Last night’s concert at Trinity Saint Paul’s by the Amici Ensemble and friends. was titled From Strauss to the Orient. Unsurprisingly, the first half of the concert was Strauss. The first piece was the Duett Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, strings and harp; arranged by Serouj Kradjian with piano replacing harp. Besides the Amicis (Serouj – piano, Joaquin Valdepeñas – clarinet and David Hetherington – cello) were guests Kathleen Kajioka and Timothy Ying – violins, Barry Shiffman – viola, David Lalonde – bass and Michael Sweeney – bassoon. It’s an interesting piece. The clarinet and bassoon basically carry on a conversation across three movements with the strings and piano as a sort of “backing band”. The overlapping ranges but very different colours of the two woodwind instruments are both pleasing and intriguing. It was nicely done. It’s always a delight to watch a chamber ensemble that is obviously communicating and having fun!
On April 6th at 1.30pm in Walter Hall, Music in the Afternoon is presenting a concert featuring Marion Newman, Melody Courage, Evan Korbut and Gordon Gerrard in a mix of classical song and contemporary works on Indigenous themes including music by Ian Cusson, Bramwell Tovey and Tomson Highway.
Later that day, at 7.30pm at Koerner Hall, Opera Atelier have the first of three performances of Handel’s The Resurrection. This is the fully staged version of the production that streamed during lockdown. There are further performances on the 8th at 7.30pm and the 9th at 2.30pm.
June 24th sees the return, virtually, of Larry Beckwith’s Confluence Concerts. Let’s Stay Together: A Confluence Salon will air on the Confluence Youtube Channel at 7pm EST with a pre-show Q&A at 6.30pm. Larry Beckwith, Dylan Bell, Andrew Downing, Gordon Gerrard, Robert Kortgaard, Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan, Suba Sankaran and Bijan Sepanji will perform music by Randy Newman, Ernest Chausson, Edith Piaf, Béla Bartok, Peter Maxwell Davies, Gustav Mahler, Leonard Cohen, Suba Sankaran, The Beatles, Charlie Chaplin and others. In addition, the renowned Canadian author André Alexis will read poems by Anna Akhmatova, Roo Borson and one of his own, Johnson Grass, from his 2019 novel Days by Moonlight. I’m excited. Since the series started Confluence has been one of the most interesting and fun gigs in town. Free!
Last night’s concert at Koerner Hall was a celebration of the life and work of Armenian composer and song collector Komitas on the occasion of his 150th birthday. Unsurprisingly Koerner was packed with members of Toronto’s Armenian community. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable at events like this; unable to really appreciate what the music means in its home culture, but last night what I felt was joy and inclusion. It was an extremely well curated concert of rather beautiful music extremely well performed.
There are a few interesting items in the initial announcement of the RCM’s 2019/20 season:
The Amici Chamber Ensemble with Russell Braun and the Elmer Iseler Singers offer a celebration of the 150th birthday of Armenian composer Komitas Vardapet. That’s on October 25th 2019.
Karina Gauvin and the Paciifica Baroque Orchestra have a programme called Russian White Nights: Opera arias from 18th century St. Petersburg. That’s on November 1st 2019.
Phillipe Sly and Le Chimera Project are presenting a staged version of Schubert’s Winterreise with chamber ensemble. That’s on January 17th 2020.
Perhaps the biggest deal of all is Peter Sellars directing the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a staged performance of Orlando di Lasso’s final work, Lagrime di San Pietro; 27 madrigals sung a cappella in seven parts by 21 singers. That’s on February 1st and 2nd 2020.
And after all the fancy stuff there is a classic Liederabend with Matthias Goerne and Jan Lisiecki in an all Beethoven programme on April 24th 2020.
April is a busy month for fully staged opera. Canadian Opera opens two productions and there are shows from Opera Atelier, Against the Grain and Essential Opera. First up is the COC’s revival of Robert Lepage’s production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. This opens on April 13th and runs to May 13th. In 2009 it sold out so this time there are nine performances. Also at the COC there’s Donizetti’s Anna Bolena completing the Tudor trilogy. It opens on April 28th with nine performances closing May 26th.
Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert in Mazzoleni Hall was an all Richard Strauss program featuring an array of guests. First up was the Duett Concertino where regulats Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet), David Hetherington (cello) and Serouj Kradjian (piano) were joined by violinists Timothy Ying and Jennifer Murphy, violist Keith Hamm, Theodore Chan on bass and Michael Sweeney on bassoon. It’s a program piece in which the clarinet represents a princess and the bassoon, a bear, who eventually, of course, transforms into a handsome prince. There are lots of dance rhythms from the strings and some sly quotations from Der Rosenkavalier along the way. It’s fun and it was very well played. I almost wonder if it was too smooth. The bear certainly seemed very suave and his transformation was not terribly abrupt. Still, bear!
There’s a lot on today. Handel’s Ariodante opens at the COC at 2.30pm. There’s also a concert featuring Russell Braun with the Amici Ensemble at 3pm in the Mazzoleni Concert Hall at the Conservatory. The Elmer Iseler Singers and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir also have concerts. Thursday sees the opening of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier with Wallis Giunta and Chris Enns as the lovers which promises both eye and ear candy. That’s at the Elgin at 7.30pm. Then on Saturday there’s Singing Stars of Tomorrow, the result of a Sondra Radvanovsky intensive, at the Alliance Française at 7.30 pm. The line up is Valerie Belanger,soprano; Stephanie De Ciantis, soprano; Natalya Gennadi, soprano; Beth Hagerman, soprano; Jessica Scarlato, soprano; Sara Schabas, soprano; Caitlin Wood, soprano; Danielle MacMillan, mezzo-soprano; Marjorie Maltais, mezzo-soprano; Asitha Tennekoon, tenor. Quite a mix, from people I’ve never heard of to one who has already made her COC debut.
In other news, the COC and Show One Productions have announced a gala concert to take place at the Four Seasons Centre on April 25th next year. It’s billed (modestly) as Trio Magnifico: The Ultimate Opera Gala and the big draw is the Canadian debut of Anna Netrebko. She will appear with her husband tenor Yusif Eyazov and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. They will be accompanied by the COC Orchestra conducted by Jader Bignamini. Given that Dima alone turned Koerner Hall into a frenzy of screaming Russian grannies, this could get interesting.
Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert featured four works transcribed for different combinations of instruments than the composer originally intended. First up was Berg’s Adagio for violin, clarinet and piano. This is from the Kammerkonzert originally scored for violin, piano and thirteen assorted wind instruments. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t get played often in that arrangement. It’s pretty typical second Vienna school; twelve tone but quite accessible and very pleasant to listen to. It was expertly played by Serouj Kradjian (piano), David Hetherington (cello) and Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet).
Next Sunday the Amici Ensemble have an interesting looking concert of works all transcribed for forces not originally intended by the composer. It’s called, appropriately enough, Transfigured Transcribed. The highlight for me is Verklärte Nacht transcribed for piano trio but there’s also some Berg, some Brahms and some Bartok. The concert is at 3pm at Mazzoleni Hall. More details and tickets.
This weekend also sees the opening of Opera Atelier’s Abduction from the Seraglio and Opera 5’s Poe themed show Requiescat in Pace. If that wasn’t enough, this afternoon the MetHD broadcast is Shostakovich’s The Nose in William Kentridge’s well reviewed production. It’s surely the highlight of this season’s line up and the only one I will be bothering with.