Transcript 06 - Beyond Ottawa-NACO and the World!

From the Podcast Series: Eric Friesen Presents the NAC Orchestra

Eric Friesen: Hi I'm Eric Friesen. Welcome to another program in my series on the history of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Today - it's Beyond Ottawa - NACO and the world! And to sum up - a look at the orchestra's future.

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Eric Friesen: You're listening to the National Arts Center Orchestra live in Paris, with Pinchas Zukerman and orchestra violinist Jessca Linnebach, as soloists in the Bach Double Concerto. This was part of an ambitious tour that Pinchas Zukerman and the orchestra took in the fall of 2000. The tour began in Tel Aviv, and then went to Europe: to Germany, France, Switzerland and England.

The National Art Centre Orchestra has always had an international profile through touring, recordings and from the word spread by international performers who come to Ottawa to play with the orchestra and then go out and play with other orchestras.

Let's start there, with the great performers. Because if they didn't go away from Ottawa singing NACO's praises, the tours wouldn't materialize and the greats wouldn't come back.

There were many great performers who came to Ottawa in their prime, who are no longer living. Throughout these programs I've mentioned the likes of Emil Gilels, Henryk Szeryng, and Claudio Arrau who came and really enjoyed their time with NACO. But there are still some of the greats from those early years, who were young and just hitting their stride, whom I was able to talk to.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman was one of those greats. He was 27 when he first came to Ottawa, in February, 1972. He was already a superstar of the classical world at that age, from the same generation as Pinchas Zukerman, both of them good friends since the days they studied together at Julliard. Perlman became sick with polio at age 4, and for the rest of his life he's had to walk with leg braces and two crutches. But it sure hasn't affected his upper body. That mercifully, was spared. Perlman's first time in Ottawa, he played the Brahms Concerto with Mario Bernardi conducting. I asked him what he remembered of his Ottawa debut.

Itzhak Perlman: All I remember is that the orchestra was good (laughs), which is a nice memory. I just remembered that it was one of those orchestras, yeah, yeah, Ottawa, they have a good orchestra. So I do remember that. You know it's very funny about Mario Bernardi because when I first worked with him, it was not as a conductor, it was as a pianist. You know, he was a terrific pianist and I remember that I was doing a couple of dates where I needed a collaborator. At that time I did not have my own pianist. So everywhere I would go I would have to choose a local pianist. He was one of those local pianists when I was in Canada, and he was very good. Then when we did the thing with the Ottawa Symphony for the first time we already knew each other.

Eric Friesen: So you had a good relationship already?

Itzhak Perlman: Oh, absolutely.

Eric Friesen: And when you say that the orchestra is good, I mean the orchestra was young. It was only about three years old.

Itzhak Perlman: Yeah, but they sounded good.

Eric Friesen: What does that mean?

Itzhak Perlman: Well, there's a cleanliness, there's a compactness, the sound is good. Well what can I say, it sounds right. There are so many things that go either go well or not so well when you play with a group. Obviously a lot of it has to do with who's on the podium. A lot of it also has to do with the quality of the musicians and their attitude. I just remember that Ottawa was, “oh yeah, I remember that orchestra”. That they sounded neat, they sounded good. They sounded like they were free to make good music, and that's really important.

Eric Friesen: Now they were tooled for playing Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. But then they played Brahms. How did they do with Brahms?

Itzhak Perlman: Fine. They did fine. You know if you're good, you're good.

Eric Friesen: Whatever the music.

Itzhak Perlman: Yeah.

Eric Friesen: Itzhak Perlman, talking to me from his home in New York City. So let's listen to how good they all were back then on the night of February 3, 1972. I'll pick this up just before the solo violin enters for the first time.

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Eric Friesen: Some thrilling moments from the opening measures of Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, with soloist Itzhak Perlman, and the National Arts Center Orchestra led by Mario Bernardi.

I asked Itzhak Perlman to tell me what it was like to work with Mario Bernardi, which led to a funny digression on the relationship between a soloist and a conductor.

Itzhak Perlman: I remember that he was one of those very good accompanists. Conductors are funny, sometimes you've got conductors who do the standard orchestral repertoire very very well, and then when it comes to ‘accompanying' it's another challenge. It's not always comfortable. In other words, you have someone who's very very good generally, but then as an accompanyist they leave something to be desired. With him it was very easy. I didn't have to worry. Therefore if you don't have to worry, the soloist can do anything you want, and then you can become much freer as a musician and in the way that you perform. He was one of those people on the podiums and I didn't have to worry.

Eric Friesen: And that's a great relief isn't it?

Itzhak Perlman: It's great. I mean it's enough that you have to play the piece, but you don't want to have to settle by just accompanying the conductor (laughs). You want it the other way around.

Eric Friesen: That's happened once or twice has it?

Itzhak Perlman: It's happened many times. It's at different levels. Sometimes you accompany a bit, sometimes you accompany a lot, you basically learn about it during the rehearsal. You immediately know who's on the podium and what their habits are. Some just have it naturally, that's not a problem. But then you have people who tend to slow down, people who tend to rush and so on and so forth. Then you have to make the proper adjustment during the rehearsal so that you know what to expect during the concert.

Eric Friesen: Yeah, they're not following you; it's the other way around?

Itzhak Perlman: They do. Following is funny sometimes, it's a lot to do with anticipation. I love accompanying because I find that the anticipation is great, when it works. What's the famous saying? When the conductor says “don't worry. I'll follow you. And you say, that's what I'm worried about” (laughs). Be with me rather than follow me. Follow me means that you're a bit behind me. Apparently one of the stories of Thomas Beecham, he was well known for funny remarks. He was conducting with some soprano and the orchestra was a little bit slow and he said, “don't look know, but I think we're being followed” (laughs).

Eric Friesen: That's one of the Beechams I hadn't heard.

Itzhak Perlman: So yeah, you don't want to do that. You want to be right there.

Eric Friesen: Itzhal Perlman, always ready with a good story to make his point. Two seasons later, January 1974, Perlman was back again to play with NACO, this time with Jean Martinon guest conducting. Listen to Perlman play so exquisitely the lyrical opening to Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2.

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Eric Friesen: Itzhak Perlman with the opening of Prokofiev's 2nd violin concerto, the National Arts Center Orchestra led by guest conductor Jean Martinon.

Another classical superstar - cellist Yo-Yo Ma - has come regularly to the NAC over the years, at least ten times by my count. In the early years, he played Haydn Cello Concertos with the orchestra, and I asked him for his earliest memories of playing here.

Yo-Yo Ma: I think my early memories of the NAC Orchestra is that it is a very cohesive group, and very elegant. They did play very beautiful classical style, which is very difficult and not often successfully achieved. I think that that's something that has stayed with me through these years as I've had numerous wonderful experiences with them.

Eric Friesen: Do you remember from those early days, not necessarily specific concerts, but the sound of the orchestra? You talked about how cohesive they were, what an elegant group they were. What was the sound like?

Yo-Yo Ma: I thought it was a classical sound, like really a quartet-plus in terms of people really listening to each other and to the other groups that are playing across the stage. It was a clean classical sound. So its' articulations are well thought out, well placed, and cared for.

Eric Friesen: I love Yo-Yo's description of NACO as quartet-plus! Here's a perfect sound-bite for this orchestra. I also asked him if he remembered in the early years playing with Mario Bernardi.

Yo-Yo Ma: I do remember Mario Bernardi, very fondly. I was very fond of him. We had a lovely musical relationship. He was, I think, quiet and soft spoken but had great intelligence, and a wit, and he was a beautiful musician.

Eric Friesen: Yo-Yo Ma also played with most of the other of the orchestra's music directors over the years. I've already quoted him in the second program in this series, his fondness for Franco Mannino, whom Yo-Yo called the “wild man” of the NAC.

Yo-Yo came back to Ottawa in October, 1995, when Trevor Pinnock was in charge.

Yo-Yo talks about working with Trevor, but then he adds a particular memory to that week.

Yo-Yo Ma: I thought from the get-go that he had a tremendous clarity of structure in his conducting. Obviously as a person who played and conducted a lot of Bach - and he just had a great sense of the overview. Also, I was very fond of him, and he was a very gentle, loving person. And of course there was the incident where I think he had an episode where he couldn't actually conduct a concert. I think Victor Feldbrill from Toronto came in at the last moment, and that was really lovely because I had played with Victor when I was still a teenager. I hadn't played with him since that time, and it was great to see a wonderful friend again, and was just so nice about hoping on a plane literally at a moment's notice.

Eric Friesen: When I talked to Trevor Pinnock, he remembered that week with Yo-Yo Ma.

