Nordic Voices and Marion Newman

The Gryphon Trio pulled out of Wednesday night’s Toronto Summer Music concert for, one supposes, the usual reason.  This forced a reorganisation of the concert.  Elliot Britton’s new piece was cut and instead we got an extended set from the Nordic Voices as the first part of the concert.  Actually the first piece was for a very extended Nordic Voices.  Andrew Balfour’s Omaa Bindig supplemented the vocal sextet with Marion Newman and Jamie Parker (piano) plus a number of string players and voices lined up down the sides of Walter Hall.  It’s one of those soundscape works that envelops you in a variety of sounds and techniques.  I wish I could find the text but I can’t (surtitles used last night as they have been all through TSM… yay!)

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Inspirations

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music concert at Koerner Hall featured two works played by the TSM Festival Orchestra conducted by Nicolas Ellis .  The first was Keiko Devaux’ Arras.  It’s a sort of tone poem for chamber orchestra.  The base material is drawn from Keiko’s family’s musical and other heritage; agriculture, weaving, plainsong, Buddhist chant, chansons, Japanese-American pop and so on.  Samples are rewoven, looped, distorted etc and mixed to form a “tapestry” (hence the title).  The effect is quite hypnotic and rather soothing though there’s not much to get a “handle” on, which may be the point.

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The Americas

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music offering in Walter Hall was American themed in the broadest sense.  The New Orford Quartet kicked things off with three pieces for string quartet.  The first was Piazzolla’s Tango Ballet in Bragato’s arrangement for string quartet.  It’s kind of tango/jazz fusion and great fun.  Jessie Montgomery’s Strum is a sort of homage to the southern American tradition of a different kind of string instrument.  Lots of complex pizzicato and other effects.  Carmen Braden’s Raven Conspiracy is a three movement work for spoken voice and quartet dealing with both the mythical and biological raven.  It’s playful and extremely virtuosic.  I was struck by the fact that the New Orfords are not just a very fine ensemble but a very flexible one.  Nothing seems to faze them!

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Appl and Rieger

Baritone Benjamin Appl and pianist Wolfram Rieger gave us Die schöne Müllerin with a twist at Walter Hall last night.  The twist was a companion/introductory piece by David Lang called flower, forget me based on one of the Müller poems that Schubert didn’t set with fragments of other flower related Schubert song texts.  If death is a major theme in the main cycle it’s an obsession in the new piece!  It’s also very low for a baritone with some really difficult phrasing.  One had to admire Appl’s skill in navigating its lugubrious depths but there was an almost tangible sense of relief in the audience when the duo launched into the sunnier and more familiar territory of “Das Wandern”.

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Inspirations

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.

TSM - Opening Night - 7.7.2022 - Photo Caroline Barbier de Reulle

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One swallow and all that

Faint signs of something approaching normality are in the air.  Following on from the TSO’s season announcement which promises shows with a live audience (unknown terms and conditions apply), Toronto Summer Music has announced that concerts in the third week of the festival will also have live listeners (as well as live streaming).  There’s a lineup of nineteen concerts at Grace Church on the Hill and tickets are on sale now at $50/each.

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Ema Nikolovska and Steven Philcox

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.

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Toronto Summer Music

Ema-Nikolovska-sq-credit-Kaupo-KikkasToronto 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.