Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava’s recital last night at Koerner Hall felt like stepping into something of a time warp. The diva sweeps on stage in a ginormous cape (all that was missing was Bach’s Toccata and Fugue). The first half of the programme is Russian art song (Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov) but there are no surtitles or translations or words of introduction which is a bit hard on non Russian speakers. There’s tumultuous applause after every damn song (and sometimes in the middle); accepted with gracious condescension and grand gestures. On the odd occasion the pianist is invited to accept applause she demurely takes three steps backward lest she should be seen to share the limelight. It’s all a bit like watching Lady Catherine de Bourgh accompanied by her talented but penniless niece. I have no idea whether this is the “real” Hibla Gerzmava or some sort of act that she or her promoters think the Russian diaspora expects but it felt very weird.
Last night’s concert at Koerner Hall featuring Karina Gauvin and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra was originally put together for a Russian themed event and featured music that either was written by Russian composers of the late 18th century or might have been heard in St. Petersburg in that era though the final set was changed out for excerpts from Gluck’s Armide though one would not have gathered that from the programme notes!
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.
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.
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.
Last night saw the first concert of this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival. The theme was “Beyond Borders” with most of the works presented; a mixture of piano, violin and vocal, having been influenced by other cultures/places or written in exile.
The RCM 2019/20 season has been announced. It’s the usual mix of chamber, orchestral, piano, jazz, world music, the completely indefinable and, of course, vocal. There are 91 concerts in total. With such a wide range of material it’s hard to imagine anybody being interested in all of it or, conversely, anybody unable to find something to their taste. My tastes, of course, run largely to classical vocal music so what follows is what I find most interesting: Continue reading →