Unusual evolution of old music for a new season of chamber music

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The music of an austere Scottish royal castle, a Judeo-Italian composer of madrigals and the ironic sarcasm of a enfant terrible by a Russian composer are some of the highlights of the Edmonton Chamber Music Society’s upcoming season. .

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The return to live music has been surprisingly smooth for the organization. Don Morrish, its chairman, said the main issues in starting the season were logistical due to restrictions, rather than difficulty in booking groups.

“All the musicians are eager to start over,” he says. “This is how they earn their living, being traveling musicians. It’s nice to see the enthusiasm and we are fortunate to be doing the best.

Unusual launch

The company hosted its first comeback event in October, with an evening reflecting its collaboration with Calgary’s Honens Piano Competition – the winner receives an ECMS concert on a regular basis.

This year, it was pianist Nicolas Namoradze, who is a professor of mindfulness as well as a graduate student in neuropsychology. It was a rather strange occasion, a sort of lecture on mindfulness while listening to music, illustrated by piano pieces from Bach to Namoradze himself.

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The main chamber music concerts begin on November 13 with a truly unusual and fascinating program at the West End Christian Reformed Church. It will bring listeners back to music that few people have heard – Scottish music from 400 years ago.

The performers are among the best and most well-known of American early music groups, The Baltimore Consort. Each of the six members are specialists in their fields, including the rebec, the cromhorn, the bagpipe, the citrus, the lute and the gemshorn.

The Baltimore Consort describes ancient Scottish music as a “magical array of courtly and native folk arts”, noting that the Scottish court absorbed influences from its French, Flemish and Italian contacts. The concert will deliberately cross the Atlantic, following how traditional Scottish songs accompanied the migrations of Scottish farmers and artisans to the New World.

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Ancient music evolves

Some may be surprised to see early music in a chamber society concert, but Morrish points out that the perception of “chamber music” has evolved in recent years.

“We used to think of chamber music as mainly 19th century music, but the presenters also turned to early music, which I think is part of our mandate. Chamber music has existed from the early days until today, ”he explains.

The next concert, February 1, introduces a new band to the Edmonton public. The Profeti della Quinta ensemble was founded in Galilee by bassist and harpsichordist Elam Rotem. He is now based in Basel, Switzerland, and focuses on early music from the 16th and early 17th centuries.

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Here, two countertenors, a tenor, a bass and cembalo player and a theorbo player (chitarrone), present a program dominated by the works of the famous Italian-Jewish madrigal composer Salomone Rossi. Contemporary of Monteverdi, he served for 41 years at the cultural center of the Court of Mantua.

He also revolutionized Jewish synagogical music, publishing a collection of biblical texts on baroque rather than traditional Jewish liturgical music. It’s called The Songs of Solomon: HaShirim asher liShlomo, and this concert will feature works from this collection. In an interesting twist, it will also feature music by 36-year-old founding composer Rotem. He was deeply influenced by Rossi, and wrote works on Hebrew texts in a completely Baroque style, devoid of any subsequent influence.

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A successful program

The CHMS main season final concert performer will need little introduction, as he is not only a very popular visitor to Edmonton, but also one of the best pianists in the world. Marc-André Hamelin’s program on April 5 (venue to come) is a real blockbuster.

It begins with a suite of CPE Bach (son of JS Bach), followed by Prokofiev in his most demanding form. The five-piece 11-minute suite Sarcasms Op.17, completed when Prokofiev was 23, is a tour de force of modernist effects, jagged humor, lyrical moments and hammered rhythms.

One of the composers Prokofiev admired was his older Russian contemporary, Alexander Scriabin. His Piano Sonata No. 7 Op.64 is subtitled ‘White Mass’ because he believed that the bright and heavenly colors represented spiritual purification. It is ecstatic, virtuoso and highly pianistic music, mixing the turbulent with the transcendent.

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And that’s only the first half of the concert. After the intermission, Hamelin will play Beethoven’s famous Piano Sonata No.29 in B flat major, Op. 106, the “Hammerklavier”.

The Edmonton Chamber Music Society will also present two festivals next year. The Summer Solstice Festival will make a welcome return as it is one of the highlights of the summer season. It will be joined by a spring chamber music festival in March.

“We wanted to make up for the cancellation of the Midsummer Festival last year,” explains Patricia Tao, artistic director of the festival, “so we thought we needed to have a festival on the Spring Equinox.”

Both festivals are still in the planning stages, but Tao has confirmed that soprano Miriam Khalil, who recently moved to Edmonton, will perform at the spring festival.

Currently, live concerts require proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks. All concerts and both festivals will also be streamed on a paid basis.

Full details are available on the Edmonton Chamber Music Society website.

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