The Ottawa Citizen from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on February 24, 1991 · 28
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The Ottawa Citizen from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · 28

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 24, 1991
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D4 The Ottawa Citizen, Sunday. February 24, 1991 ARTS ET C . PROFILE By Jacob Siskind Aiming to be more than a fine-looking fiddler Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is tackling a challenging program of three sonatas by Brahms on her current North American tour. Lasting over a month, the extended trip will take her across the conti-. nent and back again. There are male violinists; there are female violinists and there is Anne-Sophie Mutter. The blonde, curvaceous instrumentalist, who has mesmerized audiences in every part of the globe as much for her predilection for low-cut, strapless gowns as for her violinistic prowess (she protests that the violin sounds better when it is placed directly on uncovered flesh), is currently on her third North American tour. It is an extended trip, lasting just over a month, with three sets of performances with orchestra, in Boston, Cleveland and Philadelphia, and a series of a dozen recitals that take her across the continent and back again. In the past, at her appearances with orchestra, she has projected an image of cool efficiency as she has cut her way through the technical difficulties in con-certi by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Bar-tok. This time she seems determined to prove that she is more than a fine-looking fiddler that she is a good musician as well. Her program at each of these recitals is identical the three Sonatas for violin and piano composed by Johannes Brahms. The works are individually challenging, but few artists would dare to schedule all three on the same evening. There are even fewer audiences prepared to accept the musical challenge posed by these three lyrical but intensely personal and dramatic works. Mutter was in Boston last weekend after her performances of the Bartok Second Concerto and the premiere, on this continent of a new work composed for her by Norbert-Eloi Moret, En Reve. On her way to her first rehearsal of the sonatas with her pianist, Lambert Orkis, she paused for a phone interview. The most obvious question to pose was, didn't she think that a program of three sonatas by Brahms was rather heavy going for her audiences? "I admit the program is not easy to swallow," she agreed," as are all one-composer programs. In Brahms's case, it is particularly one-sided. 'The three works come from the same general period in Brahms's life, while Beethoven, for example, composed sonatas for violin and piano at different times in his career. "Nevertheless, they are very different from each other and show very distinct moods and character." For Mutter, the first, in G major, Op. 78, is the most emotionally supercharged of the three. That is why she has chosen to close the first part of the program with it. "It is very introverted, very philosophical, also looking back to the composer's childhood. If you read the text of the Regerdied that goes with the sonata, you recognize all that." When Mutter was last in Ottawa, two years ago, she talked about taking a sabbatical year away from the concert stage. It hasn't yet materialized. "No, that will happen this year. Don't laugh. I am very serious about it. "Late this summer I will take eight months off. I won't be on stage for that period so I will do my usual research, but maybe also some other things. "It will also be the moment to dedicate my brain to non-musical things especially reading. I have lots and lots of reading to do, absolutely not connected to my profession, and I am still interested in modern art and modern painting and that is something I want to get more understanding of. "That takes time." Mutter is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in London and the first holder of the International Chair of Violin Studies there. She takes that post very seriously. She hasn't been there very frequently in the past, her concert career has kept her too busy, but she is deeply concerned about all aspects of her activity there. She is involved in the planning of the pedagogy, certain stages of the examinations and preparing the kind of program to be used for the curriculum. "There are also special students I look after personally." She plans to continue her connection with the Academy during her sabbatical. "Sometimes teaching gets very depressing. When one sees what has happened and one knows what could have been avoided. I feel this is a major problem, especially at the Royal Academy and particularly in England for violin playing. "They should start much much earlier to select good teachers, especially for the young children. It is important to get a good founda tion because without that you are walk- .-ing on sand." f iviuuei s career iouk on liuerna- t frw rmnql nrnnniniAtic whan rha I itn Herbert von Karajan took her under his wing as a teenager after her ap pearance at a festival in Lucerne. He recorded a major portion of the violin concerto repertoire with her and put her on the international map. More recently, she has become interested in chamber music and was part of a string trio with Italian vi-olist Bruno Giurrana and Soviet cellist Mstislav Ros-tropovich. Last October Mutter appeared in London and Stuttgart in her own five-concert festival entitled "Anne-Sophie Mutter and Friends," a series of recitals, chamber music concerts and concerto performances that received wide popular approval. On her return to Europe after her present tour she will perform with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and in May will play the Prokofiev Concerto No. 1 with composer Penderecki and the NDR Orchestra. A work she has commissioned from Penderecki will be premiered in 1993. In 1982 Mutter recorded the three Brahms Sonatas with pianist Alexis Weissenberg, an album that is still in the EMI catalogue. (Jacob Siskind is the Citizen's music critic.) Anne-Sophie Mutter admits three Brahms sonatas are 'not easy' for audiences to swallow BOOKS By Phil Jenkins NEW AND NOTEWORTHY By Burt Heward A peek inside the private world of Ottawa's most-published resident "He tugged a fat leather shoulder bag from under the windowseat and took out a roll of parchment that he laid down between them. A startled "Oh" escaped Jacky as she bent over it. The map was of Ottawa, but all the names were changed. Parliament Hill was the Laird's Manor and Court The Market area was the Easting Fair. The Glebe became Cockle Tom's Garve." From Jack, the Giant Killer, by Charles de Lint Charles de Lint's elegantly gothic name has appeared on 21 novels, all of them published within the last eight years. Many of the early books used the streets and apartments of Ottawa as springboards into the heated pool of fantasy, or "Urban Faerie" as de Lint calls it, that he creates behind titles like Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, Greenman-tle and The Dreaming Place. He outsells many of the literary icons of Canada, 60,000 printed at a time in paperback and six novels published in the last 12 months, but his choice of genre has parked him in a part of the world of books that remains a misty island to the more general reader. He can bike the avenues of the Glebe, his pony-tail unfurled behind, an Irish flute strapped below the saddle, without fear of mobbing. On the easily jettisoned pretext of writing "a day in the life" of Ottawa's most published resident, I wandered down from the Old Firehall in Ottawa South towards the Rideau River, and used a door knocker from Cornwall, an elf called a piskie that protects the house from the creatures like those in de Lint's imagination, to summon him down from his burrow of books, stuffed animals and CDs. After tea and pleasantries, we returned up the stairs to his place of work. "I get up at 7:30 and read a little while -I wait for my wife MaryAnn to get ready for work. I drop her off, then go to the post office to get my mail, which is substantial. I have a ton of subscriptions to magazines, from People to Canadian Geographic. Almost one a day. "If there is nothing to deal with right away, like a cheque, then I work on the fiction till around one. I get the fiction out of the way before anything else, because it is what I do. I'm a writer of books. I like to have instrumental music on while I'm writing, or non-English vocals Gallic or Breton or Bulgarian, French. So long as I can't understand what they are saying. Otherwise I find the lyrics invading what I'm writing. "My favorite time to write, actually, would be from 10 at night till four in the morning. But I want to talk with my wife in the evening, see my friends, so I've learned to write during the day. If I am working on fiction, my rule is to write five pages every day. The biggest mistake people make is to write in these huge spurts, and then the next time they sit down to write, there is nothing there. I like to stop in the middle of a hot scene then the next day I read it again and bainm, I'm away. "When I'm writing I like to think of the flow as musical, I'm conducting the words. So, In the relaxed parts in the "middle you're using longer sentences and paragraphs adagio; then as things start happening, staccato, maybe use threeword paragraphs. I was never going to be a writer, actually. I was al- , A S3 4LfeW-5 mJ-i, r, 3 Charles de Lint has published 21 novels in the last eight years ways going to be a musician, and I did do it for 14 years. But you get tired of playing bars. Now I'm back into performing. We just pick and choose performances, we're lackadaisical about it. The music gets into my work; the last book has an appendix of tunes the character supposedly wrote. The main character plays Northumbrian pipes and fiddle, as does a friend I perform with. "I was born in the Netherlands, came over here when I was four months old. My Dad was a bush pilot at the time. We lived in the Yukon, then in Britannia, moved across to Quebec, rural Aylmer, then Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, places like that. The thing about being a kid like that is that you become so adaptable. Here in Canada, water comes out of a faucet; in Turkey a guy would come by with a pack of donkeys and give you a big clay jug of it. So I enjoy the eccentric, the odd quirky things. Exaggerated emotions "I like the juxtapositioning, the real world and the fantastic. Using fantasy elements in a contemporary setting is a way