The 2018 Ashkenaz Festival opened last night at Koerner Hall with a concert titled Yiddish Glory. The background can be found in my preview post about it. So last night four vocalists and an assortment of instrumentalists performed nineteen numbers from the collection. They date from 1942; when the outcome of the Great Patriotic war was far from certain, to 1947; when it was already won. The bulk date from 1944/5; when the outcome was clear though maybe not the costs still to be borne.
So no Last Night of the Proms style extravaganza this year (Probably just as well, especially given the torrid weather). Instead it was a pot pourri of choral works, songs and excerpts from chamber works played mainly by members of the various academy programmes. I’m not really sure what the point was as pretty much everything had been heard before, often in context. Sometimes it seemed the main function was to keep the stagehands busy, as format succeeded format at short intervals. So there was no sense of closure or celebration. I wish I new what the answer is. Obviously LNotP isn’t, with or without a Canadian spin. Maybe the best thing would be to keep back one of the big name acts for the final show?
Your Daughter Fanny is a 45 minute long chamber opera with music by Alice Ho and libretto by Lisa Moore based on letters written by WW1 Newfoundland VAD nurse Frances Cluett (which can also be found in book form). It was performed yesterday at Heliconian Hall by soprano Caroline Schiller with Duo Concertante, Nancy Dahn (violin) and Timothy Steeves (piano).
I really liked the music. It was the first time I’ve heard a piece by Alice Ho that didn’t include traditional Chinese elements and it was stylistically interesting; rich textured, sometimes astringent, sometimes very lyrical with a very decent, singable vocal line.
Last night’s early evening free “shuffle” concert at Heliconian Hall featured Krisztina Szabó and Stephen Philcox. They started out with Xavier Montsalvatge’s Cinco canciones negras; a lively collection of Spanish songs featuring scenes from Cuban life. The songs, very much French influenced, varied in mood from quite sombre to wild and were presented with skill and wit. The main event though was the reprise of two works that Philcox and Szabó premiered in March at Walter Hall; Miss Carr in Seven Scenes by Jeffrey Ryan and Four Short Songs by John Beckwith. I reviewed that March performance here and really don’t see any reason to revise my opinion about the works or the performances except to note that last night, of course, Krisztina sang all the Beckwith songs.
Perhaps the most interesting concert of the Toronto Summer Music festival so far took place at Walter Hall last night. The main event was the presentation of Sounding Thunder; a work about the life of Francis Pegahmagabow, Canadian war hero and First Nations activist.
So back to Walter Hall at 4pm for the last of the Regen concerts featuring song. This time Renee Fajardo and Jinhee Park kicked things off with a very fine set starting with Herr Schumann’s sinister Die Soldat and Frau Schumann’s Die Lorelei. This was all smoothly and elegantly sung bar a slight tendency to push high notes. There was some very impressive pianism here too. The set concluded with Schoenberg’s Galathea; a bold and interesting choice, where Renee managed to create an almost cabaret timbre without ever sacrificing accuracy. Nicely done!
The last two ReGENERATION concerts featuring song took place in Walter Hall yesterday at 1pm and 4pm. Both featured four singers doing a set with piano, a vocal piece with chamber accompaniment and a chamber piece. All the members of the Artsong Academy programme appeared at least once. First up was tenor Joey Jang with Frances Armstrong at the piano with a set of Schubert and Schumann. He sounded OK, if a bit underpowered, in Liebesbotschaft with its fairly fast rhythmic lines but technical issues showed up in the slower pieces requiring real legato.