Haydn may be the father of the string quartet, but many people consider Beethoven its master. His 16 string quartets are widely considered some of the greatest works in Western music and are also among the most challenging to play. Performing the complete cycle is a major undertaking. The Jeffery Concerts invites Londoners along for the adventure beginning with this season’s opening night concert, September 19 at Wolf Performance Hall.
“This concert is the launch of our two-year project to present the complete Beethoven string quartets in a partnership between the New Orford String Quartet and the Pacifica String Quartet,” explains Jeffery Concerts board member, Ingrid Crozman.
To launch the six-concert project, the New Orford String Quartet will be performing Beethoven’s Quartet in C major, Op. 59, No. 3 “Hero,” Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, “Liebquartett” and Grosse Fuge, Op. 133. Written in 1826, the last two works are among Beethoven’s final compositions — and his most enigmatic. Condemned by critics when it was first performed, but now considered one of his greatest achievements, Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge (which originally served as the final movement of his Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130) was described by Igor Stravinsky as “an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever.” Let’s see how it sounds in 2015.
The Jeffery Concerts season continues October 21 with another not-to-be-missed concert with French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Centre.
The Beethoven string quartet cycle continues January 29. www.jefferyconcerts.com
London’s Aeolian Hall needs a new piano: a Yamaha CF111S Concert Grand Piano, to be exact. And although affordable in comparison to a Steinway, it still won’t come cheap. “Although we are not able to disclose the actual special sale price of the piano, it normally retails for about $130,000.00,” says Aeolian’s Clark Bryan. The hall’s current rented keyboard is not a full size concert grand, he explains. “Artists like Andre Laplante, Chick Corea and Fred Hersch have complained about the lack of volume.”
To help cover costs, the community-based arts centre is holding a fundraising concert September 26. The Great Big Piano Party will feature a variety of musical talent. Yuri Pool, Scott St. John, Shane Cook, Marty Kolls, Jennifer Thorpe, Gina Farrugia, Marion Miller and Bryan Gloyd are all confirmed performers at the time of writing.
“This will be a piano for all,” says Bryan. “It will be used by music students, budding artists and legendary international artists.”
It will also make the Aeolian the only venue in London to own a concert grand. “The Aeolian is one of the top acoustic venues in the world,” says Bryan. “Let’s pair it up with an international standard instrument.” www.aeolianhall.ca
Pianos also take centre stage at the Grand Theatre when the MainStage season kicks off with 2 Pianos 4 Hands, a hit production that has been tickling ivories worldwide for 20 years.
“2 Pianos 4 Hands is a play with music, but there are moments when it is all about the music and the extraordinary musicianship of the performers,” says artistic director Susan Ferley.
Written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, the warm-hearted comedy features virtuosic playing that stretches from classical to pop to jazz as the story follows a pair of young musicians trying to make it in the cutthroat world of concert performance.
The play’s combination of playfulness, virtuosity and heart has made it one of the most successful Canadian plays of all time, notes Ferley. “It is such an inspiring story,” she says. “We can all relate to the idea of striving to realize our greatest potential.” 2 Pianos 4 Hands runs October 13–31. www.grandtheatre.com
Stratford Symphony Orchestra launches its 11th season with a new principal conductor. After a rigorous selection process that included input from the audience and musicians, William Rowson beat out four other finalists for the position.
“I first conducted the Stratford Symphony in March as a guest conductor and had a terrific time. It has a lot of heart while being a tremendously talented orchestra and the ensemble cares a lot about its community,” says Rowson.
Londoners with a long memory may recognize the name. Rowson received his master’s degree in instrumental conducting from Western University where he conducted a student-lead production of Handel’s opera, Amadigi di Gaula in 2003. “That production was a real highlight of my time in London,” he says.
In addition to his recent appointment with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra, Rowson currently serves as music director of Toronto’s Sneak Peek Orchestra and as resident conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s What Next Festival.
While he may not have had much input into the programming for the Stratford Symphony’s 2015/16 Season, Rowson says he is looking forward to taking his place as the ensemble’s first permanent conductor since music director Jerome Summers stepped down in 2011. “If it’s great music, we want to play it,” he says.
Rowson and the SSO will get that chance October 3 at Knox Presbyterian Church with a season-opener that includes Dvorak’s New World Symphony and romantic opera arias sung by SSO’s 2014 Emerging Artist Competition winner, soprano Laura Duffy. Duffy also has London connections, having completed her Master of Music at Western University in 2011 where she appeared as the Maid in UWOpera’s production of Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face (2010) and as Constanza in Vivaldi’s Griselda (2011). www.stratfordsymphonyorchestraca.webs.com
After a summer spent sharing their talents at both Sunfest and Home County, the Musicians of Orchestra London play on this fall. Members of the ensemble perform at the London Roundhouse September 26 as part of Doors Open London and Culture Days, while the whole orchestra teams up with combined community choirs for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth conducted by Bramwell Tovey in mid-October. The date and venue are to be announced.
Other pop-up performances are planned at locations throughout the city, says spokesperson Thea Boyd, who encourages music lovers to visit the Musicians of Orchestra London website and sign up for their e-newsletter for all the latest news. www.musiciansorchestralondon.wordpress.com
Nicole Laidler has been writing about London’s cultural scene for more than a decade. See what else she’s been up to at www.spilledink.ca