Toronto Star: Amici Chamber Ensemble celebrates 25th Anniversary

By Trish Crawford Music, Toronto Star. Original Digital copy here.
There was no question in anyone’s mind that Isabel Bayrakdarian would perform at Amici Chamber Ensemble’s 25th anniversary celebration.
“She’s part of the Amici family,” says cellist David Hetherington.
The celebrated soprano is credited with bringing the group’s newest member, pianist Serouj Kradjian, into the fold four years ago.
Hetherington and clarinetist Joaquin Valdepenas were seeking a replacement for retiring pianist Patricia Parr and asked Bayrakdarian, who was scheduled to perform with the group, if she could recommend anyone.
Kradjian is her husband.
The collaboration is paying off. Earlier this month the group was nominated for a Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year, Solo or Chamber Ensemble.
“I have a very special feeling of attachment to the group,” says Bayrakdarian, “It’s nice to see how much Serouj loves the group. I see his contributions, love and respect.”
Bayrakdarian will perform Francis Poulenc’s “Le bal masqué,” Ernest Chausson’s “Chanson perpetuelle” and Xavier Montsalvatge’s “Cinco canciones negras” at the March 1 concert at Koerner Hall.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Septet for Strings and Woodwinds in E-flat Major” is the other performance piece. Many friends of the ensemble, including violist Barry Shiffman, who performed with them at their first concert, are taking part.
“We wanted as many people as in our original concert as possible,” says Hetherington.
Hetherington and Valdepenas are both members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and teachers at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Between the symphony, teaching and performing in the ensemble, these two musicians see a lot of each other, but they say they don’t get on each other’s nerves.
“He’s in the cello section and I’m way over at the other end,” says Valdepenas. “We don’t talk, we email.”
And besides, says Hetherington, Valdepenas isn’t onstage all that long.
“He gets to come and go. Wind players are wussy by nature.”
It’s obvious from the good-natured banter that Amici, friends in Italian, was a good choice of name.
“It’s remarkable. We are all different ages, mentality and tastes. But it’s the passion of the ideas that brings us together,” says Kradjian. “And it is not just playing together, the organizing part is time consuming.”
The members do their own programming for their less than half a dozen concerts a year, selecting soloists, other performers and venues. After using a number of concert halls, including the Glenn Gould Studio and the University of Toronto’s Walter Hall, the ensemble plans a permanent move to the Royal Conservatory’s Mazzoleni Concert Hall.
Using the larger Koerner Hall for this anniversary party is made doubly sweet by the Juno nomination, says Valdepenas.
“The feeling of anticipation has been building on the social media since the Juno nomination. We see the messages back and forth. It is exciting to see all these people responding.”
NOTE: This story was edited from a previous version.