Steven Dann
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Steven Dann

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The best kept secret in music


"A wonderful disc for sunsets"

Published: Thursday, June 08, 2006

ClassicalBrahms Viola WorksSteven Dann, viola; Lambert Orkis, piano; Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano

Clarinetists might balk at the title of this disc, but Brahms's autumnal Op. 120 Sonatas work splendidly for viola, even with the somewhat modified voicing here adopted by the Vancouver-born Torontonian, Steven Dann. He is a lush and musical player, with a piano accompanist of unusual eloquence in Lambert Orkis (often the partner of violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter). He and mezzo-soprano Susan Platts (something of a vocal viola herself) perfectly capture the incandescent beauty of the Op. 91 songs at slow but flowing tempos. A wonderful disc for sunsets, real and metaphoric. Rating 4 1/2

- Arthur Kaptainis - The Gazette

"Brahms in concert"

Review Concerts - PIÙ FORTE
NEW YORK-Dennis Rooney

That same afternoon, in the Manhattan School's Greenfield Auditorium, the Canadian violist Steven Dann performed an all-Brahms programme with pianist Lambert Orkis, presented by the New York Viola Society. Dann played a Giuseppe Gagliano c.1780; his plangent sonority filled the room.The two op. 120 sonataswere played sturdily but imaginatively with keen musical insight and superior taste. Mezzo-soprano Susan Platts joined Dann and Orkis between the sonatas for the op. 91 songs.

- the Strad

"Steve Dann's Buttery Viola"

World War I-era music packs emotional punch


The right planning can make a good concert into a great one memorable because the result is greater than the sum of its parts.
A case in point was the "Green And Pleasant Land" that the Artists of the Royal Conservatory (ARC) recreated at Ettore Mazzoleni Concert Hall on Saturday and Sunday nights.
The program (its title borrowed from the William Blake poem, "Jerusalem") was an ideal showcase of the conservatory's top-notch teaching talents and an example of enlightened concert programming.
The focus was on the period between the death of Queen Victoria and the end of World War I, a time when English secular music gained its own clear, ethnic identity.
To add literary weight to the proceedings, the ARC were joined by actor R.H. Thompson, who added thematically related poems in his polished style. Saturday night (which I did not attend) saw the performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams's gorgeous Five Mystical Songs (1911) and the Piano Quintet In C Minor (1903). Beginning the program was Britten's Phantasy Quartet, Op. 2,
composed in 1932 < a late choice for this group. CBC Radio 2 promises to air this concert soon.
Sunday night's music in the acoustically warm hall began with the 1919 Ravel-like Sonata For Viola And Piano by Rebecca Clarke gorgeously rendered with Steven Dann's buttery viola and Dianne Werner's sensual piano accompaniment. (Mazzoleni Hall's battered concert Steinway's mellow tone is well suited to this period.)

The sonic comfort was at its biggest at the evening's close, with Elgar's Piano Quintet In A Minor, Op. 84, of the same vintage.

Where Clarke's Sonata carried a whiff of orientalism, the Elgar was
unalloyed Sceptred Isle. Joining Dann and Werner on stage were violinists Erika Raum and Marie Berard and cellist Bryan Epperson. The group performed with a great verve that helped overcome some rough edges.

Sunday night's emotional core lay at the centre, with the poetry of A.E. Housman and composer George Butterworth's jewel-like settings of A Shropshire Lad. The tragic irony here was Butterworth's death at the Battle of the Somme after he had set these words lamenting England's young men lost in the Boer War.

Providing a flawless interpretation of six of these songs were visiting
American baritone Chris Pedro Trakas and faculty member James Anagnoson on piano.

It was difficult for all not to get swept up in the emotion here when young people are still being sacrificed in senseless wars in foreign lands.

The combined effect made this one of the most powerful musical evenings so far this season.



Brahms - Viola Works ATMA ACD2 2350


Feeling a bit camera shy


Steven Dann was born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1953. His foremost teacher and mentor was the late Lorand Fenyves. In addition he studied with William Primrose, Robert Pikler and Bruno Giuranna. Mr. Dann also spent six summers studying the string quartet repertoire with Zoltan Szekely and members of the Hungarian String Quartet.
Upon graduation from university he was named Principal Viola of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada, a position he has subsequently held with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Vancouver Symphony and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He has also been a guest principal of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle and, in both performance and recordings, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Paavo Berglund and Pierre Boulez.
Steven Dann has collaborated as a soloist with such Maestri as Sir Andrew Davis, Rudolph Barshai, Jiri Belohlavek, Sir John Elliott Gardiner, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Since 1990 Mr. Dann has been a member of the Smithsonian Chamber Players in Washington D.C. and was a founding member of the Axelrod String Quartet who are resident at the Smithsonian Institute.
Steven Dann has been a featured performer on the Smithsonian’s series of recordings for the Sony Classical Vivarte label. Two of these recordings have won the Diapasson d’Or in France. Solo recordings include “A Portrait of the Viola”, “Winter Music” for viola and orchestra by Alexina Louie (Written for Mr. Dann and nominated for a Juno award) and “Mega4 Meta4” by Christos Hatzis, all for CBC records and the Sequenza #6 of Luciano Berio for the Naxos label. A recording of the viola music of Brahms with pianist Lambert Orkis and mezzo-soprano Susan Platts for ATMA Classique will be released in June ‘06.
In the 05/06 season he will perform concerti of Peter Lieberson, Giya Kancheli, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Alexina Louie. Next season bring performances of concerti by Mark-Anthony Turnage with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Knussen conducting, and a world premiere of a new concerto of Christos Hatzis. The 05/06 season also brings performances with the Tokyo String Quartet in Toronto and New York and, as guest principal viola, Wagner’s Ring Cycle with the Canadian Opera Company for the opening of the new opera house in Toronto. Upcoming recording projects include two more CDs for ATMA and the second disc in a series of the complete piano chamber music of Brahms and Schumann with the Smithsonian Chamber Players.
Steven Dann has commissioned many new works from such composers as Alexina Louie, Peter Lieberson, R. Murray Shafer, Frederick Schipitsky and Christos Hatzis.
As both a performer and teacher, Mr. Dann is a regular guest at many international festivals including the National Arts Centre’s Young Artist Program, the Domaine Forget in Charlevois, Québec and the Banff School of Fine Arts. He teaches viola and chamber music at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. Mr. Dann plays a viola of Joseph Gagliano, circa 1780.