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Beyond Beethoven: Pianist's album features contemporary Canadian composers

LU prof Yoko Hirota commissioned many of the pieces included on latest album
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Local pianist Yoko Hirota has recently put out an album of music by contemporary Canadian composers named Umbra Septentrionis. (Supplied).

Some people seem to be under the impression that the age of classical music ended with well-known 18th century composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.

But local pianist Yoko Hirota not only plays the music of contemporary classical composers, but ones that come from Canada.

“Classical music doesn't stop at Beethoven or even Chopin,” said Hirota.

“There's composers still composing. Music has changed compared to the 19th century. Still, I think people will enjoy the musical universe of all those alive composers.”

Earlier this winter, Hirota released an album named Umbra Septentrionis, which means shadow of the north in Latin. The album features Canadian composers who belong to the Canadian Music Centre, all of them still alive. 

One of the tracks was written by Hirota's husband, local composer Robert Lemay — they both teach music at Laurentian University.

Hirota, who actually commissioned some of the music specifically for her, said it's great being able to work with the composers to ensure she's mastered the nuances of the piece.

“I'll try to be as close as possible to what the composer thought in their head,” said the musician, who was able to complete the project thanks in part to a Ontario Arts Council grant. “It's a very exciting process.”

While you might think this is a project celebrating Canada's 150th birthday, Hirota said it's just a coincidence she's released an album featuring entirely Canadian music this year. In fact, this is the third album of such music she's put out. 

If you're interested in checking out Hirota's album, it's available for purchase through major online retailers such as iTunes.


Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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