Amanda Forsyth has been travelling the world since she left the principal cello chair with the National Arts Centre Orchestra some three years ago.
From Seoul to Sydney; St. Petersburg to Sao Paolo, she’s lugged her cello Carlo to concert halls across the globe as a soloist or as a member of the Zukerman Trio with her partner Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Angela Cheng.
Now she’s about to step back on the Southam Hall stage as a soloist for the first time since she left to pursue a career in the wider world.
She will perform a concerto written for her by the Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich, who has more than 70 works to his credit and has won several major awards including the 2010 JUNO for Best Classical Composition of the Year.
It is rare to have a full concert of string sextets, and it is rare indeed to find playing as beautiful as that provided by the Jerusalem Quartet and their two exalted collaborators, violist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth. Radiant warmth and feeling flowed everywhere in this concert, starting from Richard Strauss’s lovely Sextet from Capriccio and ending with the energy and romantic ardour of Tchaikovsky’s late sextet ‘Souvenir de Florence’. In between was Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht , also painted in luxuriant colours, though here some sharper, more distilled contours might not have been out of place. It was a particular joy to see the Jerusalem Quartet in its fullest splendour: the Vancouver Recital Society sponsored the ensemble literally from its birth-pangs two decades ago.
As part of the Symphony Center Presents chamber music series, renowned husband and wife duo Pinchas Zukerman, viola, and Amanda Forsyth, cello, along with the acclaimed Jerusalem Quartet presented a program of lush, fully developed works at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago on October 7, 2018.
This probably shouldn’t be taken as an invitation to behave badly at a classical music concert. But Amanda Forsyth says she wouldn’t mind it if you behaved badly at a classical music concert.
“I think they should do what they want,” says the cellist, on the line from her home in New York City. “The whole problem with classical music is that everyone thinks they have to behave. What has to happen is the music fills their bodies and makes them feel something, whatever it is they want to feel.”
Hannah Nepil speaks to Amanda Forsyth, lead cellist of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, ahead of their collaboration with the RPO at the end of the month.
There’s a matter-of-fact quality to Amanda Forsyth’s voice when she says, ‘it was the worst and best time of my life.’ The Canadian cellist is describing the run-up to the 2011 world premiere of A Ballad of Canada, the last piece ever composed by her father, Malcolm Forsyth. He was suffering from pancreatic cancer at the time and had been told he had two months to live. ‘But he lived for nine and the reason was that he had this premiere and he wanted to be there. And he was. Somehow he managed to get, with his oxygen tanks, to Ottawa,’ Forsyth recalls.
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.”
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.”
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.
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).
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.