Young Toronto composer Riho Maimets makes a competitive mark with tonality


University of Toronto composition student Riho Maimets (Estonian Foundation photo).

UPDATE — noon, Apr. 29: Riho Maimets emerged as the winner in today’s competition.

The London-based Villiers Quartet is concluding a new-works competition this morning with a web-streamed performance of the three finalists, which includes Sanctus by 24-year-old Torontonian Riho Maimets. He is currently finishing up his Masters degree in composition at University of Toronto.

The three finalists came from a group of six semi-finalists, whose works were posted on YouTube for virtual audience voting. People anywhere in the world will be able to vote until 11:30 a.m. Eastern today to help determine the winner.

Competing against Maimets are Chris Roe, a Masters composition student at the Royal College of Music in London, also born in 1988. His work is called Jetez. The United States is represented by Henry B. Stewart’s Threnody/Images. Stewart, who was born in 1992, is an undergraduate at Goshen College in Indiana, in a joint undergraduate major of biochemistry and composition.

Whether by chance or design, the three works represent the wide spectrum of new music out there, with Roe’s piece representing the world of atonal explorations in interesting string effects and Maimets’ taking a stand for a return to traditional counterpoint and melody underpinned by recognizable harmony.

Stewart sits dead centre, which suggests to me that he has the best chance of winning. What was available online before today’s final performance suggested a nice mix of atmosphere and movement. But this is just a wild guess, of course.

(Maimets’ work won, showing how good my guessing can be.)

Here are bit of the three finalists’ pieces, played by the Villiers Quartet. It’s Rose, followed by Maimets and Stewart:

Important to note, whether or not Maimets wins, is that he is a product of Toronto’s Claude Watson School of the Arts, where he landed as a teenager. It is there where his interest in composition was allowed to blossom before he had to make the decision of what he should do in university.

Maimets is off to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute for more studies in composition in the fall.

You can hear more samples of his work, which can be far more adventurous than Sanctus, on Sound Cloud, here.

John Terauds

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