Sesquicentennial CD by Symphonova

As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, Symphonova created a sound document of symphonic repertoire by Canadian composers. This legacy had not been explored until the Canadian Musical Heritage Society carried out its research on compositions written by Canadians before 1950. As a result the Society published three volumes of orchestral scores so all of the works selected except for the Weinzweig are to be found in those volumes. At least one of these works, Violet Archer’s Capriccio for Hand Timpani has never been performed. Others have had one or two performances, but never in Canada. Consequently Canadians have never before had the opportunity to become aware of this legacy of artistic endeavour in sound.

Briefly examining the works chronologically, the curator of this project, Elaine Keillor, felt that an orchestral work created by the composer of Canada’s national anthem should be selected. Calixa Lavallée’s La Patrie had its first performance in Paris in 1874. As far as can be determined, only one Canadian orchestra has ever performed this piece. Clarence Lucas had a number of his orchestral works and operettas performed abroad, but only once has his Overture Macbeth (ca. 1900) ever been performed in Canada.

In Montreal during the early 20th century, a forward-thinking group of musicians supported one another. One of these was Rodolphe Mathieu who wrote the impressionistic, atonal Trois Préludes between 1912 and 1915. Ernest MacMillan (later Sir) became known as “Mr. Music” in Canada during the first half of the 20th century because of his influence. He was a prisoner-of-war during WWI in Germany, but managed to finish his doctorate at Oxford. The experience that he had conducting musicians in the prison camp was put to good use when he scored his Overture (1924).

Like many Jewish families, the Adaskins placed a high value on proficiency in music and particularly with string instruments. Murray Adaskin wrote many fine compositions as well as performing and teaching. His Serenade for Strings dates from 1934.

Tanguay (1893-1964) originally created the Pavane as a piano solo in 1914, just after his first two-year stint being a student in Paris. He had returned to North America to study in New York, but went back to France for more instrumental and compositional studies in the years 1920 to 1925. Then he remained in Canada being a well-respected organist in Montreal and teacher at several different institutions.

When Tanguay decided to make an orchestral version of his Pavane, he made only minor changes to the content such as adding four bars at the end. The orchestral version had its first performance on 1 February 1936 by the Société symphonique des concerts de Montréal.

We know that there was a Canadian woman composer writing for orchestra and actually conducting her works in the early 1880s but sadly none of her manuscripts have been located. Of the three major Canadian women composers of the first half of the 20th century, Archer, Coulthard, and Pentland, only Violet Archer wrote a substantial orchestral work before 1950. As Archer told Keillor, the Capriccio for Hand Timpani (1939) has never been performed to her knowledge. It grew out of her experience being a percussionist in Ethel Stark’s Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra, the first Canadian orchestra to perform in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

John Weinzweig has been a towering figure in Canadian composition of the 20th century. The first North American composer to develop his own way of approaching musical composition through the serial method championed by Schoenberg, he taught several generations of students in Toronto.

Towards the end of 1942 and into 1943 John Weinzweig (1913-2006) wrote musical scores for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio series called Our Canada. ‘The Arts Grow Up’ was the tenth program of this series. It touched on painting, poetry, fiction writing and music in Canada. This coverage generated so much interest among listeners that an additional program was prepared, called ‘Music for Radio: A Salute to the Composers of Canada.’ The whole program was made up of music revised and rearranged by Canadian composers, Howard Cable, Godfrey Ridout, Barbara Peatland, and John Weinzweig, originally prepared for various CBC documentary and dramatic broadcasts.

In his writing for radio Weinzweig applied his version of the serial technique by choosing an appropriate set for the whole series and then developing portions of it to suit the dramatic situation of each program. Consequently, in the Suite: Our Canada there is no complete twelve-note set, but one can sense how the material has been controlled by means of this technique. In the score, each piece of the Suite is preceded with a quotation taken directly from the radio scripts.

