Beethoven Album Launched!

We really enjoyed seeing many friends, supporters, former students and some of their parents at our CD launch celebration/performance at Gallery 345 on April 22nd. We were delighted to receive several very positive reviews of the album. Here are some excerpts:

“The recording made at the Glenn Gould Studio last year is so good right down to the tiniest of details that it deserves to be called a reference in the contemporary performance of these 10 great pieces.” – John Terauds, Musical Toronto

“Their musical devotion to ‘two equal and dynamic voices’ is perfectly highlighted in this superb new recording. Very highly recommended.” – Anthony Kershaw, Audiophilia

“Their expressive performances have a refreshing clarity and feel for the symmetry of the music that is a joyous experience to hear. Nowhere have I heard a more detailed refinement in these sonatas. There is as much put into the lesser known works as those more well known.” – Classical-Modern Music Review

And we also had a lovely feature/interview in Digital Journal.

Many thanks to Francine Labelle, our publicist, for all your hard work, and to Ed Epstein at Gallery 345 for hosting a wonderful event!

April 24th and 26th saw us in Kitchener-Waterloo for two concerts which marked the first time the Duo played all the six Bach sonatas in close proximity. We paired these with two new Bach-inspired works – Comme de longs echoes by Cliff Crawley and Petrichor by Jocelyn Morlock. It was interesting to see how differently these two wonderful composers approached the task of creating a Bach-influenced piece. Cliff drew upon a number of famous Bach fragments, the notes of Bach’s name [B (B-flat), A , C, H (B natural)], modern dance rhythms, and he used a rich chromatic and contrapuntal texture to create a charming, whimsical, clever, and humorous piece.

Jocelyn attended the premiere of her piece and we were really glad to work with her prior to the performance. The word “petrichor” is defined as “the distinctive scent which accompanies the first rain after a long warm dry spell,” and the piece really conveys the restrained then increasingly ecstatic joy that rain can bring after a draught. (Jocelyn is now a Vancouverite but she was born and raised in Manitoba. She knows of what she writes!) The Bachian elements used here were a fragment from the first movement of the sixth sonata (down a seventh up a step), various trills and Baroque-like improvised-sounding melodic figures. Somehow — even though most of the Bach connections in the two pieces are quite hidden — these both work beautifully as companions to the set of six magical sonatas. Thank you Jocelyn and Cliff! (The audiences loved them too.) We feel the concept of programming Bach alongside new works works really well; we’ll be doing a similar program at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival on August 4th.

April 27th took us back to Toronto where we were happy to be a part of a CMC fundraising concert. Here we are being interviewed by David Jaeger alongside Jocelyn Morlock. This concert featured Morlock, Jaeger, Schafer and Gougeon.

CMC fundraiser

In Lunenburg Nova Scotia (Nancy’s hometown) the very next evening, we worked with Peggy Hemsworth, a producer for the CBC, who recorded this concert for the Musique Royale series for an upcoming radio broadcast. (A bit of a digression now follows…)
Turns out Peggy and a preteen Nancy were both members of the South Shore Concert Orchestra (imagine the Portsmouth Symphony times 2). This orchestra was Nancy’s first orchestral experience (she started private violin lesson at 10) and talking to Peggy sure brought back memories! In the late 1970, early 80s this community group had a total of eight violins, no violas, 1 cello, no bass. Some of the wind players doubled on two instruments; for example, a clever doctor managed to go between the French horn and clarinet depending on which part was most needed. The one section Nancy recalls being competent and well-fortified was the percussion section (which is where Peggy was playing timpani). However, the most vivid memories for Nancy revolve around her 93-year-old stand partner in the back of the second violins. Each rehearsal, Ruby would be led into the rehearsal by the arm by another member of the orchestra who also carried her violin. Once helped into her chair, she would be given her violin. Ruby never tuned her violin; in fact, her bow never made contact with the strings, ever. She would “airbow” over the string like a windshield wiper for the entire rehearsal. For two years, Nancy turned pages for Ruby (meaning that at the page turn, Nancy would stop playing to turn and their stand then produced no sound). On one fateful and momentous evening concert, in an arrangement of the Waltz of the Flowers by J Strauss (or something similar) and during a GRAND PAUSE: Ruby made contact with the strings in a big way .. it was quite the sound!

