La Scena Musicale

Sunday, 21 December 2014

This Week in Toronto (Dec. 22 - Jan. 4)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Holiday Season (Dec. 22 to Jan. 4)

- Joseph So

Now that we are really into the heart of the Christmas Season, concerts scheduling grinds to a halt to make way for family gatherings and church services etc. Interestingly, in other big cities the likes of New York, London and Vienna where I've visited at Christmas time in years past, there are still plenty of musical events going on. Okay, except on Christmas Eve when it's dark at the Wiener Staatsoper, and Christmas Day and Boxing Day at Covent Garden. At the Met this year, the house is dark on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - didn't use to if I remember correctly.  At the Bastille in Paris, there's even a performance of Nutcracker on Christmas Day!  I'm rather torn when it comes to this. I certainly don't begrudge musicians taking time off to be with their families, but when gigs are so hard to come by these days, surely there are musicians who would be willing to work, as they say, "the show must go on"?

Tenor Adrian Kramer is Nanki-Poo for Toronto Operetta Theatre's The Mikado

Anyway, Toronto's professional classical music scene is totally quiet this week except for a few organ recitals and carol sings in your local churches. It restarts with Toronto Operetta Theatre's The Mikado on December 27 for a run of six performances to January 4, including a New Year's Eve Gala.   I'll be attending the opening, as I'm curious to hear the Nanki-Poo of tenor Adrian Kramer. The last time I heard him, he was a member of the COC Ensemble Studio, as a baritone. He's certainly not the first to move up - former Ensemble baritone Joseph Kaiser made the switch a few years ago. Singing Yum Yum is soprano Lucia Cesaroni.  Katisha is mezzo Mia Lennox.  Derek Bate conducts. All performances at the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre.

Baritone Brett Polegato (Photo:

For those suffering from opera withdrawal, a good choice is Bravissimo! - the annual New Year's Eve opera gala at Roy Thomson Hall, presented by Attila Glatz Concert Productions.  It's format is simple - bring together four soloists (a mix of international singers and Canadians), a pick-up orchestra and chorus made up mostly of local musicians, in a program of opera arias and duets augmented by orchestral selections. The selections are quite predictable - it invariably ends with Libiamo, libiamo from La traviata! Start time is 7 pm and everything is finished no later than 9:30 pm, early enough for New Year's Eve festivities. I've heard some wonderful soloists in Bravissimo that we normally wouldn't get to hear in Toronto. This year the quartet of singers is made up of Russian soprano Natalia Ushakova, Hungarian mezzo Viktoria Vizin, German tenor Andreas Schager, and Canadian baritone Brett Polegato.  Of the four artists, I've heard in person many times the excellent Canadian of course. And I recall fondly the beautiful voice of Hungarian mezzo Viktoira Vizin, who sang Marchesa Melibea in a wonderful production of Il Viaggio a Reims at the Canadian Opera Company a dozen years ago. The other two I have yet to hear in person. According to her website < >  Ushakova sings a hugely varied repertoire, from Queen of the Night at the Wiener Volksoper to Amelia in Un ballo in maschera in the opera house in Ljubljana, ie from coloratura to spinto!  Clips of her singing are available on her website. It's an exciting voice for sure. German tenor Andreas Schager < > is that rare breed, a heroic tenor singing the most demanding repertoires of Wagner and Strauss.  He made international headlines when he stepped in to sing Act One of Siegfried at the Berlin Staatsoper in April 2013, replacing Canadian tenor Lance Ryan who couldn't get from Vienna to Berlin in time for the early (4 pm) start! The conductor of Bravissimo is the dynamic Italian Francesco Lanzillotta < >

Hungarian mezzo Viktoria Vizin returns to Toronto in Bravissimo (Photo:

On New Year's Day is another annual musical tradition, Salute to Vienna, also presented by Glatz Concert Productions.  This marks the 20th anniversary of this show. On the program are operettas, Viennese waltzes, ballet and orchestral selections. Natalia Ushakova and Andreas Schager from Bravissimo the previous evening also appear as soloists here, joined by Hungarian soubrette Katalin Benedekffy and Hungarian tenor Szabolcs Kadar. Also appearing are the Hamilton Children's Choir as well as Dancers from Vienna Imperial Ballet and International Champion Ballroom Dancers. A late addition is young Hungarian pianist Gyongyosi Ivett, a winner of the classical music competition Virtuozok. Another pickup orchestra, the Strauss Symphony of Canada is led by Austrian conductor Christian Schulz

Salute to Vienna (Photo: Chris Lee)

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Friday, 19 December 2014

Conspirare Celebrates Christmas for Everyone!

Conspirare Christmas with Special Guest Ruthie Foster
Conspirare Company of Voices/Craig Hella Johnson

Long Center for the Performing Arts
Austin, Texas

Who knew that “I Could Have Danced All Night” was the quintessential Christmas song? Craig Hella Johnson, that’s who, and my guess is that a growing number of listeners agree with him.

