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21C Music Festival at The Royal Conservatory of Music

21C Music Festival at The Royal Conservatory of Music

January 19, 2016




Kronos Quartet
Brad Mehldau
Tanya Tagaq
James Ehnes
Jherek Bischoff
Dawn of Midi
The Visit
Laurie Anderson
Continuum Contemporary Music
John Oswald
Anna Pidgorna
Andrew Norman
Rodney Sharman
Barry Shiffman
Aaron Jay Kernis
James Newton Howard
Bramwell Tovey
Nicole Lizée
Ana Sokolović
Element Choir




21C Music Festival returns for a third year to The Royal Conservatory of Music from May 25 to May 29, 2016. The festival will once again run over five days and consist of seven concerts, featuring music composed mostly during the 21st century, which crosses boundaries and genres: classical, Inuit throat singing, jazz, contemporary Japanese sounds, progressive rock, atmospheric orchestral, and electro-acoustic music.

“This 3rd edition of the festival has allowed us to attract an even richer array of talent than in previous years. Opening the festival with the boundary-breaking Kronos Quartet, a stalwart of the contemporary music scene, exemplifies exactly what the festival seeks to do: continually search for the new, experiment, take risks, and bring new partners under our tent,” said Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory.

In this festival of newly-minted music, audiences have an opportunity to experience fresh new sounds and ideas from the greatest musical minds of today and hear works by Canadian as well as international composers and musicians who are mining new musical territories, breaking down barriers, and introducing us to new virtuosic music creations. This year, The Conservatory is thrilled to be expanding its commissioning activities with new works by Polaris Music Prize-winning throat singer Tanya Tagaq, jazz pianist and composer Brad Mehldau, award-winning BC composer Rodney Sharman, Canadian composer, saxophonist, media artist, and dancer John Oswald, Ukrainian-Canadian composer and media artist Anna Pidgorna, and Japanese/Canadian composer Hiroki Tsurumoto. The new piece by Tagaq is commissioned as part of Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, a collection of 50 new works (10 per year for five years) aimed at creating a body of new work for the string quartet, and Three Pieces After Bach is a new work co-commissioned by The Royal Conservatory of Music/Koerner Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Dublin National Concert Hall, and Wigmore Hall. In partnership with Continuum Contemporary Music, we celebrate Japan: NEXT, which will include a world premiere by Hiroki Tsurumoto, co-commissioned by The Conservatory and Continuum.

Festival benefactor, Michael Koerner remarked during the inaugural year: “Charles Ives, the American composer-iconoclast wrote outrageously courageous music about 100 years ago and when asked what he was up to, he would say ‘I want to stretch your ears.’ This 21C Music Festival is just about that: ear stretching.”

The festival opens on May 25 with Kronos Quartet with special guest Tanya Tagaq. The evening includes Canadian premieres of Nicole Lizée’s The Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop (Fibre-Optic Flowers) and Mark Applebaum’s Darmstadt Kindergarten, a new work titled Regs (Dance) by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, and a highly-anticipated world premiere, titled Sivunittinni (The future children), by the incomparable Tanya Tagaq commissioned as part of Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire. The evening also features Tagaq and Kronos Quartet performing their piece Nunavut alongside Fodé Lassana Diabaté’s selections from Sunjata’s Time, Aleksandra Vrebalovs My Desert, My Rose, and the Ontario premieres of Geeshie Wiley’ Last Kind Words, Laurie Anderson’s Flow, and Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Bombs of Beirut. A Post-concert Talk with artists will follow the concert.

On May 26, 21C Music Festival partner, Continuum Contemporary Music, presents Japan: NEXT. Curated by Continuum Artistic Director Ryan Scott and conducted by 21C Music Festival artistic advisor Brian Current, instruments from East and West merge in new ways in extraordinary works by the next generation of internationally acclaimed Japanese composers, including Dai Fujikura, Hikari Kiyama, and Misato Mochizuki. Visiting UK artists from Okeanos join an extended Continuum ensemble for a sensational experience from the sonic fringe, and highlights of the evening will include two world premieres: Canadian composer Michael Oesterle’s Look on Glass (premiere of a new arrangement) and a world premiere piece by Hiroki Tsurumoto, co-commissioned by Continuum and The Royal Conservatory. The concert will be preceded by a Pre-concert Talk at 7:15pm.

