| Music story by Ko, youngjun
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Photo1: Boris Brott conducts a Hungarian Orchestra.
Francois: Dear Mr. Brott, thank you for accepting the interview and congratulations on receiving your honorary doctorate from McGill.
Brott: Thank you, I was thrilled and completely surprised when I got a telephone call from incumbent Principal and Vice Chancellor Dr. Suzanne Fortier asking if I would accept a nomination by the Senate and Faculty of Music at McGill to accept a Doctorate of Music (honoris causa) on the occasion of her investiture. I hold McGill University in the highest esteem and was almost brought up by my parents in the hallowed Moyse and Redpath halls where my parents rehearsed an performed. The investiture of a new Principal happens only once a decade and is a very solemn and historic event. The Governor General of Canada attends to transfer the seal of authority - a tradition going back 200 years.
Francois: How many doctorates were given?
Brott: Only 2 Doctorates were given - mine and a Doctorate in Letters (honoris causa) to Nathalie Bondil, the Artistic Director of Montreal's Musée des Beaux Arts. Principal Fortier is a great lover of music and art and believes that they play a vital role in a true universal education - the Greeks who invented the term "Universitas" included these elements in a true education.
At the ceremony a procession of gowned heads of Universities from across Canada, the US and Europe brought greetings to the new Principal. It was a very impressive ceremony and one which I shall remember my whole life long as a high point.
On the day prior to the ceremony I took part in a colloquium on the subject "Where Creativity and knowledge meet" The panel consisted of 6 highly distinguished minds and I felt very challenged and honoured to be included. It was revealed that this title is in fact the motto of Dr. Fortier's tenure at the university.
François: You are one of the busiest conductors in Canada. Could you tell us about your recent activities?
Brott: Over the past month I opened the McGill Chamber Orchestra's 74th Season with a concert featuring American Folk crossover Violinist Mark O'Connor, gave motivational speeches in Texas for ConocoPhilips petroleum and the United Way of Edmonton, returned to the MCO for a concert featuring Marie Josee Lord in Spanish repertoire, presented 6 education concerts with the National Academy Orchestra in Hamilton in a new programme for elementary schools about prejudice.
Francois: Could you introduce the McGill chamber Orchestra to our readers?
Brott: The McGill Chamber Orchestra is one of Canada’s most established chamber orchestras. It was founded in 1939 by my father Alexander Brott. In 1943, cellist Lotte Brott won the cello chair and married my father.
The orchestra had as its member’s principal teachers of the McGill Conservatory of Music and eventually principal players in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra where Dad served as Concertmaster and my mother played in the cello section.
Francois: When did you begin working with the MCO?
Brott: I joined the orchestra as Associate Conductor in 1989. In 2005, and was appointed Artistic Director on the death of my father.
Francois: Could you introduce some of the artists that collaborated with the McGill Chamber Orchestra?
Brott: The orchestra was quickly recognized as an ensemble of international standing. Some of the greatest artists of this century regularly appeared with the McGill Chamber Orchestra at its concerts, first in McGill’s Redpath Hall and later at Place des Arts where the orchestra was orchestra in residence at the Théâtre Maisonneuve. Artists who appeared with the orchestra include Yo-Yo Ma, David Oïstrakh, Lili Kraus, The Beaux Arts Trio, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Isaac Stern, Joseph Szygeti, Ida Haendel, Peter Serkin, Marilyn Horne, Maureen Forrester, Yehudi Menuhin, Glenn Gould, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Victoria de Los Angeles and Richard Stoltzman.
Francois: Does MSO record or broadcast?
Brott: The McGill Chamber Orchestra (MCO) has recorded regularly for the CBC and commercial labels, and it appears regularly on television. Of particular note have been its annual tours. The orchestra has appeared in the United States, Russia, Europe, Israel, South America, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and the Yukon. These concert tours were made possible thanks to grants from the Department of External Affairs of Canada and the Touring Office of the Canada Council.
Francois: What is the most unique characteristic of the MCO history?
Brott: The MCO has championed Canadian and Québec composers throughout its history. Alexander Brott, himself one of Canada’s foremost composers, annually commissioned works from Canada’s most significant creative artists, many with the help of the CBC and the Samuel Lapitsky Foundation.
Francois: What is the role of the MCO as an educator?
Brott: Throughout its history, the MCO has been dedicated to education. The orchestra regularly toured to Montréal area schools and participated in the Conseil des arts de Montréal's “Jouer dans L’Île” project. It initiated bilingual cutting edge multi-media schools concerts in association with the Montreal Gazette at Théâtre Maisonneuve. It pioneered a “Stained Glass” series in Montréal area churches and annual education tours to Cowansville and Lennoxville as well as annual multi-media Christmas concerts in economically challenged areas of the city.
Francois: I’m surprised that the MCO has done a lot more activities than I had thought.
Brott: The McGill Chamber Orchestra is a piece of Québec’s bedrock artistic history. The orchestra in its 74 years of existence has presented annual concert series, thus providing employment and important artistic experiences to many of Montréal’s finest musicians. It has thus continued to serve great music, the Montréal public and carried with it on tour, in recordings and on television, Québec’s reputation as a highly cultured society.
