A New Space

I am pleased to announce that New Music Toronto has been moved to a new space! I have moved all previous material over to the new domain, as well as comments, pictures, etc….

With this, hopefully I will be able to move forward and begin expanding New Music Toronto, growing it into something bigger and better.

You will now find us at http://www.newmusictoronto.ca


The Return

And we’re back.

I hope that everyone had a good winter break.

There’s not much going on in Toronto until next week, so I’ll just quickly mention what’s happening this weekend and leave it at that.

Sunday January 12th

3:00 PM:  Syrinx Concerts presents their first concert of the season at the Canadian Music Centre. The Pamina Quartet will be played Beethoven’s String Quartet op. 18 no. 5, Dvorak’s Piano Quintet, and Canadian composer Kelly Marie Murphy’s string quartet, This is my voice.

The busy season starts next week with more concerts and festivals.

See you then.


– Paolo Griffin

A Rare Breed: The Dual World of Composer-Performers

“A rare breed, the pianist-composer is today,” I’m often told.  “There aren’t any of them around,” I hear in reference to those musicians who play their own works at a high level alongside the towering classics – old and new – of the keyboard repertoire.

“Really, are you quite sure?”

With each progressive concert-going season, audiences the world over are introduced to sensational young keyboardists touting their own compositions, boldly paired with standard musical fare. Gabriela Montero, a glamorous young Venezuelan pianist not only plays Frederic Chopin’s music with abundant polish and expressive abilities but improvises on some of the best known (and beloved) masterpieces of Chopin’s catalogue.  Furthermore, Montero welcomes musical ideas and fragments from her audiences, turning them into wondrous encores right on the spot, shiny and new.

In 1993, a virtuosic English pianist-composer (aged twenty-two) took London by storm, dashing off a revelatory debut recital with iconic swagger and panache.  London – and soon all of Britain – became enchanted.  Thomas Adès dazzled his audiences with exquisite pianistic colours and sophisticated, edgy rhythms.  Innovation, poise and sex appeal were the names of the cultural game in mid-‘90’s London and young Wunderkind Adès was just the ticket.  What was more?  He included the music of Liszt, Janacek, Stravinsky, Grieg and Nancarrow on his solo recital programmes, always alongside his own works.

Twenty years later, in the North America of 2013, a splashy American organist has been practically reinventing the notion of performer-composer, serving up musical theatrics to audiences on an unprecedented scale of brilliance and mastery.  Cameron Carpenter – a bone fide prodigy of the millennium’s second decade – embodies flare, style, intelligence and charisma, to say nothing of his compositional prowess.   He wears both hats, that of the performer and composer, with equal confidence and has found a truly individual platform for melding these two abilities into a singular art.

In addition to such contemporary sensations, pianist-composers such as Marc-André Hamelin, George Benjamin, Rolf Hind, Keith Jarrett and Steward Goodyear, (to name a few), lead very active careers, consistently writing and playing their own music.

In many respects there have always been composers who champion their own works at the keyboard and pianists who expound their own compositions.  The relationship of composer to interpreter – of composition to instrument – remains requited and unchanged.

But isn’t that the very thing that makes the pianist-composer most interesting?  Delving deeper into the essence of this symbiotic relationship, one finds a long and illustrious lineage of composers who wrote from – and off – the keyboard.  Musical ideas that might have begun as “piano ideas” would become destined for a wider compositional pallet, such as the symphonic or operatic genre.  Conversely, many of these “piano ideas” stayed as just that: ideas born of the keyboard, developed from its heart and somehow always meant for a pianistic realm.  What is often described as idiomatic music for piano will consistently garner praise and attention from interpreter and listener alike.  Part of this attraction must be due in no small part to the inexplicable nature of the craft in these works, built from inception to maturity as veritable piano creations.

Profuse in the world of classical music today, tireless and immutable, so many of the masterpieces for piano have long captured the ears of the world.  These pieces are eternally beloved, spanning many centuries of keyboard creation. They seem, even inescapable at times.

But do we really want to escape them if we could!? There remains something evocative, alluring and ultimately irresistible about that ‘ol black and white instrument of “eighty-eight keys and no lock.”[1]  Because of it, time and time again, the imagination of the composer joins forces with that of the interpretive realm. Remarkably, even in the year 2014, the resulting possibilities seem as boundless as ever.  And what of the musical results?

They’re astonishing, (most of the time).

[1] This phrase, attributed to Leon Fleischer, was long planned as the title to the American pianist’s autobiography.  When Fleischer’s autobiography did finally appear in print in 2010, the title instead was: “My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music.”

Adam Sherkin is a Toronto-based pianist and composer. He has appeared in performance at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, the Four Seasons Centre, the Glenn Gould Studio, the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the Royal Conservatory, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Covent Garden and the Royal Albert Hall, among others. Adam’s works have been premiered throughout Canada, the United States and Britain. His website is http://www.adamsherkin.com/

‘Northern Connections’ Fundraising Campaign

At its core, Northern Connections is a concert about bridging international gaps, fostering relationships between musicians and composers from different countries, and introducing audiences to new and exciting music. In programming Northern Connections, I will be choosing works by emerging composers from Canada and Finland. Our two countries and  their inhabitants share many similarities: landscapes, weather, a love of outdoor activities, and a thirst for new art. Having experienced it firsthand, I can also say that the quality of talent coming from both our countries is nothing less than impressive.

In order to successfully present this concert, we need your support. The fundraising goal is $1600, which will be used to provide musician honorariums and balance production costs that include venue rental, rehearsal time, and more. Our commitment is to the music, and we want to be able to present the music to the public in a manner that highlights the skills of our composers and musicians.

Please consider becoming a donor for Northern Connections and supporting this concert in its effort to advance the future of new music and cultural exchanges. To learn more, please visit http://www.pgriffinmusic.com or you can donate by clicking going to our IndieGogo fundraising page: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/northern-connections-concert/x/3598605

– Paolo Griffin

One Month

When I returned from Europe a month ago, I decided to start this blog both as a hobby, and as a way to keep those who love new music informed about the events happening around Toronto.

After a month, I can proudly say that my blog has achieved over 1000 hits. That’s an amazing number and it’s more than I thought I was going to get in many months, so thank you all. Thank you for reading my blog, and thank you for keeping me motivated to do this work.

While I was in Europe, I had the opportunity to sample the new music scenes of a few different cities, and what I found is that Toronto has far and away the richest and most active music and new music scene I’ve yet to encounter. We in Toronto have over ten different organizations dedicated to new music. We have an orchestra that holds a 3-concert new music festival every year and an orchestra dedicated to new music. We have a number of opera companies dedicated to both old and new music. We have organizations that have been around for over 40 years, and those that have been around for five. We’ve got seasoned professionals and newcomers advocating for new music and we have new music concerts that are sold out. Our community is active, energetic, and friendly, and I look forward to attending many more concerts in this and future seasons.

Thank you again.

– Paolo Griffin

CMC Direcotr Elisabeth Bihl to Step Down

I should have posted this a few days ago, but life got in the way.

On October 17th, 2013, Elisabeth Bihl, Executive Director for the Canadian Music Centre announced her plan to step down by the end of December 2013. Elisabeth has guided the CMC through a great period of transition, and her presence will be missed.

You can read the full press release here:


– Paolo Griffin