Song of the Earth

Last night’s final Koerner Hall event in Toronto Summer Music started off with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major.  It’s a tuneful, well constructed piece which in places riffs off Romany music, hence its nickname “Turkish”.  Jonathan Crow was the soloist with a small orchestra drawn from all the area’s major orchestras plus TSM Fellows.  Gemma New conducted.  It was very satisfying.  The orchestra was excellent and the interplay between solist and orchestra worked very well.  It’s quite a demanding piece for the soloist and I really enjoyed the sound that Jonathan produced.  He plays an instrument with a rather distinctive timbre which worked well here.  I’m curious about the first movement cadenza.  I don’t know the work well enough to knoew what the options are but this one was very virtuosic though sounding distinctly post-Mozartian.

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After the break it was Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in the Schoenberg/Riehn reduction.  Like the Gesellen Lieder this was intended for performance at Schoenberg’s Sunday salons but he didn’t get far with it and it was completed years later by Riehn.  I really like these reductions (basically one instrument per part; fifteen in all).  The orchestral colour is there, if not the full grandeur of the symphony orchestra.  The lighter textures mean that the singers can be more expressive because they don’t have to sing out as they do with larger forces.  And that probably was my biggest problem with last night.  Korean tenor Mario Bahg is a very good opera singer with a lovely voice.  I could have used more concessions to Lieder singing in his approach though.  Songs like Das Trinklied are a bit weird and a bit more weirdness would have been appropriate.  No complaints about mezzo Rihab Chaieb though.  Her voice has developed into a thing of smoky beauty and she sang with great expressiveness, especially in the hugely moving Abschied.  She looked stunning too!  Excellent work too from the band and Ms. New who made the folksier, rather quirky bits of the score dance while having appropriate weight and pathos in the finale.  Good stuff.

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Photo credit: James Ireland

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