It has become a tradition for Conspirare Company of Voices to perform their special version of this Lerner and Loewe classic from My Fair Lady as the finale of their annual Christmas concert. In a quiet, slow and hypnotic rendition, Conspirare gave us words and music to reflect on before returning to everyday life. The performance again was magical, as it was last year.

Conspirare’s Christmas concert is given seven times within a week, with performances in Victoria, Houston and at two different venues in Austin. The last performance this year was presented at the Travis County Correctional Facility. Each concert is about 90 minutes long, is presented without intermission, and includes seven groups of songs, with each group relating to a general theme: “Dear Heart”, “Love Bade Me Welcome”, “Just Come” and so on.  There is no narration during the concert, but it is clear that the audience is encouraged not only to enjoy the music but also to think about the words of the songs and the ideas they convey.

One of these ideas is “unity in diversity.” Craig Hella Johnson juxtaposes Christian liturgical music, popular songs, gospel music, opera, African folk music and Christmas carols. On one level it is a demonstration that beautiful music can be found in many unexpected places; on another, Conspirare is attempting to bring its listeners together by means of such an eclectic mix.

Soloist Ruthie Foster
Blues singer Ruthie Foster, a featured soloist at Conspirare’s Christmas concert last year, returned again this year and she was better than ever. She sang some of her own songs accompanied by the choir, but she also led some exciting rafter-raising gospel music.

As usual, conductor Craig Hella Johnson was seated at the piano, his back to the audience, as he led his fine professional choir through this varied and thoughtful program. He even took one of the solos himself. What a fine voice he has! Even in “pop” songs, he is able to bring each note and word to life in the manner of a great lieder singer. Amazing!

For Something More…

Conspirare just released a CD of their Christmas concert from last year. Titled Unclouded Day, it is available through their website at Earlier in the year Conspirare released a CD of The Sacred Spirit of Russia, documenting one of the finest concerts I have ever heard from them. Available from Harmonia Mundi (HMU 807526), it is has been nominated for a Grammy.

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 15 au 21 décembre

Jean-Willy Kunz

Le Cirque du Soleil célèbre ses 30 ans avec une série de concerts où les musiques les plus connues des 35 spectacles du Cirque seront interprétées par un chœur, un orchestre et... un orgue. En tant qu'organiste, claveciniste ou pianiste, je me suis impliqué dans plusieurs projets très originaux depuis quelques années et j'ai hâte de participer à celui-ci ! Du 13 au 28 décembre, église Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Renseignements :
Jean-Willy Kunz

Le Messie de Haendel, l’œuvre phare du temps des fêtes
L’Orchestre de chambre McGill et le Chœur de la cathédrale Christ Church, sous la direction de Boris Brott, présenteront à leur tour Le Messie, avec la soprano Aline Kutan, la mezzo Mireille Lebel, le ténor Michael Colvin et le baryton Peter McGillivray. Le directeur musical du chœur de la cathédrale, Peter Wedd, qui a préparé les chanteurs, accompagnera également les récitatifs au clavecin. Le concert sera précédé d’une causerie à 18 h 30. Cathédrale Christ Church – 15 décembre, 19 h 30.
Dirigé par Michel Brousseau, le Chœur philharmonique du Nouveau Monde présentera également les plus beaux moments du Messie avec plus de 200 choristes sur scène, sans les parties solistes. Église Saint-Germain, Outremont, 19 h 30.

Changement de programme a l’OSM
L’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal poursuit le temps des fêtes avec un concert unique, un récital avec la mezzo Susan Graham et le ténor Michael Fabiano. Ils interpréteront notamment des œuvres de Massenet, Puccini et Schubert. Ce programme remplace celui qui était prévu avec le ténor italien Vittorio Grigolo, qui a annulé sa visite à Montréal. Maison symphonique de Montréal – 16, 18 décembre, 20 h.

Nouveau chef en tournée en décembre avec l'OM et Stéphane Tétreault
Kensho Watanabe, qui remplacera Alexandre Bloch, fera la tournée de trois arrondissements avec l'Orchestre Métropolitain, en compagnie du violoncelliste Stéphane Tétreault. Soirs d'hiver, un programme tout en contrastes qui débute avec le Concerto grosso, op. 6 no 8 de Corelli et enchaîne avec les redoutables Variations sur un thème rococo et la Symphonie no 1 de Tchaïkovski.  Verdun (17) – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (18) – Saint-Léonard (20).

I Musici – un Noël à la flûte
Pour réinventer Noël, I Musici a invité le groupe Flûte Alors ! Sous la direction du chef en résidence Jean-Michel Malouf, on entendra des arrangements pour quatre flûtes à bec et orchestre d'œuvres de Bach, Corelli, Vivaldi, Haber et Charpentier. Selon la critique, ces quatre amoureux de la flûte à bec, d'une virtuosité spectaculaire, ont développé entre eux « une mécanique musicale d'une précision d'horloge ». Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, 18 au 20 décembre.

Noël à Dresde
Les ensembles VivaVoce et La Rose des vents s’unissent pour présenter « Noël à Dresde » un concert mettant en vedette la tromboniste Catherine Motuz et le cornettiste Matthew Jennejohn. Ils joueront des œuvres de Praetorius, Scheidt, Schein et Schütz pour chœur et ensemble de vents ainsi que des noëls traditionnels. Salle de concert Redpath, 21 décembre, 15 h.

