The French connection

Today’s free lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by Topher Mokrzewski wearing his pianist hat; as opposed to his conductor, accompanist, music director, vocal coach or tap dancing hat.

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Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

The program was made up of short pieces of 20th century French repertoire interspersed with jazz works by American pianist Bill Evans.  We got some Messiaen, some Ravel and some Poulenc.  The Messiaen; two excerpts from Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus, was typically abstract and abstruse (replete with heaviosity according to Topher).  The Ravel; the Sonatina, was much lighter, in a neo-classical way,  and the Poulenc; Improvisation no. 7 and Novelette no. 3, was almost playful (at least there were no nun fatalities).  The Bill Evans pieces were jazz and I enjoyed them but I’m not going to kid anyone that I have any understanding of that kind of music.  What was clear though was why Topher hasd structured the programme as he had.  The relationships between the jazz pieces and their classical “wrappers” were obvious and interesting.

It hardly needs saying that the playing was virtuosic, sometimes spectacularly so.

Coming up in the RBA are a couple of interesting looking song recitals. 

First up, on Tuesday, April 16 at 12 p.m., the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP) returns for its second appearance in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with the world premiere of a new cycle by Norbert Palej, entitled 14 Small Songs. Co-artistic directors tenor Lawrence Wiliford and collaborative pianist Steven Philcox will perform Palej’s composition. The program also includes the Toronto premiere of a new work by Andrew Ager, dedicated to and performed by soprano Shannon Mercer, and a selection of Jean Coulthard songs performed by baritone Peter McGillivray.  The first CASP concert last year was well worth hearing (review) and I look forward to this one.

Then, on Tuesday, April 23 at 12 p.m. there will be a concert of works from Newfoundland.  Natives of the province and graduates of the COC Ensemble Studio, tenors Michael Barrett and Adam Luther, along with baritone Peter Barrett are the performers.  There do seem to be a lot of opera singers from Newfoundland and I have absolutely no idea why.

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