Last February, when I learned that the artistic director of Syrinx Concerts, Dorothy Sandler-Glick, would be giving a small home recital of pieces by Mozart, Schubert and Brahms, I made sure to wangle an invitation. I knew it would be a rare opportunity to watch a former student of such luminary pedagogues as Alberto Guerrero in Toronto and Gisele Couteau in Paris, demonstrate technical prowess at close range. Though Glick seldom performs in public these days, at one time she was a well-known musician, a winner of the CBC piano competition, who gave recitals for a decade during the golden age of CBC classical music programming.
The home salon, at which she performed the Mozart Sonata k282, 3 Schubert Impromptus from Opus 90, and the Brahms Capriccio Opus 117 and Ballade in G Minor Opus 118 was a step in her preparation for her return to the recital hall, at the Schubert House in Vienna next October, where the program will also include the Schubert Sonata in A Minor for Arpeggione and Piano as well as a Sonata for flute and piano by the late Srul Irving Glick. While Sandler-Glick’s marriage to the composer ended in divorce before his death in 2002, their musical bond remains unbroken.
Sandler-Glick’s choice to perform this demanding program as a way of celebrating her 80th birthday is something like a ‘third act’ in a musical life, that began in her childhood home, where her parents hosted Musicales and started her on piano at age 4, then continued through her tutelage under Guerrero, and took her to Paris for three years, to study with a teacher who was herself a protégé of Alfred Cortot. This was followed by her local career as a performer, pedagogue, and salon host. She has always welcomed musicians to her home, including Glenn Gould, Yo-Yo Ma, Pierre Boulez, and the Orford String Quartet, as well as many poets and writers. Her current position as the artistic director of the Syrinx Concerts, which she founded in 2005, could be described as the continuation of home salons by other means, as they take place in the relaxed setting of the Heliconian Hall, and include a reception after the concert where the audience can meet the performers, mingle and nibble on refreshments.
The aspect she enjoys most as artistic director is collaborating with the musicians and composers to create the programs, as well as providing a venue for Canadian musical talent. “We are the only program that features a Canadian composer in each and every program,” she informed me, “ and the performers are also almost exclusively Canadian.” When, on occasion, an international performer appears with Syrinx, they are obligated to perform a Canadian piece. This was the case in 2015, when Sofya Gulyak, the first woman to win the Leeds Competition, performed Jean Coulthard’s piano sonata #2, a work she continues to perform in concert halls around the world. Her performance is reviewed here.
She’s especially pleased about Syrinx’s next concert, on April 23, at which all six of Srul Irving Glick’s Suites Hebraiques will be performed together on one program for the first time, and recorded live for a CD release. Glick, who was a prolific liturgical (and secular) composer, had always hoped to have the six pieces performed together, and if he had lived to attend this concert, he would have been aware that it takes place on the eleventh day of a 49 day period in the Jewish calendar known as the Counting of the Omer, which is seen in the tradition as a period of spiritual growth and character development.
By returning to the concert stage after such a long absence, Sandler-Glick is herself a model of ongoing character development, in the same spirit as Seymour Bernstein, who rose to the challenge of performing in public at age 85, and whose 90th birthday is being celebrated this week with a Proclamation by the City of New York. When I asked Dorothy if this was daunting, she admitted to me that it involves “fighting with myself. I just tell myself, don’t pull out.”
Though it has been 15 years since her last public performance, Sandler-Glick has a powerful pianistic legacy at her fingertips (literally and figuratively) after years with her hands on the keyboard as a pedagogue who taught at the Royal Conservatory and in her private studio, with as many as 50 students on her roster. She still values the instruction she received from Guerrero, who always began his appraisal of her work with a positive comment. “He was very encouraging,” she recalls, “there would always be a compliment first, and then he would say, how about playing it this way?”. This kindly approach did not preclude instilling steel-strength technique, which is still visible today. Her posture is perfectly erect and still, there is no extraneous swaying in any direction, and when the voicing of top or bottom notes is required, her baby fingers have impressive strength. What remains mobile is her face, which expresses the pleasure and emotion that the music is evoking for her.
From the perspective of this sexagenarian, watching Dorothy Sandler-Glick prepare for her ninth decade is both inspiring and exhausting. In addition to directing Syrinx Concerts, and giving home salons, she also writes poetry and has a collection ready for a third volume, (the first two, Offerings and The Garden of Osa, are still available) teaches piano, though only to her grandchildren after closing her studio this year, and has an active family and social life. The most apt description of Dorothy comes from Proverbs: “Strength and dignity are her clothing […] she girds her loins with strength and makes strong her arms”.