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This Week in Montreal: December 15 to 21

Jean-Willy Kunz
The Cirque du Soleil is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a concert series offering the best-known musical pieces from its 35 shows, performed by chorus, orchestra and … organ. As an organist, harpsichordist or pianist, I have been involved in some very original projects in the last few years, and I’m eager to participate in this one! December 13 – 28, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church. Information:
- Jean-Willy Kunz

Handel’s Messiah: A Holiday Masterpiece
The McGill Chamber Orchestra and the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, under the baton of Boris Brott, takes their turn to present The Messiah with soprano Aline Kutan, mezzo Mireille Lebel, tenor Michael Colvin and baritone Peter McGillivray. The choir’s musical director, Peter Wedd, has prepared the singers and will accompany them on the harpsichord. A pre-concert talk will take place at 6:30 pm. Christ Church Cathedral, December 15 at 7:30 pm.
Conducted by Michel Brousseau, the Choeur Philharmonique Nouveau Monde also presents highlights from The Messiah with over 200 singers on stage, sans soloists. Église Saint-Germain, Outremont, at 7:30 pm.

Change of Program at the OSM
The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal keeps the festivities going with a unique concert: a recital with mezzo Susan Graham and tenor Michael Fabiano, who will perform works by Massenet, Puccini, and Schubert. This program replaces a concert with Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo, who was forced to cancel his visit to Montreal. Maison Symphonique de Montréal, December 16 and 18 at 8 pm.

New Conductor Touring with the OM and Stéphane Tétreault in December
Kensho Watanabe, replacing the originally-scheduled Alexandre Bloch, will visit three Montreal neighbourhoods with the Orchestre Métropolitain and Stéphane Tétreault. Winter Evenings is a program full of contrasts, beginning with Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, op. 6 no 8 (“The Christmas Concerto”) which is followed by Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and Symphony no. 1 “Winter Dreams”. Verdun (Dec 17), Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (Dec 18), and Saint-Leonard (Dec 20).

I Musici – A Baroque Christmas
I Musici revamps Christmas this year with recorder ensemble Flûte Alors! Under the baton of conductor-in-residence Jean-Michel Malouf, audiences will hear arrangements for four recorders and orchestra of works by Bach, Corelli, Vivaldi, Haber, and Charpentier. These four recorder-loving virtuosos have, according to critics, developed a musical mechanism of clockwork precision together. Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, December 18 to 20.

Christmas in Dresden
Ensembles VivaVoce and La Rose des vents unite for a concert titled “Noël à Dresde”, featuring trombonist Catherine Motuz and French horn player Matthew Jennejohn. They will perform works by Praetorius, Scheidt, Schein, and Schütz for choir and string ensemble as well as traditional Christmas works. Redpath Hall, December 21, 3 pm.

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

This Week in Toronto (Dec. 15 - 21)

My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of Dec. 15 to 21 

Joseph So

Now that we're in mid December, Holiday Season programming is in full swing. Recently I was asked if I have a favourite Messiah. Well, it's like asking someone pick one's favourite child!  When I am in the mood for a grand production, I go to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Messiah - there's just something majestic in hearing a full orchestra with modern instruments, together with a huge choir, in this glorious music.  However, I wouldn't want to go without the more intimate and evocative Messiah by the Tafelmusik forces. The TSO has a great quartet of soloists this year, all well known Canadians - soprano Jane Archibald, mezzo Allyson McHardy, tenor Lawrence Wiliford, and bass-baritone Philippe Sly. As usual, it's the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir supplying the choral forces. Welsh conductor Grant Llewellyn is at the helm. Five performances - Dec. 16, 17, 19, 20 8 pm and Dec. 21 3 pm at Roy Thomson Hall. This run of Messiah will be the last performances of the TSO in 2014. It's taking a three and a half week winter hiatus until mid January when it starts up again with its annual celebrations of Mozart's birthday.
Conductor Grant Llewellyn

Baroque fans will rejoice in the annual Tafelmusik Messiah, with four performances at Koerner Hall (Dec. 17, 18, 19, 20 at 7:30pm).  According to their website, the Dec. 20 performance is already sold out. Soloists are German soprano Lydia Teuscher, British countertenor James Laing, and two Canadians - tenor Colin Balzer and baritone Brett Polegato. Ivar Taurins leads the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Don't forget the annual tradition of Tafelmusik's Sing Along Messiah at Massey Hall on Dec. 21 2 pm.  I've only attended this once and it was really magical...perhaps it's time to go again.

German soprano Lydia Teuscher (Photo: Askonas Holt)

Given we live in English Canada, Handel's Messiah is ubiquitous at Christmas time. A quick check reveals no performances that I could find of Berlioz' L'enfance du Christ or Bach's Christmas Oratorio this week, pieces that are routinely performed across the pond.  That said, there are other options that we get that are perhaps not so common in Europe.  On Dec. 20th 2 pm, Toronto Children's Chorus is presenting A Chorus Christmas: Ceremonial Splendour. A special guest is the Canadian actor and icon, Mr. Gordon Pinsent, whom I am lucky enough to call my neighbour, and he's also one of the nicest neighbours one can have :-)  Gordon is the narrator in Brother Heinrich's Christmas. The event is at Roy Thomson Hall.

