Toronto Summer Music opened on Thursday night at Koerner Hall with a concert called Inspirations featuring chamber and vocal music drawn from folk influences.It began with Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style Op. 102 for piano and cello played by Rachael Kerr and Matthew Zalkind.The folk roots are pretty clear here and since the pieces were written with amateur performance in mind those roots aren’t over elaborated and the result is satisfying.Not that they got an amateurish performance.Quite the opposite.
Found Frozen is a new CD from Centrediscs featuring songs by Jeffrey Ryan. The centrepiece of the disc is his Miss Carr in Seven Scenes. It’s a setting of extracts from Emily Carr’s notebooks for mezzo-soprano and piano performed here by Krisztina Szabó and Steven Philcox. I’ve heard them do the piece twice live, including the premier, and I really don’t have much to add to what I wrote then. It’s a terrific piece.
The first set on the disc though is Found Frozen. It’s a setting of three poems by Helen Hunt Jackson about Death and Remembrance. It’s scored for soprano and piano and sits quite high much of the time. The piano part is busy and somewhat minimalistic. It’s sung by Danika Lorèn with Steven Philcox again at the piano. It’s very good singing indeed. There are long sustained notes that are navigated with aplomb and her diction is excellent, even in the very high passages.
The latest commission from the Canadian Art Song Project is Another Day by Abigail Richardson-Schulte. It’s a setting of six poems by schoolchildren on the theme of refugees and human rights. It’s now available on video performed by soprano Anna-Sophie Neher with Carl Matthieu Neher at the piano.
John Beckwith turned 95 a little while ago and there’s some good celebratory material up on Youtube. Confluence Concerts are rereleasing their three concerts from last year. The first one is here. Plus, Canadian Art Song project have a really lovely film of Krisztinaa Szabó and Steven Philcox performing The Four Short Songs to texts by Kandinsky. The location filming is the work of Jenn Nicholls and Patrick Hagerty and it’s gorgeous. The performance is rather good too.
The most substantial offering I’ve seen this week is a concert from Toronto Summer Music that aired last night. It was a song recital by four of the Toronto’s better known young singers with Steven Philcox on piano. Simona Genga sang some Mahler and some interesting songs by the Basque composer Jésus Gurudi (new to me!). Clarence Frazer gave us excerpts from Die Schöne Müllerin plus three songs by Butterworth. No prizes for guessing which three but they were well done. Jamie Groote sang a set of Jake Heggie songs plus Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen. Always excellent to hear Strauss sung well. Asitha Tennekoon rounded things off with a set from Wolff’s Mörike Lieder and songs by Holman (Fair Daffodils; obligatory CanCon), Gurney and Finzi. It’s all high class stuff and there’s about 90 minutes of singing. The platform is Vimeo and it looks and sounds good. It’s free and available here.
It’s almost time for the Toronto Summer Music Festival 2021. This year it runs July 15th to August 1st. The bad news is that, like last year, it’s virtual. The good news is that it’s all free and, as always, there’s some excellent stuff. The full line up and details of how to access the streams are here.
The highlight for me will be Adrianne Pieczonka and Steven Philcox in a recital featuring Purcell’s “Music for a While”, selected lieder by Clara Schumann, a selection of melodies by Fauré, “Hermit Songs” by Samuel Barber, and selections of works by George Gershwin. That’s on Tuesday, July 20th at 7:30 pm.
So far no word on the line up for the Regeneration concerts but I guess I won’t miss spending three summer Saturdays alternating between a freezing Walter Hall and a scorching Philosopher’s Walk. It will feel quite civilised to dip into the Regen stuff as and when.
Yesterday was the one vocal element in this year’s virtual Toronto Summer Music; a recital streamed from the Burlington Arts Centre by mezzo Ema Nikolovska and pianist Steven Philcox. I think this was quite the best on-line event I have seen/heard since this schmozzle started. It started off with a master class in German Lieder singing. There were three Beethoven and three Schubert songs and they were just lovely. Ema’s voice is a lovely rich mezzo and she showed great expression and attention to the text backed up by perfect diction. Steven, as ever, was an exemplary accompanist.
Toronto Summer Music have announced their revised “virtual” schedule. Alas most of the vocal music is gone but there is plenty of interesting looking chamber music with, of course, a Beethoven focus. It runs July 16th to August 1st and it’s all free. The full schedule is here.
The one vocal recital features mezzo Ema Nikolovska with Steven Philcox in an interesting and varied programme. It airs on July 31st from noon to 2pm. The programme is here.
I wanted to listen to Robert Fleming’s song cycle The Confession Stone today but I didn’t appear to have a recording in my strangely eclectic collection of physical and digital recordings. There’s nothing either on any of the umpty ump labels distributed by Naxos USA (lucky me has pretty much unlimited access tot heir digital catalogue) so off I went to YouTube. And I found a lovely recording by the talented duo of Wallis Giunta and Steven Philcox. Enjoy.
Monica Whicher has the happy knack of being able to put together interesting and appropriate programmes. Last night’s Remembrance Day concert at Walter hall, with co-conspirators Steven Philcox and Marie Bérard was no exception. It ran about an hour and a quarter without intermission or interruption which created a kind of hushed intensity appropriate to the occasion.