|This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from November 8, 2013. It can be found in our archives at |
As we close out the month of November (already!), we have one last Friday Podcast Vault selection that feeds our ongoing “In November we remember” series, with this revisit of our homage to the late great Canadian conductor Mario Bernardi.
Mario Bernardi was a national figure who played a seminal role in the life of classical music in Canada. He was born in Kirkland Lake, Ont. in 1930, not a hotbed of classical music in the early years of the Great Depression. He displayed talent at the piano and he moved to Italy when he was six years old with his mother to foster a musical career. He would study at the Venice Conservatory. After graduating in 1945, his family returned to Canada where he finished his studies at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He then was a concert pianist.
In 1957 he conducted the Canadian Opera Company, and in 1963 was coach and assistant conductor at the Sadler's Wells Opera Company (now the English National Opera).
Bernardi was hired by the late Hamilton Southam to move to Ottawa in 1968 to build the 45-member orchestra for the new National Arts Centre. Virtually from scratch, Mario Bernardi built an orchestra that was considered the finest of its kind in the world, and began a tradition of excellence that continues today with the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
One of the rules in establishing the ensemble was that NACO was not allowed to poach players away from other orchestras. Even with that limitation, they were able to find players in Canada, in the U.S. and Europe, and even one from South Africa. He left the orchestra in the early 1980’s, but returned regularly as a guest conductor and became the NACO's conductor laureate in 1997.
After his tenure in Ottawa, he led the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra from 1984 until 1992. From 1983 until 2006 he was the principal conductor of the CBC Radio Orchestra, based out of Vancouver.
The montage features Bernardi with all three ensembles, on a large swath of compositions from the standard and the Canadian repertoire.
As we are approaching the Holidays, I thought that for a filler I would share a 1964 complete performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel sung in English by the Sadler’s Wells Opera, with Mario Bernardi conducting.