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.
Deutsche Grammophon has just re-released the recital by Bryn Terfel and Llyr Williams that was recorded live at the Verbier Festival in 2011. It’s a generous package. It kicks off with a couple of exquisitely sung Schubert songs which are followed by Schumann’s Liederkreis Op.39. This is gorgeous lieder singing with the voice sounding very fresh, the diction spot on and lovely accompaniment.
After the interval there’s Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Quilter’s Three Shakespeare Songs. These too are beautifully done. Then it’s on to the lighter stuff that Bryn always seems to throw in on these occasions and which does help making listening to the recording seem more like being at a live concert. Among other things there’s a lovely Ar Hyd y Nos and The Green Eyed Dragon. You have to admire a singer who can manage four languages with such clarity and feeling and still be personable and funny.
I’m late to the party on this one. I had set aside time on Sunday to watch Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule and Miriam Khalil’s recital from Koerner Hall (one of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series) when first broadcast. For whatever reason I couldn’t get it to mirror onto the big screen in a watchable way so I ended up watching it on my laptop yesterday. So it goes.
The 2018 Wirth Song Prize winner tenor Marcel d’Entremont gave the customary recital in the RBA at noon yesterday accompanied by Dakota Scott-Digout. It was an interesting choice of material; nicely balanced between old and new worlds. He started with Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grecques. I guess these set the tone for the recital. Marcel has a very operatic voice. It’s big with quite a lot of vibrato. The Ravel was loud but nicely characterized and sung in perfect French. He followed up with a rousing. but not overly subtle, Kuda, kuda. I was beginning to find things a bit one dimensional.
I’ve been listening to Christoph Prégardien and Michael Gees’ new Schumann and Wagner recording for a number of reasons. I was very impressed with Prégardien when he appeared at Toronto Summer Music in 2018. I’m not familiar with the Schumann Op.90 Lenau Lieder und Requiem. I don’t think I have ever heard a tenor sing the Wesendonck Lieder. And, this is the first SACD of a song recital to come my way and I wanted to see if it made any appreciable difference.
The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.
Yesterday’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured mezzo Lucia Cervoni, tenor Michael Colvin and pianist Rachel Andrist in a varied programme of song. It kicked off with two songs by George MacNutt; Take Me to a Green Isle, sung by Michael, and O Love, Be Deep, sung by Lucia. Both songs are in a quite meditative mood and served to give us a pretty good idea of what we could expect later on. Michael sings very much in the British manner, which comes as no surprise with his extensive work at ENO and the number of Britten roles he sings. Lucia’s dark, smokey mezzo sounded rather more operatic.
The Toronto Summer Music Festival opened last night at Koerner Hall with a concert by the Escher Quartet who came in at quite short notice for the venerable Borodins who had to pull out due to illness. The theme of this year’s festival is “Reflections of Wartime” as perhaps befits the 100th anniversary of the Great War. That said, I’m not sure how last night’s programme fitted the theme. None of Schumann’s Quartet no.1, Shostakovich’s Quartet no. 9 nor Tchaikovsky’s Quartet no. 1 have any obvious war references.
Yesterday’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured Russell Braun and Caolyn Maule in a generous and varied program anchored on Schumann’s Dichterliebe; a setting of sixteen poems by Heine. It was framed by three Mendelssohn songs and a varied and intriguing second half program.
Russell is a singer at the height of his powers. He has a lovely instrument and perfect control of pitch, dynamics and tone colour. He’s also a sensitive and musical human being. Throw all that at text and music as rich as Dichterliebe and the result is inevitably quite wonderful. One could just luxuriate in an emotional journey through the highs and lows of romantic love and a physical one up and down that magical river, the Rhine. The Mendelssohn was rather lovely too.
2017 draws to a close and we haven’t had a nuclear war (yet). So it’s time to look ahead to what’s coming up opera and concertwise in January 2018. But first, there’s one show still to catch in 2017. Toronto Operetta Theatre opens a run of Bernstein’s Candide tomorrow night at the Jane Mallett. It stars Tonatiuh Abrego, Vania Chan, Elizabeth Beeler and Nicholas Borg. There are shows at 8pm on December 28th and 30th and January 5th and 6th with matinées on New Year’s Eve and January 7th. For the shows on 28th, 5th and 6th you can use code CANDIDE30 to get a 30% discount. All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds!