GARY KULESHA

COMPOSER

 

PRESS

RECENT

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L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Music Director Kent Nagano, will premiere a newly commissioned work by Gary Kulesha in Montréal Dec. 19, 20, and 21.  This work is a collaboration with renowned writer Michel Tremblay and will be broadcast on television.

On March 10, 2018, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with soloists Jonathan Crow and Teng Li, will premiere Gary's new Double Concerto for Violin and Viola as part of the New Creations Festival.  Peter Oundjian will conduct.

 

This season is a very busy one for Gary Kulesha.

On July 21, he conducted the premiere of Jordan Pal's "Carmine Skies" at the Toronto Summer Music Festival.

On July 24, the Canadian Brass, with the Guy Few Brass Ensemble, performed Soundings for Boat, Bay, and Brass at the Festival of the Sound.  This is a spatial work that places the Canadian Brass on the bay's cruise ship and separate brass ensembles on locations on the shore.  The two groups interact as the boat passes by.

On July 28, the Toronto Summer Music Festival featured a performance of Trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello.

On July 30, Gary conducted Bartok and Johann Strauss Jr. on the "Kubrick Mashup" at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival.

On July 31, Gary hosted the new music marathon at the OCMF.

On October 7, he conducts the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of "Adizokan" by Eliot Britton, in a production created by Sandra Laronde with Red Sky Productions.

On October 28, Gary conducts the Calgary Philharmonic in "True North:  Symphonic Ballet", a striking new project featuring premieres of music by Derek Charke, Dorothy Chang, Maxime McKinley, Dinuk Wijeratne, and Vincent Ho, and choreography by Yukichi Hattori.  The programme also features music by Allan Bell, with soloist Rivka Golani, and Debussy and Tchaikovsky.

On November 4, the Northdale Concert Band premieres Gary's Dance Suite, commissioned for their 50th Anniversary.  The composer will conduct.

On November 23, the second movement of Gary's Sonata for Trombone and Piano will be the required work for the OSM Manulife Competition for Winds and Brass.  It will receive multiple performances.

On January 17 of 2018, Gary will conduct Symphony Nova Scotia in music by Scott Good and Nicole Lizée, with very special guest soloists the Kronos Quartet.

 

Also in March, the University of Toronto Concert Band will present the second performance of Dance Suite under Jeff Reynolds.

NEWS

In June, Charles Hamann's CD of Sonata for Oboe and Piano was released.

On March 29 and 30, 2017, Krisztina Szabo premiered From The Diary Of Virginia Woolf for voice and orchestra with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducted by Olari Elts.  The new work was commissioned by the NACO.

On October 27, 2016, Susan Hoeppner and Lydia Adams performed Sonata for Flute and Piano at a concert launching their new CD with this work on it.

On October 16, 2016, the Elmer Iseler Singers, James Campbell, and Lydia Adams repeated Shaman Songs to open their season.

On the same day, October 16, Amici presented Trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello, with Jonathan Crow, Jesse Morrison, and David Hetherington performing.

On Sept. 11, 2016, Yehonatan Berick and Rachel Mercer performed Pro Et Contra as part of the 5 At The First Chamber Music Series in Hamilton Ontario.

On July 22, 2016, Charles Hamann and Frédéric Lacroix premiered Lyric Sonata for Oboe and Piano at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival.  The duo have recorded the work for CD release.

On July 16, 2016, The Elmer Iseler Singers, James Campbell, and the Penderecki Quartet, under the baton of Lydia Adams, performed Shaman Songs as part of the Festival's Gala Opening Night.

On January 20 and 21 of 2017, the Calgary Philharmonic will perform Torque under the baton of Christoph König.

Gary Kulesha's works are being performed regularly throughout Europe.  In particular, the Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano has been extremely successful, with performances in Paris by members of the Paris Opera, and in Portugal.  The Sonata for Tuba and Organ has recently been performed in Germany and Austria.  The Bagatelles for Woodwind Quintet are scheduled for performances in London.  This follows on the success of a performance of the Third Chamber Concerto in the spring of 2015 by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

On January 6, 2015, the New Orford Quartet premiered String Quartet at Walter Hall in Toronto.  The work was repeated on January 9 in Chicago.  The Quartet will be presented in Sault Ste. Marie on September 12, and in Picton on September 18.

It’s not unusual for composers to delay embracing the string quartet genre, given the intimidating size and quality of the existing repertoire, but Kulesha’s first effort at age 60 sets a new benchmark for procrastination. While the ink is barely dry on this engaging work (the world premiere occurred three days ago in Toronto), the foursome made a strong case for what deserves to be a notable entry in the repertoire.

The work’s division into four movements is but one of many nods to classical traditions, and the composer’s language reflects a kinship to a variety of sources from the early to mid 20th century. Introductory comments by?? suggested a relationship with the other two quartets on the program, though any direct quotes were hard to discern at first hearing.

The form of the first movement itself also draws on classical precedents, with recognizable and recurring themes and a dramatic, nearly orchestral sweep that hints at the quartets of Brahms and Bartok. Kulesha employs quarter tones on a fairly regular basis, but not at the kind of saturation level that can make conservative audiences squirm. They are used either as an expressive ornament (in the manner of blues or klezmer musicians) or as a way to flesh out chromatic scales. This latter notion becomes something of a signature motive for the quartet as a whole, lending a piquant kick that sets the work apart from its more obvious precedents.