Trevor Pinnock: Yo-Yo Ma, that was a wonderful time working together. And we felt very, very comfortable making music together. And it was also a strange time because for some reason or another, my blood pressure shot up and I had to be taken in to the hospital and I missed the first of two concerts. We did an open rehearsal together, which was absolutely fantastic. Then I was sought off to hospital during that afternoon. So I missed the first of our two evening concerts, but I was back for the second one.

Eric Friesen: I think Victor Feldbrill took over for you?

Trevor Pinnock: he did indeed, yes, at the very last minute. What a fantastic thing to do, and he did a very good job.

Eric Friesen: So, Victor Feldbrill stood in for Trevor on that first night, October 4th, 1995. And then Trevor came back to conduct the 2nd night. I have a recording of the second night, and everyone dazzled here - Yo-Yo Ma, the orchestra, and Trevor Pinnock, back from his overnight in hospital. These are the final four minutes of the most famous Cello Concerto of them all - Dvorak's.

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Eric Friesen: One of those nights-to-remember from the 40 years of music making at the National Arts Centre. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the National Arts Center Orchestra led by Trevor Pinnock, and the finale from Antonin Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B Minor October 5th, 1995.

You can hear the whole performance as part of the terrific NACmusicbox collection. Go to the NAC's website then to NACmusicbox. There are almost 150 performances there for you to remember and enjoy, including that Cello Concerto performance you just heard.

Now Yo-Yo has come back many times over the years, including some memorable gala performances with Pinchas Zukerman conducting. I asked him to say if he has noticed a change in sound of the orchestra over the years that he's been coming here.

Yo-Yo Ma: I'm not good at being able to sort of locate all of these changes because, well first of all, I have senior moments' memory. But I have known Pinchas for decades. That's been an unbelievable joy. I grew up, my wife and I grew up just really so admiring Pinchas' talent, and his energy, his love of life, and his violin playing. That is just kind of so supreme. To see all of that energy and warmth and musicianship transferred to a larger group is also a great joy. I think the sound probably has changed, and has probably thickened, you know. I can't do the real testing unless I hear things side by side. But I think that what I have in my mind is Pinchas' ability to unite group of people together when he wants to. I feel that he's experimented so much with teaching, and long distance learning, and I think that this must be a really fantastic thing for the National Orchestra. It's Ottawa-based, but it is a national orchestra. And Canada is such a huge nation with population spread out all over the place. I feel that he must be making use of those interests and applying them to the National Orchestra.

Probably the times I have played with Pinchas have blurred in a lot of ways because I have played with him so much in 30 years. When I'm playing with him, when he's playing violin, it's always like a kind of catch up where I'm observing someone who's just so superbly amazing on the instrument. I'm just sort of thinking, gee, can I do that? Can I match that? Or he'll just invent something on the spot. I think he has that quality in conducting that he does get that twinkle in his eye, he does go for the moment and it's always both fun and a challenge to see where any moment takes him. I think there's probably a lot of those moments in my playing with him in Ottawa.

Eric Friesen: Yo-Yo Ma. There are such riches in the Musicbox collection we've put together for you to listen to. The late flutist Jean Pierre Rampal is represented, along with French pianist Pascal Rogé, horn player Barry Tuckwell, and pianist Martha Argerich.

But the one that immediately caught my eye when I first looked through the list was a concert that the legendary pianist Shura Cherkassky gave in December, 1986. Franz Paul Decker was on the podium. Shura Cherkassky is often described as a “sorcerer in sound” and on this particular night he practiced his magic at the NAC. Listen to the limpid beauty of his Rachmaninoff. This is from the fantastic, dream-like intermezzo, the slow movement of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto.

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Eric Friesen: Shura Cherkassky, with the National Arts Center Orchestra led by Franz Paul Decker, December, 1986, from the middle movement of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 .Cherkassky sounding as if he were writing the music as he was playing it. And just another example of greatness coming to Ottawa, to play with the NAC's Orchestra.

In my journey through the 40 year history of the National Arts Center Orchestra, I also wanted to talk to pianist Garrick Ohlsson. He's another virtuoso who's been coming here for a long time. He's a very tall American pianist, with a Swedish father and Sicilian mother. Garrick was the first American to win the prestigious Chopin Competition in Warsaw - he won it in 1970. He also won the Montreal Competition a couple of years before that. He first came to the NAC in 1975, to play the Chopin 2nd Concerto with Mario Bernardi conducting. I asked Garrick if he remembered his debut.

