Travails of Travel with a Cello by Xi Wang

Don’t tell Pinchas Zukerman, but Amanda Forsyth has another man in her life. His name is Carlo. He’s Italian, 300 years old, about four feet tall and made of wood. On second thought, Zukerman has probably met this guy. He lives in a special carbon fibre case in the home he shares with Forsyth. Carlo is, after all, a cello and a very expensive one at that, having been made by Carlo Giuseppe Testore in 1699 and being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. That all makes Forsyth pretty protective of old Carlo, her nickname for her instrument.

“He’s my other husband,” she says. “Whenever I go to Italy, I always open his case and say welcome home.”

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The Sultry, Enchanting and Brilliant Amanda Forsyth by Xi Wang

As quick to laugh as she is quick to judge, mostly herself, Amanda Forsyth is a dedicated musician, creative artist, stylish beauty, and engaging personality.

Born in South Africa, Forsyth came to Canada when she was very young with her father, composer Malcolm Forsyth, and her mother Lesley, a former ballet dancer. The University of Alberta, near where the family lived in Edmonton, offered a Suzuki music program in cello and so, at the tender age of three, she was enrolled to begin her musical training and take her first steps towards what has already been an impressive career.

“As a kid, music was just something to do initially but my parents saw hints of talent, even at that age, so they encouraged me in that direction. And I was a bit of a stage bunny so I loved the performing aspect. I was a typical kid so I didn’t always want to practice but luckily had enough natural talent to make it seem I had.”

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Forsyth’s Electra Rising Electric by Xi Wang

Looking every bit the Greek goddess with her golden hair and the Mediterranean brightness of her flowing sapphire blue gown, Canadian cellist Amanda Forsyth played Electra Rising at the final concert of Symphony Nova Scotia’s current season in the Cohn on Tuesday night.

No one knows this work better than Forsyth, and not just because it leapt out of her own gene pool, having been written for her by her father Malcolm Forsyth. But she has performed it so many times it flows out of her fingers and her bow as if it had a voice of its own.

The basic gesture of the music is a flowing melody broken up by agitated scrubbings on the lower strings and played against a feather light accompaniment of tiny music from strings, woodwinds and harp.

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Music so beautiful it hurts by Xi Wang

A couple of years ago, the organizers of the Outaouais Festival of Sacred Music decided to offer concerts in Ottawa as well as in what we now call Gatineau. This was probably a good idea since the few suitable venues north of the river are difficult to find if you don’t know the city well. Then there was the problem that the best and most relatively findable performance space, the St-Benoît-Abbé church, became unavailable. (It’s soon to be converted to a palliative care facility.)

So this year’s festival opened at Southminster United Church, about a block from the Mayfair Theatre. How was the Friday night parking? You don’t want to know. The program featured cellist Amanda Forsyth and friends and was made up of two works, Ravel’s Trio in A minor and Messiaen’s Quatuour pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time).

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The Sensuous Cellist by Xi Wang

What with her out-on-a-limb fashion sense, her romance with conductor-boss Pinchas Zukerman, and her kick-ass karate chops, drop-dead blonde Amanda Forsyth is not your standard classical musician.

On stage, she stands out. Like a radiant in a dark orchestral sea, Amanda Forsyth glows in the front row of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Her hand flutters around the neck of her cello; her body sways ever so slightly, moved by the power of the music. At moments, a smile flickers across her face, reflecting the sheer thrill of making such a beautiful sound. With a growing solo career and a 1997 Juno Award, Forsyth is ranked by reviewers as one of the best Canadian cellists of her generation.

What’s more, she’s gorgeous.

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