Off Centre Music Salon’s opening concert of the season featured a largely Russian, largely 19th century program. There were plenty of songs by Glinka, Tchaikovsky and the like sung by an interestingly contrasted mix of Ilana Zarankin, Joni Henson and Ryan Harper with Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin accompanying. It was good to hear Joni in this program in the warm acoustic of Trinity St. Paul’s. I think I’ve mostly heard her in the RBA which is notoriously hard on dramatic sopranos. Here the combination of the acoustic and Russian vowel sounds resulted in a very pleasing richness of tone rather than stridency. She also blended well with Harper’s very tenorish tenor and made an interesting contrast with the much lighter, brighter Zarankin. Nice work all round.
Tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon Off Centre Music Salon opens its 2016/17 season at 3pm at Trinity St. Paul’s. It’s an all Russian show called Four Seasons or Mother Russia. It will feature songs by Prokofiev’s The Ugly Duckling and songs byTchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff, as well as Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor (op. 32). The highlight is the Toronto premiere of Valery Gavrilin’s song cycle Seasons inspired by Northern Russian folklore and chanting traditions. Performers include cellist Igor Gefter, pianists Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin, violinist Mark Skazinetky and singers Joni Henson and Ryan Harper.
Off Centre Music Salon concluded their 2015/16 season with their 21st annual Schubertiad concert. It kicked off, in normal OC style with young artists. In this case Kallas and Vikas Chari with a very competent rendering of the Allegro vivace from the Marches Militaires. Then it was onto the main event; tenor Jeffrey Ollarsaba and Boris Zarankin performing Die Schöne Müllerin. It was good. Ollarsaba has quite a light, bright, rather pretty tenor and he can float rather beautiful high notes. I don’t know how it would go in a big opera house but it was well suited to the music and the relatively intimate Trinity St. Paul’s. His diction and phrasing were close to ideal and his vocal acting was appropriately expressive without getting histrionic. Some would consider him a bit over demonstrative in the hand and face gestures department but that rather seems to be the American way with lieder. Zarankin accompanied sensitively. He can play quite beautifully but he was also quite aggressively percussive in the more dramatic sections. All in all most satisfying. The concert concluded with Ilana Zarankin and clarinetist Colleen Cook joining Boris for Der Hirt aus dem Felsen. It’s a curious work; somewhere between a lied and a concert aria with it’s many repeated sections and variations. There was some really beautiful clarinet playing here which worked very well with Ilana’s bright timbre. So, a pleasant way to spend an April Sunday afternoon but a bit of a downer to head out of a concert that pretty much concludes with “Der Frühling will kommen, Der Frühling, meine Freud'”into a snowstorm. Some Frühling!
The coming week may be the last quiet one before May madness sets in. This afternoon Off Centre Music Salon have their 21st annual Schubertiad. Ilana Zarankin and Jeffrey Ollarsarba will sing Die Schöne Müllerin and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen with Boris Zarankin and Ina Perkiss at the piano. It’s at 3pm at Trinity St. Paul’s. Apart from that there’s really only (only!) the opening of the COC’s production of Bizet’s Carmen on Tuesday. That, of course, is at the Four Seasons Centre.
The first part of the week isn’t too crazy. Quinn Kelsey, currently singing Germont at the COC, has a noon recital in the RBA on Tuesday. Rachel Andrist will be at the piano and the program includes Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Finzi’s Let Us Garlands Bring. Enticing I think.
Wednesday sees a premiere and fundraiser for Syrian refugees; David Warrack’s Abraham at Metropolitan United Church. Then on Thursday there’s Toronto Darknet Market, a fundraiser with an edge, this time for an upcoming production of Charpentier’s Medée. Both causes worth supporting.
The opening concert of Off Centre Music Salon’s season was a programme of Russian romantic and post romantic works, songs and piano pieces, entitled Russia Cast Adrift. The first half of the afternoon was devoted to the sort of songs that explain why “smert” is one of about six Russian words that I recognize. It kicked off with a Rachmaninoff prelude played with vigour by William Leathers before going into a series of songs by Sviridov, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Glière, Arensky and Mussorgsky. The singing was shared by soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett with Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at the piano.
This afternoon at 3pm, at Trinity St. Paul’s, Off Centre kick off their season, Geoff Sirett, Nathalie Paulin and others offer an all Russian programme.
Super Tuesday is a ridiculously busy day. At noon in the RBA Array Music is presenting Love Shards, a program of music by contemporary women composers. The full programme is here. In the evening Adrianne Pieczonka and Kristina Szabó are singing works by Crumb and Berio at Koerner Hall. There’s also a fundraiser for Opera 5 at The Extension Room. I’m sorry to be missing that one as the last couple have been a blast. Definitely worth going to if you are not going to Koerner.
Thursday there is a PWYC show by UoT Opera at The Black Box Theatre at 7.30pm. Tim Albery and David Fallis, creators of last season’s evocative Last Days, have created The Fatal Gaze, an exploration of the dangers of looking too long or too closely, inspired by the Baroque repertoire. Last days was really good so I have high expectations for this one. It’s also on on Friday.
This afternoon’s Off Centre concert at the Glenn Gould Studio was structured around three pairs of composer friends; Mozart/Haydn, Schumann/Brahms and Wolf/Mahler. It was a mix of lieder, opera excerpts and piano pieces and was pleasantly varied.
Things kicked off with Russell Braun singing a number of songs from Schumann’s Liederkreis accompanied by his partner, Carolyn Maule on the piano. This was maybe the third time that I’ve heard Russell in recital and he really is impressive. He has a really good command of a wide range of dynamics and tone colour and lovely floaty high notes. If I was being hyper critical I’d say I think there’s a point in the middle voice though that can’t quite sustain the volume he sometimes tries to get. He has quite an operatic approach to lieder (compared to, say, DFD) but that’s quite fun in its own way.