Garrick Ohlsson: Yes, I remember. I thought it was excellent. I was at that stage of my career where my career was just a year younger than the orchestra, where I was much more concerned with the impression that I was making. I was much more worried about whether I was alright, or did they like me enough to ever have me back again (laughs). I remember hearing about the birth of the orchestra. I was extremely pleased. I remember it with great pleasure. But I think that my consciousness of the NAC Orchestra began to grow during that time. By the next time I was back, which I believe as we discussed, was in 1982 with Mario. In the interim, I had heard them in New York and was ever more impressed, which I managed to sustain that impression always.

Eric Friesen: What was it like working with Mario as a collaborator?

Garrick Ohlsson: Oh, it was great. I mean he was attentive and I thought it was marvelous.

Eric Friesen: Then, from the mid 80's through the early 90's Garrick Ohlsson came to play several times with Franco Mannino on the podium. That time he also remembers.

So what was Mannino like?

Garrick Ohlsson: Oh, do you have a long time (laughs)? Well I think, among the many words that always come up with Franco Mannino, is vivid. I personally met him in Trieste in 1967 before the NAC orchestra was even born. He was guest conducting a concert I did there. I remember I liked him a lot, but I didn't play with him again until I had this date with the NAC in 1984. It was a particularly pregnant with meaning date because we were taking the same program to Carnegie Hall. Which always, as the chef on television says, “that takes it up a notch for everybody” (laughs). So I didn't actually remember him very well, and we hit it off terrifically well on a personal and musical level. I felt the orchestra was playing so incredibly beautifully and I called it a mini Cleveland Orchestra, that's a great compliment. And with such great chamber music quality, such beautiful balance, and such soulful individualism at the same time. Just a top to bottom orchestra of the highest musical qualities. Back to Franco for a minute, yeah, we indeed hit it off extremely well. It could be because I'm half Sicilian and he's all Sicilian (laughs). But those things, as we know in life, are only just coincidental. I just really adored him, and it seemed that the feeling was mutual. It was just marvelous to work with him and the orchestra.

Eric Friesen: Garrick Ohlsson. Well, in fact there was one more Mannino story and it gets us into the subject of touring. Garrick played a Mozart Concerto with the orchestra in Ottawa, March 1988, with Franco Mannino conducting, and then they left town to go on a tour to Japan. This is one of Garrick's stories from that tour.

Garrick Ohlsson: On the tour to Japan it was enormously fun because his general warm, good nature and sense of prankishness. His English wasn't so good and my Italian was pretty darn good. I was often the unofficial translator at dinners and stuff. Usually later in the evening there would be various jokes and tales to tell. He loved to occasionally play a trick on me where he'd be going along telling a long, usually shaggy dog story in Italian, and I'd be translating it fairly quickly and fairly well. Then of course he would say the punch line in English. That's what happens when you're the translator. I would say the punch line in Italian and everybody would roar. I was busy trying to translate it I didn't see it coming. He got me about three times on that one (laughs). So anyway, I don't know if this is of any interest to the general public, but it will certainly be of interest to some members of the orchestra who are very fond of Franco.

Eric Friesen: Well your description of him as vivid is one that everybody I've interviewed about him, the moment I say his name, they smile. Or they light up in some way, just as you did.

Garrick Ohlsson: Yeah, I'm not surprised. I remember one Italian musician in Rome, and I remember he said, “Even for us he's extremely Italian. He's like sunshine itself”. Even in a country of Italians he stood out. I mean Italians are often on the rather vivid side as we know.

Eric Friesen: But you see we had a founding Music Director here and he was Italian, but northern Italian, Mario, so a complete contrast.

Garrick Ohlsson: An absolute complete contrast. Much more contained, and certainly disciplined himself. Franco had discipline, but he wasn't so self contained (laughs).

Eric Friesen: Touring internationally has always been an important part of any major orchestra's ambition. But it's very expensive, and it happens less and less these days. But over the 40 years of NACO's life, the orchestra has toured a lot. They've toured Asia, Europe, the US, and Mexico. And everywhere they've gone, they've made friends for life.

Mario Bernardi especially remembers the first time the orchestra went to New York. The orchestra was just 3 years old, and he and everyone else was just full of anxiety about the whole thing. They made their New York debut at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre.

Mario Bernardi: That was wonderful. Well I remember the first few lines of the review, it said “Most three year olds are better seen than heard” or something like that. This is not the case with the… I mean three years old, you know I had already planned from the beginning that on the 3rd year we were going to go to New York.

