Magnificat forms the final movement, composed in 1780 for use in Salzburg Cathedral.

Bach’s Magnificat was written in Leipzig for the 1723 Christmas Vespers. This original version was in E-flat and included several additional Christmas texts inserted at various points in the piece. Some years later he revised it, removing the Christmas interpolations to make the piece suitable for use throughout the year and transposing it into D, a much brighter and more satisfactory key for the trumpets in particular.

The extraordinary impact of Bach’s great choral works derives essentially from his remarkable ability to balance, yet at the same time to exploit to the full, the spiritual and dramatic elements of each text, whether it be one as concise as the Magnificat or as monumental as the St Matthew Passion.

The Magnificat is conceived on a grand scale, requiring five soloists, a five-part choir and, for its time, an unusually large orchestra consisting of three trumpets, two flutes, two oboes, strings and continuo. In its splendour and jubilation the piece anticipates the great choruses of the later Mass in B minor. It begins with a brilliant orchestral introduction in which the trumpets feature prominently. This leads directly into an equally impressive chorus, ‘Magnificat anima mea Dominum’ (My soul doth magnify the Lord). The ten verses and Gloria that comprise the Magnificat canticle form a continuous and homogenous whole, in contrast with the libretto of an oratorio or Passion with its wide variety of extracts from many different Biblical and poetical sources. For this reason there are no recitatives in the Magnificat. Instead, each verse receives extended treatment, the chorus supplying appropriate emphasis to sections such as ‘Fecit potentiam in brachio suo’ (He hath showed strength with his arm), while the more reflective verses are assigned to the soloists. In the trio, ‘Suscepit Israel’ (He hath holpen his servant Israel), Bach gives the oboes a plainsong melody traditionally associated with the Magnificat. It appears as a cantus firmus, i.e. a melody in greatly extended notes, against which the three soloists weave decorative vocal lines. For the final verse, ‘Sicut erat in principio …. Amen’ (As it was in the beginning …. Amen), Bach appropriately mirrors the words by recalling the music that was heard ‘as it was in the beginning’, the Magnificat therefore ending as exuberantly and dramatically as it began.

Gryphon Trio – Artist Profile

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Gryphon Trio has impressed international audiences and the press with its highly refined, dynamic performances and has firmly established itself as one of the world’s preeminent piano trios. With a repertoire that ranges from the traditional to the contemporary and from European classicism to modern-day multimedia, the Gryphons are committed to redefining chamber music for the 21st century.

The Trio tours regularly throughout North America and Europe and their 20 recordings are an encyclopedia of works for the genre. They have commissioned over 75 new works, and regularly collaborate on projects that push the boundaries of chamber music. Honours include two Juno Awards for Classical Album of the Year, and the prestigious 2013 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts from the Canada Council.

Deeply committed to the education of the next generation of audiences and performers alike, the Gryphons frequently conduct masterclasses and workshops at universities and conservatories, and are Artists-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music and Trinity College.

Gryphon cellist Roman Borys is Artistic Director of Ottawa’s Chamberfest. Annalee Patipatanakoon and Jamie Parker serve as the festival’s Artistic Advisors in addition to their responsibilities at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, where Mr. Parker is the Rupert E. Edwards Chair in Piano Performance and Ms. Patipatanakoon is Associate Professor of Violin.

Beethoven’s Triple Threat

Beethoven composed his “Triple Concerto” op. 56, for his pupil and patron, the Archduke Rudolph of Austria, who was a pianist and amateur composer. Rudolph, who eventually became an archbishop, remained a life-long friend and patron of Beethoven, and was the only person to whom Beethoven ever gave regular instruction in composition. In addition to the “Triple Concerto”, the Archduke received the dedication of such important works as the Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos, the “Lebewohl” and “Hammerklavier” Sonatas, the op. 96 Violin Sonata, the “Archduke” Trio, the Missa Solemnis and the Grosse Fuge.

Beethoven’s choice of piano, violin and cello appears to be unprecedented in the literature—”really something new,” he wrote to his publisher. There was a popular genre in the Classical era known as the sinfonia concertante for two or more soloists with orchestral accompaniment, a revamped model of the Baroque concerto grosso. Mozart and Haydn left lovely examples, but the particular combination of piano, violin, and cello seems never to have been tried before.