Anyway –

Now on to learning a major new work by Vince Ho, text by Lien Chao which will be narrated by the wonderful Evelyn Hart. We start work shopping the piece in a few weeks in Toronto and will premiere it on August 3rd at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival!
2013/05/08

In Praise of Preparations, Premieres and the Unexpected

These first few weeks of April mark the end of the semester at Memorial University where we both teach. There are many juries and recitals to help prepare our students for, and many of these recitals are the first outings of this magnitude for some of them. Through extra lesson, dress rehearsals, etc., we do our best to help “prepare them for the unexpected,” knowing of course that, in a live performance, anything can happen. (For example, when Nancy was an undergrad, she miraculously moved her bridge a centimeter to the left during vigourous up bow in a thankfully not-too-public performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto.) This universal truth –that anything can happen at a performance– was shown to be true in a unique way during a grad student’s recent recital. During the final bow (it was a lovely recital, btw), the student’s boyfriend strode onstage, flowers in hand, got down on one knee, produced a ring and – yes, you guessed it – proposed in front of the entire audience. This was definitely a first in the history of our School of Music! (She did say yes…)

Our own slightly less glamorous preparations are underway too – for five concerts coming up in the 3rd and 4th weeks of April. We are practicing a number of different programs which encompass the six violin and keyboard sonatas by Bach, a Beethoven sonata, and new Canadian works by Gougeon, Crawley, Schafer, Morlock and David Jaeger. The Morlock and Jaeger are new to us. Living composers are generally awe-inspiring and, as performers, we are especially grateful for the really good ones! Jocelyn’s Petrichor came to us a couple weeks ago (its premiere will be on April 26 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, and we will play it again on April 27th at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto), and it is beautiful – well-crafted and elegantly, idiomatically written for the instruments (always appreciated, though not totally necessary). Jocelyn really has a unique harmonic language and sincere musical voice. The soul/message of this piece spoke to us immediately and becomes clearer to us each time we rehearse it. We are so enjoying the process of learning this work!

We are also enjoying getting to know David Jaeger’s music! As many of you may know, David has been selflessly promoting, championing, supporting, fighting for, etc. other Canadian composers and their music for years and years through his work as a senior producer at the CBC radio. (He “retired” last December.) He made a monumental impact on the careers of young composers and performers in this country through programs such as the Two New Hours (woefully, it is no longer) and the CBC commissioning program to name but a couple. But now we have the pleasure and honour of playing his Sonata Tristan and Isolde at the Canadian Music Centre on April 27th. How many of us even remember that David began his career as a composer? Well, he did, and we’re very excited to play this wonderful piece filled with lyricism, energy and drama. (On our last three recording, we were fortunate to have David as the producer. This includes our new complete Beethoven sonata album. We celebrate its release with a performance at the Gallery 345 in Toronto on Monday April 22 at 8 pm! All are most welcome….)

So, to summarize what we’re gearing up for this month –

Monday, April 22: Performance and Beethoven album release celebration at Gallery 345 in Toronto, 8 pm.

Wednesday, April 24: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, The Music Room, Bach’s Sonatas nos. 1, 5, and 3 for Violin and Keyboard as well as Clifford Crawley’s Bach-inspired Comme de longs echos (2012), 8 pm.

Friday, April 26: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society, The Music Room, Bach’s Sonatas nos. 2, 4, and 6 and the world premiere of Jocelyn Morlock’s Petrichor (commissioned with the generous assistance of the Canada Council), 8 pm.

Saturday, April 27: Benefit concert for the CMC at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto. Works by Gougeon, Morlock, Jaeger, Bach, Beethoven,7:30 pm.

Sunday, April 28: Cecilia by the Sea series, St John’s Anglican Church, Lunenburg NS, 7:30. Concert to be broadcast by CBC on a future In Concert.
2013/04/10

How to get to Carnegie Hall: Practice and Bring a Shovel!