Aradia Ensemble's Dublin Messiah poster

The Aradia Ensemble under its director Kevin Mallon is presenting its annual Dublin Messiah on Dec. 20 7:30 pm. It takes place at the beautiful St. Anne's Anglican Church on 270 Gladstone Avenue. The fine quartet of soloists are soprano Jacqueline Woodley, mezzo Maria Soulis, tenor Adam Fisher and baritone Dion Mazerolle.

For a Latin flavoured Christmas, there's Toronto Choral Society's  Music of the Americas. On the program are Navidad Nuestra and Missa Criolla by Ariel Ramirez. Also appearing are Casava Latin Band featuring Ernesto Cardenas.  I had no idea that the Toronto Choral Society has such a long history, dating back to 1845! It's repertoire consists of choral works of all types from Baroque to Jazz. Its current Artistic Director is Geoffrey Butler, whom I've heard conduct many times at Opera York.

Nathaniel Dett Chorale (

Also of interest is the Nathaniel Dett Chorale's Christmas offering, An Indigo Christmas. This ensemble is well known for its presentation of Afrocentric music, and this concert is a presentation of Black Nativity, a Gospel Song Play by Harlem Renaissance poet and playwright Langston Hughes. A special guest is Jackie Richardson.  Performance takes place on Wednesday Dec. 17 8 pm at Trinity St. Paul's Centre.

AtG's Uncle John (l. to r. Sean Clark, Miriam Khalil, Betty Allison, Neil Craighead, Aaron Durand, Sharleen Joynt)

Against the Grain Theatre's #Uncle John, a modern take on Mozart's Don Giovanni, opened last week. I attended the very entertaining opening night performance. A very clever libretto by Joel Ivany together with deft stage direction made for a very lively show. Two more performances this week, on Dec. 17 and 19 at the Black Box Theatre at The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street West just east of Dovercourt. An excellent ensemble cast of singing actors is led by baritone Cameron McPhail as "Uncle John" aka Don Giovanni. Others are bass-baritone Neil Craighead (Leporello), Betty Allison (Donna Anna), Miriam Khalil (Donna Elvira), Sean Clark (Don Ottavio), Sharleen Joynt (Zerlina), Aaron Durand (Massetto), and John Avey (Commendatore)

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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

This Week in Montreal: December 8 to 14

Soprano Leslie Ann Bradley

Handel’s Messiah: A Holiday Masterwork
In Montreal, Andrew Megill conducts the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Chorus. Four Canadian soloists will perform at both concerts: soprano Leslie-Ann Bradley, mezzo-soprano Anita Krause, tenor Pascal Charbonneau and bass-baritone Philippe Sly. Maison symphonique, December 9 and 10, 8:00 p.m.

Pentaèdre: Scandal in Paris
The Scandal in Paris concert presented by the Pentaèdre woodwind quintet allows us to relive last century’s effervescent period, reflected in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts current exhibition Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900-1914. A transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring will be one of many works performed. Bourgie Concert Hall, December 10, 7:30pm.
 - Renée Banville

Trio Fibonacci: Great Russian Composers
Russian music is reputed for its expression of the deepest emotions. Destins russes [Russian Fates] puts Rachmaninoff’s majestic Trio élégiaque No. 2 to the fore. Rachmaninoff dedicated this trio to Tchaikovsky, whose death deeply affected him. Arensky’s Trio No. 1 is also synonymous with passion and bears Rachmaninoff’s great influence. The concert ends with the first of two Shostakovich trios. Chapelle historique, December 10, 7:30pm.
 - Renée Banville

December at Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur
The Transmission Ensemble presents Les Ruines circulaires…for its second concert in residence. This concert is an intimate reflection with duets, trios, and quartets. Works by Harvey, Henze, Scelsi, Murail, Cage and Ruo have been programmed. December 12, 8:00pm.
Winner of the 2011 Prix d’Europe, pianist Charles-Richard Hamelin is still a personality of note. He will perform works by Bach, Chopin and Rachmaninoff during a recital. December 14, 3:30pm.
 - Renée Banville

Two Opera Galas in December
Opéra de Montréal presents its annual gala on December 14. It will be held at the Maison symphonique. Major performers on the Montreal scene—and new, rising performers—will be heard. Singers will present many arias and major choral works, and will be accompanied by the Orchestre Métropolitain and Opéra de Montréal Chorus, both conducted by Alain Trudel. Maison symphonique, December 14, 2:00pm.
Opéra de Québec has put together a benefit concert at the Grand Théâtre December 11. Many performers from previous productions are expected to present during this event, including Leslie-Ann Bradley, who sang the leading role in The Merry Widow in October. The 2014 edition will feature the Orchestre symphonique de Québec as well as the Opéra de Québec Chorus. Salle Louis-Fréchette, Grand Théâtre de Québec, December 11, 7:30pm.
 - Justin Bernard