Eric Friesen: Put the feet of the orchestra to the fire?

Mario Bernardi: Absolutely. Let's die or survive. It was very exciting. We did some Canadian music. I played the piano of course, the hog that I am (laughs). No, it was wonderful, wonderful.

Eric Friesen: Well if you can survive and succeed in New York, the music capital of the world, you've got it made. Artists' agents will want their soloists to play with you, the critics will write about you, and music lovers will buy your CD's. And, as Mario said, to think the NACO did it in their third year of existence, that was just a triumph!

Trevor Pinnock remembers taking the National Arts Center Orchestra on an extensive tour to Europe in early spring, 1995, and not only does he talk about the tour, but he gives a strong rationale for why it's so important for orchestras to tour internationally. They took two programs with them and two soloists: the Swedish trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger, and Canadian pianist Louis Lortie.

Trevor Pinnock: We started out in Vienna, and that was a super concert. I remember all of Vienna and the critics were very delighted by this concert. And so they should have been because the orchestra was playing really well. Oh, and that first concert was with Louie Lortie. We had two soloists on that tour. And so in that first concert Louie played the Beethoven 1st Piano Concerto. Subsequently, in other places, in some of the other concerts, Hakan played this Haydn Trumpet Concerto.

Eric Friesen: Where else did you go on the tour, do you remember?

Trevor Pinnock: Um, let me see. We were in Vienna and Berlin… I can't remember where else we were. Oh, in Hannover I remember going. I remember going to Budapest, and Warsaw… I remember finishing off in London. I can't remember if we hit Paris. How strange. But we did a lot of concerts on that tour.

Eric Friesen: And obviously tours are a wonderful thing for an orchestra right, when they get out, especially when you're taking calls to Newcastle, going back to Europe with a European repertoire like that? It's a wonderful thing to triumph.

Trevor Pinnock: Talking about Newcastle, we actually played in Newcastle. I remember now, that was very timely (laughs). Yeah, and of course it gives the orchestra a tremendous confidence to know that they are of international standing. It also encourages them to play at their very best, keeping everything really honed. It's very good when you get out of your everyday workplace and start measuring your own capability.

Eric Friesen: Trevor Pinnock. Just before they set out on that European tour, the trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger and the orchestra warmed up at home. Here is a taste of this fabulous Swedish trumpeter player and the National Arts Center Orchestra in Haydn's famous Concerto.

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Eric Friesen: Hakan Hardenberger with his brilliant, silky playing of the opening measure of Haydn's Trumpet Concerto, Trevor Pinnock leading the National Arts Center Orchestra. That was early February, 1995, in Ottawa, just before they all packed their bags for that extensive European tour.

On tours sometimes the orchestra shines and other things can go wrong - like publicity in smaller cities. Jon Kimura Parker remembers one particular tour to the US in the early 90's, again with Trevor Pinnock conducting.

Jon Kimura Parker: That tour, which was mostly an eastern United States tour, with a lot of concerts in Florida - we didn't play in the largest cities or the most prestigious concert halls. I remember the tour must have been very badly publicized because we got to historic Williamsburg, and Trevor walked into a record store. They still had record stores. The man in the record store, who was one of these people who sort of knows every classical recording of just about everything, you know, was stunned that Trevor Pinnock had walked into his recording store. He said, “Mr. Pinnock, what are you doing here?”. And this man, who arguably should be one of the more connected people with classical music in Williamsburg, had no idea that the National Arts Center Orchestra was in town. So clearly there was something wrong with how that tour was publicized. But the concerts were great fun. Everyone in the orchestra enjoyed being in Florida, of course. That was a great relief from Canadian winter I think. Mostly what I remember is just enjoying the Schumann.

Eric Friesen: Pianist Jackie Parker, remembering a U.S. tour.

Touring is important for an international profile, but as I said earlier, tours are really expensive and don't happen all that often. So, CD's are also important for the orchestra's reputation abroad. I had personal experience of this when I was working for Minnesota Public Radio in the U.S. MPR was a big contributor to the national programming of public radio in the Unites States and we loved NACO's recordings. They were of the highest quality, they played a lot of standard repertoire, they were just perfect for classical radio airplay. I remember particularly Pinchas' recording of the Haydn Violin Concertos with NACO, that was an RCA recording from the early 90s as I recall. There was Franz Paul Decker's recording of the Mozart, Copland and von Weber Clarinet Concertos with James Campbell those were a CBC disk. And I can't count how many times we played the Dag Wiren Serenade for Strings on the recording with Eduardo Mata conducting, also for RCA. American music lovers know NACO, and the CD's have played a huge role in fostering the orchestra's popularity south of the border. Some of these recordings, particularly the CBC recordings with Pinchas Zukerman, are still available.

