Canada Bach and Beethoven windows, missing from Toronto’s Massey Hall since 1991, found in unmarked basement box

07:55  17 may  2018
07:55  17 may  2018 Source:

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Two priceless pieces of historic Toronto art — Massey Hall ’ s stained-glass portraits of Bach and Beethoven — are missing -in-action as the landmark embarks on a massive revitalization project. As part of a 9-million, multi-year revitalization, close to 100

Two priceless pieces of historic Toronto art — Massey Hall ’ s stained-glass portraits of Bach and Beethoven — are missing -in-action as the landmark embarks on a massive revitalization project.

Two missing 19th century Massey Hall windows have been found, putting an end to a 30-year search for Bach and Beethoven.© Eduardo Lima Two missing 19th century Massey Hall windows have been found, putting an end to a 30-year search for Bach and Beethoven.

Two of Toronto’s most wanted men have been found.

A pair of stained-glass portraits of Bach and Beethoven that once graced the windows of Massey Hall, presumed lost forever, have been found safely stowed away deep in the basement of Roy Thomson Hall.

The portraits were last seen, records suggest, nearly 30 years ago in the basement of Massey Hall’s Albert Building, which was meticulously emptied, then demolished, during the first phase of the venue’s $139-million, multi-year renovation, which was completed in 2016. It seemed likely the artworks were lost or broken sometime in the intervening years, or, even worse, still in the building when it came down.

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Ever since Beethoven ' s example, the "composer as revolutionary" model has tended to prevail. But I doubt if you could find many serious musicians who would put him ahead of Bach and Beethoven . They walked on stage sat down and the lights in the nineteenth century hall were dimmed then the 2

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“I would love to find those windows, but there’s no place else to look,” the director of operations of Massey and Roy Thomson, Grant Troop, told the Star earlier this year.

Now, after their discovery, Bach and Beethoven are being restored to their former glory.

To understand the true significance of these works of art, and this (now solved) history mystery, you need to go back to June 14, 1894: The opening night of the brand-new Massey Music Hall.

The crowd rose to applaud the last triumphant “hallelujahs” of Handel’s Messiah. Summer-evening sun streamed in through stained-glass windows depicting Handel himself, plus 11 other giants of Western music: Mozart, Mendelssohn, Rossini, Chopin, Weber, Schubert, Gounod, Wagner, Haydn, Beethoven and Bach. In the days before air conditioning and modern deodorant, they served a very practical purpose: They could be vented to let in air.

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Just about every opening from the hall to the outside world was filled with stained glass, even the stairwells, for a total of more than 100 windows, said Shirley Ann Brown, a York University art history professor who has written about Massey Hall’s design and its significance.

But the inset composer portraits, painted by hand in lead, enamel, glass and silver, were the most special and expensive. They “elevated the tone” and signalled to the viewing public that Massey was a place of refinement, not a music hall in the sense of a saloon, Brown said.

“On the main floor, they were all lined up almost as if they were in a church — the 12 apostles of music,” she explained. “This was meant to bring out the seriousness of the location and the seriousness of what was happening inside.”

Hart Massey, the philanthropist who founded the hall in memory of his late son, was a staunch Methodist who “believed in the idea of good works and educating people; of giving the working classes entertainment that was uplifting and get them out of the beer halls,” Brown said. “It was meant to serve the public, but it was also patronized by the rich and the glamorous.”

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They discovered castles, stag dos, and a little bit of Bach . 3.45pm We walk along the river to the Rudolfinum concert hall in time to meet the Patrons for the 4pm rehearsal with the conductor, William Christie. We get back to the hotel around 12.30am to find a group of players still going in the bar.

3 & 4. Johann Christoph Bach and Maria Sophia Bach (Born and died in 1713). While little is known about Johanna, Regina was acquainted with Beethoven ; he even asked for proceeds from the premiere of his Symphony No. 3 to be donated to her.

Four portrait windows — depicting Handel, Haydn, Beethoven and Bach — were removed in the early 20th century to make room for the emergency exits, Brown said.