Arte Musica Foundation Welcomes SMAM
The unabridged series of Bach cantatas continues at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Bourgie Concert Hall. The Arte Musica Foundation will present Noël à Leipzig [Christmas in Leipzig] with the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal. Christopher Jackson conducts three cantatas with chamber choir and orchestra alongside soprano Marie Magistry, alto Josée Lalonde, tenor Michiel Schrey and bass Normand Richard. One of the cantatas develops the Nativity theme, while another recaptures the best moments of the “Gloria” from the Mass in B minor. Bourgie Concert Hall, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, December 13, 3:00pm and December 14, 2:00pm.

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Monday, 8 December 2014

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 8 au 14 décembre

Soprano Leslie Ann Bradley
--> Le Messie de Haendel, œuvre-phare du temps des fêtes
Dans la métropole, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal et le Chœur de l’OSM, dirigés par Andrew Megill, accompagnent quatre solistes canadiens pour une série de deux concerts. Parmi ces interprètes figurent la soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, la mezzosoprano Anita Krause, le ténor Pascal Charbonneau et le baryton-basse Philippe Sly. Maison symphonique de Montréal – 9 et 10 décembre, 20 h

Noël dans le 450
À Laval, le maestro Alain Trudel nous invite à une soirée Casse-noisette et opéra avec Les Petits chanteurs de Laval et trois jeunes solistes venus de l’Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal : Alexandra Beley, mezzo-soprano, Cécile Muhire, soprano, et Pascale Spinney, mezzo-soprano. Elles chanteront des extraits de l’opéra Hansel et Gretel. On entendra aussi des extraits de Casse-noisette, de Tchaïkovski, et de Ceremony of Carols, de Britten. Le 10 décembre, 14 et 20 h, salle André-Mathieu.

Décembre à la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur
Place à la musique de chambre française. La violoniste Julie Triquet, la violoncelliste Julie Trudeau et le pianiste Olivier Godin interprètent trois trios de Debussy, Chausson et Ravel. 7 décembre, 15 h 30.
• En deuxième concert de sa résidence, l'ensemble Transmission propose Les Ruines circulaires... Une réflexion intime en duo, trio et quatuor. Des œuvres de Harvey, Henze, Scelsi, Murail, Cage et Ruo. 12 décembre, 20 h.
• Lauréat du Prix d'Europe en 2011, le pianiste Charles-Richard Hamelin continue de se démarquer. On l'entendra en récital dans des œuvres de Bach, Chopin et Rachmaninov. 14 décembre, 15 h 30.
 - Renée Banville

Pentaèdre – Scandale à Paris
Avec le concert Scandale à Paris, le quintette à vent Pentaèdre fera revivre en musique la période effervescente du siècle dernier que présente l’exposition en cours au Musée des beaux-arts, De Van Gogh à Kandinsky, de l’impressionnisme à l’expressionnisme 1900-1914. On entendra entre autres, une transcription du Sacre du printemps de Stravinski. Salle Bourgie, 10 décembre, 19 h 30.
 - Renée Banville

Trio Fibonacci – de grands compositeurs russes
La musique russe se démarque par son expression d'émotions les plus intimes. Destins russes met en valeur le grandiose Trio élégiaque no 2 que Rachmaninov a dédié à la mémoire de Tchaïkovski, dont la mort l'avait bouleversé. Synonyme de passion aussi que ce Trio no 1 d'Arensky qui porte l'influence du grand compositeur. Le concert se conclut par le premier des deux trios de Chostakovitch. Chapelle historique, 10 décembre, 19 h 30.
 - Renée Banville

Deux galas d’opéra en décembre
Le 14 décembre, l’Opéra de Montréal présente son gala annuel. Celui-ci aura lieu à la Maison symphonique et fera entendre de grands interprètes habitués de la scène montréalaise ainsi que de nouvelles voix à découvrir. Les artistes lyriques seront accompagnés par l’Orchestre Métropolitain et le Chœur de l’Opéra, sous la direction d’Alain Trudel, dans plusieurs airs et ensembles du grand répertoire. Maison symphonique de Montréal – 14 décembre, 14 h.
De son côté, l’Opéra de Québec organise une grande soirée-bénéfice au Grand Théâtre le 11 décembre. Plusieurs interprètes des précédentes productions de la compagnie sont attendus, comme Leslie-Ann Bradley qui s’est illustrée dans le rôle-titre de La Veuve joyeuse, en octobre dernier. Cette édition 2014 du gala pourra à nouveau compter sur la participation de l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec et du Chœur de l’Opéra de Québec. Salle Louis Fréchette, Grand Théâtre de Québec – 11 décembre, 19 h 30.
 - Justin Bernard

