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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Tonight: Andrew Burashko returns to Art of Time's classical beginnings in season-closing Russian programme

By John Terauds on April 20, 2012

Art of Time Ensemble founder and artistic director Andrew Burashko.

“This is the first programme I ever put together as Art of Time Ensemble,” recalls Toronto pianist Andrew Burashko. “It was 1998, and I rented Glenn Gould Studio.”

It was a rich cross-section of music by Russian composers, running from the age of Bel Canto to the 20th century, that the Ensemble’s founder is keen to revisit this week. Besides Burashko, one other musician from that fateful first night is also back on stage tonight and tomorrow at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre: violist Steven Dann.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

This is the fourth time the pianist has reprised a programme that features Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, the Grand Sextet by Mikhail Glinka, Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet and the Overture on Hebrew Themes by Sergei Prokofiev. The last time was in 2005, for the CBC’s long-gone concert series at the Glenn Gould Studio.

“I don’t know how telling it is, but that’s where it all started from. I wanted to put four pieces that were completely stylistically disparate on the same programme. That’s how I came up with it,” Burashko explains. “Although it’s all classical, every piece is a completely different world, musically.”

“This was only 14 years ago, but even today, it’s rare to find a work by Schnittke on a programme with pieces by Glinka and Prokofiev and Stravinsky. I wanted to be eclectic; I wanted to put on the same programme four pieces that you would never find on the same programme.”

It’s a high-powered group joining Burashko and Dann on the stage: violinists Benjamin Bowman and Barry Shiffman, cellist Thomas Wiebe, Joseph Phillips on double bass and clarinettist James Campbell.

A poem by Joseph Brodsky, “May 24, 1980,” the date that marked his 50th birthday, opens the concert by setting the theme of Russians in exile.

“Glinka wrote the Sextet in Italy. Prokofiev wrote the Overture in New York and Stravinsky wrote this version of Histoire d’un soldat in Switzerland during World War I,” Burashko explains.

He says he keeps finding new elements to appreciate in each piece on the programme every time he gets to perform it again.

“That’s the wonderful, elusive thing about chamber music,” he muses. “Unless you’re a member of a trio or a quartet, chamber music ends up being peripheral; it’s something you play in summers, during festivals.”

“Any great work takes a lifetime to fully discover,” says Burashko. A solo pianist can repeat the same piece of music any number of times. “But, with chamber music, you don’t get that many gos at a big work.”

He especially enjoys the discoveries he keeps making each time he revisits one of the pieces on the programme: “The Glinka is like a piano concerto, it’s sparkling and dazzling and beautiful, but it’s treacherous as well, in terms of how it lies on the keyboard. So having the opportunity to revisit that piece is incredibly satisfying.”

At the same time, Burashko is determined to keep pushing his group further in the integration of movement, text, theatre and all genres of music, as seen especially in recent shows like War of the Worlds and Cadmium Red. “I have some great ideas I want to explore,” he says. “There are so many things I would love to try.”

But, to close this season, the story is all about the music itself.

For all the details and tickets on Russia in Exile, being presented tonight and tomorrow, click here.

In 2010, the Borodin Quartet celebrated its 65th anniversary with a performance of Glinka’s Grand Sextet, which dates from 1832. The Borodins are joined by bass player Rustem Gabdullin and pianist Alexei Lubimov:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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