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Following their incredible journey through the Beethoven Piano and Violin Sonatas in three concerts for the Vancouver Recital Society, Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov were anxious to blow off excess steam and see something of Vancouver before they left for their next engagement in San Francisco.

So I, as the tour guide, and Allison Hart, one of the concert sponsors and the driver for the tour, set out with the musicians on Sunday after they had changed and packed up. We headed down to Granville Island where the plan was to take them on a quick tour of the market before driving through Stanley Park, and then continue on to West Vancouver, where we were to meet the rest of the Beethoven Project sponsors for dinner.

At Granville Island we re-fueled the musicians with strong coffee and literally ran around showing them the wonders of the market. Then, we walked over to the Net Loft into the craft gallery where Alexander made a purchase. Isabelle walked across the corridor and spied Edie’s Hat Shop. “Oh,” she said, “I love hats!”  In we went. The young salesman pointed out that the store would be closing in three minutes, to which Isabelle responded, “Oh, you may not want to close in three minutes as you have some serious customers!”

As it turns out, Isabelle has the perfect head and face for hats. Every single one she tried on looked fabulous on her. Meanwhile, Alexander (who is a HUGE fan of Fred Astaire) asked whether they carried Top Hats. And of course, as you can see from the photograph, they do!

We left Edie’s hats 45 minutes later having purchased a total of 6 hats among us. Now there was no time to drive through Stanley Park, but we were wide awake from our hat shop adventure and decided to wear our hats to dinner. We turned a few heads, and had a wonderful dinner.

Is this really why artists so enjoy coming to Vancouver? 



Last night I had one of the most perfect concert experiences of my life. I have been attending a conference of music managers and presenters in Budapest. I discovered that baritone Christian Gerhaher was singing an all-Schubert song recital in the Vienna Konzerthaus. It was sold out, but after 33 years in the concert presenting world, I was able to pull strings and, to my utter astonishment, I became a guest of the Konzerthaus. So, I hopped on a train and headed back to Vienna (where I’d been just the week before) to hear the performance. The distance between Vienna and Budapest seems similar to the distance between Vancouver and Seattle. Except that, of course, one just sails through borders from one country to the next.

The Konzerthaus was packed to overflowing. There were 750 seats filled in the hall with an additional 50 seats on stage. I know this because I asked the Intendant of the Konzerthaus. I also enquired about their wonderful piano and he told me that they select and rent a new Steinway from the factory every two years.

I am guilty of over-using the word “extraordinary”, but there is simply no other word to describe Gerhaher’s voice (or voices, as he seems to have so many of them). He inhabits the text and the music he is singing. He simply delivered what Schubert intended when he wrote the songs. Nothing more and nothing less. His regular pianist is Gerold Huber and the two of them together are as one. Right down to the tiniest nuance. I can understand why Andras Schiff has chosen to invite Gerhaher to Carnegie Hall for his “Perspectives” Series. And of course, we, at the VRS are the beneficiaries of this collaboration. We jumped at the opportunity when we heard about it.

If you are a serious, discerning music lover you must not miss the Gerhaher/Schiff performance at the Chan on May 14. Don’t expect a larger than life personality like Bryn Terfel (nothing wrong with him!) but expect the most perfect delivery of song you will experience for many, many years to come. It is both deeply gratifying and humbling at the same time.

Leila (en route from Vienna to Budapest).



By now, many of you have heard the sad news that the Playhouse Theatre Company commenced to wind down operations as of March 10.

On the preceding day, Leila and I attended the announcement, which could only be described as a wake for a departed loved-one. An unusual silence fell over the assembled group of arts workers and press people, and many shed tears when it was made clear why we had been brought together. The unimaginable had happened.

 The Playhouse Theatre Company has been a part of our cultural fabric for 49 years. Children, who grew up with this company, now take their children and maybe even their grandchildren.

 The current climate for the arts is anything but sunny and, even a venerable company can run into storm clouds. But no one should think an arts organization blindly moves towards the precipice. I cannot think of one Vancouver colleague who is not completely dedicated to providing the best programming to the community they serve and doing their utmost to build a thriving and vital business.

