Mapping Canada’s Music is a selection of writings by the late Canadian music librarian and historian Helmut Kallmann (1922–2012). Most of the essays deal with aspects of Canadian music, but some are also autobiographical, including one written during retirement in which Kallmann recalls growing up in a middle-class Jewish family in 1930s Berli …
Most guides to classical recordings on CD comprise thousands of brief listings. In their attempt to be comprehensive, they end up being heavy and intimidating. Phillips knows better. He sticks to what he considers to be the 101 essential CDs, and tells readers not only why each one is the best recording in his opinion, but also why this piece of mu …
In the early seventeenth century, the English religious scholar Thomas Draxe said, “Music is the eye of the ear.” The link to sight or the visual has been something music has wrestled with for generations. Today we tend to use our hearing as a way of confirming our sight, so Draxe’s claim could easily be turned around to read, “Music is the ear of the eye.” Manufactured images today are everywhere, in films, on television and computer screens, on billboards, and in the print media. We are now very visually oriented, relying on our sight to learn, experience, and entertain, and on our hearing to enhance what we see.
Since the development of radio and the gramophone in the twentieth century, music has lost ground to the visual in its power to arrest our attention. Music is in our homes and offices, and is as easily accessible as turning on the tap or the light switch. It’s in elevators, dentist’s offices, and shopping malls. Workers in factories often have music piped in to accompany their labours, but the music can’t be too good, because then it can be distracting, and production targets fall. This ease of accessibility has caused us to take music for granted. We hear music constantly today, but we don’t listen to it. It’s used to fill a void, or a perceived void.
Yet music can still draw pictures and images for us. The great German Romantic writer Goethe is reported to have described architecture as frozen music. It’s a powerful language that can communicate concepts and ideas non-visually and non-verbally, and it can also convey deep emotion and feeling.
This book is intended as a guide for both those who are just starting to explore the rich world of classical music and those who already have a serious cd collection but want to explore other performances. It is, above all, for those who want to expand their aural senses and awareness – who want to increase their understanding and enjoyment of the highly useful and expressive language of music. All forms of music are valid and worthy, from folk songs to pop, jazz, rock, and hip hop. They can all express ideas and emotions. But this book deals with classical music – the ageold form that has experienced many rises and falls over hundreds of years, and still manages to survive. How we use music is up to each individual, but this book deals with music that was intended to be listened to, not just heard – foreground listening, not background.
Today, we hear about the demise of the compact disc – the format of recorded music that’s been with us now for almost thirty years. Downloads, MP3s, and soundfiles are the way of the future, but, as always, the medium is not as important as the music. Regardless of how we access it, it’s the music itself that will survive. Many of the classical music recordings recommended in this book are “classic,” and will always be available in one format or another. Record companies are always reissuing recordings. Every few years, they remaster the original tapes using the latest technology, repackage them with new art, graphics, and jacket notes, and re-release them. As a result, the serial numbers of the recordings can change. But the music, artists, ensembles, and conductors remain the same, and usually the record label, so that’s what to look for. And remember that any list produced is obsolete the minute it’s printed. New recordings of classical music are always coming out, but the recommendations in this book are recordings that I think have a lasting shelf life.
Although there are 101 recommended recordings, you do not have to acquire all of them to truly enjoy classical music. Used as a guide, the book can steer you to furthering your own personal musical tastes. I hope that it will also expose you to new insights and ideas about music, encouraging you to listen to music that you might not have thought you would ever enjoy. If you’re like me, you’ve sometimes been surprised at how your musical tastes have developed and changed over time, and how you’re fond of music now that you would’ve never dreamed of liking a decade ago.
I’ve attempted to supply an overview of classical music, ranging from the Middle Ages and before, to the present day. For the purposes of this book, the Middle Ages lead into the Renaissance, or the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in music. The Baroque period is roughly 1600 to 1750. The Classical period of music runs from about 1750 to 1820 or so, overlapping with the nineteenth-century Romantic Age, and leading on into the modern age of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
I’ve avoided musical jargon and theoretical terms, and I don’t think that it’s necessary to be able to read music or understand musical theory or structure to enjoy classical music. They can enhance your appreciation, there’s no question. But really, just an interest and an open mind are the first requirements to a life of musical enjoyment. Music is a non-verbal language. It shouldn’t intimidate or scare anyone.
Many genres of music are here – from vocal and choral, to orchestral, chamber music, solo instrumental, and ballet. I’ve also tried to include a range of nationalities – not only of the composers, but also in the artists and ensembles selected. By no means is this a tally of the “best” 101 works or recordings. Any such list would be fruitless, given the subjectivity of art and music. It is simply an overview of classical music and recordings, and I don’t make any claim that my selection is right or definitive, or even better than any other. But, over twenty-five years in the classical music business, as a writer, broadcaster, and teacher, I’ve been following what has been recorded and released, and its worth.