You're listening to Eric Friesen presents – this is the sixth and final program in our series: The National Arts Center Orchestra: Beyond Ottawa. NACO and the World.

Throughout these 6 programs we've been celebrating the rich 40-year history of the NAC's magnificent orchestra. We've been looking back, from those heady days when the Arts Centre opened through a succession of Music Directors and highlights that we've chosen to listen to along the way and for people to remember. But for all of us, all of us including me, who care about this orchestra, as we celebrate the past, we can't help but think about the future. We're celebrating 40 years at a time of a severe worldwide recession, which has certainly cast its dark cloud on the festivities. The world is changing at such a blisteringly fast pace. The very way younger generations are listening to music and their tastes in music are dramatically different from their parents and grandparents. So what kind of a future does the National Arts Center Orchestra face?

I put this question to a number of those I interviewed. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is someone who thinks a lot about the future. He's a classical musician who has reinvented himself many times. So I asked him if he were sitting in a future planning session with members of the orchestra and administration, what advice would he give them?

Yo-Yo Ma: It's a difficult question, but I think it's really what do they want to be? Because we assume that we're living in an era where we have a fair amount of free choice, as you know. I would imagine that what they think a musician in 2049 needs to be, and the first question is, what do you think the world is going to be like? What is your estimate 40 years from now? What is the world going to be like, and what is your place in music, in serving music? Answering that, I think, would be a good starting point because we're all going to meet that future, hopefully together. So what would be an orchestra at that time? What might technology be? Would that influence what meetings of 2000 are like? You know, communicating with one another, with a composer, what would that mean? I assume that a lot of things, the values that we hold, are hopefully still going to be there. But how would those values be translated in possibly a very different shape, sized world?

Eric Friesen: Good questions from Yo-Yo Ma. I put the question of the future to the NAC's CEO Peter Herrndorf. I asked him what forces were at play that he saw affecting the next decades of the NAC.

Peter Herrndorf: The forces change. I mean one of the things about being in a role like the one I am in, is that the things that I worry about today are very different from the things I might have worried about three years ago. Three years ago we were on a really quite remarkable roll in terms of attracting non-governmental revenue to finance the expansion of music, theatre, dance, our national activities, our activities in education etc… Today, here we are in almost the spring of 2009, and suddenly those non-governmental revenues are, of course, under a great deal of pressure in the economic downturn. The other thing of course, which someone in this position looks at, is the great institutions of the country. Government, are they going to support the kind of cultural activities that are the heart of the National Arts Center? Are places like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation going to continue to be supportive of what the National Arts Center does? Can we in fact partner with these organizations? My sense is that while these issues ebb and flow over time, I'm incredibly optimistic about the future of the National Arts Center.

Eric Friesen: Peter Herrndorf. As CEO he obviously thinks about the future in financial terms. After the center's most recent and very successful BC Scene, Peter and his colleagues met with the major sponsors of the event for their assessment.

Peter Herrndorf: What all of them have said is that it's important to support a national arts center, a national arts center orchestra. If in fact this organization helps bring the country together, helps to showcase artists from every part of the country, and my sense is that if we are successful in doing that, if we really are a national stage, not only a stage that competes with the House of Commons but a national stage for artists from every part of the country, we will flourish. And if we flourish we will receive government support, box office support, philanthropic support, and that in turn will make it possible to continue to do great work. But at the heart of it are two things. You have to do great work, which requires leaders like Pinchas. You have to do that. And you have to be a national showcase. There was a time when this organization kind of reverted to being a kind of local organization with a tony address on the banks of the Rideau Canal. We can't go back to that. For this organization to work we have to be meaningful to Edmonton, and we have to be meaningful to Halifax, and we have to be meaningful to Quebec. We have to be meaningful to every part of the country. I believe that it will happen. I believe that the orchestra will go from strength to strength. I hope that Pinchas is here for a good long time yet. But when the time comes that he does step down, my hope is that the next person has the same passion for music, the same passion for music education, the same large vision, the same large national and international vision that Pinchas has, and that that individual builds on what Pinchas has done, what Mario has done, and on what so many other great artists have done before.

