The final concert of this year’s Toronto Bach Festival took place at Eastminster United Church yesterday afternoon. It offered two of the cantatas Bach wrote in Leipzig in 1723; Die Elenden sollen essen and Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes Each is written in two parts which, originally would have bookended a sermon (mercifully absent yesterday). Each begins with a choral setting of a biblical verse and proceeds via recits on arias on related texts. The second half of each starts with a Sinfonia and finishes with a chorale based on a Lutheran hymn.
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VOCES8 at St. James
UK based vocal octet VOCES8 sang Tuesday night at St. James Anglican Cathedral. The whole thing was arranged by Daniel Taylor of the Theatre of Early Music at the UoT and marked VOCES8’s Canadian debut. I confess to a weakness for choral music in the Anglican tradition so this was a welcome opportunity to hear some very highly regarded performers. They didn’t disappoint. They are a finely tuned and highly skilled group.
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya is the sort of play that makes one wonder why the Russian Revolution didn’t happen much sooner. If the land owning class were living such miserable lives it must have been absolute hell for the peasants. Maybe they just couldn’t afford a guillotine? Anyway it’s playing at Crow’s Theatre right now in a production directed by Chris Abraham which runs until October 2nd.
Last night Confluence Concerts streamed their latest offering; a tribute to Henry Purcell, preceded by a pre-show interview between Larry Beckwith and Andrew Parrott. There was beautifully played instrumental music from Victoria Baroque, songs from Lawrence Williford and Lucas Harris recorded at the Elora Festival and a couple of interesting takes on If Music Be the Food of Love plus Two Daughters of this Aged Stream featuring Daniel Taylor, Rebecca Genge and Sinéad White plus instrumentalists from the UoT Faculty of Music Historical Performance Department. I was less taken with Duo Serenissima (Elizabeth Hetherington, soprano and David Mackor, theorbo). I can’t tell whether it was the recording acoustic or a diction issue but the words were pretty much unintelligible which is a big problem with Purcell!.
Voices Across the Atlantic
Last night’s Toronto Summer Music concert at the Church of the redeemer was headlined by Daniel Taylor, Charles Daniels and Steven Philcox but, somewhat to my surprise, also featured multiple fellows from both the art song and chamber music programmes.
The “headliners” kicked things off with Britten’s canticle Abraham and Isaac, based on one of the Chester Mystery Plays. I thought I knew this piece but soon realised I was confusing it with the setting of Owen’s The Parable of the Old Man and the Young in the War Requiem! It’s an interesting piece with a very medieval Catholic take on an Old Testament story. It was performed here with the delicacy and attention to detail I’d expect from these performers.
The final concert of this year’s Toronto Bach Festival at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church featured two of the little performed Latin masses written for Leipzig (or possibly for Count Franz Anton von Sporck of Lysá. Sources vary). In any event they are unusual for liturgical music. Based on previously written cantatas for the most part, they incorporate elements not much seen in church music.
Fourth Annual Toronto Bach Festival
The fourth annual Toronto Bach Festival runs May 24th to 26th. There are four concerts and a lecture. Here’s the line up:
Friday, May 24th at 8pm – Brandenburg Five
The program includes two cantatas: the early Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, and Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, plus Julia Wedman as soloist in Bach’s Concerto in A minor for violin. A brilliant night of illuminating music. Soloists for the cantatas are Hélène Brunet, Daniel Taylor, Nick Veltmeyer and Joel Allison. John Abberger directs the Toronto Bach Festival Orchestra.
Opera Atelier 2018/19 season
Opera Atelier have announced their 2018/19 season. As usual, there are two shows. In the Fall there is a double bill of Charpentier’s Actéon paired with Rameau’s Pygmalion (Oct. 25 – Nov. 3, 2018). Colin Ainsworth, who has also been named as OA’s first “artist in residence”, features in both title roles with Mireille Asselin as Diana and Amour and Allyson McHardy as Juno and Céphise. The supporting cast includes Jesse Blumberg, Christopher Enns, Meghan Lindsay, Cynthia Smithers and Anna Sharpe. Pygmalion will be prefaced by Opera Atelier’s first Canadian commission for solo baroque violin and contemporary dancing, entitled Inception. It will be performed by composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga and choreographer/Artist of Atelier Ballet, Tyler Gledhill. Following its Toronto dates, the show will tour to the Royal Opera House in Versailles.
Last night the TSO gave the last concert of the Decades Project. Starting, inevitably, with a sesqui, the first half continued with a fine performance of Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with Nicola Benedetti as soloist. In some ways it’s an odd piece to use to characterise the 1930s (but then so is Carmina Burana!). It’s high romantic in tone and style. Lush even. It’s also extremely well crafted with a rather luscious part for the soloist played quite beautifully by Ms. Benedetti.
Imeneo is one of Handel’s less well known operas; perhaps deservedly so. The plot and the libretto are weak and the music pretty variable. Charles Jennens, the librettist for Messiah, descibed it as “the worst of all Handel’s compositions”. It does have the merit of being short. Most recent recordings come in around two hours and this UoT Opera production, rearranged and cut by Tim Albery, comes in at 100 minutes spread over two acts.