Gustav Mahler celebrated on a high note
On Wednesday evening, a magical event took place under the rooftop of 20 St. Joseph’s Street.
It was an event honouring Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, a visionary composer of the 19th-20th century and the symbolic figure behind a Toronto-based non-profit organization.
It was a music gala that starred two of Canada’s music talents, composer Kevin Lau and mezzo-soprano Susan Platts.
More importantly, it was the 10th birthday celebration of the Toronto Mahler Society founded by yours truly. It is an organization that Maestro Thomas Dausgaard describes as “glad it even exists,” while Maestro Daniel Harding sends his prized Deutsche Grammophon recording of Mahler’s Tenth as a special memorabilia for this occasion.
The full house attendance of the Canadian Music Center attests to the basic question: “why a Mahler society in Canada?” As the most cosmopolitan city in Canada, Toronto is a mecca of growing excellence in the Arts. Expectations overall are high, and local talents are flourishing. Even the classical music audience is growing with sophistication, which is a reason that led to the establishment of new music venues and growing regional centers like the Canadian Music Center. As a testimony of the interests in Mahler’s music, a varied audience attended this 10th birthday celebration – music students, industry leaders (in education, healthcare, finance, government and non-profits, technology), as well as retired professionals. Old and new friendships bonded under Mahler’s banner during a carefully designed program lasting for 4 hours.
Dr. Kevin Lau opened with a lecture discussing Mahler and his music from the lens of a young composer. He talked about basic fundamentals of music writing, the forms and writings from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart to finally where Mahler’s music stood in this continuum. To illustrate, Dr. Lau drew examples from Mahler’s Sixth and the unfinished Tenth symphonies to highlight concepts of dissonance and consonance. To end, Dr. Lau ended with Leonard Bernstein’s famous quote, “Mahler had one foot in the 19th century and the other plunging into the soils of the 20th century.”
Mezzo-soprano Susan Platts then joined with society member Elizabeth Lau on the piano for a lovely rendition of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. These are songs of beauty and nostalgia based on poems by Friedrich Rückert. Ms. Platts brought clean articulations in the German language, with soothing and ringing vocal lines that floated amicably under Ms. Lau’s meticulous accompaniment. Both performers had less than 2 hours of rehearsals during the past month, but left audiences impressed on a high note.
The two guests were then joined in a panel discussion with the audience, exploring their musical upbringings, their interests and working experiences in Mahler’s music, and how music of other composers play an integral part in their individual professions. Dr. Lau had once considered Astrophysics as a profession, while Ms. Platts once pondered the path of a designer. Our fortune indeed they opted the paths of a professional musician instead.
A birthday celebration would not be complete without desert and prizes. Guests enjoyed creative cupcakes made by designer Elizabeth Borres, while 12 of our guests were lucky recipients of special prizes valued at over $1,000.
The success of this event would not be possible without the generous time and enthusiastic contributions of society members, volunteers and community partners. They include: Caroline Hughey and Amber (Canadian Music Center), Chris Giuliani (Château des Charmes), Jobert Sevilleno (Kindred Spirits Orchestra), John Terrauds (Musical Toronto), Bonnie Booth (Ontario Philharmonic), Cameron Slone (Royal Conservatory of Music/Koerner Hall), Raymond Chan/Vivian Chan/Elizabeth Lau/Andrew Macrae/ Liliana McCullough/Winnie Wong (Toronto Mahler Society), Natasha Bood (Toronto Summer Music Festival), Adam Debevc (Toronto Symphony Orchestra), Thomas Dausgaard, Daniel Harding, Kevin Lau, Susan Platts, Sue Spence, Elizabeth Borres (Gotta Eat Cake), Robin Elliott (Daniel et Daniel), and anonymous donor (florist on King Street West).
As a memento of this Toronto Mahler Society milestone, Maestro Dausgaard pre-recorded this short excerpt (a full version of this video lasting over 15 minutes can be found on our website's “Resources” page).
For information on events, meetings and membership applications of the Toronto Mahler Society, please check our website for the latest updates.
By: Patrick P.L. Lam
Photos Courtesy: Andrew Macrae, Toronto Mahler Society
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