Michelle Assay (U of T/King’s College London) and David Fanning (University of Manchester) present “Weinberg's String Quartets: The Crossroads of Identity and Freedom,” illustrated live by the Quatuor Danel.
Room 330, Edward Johnson Building, 80 Queen's Park, Toronto
Over the past two decades, the Quatuor Danel has been championing the 17 string quartets of Mieczyslaw Weinberg. The Polish-born composer twice narrowly escaped Nazi invasions, eventually settling in Moscow, where he became Shostakovich's closest musical friend. In private meetings the two composers demonstrated their latest compositions, and their string quartets constitute a musical dialogue, even a 'competition' as Shostakovich once wrote. This illustrated lecture will introduce Weinberg's quartets and show how they dramatise issues such as Identity, Freedom, Influence, and how musicology and performance may work symbiotically.
On October 12, the Quatuor Danel will be performing Weinberg’s String Quartet no. 16, alongside works by Schubert and Mendelssohn, as part of the Music Toronto concert series. Visit www.music-toronto.com for more information and access to online ticketing. Use code MTOCT12 for a 15% discount.
Michelle Assay is the principal investigator of the Marie Curie/UK Research and Innovation-funded project, ‘Women and Western Art Music in Iran’, which traces the fate of Iranian female musicians whose careers fell victim to the controls that came to effect following the 1979 Revolution. The project is hosted at King’s College London and the University of Toronto, in partnership with Silk Road Ensemble and UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage centre in France. Michelle’s teaching and research focus on music as soft power and on neglected and untold stories and histories. She has taught at seven universities and higher education establishments across the world, covering a wide range of topics from music and politics (notably in totalitarian contexts such as those of Iran and the Soviet Union) to music and other media (in particular Shakespeare’s afterlife in music). Born in Tehran and graduated as a pianist from the National Music Academy of Ukraine and Conservatoire de Paris, she holds a PhD from the Sorbonne and University of Sheffield. From 2019 to 2021 she was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow on Shakespeare and Censorship at the University of Huddersfield. She is the author of several prize-winning publications on Shakespeare’s Russian and Soviet afterlife. She is chair and founder of the Shakespeare and Music Study Group as well as the Music and Mental Health Group. She is the co-author of a major volume on Polish-born composer, Mieczys?aw Weinberg. She appears on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and is a regular contributor to Gramophone magazine.
David Fanning is Professor of Music at the University of Manchester and Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto for 2023-24. Author and editor of books, articles and critical editions on Nielsen, Shostakovich, Weinberg, Expressionism, and the 20th-century symphonic tradition, for the past 20 years he has played a leading role in the rediscovery of Polish-born, Soviet-settled composer Mieczys?aw Weinberg. An expanded version of his groundbreaking 2010 Weinberg biography is in production with Toccata Press, and he has been the driving force behind posthumous premieres of several of the composer’s major works. As a pianist he partnered the Lindsay String Quartet for 25 years, a role he has since continued with the Lindsays’ successors as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Manchester, the Quatuor Danel. He is a long-standing critic and essayist for Gramophone magazine and The Daily Telegraph.
The Quatuor Danel (Marc Danel and Gilles Millet,violins - Vlad Bogdanas, alto - Yovan Markovitch, violoncello) was founded in 1991 and has been at the forefront of the international music scene ever since, with important concert performances worldwide and a row of groundbreaking CD recordings winning many important international awards. The quartet is famous for their bold, concentrated interpretations of the string quartet cycles of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Shostakovich, and Weinberg. Their lively and fresh vision on the traditional quartet repertoire has delivered them subsequent praise from public and press. The other part of their force lies in the collaboration with major contemporary composers such as Rihm, Lachenmann, Gubaidulina, Dusapin Jörg Widmann and Bruno Mantovani. Russian composers have a special place in the Quatuor Danel’s repertoire. They have championed all string quartets by Shostakovich and recorded the complete cycle for Fuga Libera in 2005. This box-set was recently re-issued and still counts as one of the benchmark interpretations of Shostakovich’ quartets. Over the past three years the Quatuor Danel has recorded the almost unknown quartet oeuvre of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, the neglected contemporary of Shostakovich, for CD-label CPO. The quartet will continue to break a lance for this breathtakingly beautiful repertoire coming seasons. At the very heart of the Quatuor Danel’s work lies their ambassadorship for young musicians in general and string quartets in particular. Teaching and master classes are a fundamental part of their activities. The quartet has been artist-in-residence at the University of Manchester since 2005, working closely with the students, but also with musicologists Barry Cooper and David Fanning. The quartet’s current concert diary will take them to the major concert halls in Brussels, Amsterdam, Moscow, Paris, London, Madrid, Vienna, Berlin, Milano, Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo and New York, but they are also comfortable when playing in lesser known intimite venues. Quatuor Danel is a regular guest at festivals such as Kuhmo, Cork, Schleswig-Holstein, Alpen Festival, Bregenz, Montpellier, Enescu Festival (Bucharest), Ars Musica and Musica Mundi. Upcoming recording projects of the Quatuor Danel will consist of the three Tchaikovsky quartets, Piano Quintet by Franck and a longer term project with all string quartets by Haydn and late Beethoven.