Tuesday 8 August 2023

Providing a voice for composers whose careers were disrupted by anti-Semitism and bigotry: Royal Conservatory of Music's ARC Ensemble celebrates 20 years

ARC Ensemble
ARC Ensemble

The ARC Ensemble of Canada's Royal Conservatory of Music is celebrating 20 years of music making. Comprised of the senior faculty of The Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School, with guests drawn from its alumni and students, the ARC Ensemble has become an influential cultural ambassador. Its concerts and recordings have gained multiple Grammy and JUNO nominations. ARC has released nine recordings (on RCA Red Seal and more recently on Chandos Records), including six in its illuminating Music in Exile series. 

The ensemble aims to provide a voice for the hundreds of superbly-trained and highly gifted composers—many graduates of Europe’s most prestigious conservatories—whose careers were disrupted by anti-Semitism and bigotry – who were forced into exile, almost every work in its discography is a new and historically significant addition to the catalogue. Thanks to the ARC Ensemble, masterworks not heard in decades have joined the musical canon. 

The ensemble's 2021 Music in Exile disc featured works by Ukrainian-Jewish composer Dmitri Klebanov (1907-1987), and the disc's release coincided with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Klebanov, an ardent nationalist, drew on several Ukrainian melodies for his Fourth Quartet, melodies that had been used by his older colleague Mykola Leontovych. In the context of Russia’s aggression, Leontovych was killed by the Soviet secret police in 1921. With the Klebanov release, artistic director Simon Wynberg has received requests for his scores from all over the world and Klebanov’s voice became one of protest.    

Whilst the ensemble's disc of chamber works by Walter Kaufmann (1907-1984) convinced the Austrian publisher Doblinger to publish first his chamber music and some of his orchestral works. These were taken up by the Berlin Radio Orchestra who is recording them as well as several regional American and European orchestras. Kaufmann's Indian Symphony will be performed at Carnegie Hall in 2024 conducted by Leon Botstein. 

The ARC Ensemble's recent discs in the Music in Exile series are on Chandos and you can read my in my 2021 interview with the ensemble's artistic director, Simon Wynberg.

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