Eric Friesen: Peter Herrndorf. And he himself raised the question about the future that everyone is talking about, thinking about. How long will Pinchas Zukerman be Music Director of the National Arts Center Orchestra? Pinchas told us in program #4 that he'd like to stay for a good while yet and build on what he has begun in the past 11 years. Peter Herrndorf obviously feels the same.

But Peter gave us a clue to what he is at least thinking about for the future - someone who builds on what has been achieved so far. I know Peter was very close to Hamilton Southam, and Peter in 2009, 2010 has much the same ambition for the NAC that Hamilton did when the center opened in 1969. Peter wants the next decade to be even greater than this one.

Well what about the players? Elaine Klimasko, who has been there from the beginning, through the whole of the 40 years life of the orchestra, mostly thinks about where she is now and she has a wonderful image of now. Peter Herrndorf called this the Golden Age. Elaine puts it this way.

Elaine Klimasko: I think, for me, it's been a decade of magic.

Eric Friesen: Which is wonderful, I mean after 40 years, I mean this is probably the late part of your life with the orchestra. I don't know how long you're going to be here but…

Elaine Klimasko: Well you know everyone asks me that all the time. People are very kind, but they say you're not ready to quit, you're still playing well. I hope I'm still playing well. But by this time for the average person out there, they would have gotten two gold watches, not just one, you know (laughs). So what do I do now? I'll know when it's time. But the problem with me is I started so young that it's still a little early for me to leave. But I can see, in time, it depends on one's health, the health of one's hands. You know it's a very physical activity as it is with an athlete or a dancer or whatever. The time does come where it just becomes more and more difficult. But for the here and now, I feel very much a part of all of this wonderful music making and I just feel privileged to be just a couple feet away from him (Pinchas) in concerts and to reap the benefits of all he's offering.

Eric Friesen: It beats selling shoes doesn't it?

Elaine Klimasko: It certainly does beat selling shoes (laughs). Oh, Eric, it's great. It's just great.

Eric Friesen: Do you ever talk among your colleagues, maybe among the five of you who are still left from the beginning, do you look ahead and say where could this orchestra go yet, or where should it go?

Elaine Klimasko: I honestly can say the discussions are more, “where do you hurt today?”(laughs). Do you have any Advil? Advil's a big part of everybody's life. One needs a little bit of assistance with the aches and pains one feels in the morning from time to time, that's for sure. I am very, very lucky to be in a profession that's given me as much as it has. And I'm not bored; I'm not bored at all. There aren't enough hours in the day to do what I want to do musically. But that's okay.

Eric Friesen: That's great, that's the way to be.

Elaine Klimasko: It is.

Eric Friesen: Thanks Elaine.

Elaine Klimasko: You're very welcome.

Eric Friesen: Violinist Elaine Klimasko still in a “decade of magic”.

Pace Sturdevant is in a very special position. For many years he was principal trumpet of the National Arts Center Orchestra. Now he's moved into management as Manager of Artist Training and Outreach. He sees the orchestra from both sides now. But when I asked him about the future, he still thought about it as a player. The future of the NACO?

Pace Sturdevant: It's limitless really. The orchestra is playing so well that there's something missing. It's that extra instrument, which is a concert hall. I remember when we played with Trevor in the Musikverein, we were so distracted by what a wonderful experience it was, that I don't think we noticed how well we were playing. When the reviews came out, they were astounding. I think one critic said, it took an orchestra of Canadians to come teach the Viennese to play Beethoven, things like that. All we were doing was reveling in this incredible instrument that we had become because of the concert hall. Certainly we fixed the acoustics in Southam Hall with the acoustic enhancement system. That's helped a lot. But it's still not what it could be. It still doesn't do it for the orchestra. The orchestra would sound so much different in a hall that is principally designed as a concert hall. It's a multipurpose hall and it's a very good multipurpose hall. It definitely serves its function. The new system helps a lot. It gives us that versatility, but it's not the real thing.

Eric Friesen: Pace Sturdevant, dreaming that someday in the future, the National Arts Center Orchestra will have a new hall, just for the orchestra, or as he put it so eloquently, an extra instrument for the orchestra. Pinchas also dreams about this, he has for some years, he's made no secret about it, and he mentioned it to me again when we talked recently for this project.

