The MacKay Concert Series concludes its current season on Sunday May 6 with Hebrew Lullaby, a program of lyrical and romantic pieces for violin and piano featuring Leah Roseman and Dina Namer.
Leah has been a violinist with the National Arts Centre Orchestra since 1997, is the Artistic Director of the MacKay Chamber Music Series, and has been a private teacher for 20 years.
Dina is a pianist who has performed and recorded in the United States and Canada. She has taught at Carleton University and University of Ottawa and presently holds the position of Continuing Adjunct Lecturer in Piano at Queen’s University. She also has a private studio in Ottawa and is one of the most sought-after chamber musicians in the city.
We sat down with the two gifted musicians to talk about music, the series and the evening.
Apt613: You’re both very accomplished musicians. What are some of your memorable experiences?
Leah: I have had a varied career as an orchestral musician, and also as a chamber musician. At the NAC, we were very fortunate to have been able to work with Pinchas Zukerman for so many years, and as a violinist, it was like he was a teacher as well as our conductor. I did get to play a Brahms sextet with him once, with Lynn Harrell, but over the years, being able to listen to his concerto interpretations on tour was always extra-special. He always brought something new to the performance, night after night, and these are pieces he must have played thousands of times!
Dina: My career has involved primarily chamber music, which always constitutes sharing a musical experience with others. Through the marvellous chamber music experiences with the National Arts Centre Orchestra “Music for a Sunday Afternoon” series, I was privileged to work with many great artists who came to Ottawa as guest performers. Among the most memorable was performing the Schumann Piano Quartet with the great cellist of the Beaux Arts Trio, Bernard Greenhouse. Mr. Greenhouse was also responsible for connecting me with Menahem Pressler, who became my teacher and mentor for many years in my early professional life, and still today, at age 94, remains my greatest inspiration as a pianist.
You have played together previously.
Leah: The first time I played with Dina was quite memorable: I was preparing my audition to compete for a spot in the NAC orchestra, and she kindly rehearsed my concerto with me a few days before.
Dina: Leah and I have performed together frequently at MacKay and other venues. We both share a personal interest in bringing music of lost Jewish composers into the light. For me personally, this latest project builds on an earlier endeavour in which I was involved, the Sh’ma Ensemble. This group, spearheaded by Professor Jean-Jacques Van Vlasseler, investigated and performed music of composers who perished in the Terezin concentration camp. I am deeply grateful to Leah for discovering these newly published works and giving me the opportunity to learn and perform them with her.
You’ll be playing the final evening of the 2017-18 season of the MacKay Concert Series. Can you tell us about the series?
Leah: I am the founder and Artistic Director of the MacKay Concert Series at MacKay United Church. The impetus was ten years ago, when I discovered that this acoustic gem in my neighbourhood lacked a good piano. It was already well-known among my colleagues as a wonderful place to play concerts and make recordings, but the lack of a piano really restricted it’s use in that way. I approached the congregation about organizing some chamber music concerts to help raise the funds, and they responded warmly. Together with quite a few peoples’ generosity and help, we raised the needed funds in 3 years. Since then, we have continued the series.
What can we expect of the evening?
Leah: This is a piano and violin recital of romantic music, with two multi-movement works and two short works, one of them titled “Hebrew Melody” (thus the title of our concert). It is very accessible and beautiful music.
How did you decide on the composers whose pieces you will be playing – Carl Goldmark, Robert Kahn, and Joseph Achron?
Leah: I was interested in playing music of Jewish composers who had to emigrate due to anti-semitism, and who were banned by the Nazi regime. Kahn in particular died in obscurity in England, and is unjustly forgotten. Most of his repertoire has never been published or performed. Goldmark is much better-known, but this suite is not played that much, and I was excited to discover it. The pieces by Achron are based on traditional Jewish folk-melodies from Eastern Europe, and are very evocative of a lost world. Achron, the composer, travelled extensively in order to collect much of this traditional music.
Dina: Interestingly, all of this music, despite having been banned in the early 40’s, is very accessible to modern listeners. The Achron pieces are meditative and spiritual in nature, but based on traditional folkloric melodies. Kahn and Goldmark both write lyrically and romantically in the intimate style of Brahms and Schumann.
What is in the future for the Mackay concert series
Leah: This is the final concert in our series for this year, but in September 2018, our audience can look forward to a solo piano recital by the phenomenal Mauro Bertoli, an October recital with flutist Gertrude Letourneau and pianist Catherine Donkin, and a Shostakovich concert with my colleague Emily Westell and pianist Roger Feria. Next spring 2019, my string quartet, the Silflay Quartet will finish the season.
Hebrew Lullaby takes place at MacKay United Church, 39 Dufferin Road (at MacKay Street), 7:30pm, Sunday, May 6, 2018. Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors and $15 for students, available at Books on Beechwood, the Leading Note, or at the door. A reception follows the performance with the performers and the audience, with fruit, cheese, baked goods and Bridgehead coffee and tea.