He sketched the first movement early in 1803 during his most prolific period. At the same time he was composing the “Eroica” Symphony, the “Waldstein” and the “Appassionata” piano sonatas, and the first of the “Razumovsky” quartets. The “Triple Concerto” presented formidable compositional problems for Beethoven: how to give each soloist sufficient exposure while keeping the work within manageable formal bounds. To solve the problem, he had to devise simple and compact themes comprising basic chord and scale patterns, so this concerto is not rich in the dramatic transformation of material he was to employ in other middle-period compositions. The interest is to be found elsewhere—in the work’s contrasting sonorities, its interplay between soloists and orchestra, and its formal cohesion. This format, in turn, means that the concerto as a whole tends more toward lyric elaboration than to dramatic transformation of the material. The “Triple Concerto”, therefore, combines the scale of Beethoven’s grand concerto style with instrumental dialogues among the soloists in a manner more typical of chamber music.

The first, expansive movement commences in the murmuring cellos and basses presenting the rhythmic motif that dominates the initial subject, and ensuing movement. The second movement, a sublime melody presented by the solo cello, is, in contrast to the lengthy first movement, surprisingly brief. The peaceful theme is not developed; rather Beethoven links it to the final movement using a set of short variations in dialogue between the soloists. The prancing polonaise, “Rondo alla Polacca”, dances headstrong before erupting in the duple meter “Allegro”. The swaggering polonaise returns, bringing the Concerto to a stirring conclusion.

Often overshadowed by the composer’s other concertos, the rarely heard and underrated “Triple Concerto” stands as a testament to the composer’s craft and as a window to Beethoven’s future lyricism of the Fourth Piano Concerto, op. 58 and the Violin Concerto, op. 61.

The SSO will perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto on May 5th with the world renowned Gryphon Trio.

Shostakovich’s 9th

The ninth symphony was originally intended to be a celebration of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany in World War II (see Eastern Front). The composer declared in October 1943 that the symphony would be a large composition for orchestra, soloists and chorus “about the greatness of the Russian people, about our Red Army liberating our native land from the enemy”. On the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the Revolution held in 1944, Shostakovich affirmed, “Undoubtedly like every Soviet artist, I harbor the tremulous dream of a large-scale work in which the overpowering feelings ruling us today would find expression. I think the epigraph to all our work in the coming years will be the single word ‘Victory’.”

David Rabinovich recalled from a conversation he had with Shostakovich on the ninth symphony in 1944 that the composer “would like to write it for a chorus and solo singers as well as an orchestra”. In a meeting with his students on 16 January 1945, Shostakovich informed them that the day before he had begun work on a new symphony. A week later, he told them that he had reached the middle of the development section, and the work was going to open with a big tutti. Isaak Glikman heard around ten minutes of the music Shostakovich had written for the first movement in late April, which he described as “majestic in scale, in pathos, in its breathtaking motion”.

But then Shostakovich dropped the composition for three months. He resumed work on 26 July 1945 and finished on 30 August 1945. The symphony turned out to be a completely different work from the one he had originally planned, with neither soloists nor chorus and a much lighter mood. He forewarned listeners, “In character, the Ninth Symphony differs sharply from my preceding symphonies, the Seventh and the Eighth. If the Seventh and the Eighth symphonies bore a

The Origins of Felix the Cat

As part of our upcoming Silence Is Golden Charlie Chaplin Film Fest, we are thrilled to incorporate a classic Felix the Cat cartoon scored by the SSO.

On November 9, 1919, Master Tom, a prototype of Felix, debuted in a Paramount Pictures short entitled Feline Follies. Produced by the New York City-based animation studio owned by Pat Sullivan, the cartoon was directed by cartoonist and animator Otto Messmer. It was a success, and the Sullivan studio quickly set to work on producing another film featuring Master Tom, the Felix the Cat prototype in Musical Mews (released November 16, 1919). It too proved to be successful with audiences. Otto Messmer claimed that John King of Paramount Magazine suggested the name “Felix”, after the Latin words felis (cat) and felix (happy). The name was first used for the third film starring the character, The Adventures of Felix (released on December 14, 1919). Pat Sullivan claimed he named Felix after Australia Felix from Australian history and literature. In 1924, animator Bill Nolan redesigned the character, making him both rounder and cuter. Felix’s new looks, coupled with Messmer’s character animation, brought Felix to fame.

