Last night saw the third and final concert in the inaugural West End Micro Music Festival. Sadly we had missed number two because of TTC snarl ups but we got there fine last night. The first half of the programme was Mozart and Stravinsky but presented in an unconventional and very effective way. The movements of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet and Three Pieces for String Quartet were alternated with an arrangement for clarinet and string trio of Mozart’s adagio from K370 and two of the fragments from K516. It was really cool; one each of the Stravinsky clarinet and string pieces, followed by some Mozart. Rinse and repeat! There were a couple of fairly dark pieces but mostly this is quite playful music and the musicians; Emily Kruspe and Eric Kim-Fujita (violins), Maxime Despax (viola), Sebastian Ostertag (cello) and Brad Cherwin (clarinets) were obviously having a lot of fun.
Last night the first of three concerts at Lutheran Redeemer Church in the West End Micro Music Festival took place. It was an exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet and proved most interesting in that regard. The use of extended technique has long been part of the string quartet repertoire but in the first part of last night’s programme two works by Nicole Lizée explored much further than that using additional “instruments”; whirly/whizzy things, strange blue/purple contraptions that made their own sounds and were also used as bows and sheets of paper rustled in front of fans. Norma Beecroft’s Amplified Quartet with Tape augmented the four instruments with recorded electronics. Whether this was all pre-recorded or processed as the performance proceeded (or both) I couldn’t say. One has to admire the versatility of the interro quartet (Steve Sang Koh and Eric Kim-Fujita – vilolins, Maxime Despax -viola and Sebastian Ostertag – cello) in handling all the requirements. It also really made me glad to be back listening “live”. This kind of music demands a kind of distraction free attention that’s really hard to conjure up in one’s own living room.
As live music slowly rises from the tomb in Toronto we greet any new initiative with enthusiasm. When it comes from the fertile creative imagination of Brad Cherwin and friends we get even more excited. Mozart is DEAD aka the West End Micro Music Festival is a series of three concerts at the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1691 Bloor Street West (close to Keele subway). The concerts are at 7.30pm on three successive Fridays; November 26th, December 3rd and 10th. In the first the Interro Quartet reinvent the string quartet, in the second we are promised “thickets of cables” transforming “single voices into otherwordly and ethereal choruses” and in the last we get a fresh take on music by Mozart, Stravinsky and Francaix.
More details and tickets are available here. It’s free for students and about $20 per or $50 for all three for grown ups.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s 2014 cycle of the Da Ponte operas continues with Don Giovanni. The recording has much in common with his Le nozze di Figaro, even down to the same essay in the booklet, and I’m not going to repeat what I wrote in that review. If you haven’t read it, I recommend a look before reading the rest of this.
Back in 2014 Nikolaus Harnoncourt launched a project to present all three Mozart/da Ponte operas, concert style, on the stage of the Theater an der Wien in a single month. They are now being released on DVD/Blu-ray. The first is Le nozze di Figaro and it comes with a 52 minute documentary by Felix Breisach; Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Between Obsession and Perfection – part 1.
Covid fan tutte is the best opera thing I’ve seen come out of the pandemic yet. It’s from Finnish National Opera and it uses the music of Così fan tutte (mostly) and a new libretto (in Finnish natch) to poke fun at every aspect of the current situation. To quote the blurb:
On stage, singers are rehearsing Die Walküre, when they are suddenly interrupted. As management has been laid off and the news of a global virus spreads rapidly, the Wagnerians are suddenly instructed to perform a modern satire on the situation.
It’s fully staged with a socially distanced orchestra and a virtual chorus. There appears to have been some sort of live audience in the house. They weren’t mucking about here. Both Karita Mattila and Esa-Pekka Salonen are involved. Bottom line; it’s very well done and genuinely funny with a few really sad bits like where a man sings an aria to his mother to the closed window of the old people’s home. There are subtitles for those whose Finnish isn’t up to it.
You can find it on Youtube on the Operavision channel. Brexit supporters should stay away as Operavision is funded by those nasty cultured foreigners, the EU.
Der Messias is the German version of Handel’s Messiah as arranged by Mozart. The translation dates from 1775 and is by Klopstock and Ebeling drawing heavily on the Lutheran Bible. My German isn’t good enough to say how “archaic” it sounds to a modern German speaker but it certainly seems to be quite singable. In any event it was presented in Salzburg during this year’s Mozartwoche in a staged version by Robert Wilson. The arrangement adds a substantial wind section and changes the voice parts in places. For example Doch wer mag entraten (But who may abide) is given to the bass rather than one of the high voices.
No, not the opera by Prokofiev but Robert Carsen’s rather brilliant take on Mozart’s Idomeneo recorded last year at the Teatro Real in Madrid*. It’s a contemporary Mediterranean setting. Crete is a completely militarised society. Everyone is uniformed and carries weapons. The Trojans are refugees living in a camp with all the pathetic accoutrements of refugee camp life. Idomeneo and Elettra stand for the traditional “Make Crete Great Again” kind of nationalism while Idamante and Ilia look forward to a world where “Us” and “Them” dissolve in our common humanity. Carsen, Neptune, this writer and, I think, listening closely to the music, Mozart side with the young lovers.
‘Tis the season for season announcements. First out of the blocks is Opera Atelier. They have two Toronto shows. The fall show is a tweaked revival of the venerable 1991 production of Mozart’s Magic Flute. It gets new costumes and a new “flying machine” for the Queen of the Night. Colin Ainsworth sings Tamino with Mireille Asselin as Pamina, Douglas Williams as Papageno, Gustav Andreassen as Sarastro, and Holly Flack as the Queen of the Night. That runs October 22nd to November 1st 2020.
Last night’s TSO concert was a collaboration with Barbara Hannigan’s Equilibrium Young Artists project with EQ providing the quartet of soloists for Mozart’s Requiem. But before we got to the Requiem there was a performance of Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 in E-flat Major. It was enjoyable. A somewhat reduced scale TSO played as well as they usually do when Sir Andrew Davis is on the podium and he took us through an irreproachable reading of the works essential tuneful and easy to listen to four movements. It made a pleasant “overture”.