April 16, 2016: Ensemble Made In Canada

Ensemble Made In Canada

Elissa Lee, violin

Sharon Wei, viola

Rachel Mercer, cello

Angela Park, piano



Saturday, April 16, 2016 at 8 PM


Mendelssohn: Piano Quartet No. 3 in B minor, Op. 3

Omar Daniel: Piano Quartet No. 1: Oli enne nel’l’ä neittä (Once upon a time there were four maidens…)

Brahms: Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major, Op. 26


Dear friends,

Ensemble Made In Canada is now recognized as Canada’s premier piano quartet. Awarded the 2006 CBC Galaxie Stars Award from the Banff Centre for the Arts, The Ensemble was featured in Chatelaine magazine’s 80th Anniversary issue (2008) as “Women to Watch”. They are an ensemble that is leading the next generation of classical musicians.

For Virtuosi Concerts’ 25th Anniversary Season, we invited the Ensemble back for their third appearance in 10 years so they could be part of our celebrations.

In the Ensemble’s artistic vision statement, prepared by cellist Rachel Mercer, they note that their program “displays virtuosity (Mendelssohn), epic and sublime depth (Brahms), and the fruits of our creative community (Daniel).” Rachel writes that the new piece by Omar Daniel is “inspired by a tale from his Estonian folklore about four mystical maidens – a lovely mirror and inspiration for [the Ensemble’s] four women musicians.”

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was a child prodigy who became widely celebrated in his lifetime as an outstanding composer, conductor, violinist and pianist. He was fluent in classical and modern languages and was also known for the excellence of his pen-and-ink drawings and water colour paintings. His family was both cultured and wealthy, and the young Felix had a private orchestra at his disposal to try out his new compositions at the every-other-Sunday musicales in the family home in Berlin.

His first three official opuses — the three piano quartets, Op. 1, 2, and 3 — present as clear a picture of his youthful evolution into a mature composer as we could ever hope for. The third quartet (1824), in fact, turns out to have been the piece that made Mendelssohn’s career, for when the renowned composer Luigi Cherubini studied and admired it while Felix and his father were on a trip to Paris in 1825, Papa Mendelssohn was at last convinced that his son might have a lucrative career. There and then, in Paris during March 1825, Felix Mendelssohn for all intents and purposes became a professional composer (Blair Johnson, AllMusic). I know that we are supposed to appreciate the music on its own merits, but I also know that I will have this little factoid in the back of my mind while I listen to the Ensemble Made In Canada’s performance.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was another child prodigy, first performing in public at age 10. A decade later, it was Robert Schumann who recommended him to a publisher and announced Brahms to the world in a widely circulated article as – “Here is one of the elect.” Brahms’s fame grew quickly, as did his penchant for sarcastic remarks! On leaving a party one time, he turned to the guests and said, “If there is anyone here I have not insulted, I apologize.”

The Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 26 was completed in 1861. It is the companion piece to the composer’s first piano quartet, Op. 25, which was written in the same year. According to M. Berger (Guide to Chamber Music), “The simultaneous creation of these two compositions illustrates Brahms’ penchant for creating pairs of works in the same genre. His first two symphonies, the first two string quartets and the two clarinet sonatas… are other examples of this striking synchronism. Often, as in the piano quartets, the two works are complementary rather than similar.”

This second quartet is a testament to the composer’s love of Schubert’s music and Vienna, the city that Brahms was fated to adopt. Brahms made Schubert’s chamber music the focus of several years of careful study in the second half of the 1850s. This is audible in the Op. 26 Piano Quartet insofar as the phrases hang together with a loose ease that builds upon the music’s overall form with a deceptive effortlessness. And like Schubert, Brahms does not shy away from including popular references in his music, including a burst of schmaltzy waltz music in the quartet’s second movement, a Romanze featuring an overall discipline that allows for the occasional glimpse into camp without lowering the music’s overall standard. The composer labeled this movement “Night Piece,” and it takes strange risks such as the one described, remaining afloat as only Schubert or Brahms could. (John Keillor, AllMusic)

CLICK HERE to hear the opening of the Brahms 2nd piano quartet

YOUNG ARTIST IN PERFORMANCE: Ensemble Made In Canada will be preceded to the stage by violist Emily Rekrut-Pressey. Actually, this is a return engagement for Emily who was previously featured in the Virtuosi Young Artist Program in November. An invitation to our Young Artists Program is now part of the winner’s prize of the Aikins Memorial Trophy which she won at this year’s Winnipeg Music Festival. This prize also includes appearing as a soloist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at their open house this June. The piece Emily will be playing for us on April 16 is the fourth movement of the Brahms Viola Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, No. 1, accompanied by pianist Carole Pollard. Emily Rekrut-Pressey is 18 years old and is graduating from Kelvin High School this year. She studies with Daniel Scholz, principal violist of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

See you at the concert.