La Fondation Arte Musica reçoit le SMAM
L’intégrale des cantates de Bach se poursuit à la salle Bourgie du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. La Fondation Arte Musica présente un premier concert intitulé Noël à Leipzig, en collaboration avec le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal. L’orchestre et le chœur de chambre, dirigés par Christopher Jackson, accompagnent la soprano Marie Magistry, l’alto Josée Lalonde, le ténor Michiel Schrey et la basse Normand Richard dans trois cantates. L’une de ces pièces prend pour thème la Nativité alors qu’une autre reprend les plus beaux moments du Gloria dans la Messe en si mineur. Salle Bourgie, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal – 13 décembre (15 h) et 14 décembre (14 h).
 - Justin Bernard

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Sunday, 7 December 2014

This Week in Toronto (Dec. 8 - 14)

My Toronto concert picks for the week of Dec. 8 to 14 - Joseph So

Donnell Leahy and Family in a Celtic Christmas

For those interested in classical but lighter fare this Holiday Season, try Toronto Symphony Orchestra's presentation of Celtic Christmas: Donnell Leahy and Family, billed as an evening of fiddling, dancing, and story-telling. Juno winning Donnell Leahy is joined by his family and special guest Natalie MacMaster. TSO pops conductor Steven Reineke is at the helm; choral forces supplied by the Etobicoke School for the Arts Chorus. Tuesday Dec. 9 at 8 pm, and Wednesday Dec. 10 at 2 and 8 pm.

The King's Singers

Sadly, the recital by Italian tenor Marcello Giordani has been cancelled. It was already postponed from a year and a half ago, and there is no mention of any attempt for re-scheduling, so Toronto opera lovers will have to travel to New York and London to hear Mr. Giordani. However, there are other shows well worth attending, such as this King's Singers concert at Koerner Hall. On the program are songs for Christmas by Lassus, Byrd, Howells, Head, and Poulenc, as well as traditional Catalan folk songs. These guys always put on a good show!

Against the Grain Theatre's Uncle John (Photo: Brent Calis)

The eclectic Against the Grain Theatre and its Artistic Director Joel Ivany live up to their reputation once again in its latest venture with Uncle John, a re-imagining of Mozart's Don Giovanni. This was workshopped in Banff and is now ready for prime time. It has a youthful and engaging cast led by former COC Ensemble baritone Cameron McPhail in the title role.  The other, usual suspects, include soprano Miriam Khalil as Elvira, bass baritone Neil Craighead as Leporello, soprano Betty Wayne Allison as Anna, tenor Sean Clark is Ottavio, and bass John Avey as Commendatore, here called Michael "The Commander" Bridge.  I am really curious about this show!  It takes place at The Black Box Theatre at The Great Hall (1087 Queen West), a venue new to me, on Dec. 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 at 7:30 pm.

Soprano Jean Edwards singing at the Arts and Letters Club, with Ruth Morawetz at the piano (Photo: Joseph So)

The Toronto Masque Theatre's  A Very Merry TMT Christmas this year marks the farewell of Calgary-born Canadian soprano Jean Edwards.  Jean made her debut as Gretel in Hansel und Gretel in 1947 (!) and she was also one of the two first Susanna's at the Canadian Opera Company's Marriage of Figaro in 1951. Shortly after, Edwards decided that having a family was more important than a career. She retired and raised a family of five boys. After a hiatus, Edwards returned to singing, with the Festival Singers and Toronto Consort, touring Europe, US and Canada. Soon to reach the grand age of 88, Jean, the "Granny Soubrette" as she jokingly calls herself, decided recently it's time to say goodbye to performing. You can read more about Jean at her website -  The TMT Christmas is an "old-fashioned seasonal celebration, masque-style."  Also appearing are soprano Lizzie Hetherington, mezzo Jessica Wright, violinists Kathleen Kajioka and Larry Beckwith, and pianist Christopher Bagan.The event takes place on Dec. 8th 7:30 pm at the atrium in The Shaftesbury at 21 Shaftesbury Ave. (near Summerhill Subway Station)

The singers-driven organization, Opera By Request, is presenting Luisa Fernanda.  This zarzuela is arguably the best known outside Spanish speaking countries and is often sung by opera singers. I saw this once a few years ago, with soprano Nancy Fabiola Herrera. Soprano Karla Berganza sings the title role and tenor Pablo Benitez is Javier. William Shookhoff is at the piano. Performance on Dec. 10 at 3 pm at the College Street United Church.

Trio D'Argento (l. to r. 

As part of its Discovery Series, Music Toronto is presenting the Trio D'Argento, made up of Sibylle Marquardt (flute), Peter Stoll (clarinet) and Anna Ronai (piano). They will be performing a program Beethoven, Ibert, Russell Peterson, plus a new work by First Nations composer Barbara Croall. Dec. 11 8 pm at the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre.

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Saturday, 6 December 2014

The First December 6 Memorial Concert

How a performance of Mozart’s Requiem marked my musical passage
By Wah Keung Chan

Last Sunday (November 30), I attended conductor Iwan Edwards’s Farewell at Concerto Della Donna’s final concert at a standing room sold out St. Georges Church. It was good to see Iwan on the podium again, having sung for him with the St. Lawrence Choir and the MSO Chorus many times in the 1990s.