The opening piece, variously referred to as Bread or Wheat in the scores and on the broadcast recordings, portrays a sound picture of the vast fields of grain on the prairies. ‘When harvest time draws near, a great rippling sea of green and gold, warm and fragrant under the summer sun, stretching from the wooded lakes in the East to the foothills of the Rockies in the West, from the border in the South far into the North.’ A sweeping lyrical line presented by the violins suggests its breadth. A delightful canon between oboe and English horn suggests the multiplicity of fields of grain.

The second piece, Bonds of Steel, has as its main material content from the program discussing the importance of the train in Canada’s development. ‘Trains make sweet and stirring music in the night. They sing for those that have the ears to hear and in the swift chatter of their metallic song, they tell a story a great story of the past and a greater story of the present.’ The music is a magnificent, original portrayal of a train trip built over an oscillating tritone.

The last piece, The Land, contrasts the wide expanses of Canada’s untamed terrain with peaceful, pastoral scenes. ‘Dawn on the Eastern shore. The sun, a golden disc of pale fire, rises from the sea. It moves and throws a glow across the land where men live, amidst rocks and trees, wind and rain, rivers and lakes speeding over towns and villages across a boundless Prairie world. In its swift majestic passage through the Rockies it pushes back the shadows flooding valleys and streams. Dawn on our western shores. The light sweeps on out over the broad Pacific Ocean.’ The first rhythmic gesture suggests the craggy nature of much of the country whereas the contrasting material has less dramatic and dynamic variation to represent the farmland.

Curator: Dr. Elaine Keillor C.M.
Distinguished Research Professor Emerita, Carleton University
www.elainekeillor.com

The realization of this project is made possible by an anonymous donor.

Calixa Lavallée – La Patrie (1874)
Clarence Lucas: Overture Macbeth (ca. 1900)
Rodolphe Mathieu: Trois Préludes (between 1912 and 1915)
Ernest MacMillan: Overture (1924)
Murray Adaskin – Serenade for Strings (1934)
Violet Archer – Capriccio for Hand Timpani (1939)
JGeorge-Émile Tanguay – Pavane (1936)
John Weinzweig – Suite: Our Canada (1943)

As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, Symphonova created a sound document of symphonic repertoire by Canadian composers. This legacy had not been explored until the Canadian Musical Heritage Society carried out its research on compositions written by Canadians before 1950. As a result the Society published three volumes of orchestral scores so all of the works selected except for the Weinzweig are to be found in those volumes. At least one of these works, Violet Archer’s Capriccio for Hand Timpani has never been performed. Others have had one or two performances, but never in Canada. Consequently Canadians have never before had the opportunity to become aware of this legacy of artistic endeavour in sound.

Briefly examining the works chronologically, the curator of this project, Elaine Keillor, felt that an orchestral work created by the composer of Canada’s national anthem should be selected. Calixa Lavallée’s La Patrie had its first performance in Paris in 1874. As far as can be determined, only one Canadian orchestra has ever performed this piece. Clarence Lucas had a number of his orchestral works and operettas performed abroad, but only once has his Overture Macbeth (ca. 1900) ever been performed in Canada.

In Montreal during the early 20th century, a forward-thinking group of musicians supported one another. One of these was Rodolphe Mathieu who wrote the impressionistic, atonal Trois Préludes between 1912 and 1915. Ernest MacMillan (later Sir) became known as “Mr. Music” in Canada during the first half of the 20th century because of his influence. He was a prisoner-of-war during WWI in Germany, but managed to finish his doctorate at Oxford. The experience that he had conducting musicians in the prison camp was put to good use when he scored his Overture (1924).

Like many Jewish families, the Adaskins placed a high value on proficiency in music and particularly with string instruments. Murray Adaskin wrote many fine compositions as well as performing and teaching. His Serenade for Strings dates from 1934.

Tanguay (1893-1964) originally created the Pavane as a piano solo in 1914, just after his first two-year stint being a student in Paris. He had returned to North America to study in New York, but went back to France for more instrumental and compositional studies in the years 1920 to 1925. Then he remained in Canada being a well-respected organist in Montreal and teacher at several different institutions.