The second movement finds the composer more concerned with color and texture, with mutes and pizzicatos featured prominently and extended solo passages exchanged among the players. The third movement pays homage to the traditional scherzo with pattering ostinatos, often in unison or octaves, while the finale links ideas from the three earlier movements, leading to a pair of unison stabs for the finale gesture.

The quartet took to their task with boundless energy and unflappable commitment, and one can only hope that new commissions continue to play a role in their burgeoning career. Kudos to the festival for nabbing this fine foursome for their opening concert.

By Michael Cameron, http://chicagoclassicalreview.com/2015/01/new-orford-quartet-opens-winter-chamber-festival-with-impressive-new-music/

On October 20, the New Portuguese Ensemble of Brass and Percussion performed Romance for Brass in Porto, Portugal

In August of 2014, Gary Kulesha accompanied the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to Helsinki and Reykjavik, where  his String Trio was performed by Jonathan Crow, Teng Li, and David Hetherington

On August 4 and 5, and Gary Kulesha hosted the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival's New Music mini-festival.  This year, the two day event closed with a concert of Gary Kulesha's recent chamber music, including the Sonata for Flute and Piano, the world premiere of the Sonata for Trombone and Piano, and the Canadian premiere of the Piano Quartet.  The performers include Susan Hoeppner, Gordon Wolfe, David Thies-Thompson, the Gryphon Trio, and the composer.

On June 15, 2014, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra performed the Third Chamber Concerto, with bass clarinet soloist Ulrich Büsing.  This was recorded for broadcast on German Radio.

On April 13, the Calgary Civic Symphony performed The Gates of Time, conducted by Rolf Bertsch.

On Feb. 21 and 22, 2014, the Edmonton Symphony, conducted by William Eddins, performed The Gates of Time

Listen to a podcast with the ESO's Composer in Residence, Robert Rival, here.

Gary Kulesha conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on March 7, 2014, in Vincent Ho's City Suite, with soloist Shauna Rolston, as part of the TSO's New Creations Festival.

CONDUCTING NEWS

On October 24, 2015, Gary Kulesha directed the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a reading session of works by Canadian composers in Roy Thomson Hall.

On January 7 and 9 of 2016, Gary Kulesha conducted Symphony Nova Scotia in two concerts as part of the Open Waters Festival in Halifax.  The repertoire included music by Webern, Carter, Boris Tchaikovsky, Staniland, Murphy, Symonds, and Paul Cram.

On January 26 of 2016, Gary Kulesha conducted the Winnipeg Symphony in a concert during their New Music Festival.  The repertoire consists entirely of world premieres, including a new work by Gary Kulesha.

On July 26, Gary Kulesha conducted vocalist Alice Zawadzki and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival chamber ensemble in Reciprocity by English composer Daniel P. Cohen.


RECENT

On September 12 of 2013, members of the New World Symphony performed "Bagatelles from the Devil's Dictionary" in Miami, Florida.

Remarkably, the Bagatelles were then performed just weeks later by the Chameleon Arts Ensemble in Boston, on November 2 and 3.

The Third Symphony has enjoyed remarkable success.  On November 6 and 7 of 2013, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed this work, conducted by Maestro Peter Oundjian, on a programme that featured Haydn's "Miracle" Symphony and the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist Emanuel Ax.

Here is the review by John Terrauds, from musicaltoronto.org.

Commissioned and premiered by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 2007, the Third Symphony has to be one of the finest pieces of Canadian symphonic writing ever produced — and that’s not intended as faint praise.

Oundjian knows this; how else could he have programmed it against two Germanic titans of centuries afore?

Kulesha’s three-movement handiwork, structured like a classical symphony, really does stand up to the greats. The slow middle movement is its finest, blending a recognizable melody (impressively rendered by associate principal oboe Keith Atkinson) with harmonies and textures that were familiar yet novel.

Only the final movement lacked a bit of critical mass, perhaps due to the lack of brass. Nonetheless, if there is a piece of early-21st century Canadian symphonic music being played in the distant future, Kulesha’s Symphony has a fighting chance to be it.

On November 7, at noon, in Walter Hall in Toronto, Gary Kulesha played piano in performances of Mysterium Coniunctionis and Ghosts, with clarinettist James Campbell and bass clarinettist David Bourque.

On March 15 and 16 of 2013, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Music Director William Eddins, presented "Torque".

On January 29, at Walter Hall in Toronto, flutist Susan Hoeppner and the composer premiered Sonata for Flute and Piano, commissioned through the Ontario Arts Council.  They repeated this work in London Ontario on March 14.  It has since been performed by Ms. Hoeppner extensively, in Quebec, Ottawa, Beijing, and Chicago.

Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano was recorded by Jeff Nelsen and Sergio Carolino.  The performance is available on YouTube.

"Political Implications" was recorded by the U.S.A.F. Band Clarinet Quartet in January.

The Premier United States Air Force Band Clarinet Quartet performed "Political Implications" several times during the 2012 2013 season, in Washington D.C.  They will record the work for streaming from the website of the U.S.A.F. Bands.