American jazz pianist Brad Mehldau returns to Koerner Hall for a solo concert on May 27. Combining his signature technical ability with command of structure and rhythm, he presents his Three Pieces After Bach, a new work co-commissioned by The Royal Conservatory of Music/Koerner Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Dublin National Concert Hall, and Wigmore Hall. In the balance of the program, he juxtaposes several canonical pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, featuring his own jazz compositions for solo piano – a rarity of expression by this masterful improviser. The Guardian has called Mehldau “[a] superb classical technician, someone who can turn jazz standards into Bach-like fugues.”

The second concert on May 27, titled 21C After Hours: Blackout, follows the mainstage Brad Mehldau concert, at approximately 10:30pm in Conservatory Theatre. Blackout, based on the Pitch concert series started in the 1970s by John Oswald and Marvin Green, will include four world premieres by Oswald and feature the Element Choir (Christine Duncan, conductor) and the Radiant Brass Ensemble, a group formed by Oswald 10 years ago. It will also include mystery guest cameos and a mystery guest pianist. This electro-acoustic musical experience will be performed in complete and absolute darkness – only for those not afraid of the dark!

The afternoon Cinq à Sept concert on May 28 includes one world and two Toronto premieres. The world premiere, titled Drown in the Depth, is by Anna Pidgorna (commissioned by The Royal Conservatory) and the concert will also include her Bridal Train. Two pieces by Rodney Sharman will receive their Toronto premieres: Notes on “Beautiful,” a solo piano work from Anthony De Mare’s highly acclaimed Stephen Sondheim project Liaisons, and a new work co-commissioned by Philip and Eli Taylor and Music in the Morning (Vancouver), performed by violinist Barry Shiffman and pianist Jeanie Chung, who are both on the faculty at The Conservatory. The work is dedicated to the memory of mathematician and arts patron James Stewart. Also on the program are Sharman’s In Deepening Light for piano and bass, a piece for eight violins by Andrew Norman titled Gran Turismo, and two pieces by Ana Sokolović, titled Serbian Tango and Portrait Parle. Violinist Andréa Tyniec, a recent Glenn Gould School graduate, plays in both pieces by Sokolović as well as both pieces by Pidgorna, along with members of the 21C Festival Ensemble. Most of the composers will be in attendance and will speak about their works before they are performed.

Ambient orchestral music composer Jherek Bischoff makes his Toronto debut on May 28 as he shares the evening with Brooklyn-based trio Dawn of Midi and Toronto’s own The Visit. Hailed a “pop polymath” by The New York Times and a “phenom” by The New Yorker, Bischoff has blazed an unconventional path in creating an impressive body of work in his 30-odd years. After starting his career with indie rock and experimental groups, he eventually turned to orchestral music and composing. He has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, Lincoln Center, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and has collaborated with the likes of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. The concert will serve as a Canadian CD release event for Bischoff’s highly anticipated new album Cistern, coming out in May of 2016. Dawn of Midi is a trio of piano (Amino Belyamani), bass (Aakaash Israni), and drums (Qasim Naqvi), from Pakistan, India, and Morocco respectively, now living in Brooklyn, whose sound has been described by The Guardian as “more boundary-pushing than the sort of freeform noodling that sometimes give the term “jazz trio” a bad name. Here, rhythms are delivered, repeated and built with a fractal precision that makes for music as menacing as it is meditative. It's exploratory without ever seeming uncertain; it sounds like nothing else right now and listening to it is to experience a very welcome warping of time.” Cello-piano duo The Visit, who thrilled audiences during the 2015 installment of 21C Music Festival, conjures sounds from the Middle East, progressive rock, and classical chamber music. Presented in association with Wavelength, this indie music triple-bill is one of the highlights of the Festival. The concert will be followed by a meet-and-greet with the artists in The Leslie & Anna Dan Galleria.

Canadian superstar violinist James Ehnes and pianist Andrew Armstrong return to Koerner Hall on May 29, to close out the festival with a program that includes the Canadian premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Two Movements (with Bells) and the Toronto premiere of a new work by Bramwell Tovey, alongside James Newton Howard’s 133 … At Least, Händel’s Violin Sonata in D Major, Op. 1, No. 13, HWV 371, and Beethoven’s “Spring” Sonata. The Washington Post states: “James Ehnes is my kind of musician — fastidious, conscientious and unconcerned with showmanship.” A Pre-concert Talk at 2:15pm will precede the concert.

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Media Contact: Barbora Kršek, Concert Publicity Manager and Publications Editor
416.408.2824 ext.265; barbora.krsek@rcmusic.ca

The Royal Conservatory 21C Music Festival 2016