In February the Duo played to a full house at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall! It was a wonderful, thrilling, and hugely fulfilling experience and one we will always remember. We certainly won’t forget the 4 days beforehand either! If you’re interested in this nerve-wracking tale keep reading:

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? With practice, practice, practice, a lot of luck and a shovel.

On February 7th, along with our two kids, we fly to Nova Scotia for a concert that was to be a sort of pre-Carnegie Hall prep recital. The concert is to take place in Lunenburg at the beautiful, historic St. John’s Anglican Church as part of the St. Cecilia Series (a highly respected, long standing series), and they secured for us a CBC pickup and national broadcast. We purposely leave St John’s a day early knowing we would have more time to practice if we are away from our university and busy regular lives. After looking at the forecast, we decide to switch our rental car at the Halifax airport from a Fiat to an all-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee. We drive the hour and a half to Lunenburg; the day is beautiful, sunny, clear, but very cold. On February 7th the head of the NS series contacts us to say that the concert may need to be cancelled due to the impending winter storm. February 8th: sure enough, we are informed that the NS concert is cancelled because the storm has been upgraded to a severe and long lasting blizzard originating from the eastern seaboard. It’s being called the “storm of the century” by the media there. (Subtext thoughts: Oh NO! NYC! Panic!). We start to consider leaving immediately for NYC. Looking at flights, there was nothing available that would get us to NY before the storm hits. We contemplate flying to Toronto and then staying there until the storm leaves eastern US. No go: Toronto is socked in with a separate and also gigantic snow blast. We consider driving to Halifax and staying with family in order to be closer to the airport. After talking to Nancy’s brother we decide against it: there would be no piano to practice on. (He also put the thought of missing our Carnegie performance in perspective: “At least you’re still a good person and haven’t killed anyone………yet!”)

Many stress-filled hours later and after considering all possible options, we accept there is nothing we can do but hope that the blizzard will be over by the time of our scheduled United flight leaves at 1:00 pm on the 10th. We decide to park our car near the main road (on NS route 3), a ½ km down a hilly dirt road from the house where we are staying.

The evening of the 8th the blizzard hits. The winds are so fierce we can hardly sleep. On the 9th, we practice, listen to the weather reports, practice, worry, practice. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of psyching ourselves up for the concert and thinking about the ramifications if we don’t make it. All day we keep checking outside to see if the storm is letting up. The snow keeps coming: 20 cm… 30 cm…. 40 cm. The neighbour’s truck gets stuck on the dirt road. We go to bed on the 9th with the storm still going strong.

February 10th: we get up at 6 am so that we have lots of time to get to the airport. It’s still snowing but winds are now only gusting to about 60-80 km/hr. At 7 am the four of us, along with Nancy’s 87-year old father, trudge down the hill through drifts that go up over our hips. We drag our suitcases over the snow inside a push-me type shovel. At the bottom of the road we see incredibly that route 3 has been recently ploughed. The car, however, needs a path cleared in order for us to be able to reach to the road. Tim and Clara start frantically shoveling. At 7:23 a truck with a plough attachment happens by and digs us out. By 7:30 we’re on the road. The highways are snow covered and deserted except for a car coming the other direction every 10 miles or so. (We see three separate Aliant vans in the ditch. Guess they don’t budget for snow tires?) The drive, which normally takes one and a half hours, takes 3 hours.

At the United counter we learn the following: 1) our incoming flight is going to try to land (winds still quite strong for the small Bombardier aircraft so it might be diverted), and 2) if we don’t go out on this flight, there is NO WAY to get to NYC before Feb 11th. All flights, all airlines, with any and all conceivable rerouting are booked for 3 days at least. We watch the incoming flight’s progress for three hours. Miraculously, unbelievably, it lands. Our flight is the first flight for 2 days to leave for New York from Halifax.

Yes! We got to Carnegie Hall!
Duo at Weill Recital Hall
2013/02/19