Ensemble Vivant — the core of which is piano, violin and cello — has been recording and performing to sold-out houses throughout North America and Europe for over 20 years. Their quest is to discover and reveal rarely heard but deserving works from the classical repertoire as well new versions of vastly diverse styles from jazz to musical theatre to Latin Dance. No matter the genre, the repertoire chosen for is timeless and at the same time new. Whether an old favorite or an intriguing discovery, each piece displays the ensemble’s radiant energy and attention to detail.
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In any form of music, 20 years as a recording act is a significant milestone, and one well worth celebrating. Internationally acclaimed Toronto-based chamber music trio Ensemble Vivant are doing just that this year, via their superb new CD, Audience Favourites.
We recently interviewed Ensemble Vivant’s leader, pianist/composer Catherine Wilson, about the group’s career and future plans. They were initially known as Trio Vivant, but changed the name to reflect their expansion into larger chamber works. The core trio comprises Wilson, violinist Erica Beston, and cellist Sharon Prater, and frequently expands to a quartet with the addition of virtuoso bassist Dave Young, or a septet, featuring Norman Hathaway (violin); Jonathan Craig (viola); Philip Seguin (trumpet).
Stylistic diversity is a signature of Ensemble
Vivant. “Our styles are uniquely diverse,” says Wilson. ”It is not typical for mainstream classical players like us to also have an affinity for the jazzier genres. There is a lot of mainstream repertoire for piano trio. Material written for that instrumentation, and a lot of piano trios only play that side of things.”
Not so for EV. They’re equally at home with the music of Astor Piazzolla, Puccini, Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Debussy, and jazz great Leroy Anderson, and Audience Favourites showcases their skilled eclecticism by incorporating repertoire from all those composers.
This record is the ensemble’s first release on Opening Day, the Toronto-based record label headed by Canadian Brass members Chuck Daellenbach and Stuart Laughton, and one quickly making a name for itself with the quality of its roster. “In the summer of 2007, we were between record labels, though we had some offers for the next Ensemble Vivant recording,” explains Wilson. “I’d been friends with Chuck for many years, and I’d always heard good things about Opening Day. We had a beautiful meeting, and soon heard back that they wanted to get something going. The first thing we decided to do was to commemorate the landmark, so we recorded Audience Favourites.”
Earlier Ensemble Vivant recordings had been released on such prestigious labels as RCA Gold Seal, RCA Red Seal, and Pro Arte, but Wilson sounds especially pleased about her new affiliation. “Canadian Brass are such a legend, so it’s an honour to be on the label.”
Audience Favourites is now out on Opening Day/Universal.