This year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival runs from July 12th to August 4th and, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 is war themed, though to be honest it wears it pretty lightly. As always there is one big vocal star. This year it’s German tenor Christoph Prégardien. He has a recital at Walter Hall with Julius Drake at 7.30pm on July 17th. He also pops up on the 20th at the same time and place to sing Schubert’s Die Forelle with Stephen Philcox in a program that features chamber music by Schubert, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. There’s no word on public masterclasses but he’s around for a few days so I suspect that something will emerge.
This was a really interesting morning. The TSMF runs a “fellow” program for singers and collaborative pianists and this morning, as part of that program, there was a masterclass with Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski. There were eight singers and four pianists with seven German songs (Strauss, Schubert and Wolff) and one in Finnish prepared (and preparing a Finnish piece for an Isokoski masterclass reminds me of that Youtube thing of the kitten walking down a line of Alsatian guard dogs). It was classic masterclass format. Each singer sang their piece and then went over fine points; diction, legato, phrasing, breathing, emotion, colour, at Ms. Isokoski’s direction. It was fascinating.
There Toronto Summer Music Festival, inevitably Americas themed this year, opened with a concert called Americans in Paris featuring music by Copland, Gershwin and Bolcom. It was a pretty mixed bag. It opened with Copland’s Appalachian Spring played by 13 members of the TSMF Ensemble and conducted by Tania Miller. It’s not a work I’m particularly fond of but here it was particularly unfocussed and soporific.
Last night at Walter Hall, as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Chris Maltman and Graham Johnson gave a recital that explored the experience of war through song. It was a long and varied programme with twenty two songs in four languages commemorating most of the great empires that went to war in 1914 though many of the songs were from earlier periods. At the core of the programme were early 20th century settings of English pastoral poems. Butterworth’s settings of Houseman were there but, sneakily, we got Somervell’s much less well known setting of Think no more lad. In a similar vein there were Gurney and Finzi. The Americas were represented in a characteristically rambunctious Ives setting of a horribly jingoistic McCrae poem; He is there. McCrae may be the only well known war poet who managed to survive until 1918 without developing any sense of irony. Beyond the English speaking world there were songs by Mussorgsky, Mahler, Fauré, Schumann, Wolf and Poulenc.