 Running an arts organization takes fortitude, dedication, passion, nerve, and endless energy and focus. But even that is often not enough to sustain an arts business.

 Just a couple of days ago I received a note from a patron thanking the VRS for presenting Murray Perahia. The writer went on to point out that artists of this stature would not appear in Vancouver were it not for the support of the Martha Lou Henley Charitable Foundation and of Odlum Brown, our Season Sponsor.

How very true. Simply put, we would not have undertaken a recital of this magnitude without this level of support.

Equally, we could not undertake any of our work without the support of our other corporate sponsors and advertisers, the large number of individuals who make donations, and the dedication of our ticket buyers.

This level of giving, and the passion shared by this large group, inspires our own passion to bring the very best musicians to Vancouver.

The writer mentioned above, went on to say the demise of the Playhouse Theatre Company is a ‘wake-up call’ for our community.

The arts have always been in a somewhat precarious situation, but a new level of fragility has set in.

This is indeed our wake-up call. This is a time when we must all work for – no, fight for – the cultural vibrancy and diversity we love. We need to tell politicians how the arts influence our lives; we need to experience culture in all its multifarious forms; we need to introduce children and neighbours to performances and galleries; we need to support with donations and volunteered time.

The arts are there for us – let’s make sure we are there for the arts.

Paul Gravett

Executive Director
Vancouver Recital Society

p.s. The Playhouse Theatre Company and the Vancouver Playhouse are often confused. The former is the production company that will cease operations; the latter is the venue in which it presented plays. The venue will remain available for other presenters such as the Vancouver Recital Society.

Murray Perahia…reminiscences

Murray Perahia first came onto my radar in 1972 when he won the Leeds International Piano Competition. I knew Murray’s playing through his recordings but didn’t have the opportunity to hear him live for the first time until 1983, when on a visit to London I was able to attend a recital he gave at the Royal Festival Hall. It was one of the most memorable concert experiences of my life. I was with a friend with whom I had studied music at university in South Africa, and the two of us left the hall speechless. We didn’t speak to one another until we had crossed the bridge over the Thames, to catch our Tube.

Two years later (the VRS was 5 years old) Murray Perahia played a recital in Portland on a small, but wonderful piano series. How envious was I when I found out that the only way the series was able to present Mr. Perahia was through the generosity of one of their subscribers who was a Murray Perahia fan, and was determined to get him to Portland at any cost.

Finally, three years later I plucked up the courage to engage Murray Perahia. Regrettably, he had to cancel as he came down with the flu in New York City. We found out only the afternoon before the concert, as we had been moving offices (pre cellphone days) and his manager couldn’t reach us as our telephone and fax lines hadn’t been installed. First call on the new phone number was “terribly sorry to have to tell you…”

He played his first performance for us the following year at the Orpheum and has returned to our series several times since. I have had the immense pleasure of having him practice in my home, and so has our sponsor, Martha Lou Henley. On one occasion he needed a break and went for a walk. I was panic stricken when he hadn’t returned after an hour and a quarter. Fortunately, back in those days the VRS office was located in the basement of my home, so I was able to leave the house to search for him. I did find him wandering around the side streets of Shaughnessy.

On another occasion he came to Vancouver for a concert at the time of the famous summit. We had booked him into the Four Seasons Hotel, which we then had to cancel as the Summit leaders had taken over the hotel. We re-located him to the Waterfront Hotel and let his management know. Somewhere between his management and his diary there was a ‘disconnect’. I waited at the airport for five hours, calling every hotel in town every 30 minutes to see if he had checked in. Bingo! Finally, the Wedgwood Hotel said that they had just found a room for a Mr. Perahia who hadn’t had a previous reservation but had been insistent that there had been! I asked them to send someone up to lock his door and not let him out until I arrived!

Each and every concert by Murray Perahia is a revelation and a deeply moving experience. I am so thankful that I have been a concert presenter at a time when Murray Perahia is at his prime.

Leila Getz, C.M., O.B.C., D.F.A.

Artistic Director

Music, what’s it MEME to me?