Photos seem to show all the stained-glass windows in the auditorium itself, including the remaining eight composer portraits, were boarded over on both sides around 1933, Brown said. This sealed out the sounds and smells of the growing, grimy, coal-gobbling city that rose up around Massey Hall, noisy automobiles having replaced the clip-clop of horses.

Handel and Haydn were displayed in Massey’s administrative offices for years, and are now at Roy Thomson Hall (the two venues are owned by the same corporation).

But Beethoven and Bach were not so lucky.

Since their removal, they’ve never been displayed, at least not in living memory. A 1923 photo of the Toronto police band in front of the hall seems to show Handel and Haydn still in place, so presumably Bach and Beethoven were too. Until recently, as far as almost anyone knew, they hadn’t been seen since.

But a bit of digging by the Star located a 1993 article by Brown about the windows in the print archives of Rotunda, now called the ROM Magazine.

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Wrote Feininger, “ Bach ’ s essence has found expression in my paintings. Beethoven ’ s Diabelli variations parody other composers including Bach and Mozart. his Suite No 1. Since Dieupart lived and worked in England, and Bach certainly knew and copied out some of his works, this may explain

Brown obligingly dug up her notes and source materials, including old-fashioned photo slides bearing gorgeous, crisp, full-colour images of the Bach and Beethoven portraits — surely not from the 1920s.

In fact, Brown took the photos in August 1991. According to her notes from the time, “The janitor told me to follow him, that he thought there was something else I might be interested in. Deep in the bowels of the building, in an almost empty storage room, there were two more partial windows leaning up against a wall. They were dirty and rather damaged.

“They turned out to be two more windows from the same composer series: Bach and Beethoven. When I finished photographing them, we returned the two windows to their resting place in the basement.”

“I’m sure they’re still there,” Brown said in a 2017 interview.

But the thrill of hope soon turned to confusion. In the course of researching this story, experts and people involved in Massey’s restoration had a number of suggestions as to what might have happened to the Beethoven and Bach windows. Some said they were broken and discarded years ago (plausible), while others thought maybe they were overlooked and hanging in Roy Thomson Hall (nope, that was Handel and Haydn). It was even posited that perhaps there were never 12 but only 10 portraits to begin with (wrong).

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But this had been part of German violin tradition since Biber, and that is the third point: that many of the physical difficulties that later (Italian-trained) violinists have found in these pieces were not necessarily so problematic for Bach

They eventually turned up in mid-January, carefully wrapped in thick blue moving blankets and stuffed into an unmarked box in the “storage bunker” in the basement of Roy Thomson Hall, said Jesse Kumagai, the hall’s director of programming, marketing and business development.

A team from the building services department was down there looking for Massey Hall-related documents and artifacts to display as part of an in-house exhibit in the restored venue — but staff allowed themselves to hope, just a little, that the missing windows might be unearthed in the process.

“We decided to look in the one and only other place they could be. We thought it was a long shot,” Kumagai said. “Everybody had assumed the worst. We’re thrilled there’s a happy ending.”

Bach and Beethoven look no worse for wear than the last time they were seen.

“They were as good as you could hope for, outside of a climate-controlled museum space. We couldn’t get them to the restoration people fast enough,” he said.

“Somebody was being forward thinking,” by wrapping them up carefully and transporting them across downtown to Roy Thompson sometime after 1991, he said, adding that knowledge of their location may have slipped through the cracks during the archiving process or when someone changed jobs.

The restored Massey Hall, set to close at the start of July and expected to reopen in fall 2020, will feature the refurbished composer windows and a mini museum with various other curiosities from the building’s century-and-a-quarter history, Kumagai said.

Brown is tickled that Bach and Beethoven turned up, but even happier that the whole caper has drawn attention to the architectural marvel that is Massey Hall. The windows, she said, almost certainly comprise the largest collection of commercial art glass in Canada that is not part of a church.

Massey Hall, for its part, has since assigned a dedicated staff member to record-keeping and archiving, so something similar doesn’t happen again.

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