Get to know Brandon Chui, viola

This season, violist Brandon Chui takes up his position as the newest core member of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Brandon had a busy freelance career on modern viola when his interest in period playing inspired him to attend the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer and Winter Institutes. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard!

 

We know you as a violist, but you first studied violin. What drew you to the violin?

Brandon Chui, violist

It was actually through my love of the trombone that I discovered the violin. I’d already been playing trombone for a couple of years in band class at school. I discovered a bunch of orchestral VHS videotapes my dad had recorded off PBS. I was watching all the trombone bits but soon fell in love with the violin. After a year of begging, my parents let me have my first violin lesson at the age of thirteen. They didn’t want to commit to anything because of a previously failed experiment with piano lessons. I remember my first lesson like it was yesterday — my teacher Zheng Zhong He came to our house and opened up the case to my violin. Words can’t describe the excitement I felt!

What was your first music gig?

Two friends from high school and I set up a group that played at weddings and other community events. With a configuration of two violins and keyboard, our group — called Strings of Joy — charged $150 for a wedding. Fifty bucks for a fifteen-year old was still a decent chunk of money twenty years ago. By that time I had also picked up the trumpet in high school and occasionally belted out Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary on the namesake’s instrument. Man, those brides got more than they bargained for; I pity the poor souls who were subject to my shenanigans!!

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My primary teacher in university, Mark Skazinetsky, really made me think of phrasing, line, colour, the impact of different types of articulation and how it affects musical characterization — he was the one who really fostered my love for music as an art form, not just playing the violin, and I think that’s one of the greatest gifts a music student can receive.

What is your favourite music to listen to?

I spend a lot of time on the road, and along with blaring Handel as I cruise the mean streets of Toronto, hip hop and R&B often make appearances on the car stereo. It’s 99% classical at home though, and I go through periods of composer obsession. Bach always hits once a year where I simply can’t get enough. Right now, I’m coming off of a month-long Bruckner craze.

What are the last three pieces you’ve listened to?

  • Bruckner Symphony No.8, with Bavarian Radio Symphony and Mariss Jansons
  • The Spinner’s I’ll Be Around
  • John Legend’s album Get Lifted, the last thing blasted in the car

What is your favourite thing to do in Toronto during your free time?

Laughing loudly with friends while eating food. A lot of food.

What’s your favourite restaurant in Toronto?

It’s not the most glamorous place, but Roti Cuisine of India up at Spadina/Dupont holds a real special place in my heart. Special shout-out to their Baigan Burtha and Lamb Korma!

You have a night off — what do you do?

During basketball season, I always check in advance to see if there’s a Toronto Raptors game happening during our nights off. If there is, you’ll find me glued to the TV. With the addition of Kawhi Leonard to the roster this season, you can expect more of the same from me. Another activity I am known for is eating. If it’s tasty, I eat it.

What words of wisdom would you pass to budding musicians?

Be realistic: the majority of musicians don’t win an orchestral job right out of school. Most will have to live the life of a freelancer. Be prepared: it’s a tough business, with too many people fighting for too few jobs, and there are always bills to pay. You better love the hell outta music to do this.

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Behind the Musik: Vivaldi con amore

Download the Program Notes and Program Listing

PROGRAM NOTES
By Charlotte Nediger

The most popular composer for the violin, as well as player on that instrument, during these times, was Don Antonio Vivaldi . . . if acute and rapid tones are evils, Vivaldi has much of the sin to answer for.

— Charles Burney, A General History of Music (1789)

The famous Vivaldi, whom they call the Prete Rosso [the Red-Haired Priest], very well known for his concertos, was a topping man among them at Venice.

 — Mr. Wright, in his Travels through Italy (1720–22)

Such contemporary accounts show us that the appeal of Vivaldi’s music in his own time was comparable with its great popularity today. Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678, and received his early education from his father, a violinist employed at St. Mark’s. In 1703 Antonio was ordained a priest, and in 1704 was appointed as a violin teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà. A few years later he was also named maestro de’ concerti and took over direction of the Pietà orchestra.

The Pietà, founded in 1346, was one of four Venetian institutions for children who had been orphaned, or whose parents were unable to care for them. At some point during the history of the Pietà, its charges became exclusively female. Musical education became an important part of the curriculum, and by the end of the seventeenth century, the Pietà had virtually become a sort of conservatory of music, its concerts enjoying enormous prestige and popularity.