The question of who created Felix remains a matter of dispute. Sullivan stated in numerous newspaper interviews that he created Felix and did the key drawings for the character. On a visit to Australia in 1925, Sullivan told The Argus newspaper that “[t]he idea was given to me by the sight of a cat which my wife brought to the studio one day”. On other occasions, he claimed that Felix had been inspired by Rudyard Kipling‘s “The Cat that Walked by Himself” or by his wife’s love for strays.Members of the Australian Cartoonist Association have claimed that lettering used in Feline Follies matches Sullivan’s handwriting and that Sullivan lettered within his drawings. Sullivan’s supporters also say the case is supported by his March 18, 1917, release of a cartoon short entitled The Tail of Thomas Kat more than two years prior to Feline Follies. Both an Australian ABC-TV documentary screened in 2004 and the curators of an exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales in 2005 suggested that Thomas Kat was a prototype or precursor of Felix. However, few details of Thomas have survived. His fur color has not been definitively established, and the surviving copyright synopsis for the short suggests significant differences between Thomas and the later Felix. For example, whereas the later Felix magically transforms his tail into tools and other objects, Thomas is a non-anthropomorphized cat who loses his tail in a fight with a rooster, never to recover it.

Sullivan was the studio proprietor and—as is the case with almost all film entrepreneurs—he owned the copyright to any creative work by his employees. In common with many animators at the time, Messmer was not credited. After Sullivan’s death in 1933, his estate in Australia took ownership of the character.

It was not until after Sullivan’s death that Sullivan staffers such as Hal Walker, Al Eugster, Gerry Geronimi, Rudy Zamora, George Cannata, and Sullivan’s own lawyer, Harry Kopp, credited Messmer with Felix’s creation. They claimed that Felix was based on an animated Charlie Chaplin that Messmer had animated for Sullivan’s studio earlier on. The down-and-out personality and movements of the cat in Feline Follies reflect key attributes of Chaplin’s, and, although blockier than the later Felix, the familiar black body is already there (Messmer found solid shapes easier to animate). Messmer himself recalled his version of the cat’s creation in an interview with animation historian John Canemaker:

Sullivan’s studio was very busy, and Paramount, they were falling behind their schedule and they needed one extra to fill in. And Sullivan, being very busy, said, “If you want to do it on the side, you can do any little thing to satisfy them.” So I figured a cat would be about the simplest. Make him all black, you know—you wouldn’t need to worry about outlines. And one gag after the other, you know? Cute. And they all got laughs. So Paramount liked it so they ordered a series.

Animation historians back Messmer’s claims. Among them are Michael BarrierJerry Beck, Colin and Timothy Cowles, Donald Crafton, David Gerstein, Milt Gray, Mark Kausler, Leonard Maltin, and Charles Solomon. No animation historians outside of Australia have argued on behalf of Sullivan.

Sullivan marketed the cat relentlessly while Messmer continued to produce a prodigious volume of Felix cartoons. Messmer did the animation directly on white paper with inkers tracing the drawings directly. The animators drew backgrounds onto pieces of celluloid, which were then laid atop the drawings to be photographed. Any perspective work had to be animated by hand, as the studio cameras were unable to perform pans or trucks. Pat Sullivan began a comic strip in 1923 distributed by King Features Syndicate. Messmer took over drawing duties of the strip. The first The Felix Annual from 1924 issued in Great Britain shows the last two stories are not the usual Otto Messmer style, so a difference in Pat Sullivan drawn cartoons can be noted.

Brush up on your Charlie Chaplin!

The SSO is thrilled to be heading back to the Roxy Theatre for another Silence Is Golden event – this time we’re bringing you a Charlie Chaplin film fest!

On Friday night you can take in Chaplin’s famous talkie “The Great Dictator”, then catch a double header the next day with “The Adventurer” and “The Immigrant” both scored by the SSO.

