Toronto Star: Canada’s music sounding sweet in Italy these days

Canadian orchestras and musicians are becoming more recognized in Italy, despite the federal government cutting back support for Canadian artists touring abroad.

…But the symbolic apex of Canadianism was witnessed in Rome, where the Accademia Filarmonica Romana hosted a Canada Day celebration in July as part of its annual Festival of Nations.

Ann Summers Dossena of Toronto’s International Resource Centre for Performing Artists organized the festivities in the Accademia’s historic home and gardens in central Rome. It was only the latest of a series of projects through which the part-time Italian resident has fostered relations between the two countries, including a Canadian festival mounted in L’ Aquila several years ago.

For Canada Day, she brought together a number of classical musicians, including the Borealis String Quartet from Vancouver, violinist Guillaume Tardif from Edmonton, Toronto clarinetist Kornel Wolak and Montreal soprano Jana Miller with pianist Jordan de Souza. Several Canadian compositions were featured, most of them receiving first performances in Italy.

Interview with Wolak in Twoja Muza (Polish)

Koncerty pe?ne niespodzianek – rozmowa z Kornelem Wolakiem z Indiana Uniwersity Jacobs School of Music (USA) – numer: 6/2013

Nale?y od wczesnych lat t?umaczy? maluchom, za co nale?y ceni? muzyk? klasyczn?, czego si? w niej dopatrywa? i jakie korzy?ci niesie ze sob? jej s?uchanie. Do dzieci trzeba podchodzi?, graj?c, zapraszaj?c do ta?ca.

SYLWIA PRA?NIEWSKA: Urodzi? si? pan w Bia?ymstoku, studiowa? na Akademii Muzycznej w Poznaniu. Jak zosta? pan studentem Indiana University Jacobs School of Music w USA?
KORNEL WOLAK: Od pocz?tku edukacji muzycznej w Poznaniu (gdy ucz?szcza?em do Liceum im. Mieczys?awa Kar?owicza) a? do uko?czenia akademii by?em na indywidualnym toku nauczania. Temu przywilejowi zawdzi?cza?em mo?liwo?? cz?stych wyjazdów na konkursy i dokszta?cania si? poza granicami Polski. Za czasów liceum by?y to wyjazdy do Akademii Muzycznej w Pradze i Konserwatorium Muzycznego w Pary?u. Na drugim roku studiów otrzyma?em stypendium na Indiana University Jacobs School of Music i zacz??a si? logistyka zwi?zana z regularnymi przylotami do Polski, ?eby zaliczy? przedmioty oraz zagra? recitale i zda? egzaminy. Ten okres ?ycia wspominam jako bardzo napi?ty i pe?en stresu zwi?zanego ze studiami na dwóch uczelniach w odleg?ych od siebie krajach, z cz?stymi koncertami, konkursami, jak i dorywczymi pracami, by móc si? utrzyma?. Norm? by?o nauczanie klarnetu, fortepianu, teorii muzyki oraz praca w ró?nych restauracjach do pó?nych godzin nocnych. Pomoc w du?ych wydatkach, jak przeloty czy edukacja, otrzymywa?em od mamy, od rz?du Polski, instytucji funduj?cych stypendia, jak i ró?nych sponsorów.

Read the rest of the interview.

Wolak performs in Canadian Day Revisited concert this Tuesday – John Terauds profile

Posted November 30, 2013
[Excerpted below - Read full article at]

Kornel Wolak and Chris Donnelly in action in Swift Current last spring (Elizabeth Dowson photo).On Tuesday [December 3, 2013] night at Lula Lounge, Toronto-based clarinetist Kornel Wolak joins a clutch of Canadian musicians recreating a celebratory concert held in Rome last July. There such is a circle of ironies behind the event that you have to laugh as well as cheer their success.

The local irony is an old one: We all know you can’t be a true Canadian star unless you have made it big somewhere else.

I want to fold a third irony into this little equation: of an immigrant who actually knows how great this place is and how much cultural potential it has arriving to discover that he will find more work outside Canada, leading him — and us — straight back to Irony Number One.

Anne Summers Dossena, who divides her time between Canada and Italy, has for more than 20 years run the non-profit, Toronto-based International Resource Centre for Performing Artists. She managed to get a roster of Canadians together last for a July 5 concert in Rome celebrating this country as part of a larger international musical event.

The concert helps us celebrate the music we end up making, rather than the struggles of getting there.

Wolak’s big, sleepy eyes open wider and he laughs as he realises he is getting more work in his native Poland now that he lives in Canada. ”Isn’t that funny; I had to leave so that I could get work there,” he says of an adventure that began nearly 10 years ago.

Back in Poland, Wolak has been asked to play solo, in ensembles, as well as act with his clarinet in a play about Witold Lutoslawski, the Polish conductor and composer whose 100th birth anniversary fell at the start of this year.

The High Park-area resident has also made a significant foray into Central and South America, giving orchestral and solo concerts as well as masterclasses in Ecuador and Chile earlier this fall.

In Canada, he continues to tour with Toronto jazz pianist Chris Donnelly, boosted by their excellent recent album, Common Ground. And, on February 15, he is soloist with the Ontario Philharmonic in an all-Mozart programme.

The touring not only re-energized Wolak, it introduced him to a clarinet maker in Chile who has just made a new set of instruments for him.

“It’s like getting a new life,” Wolak beams. He has been looking for years for a handmade clarinet that has more character in its sound than one can get from a mass-produced instrument. “It’s so important to be able to talk to the maker himself and to explore his philosophy of sound,” says Wolak.

The musician, who is still in his early 30s, says that solo-concert options are pretty limited no matter how great you are, so he has also started something he calls the Wolak Clarinet Extravaganza, which extends his genre-busting duo work into quartet form — with accordion or piano, a vocalist and guitar.

So the Brahms, Schubert, Rossini and Eatock-playing clarinetist we’ll hear on Tuesday represents only one side of an artist trying to find every available opportunity to make music — and make a living.

You’ll find the details of Tuesday night’s programme as well as all sorts of other related information here.

- John Terauds,, November 30, 2013
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“…immensely energetic, comedic and virtuoso display” – London Fuse

Review Posted Monday, November 18, 2013
[Excerpted below - View the complete article here.]

Photo from  Lyell Gustin Recital Series, Saskatoon SK – March 15, 2013The concert on November 17th, Rhapsody in Blue, was a marrying of two genres—classical and jazz. On stage with the Orchestra were guests maestro Airat Ichmouratov, clarinetist Kornel Wolak and pianist Chris Donnelly. It was an immensely energetic, comedic and virtuoso display of musical talent. 

Some of the most timeless and ever-popular works played were Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom”, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons Concerto No. 2 in G minor “Summer” and, my personal favorite, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. Wolak and Donnelly were witty and charming with hilarious banter between their shared performances. Together they took a Bach piece to the next level with, none other than, spoons. That’s right—two stainless steel Ikea spoons! Donnelly could get himself a second Juno-nomination for his amazing percussion abilities. He held on to a variety of intricate rhythms while Wolak played illustrious Bach melodies, while managing not to pass out from a lack of oxygen. The crowd loved every second of it.

Each song was carefully curated for that specific concert. Audience members were treated with the first-ever live playing of Torontonian Hilario Duran’s ”Suite Latinoamericana”, a piece that was specifically commissioned for the show…