Vivaldi was to remain an employee of the Pietà until his death in 1741, and during his tenure supplied the orchestra with a wealth of instrumental concertos, several hundred in all. Many of the concertos were published by Roger in Amsterdam for circulation throughout Europe; others were circulated in manuscript form by travelling musicians. As his fame spread, Vivaldi started to receive commissions for works from abroad: he wrote many works for the brilliant court orchestra at Dresden, and had close ties with musicians in Vienna. Equally renowned as an opera composer, his many opera sinfonias complete his orchestral output.

The constant demand for concertos inspired Vivaldi to turn to instruments not usually given solo roles in the orchestra. Included in his worklist are, for example, no fewer than 40 concertos for bassoon, and several for one or two oboes. For his own instrument, the violin, he wrote over 250 solo concertos, and numerous concertos for two, three, and four violins. Occasionally Vivaldi added descriptive titles, such as the violin concertos “L’amoroso” and “Amato bene,” which inspired our own title of this week’s concerts. The form and spirit of Vivaldi’s concertos were to provide the model for the late baroque instrumental concerto both in Italy and abroad, and to delight listeners far and wide.


PROGRAM LISTING

Directed by Elisa Citterio

October 10–14, 2018
Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre

October 16, 2018
George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts

 Antonio Vivaldi
1678–1741

Sinfonia to Ottone in villa, RV 729
Allegro – Larghetto – Allegro

Concerto for violin in C Minor, RV 761 “Amato bene”
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
Elisa Citterio violin

Concerto for bassoon in D Minor, RV 481
Allegro – Larghetto – Allegro molto
Dominic Teresi bassoon

Concerto for 2 oboes in C Major, RV 534
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
John Abberger & Marco Cera oboes

INTERMISSION

Concerto for violin in E Major, RV 271 “L’amoroso”
Allegro – Cantabile – Allegro
Elisa Citterio violin

Concerto for lute in D Major, RV 93
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
Lucas Harris lute

Concerto for 4 violins in B-flat Major, RV 553
Allegro – Largo – Allegro
Elisa Citterio, Cristina Zacharias, Patricia Ahern & Geneviève Gilardeau violins

Concerto for 2 oboes & 2 violins in D Major, RV 564a
Allegro – Adagio non molto – Allegro
John Abberger &  Marco Cera oboes
Elisa Citterio & Julia Wedman violins


Elisa and the orchestra will be heading to Humbercrest United Church later this month to record the music from this week’s concerts. The resulting CD, Vivaldi con amore, will be our first with Elisa as Music Director. Stay tuned for news of its release later this season.

If you would like to sponsor a concerto, or learn more about how you can support this recording project, please contact Ania Kordiuk at (416) 964-9562 x 223 or akordiuk@tafelmusik.org.

Harlequin Blog Series: Marco Meets Ghezzi

By Sarah Baumann, Marketing Director

One of the most-anticipated concerts of our 2018/19 season is the world premiere of The Harlequin Salon in January 2019. Following on the success of the multimedia performances created by double bassist Alison Mackay, these concerts will be created, scripted, and illustrated by oboist Marco Cera. We’ll be writing a monthly Harlequin blog post to take you behind the scenes as this production comes to life!

Marco moved from Italy to Toronto to play with Tafelmusik from 2000–2002 and rejoined the orchestra in January 2007. A passionate painter (Marco studied figurative art at Liceo Artistico Citta’ di Valdagno in Italy), as well as multi-instrumentalist, he first encountered the sketches of Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674–1755) as references. “Ghezzi left behind more than 4,000 drawings depicting Roman society from the baroque era. These have become important for musicians now,” he explains. “They provide a great deal of detail on the musical instruments, hairstyles, furniture, posture, and lifestyle of musicians from the time.”

Ghezzi was an Italian artist who was probably the world’s first professional caricaturist. Marco points out that the word “caricature” comes from the Italian “caricare” or “to load, overload, exaggerate.” Caricatures exaggerate the features of the person in the portrait in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

Ghezzi was an enthusiastic music lover, who held exclusive musical salons at his palazzo for a “who’s who” of Roman intellectuals and artists. His most well-known portrait is the famous caricature of Antonio Vivaldi.

Antonio Vivaldi by Pier Leone Ghezzi

Marco started to research the composers that Ghezzi would have met and sketched, starting with Vivaldi. He dreamed up a salon that would feature several of these personalities: Vivaldi, the famous prima donna Faustina Bordoni, and renowned cellist Giovanni Bononcini. The concert started to take shape: recreate one of Ghezzi’s famous salon evenings for the Tafelmusik audience, and imagine what happens (and what music results) when these famous characters from the time meet!

Marco Cera looking at a Ghezzi sketch

This blog series will continue in October, November and December. Stay tuned!

The Harlequin Salon premieres January 16-20, 2019 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. Click here to buy your tickets now