How I first meet Marc Toth.
Many years ago, Marc Pierre Toth and I met as first year undergraduates at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. Marc, a native of London, Ontario had come to study piano performance with the great Marietta Orlov. I recall vividly that even back then he was a larger than life character in many regards: how is it I have a mental image of him goose-stepping around the Edward Johnson building impersonating Basil Fawlty with one of our friends? I always remember the time he immediately corrected me when I exclaimed that there were ‘too many ALL-Beethoven programmes!!’ He made his point VERY clear, “No, Richard! The problem is that there are not ENOUGH all-Beethoven programmes!!” I also recall that he won the school concerto competition one year and performed one for the Liszt piano concerti with the Faculty’s symphony orchestra! I probably sat at the back of the second violins and didn’t get in the way, but that year we had this alternating duo at concertmaster of a 20 year-old Erika Raum, and an equally 20 year-old…Mark Fewer. (Marc has since reminded me that when Mark Fewer won the competition similarly and played the wonderful Barber Violin Concerto with the U.T.S.O., Marc (Toth) played the orchestral piano part!) I also remember Marc chiding me once out on the street when I was not wearing a bicycle helmet while jetting around on my bike in downtown Toronto traffic! He had had a tumble recently he said. He ‘got lucky’ that time he said.
Left handed playing for fun and profit.
Well this past year, our long-time friend and collaborator, the great pianist who now resides in Germany, and amongst other things ‘has Clara Schumann’s job at the Frankfurt Conservatory’, the perennial cyclist was no doubt lucky to be wearing HIS bicycle helmet when he most unfortunately DID have a terrible traffic incursion while riding on two wheels!! ‘The Great Tothicus’, as I call him, injured his right arm such that it required major reconstructive surgery and he was without the use of it for…many months! Like, six months at least?! Unbelievable!! But I tell you, NOTHING will stop this man! What did he do all that while you may wonder?! Give up piano? Stop concertizing throughout Europe? Suffer a major setback in his career?! No! (I’m sure some of you can probably guess what he did?) He set about learning all of the repertoire FOR LEFT HAND ALONE!! Of which there’s actually quite a bunch! Infamously the concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm during the First World War. The result is we have a slew of masterworks from some the early twentieth century’s great composers for the left hand; the Ravel concerto, the Prokofiev 4th piano concerto to name perhaps the two most salient! Anyway, the fantastic news is that Marc is now fully recovered! He probably won’t be challenging me to an arm wrestle anytime soon, BUT he can once again play those piano sonatas of Beethoven as he is wont to do! He tells me that he is bringing FOURTEEN(!) Beethoven sonatas with him this fall to present to Canadian audiences over the next three weeks or so!
Friends gather for an extraordinary performance this Sunday
We’re going to hear two Beethoven sonatas on Sunday afternoon (October 15th)
here in Leith. He’d already presented SEVEN(!) of the 32 sonatas at his first two Leithal recitals, so we had to handpick two of the fourteen that he has ‘ready to go’, as he says! In addition, we will look forward to him playing one of the famous Chopin Ballades, the fourth one in F minor! AND I’m particularly thrilled that he is going to be collaborating with my sweetheart, the brilliant Belarusian violinist, Olga Rykova. (Olga is now Canadian as well, but I can never resist a nice alliteration!) Together they will perform the incendiary D minor Violin Sonata of Johannes Brahms! One of my FAVorite pieces!! I can’t wait! AND these two amazing musicians will offer the world premiere performance of a little work of my own entitled ‘Rivka’. The original version was written for viola and piano for the world famous viola soloist, Rivka Golani; however, I subsequently transcribed the piece for violin. We will also hear Olga perform the ‘Prelude and Fugue’ from the G minor Sonata for unaccompanied violin by J.S. Bach. I’m going to pick up my buddy, Marc at the airport in Toronto tomorrow afternoon! We’ll go collect Olga as well and then I get to hear them rehearse all day Saturday in my wonderful music studio at my Leithal abode! Maybe one day I’ll wake up from this dream?! : )