On October 28, world-renowned violinist and conductor, Gidon Kremer, appeared for a special performance in Montréal in celebration of the legacy of Glenn Gould.
Co-presented by The Glenn Gould Foundation, l’Orchestre de la Francophonie and the Fondation Jeunesses Musicales Canada, Maestro Kremer’s Hommage à Glenn Gould was a truly unique and very personal multimedia presentation that took place at Montréal’s intimate Salle Joseph-Rouleau.
The great Latvian violinist/conductor and founder of the chamber orchestra Kremerata Baltica, is no stranger to Glenn Gould. Maestro Kremer and András Schiff spent a memorable day with Glenn Gould in Toronto early in 1982. Out of that encounter emerged a plan for Kremer and Gould to record the early violin sonata by Richard Strauss in E-flat Major, Op. 18 – a project sadly unrealized because of Glenn Gould’s untimely death. But Gidon Kremer never forgot his encounter with Gould and paid tribute to him in a 2012 Nonesuch recording with the Kremerata Baltica entitled, “The Art of Instrumentation: Homage to Glenn Gould.”
For this year’s performance, Maestro Kremer presented three distinctive works, each a tribute to his artistic mastery and humane vision of the mission of music in the world. The work with the most direct connection to Gould was the towering Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s D Minor Partita, BWV 1004 which Kremer presented in a dark-hued and dramatic performance in which passion and structural integrity were deftly balance.
The major work on the program was a labour of love for the violinist: his own transcription for unaccompanied violin of the 24 Preludes for ‘Cello by the Polish-Jewish composer Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996). Gidon Kremer has been a devoted advocate for Weinberg, whose prolific output was greatly admired by Dmitri Shostakovich, a lifelong friend and champion for his music. For most of Weinberg’s career, his music was neglected by the Soviet musical establishment and is now being revived internationally to great acclaim.
Kremer’s presentation of the Weinberg Preludes was a brilliant revelation; in a characteristically bold and imaginative way, Maestro Kremer illuminated the music with projections of an eloquently curated series stark, powerful and intensely personal photographs by the award-winning Lithuanian photographer, Antanas Sutkus (b. 1939). Presented under the title “Preludes to a Lost Time,” the combination of Weinberg’s music and Sutkus’ images proved to be a haunting evocation of artists’ response to a dark era in the history of Russia and Eastern Europe.
The final part of the evening was devoted to a preview screening of “Images d’Oriente” a moving and poignant new film, co-directed by Gidon Kremer and Maria Stocker, in which the plight of refugees is highlighted with animations of sculptures constructed of stones and pebbles created by Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr (b. 1964). The wordless film features music by Robert Schumann and Karlheinz Stockhausen performed by Kremerata Baltica.
Glenn Gould Foundation Executive Director Brian Levine, introducing the program, reflected on Glenn Gould’s embrace of solitude in his life and work, and noted that Maestro Kremer’s program reflected a profound exploration of this theme – from the figure of the unaccompanied violinist, to the composer alienated from his audience and society by a repressive Soviet regime, to the loneliness of people uprooted from their homes and families by the ravages of war. At every level, this was a powerful and thrilling tribute to Glenn Gould and his artistry, illustrating how the work of one great artist can find exciting and unexpected resonances in the creativity of another.