The Adventurer – 1917

Charlie Chaplin plays an escaped convict from the state penitentiary who, clad in his striped prison uniform, is on the run from prison guards. He skillfully and athletically manages to elude a handful of guards at a rocky seashore, eventually making his escape by entering the water. Charlie opportunistically happens upon a man in a rowboat who is preparing for a swim. Charlie steals the man’s swimsuit and heads to shore. He hears cries for help as a woman (Edna Purviance), her mother, and the woman’s suitor (Eric Campbell) have all fallen into the water and are poor swimmers. Charlie rescues them all, but carelessly allows the enormous suitor to fall back into the water while he is attempting to carry him on a stretcher. Charlie rescues him once again, but the angry suitor kicks Charlie senseless into the water. Charlie wakes up in a bedroom in the lavish home of the grateful girl and her mother. He is wearing striped pajamas and for a moment he believes he is back in prison. He identifies himself as a yachtsman and is given a set of evening clothes to wear to a party. Charlie’s luck begins to run out, however. The girl’s father turns out to be the judge who sentenced Charlie to a prison term. Charlie looks vaguely familiar to the judge, but he cannot quite place him. The suitor, now especially miffed at Charlie because of the attention the girl is giving him, sees Charlie’s photo in a newspaper as a prison escapee. Meanwhile, a house employee is feeding her beau a meal in the kitchen; the beau happens to be one of the guards who was chasing Charlie on the beach. The suitor summons the authorities who pursue Charlie on a merry chase up and down the two-story house where Charlie’s acrobatic skills save him from arrest several times. Just as it looks like Charlie will finally be apprehended, he cleverly escapes again and the chase is renewed.

The Immigrant – 1917

The film begins aboard a steamer crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and initially showcases the misadventures of an unnamed immigrant, the Tramp (Chaplin) who finds himself in assorted mischief while, among other things, playing cards, eating in a mess hall, and avoiding seasick passengers. Along the way, he befriends another unnamed immigrant (Purviance) who is traveling to America with her ailing mother. The two are robbed by a pickpocket who is losing in gambling. The Tramp, feeling sorry for the two penniless women, attempts to secretly place his winnings from his card game in the woman’s pocket, but ends up being mistakenly accused of being a pickpocket. The woman manages to clear the Tramp’s name. Upon arrival in America, the Tramp and the woman part company.

Later, hungry and broke, the tramp finds a coin on the street outside a restaurant and pockets it. He doesn’t realize there is a hole in his pocket and the coin has fallen straight through and is back on the ground. He enters the restaurant, where he orders a plate of beans. There, he is reunited with the woman and discovers her mother is dead. The Tramp orders a meal for her.

As they eat, they watch the restaurant’s burly head waiter (Campbell) and other waiters attack and forcibly eject a patron who is short 10 cents in paying his bill. The Tramp, intimidated by the waiter, checks and now realizes he has lost his coin. Terrified of facing the same treatment as the man he saw thrown out, the Tramp begins planning how he will fight the huge man. Soon, however, he finds the same coin fallen from the head waiter’s pocket onto the floor and makes many failed attempts to retrieve it without notice. He finally retrieves the coin and nonchalantly pays the waiter only to be thunderstruck when the waiter reveals the coin to be fake. Once again, the Tramp prepares for the fight of his life. Just then, a visiting artist spots the Tramp and the woman and offers them a job to pose for a painting. The two agree. The artist offers to pay for the Tramp and the woman’s meal, but the Tramp declines the offer several times for reasons of etiquette, intending to eventually accept the artist’s offer; however, he’s dismayed when the artist does not renew his offer to pay at the last moment. The artist pays for his own meal and leaves a tip for the waiter. The Tramp notices that the tip is enough to cover the couple’s meal and, without the artist noticing, palms the tip and presents it to the waiter as his own payment for his and the woman’s meal. As a final riposte, he lets the waiter keep the remaining change – one small coin – after paying his bill. The waiter thinks the artist himself has given no tip whatsoever, and is clearly upset at this supposed action.

Afterwards, outside a marriage license office in the rain, the Tramp proposes marriage to the woman, who is coy and reluctant until the Tramp physically carries her into the office while she waves her arms and kicks her feet in protest.

Grab your tickets today!

Saint-Saens Piano Concerto 2

In the spring of 1868, conductor and pianist Anton Rubenstein asked Camille Saint-Saëns to arrange a concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, with Saint-Saëns as piano soloist and Rubenstein conducting. Upon discovering that the hall was booked for three weeks, Saint-Saëns proposed that he spend the time writing a new piano concerto that he could premiere, along with a performance of his first piano concerto (1858) and his Tarantelle (1857). Saint-Saëns knocked off the work in about two weeks, but that was barely enough time to rehearse, and the piece suffered from the lack of polish at the May 8 premiere. The audience was not very receptive, and pianist Zygmunt Stojowski famously joked that its musical styles were all over the map: “it begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach.”

