Following the Goldberg trail from Gould to Lang Lang; Measha Brueggergosman and Edwin Huizinga on face to face collaboration in strange times; diggings into dance as FFDN keeps live alive; "Classical unicorn?" - Luke Welch reflects on life as a Black classical pianist; Debashis Sinha's adventures in sound art; choral lessons from Skagit Valley; and the 21st annual WholeNote Blue Pages (part 1 of 3) in print and online. Here now. And, yes, still in print, with distribution starting Thursday October 1.
FEATURE DISCOVERIES ALONG THE GOLDBERG TRAIL ADAM SHERKIN Growing up Canadian, Torontonian and a pianist, the spirit of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, as transmuted by Glenn Gould, was ever within my reach. Indeed, for a time, Bach’s masterful set of variations was inextricably linked with Gould, for Canadian and international fans alike. As for me, I was born in the year that Gould died, sharing the same dozen square miles of Toronto for less than six months before his premature death at age 50, in <strong>October</strong> of 1982. Bach and his keyboard music hovered in the air for many of my generation. At age ten, I had studied the piano for more than five years, and my teacher at the time professed her intense – and seemingly irrational – dislike for all things Gould, (even the lion’s share of his Bach recordings). She, like many immediate contemporaries who knew him personally and scorned his eccentric disposition, proclaimed that little of the late great pianist’s discography was worth listening to. “However,” she conceded, “a handful of recordings remain on the highest order of interpretive genius. His Goldbergs are seminal, you must discover them for yourself – but only the 1955 recording!” “What about the later, 1981 Goldbergs?” I mused to myself. No matter. To the library I went for the 1955 Gould Goldbergs. Beyond the initial awe and insight at the cosmic explication Gould commands on this recording, I was struck that day by a sense of place – a rightness of order or sonic identity – that seemed to be somehow Canadian. True, this was Bach für alle: Bach for all ears that would be lent to it from all corners of the globe, but its origins were oddly local. Yes I know Gould made that seminal 1955 record in New York City at the Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, but his art, muse and sensibility came from elsewhere, from up north. Suffused with the voice of Bach, how could such musical utterance as Gould’s belong to just one city or country? How does a nation – a collective or an individual even – lay claim to an artist like Gould? How do we honour him and emulate his craft? How close might we get before his essence eludes us? In the more than 25 years since that first day I heard Gould play the Goldbergs, I’ve sought elucidation, a solution or some clue to this state of identity. Gould’s spectral footsteps outwit us constantly. He came amongst us but never lingered long. He followed pathways from different planes, singing tunes from alternate dimensions. The Goldbergs were, it seems, his beginning and his end. A stabilizing force in his life, air under artistic wings spread wide, they launched his performing career. Repaying Bach handsomely, Gould often returned, almost devotionally, to the work. It is through tracing this committed relationship to such a canonic masterstroke, that the trail begins to appear. One can track the residual energy left behind. Much like the Large Hadron Collider creating new, traceable particles that dissipate in highly complex ways as they traverse space, leaving recordable streaks of light now dancing, now repelling, we can pick up the path Gould and his Goldbergs traced, by connecting its points of musical light. Numerous artists, world-wide, have approached the grail that is Bach’s Goldberg Variations since Gould, lining up to scale the music’s “Everest-like” heights – a perfect musical fusion of an external challenge and an internal quest. And for us Canadians? We adore Bach and we adore Gould – at least most of us! – along with those fans from many other corners of the world. Here in Toronto, we have the benefit of knowing those who knew him. We can still eat scrambled eggs in a booth at Fran’s Restaurant (although Gould’s local Fran’s is no longer with us). We can drive past Wawa, Ontario and think of his love for the North – for the idea of North. We hear the opening Goldberg Aria vividly in our dreams and in waking hours, sometimes unexpectedly. It is music that captured the world’s imagination, but the hearts of Canadians. It was Eric Friesen, in 2002, who first suggested this tune to serve as an unofficial national anthem. No artist I know ever approaches the Goldbergs without extreme reverence. There are those who grow up with the work as constant companion. Some, like Simone Dinnerstein, emulate Gould in proving themselves to be up to the mighty task of expressing something wholly new in their performances. Others arrange it for non-keyboard instruments, such as string quartet or the harp (harpist Parker Ramsay’s recently released Goldbergs recording is in fact reviewed by Terry Robbins in this issue’s Strings Attached). And then there are those like my harpsichord teacher at the Glenn Gould School, the brilliant Charlotte Nediger, who steadfastly refused to perform these variations in public (despite multiple requests for her to do so), humbled, she would say, by its greatness and its formidable 8 | <strong>October</strong> <strong>2020</strong> thewholenote.com
KANNAMMA A CONCERT OF THANKSGIVING PRESENTED BY THE Toronto Mendelssohn Choir OLE CHRISTIANSEN Top: Angela Hewitt, Bottom: David Jalbert March 21: harpsichordist Charlotte Nediger played the Goldberg Aria for #TafelmusikTogether. You can still listen to it online! roster of past interpreters. Nediger reserved for herself a place so sacrosanct for this music that its appreciation was a purely private affair: a communion of sorts with Bach and Bach alone. Her steadfast refusal struck me at the time as being wholly Canadian in its reverence for this music, deferring to a performance tradition that Gould started, now inherited by pianists such as Angela Hewitt and David Jalbert, and a seemingly endless succession of others seeking to ascend its heights. (The WholeNote has, to date, reviewed 22 recordings of the Goldbergs, more than any other work.) An extraordinary aspect of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is the way it adapts itself to the interpreter at hand – the individual experience of this music converges with the collective one: a formidable interpretive, intellectual and technical task for any musician, but also demanding personal expression, in a sense entwining the performer who is playing them. Indeed, This aspect of the journey – or the epic Everest climb – was an integral part of the Goldbergs and their legacy, even before Gould’s 1955 rendering. (Consider Landowska, Rudolf Serkin, Tureck and Kirkpatrick’s early recordings.) It is the work’s invitation to make it an individual statement that still has us lining up as musicians to ascend its heights, and perhaps plant a flag there that some collective other will claim as their own. See Lang Lang on the Goldberg trail, page 50 Join us online for a concert of songs of thanks, gratitude and love that span several centuries, multiple genres and disciplines, and cross cultures. The TMC is joined by 20 guest curator Suba Sankaran, musicians of the TSYO and TSO, a visual artist, a South Indian drummer, and an Odissi dancer for this online musical journey. TORONTO MENDELSSOHN CHOIR 21 SIMON RIVARD, CONDUCTOR SUBA SANKARAN, GUEST CURATOR SATURDAY, OCTOBER 10, <strong>2020</strong> AT 8:00 PM www.livestream.com/tmchoir/kannamma TWO MORE <strong>2020</strong> CONCERTS REMEMBRANCE DAY with guest curator Andrew Balfour FESTIVAL OF CAROLS A TMC holiday tradition www.tmchoir.org This is a free online concert event. Please donate to the TMC in support of our online programming. Photo of Supriya Nayak by Ed Hanley thewholenote.com <strong>October</strong> <strong>2020</strong> | 9