Piano Quartet was premiered at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival on July 20, 2012,

to great acclaim.

"Torque" was performed multiple times by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.  On January 14, 18, 19, 21, 22, and 24, 2012, the Israel Philharmonic opened its concerts with "Torque" conducted by Peter Oundjian.


2015, June 13 and 14, Torque, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Peter Oundjian, conductor, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto

2015, January 6, String Quartet, world premiere, New Orford String Quartet, Walter Hall, Toronto

2014, October 30, Romance for Brass, New Portuguese Ensemble of Brass and Percussion, Porto, Portugal

2014, August 23, Trio for Strings, Johnathan Crow, Teng Li, and David Hetherington,  Harp Concerto Hall, Rekjavik, Iceland

2014, August 5, Sonata for Flute and Piano, Susan Hoeppner and Gary Kulesha; Sonata for Trombone and Piano (world premiere), Gordon Wolfe, trombone, and Jamie Parker, piano; Quartet for Piano and Strings (Canadian premiere), Gryphon Trio with David Thies-Thompson; Ottawa Chamber Music Festival

2014, June 15, Third Chamber Concerto, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ulrich Büsing, solo bass clarinet; recorded for broadcast on German radio

2014, April 13, The Gates of Time, Calgary Civic Symphony, conducted by Rolf Bertsch, Calgary

March 29, The Greatness of the New-Found Night, U of Toronto Wind Ensemble, conducted by Gillian MacKay, MacMillan Theatre, Toronto

2014, March 14, Flute Sonata, Susan Hoeppner and Gary Kulesha, London, Ontario

2014, February 21/22, The Gates of Time, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, conducted  by William Eddins, Edmonton

2014, January, Concerto for Recorder, Andrea Molnar, Budapest, Hungary

2014, January, Political Implications recorded by the United States Air Force Band Clarinet Quartet

2014, January 29, Flute Sonata, premiere, Susan Hoeppner and Gary Kulesha, Walter Hall

2014, December 2, Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano, Conical Brass tRio, FEUP  Auditorium, Porto, Portugal (also on YouTube)

2013, November 21, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Thin Edge New Music Collective, Array Space, Toronto

2013, November 15, Northern Lights Overture, Symphony Nova Scotia, Martin MacDonald, conductor, Halifax

2013, November 6 and 7, Third Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Oundjian, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto

2013, November 7, Mysterium Coniunctionis and Ghosts, James Campbell, David Bourque, and Gary Kulesha, Toronto

November 2/3, Bagatelles from the Devil's Dictionary, Chameleon Arts Ensemble, Boston

2013, September 12, Bagatelles from the Devil's Dictionary, New World Symphony, Miami, Florida

2013, August 21, Bassoon Sonata, Stephane Levesque and Monique Robitaille, Laterrière, Quebec

2013, April 21, Horn Trio, Hamilton Chamber Music.

2013, April 14, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Recklinghausen, Germany, Kerstin Groetsch, clarinet, Henri Bok, bass clarinet, and Rainer Klaas, piano.

2013, March 15/16, Torque, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Eddins.

2013, March 2, Divertimento, Sherbrooke Symphony conducted by Stéphane Laforest.

2013, Feb. 2, Torque, Georgian Bay Symphony Orchestra. 

2012/13 season, Political Implications, Premiere United States Air Force Band Clarinet Quartet, several performances.

2012, November 29, Horn Trio, Edmonton, Alberta

October 22/23/24, Torque, Symphony New Brunswick conducted by Michael Newnham.

2012, October 6, Celebration Overture, Greater Toronto Philharmonic conducted by Jean-Michel Malouf.

2012, September 18/20, Northern Lights Overture, Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian, Timmins and North Bay.

2012, September 11, Torque, Peterborough Symphony.

2012, July 20, Piano Quartet, Seattle Chamber Music Festival.

2012, June 6, Festival Overture, National Academy Orchestra.

Three important premieres and a rare appearance as a recitalist in July of 2011.

At the prestigious Ottawa Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2011, Gary Kulesha had three premieres in the space of one week.  On July 24, the Gryphon Trio with Robert Pomakov premiered his arrangement of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death.  On July 25, Stephane Levesque, accompanied by the composer, premiered Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, a Canada Council commission.  And on July 30, the Canadian Oboe Trio made their debut with the premiere of Zephyrs for Oboe Trio, an Ontario Arts Council commission.  They repeated the work at the Music Niagara Festival on August 1.

On July 24, Gary Kulesha accompanied bassoonist Stephane Levesque in a full recital of Canadian music for bassoon and piano.  In addition to the premiere of the new Bassoon Sonata, the duo played the Sonata by Oskar Morawetz, the Lyric Sonatina by Jean Coulthard, and the Elegie by Jacques Hetu.  This recital was recorded for broadcast by the National Public Radio system of the US.

On August 1 and 2, Gary Kulesha hosted the six new music events of the Ottawa Chamber Music festival.

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra New Music Festival, 2011

From January 29 to February 4 of 2011, Gary Kulesha was one of three featured Guest Composers at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival.  Mr. Kulesha was joined by his colleagues John Corigliano and Krzysztof Penderecki.  As part of the Festival, the WSO and the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble premiered "The Confusion of Tongues", a new work commissioned by the Canada Council for the Festival, which featured the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble placed spatially in the hall, conducted by Alexander Mickelthwate and Jacquie Dawson.  The Festival also included a performance of Mr. Kulesha's First Symphony, one of the most successful works in the history of Canadian orchestral music.