Midway through the first half, I suddenly remembered the first time I sang with him, 25 years earlier in 1989. It was days following the December 6 massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. I was a Master’s student in Mathematics at Concordia after completing a Bachelors of Engineering at McGill, with a growing passion for choral singing. After years as a member of Mary-Jane Puiu’s non-audition McGill Choral Society, I had also joined her Cantare, the youth choir of the St. Lawrence Choir.

One of the 14 female victims of the massacre was Geneviève Bergeron, a member of Cantare and graduate of FACE school, a girl who had a joie de vie and looking forward to becoming an Engineer. She had always wanted to sing Mozart’s Requiem, and her friends convinced Iwan Edwards, who was one of her teachers at FACE School, to conduct a concert in memory of her and the other victims. Students, graduates and teachers at FACE School were quickly assembled to form the choir, orchestra and soloists. Mary-Jane invited members of Cantare to join, and since several of us had sung Mozart’s Requiem with the McGill Choral Society the previous year, we readily accepted. For myself, as an Engineering graduate I was eager to participate as my sign of defiance of Marc Lépine.

After two rehearsals, the chorus of 100 marched through the halls of FACE School passing through the wings of the auditorium before taking our seats in the choral risers for the memorial concert just about one week after the massacre. In attendance were Bergeron’s family, the mayor of Montreal, and other dignitaries.

Mozart’s Ave verum corpus opened the concert. It’s a short a cappella work that is simple yet sublime. Iwan evoked some magic that night as I and every singer around me felt goose bumps immediately, yet I was able to keep my composure to the end. It was the most moving musical performance I have experienced, matched rarely as a performer or an audience member. The Requiem was equally memorable, a moving way to remember the victims.

As I continue to listen to Concerto della Donna, I wonder now if the first December 6 memorial concert has played a part in Iwan’s founding of Concerto della Donna some ten years ago, although he hasn’t made mention of it anywhere. Part of me wished that Iwan could eke out just one more Farewell concert to reprise that first concert with the same Mozart works and with the same performers. I’m sure most of us would gladly clear our schedules.

Alas, it is not to be, as nobody seems to have remembered, or had the foresight to. In 1994, for the Fifth anniversary, Iwan was passed over for the memorial concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem performed by his St. Lawrence Choir at the Notre-Dame Basilica; Agnes Grossman was chosen political correctly to conduct. For the Tenth anniversary, Mozart’s Requiem rang out at St. Joseph’s with another choir and another conductor.

But those memories of the first concert come flooding to me at Iwan’s Farewell. This experience helped shape me as a musician and a human being. Thank you Iwan, and thank you Mary-Jane.

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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

La Scena Musicale participates in Giving Tuesday!

La Scena Musicale  is pleased to participate in Giving Tuesday, a day of mutual assistance which takes place every year.   This is a national movement that celebrates the generosity and encourages donations and volunteer activities for the benefit of any charitable or nonprofit organization.


To celebrate this day of giving and encouraging music, Sandro Scola, member of the Board of Directors of La Scena Musicale, has pledged to match any donation you make to La Scena Musicale on Giving Tuesday (December 2, 2014), up to $5,000. What a great way to support La Scena in a significant way! 

Read why donating to La Scena Musicale helps promote classical music and jazz.

Please give via PayPal or visit .


La Scena Musicale est heureuse de participer à Mardi je donne


[English Version]

La Scena Musicale est heureuse de participer à Mardi je donne, cette grande journée de l’entraide qui a lieu tous les ans. C’est un mouvement national qui célèbre la générosité et encourage le don et les activités de bénévolat au bénéfice de tout organisme caritatif ou sans but lucratif.


Pour célébrer cette journée du don et encourager la musique, Sandro Scola, membre du conseil d’administration de La Scena Musicale, a généreusement choisi de doubler toute donation que vous ferez à La Scena Musicale en ce jour du Mardi je donne, jusqu’à concurrence de 5 000 $. Quelle belle occasion d'encourager La Scena de façon significative! 

Découvrez pourquoi un don à La Scena Musicale aide à promouvoir la musique classique et le jazz.

Merci de donner via PayPal.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Cette semaine à Montréal : le 1 au 7 décembre

Philippe Bourque, directeur du Chœur Saint-Laurent
Le Festival Bach Montréal – du 23 novembre au 7 décembre
La 8e édition du Festival Bach de Montréal présentera 21 spectacles dans neuf salles. C'est à la Maison que sera présenté le concert de clôture (3, 4, 7 décembre) qui a été confié à l'OSM, sous la direction de Masaaki Suzuki.
En décembre, le festival présente un mariage instrumental rare avec les artistes israéliens Avi Avital à la mandoline et Shalev Ad-El au clavecin (1er). Le public aura l'occasion de feuilleter le Petit livre d'Anna-Magdalena Bach, en compagnie du musicologue Gilles Cantagrel, avec la complicité de six musiciens montréalais (2). Décembre est aussi le moment rêvé pour entendre de grandes œuvres vocales : Le Couronnement du roi Georges II, avec Daniel Taylor et le Theater of Early Music (2), Le Messie de Haendel, avec les Violons du Roy, dirigé par Trevor Pinnock (5) et l'Oratorio de Noël avec le Chœur Saint-Laurent, sous la direction de Philippe Bourque (6).
- Renée Banville

Cette semaine au Chapelle Historique
Le premier concert de la série du nouveau compositeur résident Jimmie LeBlanc nous fait connaître le pianiste et compositeur Andy Costello dans l'œuvre Masques de Schumann. 4 décembre, 20 h.
En concert-bénéfice au profit du Prix d'Europe, les pianistes Jean Saulnier et Serhiy Salov interprètent à deux pianos des œuvres de Rachmaninov. 3 décembre, 20 h. 

Place à la musique de chambre française. La violoniste Julie Triquet, la violoncelliste Julie Trudeau et le pianiste Olivier Godin interprètent trois trios de Debussy, Chausson et Ravel. 7 décembre, 15 h 30.
- Renée Banville

En décembre, de grandes voix à L’OSM
Sous la direction du célèbre chef d’orchestre japonais Masaaki Suzuki, Hélène Guilmette, soprano, Robin Blaze, contre-ténor, Colin Balzer, ténor, et Christian Immler, baryton, seront « les grandes voix de Bach et de Mendelssohn ». Il s’agit du concert de clôture du Festival Bach de Montréal, avec le chœur de l’OSM, dirigé par Andrew Megill, et John Grew, organiste. Parmi les œuvres vocales au programme, mentionnons le Psaume 115 de Mendelssohn, Nicht unserm Namen, Herr, et le Magnificat enmajeur de Bach. Maison symphonique – 3 et 4 décembre à 20 h, 7 décembre à 14 h 30.
- Justin Bernard

Le Messie de Haendel, l’œuvre phare du temps des fêtes

Après un premier concert à Québec, les Violons du Roy et la Chapelle de Québec viendront donner une deuxième représentation du Messie à Montréal. L’orchestre et le chœur, dirigés par le chef britannique Trevor Pinnock, ont fait appel aux solistes suivants : Miriam Allan, soprano, Allyson McHardy, mezzo-soprano, Allan Clayton, ténor, et Andrew Foster-Williams, baryton-basse. Maison symphonique de Montréal – 5 décembre, 19 h 30. À Québec : salle Raoul-Jobin, Palais Montcalm – 4 et 7 décembre, 20 h.
- Justin Bernard

Amours, délices et ... cordes
Le Forum des fabricants, c’est un salon de musique regroupant une quarantaine de luthiers, spécialistes d'instruments à archet. Instigateur de cet événement en 2013, l'Atelier Wilder and Davis comptera sur la participation de facteurs d'instruments des deux côtés de la frontière et de la France lors d'un événement d'un jour (samedi 6 décembre, Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur). Violons, altos et violoncelles seront en montre, sans oublier une panoplie d'archets. Outre des démonstrations, deux concerts sont aussi prévus, soit un récital classique d'Andrew Kwan et de Jonathan Crow et une prestation de musique improvisée avec, entre autres, Malcolm Goldstein. Conçu autant pour les étudiants, les professeurs et les mélomanes amoureux de cette noble famille d'instruments, le forum est une excellente occasion pour venir rencontrer des maîtres fabricants. Information : Atelier Wilder Davis,
- Marc Chénard

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This Week in Montreal: December 1 to 7

Philippe Bourque, director of the St. Lawrence Choir
The Montreal Bach Festival: Nov 23 to Dec 7
In December, the festival presents a rare instrumental duo performed by Israeli artists Avi Avital on mandolin and Shalev Ad-El on harpsichord (1st). Audiences will have the chance to peruse the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach with musicologist Gilles Cantagrel and six Montreal musicians (2). December is also that magical time when the greatest large vocal works are performed; hear The Coronation of King George II with Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music (2), Handel’s Messiah with the Violons du Roy directed by Trevor Pinnock (5), or the Christmas Oratorio with the St. Lawrence Choir directed by Philippe Bourque (6).
- Renée Banville
Stirring Sounds at the OSM in December
Under the baton of renowned Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki, soprano Hélène Guilmette, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Colin Balzer, and baritone Christian Immler perform the “Stirring Sounds of Bach and Mendelssohn”. This is the closing concert of the Montreal Bach Festival, with the OSM Choir, directed by Andrew Megill, and organist John Grew. Notable among the vocal works on the program are Mendelssohn’s Psalm 115, Op. 31, Nicht unserm Namen, Herr and Bach’s Magnificat in D major. Maison symphonique, Dec 3 and 4 at 8 pm and Dec 7 at 2:30 pm.
- Justin Bernard
This Week at the Chapelle Historique
The first concert of in-house composer Jimmie LeBlanc’s series introduces us to pianist and composer Andy Costello in Schumann’s Masques. December 4, 8 pm.
As part of the European Award’s benefit concert, pianists Jean Saulnier and Serhiy Salov perform Rachmaninoff’s works on two pianos. December 3, 8 pm.
- Renée Banville

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