Amici Chamber Ensemble

 Amici Chamber Ensemble. A three-member chamber group formed in 1985 by University of Toronto faculty members Patricia Parr (piano), Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet), and David Hetherington (cello). Patricia Parr had already been active as a chamber musician, helping to found the US-based Trio Concertante (1970-9), as well as the University of Toronto Trio (with violinist Lorand Fenyves and cellist Vladimir Orloff) in 1974. Hetherington had been a member of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), later assuming the role of assistant principal cellist, and was a founding member of the string quartet Accordes. Valdepeñas became the principal clarinetist for the TSO in 1979. In 2008 Parr retired from Amici and was succeeded by pianist-composer Serouj Kradjian. The group is considered one of Canada's leading chamber ensembles.

Concerts and Repertoire

Amici's first concert was held at Toronto's Harbourfront in 1985. Three years later, the group initiated a successful three-concert season held at St. Andrew's Church. In 1989, it relocated to Walter Hall at the University of Toronto, and was appointed the music faculty's Trio-in-Residence. Also in that year, the ensemble undertook its first tour (to the Maritimes), which was followed in 1990 by a tour to the Czech Republic and Poland. The group moved to the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto's Canadian Broadcasting Centre in 1993, and subsequently expanded its series to four concerts.

Amici is self-governing, and as such, all repertoire decisions are made by the members. Owing to the limited material for this combination of instruments, the ensemble's programs are characteristically unique, pairing traditional chamber works with contemporary commissions. The group has been an avid supporter of Canadian music, and has commissioned a number of works, including Ka Nin Chan's award-winning I Think That I Shall Never See (1993; Jean A. Chalmers Award, 1996), John Thrower's Trio 38 for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1990), Glenn Buhr's Minuet and Trio with Doubles on a Theme by Mozart (1991), and Brian Cherney's Echoes in the Morning (1997), as well as works by Alexina Louie and Ruth Watson Henderson.

In keeping with its collaborative spirit ("amici" is Italian for "friends"), the group often invites colleagues to join them in concert. Amici has performed with Canadian artists Isabel Bayrakdarian, Russell Braun, Measha Brueggergosman, Steven Dann, Barbara Hannigan, Susan Hoeppner, André Laplante, Lois Marshall, Erika Raum, Catherine Robbin, Michael Schade, and Scott St. John; and with such international performers as Shmuel Ashkenazy, Ida Kavafian, Jaime Laredo, Cho-Liang Lin, the Orion String Quartet, and Arnold Steinhardt. Amici has toured the United States, eastern Europe, and Mexico, and continues to perform regularly in Canada. Its subscription concerts have frequently been recorded for CBC Radio.

Recordings and Awards

Amici's recordings appear on the Summit, CBC, and Naxos labels. The group's first (self-titled) recording featured the 1994 Juno-winning work Among Friends by Ka Nin Chan, Amici's recordings of Messiaen and Brahms also garnered Juno nominations in 1996 and 1999 respectively. The group was nominated again in 2011 for the album Armenian Chamber Music.

Selected Discography

Amici. 1994. Summit CDC151

Quartet for the End of Time. Messiaen - Ka Nin Chan. 1995. Summit CDC168

Beethoven, Quintet Op 16, Trio Op 38. 1996. Summit CDC186

Contrasts. Dohnányi - Shostakovich - Bartók. 1997. Summit CDC193

In Brahms' Apartment. 1998. Summit CDC186

Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time. 2001. Naxos 8570980

Amici Chamber Ensemble. Jean Stilwell mezzo-soprano. 2003. CBC Musica Viva 1158

Majestic Flair: Music of Chan Ka Nin. 2005. CBC Records MVCD 1169

Bruch - D'Indy. 2005. Naxos 8557347

Armenian Chamber Music. Isabel Bayrakdarian soprano, Benjamin Bowman violin. 2010. Atma Classique ACD22609