Francois: How would you introduce the MCO’s musical characteristics in short?
Brott: The orchestra is known for its tone, passion, intimacy and enthusiasm. I like an overt romantic style of playing and this orchestra gives their all both visually and musically to delight our audiences.
Francois: What can you tell us about your upcoming concert on the 26th November?
Brott: The concert is the third in our 74th season and features an Israeli Pianist Ishay Shaer who is rapidly becoming known for his musicality and passion. J.S. Bach wrote 6 concerti for keyboard and chamber orchestra. Bach was an excellent keyboard artist and improviser. In fact, better known for his abilities as organist during his lifetime than his skill as a composer. Bach wrote many compositions for the recently invented "well-tempered clavier".
Francois: Pianist, Ishay Shaer will be playing as the soloist. I believe this is his first concert in Montreal. Could you tell us a little bit about him?
Brott: The MCO has a long tradition of featuring soloists for the first time in Canada and North America who go on to be among the finest in the world. Most recently we featured Jan Lisiecki in his first orchestral concert in Montreal. He was 11! In fact so young that the Montreal International Piano Concours would not allow him to compete! He is now 17 and played with the great orchestras of the world and has a recording contract with Deutsche Gramophone! I believe Ishay is another such artist. A recent critic in Germany said "The 1983 born Israeli pianist Ishay Shaer treats the composer's allusions by "reading" both the musical and the literary texts: Asking questions, providing answers, leading dialogues, meditating, narrating or being impulsively enthusiastic. Ideas that seem as though they develop at the very moment give his interpretation of the piece a persuasive originality." I am convinced he will give our audience a truly magnificent evening of Bach.
Francois: This concert should be very interesting both historically and musically.
Brott: I am not sure if all six single keyboard concerti of Bach have ever been presented in one evening in Montreal before but certainly this is a tour de force for any keyboard artist. Although Bach originally wrote them for harpsichord we will be using a modern piano for our performances. My argument here is that there is much greater possibility for colour and dynamic variety in a piano than in a harpsichord. Also our orchestra uses modern instruments tuned to contemporary pitch and producing much more dynamic and tonal variety than possible on what we think are authentic baroque string instruments. Bach was fascinated by novelty and invention. I am sure if he were alive today he would have written for a modern pianoforte.
Francois: You have done many educational concerts and music camps outside of your professional performances. What kind of activities do you do for young people?
Brott: I am not sure where to begin. My father was an educator and my mentor Leonard Bernstein was a great musical communicator and pedagogue. One of the most important duties for a musician and conductor is to pass on your love and commitment to your art to young people. I have been doing this my whole life and career in live concerts and on television and radio.
I recently was given an award at the NAC in Ottawa for having introduced over 3 million young Canadians to music with that orchestra over the past forty years. I think there is so much to say on this subject that we should leave it for another interview!!
I continue to present many concerts for young people using actors and multimedia. I believe young people need to be introduced to music using all theatrical visual and multimedia devices. In our computer age it is vital to make that connection.
LISTENING is not something taught in our education systems today; all I really want from first time young concert goers is to have them leaving he audience saying "Wow that was COOL!"
This past summer I celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the National Academy Orchestra I founded in order to help the transition between the end of university and a job. We have graduated over 1,500 musicians into employment.
Francois: As a musician, it is always a great pleasure for me to meet experienced artists. What kind of advices can you give to young professionals musicians about stepping into the world of classical music?
Brott: I think that this should be included in our next interview on education as the two are inseparably linked. First and foremost LOVE MUSIC and tell everyone who will listen and even those who may NOT listen how much music changes your life.
Francois: Lastly, could you give brief words of greeting to the Korean community people?
Brott: Francois, I LOVE the Korean people and THEIR love of music. I had the good fortune to visit Korea and perform in Seoul in the Sejong Cultural Centre and in Pusan. Korean musicians are passionate and colourful and play with a wonderful energy and abandon. I hope MANY KOREANS come to my concerts in Montreal. I would love to have them in our audiences. I welcome them with open arms.
Francois: Thank you very much for your time. Hope you give a wonderful concert on November 26.
The Complete Keyboard Concerti
Date & Hour: November 26th, 2013 7:30 pm
Venue: Bourgie Hall, 1380 rue Sherbrooke O.Montréal, QC H3G 1J5
Price: 23 $ to 51,75 $ (514.989.9668)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Concerto no 1 in D minor, BWV 1052, Concerto no 2 in E major, BWV 1053
Concerto no 3 in D major, BWV 1054, Concerto no 4 in A major, BWV 1055
Concerto no 5 in F minor, BWV 1056, Concerto no 6 in G minor, BWV 1057
Ishay Shaer, Piano
McGill Chamber Orchestra
Boris Brott, conductor
MMus(McGill), DEM(CNR de Dijon), BMus(Kyunwon
Univ) Former director of the Ensemble Orchestral de Dijon, Vancouver Camerata,
Suncoast Concert Band. http://montrealguitar.wix.com/studio