Franz Liszt, however, to whom Saint-Saëns sent a copy of the score, knew a crowd-pleaser when he saw one. He wrote:

“I want to thank you again for your Second Concerto, which I greatly applaud. … you take into just account the role of the pianist without sacrificing anything of the ideas of the composer, which is an essential rule in this class of work… The totality of the work pleases me singularly. It ought to meet with success in every country.”

And indeed, the concerto soon began pleasing both soloists and audiences, who admired its dash, flair, and musical showmanship.

The concerto breaks from the ordinary by placing the ‘slow’ movement in first rather than second position. The Andante sostenuto begins with a Bach-like improvisation (hence Stojowksi’s quip) that soon segues to dramatic arpeggios–typical for Saint-Saëns, who began his career as a child keyboard prodigy. The main theme was based on a Tantum ergo motet that Gabriel Fauré had shown to his teacher Saint-Saëns, who is said to have exclaimed, “Give this to me. I can make something of it!” And so he did, pairing the melancholy tune with a second motif of his own, embellished in thirds. The movement closes with a huge cadenza for the soloist, and the reprise of the Bach motif.

From the G minor of the opening we move to E-flat major in the Allegro scherzando. Marked leggieramente, “light and brisk,” the movement is a witty conversation in 6/8 between the soloist and orchestra, with flashes of the same humor we know so well from the composer’s later Carnival of the Animals (1886).

The finale, Presto, returns to G minor in a tarantella, the fast and furious Italian form well-loved by the Romantic composers. The piano soloist exchanges rapid-fire dialog with the full orchestra, in what one current critic has described as “chase-me-Charlie up and down the keyboard.” The 2/2 rondo ends with a brilliant coda that Liszt no doubt recognized–being something of a ham himself–as a chance for the soloist to pull out all the stops and “bring ’em home.”

Tchaikovsky’s Final Symphony

After completing his 5th Symphony in 1888, Tchaikovsky did not start thinking about his next symphony until April 1891, on his way to the United States. The first drafts of a new symphony were started in the spring of 1891. However, some or all of the symphony was not pleasing to Tchaikovsky, who tore up the manuscript “in one of his frequent moods of depression and doubt over his alleged inability to create.” In 1892, Tchaikovsky wrote the following to his nephew Vladimir “Bob” Davydov:

The symphony is only a work written by dint of sheer will on the part of the composer; it contains nothing that is interesting or sympathetic. It should be cast aside and forgotten. This determination on my part is admirable and irrevocable.

This work was the Symphony in E-flat, the first movement of which Tchaikovsky later converted into the one-movement 3rd Piano Concerto (his final composition), and the latter two movements of which Sergei Taneyev reworked after Tchaikovsky’s death as the Andante and Finale.

In 1893, Tchaikovsky mentions an entirely new symphonic work in a letter to his brother:

I am now wholly occupied with the new work … and it is hard for me to tear myself away from it. I believe it comes into being as the best of my works. I must finish it as soon as possible, for I have to wind up a lot of affairs and I must soon go to London. I told you that I had completed a Symphony which suddenly displeased me, and I tore it up. Now I have composed a new symphony which I certainly shall not tear up.

The symphony was written in a small house in Klin and completed by August 1893. Tchaikovsky left Klin on 19 October for the first performance in St. Petersburg, arriving “in excellent spirits.” However, the composer began to feel apprehension over his symphony, when, at rehearsals, the orchestra players did not exhibit any great admiration for the new work. Nevertheless, the premiere was met with great appreciation. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest wrote, “There was applause and the composer was recalled, but with more enthusiasm than on previous occasions. There was not the mighty, overpowering impression made by the work when it was conducted by Eduard Nápravník, on November 18, 1893, and later, wherever it was played.”

Tchaikovsky critic Richard Taruskin writes, “Suicide theories were much stimulated by the Sixth Symphony, which was first performed under the composer’s baton only nine days before his demise, with its lugubrious finale (ending morendo, ‘dying away’), its brief but conspicuous allusion to the Orthodox requiem liturgy in the first movement and above all its easily misread subtitle. . . . When the symphony was done again a couple of weeks later, in memoriam and with subtitle in place, everyone listened hard for portents, and that is how the symphony became a transparent suicide note. Depression was the first diagnosis. ‘Homosexual tragedy’ came later.” Yet critic David Brown describes the idea of the Sixth Symphony as some sort of suicide note as “patent nonsense”. Says critic Alexander Poznansky, “Since the arrival of the ‘court of honour’ theory in the West, performances of Tchaikovsky’s last symphony are almost invariably accompanied by annotations treating it as a testimony of homosexual martyrdom.” Other scholars, including Michael Paul Smith, believe that with or without the supposed ‘court of honour’ sentence, there is no way that Tchaikovsky could have known the time of his own death while composing his last masterpiece.

