In June, we continued our study of Don Davis’ groundbreaking score for “The Matrix“. Composed in 1999 for the first instalment of “The Matrix” franchise, it draws heavily on contemporary American symphonic music for its feel and scoring techniques. Studying this score will provide an interesting counterpoint to the scores studied to date, and will mark our first venture into contemporary and avant garde orchestral techniques.
June’s Special Guest:
Simon Wynburg; Simon Wynberg is the Artistic Director of the ARC Ensemble which has established itself as one of Canada’s leading cultural ambassadors. Nominated for its third Grammy award in 2016, the ARC Ensemble has appeared at major festivals in Budapest, New York (the Lincoln Center Festival) and Stratford and at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore and Cadogan Halls and Washington’s Kennedy Center. It has built an international reputation for its research and recovery of a vast corpus of music lost or marginalized due to political suppression. Its “Music in Exile” series, dedicated to composers who fled the Third Reich, has been presented in Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Rome, Toronto, New York and London. Its sixth recording devoted to the music of Szymon Laks will be released in early July.
Szymon Laks, Composer
The ARC Ensemble’s recording of works by Polish composer Szymon Laks will be released on the Chandos label on July 7, 2017. This is the ensemble’s sixth album, three of which have been nominated for Grammy awards. The ARC Ensemble is the Royal Conservatory’s ensemble-in-residence. It’s members are senior faculty members of the Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School.
Born into an assimilated Jewish family in 1901, Laks left his native Warsaw and settled in Paris during the early 1920s. He soon established himself as a versatile pianist and violinist and, by the the end of the decade, a published composer. When he was sent to Auschwitz Birkenau in the summer of 1942, these musical gifts, a fluency in six languages and an intuitive resourcefulness served him well. Shortly after his arrival, a chance game of bridge introduced Laks to a barracks Kapo who arranged his transfer to the violin section of the camp orchestra. This led to work as a copyist and arranger, and finally to the position of conductor. His extraordinary story and his survival is recounted in his memoir Music of Another World published shortly after the war.
Laks’s view of music as powerless to effect change, and irrelevant to the quality of prisoners’ lives, capsizes assumptions that credit music with an intrinsic goodness or redemptive power, and this is something that many continue to find troubling. Laks did little to promote his music after the war and his survival left him depressed and reclusive; he stopped composing in the late 1960s and devoted himself entirely to translating and literary work. Since his death in 1986 his music has waited for over three decades for the beginnings of a revival. It is an extraordinary irony that Laks’ music was marginalized by his survival. By contrast, the works of fellow-composers who were murdered in Auschwitz are regularly performed. Laks’ music, its wit, elegance and rhythmic verve, reveals little of his wartime experience or the inner conflict which drove him from composition.