May 27


21C is one of the most innovative performances by musicians bringing fresh new sounds and ideas to some of the most recognizable songs of the 21st Century, featuring 8 Concerts, 5 DAYS of music, plus 21+ Premieres!

21C Music Festival 2018 marked the festival’s 5th anniversary. We experienced some of the most original music in the world, created by innovative composers and musicians from around the globe.

The Kronos Quartet opened the season and proved to Toronto that music needs no boundaries. When the quartet walked out onto the stage, they looked like any other classical quartet, but the music they were about to make would be anything but what you would expect. The show started off with a song called Zaghlala, which was a beautifully moving piece, and about what I would expect from a performance at The Royal Conservatory.

The second song however, demonstrated the groups fearless ambition and amazing ability to fuse classical instruments with less than classical ideas. Halfway through the song I knew that by the time I left, I was going to have a new idea of what it meant to be a classical quartet. The song performed was “Another Living Soul” by Nicole Lizee and it started off with two whirling tubes. In case you’ve never seen a whirling tube, it’s exactly what it sounds like… a colourful plastic tube that looks like it could be a children’s toy that you spin around, either slowly for a low note or quickly for a high note. The song also used bells on the ground that the quartet would kick, each member have a bell with a different note. These were definitely not instruments I was expecting to be used after hearing the grace and beauty of the first song. What made the addition of these non-traditional ideas so special was the fact that they in no way took away from the beauty or sophistication of the music.

The third song was “Pencil Sketch” by Yevgeniy Sharlat and this one may have stuck to the traditional instruments of violins and a cello… but this time pencils were used to create an array of sounds from them. It is really incredible to watch a quartet like this doing something seemingly silly (like hitting your instrument with a pencil), but done so precisely with every strike creating a pre thought out sound. I don’t know how they made this happen, but it sounded incredible. I’m quite curious as to what the sheet music for this one looked like! At this point I knew to let my guard down, because this was not going to be a “normal” classical show, by any stretch of the imagination.

A number of other great twenty first century songs were performed throughout the night, each taking you on their own unique sensory adventure. I heard multiple tracks that I had never imagined I would hear in such a fashion, but the one that I know I will NEVER forget is hearing the Kronos Quartet play The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. Having a classical quartet play that intro so sweetly and so perfectly is a feeling I’m not even sure I can describe, blissful is the best word I can think of. It did make me ask the question though, how are they possibly going to pull this off properly with three violins and a cello? The intro was made for this, but they can’t possibly make the rest of this rock n’ roll song sound this great can they? Turned out they could, it was a rendition like I’d never imagined possible. Apparently you don’t need drums, guitar solos or even vocals for a rock song when you have a group that has mastered their instruments and taken them to new heights and limits the way these four have. Hearing the Kronos’ rendition of the song left no doubt in my mind, if they can imagine it, they can make it.

The group truly is tearing down borders between musical genres and putting a twist on classical music at a caliber I have not seen done before. This concert has completely changed my idea of what a classical quartet is, and has had me asking myself since “What other songs do I need to hear the classical version of?”

Kronos Quartet with Jherek Bischoff

Los Angeles-based Jherek Bischoff was a good compliment to the Kronos Quartet. Bischoff is a composer, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumental performer, while the Kronos Quartet string quartet was a true unique experience. The program included works composed for Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, such as Canadian composer Nicole Lizée’s Another Living Soul as well as Islam Chipsy’s Zaghlala and Yevgeniy Sharlat’s Pencil Sketches. Other composers on the program include George Gershwin, John Coltrane, Sigur Rós, and Pete Townshend. In the second half of the program, Bischoff joined the Quartet on bass guitar for three Canadian premieres (including two of his own pieces) as well as his new world premiere work (co-commissioned by The Royal Conservatory/Koerner Hall), which concluded the evening.


A Far Cry with Simone Dinnerstein

Grammy Award nominated self-conducted chamber orchestra, A Far Cry from Boston, was joined by pianist Simone Dinnerstein (in her fourth appearance in Koerner Hall) on May 25 to perform the Canadian premiere of Piano Concerto No. 3, a bold new work for piano and strings by celebrated composer Philip Glass. The work, commissioned for the composer’s 80th birthday, was paired with pieces by J.S. Bach and Glass’s Symphony No. 3.

We would like to thank Barbora Kršek, Concert Publicity Manager and Publications Editor for the invitation to 21C and we look forward to 21C in January 2019.