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PREVIEW | Apocryphonia Illuminates The Obscure Corners Of Classical Music Repertoire With Ginastera & Amirov

By Anya Wassenberg on September 19, 2023

L-R: Soprano Thera Barclay, pianist Narmina Afandiyeva & tenor Alexander Cappellazzo (Photos courtesy of Apocryphonia)
L-R: Soprano Thera Barclay, pianist Narmina Afandiyeva & tenor Alexander Cappellazzo (Photos courtesy of Apocryphonia)

With a tagline of “Illuminating Musical Revelations” / Specializing in Concerts of Underperformed Classical Music in the GTA, the mandate for Apocryphonia is clear from the outset. On September 30 and October 1, they’ll be presenting a concert titled Ginaster(A)mirov — Argentinian & Azerbaijani Opera and Piano Masterworks.

The concert will feature texts by and about women in Argentina and Azerbaijan by Alberto Ginastera and Fikret Amirov.

Apocryphonia was founded by tenor Alexander Cappellazzo in 2022 to pursue a longheld interest in revealing lesser known works. In the year since its founding, Apocryphonia has presented Liza Lehman’s song-cycle In A Persian Garden, chromatic madrigals by Scipione Laccorcia and Vicente Lusitano, and one of Canada’s only Ralph Vaughan Williams 150th Anniversary events officially sponsored by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Here’s a look at the composers and performers for Ginaster(A)mirov.

The Composers

The two composers in the programme hail from vastly different parts of the world — Argentina and Azerbaijan — but share a gift for combining musical influences from their traditional roots, and modernism.

Alberto Ginastera – Suite de Danzas Criollas for Piano, Op.15 (1946)

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera was born on April 11, 1916 in Buenos Aires, and died June 25, 1983 in Geneva. His background was both Spanish and Italian.

Alberto began his career as a composer with works that drew on his heritage and local folk music, including the ballets Panambi and Estancia. But, after studying with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood (1945 to 1947), he brought a commitment to modernism, which he developed as what he called neo-expressionism, back to Argentina. His work during this period is characterized by the 12-tone technique and polytonality. Along with his work as a composer, he held a number of prominent teaching posts.

After long simmering tensions with the Juan Perón government came to a head, Ginastera moved to the United States in 1968, and then two years later, to Europe. He was 67 when he died in Geneva, Switzerland. Towards the end of his life, he was moving back from strict modernity to a style that incorporated the melodies and harmonic colours of folk tunes.

He left a legacy that includes three operas, two ballets, and a wide variety of works for orchestra, chamber and solo instrumentalists, as well as voice, and film scores. He also founded the Julián Aguirre Conservatory of Music in 1951.

Despite his early reputation as one of the most significant Argentinian composers of 20th century, his music fell out of general favour, along with modernism as a style in general. Today, he’s better known for his folkloric compositions.

Fikret Mashadi Jamil oghlu Amirov

Fikret Mashadi Jamil oghlu Amirov was born November 22, 1922 in Ganja, Azerbaijan, and died February 20, 1984 in Baku, Azerbaijan, although he’s also known as a Soviet composer. He was the first native Azerbaijani to become an internationally known composer.

He was born into a musical family where his father, Mashadi Jamil Amirov, was a very well known mugam singer (xanəndə). The elder Amirov also played tar and composed music, including the 1915 opera Seyfal mulk.

The younger Amirov was already composing music for the piano in his childhood. He graduated from the Ganja Music College, and subsequently studied at the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire, (known today as the Baku Music Academy). Fikret was drafted into the Soviet army at the age of 19, after the invasion by Nazi German forces in 1941.

He resumed his career as a composer after the war. His music was inventive, and he combined Azeri folk melodies with classical influences. The symphonic mugam was a form that he created. His pieces in the genre were performed by many orchestras internationally, including the Houston Symphony Orchestra as conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

The prolific composer produced many pieces that were famous during his lifetime, including ballets, an opera, and pieces for the piano as well as orchestral works. Despite Stokowki’s interest, however, the Soviet composer’s music has never become part of the regular repertoire outside Azerbaijan.

L-R: Alberto Ginastera, 1960 (Photo: Annemarie Heinrich, Centro Editor de América Latina, Buenos Aires: 1982/Public domain); Fikret Amirov in 1973 (Photo: Eldar Mansurov/cropped/CC BY-SA 4.0)
L-R: Alberto Ginastera, 1960 (Photo: Annemarie Heinrich, Centro Editor de América Latina, Buenos Aires: 1982/Public domain); Fikret Amirov in 1973 (Photo: Eldar Mansurov/cropped/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Performers

Three performers are featured in the programme of choral and piano music.

Thera Barclay

Soprano Thera Barclay has performed at venues across the country in recitals, concerts, and opera productions in Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. She has also performed in Europe in Berlin, Sulmona (Italy), and Prangins (Switzerland) in roles such as Marie (La fille du régiment), Marzelline (Fidelio), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Barbarina (The Marriage of Figaro), Lucia (The Rape of Lucretia), among others.

Thera earned an Artist Diploma in Voice at The Glenn Gould School, along with an Honours Bachelor of Music degree from Wilfred Laurier University, and a Master of Music degree in Opera from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

She was selected as a Jeune Talent/Young Talent participant in the Prangins Baroque 2022 festival in Prangins, Switzerland, as well as a participant in the Canadian National Opera Auditions.

Alexander Cappellazzo

Tenor Alexander Cappellazzo has sung with several companies, including Voicebox: Opera in Concert, Toronto City Opera, Opera by Request, OperOttawa, Nóżki Opera, Opera Queens, Summer Opera Lyric Theatre, the Ashkenaz Festival, the Halifax Summer Opera Festival and Schulich School of Music’s Opera McGill, along with several choirs and festivals. He is the Tenor Section Lead at Metropolitan United Church.

Alex earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Vocal Performance and Opera from Montreal’s McGill University. His repertoire includes the roles of Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Lensky (Eugene Onegin), Acis (Acis & Galatea), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Oronte (Alcina), among others.

Along with Apocryphonia, Alexander co-founded the Diapente Renaissance Vocal Quintet in 2022 with similar goals of performing rare and underperformed classical music. He is a featured soloist on a Baroque organ CD, Northern Baroque Gems for Organ and Voice, and a member of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society.

Narmina Afandiyeva

Pianist Narmina Afandiyeva has devoted her practice to vocal and instrumental music. She began her studies in her native Azerbaijan, where she graduated from the Baku Music Academy. She’s a fourth generation musician, and continued her studies at the University of Toronto.

She’s in demand as a collaborative pianist, and has worked with a number of companies in Toronto, including Opera in Concert, Toronto Operetta Theatre, and the Faculty of Music (UofT). Narmina works with singers, violinist, cellists and other instrumentalists, and choirs.

In June 2022 and 2023, Narmina served as a Faculty member at La Roche D’Hys – Domaine Des Arts in the Burgundy region of France, where she worked with young singers and pianists.

The Details

There are two performances:

  • September 30 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cosmopolitan Music Hall in Richmond Hill &
  • October 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Heliconian Hall in Toronto

Tickets are PWYC; tickets and more information [HERE].


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