Il Pomo d’Oro

Il Pomo d’Oro is a prize-winning orchestra founded in 2012 and named after the opera Il pomo d’oro by Antonio Cesti. The ensemble specialises in Historically informed performance of music from the Baroque and Classical period which it performs and records led by its own lead violinists Federico Guglielmo and Zefira Valova, or by guest conductors including Maxim Emelyanychev (chief conductor since 2016).

For the first 25 years of my life – that is, until I graduated from law school in 1973 – I hadn’t an interest in music beyond the Beatles (songs like, “Hey Jude” and “Here Comes the Sun”).

The writing and recording of “Hey Jude” coincided with a period of upheaval in the Beatles. The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon’s young son Julian, after Lennon had left his wife for the Japanese artist Yoko Ono.

Here Comes the Sun” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1969 album Abbey Road. It was written by George Harrison and is one of his best-known compositions. Harrison wrote the song in early 1969 at the country house of his friend Eric Clapton, where Harrison had chosen to play truant for the day to avoid attending a meeting at the Beatles’ Apple Corps organisation. The lyrics reflect his relief at the arrival of spring and the temporary respite he was experiencing from the band’s business affairs.

Though I had studied piano to Grade VIII through the Toronto Conservatory of Muisic, I abandoned the extracurricular pursuit at age 15 for football, debating and cadets instead. Thereafter my ignorance of the broad spectrum of music was otherwise attributable to two features in particular. One, until 1975 I was singularly devoted to my educational pursuits. The only interruptions were occasional visits to pubs where music was non-existent. Two, otherwise I only occasionally overheard music on the radio or on a record player of another student. I do not recall having had any such devices. Naturally the internet was unheard of at that time.

In 1975 I began a friendship with a chap who has since proven himself my intellectual superior. He introduced me to Bach, in particular the Brandenburg Concertos which I positively adore. I cannot recollect the musical device I used but it may have been a CD player.  In any event it heralded the activation of my devotion to classical music.

Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the late Baroque period. He is known for his orchestral music such as the Brandenburg Concertos; instrumental compositions such as the Cello Suites; keyboard works such as the Goldberg Variations and The Well-Tempered Clavier; organ works such as the Schubler Chorales and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor; and vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music.

About 1988 I began spending weekends at my apartment in the By Ward Market in Ottawa. By this time Handel had overtaken my musical absorption.

Handel, George Frideric (1685–1759), German-born composer and organist, resident in England from 1712; born Georg Friedrich Händel. A prolific composer, he is chiefly remembered for his choral works, especially the oratorio Messiah (1742), and, for orchestra, his Water Music suite (c.1717) and Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749).

By way of background my acquaintance with Handel had begun around 1958 when my family lived in Washington DC.  My parents owned a large stereo on which I regularly heard played a recording of the Messiah performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir under the direction of Eugene Ormandy of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Eugene Ormandy (born Jenő Blau; November 18, 1899 – March 12, 1985) was a Hungarian-born American conductor and violinist, best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as its music director. His 44-year association with the orchestra is one of the longest enjoyed by any conductor with any American orchestra.

Messiah or Handel: Messiah features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy (conductor), Richard Condie (choir director) and soloists Eileen Farrell, Martha Lipton, Davis Cunningham and William Warfield. The classic recording of George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece was recorded during the Choir’s 1958 concert tour and has been remastered for CD. This recording was selected by The National Recording Registry for the recorded sound section of the Library of Congress in 2004 as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically important.” The choir and orchestra had a long history, going back to 1936. This recording was made in 1958 and has set a standard for classical music recordings. It has been available for more than 50 years.

By luck there was a music store on Dalhousie Street adjacent the street on which my apartment was located. Although the retailer didn’t have the exact recording of the Messiah I wanted, I recalled the precise appearance of the album cover I had seen in my parents’ den in Washington DC. This was sufficient to enable the retailer to track the original album some thirty years later. Weeks afterwards he delivered a CD box set with the identical album cover. I have since used the same recollection to find the same recording (or independent compilations thereof) on Apple Music.

Thanks to Apple Music my knowledge, experience and enjoyment of music has increased exponentially. Being able to draw upon a limitless library has its obvious value. I now include among my best-loved composers Arvo Pärt, Ludovico Einaudi, Alexis Ffrench, Roberto Cacciapaglia in addition to such classicists as Erik Satie, Mahler, Mozart and Rachmaninoff.

Although for the time being I continue to grab at whatever musical attractions I hear and then proceed to add them to a growing list of Favourites, I am learning to disentangle myself from algorithms generally, preferring instead to submit to the serendipitous discovery of new music.

Music continues to be one of life’s most rewarding avenues.