of exaggerating emotions love, friendship, our feelings for taking care of the earth. A device like, say, having elves fading away because of the increasing rigidity of this world, or the way we treat it, can embody those things. I liked the idea at the time I did it of using Ottawa, I thought it would be unique and it was. A lot of the mail I have gotten on it has been 'Wow what an exotic place Ottawa is.' "Then after the fiction five pages, I grab lunch, play some tunes, get out of the house. Then back for the columns and correspondence, engage in the latest battle over the deception involved in the disastrous cover of one book or another. I quit about four, and pick my wife up at five. I write five days a week. I work for a number of different publishers, so I have more books coming out than most people. At the moment I'm in the middle of a short story: I'm compiling a collection of my stuff for a press out in Oregon. I'm correcting the galleys of two books. I have four columns that are ongoing. "I don't talk about the book I'm working on at all. The more I talk about it, the less Interested I am in writing It. I have a thematic idea, a character and an opening scene, I know the kind of mood I want to leave the reader in, and I just start to write. When the first draft is done, 1 go back and do the work. That first draft is as enjoyable as reading a book to me; I'm finding out what happens next. "Even with my wife MaryAnn, I don't talk about what I'm working on, but she is very involved in my career. She proofreads and edits the first draft on everything, and she's good at it when they go to the publisher they are a hundred times better. She is also involved in career decisions. I don't say yes until I've talked to MaryAnn. "The latest book, The Little Country, is set in Cornwall, England. A friend's father years ago filled my head with stories of Cornwall. The more I researched Cornwall, and the towns around a little place called Mousehole (pronounced Mousle) the more interesting it became. Dylan Thomas lived near there, and Aleister Crowley was from around there, so was Dennis Wheatly, Colin Wilson lives there now. So I set the book aside till we went over. I stood at corners taking photos down every street, walked the coastal path, talked in pubs, bought maps. An old fellow sprinkled everything with My Love, My Golden, My Flower, My Precious, so he went in the book. "In this cabinet these are the books I've written, in various editions. I sold my first three in the same week, in 1983, when I was 32. I've written 23 novels, so it's all starting to blur a bit. Also, every Christmas for the last 12 years I've run off a hundred or so 'chapbooks,' little short stories, which I give to friends. I publish them myself. Authors used to sell chapbooks on the market or have chapmen sell them, like broadsheets. "My favorite book is The Wind in tie Willows. Here's the W'md in the Willows I had as a child. Up above is a whole third floor, its a warren up there. That chair and lamp are from my Dutch grandmother. Someone just gave me that, the figure that looks like me playing an Irish harp, at a signing, they had commissioned it." De Lint's guided tour of the fauna of his rooms has served to remind him of the urgency with which the various piles of paper call to him. The blank computer screen awaits ignition. We descend the stairs, past the other daily occupants of the house. "This is Diefenbaker the bulldog, a fabric machd guard dog my wife made. That's Gurgi the cat, from a Lloyd Alexander book. There's another three-year-old ginger somewhere Billy. We don't have children We have cats." One last question? "Sure, you're afraid every time you start; you think, How can I possibly? There are more Ideas than I'll ever have time to write. Ideas are meaningless until they are books, you see, uren't thov. Mind the Ice at the edge of the path." (Phil Jenkins is an Ottawa autltor) Here are new releases to watch for at Ottawa and area bookstores, based on review copies received by The Citizen. Guerrilla Prince Georgie Anne Geyer (Little, Brown, $28.95) While recognizing Fidel Castro's genius as a guerrilla, American syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer concludes the Cuban leader is less a Communist than a classic dictator. She probes his past to explain why. She writes: "In the beginning, the Cuban people had called him 'Fidel' in adoration, in salvation, in love, like a Spanish woman with her husband before marriage. After the magnificence of the triunfo, as after the marriage, they immediately began calling him 'Castro' in sobriety, in respect, in fear. In the end, they called him only 'El' or 'He,' for he had become finally a differentiated creature existing away from them that sun so hot that it burned to come close. "They understood, and he finally understood, in St. Mark's words, that he was 'knowing himself that virtue had gone out of him.' That is why they could now sing That Man Is Crazy,' and why they could begin only begin to dream of a time when they could individuate themselves from him." Her point is that they and he had identified themselves with each other. Castro is Cuba. As things sour on the island, it appears only Castro's death could prevent, for this dictatorship, a tragic end. All the Pain That Money Can Buy William Wright (General, $29.95) The author of The Von Bulow Affair and other chronicles of the star-struck rich tells the sad story of Aristotle Onassis's daughter and Jacqueline Kennedy's stepdaugKer, Christina Onassis. The story opens as Jackie takes f nristi-na's arm affectionately as they w .lk to a limousine on the day of Onassis's fjneral in 1975: "Christina paid little attention to this latest offence from the woman whose invar on of her family had, she was convinced, never r jen anything but a business venture and who had made her father's last year's a public humiliation and a private torment Christina would not know until some days later when she saw press photos of the funeral that, as they walked from the plane, Jackie had flashed photographers smiles of an almost demented inappropriateness. She might just as well have clasped her hands over her head like a title-winning prize fighter." The author balances his story with Christina's prowess as chief of her late father's shipping empire and her love for her daughter, but her weight problem, four failed marriages, and squalid death in a hotel bathtub in late 1988 remind us that money can't buy happiness. Admiral of Fear Victor Suthren (General, $27.95) Canadian War Museum director Victor Suthren puts on his tricorne hat for his third swashbuckling sea-war adventure slurring heroic Lieut Edward Mainwaring. It's 1742 and, in the war against the Spanish, Mainwaring's ship is pursuing a Spanish frigate in the Mediterranean near the French naval fortress of Toulon: "Mainwaring squinted forward, making a deliberate effort to calm the fluttering in his stomach. Diana ghostod in towards the mouth of the Inner harbour. To either side, Mainwaring knew, he was boing watched by French gunners, and the realization again cf how perilous was the situation In which he had placed the ship and her men twinged in his vitals. The French, it was true, had not yet actually fired on an English warship, but that tenuous thread of neutrality was a damnably thin line to hang Diana's survival upon. He swore silently, spat over the side, and scanned the scene again with meticulous attention." The prose sometimes overheats, the characters are simple, but the sailing, history and battle detail are accurate and, for sea-war buffs, the story is exciting. The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes David Staines (Indiana University Press, $57.50 U.S.) In a world obsessed with its TV war, return with University of Ottawa English professor David Staines to the romance of King Arthur and Camelot. He translates all the romances of the 12-century French poet, Chretien de Troyes. Here's a sweet snippet from The Knight of the Cart: ' "One Ascension Day, King Arthur held a court sumptuous and splendid to his liking, sumptuous as becomes a king. After dinner the king remained among his companions. There were many barons in the great hall, and also the queen and, I believed, many courteous and beautiful ladies conversing in elegant French." Tch, tch. It's pitiful what the evil maiden in The Story of the Grail says to lure Sir Gawain into crossing the Perilous Ford. Here is the fountainhead of so much in our literary tradition, all the way down to Indiana Jones and tfie Last Crusade. Elizabeth and Philip Charles Higham and Roy Moseley (Doubleday, $27.95) Los Angeles celebrity biographers Charles Higham (Duchess of Windsor, Errol Flynn, Katharine Hepburn) and Roy Moseley (Bette Davis, Rex Harrison) offer "the untold story of the Queen of England and her prince." Has any story been more told in our time? But the two veteran journalists expose many juicy facts about relationships and events surrounding the Royal couple and take care to make plain what they do not know. An example of their style is Philip's relationship with Anglo-Indian movie star Merle Oberon, who had visited Elizabeth and Philip 11 years before Philip made one of his frequent visits to Oberon in Mexico: "Her friends agree that Miss Oberon was in love with Prince Philip. He even stayed at her Acapulco house when her husband was in Mexico City; it was an exquisite home, designed by her in the Persian mode, and the Prince was captivated with it. He arrived at the airport; Miss Oberon greeted him in her limousine. The British Ambassador to Mexico advised her that the Prince would be taking a limousine to her house. She was furious and told him, 'Prince Philip will ride in MY carl' The Ambassador replied, 'Mrs. Paglia, that is emphatically not the right protocol where royalty is concerned.' Merle snapped back, Then I suggest you go and look for a place for Prince Philip to stay, because It will NOT be at my house!" The Ambassador shuddered and backed down. Miss Oberon walked up to the plane, curtsied, twirled her parasol, and greeted the Prince." The authors quote a friend of Obcron's as saying "she certainly liked to give the impression that they wes lovers." On another visit, Philip had the royal yacht Britannia fire "a romantic salute below Miss Obcron's windows." So it goes, through Princess Anne's marital problems. Philip's membership in the Thursday club, which spawned the KeelorProfumo scandal, and myriad British royalpolitical miscues, squabbles and social and financial dealings. (Gurt Howard is the Qtvons book editor)

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