I'm going to give the last word to Evelyn Greenberg - Ottawa pianist, teacher, founder of the National Arts Center Orchestra Association, the booster club as she called it, and someone who I'm sure has been to more of the orchestra's 40 years of concerts than anyone else. Evelyn loves the NAC and its orchestra - you can hear it in her voice as she responds to my questions. I asked her what she wanted for the future of the orchestra, and, typically Evelyn, she thought about the players first.

Evelyn Greenberg: I want the players to be happy making music. I think they're very happy. I mean who could mind making a living doing what you love to do most? That you've trained for all your life? True, to be a neurosurgeon takes a long time. To be a first class musician and a first class orchestra takes longer. When the musicians are happy and they walk on the stage, and there's a skip in their step let alone in their bow or whatever, the audience is happy. We just love to make good music. The people that we've had here in the past, they've really been full of integrity, every single one of them. They wanted to make the best music they could. In some instances it was better than others, in a certain genre. But everyone has the same goal in mind, in terms of the orchestra. Telling us what the composer wanted to tell us. Doing it in a beautiful way. Playing in tune (laughs).

Eric Friesen: That's what Pinchas always says right, play in tune and with a beautiful sound?

Evelyn Greenberg: There you go. Yeah. And we'll all be happy. And I'll continue to come until, you know, I can't come anymore.

Eric Friesen: Evelyn Greenberg. After saying that, she paused for a moment and then said she wanted to add this.

Evelyn Greenberg: I think we owe a huge debt of gratitude to people like Hamilton Southam, and Mitchell Sharp, and Louis Applebaum, and Laurence Freeman, and every volunteer who ever worked for the National Arts Center for the love of it. We've had many chairs of the Board who work 24/7, and they take the work home and they think about it at night. How can we make it better? How can we make it work? What happens with the money shortage? What if there's a strike? There was a strike, and it was painful. But people rallied around. There were members of Parliament who held placards and walked around with the orchestra. It's been a wonderful journey. And we're probably just at the beginning of it, even though it's 40 years. A long life to all the volunteers and the staff who've supported the orchestra and the musicians and who have given so much. When you play an instrument Eric, you're drained at the end of the symphony because you work as hard as you can to recreate what the composer's intention was. Pinchas is also one of those conductors who never gets in the way of the music. For that we are grateful.

Eric Friesen: Evelyn Greenberg thanking everyone, including the army of volunteers who help to make the National Arts Center Orchestra succeed in every way.

What a story these four decades of the orchestra have been. From those early days, when Hamilton Southam rallied a city and a country to make this Canada's Cultural Centre, with a great resident orchestra. To Mario Bernardi who whipped a group of young players into a mini Cleveland Orchestra, as Garrick Ohlsson so rightly called them. To all the others - Franco Mannino, Gabriel Chmura, Trevor Pinnock and now Pinchas Zukerman - who have kept the flame alive in difficult times and made the place soar in good times. To the players, who have vigilantly guarded the flame of excellence and continuity. To the board chairs and the CEO's - Evelyn Greenberg is right when she says we owe all of them a huge debt of gratitude.

Well I have my own thank yous - to everyone who gave so generously of their time to help me make these six programs. Their voices are heard throughout - they've told the story, and they've done it so well.

And a very special thank you to the NAC New Media team. To Alida Cupillari and Martin Jones. And from the CBC Jill Laforty and David Houston.

After 40 years, the dream is alive and growing. I agree that the orchestra has a bright future, and deserves it. The golden age, the decade of magic is extending into the future.

I want to salute the National Arts Center Orchestra by hearing bass-baritone Gerald Finlay sing Mozart with Pinchas Zukerman and the orchestra. I was there on September 20th, 2006, when Gerry came from London, back to Ottawa where he grew up. He sang a group of Mozart arias in concert with the orchestra, including this wonderful one which Mozart eventually took out of his opera Così fan tutte, but which baritones love to sing in recital. This is the aria in which Guglielmo joins his pal Ferrando to sing to their two girlfriends that “you will not find our equals from Vienna to Canada.” It's the one mention of Canada in a Mozart opera, and it's a joyful one. And so, as has happened so often in Southam Hall at the NAC over 40 years, Mozart and Canada come together in glorious harmony.

Music clip

Eric Friesen: Baritone Gerald Finlay with the National Arts Center Orchestra led by Pinchas Zukerman. That wonderful aria that never made it to the final cut of Così fan tutte, but definitely worth hearing nonetheless. And remember, you can hear that and a whole lot more music, almost 150 performances from the full 40 year history of the National Arts Center Orchestra. Just go to the NACmusicbox on