Saturday evening’s Cinq à Sept concert in the 21C Festival at the Royal Conservatory was intriguing. The first half of the programme was a new song cycle, After the Fires, with words by Liza Balkan and music by Lembit Beecher. It set seven pieces about the 2020 fires on the central California coast and their aftermath based on interviews with local residents. It’s a really interesting piece scored for piano, clarinet, soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone. It’s very “text first”. Although the accompaniment is often intricate it never overpowers the words and there’s a real harmony between words and music. The mood varies but, given it’s about really awful events, it’s more elegiac and lyrical and even funny than angry or sad. It got a fine, nuanced performance from Henry From (piano), Zachary Gassenheimer (clarinet), Xin Wang (soprano), Andrea Ludwig (mezzo-soprano) and Korin Thomas-Smith (baritone). Continue reading
The main stage concert for TSM at Koerner Hall last night was given by the Art of Time Ensemble with vocalists John Southworth and Sarah Slean. It’s my first encounter with Art of Time have been around for about ten years and specialise in cross genre collaborations inspired by their founder, pianist Andrew Burashko.
Last night was classical meets singer songwriter. There was an introductory piece by Christos Hatzis, some Schubert, plenty of Gershwin and lashings of Leonard Cohen plus much more (there was no set list and I didn’t take notes). It’s rather out of my usual zone but I enjoyed. Southworth is a really quirky vocalist, exemplified by a rather weird version of The Old Folks at Home; which needed to be weird! Slean is quite a performer; good voice, very funny, great mover. The ensemble was terrific across the board. I’m sold. There are lots of reasons to stretch the boundaries of classical performance. Larry Beckwith does it very well with his Confluence series. Here’s another example.
The late show, also at Koerner, featured Jonathan Crow, Katya Poplyansky, Minkyoung Lee and Allison Rich in a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in B-flat Major Op. 130 but with a twist. They played the full original version in which the Grosse Fuge Op. 133 forms the finale. So, basically, an hour long string quartet! It was very well done though I confess late Beethoven at 10.30 pm was straining the grey matter.
Photo credit: Dale Butteril
Last night’s Soundstreams concert at Trinity St. Paul’s was devoted to works by John Tavener and people who were close to him. The principal performers were soprano Patricia Rozario, Choir 21 and the Toronto Children’s Chorus joined, as needed by Christopher Dawes on piano and organ and Erica Goodman on harp. Conducting duties were split between Elise Bradley and David Fallis. There was plenty of explanatory material from artistic director Lawrence Cherney plus some from Ms. Rozario as well as taped comments from Tavener to set up the pieces.
This concert at Koerner Hall was the second in this summer’s Twenty-First Century Music Festival. It advertised works by Christos Hatzis, Brian Current, R. Murray Schafer and Louis Andriessen. In fact we kicked off with a short bonus selected from Youtube entries to make up 21 premieres for the C21. Unfortunately I didn’t catch composer or title and it lasted less than two minutes. Continue reading
Here are a couple more upcoming events that readers may be interested in. The Royal Conservatory has a festival of contemporary music from April 21st to May 25th. There are eight concerts in a variety of genres. The most interesting to me is on May 22nd when there is a concert to celebrate R. Murray Schafer’s 80th birthday. The concert will feature four pieces; Quintet for Piano and Strings Shafer himself, played by the ARC Ensemble; a world premiere of The Questioning by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, written for and played by the Afiara String Quartet, Faster Still, a work by the by Canadian composer Brian Current played by the ARC Ensemble; and the Canadian premiere of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin, a semi-staged work for chamber ensemble, video, and mezzo-soprano, based on the diary entries of Anaïs Nin. Singing the role of Anaïs Nin will be a favourite of mine, Wallis Giunta most recently seen in the COC’s Così fan tutte. More details and tickets available here.
On May 1st at 1pm 96.3 FM are broadcasting Sondra Radvanovsky in recital live from the Zoomerplex. You can catch it on the radio or at www.classical963fm.com. There’s also a draw for free tickets for the recital and the reception before. I believe to enter you need to email name, phone number and email address to email@example.com.