It has been claimed that Soviet orchestras, faced with the problem of an enormously popular yet profoundly pessimistic piece, switched the order of the last two movements in order to bring the work to a triumphant conclusion in line with the principles of Socialist realism.

The Russian title of the symphony, Патетическая (Pateticheskaya), means “passionate” or “emotional,” not “arousing pity,” but it is a word reflective of a touch of concurrent suffering. Tchaikovsky considered calling it Программная (Programmnaya or “Program Symphony”) but realized that would encourage curiosity about the program, which he did not want to reveal. According to his brother Modest, he suggested the Патетическая title, which was used in early editions of the symphony; there are conflicting accounts about whether Tchaikovsky liked the title.

Tchaikovsky’s “Cross”-motive, associated with the crucifixion, himself, and Tristan, a variation of which first appears in mm.1-2 of his Pathétique Symphony About this sound Play (help·info). Tchaikovsky identified with and associated the cross-motif with “star-cross’d lovers” in general, such as in Romeo and Juliet.

Tchaikovsky dedicated the Pathétique to his nephew, Vladimir “Bob” Davydov, whom he greatly admired.

The Pathétique has been the subject of a number of theories as to a hidden program. This goes back to the first performance of the work, when fellow composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov asked Tchaikovsky whether there was a program to the new symphony, and Tchaikovsky asserted that there was, but would not divulge it.

A suggested program has been what Taruskin disparagingly termed “symphony as suicide note.” This idea began to assert itself as early as the second performance of the symphony in Saint Petersburg, not long after the composer had died. People at that performance “listened hard for portents. As always, they found what they were looking for: a brief but conspicuous quotation from the Russian Orthodox requiem at the stormy climax of the first movement, and of course the unconventional Adagio finale with its tense harmonies at the onset and its touching depiction of the dying of the light in conclusion”. Countering this is Tchaikovsky’s statement on 26 September/8 October 1893 that he was in no mood to write any sort of requiem. This was in reply to a suggestion from his close friend Grand Duke Konstantin that he write a requiem for their mutual friend the writer Aleksey Apukhtin, who had died in late August, just as Tchaikovsky was completing the Pathétique.

Tchaikovsky specialist David Brown suggests that the symphony deals with the power of Fate in life and death. This program would not only be similar to those suggested for the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, but also parallels a program suggested by Tchaikovsky for his unfinished Symphony in E flat. That program reads, “The ultimate essence … of the symphony is Life. First part – all impulse, passion, confidence, thirst for activity. Must be short (the finale death – result of collapse). Second part love: third disappointments; fourth ends dying away (also short).”

Anastasia Rizikov

It’s not everyday a stellar 19 year old pianist comes to town, and even more rare that they give their first performance of a concerto that is new to their repertoire.  March 24th we’re thrilled to be joined by Anastasia Rizikov for the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2.

Canadian pianist Anastasia Rizikov is a remarkably poised and precocious seventeen year old who is already showing signs of being “one to watch”. At age seven, she made her orchestral debut, and has since appeared as soloist with major orchestras of North America and Europe. In 2015 alone, Ms. Rizikov won first places at the Jaén International Piano Competition and the Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition, recorded a CD with NAXOS, and performed at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.

Since placing first at The Vladimir Horowitz International Young Pianists Competition in Kiev, Ukraine (where she also received a special award for Best Artistic Performance) and first sharing the stage with orchestra playing Polunin’s Concertino in A minor with the National Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Mykola Diadiura at age seven, Anastasia stepped on to the international competition circuit, winning many awards in the process. Resolving to compete in adult competitions since the age of twelve, Anastasia won first places over musicians twice her age in the following competitions: the Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition, along with prizes for best compulsory work by E. Pozzoli, and audience prize (Seregno, Italy, 2015); the Jaén International Piano Competition, as well as taking all three additional prizes- for the best interpretation of Spanish music, for the best interpretation of the compulsory work, and the audience prize”(Jaén, Spain, 2015); the 13th «Giuliano Pecar» International Piano Competition (Gorizia, Italy, 2013); George Gershwin International Music Competition (Brooklyn, NY, 2013); as well as Rotary International Piano Competition (Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 2011), where she became the youngest person to compete and win in their history.