MEMEEnter the Vancouver Recital Society’s RU35 Collaborative Art Project and You Could Win!

Looking for a way to experience heart-stopping classical music recitals without breaking the bank? RU35, or Recitals Under 35, is the Vancouver Recital Society’s new program for discerning young Vancouverites between the ages of 18 and 35. RU35 tickets for all recitals are only $18, a savings of up to 75%.

In the spirit of youth, music, and collaboration, we’ve created a art project based around the poster and internet memes. We want your answers to the following question:

“Music, what’s it MEME to me?”

Tell us what music “memes” to you in one short sentence. Be as creative with your response as you like. To enter, post your submissions on Facebook (on the Vancouver Recital Society Facebook page) or Twitter (using the #RU35 hashtag) from February 15, to April 15, 2012.

The Vancouver Recital Society will commission a Vancouver-based design team to take our favourite submissions and transform them into series of six internet memes and collectible posters. If your submission is selected for a poster, you’ll win two tickets to the performance of your choice and be entered into a draw for a subscription to the Vancouver Recital Society’s 2012/2013 season.



Please read the “Music, what’s it MEME to me?” Collaborative Art Project Contest Rules below before submitting your entry. By submitting your entry into the Contest, you automatically agree to these rules.

Who is Eligible?
British Columbia residents 18 years of age or older. Staff and partners of the Vancouver Recital Society are encouraged to enter but will not be eligible to win a prize. There is no purchase necessary to enter or win.

How Do I Enter?
Post your answer to the question “Music, what’s it MEME to me?” in one of two ways:

1)      Like the Vancouver Recital Society Facebook page and post your entry on our wall.
2)      Follow @VanRecital on Twitter and tweet us your entry (including the #RU35 hashtag).

Feel free to include images or video with your entries. Your space is limited only by the space on Twitter and Facebook. Enter as often as you’d like.


When is the deadline for entry?
Be sure to post your entries by April 15, 2012 at 11:59PM PST.

How are the winning entries selected?
All entries will be reviewed by the Vancouver Recital Society team and judged for relevance and creativity. If your entry is selected, a Vancouver-based design team will transform your response into a sharable internet meme (in the form of a jpeg image) and collectible poster. There will be six winning entries in total.

What are the prizes?
The six winning entries will each receive two tickets to the Vancouver Recital Society performance of their choice in the 2011/2012 season. Additionally, those six finalists will be put in a draw for a subscription to the Vancouver Recital Society’s 2012/2013 season. Prizes are non-refundable and cannot be returned for cash.

When and how are winners contacted?
The Vancouver Recital Society will contact the six finalists via their method of submission (Facebook or Twitter) by April 20, 2012. If they do not respond within 7 days, they automatically forfeit their prize. Winners must provide proof that they are 18 years of age or older to obtain their prize. Prizes can be sent to a mailing address provided by winners.

The Vancouver Recital Society is not responsible for any failure of the Facebook or Twitter websites during this contest. Nor is it responsible for any problems or technical malfunctions of computer online systems, servers, access providers, computer equipment, software or any e-mail, online or internet entry lost due to technical problems or traffic congestion on the internet or at any website or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to an entrant’s or any other person’s computer or property related to or resulting from playing or downloading any material in the promotion.

The One Who Got Away

QuasthoffFor a good many years I have been an ardent fan of the wonderful German bass-baritone, Thomas Quasthoff.  I had the good fortune to hear him in recital at the Wigmore Hall and remarkably, despite his 4ft height he was a towering presence on the stage.

He was a “thalidomide baby” who soared above his physical challenges, and became one of the greatest baritones of this generation.  His lieder singing was powerful and communicative as you will see from this video.

Thomas Quasthoff sings Schubert Winterreise

He was also a jazz singer of repute as you will hear in this video where he performs the great “Georgia on my mind”.

Thomas Quasthoff sings Georgia on my mind

The Vancouver Recital had engaged him for a performance at the Chan with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra on February 15, 2003. Regrettably, he had to cancel the tour due to some health challenges at the time, and we have not had another opportunity to engage him.

