So to Eastminster United last night for the opening concert of the Toronto Bach Festival. We got three concerti bookended by (I think) a sinfonia from one of the cantatas; an excuse to show off the trumpets and timpani recruited for Sunday’s oratorios, and an arrangement of the Air on the G String. Festival director John Abberger contributed a scholarly programme note on the general issue of Bach concerti. Bottom line, there aren’t very many of them but they can be rearranged for a pretty wide range of instrumental options. Last night we got the Concerto for Oboe BWV1056, Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord BWV 1044 and the much better known Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 BWV 1046.
The third and final concert in Confluence Concerts and the Toronto Bach Festival’s presentation of the Bach cello suites is now on line. It features Andrew Downing playing the Suite No.2 in D minor BWV1008 on double bass and Ryan Davis playing the Suite No.5 in C minor BWV1011 on viola. Both pieces were recorded in front of a live audience at Heliconian Hall.
The second of three concerts of the Bach cello suites prresented by Confluence Concerts and the Toronto Bach Festival is now up on Confluence’s Youtube channel. There’s an hour or so of really nice cello playing with Kieran Campbell playing the Suite no.4 and Eleanor Fry performing the Suite no.6. The most interesting segments though are hearing the musicians talk about their rather unusual instruments. Kieran was playing an early 18th century instrument that is quite a bit larger than a modern cello and has no spike at the foot. It’s strung with gut of course though two of the strings are metal wrapped. Eleanor’s instrument is a modern reproduction of a baroque five stringed cello. I had no idea such a thing existed! As with all the Confluence streams, technical quality is impeccable. Definitely worth a look.
The 5th Annual Toronto Bach Festival will take place from May 29th to 31st. All the details are at www.TorontoBachFestival.org. The big event is a performance of the B minor Mass on the 31st at 4pm at Eastminster United Church on the Danforth. The line up of soloists is quite impressive; Hélène Brunet, Ellen McAteer, Daniel Taylor, Charles Daniels and Joel Allison. They will be joined by a small choir and period instrument ensemble. John Butt conducts. In addition there’s a line up of recitals, concerts and lectures.
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.
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.
I’m not sure that I had ever heard anything by Heinrich Schütz before this afternoon but I’m glad that I have now. His St. John Passion formed the first half of the closing concert of the Toronto Bach Festival at St. Barnabas on the Danforth this afternoon. Written in 1666, towards the end of his life ,it’s steeped in the Lutheran tradition. There’s no orchestra. The main burden of the Gospel is taken by the Evangelist as narrator in a style not very far from the Anglican traditional style of singing metrical psalms. The emphasis is on the text; indeed on The Word. Members of the chorus contribute in similar style as Jesus, Pilate and so on. The narrative is interspersed with polyphonic choruses with sparse organ accompaniment perhaps hinting at an even older tradition where the meaning of the words mattered less.
Here’s the news that’s arrived in my inbox this week.
Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts announced that from 2019 the DORA awards will be gender neutral. In categories where there has traditionally been “Best Performance by a Male” and “Best Performance by a Female” there will now be a single “Best Performance” award.
There have been quite a few announcements in the last couple of weeks or so. Here’s what’s coming up.
Essential Opera is back after a hiatus. They are doing a single performance of Gianni Schicchi at 3pm on April 22nd at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (the one up near the Arctic Circle). Kevin Mallon conducts the Toronto Orchestra with a really good line up of soloists.
21C is back from May 23rd to 27th with a varied lineup. Perhaps the most interesting concert from a vocal point of view is vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis with violinist and singer Maarja Nuut and electronic music composer Hendrik Kaljujärv in works by Arvo Pärt, David Lang, and Helena Tulve. The concert is presented in partnership with Estonian Music Week and it’s on the 26th at 8pm.
Here’s a summary of the upcoming Toronto events I’ve been made aware of recently. Both the TSO and the RCM have announced their contemporary music festivals. 21C at the conservatory runs from May 24th to 28th. The opening concert features Johannes Debus with the COC Orchestra, Andrew Haji and Emily D’Angelo and the Elmer Iseler Singers. The program includes two pieces by Brian Current: his The Seven Heavenly Halls in its Ontario premiere and Nàaka (Northern Lights) its world premiere. The two works are part of a six movement work, entitled River of Light, which traces creation myths from six different cultures. This concert also includes works by Unsuk Chin, Samy Moussa and Matthew Aucoin. Then on the following night the Canadian Art Song Project has a concert of works by Canadian composers Andrew Staniland’s Peter Quince at the Clavier (Ontario premiere), Lloyd Burritt’s Moth Poem (Ontario premiere), and Ana Sokolović’s Dawn Always Begins in the Bones, CASP’s new commission to celebrate Canada 150. The singers, drawn from the COC Ensemble Studio will be Danika Lorèn (soprano), Emily D’Angelo (mezzo-soprano), Aaron Sheppard (tenor), Bruno Roy (baritone), Iain MacNeil (baritone), with Mélisande Sinsoulier and Liz Upchurch on piano. The Festival closes on May 28th with a Soundstreams concert; The Music of Unsuk Chin. The program includes her Cantatrix Sopranica, a playful exploration of the act of singing for two sopranos, countertenor, and ensemble featuring Carla Huhtanen, and “The Caterpillar,” an excerpt from her opera, Alice in Wonderland. Also included are two works by Chris Paul Harman; It’s All Forgotten Now (world premiere) and Love Locked Out. In between there’s lots more interesting looking instrumental stuff too. More details here. Continue reading