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.
Here’s what’s coming up of note in the next few weeks.
There are some interesting things coming up at the UoT Faculty of Music. On January 17th at 7.30pm there’s an opera double bill in Walter Hall featuring Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven and The Maiden from the Sea (Futari Shizuka). Kristina Szabó features in the first piece with Xin Wang in the second.
The composer conducts. See Wallace’s comment below for more information. Then at 2.30pm on January 20th in the MacMillan there’s the Student Opera Collective show. The libretto, as ever, is by Michael Patrick Albano. This time it’s a black comedy whodunnit about the death of Adriana Lacouvreur.
There’s much to like in this year’s unfussy TSO Messiah. It’s not bloated. For most of the piece conductor Johannes Debus deploys around thirty strings, chamber organ, harpsichord, oboes and bassoon. Trumpets and timpani are added for the grand moments later in the piece. He even manages to get quite a delicate sound out of the largish (100+) Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. The delicacy is a recurrent thread. That and a really bouncy sense of rhythm. One could dance to Debus’ Handel.
So one thing can be guaranteed in December; lots of Messiah. This year I have four on the radar. There’s the TSO of course. This year Johannes Debus conducts with soloists Claire de Sévigné, Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji and Tyler Duncan. One might almost have expected the COC Chorus but actually it’s the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in the loft. That one runs December 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd at 8pm and the 23rd at 3pm. Roy Thomson Hall of course. Over at Tafelmusik, it’s Ivars Taurins with Sherezade Panthaki, Krisztina Szabó, Charles Daniels and Drew Santini plus, of course, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. That’s on December 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm. The Sing-a-Long version is at Roy Thomson Hall at 2pm on the 22nd. There’s also a workshop on the 8th at 2pm at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.
The Monkey Queen, currently being presented by Red Snow Collective at the Theatre Centre Incubator, is a play with music and movement, rather than opera or music theatre. Diana Tso’s play riffs off the classic Journey to the West to create a “journey to the east” in which a Chinese-Canadian woman explores her own roots and identity in a narrative and landscape half real, half mythical.
Last night’s TSO performance of Britten’s War Requiem was a bit of a mixed bag. There were things to like but, overall, I was not greatly moved; which I expect to be by this work, and it seemed like a very long evening for one work of modest length.
Let’s start with the positives.Tatiana Pavlovskaya was as good a soprano soloist as I have heard in this piece. She sang with enough power to be a distinct voice in all but the very densest sections of the music while maintaining an admirable sweetness of tone without the almost customary screechiness. The Toronto Children’s Chorus was excellent. Toby Spence’s diction was top notch with every word clear. There was some really nice playing from the chamber orchestra, especially the strings. The last fifteen minutes from the blood curdling Libera Me to “let us sleep now” had the right balance of terror and lyricism though, even here, there could have been more drama. Where was the frisson at “I am the enemy you killed my friend”? Continue reading