Last Wednesday he announced “After almost 40 years, I have decided to retire from concert life. My health no longer allows me to live up to the high standard that I have always set for my art and myself. I owe a lot to this wonderful profession and leave without a trace of bitterness”.

I read a review of a concert of his at Carnegie Hall in which he is reputed to have shouted at a few people in the audience who tried to rush away right after the last song (the reviewer said “probably to catch the last bus to Hoboken!”)…”wait! I haven’t finished singing!”.  Now that takes courage.

Thomas Quasthoff will continue to teach and to run his Lieder Competition.  He is a one-of-a kind.

There is an illuminating interview he did with the British music journalist, Norman Lebrecht on the BBC.  Here is the link.  Make a nice cup of tea, settle back and enjoy.  


Listening Room Revealed

headphonesOver the past few weeks we asked our readers for their favourite recordings, performers and repertoire. We received many responses.

Perhaps it is not surprising that J. S. Bach ranks high with our listeners. One wrote, “I’m listening to Bach piano transcriptions performed by Dinu Lipatti, Yvonne Lefebure, Egon Petri, Solomon, Myra Hess, and Wilhelm Kempff.” Other entrants cited Yo-Yo Ma’s recorded performances of the six cello suites, and Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations.

The latter work received a second suggestion with the “authentic, ethereal, definitive” recording by Wanda Landowska, and, as an alternative to the Goldberg Variations, another listener suggested Angela Hewitt’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 and 2.

Mozart also got a nod with the third violin concerto played by the “WONDERFUL and Canadian” James Ehnes. This listener added, “I can’t decide which movement I love best!”

Another listener added Helene Grimaud’s new Mozart album, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Classical Traditional Chart in the US, and made it into the iTunes 10 top classical albums in the US, France and Germany.

Taking a different approach, one respondent samples “the spectrum of Jupiters [as an example] from the great number of conductors who’ve taken a stab at it. Classical Archives is a great place to try these out without buying every disc.”

Other repertoire/performer recommendations included:

  • Beaux Arts Trio performing Arensky Piano Trios: “not a staple repertoire, but a delightful rendering. Beaux Arts Trio is always my favourite.”
  • The music of Chopin performed by Alexandre Tharaud, Samson Francois and Alfred Cortot.
  • Chopin’s Mazurkas performed by Yakov Flier: “No-one comes even close! This is “Mazurkas Rediscovered!”
  • Folk Songs by Trio Mediaeval
  • Glassworks by Philip Glass (this listener puts the opening track on repeat and says it is “terrific!”)
  • Mendelssohn’s Piano Trios as interpreted by Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax
  • Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev
  • Symphony No. 3, Sibelius, recorded by Sir Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony
  • Rachmaninoff piano concertos performed by Jean Yves Thibaudet
  • Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen performed by the Strings of the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Herbert von Karajan
  • Healey Willan’s 2nd Symphony

Rounding out the list is:

  • Anything by Paul Lewis
  • Ma Vlast by Smetana
  • any CDs featuring two piano and piano duet CDs
  • and any live performance on

On the pop end of the spectrum we received recommendations for Billy Joel’s Fantasy and Delusion performed by pianist Richard Joo, Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot, Annie Lennox’s album Bare, and Deva Premal’s The Essence (“a great restorer of peace and balance”).

So, there you have it: a fantastic and varied listening list. Thank you to everyone who participated in our competition… and congratulations to Robin Bajer the winner of our six autographed CDs and DVDs.

Enjoy and happy listening!

Parking at the Chan Centre

parkingMany of our patrons have pointed out the increasing cost of using the Rose Garden Parkade adjacent to the Chan Centre.

In the past, parking at UBC was underwritten by UBC Parking Services with a small charge ($1-$1.50) applied to organizations using the Chan Centre for each ticket that was sold. UBC Parking absorbing the balance of the cost. The result was the appearance of “free” parking at the Chan Centre.

This came to an end in 2009 when the Chan and its clients were informed by UBC Parking that they, on instructions from the UBC Board of Governors, could no longer underwrite the cost of event parking. This began a two year ramp-up to what UBC Parking perceived as revenue neutral rates.

We have discussed ths situation with our colleagues at the Chan Centre a number of times, but they are not in control of the parkade and are not able to offer any cost-reducing solutions.

While we do not have an ideal solution, we would like to suggest a few parking alternatives that you may wish to try. The North Parkade and the Fraser Parkade are short walks (5-7 minutes) from the front doors of the Chan. Neither are likely to have line-ups and they offer evening and weekend parking for $6. Both of these alternate lots are unattended.

You will find UBC parking maps here, and a searchable map can be found here. Additional information, including Translink information, can be found on the Chan Centre website.

Everyone at the Chan Centre and Vancouver Recital Society thank you for your patience and understanding. If you do have comments about this or any other topic, please feel free to send a message to Paul Gravett (VRS executive director).

Picture source:

Listening Room

One thing we all share in common is a passion for listening to music.

Of course, we regularly come together to discover new talent and marvel at internationally-acclaimed artists on Vancouver’s stages. But our appetite for music does not end there.

In a world where recordings have never been more readily available, we can now have our pick of music at any time, anywhere.

This prompted us to ask the question: what are you listening to?

We decided to put the question to Alexander Melnikov. Perhaps not surprisingly, much of his listening centres on the music he is performing. In other words, his listening is his work and his study.

Melnikov added that his late-night listening lately has been Bruno Walter’s recording of Mahler’s ninth symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic. But he really wanted us to know about the Comedian Harmonists, an all-male vocal group who performed in the 1930s. You will find background on this ensemble here; try this YouTube channel for recordings and excerpts from a movie.

Let us know what you have been listening to by posting your favourite recordings on our blog, or by emailing them. Everyone who shares their personal playlists will be automatically entered to win an attractive CD package specially picked by VRS staff.

Happy listening!

photo from

A growing apprecition: Preludes and Fugues by Shostakovich

Melnikov and ShostakovichPerhaps it has been a deficiency in my musical education, but I have found it hard to warm to Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues.

Written in 1950-51 and influenced by Bach and in a lineage of prelude collections by Chopin, Scriabin, Busoni, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff, these works have generally remained on the outskirts of the repertoire.

This is changing however, in part due to the championing of Alexander Melnikov, who will give us a still rare opportunity to hear a significant portion of Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues on November 13. This will certainly be the first time I will hear more than one or two of the prelude-fugue pairs at one time.

Because of Melnikov’s program, and more because I am turning pages for this performance, I thought it incumbent on me to learn more about this great composer’s magnum opus.

My new appreciation began with the arrival of Robert Markow’s programme notes. He wrote: “In their vast range of textures, figurations, rhythmic devices, characterizations, compositional procedures and moods, Shostakovich’s 24 preludes and fugues rank as one of the monuments of twentieth-century piano literature.” You can read the full set of notes here.

Alexander Melnikov wrote in the liner notes to his own recording, “we hear the voice of a tormented man, finding again and again the superhuman force to face life as it is – in all its variety, ugliness, and sometimes beauty.” Hear more about Melnikov’s thoughts on Shostakovich in this video.

There is no doubt all of this is revealed in Melnikov’s 2010 recording, which has contributed to a rediscovery of the Preludes and Fugues and the next stage of my appreciation.

Played with “clarity” and “virtuosity and audacity” (The New York Times), the Neo-Classical elements of the pieces resound, and Shostakovich’s response to his self-imposed aesthetic restriction is endlessly inventive and inspired (imagine writing in a clearly defined tonal centre in the 1950s!).

Each listening of Melnikov’s recording exposes the depth and breadth of these bold works and, as suggested in The Guardian, “Alexander Melnikov makes you wonder why these works are considered monotonous or didactic.”

Indeed, I now have to wonder why it is we do not hear these works more frequently, and how it is they have been missing in my musical appreciation. That has all changed in the hands of Alexander Melnikov.

Paul Gravett
Executive Director

Alexander Melnikov performs at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on Sunday, November 13 at 3pm. Tickets are available from the VRS Box Office, call Cory at 604-602-0363. Tickets are also available from Ticketmaster either online at or call 1-855-985-2787 (service charges apply).