It is late March 1868. In Munich, composer Richard Wagner is completing his new opera Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg. It has been a difficult few years for him, and much depends upon the success of this new work. Following the tense auditions, an anonymous note warns Wagner that the premiere will be the date of his ruination.
Enter Inspector Herma …
Canadian composer John Beckwith recounts his early days in Victoria, his studies in Toronto with Alberto Guerrero, his first compositions, and his later studies in Paris with the renowned Nadia Boulanger, of whom he offers a comprehensive personal view. In the memoir’s central chapters Beckwith describes his activities as a writer, university te …
Winner of the 2005 Nicolas Slonimsky Award for Outstanding Musical Biography, awarded by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
The first major biography of Glenn Gould to stress the critical influence of the Canadian context on his life and art.
Glenn Gould was not, as has previously been suggested, an isolated and self-taug …
When Gould entered the Toronto Conservatory, his schooling – and everything else in his life – already took a back seat to music. As early as January 1943, the Conservatory was in contact with his school to ask for special consideration in accommodating his musical studies. Bert eventually made arrangements with Malvern’s principal and the board of education for the boy to attend school only in the morning and to devote the afternoon to music, either taking lessons or practising at home, and to work with tutors in the evening to catch up on the schoolwork he missed. He maintained this split schedule to the end of high school, and later remembered the “enormous goodwill and generosity of the staff” at Malvern, where, he knew, some regarded him as a nuisance. Though he was often absent in high school, he never dropped out; he was enrolled and studying to the spring of 1951 – that is, to the end of Grade 13, then the final year of high school in Ontario. He did not, however, complete the requirements for formal graduation, because, he later told a friend, he refused to take P.E. In fact, Gould spent more time in high school than most. Though he skipped Grade 3, he did not finish Grade 13 until he was almost nineteen. He took six school years to complete Grades 9 through 13 – which is to say he required two years to finish one of those grades (probably Grade 11, in which year his professional career began).
At the conservatory, his progress was swifter and more exceptional. On June 15, 1945, at the age of twelve, he passed, with the highest marks of any candidate, his examination in piano for the ATCM diploma (Associate, Toronto Conservatory of Music). He passed his written theory exams a year later, and was awarded the Associate diploma, with highest honours, at a ceremony on October 28, 1946. Thus it is not literally correct, as is always reported, that Gould became an Associate at the age of twelve, but we can at least say that the conservatory considered him, at twelve, to have reached professional standing as a pianist – which is impressive enough. On November 29, 1945, in a conservatory recital, he played the first movement of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, with Guerrero accompanying, and he played the movement again, on May 8, 1946, at one of the conservatory’s Annual Closing Concerts in Massey Hall, this time with the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the principal, Ettore Mazzoleni – his first performance with an orchestra. He “had to keep the conductor waiting while he fumbled with a bothersome button on his doublebreasted coat,” Fulford reported in the 9-D Bugle, but the local critics were mostly impressed. One pronounced him a genius and compared his singing tone to that of de Pachmann; another noted a narrow dynamic range and phrasing that was “a little choppy” – all of which sounds like the pianist we know.
Gould first appeared in a music competition as a five-year-old, on August 30, 1938, at the CNE (he won no prizes); otherwise, his experience in competitions was limited to appearances in the first three annual Kiwanis Music Festivals. Events of this kind, involving thousands of children, had been fixtures on the English-Canadian music scene from the beginning of the twentieth century, and many people perceived them as a healthy force for cultural betterment (they encouraged young people to play “the right kind of music in the right way,” Ernest MacMillan said). The model, once again, was imported. “The music festival is a peculiarly British institution,” Geoffrey Payzant wrote in 1960; “in our time only the British could make a virtue out of music-making in public under the conditions of an athletic contest. Love of competition and the fair-play tradition are components of the image we all have of the typical Briton.” As in the annual Dominion Drama Festival, most of the adjudicators were imported from England, and their condescension was sometimes palpable. (As Payzant wrote, “There is one detestable type of British adjudicator that has become a stock figure in this country” – namely, the colonialist who “arrives with the intention of being a light unto the Gentiles.”) The goal of such events was reinforcement not just of British ideals of music, but of British manners and values. Deportment was a priority. In the 1966 article “We Who Are About to Be Disqualified Salute You!” Gould parodied the “superannuated British academicians” he had encountered at the festivals, with their “aura of charity and good fellowship”: “I say, that’s jolly good, Number 67 – smashing spirit and all that. Have to dock you just a point for getting tangled at the double bars, though. Four times through the old exposition is a bit of a good thing, what?”
From the Hardcover edition.