The Toronto Symphony have a new CD out. It’s a couple of Berlioz works recorded under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis at Roy Thomson Hall in September 2018. The first piece is the rarely heard Fantaisie sur la Tempête de Shakespeare for which the orchestra is joined by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. It’s an early piece inspired by one of Berlioz’ unrequited passions (like everything else by Berlioz!) and was considered daringly modern in its day. It’s said to be the first piece to introduce a harp to the symphony orchestra and it also includes piano four hands. It’s very colourful and rather brash which is territory that Sir Andrew excels in. There’s great clarity to both the singing and the playing.
Last night the Music Director designate of the TSO, Gustavo Gimeno, conducted a concert of 20th century classics. It was the first chance to see him with the orchestra since his appointment. First up was the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor. It’s a curious work with relatively little dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Rather there’s a very Sibelian orchestral piece kind of sandwiched with a highly virtuosic violin part but it works in an odd sort of way. It was also very well played with all the necessary virtuosity from soloist Jonathan Crow and an orchestral sound which while often dark and brooding was also quite transparent.
At Roy Thomson Hall last night for the TSO playing Carl Orff’s extravaganza Carmina Burana. It was fun. I don’t think it’s a piece to over-intellectualize. Big orchestra, enormous choir (Toronto Mendelssohn Choir augmented by the Toronto Youth Choir plus the Toronto Children’s Chorus), bawdy Latin lyrics and so on. It’s big, brash and mostly quite loud though I think Donald Runnicles did a fine job of balancing orchestra and voices, especially when the soloists or the children were singing.
June is shaping up to busier than one might expect. But first here’s one last announcement for May. On the 22nd B-Exalted have a choral concert at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at 8pm. Soloists are Dallas Chorley, soprano; Rebecca Gray, alto; Charles Davidson and David Walsh, tenors, and Janaka Welihinda, bass. More details here.
And so to June itself. There are two items of interest on June 1st. At Hart House Theatre at 2pm there’s a performance of Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music before it leaves for a tour of Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Israel. I’m curious to see how it’s developed since we saw a version that was still rather WIP in June 2017. Later, at 8pm at St. Thomas Anglican Church there’s the latest in the Confluence Series. This one is titled At the River and features, among others, Larry Beckwith, Dylan Bell, Ian Cusson, James Meade, Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan, Suba Sankaran, Jacqueline Teh and Giles Tomkins. This has become a “don’t miss” series.
… plus a late March addition…
March 29th and 30th Tapestry are doing the Songbook thing again. This is the show where an established singer; Jacqueline Woodley this time, works with emerging artists and a pianist (Andrea Grant) plus director Michael Mori to create a show based on Tapestry’s back catalogue. There are three shows at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery; Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 4pm and again at 8pm.
The main event in last night’s programme at the TSO was the first act of Die Walküre in concert performance but it was preceded by The Ride of the Valkyries and, more substantially (if not louder) Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra Op.6. It’s an interesting piece; post tonally expressionist with obvious homages to both Wagner and, especially, Mahler. Sir Andrew gave it one of the best introductions of the kind that I have heard; situating it not just in the Viennese musical lineage but also drawing helpful parallels with the visual arts; Klimt, Kokoschka etc. He also produced a reading of great clarity from the orchestra. It’s easy for a big piece of this kind to dissolve into a sort of aural mush and thereby give the “I don’t like this modern stuff” crowd ammunition that it’s just “noise”. Here the various strands, the references and even the musical jokes of the three movements were clearly delineated. Lovely stuff.
Those season announcements just keep on coming. This time it’s the TSO. Here are my top picks.
- Dynamic Duo: Hannigan & Storgårds – September 19th and 20th 2019. Barbara Hannigan conducts John Storgårds in Dutilleux’s Sur le même accord for Violin and Orchestra. He conducts her in Brett Dean’s “And once I played Ophelia” from Hamlet. There’s also some Beethoven, Haydn and Sibelius.
- Massenet’s Thaïs (in concert) – November 7th and 9th 2019. Sir Andrew Davis conducts with Erin Wall in the title role and Lucas Meachem as Athanaël. Not a huge fan of this piece myself but I know there are Massenet fans out there.
- Handel’s Messiah (in the Mozart arrangement) – December 17th to 22nd 2019. Alexander Shelley of the NACO conducts with Jane Archibald, Emily D’Angelo, Isaiah Bell, Russell Braun and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
- Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, K. 543 and Requiem, K. 626 – January 15th to 18th 2020. Sir Andrew Davis conducts with a vocal quartet from the Equilibrium Young Artists mentoring initiative, which I think is a Barbara Hannigan thing.
There’s also a ton of Beethoven. Apparently it’s a big anniversary. Full details here.