Last night’s final Koerner Hall event in Toronto Summer Music started off with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major. It’s a tuneful, well constructed piece which in places riffs off Romany music, hence its nickname “Turkish”. Jonathan Crow was the soloist with a small orchestra drawn from all the area’s major orchestras plus TSM Fellows. Gemma New conducted. It was very satisfying. The orchestra was excellent and the interplay between solist and orchestra worked very well. It’s quite a demanding piece for the soloist and I really enjoyed the sound that Jonathan produced. He plays an instrument with a rather distinctive timbre which worked well here. I’m curious about the first movement cadenza. I don’t know the work well enough to knoew what the options are but this one was very virtuosic though sounding distinctly post-Mozartian.
The main stage concert for TSM at Koerner Hall last night was given by the Art of Time Ensemble with vocalists John Southworth and Sarah Slean. It’s my first encounter with Art of Time have been around for about ten years and specialise in cross genre collaborations inspired by their founder, pianist Andrew Burashko.
Last night was classical meets singer songwriter. There was an introductory piece by Christos Hatzis, some Schubert, plenty of Gershwin and lashings of Leonard Cohen plus much more (there was no set list and I didn’t take notes). It’s rather out of my usual zone but I enjoyed. Southworth is a really quirky vocalist, exemplified by a rather weird version of The Old Folks at Home; which needed to be weird! Slean is quite a performer; good voice, very funny, great mover. The ensemble was terrific across the board. I’m sold. There are lots of reasons to stretch the boundaries of classical performance. Larry Beckwith does it very well with his Confluence series. Here’s another example.
The late show, also at Koerner, featured Jonathan Crow, Katya Poplyansky, Minkyoung Lee and Allison Rich in a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in B-flat Major Op. 130 but with a twist. They played the full original version in which the Grosse Fuge Op. 133 forms the finale. So, basically, an hour long string quartet! It was very well done though I confess late Beethoven at 10.30 pm was straining the grey matter.
Last night’s Toronto Summer Music Festival concert, continuing the the me of “London Calling” was titled (Almost) the Last Night of the Proms and was a sort of recreation of that weird fusion of music and retro imperialism that hits the Albert Hall once per year. I went because I was curious. Toronto is no longer terribly British and it’s also notoriously buttoned down. Koerner Hall is a 1200 seat concert hall with no promenade space. The concert wasn’t the celebratory conclusion of eight weeks of promenading. Could it remotely match the atmosphere of the Last Night and, if not, would there be musical merit enough to make it worthwhile? The answer, sadly, is not really though some people did try.
So the Toronto Summer Music Festival continued last night with a Shakespeare themed show called A Shakespeare Serenade. Curated and directed by Patrick Hansen of McGill it fell into two parts. Before the interval we got Shakespeare scenes acted out and then the equivalent scene from an operatic adaptation of the play. After the interval it was a mix of Sonnets and song settings in an overall staging that was perhaps riffing off The Decameron. Patrick Hansen and Michael Shannon alternated at the piano.
The one thing Daniel Taylor did not explain in his introduction to The Coronation of King George II, presented by Toronto Summer Music Festival, last night was how on earth he, and whatever friends and substances were involved, came up with the concept. It’s not immediately apparent that interweaving some of the music from the 1727 coronation service with snippets from the liturgy while throwing in some earlier music that might have been used in earlier coronations and, to cap it all, Tardising in some Parry and Tavener makes any sense at all but in a weird way it did. There was even a real priest brought in to play the Archbishop of Canterbury (looking disturbingly like the Bishop of Bath and Wells) and an actor playing the king. Oddly it made for an hour or so of rather good music mixed with just enough levity to offset the mostly extremely lugubrious text of the liturgy.
There are actually some up coming concerts and so on to talk about. The big event is, of course, the Toronto Summer Music Festival. This starts on July 14th and it seems incredible that it’s four months since I previewed it. There are a couple of additional TSMF events worth noting, notably an interview with Ben Heppner in Walter Hall on August 4th at 2pm. There are also master classes including one with Anne Schwanewilms on July 19th from 2pm to 5pm, also in Walter Hall.
Summer Opera Lyric Theatre has also announced its performance line up. There are three operas on offer:
There is a premiere of Davies and Benson’s A Tale of Two Cities, based on the Dickens novel. That’s on July 29th and August 6th at 8 pm and July 31 and Aug 6th at 3 pm.
Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann is on July 30th and August 7th at 3 pm and August 2nd and 4th at 8 pm.
Handel’s Julius Caesar is on July 30th, August 3rd and 5th at 8 pm and August 3rd at 3 pm.
All performances are at the Robert Gill Theatre, 214 College St. Three-performance subscription packages are $60; single tickets at $28, $22 (students & seniors). For tickets call 416-366-7723 or visit www.stlc.com.
There’s quite a lot for the vocal music fan in this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival though the only operatic opening is getting a bit Twilight Zone. How often does an opera like Britten’s Rape of Lucretia get done in Toronto? Well for now the answer is twice in quick succession because besides the MYOpera production later this month we are also getting a “semi-staged” version on July 22nd at 7.30pm at the Winter Garden Theatre. It is a transplant from Banff originally created by Joel Ivany and Topher Mokrzewski but to be directed here by Anna Theodosakis. The cast includes Emma Char (Lucretia), Peter Rolfe Dauz (Junius), Beste Kalender (Bianca), Jasper Leever (Collatinus), Iain MacNeil (Tarquinius), Ellen McAteer (Lucia), Owen McAusland (Male Chorus), and Chelsea Rus (Female Chorus). That’s a pretty good cast but it does seem an odd choice. Is the King Street streetcar contagious?