When Tanguay decided to make an orchestral version of his Pavane, he made only minor changes to the content such as adding four bars at the end. The orchestral version had its first performance on 1 February 1936 by the Société symphonique des concerts de Montréal.

We know that there was a Canadian woman composer writing for orchestra and actually conducting her works in the early 1880s but sadly none of her manuscripts have been located. Of the three major Canadian women composers of the first half of the 20th century, Archer, Coulthard, and Pentland, only Violet Archer wrote a substantial orchestral work before 1950. As Archer told Keillor, the Capriccio for Hand Timpani (1939) has never been performed to her knowledge. It grew out of her experience being a percussionist in Ethel Stark’s Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra, the first Canadian orchestra to perform in New York’s Carnegie Hall.

John Weinzweig has been a towering figure in Canadian composition of the 20th century. The first North American composer to develop his own way of approaching musical composition through the serial method championed by Schoenberg, he taught several generations of students in Toronto.

Towards the end of 1942 and into 1943 John Weinzweig (1913-2006) wrote musical scores for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio series called Our Canada. ‘The Arts Grow Up’ was the tenth program of this series. It touched on painting, poetry, fiction writing and music in Canada. This coverage generated so much interest among listeners that an additional program was prepared, called ‘Music for Radio: A Salute to the Composers of Canada.’ The whole program was made up of music revised and rearranged by Canadian composers, Howard Cable, Godfrey Ridout, Barbara Peatland, and John Weinzweig, originally prepared for various CBC documentary and dramatic broadcasts.

In his writing for radio Weinzweig applied his version of the serial technique by choosing an appropriate set for the whole series and then developing portions of it to suit the dramatic situation of each program. Consequently, in the Suite: Our Canada there is no complete twelve-note set, but one can sense how the material has been controlled by means of this technique. In the score, each piece of the Suite is preceded with a quotation taken directly from the radio scripts.

The opening piece, variously referred to as Bread or Wheat in the scores and on the broadcast recordings, portrays a sound picture of the vast fields of grain on the prairies. ‘When harvest time draws near, a great rippling sea of green and gold, warm and fragrant under the summer sun, stretching from the wooded lakes in the East to the foothills of the Rockies in the West, from the border in the South far into the North.’ A sweeping lyrical line presented by the violins suggests its breadth. A delightful canon between oboe and English horn suggests the multiplicity of fields of grain.

The second piece, Bonds of Steel, has as its main material content from the program discussing the importance of the train in Canada’s development. ‘Trains make sweet and stirring music in the night. They sing for those that have the ears to hear and in the swift chatter of their metallic song, they tell a story a great story of the past and a greater story of the present.’ The music is a magnificent, original portrayal of a train trip built over an oscillating tritone.

The last piece, The Land, contrasts the wide expanses of Canada’s untamed terrain with peaceful, pastoral scenes. ‘Dawn on the Eastern shore. The sun, a golden disc of pale fire, rises from the sea. It moves and throws a glow across the land where men live, amidst rocks and trees, wind and rain, rivers and lakes speeding over towns and villages across a boundless Prairie world. In its swift majestic passage through the Rockies it pushes back the shadows flooding valleys and streams. Dawn on our western shores. The light sweeps on out over the broad Pacific Ocean.’ The first rhythmic gesture suggests the craggy nature of much of the country whereas the contrasting material has less dramatic and dynamic variation to represent the farmland.

Curator: Dr. Elaine Keillor C.M.
Distinguished Research Professor Emerita, Carleton University
www.elainekeillor.com

The realization of this project is made possible by an anonymous donor.

Calixa Lavallée – La Patrie (1874)
Clarence Lucas: Overture Macbeth (ca. 1900)
Rodolphe Mathieu: Trois Préludes (between 1912 and 1915)
Ernest MacMillan: Overture (1924)
Murray Adaskin – Serenade for Strings (1934)
Violet Archer – Capriccio for Hand Timpani (1939)
JGeorge-Émile Tanguay – Pavane (1936)
John Weinzweig – Suite: Our Canada (1943)

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