ARC Ensemble presents EXIT: MUSIC
ARC Ensemble is thrilled to present EXIT: MUSIC, a documentary directed by James Murdoch that examines the impact of National Socialism on the lives of five composers. As a taste, we are sharing the trailer. This revealing and captivating film will be released in the Spring of 2016.
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The Rediscovery of a Great Jewish Composer
SIMON WYNBERG, MOSAIC MAGAZINE
Jerzy Fitelberg was a favorite of Aaron Copland and Arthur Rubinstein. Then he was lost to history. Now, sixty years after his death, his music is being played again.
Music that survives only in its written form requires an intermediary, sometimes hundreds of intermediaries, in order to bring it to life. This is one way in which music differs from other arts: no performer, interpreter, or outside actor is needed to experience a novel or a poem, a sculpture or a painting. But the fact that we experience musical pieces through hearing them in time is the source not only of their mysterious power over us but—when they have the misfortune to exist only in the complicated and inexact notation used to write them down—of their potential to be overlooked and lost. A major art gallery will have a keen sense of the extent and quality of its holdings whether or not they are on exhibit at any given moment; by contrast, a national music library or archive can possess the entire corpus of a forgotten composer and have absolutely no idea of its artistic worth.
My work with the ARC Ensemble, a group of chamber musicians based at Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music, involves finding and assessing music that fell off the map in the wake of World War II and/or was out of sync with the atonalist avant-garde that followed. Seventy years after war’s end, thousands of works remain unexplored, many hiding in plain sight in libraries around the world.
Such is the fate of the Polish-American composer Jerzy (George) Fitelberg, whom I first encountered through his surviving cousin Gary. An unlikely spokesman, Gary, who lives in Los Angeles, was unfamiliar with most of his cousin’s work and had also lost a substantial collection of his manuscripts in a house fire. But he was intent on interesting the ARC Ensemble in Jerzy’s legacy. Spurred by his enthusiasm, I set out to find out what I could.
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Chamberworks by Paul Ben-Haim reviewed on FonoForum
GISELHER SCHUBERT, FONOFORUM
Paul Ben-Haim, who was born Paul Frankenburger in Munich in 1897, emigrated to Israel in 1933 and died in Tel Aviv in 1984, was one of Israel’s most prolific and influential composers and composition teachers. Trained at Munich's Academy of Music, his musical beginnings belong to a late Romantic category of Brahmsian provenance.
The noteworthy piano quartet op. 4 (1921) harks back to these beginnings; following a performance in 1932, it was only heard again in 2012 thanks to the ARC Ensemble's absolutely immaculate recording. Ben-Haim's methodical, consistent and original expansion of Brahms' idiom, and his simultaneous attempt to leave it behind by integrating as many different types of music as possible into the context of traditional forms, is astonishing. In this way, the music of this piano quartet seems to develop while also leaving an imaginary musical centre, but without shattering or breaking up into disconnected parts. Admittedly, the piece is held together by the intense musical conviction of Canada's ARC ensemble, which mainly plays music by suppressed or politically persecuted composers. Their exemplary commitment is all the more convincing given that the musicians prove to be excellent and stylistically confident soloists who maintain a balance between the accuracy that chamber music requires and the more expansive momentum of a concert.
Also recorded is Ben-Haim's “Improvisation and Dance” op. 30, composed for Zino Francescatti, who also popularized this delightful work. With music such as this, composed by Ben-Haim in Israel, his creative ideas rise to a new level. Hebrew music is among the musical styles he now takes up, which is unobtrusively amalgamated into his compositions.
Ben-Haim’s clarinet quintet op. 31a, is certainly one of his major works; it still recalls Brahms, but its tone is now completely Hebraic, investing the music with a very special atmosphere of melancholy and sad restraint, which in this exquisite recording by the ARC Ensemble – clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas deserves special praise – appears like a cloudy November day. The work deserves to be included in the general repertoire and provides a welcome alternative to the clarinet quintets of Mozart and Brahms.
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Footage from ARC Ensemble's debut at the Lincoln Center Festival this past July
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Royal Conservatory on a mission to recover suppressed works
The Globe and Mail
They were dismissed from their jobs, forced into exile, often imprisoned and killed. They are the composers who suffered and died under Hitler and Stalin, and the Royal Conservatory of Music plans to establish an in-house institute to help retrieve their suppressed works.
“It’s striking to me how much of this music is simply unknown and unexplored,” says Simon Wynberg, artistic director of the RCM’s ARC Ensemble, which over the past decade has championed works by suppressed composers through concert tours and recordings, two of which were nominated for Grammy awards.
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A Green and Pleasant Land
As the ARC Ensemble moves into its 10th anniversary season, we have begun to look back at our archives. Among our past series are two concerts of English music composed between the wars which we presented under the title "A Green and Pleasant Land." These performances, which included poetry of the period read by R.H. Thompson, were broadcast by CBC Radio 2, and later packaged for NPR affiliates with introductions by the ARC Ensemble's Artistic Director, SImon Wynberg.
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