Immediately following the Winnipeg festival, Gary Kulesha traveled to the University of Brandon in Manitoba to be the featured guest at their New Music Festival, where his works "Mysterium Coniunctionis", Bagatelles "From the Devil's Dictionary", and Sextet were performed.

Click here to read an article about the Disappearance of the Mainstream, written for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Festival Programme in 2011.

 

 

Gary Kulesha continues his work as Composer Advisor to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and as a professor of composition and performance at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music.

 

A NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENT

Gary Kulesha's work continues to enter the repertoire of artists all over the world.  It is rare for a new work to be commercially recorded, but three of Mr. Kulesha's works have multiple recordings, both Canadian and International.  "Mythologies" for Two Piano, "Mysterium Coniunctiononis" for Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Piano, and the "Bagatelles:  From the Devil's Dictionary" for Woodwind Quintet are all currently or are about to be available in two different interpretations on CD.

Gary Kulesha was a finalist for the Ontario Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2009.


The Third Symphony has been a stunning success.  After performances by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in May of 2007, the National Academy Orchestra in July of 2007, and the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in November of 2007, the work was performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in February of 2009, conducted by the composer, by Symphony Nova Scotia in April, conducted by Jamie Somerville, and by the Calgary Philharmonic in May, conducted by Music Director Roberto Minczuk.  Another performance of the Third Symphony took place in the 2009-10 season.  The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra performed this work on February 11 of 2010, conducted by Scott Speck.

Another performance of the astonishingly successful Third Symphony took place in the 2011-12 season.  The National Arts Centre Orchestra, who commissioned and premiered the work in 2007, presented it on Oct. 26 and 27, 2011, conducted by Danish maestro Thomas Sondergard.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed the Third Symphony on Nov. 6 and 7 of 2013 at Roy Thomson Hall, conducted by Music Director Peter Oundjian.

"Torque", commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, is now having a success as impressive as that of the Third Symphony.  It has been performed no fewer than 40 times since its premiere.  The work was performed no fewer than 6 performances by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in February of 2012, conducted by Peter Oundjian.  The Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Julian Kuerti, performed it on March 23 and 24 of 2012. 


Gary Kulesha  was featured on the cover of the Spring 2007 edition of Words and Music Magazine. Click here and follow the links to previous editions to read the online edition of the magazine.

Click here to read an article by Gary Kulesha written for the online journal Ecclectica concerning the future of music education.


BIOGRAPHY

GARY KULESHA is one of Canada's most active and most visible musicians.  Although principally a composer, he is active as both a pianist and a conductor, and as a teacher.

Mr. Kulesha's music has been commissioned, performed, and recorded by musicians and ensembles all over the world.  His "Angels" for Marimba and Tape has become a standard repertoire item for percussionists, and receives over a hundred performances per year.  His works for Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri are toured by her throughout the world each year, and have been recorded on RCA Red Seal.  Over 15,000 copies have been sold in Europe alone.  Works such as "Mysterium Coniunctionis" for Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Piano, and the Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano, are performed regularly in England and Europe, and are often taught as part of performance curricula in these places.  "Celebration Overture" is one of the most performed orchestral pieces written in Canada.  "Four Fantastic Landscapes" has entered the repertoire of several noted pianists from Canada and Europe.  Mr. Kulesha's first opera, "Red Emma", was included in Opera America's book of "Operas which should be performed more often", beside works by Copland, Bernstein, and Weill.

In 1988, he was appointed Composer In Residence with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until 1992.  In 1993, he was appointed Composer In Residence with the Canadian Opera Company, a position he held until the end of 1995.  "Red Emma" was premiered on Nov. 28, 1995.  On Sept. 1 of 1995, he was appointed Composer-Advisor to The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where his duties include composing, conducting, and advising on repertoire.  In February of 1998, the TSO premiered his "Symphony" for two conductors and orchestra, with Jukka Pekka Saraste and Gary Kulesha conducting.  In winter of 1999, the TSO took his work "The Gates of Time" on their American tour.   In February of 2000, the TSO premiered "The True Colour of the Sky" in Toronto, prior to taking it on their European tour.  As well, the TSO presented the Symphony again, in November of 2000, as part of the Massey Hall New Music Festival.  The Symphony was awarded a prize at the Winnipeg Symphony New Music Festival in 2001 as Best Canadian Orchestra Composition of the 1990s.  The Symphony opened the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's 2001-2002 season, on a programme with Beethoven's 9th Symphony. In November of 2000, Music Canada 2000 premiered his second opera, written in collaboration with librettist Michael Albano.  In March of 2005, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra premiered Second Symphony, conducted by Oliver Knussen.  In November of 2006, Shauna Rolston premiered Concerto for Cello and Orchestra with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  In May of 2007, the National Arts Centre Orchestra premiered Third Symphony, conducted by Roberto Minczuk.

On March 19, 2002, Mr. Kulesha was one of three composers awarded the first National Arts Centre Orchestra Composer Award.  This began an extended relationship with the NACO and its Artistic Director, Pinchas Zuckerman.  Mr. Kulesha has toured twice with Mr. Zukerman and the orchestra, and has written several works for them.

In 1990, Mr. Kulesha was nominated for a Juno award for his "Third Chamber Concerto."  He was nominated again in 2000 for "The Book of Mirrors."  In 1986, he was named Composer of the Year by PROCanada, the youngest composer ever so honoured.   Also in 1986, he represented Canada at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.  In the summer of 1990, he was the first composer ever appointed to the position of Composer In Residence with the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario.  He continued to direct this programme from 1996 until 2004.  In July of 1998, Mr. Kulesha was, with Krzystztof Penderecki, one of the two Composers in Residence at the Banff Centre's summer session.  He returned to the Banff Centre in 2002 as a Fleck Fellow, to direct the chamber orchestra programme.  He returned again in 2004 and in February of 2005.  Mr. Kulesha has directed the National Arts Centre Orchestra's Young Composers Programme twice, and is scheduled to return in the summer of 2007.

An active supporter of young composers and performers, Mr. Kulesha was the Artistic Director of The Composers' Orchestra from 1987, stepping down in 2004 in favour of three young composers.  His conducting activities are extensive, and he has premiered literally hundreds of works.  He has guest conducted frequently with several major orchestras throughout Canada, and has recorded for radio and CD.  Although he is well-known as a specialist in 20th Century music, his repertoire is extensive, ranging from little-known Baroque music through to the music of our time.

Mr. Kulesha was one of the chief architects of the Massey Hall New Music Festival, which ran for 7 years from 1995-2002.  He is currently assisting Toronto Symphony Music Director Peter Oundjian with the design and programming of the Toronto Symphony's New Creations Festival, the most successful new music festival in the history of Canadian music.

Mr. Kulesha is on the fulltime faculty of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.

Gary Kulesha lives in Toronto with his wife, composer Larysa Kuzmenko.


Comments from the press

Concert review: Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Emanuel Ax at their very best

By John Terauds On November 6, 2013

Great music well played. Those four simple words sum up a programme of complex, masterful musicmaking by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, music director Peter Oundjian and pianist Emanuel Ax at Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday.

This was one of those blue-chip concerts, with top-drawer compositions getting first-rate performances. But there were a couple of pleasant surprises that were the equivalent of a surprise increase in the dividend payout.

The biggest smile — and ideal metaphor for the innate goodness of this night — came at the very end, when Ax gave in to the prolonged standing ovation to deliver an encore.

He sat down on the piano bench, turned to the audience, and announced that he would play with Toronto Symphony principal cellist Joseph Johnson, who had enjoyed a gorgeous solo moment during the slow movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Johannes Brahms.

In doing so, Ax completely turned the musical tables, becoming the accompanist to Johnson’s solo voice in Robert Schumann’s Op. 73 Fantasiestücke. That they both played from memory and with unity of purpose further underlined the depth of musical commitment being demonstrated on stage all evening.

It was also a way for Ax to show off his ability to switch dramatic personalities, from a largely extroverted, boisterous interpretation of the Brahms piece, impeccably accompanied by Oundjian and his orchestra, to something more intimate. The pianist made the music sound and look fun and easy, when it really is anything but.

Wednesday’s concert had started off on the right foot with a crisp, clean, light and bright interpretation of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, one of the works he wrote for his legions of fans in London, England in the early 1790s.

This the (wrongly named) “Miracle” Symphony is one of his finest, just as the concerto is one of Brahms’ notable masterworks.

Both men, living a century apart, were seasoned professionals at the top of their craft when they wrote these pieces.

Could it be something as insignificant as coincidence that Toronto composer Gary Kulesha wrote his Third Symphony at the same time of life?

Commissioned and premiered by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 2007, the Third Symphony has to be one of the finest pieces of Canadian symphonic writing ever produced — and that’s not intended as faint praise.

Oundjian knows this; how else could he have programmed it against two Germanic titans of centuries afore?

Kulesha’s three-movement handiwork, structured like a classical symphony, really does stand up to the greats. The slow middle movement is its finest, blending a recognizable melody (impressively rendered by associate principal oboe Keith Atkinson) with harmonies and textures that were familiar yet novel.

Only the final movement lacked a bit of critical mass, perhaps due to the lack of brass. Nonetheless, if there is a piece of early-21st century Canadian symphonic music being played in the distant future, Kulesha’s Symphony has a fighting chance to be it.

And, as has been the case for much of the past three seasons, the orchestra sounded fantastic, especially in the quiet work.

John Terauds

 

SEATTLE WEEKLY

Seattle Chamber Music Society: Resistant to Conventional Wisdom

By Gavin Borchert Sat., Jul. 21 2012 at 6:29 PM

Composer Gary Kulesha draws from a full musical palette.

Seattle Chamber Music Society

Benaroya Recital Hall, Friday

For me, the highlight of the Seattle Chamber Music Society's summer season is the now-traditional premiere: a brand-new work paid for by the SCMS Commissioning Club, a consortium of patrons who pool their funds. This summer the nod went to University of Toronto composer Gary Kulesha. He and four musicians--violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Marcus Thompson, cellist Efe Baltacigil, and pianist Orion Weiss--previewed his Piano Quartet before Friday's concert, breaking it down and discussing its combination of traditional form (four movements, in the template Haydn and Mozart established) and modernistic idioms. This is emblematic of Kulesha's gratifyingly non-doctrinaire approach, open to the limitless possibilities of 21st-century composition ("I tried to emulate everything I've ever listened to," he said) and resistant to conventional wisdom and its labels ("I don't think in terms of tonal or atonal anymore," he said of his approach to harmony).

"Eclectic," though, would be the wrong word to describe Kulesha's quartet--it implies a sort of patchwork approach, whereas the composer was impressively expert at melding any method or device he chose into a convincingly personal whole. For example, there was the very beginning, a sweeping but angular passage for strings with piano punctuation: Kulesha combines ragtime rhythms (syncopations over the middle of the bar) and jazz harmonies (fistfuls of seventh chords) in music that sounds nothing like either. His use of quarter-tones--sliding and bending the pitch slightly up and down--not only doesn't halt the movement's striding energy, it adds to the music's captivating sense of swing and sway, a propulsion both harmonic and rhythmic. After all this vigor, the ending is an effective surprise: the music dissolves, crumbles apart, in glassy, fragmented whispers from the three strings.

There's another startling effect at the beginning of the second movement, titled "Meditation": chords on the viola and cello, played coolly and without vibrato, sounding like a reedy, wheezing harmonium. Over this, a violin melody develops into a dialogue with the piano, which takes over to establish a more glowering, angsty mood. This relaxes into an emptier, starker texture; the quarter-tones return in benumbed string lines over a repeated questioning piano gesture.

As the fleet third-movement scherzo opens, each beat is subdivided into three--a familiar-sounding 6/8--but later Kulesha plays with other subdivisions, fours and fives, different rhythms layered simultaneously in the strings: sort of a ground-shifting-underneath effect. The finale was seemingly composed according to the principle that an idea worth using once is worth using twice, incorporating the sweep and energy of the beginning; more quarter-tone swaying; more unsettled, layered rhythms; and the biting, two-note Morse Code figures from the opening of the scherzo: da-dit! da-dit!

The audience response was fervent and enthusiastic; what we warmed to, I imagine, was not merely the quartet's beguiling color, wide-ranging imaginativeness, or infectious dash, but the clarity and directness (and non-obscurantism) with which Kulesha deployed and communicated his ideas. The next step now for the SCMS is to establish a tradition of follow-up performances for their successful commissions. The usual one-and-done approach to premieres has been a bugaboo for composers for decades, and if there ever was a piece that deserved to be brought back in an upcoming festival, it's this one.

*****

SEEN-AND-HEARD INTERNATIONAL

Seattle Chamber Music Society in Premiere by Gary Kulesha

July 23, 2012

United StatesUnited States Debussy, Kulesha, Dvor(ák: various artists, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 20.7.2012 (BJ)

Secure in the settled possession of one of the finest violinists now before the public—James Ehnes, formerly a frequent guest, and now artistic director—the Seattle Chamber Music Society concluded this program with the most impressive performance I have heard in years of Dvor(ák’s F-minor Piano Trio, Op. 65. Before that, however, the spotlight was trained on a new work commissioned by the SCMS Commissioning Club.

This was the Piano Quartet by the 57-year-old Canadian composer Gary Kulesha. First we had a pre-concert spoken introduction by the composer, an articulate and persuasive advocate for his own music, with excerpts from the piece played by violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Marcus Thompson, cellist Efe Baltacigil and pianist Orion Weiss.

The concert proper began with a little-known early Piano Trio by Debussy, written at the age of 18—a pleasant if relatively minor piece, to which a fluent performance by Stefan Jackiw on violin, Robert deMaine on cello, and Andrew Armstrong on piano did ample justice. Kulesha’s quartet, which followed, proved to be a charming work. Its style bore out Kulesha’s proclaimed desire, having put modernist techniques behind him, to explore other facets of human and musical expression beyond the Angst that serial and other techniques too often find it difficult to go beyond—or, to put it perhaps tendentiously, to rise above.

Played with evident dedication, the work evinced plenty of rhythmic vigor and vivid instrumental color. An idiom somewhere between tonality and what might be called post-tonality also enabled the composer to establish an often compelling sense of harmonic pulse. If the Quartet is to be judged by the highest standards, I would say that it is a shade unadventurous in texture: for too much of its length, it pits unison lines in the strings against chords in the piano. But to write a work that is serious without pomposity and entertaining without frivolity is a worthy achievement, and SCMS’s usual devoted audience clearly enjoyed the result.

The F-minor Trio is one of Dvor(ák’s greatest works, and its quality was comprehensively realized in the passionately committed and searingly beautiful performance that ended the evening. There were richly glinting tones and magisterially projected lines from Ehnes’s violin, supported by Julie Albers’s strong etching of the cello part. At the piano, Adam Neiman played as finely as I have heard him do in many excellent outings for the festival over the last few years, drawing particular brilliance from the composer’s exploitation of the keyboard’s upper registers. Thus music and performance combined to crown one of the most rewarding evenings the Society has achieved this summer.

Bernard Jacobson

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Torontonian Gary Kulesha's mysteriously titled piece, The Confusion of Tongues, another world premiere, had us expecting a cacophony of instruments coming at us from every direction...... The Winnipeg Wind Ensemble was assembled onstage, conducted by Jacqueline Dawson. The WSO winds and brass perched on the second balcony with maestro Alexander Mickelthwate visible at the very edge.....

Rumbling brass from above achieved an antiphonal effect as clarinets and flutes onstage twittered and conflicting rhythms made a wash of sound, wavelike and complementary.

What could have been chaotic turned out be curiously magical. The work built to a thunderous climax that made our skin tingle.

Gwenda Nemerofsky

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2011

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Crisp, clean and refined, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Peter Oundjian made a memorable impression in their Sarasota appearance, part of a statewide tour by surely Canada’s finest orchestra. Oundjian opened his program with a new work by another of Canada’s finest, composer Gary Kulesha. “Torque” was a dazzling orchestral showpiece that sizzled and shimmered with the perpetual motion of lines and patterns. Slick and contemporary, the music held a certain fascination with its color and energy.

Herald Tribune, January 11, 2011

Gayle Williams

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Concerto for Cello and Orchestra was premiered on Nov. 18 and 20, 2006, with Shauna Rolston and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

conducted by Bramwell Tovey.  This new work was commissioned for Ms. Rolston by the CBC.

Review from the National Edition of the Globe and Mail:

We are an information -obsessed society, so much so that museum-visitors can spend as much time reading about the work or the artist as they do gazing at the art, progressing through the galleries with audio guides strapped ot their ears while computer kiosks broadcast additional information at the press of a button.  It is hardly an ambience that inspires silent, rapt wonder.....

....Especially welcome was Kulesha's comment associating the genesis of his piece with Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", referring to his concerto...as "an extended journey into a dark place."  Readers of Kulesha's program notes would have come across standard musical vocabulary as rondo, scherzo, first and second themes, chorale and sarabande-- nothing to suggest what was to come.  Darkness, in music, often suggest sadness.  But here the salient quality was malevolent, and it truly set the piece apart.

Kulesha focused on the low and middle registers of the cello, its "speaking voice" as it were, opening with a brutal recitative (an exchange with "tribal" drums), but evolving into a number of keening but constricted melodies....

Textures were dense and sticky, shot with deft timbral grimaces, including double-stopped cello harmonies that are caught up and amplified in the hollow cusp of drum resonance; the sardonic, unison accompaniment of a single percussionist's clapping that snatches Kulesha's second "scherzo" movement, with its jigging rhythm and swirling winds, back from the brink of the jocular non-sequitur; the iron and grit of bassoon, the snarl of trumpet, the shrill cry of winds.

The most affecting movement was the third, a sarabande with a stumbling ostinato that was somewhat reminiscent of the chaconnes in piano concertos by both Benjamin Britten and Alan Rawsthorne, though certainly more intense.  [Shauna] Rolston, who plays a carbon-fibre cello of powerful tone, was in her element here, sustaining a blistering level of passion through fairly minimal melodic activity.  Her sound seemed exactly right for the piece, gruff when it needed to be, searing when the lines permitted it, never just pretty and always of commanding presence....

Elissa Poole

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Third Symphony was premiered by the National Arts Centre Orchestra on May 16-17, 2007, conducted by Roberto Minczuk.  This work was commissioned by the NACO as part of their Composer Awards programme.  It has been widely broadcast on CBC Radio 2, and is available at their Concert On Demand website.

Review: Kulesha symphony 'ingenious and attractive'

Richard Todd, Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2007

Symphonies have never been a big item in Canadian composition. Healey Willan wrote a pair of them three generations ago, tepid imitations of Elgar. Jacques Hetu has written four and a few other names come to mind.  Gary Kulesha, for example. His Third Symphony received its world premiere at the hands of the National Arts Centre Orchestra Wednesday evening.  Commissioned by the NACO, it was given under the baton of guest conductor Roberto Minzcuk rather than the orchestra's music director, Pinchas Zukerman.

Though there were some empty seats in the NAC's Southam Hall - at least a few dozen patrons exchanged their tickets so they could watch the Ottawa Senators playoff game being played across town at Scotiabank Place - they didn't add up to the "sea of red" that greets so many Canadian works there. In fact, the NACO audience responded with uncommon warmth. But then this is uncommon music. 

The first and last of its three movements are ingenious and attractive, combining a lightness of touch with a seriousness of purpose. They  are complex, but not in ways that tax the average listener unduly. The middle movement was pure loveliness and was played beautifully, especially by the first chair winds. 

For all its merits, the Kulesha had to contend with a potentially unfortunate bit of programming. It came immediately after Haydn's Symphony no. 88 in G, one of the finest works in  the symphonic repertoire. It might be a stretch to say that the new piece is the equal of the old but, believe it or not, Kulesha got considerably more applause than Haydn. (Of course Haydn didn't make a personal appearance.)

...

© The Ottawa Citizen 2007

 

 SELECTED REVIEWS

     review of "Mysterium Coniunctionis" (Crossroads, James Campbell, CENTREDISCS CMC-CD 4392) in Fanfare, March/April, 1993

"By far the best [work on the disc] is Gary Kulesha's Mysterium Coniunctionis, a five-movement, eighteen-minute suite for clarinet, bass, clarinet, and piano. It's one of the finest contemporary clarinet works I've come across...The disc is almost worth buying for this one work." (Alex Ross)

review of "Romance" for Brass Band (Canadian Impressions, Hannaford Street Silver Band, Stephen Chenette, conductor, CBC SMCD 5136) in Fanfare, January/February 1995

"The performance is exquisite, with a bell-like climax at 3:20 that sounds as if the work has actually arrived somewhere. I usually have to pause to hear this nearly six-minute-long work a few times before continuing with the rest of the disc." (Randy A. Salas)

review of Concerto for Recorder and Small Orchestra (Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert, Handel, Telemann, Kulesha, and Walton; Michala Petri, soloist, Hugh Wolff, conductor) in The Globe and Mail, Jan. 29, 1994

"...Lucky Toronto Symphony, to have a composer as smart, articulate, and capable as Kulesha to provide it with music. Kulesha's "Concerto" was the best reason to attend Thursday's concert...It was simply the most interesting music on the programme." (Robert Everett Green)

review of Symphony (Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert, Feb. 11, 12, 14, 1998, Jukka Pekka Saraste and Gary Kulesha, conductors) in The Globe andMail, Feb. 13, 1998

"...[a] fantastical gateway...seemed to open out of the texture of the work's final movement, ... through which musical tensions were magically resolved..." (Christopher Reibling)

review of "Sinfonia for Brass Band, Piano, and Harp" (Hannaford Street Silver Band, Bramwell Tovey, condutor) on CBC CD 5188, in American Record Guide, May/June, 1999

"The effect is to form an array of shifting harmonies and effects in an approachable, stunning work..."

review of "The True Colour of the Sky" in the Berlin Morgenpost

"...a well-sounding, hefty, undogmatic thing, easily listenable, full of fantasy and played in the most spirited manner.  The applause was respectful and big." (Klaus Geitel)

review of Symphony (Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey and Michael Hall, conductors):

"Kulesha's piece was a symphony in the grand tradition...The first two movements were played simulaneously by two squads with different conductors-- a risky and remarkably successful move...Certainly the piece should be heard more often, and recorded at once."  (Robert Everett-Green)

mention of "Mysterium Coniunctionis" in "The Cambridge Guide to the Clarinet":

"Of special note is [James Campbell's] recording of Gary Kulesha's 'Mysterium Coniunctionis' for clarinet, bass clarinet, and piano, a rewarding work of almost nineteen minutes duration."

review of National Arts Centre Orchestra performance on their Eastern Tour:

"Gary Kulesha's 'Syllables of Unknown Meaning'...illustrated with transparent delicacy how music from even as long ago as 1,000 years, can generate a complexly imagined and brilliantly excecuted palette of sound and texture that is unmistakeably modern."

review from "Wholenote Magazine" of the new Gryphon Trio CD "Canadian Premieres":

"Gary Kulesha’s Trio No. 2 is, by contrast, conventional in its approach to questions of form and musical discourse. Brimming with cogent musical argument, dramatic silences and poignant meditative moments, it remains for me the most compelling of these compositions." (Daniel Foley)


HIGHLIGHTS from 2010-2013

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

 

            September 20, Torque, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alastair Willis

            November 11/12, In Memoriam for Violin and Piano, Atis Bankas, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto

            2015, January 6, String Quartet, world premiere, New Orford Quartet, Toronto

            January 9, String Quartet, New Orford Quartet, Chicago

            January 24, Sonata for Flute and Piano, Susan Hoeppner and Lydia Wong, Vienna

            January 28, Sonata for Flute and Piano, Susan Hoeppner and Lydia Wong, Italy

            February, Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano, members of the Opéra national de Paris Orchestra, Paris Opera House

            February 25, Sonata for Flute and Piano, Susan Hoeppner and Angela Park, Northern Lights Festival, Ajijic, Mexico

            March 9, Shaman Songs, University Singers conducted by Emily Ellsworth, Northwestern University, Chicago

            March 14, Sonata for Flute and Piano, Susan Hoeppner and Jed Moss, Salt Lake City, Utah

            April 4, Pro Et Contra, Steven Sitarsky and David Hetherington, New Music Concerts, Toronto

            April 11, Sonata for Tuba and Organ, Regau, April 14, Linz Austria, Thomas Brunmayr and Sabine Schwarz

            August 3/4, hosted New Music at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival

            Sept. 12, String Quartet, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, New Orford String Quartet

            Sept. 18, String Quartet, Prince Edward County Music Festival, Picton, Ontario, New Orford String Quartet

            Nov. 7, Pro et Contra, Elissa Lee and Rachel Mercer, Ukrainian Institute, New York City

 


Please follow these links to important organizations:

Canadian Music Centre

Canadian League of Composers

University of Toronto

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

please visit my colleagues and collaborators:

Larysa Kuzmenko

Shauna Rolston

Jeffrey Ryan

Ka Nin Chan

Christos Hatzis

Norbert Palej

Alexander Rapoport

Rodney Sharman

Kelly Marie Murphy

Heather Schmidt

The Gryphon Trio


 


e-mail Gary Kulesha at mail@garykulesha.com

contents of this page are copyright 2015 by Gary Kulesha

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