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'One can never fully experience the real glory of the music unless it is heard live'

By Open Submission on June 7, 2013

On June 1, we put out a call for reader submissions on favourite musical experiencess in Toronto. Here is a wonderful personal story from Kathy Suranyi, who will get a copy of the new book, Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait. Your story is welcome, too (details here).

Matthias Goerne at a recital in Spain last summer.
Matthias Goerne at a recital in Spain last summer.

Recently at a family barbecue, my sister-in-law jokingly remarked that it had appeared as if both my husband and I had gone off the deep end and become so totally obsessed with music that it is almost a classical jihad. Well, I had to laugh at that extreme description, but in a sense it is probably true. In the past several years, both of us with an art background, by the way, have found ourselves so utterly consumed with music that it borders on religious fanaticism.

For me it started out as a rekindling of interest in vocal music. One glorious Handel aria on the radio sung by the phenomenal force-of-nature that is Bryn Terfel had me smitten. For my husband, it was our neighbours’ offer of their clunky but beautiful old Heintzman piano that sparked this mania.

We have always loved music. I remember as a girl falling in love with Bach cantatas and Mozart’s Requiem. As a boy, my husband would go to the library and borrow records and explore different composers. One of the first questions I asked him when we met was if he liked classical music. We would go to concerts together but somehow we stopped going to live events for a long time. Busy with everyday life, especially after our son was born.

After having become enchanted with Bryn’s voice, this led me to two main interests that will, I believe, forever change my life: I discovered lieder and the operas of Wagner.

I think that there isn’t an opera that I have seen that I didn’t enjoy from any composer but for me the pinnacle is the work of Wagner. I try to watch as many operas as I can, either on YouTube or on DVD to become familiar with as many of them as possible. Lieder is another art-form that I have explored a lot of in recent years with various composers and interpreters. My most beloved singer is the divine Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.  (I seem to have a soft spot for baritones.)

After some time we decided to go back to the concert hall to enjoy some of this music live.

This first concert that we attended after such a long hiatus was a Lieder recital at Koerner Hall with the great, velvety voiced German baritone, Matthias Goerne with the wonderful pianist Andreas Haefliger.

Well, what an initiation! I was delirious with joy!

Experiencing this recital made me realize a couple of things. One, was that I would continue to make the effort to attend more live concerts and the other was that I would be as fixated on solo piano as my husband! When I heard Matthias sing Schumann and Brahms, it was seventh heaven just as it was when I heard Andreas perform some of Brahms’ Intermezzos.

Listening to recordings is a great pleasure and I respond well to them but, of course, one can never fully experience the real glory of the music unless it is heard live.

Since then, there have been many wonderful events that we have gone to. We would love to go to something every weekend, but this is an expensive addiction, which I guess they usually tend to be. We have to choose what we cannot live without. But each event that we go to lives on in our memories and continues to give pleasure.

Sadly, no more international Lieder stars in Toronto. But there is the chance from time to time to hear it at other venues with our own wonderful Canadian talent. Just one example that I would like to describe occurred last year in June at Heliconian Hall when we got the chance to hear the beguiling opera star Meredith Hall at a Schubertiad.

For as long as I live I will not forget the sensation of hearing her sing Gretchen am Spinnrade.  Brahm Goldhamer at the piano was bliss. What I especially loved about this recital was the intimacy and the informality. Meredith’s commentary between sets was so engaging and the warmth of the acoustics made me think that this is really how lieder was meant to be presented.

I could go on and on gushing about the performances that we have admired. Musical euphoria is pretty much guaranteed at the COC, and Opera Atelier was a real hit with our son.

There is one more event I just have to mention: For getting the chance to hear Franz-Josef Selig and the wonderful Rachel Andrist at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, I will be eternally grateful. Recalling that majestic bass as he gazed into my eyes while singing Der Tod und das Madchen induces delirium yet again!

Returning back to my sister-in-law’s comment, I decided to look up the word jihad, which is so loaded with negative connotations in today’s world. I discovered that the correct meaning is stuggle or striving.

For us, this is true as we make the effort to learn as much as we can about music. My husband and son take piano lessons together. I read books about my beloved composers and strive to discover the meaning the songs that I so adore.  There is always music in our home, from our own recordings, the radio or the treasure trove that is Naxos Music Library.

For friends and family that I know like classical music, I share CDs.  To my sister-in-law, I’ve sent a YouTube video of Philippe Sly singing Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen and I’ve invited her to hear him sing at Walter Hall. Perhaps she just might fall off the deep end too!

Kathy Suranyi

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