In 2015, Ms. Rizikov played Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor twice with the Granada Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Paul Mann in Granada and Jaén, Spain, and in 2014, tackled one of the most technically challenging piano concertos – Rachmaninoff No. 3 in D minor with Laval Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with conductor Alain Trudel in Quebec. With over 30 orchestral performances and 20 concerti in her repertoire, Anastasia has already played with such major orchestras as Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra London Canada, International Symphony Orchestra, National Academy Orchestra of Canada, Baleares Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfonia Toronto, and has worked with such conductors as Peter Oundjian, Shalom Bard, Bernhard Gueller, Alain Trudel, Boris Brott, Ovidiu Balan, and Salvador Brotons,  to name a few.

Anastasia’s concert schedules have taken her to Asia, all over Europe – Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France, Poland, Ukraine, Russia – the United States, and Canada, where she has played in such prestigious halls and spaces such as Carnegie Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, Koerner Hall, Fazioli Hall, Auditorio Manuel de Falla, Hong Kong City Hall, and the Kremlin. In 2015, Ms. Rizikov performed in major international music festivals like the Orford Music Festival, and the Verbier Music Festival. In the fall of 2013, Anastasia gave 20 performances over two weeks throughout all the Atlantic provinces of Canada as winner of the prestigious Debut Atlantic Award.

Anastasia Rizikov studies with award-winning professor Maia Spis, teacher at the Nadia Music Academy in Toronto. Since beginning her studies at the age of five, she has shown unparalleled dedication to both practice and performance. Ms. Rizikov has played in master classes for Sergei Babayan, Arie Vardi, Robert Levin, Ferenc Rados, Anatoly Ryabov, Oxana Yablonskaya, and has worked with András Schiff, Emanuel Ax, Menahem Pressler, Gabor Takács-Nagy, and Olga Kern.

In December, 2012, in honor of Glenn Gould’s 80th Anniversary Year and his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, The Glenn Gould Foundation has provided a C1X Yamaha baby grand piano Anastasia. She has the piano on an indefinite loan-basis to aid in her artistic and career development.

Adept in English, Russian, Ukrainian (and working towards mastering her French), Anastasia has given interviews for many major newspapers as well as live television shows. She is fanatic about literature – reading being “an escape from reality and entrance to a very different world, where my imagination goes wild”, and is enthusiastic about art. Being a person who loves and understands her audience, she dreams of being able to share her unique musical voice with the entire world

Sarah Slean – Artist Profile

When we first began to conceive of this show featuring Joni’s music from Both Sides Now and Travelogue, the big question was “who do we get to sing it?!”…the question only lingered in the air a few moments frankly, as one name was on everyone’s mind.  We needed someone who, beyond being able to sing this music, would feel this music as deeply as its written.  Sarah was the clear choice.

Her 2016 performance with the SSO was more than memorable…and we’re certain that this performance will be too!

Signed to Atlantic/Warner Records at the tender age of 19, three-time Juno nominee and modern-day Renaissance woman Sarah Slean has since released 11 albums in over 10 countries worldwide – but perhaps the most astonishing aspect of her artistry is its breadth. Over her 20-year career, Slean has published two volumes of poetry, starred in short films and a movie musical (spawning two Gemini Award nominations), penned two string quartets, held numerous exhibitions of her paintings, and shared the stage with 8 of the country’s professional orchestras. Classically trained from the age of 5, she routinely collaborates with cutting-edge contemporary classical ensembles like The Art of Time, and has been invited to sing world premieres by Canada’s leading living composers. Citing such diverse influences as Leonard Bernstein, philosophy, Joni Mitchell, Buddhism and Bach, her music borrows aspects of cabaret, rock, pop, and orchestral: all knit together by the startling poetry of her lyrics, virtuosic piano-playing, and that voice, described by the CBC as “a 19th century Kate Bush”. In addition to headlining theatres across Canada, Sarah has also toured Europe, the US and Scandinavia and has opened internationally for such artists as Bryan Ferry, Rufus Wainwright, Alanis Morissette, Andrew Bird, Feist, Ron Sexsmith, Chris Isaak, and Buck 65. Metaphysics, her first recording in 5 years, is described as a breathtaking amalgamation of Slean’s dramatic orchestral arranging and her signature take on songwriting.

See Sarah on March 3rd with Vince Mendoza and the SSO for Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell.